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Catching up on baseball, half-listening while I do other stuff. But I couldn't help but snap to attention when I hear one of the commentators say "Pitchers are out there shagging..."

Yeah. It doesn't mean the same thing in baseball as I'm used to hearing it mean now that I live in the UK.
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First nice day of spring. Outside spaces at uni were covered with students sprawling everywhere. Everything smells green. It's baseball's Opening Day, one of my high holy days (and it's so delightful that I've found some baseball people on Mastodon who are as excited about it as me so I feel less alone this year!).

It has been a pretty shitty day personally -- I cried in the library, I cried just now -- but at least I can wrap up in a blanket and watch the Twins play in Minnesota and that's just what I'm about to do. In this blessed week where the clocks have changed for the U.S. and not for here, their 3pm game starts at a manageable 8pm for me.

Here's a baseball-related story that definitely makes me feel less alone because it stars the baseball fan I regularly get to see in person:

I'm sorry to say it was another day I was feeling less than optimal, and I said as much on Mastodon. [personal profile] po8crg saw that, and he'd just learned what hat size I am, gleaning the information from an aside in a very long blog post, so now he wanted to buy me a fitted baseball cap for my team.

He asked me if that would be okay, and honestly just that morning I'd spotted my current Twins cap hanging on a hook and mused on the fact that it's so old now it doesn't even come clean any more, and I will need a hat with a brim now that the sun is coming back (drastic contrasts in light levels, like you get between sunlight and darkened interiors, are one of the worst things for my eyes to cope with, and I don't like sunglasses because they take away too much of my useful vision), so I told him yes I would be delighted with such a thoughtful gift. He got me one in the same style as the Twins wear on the field.

I told him my favorite part was the lateral thinking he'd put this random trivia to use for -- I barely even included the head size measurement in my blog post at all! He said his favorite part was that he got to use pi (to convert the metric head-circumference measurement to the imperial head-diameter measurement). Everybody wins.
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My computer crashes every time I try to do a pivot table. So I can't follow along in the tutorials where we learn how to do the data analysis. So I am confused and frustrated.

And somehow it seems even more unfair that this is for a big project due on the 29th of March, Brexit day.

After the second week of a totally baffling and thus terrifying tutorial, I went to the library ocmputers that have magnification software and tried to follow through the worksheet with that. I really didn't have the spoons to go from one of those things to the other, but I only had an hour before my tutor's office hours and if I couldn't understand it or do it, I had to know in time to be able to go and ask her.

It turned out I did manage okay. I still don't understnad why I put which feature in which bit of the pivot table (I think this comes down to my haziness on independent vs. dependent variables still), but at least when I follow the examples it looks like it should. I need to remind myself how to do a chi-square test too, but that doesn't need to be today.

Yesterday was the most scared I've ever been of a no-deal Brexit, but today isn't actually much better. Even the petition thiat's giving people the only sense of a voice they've had in this shitstorm for almost three years -- so starved are we for some actual democracy that we're following the numbers on the petition as if they're our own heartbeat.

A sympathetic friend, on hearing about my uni project deadline, said "Sorry but nothing should be due on Brexit Day. Business as usual is entirely inappropriate." It already feels inappropriate. Everything from going to the shop to making plans for any date in the future to looking forward to even the most innocuous things like baseball season starting is so fraught it's exhausting.

And with nothing at all that seems uncomplicatedly good in my life (not even baseball? not dogs? (yeah because I'm worried about food and medicine for them too), my mental health is in tatters. I know there are people who are just ignoring it, but I have never been able to be one of them. Brexit has contributed to disordered eating. I'm having nightmares and anxiety attacks because of it. The vote is the reason Andrew gives for his mental health reaching the point that he had to quit his job, sending our microworld into chaos the same time the macro one was for the whole country.

I was thinking about all this on the bus home, and when when I got home someone shared an article about how Ichiro finally has to retire. She said, getting teary about Ichiro, it's fine, Ichiro forever. And I did too, but honestly less for him, amazing as he is (And he is: "Already half-out of the batter’s box, as he connected with his inimitable slap swing. Wildly rounding third as he went first-to-home on a double. In right field, making the frozen-rope throw to third that never stopped catching runners by surprise, no matter how many times they’d seen it.") But because Ichiro makes me think of my brother, because a 45-year-old baseball player is a link between the world I live in now and the world Chris knew about. A year ago I realized this, and I finished that will "Now I'm going to be sad when he retires." I was not wrong. But it had to be today I found out?

All the tears I hadn't been crying all day made their appearance then.

But! If you're like me and will feel better if you're doing something, [personal profile] kaberett has e-mailed their MP to encourage them to support revoking Article 50, and has kindly shared the text of that e-mail in case others would find it helpful not to be starting from a blank page. I know I do.
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Today I Skyped my parents to get the debrief of their dull old-white-person Florida vacation.

I spent last week thinking of the tragedy that is my dad who, when friends convinced my parents to join them on a trip to Fort Myers, could not get them to go any later than the second week of February.

A group of Minnesotans went to where Minnesota's baseball team spends its spring training. As long as I can remember, spring training has been a big deal: in the middle of a Minnesota winter, we cling onto any evidence that green grass and baseball exist somewhere in the world. For as long as I can remember, my dad has talked about wanting to go see the Twins spring training one year.

And now? Pitchers and catchers reported
the
day
before
they
had
to
go
home.

But they did get to see the ballpark and he bought a souvenir hat ("it says '2019 spring training'," Dad said "And it's peach!" Mom said "Mango," Dad corrected her) so he's still happy.

Mauer

Sep. 30th, 2018 11:58 pm
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It's a good thing [personal profile] po8crg had already told me about it because I still got a little emotional when I scrolled past a news story about Joe Mauer catching in what might be the last inning of his last game.

Apparently it made me make a face/noise that Andrew recognized because he asked if I'd seen another picture of a good dog (I had just shown him a picture of a good dog).

I tried to explain about Mauer, the local hero, the catching, the potential upcoming retirement...

He listened patiently but, really, for non-baseball people, you can probably get most of the same feelings by looking at a picture of a really good dog. (Who has a job, which has made a whole state love it, and who you might not get to see doing that job again.)
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I am so relieved England lost their men's football World Cup semi-final.

It's not like how I'm glad when I tease my friends about England men doing badly at cricket (I manage to be from a country that doesn't even really play cricket and I still fail the Tebbit Test). It's a totally different thing. I was really dreading an England win tonight, because them getting into the World Cup final, win or lose, would be bad on every level.

Because English football breeds violence and jingoism and there's already far too much of those. There's already too much exceptionalism in how England (Britain, but mostly England) thinks about itself. Brexit couldn't have happened without it.

Still I do think of those domestic violence stats I've seen all over social media; maybe you have too. A 38% rise when England lose. But 26% when they win. I'm sorry for the people who had a horrible night. I hope they don't have to dread the men's football World Cup final so much now.

Every friend of mine who shared that poster or made any similar post on Facebook had one guy in the comments complaining about it. One even said it was racist against the English, despite many people pointing out that a campaign made in England pointing out English statistics to an English audience is going to focus on England (and of course it's not possible to be racist against England but I didn't even go into that; this is telling for how white people think about racism though, we generally treat it like it's just a mean word to call somebody).

Most complainers didn't go as far as bleating they were victims of racism but they were all "not all football fans"ing. So eventually I got fed up and wrote this in one of the sets of Facebook comments (modified a little now to add stuff I wanted to mention but forgot):
I think the defensiveness of football fans needs addressing too. The fragility.

I hope the way that some react to statistics like these domestic violence ones indicate that they understand how serious and bad this is. But mostly they're just quick to distance themselves from it.

And I think they do that because they fail to appreciate that their experience as fans is very different from that of non-fans."I've been going to games for umpteen years," great, but that means you don't know what happens to people just trying to exist in a city centre, walk anywhere or cycle or use public transport, while football is going on. That means you're not a target in the way we are.

That means you probably don't know my friends and I have to warn each other about derby days, World Cup games and other big matches, so we know to avoid going into town. When I worked at a hospital, the results of Manchester derby games had to be part of the handover because they had such an impact on people's mental state, and how much fighting we could expect.

None of that happens for rugby or cricket matches or even women's football, just men's football.

Football fans are an in-group who doesn't believe how different the out-group's experience is, and I wish there was some way to get that across to them.
I'm just not interested in listening to football fans about this. I think they should listen to my friends and me. We all have stories: pushed off their bikes, punched in the guts on the way home for work for not looking sufficiently happy after some big win over Argentina, Andrew constantly having his beard grabbed and once being prevented from getting off a tram at the stop he wanted and then shoved off at the next one, I was bodyslammed into a wall while getting off a train and had such a panic attack James nearly missed his last train home to look after me.

Yes I know there's more to football than public drunkenness and violence and entitlement and bigotry but I'm sick of having to argue with people who don't understand that those things have become entangled with football in England, so I'm glad England lost.
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Me: feels sad she's been too busy to watch any baseball lately
Also me: reads that the Twins lost eight games in a row, the last one 15-9

Ichiro

Apr. 11th, 2018 11:48 am
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Put a baseball game from a couple of days ago on in the background. Twins are playing the Mariners, and for some reason hearing Ichiro Suzuki's name is a jolt.

My brother used to talk about him (he was a Mariners fan as a kid when his glove had Ken Griffey Jr.'s fake-signature on it (my first had someone I never heard of but the second was Frank Viola so that's all right). We had to go see a Twins game once when the Mariners were in town so Chris could see him play; I was okay with this though because I got to see Randy Johnson pitch.

The commentators said this is Ichiro's eighteenth season, how amazing is that.

I didn't realize it before, but there were still players playing that Chris knew about.

Well hell. Now I'm gonna be sad when he retires.
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It may still be chilly and gray, but yesterday I got purple sprouting broccoli in my veg box, and last night I watched Opening Day baseball (the Twins' relief pitching sucked so they lost). So it was officially the first day of spring.
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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.

Krikkit

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!

Heimweh

Apr. 6th, 2017 11:19 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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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