Thursday, 27 January 2011

Team Geek Calendar

The Geek Calendar project is very nearly wrapped up. We're down to the last few copies and totaling up the takings -- announcement coming soon.

In the meantime, it seems like a pertinent time to learn more about the three individuals so geeky they devoted much of their 2010 to it. I present to you, your organisers:

Alice Bell is Senior Teaching Fellow in Science Communication at Imperial College. She also writes a bit and once covered a bar at the Royal Albert Hall in custard FOR SCIENCE.

Louise Crane is a biomedical picture researcher at Wellcome Images, the Wellcome Trust's picture library. She hates having her photo taken, though has appeared on the cover of a magazine in spite of this (albeit wearing a comedy rubber mask).

Mun-Keat Looi also works for the Wellcome Trust, where he writes about science and spends most of his time on the internet (for work, honest).

Would you call yourself a geek?

AB: Nah, that's so last year ;) Always been a bit more of a meta-geek anyway (I study geeks).

LC: I recently spent a large amount of money on a Star Wars Lego 'Battle of Endor' set. I do not have a small child or younger siblings. So, yes.

MKL: Obsessed with details, check. Socially awkward, check. Smart, not quite. But 2/3 ain't bad.

What's the geekiest thing you've ever done?

AB: I think our notions of geekiness are very subjective. One person's idea of geeky is another person's normal. My knitting can get quite geeky though, by most people's standards. I mean this both in terms of what I knit and in terms of knitting something really complex just to try out a new technique.

Marvin standing

LC: Er, possibly building the aforementioned Battle of Endor Lego set, and displaying it at a party alongside a globe covered in tin foil as the Death Star. Also dressing up a cuddly toy duck as a Klingon when I was ten. I made it a tin foil (spot the theme?) bat'leth and cranial ridges from rolled up tissue paper. Also having a party dedicated to crumble. There were six kinds of crumble, including a savoury one. Oh, and making the Geek Calendar.

MKL: Apart from making this calendar? Compiling a map so I could visit every shop in Tokyo's Akihabara district? Writing anime fanfiction (though it did get published in a US mag)? Spending over £100 on a plastic model kit? And then buying a display cabinet for all my plastic model kits?

Why did you decide to get involved in Geek Calendar?

AB: I'm not sure I actually decided as much as found myself locked into the center of it with no sign of escape. Honestly, I thought it'd be fun (it was). And Libel Reform, obviously.

LC: My initial answer was: "I was drunk". This is a strongly true statement. In fact I was so drunk at the initial Geek Calendar discussion in The Doric Arch at Euston Station that after agreeing the calendar was indeed a stupendous idea, I performed the worm on the pub floor (the worm is a particularly athletic and idiotic breakdancing move). But the reason I decided to help make the calendar happen was because I love the idea of something that is just a thought becoming reality. Also, I am friends with two top notch photographers who I fancied getting involved. And not just cos I fancied them (I had a schoolgirl crush on Greg Funnell when I first met him, aged 13).

MKL: The opportunity to be part of something great comes along rarely -- you have to seize them. Even when you remind yourself (and the other two you're with) that "this is going to be a HELL of a lot of work".

What are your memories of Geek Calendar?

AB: Mainly, laughing. That, and writing blogposts and emails at two in the morning.

LC: The first meeting with the Libel Reform guys, where they agreed we could raise money for the campaign with our calendar - and high fiving Alice and Mun-Keat as soon as we left it. Reviewing the last shots of Imran Khan after Ben Gilbert captured him on his sunset rooftop and realising we were onto a winner. Interviewing Adam Rutherford while an "invisible" Frank the rabbit nodded behind him - I could not keep a straight face. You can hear my bizarre horsey guffaw on the Geek Calendar trailer. Showing my mum the trailer and explaining three times that the handsome one in the dinner jacket was Professor Brian Cox and unfortunately he had already been snapped up by the wonderful Gia Milinovich. And when my nan asked for a Geek Calendar for Christmas, I nearly cried.

Interviewing Adam

MKL: Volunteering to wear a costume on the hottest day of the year. Being very excited ALL THE TIME (often at two in the morning while updating spreadsheets).

What's your most enjoyable memory?

AB: There are several, but they have one thing in common: seeing the image Ben or Greg had captured. We'd all be running around wondering how on earth the shoot would turn out juggling, props, settings, schedules and the weather and then Ben or Greg would quietly say "I think I've got it", we'd look at the laptop and go "wow".

LC: Getting a phone call at work from Jonathan Ross, and seeing his name flash up on my mobile phone screen.


Mario ceiling

What was the biggest challenge in organising Geek Calendar?

AB: Finding time to get some sleep.

LC: Scheduling photoshoots for 23 busy geeks was pretty tough. Though the hardest thing was telling Mr Ross that I wouldn't be able to go to his house and meet him because I was both allergic to and phobic of his six dogs.

MKL: Maintaining some semblance of a life.

What's your favourite part of the calendar?

AB: I think my favourite picture is the maths one - there's something about the colour and setting that Ben captured that's really nice, as well as the interaction between Alex and Matt. I also love that it was shot in the Jeremy Bentham pub, and the fact the shot was inspired by
an old 16th century woodcut. I really like Aleks' picture too, it's so full of colour and personality, and Petra's, which has an incredible mood to it (and wonderful back story to the setting).

LC: I shouldn't play favourites with the geeks - for one thing it would upset my boyfriend. So I'm going to play it safe and say all the geeky dates we noted on the calendar days - who knew that dark, cold January would be so full of wonderful things, like the day the Lego brick was patented?

MKL: The whole package came out wonderfully -- better than we could ever have imagined. Everything from the spectacular photos, to the design, the cover, our videos (especially the trailer)... Actually my favourite part is the acknowledgements on the back cover. It reminds me of all the amazing people I got to work with and the awesome team I had around me.

Who's your favourite geek?

AB: I'm going to steal Jonathan Ross' take on this: it's not fair to play favourites with geeks.

LC: Henry Wellcome, because without him I wouldn't have a job. Seriously though, the man was one of the most remarkable collectors of the last century, obsessed by the history of medicine. He travelled the world picking up not only the medicines of indigenous tribes, but the gourd they came in, the mask of the witch doctor who prescribed them, and the canoe the doctor rode up in. He had accrued millions of objects by the time he died, was probably quite mad, and left a wonderful legacy.

MKL: You're such a swot, Crane! Mine are Alice Bell and Louise Crane. They are awesome and amazing :)

AB: Well, you two too OBVIOUSLY. Goes without saying, surely.

LC: Aw, you guys...