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shewhomust

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Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence - [Feb. 19th, 2017|06:02 pm]
shewhomust
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- three times, it seems, is Brian K. Vaughan.

No, I don't regard him as enemy action, so perhaps I'd better unpack that. I came home from the Graphic Novels Reading Group with the big hardback of Runaways, loaned to me by a fellow-member of the group, full of praise and enthusiasm for the title. I spotted a trade paperback of Saga, waiting to be written up for my book diary, and a single issue of Paper Girls, which had just arrived with my comics order. If you asked me to list my favourite comics authors, you'd be waiting a long time for me to reach the name of Brian K. Vaughan. Yet somehow three of his titles have converged on my reading list, and of those Saga (fabulous art by Fiona Staples) certainly is on my list of the best comics currently being published (if only the gaps between the collections weren't so long). How did that happen without my noticing it?

Let me try to answer that question.Collapse )
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A teacher reports... [Feb. 16th, 2017|08:38 pm]
shewhomust
...that pupils in a small town in County Durham, not hitherto observed to take much interest in the wider world, have started using 'Trump' as an all-purpose insult.
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A wizard's staff has... [Feb. 16th, 2017|06:07 pm]
shewhomust
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Since it is still winter, the vegetable stall was at the Farmers' Market this morning. They sell the best carrots ever, but this year they have something new -

Sprouts


Sticks of sprouts we know (and I have learned to cook the tops as well as the sprouts, since they are excellent) but purple, frilly sprouts? Why, yes, look at the close-up:

Sprouts (close-up)


Very purple and very frilly. And now it's time to go and cook some for dinner.
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Not as out of the loop as I thought! [Feb. 12th, 2017|05:59 pm]
shewhomust
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Driving in to Sunderland last night to dine with cousins who were in town for the match, we passed road signs about road closures for the building of the "New Wear Crossing". There's to be a new Wear crossing? Yes, apparently so - and durham_rambler, whose grip on the local news is better than mine, knew somrthing of it. Then, as we were discussing this, we looked across to our right, and there indeed was something new, a tall spike pointing up into the night sky, the single pylon which will support the bridge. I was embarrassed that I had been so unaware of something whose construction was so far advanced.

I felt a little better this morning when durham_rambler told me that the pylon had been in position since just three o' clock that afternoon. And look - Flickr has photos!
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Diana Wynne Jones: Archer's Goon and Dogsbody [Feb. 12th, 2017|03:38 pm]
shewhomust
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I had just finished reading Hisham Matar's The Return, a good book but a sad story of a lost father, an unhappy country (Libya) and crushed hopes; the final chapters spiral down and down into darkness. What to read next, to restore some balance? I had been wanting for some time to reread Archer's Goon, and since durham_rambler was there, I asked him to reach it down from its high shelf, and Dogsbody too while he was about it.

Archer's GoonCollapse )

DogsbodyCollapse )

And the lesson we learn from this is that memory is not to be trusted. Rereading, the gift that goes on giving.
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Making Mercia Great Again [Feb. 10th, 2017|08:06 pm]
shewhomust
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Via durham_rambler, Donaeld the Unready on Twitter.
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Denial [Feb. 7th, 2017|10:44 pm]
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Reviews of the film Denial have been pretty mixed, but I think Peter Bradshaw sums up the issues pretty well: it may be a bit pedestrian at times, he says, but it's an astonishingly timely film, telling a story that needs to be told right now. I'd agree with that.

The timeliness, though, is actually one of the puzzling things about it. How long does it take to get a feature film from green light to a screen near you? David Irving's libel action was decided in 2000; Deborah Lipstadt's book about it (on which David Hare based his screenplay) was published in 2006. Somehow the film, after showing at festivals in the autumn of 2016, manages to reach UK cinemas in the early days of the post-truth presidency; I saw it within a week of the Holocaust Memorial Day from which the White House had managed to exclude the Jews. Did someone know it would be needed right now?

I suspect that some of the criticism of the film's 'clunky' exposition (yes, Hadley Freeman, I am looking at you) is just critics saying "But I already know this! Doesn't everyone?" But if you concede the need for any exposition at all (and if you don't, you probably don't see any reason to make this movie) then the way it was done was methodical and thorough but I didn't mind it (and yes, I did know quite a lot of it already). I found it funny rather than irritating that you could tell when the scene had shifted to London because it was raining.

There's a related problem, I think, that people who remember the case will also know what the verdict was, which makes it difficult to create dramatic tension on that account. Even if you don't remember the case, you might feel that the tone of the narrative made one outcome by far the most likely. I certainly felt that the narrative was working quite hard to supply an alternative source of tension, in the relations between Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her legal team. Deborah Lipstadt initially assumes that she will take the witness stand. No, say the lawyers, your testimony is in your (allegedly libellous) book, and it is our job to destroy Irving's case, not yours to defend yourself. She isn't entirely comfortable with this, although we have already seen a prologue in which David Irving tries to derail one of Lipstadt's lectures, and she declines to debate with him (saying that you can debate opinions, but certain things are facts). Later the disagreement takes a different form: a woman who has been watching from the public gallery reveals herself as a Holocaust survivor, and asks, when will our voices be heard? Again Lipstadt agrees with her, and again the lawyers win the argument. Only when the case has been won can the rift be healed by Lipstadt's realisation that her barrister (Richard Rampton, played by Tom Wilkinson) was truly committed to the cause, that his reactions on their visit to Auschwitz showed not indifference but a mind already at work on the case, and that through his onslaught on Irving the voices of Hitler's victims have indeed been heard.

This is touching - and for all I know it may really have happened. It felt a little trivial, and beside the point. There was a reminder, too, that the task of the barrister is to represent the client, whoever that client may be, in the passing remark that in a previous case, Rampton's client had been McDonald's. Wait, what? Yes, that McDonald's libel case: representing the full might of McDonald's against a couple of Greenpeace activists doesn't look quite so much like the work of a knight in shining armour - though he can't have known at the time that the case was even murkier than it appeared, the allegedly (and partly) libellous leaflet having been co-authored by an undercover police officer.

If Hollywood demanded that the good guys not only do the right thing but also display their impeccable motives, it also left no room for doubt in its handling of the bad guy. Timothy Spall's David Irving is almost a pantomime villain. Watching the man himself on Newsnight (a clip from which was recreated in the film) he is loathsome, but not - even when playing up to an audience - grotesque.

I won't embed that video, because it's not something you'd want to come across unawares, but it's a very interesting half hour. Better than the movie? No, despite my reservantions the movie is an important story well told. But it's good to have a little reality as a chaser.
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Passport update [Feb. 1st, 2017|12:16 pm]
shewhomust
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For the benefit of all those who told me, in this journal and elsewhere, that I was worrying unnecessarily about renewing my passport, and that all would be well: you were quite right. My new passport arrived this morning (which is to say, not in the post, and not by any identifiable courrier - is it possible that local passports are simply delivered by hand?), which also goes to show that I was right not to pay extra for the special accelerated service. I had forgotten that it would be one of the new illustrated ones - oh, look, there's the Angel of the North!
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It's all durham_rambler's fault! [Jan. 31st, 2017|03:36 pm]
shewhomust
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I didn't mean to spend the afternoon looking at pictures of puffins: I do have work to do.

But durham_rambler showed me a picture in today's Guardian, so I went looking for it to see if I could share it here. Not as easy as I expected. Here's the Guardian Witness feature, and here are today's photos: no puffins, but some nice pictures. I'd post the guiser Jarls queuing for their breakfast here if there were an LJ button alongside the FB, Twitter and Pinterest logos, but we are not worthy.

Oh, well. I finally tracked down my pictures archived by theme, and oh, look, there's an 'embed' option, hooray! Well, almost hooray. The code doesn't actually embed the picture, but it gives you this link:

Puffin vanity


Which in turn gives me the name of the photographer, and that allows me to find this story published in the Journal a couple of summers ago. I can't make the gallery feature work, alas, but in the meanwhile, have some piano-playing puffins:

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A very small Con report [Jan. 29th, 2017|08:59 pm]
shewhomust
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A very small report of a very small Con: that title is justified whichever way you unpick its ambiguity. I spent yesterday at the Con organised by Durham University Science Fiction and Fantasy Socirty. I've completely messed up the timing of this evening, so I only have time for the briefest account of it, but that ought to work out just fine, because it really was a very small Con - and that too worked just fine for me.

So. Two speakers: Farah Mendlesohn, who talked about her research, and how research works, and why it doesn't always work as you'd like it to do, and the YA SF she's been reading for a planned paper, and what's wrong with it - a rambling and entertaining tour d'horizon; and Charlie Stross, who outlined some of his books, and why he isn't going to be writing any near-future SF until the near-future (or even the present) settles down a bit, and read a chunk from a recent - or possibly an imminent - book (this is SF, and it isn't always easy to tell). Brutal humour and very funny. The Con was small enough that it was possible to hang out with the guests over lunch, which is always a pleasure, and I enjoyed meeting Charlie, and was sorry to see that he has completely removed himself from LJ. I stayed for the first session of the afternoon, a panel discussion (same speakers) talking about diversity in SF, but wandering on and off topic, talking about books. What could be nicer than listening to people who love books talking about them? (Well, maybe a bookstall...)

I didn't stay for the panel games and the pub quiz, but came home, where eventually Farah joined us, so we had a morning's worth of catch-up, and A. joined us for lunch and that's always good. We made a big effort and cleared the dining table, so that we could lunch there, which is progress towards reinstaing the house, though the excitement was too much for the table, which is having a lie-down and may need some gentle therapy before it's ready to resume its duties. But it was worth it.
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