freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Last night's fun discovery in Mass Effect: Andromeda: if you are buggering around poking things in the fancy new outpost you've just set up on a planet you've just carefully won over in the teeth of extreme resistance (Kadara, and may I add, Reyes, you bastard!) and you accidentally hang around for too long on the bit of platform you didn't realise was a landing pad for shuttles, a large, enthusiastic shuttle piloted by your own Initiative people will arrive at speed out of nowhere and land on top of you, squashing you terminally flat and causing the fateful "! MISSION FAILURE" screen to flash up over your recumbent corpse.

I find this a particularly pleasing piece of essentially random verisimilitude, it made me giggle madly. It also caused me to mentally construct micro flash fanfic depicting the probable reaction of the poor benighted shuttle pilot who thus accidentally took out their own Pathfinder, who is the colonisation trailblazer, terraforming on-switch operative and the Milky Way travellers' only hope for survival. "Embarrassed" doesn't even begin to cover it. Probably a quick header into the nearest sulphuric acid lake would be the only decent response.

We have one of South Africa's merry conglomerate public holiday clusters coming up, Thursday for Freedom Day and Monday for Workers' Day, and I have taken Friday, Tuesday and Wednesday off with a sensation of palpable relief. I have had the same bloody sinus headache for several weeks now, it drifts in and out randomly, and I am conscious of a deep-seated need to do nothing for a week or so and bond with my new kitten. Next week is the ten-day vac, so it's also even possible that not too many students will actually explode in my absence. And if they do, someone else can deal with them. At this point in the proceedings I am astonishingly unmoved at the prospect.

My subject line is Hillaire Belloc, the dreadful story of Rebecca who slams doors, and meets her Inevitably Gruesome End at the hands (shoulders?) of a bust of Abraham. The poem has been circling my cerebellum gently since the Andromeda Incident.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
For some reason the recent Garden XKCD won't load on my work computer, probably because complicated campus firewalls or something - you go to the page and all it gives you is a revolving tree silhouette with the word "LOADING" and a flashing ellipsis, with the mouseover "Relax." I thought that was the whole strip, and it was perfect - that's exactly what you do with a garden, relax and wait for everything to load.

Currently I am delighting in a random corner of my real-life container garden which is slowly and carefully loading three butternut squash plants, the result of me, in a fit of pique at having an entire tray of baby marrow seedlings eaten off at ground level by cutworm, madly planting 6 seeds from a butternut I happened to have for dinner one evening. I'm fairly useless at seeds, a 50% germination rate is bloody good by my standards, but as long as I can keep the neighbourhood tomcat from jumping on them in the course of his flee-the-garden escape route when I shout at him for stealing my cats' food and/or spraying in the passage, they seem to be doing well. In the meanwhile, the XKCD comic is growing things under lights on my home computer, although I cannot as yet persuade it to produce anything other than a row of identical boring trees. I love the way Randall Munroe's mind works, the controls for the lights are elegantly simple.

In a tangentially related note (technological replications of biological processes?), I give you Holotypic Occlupanid Research Group, because delightful. They solemnly and meticulously catalogue the taxonomical classifications of the little plastic widgets used to close bread bags.

In other news also not unentirely related to the unduly artificial mechanical replication of actual life processes, last night Machete Order brought us to re-watch Attack of the Clones. I had honestly forgotten (a) most of the movie, I clearly blanked it in sheer self-defence, and (b) how utterly terrible a film it is. Seriously: the plot sucks, the script blows, the dialogue is beyond lame and unnatural, the greenscreen is ungodly clunky, the "romance" "plot" is the unconvincing bumping together of two wooden effigies, one of them loutish, and the whole represents the utter triumph of overbudgeted CGI over reason, taste or the faintest replication of actual life. Unsurprisingly, given that it focuses on the CGI clashes of droids and clones rather than actual people, the whole thing can be summed up with "Newsflash: I don't care." Honestly, George, it takes a special level of anti-skill to make giant battles between droids, clones and Jedi knights actually boring.

We still have to endure Revenge of the Sith, although probably only when Jo gets back from AfricaBurns. Anyone know any good drinking games? I have time to train my liver up a bit...

hallo spaceboy

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 01:39 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


He doesn't have a beard, but I'm wondering if this explains Hobbit's state of neck-floof?
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Aargh. The horrors of reg season (we are now in change of curriculum week, aka "Hellweek") have been materially reinforced by additional circumstances this year, namely student protests, and the fact that I'm chairing a selection committee at the same time. In the latter category, a potential applicant has just written a lengthy rant on the "discriminatory" wording of the job advert, in which he used the phrase "No disrespect, but..." in cold blood. Honestly, don't people stop to think? There is absolutely no way in hell I would give the job to someone with his particularly combative and insensitive attitude, even if his rant was valid, which it wasn't, and he met the qualifications requirements, which he doesn't. The rigours of my role notwithstanding, I still fundamentally like students and wouldn't subject them to that.

In the Department of Student Protests, they're happening, and buses are being burned and shacks built, but so far not on the part of campus where I work - it's all a bit distant and muffled, the focus of protests is housing and not, as we feared, registration. I think the people in the housing offices and Bremner are having a bad time of it, and there's been considerable property damage. But the Rhodes Must Fall movement, who are the perpetrators, have extremely effectively destroyed all the goodwill that actually existed for their message with all this bullshit. Now they're just vandals. Which is an enormous pity, as a lot of what they're protesting about badly needs change. As usual, The Onion nails it in their Tips for Campus Activism - not in the bulk of the list, which applies to a far different and more privileged notion of protest, but in the final item: "Above all, stay strong and never give up the fight! You don’t want to give “the man” the satisfaction of dismantling your demonstration by putting pressure on you or cordially agreeing to your terms." "The man" did exactly the latter, in all the gains achieved last year, and now is patiently doing the former, as protests spiral out of control and the perpetrators are arrested left, right and centre. Overall it's a very sad upshot for a worthwhile movement.

And finally, in all this chaos, once again friends keep me sane. I found a pack of chocolate digestives in my in-tray last week, attached to a card addressed to "O great and mighty Dr T". Upon opening, it revealed the following:



It is an index to the horrors of the last month that I was too fundamentally weakened for the usual yell of grammatical horror. Instead I collapsed in feeble and hysterical giggling, which was indeed the fell intent of the perpetrator. This was Tracy, who apparently bought the card years ago specifically with me in mind and has been biding her time waiting for the precise psychological moment for delivery. She hit it dead-on. It quite made my week.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl from mike roush on Vimeo.


This is my favourite thing that I've watched in a long while. Both sad and satisfying, and the disconnect between the voice-over and the action is a thing of beauty.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Apparently you can take the girl out of the SCA, but... If you don't read Mallory Ortberg, on The Toast or on Twitter, you should, she offers an extremely high class of batshit lateral. The latest of hers to do the rounds, Two Medieval Monks Invent Bestiaries, is a particularly fine specimen. The traditional Earl Grey was snorted through the traditional nasal appendage.

I am still at home with bronchitis and a lovely, hacking cough which causes Hobbit to dash terrified from the room at frequent intervals. My nice doctor has torn her hair slightly, prescribed an asthma pump, and booked me off for the whole week. I am playing an awful lot of Inquisition. Random investigation (occasioned by a weird game corruption which Teh Internets seem to think is the result of having too many different saved games) suggests that I am not, in fact, powering my way through a fourth playthrough (Qunari mage, female, romancing Josie), it's actually my seventh1. I appear have spent a certain proportion of the last few months playing Inquisition in a fugue state. Also, I am now good enough at the damned thing that I'm wandering through on an elevated difficulty visiting areas in the wrong order so I fight things a good 6 or 7 levels higher than I am, and I'm still cremating them with some efficiency.

Finally, this blew my mind. Metallica cover, plunging me straight back into my Honours year, aargh nostalgia. All-girl band. Aged 9 to 14. Watch the drummer in particular, she's bloody good and she rocks.



1 Human rogue (dual wield), female, Cullen; Elven mage (rift mage), female, Solas; Human mage (knight enchanter), famale, Cullen; Elven warrior (sword/shield), male, Dorian; Elven rogue (archer), female, Cullen; Human mage (knight enchanter), male, Dorian. I am not, apparently, compelled to monogamy as much as I am in other iterations of Bioware games, although there's a certain Cullen and Dorian theme emerging. This is because Inquisition is beautifully written, far more so than earlier DAs, and I genuinely like and respect a much higher proportion of these people. (Dorian is entirely endearing, and Cullen's character arc over three games is very nicely drawn; both achieve the balance of damaged/conflicted with likeable which earlier DAs have largely flubbed). Next up, Dwarven rogue, female, (dual wield, still my favourite class), probably Sera. Blackwall annoys me and Iron Bull is frankly terrifying.
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!

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.)

this means war

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 09:23 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
One of the more entertaining side effects of my liminal academic existence and strange research interests is that I'm becoming the go-to person for The Media when they approach my Cherished Institution for commentary on the more outré corners of culture: Lewis Carroll, or fairy tale, or Terry Pratchett, or vampires, or, apparently, fan fiction. Yesterday I found myself giving, at extremely short notice, a ten-minute interview with Cape Talk Radio, because two of the show's staff suggested to the host that he talk about fanfic, and he said "What's fanfic?" and proceeded to find out. I rather enjoy being given an opportunity to babble enthusiastically about my interests, and he asked good questions, and this morning there are three emails in my inbox from previous students going "gosh, fanfic, loved your lectures, nice to hear you babbling". (Not in so many words. Students are generally more polite, possibly because they're afraid I'll bite if they're not.) Also, apparently there's a podcast.. (I'm a bit sorry I didn't get into the gender stuff. Fanfic as a female response to the male domination of media narratives is my current personal hobby-horse).

But it's also amusing to note the attempts by said media forces to box and label my weird place in this faculty, leading to me being variously and erroneously identified over the last few years, despite my best efforts, as "the Head of the English Department", "the Dean of Literature", and, yesterday, "Lecturer of Fan Fiction", which sounds like far more of an official position than it actually is. While I lecture volubly and enthusiastically on fan fiction, this faculty would scream, shudder and faint in coils at the mere thought of a precious official position devoted to fanfic. But it's a nice illusion, for ten minutes.

Of course, this also means I was nicely primed for today's XKCD, which is enough on the nail that my colleague in the office next door has just wandered in, slightly worried, to find out the source of the mad cackles of laughter proceeding from my location.



This is such a beautifully layered joke, not just because it relies partially on our knowledge of the personal proclivities of black-hat guy in the strip. "Headcanon", for the uninitiated, is a fanfic term used to describe the personal, internal micro-narratives you have which round out a media character in some way not actually defined by the text, or not necessarily defined in a particular fanfic you might write - it's almost an unspoken assumption, and as a result of being unexamined, is often deeply personally felt. (In my Avengers headcanon they're totally all living in Stark Tower, and having sitcom interactions around movie nights and who's cooking and why Hawkeye is perched on things again. I tend to have a momentary snarl at each new Marvel movie because it doesn't actually embody that. Maybe Age of Ultron will, the preliminary stills are promising.)

The thing about fanfic communities, of course, is that they're intense and passionate, because they're built around intense and passionate feelings about texts. This means that they are prone to outbreaks of conflict which too often degenerate into mud-slinging and hissy-fit and demagoguery, known colloquially and collectively as "fandom wank". I am currently a little stunned by the divisions in Sherlock fandom around what is known as The Johnlock Conspiracy, which is the fervent belief that Moffat and Gattis always intended Sherlock as gay, John as bi, and a romantic relationship between them as the endgame of the series. The personal headcanon of "it's romantic/sexual" versus the personal headcanon of "it's not and the bastard showrunners are all about the queer-baiting" is, indeed, about heavy artillery and the need to obliterate the opposition, because the opposition's mere difference is intensely threatening to the inside of your own head. I shall be extremely surprised if this strip is not all over my Tumblr feed this morning, because, yup. That's exactly it.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's a curiously powerless feeling, sitting here on the bottom end of Africa and watching the US's utterly venal and corrupt oligarchy calmly and rapaciously affect our lives. Because it does: our culture is global these days, its supply chains and technologies interconnected as intricately as our biosphere, and with as much potential for damage. The current threat to net neutrality is giving me cold shivers, but it's also giving rise to John Oliver's take on it, which is, frankly, beautiful.



Fly, my pretties! Fly!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Right, so, in a ridiculous whirl of activity, in between hand-holding angsty students, composing nitpicky faculty rules and placating my boss, I have during the course of today confirmed a possession date, signed a lease, paid a deposit on same, booked a removals company, booked a micro-herd of Eco-boxes to pack everything into, paid for both of above, cancelled a small pack of stop orders in order to replace them with a small pack of other, different stop orders, and given formal notice to my Evil Landlord, who is being signally non-evil about it all. I move on the 19th. I'm ... a bit breathless, actually. Apparently this is a real thing that's actually happening almost immediately. Heavens.

All this activity seems to have put the temporary kibosh on book-distribution processes, mostly because of the whiplash, so instead have this. It's a thing of beauty. Ridiculous animated balloon-animal bouncy giggly beauty.



The subject line is even more surreal than usual. Sorry. I wouldn't actually recognise "99 Luftballons" if it slithered up my leg, but it came immediately to mind when I was doing the usual subject-line trawl of the unconscious by virtue of the fact that it's the kind of song one sees quoted all over the show to the extent where actually experiencing it first hand is redundant.

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.

winter is coming

Tuesday, 1 April 2014 11:11 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
SHOCK CAPE BID FOR WINTER OLYMPICS

I love April Fool billboards, they seem to inspire the fiendish iconoclast wordsmiths who produce them to new heights. Today's was the perfect exemplar of what I can only think of as the April Fool Hesitation, the momentary buy-in which mines the Pavlovian response via which we instantly and instinctively accept as real any major event which a newspaper describes. The true enjoyment of the joke is in the clash between that second of belief and the immediate realisation of its falsity - your mind falling over itself for long enough to create the classic delayed drop.

The perfect construction of this headline to me hinges on "SHOCK", because it frames the "fact" - Cape Town bidding for the Winter Olympics - as outlandish in itself: that is, it mimics perfectly the stock media response to something extreme and unlikely, rather than attempting to naturalise the bid as reasonable. (It also plays subliminally on our awareness that SA's World Cup hosting and various Olympic bids in fact make no damned sense anyway). That incredulous distancing is nicely judged to elicit complicity, to pull us into the illusion of belief for that vital second before the realisation, and the comic conflict, hits. The effect was to cause me to drive for three blocks in a fit of the giggles.

I could go off on a tangent about the subtextual environmental commentary in the idea of snow in Cape Town, but it's the kind of reading which would require me to expend green ink writing "this is a bit stretched" in the margin of a student essay, so I won't.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Can't talk, registering. I seem to be swinging wildly between homicidal grumpiness and cheerfully nurturing helpfulness, which I suppose is par for the course. I am very overheated and very, very tired, but no-one has yet died, or even been particularly brutally savaged. Just slightly savaged. Not too much blood. Lightly bitten.

I console myself with the perfect beauty that is Tintin/Lovecraft mashups. Because squeaky-clean boy-wonder detectives need their assumptions shaken up just a little.



Also, I have an unlikely fondness for the Great Race of Yith.

I am still immersed in Magnetic Fields. The subject line is from "You must be out of your mind", which is off the Realism album. I am somewhat enamoured of this album. The title is entirely ironic, and it contains such gems as "The Dada Polka" and "Seduced and Abandoned." I think I might drink a few.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am officially Over 11-hour days. You can keep them. I do not want them, they are skraaaatched. I wish to unsubscribe from their newsletter, which is a nasty and exhausting publication offering little inspiration. Other, that is, than grateful ex-confused first years, who are actually both cute and inspiring at times. All puppy-dog. Their ears droop when they're lost and bewildered, and then you solve all their problems with the laser power of your curriculum skill and fearsome missile array of institutional knowledge, and they bounce around with their tails wagging madly. (Thoroughly mixed metaphors brought to you courtesy of too many computer games, and Roxy).

I could also, may I add, have done without the 3-hour readmission appeals meeting this morning, on account of the awful things that happen to students, and the complete lack of tangible feedback even when we are able to find reasons to re-admit and thereby, presumably, make students happy. Apart from the usual (death of parents, poverty, depression, abortions), this morning we had five separate examples of students with unplanned pregnancies whose babies are now being looked after by parents or in-laws at the other end of the country while the student is studying. I don't know how people do that. I mean, I don't have children, I have only observer knowledge of that mother/child bond, but it must be hideously difficult to live apart from your baby like that. Some people have really sucky lives which make me realise mine isn't really that bad even with 11-hour days.

In the insane morass of registration, orientation and seething seas of student angst, I am grateful for the internet, which keeps me sane. (As do jo&stv, who feed me rosé and ice of an evening, and listen to me with commendable patience while I blither on whingesomely). Today's internet sanity moment is Canada's response to all the wretched stupid ugly Russian anti-gay stuff around the Olympics. I have been reading way too much slash recently for this little gem to allow me to do anything other than laugh until actual tears.



My subject line is still Magnetic Fields, who also keep me sane; said song is invoked both in honour of homoerotic Olympic ad campaigns and the probable cause of unplanned pregnancies, but of my new skirt, which is a pleasing shade of brilliant purple but which trial and error (i.e. wearing it to campus this morning) has revealed as being diaphanous to the point of unwonted revelation. I don't think you can quite see my underwear, but I quite definitely have legs. Who knew? Generally I prefer to keep the actual existence of my legs shrouded in a decent veil of mystery, but being as how there is absolutely no other option, I have simply worn the thing all day with a cheerful acceptance of its less professional aspects. It has caused me surprisingly small amounts of self-consciousness or angst. It's really a very cheerful shade of purple.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Today I was in traffic with a van which was emblazoned with the logo denoting it the official instrument of a company called "Uncanny Deliveries". I am both bemused and charmed by this. If they're strictly uncanny deliveries, surely they arrive mysteriously in the middle of your carpet via no natural or earthly means? In which case why do they need a van? Also, no degree of searching online reveals their actual existence in Cape Town, which I suppose is appropriate for any organisation of occult significance worth its salt. There is an Uncanny Food Group, which I reject out of hand on account of how I darkly suspect it's boringly involved with canning.

While on the subject of random signage, I have also to report the continuance of jo&stv in the Department of Absolutely Perfect Gifts. This one not actually including wols, strangely enough. Jo found me a copy of a book called FROZEN CHICKEN TRAIN WRECK (the upper case is important), which has vouchsafed to me the existence of other people who are equally impassioned devotees of billboard poetry. It's a collection of South African tabloid headlines, apparently collected unofficially over the years by the simple expedient of leaping out the car and grabbing the good ones, which I'm now rather wishing I'd done rather than scribbling them down. There is no actual archive of these things, other than randomly on my blog, and now the book. It is a vintage collection of linguistic startlement, and makes me very, very happy. Not least because it's printed by Chopped Liver Press, which is a marvellous name.

(I should note, for posterity, that the informal online popular linguistics community is aware of headlines to the extent of having a term for those newspaper headlines whose characteristic construction of tottering noun piles creates beautifully ambiguous readings. They're known as crash blossoms. Language Log has a fine collection.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Cape Town is having Winter, TM, slightly late but with immense seriousness and inordinate quantities of water. Traffic has been horrible, particularly this morning, when it took me 20 minutes to inch up the hill to campus. It turned out that this was not because large chunks of road on the N2 had been washed away, as is the way of my people in winter. Far more amusingly, it was because a divvil of some sort had possessed the traffic light just before the freeway exit, so that it was cheerfully showing to our road, at any one time, either three green lights and one red, or three red lights and one green. You have no idea how dislocating this is. And, for some reason, how amusing. I'm still giggling. It seems to undermine some fundamental truth in your average driver, producing a sort of bewildered contemplation which plays out as follows (and I could see exactly this thought process in the cars ahead of me even before it happened to me):

TRAFFIC LIGHT: *cheerfully shows three red lights and one green*
CAR: is confused. Treats this carefully like a malfunctioning robot: stops, checks, is about to go when:
TRAFFIC LIGHT: *changes cheerfully and without warning to three green lights and one red*
CAR: responds like Pavlov's dogs to the green light for a microsecond by starting to take off before having brain exploded by the lone red. Is confused. Treats this carefully like a malfunctioning robot, stops, checks, drives on with head spinning. Or, if me, in a fit of the giggles.

We are creatures of order, and traffic lights are unquestioned beacons of coherent guidance in our orderly worldview. Except when they aren't. Then our heads explode.

I have not been blogging of late because of... thing. I'm not sure what, actually. I have, however, spent an entire weekend with the Jo inventing a new, exciting and minimalist LARP system which encourages players, Fiasco-like, to invent the plot themselves from minimal cues. Currently it's labouring under the working title of "Space Amnesia", which is really a literal description of its workings. We shall be hunting down playtesters shortly.

I have also, by no actual effort of my own other than desultory blogging, found a Macavity Solution, in that CarloandKaren have volunteered to adopt him on the grounds of being short a ginger tom. This means we have started feeding him and encouraging him into the house, with the fell and deceptive intent of getting him relaxed and friendly so that we can swoop down, incarcerate him in a box and haul him off to a life of vet check-ups and sybaritic luxury. While he still won't let me come closer than a Jackie-length or so to him, he has progressed from pitiful yowling to actual conversational yowling if I talk to him for a while. I'm hopeful.

Subject line, as any fule kno, references Good Omens and demonic traffic possession.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
We are all Deeply Alarmed about the sale of the Star Wars rights to Disney: we don't trust George Lucas any more, anyway, since those horrible prequels he was fortunately prevented by direct deity intervention from ever making in the first place1, and Disney's track record is not good in the preservation of fan-beloved material without corporate sellout. And the internet, in its usual merry way, is rife with rumour about the original cast: will Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have cameos in the new, JJAbramsified material? (For the record, I dislike JJ's Star Trek reboot slightly less than I did when I first saw it, but it's still an annoyingly brash and confusing narrative despite its rather excellent cast. But he'll probably do less damage than George did in those prequels he was fortunately prevented from making).

All this angst being the case, it's refreshing to see some actual perspective, as provided by this incredibly funny and entertaining clip from a Harrison Ford appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. If you didn't watch it on BoingBoing because it looked lame, please rectify that. It made me snort Earl Grey out my nose in the traditional fashion. It's beautifully acute about the nature of fandom, and gets better as it goes on.





1 This is not denial. All right-thinking people know they didn't exist, which is just as well, because they would have been a horrible betrayal if they did.

iron manatee!

Sunday, 14 April 2013 12:06 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Sunday is apparently all about creative and unlikely juxtapositions, or weird genre collaborations, although in the strictest possible terms I don't think you can actually count a manatee as a genre. Nonetheless! Just because, or at the very least just because they poke beautiful fun at superhero body-fetishism and are also incidentally cute, superheroes as manatees!



Captain Amanatee is my favourite, although the name isn't nearly as funny as Batmanatee. Iron Manatee is surprisingly svelte.

On a not entirely unrelated note, at least by processes of bizarre genre-bending theme, have an alt-country cover of the Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion". It's oddly laid-back and melodic, and nicely deconstructs the lushly self-indulgent Goth sprawl of the original.



This public service message brought to you by the Movement for Lateral Sundays, or possibly the Moving Very Little For Lateral Sundays, on account of how I had a week full of students with dead parents and drug addictions and bouts of weeping, followed by curriculum talks to the seething hordes at Open Day, and am somewhat dead.

not cricket

Tuesday, 15 January 2013 08:49 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I caused the Evil Landlord to look at me funny on the way up to campus this morning by collapsing laughing at a newspaper billboard. This was not, for once, the result of clever wordplay, but of a rather classic instance of a headline-writer simply failing to do some quite important research. The billboard reads:

SMITH IS SOUTH AFRICA'S CAPTAIN MARVEL

- referring, of course, to Graeme Smith, captain of the SA cricket team, currently slaughtering New Zealand.

This is Graeme Smith:

GraemeSmith

This is the current Captain Marvel:

ms-marvel

She used to be Ms. Marvel, but took over from the very straightforwardly masculine Captain Marvel in recent comic runs. (I know all this because she's next on my list of interesting Marvel superheroes to pursue, there's some surprisingly positive gender stuff going on there).

I love the way that our particular cultural moment has weirdly mainstreamed superheroes as symbolic touchstones, but now my wayward imagination cannot stop picturing Graeme Smith in Captain Marvel's costume. Even better, this relates beautifully to the other link that came across my Twitter feed yesterday, about Sarah Taylor, English women's cricket star, who is in talks to join a men's team. Watch out, Graeme Smith!

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