Still not feeling entirely the thing on Friday evening, so didn't make rolls - we had toast for Saturday breakfast instead.
Today's lunch: quail, which I spatchcocked and flattened and marinated in whisky, pomegranate molasses, tabasco, and avocado oil, and smoked over bourbon-soaked oak chips; served with sticky rice with lime leaves, tenderstem broccoli steamed with ginger, and flower sprouts stirfried with garlic and star anise.
This week's bread: Jordans' Wheatgerm Loaf from the Sunday Times Book of Real Bread - v nice.
Remind me what century we are in, again? An admissions tutor at Cambridge University claims private schools are teaching women how to sit demurely to improve their chances at an Oxbridge interview.
This is particularly weird if they are applying to study his subject, which is clinical veterinary anatomy. Which I assume leads to working in a field in which elegance is not the prime requisite, being able to cope with sick animals and their bodily effluvia is the desideratum.
I can sort of see that possibly Today's Yoof, in an entirely gender-neutral sense, may need some pointers to appropriate interview conduct, as in, put your phone away and mute it, sit up straight and do not sprawl, try not to look as though you pulled on the first thing that came to hand when you dressed that morning... (surely men sprawling and slobbing in that situation is rather frowned on as well?)
But I am also aware of the distractive effect on women and their concentration on Matters of the Mind if they have to worry about their slip showing, are their seams straight, whether the sight of their well-turned ankle is distracting A Male - it's not as though there isn't enough around already without them worrying whether they would graduate from the Lucy Clayton School of Modelling with honours, where I believe one test was getting in and out of a sports car in a short skirt without flashing.
I'll be over here in a mismatched pair of blue stockings.
*The very creepy Mr Turveydroop, famed for his Deportment, Prince Regent fanboy, in Bleak House. Even Dickens thought this sort of approach a marker of creepdom.
One of the thoughts I had on this was finding one's niche, and that maybe not everybody wants a massive cadre of followers as opposed to a discriminating and engaged rather smaller number. Some people want to address a rally, and others prefer a cosy salon-type conversation. There's a place for both.
Which resonates for me with a whole lot of thoughts around the Big Popular Success and the Enduring If Perhaps Somewhat Cult. And that it depends what sort of success you want (though one does hears of Big Bestsellers whingeing that they don't get srs critical attention, and Litcrit Darlings wishing they were actually megasellers...). If one looks at those lists of the bestsellers of whatever year there will probably be 1, 2, maybe even 3 titles that one has heard of, and the rest lost in the mists of history. While there will probably be some book published in the same year that was not on those lists but is still in print or at least still read and loved.*
(Contemporaries' predictions were usually wide of the mark, as with whoever it was - can it have been Henry James? - who thought that the works of Hugh Walpole [who he**] were for the ages but PG Wodehouse was ephemeral trivia.)
This latched on, for me, with a piece into today's Guardian Weekend about failure, which evoked the thought that, really, there is gradation and a scale and there is such a thing as modest success and moderate ambition.
My website does not get huge numbers of hits, but it gets a steady stream of interest as one of the go-to sites for the topics it covers. And this is quite enough for me, really. It does what it does.
*Antonia Forest wrote relatively little compared to Enid Blyton or Angela Brazil, and I doubt any of her books were ever massive bestsellers, but we can see from the discussions on trennels that she has a devoted and engaged following who will make significant efforts to get hold of her books.
**I do in fact know who he was, and have even read some of his works - bogged down in The Herries Chronicles when I was 13 and never returned, read Jeremy at Crale - but among his contemporaries he's rather overshadowed. Is anything of his still in print?
The poem by Carol Ann Duffy written specifically for the reburial at Leicester, read by Benedict Cumberbatch
The detective novel that made the case for a generation: Josephine Tey is hardly Shakespeare, but if there's one work of fiction that has reliable acted as the pro-Richard counterpoint and for many first introduction to the controversy for more than half a century now, it's that short and entertaining volume, "The Daughter of Time". (By now the research she used is outdated, of course, but it's still an immensely readable book.) The New Yorker article describes how it came to be written, and which effect it has.
Since I've been reading up on my Tudors in recent months: Imperial Ambassador Chapuys dissed Henry VIII. in his dispatches by comparing him to Richard III. not once but twice. Or rather, the first time he reports others doing the dissing:
"Every day I am visited by people of quality, who break my head with speeches and writings, giving me to understand that King Richard, the last of his name, was never so much hated by his subjects as this present king is, and yet that he was dethroned by two or threethousand Frenchmen under the leadership of a prince hardly known in this country."
Far from getting his head broken, Chapuys seems to have taken note, because some time later, he used the Richard comparison himself in a direct conversation with Henry as a stealth insult. This was during another round of arguments about Henry's treatment of Katherine and Mary. Henry said that since Archbishop Cramner had declared his marriage to Katherine null and void, he was legitimately married to Anne now, and Mary could no longer considered or be treated as his legitimate daughter, surely Chapuys could see that. Upon which the Empire struck back (sorry, I couldn't resist), telling the King:
"With regard to the sentence pronounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the divorce suit, he ought to make as little of it as that of which King Richard caused to be pronounced by the bishop of Bath against the sons of King Edward, declaring them bastards."
This was a particuarly masterful burn because of course Bishop Stillington, the bishop of Bath mentioned, who swore he'd witnessed a contract between Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler which automatically rendered the Edward/Elizabeth Woodville marriage null and void, had by his testimony not just declared Edward's two sons bastards, but all the children of that marriage. Including the oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIIII.'s mother. In other words, Chapuys wasn't just saying "you're behaving just like your family's arch nemesis, the guy your dad called an ursurping tyrant", he also said "if your daughter is a bastard now, then so was your mother, which means the Pole family has a far more legitimate claim to the throne than you".
To give credit where due: Henry wasn't bad at the stealth insult game himself. Contrary to his image, he didn't shout back at this but told Chapuys magnanimously he could send him several books which would explain why Mary was a bastard now and couldn't inherit. (Chapuys was a highly trained lawyer.)
I really liked this piece (I do get some great pointers via FaceBook, like anything it's who you know, right?):
It resonates with a lot of things I've said here about history over lo these many years - that one example of something doesn't mean it was universal or even that it totally alters the narrative:
Whatever the evidence you have remember not to go too far beyond it. Imagine that you find a Saxon site in Kent, fine. Saying that ‘Kent was conquered by the Saxons’ as a result of your findings goes way beyond the available facts.
So very, very true.
And to mention my own annoying self-diagnosis medical instance, being banged on at great length at an academic institution party by somebody who claimed that they had worked out The Definitive Treatment for MS on the basis of their own experience (it involved, among other things, the fact that they had been drinking practically industrial quantities of diet coke) but that they were being a bit cagey because of wanting to patent it -
This was fairly soon after my brother's diagnosis (early 90s or so) and one thing that was apparent from the reading I'd seen (what with having unusual access to medical literature) was that MS is usually a remitting disease and quite serious debilitating episodes can be followed by more or less return to functionality. Also I was aware of the long history of things that had been taken to be the magic bullet precisely because of this factor.
(Am currently gradually recovering from a fairly severe version of my own invisible disorder, migraine. About which there are also People's Pet Theories. I have some food triggers - as my dr rdrz are doubtless aware with all my whinges about Surpriz Cheez or chocolate - but I wouldn't say that was the only reason. I have no idea, for example, what caused this one.)
Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..
This post contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Fox’s Last Man On Earth.
Phil Miller has spent much of his post-virus last man on earth time wallowing in his own filth, drunk, in droopy underpants. In the Before Times, the 41 year old man had a job- not a career- as a temp. Unless the Tuscan, AZ temp market is vastly different from the Chicago, IL temp market, he was making $8-11 an hour, or just enough to afford his shabby apartment, single lifestyle, and not much more.
When Phil, who has given up on personal hygiene, sobriety, and life, meets clean and well groomed (shaved legs, even!) Carol, he stumbles across her clean drying laundry (and bra) first, spinning a fantasy of the sexy young soulmate they belong to. Carol’s less than conventionally attractive appearance puts him off immediately. She doesn’t live up to his fantasy. She isn’t what he deserves. Phil, who has literally been living in a pile of garbage and shitting in a pool, is convinced that she isn’t good enough for him. This despite the fact that Carol, annoying quirks aside, has her life pretty together. She manages to bathe and wash her laundry, for instance. She has plans for the future that don’t involve soaking in an inflatable pool filled with alcohol. And unlike temp Phil she had an actual career as an office manager of a business, which meant she was making significantly more than Phil and also probably had PTO, health insurance, and a 401k. In the old world, there’s a good chance she would have been out of his league, and yet Phil considers himself comfortably superior to her because of her appearance and insistence on stopping at stop signs (which, by the way, ignoring stop signs lead to a car crash when Melissa shows up). But really, which is worse: being a stickler for grammar or shitting in a pool and living amidst literal piles of literal garbage with food crusted on your face and in your beard?
Likewise, when Melissa shows up– younger looking than Carol, more conventionally attractive, more stylish, more made-up, more blonde– Phil feels entitled to her sexually and emotionally. She is more attractive than him, and again, in the before times she had a career as a Real Estate Agent and made FAR more money than he did. She, again, would have been very out of his league and yet he feels entitled to her simply because he exists and he wants her. Melissa can barely tolerate his creepy and predatory company, desperate horniness aside. (And in a world where every single vibrator and battery is free and available, would she REALLY be that desperate for sex with a creepy married dude? That plotlette very much feels like something a group of dudes would come up with.) Phil has nothing to offer her besides sex, and yet he feels he deserves her and if given the chance (no Carol, no Todd) she would realize how great he is and return his interest and attention, even though he has an established history of lying to her and betraying her trust.
This is an example of the same male entitlement that gives rise to the Nice Guys who have nothing to offer save feigned respect and kindness with an ulterior motive, and who deride and berate the women (usually better looking, with better jobs and social skills) who don’t appreciate their greatness and refuse to fuck/date/marry them.
Phil’s attitude is toxic, and dangerous, and creates a hostile and threatening environment for Melissa and Carol to navigate. When Carol pulled a gun on drunk, urine-soaked Phil and demanded to know if he was a nice person or not he said he was. But as his interactions with his fellow survivors show, he isn’t very nice at all.
Will his brief moment of emotional vulnerability and truth with Melissa mark a change in his toxic personality, or will he continue being a barely likable (albeit wittily written) character? I have a sneaking suspicion that “Last Man On Earth” may reflect the reluctance of an increasing number of survivors to put with him and his manipulations.
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I finished that book The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away yesterday, and still thinking about it. The contributors appear to be writers by profession, which has I suppose pluses and minuses, and even people who aren't writers would probably strive to impose some kind of narrative, though I felt that one of the issues might be the resistance to narrative of instances where friendships inexplicably fade, or blow up for apparently no reason.
I also felt that perhaps the selection covered a somewhat narrow range, in that the stories tended to skew to friendships of childhood/adolescence/early adulthood (with some exceptions), which are possibly going to drop away with life changes.
It additionally struck me that perhaps there are kinds of intense friendships, or friendships forged in the pressures of some situation, which don't have staying power (this was mooted in at least one of the essays).
Not much about the impact of the internet, or the role of online friendships, but that might be due to the fact that these were largely looking back to earlier stages of life from c. 2005.
(That Acker/Wark book I think pointed up very well the way that email facilitated rapid and exciting exchanges and how thrilling this was when it was a relatively new thing.)
While face to face contact is all very well (though I think its benefits may be overrated and it can be as thin and as superficial as any hasty 'like' on Facebook, surely?) and it helps in matters like having someone to hold a spare set of keys or feed one's pets in an emergency to have someone who is present in the near vicinity, I think there are problems with this WOEZ DIGITAL theme.
For one thing, it's not either/or, is it? I have been to all sorts of meetups f2f with people I first met in the plastic box - these things complement one another.
And for another, on the need for connection, there is surely an element of finding the people among whom one does not feel lonelier than when one is alone? I.e. the 'kindred spirits', 'fellows of one's totem'.
I've seen a lot of support and caring among people who may not ever have met in the flesh, online. (And I was sustained through my month in Urbana-Champaign by my personal virtual village.)
However, I'm not sure that friendship is something that there might be an app for: If only you could swipe right to find a new friend. Because I'm not entirely sure that that would work. Common interests are all very well, but there is that thing where mutual friends and acquaintances think that two people should meet because they have So Much In Common and it's a disaster, perhaps because there are subtle mismatches about the things in common, or whatever.