Monthly Archives: June 2013

Peggy’s progress

Check out this great supercut from New York Magazine celebrating the rise of one of the most nuanced characters (and my favourite) on Mad Men, Peggy Olson. She works her way up from a secretary to chief copywriter, with plenty of battles and some triumphs along the way – she’s a rare character, not just for the 60s but any old time.

As m’regular readers may know, I’m always interested in screen representations of women in the workplace, and the progress of Peggy in the testosterone- and Jim Beam-fuelled days of early Madison Avenue is a simultaneously inspiring and frustrating journey. In spite of the heartbreaks and late nights and sidelining, Peggy’s a secret badass and she gets through things the hard way, which makes her story far more powerful than some Pollyanna media-dream-career-romcom nonsense.

The sixth series of Mad Men has just finished, so i’ll be spending the “summer” working my way back through the show from series 1, to prevent withdrawal.

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Dressing for the gaze

This is too cool for school. These dresses are gaze-activated, moving or lighting up when someone stares at them.

(no)where(now)here : 2 gaze-activated dresses by ying gao from ying gao on Vimeo.

The designer, Ying Gao, describes the project thus:

“Absence often occurs at breakfast time – the tea cup dropped, then spilled on the table being one of its most common consequences. Absence lasts but a few seconds, its beginning and end are sudden. However closed to outside impressions, the senses are awake. The return is as immediate as the departure, the suspended word or movement is picked up where it was left off as conscious time automatically reconstructs itself, thus becoming continuous and free of any apparent interruption.”

The movement is certainly mesmerising – and uncanny – but the science behind these dresses is the real amazement. Each dress is made of photoluminescent thread and organza, which is embedded with eye-tracking technology that is activated by a spectators’ gaze. As people’s gazes are constantly shifting, so the surface of the dress keeps moving. The idea of transience is really firing up my synapses right now (not least because of elusive communication forms like Snapchat!), but this is a really beautiful way to demonstrate transience as a positive thing, not a throwaway one.

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Clever things club

In my line of work, you have to be a sponge for everything that’s going on – reading everything, always listening and watching. Most of the time, that means reading anything I come across – Twitter links being the greatest boon to trendsters in finding things you didn’t know were interesting, without leaving your desk. But there’s another tool in learning about things which requires leaving one’s desk or sofa and getting out into the world – one which is so very old-school, but gaining increasing social currency.

The School of Life aphorisms (credit David Michael)

It’s going to lectures – something most people would never have considered doing once they escaped college. Sitting in a room as grand and legendary as the theatre at the Royal Institution, or a concrete-floored “space” in Shoreditch or in the private dining rooms of Soho restaurants, more people are literally taking themselves out of their comfort zones to go and hear about something new or different, or debate key contemporary topics. Sometimes you get to go to these things for work, like the great School of Life or  It’s Nice That events or even a TEDx, and so the inspiration and enlightenment you get from the various expert or visionary speakers has a useful outlet. But generally, it’s just exercise for the mind.

A couple of my friends and I like to watch out for interesting and unusual talks to attend on a lunchtime or a weekday evening, especially if it involves the promise of a sharp wine or artisan beer (these being the usual tipples offered with your ticket price). We call this Clever Things Club. Events range from talks by inventors, jellymongers, lexicographers and pornographers to discussions on the role of feminism in fashion or opinion in media. If i talk about people going to improving events like this with my work hat on, i usually ascribe it to people wanting more bang for their buck out of their leisure time – looking for culture, entertainment and a wine without having to shell out for all three, lectures are great value for cash- and time-poor consumers. But there’s something else too – the wonder of the new.

Filter-Bubble (1)

It’s easy to get caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of things we like, things we do, things we’re used to, people we know. The comfort of sticking to what we know/like is pleasant and all, but can also become a bubble, causing us to lose touch with the excesses, adventures and awesomeness in the world. Call it the Wheelhouse Effect, the Filter Bubble, or just plain getting stuck in a rut – whatever, it’s important to break out of the familiar algorithmed world we live  in and learn things, hear different opinions, appreciate others’ experiences and look at things in a new way. It might not always be highbrow, but if it opens your mind to something else even for a little while,  it’s excellent value.

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