strange_complex: (Janus)
Three years ago, I pondered what I might do on this auspicious date, but my ambitions did not extend beyond greeting the day at 08:08 (which I have, of course, now done).

Little did I guess that I would be doing so from a house in Leeds, or indeed that I would proceed that afternoon to York to celebrate the civilisation of [ profile] glitzfrau and [ profile] biascut. But, nonetheless, that is what I am doing - and I can't think of a better way to mark this once-in-a-century date.


Thursday, 14 February 2008 11:32
strange_complex: (Tease me)
Here's wishing a happy St. Valentine's day (or, as I personally prefer to think of it, festival of Venus) to one and all of you.

It's apparently become fashionable these days to be cynical about Valentine's day, and talk about commercialisation, and the packaging of complex emotions, and sexism, and the compartmentalisation of something which should be celebrated every day, and so forth, and I do see the merit in a lot of those arguments. But as with any of these things, your own Valentine's day is as good or as bad as you choose to make it, and fundamentally I think it's a good thing for humanity at large if we have a day set aside in our calendar to communally remind ourselves of the value of loving others.

This morning, from a warm seat on the bus, I watched a fresh-faced boy battling through drizzle on his bicycle, with a bunch of flowers clutched against the handle-bars - and that's nice. In the sandwich shop, they'd drawn little hearts on strips of paper, and stuck them along the chiller cabinet shelves - and that's nice. A girl walked along chatting to her friends, holding a lilac heart-shaped balloon - and that's nice. It would be even nicer to see it every day I guess, but the function of festivals is to remind us to foreground things which might otherwise slip our minds in the daily rush of life, and I think it's helpful for us to have Valentine's day for that purpose.

I can't actually participate actively, since I'm a cold-hearted beeyatch, and frankly the idea of being in a real relationship with another actual human being still gives me The Fear. But I see that many of you are bolder and brighter and braver than me, and to all of you who manage to do it successfully, I say hooray, and good for you. So if you have a boy or a girl to kiss today, give 'em a kiss from me. I may not play much myself, but it's fun to cheer from the sidelines.

strange_complex: (Claudius)
2050 years ago today, folks.

(If you're confused about how the maths add up, there, remember that there is no Year 0).

To mark this momentous occasion, let's see if you know more about Julius Caesar than the average first-year Ancient History student:

[Poll #947018]
Answers and explanations will be posted later today.

strange_complex: (Tease me)
Aww, it is Valentine's Day! Le cute. :)

I hope that you have all been checking out the messages on [ profile] 021407. Some of you have reason to, y'know! ;)

Edit: now with bonus discussion of the 'relationship' between Valentine's Day and the Lupercalia in the comments!

May morning

Monday, 1 May 2006 07:58
strange_complex: (Wicker Man sunset)
We totally made it through the night: me and Spiky Neil playing Worms and Puzzle Bobble, and then [ profile] oxfordgirl joining us for the ritual viewing of The Wicker Man, and by then it was 4am and time to start phoning people like [ profile] redkitty23 and [ profile] stompyboots to chivvy them up and out for meeting at the tower.

It rained, but the freshness was perfect, and we walked in clutching sprigs of cherry blossom, me feeling more alive and alert than I think I've ever felt on May morning before, despite having been in such a state of extreme tiredness on Saturday that I was seriously afraid I was about to suffer internal organ failure or something.

And we had the best spot ever, right at the base, and when the Hymnus Eucharisticus rang out, I gazed up through the rain at the impossibly looming tower, held my blossom aloft and felt the hush and the still and the awakening summer all around me, and remembered all the previous times and the powerful magic of the morning and cried softly to think I might never be there again.

And then it was a damp picnic and dancers in the Radcliffe Camera Square, and some guy taking pictures of me and [ profile] oxfordgirl laughing and waving our blossoms, and a physical manifestation of Apollo, and champagne and free hot chocolate and giggling at the extreme spaced-outness of [ profile] stompyboots, [ profile] edling and Cat WINOLJ.

And then it was home, and crash and burn, and my fingers feel like putty now on the keyboard. I think I may possibly need to sleep for a very long time, very, very soon.

But I'm so glad I did it, because I LOVE OXFORD. And it tears my heart to think I must leave it all behind. :(

This post brought to you by sleep deprivation and Piper Heidseick champagne.
strange_complex: (Urbs Roma)
Happy 2111st birthday to everyone's favourite embodiment of dignitas and humanitas: Marcus Tullius Cicero!

Meanwhile, if I am a little quiet myself at the moment, the start of term tomorrow is the reason. Back on full form by the weekend, I swear.

strange_complex: (Saturnalian Santa)
I'll probably never be Santa again after tonight. I don't ever intend to have children of my own, you see. But tonight - for one night only - I am he.

I'm 29 years old, and it's finally been decided in our house that it really is time now to let go of the Christmas morning stockings. And for this one last year, as a way of marking the passing of the practice, we decided to invert it (very Saturnalian!). So Charlotte and I have just spent a lovely half-hour sitting together in the lounge, sipping Rémy Martin, chatting, and stuffing chocolates, hankies and satsumas into big fluffy socks. One for Mum, one for Dad. They're laid out now on either side of the fire-place, ready for the recipients to come down and find them in the morning.

I suppose this is the growing process in a nutshell, isn't it? As a child, you experience the magic. As a young person, you see the reality behind it, but still play along for the sake of its more prosaic benefits. Finally, you become the source of the magic yourself. I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
strange_complex: (Janus)
Saturnalia is sorted: off to a cottage with the Bristol Bunch.

Christmas is sorted: parents.

But I'm still pretty vague about what to do with my New Year's Eve. I find myself looking in the London direction, since I know I owe the people of that fair city a visit. And I'm aware that there's a New Year's B-Movie going on. So:

[Poll #632064]

Edit: And, of course, option 2 on question 1 should read 'I might if I can still get a ticket'. Bah.

Ten-minute update

Wednesday, 9 November 2005 10:18
strange_complex: (Computer baby)
I'm rather behind with documenting things I've done recently, and a combination of tiredness and busy-ness makes this unlikely to change soon. So, in the 10 minutes before I have to go and give a lecture, I present a really rushed outline of what I've been up to in the past few days:

Friday: went to Brum to see Andreas Scholl with La Mia Mama. The concert was entitled 'Senesino, Handel's Muse', and consisted entirely of arias originally written for the castrato Senesino (with a few instrumental interludes to give Scholl's voice a rest). Since Senesino was a contralto rather than a soprano, these can now be sung by Scholl, and he did so brilliantly. My stance on Scholl is that although I recognise his technical brilliance, my personal taste is such that I'm not actually that bowled over by the tones of his voice, especially when it is in the centre of its range (both in terms of pitch and volume). There's a slight rough, rushing sound around the edges which I'd prefer to do without. However, when called upon to swell and fade a long note, hit unusually high notes or perform complicated ornaments, the rushing sound vanishes, and he suddenly becomes some kind of vocal deity, causing jaws to fall in astonishment. Overall, I prefer the very pure sound of Robin Blaze's voice. But I admit that Scholl does beat Blaze when the stakes get really high, and he will always be more suited to operatic work for that reason.

Afterwards, we queued like a pair of fangirls for autographs, and I also bought the CD which Scholl has already produced of the evening's programme. Then went home and bought 'The Last Castrato', a collection of recordings made in the early 20th century by a man named Alessandro Moreschi. This was in response to the pre-concert talk, which had been all about castrati, and had revealed to me that there exists not one tiny snippet of this guy singing, as I'd thought, but in fact a whole plethora of the stuff. It also made me realise that, although not necessarily to modern tastes, he was a better singer than I'd previously believed. It'll take a while to arrive, since it's coming from America, but I can't wait to become more familiar with this voice.

Saturday: woke up in Brum having spent night with parents. Sat over coffee watching Dad replace the batteries in his 30-year-old Grundig 'Yacht Boy' radio, and explain how everyone in the country had been sent little stickers saying '3' and '4' like the ones on it when the change was made from the Third Programme and the Home Service to Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Then proceeded up to Manchester for [ profile] angeoverhere's 30th birthday, where I caught up with some of my Bristol buddies and met some new faces from B'ham, Leeds and Manchester itself. We hung out for the afternoon in a gay bar called Taurus, and then headed for a Syrian restaurant in the evening, while Manchester made a fine attempt at exploding in celebration of Bonfire Night. Slept pretty well, and then had lunch together the next day, before heading back down to Oxford on the Sunday to finish off a lecture in a panic and deliver it on the Monday. It went fine, though. They always do.

Have also started to watch Imperium: Augustus recently, having finally worked out how to switch the Dutch subtitles off. It's very, erm... special, and will be blogged in detail later. And had a quick look on Monday at The Masque of the Red Death, realised the costumes aren't quite as amazing as I'd remembered, but have still had some decent ideas for the ball.

Well, it's lucky I'm such a quick typist (although I'm sure this is full of mistakes). Now for that lecture!

Edit: some small editing after the event to fill in details, clarify points and correct errors.

strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Last night we celebrated Halloween Proper by going to see The Corpse Bride, me with A Bat On My Head again (although I did very thoughtfully take it off while in the cinema). It was delightful, in every way an animated Tim Burton film featuring legions of the dead, tragic lovers and cold-hearted parents should be delightful. And Christopher Lee! Wow. *wide-eyed admiration*

Of Tim Burton's offerings this year, I think I liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory better overall as a film, but I liked Christopher Lee much more in Corpse: perhaps precisely because he was playing an animated character, forcing a concentration on his voice. And did Tim Burton know what that voice counts for! Quite deliberately, we heard it booming out in disapproval and exasperation significantly before we set eyes on the character it belonged to (Pastor Galswells), demanding our attention and making us sit up straight in our seats. From that point in, the character really stood out for me as a brilliantly gruff authority figure, with Christopher Lee milking it for all it was worth. And his utter dismissal of Victoria when she turned to him for help was just the icing on the cake.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter were fab too, of course, as was Richard E. Grant as the slimy, pompous Barkis Bittern and a much-beloved Michael Gough as the wizened old skeleton, Elder Gutknecht. But I think the greatest thrill for me (besides, Mr. Lee, natch) was the performance of some chap I'd never heard of called Enn Reitel as the worm who lived inside the Corpse Bride's head. It's obvious from his IMDb page that he specialises in vocal work, and his brief for Corpse was clearly to sound as much as he could like Peter Lorre. Which, given that the real thing can no longer be had, was most effectively done, and suited both the Burtonesque context and the character of the worm beautifully.

On the other hand, Danny Elfman is just not as good as writing songs as he once was. Or ever was? No - I swear some of the songs in Nightmare Before Christmas were ace. But Charlie was disappointing musically, and so was Corpse. Pity, but not enough to spoil them.

And so Halloween is over, and November begins. Good luck to all the writers out there who are starting NaNoWriMo, and the painters who are starting NaPaPaMo. And may I wish a Happy All Saint's and Happy Diwali to everyone.

Corpse Bride bits about to be cross-posted to [ profile] christopherlee_.
strange_complex: (Silver Jubilee knees-up)
This weekend is Quiet. An oasis of calm amidst the madness. There's a bunch of stuff I could be going out to (in fact, should be going out to, really), but I'm deliberately dividing my time this weekend between venues no more demanding than my bed, my sofa, and my bath. Oh, and my computer, I guess...

I realised this week that there hadn't been a single weekend since I got back from Belfast when there wasn't something wonderful and exciting going on. Not to mention the wild and decadent shenanigans which had filled the weeks before I left NI. No complaints, obviously - I've been having a whale of a time. But there's only so much one little Penny can take, especially when she's busy managing 150% of a normal teaching load and spending 10 hours travelling a week. The result of late has been headaches, queasiness, fuzzy-headedness and posts like this.

So I'm taking a break from it all and spending some quality time alone with Me. But that doesn't mean I can't sit here planning further social joys for the future. So, without further ado, My Social Life For The Next 10 Months:

Halloweeny House-Warming )
Andreas Scholl )
La, la, la... )
Belfast )
Christmas Meal )
Dad's birthday )
Christmas itself )
New Year )
Dark Masquerade Ball )
Whitby Gothic Weekend )
My thirtieth birthday )
Mecon 9 )

And I think that is quite enough to be going on with, so I'm off to have a bath... Tinkerty-tonk!

Party report

Tuesday, 12 July 2005 15:19
strange_complex: (Silver Jubilee knees-up)
So, what about this party we had on Sunday, then?

Well, one thing it certainly was was BIG. Since it was jointly in honour of myself and my mother, we had first agreed on a bunch of actual family and close family friends who knew us both and could be considered 'joint' guests, and then added a further 20 people each whom we invited individually. That meant we had a total of about 60 guests, which was more than manageable space-wise, given the size of my parents' house and garden, but certainly meant a lot of chopping, cooking, setting up tables and pouring people drinks. Luckily, my sister, her partner Nicolas, my auntie Theresa and my Mum's very dear friend Daphne had all arrived one or two days in advance, so we had hordes of eager helpers to get everything set up and running smoothly.

The guests )

The day )

The setting )

The evening )

Before I finish up, I'd like to say how infinitely touched I am by the many people who travelled from far and wide to come on Sunday - especially given the security scare in Birmingham the night before, and the actual bombings in London only two days before that. I LOVED seeing you all, I've missed you lots, and I'm looking forward to the next time I get to see each and every one of you again. Seriously, parties like this would be nothing without the guests - so thank you all for making my day.

Other accounts )


Sunday, 10 July 2005 22:28
strange_complex: (Silver Jubilee knees-up)
Whew! Fabulous party. Absolutely FABULOUS! And I am so grateful to and touched by all the people who travelled from Oxford, Brighton, Reading, London, Winchester, Cambridge, Bristol and similar to be here and make it so enjoyable: thank you all!

Proper report when I'm not amazingly tired and ever so slightly drunk, I think...

Happy 05/05/05!

Thursday, 5 May 2005 10:32
strange_complex: (Purple balloons)
Nothing else to say, really - I just love dates which make patterns, and it's especially pleasing that we're getting one like this every year at the moment, up to and including 2012. I should have got up at five past five this morning for the full effect, I suppose! Hmmm... maybe I'll save that sort of thing until we get up to 08/08/08.
strange_complex: (Default)
Rah! Today is Christopher Lee's birthday, and he is eighty-two! Impressive stuff for a man with three movies either just finished or about to start production on his IMDb page.

So this is my public wish for many happy returns to him (and lots more excellent films, please!). I also intend to mark the day by watching The Wicker Man tonight on DVD.

Here are some fun facts about him with which to impress your friends:
  • He appears in the Guinness Book of Records as the actor with the most ever screen credits to his name.
  • He has also performed the most ever on-screen sword-fights
  • His mother was an Italian countess, from the Carandini family (his full name, in fact, is Christopher Frank Carandini Lee).
  • Ian Fleming was his step-cousin, and apparently Lee was Fleming's first choice to play 'Dr. No' in the first Bond film. (Joseph Wiseman was eventually chosen instead, but Christopher Lee still got his 'shot' at Bond villain fame when he played Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun.)
  • Spookily, he shares his birthday with Vincent Price, while Peter Cushing was born on May 26th!
  • He used to live next door to Boris Karloff.

strange_complex: (Default)
Whee! May Day is fast approaching, and today was the first truly hot day of the summer: here's to many more like it.

At this time of year, I always find myself going round singing 'Sumer Is Icumen In', and so I post here the splendid Old English lyrics in celebration of my approaching favourite season:

Sumer is icumen in:
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springst the wde nu.

Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Llouth after calve cu,
Bulluc sterteh, bucke verteth,
Murie sing cuccu!

Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu cuccu,
Ne swik thu naver nu!

If you don't know the tune, you might like to check out this page, which offers midi files of the different elements in the round, plus a translation of the lyrics into modern English.

Ardent students of linguistics may like to note that there is a debate over the precise meaning of the phrase 'bucke verteth'. On the basis of the preceding lines about ewes bleating after lambs and cows cooing after their calves, it's likely that the bullocks and the bucks would be doing something similar to one another: hence the line often gets translated as 'The bullock leaps, the deer capers', or something along those lines. But another distinct possibility is that 'verteth' actually means 'farts'.

I look forward to seeing as many Oxfordy types as possible at the forthcoming May Day celebrations next Saturday morning. I shall definitely be there for the choir-boys at dawn, but may have to renege on my earlier intention to stay up all the Friday night, on the grounds that I have a job interview in Nottingham during the day on Friday, and am likely to be mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the day. I'll see though - maybe I will be so buoyed up by the experience that pulling an all-nighter is no bother? ;-)

In any case, I'm still fully determined to organise delicious picnicky joy for the morning of the 1st (strawberries, sparkly booze, a thermos full of coffee and pain au chocolat are just some of the things I have in mind: further suggestions welcome). Anyone who wants to play picnics, wants to stay up all night and has a good venue in mind for this, or just generally wants to come along to the tower, do let me know so we can all meet up. Anyone who owns a thermos flask and wants to volunteer to fill it with coffee will also be much appreciated.


strange_complex: (Default)

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