Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Manly Combs

I bet you thought a comb was just a comb, didn't you? Think again, before you make a terrible social blunder that flushes your 'street cred' straight down the drain.

In the 1950s, you could get a nice manly comb from a lovely display card, like this one from the Hair Archives. That rather space-age illustration of 'Don-Q' lets you know you're not buying any old comb, but a man's comb. Heaven forbid you might accidentally buy a women's one by mistake!

Totally different period and genre, but it reminded me of that brilliant Japanese zombie rock 'n' roll B movie 'Wild Zero' we watched at work for Ed's leaving do, when no-one else was around in the holidays. The wannabe hero accidentally got out the wrong sort of comb out to do his quiff, but the hip be-quiffed boys in the band thought it was like a comb his mum would use. It didn't do much for his image (shockingly uncool) and I've never looked at a comb in the same way since.

Anyway, I'd better get back to my writing, which also happens to be about manly things (aka gender theory) today. I've got work tomorrow and I'm being 'appraised'. Someone said it was a 'necessary evil' of having a salaried post, which is probably right. And we're discussing the outcomes of that research review we had recently, so at least I'll have a better idea of what job-stuff is looming on the horizon.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Whining little insect

It probably sounds like a public schoolboy insult from Ripping Yarns, but I mean mosquitoes. It's only tea-time, but I'm starting to feel the effects of a very disturbed night's sleep, thanks to the high-pitched whining of a mosquito flying around my head. I've got loads of reading and writing to do at the moment, plus a dodgy knee still feeling the effects of being vigorously wiggled in all directions by a physiotherapist, and then a flipping mosquito kept me awake for hours when I really needed my sleep. Pesky blighter.

Moan moan... oh no, I'm doing human whining, like the mosquito but I don't bite...

I kept thinking mosquito-related things, in my half-asleep state... anopheles mosquitoes... malaria carrying ones, I remember from my schooldays in Zambia... you can spot them by their sticking-out bottoms when they land on the wall... or is when their bodies point downwards... no malaria here, global warming's not that bad yet... I could draw a bilharzia fluke if someone asked me... and a tapeworm.... like a segmented worm with a wig on... hhm that would have been useful decades ago on a different continent...didn't Link Wray do a song called The Mosquito... oh no, it was a Hornet... did he like insects then... can't tell from instrumentals because no lyrics...

... and then it was morning, and the postman arrived with my new recipe books. Not a very productive day PhD-wise, but ho hum, that's life. The rambling hallucinations of a sleepy mind are very strange though, remembering snippets from early school lessons. There's a whining insect noise on the Biting Insects website... ugh, that's enough for today.

You've probably guessed that the image is not an annoying mosquito, it's a rather nice looking plastic 3D anatomic stag beetle puzzle (via Boing Boing).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Slightly scary people

There were some slightly scary people around in college last week. It's always different in the summer anyway, as the usual students and staff are off and there is a succession of students and unfamiliar tutors on short courses. You also get used to having conversations with odd people who seem to think you're interesting because you're a member of staff.

I don't know exactly what the fine line is between someone being an over-enthusiastic student and something being not quite right. I got cornered in the ladies toilets by someone who gabbled for ages, asking me loads of questions, constantly changing what she said she wanted to do, asking me for my contact details and writing it all down. I suppose it was that she seemed slightly manic and wild-eyed, while I was being slowly backed into the corner and there was no-one else around, but the encounter slightly disturbed me.

She reminded me, rightly or wrongly, of a druggy and rather deluded woman I had the misfortune to meet years ago, who managed to convince the mother of my boyfriend-in-a-coma that she was his fiancée and was having his baby, while I was just someone from social services. Eventually, the truth emerged and she was banned from the intensive care unit. It's surprising how many versions of someone's life emerge when they're in a coma and can't join in, and also it's quite difficult to convince people you've never met that you're the one telling the truth and other versions of events are pure fantasy. Maybe that was why the lady in the loo bothered me, although it turned out that other staff were also concerned and several students on that course had complained about her, then she just vanished.

Another member of staff found a note on her computer from someone who is currently stalking her. They had managed to find out where she worked, got into the building and into her office, despite having no legitimate connections with the college and the actual buildings being like a maze. I'm not sure of the details, but it's very worrying indeed.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Daleks and a quick catch up

This story about the BBC pursuing a Doctor Who fan who created knitting patterns for making your own cuddly alien creatures is a bit old now, but I'll mention it as I like them. As cuddly toys go, I find them infinitely preferable to the mis-shapen knitted bear I had as a child.

To summarise, Mazzmatazz, a Doctor Who fan and knitter, created patterns for aliens that have featured in the current series, the squid-faced Oods, and Adipose fat monsters, and posted them on her website for other fans to download. The BBC contacted her for infringement of their copyright and she took the patterns down. There is an excellent post covering it from a legal perspective on Technollama, along with updates to the story.

Other Doctor Who-related knits and patterns are still available elsewhere, if you fancy picking up the knitting needles.... a Tardis, Dalek socks, and Extermaknit Daleks!

I'm interested in this from a design and craft point of view. Fan-dom frequently involves individuals creating their own items (objects, clothes, accessories) as a tribute to their particular subject of interest. Part of this activity which makes it meaningful for the fan is the time and effort spent on making the item. One frequently sees fans wearing home-made badges using other people's photographs, customised jackets painted with images copied from photographs, or other garments embroidered with representations of the object of their passion, whether graphic or textual (for example, autographed signatures transcribed onto fabric and embellished). None of this type of activity seems any different to the knitting patterns, which were not commercial ventures either, but products of 'fan-dom'.

Actually, I find this type of story quite depressing, when harmless non-profit-making individual creativity collides with money-making activities from big organisations.

The catching-up bit...

The long blogging gap was due to a heavy PhD workload and being really busy at work. We've just been audited and reviewed, as part of an internal university-wide review of research, which has been a bit time-consuming and stressful. Someone remarked during a committee meeting a while ago that a particular part of the university was like the evil heart of the Dalek, which I found rather amusing at the time (though no-one else did.) Not sure yet what the recommendations of the review will mean for us as a department and as a college, but I think we have done ok, compared to the 'Dalek's evil heart'.

Also, I'm quite excited about an exhibition of current PhD work planned for the autumn. It will be an interesting challenge for me to make object-based theory look interesting to a non-traditional academic audience, and hopefully avoid being too wordy, flat and corporate-looking, like 'poster' exhibitions can be. I like the idea of making a video at the moment, but I'll see how it develops.... It's a nice thing to think about, and a reminder of why it was a great choice for me to do a PhD at an art college, rather than a more conventional university. It's a bit tiring as I seem to be working all the time, but they are good reasons for being knackered, I think.