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My life continues a bit fractured, so there'll be no thoughtful exploration of a single theme in this post, but once again, a jumble of bits and pieces.  First, just for your pleasure, is a link to a photo of a beautiful white kangaroo

Second, a concert report!  Last weekend I heard for the first time Stokowski's transcription for orchestra of Bach's Fugue in G Minor - which absolutely entranced me for the first ... oh, about two-thirds, I guess.  And then it got a bit muddied, overloaded, too much jam on a piece of toast - which was more down to the orchestra than to Bach or Stokowski, I think, having come home and listened to other versions.  Still - great to hear, and I really was entranced for most of it, and in any case that was only the curtain-raiser to the main piece of the night, which was...
Daimo Eriko on marimba, playing a wonderfully complex piece, Lauda Concertata, by Akira Ifukube.   Here's a three-minute scrap of it, but it doesn't do justice to the excitement and dynamism of the full thing (which is about thirty minutes long).  Daimo Eriko was amazing, all whirling energy and intensity and total engagement, with the piece and with the orchestra, and they with her.  Overall, she and they and the whole experience - brilliant, and very exciting.
(There was some Brahms or other after the intermission, but ... Brahms just didn't cut it after that excitement.)

Third, and less pleasingly, in the category of Things I Didn't Know: 
I've only just learned that "Tonto", which is the name I know for the Lone Ranger's offsider, means "Stupid" in Italian and Spanish, which is really depressing..  :( 
Spanish is the more relevant, I guess, but it was Italian I saw it in, and only then cross-checked to Spanish.  
(Speaking of names, by the way - Reality Winner??)

Last:  Best wishes, UK voters! 

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I'm struggling a bit to get back on top of things, so this is not a very long or learned or real post... but then, what is a Real Post?  Oh well - very quickly then,in the department of things I've only just found out:

With reference to the song 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' (video, about two and a half minutes) - there really was a Pablo Fanque, running a circus in Britain over several decades in the nineteenth century. 
His birth name was William Darby, he was black, and very successful - which is all pretty interesting - but even more interesting is the story of how his circus employed an Irish contortionist (I think - the source says "posture master")  disguised as a Chinese man, (to be excitingly foreign and mysterious? - which I suppose is the reason for Darby's own name change) which provoked two other genuine Chinese men to investigate, fearing - after the circus refused to let them speak with the disguised man - that a countryman of theirs was being held in forced labour conditions - and they brought, successfully, a suit of habeas corpus against the circus. 
I find this wonderful and fascinating - the awareness of possible forced labour (and implicit possible human trafficking) at the time, and the brilliance of the habeas corpus law being used to fight against it. 

I love the gumption of the two Chinese men going in to bat for a possibly kidnapped and enslaved countryman.  I really want to hear of other such cases, where a real trafficked person was freed this way.

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There's so much stinking, stinking sad news out there. :(

Well... to some better news, or cheerful things, if not exactly news:

Scotland has achieved its emissions reduction target six years early! :) Go, Scotland!

The 50,000 hectares of Yarralin Cattle Station (which had been held under leasehold from the Crown, most recently by the Hooker Corporation) has been formally handed back to its traditional Aboriginal owners.

Is a comedy sketch art? If it is, then here's art protecting nature, in an ad made by two well-known comedians for an NGO in Vietnam, to campaign for tiger protection (youtube, one minute)

Where nature starts to look like art:
I really liked these eggs, all from the same species of bird - the tawny-flanked prinia, in Africa. So beautiful, like marbled silk!

The photo is by evolutionary ecologist Martin Stevens, and I found it and the info in this Guardian article.

Beautiful, and sneaky, too! The origin of these lovely patterns lies in the habit of the Zambian cuckoo finch, doing what cuckoo finches do, i.e. laying eggs which mimicked typical prinia eggs in prinia nests - but the tawny-flanked prinia has been - and still is - fighting back, by each individual hen now laying her own special signature style of egg! The egg-forging finches can't keep up! Go, wonderful tawny-flanked prinias!

Writing news: What with one thing and another, I haven't written a thing all year, apart from some three-sentence fiction, so I've been trying to kickstart my writing by launching back into a Narnia project I started last year. Read more... )
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I'm envious of those Australians who will be at home this week to see the first episodes of the new show Cleverman. It does look like it could be a bit tough, i.e. with depictions of violence - I usually steer away from such. (Here's the youtube trailer - it's a bit over two minutes long.)
Still, I'd like to see it; it'll be the first big Aboriginal-led futureish dystopian fantasy action show (and heavy on the social commentary) on television. Though it's not true, as is asserted in this Guardian article, that this'll be the first Aboriginal superhero; I remember the AIDS-inspired Condoman - don't be shame, be game! - even if no-one else does.
If anyone sees it, I'd love to hear what you think.

Two cheerful pieces of environmental news - from the giant karri forests of Pemberton, WA, and
from the tiny wastewater treatment plant in Jamestown, SA.

One pleasant indicator of social change, perhaps: a clue in the Friday crossword this week was She classifies Chinese religion, not film.
(The answer was taxonomist; the X was part of a larger pan-crossword clue.)
True, as a clue it's not especially exciting, but what I thought was pleasant was to see "she" used to mean "ordinary human", and not meaning something different from the default male.

War & Peace is back - I'm pushing determinedly for the end now, since the friend I was reading it with most unfairly gallopped ahead while I was away doing other things. I've just finished about the battle of Borodino, Read more... )
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I'm posting a lot, I know, right now, in the attempt to find some counterweights to the world's worth of bad news.  I hope I'm not wearing you all out! 

Here's the not-internet world still ticking over - fanzines live!

I was really happy to see what might be the beginning of widespread fair wages for fast-food workers in the US

I very much like this hard-edged, seen-it-all take on Emilia's speech about marital unfaithfulness, in Othello.  (video, 1:19 minutes -for some reason for me it goes to the bottom of the page - you have to scroll up to find the video) 

It only just struck me this week:  when Cockneys are written as saying "Wotcher!"  as a greeting, it's the rubbed-down, easy-going descendant of "What cheer?"  (Did everyone else know this all along?)

Meanwhile, the French are edging away from the circumflex! which feels so un-French - or so unlike the purity-of-the-language French I was threatened with, at school.  But there it is - circumflexes, wotcher- languages shift, even the inflexible French.

and something pretty to end the week on:  opalised shells.  Or pearls, the scientists do say, but they looked like shells!

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1. I spent several days avoiding spoilers for Doctor Who; now that I've seen the most recent episode I'm not sure it was all that worth waiting for.  Capaldi acted brilliantly again; the writers gave almost an overdose of clever, effective internal and external cultural refs and nudges; there was a seriously engaging look at the bitterness of the loss of the memory of a beloved as well as of the living presence*; there was an upbeat ending.  But I don't think it worked as a whole, or as a culmination of a  season; it conspicuously ducked the hard work of constructing logical, working coherence, in either plot or world-building, and I think it really undercut the main emotional impact of 'Face the Raven'. 
In toto - disappointing, given the serious talent involved
*The last shot of the Doctor's Tardis, with the ashes of the past blowing away - that was punchy.

2. There' a three-sentence fiction going on on LJ right now - I'm lagging badly in it - partly because I'm a bit short of energy right now, but also because I am so not in touch with most of the fandoms.  :(  I should at least steep myself in Greek myth before the next one of these events.  I looked at one or two classical mythology prompts, but ...no, I know too little.  I didn't know, for example,  (and was delighted to find out) that there's a genuine (late-)classical mythology about a naiad from the River Ganges.  Her name is Anaxibia, and all I can see on the internet about her is that she had to hide, with Artemis' help, to get away from Helios' hot (I suppose) pursuit 

3. This article, which I saw linked on someone else's DW journal, but I've doltishly lost whose, is an interesting attempt (in the Chinese movie sphere) to tap fan writers via a 'come-all-ye' competition, as  a cheap source to replace professional writers.

“I don’t want you to write screenplays, but stories,” Mr. Xu said, adding that contestants “will be kicked out as if it was a game of elimination.” He said the final winner would be awarded a large sum of money as well, according to a transcript of the seminar confirmed by the company.

Of course, that model would be simultaneously be a way to market research what fans wanted as well - two birds with one handy stone - and I suppose entry to the competition would involve ceding the intellectual property rights to each entry, so there's a useful other side-benefit for the movie company.

4. I really, really liked the story of "You ain't no Muslim, bruv".  (video, a bit more than a minute and a half, with some violence and arrest of attacker - the relevant bit's at 1:29ish)
I like it bec
ause it's the real East London voice; I like it because it cuts down the attacker to being nothing more than an aggro wannabeI like it whether the man who shouted it is Muslim or not; if he's Muslim, he's refusing to let the attacker use his faith to wedge him out of the surrounding (very strong) culture; if he's not, he's beautifully acknowledging the best of Islam as a religion of peace and compassion.


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The latest stressy work-thing is done, and I should be zooming with energy but I'm not - apologies for my slow, feeble or non-existent replies to people's posts lately.

also, due to sudden computer dysfunction, I've lost some links I was saving up.The only thing left is a picture I came across:  The Garden of Eden by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472ish-1553)

Lucas Cranach - Garden of Eden; many animals romp while the Genesis story happens-

Hhmmm... that's come out very fuzzy.  This might be better for checking detail - but in the meantime, what I wanted to note was that while it's packed with excitement and incident - there's Lions!  Bears!and a Fox! the Mysterious Child in the background, in colloquy with God (Do you think it's the Infant Adam? I always imagined he began full-grown?) and the whole story from Genesis, strewn across the landscape - while  there's all that happening, what I liked the most was that Cranach had included...

a Unicorn! There - behind the handsome horses, with long and oddly curving horn. :)

Unicorn disports itself in Eden

I was and am very happy that it's there!

But that, alas, is all that is left of the saved-up links I had.

Still, not to worry - new things keep turning up!  In the category of Things I Didn't Know:  I only discovered yesterday that jackfruit seeds are edible!  They need boiling, it seems (I haven't done it yet) but after boiling and peeling become a plain-but-worthy mealy carbohydrate, like lentils. I will test-drive this, and report. :) 

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So... still catching up with things that have been posted over the past little while...

The Pirate Queen is back! Narniafic by [personal profile] autumnia - a gorgeously zesty story (and highly political - including political philosophy - good meaty questions to consider) slotted into the time of Caspian's visit to the Lone Islands in Prince Caspian. I gave myself the pleasure of rereading it from the beginning, and enjoyed every word. :) 

I also took a look at [personal profile] rthstewart 's Tumblr page, and found a lovely round-up of australian birds, which was a delight in itself, and also pleased me much by having as one of its tags the line "they really are dinosaurs, you know" - pleased me very much, because I've only just learned about this fabulous (but not fabulous,however much it seems so - absolutely four-square, solid-as-a-rock real) South american bird, the hoatzin:

bright-crested bird

(Pic by Thore Noernberg.  I love how wildly mythological the hoatzin looks, like a phoenix.  Its body-shape is rather like a peacock, but with stronger wings and less tail, so a better flyer.)

which has - the juveniles have,anyway - functioning claws on their wings!!  like archaeopteryx.  Yep - they really are dinosaurs. 
Here's a David attenborough clip showing the claws in action.  I was just gasping at how amazing they are - four clawed limbs - and feathers!  and that gorgeously fierce crest!. Hoatzin.  I'd never heard of them, and they are brilliant
(I love this world! The surprises just never stop coming. :) )

extra, for no good reason: One of my favourite politicians is the absolutely straight-down-the-line terrific Shadow Trade Minister and Labor Senate Leader Penny Wong, who if all was as it ought to be, would be Prime Minister.  Here she is being interviewed this morning on television  (nine-and-a-bit minute clip - for politics junkies only, probably) about the TPP, amongst other things.   Note how she is calm, humorous, totally across the brief and sane.  (What isn't sane is how the current government is leaving her and her fellow Labor members out of the loop on these important issues.  Not sane because the country can't afford to be without her talents being used to the full.)
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Not a long post from me today; I'm still being frugal with screen time.  So just a round-up of a few things I've found interesting lately.

Here's one
about legends being true!  One legend, anyway.

I don't rec
all where I came across it, but I liked this blog post about the use, especially in political press releases, of the word "cost".   (I feel very crabby about how the word "reform" is used, too.)

I like dyed E
aster eggs!   We do ours with onion skins - is anyone else dyeing or painting them? 

article was part of autism awareness day, and is pleasant in terms of the father's calm, easy relationship with his son. But I was narked by the father's hint that it was random nearby women who should have been responsible for general awareness of what was happening:  "Maybe we need more netball mums - where was she when Freddie decided to do his first public art installation?"
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First up: stay warm, all friends in snowy, snowy places!  :)

And ..things I've been reading, this past week

I am slogging on with My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk.  It's an interesting, but for me, distinctly not an easy read - I'm not sure how much this is because it's culturally a jump for me - it's sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire, in the lives and concerns of miniaturists, painting/illuminating those glorious manuscripts of tales.  So far - I'm just over halfway through - I haven't felt the utterly compelling sense of involvement in the lives of the characters which is one thing I enjoy in reading.  Maybe it's not what the writer is wanting to produce, though?  Lots of it is philosophical, thinking about art and artifice and theology - it's set as Islam begins to edge towards (if I'm reading correctly - much ignorance here) the strong anti-depiction theology of today.  And that sort of thinking-through of values and changes is also something I enjoy a lot in reading; and that part is starting to grip.

Thanks to the post three lines from three WIPs meme, I have found my way to a whole new story-cycle by [personal profile] cofax7  - it's a combination of two fandoms I don't know, taking the protagonists of Supernatural, and putting them in a world known as Riderverse from novels by  CJ Cherryh. Rivetting!

Other reading:  The Railway Navvies: a history of the men who made the railways, by Terry Coleman.  I enjoyed this very much as a connector, linking the construction of railways in Britain with many things, like parallel European works and the Crimean War.  For example, it was the brilliant intervention of the railway baron,Morton Peto, who more or less pulled the British army from total disaster in the Crimea,by getting built (at cost) a railway to get supplies through;  Army officers were astonished at the speed, skill and cohesion of the workforce (all volunteers -paid,but not drafted).  It's popular history, not academic history, and won't be much new to any historian out there, but they're not in the general memory - or at least, they weren't in mine!  It's not terrific in terms of reliability - he is a little bit fast-and-loose with his sources - e.g. one source which he quotes as being about pipe-smoking among the navvies turns out on investigation to be about pipe-smoking among the women in the navvy community (not labourers - family).  But I thought it was great as a thought-provoker and for lots of sidelights on social history.  :)

also, come across by chance on the internet: an interesting paper called "Omitted from History: Women in the Building Trades" by Linda Clarke and Chris Wall, which gives details of legislation and actual figures of women involved in these trades in England over several centuries. Some of their sources are secondary, e.g. they bring from someone called Snell, the info that "in the southern counties of England between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries... 34% of parish apprentices were girls, who were apprenticed in 51 occupations including as bricklayers, carpenters, joiners and shipwrights".  But some are primary, such as the London 1841 Census figures.  All of which I found very interesting, though I have no particular use for it.  :)

editing to add:  And I made another ghastly bish-up trying to to get the neat link to [personal profile] cofax7 .  :(   Thanks to [personal profile] lady_songsmith  for bailing me out!

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:)  Third and last.  Well, I trust not the last happy day I'll have -- grave misgivings!! -- but the last of the three days when I undertook to write out three happy things that happened.  So, today:

1.  I discovered a new way through back lanes to the Post Office!  which takes me for part of the way alongside a quiet canal, with trees growing and leaning over the water.  And also in the same happiness, I posted two letters which needed to be posted!  :)

2.  I had a part-share in a NFE Madness Round story - How the Skeleton Aches, by Elizabeth Culmer (edenfalling), which was adroitly addressed to the prompts of five recipients!  And tells of Polly and Digory, once again facing the problem of evil loose in the world.

3.  And as well, I had a whole story linked to a prompt I'd posted!  Lost and Found, by Transposable_Element (who has another linked story in the same collection: The Little Sea).  Both of these deal with King Lune's Queen, especially in terms of her motherhood - prospective, actual, grieving, relinquishing.

So... that's three wonderful and happy things for me today, and thank you redsnake for the inspiration.  (Well, the stories themselves aren't all happy, of course, because they deal with some tough stuff.  But getting them was happy.)


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It's lunchtime, and the guests coming for lunch haven't come yet.  I do hope they do, because there was lots of racing about tidying and cooking and even internal household they're-coming-any-minute crabbiness.  Maybe I should have phoned to remind them, or maybe they're just late. 

Anyway, as I'm idle, I'll pass the time by writing one more entry in the never-ending list of things I didn't know/have just found out, but probably everyone else does:

In mid-1940, while the British Expeditionary Force was being desperately ferried from Dunkirk, the 51st Highlanders were cut off from the main force by the advance of the Germans under Rommel, and taken prisoner.  They were marched from the coast of Normandy some eleven hundred kilometres to POW camp - and on the way, a 26-year-old lieutenant, Jimmy Atkinson, hearing the beat of the marching feet and I suppose furious with the fortunes of war, and inspired by the courage of the Highlanders was inspired to compose a reel... or to begin composing it.  He worked on it further in camp, along with another man whose name I have forgotten (and the guests have just phoned to say they'll be another twenty minutes**) ... anyway.. they composed it, and practised it - a reel for ten men, and I gather they danced it barefoot - until they felt it was perfected.  It spells out, so to speak, a St Andrew's Cross, for resolution and courage and fortitude.

And Atkinsons notated it carefully in the right formal notation, beginning something like this: 1- 8 1s set and cast below 3s, lead up to face 1st corners ... and posted it home  to his wife - but it was intercepted, and taken to be a code, and wikipedia (yes, I know) says that the Abwehr spent the rest of the war trying to  decode it. 
Which may not be entirely true, because another officer later also sent it back to Scotland, and it was picked up and danced as a Red Cross fundraiser for the rest of the war, and remains one of the most popular reels in Scotland.  Anyway - the first sending was certainly intercepted, and it's a good story, and one I didn't know until yesterday.

Here's a link to some scraps of newsreel, and a recreation of the reel as first formally danced for their commanding officer in the POW camp.

** They weren't though!  They came while I was still writing this, and a pleasant lunch was had by all.  :) 

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What hubris!  to think of using a tag of "things I didn't know"!  I'll have to change it, or in the nature of things it'll end up swamping any other tag I use.   But that's what this is about; I am burning with amazement at learning about the Nri Kingdom in Africa. 

This started when the difference in Christmasses got me thinking about the different calendars available in different places (ie in that case, Gregorian and Julian) and so went searching for calendars, and came across the Igbo calendar which took me in turn to the Nri Kingdom, which flourished inside what is now Nigeria, from around 950 A.D. to about 1700, and then declining until final surrender to the British in 1911.  I was enraptured with them instantly, partly because the kingdom did not use the much-overused system of having oldest-male-child as preferred heir to the throne:
though it wasa mystical-magical kingship, rather than poltical. )

But also much more! including... )

But better than their fascinating system of government and throwing me more into wonderment was what the point of their government was: peace and freedom.  For example...
Protection for travellers, using the sacred palm-frond as sign they were protected. 
A doctrine that violence polluted the earth.  (But instead of violence as punishment, a form of excommunication or outlawry - I don't know how that played out) 
And this:
"Certain parts of the Nri domain, like Agukwu, did not recognize slavery and served as a sanctuary. After the selection of the tenth eze Nri, any slave who stepped foot on Nri soil was considered free."  

Fascinating, wonderful, amazing.   Breath-taking. 


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