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Posts for July 29, 2021

Dragonfly, or Not?

In Dragonflies and The Twisties, Austin Kleon writes about dragonflies.1 He links to a Washington Post article from 1989 by Henry Mitchell. It’s about gardening, and it contains the wonderful line (of the insects in question), ‘They are nothing but good and fair, a sufficient reason for summer to exist.’

Coincidentally, I was in the sitting room with the window open the other day, and one flew in. I’ve only seen them very occasionally in the wild, skimming along above a river or pond. I’ve always found them slightly disturbing, because they’re so big for an insect. It’s an echo of the utter revulsion I remember feeling in a biology lab back in my schooldays, where there were stick insects. Some people were happy to take them out and hold them, but I could barely stay in the room.

It’s borderline phobic, I realise: stick insects don’t even do anything, they just sit there being camouflaged and inoffensive. But there’s nothing we can do about that kind of gut reaction.

Except maybe allow time to pass. Back in the sitting room with the visiting dragonfly, I was surprised, but felt more fascination than revulsion. I closed the door so it wouldn’t go further into the house, opened the window wide, and waited to see if it would go out. There wasn’t much else I could do: even if it settled, it was much too big to catch under a glass to release outside, as I would a spider.

The pattern of its flight was strange and erratic-seeming. Very different from the flies, wasps, and moths that much more commonly come into houses. Something to do with those double wings and that long tail, maybe. It pootled around, approached the window a couple of times, without going for the open part, but didn’t bang itself against the glass as the smaller visitors do.

Once it rested up on the plaster moulding near the ceiling.

Eventually it flew towards the window again, found the opening, and was gone. It’s a short walk, and a shorter flight, down to the River Lea, its likely habitat round these parts. But I wonder what brought it all the way up here.

And now looking at the Wikipedia article, I wonder if it was actually a damselfly:

Dragonflies can be mistaken for the related group, damselflies (Zygoptera), which are similar in structure, though usually lighter in build; however, the wings of most dragonflies are held flat and away from the body, while damselflies hold their wings folded at rest, along or above the abdomen. Dragonflies are agile fliers, while damselflies have a weaker, fluttery flight.

I’m not sure how it held its wings when it rested, but that ‘weaker, fluttery flight’ does sound more like my interesting summer visitor.

  1. And also about the incredible Simone Biles. 

Who’s Next?

Sorry, that’s, like, the most obvious title in known space. Jodie and Chris are leaving Doctor Who after the next series and specials. Late 2022, that is.

That BBC News report is almost comically self-flagellatory. After quoting Jodie Whittaker’s hugely positive statements about the show, they say this:

While many have praised Whittaker’s casting, some fans and critics have criticised the show’s recent narrative direction.

The Telegraph described recent episodes as “flat, worthy and woke” despite Whittaker’s talent as an actress, while The Sun reported viewers were left furious by the show’s “unbearable political correctness”.

If those publications are making those criticisms, I’d say that’s a big win. Stop beating yourself up, the BBC. The programme is and remains a success, the jewel in the BBC’s crown.

Significantly further down the report they say:

Episodes such as Rosa, Demons of the Punjab and Spyfall thrilled audiences, and netted the show two Bafta Must See Moment nominations, along with multiple National Television Award, Bafta Cymru, TV Choice and Critics Choice nominations.

In 2020, Whittaker was voted second most popular Doctor of all-time in a poll of 50,000 fans for the Radio Times, losing out to David Tennant.

So there you go. Now: who’s going to the the next Doctor? And — arguably more importantly — who’s going to be the next head writer?

Or will they just put the show on ice for a few years? I read a piece recently that suggested that’s what it needs to revitalise itself, citing the gap from 1989 to 2005 as the model.

I hope they don’t do that. In fact, if it needs revitalisation at all, then last season’s big revelations about the Doctor’s origins are just what they need for that. You could, for example, have a season or two of Jo Martin’s Doctor. She’d be great, though such a move would confuse people, since it would be in the past of the Doctor we know.

We can only look forward to finding out.