Category Archives: Weird

Magma Beard

Anyone who knows me knows my beards. Until my wedding day (on 1/2/3 – or 2/1/3 if you’re American) I went clean-shaven for most of my life. But on that happy day, I got best-man Ed to carve something new in my face, inspired by my new Paul Smith suit complete with thigh-length drape jacket.

Ever since then, I’ve kept some variation on the same theme. Since Gill and I never did get around to exchanging rings (and since Ed had promised to make us wedding rings), I guess you could say that my facial hair is my wedding ring (NB: the same doesn’t apply to Gill). It has evolved since then though: through subtle changes in facial anatomy and less subtle rescue jobs on shaving cock-ups, it has crept around my face, grown thicker and thinner, stripes have changed position, angle and number. A few months ago at Razor Stiletto I had my face painted, tiger-style, with a couple of beard-stripes doubling up as tiger-patterning. When I got home, I thought I’d take the similarity further (forgetting that I had done something very similar exactly two years earlier).

Going tiger-striped seems to have inspired me to new shaving confidence, and to trust my facial hair to find its own shape. Shaving has now become an almost meditative activity, a sort of automatic-drawing but with a sharp implement, where I allow the contours of my face and the movement of my razor to conjure up new patterns of their own, with little conscious intervention from me. As a result, things have got sort of… well, fancy.

Here’s the latest result:

Magma beard

For the first few days after it shaved itself, I couldn’t help thinking that the design was somehow familiar. I was sure I’d seen it somewhere before. Then it struck me: it looked just like the logo for 70s French operatic prog-rock band Magma. OK, so it actually looks quite different now that I’ve seen the original again, but it was close enough to jog my memory.

Any suggestions as to which prog heroes’ logo I should carve into my chin next? Hmmm, carve into my chin… [thinks]… my face could become like some sort of prog-rock Mount Rushmore.

My Other (Creepy) Celebrity Look-Alike

I just got a strange and slightly disturbing email, from somebody I barely know, accompanied by a photograph of a severed head. The email said:

no doubt you have seen this or not

I have been following a poster on the subway all month thinking, that face is familiar….


At first, I was at a loss to work out what coincidence he was referring to. The head in the photo looked a little like me, although not so much that I would have jumped up and said “it’s my long lost twin”. Then it hit me: the head in the photo looked a little like me. More specifically, like a particular photo of me, the one I have been using on the home-page of my photography website, and also as an avatar on Flickr and other various forums I’m signed up to.

So, compare and contrast, Mask II by Ron Mueck, and Self-portrait while sleeping by Dan Sumption:

Two Sleepers - Ron Mueck and Dan Sumption

Update: see also this composite.

Train Toilet Usability

Found another example of crap usability (quite literally… erm?) – Midland Mainline Turbostar toilets. Horrible places. OK, on the plus side that do they seem to work usually, probably because the trains are newer than the Intercity 125s where flushes and seat-catches are broken, towels run out or strewn on the floor, and water supply intermittent. They’re also nice and big. But on the minus side… everything’s electronic. So you can bet that before too long they will start going wrong. And they’re confusing as hell.

To get in, you press a pad on the wall outside and the door slides open. You then have to press another pad on the inside to close the door (once you’ve found it – OK, it was fairly prominently placed, but in that large toilet and in my hungover state it took me a while), and another pad to lock it. And then a red light goes on next to it. Because I pressed the lock straight after closing the door, I wasn’t sure whether this light meant “the door is now locked” or “warning! the door is not locked!” and the pad didn’t even have a nice click to it so that I could be sure I had pressed it hard enough. So I opened the door again to be sure. And closed it. And then the lock pad wouldn’t do anything – it didn’t start off red, and wouldn’t go red no matter how many times I pressed it. “Ahhh” I thought, “it thinks I’m outside the toilet now.” Despite the fact that I’d pressed the inner button to close the door, it obviously assumed that since I had come inside, closed the door, and then opened and closed it again, it had been through a full cycle. I quickly opened the door again just in case the toilet started spraying me with air-freshener or other noxious chemicals. Closing it a final time, I noticed the lock button was now flashing red, ahh, that’s the sign that I need to lock it. I did. And it went continuous red again. OK, so I’ve now got as far as locking the door.

The toilet bit was relatively painless (unless you take into consideration the size of… no, let’s not go there), although the flush mechanism was again triggered by a piddly little electronic pad on the wall, just waiting to go wrong.

Now wash your hands. Easier said than done. One of those all-in-one soap-water-hot-air under-shelf dispensers. The soap part was easy enough… now gotta wiggle my hands around until I can find the point that triggers the water… ah, there it is. And then, shift my hands across to find the hot air… gotta be here somewhere… maybe here… no… or here… ah, it was back where I tried in the first place, just gotta keep your hands underneath for a bit longer. All that remains is to massage my hands dry in the hot airstream while avoiding moving my sleeves under the water trigger… and then back to negotiating the door.