Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From Commonplace Books to Facebook

This is a longer, edited version of a review I posted yesterday on Facebook. 

Today's talk by Juliet Shields 'From commonplace books to Facebook' was a fascinating insight into how online social media is in some ways a direct descendant from the commonplace books that people used to create to bring together quotes, recipes and other items from different sources and that were often re-read  and also shared between people so they could all add to the same book and share each other's knowledge and ideas. Commonplace books were most popular in the 17th and 18th centuries though some people still make them today.

The commonplace book was separate from two much more private books, which may seem similar - the diary (which would focus on listing and detailing events in one's own life) and the journal (which would offer a chance to write down one's own private thoughts and musings.)

One of the things that most interested me was how many writers used commonplace books as a source of inspiration, which in social media terms, for me at least, is a role most closely served by Pinterest (the visually based social media network, which is well worth checking out if you don't yet know it - you can find the Pinterest references to commonplace books here). 

We are usually aware that online social media offers us a way to present ourselves and create a public persona, but what I hadn't thought about before was how this is a natural evolution from one of the functions of commonplace books. Seen like this, online social media becomes a new way of doing something we've always done, rather than being a technological innovation that is often seen as time wasting and pernicious. Also social media in a sense returns us to a democratic sharing of information that was, apparently the norm, before mass media became the dominant media that we are used to it being. 

Juliet Shields is the Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle and is currently the Fulbright Scholar at the National Library of Scotland.  The talk was given at the National Library of Scotland (which is one of the best places in Edinburgh for interesting free talks on a variety of topics related to literature) and drew on the library's collection of commonplace books and diaries. 

I have a book that I occasionally use to write quotes in, but I think I'll start doing this in a more organised way, possibly combining it with elements of scrapbooking. What about you? Do you keep a commonplace book?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Girl, Lady, Woman - reposting for International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day! To mark the occasion I'm reposting my thoughts about the use of the words girl and woman from a year or so back.


I'm a woman and resent being referred to as a girl.

In my mind a girl is a female under 18, a young girl is a girl under 12 and a little girl is a girl under 5 or a girl under 12 of particularly small stature.

Some people say calling women girls doesn't matter, but think about it, would you call a male work colleague a boy? If you would then maybe it's fair enough to call your female work colleagues girls, but I'm guessing that most people refer to their male work colleagues as men (or possibly guys) and so should refer to their female work colleagues as women. I've only ever met one man who has ever referred to his male colleages as boys.

There's a time and a place of course to use the word girls - 'Girl's night out' for example, but in that case it's a choice made by a group of women to refer to themselves as girls and is directly equivalent to the use of 'Boy's Night Out'.

Using the word girl to refer to grown up women is just another symptom of the increasing sexism of today's society and it tends to infantalise women. The word 'Girlpower' is an attempt to reclaim the word girl from it's infantalising useage.

Sometimes I think focussing on the use of words detracts from the issues. For example news articles are sometimes devoted to analysing a politician's use of one word or phrase on one occasion while the issue behind the words isn't touched. However, the use of 'girls' to refer to women is persistant and can only I feel undermine a lot of the work done by feminism to move towards the equality of women and men.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


family meal out -
everybody's eyes are glued
to their mobile phones

Thursday, September 29, 2016


(inspired by a dream I had a few nights back)

The possible next leader of the so-called free world
is throwing fire crackers round the shopping mall
like a toddler in a temper tantrum who has somehow
got his hands on a gun.

Screams echo round the shops and corridors
people cower behind their shopping trolleys
“Muslims! Mexicans! Terrorists!”
shouts the possible next leader of the so-called free world.

I creep up behind him, pushing my trolley
that is laden with hummus and tacos
I try to calm him down
but he throws a firecracker in my face.

And then I wake.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

St Bernard's Well

It was Doors Open Day yesterday and we visited St Bernard's Well alongside the Water of Leith, a building we have long wanted to visit inside.

Hygeia (the ancient Green goddess of health, the origin of the word hygiene) is a well known landmark along the river, but never before have we been able to get so close to her!

Nor have we ever before stepped inside this wonderful building

The spring was originally discovered by schoolboys in 1760 and later became very popular as a place for taking the waters as a cure for various maladies.

I'm guessing this tiny building would have been incredibly crowded at the height of its popularity! Nowadays its only open on Days Open Days and well worth the visit!

You can see photos from the rest of our walk yesterday over on Crafty Green Poet.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bi-Visibilty Day

It's happened every year since 1999, but I didn't even know until two minutes ago that Bi-Visibility Day existed - so much for the visibility part of that then!

Anyway instead of concentrating on what I was supposed to be doing I found myself browsing the web for articles and here are some good ones I found:

Ignoring the B in LGBTQI denies us our identity by Vonny Moyes in The National

Why I don't like being asked which gender I prefer by Zachary Zane on Bustle

There's even a bi pride flag (which I wasn't aware of until just now). 

And remember, if you're bisexual, this is the day your invisibility cloak doesn't work, so no trying to rob a bank....

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Lure - film review

The Lure is a wonderfully retro Polish musical featuring sister mermaids with vampiric tendencies who are taken on by an underground nightclub to perform backing vocals and striptease. Golden is the sister who most feels the lure of being a vampire, while Silver is the sister who tries to restrain her vampiric tendencies and falls in love with the band's bass player. However their love is doomed, she is a mermaid and he is a human and it's impossible for them to be together. At the same time, mermaid myth says that any mermaid who falls in love with a human who then marries another human will turn to sea-foam on her lover's wedding day..... Is Silver herself therefore doomed?

This is a wonderfully atmospheric film, coping equally well with punk concerts and underwater scenes. It's fun and upbeat but has a melancholy heart. Well worth watching.

The Lure is showing as part of Edinburgh International Film festival:

2055, 24 June at Cineworld.

 You can read my other reviews from this year's film festival by following the links below:

Endless Night.

Homo Sapiens.

Belles Familles.

The Olive Tree.

 Death is Only the Beginning - my review of The Correspondence and The Library Suicides.

The Mine.

The Islands and the Whales.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Bugs - are insects the food of the future?

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended free press screenings of these films

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Sandwick Museum, Shetland

I loved the tiny museum at Sandwick, which we visited in Shetland. It focuses on the history and culture of the surrounding area, particularly fishing. It's beautifully laid out, centred on an old fishing boat.

Sandwick is the starting point for the wonderful evening cruises to see the storm petrels on the nearby island of Mousa. I'll be blogging more about that in the near future over on Crafty Green Poet.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bards in da Bog

Shetland Islands Council has an innovative way of finding new audiences for poetry - putting poetry in public toilets with the Bards in da Bog project!

We had a wonderful holiday in Shetland - you can read more about it here and I'll be blogging more over the next week or so over on Crafty Green Poet.