freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's remotely possible that being a total and irredeemable geek is my Seekrit Weapon, curriculum-advice-wise. If nothing else it gives me innocent joy to assist a student with a tangled curriculum and then spend 20 minutes, as I did a month or two back, dissecting Fallout 4 and our respective experiences over multiple play-throughs. (You were quite correct, Fallout-playing-student. Survival mode, while extremely tricky at lower levels and ultimately requiring minor modding to saves to make it non-frustrating enough for sustained play, is a deeply satisfying thing, I'm so happy you persuaded me to try it. I hope you have a tiny, untraumatic curriculum problem soon so I can tell you all about it).

Today's one was a rather beautiful inner arm tattoo which made me go "oooh, is that Tengwar?!" in girlish excitement. The student got this sort of soul's-awakening look - momentary shuttered expression, you could see him gathering himself to explain the context to a tragically unhip middle-aged administrator, followed by dawning realisation as my actual comment penetrated and he identified against all likelihood a fellow geek who didn't just recognise Tolkien, but the actual script. I wish I could have taken the hat-trick by translating, but alas, my Tengwar is beyond rusty. ("The crownless again shall be king", apparently. Somewhat classic.) At least I could respond, when he said in some relief, "Oh, you're a Tolkien fan!" by pointing wordlessly to Lúthien Tinúviel dancing on my wall.

It's a tiny subset of geeky students to whom I can appeal, but it does help to feel that moment of actual connection. Some things do cross the generation gap.

I fear that geeky consolations are necessary at the moment, as the university landscape is a bit doom-laden. It's all quiet; once again, too quiet. Lectures are suspended for the term, but students are able to access the library and labs, and the buses are running, so technically they are all finishing the semester's work and preparing for exams, which start next week. But it's entirely likely that the protesters are imitating the action of the rake in the grass and will erupt into life as soon as we incautiously step on their tines by trying to actually congregate students for examination purposes. At which point it'll all go to hell in a handbasket. However, I should note for posterity that "tines" is a lovely word. So specific. Precision in language is a very particular pleasure.

Quick Hobbit update: he's still OKish. He didn't respond at all well to the scheduled reduction of his cortizone dose after a week, his condition took a sharp dive, so we had to up it again. This means that the time left on his personal feline clock is probably measured in weeks rather than months; the cancer must be far enough advanced to resist the low doses already. Increasing the dose is giving him a bit of an appetite, at least, although in true feline and hobbitish fashion he is milking this for all it's worth by turning his nose up at expensive kidney-improving kibble. He only becomes truly enthusiastic about food if I hand-feed him bits of cooked chicken from my plate, at which point he snatches them somewhat impolitely and bolts them. I don't feed my cats people-food under any circumstances, usually, but right now I will feed him the blood of the living if that's what it takes. Let's hope it doesn't get that far. (Also, he infallibly bites me when I pill him, so he's getting a reasonable daily dose of blood anyway).

(My subject line quotes "Beren and Luthien", because that level of poignant loss seems vaguely appropriate on a number of levels).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
oh god I can't believe it, the evil magic of Tumblr has ended up addicting me to an online webcomic about cute American college boys playing hockey. The American version of hockey, i.e. on ice. Ngozi's Check, Please! is weirdly poignant, bizarrely socially aware and basically adorable, mostly because Bitty (small cute gay Southern boy who bakes), and because of the locus of well-intentioned awkward anxiety that is Jack. The comic and fan responses to same have inexorably infected my Tumblr feed over the last couple of months. The fanfic is lovely. Of all the things I ever thought I'd find myself doing, enjoying web comics about cute American college boys playing hockey significantly doesn't make the list in any way at all.

As revenge, because it's my only defence against this sort of thing, I shall proceed to dissect it ruthlessly, and with maximum use of polysyllables. I think the thing appeals not just because it's well written and beautifully drawn, but because it self-consciously appropriates and subverts the classically heteronormative and traditionally ideologically ugly setting of the frat house. The male sports team/frat house is a homosocial space whose construction generally implies sexism, toxic masculinity, profanity and all-out grossness, but Ngozi's version of it is resolutely and redeemingly utopian. There's enough grossness and profanity to be vaguely realistic, but the stereotypes are lovingly deconstructed: homosociability is mutually supportive, socially aware, irreverent without being destructive. This reaches its apotheosis in Shitty, the team's Gender Studies wonk and part-time nudist, because apparently "Every hockey team should have a hipster who wears floral snapbacks and shouts about the ironies of male sexuality in the American collegiate Greek system while waiting in line for the pong table to free up." Characters rip into each other cheerfully, both on and off the ice, but the teasing is free of malice. Bitty's gay identity is open, and unquestioningly supported by the team; his endearing personality, which is approximately what you'd get if Tintin embraced the twink stereotype slightly more flamboyantly while more or less continuously baking pie, exists in beautiful relief against the far more macho vibe of the rest of the team.

Part of what Ngozi is doing here, I think, is to present as primary text something which has the sensibility of fan fiction straight off the bat; like slash fic, it posits male relationships in an idealised mode, one in which homoerotic elements, whether literal or subtextual, are celebrated rather than being denied, by the characters and setting as well as the writer. (The college setting is the fictional Samwell, presented as being the most queer-friendly campus in America.) The comic is thus inherently self-aware, existing in dialogue not only with its own raft of external texts (character Twitter feeds, the writer's blog with additional comics, headcanons and occasional character Q&As) but with the whole fanfic paradigm itself. Quite my favourite bit of the series is Johnson the existential goalie, who's a minor character whose hobbies include "breaking the fourth wall": anything he says is metacommentary on his own and the other characters' existences as comic book characters, and he cheerfully acknowledges his own purpose as a device for furthering various narrative arcs. The really good fanfic has him popping in to comment on the difference between his own characterisation in and out of canon. It makes my narrative-fondling toes curl in girly glee.

So, weird but true: I have to admit to enjoying web comics about cute American college boys playing hockey. Because life's odd like that. In a good way.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
This is my second favourite thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens so far. (My favourite thing about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Have you noticed how they mix up and re-allocate gender stereotypes? Rey is geeky, technical, efficient, goal-directed. She drives. Finn is emotional, empathetic, nurturing. He heals. They both fight; they both care; they rescue each other. Also, Tumblr is erupting fairly inevitably into Finn/Poe, which is simply charming, or Finn/Poe/Rey, which is also cute.)

Anyway. Inevitable and beautiful mash-ups R Us. This was, as far as I can work out, perpetrated by Tumblr user starwarsheckyeah.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Saw Force Awakens yesterday. Three things. Non-spoilery things.

  1. That was Star Wars. That felt like Star Wars. That was, in fact, so much like Star Wars it was almost comical. It's like JJ took a judicious sampler of the most Star Warsy character archetypes, tropes, plot points, flavours, conflicts, visual cues, scenes and confrontations from the original trilogy (we do not speak of the Prequels of which we do not speak), and simply remixed them. It's like a concentrated essence of three Star Wars movies in one. He must have simmered it for ages. Some of the world-building is a bit perfunctory, I have absolutely no sense of how this political landscape has developed after the fall of the Empire, and I suspect JJ himself doesn't really know, but it's such an intense burst of Star Wars on the palate, it's easy to forgive.
  2. That wasn't just a film, that was a statement of creed. Its ultimate upshot is to ally itself so closely to the original films that it effectively obliterates the Prequels of which we do not speak. Those were, it is delicately suggested, an inexplicable error of taste. JJ has managed, in fact, to give us something resembling an address to the horrible Darth Vader plot of the prequels - a reworking of the teen angst rebellion theme with more actual human content and a far better actor. (I love, incidentally, how few of the main cast are classically Beautiful Hollywood People. Ren possibly qualifies, but she has a bit of a girl-next-door quality; mostly we have fascinatingly craggy or characterful faces, and a non-WASP aesthetic preponderates to a pleasingly large extent. I adore Finn to a slightly unseemly extent, he has that broad-faced, honest, slightly perplexed thing going. I can't help but feel that JJ is infinitely better suited to the swashbuckle of Star Wars than he ever was to Star Trek's more thoughtful spaces, but across both franchises one of his huge strengths is his casting.) This is possibly why it felt a bit like set-up - we have rehashed the originals now, which has cleared the decks, and hopefully the next two films will be able to strike into slightly newer territory.
  3. We have a female lead. We have a self-sufficient, efficient, geeky female lead who consistently and effectively rescues herself, and whose accurate tech-babble has as its direct cinematic ancestor Kaywinnet Lee Frye. We have not only a girl-hero, but random women in the background busy being doctors and techs; we have a female Asian pilot in the Resistance wing. (Although Captain Phasma was criminally underused, I hope she's heavily in the sequel). The partial-Yoda-analogue (who I loved) is female. Carrie Fisher is doing her thing with Leia. And the film is breaking box-office records. Take that, Hollywood patriarchy! Women can too lead a blockbuster action franchise. Which we already knew, but allow us to gleefully rub your nose in it.


In short, if you hadn't already gathered: squee. Slightly qualified squee, in that I slightly wish the film had given us something new in addition to stating its faith, but it's a good faith, and there's lots of space for newness in the sequels. Apparently this generation's Star Wars is no longer Guardians of the Galaxy, it's now Star Wars. Which is as it should be.

By way of celebration, this is one of my current favourite things in the universe ever, neatly conflating my Star Wars fangirliness with my love of a capella harmony. It's a thing of joy.

themes

Saturday, 12 December 2015 09:13 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am incautiously excited for the new Star Wars movies, and open to having my heart, once more, broken if it comes to that, which it very well might given JJ. (Current favourite anecdote: John Boyega being hailed by Samuel L. Jackson at a party, with the salutation "Hey, black Jedi! you my SON!")

I also very much enjoyed having Tracy visit a few weekends back, so that her daughters might variously (a) peruse my graphic novel collection (eldest; made off with Captain America, I'll get her into Digger too, see if I don't) and (b) noodle around on my piano (youngest: is starting lessons soon, accepted guidance on practising scales). It made me realise that I miss playing my piano, and should get back into it.

By way of synthesising paragraphs (1) and (2) above, I love this very, very much.



I shall allow it to sustain me through today, which, while being a Saturday, is also a four-hour review meeting of all the students who've been academically excluded by these exams. It does good and useful work, and is uniformly depressing.
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.

grrr, aargh

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 02:57 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night was deeply annoying, because (a) lights, none, and (b) so many legs! As well as (c), residual Age of Ultron grumps.

I am narked with the City of Cape Town because they confirm a load-shedding session so much at the last minute. I checked the loadshedding page four times yesterday, and every time it was "load shedding suspended until further notice." Then they cut us off at 8pm, at the point where I'd assumed we were safe for the day, right in the middle of the first episode of Daredevil, which is a new Netflix series which is doing a slow build thing that definitely doesn't need to be arbitrarily suspended. Although, in retrospect, having to feel my way across the living room in the pitch dark was at least thematically appropriate. (I'm reserving judgement on Daredevil for the nonce, I kinda like what they're doing, it's gritty and real and Charlie Cox is marvellous, but it's currently moving very slowly and I hope they sort the pace out a tad).

"So many legs!" is a quote from Cole in Inquisition upon meeting the giant albino spider which lives under the Crestwood keep. There was a sudden, huge and inexplicable spider in the corner of the bathroom last night, just above the shower. Arachnids are clearly evil because they choose to manifest (a) in the moment when the room is illuminated by flickering candlelight which most efficiently conceals them in shadows until you're really close, and (b) in the room in which you are most likely to be wandering around naked, and thus unprotected from arachnid multi-hairy-legged scuttling by any form of civilised armour. Bastards. Having stripped completely and wandered towards the shower, I spotted the spider, thought, "Hell, no", backed away slowly and went to bed unwashed, shutting the bathroom door behind me so the wretched thing couldn't infiltrate the house. It was gone this morning, hopefully out the window rather than into a dark bathroom corner from whence it can more unexpectedly pounce. I am a wimp, but somehow it all seems more horrible when you're trying to eject spiders without the benefit of electricity.

I have worked out why Age of Ultron annoyed me so much. It's not actually because of the final, headcanon-ruining upshot of the story. It's because absolutely none of the narrative and character arcs which led to that outcome felt earned, deserved or properly explored. I could adjust my headcanons if the film gave me any bloody grist whatsoever to my imaginative mill. But it doesn't: the romance isn't substantiated, the death isn't justified in any thematic sense, the departures are glossed over, the whole thing feels like random events cobbled together randomly, rather than an actual plot. Joss can do so much better, and I tend to agree with this article, which argues that the Marvel meta-marketing drive has constrained the director to the point where he is completely hamstrung in trying to give the story any sort of satisfying shape.

Also, while Joss Whedon is definitely still my master now, I can't help thinking that his particular brand of feminism, which resides mostly in strong female characters, is in a weird sort of way slightly out of date. He was groundbreaking at the time with Buffy and Firefly, but levels of feminist awareness have overtaken him - simple strong female characters simply don't cut it any more, we need a more pervasive critique which the Marvel straitjacket certainly doesn't permit. (See: leaked CEO email giving a demonstration of beautifully spurious logic: bad female-led superhero movies bombed, therefore all female-led superhero movies are bad and will bomb. To which we answer, succinctly and pointedly, "Ben Afflek's Daredevil". Because really.)

In other news, my mutant foot has died down to its usual shape and is only rather red and mottled. Antibiotics and two days with my feet up have settled its hash onetime quick. Now all I have to deal with is the nausea occasioned by the antibiotics...
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Mostly my movie-watching life has been on hold lately, because Inquisition. Turns out there is no contest between gaming and watching DVDs: gaming wins. However, apparently the grip of the game loosens a bit when I'm on my, what, seventh or eighth play-through? So I have both gone to the movies, and watched some of the Pile of Unwatched Reproach, which is probably twenty DVDs high, in between navigating a Qunari mage through a by now incredibly familiar Thedas. Leading to a scorecard which looks something like this:

Big Hero 6. Disney animated thing with cute bulbous robot. It's a cute bulbous superhero film which I thoroughly enjoyed, because it's both cute and science-positive. Also, its deliberate rip-offs of Iron Man, among other films, are hilarious. Bonus cool swarms of evil microbots, cool nerd stereotypes and cool affirmations of non-violence. A-, because fluffy, but relegated to "probable comfort re-watch" pile.

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. Um. Martin Freeman is still a tiny hobbitoid acting god. Bard wants to be Aragorn when he grows up, and probably could be. Thorin's downward spiral wasn't as heart-rending as I expected it to be, possibly I'm becoming old and cynical. Peter Jackson still suffers from irredeemably self-indulgent narrative bloat and completely inexplicable plot choices, and IMNSHO he stuffed up the actual battle something 'orrible. Wasted Fili and Kili's sacrifice, weird relocation of Thorin's confrontation to unnecessary and rather lame towers rather than the battlefield, and it made absolutely no tactical sense whatsoever. Did he run out of budget for background fighting? Also, no Bilbo shouting "The eagles are coming!", rotten swizz. B-, visually cool but overall strangely uncompelling, Martin Freeman notwithstanding.

Basil the Great Mouse Detective. This was, weirdly, teaching research, on account of how I'm teaching Sherlock again this year and am becoming unduly fascinated by the endurance of the Holmes/Watson mythic archetype across different iterations. This one has a classic Watson and a rather annoying Sherlock who has surprisingly large numbers of points in common with the current BBC one. Amazing how the tall&thin vs short&solid visual image is retained in so many versions. Entirely predicable Disney film in the slightly less accomplished pre-Aladdin mode. C, but will will show clips in class because the parallels are interesting.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Saw this on Sunday morning (about 10 people in the 9am showing, score!) in sheer self-defence because my Tumblr feed is trying to spoil me. I am entirely unable to say whether it's a good movie or not because my ships and personal headcanons have been so thoroughly Jossed that I'm all quivering with outrage, injury and sulk. I've read a lot of Avengers fanfic, and it turns out I'm really invested in the Avengers as they currently stand, and I want to keep on thinking of them like that, living together forever in Avengers Tower and fighting crime, not with the new team make-up going in the new direction. It was certainly a fun film, visually exciting, good character interaction, amazing fight choreography, but bleah. I decline to assign it a score on the grounds that I'm not reasonable about it. I spent most of Sunday unconscionably depressed and killing things in Inquisition with more than the usual levels of vindictive satisfaction. Phooey.

On the upside, they also gave us the new Star Wars trailer in big-screen 3-D, and it made me weepy. Apparently I'm imprinted on that universe, but also the new images are correctly gritty and feel like Star Wars in a way the prequels-we-do-not-mention did not. A new hope!
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.)

vindicated!

Sunday, 9 November 2014 08:29 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
teabag

"Never, ever, ever push a teabag with a spoon. That’s just… Yeah. You’re out the front door if you do that."

I concur. I don't like my Earl Grey strong.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Oh, dear. In pursuit of watering the burgeoning and increasingly verdant collection of pots in my back courtyard, I seem to have accidentally watered the Hobbit. He is slinking about the house at half his usual volume and twice his usual density, looking matted and hedgehog-spiky and somewhat cowed. I would be feeling more guilty except he's amusing like this :>.

In the Department of Random Ongoing Fangirling: so it turns out that if you slow the Sherlock theme down it sounds like something from a Tim Burton soundtrack.



I am obscurely charmed by this. Particularly since it beautifully accompanies fanart such as, for example, that by La-Chapeliere-Folle on deviantart, which won't let me link to the image, phooey. The Sherlock/Burton crossover appears to be inevitable. I blame Sherlock's silhouette.

Random fanfic rec! surprisingly, not Sherlock. This is an exceptionally beautifully-written slow-burn Harry/Draco fic which does my favourite thing in Potterfic, which is to explore the manifest iniquities and logical flaws inherent in Rowling's Slytherin/Gryffindor stereotyping. She really doesn't do nuance or sophistication or real human impulse in her moralities. Fortunately many fanfic writers absolutely do. This one is set mostly in pub arguments and is amusing as well as true.

The subject line is because it's a beautiful sunny day and my car sound system is onto The Life Pursuit, the Belle & Sebastian album voted most likely to make me randomly happy. It's all catchy, boppy, whimsical tunes, and I am a slut for catchy.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
parades end landscape

So, Parade's End! In utter defiance of my usual desperate fidelity to nothing but the fluffiest of genre tv, I am suddenly and inexplicably hooked on quality BBC renditions of period Modernist novels, with extra side helpings of war, tragedy and emotional distress. I dunno. Apparently I actually have the mental energy, which is probably not unrelated to my recent post on being (weird, go figure) un-depressed and even happy. Which, I am happy to say, is still the case.

My sudden interest in Parade's End is not just fangirling, although the link is Benedict Cumberbatch and I ended up watching it via the fan process - my Tumblr feed is still all about Sherlock, and if fan activity does anything, it introduces you not just to the investment of articulate fans in the central text, but in all the other texts they love, too. There's apparently only so much exposure to beautiful English countryside and Edwardian costume in lovingly-captured Tumblr gifs I can take before I have to damned well see the series.

And wow, is it beautiful. The production has a sort of glow about it, it's exquisitely conceived and shot, with an almost heightened reality to the period detail. That gives, I think, a slight sense of detachment from all of the mental cruelty and horrors of war with which the story is concerned - they are tragic and horrifying without actually being visceral, which is possibly also why I'm managing to enjoy it. But the visual spectacle is really only a context for the characters, from whom one doesn't detach at all. Wow, I invest in these people. All so interestingly flawed, groping unavailingly towards abstract ideals, so utterly shaped and entrapped by their social contexts, structures, expectations, morals. Their own desires so suppressed. Vivid, real, sad people, caught in a terrible sort of inevitability - not just war, although that flings it all into relief, but the shape of their everyday lives. The series is amazing, but now I really want to read the book.

And, let me tell you, it's deeply weird to find myself suddenly impelled to read the book, because my loathing for the Modernists is a pure and burning thing, and Ford Madox Ford is a maddened Modernist with all the bells and whistles. They've always struck me as arrogant sods with this whole thing of My Consciousness, Let Me Show You It. Generally, as a self-respecting genre theorist I have no damned interest at all in someone's naked consciousness, unfiltered by respectable genre functions or narrative conventions. A lot of this distaste is irrational and probably exists because I was badly savaged, in my impressionable undergrad, by a rampaging James Joyce - I never even tried Ulysses, Portrait of the Artist did for me all on its own in first-year English. At the time my high levels of nascent feminism and innate girly swot caused me independently to make valiant but unavailing attempts to read Virginia Woolf on the grounds that the Girl version of Modernism may be more palatable than the Boy, but oh lord. (Except Orlando. I love Orlando, it's a romp, albeit an angry romp, and it appeals to those bits of me that are into androgyny and shifted gender boundaries, which I am coming to the conclusion are rather a lot more of me than I'd realised).

But a sneaking sympathy has clearly crept up on me, because the Modernist framing of Ford's writing obviously influences the way the series is made, and I utterly adore the way the series is made. Apart from its deeply internal positioning and fascination with psychology, it's all allusion and implication, fragmented narrative, half-told stories, time-jumps, unexplained free associations - it makes you work, it doesn't explain, you have to construct it as you watch. I'm currently re-watching because I feel that I missed so much the first time round, and it's an immeasurably rich pleasure on a second viewing, when you can feel the operation of each instant in the arc of the whole. This is intelligent television based on an intelligent book, and thus, by gum, I'll prove myself intelligent by surviving Ford Madox Ford, or perish in the attempt.

I should also possibly record for posterity that, apart from an uncharacteristic inclination to give Modernism a second chance, watching Parade's End’s upper class Edwardianism, in which people perfectly unironically say things like “Ripping!” and “old boy”, has had the weird and possibly inevitable side-effect of mutating my already slightly indefinably pseudo-British accent inexorably towards ever more cut-glass Full English enunciation. (Like a Full English breakfast, only less hardening to the arteries). Especially, for some reason, when giving curriculum advice. I can't work out if the bell-like clarity is desirable or pretentious as hell, but given that my next Cunning Plan is to break out the BBC Bleak House I haven't got around to watching yet, the linguistic shenanigans are almost certainly going to amplify rather than receding. But it's my favourite Dickens, and Gillian Anderson doing Lady Deadlock is an act of inspired and genius casting such as the world has never seen, and apparently I now have the mental fortitude, so my immediate environment can just deal with the Britishness. So there.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am once more computer- and internet-enabled! This has taken four entirely unnecessary days, given that (as usual) the problems were very simple and I could have sorted them out myself if I'd only known.

  1. The computer problem wasn't the graphics card, it was a boot-up problem which for some bizarre reason hinged on a defunct wireless card. If you unplugged the wireless card it booted up fine. Since I connect the desktop to the router with a cable, the wireless card is entirely redundant and has in fact never been used (mostly because I could never get it to work, making more sense in retrospect than it ever did at the time) and we simply left it out.
  2. I should have been able to tell that it was a boot-up problem because of the missing beep when it tried to boot up. It transpires, however, that for some reason my computer doesn't actually beep when you boot it. Something has cruelly silenced its beep. Or it has my bronchitis, one or the other.
  3. The internet problem was because the router randomly reset itself to my old Imaginet package rather than the new one. I have no idea what caused this. I'm perfectly capable of configuring a router myself, but couldn't do so because I had no functional computer to which to attach it. Next time my computer dies I'm going to check the router first, since it apparently has these random fits of self-definition.
  4. Hmmm. I don't ever appear to have named this computer. My old one, the one who got stolen after a service career of continual revolving upgrades over approximately a decade, like a dwarven axe, was called Mnemonsyne. My netbook, before she too was nicked, was Tiamat. I need to think up an appropriate female goddess stat.
  5. Having sorted out all of the above (except the name), I couldn't access approximately half of my usual websites without incurring a security warning. Which turned out to be for https sites, which it categorically refused to load on the grounds that Unspecified Evils (possibly the usual aetheric bears) would steal my data if I did. Apparently https sites consider you to be suspect anachronisms if, for example, the technician who diagnosed your wireless card problem managed in the course of it to reset your computer clock to somewhere in 2007. Updating the calendar made all the little security warnings and red padlocks go the hell away, with the result that I have now managed to subdue my rampaging Tumblr feed.

I am please to be imagined in a triumphant pose, with my booted foot on the neck of the technojixary beast. Like a questing beast, or more accurately the exact opposite of a questing beast. Far from questing after it, you rather wish this one would go away, as it breathes down your neck and muddles your technology until you manage to work out which end of the sword is the pointy one and slay it.

In celebration, please have some deliriously funny BBC radio satire (more accurately, a radio sketch show called “Lewis Macleod is Not Himself”) on the eternal nature of the Freeman/Cumberbatch cinematic duo. The one about The Office, The one about the moose, The one with the cocktail stick. *fairy tale harp chords* [medieval choral chant] Ben-ne-dict Cum-ber-baaatch!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I suppose I'm due for an outbreak of my techno-jinx, it's been lurking in hibernation for a while, but the emphasis is on the "lurking" - it's an undead horror that will never truly die. I have been without home internet since Wednesday morning, my existence bound by the sad contemplation of that doomful little red blinkenlight on the modem. My helpful Imaginet geek checked all the widgety connection thingummies, and the problem is apparently Telkom doing "routine maintenance" on the lines in the area, by which I assume they mean they're digging up the perfectly functional network and replacing it with something they crocheted from palm fibres while high. Techno-jinx 1, me 0, Telkom their usual 32 956, while cackling.

They may well have sorted it out since Wednesday, but I have been unable to check, on account of how my computer monitor abruptly stopped being able to talk to the actual computer sometime on Wednesday night, right in the middle of a high-stakes Dragon Age battle. Intensive operations swapping out monitors and connection cables suggest that it's not either of them, so I somewhat amateurishly diagnose that my video card has died. Either that, or it's a more pervasive problem with either the power supply or the RAM or the hard drive itself, which is preventing the poor creature from booting properly at all. Since it can't get as far as talking to the monitor either way it can't tell me what's actually wrong, which is a horribly helpless sort of position to put me in. These days I can usefully solve a good 70% of my computer problems by the power of random semi-competent fiddle, creatively channelling the Evil Landlord and various ex-boyfriends, and Google. Not this time, clearly. Techno-jinx 2, me 0, Telkom still cackling in the background because still no internet, which means my perfectly functional IPad is useless for internet-withdrawal-placation purposes as the wireless doesn't work. Curse that cloud computing, anyway.

It's entirely possible that this dual techno-failure was a signal from the Cosmic Wossnames on high that I need to get my butt back to work after ten days of sick-leave - certainly I have been far more motivated to actually leave the house when I can neither noodle around on the internet nor play games. I am thus back in the saddle, placating the swirling black clouds of internet withdrawal by virtue of my work internet (although my Tumblr feed is pretty much out of control as reading it full-time is not compatible with student advice or doing any actual work), and plotting to take the hapless computer in to the nice Korean geekpersons at Cafe Viva this afternoon. I am also way ahead on my tv-watching and reading, which means I have finally cracked open Parade's End, of which I have been somewhat scared in my weakened state as it looked heavy and possibly tragic. In fact, it's both tragic and absorbing, and exquisitely made, and is providing a horribly addictive plethora of compelling characters and amazing set and landscape porn. Last night I also combined the high-class BBC period drama with a completely random and uncalled-for acquisition of Chinese takeout, all on my own, just because I was grumpy and could. It turns out that techno-jinxen, if not placated, can be more or less forgotten with sufficient crispy duck with pancakes and Benedict Cumberbatch being Noble in spades. Thus Techno-jinx 2, Telkom infinity, but me 1.

In the context of all of the above I record, for posterity, my delightful discovery in the course of looking up "blinkenlight" to confirm that it was in fact spelled thusly and did indeed mean what I though it meant. Namely, the Wikipedia article on same, which reproduces in its entirety that beautifully Goonish conglomeration of mock-German warning sign which is one of the most elderly of tech memes, and whose existence I had entirely forgotten about. When confronted with a rampaging techno-jinx, horned and clawed, it is as well to remember that DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN! and to RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN. If I can get them to blink. News at 11.

pity the child

Thursday, 18 September 2014 11:17 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out at the end of November, and in the twitchy, anticipatory interim, having played Origins and II obsessively for a few months, I need something to fill the void. This has led to some slightly experimental gaming, most recently: Gone Home, and Papo & Yo.

Gone_Home

Gone Home was a tip from Jo: it isn't really a game so much as it's an interactive narrative that requires you to construct the story, bit by bit, from the information you find. You're returning to visit your family, but when you arrive, no-one's there. You wander around the house looking at things, and the pattern of events emerges gradually from the information you're given. It's not hugely sophisticated, but the sense of agency you have in building up the narrative is satisfying, and it plays very nicely with narrative expectation and trope. You continually skirt markers of horror or tragedy or melodrama, and then skitter away again; I kept thinking I knew what was going on, only to realise that it wasn't doing the clichéd thing I'd thought it was. Also, it's a period piece, deliberately pre-cell-phones or internet; it's frankly amazing to realise the nostalgic emotional charge behind a mix tape. This was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours of not-quite-gaming. Recommended.

PaPo-Yo

I picked up Papo & Yo from a mention on Anna Sarkesian's excellent Tropes vs Women series, where she deconstructs the nastier misogynies of computer games; this was a counter-example. Papo & Yo is a puzzle game with minor platformer elements, although fortunately the bits where you have to jump between floating things are minimal and only gave me a few minutes of annoyance. (I'm incredibly bad at jumping between floating things, or pillars, or anything where you have to land neatly on a small area and then take off again. I think my real-life klutz tendencies give me Issues).

The game follows a young Brazilian boy as he negotiates a dreamlike urban setting made up of slum-like shacks but largely devoid of people, and curiously pastel and beautiful; his companion, a giant monster, is alternately oblivious and monstrous, and operates as a deliberate, poignant and extremely effective metaphor for child abuse by an alcoholic father-figure. The monster is both the challenge and part of the problem; you occasionally negotiate the puzzles by manipulating the monster so you can use his weight to trigger pressure plates, or bounce off his stomach, but he becomes a flaming, rampaging, horrible thing under the influence of the alcohol-metaphor. It's a fascinating playing experience because the occasional violence is entirely non-instrumental in game terms - you are thrown around and trampled but damage is not recorded in any formal way - yet is somehow infinitely more awful and disturbing than the more concrete and conventional kind which whittles down your hit-points.

Despite this, the game utterly charmed me. Its puzzles are entertaining and frequently whimsical, with glowing bits of string pulling buildings around and houses randomly growing legs or wings; its mood is gentle and full of a child-like delight and wonder at its own environment; and its conclusion, the exact antithesis of a boss-battle, is thoughtful and genuine enough to have moved me to tears. I loved this. Loved, loved, loved it. Play it if you're into puzzle games and haven't already; the PC version is on Steam. [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun, I'm probably looking at you.

(I am horrified to note, from my subject line, that the musical Chess appears to have imprinted me in early teenagerhood and cannot be eradicated. Stupid ridiculously catchy Abba writers.)

whups, fellover

Tuesday, 16 September 2014 10:49 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I'm trying to work out why this is so funny.



Possibly because Giles, who is quite one of my favourite Buffy characters, and it's beautifully edited, but mostly I suspect that there's just something inherently funny about Chumbawamba.

I am Still Sick, although much, much better - now at the pale/shaky/weedy end of it, with occasional coughing and a throaty contralto, instead of the hacking-consumptive-bring-me-a-place-to-die bit. Doc has put me off work until Thursday. On mature reflection, this was sensible and necessary, because doing anything much makes me fall over, or at least want to.

(You can attribute the Cassie Claire weed-smoking Gandalf subject line to the fact that I rewatched the second Hobbit film last night, which only served to reinforce my convictions that (a) Martin Freeman is a tiny hobbitoid acting god, and (b) BC was born to voice the more intelligent sort of dragon.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Random thought for the day: this article is amusing, but it should have been written by a poet rather than a linguist, because you can sum up most of it by saying that random facsimiles of Benedict Cumberbatch's name can be reproduced by the simple process of juxtaposing two dactyls. Preferably two dactylic nouns with approximately the right distribution of consonants and vowel sounds, but the dactyl is the important part. Metre, people. It's all in the metre. What do they teach them in schools these days?

and went on in sunlight

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 04:45 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It is fortunate, in fact, that fanfic doesn't occupy actual physical space, because if it did the amount of it that I read would not improve the bookshelf crisis at all, in any way. Today's fanfic rec (still Sherlock) is for something that has at least partially satisfied my loathing of His Last Vow, which I still think was a terrible, scattered, ill-thought-out cobbling together of psychological inconsistency and gaping plot holes only partially redeemed by its, as always, brilliant acting and production. PlaidAdder's Sherlock fic is bloody marvellous, but particularly Law Like Love, because it explicitly sets out to fix some of the more egregious inconsistencies of that horribly-scripted episode. It also has a kick-butt Harry Watson, a fascinating reversed-time narrative frame, and an obsession with W H Auden. Highly, highly recommended. As is anything in that series, actually, but especially The Young Men Carbuncular, which is an extremely entertaining Doyle/TS Eliot pastiche which should groove the ploons of any fans of "The Waste Land". And she does a similar rescue of the Donna Noble problem in her Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover. PlaidAdder doesn't have much truck with Moffat's horrible scripting. We like her.

Because I happened to snap him perched precariously in the front window, celebrating his newly-developed ability to both exit and re-enter via it, have a random Hobbit. I cannot acquit him of being Self-Consciously Posed.

Photo0087

I am quoting "The Waste Land" in my subject line, because several literature degrees have to be good for something and besides, I've always cherished a certain baffled affection for the fractured suggestiveness of its images.

antici ..... pation

Friday, 18 April 2014 09:46 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
My fanfic habit is at the hyperaddicted stage where I'm subscribed to a whole bunch of uncompleted fics on AO3. This means, I discover, that I have evolved a particularly happy little "ooh!" of delighted discovery when another email notification pops up in my inbox to say another chapter has been uploaded. Almost a mini-yodel, really. Like a response to unsolicited chocolate, or kittens. With the particular flavour of unexpected joy which comes from the fact that, unlike most of our other common experiences of serial fiction (TV shows, mainly), fanfic comes with no guarantee of regular posting, so every new chapter is a slightly unexpected gift.

And I was thinking that my willingness to wait without guarantee of reward is about love, in the sense of how much I love these texts and am willing to commit to ongoing and erratically delayed gratification, but it's also about the love the writers have for their text, and their willingness to commit time to it on a strictly amateur basis. Unlike a TV series, they have no support structure or financial incentive which allows them to guarantee regularity. My "ooh!" of a fine morning's notification is gratitude for their time, as much as anything else.

I face with a tolerable equanimity the prospect of a four-day Easter weekend, even though within its generous grasp I absolutely have to do some serious work on this damned African fairy tale paper. I'm going to have to man up and confront postcolonialism, and postcolonialism gives me hives. On the other hand, I am deriving some slightly perverse satisfaction from the awareness that the meat and tenor of the paper are in no way going to be a dutiful survey of African fairy tale film, because (a) there ain't much, (b) I lack the time, resources or desire to dig through the arcane minutae of the home film production of a dozen countries which would be required to offer any genuine sort of survey of the not much there is, and (c) I think my approach is more interesting, anyway. Pertinent case studies, that's the ticket.

I am also deriving some small comfort from my Tumblr feed's latest offering of random surreality. I have no idea why this tickles me as much as it does, but it really does.

yo yo ma

The source is a delirious little Tumblog calling itself TL;DR Wikipedia, whose adjacent definition of the Sphinx I also recommend. In bizarrely related news, yesterday's internet eroticism lecture featured a spirited discussion of the concept of tl;dr and its relationship to internet eroticism. Of such things is my life made.

Happy Easter, y'all. In the secular sense of "long weekend". This week's outbreak of unctuous His People billboards featuring "MAN GIVES LIFE FOR OTHERS" as a news headline is making me grind my teeth.

Subject Line Gloss: I am quoting, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, because I can.

still giggling

Friday, 11 April 2014 10:09 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
So, remember the Chris Evans version of 2048 I posted? a few days back? The one which caused certain of my lady friends to go "That game you posted? It's evil! there went Tuesday!", causing me to say, "Well, I did warn you" with some complacence? Celeb versions of 2048 are a Thing right now - I also recommend the one with Benedict Cumberbatch and otters. But absolutely my favourite development in this is the following sequence:

  1. Copperbadge, prominent Tumblerite who I follow because he writes good fanfic, invents the Robert Downey Jr 2048 version, which starts with ickle baby RJDs and progressively ages them as you meld them. Which is probably an obscure metaphor for something, I'm not sure what.
  2. The internet happily melds RDJs for a while.
  3. Robert Downey Jr posts the Copperbadge version on his Facebook page with a comment to the effect of "Damn you, Copperbadge!"
  4. Copperbadge posts a "Holy shit he namedropped me!" comment to Tumblr.
  5. Tumblr melts down.

I love the internet. But its ability to create the illusion that the illusion of the celebrity/fan reciprocal relationship is an actual celebrity/fan relationship, while enormously entertaining to the onlooker, is bloody dangerous. Contemplating the nested and reciprocal validations in that little exchange above is making me slightly dizzy as well as hugely amused.

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