VISIT TO PERM, RUSSIA SEPTEMBER 2018

February 2, 2018

permii

Karen Hewitt writes:

At the beginning of every year I circulate everyone with details of this year’s group visit to Perm. Many of you have been on this visit aand I hope you still think it was worthwhile. 
I would be very grateful if you could publicise it among your friends who might want to apply; I’m especially eager to have people from Oxford and Oxfordshire or at least with a strong Oxford connection who do not live too far away. (Potential applicants who live in Berkshure, Bucks, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Northamptonshire can be considered as Oxford-neighbours – if, like several of you, they are in fairly regular contact with Oxford.)

The Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre together with the University’s Department for Continuing Education is arranging for a group of eight people to visit Perm as guests of the Perm State University. They will live in families with at least one English speaker and will have many opportunities to observe real Russian life. The visit is part of an exchange scheme in which the payment made by you supports the visit of a Perm teacher to Oxford.

Perm is Oxford’s twin city in Russia so the visit is open chiefly to people in Oxfordshire or with an Oxford connection such as attendance at OUDCE summer schools. Others will be considered if we do not fill all places. The programme of the fortnight can vary according to individual interests. As guests of Perm University you will be asked to talk to University students, while your activities can include: visits around the city, and to the Urals countryside; canoeing along the Silva river; professional and specialist contacts with economists, lawyers, local politicians, (and lectures if you are willing and able); visits to art galleries, concerts, ballet; studying the work of the city council and local voluntary groups; taking part in family life with your hosts and their friends. Previous visitors on this scheme have seized all sorts of opportunities to see how Russian society works. Several have returned for a second visit.

A knowledge of Russian is not necessary since interpreters will be provided, but obviously you will learn more if you know a little Russian. Participants should be physically fit and willing to walk reasonable distances. Some of our hosts do not have cars, and walking, climbing flights of stairs and public transport are normal. And you should be adaptable…

DATES: Saturday 8th September to Sunday 23rd September 2018 (Fifteen nights) The journey is by British Airways scheduled flight to Moscow. You will travel from Moscow to Perm by train – about 900 miles and the first day of the Trans-Siberian route. You will have a few hours in Moscow on the return journey.

COST: £1035 This includes air fares, train fares, other travel in Russia, accommodation with a family, breakfast and many other meals, a programme of activities including two visits to the opera or ballet, and two full day tours. It does not include visas, insurance, and some cheap meals. We will arrange your visas and inform you in June of the cost. Currently official visas are £50 plus admin and special delivery postage – in total about £85. You will need to go to London to give your fingerprints, but otherwise it should be straightforward.

Better email Karen if you are interested and sufficiently Oxonian!

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The War Has Not Yet Started, Southwark Playhouse 18 January

January 20, 2018
war_one

Picture from British Theatre Guide

This £12 preview had a large and enthusiastic audience–perhaps the actors were famous or something?  They were certainly very very good, and there was at most one early-run fluff that I noted.

Someone in the audience had pointed out that the programme didn’t tell you what the play was about, though there was some suggestion it was connected with war as a metaphor for human relationships.  Then the set was specifically enough a late-Soviet flat though the action of the twelve separate scenes, all with different characters and situations, seemed to be taking more or less in the present.   References to presentations and clients seemed to fix the period, while a character in the first scene drinking vodka and then beer to get calm determined the locale closely enough.

And you could see that war was somehow present in most of the scenes, although the couple copping off at the party and then him saying she was his first and only one might be difficult to fit into that.  And also the robot with an absurdity implant waiting to see the doctor.  The scenes at the beginning did recall actors doing improvisation exercises, which was all very clever but did they need an audience?  Interest did however grow as the evening went on.

A critic on the 172 bus afterwards said she liked the way the women played men and the man played women.  I think that wherever possible Sarah Hadland played a man and Mark Quartley played a woman, while Hannah Britland was not so typecast.  But it did seem to me her T-shirt was artfully billowed to disguise pregnancy–of the woman not of a character–, and so I was frankly terrified during a scene that threatened domestic abuse.

Now then, in his local media  playwright Mikhail Durnenkov gave a very straightforward interpretation of the play–it was meant to fix the period of its writing, when preparations for war were apparent and Russians were subjected to ceaseless propaganda.  That gave rise to incomprehension, hatred and violence in ordinary life.  The play was written with love for humanity and in the hope that Russia would not fall into the waiting abyss. To me that all makes sense:  the inbreaking of war, and rumours of war, result in dislocations–violent dislocations–of everyday life.

And also of sex roles, which might well be more of a shock in Russia than here.  The original text says that the thing is meant for three actors who can play the different characters without regard to age and sex.  Personally I would have gone for masks and probably a chorus as well.  With regard to that text, the translation was more in the line of an adaptation–the original robot just had an absurdity module, while from Thursday I remember an implant, between the second and third vertebrae.  A lot of the dialogue had also been normalised from the demotic and individual to general speech of educated people as well.

Certainly a lot to think about!

Chadwick street

January 10, 2018

chadwick11

Au premiers jours de printemps, Repnine se rend effectivement à Chadwick street au service de l’emploi qui fournit du travail aux Polonais démobilisés.(…)

Toutefois, sans même tourner la tête, les passants passaient devant ces gens assis sur le chemin de l’agence d’emplois. La station Westminster n’est qu’à quelques centaines de pas de la rue Chadwick. Lorsque Repnine reprend sa route, il arrive à l’agence quelques minutes plus tard.

chadwick21

Make Elephants Fly

December 13, 2017

*****

elephants

I thought this book was very good!

It stems from the author’s experience in  the world of Silicon Valley start-ups, where venture capitalists will invest in promising enterprises and also take a seat on the board, with the idea of making lots of money at a successful IPO.  So they can involve themselves in at most 10 ventures and one of them has to win big.  Mere survival is hardly sufficient.

The book makes many interesting points, one important one being that technology is not enough, you have to meet a real customer need.  And meet it not too early and not too late–timing is the key here, so it helps to have a diverse team to catch the latest trends.  The success of Silicon Valley can be attributed to having a mixture of technical, artistic and business types in the same place.

It is best to use an off-the-shelf product and adapt it to what you want to do.  As a corollary, a very good place to start is the targeted prototype, where the customer sees a front end but the actual work can be done by hand if necessary.  Similarly, If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late. The important thing is to figure out the one thing that customers want, and this is linked with the question What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

If you don’t want to innovate, try to get it right first time.  The important thing is to get to failure as quickly as possible, so that you can change direction and try something else.  Facebook has the principles 1. Move fast and break things  2. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  3. Put people at the centre of things.

Details:  Make Elephants Fly: The Process of Radical Innovation by Steven Hoffman ISBN-13: 9780349418834.

Rachel’s Hebrew classes at City Lit

November 29, 2017

 

Hebrew96-1

Rachel Montagu (email) writes to say:

I’m teaching 4 classes at City Lit, Level 1, beginners, Level 2 from about the middle of the EKS book, Level 3 reading biblical texts and learning those grammatical forms which the EKS book omits like Pual, Hophal, Polal and pause, Level 4 reading biblical texts – list of texts for this year below.

City Lit Level 4

Autumn Term Module 1 28th September 2017 to 14th December 2017

1) 28/9/2017 Ps. 96:1-13, Ps 103:1-10
 5/10 no class
12/10 no class
2) 19/10/ 2017 Ps. 103:11-22 Daniel 1:1-10
3) 26/10/2017 Daniel 1:11-21, 2:1-3, 8:1-6
4) 2/11/2017 Daniel 8:7-27
5) 9/11/2017 Daniel 9:1-20
6) 16/11/2017 Daniel 10:1-21
7) 23/11/2017 Ps.105 1-22
8) 30/11/2017 Ps.105 23-45
9) 7/12/2017 Geminate verbs – forms and verses to illustrate
10) 14/12/2017 Ezekiel 1-20

Spring Term Module 2  18th January 2018 to 22nd March 2018

1) 18/1/2018 Ezekiel 1:21-28, 2:1-9, 3:1-3
2) 25/1/2018 Ezekiel 3:4-15, 17:1-9
3) 1/2/18 Ezekiel 17:10-24, 18:1-5
4) 8/2/18 Ezekiel 18:6-25
5) 15/2/18 Ezekiel 18:26-32, 20: 1-12
6) 22/2/18 Ezekiel 20:13-26
7)1/3/18 Psalm 106:1-24
8) 8/3/18 Psalm 106:27-48
9) 15/3/18 Grammar revision
10) 22/3/18 Genesis 25:19-34, 27:1-5

Summer Term Module 3 19th April 2018 to 28th June 2018

1) 19/4/18 Genesis 27:6-25
2) 26/4/18 Genesis 27:26-46
3) 3/5/18 Genesis 28:1-4, 10-22, 29:1-3
4) 10/5/18 Genesis 29:3-23
5) 17/5/18 Genesis 29:24-35, 30:1-6, 25-28
6) 24/5/18 Genesis 30:29-42, 31:1-7
7) 31/5/18 Genesis 31:8-16, 36-50
8) 7/6/18 Genesis 31:50-54, 32:1-15
9) 14/6/18 Genesis 32:17-33, 33:1-14
10) 21/6/18 Ps.130, Ps.131, Psalms chosen by class
11 28/6/18 Psalms chosen by class

Unmet requests to be reconsidered next year: Jonah, Nehemiah, Deuteronomy

Rachel’s Hebrew class at Liberal Judaism

November 29, 2017

nahum

 

Rachel Montagu (email) writes to say:
The Wednesday evening class derived from the Birkbeck class still meets, This year’s schedule attached below, although because I’ve found more biblical texts on prayer, we recently decided to extend our prayer theme and Nachum will probably get bumped back to next year

Wednesdays 6.30-8.30 p.m., at Liberal Judaism, 21 Maple Street, London, W1T 4BE

Autumn Term

Some Biblical prayers and encounters with God

18th October               Gen.4:26, 14:18-20, 20:7&17, 22:3, 24:12-14&62-63, 25:20-23, 26:25, 28:10-22

25th October               Gen.32:10-13, 23-33 & 33:10, 35:1-3, 49:18,

1st November             Ex. 8:24-27, 9:27-29, 10:16-18, Gen.48:15-16&20,Num. 6:22-27, Num.12:1-5,

8th November              Numbers 12:6-16, Ex.32:7-14, Num.14:11-14

15th November            Numbers 14:15-24, Deut.8:6-10, Jud.15:18-19 1Sam.1:1-8

22nd November           1Sam.1:9-28,

29th November            1 Samuel 2:1-10, 7:5-6 & 8-9, 12:14-25

6th December              2 Sam. 7:18-29, 12:13-16, 15:31, 1Kings 3:4-14

13th December            1 Kings 8:22- 40

Spring Term

10th January                i Kings 8:41-53, 18:36-39, Ps.141:1-2, 5-6

The Prophet Nachum

17th January                Nachum 1:1-2:9

24th January                Nachum 2:10-3:19

The Prophet Ezekiel

31st January                Ezekiel 17:1-24

7th February                Ezekiel 18:1-25

[14th February             Half Term & Ash Wednesday ]

21st February              Ezekiel 18:26-32, 20:1-15

[28th February             Purim]

7th March                     Ezekiel 20:16-26

Wicked Queens

14th March                   1 Kings 9:1-9, 11:1-14

21st March                   1 Kings 16:29-33, 18:13, 19:1-2, 21:1-19,

 

Summer Term

Wicked Queens cont.d

18th April                      1Kings 21:23-26, 2Kings 9:30-37, 2Kings 8:16-27

25th April                      2Kings 11:1-16, 20, 1Kings:15:9-15

Is it Wicked to Worship the Queen of Heaven? Or Make Figures for the Eternal’s Shrine?

2nd May                       Jeremiah 7:16-20, 44:15-19, 24-26, Judges 17:1-12, 18:31

Queen of Solomon’s Heart?

9th May                        Song of Songs 1:17, 2:1-8

16th May                      Song of Songs 2:9-17, 3:1-11

23rd May                      Song of Songs 4:1-10, 5:1-10

[30th  May                    Half Term]

6th  June                      Song of Songs 5:11-16, 6:1-11, 7:1-5

13th  June                    Song of Songs 7:6-14, 8:1-14

Psalms

20th June                     Ps.90:1-17, 134:1-3

27th June                     Ps.130:1-8, 131:1-3

4th July                        Ps.145:1-21

Unmet requests for consideration next year; Abraham’s journey,

What is this nonsense?

November 19, 2017

subjearn

Following our earlier discussion, the BBC has published an article on the financial benefits of a university education, with some results as shown above.  But it’s difficult to know what to make of it, since they don’t say anything about data or methodology or (perhaps more realistically) give a link to where these questions might be covered.

Questions which are not answered include what data are they using, what years are they covering, what is the definition of these subjects, what students are they covering.

What data are they using?

The real question is income data.  If it comes from self-report, then you will get low coverage and also inaccurate answers.  If it’s HMRC data, then you might also get some regrettable inaccuracies and omissions and you will miss foreign students and UK students who went abroad after graduation.  There’s also a question about what coverage you get of UK students who don’t take out student loans.  The work is ascribed to Dr Jack Britton from the IFS and there is a recent IFS study that covers similar ground.  Perhaps it’s the same data…the same years…whatever.

What years are they covering?

Search me.

What is the definition of these subjects?

It is hard (for me at least) to work out the coverage of Medicine & Dentistry, Nursing, and All Medicine.  I suppose that All Medicine does not enter into combined, but you never know.  Then you could ask whether Languages is just Modern Foreign Languages, or does it include Classics, Welsh, Irish, Linguistics…and so on…

What students are they covering?

At a guess, it might be UK-based students who have done first degrees at UK universities and who can be followed up.  But then in some subject areas many of them will have done higher degrees and a PhD would probably depress earnings at the 5-year mark.

gradearn

Finally, the figure above is interesting for its inclusion of the Open University, whose students may well be different on entry and retired on exit…

The value of adjectives

October 31, 2017

adjectives

We apply our previous methodology, using the Indeed site that allows one to search for job postings according to particular keywords in a particular location and gives a summary in terms of numbers and estimated salaries. So we can compare these results for postings containing various adjectives popular in advertising, as shown above.

We see that more than a third of the jobs are exciting and more than a quarter are fantasticStunning and amazing are very close in meaning and in salary too.  Groundbreaking is rare but commands a massive salary premium while innovative is also well paid (but creative may well be a noun in some of these ads).

Lovely is the Cinderella here, both unpopular and ill-paid, as befits a word that belongs to human beings rather than advertising.

 

Antigone, Greenwich Theatre 30 October

October 30, 2017

**

antigone_drone

From AoD trailer

This was the first Actors of Dionysus production I had seen.

It was noisy.

For a large amount of the time, I sat huddled-up with my eyes closed wishing it would do away.  There was no poetry and no heroism and very little chorus, just people running and shouting and 1980s radiophonic effects.

Antigone did what she did with no inner conflict or anguish and she and Ismene shouted at each other.  Then Creon’s world fell on him and it was over.

I think the generality of the audience may have understood what the obeah woman Tiresias was saying but I didn’t.

On the positive side, well, drones, it was the first time I had seen a drone and know I know what they look like.  Three lines of actual Sophocles at the end suggested what might have been, in another world perhaps.  The description of Emily Davison’s death might also have become something if given a chance.

Dismiss me.  Enough.

The Death of Stalin, Curzon Goldsmiths 29 October

October 29, 2017

**

stalin

So going to see this at the Curzon Goldsmiths meant that I paid £ 8-50 rather than £ 5-99 at the Peckhamplex, but my cold and I had an easier cycle ride and the New Cross Gate Sainsbury’s was a bit better than the Morrison’s in Peckham. I suppose it was worth £ 2-51 (the kind of sum which does not grow on trees) to avoid the fascist bag search…

The film is…err…not very good. It seeks to satirise the members of the Soviet leadership panicking and plotting after Stalin’s death, but unfortunately it does this by making them student politicians from Oxford University from the early 1980s. In particular, Andrea Riseborough as Svetlana Stalin not only looks terrifyingly English but seems to be starring in Bad Day at Somerville College with Rupert Friend not so much her brother but more the louche boyfriend from Worcester say.  Simon Russell Beale as Beria–and I can remember him being very, very evil as Iago–too often seemed to be a rather kindly old gent who had somehow got mixed up with allegations of mass murder and raping underage girls.

It’s the ingrained English politeness and gentility that is the problem–there’s no point in trying to replicate the manners of another time and culture, but you need to ask yourself if people do and say such things, what are they like and so how do they do and say them.  Here, they need to be both terrifying and grotesque, not naughty ex-public-schoolboys having their day of fun and destroying their country in the process.

Contrariwise, Olga Kurylenko as Mariya Yudina clearly had the right reactions but her character was undercut for the sake of a cheap joke.  There were some signs that either she (had she not been so undercut) or Svetlana Stalin (had she ever got out of Somerville College bar) might have become some kind of positive pole, but that was clearly not what was required.

There’s nothing wrong in principle with the idea of reducing these monsters in scale to bring out just how grotesque they are, but cockroaches would have been more the level than student politicians.

The jokes got a few laughs a few times.

Even leaving aside contributions from Mozart, Chopin and Tchaikovsky, the cod-Shostakovich of the score was a great deal better than the cod-history shown on screen.