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…;)