katharine promotes herself


If it’s the end of the month, it’s time for me to remind you about all the things I’ve done and encourage you to look at them.

As you might know, I draw a little robot named Boris. He’s likes to dress up in costumes and host parties and go on adventures. Last year I took on the project of posting 366 different drawings of Boris in costumes. This year we’re taking a little easier but still having loads of fun. Boris and I are presenting 52 Weeks of Leisure over on the Robot of Leisure blog.  Once a week, Boris will be sharing tips and hints for entertaining that he picked up from his programming in Zükünfthaus (learn more about Boris and his life of leisure in Zükünfthaus at the official Robot of Leisure site).

Check in every Tuesday through 2013 and you’ll find goodies like a recipe for a cocktail or appetizer, entertaining tips, a diagram for popular dance style, and much more! For example, in January Boris presented a warm cocktail, some advice on how to have a fun party alone, and a demonstration showing us all how to do The Freddie. It’s great kitschy fun!

katharine makes observations: subcultures


I am not a nerd. I am not a feminist. I am not an atheist. I am not a writer. I am not a designer. I am not a hipster. I am not a solitary something that can be easily labeled. Even trying to nail down my official ethnicity would be tricky thanks to European-Indian sexual habits in the early settlings of the United States. I am a colourful tag cloud where no keyword is ever significantly larger than another.

We want people to be easily categorized so that we can connect with the “right” people and not waste time with everyone else. We search for ways to fit in and seek out kindred spirits to not feel so alone. The labels make it easy to find like-minded individuals (in theory).

Life would be much easier if, instead of career aptitude tests in junior high, schools issued lifestyle tests. Kids would take a multiple choice quiz and based on the results, they would receive little lifestyle kits and computer print outs of similar individuals in your school. Boom. There’s your personal life sorted for the foreseeable future. You know where you fit, you know who your people are, you know your cultural pretences. If something goes wrong, you simply retake the test and try to get placed in a different group. No more time wasted feeling things out by taking up band or joining a bunch of school clubs or crying in your room after school and reassuring yourself you’ll make your friends in college. Sure, you’ll be dealt an off-the-rack personality but you’ll fit in! Fitting in is half the battle of life.

If we had our interests and peer groups all set out for us, there’d be none of this discovery of new things or broadening of horizons. We’d know our friends, we’d know our enemies. My subculture can beat up your subculture. And a thousand micro-wars break out in major metropolises over microscopic differences between micro-subcultures. Subcultures allow us to exercise extreme prejudice. Our tolerances for the big differences have been raised, but we’re left with this primal urge to discriminate. Maybe it’s some sort of tribal protection reflex that we haven’t evolved out of yet. Subcultures offer a sense of belonging with a hint of exclusivity. My subculture is so exclusive that I’m the only active participant.

Just as the labelling helps us find our tribes, so does it allow for stereotyping and discriminating and bullying. Boy nerds certainly have a joystick up their somethings over the rise of girl nerds on the Internet. As if girl nerds are a new concept. Never in the history of human existence has woman dared to take interest in science-fiction or role-playing games or technology? And why can’t pretty girls be geeks? Does it matter if a girl becomes a nerd because she got into Doctor Who last year and that prompted her to watch and read more science-fiction? We discover things at our individual paces and sometimes popular things can serve as gateways into unexplored subcultures that often lead to the wormholes of obscurity. Do you really want to deny someone’s journey of discovery simply because they don’t fit your particular vision? (And does it really matter if her facial features are symmetrical and she likes to play with make-up?) Nerds used to be inclusive. They used to be excited to find kindred spirits to passionately discuss minutiae. They knew from personal experience what it was to be excluded from social circles and vowed to make an effort to cast people aside. Would you cast out the bee girl from your commune of bee people simply because she also enjoys tap dance and you feel that bee people are really more into freestyle jazz?

I understand why people who feel they are actual things get upset by people who pretend to be things, like hot models pretending to be nerds at comic book conventions. It devalues the label, the prestige, or the condition. People misuse all sorts of cultural identifiers to manipulate situations. People pretend to be deaf, gay, autistic, terminally ill, and interested in whichever subculture has the most promise of human companionship. Pretty girls calling themselves nerds simply because they’ve expressed moderate interest in an icon of nerd culture weakens the meaning of nerd. But “nerd”and “geek” have already been weakened as shorthand for anyone with an intense appreciation or considerable knowledge about a particular area, regardless of genre, gender, or girth.

What happened to “enthusiast” and “aficionado” or the simple “fan”? What happened to the excitement in sharing knowledge and books and music and whatnot with new people? Where are the subculture mentors that scoop up newbies and educate them on their newfound passions? Must we be all be hipster assholes casually sniffing “Yeah, I’ve been into that for a while. Good luck catching up to my level of intense love”? Are we competitive in our passive hobbies as well now?!

We have to make allowances for unexpected people doing unexpected things. We need to accept that grown women can watch Spiderman cartoons on Netflix while knitting.  The woman you’d label as a militant feminist probably makes lovely wedding cakes. The unfashionable nerd actually has a collection of skin care products that could put a Real Housewife to shame (if such a thing were possible). Getting lumped into one subculture denies the multifaceted dimensions of a single person. We don’t fit neatly into little boxes. Life isn’t that tidy. It’s possible to be a Trekkie surfer and a steampunk juggalo and a fashionista Whovian and a new age furry and a rockabilly bodybuilding cosplayer. Let people self-identify as they please. Or, as Leslie Love put it:

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 11.31.56 PM
Cat videos are the new peace treaties.

Viewing Habits: Submarine



Oliver Tate fancies himself a hero. He wants to save a girl from being bullied, to save his parents’ crumbling marriage, and to win over the girl he likes. Oliver Tate doesn’t play sports, he isn’t an overachieving academic, and he hasn’t taken up drugs. Oliver Tate is actually a passionate teenage boy with an active imagination and a propensity for affectations. Where was this boy when I was growing up?


Oliver is the lead in Submarine, a quiet coming-of-age film that encapsulates the typical teen experience. If you ran Harold and Maude, The Breakfast Club, Rushmore, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete through a blender, you might come up with something similar to Submarine.

This movie seems like it would be a straightforward tale of misfits in love and learning from their love but inevitably drifting apart because one of them wants to be normal and find normal love. Despite his goal to be “the best boyfriend in the world,” Oliver does not allow himself to disappear entirely into his romantic relationship. Instead he becomes preoccupied with his parents’ romantic relationship (the dimmer switch, an indication of romance, has not been dimmed for seven months) and takes on the mission to save their marriage. His plans for wooing Jordana and keeping his parents together are often ill-fated and he suffers the consequences.


Submarine is full of charms and quirks. It’s set in that quaint time (late 1980s-mid 1990s) when we still used typewriters, listened to audio cassettes, and looked things up in books. Oliver’s parents are quirky and neurotic. Oliver and his love interest Jordana Bevan run around and do charmingly quirky things like run around in whimsical sunglasses and set fire to things and sit together in an abandoned bathtub in a field. Through Oliver’s constant narration, he shares the fantasies and anxieties of an overactive teenage imagination. He reveals his fears of getting older, turning into his parents, and not having memorable life experiences.


The visual style of the movie borrows inspiration from the likes of Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry. You may forgive the freeze frames and deliberate typography once you get an eyeful of Swansea’s scenic views and the Welsh coastline.

What’s refreshing about Submarine is it’s approach to teen angst. Director Richard Ayoade (best known as The IT Crowd‘s Maurice Moss) presents an authentic account of kids fumbling through adolescence, trying out different interests, looking for ways to fit in and stand out, and making mistakes all the while. I’ve just started reading the novel by Joe Dunthorne from which the film was adapted. Ayoade seems to stay true to the characters and the tone in his screenplay adaptation, although the book is clearly set in 1997 and Oliver creates more situations in order to get his parents’ attention. I like how both the book and the movie capture the doughy doe-eyed innocence of the early teen years. Yes, Oliver does attempt to be sophisticated and clever, but he never comes across as slick or arrogant like a Ferris Bueller or Zack Morris.

Submarine is a gentle comedy that may arouse nostalgia for your own adolescence or simply inspire you to read the dictionary and listen to Serge Gainsbourg.


Popped Culture: Peter Cook


When you think of British comedy, you instinctively quote from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When you think of the British satire boom, you may recall That Was The Week That Was or Private Eye. Meet the man who helped pave the way for them all.


Peter Cook (November 17, 1937 – January 9, 1995)

A few years ago, I bought my boyfriend a copy of The Best of What’s Left of Not Only…But Also, a long-forgotten BBC series from the 1960s starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. The series employed young dreamboats Cook and Moore fresh off their successful West End and Broadway runs of Beyond the Fringe. Through three series, Cook and Moore delighted audiences with bits like the “Dagenham Dialogues” of Pete & Dud, “Superthunderstingcar,” the interviews of Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, and musical interludes from the Dudley Moore Trio.

After viewing Not Only…But Also and Beyond the Fringe (also available on DVD), I was hooked on Cook. No sooner had we finished watching those programs was I searching YouTube for more. I spent hours watching other salvaged clips (not the best of what’s left, I suppose) from that series, bits from Behind the Fridge and The Secret Policeman’s Balls, interviews on chat shows. I searched for movie titles from Cook’s IMDB. Movies led to books, books led to plays, plays led back to the internet. This introduction—or reintroduction, rather, as I had a brief involvement with some Monty Python albums in the mid 1990s—has immersed me in the mid-century British satire boom.

The career trajectory of Peter Cook is remarkable and cautionary. This was a man intent on being a renaissance man, dominating the world of satire if not the world itself. Just barely out of university, he conquered the West End and Broadway as a writer and performer. By the age of 30, he’d been a nightclub owner, magazine publisher, a writer, an actor of film and television, and would-be rock star. He had not, however, been wholly successful at the lot. The Establishment closed within several years of opening, Private Eye was susceptible to libel suits, his movies were not blockbusters, and he was tone deaf. The trouble with rising to stardom so fast and reaching the level of hobnobbing with royalty, working regularly with childhood heroes, and earning loads of money in the first quarter of life is that it doesn’t leave much left for future goals.

Despite his ability to create brilliant original material, Cook seemed content to revisit old characters and recycle old material. And recycle he did, even early on. Bedazzled revisits and expounds on the “The Leaping Nuns of the Order of St Beryl” from the original Not Only…But Also series, E.L. Wisty was a creation from Cook’s school days and made appearances on all manners of series and specials with interesting facts and ideas about world domination and nude ladies, and “One Leg Too Few,” originally part of Beyond the Fringe, is clumsily inserted in the The Hound of the Baskervilles. A dedicated historian could probably find a recorded version of Cook and Moore’s “Frog and Peach” sketch or “One Leg Too Few” from every year past it’s original performance until Cook’s death. While once standard practice for comedians to get mileage out of old bits for years, Cook couldn’t get away with that today, what with smart phones and rabid comedy nerds and competition from prolific creators like Louis C.K.

Peter Cook died just before the Internet began sprouting up. I wonder, given his earlier ambitions, whether Cook would have seen the potential and considered using E.L. Wisty to create a World Wide Web Domination League. Would E.L. Wisty have his own podcast? Would Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling host a vlog? Or would he merely be content to pop up on the odd panel show, stumping Lee Mack on Would I Lie to You? or spouting interesting facts on QI?

If you’re interested in having a Peter Cook marathon for yourself, I recommend:
Beyond the Fringe
Not Only…But Also… Best of
(the pinnacle of the Cook-Moore partnership)
Rise & Rise of Michael Rimmer
(pre-Python John Cleese and political satire)
The Bedsitting Room (although Cook and Moore are not heavily featured)
The Wrong Box (young Michael Caine! Peter Sellers in a room full of cats! A room full of cats!)
Jonathan Miller’s Alice in Wonderland
(which is bizarre, hippy-trippy, and wonderful—if you’re in the mood for it, and reunites 3/4 of the Beyond the Fringe cast)

Seek out The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978), Yellowbeard (Widescreen) (wee baby David Bowie!), and Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies only if you’re the completist sort.

katharine likes to make things: painted coffee jars


I picked up the habit of drinking instant coffee in the afternoon. Which led to the habit of collecting empty coffee jars. Not a terrible habit to develop in our recycle/reuse culture niche. With all the dry goods we pick up from bulk food stores, it’s nice to have glass containers around to transfer them from the plastic bags. I hate the plastic bags. And I hate their little twist ties that I apparently tend to twist on backwards, which frustrates Boyfriend. So we have a tidy collection of jars waiting for a new purpose.

During one of my infinite Tumblr scrolls, I happened onto Eric Barclay’s transformation of used condiment containers. Brilliant. Of course I came down with a case of the Icandothat. So I took a couple of my instant coffee jars and painted them up.



Nescafé instant coffee jar
shoe whitener
acrylic craft paint
pompom (for top of hat)
felt (for scarf)
Mod Podge Gloss

I came up with this owl/bird-like creature to paint on the jar surface. I used shoe whitener as a primer because that’s what I had on hand. The sponge applicator made applying the whitener easy, but it still required several coats. Shoe whitener does dry pretty quick, though, so I didn’t need to wait too long. After the primer, I drew on my character design with a light pencil. The trouble with drawing on oddly shaped surfaces means the design can go a bit wonky. But I didn’t do too badly. Success!

Once I had my design sketched on, I used some tiny brushes to apply regular acrylic paint, drew over the paint borders with Sharpie and covered the whole thing in a coat or two of gloss Mod Podge to protect from light scratches and the elements.

Barclay’s coffee mates reminded me so much of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore that I decided to transform my jars into their Pete & Dud characters.


I didn’t document the process for the owl jars, so I snapped a few low light shots of my Pete & Dud process.




I felt it was appropriate, in creating a work of “art,” to capture Pete & Dud in the moment during the art museum sketch where Peter sends Dudley into a bit of a giggle fit.