Friday, May 30, 2003

Mr. Gaiman's rather scruffy, but he has good taste in computers. Fishnets and rats aren't really my dish, but perhaps I'll look into it.

Someday in the far future, when I have the time and the mental energy to do great things, I will create a real blog with all the amenities instead of using this awkward template that drives me nuts. Our archives don't work. I still can't figure out how to add more weblinks to the permanent page, and I haven't had the time to figure out how to stretch the dialogue box wide enough so you don't have to scroll down forever. I'd also lighten the background color, add some silk flowers here and there...

But this will not happen any time soon. For now I will continue attempting to memorize HTML, and finding good websites with cheatsheets.

Wow. Neil Gaiman has a website with a journal. Neil Gaiman, if you have not read his work yet, is a master of the.... I can't even categorize his wonders. Neverwhere is a sort of goth fantasy set in an otherworld within the London Underground. Beautiful, in a tattered-black-lace-and-fishnet-and-random-filthy-rats kind of way; you must read it to believe it. Stardust is a lovely journey into Faerie, and Good Omens, co-written by Terry Pratchett, is an absolutely mindblowingly hilarious work about...the end of the world. (I mentioned this to a friend's mother, and she said, "Can't you just read the news?") Anyway, Gaiman's website has many really random tidbits and links, quite entertaining for an evening of procrastination.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Just found online a lovely parody of Bridget Jones' Diary with frequent references to Colin Firth, and thought you ladies might appreciate it.

I was wasting time at work, and found this wonderful nugget on Lileks, here. I wish I had written this.. especially the last part about midwesterners:

Right before I woke up I dreamed I had an assignment: write a bad feature story in the style of the New York Times. When I woke I had the last sentence still in my head; I stumbled next door to the studio, woke up the Mac, and typed this sentence:

Over in the field, a hound was hunched over excreting a “striver,” the local’s term for the hard, elegantly tapered stools for which the wild dogs are renowned.

It has it all! It has a field, which is always a sign that the urban reporter is braving the flat & empty lands of America. It has a word known only to the locals, and the locals are always the real subject of the piece. Every East Coast story on Midwestern people feels like they’re writing about pygmies. Doesn’t matter if the story’s about clothing, or music, or nose-bones; beneath it all is the writer’s underlying inability to forget that these are pygmies, for God’s sake. And they’re so cute!

Yeah. And you should read Mr. Lileks' review of the Matrix Reloaded the previous day. Its funny.

Very good poem on poetry daily today:The Dream of the Rotten Daughter
Wicked stuff.

I have to go to work soon, but i can't tear my eyes away from the Oriole feeder. This year is the first time we've had a chance to use the feeder, which is four years old or so. We see the orioles come through in early spring, and by the time we have the feeder out, they go elsewhere. This year we got it out just in time, and they are staying, three or four of them, I can't tell. I have to put a new halved orange out every other day, and they feast until there's nothing but rind left.

The Masqueraders, by the way, is a very very good GH novel. I will have to fly out east so Sister Andrea and I can read it together.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Thankyou so much Andrea.. here I was brooding about the tax cut and raising the debt ceiling, and you remind what life is worth living for: mediocre novels. Andrea has better taste then I.. I go for straight camp classics like Shannara, The Death Gate Cycle, and anything by McCaffrey.. well I haven't read any of those in six years, but they are what I remember most vividly from my teens.

While we are on the subject of Literature for a long afternoon in the shade, I suggest Georgette Heyer's classic, The Quiet Gentleman. The alternative title for this novel is Speak Softly, and Carry a Small Pearl-Handled Pistol. The mystery is gently worded yet cunning, and the dialogue is sprinkled with deliciously dry humor. Niki and Andrea of course know this, but for anyone else who ventures into our page, I highly recommend it.

Currently I am reading The Masqueraders, which could be called Hansel and Gretel go on a Gender Bender. Babes in the woods come to London disguised and admirably so. Robin is an excquisite blond beauty full of charm and delight, and his sister Prudence is a even headed boy of twenty.. Lets just say the two of them are nameless adventurers avoiding their murky past as Jacobites in a failed rebellion.. remember Bonny Prince Charlie holed up in the oak tree? Prudence of course, falls in love with quiet, tall, deeply intelligent *sigh* fellow who Robin call's the Mountain.. Here's a taste:

[Prudence] came back to Arlington Street to find Robin posturing above a bouquet of red roses. Robin achieved a simper. "Behold me, my Peter, in a maidenly flutter!"

Prudence put down her whip and gloves. "What's this?"

"My elderly admirer!" said Robin in an ecstasy, and gave up a note. "Read, my little one!"

Prudence gave a chuckle over the amorous note. "Robin, you rogue!"

"I was made to be a breaker of hearts," sighed Robin.

"Oh, this one was cracked many times before!"

Robin tilted his head a little; the merry devil looked out of his limpid blue eyes. "I've a mind to enthrall the mountain," he said softly.

"You won't do it. He's more like to unmask you than to worship at your shameless feet," Prudence answered.

Incidentally, Robin is a lot like Miles Vorkosigan (see Andrea's reading list): Short and very very intelligent. Of course Robin's also a master swordsman, and looks damn good in a hoops and petticoats. Sorry Miles, one can't have everything. ;)

I just finished a wonderfully restful week-and-a-piece of vacation. In its honor, instead of analyzing obscure facts about medieval religious women, I shall talk about fantasy and science fiction novels.

Much science fiction and fantasy is junk. There is nothing wrong with this. Junk is good. It relaxes a strained mind and provides material to make horrid fun of. Nevertheless, there are some sf/f novels that deserve recognition as Literature with a capital L, but are ignored by the mainstream critics who refuse to cross their own fairly artificial genre boundaries. There are other sf/f novels that are neither junk nor Literature, but are quite worth reading as moderately thoughtful entertainment (henceforth MTE).

A few of my recent reads that belong on the MTE or Literature lists: [Please note, my decisions on the quality of literature are completely arbitrary and based on my own opinion alone. Feel free to disagree.]

Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett, Point of Hopes and its sequel, Point of Dreams. MTE. The great majority of fantasy novels take place in some place that sort of resembles the British Isles, somewhere between the sixth and fourteenth centuries depending on the variety of armor. Scott and Barnett deserve kudos for placing these police procedural fantasies not in medieval England but in a city based on early modern city-states in the Netherlands. The city of Astreiant has guilds and printing presses, astronomers/astrologers and social class conflicts. I was quite pleased to see a major plot point in the second book turning on... the seventeenth century tulip craze in Holland! Hurrah for variety!

Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials trilogy.
[Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass]
Definitely Literature, although it can be read on a pure plot level. Pullman builds on Milton, Dante, Blake, Keats, and even Ashbery to revisit the revolt in heaven. I don't have enough superlatives to describe the series accurately. Just read it already.

Nicola Griffith, Slow River. Literature. This Nebula-award winning novel is not particularly cheerful, handling issues of pollution, corporate malfeasance, and even rape in a near-future dystopia. Nevertheless, it and its questions take up residence in the brain, leaving me wondering for months what it is to be human. [Warning: not for the faint of heart. Sex is explicitly explicit.]

Lois Bujold, the Vorkosigan cycle. MTE. Bujold writes character-driven space opera. This turns out not to be an oxymoron. Our hero, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, is a disabled military genius from a planet where disability is scorned and military genius is valued. Characters of both genders are interesting and complex, and feminist questions often creep in. My personal favorites from the series are Mirror Dance and A Civil Campaign, but all are worth reading. Bujold's new fantasy novel, The Curse of Chalion, is also highly recommended for character development and originality, although I admit to being slightly miffed when I realized that one of the heroines was an analogue of Isabella of Castile, as in the Spanish Inquisition.

More reviews later...

Whatever you saw here last night has been removed for editing.. basically I posted because I had to go to bed..

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

My goodness, I guess I have even less Anglo-Norman in me than previously suspected.

Take a look at this brilliant article, which despite appearing in the Science Times section of the NYT will probably be referenced in my eventual doctoral dissertation on ethnic identity in medieval literature from the British Isles...

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Happy Memorial Day!
I have my little red poppy, do you have yours?

Dead Bird Alert
My family just found a dead crow in the dog yard. Here in Michigan, we're having a bit of a problem with West Nile Virus, so we put the bird in a plastic bag in the freezer, and my little brother filed a dead bird report with the county on the other Mac. Finding the bird in the yard means that unfortunately for us, we have to wear bug spray whenever we go outside or risk getting a pretty nasty flu, that perhaps could be fatal to immune suppressed people and old people. My parents are old people, but I'm not sure if they're That old. Still, its not a nice thing to think about being in one's back yard.

Mother Superior's Choice: Movies Not To Be Missed

Saturday night I bought the family tickets for X 2, X-Men United. We were in a hurry, Dad ran over a potted plant, and we ate at a Uptown Coney Island . Needless to say, I was not in the best mood when we finally got to the film, but I was very pleasantly surprised to find the show made up for the rest of the evening. Hugh Jackman was lovely as rugged and manly Wolverine. Knowing that he is a happily married nappy-changing kinda guy makes the portrayal somehow sweeter. Unlike Russel Crowe, who's such a jerk, or Colin Farrell, the Hollywood slut of the moment, you can feel comfortable knowing that in between takes Mr. Jackman was playing with his son instead of cursing at the hired help or banging the co-stars. He even does broadway musicals. Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said that.

I won't spoil the plot for you, but I wanted to note that I was surprised by the number of people who had no clue what the final view are foreshadowing. For fans of the comic there were wonderful little visual allusions to the original characters here and there. For the rest of us, there was plenty of gripping action, with very little stomach churning suspence. This was a good thing, I had enough stomach churning at dinner.

On Friday, I saw Down With Love. Its a romantic comedy, emphasis on the comedy. Even my little brother enjoyed it. That's says something about the quality of the comedy. Reneé Zellweger's outfits are akin to Jackie O's.. on LSD. Fabulous. Ewan McGregor is as shiny as a newly minted penny, which is preferable to his usual unkempt state off screen. I can't tell you much more, the jokes are sweet one-liners that might not be as tasty if twice-told.