freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Pandora is clearly all threatened by the kitten and is in need of cuddles and reassurance, she is currently sleeping on my desk in front of me, cuddled up to my front, her head on my wrist. She's purring happily while I apply skritches and validation. Jyn is fossicking around the house, excavating the living room rug, chasing cat toys in brief, attention-deficit snatches and generally spreading small-scale kitten mayhem. Every time she meeps, chirrups or trills, Pandora's tail lashes, three times exactly, then stops. It's like a push-button response. It's very funny.

They are, however, generally getting on OK, despite the fact that they appear mutually determined to only eat each other's food; there only occasional growling, as Pandy ruthlessly suppresses kitten rudeness. I have to admit that it can't be pleasant to have one's lashing tail perpetually jumped on, because apparently Jyn has a death-wish. Memo to self, geeky naming conventions have narrative implications, oops.

This was quite a nice momentary still life:

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... which is going to go very bad in about three seconds.

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Yup.

I am very happy to be on leave for a week. I am even happier because yesterday Cape Town broke out into an actual, verifiable thunderstorm, almost highveld quality: it pissed down with rain, and there was a continuous thunder and lightning session for the better part of half an hour. I spent about ten minutes standing on the portico at our building entrance just drinking in the noise and light, becoming marginally damp but with an enormous enough grin on my face that various students were clearly laughing at me. Which is fine. Purveyor of innocent enjoyment to the post-adolescent masses, that's me. I love thunderstorms quite in defiance of any semblance of suavity. It's still pleasantly cooler today, and my plants are all happily damp. A good start to my break.

My subject line is, of course, Alice Through the Looking-glass. Although I very much fear that the reverse is true.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Gawsh, but midsummer has a terrible effect on me. It's been stinking hot for the last few weeks; today's random gentle rain had me leaping out of the house with glad cries, stoked for the day in a way I haven't been in months. (Tracy sent me an email this morning with a tongue-in-cheek closing instruction to "have a sparkly day!", which made me giggle but is possibly more relevant than it's been in weeks). I am useless in the hot weather; my brain shuts down, my energy drops, I pull in my horns and set myself to endure rather than actually living. I don't go anywhere or do anything, and find myself shying away from social engagements of almost any sort.

Part of the Reverse SAD Effect is also, I think, because of the shape of the academic year and the fact that my horrible confluence of orientation and registration duties hits me just after the year begins. It's a bit later than usual this year because of our disrupted academic schedule after protests, but in a way that's simply drawing out the horrible anticipation. Part of the reason I tend to curl up hedgehoggily and pretend I don't exist when a social invitation comes my way at this time of year is because I am internally braced for a four-week period in which demands will be made on me more or less continuously by several thousand people, and some sort of unconscious personal barrier is springing up protectively to husband my energy. It doesn't help that the demands slowly ramp up from the moment I get back, so I've been registering more or less wall-to-wall rugby players since Monday last week. (Rugby players make a really solid wall. And also, for some reason, almost uniformly attempt to register without bringing writing implements of any sort. I assume it has something to do with the size of their hands).

I suppose what all this is saying is a sort of lateral apology to my friends, and to many missed social opportunities lately: I promise I don't hate you. I'm just hoarding spoons.

(Subject line is New Model Army, "Green and the grey", which was playing in my car, but coincidentally also describes today's weather.)
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I am slightly saddened that the Great Year Of Subject Line Bowie Mourning is still in force, as really this post should be entitled "Into each life some rain must fall". On the upside, the actual subject line I chose does come from possibly my favorite track on Blackstar, "Girl Loves Me", which is bouncy and catchy and written in a sort of frangled Clockwork-Orangesque mad post-apocalyptic vernacular1, which is not unapposite to my week.

The Cosmic Wossnames are gonna mess with me, is who. I am on leave. It's lovely. I'm catching up on sleep, and apparently all I need to do is to leave work for my dream-life to swing back into nightly focus with an audible click. And in my personal value system, shaped as it is by a drought-scarred Zimbabwean childhood, actual rain falling into my life, as it has done for the last few days, is cause for rejoicing. It's been bucketing, and cold, and the cats and I have been congregated around the contented purr of the gas heater for large swathes of time. I would prefer, however, if the otherwise much-enjoyed precipitation could refrain from precipitating actually inside the house.

So the bathroom sprang a leak on Tuesday. A little one, in the corner, where it rained gently on the towels. My nice landlord came round on Thursday and spent several hours tromping around on the roof, doing mystic passes with sealant and cloth coverings and what have you. This appears to have been something of a catastrophic fail in the DIY department, one of those epic fumbles that made everything worse, because Saturday's heavy rain revealed that the original leak had multiplied its output by a factor of ten, the bathroom had sprung two additional leaks in solidarity, and there were another series of sinister plopping noises in the living-room ceiling. Plus one small, diffident leak from the skylight contributing intermittently and with mathematical accuracy to the center of the carpet. I have no idea what the hell he did up there, but the roof really didn't like it. I await, somewhat damply, his no doubt shamefaced return to make good.

In retrospect possibly the leaking roof was inevitable, because I've been playing Fallout 4, which is littered with destroyed houses and makeshift shacks all with gaping holes in their roofs. But I can't even retreat from the deluge into more literal, if abstracted, postapocalyptic ruination, because the Cosmic Wossnames' two-punch sabotage followed its own inexorable logic: if I take ten days of leave and download Fallout 4 as the gaming project for said time, two days into the leave my computer will awake bright and early to an existential crisis in which it has convinced itself that it doesn't have a graphics card. Crawling in emo denial under its metaphorical bed, it will paralyse its own functions to the point where it not only wholesalely refuses to admit the existence of the graphics card on which it has been happily playing Fallout for two days, it will also reduce its screen resolution to a lowly 800x600 and refuse to change it at any price.

I dunno. It's distinctly possible that my computer is hallucinating it's Kylo Ren; if this is the case, hopefully the nice geeky types at my local computer shop will apply sufficient therapy to disabuse it of this misapprehension. If it's not, in fact, hallucinating and the (brand new, circa two days after the Inquisition release date) graphics card has in fact died, I apologize for the Kylo Ren slur and reflect, with some satisfaction, that at least the damned card is still under warranty. Either way, hopefully my computer returns to my bosom today, and I can stop this ridiculous half-existence where I experience the world through an IPad and my phone. Blarg. Any errors in this post are entirely attributable to the IPad's over-zealous and unduly American auto-correct. The verbosity is, however, absolutely my own. It's been over-watered.

1 Actually, subsequent research suggests it's half Nadsat and half Polari, which is something of an enchanting mix.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Spoilers: it isn't. Hellish heatwave hot, so that my ankles have swollen to the point where it hurts to walk. And unconscionably filled not only with the usual last-minute orientation and registration panic, but with hyped-up and desperate early registration, rude students, and an additional fun-filled layer of attempting to predict completely unpredictable student protest patterns and work things around them. I have never been in so many contingency meetings in my life. Ninety percent of it will, I confidently predict, be either irrelevant or ineffective.

I invented a closing salutation today, in an email to stv about laundry. (Strange but true). It reads, "wishing you cool breezes and buckets of ice and the summary disappearance, humanely but with finality, of 99% of the human race."

Yes. I think that would do it. If ever I needed a button which reads "HOMICIDAL MISANTHROPY", now is the time.

My subject line is David Bowie, and, fair warning, probably will be so for the foreseeable future. This is from "Everyone Says Hi", which is a lurking favourite of mine and is a sweet, nostalgic little tune about someone moving away and/or, I darkly suspect, dying. The last post the subject line was from "Time", which I love for its jazzy piano and innate cynicism.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Things I hate about this time of year:
  • The frantic. I had to cancel a weekend away this last weekend, to finish up orientation material and advisor briefing material and annotate the final draft of my masters student's thesis, which she chose this psychological instant to submit. This did, fortunately, mean that I was at home for the very embarrassed daughter of the next-door-neighbour to come and tell me she'd accidentally bumped her 4x4 against the outside water tap on the edge of my property zone, causing a split pipe and cascades of water everywhere. She sorted out and paid for a plumber, and her father patched and painted the wall the following day, so as neighbourly slip-ups go it was managed perfectly. But I'd rather have been on the Breede River.
  • The immutable laws of admin which say that the wages of being deeply organised and disseminating info continuously to students is inevitable scads of email queries in reply to my announcements, at least half of which are asking questions I've answered in a previous announcement. The law of the admin jungle is not to let them know you exist, but I unfortunately don't do much good to students while lurking in a thicket. Lashing my tail. While my eyes glitter in the dark.
  • The bloody weather. It's unbearably hot again, and I am not sleeping very well in my regrettably stuffy house.
  • The looming threat of further student disruptions, which hold out the horrible possibility of disrupted registration, which would screw things up so badly I shudder to contemplate it. We had serious meetings last week about contingency plans in case we have to close campus again. My professional administrative opinion: if it happens we're fucked.

Things about this time of year which are actually OK and consolatory:
  • Early-registering rugby players. They're solid slabs of muscle, which is aesthetically pleasing, and for some reason are always extra-polite. A brief, scurrilous and regrettable exchange between advisors before the rugby players actually arrived this morning attributed this noticeable politeness variously to (a) scrum spirit and fascist coaching, (b) conservative Afrikaans upbringings, (c) concussive damage, and (d) steroids.
  • Meeps of plaintive student gratitude from the ones whose lives I do, in a sort of frenzied whirlwind, manage to sort out.
  • The fact that I'm so flat-out busy from the moment I hit campus that the day goes really fast. As will the next month. It's merciful, really. Humane time-dilation. Sanity-saving.
  • The looming threat of further student disruptions, as if they close campus I can stay at home and work peaceably without my bloody phone ringing off the hook with almost entirely misdirected calls.

postcolonic

Friday, 13 June 2014 08:46 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Right, well, thank fuck that's done. I emerge from two weeks with my head down on this bloody paper, having just sent 6000-odd words off to my nice ex-supervisor so that she can confirm my argument isn't actually on crack. I am buggered. I've been putting words onto the damned screen for up to six hours a day for two weeks from the midst of a 15-volume pile of critical tomes, while simultaneously writhing with distaste and hating the universe in general and everything in it in particular, with special reference to African film and all its works. It's been very slow and torturous, and I'm still not convinced I'm safe from being ceremonially lynched by a mob of petulant postcolonialists, but the worst is over. Even if there are giant flaws in my argument I'm now editing rather than writing, and it's the writing which is like drawing blood at the moment. In the unsexy non-vampire way.

I suffer from existential crises when doing this sort of thing. I start disbelieving in my own academic existence, and it makes the writing process really rather hard. At least if there are words on the screen for me to work with I have some evidence in favour of my status as tangible and instrumental. Really, a lot of my life is spent as a sort of a wistful academic ghost.

The particular bugger about this bloody paper has been that I've felt impelled to write it to the exclusion of almost everything else. This means that I have not done interesting things to my nice house (newsflash: I still love living on my own even when I hate the universe because academia), or adequately paid attention to my cat, or done any socialising, really, that hasn't entailed jo&stv battering down my door and either plying me with food or dragging me out. Which means there was really rather enjoyable tango at the Crypt on Tuesday, but otherwise not a lot. It's not that I hate everyone, I promise.

I am also on leave for the next ten days, three of which will include an entirely self-indulgent jaunt to Barholomeus Klip, that luxury farmhouse guest lodge thing with the amazing and practically continuous food. I can't really afford this, I'm pre-emptively spending a chunk of my November bonus, but I decline to feel remorse or guilt. Stuff it. I've earned it. Not to mention the fact that it's the end of the first semester and I'm more than somewhat dead on my feet.

So, how is everyone? Are any other Capetonians cordially freezing to death at the moment, or is it just me? It's been icy, down in the 6-degree range, with snow on them thar hills. The air has teeth.  I have unearthed my Giant Coat of Sweepingness and have been sashaying up to campus every morning imagining I'm Sherlock. It adds a certain useful layer of impatient disdain to the interactions with students. I hope you are all well, and warmer than I.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It is at this stage fairly possible that I've found myself a house rental, enabling me to remove myself from the domicile of the Evil Landlord, a gesture which will be accompanied by the unmistakeable sound-effects of stretching, twanging and pained meeping noises as deep-seated roots resist uprooting for all they're worth. Unless there's something fairly horrible lurking beneath the innocent surface of the rental agreement I should be moving within a couple of weeks, and have hence been forced to buckle down and, avoiding the ricochets of disturbed .303 bookworms, weed my giant L-space book collection so I have some faint hope of compressing it all into boxes for travel without actually collapsing the local space-time continuum. My study floor is currently bedecked with tottering piles of volumes, faintly tear-stained as a result of the emotional upheaval of deciding to chuck them.

I will, of course, stick most of them into voluminous bags and haul them off to the local charity shop, but before I do that I'd like to give CT-based witterers of the sf/fantasy persuasion (i.e. most of you) a crack at claiming any of them which look as though they might usefully enhance your reading life. Photographic listage follows. If you want any of these, please let me know and I'll label them yours and shunt them in your general direction via trained mongoose or brown paper parcel switches in the park, or something. (This is the first installment. It's approximately a sixth of them, and I haven't tackled the non-sf yet).

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The house, for the curious, is a semi-detached recently-renovated two-bedroom Victorian in Lynfrae, which is a subset of Claremont; I re-toured it this morning in the company of Claire and Stv for moral support and second opinions, and they like it as much as I do, which is quite a lot. And it's not just because it's bucketing with rain at the moment and the whole world is a nicer place.

My subject line is, of course, Terry Pratchett, although I can't remember which book it's from and am callously leaving that as an exercise for the reader.

petrichor

Monday, 14 April 2014 12:32 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Praise FSM, it's raining. I haven't slept properly in a week, which is approximately the duration of the weird summer-resurging heatwave Cape Town has been experiencing, and which has felt like February but with added steam. We had the university open day on Saturday, which was a stinker heat-wise. Our university is high-profile and attracts millyuns of students, parents in tow. The building with the department stands was a shoulder-to-shoulder roiling mass of students, parents and reluctant academics, exuding an atrocious fug of sweat and bewilderment: I hovered in the doorway for a moment, thought "Nope" and left. A world of nope. I have borderline crowd phobia issues anyway, it was quite bad enough to be addressing 500 potential students, parents in tow, at once from the relative comfort of an air-conditioned lecture theatre.

Probably as a direct result of (a) resentment at being on campus on my hard-earned Saturday, (b) general lingering job-malaise after the run-in with the boss, and (c) the heat, I have been playing a hell of a lot of Skyrim recently. It's incredibly soothing to be trundling through snowy landscapes while it's 35 degrees outside. But I did the traditional No Work At All this weekend. This has not, fortunately, prevented me from giving a generally energetic and interactive lecture, the internet eroticism ones which started today and which technically I should have prepped to within an inch of their technosavvy lives over the weekend. Weirdly, it sometimes helps not to over-prepare, things have an organic spontaneity and ability to follow the lead of the student input which they otherwise lack. Achievement Unlocked: infect with XKCD appreciation a class to which it was hitherto absolutely unknown. There are, however, at least four voluble Tumblr enthusiasts in the group, which makes for interesting additions to the conversation. Every time I start teaching again I am forcibly reminded of how much I like students.

In other news, I am still house-hunting, and it's a dismal landscape full of emptiness and occasional possibilities which stick their heads cautiously, gopher-like, above ground and are instantly snapped up by bands of roving rental predators, i.e. everyone else who's also looking for university-adjacent housing within a reasonable price range. Absolutely the best thing I could do to make this easier is to resign from my job in favour of one which is much more highly paid. Don't think I haven't been tempted. But if anyone knows anyone who's renting out a place, please let me know. Nepotistic access to the ground floor of opportunities is pretty much my best bet right now.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The weather is officially absurd: Cape Town traditionally does February heatwaves, but usually not for so long, or so hot. It was pushing 40 for a couple of days, and I survived the weekend only by spending a portion of it submerged in jo&stv's pool, sipping champagne. I'm insomniac and headachy and stressed and tend to lie awake in my superheated bedroom panting gently and wishing for a nice comfortable death, preferably by hypothermia or freeze-ray. It's like the sultry heat before a highveld storm, only continuously, relentlessly, and without the catharsis of the actual rain. Am not happy. Am clearly on the wrong continent. I know the northern hemisphere is having a horrible winter, and I'm sorry if you're frozen or flooded or snowbound, but honestly, this is its own kind of unspeakable.

I shall proceed to avoid the horror by somewhat belatedly chronicling our last Movie Club, which was the weekend before last. Jo's choice: theme, Abused Sexualised Girls Strike Back And Kick Butt, although to variable effect. The films, in a classic whiplash configuration, and encompassing frankly improbable extremes in terms of thoughtfulness and political acumen: Sucker Punch, and Hard Candy.

Sucker Punch is a terrible film. I'm really glad to have seen it, because as a pure distillation of ingrained Hollywood sexism and exploitation it's an extremely powerful document, but it's an astonishingly bad piece of storytelling. I have to admit it has a certain amount of visual style and the germ, somewhere in the putrid depths, of a potentially interesting idea, but it's otherwise without redeeming feature. The most terrifying thing about it is, I think, the fact that watching it gave me the sneaking, inescapable fear that Zach Snyder, its perpetrator, is actually under the delusion that he was celebrating female empowerment. Which he really wasn't. The premise involves skimpily-clad girls incarcerated in a variety of institutions under highly sexualised threat, and escaping from it into layers of fantasy in which they fulfil video-game-style quests with the maximum possible amount of stylishly-shot action sequences, guns, swordfights, leering villainy and massive explosions. Given that the film skips between giant samurai statues, Nazi steampunk zombies, orcs, dragons, planes, zeppelins and Bioshock-style Big Daddies, the whole thing boils down to what Stv defined as "MashCeption: The Music Video". Or, possibly MashCeption, the Video Game. Something entailing lots of mash-ups and multi-levelled dream sequences and loads of visual style at the expense of plot, at any rate.

And in the final analysis it's about absolutely the opposite of female empowerment. It does no good whatsoever to take abused women and give them big guns and swords and allow them to kick butt if (a) all said women are vacant, childlike blanks whose abuse at the hands of lecherous monsters is dwelt on with slavering fascination, (b) they're all hyper-sexualised and skimpily if not fetishistically clad, (c) their every move in the "empowering" fantasy is dictated by benevolent, rescuing male figures, (d) the bulk of them end up dead, and (e) the whole thing is shot like a particularly hyperactive and clichéd wet dream. It's ultimately a deeply ugly film that spat me out the other end in a state of stunned disbelief. But also with a sort of horrible satisfaction, because after all the film simply takes to the logical extreme the kinds of objectifications and exploitations which are actually at the heart of a frighteningly high proportion of Hollywood blockbuster movies, in which women are ravaged, empty things splayed across the screen for the gratification of a gaze which is assumed to be entitled, unconstrained, heterosexual and male. Our cultural systems are pretty broken; this film should not be excoriated as an aberration but as a symptom of a system whose darker corners, thus mercilessly exposed, are nauseating.

Hard Candy is a very good film. We watched these in the right order, because after Sucker Punch it was a bracing blast of fresh air. Its take on the theme highlights Sucker Punch as the bizarro mirror world thing it is: Hard Candy is still about male sexual predator versus pubescent girl, but the power poles are ruthlessly dissected, examined and reassembled. I'm not going to talk about the film's plot detail, because its effect is very spoiler-vulnerable, but it's exquisitely cast, shot, paced and constructed. Compared to the gratuitous CGI sprawl of Sucker Punch it's a minimalist work of art, effectively two characters and one set. Ellen Page is revelatory (also, mad props to Ellen Page for her recent coming out as gay, both a brave and an important thing), and Patrick Wilson is as good as he always is, which is very. The cinematography is amazing: the house which forms the set is all clean lines and modern, blocky colours, and the camera lingers on these for moments of full-screen primary colour which punctuate and pace the action, underlining the film's overall mood of analytic contemplation. It's also a very tense viewing experience, full of build and shock and horrified expectation and, I have to say, a fair amount of vindictive satisfaction.

Watching it in tandem with Sucker Punch highlights the differences, particularly the extent to which Page's character is almost entirely unsexualised, with a matter-of-fact thoughtfulness about her which undercuts potentially flirty moments and allows her to swing between childlike innocence and tomboyish determination. But the juxtaposition also demands that the film be subjected to the same questions: is this about female power? does it escape the exploitative presentation of women seen in the blockbuster? And of course you have to be aware that the highly-charged power relationship the film depicts is fully capable of being sexualised even given Page's performance; of mining the young body under the lens for purposes of titillation rather than thought. It also, despite the film's plot twists, runs the risks of demonising the victim, presenting her as damaged and inhuman: the film's violence is both more restrained and more real than Sucker Punch's. But on the whole I think my vote is for success rather than failure on political grounds. It's an uncomfortable watch, but for the right reasons - because it shakes up your assumptions, explores and redefines rather than adopting, externalises the rot in our cultural constructs rather than either eliding or exploiting them. I'm not sure "enjoyed" is the right word, but this is a good film, and I respect and admire what it achieved. Although, my pervy fairy-tale fancying heart being what it is, they could have done a lot more with the Red Riding Hood motif. I'm just sayin'.

My subject line is from the Eurythmics, "Wide Eyed Girl", mostly because I automatically think of Annie Lennox when I think of women kicking butt. Also Buffy, River, Phryne Fisher and Captain Marvel, but song lyrics are traditional.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
For once I have remembered to note that it's my blog's birthday. I first posted on 31st January 2005. That's nine years of blogging. 1 657 entries, counting this one. That's one every 1.98 days, if the weather hasn't robbed me of my tiny vestiges of mathematical ability. People have posted 10 732 comments. The longest hiatus in posting has been the ten days or so in July 2011 while I was in hospital with my feet exploded. I think it's fair to assume that I quite like writing stuff, for some reason. Or am actually addicted to words. Or uncommonly cussed. Probably all three.

Cape Town is having heatwaves. I think it's almost allowed to, usually they come in February and that's ... in a few hours, now. (Alas January. I'm sure there was something else I was planning to do with you, but oh well). Be that as it may, today was ungodly, stinking, improbable hot. This is something of a continuing theme: this weekend the foot pedal on my sewing machine inconveniently burst into smoke and melted plastic in the middle of a skirt reconstruction, so possibly Hell is closer to the surface than usual. I spent the only tolerable hour or two this afternoon sitting in the living room (in the middle of a power cut, for some reason - Capetonians, turn off your aircon. It isn't fair that you have it when I don't) with my feet in a bucket of water and ice. Turns out this reduces my swollen ankles immediately and dramatically, which is useful, as the combination of heat and running round conducting orientation for four days gives me puffy feet like whoa and dammit. I can't even blame the DVT, they used to do this while I was running roleplaying cons and SCA events, years before my leg inconveniently exploded on the way to Australia. I don't like this weather. Have you noticed?

Fortunately, given the heat, the Revenge of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Army of Reconstruction has finished the remodelling of the front wall and departed for points unknown, which means we don't have to deal with dust as well as heat in that sort of misguided fake Western movie fashion. They have left behind a rather spanky carport and pristine section of new wall in addition to the traditional blasted heath which always attends their efforts. Viz.:

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I thumb my nose in the general direction of the hadeda aerial bombardment of my car, now frustrated. Hah!

I know "I'll stop the world" from Nouvelle Vague, for whom I have a somewhat unbecoming passion quite apart from their bossa nova version of this song, which has an insidiously beautiful lyric line. I do vaguely know the Modern English original (quite a fun music video, despite o lord the 80s), but it's not a patch on the cover.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Things you do not expect to see on a respectable campus while trotting off to the library for your important pile of Girly Swot books (subset: crash course in African cinema): live horses. Six of them. Tethered in the shade against the columns of the old Student's Union, peaceably chomping. There's something fairly major filming on campus at the moment, the place has been a madhouse: the stairs have sprouted fake extra columns and exotic greenery and weird screens positioned with arcane precision. I parked my car next to and partially under a giant cherry-picker boom sort of thing this morning, and there are approximately three million acres of random, presumably desperately important cabling snaking down the avenue, tended by skinny grip types in Bauhaus t-shirts. Actual African film, in fact. Curiously appropriate.

It's too bloody hot for serious thought (what's with February heatwaves before Christmas? Not Cricket), so have a random linkery round-up, I need to clear these tabs.
  • If you go to the UK Vogue page and type the Konami code, extremely entertaining things happen when you keep on hitting A. Random internet easter eggs ftw.
  • For some demented reason this ridiculous Boba Fett love story really amuses me, possibly because of the way the sarlacc is drawn. The rancor BFF one is also cute.
  • Sherlock fandom is in a tizzy because of the Caitlin Moran faux pas (I never liked the wretched woman, her book is actively irritating) - she had the inexpressibly tone-deaf bad taste to pressure/trick the lead actors into reading erotic fanfic aloud at a screening. Daily Dot has a good summary. It really isn't safe these days to try and taunt subcultures you perceive as geeky and pitiable, they end up having way more power and self-awareness than you expect. I cannot help but be amused, though, at the cosmic inevitability of Moran attempting to sabotage Sherlock and failing dismally. It is, after all, simply an enactment of the Doyle plot. (Sebastian Moran is Moriarty's sniper sidekick in canon, if your Sherlock geekery is a bit rusty).
  • Random fanfic recc! I am currently actually re-reading The Least of All Possible Mistakes, which is a rather well-written and often laugh-out-loud funny Sherlock fic featuring a Sherlock given to entertaining tantrums and a Mycroft/gender-swapped-Lestrade relationship which is both amusing and real. The fandom fascination with Mycroft fascinates me. I blame Mark Gatiss entirely.

I finally sent out the Boxing Day braai email last night, after more than average levels of procrastination and forgettory. If you weren't on the list but usually are it's probably because of my cheese-brain, please drop me a reproachful line.

The subject line is the Konami Code, which as a concept and a catch-phrase as well as a random bit of esoterica has always amused the hell out of me.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Several Things!

  1. I spent the weekend holed up in my study marking Honours and second-year essays, with the net result that when the EL bounded into the kitchen on Sunday morning with a cheery greeting he was the first person I'd actually spoken to since 9pm on Friday night. 36 hours in my own head, particularly my own head colonised by student effusions, is really rather a lot. You end up forgetting how to actually form sentences. Or was that the effect of all the student writing? Discuss.
  2. On Friday the sound system in my car had a psychotic episode and for some reason started playing through the albums on the MP3 player in reverse alphabetical order by artist, which means I unaccountably jumped from Arcade Fire to Velvet Underground. (Have become very addicted to The Suburbs, possibly in preparation for Reflektor, which is released today. New Arcade Fire! Score!). I haven't aired my Velvet Underground collection for a couple of years, so it was quite fun to play through Loaded and the one with Nico, which is my favourite. Then my Twitter feed exploded last night with the news of Lou Reed's death. It seems like an appropriate fortuity to an extent which is potentially slightly sinister. I am unable to escape the faint suspicion that in fact I was afflicted with a sort of anticipatory musical ghost. It seems like Lou Reed's style. Of which he had rather a lot. RIP on one hell of a life. (Lovely Neil Gaiman interview here, if you're into that sort of thing).
  3. On the subject of the Circle of Life and what have you, congrats to [livejournal.com profile] dicedcaret and his nice lady wife on their acquisition of sudden offspring of the female persuasion. Her name is Eva, she arrived safely on Friday via caesarian, all apparently well.
  4. A random text message arrived this morning purporting to be from the City of Cape Town's weather advisory service, and warning of "Severe storms with large hail" today. Insofar as (a) today is cloudless and hot and has quickly burned off the morning fog, and (b) I'm not actually subscribed to any weather advisory service, this also seems a bit sinister. I am inclining to the notion that I've somehow received a text from an alternate universe in another leg of the Trousers of Time. Or exceptionally lateral phishing spam.
  5. I could have lived very happily for the rest of my life without having encountered, in a student essay, the term "phallic fluids". She was writing about Dracula, but still. Not even the worst of fanfic does that sort of thing.

Subject line from Velvet Underground, natch. "Pale Blue Eyes". His lyrics tend to the oddly complex and evocative.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Heavens to Betsy, it's June. You can tell by the driving rain, hail and icy cold, which are causing me to both freeze and rejoice in equal quantities, because I'm odd that way. Cape Town is in the middle of a giant three-day storm (someone's amazing pic of hailstones lying like snow in the city here), and Hobbit was recently discovered, after 24 hours of absence, curled in a ball of denial under the braai in the shed. It's bloody cold out there, I can only think he must have been hiding from the thunder. Twit. I also have a cold in the head attended by Sid the Sinus Headache, and am conducting today as an extended negotiation between the work that I need to do and my equal and opposite need to go home and hibernate. The sweet child who arrived for curriculum advice this morning struck a serious blow in the service of work ethic when, upon being granted the course change she wanted, she gave an ear-splitting squeal of joy, rushed around the desk and hugged me. She probably added a good hour to the time my butt remains in this chair, which at current showing has me fleeing the place at about 2.30 sharp.

She also mitigates to some extent against the perfectly obnoxious older-brother-of-student who rendered my Thursday afternoon hideous by shouting abuse at me for half an hour by the clock because his little sister can't graduate as expected, and whose toxicity permeated through most of the weekend, resulting in me being withdrawn and useless and having truly weird dreams. I blame him entirely for the current state of lurgi. He freaked me out, being really quite threatening, and it took me a good couple of days to throw off the lowering sense of failure and self-blame. He was an arsehole, who clearly intended at the outset to perform his anger until he'd browbeaten the faculty into acquiescence, and I don't think anything I could have said would have calmed him down, even if he'd let me get a word in edgeways. (I think that the fact that I was female probably made it worse: there's a certain kind of Zimbabwean black male for whom a woman questioning his authority is anathema). Fortunately he was trying to circumnavigate an iron-clad faculty rule which is never relaxed under any circumstances, and the whole performance was doomed. Idiot.

On the upside, this linguistic dissection of annoying teenage sounds was particularly giggle-inducing in the context of my students. You must watch the video, it's brilliant.

I have, for once, remembered that a new month entails a subject line reference post, but this got longer than I intended, I'll defer the payment of intellectual debts until tomorrow. In an attempt at a new approach to this: today's subject line courtesy of Vampire Weekend, whose first two albums I have been playing on rotation for the last couple of weeks. Lovely indie rock with an African music influence, it's bouncy and melodically inventive and clever and has a kwaito-ish edge which makes it weirdly familiar. The quote is off "Unbelievers", which is on their new album and not yet out in this country - I've been hitting YouTube.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's bucketing down outside, and in the interstices between lectures the foyer of my building is filled with damp-puppy students staring dolefully out into the downpour amid the smell of wet hair. We are clearly in autumn, a season of pleasing damp and benevolent chill, and I have broken out the first boots of the season. I am happy. I am, however, also faintly worried to consider the inexorable drift of my language vis à vis students towards dehumanising diminutives - when they're not gazelles, they're puppies. The latter is perhaps a more healthy characterisation along the maternal/cute axis than than the former, which has a lurking hint of the predatory. I do, of course, owe the "gazelles" designation to [livejournal.com profile] starmadeshadow, who views the quivering herds from the vantage point of her own leopard-like stalk. She is planning on returning her big-cat self to Cape Town more permanently in the near future, causing much callooing and, for that matter, callaying in the ranks.

I have spent the morning immersed in the inevitable realities of my working life, viz. checking student transcripts. This has vouchsafed to me several insights, most notably (a) that my advisors, train I them never so carefully, are bloody useless at checking course pre-requisites despite repeated reminders and pointed inscriptions on lists of "common advisor mistakes". Insight (b) is, however, more interesting and rather less depressing. Honestly, the skills and experience on which I draw most frequently in this job are those of my frivolous role-playing proclivities. I spend my days wrangling student character sheets, the lists of numbers which quantify experience and achievement, each individual mapped carefully within the constraints of the system. I am alert to rule-breaking, to player dissatisfaction and lack of success, to the judicious balance between challenge and reward, test and fulfilment. I also rely heavily on the experience gained from DMing players like [livejournal.com profile] rumint, whose control of the system and its potential exploits is absolute and terrifying. It's all one in the eye, really, to anyone who thinks of D&D and beyond as a waste of time. Not only is play intrinsically about experimentation and learning in a low-stakes environment, it's about understanding the shaping of behaviour through structure. Which also explains, I suppose, why I've drifted inexorably into genre theory in my academic life.

Talking about genre: David Bowie is busy releasing his first album in about ten years. The one single, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", and particularly its video, is an utterly fascinating disquisition on fame, identity, androgyny, and an explicit and rather wry dialogue with his own past. Also, Tilda Swinton. The music is very Reality-era, which works for me.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)


Apparently. He actually looks it, from the photo. A shy person peering at the world from a self-effacing corner of the window, and vaguely hoping it'll go away without noticing.

I can relate, being as how I am homicidally grumpy again. I blame Spring, which is annoying me with (a) the inexorable march of the year, now with added upward student angst, (b) the rise in temperature, and (c) a continually prickly nose and ongoing feeling that my skin is hot and too tight. Pollen. Evil stuff. (Interesting factoid, however: Sex Pollen interludes are apparently a well-defined subgenre in superhero fanfic. Presumably the more supremely dodgy ones.)
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
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.

how cool to be cold

Thursday, 17 May 2012 10:58 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Scotland's cold is of the order of bite which indicates snow somewhere within breathing distance: it has fangs. It's been freezing and rainy today, with muffled scads of Harry Potter academics scuttling, blue-tinted, between venues under an outbreak of umbrellas. Yesterday, when I arrived, was actually sunny, but nonetheless stepping out of the stuffy plane onto the tarmac was a sudden plunge into an icy, intangible vessel. It shocked me out of the dull fuzz of muggy aircon and recyced breath into vivid alertness as my brain woke up and rushed into overdrive, whooping with exhilaration. I cannot sufficiently stress how much I love this weather. Some kindly meteorological deity dreamed it up just for me, and I worship at their icicle feet.

Of course, I don't dress for this climate worth a damn. Cape Town certainly does cold, and I have the clothes for that. What screws me is the bloody central heating. Anything I wear which protects me outdoors immediately causes me to overheat and blow a fuse the minute I enter a room. This is the land of the giant overcoat, such as I do not possess. Also, I hate central heating with the savage chill of a thousand winter wolves, or whatever else is theexact inverse of the fiery hatred of a thousand suns. A centrally heated room doesn't actually contain air, but a sort of strange, indistinct substitute which acts as a stifling mental eiderdown.

It would, however, be unjust to blame the fuzziness of my paper, delivered a few hours ago, on the central heating. The fuziness of my paper was due to having too much to say, and not enough time to say it in, and editing it on the fly. It was, I think, lively and provocative, and engendered a lot of debate, which was kinda the point, but I'm not entirely happy with the idea that the slightly incoherent filmed version is going to be wandering around the internet. I also, I realise, am still becoming tired too easily, and delivering a paper at 5.30 in the evening does leave me groping for words more often than I'd like. On the other hand, the written version is going to kick butt.

So far this conference has offered a bunch of lovely papers, a couple of boring ones, a lot of very animated discussion, a plethora of Americans, a surfeit of religious people (St. Andrews has a major Divinity school, and I keep having to censor myself, as I realised after a throwaway remark last night garnered some shocked looks1), excellent chocolate brownies in the tea breaks, a ridiculous amount of beautiful medieval architecture, and a conference attendee who looks enough like Jake Gyllenhaal to be actively disconcerting. Tomorrow it offers more of a lot of the above, plus an interview by BBC Wales. Right now, it offers me the slightly luxurious sense of lounging on my giant, swanky B&B bed typing in my notebook, and almost immediate sleep. I am OK with all of the above.



1 I mean, if you're going to talk about Mormonism being a religion based on a fantasy text, of course I'm going to immediately contend that all religions are based on fantasy texts. And yes, we were discussing Twilight.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
This morning I woke up to thunder, and petrichor, and a tight cluster of alarmed cats around my feet. They hate the thunder, and slink through the house on a sort of ambulatory cower. I, on the other hand, drove up to work in the pelting rain laughing like a loon, and uttering little shrieks of joy every time the lightning arced across the mountain. Still a highveld girl at heart, and I miss thunderstorms on a deep and physical level which I'm only really conscious of when it actually thunders.

They're a very bodily experience, thunderstorms. Not just because the feel and the scent of heavy rain and the vibration of thunder are so deeply sensual, but because, I think, the air is so charged. I feel electric: alive and tingling. It also helps that the thunderstorm has cleared the air and cooled things down after two days of intense, sticky, ennervating heat wave, causing me to revive like my drooping and underwatered garden. If we're going to go the highveld route of heatwaves as the necessary foreplay to a climax of thunderstorm, I can endure them a lot better.

Yesterday's heatwave was also made endurable, of course, by a sumptuous champagne breakfast with jo&stv, followed by lounging in the swimming pool. Followed by lots and lots of Skyrim. Prancing around a snowy virtual landscape is probably the next best thing to actual air conditioning. My game at the moment, however, is subject to sudden rains of Stormcloak and Imperial corpses, who descend unexpectedly from thin air and thud to the ground, causing city guards to become quite naturally concerned. I'm imagining a concerted effort of giants somewhere launching them irritably into the air a long way off. Also, my dog is floating. I think the last patch broke stuff again. Sigh.

Last three days of registration to survive. Wish me luck.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
If we needed any evidence at all that the Cosmic Wossnames are actually vaguely Cthulhoid entities prone to either nasty mockery or blind indifference, I could demonstrate it from my experience of January every year. Thusly:
  1. I'm running orientation and registration simultaneously while fighting off admissions and curriculum queries from new students, returning students, excluded students, late-applying students (hopeless this year, we're well over capacity), random students, plaintive students, and the parents, friends, well-wishers, dogs and aunts of all of the above. (Especially the aunts. Aunts of students are demonstrably even more crazy than the parents). I'm, in effect, doing three people's jobs.
  2. By inscrutable cosmic wossname, a whole bunch of dearly beloved friends have birthday in January, necessitating participation in shindigs and jamborees of all descriptions.
  3. January is the month chosen by my Cherished Institution to deploy their own Army of Deconstruction for wide-ranging building tasks. I can't leave my office window open for air at the moment because of the nice man with the jackhammer on the scaffolding just outside it. And,
  4. We have heatwaves. This week has been infernal, brain-melting, incandescent hell.
In addition to all of above, I arrived at work at 9am yesterday, worked like a frantic thing until 4, dashed off to have my hair cut, went home, worked like a frantic thing until 11pm, and then fell into bed. I don't think my state of health is actually up to this sort of thing, I'm more or less useless this morning.

Meep. However, the subject line is, as usual lately, from Goats. Read Goats. It prevents your ice-cream from melting. (It also drives you crazy when you read the entire archive and arrive at the end to discover that it stops, mid-plot, in 2010. However, I have forgiven it).
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Mental Floss has just given me the word I always knew I needed. "Petrichor: The clean, pleasant smell that accompanies rain falling on dry ground. It’s from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of Greek gods and goddesses). The term was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964."

Hooray for Australian researchers. That rain smell is one I associate strongly with highveld thunderstorms and the start of the rains - it's particularly vivid when it's the first rain after the arid heat of the dry season. But even Cape Town rains manage to recreate it, especially at the moment with the alternation of hot and rainy. It's a sharp, keen, vivid, slightly wild smell, rife with generative promise, and I love the way those Australian researchers have constructed the word - petrichor is perfectly believable as the residue of a slightly otherworldly power. Like most instances of precipitation, it makes me very happy.

(And, yes, I'm quoting Toto lyrics. I like that song. So sue me.)

For some reason this year's Christmas seasonal stuff hasn't annoyed me as much as it usually does. It all seems a bit subdued: the city isn't packed with tourists to any unacceptable extent, the shop displays are not generally as in-your-face as usual, and my homicidal mutterings about the inappropriateness of jolly snow-encrusted Santas in African summer are more than somewhat below par. It might be that I'm still too tired to work up a good head of irritation steam, or that I'm working later than usual into the month and am tucked away neatly in an ivory tower away from the shopping frenzy. It's also helping that my sister and I have a no-presents-except-for-the-niece pact this year1, and I am spared the usual harrowings of present-acquisition. This is a surprising sense of release, and caused me to reflexively go off and donate madly to charity instead (Wikipedia, and St. Luke's Hospice - the former because its citation-needed refrain is wildly useful in explaining plagiarism to students, the latter because they were really lovely to my dad).

In a neatly circular conclusion to this wayward-puppy post, Toto have recently re-formed for a benefit tour for one of their members, who is an ALS sufferer. ALS was what my dad had. Everything is connected.


1 Presents for Da Niece are not a problem, because I acquire them off Teh Internets through the year. One of this year's books was Look! A book!, which Cory Doctorow recommended on the basis of its success with his 7-year-old daughter. It's wonderful, detailed artwork with a lovely sense of whimsy; Da Niece seems very taken with it. She's 6 this year, so it's proving a bit of a challenge to hit the right level of either complex enough to interest her when it's read to her, or simple enough that she can start to read it herself. I think this one works quite well in the latter category. In the former, she's about to hit the stage where she's ready for Diana Wynne Jones, and for Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath series. Heh.

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