freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
That brief radio interview I did about fanfic a while back? The interviewer wanted some examples of good fanfic, because he didn't believe me when I said some fanfic was better than the original text. I never got around to sending him any recs, being as how I was somewhat depressed at the time, but this is one of the recs I should have sent him: dirgewithoutmusic's "We must unite inside her walls or we'll crumble from within" series. Harry Potter; meditations on some of the more marginal female characters and their House characteristics: a remedial, redemptive and deeply political project of enormous insight and sophistication. Beautifully written. The Andromeda one has just made me cry, although to be fair most of the rest of them did, too. If Rowling thought about her characters like this HP would be a great and profound work of literature instead of merely an enjoyable, apposite and popular one.

variously literary

Monday, 4 October 2010 10:18 pm
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An odd assortment of writing sorts of things lately:

  • My latest Micfic is up; this fortnight's theme is "Ghosts". I ended up, for no adequately defined reason, being post-colonial. Go figure.
  • I just read Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath, which is a semi-graphic novel aimed at approximately eight-year-olds. It's charming, amusing, latently subversive and inserts itself beautifully into the highly private and specific world-view of the child. Also, Wendell the iguana is my new favourite geek stereotype. Tell all your small daughters to hurry up and grow so I can give them copies.
  • Hogwarts Facebook pages. No, really. Also, Twitter feeds and a YouTube clip. These are very well done, and very amusing.
  • How to subtly diss Twilight. "Twilight, in particular, is in fact fairy tale, its de-fanged vampire hero operating as the glittering, unattainable prince whose power and attractions form the basis for an unexamined exclusive and heterosexual unity in classic fairy-tale terms." I am modestly proud of this sentence, which I think jumps all over Twilight's gender stupidities with a certain dignified restraint.
  • And, not unrelated to the above point, I finished this paper. Only 3 days late and 200 words over limit. And only moderate hair-tearing over bloody Chicago footnote style. Chicago footnote style brings me out in a rash. But it's done. Hooray!
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Today's two most recent google search terms in my browser: "college impact theory" and "103 Ways to Annoy Lord Voldemort". This tells you absolutely everything you need to know about my working life. On the upside, this Harry Potter paper is taking vague conceptual shape. I darkly suspect we may actually be dealing with institutional climate theory.

In other news, if one more student panics his/her way through that door and turns out not to be clutching the relevant paperwork, I may find myself perpetrating spontaneous avada kedavra tests in a working environment.
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It's not a pervy subject line, promise. Although I suspect that young Cormac McLaggen might strip down quite nicely, thank you, it would be a crying shame to remove Draco's Brooding Byronic Monochrome Suit of Svelte Young Brooding Doom, it was so admirably adapted to Byronic Posing. Besides, if they're in any way faithful to Deathly Hallows the next couple of movies have to strip Daniel Radcliff at least twice, one of them in multiple versions. Jack Sparrow Also Ran.

Anyway. I was, in fact, agreeably surprised by Half-Blood Prince, to which I finally dragged my long-suffering mother last night. (She was surprisingly up for it, having once nursed Emma Watson through a 'flu attack on a school trip to France, and thus having a certain interest in her subsequent activities. Apparently Emma's a nice child). Half of the Internets seem to have hated the movie, citing insufficient Horcrux action, insufficient attention paid to the Big Damn Death, weird wand mix-ups and suchlike. I say, cheerfully and without malice, that Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. It was a very watchable movie, its slightly multiple-personalitied Cute and Dark components actually nicely balanced, and above all it was stripped of all that Rowlingified extraneous detail, plot point multiplication and general amusing inessentialness which makes her writing, on the whole, the antithesis of elegant.

Further spoilery musings inescapably follow. You could escape by not clicking. )
I'm slightly fascinated by the disparity of responses to the film - equal amounts of love and hate. Is this the particular emotional baggage of the death at the ending, perhaps? I'm also wondering if the hate-bits will abate a tad when the next film comes out, if my sense of the narrative decisions they've made is accurate and the next film makes the logic more obvious by filling in gaps?
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The Daily Voice strikes again! This time, LESBIAN KILLED BY EVIL BUSH! or, possibly, LESBIAN KILLED IN EVIL BUSH! This is rife with possibility: (a) shrubbery, (b) the current anti-gay sentiment in the American administration, and (c) maddened dodgy euphemism. Also note the characteristic Daily Voice use of EVIL! It could never be a mildly annoying bush, or even a slightly badly-behaved one.

Ounce managed to distinguish himself this weekend by setting fire to his tail. He climbed into the Evil Landlord's lap while said EL was pewter-casting, turned around three times in that characteristic feline way, and passed his tail through the gas burner, causing it to merrily catch alight. He then lay there in blissful obliviousness to the conflagration, purring madly, while the EL extinguished the flames. Honestly, that cat has even less brain than Golux. Stv suggests that Ounce's drink is probably the Flirtini. I concur.

Have just sent jo&stv home full of reasonably successful tiramisu (I'm still in the recipe-tinkering stage), so that I can, at least, say that I achieved something this weekend. Oh, and most of today was spent reading Harry Potter papers and scrawling acerbic notes for this paper I'm writing jointly with [ profile] wolverine_nun. Glory, but you did a lot of research for this, w-n! Shall try and have something coherent for you by next weekend. Currently, I'm deeply suspicious of the pedagogic principles inherent in the HP novels, and inclined to disagree with the critics who see the hands-off teaching styles of the Hogwarts faculty as a chance for children to engage in self-directed study. Call me old-fashioned, but a curriculum slanted towards defeating Voldemort is not, in my book, addressing the inner needs of the individual child.
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Y'know, I really don't get why the world's publishing suits get so het up about Teh Internets, Eeeeevul Destroyer of Copyright. Since Tor started sending me a weekly link to a free online version of one of their sf novels, I have formed an unholy alliance with Take 2 and am now buying more sf novels than I ever have before. Because, yup, I actually don't enjoy reading on the screen, and if I fall for a novel, I want an actual copy in my hot little hands, not to mention any sequels that might be kicking around. I'd judge that about two-thirds of their offerings are pulp, or simply don't appeal to me, but guess what? I'd never have read them anyway, so the five minutes I spend reading through the first chapter or so before I reject it, is actually considerably more than I'd do if I was browsing in a bookshop. It's nice to see that some publishing houses are starting to catch on to free downloads as a marketing opportunity rather than The End Of The World, although I suspect the bulk of them are hopelessly reactionary and threatened by new technology and its cultural function, to the point where they are never really going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat.

Theoretical wossnames aside, this week's Tor offering is Orphans of Chaos, by one John Wright, an accomplished gentleman of whom I have not hitherto heard. His sort of weird semi-inexplicable Victorian/modern heroic school story shows a pleasing ability to (a) express itself in full sentences, (b) madly mix advanced multi-dimensional physics, mythology, and a sort of quantum theory of comparative paradigm function, and (c) demonstrate that any vague pretensions I had to be a classical mythology geek are, alas, entirely delusional. It is also an enormous pleasure to run across an author who hooks you into his novel by throwing you in headfirst and refusing to explain anything. I devoured Orphans while I should have been working on Friday, and have ordered it and all the sequels posthaste. Recommended.

I've just realised, reading this back, that "weird semi-explicable Victorian/modern heroic school story" makes the novel sound as though it's a Harry Potter rip-off, and I hasten to say that this is absolutely not the case - this is far more complex and interesting, and utterly different in flavour. On the other hand, courtesy of Dayle, I am pleased to note that J K Rowling's address to the Harvard grad ceremony shows that, Potterverse moral dubiousness notwithstanding, she may actually be capable of ideological self-awareness.

Now, off to cook garlic pork roast and malva pudding for jo&stv, because I have the excuse that it's winter.
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It seems to be a random sort of morning. Thus, random linkery:

Programming language inventor or serial killer? Difficult to say, actually. I got 5/10. It's cheating to actually know what seminal programmers look like, all you geeks who are going to knock my score into a cocked hat.

And, apparently, Dumbledore was gay. No, really, Rowling says so. I have to say (a) I thought so, so much of his dottiness is explained by the Great Tragic Love Affair With The Proto-Nazi, and (b) she's timed the announcement beautifully: manages to have her political cake and eat it. All the liberals will be jumping around happily, the fanficcers are probably swooning, and she's already sold all the books to the frothing right-wing who will feel the need to denounce gay wizards. You go, girl.

I'm a bit sad that Neville marries Hannah Abbot, though. Gay!Neville is a curiously compelling fanfic creation.

Off now to herd toddlers. Wish me luck.

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Right, you lot, time to uphold my reputation as an authority on kids' fantasy. I've just had a random email from a gentleman who is looking for the title of a children's fantasy novel he read years ago. I don't think I've personally encountered this one, although some bits ring a bell, and would be grateful for suggestions, since creative googling is failing miserably (other than to make me read all sorts of interesting descriptions of children's fantasy).

The book would have been published before 1996. Details he remembers, which may or may not be accurate, include:
  • a main character who is a travelling wizard/entertainer with a fondness for magically-disguised fake gold coins which cause irritated townsfolk in large quantites;
  • a visit to a king's court with women in partially and magically translucent clothing;
  • a Bad Guy who creates armies of undead triggered by detection wards;
  • the Bad Guy's immense, hidden, underground, magical city;
  • a scene in which the main characters are trapped in a small room while a centaur henchman patrols the corridors, leaving a stream of droppings in his wake.
Given the depths of literacy and fantasy-exposure of the witterers who read this blog, I'm hoping someone has enlightenment to offer. Off you go, then...

Department of Random Linkery Especially For [ profile] d_hofryn: I got this from Making Light, although some of you may have picked it up on boingboing. If Edward Gorey Did Tribbles. The pile of mewling fluff is particularly fine.

Now I must go and write a fifteen-minute presentation to give to an assorted horde of Potter-fanciers tomorrow. How to say "Rowling sucks as a writer but I enjoy her anyway" while simultaneously sounding intelligent? I am wryly amused to note that in the advertising bumf for the talk, I feature as the HoD of English. *clutches brow in anguished irony*

Last Night I Dreamed: a cavernous and disorienting replica of my old high school, through the endless corridors of which I wandered in search of the English dept. When I arrived it was filled with a random assortment of people from my junior and high schools who, in sharp contradistinction to the realities of my actual school experience, were (a) all embarking on postgraduate careers, and (b) surprisingly glad to see me. Some sort of war was raging without, but we more or less ignored it in order to organise amateur theatricals and orient the confused French student.

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Am I alone in having a subconscious highly trained to keep my place in books? If I stop reading in the middle of a page and come back some time later, I'll automatically start at the line where I left off, as long as I don't actually think about it. This suggests that I might have done a lot better in general knowledge quizzes at school if I'd made a habit of answering questions on the turn, by instinct, preferably while distracting all conscious input by mentally reciting my eight times table, in French.

On an almost entirely unrelated note, although vaguely on the subject of reading (I'm now towards the end of the post-Snapely-insight Harry Potter seven-book marathon), possibly the single most annoying aspect of the wizarding world is their version of Muggle clothing. Honestly. There is absolutely no shadow of a shred of justification for that degree of ignorance about the world which surrounds them. Once again, Rowling sacrifices all logic for faintly comic effect. Pshaw.

Last Night I Dreamed: that I was working for Simon Pegg, who was running for some kind of political office. I was doing research and writing speeches, as well as co-ordinating a massive pack of ditzy blonde female campaign workers, and playing housekeeper to the rather nice house. Vague apocalypse, with chase scenes up water towers, intervened. At some point I was also working in a bookshop, agonizing about shelving kids' fiction (I ended up separating "children's" from "young adult" depending on whether or not they mentioned sex). I think my subconscious is a bit paranoid about finding a new job.

oh, hell.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007 12:16 pm
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Epic manoeuvres this morning: all four cats needed to be taken to the vet for shots and deworming, an incredible procedure requiring three baskets, two people, half an hour's head start for purposes of putting cats in bags, and the cunning of the fiend in catching the little buggers, who have a well-developed ability to slide invisibly into an alternate dimension the second you even think about finding the cat-boxes. With my mother's able assistance we triumphed, however, at no greater cost than her being slashed by Todal during the bit where Todal sticks her paws against the cat-box opening and braces with all the might of her solid and muscular form. Also, the cacophonous four-voice litany of complaint started the instant the first cat went into a box and kept up until we decanted them in the living room at the end of the visit, necessitating me exchanging comments with the vet at the tops of both our voices. I emerged from the experience covered in cat hair and kitty piss. Dear little kitties.

The nasty bit of the whole operation was the routine annual onceover so detrimental to feline dignity. Fish has some kind of horrible thing on her gums, which has a microscopic chance of being an ulcerated abscess, but is far more likely, given its invasive nature, to be a cancerous growth. If this is the case, it's inoperable and largely untreatable. She goes in for biopsy on Monday. Please hold thumbs, cross fingers or otherwise observe rituals of good luck on her behalf. I've rejoiced in Fish-ownership for about fifteen years now, and it's going to be truly horrible if I have to have her put down, even though with the worst case scenario it won't be for a while. I realise this will affect [ profile] first_fallen about as badly as it does me. Sorry, f-f.

Am busy re-reading the whole Harry Potter series to see how it hangs together now that we know where it's going. In Book I Hagrid tells Harry that James and Lily were Head Boy and Head Girl in their day. What's with all that later stuff about James not being a prefect? Continuity!

Last Night I Dreamed: that someone gave me news that made me really, really unhappy, causing me to spend most of the night wandering restlessly over a giant estate refusing to talk to the anxious friends who were following me. At one point a pair of Indian doctors in labcoats climbed inexplicably into the ceiling of a bathroom, clutching a giant light fitting. At another point jo&stv were relocating their entire book collection to cavernous shelves upon which someone had scrawled cryptic messages in the dust. Parts of the estate garden were given over to epic Hollywood war movies, entailing giant battles and explosions past which I obliviously wandered, moodily swishing a stick. A couple of times Tom Cruise trotted past in MI running mode. It was all a bit odd. I swear I don't make this stuff up...

while we're about it

Sunday, 22 July 2007 09:35 am
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When hopelessly submerged in Harry Potter, go with the flow. More (spoiler-free) musings. Or, if you've read it or don't intend to, an extremely scathing and amusing blow-by-blow review.

One of Rowling's major problems in constructing the Harry stories is the way in which she goes about isolating her child heroes from adult contribution or oversight. This is a perennial problem in children's fantasy: for purposes of kiddy-reader-gratification, as well as for a more or less romance plot to work, the hero needs to be testing his/her own abilities against the world without too much input from grown-ups. Quest romance is individualistic: children learning to work with adults, rather than apart from them, moves the whole thing back into the realm of the real.

Various children's writers deal with this in more or less intelligent ways. Options include:
  • Giving the kids a good social/structural reason to work apart from adults. Examples: John Christopher's Tripods trilogy or Scott Westerfeld's Uglies: children deliberately escaping a predetermined social fate which hits them at a particular age and to which most adults have already succumbed.
  • More or less related: children who cannot work with adults because the adults are more or less assholes across the board. Good example: Diana Wynne Jones, Year of the Griffin: another magic-school story in which the adult wizards are all idiots as a result of the social conditioning of the tours, whereas the kids are bright and able to think outside the box.
  • Children with no adults to whom to appeal, i.e. orphans, runaways, children separated from their parents by circumstances. Diana Wynne Jones, again, does this very well in The Dark Lord of Derkholm, in which one parent is enchanted into indifference and the other critically ill, leaving the kids to struggle through an extremely demanding situation on their own. Rowling partially uses this technique, although she flaws it by including an isolated child within a validated system, rather than an isolated child outside an invalidated system (yes, the Ministry gets all totalitarian later on, but Hogwarts under Dumbledore is supposed to be a supportive and nurturing environment): you keep asking why the system doesn't compensate for the isolation, whereas in Dark Lord it's perfectly obvious that the system is unfair and stupid.
  • Kids separated from the normal world by particular powers/destiny/what have you - the other half of Rowling's strategy. But I invite you to compare it to Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising, in which Will's realisation of his power and purpose is beautifully cushioned by mentor figures who offer a careful and effective balance of education, testing and support. This is possibly where HP is most flawed: Rowling randomly brings adults in and out depending on the narrative needs of Harry's quest, at the cost of any consistent or coherent relationship he can build up with those adults - or, in fact, with his own identity and abilities. Also, half the adults are idiots, or at least hamstrung by narrative necessity so that they're forced to act like idiots and later unconvincingly come up with justifications.
The problem with comparing HP to other kids' fantasy is that I find myself wondering why I actually enjoyed the series. Phooey. Possibly she's controlling our responses by hypnotic drumming from orbit. (Which reminds me. Major Russel T. Davies rant coming up, once I've fulminated a bit on the last three episodes of Who.)

Last Night I Dreamed About: exploring ruined fantasy Morrowind cities; being nervous late at night in campus corridors; breeding very small horses.

hallo, death!

Saturday, 21 July 2007 02:27 pm
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I know I spend a lot of time fulminating about JK Rowling and her more or less dodgy writing abilities, but the fact remains, I've spent the last 24 hours bouncing about in happy expectation of the last Potter novel, largely unashamed to be acting like a fifteen-year-old girl. En route to Deathly Hallows collection at 8am this morning, I had that joyous anticipatory stomach-fluttering that you get when you wake up on your tenth birthday. (Or when you're about to head out for a hot date, an analogy I'd be happier to use if my copy had had the adult cover. However, since apparently the adult cover shipment to SA was inexplicably delayed, they're not yet available. Strange but true). I've now spent all morning on the sofa, forcing myself to read at a more or less seemly speed. All this points to the inevitable truth: Rowling may not craft the world's most deathless prose, but her world damned well pulls you in whether you like it or not.

I realise that many of you may not yet have acquired or read the book, and, with [ profile] strawberryfrog's dire warning resounding in my ears, I shall cunningly conceal heavy spoilers behind the cut. Suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the book: it makes a far more coherent and logical thing out of the disparate elements of the series than I would have thought possible. It unleashes moments both of genuine pathos (tricky, when everyone's braced for multiple deaths) and neat plot twists, a phrase I'd never have thought I'd apply to Rowling.

Accio spoilerage! click at your peril! )
So, there we have it. That was Harry Potter, that was. I am fascinated to see what Teh Internets, not to mention the academic community, are going to make of the thing as a whole. The more interesting question, though, is whether kids twenty years down the line are going to go all round-eyed at the thought that we were actually there for the book releases, or if they'll be all "Harry who?" My suspicions are towards the latter. I think the books aren't really interesting as literature so much as their identity as momentary iconage of the zeitgeist. They don't say as much about the Boy Who Lived as they do about the lives of his readers.

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I woke up randomly at 5.30am yesterday, and couldn't get back to sleep, which means I staggered into Order of the Phoenix last night fighting off great waves of tiredness and expecting to fall gently asleep halfway through. In the event this was a foolish expectation, as (a) the film moves at breakneck speed which makes its two-and-a-half whizz past on amphetamines, and (b) there's no way anyone could sleep through all that breaking glass.

The film promotes interesting meditation on narrative. (Although in my case most things promote interesting meditations on narrative... darn all this academia). It's a fascinating process, watching Rowling's comfy, well-padded story, rife with scarves, hats, capes, bits of string, random bits of weird jewellery and the occasional extra appendage, being scientifically stripped to lean muscle and bone by the scalpel-wielding scriptwriter. You end up a bit sad to lose a particularly well-loved dangly accessory, but the aesthetic pleasures of the emerging svelte form are more than consolatory. The only problem is that Rowling's writing style, which is very much geared towards building up the whole out of buckets of trivia, doesn't always respond well to accessory-stripping, in the sense that sometimes the removal of a scarf or bit of string reveals the missing chunk of bone in the underlying limb. Some of that extraneous detail actually isn't extraneous at all.

Detailed dissection behind the cut )

For a far more entertaining take on the film, [ profile] mistful does Emo!Harry and, predictably enough, mega homoerotic subtext. Memo to self: desperately require LOL-Dementor icon with "CAN HAS SOULZ" motif.

(p.s. did anyone else catch Jessica Stevenson in the Ministry of Magic hearing scene? She's listed in the film credits, but not on IMDB, which is weird. Plays Mafalda Hopkirk.)

In other news, the Friendly Psychologist insists that I note dreams on this blog, on the grounds that she enjoys reading them. Who am I to disobey instructions from a professional?

Last Night I Dreamed that jo came to visit, bringing with her about seven or eight more-or-less interchangeable ten-year-old girls - mostly blonde. They were very well-behaved, filing into the house in a long line and accepting in a polite chorus when I offered them tea.


Monday, 16 July 2007 10:05 am
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Today's Weirdness: a giant, articulated, multi-storey car-carrier lorry thing, loaded with new Isuzu long-wheel-base vehicles, stopped on the side of the road 10m from a busy intersection, in rush hour traffic, blocking an entire lane. The reason? as far as I can work out, so that about four guys could climb around on top washing the cars. There is no reason. The human race has lost the plot.

Very Harry-Potter immersed at the moment... always challenging, as I've read enough fan fiction that I have to continually belabour my dodgy memory to separate out more interesting fanfic events from the actual canon. (Hot Harry/Draco encounters not so much of a problem). I'm going to go out on a limb with last-book predictions, now bulleted on jo's instructions for your reading pleasure.
  • I tend to make predictions within genre parameters (thesis: this is a folkloric giant's-heart narrative), so JK could always blindside me by actually doing something innovative. Nonetheless, IMHO Harry will defeat Mouldy Warts after destroying the last Horcrux.
  • Harry himself won't die, nor will Ron or Hermione.
  • I think a Weasley might buy it, either a brother or a parent (I hope it's Percy).
  • Snape will quite possibly die, but only after proving himself (a) loyal to Dumbledore, and (b) central to the overthrow of Mouldy Warts.
  • I'm not sanguine about Neville Longbottom's survival chances.
  • For the record, I don't think that McGonagall is a spy for Voldemort, although it's an entertaining theory. (The evidence collated by the linked article I fear I tend to ascribe to JK's bad writing...)
Re-reading, I'm moderately impressed by the way in which JK salts throwaway ideas into earlier novels for later re-use: Dumbledore's mention of the Room of Requirements, for example. By this logic, the epic confrontation with Voldemort will undoubtedly rely on a bizarre configuration of Hermione's knobbly Elf hats, Ginny's Seekrit Seeker Skillz, the giant squid, and Trevor the Toad's propensity for running away. Or something.

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It's a technojinx, that's what it is. Somewhere in my generally user-friendly, cookery-loving, innocently not-quite-in-this-universe aura is a fatal flaw that causes computers to randomly explode whenever I come near them. I mean, even Oblivion is crashing four or five times as often for me as it does for the Evil Landlord, although that could also have something to do with the fact that I keep accidentally walking through my horse*.

The Death Of The Motherboard a couple of weeks back was quite enough heart palpitation for one computer-year, but clearly karmic build-up had not been expiated. On Thursday my hard drive died. No amount of kicking, swearing and invocation of demon gods would allow it to boot up. Encapsulated on said hard drive is my revised thesis, work on several encyclopedia entries, and a great deal of information I do not at all care to lose. All but the most recent work is actually backed up on campus, but this does not include the file full of notes representing two months' worth of Disney research which I need to beat into shape to make an actual entry. There was, as you might guess, much wailing and gnashing of knees.

Fortunately the Evil Landlord leaped madly into the breach in his usual fashion and installed his own old hard drive, thus executing a neat echo of precisely the manoevre we used for the dead motherboard. (Memo to self, make creme caramel for Evil Landlord). Slaved to the new hard drive, mine can actually be read, although it has large holes in some of the data, including bang in the middle of the sixth episode of Doctor Who. (Woe! Woe!) Fortunately, however, thesis and encyclopedia entries are unflawed. What I have lost, with pinpoint accuracy, is the data file for my Thunderbird inbox, which means if you've sent me an e-mail recently to which I have not yet responded, please resend it, it has vanished irretrievably into the nether regions of aetheric hell. It's been a pretty weird day, trying to restore to my computer all my programs, settings and what have you. Talk about identity slippage.

Of course, my techno-jinx has had definite assistance of late from some sort of all-embracingly nasty astrological conjunction, causing not only computer crashes, but break-ups, cookery disasters and the theft, last night, of jo&stv's car, the famed Roachmobile of legend and song. I thus feel impelled to add my mite of joy to the unrelieved gloom by mentioning the happy little revelation accorded last night by watching Goblet of Fire again in the company of a sadly visa-stressed [ profile] starmadeshadow. Did anyone else notice that Mad-Eye Moody's weird Scottish outfit for the Yule ball includes, in a gesture making for slashy swooning in all directions, a sporran made from a flayed white ferret? Heh.

* In other silly Oblivion news, the horse is buggy enough that its current stabling plan involves leaving it levitating outside my front door, stuck through the porch roof so you can only see its feebly galloping hooves and whatever the bottom part of a horse's leg is called. (Fetlock? Pastern? Something technical which no amount of Dick Francis is going to make me recall). Words cannot express how ridiculous it looks.


Sunday, 8 January 2006 09:55 pm
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A thousand words on Tim Burton, in just under two hours. I've been stunned, and looking at the world slightly skew, all day. It's also been a bit of an abrupt transition into the next topic, which is George Macdonald, the Victorian Scottish minister whose Christian fantasies inspired both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. However, having just seen Narnia and re-read the series, I feel somewhat braced for maddened theological allegory.

I am forced to the realisation that the amount of socialising, and attendant house-cleaning, in the last few weeks has been perfectly ridiculous. The madness of Boxing Day and New Year were followed at a neatly week-long interval by the Evil Landlord's combination birthday party and garage-warming on Friday night. This filled the house to the brim with a slightly different assortment of friends, mainly his, obviously. I realise that they are, on average, considerably larger and more male in weighting than the crowd we have in common, and consequently, given all the height and deep-chestedness, create a noise level several turns up from previous parties. The demented neighbour did her usual stint of thunderous, pointed window-banging, swearing and the odd witch-like cackle, although this time she didn't actually sprinkle our back courtyard with her hosepipe. It was a pleasant evening, but, as aforementioned, loud, and full of large people. Other than Friday it's been a blissfully quiet weekend, generally, which was becoming highly necessary. I bunked an SCA event yesterday on the grounds not only of pressing Tim Burton, but the realisation that in my current post-festive state, putting me in a room with anything more than about two other people at once is a sure recipe for someone's kneecaps being gnawed. I enjoy socialising. Up to a point.

Today's perfectly delirious discovery: an actual justification for the existence of Harry Potter. The New York Times has an article on a medical research paper which discovers that the rate of admission to an Oxford emergency room for musculo-skeletal injuries in the 7-15 year age-group drops to half of the norm on the weekends when a new Harry Potter novel is released. The paper is pleasingly tongue-in-cheek in tone, although the science appears fairly real; the authors were interested in the effects of Harry Potter on injury incidence given "the lack of horizontal velocity, height, wheels or sharp edges associated with this particular craze." They conclude that there may be "a place for a committee of safety-conscious, talented writers who could produce high-quality books for the purpose of injury prevention." (I'm quoting chunks because NYT is a login-only site, and you may not wish to create a login.) Given that Rowling is, generally speaking, neither safety-conscious, talented or a producer of high-quality books, I can only regard their hypothesis as speculative in the extreme.
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As my Evil Landlord points out, today's Order of the Stick (#253) is a particularly entertaining and rather rude Harry Potter rip-off. I always knew Dumbledore was a warthog.
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New challenge: to construct a subject line from Omar Khayyam by randomly opening it at a page, and finding something relevant. The first attempt worked rather well, given that this morning I did go forth (channels Samuel Pepys, the de facto patriarch of blogging) and see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This breaks my hitherto unbreakable rule, which is never to see movies in their first week unless they're Serenity or Lord of the Rings, but in fact ends up rewriting said rule with a corollary: unless it's a 9.15 a.m. show, in which case the cinema is gratifyingly empty. The older I get, the more I hate crowds. Must be the Granny Weatherwax Syndrome. Anyway, today's film was relatively underattended, and the smallish horde of screaming kids was, in fact, relatively well behaved, except for the clutch of early teenagers sitting behind me, who snickered at all the off colour jokes, which was OK, because it covered up the way I was snickering at the off-colour jokes. Spoilery sort of review follows )

Book club last night: a more than usually talkative, giggly and sozzled sort of evening, punctuated by excellent food cooked, in a pleasing reversal of cliche, by attendant men - stv on Thai, and the Evil Landlord on don pedros. I restrained myself, and have only come away with a P J O'Rourke, Allende's Zorro, and a second stab at The Time-Traveller's Wife, a novel which I was unable to read beyond the first few pages last time I tried. Presumably the structuralist criticism will let up enough at some point for me to actually read frivolous stuff like literature.

The Army of Reconstruction have, in defiance of all probability, more or less constructed a garage in our front garden. Yesterday and today were somewhat noisy, as they took down the old pillars off the pergola outside my bedroom, only killing half the grape-vine in the process, and joyously dug up various drains in pursuit of some or other obscure end. The garage is roofed, half-painted and almost doored; another few days and I'll be able to make the final survey which will reveal how many square inches of lawn have actually survived. My guestimate: about three and a half.
freckles_and_doubt: (Howl's Moving Castle)
The New York Times is making approving noises about the Goblet of Fire movie, which I suppose is not that surprising given that it's Mike Newell, who rather rocks as a director. But I liked their nuanced judgement of Ralph Fiennes: "His Voldemort may be the greatest screen performance ever delivered without the benefit of a nose".

Falkenstein tonight! The party have handily dispatched a trio of vampirish women who turned out not, in fact, to be the vampires they were looking for. Darned Jedi mind tricks. And Neil's character lost his head and tried to shoot an English aristocrat in good standing. Does anyone have floor plans of the Tower of London...?
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OK, so now my stomach muscles are aching from laughing to the point where I'm forgetting about the aching back. This suggests that, unbelievably, somewhere in the fundamental heart and mind of the universe there is actually something like a Reason and a Purpose to Really, Really Bad Harry Potter Fanfic. A collection of completely hysterical Potterfic summaries is up here, link courtesy of Confluence. Read it and weep. Oh, and beware of Lord Volemort.


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