bored of being board

Wednesday, 2 December 2009 10:17 am
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Good lord. In a completely unexpected development, my publishers just sent me a royalty statement. They've sold 196 copies of my book. I was vaguely expecting no money at all, forgetting completely that they'd bypassed the hardback entirely (I would have seen no royalties for the first 500 copies) and gone straight to paperback, where I get 6% of net for all copies sold. This means they owe me slightly in excess of US$250. I'm... a bit weirded out, actually. The one thing I never expected from this academic writing gig was to make any money.

In other news, it's end-of-year, which means board schedule checking, ritual hiss spit. Normally I get to spend my weekend going through a 1.5cm-thick wodge of printouts to lovingly count each student's course totals, manually, and code them accordingly. However, last week it was revealed that this year's schedule requires the board schedules to be checked by Thursday's meeting when they're only produced on Tuesday, leaving us one day for checking. Having, in an unguarded moment, had a small but perfectly formed hissy fit at this discovery, I have won the right to stay at home today. This is mostly because results came out on Monday and there's no way in hell I'll get through all that checking what with the continual string of wounded, devastated students whose lives have ended because they've failed something. Therefore, board schedule checking with mitigating factors of own home, own snacks, comforting feline presence, ability to oversee the new gardener on his first day. On the downside, am not going to be on Teh Internets all day. Sigh. Don't break it while I'm out.
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So, riddle me this: if I'm doing a literature search for "sex blog", why does it pull up the above article from The Journal of Philology? Also, "The Economic Determinants of Entry into Canadian Banking: 1963-7". Your search algorithm, I don't think it does what you think it does.

I am not adjusting well to the rude shock of being back at work, dealing with the usual continual string of student crises. I've basically bribed my way through the last two days with continuous tea and chocolate biscuits, coupled with a slightly manic determination not to do any actual work at all. This last hasn't been too successful, but at least I've been able to alternate admin slog with sex-blog literature searches, and with a gentle mosey through Dracula to select the more dodgy erotic bits for classroom analysis. I am fascinated to discover that the bulk of these in fact involve female rather than male vampires, which says a lot about Victorian patriarchal anxiety. It does considerable violence to my feelings, but for male-on-female bitage, or male-on-male, I may have to descend to Anne Rice. Sigh.

On the upside, my book is out! A copy arrived simultaneously with my return to Cape Town (DHL pitched up as I was unloading suitcases from the car), and now reposes on my desk, being Shown Off to passing students, supervisors and anyone who'll hold still long enough. It's .. pretty! On the downside, this afternoon I proceed reluctantly to the dentist for the Root Canal of Unlikely Delay, followed by (as Stephen Fry would have it), coronation. Me and my battered bank account will be found in a corner this evening, drooling gently.
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Oo, er. My book appears to be out this month. You know, the book the writing and editing of which I've whinged obsessively about for the last several years, and the publication of which will infallibly catapult me to the heights of academic acclaim? (not). Just for nostalgia's sake, have a bunny, because of course I owe it all to the bunny:

I have about a jazillion things to do today, including checking board schedules, retch hurl, so the description of my weekend in Elgin attending weddings will have to wait. In the meantime, have some random linkery to go with the bunny, namely Animal Review's take on snails. I'm particularly tickled by the characterisation of Evolution - "a manic-depressive genius and famously difficult to work with on anything". Word. Explains, among other things, the platypus, also likely to have been dreamed up while Evolution was off its meds.
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The faculty office is all over Mary Celeste today - three people down with the gastric bug. Another two were down yesterday, not counting me, and I await tomorrow's tally with bated breath. It seems to have been one of those friendly-puppy sort of bugs, bouncing around slobbering happily on all and sundry. I still feel pale and gut-punched, and words cannot express how bored I am with eating toast, but generally I'm a lot better. Yay.

In between the trail of end-of-term student angst piling up outside my door I've been doing a final editing pass through this index, and I just pressed "Send" to shunt it the hell off to the press, to cries of joy from the nice editing lady who appreciates my appreciation of deadlines. I feel... slightly lost. This thing has eaten my life for three weeks (I'm sorry to have been so boring), and it's incredibly weird to contemplate an evening in which I don't rush home at 4pm to index frantically for another four hours. Weird in a good way, though.

I'm not just out of alphabet, I'm also out of X-Files. Last night I finished watching the X-Files finale - the end, not just of poor limping Season 9, but of the series as a whole. On the whole, while I enjoyed quite goodly chunks of the season, I'm narked and disappointed by its closure. Comments may be spoilery, so are lurking after the cut. )
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Yesterday's favourite student howler: gave curriculum advice to a young lady who's determined to do her Law "bar code exam". New developments in the legal profession: all our graduates can scan bar codes with their teeth.

This review/reshuffle of the index is far more major a job than I'd anticipated, and will take me every non-student-advice-giving moment up until the deadline on Thursday. (So you're off the hook, [ profile] librsa, with your kind offer of proofreading - there simply ain't time. But thank you anyway. The willingness of all and sundry to pitch into this book-writing lark is heart-warming, although possibly insane. Three separate people in the last week have asked for a rundown on the topic. Poor suckers). I also discover, however, that either the organic processes of indexing mean my criteria for entries change all the time, or I simply can't count. The word search approach is revealing all sorts of simply wrong page numbers, I don't know what the hell I was thinking at the time. Possibly "aargh". But at least it is getting a fairly thorough proof-read.

In other news, maybe it's indexing which gives me gut cramps. Or simply the stress. But I'm pale and nauseous again. Phooey.
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indexindexindex. Now on the last chapter, which should give me the next four or five days to rationalise, reshuffle and double-check before the deadline kicks in. I am completely amazed by how much I've enjoyed this indexing lark, it's a lovely fit to the vague, organic wanderings which characterise my brain in its quest for order.

On the downside, the house is not a happy working environment right now, on account of the atmosphere of icy, implacable hatred. I packed the three cats into boxes this morning and lugged them off to the vet for their annual checkup, a process accompanied by a loud, uncoordinated and indignant chorus most trying to my semi-musical ear. I'm a bit worried that the Evil Landlord is away this weekend, there's a small but real chance that he might come back on Sunday to discover that the cats, working in concert for the first time ever, have buried me in the garden in retribution. I shall have to sleep with a loaded catnip-toy next to my bed.

Have a lovely time at HBD, all you SCA types. I'm a bit wistful, but even if I wasn't on hiatus I'd be too busy with the indexing to go, so I suppose it's all for the best.

X-Files update: into the final season. Dogget still growing on me, he's just so basically decent! Reyes is not quite as irritating as she was, but I still want to feed her to a giant lizard at intervals. And Adam Baldwin is still around, for my Firefly-flashback pleasure. This weekend's problem, of course, is whether being alone in the house will make it impossible to watch X-Files of an evening. I do get very jumpy.

Last Night I Dreamed: I took up a three-year post teaching English and acting as an advisor to a creative writing class at a university in Mumbai. Lovely campus, with a giant flight of steps curiously similar to those of my Cherished Institution.
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Darn it. Teh Internets, bless them, seem unable to give me a picture of Will Smith being beaten against the side of a car by a flailing alien tentacle. Witterers are please to imagine same, as an approximation of my current state.

The being-beaten sensation is peculiarly appropriate, given the complete absence of the weekend from the "being useful in the indexing stakes" slate. I was draggy and out of it all Saturday, and then woke up at 3am on Sunday morning with the most epic, nasty and virtuoso manifestation yet of Sid the Sinus Headache - I swear the little bugger was hammering a six-inch railroad spike through my right temple, causing me to lie in bed and whimper helplessly for about twenty minutes until I could rouse and find a painkiller. He was almost certainly laying railroad tracks, as the headache migrated gently through Sunday from right temple, to centre forehead, to left temple, to just above the left ear. It came accompanied by a wild temperature and nausea, to the point where I couldn't actually sit up for more than about five minutes at a time throughout Sunday. Happy illness ironies: I was feeling too sick to eat anything, which means I couldn't take the Advil which would have sorted out the sinus headache. It's these little details which tell you the Cosmic Wossnames are poking each other in the ribs and snickering. On my week of leave, too. No fair.

Anyway. I'm still headachy today, but put in two chapters worth of indexing with a relative presence of brain. I seem to be suffering from a profusion of entries, which I may have to ruthlessly rationalise once I've finished.

X-Files report: I'm actually getting to like Doggett, he's a believable and mostly likeable character. I could happily watch him and Scully interact for several seasons, but I'm all doom-laden because I know they don't. Agent Reyes has just been introduced. Agent Reyes put my teeth completely on edge within about three seconds of her first appearance, and it's only getting worse. Possibly the only reason to continue watching the bloody series with her as a feature is in the vague hopes that they accidentally land a spaceship on her and squash her flat. She's a disgusting combination of superciliousness and sheer stupid flakiness, and when she stands there pontificating smugly about her "feelings" and "openness" while simultaneously refusing to believe anything Scully says, I want to haul off and punch her. That episode about the Native American shamanistic sickness-eater was amazing, though. In a slightly gross way.

the divvil's in it

Thursday, 25 September 2008 02:02 pm
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Memo to self: must acquire hot-air balloon for purposes of surveying the Common near our house. Application of the Gaiman/Pratchett theory of traffic suggests that this apparently innocently irregular trapezoid stretch of ground is, in fact, a cunningly disguised pentagram, Elder Sign or other hideous occultic deformity possibly including the noxious sigil Odegra, Defiler of Traffic. How else do you explain the fact that leaving the house at exactly the same time on the same day of the week will, from week to week, be productive of any random result on a spectrum from "takes five minutes to reach campus" to "takes forty-five minutes to reach the other side of the Common"? Today was hell. Just under an hour from my gate to my campus parking, bumper-to-bumper all the way, and a particularly disgusting quotient of impatient imbeciles clogging the crossings on the turn cycle. No random variables introduced since the same journey on Thursday last week. Either it's Odegra, or there's a demon of mischief possessing the traffic lights and randomly putting them all out of phase. Either way, I spit. Ptooey.

The annoyance of the above has been compounded by one of those days when the students queue outside my door, none of them with the necessary paperwork; the internet is snail-paced, the phone keeps ringing with additional, exciting imbecilities, and I'm embroiled in a war with a rival faculty over orientation venues. I console myself with two things. One: fainting goats. No, really, fainting goats. When startled, their leg muscles lock and they fall over. This is apparently a deliberate breed feature with actual (slightly dubious) evolutionary purpose. I am fond of goats, and wouldn't want to take out my sadistic fury at students on innocent caprines, but they look very funny.

Two: the final proofs of This Damned Book arrived. The layout is incredibly cool, beautifully in keeping with the cover. Now I just have to index it. *girds loins*. On the upside, the irritations of today have been such that I contemplate with active joy the prospect of a week off work even if it must be spent in the embrace of indexulary tentacles. (It was presumably in anticipation of same that Jo confronted us with something not unlike the awakening of Great Cthulhu in our game last night. Cue party exiting harbour at magically-enhanced speed on a stolen boat, to the sound effect of screeching tyres).

Today's Retro Kiddielit installment may be edging into the mainstream, but it has to be said. Alan Garner writes spare, controlled, edgy, dark-tinted children's fantasy, steeped in European mythology and English landscapes; The Weirdstone of Brisigamen and its sequel, The Moon of Gomrath, are fairly high-fantasy, and I devoured them as a child suffering from post-Tolkien fantasy cravings. My favourite of his, though, is far more domestic, a surprisingly adult-themed exploration of love and jealousy through the folkloric tale of Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion, the Welsh epic. The Owl Service both fascinated me and thoroughly creeped me out as a child: its protagonists are modern teenagers, and their experience of this ancient tale of betrayal and punishment is haunting and unsettling. The central feature of the story also really resonated with me, the patterned dinner service whose design can be seen either as flowers or as owls: I love the way the trick of perception shapes the whole story. I like owls, but in this novel they're downright nasty.
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So, indexing. Gawsh. Turns out indexing is a great, flubbery, tentacular, flailing brute of a process that has to be mastered, pinned to the mat with carefully alphabetised and sub-sectioned logical pins, and it grows and shrinks appendages even as you're wrestling it. I don't have the final page proofs yet, but I've spent the last weekend and quite a lot of the evenings of the last week inventing indexing terms, and I'm starting to dream in sub-entries. It's a surprisingly demanding and subtle art, as you end up having to assess quite stringently what you're actually doing at any point in the work - what the focus and nub of the argument is. It seems to be an organic, inter-related, intuitive sort of thing, which is pretty much how my mind works, so lucky there. Even so, I can't help feeling that passing by my study at the moment runs the risk of being startled by a giant tentacle suddenly crashing through the window, with me trapped and flailing at the end of it, like that bit with Will Smith in Men In Black. If this book turns out to be a cute alien baby who throws up on me, I'm going to be a bit miffed. Also, intrigued.

Not watching much Farscape at the moment, being as how me and the Evil Landlord are locked into some kind of stupid cold war in which neither of us will be the first to suggest it. He's ahead on points by virtue of the fact that he's spending his evenings sitting in the living room so I can't watch X-Files either. On the upside, lots of indexing. Also, I may be able to grab him with a flailing tentacle next time he wanders past my study and beat his bloody uncommunicative head against the wall.

Last Night I Dreamed: I'd just moved into a huge old Victorian house with my family, and had an amazing bedroom with attached library and door into the garden, plus enormous bathroom occupied by some sort of hob or brownie who nicked the soap. My sister was annoyed because I had the bigger room. There was also a lift going down to the basement, which contained a giant room knee-deep in water, hosting a knitting convention.

dreams, 16-19; floods, 21-22; house-moving, 16; invasion, 18, 19; knitting, 19; sibling rivalry, 17.
home, 16-19; anxiety about, 18-19; dream about, 16; flooding of, 19; space for books in, 17; invasion by fey, 18; invasion by knitters, 19; theft from, 18.
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Hmmm. Another addition to the disgracefully long list of Things That Randomly Make Me Cry: baby moose playing in the spray during a heatwave. Apparently.

The Evil Landlord has given me his bloody cold. I am snuffly, trippy and cross, a situation only partially mitigated by baby moose, and unmitigated in any way by the fact that I have to spend the whole weekend wading through my own deathless prose.
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Gawsh. I sent the edit commentary back to my Nice Proof-reader on Thursday, and am consequently drifting around at a bit of a loss. You mean there's no actual desperately important project which should be requiring all my attention right now this instant? Radical!

One of the upshots of this has been to make me recollect the existence of Purl-Handled Revolver, the blog wherein I indulge my bizarre knitting outbreaks in decent privacy. Fellow knitters may want to wander over there, I have a whole series of posts planned. She says seductively, and not at all in a self-pimping manner, oh no!

An upshot of rediscovering the knitblog has been the realisation that I never followed Robynn's link to the Mervyn Peake nonsense poetry, lo these many geological ages ago when I last actually posted. Why have I hitherto been blissfully oblivious to the existence of Mervyn Peake nonsense poetry? It seems a tragic oversight. Fortunately, Amazon UK has a plethora of 1p copies and [ profile] librsa trundles back here in the next week or so, and he's traditionally something of a Peake-courier. *plot, scheme*

In other news: this bloody "breaking news" phishing scam is setting the prevailing spam level ridiculously high. I must be killing fifty a day, which is a huge jump from the usual five. Let's hope to FSM somebody zorches it soon, bored now.

also, two-headed dog

Thursday, 14 August 2008 10:59 am
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Department of Academic Gloating: the approved cover design for my book arrived today. It's stunning - as per my suggestion they've used Ursula Vernon's art deco nouveau "Beauty and the Beast", and done the whole thing with a corresponding art deco nouveau feel and exceptionally beautiful fontage. I am a very, very happy proto-author. I'm also a chapter away from finishing the edit review, which is a good feeling. Current peeve: the copy-editor has taken out all my uses of inverted commas as distance quotes and added "so-called" instead. This annoys me, and there has been much throwing about of stettage. I am also somewhat miffed by her refusal to accept "formulae" as a plural. "Formulas" just looks all wrong to me. Still, she has managed to remove a positively ridiculous, if not indecent, incidence of the completely spurious word "itself", so it possibly all comes out in the wash.

Fired with near-completion, not to mention hopeless fangirliness, I took myself off to see X-Files: I Want To Believe last night. I have heard, from various sources, differing things about this film:
  1. It's just like an X-Files episode, and therefore dull and disappointing. (Half of Teh Internets).
  2. It's just like an X-Files episode, and therefore wow, squeee! (The other half of Teh Internets).
  3. OMG Mulder and Scully are old and ugly! (Different half of Teh Internets).
  4. OMG Mulder and Scully are still hot! (Other different half of Teh Internets).
  5. It's really dark and depressing. (jo&stv).
The upshot of all of this was that I didn't have very high expectations, as a possibly direct result of which I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I think Chris Carter actually went seriously out of his way to provide an antidote to the (equally enjoyable) giant!underground!arctic!alien!spaceship!-vibe of the first movie - this was low budget, gritty and real, with the focus away from special effects and towards the psychological and philosophical interactions which were always the strength of the series, anyway. The games the writers play with self-conscious use of the series clichés are particularly entertaining; I loved the classic X-Filesy driving-a-country-road-at-night opening.

Overall I found it a surprisingly adult and thoughtful film, although really I shouldn't be surprised, the series always had the capacity to deliver that, however interspersed with goofy humour, weird science and grandiose paranoid conspiracy. I'm also revolving some kind of theory as to the symbolic function of snow for Chris Carter; apart from its obvious provision of freeze/thaw motifs for both meaning and emotion, it's visually very effective, and the film was beautifully shot. (The end credits were particularly lovely).

Overall, I think I fall into category 2, with a side helping of category 4, except that, while it's well presented, goofily endearing and eccentrically realistic, Mulder/Scully is just weird.
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Today I finally found time to work through the sample edited chapter of my book the nice copy-editor sent me. She is on record as saying that it didn't need much editing, as I write very well (preens), but she's bloody well gone through the entire thing and changed "which" to "that" throughout. I am reconciled to the American spelling, although the word "marvelous" in the title is going to look extremely odd. I will even put up with her refusal to hyphenate sensible words such as "re-explorations" or "pre-eminent", and I positively approve of her tendency to swoop wholesale upon the egregiously unnecessary commas with which I am prone to sprinkle my writing, and to expunge them ruthlessly. But "which" is NOT incorrect in a relative clause. The desperate need to replace it with "that" is a popular grammatical urban myth which I deny, disbelieve and excoriate. It's nonsense. It's an incorrection. Language Log agrees, and they know everything. I shall fight this to the bitter end, in the teeth of editors and worse. *plants grammatical flag, glowers threateningly*.

In the Department of My Evil Landlord Is Completely Insane (In A Good Way), he has madly constructed a beautiful little piano stool, only to inform me that it's the mock-up and "not very well made". The real one will be made in cherry wood, presumably to some exactingly Germanic standard of perfection. (This has not prevented me from seating myself upon the mock-up for an hour and playing Beethoven. Badly). He has also made something of an epic record for belated birthday goodness in presenting me with the first six volumes of Girl Genius, which are by some bizarre happenstance apparently available on Take2. I mean, overkill much? There's generosity, and then there's wow, insane. I am a very, very happy pseudo-Victorian spark-fancier. A favourite web comic is somehow different, and much realer, in hard copy.

And, in the Department of Belated Linkery, I promised various people last night to link to Passive-Aggressive Appetizers. Courtesy of the Whatever. These are amusingly evil-minded.

Now off to brief my next year's cohort of orientation leaders, about to begin training. This will end at about 7pm, thus presenting me with a perfect 12-hour day. Phooey.
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I happily blew my brain on Thursday night by watching Fahrenheit 911 and Sky High back-to-back, an extremely random and unlikely pairing that gave me a momentary case of dissociative identity disorder, and left me with the slightly confused impression that the world would be rather better off if it were run by secret cabals of campy superheroes than by secret cabals of venal old men. I managed not to see Fahrenheit 911 when it came out, for no adequately defined reason: it's a pretty powerfully manipulative piece of cinema, building up an inexorable case against Bush which is clearly and unashamedly biased, and thus makes for a rather more honest counterpoint to the manipulations of the conservative media. Bit self-indulgently slow in parts, though. Sky High is an equally black-and-white view of good and evil, but infinitely more fun - random props to Kurt Russell and a bonus Bruce Campbell taking the mickey out of themselves.

While we're in the Department of Venal Old Men: I'm afraid that with regard to Zimbabwe at this stage I imitate the action of the ostrich - I don't want to know the details, they make me cry. But I am deriving considerable vindictive satisfaction, even if symbolic rather than meaningful, from the discovery that the Queen has stripped Bob of his knighthood. Go Queenie!

In the Department of Ineffable Cosmic Mistiming, I'm going to have a nicely relaxed week of leave noodling around with the Tepper/Shelley/gothic/sf/marginal genres paper. Then I'm going to go back to work just as my publishers, who seem to have suddenly snapped into production mode, land me with a 100 000-word book to proofread and index in under a month. Note to onlookers: I may be largely unavailable for much of July.
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Whee! I just pressed "Send" on the email with zip file attachment which sent this book thing, in Positively! Its! Last! Appearance!, off to Michigan. I technically finished the updates this weekend, but I've spent the last few days suffering from the nit-picky polishing impulse which is basically a delaying tactic as I can't bear to send the child of my intellect staggering off into the void owing to my haunting fear that its hair might be inadequately brushed and there are probably, metaphorically speaking, chocolate stains all over its shirt. I was moderately pleased with the final chapter, though, in which I scientifically dissected Hoodwinked, Happily N'Ever and Shrek the Third and was beautifully and meticulously rude about them. Enchanted got better press, on mature reflection I think it was fun and reasonably intelligent.

Oops. In the Department of Desperate Fangirlyness, is currently selling X-Files seasons for just under ten pounds a shot - I shamelessly brandish this low-budget acquisition opportunity in the vague hopes that some of you lot might go forth and acquire same, thus lessening my consumerist angst.I went a little mad with the Mulder/Scully love, bringing my collection up to Season 7 (The Last Proper One With Mulder). Sorry, mother... I may have to pay you vast sums to mail them to me so that you don't end up with the usual metric tonnage of Stuff to bear burdensomely hither in July.

Boring meetings all afternoon, but off to see Sweeny Todd this evening. Yay demon barbers! Memo to self, must get hair cut...

Last Night I Dreamed: I was a dragon in control of armies, in competition and uneasy alliances with other dragons. Dragon-breeding for additional intelligence was a factor at some point, as was sitting on top of a mountain surveying the battle. Later, when no longer a dragon, I decided that the SCA play was successful enough that we were going to put on another one, this time by J M Barrie. (For some inexplicable reason, since he's so appropriate to the SCA setting). I hunted desperately for a copy of said play throught the music library, which was a huge, beautiful, 18th-century stone building full of enormous wood-panelled rooms and leather-bound books, none of which were shelved in any sort of logical order at all. I finally found it in an unlikely place, and then had to rewrite it to make it shorter, simpler and a musical. (I diagnose too much Enchanted, or alternatively [ profile] khoi_boi's tendency to sing the SCA play as Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs).
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Today's dose of Daily Voice tabloid surrealism:
I can't work out if I misread it driving past, or if the headline writers are actually on high-quality mind-altering substances. Also, I'm vaguely associating it in my mind with a headline a few months back, in which a pig stole someone's wallet, or something. This sounds like the pig's courtroom defense. I did it because he was clearly evil, yer honour, he was in an evil taxi!

I survived the weekend's SCA event, barely - it was successful, fun, completely mind-blowingly exhausting, and I'm ambivalent but generally relieved that I don't get to do it again for a minimum of two years, owing to self-imposed exile on grounds of ingrowing volunteerism and sanity retention. I spent most of yesterday unable to form sentences and more or less horizontal, watching cute kiddie movies. Fortunately, owing to my considerable finessing of this so-called "career" lark, I actually get to define the above as "work". I have the pages of notes to prove it, too. (Sentences not actually necessary for note-taking, fortunately). The score:

Enchanted. Surprisingly enjoyable; I'm sufficiently steeped in Disney and the gosh-darned musical format to derive considerable pleasure from a scientific dissassemblage and snarky parody of the more saccharine, stylised, unrealistic and twee aspects of same. Also, I have no problem with James Marsden sending himself up with enthusiasm for ninety minutes, he's very watchable. Also, bonus completely unrealistic, ironic, large-scale music and dance numbers in public places; they make me happy in the same way that Improv Everywhere does. I'm a girl of simple pleasures, really. In addition to the really complicated and pretentious academic ones.

Happily N'Ever After. During the course of this film I ate an entire tube full of candy-coated chocolate eggs that [ profile] khoi_boi's nice wife incautiously left in our kitchen on Friday night. (She does this random Easter Bunny thing at this time of year, she always seems to have a stash of chocolate eggs somewhere about her person). The resulting sugar haze was barely sufficient to prevent me from the appropriate Vogon-poetic-auto-cannibalism. It's a dreadful little film, full of plastic people, plot kludges and a pale, struggling germ of self-consciousness fatally choked by stupidity. Bright spots: Hell's Angel witches on sort of speederbike things. Also, the heroine, while deeply irritating, looked very like [ profile] tsukikoneko, which kept causing me momentary flashes of affection despite the character's irritation value. I am inclined to think, though, that I could have stuck with the analysis of the film I gave in the comments here, way before I'd actually seen it, and saved myself some toothache.

Shrek the Third. Nope. Still necrophilia. I didn't remember much about the film, hence the re-watch, but it turns out that was because my kindly subconscious had cloaked the whole thing in a merciful haze. I'm just grateful I didn't have time to rewatch Hoodwinked. Possibly this evening, when my tissues have restored somewhat and I'll be able to wash the taste out of my mouth with fine food at Africa Café.

This movie-watching is causing me intellectual irritation, like too much fabric softener in the undergarments. There's an underlying principle about contemporary fairy-tale film towards which I'm groping as I update this final chapter, but so far it's eluding me. It occurred to me that you lot are an intelligent bunch of people, you might spot any flaws in my reasoning here, since my brain is apparently rotted by too much cooking, insufficient sleep, and the incipient thumping of Sid the Sinus Headache. However, if this is not your cup of tea, feel free to magnificently refrain from clicking on the cut. Fairy-tale burblings lurk within! )
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Hmmm. Never let the Cosmic Wossnames think you think they've cut you a break. I was rejoicing in the rain, and thinking that although there is an insane number of things I have to do before Tuesday I could just about fit it all in, and then I suddenly discovered that the guest lecture on The Wizard of Oz I thought I was giving next semester ... is on Tuesday. I have had to bribe the Nicest Ex-Supervisor In The World with gin to let me off the lecture, because? no way. I can't even find time in the next few days to watch the film, let alone think up 45 mins of intelligent things to say about it. Curse you, Cosmic Wossnames! *shakes tiny fist*

On the upside, I am onto the last chapter in these book updates, and [ profile] mac1235, ace demon evil pirate downloader, has found me a totally illegal bootleg copy of Enchanted, which I plan to watch, digest and regurtitate on Sunday, which means I may (and I whisper this behind my hand, so the Cosmic Wossnames don't hear) submit this book to deadline. I hope it has redeeming features as a movie, since my Lawful Good alignment dictates I'll have to go and buy the bloody thing as soon as the DVD is released, on account of the guilt.

Oh, and anyone who isn't yet signed up for Tor's free e-book offer? Do so at once, you dingbat. (Epithet void where prohibited by lack of sf-fandom). The recent offering is Jo Walton's Farthing, which is a totally chilling piece of alternate history - Nazi Germany takes over Europe but makes peace with Britain. Lots of proto-fascism, discrimination against Jews and gays, and period country-house-party shenanigans. Very nicely done, surprisingly enjoyable given that it's the kind of heavily political writing I usually thoroughly despise. The characters leap out and bite you. Next week's download is Tobias Bucknell, who is apparently very good indeed.

Now off to make ginormous shopping list preparatory to achieving provisions necessary for a three-course Elizabethan meal for 35, which I'm cooking tonight and tomorrow as a sort of SCA swan-song. Wish me luck!

white light, white heat

Saturday, 8 March 2008 09:15 pm
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Come to Cape Town, they say. Enjoy the climate. Hah. It's been stinkingly, horribly, unbelievably, traumatically hot for the last few of days - not only is stepping outside like immersing yourself in a nice warm bath of soup, but within no more than twenty seconds you can feel your skin start to burn. Or my skin, at any rate, mostly because I'm very pale as a result of a pathological fear of the sun. Every clear, burnished-blue afternoon the peninsula lovingly piles up big, fat, white thunderheads over the mountains, but it's just to taunt me, nothing ever comes of it. I am consequently, in addition to being horribly busy, somewhat tending to interleave mad bouts of productive activity with sessions reclining on the couch, hand to forehead, whinging in faint and die-away tones.

I finished what I fondly imagined was the last tweaking of the Gaiman/Miéville paper yesterday evening, and then incautiously went and watched the BBC Neverwhere, which gave me a whole crop of new, interesting things to say. (I loved the series, which is interestingly made and brilliantly cast, and the Marquis of Carabas is incredibly cool, although I trust I found more academic ways to say that he's hawt and I fundamentally want his coat). I'm going to have to reserve most of them for the future rewrite/expansion I'm going to have to do (and submit to a fantasy-focused journal whose readers actually know what I'm talking about), since I only have 4000 words for this paper, and am having to lop interesting limbs off arguments left, right and centre (as both my readers pointed out. Perspicacious sods).

So, paper down, and I spent the day immersed in book updates, more precisely in that mad, academic see-saw between "gosh, this is dreadful" and "gosh, this isn't half bad" which reading my own writing always engenders. The first few chapters may still be dreadful, but they're a lot less dreadful than they were this morning. Also, the Cosmic Wossnames hate me: Enchanted isn't out on DVD, and Happily N'Ever After isn't in any of the nearby video stores this evening. I may be updating this concluding chapter (fairy-tale parody) on thumb-suck, Wikipedia, and my l33t scores in Academic Bluff.

Oh, and it isn't just busyness which is making me neglect to post. Work is still flat out, but the Evil Landlord's computer is having hissy fits which cause it to reboot every five minutes, which, given that it harbours the internet connection, is playing merry hell with my connectivity. He blames my techno-jinx. He may have a point.

ray gun to my head

Thursday, 14 February 2008 11:53 am
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Hmmm. Registration is over, leaving me with a pounding headache which won't quit. We now have a week in which droves of students randomly change their courses owing to errors, rethinks or random astrological conjunctions. I'm a bit snarly.

In the Department Of Your Life Just Got Even More Insanely Busy, the press mailed me yesterday to say that the editorial board has approved the revisions on the book and they're all go for publication. Back in, oh, November, when the second readers' reports came back, I said I'd be able to finish the last lot of minor revisions by the end of February. Owing to China-Miéville-wrestling and an unexpected new job to the solar plexus, I haven't started them yet, and am pleading for a mid-March deadline. I need to have the Miéville paper done by the end of this weekend, the editor is becoming plaintive and slightly pained. After that, I only have to work out how to fit book revisions, a full-time job and a major SCA event into the same three weeks, and I'm all set. The real problem seems to me the likelihood that the power cuts will render the time machine inoperable at crucial junctures.

It wouldn't be Wellington's Day without growling (I did say I was snarly).


This is clearly untrue. My cat loves my opposable, food-providing, ear-scratching thumbs and the softness of my bed at night. However, I'll take what I can get.
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Phew. In the Department of Bullets Recently Dodged: my car's engine has been making a weird squeaky noise increasingly often for the last couple of weeks. To me it sounded like a proto-incipient version of the squeal you get from a slipping fanbelt, and I suggested this to my Amazing Tame Mechanic this morning when I dropped the car off at the garage. Turns out it is sort of a belt-related noise, only the belt bits related to the cam-shaft, which is squeaking because a vital bit of it is almost seized solid. If I'd carried on blithely driving it, the whole cam would have self-destructed fairly soon, so just as well I went all pre-emptive on it. I am once again grateful for random bits of arcane engine lore imparted by my father when I was a mere adolescent driver prone to cactus-destruction, and which have given me a nervous habit of listening to my car engine more or less continually and trying to match its odder sound effects against my incomplete and shaky mental schematic of the Infernal Combustion Engine. (My Biscuit Tin was really good for odd sound effects. I swear the squeaks and rattles were poltergeist activity and necessary for its continued locomotion).
Score: Self 1, Techno-Jinx 0. Feeling: smug.

In the Department of There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: my department gave me a farewell lunch today. Experienced extemp-readers will immediately appreciate the multi-levelled irony inherent in this gesture. They've never employed me properly, they've certainly never paid me properly, they have repeatedly refused to give me an actual post, and I'm only leaving because I refuse to teach any further for the pittance they do pay. The dept. members present were my supporters, and were very sweet, but I'm groping for a metaphor here. It's not locking the stable door after the horse has bolted: it's closer to opening, with a flourish, the triple-locked stable door in order to permit the exit of a horse which was never inside the damned stable in the first place, because it's been locked outside. Cropping the sparse dry grass of the paddock. In the rain.
Score: Self 1 (free lunch), Cosmic Irony 3. Feeling: unloved, but strangely loved.

In the Department of Cosmic Slapdowns: I have to spend the entire weekend doing progression codings, which entails taking the printed academic record of every second-year BSocSci student and counting whether they've completed enough courses to be allowed to continue. This is a howl-inducing combination of time-consuming, nitpicky, mindlessly boring and absolutely vital, and will undoubtedly have caused me to gnaw off a random selection of my own limbs by the end of the weekend.
Score: Self 0, Cosmic Sadism 23. Feeling: aargh.

But! In the Department of Oh My God Eventually, the press finally got back to me about the book revisions. (Remember? The Revisions That Brutalised The Bunny?) Both readers in the second round of reviews strongly recommend publication; both have expressed only minor, easily fixable nitpicks. Both seem to have bought, hook, line and sinker, the notion that the updates involved close, careful, scholarly reading and absorption of a variety of dense critical material. I swear they've almost convinced me that's that what I did.
Self: 3, (ftw), Academia 0 (pwned!). Feeling: inexpressible joy.

And, as a bonus: the departmental lunch featured the reading out of a selection of comments from student assessments of my teaching. The bit that made me snort my champagne:
"My god, what a mind! And ... she is never an arrogant bitch."

It makes it all seem so ... worthwhile! Possibly.


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