five things

Monday, 25 March 2019 01:37 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
  • I am stealing a format from Scroob, with thanks, because I am finding it difficult to blog at the moment and I think her five things approach may help. It's a pleasing combination of structured and random, and has the potential to address the almost complete absence of mental energy which is currently preventing me from assembling a sustained post. I am, alas, in the usual post-registration doldrums, the semester has quietened right down with precipitous suddenness, catapulting me from "over-extended" to "bored" on the turn, which always has the effect of shutting my brain and energy right down, possibly into recovery mode. Psyches. So weird.
  • I trundled off to see Captain Marvel with my sister yesterday morning, in my favourite 9am Sunday slot because the maximum of about five people in the movie theatre always soothes my misanthropic soul. I wholeheartedly recommend the movie: at last, a female-led Marvel film, whose female direction, scripting (Kelly Sue DeConnick consults) and costume design were palpable throughout. Not just a worthy female lead, nicely cast and played, but an intrinsically female narrative: her fight is against very male forces who manipulate, gaslight and suppress her at every turn, and her eventual triumph is deeply satisfying. Also, great special effects (her powers towards the end are amazing and very shiny), music (90s!) and humour (her interplay with Nick Fury is gold). Also, flerken. I'm just saying.
  • My personal possibly-flerken are doing fine. Jyn has apparently recovered completely from the Mysterious Mouth Abscess of Doom Which Baffled Vets, and has regained her customary swagger. It was a weird place for an infection, right back on the hinge of her jaw, and we can't work out what would have caused it, there's no way it could have been a bite, animal teeth aren't long enough, unless someone has been breeding sabre-toothed moggies locally. Best guess is that she got jabbed with a bit of stick from one of my potplants, and it got infected. Most mysterious.
  • Load shedding has been temporarily suspended, calloo callay, it was getting very tedious. Although apparently it could start again at any moment. This city is feeling more and more dysfunctional, the current school holiday season is making me realise how incredibly horrible the roads are during rush hour when schools are actually in session. Not just because they're overcrowded, but because road manners have deteriorated to the point where people jump robots almost at will. It's very eroding to my sense of safety and belonging, it feels as though the social contract is dissolving - which, given that the city can't currently supply adequate lights or water, it really is.
  • Tumblr has vouchsafed to me Nathan Pyle's Strange Planet, which is a reflective, poignant, happily strange little exercise in unperturbed defamiliarisation. Go read. And imagine pleasant nonsense.


Saturday, 15 September 2018 08:48 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Last night, having finally figured out how to reconfigure the home theatre system from Zelda to Blu-Ray, I watched Avengers: Infinity War. Now that I have retrieved the cats from the top of the curtains, where they fled in discombobulation at all the irritated shouting, I have some Notes.

  1. SO.
  2. BADLY.
  4. We have reached a stage of blockbuster movies which is a perfect and literal embodiment of Baudrillardian simulation: they are endlessly proliferating copies of copies, to the point where all sense of an originating real is lost. This was not a film narrative, it was an awkward conglomeration of acceptable plot elements hacked together into the overall, cargo-cultish shape of a film, and set shambling into the cultural landscape in the shrewd and practised hope that it would fool the moviegoers into paying money for it. Which in the event was clearly successful in the financial sense, but catastrophically otherwise for the plot.
  5. A movie can't just be well-known heroic stereotypes enacting explosions, it needs a clear motivational thread to hold it together. And I realised very sharply last night that the thread needs, weirdly enough, to be moral: people need to do things because there is not just a practical but a philosophical reason to do them. Infinity War is trying in a half-arsed way to do some heavy philosophical lifting on the nature of evil, and the idea of sacrificing the individual for the overall good, but it can't hold the ideas together enough to do any sort of meaningful or consistent exploration. It tries to evoke them by passing reference, and assumes that's enough. As a result there was no actual logic to character reactions; not only did the vast majority of the supposedly pivotal and emotionally trying decisions fall under the category of Too Stupid To Live, they had no emotional impact, either, because they made no sense.
  6. I don't care how much money the latest Thor film made and how much that owed to its campy humour: Infinity War had a much darker tone given its themes, and its writers aren't fit to run Taika Waititi's scripts down to the copy shop, and certainly weren't up to the challenge either of generating said humour or of mixing the two, so the humour attempts simply sounded lame, forced and out of place.
  7. Infinite cosmic power is a narrative and cinematic trap. Not only would it be visually boring if properly realised, it's incredibly difficult to retain narrative drive and challenge in the face of it, and it makes laughable monkeys out of consistency. Examples are legion, but a random one that particularly narked me: given what Thanos can do with all except the last stone, there was absolutely no reason to treat the Wakandan forcefield as any sort of barrier, he could have taken it down with a fingersnap. It was clearly there to make pretty large-scale battlefields and induce artificial Plastic Trauma, TM. Unfortunately infinite cosmic power needs exceedingly clever scriptwriting, which this signally wasn't.
  8. The film tried to make Thanos into a subjectivity, and he shouldn't have been. (a) because there wasn't enough narrative meat to make his motivations meaningful, and (b) because he's a narcissistic homicidal paternalistic wangst-ridden dickhead (literally) and the fact that the writers clearly found that interesting is everything you need to know about them in order to run screaming in the opposite direction.
  9. Further to (8) above, if the most recurring feature of your so-called plot is the sustained theme of Men Feeling Plastic Conflict, TM, and having to angst about sacrificing women to it before deciding to sacrifice them anyway, your misogynistic pissbag writers need to be shot out of a cannon into the heart of the sun. Also, I don't think it's just my steady diet of slash which makes me see this, but there were altogether too many Default Heterosexual Romances in that movie. If the only emotional connection you can imagine between characters is a stereotypical romance, you have insufficient imagination to be writing film scripts.
  10. The Avengers franchise has some significant cultural and character capital built up now, and this film cheerfully threw that into a handy black hole. There were too many characters in this film, and none of them did anything that made sense or developed them in any useful way, and nine tenths of the actors concerned are actually really good and deserved far better. And I'm not even going to get into the random deaths thing, because (a) they were unearned and had no emotional impact and I frankly didn't care, and (b) they'll probably all be rolled back because comics.
  11. SO.
  12. BADLY.
  13. WRITTEN.

OK, that was cathartic, I feel better now. Although entirely inclined to be very, very wary of the upcoming Captain Marvel film, she's a brilliant character and survey says Marvel's moviemaking machine will chew her up and spit her out in tiny, plastic bits gummed together with sticky sexism. Woe.

Cape of Storms

Friday, 9 June 2017 08:36 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Well, that was the Y2K of Cape storms, that was. I can't work out if it was not as horrible as anticipated because the whole city over-reacted up front, or precisely because we pre-empted it so well and bunkered down for it - schools and universities closed, minimal people on the roads, everyone had laid in stocks of water and food and kept their heads down for thirty-six hours while the weather rampaged. It was very windy and more than somewhat damp, and very dramatic, and there are trees down all over and some people lost roofs or power, but as far as I can tell the tiny death toll (9 to date) was almost half from a single lightning strike and most of the other half from the horrible Knysna fires. I don't want to minimise those deaths, which are awful, or the undoubted damage and loss and suffering in the vulnerable informal settlements, but given our huge numbers of people in shantytowns, it really could have been a lot worse and I'm really glad it wasn't.

I also have to say that the CT city utilities people seem to have been amazing - trees were cleared and power restored very quickly, from the tenor of a lot of social media responses. I was without power for 24 hours, it went out at 3pm on Wednesday and they only got it back at about that time yesterday (they apparently sent a confused team out on Wed afternoon when we reported it, and they bumbled off to the wrong road and stood scratching their heads at being unable to find the problem - they took chainsaws to the tree on the line yesterday and sorted it out), so Wednesday night was all me and the cats huddled in front of gas heaters and candles heating cocoa and soup on the gas stove.

It also made me realise how dramatically my habitual leisure activities rely on civilisation. Can't game. Can't read or knit, light not good enough. Can't watch movies. Can't read fanfic or cruise Tumblr on the Ipad, which has a light enough screen for it, because can't internet. I went to bed very early, under slightly freaked out cats - the noise of the wind banging the mad hippy neighbour's fancy wireless aerial was rather extreme. I was supposed to take Jyn in for spaying on Tuesday night, but postponed, and I'm glad I did. Apart from worrying about power cuts in the middle of veterinary operations, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get through to pick her up on Wednesday, and in the event she was worried enough by the storm noise that it was good she was at home with me for comforting. Her doom will come next week, alas.

I am also pleased to report that, other than the power outage, no damage seems to have resulted to the house - the landlord's roof repairs last year held well, no leaks, and the big potted ficus didn't blow over (it did when I first moved in, twice, under less dramatic winds, but I'd subsequently moved it into a more sheltered spot and taken it off its drainage bricks, so score). And really, a container garden is the best possible scenario for Massive Gale Force Winds, I'd moved the large fruit trees into sheltered corners and anything fragile into the laundry or house, and it was all fine. Is it awful that I rather enjoyed it? I do like a full-body storm experience, all elemental and grrr and exciting.

I also spent a windy Tuesday night watching Arrival, about which I shall blog separately because I Have Notes, and the first couple of episodes of the new Supergirl series, which is another entry in the Fluffy Clockwork Kittens of Superheroes stakes. As a series Supergirl seems to be cute and amiable, but its fluffy clockwork kitten is constructed a bit ineptly so that, while it doesn't actually bounce off walls, it also doesn't quite achieve the lifelike - everything is done slightly too fast with a mechanical gait. But it's rather endearing, on the whole.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

Some Things About Doctor Strange:
  • I am resolved to be more organised in my movie-watching experience so I never have to go back to Canal Walk as the only place a film is still showing. Their sound is always cranked up too high, and their projection is always too dark. Even in a 2D version. This does detract from one's experience of the film, particularly the night scenes, in that really one can't see what's going on. Also, my ears hurt.
  • Conversely, on a Sunday morning, even the one just before Christmas, I was the only person in the cinema, allowing me to put my feet up on the chairs in front of me and to apostrophise the screen with some vigour at whim. I love doing this. It's the best possibly movie-watching experience.
  • Significant swathes of this film were tragically miscast. My love of the Cumberbatch is a pure and abiding thing, but he's just wrong with an American accent, it's seriously distracting. The perfect fit of the gaunt lines of his face with the magician archetype wasn't quite enough to carry it. And the character's weird mix of driven egotistical ambition and irreverent one-liners never really gelled. Also, while my love of Tilda Swinton's particular brand of individualistic androgyny is an even purer and more abiding thing, a white woman should not be representing Nepalese mysticism. However elaborate the backstory that claims the Sorcerer Supreme as a global figure, a whitewash in this context has profound implications for representation and it bugged the hell out of me all the way through. Mordo, on the other hand, was great. Chiwetel Ejiofor is always great.
  • My profound fondness for spaceships and exciting techie gadgets notwithstanding, it's clear that, however flawed a film is involved, by gum at heart I'm a fantasy creature. Magic does it for me. It really does. Memo to self, fantastic beasts, eftsoons and right speedily.
  • Notwithstanding which, the film was so busy going "whoo!" at the special effects team as they had at the fractal nature of visual reality with both hands and cool glowing spell diagrams, that it really wasn't paying much attention to the plot. It offered a weird degree of emotional disconnect. I never quite cared about anything. If done properly, an over-arching cosmic threat should explicate and resonate (shut up, stv) with the protagonist's own issues and arc, and... not so much. It felt patched together. I do not think that this was a good script.
  • The Cloak of Levitation stole the show. Flirty thing. Like the best cats - sleek, self-possessed, wayward and pleasingly homicidal when not being affectionate.
  • This film failed the Marvel Test, viz. whether or not I'd sit through the credits to see the final easter egg. In a word: no. Was not sufficiently interested. Tragically, more and more recent Marvel films are actually failing the Marvel test, because, regrettably, more and more they are rehashed, homogenised, money-making artefacts whose actual content is dictated by a marketing committee and thus lacks inspiration, spark or narrative coherence. Yet another in the Giant Commercial Superhero Line, ho-hum. Yawn. With a side order of tone-deafness to issues of race and gender and the like. It's enough to make me, an almost entirely Marvel-fondling comics fan, eye DC edgeways with an awakening interest. The whisper flies around the clubs, could they be worse? I fear they could, yet still I am tempted.
  • Marvel test, failed. Bechdel test, failed. Sexy lamp test actually not failed on the second go (the female doctor's first appearance arc could have been replaced by a sexy lamp with "Doctor Strange Is A Dick" stuck to it on a post-it note, but on the second try she actually did plot-relevant stuff. Her third appearance could have been replaced by a sexy lamp with "SPOILER is SPOILER" stuck to it on a post-it note.). Furiosa test failed in spades, good grief, this was a movie about a man's struggle with ambition and power, MRAs drool at it.
  • I was prepared to love this film, on account of its confluence of several happy buttons, but no. I am disappoint.

My subject line is what happens if your dodgy memory mashes up two Shakespeare quotes, namely "passing strange" (Othello) and "indifferent honest" (Hamlet). I stoutly maintain that the conflation was irresistibly conjured by the quality of the film. Also, while the quote is possibly orbiting my brain randomly as a result of having seen BC in Hamlet (he was great), now I want to see him do Iago.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The recent Great Office Migration has come to a temporary halt while various other people play Musical Offices in the background, so I'm half moved back into my old office, with none of my books on the shelves and a noticeboard closing off the spanky new door between me and my colleague, held up by piles of boxes. (Greatest challenge of the whole procedure: trying to impress upon the Powers That Be that a soundproofed office is completely vital to her ability to function as a clinical social worker. They weren't getting it. Eventually we Heath Robinsoned it ourselves).

Having lovingly packed up my computer and carefully boxed all the cables resulting from it, the printer and the fancy Lync-using phone, I have now reassembled everything and persuaded it to work. This took no more than the expected pause for swearing at the telephone set-up help pages (a VoIP phone is fiddly) and at our network protocols, and the worst I had to do was change my campus password, which works with absolutely everything and which had somewhere in the whole labyrinthine process become dissociated so that half of everything didn't recognise it.

However, with everything up and running, and despite my meticulous packing principles, I have one cable left over. It was clearly connected to something when I dismantled it, and everything is running, but there's this cable. One of those fancy new ones with a USB plug at one end and one of those square-cross-section thingies at the other. Probably a printer cable, but I have a printer cable and the printer is working. Where the hell did it come from? Do they spontaneously replicate by binary fission or dodgy entanglements while tangled up in a box? Is one of my students a reverse kleptomaniac? I'm confused.

Failing any insights as to mysterious cabling, have some random linkery. This is a beautifully creepy and poignant Ursula Vernon story that's as much about writing as it is about anything else. And these are Owlvengers, thus neatly encapsulating two of my obsessions.

grrr, aargh

Tuesday, 12 May 2015 02:57 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night was deeply annoying, because (a) lights, none, and (b) so many legs! As well as (c), residual Age of Ultron grumps.

I am narked with the City of Cape Town because they confirm a load-shedding session so much at the last minute. I checked the loadshedding page four times yesterday, and every time it was "load shedding suspended until further notice." Then they cut us off at 8pm, at the point where I'd assumed we were safe for the day, right in the middle of the first episode of Daredevil, which is a new Netflix series which is doing a slow build thing that definitely doesn't need to be arbitrarily suspended. Although, in retrospect, having to feel my way across the living room in the pitch dark was at least thematically appropriate. (I'm reserving judgement on Daredevil for the nonce, I kinda like what they're doing, it's gritty and real and Charlie Cox is marvellous, but it's currently moving very slowly and I hope they sort the pace out a tad).

"So many legs!" is a quote from Cole in Inquisition upon meeting the giant albino spider which lives under the Crestwood keep. There was a sudden, huge and inexplicable spider in the corner of the bathroom last night, just above the shower. Arachnids are clearly evil because they choose to manifest (a) in the moment when the room is illuminated by flickering candlelight which most efficiently conceals them in shadows until you're really close, and (b) in the room in which you are most likely to be wandering around naked, and thus unprotected from arachnid multi-hairy-legged scuttling by any form of civilised armour. Bastards. Having stripped completely and wandered towards the shower, I spotted the spider, thought, "Hell, no", backed away slowly and went to bed unwashed, shutting the bathroom door behind me so the wretched thing couldn't infiltrate the house. It was gone this morning, hopefully out the window rather than into a dark bathroom corner from whence it can more unexpectedly pounce. I am a wimp, but somehow it all seems more horrible when you're trying to eject spiders without the benefit of electricity.

I have worked out why Age of Ultron annoyed me so much. It's not actually because of the final, headcanon-ruining upshot of the story. It's because absolutely none of the narrative and character arcs which led to that outcome felt earned, deserved or properly explored. I could adjust my headcanons if the film gave me any bloody grist whatsoever to my imaginative mill. But it doesn't: the romance isn't substantiated, the death isn't justified in any thematic sense, the departures are glossed over, the whole thing feels like random events cobbled together randomly, rather than an actual plot. Joss can do so much better, and I tend to agree with this article, which argues that the Marvel meta-marketing drive has constrained the director to the point where he is completely hamstrung in trying to give the story any sort of satisfying shape.

Also, while Joss Whedon is definitely still my master now, I can't help thinking that his particular brand of feminism, which resides mostly in strong female characters, is in a weird sort of way slightly out of date. He was groundbreaking at the time with Buffy and Firefly, but levels of feminist awareness have overtaken him - simple strong female characters simply don't cut it any more, we need a more pervasive critique which the Marvel straitjacket certainly doesn't permit. (See: leaked CEO email giving a demonstration of beautifully spurious logic: bad female-led superhero movies bombed, therefore all female-led superhero movies are bad and will bomb. To which we answer, succinctly and pointedly, "Ben Afflek's Daredevil". Because really.)

In other news, my mutant foot has died down to its usual shape and is only rather red and mottled. Antibiotics and two days with my feet up have settled its hash onetime quick. Now all I have to deal with is the nausea occasioned by the antibiotics...
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Mostly my movie-watching life has been on hold lately, because Inquisition. Turns out there is no contest between gaming and watching DVDs: gaming wins. However, apparently the grip of the game loosens a bit when I'm on my, what, seventh or eighth play-through? So I have both gone to the movies, and watched some of the Pile of Unwatched Reproach, which is probably twenty DVDs high, in between navigating a Qunari mage through a by now incredibly familiar Thedas. Leading to a scorecard which looks something like this:

Big Hero 6. Disney animated thing with cute bulbous robot. It's a cute bulbous superhero film which I thoroughly enjoyed, because it's both cute and science-positive. Also, its deliberate rip-offs of Iron Man, among other films, are hilarious. Bonus cool swarms of evil microbots, cool nerd stereotypes and cool affirmations of non-violence. A-, because fluffy, but relegated to "probable comfort re-watch" pile.

The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies. Um. Martin Freeman is still a tiny hobbitoid acting god. Bard wants to be Aragorn when he grows up, and probably could be. Thorin's downward spiral wasn't as heart-rending as I expected it to be, possibly I'm becoming old and cynical. Peter Jackson still suffers from irredeemably self-indulgent narrative bloat and completely inexplicable plot choices, and IMNSHO he stuffed up the actual battle something 'orrible. Wasted Fili and Kili's sacrifice, weird relocation of Thorin's confrontation to unnecessary and rather lame towers rather than the battlefield, and it made absolutely no tactical sense whatsoever. Did he run out of budget for background fighting? Also, no Bilbo shouting "The eagles are coming!", rotten swizz. B-, visually cool but overall strangely uncompelling, Martin Freeman notwithstanding.

Basil the Great Mouse Detective. This was, weirdly, teaching research, on account of how I'm teaching Sherlock again this year and am becoming unduly fascinated by the endurance of the Holmes/Watson mythic archetype across different iterations. This one has a classic Watson and a rather annoying Sherlock who has surprisingly large numbers of points in common with the current BBC one. Amazing how the tall&thin vs short&solid visual image is retained in so many versions. Entirely predicable Disney film in the slightly less accomplished pre-Aladdin mode. C, but will will show clips in class because the parallels are interesting.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Saw this on Sunday morning (about 10 people in the 9am showing, score!) in sheer self-defence because my Tumblr feed is trying to spoil me. I am entirely unable to say whether it's a good movie or not because my ships and personal headcanons have been so thoroughly Jossed that I'm all quivering with outrage, injury and sulk. I've read a lot of Avengers fanfic, and it turns out I'm really invested in the Avengers as they currently stand, and I want to keep on thinking of them like that, living together forever in Avengers Tower and fighting crime, not with the new team make-up going in the new direction. It was certainly a fun film, visually exciting, good character interaction, amazing fight choreography, but bleah. I decline to assign it a score on the grounds that I'm not reasonable about it. I spent most of Sunday unconscionably depressed and killing things in Inquisition with more than the usual levels of vindictive satisfaction. Phooey.

On the upside, they also gave us the new Star Wars trailer in big-screen 3-D, and it made me weepy. Apparently I'm imprinted on that universe, but also the new images are correctly gritty and feel like Star Wars in a way the prequels-we-do-not-mention did not. A new hope!
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Warning: if you follow this link you will end up playing 2048 with Chris Evanses until (a) Chris Evans has lost all meaning, (b) life has lost all meaning, and (c) you are curiously soothed and in something approximating a Zen state. I recommend it.

On a related note, I also recommend the new Captain America, which is the Winter Soldier one, and which feels considerably more like a darkish political thriller with good character conflict than it does a superhero movie, badass Nick Fury car chases and multiple exploding helicarriers notwithstanding. I think it's a good film, and an interesting take on the mythos. Also, apparently one can go to see the film on the third day after it opens and still have four people in the cinema, if you choose the 9am Sunday show. I love 9am Sunday shows. They're also curiously soothing. The timing also reduces to a minimum the number of people giving me patronising looks for wearing a Shield T-shirt to a Marvel film. Weirdly enough, it happened to be on the top of my t-shirt pile.

The soothed Zen state has materially assisted the trauma of being back at work after a ten-day break, I have to say. I was aggressively nice both to students and to my Troublesome Boss all day, and only pulled my stitches once. If I have to be wandering around in a post-operative stitched-up state, it's also nice to know that the histology for the bits of flesh they nibbled off me is 100% clear, no dodgy precursor melanoma cells. And fifteen stitches. The nice nurse lady counted them for me. They do them all in a giant spiral single thread, it's terribly neat. I feel like a sampler.

The subject line is Magnetic Fields, although (a) you don't get to the Chris Evans in his underwear until right towards the end of the 2048 game, and (b) I think I may have used that particular quote before for another post. However, I figure that if my life causes me to need subject lines about pretty boys in their underwear more than once in a year or so, I'm probably doing OK.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

In the Department of Oh Dear I Am A Sad Geek this gif made me go "oooh, sexy!" in heartfelt tones when I saw it first. Not because of Anthony Mackie's butt, although I admit it has its aesthetically pleasing qualities. But because the articulation of the mechanical wings is just so damned cool. I really like the character line-up for the new Captain America, I've always liked Falcon. Looking forward to the movie.

I am still in the throes of orientation, the second programme now, another 11-hour day after which I am deaded by bang. The second programme is a bugger because it's doubled, I give 90 minutes of curriculum talk followed immediately by 90 minutes of the same curriculum talk to a different set of students, followed by another hour of briefing students on technical transfer credit thingies. Then I go and run registration. In between all of the above I must have micro-advised fifteen to twenty different students who stop me with queries as I dash between venues. I have earned my deadness, is all. I shall continue to be incoherent for a while yet. Usually I'm human by March or so. Oh, lord.

Since the subject line is taken from the Magnetic Fields' "All my little words" and is prefaced with the statement "You are a splendid butterfly", I must admit to having chosen it purely for its incongruity value. Sorry.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

In the Department of Trundling Off Happily Alone To See Sunday Morning Movies (it's a thing), I saw THor: THe Dark World on Sunday. (For some reason those Hs really wanted to be capitalised so I'm allowing them to kick up their little heels). It was really rather a lot of fun, rating highly enough that it's probably not a bad film even given my superhero-metre's embarrassingly low threshold of enjoyment. The fast-becoming-traditional random observations follow, suitably vague so as to avoid spoilerage.

  • This is a particularly loopy mix of science fiction and the purely fantastic, but it pulls it off mostly by not quite taking itself seriously - there are some lovely moments of humour in the film, it's far less straight-faced than the first one.
  • There are enough plot twists in this that I rather enjoyably didn't see all of them coming, although to be fair it was a Sunday morning before my first cup of tea. (A deliberate strategic choice on account of how I hate having to duck out of today's really long movies because of a tight bladder).
  • The film offers, thematically, a complete mirror inversion of the Thor/Odin set-up in the first film. It's surprisingly thoughtful and makes interesting points about power and war. Also, I like both how Thor is being characterised, and how Chris Hemsworth plays him. He's kinda sweet and, like Riley, something of a doofus.
  • Is it just me, or does some miraculous Bechdel-test-passing miasmic force of not-actually-conventionally-awful-gender-roles somehow cling to the Thor franchise? It's by no means perfect, we still have Jane Foster being damselled all over the show, but she does continue to kick science butt and trade sarky dialogue with Darcy, and it was enormously refreshing that the only really gratuitous, lingering, objectifying camera shot in the film (apart from the Mercedes ad which preceded it, in which I disgraced myself with a fit of the giggles because, really, overcoded car porn) was the one of Thor's naked, glistening biceps. If we have to live in a media world given to objectification, at least it can damned well be equal opportunity objectification. Also, Sif. And Frigga being a warrior queen.
  • Loki is simply delicious. I do not at all get Tumblr's preoccupation with Loki as a desirable romantic option (because honestly, mass-murdering psychopaths are even less redeemable than most of fanfic's bad boyfriend choices), but he's trickster god to the hilt in this and has some really good sarky lines. Possibly I might be tempted to attempt to redeem a mass-murdering psychopath if he's sufficiently linguistic.
  • Extremely cool dark elf spaceships, interesting space-warping grenades, Christopher Ecclestone chewing evil scenery with commendable restraint, Heimdall kicking arse and taking names, incredible floating things, gravity inversions, and an extended action sequence which gives free play to the bastard offspring of a dodgy threesome between a superhero showdown, an Elder God summoning and a game of Portal.
  • A perfectly, deliriously wonderful cameo of Chris Evans doing an impression of Tom Hiddlestone's impression of Loki doing an impression of Chris Evans's Captain America. That man's actually a sneakily good actor, particularly when taking the mickey out of himself. (Still love his turn in Scott Pilgrim.)
  • It's worth sitting out the credits, because there are two easter eggs - one fairly standard just after the main credits, and one right at the end which gives a wonderful, whimsical, random closing image which kicked me out of the cinema in a happy state of giggle. As did the film, actually. Not profound, but fun is likely to be had.

Subject line is, of course, Buffy, about Riley, circa Season 4, "Something Blue", which is coincidentally quite one of my favourites because Buffy/Spike.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

I've upgraded my home movie-watching apparatus recently, with a Blu-Ray player and home theatre system which I'm really enjoying (as, in fact, are the EL and the ELG, who have just finished Firefly and embarked on The Middleman, indoctrination clearly proceeding as planned). It's lovely to have good sound, and the Blu-Ray resolution is clearly better, especially for the large-scale visual spectacle movies (superheroes, sf, fantasy) to which I am unrepentantly addicted. It'll be even better when I upgrade the TV to a larger model, a project rife with difficulty as the TV cabinet is a specific size and I can't go any larger until the EL has modified the hell out of it. Which is OK, as I can't currently afford a bigger TV anyway.

So, one of the films I recently acquired on Blu-Ray was Man of Steel, the recent Superman remake. Re-remake, if you count the Christopher Reeve versions, which one does, because they're the Christopher Reeve versions. I actually liked the Bryan Singer one with Brandon Routh and Bald!KevinSpacey, it's a relatively thoughtful film, as is characteristic of Singer, and is quite faithful in tone and partially in plot to the first Reeve one. I wish I could say the same of Man of Steel, but I can't: I emerged at the end of it with an unambiguous conviction that Zach Snyder is a two-bit hack. Which I rather fear is the result of the ineluctable fact that Zach Snyder is a two-bit hack. A two-bit drunken hack, in that he gets drunk on his own CGI. (On the upside, I also re-watched Star Trek: Into Darkness last night, and was forced to the realisation that JJ Abrahams is rather less of a two-bit hack by comparison - that script, while not strictly Star Trek, could certainly have been worse. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch has a good voice for villainy, Smaug should be fun.)

So, Things I Liked About Man of Steel:
  • The cast. Henry Cavill is likeable, he has a certain gravitas and manages to be both clean-cut and a bit broody - a good sense of suppressed power. Amy Adams is always lovely. Even Russell Crowe only slightly gnaws the scenery. And if Michael Shannon's Zod is a cardboard cut-out villain, I think that's because Zod is a cardboard cut-out villain and the script is very definitely a cardboard cut-out script.
  • The visuals. The Krypton sequences are full-on space opera: the visual feel is striking and effective, all bulbous spaceships and strange multi-winged riding beasts. It has my vote. As, in fact, does Superman's new outfit, which is darker and more textured in tone, and feels rather less spandexy.
  • Clark discovering flight, which he does joyously, by speeding madly around the earth. Pure wish fulfilment, very happy-making.

Things I Didn't Like About Man of Steel:
  • The fact that they gave it to Zach Snyder, see above. The Superman mythos is dear to my heart as a result of indelible teen imprinting, and should be cherished rather than ravished.
  • The script. They do this unbelievable thing in the Krypton introduction where there is what appears to be an entirely random confluence of (a) Zod's eugenics-inspired attempted coup against the Council with (b) Jor-El and Lara's defiance of Krypton's pod-baby status quo to engender the first natural birth in thousands of years, and (c) the planet exploding, and I found myself sitting there thinking, good grief, that's a plethora of completely disconnected plots, can't you pick one? But apparently not. The same gratuitous proliferation of motives characterises the rest of the script, which is also prone to emotional beats which are no more than half-arsed and more than somewhat tone-deaf. Christopher Bloody Nolan has script credit, he should damned well know better. Although I suppose I never liked his Batman very much, either.
  • Profoundly and centrally, the film's gratuitous neglect of proper Superman morality in favour of completely unexamined swathes of excessive and gleeful destruction. Central to the Superman mythos is the exploration of superhuman power: what it means, how to use it, the responsibility it implies to protect the weak and innocent. Superman vs. Kryoptonian bad guys are really OTT action sequences, in which they can't simply punch each other, they have to punch each other through half a dozen skyscrapers or into random trains, factories, helicopters or articulated trucks, see subject line. By the end of it the city is almost skeletonised - I have never seen so many toppling skyscrapers in my life, and I have a serious disaster movie fetish. You cannot have Superman kill thousands and inflict billions in property damage as a backdrop to his fights, without apparently noticing. Nor can you pay token attention to it by putting a random group of hammy extras in front of Zod's eye-beams for five seconds while Supes looks anguished. Sheer tokenism. Destruction of the city by Old Kryptonians duking it out should be a profound moral dilemma right there, not an item of scenery. It is a profoundly disturbing aspect of contemporary blockbuster film and its reliance on CGI that it's become easy to destroy things wholesale - you no longer have to work for your violence or justify it in terms of the plot, you can just slosh it in there as though it means nothing. Zach Snyder's always had a torrid and obsessive affair with his CGI, but he can't do it to Superman. Not cricket. This film made me snort in disgust a whole lot, and apostrophise Zach Snyder as a drunken two-bit hack rather more than I care to. Which is a pity, because Krypton's pretty.

Subject line from Douglas Adams, Restaurant at the End of the Universe, describing the classic Disaster Area song lyrics, boy-being meets girl-being beneath silvery moon etc. This is a favourite catch-phrase of mine, although I tend to misremember it as "which then, for no adequately defined reason, explodes", which I honestly think has a better cadence, anyway.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)

I have spent all week wrestling Excel and associated data sources to make sense of lists of at-risk students who need to change programmes. As of yesterday they've all been emailed and the plaintive denials are starting to trickle in. Something about the characteristic post-adolescent student state gives them a fundamental disconnect with reality: yes, I failed everything in the first semester, but next semester will be different! of course it will! by sheer force of belief!

Statistically, it really won't.

It's is actually useful, important, strangely satisfying work I'm doing here, but tired now. I propose to play Oblivion all weekend, stopping only to feed [ profile] first_fallen and [ profile] librsa supper this evening and possibly to enjoy a nice, refreshing Superman reboot tomorrow, because lingering Superman crush from when I was 16. Also, Zod. Plan.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
It's like a saint's day, really. On this day we all watch really well-written television and superheroes. And possibly do the Dance of Joy. And curse the indifferent South African film gods who are not releasing Much Ado About Nothing anytime soon. Bugger.

The driver's licence seems to have been a weird sort of blockage in my life. Now that I have it, things are falling into place - some of them contingently, others coincidentally. The nice car people have approved my finance application, and sometime this week I should have a new car, into which they are currently putting an alarm system for which they are randomly not charging me anything despite the fact that it doesn't come standard. I'm not sure what to make of this. Either there's a hell of a lot of leeway in the deal they put together for me, or I'm a really good risk. I have also (this is the coincidental bit) suddenly found and sent to the nice agent lady in France all of the necessary documentation for a change of agent for the French house, which has been a sticking point for the last few months. Clearly it's enabling on some fundamental level to be all legal suddenly.

Let's hope that the sudden aura of Can Do extends to the various other things I should do in the next week before I go back to work: finish the Nesbit paper, fill the veggie boxes in the back courtyard, make some clothes. Also watch the new Star Trek, the new Superman, and mourn the fact that I've left it too damned late to re-watch the new Iron Man. Is it just me, or have superheroes actually taken over the world? As my final trick, I shall also find some way to stop Hobbit from sitting next to my screen and patting the cursor, it's adorable but not entirely conducive to productivity.

In the spirit of thematically-linked fanfic recs, the only Buffy fanfic I've ever really enjoyed is the Barbverse, which is all Buffy/Spike. It takes a sharp left turn at the point where Buffy and Spike are having naughty moments all over the show, and simply assumes that Buffy isn't a twit and doesn't try to deny or hide the relationship. The result is both entertaining and satisfying.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Scene: the local mall, wherein is showing Iron Man III, the which I trundled off to see this morning bright and early on the grounds of lesser crowds. (Result). A slightly fey little COSMETIC SALESMAN accosts me as I drift vaguely past on a superheroic high, and thrusts upon me a small sample sachet of lotion purported to contain diamond dust. (Which, I'm sorry, is just silly).

SALESMAN (scrutinising my countenance intensely): Can I just ask what make-up you're wearing there?
ME (beatifically, on account of aforementioned superheroic high): Oh, I don't wear make-up.
HIM (patiently): Well, what do you have at home for when you do wear it?
ME (with reciprocal patience): I don't wear make-up at all. For any reason.
HIM (with definite sales glint in the eye): Oh, that's so sad, what is it, allergies?
ME (bugger, he asked): No, I have ideological problems with the whole idea.
HIM (slightly flabbergasted): Oh. (Slight pause). May I ask what?
ME (slightly vaguely): Only women wear make-up.
HIM (indignantly, pointing to his own definite state of mascara, at least, and probably something very expensive and foundational): Hello!
ME: Yes, but you wear it for different reasons.

It degenerated a bit from that point, as I'm not up to snappy feminist rejoinders post-superhero-movie, early in the morning and on only one cup of tea. But, in l'esprit d'escalier, what I should have said, after thinking about it: actually, there's a weird sort of kinship here. He may not articulate it in precisely the same terms, but to some degree he wears make-up for exactly the same reasons that I don't: as a giant up-yours to the heteronormative tenets of our culture and its base and highly gendered assumptions about beauty and desirability. Because fuck that noise.

What I did manage to say, even through the haze, was that I'm completely comfortable with my ideological choice here, thank you, and it's not simply a matter of meeting the right make-up: I am not going to be converted by his fabulous samples. But I did see him waving his arms around as he clearly described the whole encounter to his glam little lady assistant (he was pointing at me as I drifted away). Clearly I'm a strange and fabulous creature quite unlike any he has ever seen before. Possibly mythical. I'm okay with that.

Oh, IM3.
  1. This film did neither what I expected it to, nor much of what I rather formlessly wanted it to do, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.
  2. Damn good script, much of it out of left field.
  3. Music was all wrong. I never thought I'd mourn the lack of AC/DC.
  4. Fascinating stuffing around with the comics canon, plot-wise, about which I shall burble at length in a subsequent post. It's still percolating.

iron manatee!

Sunday, 14 April 2013 12:06 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Sunday is apparently all about creative and unlikely juxtapositions, or weird genre collaborations, although in the strictest possible terms I don't think you can actually count a manatee as a genre. Nonetheless! Just because, or at the very least just because they poke beautiful fun at superhero body-fetishism and are also incidentally cute, superheroes as manatees!

Captain Amanatee is my favourite, although the name isn't nearly as funny as Batmanatee. Iron Manatee is surprisingly svelte.

On a not entirely unrelated note, at least by processes of bizarre genre-bending theme, have an alt-country cover of the Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion". It's oddly laid-back and melodic, and nicely deconstructs the lushly self-indulgent Goth sprawl of the original.

This public service message brought to you by the Movement for Lateral Sundays, or possibly the Moving Very Little For Lateral Sundays, on account of how I had a week full of students with dead parents and drug addictions and bouts of weeping, followed by curriculum talks to the seething hordes at Open Day, and am somewhat dead.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The Dark Knight Rises

I should say up front that I've never really gone for Batman, at least not the Nolan film version. I like a bit of splash and spandex with my superheroes, not this tortured, gritty, brooding thing, this tone of relentless angst. I am willing to concede that Nolan's first two Batman movies were excellent films which brought a new seriousness to the genre and all that jazz, and were extremely well cast and filmed. I just didn't enjoy them very much. Given that it's just taken me a week to drag myself into eventually watching the second half of The Dark Knight Rises, I'm forced to add that in addition to its unrelenting grim, this wasn't even a particularly good film quite apart from its failure to pander to my personal superhero proclivities. I'm going to cut this, because it's a big black flappy bat-winged spoiler on a kicky bike. )

This film went further with the industrial-military feel than the previous ones, and lost, to me, some of that beautifully visual sense of the Gothic cityscape. It also failed dismally, to my mind, to render Batman himself as a compelling physical presence: even with the film's insistence on injury and damage, that costume doesn't quite cohere, appearing stiff and awkward and the cape simply absurd. I did like the bike's cornering capabilities, though. Cute. And Catwoman's headset ears. But that's symptomatic: the bits that worked were the ones that were fun, that nodded, even momentarily, to the comic-book identity of the myth. The rest was an overblown and badly-contained wallow in its own sense of angst.
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).

I came, I saw, Ipad

Sunday, 10 March 2013 07:10 pm
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
The Great New Year's Eve robbery relieved me of Winona, my netbook, whose petite Goth self I sincerely mourn. In a bizarre and unprecedented move straight out of left field, however, the insurance has actually paid out for more than the replacement cost of a low-end netbook, as a result of which the whole "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated" thing has kicked in, and this morning I toddled forth (with Jo&Stv for moral support and hand-holding) and acquired myself an Ipad entirely within the bounds of the insurance proceeds. While I still regard the whole Apple cult-edifice with a fair amount of distrust, I also feel that I badly need to acquire tablet and touch-screen skills, on account of how my tech cred is slipping and I'm becoming obsolete. So far I have resisted Itunes, which I loathe with a passion born from actual experience, but I have ordered the cute keyboard-case thingy that Claire had, which looks as though it'll make actual typing actually possible.

It's all very exciting, and I am not significantly deterred from my geeky "new tech!" dance of joy by the inevitable intervention of my personal techno-jinx, which promptly stalled the setup of the new Ipad by two hours while it meditatively downloaded and installed an OS upgrade. This is, alas, simply par for the course. It's all working now, and is offering me a friendly and intuitive interface with which I am becoming rapidly acquainted. I'm taking suggestions for a name for the new creature, though - I'm reverting to "Cupcake" in moments of stress, which is simply silly. (As in, "Please don't do this to me, cupcake!" in tones of plaintive despair).

I forgot to do month-end quotes again! I am a bad academic. Herewith the intellectual debts for February, which is fortunately a short month in which I haven't blogged much owing to thing, and have descended to actual originality in subject lines more than once.

  • 4th February: I quote a newspaper headline from E. Nesbit's fairy tale "The Deliverers of their Country", which features alarming plagues of dragons infesting Victorian Britain strictly according to the dictates both of Darwinian evolution and of the St. George narrative. Also notable for beautiful Victorian magical tech in the form of the Tap-Room, which controls the weather. One of my favourites, and I really must buckle down and write that damned Nesbit paper.
  • 12th February: a line from Thomas Moore's "The Fire Worshippers", which is one of the four poems in his Oriental romance Lalla Rookh, a marvellous concatenation of swooning emotion and sultry, exotic atmosphere. Also the poem which features the famous bit about dear gazelles gladding maidens with their soft black eyes, and thus a source from which I am frequently driven to quote more or less ironically in the context of students.
  • 14th February: a quote from Nimona early in the web-comic, while she's fangirling all over Sir Ballister Blackheart's villainy and trying to persuade him to take her on as a sidekick. Nimona rocks.
  • 23rd February: Tony Stark in the Avengers movie, as any fule kno, trying to dodge a call from Coulson. I'm madly amused by the Life Model Decoy reference, as it's one of the recurring elements in the comics which they use to retcon character deaths and behavioural weirdnesses - LMDs are S.H.I.E.L.D. robots programmed and constructed to replace and be controlled by actual people, and thus to serve as a plausible decoy for attacks. A beautiful narrative kludge, in other words. We like those.

Today I celebrated the new bookshelves by relocating a swathe of my sf collection and opening up shelves to store my DVDs, which have outgrown their cabinet by a factor of two, which is coincidentally the factor by which, it turns out, my collection of superhero films outnumbers the fairy tale ones. This possibly suggests the need for a change in my academic focus. I'm down with this.
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Last night I dreamed I was in a glitzy haut couture designer's studio, where she had a clock which was actually a life-sized, animated metal model of Captain America. You told the time according to the arcane constellations of how it blinked, or yawned, or wrinkled its nose. It was creepy.

This is clearly a direct and slightly bizarre result of reading Hello Tailor's Avengers costume deconstructions (because, superheroes) interspersed with the Go Fug Yourself fashion show slideshows (because, pretty dresses). It also suggests that last night I slept through the night for the first time in approximately a month, which is the length of time this 'flu, and its tendency to wake me up at all hours with coughing fits, has actually endured.

Words cannot express how much I loathe and detest this time of year. It's perfectly ridiculous to have the kind of job where I cannot take time out to recover from a serious dose of 'flu because my bloody responsibilities won't let me. Also, once it's all calmed down and I'm simply sitting in my office wishing I wasn't, the post-frenzy crash is worse than the actual frenzy. However, it is remotely possible that I may actually be human again sometime in the near future, supposing I can prevent myself from burying myself in the garden in the depressive throes of the post-frenzy crash. News at 11.

not cricket

Tuesday, 15 January 2013 08:49 am
freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
I caused the Evil Landlord to look at me funny on the way up to campus this morning by collapsing laughing at a newspaper billboard. This was not, for once, the result of clever wordplay, but of a rather classic instance of a headline-writer simply failing to do some quite important research. The billboard reads:


- referring, of course, to Graeme Smith, captain of the SA cricket team, currently slaughtering New Zealand.

This is Graeme Smith:


This is the current Captain Marvel:


She used to be Ms. Marvel, but took over from the very straightforwardly masculine Captain Marvel in recent comic runs. (I know all this because she's next on my list of interesting Marvel superheroes to pursue, there's some surprisingly positive gender stuff going on there).

I love the way that our particular cultural moment has weirdly mainstreamed superheroes as symbolic touchstones, but now my wayward imagination cannot stop picturing Graeme Smith in Captain Marvel's costume. Even better, this relates beautifully to the other link that came across my Twitter feed yesterday, about Sarah Taylor, English women's cricket star, who is in talks to join a men's team. Watch out, Graeme Smith!


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