Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fat Pottery, or, Eternal Life At Any Size

[the lack of regular updates may continue; I am moving my sekrit base of sekrit operations from London to Atlanta tomorrow morning. But I have fifty gazillion half-written blogsplurges about the place, and am determined to gather the wits and nerve to upload them, so you never know.]

I finally saw the Terracotta Army yesterday, on my third attempt (I am, as previously observed, made of fail). For those of you who don't know the story already: when Qin Shi Huang became king of Qin, at the tender age of 13, he decided he was going to rule everything and live forever. He ordered the construction of an underground replica of his omni-empire, so he could continue to rule the entire world even if he died (and he went to some lengths to avoid that, from visiting supposed mountains of immortality to swallowing anything his doctors promised would preserve his life. Including mercury pills. Which is said to be what killed him, at the age of 49).

To enforce his eternal rule, he had his underground mini-empire guarded by over 8000 fully-armed terracotta soldiers. He also had terracotta civil servants to keep the place running, and terracotta musicians and acrobats to keep himself amused. I think I read something about terracotta concubines too, but none of them were in the BM exhibit.

The soldiers were a force to be reckoned with; equipped with the best of contemporary weaponry, accompanied by stocky terracotta horses, representing ranks from light infantry and unarmoured archers to generals in elaborate hats. And they represented the ideal of a male warrior's body; they vary in height from 6ft to 6ft 5in (an exaggeration of some 12 inches from the norm in that time and place - and Guan Yu, who lived nearly 500 years later, was said to be 6ft 10in...); none wear helmets, so each face and head can be seen in full, and most have elaborate hairdos with many sleek plaits and an off-centre topknot at their crown; they have thick legs and arms (made, apparently, from drainpipe moulds);

And they're fat.

Of course they're fat - if you're sculpting a soldier who's strong enough to defend your unlife from 210BC until 1974, the last thing you want is an underfed one. Besides, Qin had plenty of food stored in his tomb, so why would anyone look thin? There's a range of shapes on view at the BM exhibit - the only thin one was a barefooted acrobat, raising a finger as if to spin something upon it. The soldiers have podges on the front of their armour; the civil officials and unarmoured troops have thick folds of cloth above their belts, so even if they weren't fat they'd look like they were. The largest of them was another of the acrobats - a strongman, with bulging arm muscles and an obese belly. It was thought his act would involve weightlifting, and maybe throwing the skinny acrobat around. His body was for putting on show. And it's fat. Really fat.

Eternal life at any size. :)

A few photo links - couldn't find one of the fat acrobat, but here's some of the podging armour and whatnot: 1 2 3 4

Friday, January 11, 2008



This is, of course, the same Australia that banned incandescent lightbulbs! while remaining the per-capita most polluting nation on earth.

Meanwhile the UK government has joined in with the lightbulb ban, while adding a third runway to Heathrow Airport and building our first new coal-fired power station in decades. Yay, governments care about climate change!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

why I have the crazies

Sometime last week, when the purple one was clinging to the blue one's legs in the hallway:

he: Is it too early in the morning to get a restraining order?
me: Darling, it's 2pm.

I love these people. But I have been strangely tired and lacking in sleep cycle - I think we all were excepting her purpleness. I felt I was failing at joy because I hadn't the energy. We spent an inordinate amount of time singing silly songs at each other and pretending that we were about to leave the house (no, really, I've got my socks on now, we may even get to Ealing if I can find my hairbrush...)

Some of the silly things we kept on singing: Still Alive (the Portal song), The Mysterious Ticking Noise, They're Taking The Hobbits To Isengard, and everything ever by Weebl (particularly Magical Trevor and the Parsley Boobs intro songs). At one point the blueness sent me a text message, from the next room, saying 'What is that mysterious ticking noise?' I replied 'It's a pipe bomb. Yay!!' and then walked over and tickled him.

But now, something even sillier has come up; I discovered that an old classmate of mine was lately featured in the Telegraph, and the Times, and even the Daily Mail - something that is guaranteed to make you feel grown up - when he got caught trying to spy for the Russians.

Cue much laughter and reminiscing between the blue one and myself. This is doubly hilarious because said classmate is the kind of person who I was indeed expecting to surface in the media eventually - in the Fundies column at PHB. Some of the newspaper coverage mentions that he stood for the Tories in a local election in Pendle (and came fourth, within the safest Tory seat north of Watford. I'm genuinely impressed by that level of incompetence); none mention that he's a former member of the BNP. I had a way back in sixth-form (and I still do) of conversing with people about how they came to their opinions no matter what those opinions are, or how far removed they are from conventional logic. This applied to people ranging from soft Christians to hard Muslims to the resident library anarchist. That 9/11 came less than two weeks after we started lower-sixth exacerbated that. I got to know people that way, friends of a sort, but not the sort I'd lend my LHM to, if you get me (a mistake I only made once, with the Christian). He was one of them. I could loathe him yet still talk to him rather than shun him - it seemed only fair, as I was a loathesome person myself back in those days. (according to some, and me, I became otherwise in 2003).

Two years later, on the day before stand-down, he fell victim to the best prank I have ever been involved in. Needless to say, it wasn't my idea. The blue one stole it of the internets. But it was funny as all fuck. The best part was when the victim approached me, about fifteen minutes after we'd put up the lists (hurrah for mixed-gender prank teams - he could only take down half of them) and asked me (who he perhaps trusted as some sort of friend) if I "knew anything about these posters."
"What posters?"
"You know..."
"No, really, what posters?"
"The ones that...say I like...[here he leaned close and whispered loudly]...anal penetration."

I ran away laughing. Three weeks later, I ran into him after an exam, asked him if he'd fared well, and he complained of lengthy answers and limp wrists, made a fucking horrible hand gesture and said 'I'm starting to act like [the blue one]'. I hit him clean across the face without a moment's thought. It would have been extremely hard not to. I packed my cases and left the Ribble Valley a few days later, and excepting results day, I haven't returned since.

Russia are welcome to him, I am sure, but I'd genuinely love to know how his thought process wound up resetting his political compass from the BNP to the Kremlin. But, the only link I know of between defection and wingnuttery is closeted queerness. M'just saying.

A crazy juxtaposition via Bloglines a few days ago: Ren on the inner 'perfect woman', and zombie z on recovering from an eating disorder. I read them one after another, in that order, and the effect was distinctly good. Also, I think my 'perfect woman' is currently Guan Yu. Really, I think I mean that. (When I was a child my 'perfect woman' was definitely Mara Jade, but that was before she sold out).