Bus Reads 4: Thoughts on Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state...and on the right... my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

On the left, a very good cover for the book, with concentric circles suggesting a spiralling and trapped mental state…and on the right… my copy. Garish and rather hideous.

I’ve got a long way to go to be up-to-date with my book reviews, but this is another off the list. The problem is that I can’t really remember what I wanted to say about some of the texts, or even if I really wanted to say anything particularly about them at all. This is one such book that has been causing me issue.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I like this book. It is on the list of my favourite novels. However, I can’t really say why I like it. It’s not as though the subject matter is a cheery one that makes you want to read it for light relief, and considering how sublime a poet Plath was, her prose falls somewhat flat in comparison. Indeed, I often found the writing somewhat cold, but it could be said that this matches well the narrator’s mental state, suggesting one of detachment and introspection. The plot is not that elaborate, but I did like the way in which this allows Plath to focus on some of the mundane details and the actual mental state of her voice in the text. The novel also seems somewhat cyclical, with Esther being pretty much where she begun despite her sexual awakening, realisation of her freedom as a woman, and seemingly successful treatment, and this works well to suggest that her recovery is perhaps temporary and the clarity is transitory. I can’t fault Plath on the way in which she describes and illustrates the slow collapse of a person’s sanity and mind, and the sparse plot allows for this to be shown almost imperceptibly, taking the reader along with the narrator and really dragging them into the place of the character.

I feel that I also must comment on the opening line of the novel:

It was a queer, sultry summer; the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.

This works to introduce the novel in miniature, with her confusion and isolation hinted at, along with the electro-shock therapy that Esther will undergo, and the fact that this was a summer that would stand out as being different and defining. I also like it for the fact that the juxtaposition of the summer and the death, almost glanced over, instantly startles and unnerves the reader, and conjures up the images of Plath’s poems. Definitely one to reread and reanalyse.

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LEGO!!!

You may have noticed over my blog posts that I quite like Lego. I left it when I hit teenage years, but have now slowly fell in love with it again, partly thanks to my children being old enough to have Lego (which my two eldest did at Christmas). Well, last month I bought these off eBay:

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The Lego Book traces the history of the company from its origins making wooden toys, up until 2009, and covers the major themes and sets over the years, as well as other milestones in its history. This allowed me to indulge in a little nostalgia, as I was able to remind myself of all of the sets I used to have, as well as surprising myself with just how old some sets that I had were. It also reminded me of what was my favourite* minifigure from my childhood**:

The robot spy from the 'Spyrius' range of the early '90s. Image: http://www.1000steine.com/brickset/minifigs/large/sp041.jpg

The robot spy from the ‘Spyrius’ range of the early ’90s. Image: 1000steine.com

The other book, Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the LEGO Minifigure is pretty much what it says, and as such is an entertaining if information-lite (and error-strewn) volume. The section detailing the evolution of the minifigure is something of interest, however.

It’s a shame that the new ‘Minifigures’ weren’t out when the books were published, as these would have made a nice section, and indeed will warrant a blogpost to themselves at some point in the near future. If I had the money to indulge myself, I’d invest in all of the historic figures that have been done over the course of the 13 series. I also quite like the palaeontologist figure that is part of the most recent run:

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It is also nice to see that this is a woman, following on from the female palaeontologist in the Lego Ideas set of female scientists. Happily, our eldest managed to get this in his blind bag the other week, so I get to play with- I mean admire- the figure when he’s in bed.

Lastly, I’m quite excited by this image that appeared on Lego’s Facebook page recently:

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Image: facebook.com/lego


* I suppose that it is joint favourite with the original Lego Star Wars Boba Fett figure from the early ’00s, but I had one of the robot minifigures years before the Star Wars range brightened up all our lives.

** As I Googled for an image of the Spyrius robot, I case across the ultimate nerdgasm and the ultimate in COOL:

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New books: January

A bit late, but here’s January’s haul:

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  • Jerome K. Jerome –  Three Men in a Boat     £1.49
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn –  A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovic     99p
  • Angela Carter –  The Bloody Chamber     49p
  • Douglas Adams –  The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy     49p
  • Dante –  New Life     50p
  • Anthony Trollope –  The Warden     50p
  • Richard Adams –  Watership Down     50p
  • Edgar Allan Poe –  The Works of Edgar Allan Poe     25p

You may (or more likely) may not notice that I do already own copies of the Jerome and D. Adams books (seen on posts here and here), but these new copies are better: the first is an interesting Penguin Classics edition, with notes and an introduction, and the second is not the film tie-in edition with added photos and interviews, so is shorter and thus takes up less space.

Now, I also had two other books:

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I will expand upon these in my next post!

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A cosmic “face” in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849

Here’s an interesting image:

A cosmic "face" in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. Image: NASA

A cosmic “face” in the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849. Image: NASA

It’s a smiley face in space! This image was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, but spotted by a contestant in Nasa’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition, and shows an example of an Einstein Ring caused by gravitational lensing. This is a phenomenon that was theorised by Einstein, when he suggested that light can be affected by gravity. In this case, the light from the smaller, distant galaxy is bent by the gravity of the closer stars in front, and appears distorted in a ring around the stars, magnified to produce a ‘lensing’ effect and allowing us to see a galaxy that usually would not be visible to us. Fun science!

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Cartoon bandages: Life Update #12

I’ve got a couple of posts to get up over the course of tonight, in part to make up for my lack of presence recently on the blogging front. However, first I thought I’d share this:

Poorly toe.

Poorly toe.

I currently look like someone in a cartoon when they hit their thumb or toe with a hammer and it balloons up ridiculously. Since about October last year, I’ve had an ingrowing toenail that has proven impossible to wangle out, and I’ve been to the doctors several times for antibiotics and advice over the pat few months. I thought I as going to have it removed about a month back when I went to a podiatrist, but it turned out it was an assessment to see what needed doing. Then, I stupidly asked for them to make the appointment for its eviction in the half term rather than mid-term time, as there would have been no convenient time for me to have off work. However, in hindsight I should have had it done a.s.a.p., as it has been bothering me for weeks now. Thankfully, now is half term, and yesterday was the day for it to be sorted out. I’d never been under any kind of anaesthetic until this, so that was a novel experience, and the administration was more painful than the nail has ever been. Also new to me was the experience of having to wear sandals, as I obviously can’t wear shoes for a few days. I refuse to sit round and stick my foot in the air for three days, however, as if I do then my wife would be left with the same workload as she is when I’m at work, and she would get very little break this holiday. Let’s just hope I can wear proper shoes by next week when I’m back at work!

When I saw the size of the pieces of nail that were removed, it’s unsurprising that I was in pain, and I did ask to bring them home, but don’t think you need to see a picture of them…

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Shrove Tuesday advice

Image: facebook.com/innocent.drinks

Image: facebook.com/innocent.drinks

One resolution down! Life Update #11

Well, it’s often the case that resolutions made at New Year never seem to last much past January, and indeed it seems that the first resolution I made has already been broken. You may notice that this is only my third blog post this year, and I still haven’t got any more book reviews up. Sorry. However, there is one that I have already done- the tattoo. No I’m only joking. Last weekend though I did submit some of the poems from my completed book to a publisher. If you’ve been reading this blog since I started it, you will know that this is quite a big thing, as I have up until now never had the courage to actually take the plunge and do this. I don’t think I’ll actually get published, but still- I’ve actually submitted something, which is further than I’ve ever got with it before. Wish me luck!

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Owl

Image: Electric Puppet

Image: Electric Puppet

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Resolutions 2015

Image: facebook.com/lego

Image: facebook.com/lego

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

I suppose these should really be made on New Year’s Day, but they’re not too late.

  1. Get more blog posts up on here! I’ve got about 12 book reviews to get written, so I’d better get cracking!
  2. Bite the bullet and submit my book of poetry to publishers. That’s the one I finished editing in January 2014.
  3. Finish writing the book of short stories and random prose pieces that I begun in early 2014.
  4. Begin writing the novel I have planned.
  5. Return to archaeology in my spare time- it’s become a bit neglected of late. It may help that we’re planning on moving to a different (nicer) part of the city soon, which should enable me to actually get all of my Arch & Anth texts (and my uni notes and essays) in some sort of usable order and actually on SHELVES, which they are still without at the moment.
  6. Get my ear pierced and have a tattoo. Okay, maybe I’m joking with that one…
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A quick look back at this year

Image: maroonweekly.com

Image: maroonweekly.com

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m waiting expectantly for Queen and Adam Lambert’s live concert on BBC1 just prior to midnight. This is the time to look back over the past year, and to remember what’s gone on. At the end of last December, I did a lengthy post with links to a variety of my previous blog articles. I’m not going to do that this year, though- I’m just linking two posts:

I think these sum up the year pretty well. Now, on to 2015! I hope you all have a very good. prosperous and happy new year.

New books: December and CHRISTMAS!

There’s quite a few to be getting on with here! First of all, those bought over the course of December:

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  • Kurt Vonnegut –  Slaughterhouse 5     25p
  • Louis de Bernieres –  Red Dog     25p
  • Penelope Lively –  Treasures of Time     25p
  • Brendan O’Carroll –  The Chisellers     25p
  • Andrew Shail & Robin Stoate –  BFI Film Classics: Back to the Future     50p
  • Niccolo Machiavelli –  The Prince     50p
  • Frank Parkin –  Past Masters: Durkheim     50p
  • Tom Baker –  The Boy Who Kicked Pigs     50p

The first four books were from a library sale, and I do already have a copy of the Vonnegut book, which I had for free from my Sixth Form when they were clearing out their library. However, this copy here is a lot better, so for the price I thought it worth ‘upgrading’. Also, I never realised that Tom Baker (i.e. The Fourth Doctor) had written a children’s book. Oh, here I could go off on a ‘children’s literature as adult literature’ rant, but I won’t.

Now for Christmas! I hope you all had a goodtime, and here are some of my new books:

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  • Carol Ann Duffy –  The Christmas Truce     –     Dorothy Wordsworth’s Christmas Birthday
  • In Flanders Fields: Poems of the First World War
  • Russell Brand –  The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The WWI book is a rather nice copy, in a slip case, and the Russell Brand book is a (whisper it!) children’s book, but also illustrated by Chris Riddell, one of my favourite illustrators.

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  • The Jedi Path
  • Book of Sith
  • The Bounty Hunter Code

Yep, I like Star Wars. In fact, I really like Star Wars. And these are rather indulgent books, made to look like they’re written by various characters, and annotated by others.

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  • Brian May with Simon Bradley –  Brian May’s Red Special: The Story of the Home-Made Guitar that Rocked Queen and the World
  • Glenn Povey –  Pink Floyd Treasures

I also really like Queen. And Pink Floyd.

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  • Mock the Week’s Only Book You’ll Ever Need
  • Chris Fern & George Speake-  Beasts, Birds and Gods: Interpreting the Staffordshire Hoard
  • Paul Parsons & Gail Dixon – The Periodic Table:  A Field Guide to the Elements

That last book is going o come in quite useful for reference at work, and the Hoard book is of particular interest, as it looks into the animal imagery of the Hoard and places it in a wider Anglo Saxon context. Also, George Speake works at the Institute of Archaeology in Oxford, so I may have come across him once or twice in my time there.

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Erm…

meir tree

You may be forgiven for thinking that that is a pile of rubbish piled in a heap. To be fair, you wouldn’t be far wrong. However, you may be surprised to find out that that is in fact the Christmas tree provided for our end of the city. I’m not sure how much it set our wonderful Council back, but I’m sure that it is probably more than it would cost to repair some of the listed buildings around the city that are falling apart, and more than I earn a year.

After a quick Google search, it turns out that Durham had a ‘tree’ like it a few years back, and here you can see that at least it looks better at night when it’s lit up:

Image: trimdon.com

Image: trimdon.com

However, at the end of the day it’s still a pile of carrier bags. It looks like someone’s had some fun with a few wheelie bins on a night out. Any thoughts?

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New books: November

Dark evenings and a need for sleep. Neither are very conducive with blogging. Anyhoo. Here are my literary purchases from November- and all of them were 50p each:

What a truly terrible quality image. For that I apologise.

What a truly terrible quality image. For that I apologise.

  • Marcel Proust – Swann’s Way
  • Theodore Fontane –  Effi Briest
  • Sam Selvon –  The Lonely Londoners
  • Muriel Spark –  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • John Mortimer –  Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained, and The Sound of Trumpets
  • Ernst Junker –  Storm of Steel
  • Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell –  Muddle Earth
  • Eric Hobsbawm –  The Age of Capital 1848-1875, The Age of Empire 1875-1914
  • Antoine de Saint-Exupery –  Southern Mail/Night Flight

Yes, you may have guessed that ‘Muddle Earth’ is a children’s book- I own it in hardback, but don’t really fancy reclaiming this from my parents’, and so intended to hunt out a cheap soft back. I didn’t expect to come across one quite so soon, to be honest. It’s worth getting just for the illustrations- I love Chris Riddell’s images in everything he illustrates- but it also helps that it is a ridiculously entertaining read. So what if it’s children’s fiction. I don’t believe that exists as a genre or a category anyway. But that’s for another post.

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New books: September and October

What with one thing or another, I didn’t get around to posting a ‘New books’ post for September, so thought that I may as well include it with October’s.

Here’s September:

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  • Tim Moore –  I Believe in Yesterday: A 2,000 Year Tour Through the Filth and Fury of Living History     10p
  • Roddy Doyle –  Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha     10p
  • Thomas Hardy –  Jude the Obscure     10p
  • Theocritus –  The Idylls     10p
  • Jennifer Hargreaves –  Sporting Females: Critical issues in the history and sociology of women’s sports     10p

These were all from two local library sales, hence the ridiculous prices. Also, astute readers may notice that I had this same edition of the Hardy book from a library sale (indeed, from the same library) several months back, but this copy here is in far better condition, so it replaces my previous version.

…and now October:

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  • Janni Howker –  Isaac Campion     50p
  • Daniel Defoe –  Robinson Crusoe     50p
  • Peter Schneider –  The Wall Jumper     £4
  • Jules Verne –  Journey to the Centre of the Earth     50p
  • Terry Pratchett –  The Colour of Magic     50p
  • Thomas a Kempis –  The Imitation of Christ     1 of 3 for £2
  • Gustav Flaubert –  Madame Bovary     2 of 3 for £2
  • Bernard McCabe –  Bottle Rabbit and Friends      3 of 3 for £2

I’ve already got a copy of Robinson Crusoe, but this is an Oxford World Classics edition, and infinitely nicer than my existing edition, and I’ve alredy got a copy of the Verne novel (a rather nice Folio Society one), but this newly-acquired edition will take up less room on a bookcase, and is slightly more reader-friendly. Also of vague interest is the fact that I met Janni Howker back in 2005 when she ran a creative writing course for schools in our area, and have meant to get one of her books to try since then- only managing to do so 9 years later! The purchase of her book and the last book listed are also examples of my point about adult and children’s literature (which I will at some point get round to writing a full post on), as I’m beginning to blur the distinction between the two when it comes to my choice of reading. And the latter is illustrated by Axel Scheffler. He illustrated The Gruffalo and is a personal favourite illustrator of mine, which is my excuse for getting it. He’s illustrated a copy of T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats which is high on my book wish list too.

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Happy Halloween! / ‘Memento mori’ rings

Image: Flickr user Pascal, via Bones Don't Lie

Image: Flickr user Pascal, via Bones Don’t Lie

Happy Halloween! I’ve always thought that that is rather odd, wishing people a happy Halloween, considering that the day is all about death and fear. Not really very happy, is it?

However, I did think it as good a time as any to quickly say that I recently learnt about the past fashion of memento mori rings such as this one, dated 1740:

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Such rings, with a skeleton around the band, as well as the hourglass motif and hearts first came in in the mid-17th century (the earliest dated piece is from 1659), and were designed as a constant reminder of the wearer’s mortality. It was more common for such items to contain a crystal or piece of glass, under which may have been a piece of hair or a small skull design, and such examples as the one above or this nice piece from 1714 (below) that depict such a bold design are relatively rare.

Image: britishmuseum.org

Image: britishmuseum.org

I suppose that the modern skull ring is the closest that we have now, and a quick Google image search can throw up hundreds of varying designs and styles of these. However, all of these look as though they could be used to inflict a large amount of pain on someone else, whereas these historical examples are simple yet elegant and rather pretty in their design and execution. I’d quite like one, to be honest, even if they are a constant reminder that the end for all of us is nigh at some point or other, and looking on Etsy, it seems that modern examples in the style of those shown above are available. All very Halloween-like!

An example from 1740 showing a small skull design below a crystal or piece of glass.

An example from 1740 showing a small skull design below a crystal or piece of glass.

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Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths’ tricks: The Staffordshire Hoard

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As I’ve said several times before, I’m from Stoke-on-Trent, and one of the most interesting things to happen to our City (and indeed our county) for quite a long time was the discovery in 2009 of the Staffordshire Hoard. I was one of the many people who queued to see it when it first went on display five years ago, and it was this that inspired both my dissertation and my enduring love of the Anglo-Saxons, which I hope to potentially pursue academically in future years. I came across a story in the news last week regarding this, and thought it worthy of sharing.

It turns out that some of the pieces within the collection are not quite as pure as you would expect, and that Anglo-Saxon goldsmiths occasionally tricked their royal clients using rather clever methods. Two years of research funded largely by English Heritage has shown that the makers of some of the material in the Hoard used a weak solution of ferric chloride (thought to have been made by heating up a mixture of water, salt and iron-rich clay [or maybe dust from crushed up old Roman tiles]) to remove silver and other impurities from the top few microns of gold at the surface in order to enhance the visual purity of the material. The Anglo-Saxons are known to have used this method for creating contrasts between shades of gold, this is the first time such a method has been observed as being used to enhance the purity of the metal. This would have altered greenish pale-yellow, gold/silver alloy of around 12-18 karat into deep gold, 21-23 karat material.

By comparing the Hoard material with that from Sutton Hoo, it is now thought that items made for royalty were being produced of pure gold, whereas that for the lower nobility was made from this chemically-altered alloy. There is also the possibility that this sort of surface purification may also have taken place in order to make the best of the quality of the gold used to make the item- perhaps the objects which have been treated in this way were of a slightly later date than those with the purer body, and were made from substandard gold. It is known that the quality of gold coming into England from the Continent declined over the 6th and 7th centuries, and so we could be seeing evidence of this here.

As with all of the work surrounding the Hoard, it seems that for every discovery made, there are twice as many questions raised!

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To keep abreast of the latest news about the Hoard and for some rather interesting scientific articles regarding analysis of various pieces, check out the Staffordshire Hoard website: http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/

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A Viking Hoard from Scotland

I don’t know if you saw this in the news a few days ago, but a metal detectorist has discovered a hoard containing over 100 gold and silver Viking items in Dumfries and Galloway, which is thought to be the largest Viking hoard discovered in recent times, and contains many unique items. One of the most impressive items is a silver enamelled cross on a chain from the 9th-10th century, with depictions of what could be the four Evangelists (this will become clearer after the artefact has been cleaned), but there were also dozens of silver ingots and arm rings, as well as an interesting bird-shaped pin, gold rings and other items. Below the initial assemblage was then found a further collection of objects, and it was here that there was found a complete Carolingian silver vessel with the lid still in place, from about 100 years before the rest of the hoard. This item poses interesting questions about the trade links and connections that the Vikings in this region had, and allows us to speculate what may have been kept inside or may still be inside, before it is opened and analysed. It is though that this may be the largest Carolingian silver vessel ever discovered. As with many other hoards, It is unknown why this collection of rich material was buried and why it was never reclaimed, but I look forward to hearing more about this as the conservation gets underway.

The silver cross, chain and several of the arm band sin situ. Image: Derek McLennan

The silver cross, chain and several of the arm band sin situ. Image: Derek McLennan

The silver cross, with visible enamel decoration. Image: Derek McLennan

The silver cross, with visible enamel decoration. Image: Derek McLennan

Gold bird pin. Image: Derek McLennan

Gold bird pin. Image: Derek McLennan

Intact Carolingian vessel, thought to be about 100 years older than the other items in the hoard. Image: Derek McLennan

Intact Carolingian vessel, thought to be about 100 years older than the other items in the hoard. Image: Derek McLennan

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I do like the movies – honest!

Following on from the last cartoon that I posted here, I thought I’d add this before getting onto serious archaeology:

Image: conormchale.blogspot.com

Image: conormchale.blogspot.com

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Hello! A touch of class for the classroom: Life Update #10

Imagine this entire post being read in Stephen Fry’s voice for maximum enjoyment.

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It’s been a while. My first post for October, and we’re already plodding nicely through the month. Sorry about this. Life just seems to have been happening lately, and blogging has taken an unplanned backseat for a bit. I’m back now, though, for the time being. There’s been too much happening of interest into the world of archaeology for me to leave this any longer. That means there should be a nice handful of archaeology-related posts coming over the next few days, which I’ll try and fit in as best as I can around my work, and my body’s current craving for sleep. I think it’s this cold my family has got at present.

Anyhoo. Good job I haven’t decided to embark on that daily blog idea I had a while ago, isn’t it, as I’d have failed rather spectacularly by now.

Work’s going quite well, in case you were wondering (what am I saying. Of course you weren’t.), and I’m attempting to bring a touch of fanciness into the school through my rather snazzy navy waistcoat/black jacket/floral tie combo of late. It’s purely for utilitarian reasons though, you must understand- it’s very chilly at present where I have my desk. Well that explains the waistcoat. I’ll keep thinking of an excuse to account for the tie…

I’ll end here and get on with the archaeology!

 

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Let’s hope it squishes him

Image: Archaeosoup

Image: Archaeosoup

This made me laugh, so I thought that I’d share it. Interestingly, I shared that clip from Indiana Jones in the first Archaeology lesson I taught this week just gone, as a prime example of how said explorer is not an archaeologist. I mean, come on. We all know that archaeology is not like that, and that real archaeologists would have been more interested in the rolling ball scene in the inscriptions on the walls, in the way that the traps worked, in the poison used on the darts, in the construction techniques of the temple itself, and indeed everything else, with the gold statuette coming rather low down the list of informative and interesting things to look for and study. Also, there is no recording carried out of the findspot for the statuette either. All very infuriating.

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The best (slightly late) birthday present possible: Life Update #9

Hello. I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, but there is quite a good reason for it. My birthday was on the 29th of last month, and two days later, on the evening of 31st, my wife gave birth to our third son. I meant to post at the start of the month, but with him being here, little sleep, the start of the new academic year and intermittent paternity leave, I haven’t really felt up to blogging. But yeah- he’s here, and absolutely, sublimely perfect. I’d forgotten just how small and delicate newborns are, but it is interesting just how quickly you adapt to handling them and how quickly you treat it as second nature. It all comes back to you, and after a day or so it felt like he had been here for months. We’ve now got his feeding sorted, and this is proving a lot easier than I’d expected it would be, and even the night-times are fairly straight forward now, as he is only waking up a few times at fairly set intervals, and doesn’t really cry that much. When he does, he’s quite quiet. To be fair, we probably couldn’t have asked for a better baby. Then again, I suppose we are slightly biased in thinking that he’s perfect. But hey. I love my children, and if I think that they are perfect, then they are. I wouldn’t change them for the world.

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New Books: August

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently acquired several Penguin Modern Classics via a well-known internet auction site, and so here they are in all their shiny and much-anticipated glory:

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  • William S. Burroughs –  The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead
  • Albert Camus –  The Outsider
  • Albert Camus –  The Fall
  • Truman Capote –  Music for Chameleons
  • Truman Capote –  Answered Prayers
  • Hermann Hesse –  Steppenwolf
  • Franz Kafka –  The Trial
  • Franz Kafka –  The Castle

The reason that there is no price listed for any of them is because I had these for my birthday, even though I had picked them and knew they were coming (and didn’t bother receiving them wrapped in jazzy paper), and because I can’t remember the prices at any rate. However, I also got the book that I ranted a bit about in the aforementioned post:

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  • John Wyndham –  The Chrysalids

Here you can see a quite tatty and battered copy alongside the much cleaner edition that I was sent after complaining to the sender that it was not quite a ‘minor flaw’ afflicting it as they had suggested. The first one had been rather extensively water damaged, and was proving difficult to open effectively due to the crinkled pages.

Also, I picked this one up from a charity shop for 20p:

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  • Christopher Isherwood –  Goodbye to Berlin
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Bus Reads 3: Thoughts on Joyce’s ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

joyce youngI daren’t say when I begun to read this book, or indeed when I finished it. However, I’ve got six more books to review after this one in order to catch up with where I’m at now with my reading. Hmm. The reason I’ve put this off for so long is that I’ve not really known what to say about this work. I mean, it is sublime, in my opinion. I adored it from start to finish, and find it so beautifully poetic that I took in more of the sound of the text and the feel of the words rather than any actual meaning. I probably read it in the way that Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are better read, actually, considering that A Portrait of the Artist… does have a conceivable and intelligible plot.

Firstly, I think that this text works so well due to its nature as a bildungsroman based upon Joyce’s own youth, and interestingly, the actual text almost ‘comes-of-age’ along with Stephen due to the clever way in which the writing style alters almost imperceptibly throughout the story. Morrissey stated recently that when writing his Autobiography, he “…wrote the childhood sequence almost as a child might, and the adolescent period as an adolescent might, and the adult section as a ‘suicidalist’ might”, and save for the last point, this rings true for Joyce here. In the same way as a person ages imperceptibly if you see them over a long period, the text also matures and develops in a way that is not really noticeable unless you stop and take a step back. I was unable to tell when the writing begun to alter until it had done so for many pages, and see in this part of Joyce’s genius, as the text is so fluid and well crafted.

I also quite enjoyed the way in which religion is given such a prominent role in the text and shown to have influenced and shaped Stephen in various ways, but have been debating with myself recently whether or not the tortuously long sermon was required at the length it was. I suppose that the length and somewhat repetitive and cyclical nature of this highlighted the nature of religion to Stephen and to Joyce, not only in focus (mainly sin and salvation) and the way in which this the affects the narrative and the way that the protagonist views himself and his actions, but in its almost smothering, incessant inability to go away (as the sermon seems to have no way of ending). However, this did make it rather heavy going, as it was a lot more preachy than the sermons I am personally used to hearing, but did also show me another side to Joyce, as I didn’t realise he was able to write such text.

The section I had most issue with, though, was the way in which the book ended. After the way in which the blurb built the end of the text up, with Stephen’s final break with everything around him and need for Wildeian artistic freedom, I felt that this didn’t really come across. It was a bit of a damp squib, really- somewhat akin to a child having a tantrum, and then calmly walking out of the room. Perhaps it needs a second read to pick up on everything here.

That said, I  adored the book, and can only look towards my next reading of it!

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Marriage!!! Life Update #8

Well, after nearly six years together and (almost) three children, my partner and I finally got married last Saturday (16th).

wedding figures

We had planned to have both our current vicar and my family vicar to do the service as a symbolic way of showing the two of us coming together in a spiritual sense, but we found out a few months back that my vicar was to be with a group of his parishioners at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham for the Feast of the Assumption, which was the previous week. However, we were able to use his church hall for the reception, which still allowed us to include the two, and we are hoping to have a blessing there in the coming weeks.

We didn’t have as many guests as we’d hoped, but this made for a more intimate and private affair, which was a joy (if rather nerve-wracking) from start to finish. The choir and organist did a wonderful job, and by the end of it my partner and I were married, which was the most important thing. I love her more than anything on this planet (except my children), and cannot put into words how happy I am that we are now married. It also seems to have been a long time coming, as we were ‘officially’ engaged in 2011, and had planned to have the wedding last summer, but weren’t able to for various reasons. I’d never have imagined a decade ago that by now I’d be married and have children, as to be honest I never felt as though anyone would want me, but I was wrong, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Now for the next chapter!

wedding ducks

 

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Coke is not for me (a sort-of ‘Life Update #7’)

I say sort-of life post, as this is just a few random rants and so forth, and there’s nothing of particular note in terms of key life changes- that’s for another post. Now, first off. It’s currently the start of the sixth and final week of the school summer holidays (one of the perks of working in a school- long holidays!), and for the past five I’ve had the best of intentions to stay up at night to get a fair amount of work done. However, despite having been able to keep myself up various nights over the past few weeks and getting a small way through my pile of jobs, I’ve got nowhere near the amount done I’d intended. This is partly because I’ve got side-tracked into doing other things, or because I have been awake enough to not sleep, but not cognitively awake enough to actually focus on lesson writing or anything more strenuous than researching William S. Burroughs on Wikipedia or posting images of chocolate Lego or toilet roll origami on this blog. I blame the 8 cans of this energy drink I bought a few weeks back and which I recently finished:

KX cola can

In the course of doing that, I’ve realised just how much I can’t stand coke (by which I mean Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other cola-flavoured beverage, which this happened to be. I don’t mean the drug). I used to like it, but now it just leaves me a bit “bleugh”. I still quite like the little gummy bottle-shaped sweets, though; they are still quite palatable.

Anyway- this all means that over the next 7 days before the start of term, I’ve got quite a bit to do and will need to inspire myself to have several late nights. I’m writing this quite late (or rather quite early), having just watched the first episode of the new ‘Doctor Who’, but still can’t bring myself to do any deep thinking. I don’t think the worry that we’ve got at the moment is helping, though, to be honest.

I mentioned in a previous post that my partner and I were expecting another child, and we had thought that he may have been here early, around the middle of the summer. It was even touch-and-go whether he’d make last Saturday awkward for us (see my next post), but as it turns out, we are still waiting, and are now several days overdue. We just really don’t want him to decide to come next week once I’ve started back to work, as I can’t have paternity leave off, as I haven’t been there long enough to get this paid enough to be viable for us. However, this added pressure really isn’t helping my other half, as you can imagine. All very stressful.


Also, is it worrying to find that at the tail end of being 21, you are slowly becoming more and more like Victor Meldrew by the day? I can see that by the time I (hopefully) reach pension age, I’ll probably go out raving and partying, and have the youth I’ve never ever wanted.


A VM rant coming on here. My other half ordered me several books off a well known auction website (eBay) for my birthday, and one of them- a silver Penguin Modern Classic edition of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids– came the other day with a note inside saying that it had a ‘minor flaw’, but as it was the only copy left, the seller had sent it anyway. Now, my idea of a ‘minor flaw’ would be a crease to the cover, a tear, or maybe a loose page. Not water damage to the three open edges, and a peeling spine. I’m hoping that they will replace it for me when a better copy comes into stock. Personally, I can’t help but feel that it would have been so much better if they had simply refunded us for that and said it wasn’t in stock, or if they had left it and sent a copy later when they got more. Anyway. Rant over.

 

 

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Pained faces

I also came across this the other day (in the same internet browsing session as the neckless duck I posted a few moments ago), and thought it worth sharing:

They look like quite interesting and animated clay faces, don’t they? Wrong. They aren’t clay at all. They’re intriguingly made from mangled and contorted origami-inflicted loo rolls by a man named Junior Fritz Jacquet, and more of his work can be found here.

 

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That’s quackers!

Image: graphicashen.com

Image: graphicashen.com

I came across this the other day, and thought that I’d share it. Why? Well- why not?

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Delicious Lego!

More Lego, but this time- made of chocolate! WOW!!!

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Charlie and the Sexualised Plastic Doll Factory (‘A New Take by Penguin’, or ‘Dahl 2.0’)

10606393_10154424928960371_8941943695899364569_nYou may have seen the recent furore surrounding this latest upcoming release from Penguin in the wonderful Modern Classics range. As you can tell from the title, it is a fiftieth anniversary reissue of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in a rare move, the publishers have released it as an adult Classic rather than as a Puffin children’s classic. Now, as you may have been able to tell from some of my previous blog posts, I really don’t have a problem with the appropriation of ‘children’s literature’ for adults, as truly great literature shouldn’t really be confined by age ranges and all that. I enjoy Roald Dahl now as an adult, and there are many children’s and teenage books that easily bounce between categories, mainly based upon their cover images (think Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland etc.), but here… oh dear. I can sort of see where Penguin are going, with the slightly dark and unnerving cover image, but I fail to see how it relates easily with the story. Sure, there’s bratty female characters in it that this could represent, with supporting and yet somewhat absent/ineffectual parents, but unless this is a more general representation of the parenting critiques offered by Dahl, I don’t find this truly representative of the novel as a whole. Personally, I can’t help but feel that a slightly cliched image of chocolate or sweets may have been better. Hopefully, Penguin may bend to public opinion in this case and change their offering before the publication next month.

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One year on WordPress! Happy birthday Electric Puppet!

cake_and_candle_clip_art_13455

Well- today is my 1st anniversary on WordPress, and to be honest I never thought that I’d stick with it for a few months, Let alone a whole year! I can’t say that my reach has been that far, but I’m happy, as this blog has been something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while, as it provides me with the opportunity to just share things I find of interest, and to get things off my chest at occasional intervals. Also, I no longer keep a diary, and so it’s nice to be able to look back over it to see my first thoughts on various texts and to keep a track of my intermittent ‘Life Updates’. I’ll come back to this point at the end of this post, but for now will steal a bit from my New Year post, where I referred you to the best of Electric Puppet in 2013, and add some of 2014:

I think that’s enough links to my other posts to be getting on with for now. Anyway- check some of these out if you haven’t already, or have a browse of the blog and see what you come across. Also, you can follow Electric Puppet on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/electricpuppetblog

Lastly, I’ve got quite a few more book reviews and posts to get up on here over the next few weeks, but am toying with the idea of doing slightly more regular random life-post blogs, a bit like a daily blog. Feel free to comment if you think that this would be a good idea or not.

The Matilda Project

Bookish Adventures

Penguin Blog

Thoughts and ideas from the world of Penguin

Women of Mongolia

New Media Research Expedition Through Altai and Ulaanbaatar, Summer 2015

Triumph Of The Now

books and being sad teehee

Pretty Books

One girl's adventures in books, life and travel

A Medley Of Extemporanea

Books, books and more books (and libraries too)

Great Writers Inspire

Learning from the Past

Deathsplanation

n. 1. The act or process of explaining about death 2. Something that explains about death 3. A mutual clarification of misunderstandings about death; a reconciliation.

A Bone to Pick

by Scott D. Haddow

Asylum

John Self's Shelves

Anthropology.net

Beyond bones & stones

Tales From the Landing Book Shelves

The TBR Pile: Stories, Poems, Arts and Culture

bloodfromstones

A great WordPress.com site

SARA PERRY

The Archaeological Eye

Prehistories

Adventures in Time and Place

Don't Bend, Ascend

Something Different

These Bones Of Mine

A blog focusing on Human Osteology & Archaeology

History Echoes

History, Archaeology, Anthropology, Technology, and Mythology

archaeologyntwales

archaeology in wales cared for by the national trust

The Feast Bowl

The Wordpress blog for the National Museums of Scotland

History Undusted

The dusty bits of history undusted and presented to the unsuspecting public.

Stephanie Huesler

My ponderings, research, tidbits & the nuts and bolts of good writing.

Stoke Minster

the historic & Civic Church of Stoke-on-Trent

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

The World according to Dina

Notes on Seeing, Reading & Writing, Living & Loving in The North

Museum Postcard

Reviews and thoughts on museums explored

Bones Don't Lie

Current News in Mortuary Archaeology and Bioarchaeology

Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives

How can we use material traces of past lives to understand sex and gender in the past?

A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

Early medievalist's thoughts and ponderings, by Jonathan Jarrett

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