2014-07-20 09:54 pm

Because we need a little more positivity around here

Here's a list that's all about people being nice to me.

1. [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours has a present for me. I don't know what it is yet (the one advantage of my ridiculous headache is that it means I told him to come round tomorrow rather than tonight) so I get to enjoy the anticipation for now.

2. [personal profile] trinker tells me I am easy to love at a time when I am feeling especially weird and intense and difficult (of course she's not the only one; Andrew and James have been very reassuring too, but it's nice to hear this from less expected quarters too!). I seem to have a knack for making hyper-vigilant people feel at ease and I'm especially glad to be comforting to people who find it difficult to feel comfortable around people.

3,4. ‎plok's always good for happy things. Here are two in a row, from an e-mail he sent me.
When [a friend of his] had something she wanted to talk to me about, that she could only talk about elliptically, it's because YOU wasted time on ‎educating me about queerness that I was able to be intelligently ‎supportive. So:

THANK YOU, HOLLY.

Once again, you have been really really great. How in God's name do you manage it, week in week out, year after year? With all your own headaches and troubles? You astonish me. Look at your friends, and how ‎good they are: who the *fuck* draws that many good and smart and generous people to themselves. I mean it just isn't natural. I was going to send you an email a couple of weeks ago asking you to which Doctor you'd prefer to be a Companion...but it's clear that this was me taking it completely the wrong way around.

*You'd* make an excellent Doctor. So which Doctor would you like to be?

...clearly Troughton, that's the Holly one? I mean, the *most* Holly one, in advance of a one *more* Holly-like? Ha, maybe Peter Capaldi will be the most Holly one...‎
I told Andrew and [personal profile] magister and they agreed that I am the most like Patrick Troughton (so far!), which delights me.

5. My dad got me a present too. The All-Star Game was last week at Target Field. Apparently there was a big thunderstorm just before the Home Run Derby and when Minnesota Twin Bryan Dozier came up to hit there was suddenly a big rainbow over the ballpark and the Minneapolis newspaper was selling prints of this for ten bucks. My dad thought I'd like one and so it'll be waiting for me when I'm next there. He said the photo was taken from about where we were sitting the time we saw a game at Target Field, so you can see out over the skyline, and yes that is a great view but mostly hearing this just makes me happy I've been there with Dad.
2014-07-20 09:46 pm

You might be from Minnesota when...

Your mom apologizes for telling you she has cancer when you just lost your job. Both of you feel worse for making each other feel bad.

Your dad talks about golf at first. When he mentions the cancer thing, it's only to talk about supplemental insurance and time off work and how my mom is getting to Rochester for her appointments. To some people this might seem cold and callous but it's actually the most reassuring part of the conversation to me.
2014-07-19 10:53 am
Entry tags:

Friday night and Saturday morning

Come on, body. Not being able to eat without getting sick is not going to help with this.

I made the same post on facebook that I did here last night, only there you can't turn off comments so I just asked people not to leave them. And then I left one myself, to illustrate that while I hadn't stopped crying yet I was at least getting to the point of making stupid jokes.
To diffuse tension I said something about how nice it'd be if I had some whisky.

Andrew, of course, immediately offered to go buy me some but I said the off licence was unlikely to have the kind that I like. This might be some of the saddest and scariest news of my life, but that's no reason to drink whisky I don't like!

I did think, though, that Dave's probably got some in his house, and the idea of just turning up at his house with my hysterical tear-stained face demanding his whisky is a ludicrous enough one that I actually laughed.

"I'd be happy to go there with you," Andrew said, all supportive-like.

"Don't be silly, I said: "I wouldn't make you go there with me. I'd make you go instead of me!"
So now there are 60 comments, all about whisky, increasingly-silly plans to get me whisky, and other things my friends think will help -- and, it being my friends, these things are generous, sweet, and rude, sometimes all at once.

A lot of people were very nice to me yesterday evening, and I appreciate it. Comments and fb chats made me giggle a lot and cry in gratitude and sheer overwhelm at the friends I have and how kind and perfect they are. I feel so, so lucky. Another one of those "you are at the center of a network of love" moments (that's something Andrew told me after Chris died, and it's stuck in my head ever since because it seemed so apt).

Today I've had work to do! None of my million contacts know I'm no longer working there of course so I keep getting phone calls about the kind of stuff I would know if this were a normal week. But since technically I am still employed and because I still think a lot of the work being done I don't want to just hang up or otherwise be unhelpful to well-meaning people I've been talking to at random intervals for more than a year.

Bloody surreal, now, and sad. I miss that fucking job so much. I don't know how I can get one anything like it, because I don't know how I can distill out what made it good into something I can look for.

Andrew, in his blokey fix-the-problem mode, looked up a bunch of stuff last night and said my mom probably doesn't have colon cancer and anyway that kidney and colon are two of the easiest kinds to fix. I just worry because if it's moved from one place to two places it's also likely to have moved to others too, or be about to. But I know someone will be along to tell me I shouldn't worry about what I don't know yet. I'm trying. But it's really difficult.
2014-07-18 12:32 am
Entry tags:

Why polyamory is bullshit:

You get less cheese on toast.

When I got in from being at the pub with [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and J, [personal profile] magister told me he was going to have some cereal and go to bed because he has to get up early tomorrow. "You haven't had anything to eat, have you?" he said.

I shook my head. I still wasn't that hungry, even after three pints which is usually enough to leave me drunk and ravenous. "Not yet, but it's okay," I said, and went to follow him into the kitchen. "I'll make some cheese on toast, or something."

"Ooh!" he said. He actually stopped in his tracks, so I sleepily/tipsily bumped into him as my trajectory carried me kitchenwards.

I snorted. "Do you want cheese on toast now?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Yes."

I think this was the point where Andrew shouted from the living room "I want cheese on toast!" as if the idea had never occurred to him and his life was made complete by the existence of cheese on toast.

I sighed and fetched the grill pan. But we only had four slices of bread left, so I made them one each and had the other two myself, on account of this and a veggie wrap being the only things I'd eaten today. And it being me who could be bothered to make the cheese on toast.
2014-07-14 10:53 pm
Entry tags:

The ghosts all want to be in things

There is something so plausible about the "stone tape" theory it makes for very effective horror. You hardly have to suspend your disbelief at all to get swept up in the premise -- and thus the heartbreaking and horrid conclusions it would lead you to if this was really how the world worked.

It's deliciously compelling. This theory (which also goes by the less poetic name of "residual haunting") is used by real-life parapsychologists now -- I just saw the stone tape theory mentioned in the book I'm reading, Richard Wiseman's Paranormality, yesterday. On the DVD commentary for The Stone Tape, its writer Nigel Kneale says that during the filming he made a "stone tape" to trick the director -- just took a regular tape apart and replaced the magnetic tape with a sliver of stone, but apparently it really unnerved the director who seemed to think it was something sinister rather than just the joke Kneale had intended.

And who can blame him. As Kneale's co-commentator Kim Newman (who now that I think of it wrote the other book I'm reading now, actually: The Hound of the d'Urbervilles) points out, there's an irony in a story about a group of scientists searching for a new recording medium being released on a recording medium that would've been unimaginable when The Stone Tape was made in 1972. That the stone walls of a building record past events that took place there hardly seems, to the uninitiated like me, more outlandish than that my laptop is using light to play me this movie. And before the lasers of DVDs, the movies I watched were played back with magnets. I'm as likely to be able to explain how stone can record events as I am light or magnets.

Newman calls The Stone Tape forward-looking, saying "This feels like the beginning of something we're still living," in terms of computer research and "the kinds of people who work with computers." Kneale observed a real BBC computer research and development department, and said that inspired him to create the characters in the way he did: they're all men except The Girl One, whose plot-driving feminine weaknesses are contrasted with the boisterous, boyish men, absorbed in their intellectual pursuits (though she is the computer programmer and the leader of the team tells her "I need you for your brain," which hopefully would please the ghost of Ada Lovelace, who used to own the house where this was filmed).

"I don't believe in the supernatural," Kneale says in the commentary, "but there were reasons for people to believe in the supernatural. So it's interesting to try to put in a guess as to why." I remember one of the things I'd complained about to [personal profile] magister about The Quiet Ones was that it cheated: like so many horror stories about "finding the scientific basis of" whatever horrific thing is the story's theme, there is a banal explanation, terrible, if at all, only in the "man's inhumanity to man" kind of way. I'm sure my little rant on this subject would've been reason enough for him to lend me The Stone Tape, even if it weren't for all their surface similarities (spooky old house, set in the 1970s, team of scientists and a "sensitive" woman who's the conduit for the supernatural...).

Because while The Quiet Ones ends in a pointless, unsatisfying jumble of cliches, The Stone Tape follows its premise through to its logical conclusion. Which does mean it's rather bleak, of course -- if there really were records of traumatic events in building materials, it would be very difficult to deal with being anywhere something terrible had happened and, if you wait long enough, something terrible will happen anywhere -- and usually I don't like bleak but I like The Stone Tape because it's honest. It doesn't cheat.

And I rather admire a writer who's very clear about his lack of belief in the supernatural still going where the idea takes him (for instance Kneale says, "If you accept the idea of a ghost, does he know he's a ghost? Or is it a purely mechanical effect like switching a machine on and off?") without writing something ironic or cynical. "Once you've thought of ghosts," Kneale says when asked about other stories similar to The Stone Tape, "they all crop up, they all appear, saying 'can I have a job?' The ghosts all want to be in things, and they're ready, and obliging."

With something like The Quiet Ones you get the feeling that no one involved in it cared about it that much, it was just a string of genre tropes. And so I don't care about it much either. While Kneale seems to take a very workmanlike approach to his writing -- when asked what ratings The Stone Tape got just said "I have no idea!"; when asked if he was at the filming, said "Oh I was probably on to something else by then...I did drop by..." not seeming very interested in being involved; "you write a thing and it goes into production a year later or two years later, and by then you've forgotten what it was, almost, you're glad somebody else has taken it up" -- he does seem to respect his subject matter in a way that appeals to me, even when that means the story leaves me shivery and unsettled.
2014-07-12 09:35 pm

I'll call him Cal (short for Caloris Basin)

I don't care if it's only 9:30; I'm off to bed with my new cuddly toy.



(You can tell it's Mercury because it's got silver wings on the back of its red tennies.)
2014-07-11 05:58 pm

Code phrase

I'm surprised Andrew's never mentioned this, given I know he has contingency plans for Dalek invasions, waking up one day to discover that he's Batman, what to wish for if he's ever granted three wishes, etc.
2014-07-11 12:37 am
Entry tags:

Disgusting

(This is about fatphobic street harassment, and its lasting effects on my mental state.)


"It's disgusting how fat you are!"

At the time, I think wow, I think that's the first time it's been a woman shouting abuse at me.

I keep walking -- I'm crossing a road where she and her bike are stopped at a red light -- musing on the gendered nature of street harassment; how rare is this really?

I think Dammit, and I was having such a good day, too. I had really enjoyed the sunny weather; I'd worn a dress I haven't in a while that I really love and felt good in; I'd had a lovely day with James: beer and cricket and naps. But my happiness is so fragile these days, and we all know how one insult can overpower a dozen happy thoughts.

I, crazily, wonder if I'd have gotten the same shit if I were the cyclist and she the pedestrian; part of me wants to defensively shout back over my shoulder that I have a bike, that I really do enjoy exercise (the exercise I do, anyway, which is mostly cycling these days)...but I know it wouldn't help, and anyway I'm already past her by then.

And anyway it shouldn't matter if I love my bike or not...but the pressure to be a Good Fatty, the kind who's doing everything "right" is so strong, even now that my motivations have moved from "stop being fat" to "be an example of how you can be okay (not great!) at diet and exercise and still be fat." (This is not because I think it's better to be fat, nothing evangelistic like that, just that my mental health is better when I can prioritize other stuff over getting thin. My mental health's also better when people don't assume from looking at me that I'm a junk-food addicted lazy subhuman embarrassment, so I try to challenge those kinds of stereotypes about fat people.)

It's a horrible pressure. I feel horrible about it like I feel horrible when I shout back "I'm not, actually!" when "lesbian!" is hurled at me as an insult or when I use the "I have a boyfriend" defense to deflect unwanted male attention (not that this happens often, probably because I'm disgusting right?): I'm not a lesbian and I have had a male partner pretty much constantly since I was 20, but that's not the point: the point is I feel terrible about trying to jockey myself into a position of greater relative power -- straight and/or affiliated with a gender of higher status than mine -- rather than trying to challenge the shitty power differential in the first place.

I firmly believe that "so what if I am?!" is the right answer (if any is to be made at all) to accusations of queerness or fatness or whatever, because it shouldn't matter to how strangers treat me in public, but I don't think I've ever given such a right-on reply. I always default to "I'm not one of those things you hate. I'm nothing special. Leave me alone, go away, even if you're going away still thinking there are groups you can legitimately bully, just so long as you don't think I'm one of them..."

I know I can't change their minds all by myself in one few-second interaction. But I'd like to try. I'd like to be brave and witty and make an impression, not even for them so much as for me.

Because they won't remember what they say, but I do.

You hear stories about people getting facebook friend requests from people who bullied them in school but the ex-bullies don't think of it that way: if years-long campaigns of cruelty can leave so little impression on the bullies, and so great an impression on the bullied, I think it's a safe bet to say that my day was marred by someone who forgot me by the time the light turned green and she pedaled away.

But remember how I thought "I was having such a good day"? I didn't even notice this at the time, but I'd already put that in the past tense. It had been a nice day, but now it was something else.

Such a tiny thing, you might say. Who cares if some random idiot says you're disgusting; they're clearly an asshole whose opinions you needn't trouble yourself over.

But I hate that I wasn't braver. And I hate that even if I was it wouldn't have made any difference: did anyone else get the "stand up to bullies" advice that backfired almost as dramatically as the "just ignore them and they'll stop when they see they aren't getting a reaction" advice? I hate that I was just crossing the goddam road, a totally normal thing that I wasn't doing any differently from the half-dozen or so other people who'd been waiting to cross with me, and yet I was singled out. And actually, I hate that anyone thinks I'm disgusting. Even assholes. I don't want to be disgusting. It's kind of a big deal to not be.

And I hate that the hundred nice things Andrew told me about myself when I got home and told him this had happened didn't have as great an effect on me. Someone who loves me and compliments me so much I actually find it a hindrance still cannot undo that one stupid word shouted by an asshole stranger. I hate that.
2014-07-09 09:38 pm
Entry tags:

Unintended consequences

"James thought of one I didn't," Andrew said, because these two are continuing this idiotic conversation from a pub last night that neither of them were in (which planets has the Doctor visited in more than one story on TV?). "Which is the planet River Song was imprisoned on."

Andrew seemed very dubious about this -- of course it being The Welsh Series he doesn't know, care, and/or remember -- so I pointed out that it makes sense because most prisons are on a planet.

"Yeah, but it has a name," he said. "Apparently."

"Oh, it needs a name now too, huh? Like the Bechdel test of Doctor Who?"

When I was young and naive and monogamous, I never would've imagined I'd have a husband and a boyfriend. But even if I had, I probably wouldn't have expected one to ring me to talk to the other about pointless trivia of a TV show I'd never heard of at that point.

This makes me smile.
2014-07-09 05:54 pm
Entry tags:

All the cooking today

I'm still using up last week's veg box! (And I got this week's today, so this is not good.)

I made pesto with the broad beans, which I'm really happy with (though I might have put in a bit too much garlic, and that's something I never say!).

It's so faffy, skinning the beans, but I like doing it. Reminds me of my childhood shucking peas and husking corn and stuff like that: it smells all green and alive.

Now I need to find something to do with butternut squash! I've got two. I love butternut squash but usually I get them when it's cold and just roast it or make it into soup; I'm not sure what to do now.
2014-07-09 12:31 am
Entry tags:

Lucky

I love that my life contains so many people I can phone up from a noisy pub just to ask them whether the Doctor landed on Androzani Major or Androzani Minor or both, a question I do not even understand myself, and they'll just answer to the best of their ability and tell me they love me and let me get back to what I was doing.
2014-07-08 01:57 pm

whinge

Days like today, when I have a big salad for lunch and get out in the sunshine and exercise for an hour, I really wish those people who tell you healthy food and getting out of the house will help you feel better were actually right.

(Yes I know it's a general statement that isn't applicable to everyone every day, and I know those things are worth doing even if I don't get an immediate hit off them, and all that. I'm just bored with feeling so shitty.)
2014-07-07 03:42 pm
Entry tags:

Badvertising again

‎Dear bank:
"ISAs are now even NISA" is such a shit slogan that I can't help but hear it in Ollie Reeder's voice.

And even he would have been ignored or scowled at for such a thing.‎
2014-07-07 09:18 am
Entry tags:

I had stuff to do today but instead I have a migraine so...

Ooh Frasier's on Netflix!

...I'd forgotten Daphne was supposed to be from Manchester. She sounds like Iris Widlthyme.
2014-07-06 11:29 pm

Seven Wonders of the World

(This is mostly for [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex, who told me today that she'd have liked to go see this too but had to work yesterday. She's much, much better at film reviews than I am, but I thought I'd try a [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex-style review of it for her.)

The very first film I saw at the media museum -- and, I'm pretty sure, the first time I was there at all -- was in Cinerama, and I've been enchanted ever since.

How the West Was Won is much more my parents' kind of movie than one to my tastes (IMDb calls it "A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century--including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads"), so I think it says a lot that something I wouldn't have tolerated for half an hour on TV I was happy to sit through all 164 minutes of in the Pictureville Cinema.



There's something about Cinerama that I find really endearing, possibly how difficult it was to make and how lucky we are to be able to see it at all now. These days there are only three places that can do Cinerama: one's in L.A., one in Seattle, and then Bradford.

And the logistical issues if one of the films should break down were clearly recognized enough even at the time that a little "breakdown film" was made to keep the audience happy while frantic fixes were attempted, and indeed I saw this film I think all three times I'd seen anything in Cinerama until yesterday.

Even when it's working, it's not like watching other kinds of movies. The screen is so curved that things can look distorted, especially if you have to sit at one of the sides of the cinema. To a greater or lesser extent, the joins between the three projected film strips are usually noticeable.

It has for me the joy that analogue things do: it's difficult to do well in ways that are readily apparent and understandable to me, meaning I appreciate the skill and craft of the process much more than I can with something like, to use another cinematic example, CGI, which I intellectually know takes lots of people and lots of computers lots of hours, but which can't mean anything to me beyond that so I have no sense of what's impressive or what's new or whatever.



The kinds of films made in Cinerama are to some extent dictated by the format. It was meant to overwhelm, to dazzle, as a medium and so its subject matter will be chosen for the same reason. Plus there are limitations to Cinerama too: it's impossible to do close-ups with the special three-camera setup needed to make the early Cinerama films like the one I saw, and it's not easy to show people on the screen looking at each other when they're having a conversation or something; the curve of the screen makes it appear they're looking past each other. So you don't go to see Cinerama to see a murder mystery or a period drama: you go to see spectacle.



For me the biggest drawback of Cinerama isn't any of its technical limitations, but the fact that it was made in America in the 50s and 60s. Which brings us to yesterday's movie, called Seven Wonders of the World.

Like the other early Cinerama movies, this one is just showing off what the format can do, trying to lure people out of their homes and away from the exciting new television. The first of these, This is Cinerama (which the media museum show but which I still haven't seen), includes scenes on a roller coaster, then the temple dance from Aida, views of Niagara Falls, a performance by the Vienna Boys' Choir, the canals of Venice, a military tattoo in Edinburgh, a bullfight, more from Aida, a sound demonstration in stereo, a water skiing show...you get the idea. The variety and diversity make great advertisements for Cinerama, even if they do make a jarring hour or two of cinema. Seven Wonders of the World is similar, with the conceit of "updating" the seven wonders of the ancient world by flying around the globe and filming, seemingly, whatever took Lowell Thomas's fancy.



Lowell Thomas was an American broadcaster and travel writer, who made Lawrence of Arabia famous. Apparently, a quarter-century later Thomas was still raving about Cinerama in his memoirs and wondering why someone wasn't trying to revive it. The expense and difficulty of it, evident to many others, never seemed to break through the enthusiasm that, while no doubt colored by the money he wanted to make from it, does shine through in the Cinerama films he presented: the breakdown film is him talking about how amazing Cinerama is, and at the beginning of Seven Wonders he shows photos and speaks fondly of places like Nepal, saying "I wish we'd had Cinerama with us then," sounding like a father who'd like to spoil his children more than he's allowed to. He really does seem to believe that Cinerama is somewhere between a gift and a service to the public.



And in 1955, there must have been some element of truth to that. Flying and Cinerama are the real wonders this film is about, and quite right too, as how else could American movie audiences expect to see into the top of a volcano, the biggest waterfalls in the world, a runaway train on the Darjeeling Railway, baby elephants being caught and tamed, a papal blessing with all the pomp and circumstance?



It is, unfortunately, a very fifties American sensibility driving the script, both in places chosen ("here's Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments" and lots of other Old-Testament and life-of-Jesus stuff presented as blandly factual as anything else) and in descriptions (literally the first reaction you hear when Japan is mentioned is "Geisha girls!"; Benares is "a city of strange religion"; even the poor Amazon can't escape unfair description as we're told it's "the green hell").

Seeing posters advertising Seven Wonders of the World in other countries makes me hope that the non-English subs or dubs were kinder to some of the places mentioned that are suddenly local!



This travelogue seems random and often very superficial, without much explanation or context given. A few shots of the Amazon and a clear fondness for Rio de Janeiro represent all of South America. Almost no one speaks but Thomas. Hardly anyone in the film gets a name -- leading to the strangest cast list I've seen: "Lowell Thomas, with appearances by His Holiness Pope Pius XII, Butera, Sherif Hussein"; Butera's one of a group of Watusi dancing for the camera, named as being the best dancer in Africa; Sherif Hussein is a leader Thomas greets with "This is like something out of the Arabian Nights!" to which Hussein says something in his own language and neither of the two seem to show much interest in understanding what the other has said. The papal blessing is clearly a big deal -- Thomas also says something about how he's always wanted to film this in Cinerama and he expects everyone to be as impressed with it as he is (but it goes on for ages and does nothing but reinforce my childhood impression that Catholicism is pompous and boring -- all the more so when it's in a language I don't understand!).

There are some stunning shots in it, the newly restored version I saw is perfect, with no visible seams and no worry that the fim would break. It is really impressive visually, but it's the kind of thing that reminds me why we had to invent political correctness, it would probably be more palatable if you wore earplugs...and let's just say I could make suggestions for RunPee times, some extending long enough that you wouldn't need to run; a leisurely stroll would be recommended.
2014-07-05 12:36 pm
Entry tags:

Don't worry if this makes no sense to you

All due respect, but people on Facebook keep going on about a Big Gay Liberal Wedding going on today, and I'm confused: Alex and Richard aren't getting married 'til October!
2014-07-04 07:47 am
Entry tags:

Ha ha

One of the many nice things about not being on Twitter any more is that I can expect to see a lot less "the fourth of July is the day we British celebrate our independence from America" than I have in previous years.
2014-07-03 10:11 pm
Entry tags:

When I'm too disorganized to go to the gym, at least I'm too disorganized to need to

Sometimes I worry I don't get enough exercise.

Then I do things like realize I've got twenty minutes to get from Victoria to Oxford Road.

I made it, too! With three minutes to spare.
2014-07-02 05:31 pm
Entry tags:

Observation

The good thing about having been prescribed something (and no I don't really want to talk about what it is because I'm not in the mood for anecdotes about how good/bad things are because they're so different for everyone) that I am supposed to take only when I feel I need it is that it's made me much more mindful today about how I'm doing.

I am doing fine, as it happens, and it'd take quite a big sudden drop (not that those don't happen!) for me to need to take anything.

But still, I've noticed several times today just thinking to myself hey, how'm I doing? How's everything? Paying attention to that is bound to be good for me, though.