steepholm: (Default)
I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share a some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.

Over Sea, Under Stone )
steepholm: (tree_face)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?

Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (Default)
A recent radio programme suggested that most of us talk to ourselves (guilty as charged). Quite a few also commentate on their daily behaviour, and of those, a large majority do so in the voice of David Attenborough narrating a wildlife documentary.

I wonder if this is as common a thing in the UK as dreaming of the royal family?


ETA: Incidentally, I wonder about the history of this habit. People couldn't imitate commentaries before there were commentaries, after all. I remember in Ian McEwan's Atonement the little girl Briony swipes the heads of dandelions with a stick (or something similar) and imagines someone commentating on her as if she were at the Olympic Dandelion Beheading final. That would be in the late 1930s. By that time there was certainly radio commentary on football, and I daresay cricket and horseracing too. Live coverage of the Olympics, though? I'm not sure. And, before Marconi, were our imaginations mute?
steepholm: (tree_face)
When did good witches start to appear in British children's literature? I don't mean wise women, good fairies, or anything of that kind, but outright, named-as-such witches.

In America there are the Oz books, of course, though they in any case seem something of an outlier: did Oz spawn other good Stateside witches in the decades immediately following? In the UK, though, mid-twentieth-century witches (e.g. in John Masefield's The Midnight Folk [1927], T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone [1938], Ursula Moray Williams' Gobbolino the Witch's Cat [1942] and Barbara Sleigh's Carbonel, Prince of Cats [1955]) are generally malignant, as per tradition, and that tends to be the case into the 1970s, too: see for example the witches in Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick (1971) (soon to be an anime feature, by the way, under the title, Mary and the Witch's Flower) or Diana Wynne Jones's Wilkins' Tooth/Witch's Business (1973). The first good British witch I can think of is in Nina Beachcroft's Well Met by Witchlight (1972), and even she is paired off against a bad one.

In a slightly different category are the good comedy witches. Oddly, there doesn't seem to have been much influence in Britain from the magic-in-a-modern-suburban-setting style of American sitcom, as in Bewitched, The Addams Family or The Munsters (all 1964), where the comedy comes from the incongruity of the modern - unless the boarding-school setting of Jill Murphy's Worst Witch series (from 1974) counts as such. In Britain, naturally, we're all about the comic incompetence, as with Murphy's Mildred Hubble and (though to a far lesser extent) Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski's Meg and Mog (from 1972). Both Mildred and Meg count as good, I suppose?

As for New Age/Wicca-inspired good witches, I'm not really aware of anything in Britain until 1990, when we get Monica Furlong's Wise Child (if indeed Juniper really is a witch - I'm not sure she identifies as such) - although in New Zealand Margaret Mahy had begun as early as 1984, with the Carlisle witches in The Changeover.

This is pretty much a top-of-the-head list. I don't want a baptismal curse, so tell me - whom have I neglected? Can you beat Nina Beachcroft in 1971? I'm sure you can.
steepholm: (Default)
When did good witches start to appear in British children's literature? I don't mean wise women, good fairies, or anything of that kind, but outright, named-as-such witches.

In America there are the Oz books, of course, though they in any case seem something of an outlier: did Oz spawn other good Stateside witches in the decades immediately following? In the UK, though, mid-twentieth-century witches (e.g. in John Masefield's The Midnight Folk [1927], T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone [1938], Ursula Moray Williams' Gobbolino the Witch's Cat [1942] and Barbara Sleigh's Carbonel, Prince of Cats [1955]) are generally malignant, as per tradition, and that tends to be the case into the 1970s, too: see for example the witches in Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick (1971) (soon to be an anime feature, by the way, under the title, Mary and the Witch's Flower) or Diana Wynne Jones's Wilkins' Tooth/Witch's Business (1973). The first good British witch I can think of is in Nina Beachcroft's Well Met by Witchlight (1972), and even she is paired off against a bad one.

In a slightly different category are the good comedy witches. Oddly, there doesn't seem to have been much influence in Britain from the magic-in-a-modern-suburban-setting style of American sitcom, as in Bewitched, The Addams Family or The Munsters (all 1964), where the comedy comes from the incongruity of the modern - unless the boarding-school setting of Jill Murphy's Worst Witch series (from 1974) counts as such. In Britain, naturally, we're all about the comic incompetence, as with Murphy's Mildred Hubble and (though to a far lesser extent) Helen Nicoll and Jan Pieńkowski's Meg and Mog (from 1972). Both Mildred and Meg count as good, I suppose?

As for New Age/Wicca-inspired good witches, I'm not really aware of anything in Britain until 1990, when we get Monica Furlong's Wise Child (if indeed Juniper really is a witch - I'm not sure she identifies as such) - although in New Zealand Margaret Mahy had begun as early as 1984, with the Carlisle witches in The Changeover.

This is pretty much a top-of-the-head list. I don't want a baptismal curse, so tell me - whom have I neglected? Can you beat Nina Beachcroft in 1971? I'm sure you can.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (Default)
I went to Romsey this weekend so that I could visit my mother in hospital there (she was moved last week from the big hospital in Southampton to the local cottage hospital – where I was born, as a matter of fact). When I saw her on Friday afternoon she was in good spirits, and asked me to bring some clothes and smoked-salmon sandwiches the following morning, which I duly did. However, on turning into the ward I found my way blocked by a nurse, who said that there’d been a couple of cases of D&V among the ladies of the ward overnight.

I had to ask what D&V meant. The first words to pop into my head were “decay” and “vile with green and livid spot”, but apparently it’s diarrhoea and vomiting, and the standard practice is to close the ward to visitors for a day or two, for fear of spreading the infection. This was a shame, since it defeated the purpose of my driving from Bristol, but I thanked her for letting me know, handed over the care package, and went back to my mother’s house for the day.

This morning I rang to see if the ward was open for visitors yet. It wasn’t, so I asked to speak with my mother on the phone. A minute later I heard her asking why on earth I hadn’t visited yesterday? It turned out that she didn’t know about the ward being closed to visitors! The nurse who gave her my package the day before had simply told her that I couldn’t visit – which she understood to be a message from me, rather than about me. Consequently, she spent the next 24 hours wondering why I’d abandoned her.

Of course I cleared up the misunderstanding, but I was quite upset to think of her feeling bereft and abandoned like that. And I was just as upset on my own behalf to think of her believing I’d do such a thing.

“No one ever gets over the first unfairness,” wrote the sagacious Mr Barrie. I’d hazard that mine involved being unjustly accused of something, because that’s a scenario that has a peculiar power to cut to my quick – far more so than open cruelty. Stories in which it happens are upsetting to me, too, unless the misunderstanding is cleared up very quickly. If it doesn’t get cleared up at all, forget it! I can just about make it through The Winter’s Tale because of the final act, but Othello, where Desdemona dies before Othello becomes aware of her innocence, is simply upsetting, and not in a cathartic way.

Even when misunderstandings are cleared up, they leave an undeserved aftertaste – like the smell of cigarette smoke in a non-smoker’s hair (something I’m very familiar with from my Romsey visits). The scenario in which I abandoned my mother at the hospital and went off instead to – what? the races, perhaps? – is hard to dispel. It’s a bit like the episode of Friends in which Phoebe is angry with Ross because of something he did to her in a dream. I suppose that’s how it is for anyone who’s unjustly accused, even when they’re cleared of blame. In the court of the unconscious, the best verdict you can hope for is “Not Proven”.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've always thought that people who write essays should take the word "essay"'s etymology more seriously. These aren't finished pieces, not the last word on any subject, but rather (to use a phrase of Bacon's) "knowledge broken". Montaigne, when he coined the term, was surely advertising that these were merely "attempts", after all. I like that attitude.

Something happened in the centuries following, though. You can catch a glimpse of it in the changing livery of the essay's prepositional outriders. In English, the earliest essays (e.g. Bacon's own, and John Florio's translations of Montaigne), tended to have the word "Of" at the beginning: "Of Praise", "Of Followers and Friends", "Of the Education of Children", and so on. "Of" was a subject marker, but one that suggesting that the writer was partaking of the subject without entirely clearing the plate.

In philosophical and scientific circles, at some point in the seventeenth century, the word "towards" seems to have become popular. Hence John Wilkins' "An essay towards a real character and a philosophical language" (1668), Berkeley's "An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision" (1709), or Bayes' "An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances" (1763). I approve this choice: it suggests that the essay isn't a finished form but a vector, a movement in the direction of knowledge, a baton passed to futurity. It sits well with the conception of knowledge as a collective enterprise in which no one person can hope to achieve all.

After a while, though, this was superseded in popularity by "on". I suppose Pope may have had something to do with popularising it; at any rate, we can cite "An Essay on Criticism" (1709) as an early locus classicus. There's something closed off and uninviting about this preposition, something that descends on its subject as if from a great height. It seems to fold its arms and say, "Beat that, if you can!" It's a preposition for a more individualistic age, perhaps, but I can't help thinking that it stimulates further argument, if at all, in an unhelpfully adversarial (or at least emulous) way.

So I say, let's bring back the tentative nature of the essay! Let's leave its loose threads hanging instead of tucking them into the hems! Let's detach, as far as possible, arguments from egos! And let's listen to Bacon's sage advice in The Advancement of Learning and apply it to the essay form:

Another error... is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.


I would write a polished conclusion at this point, but it seems against the spirit of the post.
steepholm: (Default)
I've always thought that people who write essays should take the word "essay"'s etymology more seriously. These aren't finished pieces, not the last word on any subject, but rather (to use a phrase of Bacon's) "knowledge broken". Montaigne, when he coined the term, was surely advertising that these were merely "attempts", after all. I like that attitude.

Something happened in the centuries following, though. You can catch a glimpse of it in the changing livery of the essay's prepositional outriders. In English, the earliest essays (e.g. Bacon's own, and John Florio's translations of Montaigne), tended to have the word "Of" at the beginning: "Of Praise", "Of Followers and Friends", "Of the Education of Children", and so on. "Of" was a subject marker, but one that suggesting that the writer was partaking of the subject without entirely clearing the plate.

In philosophical and scientific circles, at some point in the seventeenth century, the word "towards" seems to have become popular. Hence John Wilkins' "An essay towards a real character and a philosophical language" (1668), Berkeley's "An Essay towards a New Theory of Vision" (1709), or Bayes' "An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances" (1763). I approve this choice: it suggests that the essay isn't a finished form but a vector, a movement in the direction of knowledge, a baton passed to futurity. It sits well with the conception of knowledge as a collective enterprise in which no one person can hope to achieve all.

After a while, though, this was superseded in popularity by "on". I suppose Pope may have had something to do with popularising it; at any rate, we can cite "An Essay on Criticism" (1709) as an early locus classicus. There's something closed off and uninviting about this preposition, something that descends on its subject as if from a great height. It seems to fold its arms and say, "Beat that, if you can!" It's a preposition for a more individualistic age, perhaps, but I can't help thinking that it stimulates further argument, if at all, in an unhelpfully adversarial (or at least emulous) way.

So I say, let's bring back the tentative nature of the essay! Let's leave its loose threads hanging instead of tucking them into the hems! Let's detach, as far as possible, arguments from egos! And let's listen to Bacon's sage advice in The Advancement of Learning and apply it to the essay form:

Another error... is the over early and peremptory reduction of knowledge into arts and methods; from which time commonly sciences receive small or no augmentation. But as young men, when they knit and shape perfectly, do seldom grow to a further stature; so knowledge, while it is in aphorisms and observations, it is in growth: but when it once is comprehended in exact methods, it may perchance be further polished and illustrate and accommodated for use and practice; but it increaseth no more in bulk and substance.


I would write a polished conclusion at this point, but it seems against the spirit of the post.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Or, to transliterate that: 警察の生活は嬉しくないですね! "A policeman's lot is not a happy one"

That popped into my head as I walked by Romsey's suitably Trumptonish police station this morning. I was interested to find how neatly Gilbert's pentameter converted into an iambic fourteener - although the translation isn't perfect, "生活" being closer to "way of life" than to "lot", which ought perhaps to have some overtone of being a hand dealt by fate. Oh well, shouganai...

Translating random sentences is fun, and probably also a useful exercise, but it's not the same as original composition. Today, I tried to put my ambivalence at being here in early spring (my favourite season) yet not being in Japan as I have been for the last two years into haiku form:

庭を見て
桜と水仙は
変な出会い

niwa wo mite
sakura to suisen
henna deai

Look in the garden
Cherry blossom and daffodils:
A strange encounter.
steepholm: (Default)
Or, to transliterate that: 警察の生活は嬉しくないですね! "A policeman's lot is not a happy one"

That popped into my head as I walked by Romsey's suitably Trumptonish police station this morning. I was interested to find how neatly Gilbert's pentameter converted into an iambic fourteener - although the translation isn't perfect, "生活" being closer to "way of life" than to "lot", which ought perhaps to have some overtone of being a hand dealt by fate. Oh well, shouganai...

Translating random sentences is fun, and probably also a useful exercise, but it's not the same as original composition. Today, I tried to put my ambivalence at being here in early spring (my favourite season) yet not being in Japan as I have been for the last two years into haiku form:

庭を見て
桜と水仙は
変な出会い

niwa wo mite
sakura to suisen
henna deai

Look in the garden
Cherry blossom and daffodils:
A strange encounter.

Baby steps, yet - but I'll try to do more, and better.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I was kind of annoyed by a Film Programme discussion the other week with Stephen Woolley, the producer of The Crying Game. The thing that annoyed me was this discussion of the film's famous twist:

We started the campaign [not to reveal the ‘twist’] in the UK. I wrote a personal note to all the film critics when the film was released, and I think 99.9% of them kept it quiet. … That twist became part of the reason the Americans flocked to see the film. At the height of its popularity in New York I used to slip into the back of cinemas, just for the moment, just for the revealing moment, because the audience would go crazy. … Obviously, it did work as a sort of hook for the film.


Well, of course I've talked about that film here before, since (because I like it in other respects) it got me thinking a bit about twists in general, what they do and when and why they work, or not - and when they're plain objectifying. That discussion is here.

But Woolley said something else that was rather interesting, and tangential to the other discussion. They were talking about the positioning of the twist and its relation to genre. Many twists come at the end of the story - but in The Crying Game it comes somewhere round the halfway point. And the effect is to change the genre of the of film - in this case from a fairly hard-bitten thriller about the IRA into something quite different (what would you say the genre of The Crying Game is by the end?)

Woolley's comparison was with Pyscho - where the midway murder of the apparent main character signals the change from its being a crime thriller to a psycho-drama. Another example that springs to mind is, of course, Madoka Magica...

I feel there must be at least a few others - stories that that reveal that the audience (and possibly the characters) have been wrong-genre-savvy, and make them reevaluate everything that's happened through the prism of a different genre template, but that also give them the time to do so, rather than using the revelation as a final-scene pay-off. A twist in the tail is fine, but a twist in the torso is better. It's a model that appeals to me, anyway - but how common is it?

Examples, please!
steepholm: (Default)
I was kind of annoyed by a Film Programme discussion the other week with Stephen Woolley, the producer of The Crying Game. The thing that annoyed me was this discussion of the film's famous twist:

We started the campaign [not to reveal the ‘twist’] in the UK. I wrote a personal note to all the film critics when the film was released, and I think 99.9% of them kept it quiet. … That twist became part of the reason the Americans flocked to see the film. At the height of its popularity in New York I used to slip into the back of cinemas, just for the moment, just for the revealing moment, because the audience would go crazy. … Obviously, it did work as a sort of hook for the film.


Well, of course I've talked about that film here before, since (because I like it in other respects) it got me thinking a bit about twists in general, what they do and when and why they work, or not - and when they're plain objectifying. That discussion is here.

But Woolley said something else that was rather interesting, and tangential to the other discussion. They were talking about the positioning of the twist and its relation to genre. Many twists come at the end of the story - but in The Crying Game it comes somewhere round the halfway point. And the effect is to change the genre of the of film - in this case from a fairly hard-bitten thriller about the IRA into something quite different (what would you say the genre of The Crying Game is by the end?)

Woolley's comparison was with Pyscho - where the midway murder of the apparent main character signals the change from its being a crime thriller to a psycho-drama. Another example that springs to mind is, of course, Madoka Magica...

I feel there must be at least a few others - stories that that reveal that the audience (and possibly the characters) have been wrong-genre-savvy, and make them reevaluate everything that's happened through the prism of a different genre template, but that also give them the time to do so, rather than using the revelation as a final-scene pay-off. A twist in the tail is fine, but a twist in the torso is better. It's a model that appeals to me, anyway - but how common is it?

Examples, please!
steepholm: (tree_face)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (Default)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (Default)
Bristol now has a cat cafe. I helpd fundsurf it about a year ago, and today I cashed in with a cup of tea and a brownie, and 9 rather adorable cats:

IMG0247AIMG0266AIMG0269A

Of course, when I got back, Jessie immediately told me that there was catnip on my collar - but nothing happened, I swear it!

This, along with the recent addition of the Bristol Steampunk Museum, has brightened up the Bristol winter - but if you still doubt the city's charms, why not look at it through the eyes of a visiting Japanese film crew?
steepholm: (tree_face)
Bristol now has a cat cafe. I helpd fundsurf it about a year ago, and today I cashed in with a cup of tea and a brownie, and 9 rather adorable cats:

IMG0247AIMG0266AIMG0269A

Of course, when I got back, Jessie immediately told me that there was catnip on my collar - but nothing happened, I swear it!

This, along with the recent addition of the Bristol Steampunk Museum, has brightened up the Bristol winter - but if you still doubt the city's charms, why not look at it through the eyes of a visiting Japanese film crew?
steepholm: (tree_face)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (Default)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I've been otherwise occupied over the last few days, but I couldn't help but notice, in the middle distance, quite a bit of fallout from the last Thursday's by-elections. In one, Labour conceded Copeland to the Tories - a poor result indeed, but, especially Corbyn's hostility to nuclear power, not particularly unexpected or out of line with historic trends: the Labour majority had been eroded steadily over the last 20 years, to the point where it was only some 2,000 in 2015. (The Tory vote was greatly boosted, too, by the collapse of UKIP.)

In the early stages of the campaign, far more attention was paid the other election, in Stoke. For here, it seemed, was the perfect storm which would set up UKIP to replace Labour in its heartlands. Here was a city that had voted strongly for Brexit, a left-behind old-industrial city that might reasonably resent the London-centric elite personified in its public-school-educated MP Tristram Hunt, a place where UKIP was moreover fielding its highest-profile parliamentary candidate, party leader Paul Nuttall. Early reports from the constituency were full of vox pops of people talking about switching from Labour to UKIP. You could hear the press licking its lips.

Then it all went a bit quiet. It became clear that UKIP weren't actually doing that well after all. In the event, Labour held the seat comfortably, and UKIP were humiliated - effectively destroyed, indeed, as a political force. If they couldn't win here, in these circumstances, then they can't win anywhere. Yet this story, of the destruction of a party on which the media have lavished so much attention and air time, was told in a strangely muted way, and in press reports was hugely overshadowed by the other election, where Labour lost.

Or so it seems to me, in the middle distance.

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