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15 December 2018 @ 01:42 pm
Sometimes a thought comes along that makes you think that you have taken a wrong turn in life. In this case that thing is "why don't I own a cat of this immense fluffy adorability?" Forget the fact that if I lived in Norway I could be skiing today, I want a Norwegian Forest Cat/Maine Coon* cat cross!

Her Instagram, and YouTube.

*Really? Are you sure? But she is certainly immensely fluffy.

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12 December 2018 @ 12:33 pm
In my programme of continuing to be an idiot I went into work and had to come home again... It turns out there's a flu-like bug going around. I really wish I'd known this, it would have helped me make better decisions. Although frankly going in because you want to be present for Christmas dinner when you haven't eaten anything other than toast and muesli since Saturday night was always going to be a stupid decision.

Meanwhile since this time yesterday:

- We have a vote of no confidence in the leader of the Conservative party (who is the Prime Minister, but this is a vote of no confidence in her as party leader). Watching Prime Minister's Questions is making me absolutely furious. We are the laughing stock of Europe and May is standing like a swivel-eyed loon yelling at MPs for their failure to vote in a vote she cancelled.

- Sky have announced they're stopping sponsoring the Team Sky cycle team after 2019. I'm sure it's nothing to do with the publicity turning sour, oh not at all.

- Petter Northug has retired from skiing.

Oh yes, and to cap my rubbish day yesterday my birthday present from my parents (a vase) arrived and I have to send it back because it looks absolutely nothing like the website photo. I knew that I should not have revised my opinions on LSA glass. [ETA: In fairness to LSA they have now offered a refund. But they ain't no Holmengaard.]

I no longer know where I am. I am going to sit down, turn off the politics, and read something extremely easy. And at some point I am going to attempt to gird my loins to write to some politicians.

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11 December 2018 @ 07:24 pm
I recently went to see the cinema broadcast of The King and I from the London Palladium, New York's Lincoln Center production that toured to London in the summer. It had won Tony awards and had fantastic reviews and indeed as far as the leads' performances were concerned they were well deserved, because Kelli O'Hara was absolutely fantastic with a gorgeous voice, and Ken Watanabe having the time of his life - not a great singer but such a good actor - and both have terrific stage presence, as did Naoko Mori's Lady Thiang. The cast were drilled to perfection, the staging was good, the children adorable.

There's just one problem: it's racist. I spent the entire evening cringing. This had been heralded as the culturally sensitive production, to which I can only say that I'd hate to see the insensitive one! So none of the cast were in yellowface, well that's a start. But my God, did the book need an overhaul. And that's the other problem, that it would have been relatively easy to do a production that was genuinely nuanced and, most importantly, not racist, and they didn't.

I don't think that The King and I should drop out of the musical repertoire as irredeemable*. It isn't. It is a really good musical with some great tunes, dancing, good characters, and great roles for singers to play. You don't need to overhaul the entire plot and make it "colonialism is bad" because that's already the explicit theme and the overarching plot would need relatively little tweaking. But you do need a production team to whom it occurs that perhaps lets not have a script in which the Thai characters speak in broken English throughout the whole sodding thing, but that has five seconds of establishing that most of our cast are not native English speakers and let theatrical convention do the rest. It's not as if musical as a genre is known for its realism. A production team that had grasped that the issue was more than one of "is this cast member plausibly south-east Asian" could easily have resolved every problem I had with it. I hope that one day one will do so.

In the meantime, I leave you with these further observations.

- I would love to see Kelli O'Hara again in something else. I see she's also sung Despina in Cosi, which doesn't surprise me. Any chance of her heading an English-language production of Elisabeth das Musical? She could carry off the wig.

- Clearly The King and the Skater from Yuri on Ice is a Thai film intended as a cash in on and satirical riposte to the original musical, inspired when a washed-up British figure skater was on holiday in Thailand and got talking to a man who turned out to be a holidaying director. And if you haven't read the plot of TKatS, you really should. It is batshit in the best way.

- Oh well, here's the dance bit of Shall We Dance.

*I don't think this of Carousel, either, which some people say. It is entirely possible to do a production that doesn't give a pass to domestic violence if he loves her enough, because I've seen it.

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I don't want to live in Alaska, but for the view from this house and the prospect of a visit from a mother lynx and SEVEN LYNX KITTENS I could be tempted!

I am off sick with a stomach bug/mild food poisoning. Not that bad really and much better now than in an fortnight's time, but not ideal. Yesterday's grand achievement was doing Christmas decorations in the sitting room and the washing up from Saturday, which was not exactly the birthday I intended. On the other hand, it could be worse - as I remember from my 9th birthday when I had a much nastier stomach bug and my birthday party had to be cancelled. I blamed an orange yoghurt and didn't eat another orange for 7 years. I have never eaten orange yoghurt again.

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06 December 2018 @ 09:23 pm
* I have voted. Council by-election, and surprising amounts of leaflets. I would probably have forgotten, but I put it in my work diary to remind me and lunchtime and when it did I wrote it on my hand. I can safely say that I favour voting in May over early December, especially as I always go after work rather than before.

* I have got a bug. Well, I'd had a lurking one for a while, but it hadn't turned into anything much and I was actually feeling pretty energetic, and then dizziness hit. I don't think it's anything much, really, just being tired, but I've arranged to work from home tomorrow and will plough through some easier stuff that has sat on the back-burner and be able to give my eyes lots of rest. This is all particularly annoying not only because it is my birthday at the weekend, but because I had actually thought that I was kicking the skulker. I would say "better now than at Christmas", but it will probably be at Christmas as well. *sulks*

* Considerable consolation on the working at home front (when I was supposed to be bringing cake in, too!) is that the Eurosport app now works on the Amazon Firestick. All the winter sport I desire can be mine, with no need to plug the computer into the TV. Perhaps my fic productivity may increase!

* I am still reading 400 pages about Luther. It's really good, and really very readable, but this was the wrong time of year. I managed not to do the Reformation at all at school, and I know very little about the Holy Roman Empire either. I blame the lack of cartoon series starring dogs.

* Two weeks of work left until Christmas! On the downside that means that I have the Christmas shopping to do, but still. Two weeks left and then two weeks off, and a fortnight in which most other people are off too and won't be sending me loads of emails. I'm going to re-read The Lord of the Rings, it's been years.

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20 November 2018 @ 08:05 pm
It being the middle of term, dark, cold, and tiring, I took myself to the cinema to see this yesterday evening - Monday's being cheap and my expectations low - and massively clunky title notwithstanding, I enjoyed it very much. Indeed I enjoyed it more than the first film, when I felt the various animal chase sequences went on a bit. Its principal weakness is that it is clearly the middle film of a series, with a lot of set up and limited resolution, and cramming too much plot into it so that some characters are not developed.

The costume designs are a wasted opportunity, leaning very heavily on the Muggle side of the equation (and if you're going to have Muggle school uniforms, then Hogwarts in the 1920s would have been gymslips and dresses for the girls, not tartan skirts), and I was unclear as to why Leta Lestrange had such a plunging neckline and Tina appeared to be cosplaying Herr Flick. I have decided to rationalise this in my own mind by saying that the WW's sudden adoption of Muggle clothing is a sign of a cultural crisis of confidence in the aftermath of the Great Muggle War. A crisis on which Grindelwald is able to capitalise.

Speaking of Grindelwald, Depp was OK, if not more than OK. He reins in the batshit almost too much, considering the character. Really Grindelwald ought to have been played by the most charismatic German native-speaker actor available who was aged between 45 and 50 who both able to act in English and carry off a very blond wig. Jude Law as Dumbledore, on the other hand, is excellent and comes across very warmly. I liked the Dumbledore and Grindelwald backstory very much and assume that this something we'll be drip-fed more of as the series continues, because why use it all up early when you know that you've got your Big Dramatic Fight coming? Darth Vader doesn't say "Just so you know, I am young Skywalker's father" in his first scene.

And now, because much as I am enjoying Lyndal Roper's recent biography of Luther it is not exactly a bedtime read, I think I'm going to reread the original series. It's been a while. I should get myself to the play, too, and stop having to dodge spoilers.

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12 November 2018 @ 09:42 pm
This is genuinely touching: Macron and Merkel meeting an elderly woman at the WWI memorial ceremony - the Guardian article says she is 100, so I assume she was born on Armistice Day or before it. So born in WW1, lived through WW2, and then to meet the French President and German Chancellor together for the centenary of the end of the war - and for things to be so changed that the woman with Macron is not his wife, as she initially assumes, but the German Chancellor. Some things do change.

Guardian article and the video:

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09 November 2018 @ 06:46 pm
I spent today working from home. This was partly because I was expecting a delivery, which considerately arrived in time to allow me to go for a walk at lunchtime. It was also because I needed to start work on a report. I worked all day, but I did not start the report. This is partly my fault - I should have accepted that one thing I wanted to do quickly could wait until Monday - but also the fault that some things can't wait and there is just no bloody time. Oh well, the key thing was done, and I shall just have to rejig the start of next week. It is now the weekend, and after attempting to get to bed earlier tonight (expected result: failure), I am off to Nottingham tomorrow night to see Opera North's The Merry Widow. Cheerful operetta is what I need - I might rather have seen their Tosca, which has had stonking reviews, but it was not on a convenient date.

Anyway, in the absence of a brain for more interesting content, I invite you to gaze at the Strid and Strid Wood - from a safe distance, obviously.*

Now, does anyone know how I can correct the over-exposure of the sky with zero photo editing skills?

The Strid in autumn

*There are some brilliant batshit "most dangerous river** in the world" pieces on the Strid on the internet. People have drowned in it, you couldn't pay me enough to try to jump it, and falling in will indeed almost certainly kill you, but not falling in is extremely easy, by dint of the method of staying a couple of feet back from the edge in accordance with the big signs. In recent years there have been more deaths in the Wharfe in the parts that people swim in voluntarily - it's quite cold, there are slippery rocks, can be quite strong currents and with a lot of visitors, some are careless or have accidents.

**Which is also incorrect, because the river is the Wharfe.

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28 October 2018 @ 06:41 pm
I meant to accompany this post with a photograph of a large painting that I did aged 12 of a crimson sunset over towering mountains. Alas, though it must be in this house somewhere I cannot at this moment lay my hands on it* so you will have to take my word for it that from the age for about 11 until GCSE Art at 16 an awful lot of what I drew and painted had a Middle Earth-y landscape element to it, albeit of the kind drawn by younger teenager who liked dramatic scenery and Caspar David Friedrich.**

Living in Oxford I ought really to have made it to the Bodleian's Tolkien exhibition before the final afternoon, but made it I did in the end. The most interesting elements to me were the illustrations for The Hobbit, which seeing in their original watercolours did make me think were as good as anything I've seen by professional children's book illustrators of the day, and possess a distinct style that really works even if Tolkien did copy the eagle straight out of a reference book. I was also rather charmed by his drawing the Middle Earth maps on squared paper to make sure that the scale was right.

But mostly it reminded me of why re-watching the LotR films last week had me thinking, 'I must re-read the books because I want to draw the scenery.'

Oh yes, and there was a letter from Arthur Ransome describing himself as a 'humble hobbit-fancier' that made me think I must re-read the Very Secret Diaries.

*Or am not prepared to take apart the picture frame I think it is probably lurking in.

**I still do.

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25 October 2018 @ 06:49 pm
My Facebook is full of Brexit. The news is full of Brexit. Work is full of busy-ness and I really need to kick this bug completely before a 7 hour meeting next Tuesday. And when I seek for escapism no-one on the internet has written Frasier Crane/Alistair Burke*, and the best reading of How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix on YouTube is by Cecil Day-Lewis who alone seems to grasp, as much one can in his tones, that this is an onomatopoeic poem about galloping horses.

But some things retain the power to entertain, and today the cupboard turned up a print-out of a long-ago meme, and a poetic parody that I don't imagine will ever cease to charm me. At ninety I shall be there complaining that the memes these days are nothing to when I were a lass...

LOLcat for the Makers
John Dunbar (c. 1500)

I that in heill wes and gladnes
Am trublit now with great sicknes
My sicklie stait is no surprise:

Death sovran is of all the tubez,
Of rich, of poor, of l33t, of n00bz;
No mortal shal escaip his eyis:

Al flesh is dust; we are but bones;
Baith knight and maid he freely pwns;
Against his glanse brooks no disguyse;

He draws al to his dark bucket;
Whoe'er ye be, ye're surely f***kit;
The Walrus wil not sympathise;

Our base are al belong to Death
And have done since our natal breath
(This point I'd like to emphasise):

(First posted here. Original here.)

*The opera producer played by Patrick Stewart who Frasier doesn't realise he is dating. Best line to describe his genius, courtesy of Niles, "He staged a Philip Glass opera last year and no-one left!"

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