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Fionnghuala's Journal

Not to be taken

2/6/12 03:37 pm - Super powers

As I was having a brief 'I'm off to the shop, do you want anything' conversation today, I was again reminded that pretty much no one I know can keep biscuits in the house. I've only started to notice this in the past year or so, but it turns out that even my slimmest and least food-obssessed friends become absolutely haunted by a single packet of jaffa cakes under the same roof as them. This surprises me because I've never had that problem. I love nothing more than keeping a packet of biscuits, or chocolates, or cake or whatever until it's all white and dessicated and has to be thrown away. But now I'm realising this is some kind of super-power I have previously taken for granted. Could it be the 'talent' they were always telling me at school that I would someday find? That would act as a beacon telling me what I am here to do, and how I can contribute something to civilization? If so, how can I turn this mysterious power to good, and start properly making the most out of it? Certainly I should keep on hand a range of bakery and lard-rich items, and enjoy the luxury of not eating them. But I feel sure there must be more...

1/23/12 04:06 pm - Amateur Dramatics

Hanging about LJ looking at Orphiel's interesting post. Then I found myself having an LJ-type thought while having a wee (as they so often are).

Into my mind, unbidded, came an image of a face and a cheeky style of posture. I took a moment to enjoy the feeling of remembering someone I know, and tried to work out who it was. It was a bit of a tricky one to figure out, but then I realised it was a character from the amateur pantomime I saw last week. It was a comical-interlude character doing a Chuckle Brothers-type act, two women in matching colourful overalls larking about.

At the time I'd thought the two of them were okay-ish. Probably better than I'd expected for an amateur production, but definitely not as polished as you'd see in any professional context. Their look was stereotypical - big red pigtails and freckley cheeks, paired with shapeless overalls that transformed their bodies into abstract cartoons. It was easy to see what they were *trying to do*, but it wasn't quite working, was breaking up a bit round the edges.

But the feeling that came into my head when this woman just drifted in was something different from that *trying to do*. That character, if they'd pulled it off, would have been instantly forgettable, in no way challenging, and something I'd seen a million times on TV and other pantomimes and silly productions. What stuck with me was the personality and flair of this real woman struggling to perform something slightly different. But it was where she fell short on the polish that something genuinely charming and transporting came in.

This reminds me what I love about seeing amateur shows, something I used to do a lot when I first moved to Cardiff, there are at least two separate shows going on. One is the slick, professional presentation that the actors are aiming for. But alongside it is more of themselves, which they are failing to fully obscure. Unlike the tropes of commercial acting and production which tend towards very generic, simplistic characterisation, this allows for more powerful affects to flow round the room. The audience sees the real fear and discomfort in the actors' face and bodies, their jubilation when a scene goes well, and comedy that they geniunely have never seen before.

10/11/08 07:49 pm - These really are the first/only thoughts I've had for months...

I was journeying across town though the park on my way home this Saturday evening. Imagine my surprise to find that it really is filled with groups of lurking yoofs! I thought that was just a myth.

Although it was only 6pm, so I was pleased to note that they were starting early. I can't stand a youth that stays in brooding until midnight, and only then goes out partying.

Recently, I've found myself making a lot of cups of tea I don't finish. I usually drink about two thirds of the tea, and then forget about it. I'd like to think this is a sign of how thrusting and work-focused I am. But I fear it's a sign of creeping absent-mindedness that can only end in me not being able to find my arse with both hands. On the other hand, I seem to be surrounded by people who can't find their arse with both hands, so maybe it would be for the best.

7/14/08 03:46 pm - Mr Kipling



For those who are offended by the length of my recent post ;)
This film has a strange effect on me. Cake... so beautiful.

7/12/08 11:12 am - Gym machines and fragmented bodies.

As usual, I was at the gym and it made me think of something I want to post about. These days I'm at the whizzy grown-up gym, rather than the down-at-heel university gym. So rather than classes, which I probably prefer and might go back to, I'm on the crazy arsed machines. And the machines have always freaked me out, particularly the aerobic ones; stepper, cross-trainer, treadmill, rowing machine. It's all a bit too much like a hamster wheel. You plug yourself into this high technology object, and it gives you a perfect imitation of doing something real out in the world, but completely distilling it from actually accomplishing anything. Very brain-in-a-jar.

But I kind of like the weights ones. Well, actually, I don't like them. I'm waiting for the day when I'm 'ard enough to ditch the weight machines and go into the free weights room and lift weights like a real man. But I like lifting weights, so I like the principle. Now, I've done a bit of lifting with barbells and stuff in the past, so I'm finding the machines a bit hard to get my head round. The way you have to strain and apply force etc feels more complicated than when it's just you, a bar, weights, and gravity. Although my personal trainer friend tells me actually it's a lot easier to use machines, because all the thinking has been done for you. Idea being that the movement that loads the muscle you want to load (loading muscles is what weight-lifting is all about) has been perfectly abstracted out, so that there's no extra movement or muscle-use recruited besides the one you want to get benefit from the exercise.

So I kind of know all this stuff... but yesterday I made a silly mistake which I think has fucked up my ankle a bit. I was on a machine that imitates a squat. I'd just increased the weight I was doing, and was feeling hardcore. When I got to the final rep, I wasn't as tired as I really should be. So, in a half-second of foolishness, I pushed my legs completely straight, and then effectively pushed off my toes to be standing on tiptoes on the plate, as a kind of triumphant gesture that I could lift the weight a bit higher than I was supposed to. Instantly my achilles tendons were in pain. Because actually this was a fucking heavy weight I was lifting using the big muscles in my thighs, and here I was using some tiny little muscles to make a frivolous gesture, and they couldn't stand the pace.

And this really brought home to me how specific the movements the machines allow are. Part of the deal of this huge, elaborate system of pulleys and plates and pins and gears, which completely isolates a movement for you, is that you can't mess with that. If you start trying to do strange, other movements, you get strange other results. But also, the weights themselves are invisible, and your understanding of them also becomes very abstract. On the machines, the decision about what weight to lift is a matter of sticking a pin into a hole next to a number. To make it heavier all you do is pick a higher number. With free-weights, if you want a heavier weight you have to go over to where they're stored, do a bit of maths to work out which actual weights you can combine to get the value you want, pick them up, perhaps one at a time, perhaps searching for where some fool has discarded them on the floor, carry them over to a bench, find yourself a bar, fiddle with the fiddly thing that attaches the weights to the bar, wrestle the weight onto the bar, invariably in some really awkward position and finding that your wrists are having difficulty manipulating this massive weight at the weird angle necessary to get it into place, get yourself and the bar into the position necessary to start the lifting, which again is probably quite tricky to do as you find yourself using smaller weaker muscles to get into position, and then you have to do all that in reverse when you've finished.

And this is where I start getting all pretentious about it...
So with free weights you have a really visceral, embodied sense of what that weight is. And frankly you then don't mess with them. You don't want that mother-fucker to land on your toe, or suddenly be supported by your lower back or some other delicate part of your body. But the machine removes a lot of that knowledge. Strangely, if it could be possible, it removes the embodiment from the situation. So that your body is completely fragmented into an abstract string of movements, all of which have the illusion that they can be perfectly isolated from one another. And then just one of those fragments is delivered back to you by each machine as you go around. It resembles the idea that your mind can be abstracted off and go into the internet without you, or into a maths book without you. In this case your quads go off and lift some weights without you. The rest of you is left behind, reclining in an ergonomically designed seat to wait for them.

And of course it is an illusion. Actually the rest of your body works as you lift, and there are even handles to grip to keep yourself in position. And you're still plugged into tons of other relations... wondering if other people are watching you, keeping an eye on the person on the machine you want next and planning to dart in as soon as they've finished, the significance of the amount your pressing, and the long-term trajectory of increasing the weight you can lift, the financial and time cost of being in this privileged place, working your gender identity and all that stuff. But it is an illusion that is powerfully constituted through the configuration of these machines, and even played out through the growth of the muscles you're training which are being efficiently worked through the science and engineering knowledge that has produced them.

So... yea... cool.

7/12/08 11:08 am

I blame Ewan for my recent interest in stupid quizzes:

Your result for The Attachment Style Test...

The Free Agent

14% Anxiety Over Abandonment and 22% Avoidance Of Intimacy

You like to be independent, to play by your own rules. You're not terribly interested in finding a partner and settling down, and it makes you nervous to imagine that someone might depend on you for anything. Were you to find the right partner--someone as independent as you, probably--you'd not be too put out about sharing your adventures with him/her.



Fictional characters with whom you might identify: Han Solo (Star Wars), Beatrice ("Much Ado About Nothing")



HanSolo.jpg Beatrice.jpg




Other Attachment Types:
Secure: The Unicorn | The Cuddleslut | The Free Agent
Preoccupied: The Cling Wrap | The Squid | The Insect
Fearful: The Doormat | The Leper | The Exile
Dismissing: The Hermit | The Stone | The Player
Confused: The Waffler

Take The Attachment Style Test at HelloQuizzy

6/17/08 03:34 pm

This is something cool:



It's a building shaped as two towers that direct the wind into the centre where there are wind turbines...

Yea, I accidentally walked into a City and Regional Planning talk this afternoon. But hey, check out all these other cool, green buildings!

I wish I had grown up to be an architect. What a nice, sensible, shiny kind of job that would be...

In other news: Gay men and straight women have symmetrical brain hemispheres. The Guardian's write up of this is surprisingly homophobic. The online version doesn't do justice to the strange insert the paper had in it, spinning outrage from gay and lesbian groups to this kind of research as being a bit... outrageous. "These poor scientists are dogged by politics and controversy, etc, etc, etc".

I heard this headline on the news this morning just as I was waking up, and my immediate thought was that gay men and straight women's brains are developed by their shared experience of putting up with men's shit. More brain-building even than Sudoku.

Oh, and these are quite funny, too:
Black People Love Us

Stuff White People Like

6/15/08 11:47 pm - The addictiveness of photographs...

I've had a camera on my phone for a little while, and the full potential of having a camera you carry around all the time and have to hand and ready to pounce is only slowly dawning on me. I think it's one of those things that does.... create new conditions of possibility. Mean you can live life and be a person in a slightly different way.

Anyway, I take lots of bollocks photos of things I see and think are cool. And I always think to myself 'This will come in handy later'. But who really knows when? Perhaps for posting on Livejournal... So here we have it, What I've Been Up To Lately (In Pictures):


Gus chatting to the Virtual Reality Man.


Hmmm... lots of my photos seem to involve Signs I Like. This one is a toilet I wasn't allowed to pee in. I took quite a lot of photos of the toilet, too, but you wouldn't be interested in that...


An ex-doorway into the park. This made me rather sad. Then I realised I could get into the park another way and I wasn't lost after all...


More signs.


And more... this car was parked outside the Welsh Assembly building. I spot more Roleplaying Joke bumper stickers than I feel comfortable with.


Rockin out AND cardigans. That's EVERYTHING. I bet you all wish you'd stayed up till 5am and danced to Squeeze with us !


Two-player Settlers of Catan variation. Worked very well, and gave the tantalising thrill of exploration. Even more exciting if you're not the worldly type that also plays the Seafarers expansion. ;)


Josh looking heartwarming with a small child!


Teh Hat !!!!


Lovely Robots. Imagine my life if my walls were covered in robot stickers.


And finally, I don't think I'm ever gonna tire of this mental image ;)

6/10/08 06:34 pm - Hide and Seek

Had hoped as I was posting yesterday about the Hide and Seek festival, that it would filter into my consciousness and I'd realise that not only did I think it would be cool to go, I actually could go, and would get my arse in gear to do it.

Then I noticed that it's the same weekend as my Big Conference, so there's no way I can.

Which means it's also the same weekend as Glastonbury. Which seems a shame as the two have superficially similar remits. So then I started to wonder what this means. Why would avoiding this clash not be important to the organisers?

I guess because there isn't a big feeling that their audience would want to go to both, despite the apparent similar appeal. Two main reasonings I can think of:

1)Glastonbury is over, and is no longer about art and creativity and fun and innovation, but is just a few gigs and other entertainments happening on top of each other.

2)Hide & Seeks audience are not the kind of people who would go to Glastonbury. (1) can be kind of subsumed into this, but more a statement of a kind of geek, gamer maybe intellectual culture being a separate one from whatever Glastonbury represents; perhaps more of a crusty or indy or outdoorsy or even just music-interest culture.

This relates to some stuff I've been thinking today about what geek culture is. I'm imagining some kind of perfect internet user who stands in opposition to the stuff I'm interested in about fluffing it up.

6/10/08 03:27 pm - Found Art

Picked up as a comment on this forum: about Starbucks logo

Prostitutes...coffee...as far as I'm concerned, the two have always been synonymous anyways. We, as a "civilized" society need to quit endorsing the sex trade with our purchase of coffee. What do you think is gonna happen with everyone running around, all hoppped up on caffeine. Historically, I found myself indulging in hookers; I doubt there are many of us who are not guilty of the same coffee-fueled indiscretion.
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