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Towards a Conceptualisation of the Skirt Hem / Thigh Interface

  Sat 16th February 2013

There are many ways in which academe can contribute to the pressing social, environmental and political problems of the day, from climate change to water shortages in the Third World, but I think most people would agree that the best use of public money for research in the United Kingdom today would be to spend it refining the conceptual framework in which Social Network Analysis can be applied to the study of music.

The University of Manchester hosted a conference on this subject last week. The grub was good, but the quality of academic conference bags is slipping at Manchester. Plastic! And no pen drive, keyring, or branded pen. What a swizz.

I was pleased that the arrestingly attractive early career academic at whom I look for a fraction too long, who is sent round to every conference in the social sciences, managed to make it through the snow. Clever women are sexy, and she was fucking sexy, in her below the knee grey square-necked wool-ish dress, small, unbuttoned black top pushed fractionally aside by her lovely tits, black tights and flat black shoes. I love understated monochrome clothes on women.

I chimed in with a couple of comments, about the lack of a qualitatitive dimension in some of the relationships being proposed, and an anecdote about coming across, in the Modern Soul scene, the practice of covering up records. This occurred when DJs, working in collaboration with a cartel of record dealers, would paste over the label and lie publicly about the title and the artist's name. In this way they created both create both scarcity (economic capital) and boundaries of social distinction (social capital, albeit of an unpleasant kind). My comment was provoked by his discussion of the same practice amongst the DJs and sound systems run by Calypso and Mento musicians who arrived in London, Liverpool and elsewhere in the late 50s.

I was couchsurfing and I navigated my way to a grotty south Manchester suburb and a gloomy-looking flat, guided there by a most helpful reformed alcoholic who took me under his wing somewhat on the bus. Inside, the flat was a large library, with living quarters appended. Classical poetry, literary theory, modern British novels, a yard of Marxism, and much more. The plates were balanced finely on the top of the gas fire, ready for a delicious sausage casserole. We chatted into midnight with out of date Guinness. In the morning, far earlier than he'd normally get up, he'd set out a breakfast table that was better than some of the hotels Trina and I have stayed in lately.

Back in the ivory towers, the bus was getting a bit lost, with one person's bonkers autobiographical ramble through dreams, telepathy and "Heaven", half a therapeutic hour of an elderly person worrying out loud about dying. She was received with an overstated laughter at anything funny--at a homeopathic degree of funniness--that she said. It's meant to be kind, but had a tinge of ageist condescension about it, as though someone who is losing her marbles after having written some foundational texts should now be exempt from the pettifogging suggestion that your paper actually relates to the topic of the conference.

We ushered her off with the loud applause that signals "You can go now, thanks", and moved on to an infinitely better plenary in which the presenter explained (with a necessary bit of squiggly maths) a new way of analysing data to help in cross-referencing individuals' privileged and rejected objects of taste. I thought it breathed a promising impetus into a decades old problem in the field which has been stagnating for some time.

But then we got a nudge forward in the direction of the pub. We eschewed our previous night's pub, the Lass O'Gowrie, as the heating (never wonderful there, in my experience) had broken down completely and the bar staff were wearing wooly gloves and hats. In The Molly House, the breathtaking prices (3.90 for bitter) were offset by the cosiness of the venue and the quality of the ale; but mainly, by the excellent company--both academic and bloggy.

I met up with Crinklybee, one of my longest-standing blogpals, who manfully came out on a school night and effortlessly joined the party; I like friends you don't have to worry about. I'm not sure whether I was looking a bit unstable by the end, but I did appreciate him gently insisting that we leave the pub, based on his flimsy reasoning that the last train to Lancaster was departing in about ten minutes. We swapped a couple of blog names which we thought the other should read, and J showed me the bit of paper from a while ago, on which he'd noted my urgent pointing to Letters Concerning.

Back here, I had a day to get ready for my own couchsurfing guests, a beautiful ginger-haired green-eyed Italian girl wearing a tight white, green and red check shirt, and a mustachioed young Frenchman. I made up a coal fire in order to impress them with my authentic English rusticity. I'm not sure what the relationship was between them, but they slept in the same bed while I bedded down on my living room floor on the old sofa cushion that used to be my bed before I met Trina, hoping that the coal fire wouldn't spit into my hair. This morning, at breakfast, they poked suspiciously at the crumpets as though they were some exotic specimen of fauna.


Comment from: [Member]

best part about any conference - doesn’t matter the field - is the drinking and carousing that comes with it. when i was young and impressionable, i used to try to attend as many presentations as i could, taking copious notes, which i’d review in my hotel room late into the night.

fuck that.

Sun 17th February 2013 @ 21:22
Comment from: [Member]

I entirely agree! And being academics, they don’t need any encouragement to get themselves down the pub. I I did enjoy the presentations though and have come back with a few things and people to follow up. I enjoy it a lot more now that I’ve given up on the PhD.

Sun 17th February 2013 @ 22:28
Comment from: Jonathan [Visitor]

Thank you for the lovely compliment Looby! Was lovely to see you as well, and no, you weren’t any more wobbly than should be expected of a man who had been exposed for several hours to such extravagant beer prices, and on a weeknight to boot. Sorry that my slavish acquiescence to the railway timetables meant I had to drag you away, would have loved to have gone onto somewhere slightly cheaper with our new Finnish academic friend so we could further impress him with our groundbreaking blueprint for the nationalisation of Wetherspoons (I could tell he was impressed even though he was being all undemonstrative and Scandinavian). Let’s do it again sometime…

Fri 22nd February 2013 @ 22:21

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looby, n.; pl. loobies. A lout; an awkward, stupid, clownish person

M / 59 / Bristol, "the most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England" -- John Betjeman [1961, source eludes me].

"Looby is a left-wing intellectual who is obsessed with a) women's clothes and b) tits." -- Joy of Bex.

WLTM literate woman, 40-65. Must have nice tits, a PhD, and an mdma factory in the shed, although the first on its own will do in the short term.

There are plenty of bastards who drink moderately. Of course, I don't consider them to be people. They are not our comrades.
Sergei Korovin, quoted in Pavel Krusanov, The Blue Book of the Alcoholic

I am here to change my life. I am here to force myself to change my life.
Chinese man I met during Freshers Week at Lancaster University, 2008

The more democratised art becomes, the more we recognise in it our own mediocrity.
James Meek

Tell me, why is it that even when we are enjoying music, for instance, or a beautiful evening, or a conversation in agreeable company, it all seems no more than a hint of some infinite felicity existing apart somewhere, rather than actual happiness – such, I mean, as we ourselves can really possess?
Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

I hate the iPod; I hate the idea that music is such a personal thing that you can just stick some earplugs in your ears and have an experience with music. Music is a social phenomenon.
Jeremy Wagner

La vie poetique has its pleasures, and readings--ideally a long way from home--are one of them. I can pretend to be George Szirtes.
George Szirtes

Using words well is a social virtue. Use 'fortuitous' once more to mean 'fortunate' and you move an English word another step towards the dustbin. If your mistake took hold, no-one who valued clarity would be able to use the word again.
John Whale

One good thing about being a Marxist is that you don't have to pretend to like work.
Terry Eagleton, What Is A Novel?, Lancaster University, 1 Feb 2010

The working man is a fucking loser.
Mick, The Golden Lion, Lancaster, 21 Mar 2011

The Comfort of Strangers

23.1.16: Big clearout of the defunct and dormant and dull
16.1.19: Further pruning

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