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Everything posted by dog-days

  1. That one's next on my list. I've had my eye on it since it first came up on his Amazon profile page.
  2. Watched Woman Against the Bomb (2021), a documentary about the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camps. It consisted of archive footage, snatches of the protest songs of the time, and many present-day interviews with some of the women who'd taken part in the movement. I liked it, though it did seem to be targeting an audience of women who'd also been there, or who would have liked to have been there. All the reminiscences were cheerful, even the ones that described getting stamped on by psycho American military enforcers or – from a woman who'd been a child in the camp – of having her teddy bear snatched away by a British policeman. Much was made of the sisterhood and sense of shared purpose and empowerment. Maybe the experience of collective action established a good basis for the rest of the participants' lives, or maybe that kind of thing draws in optimistic, resilient people naturally. Or maybe time had smoothed out the wrinkles. I admit to feeling a little jealous. There were a few amusing clips showing the bile stoked up in the press against the protestors: boot-wearing, dungaree-clad lesbians destroying the values of the nation, bad women neglecting their children and husbands, etc. In the end, I didn't like it as much as I did Bronze Men of Cameroon last night, which was a work of art about art. I found the lack of really dissident or challenging voices amongst the talking heads limited my ability to enjoy it; instead it was like going out for a coffee with some rather nice middle-class people who'd been part of an unusual social club once upon a time and liked to talk about the scrapes they got into.
  3. 4.5% to 5% is what I'm typically seeing in the UK. Note to self: look for jobs in Canada.
  4. Watched We Are Still Here (2022) an anthology film featuring work from directors of Maori, Indigenous Australian or Samoan descent. As might be expected, it was quite mixed with some very assured and interesting work next to other material that seemed quite 'early career'. I liked the story of a Maori community deciding whether to take part in the Battle of Orakau best; the young Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, who I didn't recognise from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, turned in a very charismatic performance. By rights, she'll be a big star. Te Wakaunua Te Kurapa as her father was also impressive. My second favourite, Grog Shop, is set in present-day Australia and starring Clarence Ryan as an aboriginal man being victimised by the racist security man at the local booze store. Ryan gave a very warm performance which won me over. Bronze Men of Cameroon (2021, largely filmed in 2020 with the release delayed by Covid) is a wonderful documentary following the process used by traditional craftsmen in Foumbam in French-speaking Cameroon to create their bronzes. Without a narrator or audible interviewer, the craftsmen speak about what their work means to them. The red earth, the physicality of the process of preparing the clay and shaping the moulds, and the final dramatic sections where the kilns are stuffed with fuel by ungloved hands and one man echoes the drum beat of the soundtrack as he blows the bellows, make watching the film a sensuous experience as well as giving the mind plenty to work with. Catch it in a cinema if you can. I think it may also be available to watch free online on Vimeo.
  5. Thank God, Humza Yousaf's won the SNP leadership election. ETA - Malt beat me to it.
  6. Re Endeavour. My mother was amused/delighted to discover that Shaun Evans has a Scouse accent. She'd never suspected while watching the show, and she's from Liverpool and worked there for her whole career. I haven't watched it myself yet, but I like the decision to cast someone from an untypical acting background as Morse. Shaun Evans was a scholarship boy with a taxi driver father. It meshes nicely with John Thaw in the original series, a Mancunian rather than Liverpudlian, who also came from the working class.
  7. dog-days

    Lit Prizes

    So little time and energy, so many books... (On the glass half full side, some of them could be total crap.)
  8. Have sometimes considered the same thing. I mean, I could try and talk about germs and the importance of sterilizing implements and surfaces, but I couldn't prove anything and I reckon they'd just decide I was completely crazy. And my appeal to them to write semantic HTML probably wouldn't stir their sympathy either.
  9. Good for Sgt. Skinner. I hope he's not made to suffer for it later when the social media attention has gone away.
  10. But on the bright side, the Met chief says it isn't institutional. /irony
  11. Glad you liked the Shared Knife books. I started off very doubtful, but they grew on me and grew on me as I got further in. Till, you know, hitting that point of bereftness when there's no more Shared Knife left to read. Waah.
  12. Gave up on Sims 4 after a few short plays. I must have had more patience when I was thirteen, or just have been massively bored. Instead, went back to my Steam library to go back to a couple of games I first bought around 2013/2014, played once, liked, but didn't revisit. First up was Deus Ex: Human Revolution which was fun. The characters do all tend to come across as kind of bland and straight from a cyberpunk cut-out book, but the flexible gameplay and exploration was great. Though I found myself oddly missing the original's random paper copies of Chesterton's The Man who Was Thursday lying around. Now playing Mass Effect 3, first time with the DLC installed. (I have no idea how I've somehow acquired the ME3 DCL when I didn't have it on my one original playthrough, but not complaining.) It feels faster-paced than Deus Ex, especially since I was playing the non-violent route, and blasting, sniping and throwing grenades at monstrous zombie aliens does have a fair bit of entertainment value. Writing-wise, the character differentiation and tonal shifts feel stronger here too. That said, it's taken me till now to stop walking up to things and pressing 'E' then getting frustrated when nothing happens. The scenery is very unresponsive if you've come from throwing random objects around, and the pathways through feel more limited. But hey, I've got lots of big guns that make things go boom. I like the Prothean.
  13. Read Frontier Wolf as part of a loose resolution to catch up on the last couple of books in Rosemary Sutcliff's (1920–1992) dolphin ring cycle. Although published last in 1980 excluding the posthumous Sword Song, it's set in 343 AD so falls chronologically between The Silver Branch and Lantern Bearers; the protagonist Alexios could be the grandson of Silver Branch's Marcelus Flavius. Frontier Wolf is what would these days probably be called a Young Adult book: it's telling a coming-of-age adventure story that ends well for the protagonist, though has some fairly brutal aspects to it along the way that wouldn't look out of place in Abercrombie, even if the style is much more lyrical, the tone on some levels more idealistic, and the dialogue literary and perhaps owing something to Kipling and other writers of that era. Much of Frontier Wolf echoes and shadows Sutcliff's more famous work The Eagle of the Ninth (set 126 AD). At the start of the novel, Alexios is not in a good place. We learn in flashback about how he badly miscalculated while on his first proper officer's posting and got a lot of his men killed. (Contrast this with Marcus Aquila, the earlier hero: his initial transformation happens due to the injury he suffers while successfully and triumphally defending his fort against a chariot charge). As punishment, a fairly light one because of his good family connections, he's sent to command a fort north of Hadrian's Wall with a fictional division known as the Frontier Wolves, comprising soldiers' with dodgy backgrounds or recruited, contrary to usual practice, from the local tribes. Ultimately, he has to face the same dilemma that he screwed up in the opening chapter. An atmospheric retreat through the lowlands of Scotland in early winter reminded me both of Marcus's and Esca's escape, but also of the situation faced by Marcus's father, who tried and failed to get the remains of his legion safely back to the wall. Questions of empire lurk on every other page; any one book Sutcliff's novels of Roman Britain could easily supply enough material for a thesis or three. The influence of the British military, their expressions and values, is clear enough. Sutcliff was the daughter of a Royal Navy officer, and was a great fan of Kipling. The rank-and-files's (real? imagined?) values of brotherhood and loyalty permeate a lot of her fiction, which is also typically homosocial and blatantly homoerotic in tone. (It has to be fairly blatant for me to pick up on it.) Frontier Wolf has multiple bromances, two ending horribly, one rather better. The above paragraph may have made Sutcliff sound like a rather jingoistic writer, but really she's more complex than that. I think that to various degrees she was a conservative one: Marcus and Alexios both get rewarded with the chance to Romanize land (Marcus) and people (Alexios). She loves to confront her protagonists with difference, with other worlds, with the idea that, like travellers in the Forest of Arden, they take part of that strangeness on with them, having internalised it and made it part of their new, better selves. But in the Roman books, that often just looks like someone doing well within the status quo, albeit in a rather 'alternative' way. It's hard to grudge it too much to Marcus and Alexios, since they go through the wringer, though not to the same extent as poor Aquila in The Lantern Bearers. Still to go is Dawn Wind. The library had a copy of The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty (the Daevabad author) and I started it last night. So far, so good.
  14. Oh no. I know him from The Wire and Fringe. Thought he looked like the kind of person who could go on acting into his nineties. I didn't realise he had a musical side as well – was in fact educated primarily as a musician. There are videos of him playing his compositions online.
  15. Vanilla would be a great addition. Makes me think about getting a little genuine vanilla and heating it in the milk...
  16. Almond butter gives me ideas, mostly related to cashew butter which I'd better stay away from. I could easily eat a jar of the stuff in one sitting. But almond butter is a bit safer! Nice but not manna-from-heaven nice. Haven't tried chopped dried peach before BFC, I'll give it a go.
  17. Read most of Thinking Again by the Jan Morris (1926–2020) while sitting in the local library enjoying the generously high central heating. I've never ready any of her more serious and famous works (e.g. the Pax Britannica trilogy). This one I really enjoyed: it takes the form of one hundred and thirty diary entries, most fairly short, which Morris wrote during 2018 and 2019. Despite the trials of advanced age – her partner Elizabeth by this time had dementia, the death of friends and acquaintances, physical struggles, and the isolation of the very old in a changed world – the tone remains for the most part determinedly breezy, alighting on the small things, the amusing, the ridiculous. If a few of the attitudes and language seem 'of their time' Morris would probably have owned up to it with a smile and a shrug. The long perspective is remarkable: "I hardly knew my father, who died when I was eight or nine years old and already away at boarding school. His health had been broken and his life ruined by poison gas in France during the First World War – the Great War, as we used to call it – and the most vivid memory I have of him finds him fitfully asleep in bed when I was home from school on holiday. In his dreams the war was raging still, and when I crept awestruck into his bedroom he cried out warnings, tossed and turned, moaned and coughed uncontrollably and sometimes bitterly laughed, so alive in his nightmare that I heard the guns myself, ducked to the screaming whistle of the shells, smelt the cordite and the treacherous, murderous gas..." I'd like to read more of her writing on Wales. Morris identified as Welsh and lived in the village-very-Cymraeg of Llanystumdwy in the north-west, despite having been raised in England with an upper middle class background.
  18. Breakfast suggestions. I have a bowl of supermarket saver's muesli every morning with hot soy milk, a chopped banana and large amounts of cinnamon. Despite having it every day for *cough* three years, I still really like it. But I'm thinking I could experiment a bit more with the flavours. I'd swap out the cinnamon for cardamom, but UK supermarkets rarely sell ground cardamom, just the pods. And though I'm devoted to the cult of breakfast to the point that I shudder with horror when people tell me they skip it, I'm not going to stand in a freezing kitchen every morning grinding cardamom pods into powder. Ideas about what else I could try while still sticking with the muesli + hot alt milk base? And yes, this post is peak Guardian lifestyle pages.
  19. All unhappy organisations are the same, all happy organisations are happy in their own way?
  20. Didn't realise it was already out! Hope it lives up to the undeniable awesomeness of the blurb.
  21. Finished Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo the sequel to Ninth House. Found it a bit of a slog. Think I'd have preferred it to be a campus novel (with demons) rather than a demonology (with a little alt reality Yale on the side). Plus, it just needed a strict editor to chop sections and tell Bardugo to concentrate on letting the characters who aren't Alex breath. And pace it better. Maybe lose the whole first third since I don't think it added much. Finally gave up on Kingdom of Characters by Jing Tsu after getting two thirds of the way through on Audible. I feel a bit ashamed; there were flashes of stories that were really interesting – notably the first chapter focusing on Wang Zhao whom I'd happily have read a biography of. But there seemed to be very little critical analysis or attack or any of the kind of little dramas than enliven non-fiction for a general audience. Reader, I was extremely bored. Now listening to the first in Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles as read by Matthias Lühn. Feels like being back with an old friend.
  22. Frustrated at work. Middle and senior managers keep chasing after new projects while avoiding cross-departmental collaboration as if they might catch something nasty from listening to someone else's ideas. Communication is terrible. The work of maintaining our current offering (and often of following through on managerial ideas) falls on the lower orders, but after many structural changes plus staff leaving, any procedures that were in place seem to have been forgotten, and things are constantly being overlooked (because of lousy processes) that wouldn't be if the relevant individuals cared about more than adding the Shiny to their CVs. Competent staff leave or get sick. My boss is a good person, but also much more interested in his own projects than in being a proactive team manager. And he's worn out from the same entrenched organisational nonsense that's been getting to me, and overworked anyway in that he has a dual technical/managerial role. I'm not sure when/if he'll notice that we're all overdue for appraisals. Wouldn't have thought I'd ever miss them, but in the right hands they can create the illusion that you're valued as more than a disposable flesh robot. I've been working at weekends most weekends since November to keep up with the amount of stuff that comes my way. (Context: I am a Grade 4 minion.) And now I'm going to electro-shock mercenaries in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
  23. Yep, WTF BBC. In my late teens before the last of my self-esteem drained away, I thought I'd like to work for the Beeb. 'And nation shall speak peace unto nation' appealed to my idealistic side. These days unfortunately I think it'd be a blow to my self-esteem to land a job there.
  24. I also found the first couple of episodes dull, and was about to give up – it only really pulled me in during the second half. Worth persevering with. (I speak as someone who doesn't have much patience/attention span for a lot of television.) Gave up on Boba Fett. Liked the Mandalorian to a degree, at least enough to watch both series.
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