liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
A song that you never get tired of. I am kind of over-thinking this one, because there are a few songs I have definitely liked for 20 years or so. Once I've been listening to a song for ages, rather than getting tired of it, I'm more likely to feel warm towards it because it's so much part of my life. At the same time, there are a few songs I've got into more recently, which I expect to always love, but I can't be sure that I won't ever get tired of them.

So I think the best candidates are:
  • Teardrop by Massive Attack
  • Nothing else matters by Metallica
  • Concrete by Thea Gilmore
Of those, the Metallica is probably the most musically interesting, so I'm going to go for that as the one I'm most likely never to get tired of. Also Concrete doesn't appear to be on YouTube, so I've linked to the Last.fm page which may or may not let you listen to the track via Spotify.

video embed )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer. I borrowed [personal profile] jack's copy to read this for the Hugos. It's thinky and original, but also rather unpleasant.

detailed review )

Currently reading: All the birds in the sky by Charlie Jane Anders. Partly because it's Hugo nominated and partly cos several of my friends were enthusiastic about it. I'm a bit more than halfway through and finding it very readable and enjoyable. Patricia and Laurence are really well drawn as outcast characters and their interaction is great. It feels very Zeitgeisty, very carefully calculated to appeal to the current generation of geeks. The style is sort of magic realist, in that a bunch of completely weird fantasy-ish things happen and nobody much remarks on them. I find that sort of approach to magic a bit difficult to get on with, because it appears completely arbitrary what is possible and what isn't, so the plot seems a bit shapeless.

Up next: I'm a bit minded to pick up Dzur by Steven Brust, because I was enjoying the series but very slowly, and it's been really quite a few years since I made progress with it.
liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
A song that makes you sad. It's hard to find anything sadder than one of my friends who posted a video of a scratch orchestra playing the European anthem Ode to Joy the day after the UK voted to leave the EU. But the song most likely to make me cry, personally, is the aria Voi che sapete from Mozart's The marriage of Figaro.

break-up sadness, plus video )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
Day 9 of the (in my case very slow-running) music meme asks for a song that makes you happy. And I have quite a lot of those, making me happy is a big reason I have a music collection at all. I think I'm going to go for Complex person by The Pretenders. The lyrics are not all that cheerful in some ways, but I love the bouncy tune and I always hear this as a song about determination and not letting things get you down.

video embed, actually audio only )

Also I've had a good week for playing games: mostly list with short comments )
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
Recently two special interest groups I'm second degree connected to have been involved in scandals around religious attitudes to homosexuality.

The leader of a tiny UK political party, the Liberal Democrats, resigned because
To be a political leader - especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 - and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching, has felt impossible for me.
And a tiny UK Jewish denomination, Orthodox-aligned Sephardim, are up in arms because R' Joseph Dweck taught something about homosexuality in Rabbinic sources and commented
I genuinely believe that the entire revolution of…homosexuality…I don’t think it is stable and well…but I think the revolution is a fantastic development for humanity.


This stuff is minor on the scale of things, but the media love the narrative of gay rights versus religious traditionalism. Anyway lots of my friends are religious Jews or Christians who are also gay or supportive of gay people and other gender and sexual minorities. So lots of my circle are exercised about one or both of the incidents.

opinions )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Not reading much or posting much at the moment because [personal profile] cjwatson is visiting and I'm mainly paying attention to him. I'll update here later in the week, probably.

Currently reading: Nearly finished: Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer. I'm really enjoying the resolution of the political intrigue plot, but I'm a bit annoyed by the sophomoric speculation on the philosophical implications of sadism.

Up next: All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders.


Music meme day 8 of 30

A song about drugs or alcohol

Two from opposite ends of the spectrum: my ex-gf used to sing me this ridiculously soppy song, Kisses sweeter than wine by Jimmie Rogers. Which is really only tangentially about alcohol but it's connected to happy memories for me. And I couldn't leave out the most explicitly druggy song in my collection, Heroin, she said by WOLFSHEIM.

two videos )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
A song to drive to. I don't drive, and most of the drivers I'm frequently a passenger with don't listen to music while they're driving, or just listen to the radio rather than deliberately chosen stuff. What I most associate with driving is that when we were children we used to go on long drives to go on holiday, usually to Wales, sometimes to the north of France by ferry, and that was the only time we were allowed music in the car. We only had a few tapes, so what I most associate with driving is several Flanders and Swann albums. Probably my favourite is Misalliance: video embed, actually audio only )
Particularly because it manages to find some really brilliant rhymes for honeysuckle: We'd better start saving - many a mickle mak's a muckle / and run away for a honeymoon, and hope that our luck'll / take a turn for the better, said the bindweed to the honeysuckle.

Also because it works as a straight love story about anthromorphized plants, and also as a joke about political polarization which feels surprisingly current for a song written in the 1950s: Deprived of that freedom for which we must fight / to veer to the left or to veer to the right. A lot of F&S stuff has been thoroughly suck-fairied, because a key part of their humour is about men hilariously tricking women into surprise!sex, but I always liked the stuff that was dated because it referred to celebrities from well before I was born, because my Dad would carefully explain the obscure references to us.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Some interesting bits and bobs about gender and sexuality:
  • Me and my penis by Laura Dodsworth and Simon Hattenstone. It's mostly an interview and excerpts from a book where Dodsworth photographed 100 men. In each photo, you see penis and testicles, belly, hands and thighs [...] then [I] spent 30 to 60 minutes interviewing them. The article is illustrated with photos from the book so it's not very SFW. Honestly the penis thing is a bit of a gimmick, I'm mostly interested in people talking about some everyday aspect of their lives, and of course the Guardian article has picked some of the most dramatic subjects, an elderly man, a disabled man, a trans man etc.

  • [community profile] queerparenting linked me to Inside the struggle queer, Indigenous couples must overcome to start a family by Steph Wechsler. It's specifically about First Nations Canadians and the issues they face accessing assisted fertility services, and includes the quote Fertility is where eggs and sperm come together, and it’s embedded with heterosexist and heterocentric assumptions. Which reminded me of something a new colleague pointed out regarding teaching medical students about human reproduction (for various reasons I ended up in charge of that bit of the course):

  • The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles, by Emily Martin. This is apparently a classic of medical anthropology, and it's really old but a lot of what it says is still true, even in our cutting edge modern course which tries pretty hard to be non-sexist. Basically Martin points out how supposedly scientific discussion of the biology of reproduction is absolutely chock full of sexist assumptions, which apply even to gametes, let alone the humans who make the gametes and gestate the babies. Also really charmingly written and much more accessible than I'd expect from academic anthropology papers.

    The link I've given is a PDF hosted at Stanford, which I'm not entirely sure is compliant with how JSTOR wish their material to be used; if you are picky about things like that, you can read the article via JSTOR's online only system if you register with them.


Currently reading: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer. About halfway through, still enjoying it in many ways. It's definitely original and thought-provoking, but also continues to be somewhat annoying with the narrator rabbiting on about his opinions about gender and race, most of which are pretty uncool. I think it would be possible to have a main character with regressive views without constantly shoving his opinions in the reader's face. The other thing I'm struggling with a bit is that it's clearly a far-future book, with lots of tech that doesn't have any real science explanation, but there are also some elements of the book which are considered to be "magical" from the characters' point of view, and the distinction between two categories of impossible stuff seems arbitrary.

In spite of those quibbles I'm quite caught up in the plot and also really interested in the cultural world-building and generally enjoying the novel. Presently I rate it below Ninefox gambit but that is far from calling it bad.

Up next: Still thinking of All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders, if nothing else jumps out and grabs me before I get to the end of TLTL.
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
A song that makes you want to dance. I'm not much of a dancer, really. What gets me on the dancefloor is old skool goth stuff that I'm nostalgic about, stuff that's mostly beat rather than rhythm that makes me feel not self conscious if I just jump about and headbang in a not really coordinated way. Or I'll sometimes do folk dancing; most of the Scottish dance music I know is tunes rather than songs, though I have been known to dance Israeli folk stuff that more commonly has songs to go with it, eg Od lo ahavti dai ['I haven't loved enough yet'].

So I've picked a song that is quite bouncy and has lyrics which are about wanting to dance: Because it's not love (but it's still a feeling) by The Pipettes. I think it's [personal profile] blue_mai who got me into this band.

video embed )

I had a weekend full of extrovert delights, a day with [personal profile] jack and an evening with [personal profile] doseybat and [personal profile] pplfichi and an extra bonus [personal profile] ewt, when we talked and talked and were surprised to find it was after midnight. And had a long phonecall with my mother who's more of a morning person than most of my friends, and then [personal profile] cjwatson joined us for dim sum at my perennial favourite Joy King Lau, and lots lots lots more talking until it was time to go back to Keele.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
A song that needs to be played LOUD I considered being incredibly obvious and picking We will rock you by Queen, since that is one of my favourite LOUD songs, but let's go for something that's a bit more personal to me: Head like a hole by Nine Inch Nails.

I was listening to this really a lot when I was a student. At the time I wouldn't have said it was my favourite song, but it's really stuck with me through the decades in a way that lots of songs from a similar era haven't.

video embed )

Also, I voted. I didn't have any good options and I'm not sure I even had any non-terrible options, so I voted for a party that several people I love believe in. I feel that, in however much time I have left before the powers that be decide I have too many foreign friends, too many foreign ancestors, to be tolerated, I might as well use my vote to try to make at least some people happy.

UK politics )

Anyway, much love to all my friends who have been politically active, whether that's traditional boots on the ground campaigning or posting thoughtful analysis on social media, all the way up to actually standing for office in a few cases. And sorrowful solidarity to my friends who are already regarded as foreign in our "Hostile Environment". I wish I could have voted for a party that would actually support you rather than attacking you.

I don't suppose there's much point doing GOTV type postings here. I'm sure all my friends who are eligible to vote know as well as I do how the process works, and have either already voted or made a clear plan to do so, or perhaps made an in principle decision against voting.

In case it helps, here's details of why the Lib Dems probably won't form another Tory coalition, and here's my brother [twitter.com profile] angrysampoet's arguments why Corbyn probably won't just sit around being shitty and ineffectual this time. He was planning a series of essays and only completed the first three before election day, but anyway, he's putting a case for Corbyn that gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe voting isn't totally pointless.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: Oh my gosh, it's covered in Rule 30s by Stephen Wolfram. A rather sweet as well as informative blog post about the architecture of my new local station (still excited about having a local train station!) and how it's inspired by cellular automata.

Currently reading: Too like the lightning by Ada Palmer. I'm liking it so far; I think I largely disagree with the people who find it too slow and infodumpy, I'm really enjoying the worldbuilding as well as caring about the plot. And I'm really liking the juxtaposition of a miracle-working child with global politics and an intriguing heist arc.

But I agree with the people who have complained that it misses the mark with what it's doing with gender. In the manner of those dystopia parodies: in the future, gender is outlawed and the government controls religion! The idea is that the narrator, from a post-gender future society, whimsically decides to impose what he thinks of as eighteenth century gender roles on all the people he meets. I'm pretty sure the idea is that he's supposed to be unreliable, but in practice too much of the book so far consists of random solliloquies about how people who use their sexuality to manipulate others must definitely be female.

Up next: I'm only a little way through TLTL. And I'm still in Hugo reading mode so possibly All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders; the rest of the novels shortlist is all second books in well-lauded series so I'm less inclined to vote for them.
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
Day 4 of the meme is A song that reminds you of someone you'd rather forget about. I can only really think of two people I've encountered in my personal life I'd rather forget, the ringleader of the kids who bullied me when I was 5 or 6, and the teacher who made my life hell when I was rising 9 (nowadays Year 4). Neither of them has a song I particularly associate with them.

So I'm afraid I have to resort to UK politics )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
A song that reminds you of summer: I think the most summery song I own is Feeling lazy by Lightning Seeds. This is one of many things that [personal profile] doseybat introduced me to in the late 90s, and I kind of started out thinking it was too poppy and superficial, but it grew on me and later on I acquired the whole album, Jollification. Feeling lazy is still my favourite.

video embed )

I had a nice chilled weekend, rather like what's described in the song in fact, spending time with people with no particular time pressure, and sometimes it was sunny and sometimes Our English sky may well cry. Lots of playing in the park, and lots of playing indoors, with animal toys or phone games. I was at home for Friday night for once, and made it to shul Saturday morning. And [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait and I decided to skip Strawberry Fair since the queues for alcohol checks were enormous, and instead had lunch in a fairly hipster café, Stir.

I watched Despicable me with [personal profile] cjwatson and his younger kids. I'd got the idea from the marketing that it was going to be mainly slapstick and not really my kind of thing. But actually the Minions play a relatively small role, and there is some physical humour, but the main point of the story is about someone breaking the cycle of abuse and learning to be a parent in spite of his own terrible childhood. So it was a lot more sweet than I was expecting, though definitely a little kids' film.

The highlight of a generally lovely weekend was when [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait continued her recently established tradition of celebrating both Jewish and Christian Pentecost by setting cheesecake on fire. Which was part of a lovely meal together where we talked mainly about that morning's Torah portion Naso with its delightful Haftarah about the birth of Samson, rather than more obviously seasonally relevant texts like Ruth or Acts. But still, I got my cheesecake and Torah discussion and celebration with my loves.
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
I managed to finish two whole books since last week. A mixture of both being fast to read, and having a bit of extra reading time over the bank holiday weekend.

  1. Ninefox gambit by Yoon Ha Lee ([personal profile] yhlee). (c) 2016 Yoon Ha Lee, Pub Solaris 2016, ISBN 978-1-78108-449-6. I read this because friends were enthusiastic about it, and in hope of voting in the Hugos, and I'm really glad I did because it's great. Disturbing, but great.

    Ninefox Gambit, some spoilers )

  2. Moll Cutpurse Her True History by Ellen Gatford. (c) Ellen Gatford 1984, Pub Stramullion Co-operative Ltd, ISBN 0-907343-03-1.

    This was an afikomen present from my brother, and I picked it up because I was in the mood for something light after NG. Basically it's a book about a cross-dressing criminal and her lesbian lover, based on a historical character from the late sixteenth to early seventeenth century. It's delightfully silly and fun.

    Moll Cutpurse )
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Day two is: a song you like with a number in the title, and it turns out that I have quite a few number songs in my collection but not that many I actively like. I mean, I don't usually keep songs I hate around, but looking through the number ones I'm mostly feeling neutral, they're ok, they're lesser songs by artists I like, that sort of thing.

So I settled on Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega. This was a hit the summer I was doing a science summer school in Israel, and falling in love with p53 and molecular biology research. And the summer one of my best friends became a father, about ten years earlier than most of the rest of my peers. This song was the first music that my friend's baby son unmistakably recognized and seemed to enjoy. We used to joke that he liked it because he recognized his mother's name in the list of women, but I don't know if that's actually plausible, I was already bowled over to learn that a very young baby could express distinct musical preferences. (Baby is now at university, because there are actual adults half my age, which is why lots of my music choices won't be exactly up-to-date.)

embedded video )

I had a quiet, relaxing bank holiday weekend with lots of time with my people. what I did on my weekend )
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait and a bunch of other people are doing a 30 day music meme, and it's really interesting to see people's choices! In some ways music isn't a big part of my life, so I might struggle with this one, and anyway I'm not going to commit to posting every day for 30 consecutive days, but I thought I'd give it a go.

The first is A song you like with a colour in the title, so I went for White winter hymnal by Fleet Foxes. I don't always love the kind of very blurry musical style that Fleet Foxes go for, but I got really fond of this song a few years back and it's one that always raises a smile when it comes on shuffle.

People are generally linking to YouTube, and I'd never actually seen the accompanying video for this one before. It's kind of a cool claymation thing, so I'm glad I searched it up.

Embedded video )
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
Recently read: The hundred trillion stories in your head, a bio of Ramón y Cajal by Benjamin Ehrlich. (Contains some detail of Ramón y Cajal's rather grim childhood.)

Currently reading: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Partly because it's Hugo nominated, and partly because [personal profile] jack was excited to talk about it so I've borrowed his copy. I'm halfway through and enjoying it a lot; it's a bit like a somewhat grimmer version of Leckie's Ancillary books. It has too much gory detail of war and torture for my preferences but it's also a really engaging story.

Up next: Quite possibly Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, since I'd like to read at least the Hugo novels in time for Worldcon.

Jew-ish

May. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
This weekend I went to another Jewish-Muslim interfaith event. I was not exactly the main target audience, which was mainly people whose actual job is religious education. I did get to meet some Somali Bravanese Muslims, an ethnic minority from Somalia via Kenya whom I hadn't encountered before.

Anyway we had some very interesting discussions, including around the use of language. Some of the Muslim participants said they didn't like what I had thought of as an otherwise neutral older spelling, Moslem. They said they associate that spelling and pronunciation with people like Donald Trump, and I can see that people who haven't bothered to update their language might well be assumed to be hostile. I don't particularly need to change my own language choices since I have been using the modern spelling anyway, but it's useful to note.

Then of course the conversation turned to the Jewish side, and the somewhat fraught issue of what we should be called. is 'Jew' a slur? )
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
I note in passing that it's 14 years to the day since I started this blog, 6 years on LJ and 8 years on DW. That's a lot of writing and a lot of conversations. I've made just over 2000 posts in 14 years, and I think the average length is only a little under a thousand words, so somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million words and that's not even counting comments. I was really not expecting either the site or my interest in blogging to last as long as 14 years, but I'm really glad you're all still here.

I still don't have a good way of making an offline archive of DW; the program LJArchive is timing out because, I think, my DW is just too huge, and it doesn't have a way of downloading one bit at a time. Does anyone have any recs?

It's also coming up to the end of my 7th year of working at Keele – I've finished teaching and only have exams to go through before this academic year is over. It's a pretty awesome job in lots of ways. Our senior people like to point out that there have been over a million consultations when patients have been treated by Keele-trained doctors in the ten year history of the medical school, and I've contributed to the education of quite a high proportion of those doctors.

And it's the 20th anniversary, give or take, of my leaving school. I have signed up to attend the reunion next month; I'm not entirely sure that was a good idea, but I am at least somewhat curious to see if I can pick up some gossip from anyone who isn't on Facebook. I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I'm an academic, that's what everybody was predicting when I was going around convinced I was going into school teaching. But they might well be surprised that I'm married and poly.

Anyway, now I'm going to catch a train from the new exciting local to my house station.

Fun

May. 18th, 2017 09:51 pm
liv: Table laid with teapot, scones and accoutrements (yum)
Last weekend it was the slightly obscure Jewish festival of Lag b'Omer, mainly celebrated by going out into the woods and having picnics. I was really really pleased when my OSOs and their two younger children, and [livejournal.com profile] fivemack, came up for the weekend to join me!

we crammed a bunch of stuff into two days )

I only have one more day of teaching before the summer. May is always intense, so I'll hope to be a bit more present on DW from next week.

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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