freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Ooh. Weird, weird dream last night: looking at self in mirror, while talking, and having my reflection's lips move completely and disconcertingly out of sync with what I was saying. Then I stepped away, and right behind me, perfectly hidden until I moved, was a man in middle-easternish robes and headscarf and sunglasses, looking menacing. Then I turned around, and I was on a huge, futuristic stage in the middle of a dark stadium full of people, all watching. At which point, fortunately, the cat landed on my stomach on her way out the window and I woke up. Somewhat freaked, to be honest.

I didn't do a Christmas post yesterday because the Internets had not vouchsafed me their usual benevolence in the form of a chirpy/irreverent Christmas doodle. But they did this morning, so have a retroactive Merry Festive Wossname! I hope it was a Good Day within the meaning of your personal Christmas act. I carefully arranged it so I didn't have to leave the house, and I noodled around cooking and prodding the garden and Skyping my mother and patting the cat, and it was lovely. And almost completely unlike Christmas, which is kinda the point. We did Polish Jo-consolatory Christmas Eve, with barszcz (for which I still have an unseemly affection) and dumplings, and I'll do a gesture at the Christmas stuff today, having Boxing Day lunch with my sister and niece. About the only thing which reconciles me to the heaving, fixated desperation of Christmas shopping crowds is the smug knowledge that I don't have to participate. Both sets of my Christmas gifts were bought online, heh.



Rogue One is apparently still colonising my brain. I wish I could attribute this, it's bounding unsourced around Tumblr, it may have originated on Elite Geek's facebook, but who knows? Whatever they teach them in schools these days, it apparently isn't referencing.

And my subject line is Wham!, naturally, because the latest outbreak of 2016 viciousness has been (a) Carrie Fisher in hospital in a critical condition after a heart attack, and (b) George Michael passing away quietly in his sleep. Fuck it.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


Some Things About Doctor Strange:
  • I am resolved to be more organised in my movie-watching experience so I never have to go back to Canal Walk as the only place a film is still showing. Their sound is always cranked up too high, and their projection is always too dark. Even in a 2D version. This does detract from one's experience of the film, particularly the night scenes, in that really one can't see what's going on. Also, my ears hurt.
  • Conversely, on a Sunday morning, even the one just before Christmas, I was the only person in the cinema, allowing me to put my feet up on the chairs in front of me and to apostrophise the screen with some vigour at whim. I love doing this. It's the best possibly movie-watching experience.
  • Significant swathes of this film were tragically miscast. My love of the Cumberbatch is a pure and abiding thing, but he's just wrong with an American accent, it's seriously distracting. The perfect fit of the gaunt lines of his face with the magician archetype wasn't quite enough to carry it. And the character's weird mix of driven egotistical ambition and irreverent one-liners never really gelled. Also, while my love of Tilda Swinton's particular brand of individualistic androgyny is an even purer and more abiding thing, a white woman should not be representing Nepalese mysticism. However elaborate the backstory that claims the Sorcerer Supreme as a global figure, a whitewash in this context has profound implications for representation and it bugged the hell out of me all the way through. Mordo, on the other hand, was great. Chiwetel Ejiofor is always great.
  • My profound fondness for spaceships and exciting techie gadgets notwithstanding, it's clear that, however flawed a film is involved, by gum at heart I'm a fantasy creature. Magic does it for me. It really does. Memo to self, fantastic beasts, eftsoons and right speedily.
  • Notwithstanding which, the film was so busy going "whoo!" at the special effects team as they had at the fractal nature of visual reality with both hands and cool glowing spell diagrams, that it really wasn't paying much attention to the plot. It offered a weird degree of emotional disconnect. I never quite cared about anything. If done properly, an over-arching cosmic threat should explicate and resonate (shut up, stv) with the protagonist's own issues and arc, and... not so much. It felt patched together. I do not think that this was a good script.
  • The Cloak of Levitation stole the show. Flirty thing. Like the best cats - sleek, self-possessed, wayward and pleasingly homicidal when not being affectionate.
  • This film failed the Marvel Test, viz. whether or not I'd sit through the credits to see the final easter egg. In a word: no. Was not sufficiently interested. Tragically, more and more recent Marvel films are actually failing the Marvel test, because, regrettably, more and more they are rehashed, homogenised, money-making artefacts whose actual content is dictated by a marketing committee and thus lacks inspiration, spark or narrative coherence. Yet another in the Giant Commercial Superhero Line, ho-hum. Yawn. With a side order of tone-deafness to issues of race and gender and the like. It's enough to make me, an almost entirely Marvel-fondling comics fan, eye DC edgeways with an awakening interest. The whisper flies around the clubs, could they be worse? I fear they could, yet still I am tempted.
  • Marvel test, failed. Bechdel test, failed. Sexy lamp test actually not failed on the second go (the female doctor's first appearance arc could have been replaced by a sexy lamp with "Doctor Strange Is A Dick" stuck to it on a post-it note, but on the second try she actually did plot-relevant stuff. Her third appearance could have been replaced by a sexy lamp with "SPOILER is SPOILER" stuck to it on a post-it note.). Furiosa test failed in spades, good grief, this was a movie about a man's struggle with ambition and power, MRAs drool at it.
  • I was prepared to love this film, on account of its confluence of several happy buttons, but no. I am disappoint.

My subject line is what happens if your dodgy memory mashes up two Shakespeare quotes, namely "passing strange" (Othello) and "indifferent honest" (Hamlet). I stoutly maintain that the conflation was irresistibly conjured by the quality of the film. Also, while the quote is possibly orbiting my brain randomly as a result of having seen BC in Hamlet (he was great), now I want to see him do Iago.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Among the myriad ills my particular flesh is heir to, alongside dodgy knees, dodgy sinuses, stress-eczema, "really terrible breasts" and fatigue-with-glandular-wossname, is the lurking existence of moles. I have millyuns of moles. Seriously, I've never actually counted, but when the nice dermatologist lady mapped them last year there must have been over twenty which were significant enough to record. I am Heavily Dotted. There are whole constellations all over my back, and minor outbreaks on my arms and legs. I had a boyfriend once who used to get really stoned and play join-the-dots. I've mostly cordially ignored the moles, and they've got on quietly with their inoffensive high-pigmentation existences, occasionally appearing or disappearing to their own cryptic timetables, but they do have the potential to Turn Nasty, hence the mapping. Which, I have to add for the record, is another of those high-tech sciency things which is really cool, all computerised and dedicated-software and high-tech cameras, and more than compensates for the demoralising experience of seeing one's own flabby bod photographically exposed in high definition. (Moles are really odd in high detail close-up, incidentally. All patchy and constellated and complicated).

So, there are two potentially dodgy moles on my left thigh. The nice dermatologist lady ruthlessly excised them two weeks back, and sent them off for biopsy, leaving me with two cauterised raw patches, a slight smell of scorched flesh and a minor outbreak of dermatitis from reaction to the plasters. According to the biopsy, one mole is fine. The other is apparently edging into the territory where "non-standard melanocytic nevus" becomes "potentially moving into possible Stage 0 melanoma". This is all terribly potential and pre-emptive, but the standard, slightly "nuke them from orbit" response is to re-excise both of them for good measure, taking out an additional half-centimetre of flesh all round. This leaves slightly more of a crater than the original surface excision, requiring stitches and what have you, and the procedure is performed by a plastic surgeon. The plastic surgeon in question is a lovely man, if completely insane and more than a little manic, and we had a lovely chat about the way he proposes to pump me full of rohypnol-like drugs which don't actually knock me out, but, in his words, "scramble your memories". You experience the pain, apparently, you simply don't remember it. I'm fine with this, surprisingly. Also with his confirmation of my personal sense that all anaesthetists are, in fact, insane. Which in my experience they have been.

So tomorrow I'm in hospital briefly, having moles subdued. Or, more accurately, pursuing a scorched earth policy on the area where moles have been subdued. This is minorly off-narking in view of the fact that I'd actually already applied for leave for actual holiday/break purposes before being told I needed this procedure, but hopefully I can re-purpose the leave. By way of consolation, Cape Town continues to be blissfully cool and damp, signalling that Autumn, thank FSM, is Here. Also, beautiful clouds. This was yesterday evening, at Claire's for Sherlock-watching and crispy duck with pancakes. While the speckled pattern on the clouds reminds me irresistibly of mole close-ups, I have to admit that life, despite having its moments of complexity just now, is certainly not uniformly bad. (The new season of Sherlock is not uniformly bad either, but I have Notes which I shall certainly develop at some length in a subsequent post).



My subject line is Spike Milligan, whose Cheetah is relevant on account of being heavily dotted and easily spotted. I do not, in fact, live in Tanganyika. I don't think I've ever visited, even, the closest I've come is Malawi or Mozambique. I do, however, rather like cheetahs.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The Dark Knight Rises

I should say up front that I've never really gone for Batman, at least not the Nolan film version. I like a bit of splash and spandex with my superheroes, not this tortured, gritty, brooding thing, this tone of relentless angst. I am willing to concede that Nolan's first two Batman movies were excellent films which brought a new seriousness to the genre and all that jazz, and were extremely well cast and filmed. I just didn't enjoy them very much. Given that it's just taken me a week to drag myself into eventually watching the second half of The Dark Knight Rises, I'm forced to add that in addition to its unrelenting grim, this wasn't even a particularly good film quite apart from its failure to pander to my personal superhero proclivities. I'm going to cut this, because it's a big black flappy bat-winged spoiler on a kicky bike. )

This film went further with the industrial-military feel than the previous ones, and lost, to me, some of that beautifully visual sense of the Gothic cityscape. It also failed dismally, to my mind, to render Batman himself as a compelling physical presence: even with the film's insistence on injury and damage, that costume doesn't quite cohere, appearing stiff and awkward and the cape simply absurd. I did like the bike's cornering capabilities, though. Cute. And Catwoman's headset ears. But that's symptomatic: the bits that worked were the ones that were fun, that nodded, even momentarily, to the comic-book identity of the myth. The rest was an overblown and badly-contained wallow in its own sense of angst.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


My love-hate affair with Disney fairy-tale movies (and by "love-hate" I actually mean "hate with a side order of reluctant fascination and rather shamefaced amusement") is a fairly well-known phenomenon, but The Little Mermaid has always been my least favourite. It's something about Ariel out of the sea being muted - when she can't speak, she seems by extension to become unintelligent, almost animal, not quite human, her vacant and over-compensatory smile the very definition of the stereotypical airhead bimbo. Voiceless, she's strangely powerless to affect the action. Her land-bound identity externalises in one neat image the nastier and less enlightened views of women still being perpetrated in odd corners of our popular culture. I always disliked that element in the Andersen original, and in the visual and aural format of film it's horribly inescapable.

So I suppose it isn't that strange that effectively losing my voice for the last two days should give me exactly the same feeling. I'm a pretty much hyper-linguistic person at the best of times, and the job I do is very much about communication, a lot of it verbal. I give advice, and brief students, and train advisors, and weigh in on committees. I have a voice, and damned well know how to wield it. Being unable to speak blunts my efficacy to quite a ridiculous extent - my default response to a situation is to step in verbally, to describe, interrogate, throw around solutions, give instructions. To struggle for physical voice, even to be forced to whisper so I can't make myself heard, to hear my words slurred and slowed by my hoarseness, denies both my intelligence and my agency. It goes beyond maddening into something very like despair.

And that's not just about agency. Ariel's problem is that, shorn of her voice, she cannot communicate herself to the object of her desire. Her identity, her individuality, remains locked inside her. I'm not a physical person, other than wild hand-waving to support the verbal babble. A lot of who I am is in my language, my inherent intoxication with words, my complete inability to get through more than about five minutes of even a technical briefing without irony, technicoloured imagery and ridiculous wordplay. My esteemed colleagues at my Cherished Institution see, at a conservative estimate, approximately about a fifth of my personality, and with this throat infection they don't even see that. I become a dull, lumpen, slightly futile thing.

Today I had to find a last-minute substitute for my first two-hour curriculum talk, and struggled through the two-hour training this afternoon with heavy reliance on other people to elucidate the bits they could, and the room hanging anxiously on my croaked whispers. That is, fortunately, the last of my speaking duties for the week, and I think I'm going to resort to scribbled signage for the next two days so that my voice recovers for the rescheduled vampire lectures on Saturday. Because this? this sucks.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I am sternly informed by my fellow New Year celebrants from last night that I am not in fact permitted to consider the burglary the first act of the new year, but the last act of the old one. To which I say, gee, thanks, 2012. Way to exit with an over-dramatic flounce like a complete arsehole.

We had the usual giant multi-course New Year meal for eight of us last night at jo&stv's, which was just getting into gear around Course 3 (those amazing Vietnamese rice-paper spring rolls Jo made after stealing my cookbooks for inspiration) and my third glass of champagne (needle indicates "slightly incoherent but passionate holding forth about fan fiction" on the drunk-o-metre) when a complicated concatenation of events caused Karen to phone Jo to tell her to tell me that the house had been broken into. It appears the bastards kicked down the front door, rushed in while the alarm wailed, stole the television (again) and Winona (my netbook - woe!) and ran away quickly before the armed response arrived, which they apparently did in under three minutes. ADT hauled in the police, but repeated phoning of my cell was bootless as it was in another room and we were making a fair amount of noise. (Phoning the Evil Landlord was absolutely bootless as he's hiking somewhere in the Cedarburg and is likely to be entirely without either reception or the actual phone). So the nice policewoman apparently sat in the house for an hour twiddling her thumbs in between phoning down the entirety of the list of numbers tacked up next to the phone, which is how she reached Karen, who phoned Jo.

It all makes perfect sense, really. For a given value of "sense". Given that this was at about 10.30pm, my apologies to anyone else who was randomly phoned. (Including the Evil Landlord's sister, who came rushing through from Paarl as a result of a garbled voicemail just as everything was over and we were departing to resume our rightful year-end gourmandising). The Nice Next-Door Neighbour is of the opinion that the unfortunate officer was prodded into the above slightly excessive action by Mrs. Cake, who was rampaging around in her usual busybody fashion when I arrived, and it does seem in character.

I am beyond pissed off. New Year's Eve is logical if you're a burglar, everyone is either out or drunk, but it's bloody rude, and we ended up delaying Robbi and Vi's delectable smoked ribs main course by over an hour. I was deeply attached to Winona, and hadn't backed up the last two hours of LARP writing I did on her, which is making me spit. The TV was six months old, we'd just replaced it after the last burglary, and I shudder to think how the insurance premiums are going to skyrocket. The front door is trashed, the security gate is trashed, and I spent the night at Jo&Stv's rather than alone in a house I couldn't lock properly, fretting about the cats and the unspecified hordes doubtless carrying the house contents off into the night. (Fortunately they didn't).

The marvellous handyman sort of person Claire's dad unearthed for me has just left, having hauled himself out to work cheerfully on New Year's day for a complete stranger, and equally cheerfully accepted whatever the hell I wanted to pay him as he didn't think he'd achieved much. (I showered him with everything in my wallet). Since the security gate tends to the cheap and nasty his efforts to repair the lock were fruitless, but he has nailed the security gate to the front door frame, which means I'll have to do all entrance and exits via the back courtyard and the shed for a bit, but am unlikely to be murdered in my bed tonight unless they bring Grond or a tank or something. I feel very maiden-in-tower. Fetch me flowing golden locks and a prince, stat.

There is probably a stern Dutch Uncle talk I shall be giving the Evil Landlord in the near future, once he's staggered back from his four-day hike, which will entail pointed requests for a better security gate on the front door, a serious repair to the door frame, which has now been multiply splintered by callous door-kickers-down, and something baroque involving electric fencing. This morning's breakfast with Jo&Stv featured blueberry pancakes*, on the grounds that there were blueberries left over from last night's dessert, and a spirited debate on the relative merits of moats, bear traps, bears, bears in boats**, alligators, sentry guns, and something more lethal which explodes the heads of any unauthorised personnel over 20kg in weight, suggesting we'd be fine barring incursions of midget ninjas or (Jo's rather rude contribution) Hobbit.

I need to do That Post, all year-end reflective and resolvey, but right now I'm too narked. However - and I say this with something of forced cheer - happy new year.



* New recipe I wanted to try for the hell of it. I approve.
** I have no idea. We did conclude that the bear traps would probably simply sink.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Gossamer EndIt is remotely possible that my long-suffering readers were relaxing a tad, and thinking that I'd got all this Andraste's Knicker-Weasel stuff out of my system, and indeed, I have been peaceably (for which read "with the usual computer-game homicidal psychosis") playing Amalur for the last few weeks without much impulse to witter on about its narrative and identificatory processes, since they're really not complex. However, a certain sort of thematic disquisition has been sneaking up on me, with which I shall now unabashedly regale you. Fear not! I shall mention romance only in passing. Probably.

Various lifestyle choices being what they are, it's actually unlikely that I'll ever own my own home, which is possibly why computer-game home-owning is fairly high on the list in my personal Unholy Kick department. I love owning game homes. My gaming life is not complete unless I possess absolutely all and any homes available across the length, lingth and longth of the gameworld, plus those in various DLCs and mods and what have you. I'm a pack-rat accumulator in gameworld to an extent which I simply am not in real life, with minor exceptions such as books and films: somewhere to stash stuff is absolutely necessary if I'm not going to trek across the landscape followed by a small train of pantechnicons. (Poor Lydia, sworn to carry my burdens). And once I own them, I upgrade and furnish them to the max - or, in the case of ME, kit out Shepard's cabin with all the fish, model ships and other bits and pieces that I possibly can (SPACE HAMSTER!) - and in the case of Skyrim, stuff around more or less indefinitely with the console to adapt their contents and facilities to my exacting specifications.

All this being said, it's a source of continual amazement to me how badly thought-out most computer game homes are. Honestly, they seem to fling their design primarily to the art department, guided only by a sketchy, single-page function framework which has "feel free to ignore this" scribbled in the margins somewhere and is probably stored in an unlikely filing cabinet labelled "BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD". As a result, many game houses are exceptionally pretty, spacious, architecturally winsome creations, to actually live in which is productive of such irritation as to at least partially explain the usual computer-game homicidal psychosis.

Herewith, therefore, as a soul-soothing exercise, is an annotated list of What Players Really Want In A Gameworld House, by which, of course, I rather egocentrically mean What Players Who Have My Sort Of Gameplay Needs Really Want. It is remotely possible that in fact it only means What I Want In A Gameplay House, although I would wistfully hope that some of the items are logical enough to be semi-universal - feel free to disagree in the comments. At any rate, any game-designers who happen to read this, please take note. I shall cut it, on account of excessive ranty length. )

This post has ended up being accidentally thematically linked to my last one. Clearly houses are where it's at in the current State of Extemporanea. One way or another. For whatever reason, thank you for indulging me in Yet Another Knicker-Weasel Rant, and please feel free to disagree violently with my house-owning ethos.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
The Avengers trailer has been tabbed in my browser for about four days, which means it auto-plays every time I boot up and load the browser, forcing me to watch it yet again. Oh, fiddlesticks. Oh, darn. All those lovely men being superheroic and flip with authentic Joss Whedon dialogue. Daily. Oh, woe is me. Of course, a superhero movie doesn't have to be particularly intelligent or actually good in any way to make me ridiculously happy (viz. the Fantastic Four Secret Shame), but I'm really looking forward to this one. Apart from Scarlett, who's just a pain.

So, update on the Great French Bank Account Fiasco! I attribute solely to this recent experience my sudden need to re-read Going Postal, which I did yesterday, possibly in morbid fascination with successful cons. Last week's unsuccessful attempt to illegally boost EUR4150 from my account has been superceded by this week's perfectly successful removal of EUR4150 from my account. (This bastard is nothing if not consistent). The bank are being very sweet about it and managed, after much scurrying, to reverse it yesterday, but apparently the thrice-accursed spawn of financial evil (the thief, not the bank. The bank are lovely) actually sent them a hard copy transfer request with all the correct banking details and (drumroll!) my correct signature. This is, to say the least, disturbing. We seem to have ruled out Eric the Hedge-Trimmer, the nice policeman assures me that said Eric has been righteously incarcerated for the last two weeks, so unless he's part of a Ring, it's probably not him.

What it is, is someone who has laid hands on enough of my private documentation to include both a bank statement and a signature, a conundrum which my immersion in Ngaio Marsh and her ilk is responding to by causing a little-used detective gene to come to attention. The availability of my signature is not surprising, I must sign several thousand pieces of paper every year in pursuit of my legitimate admin activities, but its coincidence with the bank statement is considerably curiouser. The bank statement must have come from my study, or from the postal service before it came anywhere near me - I don't carry those around. (I still think it's mostly likely that someone nicked it from the postbox outside our gate). The signature could have come out of something in our recycling, I suppose. Both together could have been accumulated by a half-hour spent sitting outside our house sifting the recycling in conjunction with rifling the postbox, but it would have been rather obvious. Both could also have been lifted off my desk, but I don't really see how. (Apart from anything else, the giant pile in my inbox is giant, and frequently weighed down by the Hobbit). I am gently revolving a third theory, that both were the result of someone digging around on the hard drive of my old computer, the one which was stolen a couple of years ago. But I really don't think the French bank details were ever on there; hell, they're not on the current one, which means it's not even that my nice new wireless wossname has allowed someone to hack me. In the immortal words of Detritus, it a mystery.

The whole thing is causing me (in addition to the moments of incandescent rage, because how bloody dare he) to become horribly paranoid, and to spread that paranoia around a lot. Anything that goes into recycling, for example, is going to be shredded into teeny tiny bits. All correspondence at all about anything whatsoever is going to go to the box number, not the postbox. I've put another padlock on the postbox, in a futile stable-door-horse-bolted sort of gesture, but I don't trust it. I shall discuss with the nice bank people the possibility of simply shifting the whole bang shoot to another bank account, although that's going to be a royal pain in the butt. But I ask you, nice witterers: do you know where your bank account details go? what bits of paper are innocently being recycled? Can you say you are safe? she says in the thrilling tones of a bad drama trailer or an insurance sales pitch. It happened to me! it could happen to you!

And while we're at it, are you making sure you exercise your feet on long plane journeys, too? My mother didn't raise me to be a cautionary tale, but if it's a gig that ends up being any use to anyone else, I'll take it.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
So, yesterday I committed a stupidity. Well, really, technically I committed the opening stupidity on Monday, by having a truly horrendous migraine the whole day, which means actually I committed the stupidity several decades ago, in being born into a body which is permanently Scraaaatched in a number of creative and interesting ways. I haven't had a proper migraine since I was in undergrad, but the vague, dissociated migraine symptoms which have been randomly floating about all year (occasional horrible headache with nausea, occasional aura symptoms without headache) finally coincided on Monday with a distressing accuracy. I spent the morning throwing up. It wasn't pretty.

As a result of the above I was still headachy and nauseous on Tuesday, and trotted off to my lovely doctor for serious migraine meds, which, while zotting the headache in short order, caused me to be sleepy and spaced all afternoon. Under the influence of drugs I was thus insufficiently alert when the nice man rang the bell at the gate. He said he was working for the next door house, cutting bushes away from the telephone lines, and he needed access to the other side of the hedge from our side. In my vague and unthinking state, I let him in. I didn't even think about it when he asked for an extension cord, which I set up for him so he could use an electric trimmer. Since it started to bucket with rain about three seconds after he left to collect his tools, I wasn't even surprised when he didn't come back.

You've seen this coming. Sometime in the approximately 20 seconds during which my back was turned in fossicking for extension cords, this curiously plausible "workman" nicked my wallet and cellphone out of my handbag, which was in the study. This has left me poorer by a cellphone, about R400 in cash, all my bank cards, various store cards and, adding insult to injury, my Zimbabwean driver's licence. It has also left me gibbering slightly, along the lines of "oh gods what was I thinking, he could have raped and murdered me, aargh!", and tending to kick myself repeatedly while muttering self-directed imprecations about stupidity and uselessness.

I spent an hour phoning to cancel cards yesterday, and four hours replacing things this morning. The infernal bureaucracies involved in cellphone theft require that you go to the cellphone place to block the SIM and phone, then to the police with the block codes, then back to the cellphone place with a case number and affidavit to activate the cellphone insurance. Since I went to the police first - twice, because I forgot we fall under Mowbray rather than Rondebosch and went to the wrong precinct - I have thus visited the police three times and the MTN store twice this morning, as well as the bank. I have a new wallet, bank card and cellphone, the latter without undue outlay as by a bizarre coincidence my contract has just come up for renewal anyway. It's not really a consolation.

The complete bugger, however, is the driver's licence. Three seconds of halfway intelligent reflection suggest that it's going to be quicker and easier to simply apply for a South African learners and take the damned test than to try and extract a duplicate licence from the chaos that is Zimbabwe. I am, shall we say, unamused, although wryly aware that I had this coming, having failed dismally to apply for a South African licence on the basis of my Zim one for approximately the last decade.

It's all terribly "want of a nail". There's one tiny moment yesterday which is the hinge-pin of events, where if my fuzzy brain had simply swung one way rather than the other, the last 24 hours would have been much less stressful. When the man made his request I actually thought "I should tell him to ask his employer to phone me." Then I thought, but that's such a pain, and besides I might have to give Mrs. Cake Next Door my number, which is not going to end well, and the "nice and trusting, if somewhat drugged" response kicked in, so I let him in without actually thinking about it further. I shall not, shall we say, be doing that again. But I also rather resent the way in which this erodes my door response. Quite a lot of people who ring our doorbell aren't actually crooks, but they just lost the benefit of the doubt.

discombobulated

Thursday, 11 August 2011 03:35 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Bleah. Talking to my nice therapist lady this morning about various Stupid Ex-Boyfriend Incidents way back in the mists of time (disclaimer: applies to no-one who's reading this) has put me into a profound depression for most of the day. Either that or the increase in my Warfarin dose has made me draggy and tired. Apparently my blood remains determined to clot madly, recking not the insane quantities of anti-coagulant we apply to it. Adds whole new dimensions to "bloody-minded". I contemplate with a certain quiet smugness the fact that it can't make my hair any worse owing to how I cut it all off.

Since I'm uninspired, and have moreover not much to talk about owing to the tight correspondence between my return to work and my return to Dragon Age II (the "Escape My Life At Any Cost" clause; newsflash, plotting still irritating and inadequate, romance options mostly insulting to right-thinking female players, but can I stop playing? noooooo1), I fall back into random linkery. These will be familiar to those of you who retain any consciousness whatsoever of my Delicious feed.

Hmmm. Apparently the entire upbeat content of my life has migrated to the internet. I console myself that it's better than no upbeat content at all.



1 Looking at that parenthesis, to the hypothetical question "Does that apply to Dragon Age or my life", I am forced to answer "yes".

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In addition to the depredations of the neighbourhood ginger Tom, who comes into the house and sprays randomly, we have also had poor Todal in a cone and confined to the house because of the stitches in her back - which is also, in fact, quite probably the result of the maurauding tomcat, because he's a bugger and beats up our kitties something 'orrible. (Hobbit, who must outweigh him by a factor of two, has a distressing tendency to look the other way whistling when the tom is around, the wimp). As a result of both of the above (Todal apparently has no truck with litter boxes), the house has been subtly and distressingly redolant of cat piss since I got back from hospital. Cat piss has that tendency to be all phantom: mother and I and a blacklight the other night spent twenty minutes trying to find the patches without success. Today, the efforts of my inexhaustible mother have finally borne fruit; the wretched tomcat appears to have sprayed up a pile of rolled papers in a corner of my study, which we didn't pick up with the blacklight as the paper itself fluoresces. Rendered unfit for human consumption: three rolls of wrapping paper (one of them shocking pink for benefit of niece), and the extremely amusing Fawkes/Codex poster given to me lo these many months ago by, if I remember correctly, [livejournal.com profile] strawberryfrog. Phooey. Bloody cat.

I have been very quietly at home for several days, apart from odd visits to doctors and pathologists and what have you. (Pathcare's warfarin monitoring programme is really reassuringly efficient, they SMS you same day after a blood test with a warfarin intake programme for the week. My blood thinness levels are currently way too high, so I'm off it for a couple of days). The leg is much better, and I can hobble around the house reasonably effectively, leaving the crutch for long trips only; my main problem right now is complete and utter exhaustion as soon as I do anything other than lie on the couch with my feet up. Which is OK, because the nice physician man mutters things like "serious life-threatening illness" and "recovery period similar to pneumonia" and "systemic inflammation during embolus was particularly high", and has put me off work until the end of next week. It is an index of my state of health that this causes me very little of the usual off-work guilt, and instead a vast feeling of relief. The thought of the first week of term next week was terrifying me.

I have also noticed a recurring feature of the last two weeks of blood-letting. I am covered in horrible little bruises from needles - a blinding array across my stomach, where they injected heparin twice a day while I was in hospital, plus giant yellow patches on my wrists from the pulse-point needles, and several on my arms from random painkillers. The elbow veins, of course, were black and blue, although they've gone down a bit now. Thin blood from warfarin means one makes spectacular bruises. But the most striking recurring feature is the cheerful professional relish, at times downright vampiric, with which the needle technicians pounce on my arms. "Oooh!" they say excitedly. "Oooh, you have lovely veins!" I feel as though I should be in a Victorian nightgown and a dreamy state of passivity as the bat comes through the bedroom window.
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Things I Have Learned Over the Last Ten Days:
  1. All that stuff they throw at you on aircraft about long-haul flights and deep vein thrombosis? It's not urban legend. Or old wive's tales. Or scaremongering. Or a cunning way to make you look ridiculous while waving your feet in the air.
  2. Deep vein thrombosis really hurts. Your calf builds up quite ridiculous amounts of pressure, and putting foot to floor after having it elevated invokes the Screaming Agony Death Type Three.
  3. Developing the bloody thing on the flight out to Australia is neatly timed to give you a “gosh, sprained calf” pain which increases only in gradual increments, reaching its full apotheosis in Johannesburg airport after the 14-hour return flight, as you hobble at frantic speeds down the approximately six million miles of Oliver Tambo airport to catch, with a 20-minute window, the replacement connection you've been rebooked on after missing your actual Cape Town connection after high winds in Sydney. At this stage, “desperate to get home” is a thundering understatement.
  4. The ultrasound with which they prod your leg to determine the existence of the doomful blood clot lurking behind your knee is quite ridiculously cool, particularly as operated by the little ultrasound goddess on whose slightest pronouncements doctors hang.
  5. Hospitals are not, contrary to vague expectation, designed to be about your comfort. They are designed to be about your treatment. Your actual comfort and reassurance does happen, but it's very clearly secondary on the priority list of all these incredibly busy people whose actual allegiance is to this enormous unwieldy structure full of important rules.
  6. The above notwithstanding, a lot of hospital staff are actually lovely and empathetic and do deal with your comfort. Eventually.
  7. Hospital is mostly about waiting around. After ten days this gets tired.
  8. If you are a generally unfit sort of person prone to bodily ills, and have moreover trotted obliviously around Australia on a deep vein thrombosis for ten days, you will inevitably develop complications. This means that a few nameless bits of the clot have detached themselves from their spawning ground behind the knee, and have wandered vaguely through the heart and into your lungs, where they've stuck. This causes small sections of collapsed lung, chest pain, shortness of breath, your doctor to put his head into his hands helplessly, and a disconcertingly sudden transfer to the ICU with strict instructions not to move.
  9. If you have multiple pulmonary embolisms, the ICU is an incredibly reassuring place to be. It is also bedlam, filled with noise, chatting staff, beeping machines, and the continual entry and exit of patients.
  10. Hospitals are not restful places. Fortunately their drugs are good.
  11. Pain and concern about collapsed lungs are surprisingly distractable by cool machines, particularly the ones which are a cross between alien tech and the X-Files, and where they give you weird side-effect sensations by pumping you full of iodine.
  12. Avoid any illness which requires you to have blood taken through a pulse point. It hurts like hell and damnation.
  13. Friends are absolutely the only way to retain sanity through a ten-day hospital stay. I am blessed with incredible friends, whose dedication to visits in the teeth of my bored and disconsolate growling, has been wonderful and miraculous.
  14. ”Medical aid” is a swear word until you're in hospital for ten days.
  15. There is a bizarre comfort knowing that you can tick the "injury on duty" box on your leave form when you eventually get back to work.
  16. Hospital food is inventively awful.
  17. When it comes to the crunch, the Evil Landlord is actually cheerfully matter-of-fact about being asked to go through a lady's underwear drawer in order to bring fresh underwear to hospitalised housemates.
  18. The list of foods you can't eat while on Warfarin is quite bizarre.
  19. Ten days of internet absence, apart from the withdrawal symptoms, generates a ridiculous quantity of livejournal spam, mostly in Russian.
  20. It's really worth moving around a lot on long haul flights.

up the anti

Sunday, 30 January 2011 01:12 pm
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It's been a torrid week, and the coming one will be worse. I'm tired, grumpy and all peopled out, and inclined to be very, very short with stupid questions. Is it just me, or is it increasingly depressing to realise that things one takes for granted - grammar, politeness, a modicum of altruism, actually reading important texts or listening to important lectures - are not equally accepted as a baseline of behaviour by about 80% of the people you meet? I must be getting old, and set in my ways. There was a particularly egregiously horrible advertising poster in the supermarket this morning, threatening to "UP THE ANTI!" on value, or prices, or quality, or something. Instead of inciting me to righteous mockery it made me want to cry. It's not helping that the English department, bless its snakepit soul, doesn't want me to teach again this year. Am feeling rejected and non-academic.

This is all very low and blue, so I shall attempt to introduce a more cheery and colourful note with a rather delectable recipe I recently invented. Please excuse the smugness of tone in the ingredients list, I need all the happy I can find right now.


DECADENT BAKED BUTTERNUT

You need:
  • One medium butternut you grew in your garden, and practically had to run down and tackle owing to the speed with which the vines are streaking for the borders.
  • A double handful of the baby tomatoes your tomato vines are producing in insane quantities possibly reflecting a new religious cult of some sort.
  • Three or four spring onions which are growing in your garden with a ridiculous enthusiasm given that in some cases they have to grow out from under the butternuts.
  • A handful of sweet basil which manages to grow manfully in your garden despite being repeatedly sat on by the cats.
  • A couple of generous dollops of marscapone. (If I could find a way to grow this in my garden I would).
  • A couple of rashers of fatty bacon. (You could leave this out, I suppose, if you were adhering to strict vegetarian principles for inscrutable reasons of your own).
  • A generous slosh of olive oil.
  • Garlic to taste, i.e. lots. Five or six cloves at least.
  • Salt, freshly ground black pepper, anything else that grabs your fancy and looks as though it might work with the above.
Wash the butternut to remove random cat hairs, and halve lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and a little bit of the pulp to leave a hollow down the middle. I usually shave off a small piece of the round, curved underneath part so it sits firmly and doesn't rock the boat and tip off all the stuffing at inopportune moments. Throw the seeds etc. into your compost with a brief benediction.

Chop up the tomatoes, spring onions, basil and garlic and mix together. Add the marscapone and mix. Cut the fat off the bacon and reserve; chop the bacon and add to the mix. Add salt and pepper in appropriate quantities.

Slash quite deeply into the cut side of the butternut in a cross-hatch pattern or angular mystic runes or whatever your preference is. Slosh olive oil generously onto the cut surfaces and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It sometimes pays to rub it in a bit so you season into the slashes.

Pile the tomato/marscapone mixture into the hollows and mound it generously above until you've used up all the stuffing. You should pretty much aim to cover the whole cut surface, but peaking along the middle of the length. If there's any stuffing left over you're not trying. For extra decadence, drape the bacon fat over the top. Aesthetics demand that you remove this before serving, and principles of non-waste demand that you eat it. It'll be melt-in-the-mouth crispy. Darn.

Bake uncovered at about 200o for about an hour, or until the butternut is soft. This always takes longer than you think it will. It helps to haul it out the oven every twenty minutes or so and baste it with its own evil, fatty pan juices. You are aiming for all the artery-hardening marscapone goodness to ooze down into the flesh. In more ways than one, see expanding hips.

Slice into fat 2cm-slices to serve as a side dish. Or eat an entire half yourself for a not particularly light supper. Remember to wipe your chin.

Documentary evidence of the Insane Tomato Explosion follows. This is the second time this week I've filled this blue plastic bowl, and there must be almost as many still ripening on the vines.



Also, more demented butternuts in preparation. Observe the spring onions scrabbling out from under.

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The jolly wintry LiveJournal header bar mocks me, it does, what with its jolly snowman and pretty snowflakes and its gently curvy landscape under snow. (a) It's bloody hot here, and I'm post-gastric and very fragile, and (b) my poor dear mother is stuck in London under umpteen feet of snow, her flight to Cape Town last night having coincided, with mathematical precision, with Heathrow closing down for 24 hours because of snow on the runways. The first replacement flight they can offer her is the 24th December, thus neatly knocking out half of her fairly short holiday. I think that "I'm miffed" is not only an understatement, it's a fractional stab at what she must be feeling.

I hate to break it to you, Britain, but this feathery white stuff falls out of the sky approximately annually, and proceeds to pile up into pretty, incommodious drifts in a fairly predictable and characteristic fashion. It may also have escaped your attention that you're a major international hub for air travel and its associated climate-destroying effects, to the extent where flying into Heathrow always gives me chills simply because of the number of planes I can count in the sky with mine. (They're awfully close and move awfully fast and even insane amphetamine-laced air traffic controllers have to nod sometimes, and besides, the mere fact that there are eight other airborne planes within view as we circle means there are too bloody many of us and we travel too bloody often in insanely wasteful and clumsy ways). The two above effects being noted, do you think it's too much to hope that you'd have something vaguely resembling a crisis plan in place, one which doesn't involve thousands of people sleeping on the floor in your incredibly ugly and rather filthy terminals? Particularly since air travel has a rampaging carbon footprint in giant hobnailed boots, which in turn contributes to global warming and all its merry effects, such as wilder weather extremes and, for example, ALL THIS BLOODY SNOW.

I hasten to add that my poor dear mother is not, in fact, sleeping on the floor in Heathrow, she fortunately has friends nearby and is being put up in considerably more comfort. But I resent being deprived of six days of her company by a noxious confluence of overpopulation, inefficiency and climate change. It pushes all my buttons at once, with a fine, ham-fisted indifference. Phooey.
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Marking ate my weekend. OK, not quite. Marking and trying to write moving, eloquent, sophisticated papers on vampire Snow Whites ate my weekend. Om, nom, nom. In fact, not even. Actually, socialising ate my weekend, so I had to cram all the marking and paper-writing into the edges, where it worried the legs of my trousers, snarling. This three-career lifestyle isn't all that, when you get down to it.

[livejournal.com profile] friendly_shrink and her Nice Man braaied for us on Friday lunch, it being, of course, Braai Day; for some reason large and delectable meals for lunch - or possibly the gin - knocks out the day totally. Then we did movie club on Friday evening, of which more anon. Saturday was mostly eaten by traffic, as [livejournal.com profile] first_fallen had her birthday lunch in Hermanus on top of the whale festival, which, while a pleasant occasion full of lovely people I don't see often enough, means two hours to get from one side of Hermanus (Pop. 25 125) to the other, falling over the one horse on the way. Sunday was eaten by resentment, in between marking and paper-writing, because what I really need weekends for is down time, and I didn't get any. Phooey.

Movie club was stv's choice, and the theme was apocalypse. Post-apocalypses. Post-apocalypi? (Very heavy: my next one is going to be dance movies, just to retaliate). Anyway, we watched The Book of Eli and 9, which were definitely both on theme.
  • Book of Eli: interesting film, beautifully shot, lots of desert and bad guys with guns. It was flawed by its attempt at a twist, which it absolutely and completely failed in any way whatsoever to justify with the actual, you know, events of the movie. Phooey. On the upside, rather well acted.
  • 9: interesting film, beautifully animated, lots of ruined buildings and giant evil steampunk machine things with glowing eyes. It was flawed by its attempt at a script, which it absolutely and completely failed to deliver in any way resulting in plot coherence, logical decision making, or anything resembling, you know, enough actual characterisation to create motivation or a reason to identify with these little rag-doll people. On the upside, very cute twin archivists.
I'm glad I saw both movies. I won't be adding them to my collection. But there was popcorn. And a three-day weekend, which was mostly characterised by being over. Sigh.
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Looking at today's soft, misty, slightly relentless rain, you wouldn't believe we had our first braai of the season on Sunday night, sparked by a really indecently warm and beautiful weekend. Ah, Cape Town, how I love your cussed refusal to pay any attention to conventional seasons. Bloody-minded individualism is one of my favourite virtues. (Whoa! actually, some of that wasn't actually rain, but guys with a very long brush washing the outside of my office windows. Explains all the mad thumping sounds I've been hearing all morning.)

A slightly tragic realisation may, however, have arisen out of said Sunday braai. I'm actually quite used to the experience of staggering through a rather high proportion of Monday mornings with an epic and crippling sinus headache: we have a regular Monday morning meeting, and I tend to associate it with headaches to a statistically significant extent. I'd always put it down to (a) hangover, and (b) general resentment of Mondays. However, I really don't tipple with sufficient abandon to result in hangovers, which in any case shouldn't really infect my sinuses, and the same goes for work-loathing - tension headache, yes, sinus headache, unlikely. Sid is evil, but not that evil. No, I think it's fairly simple: I'm reacting to the wood smoke. It's inflaming my sinuses, which are merrily becoming infected and crippling me to the usual plan, with a side order of Glands. This is a horrible thing to contemplate. I'm really only an imitation South African, but I do enjoy our Sunday evening braais in summer, and resent the prospect of spending future iterations in the kitchen, with my head in a paper bag.

Truly lovely weekend notwithstanding, it's been a fairly horrible week. I am very tired and sinusy; I am enmeshed in the labyrinthine processes of insurance protocols after that stupid little accident the other week while I was so 'fluey; and I still haven't marked all these Frankenstein scripts, which seem to be multiplying on some kind of moebius principle I somewhat resent. Also, by way of a kicker, the nice agent lady in France mailed me yesterday to say that my tenants are suddenly baling after three months in the house, and that she doesn't want to carry on representing it as a rental property, it's not worth her while. She'll try and sell it for me if I want to, but no more renting. Bleah. Trying to work out if it's worth it. In French.

All this is giving me the most unlikely and (generally) horrible dreams. Night before last it was an extended cuddle session with, for some reason, Keanu Reeves, who was kinda cute, but which mostly caused angst and depression because he played mad amounts of polo and now I had to pretend to be enthusiastic about riding horses. Last night was another of those oh god I've screwed up irrevocably dreams, in this case by not realising that the man under the floorboards was there when I ran the giant machine which wound him in ropes around a floor joist and then perforated him all over with enormous sharpened metal pins. At some point he became me, and I had to watch my body slowly shredding and dissolving because of all the perforations. I'm a bit fragile this morning.
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Today was my first seminar meeting, one of the Victorian literature ones I used to teach, which I've resurrected by way of keeping me sane. Just before I headed off to the venue I realised that the pile of class handouts I'd carefully had copied last week each had an extra page. This turned out to be because I'd accidentally included a faculty agenda in the pile of masters when I took it to the copiers, and no-one actually looked at it during the copying process to realise that the one page was an error. I looked for that agenda everywhere, too. 25 extra, useless copies. This sad little tale tells you absolutely everything you need to know about the dual or triple professional existence I try to lead at the moment, its inherent antagonisms and its occasionally heart-stopping failures. (It could easily have been a deeply confidential document, and I might easily not have noticed until I'd handed it out to the class). We won't get onto the unhappy need to activate Paper-Writing Brain in the presence of Curriculum Advice Lack Of Brain. It's just sad. No-one wins.

On the upside, talking about having your mind thoroughly bent, we saw Inception yesterday. Oo, er. And possibly Cor! or Lawks! Damned good film: intelligently scripted, conceptually interesting, beautifully cast. I am a complete and total sucker for anything about dreams, given not only my own frenetic dream life but my literary adherence to Lewis Carroll, Lord Dunsany et al, but this is particularly well done. The basic heist-movie framework, and the teamwork that entails, provides a solid frame for all the weird dreamy stuff, which is in the event convincing and pleasingly unreal. I could have done with less of the noisy masonry collapses, but I suppose everyone's version of dream-dissolution differs. I also loved the not-quite-openendedness of the last image. Clever. I may need to rewatch it to work out the finer details of the various kicks, but this is no hardship at all. Cool film. Great cast. Recommended.

words fail me

Tuesday, 11 May 2010 12:00 pm
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So riddle me this, readers: why is it that Humanities students, who are registered for this degree presumably because they like this reading and writing kick, are apparently constitutionally incapable of actually reading anything? There's this strange, Teflon-slippery resistance to actual text which characterises the undergraduate gazelle in its natural habitat. They start out by not reading my door, which is decorated with a variety of informative notices including a strict injunction to print out their record before they ask me anything about their curriculum, and which is further embellished with an Ursula Vernon Snoggox by way of reinforcement.



This is a snoggox. I feel it perfectly encapsulates my basic attitude of suspicious rage when confronted by a non-transcript-bearing student. They completely ignore it, and the notice. They further ignore all the notices which delineate, in words of one syllable, my consultation times, and bound cheerfully in at all sorts of odd hours, conspicuously failing in any way to brandish a transcript. Then they look wounded when I imitate the action of the snoggox and grump at them.

This quasi-religious abhorrence of the textual extends to actual classroom practice. I'm teaching internet sexuality at the moment. Their reader contains a choice selection of sex-bloggers, and bits of both the Very Secret Diaries and Cassie Claire's knotty bit of Weasleycest. Apart from being interesting, accessible and dodgy as all get-out, these extracts are further characterised by being short. Have any of the class done the required reading before the lecture? Not bloody likely. A couple of them, if I'm lucky.

I suffer a profound failure of empathy over all this. OK, I passed second-year English with flying colours despite having only read a third of Middlemarch, a novel I unaccountably loathe, necessitating having to fake my way through the exam question with every evidence of success, but other than that I did the damned reading and then some. My intellectual intake at the moment is down at the level of The Vampire Diaries, but even so I read eight books this weekend. Quite apart from my own problem of becoming ridiculously twitchy when deprived of text, it's a basic courtesy to your lecturer to prepare for the class.

I don't want to bemoan the decline in the undergrad student, because I don't think they have actually declined, much. Their schooling is a lot more undisciplined than mine was, but they're still bright young things. What has changed is the amount they read, because more and more their daily lives are not about text, they're about image. They all watch TV and movies, and they frequently impress me with their analytical insight watching movie clips in class. But they don't read as much any more; most of them certainly lack the obsessive, personal, continuous, instrumental relationship I had and still have with books. I read my set works because they were books, not because they were set works. This also explains why so few of these kids relate to the internet in the way I do: most of my interactions are textual, I spend a lot of it writing and reading rather than looking at pictures. For me, it's always about the words. For them, large tracts of words are not just irrelevant, they're increasingly opaque and difficult, because increasingly their skills and focus are going elsewhere.

This is, of course, inevitable; culture changes continuously under technology, and by definition we're all obsolete the instant we acquire a competency. I can't rail at this and say it shouldn't be happening, that would be futile, but I find it sad. I have to work increasingly hard to share a vocabulary with my students, and it's very difficult to teach across a divide between worlds.

On the upside, Vampire Diaries took a sudden upswing in Episode 5, and is suddenly about things that are a lot more real and interesting than all the teen angst. Either that, or the Stockholm Syndrome's got me.
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The writers of headlines for the Daily Voice billboards cause me much innocent, or occasionally scurrilous, joy. I have realised, after several seconds of mature reflection, that it's not just their propensity for linguistic games, it's also the fact that they clearly have a severely warped sense of humour and absolutely no social inhibitions whatsoever, and are thus far more My Tribe than I would expect to find attached to a low-class tabloid rag. Today's little gem:

TEARS AFTER ONION MURDER!

I have no idea why it's an onion murder - someone was bashed to death with a bag of onions? in a field of onions? while reading The Onion? maybe an innocent onion was ruthlessly slaughtered? either way, I laughed all the way home.

I am, of course, at home today, which is just as well, since I'm feeling like hell again - sinus trying to resurge into full-blown 'flu, glands all up and stuff. Phooey. However, am fortified against the pile of credit transfers which face me by two evenings of new Castle behind me, and tonight's planned two new episodes of Fringe ahead.

I also watched "The Beast Below", which is the latest Doctor Who episode, but the jury is still out on the current series. I am inclining very quickly towards thinking that the new Doctor is bloody well cast, he's producing a very nice blend of quirk, authority and charm, and taking in his stride the difficult task of providing a Tennant replacement when the Tennant bar was set so high. The episodes themselves, thought, while they're not causing Davies-style continuity rage, are also not producing the requisite degree of fangirly contentment on the narrative level. They're ... OK. "The Beast Below" was vaguely interesting, vaguely logical, vaguely worked. Vaguely. It just didn't cause me the deep narrative satisfaction of "Blink" or "The Girl in the Fireplace", and I am forced to face the possibility that Moffat may have his off days, or may be diluting himself too far. I am not yet losing hope, but I can't quite commit to this relationship for fear of being hurt.

On the other hand, the one-liners are still good.
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I love the internet. I whinge wistfully about my lack of a Castle fix, and have three offers to supply the goods in the space of twenty-four hours - one from a lurker who I didn't even know was reading. (Hi, Andrea!). I also hope the Powers That Be get their arses in gear and produce the Region 2 DVD eftsoons and right speedily, as I'm suffering gnawing guilt from all this piracy. But not, may I add, enough guilt to make me stop watching them. Gosh, no.

The piracy karma is probably what caused yesterday's merry little instalment of the South African Experience, viz. being dragged home at lunchtime by the armed response guy because, yet again, we'd been burgled. This was completely inevitable: we've had renovators in the house potentially casing the joint, and besides they managed to put a chisel through the alarm sensor cables, which means the alarm hasn't worked for a couple of months. Last week we had the sensors rewired, but the damned thing is still not sending an alert to the company even if the alarm goes off, which is Dead Suspicious as it was working fine before the renovations. The Evil Landlord is locked in an epic battle with the alarm company owing to their pathetically transparent attempt to make us buy a new system by dint of refusing to even look at the old one because it's "too old to repair". Pshaw, and likewise phooey. However, my money's on his Germanic Stubbornness quotient, which is ideally suited to these little challenges.

We were thus set up nicely by circumstances, and given the last burglary it was all curiously familiar. The bastards once again levered the burglar bars off the window in the Evil Landlord's bedroom, leaving chunks of wall all over the floor. They seem to have gone through a random selection of the house, including his gym bag and my dressing table, but yet again they don't seem to have taken any of my jewellery, which I kinda take personally since it implies an aesthetic rejection I find hurtful. Nor did they touch the CD or DVD collection, which is always my primary fear. Computers all OK, electronics untouched - in fact, the only thing they seem to have stolen was a pair of the EL's track suit pants, which seems a mite fetishistic to me. I think the slightly dadaist break-in was because they were interrupted, by (a) the alarm going off, (b) the crazy next-door-neighbour hearing it and pushing her panic button on paranoid reflex, and (c) the presence of the other next-door-neighbour's visitor in the road outside, where he was ideally positioned to watch the burglar jump over the wall and pause to put on his trousers before running down the road. (Don't ask. I suspect they may have been the missing EL trousers).

Is it just me, or are we inflicted with particularly odd burglars? Not to mention, of course, burglar bars that are attached entirely inadequately. Future plans (apart from Fix Alarm, which the EL is onto): weld bars to iron bars sunk into wall and themselves welded to iron bars sunk into floor and chained to iron bar which Hobbit is sitting on. Also, follow the XKCD principle and get a laser pointer for the cats. Irritation at future attempted burglaries will be largely assuaged by having to clear up the small piles of ash.

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