Huffing Dogs, Tooting Owls and Classic Disney

Something to enjoy while those beggars dressed as monsters ring your doorbells every three seconds asking for sweets. I’m already playing hide and seek with the lights. Not working obviously but I like to play my part : )


Weekly Egg Head Links

It’s that blissful time of the week that we all get some more sleep in the morning and eat a bit more junk food. Your weekly fix now:

For those of you who have always hankered after Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, your dreams are (coming) true! American reasearchers are currently working on a ‘cloaking device‘ which has a similar effect as invisibility. ‘Cloaking device caused by clever light rays’ doesn’t quite have the same imaginative ring as ‘Invisibility Cloak’ does, but who says science has to be poetic?

Once ordinary mortals were obliged to wear boring old waterproof plasters on their wounds, but now Brandages changed all that. Now that posh folk can display their papercuts in style with designer plasters, they can turn their noses up at those poor fools still wearing ‘skin’ coloured plasters and disney-themed bandages. Although I do wonder from the images gallery what possible accident that man had on his forehead (or indeed what why those wrists needed plasters…hmmm).

More custom-made shoes, although you can actually buy these ones. Star-Wars themed handpainted shoes by Etsy seller Jilliann Silva. Buy a pair and flaunt them at your local comic-store (translate – HMV store before it closes down) and make all the geeks jealous.

Lastly, for those of you looking for something different this Halloween, Tyler Card’s costume of a D3 DSLR camera that actually works might be up your street. Comes with a flash (insert wordplay joke about ‘flash’ here). Otherwise you can always google the costumes from the last San Diego Comic Convention for ideas.

Have a good weekend, don’t forget to put your clocks back an hour, and if those meddling Halloweeners try to egg your front door, have a squirt gun full of hot water and flour to shoot back at ’em. Enjoy your evening, all.

The Human (Foot) Claw

Seriously girls, this is why you shouldn’t do stuff to your feet.
You start painting it pretty colours and next thing you know, you’ve gotten carried away and you have a lethal weapon on the end of your legs.
Imagine never being able to wear closed shoes EVER again.
Worst of all…she even painted them a hideous shade of orange. I mean, really.

How to change rubbish mehndi into something a bit more aesthetically pleasing.

So I tried to practice my mehndi skills (which currently lies at zilch  level on the tiers of how skilled mehndi art needs to be). This is the original design I tried (and gave up) to copy:

Image Source

Of course it didn’t take me long to give up (I blame the mehndi cone being faulty of course), and I was left with a paisley shape that was too big and something that my sister described as looking a bit like big toes on my hand.

My first reaction was to rub it all off and start again, but working with mehndi isn’t exactly like a pencil drawing that I can rub out, so all I could do to improve was improvise and fill in some of that blank space:

And obviously once you start, you have to keep going otherwise it will still look all messy and awkard…

The key, I found, is all about the small detail….

You can tell I was getting a bit carried away with being all creative and artistics with only a cone for my mighty sword-oops I mean pen:

Until I thought, what the heck, might as well finish off the entire hand in the same style, especially now I’m getting the hang of it all…

And voila! The completed blueprints. Didn’t last more than a week (that’s what I get for buying cheap mehndi from questionable sellers). You can still see the messy and squiggly bits (where my hand was turning into an iceblock and I was busy being distracted by an alien movie) but overall, I think it’s a pretty good way of blagging my way into making people think I’m good at mehndi. Remember, it’s all about the squiggles and detail : )

True story.

Weekly Mario Shoes Links

Its the weekend and time to self-improve and read inspiration books (translate: watch junk tv and get high on gummy bears). But still, we all deserve some relaxation time.

Woman gets accused of attacking her husband with cupcakes. Do. not. understand. what this world is coming to.

I like this blog dedicated to inspirational post-it notes left in public places, (although I’m not sure how relevant some of them are but I did think this one was cute)

Now here’s a group that we didn’t know about – Sexy Executives. Explore the risque world of businessmen who, among googling their names, maintain their high standards of grooming and generally just make good pin-ups. Or maybe not. Combover, anyone?

For those of you who miss those ‘classic’ filums of the sixties (and by classic, I mean badly written Bollywood films here)? Here’s a round up of the cliches from the classic past, from the “dishoom, dishoom” special effect to the evil mother in law.

And HOW COOL ARE THESE SHOES?? Just the thing to up your geek cred. Not quite for sale just yet, these are one-off pieces but I imagine they’d fly off the shelves.

Enjoy the links all, I’m off to go watch ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ after spending the last three days cramming the book into my skull. Should be a good watch, review coming up methinks!

Advice for Women #1: Dieting? What dieting?

There’s some strange advice ideas floating about for women, and this is not the least weird of them, although it certainly must come at the top of the table. This quaint advert urges us to throw away our silly dieting ideas and eat, eat, eat! All we need are sanitised tapeworms which will take care of all that silly, unnecessary digesting, all in the name of battling our enemy Fat!
(Side effects may include abdominal comfort, loss of appetite and stomach pains, but hey, it’s all in name of beauty right?)

Squishy Plasticine Art

Welcome to the world of plasticine, where anything’s possible.
Can’t take the credit for making these though, although they were still very much fun to look at (I think the theme here was mostly animals). My fave is definitely the last one though, right out of a Wallace and Gromit set methinks! This was meant to be at a kid’s play area where the children could  be all creative and stuff, although this stuff looks too good to be made by chiddlers, methinks the adults had been sneaking into this area to play with play-doh. (You how it is, when faced with the challenge of doing Art for the first time in too long, revert back to the things you made as a child. It’s ironic or something.)

It’s inspired me to go get some plasticine and see what I come up with (most likely end up mixing all the colours together and ending up with grey blu-tack), will post any successful attempts soon!

Mischief, Secret Love and Bravery from a Freed Slave’s Memoirs

“The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall. Freedom and slavery are mental states.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

The award-winning Andrea Levy’s most recent novel, The Long Song follows the intertwined lives of slave, redeemed slave and freeborn black citizen, in an emotional narrative which follows both the last days of slavery as well as its fallout after the abolition of slavery laws. The protagonist of this novel, the sharp witted and frank July uses both her conversational tone and detailed memories to recount her tale, addressing the readers with her humorous and observation interjections, as well as weaving her memories with the events which unravel. Also mixed into her narrative are the lives of her mother, a slave measured purely by her function and value, and July’s own son, given away from birth to live a better life in London, albeit still a victim of prejudice and hardship. Yet this is not a depressing novel; and there is more to these character’s lives than their bondage to their owners. July and her family make it clear that they create their own narrative, and one that is worth remembering.

From the very beginning of the novel, there is a birth, one that is full of rumours, “ornate invention” and tales, and it is this which establishes the theme of storytelling and passing down –emphasising the importance of heritage. While July’s true origins and her birth are revealed as a struggle in a dingy hut in filthy conditions, and the treatment of her mother, Kitty, are no better, it is still clear to us that these are no passive characters. We see in the beginning of the novel the difficulty July has in telling her son her history and story – until she begins to write it down, further emphasising the importance of recording history ( “Your storyteller is a woman possessed of a forthright tongue and little ink” ) and the idea of telling her true story. A significant comparison to the proverbial bored “white missus” and her freedom to write about the “many tribulations of her life” and her incessant “puff and twaddle” further shows how the ‘wrong’ truths are focused on by the white slave owners (and by implication, the white coloniser). In this way, July’s own narrative corrects these views that have been peddled to the readers, carrying a strong postcolonial message of rewriting the image of the black slaves and their representation. It is ironic that July refuses to write her tale with all the unnecessary descriptions and complaints that she assigns to the white woman writer, as she too fills her scenes with distraction and details, as well as interruptions from her son as she writes her novel and minor events which occur, showing how she chooses to take control of her own version of storytelling, while emphasising its difference from previous writers.

July is repeatedly urged by her son to write about the events of history and slave emancipation – “the firing of plantations”, the “leader of the rebellion”, how the “regiments marched and the militias mustered” while the “bullets sparked like deadly fireflies; and bare black feet ran nimble though grass” – yet July knows nothing of this as she did not witness it. She does not wish to glorify her story with recorded facts and “pamphlets” but rather record her own history. So we are presented with the idea of truth and recording history accurately. She shows her own conflict in wanting to show the true events and also not wanting to let down or undermine the courageous actions of the freed black slaves who fought to put her in the position that she is now in. Yet July is also clear that each character has their own views and experience of slavery and prejudice, and it is this which cannot be forgotten also. The sad irony is that for July and her fellow slaves, they never really experience the war, it is built on rumours, talks and information from others. Her assertion that “You paint untruth” shows the danger of romanticising the truth, and using it to fit a certain agenda. So we see the idea of layers – of time, of stories, of narratives, personality and feelings, subtly woven through the novel, as July makes her own mark as slave, narrator, woman and a storyteller.

Accordingly, the concept of “free” becomes a big one in this novel, and one that is mulled over and chewed over by all the characters to mean different things and have different effects. We see how at first it is just a rumour, and seen as part of the normal gossip between the slaves, yet these are punctuated with powerful scenes which define the status of the slaves. The scene in which the end of slavery is symbolised by the coffin which is filled with shackles, chains and handcuffs by the slaves is an effective one, although it is voiced by July it does not show so much of her personal feelings and thoughts, than a collective memory by all the slaves in the residence. It is this which shows what ‘free’ means to them, and the importance of collective and individual identity.

There are still, some factors which undermine this freedom, however, and the irony lies in the ‘values’ of slaves. July’s realisation that the price of the slaves makes no difference to the “bewhiskered white men in England” shows how they must look to themselves for their own value instead of being defined by their value as slaves and what they can bring for their owners. Although July’s disappointment in her ‘freedom’ makes her feel as if she has no cause to celebrate (after all, “what change had free brought?”), it can be said that July’s disappointment lies in wanting things to be changed automatically with the word ‘free’, until she gradually begins to realise the importance of creating your own identity and taking it with your own hands. Another facet to the idea of value which also recurs is the representation of “mulattos” and mixed race slaves, and how they are perceived. In an unspoken hierarchy of colour, where light skin is seen as beautiful, characters just as the light-skinned Miss Clara, who aspires to marry a white man shows how they define themselves according to the values set by their white owners, and how this is something that they will never be able to meet.

The character of Caroline, July’s mistress, represents the typical white woman’s attitude towards the Caribbean. At first seeing Jamaica as novel and exotic, Caroline is eager to try everything and revel in the idea of being in a new place. Yet this is abruptly contrasted in the stark contrast to the way she views the “negroes”, and both her fear and repulsion for them. It is this which stops her from ever seeing them as her equals, and even as humans, and her coping device is simply to ‘master’ the slaves. The ease in which she takes way July from her mother to be brought “up in the house” as her maid is just one example of many in how Caroline expects her whims to be met. Over the years, her character is no less spoilt, and she becomes more and more the archetypal white slave owner; lazy, cruel and blind to her own faults. Her assertion that “I am forgot” in the midst of change epitomises how she is indeed left behind in her own narcissism, and too caught up in her own needs to help herself.

Always running through the novel is also the various languages and expressions, revealing a mix of cultures. The combination of Caribbean dialect spoken by the slaves with the proper English as spoken by their owners serve as manifestations of their differences, yet it is also these will allow the slaves to create their own dialect between themselves and control their own words. Even July’s narrative becomes emotional when recounting her memories, and her ‘native’ dialect surfaces during painful scenes ( “Him wan’ me suffer every likkle t’ing!” ) showing perhaps, the age old psychological theory that we revert to our childhood when dealing with our pasts. While the narratives of the white characters are maintained by their English tone and dignity, the contrast in the detailed, almost vulgar descriptions of the lives of the slaves and their troubles further emphasises the liveliness and vitality of the society of slaves and their day-to-day lives. While we see how the slaves are beaten and punished, Levy also presents a comical side to lighten the tone, describing elaborate lies thought up by slaves to avoid trouble and the mischief they get up to. This is not don’t to undermine or hide July’s pain, such as missing her mother and counting down the days since she last saw her, but rather shows her refusal to just submit and become an object, keeping her personality alive with quiet acts of mischief and rebellion. Perhaps for July, the real war is fought on the domestic front, and certainly this is her experience. Her gradual defiance of her mistress and her appropriation of her mistress’ status – such as her secret relationship with Caroline’s husband, and her ability to bear children where Caroline cannot – shows how July takes control of her own identity and her own value.

There are several stories which run parallel in this novel, July’s life, her mother Kitty’s history, and July and her own son’s relationship, which continuously shows the importance of mother-child bond. Yet there are also other narratives running alongside this, such as Caroline’s story herself, showing a facet of the ‘poor white girl’ and her own loneliness. While there is always there is an emphasis on the difference between the black slaves and the white society, July’s story also shows that just as emancipation is importance, so is their history as slaves. The fact that the slaves appear to be always living a second-hand lifestyle, living off their owners, scavenging from their food, drink and clothes and ultimately trying to imitate them is also something which makes up their survival techniques, and not something which is their lasting identity. July shows that just as ‘free’ and ‘change’ are important concepts to aspire to; there are also responsibilities that come with these, as well as the importance in coming to terms with themselves. It must be noted, however, that this is a not a heavily political novel, nor is it one that focuses entirely on suffering of the slaves. By no means does it tear down the reader’s spirit by making us feel helpful and angry at the treatment of slaves, and July, as well as the author, makes it clear that they do not wish to define their lives by the suffering they have endured, and the hardships as both slave and ‘free’. We as readers are encouraged to opt for the happier ending, rather than the “fuss-fuss” which also occurs. Yet ultimately, we applaud as the spirited July makes her own mischief, smile as she finds love in various forms, and cheer as our heroine asserts herself and her identity, always insisting that she has her own history to tell and to be remembered. July is a victim of her circumstances, but in no way does she behave as one, and it is this which remains with us through the novel.

Andrea Levy, The Long Song (Headline Review: London 2010) pp.312 £18.99