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British government policy on Brexit is being run from Ireland. That might be OK if it were being run from Dublin, where the Irish government appears to have a grasp of reality on the subject and would probably be a much better bet than the current lot. Unfortunately it is being run from Belfast, where Arlene Foster is demonstrating quite how much power a minor coalition party can wield in the right circumstances. I await developments with interest.

Meanwhile another contestant in the “Have they got a spine?” show, the IOC, receives this afternoon the latest report on Russian state-organised cheating at Sochi. News on their response will appear this evening. I think that the mostly likely outcome is some restriction of Russian participation in Pyeongchang in 2018, but it’s always possible that cowardice/bribery will win the day.

Finally, the English cricket team must be ruing their failure to bowl Australia out in their first innings. As I have said before, as a team they are capable of putting together a very good session. Unfortunately they appear incapable of putting several good sessions together in a row in order to win a match.

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29 November 2017 @ 08:11 pm
A would-be novelist who finds himself overburdened by the wordcount of even a short story gets a job with a newspaper writing obituaries. In the inevitable manner of an obituary writer in a work of fiction he chaffs at never seeing his work in print, until suddenly one of his subjects dies in suspicious circumstances and his life starts to get steadily more complicated. Then one day the worst happens: his pet penguin falls dangerously ill.

I should note at this point that the penguin is not imaginary or a nickname for a black and white dog. It is a real pet penguin he got when Kiev zoo was giving animals away because it didn't have money to feed them, something that apparently really happened.

This was one of those books that you read thinking "It's good, but it would be better if I knew even a tiny bit more about the modern Ukrainian society that he is satirising." It's written in a lightly absurd, observational sort of style that lulls the reader along. The reader joins the protagonist and, by implication the residents of Kiev, for whom it is impossible to feel really outraged about what is happening, this is just the way that things are, and survival means keeping your head down and going with the flow, even if this means you find yourself responsible for the infant daughter of a mafia boss, and your penguin in demand as a professional mourner.

I did get a bit irritated at one point with the depiction of the novel's sole significant adult female character, a young woman who becomes the child's nanny and the narrators girlfriend/lover/person he inevitably has sex with, and who is depicted with no interiority whatsoever. But of course that's the point: that she, like our narrator, has little choice but to go along with the situation that she finds herself in.* Isolated, deprived of genuine human connection, preference, morality and desire are irrelevant to the requirement to get on with what life one has according to what chance throws one's way.

It's weird, it's relatively short, it's worth reading. It will not fill you with cheer about the current situation in Ukraine, but in the end despite the gloom, our protagonist does have one truly human connection that saves him. Albeit with a penguin.

*Though he nonetheless manages a "male author describes female characters breasts" moment.

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There are certain sentences that can really put one off what sounds like an otherwise potentially interesting, if not particularly new,* television programme, and this was certainly one of them:

Helping the professor enthuse about the “non-trivial values” that made Athens great is Boris Johnson.

*I must write and suggest that maybe it is time for a programme about Angkor Wat. We've had a lot of Greece and Rome recently, and I fancy seeing something about different set of ruins for a change.

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17 November 2017 @ 02:45 pm
(1) It's amazing how much worse you can make Harriet's revelation to Emma in Chapter 47 by changing a single word...

Emma, the crackfic version

"I should not have thought it possible," she began, "that you could have misunderstood me! I know we agreed never to name him -- but considering how infinitely superior he is to every body else, I should not have thought it possible that I could be supposed to mean any other person. Mr. Frank Churchill, indeed! I do not know who would ever look at him in the company of the other. I hope I have a better taste than to think of Mr. Frank Churchill, who is like nobody by his side. And that you should have been so mistaken, is amazing! I am sure, but for believing that you entirely approved and meant to encourage me in my attachment, I should have considered it at first too great a presumption almost, to dare to think of him. At first, if you had not told me that more wonderful things had happened; that there had been matches of greater disparity (those were your very words); -- I should not have dared to give way to -- I should not have thought it possible -- But if you, who had been always acquainted with him -- "

"Harriet!" cried Emma, collecting herself resolutely -- "Let us understand each other now, without the possibility of farther mistake. Are you speaking of -- Mr.Woodhouse?"

(2) There is so much good about the 2009 BBC version of Emma* that I wish I could like it more than I do. Much is done well, but the things that are not successful really don't work for me at all, and unfortunately are so at the centre of the production that they can't be ignored.

The good:

- a Harriet Smith who looks the part completely, and who is for once shown not simply mistaken, but vain in her conviction of Mr Knightley's regard for him.

- Miss Bates portrayed as unbelievably annoying, but also with a good degree of tragedy.

- the houses are all just right (though Hartfield surely had rather more servants opening doors and less popping in and out of windows).

- a good ball at the Crown, which does Emma and Mr Knightley particularly well.

- showing how much Emma, for all her advantages, is trapped in Highbury by her father.

- the rounding out of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill's stories (and Mr Weston by extension) far more than other adaptations so that we can see the commonality of their situations that would bring them together.

- John and Isabella! For once we get a picture of them as a real part of Emma's family, not just a plot function. If only the actor playing John had been cast as George Knightley.

The bad:

- the script. About 30% of it is theoretically good, in that is Austen. Unfortunately the presence of actual Austen lines shows up even more the appallingly clunkiness of the other 70%. This is one bullet point, but it should count as about 50, because it overrides all the good parts. It is hard to enjoy even the best scenes when you are expecting the imminent arrival of a clanger.**

- Jonny Lee Miller, who plays Mr Knightley as half the time too formal and half the time too casual and largely without charisma. It's a pity, because the production does do a good deal to show his POV, and in other circumstances I would like that. Mr Knightley should project a quiet authority, not fade into the wallpaper. The above two points come together painfully in Mr Knightley's proposal to Emma, which goes really well, being mostly Austen, right until the end when the script inserts a few lines of its own and the agony returns.

I shall have to watch the 1972 BBC version on YouTube and see what I make of that. In the meantime, the Paltrow/Northam film is thoroughly enjoyable if rather light, and I retain very fond memories of a mid-nineties stage version I saw with school, which did have a Mr Knightley who felt completely right.

*I may have commented along these lines in the past.

**Whereas the imminent arrival of the Clangers would definitely enliven the Highbury social scene.

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16 November 2017 @ 10:40 am
I put up the bird feeder yesterday and was rewarded this morning by activity while I was washing up. I suspect there of being more glamorous feeding opportunities nearby, as I don't always get many birds, but already there have been blue tits, great tits, a coal tit, robins, and a couple of sparrows.

Blue tit and coal tit:

The weather is dry and not too cold, so I think that I shall go and get up and go for a short walk, and even take my binoculars. I haven't been out anywhere pleasant for a couple of days, and I think my eyes would like to see some horizon.

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10 November 2017 @ 11:44 am
Please, for the love of God, not a cream polo neck jumper. Black is one thing, but cream, and especially cream with a wool coat, is quite another. Leave it to Roger Moore.

This post brought to you by watching the men's short programme at the NHK Trophy (Grand Prix figure skating) this morning while turning a an ill-fitting tweed skirt into a bag. I remembered at the worst time that I had meant to use interfacing on the outer fabric - too late to do it when I should have done, not late enough to feel that I could just not bother.

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09 November 2017 @ 04:12 pm
I am watching a broadcast of a Glyndebourne Billy Budd* that was on a couple of years ago, and being distracted by the following thoughts*:

(1) A lot of opera plots would be very different if their setting had a robust bullying and harassment policy.

(2) I want the fic when Captain Vere returns home and the Admiralty responds with "WTF, Vere? That's not the proper procedure."

(3) I've seen handsome Billy, and even young and darkly handsome Claggart***, but I'd love to see a performance that portrays Captain Vere as really, really good-looking and physically charismatic and the entire ship having a crush on him. It would go some way to explain why he is so idolised by the crew when we don't really see him do anything remarkable (at least in the first half), and be interesting to see handled in the Claggart/Vere/Billy triangle.

* Extracts on YouTube.

**On top of "Oh for goodness sake, Vere, just lie that the man had a heart attack and fell."

*** Phillips Ens in 1998, definitely the most tragic interpretion of the role I've seen. Ens was in this production, too, but at 15 years older obviously playing it differently.

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30 October 2017 @ 09:27 pm
Have been watching the Grand Prix Cup of Canada yesterday and today whilst doing the ironing. I wish I'd known that the kiss and cry was miked when I was writing In the Studio. Oh what opportunities missed!

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28 October 2017 @ 10:43 am
Belatedly, some summer holiday photos! I had a new camera after I dropped the old one in the sea earlier this summer, so I took vast numbers of photos thinking that I would be able to tweak settings and compare, and forgetting that there was no way I was going to remember which setting were which photo. So on both the plus and minus side I now have vast numbers of photos to sort through... Of which there follow just a few.

ETA: I've worked out how to re-size them to something sensible now...

Read more...Collapse )

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22 October 2017 @ 08:17 pm
I know that independent pattern companies aren't going to size exactly the same as the major companies. But I feel that I, a UK 12, should not be finding that this sweatshirt pattern runs so large that I would have to make a size (US) 2 not to swim in it. Are all the people on the internet who have made it kidding about their measurements, or possessed of very broad shoulders? Or posting from some dimension where the current fashion for wearing ease is very different, possibly the depths of Minnesota in 1990. I also suspect that I had not quite grasped just how much some of the people raving about making theirs had significantly altered the pattern.

On the plus side, I didn't try it in my best fabric, it wasn't really wasted time as I was having a quiet weekend with my visiting and cold-stricken Youngest Sister, and if I don't manage to get something ordinarily wearable out of this version, it may yet make be a warm pyjama top. But aargh! So this is a definite thumb's down for Grainline's much-vaunted Linden sweatshirt pattern and people being wrong (as far as I'm concerned) on the internet.

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