Friday, November 30, 2007

Simultaneous


Thomas Paine's Common Sense (small, red book) and Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods on tape.

Thomas Paine annoys me for the most part. He is terrible overstated. I guess it served the purpose at the time. Something to balance the British rhetoric and the colonies' doubt. Sure.

Bill Bryson on the other hand is surprisingly agreeable. I appreciate his normalcy. I like hearing about his trip, and with the audiobooks it is like listening to a compelling friend talk. Yes; very friendly. Very Good America, without being uncritical. He is the literary equivalent of muesli. The fact that it is on tape, rather than CD, is somehow comforting.

It looks like I am taking a course in Classic United States stuff. I'll be reading Thoreau next if I don't watch out.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Conferencing

*TDEC smiles happily, humming "Snape, Snape, Severus Snape"*

Barring major career changes, the TDEC will be working very hard next (early) July. She will be doing so in the gigantic expanse of Texas, as state 2500 times the size of her native land. This is perhaps good for her career, maybe even somewhat fun, but not...exciting as such.

However.

She just found out that, not only is there going to be a Snape conference, but it is in July. In Dallas.

Muhaha.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More interesting

I have a blogpost all ready to go, but it is really a boring blogpost, so instead I'm blogging about Beowulf, which I saw over Thanksgiving. To take my cue from Seamus Heaney's modern translation:
So, there's this famous epic poem that I sort of read many years ago, and now someone - including Famous Neil Gaiman - has made a movie of it. So when one of my friends asked if I wanted to go see it I said sure and off we went.

I didn't know that the movie was going to be this weird real/CGI combo. with Anthony Hopkins not quite as himself, and Angelina Jolie as herself, only covered in gold paint... I didn't like the crossover. It just weirded me out; kind of like watching a video game.

What about the story? The story is roughly the original story, kind of over the top. Lots of blood and singing. Sure; I can deal with that. Then Beowulf arrives, and takes off all his clothes, and does naked fighting. I am not sure, but I hope that the objects-conveniently-covering-genitalia thing is intentionally funny; because it is quite funny. I ended up feeling rather sorry for Grendel, really, who comes off as very blood-thirsty sensitive bloke.

Angelina Jolie. Covered in gold paint. With feet shaped like heels. What can I say? You either like that kind of thing or you don't. Seeing Anthony Hopkins' bottom, however, CGI or not, is definitely not on the list of things I want. Oh well - you pays your money...

So? It's a hoot, and the dragon is splendid, but not a very good movie. Oh and I impressed the Spouse by understanding Anglo-Saxon. Muhaha.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So I went to the theatre. The play in question was Hearts by Willie Holtzman; and it took a while to win me over. Centered on Donald Waldman, based the author's father, it describes his life as a Jewish World War II veteran trying to live life in St. Louis. The premise is a familiar one, but Holtzman's pace is high, and the actors do an amazingly energetic job, with everyone but the protagonist taking on other smaller parts as well as their basic parts as the friends Donny plays cards - Hearts - with. Because of the pace, it takes a while for the impact of Donny's experiences to hit the audience. The battlefield scenes are well done, with minimal drama. Perhaps that is why this is such a hard play to shake: because it relates an experience without sentiment; though no without emotion or a sense of humour.

It's hard to represent WWII successfully; and it is harder to represent the Holocaust. Shoah. Whatever you choose to call it. There is an ongoing debate as to what, if anything, should be represented; how, and who by; and all I can say is that I hope there never is a definitive answer to any of these questions. Claude Lanzmann's interviews with survivors ("is that all we are?" Donny says) in Shoah may be more direct than Hearts, or Maus; but somehow the play and the comic seem more real to me, all the while showing all of their flaws. If we can't use art to show what can't be said or written, then what is it for?

***

Growing up in Belgium, the World Wars and the Holocaust are closer to us than they are to most people in the US. We are better off for the collective trauma, for the school and personal tours of work and concentration camps, for walking through Flanders Fields, for reading and visiting the past imprinted on my small country and our small continent. When I walk across the Civil War battlefields - they're all around us, here - I learn to understand more about the US as it is now than I would in perhaps any other way. The World Wars matter to all of us, every day; it not a bad idea to do some hands-on learning.

Some stuff

On Thanksgiving:
I am going to be off tomorrow evening, to celebrate the glorious holiday of Thanksgiving. I am bringing part 1 of The Half-Blood Prince with me for the trip to get into the right sort of mindset.

And don't I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I will not bore you with the list of acknowledgements; just take my word for it. It is November 20th, and I feel like all I want to do is hum, and maybe do a little dance, since I am a terrible singer. So if you see someone in a beat-up car singing along loudly to KT Tunstall or Franz Ferdinand, it's probably me.

On theatre:
I'm going to the theatre tonight, my old paramour. It reminds me of why theatre is such an addictive environment. It is - and I guess this is no coincidence - the hobby equivalent of moving countries: new, exciting things, short timespans, high emotion and hastily forged relationships. It is incredibly stimulating and intense, and it will show you people in a way you would not otherwise see them (in their underwear. emotionally vulnerable. exhausted. passionate...). Putting on a play, like moving countries, is like falling in love, and it is no wonder that they often get confused. Like a rollercoaster, and I'll quote Billy Bragg because he is better with words than I am: "It was just like being on a fast ride at the Fun Fair- the sort you want to get off because it's scary and then, as soon as you're off again, you want to get straight back on again"

So what do you get, except old pictures and playbills? Why do theatre, when you can't remember the lines you spent weeks learning three days later, when you lost touch with the people you met? Well, here's your doggie bag: you get to keep some of the friends, if you like that sort of thing; perhaps even some of the lovers. Hopefully, you keep your ability to speak, to step out of yourself for a moment. Hopefully you remember the audacity that a stage confers on anyone on it.
Mostly, though, I learned not to take myself all too seriously, and not to trust dramatic emotion.
Humour me, and let me close with Billy:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This charming...

I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear...

I have the Smiths' song of the above lyrics -This Charming Man- in my head and that in turn reminds me of Lilo & Stitch. In fact I have gone out tonight, sort of anyway, in a mild way.

And really, the most apt thing for my mood is the one below -
Keats and Yeats are on your side
While Wilde is on mine
.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jeremy Irons, anyone?

I am watching a show on VH1, and they're knocking Jeremy Irons' sense of clothing. I think he looks fabulous. See picture.

I am not going to think beyond bad fashion. It's just not possible. Maybe good fashion. Maybe, if I am feeling especially inspired, I will think about Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. But only if I'm feeling inspired.

This has been a long day. I am going to find a snorgle.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Whatever, I'm tired now

It has been an intense week, and I am working tomorrow. My social life baffles me, and my social networking technology does nothing to alleviate the general confusion. I need to go and watch The Devil Wears Prada, and wear some really kickass shoes tomorrow. And reserve my spot on the Snapecast Express, apparently.

And your music to soothe the senses today is Roby Lakatos, who is so long out of Hungary that he can perhaps be forgiven.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Naked Time

So what it the deal with all the naked rituals? As you may have gathered, I have a special fondness for the Harry Potter Puppet Pals youtube videos, and one of the more baffling yet amusing elements of these videos is concept of Naked Time. Specifically, Dumbledore Naked Time. If you don't know what I'm talking about, please go check it out; that said, if you've ignored me so far, you probably will this time too.

Cut to The Da Vinci Code, the terrible movie made after the decidedly mediocre book. Chanting, hoods and naked people. A girl is peering into the room. Cut to Eyes Wide Shut, the movie which could have been fabulous, and the ritualistic masked nudity therein. What is it with naked rituals? Is it just the excuse for nudity? Or is ritualistic naked time just kinkier? And what to make of the virtual puppet naked time? Surely this cannot be conceived as being in any way erotic? My favourite explanation of Naked Time is that the HPPP are having a laugh at the expense of the serious nudity. I don't think that this is the intended effect of the videos; I think Neil Ciceriega just thought it was funny to have Dumbledore be entirely randomly naked; and it is. I will however continue to cherish my own interpretation of Naked Time as mocking random nudity in fanfic, on tv, in movies, by showing, not young, firm, erotic nudity; but by instead denuding the featureless handpuppet of perhaps the most non-sexual of the main HP characters (although, what with him now being gay, one might expect changes; no matter, the videos as pre-Gaydore).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On misery, and how I got to be so wary

(This is an added-to old thing)

Or weary, depending on how you look at it. Yesterday evening was so lovely, when I finally relaxed, and got to enjoy All Hallows Eve, all that. Then there was this persistent noise, it might almost have been metaphorical, and that was the end of the relaxed evening. I stood outside at one a.m. in my pyjamas and my cloak looking up at the stars and wondering if the faint hum I was still hearing was actually there or whether it was a symptom of my mental imbalance.

Happiness, contentment make me anxious; life has a way of beating you up just when you think it's all over. Like a horror movie, where the psychopath/zombie/cannibal/armageddon tries to kill the protagonist one more time. The difference with real life is that it rarely lets you get off with just the one extra attempt.

On the other hand, bad days usually wring the best out of others - rainy days yield random friendly smiles and umbrellas; a timely cancellation gives you an evening off when you need it most. Of course, what with my undercurrent of misery from having to give up Snapecast, there isn't much that can cheer me up. Apart from fanfic and my curious professional ambitions. And the Spouse, pretending to be a deer. And good carrot cake.

Friday, November 09, 2007

In unusual circumstances


I am blogging on the go. It is turning out to be rather a miserable Friday, but I am holding out for a drink and the dearly paid company of the Spouse. While I wait for those, in the sad sad absence of Snapecast, there is only one cure for my ills: silly cat pictures. I wish I had wizard sleeves.

Princess


I am listening to The Princess Bride. My mind is on Elvis and Cary Elwes.
"Now, a cartwheel would be something"*

In Spanish, it is called La princesa prometida, I think, and I saw it in in Spanish first, when I was twelve, on New Year, with an older girl. It is a long time ago, and she is no longer there, only that memory.

A good fairytale, a good story, and plenty of silliness. What's not to like?

Princesses are not quite my bag, though somewhere I have a pink princess dress that hasn't fit me since I was twelve. I admit, gladly, with relief, that I am just like everyone else.

*Yes, I know that the actual quote is something to the effect of "Now, a wheelbarrow would be something", but I like my version better.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Woe is me


One of my friends tells me "surely this was to be expected?' - only one never does expect the inevitable. By "the inevitable" I mean, of course, Snapecast's impending retirement. Surely they cannot deprive us of their company so soon? I'm not even done grieving over the end of the series *weeps Japanese-cartoon-style, very dramatically*.

"I'm getting used to the floor" sings Travis somewhere in their early work, and I have been sprawled on it amid symetrically grouped shots of Aftershock, watching The Order of the Phoenix and Star Wars to drown my sorrows. I have been standing in the rain on one leg, wearing my Snape, because ambiguity is sexy t-shirt, singing all the voices in The Mysterious Ticking Noise, but to no avail. Snapecast, I beg of you, don't break my bereaved heart.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

To contradict myself

Update: it occurs to me how much funnier the Stakka Bo video is if you think that I am supposed to practice simple living...maybe I can substite the music for the actual over-consumption.

The lovely KT Tunstall to express the flipside of perpetual insecurity:



Because the past is past, and in the present I have better shoes, better looks and better luck.

Oh, and Stakka Bo. Yeah, I'm feeling cheery, and tipsy, as well as dumb.

How to be dumb

Because I do feel dumb, and I love this song, and I don't know how to fix this feeling, short of getting another degree.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Eagles. Wrapped in American flags.


My home country, my heimat has no history of national patriotism.

America has a lot of it. Flags. Eagles. At first, you think it's odd. Then you decide it's a little over the top. Then you think it's mildly strange (spraypainted on the the back of trucks, next to Jesus). Then you see an NSA powerpoint with a giant picture of an eagle, wrapped in a flag.

You try not to giggle; because if you've learned anything, it is that in the US, the security and secret services have no sense of humour. They have signs in the airport to remind you of it.

On tightly wound men

It has been far too long since I wrote about Snape, and s.s. stone on her lovely blog recommends posting things of interest, so here goes, though I am notoriously bad at being of interest. For some time now, the Spouse and I have been debating the merits of tightly wound men. Your Snapes, your Mr. Darcys, your Mr. Rochesters - men who are distant and arrogant to a flaw (you mean there's a good kind of distant and arrogant?), yet who tremble under the strain of their vehement emotions like so many pressure cookers.

Time for an anecdote, I think. When I was at the UBC, one of the professors there - small, Irish, funny - was complaining about dark, brooding men. Specifically, he told the story of being at a party which also included Colin Firth, he of eternal Darcy fame. Firth was, according to him, standing in a corner looking gloomy, thereby causing all the women to gravitate to the aforementioned corner; and leaving the other men with the hard work of attracting women's attention and talking to them.

Why is it that women find these hopeless, erratic, repressed, pointlessly noble and often outright ugly men attractive? Why is it - the Spouse laments - that Darcy gets all the attention, when Bingley is so much more pleasant? How is it that even I, with my love of amiable, enthused men in real life, still go for the fictional brooding stranger? My bet is that it's the suspense - the longer it takes for the man to express his emotions, the more tension in the romantic plot. We may prefer the actual Bingley, but Darcy just makes for a better story (not to mention Colin Firth, who does smouldering very well). The other thing is that women do love to patch up broken things, and all three of the fictional heroes (no matter what JKR says!) mentioned are broken in one way or another, injured by some old secret. If anyone has opinions, speak them, if not...then you're probably doomed to another Post of Interest soon. *throws her head back and laughs demonically*

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hmm

Halloween. After a long, stressful day, it turns out that what relaxed me, wore the stress and coffee out of me, is a visit to the (new, nice) dentist.

Halloween. I drove home in the dark through the pretty, leafy neighbourhoods, where kids were trick or treating. It was so idyllic that I couldn't feel any cynicism about it. It was just sweet.

The stressful, yet interesting, day consisted of hearing about very new, very nifty things, which a bunch of people (who don't exist) are willing to commercialise (to the right people, with appropriate security clearance). Oh, and there were some physicists there too, I think, and lots of people in suits. Really, I have the strangest job sometimes.

I wore the Star Trek suit for the first time, but didn't talk to enough geeks to enjoy it much.

On being a shoddy friend, family member and so forth

On the topic of Julius Caesar, the TDEC wishes to let her readers know that it is a good thing that he never had to look after any children, because frankly, between politics and warfare, she doubts that he would have found the time.

She notes, also, that her acronym TDEC has taken the route of IBM's - while the acronym remains, the original reference is mostly lost, as in the case of International Business Machines, where only a minute part of the operation is concerned with actual machines. As such, it would be much more appropriate for the outfit to change its acronym to IB, International Business, a suitably vague description of its ambitions for world domination. When one's brand is the third best known in the world, though, it does not pay to change it, and so IBM will be IBM; and for entirely unrelated reasons the TDEC, too, chooses to stick with the status quo.

The status quo is onerous. It is such that the TDEC is seriously considering skipping her Voluntary Simplicity meeting - which is designed, among other things, to aid people in improving their time management. It is such that communication with friends and family, always complicated across timezones, has been compromised. Most distressingly, the status quo involves very little outright fun/relax time, which includes, but is not limited to: reading anything other than the most undemanding and comforting of writing, quality spousal time, drinks with friends, watching Monk, sleeping late, looking up the number of inhabitants of Chagrin Falls, Ohio; pointless calls, making origami, watching puppet videos on youtube, cooking properly.

Well, the TDEC gets frequent flyer miles out of it, and driving practice. She supposes that that must be a good thing. She is also, somehow, still finding time to blog. She supposes it must be lack of silliness in RL.