liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently acquired:
  • Can neuroscience change our minds? by Hilary and Steven Rose. Steven Rose was a big influence on getting me into bioscience, so I excited to learn that he's written a new book about debunking neurobollocks, a subject close to my heart. And that he's written it in collaboration with his wife, a sociologist of science.

  • Three non-fiction books to give as belated bar mitzvah presents: I went with A history of God by Karen Armstrong, 1491 by Charles Mann, and The undercover economist by Tim Harford in the end. I reckon that gives a reasonable spread of perspectives, periods and cultures to get a curious teenager started.

  • A whole bunch of mostly novels for a not-very-sekrit plot.

Recently read:
  • This is a letter to my son by KJ Kabza, as recommended, and edited by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks. It's a near-future story about a trans girl, which has minimal overt transphobia but quite a lot of cis people being clueless, and also it's about parent death among other themes.

  • Why Lemonade is for Black women by Dominique Matti, via [personal profile] sonia. Very powerful essay about intersectionality between gender and race. I've not actually seen Lemonade yet, because everything I've read about it suggests it's a large, complex work of art which I need to set aside time to concentrate on, I can't just listen to the songs in the background. And I'm a bit intimidated by the medium of a "visual album".
Currently reading: A Journey to the end of the Millennium by AB Yehoshua. Not much progress.

Up next: I am thinking to pick up How to be both by Ali Smith, which has been on my to-read pile for a while. We'll see.

Full

Mar. 21st, 2017 09:48 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
So this weekend I went to two synagogue services (in two different cities) and one church service, and I had a quiet going out for lunch and talking date with [personal profile] cjwatson and a bouncy metal gig date with Ghoti. And went to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast and just about managed to squeeze in a little bit of time talking to [personal profile] jack. Um, it is hypothetically possible that I may have over-scheduled myself a bit.

I had fun, though )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
So my two former bar mitzvah students want to carry on with Hebrew now they've both completed their ceremonies. They've said they'd like to do a bit more conversational modern Hebrew as well as just practising prayerbook reading. Does anyone have any recommendations for textbooks?

The boys are 13 and 15, both reasonably academically able and reasonably committed. They can read fairly fluently, but have very little vocab or grammar at the moment. They're also extremely busy and probably won't have huge amounts of time for practice in between their fortnightly lessons. My options at the moment are:
The textbook recommended by the GCSE exam board. I'd generally like the boys to be thinking about GCSE sort of level, not that they hugely have to pass exams but as a streching, but attainable, target. The problem is that the book looks incredibly dated and dull and I don't feel inspired to teach from it!

Or Routledge Introductory Course in Modern Hebrew. I think this is basically aimed at beginners, but beginners who are university students or otherwise quite advanced in general language skills. It's really quite heavy on grammar, and might be overkill for a couple of years of informal lessons for teenagers.

I can't find anything I like better than these two options. I don't want a course that is primarily audio for self-learning, because I'm going to be there teaching and keeping up reading fluency is a big priority. And I don't want just a vocab list or beginners' dictionary. The younger boy suggested using a tourist phrasebook, which might work but ideally I'd like something more like a textbook and less like lists of phrases to rote learn.

Secondly, I still have not succeeded in giving the younger lad his bar mitzvah present, because everything I could think of is out of print and not for sale for reasonable money. I would like to give him a good work of popular non-fiction, something enjoyable to read but also informative. He's quite interested in politics and world affairs, which is a subject I know little about. And he's pretty bright but not especially precocious, I think he'd get more out of something accessible or even aimed at teenagers, than something hardcore academic.

I'm thinking something about the level of Jared Diamond's Guns, germs and steel, except not that because I'm now aware that Diamond not only plays fast and loose with scholarly accuracy, he conducted some rather unethical ethnographic research and published identifying stories about his subjects without their permission. And I have in mind that there used to be a journalist who did short programmes on Radio 4 about US politics and culture, and that he died a few years ago (?) and that prior to that he had written a book of anecdotes that this young man might enjoy, but that's not enough information to shake his name out of Google, does anyone have any clue whom I'm talking about?

So. Anyone who's taught conversational Hebrew, any recs? And in a less specialist query, what's the most interesting popular non-fiction book you've read lately?

Interfaith

Mar. 13th, 2017 09:30 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I think of myself very much as someone who does interfaith, but I haven't really had any opportunities for it for ages. And then two came along at once:

yay connections )

So basically I'm full of enthusiasm and really energized by getting a chance to do interfaith again. And I've been babbling at my partners about stuff that they're not very familiar with, so hopefully this post is a bit more coherent.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired: A second hand book stall appeared right in between my flat and work, and it ambushed me and somehow I ended up with Downbelow Station by CJ Cherryh and Tales of Nevèrÿon Samuel R Delany.

Recently read: In honour of International Women's Day:
The reality of women by Karen Pollock. The article addresses, in order to refute, the idea that trans women aren't real women, lesbians aren't real women, etc. Very erudite piece, and I've always wanted to quote impeccable feminist foremother de Beauvoir's On ne naît pas femme : on le devient at people who somehow think it's "feminist" to make a distinction between women-born-women (ie cis women) and trans women.

Even more internationally speaking, here's Sumita Mukherjee on the rhetorical use of *That* Indian Suffragettes photo.

In reference to the Nation of Internet, [personal profile] siderea makes a very interesting case that moderation is a feminist issue.

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the Millennium by AB Yehoshua. I kind of wish I'd finished it before IWD because it's really quite phallocentric in addition to being written by a male author.

Up next: Not sure. Recommend me something by an author known to be female? Any length, and I'll try to suggest a similar work in return. (International Nonbinary Day is July 17th and International Men's Day is November 19th so if I remember I shall try the same again for those genders on their respective days.)
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Reasons for watching it: As soon as I started seeing this talked about on the internet, I knew I had to see it. What a brilliant idea to make a film about the African-American women involved in the technical aspects of the US developing manned space flight!

Circumstances of watching it: I wasn't at all sure I was going to find time to go to the cinema while this was on, and indeed the first date I set aside to see it turned out to be before it was showing locally. And then [livejournal.com profile] ghoti suggested taking Judith, who is really into space exploration and all things astronomy. I had thought the film would probably be too talky and generally not interesting to a child, but lots of Ghoti's friends said similar aged children had enjoyed it. And she also managed to squeeze some time when we could go to a matinée together the last weekend it was in cinemas, yay.

Verdict: Hidden figures tells a great story really well.

detailed review )

Marriage

Mar. 1st, 2017 10:22 pm
liv: Detail of quirky animals including a sheep, from an illuminated border (marriage)
Five years ago, I married [personal profile] jack. At the time I'd never had a relationship lasting as much as five years, and now we are nine. Back in 2010, I spent a lot of time considering whether getting married to [personal profile] jack was really the right decision, but looking back I couldn't be more pleased with how it has turned out.

Also, a friend recently asked me for advice about marriage, from my perspective as a happily married person. I don't think I'm at all qualified to comment, because really five years together seems like a really short time. It's about 10% of the marriage I'm hoping for, and probably the easiest tenth, too. But anyway, it's a fun topic so I shall put some scattered thoughts here.

rambling about marriage and relationships )

So in the end, the advice that I gave to my friend was that a good marriage is partly a matter of luck, and partly a matter of picking the right person. But it's only partly luck; the people actually involved in the marriage have some control over whether the relationship is happy or not. I don't necessarily count time-limited relationships as failures, but if what a person wants is a forever relationship, then it's important to think about what may help towards that. And I don't know if I will get that myself, but the first five years have been really good and I'm looking forward to lots and lots more.
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read: A couple of cute things:
Ghetto Swirl by Terry Blas. A lovely comic about a nerdy, Mexican, gay, Mormon and some street kids.

In which a New Type of Dragon is revealed by [personal profile] hatam_soferet

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the millennium by AB Yehoshua. Still a bit slow, still a bit sexist, but compelling in spite of that.

Up next: I am not sure, I have a lot of things vaguely on my to-read pile, but it'll probably take me a while to finish the Yehoshua.

Social

Feb. 20th, 2017 07:40 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
I've had a good month for seeing friends I don't spend time with often enough. I managed long phone chats with [personal profile] hatam_soferet and [personal profile] lethargic_man, and [personal profile] jack and I managed to get most of a weekend with [personal profile] doseybat and her mother and [personal profile] pplfichi, and the wonderful [personal profile] angelofthenorth came to stay with me for a few days.

I feel really really blessed by having such wonderful friends, especially when they reach out to me when I'm doing badly at keeping in touch. And several other people have got in touch too and I really do want to get back to them to make plans. And I'm not doing at all well at posting or commenting here (though I'm still reading, definitely, I haven't missed a day.)

slightly angsty )

Anyway, the only way to restart the habit of posting here is to just go ahead and do so. Have a meme which [livejournal.com profile] ghoti sensibly imported from FB: suggest a category and I'll tell you my top five things in that category. Feel free to propagate it if you think it would be a fun thing to do in your own journal.
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
Reasons for watching it: Kinky Boots is just the sort of film I like, with a drag queen helping to save a struggling family business in a narrow-minded small town.

Circumstances of watching it: [personal profile] jack was able to come and stay with me for a few days, which meant that for once we had time to settled down with a DVD in the evening.

Verdict: Kinky Boots has a lot of heart but didn't quite work for me.

detailed review )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently acquired: Psychohistorical crisis by Donald Kingsbury, a present from [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel which appears to be Asimov fanfic, I'm quite looking forward to it.

Recently read: Dipping my toe into Yuletide stuff, thanks to people who wrote things and mentioned them where I would notice.

I have a couple of kinky erotic pieces to recommend:
Promotion by [personal profile] silveradept. This is something I wouldn't have expected to work, namely fic about the game of chess. The author warns for dubious consent and violent death, but it's not very realistic, it's about sentient chess pieces. I personally found the erotic elements really vivid and definitely hot, and the disturbing elements quite glossed over.

Lovely in her fall by [archiveofourown.org profile] edonohana / [personal profile] rachelmanija. This is fanfic of the setting of Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel books, but it's only about the setting and not the plot; there are no spoilers and you don't need to know the originals. The setting being pseudo-Mediaeval France, with a fantasy religion based around paid sex work, with different Houses offering different styles. The published books are about a divinely-inspired masochist so are very focused on S&M, whereas [archiveofourown.org profile] edonohana has chosen to write about all the other kinks that are not to do with pain. The piece is a very nice example of characterization via a series of sex scenes, and I think sheds some light on how the sexual / religious institutions portrayed in Kushiel might actually work; Carey's world-building can be somewhat thin. As well as paid-for, kinky sex, this story includes references to death, but that doesn't happen on stage.

Currently reading: In theory, A journey to the end of the millennium by AB Yehoshua, but I'm still not really making headway with that.

Up next: [personal profile] doseybat's mother recommended me My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante; I generally trust the Batmother's recs, and she said that the books were really engaging even if not amazingly well written, plus I like books about deep friendships.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
I sent the following email to Jeremy Corbyn, asking him to give his MPs a free vote on Article 50. I used email rather than a written letter because Corbyn's office make it clear that they do not accept letters (or phonecalls) from people who are not part of Corbyn's constituency.

email, contains Brexit and other politics ) Meanwhile my Dad is doing a really sterling letter-writing campaign about the horror show that is the Home Office mining NHS patient records in order to identify people they want to deport. (Never illegals, no human being is illegal.)

My gratitude goes out to everybody who's doing any kind of activism against all the scary political trends going on right now. I'm not contributing much myself, cos I'm mostly vacillating between terror and fatalistic despair. I'm hoping that getting started on doing something, however nominal, will help me to break out of that.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Katy by Jacqueline Wilson. (c)Jacqueline Wilson 2015, Pub Puffin Books 2016, ISBN 978-0-141-35398-2.

This book. This booooooook! [livejournal.com profile] ghoti found it and gave it to me for chanukah, and it is the most wonderful thing. I love Jacqueline Wilson, and I love Coolidge's What Katy Did in spite of it being problematic in that uniquely 19th century way. And it's a book about a protagonist who suffers a spinal cord injury which is not awful.

detailed review, spoils the main plot twist of both the old and the new books )

So yes, Katy is awesome, and if you don't absolutely hate the whole YA genre you should definitely read it.

Currently reading: Theoretically A journey to the end of the millennium by AB Yehoshua, but I'm stalled on it to the extent that I read a whole other book in the middle, so we'll see. I know lots of people read several books at once but it's fairly unusual for me.

Up next: Not sure, I've been given a lot of awesome presents recently and haven't got round to reading them all. I've seen a few very enticing reviews of An interior life by Katherine Blake, which [livejournal.com profile] rysmiel gave me a while back and it's not got to the top of my reading pile.
liv: Cartoon of a smiling woman with a long plait, teaching about p53 (teacher)
Thank you all so much for all the supportive comments on my post with squee about the awesome bar mitzvah. I feel really loved!

In another instance of my students being brilliant, I ran a session recently to introduce the first year medics to the concept of public health. We ended with an exercise which I found rather fun, so I thought I'd offer it to you to play:

A philanthropist is offering a grant of £250,000 to someone who can propose a way to improve the situation in a deprived housing estate. Population ~10K, annual healthcare spend roughly £100 million. The philanthropist wants to see improvements on a 30 year timescale, and wants the actual inhabitants to be involved in the project in a community building sort of way. What would you do?

what the students thought of - you might want to have a go without reading this )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Soon after I came to Stoke, there was a boy of 8 or 9 who got really really enthusiastic about Judaism. He dragged his not terribly religious father to shul regularly, and wanted to join his friend, two years older, for Hebrew lessons. So I taught the two of them together, and the older of the two celebrated his bar mitzvah in due course. They've always had a really great friendship and partnership, in spite of what might have been an awkward age gap, and I was really pleased that the bar mitzvah boy was entirely keen to carry on with Hebrew lessons once he'd finished the bar mitzvah.

Younger lad wanted to have a bar mitzvah in his turn. And there were lots of reasons why this might not have worked out but he was so keen, and had really obviously thought through all the ramifications, so we agreed that we should start preparing a Torah portion. So for about a year we've being alternating one-on-one bar mitzvah tuition with joint lessons for the two lads, focusing more on general language skills.

contains religion and tangential mentions of the Holocaust )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Apart from Arrival, I managed to find a bit more time over Christmas than usual to watch shows.

brief reviews, including very broad general spoilers for _Rogue One_ )

Also, Ghoti suggested that if she'd dragged me into watching Christmas movies, she should reciprocate by watching a chanukah movie with me. Which is a really sweet thought, but I'm not sure if there's such a thing as a chanukah movie! Does anyone have any suggestions? I mean, that whole New York Jewish custom of eating Chinese food and watching a movie on Christmas Day, is there any particular film that's traditional? Or failing that, perhaps a Jewish themed film (I thought of Yentl or maybe the film of Potok's The Chosen, which I haven't seen), or one that's about identity and resistance to assimilation and rebelling against an oppressive régime. Preferably not Holocaust-related, that really doesn't seem a suitable topic for a date movie. It did occur to me that Rogue One could be considered a pretty suitable thing to watch during chanukah, since it's about a miraculous victory for a no-hope strike against an oppressive empire...
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Recently read: I'm really impressed at people who were getting Yuletide recs out within a few days of the event!

fanfic and politics )

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the Millennium, by AB Yehoshua. I'm enjoying this, but with some caveats. It's subtitled A novel of the Middle Ages, but in many ways it's quite aggressively modern, and I think that is probably deliberate, but it's not the immersion in a different culture that I look for in historical novels.

I really like that it breaks the Eurocentric perspective of much of modern writing about the Middle Ages, it treats white Christians as this peculiar tribe eking out an existence in the barbarian lands of northern Europe, with the Jewish and Muslim viewpoint characters as the sophisticated travellers visiting these primitive lands and trying to avoid rousing the superstitious natives to violence. And within that, the plot about an African Jew who's completely bemused by this bizarre new German concept that marriage is supposed to be between one man and one woman. But the sexism and racism are twentieth century sexism and racism, projected back onto Ye Olden Dayes. The major female characters are nameless, just "The First Wife" and "The Second Wife," and the novel opens with a long and mostly pointless scene about the protag psyching himself up to satisfy both his wives in a single night. That's not, gender roles were different in the 10th century, that's exactly reproducing all the other litfic ever about middle-aged men angsting / fantasizing about their virility. Likewise the only Black character (though most of the main characters are not exactly white) is "the black slave" and seems to be very stereotyped, and again, it's modern racially essentialist stereotypes, nothing that feels authentically period.

I'm finding de Lange's translation a bit awkward. In some ways it's quite successful at conveying the feel of reading Hebrew, full of allusions to the scriptural language which is at the root of modern Ivrit, and it's poetic as I imagine Yehoshua's writing must be. But it's also quite intrusive, I don't want to be constantly feeling that I'm reading a translation. Never clunky, it's not over-literal to the point of being completely unidiomatic, but it's just distancing.

Up next: Surely Katy by Jacqueline Wilson, because I have been unknowingly waiting for this book for most of 30 years.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
So something is sending vast quantities of spam from my email address. Does anyone have any advice?

details )

Coincide

Jan. 6th, 2017 06:52 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
So this year chanukah started on Christmas Eve. babble )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently acquired: I did very well for books as presents for chanukah and Christmas and my birthday.

  • [personal profile] cjwatson gave me Meetings with remarkable manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel, because apparently my boyfriend pays attention to what sorts of things make me happy.
  • [personal profile] rmc28 gave me Rachel Manija Brown's ([personal profile] rachelmanija) memoir All the fishes come home to roost, plus Island below the star by James Rumford, a really gorgeous children's book about the discovery of Hawaii (since we've both been excited about Moana lately).
  • [livejournal.com profile] ghoti gave me Katy by Jacqueline Wilson, which is contemporary AU fixit fic for What Katy Did. I am unbelievably excited that this book exists!
  • [livejournal.com profile] ghoti also managed to find me Happy Hanukkah, Curious George by Emily Flaschner Meyer. Judith did an excellent job of reading the verses aloud to me on the first night of the festival – turns out that The Man with the Yellow Hat is Jewish.
  • I usually end up defaulting to books as Christmas presents, but this time I tried to be a bit more creative. I did get The Usborne Creative Writing Book by Louie Stowell for Judith, because I was impressed at how broad a scope it has, it's not just about how to write novel-like fiction stories, but includes journalism and blogging and script writing and is generally up to the high standard I remember from Usborne books when I was a kid.
  • I bought SPQR by Mary Beard for [livejournal.com profile] fivemack, but fortunately-unfortunately he's already read it, so I may have purloined the copy for myself.
  • I also bought a copy of one of my favourite books for [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, for [livejournal.com profile] ghoti's bookswap (which she fixed to be a straight exchange instead of a pyramid scheme.) Exactly which one I picked remains a secret until it arrives :-)


Recently read: The invisible library by Genevieve Cogman. (c) Genevieve Cogman 2015, Pub Tor 2015, ISBN 978-1-4472-5623-6. It's a fun and satisfying urban fantasy.

detailed review )

Currently reading: A journey to the end of the Millennium by AB Yehoshua. Found this in Camden market and couldn't quite resist it. It's written in 1999 and set in 999, which is perhaps a bit obvious, but I am enjoying Yehoshua's choice of a viewpoint character who is an African, polygamous Jewish merchant travelling to the backwaters of Northern Europe.

Up next: I am desperate to read Katy and I might well start it before I finish the Yehoshua, which is lush and poetic and slow.

(Have plenty to post about, since I've been almost non-stop busy since about 23rd December, plus I want to look back on 2016 and forward to the new year, but let's start up posting again with a Reading Wednesday.)

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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