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Neil Gaiman posted the link to this wonderful video, because of course he did: the man is patron saint of narrative and the fantastic, after all. It makes me think of the Wondermark strip about bibliophibians.

But the true joy in the link is not the video itself, joyous thought it is to contemplate the level of obsession, dedication and bibliophilery of the perpetrators. The true joy is in one of the comments it's garnered on YouTube:

My girlfriend told me this video sucks.
She's single now.
She's dead...
TheBesire 15 minutes ago

forests of the night

Tuesday, 22 March 2011 08:47 am
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Good grief. Last night I dreamed I was staying in the guest house in Neil Gaiman's garden, but managed to somehow antagonise the pet tiger he had lounging around the place, so I spent a lot of the dream tiptoeing around avoiding it in a state of some trepidation. It was perfectly friendly to everyone else, but at one point it came and slept up against the guesthouse door in a marked manner. In retrospect, this might have had something to do with Hobbit sleeping on my feet, but why my subconscious should attribute tigers to Neil Gaiman is anyone's guess. Later there was the somewhat confused session in the hairdresser's that was also a delicatessen, but it wasn't really connected and I never actually had my hair cut.

I've had a lovely five days doing bugger-all, which I really needed. About the only things I actually achieved were chocolate chip cookies, another season of Smallville, and some progress in my current project, which is to scan old family photos my dad left. Black-and-white photos of one's parents in their twenties are a very oddly poignant experience. Oh, and a Microfiction (the theme was "Vainglory"). Not, I think, a very good piece of writing, I had an argument with Jo about last-minute free-flow creation versus careful and conscious shaping, which resulted in a mutual challenge to try the opposite technique, and it transpires I suck at the free-flow creation thing. Unless an idea has grabbed me to the point where it writes itself, which I'd say happens about one time in three, I'm all about the crafting, and the uncrafted first draft is generally horrible. I threw out about eight horrible first drafts this week, and the one I finally posted is a thin and obvious thing. The Romantic poets would hate me. I'm OK with that.

I have a four-day working week before me, three if you count working at home on Friday, and it's all cool and cloudy out there with a fine mist of rain. It's a good start.
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You probably all know about the Kickstarter project to make an animated film of Neil Gaiman's short story "The Price". At time of writing, they are $4000 away from their total, with just under 24 hours left to go. If they don't make the total, no-one pays anything.

This is a wonderful confluence of three of my favourite things, namely Neil Gaiman, cats and animation; it's also a lovely crowd-source opportunity, and the animation is beautiful and creepy in all the right ways. I've pledged $50, which nets me a copy of the DVD. This is nothing in the greater scheme of things. Nor, given the itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy nature of this blog, is this post going to achieve much in the way of vast crowds rushing to add their mite to the whole. But it might inspire a few of you to toss a few dollars their way, and every little bit added to what you've got, makes just a little bit more. Think about it. (You need to join Kickstarter, but you pay via Amazon).

I really hope this one comes off. It could be amazing. And it's one strike in the defense of the democratic creation of beautiful films, and one in the eye for the corporate-driven dreck habitually perpetrated by Hollywood.
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Right, it's official: the Imaginet guys clearly have a stash of naughty photos of Telkom technicians in compromising positions, and aren't afraid to use them. I logged a call with Imaginet on Saturday morning, to complain that the ADSL has tended to fall over randomly at intervals since all the new internal phone wiring. I was phoned on Sunday morning by the Telkom people, asking if they could send a technician around there and then. He arrived within 20 minutes. He fossicked around a bit, worked out that the cabling was OK but there was weirdness on the line, beetled off saying he'd ask them to reset the technical whatevers, phoned back twenty minutes later to check if the modem had reconnected, discovered it hadn't, came back in his little van, worked out what was wrong and forced the etheric wossnames to reconnect by the simple expedient of unplugging the spanky new phone extension, which is apparently interfering with the ADSL and needs a splitter. I shall procure one this afternoon. If this actually sorts out the problem, I suspect I may be contractually obliged by my life membership of the Telkom Infernal Suckage Club to pass out, stage left, in sheer surprise.

In fact, I may have already done so. This bloody sinus thing won't leave me alone, and I spent two hours of Sunday afternoon passed out on my bed in a state of ineffable physical lowness, thereby missing a ladies' tea at the Mount Nelson, for which I apologise. Wretched Sid. Wretched headache. Wretched need to actually drag myself to work today, owing to two days in workshops last week and a concomitant piling up of Emergencies. I have cleared most of these, however, and if I wake up tomorrow feeling like I do now, I shall simply stay in bed.

On the upside, last night I dreamed I met Neil Gaiman at a weird signing in a giant underground Roman amphitheatre, and got press-ganged into following him around as an assistant. Assisting Neil Gaiman seems to be a recurring motif in my dreams. Clearly the fangirly bit of my subconscious has a deep need to feel useful.
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So, jo&stv and I invented a new monthly movie club, the purpose of which is to get together to watch two movies selected by theme. Any theme. Preferably not too serious or meaningful, and I have to add for the record my absolute miff that my fellow members rejected two to one my initial suggestion of choosing films with the theme of RDJ. Next time they're getting Fred Astaire. Last night's inaugural meeting, hosted by me and joined by the Evil Landlord with guest status, somehow caused me to spontaneously produce a sort of walls-of-Harfleur motivational pre-watching speech which went something like this:

"OK, people, listen up, let's lay out some parameters here. Our mission tonight is to subject to rigorous scrutiny and analysis the absolutely shitballs-retarded things that Hollywood does while purporting to represent the internet, programming and hackers in its popular films. To this end we are watching Hackers and Swordfish, in that order, which is chronological. I draw your attention to the fact that actual computer professionals have frequently been, and will continue to be, harmed in the watching of these films: I trust you have all signed Form WTFBBQ in triplicate, indemnifying the assembled company from any damage up to and including drooling, choking and homicidal rage. Particularly the Evil Landlord, who is also not allowed to make derogatory comments about any web developers present.

"I am completely unable to remember any notable plot points in these films, other than the aforementioned shitballs-retarded representation of computers, but in the important category of Psycho-Sexual Narrative, eye-candy division, we have Hugh Jackman and that cute blonde boy, wossname, Jonny Lee Miller. Also Angelina Jolie and Hale Berry, if you swing that way, and for Angelina I might. I would suggest a drinking game in which we drink any time anyone uses technojargon incorrectly or we are shown graphic 3-D representations of the Information Highway or a hacking montage including same plus mucho typing of gibberish, but alcohol poisoning often offends so I'll leave it to your discretion. Got that? Right. Onward." Don't say I didn't warn you. )

Tuesday random linkery is random. Dr. Horrible's Emmy hack should be watched by all right-thinking peoples, it's very funny. Conversely, Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl is wise and beautiful and moving, and is also the only thing in the whole wide world that has ever made me cry because I don't have a daughter.

enchanted ground

Sunday, 10 May 2009 01:54 pm
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There's still a significant portion of my psyche which seems to operate at about age 8, particularly when confronted with anything in the "oooh" category - the magical, the unreal, the not quite possible. Magicians elicit this response, as do fireworks and parkour, and now, apparently, so does 3D animation. I've never seen a 3D film before (bad film critic! no biscuit), and Coraline on Friday night was a truly amazing experience productive of a great deal of "oooh"ing, wriggling ecstatically in my seat and a sort of suspended wonder.

Review cut at egadfly's request. )
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ooooh! Neil Gaiman not only won the Newbery Medal for The Graveyard Book (about which, yay!), he just announced that Neil Jordan is writing and directing a live-action film version. This makes me very, very happy: Jordan's Company of Wolves is a haunting, haunted and truly amazing cinematic adaptation of Angela Carter's postmodern fairy tale, and one of my favourite films. (Freudian imagery, Gothic forests, fearsome werewolf transformations, embedded narrative, self-conscious invocation of the oral voice, and Terence Stamp as the Devil in a Rolls Royce). He does atmosphere, period feel and complicated subtext with focused virtuosity. I'd be even happier if Neil Gaiman was scripting it himself, but I expect good things.

Still working my butt off, but yesterday was an 11-hour day instead of Monday's 13, so perhaps things are looking up. Also, small but measurable improvement in the hobbling. We may yet survive this, troops! she says, charging down the Balaklava valley...
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Slipped, fell and ordered books over the internet again, good lord, my sense of financial balance is as ungainly as the real one - elbows, knees, credit card, all bent, bont and splugged. However! New Robin McKinley, new Neil Gaiman, there went last night. Tepper 0, Potter 0, Literary Self-Indulgence 10. I'm unrepentant.

Robin McKinley is in some ways a guilty pleasure for me: some of her fairy-tale rewrites I find professionally interesting, but my response to her books is always a bit patchy. I will, for example, re-read Beauty more or less annually, when tired or depressed, because it's lovely; Deerskin is quite a challenging revision of a fundamentally dodgy fairy tale; and my devotion to Sunshine is unending (intelligent vampire-dominated world-building! and a heroine who cooks). But The Blue Sword, while compelling, is unashamed Mills&Boon, and her later work, including Spindle's End and Rose Daughter is starting to feel repetitive, a bit shapeless and not entirely successful.

Chalice, the new one, has a fascinating setting, a medieval society in which a feudal structure overlays a profound, magical connection to the land which expresses itself both through the bloodline of the landowner and through the circle of land-linked functionaries who support him. Mirasol, the new Chalice to a troubled demesne, is an extremely sympathetic character, pitchforked into vital and unfamiliar duties through tragedy and need; again professionally, I'm a sucker for magical land-connection as a metaphor for power and control. She's also a bee-keeper, and I loved the bee-keeping detail and the resonance between its logic and that of the land itself. But the weird land-owner himself is a bit too much, too alien and distant to be empathised with, and the story's conclusion somehow too pat. Worst of all, though, I wish McKinley wouldn't descend into measured, formalised interchanges between her main characters, which lay out motivations and plot details in great, chunky, over-emotional paragraphs. I think she's going for a sort of archaic, heightened tone, but I really don't think it works.

The Graveyard Book, on the other hand, is unalloyed delight. Gaiman is a sneaky, sneaky man: here, as much as in Sandman, American Gods or Anansi Boys his mythologies sidle up to you nonchalantly, ramifying casually off the edges of the text in a way that feels naturalised and inevitable. This works because they're powerful, coherent and understated, offering a slow pleasure in gradually apprehending the system in which his characters, alive and dead, function. His theme is death, naturally enough, but it's handled with particular power in the relocation of death's intrinsic concerns away from the actual dead: in the end, death is revealed in its stark truth as being about loss, separation and, in a strange way, maturity - simply coming to terms with life and living.

A lot has been made of the book's debt to Kipling's Jungle Book, but I think it's an understated homage, mostly found in the idea of growing up as different and thus alone, however supportive the alien culture - animals, the dead - which sustains you. The book's episodic structure is effective, bound as it is by the solid integrity both of his mythology and of his narrative vision, and, as usual with Gaiman, is nicely balanced between the chilling, the amusing and the emotionally real. I love the mix of times and tones in the dead characters, and the apparently random and unexplained intrusions of mythological figures. Also, bonus points for a seriously threatening villain, etiquette details across about five centuries, and occasional nightgaunts. Every nice novel needs a nightgaunt. I've always thought they got unnecessarily bad press.

In other news, Vienna Teng. Apart from the lovely voice and groovy piano, her name's fun to say.
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[ profile] librsa bought me The Dangerous Alphabet, which is by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Gris Grimly. [ profile] librsa's superhero powers are Confusing Fog of Non-Sequitur, and Perfectly Chosen Gifts. Dangerous Alphabet introduces itself thusly:
    A piratical ghost story in thirteen ingenious but potentially disturbing rhyming couplets, originally conceived as a confection both to amuse and to entertain by Mr. Neil Gaiman, scrivener, and then doodled and elaborated upon, illustrated, and beaten soundly by Mr. Gris Grimley, etcher and illuminator, featuring two brave children, their diminutive but no less courageous gazelle, and a large number of extremely dangerous trolls, monsters, bugbears, creatures, and other such nastiness, many of which have perfectly disgusting eating habits and ought not, under any circumstances, to be encouraged.
I'm particularly fond of the "diminutive but no less courageous gazelle". It's bug-eyed and spindly.

Everybody needs a copy of The Dangerous Alphabet immediately. I'm just saying.

I am back at work today, hacking, snuffling and reeling slightly, but immeasurably better than The Great Flattened Horizontality that was last week. My day has also been pleasingly improved by the receipt of four SMSes, five Facebook messages and six e-mails in addition to a dangerous alphabet. Thank you, all you nice peoples.
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Not mine. Did those yesterday. Instead, as a welcome to 2006, Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett have put up Crowley and Aziraphale's resolutions here. Anything I could do would be anticlimactic.

I should add, for posterity, that the degree of shambles created by 26 people drinking cocktails, waving sparklers and popping party poppers is truly epic. The streamer debris was ankle-deep in the living room and kitchen, and extended tentacularly down the passage into the bathroom. I keep finding shiny bits of confetti in random places, like the cats' bowls and the potplants and my cleavage. The party had me buzzed enough that, when the final last-dogs had left at 2.30 am, I lay awake until 6, and only managed to sleep until 8.30. The two and a half hour's sleep was very weirdly full of strange dreams about frantically directing a large crew piloting a giant ship round a whole series of very tight underground corners, while I was simultaneously being madly chatted up by an unattractive and low-status Hollywood actor (no-one real, you know how dreams go). I consequently greet the new year as something of a shuffling zomboid thing.

I should also add that the three-hour clean-up this morning was absolutely worth it in every sense. Good party. Thanks, everyone who attended.
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Or, in my case, in my head. Repeatedly. A minor dose of car-sickness yesterday turned into a headache-with-nausea, which tried very, very hard to turn into a migraine, only I foiled its dastardly plan with drugs and going to bed early. My apologies to everyone I avoided socialising with last night, or, in fact, everyone I have growled at repeatedly over the last two days. Grumpy, I am. Headache with full benefit of hangover and hangunder both. There's no justice. Damned hormones.

Owing to above, I haven't achieved much lately. Minor achievements have included:
  • Grabbing readers' reports on my book by the scruff of their contradictory little necks and damned well forcing them to make sense. The Nice Supervisor approves, so have shunted the Outline Of Attack to the press for their go-ahead, after which it's that jolly old grindstone for me, I can tell you.
  • Reading another third of The Iron Council, which is still daunting me, but very much repays self-flagellation.
  • Borrowing jo(ty)'s copy of Gaiman's Black Orchid and reading it voraciously in one sitting. It's a strange, haunting, beautifully-drawn, sad, sad, sad piece of graphic narrative. Count me as one drooling fangirl of that Dave McKean (if I wasn't already from the Sandman covers, which I was).
  • In similar vein, finally finishing From Hell. This annoyed me all the way through because the artwork is, as far as I'm concerned, crappy, and, while the story was way cool, the film, which I saw ages ago, more or less covered the ground, and was visually sumptuous in a way the graphic novel simply isn't. (And, no, I'm not talking about Johnny Depp. Or not just talking about Johnny Depp, at any rate).
  • Watching the Evil Landlord install handles, bolts and other miscellaneous hardware in jo&stv's new shop, which is looking tres cool, and which opens on Friday.
  • Madly re-dying my hair with copious quantities of henna, which has actually achieved the dark red colour I wanted all along, but which can't be that striking as no-one has actually noticed. Must install neon signpost or something. Otherwise, next time it's blue.
  • About two thousand words of assorted writing.
Actually, I've achieved more than I thought, looking at that lot. The Army of Reconstruction, meanwhile, are inching their way around the garage with plaster, one wall per day, with a ritual slowness I assume is religion, or something. Current Lawn Extermination Project: pile of planks on front lawn, destroying the bit that escaped the gravel pile; new rubble pile on outside lawn, destroying the bit the sand pile didn't get. The roof sheets arrived today, but the minions of the Army have actually, in a hitherto unsuspected moment of consideration, piled them on the concrete floor of the garage. Some of said minions may actually escape having their entrails wrapped around a tree when I rise in ritual druidic rage at the end of this bloody project.
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I blame [ profile] bumpycat and [ profile] wytchfynder, who pointed me here and thus sparked this tragically obvious rediscovery of my goth roots.

In other news: Anansi Boys. I went forth and bought it yesterday, recking not the damage to my long-suffering credit card since this is Work, dammit, Work! (I also, with enormous self-restraint, didn't buy the new Terry Pratchett, although if ever there was an excuse for self-indulgent frothy book buying, wisdom teeth removal is it). I'm very glad I did grab Anansi Boys, actually, it's an interesting document in the ever more folkloric progression that is Neil Gaiman. I really enjoyed it; basically, it's about being incredibly embarassed by karaoke, which is a sentiment I can heartily grok. It's also about the self-conscious battle for the control of narrative, which means I can spend several sentences being pretentious about it in this encyclopedia entry. Money for jam.

My worst fears are realised: this morning's preparation for a random SCA picnic suffered a temporary setback when I discovered that my first batch of pastry was liberally laced with pewter shavings, presumably from the Evil Landlord's casting efforts last night. So, not Chicken Pewter surprise, quite, but certainly Strawberry Tart Unexpected Crunch. Had to toss the lot. Am accepting tenders for bodily harm to said Evil Landlord. Dammit.

I'm also somewhat cross that the local movie networks have changed their minds on showing Serenity. It was supposed to be released by Ster Kinekor on 18th November. The buzz on the grapevine is that that has been moved to mid-January. Ritual suicide may be an option.
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... and how, she says, channelling Omar Khayyam for no adequately defined reason. Cape Town is having High Winds, TM. Every now and then there's an almighty thump from outside, as the bits of thing left lying around by the Army of Reconstruction hie them madly across the garden and impact on random brickwork. I love this city when it's having a tantrum. Invigorating.

The Marking Pile of Damocles has mostly fallen and the resulting rubble has been almost cleared away, leaving almost-cleared decks for the exams next week. Consequently, I've been reading Neil Gaiman for most of the day, and calling it work. Extended meditation follows, should you be interested. Gaiman ramblings... )

I can see in my future an unavoidable assault on my long-suffering credit card, as I absolutely have to read Anansi Boys in the next ten days, and that means the hardback. Sigh. The things I do for my career.


Monday, 3 October 2005 01:45 pm
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Random fun quotes for the day!

Off James & the Blue Cat, an amusingly self-deprecating British scriptwriter's blog, a glancing reference to the Terrifying Carnivorous Seagulls of St. Ives:
In D&D terms, a monster with a Challenge Rating of 4, Attacks: beak +6, flappy feet +3 and a ranged area effect weapon you really don't want to be on the wrong end of, even if it is supposed to be lucky. Also has skills: Sense Pasty and, Mob Tourist. Varient 5 hit dice Dire Seagull with Carry Off Small Child rumoured to exist, as yet only a rumour.

Time magazine interviewed Joss Whedon and Neil Gaiman together, causing mass outbreaks of helpless fan squeeing and fainting. My favourite Gaiman quote, on the general all-round coolness of fandom at a con signing:
...we're ready to leave the stage. I look up and they have a bodyguard line of 30 Klingons. They're six-foot six and four-feet wide and they have the foreheads and they had linked arms. We were being lead off behind a human wall —a Klingon wall—of Klingon warriors. And I thought, how good does it get?.

And Joss on the Big Damn Movie: "This will be the greatest film since whatever film comes out right before it. And I'm not backing down from that."

Prophetic, given that it hasn't done as well at the box office as everyone hoped, although the reviews are generally good. Sigh. Cinema audiences. Like herding brain-dulled media zombies.

Excuse me, I have to go and discuss Terry Pratchett with a lively third-year class now. Academic life, such hell.


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