Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The genesis of Dr Space Junk

Someone asked me a while ago where Dr Space Junk and the Love Pygmy came from. A friend of my sister's (AJ, I think) came up with the name, and I subsequently used a character called Dr Space Junk in a couple of privately circulated stories. Dr Space Junk and her friend Dr Giggi Ignom are evil doctors who believe that the earth's populace exhibits such poor taste in general that it requires radical intervention. Aboard the Love Pygmy, they travel the solar system, stopping as often as possible to partake of civilised morning and afternoon tea (now it occurs to me there has been a longstanding association with cakes), and occasionally exerting themselves to suppress outbreaks of trash culture. (Although it must be said that they do not always agree on what these are).

Dr Giggi Ignom is the alter ego of a real person, but I shall not reveal who at this juncture.

How Dr Space Junk's spacecraft acquired the name of Love Pygmy is a whole other story.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Critical Technologies: the Making of the Modern World

This is our theme for the World Archaeological Congress in Dublin next year.

Critical Technologies: the Making of the Modern World
Call for session proposals and papers

Dr Alice Gorman (Flinders University;
Dr Beth O’Leary (New Mexico State University;
Mr Wayne Cocroft (English Heritage;

Please direct all correspondence to Alice Gorman in the first instance.


Everyday life in modern industrial nations has been shaped by technologies that have radically altered the nature of travel (cars, trains, aeroplanes, submarines, spacecraft), communication (telephones, television, telegraphs, radio, computers and satellites), and warfare (rockets, missiles, aeroplanes, nuclear weapons), among others. These technologies have recreated human geographies through their capacity to transcend distance and time, allowing the traffic of information and material culture across vast spaces, sometimes almost instantaneously. They are the foundation of the globalising world, and yet the material culture of globalisation is rarely examined critically from an archaeological perspective. Given WAC’s aim to redress global inequities, it is timely to focus an archaeological gaze on the technologies that support the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” of the 21st century.

Sessions are invited to examine the sites, places and artefacts created by critical technologies, including but not limited to such topics as:

• The Cold War and nuclear confrontation
• Telecommunications
• Aerospace
• Outer space
• Robotics
• Technological landscapes
• Heritage management and conservation challenges
• Defence and warfare
• Indigenous engagement with critical technologies
• Theoretical issues in contemporary archaeology
• Capitalism and critical technologies
• The archaeology of the future

Critical technologies are not confined to the 20th century and after; we also encourage papers and session proposals that investigate 17th -19th century antecedents of modern technologies, and their impacts.

DEADLINE for session proposals is 1 November 2007
Sessions must be have organisers representing at least two different countries. Session abstracts should be no longer than 250 words, and can be submitted online at Please also send details to Alice Gorman at Feel free to discuss your proposed session before submitting.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sputnik cakes endorsed by Nicey

Nicey did like Dr Lynley Wallis' special sputnik cakes. Here is what he says on his fabulous website:

"Its always good to hear from NCOTAASD's favourite space archaeologist. We too were excited about the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, which for good reason is the artificial satellite that I most often think of. Despite all the hundreds of other ones up there routing our phone calls, guiding our transport and keeping an eye on the weather, Sputnik is the only one with its own vegetable. The Kohl-Rabis that turn up in our weekly delivered veggi-box are the spit of it, and very nice in a stir fry it is.

I'm impressed that each cake seems to be unique in its design and colour scheme and I note that Dr Wallis didn't spare the food colouring. I hope this didn't render all your students hyper-active with attention deficit issues. Granted the latter is always difficult to diagnose in students although working in such a stimulating field I'm sure you don't suffer from such things".

I had to think a bit about the kohlrabis. The cakes were the least of our worries at the masterclass, as we had provided suitable beverages appropriate to any archaeological discussion.

Is any serious research going on here at the moment? I don't care as long as I remain NCOTAASD's favourite space archaeologist.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sputnik cakes

Last Thursday was Sputnik's 50th birthday. My esteemed colleague Dr Lynley Wallis demonstrated the depth of her friendship and her love of space hardware by making a batch of special sputnik cakes, that were consumed by participants at our cultural heritage masterclass that afternoon.

It turns out it's not so easy to make pictures of rockets and satellites with stupid kiddie icing tubes and chocolate sprinkles. My esteemed colleague was most incensed when I opined that her home-made rocket stencil looked more like a turtle than a V2, and there was a free-hand star that resembled a dog .... however recognising that my access to cake was being put at risk by this somewhat negative commentary, I refrained and assisted her in making lopsided moons and sputnik shapes that looked like sea urchins on a bad hair day.

Kelly Wiltshire took a spifflicatingly good photo (see right). They were most splendid cakes and I think that Nicey (from A Nice Cup of Tea and A Sit Down) would have approved.