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Vampire update, plus trash fashion

June 26, 2012 4 comments

A couple of quick things.

Remember the ‘vampire kit’ I mentioned in the previous post, that was up for auction? Sold for £7,500 – a bit over 9,000 euros, a bit under $12,000. The upside is that the purchaser was the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds (UK) and it will be on display there.

Also, today my eye caught another BBC report on a subject that interests me – trash fashion. No, not trashy fashion (well ok that can be entertaining sometimes) but the repurposing of found objects into fashion designs.

It’s a bit like something I played with for my own amusement a couple of years back, taking discarded car hubcaps and using a combination of paint and found items to turn them into masks. They were a little like tribal masks, except I don’t belong to a tribe (maybe I’m ‘untribeable’?) and don’t know any ‘tribe’ that uses such materials.

No, wait, you can see stuff like that around the place – music festivals, for example, where people like the Mutoid Waste Company show off their designs, and locations such as the Abode of Chaos in France.

And no, I don’t have the masks since we moved house though I might possibly make another one sometime if I get to a point where I have that much time on my hands.

It’s also a bit like the dada movement in art, using found objects and re-purposing, tweaking or juxtaposing them to create new effects. But in this case we’re talking about  fashion designers using old plastic bottles, bits of toys and other ‘trash’ and incorporating them into one-off designs. I like the whole re-use/re-cycle ethic and this kind of ‘up-cycling’ of trash into high-value objects via the application of imagination and design certainly appeals. Maybe because it parallels what fiction writers like me try to do – up-cycle words into attractive, interesting, attention-grabbing narratives?

The story, anyway, is on the BBC website as ‘The fashion for turning junk into art‘ (26 June 2012).

Vampire breadcrumbs to the BBC

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Those of us who periodically write (or read) vampire related stories may be interested in a couple of recent BBC reports.

One is of a ‘vampire grave’ in Bulgaria containing several skeletons – the bodies appear to have been buried with metal stakes through their hearts.

Other similar graves have been found previously in Eastern Europe and, I believe, in Scotland and Ireland. From what I’ve read previously, metal stakes are unusual – at other sites wooden stakes have been used, as have heavy stones placed on bodies to pin them down, and postmortem decapitation. In some sites the bodies had stones placed in their mouths and the speculation is that this either prevented the spirit leaving the body, or prevented spirits taking possession of the body.

There are plenty of academic discussions of funerary rites and the handling of ‘dangerous’ bodies such as suspected vampires. It’s obviously a topic of interest to social scientists, historians, archaeologists and suchlike. A quick overview written for a popular audience is in the Orange County Review for 12 April 2007. I could point you to more scholarly sources but you’d need something like a JSTOR or ATHENS account to access most of it.

The other is of a ‘Victorian vampire slaying kit’ shortly to be auctioned in the north of England. Made in the late 1800s, it contains a crucifix, pistol, wooden stakes and mallet, along with glass bottles containing holy water, holy earth and garlic paste. It was possibly a ‘novelty item’ made as a result of the popularity of Stoker’s Dracula.

Punk poet past and present

June 5, 2012 Leave a comment

So last night I caught a BBC documentary, part of the ‘Punk Britannia’ season, on John Cooper Clarke.

Back in the 1970s he was a surreal figure, a tall stick-thin guy with long hair that looked, literally, as if he’d been dragged through a hedge. He’d turn up at punk gigs and rant poetry at six hundred words a minute (or thereabouts) at the audience. They expected head-banging, pogoing music and got head-banging, pogoing verse.

He disappeared from public view through much of the 1980s and 1990s (yes, drugs had a lot to do with that) but he’s still around, still performing, and still has a nervous energy and bite that make him, if not a national treasure, then still a wonderful cultural icon.

He wasn’t the only punk poet of that era. I remember another who went under the name ‘Conan the Librarian’ – though if you google that name, there’s no longer any trace. There’s a comedy film of that name and, as far as I can see, several librarians who use the nickname, but no punk performance poets. So maybe Cooper Clarke is the last one standing?

If you’re interested, he has a website, including a bunch of his poems and a list of upcoming gigs. There’s also a Wikipedia page, and the show itself is on the BBC iPlayer (‘Evidently… John Cooper Clarke’) for 6 more days (if you live somewhere where you can access it). After that… well, it’ll probably still be around. Try googling it.

One final thought, just a little comment that came from early on in the documentary. Where did his inspiration come from? Which radical firebrand unleashed his voice? What revolutionary literature fired him up? Answers: one talented teacher, and Palgrave’s Golden Treasury. Who’d have thought?

(Notes to American readers: if you look at the documentary and Youtube clips, etc., you may find Cooper Clarke’s regional accent – Salford, near Manchester – difficult to follow at the speed he performs. But you can still read his work. And yes, I know you have your own punk poets like Henry Rollins, musician turned poet and many other things besides. And yes, he’s good. But it’s not the same style at all…)

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