Friday, 12 November 2010

Something for Dave

On Friday afternoon I was set with the challenge of writing some song lyrics by Dave Stewart on Twitter. Having been encouraged by Dave to take up song-writing in an earlier episode, I decided that it was time that I took his encouragement seriously and tried my hand once again at putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). So somewhere amidst the chaos of that afternoon I found a few minutes to sit and write something meaningful that I hoped would inspire Dave to write a melody pulling my hastily scribbled words together. I was in a particularly reflective mood on Friday afternoon so I decided to write something inspired by my good friend Kerry, who died suddenly and unexpectedly recently at the age of 31, leaving behind a one-year old daughter and a lot of shocked family and friends. Kerry was a huge music fan and music played a large part in her life, so it seemed fitting to write a song filled with my memories of her.

I woke up this morning to the start of another working week and a cold, frosty, dreary Monday morning and when I checked my emails I made the staggering discovery that Dave had not only written a melody to my lyrics but that he had recorded a rough outline of the track and sent it to me! Wow, that’ll teach me to never go to sleep again! Needless to say, I have been listening to the recording throughout the day and I’ve had a fixed grin on my face for the past 12 hours. It’s an excellent tune – mellow and soulful, yet full of optimism and guaranteed to make you smile - and I’d love to hear the finished result when it has been moulded by the hands of such an accomplished and gifted musician. I’m extremely flattered, delighted by Dave’s interpretation of my sentiments and now very motivated to take this song-writing lark seriously from hereon out!

Here are the lyrics that I submitted. Every line has a story behind it and the last verse in particular really chokes me up each time I reread it. Kerry was the eternal optimist and, as the last chorus implies, I finally took her advice on the last day I spent with her...

Cold hands
Are warm
In the heat of a winter’s day
And I trust
Your faith
When you turn to me and say

Put your best dress on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
Wear your hair up high ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
Put your best shoes on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day
And if the dark clouds come
Then we’ll blow them all away

You hate it when I play the clown
But I saw
Your smile
The day the circus came to town

Put your best dress on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
Wear your hair up high ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
Put your best shoes on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day
And though we’re miles apart
I am never far away

High chair
The night the party died at nine
And I heard
You call,
But your voice wasn’t on the line

I’ll put my best suit on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
I’ll wear my hair up high ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day.
I’ll put my best shoes on ‘cos it’s never gonna rain,
It’s never gonna rain again on New Year’s Day
And I won’t cry no tears
Because we’ll dance again someday…

Friday, 8 October 2010

And Vinyly: Live On From Beyond The Groove

If you ever worry about how to continue the legacy of your awesomeness after you have shuffled off this mortal coil, then I may well have found the perfect send-off for you.

UK-based company And Vinyly will press your cremated ashes into a vinyl recording playing a track of your choice, a vocal message or simply your own silent pops and crackles for your friends and family to remember you by.

The basic package (£3000) includes a 30 disc pressing of your record, plus an 'R.I.V.' artwork record cover with your name, date of birth and date of death. There are additional services available including backing tracks, ‘bespook’ music, the opportunity to have your record distributed worldwide and FUNerals: a musical send-off led by a team of event organisers. And if you still want to be buried after you cough, And Vinyly accepts cremated body parts in addition to whole cremated bodies.

Feeling a bit peaky? More details here:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Reasons to Study Theology and Religion at University

University Theology and Religion Departments. Ok, ok, I’ll give you a second to snigger to yourselves and imagine lots of strange-looking, tweed clad men smoking pipes in the corner of a lecture room. But surprisingly Theology and Religious Studies has become pretty cool of late. I suppose we have Dan Brown and the conspiracy theorists to thank for that. Just try going into your local pub and starting a conversation with the locals about God, heaven, what happens to bad guys when they die, how the universe began etc and before long you will have folk standing on the tables and ranting at each other. I’ve seen close ‘theology is booooring’ friends come to blows during these discussions and loved-up married couples at each others throats. It’s great sport if you’re bored one evening...

Besides, anyone who says that Theology and Religion is uncool has me to answer to. I have a BA and PhD in Theology from The University of Birmingham and I’m far from a weirdo! And, horror of horrors, I’m not at all religious. I have an interest in the area, but that doesn’t mean that I subscribe to everything that I study in the same way that studying World War II doesn’t make you a Nazi SS officer. But the academic study of theology and religion has taken a bullet recently as cuts in higher education have led to reports of staff reductions and the planned closure of some Religious Studies departments. Recently my colleagues and I were (willingly) forced to rally round and attempt to save Sheffield University staff from losing their Biblical Studies department. The support on the Internet for Sheffield BS Department was overwhelming; a Facebook group was started, many BS bloggers blogged their disgust on the matter and a number of emails were sent to the Vice Chancellor. Thankfully, in this case, the department was saved.

Biblical Studies appears to be a soft target for cost cutting and yes, while it’s not exactly carrying out cutting-edge research into cancer fighting treatments, it is a real, tangible subject area with a dynamic publication rate and a huge scholarly base. Besides, I worry that if we keep beating the beast long enough, it’s going to die. Biblical Studies, and maybe Theology in general at this rate, will cease to be taught and it will become one of those weird and arcane sounding subject areas that were taught in the Universities of the Italian Renaissance. So why should we continue to promote the teaching of Theology and Religion in Universities? To begin with, let’s address some misnomers about the subject...

Is the study of theology boring? 

No. Not all theologians are dusty professors or geeky, nose-in-bible students. Yes, there are one or two stereotypes haunting the corridors, but by and large things are far from what you might expect. The modern theology student is indistinguishable from his/her fellow student studying in other academic disciplines and Theology lecturers are as friendly and approachable as the next professor. I graduated with a PhD in Theology three years ago, so do I consider myself to be dusty and outdated? Hell no. Would I spend six years studying a subject that I found boring? Hell no. Did I enjoy my studies at The University of Birmingham and explore University life to the full as much as I would have experienced it in any other department? Hell yes!

Is the study of theology relevant? 

Could it *be* any more relevant?! Switch on a prime-time news programme and count how many times the words ‘faith’, ‘culture’ or ‘religion’ are mentioned. It is an in-your-face-daily hot topic. And it’s not just a local issue, it’s a global issue. A basic understanding of religion and religions is indispensable knowledge for anyone functioning within a contemporary, multicultural society and an awareness of cultural sensitivities is an essential tool, particularly for the modern businessman or businesswoman who may communicate with unfamiliar cultures and needs to avoid making any offensive, deal-breaking gaffs.

Should theology still be taught within Universities? 

Yes! Why would any academic institution that prides itself on training the next generation of serious thinkers and intellectuals bloody its own nose by eliminating one of its most cerebral subject areas? And particularly now that there is a monster on the horizon that is threatening academia in general...

Any self-respecting cultural commentator will agree that teenagers are becoming increasingly brainwashed by the Glee-factor. ‘Making it’ isn’t about being the best in your field or making headway in research anymore. It’s not even about switching on your brain in the morning. It’s about getting that big break in showbiz, belting out a ballad for Simon Cowell or street dancing on reality TV. Or when academic study is absolutely unavoidable, teens are attracted to subjects that might - *might*- lead on to a big break in the TV, movie, fashion or beauty industry. No matter how you feel about Theology and Religion as a research area, you must admit that the rise of new, numbskull, ‘leave your brain at the door’ degrees (especially the ‘Heath and Beauty’–esque/new media degrees) give you an urge to scratch out your own eyes....

In a society where our kids are being encouraged to shun traditional academic study and instead ‘follow their dreams’ (most often blindly down the drain) surely any academic subject – regardless of its specific content – should be encouraged and supported to the hilt rather than having its wings clipped?! Being a student of Theology says to the world 'hello, I have a brain and I know how to use it. And not just for storing information and learning patterns, but for thinking critically and creatively too'. We need to keep our kids brains ticking over…at all costs!

There is so much more to say. I could go on to sing the praises (excuse the pun) of the interdisciplinary aspect of theological research, or expound on the benefits of true critical thinking, or reminisce on how lovely the folk at Birmingham were to me during my studies, but I’ll stop here before I get ranty (and for the record, I don't belong to any religious faith so I do not have an axe to grind in that sense). But don’t just take my word for it…

This blog post is a shout-out to all the theologians out there. A show of unity between academics and students alike contributed to the survival of the University of Sheffield’s Biblical Studies department when it was threatened with closure. It was a warning shot over the bow, if you like, for any predatory cost-cutters swinging the axe over other theology departments within the UK. Since the vultures are once again circulating over theology departments across the country, now is your opportunity to tell the blogosphere - and any budding theology students out there - why the study of theology is a worthwhile exercise and why it should remain firmly within the Academy. Please scroll down and post below your reasoning, observations, anecdotes, links and pithy sales patter that you reel out at open days (!) explaining why you feel that theology is a valuable academic subject. You can be a serious academic, a student or a keen amateur in the field. Submissions can be anonymous or please add your name if you would like to be credited. Hopefully a united discussion will provide the rationale for return fire the next time an academic institution hovers precariously over the ‘delete theology’ button…

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Last Female Rhino in South African Park Killed by Poachers

The Guardian reported this morning that the last female rhinoceros in a game reserve near Johannesburg in South Africa has been killed by poachers who hacked off her horn and left her to bleed to death. Now without sounding too hippy about it, killing an animal to eat it is one thing, but killing an animal to use parts of it in traditional medicine is just retarded. Yes, I admit that I’m the biggest self-confessed misanthrope around, but slaughtering any endangered animal just to keep granddad alive for a few extra months or give him a better erection seems such a waste. Stop being cheap and invest in some penicillin, you hut-dwelling knuckle-dragging Neanderthals!

According to the report there have been a growing number of poaching incidents recently and police believe that organised criminal groups are responsible. Wanda Mkutshulwa, a spokeswoman for South African National Parks, said ‘police need to help game reserves because they are not at all equipped to handle crime on such an organised level’.

How much does a huge f**k-off size rifle for a South African game reserve keeper cost? 

Because I’ll buy him a dozen…

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Westboro Baptist Church vs Geeks of the World

The most frustrating thing in the world is the overzealous Christian. I’m not talking about little old Doris who does the flowers every Sunday morning, I mean the full on ‘you’re all gonna burn in hell’ redneck with the fixed, creepy grin and the glassy eyed stare. You know the kind I mean. Holding a basic conversations with these people is a struggle to keep their feet in reality and trying to conduct a theological debate with them is like attempting to hold a debate about nuclear science with a scientist who constantly refer to nuclear fission as ‘dancing, sparkly stuff’. Facepalm and leave the room.

Now I’m pretty live-and-let-live when it comes to them walking amongst us and I count some of them as my close friends, but I can’t help but feel a small degree of deep satisfaction when they get their wheels stuck in the mud. It warms my heart in a twisted way. So imagine my delight when I heard about this…

Fred Phelps and his followers from the Westboro Baptist Church have cornered the market when it comes to shouty religious nuts standing on street corners with huge placards telling everyone that they will burn in hell. Their website didn’t exactly endear the group to me when it greeted me as a ‘depraved daughter of Adam’. But when they set up camp outside Comic-Con this year (right) they were far from prepared for the army of geeks that had arrived fully prepared to do battle with them. Equipped with funny signs and chants such as ‘What do we want? Gay sex. When do we want it? Now!’, the geek army set about a counter-attack that will go down in history as the Great Battle of Comic-Con 2010. The reviled Church group were quickly sent away and fanboy power reigned supreme.

The lesson learnt by all is that religion might well hammer women and homosexuals, but it should NEVER mess with a nerd. For the Geek shall inherit the Earth…

Friday, 9 July 2010

Strawberry Ice-Cream Boobs!

So I’m officially one year older on Tuesday and I feel that I must finally embrace a maturer outlook on life and become a wiser and more responsible person. But since I have a few days of immaturity left then please indulge me....

Look, I found ice-cream boobies!!!!

AHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhh....that's better.......Raspberry Nipple flavour, anyone?

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Rampant, evil, mutant baby killing foxes at large? Really?

Ok, here’s one for you. Foxes: vermin or furry cuties?

Now I’m no socially awkward inbred with a penchant for taking out small beasts with a dusty ancestor’s rifle in order to justify my lofty position in the food chain. But neither am I a tree-hugging hippy with a deep, heartfelt love for every creature in the land, so please don’t think that cute furriness is clouding my judgement.

The recent reports of a fox attacking twin baby girls in their own home has sparked a massive public reaction that is rapidly reaching heights that are becoming comical. I live in a fairly rural area and I regularly see foxes sneaking across the roads at night, so at first I agreed that the alarm should be raised to the possibility that one of these creatures could sneak into your house at night and cause damage or attack small children. It was sensible to flag it up in the public arena (although quite a few folk, including myself to some extent, thought that the attack story stank for some completely fox-unrelated reason that we couldn't quite put our collective fingers on...but that’s another matter…). And that’s when the media started to take it way too far with an onslaught of TV documentaries and newspaper articles on ‘the evil, killer fox’, urging us all to lock and bolt every door and window and buy a huge rifle to protect ourselves and our families. It’s all started to get a bit hysterical and silly and smacks of an en vogue witch hunt; something cool and topical for middle class mums to fluster and fret about at the school gates. And some of this stuff is absolutely priceless comedy gold. Take, for example, this article in the Sunday Times:

‘It seems to embody one’s darkest fear about dwelling in a city: that living among us, silent, watching and waiting for a lapse in our attention is a malignant, amoral force.’

Aaahahahahah! Really? Come on, people, honestly. Pull yourselves together. Yes, we need to aware of the dangers of wild animals living amongst us, but there are bigger evils in this world...get some perspective! And how many children each year are killed or violently mauled by family dogs? But are we calling for Fido to be hunted down and slaughtered on the chance that he might turn bad? No, but I’d like to see the media try to pull that one off...

It was this comment in the aforementioned article that finally changed my opinion on the subject and made me realise how ridiculous this witch/fox hunt had become, especially when written with, what appears to be, genuine seriousness and sobriety:

‘The comedy duo The Mighty Boosh had it about right with their evil, disheveled junkie character the Crack Fox.’

Yeah…and I bet they all have banjos too…

Monday, 31 May 2010

Labuat: 'Soy Tu Aire' (I'm Your Air')

The prize for the most beautiful website that I have ever seen goes to Spanish band Labuat for the website for their single ‘Soy Tu Aire’ ‘(I’m Your Air’). The website is an interactive music experience in which the user moves their mouse along an inked line in time with the music, creating amazing visual interpretations of the music. It’s not often that I find a website with the wow-factor, but this blew me away. Try it for yourself at

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Happy Geek Pride Day!

In view of the title of this blog, I thought that this should get a mention…

It’s Geek Pride Day! Yes, it’s true. Today belongs to the nerds. Wikipedia reveals that '[Geek Pride Day] has been celebrated on May 25 since 2006, celebrating the premiere of the first Star Wars movie in 1977.' There’s even a manifesto to accompany the event:


1. The right to be even geekier.
2. The right to not leave your house.
3. The right to not like football or any other sport.
4. The right to associate with other nerds.
5. The right to have few friends (or none at all).
6. The right to have as many geeky friends as you want.
7. The right to be out of style.
8. The right to be overweight and near-sighted.
9. The right to show off your geekiness.
10. The right to take over the world.


1. Be a geek, no matter what.
2. Try to be nerdier than anyone else.
3. If there is a discussion about something geeky, you must give your opinion.
4. To save and protect all geeky material.
5. Do everything you can to show off geeky stuff as a "museum of geekiness."
6. Don't be a generalized geek. You must specialize in something.
7. Attend every nerdy movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.
8. Wait in line on every opening night. If you can go in costume or at least with a related T-shirt, all the better.
9. Never throw away anything related to geekdom.
10. Try to take over the world!

I’ve decided to celebrate the day by posting a photograph of my good friend Graham (right) who is, in my opinion, the ultra omniscient, king of the geeks who never fails to amaze me with the immense breadth of his knowledge of sci-fi, movie trivia, cult and general geek fandom. Graham, I salute you…

Oh and it’s also Towel Day, an annual celebration held on the 25th of May in tribute to the author Douglas Adams.

So pick your poison, nerd-boys and girls…today you rule the universe (at last)!!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Anatidaephobia: the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you

I’m telling you, there’s a conspiracy going down.

It all started a few weeks ago. I stepped out of my building at lunchtime to be confronted by two ducks. They were sitting on the grass making a disgruntled quacking sound and watching everyone pass by. Then the next morning I came to work to be confronted by this guy sitting on the wall outside my building:

So I innocently Twittered ‘what’s with all the ducks?’ and had a surprising response. It turns out that a friend has been feeding four ducks in her back garden and another friend has noticed that a feathered family has taken up residency in his communal water feature. Weird, huh?

I left work the next day by the back door in order to avoid the wall sitter by the front entrance. No sooner had I stepped out of the door when I heard a quacking noise by my feet and looked down to see these guys casing the back door. The brown one quacked menacingly at me, I swear it! :) (just check out the stare on the fella on the left….now that’s one dodgy duck….):

Now everywhere I turn there are ducks! And it’s not just a Birmingham based phenomena. I was in Redditch on Saturday morning and there were three sat on a roundabout checking out the cars. And this elderly Bournemouth woman is having hell with a flock that has occupied her fish pond. They’re spreading out and setting up outposts in preparation for the great invasion! They'll be in government soon...banning fishing and discriminating against creatures without webbed feet...mark my words! And they’re breeding fast too - the BBC News reports that a a 'wonder duck' in north Dorset has hatched 21 ducklings!

Yes, they’re cute creatures (and they taste pretty good too) but I reckon these ducks are pure aquatic evil. If they find my lifeless, bloated carcass face-down in the duck pond with my gullet stuffed with dried bread, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

EDIT: Thursday 13th May 2010:

Looks like they've started all-night stake-outs.

Sleeper cell?

EDIT: Wednesday 19th May

My duck invasion spies spotted this fella on the ramparts of Ludlow castle. A look-out, eh? Devious...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Lol@Jesus Christ: The Facebook Passion

Continuing with the religious theme from my last-but-one post (well, it *is* Easter I suppose and I *am* trying to convince everyone that it really says in The Gospel of Mark that those who do not buy their friends Easter eggs will burn forever in the fiery pit of hell…).

Some clever soul has created Jesus' Facebook Page complete with a photo album of ‘Jesus cuddling fluffy things’, comments by Dan Brown, the disciple James uploading photos from his Blackberry and Jesus sending a gift of A Big Ol’ Can of Whoop Ass to the Moneylenders amongst lots of other funny posts. It’s a little too serious for my liking, but since it is a parody of the Easter Passion story then a certain amount of sobriety is unavoidable. I’d like to see how other attempts at a day-to-day, run-of-the-mill FB page for JC would fare. Or how about God’s FB page? (God's twittering of creation was hysterically funny). So many possibilities!

Monday, 29 March 2010

Run, Jesus Run! a.k.a. The 10 second Gospel

Love the little flash game ‘Run, Jesus Run!’ from Molleindustria (for download here). You have 10 seconds to cure some lepers, perform a few miracles, gather your apostles and redeem humanity. Hit space bar to begin! 

A little 8 bit blasphemy can do no harm, eh?...*braces for lightning bolt*'s a speedrun of the game... 

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Dave Stewart Twitter Song Writing Competition: The Results Are In!

Many thanks to everyone for their huge support for Glitter Hearted Hero, my entry to the Dave Stewart song writing competition (see blog post here). After over an hour of nail-biting deliberation last night, Dave finally announced that it was ‘a close tie’ between two entries. Then came the shocker:

“OK phew it was hard , the winner is Chris Taylor very close second is Helen Ingram YEY” (Source:

Wow, now that was a surprise!! Not bad for two hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a notepad, a few creative brainwaves and a laptop mic, eh? Yes, I admit that I am gutted that I lost out on the chance to have Dave record the track, especially since I greatly admire his work and there was only one point between us on his scoring system! (see scoring sheet below). But the experience has been priceless. I’ve always been a keen writer, both creative and academic, and I desperately love making music (most of you will not know that I am a grade 8 pianist, a saxophonist and violinist). Maybe the obvious has been right in front of me all along: I should combine the two and try my hand at songwriting…? This is my first attempt at putting pen to paper (or lyric to note, rather) and I realise that it is a huge business and I have no idea where to begin, but I enjoy a challenge and Dave Stewart has certainly provided the motivation and inspiration for me to pursue the goal. Thanks again to everyone for their support and showing their love for the track – and watch this space!

More on Dave Stewart’s Twitter contest can be found here at

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The stress-raising, accident-inducing, energy saving light bulb

This week I discovered that the most elusive thing in the world isn’t love, happiness, unicorns, the perfect mascara or Osama Bin Laden. It is the simple 60 watt light bulb.

I have spent hours, nay days, searching for a pretty, bright bulb for the new light fitting on my bedroom ceiling only to discover that there is no longer such a thing. Instead the shelves in my local DIY stores are populated by lots of green boxed, energy saving, eco-friendly bulbs. Now I’m as environmentally conscious as the next person (I’m trying not to burn the place, honest) and I’m happy to do my bit for energy conservation, but I found myself getting a little ‘ranty’ about the current light bulb situation…

First there is the light issue. Isn’t the purpose of a light bulb to light a room? Apparently not. The room isn’t half as bright as before and I’m stumbling around in the semi dark trying to get dressed each morning. And by the time it ‘heats up to full beam’ I’ve finished my activity and left the room!

Second there is the aesthetic issue. I settled for a 40 watt weird looking twirly thing that makes my gorgeous new antique-looking light fitting look a bit...errr...well, modern. A candle bulb would have suited perfectly, but instead I have a Star Wars energy cell. Great. Please, environmentalists, don’t make me compromise on style in order to help you out. Plus, you make me feel guilty when I choose the pretty-but-frying-the-earth option instead. Why can’t energy efficiency be stylish too?

So if I fall out of a window or down the stairs over the next month or so, please direct the coroner to this blog page and tell him/her that the light bulbs killed me. I was trying to save humanity but the light bulbs had other ideas. They are part of a world-wide light bulb conspiracy to rid the planet of humans by causing countless household accidents. The human race will die out and the planet will be in peace. Hmmm, maybe they are environmentally friendly after all…

And I’m not alone in my misgivings, if the Facebook group These Energy Saving Lightbulbs Might Be Saving Energy But I Can't See Shit is anything to go by. And at this rate we are only a few watts short of the ultimate energy saver; the emo bulb.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Star Warz Burlesque & Cabaret: The Encore Show! 12 March 2010

By popular demand, the Star Wars burlesque sensation with over 150,000 YouTube views in less than three weeks (see here) is set to take a bigger stage at The Music Box @ Fonda in Hollywood. On Friday, March 12 at 9pm, Courtney Cruz’s Devil’s Playground presents Star Warz Burlesque & Cabaret, recapturing the inspired galactic interpretation that earned worldwide acclaim in G4's "Attack of the Show," LAWeekly, SpikeTV,, BoingBoing,, SciFi Wire, and more.

If you’re a Star Wars fan and you think you’ve seen it all, get ready to go an entirely new galaxy with Devil's Playground on March 12. Courtney Cruz is working closely with creative director and costume designer Carlos Flores to assemble her most popular burlesque artists for their most elaborately-designed production to date. Star Warz Burlesque & Cabaret will surprise and delight fans of Star Wars, burlesque, or anyone who just likes to have fun on a Friday night.

What: Devil’s Playground Presents Star Warz Burlesque & Cabaret

Date: Friday, March 12, 2010

Time: Doors at 9:00 p.m.
Post-Show Meet & Greet with Photos 11:15 p.m.

Where: The Music Box @ Fonda
6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA

A little bit about The Devil’s Playground

The Devil’s Playground is a monthly instalment of themed, theatrical burlesque entertainment and variety acts. The second Saturday of every month Devil’s Playground Creator Courtney Cruz produces and performs with her group of sexy dames in Los Angeles. From Star Wars themes and Batman characters to Video Game girls, Courtney and her lovely ladies will always leave you wanting more. The Devil's Playground can be found at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Dating tips for the single 1930s woman

♫ If you liked it then you shoulda put a girdle on it…♫

Thanks to my colleague A.D. for drawing my attention to these dating tips for the single woman in 1938. The advice is simple: be careful that your stocking aren’t wrinkled, don’t be familiar with the headwaiter, don’t pass out from too much liquor and remember - when a man dances he just wants to dance!

Sound advice if you ask me. Here are some of my favourites…

More tips can be found at

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lorry Fail, Bridge Win at the University of Birmingham

I spotted this lorry firmly wedged under a bridge when on my travels around the University of Birmingham campus this afternoon. Apparently it has been there for a while now (four days, I hear!).

And the company logo on the side of the truck? ‘Protecting People. Reducing Risk’. Classic!

Lorry vs Bridge update: 9th March 2010

Yes, three weeks later and the lorry is STILL lodged under the bridge. Apparently it has caused serious structural damage to the bridge and a structural assessment of the damage has shown that the vehicle cannot be moved until the bridge structure is independently supported and made safe. There are plans to remove the lorry and provide temporary propping which will allow the road to be used soon. Work on the bridge will take place later in the year.

So, lorry drivers out there, if there is something to be learned from this HGV faux-pas then it is this: LOOK UP!!!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

To airbrush or not to airbrush? In defence of the digitally enhanced

I see that the whole ‘airbrushing photos of models and making spotty teenagers feel insecure’ argument has blown up again (is it ever dead?). The whole debate is utter b****cks if you ask me. What next? Banning pretty models in case they make the rest of us feel ugly? How about banning intelligent people so that stupid people don’t feel so stupid?!?

Now I’m as riddled with imperfections and insecurities as the next woman, but I have strong opinions when it comes to the airbrushing debate. The digital manipulation of models to make them look thinner is another issue. Those women often look ill, gaunt and just plain wrong and I vehemently oppose any use of models that offends my sensibilities as well as my eye. But attacking an image simply because the model has been enhanced to look prettier than the average women quite often annoys me.

First, every young person has insecurities – both male and female – and body issues and a lack of confidence are unavoidable aspects of puberty. It’s always been this way. There has always being someone far more intelligent, more athletic, prettier etc than you are and the human race has survived thus far. Second, I know firsthand that a photo editor can be a life-saver on a photo shoot after a rough night out. There is no way that I would let some photos be viewed by my cat let alone by anyone else without first being retouched. So I tend to sympathise with the model in this respect. Third, I don’t like being patronised by over-sensitive wishy-washy types who feel that they need to bring the whole world of beauty down a notch or two just to make the rest of us feel pretty. And finally, as a consumer I like my advertising to be pleasing to the eye. Take the Olay ‘real women’ campaign, for example. Did a bunch of women of various shapes and sizes flaunting their lumps and bumps make me feel more inclined to buy Olay? No. No-one wants to see droopy and overhanging lumps of flesh while they are eating their dinner, no matter how ‘real’ we are told that these women are. In fact I worried that anyone seeing me buy it off the shelf would think that I sympathised with the brand because I was overweight or insecure about my body. That’s one epic marketing fail right there. So in contrast, I asked myself, is a perfectly svelte and airbrushed to the hilt supermodel more likely to sell me a clothing line than a ‘real-life’ size 14 plain Jane? Yes, she is, I thought. And is a Wonderbra ad with a well-endowed woman spilling out of a bra more likely to sell lingerie to me than an ad featuring a pasty faced, B-cupped mother of ten? Yes, of course. These types of ads sucker me in every time and for one simple reason; because women like to aspire to an ideal.

Take a peek, for example, at one of Gill Elvgren’s pinup girls...

In most of Elvgren’s pictures we find an idealised image of a woman who has achieved a high level of feminine perfection that very few of us will ever attain. But do I hate the woman in the picture? No. Do I wish that she was carrying a little more weight, had bad skin or was just a bit more ‘uglier’? No. I love Elvgren’s work because I can aspire to be like these women and, as a heterosexual female, I find their beauty pleasing to the eye. These highly stylised pictures, and their modern airbrushed equivalents, should be embraced by women rather than treated as taboo and immoral images that are to be hidden away from young girls in case they make them feel insecure. In fact, it’s about time that women were exposed to more of them!

Ok, ok so I might sound like a ranting misogynist, but standards have already lowered considerably over the past few decades. Your average woman dresses for comfort in baggy jogging bottoms and her boyfriend’s jumper because we have been told that even the most beautiful models or celebrities dress like this most of the time. Just open any women’s magazine and the pages are crammed with unflattering photographs of celebs in their civvies and wearing little or no makeup. Women are no longer expected to look impeccable every minute of the day and it has become acceptable to dress like a slob even to go to the supermarket (as exemplified in the recent ‘Pyjamas at Tescos’ news story). We have been told that there is no need to make an effort, because no-one else is making an effort either. It’s a sad state of affairs and things can only get worse.

I know that the majority of us will never be that supermodel with the perfect body and the perfect digitally enhanced complexion, but please Mr. Ad man, give the next generation of young women something to aspire to. Set them a bar to which they can strive to reach before they start spiralling into a pit of complacency and disregard for their appearance. And, most importantly, please don’t start pandering to normality. Let’s try not to level the playing field so much so that we all become identical, faceless droids…

(however, let the following be a warning for temperance...)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sheer Balloonacy

On Friday evening I found myself sipping wine and nibbling on canap├ęs at a swanky awards ceremony. Very nice, you might think. And it was. But I didn’t realise that my creative talents – or lack thereof – and patience were about to be pushed to the limits…!

I was halfway through dinner when a little packet of sheer terror landed on our table. No, it wasn’t an illegal substance or a charity donation envelope, but a pack of modelling balloons. An audible clatter of cutlery rang out around the hall and the chatter died out within seconds as we all stared at the terrifying intrusion on our table and listened as the Master of Ceremonies instructed us to create something imaginative as the winner would be announced after dessert.

A number of women promptly left their tables to hide in the ladies room, while the competitive men amongst us embraced the challenge with gusto, albeit a little heavy-handily if the loud bangs were anything to go by. Pops and squeakiness abounded for a short while and the results were largely shameful, as exemplified by my shoddy attempt…

A one-legged dog

A one-legged dog being eaten by a shark

Maybe I should have opted for the minimal effort and misdirection option:

Thankfully, aside from a little too much wine, I managed to escape at the end of the evening with good health. It seems that some poor souls are not as fortunate....

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Love is (colour) blind

The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you.

Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784)

Ok, roses are red..

…but violets are certainly not blue!

I would suggest a vivid purple...

Seriously, the clue is in the name.

Happy Valentine’s Day all!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Musical Mural? Hidden music in Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Now I thought that Dan Brown was clutching at straws, but, in my opinion, this guy is taking handfuls of hay bales. See what you think…

Italian musician and computer technician Giovanni Maria Pala claims that by drawing a musical staff on Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’, the hands and buns on the painting correspond to the positioning of musical notes on the stave which, when played from right to left, produce a 40-second long ditty that sounds ‘like a requiem’. Giovanni has written a book on his theory entitled La Musica Celata (The Hidden Music) and, interestingly, the sceptics seem to agree that his premise is entirely plausible, pointing out that Da Vinci was an avid musician.

A deliberate positioning of hands and bread? Or an entirely unintentional, but entertaining, coincidence?

On a similar ‘note’ (ha! see what I did there…?) I love this little video by Jarbas Agnelli entitled 'Birds on the Wires'. Here’s how Agnelli describes his inspiration for the piece:

‘Reading a newspaper, I saw a picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes (no Photoshop edit). I knew it wasn't the most original idea in the universe. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.’

More about this video and Agnelli can be found here

Right, I'm off to find a ruler and dig out some old holiday photos…;)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Jesus-monkey and the DIY Bible

Earlier this week two of my colleagues, both biblical scholars, started a very silly – but very funny - discussion prompted by this infamous photo of Jesus’ face in an Ikea toilet door in Glasgow…

Colleague A agreed that that ‘face’ in the door looked very Jesus-like, but Colleague B thought that it resembled an Orangutan. I watched their conversation on my Facebook page with great amusement and suggested that this might well be a physical manifestation of the Jesus-monkey (based on evidence in Mark chapter two which states that Jesus tied a tyre to a tree and unpeeled a banana with his toes).

Colleague B is currently involved in the production of electronic transcriptions of biblical manuscripts and so, with this in mind, Colleague A pointed out to Colleague B that she is sitting on the opportunity of a lifetime. Photoshop. Maybe at some point in her work, Colleague B could, with a surreptitious click of the mouse, slip a reference to a Jesus-monkey into the manuscript that she is working on and we could sit back and watch the academics scratching their heads when the final transcription is published. And why stop there? Imagine the fun that could be had! Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a drunk Llama, the three kings could become three gangster rappers, hamburgers and lager at the Last Supper (Tizer for Judas, of course). Hours of fun. And not only could we edit the existing text, we could also insert and remove material to suit our own particular causes or beliefs. I’m sure that The Geek Muse revised version of the Ten Commandments would be very…ermm…interesting!

Unfortunately, no matter how many chocolate cookies or neck massages are bestowed upon her, my co-worker is resisting our mischievous attempts to corrupt her research and cause mass outrage in the religious communities, so we can only dream of the chaos and hysteria that could have been. But here’s the question that I’ve been asking everyone since this whole conversation started: If you could Photoshop an ancient manuscript of the Bible, bury it, ‘discover’ it in a few years time and have it accepted as THE authoritative text, what material would you insert or remove and/or which verses would you edit?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Snowmen beware, the Daleks are here!

Continuing with today's sci-fi theme…

We’re snowed in pretty bad here and snow, like late nights, is one of those things in life that is very enjoyable when you are a child but a bloody pain when you become an adult.

Fortunately light relief has come in the form of a number of sci-fi fans who now find themselves with too much time on their hands and are clearly dizzy on a fusion of the freezing temperatures and the residual excitement of the conclusion of the recent Doctor Who series. This combination can only lead to one thing…


Star Wars Burlesque Show

Sci-fi geek brains all over the world are exploding right now.

Performance art troupe Devil`s Playground performed a Star Wars Burlesque show at club Bordello in Los Angeles on Saturday night (9th January 2010). More photos by Shannon Cottrell (including the ‘stormtrooper’ Courtney Cruz, right) and further info about the show can be found at LA Weekly. The troupe will be repeating the performance on March 13 2010 in Los Angeles at a venue to be determined. Have fun geek guys, I’m off to buy a ton of shares in Kleenex before the sales go through the roof...

Warning: Adult Content

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Guitar Hero: Geriatric Edition

Join me in worshipping the awesomeness of 73 year old rock chick, Mary Ho from Singapore. When she’s not looking after her seven grandchildren, she’s riffing her way through music from guitar legends such as Carlos Santana and BB King. There’s more info about Mary on her website Grandma Mary Rocks. Here she is with 'I Need Your Love So Bad'...

Who says that the elderly can’t rock out?!

\m/ \m/

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Biting the Bullet: Yummy Chocolate Weaponry

Who knew that the collision of the divergent worlds of men and women could bring about such fantastic results?!

Chocolate Weapons is a website selling chocolate grenades, guns and ammunition. What a perfect indulgence for those Lara Crofts with a sweet tooth amongst us! Ok, guns and grenades may not be to everyone’s ‘taste’ and choccy isn’t great for the post-Christmas diet, but girls - we can convince ourselves that consuming vast amounts of chocolate ammunition is acceptable because we are contributing, albeit in a purely symbolic and particularly delicious way, to the world-wide peace effort…

…any flimsy excuse usually works for me…

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ulnar nerve injury? Don’t panic!

This might seem a very random post, but let me explain. I’ve decided to start the New Year on a good deed…

To my regular readers I doubt that this will have any relevance to you, so you can move along, nothing to see here folks. However if you have stumbled across this post when searching for ‘ulnar nerve damage’ or ‘ulnar nerve injury’ then please read on.

Back in August I found myself sat at my computer keyboard in the middle of the night desperately Googling ‘ulnar nerve damage’. I had broken both bones in my lower right arm clean through and suffered considerable damage to the three major nerves in the arm. As a result most of my right hand was numb (most noticeably the back of my hand and the back of my thumb), I had lost my grip and I could not bend my wrist backwards. My little finger and ring finger were clawed and I could not straighten them (see right). The doc told me that I had damaged my ulnar nerve and this had resulted in a condition known as ‘ulnar claw’. I was also suffering from ‘wrist drop’, otherwise known amusingly as Saturday Night Palsy.

Googling the symptoms was a terrifying experience. There was talk of further surgery, permanent loss of feeling and two scary sounding tests called a nerve conduction study (ECS) and an electromyography (EMG). My anxiety wasn’t helped by expressions such as ‘irreversible damage’ and ‘permanent disfiguration’ that were being banded about during my visits to the fracture clinic.

But then as time passed things started to look up. I had an ECS and an EMG test and the results showed that all three major nerves were badly damaged but they were showing signs of attempted re-growth. Sure enough, feeling started to return in my thumb and the two clawed fingers began to straighten out, albeit painfully slowly, with the help of physiotherapy. Eventually the sensation returned in the back of my hand and my grip improved. I invested in some squishy balls and putty and maintained a strict balance between exercising the hand so that it didn’t seize up completely and resting it in a wrist guard in order to give it a break and allow time for the nerves to recover. It was a difficult balancing act, but it seemed to be effective. Five months later, my fingers are almost completely straight again and I can bend my wrist back further each day. Although my hand has improved much more successfully than I had expected, it is still not 100% ‘in working order’. For example, I can feel contact with the skin on the back of my hand but it feels as though there is a thin barrier over the skin, much like cling film, that is numbing the sensation. But the sensitivity and movement improves a little more each day and the doctors are hopeful. It is still early days.

Researching into an injury on the Internet can be a pretty daunting and scary experience, so I just wanted to fire a little ray of hope out there into the blogosphere. I’m not a medical doctor so I can’t promise that another person’s injury will recover as quickly or as successfully as mine, but please don’t be scared or disheartened by a pessimistic diagnosis. The expression ‘time is a great healer’ is very cheesy but it is also very true. I have been told on numerous occasions that nerves take a long time to recover from an injury and I’ve discovered that this is certainly the case. It’s very frustrating if you’re the kind of person who expects immediate results, but hang in there. Don’t be afraid, take the tests, persevere with the physiotherapy exercises and remain hopeful.


Six years on and my hand is 98% back to normal. I don't notice any difficulties on a day-to-day basis and it has regained all feeling, but my hand gets tired if I write for a long time and once in a while I get a trigger-finger feeling that locks my finger for a split second. My little finger was the last to regain sensation and it tingles every once in a while, but I have no problem writing, typing, carrying heavy weights, squeezing etc. Normality returns!