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

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


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

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

themes

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

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

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



I shall allow it to sustain me through today, which, while being a Saturday, is also a four-hour review meeting of all the students who've been academically excluded by these exams. It does good and useful work, and is uniformly depressing.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
We haven't had a proper movie club in ages - movie club being, by definition, a session where we watch two movies with a putative thematic link, back-to-back, while eating Stuff On Rolls and imbibing alcohol to the level prescribed by the quality of the cinematic offerings. Sunday night wasn't technically a movie club, as we only watched one movie, but I propose to follow the principle of thematic linking between unlikely and disparate narratives by comparing the film, which was Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer, with my current state of work existence. (I'm glad I checked the director's name, incidentally, I'd remembered it as Boon Jong Ho, which is quite possibly a dreadful insult in Korean).

Given that Snowpiercer is (a) a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, extremely violent semi-thriller, (b) graced by Bearded!Chris Evans doing a surprisingly dark and driven tone which is the antithesis of his American Captaining, and (c) batshit insane and completely surreal, I should hasten to add that it doesn't have that much in common with my current state of work existence. My life right now is tragically missing any iteration of Chris Evans and is neither violent, dark, nor, currently, particularly surreal. What it does have in common with the film is a certain thematic tendency to a habitat characterised by continuous and ongoing movement which is dictated by Powers That Be who are severely above me in a hierarchy and whose dictates cannot be resisted without Negative Consequences. Not that my boss has a machine-gun or anything, but still.

Snowpiercer is (apparently extremely loosely) based on a graphic novel, and has as its bizarre premise a reverse-global-warming experiment gone wrong, plunging the world into catastrophic global winter in which the only survivors are hurtling around Europe/Asia in a very long, very socially stratified train on a circular train track. It is quite mad, and very dark, and very tense, and very beautifully filmed, and its culmination is cathartic beyond belief after the build-up and the increasingly horrific revelations. Its grimy lower-class protagonists fight their way up the train in balletic, impressionistic outbursts of extreme violence, and the upper-class train carriages are surreal pockets of hallucinogenic, heightened colour and bizarrely artificial life - they feel more like Doctor Who alien scenarios than anything else. Bonus Tilda Swinton being an almost unrecognisable caricature, and an overall impression of vivid nightmare. It's a very good film, for a given value of "very good film" which assumes "is a total mind-fuck."

My working life is characterised by a faculty administrative restructure, which has necessitated a sort of frantic game of Musical Offices as we all attempt to keep working while repeatedly relocating. I moved my stuff out of my office on Friday, along with my next door colleague's stuff as she happened to be in New Zealand, so they could knock a new door into the wall between us. My attempts to delay this process by a vital few weeks were steamrollered quite handily by various managers and Deans and what have you, because apparently this needs to be done Right Now owing to the inscrutable whims of builders, and the devil take the end-of-term pressures which have both me and Colleague at the mercy of continual angsty students in all this. The work should have been done over the weekend, but predictably wasn't. We are both squatting in temporary offices in the fortuitous absence of their rightful owners, but may, builders willing and the creek don't rise, relocate by Thursday or so. This will be temporary, as in the next couple of weeks both of us will have to up sticks and move completely to totally different offices in the opposite corner of the building. Since the necessary renovations haven't been done in the new offices, we'll move into offices a few down the corridor from the eventual location, and then move again when the new offices are ready. Colleague's move will be even more transient, as she's resigned and is moving to New Zealand at the end of the year. I am rather discombobulated by the change, and by the weirdness of being in someone else's working space.

Fortunately, as stated, my boss doesn't have a machine gun, and moreover looks nothing like Tilda Swinton, but I am nonetheless more than slightly inclined to see myself as hurtling indefinitely into the cold. Things would be materially improved by Chris Evans, even the grim and grimy version. I find Chris Evans curiously comforting.

furioser and furioser

Friday, 22 May 2015 11:57 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am suspicious of Mad Max: Fury Road. Deeply, deeply suspicious. And I've thought about this rather hard, but I don't think I'm simply reacting with sheer bloody-mindedness against the contextual responses - the buzz, the expectations, the claims of feminism, the gender slapfights. If half Teh Internets hadn't tried desperately to claim this as a Feminist Masterpiece, I might be less inclined to see its "feminism" negatively, but I don't think so. On the whole, panicked MRA horror at the thought that Girl Power Cooties might have got all over their cherished Man-Genre is largely irrelevant, if only because one shouldn't trust MRA insights with a ten-foot electric cattle prod1. And I'm not really swayed by the acclaim of a lot of female viewers who share my desperation for representation in a male-dominated Hollywood. I don't want to negate their responses, but I think they could stand to dig a little deeper. I don't think this is a feminist film masterpiece. At best, its somewhat self-congratulatory attempts at feminism are deeply, deeply flawed.

They're also part of the overall sense in which this is a very loud film, both literally and in its fumblings at message. I saw this in a cinema which had the sound turned up so far that it was itself an assault - the war rig engine note made my breastbone vibrate, and I emerged at the end of the film battered and literally shaking. This is not, however, an inappropriate response to the visual and conceptual assault the film offers. It's very much about violence, a far-future scenario of desperation and conflict, in which violence is both normalised and religiously ritualised. It's beautifully shot. The landscapes, the rolling sand and twisted rocks, the sense of desolation, are exquisite. The action choreography is breathtaking. A lot of it takes place at high speed, aboard fleets of perverse and unlikely vehicles speeding across the landscape - it's viscerally exciting, unexpected, demented, desperate. I liked the world-building, the random inexplicable detail, the bizarre social codes, the sense of all-out crazy as an up-yours in the teeth of despair. Why the hell there should be a rig specialised to a rack of giant kettledrums and a guitarist whose sole purpose is to supply a war-fleet soundrack of riffs from a flame-thrower guitar is anyone's guess, but it fits right into the post-apocalyptic aesthetic and it's effective as all get-out. In action-movie terms it's a hell of a ride.

This bit is spoilery, so skip it if you haven’t seen the film. )

Overall, as an action film it's pretty darned good: it gets additional points for (a) not chopping its action sequences up to hell and gone with delirious camera movement so you can actually determine tactical cause and effect, and (b) doing it mostly For Realz, with minimal CGI (apparently about 90% of those sequences were actually filmed, they had Cirque du Soleil performers and Olympic athletes in there doing those crazy stunts). You can tell. It feels very real.

But really feminist? not so much. Let's, children, let's talk about representation.

So. Misogynist post-apocalyptic dystopia. Men are In Charge, women are "breeders" if they're attractive and not deformed, and mostly ugly extras if they're not. Until we meet the Vuvalini towards the end, Furiosa herself is the only beautiful, damaged and kick-butt exception. Which is, if you think about it, itself a problem. You can't say that instrumental femaleness resides entirely in your ability to be Charlize Theron, it kinda dooms the rest of us who weren't actually born in Bloemfontein. (Nor, in fact, should it reside in your ability to perform the hackneyed male genre role of violence, much less violent protection of helpless women). While the Vuvalini are less stereotypical and allow a sort of grizzled middle-aged agency, it's fairly limited: they're depicted as marginal in both the world and the plot, generally sliding into a decline and resurrected only by Furiosa's and, ultimately, Max's leadership.

There's a weird body-sense driving the film in some ways: clearly the frantic desire by the warlord for non-deformed babies is because of high radiation, mutation, the usual post-apocalyptic nastiness. But there's no attempt whatsoever to rationalise the fact that almost all of the men in the film are damaged or deformed in some grotesque way, while the rescued "breeders" are model-beautiful, unblemished, firmly within the contemporary media ideal. Even Furiosa herself is disabled (and that's nicely done, a kind of by-the-way normalised representation we don't see often, as this response notes) but still beautiful, and her departure from the media body ideal is in terms of absence (missing arm) rather than impurity - missing arm or not, the rest of her is still very much Charlize Theron. The only non-deformed instrumental male character in the film is Max himself, whose damage is psychological; the icons of masculinity (warboys, warlords) are weird-looking or actively monstrous. The instrumental female characters are at worst aged, and a very high proportion of them are beautiful bodies. At the heart of the film is an unquestioning conformity to the old, ugly assumption of patriarchal Hollywood that only male viewers are important, and male viewers don't like to look at ugly women.

The cinematography is at least partially to blame for the weird beauty messages, because it works flatly against the film's superficial message of "woman are not things" to be ultimately objectifying. That initial scene with the escapee women, where they're gratuitously wasting precious water by hosing each other down, is shot and posed like an advert for, I dunno, boho punk clothing, or shampoo, or possibly girly hygiene products. Those are impeccably tanned, lithe, skinny bodies, their clothing a well-judged combination of revealing and femininely filmy and flowing. That camera gaze is as male and objectifying as hell. There's the same problem with the pregnant girl displaying herself to inhibit her pursuers - they try to co-opt the patriarchal objectification, to use their value as "breeders" against their pursuers, but as a feminist technique that's dangerous, running the risk of conformity to the tropes they're trying to subvert. It's a flawed strategy because in that moment, your gaze as audience is that of the girls' owners and rapists. Ultimately, it's difficult to see these as empowered women when the camera is complicit with their oppressors.

And the problem is that the narrative ultimately supports a view of women as reductionist stereotypes - not just the "breeder" trope it tries to overthrow, but both the "woman as visual object" and "powerful woman" images. Their power is either co-opted stereotypical male violence (Furiosa) or it's stereotypical female "power" which perceives their value as in their healthy bodies - their procreative ability and thus their sexuality. Hell, even the Vuvalini is a matriarchal all-woman group who stands for and holds the generative powers of seeds/life/birth. It's basically reductionist: the various women in the film are mostly rushing to embrace something that's simply another facet of the gender essentialism they're trying to escape. I invoke my patron saint, Angela Carter, to mutter "all myth is consolatory nonsense! Mother goddesses are just as silly a notion as father gods."

It really doesn't help the essentialism, either, to have a random romance flung into the middle of it all - mercifully they didn't try to ship Furiosa with Max, but apparently you can't have an action movie without someone getting a girl, however temporarily. It seemed to me to be utterly problematical to have one of the fleeing women suddenly turn around and romance, in terms of the visual and narrative coding of their interaction, a representative of the masculine war-cult which is out to capture her. If that was meant to be an attempt at exploring the damage of a misogynist war-cult does to its own male participants (which is itself a perfectly legitimate goal), it happened too suddenly and with too little scaffolding to be valid or likely.

This was not, I reiterate, a feminist film masterpiece. This was an extremely entertaining action film, which was self-conscious enough to try and subvert some of the gender poles of the genre by by surfacing and attempting to combat the idea of woman as object, and by inserting a woman into the classically male role. But not, you note, as the main character, a point this article makes at rather more length. I don't want to take away from the film's success as action movie, as spectacle, as aesthetic - there were many ways in which I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it's not particularly subversive. I don't think it's more than the sum of its parts, and its parts, while they've been creatively re-arranged, have largely been hauled intact out of Hollywood's misogyny vault.

1For those of you who have been blissfully unaware of the recent cultural shenanigans in netspace, Men's Rights Activists, an icky, icky bunch who are doing their utmost to spoil notions of masculinity for the remainder of their (comparatively) innocent gender.

NOTE: I have mildly edited at a couple of points after mature reflection (hence strikethroughs), and to address the inherent problem in attempting to dictate what "feminism" is for anyone other than me. I think you can read feminist elements into this film, for a given and somewhat simplistic definition of "feminism", and it's certainly a hell of a lot better than the average action film in its positioning of women. But it's definitely not a feminist masterpiece, and it's definitely still problematical in a lot of ways. It's dangerous, I think, to accept its ideologies uncritically, and to think that that's enough, because of all the misogynistic baggage that's accepted in the process; and it's very sad to think that female viewers are so starved of representation that they'll swallow it whole.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
This is an utterly simple, somewhat perverse, ridiculously absorbing mini-game. I think its appeal is a sort of transference: as a cat owner, there's something weirdly seductive in projecting yourself into the persona of the #(*&$*)! feline who wakes you up in the morning by meeping, kneading and knocking things onto the floor. It'll take you five minutes to play and will content some weird, vindictive corner of your soul. Unless that's just me.

In other news, last night we watched Interstellar. While I darkly suspect that I shouldn't be thinking about it too hard, because its manifest plot holes would infallibly present themselves (inevitably, with black holes and time at the heart of it), I very much enjoyed it, and in particular its vision of the creeping, dust-laden, inexorable death of the Earth. But it pushed my annoyed buttons a little in its uncritical adherence to the tired old sf trope of "we stuffed up the Earth, let's leave and find another planet."

Because, see, here's the thing. It's not even about my inner Victorian governess who believes that destructive children should bloody well deal with the consequences of their actions, although she definitely believes that. It's actually a logical problem. We live in a biosphere into which we have evolved over ridiculous amounts of time, and to whose atmosphere and organisms and substances and what have you we are absolutely adapted. Even so, people die every day from anaphlyactic shock as a result of an allergy, a systemic and cataclysmic disagreement with our very own environmental niche, suggesting that we are, evolution notwithstanding, somewhat fragile. However badly we crowd and poison and superheat our Earth, how logical is it that we'll find a completely unrelated planet somewhere the hell out there where the environmental challenges of an alien biosphere are somehow more welcoming than the screwed-up versions of the one we've evolved in? In terms purely of economies of effort and resource, surely it's going to be cheaper and easier and less potentially fatal to simply sort out our own planet? Honestly, I don't get it. I have the same problem with giant artificial environments in space. Earth may be a mess, but there's more to work with than the interplanetary or interstellar void offers, and it's less likely to kill you on the turn if you accidentally break a window.

My subject line, incidentally, is Death Cab for Cutie, since Narrow Stairs is playing in the car at the moment - from "Grapevine Fires", which seems thematically appropriate to all this destruction.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Mostly my movie-watching life has been on hold lately, because Inquisition. Turns out there is no contest between gaming and watching DVDs: gaming wins. However, apparently the grip of the game loosens a bit when I'm on my, what, seventh or eighth play-through? So I have both gone to the movies, and watched some of the Pile of Unwatched Reproach, which is probably twenty DVDs high, in between navigating a Qunari mage through a by now incredibly familiar Thedas. Leading to a scorecard which looks something like this:

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

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

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

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

On the upside, they also gave us the new Star Wars trailer in big-screen 3-D, and it made me weepy. Apparently I'm imprinted on that universe, but also the new images are correctly gritty and feel like Star Wars in a way the prequels-we-do-not-mention did not. A new hope!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I can't say that it was official Movie Club, because Rule 1 of Movie Club is that we compare two movies, however tenuously connected. However, Sunday night's spontaneous movie-watching with jo&stv did fulfil one of the secondary functions of Movie Club, which is to make us watch movies we otherwise wouldn't. I have randomly and without justification re-watched both Star Trek reboots in the last couple of weeks, in an outbreak possibly not unrelated to randomly and without justification reading rather nicely-characterised slow-burn Kirk/Bones slash I happened randomly upon, but there is nonetheless no real way I would have seen Space Station 76 unprompted. However, now I have. And I have Thoughts.

This is billed as comedy, but it's only really comedy in the blackest, most parodic sense; it's satire, verging at times on allegory, and what it most resembles is a dastardly fusion of Star Trek and The Ice Storm, supposing you'd allowed the resulting horrific miscegenation to be scripted by Chekhov, or possibly Kurt Vonnegut. (It also shares some distant, cousinly DNA with both Galaxy Quest and Pigs In Space). It's a 2014 film set on a space station in a future imagined from the vantage point of the 70s. This of course means tacky special effects, plastic asteroids, Tupperware spaceships, sexual liberation, cigarettes, and mad outbreaks of 70s boots and mini-dresses. However, it also allows for the actually quite powerful essentialising of issues - primarily sexuality and gender - through the exaggeration which inevitably happens when you view 70s caricatures through a contemporary lens. The space setting strips away extraneous detail, leaving the deeply dysfunctional relationships to enact themselves starkly against the pastel plastic of the background and the isolation of space. The film was developed from a stage play, and you can see it in its scale, its minimalism, its horrible intimacy.

Space Station 76 is quite often funny, but one seldom laughs without wincing - the humour is close to the bone, frequently productive more of discomfort than amusement. (Some of the few places where both Jo and I unabashedly laughed were the therapist-bot sequences, which are both horrendously cynical and irresistibly funny to anyone who's ever been in therapy). The cast is generally very good, despite representing archetypes rather than actual personalities (the Sad Captain, the Unfulfilled Career Woman, the Monstrous Mother); the whole thing is played with a sort of deliberate, tongue-in-cheek self-awareness which never quite allows you to immerse yourself in the characters. I say "allegory" because the whole thing is so self-consciously artificial that it positions the viewer very interestingly in a space which denies the possibility of willing suspension of disbelief: you are poised in a critical space outside the events, ejected equally by discomfort and unreality.

I wouldn't say this is a great movie, and its black humour at times is deeply unsettling, but it's an interesting one, and one I'm glad I've seen. It's really doing things that are far more sophisticated than they appear at first glance. Also, clearly, sexual liberation does not equal happiness, and in fact exaggerates unhappiness with resentment that pressing sex button A does not produce happiness at the vending machine slot as it clearly ought to. Which is clearly true today, and clearly the point.

(My subject line is David Bowie, because that's where I am in the Great Car Sound System Alphabetical Trek. Arcade Fire, Bed On Bricks, Belle and Sebastian, Crowded House, David Bowie. (Apparently all my Clash is under The rather than Clash). We're going to be here for a while. The quote is from "Slip Away", quite my favourite track on Heathen, which is sort of early late-period-Bowie. The alphabetical order of album is disconcerting me slightly as I do prefer listening chronologically, particularly with Bowie; as it is, we've gone Aladdin Sane (later early-period rock(ish) with jazz bits) to Diamond Dogs (early middle-period apocalyptic glam rock, Black Tie White Noise isn't on this mp3 player because it annoys me) to Heathen (early late-period, lord I don't know, regressive alt-rock with an electronica element?) to Heroes (late middle-period Brian-Eno-shaped Berlin Years) to Hunky Dory (early early-period folk/rock/pop/who the hell knows, at any rate I've wandered around the department all day singing "Quicksand", as one does because it's a bloody earworm of note). As whiplash goes it's rather enjoyable, in fact. Weirdly enough, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Bowie.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am in the sweary stage of paper writing. It's fighting me; I'm wrestling it, it's largely winning. I hate it, and myself, and my writing, and African fairy-tale film, about equally. I am horribly bored by the need to finish the damned thing (it's now nearly a week after deadline) and the fact that I can't permit myself much in the way of socialising or happy domestic fuffling until it's bloody well done. Alarmingly enough, this is all familiar and status quo: never underestimate the extent to which the relationship academics have with academia is basically abusive. I'll finish it. This too will pass. Until then, swearing, and loathing, and hedgehoggy hermitting. But especially the swearing.

I did, however, track down the volume on African folklore which I'd randomly packed at the bottom of a whole box of Pratchett and Moorcock. This has led me, as a knock-on effect, to throw out more books, as I had to unpack and repack a bunch of them. I'm still obscurely enjoying the catharsis of the clear-out.

Photo0056 Photo0046

There should be an almost complete Elric in the Moorcock, and a couple of other series as well - Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon? I have kept the Jerry Cornelius ones, because postmodernism, and the Dancers at the End of Time ones, because I don't do hallucinogenic drugs and a girl has to have some substitutes. I am forced to admit that I've pretty much outgrown Elric, I haven't read them since undergrad. The John C. Wright are buying it because the frothing homophobia of the writer's online presence is having the Orson Effect, namely an inability to read his fiction without a sort of Pavlovian response of annoyance and distaste. Also, he's a sexist sod, frankly; I really like some of what the Orphans series does, but its ideological irritations are now outweighing its enjoyments. Never trust a writer who feels impelled to spank almost all of his women.  I have retained only the remnants of my Heinlein collection which are (a) genre classics and (b) I am able to read without actually throwing the book across the room, which in the event turns out not to be many of them. I've turfed out the young adult stuff, because frankly there's better y.a. sf out there, but they're actually fun and comparatively inoffensive - Pam, you might like them for the young'uns? The Michael Scott Rohan are swashbucklery fun, but I've kept Scott Lynch for that.

If anyone wants to appropriate any of these, please let me know! So far only the Kay and the Aldiss have been bagsed from the previous group.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
gault library

I do like Tom Gauld's cartoons, they have a sort of wry, self-deprecating literacy to them which strikes something of a chord. If you haven't read his collection You're All Just Jealous Of My Jetpack, you darned well should, if only because its titular cartoon exemplifies so neatly my own stance in an uncaring academic world. The above cartoon is particularly relevant to my current interests as, while I am generally ensconced in my very own house somewhat ecstatically, I am still confronting the problem of the Library, which is approximately three times the size of my available shelf space. Unpacking my books has forced me to revisit the process of self-interrogation which led to my earlier exercises in Shuffling Off or Throwing Out books, with particular reference to Gauld's categories of "Saving For When I Have More Time" and "Will Never Read", because the usual processes of self-deception lead to an over-easy conflation of these categories. I am thus embarked upon a secondary literary weeding, with particular reference to the above categories and my new, idiosyncratic one, which is not so much "Wish I Hadn't Read" as "Am Reluctantly Forced to Admit I Will Never Read Again Because Really It's Not That Good."

In short, I have more books to throw out, and the next few posts will probably give alert readers a faint sense of déja vu. As before, Capetonian witterers are please to tell me if you want any of these and I'll shunt them your way before hauling the leftovers to the charity shop.



Guy Gavriel Kay, alas, is buying it, because I am way too old and ornery an English academic to survive another dose of flights of portentous emotionality. I've kept the interesting Tanith Lee short stories, I'm mostly throwing out her young adult stuff and the more over-the-top erotic horror. Some of the classics - Anderson, Aldiss, Lieber - I was keeping out of a vague sense of academic completeness, in case I ever needed to refer to them, which I really won't. I've kept some MacAvoy, thrown out the ones I don't flat-out love. The Kurtz has only survived thus far out of a vague nostalgia for my neo-pagan phase.

My Book Discards: How I Grew Up. Have at them.


The subject line is Pratchett, Rule 3 for Discworld librarians. In hanging onto books it's not so much causality that I've been trying to interfere with, as the nature of time.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I went back to work yesterday, after three weeks of holiday1, and more or less as a last desperate splurge before going back to work I gave myself a slightly mad Tuesday during which I saw two movies in actual cinemas and everything. The first was by cunning plan, viz. braving the holiday crowds for a morning show at the mall to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, which I have unaccountably missed seeing earlier. The second was a random last-minute invitation from Pam & Lloyd to see Gravity with them, which was a splendid idea.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-Movie-2013

I have a sort of sneaking feeling that I shouldn't really have enjoyed Desolation of Smaug as much as I did. I didn't adore the film utterly, but it was fun, and full of hot dwarves and beautiful landscapes and Martin Freeman being endearing. Even so I'm faintly surprised that its adaptation choices didn't nark me off more than they did. There's some odd stuff going on there, a weird Jacksonesque abandonment of perfectly cinematic bits of the book (the staggered introduction to Beorn, for example. I was looking forward to that. They didn't do it. Phooey. And Beorn himself was simply lame.) in favour of brand new sequences which don't seem to serve any particular purpose (like Thorin and the lads scurrying frantically around dwarven forges for no other reason than because the director wanted an action bit right there.) And the spider battle was frankly pedestrian. I loved Smaug, visually and particularly his voice, although it's effects-ridden enough that it doesn't really sound like the actor (a pity because Benedict Cumberbatch's voice). The dwarven halls of the Lonely Mountain are spectacular. I really didn't have a problem with the introduction of Legolas, it gives a face to all the anonymous wood elves. Nor did I balk at the, hooray!, actual female character such as Tolkien didn't include at all in the novel. Tauriel was pleasingly kick-butt and it's just a pity that her potentially gender-corrective presence was utterly undercut by her immediately being slapped into a love triangle. Because clearly female characters can efficiently kill orcs all they like, they are nonetheless incomplete without a sexual function. Jackson and Stephen bloody Moffat are of the same casually sexist ilk. (Also, is it just me, or are Elven/dwarven relationships simply weird?)

Despite all the whinging above, it's weird that I probably enjoy the film because of its departures from the original, not in spite of them. As with the first film, I love the expansion of the story, the filling in of the blanks - the sense that Bilbo's journey fits into a broader tapestry of history and meaning and plot, with Galadriel and the Necromancer and all - not just the whole world, but Jackson's particular vision of it. Middle-Earth is so huge and rich, the kiddied-down version of it we see in The Hobbit is a glimpse in a tiny mirror, and it's lovely to feel the vistas opening up. I applaud Jackson's vision, even as I wish the result had been slightly less ham-fisted and self-indulgent and, even, thoughtless at times. The project deserves a better execution.

2013_gravity_movie-wide

I am kicking myself that I left it too late to see Gravity in 3D, which I believe was spectacular. Even on the Labia's smaller screen and with their scratchy sound it's a phenomenal film, a virtuoso manipulation of tension, narrow focus and narrative control - such a simple, stripped-down plot to be so utterly engaging. It manages to be beautiful at the same time as it's gritty and real, with that minimalism of image and character despite the vastness of its backdrop. I loved the absolute absence of the kind of cuts to flashbacks on Earth which a more popular sort of film would infallibly have interspersed with the references made by characters to events in their past. Those actors had a hell of a task, to establish and maintain their characters with so little to play off. But they are amazing actors doing an amazing job of a highly skilled script, with jaw-dropping special effects that enhance rather than replacing the significance of the characters. The conveniently adjacent space stations all in the same orbit were a bit of a stretch, but the film-makers seem to have done their damnedest to actually replicate the physics of movement in space and the contemporary technology of the station and capsules. Science fiction at its best, if you accept the broadest definition of sf as fiction which is intrinsically about humanity's engagement with technological advancement, although of course [livejournal.com profile] strawberryfrog's point is valid, that from another angle Gravity isn't sf at all, but the purest contemporary realism. Bugger that. This is the sort of story sf should be telling, and I claim it with pride.

Subject line is from the dwarves' song in The Hobbit, of course - book version, not film. Film is the craft of light. I'm not sure Jackson is good at dwarves, actually: they're too bloody rude and slap-stick, even if the theme of greed and corruption is being nicely developed in Thorin. Dwarven dignity should not turn on and off like a tap.



1   In the exact opposite of celebration of my return to work, a random selection of my muscles have seized solid and my sleep patterns have been shot to hell for two nights. Last night I dreamed Moriarty turned me into a deer because of my refusal to assist in his nefarious criminal activities, resulting in my rude awakening at 5am this morning as I fled through the forests with his pack of werewolves at my heels. Hooves. Whatever. I need a new job.

freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Pacific-Rim

Pacific Rim fascinated me for months before I'd even seen it - not because it's giant monsters trashing Tokyo (which I love) or Guillermo del Toro (who I also love) or at least a partial departure from Americanised Hollywood gender and race tropes (which I crave), but because of the fan response. My Tumblr feed is full of fandoms, skewing heavily comic book, Tolkien and TV show, and a substantial chunk of them seem to have embraced jaegers and kaiju and pilots in the drift with an instantaneous, full-on investment which is strangely heart-warming. Watching the film last night was an exercise in happy recognition, as though I'd become a fan of the film before I'd even seen it via a sort of dizzy second-hand joy.

This is particularly fascinating because it's not a conventionally great film. I have to admit that my enjoyment of it was severely compromised by Nu-Metro's traditionally ham-fisted and overstated attitude to sound production: films at Canal Walk are habitually both over-loud and shockingly badly balanced, so that you can't hear the dialogue properly because of the way the sound effects and music have stunned your ear canals. This blunted the film's effect, I think, so that it felt more like a big/loud/stupid monster blockbuster than it actually is - I'm strangely looking forward to seeing it again on DVD, preferably Blu-Ray and a nice big HD TV, so that I can escape both the noise assault and the manifest irritations of 3D glasses while still enjoying the spectacle. (I can't wear contact lenses. My long-distance sight is appalling. Glasses over glasses for 3D purposes are distractingly annoying, and I kick myself that I left seeing the film too late for it to be available on circuit in 2D). The noise thing is particularly problematical because the film's subtleties and appeals, of which it has surprisingly many, are entirely in the fact that it's a character-driven narrative. This is the anti-Transformers: while it has giant robots and monsters and lots of bashing, it's not about the special effects, but about a heart and soul which are quintessentially humanist.

The film's genesis is specifically in the traditional Japanese kaiju and mecha narratives, which are explicitly recreated with a nice balance of nostalgia with evangelism: del Toro hopes to introduce these stories he loves to a whole new generation. The plot itself is very simple, and is laid out via rather pedestrian exposition in the first ten minutes of the film: Earth is invaded by giant (as in Godzilla-sized) reptilian monsters who arrive, rather than from outer space, via an inter-dimensional rift on the floor of the Pacific. This means that they crawl out of the ocean to trash cities on the Pacific rim, in the approved kaiju style, to be beaten back by equally giant metal humanoids who are driven by two human pilots through a sort of rig thing which translates their movements to the mechanism's. Because the size and complexity of the mecha are too great for a single human brain, pilots are neurologically linked to manage it in tandem through a process called the drift. Shenanigans ensue.

And really, looking back at that simple summary, that's exactly why it works - exactly why it isn't the flash-bang Michael-Bay emptiness of Transformers. The kaiju threat attacks the Pacific Rim, which means it's international: cities have their own jaegers, so pilots in the film are Russian and Chinese and Australian as well as white and black and Asian and American, but the response is a co-ordinated one, not Amurrica Saves the World. The theme of co-operation continues in the drift, which is about compatibility and connection as well as co-operation, but it's interpreted in interestingly diverse ways - pilots include teams who are father/son or siblings as well as a married couple, so it's not just about Teh Romance. The central team has the expected white male American point-of-view character, but his partner Mako is female and Japanese, she kicks butt in a remarkably non-sexualised fashion (the stick-fighting scenes are simply cool), and their relationship is actually interpretable as sibling as much as romantic. The visual design of the film is spectacular and at times surprisingly subtle (see this very interesting fan analysis), but, unlike Transformers, it's not just about action spectacle. You feel connected to these characters: it's easy to distinguish jaeger from jaeger not only in their names and colours and differentiated abilities, but because their pilot teams are so distinctive, often solely because of visual and action cues rather than dialogue, and because the mecha in the end represents the individuals, it doesn't replace them.

These twin poles of diversity and connection are, I think, why this film speaks so powerfully to a fan audience, whose drive is always towards empathy and identification. The international nature of the team as much as the mechanism of the drift celebrate the idea of community, of diverse individuals joining together in the service of a shared experience and goal. That's what fandom is. And over and over again, the kind of fan who loves this film and saw it multiple times on circuit and is producing fan-art and fanfic and in-depth discussion about it, says upfront that it's because they can find themselves in it. Unlike the traditional Hollywood action blockbuster, it doesn't present for your identification only the heroic white American male and his adoring and skimpily-clad white women. Its motivating force is about internal drive rather than external stereotype; the film itself, and the attitude of its creators (as in the del Toro interview given by the director himself to a Tumblr fan community) recognise, reify and celebrate the importance of communal rather than individual action. This is why, despite its action focus and its sometimes clunky and minimalist dialogue and plot, Pacific Rim is anything but simplistic, and why it's ultimately absolutely worthy of the director who also created Pan's Labyrinth: it rises above its apparent limitations to speak an emotional language of exceptional power and grace. As a film about giant metal machines battling giant reptilian monsters it absolutely delivers, but actually it's about people, and what people can do together rather than apart. We need more of these. Hollywood has become very bad at them. It's nice to know it can be done.

tuned to a dead channel

Wednesday, 7 August 2013 05:11 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I do not appear to feel much like blogging at the moment. Right now that's possibly because I have a Horrible Cold In The Head, courtesy of my mother, who also has a Horrible Cold In The Head which she picked up from my niece. Children are plague pits. Fact. Anyway, we're both dragging ourselves around the house gravitating to heat sources (it's bloody cold, there must be snow on the mountains), her with a pestilential snuffle, me with a head full of cement. I have re-read two-thirds of my Phryne Fisher collection in the last three days. Bohemian flapper detectives may be keeping me sane.

In default of anything more intelligent, I present for your delectation the intelligence of others.

This is an incredibly interesting interview with William Gibson in which he talks about his own influences and writing processes, but even more about the interaction between the world and science fiction. My favourite bit is the ending:

If you’d gone to a publisher in 1981 with a proposal for a science-fiction novel that consisted of a really clear and simple description of the world today, they’d have read your proposal and said, Well, it’s impossible. This is ridiculous. This doesn’t even make any sense. ... Fossil fuels have been discovered to be destabilizing the planet’s climate, with possibly drastic consequences. There’s an epidemic, highly contagious, lethal sexual disease that destroys the human immune system, raging virtually uncontrolled throughout much of Africa. New York has been attacked by Islamist fundamentalists, who have destroyed the two tallest buildings in the city, and the United States in response has invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. ... You haven’t even gotten to the Internet. By the time you were telling about the Internet, they’d be showing you the door. It’s just too much science fiction.

By way of antidote to all this contemporary bleakness, this is a rather lovely graduation address which exhorts graduates to be kinder, and thereby gives me lovely ammunition in some of the recent arguments I've been having with my therapist. My commitment to the therapeutic process has a very well-defined limit beyond which I simply don't buy the idea that it's OK to prioritise yourself above all else. It is an index of the success of the therapeutic process so far that I'm actually capable of arguing with her about it.

I need to go and blow my nose, again. I hope you are all well.

Subject line quote is, of course, from the opening sentence of Gibson's Neuromancer, which he apparently wrote without having any idea of where the novel was going to subsequently go. Writers' differing processes are fascinating.

not really cloud nine

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 02:22 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Movie club! Last weekend we watched Jo's choice, which was a pairing of Cloud Atlas with The Nines, the purported theme "films composed of separate, vaguely connected stories using the same actors as different characters and with weird science fictional elements". The food pairing: fancy artisanal sausage and mash, for no good reason other than it was good. (Usually it's something on rolls).

cloudatlasI'm glad movie club prodded me into seeing Cloud Atlas, I've been rather afraid of it. It's one of the averagely intimidating David Mitchell novels (i.e. very), and despite having read it a couple of times I cherish only the vaguest recollection of some of its detail. (The futuristic Asian setting and the 19th-century composer bit stick out, for some reason). The buzz on the 'net has also been somewhat varied: some people thought the film worked, others really didn't. I would have thought it fell into the general category of "cordially unfilmable", personally, but on the whole I was agreeably surprised. It kicked in as slightly over-long and slow to start, but the editing of the various strands of story together, and the highlighting of the thematic links between them, was brilliantly done. It was visually very powerful, and its images have stayed with me since I saw it. It was also very well cast, and while the weird re-racifying of characters jarred me a lot (white actors as Asian characters, black as white etc), I finally conceded that the blurring of racial boundaries was a sort of deliberate thematic effect which wasn't entirely lame. It's absolutely worth sitting through the first part of the credits for the quick picture gallery of the actors in their different roles - some of them are completely unrecognisable. It has a rather slow start, but on the whole it's an interesting and absorbing film, often cruel and tragic, but achieving a surprising level of fidelity to the mood, tone and focus of the novel. If something as disparate as Cloud Atlas can be said to have a focus. Discuss.

ninesI'm not entirely positive about The Nines. This was an odd indie thing starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy, both of whom are extremely likeable actors; it featured three separate stories, all present-day LA, with RR and Melissa as different characters, and some really odd connections and resonances between the three scenarios. Overall, though, this felt like an interesting idea which the film-makers singularly failed to develop in any ultimately satisfying way. The first two thirds or so were creepy and interesting, the moments where the scenarios blurred together were genuinely strange and threatening, but the film's explanation of itself really didn't live up to the promise of the set-up. It felt both over-explained and unconvincing, somehow. But I enjoyed its self-consciousness about narrative, its focus on characters who were storytellers and worldbuilders, and whose lives and skills reflected the way in which the movie tried to deconstruct itself. I don't think it succeeded, but it was an interesting try.

Next up, possibly: random Shakespeare adaptations. Julie Taymor's version of The Tempest, and Ian McKellan's weird fascist Richard III. Or, if that seems too indigestible, one of the above plus something unlikely and only tangentially related. Taking suggestions.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I'm working at home this week, trying to hammer this paper into shape, and it occurs to me that really I shouldn't be alternating bouts of paper-wrestling with evenings playing Oblivion, as my metaphors become rather unruly as a result. (Or, at least, even more unruly. My metaphors do lead weird and complex private lives of their own at the best of times). This is the paper I gave at the Ghent conference and which I was profoundly unhappy with, so it's basically being rewritten from the ground up. I am thus forced to rue my own basic incoherence on an ongoing basis, but also to realise that, unwieldy though it was, my argument was also rather unsophisticated - I am now trying effectively to level it up into new, elevated planes of density and implication. This has caused the damned thing to grow tentacles and about five extra heads, so that once more it's doing that grab-Will-Smith-and-thump-him-repeatedly-against-the-side-of-the-car thing. Particularly since one of the heads it's grown was the result of incautiously using the term "modernity" and then feeling the need to research exactly what I meant by that, as a result of which I am now buried in the writhing coils of social theory and suddenly Marx, the Frankfurt School, Foucault, Habermas, Lyotard and jolly old Baudrillard are lining up to have their wicked theoretical way with me. It's not all joy in here, I can tell you, although there's a certain grim satisfaction in wresting the odd coherent paragraph out of the morass.

Also, I have a Sid incursion, and the headache isn't helping. On the upside, since I last felt the need to use the grab-Will-Smith-and-thump-him-repeatedly-against-the-side-of-the-car image, some kindly soul has actually put it up there on the internet for these little moments of need.

men-in-black-baby-delivery-car

In a neat juxtaposition of theme, the other thing I have to do this week is finalise my new car deal, and really the whole experience of car-buying and licence taking has not been unlike the grab-Will-Smith-and-thump-him-repeatedly-against-the-side-of-the-car experience. Hopefully both car and paper-writing experiences will shorty result in an adorable tentacled alien baby.

(Subject line is naturally Men in Black, Jay popping the cardboard eight-year-old girl in the shooting range on grounds of generalised suspicion).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Bugger, I forgot to go back and do the May attribution thing. Excelsior!

  • 2nd May, "it's not about what you love, it's about how you love it". Quoting Wil Wheaton on being a geek, from a response at a Q&A (linked from that post). The man is very sane.
  • 5th May, "the same old painted lady". The Mandatory David Bowie Quote, this one from "Song for Bob Dylan", slightly mis-applied because I was talking about wearing make-up. You know, I'd never realised until I looked properly at those lyrics how involuted the imagery is. "Here she comes again / The same old painted lady / From the brow of a super brain..." The image is actually Athena (wisdom) emerging from the brain of Zeus, but the song snarls up the ideas so you're not sure if the painted lady is actually Dylan's wisdom, or if she's some sort of harpy-like figure to be vanquished by his songs. Typical Bowie flow--of-consciousness, in fact.
  • 8th May, "I'd much rather have a mansion in the hills". Crowded House, "A mansion in the slums". Somewhere round the third verse they stop trying to differentiate between a caravan in the hills and a mansion in the slums, and decide they'd rather have it all. Word.
  • 13th May, "the stars look very different today". Bonus Mandatory David Bowie Quote, this time clearly from "Space Oddity", appropriately enough since I was talking about Chris Hadfield covering "Space Oddity" from the International Space Station, and yes, it bloody still makes me weepy.
  • 24th May, "you may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air". T.S. Eliot, "Macavity, the Mystery Cat", from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. You should have recognised that one. And not because of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
  • 28th May, "one day will flash and send you crashing through the ceiling". From "Thank heavens for little girls", jolly old Lerner and Loewe, originating in Gigi, but I think I probably know the Perry Como version, FSM knows from what source. The aether, perhaps.
  • 30th May, "what she says is all right by me, I kinda like that style". Talking Heads, "The lady don't mind", and if you're anything like me the mere reading of this sentence will have infallibly ear-wormed you with the song in question, which will resist all exorcism for upwards of a week. Catchy little bugger.
This should be the last ever Giant Attribution Post, on account of how I've started footnoting posts with an attribution for the subject line, just because. It's remotely possible that my academia may be showing.

In other news:


I write like
Ray Bradbury

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!



I am deeply flattered.

Cat Valente, on the other hand, writes always and only like Cat Valente. The Shoot-Out at Burnt Corn Ranch Over the Bride of the World is a sort of weird mythic western thing which causes me love and despair and illuminating pain, like a crowbar inserted to the head and twisted. Read it and weep. (My subject line is her penultimate sentence, which I steal because, in its precise moment and context, it's perfect in the way that Mozart is perfect).
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
This picture came over my Tumblr feed today, and is making me subtly happy. The artist is Brenoch Adams, whose site repays a browse, lots of lovely and slightly quirky sf and computer game concept art. I love that the tall, gangling, slightly threatening robot in this portrait is so utterly subordinated to the little black girl. And I love that she's black, with the kicky hair-style: not your usual sf stereotype at all. Mostly, though, I love her expression of slightly feral glee. That girl and her robot are going to take over the world. Watch out, world.

Brenoch Adams: Robo Guard

In the spirit of the power of small girls, have a piece of fanfic which crosses Roald Dahl's Matilda with Tony Stark. No, really. From the reliably readable copperbadge, and with extra X-men diss at no extra charge.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Here is another entry in the Department Of The Approximately One Million Things That Make Me Cry. "Space Oddity" is a fairly emotional piece of music anyway, considered quite apart from its position in my pervy-David-Bowie-fancying lexicon: it's a particularly vivid and evocative rendition of isolation and loss layered on top of stirring human endeavour. Space is simply emotional, and humans in space hit a deeply-embedded science fictional nerve in my psyche. (Which suggests why it's taking me so long to get around to watching Moon, and also why I really ought to). I've also been following Chris Hadfield on Twitter and Tumblr, as he patiently and systematically humanises the space station project - not so much putting a human face on it, as skilfully using the immediacy and speed of social media to insert us into the experience. It's been wonderful, both exciting and moving - he's an amazing man. He also posts the odd photo of Cape Town from orbit, which makes me ridiculously happy.

He's coming back down to Earth now, and as a farewell has released a version of "Space Oddity" sung, rather well, by himself, in the space station. This is a perfect thing. It's been bouncing around my Tumblr and Twitter feeds all morning, accompanied by righteous squee. It also hits so many of my buttons simultaneously that I've just sat at my desk for ten minutes and cried like a baby.



I've had a rather madly social weekend - book club on Friday, Neil's birthday on Saturday, and a Sunday night dinner I cooked last night with Jo&Stv and Sven&Tanya featuring wine, hilarity and roast chicken with all the trimmings, not to mention a new recipe for chocolate mousse which ... seems to work. All three of these gatherings were not particularly notable in that they featured me, at some stage, babbling enthusiastically about fan fiction, as a result of which Jo was moved to suggest that I actually post some links to these stories for the general enlightenment or bewilderment of my readers. Which is a damned good idea.

As an opening shot, and in keeping with the Space Feels, have a series of really rather interesting AU fics re-imagining the Avengers in a space opera setting. I'm impressed at the creativity of this writer: the way they've managed to take the characters and relationships of the Marvel films and explore them via a rather different idiom but with a sensitive eye to emotional and political resonance. Also, bonus AI politics and Tony Stark as technomancer with nanotech, communicating with JARVIS via a neural implant. JARVIS is simply cool. icarus_chained, Space Electric.

Added bonus: I've managed to shamelessly use both "evocative" and "resonant" in the same post. I blame the Space Feels.

Drive-in Saturday

Sunday, 28 April 2013 10:08 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Movie club! As you know, Bob, we (being me and jo&stv, occasionally with the EL) have a technically monthly movie club, whose simple and stated purpose is to watch two movies back-to-back, preferably films none of us have seen before, with a common theme or possibly "common" "theme" and excellent food of the eat-on-your-lap variety. The proceedings (and discernment of theme) tend to be well lubricated by lots of relaxing alcohol, which is very rewarding to the critical facilities. We rotate the responsibility for choice and cooking. We're terribly erratic timing-wise, but have managed to actually achieve two movie clubs in the last two months, the first of which I didn't ever get around to blogging on account of general wossname. I shall now proceed to Catch Up, TM. Reviews lurking under a cut, on account of length. )

Movie Club: dislocating your neck with rapid thematic transitions since 2009. Watch this space for further updates!
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.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I would blog about our lovely weekend away, except (a) I don't have the energy to dig up and post the photos, (b) I need to do the traditional start-of-month acknowledgement of sources, and (c) I'm too damned upset about Iain Banks. Apart from being one of my favourite sf authors who falls into the China Miéville category of "clearly way more intelligent than I am", Iain Banks is a lovely man and doesn't deserve sudden short-term terminal cancer to the solar plexus. And while one tries not to turn this narcissistically to one's own pain, after Terry Pratchett this is just too damned much. Not only are they two in my top 5 of authors-whose-every-work-I-will-read-despite-anything, they're both highly intelligent, culturally aware and likeable people who utterly don't deserve this, and both of whom I have met. I haven't met many of my sf/fantasy icons. In fact, I think the two of them are it. I actually got to chat to both of them beyond a quick signature. If this is the upshot, I'm going to try and avoid meeting any more, the cosmic wossnames apparently take that as a signal to hit them with something unpleasant. If I ever see China Miéville in the flesh I'm going to run like hell in the opposite direction. (Which, to be fair, I might well do anyway. Intimidating man.)

I'm being very bad at this blogging thing at the moment, I don't seem to have the energy. However, a few actual posts were perpetrated in the month of March, with attendant convoluted subject line references, as follows. (I include the actual wording of the subject line as an innovative addition to these little round-ups by special request of the Jo).

  • 7th March: "rocking the Lawful Good". This doesn't need attribution, it's not a quote, and if any of my readers don't by this stage get the D&D alignment reference and its particular application to my psyche, I give up.
  • 8th March: "the interconnectedness of everything". This is actually a partial paraphrase of Dirk Gently, I never remember the exact wording accurately. (Apparently it's "the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.") I must re-read those, they're fun, and Douglas Adams can't blindside me by suddenly pitching up with something terminal on account of how he's already dead. This is at least predicable.
  • 10th March: "I came, I saw, Ipad." That was a horrible piece of lame wordplay and I should be ashamed. Also, I very much doubt that Julius Caesar ever actually said "Veni, vedi, vici". It has "apocryphal" written all over it. The Ipad, on the other hand, is a marvellous gadget and I'm really enjoying it, even if the lack of actual hard drive, as a concept, makes me flail around a bit.
  • 15th March: "! GET! KNOCKED! DOWN! butIgetupagain". Now I have the bloody Chumbawamba ear-worm again. Thanks for that, meticulous referencing. That wretched song ("Tubthumper", for the sake of full attribution and in case you weren't paying attention) is more damned fun than it has any right to be.
  • 17th March: "this vast and brooding spirit". Oh, now, that's interesting. *waves the Red Flag of Over-Analysis Alert*. The quote is from the poem about Cecil John Rhodes which adorns the Rhodes Memorial, and which incidentally also formed the basis for a more than usually way-out Call of Cthulhu module I and Bumpycat wrote back in the day, featuring Rhodes's negative energy centred on the memorial as a blot on the fabric of reality which opened portals to Bad Stuff. (I don't do postcolonialism, except apparently in my role-playing modules, where I've done it several times). It's also a misquote, owing to the extreme dodginess of my memory: the actual phrasing is "the immense and brooding spirit". The post is talking about Batman and whinging about the excessive broodiness of The Dark Knight Rises, so as a subject line it's fairly apt, but I remember typing in the (mis)quote more or less as a knee-jerk and then being tickled by how actually appropriate it was to my argument in the review. The full poem reads: "The immense and brooding spirit still / Shall quicken and control. / Living he was the land, and dead, / His soul shall be her soul!" In terms of Batman's identification with Gotham and the upshot of the movie, that's pretty much exactly it.
  • 19th March: "meanwhile, he has built a remote-controlled duck". Actually attributed in the post: quote from the article on useless machines which had endeared itself to me at the time. Even more pleasingly surreal out of context.
  • 26th March: "I have a bad feeling about this...". This was a post about a Star-Wars-Lego-themed cocktail party. If you do not recognise the quote you are no friend of mine, and need to slink off into a corner somewhere and consider your sins. Good grief. (We had the first movie playing silently during the party, causing a lot of us to sit around watching it and supplying either the actual dialogue, or new, improved dialogue (mostly Stv). When everyone had gone the EL and Sven and I watched The Empire Strikes Back and argued about abysmal Empire tactics on Hoth. I love my friends, and am fairly confident that none of you are currently sitting in a corner considering your sins).

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