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Pale Mother Life

I was looking for name of WWII film that centres around a woman who develops facial paralysis. I was pretty sure it was a German film. It is about WWII and before and after the war, and the central character is a woman who marries a man whose best friend is a nazi official and late in the film she develops a facial paralysis.

The friend rises high in the party while the husband goes to war and returns a cold and violent man.

Meanwhile, the wife, who is the centre of the film, raises their young child and deals with every adversity calmly and with optimism.

That is until late in the film she develops a facial paralysis and wears a mask over one half of her face to cover her twisted face. This affliction destroys her equanimity and she can barely carry on. It is her breaking point.

I couldn’t think of the name of the film so I asked on Metafilter – the place to ask for the things one does not know – and within a day a couple of people gave the name: Germany, Pale Mother (German: Deutschland bleiche Mutter).

It was made in 1980 in West Germany and written and directed by Helma Sanders-Brahms, and nominated for a Golden Bear award at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival in 1980.

The film was restored and re-released in the UK in 2015 by the British Film Institute. And it must have been on the BFI website that I saw the film.

The title is taken from the poem “Germany’ by Bertolt Brecht that he wrote in 1933. It begins:

Let others speak of their disgrace. I am speaking of my own.
O Germany, pale mother How you sit defiled Among the peoples

Equanimity

I was thinking of the film because I sprained or strained a muscle and ligament that runs over my shoulder blade. And boy, was my equanimity disturbed.

People who live with chronic pain deserve applause just for keeping going when things are tough – like a war of attrition eating at them day after day.

Mind To Brain

Mind to brain:
I have a task for you.

Brain to mind:
What is it?

[Mind outlines task.]

Brain to mind
OK, let me sleep on it.

[Five minutes later]
Mind to brain:
Did you finish yet?

Brain to mind:
No

[Five minutes later]
Mind to brain:
Did you finish yet?

Brain to mind:
I told you, no. Stop hassling me. Let me do my job

Mind to brain:
I can’t stop thinking about it

Brain to mind:
What have I told you a thousand times? Let it go: I’m on it. But I can’t do my work with you asking all the time. Just stop it. It’s not hard.

Mind to brain:
You think so? So how come there are a million self-help books, and talks about meditation and courses on mindfulness? Huh? See, you can’t answer me.

[Ten seconds later]
Mind to brain:
Answer me. Why have you gone quiet?

Brain to mind:
I am trying to get some sleep.

[Five minutes later]
Mind to brain:
Did you finish yet?

Things that made me laugh, with a bitter taste in my mouth

More than a third of the population of England died during the outbreaks of the Black Death in England In the 1300s. Here is part of a contemporary report:

Then the bishop of Lincoln sent notice throughout his whole diocese giving general power to all priests, both regulars and seculars, to hear confessions and give absolution with full episcopal authority to all persons, except only in case of debt. In such a case, the debtor was to pay the debt, if he were able, while he lived, or others were to be appointed to do so from his goods after his death. In the same way the Pope gave plenary remission of all sins (once only) to all receiving absolution at the point of death, and granted that this power should last until Easter next following, and that every one might choose his own confessor at will.

Field Work Post-Brexit

A warning of the consequences of Brexit.

At Flying Twigs we are firmly in the ‘No Brexit’ camp – and not only because of the economic consequences although they look dire enough.

It’s because pulling up the drawbridge will cut us off culturally from Europe – and we need Europe. Europe needs us but we definitely need Europe.

Our ‘No Brexit’ anti-Brexit greeting cards are our humorous take on a serious subject.

We need to be part of Europe because we need to be able to immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds and conversations of Europe.

It’s not enough to be geographically near continental Europe. We need to be able to feel comfortable in Europe – everything from chatting about food, comparing how we dress, the things we and they think are important… These observations and interactions change us for the better when we have open minds.

What we don’t need are any barriers, and certainly no extra barriers – whether it is lines of people stacking up in the passport queues, or anything else – that signal that we are over the border and into ‘foreigner’ territory. We need to feel that Europe is ours and we are part of Europe.

So, we have nailed our colours to the mast with a series of ‘No Brexit’ greeting cards. They are a spoof, a satire that are intended to poke fun at Brexit.

There are 21 cards along two themes. One is a pastiche that imitates the style of wartime public information posters – the kind that exhorted the population to do its bit, conserve energy, keep transport free for essential workers, make do with less in difficult ‘post Brexit’ times. Of course, we hope those times never come to pass and that Brexit is avoided.

The other theme for these ‘No Brexit’ greeting cards is a pastiche of film, theatre, and gig posters – telling the dire consequences of Brexit, or the thrilling tales of suspense about how we conquered Brexit and stayed in the EU.

The Future, Is There One? Well of course there is a future, but the prospects for a rosy future outside the EU are getting clearer by the day – and they are getting less and less likely. From fruit rotting in the fields to no nurses and doctors in our hospitals – it makes one wonder why everyone isn’t crying the message from the rooftops of ‘Danger! Brexit Cliff Ahead’.

We hear that there are umpteen MPs who are sitting on the fence, waiting for a clear enough sign that they can stand up united and oppose this farce of a Brexit exit.

What will it take to make them rise up? Maybe these cards and a thousand other messages will nudge them past the tipping point.

In that hope, and because Brexit really is a farce that needs to be treated accordingly, these cards will wing their way hither and thither and change some minds and give someone a laugh.

He, She, Him, His, Her, Her

Is it her? No, that is wrong. It should be Is it she?  The meaning is clear if we reverse it and say Her it is, which is plainly wrong, whereas She it is, is plainly correct.

Or to put it another way, Is it her? begs the question of ‘Her’ what? Her dog, for example?

None of this is my natural language. I make the mistake all the time. Tamara is a much better speaker of English and she gets it right all the time.

So we were talking about this mix-up, and how people speak. Suddenly, in a blinding flash of insight, I noticed something about the English language.

We, wrongly, say Is it him?, whereas the correct language is, Is it he?

And that is when it struck me that we say her and her dog.

But we say him and his dog.

Females only get her.

Males get him and his.

Why is that?


Apropos Nothing

Leaves on the ground in Cambridge, yesterday, so beautiful in their place in the universe.

They grew on trees
They fell from trees
If the worms didn’t eat them
They’d be up to my knees

Travelers and Travellers

I was in Waterstones and I bought a book on impulse after scanning a few pages. Sitting at my computer, I wanted to recall the name of the book. But the book was downstairs.

I looked on the Waterstone’s website and put in ‘travel nazi Germany’.

Nothing.

I googled for it and it brought up a review of the book in the Washington Post.

Um… different cover to the one I had bought.

But I had the name now: Travelers in the Third Reich.

So I put the title into Waterstone’s website and there it was. With the book cover I had bought.

Same title. No, not quite. It’s got a double ‘l’ in travellers, for the English market.

Could the author have used another word that translated across varieties of English?

Probably not, because the book covers tourists, people there on business, people there specifically to see what was happening in pre-war Germany.

I prefer the cover on the version made for the English market. It puts you in the position of the traveller. And it’s reminiscent of travel posters of the 1930s.

Is there a message in the US version? Is that the Hindenberg airship that was supposed to do a number of round trips between Germany and the Americas?

The airship never completed the first of its journeys, because it famously burst into flames and was destroyed at its mooring in New Jersey in 1937.

The Hindenberg 1937

Am I Not A Woman And A Sister

Did you see the Google link of the day? It’s a very nicely painted photo of a woman in profile reading a book on a beach before the ocean. It is Mary Prince.

It is she who said, Am I not a woman and a sister? when as a slave she petitioned for the abolition of slavery.

In the picture there are gulls or other white sea birds wheeling in the air, but Mary is intent on her book.

What book is it? Perhaps she is reading her own book – The History Of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, related by herself.

You can get it on Amazon. 

Here’s the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for her:

Mary Prince (1788 – after 1833, age at death approx. 45) was a British abolitionist and autobiographer, born in Bermuda to an enslaved family of African descent. Subsequent to her escape, when she was living in London, England, she wrote her slave narrative The History of Mary Prince, which was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom. This first-hand description of the brutalities of enslavement, released at a time when slavery was still legal in Bermuda and British Caribbean colonies, had a galvanising effect on the anti-slavery movement. It was reprinted twice in its first year.



Ironically, the only thing I haven’t been able to find is who painted the Google picture.

Column Blocks in Gutenberg

I mentioned before that I am using the Gutenberg plugin on a self-hosted WordPress site. Today I was working with columns of text. In Gutenberg, everything is a block (as in building block). Images are blocks, headings are blocks, tables are blocks, quotes are blocks. And columns are blocks.

By their nature column blocks are a container for two or more columns, and within that container are the blocks for the individual columns. They are all wrapped up together ready for use.

As I found out today, the container block in the columns block is skittish.

To see what I mean by that, please read the article I wrote about it that links to a short video that illustrates how fiddly it is in the back end to find the bit of block you want.

Here is the link to Columns Blocks (article will open in a new tab or window)

On the plus side, lots of things used to be more skittish Gutenberg and have now settled down. The Gutenberg team are coding at a rapid rate and things are starting to shape up. I just took a look around for new blocks that people are making – pull quotes, pricing tables…

I think there will be a real possibility that users will be able to make pretty much whatever they want with whatever theme they like, rather than have to look for another theme or use a page builder.

Against that, I guess one could ask then why not just use a page builder and forget all this Guttenberg stuff?

Maybe the answer to that is that not all page builders provide all the features one might want and not all page builders are free. In the interests of the great mass of users, maybe Gutenberg will live up to its promise.

First though, it has to get the columns block right.

Update

I posted the video of the ‘hover’ problem in a FaceBook Gutenberg group I am in, and Bjarne Oldrup mentioned this option in Divi and agreed that Gutenberg would benefit from having this feature. I have to wonder whether the code implementation is an easy task…

No More Pencils

I write about politics, and personal experiences at No More Pencils.

Here are some of the most recent posts:

Supreme Court On Trump’s Third Travel Ban is about the Supreme Court decision to uphold the third version of the travel ban. That court decision, which was in June, passed me by. I wonder how many others missed it and what the practical consequences of the ban are. What is happening, today, now?

Who Will Be Notified Of This Post is a reflection on a decision to move from Google’s Feedburner to Jetpack for people to follow No More Pencils, and about some of the problems I ran into.

The Weather And Brexit is about the poor sales figures in the first Quarter in the UK, and the prediction of the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney.

UK Returns Policy is a sympathetic piece for the stores that have to offer free returns, and how stores figure out what they actually sold, and how they can plan for the future.

The GIUK GAP is geopolitics and how Russia has to negotiate a narrow and shallow passage if it wants to bring its Northern fleet into the Atlantic. The deep sea maps from the University of Oslo reveal what that means.

Sixty Million Tonnes Of Wheat is what the US produces each year. I had some fun visualising what that tonnage would look like and how far it would stretch.

and on…

Small Websites

Reb from WriteMeow commented that

When I first got internet at home, 1997, I got perhaps 10MB from the carrier to build a website! This included a long and incredibly complicated URL with several slashes and a ~ tilde.

It reminded me that that I wanted to share a couple of ways to make small sites that I recently came across.

Example 1. Small

Carrd (note two ‘r’s in the name) is offering ‘Simple, free, fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything.’

Here’s one I made earlier: Moi

Example 2. So Small It Exists Inside Its Own URL

Nicholas Jitkoff, the vice president of design at Dropbox, and a former Google designer has made itty bitty. It takes html (or other data), compresses it into a URL fragment, and spits out a link that can be shared. When the link is opened, it inflates that data on the receiver’s side.

The clever bit is that the site is not hosted anywhere: It is contained within its own URL.

Here’s one I made earlier (with a link to itty.bitty)

Have fun!

Blogger Outreach Tricks

I got an email a couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, addressed to me by name and asking whether I would like to link to an article that the sender had written.

He or she explained how the article enhanced something I had written about the Hemingway app.

Earlier today I got a a follow-up email asking whether I had had the chance to review the first email, and what were my thoughts.

By chance, I was looking at the traffic sources for Photograph Works, and one of the traffic sources was Pitchbox. So I took a look.

Pitchbox describes itself as an ‘Influencer Outreach & Content Marketing Platform’.

Prices start at $195.00/month.

Watching the intro video on Pitchbox I see that one of the features designed to make life easier for its users is that it picks up personalisation information by scraping the target websites – in this case, my site.

The person who sent me an email picked my site and others on the basis of keywords he/she chose.

Then Pitchbox scraped my name to make it appear that the emails I receive are personal.

Well, yes, that’s business – and who wouldn’t go for the easy option if it is available.

But it’s not a way to make friends now that I know how it works.

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