Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Autumn morning

back garden trees 1, originally uploaded by the pig wot flies.

The trees in our back garden have been gradually turning red. Here they are this morning, just at the moment between all the leaves turning and all the leaves beginning to fall.

Monday, October 30, 2006

time travel

It's been a good weekend. Film watching, shoe-buying, more film-watching, knitting, cooking curry for 14 people (yay for large living rooms!), admring the sunset, even more film-watching.

We (Mel and I) made a spontaneous decision to invite people back for lunch after church. So we invited people, and some of them invited other people and we ended up with 14 or so people for lunch. It was great! We cooked a couple of curries, rice, naans and salad. There were plenty of willing helpers, some people brought drinks or contributed ingredients or did the washing up and I loved it! Definitely to be repeated soon. After lunch we sat around and chatted, then a small remnant (6) went for a short expedition to Magog down. We just about had enough time to wander around, confuse some sheep and admire the sunset before the carpark closed. Then back home to watch gattaca, down to 4 of us, then finally 3 of us ate toast and humous for tea. I do like days full of people and fun.

This weekend's extra hour was spent sleeping. Which was a Good Thing. And now it's getting dark and it's not 5pm yet. Winter is approaching. Time to knit more jumpers.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Book Thoughts: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I promised a book review or two, and while I'm in a thoughtful mood, here's one.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

I've wanted to read this since seeing Bladerunner and finally got round to it a few weeks ago. It's a quick read, only took me an evening, although I'll go back and re-read it more slowly when I get to studying it next year. Like most things where I've seen the film version before reading the book, it's hard to get the visual images out of your head, especially when they're as stunning as Bladerunner. Putting that aside, and attempting to take the book on its own, the things that struck me were the way in which Dick draws you into his world. The first chapter or so is mostly exposition of who and what this world is about, but it doesn't feel like it. The description of Rick and his wife Iran and Rick's need to have a real animal, feel real and human. There's a certain amount of noir-ish detective work, but also, unexpectedly, opera and art. The other strand that surprised me was Mercerism, a sort of religious mysticism based on empathy with a real or simulated man walking up a hill. It's a recurring theme, the real versus the simulated. How do we know who's human and who's an android? What about the 'specials', humans so affected by the lead-polluted earth that they can no longer reproduce and are considered sub-human?

It's an odd book which ends with many things left unexplained. It's a day in the life of Rick Decker as much as anything. I've not read much sci-fi, so I don't have much of a feel for how it fits or doesn't fit the genre. The stereotypical conventions are there - advanced technologies, other worlds, mind-altering machines. (Query, why so many mind/mood altering machines in sci-fi? The only example that springs to mind immediately is Brave New World, but I'm sure there are more. I expect someone's written a paper or two or on 'Mind and Machine in Technological Dystopias'). It wasn't a bad way to spend an evening and it's always very satisfying to read a novel in one sitting, but I couldn't help finishing it with a feeling of dissatisfaction at the things left unsaid. Plenty to discuss when I come to write an essay on it, I suppose.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

is what's currently stuck in my head after seeing The History Boys last night. It's an interesting film. Morally rather dubious, not entirely sure what its message is, but intelligent, witty, very, very funny and poignant in that blend of Englishness, tragedy, comedy and bluntness that can only be an Alan Bennett play.

It reminded me of my A-level days, although with some obvious differences. There were girls at our school, obviously, or I wouldn't have been there, and I don't think anyone propositioned their teacher post exam results. Noone in my year anyway.

It was the theme of an unrequited crush that brought it all back. Especially one so publicly displayed. Though I'd never have had the guts to sing the song that gives this post its title so pointedly to the object of my affections. But there was a letter, that shouldn't have been sent and was. (NB, if you're in the habit of writing letters you don't intend to send, don't let anyone, however well-meaning, let you think that sending them is a good idea. Especially not if they're mad, rambling, intertextual outpourings with survey tickboxes, Venn diagrams and smiley faces. I wish I still had it, to serve as a warning.) And for a while it seemed the whole world knew my heart. The letter was answered, negatively, but in the spirit of my original. (I kept his reply for a while, but I think it was burnt in a purge of teenage angst-ridden scribblings). I was disappointed, but hardly surprised. It blew over in the end. It always does.

The last verse, not sung in the film, although some characters could have done with hearing it. Perhaps Hector's advice to Irwin is in part encapsulated by the final stanza.

Wise at last, my eyes at last,
Are cutting you down to your size at last
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

Burned a lot, but learned a lot
And now you are broke, so you earned a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

Couldn't eat, was dispeptic
Life was so hard to bear
Now my heart's antiseptic
Since you moved out of there

Romance, finis.
Your chance, finis.
Those ants that invaded my pants, finis.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

Monday, October 23, 2006

weekend report

So we went to the Tate (Modern) and it was crawling with families (half term). I'd forgotten just how busy the Tate gets at the weekend. The last few times I've been were when I was working near London Bridge and so went after work when it was relatively quiet. I hadn't been since the latest re-hang, so it was fun finding out where things had moved to and spotting old friends in new places. I'm not totally convinced by some of the arrangements. There are lots of walls with clusters of paintings, apparently haphazardly arranged, some too high to see properly. One thing I did like was a small corridor-like room with Cindy Sherman self portraits and 'film stills' on one wall and some of Gillian Waring's Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You to Say on the other. Putting them opposite each other created a sort of visual dialogue, two ways of using photography to explore identity and what people want to say about themselves.

Other stuff was less exciting. I think I've just grown out of surrealism. It mostly seemed very silly, where once it looked profound and exciting. Perhaps it's just familiarity. Once you've seen Dali's Lobster Telephone once, it becomes an old joke, there's not much to it. But then I still love seeing Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even. It's fun, if not particularly profound.

Also definitely in the fun category, are Carsten Holler's slides (Test Site). There were ENORMOUS queues for the lower ones. The taller ones are on a timed ticket system, so the queues look shorter, but they were so booked up, we couldn'e got on them. So we queued for 45 minutes for one of the lower slides and amused ourselves with I-spy and watching small children running about and/or having tantrums. I think it was worth it, just about, for a short, twisty slide. You do whizz pretty fast, even on the short slide.

We met up with my mum for dinner, and then went on the National Theatre for The Life of Galileo. I hadn't read the play beforehand, although I'll be studying it next year. I think I'd rather see plays before I read them, it makes the reading easier if you've got a mental picture of a stage and actors to move around. I liked the production, although the two song and dance numbers didn't sit very well with what was otherwise a fairly naturalistic setting. Simon Russell Beale was a wonderful Galileo, transforming from loveable shabby academic to passionate seeker of truth to broken old man. Seeing the play made me want to know more about Brecht and to see more theatre. It's relatively easy to get from Cambridge to London and there are good theatres in Cambridge too. Must have cultured weekends more often!

UPDATED to say: The Gender Genie thinks the writer of this entry is female. I don't notice much difference between this and my usual style. Interesting.

still a girl

I came across The Gender Genie on Dovegreyreader's blog. It uses an algorithm to predict the gender of the writer of a piece of writing pasted into the box. So I pasted some blog entries in. And it consistently thinks I'm male. Ah well, who wants to fit in a mould.

Friday, October 20, 2006

where did the week go?

I know what Debs means. It's Friday and I haven't posted since Monday. To be fair, I've planned lots of posts, but haven't had time to write them up since I'm blogging at work and trying to be good and only blog outside work time. So I've got abut 5 minutes before I need to get back to work.

To come soon, a couple of book reviews/assorted thoughts. I've read (as in read and finished) two books this week, they couldn't be more different. I'm reading Middlemarch at the moment as my just-before-going-to-sleep book. At a chapter a night, it's slow progress, but I'm enjoying it so far. I love Eliot's gentle style. She's very fair to her characters, managing to show their faults without mocking them. I watched the BBC version of Middlemarch years ago when it was on. I don't remember an awful lot about it, but I keep being reminded as new characters appear. Ladislaw in particular is quite hard to separate from Rufus Sewell's smouldering portrayal. And last night I got to the first mention of Rosamund Vincey, which made me remember her wheedling "Tertius...". She always made it sound more like "Tashus" and she was usually trying to manipulate Lydgate into doing something unwise.

Provoking squeals of delight this week was the news that Torchwood starts on BBC3 on Sunday AND is going to be repeated on BBC2 on Wednesdays! Hoorah! I love the way the BBC marketing department creates websites to go with its programmes. There's this Visit Torchwood website and this slightly less subtle page.

Oops, better get back to work. Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, October 16, 2006

sunday night and monday morning

It's been a wonderful weekend. People, food, party, fun, worship, God, doughnuts, sleep. Thanks for all the birthday wishes.

And now it's Monday and I'm back to work. And that's good too.

Look at this: slides! I'm going to London on Saturday to see a play (The Life of Galileo by Bertolt Brecht). I think I know where I'm going to be during the day!

Friday, October 13, 2006

very very small things made big

Here you can find a very cool animation of the inner workings of a cell. (Needs flash player) It's even more exciting if you can find a biologist to explain what all the bits are. But even without that, it's pretty awe-inspiring.

Happy Birthday to me!

Hello! I'm back. Older, if not actually more grown-up.

Thank you to all the people who left encouraging messages and birthday wishes. They were all much appreciated. September was a bit of a rubbish month. Too much to do, too many mini existential crises. I needed to stop moaning on the blog and sort myself out a bit.

Anyway, I'm back. Normal service should resume. And it's my birthday, so all is good!