Wednesday, April 30, 2008

(belated post)

So the Spouse's parents are in town, always a great excuse for fun activities and good food, and as such, among other activities, we rented Juno. Juno had been hovering at the edge of my consciousness for a while, one of those things which one is vaguely interested in but never quite enough to act upon. Anyway, yesterday it seemed like a great choice of movie, and indeed it was. There aren't too many movies that are uplifting without being patronising. Particularly ones about teenagers. This one is such a gentle movie, by which I mean it shows its characters honestly, realistically, but with kindness and nuance. Of course Juno is a wonderful character, there is no question. I kind of wish I'd been that sane and undaunted as a teenager - though I am exceedingly glad to have skipped the teen pregnancy thing. However - there always is one, isn't there? - the real highlight of the movie for me was Bleeker, the best friend of protagonist/father to to unborn child. His perpetually well-intentioned, slightly confused, loyal, smart and offbeat character lights up the movie. I spent the entire duration of the movie wanting to hug him. He's awesome. He is also uncannily like the Spouse, so I did spend a lot of time hugging said Spouse once he walked in about halfway through.



Like a sailor

Before I moved to the US I was much like any other middle class European - decently educated, decently travelled, and moderately foul-mouthed by American standards. It always took a certain amount of self-control to be around, you know, middle class Americans. Now that I live here, I am reduced to what Stephen Fry terms, I think, Pooh-isms or some such thing - "bother", "blast", "heavens" and even the dreaded "oh my word". I feel like a Victorian play. Every once in a while I just wish I were back in Britain at IBM shouting "wankers!" at the phone; but I will be polite. I even find myself missing the Irish "holy mother of God" and "suffering Christ". Who knew that culture shock could involve profanity? For that matter, when did I start calling it profanity instead of cursing?

It's a funny place, this America; addictive, lovely, warping. I notice that here people say that I sound like an American, when the Brits just said I didn't sound foreign - it is a little disconcerting...am I too good at assimilating?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring, again

A beautiful day in Bawlmer, a day off no less, and I have nothing better to do than to listen to good music, tidy, make a leisurely cup of coffee, and blog.

This is how life should be. Really. Here's the best thing to do, or at least listen to - this guy is great live, so see him if you get a chance. And he's cute, in a hobbit sort of way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Romance, or not, as the case may be (am I really this vapid?)

The boy whom we all know as The Boy Who Plays Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe Dan to his fans (of which I am not especially one) is asking an Australian newspaper to help him find a girl he didn't-quite-meet at a party. One has to wonder if this is the best way to go about finding a girlfriend, but I'm not going to slam any man for a genuinely romantic endeavour. So what if it is a little misguided? It makes for a great story. And yes, let's admit that the whole thing just makes him more Pottery. One can just imagine the boy blushing furiously. Aw. I hope he finds his wench. Or maybe he already did, and she has a boyfriend. Oh well. You pays your money, you takes your chances.

By the by, I see that they are describing Radcliffe in Equus as "racy". Racy to me suggests Rita Hayworth in lingerie, or perhaps Marylin Monroe in her see-trough top in Some Like It Hot. Sexy. Not the nudity of a violently deranged character in, as far as I can tell, an entirely non-sexy context. Even if said character is portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Dragons

New Snapecast. Yay!

Also, after a rough day I feel better at last...and apparently The Mysterious Ticking Noise won an award. Yay. An excuse to show it again.



And dragons are good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I am incoherent and discombobulated lately

I have been taking a break from the Trial that is Java, on account of Easter, and having deserved it, and then being in the midst of trying to read the equivalent of about ten books in about two weeks. Easter is now long gone and my reading obligations are done, so Java awaits. It is a test of my resolve, is it not?

On the other hand...it has been a while since I have been tempted by fanfic. I love nothing so much as being tempted, and to repeat Oscar's most worn-out maxim, I can resist anything but temptation. That said, I can actually thoroughly enjoy being tempted without any intention of giving in. Back to the fanfic. I wish this were the kind of blog where I could just ask people to throw me some good Snape fanfic; it is not. I do love my five readers though, they are suce nice, bright readers. Or in the case of Mrs McNasty, profane, funny, bright readers. I am losing the thread of my near-non-existant narrative. Fanfic. It tempts me. I miss escaping to its familiar yet ever-varied universe. I have many more productive uses of my time than fanfic; but there it is. It tempts me; to the extent that while I have momentarily lost interest in re-reading Harry Potter, I do find myself wanting to visit some fanfic archives.

Tolkien is - to change the topic - a kind of literary father figure to me. I've grown up reading his books, devotedly, repeatedly; grown up with his bushy eyebrows and pipe. I love the smell of pipe smoke, not because of Tolkien, but because of my dad, though he hasn't smoked in twenty years. Re-reading the Flotsam and Jetsam chapter of Lord of the Rings, where Merry and Pippin, and then Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, sit around amid the destruction of Isengard eating bacon and smoking pipes, it reminds me of why I wish I'd never seen Peter Jackson's movies. Inevitably, they are not about the same things as my experience of the book; nor are they true to Tolkien's vision (though Gandalf, Tolkien's stand-in, was perfectly cast). They're good enough as movies; just not true to the author's purpose. How could they be? Tolkien's drawings never even showed us the characters' faces - he meant for them to be imagined. Be that as it may, Tolkien is a great example for a writer. He wrote later in life, and for pleasure, ambitious in his writing but not in his ambitions for it. The story of how he started - I must see if I can find it on youtube. He tells it well.


Compared to Tolkien, Rowling feels incomplete. This is not because she is a worse writer - it would be hard to compare them - but because Tolkien's strength is his loving attention to detail. Hers is an understanding of teenagers, and a gift for characterisation. Tolkien's work has no teenagers, and that is probably for the best. They are a tricky lot. Tolkien's narrative so much more satisfying than Rowling's; none of those loose ends. He has the advantage over her in that he relies heavily on an existing genre and structure, that of the epic, and on the Scandinavian mythology. Nah, she has plenty of sources too; she just can't decide on which one to use. It would be wonderful to see Tolkien's skill as a storyteller combined with...actually, Tolkien is fine the way he is. As is she, in a much more vexing, Snape-killing sort of way. I wonder if Tolkien lets all his major characters survive because he has lost so many people in the war that he felt he wanted to give his characters a better end. For that matter, I wonder if Gollum is the Snape equivalent. A morally ambiguous character with a crucial role in the plot...of course Gollum is very different, not to mention that he is of course not on the "good" side, only on his own side, and turns out bad. At least he gets a proper death. There is a modernist vs. post-modern analysis there - Tolkien knowing that unity is lost but striving for it, and trying to re-establish an order lost in reality in fiction; and Rowling implicitly saying that there never was unity (houses!) and that life is a hit-and-miss business. Nah. Not even close to plausible. Gah, I resent her moral implications. Time for some fanfic.

P.S.: I just saw Horton hears a who! and the Horton Suite is the happiest, bounciest music heard since, eh, Katrina and the Waves

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Serious, or not, as the case may be

So you figured out long ago that while I am reasonably interested in reading Serious Content, I am no good at writing it. This is occasionally a shame, but mostly an excuse to have a good time. Don't worry, I do spend my free time voluntarily reading political analysis and listening to talkshows with Tom Stoppard. Tom Stoppard without a doubt counts as Serious, though he has a great sense of humour, at least in his plays. In person, well, by podcast proxy, he seems pretty earnest. The thing about Stoppard is that he writes beautiful, intelligent, compelling, intricate and yes, funny plays; but I do not, in spite of a few attempts, find the author himself interesting. Oh well, no matter.

Lately the TDECverse has been sadly lacking in strange, obsessive tendencies, which I can usually come up with even in the midst of the most intelligent activities. With Snapedom languishing and S. West being out of town again, I feel quite desolate. My weekendly exploration of a much older fixation - Tolkien's work - managed to completely sidestep my obsessive side; instead it was only intelectually stimulating, compelling and thoroughly enjoyable. Alas. I hope I am not getting too sensible.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What will not fit


This has been a lovely weekend. The best things are always the hardest to write about. It is spring here, the magnolias have just finished their lovely bloom; I walked barefoot outside for the first time this year.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Brief

I am trying very hard to finish my reading for tomorrow, so I have to be brief here. I saw the Ominous Specialist today. The good news: looks like I am just fine, won't need much of anything, just something to keep in mind. The bad news: more tests and another Specialist for a second opinion. Blech. Also, I was moderately impressed with the Ominous Specialist showing signs of both common sense and humanity. Not bad. He still annoyed me, but then they always do, so I suppose it is my problem, rather than his.

W00t

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Playing

So this last weekend the Spouse and I went to New York. It wasn't really a convenient time, and we don't really have any money for that sort of thing, but it was the last weekend that Drunk enough to say I love you? was playing and the Spouse, demonstrating some considerable insight in my psyche, finally just went ahead and bought tickets and booked a cheapish hotel. We did lots of fun stuff, but let me focus on the catalyst, Ms. Churchill's play. The Spouse and I disagreed about it, and came to the somewhat amusing conclusion that we liked and disliked approximately the same things, but attributed different levels of importance to these things.

The setup is mesmerising. The minimalist set, god I love a good minimalist set, is a thing of beauty. The couch and the frame of lights, like those around a dressing room mirror or and old-fashioned billboard (how appropriate). That's all. How interesting can that be? Well, pretty interesting, as it turns out. The couch moving up in the black box of the stage is a storyline in itself, with the disappearing cups and cigarettes. The isolation of the two characters is expressed more eloquently by the couch, and the cups that are dropped with making a sound, than by anything anyone says.

The music which divides the scenes is perfect. It sets the mood, and is timed exactly right. The language of unfinished sentences in which the play is written is a gimmick, an all too obvious trick when compared to the music. We get it - it is a dreamworld where no one ever considers the consequences, nothing ever breaks, no conclusions are drawn, and nothing matters but these two people. Countries. Whatever. It was a good idea, but not executed all that well - no, the music speaks more clearly.

And so the dialogue is not what it could be, reduced to mere pamphleteering. The characters could have so much more humanity. One kind of feels for the otherwise excellent actors - they could have done more with the subject, given half a chance. Scott Cohen in particular gets shortchanged as a charicature of the US; Samuel West gets a little more subtlety as Britain. I remember that while she is very well respected, I don't actually like Caryl Churchill's plays. Unlike the Spouse though, who is disappointed by the inadequately rendered content, I was, and am, enthusiastic about the play and would see it again, though I can't. I am an aesthete at heart, and something so well done will always win me over. Something so well staged, so well produced; I have to admire it. Flawless execution of a flawed script. It is wonderful; it sweeps me off my feet, and that's really all I want out of theatre.

As for S. West, he won me over long ago. I got a fangirl moment in, when we walked into the theatre just when he got there. Squee. He is starting to look rather prim in his middle age, but no less endearing. May his appearances on stages this side of the ocean be many, and worthy of his talents.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The happy interwebs

Fanatic BBC News reader that I am, I happened across this story about people watching Rick Astley videos. Apparently, somebody has been sending out email promising to lead one to all sorts of naughty delights, and then linking to Rick Astley. Fully clothed. Singing Never gonna give you up. It warms the cockles of my heart, that does. Such spirited spam subversion.

So, without further ado or supposed links to naughty nymphettes (did I just steal that reference from Neverwhere?), I give you Rick Astley. Still fully clothed.

Things that are absolutely true

I found this idea while wasting the time I could have spent accomplishing stuff, and decided it was so apt I needed to steal it:

5 Things I am (perpetually) behind on

Cleaning: always hard for me to get around to, which bothers me greatly. I like having things clean - it helps my peace of mind. Instead I just find myself staring at dustbunnies and stuff I should throw out of our fridge.

Calling my friends: I think of them. I may even email them. Really, I should call them - sometime - when I have time. I enjoy talking to friends.

Reading: I have stacks of lovely books that I want to read, really, I do, but I have to finish my reading for my class in two weeks first, and I don't know how I'm going to do that, never mind trying to read anything else. Recently, it has been hard to read anything that isn't an audiobook (so I can clean at the same time!) but those are expensive, and I've used up my Audible credit for the month.

Java: has been suspended due to impending literature class, taxes, and general urgencies. I feel bad. Moreover it is incredible slow and hard going. I feel like Frodo hauling myself through endless vastness with a weight around my neck. "There's no vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end" Did I just quote James Hutton, via Bad Religion? Ew.

Exercise: I need to. I (sort of) want to. Only by the time I get home I'm tired, and I dislike gyms, yoga is off limits for the moment, and swimming required so much dressing and undressing.
Thanks to Ms. Stone for kicking me into action on the blogging...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

By any other name

When one is called Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one must either be a Puritan, or do something very grand with one's life. Brunel opted for the latter and single-handedly dragged civil engineering to new heights. Good for him, as they say here, and at least he was a Victorian. As I am surrounded by people who a procreating, I contemplate their various choices for names. If I ever have children, I will have to resist the temptation to call them things like Caligula and Severus. I know, Caligula was a tyrant of the most unpleasant sort, but the name rolls off the tongue so nicely, and it means "little boot", Cute, no? As for Severus, I may yet actually attempt that for a name. Or Wolfgang. I like that as a name - kind of cute and fluffy, fun, stern and slightly scary all at once.

It really is most unfortunate that, in spite of my advocacy for Sensible Names, I have this love of oddball names. I may opt for a sensible-first/outrageous-middle name combo. James Marmaduke; Alexander Kingdom; Francis Hilaire. Or maybe I should just have female offspring, since only sensible names are in the running for that category. Not that I plan to have offspring anytime soon, which is why this is an entertaining passtime. Robert Byron! See, I think that would be fabulous; although Robert is more for a second child, and right now I am not sure I can even contemplate more than one. One must of course take into account the negotiations with the Spouse* on the subject, but well, we shall tackle that particular subject when the time comes. Nomen est omen**, and if you think that Oscar Wilde (a good name, by the way) was really called Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills Wilde, it is hard not to think that the saying is accurate.

*If you click on that picture - what's up with the hair looking like its been styled by K-Fed's stylist? And the prim/grumpy look? I mean, the awful shirt is in some ways to be expected, by surely such a lovely man should have better...packaging?
**="The name is a sign", meaning that name indicates the character