Friday, August 31, 2012

The Soundtrack to British Culture

Sex Pistols i Norge, 1977
Sex Pistols i Norge, 1977 (Photo credit: Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway))

BBC Radio 2 has chosen these 10 songs as 'the soundtrack to British culture'

We’ll Meet Again - Vera Lynn (1939)
Rock Island Line - Lonnie Donegan (1954)
She Loves You - Beatles (1963)
My Boy Lollipop - Millie Small (1964)
A Whiter Shade of Pale - Procul Harum (1967)
Je T’Aime... Moi Non Plus - Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin (1969)
God Save The Queen - Sex Pistols (1977)
Two Tribes - Frankie Goes To Hollywood (1984)
Ebeneezer Goode - The Shamen (1992)
Rehab - Amy Winehouse (2006)

Do These Songs Represent British Culture - Telegraph

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We Are 15

15 years ago today I woke up with s storming Southern Comfort fuelled hangover, had a fry up and champagne in place of coffee, and then got married to Meg.

It has been  a good 15 years, unlike most couples we work together as well so we're seldom apart.  Being married and working together doesn't work for everyone, but it seems to suit us, and for me growing up in the pub where Mum and Dad worked it seems fairly normal and natural.

15 years ago we had bought our first home, but we couldn't afford to buy carpets or get central heating fitted in the bedroom.  For the past 11 years we have lived in the Steward's house at Ilkley Golf Club, the commute to work is short but it is a little short on privacy as well.

We work hard, with very long hours, and we have been able to have some fantastic holidays together.  We have been to Australia, South Africa, USA, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, often visiting members of our extended families along the way.

Marriage isn't always easy, you have to work at bits of it to make it last, you have to recognise your own shortcomings and forgive those of your partner.  Meg isn't just my wife, she's my best friend.  Here's to writing something similar in another 15 years' time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ball - Goal, Goal - Ball

Magdeburg FC had not scored a goal in 5 games, so their fans decided to help the team find the net.

ML's Daily Photo Project: Jump Man- 5 yrs.

Man takes photo of himself every day and makes a stop motion film of it.
Hurrah ! Applause for you sir, this is excellent!
The music is Jump Man by Buckethead.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Coheed and Cambria - Domino the Destitute

N/um Tchai: Ceremonial Medicine Dance of the Bushmen

A Kalahari Family - TRAILER

A trailer for a film by anthropologist John Marshall who spent 5 decades working with the Ju'Hansi bushmen.  The film explores the external myths and pressures that the Ju'Hansi became subject to and how these things forcibly transformed their hunter-gatherer culture.

Only In Ilkley

I employed a new waitress last week, she's just 17.  On her first shift she arrived in her own Mini Coupe with personalised number plates.


Monday, August 27, 2012

The Discourse of Artefacts

English: Men in an Outrigger Canoe Headed for ...
English: Men in an Outrigger Canoe Headed for Shore, oil on canvas, 48 x 68 inches (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Discourse occurs at the silent level of the artefact and is continuously presenced in the world as such. It is a discourse which is not, and cannot be, articulated in speech."

Tilley, C., 'The Metaphorical Transformations of Wala Canoes' in Buchli, V., (2002) (Ed.), The Material Culture Reader, Berg, Oxford.
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Cyclone as metaphor for political revolution (...
Cyclone as metaphor for political revolution (election of 1894). A political cartoon by illustrator S.D. Ehrhart, shows a farm woman labeled “Democratic Party” sheltering from a tornado of political change. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"When we link things metaphorically we recognise similarity in difference, we think one thing in terms of attributes of another."

"To be human is to think through metaphors."

"Metaphors are thus the very medium and outcome of our analysis."

Tilley, C., 'Metaphor, Materiality and Interpretation' in Buchli, V., (2002) (Ed.), The Material Culture Reader, Berg, Oxford.

The Mind is a Metaphor Database
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The Interstitial Positions of Material Culture

Biotech 2011-10-24 15-37-08-13
Biotech 2011-10-24 15-37-08-13 (Photo credit: andybient)
"The interstitial positions occupied by material culture studies provide a platform for a critical engagement with materiality for understanding issues facing us such as the fluidity of gender and body/object interfaces, recyclia, biotech, genetic engineering and the Internet - in short, those key materializing  and transformative processes that shape new inclusions and exclusions as the critical focus of material culture studies such as new kinds of bodies, forms of 'nature' and political subjects."

Buchli, V., (2002) (Ed.), The Material Culture Reader, Berg, Oxford.
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Family members hold up a mummified relative before giving it new clothes in a ritual in the Toraja district of Indonesia's South Sulawesi Province. The ritual, called Ma'nene, involves changing the clothes of mummified ancestors every three years. Locals believe dead family members are still with them, even if they died hundreds of years ago. - Telegraph online

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The Universe Is Big

Sizes of the Universe
Source: Number Sleuth

Friday, August 24, 2012

Armstrong Surrenders

Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of th...
Lance Armstrong at the team presentation of the 2010 Tour de France in Rotterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Seven times Tour de France champion, and possibly the greatest cyclist who has ever lived, Lance Armstrong has announced that he will no longer contest doping charges brought against him by USADA, the US anti-doping agency.

Armstrong has always said that he is innocent of all the charges brought him, he did not fail a single drugs test  in his entire career.  That said though, the weight of circumstantial evidence seems to have grown larger, three doctors who worked with teams that Armstrong rode for have received life bans, two others may as yet contest charges brought against them.  USADA claims to have ten former Armstrong team mates willing to testify against him in court, Armstrong says these men have been offered unfair inducements in order to get them on USADA's side.

The whole affair is an unedifying mess, Armstrong's reputation has been sullied, and now with his refusal to continue contesting the charges, he will officially be marked as a doper.  USADA says it will strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles, but it seems to be saying this without any legal basis as the cycling union UCI is the body that controls world cycling events such as the TdF.

Cycling needs to be clean, and needs to be seen to clean, but wrapped up in this are the politics of personal power, Armstrong is a massive scalp for any anti-doper's trophy cabinet.  The physical aspects of testing seem to be a tangled mess as well, with claim and counter-claim about the validity of testing schedules, the rigour, or lack of, in the scientific method, and questions (which have surfaced in many other doping cases) concerning storage of blood and urine samples.

USADA may have caught the most successful cheat in the history of cycling, or they may just have permanently damaged the reputation of a truly heroic sportsman, I suspect that for most of the interested public, the further we read into this case, the less clear and more contested the issues become.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Bible vs. The Koran

English: An Ilkhanid Koran with Persian transl...
English: An Ilkhanid Koran with Persian translation between the lines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I finished reading the Koran yesterday, and the Bible last month. Do I feel illuminated and filled with wonder after reading two of the great texts of the world's great religions ? Not hugely.  The Bible is an enormously long book, and for large parts it is also enormously dull.  There are long lists of genealogy, begat, begat, begat, which are tedious to read through, and the scrupulously detailed instructions for the construction of tabernacles are not scintillating reading either, although they are probably more reliable than the photo-copied sheets from Ikea that come with that table that has never looked quite right.

I was surprised by how little narrative there is in The Bible, I was rather expecting a flowing story taking me from Creation until after the death of Christ, and also by how short some of the better known sections of
The Bible are, Jonah and the whale flashes by in a page, and the entire Christ story is only a handful of pages, but repeated from different authors.

The Koran seems to rely largely on repetition, and if The Bible had less narrative than I would like, then The Koran has a vanishingly small amount, instead the Sura's are to the uninitiated a confusing welter of imprecations and vague guidance.  The clearest instructions in The Koran are those that pertain to women in society, how they should be treated as wives, what happens in terms of dowry and divorce and adultery, both books are very keen to point out the awful consequences of adultery.

Both books are fairly blood soaked.  The Old Testament reads like a history in which humans do nothing except wage war on each other, The Koran I found confusing, one Sura seems to say that the other people of the Book are all right so long as they keep themselves to themselves, other Sura's seem to indicate that it's all right to wage war on them.  Then there's the question of translation, with The Bible we have a standardised King James version, I don't know where my J M Rodwell translation of The Koran stands, is it a good and faithful translation of the Word ? I can't tell.

The course books for my winter study, A217 Introducing Religions, are due to be posted this Friday.  I thought it might be handy to be more aware of some of the texts we will be studying, but as with almost every other part of the study of humanities, the more you read, the more questions it raises.  Right or wrong answers there are none.  Onwards and upwards, or sideways, then.

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Material Culture

Wide Angle Wunderkammer
Wide Angle Wunderkammer (Photo credit: caruba)
"Material culture as we understand it is a direct consequence of the collecting traditions of the nineteenth century, liberal Enlightenment era notions of universality, colonial expansion, industrialisation and the birth of consumerism.  As stated before, these collections were the primary means by which we studied other societies in distant time and space.  We abandoned these studies to the promises made by social anthropology, which sought to go direct to the source rather than try and understand and translate it through ethnographic collections.  If we consider Krystoff Pomian's thesis here, these earlier ethnographic collections were clearly attempts to mediate between two worlds, one known (Western) and one not known and invisible (non-Western), that could be comprehended through these mediating objects we call material culture."

Buchli, V., (2002) (Ed.), The Material Culture Reader, Berg, Oxford.
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Maps As Signifiers

1867 Johnson Map of Asia - Geographicus - Asia...
1867 Johnson Map of Asia - Geographicus - Asia-johnson-1867 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"What we call a map is an example of a kind of language, symbols arranged in some kind of order. Now for a map to be useful to a traveller it must be coordinated with the territory, its structure must be similar in certain respects to that of the territory it represents."

Johnson, W., (1946), People In Quandries, New York, Harper & Brothers.
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Words Are Cheap

Boy reading from the Torah according to Sephar...
Boy reading from the Torah according to Sephardic custom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"As it becomes possible for more people to become authors, we must wonder whether the value of words is diminishing.  When scribes hand-copied manuscripts, word by word, every word had a certain value. That explains why the Torah scrolls, each of which is hand copied by a scribe, are so valuable. Now, it seems that words have become cheapened and lost part of their importance."

Arthur Asa Berger, (2009), What Objects Mean: An Introduction to Material Culture, Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dub the Dew

Mountain Dew marketing folks decide to open a web competition to allow people to name their next soft drink.  These are the current leaders.  Apparently nobody from Mountain Dew has encountered the internet / 4Chan before. 

Apocalypse Now Then

Kitchen Tales

English: GCE Advanced Level logo by University...
English: GCE Advanced Level logo by University of Cambridge International Examinations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday I got Rob to make some nice lemon infused olive oil to serve with grilled fish, and in the middle of a rather fraught a la carte service last night I managed to drop it on the floor, right in the walkway between the hobs and prep tables.  Cue much swearing and a frantic ten minutes mopping up and then drying the floor by crawling around on my hands and knees with handfuls of paper towels.  Oh the glamour of being a chef.

A level results are out, and this year we might be having a complete staff changeover.  Many congratulations to Ellie, Maddy, Laura and Rae on your results, I gather that everyone has got into their first choice university.  The intake at the moment includes Robyn and Katie and hopefully Amelia.  I might be doing further interviews for the last position.

I wonder if we are the best educated kitchen around ? Chef Rob has a degree, I'm studying for one and all the waiting staff have either completed their A levels or are studying for them.
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Shetala Mata

"A young south Indian Hindu devotee has her tongue pierced with a metal rod while participating in a religious procession held in praise of Hindu goddess Shetala Mata in Chandigarh on August 5, 2012. Shetala Mata is commonly called the goddess of small pox and devotees believe that worshipping her prevents them from contracting the disease." - From the Deccan Herald

Monday, August 13, 2012

Paralympics on 4

It's All Gone

English: Mo Farah at the 2010 European Athleti...
English: Mo Farah at the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Olympics that is.  Do you remember all the naysayers and moaners who said that Great Britain wouldn't be able to host an Olympic Games ? Who said that we wouldn't get the stadiums built and the events to run smoothly ? Even at the start of the games some of our own own media couldn't resist the temptation to stab ourselves in the back by pointing out every minor fault and error.  A bus got delayed they cried, well how unusual, heavy traffic in London, I bet that's never happened before.

The Games were fantastic though, the ceremonies breathtaking and tongue-in-cheek charming and our athletes responded to the home advantage by returning a glimmering haul of gold, silver and bronze.  Some athletes ended their careers on a high note, while others thrust themselves into the public conciousness and made themselves into brand new household names.

The spirit of the games is the thing that has really impressed me, almost without exception the thousands of competitors behaved impeccably, happy and gracious when winning, stoic and accepting in defeat.  Particularly impressive is the attitude of defeated Olympians, I have lost track of the amount of times I have heard sentiments like "I did my best, I gave my all, but on the day 'X' was just a better / faster / stronger athlete."  Some athletes even openly admit to their own shortcomings, telling the world when they have made mistakes in events or used the wrong tactics.

This display of honesty and soul-baring, all consuming effort and absolute joy in winning anything is about to be eclipsed though, for while our sports media has been consumed the the Olympics for the past two weeks, the dark cloud of a new football season is about to cast its malignant shadow over us.  Usher out the bright smiling, tearful young things, and usher in the cheats, the injury feigners, the divers, the 13 stone men who inexplicably fall over at the contact of shirt on shirt, the wavers of imaginary cards who wish to see their fellow athletes dismissed from the field of play, the managers who see every opposing infraction with the eyes of an eagle but who are blind to their own misdemeanors, the grown men who accept every decision against them with the foul petulance of a spoiled child.

Every year I view the approaching football season with decreasing enthusiasm, this year, following the brilliance of the last two weeks, I actually find it a little depressing.  Is there any chance, just a glimmer of hope, that our footballers might have watched the Olympics and been similarly inspired ? That they might wish to emulate the behaviour in both glory and disappointment of the heroes of track, pool, court and velodrome ?  I hope so, I really do.  Football might be the most popular of all sports, and its bloated cash rich backers and media constantly tell us it is, but is is a sport desperately in need of a behavioural overhaul, a sport that could really benefit from an infusion of real glory and honest to goodness heroes.

And if that doesn't happen, it is only 16 days until the start of the Paralympics.

London 2012 Paralympics
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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Antiviral - Official Trailer

Stupid Ilkley People

English: Time & Time - Brook Street
Note to stupid people - you can't park here either. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Praise be to Bradford Council's road team who this morning have been re-painting the lines on recently resurfaced Brook Street.

Ever since the old double yellow lines were covered over many Stupid Ilkley People instead of thinking "Well, the old lines were obviously there for a good reason" have instead thought "Hurrah! Now I can leave my giant 4WD outside Boots the Chemist all day!"

And they did, and lo and behold it blocked all the bloody traffic.

And sometimes the berks parked right on West Street corner so you couldn't turn left onto Brook Street, because they are stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.
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Pussy Riot

Vladimir Putin - Caricature
Vladimir Putin - Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Yekaterina Samutsevich’s closing statement in the criminal case against the feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

"During the closing statement, the defendant is expected to repent or express regret for her deeds, or to enumerate attenuating circumstances. In my case, as in the case of my colleagues in the group, this is completely unnecessary. Instead, I want to express my views about the causes of what has happened with us.

The fact that Christ the Savior Cathedral had become a significant symbol in the political strategy of our powers that be was already clear to many thinking people when Vladimir Putin’s former [KGB] colleague Kirill Gundyaev took over as head of the Russian Orthodox Church. After this happened, Christ the Savior Cathedral began to be used openly as a flashy setting for the politics of the security services, which are the main source of power [in Russia].

Why did Putin feel the need to exploit the Orthodox religion and its aesthetics? After all, he could have employed his own, far more secular tools of power—for example, national corporations, or his menacing police system, or his own obedient judiciary system. It may be that the tough, failed policies of Putin’s government, the incident with the submarine Kursk, the bombings of civilians in broad daylight, and other unpleasant moments in his political career forced him to ponder the fact that it was high time to resign; otherwise, the citizens of Russia would help him do this. Apparently, it was then that he felt the need for more convincing, transcendental guarantees of his long tenure at the helm. It was here that the need arose to make use of the aesthetics of the Orthodox religion, historically associated with the heyday of Imperial Russia, where power came not from earthly manifestations such as democratic elections and civil society, but from God Himself.

free pussy riot melbourne 2012-5422
free pussy riot melbourne 2012-5422 (Photo credit: pixelwhip)
How did he succeed in doing this? After all, we still have a secular state, and shouldn’t any intersection of the religious and political spheres be dealt with severely by our vigilant and critically minded society? Here, apparently, the authorities took advantage of a certain deficit of Orthodox aesthetics in Soviet times, when the Orthodox religion had the aura of a lost history, of something crushed and damaged by the Soviet totalitarian regime, and was thus an opposition culture. The authorities decided to appropriate this historical effect of loss and present their new political project to restore Russia’s lost spiritual values, a project which has little to do with a genuine concern for preservation of Russian Orthodoxy’s history and culture.

It was also fairly logical that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has long had a mystical connection with power, emerged as this project’s principal executor in the media. Moreover, it was also agreed that the Russian Orthodox Church, unlike the Soviet era, when the church opposed, above all, the crudeness of the authorities towards history itself, should also confront all baleful manifestations of contemporary mass culture, with its concept of diversity and tolerance.

Implementing this thoroughly interesting political project has required considerable quantities of professional lighting and video equipment, air time on national TV channels for hours-long live broadcasts, and numerous background shoots for morally and ethically edifying news stories, where in fact the Patriarch’s well-constructed speeches would be pronounced, helping the faithful make the right political choice during the election campaign, a difficult time for Putin. Moreover, all shooting has to take place continuously; the necessary images must sink into the memory and be constantly updated, to create the impression of something natural, constant and compulsory.

Our sudden musical appearance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the song “Mother of God, Drive Putin Out” violated the integrity of this media image, generated and maintained by the authorities for so long, and revealed its falsity. In our performance we dared, without the Patriarch’s blessing, to combine the visual image of Orthodox culture and protest culture, suggesting to smart people that Orthodox culture belongs not only to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch and Putin, that it might also take the side of civic rebellion and protest in Russia.

Perhaps such an unpleasant large-scale effect from our media intrusion into the cathedral was a surprise to the authorities themselves. First they tried to present our performance as the prank of heartless militant atheists. But they made a huge blunder, since by this time we were already known as an anti-Putin feminist punk band that carried out their media raids on the country’s major political symbols.

In the end, considering all the irreversible political and symbolic losses caused by our innocent creativity, the authorities decided to protect the public from us and our nonconformist thinking. Thus ended our complicated punk adventure in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we now expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. Now the whole world sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, Russia looks different in the eyes of the world from the way Putin tries to present it at daily international meetings. All the steps toward a state governed by the rule of law that he promised have obviously not been made. And his statement that the court in our case will be objective and make a fair decision is another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you."

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Looking In From Outside

A picture from 2006 before becoming president ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"It is often the case that observers from other countries or cultures notice things about our behaviour that we do not because we are so accustomed to the behaviour that we cannot recognise its significance."

Arthur Asa Berger, (2009), What Objects Mean: An Introduction to Material Culture, Walnut Creek, Left Coast Press.
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