oursin: Picture of Fotherington-Tomas skipping, with words subversive male added (Subversive male)
[personal profile] oursin

Because usually when people are talking about the problem of BOYZ in the educational system and under-achievement, it is all about defeminising the curriculum and catering to their masculine needs and so on.

Well this guy, 'who shaves his head and has an East End accent' is, I suspect, secretly Basil Fotherington-Tomas: Boys will be boys? How schools can be guilty of gender bias. Too many teachers think boys can’t do as well as girls, says the teacher on a mission to change attitudes.

There’s a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that plays into a narrative that says boys produce more testosterone, and that’s why they fight and punch, that’s why they don’t sit quietly in lessons, that’s why they’re harder to control, that’s why we have different expectations about what they can do.” But the hormone system is much more complex than such a binary reading reveals; and for every study that links bad behaviour and testosterone, there’s another, says Pinkett, that suggests it’s more about environment than biology. “The ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ philosophy neglects two key facts: firstly, that there are more similarities than differences between the sexes, and, secondly, that our brains are plastic and changeable, especially during the early years.” What teachers have to get past, he says, is the belief that if a boy doesn’t comply, doesn’t hand in homework or is misbehaving, that it’s because he’s male. “We need to stop ourselves: because maybe whatever is going on isn’t, after all, because he’s a boy. And it’s that realisation that can free pupils from stereotypes, and give them the chance to do what everyone wants, which is truly fulfil their potential.”
....
There’s a danger of treating boys differently and patronising them, says Roberts. “So, for example, you’ve got a boy you think doesn’t like reading, so you decide to pander to his love of football and give him a book about that to read. But in narrowing your expectations, you’re narrowing his. It’s the same with, for example, teaching boys about Shakespeare by concentrating on the sword fights or the fighting: it’s like we’re hoodwinking them into learning, and it doesn’t work. What we need is a big shift in ethos: too many teachers believe boys can do less, they don’t think boys can succeed as well as girls at school. I don’t think it’s about watering it down: it’s about having high expectations for boys as well as for girls.”

The content being taught is also relevant, and connected, of course, to everything else. “The English curriculum is unfairly and disproportionately dominated by men, and many of them are deplorable men like Macbeth and Dr Jekyll. And Dickens: a lot of his writing is unsavoury. So we need to challenge that in school, and we need to think about issues around sexist male behaviour and violence in the texts they’re reading.”



Go, guy!

(no subject)

April 23rd, 2019 09:20 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] damnmagpie!

Harlequin book

April 22nd, 2019 09:20 pm
[personal profile] cinderella91 posting in [community profile] findthatbook
Hello everyone, so I am trying to find this Harlequin romance novel but I can't for the life of me remember the name or author! It was about a couple who dated as teenagers they saw this ship I think that's only supposed to be seen by lovers. The girl gets pregnant her parents confront the boys parents but the parents are rich snobs and don't want them dating she miscarries and the boy's parents lie that she got an abortion. Years later as adults she come back to town(she moved away after the incident) to purchase some historic manor to cheer up her mom who is grieving her dad. She meets the hero again who is an historian or something and he still thinks she got an abortion but they end up falling for each other again and the snobby parents try again to break them up and get him to marry some high society girl. They find out about parents lie. She gets pregnant again they live happily ever after. Does anyone know the name of this book please? I've tried keyword searching in every search engine I can think of and nothing.
nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
Damn it, John McEnery has died.  His Mercutio is what I took away from the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet.   Astounding, Dionysian performance.  He needed all that pack of adolescent boys around him as fuel, seemed to draw on their green energy to replenish what he burned.

The great beech at Mount Auburn is gone.  The one like a fusion of elephants, with leaves like porphyry.  I walked in at the gate and didn't know where I was.

At least the bees on the rooftops of Notre Dame survived the fire.

Nine


Sunday 22 April 1666

April 22nd, 2019 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

(Lord’s day). Up, and put on my new black coate, long down to my knees, and with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, where all in deep mourning for the Queene’s mother. There had great discourse, before the Duke and Sir W. Coventry begun the discourse of the day about the purser’s business, which I seconded, and with great liking to the Duke, whom however afterward my Lord Bruncker and Sir W. Pen did stop by some thing they said, though not much to the purpose, yet because our proposition had some appearance of certain charge to the King it was ruled that for this year we should try another the same in every respect with ours, leaving out one circumstance of allowing the pursers the victuals of all men short of the complement.

I was very well satisfied with it and am contented to try it, wishing it may prove effectual.

Thence away with Sir W. Batten in his coach home, in our way he telling me the certaine newes, which was afterward confirmed to me this day by several, that the Bishopp of Munster has made a league [with] the Hollanders, and that our King and Court are displeased much at it: moreover we are not sure of Sweden.

I home to my house, and there dined mighty well, my poor wife and Mercer and I. So back again walked to White Hall, and there to and again in the Parke, till being in the shoemaker’s stockes —[A cant expression for tight shoes.]— I was heartily weary, yet walked however to the Queene’s Chappell at St. James’s, and there saw a little mayde baptized; many parts and words whereof are the same with that of our Liturgy, and little that is more ceremonious than ours. Thence walked to Westminster and eat a bit of bread and drank, and so to Worster House, and there staid, and saw the Council up, and then back, walked to the Cockepitt, and there took my leave of the Duke of Albemarle, who is going to-morrow to sea. He seems mightily pleased with me, which I am glad of; but I do find infinitely my concernment in being careful to appear to the King and Duke to continue my care of his business, and to be found diligent as I used to be. Thence walked wearily as far as Fleet Streete and so there met a coach and home to supper and to bed, having sat a great while with Will Joyce, who come to see me, and it is the first time I have seen him at my house since the plague, and find him the same impertinent, prating coxcombe that ever he was.

Read the annotations

oursin: Cod with aghast expression (kepler codfish)
[personal profile] oursin

Goodness knows of the bonkersness of the people who get grassed-up on Ask A Manager there are, I fear, depths still unsounded, because every time one thinks it can't get any worse, lo and behold, something else comes along, and well, WOT??!!

My boss wants us to go on an all-day rafting trip. There is a new director with (okay, these would always be red flags for me) 'outgoing personality', 'emphasis on team-building events. And during a corporate conference there will be 'an all-day rafting trip as a break-out event'.

(Am I being perhaps too bleak in my thought that this is like the famed Hancock episode 'The Bowmans': 'Oh look, they do all have fallen down the old abandoned mineshaft'?)

The person who has posed the question to AAM has already raised the issue of being a weak swimmer and not comfortable around deep water: the director's response was what does not kill us makes us stronger 'she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it'.

Do we think that 'With your shield or on it' is really a suitable management strategy for the current era? Or indeed, playing chicken to test people's commitment and dedication?

AAM has pointed out that enquirer is very likely not the only person for whom there may be access/H&S issues.

Lost in Interpretation

April 22nd, 2019 02:50 pm
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
No doubt you have been feeling thoroughly abandoned as far as my Japan blog is concerned, and not without reason. My busyness has continued without let over the last week, and the present opportunity – as I travel north into deepest Touhoku on a shinkansen bound for Aomori – is the first I’ve had in about a week, when I’ve been both a) awake and b) alone (except for all the other passengers, but we try to give each other space) for a few hours together. In short, I’m an introvert who’s been living the life an extrovert, and my admiration for the latter has only increased. How do they keep it up?

Still, when I think that I came here four years ago for the first time knowing nobody at all, I'm certainly not going to complain.

As luck would have it, there are some experiences I can skip over quickly, either because they’re things I’ve written about before or because they don’t make for a spectator sport. One such is my second visit to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka last Monday. Two years ago, I went alone. This time, having ordered the tickets on the internet months in advance at 1am (effectively the only way to do it) I was with Mihoko, Satomi, and Mihoko’s honorary nephew, Mark, born in Tokyo to an Anglo-American couple, and – having lived in the States for a while – trying his luck at working in Japan. I think I would be thoroughly confused if fate played such a game of blind man’s buff with me, but he seemed anything but deracinated. We had a good time, and although Tokyo was still going through its seasonal 三寒四温 (three [days] cold, four hot) we were lucky enough to hit on a spring day that fully justified my flowery new espadrilles.

IMG-4075

This was followed by dinner at Miho’s, where her husband Hiroshi – having cooked rather delicious tendon (that’s tempura on rice, not, er, tendon) – made me go pink with pleasure by commenting on the improvement in my Japanese. He’s not the kind of man to pay such a compliment lightly. (That said, my Japanese too is 三寒四温: sometimes I think I’m really “getting” it, at others I can hardly resent the well-meaning “There-are-chopsticks-inside” that I just received from person who sold me an eki-bento. A lot depends on how tired I am.)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that I’ve been collaborating on/contributing to a book on Lucy M. Boston’s Green Knowe series. It’s Miho’s project, really: she was the one who introduced me, not to the books but to the house and its chatelaine, as avid readers of this blog will know. Anyway, she asked me to check some of the Japanese contributors’ English while I was here, which is largely what has been taking so much of my time. On Tuesday, that time was spent very pleasantly at the house of her colleague (and old schoolfriend) Keiko, who is a designer specialising in soundscapes, and whose beautiful house in Suginami reflects her designer’s eye.

We met behind Tokyo Joshidai, my old stamping ground from 2017, whence we walked past a tiny farm owned by yet another of their high-school chums. Keiko bought some vegetables, paying using the honesty box – which was pretty impressive for what is, after all, relatively central Tokyo. This system is not at all uncommon in Japan, but in the UK I’ve seen it only in the countryside.

DSC02497

Then we went through a park with a lake with an island, said to be the habitation of a kami, though if it’s a shrine it’s an unofficial one. The reason for the holiness (or its main manifestation, if you prefer to look at it that way round) is a spring, which kept the village watered in former times. As we passed, a family walked past the other way, and I heard a young boy say (slightly petulantly) “神様が見えない”, which might mean “I can’t see the god” or “The god is invisible,” but given the note of complaint I suspect the former.

We will pass over the editing work, but check out the lovely interiors!

DSC02500

Wednesday morning I met with Philip Seaton, co-organiser of last year’s Contents Tourism symposium, in Musashi-Sakai, a bit further west than Mitaka. It was good to see him again, and talk about possible future collaborations. He told me quite a bit about life in Japan for a foreign academic, as well, and for the father of child with autism – which is not all plain sailing, you may be sure. (I was reminded of this a little later in the week, when my friend Yoshiko told me about one of her PhD students who has complained about having to sit in a class with a wheelchair user. Admittedly she thought the student was out of line, but I can’t imagine any PhD student in the UK even voicing such a complaint.) On the plus side, his son’s autism partly takes the form of an obsession with the layouts of department stores, and thanks to this he was able to tell me that in Japan – and perhaps everywhere? – there are never any toilets on the ground floor. A deterrent, I suppose, to casual urination. This is a useful life hack.

I went on to have lunch with my friend Yuki, after which we wandered the shrines and cat-focused shopping streets of one of Tokyo’s more traditional districts, Yanaka. I was particularly happy to find a little shrine where sakura and wisteria (aka fuji) were in bloom together, like a little Spring miracle.

Sakura and Fuji bloom togetherDSC02510

As I returned, I was met by Junko, my landlady, who was suffering a heavy cold and was a bit flustered because a new guest (she thought from Indonesia) had no Japanese, and would I help interpret? I told her I’d be happy to try. In fact, the “Indonesian” turned out to be an English potter living in the Gower peninsula, who’d come to Japan on a kind of pottery pilgrimage. I managed to sort out the communication problem, which was rather empowering – my first interpreting gig! The price I exacted was to make Junko (plus dog) pose for a photograph, poor suffering woman…

DSC02515

In experimental vein, I tried out the local Indian restaurant for dinner, choosing the “beer set” – which combined lamb and spinach (I’d been a-hankering for lamb, which is not generally on the Japanese menu outside of Hokkaido, where the famous “Genghis Khan” is a dish I long to try) with a nan bread. The curry itself was fine, though nothing special, but the nan was amazing. Huge, and light, and crisp, and fluffy, all at once – a like a kind of Garden of Adonis that gathers every season unto itself. []

On Thursday I had lunch with Hirohisa Igarashi, a professor at Toyou University, again about possible collaborations. He’s a very charming man, and took me to a charming Italian place. Although we started off in Japanese, I found my capacity slowly ebbing away like an iPhone’s battery, and bit by bit we switched to English (in which he is, in any case, far more proficient). He gave me a little tour of the university, too, including the viewing gallery on its top floor, where a Chinese violinist was playing traditional music to set off the Sky Tree and the rest of the Tokyo skyline. Could I revive within me her symphony and song… but I didn’t have the record button on.

DSC02521

Then I went on to Nakano Broadway to buy more Kin-iro Mosaic. As you can see, they are all about welcoming in the new era there:

DSC02522

I am collecting, as I encounter them, ways in which the change of era is being acknowledged. I’m interested in whether it’s just seen as a commercial opportunity, as with the T-shirts an entry or two back, or indeed in this poster, which advertises its PREMIUM SALE on the grounds that it’s the last of the Heisei era. (Next month, the same sale will no doubt be advertised as the first of the Reiwa.)

DSC02523

These are of course just the very visible ripples on a deep sea of culture, but not without value or curiosity.

After that, it was dinner at Miho’s with Mikako and Nobu (my interpreter at the National Diet Library two years ago, whose English I am also checking), and so to bed.

On Friday I was giving a lecture at Taisho University for Yoshiko, as I have done, now, twice before. The drill was much the same, so I won’t describe it in detail, but I gave them a potted version of my Cotswolds research, after which I had a nice chat with the students, and then an even nicer dinner (as is by now traditional) with Yoshiko and Hiroko, eating, drinking, and making scholarly. I first met them at a conference in Ohio three years ago, and have been knocking back sushi and sake ever since – albeit with long periods of abstinence, when the trifling matter of an intervening Eurasian continent adjourns our fun. I’m sure we’ll find a way to get back on track at IRSCL in Sweden this summer, though, albeit with surströmming (possibly) and vodka substituting for our accustomed fare.

DSC02528DSC02524DSC02526

And thus closed my time in Tokyo. On Saturday I boarded the shinkansen for Kobe, where I had a different set of adventures, but perhaps that’s enough – or more than enough – for now.

Saturday 21 April 1666

April 21st, 2019 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

Up betimes and to the office, there to prepare some things against the afternoon for discourse about the business of the pursers and settling the pursers’ matters of the fleete according to my proposition. By and by the office sat, and they being up I continued at the office to finish my matters against the meeting before the Duke this afternoon, so home about three to clap a bit of meate in my mouth, and so away with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, and there to the Duke, but he being to go abroad to take the ayre, he dismissed us presently without doing any thing till to-morrow morning. So my Lord Bruncker and I down to walk in the garden [at White Hall], it being a mighty hot and pleasant day; and there was the King, who, among others, talked to us a little; and among other pretty things, he swore merrily that he believed the ketch that Sir W. Batten bought the last year at Colchester was of his own getting, it was so thick to its length. Another pleasant thing he said of Christopher Pett, commending him that he will not alter his moulds of his ships upon any man’s advice; “as,” says he, “Commissioner Taylor I fear do of his New London, that he makes it differ, in hopes of mending the Old London, built by him.” “For,” says he, “he finds that God hath put him into the right, and so will keep in it while he is in.” “And,” says the King, “I am sure it must be God put him in, for no art of his owne ever could have done it;” for it seems he cannot give a good account of what he do as an artist.

Thence with my Lord Bruncker in his coach to Hide Parke, the first time I have been there this year. There the King was; but I was sorry to see my Lady Castlemaine, for the mourning forceing all the ladies to go in black, with their hair plain and without any spots, I find her to be a much more ordinary woman than ever I durst have thought she was; and, indeed, is not so pretty as Mrs. Stewart, whom I saw there also. Having done at the Park he set me down at the Exchange, and I by coach home and there to my letters, and they being done, to writing a large letter about the business of the pursers to Sir W. Batten against to-morrow’s discourse, and so home and to bed.

Read the annotations

Culinary

April 21st, 2019 08:19 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

No bread made during the week.

Friday night supper: a rather nice, though I say it myself, sardegnera with salami.

Saturday breakfast rolls: basic buttermilk, 3:1 strong white/buckwheat flour.

Today's lunch: cinnamon aubergines, which turned out v nicely (I thought they might have got a bit burnt, but not), okra and purple sprouting broccoli simmered in coconut milk with ginger puree, minced green coriander (cilantro) and fish sauce (a little bland - perhaps needed more coriander &/or fish sauce), and sweet potato crinkly oven fries.

Bread tomorrow, I think.

(no subject)

April 21st, 2019 12:27 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] ankaret and [personal profile] lexin!

Friday 20 April 1666

April 20th, 2019 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

Up, and after an houre or two’s talke with my poor wife, who gives me more and more content every day than other, I abroad by coach to Westminster, and there met with Mrs. Martin, and she and I over the water to Stangold, and after a walke in the fields to the King’s Head, and there spent an houre or two with pleasure with her, and eat a tansy and so parted, and I to the New Exchange, there to get a list of all the modern plays which I intend to collect and to have them bound up together. Thence to Mr. Hales’s, and there, though against his particular mind, I had my landskipp done out, and only a heaven made in the roome of it, which though it do not please me thoroughly now it is done, yet it will do better than as it was before.

Thence to Paul’s Churchyarde, and there bespoke some new books, and so to my ruling woman’s and there did see my work a doing, and so home and to my office a little, but was hindered of business I intended by being sent for to Mrs. Turner, who desired some discourse with me and lay her condition before me, which is bad and poor. Sir Thomas Harvey intends again to have lodgings in her house, which she prays me to prevent if I can, which I promised. Thence to talke generally of our neighbours. I find she tells me the faults of all of them, and their bad words of me and my wife, and indeed do discover more than I thought. So I told her, and so will practise that I will have nothing to do with any of them. She ended all with a promise of shells to my wife, very fine ones indeed, and seems to have great respect and honour for my wife. So home and to bed.

Read the annotations

oursin: image of hedgehogs having sex (bonking hedgehogs)
[personal profile] oursin

Bedroom confidential: what sex therapists hear from the couch.

We confess ourself unimpressed at the entirely false dichotomy set up that in Ye Olden Dayez what sex therapists saw was physical problems, and now what they see are 'bio-psycho-social' difficulties.

Aphrodite knows, I wish somebody would set to and research the history of sex therapy in the UK, because it is a Different Story from that in the USA, and I know where the bodies are buried where a whole lot of extremely pertinent archival material may be found. But my distinct sense is that they were working on a fairly holistic (though I doubt that back in the 1950s they would have used that word) model, what with calling on the insights of the Balint Method and so on. It was by no means mechanistic. See also this blog post re a friend of mine's research on a particular woman doctor's work in marital counselling in private practice in the 1950s.

So there's that about The Past.

And as far as physical problems go, these seem fairly prominent in contemporary consultations, what with the prevalence of ED and 'increase in women with vaginismus'.

And in the realm of plus ca change, or maybe things are even going backwards

For all the talk of lifting stigmas, therapists say uniformly that, for many people – even the majority – sex remains a taboo. Moyle points out that society is still predominantly heteronormative and kinks are not openly discussed. “We’re in this really weird paradox where everybody looks like they are having sex and is talking about sex, but the realistic, normal conversations are not happening.”

Even at the individual level, Lovett says conversations today are no more frank or open than they were in the mid-1980s. Buchanan finds there are more barriers than there were 15 years ago. “A bit of me is still surprised by people’s ignorance around their own bodies and their partner’s,” says Knowles. More pragmatic, robust sexual education is sorely needed.

(no subject)

April 20th, 2019 11:31 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] forthwritten!

Things come to an end

April 20th, 2019 09:49 am
shewhomust: (Default)
[personal profile] shewhomust
I am writing at the kitchen table, using my little notebook, because I had to turn it on to find my recipe for spiced buns: Lent is coming to an end and tomorrow there will be hot cross buns for breakfast. Not, as I said when I wrote up that recipe, that I observe Lent, or indeed Easter, but there is a pleasure in cooking traditional foods at the traditional time, and for once I have hit that target.

A less happy coming to an end is afflicting my little notebook: switching it on is no longer a trivial matter. Not only does its battery run flat between uses, it runs so flat that it requires a period plugged in before it is willing even to work on mains electricity. I suspect that one of its two batteries is not charging at all. I must have bought it some time in 2015, which I suppose makes it a respectable age for an electronic device, and it has done its job well in that time - all the more reason why I don't look forward to replacing it.

Thinking these thoughts, I notice that the cracks in my bread bowl grow more sinister with every batch of bread. At least it will be no problem finding a replacement in this case; I can just go back to using the bowl I used before I was given this one (which, unlike the current bowl, actually is a traditional bread bowl). Perhaps I should do that, and not wait until the bowl splits asunder, I thought, as I emptied the last of the bere meal into the dough. (Did I actually buy it at the Barony Mill? In that case, we have probably reached its Best Before date...)

And now, while the dough is proving, I should go to my desk, and to the unfinished post that awaits on the computer there. Maybe that, too, can be brought to an end?

When is an Adjective a Label?

April 20th, 2019 10:18 am
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
A few years ago, John Boyne had a hit book, later a film, in which he told the story of an oppressed group from the point of view of a member of the group doing the oppressing, and made the latter's suffering the centre of the story.

This device clearly worked so well for him that he has apparently done it again, in a different arena. His latest novel (which I won't name here, because even the title is pretty horribly transphobic) has caused quite a flurry on Twitter, I gather. I suppose I'll have to read it at some point, because I'm meant to be giving a lecture on this kind of fiction later in the summer, but it can certainly wait until I get back to England.

What I want to mull about in this post isn't his novel, which sounds terrible, so much as an article he recently published to promote it, in which he joins the ranks of those disavowing the word "cis." The reason he gives is a familiar one, and one that has some superficial plausibility: one shouldn't foist labels onto people who don't wish to accept them. He doesn't "identify as" a cis man, but simply as a man.

The obvious riposte is a tu quoque: how would Boyne (who is gay) feel if straight men refused to be described as such, despite being attracted exclusively to the opposite sex? If they said, "How dare you call me a straight man - I'm just a man!"? At best, it would seem a rather strange thing to say. More likely, he would hear it as a way of dividing the world into gay people and "normal" people.

Or, let's take a different kind of case. How would Boyne feel if someone described him as six feet tall? (Let's assume for the sake of argument that that is his height.) Would he say, "I'm not a six-foot man, I'm just a man! How dare you foist that label onto me when I don't identify with it?"

I very much doubt he would protest in those terms. But why not? What is the difference between that and calling him cis?

It's an obvious point, and trans people and allies have been painstakingly making it for years, but otherwise-sensible people have been curiously resistant to it. Somehow, it seems that certain things (being six feet tall, being Irish) are harmless adjectives, the use of which, assuming they are true, would cause no one to feel infringed upon, even where - as in the case of nationality - they might have a real connection to one's sense of personal identity. Other things, no less accurate, are regarded as "labels", the application of which is "foisting". For an adjective to be applied felicitously, it just has to be consistent with fact; a label, by contrast, also has to be something one "identifies with."

Trans people tend to use the word "cis" as an adjective, but many cis people hear it as a label - as a political act, not a neutral description. The reason, I suspect, is that this is also the way they hear the word "trans." Just as any trans person who opens their mouth is automatically called a "trans activist," so to mention that one is trans is to be parsed as making a kind of political point. That, I think, is why disavowal of "cis" is basically transphobic.

Still, all that said, the distinction between "adjective" and "label" is not a sharp one, any more than that between constantive and performative language generally. If I had time, and were not on a train to Kobe, I would spend a couple of hours maundering that, but for now I will refer you to my friend Mr Derrida.
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
Maggid
By Marge Piercy

The courage to let go of the door, the handle.
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blattering storm
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,
the small bones of children and the brittle bones
of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;
the courage to desert the tree planted and only
begun to bear; the riverside where promises were
shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned
as early as your own, whose customs however dan-
gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter
you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;
the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;
the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known
into the pain that cannot be imagined,
mapless, walking into the wilderness, going
barefoot with a canteen into the desert;
stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship
sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths,

Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina*
leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.
So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way
out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed
out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe
on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—

out of pain into death or freedom or a different
painful dignity, into squalor and politics.
We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes
under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours
raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed
tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers
and gave birth to children who could look down
on them standing on their shoulders for having
been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.


* "Goldeneh medina", Yiddish, literally "Golden Land", idiomatically America

Thursday 19 April 1666

April 19th, 2019 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

Lay long in bed, so to the office, where all the morning. At noon dined with Sir W. Warren at the Pope’s Head. So back to the office, and there met with the Commissioners of the Ordnance, where Sir W. Pen being almost drunk vexed me, and the more because Mr. Chichly observed it with me, and it was a disparagement to the office.

They gone I to my office. Anon comes home my wife from Brampton, not looked for till Saturday, which will hinder me of a little pleasure, but I am glad of her coming. She tells me Pall’s business with Ensum is like to go on, but I must give, and she consents to it, another 100. She says she doubts my father is in want of money, for rents come in mighty slowly. My mother grows very unpleasant and troublesome and my father mighty infirm through his old distemper, which altogether makes me mighty thoughtfull. Having heard all this and bid her welcome I to the office, where late, and so home, and after a little more talk with my wife, she to bed and I after her.

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[personal profile] glaurung
Farah Mendlesohn's new book length study of Heinlein is, hands down, the best volume of Heinlein criticism yet published. Everyone with a non-trivial interest in deepening their grokking of SF's most famous, most controversial, and least understood author should read it.

Mendlesohn's book is the first posthumous book on Heinlein to not come from a card carrying member of the Church of Heinlein. Fannish essays and books that put Heinlein up on a pedestal, if not an altar, and decline to engage with the less savoury parts of his work and views, are easy to find, and pretty much useless for trying to understand the author, especially when it comes to his flaws and shortcomings.

Mendlesohn does not hesitate to discuss Heinlein's inadequacies as a writer. His literary heroes were mostly satirists like Twain, but he seemed to lack the ear for satire, as his own attempts in that mode mostly fail to come across as such. His (cold war motivated) decision to give up city living and move to small town Colorado, far from any nuclear targets (and later to small town California ditto) caused him to fall increasingly out of touch with America's cultural and political zeitgeist, but he never seems to realize just how out of touch he had become. Thus, for example, throughout his career, he modelled characters in intimate relationships on the interactions of romantic leads in the screwball comedies of the 30's, long after such comedies ceased to have much salience to most of his readers. He put a lot of trust into certain kinds of authority (military officers and America's mainstream media especially) and certain sources of information, without ever asking himself if those authorities were trustworthy or if the view of the world being conveyed by them was accurate. This left him woefully ignorant of the extent and nature of America's institutionalized racism, and ill served him when it came to understanding the cultural transformations of the 1960's. It also enabled him to maintain an incredibly shuttered view of foreign policy and the extent of America's imperialist activities and international bullying during the cold war.

The second chapter of the book, a thumbnail biography of Heinlein, is worth the price of admission all by itself, because unlike Patterson, Mendlesohn knows how to highlight what biographical events are important and use them to illuminate recurring themes and explain otherwise puzzling motifs in Heinlein's writing. I learned more about Heinlein from reading that single brief chapter than I learned from Patterson's huge "biography" of endless undifferentiated trivial details.

The third chapter provides an overview of Heinlein's body of work, divided into his short fiction, his juveniles, and his adult novels. The rest of the book abandons the usual work-by-work approach and instead delves deeply into Heinlein on a theme-by-theme basis.

In two brief chapters, Mendlesohn explicates Heinlein's most common storytelling techniques and rhetorical tropes, several of which I have never seen touched upon in any previous book of Heinlein criticism - such as his tendency to make the viewpoint character of the story a sidekick to the real protagonist, or his fondness, especially in his later books, for writing picaresques rather than novels. Then in five much longer chapters, she tackles Heinlein's politics and his ideas of the proper ordering of society, his views on racism and slavery, and his take on sexuality and gender. In each case, she is able to sort out and explain Heinlein's views far better than any previous Heinlein criticism that I have read.

Just as every person wishing to do a biographical study of Heinlein from now on will be forced to slog through Patterson (and I feel great pity for every one of them), so too every critic who wishes to write about Heinlein's fiction from now on will need to refer to Mendlesohn's book. Unlike Patterson, however, Farah Mendlesohn's book is well organized and well written, making it not only immensely informative and educational, but also a pleasure to read.
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[personal profile] oursin

I know there's probably entirely justified concern about what information Facebook is gleaning about people who use it - and even if my use of it is pretty minimal it would still be problematic to give it up when there are people in my life who do use it as their primary means of contact.

But I have been lately been given to wonder exactly how granular and detailed is the information that is gleaned, and, okay, I daresay my adblocker is blocking ads so I'm not seeing these anyway, and I've gone into the ads settings and turned off just about everything that might be deployed to advertise things to me -

Which hasn't stopped, once or twice over the past weeks, sponsored advertising posts popping up in my timeline WOT, but after I have spent some time clicking to hide these, the hint appears to be taken...

But, anyway, in the wholly Point Thahr: Misst stakes, when I go into Settings/Ads/Preferences/'Advertisers', and find a whole swathe who come from 'contact list added to Facebook', they are 99.9999 recurring US-based, most of them realtors, with a tiny sprinkling of health-related organisations. And I go through, and I delete them, or at least remove them from view, and wonder Y O Y? how pointless is that? given that my location is one of the few bits of public-facing information available?

Or is this a subtle misleading? and in fact I am being bombarded with subliminal wombattery, because their algorithms have noted that what I post is mostly wombats? and I am being lulled into a false sense of security?

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