Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Idiot Savant

Well, the paper at Exeter went well. Extremely well, in fact. Several people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed it. It being TAG, of course, they enjoyed it in ways I can barely comprehend, but that’s not so important, eh?

I was evidently on some sort of endorphin high, because that night I danced for the first time in about four years. And enjoyed it! The night ended with drinking Archer’s in a hall-room at Exeter University until 2 AM. We should make this a tradition.

The rest of the weekend I passed in a fairly relaxed manner, but not so relaxed that I fell asleep in anyone’s paper. In fact, I even managed to take in some papers that may help my thesis, so it counted as work. I failed to dance at the TAG party, so it seems that my fear is actually of dancing in large groups. I was put to shame by the 78-year-old Lord Renfrew, who could be seen jiving to “Johnny B. Goode” at one point.

I hope everyone’s having a good Christmas. See you next year!

Monday, December 04, 2006


So I got round to seeing Casino Royale, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it does live up to the hype. That's right, for the first time in about 30 years someone has made a James Bond film that's actually worth seeing.

The reason for this is that they were finally forced into taking a good, hard look at the genre in the aftermath of The Bourne Identity and Austin Powers. So gone are most of the camp elements, to be replaced by a more-or-less gadget-free Bond who succeeds through ingenuity and being a borderline psychopath.

Daniel Craig does pretty well, too, which is the advantage of giving the part to someone who can act a bit, as opposed to Pierce "Carved Out Of Stone" Brosnan. He looks suitably gritty, as well, which matches the tone of violence in the film: as Mark Kermode said on Radio 5, this is about as extreme as the 12A certificate is going to get. A scene with strong homoerotic BDSM undertones? Never would have happened with Roger Moore!

Actually, I think we're all pretty happy that it never happened with Roger Moore.

Honorable mention should also go to Mads Mikkelsen, who manages to rescue Bond-villany from the specter (ha!) of Doctor Evil. And manages to do it while looking like a sinister version of Antoine De Caunes, to boot.

If I have a complaint, it's that the running time is a bit too long - there are about 5 points at which the film appears to end, onlyto start up again. Aside from that, though, this one is well worth your money.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

That Time of Year Again

Well, it transpires that the abstract I submitted to the TAG 2006 conference has been accepted, so I'll be in the plenary session on 15th December. The abstract is as follows:

Ex Machina: Archaeology In A Post-Human Future

Recent research in disciplines as varied as medicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence has raised the prospect that, during the 21 st Century, humans will be increasingly able to alter themselves physically, through both biological and mechanical means. The consequences of such alterations to humans may have serious implications for the study of humanity. Indeed, they have led to some researchers speculating that we may see the emergence of “post-humanity”, a development which has caused Francis Fukuyama to revise his previous assertion that human history essentially ended in 1989 (Fukuyama, 2002). The purpose of this paper, therefore, is twofold: to introduce some of the means by which humanity may become post-human, and to speculate as to how archaeology as a discipline might respond to the challenge of interpreting a human past from a post-human viewpoint.

I have to admit, when I first found out I'd made it in, I was terrified: the plenary session will be attended by just about everyone who's attending, which will include some very big names indeed. Then there's the fact that I'm not an expert in either posthuman or archaeological theory.

I've calmed down a bit now though. Thinking about it, they accepted the paper because they felt it was an interesting subject, and my main purpose is really just to raise the issue. Plus, being a plenary session, there's no Q&A, so no-one will be able to ask me a question I don't understand until I'm off-stage.

Full details on the TAg conference can be found here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

London Wants Me

I spent the weekend celebrating my Dad's 60th birthday in London. I went down on Friday morning so that I could have lunch with Emily in the resteraunt at the Sony building. It's very GATTACA-type minimalist, but the food was good ('though I do have some reservations about mushy peas mushed within an inch of their lives).

The main event was going with my parents and sister to the Fulham vs. Everton match on Saturday. The less said about the first half the better, but the highlight was undoubtedly the manner in which one Fulham fan decided to continually mock Joleon Lescott's hair (pictured below). Fortunately, Fulham had the decency to win the match with an excellent Claus Jensen goal in the second half, so we went away happy.

"Oo's your barber? Suuuuuuuuuuue your barber mate!"

I was going to go to the cinema on Saturday night, while my sister was at the Gogol Bordello gig, but there was nothing decent on at the Odeon Camden. I ended up watching Double Indemnity (which I'd surprisingly not seen before) on DVD. It's as good as they say it it - go and find it now!

The journey back on Sunday took 5 hours on a direct train, even though the journey down took 2. On the bright side, I did get to see bonfires and fireworks all across the country.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

About As Accurate As It Could Be...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Saturday, October 14, 2006

All These Things That I've Read

Bookmeme: Bold the ones you've read and add four to the bottom

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials Book 1)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter 6) - J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
1984 - George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) - J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) - J.K. Rowling
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter 5) - J.K. Rowling
Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Book 1) - J.K. Rowling
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) - J.K. Rowling
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Ender’s Game (The Ender Saga) - Orson Scott Card
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings - J. R. R. Tolkien
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement - Ian McEwan
The Shadow Of The Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Dune - Frank Herbert
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland
The Nature of Blood - Caryl Phillips
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules -Ed. David Sedaris
Yarn Harlot by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Spook by Mary Roach
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Suzanne Clarke
Marley and Me -- John Grogan
Gone to the Dogs - Emily Carmichael
Book the 11th: The Grim Grotto: The Series of Unfortunate Events - Lemony Snicket
State of Fear - Michael Crichton
The Speed of Dark -- Elizabeth Moon
Interview with the Vampire -- Anne Rice
The Vampire Lestat -- Anne Rice
The Snow Fox -- Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
Anansi Boys -- Neil Gaiman
The Princess Bride -- William Goldman
Luck in the Shadows -- Lynn Flewelling
Arthur & George -- Julian Barnes
The Seven Dials Mystery -- Agatha Christie
The Stupidest Angel -- Christopher Moore
Sabine's Notebook -- Nick Bantock
Strangers in the Night -- Linda Howard
Night Tales (v.1) -- Nora Roberts
Reunion -- Nora Roberts
White Lies -- Linda Howard
Fever Season (Merovingen Nights) -- CJ Cherryh
Divine Rite (Merovingen Nights) -- CJ Cherryh
Angel With a Sword (Merovingen Nights) CJ Cherryh
Mount Dragon -- Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
Ella Enchanted -- Gail Carson Levine
Dreams Underfoot -- Charles de Lint
Settling Accounts: Return Engagement -- Harry Turtledove
In Cold Blood -- Truman Capote
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula -- Marta Acosta
Not in Kansas Anymore: The Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America -- Christine Wicker
Wicked -- Gregory Maguire
Holy Fools -- Joane Harris
Nikolai Gogol -- Vladimir Nabokov
The Picture of Dorian Gray -- Oscar Wilde
From a Buick 8 -- Stephen King
Half a Life -- V.S. Naipaul
Kafka on the Shore -- Haruki Murakami
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater -- Kurt Vonnegut
Naked Lunch -- William S. Burrough
The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
Fevre Dream -- George R.R. Martin
A Feast for Crows -- George R.R. Martin
The Burning -- Bentley Little
Men of Tomorrow -- Gerard Jones
Caucasia - Danzy Senna
Sacred Clowns - Tony Hillerman
Best American Mystery Stories 2005 - Various
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
Sword of Truth series books 1 – 9 – Robert Jordan
Going Postal – Terry Pratchett
Tiger in the Shadows – I can’t remember who wrote this (Debra Wilson?)
Stagestruck Vampires – Suzy McKee Charnas
A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
The Crying of Lot 49 – Thomas Pynchon
Cosmopolis – Don Delillo
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
Vellum - Hal Duncan
Illicit Passage - Alice Nunn
Zahrah the Windseeker - NNedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Men At Arms - Terry Pratchett
Hyperion Cantos - Dan Simmons
A Scanner Darkly - Phillip K Dick
At the Mountains of Madness - H.P. Lovecraft
Divine Invasions: A Life of Phillip K Dick - Lawrence Sutin
Tales Of H.P. Lovecraft
Voyage Of The Space Beagle - A.E. van Vogt
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
Snakes & Earrings - Hitomi Kanehara
The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lady of Avalon - MZB as above
Botany of Desire - Michael Pollan
Scaramouche - Rafael Sabatini
The Darkness That Comes Before - R. Scott Bakker
Humpty Dumpty: An Oval - Damon Knight
The Dictionary of the Khazars - Milorad Pavic
Le Ton Beau de Marot - Douglas Hofstadter
Viriconium Nights - MJ Harrison
Fremder - Russell Hoban
Box Nine - Jack O'Connell
The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
A Very Profitable War - Didier Daeninckx
Carter Beats the Devil - Glen David Gold
Crime & Punishment - Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Case of Comrade Tulayev - Victor Serge
The Sword of Honour Trilogy - Evelyn Waugh
The Long Goodbye - Raymond Chandler
Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley - Lawrence Sutin

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"It's Such A Fine Line Between Stupid, And Clever."

There's nothing funnier than a band completely lacking self-awareness. Case in point: this video for Cathedral's song "Witchfinder General". It's a special feature on the DVD of the same name, but now, thanks to YouTube (a subsidiary of Google!), you can see it too.

Poor-quality metal? A random woman in leather? "Vampires" half-heartedly lezzing up? Lead singer an idiot? It's like Spinal Tap never happened.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

William Gibson Overdrive

I just started reading Idoru, and the first 40 pages have already reminded me why I love Gibson's writing: unlike most SF writers (even the good ones), there's a sense of realism at work which draws you in. This, of course, is because most SF writers come from a science-y background, and will spend pages telling you how something would work. Gibson cheerfully knows nothing about how things work, but he's interested in how people use technology, the consequences of it. Hence the following passage:
He knew that she was screaming because her mouth was open, but the syllables of her rage couldn't penetrate the seamless hissing surf of the white-noise generator provided by his lawyers. He'd been advised to wear the generator at all times, during this last visit to the Slitscan offices. He'd been instructed to make no statements. Certainly he would hear none.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ultimate Horror

The Just-Like-Me Doll

What response can I give, other than "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Students On A Plane

Yesterday I went to Manchester Airport to film a promotional video for the International Office at the University. The idea was to film the students being met at the airport bu Uni representatives, and taken back to their halls of residence. It went pretty well, despire me and Rik, who were doing the filming, being pretty inexperienced with the use of a semi-pro camera.

Also interesting was the point where we were hassled by a young asian man, who apparantly felt that Two White Guys Filming Asian Students Arriving = Agents Of The Vast Racist Conspiracy. Typically, the response he got from me was the short embarased/annoyed laugh that you give when you find yourself talking to an arse, rather than the sentence "Listen pal, why don't you go and vent your paranoid passive-aggression at that cop over there with the loaded MP5?"

You should eventually be able to see the film on the University of Liverpool website.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Normal Service Will Be Resumed

Well, I have returned from Greece. Hopefully you're reading this because I've fixed the problem with the blog, which meant that I couldn't blog from Greece. It's probably for the best - it would just have been a list of mior complaints and threats of extreme violence against a Frenchman who we laughingly refer to as an archaeologist.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hot Hot Heat

A list of things which have struck me since I arrived in Greece:

  • I really should have brought a hammock.
  • Athens really is ugly, isn't it?
  • Why are ants trying to eat my tent?
  • "Hoovering a Neolithic floor" is an hilarious sentence, but not as funny as the activity itself.
  • A pig-knuckle and a human finger-bone look really similar.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hearing Music From Another Time

Members of the British Battalion in Barcelona, September 1936.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The System Of The World

I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean film over the weekend. It's OK (mostly for Depp, again), but also quite disapointing in its own way.

The thing that I really liked about it, actually, was its use of the British East India Company as a villain: as someone on RPG.net commented, we are talking about the original country-owning megacorporation. The brief comment on Globalisation in an 18th Century context was easily the most interesting thing the script did.

It also got me thinking about the recent resurgence of interest in the 18th century in popular culture: that series the BBC is running about how the 18th Century created the modern world, the very modern-feeling Casanova series last year, and
Neal Stephenson's trilogy of near future science fiction novels (which aren't science fiction and take place in the 18th century, if you see what I mean). Going back a bit further, there's the short story "Mozart In Mirrorshades", which is one of my favourite pieces of short fiction, and you should read it.

What this all actually means, I don't know. Are we becoming the new Georgians in preparation for Charles becoming George VII? Is it because we've spent the past century doing our best to get rid of Victorian morality? Maybe we just really like frilly shirts?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Just Another Country

So there we are. And at the end all I could think was "Why are they lying on the ground and crying like it was an act of God? They had the ability to change things, yet didn't." For the first time in my life I found myself admiring Phil Neville, as he stayed on his feet, not a tear in his eye, shaking hands with the Portugal players. Like you're supposed to. Like a man.

Quite frankly, Gerrard and Lampard shouldn't be considered world-class if tyey can't score from a free shot from 12 yards. Yet again the fans were great, and the team were shit.

All of which leads me to consider a new policy. When England reach a finals, I will not watch them until they make the semis. They have to prove that they are worthy of my time and effort.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flow My Tears, The Viewer Said

Watching "Big Brother's Big Mouth" last night (yes, I know) I came across the final proof that human history and culture have reached their logical end-points. One of the studio audience was attempting to be Russell Brand.

I'll pause a moment to let the full horror of that sink in.

At some point there was a man, possibly a fairly normal man. One day, upon watching TV, he thought "I know what'll make me popular: becoming a less talented version of Russell Brand".

Nuclear war is our only hope.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Street Finds Its Own Uses For Things

God I love this story:

This is one ringtone you've gotta hear

Enterprising teenagers have hijacked a high-pitched electronic blip which adults cannot hear and turned it into a stealth ringtone.

It is suitable for use in situations where grown ups aren't meant know there's an incoming call or text message.

The ringtone - which can be downloaded from the internet - is proving especially popular amongst school students in the US and UK who use it in classrooms.

With it, students can receive text message alerts on their mobile phones without the teacher knowing.

As people age, many develop what's known as presbycusis or aging ear - a loss of the ability to hear higher-frequency sounds.

The ringtone is a spin-off of technology that was originally meant to repel teenagers - not help them.

Last year, a Welsh security company developed the 17-kilohertz buzz to help shopkeepers disperse youngsters loitering in front of their stores.

Mr Howard Stapleton, the inventor of the "Mosquito", claims the high-frequency pulsing sound can be heard by most people younger than 20 and almost no one older than 30.

Realising the commercial possibilities in the unintended use of the blip, Mr Stapleton's company has quickly produced it's own official version of the ringtone which they are calling the "the authentic Mosquito ring tone".
From The Sidney Morning Herald

Monday, June 12, 2006

Back Home

So, did we all enjoy the first weekend of the World Cup? My main enjoyment came from not having to apologise to my friends in Frankfurt for the England fans destroying the town center. Hopefully that'll continue.

As far as the football has gone, I'm very, very afraid of Argentina. They're certainly the first team to look capable of winning it. Germany seemed a bit too excited about scoring four against Costa Rica. Perhaps they were trying to blot out the memory of conceding two to Paulo Wanchope, a man famous to Premiership fans for playing like his legs belong to someone else, and have just been sown on to his hips.

England managed to provide the most boring match of the finals so far. This was doubtless part of Sven's master plan. Why else would he have taken off our actual fast striker, and left Peter Crouch on his own, heading the ball at nothing? The man's a genius, I tell you!

Today of course, we get to see Brazil, whom I hate with the fire of thousands of suns. Not for anything to do with them, but for every two-bit Nike-endorsed excitement-whore that they bring out of the woodwork at this point, claiming that thay love football. Face it Brazil, you're the Manchester United of world football, but with worse teeth.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

"...*Steal* A Car..."

Probably my favourite of all the things Kids In The Hall ever did:

Get this video and more at MySpace.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

On Not Thinking Things Through

Yes, it is real, and it really was made.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

“I’ve Got All Five Senses And I Slept Last Night: That Puts Me Six Up On You.”

A film noir in which the protagonist is the high school geek? Yeah, you knew this one was never going to score less than “average” with me.

But Brick is more than art-porn for lonely kids who’ve read too much Raymond Chandler. It’s the best film I’ve seen this year, and might even be the best film I’ve seen in rather a long time.

The idea of making a film noir set in a school seems ridiculous at first, but the more you see of it, the more it makes sense. In addition, the unusual setting allows the film to avoid and/or subvert the conventions of the genre. Indeed, the plot somehow manages to encompass everything you would expect to find in classic noir, and somehow manages to make you believe it. As always with noir, though, to concentrate on the plot is to miss the point entirely: this film is all about creating a mood.

Mood is perhaps where the film excels the most, with the cinematography picking out the menacing emptiness in the American landscape, in much the same way that Hopper paintings did. The soundtrack is suitably subdues as well, which is a welcome change after years of jock-rock in American school films.

Not everything in Brick is perfect. There are occasions when its desire to pastiche classic noir nearly crosses the line into parody, and there’s no question that the best moments of the film are when it is trying to play things relatively straight.

If you’ve read this far, you probably already know whether this sounds like your sort of thing or not. It certainly comes with my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

"Choke on 'em! Choke on 'em!"

It's about time I told the blog readers that I have a character in Urban Dead. Urban dead is a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) set in a city suffering from a zombie outbreak. You can play a survivor or a zombie, and will find yourself switching around as you get killed or "revivified". It's surprisingly fun for a browser-based game.

You can also see the current status of my character, Roy Allenson.

I'll see you behind the nearest barricade...

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Isn't He Beautiful?"

So what happens when the cyberpunk asthetic meets the rest of Eighties culture? The answer, should you be looking for one, is provided by this, the video to Sigue Sigue Sputnik's 1986 single "Love Missile F1-11" (you heard me).

Sad though it is, this actually sums up what I think a music video should be: equal parts cool and hilariously absurd.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Build My Gallows High, Baby.

The Movie Of Your Life Is Film Noir

So what if you're a little nihilistic at times?
Life with meaning is highly over-rated.

Your best movie matches: Sin City, L. A. Confidential, Blade Runner

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

21st Century Minimalist Rebellion

Over at Mind On The Run, Tom is talking about becoming Irish. I've asked him to keep me updated on the process. I don't want an ID card: it's no-one's business who I am, and I'm not here for the police's convenience.

I'm also not sure that I want to be part of a country which apparently thinks that the Geneva Convention should be altered to allow torture and the starting of wars of aggression.

Tom was amused by my use of the phrase "becoming Irish as a form of protest". Maybe we should co-author a book on the subject?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

This Vicious Cabaret

Films of graphic novels do not have a good reputation. Films adapted from Alan Moore’s graphic novels have an even worse reputation. Nonetheless, I went to see V For Vendetta with some pretty high expectations.

By and large, I wasn’t let down.

The film takes place in a future authoritarian British state, in which a terrorist known only as “V”, and taking on the persona of Guy Fawkes, is conducting a war against the government. Perhaps the best aspect of the film is the highly convincing way in which this British fascism is portrayed. The low point is probably the usual Hollywood inanities regarding British culture. Yes, of course, we say “bollocks” every other word, and Benny Hill is regarded as cutting-edge satire.

There are also problems with the script. There are several places where the political points being made are as subtle as a tactical nuclear strike. Perhaps more damaging is the entry of V into the script: he comes across as a hammy eccentric rather than dangerously unstable individual, and the film takes quite a while to recover.

When it does recover, though, the results are excellent, helped along by a cast of quality British actors (Steven Fry steals just about every scene he’s in). While the film is nowhere near as clever as the graphic novel, and not as clever as it thinks it is, it’s certainly head-and-shoulders above most action films.

If you see it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I just got back from Worcester. My grandmother died yesterday evening. She was 95 years old, so this wasn't unexpected. It's still sad though.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

On Archaeological Service East Of Constantinople

The Kocatepe Mosque, Ankara

I still find it remarkable that you can start a day in the north-west of England and be in central Anatolia by mid-afternoon. Never let it be said that archaeology doesn’t take you to interesting places.

Some places, however, are more interesting than others. The thing about Ankara is that there isn’t really much there. It’s only the capital because Mustafa Kemal (I refuse to use “Atatürk”: I don’t care if you did win a War of Independence, taking the title “Father of Turks” is the sure sign of an incorrigible twat) was based there during his war. So, apart from the Old Town, Citadel, and Museum of Anatolian Civilisation, the city is really just a bland administrative centre.

Turkey still made for a pretty interesting experience, though. It was the first time I’d been to a Muslim country, and it proved to be a cliché-defying experience: I never expected to hear the call to prayer coming from hundreds of mosques while simultaneously wading through snow. It did surprise me how much the city felt like the rest of south-eastern Europe. The other possible title for this blog entry was “Europe With Added Pointy Bits”.

The other thing that occurred to me was that this was really the first time I’ve travelled abroad alone, as before I’ve always been with family or friends. That being the case, things went remarkable well, although my usual mixture of incompetence, paranoia, and cowardice served to keep things interesting.

I’ve got this far without saying anything about the conference. My paper went well, and although there weren’t any questions, I had several people come up to me afterwards and tell me that they’d enjoyed it. There’s a very good chance that it’ll be published, too, so expect me to ask you to buy the volume at some point. The one downside was the slightly low attendance, which was probably down to the hard-to –reach location.

I was glad I went though. I must look for more conferences to go to.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Snakes On A Plane

Some of you will already have heard me talk about this, but soon we are to see the Samuel L. Jackson film Snakes On A Plane released.

Snakes On A Plane does exactly what it says on the tin: an assassin wants to kill someone in protective custody, so he resorts to the only foolproof method - releasing venomous snakes on the airliner which is transporting the target. Only Samuel L. Jackson can save the day.

Allegedly, the producers thought the title was stupid and wanted to change it, but Jackson stopped them, saying "The title's the only reason I agreed to do the film".

I predict hilarity. Who wouldn't want to see this?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The King Dances

Well, I've been tracking this for some time now, and it seems to have spread from America to our own shores. Forget Avian Flu, this is worse.

Much worse.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Design For Life

I've never really had a "look", a cohesive style, but I would like one. This passage on mods from Dick Hebdige's Subculture: The Meaning Of Style, neatly sums up my thoughts:
Unlike the Defiantly obtrusive teddy boys, the mods were more subtle and subdued in appearance: they wore apparently conservative suits in subdued colours, they were fastidiously neat and tidy...The mods invented a style which enabled them to negotiate smoothly between school, work, and leisure, and which concealed as much as it stated. Quietly disrupting the orderly sequence which leads from signifier to signified, the mods undermined the conventional meaning of 'collar, suit and tie', pushing neatness to the point of absurdity. They made themselves like Ronald Blythe's discontented labourers into 'masterpieces': they were a little too smart, somewhat too alert, thanks to amphetamines.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Beyond The End Of History

I was suddenly struck by something that was said in an online forum today. In online RPGs such as World Of Warcraft, there is an increasing problem known as "gold farming".

"Gold farming" is when businesses are set up which employ people in poor parts of the world (China, etc.) and pay them a small amount to play the game, gathering in-game resources. The company then sells those resources online for real cash.

It's so post-modern it makes my head spin.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Damn You, Mustafa Kemal!

If you hadn't made Ankara the capital of Turkey, the SOMA conference would probably be in Istanbul, which costs significantly less than £300 to get to.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

More Conference Joy

Hot on the heels of TAG, I've had a paper accepted for the Symposium On Mediterranean Archaeology conference in Ankara on March 9-11. My chance to impress other Mediterranean archaeologists and/or contract Avian Flu. Here's the abstract for my paper:

Sackers Of Cities, Rowers of Ships: Eastern Mediterranean Naval Warfare

The importance of Mediterranean seafaring to the development of Bronze Age cultures around that seas shores has long been acknowledged, particularly in terms of trade and cultural contact. Discussion of the military uses of the sea in this ear, has, however, been limited, with the alleged scarcity of evidence often being put forward as an explanation. Indeed, scholars such as Starr (1994) have claimed that there was no such concept as “sea-power” prior to the rise of Athens in the 5th Century BC. Given the aforementioned importance of the sea, such claims must be investigated. This paper will examine the evidence for military uses of the sea in the eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age. It will demonstrate that not only is there a variety of evidence to suggest the use of sea-power in the Bronze Age, and will suggest the nature of war at sea in that era.

There should now be a comments feature on this blog, so you can tell me what you think.