Archive for August, 2012

I love being ignorant. It means there’s something I don’t know which I can learn.

Five Leaves' new camcorder

Scary? I don’t think so!

This is a surprisingly recent realisation. Someone expressed astonishment that I’m not scared of electronic gadgets (in this case, Five Leaves’ new camcorder) and asked, “Do you actually enjoy working out how to use them?”

There were so many exclamation marks in her voice that the proofreader in me had a red pen out of my rucksack before she’d got to the question mark. My immediate response was, “No, I just get on with it, and I find it relatively easy, so there’s no problem.” Later, on the way home, I thought about it some more.

C++ Pocket Reference

THIS is scary… (all will become clear)

I’d spent a little while playing with the camcorder at home, getting to know its basic controls. I captured this clip of #1 hairy brat… as you can see, he was impressed with my movie-making prowess. (Why isn’t there a way to embed the video into my blog post? Another area of ignorance on my part… excellent!) [edited: see below 🙂]

I thought that was enough to prepare me for recording the speakers at a Five Leaves event. After all, I was just going to put the camcorder on a tripod, point it in the right direction and press ‘record’. Um. No. Not that easy at all. It did lots of automatic adjustment stuff depending on where the speakers were, which resulted in an annoying variation in brightness. I didn’t zoom to the right shot for some of the bits. And, horror of horrors, I couldn’t ask the speakers to start again from the beginning so I could get it right. LOTS to learn. Goody goody…

From Revolution To Repression launch event flyerJust in case you’re interested in the event I was filming, this is the flyer (click on the image to see an enlarged version).

You can see two of the videos by following these links:

Gennady Estraikh answering the question ‘Why did Stalin murder Yiddish writers?’

Ross the Boss reading part of a story by Peretz Markish

[edited: Or you could scroll down to the bottom of this post where you’ll find all three videos embedded! I found out how to do it and am happy! It’s actually quite easy – you don’t use the embedding HTML generated by youtube, you just paste the URL into the post as plain text, and WordPress magic does the rest.]

The book, From Revolution to Repression: Soviet Yiddish Writing 1917-1952, edited by Joseph Sherman, is full of fascinating fiction and poetry, and has a couple of essays about the history of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the decades after the Russian Revolution.

Ignorance = happiness

“So, Pip,” I hear you ask… “why is your life so much better now than it was when you were earning a fortune working in the computing industry?”*

My answer is: because I’m almost always working on something I don’t know very much about. And I love it. I’m always being challenged, but in a good way. I’m not expected to do everything brilliantly (even by myself these days, thanks to 12 months of CBT and a repeat prescription for antidepressants!), which removes a lot of the pressure, and means when I succeed it feels like a real triumph.


A teaser for the next blog… do you like this logo? what does it mean to you?

When I started working with computers I loved it. All those amazing things you could make them do, all the ins and outs of arcane programming languages and development frameworks. Designing software that would do exactly what the clients wanted it to do. It was an intellectual challenge, and it was fun. But after a while, I realised I was just doing essentially the same thing over and over again. I knew how to do it all. Yes, there were new languages and new frameworks, but the learning process was the same as the last time. And gods, it was BORING.

Variety isn’t quite enough. There has to be novelty too. And the best way to achieve that is through the deliberate pursuit of ignorance, then the resolution of that ignorance. My ex-husband says, “Stupidity is worse than ignorance. At least ignorance can be cured.” And for once, I agree with him.

* I have no idea why you would be asking that question either… but go with the flow…

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Meet Brother Capslock

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I went to London yesterday, just to keep an eye on the boss… this is what he got up to.

I was given charge of Five Leaves’ new camcorder, and this is my first ever youtube video… I obviously have a lot to learn, but I’m quite pleased that it’s watchable.

From Revolution to Repression event flyerFive Leaves was launching its newest book, From Revolution to Repression: Soviet Yiddish Writing 1917-1952 at an event commemorating the execution of 13 members of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee by Stalin’s regime. Five of those murdered were writers, who are represented in the book alongside other notable Soviet Yiddish writers.

The event was fascinating, even though I know next to nothing about Soviet Yiddish writers and the social, political and historical context of the time. I know a bit more now… and am greatly looking forward to reading the book.

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So, I’m in Dorset. This is Syd, my mum’s ram, with one of this year’s ram-lambs. You might think the grin on Syd’s face is pride in his offspring, but no…

Lamb-ram and daddy-ram

Father and son

… he’s widening his nostrils as far as possible so he can smell the hormones emanating from the ewes in the next field. There’s lots of frustration going on in the rams’ field at the moment. One of the ram-lambs seems to have decided to shag anything with four legs. I expect Mum’s land is full of traumatised rabbits and badgers at the moment.

Barrington CourtToday we went to Barrington Court. It’s a splendid Tudor house with beautiful gardens and grounds. Most of the window glass is warped, giving some great visual effects (which I spectacularly failed to capture).

Barrington Court - panelled roomMany of the rooms are oak-panelled. Much of the panelling is plain, but some is beautifully carved. The floors are all boarded with oak too, and several of the rooms have ornately carved stone fireplaces.

Dodecahedral sundialThis is the best sundial I’ve ever seen. It’s a dodecahedron, and every side (except the top and bottom) is a working timepiece. Of course, the sun wasn’t out while we were there, so I couldn’t test it.

Four-up privy in cattle shedsI was delighted to find this four-up privy stashed in the cattle sheds. The sheds themselves are quite posh, with a tiled roof, stone floors and individual stalls, each with its own gate.

As delightful as the house and gardens are, the best part of the visit for me was the coconut chocolate brownies in the cafe Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles. While I’ve seen photos of the 40,000 small terracotta sculptures in huge rooms, I think the effect is probably just as intense when the pieces are crammed into three smaller rooms of an Elizabethan manor house.

Field for the British Isles at Barrington Court

We had explored the house, moving through rooms which used to be bedrooms, libraries, bathrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens, laundry rooms… many of those rooms were bare, and as a result somehow more evocative of the centuries the house has lived through than if the National Trust had ‘interpreted’ them by cramming them full of artefacts. After going down a narrow wooden staircase we had to wait a little while, then we were allowed to look at the first of the three rooms. The incongruity of those Elizabethan rooms full of tiny terracotta figures was almost a physical shock.

Each figure is small enough to hold in one hand. Each is roughly person-shaped. And each has two eyes, poked into the clay with a pencil. Apart from that, they are all different. Most are around six inches high, some are taller, a few are smaller. I guess there were about 13,000 of them in the first room, placed tight close to each other so the floor isn’t visible, and all the eyes are pointing forwards.

All looking at me. Waiting. Expecting. I felt like I should know what they wanted, but I didn’t. I went right up close and knelt on the floor… somehow they seemed to multiply as I got down to their level, their silent voices became more insistent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of art that actively (passively?) demands so much from its audience. Need to think a bit more about it. Want to go and see it again (but not going to pay another tenner to do so).

Now I’m sitting in front of the tv, sipping mead and eating alcoholic fudge, with lamb curry and bread-and-butter pudding digesting nicely inside me, watching the news after seeing Usain Bolt get a gold medal for trotting along a track for less than 10 seconds…

It’s lovely being on holiday.

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