That Severed Head Rolling Down The Highway…

I am not sure how many of you pay attention to the titles of my rants. They may seem a little arbitrary, but I assure you, they are not. (from now on) they will be quotes, song lines, bits said in the newspapers, and so on, and all will be relevant in some way (albeit sometimes rather tenuously) to the post as a whole. Brownie points and my eternal admiration to the first person(s) who can tell me what the connection is, and where the title came from. Just to keep you on your toes, you understand 😀
Some rules: The quotes might be from films, tv shows, songs, books, newspaper articles, interviews, or whatever else takes my fancy. I might paraphrase, but the essential meaning of the quote will remain unchanged. And that is it – enjoy!

And back to our regularly scheduled programming:
I don’t have any one particular burning issue to share with you today, rather this will be a rag-tag assortment of the things I have noted down this week as worthy of being shared.

I’m not sure where along the way context became so important to me, but it is. I used to be able to read a book without a care as to what the author’s background was. I would just enjoy the story, taking it more or less at face value. Now, not so much. I think living with a historian might have had something to do with it, but over the past year or so, I have come to the conclusion that to get the most out of a book it is important to understand the socio-political currents that might have influenced a given author. This holds particularly true, I feel, for science fiction. If you don’t understand Cold War history, then Ben Bova’s books such as Peacekeepers and Mars make no sense with their continual references to Russo-American tension, and their prevailing sense of nuclear dread. Nor do the fears of alien invasion, segregated space settlements, and computers the size of rooms running on punched cards, make as much sense as they should in John Wyndham’s brilliant works. I will even admit that Clive Cussler’s abysmal pieces of trash are slightly more understandable/forgivable if placed firmly in the context of when they were written. I suppose that in 1973 it was marginally more acceptable for female characters to be card-board cutouts, and for Dirk Pitt to say to a traumatised female victim (who has just survived one assassination attempt, and who has no reason to suppose that this tall dangerous looking adventurer who just happens to be in the same remote location as she is, isn’t planning another) “Just think of me as Rhett Butler coming to rescue you”… *

My point being? Context is important. (Six years of being immersed in archaeological practice & theory might also play a slight role in this belief). As you learn more from the Parthenon Marbles when they are viewed together with the whole Parthenon, Stonehenge when you view the entire landscape of the Salisbury Plains, or items in a museum when you know where they came from, so you can understand the written word better if you understand the time in which is what written. To this end, I even went out and purchased a modern history booked entitled The World Since 1945 yesterday. I only spent £3 on it at the local Oxfam, because I am not so dedicated to the above philosophy that I will shell out vast sums on it, or take a degree in modern history, but I do believe in it enough to try and fill in the many gaps left in my knowledge by my overly focused history education. You can still enjoy science fiction, and other genres, if you know diddly-squat about history/current events, but I do think it is possible to get added layers of enjoyment if you look into the context some as well.

Enough of that rant. What else did I want to share? And what made me snigger this week? *consults the assorted scraps of paper and post-it notes scattering her desk*

  1. My favourite pair of shoes (picked up for $7 in New York last summer) finally bit the dust this week. Definitely the bargain of the millennium so far, I wore them almost constantly since I got them (which would explain the terrible state they were in when I finally threw them away), and never a blister did they cause. I wish them much happiness in the great shoe-rack in the sky.
  2. Bar larger breasts, I am basically the same size I was at prep-school. This rather depressing fact came clear to me when I needed a jumper the other day, found an old school one lurking at the bottom of the drawer, tried it on, and found it still fits. Part of this is surely due to my mother buying clothes I would “grow into”, but unless she thought I would swell to the size of an elephant at the age of 12, it was never more than one size too big. What is worse, when wearing the jumper, if I had seen me at the supermarket, I wouldn’t have served me alcohol, as I looked about 13. Being 5′ 2″ I can live with. Still looking like I did at the start of secondary school when I am now near to finishing Grad-school, isn’t so good.
  3. Unpopped popcorn kernels – ubiquitous at the bottom of any popcorn serving – are the result of leaky kernels which prevent the build up of moisture pressure, researchers at Purdue University found. Apparently.
  4. That very British item, the umbrella, is a talisman against rain. I needed to go down town yesterday for assorted bits and pieces. When I looked out of the window it was raining, and was showing no signs of stopping. Now, rather oddly for someone who has lived in Rain Central (aka the UK) her entire life, I only own one waterproof item – a ski jacket – which is entirely too warm to wear on a mild spring day. So I bully Jo into lending me her umbrella, thereby cruelly forcing her to remain indoors till I return, get out of the house, only to find that it has stopped raining. Bone dry for the entire time I was shopping. Good, yes, for there are few things I hate more than shopping in the rain, but bad also because I had to remember not to leave Jo’s umbrella in a shop somewhere (it has been known to happen). You can guarantee that if I hadn’t taken the umbrella, it would have rained solidly.
  5. Why don’t I own an umbrella of my own? I used to keep a large golfing umbrella in the car to get me from the car-park into work, but that is too big to take shopping. The span of it is over a metre, and when you are a short-arse like me, the pointy bits are nicely on throat/eye level of most other people. I would hate to be arrested for carrying a dangerous weapon. My last normal umbrella got run over by a transit van a couple of years back (long story) and I’ve never gotten around to replacing it. Anyway, normally it is lovely and sunny when I leave the house, so I think that an umbrella/waterproof of some description isn’t needed, then it tips it down whenever I am a good half-hour walk away from any form of shelter. C’est la vie.
  6. “I mean, I am English, so I’m going to probably be asked to play English people quite a lot” – Jack Davenport, Interview with Empire Online.
  7. “The movie was the kind of thing beloved by bored teenagers and recreational drug users, two occasionally overlapping demographics” – NYT on the original Amityville Horror
  8. And finally, this is what we do on our days off, and also the reason I will be going to the gym every single day this week. Chocolate Fudge Cake: cake by Jo, icing by Cas. One, Two & Three.

* Yes, I caved, and got another Clive Cussler novel (Treasure as an audio-book) cheap from a charity shop. It’s like watching a car-crash – you know you shouldn’t, but it so awful you can’t look away. That, and it gives me something to laugh at. But Oh my God! he is a bad author! And Dirk Pitt is an aging lothario who picks women up like my favourite jacket picks up lint!