Feb. 23rd, 2015 08:12 pm
liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
Various bitty things to record what I've been up to lately:

  • I actually took advantage of Cambridge being Cambridge and went with [personal profile] cjwatson to a lunchtime recital in John's, a young cellist called Ghislaine McMullin performing a Rachmaninov cello sonata. It was the kind of performance that held my attention for every note, really enjoyable. I didn't know the piece (Op 19 in G minor), and I rather fell in love with the transitions between movements, a sort of lovely anticipation, so I shall try to get hold of a sensible recording. There was a little bit of Ravel being silly and Orientalist for the encore, and it wasn't sublime like the Rachmaninov but even silly Orientalist Ravel is still a treat. Since we'd spent lunchtime listening to the concert we went for afternoon tea afterwards, choosing Brown's since it's central and easy even if a bit obvious. I got to point out that Cambridge contains surprisingly many gilded pineapples, which [personal profile] cjwatson hadn't noticed in spite of living there for many years.

  • You are welcome to kick me for it, but I did in fact end up celebrating Valentine's Day. [personal profile] jack and I decided to stay in being coupley rather than try to deal with the commercial version of VD on a Saturday night. We made this Mushroom stroganoff; I use tarragon instead of parsley, I think it matches the rest of the flavours better. Somebody, I can't remember who, linked to a rather breathless clickbaity article recently about how most people cook mushrooms "wrong", and personally I like sautéed mushrooms and the nice juice that they exude, but I thought it was worth a try searing the mushrooms on a high heat, separately from the onions and seasoning. That did work, though ideally I need a more interesting high temperature cooking oil than sunflower.

  • And we rented Fucking Åmål (its rather milquetoast English title is Show me love). I like this film a lot and wanted to show it to [personal profile] jack; it's a love story, but not a romantic comedy. It's that rare thing, a fairly realistic depiction of the sexuality of teenaged girls, not a just deniably short of soft-porn show for a presumed audience of 20-something men, but a character story where the girls are very much the subjects. Rebecka Liljeberg's acting is outstanding; she was only a year or so older than her 16-year-old character, in contrast to the Hollywood convention of having adult actresses play teenagers. But her utter devastation at social humiliation, her radiant joy when her love-life goes unexpectedly well, make this a much more romantic film than the kind that follow standard romantic tropes. Plus, you know, Agnes and Elin have a good reason for not talking to eachother about their feelings, given that they are teenaged lesbians in a homophobic school environment way out in the sticks in the 90s.

  • I was invited to a third birthday party. It was in a community hall and the children were more interested in playing with the toys, softplay including a ball pool, and playground outside than interacting with the adults, so I actually just sat around eating tasty food and chatting, which was easier than I'd expected it would be. Thank you for all your present suggestions; I ended up getting the Ahlbergs' Each peach pear plum, which was a childhood favourite. Reportedly the verdict is that it has really good letters in, which, yes it does, though I mainly chose it for the words and verses rather than the letters.

  • In other getting to know my friends' children news, this weekend I attempted to tell the story of Medusa to their six-year-old. I ended up reading the Nathaniel Hawthorne's Wonder Book version aloud to her. I remember my grandfather reading it to us when we were about that age; he had a beautifully illustrated edition we weren't allowed to touch, and I understood a fairly small proportion of what was going on. Hawthorne's a lovely story teller, but he tells selections from the myths and I couldn't find a good version of the rest of the story about what Perseus did with the Gorgon's head having acquired it. We also played a lot of OLO, which is, of all things, a smartphone app version of shove ha'penny. She's better than me at playing the game, and sort of interestingly picking up the meta-skill of playing in a sportsmanlike way, we've been experimenting with bits of friendly trash-talking without crossing the line into mean.

    OTOH I completely failed to answer the three-year-old's question of why a slinky climbs down the stairs. Mainly because I don't actually know the answer, and "because physics" is hardly satisfying. So I'll try to crowd-source this one, can anyone explain why the slinky does that thing? I welcome either simple or mathsy explanations; I reckon if I understand it properly myself I can probably figure out how to explain it to a kid who hasn't yet got to formal physics.

  • My latest student, by my count the fifteenth I've coached since I started with my brother in 1993, celebrated his bar mitzvah at the weekend. I'd let myself get a bit nervous about it, but actually it was perfect. The young man did brilliantly, he read well, and I know he's worked hard to bring his Hebrew reading up to scratch, cos I was guiding him through the process. He didn't take any shortcuts with rote learning or using a crib, he just put his head down and learned to read. And it was good for the community as well, the first time we've celebrated a bar mitzvah in 15 years, and the service I think meant something to the regulars as well as to the bar mitzvah boy's family and friends (most of whom aren't Jewish). Anyway people were enthusiastic, and I feel pretty good about the whole thing.

  • I got to talk to [ profile] darcydodo! She says that the best possible contemporary children's book of Greek myth is D'aulaires' book of Greek myths, so I shall seek that out, cos stuff that's old enough to be in the public domain tends to be a little obscure in language and not exactly what I'd want in attitudes and values.

  • And [personal profile] hatam_soferet asked me to learn some midrash with her, chevruta-style, which is the most wonderful thing! I mean, she's ridiculously more advanced than me these days, but we have been learning together since the turn of the millennium, and it works. I miss my friend and I miss proper intense text learning, so getting both together is just wonderful

    Also, congratulations to [personal profile] randomling who correctly guessed that what I was thinking of in Pessimized Twenty Questions was Croatia. [personal profile] randomling, you're of course welcome to start a new round if you like, but perhaps a single game was enough, playing by comment discussion. Honourable mention goes to [personal profile] seekingferret who played with great cunning, coming up with informative guesses and not getting trapped in assumptions based on what had been discovered so far.
    ETA: [personal profile] randomling started another round, do go and join in!
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    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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