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Yesterday was nice too: Andrew had called me Thursday afternoon and said I could stay over if I wanted, so I was still in Brighouse Friday. Which was nice because it meant I could go along with Jennie and James and Holly to see Wonder Woman... Or attempt to, anyway.

When I asked for the headset there was a longer than usual time before someone got back to me and he started off with saying "We didn't advertise this ad having AD..." so I thought Oh man, here we go... But actually it was dealt with really well: what he meant was that since the film was brand new, they hadn't had a chance to test this stuff yet to make sure it was working. And since they'd had people complain about it being advertised as such when it didn't work, they had stopped taking the film companies' word about the audio description until they'd checked it themselves, which usually takes a few days.

They were still happy to give me the headset and let me try it, though, so I did. Sat through a bunch of bizarre ads (including a horrific one for Subway where a man contemplates getting a different sandwich to the one he always gets, the overdramatic voice-over encouraging him on, and just when I'm thinking "this is Subway saying 'we can give that mediocre white man the confidence he's so famous for!" the ad finishes with him getting the different sandwich and the congratulatory voice-over: "You did it. You're Columbus. Exploring new worlds!" I stared actually open-mouthed at the idea that the beginning of the genocide and subjugation of an entire hemisphere could be compared a) to a fast food order and b) favorably).

And a bunch of trailers for movies I didn't want to see (though worryingly the Transformers one actually looked kind of good?! I don't think it will be, but I've never had such a thought before).

And then the movie started and...yeah,thr audio description didn't work. It was clearly there, but not configured properly so it was too quiet to discern, and really staticky. So James, who'd no y volunteered to leave it I had to, and I went to tell the people this and they were pretty nice and apologetic about it. They offered me another headset but since the movie had already started and I didn't want to disrupt people (and because I'd had the same problem when we'd tried to see Rogue One and trying new headsets then hadn't worked, I was happy to just leave it. I know Andrew wanted to see this movie anyway so I'd get more chances to.

I don't usually bother about seeing things right when they come out, so I hadn't thought about this as an issue before. It's a shame they can't commit to testing the audio description sooner: for big "event" movies like this that people might want to go to with their friends when it's all exciting, it's a shame people who benefit from audio description don't get to do that. It's not like it's hard to test: you just have to be in the cinema with the headphones.

It's also kind of a shame that there's no way to test the audio description is working before the movie actually starts. This isn't the first time I've watched all the trailers and ads when I can't watch the movie, and I'm sure it wont be the last. But this seems like a pretty tricky logistical problem that I don't have any suggested fixes for: I'm not sure to what extent the film company, the cinema or both would be responsible for that and I can't see any of them bothering about it anyway.

Anyway, instead of watching a movie, James and I went for lunch (I had the best beer, Theakstons Barista Stout, it's lovely and chocolatey) and while we were there Katie called me and said she wanted to "book me in" for some point this weekend. Partly because we keep saying we should do something on the weekends and it keeps not happening, and partly because she's particularly excited that I'm a citizen, or at least will be on Wednesday, and wants to celebrate.

Which I think is terribly sweet. Last Friday I got some nice food and a lot of rum bought for me by friends who wanted to celebrate me getting my citizenship. I'm finding having all this attention paid to me a tiny bit awkward, because I'm not used to it ("we can go to [place we always go for tea and food] or whatever you want," Katie was saying on the phone; "it's your choice because it's you we're celebrating"), even though it seems on a par with a birthday party so not like a huge scale of celebration but... I never get birthday parties! (My birthday is right before Christmas so I'm always back with my family then, and they never even ask me what food/restaurant I want, since it's always "well your grandparents won't do X so..." or most memorably on my 21st birthday, supposed to be a rite of passage, when I had to go to my uncle's 50th birthday party and my family spent it huddled together amidst a sea of his wife's family, huge and entirely unknown.)

With the inconveniently placed birthday, my friends have long suggested I celebrate it at some other time of the year ("have two birthdays, like the Queen does!"), maybe in the summer rather than the winter. And it's worked out that the citizenship ceremony will be around the time that's halfway to my birthday, so this year it kind of feels like that works out. I'm not going to make it s yearly celebration though! This year, we're celebrating a big accomplishment of mine. Its anniversary won't mean anything to me. Maybe if citizenship felt like something better than just a crisis averted, I could do that. But it isn't so I can't.

On our way home, James and I went to the ticket office at the train station to get tickets sorted out for going to London next month. Last fall we got tickets to see the final of the cricket Women's World Cup, for ridiculously cheap because who's going to watch women play sports, right? It seemed like a very far away thing, I forgot about it and generally thought it was ages away, I'm that way that July seems when it's September or October. But now it's next month and he found us a hotel and I got the train tickets so now I'm getting really excited. It's at Lords and everything, so I'll get to see that too.

(There was actually an ad for this World Cup before the movie; I've never seen women's cricket advertised like that before (I don't have a TV so I only see ads before movies, and it's just occurred to me that this might have been because the movie also had the word "woman" in the title). So that got me excited too.)
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The Unthanks thing I wanted to go to was sold out, so we looked at what was on at the cinema instead, and after thinking there was nothing Andrew spotted something called Going in Style, about three old guys who rob a bank.

Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin play three friends who worked together at the same factory and thus all find out at the same time that their pensions have been stopped. The company is in debt and using their pension funds to pay off their debts.

Michael Caine's character had just been in the bank (to ask about the foreclosure letters he was getting and the direct debit that stopped going into his account) when he witnessed it being robbed. He's impressed at how quickly and smoothly the thing is carried off, and the robbers don't get caught. This is what gives him the idea.

It's a joy to watch these three actors, their characters established easily and quickly in relation to their families in two cases (and the third gets a love interest as the movie goes along) and even more importantly in relation to each other. They've been friends for decades, one lives across the road from the apartment the other two share, and there's something really touching about the love they display for each other (like Morgan Freeman tucking a blanket around a sleeping Alan Arkin, making sure his feet get covered), something so unusual to see men do in real life or in the movies.

And the motives behind their crime are certainly ones most people would be sympathetic to: they're stealing from the bank that's sending their pension money elsewhere, and intend to give to charity anything that is more than they expected to receive. When he's trying to convince his friends to join his crazy plan, Michael Caine says
These banks practically destroyed this country. They crushed a lot of people's dreams, and nothing ever happened to them. We three old guys, we hit a bank. We get away with it, we retire in dignity. Worst comes to the worst, we get caught, we get a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than we got now.
It's funny too, of course: the scene where they're the worst shoplifters in the world had me in fits of giggles with its physical comedy and sheer absurdity. But a lot of the humor is a little more complex than that,

Much is made too of society's tendency to underestimate its older people. Their alibis depend on old men being doddery, indistinguishable from one another if they're wearing the same hat, or likely to be in the loo for a long time. Yet we the audience underestimate them too, laughing at them doing things we expect only younger people to do, like smoke a joint and then ride in a car with their heads out the window, or shout at each other and the TV about The Bachelorette which man the woman should choose.

Or, of course, like robbing banks. We think that's a young person's game too so it's delicious to watch the juxtapositions: they have to exercise to be able to pretend to be the kind of young spry people who rob banks, but they can also disappear into a crowd on a bus because they look so harmless and unmemorable..

Like any heist movie part of the fun is watching the plan come together, and then inevitably not go quite as planned. And like any heist movie it's not exactly unpredictable, but it was incredibly enjoyable and on the bus ride home Andrew and I agreed it was just what we'd needed today.

One note on the audio description, though: Michael Caine's granddaughter plays softball and twice the bloody audio track told me she was bowling when she was definitely pitching! It was so weird! Definitely jarring. I had a whispered rant at Andrew the first time this happened. I know it's a British recording but dammit, as somebody who can pitch but couldn't bowl I am quite certain they are not equivalent things!


Apr. 6th, 2017 11:19 pm
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On Monday night I wrote
I've been so homesick and regular sick and just out of sorts generally. For weeks. Tonight I went to yoga for the first time in a whole (haven't been because I've been sick) and I'm home just in time to see my baseball team's Opening Day game.

And the combination of physical tension relieved at yoga & mental tension relieved by hearing familiar accents talk about beloved things has been SO GOOD for me. I can't even tell you.
Of course it hasn't lasted. Today things have seemed horrid on every level from ominous health news for people I love to horrible politics I don't want to talk about.

It all left my nerves jangly and everything seeming too noisy, too much, too difficult today.
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"Film about whether Test cricket is likely to survive or not," James called it when he e-mailed me the link to Death of a Gentleman. That was pretty much all I knew about it when we sat down in the Media Museum to watch it today.

I hear a lot of debates about whether test cricket will survive because most of the ones I encounter, getting all my information about cricket (that I don't get from James) I get from listening to the radio. Of course Test Match Special is of the opinion that shorter ‎forms of cricket, especially Twenty20 and most especially the Indian Premier League, are to blame for the downfall of Test cricket. 

These arguments, as might be expected from old white English men, usually seem to me tinged with racism and even ageism: not only is cricket more popular and profitable in India where T20 matches have the production values of Bollywood movies -- which makes them kind of scary and weird, obvs --young people these days with their youtubes and their phoneternets just don't have the attention span for a game that takes five days, and probably also are insufficiently dedicated to the ideas of fair play and sportsmanship and so on that would have been inculcated in them if cricket had been allowed to work its magic on them.‎

For you see, cricket is magic. Cricket is synonymous with all that is good, play up play up, things can be "just not cricket," etc.etc. There was a bit of this at the beginning of the movie, which worried me because this kind of sentimentality can be caked on pretty thick to put a respectable face on some nasty colonial and post-colonial mindsets. (This is one of the reasons my favorite book about cricket is written by an American Marxist.) But luckily there wasn't too much of that in the movie, and it did end up serving the point the film was trying to make: cricket should be about those things and not about nepotism and selfishness and a few rich, powerful people destroying something a billion people love.

Also, unlike a lot of things that start out waxing lyrical about cricket, the movie manages to make the case for test cricket be less racist/post-colonial. Cricket need not be a zero-sum game where the success of one format will doom the others. Sure, fans at a Twenty20 match in Mumbai, when asked "Twenty20 or Test cricket?" said Test cricket was boring, but that doesn't meant Test cricket shouldn't exist alongside it (not to mention the self-selecting sample; depressing as that was for a Test cricket lover like me to hear, I must remember that they'd get a different answer on the first day of the Ashes at Lords or what-have-you).

It also made the (terribly-interesting to me) point, which I think I might previously have come across in one of the cricket books James lent me, that test cricket isn't something that could be invented now. If we don't keep it, we can't get it back. Like it's an endangered species, or something. Spoiled by the modern world, I'm used to thinking I can have anything I want: something I thought about on a whim yesterday and bought from Amazon is turning up at my house today. I can go to the nearest store and buy fruit and veg out of season and spices that people would have paid fortunes for in previous centuries. Formerly lethal diseases are now just an inconvenience as a matter of course. I'm not used to thinking that there's anything -- anything good, anyway -- that my world cannot provide...or at least that is couldn't given money and the choice to pursue it. Test cricket is a valuable reminder that some things are precious, and can't be regained if they are lost.

I like that the importance of cricket was explained in a couple of different ways in the movie: one interviewee explained his problem with Twenty20 by calling it entertainment rather than a sport. This was not a snobbish declaration but the beginning of the explanation: sport endures, entertainment shows get canceled.

And, in a kind of business context, another interviewee explained that while insider trading (which is basically one of the facets of the modern cricket scandal) happens all the time, it's "only" about greed and injustice...and it affects adults. I thought that was an odd way to phrase it until his following sentence: Sport, on the other hand, descends all the way into emotions and childhood. And I think this is why such mistreatment from those who control world cricket -- or world football, or any such thing -- feels so much worse than finding out that a bank or financial conglomerate has done the same thing: no one watches bankers at work, flies across the world to see them, follows their every move on the radio for days on end. Other things don't infiltrate our lives like sports do.

To some extent the old cricket rift between gentlemen and players still seems to exist: there are still people who want to provide for themselves and their families as well as they can in the short time they're able to play professional cricket, and those who think that money sullies the game and cricketers should be content with poetical evocations of sunny afternoons and the sound of willow on leather and playing for their country and so on.‎ Now it's between the traditional international cricket that carries all the sentimental attachment overseen by the ICC on one side and the glitz and cash of the IPL on the other, but the old patterns are still there: money is thought to sully the "true meaning" of the game, people who have any concern for their salaries are looked down upon by the more sentimental and snobbish...but should the game be limited only to those who don't need to worry about making money?

One thing I did wonder during the film -- which I noticed had no women in it, except the wife of one cricketer whose career was being followed a bit in the film, but you only had her talking about her husband and reacting to seeing him play -- was what the situation is like in women's cricket. It'll be a smaller and newer institution, and thus one would hope set up with more governance and ethics and regulations? I don't know. I asked James and he didn't know either. I know this movie was really just about one thing, men's international cricket, but even a compare-and-contrast reference to how it's the same in women's cricket, or how it's different in ways the men's could model itself on, or whatever, would've been nice.

So yeah: watch this if you are interested in cricket, international webs of intrigue, or documentarians doing their best to be the Bernstein and Woodward of this subject. They have a website and a petition and everything. They're going to have a silent protest at the Oval on Thursday, during the last (Men's) Ashes test. I've signed the petition; I wish them well.
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Andrew is, touchingly, sympathetic at me after I've RTed the results of my belovedTwins' games so far (after the 4-0 Opening Day loss I said "Starting as they mean to go on there, I see," and last night I said "It's going to be a long season" after they lost 11-0; yep they're still yet to even score a bloody run this season!).

I thanked him but clearly seemed resigned to my fate. And while I'm used to that, of course -- after all, I've been from Minnesota my whole life -- I also recognized something in my tone of voice as being like [personal profile] magister's when he talks about English cricket. And I've been teasing him so mercilessly that I'm sure I've stored up enough sports-fan karma to keep me subdued for a while!
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I was genuinely sad to see from this article that Mike Marquese died last week.

I'm not often really affected by the deaths of famous people, and I knew next to nothing about this one. All I know is that that he wrote Anyone But England and what that book taught me about him: namely that he's an American socialist who likes cricket.

It was, I think, the first book [personal profile] magister lent me, and it was perfect for me as my vague fondness for the game clarified itself into the understanding and knowledge and affection I have gained for it since.

Books about cricket, as Mark Steel says here, "were supposed to depict glorious summers and splendid figures and never stoop to ask grubby questions such as why the MCC supported apartheid, or why the odd England captain admired Hitler, because this was cricket." Much as I like a little waxing rhapsodic about glorious summers and splendid figures, I can get that better from baseball. So I quickly tire of the stories English men tell themselves about cricket. (The other book, besides Anyone But England, I recommended to an American friend who said he might like to understand the game (Pundits from Pakistan) was also not written by an Englishman, and I do not think this is coincidence.)

My experience of Marquese being so limited (I've read one other book by him so far, War Minus the Shooting), I'm delighted to learn from Mark Steel's obituary that he really does seem to have remarkable.
In 2007 he was told he had multiple myeloma, a cancer diagnosis that created a new subject for enquiry. Amongst the articles he wrote on his illness was one called The Bedrock of Autonomy, describing the multitude of characters that led to his treatment being possible, written while on an IV drip. It includes “all who contribute to the intricate ballet of a functioning hospital, the Irish physician Frances Rynd who invented the hollow needle, those who built and sustained the NHS… the drip flowing into my vein is drawn from a river with innumerable tributaries.”
Certainly his work has affected a multitude of other characters, of which I am glad to be one.
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Sometimes I think that I've found something perfect for me at just the wrong time in my life. Like the night James and Andrew were talking about their Desert Island Discs, all the bands James listed were my absolute favorites...when I was about sixteen. if it were possible for me to like him more than I do now, it'd have been then, when I was not only in love with the same kinds of music but also convinced that music tastes were a perfectly good personality test and sign of compatibility. (But both our lives were so different that long ago, not even counting the miles between us, that I'm much happier that we met each other when we did.)

And recently I've become aware of another such thing, thanks to [personal profile] silveradept: there's a Baseball Tarot!

We don't have to go back quite as far for this, but seven or eight years ago I was reading a lot of stuff that made me intrigued by stuff like tarot (especially Promethea).

And while combining baseball and tarot never would've occurred to me, as soon as I heard about it, it made sense to me. I've long said that baseball is the highest concentration of narrativium this side of the Discworld. And if Promethea taught me anything, it's how useful it is to be able to map stories from one context on to another. And I am convinced that baseball's continuing appeal stems partly from how it fosters storytelling, how easily it lends itself to metaphorical renderings of our microcosms and macrocosm, somehow full of rules and yet inspiring poetry in people who'd otherwise never attempt it. Baseball is large, it contains multitudes.

Anyway, [personal profile] silveradept is writing about the Baseball Tarot, one card each day so far for December. I've been meaning to tell you all how much fun I'm finding these posts to read, but actually I'm glad I didn't get around to it until today, because today's makes some great wider points about performing patriotism and the importance of taking a break, to let both mind and body stretch out a bit.

Which goes nicely with this blog entry I read this morning from a friend of mine, about how hard and how important it is to just notice what's going on and how we're doing instead of always rushing to analysis and activity to keep ourselves from getting bored or uncomfortable.
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Ever since I first got here British people have been telling me that they love to talk about the weather. This has always mystified me -- maybe because of the people I know? -- because compared to what I'm used to no one talks about the weather at all. I remember hearing forecasts on the Today programme that go "Rain in the northwest, otherwise nice." That's it!

Whereas my dad still talks about isobars because a local TV weatherman used to go on about them. My grandpa got irate at me once for not being able to answer to his satisfaction the "what's the weather like in England now?" question when I was visiting; I still remember him demanding "but what's the temperature?" like he was Jeremy Paxman, because I didn't have a number ready for himself. My dad has a rain gauge that measures down to hundredths of an inch, so it's not at all unusual for him to tell me "yeah, we only got seven hundredths." After talking to a few friends and relatives, a good Minnesotan will be able to give you a comprehensive picture of the wider weather situation, comparing rainfall or snow accumulation or temperature/windchill/heat index differences thanks to their equally precise family and neighbors.

Maybe it'd be different if I hung out with farmers here too, but as things are the only place in British life I now encounter sufficiently-detailed weather reports is during rain delays on Test Match Special. It's quite sweet and soothing to hear the details of the direction the storm is moving, the appearance and growth of water puddles, the wind and the color of the sky.
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Here's a list that's all about people being nice to me.

1. [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours has a present for me. I don't know what it is yet (the one advantage of my ridiculous headache is that it means I told him to come round tomorrow rather than tonight) so I get to enjoy the anticipation for now.

2. [personal profile] trinker tells me I am easy to love at a time when I am feeling especially weird and intense and difficult (of course she's not the only one; Andrew and James have been very reassuring too, but it's nice to hear this from less expected quarters too!). I seem to have a knack for making hyper-vigilant people feel at ease and I'm especially glad to be comforting to people who find it difficult to feel comfortable around people.

3,4. ‎plok's always good for happy things. Here are two in a row, from an e-mail he sent me.
When [a friend of his] had something she wanted to talk to me about, that she could only talk about elliptically, it's because YOU wasted time on ‎educating me about queerness that I was able to be intelligently ‎supportive. So:


Once again, you have been really really great. How in God's name do you manage it, week in week out, year after year? With all your own headaches and troubles? You astonish me. Look at your friends, and how ‎good they are: who the *fuck* draws that many good and smart and generous people to themselves. I mean it just isn't natural. I was going to send you an email a couple of weeks ago asking you to which Doctor you'd prefer to be a Companion...but it's clear that this was me taking it completely the wrong way around.

*You'd* make an excellent Doctor. So which Doctor would you like to be?

...clearly Troughton, that's the Holly one? I mean, the *most* Holly one, in advance of a one *more* Holly-like? Ha, maybe Peter Capaldi will be the most Holly one...‎
I told Andrew and [personal profile] magister and they agreed that I am the most like Patrick Troughton (so far!), which delights me.

5. My dad got me a present too. The All-Star Game was last week at Target Field. Apparently there was a big thunderstorm just before the Home Run Derby and when Minnesota Twin Bryan Dozier came up to hit there was suddenly a big rainbow over the ballpark and the Minneapolis newspaper was selling prints of this for ten bucks. My dad thought I'd like one and so it'll be waiting for me when I'm next there. He said the photo was taken from about where we were sitting the time we saw a game at Target Field, so you can see out over the skyline, and yes that is a great view but mostly hearing this just makes me happy I've been there with Dad.
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* On the bus to Headingley (specially for the test match and entirely populated by people going to it), one of the two guys sitting behind us was looking out the window, commenting on pedestrians. "They're going. They're going." Then the other guy said of the next cluster of people we saw: "They're waiting at the cashpoint. They're normal people." I just love that he was distinguishing between people going to the cricket and "normal people."

* Zebra's coming home.

* I legitimately thought for a while I was going to get to see Jayawardene and Sangakkara bat for the rest of the day. Which would've been awesome. (But at least Sangakkara reached a momentous 50 before getting out, Jayawardene's still in there and I can foster hopes for Sri Lanka tomorrow.) "Last time that'll happen in this country," one of the TMS lot pointed out. I was glad to have seen it.

* I learned that ice cream is a thing you can put in Yorkshire pudding. I'll stick to the savory ones though, myself.

* A certain Geoffrey Boycott leaving Jennie and I bent double laughing during the hour it was overcast at the beginning of England's bowling. "Look at t' cloud!" he wailed, having surely reached some peak of being his stereotypical self. (England didn't get any wickets until the sun came back out after lunch, by which point the English commentators all seemed to feel entitled to some.)

* At one point something was determined to be wrong with the ball, so the bag of balls had to be brought out. I love this because the idea of finding another used ball that will replicate as closely as possible the state of the current one seems absolutely bonkers to me, like having bishops in the government or clumping all the bank holidays together so there's only one between May and Christmas.

* Okay, we both went home with sunburnt arms, but the sunshine was (to me) totally worth it. Couldn't have been more different from the four-layers-still-cold cricket I saw a month ago.
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It did not rain on my ODI...well, it did but only enough to delay the start by about 20 minutes (which me and Steve just spent standing around drinking beer anyway, so this was no hardship) and I think I got about as wet as I could get without play being stopped or me digging the waterproof I'd borrowed out of my backpack. It was just the kind of drizzle Manchester excels in, soaking while the drops are too tiny to see or deflect.

The thing that really dictated the length of time we were there wasn't the weather, like everybody'd thought it would be, it was poor Sri Lanka, who were all out for 67 (for people who don't know or care about cricket, this means everyone on their team batted without scoring very many runs at all, and this meant England then only had to bat until they got more runs than that, which didn't take very long).

England won by ten wickets -- admittedly this is the first cricket I've paid attention to this year but it also seems the first time that Cook or Bell haven't gotten out really quickly to something silly -- and finished their innings with the match's only 6, the show-offs.

Steve suggested I bring food because what they have at Old Trafford isn't very vegetarian-friendly, so I had a backpack full of flapjack and carrot sticks and quiche, and a flask of coffee which I enjoyed mostly because it kept my hands warm. I was so cold in the first half, despite having about four layers on. Steve, who went to the free 20-20 game we got tickets for when we paid for these (I missed out because parents) said that a few weeks ago they'd been sitting here in t-shirts.

I had my little radio too, because even with not-too-bad seats it was completely impossible for me to tell what was going on. Of course, it's not always easy for me to tell what's going on even when I'm watching cricket on TV! I much prefer the radio, where people who know better tell me. Whenever the crowd roared I knew the explanation would follow in my earbud in a minute, if it wasn't still too noisy to hear it. I really wouldn't have gotten very much out of the match without it, so I'm really glad I remembered it.

Actually this game was over so quickly that they announced we could get into another 20-20 game today if we brought our tickets from Wednesday and paid a fiver. I was briefly tempted because I so enjoyed it, but I have way too many boring shitty things to do today, as it turns out. Still I don't really feel cheated because the shortness of the game meant I actually got to see [livejournal.com profile] bethanthepurple, who was staying at my house that night, which made me feel less bad about mixing up the days and telling her Wednesday was best when I should've said "anything but Wednesday" really!

Anyway, despite being cold and wet and seeing less cricket than a 20-20 match would entail, I had a brilliant time at Old Trafford and can't wait to go back.
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Got tickets for an England ODI at Old Trafford tomorrow, my very first live cricket ever. I'm really excited.

So I'll be really sad if it rains. It better not rain.

It has rained a lot lately, though: at least some of every day for a week or so, and often very hard.

(Oh and guess whose coat is still in Middlewich, despite how often people who live there have been to Manchester in the 2.5 weeks since it got left in Andrew's dad's car?)
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"I don't mind the two-run homer so much, of course," I said to Andrew. "But an infield error in the second inning of the...season?! We don't need that!"

Andrew cheerfully agreed with me, but I imagine it's like when he tries to tell me things about Doctor Who.

Only difference is, it's not nearly as difficult for him to find people who know or care what he's on about (as last week proved, when he, James and Stuart sat around in our living room speaking their own little language).

This is a lonely place to be a Twins fan. Still, I'm so delighted to see baseball again, I'll be okay for a while on my own.
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There's something lovely about walking somewhere, in the dark and cold that seems especially biting after a sunny day, and hearing about an Ashes seres from 33 years ago, vividly enough retold that I got caught up in the story of it all. The scores and dialogue may. possibly not have been remembered perfectly but there was more than enough detail for me to marvel at it -- I can't talk about cricket that comprehensively, even if I've just seen it -- and for me to be surprised, a bit, when the story ends and I find myself not in an English summer afternoon surrounded by people similarly marveling at something that's just happened, but walking along in chilly darkness, many years later, maveling at something that is new only to me but no less marvelous for that.
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Andrew's reading Sherlock Holmes stories set in the Doctor Who universe.

He's got a story in it (a fact of which I could not be more proud; it's so cool), and that means he's been sent an (electronic) proof copy, so he's reading the rest of the book before most mere mortals can.

The combination of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes immediately also made me think of James, of course. "It could only be more perfect for him if it had some cricket in," I said.

Andrew said it didn't, or at least the first story and a half didn't, as that's what he's read so far.

"You might not know anyway, though!" I teased. "Something might be about cricket, and you wouldn't even recognize it."

He insisted he knows cricket words, but I'm sorry to say I disbelieved him. "Prove it!"

"Silly mid on!" he said.

"Do you know what it means?"

"It's a place!"

"Oh yeah? Where?" (This was a bit unfair of me to ask, as I don't exactly know either.)

"Different from Nursery End!"

I laughed hard. This was not the answer I was expecting, and yet it was inarguably true!

So I told James this pretty much as I've related it here, expecting the definition of silly mid on as Not The Same As Nursery End might make him smile.

Instead I got another unexpected answer, and one that made me smile: "I'll do you a chart some time of the fielding positions if you like."

You might not think that an unspeakably heart-meltingly sweet thing to say, which is why I'm here to fervently tell you it is.

Meanwhile, Andrew is wary of a chart of fielding positions. "There are millions of the buggers! It's like a dot-to-dot puzzle!"

All the more reason for me to have one, I reckon. Especially because he says if you connect all the dots you get "a sigil of pure evil." That's bound to come in handy.

All of this talk got me excited about the idea of a Sherlock Holmes story about cricket, even though at this point I couldn't even remember why. I told Andrew this and he said "if there aren't any cricket stories in the rest of the book, I'll make the next Doctor Watson Investigaes about W.G. Grace having done...something."

Aw. I feel so loved.

Andrew's just made me hot chocolate, then I'm going to go to bed, then I'm going to wake up and go to Bradford and spend some time with James (and a bunch of other people) at the media museum.

I am so goddam lucky, people. Don't think I don't know it.
hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] nanila said, "Tell us about how you got into cricket!"

It might seem obvious that I got into cricket, because I love baseball. (I don't even know how I got into that. I don't remember not being.) People seem to think that cricket and baseball are similar, but that doesn't seem as true to me as a lot of people say it is. Websites explaining cricket for baseball fans have always (both before and after I knew anything about cricket) seemed confusing rather than helpful to me.

Nothing illustrates this gulf between baseball and cricket better than this video of a cricket fan trying to describe baseball*. The game's just incomprehensible to that guy (yes he's likely putting some of it on for laughs, but still you can tell some of that's genuinely his best efforts at describing what he sees), his cricket terminology is at best misapplied and at worst actually hilarious.

I've had much more luck thinking of cricket as not like anything else.

It isn't like anything else. The only thing I was really sure of about cricket until a few years ago was that it could go on for days, and I didn't understand how that would even work. Andrew and his totally-uninterested-in-sports family explained cricket to me as very firmly nothing more than an excuse to sit out in the sunshine all day, drink, and eat cucumber sandwiches. The Wikipedia entry for Test Match Special includes sections on cakes and beards; for what other sport could this be the case?

Cricket hardly seemed about the sport at all, it seemed to be instead everything English: anachronistically imperial and classist, eccentric yet rule-bound, conservative and ill-prepared for change yet capable of endless variety and escaping any restrictions that are put on it, all about the implicit rather than the explicit.

But articulating all of this came later: at first all I liked was Test Match Special, which I discovered thanks to the rubbishness of my digital radio (it was always switching stations on me and not playing the one it said it was) the first summer that I was off work with anxiety and depression.

Like so many others (but without knowing at the time I was treading a well-worn path) I was struck by TMS's gentle burbling, its jargon so comfortably undemanding to the uninitiated, its frequent digressions to entirely comprehensible sentences about cakes or what color people's shirts are.

It was a lifesaver to me in a summer I felt very alone while Andrew was at work all day (and a little bit afraid of the future: was I always going to feel like this?). Cricket on the radio helped me do the dishes and go for walks, and even when I didn't feel I could do anything but lie in bed it was there for me.

This was the summer of 2009, which had an Ashes series in it. I went from not knowing what that meant to...well, still not really knowing what that meant but getting so caught up in the commentators' excitement as it looked more and more likely that England would win the series. (I've since become very anyone-but-England, but at this point I was too new to have opinions of my own and absorbed the partisanship along with the emotions I got swept up in.)

The last Ashes test was on a weekend that many of my friends were at BiCon, which I was way too mental and too poor to go to, and I ended up being too sick anyway.

I couldn't get out of bed for days. I took my laptop to bed with me and warmed my chilled feet on its power brick like it was a hot water bottle. I slipped into and out of feverish dreams, all interspersed with the cricket drifting along.

I was just starting to feel better as the test, the series, the Ashes was drawing to a close, so the first cricket-related thing I have any specific memory of is of a stretch of really good bowling by Stuart Broad (I've had an unwarranted affection for him ever since) that got half the Australian side out for the last time.

By this point I was too excited to sit still and was perched on my knees, bouncing around a little, having soaked up all the atmosphere -- and none of the technicalities -- of what was going on.

So that's how I got into cricket: in pajamas and with summer flu and all by myself, transported magically by the power of radio to a plane of existence where none of that mattered. "Let the Test Match Special set you free," the Duckworth-Lewis Method sing, and that's certainly what it did for me.

* Similarly hilarious is this attempt by an American to explain cricket though they've never seen it, which, conveniently for my thesis, starts "'Cricket is a little like baseball, but totally different in almost every way."
hollymath: (Default)
I love, love, this meme going around my flist/circle where people offer dates they can write blog entries and ask for suggestions of things to write about.

I keep thinking I'd love to participate, but then I keep reminding myself that I write as much or more than almost everyone else, and clearly don't need any more incentive to do so!

But do feel free to suggest stuff you'd like to see me write, if you'd like.


Meanwhile, I really should be asleep. I need to be up early for breakfast -- I'm away at a hotel/conference centre for three days for work. Tomorrow's only the second day and it already feels like I've been here a week. This always happens: they're packed, busy days that leave my brain feeling so Full of Things that I worry some will slosh out my ears if I move my head too quickly.

I'm not looking forward to the trip home -- I got a lift down here but have to get a train to London, two tubes across to Euston, wait for the off-peak train at seven and then get on a train back to Manchester that will no doubt be rammed on which I cannot have a seat reservation -- but I'm looking forward to being home again. Life's been so hectic lately, I'm glad I've got a nice chilled weekend to look forward to.

I do miss Andrew but it's lovely to have the cricket on as I go to bed without him whinging and making me turn it off.
hollymath: (Default)
Aw, Paul Merton's such a fantastic rain-delay TMS guest. He is so enthusiastic and kind of not-as-much-a-cricket-expert-fan as some of the people they get (except for the ones who are completely indifferent to cricket of course).

Like he was talking about how he just recently learned that the positions called "silly" are not called that because it's the technical name for the angle they're standing at or whatever like he thought, some kind of complicated proper reason, but instead just because it's silly to stand so close to the batsman. And he was delighted at this. I knew this already, actually, but I wasn't so joyous that "silly" was enshrined in the game like this, and so I admire him for that.

But also he's his usual funny lovely self. I think a lot of Paul Merton because he's not just very good at his job, which is making me laugh, but generally enthusiastic; I saw some documentaries he did on silent movie stars and then again he has such enthusiasm for his subject. I learned a lot and am fonder of silent movies (which aren't usually considered a good hobby for blind people) because of him.

He just told Aggers that one of the best things he's heard all year is him saying in one of his commentaries "if a Martian were to land here now, he'd be baffled by these field placings." Which Aggers feigned (at least I hope it was feigned) confusion about -- "what's wrong with that?" -- but I remember hearing that. I remember lying on my sofa and just laughing at how fucking ridiculous a thing to say that is, how English it is -- assuming even extraterrestrials will be au fait with the usual field positions.
hollymath: (Default)
Yesterday I watched that episode of The Thick of It where Peter Mannion says something like "have you ever Googled your own name? It's like opening a door to a room where everyone tells you how shit you are."

He's talking about why he doesn't want comments on his own personal blog, which may be why I was thinking of this today when I accidentally clicked on the comments of a post on the TMS Facebook page focusing on the women's Ashes test now that the men's one is over. "Do you think women's cricket gets the coverage it deserves?" it stupidly ends.

So naturally the comments range all the way from "I don't, I think it gets far too much! As it doesn't interest me in the least!" to "Women are beter than Geoffrey Boycott" (loads of people seem to independently thought up that clever retort, none seeming to realize it's the worst case ever of damning with faint praise) and "yeah, put women on because they're pretty!" And at least one woman saying "cricket is a man's game and always will be" and complaining that women ruin everything by trying to be like men.

The temptation to tell her that she's being like a man by spouting the misogynistic fuckwittery I expect to hear from them is strong.

I don't need to google my name. The internet is full of doors to rooms of people telling me how shit I am, just for being a woman.

Meanwhile, the cricket app on my phone, that will give me ball-by-ball reports of every county game, T20 and loads of other things I don't care about, doesn't show any sign that women play cricket at all, so I have no idea how the Ashes are going today.
hollymath: (Default)
I just realized this morning that England get to keep the Ashes just because it rains a lot in Manchester.*

It is an infuriating game, sometimes.

* And because Australia fell apart in the first two Tests, yes, okay...but what's the point of having a long Russian-novel of a series if it still hinges on such a little thing?


hollymath: (Default)

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