freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's clearly fatal to ever tidy up. Or do filing. Because if you do, in a burst of misguided enthusiasm, carefully file the last six months' worth of paper which are artistically piled in your in-tray as a Hobbit-bed, you run the risk of secreting important drunken scribblings so carefully that you can't find them for weeks. Fortunately said piece of paper turned up again this weekend in the course of a frantic scrabble for vital Morrowind cheat notes, and I am thus able to bring you the socio-chemical scientific conclusions which resulted from the entirely uncontrolled experiment of a Star Wars cocktail evening a couple of weekends back.

This was occasioned, by convoluted and lateral routes, by the Evil Landlord's company moving premises again (something they seem to do every couple of years just to test the path-finding abilities of their employees), and the mechanics of the move necessitating that he bring home temporarily his entire collection of Star Wars Lego projects. As he has a deliberate policy of acquiring a new, giant piece of Star Wars Lego every time a major client goes live, building them at work with the assistance of co-workers and keeping them artistically displayed on a spare desk in his office, there are a shitload of these things. We've had a Star Destroyer on the TV cabinet, a Death Star on the corner table and various other bits and bobs (TIE fighter, Millenium Falcon, Boba Fett's ship, etc) in odd corners for a couple of months. The cocktail party was a dual-purpose occasion to which a select group of proper enthusiasts were invited in order to (a) properly admire them, and (b) sample a dubious array of spontaneously-generated Star-Wars-themed cocktails becoming steadily more dubious as the evening advanced. I am cutting this, as it's long and full of photos which may clog Friends feeds. If anyone still uses Friends feeds. Does anyone still use Friends feeds? )

It was a very good evening. My drunken notes also record the following snippet of conversation:

ANDREW: "Where should I put these snacks?"
ME (distracted): "No idea, find a horizontal surface which isn't occupied by a model."
ANDREW (knowingly): "Ah, it's one of those parties."

It really was.

it's only words

Wednesday, 26 September 2012 12:38 pm
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The city's billboard-headline-writers appear to have been on strike, or alternatively the ones who hitherto concocted the witty, playful, linguistically subversive headlines were the first up the wall when the revolution came, and have been replaced by conformist troglodytes. At any rate, the billboards have been boring for months. However, yesterday's rather intrigued me:

CHARLIZE'S NEW MAN BAGS AN EMMY

There's actually a hell of a lot going on in that simple headline. For a start, "Charlize". The first name only carries the assumption that everyone knows who she is: for an American Oscar-winning actress who just happens to have been born in SA and whose name is routinely mispronounced by American commentators, she's been rather wholeheartedly adopted by the country. She's ours, the designation says. It's both familiar and possessive, but also, interestingly, elevates her rank - the actors who merit a first name only are the really big names, George and Angelina and Leo et al. I don't think she's quite up there with them, although apparently her SA homies would like to think she is.

She's also clearly more important than her "new man", who is rather beautifully sidelined by the headline: although he's the one who's won the Emmy, that's almost by the way, as the important thing is actually his attachment to Charlize even if she hasn't actually done anything newsworthy lately. He doesn't even merit a name, although a brief Google suggests that he's Eric Stonestreet, whose Emmy is for his role in Modern Family, which I have not seen, but more power to him and it. (Particularly since it's a series about a gay couple with an adopted daughter, thereby earning my wholehearted approval at least in the abstract. And it's interesting that the headline, while conveying a bunch of information rather succinctly, doesn't mention the SA-constitution-friendly composition of the Emmy-winning TV series, which SA sources are frequently wont to do in a self-congratulatory sort of way when reporting on gay rights issues in the benighted and unenlightened First World. I suppose there's only so much detail a conformist troglodyte can pack in. The old guard would have managed it. Pshaw.)

I am also amused by the fact that he "bags" an Emmy when he could "win" an Emmy in exactly the same number of letters. It's obviously a gesture at deliberate informality, in keeping with the relaxed intimacy of "Charlize", but it continues the effacement process the headline has started. Its effect is to slightly undercut the achievement, not just because he clearly doesn't merit a formal register, but because he's "bagged" it, i.e. acquired it and put it away, with the emphasis on the award itself, whereas "wins" would emphasise the work he's done to earn it.

And, finally, the whole thing is thrown into beautiful relief by the aforementioned quick Google, which instantly reveals that the whole Charlize-has-a-new-man thing was apparently invented out of whole cloth by the UK's Daily Mail, and has been denied with some bemusement by Mr. Stonestreet himself. (Apparently they've met precisely twice). It's a classic example of celebrity gossip as a news-generator: the Emmy win isn't actually important, but you can make something of it if you attach it to a new celebrity relationship, however apocryphal. The SA appropriation of the tale also gives a South African slant and interest to an otherwise fairly arbitrary piece of news.

This random analysis brought to you in the spirit of the 40-minute conversation over Feuerzangenbowle on Saturday night, in which the assembled guests enthusiastically and with perfectly straight faces engaged in spirited deconstruction of the nuances of meaning across various almost-synonomous terms. This may have had something to do with the analytic proclivities of my social circle, but possibly also owed a lot to the mad German process of imbibing red wine having first heated it, imbued it with molten sugar and rum, and set fire to it. To this last can also be attributed the fact that, while I remember the conversation with some fondness, I cannot remember any of the terms.

Finally, because it gave me great pleasure, I recommend to your attention Pride & Prejudice fanfic, which is beautifully written even if not with quite the layers of irony and wit of Miss Austen herself, and which succeeds in rescuing poor Miss de Bourgh from her dreadful mother. I always felt bad for Anne de Bourgh. Imagine growing up with a mother like that!
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Oh, dear. My Imaginet geeks have failed me. Even arm-wrestling their tame Telkom guy, the one who apparently knows what he's doing, was insufficient. All he could do was to instruct me to return to start, do not collect re-wiring, please phone the original order helpline (and he gave me the wrong number) with the original description of the problem, the one that didn't work first time round, and start the weary round again.

So I did this yesterday. With my Seekrit Weapon. I have now tried logic, calm rationality, searching questions, patiently pointing out the imbecility of the system, irritation, rage, abuse, accusations and slamming the phone down. This time, dealing a crippling blow to a hundred years of feminism while suffragettes sobbed, I waited until the first stupid objection ("this is a fault, not an order, this is the order line, phone the fault line"1), and burst into tears. The slightly hysterical sobbing, interspersed with hiccuping attempts to explain exactly how many hours I've spent on these bloody helplines trying to log a call, eventually backed the poor operative into a corner, where he eventually overrode stuff, circumvented the bit where I'm supposed to be the account holder, and finally gave me a reference number and a date when the technician will come round to do a complete rewire, all while rather helplessly enumerating how many rules he was breaking to do so. I feel dirty. But triumphant. To such depths does the monstrosity of Telkom bring us. It remains to be seen whether the technician actually arrives next Thursday, but I'll prep a supply of tissues and a fainting couch just in case.

Nonetheless, despite the need to once more mud-wrestle the Telkom pig, I've actually had a lovely couple of days. I was abducted for drinks and supper on the Camps Bay beachfront by Michelle and Stef last night, which was pleasingly drunken and attended by a magnificent pink and gold sunset and rather wayward conversation. (They may or may not have got me onto the subject of fan fiction, which is always dangerous, because I start using words like "demographic" and "paradigm" and "narrative wish-fulfilment", and have to be sternly suppressed with more booze). The whole seems to have been sufficient to give me, once I staggered home and fell into bed, an extremely vivid and detailed series of dreams which were, I suspect, actually an episode of Supernatural or something. Small town in the American woods is invaded by the weird shape-shifting hicks from a hidden farm somewhere, who wake up and tramp into town, where they proceed to grow giant arms and knock down whole buildings, or slime up buildings as amorphous sheets so they can stalk small girl children and eat them. The Big Daddy of the family was a sort of giant muscular lizardy thing. I think by the time I woke up the entire town was either dead or assimilated. No Sam or Dean to intervene. Clearly where the scriptwriter went wrong, but I have to say, my subconscious has a superb cinematographer.

Fortunately today was a public holiday, so once I'd cleared the dream-fogs I trundled off to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D this morning. What a sweet little film - really an object lesson in how to take a hopeless cliché (boy makes friends with Wild Creature, is redeemed, saves day) and infuse it with life and charm. The kid's personality and dialogue are lovely; the 3D is magical without being intrusive, the dragon-flight bits, particularly the end battle, are dizzying and beautiful and bloody marvellous, but overall the strength is in the dragons themselves. Toothless, the main dragon, is a completely endearing mix of puppy, kitten and wild creature, and the incredible variety of other dragons is wildly inventive. (And frequently hilarious: I cracked up completely when I realised how neatly they'd pegged the dragon types to the howling stereotypes of the kid gang - small fat kid to small fat dragon, skinny twins to the two-headed serpentine one, spiky-haired punk dragon with attitude for the girl sidekick. Also, the fat kid's D&D geekery with reference to dragon abilities caused me unholy in-joke glee, to the complete bewilderment of the nice family sitting next to me). It was a lovely way to spend a morning - absolutely no surprises, but considerable pleasures. One for the DVD collection.

This week I have to fight Home Affairs to renew my passport. I console myself with the thought that they can't possibly be as incompetent as Telkom.



1 If you phone the fault line they say it's an order and please phone the order line. I tell you, Kafka has nothing on these guys.
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Thought for the day: dear spammer, if your email has a subject line which reads "PLS OPEN YOUR ATTARCHMENT AND FEW YOUR WINNING PROCEDURE" it is so utterly doomed before it starts that it's causing me actual pain to contemplate the mere fact of your existence. Not that the existence of spammers is anything other than painful at the best of times, but I mean, really. If you're going to be a pestilential blot on the face of the modern internet community, can't you at least be competent at it? Incompetent evil gives me toothache.

Talking of which, I am still attempting to live down the fact that I inflicted G.I. Joe, now with added pointlessly inept bad guys, on jo&stv for our Friday night movie veg-out, on the grounds of (a) probable cute crash-boom special effects, for which I have a well-documented weakness, and (b) Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In the event we spent most of the movie wincing sympathetically on behalf of JGL and other unfortunate actors (Christopher Ecclestone? noooooo! Arnold Vosloo? shaaaaame!) clearly forced by incipient starvation to sign on the dotted line for the ginormous cheque. (Theory: JGL does this sort of thing to fund his next three indie movies of choice, and it is our duty to support him on the grounds that we might get another Brick.) G.I. Joe is a bloody stupid film. It has occasionally cute if somewhat predictable special effects. Channing Tatum is unexpectedly likeable if more or less mahogany all through - it's particularly interesting to see him doing the action thing given that I last saw him bopping around the show in Step Up, about which I decline to be embarrassed on the grounds that Jo gave it to me as a joke present.

Following the random association game, I have just scored a copy of Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing courtesy of Jo's birthday, since she received a duplicate present and passed on one to me. This is a weird, lateral, poignant, beautiful, delicate, intricate, heartbreaking and very, very odd piece of graphic art, and I'm more than slightly in love with it. Have a look.

I'm also slightly in love with the new version of Firefox, which has produced all sorts of minor innovations with things like new tab placement: it now all conforms much more closely to my personal logic, which either means (a) score, the design team think like I do, or (b) score, they've trained Firefox to read my mind so it thinks like I do. Not that I think much today, being still a little short on sleep after Jo's raucous party on Saturday night, with attendant booze levels, epic clean-up and more wine for dinner last night. I don't think I was hungover, but I'm a tad fragile still.

We also watched The Hangover on Friday night. I didn't expect to enjoy this nearly as much as I did. It looks as though it's going to be the usual horrible frat-boy dick-joke gross-out collection of misogynistic bullshit, and at every point in the film where it starts moving in that direction, it takes a sudden hard left turn and goes somewhere else instead. It was refreshingly unexpected. It's also more or less completely sold by its cast, who are superb, and by the pleasing levels of surreal generated by the flashback format. Drunken manly antics are much easier to deal with when they're all postmodern. Bonus tiger, Mike Tyson, Bradley Cooper giving a surprisingly good imitation of a total dick dead against type, and a completely inexplicable chicken.

I'm going to stop there, because this wayward puppy thing could get out of hand. Tomorrow I shall attempt to post about the house, which is almost finished and looking, while still inexpressibly grimy, rather excitingly new.

Squirrel!

Sunday, 27 September 2009 03:12 pm
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Good lord, insane weekend, made slightly more insane by the fact that I'm trying to type this while a large, fluffy, ginger hobbit attempts to sit alternately on my lap, my wrists and my keyboard. Friday night was movies, of which more anon, and Jewel Tavern, which is now in St. George's Mall and still makes damned fine Chinese food in large quantities. Saturday was the very relaxed, very pleasant, rather drunken wedding celebration of [livejournal.com profile] librsa and [livejournal.com profile] first_fallen (the drunkenness is all Carlo's fault, him and his shooters, pshaw), with the chance to see all sorts of people I haven't seen in weeks, months or years. Saturday night we broke out another bottle of wine and my new DVD copy of The Middleman, to which we are satisfactorily addicting the Evil Landlord at suitable speed. This morning Michelle abducted me for lunch in Kalk Bay, with champagne. Tonight sven&tanya fed us enormous quantities of lamb. Tomorrow I roll gently into work, almost certainly still drunk, at an advanced hour, and will probably proceed to achieve not much until the fog has cleared, which I confidently predict it'll do around Tuesday. This will be just in time for supper with jo&stv and then book club on Thursday. Memo to self, must really go back to the gym.

Friday night's movie was Up, in 3D, and I cannot recommend it sufficiently highly. Pixar are damned good at what they do, and what they do here is refreshingly lateral, unexpected and at times moving as well as hilarious. Apart from the 3D, which is still magical and actually used with commendable restraint, it's a very good script. The whole thing is slightly off-kilter, galloping off in mad and unexpected directions; the main character is an old man, the main plot doesn't really resemble any Hollywood cliché I can think of, and the whole is leavened with offbeat humour and very human pathos. The initial sequence covering the main character's life with his wife is particularly lovely and extremely lump-in-throatish; the dogs are hilarious, even, or perhaps particularly, to a non-dog-lover.

Where I think the film most succeeds, though, is in its purveyance quite simply of fantasy, in the sense of humdrum existence transported suddenly into colour and excitement: the house and all its rainbow balloons is an extremely potent symbol of uplift, escape and possibility. The slight off-the-wallness of subsequent events is thus perfectly in keeping with what is effectively wish-fulfillment, the happy embrace of the impossible as a fantastic antidote to the mundane. Bonus points for magical floating-balloon-house scenes, Cordon Bleu dog chefs, the Cone of Shame, a randomly demented villain, and Kevin, the giant chocoholic bird who takes on a beautifully-animated and highly endearing life of its own. Above all, though, this is about dreams: how vital they are, how compelling, and how they aren't about what you thought they were about in the first place.

In the Department of Middlemania, Episode 6 is a bit thin on pithy exclamations, although I'm partial to "Holy onions!", "That's dirty pool, I'll clean his clock!", "That really steams my clams!" and "Chocoholics Anonymous!" The episode made me very happy by being intensely rude about boy-bands and plagiarists, and supplying, straight-faced, the phrase "A duck's life hangs in the balance". This show, how I do love it.
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When I was eight years old I gave up biting my nails. I remember the occasion quite vividly: one day I looked down at my nibbled-at hands, thought "that's ugly, I should stop that", and did so. I haven't bitten them since. This suggests that, while in later life my willpower seems to be a small, mad, fluffy thing crouched on a rock in the depths of my subconscious, refusing to stir when prodded with sticks, technically it does exist and should be in there somewhere. Consequently, in a spirit of enquiry, a few days ago I randomly decided to give up saying "fuck", just to see if I could - while I have a just appreciation for its Anglo-Saxon bluntness, I lard my conversation with it far too heavily, and occasionally can't help using it in a professional context, upon which people look at me sideways. So far so good - I've involuntarily uttered it once in the last three days, and that while slightly sloshed. I shall watch my own progress with interest.

The weekend seems to have been a bit of a mad social whirl. We (jo&stv and Evil Landlord and I) took my mother out for lunch to Overture on Saturday, as a thank-you for her entirely saintly energies in looking after my dad. She is an Amazing Person, TM, and richly deserved Overture's view, good-humoured and attentive staff (the manager was hilarious), flowly-freeing wine, kick-butt pumpkin risotto, hake with mussels, and pork belly with pork rillette beignet, the latter pretentious-sounding concoction being a sort of pork stuffing in a thin deep-fried pastry baggie, and frankly delectable. She possibly didn't richly deserve the lunacy levels of the conversation, but hopefully it was at least entertaining.

The EL has also recently had the counter in the dining room flung out and replaced with a fitted version with room for the bar 'fridge, and in the course of unpacking the old cupboards and repacking the new we found no less than four bottles of champagne. This means we lugged two of them plus the Cointreau over to jo&stv's for potjie last night, and made French 75s (Cointreau, gin, champagne, lemon, hold the sugar, I like them dry). These are evil. In a good way. And get you very sloshed very quickly. Then again, it's been a hellish couple of weeks and I think I deserved to get slightly drunk and almost say "fuck" several times. But only almost!

Now, onward! to arrange internet connectivity for my dad at his new frail care institution, into which he moves on Friday. [livejournal.com profile] friendly_shrink's nice husband has, bless him, sorted out the Windows install problem on dad's computer by giving me a legal copy, and I am fiendishly scheming to persuade the Evil Landlord to let me install an ADSL line, so I can hijack the Iburst and haul it over there for Dad. Since this entails allowing Telkom over our threshold, I may be making a hell of a lot of creme caramel in the next few weeks. Will the Evil Landlord accept Telkom sweetened with creme caramel? News at 11!

nice day for a

Saturday, 21 March 2009 08:17 pm
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New Interesting Discovery: weddings are better if they're smaller. And if I know a fair number of the people. And if the bride asks me to do usher duties, thus giving me a cast-iron reason to actually talk to people and ply them with champagne. Also, if some of the guests are interesting grad students/artists who not only listen to me wittering on randomly on several glasses of champagne, but who engage me in spirited debate and take it in good part when I feel impelled to state that their argument is a load of bollocks. (I seem to get argumentative on champagne, not to mention determinedly polysyllabic).

Anyway, Robbie and Vi are now safely married, in a truly lovely ceremony and reception. Vi's parents have a home in Tokai with a particularly beautiful garden which, with true Germanic efficiency, they clearly planted about 15 years ago with the intention of allowing their daughter to be married under the shower of bridal-white bougainvillea which covers the pergola. You have to admire Germanic precision, it's the only wedding I've ever attended where the several clocks in the living room struck the half hour (Vi's dad is a clockmaker) and the bride proceeded to shimmy down the stairs precisely and absolutely on time. The guests were all present and seated, partially due to my ushering efforts, which took place to a schedule provided by the bride. I attribute my success entirely to my one-sixteenth German blood, of which I am modestly proud.

I am also modestly proud of the fact that the bride and groom were re-united a few years ago, having dated in school/undergrad and then separated to different continents for about fifteen years, by dint of me Googling on Vi's behalf to find Robbie's email address. The Fatal Communication which brought them together again was sent from my computer. All my own work, that was. Heh.

Now I am going to bed, on account of how I was madly dancing until almost midnight last night and my feet and calves celebrated by throwing themselves sharply into cramp at random intervals throughout the night. My body basically hates me and doesn't want me to have any fun. In revenge, I shall take it off to the dentist next week. That'll teach it.
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Possible Tactical Errors When Planning A Wine-Route:

  1. Plan it for the middle of a Cape heat wave. 38o temperatures. Killing.

  2. Plan it for the middle of a Cape heat wave in a car with no working aircon. We survived by rubbing ourselves down with ice cubes, which must have looked supremely dodgy.

  3. Plan it for the middle of a heat wave, in the Wellington area, when Paarl Mountain has been on fire for several days. This creates a tendency for winetasters to swirl, sniff, taste and say, judiciously, "Hmmm, bit smoky on the nose." Fortunately Paarl Mountain had mostly burned itself out by the time we arrived, and we were able to detour around the enormous column of smoke. I don't know how those poor firefighters managed to work in the heatwave, it was unspeakable even sitting in a moving car with all the windows open. Apparently not too many actual vineyards were destroyed, but the smoke is going to affect this year's vintage, which I'd imagine will be some combination of disasterous, interesting, or a unique and completely unreplicable vintage each bottle of which will sell for enormous sums. I don't worry about the wine as much as I do about all those conservation areas burned out, nothing left alive. The fynbos will bounce back stronger than ever, but the animals won't.

  4. Choose as your first wine farm of the day a place called the Black Pearl. The owner swears blind they predate Johnny Depp by a considerable margin ("Paarl" means "pearl", after all), but even so the trip will inevitably degenerate into a lot of "Arrrrr! 'Tis the Black Pearl!" in appropriate iterations of Geoffrey Rush. Particularly when stv is on board. The farm itself was a real find, though - one phones up to arrange a tasting, which the owner conducts personally on the balcony of his beautifully renovated 70s home (which apparently used to belong to the National Party and have red- or black-painted walls). Damned nice cabernet. Friendly dogs. Charming host. Lovely view.



    Also, they have alpacas.

  5. Take a day off for the the wine route on a Friday in order to give oneself a long weekend, as a first, faint stab at trying to recover from a month of 11-hour days, then discover that the board schedule checking, which I'm only about a third of the way through, has to be done by Monday. Spend the non-winerouting portion of one's "rest" weekend checking board schedules and plotting the absolute destruction of the faculty admin block by judicious application of gelignite. God, I need a rest.
I have to say, despite the stacked deck ennumerated above, it was a lovely day, and full of lovely wine, lots of which we bought. The Diemersfontein Pinotage is particularly fine. Vanilla and chocolate flavours. They make it into truffles, a box of which I acquired and transported to Cape Town lovingly packed in ice. Not even heatwaves get between me and my chocolate.
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I derive considerable pleasure from contemplating the fact that my DVD collection is now reaching the proportions where, if I randomly decide of a Saturday evening that I want to watch something irrevocably silly and B-movie while consuming half a bottle of red wine, Independence Day is right there. I love that movie. It's so utterly dreadful, and the thunderous crash with which the clichés fall into place is so deeply pleasing. Besides, bonus Adam Baldwin, not to mention random arguments with the Evil Landlord ("the giant spaceship should have crashed on the base!" "no, it was slipping sideways when it blew up!" "was not!") and the fact that my copy is apparently a special edition with bunches of additional footage, causing me, until I worked out this fact, to glare accusingly at the bottle of wine every time I really didn't remember that bit. Also, the active pain of the frequently abysmal essays on Pan's Labyrinth I've been marking all afternoon is now somewhat dulled.

I'm going to bed now. Any typos in this post are entirely drunken.
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[livejournal.com profile] tsukikoneko had a rather good Halloween party on Friday night, complete with people in somewhat excellent costumes, and a cake shaped like a ghost (cute). I copped out of the costume thing, although a random selection of sort-of-Halloweeny items from my wardrobe seems to have kicked me out dressed as myself circa about 1993, i.e. gothy (sans the make-up. I no longer actually possess any make-up, even if I felt like relapsing. Curiously liberating, actually). I was feeling a bit antisocial and thus had to have about three glasses of wine before relaxing enough to enjoy it, which resulted in poor [livejournal.com profile] librsa, who'd incautiously asked me a leading question, having his ear enthusiastically bent for about half an hour as I madly compared Sheri Tepper's Grass with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which is the substance of a rather tentacular feminist/genre/gothic paper that has been callously refusing to allow me to write it in any coherent sense for about three years now. Fortunately [livejournal.com profile] librsa is good at leading questions and wine is good at unlocking my thought processes, with the result that a crucial insight hit me amidships after about ten minutes of babbling, causing me to go "OMG! it's all about failed parenthood resulting in monstrous offspring!", after which I wove drunkenly home to spend about half of the rest of the weekend enthusiastically reshuffling my notes and watching the argument slot neatly into place. Which means I'm no further on Harry Potter. Sorry, [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun. But it all makes me realise how isolated I am in this university from people who actually understand the genre stuff I do. Also, that possibly I should write more papers while drunk.

It was also rather a felinated evening. Apart from re-acquainting myself with [livejournal.com profile] tsukikoneko's Machek, who I helped bottle-feed as an extremely small scrap of kitten and who is fat, unbelievably beautiful (silver-grey tabby, my favourite flavour) and a total slut for affection, one of the guests had dressed as a witch and brought along her "familiar", a sphinx. (That's the weird hairless breed). It was very cute, velvety to the touch, and also bizarrely and completely chilled - I swear she'd drugged it, although she maintained it's simply a calm cat. You try to wrap any of mine in a blanket and drag it into a Halloween party, you end up with your Halloween costume involuntarily being "Survivor" - of a mountain lion attack, or possibly the zombie apocalypse.

Bugger, it must be Monday, it's The Sentences That Ate Cape Town. Sorry. (Also, I'm a bit zoned from waking up randomly at 5am this morning and being unable to get back to sleep, resulting in a 7am arrival in my office and two hours of extremely productive work before the first student disaster knocked on my door. Not to mention the comfortable glow of superiority. I wanted to leave handfuls of small reproachful etched frimpt shells on my boss's desk, but fortunately wiser counsels prevailed. Besides, she's exponentially more efficient than I am, and I rather like her.)

Last Night I Dreamed: a complicated sort of Alias-style dream involving subterranean secret bases accessed from the bottom of a river (tricky for dragging in reluctant prisoners). Said base was controlled by a giant, organic, semi-sentient computer system called ROAR (don't ask me why, it's probably an obscure faculty acronym) which at the central point of the dream was sabotaged by Cary Elwes, who was a double agent (no doubt present because of his dodgy ambiguous agent turn on X-files), by means of evilly substituting a fake replica for the small charcoal pill at the point of the laser which ran the computer. (My subconscious is also not a science grad). I was just too late to stop the substitution, resulting in the whole world being shunted off into an alternate reality in which ROAR was crippled.
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It's been raining off and on all weekend, which makes me and my garden happy, and it's still gently drizzling today. This is going some way towards reconciling me towards the headache and general disinclination I am suffering as a result of allowing Mike to ply me with altogether too much wine yesterday afternoon at his farewell braai. (He's buggering off to Oxford for a few years to do a PhD. Yay, more docs!). The bastard kept taking away my sensible glass of water and replacing it with a glass of wine, and I'm consequently a little fragile this morning. On the upside I drank enough to allow me to hold actual conversations with a notable array of complete strangers, which is a Great Leap Forward. Normally I curl up and die in a corner. Social butterfly, not.

So, Doctor Who. On mature reflection, I still don't have a lot of time for Russell Davies. )

Last Night I Dreamed: I was travelling across a rather attractive country, or countries, with rolling farmlands and ranges of mountains and a sandy coastline; unfortunately the whole thing was being threatened by some kind of hazy thing in the air, which was rolling in from the sea and gradually overtaking the country with unspecified ill effects. In the course of travelling with a refugee train I discovered that the country had recently abandoned the practice of growing a special kind of tree outside their homes; the tree had the power to suck in the nasty haze in a sort of mini vortex. At some stage I also realised the incredible significance of a glowing mother and daughter on horseback, who we passed in a field next to the road, and whose cart full of supplies we subsequently appropriated.
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Awww! Nice student just gave me cute mouse-shaped giant dark chocolate truffles as a thank-you for my curriculum advice, which admittedly has stretched over three months and entailed dealing with changes in subject, degree, university, continents, visa conditions and marital status, but hey, that's what they pay me for. Apparently.

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

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

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

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Wheee! Just got back from my first lecture of the semester - man, I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. I'm buzzed. *bounces gently off walls*. Evilly introducing oblivious third-years to the joys of some of the dodgier corners of the internet - priceless. Also, mumbling about Freud, sexual symbolism, unreality, disembodiment, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the existence of Weasleycest. This puts me on a reasonable footing to deal with the rest of Monday, which is usually tricky because (a) Mondays are always completely insane with student advice, suggesting that the little dears spend all weekend brooding over their curriculum wrongs and simply have to have it sorted out posthaste as Monday dawns, and (b) we do that regular jo&stv socialising thing on Sunday evening so I've always slept badly owing to eating and drinking too much (and, possibly, talking too much shit)1.

And, with reference to the latter point, I reproduce for your hock and shorror an actual conversation from last night:
EVIL LANDLORD: What's in these potatoes, bacon?
ME: No, coriander and red wine.
EL: Bacon, coriander, taste the same, really.

I have been cooking for ten years for a man who cannot tell the difference between bacon and coriander. Do I need to draw your attention to the inutterable depths of this tragedy? It's enough to make me want to give up cooking. Only not really.

I have to add, just for the record, that I'm not sure if I'm amused or horrified that my previous post should attract so much comments attention, as you witterers give your serious analytic attention to the logic of evil dogs guarding zombies. That's high-class lateral pedantry, that is.

Last Night I Dreamed: I was packing up quantities of Earl Grey teabags very lovingly into a small tin emblazoned with elephants, in order to put it into a care package for someone in prison.

1 Also, in an interesting departure from the norm, allowing jo to tie me to the sofa with banana fibre.

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Meep. Completely insane day, one of those ones where you don't hit ground between arriving an hour early and leaving an hour late. I haven't read my blogs! No wonder I feel sad, plaintive and withdrawn.

Hussar last night was excellent, and filled with rollicking jollity as well as completely excessive quantities of good food. I recommend getting a new job just so you can splash out on their wildebeest pâté. The bill for the four of us, in a doom-laden omen, came to R666.00. As the dreaded stvil says, clearly the Number of the Wildebeest. Fortunately, no-one was hauled off to Hell on the way home, or at any rate not so we noticed. There was a certain amount of Zinfandel consumed.

Is it just me, or does "Zinfandel" look like a slightly obscure female Elven name? Aragorn's great-aunt, perhaps?

Last Night I Dreamed: a confused and frustrating dream in which I was trying to buy an egg-whisk shaped like a squid.

flimsy and miserable

Tuesday, 1 May 2007 06:04 pm
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'Tis the merry month of May, and as usual a new month signals the fact that I've not done half of the things I should have done months ago. Bother.

Lovely day wine-routing today with jo&stv and the Evil Landlord - we drove out to Riebeck in a wonderful low-lying cloud, with trees looming unexpectedly out of the mist and wispy bits of fog drifting around. Magical, and very slightly creepy. Good wine and company, beautiful scenery, and we returned with the car laden and labouring under the weight of boxes and boxes of quality booze. This is a good part of the world. It would be better if I wasn't feeling so BLOODY SICK all the time, though.

.


In keeping with the slightly dislocated mood of holiday, we also saw The Last Mimzy last night, emerging with the consensus that it was... cute. Cute kids, cute special effects, and the terrifying free reign of Hollywood sensibilities allowed to warp into saccharine, easy shape a tale which should have been disturbing and slightly creepy, like the mist. Even before reading the story the film was based on my sense was that the film was distorting a narrative which should have been slight, almost disconnected, an exercise in more or less random cause and effect. The neat, twee shape of the film imposed too much purpose on the idea: the story meditates primarily on the fact that kids are actually rum and alien little buggers, when you get down to it, rather than the world-saving angels the film presents. Also, the film barely touched on the Alice links, which annoys me. Never let slip a chance for a good bit of Victorian surreal, say I.

Bunny Threat Level: bleah.

lowering reflection

Friday, 20 April 2007 11:21 pm
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It's a sad, sad fact that I find myself uttering the pregnant phrase "I am so going to blog this!" a lot more frequently than I actually remember the interchange in question in the cold, hard light of day. I blame (a) my characteristic cheese-brain, and (b) the Demon Alcohol. Tonight's usual excesses of superlative Thai food, good wine and more or less hilarious bullshit, courtesy of the usual jo&stv, were accompanied by many gems of linguistic and cultural wit, none of which I can remember. Sorry.

Bunny Threat level is at least holding, on account of how I spent yesterday, in between teaching, marking, curriculum advice and staggering around drunkenly because I was too tired to walk straight, updating the Carter chapter according to the Nicest Ex-Supervisor's editorial comments. I am pained to note that I am capable of using some version of the word "particular" four times in the space of a single paragraph, and that the perennial favourites "evoke" and "resonate" turn up, on average, once per page each. Other than that, it actually makes sense. All is not lost.

Bunny Threat Level: Holding in the amber. As of tomorrow, pop culture is toast.
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Catharsis rules! Since becoming indiscreetly drunk on Sunday evening, I've been (a) rather productive, and (b) ridiculously happy. (People give you funny looks when you wander down the soft drinks aisle singing "Sixteen tonnes", particularly when the supermarket speakers are blaring forth swooping classic rock arrangements of "Killing me softly").

While part of this is undoubtedly sheer relief about no longer feeling the huge depression I wasn't even aware I was feeling, The Happy is possibly also caused by having finally caught up on Torchwood. In retrospect, my earlier dissfest was possibly the result of only having seen Episodes 3-6, two of which are the worst in the season. It all hangs together a lot better when you've seen the introductory episodes - particularly the character of Captain Jack - and the later ones, IMNSHO, gain considerably in depth and interest. I loved "Random Shoes", although I seem to remember that [livejournal.com profile] strawberryfrog didn't. (Not that I can find the comment. Maybe I dreamed it). So, generally, what's not to be happy about? two episodes of Torchwood still to go, plus all of Sky's Hogfather. (Oh, and is it just my stupid system, or is the sound on the .avi file of "They Keep Killing Suzie" fundamentally stuffed?)

The shambling undead horror that is Chapter 1 is nearly, nearly there; progress has been halted today because I've spent the morning annotating a student's Honours essay (a good one, on sf, ecofeminism and genocide), but I'm on the last section and feeling nicely in control. Additional catharsis points yesterday came from reading through about 2000 words, realising that they represented unnecessarily waffly repetitions of things I'd already said elsewhere, and deleting them in their entirety. Getting in touch with one's inner Evil Academic Overlord is a surprisingly good feeling. However, as stv points out, ecological ethics demand that I actually recycle the wasted words, so here's a random selection from the Deleted Scenes as a free giveaway to the insufficiently polysyllabic.



Now I shall go forth and concoct salads for tonight's braai in honour of everymoment and her family, plus such portions of my social circle as are not struck down by the current incarnation of the Dreaded Lurgy. Taking bets on the probable response to mid-week braai-ing of our batshit- insane next door neighbour.

Whups. Hungover.

Monday, 22 January 2007 10:07 am
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A weekend of giddy social whirling - two birthday bashes (curse all you Capricorns, clustering in the social circle in a sort of astrological clump), plus a lunch in honour of [livejournal.com profile] herne_kzn's flying visit to the Mother City (more notice next time, damn you!), and the dread jo&stv's extremely enjoyable housewarming last night. Not only is their new house ideally suited to entertaining, with its deck, pool and open spaces, but they're dashed good at putting together a perfect people-mix: enough close friends to be safe and familiar, enough new faces and people I don't often see to be interesting. The visit of everymoment and family to CT did, I have to say, up the quotient of Small Humans to hitherto unknown levels, but I think the non-reproducing Scrooge-like die-hards among us survived the experience fairly well. A swimming pool is apparently a very levelling thing, and happy kiddies splashing around in the water are curiously heart-warming. Not that I was in the pool any stage, the crowd levels being a bit high for my comfort in a swimming costume, but I went mildly mad with my nice new camera. Fruits of the labours available here.

The first few weeks of this year, with their combination of heatwaves and the horrible angst, guilt, self-loathing and conviction of my own worthlessness engendered by these thrice-damned book updates, came to a sort of head last night, and I proceeded to become somewhat sloshed. Apart from rendering me prone to attacks of the dreaded Comedy Hiccups, this usually makes me extremely voluble and determinedly polysyllabic. (Random snippet from a conversation with one of the new faces: "Are you tipsy? because if you are, you're also very highly educated.") 4am-wake-up with pounding headache aside, it also seems to have been cathartic and positive, because in between waiting for Flickr to cogitate over my uploads, I've done a stonkload of work on the book this morning, and am comfortably within an up-swing in terms of thinking that what I've written may not actually be all bad. I may not have Chapter 1 done by the end of the day, [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun, but it'll be bloody close.

I should add, for the sake of posterity, that my Evil Landlord was considerably drunker than I was last night, owing to the equally evil jo&stv feeding him quantities of Pimms. My sense of the later parts of the evening is a little blurry, but I do seem to remember him being thrown into the pool with all his clothes on. I am relieved to note that the perpetrator of this outrage was one of jo's seedy actuarial co-workers. It is reassuring to consider that our own social circle is beyond such infantile high jinks. Or, at the very least, considerably more aware of said Evil Landlord's skill with a rapier.
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Darned French. Tinnimentum is in town*, staying with us while visiting jo&stv (on account of how, unlike the Dynamic Duo, we actually have a guest room with visible floor space) and we celebrated her 30th birthday yesterday with a braai and cake and champagne cocktails. French 75. Gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and champagne. Very good, and kicks like a big gun. I got giggly. In a good way. Kudos to [livejournal.com profile] strawberryfrog and [livejournal.com profile] short_mort, who cunningly got married and had a pre-marriage cocktail party at which somebody** first made me a French 75, thus sealing my fate. Doom! Addicted doom!

In a fit of random somethingorother (probably excess glee at having finished the year's marking), I bunged the last post's list of influential SF classics into Excel, dug up some dates, and analysed the hell out of it. Interesting Observations as follows:
  • For a start, it wasn't actually Time's list, it was apparently a book club selection from 2002; the only online ref I can find to it is here. This explains the funny dates: it is, as [livejournal.com profile] wolverine_nun points out, an odd choice of period, unless you know that it was a 50-year choice from 1953 to 2002. This also explains its cheerful willingness to consider successful pulp as "influential".
  • Considerable weighting towards the earlier part of the period. By decade: 1950s, 14; 1960s, 13; 1970s, 13; 1980s, 7; 1990s, 3. In some ways this makes sense: it's difficult, in the absence of madly high-profile movements such as cyberpunk, to define something as "influential" until it's had time to exert some influence. But I also think that the people who compile this kind of list are (a) quite conservative, and (b) a bit older than I am, or most of you witterers. Lots of Golden Age stuff here.
  • Actual gender breakdown, once I'd tracked down a couple of unknowns: 44 male writers, 6 female. This is still a genre in horrible gender-imbalance, although I think the male-heaviness was also exaggerated by the list's reliance on earlier works.
  • I'm not sure why, as [livejournal.com profile] strawberryfrog rather snarkily points out, "science fiction" is wantonly defined as including fantasy, although it's a common enough blurring of boundaries. There is, however, definitely a tendency to marginalise fantasy in the list: 11 fantasy to 39 science fiction novels. This suggests a notion of fantasy as somehow less serious and literary than sf.
  • The non-serious fantasy perception was interestingly reinforced by the process by which I dug up the dates on all the novels: mostly through my Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature. To my surprise, most of the classic, Golden Age sf writers had an entry. The ones who didn't were either one-hit wonders or not madly prolific (Clement, Matheson, Budrys, Cordwainer Smith), or pulp fantasy writers (McCaffrey, Rice, Donaldson, Brooks, Bradley). Note, though, that out of the 9 who were not included in the encyclopedia, more than half were fantasy writers.
  • If you cross-reference fantasy writers from the list against gender, fantasy novels are represented by 7 male and 4 female authors, and sf by 37 male and 2 female authors. Fantasy is apparently a girly genre, something which I can't help seeing as correlated to its low status. *foams feministically at the ears*
I'd be interested to see if people have particular texts they feel either should or shouldn't be on the list. I've never even heard of Children of the Atom, for all it's supposed to have inspired the X-Men mythology. John Wyndham? I'd back Triffids or Chrysalids as influential way before some of the things on that list. And if you're going to argue for Terry Bloody Brooks, what about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser? Pshaw.

* we like her.
** I can't remember who, owing to aforementioned kick.
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Since the damp, Cthulhoid, rotting-wall status of my bedroom is inducing lung-rot, I have been sleeping in the guest room for the last couple of months. This circumstance may, in retrospect, have something to do with the sharp rise in my bizarre sleep-walking behaviour - probably not unrelated to the fact that two out of the four guest-room walls are lined with books, and my vulnerable, sleeping brain is being warped by a combination of the seepage from all that pulp, and basic L-space.

Be that as it may, one of the many drawbacks of this relocation is that the Evil Landlord now sleeps on the other side of the wall, instead of at the other end of the house, and is thus peculiarly placed to ask me searching questions the next morning about my sleep-walking habits, since apparently he can hear me thundering around the room. This, however, works both ways. The other night was rendered particularly surreal by awakening sharply at about 2am to hear the not particularly dulcet tones of the Evil Landlord, raised sharply from the other side of the wall, in agitated litany, thus: "Fish! Fish! No, Fish! Fuck!"

I rolled over in bed, muzzily wondering if this was:
(a) Fish licking his ear;
(b) Fish landing heavily and unexpectedly on a tender portion of his anatomy; or
(c) Fish throwing up on his bed,
and, judging by the levels of anguish, plumping for (c). Then I went back to sleep.

(It was (c). O my prophetic soul, etc.)

I am immeasurably comforted and gratified by the outbreak of commiseration, consolation and constructive advice in the comments on my last post. Thank you, witterers all, I feel a lot better. The Usual Sunday Evening with the Usual Suspects (jo, stv, Friendly Psychologist) also helped a lot, especially since putting the three of them together on the sofa and liberally applying Long Island Iced Tea is productive of something perilously close to street theatre. I'm going to bed now. Maybe the room will stop spinning if I lie down.

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