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nineveh_uk
22 August 2016 @ 08:17 pm
Not just a cuddly face...

Woman attacked by wombat thought she was going to die.

Should Sir Z- R- have any enemies, perhaps he could invoke its aid.

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nineveh_uk
19 August 2016 @ 09:56 pm
I am delighted to be able to confirm that pickled onions count as one of one's 5-a-day.

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nineveh_uk
15 August 2016 @ 08:45 pm
I have spent much of the weekend watching the Olympics and sewing a top. I haven't finished the top*, but I've seen quite a bit of sport. Some time ago [personal profile] frankie_ecap asked me (in a nicer way than this is about to sound!) what the interest is in skiing in watching a bunch of people go down the same course one after the other. Which is a fair point, even if your favourite sort of skiing is the one where people go along the same course one after the other. Sometimes for 50km.**

It is the Olympics. I like the Olympics. I mostly like the athletics, but in a dull moment I will watch pretty much anything. In the Winter Olympics I endeavour to watch absolutely everything bar curling and short-track speed skating.

You see, the thing about sport is that while it adds extra interest to have a technical understanding of what is going on, it isn't actually necessary. It's fairly easy in a lot of events (not sailing) to tell who is doing better, even if you can't really tell why. Tennis idiots like me could see this year that though the Wimbledon final was going with serve, Murray was winning his games more easily and so was going to win. It's like ballet: I'm sure that it adds to the experience of watching Swan Lake to grasp the technical finesse with which the prima ballerina executes those jumps, whatever they are, but personally I just enjoy the music and the spectacle. I can tell that that series of jumps was incredibly difficult and visually spectacular and harder than the jumps the chorus did. That suffices, as long as there's a plot. And the great thing about sport is there is always a plot. It may be a plot I don't give a damn about (most football*** and golf), but there's usually a plot, and it's a plot that you can follow.

Sometimes the plot is a simple one: how far can I throw this discus? But within even that simple plot there is strategy and risk and human outcome**** and a narrative that can be gripping. Take last night's men's 10,000m. There's an argument that with Mo Farah as favourite to win and retain his 2012 title, plus two World Championships in between, this would be a dull race, but that would be to mistake the outcome for the sole interest. For as well as the outcome what matters is how the race was won. In this case, the question of how the rest of the field can attempt to beat the unbeatable. What must they do? Knowing what they must do, can they do it? Often no, when the slim chance of victory comes with the high risk of sacrifice.

As a fan of cross-country skiing, how to beat the unbeatable is great. You get to see the superb performer perform. You get to see the competition trying to win, and sometimes even succeeding, albeit not at the moment against Farah. They can only win by going early, but to go early risks all. How much do you need to understand the theory and tactics of distance running to appreciate the magnificence when Farah unleashes those spindleshank legs with such power? And that's only the plot of one race, within a season, within a decade, within the history of the sport, within a life, and each of those has a narrative - and that's before you get to the human interest element.****** I have to admit that when it comes down to it what I like about sport is the atavistic element of the hunt, the person ahead who is mercilessly hunted down. 100m is exciting, but it's short. 5000m, or multiple rounds, and you can chase and pursue and destroy. Absolutely it's fascinating and courageous when Etenesh Diro in the steeplechase heats runs the second half without a shoe, but the really exciting bit to me is someone who has got behind and has only one shoe and then has to run to overtake as many people as possible. The hunt is on again.

I can't throw, I can't jump, though once I could run a little, but I really like watching other people doing it.

*The free Sorbetto pattern. It would have been quick had I not decided to add sleeves (additional pattern on the internet), and then chosen to add cuffs to the sleeves. With the hem, neck, and setting-in one sleeve to go I decided that I would like to do a few other things this weekend. It will look good eventually.

**You can get an amazing amount of ironing done to a 50km time trial. There's a reason I haven't had an empty ironing basket since April.

***Even so I can acknowledge the epic quality of Leicester City's Premier League victory this year, with bonus 'second time farce' Gary Linekar's pants story.

****I never thought I gave a damn about the discus until I was watching yesterday, when it was won by surprisingly dapper German Christoph Harting, whose brother won in 2012, as the penultimate competitor in the final round. And then the silver medalist (Piotr Małachowski, a man who looks like a proper old-fashioned discus thrower), who must surely have thought he'd won, gave an impressive display of dealing with unexpectedly not winning with great dignity.*****

*****Unlike the US women's football goalie, whose comments on losing to Sweden were hilarious.

******For a supreme example of this, Jörgen Brink's infamous collapse in the 2003 cross-country skiing world championships men's relay. Vindicated a decade later when it turned out that he had a heart condition.

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nineveh_uk
13 August 2016 @ 12:12 pm
In Kidlington to get my hair cut, and most disappointed to reflect that the newish baby cafe is not the equivalent of a cat cafe, and isn't aimed at people who would like to socialise with random babies for half an hour.

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nineveh_uk
09 August 2016 @ 07:12 pm
Kir violette at lunchtime is an excellent thing. Alas, I am now at Lille Europe railway station awaiting my train and am back at work tomorrow, but I have some souvenir chocolate to tide me over until the weekend.

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nineveh_uk
15 July 2016 @ 09:55 pm
I am watching Versailles, and have reached episode 5. It is perfect summer tosh, a confection of a deeply silly script, gorgeous frocks and frock coats, a set comprised entirely of mirrors, gold, and topiary, and lots and lots of hair. Unusually for me, I find myself not caring about the undoubted historical inaccuracies, probably because it isn't pretending to tell any sort of true story nor to make striking historical parallels with today. Nor, most of all, pace Downton Abbey, to present its particular past as a golden age that we should yearn to return to, when we all knew our place. It is surprisingly well-acted, considering that the casting must have gone something like this:

(1) Interested people send in a photograph of their eyes. Those whose eyes are suitably dark and sultry (women) or piercing and aquamarine (men) are invited to proceed to stage 2.

(2) Attend costume trying-on session and be photographed in a wig.

(3) Answer questionnaire on whether you are prepared to be filmed naked, if so which parts may be broadcast, and how you feel about French kissing your co-stars.

(4) The actors presenting the best combination of the above will be selected.

It's all gloriously preposterous. It's as if they've constructed the entire thing around a cameraman with a fetish for close-ups of eyes and young men in dark wigs.

I have had the day off work in an attempt to pack etc. before I head off to my parents tomorrow, having been completely unable to do anything in the evenings due to general end of term shattered-ness and the remains of a cold. Apparently I dislike packing so much that in order not to prioritise it I will now the lawn, polish four pairs of shoes, install all the updates on my computer, and book Eurostar tickets (Lille). But the packing is done. I have not found one set of fic notes I meant to take, but since there is zero chance I will do any writing on it, that's OK. I have shoved in some different ones instead. I won't write that either, but I like to feel I might.

I have spent the rest of the day watching the news. Last night I switched on the news just before going to bed and found myself watching, for the second time in 9 months, as late at night terrible things unfolded in France. Now I've just done the same and there's a coup in Turkey.

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nineveh_uk
12 July 2016 @ 01:06 pm
First there was the amazing bear webcam of bears in the middle of an Alaskan river catching salmon (and of salmon leaping, if you're more into fish). Now for those who are more into wildfowl, there are multiple Norwegian sea birds, including a puffin sitting in the mouth of its burrows.

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nineveh_uk
09 July 2016 @ 09:24 am
Youngest Sister is here for the weekend, and we thought we'd look up what this week's Studio Ghibli offering was at the cinema. Alas, I think not, after reading this blurb for the film Ponyo:

After running away from the sea she calls home, an effervescent young fish-girl is rescued and befriended by a five-year-old human boy called Sosuke.

Naming her Ponyo, Sosuke soon comes to realise the heartbreaking impracticality of their budding romance.


I think that even without the expertise in reading things into text brought about by an English Lit degree and years of fandom I'd probably be saying 'no' to that one. Yeah, yeah, I'm sure it's a charming tale of friendship, but I think I'll wait a fortnight for The Wind Rises.

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nineveh_uk
04 July 2016 @ 08:55 pm
There is a crucial difference between Brexit and the plot of Götterdämmerung: though both have the leaders involved throwing their hands in the air and sitting doing nothing but wait until the house burns down around them, while elsewhere a bunch of people make some staggeringly stupid decisions despite the consequences surely being obvious from the start, the characters in the latter were actually gods, as opposed to just being bitter about membership of a school club. Also, a great redemption is definitely not spreading throughout this particular world as a result of their downfall. However George Osborne was present at both.*

Despite 6 hours** of Wagner feeling like a dubious decision 24 hours in advance, it turned out to be brilliant on the day. Indeed as the end approached I felt that 6 hours was far too short and it needed at least an additional hour. Nor was I alone in thinking so, judging by the comments from audience members near me at the end, and the general riveted silence.

It was a concert performance, being the only way Opera North can afford to do something like the Ring, but it felt as if nothing was lost thereby. Big screens at the back provided surtitles (good ones, thank goodness, no faux archaism. Whatever is lost in not distinguishing between du and Sie is more than gained in not sounding stupid when read in English in performance) and a degree of setting, of riverbank or water, wooden walls of a Dark Ages hall, fiery rock etc, with the aid of some coloured lighting. It doesn't sound much, but it really worked. No singer actually vaulting onto horseback and riding into the flames*** could have been more dramatic than a woman in evening dress standing in front of the orchestra in yellowing light, voice soaring seemingly effortlessly above it. And what an orchestra! I didn't manage an on-stage count, but as an estimate combined with a conservative reading of the programme**** I'd go for about a hundred (and I've just found confirmation - 101!). The orchestra of Opera North is always one of its strengths and this occasion was no exception, they were in magnificent form.

Wagner has a reputation of being hard-core opera. On the train in I was regretting that I hadn't had time to go carefully over leitmotifs etc in order to educate myself sufficiently to appreciate it. Reader, this is rubbish. Bad Wagner is probably incomprehensible torture on grounds of length alone, but good Wagner isn't hard at all. It's wonderful music that while I'm sure it greatly rewards study is very accessible without it and the leitmotifs leap up waving and shouting notice me! Alternatively, possibly I am simply well-trained in the School of Opera North, which has long interwoven Box Office certainties with more inventive repertoire. After all, Wozzeck is not only challenging and allows you to distinguish yourself as a company, it's pretty cheap to do. Back to Götterdämmerung. The plot is perhaps not one of its strength. Wotan doesn't turn up, and we get the new family to move into Eastenders (as the preliminary talk put it, very accurately). Hagen's***** Evil Plot depends entirely on his victims all being complete idiots. Fortunately for him, this is opera, and indeed mythology. It doesn't have to make sense in order to work. Hagen was sung by Mats Almgren looking like an evil thug in a Scandinavian detective drama - the more things change, the more things stay the same - and my favourite along with Kelly Cae Hogan as Brünnhilde.

A wonderful presentation of a wonderful work. I am converted, as you can tell! I wish I might have seen it all, I'm immensely glad I saw this.

Have some music:



*This would explain why each act started 5 mins late, if he was being ushered to his seat in the dark. Perhaps he might have borrowed the rather lovely guide dog I spotted stretched out on the carpet in the bar in the second interval. It's fair to say that Goldie, alone of all the beings I saw there, did not look wholly appreciative and wore a definite air of 'how long, oh lord, how long?'

**To be precise, 4 hours 40 mins of music, the rest intervals. That makes the first act equal in length to Tosca (2 hours), and the whole thing half as long again as an uncut Figaro.

***Now I need to check if that's every been done with (i) actual soprano, (ii) actual horse, (iii) actual flames. Checked! Though the examples mentioned don't specify flames...

****No need for ten anvil-players in this one, but I've never seen so many French horns (apparently some of them are 'Wagner tubas', which he invented because he needed an extra instrument...)

***** I first came across Hagen in my German GCSE textbook, which had a really good cartoon sequence of the Nibelunglied. We didn't read that bit, which tells you everything you need to know about the approach my high school took to engaging pupils in foreign languages.

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nineveh_uk
29 June 2016 @ 08:38 pm
Should Chuck Tingle run out of subjects for his unique brand of fiction, may I suggest that he consider the rich field offered by language learning?

Pounded in the Butt by Grammatical Gender and Turned Gay by the Indirect Object would surely be best-sellers.

Thank God for Collins easy learning... German Grammar and Practice, that's all I can say.

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