freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)


Oh, dear, I've discovered Fringe. I'm beginning to think that a misspent youth dallying with Sayers, Allingham and Marsh has actually imprinted me heavily on the investigative genre: give me detectives, private eyes, FBI agents, I'm happy. (Memo to self, break out Castle). From quite another angle, also give me grandiose paranormal paranoid conspiracy theories and I'm ecstatic. This means that I intersect with J J Abrams far more than is probably healthy, insofar as I have a completely unrepentant addiction to Alias, although mercifully I never bought into Lost. So far Fringe isn't throwing aliens around, but otherwise it's an unashamed X-Files rip-off; my happy triumvirate of pseudo-scientific paranormal investigation is now (a) X-Files, (b) Fringe, and (c) Shadow Unit. (Supernatural, Buffy/Angel and The Middleman, of course, fill the equal and opposite mystical paranormal investigation slots).

Fringe isn't brilliant, and it certainly isn't original, but it's kinda cute. Points in its favour: Joshua Jackson (endearing), Denethor (John Noble does a good mad), nice line in mystic mumbo-jumbo ("the Pattern"). Points not in its favour: predictable, done, occasionally icky (I'm not big on exploding heads) and six episodes in the bad guys seem prone to repetition. I'm also not madly taking to the slightly brittle female lead, although I'm willing to concede she has pretty hair. Bonus points: cow in the basement lab, tendency to one-liners, occasional outbreaks of piano-playing. Also, the bogus science is entertainingly bogus, but actually pays slightly more lip-service to rational logic than poor old Spooky ever did.

I'm finding myself wondering, though. These paranoid-conspiracy-pandering TV shows seem to generate enough of an audience to engender new variations every few years. Do you think this is because people actually want to believe this stuff? Because, eeeuw. As a Sturdy Rationalist I classify both detective fiction and paranormal-conspiracy firmly under "fantasy", the former because of its narrative structure, the latter because of its content. I like fantasy. I like it because it's fantastic. The world doesn't work like that, but it's fun to imagine what it would be like if it did. I'm hoping the audience for these shows enjoys them as hokum in the same way that I do, rather than leaping up to shout "I knew it!" every ten minutes. However, I look at the human tendency to latch onto the pure hokum disseminated by the religious right, tabloid reporting, advertising, corporate spin doctors and random passers-by, and I'm not sanguine.

Further fascinating thought for the day: do you think that if we strapped J J Abrams and Russell Davies down in a basement lab somewhere and scientifically crossed each of them individually with stolen DNA from Stephen Moffat, we'd get interesting stories that actually held together instead of falling apart at the moment of narrative crux? I can't help thinking it might be worth a try.
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The faculty office is all over Mary Celeste today - three people down with the gastric bug. Another two were down yesterday, not counting me, and I await tomorrow's tally with bated breath. It seems to have been one of those friendly-puppy sort of bugs, bouncing around slobbering happily on all and sundry. I still feel pale and gut-punched, and words cannot express how bored I am with eating toast, but generally I'm a lot better. Yay.

In between the trail of end-of-term student angst piling up outside my door I've been doing a final editing pass through this index, and I just pressed "Send" to shunt it the hell off to the press, to cries of joy from the nice editing lady who appreciates my appreciation of deadlines. I feel... slightly lost. This thing has eaten my life for three weeks (I'm sorry to have been so boring), and it's incredibly weird to contemplate an evening in which I don't rush home at 4pm to index frantically for another four hours. Weird in a good way, though.

I'm not just out of alphabet, I'm also out of X-Files. Last night I finished watching the X-Files finale - the end, not just of poor limping Season 9, but of the series as a whole. On the whole, while I enjoyed quite goodly chunks of the season, I'm narked and disappointed by its closure. Comments may be spoilery, so are lurking after the cut. )
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indexindexindex. Now on the last chapter, which should give me the next four or five days to rationalise, reshuffle and double-check before the deadline kicks in. I am completely amazed by how much I've enjoyed this indexing lark, it's a lovely fit to the vague, organic wanderings which characterise my brain in its quest for order.

On the downside, the house is not a happy working environment right now, on account of the atmosphere of icy, implacable hatred. I packed the three cats into boxes this morning and lugged them off to the vet for their annual checkup, a process accompanied by a loud, uncoordinated and indignant chorus most trying to my semi-musical ear. I'm a bit worried that the Evil Landlord is away this weekend, there's a small but real chance that he might come back on Sunday to discover that the cats, working in concert for the first time ever, have buried me in the garden in retribution. I shall have to sleep with a loaded catnip-toy next to my bed.

Have a lovely time at HBD, all you SCA types. I'm a bit wistful, but even if I wasn't on hiatus I'd be too busy with the indexing to go, so I suppose it's all for the best.

X-Files update: into the final season. Dogget still growing on me, he's just so basically decent! Reyes is not quite as irritating as she was, but I still want to feed her to a giant lizard at intervals. And Adam Baldwin is still around, for my Firefly-flashback pleasure. This weekend's problem, of course, is whether being alone in the house will make it impossible to watch X-Files of an evening. I do get very jumpy.

Last Night I Dreamed: I took up a three-year post teaching English and acting as an advisor to a creative writing class at a university in Mumbai. Lovely campus, with a giant flight of steps curiously similar to those of my Cherished Institution.
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Darn it. Teh Internets, bless them, seem unable to give me a picture of Will Smith being beaten against the side of a car by a flailing alien tentacle. Witterers are please to imagine same, as an approximation of my current state.

The being-beaten sensation is peculiarly appropriate, given the complete absence of the weekend from the "being useful in the indexing stakes" slate. I was draggy and out of it all Saturday, and then woke up at 3am on Sunday morning with the most epic, nasty and virtuoso manifestation yet of Sid the Sinus Headache - I swear the little bugger was hammering a six-inch railroad spike through my right temple, causing me to lie in bed and whimper helplessly for about twenty minutes until I could rouse and find a painkiller. He was almost certainly laying railroad tracks, as the headache migrated gently through Sunday from right temple, to centre forehead, to left temple, to just above the left ear. It came accompanied by a wild temperature and nausea, to the point where I couldn't actually sit up for more than about five minutes at a time throughout Sunday. Happy illness ironies: I was feeling too sick to eat anything, which means I couldn't take the Advil which would have sorted out the sinus headache. It's these little details which tell you the Cosmic Wossnames are poking each other in the ribs and snickering. On my week of leave, too. No fair.

Anyway. I'm still headachy today, but put in two chapters worth of indexing with a relative presence of brain. I seem to be suffering from a profusion of entries, which I may have to ruthlessly rationalise once I've finished.

X-Files report: I'm actually getting to like Doggett, he's a believable and mostly likeable character. I could happily watch him and Scully interact for several seasons, but I'm all doom-laden because I know they don't. Agent Reyes has just been introduced. Agent Reyes put my teeth completely on edge within about three seconds of her first appearance, and it's only getting worse. Possibly the only reason to continue watching the bloody series with her as a feature is in the vague hopes that they accidentally land a spaceship on her and squash her flat. She's a disgusting combination of superciliousness and sheer stupid flakiness, and when she stands there pontificating smugly about her "feelings" and "openness" while simultaneously refusing to believe anything Scully says, I want to haul off and punch her. That episode about the Native American shamanistic sickness-eater was amazing, though. In a slightly gross way.
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The Billboard Poet of the Daily Voice strikes again! This time, I must admit, I'm mystified.

WEE PEES ON LIONS

I can't find a likely organisation for which W.E.E. is the acronym, and cannot work out if the lions here are literal or if it's referring to the English rugby team. Either way, points for assonance, potty humour, and a mental image rife with both defiance and the potential for total disaster.

I've just finished Season 7 of X-Files. It's interesting, watching them off the DVDs like this - I'm realising how scrappy and incomplete my original experience was, missing probably more than half of the episodes when they were on TV. I'm very much appreciating the season arcs and character development, and the meta-plots actually make much more sense than I'd originally thought. Season 7 suffers slightly from anticlimax, with a couple of long-running plot threads tied up early in the season so that the rest of the episodes feel unfocused, slightly groping, without the engine of Samantha's disappearance or the machinations of the Syndicate. I also don't think the writing is quite up to scratch at times. Undying though my devotion is to Mulder and Scully, the Duchovny- and Anderson-scripted episodes were a tad flawed - "Hollywood A.D." in particular was just silly. On the other hand, it's given me quite my favourite feel-good ending of the series, with all the dead crawling out of their graves to do solemn, happy, beautiful ballroom dance on the deserted set. I don't know why the mental image should cause me so much pleasure, but it does.

I am distinctly unpleased to report that Sid is still rampant, and that in addition to the headache this iteration has given me a four-pack-a-day habit in tissues. However, I am now at home for a week to finish this indexing, so at least I won't have to give curriculum advice while students cower in the far corner of my office, repulsed by the levels of mucus.

Nope.

Thursday, 11 September 2008 01:14 pm
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Today's Rant List:
  1. Vague students whose idea of curriculum advice is to plump down in the chair in my office and tell me that they want to study computers. They are entirely unable to tell me which aspect of computers, or even why they want to study them. Also, we're the Humanities faculty and don't even offer computer studies.
  2. Distressed parents who cry in my office because daughter isn't doing as well as hoped, and who continually interrupt my careful reassurances to engage in further hair-tearing which demonstrates only too clearly that they haven't been listening to a word I've said.
  3. Scratchy contact lenses. Bloody expensive scratchy contact lenses.
  4. Admin. The thing I most hate about this damned admin is that it's all little, scrappy bits of thing that skitter away from my attention. Give me a good, solid, hefty chunk of project and I'm fine, but this bitty approach is like being nibbled to death by invisible ADD mice. Then again, one major indexing project coming up, so possibly I should be careful what I wish for.
  5. Students are clogging the bandwidth again. Soon they will be clogging it with their blood! Then I can view gossip blogs in peace.
  6. Parcelforce. (Because I promised Scroob, and gestating ladies need moral support).

I shall console myself with linkery. Has The Large Hadron Collider Destroyed The World Yet? (Nicked from [livejournal.com profile] first_fallen. Hee.)

And Jane Austen's Batman, an exercise in voice which leaves me paralysed with admiration.

Still X-Filesing, since I'm having hissy fits about my Evil Landlord's apparently complete inability to tell me that he'd like to watch Farscape: he stands around in the middle distance and looks puppy-dog instead, a particular form of non-communication which is giving me a strong desire to kick him, and is also causing me to bloody-mindedly watch X-Files until he damned well asks me not to. On the upside, I'd forgotten about Bruce Campbell guest starring in that one about the demon babies. Beautifully cast: he has the perfect combination of square jaw and not-quite-real emoting for the role.

I shall also console myself with dalmatians. I am Not A Dog Person, but I grew up on Dodie Smith, who is, as you all know, she says threateningly, the author of not only I Capture The Castle, the perfect novel of the adolescent viewpoint on life, love and family eccentricity, but The Hundred And One Dalmatians, made famous by the Disney adaptation, and its practically unknown sequel, The Starlight Barking. I'm fond of Dalmatians because of its comfortable, slightly dreamy, hyper-correct English tone, and of course for Cruella de Vil, absolutely the perfect villainess, with her drawing room panelled in red streaky marble like raw meat, her half-white, half-black hair and her Absolutely Simple White Mink Coat. But I love The Starlight Barking because it's more or less hallucinatory in feel. The hundred-plus dalmatians, living happily in an English country house with their devoted owners the Dearlys, wake up one morning to find out that all humans and other animals are fast asleep, only dogs are awake. Also, random canine telekinetic and telepathic powers appear to have manifested. They travel up to London, where the runt of the original litter, Cadpig, is now the Prime Minister's dog. I love the slightly satirical scenes of the dog cabinet, run by all the ministers' dogs, as they try to come to terms with the suddenly narcoleptic country; I also love the happy, dreamlike enablement of all the new powers. The books have always offered a slightly twee sense of animal identity, but the characters have a great deal of charm and the book's moral lesson is more than somewhat heart-warming. Mostly, though, I love this book because it's simply weird.
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Phooey. Epic struggle with my hairdresser, an otherwise lovely man who has slight hissy fits every time I go to see him after a six-month hiatus during which I have regularly and cheerfully hacked my own fringe short. He feels, reasonably enough, that this is an insult to his artistry. I feel that I'd rather not look like an Old English Sheepdog if I can possibly help it. Yesterday he retaliated by cutting said fringe extra short and slightly wider than usual, which is unfair as it's the fatal thing he's always cautioned me against doing in my fringe-hacks. Also, he's blow-dried my hair to within an inch of its life so it's completely flat, straight and lifeless. I now look like a cross between Bluebottle (pudding-basin haircut) and a Chinese schoolgirl. I console myself with the thought that hair is the most ephemeral of irritations - a wash and a few weeks of growing and it might actually feel as though it belongs to me again. Besides, consolatory bonus: the nice hair-washing lady gave me a random ten-minute head massage while she was washing it, which successfully beat the headache back to a dull throb.

Watched the weird Farscape episode with the virtual reality game last night. Yup, scriptwriters still on drugs. Good drugs. Also, scared self silly with X-Files before the Evil Landlord got home. Now in Season 5 - that freaky episode with the psychotic doll, which, cute Mulder/Scully interactions notwithstanding (I love it when they play against type), was distinctly creepy. I really enjoyed "The Postmodern Prometheus" - cleverly written and filmed, lovingly geeky, nicely tongue-in-cheek. The final Cher concert scene may actually have blown my brain, though.

Last Night I Dreamed: I carefully bought four extremely poisonous snakes for the rocky garden of my old house on a hill. Then I realised that they were extremely poisonous, and had to pay a nice snake-catcher lady to remove them. She found the small green one and the brown one and the sort of fat puff-addery one, but there's still a spitting cobra out there somewhere, lurking in the bushes. Then I was a somewhat powerful figure in a hugely complicated LARP/medieval court thingy in a castle, where all the factions wore colour-coded outfits and had scads of liveried guards. Someone, I think it might have been Adrianna, randomly gave me a crystal which could make gates to anywhere, and I started using it to buy favours from other factions by rescuing their sons from jail and what have you. Actually, I think both of these might have been career dreams. In a severely lateral sort of way.
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This techno-jinx is getting out of hand. The Evil Landlord's computer died yesterday, again, after no more than a week of actually working. It's got over the hissy-fit random rebooting: now it sulks in the basement, hunching its shoulders and resolutely refusing to boot up at all. Since his computer does all the Iburst stuff, I am once again without home net access. Phooey. However, my recently acquired Heroes of Might and Magic III and IV disk vanished mysteriously into the EL's study on Sunday and hasn't been seen since apart from faint griffin-noises and the occasional bout of tactical cursing, so there's an off chance he might be prompted to get the bloody computer fixed in anything other than geological time.

Then, by way of rubbing in the sad futility of all things electronic, we had a "scheduled" (in the sense that we had no warning at all) power cut last night, right in the middle of that particularly good X-Files episode about the Cigarette Smoking Man and JFK, which was pushing all my paranoid conspiracy happy buttons. Until, that is, it was replaced by pitch blackness. (Actually, the last time this happened I was also watching X-Files. Either I watch way too much X-Files, or there's a sinister connection here). Fortunately, being a good SCA household we have no shortage of candles, candlesticks and matches. I would have knitted by candlelight except that the pattern I want to try with the banana fibre was on my computer. Today I printed it out, secure in the knowledge that this will mean we won't have anything resembling a power cut for weeks.

The Heroes disk has been turned over to the EL mostly because, as a sort of bizarre side-effect of handing in the final book updates, I'm actually reading again. The most recent discovery: Libba Bray. She's a YA paranormal writer, and the two novels I've read (A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels) are Victorian fantasy school stories. They're very non-Harry-Potter, though: it's all girls, not just a girls' school, but magical realms which are controlled by a female priesthood. The novels also have a rather fascinating feel and focus with an atmosphere that's a bit hot-housy, all that adolescent angst, burgeoning sexuality and hormonally-driven Really Bad Decision-Making. (Also, corsets, hot Indian youths, unconventional art teachers and a certain amount of running around the woods naked). Some of the young ladies, or at least the choices they make, make me want to slap them, but in a completely realistic way. I think far too few writers actually tap into the true wayward narcissism of the adolescent. Maybe because they don't want to remember it? I remember all too clearly being inutterably dim about things.

Right. Have just had unpleasant interview with a student whose curriculum disasters are obviously All Our Fault, TM, nothing to do with him. This has left me shredded enough that I'm going to bunk gym on the grounds of exhaustion, shreddedness and a sprained ankle, and trundle homeward to spend the evening doing nothing much. I think Sid is lurking, I slept for nearly ten hours last night and am absolutely drained. Also, [livejournal.com profile] starmadeshadow brought me Dresden Files to read. Yay!
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Whee! I just pressed "Send" on the email with zip file attachment which sent this book thing, in Positively! Its! Last! Appearance!, off to Michigan. I technically finished the updates this weekend, but I've spent the last few days suffering from the nit-picky polishing impulse which is basically a delaying tactic as I can't bear to send the child of my intellect staggering off into the void owing to my haunting fear that its hair might be inadequately brushed and there are probably, metaphorically speaking, chocolate stains all over its shirt. I was moderately pleased with the final chapter, though, in which I scientifically dissected Hoodwinked, Happily N'Ever and Shrek the Third and was beautifully and meticulously rude about them. Enchanted got better press, on mature reflection I think it was fun and reasonably intelligent.

Oops. In the Department of Desperate Fangirlyness, Amazon.co.uk is currently selling X-Files seasons for just under ten pounds a shot - I shamelessly brandish this low-budget acquisition opportunity in the vague hopes that some of you lot might go forth and acquire same, thus lessening my consumerist angst.I went a little mad with the Mulder/Scully love, bringing my collection up to Season 7 (The Last Proper One With Mulder). Sorry, mother... I may have to pay you vast sums to mail them to me so that you don't end up with the usual metric tonnage of Stuff to bear burdensomely hither in July.

Boring meetings all afternoon, but off to see Sweeny Todd this evening. Yay demon barbers! Memo to self, must get hair cut...

Last Night I Dreamed: I was a dragon in control of armies, in competition and uneasy alliances with other dragons. Dragon-breeding for additional intelligence was a factor at some point, as was sitting on top of a mountain surveying the battle. Later, when no longer a dragon, I decided that the SCA play was successful enough that we were going to put on another one, this time by J M Barrie. (For some inexplicable reason, since he's so appropriate to the SCA setting). I hunted desperately for a copy of said play throught the music library, which was a huge, beautiful, 18th-century stone building full of enormous wood-panelled rooms and leather-bound books, none of which were shelved in any sort of logical order at all. I finally found it in an unlikely place, and then had to rewrite it to make it shorter, simpler and a musical. (I diagnose too much Enchanted, or alternatively [livejournal.com profile] khoi_boi's tendency to sing the SCA play as Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs).
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I had to be on campus again this morning (late orientation, bleah), and on the way back home was overtaken on the freeway by three motorbikes, those shiny insectoid ones with the high snarling engine note, their riders all in black and heraldic colours, with armoured knees and elbows. I changed lanes to let them past, and watched them recede into the distance with a quite distinct feeling of amused pleasure. Ah, motorbikes. I can feel a random analysis coming on.

I've said before that the only thing I actually miss about the Bastard Ex-Boyfriend From Hell is his motorbike, and the sheer pleasure of speed is certainly apart of the motorbike appeal - a powerful engine coupled with the immediacy of the experience, nothing to separate you from the world whipping past. It's also true that motorbikes exude an aura of danger, not just because of the mystique of the biker, but because they're inherently dangerous, impractical and overpowered. You're more likely to kill yourself horribly on a motorbike than you are in a car, and that fact embeds itself into the idea of a bike with equal parts of fascination and slight unease. A bike is, in itself, a mild twos-up to the Establishment, an assertion of independence, danger and slightly ridiculous leather outfits.

But there's also something about a group of motorcycles together, a sort of visceral thrill that's not entirely about the Hell's Angels associations. Several bikes together has a faint gang resonance, an idea of a communal experience of speed which is isolated against the safer travel choices of the rest of the world. It's faintly threatening even if they're not sporting gang tattoos - threatening, I think, in the same way that the classic X-Files moment of a half-dozen identical black limos screeching to a stop outside the Forbidden Government Secret Installation can be1. Groups of bikers don't just evoke biker gangs, but presidential cavalcades, post-apocalyptic road pirates, and Judge Dredd. It's about power, of course, bikes are always about power, but in this case it's organised, unknown power about which you end up feeling slightly paranoid.

All of which being said, I'm not really claiming to stand weak-kneed at the side of the road while a bike gang sweeps past. The image is just too clichéd, too obvious: I think I end up enjoying it as I do many things, ironically, complicit for the moment in the biker's assumption of power and rebellion, but refusing to believe they could actually mean it seriously.

1 The last X-Files episode I watched guest starred, somewhat unexpectedly, Giovanni Ribisi and Jack Black. Giovanni Ribisi is a scary-good actor when he puts his mind to it, his turn as the slightly retarded teen-aged psychopath was chilling. Younger Leonardo di Caprio, eat your heart out. And what is it with actors with Italian names playing retarded characters, anyway? some kind of union?

it's awful dark

Saturday, 2 February 2008 08:32 am
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Hmmm. Possibly X-Files are not the best watching choice for these post-curriculum-advice blasted and brain-dead evenings. This is particularly the case when I've just watched "Darkness Falls", an episode which focuses repetitively on the single lit bulb which is all that stands between Our Heroes and death by dessication at the hands of a swarm of green lights - it becomes uncomfortably apposite when our lights suddenly go out in the middle of it1. This leaves me and the Evil Landlord to bumble around the pitch-black house with torches, which also compulsively re-enacts large chunks of X-Files. Which reminds me: the EL can't find the gas-lamp, did we lend it to someone? We both have a sort of vague memory we might have, but of course no clue who it was.

Further X-Files insights: the first season is very nicely balanced in terms of the hide/reveal tension, refreshingly free of the faintly JJ Abrams silliness which creeps into later seasons (you discover things! but they might not be real! but the government destroys the evidence! there's a mystery inside an enigma inside a confusion! then you do the whole thing again! with alien invasions!) Also, I appear to be perving Mulder and Scully about equally. Odd, since I'm at least nominally heterosexual, although of course it's the vibe between them which has always been the show's appeal.

In other news, the new kitchen counters are dead sexy, it's going to be actively painful to watch them cut a hole for the sink. Also, did I ever post this amazingly entertaining page? Can't remember, but twice won't hurt.

Last Night I Dreamed: I had an entire, enormous model village up on the side of a mountain somewhere, and was able to fly over it to water the gardens and fix things. Inside the mountain was some kind of huge, upmarket, faintly James Bondy complex with tunnels giving access for all the expensive cars. I infiltrated this by means of spy gadgets of some sort, only to have the essential gadget disintegrate on the roadway in a shower of cogs and wheels, where an expensive car promptly ran over it. Later, we took photographs of the complex and a spectacular sunset from the other side of the valley. Very scenic dream - the giant model village was very pretty.

1 These are supposed to be scheduled power cuts, if you accept the definition of "schedule" as "these are the times during which we may shed load in your area, except we reserve the right to switch off at any time within the several hours, and sometimes not at all, and occasionally at other times just for fun."

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