Oh god, I just aged several years in a single second, a friend of mine sent me a snippet from a fic that read someone put a VHS into a VCR and took so long getting back to it to press play that the menu screen had looped multiple times

every time I think maybe I am putting too much effort into researching the details of technological advances I lived through, something like this crosses my dash

For the young whippersnappers who don’t understand the issue, VHS tapes don’t have menu screens. That is not technologically possible on a tape.

A magnetic tape works because information has been magnetically encoded on the tape. The tape is very long, and is wound around two little spools, one at the end, one at the beginning. In the middle is a part where it is flat and there is a thing called a ‘head’ and it reads the magnetic encoding on the bit of the tape next to it and converting it into sound and/or images. When the tape plays, the little spools wind/unwind so that new sections of tape are constantly being run past the head. Every single thing a VCR can do is a function of controlling which part of the tape is next to the head.

You put the tape in the machine and press play on the machine, and it plays. You press stop and it stops. You press play again and it starts playing right where it left off, because while it’s stopped the tape is not moving past the head. You can pause it instead of stop it, which will leave the frame you paused on on the TV (in contrast to stopping, when the screen goes dark). You can fast forward, and it will wind the tape forward towards the end. You can rewind and it will wind the tape back to the beginning.

in my experience it usually played automatically on being fed a tape, and you had to pause or stop it to prevent this, which was awkward sometimes when the tv volume turned out to be set way too high

unless of course the tape hadn’t been rewound before being taken out last time. then, unless auto-rewind was a feature of the VCR in question, you had to push that button first to get back to the start so the movie was watchable.

also if you wanted it to rewind quickly instead of playing the entire film backwards, silently, at maybe double speed, you pushed ‘stop’ first and it lifted the tape away from the reader to respool at speed.

#reminds me of the fic#where they went to great lengths to make it clear pictures were being taken on film

#and then someone took the camera away and ‘looked through the pictures’#to see what they were of and if they were Forbidden Content#and then gave the camera back like no harm had been done and i’m like

#so she…didn’t rip the film out and ruin it? then what just happened?


Now that I have processed this somewhat, here’s some other tidbits:

Tapes had no mandatory ads at the front. Oh, sure, there often were ads at the front, but there was no way to prevent just fast forwarding through them.

For the busy among us who wanted to watch a film while another was rewinding, separate tape rewinding devices were sold.

Tape rental places would ask you to “please be kind, rewind!” and some places charged a rewinding fee if you didn’t.

Music was affected by the jump from tapes to disc, too! I remember it blowing my mind that CDs could replay a track instantly, instead of me having to memorize how long it took to rewind a tape to play back a tune.

Both VCRs and music tape players would occasionally break and “eat” the tape, which meant an unspooled, destroyed tape and having to take the player apart to free the tape from it. Sometimes the player could be fixed afterwards, and sometimes it couldn’t.

Sometimes if you played the same portion of a tape over and over, it would lead to tape degradation: distorted video and audio, or even the tape snapping and having to get a new one. (I did this to at least one Disney movie – don’t remember which – and one soundtrack.)

Adjusting the tracking! I don’t remember how this physically works but if the video is jumping around, sometimes you would have to adjust it so the VCR reads the tape correctly. Looks like there’s some how-to guides out there on the Internet on how to do this. Usually there was a button on the remote to do this.

Some VCRs were extra fancy and had digital clocks built into them. After a power outage, they would reset to 12:00 and flash. Adjusting the clock was a strange and mysterious process that a lot of folks never got the hang of, so their VCRs just had 12:00 flashing on them at all times.

Can’t do this without including music tapes! Sometimes the tape would catch on the head and would start poking out of the cassette. You had to handle it very, very carefully in case the tape sticking out got twisted, and then use a pencil or something similar to turn the tape manually to rewind it onto the spool properly.

Also, you don’t know irritation if you haven’t been on a long bus ride at night, trying to sleep, while some doofus keeps clicking pause, rewind, play, pause, rewind, play, all damn night. You couldn’t hear the music, because the offender wore headphones (usually!) but you could sure hear that clicking. For. Hours.





What I think is really interesting about the papyrus account of the workers building the tomb of Rameses III going on strike to demand better wages is really fascinating to me because if you look at the description given by the royal scribe you see that there was an attempt to satisfy the workers by bringing a large amount of food at once but that was rebuffed by the workers who declared that it wasn’t just that they were hungry at the moment but had serious charges to bring that “something bad had been done in this place of Pharoah” (is poor wages and mistreatment). They understood themselves as having long term economic interests as a -class- and organized together knowing that by doing so they could put forward their demands collectively. It so strongly flies in the face of narratives that are like “in this Time and Place people were happy to be serve because they believed in the God-King and maybe you get some intellectual outliers but certainly no common person questioned that”. If historical sources might paint that sorta picture of cultural homogeneity it is because those sources sought not to describe something true but invent a myth for the stability of a regime.

Since this is getting notes here’s a link to a translation of the papyrus scroll and here’s an article that gets further into the economic situation surrounding the strike and giving an explanation of the events. The workers didnt just refuse to construct Rameses III’s future tomb, they actually occupied the Valley of the Kings and were preventing anyone from entering to perform rituals or funerals. Basically they set up the first ever recorded picket line

Again the workers went on strike, this time taking over and blocking all access to the Valley of the Kings. The significance of this act was that no priests or family members of the deceased were able to enter with food and drink offerings for the dead and this was considered a serious offense to the memory of those who had passed on to the afterlife. When officials appeared with armed guards and threatened to remove the men by force, a striker responded that he would damage the royal tombs before they could move against him and so the two sides were stalemated.

Eventually the tomb workers were able to win the day and acquire their demands and actually set a precedent for organized labor and strikes in Egyptian society that continued for a long time

The jubilee in 1156 BCE was a great success and, as at all festivals, the participants forgot about their daily troubles with dancing and drink. The problem did not go away, however, and the workers continued their strikes and their struggle for fair payment in the following months. At last some sort of resolution seems to have been reached whereby officials were able to make payments to the workers on time but the dynamic of the relationship between temple officials and workers had changed – as had the practical application of the concept of ma’at – and these would never really revert to their former understandings again. Ma’at was the responsibility of the pharaoh to oversee and maintain, not the workers; and yet the men of Deir el-Medina had taken it upon themselves to correct what they saw as a breach in the policies which helped to maintain essential harmony and balance. The common people had been forced to assume the responsibilities of the king.


The success of the tomb-worker/artisan strikes inspired others to do the same. Just as the official records of the battle with the Sea Peoples never recorded the Egyptian losses in the land battle, neither do they record any mention of the strikes. The record of the strike comes from a papyrus scroll discovered at Deir el-Medina and most probably written by the scribe Amennakht. The precedent of workers walking away from their jobs was set by these events and, although there are no extant official reports of other similar events, workers now understood they had more power than previously thought. Strikes are mentioned in the latter part of the New Kingdom and Late Period and there is no doubt the practice began with the workers at Deir el-Medina in the time of Ramesses III.

There was also a strike at one point where construction workers refused to continue until they were given sufficient “cosmetics.”

This was thought a highly strange thing until somebody deciphered the recipe for the “cosmetics” the workers were demanding and recreated it.

It was sunscreen. Sunscreen

Making that the first recorded strike over occupational safety.






@bobbole’s amazing “You Don’t Remember the Somme?” art reminded me of Jeremy Deller’s art “We’re Here Because We’re Here” which I actually had the privilege of stumbling across in person when I was in Manchester in July 2016.

It’s Remembrance Weekend here so I thought I’d go down memory lane a little… (none of the photos are mine btw)

The ‘art’ included about 1,600 male volunteers, all dressed in the uniforms worn by the British army in the First World War. Each man represented a named individual who had been killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916). When approached by the public, the men would hand out a card bearing the name, battalion and, often, the age of the man they represented. In Deller’s words, these cards were “like small tombstones”.

Every so often, the men would sing “We’re Here Because We’re Here” which was put to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

I still get chills just remembering.


Oh wow, those are my tags in the wild (bizarre). We really were incredibly lucky to hear about the project in such detail, and I’ve got a few more facts if anyone’s interested:

  • The weaving alone took three months and in the end they used 11,500 metres of fabric
  • There were 30 costume supervisors based at hubs around the country
  • The SAS designed a workout the volunteers could do while wearing the uniform that would help break it in and make it look natural
  • I basically spent the afternoon crying like a baby after the talk finished

I read about this at the time and was blown away by the concept. The key thing is that none of the men talked. If they had spoken, even in character, they’d have been historical reenactors. Instead they were a haunting.

The Crown season five

So, Charles is King now and here’s a show presenting him as a sympathetic, relatable victim of circumstance and the media! A kind man cursed by his love for an ordinary woman, his devotion to his future subjects and his matinee-idol good looks! WHAT A COINCIDENCE.

So yeah, a lot of controversy surrounding this season but King Charles has nothing to worry about. Maybe Tony Blair does, but he’s Tony Blair, so screw him.

To be honest ever since he was first cast I’ve thought Dominic West was an absolutely bizarre choice to play Charles. I actually thought it was a joke when I saw the news. He’s much too handsome. On the other hand, he does have experience of embarrassing cheating scandals, so there’s that. And he does have Charles’ mannerisms down to be fair. (Not to mention his views on extramarital sex.)

The acting in this silly, silly show continues to be its saving grace because the dialogue sure doesn’t remotely cut it. It’s either Knowing Dialogue, Winking Dialogue or Expository Dialogue and it’s excruciating. I swear, every second conversation goes something like –

“Charles, as the Queen, who was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953, I implore you to make up with your very much not dead yet wife Diana, the mother of your sons William and Harry, as you have been at odds ever since your wedding day on 29 July 1981. This is in accordance with the Not Telling Your Mistress You Want To Live Inside Her Knickers As A Tampon Act (1993).”

“Yes, mummy.”

All that being said, I think the best moment of acting in this show doesn’t belong to any of the main cast at all. It belongs to the child who played the 13-year-old Alexei Romanov, who appears for less than a minute in a unexpected and horrifically brutal flashback scene depicting the murder of the Russian royal family. Blink and you’ll miss it, but the look of sheer terror that crosses his face as he realises he’s about to be killed really got to me. I can’t even find the child actor’s name, but man. When this show gets it right it really gets it right.