for daws to peck at

Wednesday, 15 January 2014 01:47 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Occasionally my life is surreal. This morning I madly registered 23 rugby players for their year's courses, an early taste of reg hell occasioned by some giant manly rugby tournament they're all dashing off to and for which they are not eligible unless they officially exist on our systems. I would not have survived the morning had I not incautiously consumed a giant slice of mocha cheesecake for breakfast, which cushioned things nicely. (The boingboing recipe. I totally recommend this recipe, it's the only baked cheesecake I've ever made that I felt actually worked, and it's a totally delectable dose of sugar and caffeine, both of which are essential to my registration-surviving strategies.)The rugby players are sweet lads, but two-thirds of the first-years evinced a desire to study Law. What is it with rugby players and Law? It does not compute.

On the subject of people who do lots of exercise, I'm still madly into my brisk evening (or, occasionally, morning) walk around the Common, and feeling much the better thereby. It's a lovely walk, and I'm weirdly even enjoying the happy community feel of all the walkers/ runners/ cyclists/ kids on scooters/ floppy dogs/ nice ladies' walking clubs having chats. But I'm also a bit of an outsider to that crowd, on account of how none of the above tend to represent my essential tribe, viz. geeks. I see this mainly in the t-shirts. Exercisers tend to wear t-shirts indicative of Serious Sports, in the form of rugby shirts, American football shirts (I have no idea), shirts commemorating particular runs or white water rafting trips or hikes other manly/sportly activities, sports commodity brand shirts, or Serious Exercise Shirts With Exciting Support Bits And Radical Cuts. I wear whatever t-shirt happens to be at the top of my two-foot-high pile of random t-shirts I bought on Teh Internets because I like the design and/or sentiment, which means that over the last few walks I have treated the Common to "AND THEN BUFFY STAKED EDWARD, THE END", "KLAATU BERADA NICTO", "Ask Me About My Ray Gun", "OH R'LYEH?", a facsimile of the original edition cover for Orwell's 1984, that Scary-Go-Round cute robot one inscribed "IT IS OK TO BE YOU", the Knights of Good, and Captain Marvel. They are, shall we say, somewhat exotically out of place. The Common's exercise community can be under no illusions that a geek is in their midst. They don't seem to mind - a lot of them smile at me, in fact - but I feel as though I'm rather visibly advertising Difference.

And I was thinking, during one of these excursions, that in fact t-shirts are the modern way that we wear our hearts on our sleeves, very much in the sense of the medieval knight tying his lady's sleeve around his arm before hieing him forth into battle. I wear t-shirts which attest to the things that I particularly love, and for which I wish to be recognised - on some level, because there's a subliminal hope that fellow humans will admit to a love of the same thing, thus short-cutting social interaction. Which is not, in the final analysis, very different to the mad exercisers wearing trophies of races or excursions. But sf geekery is clearly cooler than brand names, even outside its natural habitat. And, on the evidence, considerably more entertaining.

The subject line is the second half of the Shakespeare quote about wearing your heart on your sleeve, which I had totally forgotten was Iago speaking. I loathe Othello with every fibre of my being, it's one of those slow-motion train-smash plays where you simply have to sit and helplessly watch people being obliviously self-destructive idiots, but I have a sneaking fondness for Iago. Efficient villains are worthy of respect.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I've managed, over the last few months, to get back into something of an exercise routine, which is a bit erratic at present owing to potential heat-stroke, but averages out at a brisk walk around the Common every second day and is making me feel exponentially better about life on a number of fronts. Exercise, who knew? It takes about half an hour, striding as fast as I can, which represents a speed at which I frequently overtake other walkers and have been overtaken precisely twice by walkers since I started the whole routine. (I'm overtaken by runners all the time. Given the high prevalence of wildly fit people who belt around the spanky new track around the Common, this is extremely motivating on purely scenic grounds.)

Since it's still heat-wavy and I had a truly appalling night last night, I walked this morning, brisk exercise being extremely good for sleep deprivation, muscle tension and the grumps. This adds a merry layer of smugness to the pleasures of the exercise, since I was the only walker present at all. There were runners and a couple of cyclists, but apparently Christmas raises the exercise-commitment threshold to the point where only a sprinkle of Serious Exercisers bother. And, of course, me. Basking in the temporary and entirely illusory categorisation. Far less grumpy than I was when I started.

One of the minor joys of the Common route is the City of Cape Town's outbreak of noticeboards, which erupt on all four corners of the Common to instruct the civic-minded exerciser of the Rules. Apparently we aren't allowed to sleep, drive, dump, smoke, sell, dig, pick flowers or chop down trees on the Common. We are also officially mandated to smile at all times. I rather enjoy this. Something about a ridiculous happy face with full civic authority.

Photo0000

I suppose this is a rather long-winded and roundabout way of saying Happy Christmas, all you witterers, I hope it's a good one and pleasingly relaxed, as well as being based in more sleep than I had. By way of Christmas cheer for all those of you with similar fangirl proclivities who haven't yet seen it (and with a tenuous and entirely wayward puppy linkage via smiley faces), the BBC has released a Sherlock teaser for the new episode on 1st January. I'm pretty much in the zone where I don't do Christmas presents these days, but this is a good one.

gotta dance!

Monday, 13 December 2010 05:12 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Movie club last night, this theme mine, and it finally settled out at "Movies about dance under extreme weather conditions": Singing in the Rain and White Nights. Secondary theme: conceptual whiplash. Also, Really Good Seared Rare Beef Fillet On Rolls, which seems to be establishing itself as another recurring motif in these evenings.

I'd forgotten how much fun Singing in the Rain is; how much of it is slapstick (mostly courtesy of Donald O'Connor, who suffers from an intriguing combination of hyperactivity and a rubber face), and how incredibly, incurably self-aware and ironic the whole thing is - about musicals, about film-making, about acting. It's not so much a musical as a commentary on musicals, which I think accounts for some of the more over-the top elements - the hamming, the goofiness, the extended, excessive musical numbers wedged into the plot at the drop of a hat belonging to the faint shadow of an excuse. It also made me realise that I've been spoiled by Fred Astaire, who is an accomplished dancer to an extent which makes Gene Kelly look rather sloppy. But it was a hugely fun watch, and sent all three of us wandering around thereafter singing "Singing in the Rain" joyously and largely unconsciously. I'm still doing it.

White Nights is an altogether different kettle of fish, assuming they're depressive Russian fish with dancers' muscles and half-assed political pretensions. It's a truly weird movie which I cannot actually say is "good" on any meaningful level, but which has managed to haunt me all day with its images, sequences and oppressive atmosphere. I wanted to re-watch it because the only thing I remember about it from my schooldays (I think I may have seen in the theatre with my mother when it came out, which was, whoa, 1985) was that incredible, blissful, unbelievable sequence with Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov doing a sort of modern dance/ballet/tap fusion in perfect step despite completely different body styles, in an empty practice hall, for no other reason than the hell of it. To me this is what dance is about - mutuality, synchronisation, the sheer pleasure of moving in harmony. It's the stylised and publicly acceptable embodiment of good sex. This film is scripted in giant, half-formed clichés; it has "Russian Communism Bad!" written all over it in letters of fire; its actually very good cast struggles against chronically poor pacing and the uneasy mixing of dramatic tropes with those of a spy thriller and a dance movie - but its dance sequences are pure joy. Neither Hines nor Baryshnikov are any good at all as actors when you give them actual words to say, but they communicate incredibly powerfully when all they have to do is move. Also, bonus points for the most deliriously decontextualised performance of Porgy and Bess I have ever seen.

I think White Nights may have weirded jo&stv out far more than the classic musical I was afraid they'd hate, but I'm very glad I saw both films again. Now I'm going to go home and load up that dance sequence, just because I can. In fact, here it is now. I love the discipline here, the mutuality, despite the fact that the body language is poles apart - Hines all loose-limbed and floppy, Baryshnikov perfectly controlled, but with the unbelievably evocative power which only a top-flight, classically trained dancer can impart to steps which are, technically speaking, slumming it.



And then I'm going to watch my entire Fred Astaire collection. While regretting, with every fibre of my being, that I stopped taking ballroom dance classes, because people flying with their feet on the ground is beautiful to watch, but it's better if you can do it yourself.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Awww! Nice student just gave me cute mouse-shaped giant dark chocolate truffles as a thank-you for my curriculum advice, which admittedly has stretched over three months and entailed dealing with changes in subject, degree, university, continents, visa conditions and marital status, but hey, that's what they pay me for. Apparently.

This is quite possibly my favourite time of year - autumn, clear days, the air is clean and cold and chills the end of your nose in the mornings, and shrouds the city in a decorous veil of dawn fog. Also, the lawn is dying owing to the fact that the plane tree leaves are ankle-deep since our gardener did the classic Domestic Employee Thing, namely bugger off to the Transkei for "two weeks" about two months ago. Alas the colonial legacy. On the upside, I spent an hour with the rake on Sunday, achieving four bags of leaves, sunlight to most areas of the grass, and a warm, self-congratulatory glow. Oh, and stiff back muscles.

Taking the stiff back muscles as an Omen, I am now back at the gym, and sprained ankle be buggered. (It's actually fine other than when I grab my foot for a standing quadriceps stretch, in which case it hurts like hell.) Now I hurt all over instead of simply in the back. This is Gym Logic, apparently.

Since I seem to be doing random liminal-moment scenic photos lately: this weekend the usual Sunday evening braai relocated to a larney house-sit in the more rarified upper levels of Sea Point, in a house with jacuzzi, sauna and a swimming pool in the living room. We watched the spectacular sunset from the deck while drinking gin. Proof below: self, sunset, slightly deceptive red hair halo, floating gin glass. From the fact that it's a damned nice photo you can tell it was taken by stv, but he left it lying around on my camera so I feel entitled.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Bizarre. I'm bouncing around the house this morning singing "My girl is the queen of the savages" at the top of my voice, while the cats flee in terror and the Evil Landlord gives me odd looks1. Nothing wrong with Magnetic Fields, say I! in fact, a lot right. Also, nothing wrong at all with waking up randomly at 7.30am on a Sunday morning, leaping enthusiastically out of bed and (gasp!) going to the gym. Good workout. Rather buzzed. Also proving, in the oddly smug sensation engendered by driving home, all sweaty and gasping, past the rows of cars parked outside various churches, that virtue is an entirely subjective concept.

I am also forced to contemplate one of those horribly adult moments of realisation that one's parents were actually right all along, the case in point being my father's despairing attempt to make me do any sort of sport at school. He was right. I would have been a higher, better, happier being if I'd stuck with it despite being a total rabbit, and would probably have reached middle adulthood secure in the possession of slightly more knees and elbows.

In other news, have persuaded our very supportive HoD to accept a paper on China Mieville for a journal issue she's editing, suggesting that actually the only thing I need to do to render this mad fantasy stuff acceptable is to lard it with sufficient buzzwords (here "cosmopolitan", "estrangement" and, what was the other one, oh yes, "agency". Also "figurative splitting" and "crisis of belonging". *makes open-ended critical success roll on Academic Waffle skill*. But I think it'll be a worthwhile paper.)

I don't think the happy bouncy bit is just endorphin rush, actually. I think the reality of life-changing decisions, mostly around not teaching for my current department next year, has started to sink in, and I'm feeling all energised and released. It's like a log-jam breaking up. Weird things could happen in the rush. You Have Been Warned.

Last Night I Dreamed: a rather oddly diffuse dream about the dodgy Chinese girl attempting to sell herself to the two gay men in the beautiful house just off the Common. Later, there were enormous gatherings in a noisy and convivial pub with very long wooden tables, occupied by a strange mix of my friends with unfamiliar and rather high-status academics.

1 I also managed to crack him up completely by complaining that the grey water system filter needed cleaning, since the sprinkler was "ponging like an arcade game addict". What's with that?

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