freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
This is my favourite billboard heading of the year. I'm still weirded by how hard this is hitting me. Apparently I have been waiting for this on a subliminal level since I left the country.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Yesterday's Cape Times billboard read, I swear to FSM, COFFIN PAIR CHAIN ROW. While that's a vintage and irreproachable crash blossom of the high quality which is so broadly suggestive it appears to almost preclude actual meaning, it's also beautifully distracting, in that not even my highly-trained and fertile imagination could come up with any back story that seemed in the least likely. I drove around most of yesterday (which was a lot of driving, on account of work + mid-morning excursion to rescue the Jo from being locked out of her own house with a sprained ankle + home from work + vet trip) with my brain gently revolving scenarios in fascinated disbelief. (Googling it is unpleasant and I wish I hadn't, because it's a nasty story, although it also yields the equally vintage crash blossom VIRAL COFFIN HELL VIDEO DUO).

I also badly needed the distraction, because yesterday we lost the Hobbit struggle: the oral cortisone had stopped working, the stronger injected stuff gave him precisely two days of appetite, and then he stopped eating again. He's been increasingly slow, dazed and sad for the last couple of weeks, and it got to the horrible, inescapable point where the only thing I could still do for him was to make it stop. We put him down yesterday afternoon. My house is full of absence.

(My subject line quotes the Ink-Spots, from the Fallout 4 soundtrack, which is lovely vintage music chosen by a clearly demented genius to range very satisfyingly, given various current events, from maudlin romanticism to nuclear-apocalypse black humour.)

winter is coming

Tuesday, 1 April 2014 11:11 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

I love April Fool billboards, they seem to inspire the fiendish iconoclast wordsmiths who produce them to new heights. Today's was the perfect exemplar of what I can only think of as the April Fool Hesitation, the momentary buy-in which mines the Pavlovian response via which we instantly and instinctively accept as real any major event which a newspaper describes. The true enjoyment of the joke is in the clash between that second of belief and the immediate realisation of its falsity - your mind falling over itself for long enough to create the classic delayed drop.

The perfect construction of this headline to me hinges on "SHOCK", because it frames the "fact" - Cape Town bidding for the Winter Olympics - as outlandish in itself: that is, it mimics perfectly the stock media response to something extreme and unlikely, rather than attempting to naturalise the bid as reasonable. (It also plays subliminally on our awareness that SA's World Cup hosting and various Olympic bids in fact make no damned sense anyway). That incredulous distancing is nicely judged to elicit complicity, to pull us into the illusion of belief for that vital second before the realisation, and the comic conflict, hits. The effect was to cause me to drive for three blocks in a fit of the giggles.

I could go off on a tangent about the subtextual environmental commentary in the idea of snow in Cape Town, but it's the kind of reading which would require me to expend green ink writing "this is a bit stretched" in the margin of a student essay, so I won't.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

I have, what with one thing and another, been reading Coriolanus recently. Oh, all right, the one thing or another is the appearance on our local Nouveau movie circuit of the film of Tom Hiddlestone's recent run in the play in London, which earned rave reviews from a lot of people who weren't actually drooling Loki fans. (It also earned rave reviews from drooling Loki fans, although the presence of Tom Hiddlestone stripped to the waist and bathed in blood may have been partially implicated in the response. Also, massive homoerotic subtext. These days, show me a text which doesn't have a massive homoerotic subtext and I will politely remove the earplugs and blinkers you unaccountably appear to be wearing. We live in a deeply repressed society.)

Anyway. Shakespeare is, of course, a highly pleasing thing to one who is guilty, as I am, of a serious addiction to language. I don't know the play at all, and have been happily skip-reading through it in preparation for seeing the film. Conclusions: (a) Shakespeare is still the good stuff in terms of linguistic high, (b) Coriolanus is kind of an arrogant dick, and (c) wow, but is this a topical play right now. The first scene entails Roman senators interacting with a mob of commoners who are all agitating about overpriced grain and Senator privilege, and features a citizen ranting about senators in a speech which made me sit up and go "Whut?"
Care for us! True, indeed! They ne'er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily, to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us.

This, children, is the contemporary USA. Or, in some lights, the UK. This is the particular flavour of rampant and unchecked capitalism which characterises the Western world, where the gap between the obscenely rich and the poor widens daily, where governance repeatedly privileges corporations over people and bails out banks. And where world powers make war because it's profitable. (See this interesting article on the change in US policy over the last few years). Human nature apparently doesn't change much. That Shakespeare, he knew.

Of course, I still haven't seen Coriolanus despite all efforts to do so - we had tickets for last night, but arrived in the Waterfront only to be told that the scheduled load shedding power cut for the evening would cut the movie off half an hour before the end, and strand us in a darkened, zombie-apolcalyptic mall. We went and had tea and cake instead, which was rather pleasant, but not nearly as highbrow as the intended evening. Tom Hiddlestone notwithstanding. Ster-Kinekor owes us a replacement viewing, though, so we may yet get to see the damned thing. If the power cuts permit.

My subject line is not only Simon and Garfunkel, it's a direct quote from a Daily Voice billboard this morning, which made me laugh rather a lot.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Today I was in traffic with a van which was emblazoned with the logo denoting it the official instrument of a company called "Uncanny Deliveries". I am both bemused and charmed by this. If they're strictly uncanny deliveries, surely they arrive mysteriously in the middle of your carpet via no natural or earthly means? In which case why do they need a van? Also, no degree of searching online reveals their actual existence in Cape Town, which I suppose is appropriate for any organisation of occult significance worth its salt. There is an Uncanny Food Group, which I reject out of hand on account of how I darkly suspect it's boringly involved with canning.

While on the subject of random signage, I have also to report the continuance of jo&stv in the Department of Absolutely Perfect Gifts. This one not actually including wols, strangely enough. Jo found me a copy of a book called FROZEN CHICKEN TRAIN WRECK (the upper case is important), which has vouchsafed to me the existence of other people who are equally impassioned devotees of billboard poetry. It's a collection of South African tabloid headlines, apparently collected unofficially over the years by the simple expedient of leaping out the car and grabbing the good ones, which I'm now rather wishing I'd done rather than scribbling them down. There is no actual archive of these things, other than randomly on my blog, and now the book. It is a vintage collection of linguistic startlement, and makes me very, very happy. Not least because it's printed by Chopped Liver Press, which is a marvellous name.

(I should note, for posterity, that the informal online popular linguistics community is aware of headlines to the extent of having a term for those newspaper headlines whose characteristic construction of tottering noun piles creates beautifully ambiguous readings. They're known as crash blossoms. Language Log has a fine collection.)

turn me over I'm done

Wednesday, 30 January 2013 09:05 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Mid-orientation/registration, and I am dead tired like a dead tired thing being tired in a lake of tiredness. Clearly dragging one's way through two intense weeks of organisation and lecturing on top of what appears to have been viral bronchitis is somewhat exhausting. Odd, that. My voice has mostly returned, although it's considerably more of a contralto than my wont. Hopefully the students are at least enjoying the husky seductive bit. Matters may also improve given that I slept properly last night for the first time in a week, the racking coughs having hitherto kept me awake. Health, how I do want you back.

I am dead enough that today's tabloid billboard caused me to giggle for ten minutes straight.


Perfect tabloid: layer the transgressions until they become completely ridiculous. If we were still doing Microfiction I'd love to see the narratives people might invent to reach that unlikely apotheosis.

Still in the Department of Being Easily Amused, Sarah Rees Brennan's summary of Bujold's Vorkosigan novels is amusingly apt. (Spoilery, if you haven't read them, and if so why not?, but pleasingly acute if you have).

In other random news, I have discovered Everything Everything. Their music is poppy, but complex and quirky. They're more electronic than I usually tolerate, and I also don't usually enjoy falsetto, so I'm a bit weirded that they're demanding my attention as much as they are. (The music video for "Kemosabe" is also interesting). Whether it remains complex and quirky once I've had some sleep is another story entirely.

it's only words

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


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

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

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

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

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

Finally, because it gave me great pleasure, I recommend to your attention Pride & Prejudice fanfic, which is beautifully written even if not with quite the layers of irony and wit of Miss Austen herself, and which succeeds in rescuing poor Miss de Bourgh from her dreadful mother. I always felt bad for Anne de Bourgh. Imagine growing up with a mother like that!

joss sticks

Friday, 13 July 2012 01:24 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I was very confused by the newspaper billboards this morning, one of which appeared to read "SA DOGS SECRETLY HELP PATIENTS TO DIE." I drove for about ten minutes musing about the story. Hounds of Tindalos? genetically modified hyper-intelligent right-to-die spaniels? weird trained killer attack throwing Pomeranian death cults? In fact, mature reflection suggests that it actually read "SA DOCS SECRETLY HELP PATIENTS TO DIE", but it makes for a much less interesting world.

For no adequately defined reason, random Friday is randomly Joss-focused. I don't normally read Tree Lobsters, but [ profile] wolverine_nun pointed me at this lovely strip.

And Pajiba linked to this rather zen and pointlessly soothing video editing together all the Chinese bits from Firefly. Hmmm. I think I'm due for a Firefly rewatch, I'm having to mute far too much of Chuck for serious enjoyment.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
This morning I was in traffic next to a giant luxury 4x4 creature, which had a personalised numberplate reading, simply, "PRE-NUPT". I have been whiling away the morning speculating as to whether this was a lawyer or a satisfied divorcee. Either way, they have a lot of money.

While on the subject of random slogans, I was also entertained by a recent Daily Voice billboard which announced "ROAD DUG UP TO SAVE GOAT". This is beautifully cryptic, and would result in fascinating flash fiction should anyone be driven to attempt to construct the scenario which gave rise to it.

And Ursula Vernon gives us a wonderful term which completely describes and explains Twilight: Id-fic. Fiction which contents and appeals to deep, primitive, unrestrained desires, while not necessarily being any bloody good at all.

The last few weeks are catching up with me: I am exhausted, contralto, and inclined to snap when yet another student bangs repeatedly on my door in defiance of the notice which instructs them to knock and enter, because they won't hear me shout "Come in". Illiterate little buggers. On the upside, I am so tired that I can't even muster the energy to growl at them, which means they're getting a sort of slow-motion sympathy instead. I didn't even lose it yesterday when a particularly persistent little student mosquito, bored with my repeated refusal to grant him a place in Humanities since we're full and he applied way too late, emailed the Dean with a formal complaint about my, what was it, "misuse of authority". Since I was, in fact, simply implementing a faculty policy set by the Dean herself, she shot him satisfyingly down in righteous flames. Nonetheless, I think I'd have been rather miffed if I had the energy.
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I could swear the Daily Voice billboard this morning read "MY SHEEP LOVES COFFEE." If I didn't misread it, which is entirely possible before my first cup of tea, then it's a beautiful example of the perfect tabloid balance between inconsequential and surreal.

Having survived more or less unscathed the hideous first half of the week (the run-up to the print deadlines), I am now embroiled in counting student sign-ups to our orientation programmes. This process, over the last few years, has been a surprising insight into shifting internet trends. Four years ago student personal emails were all Hotmail and Yahoo. These days there's a lone Yahoo every now and then, but Hotmail appears to be dead. Everyone's using Gmail. Literally, probably half the cohort. If this is a worldwide trend, then I actually hate to think of the number of personal lives that are being conducted through a single site. If it Goes Evil it could paralyse half the world. (There's also a weird thing that looks like, which I tend to read as poor student writing for, but in fact it's a sneaky iteration of Yahoo, setting out to ride Gmail's coat-tails and deliberately confuse everyone).

Of course, it's also a not so lovely insight into what I like to categorise affectionately as the Student Dingbat Problem. They have an option, this year, of signing up for a programme online, or sending us a slip. The slip has written across it, in big capitals, "PLEASE ONLY FILL THIS IN IF YOU DO NOT HAVE INTERNET ACCESS!" They are also cautioned, on the slip and in the online signup instructions, NOT to do both. I've only weeded out, oh, twenty or thirty duplications out of a cohort of 1400, so I suppose we can congratulate ourselves that only about 2% of the cream of our youth are unable to follow instructions. It's more than that, though, because my programme sizes shrink dramatically once I weed out the duplications in online signup. Which also warns them, in giant block capitals, not to sign up more than once. The Prime Dingbat for the afternoon is the one who signed up three times online, and also faxed us his slip, blown up to giant size, twice. He was clearly rather insecure about his orientation place. Sigh.

You would also not believe how many of them mis-type their own email address into the online sign-up. Gah.

The subject line is, of course, from Goats. Goats is well known to reconcile readers to a deterministic universe. (Its currently completely indeterminate ending I have to forgive because the labyrinthine complexity of the plot at its end point is so extreme that I suspect the authors have retired, exhausted and defeated by the need for conclusion).
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Two random inscriptions made me happy on the way home from campus today. One was a Daily Voice billboard which simply read "MUGABE IS A LOSER". Why, yes. Yes, he is. One has to wonder why it's taken so long for the media to notice. The other was on the back of the car in front of me. Apparently it was a deliriously absurd model called an "telstargle". Mature reflection suggests that there's a missing space in there at a critical juncture, but the momentary amusement was worth it. More serious things should have "argle" in their names.

In other news, I badly need distraction on account of how I'm supervising a Masters student's dissertation on vampires in literature, including Twilight. I am thus halfway through a re-read of the series, which would be driving me to drink if my Warfarin levels allowed it. Gods, they're badly written. I'd forgotten how badly written, and how horribly immature their characters. It's not insignificant that the major literary intertexts are Wuthering Heights and Romeo and Juliet. The former is about unbridled adolescent obsession with an undertone of violence, the latter about really bad and obsessive romantic decisions made under the influence of adolescent lust and persecution complex. Sounds about right. However, aargh. The things I do for teaching.
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Oh, Friday, allow me to love you and pet you and call you George, you have arrived not a moment too soon. It's official: this week has sucked. Also, blown. Also, I disown and disinherit it, it is no relation to me and I have never seen it before. Honestly, officer, it followed me home.

By way of celebration, a blissful billboard juxtaposition from the trip up to work this morning:


and, immediately below it, in the same format from the same newspaper:


I darkly suspect the billboard-stringing-up dudes of political commentary.

Now I shall interview orientation leaders. Interview interview interview.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
... today's Daily Voice billboard headline:


Except to add that making the font <big> made me snigger. Apparently I'm eight.

On an only tangentially related note, formatting those angle brackets to show has entailed using the codes for "greater than" and "less than", which is a bit painful at the moment following yesterday's unhappy Dragon Age discovery that (as [ profile] smoczek knows all too well after hand-holding me through Excel formulae) I'm apparently incapable of distinguishing between them. This makes an astonishingly huge difference when you're setting party tactics to automatically hit the healing if your health drops to <10%. Or, as it transpires, >10%. No wonder I kept on running out of damned healing potions. Sigh. Maths, so not my strong suit.
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Still a bloody week. Will be bloody for at least another week. (Is it just me, or was traffic particularly bloody today, as well?). All in all I don't propose to think about it. Instead, I shall distract myself, and hopefully you, pleasantly by indulging in two of this journal's ongoing themes: wols, and billboard poetry. (And, did you notice, I missed the blog's birthday again? 31st January 2005 was my First Post Evah, and I've blogged consistently at least twice a week since then. However, some sort of cosmic wossname dictates I'll never remember to celebrate the actual anniversary. Currently the actual cosmic woss. concerned is my job.)

So. 1. Wols. These are courtesy of [ profile] first_fallen, who made me very happy thereby.

I cannot rid myself of a persistent tendency to see these guys as an adorable gay couple in hipster glasses, slightly disconcerted by the hetero orgy they've just stumbled into in a dark corner of the library. The one on the left is saying "Goodness! Are her legs meant to bend that way?"

2. Billboard poetry. Today's lovely example:
You know a meme is universal when the Daily Voice invokes it. The Chuck Norris vs The Universe meme is thoroughly American, most recently an internet thing. Nunchucks, of course, are Japanese. Moering a skelm is about as Souf Effrican as you can get (Afrikaans gloss for my overseas readers: beating up a bad guy). That's quality multi-culturable layering right there, that is. Added points for the coy wordplay of "Nunchuck Norris", and for making me giggle until I nearly rear-ended the annoying BMW in front of me.
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Yesterday was unmitigated hell. The corridor outside my office is festooned with bits of shredded student, only most of whom deserved it. Today will be more of the same, except that I have improved it somewhat by (a) coming up to campus early so that the traffic doesn't render me pre-homicidal, and (b) eating plums and chocolate shortbread for breakfast. I am now uneasily eyeing my Seekrit Weapon, viz. the can of Red Bull which is standing on my desk, sweating gently. I hate the stuff, but by gum it works. Any moment now I'm going to hold my nose and choke it down.

I am also tolerably amused by today's surreal billboard headline, which reads "HAWKS CLAW CROC SKINNER". It's one of those completely unparseable ones, where you really need to know the context before anything faintly resembling sense can emerge. I darkly suspect that this may have something to do with a local police unit nabbing a game-skin smuggler, but without the context it's a pleasingly meaningless collection of syllables. It doesn't help that I persist in reading "Croc Skinner" as a name.

Shall now firmly deal with the umpteen plaintive student requests in my inbox, before launching into a day filled with registration crises. Aargh.

p.s. in all the registration chaos, still managed to put up another Microfiction. The theme was "Stand up". For the record, I have absolutely no idea what the hell I was on about in this one.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
  • I'll swear a billboard I drove past yesterday read "BABOONS DISCOVER NEW CITRUS CULTIVAR". I must have been hallucinating. The one about "JUDGE SKINS SPUD" is mildly entertaining, however. Clever headlining to a very valid criticism.

  • I'm kinda going to disengage from yesterday's Great Attribution Debate, because we seem to be beating our heads against profound artistic and conceptual differences here, and I don't see any of us really moderating our viewpoints any time soon. But it's amusing to note the synchronicity of the BoingBoing link to this flowchart, which doesn't touch on the artistic issues which are clogging our debate, but which is rather fun. Also adds new meaning to ROFLcopters.

  • My orientation programme offers students the chance to do the computer skills assessment online from home instead of during the programme. (Sneaky corollary: if they can't make it work, they probably don't have the skills to pass it anyway). A phone conversation from yesterday:
    STUDENT: Um, hi, I'm trying to do the computer assessment online and my login isn't working...
    ME: The initial page of directions says quite clearly that we are not able to offer technical support on this, if you can't make it work from home you'll need to do it during the Orientation programme.
    STUDENT: Oh, I didn't read that.
    ME: (tearing hair out quietly) This may also explain why you can't get it to work.

  • I absolutely cannot remember where I found the link to this page. HP Lovecraft's Commonplace Book, i.e. the list of vague story ideas he jotted down. Very Lovecraftian, but also potentially useful for MicFic inspiration.
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Ah, right, December. No wonder mall crowds are apocalyptic, the weather is melting me into a limp puddle of thing, and work has been invaded by phosphorescent hordes of gibbering origami rodents embossed with curriculum rules, and bearing board schedules in their teeth. Faculty Examinations Committees, the new hell. I'm also horribly glandular again, tending to rampant insomnia, and basically dead, which is certainly contributing to the committee hallucinations, but is also making it difficult to get up a good head of steam on my "bah, humbug!" practice. I shall persevere. In the meantime, unleash the wayward puppies!

  • The billboards have been a bit boring of late, but apparently the Daily Voice has finally decided to allow their billboard poet out from the poet-hutch, because there were a couple of fun ones recently. Yesterday:


    I blush to confess that this did a delayed drop on me; I wandered along for a few seconds thinking "but that makes no sense" in a vague sort of way, until I suddenly clicked. Points for creative alliteration and word-play suggesting a classic Darwin Award scenario of the more inflammable sort. Also, in my defence work is year-end hell, see above, no brain.

    Today's was simply fun:


    Preserved for posterity, perhaps? Vacuum sealed to ensure freshness? My mind defaults to Bill for some reason, possibly because he has an essentially plastic quality. The mental image is far more fun than the more probable dodgy conduct of a celebrity health professional.

  • Yesterday I shambled out to my car to be confronted by an elderly, white-haired, white-bearded gent, who emerged from the Engineering building and trotted solemnly past me bearing a very large watermelon. He caught my involuntary grin and gave me a brief, why-yes-I'm-carrying-a-giant-watermelon sort of nod and smile, and trotted off. Now I'm trying to work out if they have a Seekrit Greenhouse down there somewhere, or if they construct them from first principles and random particles down in the engineering labs.

  • Last night I dreamed I was transformed into a small, bright red, plastic robot, promptly self-destructing when I leaped off a tall somethingorother in the mistaken belief that my new form could fly. This is obviously deeply symbolic of somethingorother, probably Iron Man envy and stress.

words are all I have

Thursday, 15 July 2010 04:29 pm
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Two observations from billboards this morning: (1) context is everything, and (2) I am a sad geek. The headline "OS SAYS BOKS MUST IMPROVE" made me think vaguely, "but rugby isn't an operating system, and besides, that makes no sense." Which it doesn't, unless you know about the existence of Os du Randt, who is apparently the Boks's "scrum consultant." As far as I'm concerned, "scrum consultant" sounds like a euphemism for something incredibly dodgy, possibly along the lines of "fluffer". Also, there might actually be an argument for rugby as an operating system for lots of men on a field.

I spent two hours in one of those horribly postmodern committee meetings this morning, comprising a committee randomly constituted for THIS PERFORMANCE ONLY!, for the purpose of ascertaining how {issue} about {ongoing project} fits into {committee hierarchy} and {relevant managerial bigwig} for purposes of reporting to {high-stakes university committee}. Along the way I voiced a vague shadow of my problem with another, related, giant committee I sit on regularly, which is much addicted to terminology such as "stakeholders" and "way forward" and, as a result of an indecent plethora of stakeholders, tends to lose any holistic sense of a way forward in a morass of conflicting demands. I was extremely weirded out when the Temp!Committee immediately agreed, constituted a working group to investigate said committee and sort out its bloated and multitudinous tendency, and co-opted me onto said working group. I am not a political animal and, quite apart from hating them, generally consider myself very bad at committees of any description, but it is slowly dawning upon me that hideous power may well be mine.

In other news, am addicted to Echo Bazaar, in which I am an Observant and Intriguing Lady with an Araby Fighting Weasel, a tendency to hang out with Rubbery Men, and a growing interest in cheesemongers. I have recently loitered suspiciously with [ profile] herne_kzn, who made my morning by greeting my efforts with the unsolicited encomium "A+. Would loiter suspiciously with again." I love this game, it's beautifully constructed and suitably wayward in its atmospherics, and attracts like-minded eccentrics with whom to play. Also, its designers are way more intelligent and articulate than they have any right to be, and their game-design blog is a serious pleasure to read. They talk about narrative theory! Swoon!

Speaking of which, must return to the bosom of Gothic plot structure. I cannot find anyone who talks analytically about the narrative structure of the classic vampire plot. I'm going to have to invent it all from first principles. Well, damn.
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Today's delirious bit of billboard poetry: SPAIN DEFENDS PSYCHIC OCTOPUS. I love this because it's absolutely, literally true. We live in a world where a psychic octopus has made world headlines because of its apparent ability to predict World Cup match outcomes. This makes me very, very happy because it externalises neatly everything I've ever believed about the frivolously demented nature of human society. As a race, we have no sense of proportion.

I'm on leave for the next week or so, taking time out to write the paper for this conference. There's a giant pile of critical tomes variously and separately on vampires and fairy tales all over my desk; my act of possibly hubristic synthesis is not being materially aided by the Hobbit's characteristically feline need to sprawl all over them. If I try to move them he bites me, lovingly. I assume it's lovingly. He hasn't actually drawn blood yet.

I have also spent large chunks of the last day or so Running Errands, such as collecting my passport from the visa people and applying for forex (this latter because I have a deep and terrifying fear that my credit card will get nicked or decline to work for some reason and I really want back-up cash). In addition, the lovely agent lady in France has found tenants for my house! which means I'm now trying to jump through about a zillion French and South African bureaucratic hoops in order to (a) set up a French bank account, which I didn't have time to do in all the frantic of the French trip, (b) pay the French company which did all the required assessments for woodworm and footrot and what have you (requires official translations of the documents, have spent the morning locating French translators and plaintively emailing them) and (c) pay the nice agent lady, who has seriously earned it. This house-earning lark is costing me a fortune, but hopefully it'll be worth it in the long run.

In other news, I don't really want to mention that the internets seem to be back in case they immediately fall over again in an attack of petulant self-consciousness. (The squid has been gnawing on them intermittently for several days, but seems to have given up, possibly in favour of predicting World Cup outcomes). This means I have been able to play a reasonable amount of Echo Bazaar, which is a beautifully-designed Twitter game set in a subterranean steampunk Victorian ur-London with vaguely decadent and Cthulhoid properties, and which functions as a cross between a card game, a text adventure and a RPG. I am a Charming and Keen-Eyed Lady with a Sulky Bat. Let me know if you play and we can loiter with intent or have risqué cosy dinners together or something.
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I just found the note I scrawled in my diary to record a billboard headline over the weekend, mostly in the spirit of "WTF??!?" As usual, the Daily Voice is doing its mad poetic stuff:


WTF? I am completely unable to parse that for any value of "sense", and I know it's correct, I checked it on several different posters when I copied it down. Mad props for games with assonance and alliteration, but zero points when they lead to the complete obliteration of actual meaning. Searching on any of those terms or any terms likely to be abbreviated thusly reveals absolutely no news stories to which it could possibly be referring. Is there some Afrikaans key I'm missing? Yours, confused.

Other than linguistic confusion, I got nuttin' today, and shall, as is traditional, fill the gap with linkery. This is Jonathan Lethem being sane, dignified and eloquent on the universality of literary borrowing and the stupidity of draconine copyright laws, which is particularly entertaining given the current fanfic fandom furore (see, I too can alliterate!) over Diana Gabaldon's anti-fic hissy fit.

And this is the membership sign-up form for AussieCon, which is this year's WorldCon and thus the site of the Hugo voting process. If you sign up as an associate member you are entitled to download the entire raft of Hugo nominees - novels, short stories, graphic works et al - in e-form, because you're also entitled to vote in the Hugos from a distance, owing to the marvel of the modern Internet. This costs AU$70, and I just did it, thus bluing my entire month's book-buying budget in one fell swoop. However, since this nets me five novels, five non-fiction books (including Farah Mendlesohn's new one on Joanna Russ, squeee!), about 20-30 short stories, several graphic novels and a whole bunch of other stuff, I am significantly not complaining. Also, I get to vote in the Hugos. This has never felt like a real possibility before: by definition, South African science fiction fans are pretty much marginalised from the con scene. I've usually read about half of the novels and stories, and definitely have an opinion. I suddenly feel relevant and enabled.


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