10:36 am: Dropping back in briefly
So, I seem to remember back in the day when I buggered off from the LJ, I said I'd make one last post if I started posting art stuff anywhere else. Somewhat later, I lost the notebook in which I'd been writing down ideas for said art stuff. So I decided I would take all the ideas and part-finished things from it that I could remember and actually finish them (even the really rubbish ones). That turned out to be about 30 things, which seemed comfortingly close to the number of days in a month, which suggested that maybe I should do these things and pick a month and post them once-a-day.
That month is this month, and the place I am doing it is here. The reason that I'm posting about it now is because I'd previously been putting up the less good things, on account of everyone being away for the Jubilee holidays. Today's one, however, I rather enjoyed doing. It's kind of a flowchart. About Shakespeare. It's here (although you may have to click about a bit to get the readable version).
 The reason I am doing June at all is because I'm 7 months pregnant. Which means it's pretty much now or never...
December 19th, 2010
12:32 pm: PSA
A few things it may be useful to know wrt this livejournal at the moment: 1) I've been away the past 2-3 weeks and not reading LJ at all. 2) I get on quite well not reading LJ. I think my sense of online community these days mainly comes from twitter and facebook. TBH, I don't really foresee posting here much in future, although I might try rebooting my blogging elsewhere (in which case I may post a notification here that that has occurred). 3) Whilst I'm not going to stop reading it entirely just yet (because there are great people with whom my only point of contact is LJ, and because sometimes there are filtered posts on which my input is wanted), if you want me to read or comment on something specific you may have to prod me to do so. 4) Just in case anyone is worried, this isn't a personal-crisis type change in internet usage - it's something I've been moving towards for a long time. I just thought it might be useful to clarify that my use of LJ has become rather sporadic, and it is better to try and get hold of me elsewhere if you need to.
11:02 pm: The lives of perfect creatures
Thank you for all your comments on the previous post. It was an interesting exercise; much more in the way of nature and music and travelling, and perhaps less about relationships that I was expecting. Sunlight and the lonely sea, the sound of birds and the scent of pine trees. I don't know if that's a selection effect (the sort of people who still read this journal, the sort of things people are comfortable expressing in a public post) but the sorts of things that make you happy are rather lovely.
I find the contagiousness of feelings interesting. I was going to write something unpleasant about how bedbugs mate and the non-one-to-one relationship between long-term happiness and what gets a species to survive. But having reread the last post comments, I have a feeling of gentle Aww, and don't particularly want to. So hurrah for gardens and spooning-before-sleep, for silliness and high lonely hills, and for the smell of warm blackcurrant bushes. Hurrah for music. Hurrah for pop music, even. I'm sure there will be other days for the bedbugs. I don't know if reading about other people being happy is triggering the whole social group says stuff is good compliance thing but yes. Contagiousness! Jolly good, folks.
11:06 am: The Happiness Project
I'm interested in happiness. I mean, everyone is, I guess. But I've been reading discussions like this, and this, and this. And I was thinking about the cheese and pickled onion sandwich.
The thing about the cheese and pickled onion sandwich is this: provided it is the right cheese and pickled onion sandwich (that is to say one with crispy white bread, big, sour pickled onions, and cheese sufficiently mature enough to come to well-reasoned, sensible decisions about its own tragically brief life), it's a surprisingly good medication. It makes life seem that little bit better. It promotes a feeling of warm comfortableness, of everything being basically OK. I guess this must stem from eating a lot of them at a comfortable, optimistic part of my life (probably when I was in 6th form?). There is a sort of contagiousness to happiness, whether it exists in ones own past or in other people's stories.
I was also thinking about websites which focus on only good news. I have sought them out in the past for the purposes of cheering people up, but they tend to be a bit, well, "8-year-old boy, who is currently losing his battle with an excruciating, disfiguring form of cancer, goes to Disneyland!", or "Crippling recession slightly less bad than thought!", or "Study shows survivors of genocide still able to laugh from time to time!", which tends to leave me feeling a bit depressed, all things considered, and in possible need of a cheering sandwich.
So here's an experiment. Tell me about a time when you were happy. Fiercely, wonderingly, comfortably, paradoxically, disgustingly or miraculously happy. In awe of the awesomeness of the world, or in spite of its incredible suckage. About knowing that life was basically OK, and that the bad stuff didn't matter, and that there were good times still to come. About being secure and loved and welcome. Whatever happens to float your boat. I thought about applying some rules, to stop the risk of it getting all my heart swelled with the fierce joy of revenge as my hands finally closed around my enemy's throat, but on reflection that's part of the whole glorious messy mix, too.
NOTE: this is a public post. However, anonymous (or anonymised) comments are perfectly welcome (like postsecret, but with less pictures and more happy, as it were).
 "A vote for me is a vote in favour of happiness, kittens and lining up to punch immigrants in the face", as some of our political worthies might opine.  Happy from a great height, even.
11:34 am: Not the Protagonist
I'm reading the Decameron at the moment. It's bizarrely hard going. To explain a little further: the Decameron is a set of one hundred stories, told by ten storytellers over ten days, written around the time of the Black Death. Translated, it's actually surprisingly readable and snappy. It was the go-to source for plots for any number of later writers, including Chaucer and Shakespeare. The stories mostly comprise series of jolly japes involving lovers, nuns, saucy friars, etc. But... well.
10:12 pm: A candle for Laika
So it turned into a long weekend of pandas, hummingbirds, margaritas, sealions, curious beans, rainswept neon and red carpets, sunburn, peruvian tea, pelicans, Mexican maximalist decor, manga shops, blisters, the pacific, enormous fibreglass elephants &c. Which is all well and good. However, none of these things were the best thing about Southern California. The best thing was unequivocally the Museum of Jurassic Technology. See, I'd never wondered before what a museum which had been built to specifically cater to my tastes would be like. Turns out I didn't need to, because someone appears to have already built it. Admittedly they have built it in a not-frightfully-accessible bit of Los Angeles and you have to ring a bell to gain entrance, but I had a bus timetable and a finger, and between us we prevailed.
03:50 pm: Don't go to Mexico
As people of a more twittery or facebooky nature may be aware, I'm currently at a conference in San Diego. Now, I have a little time for tourism at the end of the conference, and San Diego is right on the Mexican border, and on the other side of the Mexican border is Tijuana. Tijuana is, at least in popular myth, a seedy, decadent place, home to Tijuana bibles, knockoff goods, drugs, drink, probably-apocryphal in the present day donkey shows and so forth. So for a while I considered the possibility of pootling over the border and wandering around the safer parts, in a social-anthropology kind of way. Now, it turns out that the US government has a warning out not to go there because of recently-increased border-related drug trade violence, and is also turns out that my fine university-provided insurance doesn't include Mexico. So my 1 1/2 days tourism in San Diego are likely to include cuddlier things such as pandas and lighthouses instead. But just out of interest I started asking people at the conference what they thought of the day-trip idea. The results were kind of interesting from a perception-of-risk standpoint.
10:42 pm: The 2000s in sound
It has become a tradition around New Year for Chris and I to make lists of the best songs of the year. And this year, it being the turn of a decade, it seemed appropriate to do one for the 2000s. Thing is, all of those songs ended up having layers and layers of personal associations - where I heard them, what else I was doing at the time, and so forth. So it's almost a meme of the decade. Or at least, specific points of it, with nothing in between.
I like to be able to listen to songs when people write about them, and the least problematic way of doing this seemed to be to post youtube links. So that is what I have done.
10:55 am: Christmas cards
I didn't make Christmas cards this year, for the first time in many years; I recycled last year's designs. Part lack of inspiration, part having a big sekrit project I need to get on with, I guess. So instead, I'm going to post 2007's (blurrily photographed) cards. They form a sort of a story cycle, and are somewhat influenced by The Connection by Daniil Kharms, Edward Gorey, the Russian far North, the solstice and, um, probably the Moomins. And also the general idea of stories shaped like Catharine wheels.
10:21 pm: Singers!
[Apologies to people of the geographically distant, non-singing or disinterested variety]
A group of lovely people who I sing with are doing carols in the craft market opposite Trinity College in Cambridge on Saturday lunchtime, probably 11:30-13:00-ish. This year we are very short on people, particularly sopranos and altos. Anyone feel like coming along and helping out? It would be mostly pretty standard green book stuff. It is for charidee and all, too.
There will definitely be Away in a manger with the lesser-known spooky tune, if that helps to sway anyone's decision.
11:22 am: Spiderweb and Snail Trails
Heigh-ho, more photographs. I fear these ones are a little geeky (not in a 'wow, awesome, whizzo-cool' geek sort of way; I'm thinking of the sort of geek who traps you in the corner at a party and says 'I think you'll find...' a lot). Offered without much in the way of apology or explanation.
10:57 am: Words at World's End
To get this out of the way at the start: I work on the environmental effects of air transport. Since starting this work, I have gradually built up the sort of carbon footprint which in forensic terms might be used to identify a barbecued yeti. How? By flying. A lot. To many and varied conferences in many and varied places. I've just counted up the things I already know I will or might be doing next year and they include five trips to the Americas, so it ain't getting any better. On the plus side, I've been to many and varied places! Only without writing about them or doing anything with the copious pictures I've taken. There being a whole upcoming three months without international travel on the horizon, I thought I'd sit back, take stock, and post pictures.
This is set of pictures number one, containing various things to do with words, peculiar translations and found things, including a particularly fine example of garbled pseudoscience. It is mostly silly and flippant.
12:29 pm: Dawn Chorus
This one brought to you by listening to wood pigeons. Seriously, it's not paranoia - that is what they sound like. Since purplepiano pointed it out, I've not been able to un-hear it.
12:09 pm: The Dinosaurs of Night
This one brought to you by the melancholy deaths of Chang and Eng Bunker, the sort of dinosaur book which proclaims "Brontosauruses had two brains", and the notion that if you were to permit time travel to the past only for purposes that didn't dick around with the timeline too much, dinosaur hunting in the late Cretaceous might get a look-in. Just don't step on the rodents.
 The Internet informs me that a) 'Brontosaurus' is an outmoded classification, and I probably meant 'Apatosaurus', and b) It wasn't the Brontosaurus that was thought to have two brains anyway, it was the Stegosaurus, and c) The two brains theory has been thoroughly disproved anyway. But apart from that, all good, eh?
10:30 pm: Upon juices, and the flowing thereof
I've always been vaguely haunted by the notion that we humans have all our best ideas just before falling asleep; that is to say, in that happy and almost entirely un-recallable mental interstice between wakefulness and dream-awareness. Like many of the world's notions, the survival of this one depends crucially on the fact that it isn't proveable. However, a few months' mornings ago, I was struck with a sudden thought. I had had an idea as I was drifting off to sleep the night before. A musical idea. A good musical idea. In fact, to judge from my half-remembered flush of drowsy enthusiasm, it was probably one of the better ideas in the history of recorded sound. And it had been witty, clever and yet subtly non-novelty. The words themselves suggested a catchy and entertaining tune. I still couldn't quite remember what it was, but -- crucially -- I'd had the presence of mind to grope in the dark for a pen and write it down. Breathless with anticipation, I opened up my bedside notebook. There, in a barely readable scrawl, was the phrase Give me back my fucking monkey.
From this I have concluded two things: a) No, we do not have our best ideas when we are falling asleep and b) my ideas duct is clogged and requires some maintainance.
This is where you lot come in. See, the coming week is a Week of No Work. I have made a list of things from my ill-fated notebook which sound like they might be a lark to have a go at were one to, say, have a completely free week with which to get the juices flowing again. It's much easier to choose which thing to do when you have someone else's opinion to ignore. So I intend to Ask The Audience. ( More details than you can shake a stick atCollapse )
Poll #1044122Ask the Audience
Open to: All, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 34
What jolly art-wankery should I fill my week with?
11:37 pm: This are serious thread
Dear Interwebs, a) I have joined the Facebook and the Twitter. I believe this is what all the hep cats are doing these days. My Facebook data point is this: buoyed up with everyone's assertions that one just sets up an account and sits back, whereupon everybody in the known Universe finds your account and friends it, I set one up and sat back and something not particularly distinguishable from nothing happened. Rah! b) However, I am unable to rectify this situation of dazzling popularity by, you know, actually adding people that I know for at least five days, since we are off to the Glastonbury, like. I am all virginal with regards to music festivals, and hence rather excited. c) I'm really, really sorry about this.
In other news: I did in the end make a rudimentary cafepress shop for Venn diagram postery goodness -- I was going to shiny it up a bit and look for a more UK-based solution as well, but OMG liek NO TIME.