strange_complex: (Ulysses 31)
Right, I'm off away to Belfast for the weekend - or at least I will be if the traffic in Leeds city centre lets up enough for the bus to get out to the airport. I'll see some of you there. The rest, be good while I'm gone!

strange_complex: (Tom Baker)
I've been doing some more painting: this time, the gloss in the back bedroom. It seems to take forever - at least if you don't want to splurge unwanted gloss all over the walls that you have only just finished painting the week before. So I have been working my way through the pick of the last week's worth of Radio 4 comedies, and also the following Who audios:

Radio Play: Regenerations (2001) )

Fourth Doctor: Genesis of the Daleks (1979) )

Fourth Doctor: Exploration Earth: The Time Machine (1976) )

Fourth Doctor: Doctor Who and the Pescatons (1976) )

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!
strange_complex: (La Dolce Vita Trevi)
Saturday night in Oxford saw a bunch of us heading for Chicks with Decks, a sort of Indie / Punk / 80s night at the Cellar Bar: the same low-ceilinged venue as for Intrusion. [ profile] redkitty23 and [ profile] secutatrix sadly couldn't make it, and were sorely missed, but we did have [ profile] edling, Cat, aef, [ profile] violetdisregard, Spiky Neil, Jenny and even Hugh and Zara up from London.

Oxford nights )

So, all in all, a decent enough night, but I must say the texts I got from [ profile] damien_mocata when I got home, describing the crazy antics of the Belfast crowd, made me rather wish I'd spent the evening there instead...

An easy solution to this problem )

In other news, I'm on a big Tom Lehrer kick at the moment. I've had the whole of 'In Concert' for ages, ripped very kindly from [ profile] mr_flay, but decided that a good way to celebrate getting my net connection back would be to download some of his other particular gems which don't happen to be on that album. So I have been, and I leave you now with my current Tom Lehrer top five, as represented by couplets from their lyrics: A few seconds wasted with Tom Lehrer ) It's also worth noting that I found a flash animation of his song, The Elements while checking I had those lyrics right. Anyone who has ever grappled with the Periodic Table should click on it, now! *tootles off to watch it again*

60 hours

Wednesday, 31 August 2005 09:44
strange_complex: (Default)
Pretty much all the companies who really need to know I'm moving now do, although I still haven't managed to get through to an actual human being at Nationwide. My office is packed up; the house is starting to happen today. Got up bright and early this morning to go to Tesco's and pick up some extra boxes, and since then it's been coffee and getting down to it.

Last night I went out for dinner with [ profile] davesangel at the Apartment, a funky little bar-restaurant in town where they do a damn fine two-course meal for two plus a bottle of wine for £28 all told. They have large plate-glass windows overlooking the splendid neo-classical City Hall, and we were lucky enough to get placed at a table which must have had one of the best views in the venue. It's almost like the waiter knew I was going. We gossiped, giggled and discussed HP fanfic, while the sun faded from the sky and the lights came up in the square below. Afterwards, I walked home rather than get the bus, for the sake of some final quality time alone in the dark with Belfast.

It seems that almost everything I do at the moment is unpleasantly overshadowed by the word 'Last'. There was my Last Lecture back in June, my Last Cornucopia almost a month ago, my Last Supervision on Friday, giving back my Last Library Book and having a Last Hot Chocolate in Café Conor yesterday, my Last Time in the city centre last night, several people I know I've already said my Last Goodbyes to, and a whole slough more to add to that by the end of the evening - for tonight is the Last Sci-Fi Meeting.

I am going to get tearful by the end of this week: I can feel it coming.

Friends here in Belfast are plotting to sabotage the ferry which will take me away on Friday night so I can't go, or offering to murder my choice of the QUB Ancient History staff so I can take their jobs and stay on. Then again, on the other side of the equation I'm starting to get texts, LJ comments and emails from people in England checking when I'm coming back, and telling me how excited they are about it and what we'll do when I've returned. I already have the St. Giles' fair to look forward to next Tuesday, and B-Movie the following weekend.

Keep it up, English people - it means more to me than I can say right now.

Café Milano

Monday, 29 August 2005 22:34
strange_complex: (Roast duck)
Have just come back from dinner with my two Masters' students and three Ancient History colleagues at Café Milano. We were all very impressed by the décor: not only Domus Aurea-style trickling fountains in the background, but a tessera-for-tessera copy of the Alexandery bit of the Alexander mosaic on the floor. You couldn't get much more appropriate for a bunch of Ancient Historians, really.

The food wasn't quite up to the same standard - the duck I had was a bit rubbery, and the meringues which formed part of my dessert had a somewhat silicone texture. But no matter - it's the people that count on these occasions, and they were fine indeed. I shall miss them. Yes, all of them.

strange_complex: (Yuri skirts)
As promised, my photos from the Belfast Pride Parade. They're crummy photos, taken with a crummy camera and then scanned (hardly a recommended way of improving image quality), but still - such as they are, here they follow:

Image hosted by
Teaser: [ profile] marijne, [ profile] my_mundane_life, me, and [ profile] thebiomechanoid.

Rest under here )

La Sorella

Sunday, 21 August 2005 20:45
strange_complex: (Default)
Well, my sister, Charlotte and her partner, Nicolas, should be in the air on their way home to England now. We had a really enjoyable weekend together: for them, mainly exploratory; for me, nostalgic.

On the Saturday, we took a coach tour up along the east coast of NI to the Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and other attractions. The weather really came up trumps, presenting us with possibly the hottest, brightest day I've experienced since I moved to NI, and meaning that we were more worried about slapping sun-cream on every five minutes than whether our umbrellas were going to blow away (a more normal problem round here). The sun brought out the best in the scenery: Nicolas enjoyed taking fabulous pictures of it with his posh digital camera; I enjoyed taking snap-happy ones with my £7.97 Tesco's number.

The only down-side to the day was the moment our coach juddered to a halt in the middle of the road... having apparently run out of diesel! We could have gotten pretty cheesed off with the driver at this point for being dim enough to let that happen, but he was such a good-humoured chap, who'd been cracking jokes with us all along the way, that we just took it in our stride. He did save the day, anyway, by managing to coax it back to life no less than three times - just enough finally to roll, engineless, into a petrol station in Portrush. He arranged for some people on the coach who were doing an optional extra tour of a whisky distillery (not including us) to be picked up by another driver in the area and taken onwards, while a bunch of those of us who remained pushed the coach the final four feet needed to get it within reach of the diesel pump, and pretty soon we were on our way again to enjoy our time at the Giant's Causeway.

In the end, we got home a couple of hours later than intended, but we didn't feel we'd missed out on anything we'd expected to see, so the diesel episode just became all part of the fun. I have a photo of the driver grinning sheepishly as he filled up the tank, and can now say I've helped to push a broken-down coach! Oh, and I also managed to pick up excellent birthday presents for both [ profile] damien_mocata and [ profile] finthecat for their birthdays next weekend, which I'm pretty sure they'll love.

Today was much more lazy, after the long day yesterday. We got up around 11ish, gathered ourselves together, and headed down for lunch in the Crown Liquor Saloon. The skies were grey, and by the time we'd finished our lunch it was raining. But we decided to do the tourist bus anyway, especially when we saw that the company who do it had got their covered buses on the route in response to the weather. It wasn't much of a photo opportunity due to the rain-streaked windows, but interesting nonetheless. Finally, we had a nose around the University, and the Botanic Gardens given that the rain had eased off again, and then it was time to drop them at the Europa bus station for their bus to the airport.

That's the last time I'll act as host in NI, and funnily enough it was for the exact same two people that I hosted in Oxford for the last time before I left there last year. The next person who arrives to see me here will be my Dad, with a big van ready to take me home. Home? Yes - it still is, is the honest truth.
strange_complex: (Fred shall we dance)
I'd intended not to do too much dancing last night at Cornucopia, after boogieing round half of Belfast in the hot sun yesterday at the Pride Parade. But who am I to resist a dance floor and a beat? In the end I danced copiously, whilst also enjoying watching a certain young lady get friendlier and friendlier with a handsome gentleman nearby. Her night ended up with snogging outside the venue door and a big grin in the taxi home. Bless! :)

It was a great night, and a great follow-on from the Pride Parade. The absence of people like [ profile] captainlucy, [ profile] davesangel and [ profile] finthecat, who are all abroad, was felt, but the music was excellent, the dancing superb, and of course we did have the addition of the lovely [ profile] kuro_ryoushi for her first Cornie as a Belfast resident. I must have looked pretty fine, too, because about ten people told me so over the course of the evening - some of them complete strangers who'd come over for the express purpose of doing so.

Yet it was sad night also, because for me it was my last Cornie as a Belfast resident. I may only have made about four out of the twelve Cornucopias (or Cornucopiae, strictly speaking) which have been on while I've been here, but it isn't just the night itself, is it? It's what it represents - a focal hub for a group of people I've come to know and love, in a city I've come to know and love, where I can do things I love to do (viz. dressing up and dancing). I spent quite a lot of time towards the end of the evening sitting watching Underworld which was being projected, silently, on a big screen, and feeling all pre-emptively achy with the wrench of having to leave.

Anyone who chose to consult my livejournal archive for around this time last year would find a series of increasingly maudlin and nostalgic posts, prompted by the imminent prospect of having to leave Oxford. Posts like this one, for instance. I remember feeling the same thing when I left Bristol after doing my degree there, too. And now it's starting here, and the fact that I'll be leaving Belfast to return to last year's object of pining and regret doesn't seem to be doing anything to ease the pain. It doesn't matter - I've invested emotionally in Belfast now, so wherever I was going on to, it would hurt to leave.

Heu, I really hope this coming academic year turns out to be the last one for which I'm working on a short-term contract with an uncertain future. There are only so many times I can go through this. :(

Birthday dinner

Wednesday, 3 August 2005 14:26
strange_complex: (Roast duck)
Last night I marked my 29th birthday by meeting up with some people in Duke's, going on for dinner at Scalini's and then returning to Duke's for further drinking and chatting at the end of the evening. I had a fabulous time - the food was delicious, the company delightful and lots of lovely people kept giving me presents and cards! Thanks so much to everyone who came and helped me to celebrate.

Scalini's is an Italian restaurant, which I picked as a venue because it has a good range of food and was pretty central and convenient for most people who would be coming. I didn't expect it to be as busy as it was last night - on a Tuesday night, I'd pretty much assumed our party of 11 would account for a good quarter of the clientele. But far from it - in fact the place was heaving, and although it was hard to tell how many people were there because it is so big and has so many different levels and nooks and crannies to it, I'd say our lot probably constituted more like about 5% of the people in there.

Loving and detailed descriptions of the food ) Inspired by [ profile] rentaghost31, I took a picture of the profiteroles on my phone to record their gigantitude for posterity, but I don't have any way to get the picture off the phone and into this entry. If there's anyone out there who could get it off their own phone and email it to me if I texted it to them, I would be most grateful!

Finally, the evening was rounded off with Baileys back in Duke's, after a slight change of personnel as some people headed home and others joined us after an evening's role-playing. We enjoyed listening to Alan's tales of near-death experiences, watching [ profile] thebiomechanoid bite people and generally bantering and laughing until gone midnight. Sorry I couldn't then come on and play games with those people who went off to do so - I was tempted, but restraint proved to be a good thing in the end, as I'm at least relatively compos mentis today for doing more work on my book.
strange_complex: (Snape laughing)
Well, I have read The Half-Blood Prince now. I didn't actually think I'd be able to by the end of Saturday, being a verrrryy sllooooooww reader (basically I read at speaking pace). But I read for four hours when I first got home, and then all day once I woke up again at 1pm, so I've managed it.

Waiting in the queue for it was definitely worth doing. The time seemed to pass so quickly: even though I know we were there for over an hour, it felt more like about 15 minutes. We all gave way to our inner children, and spent a lot of time bashing each other over the head with the snot-green balloons which the WHSmith staff came out and gave us. We also got sweets, pencils and Panini stickers - my best trophy was a Ravenclaw house badge sticker, which [ profile] davesangel very kindly gave me. 30 seconds before midnight, the WHSmith staff led us on a shouted count-down, and finally we all rushed forth to the tills, waving our pre-order receipts and our money.

Me being me, I turned straight to the back of the book at the earliest possible opportunity, and did a lot of gaping, boggling and "bloody hell"ing as I rapidly established the identity of the character who would die, the character who would kill them and the Half-Blood Prince. The first two certainly shouldn't have been a surprise, as I'd seen both stated in what actually turned out to have been remarkably accurate online spoilers earlier that day. But the power of having it all confirmed at last by JKR herself was nonetheless quite sensational. (Although I did spend a minute or two going through a phase of thinking "But this is so shocking and such a big thing for the characters concerned, have I actually been sold a fake copy made up by internet trolls, just to see if we all fall for it?")

Now I've read it properly, I of course have lots and lots of thoughts, questions and responses about it... However, I'm also horribly aware that I only have four days left until my Reading interview, and will be spending half of one of them travelling to England. So I am sitting in my office right now, about to do some more work on my presentation, and while I may be able to post full responses before I go to Reading, the odds are it'll actually have to wait until next weekend. Pity, because there's so much to say, but we have a good couple of years to chew it over until the next book comes out after all, whereas I don't have two years to get my presentation sorted!

Back in Belfast

Wednesday, 13 July 2005 20:41
strange_complex: (All roads lead to Rome)
I flew back from Brum in the early afternoon today, and chatted to a very nice couple on the plane who'd just been to Australia for a year.

I must say I'm glad I did decide to stay a few extra days in B'ham and avoid the Twelfth, though. There were some nasty riots in north Belfast, which are brought closer to home by the fact that I know the girlfriend of the BBC journalist mentioned in the article as having been injured in the riot. He has a shrapnel wound from a pipe bomb in his lower back, but is home now and recovering well, thank the gods.

Aftermath in south Belfast )

I've spent the last couple of days mainly relaxing and enjoying the sunshine and the company of my parents, and also getting a few gentle bits and bobs done. I've booked my flights for my interview at Reading, and will fly back to Birmingham next Wednesday, to travel on down to Reading the next morning for the interview. I've also been reading some Geography books: specifically stuff about Central Place Systems, zones of influence, catchment areas and so on. This sort of stuff has quite often been applied in historical and anthropological contexts, and I'm using it to help me back up some of the stuff I'm saying in my book about the relationship between Roman cities and their hinterlands with a bit more authority. Then, I can show how suburbs fit into that picture.

I've also been helping Mum to decipher a few difficult-to-read words in a very interesting diary she has. It's from 1883, and is the last diary of a Birmingham doctor called James Fitzjames Fraser West, who died in mid-April of that year. He was the grandfather of my mother's step-mother, so I suppose that makes him my step-great-great-grandfather, or something. Anyway, the diary and various other photographs and documents relating to him were kept by the family, and passed to my mother when her step-mother died. She is now writing a biography of him, mainly in his capacity as a typical and well-documented example of a Birmingham medic of the period.

More about JFFW )

For example, he had to treat a patient for a ricked back which he'd caused by lifting up his bedstead with his wife still in it: "too much conjugal affection!", he comments. Another time, while in Italy, he agreed to sing a song during an evening of billiards and music. An Italian captain accompanied him, but he comments that although the captain tried to keep to his tune, "he was very far from it all the time." Meanwhile, in St. Peter's, he measured the size of the columns by having his wife walk around one of them, and noted that it took her 80 seconds to do so.

Deciphering the diary )

Tomorrow, I start work on preparing for my Reading interview: spurred on, of course, by the promise that if I can get enough done by Friday night, I get to spend the entire weekend reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!

Batman Begins

Friday, 17 June 2005 23:13
strange_complex: (Vampira)
Yup, it's true. Batman films have officially become cool again. Go see it.


Sunday, 29 May 2005 02:22
strange_complex: (Vampira)
Tonight a huge gang of us went out to see Dracula at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

Theatrical opulence )

The play: modernistic yet true to the book )

Colin Baker fandom )

Colin Baker and Richard Bremmer autographs )

Finally, it was back in three car-loads to my place, to see this evening's Doctor Who and generally hoot loudly with laughter, do Dalek impressions and throw Creme Eggs on the floor (lordy, I do hope my landlords don't read this journal!).
strange_complex: (Default)
This Saturday, I had another gathering round at my place to watch the week's Dr. Who episode, followed by whatever took our fancy. Father's Day was up to the usual standard, and we had much geeky excitement discovering the updates on Clive's Mickey's website afterwards, as well as just generally discovering the Geocomtex one, which I hadn't seen before.

We also watched more of [ profile] damien_mocata's excellent Friday Night Armistice tapes, some Red Dwarf stuff, and QI (at my insistence!), while simultaneously soaking Jaffa Cakes in Absinthe, eating trifle, spitting Jaffa Cakes across the room (mainly [ profile] damien_mocata), and probably some other stuff, but it all seems a bit of a blur now...

Sunday commenced with a good long lie-in, continued with some intensive mucking-about-on-LJ, and then went and got all intellectual on me, when the delectable [ profile] thebiomechanoid invited me out to see 5x2 (aka Cinque Fois Deux) with her and a friend at the QFT.

The film was one for provoking questions, rather than providing answers, and it certainly prompted a lot of debate between the three of us afterwards. In essence, it tells the story of the decline of a relationship in five stages. The title can be expanded to mean 'five [events in the lives] of two [people]': those events being their first meeting, their marriage, the birth of their child, a dinner party and their divorce.

The story is complex in itself - there were a lot of interesting explorations of (anti-)romance, sexuality, morality, different kinds of love and the interplay between different kinds of characters. But what it made it a little different from the norm was that the five events were told in reverse chronological order: rather like Memento, but with longer chunks. In other words, the order which I have listed above is actually completely reversed, the result being that when, at the end of their first meeting you see them both swimming off into the sunset, it looks like a perfect romantic ending in both appearance and its context at the end of the film... except that you, the viewer, actually know already exactly how it is all going to pan out. (I wouldn't be giving too much away if I said 'not well').

There were also all sorts of intriguing resonances between the different chunks of the story and the different characters within it, which were simply presented 'as is', leaving you to guess whether they had any deep and profound meaning or not. And on that topic, [ profile] thebiomechanoid, I did look up the clauses of a European Civil Marriage ceremony, and found that article 213 reads:

"The spouses have the duty to live together; they owe it to each other to be faithful and provide help and assistance."

The other clauses which are usually read out can be found here, on a page about the wedding of Prince Laurent of Belgium and Claire Coombs, and they match perfectly with my memory of the clauses read out at the wedding of Gilles and Marion in the film. So I would say that it definitely is significant that that was her room no. in the hotel, since of all the clauses it is this one that relates most closely to the problems in their marriage.

After the film it was on to Dukes for excitable conversation about the film, Diet Coke, exam motivation, tall buildings, LJ (inevitably), Cambridge, jazz and how we didn't really feel much like going home. But, eventually, we did, and, with regret, brought the weekend to a close.
strange_complex: (Default)
When I first moved to Belfast, I was told that the weather was extremely changeable here, and that people often spoke of experiencing 'four seasons in one day'.

Today, I walked into town in the early afternoon in order to do a bit of shopping. As I left my house, I sighed with pleasure at the feel of the sun's warmth on my skin, and looked up into a blue sky punctuated by fluffy white clouds. I walked town-wards for a couple of minutes, and then felt a heavy drop of rain on my eyebrow... quickly followed by a succession of several more. Hoiking my umbrella out of my bag, I looked up to see that the sky had turned a uniform iron gray, and I was surprised to hear a rumble of thunder. Being British, I carried out walking through the downpour, gamely pointing my umbrella into the biting wind which had by now arisen. A mere minute more, and a new development occurred: suddenly, the plummeting rain turned to hail. Hail, in fact, which fell more heavily and more thickly than I believe I've ever seen hail do before. Fearing for the health of my umbrella, I renounced my Britishness after all and took shelter in a bus-stop, joining a young couple in T-shirts, who were shivering and gaping in awe at the natural spectacle we were witnessing. After two minutes of mutual wowing, the hail ceased as quickly as it had begun, and I set off on my way once more, crunching and sliding a little over the layer of fallen hailstones as I did so. By the time I was approaching the town centre, five minutes later, it was warm again, and dark sections of pavement were literally steaming as the sun hit them and the melted remains of the hailstones condensed off into the atmosphere.

Next time, I think I will get the bus.

My shopping in town was fairly boring, but on the way back home I dropped into 'Rusty Zip', a retro clothing store on Botanic Avenue. There, I bought a beautiful halterneck party dress in a shiny fabric which is black in some lights and a rich, dark purple in others. I also bought a large puffy skirt, much like the bottom half of a ball-gown, in a bright purple satiny fabric. It is floor-length, and apparently designed with one simple aim in mind - to be as HYUGE as possible. I do believe that if I filled it with hot air, I could hang a basket from it and fly across the Atlantic. And I love it!

However, it has a flaw, which is that some kind of liquid has obviously been spilt over it in the past, in quite significant quantities. It's left water-marks in several places, so I need to find a suitable way of cleaning it to get these out. However, it has no washing instructions on it - in fact, I think it may be hand-made. So I'm uncertain as to whether I can hand-wash it, or whether it might need taking to the dry-cleaners. I'm also doubtful about whether they would be able to do anything about water-marks anyway, so I'm hoping I can hand-wash it.

Under the cut which follows is a scan of a section of the skirt, complete with one of the worst stains. The stripey effect in the picture is just a peculiarity of my scanner: in real life, the fabric is a smooth, shiny texture, with consistent colouring. It has a slightly crinkly feel when you rub it between your fingers, and I would guess has quite a lot of nylon in it. Underneath is a layer of white netting and a lining of thin white material which I am almost certain is nylon.

My instinct is that I probably can hand-wash this... but if anyone who knows a thing or two about fabrics would care to take a look at the scan and comment, I would be very grateful for any advice.

Stained patch under here )

Le weekend

Monday, 25 April 2005 09:14
strange_complex: (Apollo Belvedere)
Doctor Who

It actually just gets better and better, doesn't it? I mean: the little pile of M&Ms by the red telephone, the many alternative Tardises and, best of all, the Massive Weapons of Destruction. Did the old Who ever boast such delightful symbolism or topical resonance? I propose from this day forth always to say 'Massive Weapons of Destruction' in everyday conversation rather than 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' in tribute to this weekend's episode.

And if that all weren't enough, we have the Daleks to look forward to next Saturday night. * faints from excitement *

Lysistrata at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

I went to see this on Saturday evening with my colleague, John Curran, our three MA students and one of their boyfriends. It was OK, but I think I've been rather spoiled by the stunning tragedies put on by the Actors of Dionysus, not to mention a bright and breezy student adaptation of the Birds which I saw while at Oxford, and which had translated all the references to contemporary Athens into references to modern-day Oxford instead. While AoD's tragedies are innovative, fresh adaptations, which offer profound contemporary relevance and stunning choreography and manage to strike at the very core of one's emotional being, and the Oxford Birds at least drew on the real experiences of its cast and crew, Saturday's Lysistrata was merely... average.

A pity, because Aristophanes' writing at the time was incredibly bold and topical, and of course there is plenty of local significance that could have been drawn out of a play between two warring communities whose women decide to draw the conflict to an end themselves by holding a sex strike. But the attempts made to do so were half-hearted, the translation sounded suspiciously to me like what I remember of the Penguin one, and many of the lines came across as simply being spoken: not meant. This will probably sound like the most snobbish thing I've ever said, but it felt... provincial.

Still, it was nice to go out with our students, and I'm sure we did much to promote intra-departmental bonding in the process. And I enjoyed some very nice pan-fried duck with a summer fruits sauce in a bistro where we ate before the performance. So by no means a wasted evening.

strange_complex: (Claudius)
I really like what Ovid has to say about Februry 9th in his Fasti1: so much, in fact, that I am going to share it with you here. The reference at the beginning relates to the last entry: he didn't write about every single day of the year, just the important ones.

"When, five days later, the Morning Star has lifted up its radiance bright from out the ocean waves, then is the time that spring begins. But yet be not deceived, cold days are still in store for thee, indeed they are: departing winter leaves behind great tokens of himself."
(Fasti 2.149-52, Loeb translation by Sir J.G. Frazer - also of Golden Bough fame).

It seems to fit nicely with today being the Chinese New Year: a fresh beginning is upon us, although winter ain't over yet.

Meanwhile, here in Belfast, I am starting to see crocuses in the University's flower beds (purple ones, no less), and blackbirds are singing.

Now, I return to writing about gigantic and unwieldy early Roman coins (with pigs and elephants on them - yay!) for tomorrow's first-year lecture.

1. A poem about the Roman year which describes all the festivals and astronomical developments which occur day by day... up until the end of June, that is, after which either the text is lost, Ovid never intended to write any more anyway, or he was sent into exile while the poem was still unfinished (most scholars today prefer option b).
strange_complex: (Default)
Last night, [ profile] damien_mocata, [ profile] captainlucy and myself went to the QFT to see I ♥ Huckabees. It was really excellent, and I would highly recommend it to anybody. Surreal, funny, thought-provoking, and boasting some great performances.

It's rather hard to really convey what it is about by just describing it, but it hinges around a husband-and-wife detective team, Jaffe & Jaffe (played by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin), who work not on crimes, but on solving people's existential problems. Their methods involve teaching clients to deconstruct themselves and their lives, stressing the inter-connectedness of everything, and introducing clients whose cases are related to each other to help them 'progress'. Meanwhile, they have a dark alter-ego, Caterine Vauban (played by Isabelle Huppert), who poaches their unsatisfied clients, telling them instead that nothing is related, and carries a business card with the slogan, 'Cruelty, Manipulation and Meaninglessness'. Or wait: could Vauban and Jaffe & Jaffe actually be working together???

As I said, the film is highly surreal, and you will have to watch it yourself to decide on this. Even their web-site will warp your mind: go on, check it out! (Don't if you have a 56k modem, though...)

I also came away from the cinema with a rather pleasing trophy. Early on in the film, a young man, who is trying to understand the meaning of a series of coincidences which have brought him into contact with a Sudanese refugee, calls on Jaffe & Jaffe and uses a business card of theirs (which itself came his way by a bizarre coincidence) to find their firm within a bewilderingly large office building. I knew I had seen that exact same card earlier on that day, but couldn't for the life of me remember where. So when we came out, I checked the cinema listings leaflet which was by the ticket counter, wondering if there had perhaps been a picture of it in there. Then the man behind the counter, hearing me explaining to Francis and Michael what I was looking for, came to my rescue: in fact, they had a whole pile of Jaffe & Jaffe business cards lying just to the side of the counter, and I had obviously seen these without really registering it consciously while paying for my ticket. Somehow, it felt like the perfect event to follow the film: I myself (and Francis and Michael) all ended up with our own copies of the Jaffe & Jaffe card, through our own somewhat surreal experience.

The card itself, which I shall keep as a memento, looks like this:

Jaffe & Jaffe )

Sadly, they did not have a copy of the Caterine Vauban card... but I can foresee her slogan inspiring many an LJ title or subtitle in the future.

After this, the three of us went back to my flat (via the offy) to watch The Devil Rides Out, a Doctor Who episode (part one of The Web of Fear) and some random snooker. All in all, a most pleasant evening.
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For non-locals: Belfast is about to begin celebrating its yearly Arts Festival, which I'm told is second only in scale to the Edinburgh Festival in the UK.

For locals: below are the events I have already bought tickets to. Some I am attending with a very nice young lady named Cath; some I am thus far going to alone. So if anyone likes the sound of any of them and wants to accompany me (I'm sure Cath would be happy to meet you too), they'd be very welcome. All tickets can be bought on the festival website, unless otherwise noted.

Friday 22nd October: Gluck's baroque opera, Iphigenie en Tauride, performed by the Welsh National Opera at the Grand Opera House. Kick-off 7:30pm. I'm also going to the free pre-show talk at 6:15 in Grosvenor House, Glengall Street. Tickets direct from the Grand Opera House (02890 241 919).

Sunday 24th October: Kate Rusby at the Lyric Theatre, 7:30pm. Apparently, she sings 'folk music for people who don't like folk music', and is both talented and innovative. (I'm mainly going to this one because Cath wants to). Tickets theoretically available on the web-site, but it kept messing itself up when I tried to order them, so in the end I phoned the Lyric Theatre instead (02890 385 685).

Saturday 30th October: John Carpenter's The Thing at the Queen's Film Theatre, 10:30 pm (late showing).

Sunday 31st October (Halloweeeeeen!): The Nightmare Before Christmas at the QFT, 3pm. Theatre of Blood at the QFT, 7pm. Ed Wood at the QFT, 9pm.

Wednesday 3rd November: A play entitled Alladeen at BBC Blackstaff. Surreal multi-media performance about Indian call centres, wish fulfilment and popular culture, it sez 'ere (festival brochure...). Kick-off, 7:30pm.

Saturday 6th November: 'Songs of the Spirit' at the Clonard Monastery (no, really), 7:30pm. Haunting choral music by candlelight, including Tavener, Rachmaninov, Brucker and some unattributed spirituals.

Crumbs! I have managed to spread those out fairly evenly... but still, I hope I actually have time to fit in going to them between all my lectures. :S


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