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List of fic
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Just to gather up in one place the various scattered bits and pieces I have done:


this is the collection...Collapse )


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Year's end approaches
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The fish were released into the rivers and lakes last week, and branches of peach-blossom have been going by on the backs of motor-bikes - even biggish whole trees, though those are more often for renting than buying.  And of course the little cumquat trees are all about, with golden fruit; the best trees, the luckiest, have fruit, and fresh green leaves and blossom, all three, to indicate three generations of family all prospering and well.
And Thursday night will be the night of most intense anticipation, and midnight will see the year roll over, and fireworks, and people walking through the streets (not a parade, just going home or wherever) carrying long stalks of black sugar cane, and the Year of the Earth Dog, Mậu Tuất, will begin.  May it be a good year for all of us.

Books read in 2017
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E. F. Benson The Luck of the VailsWhy read this? Is it recommended?Collapse ) 

Dorothy L. Sayers Unpopular opinions Why read this? Is it recommended?Collapse ) 

Lois McMasters Bujold Komarr and A Civil Campaign  Why read this? Is it recommended?Collapse )

Hannah Craik Olive Why read this? Is it recommended?Collapse )


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Reading and listening, mostly
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This year has flashed past, and I've read hardly anything in the way of serious whole-book reading, and now I'm turning to in an attempt to better that poor record.  The book in hand (ie on screen) is The Prime Minister spurred thereto by blueinkedpalm's comments on some preceding Trollope novels, most recently The Eustace Diamonds and Phineas Redux.  I've enjoyed her thoughts so much!  And the interesting scraps of side-knowledge she finds, as for example that Trollope's publishers jibbed at the title of Phineas Redux, thinking that the novel-buying public wouldn't understand it - which shot to ribbons my notion of how much Latin middle-class Victorians would know.  (I thought lots, but evidently not.)
One of my plans for this year was to read all the Palliser novels right through in order - a plan which blew away like leaves before the wind, but which now I can at least part-meet, with this one book.)  Trollope - he barely makes it into the Big Victorian Novelists list (Dickens! Thackeray! Eliot! and oh, okay, maybe Trollope if you insist).  Maybe because he's too comfortable a read?  Or maybe I just haven't read the tougher Trollopes - though the end of Sir Roger Scatcherd is pretty grim. And Sir Louis, too.  :(

My reading has of late just been posts here and on DW - and thank you all very much - and in newspapers, which I check every morning to see if things have blown up yet.  (That's probably a joke.  Or might as well pass for one, anyway.)  But excitingly, I found the other day this item of news, announcing that an examination of cicada wings has revealed that the wings' physical structure is an effective destroyer of bacteria, that the "wings represents the first example of a new class of biomaterials that can kill bacteria on contact based solely on its physical surface structure" - i.e. possibly all sorts of things, but in amongst others, a counter to antibiotic-resistant golden staph, which I think would be brilliant.
(I was never the alert, scientific Australian child they mention, who took different species of cicadas to school, though; I was the regrettable kind who found the wings and pretended they were fairies wings.)

So that's reading.  I've been listening to things as well, though.  Lots of Lord of the Rings, which has alerted me to:
Meandering about LOTRCollapse )
And I've also been listening  to Paradise Lost.  I was hoping that a long Miltonic poem would be just the thing to lull me to sleep, but the Youtube version I found has dramatic growly demonic voices, punctuated as appropriate by bursts of high wordless heavenly song, not at all the mildly interesting drone that was needed for my purpose.  Even so, I did manage to fall asleep, or asleep enough to think I was hearing bits of "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan..."; I thought I heard "sinuous rills" and "fertile ground" and more, but it was just a semi-dream.  "Fertile ground" is there, actually, but nothing else - though there is mention of: "the destined walls/ Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can", which I was pleased to find.

Scholarly woman ends happy!
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It's Vietnam Women's Day today (International Women's Day is also celebrated, but in March, as everywhere else.)  So to mark the day, here’s something about one of the many notable women in Vietnam's history.



Nguyễn Thị Duệ was born in the late sixteenth century, under the Mạc dynasty.  I don't know her parentage, but her name suggests that she was from an undistinguished family - Thị Duệ  (pronounced, roughly, tea zway) means more or less "ordinary worker's daughter".  (It's possible, though, that this was a name given to deflect unwelcome attention - a name to go unnoticed by?) 

At the age of about twenty, she adopted another name, Nguyễn Thị Du, in order to sit the mandarin entrance examination, disguised as a young man. The name Thị still has something of a female ring to it, but the history definitely says she was disguised when so called, and women did not at that time enter the exams or serve as mandarins.  Anyway, back to the story:



Statue of Nguyen Thi Due in temple
Statue of Nguyễn Thị Duệ in her temple in Chí Linh District of Hải Dương province.— VNS Photo Bạch Liên




Of her poetry, I have struggled with the translation of just two lines.  I like it very much, but I can't say it neatly enough in English.  Here, in fourteen words, she gives a picture of a young girl (nữ nhi) straining to just barely touch the strings (lề) used to bind together the books of her time, and predicts with certainty that the girl who can do so much will advance, first to the humble copy-card used to learn characters (thiếp), and then to take her doctorate (trạng nguyên).



Nữ nhi dù đặng có lề
Ắt là tay thiếp kém gì trạng nguyên

She who uses all means possible to just touch the book's binding
Advances to spell out the words, and to win her doctorate.

(Not literal, but I promise you a heck of a lot closer than G****** translate.)


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Wet weekend and the Water Temple
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We have been having very heavy rains of later, in short bursts - so heavy that it seems amazing that so much could have been up there to start with.  Of course, this means floods and landslides and much loss and sadness in the mountain areas, but here in the city there's very little flooding, and blessedly no buildings collapsing that I've heard of (not that I'd expect them to, but the city is built on river delta land, not on solid rock, so it's possible, especially where people might have built their home themselves, piecemeal). 
The wetness has been a pleasure to the three quiet toads who live in our garden, at least.  They are Big, Middle and Little, and like to lurk under damp things - leaves or the edges of the old lily-bowl.  (Garden is a bit of exaggeration - there's a small paved yard, and in the corner a quadrant of earth, about a metre/four foot in radius.  Not big, but big enough for three toads.)

There was a break in the weather on Sunday, and we took advantage of it to take a walk through the back lanes, and as it happened, found ourselves passing the Water Temple complex - it's not a big complex, but one with a long history, and with two temples, and multiple side-altars and shrines.  It was marking a great day of some sort - the day wasn't in itself especially auspicious in the general calendar, so I think possibly the festival ceremonies were for particular community or family occasions, such as an upcoming marriage - there was a young couple front-and-centre in the side temple - but then again it's just over a week since the birthday/translation day of Princess Steadfast Jade, who is linked (if I've got my history and translations right) to this temple, and possibly it was just her celebration happening late.  (It may have been two different events just happening in both temples at the same time, too.)

Anyway, everything was very splendid, with big paper horses and paper elephants and slightly smaller paper boats with dragon prows, and multitudes of paper guards and attendants, some with swords and some with cymbals, and of course real people as well...  :)   Most of the horses were lined up in front of the central temple, but the side temple had one horse and one elephant and one boat; the paper attendants were too many to count (ie while behaving properly, as opposed to standing up and craning!) in both places.  In the central temple there were preparatory prayers going on when we first arrived, and then later the shaman/priest began to embody different personas, with different costumes and characteristics - the Forest Princess who dances, the General who declares, with swordplay, his determination to see justice, and so on.  Meanwhile, in the side-temple, a scholar/priest was reading and chanting and striking a wooden bell, while people sat quietly and listened. 

And here are some photos!  :)


The elephant stands proudly with eight horses in front of the central temple.  Every horse has a groom, but the sage elephant stands alone. :)





Mandarins and Generals and advisors as attendants in the side temple.  (The thing that looks like an airconditioning duct is a snake - snakes wind around through the rafters.)




Musicians and ladies-in-waiting and a Queen (?) stand in attendance on the left-hand side of the side-temple; the side-altar is like a cave because the Mother-Goddess devotion is very nature-linked, very much seen in terms of mountains and forests.





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Once more...
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Once again it's been a while since I posted, but my life really does seem to be coming back to an even keel, so I hope I'll be more present henceforth.

It's Mid-Autumn Festival today!  with masks and lanterns and lion-dances and autumn rains.  Luckily the rain didn't come in time to wash out the nightbourhood children's party last Sunday night.  It was very pleasant, with many cellophane-and-tinsel stars, and little children singing bravely and endearingly and off-key one or two at a time.

We bought a wonderful lantern - also featuring cellophane, but with an inner circle of stiff clear plastic-or-similar, with black outline figures drawn on, and bamboo vanes above, such that warm air rising from a candle would turn the vanes to make a moving show of the figures.  That's the theory; in practice, the struggle to make it work will resume tonight.
I'd like to see it, too - it's figures from a well-know folk-motif here called the Mouse's Wedding.  I know there's quite a few folk-stories/songs which go by this name - in this one, a large part of the point is how to have a celebration in the mouse community without arousing hostilities from the cat - tricky, but the mice triumph!  :)

Endless summer
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We get two Junes this year!  Or something like it, anyway.  Mildly complex arithmetic-astronomy under the cutCollapse )
So that's how come there are two Junes this year, and why I'm justified in calling this entry Endless Summer.

For your refreshment after all that, two pictures from the endless summer - glorious bang lang trees in flower, and appropriately (since the flowering of the bang lang signals exam time for tertiary students) flowering above open-air bookstalls.





Bang lang flower


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A kangaroo, a concert...
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My life continues a bit fractured, so there'll be no thoughtful exploration of a single theme in this post, but once again, a jumble of bits and pieces.  First, just for your pleasure, is a link to a photo of a beautiful white kangaroo

Second, a concert report!  Last weekend I heard for the first time Stokowski's transcription for orchestra of Bach's Fugue in G Minor - which absolutely entranced me for the first ... oh, about two-thirds, I guess.  And then it got a bit muddied, overloaded, too much jam on a piece of toast - which was more down to the orchestra than to Bach or Stokowski, I think, having come home and listened to other versions.  Still - great to hear, and I really was entranced for most of it, and in any case that was only the curtain-raiser to the main piece of the night, which was...
Daimo Eriko on marimba, playing a wonderfully complex piece, Lauda Concertata, by Akira Ifukube.   Here's a three-minute scrap of it, but it doesn't do justice to the excitement and dynamism of the full thing (which is about thirty minutes long).  Daimo Eriko was amazing, all whirling energy and intensity and total engagement, with the piece and with the orchestra, and they with her.  Overall, she and they and the whole experience - brilliant, and very exciting.
(There was some Brahms or other after the intermission, but ... Brahms just didn't cut it after that excitement.)

Third, and less pleasingly, in the category of Things I Didn't Know: 
I've only just learned that "Tonto", which is the name I know for the Lone Ranger's offsider, means "Stupid" in Italian and Spanish, which is really depressing..  :( 
Spanish is the more relevant, I guess, but it was Italian I saw it in, and only then cross-checked to Spanish.  
(Speaking of names, by the way - Reality Winner??)

Last:  Best wishes, UK voters! 

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Hasty post, showing I'm still here
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I'm struggling a bit to get back on top of things, so this is not a very long or learned or real post... but then, what is a Real Post?  Oh well - very quickly then,in the department of things I've only just found out:

With reference to the song 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' (video, about two and a half minutes) - there really was a Pablo Fanque, running a circus in Britain over several decades in the nineteenth century. 
His birth name was William Darby, he was black, and very successful - which is all pretty interesting - but even more interesting is the story of how his circus employed an Irish contortionist (I think - the source says "posture master")  disguised as a Chinese man, (to be excitingly foreign and mysterious? - which I suppose is the reason for Darby's own name change) which provoked two other genuine Chinese men to investigate, fearing - after the circus refused to let them speak with the disguised man - that a countryman of theirs was being held in forced labour conditions - and they brought, successfully, a suit of habeas corpus against the circus. 
I find this wonderful and fascinating - the awareness of possible forced labour (and implicit possible human trafficking) at the time, and the brilliance of the habeas corpus law being used to fight against it. 

I love the gumption of the two Chinese men going in to bat for a possibly kidnapped and enslaved countryman.  I really want to hear of other such cases, where a real trafficked person was freed this way.



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