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20 June 2018 @ 08:42 pm
I haven't done one of these for ages. Must try harder...

(1) This week it is Snow on the Seats, by Andy Potts*. Everything you wanted to know about Russian football and were afraid to ask, seen through the eyes of a Sunderland fan and journalist. It's actually quite fun and chock-full of social history in amusing and less amusing snippets**.

(2) Last week it was Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens Davidowitz, subtitled "What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are". A Waterstones 'Buy One, Get One Half-Price' this was an entertaining and sometimes depressing read***. First published in 2017 it has an interesting premise (people tend to tell the truth about what they want to find when making anonymous searches on the internet, you can extrapolate from this) that is massively let down by the fact that in this post-Cambridge Analytica world it is massively out of date, because it assumes that the people telling the truth when they make their searches are not being manipulated by the internet itself... The author is also quite evidently an economist, which I am prepared to admit doesn't make him a bad person, and he doesn't seem to start from the premise of "Assume the economy is a perfectly spherical cow", but does mean that he finds fairly straightforward conclusions more shocking than they are. There's some good stuff in there, but I felt it would have been a better work if done in tandem with a sociologist.

*A friend. Why else would I be reading a book on football?

**Probably qualifying as both, Lavrentey Beria, head of the NKVD (as played by Simon Russell Beale in The Death of Stalin), actually had a crucial match replayed when his beloved Dynamo Moskva lost in 1939. They lost the second time, too.

***What Google searches reveal about US racism are not encouraging of ones faith in humanity.

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18 June 2018 @ 06:56 pm
How the TK Maxx website described this garment that I purchased recently:

Description: Green high neck hoodie
Colour: Green (obviously)

How the manufacturer (Naketano*) described this garment:

Description: Ralle Rizzo Pimped IV
Colour: LSD Trip Melange

Fortunately it is a cosy sweatshirt with a high collar, and no-one knows the name when you wear it.

I think that someone should tell them that naming your sweatshirts things like I Will Fuck Your Brain ceased to be cool and edgy around the time the Sex on the Beach cocktail hit the mass market.

They do get it right sometimes, though: the Jedi Path looks exactly what a Jedi would wear on a chilly planet. Luke probably has one stashed in a cupboard on Skellig Michael.


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12 June 2018 @ 09:59 pm
Truly, what Versailles needed to give it that extra touch of sophistication was the arrival of the man in the iron mask.

The first two episodes of the series do seem to have greatly reduced levels of nudity so far, which of course does not mean zero. Perhaps they are saving it all up to go out with a giant orgy?

It is ridiculous tosh without redeeming social importance but I find it rather fun nonetheless.

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09 June 2018 @ 10:07 am
This is basically a 90 minute advert for organ donation, NHS funding, medical research and immigration. It's absolutely terrific, mixing the 'human' story with the scientific. It follows a number of patients waiting for heart transplants, with interviews with them and for the nurses and doctors caring for them. It is extremely moving; sometimes uplifting, oftentimes very sad. Apparently 70-80% of potential donor hearts have to be rejected. Look after your heart, folks: one day someone else might need it.

Cut for some medical detailCollapse )

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07 June 2018 @ 05:44 pm
Late review is late.... Now over a month ago I went to see the ENO production of Chess with [personal profile] antisoppist. Although I like musicals, I'd never seen Chess before and the extent of my knowledge of the tunes until recently was singing I Know Him So Well in karaoke with my sister*, so I acquired the CD before and listened to it in the car in preparation. Contrary to the reviews in the Guardian/Observer, which I can only assume to have been done by people who fundamentally hate musicals, it was excellent. Well-staged (although they should have projected the actors in the finale for those of us at the back), well-sung, and a pleasing lack of silly accents. Or rather, only American silly accents. Perhaps Tommy Körberg found it enough to sing in English without slapping a fake Russian accent on top**, but I get annoyed at Bad Russians singing with fake accents while the Good Russians don't. It's not as if there is any evidence that Svetlana has lived a life to provide her with extensive English pronunciation lessons. But I digress.

Chess is notorious as having multiple options for arranging the songs and various possible endings, but as far as I was concerned this one worked fine - indeed, given the plots of some musicals I'd definitely put Chess in the top half. It has multiple characters, it meshes its characters and politics reasonably well, and if the end isn't entirely clear cut - well, that's life. And I spend a lot of the next week thinking about it, which is always a good sign.*** You and I works just fine as an ending if you read it as Anatoly and Florence realising that they are not in fact one another's heart's desire, they are merely the among the things that the other has seen in the course of chasing their actual desire, whatever that might be.

Musically, it was fabulous to have a large orchestra. Modern amplification means that you can do a lot with a band of fifteen or so, but it's simply not the same as a full size opera house orchestra in again. I've always liked Michael Ball's voice and had never seen him live, so that was a pleasure, and I was delighted to see again last year's Caiaphas from JCS, Phillip Browne, as Molokov. A real bass voice is a fine thing. And I was utterly and absolutely convinced by Tim Howar as Freddie when he stepped out of the aeroplane looking exactly as if he'd modelled himself as an egomaniac sporting git on Petter Northug. I was less struck by the women's voices; Alexandra Burke sang beautifully, but her vocal style didn't quite mesh with the character for me though I could see it working in other pieces or in concert, and alas Cassidy Janson as Florence displayed the regrettable tendency one sometimes hears in sopranos to sacrifice accuracy of pitch for belting. But those were minor quibbles over all.

Two final points:

(1) Each game of chess means there's one less Variation left to be played

Not necessarily. There is a high probability that it does, but of all the games of chess played throughout history it is entirely possible that two were identical.

(2) Chess is not a sport. I don't care if Iceland says that it is.

* We did this recently sans backing track or reminder of the lyrics when she visited with the young nephews as a bedtime lullaby. It is fair to say that they were sceptical of our musical genius.

** Although this Norwegian singer's version of The Soviet Machine is pretty good, even if the Arctic Philharmonic evidently has a very low budget for computer graphics.

***And the next month thoroughly earwormed. I cannot say that singing finding myself "Oh Jeremy Thorpe" to the tune of Oh Mr Porter is an improvement.

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First it was owls. Owls on bags, owls in pictures, owls on T-shirts, owls as key-rings, owls on mugs. Owls, in short, everywhere.

Then the owls diminished and it was the turn of the fox.

The fox faded and it wasn't quite clear what was next.

This season that question has been well and truly answered by the flamingo. Flamingos are everywhere. They are on bolts of fleece, of jersey, of quilting cotton in the fabric shop. They are on place mats and china and tea towels. The windows of Oxford's new John Lewis contain a giant inflatable flamingo pool float, although being John Lewis it is in a tasteful shade of pale pink with a dash of peach rather than actual flamingo colour. Flamingos blared at me from a T-shirt as I picked up the newspaper in Sainsbury's.

But flamingos have now had their most impressive outing yet, in a small print on the shirt worn by Mamoudou Gassama as he received his award for courage from French president Macron after his rescue of a child dangling from a fourth floor balcony*.

There can be no way up from that. We have reached peak flamingo.

*The video for which demonstrates not only that he is quick-thinking and courageous, but that he must be staggeringly fit. Pulling your own bodyweight up like that repeatedly with no real stop for rest is something beyond plenty of pretty fit young men. The fire brigade are lucky to get him.

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03 June 2018 @ 05:54 pm
Editing in the garden.

I really am over-fond of the comma, aren't I?

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01 June 2018 @ 05:21 pm
It is not so much that I have left undone those things which I ought to have done; And I have done those things which I ought not to - I have done absolutely loads of the things that needed to be done and very minimal amounts of the other, but there are still vast quantities of the first category remaining.
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28 May 2018 @ 08:05 pm
Is once again that something that seems intimidating before starting it turns out to be straightforward once I stop procrastinating. In this case, going back to the beginning of the Wimsey/Potterverse crossover and giving a substantial edit before continuing, which I finally got my act together and started this afternoon and found I was making very respectable progress. Admittedly I didn't get to any of the bits that are going to be tough, but they look a lot less tough from where I'm standing now than they did a few days ago.

'Twas ever thus. But I have begun and will endeavour to continue. Actually, no, I should take a lesson from Yoda on this one. It is do or do not, and having been do not-ing I had damn well better do. Onwards!

I am grateful to the bank holiday* for the opportunity. I am grateful to the bank holiday full stop. I didn't take the last one*, but however much I have to do this week at work, and the answer is a vast amount, there was no way that after a weekend visit by my sister and my 5 and 3 year old nephews I wasn't going to need a weekend to recover. They are nice little boys, but they have a lot of energy. Also, they discovered the piano. And, it being an electric piano, how to operate the sound effects...

I am re-reading Monstrous Regiment for the first time since the first read. Like a lot of Pratchett of that period, I am enjoying it a lot more the second time round than the first. I am still not sure whether this is the tone shift, or me at the time of reading.

*I see from the internet that technically this is not Whit Monday, but so I think of it.

**Will get time in lieu. This entry was originally posted at https://nineveh-uk.dreamwidth.org/249401.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
21 May 2018 @ 07:44 pm
My father: I did a bit of yoga when I was a student.

My brain: *screeches to a halt*

I suppose that life is a long process of people saying the unexpected. Except for Theresa May, who never does.

I had an excellent weekend with Dad, which involved more walking than I've done of late*, some very amateur bird watching, the forcible extraction of an oversized formium from the garden, a new series of Montalbano, a new episode of The Bridge**, and vast numbers of red kites. I was amused that Watlington Parish Council's noticeboard had to have a notice about not feeding the kites because people had been doing it too much and it was causing problems. You didn't get that problem in Leeds.

*Thanks to [Unknown LJ tag] for the rec (AA walks 33 and 34).

**We were too tired for A Very English Scandal, I shall have to catch up. But we agreed that Hugh Grant looks born to play Jeremy Thorpe.
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