This time I sang Handlebars by Flobots (Doctor Who vid by flummery) (without before thinking about the fact exactly how not easy it is to sing, especially if you don't know the text 100% and the text on the monitor is too slow after every paragraph) and My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark by Fall Out Boy (which I found funny because I thought I only knew the band through bandom fic, turns out they also wrote the song that last season's Pens promos used) and a few easy songs with friends (Mamma Mia, Winds of Change etc. – some of my friends really can't sing btw.) I got a compliment from a stranger about my singing and my song choice, with a comment that the microphone I'd used wasn't working, which I hadn't even noticed because I hardly ever sing with microphones.
I also wanted to sing Parachute by Cheryl Cole (Leverage vid by thingswithwings) but wasn't sure of the whole melody, and How Far We've Come by Matchbox Twenty (Homestuck vid by Alexandra Murphy) but they didn't have it in their catalogue. (There are so many vids set to How Far We've Come: Some I know include a Community vid by purplefringe, CA:WS vid by kaydeefalls, and I could swear there was a specific Doctor Who vid to that song centering on the episode with the Master where the Time Lords came back and I looked for it for way too long until I realized I'm thinking about a twelve-second-clip from the fantastic Tenth Doctor Musical by di_br.) Next time.
I had to leave early because I thought I had a lot to do today, but two of the things were called off so now I unexpectedly actually have some time that is less busy than expected. Still a lot to do, and I'm skipping preparation meetings for EUDC next week, but I can use the break. So much that over the weekend I'm going away with friends for nothing but swimming and barbecue and absolutely no guilt about things I should be doing (at least that's the plan), I'm really looking forward to it.
In conclusion, I should go to Karaoke more often :)
- Charles Macnamara, born in Barbados, was 21 years old at the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, and had been serving on HMS Tonnant for nearly a year, after joining the crew from an East Indiaman merchant ship. Macnamara, who had the advantage of being able to swim, saved the life of Tonnant's fourth lieutenant, Lieutenant Benjamin Clement, a non-swimmer (and, yes, Clement's the same man Jane Austen was later snippy about). After the Tonnant's small "jolly" boat was overturned during the battle and its three occupants ended up in the sea, the ship's log for that day records: "Lieutenant Clement held fast by the boat's fall [i.e. rigging used to raise and lower the boat between the Tonnant's deck and the waterline] until one of his two companions, a black man, Macnamara by name, swam to the Tonnant, and returned with a rope that lead out of the ship's stern port. By this means a brave young officer, who had been in two or three of the general actions of the preceding war, was saved to his country." A witness, Lieutenant Hoffman, later recalled "had it not been for a black man [Macnamara], who took him on his back, he [Clement] must have sunk." At the time Clement had written home to his father about what happened: “the two men that were with me could [swim], one a black man, the other a quarter-master: He was the last man in her, when a shot struck her and knocked her quarter off, and she was turned bottom up. Macnamara, the black man, staid by me on one side, and Maclay the quarter-master on the other, until I got hold of the jolly boat’s fall that was hanging overboard. I got my leg between the fall, and as the ship lifted by the sea so was I, and as she descended I was ducked. I found myself weak, and thought I was not long for this world. Macnamara swam to the ship, and got a rope and [swam] to me again, and made it fast under my arms, when I swung off, and was hauled into the stern port.”
A study made by John Singleton Copley, circa 1778, and used for his painting Watson and the Shark. It appears to have been painted from life and in Britain.
It's challenge time!
Comment with Just One Thing you've accomplished in the last 24 hours or so. It doesn't have to be a hard thing, or even a thing that you think is particularly awesome. Just a thing that you did.
Feel free to share more than one thing if you're feeling particularly accomplished!
Extra credit: find someone in the comments and give them props for what they achieved!
Nothing is too big, too small, too strange or too cryptic. And in case you'd rather do this in private, anonymous comments are screened. I will only unscreen if you ask me to.
Born on this day in 1713 to Ferdinand II, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel and Princess Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, Charles Guelph I, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel (my toy,wikipedia). Grandfather of Caroline who married George IV. Charles tried (unsuccessfully) to improve the finances of the Duchy and when he failed his son took over. He founded what is now the Technical University of Brunswick.
I must credit Mark Harris' Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Seond World War (2014) for getting me interested in William Wyler. Prior to this spring, I could have told you that I'd seen about half a dozen of his movies and liked several of them, but I didn't know a thing about him personally except that his original choice for Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1939) was Robert Newton and I thought that showed good taste. He was Jewish, a Swiss citizen from then-German Alsace-Lorraine; he came to Hollywood as a distant cousin of Carl Laemmle and quickly worked his way up from stage hand to Universal's youngest director, where his painstaking directing style got him nicknamed either "Forty-" or "Fifty-Take Wyler" depending on which actor you asked and how recently they'd worked with him; I was charmed to learn that for years he commuted to work on a motorcycle. Of the five directors whom Harris tracks through the war, Wyler was the only Jew; the only one with family in danger in Europe.1 He enlisted with the Signal Corps eleven days after Pearl Harbor, thirty-nine years old and a married father of two. In order to get the footage for the film that later became The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (1944), he flew five missions over Germany and occupied France with different B-17 crews of the 91st Bomb Group, including two after he was formally grounded. He shot 16-millimeter footage through the ball turret of the Memphis Belle, a crazy stunt even by the standards of combat pilots. He blacked out once aboard the Our Gang while concentrating so intently on getting good aerial shots that he failed to notice until after the fact that he'd disconnected his oxygen. While in uniform, he punched out an anti-Semitic doorman and accepted an official reprimand rather than lose time defending himself in a court-martial. And most pertinently to this story, following the documentary realist success of The Memphis Belle, Wyler reviewed the unmanned camera footage taken from the P-47 Thunderbolts that were the subject of his next project and agreed with his co-director John Sturges that none of it was usable, even as "atmosphere shots." Just as he had done with the Memphis Belle and the other B-17s, he took a camera—a 35-millimeter Eyemo this time—aboard a low-flying B-25 and shot footage of the coast of Italy through the open windows of the plane. And he lost his hearing. He was permanently grounded. He was discharged from military service at once. His career as a filmmaker for the War Department was over; what he didn't know was whether, as a deaf director, he could ever make films for anyone again.
The happy ending of this story is that, as shattered, disoriented, and despairing as Wyler was when he returned to the U.S. in 1945, his career was not over. He never regained more than a fraction of the hearing in his left ear; for the rest of his life, he would listen to scenes as they were filmed through a feed from the on-set microphones. But if classics like The Heiress (1949), Roman Holiday (1953), Ben-Hur (1959), and The Collector (1965) are anything to judge by, it worked out all right. And all of this means that what we have in The Best Years of Our Lives—Wyler's first post-war film—is something extraordinary for its time: a commercial Hollywood A-picture made by a disabled veteran with combat experience. I wanted to see it at once.2
We were still worried going in. Despite its instant-classic reputation for handling themes of healing, disability, and disillusionment with sensitivity and restraint, by modern standards the film could still have come off as maudlin, simplistic, or condescending. 1946 was a prime Production Code year. We weren't sure how much realism either Wyler or his screenwriter Robert E. Sherwood3 would have been able to put onscreen. Instead, even if the middle-aged couple thoroughly enjoying an active sex life after twenty years of marriage are still shown sleeping in separate beds and the isolationist who gets punched in the face in a satisfying echo of Wyler's doorman dust-up spouts only veiled racism about "a bunch of radicals in Washington," the film is surprisingly even-handed about the chances of its three protagonists, which means that is neither unrelentingly downbeat nor breezily dismissive of the difficulties all three face in their strange new postwar existence, trying to reintegrate into peacetime society with their different experiences and their different kinds of damage.
Those differences are a major factor in the film's realism. There's no such thing as a normative war narrative in The Best Years of Our Lives—if anything, civilian expectations of war experience are consistently, sometimes uncomfortably refuted. Fictional Boone City may be a Midwestern Anytown, but none of the protagonists is standing in for the "typical" soldier. Army Air Forces Captain Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) was a soda jerk before the war; he's returning a decorated bombadier with recurring nightmares and a glamorous wife he knew for barely a month before going overseas. His father and stepmother are affectionate and supportive and live in a two-room tenement behind a railyard. None of his medals translate into a marketable skill set. His nightclub-going wife married a dashing flyboy with a four-hundred-dollar paycheck and doesn't know what to do with an uncertain, unemployed civilian in a secondhand suit. By contrast, Army Sergeant Al Johnson (Fredric March) comes home to the American dream of a loving wife and two children and the "nice fat job at a nice fat bank" that earned them a swanky apartment, but his children are grown and strange to him and there's a sting in the tail of the promotion he can't refuse—as an authentic veteran in charge of loans to ex-servicemen, Al is effectively the bank's plausible deniability for all the requests he's expected to turn down. Domesticity makes him so twitchy that on his first night home, he drags his wife and daughter on a bar crawl that finishes in blackout. No matter where he is, he drinks too much. And Seabee Homer Parrish (non-actor Harold Russell) is missing both of his hands. He served in the South Pacific and never saw any of the islands he's asked about, always being belowdecks: "When we were sunk, all I know is there was a lot of fire and explosions." He's dexterous with his prostheses—a pair of steel split hooks—and he has a quick deflection for every one of the well-intentioned, cringeworthy remarks with which able-bodied strangers try to cover their shock, but his parents' efforts at acceptance only read to him as pity and he can't believe that his childhood sweetheart-next-door finds his new, disabled state anything but repulsive.
You could make a melodrama out of these elements. The Best Years of Our Lives doesn't. It's the film's other strength. ( Other things may have changed, but that hasn't. )
There are no quick fixes in The Best Years of Our Lives. The film admits plainly that some things cannot be fixed at all: so you go on with what you've got, even when that's yourself. Sometimes love helps and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes nothing helps except going on. That's a degree of nuance and maturity I did not expect from a film from 1946, which I think means only that I underestimated William Wyler. Oh, God, it's dawn again. I haven't even mentioned how much I love Gregg Toland's deep-focus cinematography. This divagation sponsored by my considerate backers at Patreon.
1. Wyler's parents were already in the U.S.; they had followed their son to Hollywood in the '20's. Starting as early as 1936, he tried to get other relatives out: sent money, negotiated endlessly with the State Department to sponsor their emigration. In 1945, he returned for the first time in more than twenty years to his newly liberated birthplace of Mülhausen/Mulhouse. His family and childhood friends were nowhere to be found. He never found them, or what had happened to them, beyond the obvious. The Jews of Mulhouse were gone.
2. I am eliding most of the story of how I ended up at Skygiants' house two Fridays ago with two DVDs of The Best Years of Our Lives, although I remain amused that the library sent me home with both of their apparently identical copies because one of them might be scratched and the librarian wasn't sure which. In fact, we got halfway through the first copy and the disc seized up. We watched the rest of the movie on the other copy.
3. Sherwood was working from MacKinlay Kantor's blank-verse novel Glory for Me (1945), which I have not read; Harris details some of the differences in Five Came Back. I don't think I disagree with Wyler's belief that a spastic character would have been unplayable by a non-disabled actor. Once he rewrote the part for a double amputee, he insisted on finding a disabled actor to play it.
4. Homer's uncle Butch is played by Hoagy Carmichael and he is marvelous, a lanky, laid-back pianist-cum-publican who teaches his nephew to play the piano in a scene I will not spoil and reasures him with the long view: "Your folks'll get used to you and you'll get used to them. Then everything will settle down nicely—unless we have another war. Then none of us have to worry because we'll all be blown to bits on the first day. So cheer up!" And after that I had Tom Lehrer stuck in my head.
The papers are, as always, wanting shiny headlines. And also, apparently, craving some kind of certainty. They want to know exactly when, and how everyone is going to react, and what is going to happen.
And the answer to that has seemed fairly simple and obvious to me, and made clear by Nicola Sturgeon today - the next referendum will happen if it looks like a clear majority of Scottish people want to be independent.
Because there is absolutely no point the SNP holding a referendum that they will lose, and they know this. The first referendum was there as a way of _possibly_ getting independence, but it never looked very likely apart from a few moments in the final stages. Support, when they first proposed a referendum, was in the high 20s/low 30s. But having the referendum meant being able to have a very public conversation and shift the window of public opinion.
Having done that, there's nothing more to gain unless something happens which shifts public opinion significantly - to at least 55% Yes, if not more.
"No politician can impose a referendum on Scotland, no matter how much some of us would like Scotland to be independent," argues Sturgeon, but "if the Scottish people do vote in future to have another referendum, no politician has the right to stand in their way."
From the news page at the LSA — "NACLO teams win nine medals at International Linguistics Olympiad":
Two USA teams and one Canada team, each consisting of four high school students, won eight individual medals and a team medal at the 13th International Linguistics Olympiad, held July 20-24 in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The USA contestants also took five of the top ten places in the individual contest, including three gold medals. USA Red also finished in first place among 44 teams based on the combined score of its members in the individual contest.
The IOL, one of twelve international science olympiads, consists of two events. The first is the individual contest, a six hour exam with five problems, which this year focused on Kabardian, Wambaya, Somali Masafo, Nahuatl, and Arammba, as well as on Soundex, an algorithm for phonetic classification of names. The team contest is the second event of the IOL, in which team members collaborate to solve one particularly challenging problem. This year, teams were tasked with translating excerpts from a Northern Sotho dictionary. Problem solving at the IOL stresses the ability of contestants to decipher the mechanisms of languages by using logic and reasoning to explore a wide range of hypotheses.
Individual Round: Three US contestants, James Wedgwood of Washington, James Bloxham of Massachusetts, and Kevin Yang of Washington, won gold medals in the individual round, with James Wedgwood also earning the top individual score from among 165 contestants from 29 countries. Silver medals went to three US contestants, Kevin M Li of California, Conor Stuart-Roe of North Carolina, and Julian Gau of New Jersey. Nilai Sarda of Georgia and Emma McLean of Nova Scotia won bronze medals. Finally, Kevin Q Li of New Jersey, Ben Zhang of Ontario, and James Hyett of Ontario were awarded honorable mentions. James Bloxham and James Wedgwood received best solution awards for Problem 3 and Problem 5, respectively. Team USA Red’s combined scores on the individual score were the highest of any team. The two US teams (Red and Blue) had a massive average score of 62 points, way above all other teams; the United States has held the 'blue cup' which goes to the highest combined individual score for six of the last nine years.
Team Round: Team USA Red finished second on the team problem, following Team UK West. Team Poland White and Team Netherlands tied for third place.
There were 1,700 participants in total this year.
The USA team's coaches were Dragomir Radev and Lori Levin; the Canadian team's coach was Patrick Littell. This year's problems are here. Information about the program in general, and about past competitions, is available on NACLO's web site.
We climbed up through the clouds. And as I looked out into them I started seeing patches speckled with faint lights. At first I wondered if I was imagining things because they were too bright and orange and copious to be stars. Then I realised of course we were banking to the right and what I was seeing was the city as we spiralled up over it.
We came up above the cloud. Masses of it were thick and dark, but some stretches were thinner and glowed orange from below; and here and there still were patches clear to that dew-specked spiderweb that night makes of a town from above. Handfuls of city scooped up and suspended to be seen by a window through this ethereal medium.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, until we reached Christchurch with clear skies and a descent that involved about 300 degrees of a circle around the entire city. O my city!
2. They were doing construction on our street most of this week, including starting this morning at eight just after I woke up, but they were done and gone for the day by the time I got home.
3. We went to Target tonight and I finally found some jeans that fit me well! Not only that, but they were $5 off and then on top of that there was a $10 off coupon, so they were only $10. For Levis. I got two pairs; it was tempting to stock up at that price, but with my luck if I buy a lot, I'll lose or gain weight and then be stuck with a bunch of jeans that don't fit, so just two.
4. I got this month's chapter of Yasha posted, so that's all my monthly manga. (I was so late on the translation for that, I thought it might not be ready until early next month, so I'm extra glad I was able to post this month after all.)
5. I got a couple really great kitten pics today:
Characters/Pairing/Other Subject: Deidara
Content Notes/Warnings: smoking, blood, injury, insects, drugs
Medium: digital art
Artist on DW/LJ: NA
Artist Website/Gallery: evartandadam | invisibleninja12 | イーヴァ on pixiv
Why this piece is awesome: This piece reimagines Deidara in the modern world - as a graffiti artist, which I think works really well with his canonical destructive artistic tendencies. I rather like this artist's clean, sharp lines, and in this particular picture I absolutely adore her design of Deidara, the bright colours saturating the whole picture, and the really elaborate detailing of the background graffiti, the shirt, and the tattoos.
Link: on tumblr | on deviantart | on pixiv
Length: 33498 words
Author's summary: Maybe that was why: you only get the one miracle.
Reccer's comments: I'm sliding this one in under the wire, because it just concluded and it's astonishing. The prose is excellent; there isn't a word out of place, and it's powerful and deeply evocative without ever being showy. It's almost breathtakingly emotionally honest--it deals with difficult topics, but the characters' healing process is realistically fraught yet hopeful, and the love between Sherlock and John is not a magic cure-all, but it's no less beautiful for that. I felt all the emotions right along with the characters. I once read a descriptor of visceral storytelling as being 'writing with blood in the mouth,' and that's what this is. It's so believable and achingly true and in-character, and it's one of the very best post-S3 fics I've read.
Warning: this story centrally involves miscarriage/stillbirth and the resultant emotional trauma; please proceed with caution if those are triggers for you.
Third Laundryverse book. It starts with Bob being treated like a mushroom (as, ahem, usual). Angleton (Bob's boss) is strong in the belief of "show, don't tell" and has sent Bob off on a little job at RAF Cosgrove, with the intention that Bob shuold see the "White Elephant" hidden in a hangar there.
Things don't, quite, go as planned. Then wheels start getting unstuck and an imperial arseload of fecal matter is making hasty progress towards an air-propagation device of monstrous proportions. Then more stuff happens and the shit really hits the fan.
If you've enjoyed previous Laundry books, chances are high that you will like this too.
It has long been something of a disadvantage to me in the pursuit of my profession that I am wholly unable to say with any certainty when I shall be oblig'd to make a temporary retreat from society. This has led to unwonted accusations of caprice when I have had suddenly to withdraw from promis'd assignations. I am, therefore, not more than usual perturbed that I have not lately seen my courses.
I receive a letter from Her Grace of M- who says that the plan answers excellently, and Lady J- has positively begged to act as her almoner to free her for the many, many duties that fall to the lot of a duchess that has married a duke whose late father, though a man she is told of many old-fashioned virtues, was not as attentive to the business necessary in this present age as could be desir'd, and there is therefore much on their hands. She goes shortly with
dearest her husband His Grace to Q-, a prospect that is quite daunting for she is quite unus'd to great houses, but she does greatly long to see the picture gallery, for one of dear His Grace's ancestors was a great collector and this gallery is quite fam'd among cognoscenti.
But Lady J-, she says, and I can almost see her dance around the chamber as she writes, will stay in town in order to put our philanthropic enterprizes in motion. She has also begun to talk about arranging a series of subscription concerts during the autumn.
I shall be so very happy, Her Grace concludes, not to have her gazing at me at breakfast to detect whether I yet show any signs of increasing. I fear she was most disappointed that we did not return from Italy with me already in the family way.
I also receive a note from Mr H- to inform me that he has been summon'd to Somerset by Sir B- W-, but that he has procured a very fine stuffed swan for a matter he hopes to discuss with me on his return. Do, my dear, he adds, make free of my seaside place should you like to, for summer in Town is very oppressive.
I therefore decide to spend a se'ennight in Sussex very quietly enjoying the sanitive sea airs and a little sea-bathing (for this is far more pleasant in the secluded cove below the house than with the tiresome business of bathing machines). I dispatch a small trunk with a note to Mr H-'s housekeeper there, and a note to Lord G- R- to say that I would be delighted if he could see his way to driving me to the coast in his new curricle.
This, of course, he is delighted to do, though I warn him that I do not desire to go very fast just because he has a notion to beat some other fellow's time.
It is a very pleasant day for a drive when we set out, and His Lordship minds my wish for a moderate pace, though I find the motion of this new vehicle somewhat unsettling and indeed causing a little queasiness.
We congratulate one another again concerning the resolution of Mr O'C-'s malign plots - it will be long, if ever, before he is out of debtors' prison - and I convey the latest intelligence about the K- children. He remarks that perhaps the real villain in this entire business is Mrs K- and her wild ambitions to marry her daughter into the highest aristocracy. Oh, I say, I think we can count Mr O'C- a villain as one that will always desire to make a bad situation worse and act the Iago.
Indeed, he replies, now, there is a man where I think the penalty of transportation might well answer even though he has managed to avoid engaging in any crime that might demand it, or at least evade detection. But when I consider the so many minor and indeed excusable misdemeanours, for we can hardly call them crimes, for which that sentence is applied, I wonder should it exist at all.
I am sure, I say, that were you to put Mr MacD- on the matter of sounding out the complete depths of Mr O'C-'s villainy, he is a veritable bloodhound and would surely find out yet worse about that dreadfull creature. I am convinced that in a contest against the Bow Street Runners he would show quite superior.
I am sure he would find great pleasure in it, says His Lordship. But pleasing though it would be to lay Mr O'C- by the heels, I think we should rest content with the success we have achieved. That investigation led Sandy into association with various sets that could pose him danger, and I should greatly dislike to see him taken up for either sedition or sodomy because of his acquaintance in those circles. That is indeed a consideration, I agree.
Although he is not sighing for your favours, he goes on, he most greatly admires you and laments the state of society which renders you liable to disdain, though also contends that in a better state of society there would be other opportunities for your abilities.
That is indeed very pleasing to hear, I say, and it is indeed a rare treat to be admir'd for qualities that are not my fam'd exquisite bubbies, about which I have had a tedious great amount of correspondence lately. I have quite the greatest fondness for him, as I do, my dear, for you.
My dearest Madame C-, says Lord G- R-, it has not escaped my notice that you have several very good friends that, although their tastes differ from mine as regards your womanly parts, also greatly esteem your other qualities. Indeed, you have several friends who continue to seek out your company even they do not enjoy your favours. I sometimes think you do not value yourself as you ought.
Dear Lord G- R-, I say, did it ever come to disclosure about yourself you are a wealthy lord with many connections. I am not. As society is at present constituted it is harsher towards women in general and in particular for women of my profession. I must tread very carefull not to fall into the gutter which is suppos'd the common end I must expect and any undue presumption would I fear be fatal.
He looks over at me and says that he has heard that I have been reading female philosophy. And very delightful it is too, I say, but I had developed my own philosophy long ago, which is perhaps less about maximising felicity than avoiding infelicity.
He laughs, as we drive into the courtyard of Mr H-'s place. The servants all come out to gawp at the fine curricle and Lord G- R-'s elegant dress. I descend - to descend elegantly from a curricle without displaying anything further than a tantalizing glimpse of ankle is sure an art, but one I have long since mastered - let His Lordship kiss my hand in farewell, then he flourishes his whip and drives off once more.
I greet the housekeeper who tells me that the bedchamber is ready and aired and the small parlour has been opened for me. I convey suitable compliments to her and the other servants and go into the house.
The small parlour is a charming chamber with a view on to the sea. The housekeeper brings me tea, offers to send the boy out to catch fresh fish for my dinner, and says that there may a little noise during the night but I need not mind it.
The entire household I believe is in the trade or at least closely allied with the Gentlemen. I smile and say that fresh fish would be delightful, and I have no doubt that I will sleep too soundly to note any disturbance.