Saturday, December 13, 2008
The actual result was that I have passed subject to substantial corrections - they should take at least 6 months to complete, I have a maximum of a year to do them. So a good result, but not a great one. The main problem is that I was hoping that the viva would function as the event which would finally prove to me that I was good enough, and could, in fact, do this for a job*. For that, I'm still waiting.
I won't have to viva again however, and the examiners report which should arrive before Christmas will state precisely what I have to do in the form of corrections, so it's not like having to guess what the examiners want, which is pretty much what you have to do while you're writing the thesis.
*Curiously, I just finished reading David Peace's The Damned United, in which this is something of a theme. I suspect I'm substantially less damaged than Brian Clough, though.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Still, if all else fails I might finally get to use the Simpsons "You're not the time, Kent! YOU'RE not the time!" defence, so beloved by Emily and myself, in a proper context.
Monday, November 24, 2008
There are two main unsettling elements to these ads. One, of course, is the matter-of-fact way in which horrific information is being relayed. The other is that a campaign to assist the British public in surviving thermonuclear war appears to have had about 25p lavished on it.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I'm also applying for a position at a Very Prestigious Museum in London, which wants a curator for its Greek Bronze Age collection. According to the person description in their application pack, I'm a fairly good match for what they want, so I'm hoping for an interview.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It's in this context that the photo below struck me when I saw it at the Daylife website. It is a view of the skyline from a shanty-town on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines:
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Thanks to Tom for originally bringing the video to my attention.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Well, that's the thesis. We have no idea how good it is yet, but it is reassuringly thick. There's no date for the viva as yet, but the latest news is that it may be possible to do it in December rather than January, which is good.
I actually handed the thesis in on 26th September, my final deadline day. I've been meaning to post about it here for a while, because not everyone who reads this is on Facebook yet. Handing in the thesis is a strange thing: everyone other than you seems to be quite excited by it. Really for me it wasn't all that special, other than that I could stop working quite so hard for a bit.
People find this lack of excitement strange, so I should probably explain it a bit. It's not, of course, that handing in is not A Good Thing. It's just that, for people who are still keen on having a career in academia, handing in is really a minor step. Finding out whether I'm any good at research is more important, and that's what the viva will tell me. Getting a job is what it's all about, and as far as I can tell I'm as close to that as I was four years ago. These, for me, are the milestones that will count.
In the post-thesis phase, I'm staying busy, thanks mostly to the fact that I'm now lecturing in the ancient warfare module at the university. So far student feedback has been quite good, which is encouraging. The teaching of ancient warfare does, however, have some fairly unique problems, such as the fact that you find yourself having to repeatedly use phrases such as "thrusting strokes" in front of an audience of 18 year-olds.
Like Jen, I think i'm going to try and make a post a week here from now on. We'll see how that goes.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
*Reference to a now-infamous Frank Miller Batman comic.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Prior to the film was a short introduction by Dr. Jack Shaheen, who noted that the film may in fact be the most positive portrayal Arabs have had in western cinema. Perhaps the biggest change the film makes from history is the depiction of the Arab occupation of Damascus in 1918: it shows Arab government failing after two days due to infighting and the refusal of the British to allow their technical experts with regards to power and medicine. In point of fact the Arab government lasted two years until 1920, when it fell because it was forcibly removed by the French. Shaheen would give it a C- as history, but an A+ as entertainment.
What was most interesting to me, not having seen the film in years, and having read Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom in the meantime, was the character portrait the film provides of a remarkably complex individual. Peter O'Toole's performance manages to capture the strange mixture of arrogant egoism and fragile insecurity that appears to have driven the historical Lawrence's personality - the personality which wrote an autobiographical account of colonial adventurism inspired by the Odyssey, Medieval Romances and modernist prose, and then finished it with the words "and then at once I knew how much I was sorry".
The omissions the film makes regarding Lawrence's personality are also interesting - you don't need to read much of Seven Pillars of Wisdom to realise that the historical Lawrence was much more racist that the film would have you believe. You also don't have to read much to realise that he was a complete sado-masochist, something which an early 1960s film can only hint at.
Regardless of what it does with history and character portraits, though, Lawrence of Arabia is perhaps the most subtle and intelligent of epics. As such, it's a fitting study of a very modern protagonist, and one which has become strangely relevant again.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Surely there should be world championships for this? If so, I believe these people would make the finals:
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
There was also a nagging feeling that Indiana Jones is somehow out of place in the 1950s. The 30s and 40s? Sure, that's the period of pulp adventure, but the 50s somehow feels slightly off. If there's a fifth installment they better not push it into the 60s. More positively, Harrison Ford does quite well here, which is impressive when you remember that his last decent film was, what, The Fugitive? Actually, Scrubs fans will be pleased to see the Janitor pop up yet again in a Harrison Ford film.
Of interest to the archaeological crowd is the fact that our impeccably anti-Communist Dr. Jones declares himself to be a fan of Vere Gordon Childe.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
In real life, I don't think I'll be able to take watching the automatic updates or listening on the radio. I shall walk around Sefton Park with my iPod, and will only turn on the media once the results are in.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The other thing that strikes me is how intimidating it is to see the quality of some departments out there. Birkbeck's archaeology falls under their "School of History, Classics and Archaeology", which currently features Eric Hobsbawm and Orlando Figes, so I'm pretty sure you can see the gap in class between me and them.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
The problem with Diary of the Dead is that Romero doesn't seem to know what sort of film it was supposed to be. Update of previous themes? Use of new technology? Interesting media-collage zombie film? Scream-style genre deconstruction? All of these are attempted, with the result that there isn't really a core to the film that emerges.
This is actually a great shame, because there are some interesting ideas in Diary of the Dead, but they aren't really executed properly. To some extent, this is a long-standing problem with Romero's films: watch the original Dawn of the Dead again, and you'll notice that it's too long and flabby, which is why Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead are much more cohesive pieces of work.
These days, however, even Romero's good points seem to be slipping. In Dawn of the Dead the social commentary was implied, while in Diary of the Dead you'll usually find one of the actors delivers it straight to the camera.
The most interesting elements here are the use of hand-held video cameras, and the (under-utilized) idea of creating a larger picture through pseudo-new media sources. As someone who made his name on shoestring-budgets, you'd think that Romero would be in his element with the opportunities for first-person perspectives, but it feels a little stagey. The hand-held camera idea was actually utilized much better in the micro-budget British effort The Zombie Diaries (2006), where it feels real: confusing and panic stricken (the film still isn't up to much, mind, mostly because of its reliance on masturbatory sadism for the horror element).
So, while there is some entertainment to be had here, there are also a lot of missed opportunities. The commentary on new media and the use of hand-held could have made this one of Romero's most interesting films, but as it is, the far more conventional Land of the Dead is much more successful.
Also of interest on this cinema visit was the trailer for the forthcoming superhero film Iron Man. The film itself might not have a strong theme of "See the primitive Muslim savages quail before American technological might!" but the trailer appears to have been put together with just that in mind.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
You may not Get This, but if you do not then you may be Dead To Me.
In a similar vein, one day I will be able to show you the episode of Pinky and the Brain called "The Third Mouse"...
Monday, February 11, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Now, my own views came out like this:
Holy fuck! I think I just pwned Gandhi! Also, I appear to be Bakunin, or someone.
More seriously, that's not too far from what I thought, but there's a good chance that my results have been pushed slightly to the left and slightly down by two factors:
- Some of the questions are clearly designed to test Americans, and don't really help in mapping out British folk.
- I suspect that I idealized my political beliefs a bit when answering the questions.
Like most people, I've never really considered the Green Party. This prompted me to check out their policies. While there are parts of their programme that I'm not really bothered about (No nuclear power? Might have to be a bullet we bite, I'm afraid. No medical testing on animals? Do we *have* perfect simulations of people yet?), a fair few of their other ideas do interest me, to the extent that I'm going to have to find out more, at least.
So, long story short, this could be a solution to the problem of wanting to vote for a non-Labour leftist party that isn't some species of Marxist-Leninism.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Yes, I was there at the opening ceremony for Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008. I arrived a bit too late to get a really good view, but it was a bit cold to be standing around outside for an hour and a half or more.
As for the opening ceremony, it was...well it was all a bit opening ceremony. Lots of acrobats in hard hats representing the workers of Liverpool. Semaphore representing maritime trade. No mentions of slavery. You know the drill. Really I was only there to see Ringo. Perhaps fortunately, him and his mate Dave Stewart were too away to hear my comments about the less popular quarter of the Beatles and the less popular half of the Eurythmics. Their contribution was to close the ceremony by singing one of the songs from Ringo's new 2008 tie-in album (the world has, of course, been crying out for a new Ringo Starr album). This I was vaguely disappointed by: it would've been good if he'd done "With A Little Help From My Friends" as well, say. Still, it got a large crowd out, and I gather the whole thing looked good on TV, so job done.
I also realise that I haven't said much, if anything, about Liverpool 08 in this blog. Partly it all seemed a long way off for a long time, and, of course, I'm not exactly immersed in the cultural life of the city. There's also the fact that I'm a touch ambivalent about the whole thing.
Liverpool 08 is supposed to be a celebration of the city's culture, but I suspect that it's actually an attempt to create a new type of culture in the city. A friend of mine lived in Dublin when they were Capital of Culture in the early '90s, and he reports that what it did most effectively was kill off the pre-existing culture. Capital of Culture is an exercise in bringing to the city the kind of culture that businesses, and the young professionals that work for those businesses, will want to see - and that's not, in large part, the Liverpool culture that's already here.
You can see it written in the building work being conducted in the city. There's hardly an empty warehouse or a patch of land in the city centre that isn't being turned into "luxury apartments". I have a weird feeling that the city's going to be left with a large surplus of luxury apartments in a few years. In Toxteth (just next to the city centre, on the river front) they moved "problem" residents into Kensington to make room for apartments and business space. Less solving a problem, more moving it to where it'll be less visible.
At the same time, I'm compelled to be my own counterpoint. It's all very well for me to be sniffy from my ivory tower about the motivation and the means for the 08 project. After all, I'm not relying on a job for it. There's no denying that it has brought much-needed jobs and investment into a city which has some of the worst areas of deprivation in western Europe, and that's undoubtedly important.
So I suspect that Liverpool 08 is going to be a two-edged sword. Which edge has the most effect remains to be seen.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Oh, and convincing someone to give me an academic job so that I don't have to go a-warehousing again come October.
Still, I'll not be bored.