liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
I spent some of the weekend at [personal profile] emperor's readthrough of Joss Whedon's Firefly. I'll write about the social experience behind the cut, and while I'm giving you the choice whether to read about the event, I'll also make some comments about the portrayal of sex workers in the series, and mention potential small spoilers.

mostly the good kind of drama )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read:
  • A couple of striking pieces on people talking about their experiences of living in their bodies:
  • A thorough and informative long read about my brother's poetry book and the political background: Poets Of The Rifle: Cultural Resistance From Saharawi Refugee Camps, by Jen Calleja.

  • [personal profile] commodorified's thinky essay and discussion about how fandom talks about writing about rape. I've been meaning to link to this for ages, it's very complex and nuanced and I don't think I can really summarize it, but if you're at all interested in fandom culture and communities of trauma survivors more broadly it's well worth reading (if you can cope with a meta discussion about rape and trauma, of course).
Currently reading: The first fifteen lives of Harry August, by Claire North. I'm actually most of the way through, I'll probably finish it next time I have half an hour to spare. It's... ok, there's nothing obviously terrible about it, but it just doesn't give me any sense of wanting to read on to find out what happens next. It should be exciting, because it's all about Harry's arch-enemy trying to alter the timeline so that Harry never exists, risking destroying the whole world in the process, so there's plenty of both personal and global peril, but for some reason I'm not emotionally engaged with the plot.

It feels like much of the book is North exploring a cool idea, that rare people are "Ouroborans" who when they die return to their own births with their memories of their lives, now in the relative future, intact. But she never really moves on beyond exploring the implications of this cool idea, tFFLoHA just doesn't quite hang together as a story. I think a lot of my problem is that I don't like Harry August as a character, he's very self-centred and just annoying, and that's preventing me from engaging with the plot.

Up next: Next on my Bringing up Burns challenge list is A book by an author you love. So maybe it's time to read the third in Chris Moriarty's Spin cycle, Ghost spin. Or perhaps The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, which I was really excited about a while back but then didn't read because Brasyl really disappointed me.

Also I'm thinking of reading Das Kapital by Karl Marx, along with a friend who is looking to fill a gap. I love the idea of reading seminal texts collaboratively, but it's possible that this may be a bad idea as said friend is quite a bit to the left of me politically, which might make me an annoying reading partner. And if I do pick up a big scary political tome I will probably read a novel at the same time.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
  1. It's the first day of Succot. Yesterday several people from the community built a succah which is neither properly kosher nor structurally sound, but we had a lot of fun looking for branches and building our den in the sunshine. And I led an erev Succot service, which was cosy and homey and just the right emotional contrast to Yom Kippur. And yes, I still have the Eighth Day and Simchat Torah next week, but I feel like I've successfully done the hardest part of the major festival season.

  2. It's also the first day of the academic year. Campus is full and lively again and I don't start teaching til tomorrow. I have some trepidation about the coming term but I'm also really looking forward to the change of rhythm and to active teaching again.

  3. This is absolutely my favourite time of year, when the weather is often crisp and clear and the leaves are starting to turn and the air smells of fresh starts.

  4. I saw the super-blood moon eclipse! I hadn't intended to get up at 3 am to see it, but I just happened to wake up and I remembered that it was eclipse night, so I threw on some clothes and went outside, and there it was. It was a really clear night, the kind you never get when there's exciting celestial stuff you want to observe, and the moon was full and really did look red, and I saw just the sliver of it reappearing from shadow.

  5. Because of the start of Succot, I had a very truncated weekend in Cambridge. But I did get to spend a morning chatting to [ profile] ghoti. And I went to the most amazing concert on Saturday night, with [personal profile] cjwatson. De Profundis are a very good all-male choir who do historically authentic Renaissance music, and they were singing sacred music from St Mark's Basilica in Venice, in Trinity chapel. I know about De Profundis cos [ profile] megamole is one of their singers, but I would have definitely wanted to go to that concert even without that personal connection.

    I don't quite have the vocabulary to talk about what was exciting about the concert, but it was extremely memorable. Partly just I love choral music and I love Early (ie pre-Bach) music, and partly it was very good musicians in an aesthetically and acoustically excellent venue. The specific thing I'm excited about was something to do with the way it was specifically polyphony rather than the melody and harmony I'm more used to in Classical-influenced music. I felt completely submerged in sound and sensory experience, and at the same time completely intellectually engaged by the fascinating complexity. I really wished there was a recording available so I could listen hundreds of times and pick up all the nuance, but it was pretty stunning as a live concert.

    ETA: [ profile] megamole linked me to a different group performing one of the pieces from the concert, which gives you some idea.
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
So, practical advice sought:

A] Does anyone have any experience of making voice recordings? Podfics or reading poetry aloud to share digitally, that kind of thing? It doesn't need to be professional level or even close, but it needs to be good enough quality that the words can be heard relatively clearly. Ideally I don't want to buy a lot of equipment or spend hours doing audio processing, but I'm not sure what the minimum set-up is to achieve this. I mean, my computer has a reasonable basic mic which is good enough for things like voice calls. And I know a lot of my students use their smartphones to record tutorials and so on, and apparently that's good enough to be a revision aid. So I imagine this should be possible without major investment, but I don't know where to start.

Software recommendations especially appreciated! My desktop is Windows and my phone is Android, and my netbook is going to be Linux eventually but that's a topic for another day.

B] I'm in the process of buying a bike. I've talked to Colin at University Cycles, and he's super helpful and has offered to lend us a couple of bikes at the weekend so I can try them out. What should I be looking out for when I try the bikes? What questions should I be asking? Also, what equipment do I need? I'm thinking lights obviously, panniers, and a lock, presumably a D-lock. Anything else?

I don't expect to become a serious cyclist any time soon. I'm intending to use the bike just to potter about Cambridge, so if I can go slightly faster and with slightly less effort than walking, that's about all I'm after. One of the suggestions Colin made was a Dutch bike, which he said was solidly built and easy to maintain; definitely those features are more important to me than speed or being fantastically light or suitability for difficult off-road trails. I'm approximately convinced by the argument that cycle helmets aren't a good trade-off.

I'm not quite sure how best to judge the price point for a new bike. I would rather buy a second-hand, good quality bike than a cheap rubbish new one, but I'm not sure how much of a premium there actually is on new bikes; I suspect most people feel like me. And I'm certainly willing to pay a bit more upfront for a bike that is easy and pleasant for me to use. But equally, if it does happen that the bike becomes my major means of transport or I get excited about long distance rides, I can always sell my starter bike and buy something more specialist; I don't want to buy a very fancy vehicle off the bat though.

I'm probably not going to be a very self-sufficient sort of bike owner; I'll most likely take the bike to the shop for anything more complicated than a puncture. I do appreciate that there's no such thing as a magic, entropy-violating machine that keeps going forever with no effort, I just don't want to make bike maintenance my major hobby.

I know there was something else too, but it's gone out of my mind. Anyway, please express opinions!


Sep. 24th, 2015 12:11 pm
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
I wasn't visibly bisexual on the internet yesterday, and I didn't read any novels or tell the internet about them because it was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. So I was in synagogue all day, or more precisely, I was in the pulpit all day, and that is too much, one person should never do the whole of Yom Kippur single-handed, but anyway, I did it, and I still just about had a voice and the ability to stand by the end.

I've done that thing where I get out of the habit of posting, and I feel like I have to start again with something significant, indeed I have a couple of long thinky posts half composed in my head. But that always ends up just blocking me; it'll probably happen that something else will catch my attention and I'll never get round to posting the thinky stuff that's been in my mind lately.

I know I'm not the only one in this situation, so let me take the opportunity to start up a game that worked well in the past:
When you see this post, feel encouraged to post something in your journal. Short or long, trivial or profound, it doesn't matter, just something. And if you like, you can pass on the token by copying this notice at the bottom of your post.
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
I spent last week sorting out a lot of bureaucracy around grad student transitions as the academic year turns, and after masses of pushing and arguing suddenly everything fell into place and my institute decided to help me and my little group instead of obstructing us. For example, having spent months arguing over whether they owe me £1800 they suddenly went, oops, our mistake, we actually owe you slightly over £5K. (Not my personal money, research funding.) I hate to sound ungrateful but the money would have been a lot more use a year ago when we couldn't do the research we wanted to because we didn't have the money, but coming now it does feel like a nice windfall.

Further, a slight mixup meant that I am officially on vacation this week. So I went off to celebrate the new year on a high, looking forward to a few days' break, albeit with the hard work of leading the Rosh haShana service in the middle.

some religion, some relaxing, brief comments on _Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell_ eps 3 and 4 )

Anyway, all good wishes for the coming year to anyone for whom it's relevant.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (c) 2006 Liu Cixin, translated Ken Liu, translation (c) China Education Publications Import & Export Corp Ltd 2014, Pub Head of Zeus 2014, ISBN 978-1-784-97154-0.

detailed review )

Life update

Sep. 8th, 2015 12:56 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
As I mentioned in a footnote to a reading post, I've had a really great but also really intense few weeks. Let me put a bit more detail here, partly cos I want to record some of the fun exciting things I've been doing.

diary, bit of angst )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
So [ profile] gwyddno wanted to get [personal profile] angelofthenorth tickets to a show for her birthday, but hates musicals, so he had the brainwave of inviting me to go with her instead (cos it's hardly fun going to a show on your own). And we ended up seeing the musical of Legally blonde at Swansea Grand Theatre, which was an excellent night out all round.

I was aware of the film version though I hadn't seen it. But generally I liked the concept of women's empowerment that actively rejects femme-phobia, and it seemed the kind of ridiculous plot that would be well suited to a musical. In fact it was a thoroughly excellent production, I believe it was put on by a theatre school but seemed really professional.

detailed review )

[personal profile] angelofthenorth found a dear little French restaurant right by the theatre, Bouchon de Rossi. They have a completely non-functional booking system involving leaving messages on an answering machine, but we managed to get a table anyway as we showed up very early on a weekday evening. Service was very good, food was pleasant but a little over-priced for what it was, and didn't really seem very French to me. Very, very nice Loire white, though, and excellently indulgent desserts.

Basically we had a completely glorious evening and left with that happy excited feeling you get from a really well done, light-hearted and dramatic show.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: The examined life: how we lose and find ourselves by Stephen Grosz. (c) Stephen Grosz 2013; Pub Random House Vintage 2014; ISBN 978-0-099-54903-1. This is a book of vignettes from Grosz' practice as a psychoanalyst, lent to me by [personal profile] angelofthenorth.

reviews, including glancing mentions of genocide )

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster, I've had loads of fun including a couple of long weekend breaks, and also quite a lot of stress both work and personal, and all that adds up to never getting time for DW. I feel a bit deprived that I'm only managing to talk about books here, I have lots of thoughts and lots of articles I want to link to and I miss all of you. But anyway, talking about books is a start.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: The Fresco by Sheri S Tepper. review has minor spoilers and some abortion politics )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read:
  • Lady of mazes by Karl Schroeder. (c) 2005 Karl Schroeder, Pub Tor 2006, ISBN 0-765-35078-5.

    long reviews with political commentary )

    OK, wrote this on the train yesterday, it's actually Thursday by the time I've got online to post it.
liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
I'm waiting for an email which is looming so large it blots out most other useful thought, so have a fairly mindless "British" meme. Via [personal profile] strangecharm, who is much wittier than I am, and everybody else.

50 questions about my relationship with some aspects of Brit culture )
liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
Several people commented to my emotional labour thoughts by bringing up the issue of unwanted emotional labour. People who kind of martyr themselves doing EL that they hate, when the person they're doing it for doesn't want it anyway.

some people are already exhausted by this discussion, so feel free to skip )


Aug. 9th, 2015 07:46 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Last weekend I spent Saturday at the beach with [ profile] ghoti and family, which was completely wonderful. I didn't realize it's relatively easy to get to the north coast of Norfolk by public transport; I want to do that more often! But we did proper traditional English beach things, building sandcastles and eating chips and icecream and paddling in the sea.

I had to run back to Stoke for a stone-setting on Sunday. Which was annoying travel-wise but it's important to be available for these things, and the community made a big effort to scrape together a minyan. And the good thing was that [personal profile] angelofthenorth was able to adjust her plans and come up Sunday evening instead of Monday, so I got more time with her, yay. Mostly spent being quiet and domestic, I managed to do a fair amount of working from home so we could just quietly share space while we got on with things. And [personal profile] angelofthenorth was a wonderful guest, she brought me food and made me tea and generally looked after me.

And in a continuation of the theme, [personal profile] cjwatson came up to visit for the weekend. When I moved out of my old house and into the tiny flat on campus I was expecting to give up hosting, but actually I have a few really dear friends who don't mind sharing a very cramped space, and quite a few have visited me since I moved.

Saturday I led a service at synagogue. I was quite pleased with it, I talked about the idea of reward and punishment – this week's Torah reading contains the middle bit of the Shema which says that good things will happen if you keep God's commandments and agricultural disasters if you don't. And I talked about the consolation reading from Isaiah and the idea of exile as punishment for sin, and how that squares with the expression of God's love and Covenant faithfulness in both the Torah reading and the Haftarah. And I was glad to be able to invite [personal profile] cjwatson to a full Torah service given he was curious after coming for Friday night a few weeks ago.

It was a gloriously sunny day, one of the warmest this year. We had lunch at Peaches, who have stopped doing their all-you-can-eat menu for Saturday lunchtimes but had a very sensible prix-fixe menu instead, including their exciting garlic mushrooms. And we went for a bit of a walk in the woods behind campus, enjoying the shade and the hot still air and almost nobody around on a summer weekend.

Today we got up late and didn't do much beyond going out for lunch at the lovely Hand and trumpet country pub. Food was not as good as I've sometimes had there, but that's a high bar, and it was still very good indeed.

Basically I have wonderful friends, and spending time with them makes me extremely happy. Being at home Sunday evening, since [personal profile] cjwatson took on all the travelling that I would normally be doing, I even had time to call my parents, which I haven't done in too long.
liv: oil painting of seated nude with her back to the viewer (body)
Reason for watching it Several people, notably [personal profile] khalinche, had mentioned to me the existence of an arty Hungarian film about lesbian kink, and I was definitely intrigued by the concept.

Circumstances of watching it [personal profile] angelofthenorth had seen it in the cinema and wanted me to see it as well. We live in the future so we could buy and download the film from the internet and that was our evening's entertainment with basically no effort.

Verdict The Duke of Burgundy is a thoughtful character piece, and visually pretty.

review plus some personal thoughts related to kink )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read

Currently reading: Lady of mazes by Karl Schroeder. I'm enjoying it really a lot. It's sort of doing that slightly clichéd thing of whether it's better to have safety or freedom, but it's also got some really interesting world-building exploring post-human civilizations, with some very nice characterization and plenty of exciting plot.

Up next: I don't know. I think I should maybe stop answering this question as I'm pretty rarely right about what I'll pick up next; I often don't decide until I find out where I physically am and what's available when I finish what I'm currently reading. I'm thinking of trying out the Your Blue-eyed Boys Captain America fanfic that people have been raving about, even though I'm not terribly into the canon; does anyone have a reading guide?
liv: Composite image of Han Solo and Princess Leia, labelled Hen Solo (gender)
I really like seeing everybody's responses to the emotional labour thread. And I've been having a few good conversations about it IRL too. I like the fact that some people have found it a revelation, some have found it confirms or gives a name to stuff they already knew, and some people have found it unsurprising or irrelevant to their lives. Having found the initial article, well written but not terribly novel, I've been reading responses and thinking it over, and now I think perhaps I do have some opinions on the topic after all.

navel-gazing )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read
  • The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey. read more )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Which is the kind of thing I not only don't do, but never have done. Only [ profile] ghoti wanted me to go to a Blue Öyster Cult gig with her and although they claim they're always on tour they are not so very young any more and their only UK gig was Ramblin' Man Fair. So we decided to attend the fair, and in fact had a great time.

not very successfully pretending to be cool )

So yes, I'm really too boring for rock festivals, but it was fun to pretend for a few days that I'm the kind of person who travels across country and sleeps in a tent (albeit a posh tent) and stands around in muddy fields in the rain to hear bands I like.


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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