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[personal profile] lilysea shared a great article on accessibility, or more accurately the lack thereof, at the University of Sydney.

It's fairly long, and all very good, but one paragraph from it particularly stood out for me. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.
For staff members, the situation isn’t much better. Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes, a lecturer in Aboriginal education, is one of only eight blind and low vision academics in Australia. She estimates that she spends about 25 extra hours a week making up for inaccessibility. Turnitin and Grade Centre are both inaccessible for screen reading software, and PDF documents are “sheer hell”. And, unfailingly, the cobblestones. In order to avoid them, Sheelagh’s guide dog Nina insists on taking her on a roundabout route through the Law buildings.
Partly this is of course because I'm starting to navigate university life while partially sighted. PDFs are sheer hell and people think they're accessible because they're electronic like that's magic or something.

But what has stuck with me is the estimate of losing 25 hours a week to dealing with inaccessibility. I've said many times now I've spent more time and energy on dealing wiht the admin associated with being a student than I have on reading or writing or thinking or learning. It's not all directly related to inaccessibility for me, like in the article, but it all adds up to the feeling that like the feminist idea of women doing a "second shift" of work when they get home from the dayjob to cook and clean and look after children, I have a second shift of sighted-guide-wrangling, getting lost today on my way to a new building (not something I could wrangle a sighted guide for in time because I didn't have enough notice), being distracted in a meeting by an ankle that was sore because I'd just fallen up some stairs on the way to it, waiting for the next bus after one zoomed past me at a stop today which they're not supposed to do, deciding whether any individual thing is worth complaining about...

I don't know how many hours I spend dealing with inaccessibility a week, but this academic's phrase reminded me of a poem I adore, "Girl Hours", which is actually about a kind of Hidden-Figures set of women in the late 19th century. The director reckoned the difficulty of astronomical projects in "girl hours," the number of hours these human computers would need in order to do the work. There must be some equivalent in disabled hours.
Oh bright rain, brave clouds, oh stars,
oh stars.

Two thousand four hundred fires
and uncharted, unstudied,
the hours, the hours, the hours.
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Here's an article about some of those things Voyager males me think about, through the lens of the people who are still working on this project.

One of them says,
‘‘I would not leave my wife to go with Angelina Jolie, as exciting as that sounds,’’ he told me. ‘‘And I would not leave Voyager to go to the new Mars missions. I will not leave Voyager until it ceases to exist. Or until I cease to exist.’’

New book

Aug. 2nd, 2017 10:11 pm
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Today I learned that if you have an Audible subscription, you don't get your new credit (ie new book) until not just the day it ticks over but the exact time of day you bought the subscription.

So all yesterday, a gray awful day, I looked forward to having a new book to listen to today. I perused my wishlist and pondered what I'd get next. Do I want Black and British? Or The Glass Universe? Or The Warmth of Other Suns? Maybe I'll finally get around to Neurotribes or Bad Feminist. I'm still not sure.

Today, I tried about noon to get a new book, but the app still said I had 0 Credits. But it also said I got a new one on August 2, 2017.

I was very confused. Andrew looked it up and eventually found this thing about the time of day. Seems stupid and awful to me. He didn't remember when he'd set up the account, he said, "but it was after you'd gone to bed. So it could be anything between 9pm and 3am."

"If it were 3am I would've been able to get it by now!" I said.

So we don't know when it was yet. But it's later than this; I just checked. I'm just going to have to start thinking that the third day of the month is the one I get the new book.
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At first I was frustrated that the initial excitement about the new Doctor is so long before we'll see anything more of her. Still got my beloved Capaldi at Christmas, and then a year off...

But an internet friend has written a Thirteenth Doctor story, and he says "I wanted to write the Doctor as I wanted her to be rather than predict the one we'll see on TV." And I realized that I'm glad we have a year am a half to write her as we want her to be before all my reservations about the writing and directing of the TV show have to kick in. I know good writers, and no doubt there are many more, who I don't have to have such reservations about.

And now I'm glad of all that time.

The story is very good. It's called "Be Afraid" and you can read it here.


May. 22nd, 2017 09:38 am
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Andrew wrote a book! Set during the second world war, it's a novel about Alan Turing, Aleister Crowley, Ian Fleming and Dennis Wheatley who combine math, magic and espionage in what ends up sounding like one of Wheatley's novels.

This sounds like the last kind of thing I would read normally, but I really enjoyed it! (And I'm not just saying that because sales will help pay our bills!)
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Tim Harford (from among other things one of my favorite Radio 4 shows, More or Less) writes about why we should be grateful to immigrants. An idea I'm so unaccustomed to hearing my brain savors it like an exotic flavor.
Immigration inspires strong feelings, and those feelings aren’t of happiness and gratitude. That is a shame.

Is there a gut-based case that we should be grateful to immigrants? I’d like to think so.
Xenophobia is basically a "gut-based" conviction, which is why no amount of droning on about the economic benefits of immigration will counteract it; we need to fight this feeling with other feelings.

The first feelings-based counterattack, or lesson in being grateful, Harford suggests is "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," which leads us to ponder why people from our country (and this is true in both the UK and U.S.) who leave it are called expats while incomers are migrants. Harford then points out Matthew Iglesias saying "he wouldn’t get away with describing white Americans without college degrees as people 'without merit'."

Same is true of Brits here: immigrants have to meet standards -- whether that be of education, employment history, evidence of private health care, proficiency in the English language, invasive amounts of biometric data, willingness to live without any kind of benefits for you or your family, or a willingness to let their relatives age and die thousands of miles away without the comfort of family nearby -- that would never be asked of native citizens.

While there is (rightly!) outrage at the thought of people in Britain needing to pay directly for health care or being denied essential welfare benefits, these things have already been happening to non-British people in this country for many years (and of course continue and worsen all the time) without the outcry or solidarity that we're starting to see now that it's good, ordinary British people.

Harford goes on to say "There are many analyses of the costs and benefits of immigration. What’s not widely appreciated is that most of them simply ignore any benefits to the migrants — expats — themselves."

Indeed this has always been one of my gripes: immigrants are talked about as if we can't even read or hear the conversations, much less be listened to.

And when you think about it, it's bizarre that the benefits of migration to the migrants are so universally overlooked. Despite all these deterents, despite the hostile environments put in place, loads of people still do migrate so there must be something in it for them. Us. See, even I am in the habit of talking about immigrants as an Othered group, because that's the discourse I associate with power and with the people's minds I want to change.

The rest of Harford's paragraph there is interesting too:
Given this handicap [of ignoring the benefits of immigration to immigrants, remember], it’s striking that many serious studies find some modest net economic benefits. If I told you that a school or a hospital could pass a cost-benefit test even after ignoring the benefits to the pupils or patients, you might reasonably conclude that the school and hospital were impressive organisations. You’d also tell me it was a very strange way to do cost-benefit analysis.
I just think it's really striking that I'm someone who talks and thinks about immigration, not to an academic standard but still quite a lot, and a lot of these arguments are either totally new to me or else some of my own facile bullet points (like talk about immigrants and not immigration, which this does flawlessly and without even having to call attention to the fact it's doing that) fleshed out and extrapolated pretty beautifully.

Economics gets a bad rap for being an inhumane way to think about immigrants, and other humans, but here's an economist blowing us all out of the water on that.


Feb. 24th, 2017 10:31 am
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Sinus infection.

The amount of standing around in the cold waiting for inadequate public transport last night probably couldn't have helped, though the scratchy throat was there before I left, when the last bus of the night left me stranded.

The visit was useful anyway, getting help from a friend for a job interview I've gotten sorta by accident which I felt totally out of my depth for. I'm feeling out of my depth in other ways now, but better aware of the things I should do and worry about if I'm going to this interview.

Someone's calling me in an hour who's doing research on LGBT migration and looking for people to talk to I guess. Other than that, so far me and the dog are staying in bed today. I've started reading "The Story of Your Life," which Arrival is based on. I loved the movie, and apparently the book is even better.
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Really like this. Keep being good about immigration, the Guardian!
Meanwhile, MPs from both major parties had the switch flipped in their heads that makes them link everything to immigration, causing their jaws to mechanically flap open and say: “Well, Nigel Farage is basically right about everything but you should still vote for us because $ERROR (Reason not found, please restart your political process).”
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This is so obvious but I don't think I've read about it anywhere.

It's pretty well understood in my circles, which involve a lot of disabled people and a lot of politics people, that disabled people get a lot of shit from the DWP.

Very few people realize how strikingly similar am experience immigrants can have in dealing with the Home Office.

There really are a lot of parallels. Look at this Guardian article I read today:

It starts right in the subhead.
the Home Office is driven not by reason but by keeping numbers down.
And it just goes on.
Not only is the Home Office understaffed and under-resourced as the result of public sector cuts, it is also under pressure to deliver whatever results the government needs to stand any chance of meeting its immigration targets
The guiding Home Office principle seems to be reject first, ask questions later, and in the meantime hope the applicant does not have the connections or resources to appeal. Immigration lawyers have told me that officials were at one point being incentivised, on the basis of how many applications they rejected, with Marks & Spencer vouchers.
the Home Office in particular, and the immigration system in general, has long made decisions not on the basis of merit or reason, but as a way of filtering out as many applicants as possible – either via exhaustion of resources or impossibly high barriers.
If the waiting or the rejections or the appeals don’t exhaust the anxious applicant, the costs involved in protecting themselves from the relentless machine surely will.
Already there are reports of EU citizens being questioned about their right to use the NHS, and concerns about poor and elderly people who may struggle to fortify themselves against whatever ultimate decision will be made about their status.
these deficiencies yield great consequences for ordinary people who suffer when a bureaucracy turns brutal. It has also revealed the extent to which immigration law is damaged by populist thinking and underfunding.
Having tried and mostly failed to get blood out of the stone that is the DWP, I don't relish dealing with another system that is similar in any way (and I heartily wish I'd been able to do this while Andrew still had a steady and quite healthy income, because I'm terrified of how expensive this could be... I know I Kickstarted the money for the application fee but, as this article alludes, anything that doesn't go perfectly smoothly will cost a lot more).

But now that Christmas is out of the way and I have a nice long stretch ahead of me where I don't expect to need my passport, it's time to put the final touches on my citizenship application and send it off.
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I also found this article on the unreadability of the internet interesting (partly because I actually think things like how many points of contrast there are between two colors is interesting...).
When you build a site and ignore what happens afterwards — when the values entered in code are translated into brightness and contrast depending on the settings of a physical screen — you’re avoiding the experience that you create. And when you design in perfect settings, with big, contrast-rich monitors, you blind yourself to users. To arbitrarily throw away contrast based on a fashion that “looks good on my perfect screen in my perfectly lit office” is abdicating designers’ responsibilities to the very people for whom they are designing.
Of course this is another time I was ahead of the curve; I've been using browser extensions for years to make web pages sufficiently readable for me. Here's what I said about them a while ago; I had reason to share this today and thought I might as well put it here too.
‎So my main browser is Firefox, and the extension I use for that is called Tranquility. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/tranquility-1/

Chrome I don't use as much for browsing any more, but that still has the extension I used to use for Firefox, it's called Readability. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/readability/oknpjjbmpnndlpmnhmekjpocelpnlfdi?hl=en

Both of these are really good for getting rid of all the ads and stuff too. You can set font and size too, and you just get one lovely column of black text on a white background. Like the old days of the internet!

Tranquility is sometimes annoying for also taking away images you do want (photos that are part of the news story, etc) but I still find it's ‎worth it. It's very easy to toggle between "readable" and "original" modes so you can look at the diagrams or photos if need be with, overall, still less hassle than trying to parse modern Web pages. :)

And Tranquility does have the advantage of keeping the URL the same so it's easy to copy/share the link (Readability changes the URL when it changes the webpage, which just means you have to remember to change it back before you copy the link or something).
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I really like this (except for the terrible headline, which I know isn't the writer's fault: we're partially sighted, not partially blind!).

My eye condition isn't degenerative like this person's is, but since I've still recently made the transition from "trying to pretend I'm a sighted person", about a year ago, reading all this was really powerful. I'm not used to seeing these experiences talked about. The recognition and identification feel really comforting.

I absolutely agree that not nearly enough is widely understood about who carries what cane and why, the huge variety of ways a person can have partial sight, and how best to interact with us. While my anxiety is a lot better when I'm using the cane because I'm not being held to a standard I can't reach, it is sometimes worse if I do anything that makes me seem "sighted," like reading or dodging an obstacle I couldn't find with my cane. I haven't had such negative experiences as I read about here, but I recognize them as something I have to be prepared for.

I spent all afternoon at the first meeting of the rebooted Visual Impairment Steering Group I'm now kinda leading, which was great but it was only supposed to last an hour and I'm exhausted now but it's only reaffirmed how much I want to teach sighted people how to be sighted.
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P.G. Wodehouse didn't invent the spelling of Gladys with a 'w', even though it sounds like the kind of thing he'd do.
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For my birthday present this year, [personal profile] magister bought my ticket to Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M.R. James. We'd been along to the tail end of this last year, when [personal profile] sir_guinglain was interviewing Lawrence Gordon Clark before the showing of one of the things he directed, A Warning to the Curious. We had free wine and it was the first time I'd seen any of those "ghost stories for Christmas" kinds of things (heretical foreigner that I am; I got the box set last Christmas/birthday, though, so I shall catch up eventually and be ever-closer to a proper person, don't worry British friends), so I had a great night.

The venue added a lot to it, too: the conference was held at The Leeds Library...not a public library, a subscription library. It's small and picturesque, a great atmosphere for the kinds of people who go to M.R. James conferences -- be they academics like [personal profile] sir_guinglain and [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex or not, like [personal profile] magister and me. The four of us went along this year, and had a great time.

The four of us all went along to the whole day conference this time, and really enjoyed it. First we heard from the chief exec of the Leeds Library, an unassuming guy who told us about the history of the place -- longest-surviving subscription library in the country, able to be so because it built itself above a couple of shops that it also built, from which it gets some income. As wonderful a thing as it was, I'm glad he didn't seem at all precious about it. "You won't find a white glove in the place," he said, and the books were clearly there to be used. I hate it when you see books on shelves behind glass or otherwise reduced to a decoration, a status symbol, or a way for some kinds of rooms to tell you what they are; it makes me sad to see the books denied their useful purpose. That was certainly not the case here; we even had drinks and lunch (sandwiches and fruit were catered for everyone) in admist all the books. And readers! The library was open its usual hours (just with signs saying the New Room was being used by the conference); people were reading newspapers and chatting and taking books out as we meandered about on our breaks and lunch. By the morning break, I think, [personal profile] magister was already talking about wanting to present a paper next year, and he had a couple of great ideas for one. Conversations about which, and the kind of company and environment I was in, woke up long-dormant English-major parts of my brain and made me probably over-enthusiastically offer to help.

[livejournal.com profile] strange_complex seemed to know most of the people there, through the Dracula Society she belongs to, or I guess just living in Leeds and being the kind of person who'd like a conference about M.R. James...either way there were always friendly people to be introduced to and chat to during the breaks as well. There was also Art to look at, in the form of a work-in-progress Haunted Dollhouse (from the James story of the same name, natch) that lit up and everything, and a M.R. James-themed top-trumps card game called Monsters & Miscreants, which is even more beautiful in real life than the (somewhat-unfortunately-rendered, for me at least) website makes it look. I ended up buying a copy for [personal profile] magister (having to leave my cup of tea in a rush at the afternoon break, having heard that the guy'd almost sold out all that he'd brought with him), and the four of us ended up playing it in the pub (where I couldn't resist a pint of the Ghost ale due to the force of nominative rectitude, and very tasty it was too!)that evening before we had to catch a train back home.

It was a fun game, and it's really beautiful as well. We ended up missing our first train so had time for another pint and a lot more laughing and me shouting things like "Guardian of the Treasure!" which I'm sure made everyone in Foleys think we're even weirder than we are.

My favorite speaker of the day was Jacqueline Simpson, who talked about folklore. She started out by saying that people always expect folklore to be some grand dame telling stories to a collection of children sitting on the floor in her little cottage -- that the best stories are always thought to be two generations in the past, to have happened to our grandparents -- and ended up making me and at least one other person I chatted to think that she should be that grand dame and we wanted to hear her stories. She's also the person who co-wrote The Folklore of Discworld, which I'd read part of a few years ago, the person about whom the story that'd stuck in my mind, from the book's prologue about how Terry met her when he was going through a time of asking everybody in book-signing queues how many rhymes about magpies they knew, got a pause from her and an answer I can't remember but somewhere in the high teens. She was very interesting on the subject of how James's stories fit or differed from Danish folklore, particularly -- the padlocks in "Count Magnus" and the post in "The Rose Garden" are the ones I particularly remember (I meant to write this up much sooner, before I'd forgotten quite so much, but life has not been friendly to me lately).

My favorite part of the day was watching [personal profile] magister wander around the books in the library during all the breaks, eventually inquiring how much membership cost and how it worked. It ended up being one of those things where you can pay an instalment each month....except for the first year, which they want all of up front. I well recognized the kind of problem this left him with -- basically another kind of Vimes's Economic Law of Boots: he could pay the monthly fee easily, but couldn't pay enough to get to the monthly payments in the first place. After I checked the logistics with Andrew, though, I was glad to be able to tell him we could help him out, and that he could pay us back one month at a time. So by the wine reception at the end of this year's conference (there was no director to interview or film to watch this time; there was some kind of video art installation but basically the evening finished a lot earlier this year than it had last), he was disappearing among the books with a much more note-taking air about him, clearly piling things up in his memory to be taken out, and with many hugs and thank-yous to me for helping make this possible.

It was more than worth it to see the look on his face -- plus he's brought me along as a guest twice already now. That I live an impractical distance from Leeds is the only reason I didn't keep the membership for myself; I am in love with that place almost as much as he is I swear. Both times I've been with him to look around, I've eventually had to stop and sit and wait for him because I feel buried under the sheer weight of books I really really want to read there!

Of course I know there are other libraries available -- one at the end of my road now, for which I've even managed to get a library card (not having had one of those since I frequented Withington Library, according to the details on the computer system), but that library's not as big, not as well-loved, and not even as staffed: as with so many things, there's starting to be a big difference when you go private! Which might be there's something of a resurgance in subscription libraries (there is a lovely picture of the room we had the conference in from Leeds Library in that article).

The whole thing had got me thinking there must be a subscription library closer than Leeds...and I should've known having seen the sign for it often enough when I'm in one of my very favorite pubs in the city centre, but it's The Portico Library, which also has public areas like a gallery and a café. I've often thought I should check it out but I haven't yet.

Anyway, [personal profile] magister was showing everyone his M.R. James Top Trumps the next day, he's taken at least his own weight in books out of the library in his many trips there so far, I've not only sped through The Folklore of Discworld (liking it all the more now that I'm able to imagine bits in both authors' voices) but I'm reading other stuff thanks to [twitter.com profile] FolkloreThurs and everything it links to... I think it's fair to say this day left a pretty big impression on us. I'm really glad we got to go.
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Andrew shared this review of a book, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, that neither of us have read yet but which both of us are probably more keen on getting around to now. Not just because it sounds like a good book -- it does, but there are so many good books. What makes this one stand out, according to this review, is that it's a nice book. It's not a grimdark dystopia. It's not about a bunch of assholes. It's not an epic series of wars and peril and high body counts. The worldbuilding isn't overbearing tedious entries from an RPG sourcebook but natural and on a human scale: about people's jobs, hobbies food, and so on. Difficulties and even death aren't absent, but they also aren't so common as to be numbing. As the reviewer says, "Numb, I’ve come to realize, is what most modern SF leaves me feeling."

All the things about this book that end up making it seem remarkable in this review say a lot more about what we expect from science fiction now than about this book itself.

It reminds me of something I realized a couple of weeks ago, while watching one of the Dalek episodes, and increasingly whenever I've thought about Doctor Who since. As well as the new Doctor Who, I subsist on a steady diet of Big Finish and old TV stuff too, and I think especially since I've been working my way through the Hornet's Nest stories again, which is Tom Baker at his handwavy, confident, frustrating best, I'm finding all this stuff on telly a bit weird. For one thin I'm sick of "this time the Doctor's gonna die, for real!" (Andrew and James and I happened to catch the last episode or two of Matt Smith's Doctor over the weekend, and all that was about him definitely being about to die forever too, and I just felt weighed down by it, and by how long this has been going on, how interchanageable it all seems, how quickly I get impatient with it because it's tedious and it's tedious because I know it isn't really going to happen that way, so I feel as if I'm always looking over the shoulders of the people earnestly trying to tell me these things, to see when the real story is going to come along.) And I think near the beginning of this series Missy tells the Doctor "You've always been running," i.e. since he left Gallifrey, and my brain just rebels at that idea. The Doctor I'm used to has adventures and gets in scrapes! He's not running away, he's bimbling along. I feel like this repeated assertion that he's always been on the run and he's always about to die are not only getting old real quick but are fundamentally trying to alter the character I recognize as the Doctor, and this is frustrating and, actually yes sometimes anxious-making for me. The Doctor is a unique character, and I fear this kind of thing will make him too much like everybody else. Everybody in this grimdark modern SF.

The genuinely poor effect this kind of thing can have on my mental health brings me to what I thought was the most powerful part of this review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: where the reviewer says,
What depresses me–

And when I say “depresses” I don’t mean “I don’t want to think about this stuff,” I mean I’ve come to realize many novels I’ve tried to read have literally not been good for my mental health–
In my case, I think it's been true for more than novels. I think I first noticed this with I Claudius, actually. That was the first time I caught myself thinking this is just about horrible things happening to horrible people...

...and I don't have to keep going with it.
Like most epiphanies, it sounds dumb and obvious when reduced to language, but it was kind of a big deal for me. I'm exposed to a lot of knowledgeable, interesting commentary on movies, TV and books thanks to my friends. Moving to another country and my friendship circles just generally expanding expanding I get older has left me with a ton of things I'd like to understand better. But I've had to learn that some of it I just don't have the...well, the cliché would be to say "the stomach for," but my stomach's fine; I don't have the constitution for a lot of things.

Things like Game of Thrones, which sometimes left friends of mine in such a poor mental state I wished GoT were a person so I could punch it, which I saw strangers in cafés bonding over how harrowing they'd found the most recent episode, were about as appealing to me as setting my own hair on fire. High fantasy isn't really my thing anyway, but to be opting against it for reasons of self-preservation felt weird.

I worried it was just me. Inarticulate concerns that I might just be getting "timid" or "weak" in my old age also sound silly when I find words for them, but they felt real and worrisome. Seeing someone else say that stories they've tried to enjoy have actually been bad for them is...well, I'm sorry it's happened because it's no fun, but I'm glad to realize that I might not just be an increasingly-fragile human being, but that I am ageing into an era in which the genres often most looked-to for escapism -- SF and fantasy -- are instead making grimdark dystopias fashionable.

So this has been a terribly useful review to read, for me as a person, which is a lot more than I expect from a book review! And The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has shot up to a high priority for me to get around to reading!
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An overlapping but different (and seemingly more numerous) kind of nerdy person will tell you that today, May 25, is Towel Day.

Which is all well and good, but I find myself humming "how do they rise up..." instead.
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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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The story I was enthusing about here is the start of a novel that's now available.
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It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.
I do try to thoughtfully compliment people as often as I can. Sometimes I worry about being the effusive American, about embarrassing people. (But, I now realize, I worry less than I used to!)

And, thinking about the rest of that article, I do think I fall in love easily. Mostly I've led a life safe enough that I could stay pretty vulnerable most of the time. Spending an evening like that described here sounds like lots of fun to me!

When I first read it as a teenager, I was intrigued by Heinlein's "The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just." He's wrong about so, so much but I still think he might be right about this.

But, having no particular time or energy for things like falling into any more love just now, though, I still like the idea of handing out thoughtful compliments all the time.


Jan. 10th, 2015 12:33 pm
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"The Empathy Exams" is an essay I remember first hearing about almost a year ago. And I heard a lot about it, and everything I heard was good.

But somehow, those were the very traits that kept me from reading it myself. The weight of its quality seemed to press down on me. Sometimes I'm just contrary, and don't see a means by which I can like something if too many other people got there first. I think too much about empathy as it is, anyway; I tell people I suffer from a deplorable excess of empathy, and it's why I can't watch many movies any more. Anyway, "The Empathy Exams" sounds like something I could've written and why don't I get to have a book of essays (except for the trifling excuse that I don't write essays)?

But anyway. I finally read the essay and it really is as good as everybody says. I definitely want to read it again, after I've had a little time to digest it, and I might even want to read the book it's in.
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Paul Magrs's David Bowie song in the style of Alan Bennett caused much delight on a little corner of the internet today. Andrew tells me I'd like it a lot more if I liked Bowie and thus knew how well it captures the song.

I was happy to read it as a story whose ending surprised me, though; I never heat enough about old northern women and I already like this author talking about them. (Some new Brenda and Effie stories have been done as audiobooks, read by Anne Reid which delights me because I loved her in Last Tango in Halifax, where of course she plays an old northern lady.)

Anyway, seeing conversation going on about this on Facebook, and having nothing to add to this particularly because I'm a philistine when it comes to David Bowie, I could only echo the "please write more if this!" and (marveling at how odd it is to be able to so directly speak to someone I know primarily as a teller of stories that bring me joy; living in the future has its upsides!) I threw in a "can we have more Mrs. Hudson on the Utopia too?"

Mrs. Hudson on the Utopia is another little story in one of Paul Magrs's blog posts. This one features the aforementioned Mrs. Hudson -- Sherlock Holmes's housekeeper (more old women!) -- and...well, to tell you what other familiar character appears would give away too much, but suffice it to say the story was great fun and I was only sorry there wasn't more of it.
They were avid for details of what it must have been like, keeping house for “the Great Man himself”, as they styled him. Well, I could have told them a tale or two about the messy and dirty circumstances in which that Great Man liked to languish, given half a chance. I could have told them about gunshots and smashed windows in the early watches of the night. But I thought – why bother? I don’t need the friendship of this gaggle of nosey parkers. I am on this trip to find a new life. Not to dwell upon the vicissitudes of the old.
And, through the magic of facebook, I got a speedy reply to my cheeky demand: "Holly, that's the start of a novel. It's all done. Watch this space." Hooray!

So I'm telling you all now to read the little stories, and if you like those I think you'll like the Brenda and Effie stories, and maybe by then you'll be as excited as me about this new novel.


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