Not dead, only in Australia*

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:29 am
oursin: Illustration from medieval manuscript of the female physician Trotula of Salerno holding up a urine flask (trotula)
[personal profile] oursin

Re the current hoohah about Boots the chemist charging well over the odds for the morning after pill, I was going to comment - when posting the link on various bits of social media, to go 'and Edwin Brooks must be spinning in his grave!'

Brooks was the MP who put through the sometimes overlooked but significant 1966 Family Planning Act: as discussed in that post I did some while back on 'why birth control is free under the NHS'.

However, I discovered from googling that - as far as one can tell from The Usual Sources - Brooks is still alive, but moved to Australia. I am profoundly shocked that the Wikipedia entry, under his political achievements, doesn't include that act. We wonder if, in the long history of reproductive rights, it got overshadowed by the more controversial 1967 Abortion Act, or, by the final incorporation of contraception into the NHS in 1974. If I had time on my hands (which at this moment I don't) I would go and try and edit that entry.

*I think this is a quotation from someone? but I can't find a source.

oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

Except some of it doesn't seem to be, o hai, I am now making an effort, it is more that various academic things (seminars, conferences, etc) that I had flagged up in my diary ages ago finally came up and were all within the space of a few weeks, I don't know, it's the 'like buses' phenomenon. And some of them I did do some social interaction at and others I just slipped in and out, more or less.

Have booked up, what I was havering about, the annual conference in one of my spheres of interest that I was usually wont to go to but have missed the (I think) last two because I was not inspired by the overall theme that year. And it's not so much that I'm not inspired by this year's theme, it's more 'didn't they do something very similar a few years ago and I did a paper then, and don't really have anything new to say on the subject', so I didn't do that, but I think that it would be a useful one to go to to try and get me back into the groove for that thing that the editor at esteemed academic press was suggesting I might write and talk to people (if I can remember how to do that thing) and hear what's going on, and so on.

Also had a get-together with former line manager, which between the two of us and our commitments involves a lot of forward planning, but it was very nice to do it.

Have also done some (long) and (a bit less) outstanding life admin stuff, which I both feel pleased about and also as if I haven't actually done anything, which is weird.

Did I mention, getting revised article off last week, just before deadline? and then got out of office email from the editor saying away until end of month. WHUT. The peeves were in uproar.

And generally, I am still working out what I do with the day when it does not begin with posting an episode of Clorinda's memoirs and go on with compiling the next one. Okay, there are still snippets to come, but they come slowly.

emperor: (Default)
[personal profile] emperor
Fans of the coffee stall on the Cambridge market (link to my previous post on opening hours) may be interested to know that he doesn't seem to be open on Thursdays any more - AFAICT he's now Mon-Wed, Fri, Sat.

Not entirely co-incidentally, my coffee supplies are now rather low :(

Wednesday looks about to rain

Jul. 19th, 2017 02:07 pm
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Melisande Byrd His Lordship Takes a Bride: Regency Menage Romance (2015), very short, did what it says on the tin, pretty low stakes, even the nasty suitor who molests the female protag in a carriage (the Regency version of Not Safe In Taxis) just disappears. The style was not egregiously anachronistic (apart from one or two American spellings) but a bit bland.

Janet Malcolm, Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers (2013) - charity shop find. Some of the essays were of more interest to me than others, but all very well-written.

On the go

Matt Houlbrook, Prince of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook (2016). I depose that somebody whose scams got rumbled and who was banged up in various institutions for his crimes is not exactly trickster royalty. He then went allegedly straight and got into journalism, partly writing up the inside stories of the crime world, but these are very much complicated by the author as to their authenticity and did he actually write them. While he was more of a career criminal than the opportunistic upperclass louts in the McLaren book mentioned last week, he did have claims to gentility, but again, so not Raffles The Amateur Cracksman.

I'm currently a bit bogged down in it, which may be a reflection of the author's own experiences in trying to write about somebody who lived by lying, had numerous false identities, etc etc (which are very much foregrounded).

Simon R Green, Moonbreaker (2017) - came out this week, I succumbed.

Also started one of the books for review.

Up next

There's a new Catherine Fox out tomorrow (allegedly)...

oursin: Photograph of Stella Gibbons, overwritten IM IN UR WOODSHED SEEING SOMETHIN NASTY (woodshed)
[personal profile] oursin

What if all students spent a year working the land before university?

How about, not?

Do we not get the impression that he has a very halcyon vision of what working on the land might involve? I suspect that there are not enough lovely organic farms practising biodynamic agricultural methods to take up anything like the numbers of intending students there are each year and a lot of them would end up working in agribusiness enterprises (which I suppose might be a salutory awakening, or not).

Also, would not much of the work be seasonal? What would they do the rest of the time?

Might there not be objections from the local communities?

I also think of the lack of amenities in many rural parts, e.g. no or inadequate public transport: in the evenings, not in the least worn-out from hours of back-breaking toil for poverty wages, maybe they'll gather round and sing folk songs and dance traditional folk dances and practice folk crafts?

And actually, I don't think this is true:

We also know that without contact with nature we will not form an attachment, we will not learn to love it.

See the rise of the notion of the healing powers of nature and the pastoral way of life in Britain as the society became increasingly urbanised, and therefore romanticised the supposedly more simple and harmonious existence of country life.

I have a feeling that people who live close to nature know exactly how dreadful nature can be. Tetanus! Anthrax! entirely natural.

(no subject)

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:14 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] sciarra!

And more book-related...

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:43 pm
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

The end: Yorkshire Dales 'bookseller from hell' quits his shop

Doesn't say how long this charmer has been running a business, if you can call it that, but what I should have liked to have seen would have been a face-off between him and Driff Field, author of successive editions (last in 1995) of the idiosyncratic Driff's Guide to All The Secondhand and Antiquarian Bookshops in Britain (these are probably still worth reading if you ever come across copies, even though the information on actual bookshops is presumably waaaay out of date):

Hugely successful for its wit and wide coverage of the field, the guide was nonetheless chaotic, idiosyncratic and often sarcastic, with entries such as: "the b[oo]ks are slowly transforming themselves back into rags"; "judging by body temp, shop seems to have expired in 1930"; "I could smell a bargain, pity was I had a cold that day"; "owner has been unwell recently with bad back (possibly caused by turning on the customers once too often)".
or at least how Driff would have written him up.

oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

Yet another paean to the 'return' of the physical book and the allure of the bookshelves: My bookshelf says who I am – and a Kindle cannot do that.

Well, that depends whether your bookshelves do say who you are - mine, I depose, say 'I am large, I contain multitudes' - and whether you want this revealed to any casual observer - though I daresay anyone wishing to decode [personal profile] oursin from her bookshelves would have to be in and out of several rooms and up and down staircases.

(Also, of course, we may not have physical shelves to browse but we have our virtual ones, no?)

Today’s unlimited information makes the boundedness of bookcases profoundly comforting. My inner librarian is also soothed by arranging books. When my young children go to bed and I’m confronted by their daunting mess, my favourite activity is tidying their bookcase.
*looks around at piles on floor* And not even the excuse of having small children.

Me, myself, today, I was actually doing something that might be considered my inner archivist at work - going through what I cannot even with any accuracy describe as my files, to bring some order into various matters of life admin, accumulated over a considerable period. The cobblers' children...

(no subject)

Jul. 17th, 2017 09:08 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] snippy!

Culinary

Jul. 16th, 2017 08:19 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

Bread during the week: brown oatmeal.

Saturday breakfast rolls: from the wholewheat nut bread recipe in James Beard, cutting down on the amount of sweetener he seems to think necessary - sugar AND honey!!! Nice. Haven't made these for yonks.

We stayed in Saturday evening and I made the following meal: starter of healthy-grilled asparagus and hard(ish)-boiled quails' eggs, sprinkled with a dukkah-type dry dressing of toasted sesame and sunflower seeds + pinenuts, crushed in a mortar; then smoked swordfish (which I had happened to spot in the organic butchers/fishmongers), which I served with ground black pepper and lemon, and a couscous and raisins salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, heritage tomatoes sliced and tossed in wild pomegranate vinegar with salt, sugar and basil (maybe it's me, but do heritage tomatoes, whatever their colour and shape, all taste like tomatoes?), and a hot cucumber pickle thing from one of my books of Japanese cooking - cut the cucumber in 4 lengthways, cut out the seeds, chop into batons, stirfry briefly in sesame oil with dried chile, add a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar (recipe also says salt, which I consider supererogatory with soy sauce) cook briefly, and leave to marinate for a bit.

Today's lunch: duck steaks, panfried and then rested as per instructions on packet, with Greek spinach rice (for some reason the rice was a bit too al dente), okra simmered with ginger, coriander and fish sauce, and padron peppers.

Oh look, a meme about books

Jul. 15th, 2017 04:24 pm
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

via [personal profile] liseuse. Why do I think this was compiled by somebody who has not been reading for as many decades as I have? (I am still considering that peach you are offering me.)

1. You currently own more than 20 books: I slightly shudder to think how long ago I passed that mark.

2. You currently own more than 50 books: vide supra

3. You currently own more than 100 books: vide supra

4. You amassed so many books you switched to an e-reader: no, I switched to an e-reader for portability when on the move.

5. You read so much you have a ton of books AND an e-reader: is this at all exceptional?

6. You have a book-organization system no one else understands: I used to have a book organisation system but with one thing and another much of it has fallen into chaos.

7. You’re currently reading more than one book: yes, but some are more backburnered than others.

8. You read every single day: I breathe every day too.

9. You’re reading a book right now, as you’re taking this book nerd quiz: I'm not actually trying to multitask here.

10. Your essentials for leaving the house: wallet, phone, keys, and a book: unless I'm just going round the corner to the shops or to the gym, e-reader; also, Freedom Pass for London Transport.

11. You’ve pulled an all-nighter reading a book: no, but I've stayed up later than I intended.

12. You did not regret it for a second and would do it again: no.

13. You’ve figured out how to incorporate books into your workout: WOT.

14. You’ve declined invitations to social activities in order to stay home and read: no, but there are occasions I may have wished I had.

15. You view vacation time as “catch up on reading” time: to some extent. Also, long journeys.

16. You’ve sat in a bathtub full of tepid water with prune-y skin because you were engrossed in a book: eeeeuuuuwwww, no.

17. You’ve missed your stop on the bus or the train because you were engrossed in a book: yes.

18. You’ve almost tripped over a pothole, sat on a bench with wet paint, walked into a telephone pole, or narrowly avoided other calamities because you were engrossed in a book: not to my recollection.

19. You’ve laughed out loud in public while reading a book: once or twice.

20. You’ve cried in public while reading a book (it’s okay, we won’t tell): no.

21. You’re the one everyone goes to for book recommendations: I'm not sure this is a thing one can say about oneself.

22. You take your role in recommending books very seriously and worry about what books your friends would enjoy: what am I, some kind of missionary? I put my thoughts out there and people can make their own decisions.

23. Once you recommend a book to a friend, you keep bugging them about it: good grief, no. Seriously poor ton.

24. If your friend doesn’t like the book you recommended, you’re heartbroken: oh, come on, how old are you, 6?

25. And you judge them. A little bit: de gustibus non est disputandum, seriously.

26. In fact, whenever you and a friend disagree about a book you secretly wonder what is wrong with them: what are you, 6?

27. You’ve vowed to convert a non-reader into a reader: eeeeuuuuwww.

28. And you’ve succeeded: you have a great future ahead of you as a cult guru, but count me out.

29. You’ve attended book readings, launches, and signings: only when it's been mates of mine launching their book.

30. You own several signed books: a few, but mostly ones by friends.

31. You would recognize your favorite authors on the street: some of them.

32. In fact, you have: no.

33. If you could have dinner with anybody in the world, you’d choose your favorite writer: this supposes that there is one prime favourite. Also, quite a lot of my favourites are dead.

34. You own a first-edition book: a few, none, I think, that I went out specifically to collect rather than happening across a copy that was.

35. You know what that is and why it matters to bibliophiles: oh, come on.

36. You tweet, post, blog, or talk about books every day: no.

37. You have a “favorite” literary prize: I skorn them utterly.

38. And you read the winners of that prize every year: what, with my existing tbr pile?

39. You’ve recorded every book you’ve ever read and what you thought of it: life is too short.

40. You have a designated reading nook in your home: no.

41. You have a literary-themed T-shirt, bag, tattoo, or item of home décor: what is this even. Okay, I do have a photo of Dame Rebecca on my wall: it was a present. Do piles of books count as home decor?

42. You gave your pet a literary name: what pet.

43. You make literary references and puns nobody else understands: I will cop to that.

44. You’re a stickler for spelling and grammar, even when you’re just texting: ditto.

45. You’ve given books as gifts for every occasion: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, graduations, Tuesdays...: not really.

46. Whenever someone asks what your favorite book is, your brain goes into overdrive and you can’t choose just one. You end up naming twelve books: and then adding afterthoughts.

47. You love the smell of books: yes.

48. You’ve binge-read an entire series or an author’s whole oeuvre in just a few days: or at least over the course of a few weeks.

49. You’ve actually felt your heart rate go up while reading an incredible book: I've never actually checked this.

50. When you turn the last page of a good book, you feel as if you’ve finally come up for air and returned from a great adventure: not sure I would put it exactly like that.

To a day conference

Jul. 14th, 2017 05:02 pm
oursin: Drawing of hedgehog in a cave, writing in a book with a quill pen (Writing hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

In one of those buildings which are now part of one of the Institutionz of the Highah Learninz in the Bloomsbury area, and are really not entirely fitted for purpose when you take into account things like accessibility, because the entire row if not the whole square is probably Grade II listed and therefore limits what one can do with the internal arrangements, also precludes bulldozing the lot and building something new.

Also, actual conference took place in a space which has massive associational resonances (a member of the Bloomsbury Group wrote An Important Book in it) but is a) not air-conditioned and first thing was draughty because somebody opened the windows at the back and later on stuffy and soporific and b) acoustically awful, though I think some of the problem I had in hearing the first speaker was not just because I was sitting rather far back but because, although they may have been miked, they muttered. Less of a problem with subsequent speakers, though I did move further forward for the after-lunch sessions.

All in all, very interesting, slightly tangential to my general line of interests, but one of those subjects that demonstrates what very diverse approaches you can get with different people from different disciplinary fields looking at a particular subject.

Also, managed to ask at least one question during discussions, and had a good conversation with one of the speakers at tea-time.

Although some weeks ago attendees were asked to advise on dietary restrictions re lunch, the day before there was an email saying, oops, no catering, find yourself. So as it was just around the corner, went to former Place of Work where I still have the entree.

Where I encountered a former colleague and had some discussion of Recent Changes - possibly it is not quite the thing for someone who was there as long as I was to moot the idea that people staying forever in the same workplace tend to get ossified, as does the place itself: but I think I perhaps did somewhat to counteract that effect by having Outside Scholarly Interests, visiting archives for research purposes, etc? Maybe? (unlike certain colleagues whom I suspect still hang on and will do until their lifeless corpse is discovered in the stacks.)

oursin: Illustration from medieval manuscript of the female physician Trotula of Salerno holding up a urine flask (trotula)
[personal profile] oursin

My attention was lately drawn to some descriptions of 'natural' contraception and I thought, well, just because something does not involve an appliance, does that make it natural?

Natural fertility control for women involves: digital thermometer; Menstrual Cycle Chart; Basal Body Temperature (BBT) Chart, i.e. some kind of equipment, not to mention the routine monitoring of temperature. I also imagine that if you do the examination of cervical mucus thing, you need some time to familiarise yourself with what it's supposed to look like at various stages of the cycle, even if you don't invest in a microscope, set of litmus papers and a slide.

I am given to understand that it works for some women and they prefer it to other methods, but I can entirely suppose there is a significant faff factor and situations in which it would be a good deal less than ideal.

As for the male methods, do they not seem to require a certain element of mastering a technique? (even without the Taoist philosophy) - either Coitus Saxonicus... a man squeezes the base of his penis immediately before ejaculation so that the semen is diverted to the bladder' or 'simple breath control & muscle flexing techniques'.

Perhaps I'm unduly cynical, but these seem to involve not only trusting the man to take care of the matter, but that he is competent at these measures.

In Vonda McIntyre's science fiction - Dreamsnake and the Starfarers sequence - she posited 'biocontrol', but this was something that was taught at puberty, was not just about contraception, and there were some instances of its either going wrong or individuals just not being very good at it.

But aren't these all, to some degree or other 'flyin' in the face of nature'?

(Feel there are wider issues there about 'natural' remedies, and those herbal treatments which can actually have adverse effects, because 'herbal' can comprise 'pharmacologically active' but not always in the carefully calibrated way of actual pharma.)

(no subject)

Jul. 13th, 2017 09:20 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] kimsnarks!
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished An Accident of Stars, which, I can see it's attempting interesting things with the portal fantasy (Narnia under the White Witch is a walk in the park by comparison) and doing unusual things with the characters, but there was a hiatus in the middle while I read other things, and I had a bit of a 'I started-now-I'll-finish' feeling about it.

I then, following somebody (I think [personal profile] fairestcat) mentioning Cat Sebastian's The Ruin of a Rake (2017) on Twitter, essentially inhaled that and the preceding volumes in the series, The Soldier's Scoundrel (2016) and The Lawrence Browne Affair (2017). These are m/m regencys, and while they are not in the KJ Charles class - OMG the anachronistic word usages and out of place idioms, + character given a title that there is a real-life Earl of - I was consuming them like, no, not popcorn, I'm not that bothered with popcorn, a better analogy would be really good salted roasted nuts or poncey vegetable crisps.

Diane Duane, On Ordeal: Ronan Nolan Jnr (2017: novella set in the Young Wizards universe) - didn't like quite as much as I usually do this series. Plus, no, it was not Fred Astaire swinging around the lamp-post in the pouring rain, that was Gene Kelly.

On the go

Angus McLaren, Playboys and Mayfair Men: Crime, Class, Masculinity, and Fascism in 1930s London (out autumn 2017, this was an advance copy). Continues McLaren's longtime interest in deviant forms of masculinity not subsumable to simple invocation of homosexuality, though it may be in the mix. This takes a high-profile case of an attempted jewel robbery by 4 upper(ish) class men (I think the some of the class analysis could be a bit more nuanced, e.g. the social resonance of specific public schools) which ended up nearly killing a jeweller, and for which two of the perpetrators were flogged (yes, I know one might think they were used to that, with the public school thing, but it was considered shocking that they might endure a criminal penalty associated with the roughest elements).

This is contextualised in wider patterns around crime, class, masculinity etc, and there seem to have been a significant number of entitled young men who, even though they had either run through their inheritance or, because Depression, inheritance not what it was, thought the world owed them a living of nightclubs, posh hotels, fast cars, smart clothes, etc. And if they could not e.g. marry a rich woman, they turned to crime.

At which they were so not Raffles the amateur cracksman but really pretty useless, possibly more like Bunny had he tried to go it alone.

Haven't finished it yet: have just got to the chapter on Fascism.

Also on the go, because that is a bound proof copy that I don't want to tote around me, so on the e-reader, Farah Mendelsohn, Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts (2017.

Up next

Thinking that Matt Houlbrook's Prince of Tricksters: The Incredible True Story of Netley Lucas, Gentleman Crook (2016) would have interesting resonances with the McLaren, and has already been sitting rather a while on the tbr pile.

Woop-woop-woop Mybug alert!

Jul. 11th, 2017 11:24 am
oursin: Photograph of Stella Gibbons, overwritten IM IN UR WOODSHED SEEING SOMETHIN NASTY (woodshed)
[personal profile] oursin

Bronte 200 Symposium: Branwell Bronte: 'Perfect Wreck'.

Though I daresay no-one will have the effrontery (or will they? cf the guy who was all about Shelley wrote Frankenstein, not some girly) to posit that he wrote the works of his sisters?

In fact there are some interesting things about the wider culture of the time that you can probably get at through:

A one-day interdisciplinary symposium which seeks to explore and interrogate not only the figure of Branwell Brontë, but the context of the early Victorian culture in which he struggled to fulfil his ambitions.

Papers are invited on a broad range of topics, such as:
Early Victorian models of masculinity
Concept/appeal of the Byronic hero
Romanticism
Landscape
Juvenilia
Victorian magazine culture (eg Blackwoods Magazine)
Role of the artist
Depression
Alcoholism/opium addiction
Mental health











But, you know, if there happened to be a family of male writers, and there was a sister who was thought promising but never came to anything and fell in love with her male employer and fantasised that it was a reciprocal Forbidden Love, etc etc, would not holding an entire symposium on her be considered Political Correctness and Tokenism Gone Mad?

We think, also, of the sisters of eminent men who were actually accomplished artists/writers and had their work appropriated, got literally banged up in lunatic asylums by their male relatives or at least were grossly overshadowed by them...