Really enjoyed it this year. Everything seemed to go smoothly and the venue was good, central and close to transport (although there seems to be an ongoing conspiracy by rail companies to make UnCon coincide with engineering works every year )
I realise that because of the layout of the venue there could only be one strand of talks (as only one auditorium) but this did at least mean that everything ran to schedule.
Especially enjoyed Jan Bondeson, Chris Josiffe (I'd heard his talk before but can never have too much Gef) and Sarah Angliss. Also thought the Nina Conti film was a wonderful finale.
Some excellent presentations, I liked Jon Ronson's talk on the Pyscopathy test, and how perhaps, we shouldn't place too much faith in rating scales.
Jan Bondeson was thoroughly entertaining as usual, and Gef the talking mongoose was interesting.
I nearly skpped the Sasquatch talk, but was glad I didn't as it was more about the chap who did so much to investigate it than the big hairy beastie itself, an it was interesting ho it affected his life an career.
The Dave Clarke, Scared to Death presentation was excellent, it's always good to have some new ghost stories based on original research.
The Nina Conti, film provided a good wrap up, make you laugh, make you cry a bit - some interesting insights in the mind of the ventriloquist and what the puppet represents. The Vent Haven Museum was a bit spooky, and rather touching, with all the puppets deprived of their voices now that their owners were gone.
Sarah Angliss's pesentation on early recordings and the public response to them was fascinating, and the theremin playing brilliant.
The one stream session, means that if you want you can see everything.
And as part of the team that came second in the Pub Quiz: YES! YAY! Bring on the next one.
I heard all the talks, which I couldn't have done if we'd had to choose. Wouldn't have wanted to miss any. They were all very interesting.
I think the sound levels were a little off. The speakers' mics were OK but when they played explanatory recordings, such as Sarah Angliss' clip of Florence Nightingale's voice, the volume was too high and the sound was distorted. The audience were eager to listen hard and didn't need it blared at them.
Later we heard a 'talking' seal, also too loudly. If the sound had not been mangled by being played at such a high volume we'd have been able to listen more carefully to the 'words' and make even wilder guesses at the identity of the 'speaker'! :lol:
I could have grilled the speakers for hours on their subjects, pity we only had a few minutes for questions. A couple of the people who did get to ask questions rambled on a bit. Short and sweet, that's how I asked mine! But that's an audience issue and there's not a lot the organisers can do about it.
This was only my second Uncon. At my first some years ago the MB had a presence, with a striking banner for us to gather around. I'm wondering what happened to that idea. I'm assuming that as the original perpetrators weren't present and nobody else has taken up the idea, it has died a death. Pity. Bet I could knit one for next year.
MBers met up anyway and many fine ales were quaffed. My Snailette had a roaring time and we will certainly be back.
I emailed my physicist son a question about Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince's talk on The Forbidden Universe:
Can a physicist's observation about how a particle behaves affect and change how that particle behaves: so that the act of observation affects the particle's past?
Short answer, no. Long technical answer, to an extent.
When we interact with a particle we actually interact with its wavefunction, which describes where the particle was, is, and is going to be.
When we interact with the particle there's an uncertainty in the time (given by the Heisenberg uncertainty) so what we call t=T could actually be t=T-delta_t for the particle, and we've gone back in time by a tiny amount.
But on the scale we're used to talking about (anything the size of an atom or larger) this is a tiny effect.
I felt it was pretty obvious that Picknett and Prince were talking about issues they simply don't understand. Not just quantum physics, Picknett's comments on history of science actually made me feel quite angry. Her suggestion that science historians are in denial about the mystical origins of science are simply not true. It's widely understood that science emerged from a melting pot of ideas - alchemy, astrology, Greek philosophy...I don't doubt that Richard Dawkins wouldn't like those ideas, but I also don't think he'd deny that this is where science comes from.
Oh, and the unintentional irony of claiming Giordano Bruno has been "airbrushed from history" while your powerpoint displays a photo of his monument in Rome! :lol:
That said, I thought Picknett and Prince were the only bad talk in an otherwise excellent lineup. Nina Conti's film was a highlight for me - I never thought I could be moved to tears by someone talking about ventriloquist dolls.
I didn't enjoy Jon Ronson as much as I thought I would, but I think that might be more down to me than him. I'm a mental health professional so I spent much of his talk thinking about the clinical issues rather than enjoying the humour.
Oh, and UnCon Late - most entertaining night I've been to in ages! Full marks to everyone who helped organise it.
The more I hear about it, the more I'm glad I missed Picknett and Prince. I do feel I should get hold of their book, though, just so I can correct it.
Overall a good UnCon. I like the idea of the multiple streams, but at least there was enough time to go to the (sadly quite small) concession area.
I hope they keep up UnCon Late. Even though I couldn't see anything (except for Helen Keen's shadow puppets, I managed to get a good seat for that). It would be nice to have a slightly larger venue, since space was limited, and viewing angles for the performance area weren't good. I understand, however, the limitations on getting a suitable space for a Saturday night, especially if the one you booked originally suddenly changes hands.
Chris Josiffe on Gef was fantastic. Of course we all know he's alive and well and making a packet advertizing car insurance. Dave and Andy did an amazing talk too. Their stone head was quite endearing (but since touching it i have lost a pencil and one of my shoelaces is beginning to frey). Brian Regal was a damn good speaker too, even if i belive in sasquatch.
Uncon late was brilliant the Victorian investigator bloke being the high spot.
I've been to one, or two, UnCons now and I have to say that this was one of the best. There only being one stream of talks actually made the whole thing feel more relaxed.
I was a bit surprised that the whole thing kicked off with Ron Jonson, talking about the Psychopath test and the growing list of psychological conditions with their related checklists. But, he got things off to a flying start. Nicely balanced talk, too.
I missed most of Brian Regal's Sasquatch talk. I'm not a big Sasquatch fan, but from what I saw, it went down well.
Dave Clark's talk on the case of a woman, apparently frightened to death during a haunting in Sheffield, was very good. I really enjoyed it. Although, I asked a question about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel, 'The Sign of Four', when I actually meant a possible influence on elements of, 'A study In Scarlet' (Mormons) and 'The Valley of Fear'.
Jan Bondeson's talking dogs and horses was both funny and very interesting. Covering, amongst other things, the gullibility of doting pet owners and the pseudo-scientific follies of the Third Reich.
I enjoyed Richard Freeman's talk on the search for various cryptid ape-men, even though it took on more of the form of a Fortean travelogue, at times.
Sarah Angliss, a composer and theremin player of considerable talent, did a brilliant talk based around the reproduction of the voices of the long dead, ventriloquism and teaching songbirds to reproduce popular tunes of former times. Then she played a composition on the theremin. I love the music of the theremin.
I wasn't going to go to Christopher Josiffe's talk on Gef the talking mongoose, but I'm glad I did. Once again, I was struck by how very similar the elements of the story of Gef, tie in with traditional accounts of restless house spirits, brownies, hobgoblins and the like, only given a 20th century make-over.
Dave Clarke and Andy Roberts did a very interesting talk on cursed stones and mentioned, Tigh nam Bodach, a pagan shrine of uncertain age, deep in Glen Lyon, Perth & Kinross, that I'd never heard of before. Interesting and tantalising tales.
Lynn Picket and Clive Prince's talk on the hermetic roots of modern science was quite interesting and good in parts. I did come away with a bit of an impression that Giordano Bruno was a bit like the Aleister Crowley of his day. I'm sure that A bit too Heliocentric for my liking, but I don't think that that can be right, he was more of a neo-Platonist, The Hermetics may have drawn their original inspiration from the ancient Egyptian Isis cult, but the neo-Platonists also drew a lot of their inspiration from the ancient Greeks and their early links through the Silk Route from ancient Iraq, Persia, India and China, amongst other sources. Early science and astronomy being fairly well developed in those regions, back then, too. I think. interesting, nonetheless.
Ted Harrison (something in religious affairs at the BBC), as Timble said, was like a sort of avuncular, CofE Archbishop. His talk on the various religious beliefs in the Apocalypse was interesting, enlightening and amusing. Quite excellent.
Gail-Nina Anderson's talk on Mummies in popular culture was great. Ms Anderson was even more laid back and relaxed than I've seen her previously and she gave a great talk.
The capper, of course, was Nina Conti's highly personal film meditation on her relationship to Ken Campbell and their mutual fascination with ventriloquism. Only a film, but a real invocation of something deep and at times, edgy. Vent Haven must be one of the saddest, if not the eeriest, places on Earth. I did think the film could lose at least two endings, though.
Poignant. Ken Campbell's presence was never more missed and yet, somehow, it was a fitting end to a great UnCon.
And, I haven't even mentioned the UnCon Late, on Saturday night!
Pietro - thank God you mentioned my talk! I was beginning to think that I hadn't given one this year, so effectively was it failing to turn up in anyone's posts. I'm glad you like it, but I suspect I've rather become part of the furniture and that this might be the moment to bow out gracefully, trailing my mummy-wrappings behind me and leaving a strange perfume of the tomb...
You definitely gave one. I enjoyed it, although you didn't really touch on the mummies from other cultures, other than Jet Li in The Mummy - The franchise isn't quite dead yet. South American mummies crop up from time to time, and it would be interesting to know how much of it is based on real mummification in South America, and how much is just because they have pyramids.
And you missed out the greatest mummy film of all time - Bubba Ho-Tep.
Agree with your points - love "Bubba Ho-Tep" and the way that the mummy becomes the symbol for an acceptance of ageing and death. Also many fine South American mummies out there - there was very recently a National Geographic documentary on the Inca child mummies, and in popular culture, who could forget Buffy's "Inca Mummy Girl" episode? All good stuff, but as it was I was pushing the limits of my time-slot. However, all suggestions duly noted for any future versions of the talk!
Can I add that the Mummy talk was great stuff, and I'd second the suggestion of South American mummies.
I've seen Peruvian mummies, in dusty little museum on the altiplano (i've forgetten the name of the town). They look freeze-dried (which I suppose they are), and are even creepier-looking than the Egyptian variety.
I also missed a reference to Bubbahotep. There's a small, but influential, sub-class of Western-influenced mummy movies. The first one I saw was House II, which features gunslinger mummies and an Aztec skull. Great stuff! I suspect it exists partially because Western, 'gunslinger', mummies occasionally turned up in travelling carney sideshows.