welcome home

Sunday, 16 April 2017 10:28 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
There has been a void in the house since losing Hobbit: apart from the way I miss him, Pandora has become more needy and demanding as an Only Cat. So the plan was always to acquire a second cat, and in the inscrutable way of the Cosmic Wossnames, that void has been filled. In ginger and white, even. Danielle has been feeding three feral cats at her workplace, and while she was doing that the other evening, a complete stranger stopped and asked her if she wanted a kitten. Apparently a friend had brought the kitten as a gift for the stranger's grand-daughter, who was staying with them and had subsequently gone back to Joburg and left the kitten behind. I leave as an exercise to the reader the necessary Homicidal Rant about people who give animals as gifts to children, as though they were stuffed toys without associated needs or responsibilities.

Anyway, apparently the Cosmic Wossnames manufactured me a kitten. Given that she's skittish, feisty and was clearly abandoned by people who should damned well have known better, this is Jyn.

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She's been in the house for a couple of days, and is a sweet and affectionate creature despite the slight skitishness; she has an adorable line in chirrups, trills and Harley Davidson purring, and a well-defined tendency to climb on my desk and bite my chin while standing on the keyboard, causing some serious outbreaks of tactical disaster in Andromeda. She has incredibly soft fur, and a particularly heavy arrangement of fur over her eyes which gives her a slight and endearing frown.

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Pandora is in what can only be described as an Epic Snit. She's furious. She divides her time between trying to slaughter the kitten by sticking her paws under the study door; staring, growling and actively going for her if I put them in the same room; and sitting in the back garden with her back to me, sulking. I am spending my otherwise restful long weekend in something of a war zone. If I'm never heard of again, it's because Pandora has eaten the kitten and buried my body in the back garden.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I am in the orientation/registration run-up phase, which is horrible and exhausting, already requiring 12-hour workdays, and uncomfortably like being nibbled to death by very small annoying things, possibly miniature vampire ducks (petty and draining and stupid). The preparation part is not materially assisted by the fact that we've been running an online registration pilot throughout, so what with rugby players and online forms I have been registering students intermittently from the 7th January, and will be doing so until the 10th March. No wonder I'm a bit frayed.

The registration process, the orientation prep and the various other admin tasks have been exhibiting an unusually high level of people doing exactly what my strategic, careful, detailed, widely disseminated notices and announcements have told them not to do, often half an hour earlier. Submitting forms without class numbers. Trying to register when they have deferred exam results outstanding. Arriving in my office for curriculum advice for which I am explicitly unavailable at this time of year. Trying to schedule classes which haven't been approved by the relevant committee. (This was a gosh-darned professor and head of department who clearly did not read the detailed email to which she was replying). Trying to schedule my exam checking meeting on top of the orientation talk-giving commitments during which I'd blocked out my time as unavailable. It feels like trying to herd mutant toddlers in earplugs.

On the upside, Robynn randomly sent me a knitted teacup-warmer in the shape of an owl (or, more specifically, in the shape of an owl cosplaying as my journal icon, although without the umbrella, unless the "#STRESSMUSTFALL" tag counts, which it definitely does, thank you Robynn!), and this morning the mountain was wearing two hats under a moon, because it could.

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I will try very hard not to attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by reading failure, and will take what consolations I can get.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Good lord, I am overcome with nostalgia. The student who just wandered into my office for a change of curriculum signature was in full-on Goth performance dress: dead white face, black hair, black lipstick, heavy eye-liner, docs, tights, the whole nine yards, circa approximately mid-80s. I haven't seen that in years. Judging by the name, voice register and painful politeness, somewhere under all that was a rather sweet and well-brung-up Indian lad. For all its self-conscious angst and gloom, Goth as a counter-culture is so inward-turned as to be basically harmless. Rather endearingly so. I am now all flashing back to my own undergrad Goth days and pining for Egyptian eye make-up and the Sisters of Mercy. If stv ever makes good on his threat regarding a non-cheesy 80s dance party, I will have to acquire some eye-liner and roll back the "DECADES WITHOUT MAKE-UP" sign to 0.

'Tis graduation, and the Avenue has blossomed with kids in gowns and proud parents, all more or less dressed to the nines. I have to avoid it: it makes me cry, mostly because sublimated maternal wossnames, and also investment: I see so many of these kids in distress in my office, it's warmly poignant to see them finally pull it together. Today they are proudly graduating in the pouring rain, because Cape Town and winter. I am enjoying this, too. Likewise the way that the angst and imperative of the semester has choked off suddenly, and I'm sitting in my office twiddling my thumbs with not much to do. I am very tired, see semester, angst and imperative of, above. I am also on leave from Friday next week, for almost two weeks. I am going to enjoy this very much indeed. If you're in Cape Town, let's do coffee. General exhaustion levels have meant that I haven't seen anyone much for ages, and this shall not stand.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I have just done two weeks of, on average, ten hour days; this week I've been arriving at 7am and leaving at 6pm, once registration has finally wound down. Since I worked through the weekend with emergency marks checking, eight hours a day, this is adding to an existing base of exhaustion. I am reaching new, hitherto unsuspected depths of tired. Also, headachy. Also, ridiculously hopped on Earl Grey as it's the only way I cope.

Concomitantly, the urge to throttle people is rising. People who need throttling:
  1. Advisors who don't arrive.
  2. Advisors who arrive in the wrong session despite being explicitly told to check they have the right one.
  3. Advisors who ask me questions or egregiously commit advisor errors which are covered in great detail and LARGE! CAPITALS! in the handouts I give them. And the briefings. And the reminder emails. And the hotsheets. And the special sheet labelled COMMON ADVISOR ERRORS, PLEASE DON'T DO THIS!
  4. Students who stop me to ask questions when I'm rushing between venues.
  5. Students who stop me to ask questions and, when told "I'm sorry, I don't have time for that now", say "This will be really quick!" and ask it anyway. Usually at length.
  6. Students who stop me to be disgruntled because they are discovering that the rules do, in fact, apply to them and are not susceptible to "But I really, really want to!" as an argument.
  7. Students who are disgruntled because the rules apply to them and who demand I spend half an hour at a time inventing labyrinthine, complex and unlikely curriculum solutions to the problem, in the teeth of my warnings that their school subjects under-prepare them for these courses and there is a high chance that they will messily self-destruct.
  8. Students who are disgruntled enough about the rules applying to them that they escalate it all the way up to the Dean despite being told "No!" at every step.
  9. The inventor of the infernal combustion engine, and hence global warming, and hence the level of heat through which I have been trekking to the registration venue, which is four flights of stairs away in the sun. My knees hurt.

Fortunately, there's always Ursula Vernon. I have adopted her fat beaver forthwith. I need it on a button, stat.



And then, of course, at the moment of Maximum Homicidal Misanthropy, the desperate excluded student sits in my office for ten minutes of curriculum advice, and I sketch her a curriculum which more or less rescues her, and she looks at me starry-eyed, and says "You know, I always leave this office with my faith restored," and the lump in my throat throttles me rather than her and I drive home singing along to "Blue Jean" and feeling that maybe all is not lost.

(My subject line is not "Blue Jean", it's "Scary Monsters", because I absolutely was one until I wasn't.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
So, it appears we have Stealth Wol-Enablers on the recurring pattern. (Normal wol-enablers I have on the recurring pattern and more or less as an epidemic. This is not a complaint.) You may remember the Great Random Glass Wol Mystery of 2009, during which a mysterious glass wol appeared, unsolicited and unexplained, in the front garden, and I adopted him gladly but in some confusion. Many, many years later Laurence & Linda accidentally outed themselves in the comments on a completely different post as having been the not-quite-Breakers And Decorators concerned. Apparently I have lovely friends who give me random, unexpected wols entirely without explanation. Glass Wol is on my mantelpiece even as I type.

Apparently I still have lovely friends who give me random, unexpected wols entirely without explanation. (Whether this is the same friends or different cell of the secret organisation, history does not relate). Yesterday I staggered home from a merry 10-hour day of orientation prep and boss-wrangling, to discover a small, localised outbreak of tiny wols attached to pegs, lurking in my postbox. Thusly:



(Photo, incidentally, the inaugural one on my spanky new smartphone, since apparently even I can be dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.)

Above wols on pegs are, in the idiom of the modern-day Lydia Bennet, totes adorbs. I went "awwwww" not just because they are totes adorbs, but because the sudden giant lump in my throat made any form of more articulate vocalisation physically impossible. I feel loved, and I have lovely friends. It has been difficult to restrain myself from attending the first day of orientation today with a row of wols pegged to my cleavage in reminder therof.

Thank you, kind Stealth Wol-Enabler(s). You have scattered Uplift and Cheer on a week that badly needed it. I vanish now with the traditional faint squeak into the tentacular maw of Orientation (this year with added terrors in the form of lurking disruption threats and my lectures being recorded), considerably energised thereby.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Lo these many aeons ago, back in the mists of time, one of the multitudes of DM-ing Andrews of my immediate acquaintance (the polar-explorer namesake one) ran a Rolemaster game. Standardish medieval framework, featuring the usual quotient of ridiculous semi-British humour, puns and insane party antics. I think it may have been that one where Dylan's character critically fumbled a riding skill, fell off, and rolled a 66 crit on the dismount, coming really absurdly close to death. But it also featured the party mind-controlling a peasant, for reasons lost to history, no wait, now I come to think of it it was in order to force him to dig a grave for the messenger we accidentally killed because he came galloping past us in a Suspicious Manner and we critted fatally on an attempt to stop him somewhat less lethally. (He had nothing whatsoever to do with us or our quest and was a mere item of local colour. Andrew being Andrew, his messenger's badge was a small red fish).

Anyway, we forced said peasant to prepare a grave, causing him to shamble up to the party once finished, spade in hand in the approved American Gothic pose, and utter the immortal line, with all the delivery of a medieval Eccles, "I dugged an hole." This became a catchphrase, not just in its original form, but in its somewhat idiosyncratic grammatical franglement, in a manner not unrelated to LOLcats or doge. I wroted an blog post. I wented to an work. Our students hadded an protest. Our protesters also flunged an things at our VC, in a manner which did its damnedest to undermine the otherwise praiseworthily conducted protests and which has been ruthlessly suppressed, hopefully in the Carrollian sense1. But I digress.

All of this is a vague and pointless preamble to the observation that The Jo had another outbreak of mad l33t carpentry skillz, and maded me an TV cabinet2. Thus:



It is a thing composed of equal parts beauty and utility. It is precisely measured to the dimensions of the various bits of my home theatre system and ever-expanding DVD collection, and has wheels and handles and dinky brass clasps on its cunning back compartment to store acres of electrical spaghetti, and it is bringing me much joy not of only of the utilitarian and organisational variety, but of the warm glow of Nice Friends Made Stuff For Me!

I have Nice Friends. But you knew that, since a lot of them are you.



1 "Here one of the guinea-pigs cheered, and was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court. (As that is rather a hard word, I will just explain to you how it was done. They had a large canvas bag, which tied up at the mouth with strings: into this they slipped the guinea-pig, head first, and then sat upon it.)
"`I'm glad I've seen that done,' thought Alice. `I've so often read in the newspapers, at the end of trials, "There was some attempts at applause, which was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court," and I never understood what it meant till now.'"


2 Which seems, in fact, to be a Theme of a certain cosmic inevitability. The Evil Landlord did something similar when I was living with him, constructing me a giant TV cabinet which stored not only the home theatre system, but my entire DVD collection, at least for about a week and a half until my hopeless addiction to media acquisition overran the space almost instantly. It is a source of great sorrow to me that my current living room is no way in hell large enough for the original TV cabinet, and I had to leave it behind, thus necessitating the Joannular carpentry outbreak.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Gosh, it's been two months or so since I became a two-cat person again, which to be honest I haven't been since... oooh, Masters year, back in Osborne Rd with Pixie and Polonius? Then there was Fish, and I was a one-cat person. Then there was Todal and Golux, and I was a joint multi-cat person. Funny how cats in batches of more-than-two goes by troll counting logic - one, two, lots. We accreted Ounce and Hobbit inevitably and without conscious choice. I only had a year of being one-cat with Hobbit, and it's weird how quickly it feels right and as if it's never been different, now that the house has feline patterns in ginger and black instead of just ginger.

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They share my bed at night, although I tend to be a Swiss mountain range between them, and there are frequently rather amusing episodes of cat chess during which they edge independently onto the bed by circuitous routes while exchanging meaningful looks. I did a Sunday morning lie-in drinking tea and reading fanfic recently, and ended up with one cat on either side of my torso, heads on my shoulders, purring loudly in perfectly-synchronised stereo. At least until my delighted giggling offended them both and they jumped off the bed. They've actually accepted each other very quickly - there are still moments of subdued hissing, but they're brief and rather perfunctory, and I catch them touching noses when they think I'm not looking. I should imagine that by next winter I should see spontaneous outbreaks of puddle-of-cat.

I feel the need to record for posterity Hobbit's new trick, which is a hitherto unsuspected tendency to leave the end of his tongue sticking out in a deeply ridiculous fashion.

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He knows. Cats doing a hangdog look are perfectly absurd.

Subject line is T.S. Eliot's Practical Cats, more specifically the addressing of. Pandora, along the Hobbiton/Hobbitation/Hobbyah principle, has become Pandoracle, Pandorica, Pandable, and occasionally "aargh cat must you headbutt my tea?"

medium armour rating

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 12:24 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I had supper with jo&stv the other night, and Jo had recently acquired a cuddly and slightly Cubist blue velvet elephant approximately the size of an actual toddler, i.e. large enough for its trunk to curl lovingly around your neck when you hug it. Apparently I give off a "needs hugs" vibe, because after I'd spent the entirety of watching Interstellar ferociously embracing said elephant, she insisted on donating it to me wholesale. Now I have a blue velvet elephant. My lovely cleaning lady Margaret, who also works for the aforementioned jo&stv, appears to be somewhat taken with said blue velvet elephant, to the point where she invariably and meticulously centres it on my bed after she's made it, regardless of the fact that I habitually cluster it with my plush Cthulhu and fluffy snowy owl on the chest in the corner. (I'm really not a stuffed toy person. Those I retain have particular and specific meaning and have been given to me by particular and specific people, and their function is more memorial than adorable. They thus don't generally merit bed-space, even supposing I actually were an actual teenage girl.)

Jo and I theorise that Margaret is familiar with said blue velvet elephant from its initial days in their house, and is merely externalising her sense of its multi-household significance.



I have christened him Dorian, via an entirely logical if somewhat opaque process which will only make sense to anyone who plays Inquisition and shares my aesthetic, crafting and party composition proclivities to a reasonable extent. He really is the exact colour and texture of ring velvet. Presumably his Tier 2 additions to attack, willpower and electrical resistance will be of use when I need to apply hugs to my insomnia in the small hours of the morning.

I should add, for posterity, that the current Eskom incompetences manifested as load shedding, are particularly maddening to one whose current leisure hours are whiled away by computer gaming. Even though they're predictable under the fairly well-run load shedding schedules, the blackouts are putting a serious crimp in my gaming, and causing me to retreat into reading somewhat grumpishly. On the upside, I've read a lot recently. Reviews to follow.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Imprinting is a bitch. Sherlock Holmes was probably my first serious crush - the literary character, from Doyle's stories, when I was about 14. Inaccessible, intellectual men and all that. There's something about that archetype which is tailor-made for impressionable, geeky, hyperliterate teenage girls such as I was. The ones who don't actually get to talk to real people much and live exciting imaginative lives instead. (I moved on to Christopher Reeve's Superman, make of that what you will.) At any rate, my current state of hopeless fangirling over the BBC Sherlock is firmly and inevitably rooted in the sludgier and more generative depths of my psyche.

So setlock photos ("setlock" being the term used by fans of Sherlock to refer to photos taken by fans of filming in process, which is currently happening in Bristol and elsewhere for the Sherlock special due sometime this year) suggest that the special is going to do something interesting with a Victorian setting. Leading to images such as this:

victorian sherlock

That did something to me. Quite what I'm not sure, but I'm wibbling.

(My subject line is from Vincent Starrett's 221B, the ultimate celebration of the eternal moment of the stories. This post brought to you several days delayed by orientation stress, post-orientation migraine, and the curious fact that since Friday loading LJ on my home computer has caused my internet connection to crash in a mysterious and sinisterly Russian fashion. Posting this from campus.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Moments when I do like my job. Third-year student who has had an exemplary career, passed everything first go, arrives in his final semester and fails the one first-year elective he needs to complete his degree before graduating next week. Devastated - he has landed a brilliant opportunity in London next year if he graduates. Remembers, at the last minute, that he had a year at another university before coming here. Dashes off to said university to obtain transcript. Sprints into my office, panting and quivering, a mere hour or two before the absolutely final grad notification deadline this afternoon and anxiously proffers said transcript.

I finangle a single general credit out of his external record, process instantly, trot it down to the admin office for capturing, confirm all is in order, trot back and tell the young man, "OK, you should be fine to graduate". He puts his head down on the chair next to him and bursts into tears. Is overcome and speechless for a minute or so. Tells me, emotionally, "You have changed the course of my life with a single click!" (Which is not quite true, it required multiple clicks, two printouts and at least three lines of typing). Leaves, is heard uttering subdued whoops of glee all down the corridor.

I spend a large chunk of my life gently informing students that I am not, in fact, able to make all their problems, particularly the consequences of their own less than sensible choices, go magically away by waving a wand. Occasionally it's bloody nice to be able to actually wave the wand and make it happen. Hideous power is mine, and I can actually use it for good. I'm all glowing and slightly weepy on his behalf. It's so nice when the gazelles triumph against the odds, says her sublimated maternal instinct proudly. (I don't go to grad ceremonies any more. They make me weep buckets from approximately halfway through the third student capped.)

The tour of the Eurythmics is now onto Touch which is one of their very early ones and the album which introduced me to the group when I was a teenager - it's still associated in my mind with those afternoons listening to music with the boy on whom I had the terrible crush. It's sheer fluke that the song from my subject line was playing when I drove up to campus this morning. In retrospect, I should have taken it as an omen.

hoard of cheese

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 11:38 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
hoard of stuffed animals

In the Department of Random Awwww, I am more than somewhat tickled by this artist's alternative dragon hoards. I think it's because her dragons look so pleased with themselves, and so absolutely convinced of the desirability of their ridiculous piles.

Further to the above department and in a curiously related stuffed-toy vein, if you are into the Fallen-London-style card-based storytelling game thing and are also prone to enjoyment of off-beat cute, I thoroughly recommend Ursula Vernon's Cryptic Stitching, which is an epic narrative about plush creatures in a sort of Ice Age scenario. I am bumbling around as a confused mouse, hunting the corduroy aurochs, learning the ways of Great Plushthanga, and being very, very kind to Pludwump and Quippet. Given Ms Vernon's characteristically odd sense of humour, it's frequently a highly amusing game. The Story Nexus version is 1.0, she's busy porting it over to a different engine at the moment, but it's worth a play nonetheless.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Operation Macavity proceeds apace! Our simple principle of (a) feeding him and (b) not chasing him out the house has very quickly brought him to the point where he spends most of the day sleeping on the sofa, is fairly amenable to stroking, purrs like a rusty tractor during the aforementioned, and if he does suddenly startle and swipe at your leg, does it half-heartedly and largely to miss. Both the EL and I can pick him up, although he tolerates it a lot better from the EL, whose cat-fu is legendary. Said Macavity is almost at the point where we can betray him utterly by stuffing him into a box and subjecting him to a serious assessment from Graham the Lovely Vet, who advises a thorough check for things like feline HIV and feline leukemia and a short, sad, merciful needle if he's positive for either. If not, then Carlo&Karen have agreed to take him, since the niche for thuggish ginger ex-tom in their home is apparently empty. (Ours is full, because Hobbit).

I called him Macavity not so much because of his disreputable gingerness, but from his ability to levitate to the roof instantaneously from a standing start the second you think about coming into the kitchen ("His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare/ And when you reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!"), and because it's one of my favourite of the Practical Cats. I didn't realise, though, until about a week ago, how much T.S. Eliot ripped Macavity off from Doyle: it's the kind of epiphany you only have while re-reading Sherlock Homes simultaneously with implementing a Macavity-taming operation. I mean, I knew about the Moriarty connection because the last line of the poem identifies Macavity as "the Napoleon of Crime", which is the classic Moriarty epithet straight out of "The Final Problem", but the parallels go a lot deeper than that. Viz.:

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.


"He is extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and his two eyes are deeply sunken in his head ... His shoulders are rounded from much study, and his face protrudes forward, and is for ever slowly oscillating from side to side in a curiously reptilian fashion..."

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless to investigate--Macavity's not there!


"Is there a crime to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be rifled, a man to be removed - the word is passed to the Professor, the matter is organized and carried out". (Quotes all from "The Final Problem").

I am enchanted by this. Intertextuality makes me happy. By way of illustration, have an actual Macavity. The black on his face is the remnants of the somewhat piratical slash which appeared across his eye, cheek and nose a few months back after a night of more than usually ferocious cat-mangling noises.

Macavity

He is enough like Hobbit that Jo, wandering into the house a week or so ago, saw Macavity sitting on the kitchen floor and exclaimed "My god, what happened to Hobbit?!" in tones of dismay. (This picture of Hobbit from the same photoshoot as Macavity, taken because Hobbit has to be part of whatever's going on and can't be having with photos of upstarts happening when photos of himself, or possibly Himself, are clearly more important and interesting).

Hobbit, interfering
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Apparently the week needs cats being ridiculous. Snow leopards have really long, fluffy tails. I live for the day I can catch Hobbit doing this. (Pics circulating Tumblr at the moment, with the usual trail of reblogs all characterised by an utter lack of attribution - I've tracked down and linked the source for only one of them, the others apparently generated spontaneously on cute animal pic sites. If the internet has, in fact, reached critical cute animal pic mass to the point where the stuff leaps into being without human intervention, we're possibly screwed. Or at least doomed to a virtual experience in which all possible communications are gradually replaced by cute animal pics at a rate somewhat faster than the current status quo.)







I am suffering from Cat in another form. Not Golux: we have decided not to have the operation, and she's as well as can be expected with a sore nose which she occasionally swipes a paw over accidentally while grooming, causing a yowl of pain and surprise. Our cat problem is Macavity, who has recently stepped up the heartrending nature of his appeals to be adopted, which means if you come into the living room in the morning he won't leap off the sofa and run away, he'll leap off the sofa, stop, cower and eye you intensely while mewing pitifully. At this rate, if we give him any encouragement at all he'll soon be at a point where we can catch and box him. Does anyone want a cat? Ginger, tom, somewhat battle-scarred, desperate for love, has entirely given up on the nasty spraying habits, and doesn't actually beat up our cats. We'll spring for the neutering. In default of any other option I'm afraid it's going to be the SPCA for him, or, if they're in the cat-inundated state I think they probably are, a quick and terminal trip to our vet to save Macavity the stress and the SPCA the money. I wish the consciousness of being realistic was enough to outweigh the guilt at being heartless.

Subject line dreadful pun is verbatim from Lewis Carroll, the Mouse's poem for Alice, the emblematic poem in the shape of the tail. Carroll's puns are particularly shameless. Possibly the "condemn you to death" bit is also ringing in my ears with undue force.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


No, really. It's doing that thing Puss in Boots does in Shrek, where it goes all self-consciously adorable and plaintive.



That thing.

The wol link is from the Instagram account of a lovely lady who works at a raptor rehabilitation centre, and who posts many, many fine wol pictures on which I shall certainly draw for future daily wols.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am back at work this week, alas. I am rather well rested after two and a half weeks off (and having passed my driver's licence and bought a car and almost finished a paper), and am inclined to be relatively upbeat about returning to the grindstone, but just to reinforce this, have the most ridiculous dose of pure, pointless, ridiculous happy you'll see in years. Warnings for possibly excessive Japanese cutesy twee, but still, cute. Watch out for the mad individualists in the three-cat rows. And the ear-worm.




Subject line from T.S. Eliot's "Jellicle Cats". Reading his Old Possum poetry makes me paradoxically sad that (a) I never saw the musical, and (b) that it exists at all, because Andrew Lloyd Webber.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Heavens to Betsy, it's June. You can tell by the driving rain, hail and icy cold, which are causing me to both freeze and rejoice in equal quantities, because I'm odd that way. Cape Town is in the middle of a giant three-day storm (someone's amazing pic of hailstones lying like snow in the city here), and Hobbit was recently discovered, after 24 hours of absence, curled in a ball of denial under the braai in the shed. It's bloody cold out there, I can only think he must have been hiding from the thunder. Twit. I also have a cold in the head attended by Sid the Sinus Headache, and am conducting today as an extended negotiation between the work that I need to do and my equal and opposite need to go home and hibernate. The sweet child who arrived for curriculum advice this morning struck a serious blow in the service of work ethic when, upon being granted the course change she wanted, she gave an ear-splitting squeal of joy, rushed around the desk and hugged me. She probably added a good hour to the time my butt remains in this chair, which at current showing has me fleeing the place at about 2.30 sharp.

She also mitigates to some extent against the perfectly obnoxious older-brother-of-student who rendered my Thursday afternoon hideous by shouting abuse at me for half an hour by the clock because his little sister can't graduate as expected, and whose toxicity permeated through most of the weekend, resulting in me being withdrawn and useless and having truly weird dreams. I blame him entirely for the current state of lurgi. He freaked me out, being really quite threatening, and it took me a good couple of days to throw off the lowering sense of failure and self-blame. He was an arsehole, who clearly intended at the outset to perform his anger until he'd browbeaten the faculty into acquiescence, and I don't think anything I could have said would have calmed him down, even if he'd let me get a word in edgeways. (I think that the fact that I was female probably made it worse: there's a certain kind of Zimbabwean black male for whom a woman questioning his authority is anathema). Fortunately he was trying to circumnavigate an iron-clad faculty rule which is never relaxed under any circumstances, and the whole performance was doomed. Idiot.

On the upside, this linguistic dissection of annoying teenage sounds was particularly giggle-inducing in the context of my students. You must watch the video, it's brilliant.

I have, for once, remembered that a new month entails a subject line reference post, but this got longer than I intended, I'll defer the payment of intellectual debts until tomorrow. In an attempt at a new approach to this: today's subject line courtesy of Vampire Weekend, whose first two albums I have been playing on rotation for the last couple of weeks. Lovely indie rock with an African music influence, it's bouncy and melodically inventive and clever and has a kwaito-ish edge which makes it weirdly familiar. The quote is off "Unbelievers", which is on their new album and not yet out in this country - I've been hitting YouTube.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


I am touched and cheered by Tweenbots, which is a sort of art installation thingy comprising small, basic, ambulatory cardboard robots placed in public places with no more than forward motion and a flag which brandishes their destination. They almost always arrive, because passers-by rescue them from being snarled up on curbs and potholes and things, and point them in the right direction. It's a curious piece of mental sleight-of-attitude, that the mere possession of motion and purpose should flip our inner switches from "this is an object" to "this is a fellow being". A small cardboard robot placed in a park simply to wave its arms about would probably be stolen, but one moving of its own volition seems to merit empathy and compassion, the respect due a fellow traveller.

We respond to agency, I think, because that's what we desire for ourselves, but it's vaguely hopeful that a significant proportion of random passers-by also feel the need to protect that agency in those less powerful than themselves. At least when it's in their immediate vicinity, and the action required is so simple and finite. Starving children or pilloried rape victims on other continents are a distant, complex horror against which our any action - a donation, an outraged letter - seems minor and futile, but in rescuing a cardboard robot we restore and enable in one gesture its complete and perfect purpose. We wish life could be so simple.

furnish it with love

Thursday, 18 October 2012 10:27 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I've spent the last week reading Avengers slash more or less continually, and really, it's not what you think. I can happily give you, if you like, the current state of theory about slash, its operation as a female-produced and female-centred emotional pornography, its response to the body fetish of contemporary media society, its address to gender balances in our cultural texts. All of that is true. But it's not why I read it. I am not immune to the charm of beautiful men articulating their feelings with greater or lesser degrees of angst and humour and smut, but it's really a different kind of intimacy which keeps me immersed in this world, warmed by it: the true pull is the intimacy between the writer and their text.

Fan fiction of any sort has a sort of luminosity to it. However badly it's written (and despite my fastidious focus on the articulate end of its spectrum, I still encounter the odd appalling assault on grammar and coherence), any fan fiction breathes from its surfaces the loving intensity with which its writer regards the story and characters they're appropriating. Fan fiction is about investment, the wholehearted identification with a text which raises the writer to new, in some cases superhuman levels of sensitivity and insight and insane creativity. People spend weeks and months of their lives producing novel-length responses to their canon because that act is the only one with sufficient magnitude to reflect their love of it.

And this has surprising knock-on effects. It has its squabbles and its bigotries, but the fan-fiction world on the whole presents itself as a supportive community, shaped and directed by the overflow of warm and intimate relations with texts into warm and intimate relations with fellow fans. The tenor of fan interchanges tends to be playful and funny and self-revealing, intrinsically about recognition and trust. As a corollary, I increasingly find fics posted with trigger warnings: do not read if you have problems with non-con, BDSM, abuse situations, whatever. It's protective and rather sweet.

Fan fiction finds its own level: a reader looks for writers whose preoccupations and 'ships and responses to a character or world are the closest to their own, and will thus also reflect their investment. Communities grow with a lot in common, but they are also made up of people with a tendency to invest heavily in their cultural artefacts. This spills into the fictional world, so that any fanfic you enjoy is likely to be rife with references to books and films and music and poetry other than the canon text of the 'fic, but which equally resonates with you, not just because you are likely to share tastes with the author, but because even a passing reference is delineated with passion and precision and a sense of loving identification which makes a reference a shining thing in itself. I discover a lot of books and music and poetry via fanfic references, thereby enriching my life greatly.

I don't write fanfic for a variety of reasons, but mostly, I don't write fanfic because I have no need to - because my own investments are content with the nature of the reflection they find in the fiction that already exists.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I have been marking second-year English essays this weekend, and am pretty much at the stage of ritual suicide. I don't know if it's a particularly bad batch, or if the impending sinus infection is making me unduly pessimistic, or if I've been infected by the Gothic gloom of the topic, but I am genuinely beginning to despair. These are second-year English students. They should, surely, be capable of stringing together a coherent paragraph which presents something vaguely resembling an argument? If I have to deal with another instance of [vague, unsubstantiated and categorical statement] + [unrelated and unexplained quote from the story] presented with a triumphant flourish as though it actually proves something, there is going to be a small, localised space-time explosion and my brain will end up fetchingly festooned around my ears in a manoeuvre not unrelated to Grunthos the Flatulent's lower intestine strangling him in the interests of sanity. Also, these dear children are clearly infecting my sentences. Aargh.

I console myself with Joseph Gordon-Levitt dancing. Adorably. It's very consoling. Right up there with manatees.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I've just trotted over to the Arts block to make some photocopies for my class, and have returned in giggles because of encountering a small, rather well-behaved herd of data cable rolls, trundling down the avenue under the guidance and motive power of a couple of cabling-guy herdsmen. Three rolls to a guy, and a process of judicious, well-timed kicks to keep the herd on track. The whole effect was curiously adorable.

I was an hour late for work today, on account of getting caught up in the Curiosity landing, which I am still kicking myself I missed in real time. I thought it was much later this morning. Phooey. Nontheless wonderful - textbook touchdown, photo of shadow, jubilant geeks. I'm still all weepy. But, as my mother commented, it's a weird sort of index of the fundamental brokenness of the human race that we can put a ton of survey equipment with the utmost accuracy and delicacy on a spot 563 million kilometres away, and still can't get it together to give people on the actual Earth oh, I dunno, food, or housing, or education, or an economy built on anything other than blinkered self-interest. However, my favourite tweets of the morning:

@tomscott: "Humanity just dropped a NUCLEAR-POWERED CAR, intact, onto ANOTHER PLANET with a SKY CRANE and it’s SENDING US STUFF. BRING IT ON UNIVERSE."

@bdolman: "Gold medal for NASA in the 563 billion meters."

Once again, I confidently predict that there's absolutely no-one else in this building who shares my science-geeky joy. Sigh. I'm a lonely little petunia in a very arty onion patch.

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