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24 May 2016 @ 12:46 pm
Courtesy of [personal profile] lilliburlero (who is right about it's air of oh-gosh-sincerity - I do not actually promise to be entirely sincere :-) )

Ask me a question about one of my fics or series. It can be absolutely anything in any project and I will tell you the honest-to-goodness answer (even on the progress/plans for next chapters of current series). You can also ask about my writing as a whole, if you like.


I have spent the morning working from home on a report, which naturally therefore involved spending the first two hours trying to get the new remote desktop set-up to work. It eventually did, but not without much teeth-grinding. Naturally I am therefore behind on where I wanted to be, while feeling that I have used more brain-power than if it had all started as planned...

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Though not as light as in my parents' spare bedroom, in which my mother had inexplicably decided that she would take down the curtains and just have the blackout up because that would work better. It didn't. Oh well, I slept well for two of the three nights, once the issue had been remedied with emergency clothes pegs.

I have seen a red squirrel! Sadly I did not photograph the red squirrel, but it was there, at the RSPB's Loch Leven nature reserve. I've seen red squirrels before on holiday, but I think this was my first in the UK.

How are we now half-way through May? Finally I am nearly over the latest cold, although this did not prevent my having my precipitous exit from a meeting this afternoon to hare down the corridor and cough disgustingly in the solitude of the disabled lavatory. Next to use not being lurgified to WRITE SOME DAMNED FIC!

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12 May 2016 @ 08:25 pm
I am finally catching up with Deutschland 83 and it's terrific. I suspect that it might be less terrific if I were German; it's twenty-five years since Reunification, I imagine that a lot of the themes will have been explored in the interim. But for a foreign viewer it's a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable sort of coming of age story, focusing on a young DDR soldier who is sent to spy in the West, an assignment arranged by his secret service aunt with the side-benefit of moving his mother up the kidney transplant list. Also, both parts of Germany in 1983 seem to have had really nice weather. I've watched five episodes so far, and am sorry that the final two will have to wait until after the weekend as I'm going to visit my parents and they haven't seen it yet. The plot has occasional moments of "oh come on, he couldn't do that", but the characterisation is rock solid. Our hero Martin is a nice lad, doing his best in a situation that he is, for many reasons, ill-equipped for, and I enjoy the balance of comedy against the edge-of-my-seat moments, of which there are many.

Spoilers up to episode 5Collapse )

Here's the trailer:

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07 May 2016 @ 12:45 pm
Could be yours today courtesy of NRK's latest 'slow TV': 12 hours watching the world's strongest tidal currant at Saltstraumen.

Here you go, until midnight CET.

Meanwhile, the BBC continues its slow TV lite (i.e. shorter) with a forthcoming two-hour bus journey through the northern Dales.

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06 May 2016 @ 08:37 pm
It has been shown that asparagus makes everyone's urine smell, but only some people have the gene that enables them to detect said smell.

I think that coriander tastes like soap to everyone, it's just that some of us like that.



Me: OK, out of these two weeks in July, the second one suits you better for me to visit. Are you are sure that Mum doesn't want to do [thing] in that week?

Parents: Definitely.


Mum: Have you booked your plane tickets for July?

Me: Not yet, I was going to do it tonight.

Mum: Oh good. I'd like to do [thing] after all, can you come the previous week?

As Ian Fletcher would put it in Twenty Twelve, it's all good.

ETA: This morning.

Mum: Actually, I've decided that's not a good idea, I won't do [thing] this time, so we can go back to the original week.


At least I know where I get my indecisiveness from.

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01 May 2016 @ 11:23 am
Apparently I thought that it was a good think to watch yesterday afternoon, and indeed was a decent if not inspired film*, and Ralph Fiennes was very good, and Vanessa Redgrave was magnificent, and Gerard Butler showed that he deserves to get better roles**, but ultimately Coriolanus is the tragedy of an arrogant tosser for whom it is exceedingly difficult to feel any sympathy whatsoever. I can sympathise (just about) with Roman patrician who doesn't want to be a politician because it involves not telling the common people they are scum all the time, but mate, if you don't want to be a politician, don't apply for the bloody job!

Possibly I could feel greater engagement with Coriolanus if I had ever seen him played by someone other than Ralph Fiennes, whom I have now seen on both film and live. The sole thing I remember about the theatre version is that a member of the audience had to be discreetly evacuated from the theatre having been taken very ill.

Right, it is sunny and bright outside, and I am going to attempt to go for a gentle walk and talk to myself about plot, and then this afternoon I am going to write.

*Though they cut too much of the text, I think.

**Still not forgiving him for Phantom of the Opera, though.

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I have an unfortunate habit of recording television programmes on serious subjects that I don't feel quite up to / I am busy at the time they are on, and not getting round to watching them. Slowly the DVR fills with serious television. And then on a day when I am off sick and want to watch TV* I look at the options and they are full of such things as:

* Subtitled TV drama (can't be watched without glasses).
* Documentaries on historic atrocities.
* Thing that I didn't watch at the time because actually I don't care.

Which is why in the last two days, as April continues to pretend to be winter and I have a stinking cold, I have turned to elderly videos and to YouTube and watched two films about young women finding new worlds, with bonus music.

Legally Blonde - the Musical

This was broadcast on MTV a few years ago, and some kind person has put it on YouTube, and the equally kind copyright holders haven't taken it down. It's a fairly straight adaptation of the film (a terrific comedy), very pink, and I found it a lot of fun.

Legally Blonde was always a film not only about sex, but about class. Elle is marked not only by her particular style of pink femininity, but by her West-coast-ness, her evidently very new money, her not being a 'natural fit' at ye olde establishment Harvard Law School. The major change** in the adaptation draws on this in its depiction of Emmett, from a posh bloke played by Luke Wilson who is also a partner in Callaghan's firm, to a TA who is himself also an outsider, on grounds of class. The alliance between Elle and explicitly working class characters (and working knowledge) was always one of the interesting parts of the film, and the explicit focus on it in the musical adds narrative heft to the book. Emmett and Elle's shared outsider status gives Emmett clearer motivation for his friendship with Elle beyond the film's "he's a nice person" and allows Elle to mirror the benefits she gains from his insider knowledge of Harvard and law with her insider knowledge of the transformative power of dress (and the money to pay for it).

Musically, it's not particularly interesting. The tunes are light and catchy, it moves with zip, but the music is of the kind that adds entertainment rather than depth. By far the best songs are Callaghan's jazzy Credo-like Blood in the Water and the courtroom Gay or European (2.35 for the song), which together steal not only the best tunes, but the best rhymes. Both, interestingly, are about categorisation, the first about how the (would-be) lawyer sees themself, the latter the challenge posed by the person who defies categorisation - and in its ultimate revelation of its subject as both gay and European heralds the thematic resolution of the show, in which Elle can be herself as well as a successful lawyer.

Beauty and the Beast

The 1991 Disney cartoon version, which has its own musical adaptation that I am now kicking myself for not seeing when it was touring a couple of years ago. This is an old favourite, and having not watched it with nephew in the end, I felt I would see it anyway. I can't remember if I saw it originally at the cinema or when released on video, in any case I thought it was good then and I still do. Watched on video, the age of the animation shows, though I suspect it would look less old with the sharper definition of a DVD (checks YouTube, yes it does), but the visual inventiveness holds up nonetheless. It was the first animated film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and while I won't claim it should have won*** it is certainly on a level with plenty of Oscar nominees over the years.

Belle is a charming heroine, intelligent, resourceful, a book-lover, and kind, and she and the Beast's cathedral-like library are clearly a match from the start. The Beast himself is a great cinematic creation, an exaggeration of every macho cartoon hero ever, bristling with muscles, hair, and temper, who must go through a process of civilization, but crucially one he achieves for himself. Disney is traditionally good at villains, and Belle's ruthless would-be spouse Gaston is a suitably monstrous contender. With pot-shots at anti-intellectualism, gender roles, fear of the outsider, and the way a charming small community can become stifling and predatory, the witty script is engaging throughout and there's not a dud song in the piece. It has become a cliché to deride the fairy tale prince the Beast turns into compared to his furry start, and it's true that the prince could never live up to him, but he's not bad, just conventional, and that was never going to win over viewers. I suspect that part might work better in the stage version, if played by a sufficiently handsome real human being.

*I have worked out why I for the past couple of years I have been reading for pleasure much less in than I used to: because I find it difficult to read when my eyes hurt. This came to me yesterday as I realised that I had read more in the last month than I have recently, and yet somehow I didn't want to read yesterday. And then I put 2 and 2 together...

**There are a couple of important minor ones as well, in the change in the finale proposal from being made by Emmett to its coming from Elle, and Brooke Wyndham's accidental public revelation of her alibi (is this also necessitated by the greater class focus of the show, given that Brooke is to some extent a snake oil salesman, whose products make her rich, but can't deliver their promise, even for her.)

***The Silence of the Lambs did. I can't remember if I've seen it and forgotten, in only clips.

****Tale as Old as Time may give the ballroom scene, but Gaston is surely the best character song.

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26 April 2016 @ 07:37 pm
I've been following the revelations of the Hillsborough inquest today. As this article puts it, 'It wasn't about football in 1989, it isn't about football now.' It's about vested interests failing in the moment, in the following 26 years (including the inquest in which the South Yorkshire Police kept trying to claim it wasn't their fault), in favour of protecting the incompetence and prejudice of their own against people they considered scum. While prosecutions for events on the day seem distant, I wonder what scope there is for charging with perjury those people now clearly shown to have lied and to have known that they were lying.

On a very different note, Opera North has announced its 2016/17 programme, and I think I might have to move to Leeds. Billy Budd* and Rosenkavalier (production I've already seen) in the autumn, a concert Turandot in the spring, and best of all, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden in the winter. I admit that I want to see The Snow Maiden for Saga of the Exiles-related reasons rather than operatic ones, but I suspect that I shall not be alone in booking a ticket because of that.

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22 April 2016 @ 12:10 pm
Middle sister arrives this afternoon accompanied by eldest nephew (3 and a half). I have made the beds, taped shut various cupboards, purchased Weetabix and apple juice, put up the blackout over the bedroom door fanlights*, found my video of Beauty and the Beast, and purchased a small Lego box for purposes of outright bribery. Exciting aunt status shall be mine!

*Who on earth thought that these were a good idea? Oh, I get the principle, but all it actually means is that a person switching on a light almost anywhere in the house can wake up everyone else.

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20 April 2016 @ 08:31 pm
The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett (Lymond 1)

Finally finished this. It took me some time to get into the story and its cast of often unlikable and/or confusing characters, but I ended up enjoying the last third a lot, and on that basis will read the next one. Though Lymond himself remained an epic woobie to the end*, circumstances made him less annoying and I found myself being interested in other people. I even managed to sort out most of the plot by giving up on the overarching politics and focusing on the characters, which it turns out allows one to follow the overarching politics (mostly) and indeed start having an idea what the characters are going to do. SpoilersCollapse )

He Who Reigns in Strelsau by [personal profile] el_staplador. AU The Prisoner of Zenda that starts from the premise that Rudolf Rassendyll meets Duke Michael's men in a Ruritanian forest, instead.

Various Sue Barton, Nurse books (Helen Dore Boylston), courtesy of [personal profile] antisoppist. Very engagingly written, with lots of fascinating historical detail about nursing in the north-east USA (and briefly New York) in the late 30s to early 50s (the one with no intervening war). Sue's eventual husband is really annoying, but at least the narrative isn't always on his side, and Sue's desire not to give up her profession in order to marry him is presented as an ongoing struggle. It was interesting just how many married women were shown working in the books, especially outside hospital jobs, though I don't think there were any women doctors.

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