Friday, August 31, 2007

Somewhere over the...


Friday, and I can't say that I am starting the day in style. Cufflinks, that is all - no tie, no earrings. There is nothing as annoying as having to sacrifice one's style early in the morning.

Thanks for the laptop advice. I'll have a look at the Toshibas and yes, the HPs, though I'll warn you that I'm prejudiced against them. Perelaar, you do make a compelling argument; it's a shame that the people from Apple are such tossers. Anyway, let's talk about specs sometime.

To give you some idea of my mood: I am listening to Toxic on infinite loop. Yes, that's right, Britney Spears. All is not well, though my playing Britney has more to do with youtube than with anything else. Still, it's no excuse. It's Friday, long weekend ahead, roadtrip, good company; I have nothing to whinge about. The stomach upset and nausea - no, I am not pregnant, thank you for asking - are wearing off. The creative writing group I am supposed to go to tonight, well, I have a history of signing myself up for stuff and then feeling really stupid for doing so.

Still, I am wearing my grandfather's cufflinks, and while it would have been better to have known said grandfather, rather than just inhereting his cufflinks, I am still pleased with that. Anyway - have a great weekend folks, hope you're doing something fun. Life is too short not too. I promise I will stop whinging soon. Toodles, and enjoy the leisure. I'm going to listen to Iz now.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On the prowl

You know, what I really need now is some sound laptop advice. I am contemplating buying a new laptop because my old one died. The trouble is the choice and the price. I have been mainly looking at ThinkPads (based on a nice experience at my Former Corporate Employer) and at MacBooks. I don't like Dells (clunky, nasty keyboards, just...unpleasant) and HP is just not exciting, and I won't even mention the rest. Everybody tells me the MacBooks are great. Personally...I don't know. I feel faced with a long list of cons, not a pro in sight.

ThinkPad:
- Runs Vista. Vista, by all accounts, is useless
- I could buy a machine with XP, but if they fix Vista, then I am stuck with an outdated OS for three to hopefully five years
- The Lenovo site is terrible; ugly, unworkable, ungainly. It does not bode well
- Lenovo is also unreachable by phone. If they can't be bothered picking up the phone for sales, I worry about support

MacBook:
- They are about to release a new OS. This is a nuisance because it means I shouldn't buy anything till October, and then risk all of the new OS's nasty bugs of newness.
- The MacBooks come with a 90 day warranty, and they charge $183 for a year-long warranty. Considering the cost of the machines, I think this is outrageous. Everything else seems to get a year automatically.
- I then have to buy Office for Mac, and face the 2003 vs. 2007 dilemma
- Honestly, I know everybody loves Macs, but I resent the learning curve, the bizarre quirks and the fact that there is a lot of stuff out there that doesn't work with it (like Skype video, apparently). I refust to run Windows on it. See above

Between those two, the specs are pretty good, you get decent value for money. I am not very demanding, because I don't have much money; but it all looks ok.

Anyway, just wanted to share my frustration. And yes, Perelaar, I know you're going to tell me to go with a MacBook.

The BBC is making me paranoid

The BBC is telling us not to follow dodgy links on blogs. So yes, erm, follow that link.

The best thing about this day

This, my dear readers, is quite possibly the funniest thing I have seen in all Potter/Snapedom. No spoilers, but some (fairly harmless) puppet nudity. If you like Monty Python, you are going to love this. If you don't like Monty Python...my bet is still that you will love this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

So


An update - I have given up on the other work possibility. They have not gotten back to me, and I don't think we can do it financially anyway. My job is pretty fun just now, so I am also less tempted to look elsewhere.
I am starting to get a bit more used to the idea of tutoring, and while I am utterly clueless, I feel ok about it. It is nice to do something useful with my time.
The Spouse and I finally got season tickets for the theatre. It is something we have both been wanting to do. Moreover it looks like we'll join a writing group, either together or separately. Not sure how I feel about this, but it'll be a good opportunity to meet some people. We've also finally decided on what we're doing over Labor Day weekend, and I am looking forward to the trip and the company.
And that's all of the banalities...I promise I will post more irrelevant nonsense about Snape/clothes/the BBC soon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Seen

The weekend has wooshed by leaving me feeling like it never happened, but did contain some noteworthy moments. On Friday we went to see Becoming Jane about Jane Austen, with Anne Hathaway as Austen. I strongly suspect that the account of her life is enormously romaticised (and see, Wikipedia agrees); but no matter. The movie focusses on Austen's supposed relationship with Tom Lefroy, and Hathaway and McAvoy are perfectly cast as Jane and Tom. The feeling I have about this movie is that one should entirely disregard the fact that it has some pretence of being a biographical account. It is historical fiction, casting Jane as one of her own heroines, and Tom as a quick succession of her most famous men. As a movie, it sweeps you off your feet, and this is probably its greatest merit. It is a little less careful, a little less timid, a little less rosily happy than Austen's work; it is also more intense. The whole cast of characters, while not too close to real life, very successfully conveys being a little more real than Austen's characters, a little more human. Mrs Austen (as played by Julie Walters, who is always a pleasure to watch) is much like Mrs. Bennett - but kinder, gentler, quieter, and more firmly grounded in the reality of "bad" marriages. The characters are all treated with gentleness, more gentleness than wit, showing them in a better light than Austen's work.

There is the epilogue. What is it with this need for closure lately? It is where J.K. Rowling falls down (bruising her knees quite badly, by the sound of it), and likewise this movie cannot resist the temptation to over-finish a lovely piece. Jane Austen, so good at endings, would have resented it. Still, for the Austen-lovers who read this, and there are a few, I know, this is a must-see. It is by far the sweetest way to spend a few hours on a lazy day; Hathaway is truly charming, and James McAvoy is a real find.

To contrast with that, I also saw the inauspicious beginning of Idiocracy, a movie that no one saw, as it turns out, because it is truly awful. It manages to insult both working class (seen as stupid and philandering) and middle class (intelligent, but pretentious, and impotent) people in the first five minutes. Ok, I'm patient. Actually, I am not really, but I tried. Then, however, the movie proceeded to show a graph of declining IQ. Since IQ scores, unless I am much mistaken, are based on whatever the average is at the time, the graph shows a basic misunderstanding of the concept, which frankly is bit a much in a movie which scoffs at people's stupidity. Moreover, the basic concept of the movie - that without natural predators humanity will degrade into idiocy - is fundamentally, well, idiotic. Humanity has gone through cultural decline before - after the fall of the Roman Empire, after the expulsion of the Moors in southern Spain, etc; but loss of knowledge does not ever seem to lean to decline in intelligence, creativity, or anything of the sort; though it will shift the areas of creativity and enterprise. As for those predators, it has been a long time since humanity was threatened by large carnivores; the real threats are not there. Disease, disaster and mismanagement of our environment are much more powerful, and those problems are neither new nor likely to go away. My point here is simply that even if the movie weren't such an annoying, badly acted, badly scripted conservative dystopia, it would still be so utterly mistaken about the issues it brings up, that it would not be worth watching. Even for twenty minutes.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Needless cruelty

I am re-reading The Order of the Phoenix. At one point Snape says to Sirius something to the effect that Harry is arrogant, like his father, and indifferent to criticism. It's an interesting comment. Sirius and Snape both constantly compare Harry to James. My point here is not so much careful analysis of Harry Potter; there's plenty of that going on elsewhere. No - it is just that that moment in the book made me realise that both characters use their prejudices to shield themselves from the implications of their actions toward Harry. Sirius, blinded by his love for James, lets his prejudices make him mostly unaware of Harry's actual personality. Snape, on the other hand, is so overwhelmed by his hatred for James, that he sees Harry being the same as James. He sees Harry as James, not just in character, but in status. His emphasis on Harry calling him "Sir" only serves as a reminder for the readers that he enforces his position, but not feel confident in it. And of course, when he claims that Harry is insensitive to criticism, he absolves himself - if it doesn't hurt, then he can guiltlessly take out his anger on Harry. Snape tries to shake off his past as the bullied boy, and, like a child from an abusive family, only manages to perpetuate the bullying in trying to forget what it is like to be bullied.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

So?

Sometimes dilemmas sort themselves out without your help. I have not heard back about that other opportunity, and it seems too late now; and maybe the whole thing is just not wise. I am not sure if I am disappointed or relieved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Black is what I wear on the outside

Blogger's log, stardate 65.120.73.194

You will have noticed that it has been some time since I last referred to Snape at any length. Surely, I hear you exclaim, I am not over my obsession. No, my darlings, no. Of course not. And to remind you of that fact, the topic of this post is wizard sleeves.

I am not kidding. What I mean by wizard sleeves is this*

Tight fitting, long, ideally with buttons, and sometimes pointy. In fact I am borrowing the expression from Susan, who dropped it in elaborate discussions of wedding dresses which you don't want to hear about. And while I am not quite using the expression in its original sense here, the concept is clear. My question now is this - where can I find something with wizard sleeves? You see, since our dress code is all about letter and not about spirit, I figure I can get away with having something lovely and black with pointy sleeves and lots of pointless buttons as long as it is longer than whatever I am wearing under it. Muhaha.

The other topic today is a gap in the lolcat/cat macro market. There is, as you know, such a thing as a lolsnape, so I am contented on that front**. There are philolsophers, and even lollinguists. Where are the lolmoose, people? Where? They're cute, they're popular, they are large and non-ergonomic. When will someone rise to the task?

With that, dear log, I sign off my absolutely useless entry for today.

*note that in this picture, Rickman went for stern and expressionless, but instead has ended up looking soulless, verging on the zombie
**that said, I strongly encourage the making of more lolsnapes

Undecided

If she knew what she wants
He*'d be giving it to her
If she knew what she needs
He could give her that too

...

But she wants everything
He can pretend to give her everything
Or there's nothing she wants
She don't want to sort it out...
But she don't know what she's looking for
If she knew what she wants

I'd say her values are corrupted
But she's open to change
Then one day she's satisfied and
The next I'll find her crying
And it's nothing she can explain

("If she knew what she wants", the Bangles)

Sometimes there is nothing like a corny eighties song to express one's feelings.

*He, here, is not particularly a reference to the Snape - er, Spouse**, but instead refers generally to the universe, which of course includes said Spouse, because the universe is everywhere.
**Btw, I have decided that while there was initially some doubt, the Spouse is now absolutely hotter than Sam West. Sorry Sam.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Things to make your heart hurt

A couple of positions just opened up at my absolute favourite place of employment round here. I could apply for both, with a reasonable chance of success. I probably won't. Why not? One position pays a pittance, for complex reasons. The other is part-time. I can't afford to earn so little, we just wouldn't make ends meet. Sigh. Stupid money.

On the plus side, there's always Fake Steve Jobs to cheer me up, and the rain, and Bike Helmet Girl. And Snape. And wasabi peas.

The Spouse and I want to see Stardust over the weekend, and we were both pleased, because it had Claire Danes looking lovely, a character called Septimus who was very Snape, a really fun plot and lots of fencing in cool outfits. We also watched A Streetcar Named Desire, which is of course extraordinary, if rather uncheering. I remember hearing some of the dialogue long before I ever saw the movie - another thing I can quote from memory -

"Stella: You didn't need to do that.
Stanley: Don't forget all that I took off of her
Stella: You didn't need to be so cruel to someone as alone as she is.
Stanley: Delicate article she is.
Stella: She is. She was. You didn't know Blanche as a girl - nobody, nobody was as tender and trusting as she was. But people like you abused her and forced her to change."

Now I'm depressed* again. I'm going to be, to hell with this blogging business.

*Actually, looking for a link for the Spouse really cheered me up. Muhaha. The Snape link is pretty good too.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Best link in the history of the universe

Two great loves, one single link.

Too old

I have a question that I have been asking myself and would like to hear other people's thoughts on:
I was wondering what sorts of things I am now too old for - for better or for worse. Too old to be cowed by managers and teachers, too old to be good at tennis, too old to have a bestest friend, too old to start a PhD, too old to snog in parking lots, too old to be a ballerina, too old to write on my hand... whatever.

A good thing

This is my last Artist's Way week. I haven't really done any of my homework yet - maybe tonight, after that driving lesson. I probably won't get enough sleep tonight, what with the Spouse coming back late and another very early morning driving lesson (the last!), but I'll live. Afternoon nap perhaps?

The surprising good thing of the day is that I think I am reconsidering the career thing - by which I mean that I am considering not quitting my job at the end of the year.

To come back to The Artist's Way, I do kind of wonder what it has done for me. I am still not writing, and not convinced that I should. I am, perhaps, a little more self-aware. Maybe even a little more ambitious. I am also much more aware of my shortcoming, my lack of organisational skills, my lack of drive, my patchy motivation, my laziness. Is this good? Erm...

As for this blog, which I guess should perforce be considered as some kind of writing, it seems a little...silly. Better than a diary - not quite so self-obsessed - but still pretty self-centred. I would like to do more with it. In that, I think the format gets in the way; I want to do more mostly for my own sake. Yet at the same time, it is a public place, and I know most of the people who visit it, so I cannot simply say what I want; that would be neither wise nor hospitable. I enjoy being a good host, and this attitude certainly extends to the blog. It is, then, good practice I guess - I am not used to sharing my writing, and perhaps this uncomfortable medium is the best way to do so. I would like it to be a little more interactive, I guess, a little more forum and a little less diary. I am not sure how to tackle this. The best way is generally to focus on one area, and really form a community around that; but I have too little attention span for that, and let's face it, does the world really need another Snape-blog? Simply being interesting isn't that much of an option either. I think I have my moments, but on many days I have neither the inspiration nor the time to write well. In the Julia Cameron point of view this is still useful - I am showing up, after all, to do the work, and whether it is good or not does not matter so much. When she says that, though, she means it does not matter so much to me; but my handful of readers do deserve some selection.

I am thinking aloud. Suggestions are certainly welcome.

Oh the devotion

It is the day after the 30th anniversary of Elvis's death, which I will not celebrate because I think deaths are a strange thing to celebrate. I just had my first tutoring session and it went ok. Tomorrow is going to be a gruesome day, and Saturday morning will be an extension of said gruesomeness. And on that unpleasant note I will leave you, because I am in an unreasonable amount of pain and need to somehow sleep. As my learner would say, too much drama.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wasabi, meaning, I like Nibbler


Over the last few months I have convinced the Spouse that Snape is not only good, but also fabulous. Considering my opinions about the above Potions master and the open-mindedness of said Spouse, this is not entirely surprising. In return, he has exposed me to the complete dvd series of Futurama*. I would say that Nibbler is my favourite character, only I really like Bender as well, and Zoidberg, and, well, you get the point. Anyway, today brought together two of my favourite things - no, not Futurama and Snape, though that would be brilliant; Futurama and Wikipedia. Check out this entry. Awesome.

Oh and wasabi peas. These have so much wasabi they are making my eyes water. Mmmmm.

*an animated science fiction series from the people who made The Simpsons. Only funnier and weirder than The Simpsons.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Routine


Morning pages, the morning ritual of breakfast and shower, the BBC website, work, the ride home, reading blogs, making dinner, doing crosswords* or reading before bed.

You start again the next day, same thing. Over the weekend you go to the market, go shopping, maybe go for a long walk.

The week begins again, and I ignore some shouting of "ding dong, the witch is dead" off to the side. World politics pass me by. Is this how adult life is? Maybe I should get a paper. Politics depress the Spouse - which rules out a popular family passtime. I forget to answer email, and fail to find the time to call my friends. They call me, some of the time. I don't watch the news on principle, and also because I don't know what channel I would watch it on. American news seems so mis-prioritised to me. Instead I watch the Daily Show, as an absurd news substitute, and in spite of the fact that Jon Stewart is almost unbearably smug. I watch the Colbert Report, which I really do like, but which occasionally gets disqualified on grounds of being a parody too close to the depressing reality.

I am not sure what it is they talk about, but it amuses me.

Life decreases in circumference, covering less ground. I contemplate taking a Shakespeare class; I must be desperate. And yet I am not - I am imperfectly contented, as usual, happy even. Like in a Samuel Beckett play, the confines are as important as the content - I remind myself that Beckett's walls are only paper, limitations people have set up for themselves.

"When we are eighteen, we are all immortal gods"**

Here I am then, an adult, married, working. Is this how it is going to be? I don't contemplate children - right now it is all just more boundaries. Perhaps it is just the weight of the outer darkness - the weight of political dangers, of poverty, of debt, of guilt, of political distrust. It is easier to live in a smaller universe, one without guns, homeless people, hurricanes and misinformation. I shouldn't complain about the claustrophobia. I give money or time and look away.

As I consider getting another degree I wonder if this is escapism - the safe optical illusion of a bigger universe. Or am I talking myself out of doing something I really want?

Who knows; I don't. I sleep instead - I have fewer nightmares now. Always Mistress of Quotes, one of my favourites is from The Hotel New Hampshire, which I have never actually read: "Keep passing the open windows" - I'll let you make up your own mind about what it means, but I think it is time to open some windows.

*I do crosswords because they are good for my head. I am utterly terrible at them.
**Only profs and poets come up with that sort of apt foolishness - this one was a professor, though he had a curious resemblance to a hamster.

Reasons not to open one's mouth


Recently, I am scared of talking. Before you start thinking that the Spouse is trying to make me into a Stepford wife, let me explain that it is all because of Harry Potter. Yes, I can blame him for almost anything. You see I have been very avidly listening to the Jim Dale audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I don't much care for Jim Dale, he's a bit much, and besides, I want the Stephen Fry version. Regardless, I have been catching myself bursting into a British accent randomly. Not just any British accent - my beloved R.P. accent, which I had, then lost, then had again, then lost again. Blame the Americans. There's just too many of them. I feel silly though, with the randomly appearing and disappearing r's.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Quandary is such a beautiful word or, Elvis loves me


The Goldberg Variations, people, are good for the soul; and while it has been a fun/intense week at work, I am glad to have time to catch up on the tedious bits. Maybe I should consider becoming a proper techie in this field. Then again, maybe not. I am as yet undecided about my careerpath.
Yesterday I was doing my Artist's Way homework, and in good self-help tradition, it told me to think about my concept of the universe, and asked whether I could see the universe/God as supportive of me. It then asked me to list ten examples of creative serendipity (=random things helping me to be creative) that I had experienced.

It tried to answer that first question, and then thought for a long time about creative serendipity. I couldn't, and cannot, list a single example. Nothing comes to mind. No fortuitous events, unless you count the publishing of the last Harry Potter book, no lucky breaks, no random meetings with useful people. I developed some hypotheses as to why that might be the case.

a) My increasingly bad memory is thwarting my feeling of creative serendipity, causing me to forget such events. Time to do more crosswords.
b) I am in fact experiencing serendipity, but because I am focussed on the wrong things, I don't notice
c) The universe does not love me
e) Julia Cameron is a charlatan and talked herself into believing in a supportive God

Having slept on the whole thing, and relating back to the question about a supportive universe, I think my response is a combination of b), c) and d), and while I think e) may well be true, I am not sure it is all that relevant. The truth then, is that I don't believe in a supportive God. I believe that my current state of life is a due to a combination of luck and work. I wish I did believe it, I wish I felt it, knew it, saw it somehow, that support. I don't. Which brings me to b), and the fact that many things pass us by, because we are looking the wrong way. Perhaps I am just contrary, resisting the universe's apparent determination to turn me into a techie - or a secretary. Which in turn brings me to d). Perhaps all this pondering of creativity is just a ploy to escape my true nature.

I need to go now, before I start quoting poetry as myself as usual.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spoilerless fandom

The internet is vexing today, by which I mean that it is not working. Well, I posted enough last night for the next five days. I am not entirely sure that any of it was of interest, but then that is the joy of writing here - since it is addressed to no one, there is no one I have to please. I am very tempted to turn back now, and be devil's advocate against my own argument that J.K. Rowling's ethics are suspect; but perhaps it is time to discuss something unrelated to Harry Potter or Severus Snape. I am becoming too immersed in fandom. When I was a teenager, and at the proper stage in life for fandom, I could never quite bring myself to it. Too shy. Too pretentious. Who know. As a consequence I don't own a single t-shirt, signature, commemorative mug or picture to demonstrate my love of britpop. Maybe now that I am an *adult* I can let myself be a little bit silly and fanlike. I am in fact the proud owner of a Severus Snape t-shirt, and when I say proud, I mean that I paid $32 for it, and I wore it three times last weekend. I should do this more often (no I shouldn't, I am poor, remember?) The signature* is going to be hard to get, though.

*
Not that I want Alan Rickman's signature, I want Snape's. The link to Alan Rickman is mostly because he is wearing a knit cardie in it. Alan Rickman in robes may be sexy, but no man is sexy in a cardigan. It's rather sweet though.

Pointless analysis

SPOILERS!!




Because I have nothing else going in my life, I have been listening to Snapecast. I would like to take a moment to say that Snapecast is better than Mugglecast. Mugglecast is good, but Snapecast, ah, Snapecast has musical interludes, multiple segments, Snape impersonations, enthusiasm, and not-very-deadpan humour. Anyway, between this last Snapecast episode and some of the writing on a LiveJournal I came across, I am becoming more convinced that Rowling's morality, which I always had some questions about, is in fact actually questionable.

Bear with me while I try to explain - and I am at a disadvantage, writing hurriedly, since there are some very well-structured discussions going on.

While Snape has been present and interesting as a character throughout the series, "Snape's worst memory", the chapter in The Half-Blood Prince no, I mean Order of the Phoenix where Snape collides with the Marauders and Lily, is perhaps a turning point. Suddenly the greasy git/amusingly sinister/sinisterly sexy/just plain mean Potions master becomes a human being, a boy only, harassed for being out of place and unpopular. The chapter implicitly denounces James and Sirius, Harry's role models in a way, as vicious bullies. Anyone who has ever been a lonely child, anyone who was ever bullied as a kid recognises the scene, and it becomes hard to like these cruel boys, and hard not to feel for the unkempt, unloved creature they are so hard on.

Severus Snape has become, whether Rowling liked it or not, the champion of all of us who've ever been in his shoes, who have been lonely, or have been bullied. I respect that she made him a prickly person - I think it makes him much more interesting as well as more realistic; but when she then so emphatically declares that he is not a hero in her eyes, when he does turn out to be "good" in The Deathly Hallows...well, she seems less generous than even her own protagonist, who gives some credit to his hated Potions master, in a misguided sort of way*. As one of the listeners in Snapecast somewhat dramatically points out, she leaves his body to rot in the Shrieking Shack, accords him no funeral, gives him no headmaster's portrait. What is more, none of the students in his house, Slytherin, do anything brave, none of them stay at Hogwarts. The determinism of sorting bothers me considerably. After all, Harry was almost sorted into Slytherin - does she mean to say that if he had been, he would have turned out to be, at best, a coward?

Snape does his work, he does it brilliantly. His reasons don't even matter; Snape uses all his skills to make sure that Voldemort will be toppled, and is instrumental in this happening. And still, still he is no hero, still he must be unlovable, still he is too ugly, too prickly, too unpopular to make him preferable to any of the other grossly human good guys. Sirius, with his vicious streak, his irresponsible behaviour, his vile treatment of Kreacher**. James, the bully, the arrogant bastard. No - it is ok for them to be mean, unfair and ungenerous. They're Gryffindor - even if Sirius is from the wrong family. They're handsome. Who cares if they're mean? James still gets Lily (and I have commented on what I think her friendship is worth before) and the happy family. Snape, who certainly does a lot more protecting of Harry than Sirius does, however unpleasant he is in the process, gets nothing - a pointless death, no affection, no friends.


What kind of a message is that to give to millions of children? If you are an outcast, expect to stay that way all your life, expect no breaks and no rewards no matter what you do, except some posthumous crumbs. Oh, and if you're bright, and handsome, and have the right friends, then it doesn't matter so much if you're take out your adolescent arrogance on kids that aren't like you. If you're in the right camp your vices and mistakes mean nothing. It is only the boy in the wrong group who pays for a single cruel, angry word with a lifetime of suffering.

The frustrating thing is that Rowling almost gets it right. She shows us Voldemort's and Snape's miserable childhood; she shows Draco's implicit regrets; she shows the Marauders' flaws; but then she backs down, reverts to her simplified ethics, and condemns her complex characters to simple endings. Happy endings for the three; unhappy ones for Voldemort and Bellatrix (not that I mind that); and pointless deaths all round.

I guess you could say that Lupin and Tonks also die in all this. They die off-stage, and without glamour. Lupin, the mildest, kindest of the Marauders. Poor Remus. Anyway, though I think they should have lived, they do get their rewards - each other, and their child. Remus gets to talk things over with Harry after he dies. Not so bad really, dying in battle beside your spouse, knowing you're fighting for your child. Even if it is a Rosencrantz-and-Guildenstern sort of demise. Snape dies as alone as he has lived, discarded like a broken toy. There is Harry, yes, Harry, who at that moment only sees the man who killed Dumbledore. The flicker of redemption is there, in the transferred memories, in that last look at Harry, but as elsewhere in the book, it just doesn't seem enough. The final gesture of remembering Lily comes off as pathetic. And that is all.

J.K. Rowling's surprise at Our Friend Severus's impressive and deeply devoted fandom is characteristic - why should anyone love him? Why should anyone care about the sarcastic, mean-spirited man in black robes? She blamed Alan Rickman, as well she might, for Alan is formidable and gorgeous. He is beside the point though; she could have known that people would enjoy Snape's sarcasm, his timing and his talent for thwarting people. He was always like the best of bad guys - spirited, creative and funny. No wonder Rickman did a good job. Most of all though, Rowling should have known that the world is full of kids and adults who know what it is like to be beaten down every step of the way. It wasn't hard to predict whose side they were going to be on and I am glad that they are, even if she isn't.

*By misguided I mean that Snape would be unlikely to thank Harry for giving his name to one of Harry's children - but it is true to Harry's nature, and in that it is an appropriate gesture
**Not that I don't love Sirius - I do - but I love him because he is so human. And I acknowledge that he is a particularly messed up human being. Oh and because Gary Oldman*** is lovely as Sirius. Or as Beethoven. Or as himself.
***Gary Oldman is the only man in the known universe who is actually more attractive with a moustache.

Monday, August 06, 2007

All-American

Update: Speaking of doing things you are scared of, today I have a big one scheduled in - I am meeting with the person I am going to be tutoring in math and literacy today.

This is terrifiying because I have never taught anyone anything for more than one session; because I have never taught anyone anything so basic in life as reading or math; because I have never taught anyone whose background was very different from my own (middle-class, university educated); because I am not especially good at simplifying, or at being structured.

As the Spouse would say, the only way you stop being scared of doing things is by doing them.

It has been an uncharacteristic weekend. I do actually believe that you should do one thing every day that scares you, and in that sense, this weekend fits: I did my two things. The first thing I did was make blueberry pie; last week was the Spouse's birthday, and we were celebrating. I have never made any kind of pie, and this one was a struggle start to finish, but to my considerable surprise it actually came out well. I am inordinately proud of said pie. Taking risks does pay off, then.

The other scary thing I did was go to church. Again, the motivation for doing this was a mix of spousal accommodation and my own obscure reasons. Churches always both fascinate and scare me - I had such a thoroughly unreligious education that religion is truly mysterious to me. I am not at all sure that I will ever quite understand how people do it, this religion thing. It scares me because, first of all, I so emphatically don't fit in. Of course I have some basic knowledge of the bible and the structure of a mass - but I don't feel anything about it, and am/feel like a fraud. One of my few conservative Christian friends once told me that I am a crypto-Christian, by which she meant that I wanted to believe, like that guy from the X-files, only, like him, I don't actually manage to believe.
I miss solid, non-religious morality. I miss the freethinkers that gave me my moral education. At the same time, I gain a lot from these occasional visits to religious places (the church of choice this Sunday was a Methodist church). It forces me to consider my beliefs and my morality, forces me to meditate, and brings me out of my comfort zone. It brings up issues that I would not otherwise consider. All of these things I find very helpful. The thing I remember from yesterday's service, though, was the sermon's strangely non-religious conclusion - that, faced with an inscrutable world, all we can do is live life to the fullest.

Friday, August 03, 2007

That's because I am

Before the weekend begins I am going to send you all off with a smallish write. Is write a noun? No? Oh well, language is all about making creative use of existing materials. And I am all about creativity. I am all about writing in pretty pretty journals, I am all about empowering myself through mediocre self-help, and I am all about me. What, my lovelies, are my creative accomplishments? Oh, half a dozen less-than-interesting short stories*. A dozen or so decent ("promising") papers. Some two years' worth of Stephen Fry-related silliness. An admittedly fun wedding**. I have been at six universities and in two writing groups and they led me to the inevitable conclusion that I am not outright bad, only mediocre. It bites to have had Oscar Wilde as my first hero - "Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious." I always did feel like it was a good thing that I couldn't meet him. It's what appealed to me about Stephen Fry, I think - like my Spouse, he is so obviously a nice person. It is telling that when I wrote to both his publishing house and the man himself to ask for information/let him know what I was wanting to do, he was the only one who ever wrote back. Oh, he is not a genius and knows it. He is just really good.

Even my Hogwarts house is all wrong - I figure there is little point in being anything but Slytherin or Gryffindor, but instead end up in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. I'm just too damnably timid to be notorious, even in imaginary worlds. *sigh*

I have skills. I have handfuls of skills - I won't deny it. I am the Avowed Queen of Pretty Spreadsheets. I know more languages than most people around here (but not in Belgium). I write really awesome passive aggressive professional email. I communicate well, and slightly too much. I am a pretty loyal friend, and I have International Experience. All of that. Like stuff at a yard sale, some of these things are more useful than others. But what does it do? I don't do programming (of things other than Lego robots), I am not knowledgeable about technical details, I don't play an instrument, I can't draw to save my life, I don't write well creatively, I am not brilliant.

If I sound bitter, that's because I am***. It beats actually doing something about it****.

*I dare anyone who doubts me to email me at questingbeastquestatgmaildotcom. Seriously. Don't embarrass me.
**Only people who have not organised a wedding would dare to deny that it is a creative effort. Hell, you pick the invitations then.
***Ye gods, I am echoing The Smiths "If I seem a little strange/That's because I am" - appropriately, from Unloveable
****Unless mediocre self-help counts

The things one does for a living


Today I taught 15-year-olds about programming for a living. Really, a career is an unpredictable thing. Did I mention that I don't know anything about programming? 15-year-olds really aren't as bad as I remembered them, I have to admit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sentimental

I had sort of planned to talk to you about yesterday, some hands on teaching experience. Instead I am listening to a Belgian song called "Als ze lacht", by Yevgueni, and that is on my mind. The title means "When she laughs", and for some reason the whole thing always makes me tear up. I have been known to cry at songs occasionally, but with this one I don't really understand - it is a happy song. It a silly song with a gentle sense of humour that is somehow typical. Maye I'm just homesick - I got the CD it comes from from my sister, who sent it to me. Packages are great. I miss home. And this one song, maybe it's the language, so obviously Belgian (rather than Dutch); or maybe it is because it reminds me of the Spouse - it is a song about trying to make your lover smile, after all. Maybe it is just my weakness for the piano. Who knows. This is why I listen to music, why I see art - only for that gut reaction, that first response that you can't necessarily explain.