tealin: (Default)
2017-10-07 11:03 am
Entry tags:

The Incomprehensibility of the Other

I had two banks when I was living in the States; one fairly large mainstream one whose account I'd held since I was 11, and a credit union that was connected to my work. The latter was definitely the one I preferred as an organisation, but it had – and still has – a small but crippling weakness: its customer service clerks are bafflingly clueless.

The first instance of this was when I tried wiring a lump from my account there to my Canadian bank, when I was leaving the country. Every last detail of the information on the transfer has to be perfect or it won't go through: not just the account numbers, but the address of the bank, the name on the account (which is a tricky one in my case), even punctuation has to match exactly. You can't do this yourself online, you have to do it with a representative over the phone, so I relayed this information in painstaking detail, double-checking everything, and yet the transfer didn't go through. It took a few days for notification of this, though, so I had to call them back and go through it again – and that didn't work either. Finally the third time, less than 24 hours before I took off for the UK, we managed to get something that worked. I understand human data entry can be prone to error, but you'd think a bank would be halfway decent at filling out financial transaction forms.

I still have that account, in part because many American online retailers don't let you use a bank card with a non-US formatted address. But when I tried to use this card it kept getting declined, which made no sense – all I could figure was that the address I was inputting didn't match the address on file, somehow. I'd changed it to my parents' address in Utah, which has unusual 'grid plot' addresses: for example your house will be 654 South, and your street 3200 West. As I'd had to do this over the phone, again, I thought maybe the person at the other end (in Florida) had written it differently than I would write it (654 s 3200 w) – spelling out South and West maybe, or putting a period after the initial, or not putting a space – who knows? I had an important transaction to make on Thursday, though, and no matter how many different iterations of the address I tried, I could not get it to work. Not wanting to make a phone call if I could help it, I signed onto the bank's help-chat, which miraculously is staffed by human beings (or else really, REALLY elaborate bots) and coincidentally got someone who was actually from Utah to check the address. It turned out the street address was fine, the discrepancy was in the zip code.

The zip code.

Five numerals, no punctuation or abbreviation, only ten digits to choose from instead of 26 letters, and that's where the mistake had come in.

It's a problem when computer engineers get other engineers to test a new product – they can only imagine how someone who knows how it works would think of trying to break it. You try to make these sorts of things as idiot-proof as possible, but frankly I don't have the scope of imagination to anticipate where the idiot is likely to strike.

Well, it all got sorted out in the end and the card worked, but it's yet another lesson that I can never underestimate – or understand – how others' minds work ... especially when they're in Florida.
tealin: (Default)
2017-09-26 08:15 pm
Entry tags:

Et plus encore

Cette groupe ci, ils me tueront.

One for Birdie )




And one for ... someone else )

Well, it may not be doing much for my fluency, but I'm learning a good deal about French figurative language and the fruitlessness (ha, ha) of translation ... 
 

tealin: (4addict)
2017-09-25 08:59 pm
Entry tags:

Radio Roundup

Once again I haven't been listening to as much radio as I normally do; in large part this is due to listening to French-language radio while drawing, in order to 'keep my ear in' and not lose the barely functional level I reached at Annecy (I could have a brief conversation about a sandwich! Quel expérience!) and is why I have strange Québecois songs to share with you. But there's still loads going on in the Anglosphere, so here's what I might have been listening to if I'd been filling my days with English instead:

FUN FACTS
Expletive Repeated: Why Swearing Matters - A really fascinating study of swearing and how profanity has evolved generationally, especially in the last 20 years.
Decolonization: The Next 150 on Indigenous Lands - Canada's 150th birthday prompts some serious analysis of the colony-country's relationship with its original inhabitants, and their land.
Are We F'd? - Why is there such resistance to the idea of climate change? Is it a social problem as much – or more than – a scientific or political one? How can there be any clear thinking when people have so much of their identity wrapped up in the issue?
Not a show (yet), but the 2017 Massey Lectures are coming up in November and I am so excited.
Lord Byron - Comedian Mark Steel takes a look at the frankly unbelievable life of the original Bad Boy.
Spotlight Tonight - Nish Kumar nailed the Now Show monologue and the hosting of topical sketch show Newsjack, and now has his own show from which to lampoon the ghastly state we're all in. Because that's what the world needs right now, more lampoons stuck in it. (no, listen, it's funny, and we all need a laugh.)

FACTUAL FICTION
The Worst Journey in the World - The radio play that started all ... [gestures] ... this. Its current iPlayer manifestation expires tomorrow, so listen up if you're gonna.
Lights, Camera, Kidnap! - Based on a true story about some South Korean filmmakers who were abducted by Kim Jong-Il to make a film for him.
Apollo 21 - Mockumentary looking back on the moon landings from 40 years on, hosted by a mysteriously Northern Buzz Aldrin.

FICTIONAL FUN
Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett's first City Watch book, dramatised for radio. Vimes sounds too middle-class and Sybil sounds about seventy, but it's so good to revisit them I almost don't mind.
All the Time in the World - Speaking of Terry Pratchett, I'd be amazed if this Arthur C. Clarke short story about a thief and time didn't inspire Thief of Time.
Tove Jansson Short Stories The creator of the Moomins went on to write more serious grownup books, but lost none of that brilliant insight and wry love for authentic characters.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen - An entry in the genre of British folkloric YA (think The Dark Is Rising), this time set in the North.
Think the Unthinkable - The sitcom about an abysmal consultancy company is back ... It's not Cabin Pressure, but it's one of the few sitcoms I genuinely enjoy, so worth trying out (I think) if you'd like some lighthearted character comedy.
Woman in Black - Halloween is coming up, and the spooky autumnal programming is starting to creep onto the iPlayer. There was a movie made of this Susan Hill book, but as always the pictures are better on radio.

WELL NOW YOU'RE JUST BEING SILLY
The 99p Challenge - The king of gloriously stupid panel games – like those sleep-deprived crazy riffs with your college buddies, but if your buddies were Sue Perkins, Armando Iannucci, Simon Pegg, and their lot.
Genius - In which a guest genius and a funny host evaluate genius life hacks, creative problem solving, and just plain goofy ideas from the audience.
Armstrong & Miller - Barmy sketches ... as you know, one of my favourite things. This show is from near the forefront of the modern Barmy Sketch movement, but holds up pretty well.
Museum of Everything - While everyone else thinks of pirates when they hear Bristolians, I think of the curators of the Museum of Everything, a barmy sketch comedy on the theme of semi-obscure regional attractions. Not to be confused with The Museum of Curiosity (though goodness knows I do).
Just a Minute - The perennial jaw-droppingly clever mile-a-minute rhetoric game, this one being particularly special in that it welcomes back Mighty Marathoness Sue Perkins.
tealin: (Default)
2017-09-23 01:41 pm
Entry tags:

Des chansons québecois encore

I've been alternating between Radio-Canada and seeing what YouTube autoplays when I look up songs I hear on there. Here are a few of my favourites ... and I think I have found a new beloved band in Les Cowboys Fringants. They have an album called L'Expédition, for crying out loud.

Videos behind the cut for tidiness... )

How much this helps me learn the language is anyone's guess. My comprehension even of sung English is pretty pathetic; I've been listening to non-English songs as long as I can remember, enjoying them for their musicality without the pressure of processing the words, so they're in one ear and out the other. And while learning to sing songs in another language might be a good practice generally, whoever suggests that has little experience with how many syllables a French Canadian can cram into one line holy cow.

(On the other hand, it might give a genetic excuse for my speech being excessively fast and inarticulate? Can't help it, I've got 400 years of Joual to overcome ...)
tealin: (Default)
2017-09-22 07:41 pm
Entry tags:

The Future Liberals Want

When I lived in LA, was making money, and tried to make myself happy by being generous with it, I was a member of the local NPR station. As such I had a card and was on their mailing list, and even though I never went to any member events or even really listened all that much, I was still nominally included.

When I moved away I cancelled my membership, and all that stopped.

Well, just in the past week, I've somehow ended up back on the mailing list, because I've got two emails from them about things going on around town and a backstage tour of the station.

Now, there may be a simple explanation. Chances are they have just resurrected a bunch of dead email addresses to remind ex-members how much they liked being in the in-group, to encourage them to re-pledge ...

Or someone has gifted me a membership for some obscure reason and not told me ...

... Or, an identity thief has used my credit card to pledge to a public radio station, and the email address associated with that card automatically went on the mailing list, in which case I am the victim of some very peculiar fraud. I'm not even sure I'd want them prosecuted, if that's the sort of thing they're going to do.

This world, man, I dunno, it's getting less real by the day.
tealin: (introspect)
2017-09-17 09:39 pm
Entry tags:

Dégéneration

Another year, another Québecois song leaps out from the bush and flattens me. This one is ... basically my family history but written by complete strangers??

Video behind cut as the sample image is obnoxiously spoilery... )

Paroles en français )


English lyrics )

So I guess I'm not the only one, then.

(Definitely more on the lopin de terre side than entourée d'enfants, though – happy to leave that much behind.)
tealin: (Default)
2017-09-15 07:31 pm
Entry tags:

NPR Soup

Basically, borscht with a bunch of hipster stuff in it. Vegan, of course, and gluten-free if you use a gluten-free yeast extract product.

1 red onion
2 small carrots
3 leaves kale
2 beets
generous handful of new potatoes
2 Tbsp miso paste
1 tsp Vegemite
½ tsp turmeric powder
2½ cups water or thereabouts
1 Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Cut up the onion, carrots, and beets, to whatever size you like in soup.
Heat the oils in the bottom of a medium-large pot.
Sauté onion, carrots, and beets in the oils.
While this is cooking, cut the leafy parts from the stalks of the kale. Cut up the stalks into small pieces and add to the pot. Cut leafy bits into narrow strips and reserve for now.
Once onion is translucent, add turmeric.
Put Vegemite (or other yeast extract product) in a small bowl or mug and add some of the water to start it dissolving, then put the rest of the water in the pot.
Stir the Vegemite mix until it's all dissolved in the water and add to the pot.
Add miso paste and vinegar.
Cut up potatoes while this comes to a boil, then add them.
Add kale strips.
Cover and let simmer for a while. Salt and pepper to taste. (Definitely taste it first, both miso and Vegemite are very salty and you may not need extra.) Szechuan chili oil optional for a bit of kick.

Should come out looking more or less like a Pride flag.
tealin: (Default)
2017-09-09 05:38 pm
Entry tags:

Fiction, Nonfiction, the Illusion of Time and Reality, etc.

As happens every once in a while, I've had the strange feeling all day of missing someone who died seventy years before I was born.

As a longtime devotee of fiction and fictional characters – I take fictional characters inordinately seriously; that's a topic for another post, or possibly therapy – having a cloud of imaginary friends in my head is nothing new, and enjoying their company on and off the page is a fun imaginative exercise as well as dubious coping strategy in rough times. Having this proclivity well established, getting into a massive epic story full of interesting people who happen to have really existed has been, in many ways, much the same thing, prompting many thinks about what the actual, material, quantifiable difference is between someone who is no longer on the planet and someone who never has been.

Here's the thing, though. However attached I might have been to whichever fictional character(s), no matter what I was going through, I never missed them. However much I enjoyed spending time with Remus Lupin or Moist Von Lipwig while reading or drawing them, I never felt their absence when I wasn't doing so. In fact, having "met" them was only ever additive: they weren't in my head, then they were, and always would be. Both Sherlock Holmes and Birdie Bowers exist, now, only in text and images and people's heads, but one has left a hole in the world and the other filled a hole we didn't previously know existed. Is there some intangible something about the impression made in reality by a living breathing human being, vs that of an imagined one, no matter how thoroughly drawn? Is it something you can pick up on subconsciously just by reading about them, or ... something else?


Today's overanalysed lapse in sanity has been brought to you by fatigue straining the fabric of reality and preventing me from doing the work that ought to be taking up my attention.
tealin: (think)
2017-09-06 10:30 pm

Angel Dust

If you grew up in the 80s, you probably remember a certain thread in anti-drug-abuse education that ran thus:

There are some drugs that are so powerful, you only need to try them once – just once! – and you're addicted FOR LIFE.

Well, I think that might have happened to me in Alberta in February ... I'm back in the archives, and reading Cherry's description of, admittedly, the Antarctic summer (in this case that of 1912/13) so emphatically evoked memories of trudging up to Nose Hill through old but dry snow in a light breeze, I could almost taste it again, and felt a visceral pull to get back there.

They really ought to warn you about such things.
tealin: (Default)
2017-08-30 11:23 pm
Entry tags:

Pub Lyfe

I didn't get to the pub last night – spent it all getting a Patreon reward put together – but I did tonight, which was a good thing as I got to eavesdrop on a running club who arrived there shortly after I did.  The first great thing about them was that they all had nicknames: Duracell, Fondue, Irish, Walkie-Talkie, Coppertone, and Bag Lady were the ones I jotted down.  Also these exchanges:

"There are lots of good things about the Mormon church, though, for example they encourage exercise."
"So did the Nazis."

"Billy Graham must be pretty old now ..."
"Well ... he's younger than God."

Much later there was a small group picking sides in the football league tables.  For a while the conversation was the usual numbing sports babble, but winnings came up, and someone asked "what would you do with £100m?" which started a lengthy discussion of debt ("I can't imagine what you'd do with that kind of money if mortgages weren't in the equation"), taxes (if you give money to someone they have to pay taxes on it, but if you buy something for them they don't, apparently), pensions, past experiences with gambling and not gambling, and simply the imaginative exercise of parceling out your hypothetical £100m.  It was the sort of conversational flow I thought was normal, from living in Canada, but which I missed terribly in the States, and I keep trying to figure out why it should be so different – we all speak the same language and have many of the same cultural influences, but Americans tend to talk in straight lines using concrete ideas, whereas others wander all over the place and pull in material from any direction, and use imagination, abstraction, and analysis, just as much as recall or opinion.  What's behind that?  I can't help thinking it has something to do with roadmaps; American highways and grid systems vs older countries' web of organic lines.  But that's probably unquantifiable, so a hunch it will have to stay.

Mr Keohane is proving to be very stubborn, by the way, even after a pint of cider.


tealin: (think)
2017-08-29 07:58 pm
Entry tags:

Work Thinks

Ah, the good old Work Thinks ... in which a fairly tedious and low-concentration task gives a lot of spare RAM to the old soggy computer and it spends the spare cycles processing stuff in the queue. It's a positive indication of my mental health the last few years (and my work situation) that its usual preoccupation with the brokenness of the studio/industry, or of various aspects of myself, is off the table, freeing it up to poop out these musings on other matters:

1.
Perhaps the preoccupation with 'dark' things in generations of the last 40 years – e.g. heavy metal, Gothic fantasy, the Millennial fascination with 'the feels' (usually a species of sadness) – have something to do with the attitude that certain ideas and feelings, namely the 'dark' ones, are 'unacceptable.' Perhaps there is something deeper in the human psyche that says: This is the spectrum of life, and you have to be equipped to deal with the whole of it – this is certainly reflected in most traditional cultures' folklore, which doesn't shy away from misfortune or man's capacity for evil. When it's not part of everyday life, or even permitted room in the going social culture, it comes out in personal internal (and shared-on-the-Internet) reverie, as a way of rehearsing the feelings and learning to deal with them, in a way that has been lost – or suppressed? – in society. See also the appeal of 'dark' television shows – Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Hannibal – leading people through a range of emotions they're not allowed to explore in the public sphere anymore, and which hypersanitized children's entertainment would not have run past them when young. The role of fiction generally can be to rehearse and prepare for real-life situations in a safe and contained environment, but as real life situations, and even the possibility of considering hypothetical situations aside from the optimum, have been curtailed to the 'acceptable', subconsciously motivated fascination for the spectrum that falls outside those confines is enhanced.
[Post-Work Thinks: Actually, it seems like people in all cultures, regardless of the gatekeepers' attitudes towards darkness, appreciate dark things in their imaginative worlds; people are drawn to this anyway, it's only in cultures where darkness is feared that such an attraction is considered perverse.]

2.
'Ghost cultures' in the American Midwest – Is there a difference in the collective values and mindset of, say, a Scandinavian-majority community and a German-majority one? Perhaps between Minnesota and Wisconsin? Is the dominant (culturally, if not numerically) immigrant population reflected even now in statistics that measure other things entirely, e.g. openness, neuroticism, etc.?

3.
Brexiteers argue that the problem with immigration is that immigrants don't assimilate. However, the attitude of the nativist Britons who argue this (including, to some extent, the Government) towards those who have assimilated as much as humanly possible – language, family, lifestyle, embedded in the fabric of British society and institutions, etc) proves that assimilation to the desired standard is something impossible to achieve. The only sufficiently British people are people who are already British, and therefore the topic of assimilation is moot.

Well, that's enough thinking for one day, Pat Keohane and I are going to the pub.
tealin: (introspect)
2017-08-26 07:24 pm
Entry tags:

Going Sherlock

I like to tell people I live in a shared house, even though at this point in my career I could, theoretically*, afford to live alone, because if I don't have the moderating presence of other people, I "go the full Sherlock."

This week, one housemate is in Italy and another is in Korea – the third is technically around but she effectively lives with her partner and just keeps her room here for, I dunno, storage? appearances? – so I've had the house to myself, and aside from an hour or two of café time, have been more or less on my own with the mountain of things that need doing. Many of which have been done! Gold star.

I've been led to believe that normal people, in this sort of situation, would start going stir-crazy and be desperate to get out for a bit of social fresh air, but I find the opposite tends to happen with me: after four or five days, the walls get taller and I find it harder and harder to think of compelling reasons to go through the front door ... This probably comes down to a childhood spent in isolating circumstances, where I learned quite well how to keep myself company but not how to do anything else; it continued unchallenged through most of adulthood, which is why there are large parts of Vancouver I've never visited and touchstone events both there and in LA which I've never attended. It's not so much agoraphobia as agorapathy – not afraid to go out, just can't be bothered.

Of course, without keeping them in shape this leads to a breakdown of the social skills I've gone to great lengths to acquire, and as I pull deeper and deeper into my own head I am less aware of how I come across outside it, and then ... Sherlock. A very popular character on television but not, I can assure you, well received in real life. Especially when not played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

So here I sit, tonight, a week of solitude behind me, and a week of solitude in another house next week (albeit with coworkers during the day, which helps), knowing that I ought to take advantage of a gorgeous summer Saturday night in Cambridge but not quite knowing how, and pondering some pub drawing in a context I can only describe as medicinal – and I can't decide which pub. They're either too busy or not summery enough, and there's plenty of the year for visiting winter pubs. It's so much easier not to decide and just stay home again – but I cannot let myself do that! I refuse! But what?

If nothing else, this week has taught me an important thing: I am formed by nature to be the crackpot old lady in the woods, but if I follow temptation and wind up in a cabin on the Inside Passage, all the progress I've made is forfeit. I've been thinking a lot about what direction to take if I'm sent back to Canada next year, and that had been an option, but for my sake and everyone else's I think I have to close that door.

*Assuming I were working full-time at my level of experience and seniority, and not swept up in some mania for which I've more or less taken early retirement, without the pension
tealin: (stress)
2017-08-05 07:43 am
Entry tags:

Kicking the Photobucket

Well, all good things must come to an end ...

The image hosting site I've been using for this blog since 2004 has suddenly gone full rapacious jerk, and decided to charge over ten times its original pro fee for the privilege of embedding one's images in third-party sites, i.e. what I do here. As I'm grandfathered in from my last payment, I have slightly under a year to figure out what to do with the thousands of images I've accrued over the years, update img tags, etc., but frankly right now I'm looking at it all and going 'uuuuuuuuurrrghhhhh'. Such an awful lot going on this year, and now this on top of it, and for what?

Since 2013 or so, I've mainly been embedding images from Tumblr, which is also dying but might have a few years left at least; I ought to get another image hoster but I haven't found any I like as much as Photobucket, so if you have a suggestion that's not Picasa/Google I'd love to hear it.
tealin: (4addict)
2017-07-24 10:47 pm
Entry tags:

Radio Roundup

FICTION
The Door in the Wall - I link to this every time it comes around, in the hope it'll infect someone else's mind as it has mine ...
Listening to the Dead - A series of dramas about a family with the ability to communicate with their own, either side of the veil. Disclosure: I haven't heard them in years, just remember them being good, in that stays-with-you kind of way.

FACT
Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight - Readings from a book written by a Japanese teenager with severe autism; really compelling listening and highly recommended.
Tocqueville's America Revisited - In the 1830s, a French aristocrat visited the fledgling democracy, and wrote his observations on American society and politics into a famous book. This two-parter looks at how the country has, and hasn't, changed since then. [Episode 2]
All In The Family - A really excellent series on early childhood trauma and its ramifications in terms of psychology and physical health. It sounds dry but is terribly fascinating and revelatory; I highly recommend a listen. And episode two and three.
The Reith Lectures: Hilary Mantel - The author of Wolf Hall and A Place of Greater Safety talks about historical fiction, resurrecting the dead, and other things aimed squarely at me – but you'll probably find it interesting too.

FUN
John Finnemore's Double Acts - The series of gently comic dramas for two players wraps up, to the writer's typically high standard. Still four episodes available, three of which are particular favourites of mine.
The Vinyl Cafe - This episode isn't particularly notable, but I was surprised to see this Canadian stalwart on the BBC. Stuart MacLean has passed on, now, but his Canadian version of A Prairie Home Companion hasn't lost its down-home charm.
The Consultants - I link to this sketch show every time it comes around, but it's good clean feel-good fun, so, you know, if you like that sort of thing ...
Dead Ringers - This satirical impressions sketch show used to be what ran during "silly season", but of course that doesn't exist anymore. I know everyone's got a Trump impression, but Dead Ringers' series of Trump's midnight calls to Sean Spicer are pretty special.
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue - The very, very silly panel game is back, and episodes 3 and 4 play host to John Finnemore and Susan Calman, which would be too much of a good thing if it were possible to get too much of those two.
Le Carré On Spying - The Penny Dreadfuls have gone into the business of comedic historical dramas with surprising moments of feeling; this one is about the writer of the George Smiley spy stories, the most famous being probably Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Portentous Perils - A comedy sci-fi satire podcast written and read by a regular writer for Radio 4's topical comedy shows – good fun, and ever-improving sound quality! The only downside is there's only one episode a month. But it's worth the wait. (And puns!)

FAHRENHEIT 451
To my perception there are three great mid-century dystopias: 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, and the latter, I think, has proven to be the most prescient and still the most challenging. Radio 4 has just broadcast a reading of it:
Book at Bedtime - Broken up and slightly abridged into 10 15-minute readings
Omnibus - The 15-minute readings collected into two hour-and-a-bit episodes
If I had all the time I could ask for, I'd have done a bunch of drawings to encourage you to listen to this, but all I have is my words. It's a very important book, but is also cinematic and very pacey, so I don't think you will regret listening to it: please do.
tealin: (think)
2017-07-18 10:22 pm
Entry tags:

Stimulation

I have pretty much always drawn while listening to the radio. From my first Harry Potter drawings, done behind the counter of a rarely-visited gift shop with mandatory country music playing, through a few years of film and musical soundtracks and half the Vancouver Public Library's collection of audiobooks, to the discovery of Radio 4 and all that. I need a chew toy to distract the verbal half of my brain and let the bit doing the spatial/fine motor work get on with it.

Once before I've had to make do without much to listen to: In 2007, long after I'd got used to having a computer at my desk with all its streaming and/or distracting opportunities, I interned at James Baxter's studio, the upper floor of an old warehouse and last preserve of analogue animation desks in LA. The other interns had laptops, but I only had my tiny iPod Nano, and after a week or two I'd memorised pretty much everything on it. But an odd thing happened when I ran out of external stimulation, and my Left Brain's clamour for distraction was perforce denied long enough: it shut up and went away to do its own thing, and good lord did I ever get a lot done.

I've been in the same position the last couple of days. I'm in Bristol doing a few days on-site at the studio for which I've been freelancing, doing rotations, the sort of work on which I most "need" something to listen to, and during which I get most of my radio listening done. I do have my laptop with me, just in case, but have not turned it on yet, nevermind accessed the WiFi. And my brain is doing the same thing. It's a little bit miraculous: I thought I was another casualty of our hyper-distracted age, yet here I am, doing relatively tedious work in a silent room, perfectly content.

It's made me resolve to turn off as much as I can when I get back home. I can't imagine going fully without the radio, as it does help to keep me on task when the infinite distractions of working from home (snacks, chores, errands, etc) come knocking, but I need to budget other distractions much more strictly. They aren't doing me much good, anyway – certainly less than what I'd gain with improved concentration and productivity.

Funny how these lessons keep coming back around every few years until you learn them ...
tealin: (terranova)
2017-07-15 08:46 am

Silas Wright

To my surprise, this blog missed out on the Silas love on Canada Day ... so here's making up lost time. Longtime followers may remember him as the snarky bespectacled guy in a nightcap, who I drew a lot when Worst Journey was my escapism at Disney; now that I'm doing all this For Real I needed to sit down and work out a proper design for him.


Charles Seymour 'Silas' Wright was the physicist and glaciologist on the Terra Nova Expedition – and Canadian! As such, naturally, he was constantly being ribbed for being 'American'; even his nickname 'Silas' comes from a joke of Birdie's:

Silas struck me one day on the ship as a typical Yankee name and in a happy moment I called him Mr Silas P. Wright of the Philadelphia Educational Seminary. Since then he has never been called anything but Cousin Silas or Silas.

(from a letter home, quoted in Silas: The Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles S. Wright p. 28)


More drawings and anecdotes below... )

There are so many more anecdotes – like about how Silas was notorious for his prolific and varied swearing, and how he almost invented the Geiger counter, and the time they were sledging across new ice that was still so rubbery the sledge made a bow-wake, and getting carbon monoxide poisoning the second winter, and how he was almost the one to go to One Ton instead of Cherry, and – and – and –

But I've gone on quite long enough already, so those will have to wait for another day.
tealin: (Default)
2017-07-12 05:19 pm
Entry tags:

Sweet Sweet Vindication

I still haven't finished that essay series, but it didn't stop my heart singing when listening to the Q&A at the end of Hilary Mantel's last Reith Lecture:
SUE LAWLEY: Now on the front row here, we have Peter Kosminsky, who directed the television adaptations of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Famously Peter, and somewhat controversially, you lit them – because we were talking about lighting – by candlelight. I mean, did you two agree that? Was that collusion or did he rush off and – or did you approve, Hilary?

HILARY MANTEL: When Peter and I first met, what I said to him is, “When I imagine this book ..." I didn’t really have to say about lights and shades, candlelight. I think he just knew that, but I remember saying to Peter, “In every frame of the book, on every page in every transaction I see the wobble of the handheld camera, which brings me back to witnessing and reliability.” And I think your face illuminated my sitting room at that point, because I think it was catching onto your thought about what the mode of the drama should be.

and later ...

Anne Holland, retired Head Teacher and Volunteer at Chastleton National Trust House, which of course, part of Wolf Hall was filmed in. It’s a very naïve question. I’m a Catholic, and to me, the character of Thomas Cromwell was portrayed as a great hero. And of course, like everything, nobody’s black or white, but it intrigues me to see how strongly the views were both within the book, the film and the TV.

HILARY MANTEL: I hope to produce a nuanced portrait of Thomas Cromwell, as of Thomas More, of Henry VIII and all my characters, but good writers need good readers. The reader has to be prepared to lay aside their prejudices and read the nuances and interrogate every line asking how reliable is this person as witness to his story or someone else’s story. The texts of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies ripple with doubt. My aim is to keep the text alive. It’s all about, as it were, putting the past back into process. So, what I’m trying to do ... if I had written my books at, say, from the point of view of Ann Boleyn, or I had chosen Thomas More as my lead character, then you would have a very, very different text but it doesn't mean that I am insincere or that text contains lies. The novel cannot, I think, be a neutral text but it can be a nuanced one.

tealin: (nerd)
2017-07-07 11:14 pm
Entry tags:

How To Friday Night

  1.  Go to your favourite pub
  2.  Order something indulgent
  3.  Scope out some interesting characters to draw
  4.  Write four pages logicking out the question of who it was who actually found the Polar Party's tent and why
I have a slight impression I may not be getting the hang of this whole idea, but, well, I had fun, so...?
tealin: (think)
2017-07-02 11:56 pm

Lose My Own Head Next

I’m going in for a solid week in the archives starting tomorrow. First up is Cherry’s diary for the second winter, which I blasted through in two days in 2013. I will necessarily be taking more time with it now, but I didn’t want to do redundant work, so I tried to dig up my notes from that visit to serve as a starting place. What I found were two files – Day 1 and Day 2 – which were, apparently, identical, aside from half a line added to the last entry in the second version. Neither of them got through to the end of the second winter, which I know I did, because you don't spend two eight-hour days grinding through the daily records of a clinically depressed kindred spirit in a 1250ft2 hut besieged by perpetual darkness and the worst possible Antarctic weather without really, really feeling being done with it.

The fragmentary and shambolic nature of all the notes I took on visits before moving here in 2014 is proof either that a)I never would have cut it in "real school", had I gone the academic route, or b)I am so hopeless at multitasking that if I'm not giving something my full attention for an extended period, I might as well not be doing it at all.

Well, it's good to know, anyway ...
tealin: (Default)
2017-06-27 06:32 pm
Entry tags:

Golden Hill



To my great bafflement, it has taken this long for Golden Hill to be released in the US – a multi-award winning highly readable romp through colonial New York, you’d think it’d be obvious, but there you go.

Anyway, here is the main character, Mr. Smith – I roughed these out last year when I read the book, but have only just made them as pretty as I’d like.

Do give Golden Hill a shot if you like
  • fun
  • peril
  • interesting characters
  • meticulous research
  • very satisfying historical fix-it fic

Mr Smith is superficially similar to Moist von Lipwig, which made it a little difficult for me to get a grip on the book at first, because I couldn't see into his head as clearly as Moist's (whose internal world is what really sells the book, IMO), but boy oh boy that was totally worth it for the sake of saving the reveal for the end – the sort of reveal that makes the re-read at least as satisfying as the first.

I don't know about you, but I find most of my recreational reading these days ends up being very serious news and commentary about how much of a mess we're in. It's nice to get a break like this and lose yourself in another time and place, without being devoid of meaning.

Supplemental material – including a rather comprehensive catalogue of 18th-century slang – can be found on the book’s Tumblr.