110/365

Apr. 20th, 2019 09:11 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Today was a good day. I managed to sleep in, get some stuff done that I've been procrastinating on (laundry and essay work, both taking advantage of the nice weather; I hung the laundry outside and bribed myself to look at the essay by letting myself sit in the garden to do it) and then had a date with Stuart.

We determined earlier this week that we wanted to go to the movies or have a picnic or something, go out in the car some place. So he picked me up and he'd come up with a good idea: we went to the viewing park at the airport. It's a big field where you can see planes land, also see a few they have on display. There's also "British people in a field" stuff like ice cream vans and fairground rides for tiny children. It was really busy today, a sunny warm day in the middle of a long weekend. Nice to see kids running around, people admiring the planes. We had ice cream and sat in the sunshine.

And we went back to his place and watched a movie, The Spy Who Dumped Me, which I'd seen but he hadn't because it does look like it should be terrible but luckily he agreed with me that it's great. We laughed so much.

90/365

Mar. 31st, 2019 11:41 pm
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I am a fan of daylight savings time but it tested my resolve this year: we got the last possible train home from Brighouse last night (usually I make us go home earlier but it was nice to spend the time with Ozzy and play the Mysterium game he brought) so we got home not long before 1am. I microwaved a ready meal because I'd barely eaten yesterday and by the time I'd eaten it...it was after 2am. I'm someone who can quite happily go to bed at 9pm, and I had to get up for work this morning, so I was not looking forward to that.

It was about as much fun as I expected this morning, but I managed it.

After work I went straight to uni to use their computers for the spreadsheet stuff my laptop still won't do. I had to re-do some stuff, I still don't really understand what I'm doing, and there's a lot left to do before Friday, but I hope I am making some progress. Annoyingly, while of course I saved my work on the uni computers, I forgot to update the Google Drive doc, so I couldn't even attempt to look at it once I got home. If it's only making the pivot tables that makes my laptop crash, and not working with them, it'll be a lot easier for me to get this done. But I guess tomorrow is soon enough to find that out and it meant I didn't have to feel guilty for not doing more work once I got home.

Which was handy because soon after I got home, [personal profile] diffrentcolours asked if I wanted to go see Captain Marvel with them. I wasn't bothered about the movie but thought it'd be nice to see my friends, so I went along. I enjoyed it, despite the audio description not working, a thing the cinema really could've handled better. (Updates on this arrived as I was writing this entry: it's been upgraded from a Could Be Better to a Okay I'm Angry Now.)

I hadn't been to that cinema since it got renovated and it's horrible: very dark with patches of bright neon, huge screens flickering with ads, and a floor that was either busily-patterned carpet or glittery tiles. On our way out of the movie, I needed a wee and [personal profile] mother_bones directed me to which of the neon humanoid symbols above adjacent doors was the ladies. "They look the same!" I moaned about the (neon outlined figures, but clearly this wasn't just a blind-person problem: I followed an older, beardy, very male-looking person into the loos, but he looked around a little confused when he got there and I think left hastily.

Okay, [personal profile] diffrentcolours has just told me that apparently Captain Marvel only had audio description in the fancy, much-more-expensive "Screen X" showings at that cinema, which is some bullshit. So my musings on the way home about how I might get in touch with them in a "more a feedback than a complaint..." kind of way have immediately turned into "no that's an actual complaint now." I'm sure this happened a while ago, can't remember if it was the same chain or not but I encountered one that was only doing audio description in its IMAX-type, expensive, screens. This one projects on the side walls as well as the screen, for "270 degree cinema." Which sounds ghastly to me but also seems utterly wasted at best on most people who benefit from audio description -- it could well be a distraction/migraine trigger, so, worse than useless. And for much more money! How delightful.

But yeah, that's something for tomorrow's to-do list; it's bedtime now!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I'm glad I dragged myself to the phonology tutorial: I was the the only native English speaker there so had to answer the questions about native intuition: is the first syllable of cyclic like "sigh" or "sick"? how about the word cyclicity? Feel free to give your answer in the comments.

Then after my usual exhausting meeting with my "study mentor," I was off to see Stuart for a rare day we could spend together.

He'd asked if I wanted to go along to his model airplane flying afternoon in a local field (he'd want me to tell you it's the site of Manchester's first aerodrome). Having seen the planes he's building and hearing about his friends from the local model flying club for so long, I was delighted to be properly introduced to this hobby.

It was so much fun: I can't see the planes super-well in flight but I can see them, which is something I wasn't sure I'd be able to. Stuart wants to let me fly one one day, but not the one he had with him today: he said it was too fast and not as stable as the kinds that are good for learning on. I was fine with just watching today anyway. And it was extremely windy out there; it was damn cold actually. We stuck it as long as we could though, and watched Dave, Andy and John (who Stuart calls Mad John with such affection because he's always got some new crazy contraption) fly their planes. At one point when John's was flying, Dave said "Barry will be looking up at this. He's here, he wanted his ashes spread on the field." Barry was another model club member who passed away last year. He built the plane John was flying.

We'd thought about going to the cinema afterward, but nothing was inspiring us. So we just holed up in Stuart's bedroom with snacks and the plan to pick a movie to watch here. I happened to mention I'm reading the Springsteen biography and Stuart said "Well in that case..." and put on Wings for Wheels, a documentary about the making of Born to Run. It was delightful. (Not least because I might've helped puts Stuart's mind at rest about always pausing the airplane movies (The First of the Few and Dambusters) to tell me stuff. He always worries he's boring me but I love it. Here where I knew stuff myself, I stopped to talk about it at least as much as he did, probably more.)

Stuart told me about the summer where he bought Born to Run and played it all the time, his stereo on the veranda as he played cricket with his friends every day. "And it was the summer I got my first drum kit!" he said, as an afterthought when we'd started the movie back up. It sounded so much better than my introduction to it as a couple of random contextless songs on "classic rock" radio. I loved "Born to Run" of course, but I didn't understand "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" at all for such a long time; it took me forever to learn to like it.

If it were possible for me to love "Jungleland" any more than I already did, now I do.

And since then we've been napping and chatting, I've applied for another job with loads of help from Andrew (I'll talk more about it if I hear back), and it has generally been a great day.
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I started to furiously write this morning about the inadequate response I got when I emailed my disability advisor about the lack of a sighted guide at the beginning of the semester. But then I ranted a lot at my DSA "study mentor" about it when I had this week's meeting with her a couple hours later, so I've got that out of my system. And like I say, I'm so bored with this being a Holly Complains about Society Disabling Her blog.

So what else? Andrew and I went to the cinema for the first time since...Deadpool 2? Ocean's Eight? Something like that. End of last summer, anyway.

He wanted to see the new Lego movie, which I wasn't that enthused about, after the "girl does all the work, guy gets all the credit" story of the first one, but I was still happy to go and it even addressed that very thing. It was really fun. Andrew's been either working flat out or totally spoonless since he started this podcast so it was nice to get to do something fun together.

I loved that Maya Rudolph had a bit part being basically the same character she plays in The Good Place, and I thought I recognized the voice of the queen but I didn't guess it was Stephanie Beatriz. Andrew was hoping for lots of Lego Batman content and I thought he got it but he still said there could've been more. I said he'd probably think the same about The Lego Batman Movie.
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I am full of curry (it arrived so late, after a day when all I ate was breakfast) and I've about doubled the amount of Star Trek: Discovery I've watched (I'm still in the first season though so sshhh!). It has been a good evening.

[personal profile] diffrentcolours invited me around to watch it, apparently because me saying I was going to get around to catching up on it wasn't happening quickly enough for him (which is fair enough: it wasn't happening at all) and he wants to tell me things about the second season stuff.

Before this, I watched an old movie called The Body Snatcher because [personal profile] magister wanted me to know who Val Lewton was. It was good (but cringeworthy in its disability politics because it's like seventy years old) but I am looking forward to not watching any new things for a while now (I watched some Babylon 5 with Stuart on Thursday too). It helped a lot that Disco has audio description though. I continue to be so grateful for it.

I was home for approximately zero minutes and three seconds to drop off my backpack this afternoon and Gary was so excited to see me the first time but even more excited the second time I came back, just now. This second time he was also immediately keen for me to go upstairs to bed. With him. He was welcome to sit on our bed by himself, but many nights he decides that isn't good enough: he'll run up but if I don't follow in a minute or two he comes back downstairs and continues looking at me expectantly until I get the hint. This is what's happened tonight. And who am I to argue with him. Bed sounds good.
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Had a great evening out with [personal profile] haggis and Katie. We had a five-course "vegan feast" at Tampopo, a pan-Asian chain restaurant I used to go to all the time but I haven't been in ages.

I learned I was correct in my guess that I wouldn't like jackfruit. I had the most amazing sweet potato katsu udon soup. They encouraged us to write notes, like we were at a wine-tasting or something.

We were all in need of a nice night out I think, and we got it.

Giving us a lift home, [personal profile] haggis said she wanted to see The Favourite or Mary Queen of Scots or both with us, and we spent most of the way to my house talking about how bullshit the male gaze is and we're planning to see The Favourite on Monday. I'm excited; everything I've heard about it is good and I've hardly been to the movies at all lately.
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Thanks for all your good wishes on the last entry. I'm not feeling as bad today, which is lucky because since I can't find a time along with the date that my essay is due tomorrow, I'm really going to want to get it done today so that I can be sure it's done in time. I've written another hundred words since I got home from work an hour ago, but I miscounted yesterday when I said I have 700 words left to go, so I still have 700 words left to go. Still, progress eh?

I did go have a nap (and five grams of time-release vitamin C, and an ibuprofen) after I wrote that. I woke up at nine, after three, three-and-a-half hours' sleep, because my phone was ringing.

It was Stuart, asking me if I wanted to go to the movies. Of course I did. "Great, I'll pick you up in twenty minutes," he said.

"Ooh, I get to see the new car!" I said.

"Yeah, gonig to the movies might be a thinly veiled excuse to drive in the new car," he said.

The new-to-him car is his housemate's old one. Housemate inherited a bunch of money last year so got himself a new Porsche on Friday, and this meant he had no use for his existing sports car, an old but well-preserved Celica, so he gave it to Stuart.

So Stuart, who has had a string of falling-apart cars or none at all, now has this fancy black shiny zoomy thing. Last time I visited, a week and a half earlier, he felt bad he hadn't been able to give me a lift home because the Nissan Micra had finally given up the ghost. Such a difference in such a short time!

He was clearly delighted driving it even just to the cinema -- more than once he said "It isn't making any weird noises at all!" which is definitely a novel experience for him, bless him.

Our plan was to choose a movie when we got to the cinema, and there were a few we fancied but when I was asked to choose I picked Stan & Ollie, and I'm glad I did. I don't know a tremendous amount about Laurel and Hardy but I know Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly can be great and they certainly were here. They did brilliantly at the reconstructions of the acts, their facial expressions and body language were just perfect always, and Stuart said "I never expected to care as much as I did about the characters" but it was impossible not to. He and I were also enamored of the actors playing their wives; Mrs. Hardy clearly acerbic and devoted to her husband and sick to death of Mrs. Laurel, who when we first saw her on screen made Stuart say "Ivanka Trump!" and unfortunately she didn't do a lot to disabuse us of that but it was so funny to watch Lucille Hardy snipe at her and Coogan made us believe he was really in love with his wife.

After the movie we ended up on quite a long drive because as soon as we got out of the parking lot he said "Shall we go on the motorway?" because he hadn't had a chance to do that yet. And by the time we got to the M56 there was some big doomy thing going on, lots of flashing lights and as we tried to go down a junction and come back, we found in that time it'd been closed off and had to get off by the airport and drive back through Hale Barns and Altrincham and Trafford and all sorts.It was great to have a chance to chat though; I didn't think I'd get to see Stuart this week so I felt especially lucky.

I got home at 1am, didn't get to bed until about 3, and worried about the state I was going to be in this morning but I woke up half an hour before my alarm, got through work fine, and now I just need to get this essay done.

MAN -> MSP

Sep. 1st, 2018 09:12 pm
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Safely at my parents'.

Why am I not tired, I've been awake for like 20 hours.

I honestly think the lack of anxiety attacks, which I've come to think of as an obligatory part of this journey, has helped a lot. They're so exhausting. Today I barely registered a blip on the anxiet-o-meter. Considering how very, very poor my mental health has been lately, I am grateful for today going so smoothly.

I accidentally watched two movies that made me cry on the plane (Coco and Won't You Be My Neighbor) and still felt good even though I normally hate crying. That's how good I was doing today.

I'm still not tired but I do have a headache, which sort of amounts to the same.

I will try going to bed. With an audiobook to fend off the loneliness? Yes, I think so.
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Since I said I'd start paying more attention to movies (new to me) that I watched this year, here's the first one. )

I laughed a lot, we had snuggles and chocolate and a big bottle of Lucozade to share (passing it between us like teenagers with cider), it was nothing earth-shattering but really fun when that was just what I needed.
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Image of me, dark hair, pale skin, glasses and a big smile, holding up my Certificate of Naturalisation
Style guide: I'd appreciate not being called "British." I have UK citizenship, but I don't feel British. I'm not really sure why this is -- it's not like being American has given me a lot to be proud of in...well, my lifetime -- but that's where I'm at now.

Along with your certificate you're given for some reason a fancy-looking pen that is actually pretty cheap...

...and a few pages of stuff like "now you can apply for a passport" and a letter from, in my case, the Lord Mayor of Manchester (or the guy who was until a few weeks ago) and also a letter from the Home Secretary. Or, actually, not.

For those lucky enough not to recognize her, that's Theresa May, who hasn't been Home Secretary in more than a year. Racist van Theresa May. "Hostile environment" Theresa May. Ruining the country just so she can leave the EU and get rid of immigrants and human rights Theresa May.

I started yelling on the bus when I saw this.

The letter genuinely contains the only positive thing I've ever seen attributed to Theresa May on the subject of immigrants -- "The talents, background and experiences you are bringing with you are very important to us" -- but it's still very "we will extract all the usefulness out of you!" and also is full of "respect each other's cultures and faiths" and "democracy, law and tolerance" when just this week she's been saying there's too much of those things and human rights threaten our safety. Hmm.

I know there's going to be a certain amount of rose-tintedness in anything like this (it reminds me so much of my civics textbooks), but the hypocrisy of this just makes me sad.

I was much more cheerful when [personal profile] po8crg called me on his lunch break, to congratulate me but of course being us we also ended up talking about the Glorious Revolution, Turkish workers in Germany, and what I want the Wonder Woman sequel to be.

I didn't know it was what I wanted the Wonder Woman sequel to be, until we were talking about it. It started with him saying "They had to set it all the way back in WWI, or otherwise she'd have been stateless and no country would have let her in" (border controls are so recent! I don't think a lot of people appreciate this) so of course we started wondering what would happen if she'd arrived any time in the last hundred years or so: fresh off the boat from Themyscira, she'd have no papers and no one would have even heard of the place she claims to be from. When the UK wants to deport people but can't, it sends them to places like Yarl's Wood [tw for sexual abuse at that link]. We can imagine Diana's reaction to that.

And her inevitably breaking out.

And making sure everyone else does too.

Yeah, I'd watch the hell out of that movie.

And it ticks all the boxes that a critique of Wonder Woman I read this morning wants for the sequel: you'd definitely have a cast mostly of women of color because that's who ends up in immigration detention centers. And humanizing their plight like this movie did with the villagers in No Man's Land could be so amazing. Women writers, and women behind the camera, could make that awesome.
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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!
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Thursday was an oasis in a week that otherwise led me to share this picture when I saw it on Facebook:

I had my usual but abbreviated visit to Yorkshire because I had to get back to take my friend's place at an event she couldn't go to with her partner and...I can't remember if he didn't want to go alone, or if they just knew I'd appreciate free wine and nibbles, or what, but anyway I got asked to go.

All I knew from a conversation I'd only half paid attention to (I was trying to cut a cake at the time...) was that it was an LGBT thing and it was at Steve's work. He's on the LGBT steering group there and indeed someone else from the group recognized me as having been to other events of theirs -- I did a presentation with someone else about biphobia and I went to a Bi Visibility Day event a couple years ago. I had no idea who he was but he said "you had multicolored hair then" so it probably was me! (Though Em J pointed out when we told her this story that she's also been to things and also has had multicolored hair, so I might've been confused for Steve's partner again.

Apart from the posh sandwiches and bottles of beer (mine was called Cwrw so now I know the Welsh word for beer!), it turns out we were there for a screening of some short films from the Iris Prize, an LGBT short film festival.

The first one, "Mirrors" was described as "about two straight men connecting in a gay club." It was probably my least favorite of the night, partly because I've seen enough young skinny white northern lads on nights out already, partly because both Steve and I thought that to describe it as "two straight men" was rather bi-erasing.

Then there was "In the Hollow", about a woman who was shot and her girlfriend killed on a hiking vacation in the late 80s. Dramatization of their young selves is interspersed with the woman who survived going back to that place in the woods for the first time since. Seeing their normal coupley selves -- arguing, making plans, holding hands -- interrupted in such a ghastly way was really powerful, and to see the woman who survived become an activist for hate crime legislation kept the movie from being unbearably painful.

Then "Vessels", a graphic and grim account of what happens when trans people can't access health care they need and resort to the black market. The film's very well done, which means it's scary and sad and I had to close my eyes for some of it.

Then "Aban + Khorsid", which in a more linear form tells a similar story to "In the Hollow," except the terrible ending is mutual and apparently state-sponsored. Filmed from their own points of view, as if on their phones, the young couple are so endearingly normal and coupley that the longer this goes on the more you can feel the inevitable ending. I could hear lots of sniffles in the audience by the end.

It was time for well-deserved break for a quick pee or nabbing more wine or whatever -- and someone even rolled in a trolley with ice creams on it, leading me to joke it was like a proper theatre interval...though I ate a Flake out of a cone instead of the posh ice creams with little wooden spatulas to eat it with. And the last two films were much more fun and light, a good way to end the evening.

My absolute favorite of the whole evening was "Private Life". Sadly I can only find a terrible-quality YouTube copy of this one, but it's great -- the cutest, funniest cross-dressing night out in Manchester in the 1950s with a (very welcome by this point in the evening) sweet ending.

And last of all, "Skallamann" ("Baldguy"), the best Norwegian musical celebrating the virtues of snogging the follicly-challenged that you will ever see. The song is catchy as all hell too, unfortunately: be prepared for "skallamann" to be the only word you'll remember in Norwegian for the rest of your life.

Apart from its joy and silliness, one of the things I loved about "Skallamann" is that it's the only movie I saw all night that wasn't about being gay or trans. The kid who comes home and confesses to his parents he's made out with a bald guy is a boy, but (apart from maybe redirecting the stereotypical shock and disapproval of finding out your son fancies men to the ridiculosity of finding out your son fancies a bald man) it's not the gay story of Coming Out, or The Consequences of Homophobia or the voyeuristic transition story. It's just a story with someone not-straight in it.

I really wish there would be more stories like this: just, non-straight and/or non-cis people getting a puppy or inheriting the kingdom or fighting the baddies or whatthefuckever kind of stories people who get to think of themselves as the default get to tell.
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I saw Notes on Blindness on Saturday evening as part of the National Media Museum's Widescreen Weekend. Unusually for me, I was by myself since Andrew was too sick to go with me like we'd planned. (Irony of ironies, for a movie about bilndness, the house lights weren't up enough for me to find my seat when I got into Pictureville Cinema, even though I was early and there was a panel discussion before the movie so no reason for it to be so dark. And this was the one time I didn't have Andrew with me to be my seeing-eye human. Luckily a woman who was already helping the mobility-impaired person she was with spotted me and helped me find where I needed to be.)

It's definitely one I'm going to have to watch again (got the DVD on my wishlist already!) but for now I just wanted to remind myself, and tell you guys, of one of the things I found most striking about seeing it in the cinema with a lot of other people (most of whom had the lanyard of weekend-pass festivalgoers and were the kind of people I'm used to seeing at the Media Museum's cinematic events: mostly older, almost all white, chattering about things like what materials different kinds of cinema screens are made of in between movies).

The movie's based on the non-fictional audiotapes of a man, John Hull, a middle-aged academic whose second child was just about to be born, who lost his sight in the early 80s. He started keeping a sort of diary on cassettes as he came to terms with his blindness, and the movie's audio is composed of these recordings, lip-synced by actors but the actual voices are that of John and his wife and other family members on the tapes.

It's very well done -- I really like the way it's filmed so that even after John loses the last of his sight the cinematography makes you feel like you're getting things from his perspective even though there are of course images on the screen throughout the movie. I know I'll have a lot to say about it, but I think I need to see it again before I do (ideally with the audio description, which I don't think the media museum has? or anyway a combination of their staff being kind but not overly well-trained and me being all anxious and brainweasely meant I didn't ask).

In the meantime there's one little anecdote I wanted to tell.

Early in the movie, John has a little sight. He is as anyone would be upset when he learns he will lose that too. "How will I lecture?" he says (all of this is paraphrased from what I can remember!) "How will I read?" He seems to consult a library, whose audiobook collection is all detective-stories and romance. Then he's on the phone to someone asking about this, explaining the contemporary social texts he needs for his work and clearly not getting answers he wants.

Finally he asks in frustration, "How do blind people read big books?"

I had time to smile at the child-like nature of that phrase, "big books" and to mutter out loud, "they don't" before the answer came from the other side of his phone call.

"They don't."

And I was already smiling in that half-recognition, half-rueful, half-I-might-cry (yes that's three halves, yes this is a movie that gave me All The Feels, as the kids say) kind of way before the rest of the audience responded.

They laughed. They chuckled anyway. It didn't sound mean, it sounded more surprised -- which of course was the last thing I was -- and that actually surprised me. Maybe I expected the skewing-older audience of mostly-vintage movies (this was introduced as the one "contemporary" title in the festival) to be a little more sympathetic to sight loss since as people age they are more likely to find it among their peer group if not themselves. Of course things are better to some extent now (though the RNIB library I subscribe to doesn't have the "social history" I really like, but it's keeping me in science-fiction and horror so I think there's still more truth to this than people expect!) but still.

Maybe because I was "blind," albeit as a tiny child, at this time that I remember it. Maybe I recognize this in everything from other kids at the summer camp for blind kids to the steering group I'm leading after the first meeting I attended of it because no one else was going to write the e-mails and make the phone calls that didn't seem like a big deal to me. There's a institutionalization endemic to some kinds of blind people, this sense that they're easiest for sighted people to deal with when they don't do much and that they find it easier not to fight all the time to make things accessible. Stay at home, wait for people to take you places if you must go, listen to some nice cozy mystery from the library.

This part of the story has a happy ending -- John gets people to read books onto cassettes for him, he learns to make audio notes for his teaching, he recognizes his students by voice, all that -- but man. I didn't like being surrounded by people who were laughing at his plight. (And I hope that would've been true even if it weren't to some extent mine as well.)

I wonder what made them laugh. I really do.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
* It pleases me that I started coveting this shirt while I was holding a boy's hand.


[personal profile] magister told me about a t-shirt he spotted when we were out today (which of course I missed, so I'm glad he did tell me!) that said "Girls don't like boys, girls like ghosts and Jillian Holtzmann."

This is a convention I learned about from this slogan:

but quick googling tonight found me this and now I want it so much.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Watching this movie called The Swarm. It's about a killer bee attack, but it's from the seventies so there's meeting where they argue about whether they're African bees or Brazilian bees. There's clashes between the military and civilians trying to stop the bees. There's a nuclear power plant they can't shut down because millions of people rely on that power.

You never get enough of this mundane stuff in modern movies. They'd just blow the bees up or send them into space. But mundane bureaucracy is so much more entertaining.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Having been less than impressed with Pixar's last movie (I'm apparently the only person who didn't like Inside Out that much? it seemed a movie about a little girl's depression and the only thing that really stands out about it to me was the girl's mother saying something like "we want our happy little girl back" which freaked me out; being happy for your parents' sake is no way to live), and not knowing much from the impressionistic trailer for this one, I was still happy to give something called The Good Dinosaur a try.

I love dinosaurs, and good ones are the best kind! The following is possibly mildly spoilery (though I don't think it's a story that's spoiled by knowing what happens).

I especially love the idea that the dinosaur-killing meteor was deflected enough that they carried on and became farmers. The eponymous dinosaur and his family are green sauropod-ish dinosaurs, the gentle herbivorous type that I've thought were friendly since I first watched The Land Before Time when I was small. The rest of their ecosystem is recognizably the one we have today, though; apparently the dinosaurs' agricultural revolution converged with ours, because the corn they farm looks very familiar, there are deciduous trees, fireflies, bison (kind of?), and so on.

The protagonist, Arlo, hatches from an egg twice the size of his siblings', but is himself tiny, and this sets up the themes of his upbringing. While his brother and sister excel at the chores they're given to do, Arlo struggles to feed the chicken-esque theropods the family keep on their farm, and in general is afraid of everything.

So far so kids-movie, but when Arlo's fear of killing a "critter" he's been asked to trap means he lets the little thing escape, his warm and gentle father gets angry and says they're going to track the vermin. They get caught in a storm and, after getting Arlo to safety, his father is swept away and killed before his little son's eyes.

Seeing the little critter again later, Arlo rages at it because he blames it for his father dying, and in chasing the tiny brown hairy thing around he gets knocked unconscious and swept down the river and is lost. So he has more kids-movie adventures trying to get home, finding both friends and foes along the way, most importantly the "vermin" (which ends up looking like a human child but also barks and howls and sniffs like a dog, and does not speak), who saves Arlo from starving when he wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings and panics.

I like how grown-up the movie is, for all its cuddly characters and simple story. Arlo has PTSD-like reactions to future storms, with flashbacks to his father telling him to run that leave him fleeing blindly from Spot, his little human-dog friend. The nonverbal Spot and Arlo communicate to each other the families they've come from: Spot very deliberately knocking over the two big twigs that apparently represent his parents and gently covering them with dirt, has probably left me closer to tears than any wordy explanation of his orphanhood would've. A big allosurus-like-thing tells Arlo "if you aren't scared of a crocodile trying to bite your face, you aren't alive." This shift from the kids-movie theme of "banish your fear" to the slightly more subtle "you can't wait until you're not scared to start doing things" was most welcome to me.

Then there's a point where Arlo is again knocked out after some baddies have stolen Spot away, his dad comes to him, doesn't speak but rescues him from the vines he's gotten tangled in, and starts to lead him away, in the opposite direction from Spot. Arlo is overwhelmed at seeing his father walking around again, but also is insistent they need to go back because he has to save Spot. He's learned the lesson about doing things even though they're scary just in time, because he's scared of the baddies that have Spot but he also says "I love him."

The moment where it seems like Arlo has to choose between his little companion and his beloved father back from the dead is actually heart-wrenching. Arlo notices his father isn't leaving footprints in the mud like he is so realizes that he father isn't really there. When Arlo says he's going to help Spot, his ghost-father turns around and gives Arlo a few warm words and a smile before disappearing into dust, and Arlo wakes up still tangled in the vines but now determined.

After Arlo has found Spot and is just about home, telling Spot excitedly about how great their lives will be and how it'll be Spot's farm too, Arlo and Spot's delighted howls attract a group of human-looking things making similar howls. There seem to be a male-female couple, and male and female children, all of whom Spot is smaller than, making this dynamic exactly like Arlo's own family. Arlo and Spot both have to make a difficult choice; Arlo nudges Spot toward his fellow humans a few times, who cuddle and coo over him, but more than once Spot comes back to Arlo again, and more than once Arlo nudged him back to the humans. I was surprised at how much I got swept up in this, and as Spot was nudged inside and then ran back outside the circle Arlo had drawn around this family, I briefly couldn't be sure whether the story would fork down the "people must be with their own kind" leg of the Trousers of Time, or whether it would be the "friendship transcends" leg. I ended up wanting Spot to just stay on the little circular trench Arlo had dug, but I think I may have been projecting a little bit there.

When Arlo finally returns to his family's farm, the shots are all parallels with the beginning of the movie, when it was his dad we saw going outside to his work. Arlo's mother is working in the fields and even whispers "Henry?" as she sees Arlo striding over to her, but then realizes it's her missing son, who may not be the only one to imagine that Henry is not dead after all.

I worry what was sweet and affecting in the movie sounds dull and clichéd here, but it had the unblinking intensity, heart and charm of the good Pixar movies, and a much more accurate and helpful portrayal of what it's like to lose someone you're so close to and how difficult it is to get past disappointing yourself and everyone else than I am used to seeing in movies, kids' or otherwise.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
The dog and I have the house to ourselves (Andrew's at a gig), I poured myself a whiskey (shamefully I still have some of the Yamazaki 12 I got for my birthday/Christmas last year; I don't drink enough at home!) because I promised myself a drink in Chris's memory.

And I've also decided to combat loneliness by watching my family's favorite Christmas movie: as I said on Facebook earlier
Along with my wee dram of Japanese whiskey, tonight I'm watching my family's traditional Christmas movie, which I've always been pleased is not It's a Wonderful Life or anything but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I think it says a lot about us as a family.

And as well as knowing most of the dialogue off by heart, I can't help but hear the comments my parents and brother would always make, the lines we'd anticipate, the things we laughed at most.

It's our version of the Rocky Horror Show, really, except we don't have to dress up because we already are an average Midwestern family.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I finally, after desperately wanting to since I first knew what it was and two months of vague plans to see it going awry or being out of the question amidst how busy I've been, saw The Martian.

[personal profile] magister went to see it right away I think, and texted me me tell me I had to, that I'd love it -- no surprises there -- and that there was one bit in particular he wa sure I'd like. I think he's been waiting ever since for me to see the movie so he could find out what my reaction to this was.

I told Andrew this, as part of my late-night holding-hands excited post-movie babble as we walked through the city centre toward our bus stop. "All through the movie, I was trying to guess what he had in mind." It made it extra enjoyable for me, always wondering if something especially delightful to me especially was about to turn up. "But I'm not quite sure what it was," I told Andrew.

"It's the part where he shaves his beard off, isn't it," Andrew replied, as usual completely matter-of-fact. I was probably a little hysterical by that point, it being so late at night (we were at what seemed to be the last showing in Manchester and it was at an inconveniently late time) and me not having had any dinner, but I still thought that was hilarious.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
"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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
"I must be doing worse than I thought," Andrew said as we were on our way out of the cinema after seeing Mr. Holmes. "I actually started tearing up at the end of that!"

I smiled. "That is not a sign of any problem."

It's a marvelous film, emotionally powerful but no overwhelming, as my anxiety leads me to find so many stories these days. Ian McKellen's performance is so tremendous I think I might have to add him to my usual list of favorite Holmeses -- Merrison and Brett. I never expected that duo to become a trio.

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