Saturday, December 29, 2007

You ain't seen me, right?*

This week I have been mostly absent. I have, as you can tell, perhaps, been watching Fast Show dvds, eating incredible amounts, drinking more than I ever drink, and getting books. I hope our plants will be alive when we get hom tomorrow, and hope we have something in the house to cheer me up.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


It is Boxing Day, but for my purposes I am celebrating Christmas today. So Merry.

I am full of food and have armfuls of loot. Family is nice too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I'm leaving for home tomorrow, am stressed, am feeling awful, and am just generally a waste of space just now. Go rent the Muppets Christmas Carol. I'm going to read, and try to come up with a gift for the spouse.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trust me on this on

Well, that last bit led me to a whole series of really and truly hilarious links. My face kind of hurts from laughing so hard. Anyway, as a follow up to that last piece, and to my repeated defendings of Potter fanfic, I feel I should link to a the most cheering collection of bad writing and bad ideas that I have seen in a good long while. Non-squicky, I think. For those of you who don't know what squicky means, follow the link and wonder how you got through life before you knew that there was a single word for being appalled by the thought of certain activities and...combinations.

Monday, December 17, 2007

For a friend of mine, who is appalled at my obsession with things Potter

I'll have you know, that I took this quiz, and am not, in fact, obsessed. Not that it would be a problem if I were, mind you. Yes, somewhere deep inside I wish I had robes. This is is not because of Potter. It is because I have a deep desire for cloaks, and robes, and pointy sleeves and pointy shoes. Also, as I am watching The Order of the Phoenix (again), can I point out that there is something very disturbing about Dan Radcliffe Though somebody really needs to talk to him about his taste in (off-screen) clothing. I don't know which is creepier, finding him sexy or seeing him weakly impersonating a dodgy lawyer.

And while you're thinking Potter, you will want to check out this entry - it is where Voldemort and Steve Jobs meet.



Saturday, December 15, 2007


I just came across something so fantastically cool that it kind of makes my eyes water. It is a blog, just when I was thinking, ooh, I fancy a new and exciting blog to read. It is a blog about words, and you know, Romans, friends, countrymen, that I does love wordses! The best part, my darlings, is this: it is a blog about words that people have randomly invented on their blogs. Well, actually that is not the best part. The best part is that I actually found this blog while idly patrolling the internets for references to my own, entirely insignificant blog. Yes, my dears, it is true: I have earned an entry, somehow, obscurely.

It's good to see that my college dream of making it into the dictionary is alive and doing well, and being encouraged by a linguist-like entity.

Seriously though, this blog is so amusing it is making me drool a little. I wish I had come up with the idea. Think of the possibilities! Think of all the times you wish you had known words like "incestiness", "insta-pond" and "done-to-the-deathitude"!

Oh, and if you follow the link from his name, it leads to some stuff containing the adjective "dictionary-licking". Mark Peters, whoever you are, I love you.

Tedium and cruelty

Tedium is a lovely word, a caress of a word for something ugly. In honour of its aesthetic value, I will restyle it to mean the following: time spent doing repetitive, manual tasks. That is close enough to its usual meaning, but keep in mind that both The Artist's Way and the voluntary simplicity people hold that repetitive, slow tasks have their place, and often free up much-needed mindspace. I am not claiming that either entity, particularly the former, has a monopoly on truth, but it is a good pointer.

My job, that unpredictable beast, involves some tedium; as does my own time, on a good day. I clean, catalogue, update, download at various times and in various places, and I notice that this time is valuable to me. By the time I get home, or get done, I often have whole posts/letters/stories/issues sorted out in my head, and all I have to do is show them out. While I love adrenaline-filled crazy days, these slow days of catching up are part and parcel of my set of needs. I like myself better on days when I'm creative in some way or other.

It occurs to me that Julia Cameron reminds me of Sybil Trelawny. I know I'm obsessed with HP, but really, wouldn't you agree? The thick fog of new-agey, fuzzy, touchy-feely self-affirmation in Cameron's book almost convinces you that she must be a fraud, but in spite of herself she has flashes of real insight.

Dit echter geheel terzijde. Sorry, had to say that in Dutch. It means something like "however" or "this entirely aside".
"So" in Northern Irish English.

To come back to the issue of creativity, I've been wondering about whether I should write fanfic. Since I'm obsessed anyway, I might as well make a virtue of necessity. Or whatever you might call obsessive compulsion. I'm not sure that I am brave/well-versed/good enough to actually do so, and the prospect is hopelessly intimidating for some reason, and it would require deeper cover on the internets (another alias...but I like mine). Hmmm. I figure that writing fanfic might displace my covert desire to write romances; so much fanfic is romantic anyway - surely the skills are transferable. Rather than writing about muscular sea-captains one can borrow some more interesting folks from Madam Rowley. Hmmm.

The other thing that I was thinking of today is that one of the truly baffling things in my life is people's behaviour towards the Spouse. My husband is the sweetest, sincerest, silliest person I know. He is also incredibly intelligent. For some reason entirely unknown to me this results in people treating him much worse than he deserves. It is infinitely aggravating to me when people are rude, or worse, off-hand, to him for no better reason than that he is too nice to retaliate. You have no idea how many people I would tell off, refuse to talk to, insult, punch, and generally abuse if it were not for the Spouse's insistence that I should not. I really sometimes feel like the dragon at the gate, being much more direct and on the offensive; and because being mean to him is like kicking the proverbial puppy, I am much more aggressive on my behalf than on my own. Oh the people who treat as a dismissable nice guy. They make my hands itch, even when they're my friends. Grrr.
All right, I'll be good; but I will never understand why so few people really see what a great human being he is.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happiness is a small corner

People have lived on a small scale for a long time - family, village, community. It's only recently that we've started seeing the bigger picture. There's this idea out there that more travel, more knowledge makes you a happier, better person (am I just inventing this?) - I disagree. It makes you a more interesting person perhaps; a better one on a good day. I don't believe, however, that the bigger picture makes anyone happy. Maybe I am too influenced by the Simple Living ideas, but I feel like, while there is no reason for me personally to be unhappy, I do feel terribly guilty about all sorts of global things. People wasting resources we're going to miss in ten years time; conflicts abroad; inhuman conditions in sweatshops. Whatever crosses my mind on a given day. Guilt is a wonderful tool, as the protestants always knew, it'll keep you on your best behaviour. It makes me more conscientious, more careful. My guilt is almost like a better self. Only guilt and happiness don't mix so well, and while my being unhappy doesn't serve the planet especially well, it is hard to be both happy and open-eyed in a complex, huge world forever at your door. When I read about the Rwandan genocide, I feel guilty, because as a Belgian I am implicated by proxy, culturally. Driving around I feel guilty, guilty about all the homeless people I drive past, guilty for driving when I could take the bus. But what does it do, this guilt?

Somebody I know used to say that rabbits prefer hutches to the open field - because the hutch is safe. I think today in the west it is hard not to try to build a hutch for yourself, barricade yourself from the world behind a world of TV, yoga retreats, stress management training and new kitchen appliances. Maybe I should rephrase: I don't mind the idea of enclosing your section of the world; but it is not as simple as it was. Knowledge brings responsibility, and requires judgement. So before anyone builds and enclosure, it is good to make sure that you're not building it on someone else's land, that you do not damage what does not belong to you. Living simply comes into focus again...and the choices that come with it.

This is not easy. Maybe my sense of impending doom is too strong; but it is hard to feel like I - any of us - deserve happiness these days. The truth is that a good hutch is hard to find these days, and that every moment of happiness has to be disentagled from the darkness around it, though some of like to pretend that it's not dark out there. No wonder Harry Potter is so popular. I'm sure we'd all like to believe that if only we could defeat this one force, everything would be ok - but even Harry Potter isn't that simple. No wonder Snape is so popular. We know broken things too well (though not all of them are so wonderfully snide about it)

I woke up with that most guilty song of all - George Michael's "Praying for Time":

... The rich declare themselves poor
And most of us are not sure

If we have too much

But we'll take our chances

'Cause God's stopped keeping score

I guess somewhere along the way

He must have let us all out to play
Turned his back and all God's children

Crept out the back door

And it's hard to love, there's so much to hate
Hanging on to hope

When there is no hope to speak of

And the wounded skies above say it's much, much too late

Well maybe we should all be praying for time

So you scream from behind your door
Say what's mine is mine and not yours

I may have too much but I'll take my chances
'Cause God's stopped keeping score

And you cling to the things they sold you

Did you cover your eyes when they told you

That he can't come back
Cause he has no children to come back for...

Thursday, December 13, 2007


It occurs to me that I should have a label that says "poetry", rather than just the poet's name. Here's some, in Dutch, which I read in college, and rather love. With clumsy translation:

Mooi is een kooitje
Met een kanarie erin

Heel mooi ook een kooitje
Met een parkiet erin

Met een merel erin, met een kolibri erin,
Een slavink erin, een bos wortelen erin,
Blokjes marmer erin, een glas water erin

Maar het mooiste is eigenlijk
Een kooitje met niets erin
Cage (little cage, literally)
Pretty is a cage
With a canary in it
Very pretty also a cage
With a parakeet in it
With a sparrow in it, with a hummingbird in it,
Buffalo wings in it, some carrots in it,
Cubes of marble in it, a glas of water in it
But the prettiest thing is really
A cage with nothing in it
Poetry is a lovely thing, and while a colleague tells me that sugar is the most addictive substance known to man, I beg to differ; literature is worse; reading is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You can't be serious

After talking to Allen Ginsberg for a spell, time to get back to the much more important topic of Snape. I just finished re-reading The Half-Blood Prince and it was an illuminating experience. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it is great to re-read the story (sort of backwards, actually) and discover all the clues. It is also more heart-wrenching for me as a Snape fan, because all the stuff you kind of knew at the time about Snape being a good guy and protecting Harry is now crystal clear, and you end up just wanting to beat the boy about the head while yelling "don't you see, you obnoxious brat?"

I'm also listening to Snapecast, the episode before the last, final (regularly scheduled) episode. It is fabulous. Have I mentioned that Snapecast is splendid to the point of magnificence? Intelligent, funny, and much more openly emotional than the man himself, which suits me just fine, and I am still sad that they are stopping their regular broadcasts.

So there is a lot of Snape today. Moreover, there is a rather good piece about him over on Sigune's blog. All of it is making me feel rather obsessive and sad. Or maybe I'm just sad because the Spouse is leaving tomorrow, and I'm being escapist about it. Who knows. Maybe I'm sad because I really want to go to Snapefest but really can't afford the Portus registration - frankly I can't afford anything just now. It's ok. I'll live.

I have to say that after some time of being immersed in fandom, I am still gobsmacked by its depth. I know I keep saying this, but truly it is amazing to see how the portion of it that I am familiar with really does have its wits about it. I feel kind of sad that I am not actually part of it; after a lifetime of being too proud to be a herd animal, I find myself rather fond of this herd of individualists. A troupe of dark, silly, wildly unlikely folk. You see, I love the Harry Potter series, but it's hardly the best or more compelling thing I've ever read. Pretty compelling, yes, but no more so than Lord of the Rings which I also adore; not as well-written as Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy. No, I have no illusions about it: my fixation with Snape is as much about the fandom as about the books. The fandom writes so well, you see, it saves me the time of making these things up myself.

The truth is I always thought fandom was kind of sad. All the dressing up and fawning over Take That/Patrick Stewart/Alan's just a little sad. I'm not saying I wouldn't happily throw bouquets of roses at Patrick Stewart or Alan Rickman on any given day, but I just feel too old for drooling groupie behaviour. It took me longer than it should have to realise that Alan Rickman is a mere lovely incidental when it comes to Snape fandom, and that while candle-light vigils still make me cringe, I respect all its manifold creative ways of expressing itself. Even if that includes candle-light vigils.

Oh and Take That? I'll throw roses at them too, if they want.


So you haven't heard from me and really, that's probably for the best. It is Monday and to be completely honest with you, the next few weeks are a complete mystery to me.

America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956.
I can't stand my own mind.

Allen, it is like you read my mind and then wrote a poem about a completely different, much more lofty topic, which still somehow resonates with me. Allen, it's a shame that you are dead, and one of many unfortunately deceased people. I wish you were around, like Billy Bragg, who though he is in England, I think, is still remotely reassuring: he exists, I draw comfort from that fact. Maybe someday he will do a gig here; that would be good. The point is, even though I may never see another Billy Bragg show - and I hope I do - the possibility always exists. Not so with Allen, who is so irrevocably dead that call him Allen, like I call Oscar Wilde Oscar.

I always rather thought I would be afraid if I met Oscar Wilde in the flesh, being small, not particularly attractive, female, and generally unexeptional. Still, I'd take my chances.

Anyway, Allen, I blame my sister, I do. She introduced me to you when you were still alive, not in person, which is rather a shame, but on the page, and that was a joy too. And you didn't know it, but you stuck with me, I never could get you of my mind. Not like Walt Whitman, whom I read, and forgot in spite of greatness. Did you know, Allen, that when Oscar Wilde came to America, he sat on Walt Whitman's lap? I bet you knew that, it seems like the kind of story that would please you.

Allen, I have to go, because I have to give someone a ride, and I need to find some money to pay the guy whose mirror I demolished this morning (two dollars and twenty-seven cents indeed). It's nice listening to you, even if I'm too lazy to read a lot of your poetry. I read a little and it makes me feel better, Allen, like chocolate, like when Lupin gives chocolate to Harry Potter. Percy Shelley makes me feel better too, but I can't imagine talking to him; too earnest, though I bet he was a lovely man, a good one. I always felt more at ease with Byron, though I would certainly have been scared of him in real life. There's a lot of things I'm scared of, Allen, I wish I were a little more unabashed like you, though perhaps not quite as unabashed.

Well, take care.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Not keen

It is evening, and I am snuggled up with the Spouse on the couch. There is food in the oven, we're watching a Marx brothers movie, and it's snowing hard outside. I drove home in the snow, which is my accomplishment for the day. I will spend the rest of my evening, and energy, on eating and possibly reading.

I'm not keen on doing anything else.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Beowulf - the point

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Another one of those days

Where I have really fabulous ideas for posts but by the time I get home am too tired to actually write said posts.

Instead, I give you this strangely current piece of Thatcher-era puppet comedy.

Actually, to that I will add that I am reading Philip Gourevitch's We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. It has lived on my bedside table for a month or two, and I finally convinced myself to read it last weekend. It's a book onto which much praise has been heaped. The praise is all justified; let me leave it at that. When all is said and done, it is likely to be the most depressing thing I will read all year. I think people must be relieved when they read a book like this, relieved that someone has captured some of the story, that someone has done something with the unspeakable trauma, relieving others of that duty. Genocide in 256 pages, discreet, closeable. Finite. Like a holocaust museum, with its reassuring implicit message that it houses and confines atrocity which is not found in the world outside it. Like a Greek tragedy, it'll bring the reader emotion, maybe guilt*; you cry, it ends, you go home.

Maybe you even tell yourself that some people got saved, or liberated, or whatever you choose to call it. I respect Gourevitch for not letting the reader feel like this is a closed chapter. Yeah, even now.

*"The Belgians issued racial identification cards to every Rwandan, giving preferential treatment to Tutsis for positions in education, politics and business." see Wikipedia on the subject

Saturday, December 01, 2007

We have suffered such a loss

Trust me to quote In the Bleak Midwinter on this gloomy day in November. Things are muted here, even as it is a brilliant blue day outside. Yesterday two people of considerable importance to the organisation I work for died; one after an illness, one very suddenly. I knew both of them only slightly; many people here did for decades. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how much of a loss it must be. I try not to imagine losing someone close to me, to know that you've felt somebody's touch for the last time, that you will never look into their face again.

There's been too much death this year, so much loss. Maybe that is what growing up means: realising what a gaping hole a death leaves, like a crater, affecting everything around it. Mortality is a nasty beast.

I am taking refuge in superficiality, by which I mean I am getting a haircut tonight. I got the recommendation from my personal equivalent of Bike Helmet Girl, so I have high hopes.