Monday, October 24th, 2016 05:07 pm
Another week, another round-up of RGL updates for you!

Bob Wines, Sydenham, London SE26

Our featured article this week is Bob Wines, SE26 5EU, no relation to the bob of this parish. Instead, it's a very handy shop for those living in Sydenham who have need of alcoholic sustenance, offering local 'craft' beers, as well as fine wines, including English ones and a tasty viognier. You can get refillable wine bottles too.

Two new articles are: The Masons' Arms, a pub in Kensal Green which has real ale; and Bread Ahead, a small bakery in Covent Garden with some excellent sweet things.

There's an update to The Thatched House pub (really a restaurant) in Upminster.

Temporary closures are reported at The Lucky Rover in Chessington, and The Crown on Blackfriars Road.

Closed more permanently are: Doukan, a Moroccan restaurant I have enjoyed in Wandsworth; Si Mangia Italian in East Dulwich; and McLaren's Cafe Bar and Grill in leafy Honor Oak Park.

Finally, just a note that The Armoury pub in Wandsworth has reverted to its original name of The Crane, with a refurb to boot.
Monday, October 24th, 2016 03:56 pm
Nature & brutalism
This section of crumbling wall is in the middle of Imperial College London's South Kensington campus. The ivy Virginia Creeper (h/t to [personal profile] sillymouse for the botanical correction) that masks it is presently changing from red to green, drawing attention to the contrast between it and the functional brutalist buildings surrounding it.
Monday, October 24th, 2016 11:00 am
Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 11:00 am
Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 03:30 pm

The current season of ENO opened with a new production of Don Giovanni, and I gave a little 'eek' when I realised that it was nearly at the end of the run before I'd got around to arranging to see it. I have seen 'quite a few' productions before,* but it is the greatest opera ever written and each of them has shone a new light on it even if, as in the case of ENO's last but one production, it was on how not to do it.** But if I am ever allowed to direct it, it's this one I shall shamelessly steal – erm, improve – the idea of the opening from.

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, the opening features Don Giovanni being disturbed with his latest conquest, Donna Anna, by the arrival of her father, the Commendatore. The latter is killed and given how long it is since it was first performed, it shouldn't be a spoiler that this is not the last we see of him… Watching and commentating on all this is Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello.

So there are two questions that the director has to think about because they affect how we see the Don from the start. The first is how consensual is the relationship between Don Giovanni and Donna Anna. The libretto has Don Giovanni masked and one of the problems between them is that he won't tell her who he is, but is it attempted rape? The second is how accidental is the killing of the Commendatore: is it murder, manslaughter or misadventure?

During the overture, this one has a series of women walk past Don Giovanni and Leporello, stop, turn round and go through one of a series of doors with him before coming out again. I've seen others where this sort of thing has happened, including ones like this where there's also been one man in the queue of conquests. What doesn't convince me is that he doesn't do anything to pick them up: we're expected to believe that merely walking past is enough to get the stream of nine or so people into bed. It's fair to say that the role isn't performed here by Brad Pitt. The other improvement would be to have some of the people exiting the door be adjusting their clothing / having their skirt tucked into their knickers at the back or something.

I guessed that the last in the queue would be Donna Anna and indeed it was. The moment I sat up was where the set opened up and there were two rooms, one of which had the pair inside. There is some mimed negotiation and Donna Anna wants a masked man wielding a knife to 'assault' her. Even better, her father enters the other room with a woman very unlikely to be his wife who he begins to top! He hears Donna Anna's cries, enters the other room and is 'You want it? You have it' stabbed by the Don.

It fails to work with the plot – Donna Anna is supposed to only realise later that Don Giovanni is the one who's killed her father etc – but it's nearly brilliant.

What I'd do is project something like the screen of someone using Tindr etc during the overture. With a masked profile picture, the Don is going 'yes' to anything in a skirt, and ends up in text conversation with Donna Anna who says that her fantasy is… But I'd keep the Commendatore being up to some extra-marital sex in the next room.

Alas, that's the highlight. Some of the other ideas – like having Donna Anna's boyfriend, Don Ottavio, be her husband rather than just engaged to her – are pointless and contradict small bits of the plot. Some – like having the statue of the Commendatore be as unlike marble (what they're singing he is) as it's possible to be.. up until he enters the room, when he's a bit marble, but more like the resurrected body – are 'huh?' Another of the latter is the number of doors people go through for no very good reason. Some ideas – like having Don Giovanni attempt to seduce a servant over the phone rather than by standing underneath her window*** – are mostly harmless, but serve to raise a question or two. The call's made from a phone box with a rotary dial, so when is this set?

The final idea – having Don Giovanni escape Hell by sending Leporello in his place – is something I've never seen before, is sort of in character, but only works here in terms of explaining WTF someone looking like Leporello's clone has been pointedly wandering through the scenes throughout: he just replaces Leporello as the servant and it's back to the opening corridor and its stream of walking past, stopping, and… It could work, perhaps, but my favourite ending is still that of the Francesca Zambello production for the ROH, where we see a naked Don in Hell, carrying an equally naked woman.****

The set design – a series of greys and drab olive (taken from tank camouflage paint tins?) – is uninspiring and the rest of the design isn't up to much either, with the exception of having Leporello look like Michael Caine. The English translation is also ok rather than great.

But you could close your eyes and listen to this one, and I'm very glad to have seen it.

Two more performances: Monday and Wednesday. I'd bought a 'secret ticket' – you pay £20 and only find out where you're seated the day before. I'd guessed that it having been at the Tkts booth in Leicester Square for £30 meant that it was likely to be a good seat rather than up in the balcony, and ended up in the middle of the fourth row of the dress circle, normal price £125.

* A quick count says about twelve 'live in theatre' ones, some of which were seen more than once, plus a couple of 'live from..' satellite broadcasts and at least half a dozen on DVD.

** Normally, if the production is badly directed and designed, you can shut your eyes and listen, but even the singing was poor in this one.

*** Best line from any 'outside the window' production was one in the mid-90s: 'This worked quicker at Kensington Palace…' Now Princess Diana is long dead but we've another woman PM, you could have 'Downing Street'.

**** This was the production I paid HOW MUCH to see live and was definitely worth the money. Sky Arts were showing it at one point and it's also available on DVD.

Mirrored from my website's blog, The deranged mad of a brain man.

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016 11:43 am
If you're trying to contact me for the next couple of days, you're probably best either phoning the landline, or going through Mat if it's text-based communication.

- Samsung were supposed to collect my phone yesterday, so it got reset to factory settings and powered down. They didn't come.
- My new phone has not arrived yet.
- I am typing this on Mat's laptop because Tiny Laptop is broken, and has been for ages, but I never got round to fixing her because I was fine with my phone.
- Alisdair's phone (my old Note 2, so 3 phones ago) is proving increasingly unreliable after nearly 5 years of constant use and keeps dying on him, so contacting me via him is not going to be a reliable option.

In health news, I am still in pain from the original, still undiagnosed, problem. I am having horrific side effects from the antibiotics they gave me to treat the secondary problem they found while looking for the original problem. And I can't even play stupid games on my phone to distract me from all this.

All in all, I'm a bit low.

Sorry not to end on a more positive note...
Friday, October 21st, 2016 10:27 pm
Basket or boat?
I call this a laundry basket. Keiki and Humuhumu claim they are in a boat.

Poll #17709 Basket or boat?
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 56

They are sitting in a

View Answers

4 (12.1%)

29 (87.9%)

That oblong of white plastic contains multitudes. Do not constraint its identity as above.

View Answers

51 (100.0%)

Friday, October 21st, 2016 09:27 am
The children have had a day each off school this week due to getting a cold - in both cases a day of rest at home has been more than enough to get them recovered.  Tony seems untouched.

I've been ill since Tuesday night, no improvement in sight, and as of this morning I've lost my voice.  The children found that a lot funnier than I did.

One of my friends from work, who had a similar leukaemia to me several years earlier, told me that she still finds colds hit harder and take longer to recover from than before the cancer.  So maybe it's not surprising.  But so so tedious.  And I keep having to talk down the bit of my brain that panics when I get breathless climbing the stairs, because honestly brain it's much more likely that I'm breathless because I have a stinking cold than because the cancer has come back, and I wasn't breathless climbing the stairs before I caught this cold.

It's not flu and I'm not running a temperature, I'm just bunged up and stupid and fed up.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 07:25 pm

Posted by Alix

Actually, not really conservatism, that’s not fair (but it was alliterative). Conservatism is a political mood or tradition or character feature with a long (duh obviously) history, and it is seen on both the economic right and left and as a liberal pluralist I genuinely value its place in the world with a fixed grin and probably a migraine later.

What I want to draw attention to are really the consequences of toxicity. Elizabeth Warren has highlighted in the Washington Post how Donald Trump’s current alarming foam-at-the-mouth on the validity of the voting system and the acceptability of the forthcoming US election result actually has its roots in pretty well-established Republican mood music:

For years, Republican leaders have pushed the lie that voter fraud is a huge issue. In such states as Kansas and North Carolina , and across the airwaves of right-wing talk radio and Fox News, Republican voters have been fed exaggerated and imagined stories about fraud. Interestingly, all that fraud seems to plague only urban neighborhoods, minority communities, college campuses and other places where large numbers of people might vote for Democrats. The purpose of this manufactured hysteria is obvious: to delegitimize Democratic voters and justify Republican efforts to suppress their votes.

So it might look like a “narcissistic sociopath” (hey! I’m only quoting Gary Lineker) is the  source of these outrageous statements, and is being rapidly othered by his party colleagues as such, but we haven’t arrived at this place overnight. For this stuff to have traction in the mouth of a properly frightening demagogue, it has to be legitimised first by more apparently sane people. As the great @snoozeinbrief puts it:

The parallel with the UK is obvious, irresistible, and needs pointing out, as often as possible. Some of the most gross things I have read this week in a crowded field were the quotes pitilessly extracted in Andrew Rawnsley’s review/rant of Unleashing Demons: the Inside Story of Brexit, which is spin doctor Craig Oliver’s account of the final months of his boss David Cameron’s premiership, with attendant national meltdown. The main gamble Cameron took when he called the referendum, essentially putting party before country, that most unconservative of all crimes, we know about well enough. But this is Rawnsley’s most skewering comment as he mocks Oliver’s abnegation of responsibility for the fiasco:

The Out newspapers are a nightmare, “becoming more and more personal, more and more destructive”. Here, [Oliver] alights on one of the reasons they lost. At election after election, including the most recent one, the Tories could rely on the rightwing press to assassinate the characters of opponents and megaphone Conservative messages. Cameron had clearly not thought enough about having that firepower turned against him. He finds out what it was like to be Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg and hasn’t a clue what to do about it.

Demonstrating what we all knew or should have known all along; you can’t say the kinds of things Republicans in the US and extreme Tories in the UK have been saying for years, and you can’t build the kind of networks of toxicity that harbour that stuff, without it biting you on the arse when you finally decide to take a stand and say, “Actually, wait, this is bonkers and inhuman and economically disastrous to boot. Let’s stop this now.” You don’t want to hear your politically calculated words in the mouths of toxic, possibly unstable people? Tough, they’re here, they’ve heard what you say, they can smell the opportunity your words represent. You’re stuck with them.

It is time for the moderate right to have a long, hard think about what they do to tackle and dismantle these poisonous structures.

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 09:20 pm
I was expecting results for the last set of OU modules I took to come in at the end of next week but two modules came back this evening.  And I am very pleased.  (The rest is behind a cut for boasting.)
Read more... )

Thursday, October 20th, 2016 01:43 pm
  • My three 10 km eggs hatched into: a relatively low CP Jynx (grumble), a high CP Pinsir (sigh) aaaaaand….A SCYTHER. The last was new to me and also very powerful. So I’m happy. I’m saving the fourth 10 km egg for when I level up.
  • Nearly finished with Level 24. So...close...want....Lucky...Egg...argh.
  • I cracked and did some boring Pidgey evolutions because I was so tired of hauling around loads of them.
  • My Pokédex claims I have attempted and failed to catch a Nidoqueen and an Exeggcutor. I find this irritating because I cannot recall seeing either.
  • I walked my Jigglypuff for sufficient candies so that they’re ready to evolve along with the Omanyte and the Seel. Now walking my Clefairy because even though I’ve only caught a few, it’s only 1 km per candy.
  • I reached Silver level on the Breeder medal for hatching 100+ eggs, and Silver on the Fisherman medal for catching 50 big Magikarp. I also have sufficient candies to evolve a third Gyarados. Typically I earn enough candies to be able to fully power up my highest CP Magikarp before I do the evolution as well. It’s a bit ridiculous.
  • I think I’m seeing a greater variety of Pokémon spawns near my house. Don’t get me wrong, the majority are still comprised of Magikarp, Goldeen, Poliwag, Psyduck, Slowpoke and Staryu and occasionally the evolved forms of these (apart from Gyarados - I’ve never seen a wild Gyarados). But I see Eevee, Oddish, Zubat and even Drowsee now, where I would only have ever seen Pidgey and Rattata previously. The change seems to have happened around the time the nests were rearranged. Has anyone else observed this?

Abyssrium, which I’d almost stopped playing entirely, has a Halloween event going on. Sir Tap Tap’s guide has been updated so that you can optimise your candy usage to collect all the ghost and bone fish. I’m enjoying the theme, as you can see from my reef below, with its pumpkins, candles, tombstones, ghost fish and bone turtle.

+2 )
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 11:00 am
Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 11:23 am
Recently I had a conversation about the EU referendum vote with the bloke (born English) and a mutual friend (born Scottish).

I was explaining why the vote had affected me so profoundly, not just because of the inflammatory rhetoric poisoning the conversation on migration, but because it was deeply depressing to wake up on a fateful Friday morning in June and discover that one of the things I had found most attractive about taking UK citizenship was about to be removed. Becoming British, I said, had meant becoming European.

“I don’t feel European,” said the bloke.
“No, I don’t either,” said our mutual friend.

It shocked me into silence to hear that British people, especially someone so close to me, held such different ideas about what UK citizenship meant. Neither of them had voted to leave the EU, mind you, and in the paragraphs below I don’t address that. I can understand voting to leave when you don’t feel European but I don’t entirely understand voting to remain when you don’t feel European.

When I moved here in 2004, I had a fairly idealistic vision of modern Britain. The government seemed to have reasonable provision for the least well off in society. The NHS is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The British people I met seemed to be keen to shake off insularity and post-imperial malaise, to welcome the opportunities offered by open access to Europe for travel and for work. There were many cross-border romances and relationships. People seemed to celebrate the multitude of cultures that had contributed to form present-day British identity. I don’t think I was, or am, a slavish Anglophile, but I did see a country and a people who were forward-thinking and progressive, who genuinely valued the potential in people regardless of skin colour, who were providing opportunities (e.g. work visas under the original Highly Skilled Migrant/Tier 1 schemes) to people regardless of their countries of origin. As long as you were willing to accept tea when it was offered (never refuse the tea even if you don’t want it), be suitably self-deprecating, respect the rules of engagement on public transport, go to the pub after work, and remember that intense meaningful drunken conversations are never to be spoken of again in the cold light of day, you were in there.

By the time I was able to apply for British citizenship, I was definitely no longer wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Immigration rules were constantly becoming more stringent for both non-EU/EEA and EU migrants and the toxicity of the conversation about non-British workers and refugees was increasing. Multiculturalism had become a dirty word. I knew that at the start of my time here, I was mostly seeing London and extrapolating it to the rest of Britain. I still believed, though, with my incorrigible American optimism, that the qualities and attitudes I admired held sway. Receiving my British-EU passport was one of the happiest moments of my life. For me, it represented becoming an official part of the broader, more inclusive, open and tolerant society that the EU (with Britain as part of it) aimed toward achieving.

Brexit inflamed such passion because it was not just a practical vote, it was an ideological one. Membership of the European Union held such positive connotations for me because I believed that being British implicitly meant being European. That belief turned out to be anathema to many who see that membership as a forced conflation of British and European identities. I’m still very unsettled by that.
Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 11:00 am
Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 09:49 am
Saravanaa Bhavan, Ilford, London IG1

Welcome back, belatedly!

This week's featured article is Saravanaa Bhavan, IG1 4PU in sunny Ilford. It's part of an international vegetarian Indian chain, and maybe you've been to one of the other London branches in East Ham or Tooting? Ganesha will watch peacefully over your dosa eating if you visit this spacious branch.

Other additions are a shabby pub/restaurant in Worcester Park/Cheam called The HG Wells, a Nigerian restaurant called Coal City in Edmonton (why not surprise the staff by visiting), and Chang's Noodle in London's fashionable Chinatown (excellent quality, and expect more than one noodle).

There's an update to The Gilpin's Bell in Edmonton, now under non-Wetherspoons ownership, but still offering Ruddles and similar cask beers.

Reported closures are Arbutus (always a bastion of unpretentious Michelin-starred fine dining) and The Windsor Castle in Marylebone (a bastion for the moustachioed gentleman).

Finally a couple of reopenings are The Fitzroy Tavern in Fitzrovia, and One and One Chinese buffet in Angel (now with meat, bucking the trend towards veganism).
Monday, October 17th, 2016 09:36 pm
Got some of my test results today. cut for potential TMI )

I'm still in in lots of pain, every day. But I'm also not dead. More updates as they come.
Monday, October 17th, 2016 11:00 am
Sunday, October 16th, 2016 04:28 pm
I'm not usually around on Wednesdays, and then when I'm catching up on the weekend and seeing your posts about what you're reading, I tend not to post because it's not Wednesday, but a while back, I decided to just post when I post. I want to have a log of what I read, and this is as good a place as any to keep it.

Recently finished:

N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season. Gorgeous, complex, highly readable, magically real, utterly wrenching in places but purely enjoyable all the way through.

Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning. I like her writing about writing and zen. I am more aware of issues of privilege than I used to be, so I'm less enamored of her presumption that everyone can do the kind of writing practice she prefers, but still, I got a lot from the book, and it's directly responsible for the fact that I'm writing again. Remind me never to do NaNo again -- every time I do it, I end up quitting writing for a long time. This time, it was nearly a year. But then, that happened after I finished my degree, too.

Currently Reading:

Octavia Butler, Kindred
Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

On the TBR pile:

Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
Anna Newell Jones, The Spender's Guide to Debt-free Living
re-read Steve Kowit, In the Palm of Your Hand