One is wan

Oct. 23rd, 2016 09:49 am
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have a cold, and an LJ poll on one, won, and wan.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
While there may be disadvantages to the lack of any central body with responsibility for English As She Is Spoke*, there is a decided plus side, which is that no-one can come along and say "We've decided that [word] is spelt differently now" or "we've re-written all the rules about commas."** There is something to be said for the free and easy approach of owning a copy of Fowler in order to argue why you choose to ignore it against the alternative approach, which might be epitomised**** by the following extract from Wikipedia, brought to you by looking up further my German teacher's comments on whether to write du or Du:

In der Schriftsprache werden das Pronomen „Sie“ und die davon abgeleiteten Formen großgeschrieben. Bis zur Rechtschreibreform 1996 gab es auch eine Höflichkeitsform für „Du“ in der Schriftsprache, in der dieses Wort großgeschrieben wurde. Von 1996 bis 2006 wurde „du“ in neuer Rechtschreibung ausschließlich kleingeschrieben. Seit der neuesten, inzwischen vierten Revision der Rechtschreibreform kann „Du“ bei persönlicher Anrede wieder großgeschrieben werden.

Google translate does it for us. Only the culture that produced Nietzsche could produce a sentence like 'Since the latest, now the fourth revision of the spelling reform'. One can just hear the existential despair that rolls off it.

*Would that there had been a committee in 1400 or so to consider whether the Great Vowel Shift should be allowed. Also, I would vote for re-introducing "æ".

**Danish, which I see has since managed to change the comma rules that were new when I learnt*** them.

***Or should that be learned? I think I can choose.

**** The English version is epitomised by the fact that I can choose not to write epitomized. Of course, English is nothing in comparison to Norwegian, in which it would probably be entirely correct to write epyttomised as long as you came from the particular valley in which that was correct and all your other spelling matched it.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
For the second time in my life I am doing homework making up German sentences in the conditional tense about how I want to study polar bears. Well, it saves imagining new scenarios, and I thought that "If I were a vampire, I would suck blood" might not be the best choice, even though it is one I can actually do without having to look up any words or how to decline the sodding articles.

It is, of course, impossible for me to think of the conditional without thinking of the Million Pound Radio Show pirates training day sketch.

nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I'm not sure who it was who linked me to this, but for anyone who is a fan of Cabin Pressure and hasn't seen it, it is worth watching.

nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Babette's Feast is on Film4 tomorrow night at 1:50 a.m. (i.e. very early on Wednesday morning).

A trailer.

Damn! Why didn't I nominate it for Yuletide?

There is one fic on AO3 - it's a Hannibal crossover.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Edinburgh may host a ski race in 2020!

Ahem. Unfortunately, I can't find a news story in English*, but in short, the Norwegian and Swedish national cross-country ski bodies have submitted a bid to the International Ski Federation to host a multi-stage tour in February 2020. This would, unsurprisingly, be held in Sweden and Norway, with the rather more surprising exception of the opening race, to be held in Edinburgh!

This is not actually as daft as it sounds. Snow always has to be carted in for city races anyway, there will be stored snow available at that time of year, and the temperatures will be low enough to sustain it for a few days. As I have said before, it is a good deal less stupid than holding the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Norwegian ski federation already works with the British ones on matters of mutual interest**, and the press release gets to say something virtuous about the importance of inviting more nations to be involved with world cup races. I'm not sure when decisions are made, but my fingers are going to be firmly crossed!

*In Norwegian.

**I.e. British access to snow and resources, Norwegian brownie points for working with a small nation in the sport.
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
(1) I can't suggest that prompt! What if I want to write it one day?

(2) Obviously I should be writing and posting that fic now, but obviously I can't in case I should do it for Yuletide, when it could get more readers. /procrastinates
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
An impulse purchase, I picked this up in the bookshop on account of the cover, and bought it on account of the blurb and a look at the prose, which convinced me that I was definitely going to enjoy it. This is a more impressive feat than it sounds as I heartily disliked the only other Tremain I've read, Music and Silence.* The book's focus is the eponymous Gustav Perle and his friendship with Anton, a Jewish boy of his own age. It is set in a small and boring town in an undistinguished bit of Switzerland, but it is not in any way a novel about Switzerland. Switzerland is there to be a metaphor, a job it does very well, though I don't imagine that it would say a lot in that respect to a Swiss reader. It is a terrific novel, absolutely beautifully written in the sort of prose that, while not mannered or dramatic, is simply impossible to read without noticing how very, very good it is in its quietness. It is the sort of prose that makes me thing, 'if I could write something like that, I should be well satisfied.'

The blurb is as follows:

What is the difference between friendship and love? Or between neutrality and commitment? Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in 'neutral' Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav's father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav's childhood is spent in lonely isolation, his only toy a tin train with painted passengers staring blankly from the carriage windows.

As time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav's life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav's are entwined.

Fierce, astringent, profoundly tender, Rose Tremain’s beautifully orchestrated novel asks the question, what does it do to a person, or to a country, to pursue an eternal quest for neutrality, and self-mastery, while all life's hopes and passions continually press upon the borders and beat upon the gate.

Got that? It is a very accurate description of the book.

There are going to be sort-of spoilers below (though not for the end). I do not imagine that they will come as a big shock to anyone in fandom, and they didn't to me on account of how I'd read the blurb, but they seems to have surprised the reviewers a lot.

Read more... )
nineveh_uk: Cover illustration for "Strong Poison" in pulp fiction style with vampish Harriet. (Strong Poison)
I appear to have committed Yuletide nominations. I'm not entirely certain that I'm going to sign up, but there's a couple of weeks yet to decide. If I do then I'm taking a different approach this year and instead of signing up for things that I really care about, will go for some new fandoms and try to take a more casual approach to it. Yes, I want to write a good fic, but I've never really loved any of the fics I've written for e.g. Wimsey fandom for Yuletide because they've never been for prompts that deeply inspired me. I suspect that I might find it easier and more fun to lower the stakes a bit.

On the other hand, one of the fandoms I'm considering writing for is Deutschland 83, which hardly represents an easier option, so possibly I'm just coming up with a new way to create stress for myself and RUIN YULETIDE.

Anyone else thinking of signing up this year?
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
En route to the supermarket, I drew up the car at the exit to my little cul-de-sac, where due to the configuration of the roads and where people park it is always wise to pause to make sure that nothing is coming. So I looked right and left etc. and was slightly surprised at what I saw on the grass verge a few yards away:

Me: What the fuck is a penguin doing there?

Penguin: Moves, reveals self to be cat.

In my defence, it was raining and the cat was black and white and standing at such an angle that it really did look as if a penguin were craning its beak up. And I looked twice before it moved! If I hadn't had my eyes tested last month I would definitely be thinking I needed new glasses. As it is, I think I'm a bit tired.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am in Berlin. It is very hot. It is so hot that today I am joining the ranks of people who wear shorts in a city. Since this appears to be 50% of people I've been seeing, I shouldn't feel too conspicuous in my sartorial crime, and it is a small price to pay for hot weather.

Berlin is great. I can't remember much, and absolutely nothing has looked as I remember, which isn't surprising on any front since I was last here in 1993. There is far more history that is reasonable for one place, I knew I was only going to scratch the surface, but now I feel I won't even so much scratch as gently tickle, but there are worse fates than to have to come back. My feet hate me.

Tanz der Vampire was amazing. My decision to base a holiday around seeing a cheesy musical is one million percent vindicated. I'm going again tonight. I even stage-doored The shame! The shame!, which is probably the most nerdish thing I have ever done in my entire life. I have also found several prospective entrants to the Galactic Cape-Twirling Championships. So far the hot favourite is the dancer who twirled his cape while simultaneously twirling a woman above his head, but there were also strong entries in the dramatic and moody categories.

Naturally the fic I bought to write remains entirely unwritten, as indeed does my diary. Never mind, no doubt I will catch up during tomorrow's 8 1/2 hour train journey.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
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.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I am delighted to be able to confirm that pickled onions count as one of one's 5-a-day.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
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.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
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.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
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.
nineveh_uk: Picture of fabric with a peacock feather print. (peacock)
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.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
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.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
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.
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
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.


nineveh_uk: Picture of a wild rabbit with text "I hope your rabbit dies" (Default)

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