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Cape Town! currently the locus at regular intervals of storms, heavy rain, hail, high winds, cats puddled around heaters, a soaring electricity bill, and that savage bite in the air that tells you somewhere in the fortunate upcountry there is snow. I am, needless to say, an extremely happy pervy cold-weather-fondler. This last is despite a certain amount of unavoidable angst, given that I leave for a three-week overseas trip on Saturday, and while plane tickets, hotels, visas and various other bits and bobs are duly sorted, I have only written one of the two papers I'm supposed to be giving. (For no adequately defined reason, an entirely unnecessary re-read of Memory, Sorry and Thorn appears to be implicated in this last dereliction of duty). However, deathless insights into feminist re-writes of "Aschenputtle" will buy it over the next few evenings, stat. News at eleven.

In support of this, should there be, as yesterday, a brief and unlikely lull in the atmospherics resulting in a resurgence of the worry-factor, there is always the soothing option of http://www.rainymood.com/. It was clearly designed specifically for me, and I'll probably run it nonstop during the February heatwaves.

And, by way of inspiration, there are always the Bulwer-Lyttons. This year they have caused me unholy glee in the SF section by the perpetration of ungodly puns.

Professor Lemieux had anticipated that his latest paper would be received with skepticism within the small, fractious circle of professional cosmologists, few of whom were prepared to accept his hypothesis that our universe had been created in a marijuana-induced industrial accident by insectoid aliens; nevertheless, he was stung when Hawking airily dismissed it as the Bug Bong Theory.

Hee.
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The Internet is a sticky fly-paper trap. It's a will-o'-the-wisp, leading you into noxious or beguiling bogs. It's a pot of honey, and you're the incautious bee. These admittedly lengthy and complicated workshop minutes are taking me forever to write because I have to keep checking names and dates and the inner historical skinner of my Cherished Institution on the internet, and every time I switch into the browser I wake up, blinking, twenty minutes later, having digressed into twelve different sites all completely unrelated to each other, other than tenuously and by happenstance, and certainly having nothing whatsoever to do with the work I'm doing. (On the upside, my excuses for non-submission are becoming daily more beauteous and pitiful in their artistry).

Part of this ongoing digression is because I don't really want to be doing this, and a lot is because my self-discipline is a small fluffy creature crouched under a rock somewhere refusing to do much beyond snarling when prodded with sticks. However, I think mostly it's because that's what the internet is, and no help for it. Not that I'd want help for it. The internet is humanity's electronic subconscious, all wayward impulses and odd imagery connected by extremely unlikely linkages, however hard we try to pretend it's about information and communication. It's what we spew forth when we're not really thinking. A lot of it's a cesspit, utterly without conscious discipline or moderation. Occasionally it's weirdly beautiful, like the better class of fever dream. I really can't imagine what we did without it: it's like imagining the world without the colour blue, or the concept of tune. Which means we're all going to be a bit screwed when the apocalypse comes and civilisation falls, but hey.

Speaking of dreams, last night I dreamed I'd woken up out of several hundred years of suspended animation to find myself in a bleakly beautiful but abandoned colony on the moon, without any memory of who I was, and unexpectedly married to a complete stranger. I completely decline to comment on this, on the grounds of good grief.

Tonight I'm going to a whisky tasting, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] dicedcaret, who apparently won one. I am solemnly resolved to gravitate to the peaty ones, and not to mention aviation fuel.
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Good lord. I just killed Canada. This is thoroughly antisocial and curiously rewarding. Watch out for Madagascar, if it closes its borders you're toast, and your goal of total extermination will never be achieved.

One of the things that narked me off about the success of Harry Potter was, in fact, the existence of Mary Stewart's novel The Little Broomstick, which is Exhibit A in the "wizard schools are nothing new" stakes. This combines standard kiddielit themes - a lonely child discovering friends through magical experiences - with some quite unsettling elements, since the magic school is sinister in the extreme, an opponent rather than a new environment. Mary Stewart's Arthurian series was always a bit gritty, and I think you can trace the suspense quotient of Little Broomstick back to her thriller/romances. The novel also has a definite animal anti-cruelty message, and I remember being a bit horrified by the nasty magical experiments; on the upside, cute cats, exciting broomstick flights and evil suitably trounced in the end. Her other children's fantasy I've read is Ludo and the Star Horse, which is about the zodiac, and rather charming, but this is my favourite.

Last Night I Dreamed: I was assisting Nathan Fillion in his brilliant plan to break a whole bunch of teen-aged schoolgirls out of a prison. The plot seemed to revolve around him leading large-scale synchronised dance moves. Also, lounging on a poolside chaise-longue engaging in witty banter with the prison authorities. While holding my hand, so score.
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I finished watching the last few episodes of Doctor Who this week, resulting in an unusual degree of turmoil in my attitude to Russell Davies. Still needing to brood about the season finale and its manifest joys and iniquities, though, so shall distract myself by memeage while I ponder the analytic mot juste. I was drawn to this one by its first question. I have interesting uncles. The sentence-completion meme. )
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This is all [livejournal.com profile] khoi_boi's fault. Fantastic Contraption. Fritter your day away in watching your ungainly creation stagger drunkenly across the screen, the very paradigm of design flaws. Or is that just me? Tony Stark crush notwithstanding, so not an engineer.

Last Night I Dreamed: I was infiltrating a medieval castle by suborning the young son of the castle's lord. This worked only up to a point, after which we ended up being pursued through the castle sewers by unspecified evils, including some villainish type who had electrified the whole system and whose silvery robot we had to prevent from throwing the switch.

we are the dead

Friday, 11 April 2008 02:32 pm
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There are actually upsides to these gosh-darned power cuts. They annoy the hell out of me, but (a) the computer being dead, I just spent an hour reading Bleak House, on the grounds that I'm overdue for my annual rediscovery of it, and (b) all the dear little students seem to shrug, roll their eyes and leave campus when the power goes down, which means that when it comes up again (and when some basement geek-minion has kicked all the servers back into reluctant life) the bandwidth accelerates with a mad sproinging noise and I can read webcomics. Yay!

Today's dose of Daily Voice tabloid weirdness: I can't remember if it was
ZOMBIES GUARDED BY EVIL DOGS! or
EVIL DOGS GUARD ZOMBIES!,
I suspect the latter. Either way, it represents the perfect tabloid hyperbolic piling up of extreme! instance! on top of extreme! instance! We can't have evil dogs guarding homes from burglars, or even quite well-behaved dogs guarding the zombie pit, every component must be exaggerated to its logical extent. Of course, the question why zombies need guarding must be on everyone's lips. Surely the point of zombies is that you don't want to prevent them from lurching out into society and devouring the flesh of the living?

Take2 just mailed me to say that my J.D. Robb order (four novels out of the first five in the series) has been shipped and should be in the post office even as I type. There goes the weekend, then... Which is just as well, I'm for some reason completely exhausted despite nine hours of sleep last night, and probably need to spend the weekend doing nothing much. Insert rhapsodic paean to Fridayness here. [livejournal.com profile] mac1235, I may or may not make your sushi-fest depending on my level of deadness tomorrow.

linkery, wabbage

Monday, 28 May 2007 10:18 am
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I should be marking third-year essays on vampires. Instead, I'm cruising the internet looking for distraction, a technique doomed to success. This follows an entire weekend spent reading highly eroticised Spike/Buffy fanfic. I plead extenuating circumstances. Term has just ended, and I have a cold.

Iain Banks talks about his new Culture novel. Also about his hatred for Bush, Blair, and the Iraq war. Lovely quote from his new mainstream novel: "The USA is a great country full of great people. It's just their propensity as a whole for electing idiots and then conducting a foreign policy of the utmost depravity that I object to." Oh, yeah.

I always found Geoffrey Chaucer's Blog a bit, I dunno, twee? Then they published LOLPilgrims.


This one, in particular (it's the Pardoner) is such a complex piece of cultural layering, and speaks with such horrible truth to the academic experience, that I laughed until I choked. On quick review I'm not sure anyone else who reads this blog will necessarily appreciate all the layers, which are very English-geek heavy, but allow me my moment of isolate glee.

A World Without Oil. This is a newish acronym to me, an ARG - Alternate Reality Game. It's a strange, bizarre, fascinating concept.

On the wabbage front, non-befriended readers may have noticed the random blog redesign. Judgements welcome, I'm not sure I'm happy with it, and have every intention of frittering away a goodly part of the afternoon with more fiddling.

kill the WABbit

Sunday, 11 February 2007 03:09 pm
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You know, this academic life is actually a rotten swizz. It's this weird multi-personalitied existence where you are supposed to divide your time between teaching, admin and research responsibilities, each of which is sufficiently demanding in itself to require 80-100% of your time and energy. And the lazy academic obscene vacation time thing, about which normally-working friends give me no end of strife? Hah! In my experience the first couple of weeks of vacation time tend to be spent gazing blankly at random objects while not moving much, which is the inevitable result of having spent four months expending 240% of one's energy. The remaining weeks of the vac are spent frantically catching up on research.

I'm trying desperately to finish updating this chapter, but five or six hours of curriculum advice per day for the last week has left me feeling like a piece of chewed string, to the extent where confronting anything remotely resembling feminist theory is making me meep, wibble and engage in frantic work avoidance. On the upside, I made some clothes this weekend, which is fortunate as I threw out approximately 60% of my wardrobe when I moved out of my room, and this five-days-a-week curriculum advice stint is seriously straining my "professional outfit" quotient. I refuse to appear before registering students in an Oblivion T-shirt, or one reading "I talk to cats!" Discipline must be maintained.

But, in mitigation of all of the above, wonderful Cape Town has treated us to three days of rain. Real, sustained, soaking rain, albeit madly unseasonable for February. It's all cool and damp, and I can actually sleep. When the cosmic judges finally come to pass sentence on the iniquities of global warming, it'll be the single point in mitigation.

several things

Sunday, 26 November 2006 03:37 pm
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1. Tokara. Now starring as my favourite Cape Town restaurant, not that it's actually in Cape Town, but hey. Stunning setting and views down the valley from the head of the Helshoogte Pass above Stellenbosch. Incredible food. The red wine sauce on the fillet of beef was possibly the best I've ever tasted. Thanks, Tinnimentum. You can visit any time.

2. Chuzzle. Aaargh! the cute! Little fuzzy things that meep and quiver and make adorable noises when lined up and exploded! The addiction!

3. The book. Still have not eradicated the major logic flaws in Chapter 1, on account of how they're buggers. The chapter, however, is now shot through with little yellow comment boxes all saying things like "This is bollocks, rewrite." I suppose it's progress, of a sort.

wabbage

Tuesday, 30 August 2005 11:41 pm
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Work avoidance is a fine art. It's the ten-day vac, and my hierarchy of Work To Do runs roughly as follows:
  • Writing fairy-tale encyclopedia entries, which I am avoiding by:
  • Writing a paper on Patrica McKillip and medieval romance, which I am enthused about because the Dread Editor really liked the Tolkien paper, although by and large I am avoiding McKillip-investigation by:
  • Writing reviews of Worthy South African Novels for a local magazine, which I am avoiding by:
  • Temporarily losing said Worthy SA Novels, so I am forced to attack the metre-high stack of other borrowed books I'm supposed to be reading (some from the bookclub, some from stv), although I'm avoiding that by:
  • Webbing the book club's booklist, or at least thinking about webbing it, although mostly I'm avoiding that by:
  • Worrying about the marking and tut preparation I'm not doing because I'm avoiding it by:
  • Re-reading, for the umpteenth time, my collection of English detective fiction, which I can and do avoid at any time by:
  • playing ShadowMagic.
I am a bad, bad bunny.

Our very sweet cleaning lady, Lizzie, is worrying me profoundly at the moment. She is suddenly all insecure about her job, and apparently fears we're going to fire her at any moment - not because she, or we, are actually doing anything that suggests firage, but because, it transpires, she thinks someone in her local area is sending muti against her. Specifically, she's just been allocated a house in one of the new Khayalitsha government housing developments, and she worries that her ex-boyfriend wants the house, and has hired someone to make her lose her job and move out, via some unspecified muti. I am feeling somewhat helpless against this, since to suggest that the muti business is absolute bollocks (a) is counterproductive, (b) sounds basically rude, and (c) is politely disbelieved. I am contemplating digging up all the ol'Wiccan books in my library and constructing an Amulet of Anti-Muti. Not that I have much truck with any of that stuff any more, but I think she might. It's pretty darned weird. Twenty-first century? Not so you'd notice.

moral fibre, lack of

Monday, 27 June 2005 10:08 am
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Much as I would like to blame the Birthday Conspiracy for the fact that I've played ShadowMagic for two days solid (because it just looks so cool on this new screen), I know, deep down, that I've played ShadowMagic for two days solid because I have the approximate focus and self-control, work-wise, of something small and fluffy and ineffectual, probably drawn by Ursula Vernon. Goldarnit. Must ... finish ... Tolkien ... paper! Must also get self off butt in order to take car in for (a) electrical overhaul (random indicator and brake lights have died) and (b) mechanical overhaul (still drinking water like a fish). However, I vouchsafe to all you witterers the unhappy truth that probably I'll sit here all day playing ShadowMagic, possibly with a small break to maniacally practise up my recorder piece for Bardic. I have an exam meeting tomorrow, however, which will drag me kicking and screaming into some sort of activity, whether I like it or not. At the very least, running amok in the meeting with a blunt object, such as the Riverside Chaucer. (They tend to be lengthy and frustrating).

Have discovered two things this weekend, diametrically opposed in terms of value:
1. LiveJournal is disgusting over weekends for us mere dial-up plebes. It takes 20 minutes to load a page. (Probably exacerbated by IAfrica's connection foibles, which are also worse over weekends). This possibly explains the fact that I never seem to post on Saturdays, although conversely it utterly fails to explain the fact that I almost always post on Sundays.
2. I appear to share my birthday with Joss Whedon, if Meg's Boyfriend Page is to be believed. (And thank you, scroobious, for the link to that little time-waster!). How cool is that?

Some of today's slight dreaminess and tendency to revert to ShadowMagic may be because SABC2 chose to show Batman Forever really late last night, and I'm a tad short on sleep. Don't know why I've never got around to seeing that particular Batman movie before, since generally I adore superhero movies. It's a rampantly camp and ham little production, isn't it? (She says, laying on the assonance). It is my considered opinion that, Eternal Sunshine notwithstanding, Jim Carrey should be taken out back and shot in the overall interests of the human race, and that Tommy Lee Jones should know better. I ask you. Even Nicole Kidman was ham. It quite made Val Kilmer's characteristic tonelessness attractive by comparison. Also weird multiple personality tendencies in the dialogue: 90% of it was really bad, and the other 10% was inspired and screamingly funny. I suspect they hired Joss Whedon or someone to salt it with one-liners after the fact.
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I came up to campus all early, like, specifically so I could collect a batch of essays and do some marking before my lecture. Except that the department's office isn't open, so I can't collect them. Which means I shall have to fritter away an hour blogging. Darn.

I had a really, really odd dream last night, which entailed attending a high school reunion with Stace and Karen (neither of whom I was at school with, but both of whom - and I think this is probably important - have recently had babies). This entailed rows of chairs in a rather lovely garden outside a castle that I think, in retrospect, was probably Nottingham Castle, which I visited a couple of years ago. Except that halfway through the dream segued, in that way dreams have, into a live performance of Phantom of the Opera, featuring Jeremy Irons, who was busy being angsty and tormented, in song, and a mask, about whether or not to give up his life of evil and become a normal member of society. I have no particular interest in Jeremy Irons, but have recently seen him in a deeply silly role in Time Machine - not quite as silly as he is in Dungeons and Dragons, but close. I think my subconscious feels he has real need to repent his choice of movies. He picks some real lulus.

I have no notion why the idea of a high school reunion should be associated in my fermenting back-brain with Phantom - deformed horror, the lurking outsider, subterranean secrets stalking the daylit world, really cheesy music? Actually, given that I was at high school in the 80s, probably all of the above...

Must now go and animatedly dissect a really disturbing piece of Weasleycest with my third-years, who are being traumatised by it. Heh.

p.s. new icon is a termagant, from Pratchett's own illustrations to The Carpet People. Watch this space for pones.

sticks and carrots

Tuesday, 10 May 2005 10:16 pm
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A new Cunning Plan to combat work-avoidance has vouchsafed itself to me. Bizarrely enough, it entails making use of the local video store's R50-and-five-videos-for-a-week special, mostly in the arena of bad sf movies. I trundled homeward today with a whole fistful of B-grade horrors, including X-Files, Star Trek: First Contact, which I've never seen, The Faculty, which is horrible and cheesy and which I adore for actually quite similar reasons to my adoration of BvS, and Dracula 2000. This constitutes actual work conditioning in that I can only really watch them in the evenings, as our TV is old and dying enough that it's barely distinguishable in daylight. I thus have to finish all my outstanding work before sundown, when the vampires come out. This works! I marked like a fiend all afternoon, finished the batch, updated the course web page, cleared my e-mail, sent off the newsletter and tidied out my study, this last being imperative as the library keeps sending me polite reminders about the nasty critical tomes which are buried somewhere in the literary strata of my workspace, or rather L-space.

Anyway. Dracula 2000 is what I watched this evening, leaving me all jumpy at sudden noises because, man, I still cannot take the build-up of tension in horror films. It was on the list because a student wants to write an essay on it. Not only was the film not as bad as I expected (actual plot coherence! actual cool use of vampire mythology! actual eroticism! and actually well filmed, bizarrely given that Wes Craven produces rather than directing), but the additional bonus unexpectedly surfaced of a whole minute or so of Nathan Fillion screen-time. Playing a priest. Again. What's with that man and priests? I kept on getting Caleb flashbacks, although this was a good-guy Catholic priest rather than an insane preacher. And if he's not playing priests, it's embittered atheists. Definite religion issues here. Or maybe it's just the shape of his face. Not that I am, for an instant, taking issue with the shape of his face. Sigh.

The Evil Landlord has been living in a giddy whirl of transport angst, starting on Thursday night with his car being nicked from outside the house. Car-less weekend, with me playing chauffeuse, which is sure as hell karmically overdue given the amount of ferrying around the countryside he's done on my behalf during My Carless Years (2002-2004). Then the police found a car which was possibly it, on Sunday afternoon. After crawling through an epic snarl of paperwork, he has established that it is, in fact, his car, more or less intact apart from the buggered lock and ignition. All is gas and gaiters in the New South Africa.

Today's Interesting Lecturing Factoid: out of a class of 20 third-years, ONE had heard of blogging (she keeps one), NONE have ever been in a chat-room, and TWELVE know all about fantasy role-playing games (can you tell we're onto internet culture, net.sex and MMORPGS?). What's with the youth of today? It's the bloody mainstreaming of geek culture, that's what it is. *seethes quietly*. I remember the days when one whispered about Dungeons and Dragons.

p.s. Those of you who are, like me, unashamedly mad Buffy-philes, may be interested in the current special on at dvd.co.uk. Buffy and Angel, all seasons, at £18 per season, free UK delivery. I can feel another credit card assault coming on...
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Have threatened to get one of these things for months. Have finally succumbed, mostly in response to my high background levels of ongoing guilt at not mailing people. Hello, people. Please accept this in lieu of actual personal e-mails at all other times when I'm not actually mailing you. Which is often.

First, a rant. LiveJournal will only allow a 15-letter username, no symbols other than numbers. This means I couldn't be freckles&doubt, which I wanted, or even frecklesanddoubt, and freckleanddoubt just looked silly. Thus my tragic Dorothy Parker fixation goes unpandered to, other than in the fact that this username, i.e. extemporanea, is from a different Dorothy Parker poem. I'm sure frustration is all very good for me on some uber moral level. And I am Marie of Roumania.

So, Major Purposes Of This L-J:
1. To assuage guilt, see above.
2. To assuage irritation at only being able to post anonymously to lots of other people's blogs.
3. To give frequent updates on amount of writing I am actually doing, and thus guilt self into activity.
4. While simultaneously cunningly avoiding actual work by having new environment for waffle.
5. The usual narcissism.

Have evidently been galvanised into action by the fact that Cape Town is currently dripping, in a pleasantly damp fashion, on my arid garden. What's with this damned Capetonian trend towards mutating to highveld climates? I blame global warming.

Actual amount of chapter wrestled with the past week: not much. Actual amount of ShadowMagic played: ridiculously high. Will be bloody, bold and resolute, and unafraid of feminists.

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