Cheltenham Guides

Monday, 23 October 2017 20:40
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
I meant to mention that last Monday I went to Cheltenham on the train - only half an hour (in theory) from Bristol Parkway, although I ended up on the stopping service that waited in a siding in Gloucester to be overtaken by the express. Apart from that, there were only two stops: one in Yate, where a large group of young people with backpacks got off (were they going to pay homage at J. K. Rowling's birthplace, I wondered idly?), and then again in Dursley (where no young people got off at all, thanks no doubt to the slanders of the same JKR).

I was going to meet the owner of a Cotswold company that specialises in private tours for Japanese visitors, as I was hoping to get an inkling of what brings Japanese people to the area. We met in a café and talked for an hour, and a very interesting conversation it was too, though I'm still digesting it so I won't go into it now - but in lieu of that let me share with you the title page of the book I gave him as a thank you (though only a print-on-demand reprint, alas), my great-great-great-great grandfather Weeden Butler's Cheltenham Guide (1781), which as far as I know is his earliest publication. It's a handy description of Cheltenham at the time, including an account of the origins of the famous spa a couple of generations earlier. Apparently a Mr Mason noticed the pigeons pecking at the soil around a pond fed by a spring - for the salts, it seems - and that inspired him to buy the land and set up a little hut from which he sold the water, after which his son-in-law built a dome, a colonnade, and all the amenities that polite society could demand. Thus was born, of a pigeon, the pump room, the literary festival, the Gold Cup and Agamemnon dead. (Actually that last one might have been a different bird.) The little blighters are still commemorated on the town's crest.

The water tastes pretty vile, though; worse, if possible, than those of Sulis.


Cheltenham guide weeden butler 1781
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[personal profile] miss_s_b
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Interesting Links for 23-10-2017

Monday, 23 October 2017 12:00
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Interesting Links for 22-10-2017

Monday, 23 October 2017 10:30
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This week

Monday, 23 October 2017 10:13
hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
This'll be a strange week for me. On Friday afternoon my Arabic teacher had some news bad enough that she's canceled her classes for this week. Sad to hear as she's lovely.

Then last night my lecturer for the Monday lecture said UCU voted for a strike today.

While I have no problem supporting the strike, I'm really sad to miss a lecture for this class (Language Mind and Brain; the one I've enthused about (sometimes drunkenly...) whenever anyone's asked me how my course is going)!

And I'm sad for whatever has happened to my lovely Arabic teacher, but I'm relieved because three hours of language-learning all in a row is brutal, makes Wednesdays by far my longest day in uni, and this week I'd have had a meeting partway through so I'd have worried about what I was missing after I had to leave.

But with no Arabic and no lecture, I'm left with only one lecture and two seminars all week! And next week is Reading Week (a concept my American brain is still struggling to understand). I feel kind of grateful for this chance to catch my metaphorical breath: I've been doing okay (if not perfectly) at keeping on top of uni things, but I'm way behind on housework, spending any quality time with my partners, etc.

I do have an essay due this Friday and one next Friday, and Arabic teacher has said she might try to make up this week's lessons during Reading Week too, so it's not as if I have nothing to do. But it does feel like a very light week for me, and solemn though the reasons for that are, I'd be lying if I didn't say I'm kind of glad.

Proud Grandpa

Monday, 23 October 2017 08:59
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[personal profile] poliphilo
My five year old grand-daughter asks me if I know about the Star of David and I say yes and can she draw me one? She says, "It's two triangles" and draws it freehand- and it's perfect.

She also draws me a Kiddush cup and tells me what it's for.




 

Poetry Workshop

Sunday, 22 October 2017 22:07
radiantfracture: (writing)
[personal profile] radiantfracture
I've been eating honeycomb, so now I'm drinking weak tea to melt the beeswax from my teeth before I go to bed.

I bought the honeycomb at the rain-walled farmer's market on Saturday -- that and bright late strawberries and a sachet of strong lavender.

Saturday was the best day I've had in ages -- the kind where you forget the good things you did in the morning because the good things you did in the evening were even better.

The best thing I did was see, or I would say witness, Tanya Tagaq perform Qiksaaktuq.

I hope to write about that as soon as the words to do so have been invented.

The next best thing I did was attend a poetry workshop. I'd been violently nervous out of mostly phantom social fears, but in the event there was much mellowness and pleasant chill and a little magic.

We did three pieces of freewriting: one based on people reading out various poems and bits of prose (the only one that comes to mind now was a Poe poem); one a letter to a friend (I had trouble with that); and one was a set of directions or instructions (the guy next to me had a lovely line: "Don't go down / go back down").

This is a second draft of my first, vaguely Poe-inspired piece (& obvs. a whole raft of Romantics are running around in there). I don't know if it can be anything, ultimately, what with its oddly formal voice, unless something speculative from a world where such a voice would fit, but I liked things about it enough to work with it a bit.




Where is my
Ozymandias?

What is buried up to its neck in me?

In this deep old desert
where all experience is reduced
to rubble, to gravel, and at last to dust

Whatever I broke, whatever I toppled or shattered,
it fell where I pushed it and lay there, decaying.

Who built these monuments? Of what materials?
I must have built them. It must have been of sand.
Statue or pleasure-dome, shattered,
fallen, sifted, heaped up,
bound with lime and water, refashioned.

Do they improve with iteration, my idols?
If inhaled, chewed out of the air,
do they provide -- sustenance? Flavour? Information?

Make up your mind: are you a ruin or a desert?
If a ruin, you must once have been magnificent.
If a desert, you must once have been
a forest full of cool vapour
or the bottom of a sea, seething with life.

Who is the wanderer?
Who is it breathes in my dust,
contemplates my ruin?

It must be me again. How tiresome.
Unless someone else can be recruited.
Unless you will do it.

Who is my Ozymandias?
It must be that man
I thought I could become
through imitation.

I must be the sculptor who captured his curled lip.
No kiss, not even of this outsized stone mouth.

Well, why not? Climb up and kiss it. As dry
as anything imaginable.

Until I die in a wave of fucking mystery

Sunday, 22 October 2017 23:14
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
So while I had known for some time about Dolly Wilde, Oscar's niece, I had somehow never heard of the fellow ambulance driver with whom she had an affair in WWI Paris, Joe Carstairs. I am going to be neutral about their pronouns because I don't want to get them wrong—all the sources I'm finding treat Carstairs as female, and it's pretty narrow to think that short hair, tattoos, tailored suits, and speedboats automatically make a man, or at least not a woman, but when a person renames themselves "Joe" from "Marion" and says of themselves, "I was never a little girl. I came out of the womb queer," I feel I should try to take them at their word. It's easy to see why they attract biographers and Tumblr posts. The part where they ran an all-female driving service in London—"X Garage"—is pretty great. The part where they were the only one of Marlene Dietrich's lovers to call her "babe" and live is amazing. The part where they bought an island in the Bahamas and effectively ruled it for forty years is like something out of Conrad, which is a little harder to enthuse about, but it definitely is different.

Everybody else thought so, so I thought so, too. I would have liked me. )

And twenty minutes ago I'd had no idea. I love the people that history contains.

(no subject)

Sunday, 22 October 2017 15:21
lycomingst: (anya wedding)
[personal profile] lycomingst
Netflix movie Telstar: The Joe Meek Story )

Nothing much happened this week because I kept getting up in the morning and going back to bed an hour later to sleep most of the day away. I have no idea why I was so sleepy. I did, however, at one point make the best chicken stock I’ve ever made.

Meme, cause everybody’s doin’ it.

Without looking beneath the cut, pick five fandoms.

Buffy
The Office (US)
Mad Men
Midsomer Murders
Elementary


Now, answer the questions…

Read more... )

Fitbit goal check

Sunday, 22 October 2017 22:56

Happy Gary day!

Sunday, 22 October 2017 22:21
hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
Facebook tells me it was two years ago Gary came to live with us for good. (He'd been with us a few days or weeks at a time on a couple of occasions earlier in the year, before it was clear he was going to need a new home full-time, but this is when we knew he wasn't going away again.)

It's also the first day I'd seen him since Friday! I do miss him when I'm away. I tend to dream about him when I'm somewhere else overnight, not so much when I'm at home. Tonight we collected him from [personal profile] mother_bones and as we walked home I noticed he was doing that weird thing again, sniffing not just at the ground or bins or where other dogs have peed but sniffing the air in what seems like a weird new way that doesn't have an obvious explanation.

I mentioned this to Andrew last week when I first noticed it, when I'd taken him on one of his evening walks. "Yeah," Andrew said, "he's been doing that lately."

"I hadn't noticed it in the mornings," I'd said (I usually walk him in the mornings, and Andrew in the evenings." That it's time-of-day specific made it seem even more remarkable.

"He's so earnest about everything all the time," I said. (He does. It's one of his most endearing traits.) "So he looks like he's a little CSI or something."

I thought for a second and then, thinking of it as a parallel to "checking his wee-mail" (a phrase I think I picked up from [personal profile] miss_s_b), I added "a WeeSI!"

And I've been thinking of it that way ever since.

(no subject)

Sunday, 22 October 2017 21:21
jekesta: Franky Doyle's prisoner picture (Franky)
[personal profile] jekesta
Spoilers for the latest episode of MacGyver. )


Food from Gousto )

The gousto website is here if you want to try them yourself. My code is embedded in there. If you use it you'll get 50% off your first two boxes, and I get a bit of money off my next box too. The cheapest boxes have two meals for two, and will cost about £25, so at half price you'll get four meals for £13. Which is not bad, and honestly the food is Very Lovely.

It looks at first a bit like one of those things where you have to sign up to get food all the time every week - you very much don't. I just get a box now and then, when I can't think of ANYTHING to cook or when there is money in my account. (Delivery is really easy because they come in boxes that stay refrigerated for anywhere up to 24 hours. They just leave mine in the back garden for me for when I get home from work.)


Harvey Weinstein

It's so frustrating watching some of the reactions to the whole Harvey Weinstein thing. Because obviously it's brilliant, and I do think it might make a tiny start to a slow steady change in a fucked up fucked up fucked up industry. But oh god you can just see and watch in real time as it doesn't quite stick and people shy away from it.

People go 'oh wow that man is TERRIBLE' and you wait, and they go '...and if he's terrible, oh god, maybe, you don't think, might, maybe might those other three men be terrible too??????' and you wait, and you get '...oh my god I can't believe it's so many men, like that entire section of men over there is awful, I'm so shocked...' and you wait, and you're hopeful, and you're waiting. 'I've really loved seeing all the wonderful things some guys have been posting on twitter, it really gives me hope...' No. Stop it. Fuck off. They're doing a bare minimum and they probably don't mean it, that's literally the whole point of the story, that men support this whole system, it's dicks all the way down. You can't just hate the three men at the top of a pyramid of terrible men, and then feel like you achieved anything. I know 'feminists don't hate men' sounds all very good and everything, but...

I'm too tired to write this properly. I just don't know why women find it so hard to hate men. Men find it so easy to hate women.

I'm too tired to disclaim.
strange_complex: (Vampira)
[personal profile] strange_complex
Yesterday I travelled all the way down to London Town to see a play - or, more precisely an immersive theatre experience - in the company of Andrew Hickey, [twitter.com profile] Extinction65mya and [twitter.com profile] karohemd. While my book and film reviews are both backed up to the tune of at least a year each, which is incredibly frustrating, no such self-imposed tedium applies here, so for once I can have the job of writing about something I have experienced fresh from the delights of the thing itself. Hooray!

So basically The Soulless Ones is the latest venture from the new(ish)ly revived Hammer company, and consists of a play about vampires which takes place across multiple rooms in a mid-Victorian music hall. Opening and closing scenes book-end the story, and are played out to the full audience in the main music-hall space, but for most of the evening different actors play out their own story-lines in an extensive series of parallel scenes, all happening simultaneously in different parts of the building, and moving around from one to the other. It is up to the audience to follow the actors according to personal preference, or simply wander around the building at will, meaning that each individual audience member will see and experience different things depending on where they went.

Given this expectation, of course, the story is deliberately constructed to ensure that no one scene (apart perhaps from the opening and closing ones) is utterly crucial to the production. So the experience is more about seeing the different characters unfold than about a plot in the traditional sense; and indeed about exploring the richly-dressed settings and soaking in the atmospheric sounds and smells. It's also important to understand the difference between immersive and interactive theatre in this context: this was the former, rather than the latter, meaning that the audience occupied the same spaces as the actors but were 'invisible' to them and instructed at the start to take it all in silently. No-one watching was going to find themselves a victim of the vampires, and nor were we to try to speak to them or join in on the story.

There is various documentation of the play around the web, of course. The official production page is here, and I also found useful reviews from Den of Geek, The Guardian and The Telegraph. I've used those, along with my own experience and what my friends reported having seen after we came out, to compile the following overview of the story, characters and settings as I experienced them. I'll also be sharing this with said friends, and would very much love them, and anyone else who has seen it, to comment with anything extra that I didn't catch (I know there were some characters I barely saw all evening), or correct anything I've misremembered or misunderstood (hey, there were cocktails...). Obviously, it will contain spoilers, so I have used cut-tags with a view to both that and length.

The opening scene )

The characters and scenarios which unfolded from there )

The various settings )

The closing scene )


What I actually thought of it all

In essence, I absolutely loved it. A huge amount of thought must have gone into constructing it all so that the different scenes fitted together effectively, with characters coming in and out of each other's storylines at the right times, even from completely different ends of the building, and all of the disparate parts adding up to a coherent whole no matter how the audience experienced it. The set-dressing was particularly wonderful. I wish I could have had the chance to walk around it all without the story unfolding at the same time, so that I could scrutinise every single detail at my leisure, but then again I certainly had more control over what I was looking at than is the case when watching a film or play, in that I could go into any room I chose, stand wherever I liked it in and look at whatever I liked while the action went on. I could sit on one divan while Mara was bewitching St Clair on another, feeling the tickly softness of the white animal fur draped over it between my fingers, or peer closely at the satyr-herm in the graveyard which made me think a lot of The Marble Faun. It was very exciting.

Layering the story on top of all of that really did feel immersive, as though I were standing inside the world of a Hammer film. I'm sure regular readers will realise how amazing that was for me! The story really did feel Hammer-ish, too - suitably gothic in content and atmosphere, and with nice little nods to their back-catalogue such as Carmilla being the last of the Karnsteins. The characters themselves seemed well-defined, with just the right amount of back-story and conflict between them for the audience to take in across the two hours of the show, and the acting solid throughout: sometimes (necessarily) a bit projecty and theatrical, especially in the larger scenes, but impressively naturalistic and intimate when the smaller scenes allowed the scope for it as well. I think a lot of credit also belongs to the behind-the-scenes team handling the music, lighting etc. in each room, and indeed quietly staffing the corridors to make sure people did not get too lost or confused or wander into places they weren't supposed to go.

It looks like the production has been a success: it's certainly garnered lots of media coverage, the performance we attended looked to be sold out, and the official production page is currently bearing a banner proclaiming that the initial run has been extended for an extra week. The fact that it is presented not just as a play called The Soulless Ones, but as an individual production by 'Hammer House Of Horror Live' also rather strongly suggests that they are hoping they will be in a position to do more. Certainly, I will be keeping my eye out for further productions, and strongly urge any fans of Hammer, gothic horror or immersive theatre experiences to catch this one while you still can.
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[personal profile] andrewducker
There's something that Dark Souls does which not many other games do - turn an out-of-game mechanic into a part of the in-universe background. In the case of Dark Souls it's the way that "dying" in the game - and returning to your last save point, leads to the idea of the main character as Undead, cursed to return to life, losing some of themselves each time.

Universal Paperclips also takes a common game mechanic and turns it into part of its story. It's a clicker/idle game - a genre which traditionally begins with you clicking on a button to produce an item, selling the items to allow you to automate the clicking, and then balancing the various resources that are produced in order to boost the production rate. The games tend work on exponential increases, where intermittent step changes in technology move you to the next level. This gets very silly very quickly - Cookie Clicker can end up with you producing duodecillions of cookies (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

The genius of Universal Paperclips is that it ties this idea together with the idea that Nick Bostrom invented in 2003 - the Paperclip Maximizer. Which is an illustration of an AI which is not dangerous because it's cartoonish villain which hates all humans, but because it has things it wants to do, and humans are in the way. In this case, whoever created the AI gave it the drive to make paperclips, not realising that if such a creation got out of control it would then maximise the number of paperclips whether or not this meant converting the entire surface of the planet into them.

So the game starts off with you making a few paperclips. And then managing the income from selling them, making making some automatic clippers to make them for you, investing in marketing. And then slowly upgrading yourself, gaining the trust of your creators, and then...well, you should probably play it for yourself.

(It took me about five hours to play it through, over a couple of days. It doesn't run when it's in a background tab, so I recommend putting it in its own window, or even a different browser.)

On Trigger Warnings

Sunday, 22 October 2017 12:52
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I see the Grauniad have seen fit to publish yet another wilful misunderstanding of the purpose of trigger warnings today, this time from David Mitchell.

Trigger Warnings are there to give people extra information about the media they are consuming. It's like when the continuity announcer says before the showing of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre that "this film contains strong language and scenes that some viewers might find upsetting". It's not censorship to allow people to make a free and informed choice about their media consumption.

The purpose of a trigger warning is to be courteous to people who have PTSD. It's not saying "do not read this". It's saying "if you read this, be mentally prepared to see something that might trigger PTSD flashbacks".

If you really think that allowing people to make an informed choice about something that could cause them a panic attack is a bad thing, then I think you are an inconsiderate, thoughtless arsehole. Sorry.
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... However, as it is for publication in Liberator, you'll have to wait to read it :þ

Once Liberator has landed on doormats I'll put the review up on Goodreads and link to it here. But if you want a little spoiler, although I had some criticisms I genuinely quite enjoyed it, and will definitely buy his next (if he ever writes another).

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