Monday, 4 April 2016

MA-Ness Week 14 Motivation, Cameras, Changing Ways of Working, New Books, Reading and Film Watching

this weeks post it note along with big sort of mind map to do list, new toy camera and lovely old book

Not been doing much coursewise the last few days - though I have taken a few pictures on my phone whilst I've been out and about the last few days. However I am both still somewhat distracted and am easily distracted. Today it's taken me til 2.45pm to start writing this, in spite of sitting down at the computer to write this at 1.30pm. Distraction a result of always being  the kind of person who is easily distracted but also because there are distracting things going on at the moment.

One of the things I am being distracted by today are the Archers groups I am part of and there has been a huge amount of messaging thanks to last nights episode in which Helen stood up for herself and child against her abuser. Anyway to try and get round this understandable distraction I've closed the email tab and am going to try and get to the end of writing this without looking at social media which is still agog with the goings on in Ambridge.

I did manage to finish reading one book last week - Julien Litten's excellent English Way Of Death The Common Funeral Since 1450 by switching the computer off altogether and just using my Little Oxford Dictionary from 1978 to look up words I didn't understand and that worked well - except it is better to be able to look up paitings and engravings via google images to get a better look at them. Anyway I intend to do the same bookwise this week and get another couple finihsed and so be able to take them back to the college library instead of getting them repeatedly renewed.

Reading-wise I am also reading (in fact nearly finished) a book called The Clothes On Our Backs by Linda Grant which is quite a searing read in places - beautifully descriptive - even if the things being described at times aren't pleasant or easy to read. It's about identity, background, how that can be unconsciously or consciously signified with clothes and hairstyles, keeping history secret, racism, anti semitism and leaving home. It's the second modern book I've read recently - think I shall be escaping back to some Victorian sensation fiction after this as I feel the need to escape to the past. Especially after hearing a lovely adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskells Mr Harrison on R4 Extra yesterday, I've still to finish her epic North and South though so maybe I should read more than the opening chapter which is all I've managed so far.

I also need to get more done on the Victorian Representations paper I am giving at the Victorian Representations Conference at Trinity University in May, last week I was determined to at least make a start on it and I have got together most of my notes and sources into separate folders - both in paper and on the computer and written a draft of the opening papragraph but that was as far as I got and I want to get the bulk of it done this week if I can.

I did however like a big girly swot submit my abstract to a conference on death and art to held at York Uni in September a whole two days before the deadline - undergraduate me would have been fainting with shock at this (and listening to the Archers!) good time management. I've had a reply to say it's been received and looks interesting but have not had a definite yay or nay yet and probably won't for a while.

It was a chums birthday last week and I sent her both a card and a copy of one of the cynanotypes I've made that I'm most pleased with  and am pleased to report that she loved it. I am interested in how different the same images can look depending on what process you have used to create them and then how different they can look depending on how you copy and print them. Am going to try embroidering one of them next - the actual image that is rather than trying to make an embroidery of the image, my sewing skills are not at that level of skill. Anyway the copy I sent her was an image I scanned and printed on the home printer rather than the fancier scanners and printers at college and I kind of preferred the more lomo version I made at home. I wonder what Walter Benjamin would make of the methods of mechanical reproduction today and what effect our image saturated culture has on us.

Aside from the comfort of the sound of other people's voices which R4 provides is the things I've learnt and pick up from it - last week I especially enjoyed In Our Time which was about Agrippina The Younger which was a mix of the known facts about her and the times in which she lived but also a discussion about history itself and the reliability of sources - a lot of that which is known about her is known through layers of 'hearsay, rumour and literary crafting' .  This made me think of how giddy I get when reading my beloved Victorian sensation fiction epics when there is direct mention of funeral customs and how lovely it is to have confirmation of what the historical textbooks say was the custom in a piece actually written in that time.

There was also an article on Womans Hour about military knitting in which they interviewed Joyce Meaden author of Knitskrieg A Call To Yarns which told me that during the Crimean War (1853-1856) you could book a holiday with Thomas Cook to go and watch the war from Sebastopol Harbour or from up in the hills. There was also a book of military knitting patterns was published which cost a shilling so it was done by ladies who could afford the price of the pattern book.
I knew it was a war of firsts in lots of ways - first use of telegraph, by the standard of the times 'live' embedded reporting, railways, and of course the changes brought about in nursing by Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale but I didn't know you could go and watch it as a tourist. I can remember a chum during the First Gulf War of 1991 watching it on CNN but I doubt he would have physically travelled to the area to watch it happen in front of him.

The military knitting being talked about was the knitting of balaclavas, socks, scarves and long johns by the wives left behind and how during the First World War the Archbishop of Canterbury gave dispensation for women to knit during church sermons and socks were the most popular item - as soldiers were only issued with two pairs and when they were sent a pair apparently it was the done thing to give one of the socks to a friend and only keep one for yourself and you just threw away the worst of the socks you had. You didn't throw two away at the same time. Fascinating stuff.

Cameras wise - I got a new one yesterday from my lovely husband and it's in the photograph above, it's a point and shoot 35mm but with a difference as it is see-through (apart from the bit which contains the film itself that is) and it's lovely to see the inside of a camera and how the wind on mechanism works, where the battery goes and its connections. I am looking forward to using it. Plus it does panoramic pictures too. I have also been offered a proper underwater film camera and I am really looking forward to using that though I shall have to get a new pair of wellies so I can stand in puddles/edge of lakes, I don't mind getting my hands wet to use it but I don't want wet feet as well.

I also got the (new to me) book in the picture - still in its original dust jacket. First published in 1958, this is the 1968 reprint though I'm guessing that this edition must have been sold after 1971 as the price sticker from F Warne and Co Ltd lists it as 45p. I'm quite rubbish at working out inflation rates but 45p in 1971 would have been quite considerable. It's a hardback and has a beautiful smell of old about it, but it doesn't list abstract in its glossary nor does it list surrealism. I love books - I can't imagine a life without them...and reading stuff online is good but it doesn't sink in in the same way and nor is it a haptic feast for the senses in the way that a physical book  is.

I've been watching a far few films recently - the spanish version of Dracula (1931) George Melford Universal which was longer winded than the english version, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2015) which was written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour -  a beautifully shot and realised tale of a female vampire in Iran who has a somewhat gruesome but lovely way of getting rid of an unpleasant drug dealer, a love of western music judging by the posters she has on her walls and who strikes up a relationship with one of the drug dealers victims, she is also a skateboarder and it features a very compliant cat too. It was in black and white and quite haunting but I wonder how much of it I missed due to not knowing the iranian cultural references in the film.

This weekend I watched Underground (1928) Asquith with live musical accompaniment at the ever wonderful Hyde Park Picture House, The Innocents (1961) Jack Clayton and Idle Hands (1999) Rodman Flender. Underground was a tale of 4 working class people - who are in relationships and one of whom works on the underground as a guard. The chap who is a womaniser and works at the powerplant which powers the underground is bored with his dressmaking girlfriend who lives in the flat above him and sets his sights on the underground guards fiancee instead - not taking no for an answer in a way all too reminiscent of the kind of unwanted male attention women still get on public transport today. Suffice to say it ends with murder and a very exciting chase across London which looks very smokey and dirty and there are also wonderful glimpses of the posters alongside the escalators, beautiful cloche hats, lots of smoking and scarves. It was lovely to see it with a live score - especially when the guard and his fiancee are having a picnic and a vagabond child plays a harmonica for them and there was a harmonica being played by one of the musicians. I've seen The Innocents before but it is such a wonderfully creepy and disturbing film it can bear repeated viewing - Deborah Kerr's gowns are wonderful, the haunting song and music, the creepiness, precociousness and cruelty of Miles, the drowned governess, the shadows, the fact that it is a huge house but feels so claustrophobic, the is or aren't they there nature of the ghosts, what exactly did Miles do to get expelled, the wonderful housekeeper, the undercurrent of unwholesome relationships.....I really must read the original story. I have a couple of anthologies with it in and it's not particularly long so I have no excuse really. I shall be watching it again though.

I didn't see Idle Hands when it came out - I saw a clip of it as part of a montage documentary film about american teen and high school culture films called Beyond Clueless (2014) Charlie Lynn and thought - wow, a film about a demonic possessed hand sounds like it would be a good giggle and it was exactly that with some excellent lines from the bottle impaled Seth Green character, an awesome soundtrack and some kick ass female characters too. I'd probably watch that again just because it made me chuckle so much.

The sun has come out now and I'm hoping there will be enough sunshine to do some cyanotyping this week, I also want to have a crack at some chemigrams too - once I've worked out the best way to do them, I also need to drop off a piece of artwork for a show and sort out a couple of bookcases so I can get to the books I need more easily. So best crack on with that then.....


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