Monday, October 26, 2020

Free Gold


There's a Lloyd's bank commercial on TV here that features a galloping black horse (the Lloyd's trademark) accompanied by the Carpenters song "We've Only Just Begun." Which I happen to love, sentimental as it is. It made me wonder how old Karen Carpenter would be if she were alive, so I looked it up -- and the shocking answer is 70! It's shocking only because none of us can picture her at that age. We all still see her as a winsome 25-year-old, don't we?

Would she be annoyed that her first name has become synonymous with middle-aged white privilege?

Marilyn Monroe would be 94, assuming she was still with us -- probably a big assumption.

Anyway, yesterday was very low-key. I spent most of it reading, finishing my latest Newbery book ("...And Now, Miguel," which was meh) and working my way up to page 527 of the latest Robert Galbraith. I gotta say, it's a compelling story, and not at all painful or boring to read, but I do feel like there's an awful lot of extraneous detail. I suppose my editor's mind is constantly seeking to pare back.

I took the dog to the cemetery, but otherwise I didn't leave home. I caught up on some photo archiving and some other housekeeping stuff I've been meaning to do.


I mentioned yesterday that I brought the avocado tree back indoors -- here's what it looks like, back in its corner. It rained off and on yesterday and I almost felt sorry for the tree, locked up in a dry room. But come winter it will be happy to be inside. (You can see that massive Galbraith tome sitting on the little table next to the couch.)

Speaking of social media and targeted advertising (as we were in my last few posts), yesterday I got a spam e-mail that cracked me up, featuring this:


Yes, that is a "gold" coin featuring a portrait of Donald Trump. (But looking more like Alec Baldwin playing Donald Trump.) And look -- it's FREE! All I had to do was click a link! What an amazing deal!

Honestly, do people really fall for these things?

I thought it was pretty funny since clearly whoever sent it to me has NO IDEA who I am or what I'm likely to want. Spam e-mail is the opposite of targeted advertising, I suppose.

(Top photo: A streetlight shining through an autumn tree, early one morning.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Avocados, Ducks and Questions of Grammar


A pretty busy day yesterday -- a morning walk for Olga, then laundry and vacuuming and plant-watering for me. I brought our avocado tree back inside for the winter. We'd been debating whether to leave it outside to fend for itself (and likely die) or give it another year by bringing it in, and in the end, I just couldn't surrender it to the elements.

It is rather large and unwieldy but I think with some pruning it will be more manageable. Besides, it's our Christmas tree! I did trim off a couple of bits before bringing it in -- some leaves that were badly affected by scale and also the sprouts on the top, which would otherwise be scraping the ceiling.

I'd considered taking it to school -- we could install it in the library, where there are high ceilings, big windows and plenty of space. The head librarian gave her approval, but Dave balked at helping me transport it, which would basically mean trundling it on a wagon or dolly to St. John's Wood. (There's no way we could get it in a cab or hired car.) It would definitely take some time and we'd be quite the spectacle.

Those are not avocado leaves above, by the way -- just interesting ones I found on my walk with Olga.


In late morning, Olga and I went to the Heath, where we found a group of very colorful ducks swimming on the pond. I think they're mandarins? Olga was interested and waded in for a closer look, which of course sent the ducks madly paddling elsewhere. Meanwhile, I was trying to photograph them, which was nearly impossible with the dog.

We came home to find a package waiting for me -- a birthday present from my in-laws. (It didn't go to New Zealand like Dave's!) They sent me a pair of denim shorts just like the ones they sent Dave, which we thought was pretty funny -- now we can be matchy-matchy. But seriously, I'll wear 'em.


This dahlia in our garden is usually bright red, but for some reason, its most recent flowers have been bright yellow. Something about the change of seasons? Less light, lower temperature? I have no idea.

Last night we watched "The Social Dilemma" again, because Dave fell asleep midway the night before, and I really wanted him to see it. (He's far more addicted to his Facebook news feed than I am.) He made it all the way through this time, and ended the evening by turning off all his notifications, so that's progress.

Here's an interesting grammatical note, if there is such a thing. You may remember that in yesterday's post, I treated the phrase "social media" as plural: "Social media are evil." I did that because "media," obviously, is plural -- the singular being "medium." But honestly, it sounded weird to me.

Google says the singular usage is also correct: "Social media is evil." And on watching the movie again, I noticed that everyone verbally refers to it in the singular, saying "social media does this" or "social media is that." People have the same tendency with the news media; they'll say "the media reports the news," rather than "the media report the news." This usage is also hotly debated, with some people saying that in the case of news media or mass media, singular usage is acceptable. I guess this is another example of our ever-evolving language.



Finally, during our exploration of the autumnal Heath, I made another short video featuring Olga. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

On Social Media


Dave and I watched Netflix's fascinating documentary "The Social Dilemma" last night -- about the ways that social media not only monitor our online lives but also influence our lives offline, transforming politics, relationships and more. It discusses the ways social media make money by gathering data about us and feeding us advertising tailored to our interests. It also explores the idea that by helping individuals "gather" in virtual communities of like-minded people, those media increase polarization and extremism.

(I'm using social media in the plural sense, referring to many different platforms, rather than in the monolithic singular. Evil Google says it's correct either way.)

I'd call myself a casual user of social media -- very casual. I usually check Facebook once a day, and I'm on there maybe half an hour, if that much. I don't have accounts on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Reddit, though I occasionally look at those sites when I want something specific. I use YouTube, but again, only when I want to find a specific video, or when I upload my own videos for blogging purposes -- I don't usually pay much attention to YouTube's recommendations for me.

When it comes to photography, I have a dormant Instagram account, but I mainly use Flickr -- and although Flickr allows commenting and other social media functions, I don't really use it that way anymore. I'm on Blogger more than anything else, and although I'm sure Blogger gathers data about me on Google's behalf, it's not showing me ads.

I've never been too troubled by the commercial angle of social media. I don't care that they harvest data about my interests or send me targeted advertising -- that seems harmless enough, and I rarely click on any of it anyway. (I have occasionally bought t-shirts recommended in Facebook ads because, let's face it, they were perfect for me!) It's reasonable to expect Facebook and Google to want to make money, and it's not much different from being subjected to advertising on television or even in print, as all of us have been for decades -- except that the ads more closely hew to our desires. Which, it could even be argued, is a good thing.

But the second issue, polarization, is a huge problem. The argument, basically, is that social media group people into like-minded virtual communities and feed them false or ever-more extreme content (which gets a lot more clicks than moderate content or real news) through recommendations. Thus, they gradually turn people with a conservative bent into ravening right-wingers, and turn liberals into ever-more-shocked-and-offended snowflakes. We see the evidence in our daily lives, our current politics, and even in people's reactions to the coronavirus pandemic -- all those who believe it's caused by 5G technology or that it's a hoax or that mask requirements are a totalitarian infringement on personal liberties.

I think the biggest problem arises when people rely on social media recommendations for their news. I don't mean to suggest that I'm playing this game perfectly, but I do not get news from social media -- I read The New York Times and The Guardian and other reliable media sources, and I occasionally look at Fox News and even Breitbart to see what the "other side" is saying. (Admittedly, I seldom believe them, though!) In other words, I go to the source, and I know my sources and where they stand, which helps me comprehend that news.

I also don't de-friend people who think differently from me. I don't mean to condemn those who do -- I totally understand the impulse. I try to remember that behind those political views, however repugnant I may find them, there's a person who at some level means something to me -- even if it's an old acquaintance from high school who I haven't seen in person in forty years. (!)

The movie made some recommendations for managing our lives on social media. Limiting screen time is an obvious option, as well as turning off notifications -- those little messages that ping our phones with supposedly urgent news or updates. (I've always kept all notifications turned off. In fact, I mostly use my phone as a phone -- or a camera -- and seldom use it for web browsing. I just can't deal with that tiny screen.)

Removing oneself from social media is an option too, but honestly, my Facebook account is too valuable to me -- I like being in touch with all my friends. I think deletion makes sense for social platforms we feel we can do without. For example, last night I deleted my TikTok account, which I created several months ago out of curiosity (after reading about TikTok in The New Yorker) and almost never used. I won't miss silly videos of teenagers lip-synching songs I don't know.

Anyway, it's a very interesting movie, and definitely food for thought!

(Photo: Autumn color in West Hampstead.)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Confusion, with Nice Leaves


As I write, Dave is sitting in the next room with the presidential debate on. He got out of bed this morning and promptly went for his computer, saying, "I hope Joe Biden didn't screw up." (He actually used a more colorful phrase.) I told him Joe would have to screw up pretty dramatically to make a difference at this point. I have no intention of watching it myself. I'll read about the highlights, which is enough for me.

We have enough drama here in the UK with our Covid restrictions. In case you haven't been keeping up on it, our cases have spiked and the government has introduced a truly bewildering three-tiered lockdown scheme. I can't begin to explain what the tiers mean in practical terms, especially because the rules keep changing. Households can't mix, but pubs can stay open if they serve food. Gyms couldn't open, then they could.

So far, southern England is not too badly affected -- relatively speaking, anyway -- but northern England is under some pretty tight rules. (As Mr. Pudding has mentioned.) Unfortunately, because of the confusion surrounding the regulations, and a natural, understandable tendency for northern England to resist and resent London's rulemaking, adherence to and enforcement of these restrictions is variable. I think schools are staying open no matter what.

None of this changes our lives much. We never go out these days. I haven't been to a restaurant or a pub in months. Aside from work, we don't do much of anything except buy groceries, walk the dog and watch television at home.

We've had several more Covid cases at school, so we have several groups of kids -- contacts of those who have tested positive -- who are all staying home in isolation. So far, this hasn't affected me. One good thing about my job is that I'm never in touch with any one individual (aside from three fellow librarians) for very long -- just a few minutes here and there -- and I'm behind a mask and (if I'm at my desk) a clear plastic shield. So I'm not included in these groups of potentially exposed people.

I came home from work yesterday and did some trimming in the garden, clearing away dead thistles and the inulas, dumping a few old annuals and neatening things up. Those are our hostas in the top photo. I love the way the leaves turn, and it doesn't take long -- I took that shot just a few days ago and now those leaves are entirely yellow. I didn't trim them -- they provide some nice color.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Crabapples and a Rainy Walk


I found a little grove of these trees when I was at Gladstone Park with Olga. I think they're crabapples, but I'm no expert!

Today and tomorrow will be quiet days at work. It's parent-teacher conference time, so while Mom and Dad learn via Zoom about little Susie and Jimmy's performance at school, I'll be in the quiet library organizing the shelves. (Actually, they're more likely to be Olivia and Zach, or Ethan and Emma, or Maya and Alex.)

I'm doing more weeding in the nonfiction section, and probably shifting books, which is not my favorite job but alas, it must be done. Certain parts of the collection (science) age more quickly than others, and some (LGBTQ, women's studies, race studies) have grown quite a bit, so we need to make some room. That doesn't just mean moving books but also remaking shelf signage.

I love days like this, when I can work on my own in the stacks in silence! Dave doesn't even have to go in -- he's Zooming with parents from home.

Yesterday was very rainy -- I had a rainy walk to work and a rainy walk home. Here's a snippet of what it was like yesterday afternoon:


Pretty leaves, but lousy weather!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mystery Meds


When I walk to work now, it's still dark (or dark-ish) outside. Our clocks will change this weekend and that should give us more daylight in the mornings, but in the meantime, I pass scenes like the one above -- autumn colors in the blue-gray light of dawn.

I ordered some new masks the other day. I got sick of the ones I had, which were all patterned, and it may be my imagination but I think many people seem to be trending toward more neutral masks. (Or "face coverings," as they are euphemistically called.) I suppose that way we don't have to think about matching our masks to our clothing, a la Nancy Pelosi. Not that she doesn't do it exceptionally well.

The ones I got are black, and supposedly they're more breathable because they use nanotechnology blah blah blah. They don't really seem more breathable but I do think I like the black fabric better. It still seems so odd to me that we all now have to think about this additional wardrobe element as a matter of routine.


The other day I was in the medicine cabinet looking for a Band-Aid and I found a Ziploc sandwich baggie containing these two pills (on the left -- with an aspirin just to show how big they are). Does this ever happen to you, where you find random medicine with no idea what it is or where it came from? I've never bought any pills like that, I'm sure. Given their size I figured they were chewable, and after some Googling I determined that they're Alka-Seltzer antacids -- someone must have given them to me at some point. God only knows how old they are. But I saved them -- they're probably still good.

It's raining again this morning. No walk for the dog!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Leaves


It's raining steadily outside and I'm sitting in the darkened living room with Olga beside me. I'm in the mood for a simple post -- so how about some autumn leaves?

I found these in the cemetery, along with the first two below.



I found these two on my walk home from work yesterday:




They look like they might all be from the same species of tree, a maple or a sycamore -- obviously one of the more colorful trees out there at the moment!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Lampion


We spent yesterday mostly at home. I was a cleaning machine, again, vacuuming and doing laundry. I also made great progress in "Troubled Blood," my current book, and finished "Out of the Dust," my latest Newbery read. The latter, by Karen Hesse, was excellent -- one of the best Newbery books I've read so far -- about a girl living through the Dust Bowl in panhandle Oklahoma. I'll definitely recommend it to kids.

This tree on our street (above) is already losing its leaves, but for a brief time every fall it's a beautiful color. It's some kind of ornamental fruit tree, and it's always one of the first to change.

Olga didn't seem to want to walk in the morning -- still tuckered out from Saturday, I guess -- but after a long snooze she was ready for two loops around the cemetery in the afternoon. 


I picked this up at a florist's shop on Mill Lane. Because our Chinese lantern only ever seems able to produce one lantern per year, I figured having a second plant couldn't hurt. Maybe if they cross-pollinate we'll get more lanterns? I have no idea.

By the way, if you look at the pot, you'll see that it says "Chinese lampion." I first thought this was a laughable corruption of English by a foreign producer, but it turns out that lampion really is a word. It used to mean a lamp with a glass chimney in a carriage, but nowadays seems to mean a paper lantern. Who knew?


Olga and I found this sign in a window overlooking Fortune Green. Dave and I seriously considered trying to get a sign for our window, but there didn't seem to be much point, given that most of our neighbors aren't American voters. But I must admit seeing this gave me a boost.

I am feeling so much anxiety about this election. I keep telling myself, "No matter what happens, it's not the end of the world" -- but unlike in past years, I actually think it might be.


And here's Dave's pumpkin pie, which he finally had a chance to make. It's fantastic. We ate half of it last night!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Fox on Tracks


Olga and I took two lengthy walks yesterday -- first around the neighborhood and the cemetery in the morning, and then to Gladstone Park in the afternoon.

At the cemetery we found lots of colorful leaves catching in tree branches (above) and carpeting the ground. It was chilly enough that I had to wear a sweatshirt and a jacket.


But when we got to Gladstone Park later, I was surprised to find lots of summer flowers still blooming -- cosmos, marigolds, rudbeckias, borage. They're looking a little raggedy, for sure, but still with plenty of blossoms. We're perched right at that in-between time, when it's cold enough for leaves to turn but warm enough for flowers to linger.


Olga and I don't often visit Gladstone Park, because it's kind of a hike from where we live -- the last time we were there, I think, was back in August 2018. (Can that be right?!)

There were loads of squawking green parakeets in the trees, and also loads of squirrels scampering on the ground. Olga spent all her time obsessively stalking them (above).


Here's a close-up. Can you see the two squirrels by the base of the tree? Naturally she didn't catch any but she ran herself ragged.

We got several compliments from passers-by. One man said, "Beautiful dog, mate!" And then talked about how she looked just like his dog at home.

Another woman, watching Olga run after her ball, said, "How old is HE?"

I said, "SHE is about ten."

The woman said, "Really? I never would have guessed HE was that old!"

I said, "Yes, SHE is very vigorous."

She said, "HE is very handsome."

It was like I was being corrected and told that my dog is a boy, despite whatever I might believe. Olga is kind of butch-looking, but c'mon lady, don't you think I know my own dog's gender?!


As we were leaving the park, which is bisected by a railroad line, we crossed over the footbridge and I looked down onto the tracks. I was surprised to see a fox down there, plain as day, ambling around and sniffing. Probably not the safest place to amble, but foxes have quick reaction time, so I'm not too worried.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Louse and Sunflower


These days, when I walk the dog in the morning before work, it's still dark outside. We often pass this flat where there's a motion-activated light by the front door, which creates interesting shadows through the bars across the front porch. (This specific apartment is like Fort Knox, for some reason.)

And with that, here are some more miscellaneous pictures from my trusty iPhone.
 

I found this artwork propped against the rails in a stairwell at school. I guess someone didn't want their drawing of a giant...louse?


Domestic life on a weekend. Dave probably wouldn't be thrilled that I'm showing you a picture of him with his uncombed hair, in his pajama bottoms...but hey, this is our reality!


The trees on the next street over from our flat have gone yellow and autumnal. Once again, Olga poses patiently as I pray that no cats or squirrels wander past.


This poor sunflower got somewhat beaten down by Storm Alex a few weeks ago, but it was still pretty enough to be photo-worthy.


Olga is freaked out by the crazy face drawn onto this recycling bin. "We are cool kidz," it says. Guess someone put their kids in charge of bin-decorating.


In a recycling bin in St. John's Wood. Unfortunately the book had been rained on -- but fortunately I already have a copy. I figure if we get locked down again it might be a good reading project, as it's about 10,000 pages of tiny, tiny type.


A sign of the times.

And finally, so as not to end on a sour Covid note, how about...


...a weirdly hypnotizing GIF of elephants that I stole off the web?

Friday, October 16, 2020

It Had to Happen


After yesterday's post, you probably knew this was coming! Yes, this is the interior of the Victorian-era West End Lane Public Conveniences -- specifically, the men's room. I walked over there after work and found it open and accessible.

The historical listing mentions the red-and-black tile floor, as well as...


...the ornate ventilation grills...


...and the interior arched doorways. There also appears to be some kind of skylight, but it's been painted or covered over.

There's a bank of four or five full-length urinals which aren't in great shape. They were, however, made by...


...which seems pretty swanky.

There are three toilet cubicles with complete walls and green wooden doors, like three closets side by side. (Which I suppose is where the term "water closet" comes from.) Only one of them was open, and the toilet didn't look like an original fixture (although I am hardly an expert) so I'll spare you a photograph. Aren't you lucky?


Here's the women's room entrance, with its equally ornate metal railings.

So yes, here I am, touring Victorian restrooms so you don't have to. Never say I don't go to great lengths to provide a fascinating blog post!

Incidentally, some of you commented yesterday about my use of the term "restroom." I must admit, if I opt for a euphemistic phrase for a place to relieve oneself, that's the word I go for. Maybe it's an American thing. I realize there's no resting involved, although as Ellen pointed out, some facilities (particularly fancy women's rooms) do have adjacent lounges with a couch or other furniture.

I also use the term "bathroom," although I suppose that's more accurate when it's also a room for bathing. Like some British people I casually say "loo," which I think is a great word. There's also "toilet," but to me a toilet is more the fixture itself than the room in which it resides. And there's always the very European "water closet" or "WC" (which I invariably pronounce "vay say," in the French style, a lasting after-effect of my time in Morocco). So much terminology!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Day of Unexpected Surprises


These are rather politely known as the "West End Lane Public Conveniences" -- in other words, restrooms -- and believe it or not, they're a historic landmark.  They're about a five-minute walk from our flat on the high street in West Hampstead. They date from the Victorian era and according to the historic listing, they "are attractive, with colourful tiled interiors and handsome railings at street level." They are also "notably intact, having surviving basins, doors, ventilation grills and signage and there has been no vandalism or neglect."

I have never been inside these restrooms -- in fact, I'm not sure they're consistently open to the public, given that there's a modern public toilet cubicle right behind them (you can kind of see it behind the tree). But the description sounds intriguing: "The interior walls are lined with cream glazed bricks with a red glazed brick course at dado height and the floors have black and red tiles laid in a chequerwork pattern. The ladies' WC has three cubicles, each with an original wooden door and an ornate metal ventilation grille above. Two original toilet bowls survive and one original lock. An arched opening opposite leads to the washbasins, also original. The space is ventilated through openings high in the walls with ornate metal grills. The gentlemen's lavatory was not inspected but is known to have the same tiled interior, cubicles and wash room section as the ladies', in addition to a row of urinals."

One of these days I'll try to see inside. I only discovered they were historic when I was photographing local monuments for Wikipedia, and they came up on the list. Who knew?!

Yesterday was super-busy, with all the kids wanting to swap out the books they'd read over October break. We had a ton of checkouts and a ton of returns, and in between I had to help repair the laminator, which one of the teachers jammed. We removed about a dozen screws before we could get the thing apart and finally retrieve a sheet of melted plastic, which had become accordioned inside the casing. It was a freakin' mess but it seems to be working again. As I told my boss, "Bet you didn't expect to spend half an hour on that today!"

When Dave and I got home we found that Olga had had an accident in the house, which never happens. It has literally been years. She evidently wasn't feeling well -- maybe drank too much pond water on the Heath! She seems fine now, but I spent another hour or so meticulously cleaning the carpet in the dining room. (We have acres of wooden floors, but she had to have her accident in the one carpeted room in the house.) I'm a little concerned about her new dog-walking schedule, because Kim comes about an hour and a half later than Francisco used to, but I really think in this case she was merely unwell.

Oh, and I checked with the supervisor of elections in Florida, and not only was my ballot received but it has been counted. So for me, voting is officially done. Whew!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

More on 'My Fair Lady'

Our local graffiti commentator has once again attacked the mural of Sugar the dog on the railroad bridge near the West Hampstead Thameslink station. Not long after their previous vandalism was repaired, this thought bubble appeared. Someone thinks they're cleverer than they actually are.

After yesterday's post, in which I criticized the sexism of "My Fair Lady," I got to wondering whether I had completely missed the point of the movie. Obviously Henry Higgins is supposed to be a sexist buffoon, and his depiction is supposed to emphasize the ridiculousness of his sexist condescension. Apparently "Pygmalion," the George Bernard Shaw play upon which "My Fair Lady" is based, is actually very pro-women. For me, the problem with "My Fair Lady" was that Eliza, although resentful of Higgins' domination, returns to him in the end -- spurning both another young man who loves her and her own independence. It's assumed that she winds up with the much older Higgins romantically, something that apparently doesn't happen in "Pygmalion," although even in "My Fair Lady" they're never shown embracing or kissing so it's a bit ambiguous.

I did some reading, and it turns out there are several opinions. One says that "My Fair Lady" is a somewhat progressive movie with an admittedly problematic ending; another says it's misogynist even as it ham-handedly attempts to rebut misogyny; another speculates that Higgins -- a bachelor whose closest friend is another like-minded man, is gay. It's all pretty fascinating. A lot of people have given this a lot of thought!

I'm sticking with my sexist verdict.

Yesterday was pretty low-key. I cleaned the house thoroughly, wiping down the mantelpieces and the windowsills, cleaning the bathrooms and under the microwave, and vacuuming Dave's chair, which had accumulated an impressive quantity of snack food detritus in its crevices. Last week I took our blankets and bedding to the cleaners. So we're spic-and-span around here.

Olga went out with her dog-walker, Kim, and even though it was raining she came back suspiciously dry. I'm choosing to believe Kim (who is a man) dried her thoroughly before letting her back in the house, but Dave joked that she'd merely spent the time riding around in Kim's van.

Dave was planning to make a pie, so I pitched for pumpkin -- I thought he might even like to try it from scratch. He eagerly embraced the idea, but only if he could use pre-made pumpkin puree, and that's fine too. He wound up having to wait, though, because he forgot to buy sweetened condensed milk. So that will hopefully be coming later in the week.

Meanwhile, we're back to work today. Dave is ending his period of self-isolation and remote teaching (following a positive Covid-19 test from the sister of one of his students a few weeks ago) and returning to the classroom. Ah, routine!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Rose Hips and 'My Fair Lady'


We usually deadhead our roses all through the blooming season, but this year, as the flowers were winding down, we left some of them behind to let the hips form. This is one of them -- about as big as a ping pong ball and bright orange. Another bush has smaller red ones. Colorful!

I spent yesterday morning wandering around the garden doing some photography and taking care of a few little tasks like filling the bird feeder.


There's a very curious little robin who often appears when we're out there. It flits around and lingers nearby, waiting for us to dig or move a flowerpot, thus exposing lots of worms and insects.


In late morning, Olga and I went to the cemetery. We walked several loops and Olga, of course, chased squirrels. There were lots of them out and about -- getting ready for winter, maybe? After we'd gone around three times Olga still didn't want to leave.


Weirdly, after not seeing any sign of the naked dolls on our last few walks, a tiny fragment of one of them was resting on the gravestone they'd decorated. A disembodied face! Ghoulish! Where did she go, and how did she (or part of her, at least) get back? Where are her friends? It's a Halloween story in the making.

In the afternoon, I wanted to watch an old Technicolor movie -- something overly long with elaborate costumes and painfully outdated politics. I realized I'd never seen "My Fair Lady," with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, which definitely fits the bill. So we cranked it up, and managed to sit through all three hours.

Totally sexist, of course, and Hepburn's overblown cockney accent is terrible, and Harrison is old enough to be her father. But some of the songs are great, the costumes were quite lush and the production numbers could be temporarily amusing.

I developed a soft spot for the music of "My Fair Lady" because my mother had this record (at left), which came out in 1956. She never played it -- just as she never played any of her records, most of which were classical -- but while growing up, I found it in her stack. I learned the songs (just three, because this album only contained selections, not the full musical score) and sang along with Mattie Marshal to "I Could Have Danced All Night" and with Don Rodney to "On the Street Where You Live." At some point, Mom gave me the record. It eventually went to Goodwill with all the rest of my vinyl, but it lives in my memory. I found that picture of the album cover online.

So, anyway, the movie was mildly fun to watch, in its somewhat plodding way. When I was a freshman in high school the annual musical was "My Fair Lady," and though I wasn't involved in the production I'm sure I saw it on the stage. I don't remember it at all. Do schools still perform it, I wonder? Or is it too dated?

I also wonder if anyone's ever done a gender-swapped version, where an esteemed female professor tries to transform a young working-class man into polite society? That would turn the gender-based power dynamics on their head. What would that look like? Hmmm...

Monday, October 12, 2020

George Washington


I'm having a very lazy morning. I just woke up a few minutes ago and I'm still lying in bed with Dave and the dog, both of whom are snoring. That's about the speed of life around here at the moment.

I did get lots of reading done yesterday, finishing both of my books, a Newbery novel called "The View From Saturday" and a quirky, readable biography of George Washington called "You Never Forget Your First." The latter was written by a woman who wanted to readdress some of the issues she felt Washington's earlier (and primarily male) biographers had elided or distorted -- his relationships with women, mainly his mother, and his treatment of his slaves. She also laid out the fact that there was a lot of infighting and partisan disagreement among our Founding Fathers, some of whom didn't like each other very much. I suppose the next time we despair at modern politics, we should keep in mind that even without Facebook and Twitter, it was always thus.

Anyway, it was an interesting book and not one of those gargantuan doorstop presidential biographies that so often seem to emerge.

Speaking of gargantuan, though -- my next book is the newest Cormoran Strike mystery, "Troubled Blood," which weighs in at almost 1,000 pages. Gulp! I have never been bored reading J. K. Rowling (who wrote the book under her mystery nom de plume Robert Galbraith) so I have faith this one will be just as compelling. But honestly.


Olga and I took a long walk to the Heath in the late morning. She sniffed the stand of purple asters that blooms every year on the West Heath...


...and ran around crazily in the woods chasing squirrels...


...and even took a swim, although it wasn't that warm.

I cancelled Olga's dog walk today so we could go out again, given that I have the day off -- but she's not looking like she wants to go anywhere! I think it's going to rain later too. So that may or may not happen.