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[personal profile] miss_s_b shared this article yesterday and there's a lot in it I agree with.
So how come this win the game-changer, given this is actually the fourth time England have won the World Cup? I think for starters you have to look at the build-up towards the final. Sky Sports, in partnership with the ICC, provided full coverage of the tournament for the first time. By giving the games that platform it lent the series momentum and the opportunity for people to watch women’s sports who otherwise might not have. By promoting it in the same level as the men’s, it gave the impression that this is something sports fans should be watching.
This reminded me of one point in the afternoon where I heard Jennie's dad address whichever England batters were currently on the field with something like "come on, play as well as you did the last time I saw you two" and I asked him what he'd seen them in. "Oh, I don't remember, I've watched dozens of matches the past few weeks." Made me smile. This is what you want by the time you get to the World Cup final, some familiarity with the players and teams.

Of course it's a mixed blessing, with Andy also calling Sky" the greatest reducer of sporting audiences in the world." I was frustrated that as a TV-less, Sky-less person it wasn't easy to follow the games on the radio. One of my friends told me how Sri Lanka had done before we went to see them (the game where Athapaththu got 178 against Australia) but I would otherwise have to be a more internet/app-based follower of cricket to know these things, which I think is a shame. I wonder if we'll hear men's World Cup games that don't involve England on the radio in two years; I honestly don't know if this is something specific to the women's game or not. Still I'm glad the tournament got the attention it did, even if it had to be from Sky.
I heard one person exclaim “but the tickets were all bought by women”, as if that undermined the event?

In reality, 50% of ticket buyers were female. 50%. A gender diverse audience.
I first noticed this when I needed to pee. I don't think I'd ever had to wait in line at a cricket match before! Indeed one time, I think it was at Headingley but it might've been Old Trafford, when I asked a staff member where the loos were he could only direct me to the men's when the women's were off in another direction, indicating how rarely he was asked this question perhaps. This time, one woman sitting in our row came back late from the interval between innings, apologizing as she made us stand up, but defensively saying "Forty-five minute queue for the loos!" It wasn't that bad for me, but it was the first time I'd noticed how many women were really there.

I didn't hear any comments like "all the tickets were bought by women," thankfully but I do think this is interesting. There's that Geena Davis Institute statistic about a group of 17% women, men think is gender balanced and if it's 33% women, men think there are more women in the room than men.
with 31% of ticket buyers being under 16, and many more of the crowd full of children, it felt incredibly special to see girls and boys dressed in their team’s colours watching women ignite a packed-out stadium. For them, it will now be something they have grown up with, and will become normal to them, and that is something that excites them beyond belief. They will have female role models to look up to and inspire them. And how did they finish their day? Walking out with a bat and ball provided to them, ensuing that they have equipment to play with and as a souvenir to remember this day.
It was really great seeing how very many bats and balls I saw people carrying as we walked out and then waited at the tube station.

And I'm so glad they were given bats and balls, rather than anything else. When I was a kid I went to the Twins game where Kent Hrbek's number was retired, and all the kids were given replica jerseys. I adored him and I was so excited about this, but my mom put jersey away so it'd stay nice, never let me wear it and of course soon I'd have outgrown it anyway and the chance to really enjoy it was gone. It's probably still in a box at my parents' house somewhere, but I haven't seen it since the day I got it. Maybe some similarly well-meaning parents will squirrel away these too, but I'm really glad the kids have been given something so obviously useful and intended to be used. They have stuff they can actually play cricket with, and for people who love the game there's nothing better to guarantee a good future for it.

I am really envious of those kids, growing up thinking it's normal to watch women play cricket.
what also excited me was the members and groups of guys turning up to watch the cricket and enjoy the day, just like they would do any other game. There was no difference. No undermining the game, no undeserving criticism of the players, and it was beyond refreshing.
I noticed this too. I found myself bracing, early on, for some kind of sexism or misogyny in their comments, but I didn't hear a peep. I mean, I'm not saying they didn't happen anywhere in the ground, but I didn't expect any of us to be free of hearing them and I at least was.

Eng v SL

Jul. 4th, 2017 02:04 am
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It's horrible that women's cricket is so unpopular. It doesn't bring in huge crowds or lots of money.

But it's great that that means it's cheap and you can just turn up and get good seats. This is where we sat yesterday, at the County Ground in Taunton.

After an early start (I had to get up at 5:30!), and an extremely pleasant trip down (a friend of Ali's from her old cricket team joined us, and we chatted nonstop so the time went really fast), we found ourselves in these seats. Good cricket fans that we are, most of us had brought warm and waterproof clothes as well as our sunscreen and hats (I couldn't find my big floppy sun hat so had to bring my Twins hat, from a totally different ball game), but it was definitely a day for the latter: the weather was perfect: hot and sunny all day.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first, which I ended up being really glad of because we watched their innings with rapt attention, having pinned Tas's Sri Lanka flag to the fence in front of our front-row seats at the old pavilion end. Tas told us more stories (there had been a few in the car) about what it's like going to watch cricket in Sri Lanka, where she says it's like a religion and she'd wander in to matches after finishing school for the day, once taking a Dutch student friend who hadn't known anything about cricket and got caught up in it and soon was hooked. She told us about how, despite that, women's cricket gets little investment. The players are expected to cover costs themselves, and they're not likely to be well-off. "There's no one from Columbo on the team," she said. "These are village girls."

When the first wicket fell, I was sad but also I had been looking forward to seeing Athapaththu, who had shattered the record by getting 178 runs earlier in the week against Australia (a match that Sri Lanka, heartbreakingly, still lost). So of course she got out for only one run! Tas had just been telling a story of her dad or uncle or somesuch who went to see Don Bradman one day and he got out for a duck, the moral of which was that there's no batter who is immune from the bad day or the unlucky shot. Cricket people love to wax lyrical about this, about how batting is the loneliest thing in any sport and how arbitrary the amount of time that you get to play can be.

We reapplied sunscreen and ate sandwiches we'd brought with us, even had a couple of cans of cider (shared between three of us, since one of them had been caught at the bag checks as we came in, so Maz who was watching us laughed and said we looked like twelve-year-olds at a bus stop, passing the cans back and forth). Three other matches in the Women's World Cup were happening at the same time as ours: India v Pakistan, South Africa v West Indies, and Australia v New Zealand. During a drinks break, the scores for those matches were read out, including 42-7 for the West Indies. Ali and I had been following the scores and knew they'd been 35-5 or something, but also 16-5 so really it could have been worse and maybe they could still turn it around? But 42-7 was tragic. Soon after, while the game ahead of us was going on, an announcement was made over the tannoy that West Indies were all out for 48, news we met with audible gasps.

Still, at least it meant when things were looking a little ropey for Sri Lanka in the thirty-something overs, Tas could console herself with "at least we aren't the West Indies..." and laugh. She was pretty sanguine really: at least no ducks, at least no one's embarrassed themselves...I recognized this as the kinds of small-market fan goals that I'm used to setting for my Minnesota teams.

Tas also told us about the way that Sri Lankan names are put together, after seeing Ranasinghe's come up. Rana- and jaya- and -singhe and -wardena, she told us about old kings and lions and beauty and it was just great to have some of the unfamiliarity of the names worn off a little bit. All I know about Sri Lankan names I know from cricket, but even then I was able to notice some of the patterns and the elements of them, which I always like.

By one o'clock things were looking salvagable for Sri Lanka and I hoped they'd hit 200 runs. But at the same time, we saw that South Africa had already won their game, passing the West Indies score in six overs. "We'd already be int he pub by now!" we told each other. It seemed inconceivable while we were still watching the first team bat here. Though I knew such things were possible: two years ago I saw what was supposed to be an ODI at Old Trafford -- that was Eng v SL too, though men's that time -- which didn't even last as long as a T20 game, because Sri Lanka (batting first) were out for about 63 I think. Though soon after rain would have stopped play anyway. It was the saddest cricket imaginable.

Sri Lanka did manage all their overs, and 204 runs. It was time for the lunch break, and a few of us went inside for a while to get a break from the sun. Tas ended up chatting about Wi stuff, as she inevitably does -- she is the best president, always thinking about things and networking with people -- and we generally had a nice enough time that we didn't notice cricket had started again until after it had. We went outside again and I drank a beer (not as expensive as I feared, once I learned you got a quid back when you returned the plastic cup) and all too soon the boringly good England team had scored enough runs to win. They lost three wickets doing so, one right at the end from someone that Tas said she expected to see out the match, and it's nice to see that even when it was unlikely to matter, Sri Lanka weren't giving up. I had almost given up watching, being very warm and sleepy by then!

Just as we were leaving, Ali told us that the New Zealand cricketer she'd previously mentioned as the first to play international cricket who was born in the 2000s had gotten two Australians out on two balls, one of them being Meg Lanning! And Pakistan were not doing much better than the West Indies; they also had about 55 at the point their score was read to our crowd, again getting groans and gasps (they ended up with 74). Women's cricket is still such an uneven game, prone to score differences like these making me think about which countries are putting money into it (though my understanding from what I heard yesterday is that better is expected of the West Indies). It's sort of a shame knowing there's only a few teams I'm likely to see in the final in a couple of weeks -- though I'm still looking forward to it, of course! There are things that I prefer about the women's game, but there are frustrations with it too.


Jun. 28th, 2017 09:10 pm
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The other day Ali, one of my WI chums, messaged me and another one, Tas, to remind us of something we'd forgotten about: at one of our first committee meetings this year we got chatting about cricket and I mentioned the tickets to the Women's World Cup final that I have (only a few weeks now! can't wait!). Ali looked into other matches from that, to see if we could go see something at Old Trafford or whatever, and Tas asked if we could see Sri Lanka because she's from Sri Lanka.

"They are playing...in Taunton," Ali said, and Tas clapped her hands in anticipatory delight before asking where Taunton is.

"Somerset, I think?"

"Far away, anyway!"

And then, probably not entirely coincidentally, it dropped off the radar for all of us.

Until now! Ali not only reminded us of this but had looked up ticket prices (only £10; it's criminal that tickets sell for so much less if it's women playing sports than if it's men, but it's handy for me because I'm poor, so I'm conflicted...) and best of all she's willing to drive there and back on the day.

In America a hundred years is a long time, and in England a hundred miles is a long way. While I would've grown up thinking nothing of a road trip like this -- it wouldn't happen all the time, but it wouldn't be hugely remarkable either -- here, people don't drive to somewhere 200 miles away and back in the same day. So I feel really lucky that Ali is willing to do this, especially as I of course can be no help with the driving and I don't think Tas drives either. So for the price of admission and chipping in for petrol, we're suddenly having this amazing day out.

I was so excited as we were planning this that I was chair-dancing. Tas is so excited because she's planning to bring her Sri Lankan flag to wave, which my Anyone But England self couldn't be happier with (though I think that applies more to men's cricket; I've never felt such animosity to the women's team...). I think Ali has an English flag to bring, anyway. Also she's bringing a friend she used to play cricket with (she plays cricket!) and when Tas said the one time she's seen cricket she got on TV because she and her Sri Lanka flag were with a British friend of hers with a British flag, Ali said "If any of my friends who are current/former women's team players are going, they can get a bit raucous too! We've been mentioned on the Sky Sports a number of times..."

So yeah, I guess, look out for me on TV on Sunday?
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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
hollymath: (Default)
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.
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[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."


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