freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
One of the advantages of driving the Evil Landlord's old car, mitigating somewhat the exhaust fumes in the cab, the non-operational inside catch to the driver's door and the lack of rear bumper, is that the radio works. I've ended up listening to 5FM on the way to and from campus a great deal, the best of a non-perfect set of options given my music tastes. (Everyone plays rap and hip-hop, there's no escaping it, but at least 5FM plays less R&B and more SA alt/rock than KFM, although in this case "more" means "slightly above zero". And I like their DJs, who are frequently rude and iconoclastic). This 5FM exposure has had various interesting knock-on effects, among them a growing fondness for Desmond and the Tutus and an ability to collapse giggling at this particularly delirious work of fan-art, which crosses The Hobbit with "Thrift shop" and which causes me to think "What up I got a big elk" and lose it every time they play the song. (Warning: click on "Thrift Shop" link at your own peril, it's insanely catchy).

Today, however, they played a weird St. Patrick's day mix which featured a good minute or so of "Tubthumping". I barely knew this song until recently, Chumbawamba hadn't really colonised my musical life even back in their heyday, but a month or so back I ran into a hysterically funny piece of Avengers fanfic which includes, among other things, a drunken birthday party at which Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three are introduced to "Tubthumping", which appears to nicely encapsulate their warrior-booze ethos. The scene amused me enough that I dug up the song on Youtube, whereupon it promptly ear-wormed me, and has continued to do so ever since at random intervals after random triggers including mentions of booze, the Warriors Three, parties, tubs, the whisky drink or resilience. With any luck today's subject line has ear-wormed you, thus enacting the only possible response to an ear-worm, which is to pass the bloody thing on. (For the record, although to do so is terminally unhip, I have to say that I rather enjoy "Tubthumping" and there are far worse ear-worms).

I owe an apology to the nice ladies of the book club. Yesterday was something of a blur: I woke up with a bit of a headache, which proceeded to worsen, with side orders of sweating and nausea, throughout my 8am psychologist's session. (It didn't help that my control was thus way down when she hit a couple of major nerves with meticulous accuracy, causing me to lie in the chair sobbing jerkily between distracted assertions of "No, no, it's fine, you're absolutely right, this is an important insight.") I crawled back home in a slightly shattered state, called in sick, took insane amounts of sinus meds and fell into bed for five hours, which helped a great deal. It did, however, mean that I spent the rest of the day shambling around the house in a dazed and zombified state, completely not registering that it was (a) Thursday, (b) the 14th, and (c) book club night. When Tracy phoned in an enquiring sort of way to find out where the hell I was, I was peaceably making myself french toast for supper in an unwashed, rumpled and generally stunned-herring sort of persona entirely unsuited to leaving the house for any reason. Sorry, ladies. I plead lack of brain, mostly because it was too busy biting me.

Yesterday wasn't good, but today is better, probably because of all the extra sleep. Also, two things.
(1) Veronica Mars movie kickstarter. Official, Rob Thomas-led, all the stars on board. Eeeeeeee!
(2) Leopard in a box. Your argument is invalid, because leopard in a box.


(The pic has led the usual phantom Tumblr reblog existence for a few days, the link above is the earliest one I can find. Tumblr's psychotic defence of their touching belief that a reblog constitutes an actual source drives me fifty sorts of demented).
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I've been thinking of this as a four-day headache, except that actually it's in day 6, so obviously I can't count. To be perfectly fair, it's only the initial migraine and the last two days which have been horrible, although today is making interested noises about forming a club with its predecessors, it wishes to subscribe to their newsletter. The bugger is that the Warfarin Regimen, TM, means I can't take anti-inflammatories, so I'm driven to tramadol, which doesn't work and won't let me sleep, or codeine, which makes me sleep so I can't work. Since I have the traditional, annual 2cm-thick pile of board schedules to annotate today, this is less than optimal.

Please consider this paragraph to include the also traditional, annual rant about board schedule checking, how a computer should do it, redundant waste of ill-suited personpower, insult to my academic training, etc etc. Thank you. I feel better now. Also, if aliens are going to abduct me any time soon, please do it now, so I don't have to finish checking the bloody thing. Thxbai.

By way of not being absolutely boring, here is a lovely article about the fact that contemporary Hollywood is basically in the demographic-pandering fanfic business. It's true. Fanfic is everywhere. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

I go to meet my doom. Excelsior.
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Reading, the lost art. My last two days have been hideous because nameless individuals scatter-shot emailed the entire student body with instructions on what to do if you're facing academic exclusion, i.e. haven't passed enough courses to be permitted to continue. Buried in the second paragraph of this communication, below the giant red headline about ACADEMIC EXCLUSION!, is an instruction that this applies only to students who find themselves excluded once the results come out. From the number of phone calls, emails and students in my office all panicking needlessly about the email telling them they're excluded, only a tiny fraction of them actually read that far. I can't work out if I'm more narked at the twit who emailed so thoughtlessly, or all the non-reading students.

So, in fact, it's not just reading, the lost art; it's thinking.

I certainly am not thinking at the moment, not so you'd notice. Monday's sinus headache kept me off work on Tuesday, mostly sleeping; yesterday was OK, if a bit spacey, but today the rampagings of Sid have gone from the "Ow" setting on the throb-o-metre all the way across to "Epic sledgehammer." I'm at the stage where the student phone call that occupied my last five minutes caused me to spend most of it wistfully eyeing the Advil I'd popped out of its bubble but hadn't taken owing to the phone interrupting me before I could hunt down a glass of water. Life Skills To Acquire: chugging tablets without water. I can't do it. My throat rebels and there are nasting gagging noises. It's all horribly inefficient. Also, ow.

naughty monkey

Tuesday, 13 July 2010 10:44 am
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One of these fine days I'm going to wake up all Sid-ravaged, force down some breakfast to armour my stomach against the anti-inflammatories, stagger blearily into my bathroom to grope for the Advil, and not immediately drop one down the basin plughole. Apart from the fact that this butterfingers tendency is almost doubling my Advil quota and causing the nice chemist man to look at me narrowly every time I buy another pack, it adds insult to injury to contemplate the fact that the basin drain system must have the most decongested, least inflamed tubes on the planet. There's no justice.

In other news: new Guild episode, first in Season 4, and Fawkes is still prevalent, yay! I find myself hopelessly rooting for the Fawkes/Codex relationship: they're both so screwed up, but I can't help feeling that if they could only synchronise their separate rare moments of functionality, they'd be good together. (And a cynical voice of internal reason with considerable experience in my romantic history enquires, sarcastically, "Projecting much?"). The Season 4 trailer is all over the show, try here. "Naughty monkey sex" is my new favourite phrase. (Alternatively, ignore all of the above. Am I the lone voice of Guild fandom in this corner of the internets? It is a sad and isolate state. It's also leaving me with a sneaking desire to try WoW, except that that, probable enrichment of my internet lectures notwithstanding, that way madness lies).

Right, vampire Snow Whites beckon, although they're not going to get the attention they deserve until the bloody Advil kicks in. I find it doubly unfair that the sinus headache tendency seems to have joined forces with the dear little clockwork-regular PMT headache, causing a monthly 2-day epic double-whammy - hormonal headache plus concrete skull symptoms, not pretty. It's all making me seriously consider the nice operation thing where they scrape out your sinuses, which sounds icky but which may be a tenable alternative to all this business of dropping pills down the sink. And whinging at the internets. Dear internets, you're such a comfort to me.
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Does anyone remember Shadowrun? It was a FASA role-playing setting and system which went through a brief vogue in the early 90s: the premise was that Weirdness Happens somewhere around 2050, and a dark near-future high-tech world is suddenly infused with elves and magic and trolls and dwarves, oh my. The William Gibson-style cyberpunk setting was very big at the time, with systems like R.Talsorian's Cyberpunk itself and ICE's Cyberspace (sheds a tear for the late lamented Rolemaster...); Shadowrun was a fairly inevitable portmanteau spinoff in which you, the happy roleplayer, didn't have to choose between sf and fantasy, but could indeed have it all. It's actually interesting that in some ways the contemporary paranormal romance genre follows a similar path - modern urban setting mixed with magic, although not always with the big-corp heavy-tech cyberware feel that Shadowrun had.

One of the upshots of Shadowrun, though, is that I can't really come across any setting in which magic and tech exist side-by-side without a sort of mental yawn and shrug - so done, you know, so old, such a cliché. So when the book club acquired the first in Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity series, Keeping It Real, I grabbed it precisely because I was expecting formulaic stuff with reportedly hot and schlocky elf-sex, and that's pretty much where my still sinus-infected and glandular brain is at right now. Oops. Um. Error.

Justina Robson is a pretty damned good writer, and while her series (of which I have now whacked through the first two) is superficially similar to the Shadowrun premise (weird mystic event creates parallel dimensions filled with elves, faerie, demons, ghosts and elementals who all joyously impinge on Earth; the main character is a hugely cybernetic assassin), it's also a lesson in how to take a cliché and twist it into something dense, thought-provoking and astonishingly real. The world-building here is superb: these different creatures and dimensions come with their own complex, challenging, truly alien societies, all tied in beautifully to different kinds of magic and energy, with complicated political goings-on, double-bluffs and betrayals. (The demon society is sheer genius). There's actually hot elf-sex, but not gratuitously, and it's enormously illuminating of the characters, races and magical systems involved. I tip my hat to an author capable of constructing a love interest who's an elven rock-star and who isn't actually cheesy. Also, her exploration of the damaged psyche of the cyberised character, and the implications of being a mostly metal killing machine in a magical world, is sensitive and compassionate.

So, yes. I recommend these books highly. They're at least ten times as dense and challenging as you expect, they don't go where you expect them to, they do it at breakneck speed while ripping your brain out through both ears and tying it in a bow on the top of your head, and they're fiercely intelligent. It's a hell of a ride. I want the rest of the series, now. Or at least when this bloody headache lets up and I can focus to read. Three days of Sid laughing at the Advil is really pushing it, I think.
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The Techno-Jinx is putting on its spurs and stetson to ride again, dammit - this ADSL has taken to randomly falling over every week or so, for six or eight hours, for no adequately defined reason, and then randomly re-discovering its raison d'être and reconnecting all off its own bat. My nice Imaginet guys are of the opinion that the Telkom re-cabling dude did something monumentally stupid, which I have to say sounds surprisingly likely, and they are chasing up Hellcom and demanding redress on my behalf. Anyway, hell hath no grumpy like an Extemp suddenly deprived the next chapter in the middle of a particularly sizzling Spike/Buffy fanfic. Fortunately the Imaginet fiddling seems to have put it back up. For now, she says darkly.

It also doesn't help that I spent the last two days taking exhaustive notes at an exhausting workshop, which was remarkably filled with sweetness, light and co-operation for a bunch of academics talking about merging departments, but which has nonetheless left me feeling like a piece of string on which Sid has been nibbling for two days, with a sad and absolute lack of the more dodgy vampire-sex implications of nibbling. Every now and then Sid gets his sinusy dander up and declines absolutely to respond to pain-killers. I'm at the point where I'm eyeing the rum bottle speculatively.

However! I am pleased to report that the combination of exhaustion and exposure to multisyllabic academic jargon in spades is not, in fact, precluding interesting dreams. The other night I had a journey to the deep, windy, winding, dust-filled canyons of Mars, to bury the space-ship under a handy mountain and build the beautiful wide-balconied sandstone house at the head of the gorge, in order to raise strange alien flowers in pots. The advent of the small, pale, plump, sweetly childlike actual Martians was a bit of a blow as we had to pack up and leave, and they were really rather rude to us. Then last night I had a serious secret-agent hunt on, down the length of a fast-moving train through a desert landscape and in Victorian dress, going after the slim olive-skinned teenagers possessed of the nasty demon things which gave them the swirling eyes, and who I subsequently shot with considerable skill. There's something particularly satisfying about the kind of dream where you find you know exactly how to load and fire both an automatic and a Desert Eagle loaded with swanky occult bullets, at super-speeds and with throwaway calm. (Even if subsequent research reveals that the thing the dream labelled "Desert Eagle" was actually a particularly long-barrelled revolver). I found myself taking mental notes for future reference, just in case. I just hope my subconscious actually put the damned safety catch in the right place.

I shall now go and watch the season finale of Vampire Diaries, having the sense, possibly unjustly, that I've bloody earned it.


Tuesday, 18 May 2010 01:05 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
The combination of this iteration of Sid (second day of headache, laughs at Advil) and the urgent need to interview 60 potential orientation leaders before Friday, has robbed me of the little brain I possess at the best of times. I feel as though someone's been feeding me lubberwort, which was today's Worthless Word, and which basically means junk food that induces idleness and stupidity. Thus, another wayward puppy post! Narrative thread, who needs it. Also, bullet points are my friend.

  • This Periodic Table of Superhero Powers is wildly entertaining. I am conscious of a wish that I was enough of a comic book geek to know the background story to Gt and Af.

  • I promised this to various people the other day: Tom Cruise is kicked in sternum by small cute blonde, goes backwards over craft table. I am far more amused by this than I really should be.

  • Doctor Hoo: the Doctor as owls. No, really. Wolsplosion! Ridiculously cute, and some of them are bizarrely accurate. Also, bonus points for neatly encapsulating two of my fixations.

  • This image brought to you courtesy of my headache, which needs consolation. I finished Season 1 of Vampire Diaries, which delivered some relatively satisfying television for its cheesy teen format. I thank my lucky stars that I am now old and cynical enough to read "I am tortured and betrayed" as "I am a total dick", otherwise there'd be a serious level of Damon obsession. Plus, psychopath, so done. But he's still ridiculously pretty.

    The only thing preventing me from a desperate plea for Season 2 is the fact that I have to watch a metric buttload of Helsing this weekend in order to mark a student essay. My life is frequently surreal.

Now there shall be several gallons of tea, because I just interviewed 11 undergrads in a row, and my head hurts.

the house always wins

Thursday, 15 April 2010 03:21 pm
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Still sinusy, spaced, with cement in my cheekbones and an incipient headache about two feet back from my eyes. Lurking. On the upside, being at home yesterday meant I could supervise (a) the gardener, who continues annoying but at least washed my car, and (b) the house alarm guys, who rewired various sensors disrupted by the renovations, and then cheerfully told me that no, in fact the alarm wasn't working, it can't send a signal to the control room. No, they can't fix it. No, they can't even look at it. The system is too old, they won't repair it, it needs to be replaced. Since the Evil Landlord in fact only arranged for the rewiring after an extended wrestle with the bloody salesman, who is the kind of person who oversells to the point where you don't want to give him any money at all, and who was pushing for us to install a new 20-zone system "in case we want to expand" (to beam sensors in the garden, apparently), I find this curiously suspicious. Rotten swizz, if you ask me.

Also, the particular issue with the alarm failing to communicate means that it keeps innocently trying, thereby knocking out the phone line for 20 minutes and the ADSL for about an hour, or until you reboot the modem, leaving me with no internet for the day as the technicians kept on setting off the alarm in the course of their fiddling. I was, to say the least, narked. Fortunately this is exactly the kind of situation for which the EL's particular brand of Germanic stubbornness is made, and I can just leave him to get on with biting the heads off alarm company droids and burying their bodies in the garden. He's such a comfort to me.

Of course, my Sid-induced absolute lack of brain or initiative means that I've been driven to spend the time by re-watching Castle from the start, since no-one I know yet has the last five or six episodes of the second season and I'm still jonesing for precisely that level of fluff. (Besides, a classic detective plot has a very precise and different pleasure the second time around, as you spot all the clues). This has engendered a certain amount of meditation on the subject of guest actors, their weird recurrences, and that strange form of recognition they cause.

I've obviously now hit a specific sort of threshold where I've watched just enough recent American television to be able to routinely identify minor actors I've seen before. The first five episodes of Castle present the head zombie bad guy from "The Zeppo" playing a meth-head, Supernatural's Agent Victor Henricksen as the friend who helps bury the body plus the kid in "Croatoan" as a spoiled rich brat, Director Brandon from Alias as a corrupt ex-cop private eye, and the haunted lady from "Shadows" (early X-Files), playing a councilman's wife. Later episodes feature Roxy Wasserman from Middleman and a positive plethora of Buffy alumni, including Graham the square-jawed Initiative agent, Riley himself as an amnesiac, and the slightly delectable Principal Wood. The peculiar pleasure of watching TV on the computer is that you can pause the damned thing the instant a familiar face pops up, and head straight to IMDB to ID them accurately instead of having to sit there for the rest of the episode twitching because you can't remember where you've seen them before. (Or is that just me?)

But it does make me think that the guest-acting world must be very small. I don't watch a lot of TV, at least as compared to most non-five-armed-aliens, and they're really starting to pop up now. (And this is quite separate from the tendency of people like Joss and JJ Abrams to re-use actors from one series to another). One factor is, I think, that a bunch of the fantasy/sf TV I watch is apparently made in Vancouver, probably quite a small acting pool, although that doesn't explain all the crossovers with Buffy, filmed in LA. The actors also tend to get really, really typecast, which suggests many of them are types with a fairly limited range. Acting must be a really odd world in which to live and work: some of them have worked for dozens and dozens of series in minor parts. I find myself, possibly as a result of the temperature I was running yesterday, trying to invent LARP scenarios in which feature all the characters played by a single actor. Don't try this at home, kids. Your brain may explode.

Of course, the second side-effect of all this Castle is that I had enjoyably dodgy Nathan Fillion dreams all night, so score.
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Bleah. When I saw my Nice Doctor the other week, she mentioned in passing that it was great she hadn't seen me for a while, suggesting that the regular sinus infections had let up and I no longer had to hit her for antibiotics in desperation every six months. Apparently Sid the Sinus Headache, lurking in his lair somewhere in the interior of my skull, took this as a challenge. My boss sent me home at about 2.30 this afternoon on the grounds that I was increasingly bleary-eyed from the Sinus Headache of Drug-Ignoring Doom and there was a strong possibility that students were beginning to suspect I was cross-eyed and incoherent from the demon booze. No amount of Advil would stop the bloody sods in my skull from punching me repeatedly in both cheekbones and over my left eye. I staggered home, crashed on my bed and slept until 6pm, mostly under the Hobbit. I never do that, but it seems to have reduced the size of the hammers, even if the wretched things won't stop bashing me.

I take this personally. I believe in drugs for pain. What price human civilisation if we can't stop the ouch? Phooey.

Also, have whacked through fifteen episodes of Castle in short order, because they're moreish like chocolate pralines and I can't stop myself from watching about four in a row without stopping. Now I want more. But don't have any. Am going to bed grumpy, and sore, and also braced for a series of about four long, boring meetings over the next few days. Phooey. I do not want this life, it is skraatched.
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Remember the giant cable spiderweb left behind by the Army of Reconstruction? Bits of it visible here? It still exists, as the last major thing we need sorted out post the Renovations of Doom. So two weeks ago I phoned Telkom and told them we needed a complete internal telephone rewire on account of all the free-floating cables with the bare wires showing, and they said "Oh all right then" and gave me a reference number.

Today I embarked on the painful, futile, self-flagellatory process of finding out why I've heard nothing further. This necessitates Phoning Telkom Helplines, an activity widely held to be popular in the Ninth Circle of Hell, and involving 45 minutes of the same thirty seconds of syrupy hold music, four different operatives in a Möbius strip of "I am not the one, phone the other helpline", and the eventual revelation that my initial call went to the wrong place, was logged by the wrong person, given an invalid reference number, I'm the wrong person to be doing this, and will I please start from scratch, in hard copy, having first metamorphosed myself into the account holder. At which point I lost it badly, informed the final consultant, at considerable volume, that Telkom's services suck, their company sucks, their customer service ethos blows goats, and they're basically incompetent as a commercial entity, and slammed the phone down. (Note, even in psychotic rage I managed to avoid a personal attack on the hapless operator, whose only fault is her choice of employer).

I am no longer quivering solely because I've just eaten an entire bar of cranberry and macadamia nougat, which I bought for my sister last night (she's a nougat fiend) and had to take away again because they've put her on Warfarin and apparently it interacts with cranberries. (Change in diagnosis: not, in fact, Bell's Palsy, but actually a tiny lesion in an artery at the base of her skull, eventually revealed via a second MRI, three radiologists and a techy dweeb who's really enthusiastic about manipulating MRI images to reveal miniscule events. She's still getting better in leaps and bounds, and prognosis is just as good). I am also retaining mental health by the fixed contemplation of a four-day weekend coming up, Salty Cracker at Yindee's tonight, and a grim determination to bunk work at 3.30 sharp recking not the Dean's outraged stare.

Rant list update: (1) Telkom. (2) Parcelforce. That pretty much does it.
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O, billboard poets of Cape Town, how much do I love thee? I arrived at work in a fit of giggles this morning, having passed in quick succession the following three billboards:


This last was a beautiful delayed reaction. I'm even more muzzy than usual this morning, having woken up with a lurking sinus headache after a dodgily enjoyable dream involving, for some reason, me plus Vin Diesel and an unspecified but attractive Arab gentleman on the floor of the library, and I actually looked vaguely at the headline for a few seconds thinking "but they're not even parallel highways!" before I realised the date. Hee resulted.

I'm amused by how far this kind of joke heading makes use of the usual cognitive delay in attempting to parse the compressed meanings of a typical headline: you're so used to trying to make sense of the damned things, the absolute lack of sense in this particular context sneaks up on you.

While we're on the subject of the date: Unicorn School: The Sparkling is actually something I'd totally read, if only to watch Charlie Stross ruthlessly dissect it.

Four-day weekend coming up. I'm stoked.

sultry stuff

Tuesday, 9 March 2010 03:21 pm
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Cape Town has been ridiculously, absurdly, stinkingly hot, and yesterday was a complete killer, certainly the worst this hot season. It was made worse by the fact that in the heat of the afternoon I had to do a run to the Motor Neurone Disease Association to drop off the wheelchair and walker my dad had been using. The Association is a truly wonderful group of people who offer support and services to MND sufferers and their families, and we wouldn't really have been able to deal with all this without them. But the errand made me realise quite how much I loathed and detested that bloody wheelchair - a great, ungainly, difficult creature, hard to steer and tricky to collapse and reassemble when transporting it. It was a necessary thing and allowed my dad to get around, but I swear the wretched machine was possessed of an imp of perversity.

The combination of the heat and my last tussle with the Wheelchair of Intractability left me a bit shaken and twitching, so I wandered into the air-conditioned calm of the bargain book place in Pinelands, and browsed for half an hour. Result: two cookbooks, a clutch of Philip K. Dick, and Guilty Pleasures, the first of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake novels. (These last two make interesting bedfellows. For a value of "interesting" involving, I suspect, bad sex on mind-bending drugs).

Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series is one of the long-term success stories of the madly-burgeoning paranormal romance/urban fantasy category: Anita Blake is a modern-day vampire hunter and "animist", i.e. she raises the dead. (And lowers them, too.) I really had very low expectations of this series, since The Word On The Net has been that while many people adore the books they quickly degenerate into gratuitous supernatural sex. This is, however, apparently worse in the later books (there are almost twenty of the things) and I was interested to see what the first one was like - not least because I'm about to embark on my vampire lecture series again, and I get a bit completist about vampire texts. (If a student references a vampire text I haven't read/watched, there is Serious Shame.)

Um. It was actually fairly dreadful. The character is interesting, but unrealistic, the world likewise, and the whole is not well written. It was fascinating to see the parallels with Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse novels, since both deal with a world in which vampires have Come Out and are an accepted part of society and a source of major sexual fascination. Harris's first book was in 2001, Hamilton's in 1993, so one cannot acquit Harris of influence, but the truth is her treatment of the same basic premise is infinitely more accomplished. Above all I have to say that Hamilton's simple control of narrative and plot are severely lacking - the story is bitty, floundering and strangely unfocused. The sexual elements are also considerably more perverse while being, to my mind, infinitely less convincing. I wasn't gripped and I certainly wasn't titillated. In fact, phooey. Despite Hamilton's attempt at a get-out-of-jail-free quality pass in the book's title it's the Sookie novels I have read and re-read as a definite and unabashed guilty pleasure, and the whole set of which I own. I won't be going back to Anita Blake.

On the other hand, I'm sinusy and, cooler temperatures today notwithstanding, heatstressed, and have a horrible headache. Maybe I should have read Anita Blake in winter. But maybe it wouldn't make a difference.


Friday, 20 November 2009 11:49 am
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Right, own up. Who's got my Buffy Season 4^H^H^H 7? and, more importantly, what's the deep-seated human foible which leads me to believe, every single time I lend something out, that of course I'll remember who borrowed it and therefore won't have to write it down? Because I never do remember. Never. Because my memory transcends all metaphors of fluff and swiss cheese and goldfish to wander, vaguely and hopelessly, around whole new elevated planes of confusion, absence and loss.

Further to the above: also missing copies of Twin Peaks, Iron Council, several Bujolds and a bunch of other things which, naturally, I can't remember but which are causing suspicious gaps in my shelves. Please interrogate your stashes severely and report back posthaste.

Edited to add: further dispatches from the Elevated Plane of Confusion and Doubt: no, wait, not Buffy Season 4, I actually still have that (which means you can collect it this evening, w-n); it's Season 7 I'm missing. Also Doctor Who season 3. Also, my brain.

strange powers

Thursday, 18 June 2009 04:41 pm
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Sid the Sinus Headache is flexing his gosh-darned muscles and growling again, so I shall attempt to distract him by being Literary. True Blood and Doctor Who 4 notwithstanding, I've actually managed to do some reading lately, which is just as well because my Bookshelf of Unread Doom is stretching L-spacily again...

So, Sarah Rees Brennan. Better known as Maya, authoress of, among other things, bunches of Harry/Draco slash and also "Draco Malfoy the Amazing Dancing Rat", which is one of my favourite pieces of Potterfic, not least because it rather entertainingly ships Draco/Hermione and features geeky homework-related flirting over lots of coffee. She's also just published her first YA fantasy, called The Demon's Lexicon, which I have just read.

This was fun. Fairly straightforward urban fantasy stuff - contemporary England, demons, teen brothers, and the snappy and often funny dialogue which is her trademark. She also evinces the particular qualities I've come to associate with fan fiction, even at the more accomplished end of the spectrum her work inhabits, which boil down to (a) bucketloads of angst, and (b) pretty boys being emotionally intense. (Another case in point: Cassandra Clare's City of Bones). Really, this is what slash is all about: not the sex, per se, but male characters embroiled in difficult, demanding, complicated feelings, whether they like it or not. In Demon's Lexicon it's a brotherly rather than a romantic relationship, but the vibe feels very familiar.

This also accounts, perhaps, for the overall impression I have of the book: while it's intensely readable and boasts a rather spectacular and well-done plot twist, it also feels young, not just because it's aimed at young adults, but because it's a young writer. The first half or so of the book drags slightly, marking time while the payoff is set up: Ms. Brennan is definitely in command of her characters, but she's not quite in command of her narrative. My sense, however, is that she very definitely will be in the not too distant future, and I shall watch her career with interest. (She says, pushing her pince-nez back on the end of her nose and channelling a Victorian lawyer).

The other fantasy novel I've read recently is John C. Wright's The Last Guardian of Everness, which my Evil Landlord left carelessly lying around an obscure corner of his bookshelf where I happened to be rootling. I loved Wright's Orphans of Chaos series, which I described as a "sort of weird semi-inexplicable Victorian/modern heroic school story". Everness does a splashy and inelegant belly-flop into Lovecraft's Dreamlands, immersing itself thoroughly while spreading detritus around wholesale: the detached, drifty approach to a world beautiful, strange, inexplicable, threatening and corrupt is absolutely nail-on-the-head in terms of tone and feel. Also, bonus mad faerie women, cheerfully crude and sociopathic Selkie and giant set-piece battles between death knights, animated stone statues and small, confused military detachments with machine-guns. This book is trippy, beautiful and gut-wrenching by turns: it's like being repeatedly hit over the head by an exquisite statue constructed in five dimensions from bloody human bones. On the whole I think I like it. Certainly enough to dig up the sequel.

In other news, Woolworths eaten by vampires. Just because I'm relieved that someone else experiences the same degree of lateral to their conversations.

damn fine coffee

Monday, 22 December 2008 05:31 pm
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Oops. I just gave free reign to self-indulgence and bought myself the boxed set of the complete Twin Peaks TV series for Christmas. Possibly this is because my will-power is doing its usual thing, which is to curl up in a small, fluffy ball somewhere in my backbrain and decline to be stirred; alternatively, the fact that I've been fighting off Sid the Sinus Headache for two days may have caused me to feel entitled. New Year's Resolution: books, CDs and DVDs will be confined to a R200 per month budget for the duration of 2009. Unless, of course, they're necessary for academic wossnames, such as the complete works of Anne Radcliffe which arrived a few days ago (there's this Masters thesis I have to mark ...). Academia is a cloak under which I can conceal a multitude of crimes, in the manner of the Far Side cartoon with the gentleman smuggling a grand piano under his coat.

The rampagings of Sid have made the last couple of days a bit surreal, particularly since I'm still trying to finish the last few curriculum reports for work - a task made the more difficult not just because of the pounding head, but because the campus database has been having fainting fits all weekend. The last of the headache finally vanished this afternoon, something I'm inclined to attribute to the consumption of the French hot chocolate at the Kirstenbosch tearoom. It's a dark, thick, creamy sludge, bitter rather than sweet, not only perfectly suited to Cape Town's day of musing, retrospective rain but productive of a serious endorphin rush clearly sufficient to see off the persistently sadistic gnomes of sinus. I should see if my nice doctor will write me a prescription.

with gasoline!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008 07:16 am
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Devastated though I am by the news that David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who, I contemplate with joy and satisfaction his purported replacement: the Marquis of Carabas. I loved that actor in Neverwhere, he seriously rocked that coat and he has the perfect manic energy, without which I don't think it's actually possible to follow in the Ecclestone/Tennant footsteps.

This public service announcement brought to you as a faint, pre-emptive strike against a day characterised by Extreme Administration and quantities of putting-out-crisis-fires, all in insufficient time and with the added help of yesterday's pounding headache, still clutching my cerebellum in a vice-like grip.

*vanishes with despairing squeak into huge piles of paper, brandishing painkillers*
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Today I had meetings at 9am, 10am and 11am, and another that ran from 2-4pm and was characterised by an abundance of meaningless verbiage. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a meeting given to phrases such as "way forward", "stakeholders" and "on the table" never did, never can, never will, actually achieve anything1. I must make a bingo card, I think. It can only liven things up when someone finally says "grassroots" and I leap to my feet with a cheerful yodel, thereafter, with any luck, being summarily ejected.

[ profile] khoi_boi tells me that Cape Town's spore count is currently skyrocketing, as all the happy fungi are reacting with enthused growth and propagatory zeal to the recent weather patterns of extreme damp followed by a couple of days of sunlight - rinse, repeat. This is possibly what gave me yesterday's epic beast of a headache, one of those ones which spurned all painkillers with callous disregard, and is still lurking today, cracking its knuckles and occasionally punching my cerebellum. Thank heavens for the lone, abandoned Advil I found in my handbag. Also, headrubs really help. Thanks, [ profile] khoi_boi.

I seem to have randomly and arbitrarily designated September the Month of Retro Kiddielit Classics, and am inclined, for no adequately defined reason, to run with the theme, so be prepared to deal with the happy dregs of my childhood memories. While we're in Australia: Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding: Being The Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and his friends Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff . This is an unalloyed delight, illustrated throughout with Lindsay's exquisite and irreverent line-drawings, and full of marvellously eccentric and wayward Australian characters. The Magic Pudding is called Albert, and is this sour-faced, mean-spirited creature who wears his bowl on his head like a hat and has incredibly long, skinny legs and a tendency to (a) run away a lot, (b) consort with puddin'-thieves, and (c) verbally or physically abuse people. The puddin'-owning characters are Bill Barnacle, the sailor, Sam Sawnoff, a penguin, and the koala Bunyip Bluegum. The characters burst into song at frequent intervals so half of the book is verse, a lot of it slightly scurrilous. Also features a singed possum.

1 Now it's bugging me that I can't remember who I'm quoting. Wait! it's Dickens. "A nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun." (Frauds on the Fairies. Odd, I had a sort of a vague sense it might have been Churchill.)

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It's been raining off and on all weekend, which makes me and my garden happy, and it's still gently drizzling today. This is going some way towards reconciling me towards the headache and general disinclination I am suffering as a result of allowing Mike to ply me with altogether too much wine yesterday afternoon at his farewell braai. (He's buggering off to Oxford for a few years to do a PhD. Yay, more docs!). The bastard kept taking away my sensible glass of water and replacing it with a glass of wine, and I'm consequently a little fragile this morning. On the upside I drank enough to allow me to hold actual conversations with a notable array of complete strangers, which is a Great Leap Forward. Normally I curl up and die in a corner. Social butterfly, not.

So, Doctor Who. On mature reflection, I still don't have a lot of time for Russell Davies. )

Last Night I Dreamed: I was travelling across a rather attractive country, or countries, with rolling farmlands and ranges of mountains and a sandy coastline; unfortunately the whole thing was being threatened by some kind of hazy thing in the air, which was rolling in from the sea and gradually overtaking the country with unspecified ill effects. In the course of travelling with a refugee train I discovered that the country had recently abandoned the practice of growing a special kind of tree outside their homes; the tree had the power to suck in the nasty haze in a sort of mini vortex. At some stage I also realised the incredible significance of a glowing mother and daughter on horseback, who we passed in a field next to the road, and whose cart full of supplies we subsequently appropriated.
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Gah. Weird dreams last night, with frequent alarmed wake-ups in the mistaken belief I should have been somewhere doing something. Quite what, history does not relate. Part of it involved a very odd wedding, my own, in which I was dashing around in an elderly car trying to pick up my turquoise satin wedding dress, while rootling under the bonnet at intervals.

In the Department of Minor Triumphs and Gratifying My Mother, I am pleased to relate that my credit card debt is currently sitting at at total of 0.00. *dances quick and triumphant cha-cha on recumbent financial corpse*. I feel proud, relieved, obscurely lighter, and horribly unable to think of a good reason why I shouldn't go out and buy not only Torchwood but the boxed set of the entire 5-season run of Alias in celebration. I really never got this financial planning thing.

I have to say, the finale of Alias left me underwhelmed. While there was a certain poetic justice to the fate of the wretched Arvin Sloane (I never liked him), the absolute and predictable JJAbramsesque failure to explain all the weird Rambaldi artefact stuff was somewhat annoying. Why the hell should the floaty ball of water and the red and gold spherical net thingy be necessary to activate immortality? What about the weird bottle amulet doohickey? Why is page 47? On the upside, I'm enjoying constructing alternative endings which might actually have pulled some of the threads together. Current favourite: Sloane actually is Rambaldi, immortal but plagued with memory loss, and on a quest to reconstruct his own works and discover himself by means of carefully-planted clues. The McGuffin is not immortality, but time travel, which is really the only way of justifying all the prescient stuff. And, naturally, Sidney Bristow is Sloane's daughter, and her genetic material is necessary to restore his memory.

Sid is lurking, stomping around and surveying the inside of my skull with preparatory demolitiary glee, like jo&stv's builders. Occasionally the dull ache from his hobnailed boots rises sharply as he taps things with hammers or runs a heat-gun along my cheekbones. Upon which I hit him, hard, with Advil.


Wednesday, 16 April 2008 12:49 pm
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Ways Not To Wake Up: alarm goes off this morning, I lie in bed blearily thinking, aargh, it's Thursday, where did the week go? Then a mad electrical jolt pervades my system and I sit bolt upright, thinking AARGH! IT'S THURSDAY!, because Wednesday night is jo's game, and I was at home all evening obliviously watching X-Files and arguing with the Evil Landlord about who got to deflea the cats, and jo's going to kill me, why didn't anyone PHONE me? And I'm busy composing apologetic emails in my head when slowly it pervades: today is Wednesday, the game is tonight.

Damn, it was real, though. It took about ten minutes for my heart rate to slow. While this did catapult me into the morning in a state of vibrating wakefulness, it also didn't do much to ameliorate the otherwise incredibly sucky things with which the day has hit me, the pounding headache being the least of it.

Random Linkery in the Department of Important Feministy Stuff: rather an interesting analysis of sexist responses to Hillary Clinton's campaign. Thought-provoking.


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