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Sep. 3rd, 2014 | 02:46 pm

I have just rewatched the first episode of Torchwood and found myself deeply entertained by all the bits that make no sense/are just ridiculous. In no particular order:
- Why does Jack like to stand on top of really tall buildings? (Oh god, don't answer that.) Why does nobody call the police when they see a man standing on a very tall building?
- If you had a pterodactyl, would letting it fly around Cardiff in daylight really be a good idea?
- Gwen's whole anti-Retcon letter to herself, in all its poorly-punctuated glory. Cannot help thinking that handwriting it (or, god forbid, telling Rhys) would have made it harder to destroy the evidence than typing it.
- If Jack and co. were right there in the hospital when the Weevil attack happened, it would have been good if they could have perhaps prevented the murder. Just a thought.
- I am amazed that nobody in Torchwood Three has yet seen Jack die and come back to life, as it seems to happen all the time.
- If you wanted to commit a load of untraceable murders, why use such a distinctive murder weapon?
- Gwen should consider not wearing a high-vis jacket when trying to spy on people.
- Jack, WHY WOULD YOU ASK SOMEONE WHAT DEATH WAS LIKE? I mean, I get why, but it clearly did not help the situation.

Oh, Torchwood.

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(no subject)

Jan. 20th, 2014 | 11:20 pm

I just finished reading Conundrums for the Long Week-End, a Christmas present from my parents. It's about the Lord Peter Wimsey books and how they reflect the world in which Sayers was writing. Just my sort of thing (which is why I asked for it). However, it was a bit disappointing. Rather than an in-depth exploration of the books, it felt more like a recap of the plots, together with fairly basic contextual information. Sayers discussions on LJ seem to be much more interesting and original in general.

It's not helped by the fact that the authors seem to be mistaken about various points. (They are based at US universities, and presumably are American; I think part of it is a lack of familiarity with British culture.) For instance, we are told that "Wimsey belonged to a family of sportsmen, skilled hunters who had nonetheless never killed a fox". This is something of a misreading. In Whose Body? the narration mentions that "He belonged to a family which had never shot a fox". I'm sure the foxes still ended up dead - I can imagine Peter having an outbreak of soft-heartedness and calling the hounds off, but I cannot imagine for a second his father or Gerald (or Helen) doing so. That line appears when Peter is making his mind up to go and visit Freke in an attempt to play fair; it's about playing the game, rather than the authors' seeming suggestion that the Wimseys are a compassionate lot.

"Though Dorothy L. Sayers worked hard to create a sense of the real in her novels ... she employed several devices to remind readers that they were reading a story, that none of these horrible, murdering people were real. The most obvious of her tricks was the naming of places and characters. No one would conceive that places with names such as Riddlesdale, Little Dorking or Little Doddering could actually exist. ... Vera Findlater, Bertha Gotobed - who would believe that these were the names of real people?"
Um. I think this may well be a US/UK difference, because as an English reader I can readily conceive that places with those names could exist, seeing as there is indeed a Dorking, a Riddlesden, and various other places with similar names. I also have no trouble believing in the names used as examples.

I find these assumptions - that all readers must react in the same way to these authors - rather bizarre. They also leap to conclusions a bit - we are solemnly told that "Harriet Vane's closest friends and supporters in Strong Poison are a lesbian couple". Which they certainly could be - the text isn't explicit either way, and I know many people like to read Sylvia and Eiluned as a couple, which I am completely in favour of. But it's something where there's evidence for both sides - they might be, or they might not, and just flatly stating that they are a couple, with no exploration of the evidence in the text or why you've come to that conclusion, seems to be missing the opportunity for a more interesting discussion.

One for the completist, I think. There are some interesting moments (I have been led to muse on just what the status of Sherlock Holmes is in Lord Peter's world), but it's nothing that you wouldn't get from reading the books and having a basic grasp of 20s and 30s UK history.

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(no subject)

Jul. 17th, 2013 | 12:12 am

Contemplating the weird disconnect in the Harry Potter universe between wizards and Muggles, I remembered this line from Tonks in OotP: "Very clean, aren't they, these Muggles?" said the witch called Tonks, who was looking about the kitchen with great interest. "My dad's Muggle-born and he's a right old slob. I suppose it varies, just as it does with wizards?"
This is someone whose father is Muggle-born. She must have some connection with and knowledge of the Muggle world, yet she still discusses them as if they are some weird alien species who are so different to wizards that she never before considered that preferred levels of tidiness might vary. (Try replacing "Muggle-born/Muggles" with one ethnicity and "wizards" with another to see just how weird this is.)

Last day at work tomorrow. I am feeling very strange about it.

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(no subject)

Jul. 8th, 2013 | 10:36 pm

I have just finished reading Villette. I must admit that I can't quite see the appeal of M. Paul. (I am the same age as Lucy Snowe. If my suitor told me not to look at certain paintings because they were improper for a young lady, and sat me down in a corner to look at pious works instead, I would not take it very well.) And the pacing of the ending is really abrupt and odd.

Sign of how things have changed in 160 years: I cannot imagine a current novelist describing a couple who had lost a child as experiencing "no excessive suffering" in their lives and claiming that they were "blessed, like that of Jacob's favoured son, with "blessings of Heaven above; blessings of the deep that lies under"". That was jarring. (Also, other people find Paulina deeply irritating, right? More so as a child than an adult, but still.)

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Misinterpreting Sayers

Jul. 4th, 2013 | 10:07 pm

From Busman's Honeymoon:

"Blow Mrs Ruddle!"
"By all means -- but I expect Bunter is doing that already."
The precipitate entry of Mrs Ruddle with the tea-tray gave weight to the supposition.

Just think of the fanfic.

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Happy New Year!

Jan. 1st, 2013 | 12:25 am

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

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(no subject)

Dec. 12th, 2012 | 10:15 pm

On the BBC's list of census oddities:

"Seaside resorts are often near the top of the divorce league - but no-one is really sure why."

Because to get a divorce you need to go to Brighton and get caught with a woman by the hotel's chambermaid! It's all very simple.

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(no subject)

Dec. 5th, 2012 | 09:49 pm

I was in Waterstones last week, and discovered that they had a bookcase devoted solely to what they called "Cosy Crime". It included Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie, to my great bemusement.

Here is the ending of Unnatural Death:

'An evil woman, if ever there was one,' said Parker, softly, as they looked at the rigid body, with its swollen face and deep, red ring about the throat.
Wimsey said nothing. He felt cold and sick. [...] Six o'clock had struck some time before they got up to go. It reminded him of the eight strokes of the clock which announce the running-up of the black and hideous flag.
As the gate clanged open to let them out, they stepped into a wan and awful darkness. The June day had risen long ago, but only a pale and yellowish gleam lit the half-deserted streets. And it was bitterly cold and raining.
'What is the matter with the day?' said Wimsey. 'Is the world coming to an end?'
'No,' said Parker, 'it is the eclipse'.

And this passage from The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club:

'Muttering', Wimsey remembered, had formerly been the prelude to one of George's 'queer fits'. These had been a form of shell-shock, and they had generally ended in his going off an wandering about in a distraught manner for several days, sometimes with a partial and occasionally with complete temporary loss of memory. There was the time when he had been found dancing naked in a field among a flock of sheep, and singing to them. [...] Then there was a dreadful time when George had deliberately walked into a bonfire.

And, of course, the ending of Busman's Honeymoon:

'They hate executions, you know. It upsets the other prisoners. They bang on the doors and make nuisances of themselves. Everybody's nervous.... Caged like beasts, separately.... That's the hell of it ... we're all in separate cells.... I can't get out, said the starling.... If one could only get out for one moment, or go to sleep, or stop thinking.... Oh, damn that cursed clock! ... Harriet, for God's sake, hold on to me ... get me out of this ... break down the door....'
'Hush, dearest. I'm here. We'll see it out together.'
Through the eastern side of the casement, the sky grew pale with the forerunners of the dawn.
'Don't let me go.'

The light grew stronger as they waited.
Quite suddenly, he said, 'Oh, damn!' and began to cry - in an awkward, unpracticed way at first, and then more easily. So she held him, crouched at her knees, against her breast, huddling his head in her arms that he might not hear eight o'clock strike.

Annie's speech when confronted in Gaudy Night has been left out due to length, but it's about as un-cosy as you can get.

Sayers' work (in addition to the murders, Poison Pen letters and so on, which are only to be expected in crime novels, even cosy ones) include suicides and attempted suicides, mental illness, discussion of war, drowning, bigamy, drugs, homosexuality (arguably. And obviously this is not at all like suicide, but I think doesn't quite fit into the "cosy" category, which I am mentally defining as "things that wouldn't upset your average Daily Mail reader), extra-marital affairs and lots of unmarried sex. Christie I know less well, but And Then There Were None is chilling, at least one book contains a murderous child, and the motive for the murder in Murder on the Orient Express is the kidnapping and murder of a very young girl, the latter not stopping the murderer from collecting the ransom money. I think the Waterstones staff might be confusing "cosy" with "Golden Age detective fiction".

(I did not say anything about it, because last time I raised my concerns with a display at Waterstones I got the very distinct impression that the member of staff I was talking to thought I was crazy. But still, it is a ridiculous category for those books.)

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(no subject)

Oct. 28th, 2012 | 06:25 pm

In my last shift at Oxfam, I found and bought a book called The Complete Medical Encyclopedia and Household Doctor - no date given, but judging by the illustrations it looks like it's from the 30s. It's in surprisingly good condition (or it was, until I left Oxfam in a ferocious rainstorm and, despite my having an umbrella, the book got soaked and the red dye on its cover started to run). I love things like this - they're such a window onto the past. And, of course, some things are hilarious. Some highlights:Medical talk and dated attitudes under the cutCollapse )
Tags: ,

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(no subject)

Oct. 14th, 2012 | 12:01 am

I am currently in a room at the Oxford University Club, listening to Hertford's "silent disco" (a misnomer if ever there was one) from the floor below. Avril Lavigne's "Sk8r Boi" was just greeted with wild enthusiasm; the attendees appear to be word-perfect. (That said, aren't we all?)

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(no subject)

Sep. 29th, 2012 | 06:41 pm

Agatha Christie insults Harriet Vane. The nerve!

(I also think she might have missed the point of the maggots-and-Gorgonzola description - it's meant to imply, surely, that he looks the perfect silly ass about town, and his face looks accordingly right with the top hat, rather than implying anything maggot-like about his appearance.)

The Wikipedia* entry for Lord Peter Wimsey includes one section that has always puzzled me:

At the conclusion of Strong Poison, Inspector Parker asks "What would one naturally do if one found one's water-bottle empty?" (a point of crucial importance in solving the book's mystery). Wimsey promptly answers "Ring the bell." Whereupon Miss Murchison, the indefatigable investigator employed by Wimsey for much of this book, comments "Or, if one wasn't accustomed to be waited on, one might use the water from the bedroom jug."

But the water jug was a red herring - it was the omelette Wot Dun It. Was this a "point of crucial importance", and have I just missed it?

*Firefox's spellcheck suggests "Windpipe" for this word; it seems surprising that it hasn't been added to the dictionary. That said, both "Firefox" and "spellcheck" are apparently alien words, so viewed in that light it's a bit less odd.

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(no subject)

Jun. 12th, 2012 | 12:10 am

If you would like to post nice (anonymous, unless you feel strongly otherwise) things about me here, please go ahead and do so! You don't need to know alittleacademe, and you can join yourself if you wish!

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(no subject)

Apr. 4th, 2012 | 08:27 pm

As it's National Poetry Month (in the US), here is a poem. Reading it hurts my heart. (Aren't you all glad not to have been born one hundred years previously and trapped in an unhappy marriage?)

The Affinity - Anna Wickham

I have to thank God I'm a woman,
For in these ordered days a woman only
Is free to be very hungry, very lonely.

It is sad for Feminism, but still clear
That man, more often than woman, is pioneer.
If I would confide a new thought,
First to a man must it be brought.

Now, for our sins, it is my bitter fate
That such a man wills soon to be my mate,
And so of friendship is quick end:
When I have gained a love I lose a friend.

It is well within the order of things
That man should listen when his mate sings;
But the true male never yet walked
Who liked to listen when his mate talked.

I would be married to a full man,
As would all women since the world began;
But from a wealth of living I have proved
I must be silent, if I would be loved.

Now of my silence I have much wealth,
I have to do my thinking all by stealth.
My thoughts may never see the day;
My mind is like a catacomb where early Christians pray.

And of my silence I have much pain,
But of these pangs I have great gain;
For I must take to drugs or drink,
Or I must write the things I think.

If my sex would let me speak,
I would be very lazy and most weak;
I should speak only, and the things I spoke
Would fill the air awhile, and clear like smoke.

The things I think now I write down,
And some day I will show them to the Town.
When I am sad I make thought clear;
I can re-read it all next year.

I have to thank God I'm a woman,
For in these ordered days a woman only
Is free to be very hungry, very lonely.

(helle_d, she knew Natalie Barney!)

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Mar. 18th, 2012 | 08:13 pm

(Via antisoppist)

1. Leave a comment to this post.
2. I will give you a letter (if you ask for one. Feel under no obligation to do this!).
3. Post the names of five fictional characters whose names begin with that letter, and your thoughts on each. The characters can be from books, movies, or TV shows.

10 Things I Hate About You, Buffy, Angel, Vorkosigan Saga and Lord Peter Wimsey behind the cut. Some spoilers.Collapse )

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(no subject)

Feb. 1st, 2012 | 09:34 pm

In Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love, the luxury flat Linda is installed in by Fabrice includes "enormous windows [that] worked like windows of a motor-car, the whole of the glass disappearing into the wall". I assumed this was just a made-up device to show how fancy it was, until yesterday when I was reading a recent acquisition, The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. There's a letter from Unity to Diana in which she describes Hitler's mountain retreat, the Berghof. It includes a window, described as follows: "The window - the largest piece of glass ever made - can be wound down like a motor window, as it was yesterday, leaving it quite open". LINDA'S FLAT IS BASED ON HITLER'S HOUSE. I am a bit disturbed.

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(no subject)

Aug. 3rd, 2011 | 10:40 am

Flicking through a book in Oxfam yesterday, I found this gem:

"Dr Martin Routh, President of Magdalen, Oxford, from 1791 to 1854, could see no reason for the installation of baths in the college since the young men were up for only eight weeks at a stretch. Dr Routh also refused to believe in the existence of railways, dismissing undergraduates who told him that they had travelled from London to Oxford in two hours as 'conspirators bent on making him take leave of his senses'".

Oh, Oxford.

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Poetry month, day twenty-six

Apr. 26th, 2011 | 11:57 pm

WH Auden - The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

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Poetry month, day twenty-five

Apr. 25th, 2011 | 06:48 pm

Robert Graves - Love Without Hope

Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter;
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.

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Poetry month, day twenty-four

Apr. 24th, 2011 | 11:40 pm

George Herbert - Easter Wings

(Linked to rather than posted, as I cannot manage the formatting.)

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Poetry month, day twenty-three

Apr. 23rd, 2011 | 11:28 pm

Stella Benson - Now I Have Nothing

Now I have nothing. Even the joy of loss
Even the dreams I had I now am losing.
Only this thing I know; that you are using
My heart as a stone to bear your foot across ...
I am glad I am glad the stone is of your choosing ...

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