For a woman who got about four hours of sleep last night I’m doing really well. Luke and his family left this morning and I was conscious to see them off. Morning. Conscious. Golly.* I did not fall asleep during the silent-prayer sit this afternoon although there may have been a little more swaying than totally desirable. As I keep saying, those Zen guys had some good ideas. Cross-legged if you can fold up enough to get your knees on the floor—your zafu is totally your friend here—really is a stable posture and having to keep your back more or less straight requires a certain minimal attentiveness. My brain, unfortunately, was even more of ricocheting disaster than usual but by the end of the second half the physical stillness was beginning to have some effect. A bit like trapping your manic hellterror between your legs. You are going to be quiet now. Yes. You are. Quiet. I said quiet.
I even made it through bell ringing at the abbey. The good thing about summer holidays is that those of you who show up get to ring a lot. This is a mixed blessing on four hours’ sleep in a muggy airless ringing chamber, but it was okay. And when Albert called for bob minor I chose a middle bell so I could practise my ropesight on a method I should know backwards, forwards, upside down and in a frelling queue instead of a circle so you can only see some of the bells depending on which way you’re looking and end up with whiplash, snapping your head back and forth. And even that was okay, in spite of the 7,341 Dreaded Three-Four Down Singles that my bell had to ring.
But today is OFFICIAL SHORT BLOG WEDNESDAY YAAAAAAAAY. I was going to post this last week, and then that amazingly sensitive and perceptive blogger tweeted her review of SHADOWS and that, of course, took precedence.
Adele Geras retweeted this eight or nine days ago**, as it happens a few days after I had finished a KES ep in which Kes has a white-flapping-thing experience she does not enjoy. And while I don’t think I’d call the original the best or my favourite M R James story*** it’s probably in my top ten. This dramatization is also interesting, I think, for it being a classic example of the BBC of that era: what it does really well and what it does badly. But I did find this well worth forty minutes of my time. If a few of you watch it and express an opinion/interest I’ll do a bit of a SPOILER post about what I thought of it.
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* A significant part of the problem at the moment is that I own only one fan and . . . the hellcritters need it worse. You only think about additional fans when you need one, by which time they’ve sold out.
** But because good record-keeping and tidy organization are not in my skill set I’ve managed to lose who tweeted it originally, and I can’t find it to check. I merely emailed myself the link.
*** If I had to choose it might be Casting the Runes. Maybe I should do some rereading. . . .
So I finally made it to bell practise at the abbey again tonight and . . . the less said about it the better.
I tell myself that it’s been a month since I was there last, that I already know I’m finding the learning curve with those particular bells steep*, and that tonight wasn’t as bad, say, as the first time I rang there.** Or the first time I rang there after quitting New Arcadia, being intimidated out of my tiny mind, and wondering if I had a future as a ringer anywhere.
But not very much better.
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I wish to say that I am DELIGHTED at the forum comments about year round decorated not-just-for-Christmas trees.† I’ve actually thought of trying to do this, de- and re-ornamenting a tree†† or a tree-like object, but in the first place I’ve never got round to it, partly because in the second place as soon as you start thinking, okay, this can be anything I want it to be the possibilities unfurl into infinity . . . beginning with the fact that it wouldn’t have to be exactly a tree, although, come Christmas again that might be easier.†††
I am also delighted that several people have posted liking John Carter: the critic-flayed film. Excellent. Now all it has to do is come to Zigguraton or Mauncester. I admit I want the full theatre experience. ‡
Meanwhile, Diane in MN posted a link to this excellent article about Burroughs and the original novels:
And last but not least, also carrying on from last night’s link-post, my favourite story so far about recent rampant sexism:
Only a little over ten years ago, when I was an undergrad exchange student inFrance, I received a telemarketing-type call on the separate line that my host family nicely provided in their exchange student room. The woman on the other end asked to speak to the man of the house. As I was somewhat flummoxed by actually hearing this question out of the 1950s, the first phrase my still-shaky French brain offered up was: “I don’t have one.”
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* Not to mention the stairs. Which have definitely got steeper in the last month.
** I had a cup of tea with Penelope today at her house^ and was describing my difficulties at the abbey, including the business of not ringing in a circle, which is what most of us are used to and what our rather feeble ropesight can cope with, but a line. Not a line, said Penelope, who has rung there herself, a banana. She’s right. Unfortunately I thought of this image tonight and it did not help my concentration.
^ Not without difficulty. Her entire street is up, with ‘road closed’ signs at both ends and mobs of yellow-jacketed persons rushing up and down waving uninterpretable instruments of destruction, flanked by diggers and dump trucks in a wide range of sizes and numbers of teeth. Having tried both ends without success, I parked Wolfgang in a hedgerow and hiked in, leaping over abysses and bubbling pits, and fending off over-familiar bulldozers. I believe they were air-lifting Penelope out when she had to go to work.
*** Maybe I should focus on singing. I pulled Che Faro Senza Eurydice off the shelf today for the first time in a while, to have a go at being tragic.^ Um. I think I may have achieved whining. Perhaps I’d better not focus on singing.^^
^ This may be as far as I can get into opera, but I want to sing this properly.
^^ I did get Nadia to help me with the frelling Owl and frellinger Pussycat on Monday. With her at my elbow being crisp it all seems terribly doable. This has gone away again. Yes, I can now sing the descant alone, possibly even without the one-finger-on-the-piano to hold me steady. But as soon as the basses start up tomorrow evening I’ll be toast. Pleeeeeeease let Griselda be there.
† Goes nicely with ‘a dog is for life and not just for Christmas’
And this year, Marks and Spencer, not to be outdone in the responsible consumer and empathic small-footprint, we’re-all-just-visiting-this-planet stakes, brought out a holiday-red shopping bag that says ‘a bag is for life, not just for Christmas’. I have a second-hand one—it arrived in this household bearing Christmas presents—and it amuses me every time I need a red plastic shopping bag to put something in.
†† I am totally with the idea of a chocolate Easter egg decorated tree, for example.
††† In the third place, I think Peter might not be entirely thrilled with the idea. Hmm. I could start experimenting by decorating the geraniums^ on the windowsills at the cottage perhaps. But a year-round holiday tree would, in my dastardly hands, turn into another sort of shelving for little noodgy objects—I already have not only a full complement of the standard sorts of dustcatchers, but little dangly things on chains and ribbons suspended from curtain rails and the cottage’s gigantic overhead beams and so on.
The good part of a rolling-with-the-seasons decorated tree is that you do get the fun of decorating (as someone on the forum said is an important part of the tree thing) while the boringness of the taking-down part is somewhat ameliorated. But what I foresee is that I’d just end up with the seasonal decorated not-a-tree plus a frelling Christmas tree all over again.
^ I’ve been moving around the cottage garden the last three days muttering Empty space! Look at all this empty space! and frantically trying to remind myself that this happens every year, I’ve got stuff ordered, CALM DOWN. Today in my inbox I have about sixty-two ‘your order has been shipped’ from plant nurseries all over England. And Scotland. Wheeeee. There goes my plan to repot everything on the windowsills before Spring Frenzy starts however.+
+ ::says in a very small voice:: But I do need a climbing rose . . .
‡ Opera and cheezy SF&F: McKinley’s theatre-going priorities. Which reminds me. Last-month’s-but-I-missed-it big story was: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2012/feb/02/van-halen-different-truth-review
Remember I told you that I finally got around to having my adolescence in my thirties? Yeah. Well, the David Lee Roth Van Halen was a major feature in this enterprise^ and I was totally with Bloom County when Michael J Binkley declared that the whole world has gone to hell in a handbasket since David Lee Roth left Van Halen.^^
Now . . . want to know how I finally found out about the new album? By following an opera singer on Twitter.
And am I going to buy the first David Lee Roth Van Halen album in almost thirty years? Hmmm. . . .
^ Although a friend who was there used to say that I didn’t have a disturbing and unhealthy crush on Roth, I wanted to be him. Well, yes. The wardrobe, you know, although I’ve kept more of my hair.
^^ I had the original cartoon taped to my wall in Maine, but I didn’t get it laminated fast enough and it disintegrated when I peeled it off to take to England. This may have been an omen, of course.
‡‡ Michael Dirda is fabulous. He is fabulous not least—as I was saying of Michael Chabon last night—because he takes genre seriously.
I’ve wasted some time trying to annotate it a bit from my own life. Linda Grant is only a year older than I am; the world she’s talking about is the world I grew up in too. But this kind of thing is—still—one of my hot buttons, and I’m tired, having had my head down for a protracted period over SHADOWS* today, and not feeling 100% after the friendly weekend visit from the ME either. So I keep getting to the gibbergibbergibber *&^%$£”!!!!!! point, hitting ‘delete’, and starting again. I would do more political stuff in the blog if I didn’t have such a short fuse—but I arguably don’t have a fuse, I just go from jolly la-la-la to global meltdown in the wink of an eye. And I don’t have the time or the strength to support that kind of blog.
So, if you haven’t already read what Linda Grant says, read it now, and assume that I’ve got stories to go with most of these. Arrrrrgh.
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And then, speaking of How the World Changes, Sometimes in Ways That Don’t Make You Entirely Happy even if You’ve Known It Was Coming:
This has been all over the place—I had like six tweets with links to six different articles in the space of half an hour. I’m interested that they’re saying that Wikipedia is generally considered reliable; I use it, but if and when they have to start charging for it, I’ll stop using it, because their hands-off policy on editorial bias is not okay with me, on the subject, for example, of homeopathy, which article is pretty blatant about saying it’s bulltwaddle. It isn’t. But any alteration toward the positive is smacked down at once.**
But I grew up worshipping the Britannica and—I’ve told you this story—with my tiny advance for BEAUTY, my very first published novel, I bought . . . two bookcases and a Britannica.*** And I’ve been buying the yearbooks ever since. That’s a lot of yearbooks. Peter will be delighted if these stop, which I assume they will too. But . . . the passing of an era, oh. . . . I am less nostalgic for the paper encyclopaedia than I might be because the instant-update online thing is completely persuasive. But the fact that this is the way world now is—pretty well incredibly different than thirty-four years ago when I bought my Britannica—is a little vertiginous. And I still want a copy of the—eleventh edition, is it?—for what I suppose amounts to nostalgia. But I have an old two-fat-volume eighteen-sixty-something Pears Cyclopedia which I love to bits†. You’re not going to get the same picture of the contemporary world thirty-four years from now from a daily updated on line encyclopaedia, even if it keeps chronological records—although perhaps the world will have changed incredibly again by then.††
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Third link, and returning at last to the frivolous, where I am (perhaps) less likely to get myself in trouble:
Um. I kind of liked the first trailer, although I was seeing it on a laptop screen and not in a theatre. It wasn’t totally in my face trying to bully me with how clever it was and how much money it had spent on its special effects—even if how our hero woke up on Mars was a little obscure to me. Has anyone actually seen this epic-disaster-epic? I’ve seen three or four reviews, each one breathless to outdo the last in bludgeoning this film-like object into paste. But then I’m one of these old people who has read Burroughs’ John Carter books and hasn’t seen every science fiction and fantasy movie since STAR WARS. I might be the deluded director’s target audience.††† I wanted to like this film. Didn’t Michael Chabon write the screenplay?!? The Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist who takes comics and SF&F seriously?‡ I still do want to like it, although it begins to look like one of those feats painfully accomplished for inclusion in GUINESS WORLD RECORDS: I ate 1,000,000,000 chocolate chip cookies at one sitting! I LIKED Andrew Stanton’s John Carter of Mars!
My problem, from looking at the trailers, however, is that the hero looks like a git. Sigh. So I’m not the target audience after all. . . .
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* Yes. It and I are running late. Now shut up and go away. I’m busy.
** Note that the Britannica online is pretty negative too . . . and also just wrong. However. This is another of those political swamps I stay out of to maintain my fragile mental health.
*** Which was as far as the tiny advance would reach.
† Although it was already pretty much in bits when I bought it for $1 at a garage sale twenty years or so ago
†† But if ‘incredibly’ is going to involve plugs in the back of my neck, I’ll pass.
††† It is possibly relevant that I hated THOR. If I stick to the minority opinion, then I have quite a good chance of liking JOHN CARTER.
‡ And wrote The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which is better than Kavalier and Clay
. . . brainless*. Although this may have as much to do with my doomed attempt to begin clearing out my email inbox(es), which is a stunningly enervating activity, as it does with SHADOWS. Email tends to . . . creep up on me. In an avalanching sort of way. Okay anyone who hasn’t written to me since 1999 you’ve just been deleted. Maybe.
And what has brought on this clearly uncharacteristic seizure toward organisation and sensible limitation and manageability? Does anyone remember that something like two months ago I bought a new laptop because this one—yes, this one, the one I am still using—is stuffed to the walls, which are bulging in a virtual sort of way? I had the new one something like a fortnight while I complained savagely about being forced to upgrade both Windows and Office/Word** . . . and then I noticed that if I didn’t plug it back in overnight it discharged by about fifty percent, even if I never turned it on.*** Hmm, said the archangels, and took it away with them. Here Beginneth the Anti-Adventure. First they dorked around with it, and then they rang up the manufacturer, or rather the manufacturer’s customer service department in India, where the customer service representatives are not always as well-drilled in techie English as they might be, and then they had hot and cold running engineers coming to the archangels’ office to Perform Tests, and then even Raphael began losing his temper while I was saying ‘drop kick the sucker and tell them I want a new one or the CEO’s head on a platter.’
None of this produced the desired outcome. Eventually the wretched piece of twisted garbage was sent off to headquarters for pity’s sake—I’ve left out that they found about 1,000,000,000 other things wrong with it none of which I had encountered, which makes me wonder a little about the engineers—and they’ve swapped out almost everything, and they’ve now . . . sent it back. Point one: it would have been simpler, cheaper and much better customer relations if they’d just given me a new one SIX WEEKS AGO. Point two: I no longer want the ugly sod. It’s a frelling Friday afternoon machine and probably all the swapped-out parts are Friday afternoon replacement parts AND I DON’T WANT IT. Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anything I can do about this except write an extremely vitriolic letter to some CEO or other†—presumably google will provide a name—and if I get no response . . . hey, I can get a free blog post out of it. Raphael says that Gabriel has been keeping a beautifully detailed list of the pertinent mayhem which I will draw upon.
Meanwhile . . . I still urgently need a new laptop.†† Raphael is bringing the Mouldering Monster of Mordor back to me on Tuesday, with the free hazmat suit, and I’m trying to decide if it’s even worth it, at this point, to try to move SHADOWS onto the new, clearly unreliable and possessed by demons machine with the NEW OPERATING SYSTEM which I already know I frelling hate because it’s full of more idiotic little whizzy bits, or whether I should just hang [ha ha] with this one††† and keep the sticking plasters, the string, and the bottle of single-malt Scotch near to hand.
And while I’m trying to make up what there is of my mind to make up ‡ I thought I could at least hammer Outlook a little. Maybe it will relieve my feelings. And it will be less to move onto the Monster of Mordor.
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* Since lovely darling adorable WordPress, revelling in its 1,000,000,000,000th special upgrade, still does not let you have italic or bold—or capital letters—in your title.
** I drive a seventeen-year-old car, why do I have to drive a frelling shiny new operating system with dependent gremlins? All I really need is the ability to create and edit text. Throw in a few minimal graphic capabilities and the power to move cautiously through the dead centre of what’s available on the internet and I’m fine. Windows 1887 would be plenty, and Word Venerable Bede.
*** Yes, I took it to bed with me too. The original plan had been to join something like Lovefilm^ and knit and fall asleep during some vague scrabblings at my intensive lack of knowledge of current screen-type pop culture.^^ One of the things I checked about the new laptop was that its battery could run an entire film away from the mains and survive until the next morning in case I didn’t feel like getting out of bed to plug it in to recharge.
^ Anyone have any customer experience of Lovefilm or Netflix? I think I told you Lovefilm keeps sending me come-ons because I cruise Amazon a lot. I did look at its opera catalogue and it has the ancient Beverly Sills LA TRAVIATA so I’m disposed in its favour, even though I would eventually need something else to watch too. I’ve been reading the comparative Lovefilm/Netflix reviews and . . . . unnh. I have this fantasy of streaming, and not just streaming but moving blithely from device to device which Netflix at least allows . . . but with my broadband that’s probably a really, really dumb idea+ NOT TO MENTION THE EXTREME UNLIKELIHOOD OF MY BEING ABLE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS. I haven’t figured out how to shift from mere audio download book to book on Pooka: the few times I’ve tried something jams, decides it hadn’t downloaded in the first place (which it had), or loses my place, and trying to find my place. . . well, I probably needed to listen to that part again anyway, but as a long-term solution this is not satisfactory. In a perfect world I’d be moving fluidly from Japanese lessons to entanglement [sic] to Barbara Tuchman. Somehow I suspect that watching the first half of SWAMP THING VS. GODZILLA on the laptop and the second half on Astarte is . . . not on. Sigh. The Venerable Bede and I would have gotten along really well.
I’d better stay with DVDs by post. Lovefilm.
And while I’m on the subject of visual media, what are anybody’s favourite SF&F TV and/or films from the last, oh, ten years or so? Barring DOCTOR WHO. I know about the Doctor.
+ Raphael said, try it. You can always cancel. Ah, but Raphael doesn’t have head-exploding meltdowns when his tech misbehaves. At least not until after a month of talking to semi-English-speaking customer services in India.
^^ Plus ancient Beverly Sills operas.
† After I finish SHADOWS.
†† This one has developed the utterly terrifying habit of collapsing pages. Even someone who writes her drafts straight through does need to be able to move back and forth a bit, and this laptop is no longer willing to move back and forth and you suddenly discover that entire SWATHES of your manuscript have disappeared. AAAAAAUGH. Thus far they’ve always reappeared again but it’s not doing a lot for my peace of mind.^ And yes, I tried breaking up the ms into separate files, but since this collapsing thing may happen on any file more than about a dozen pages long, this is not too practical.
^ Now imagine how often I’m backing up. No, oftener than that.
††† Assuming that the Collapsing Thing does not get worse.
‡ Maybe I could just import a Tyrannosaurus Rex to eat all the bad guys? Then I don’t have to worry about the ending.
I had a conversation with Hannah today. After we discussed the health and well-being of husbands, (human) teenagers and hellhounds, and what we are going to do for each other’s sixtieth birthdays (I’m first, but I’m not going to tell you by how much), she said, So, what was your deal last night? Why are you so negative about this? You even like del Toro’s work. I remember you raving about HELLBOY.* I thought you were flattered when Merrilee told you he was behind Warner’s offer for BEAUTY.
Negative? I said. I didn’t mean to be negative. It’s just I was getting this stream of daft emails from people saying they were so excited that BEAUTY was going to be a movie at last.
Hmm, said Hannah. Well, all those capital letters come across as negative.
I was trying to make a point, I said. That’s all. I was surprised so many people were reading the news items and still thinking it meant they were making BEAUTY into a movie. They’re making BEAUTY into their own thing and then making the movie out of that. Um. Merrilee hasn’t said anything about what I wrote last night.
Merrilee is probably lying down in a darkened room with a damp towel over her forehead, said Hannah. You keep forgetting that while you live your life all in capital letters, most of the rest of the world does not.
I’m sorry, I said.
Don’t tell me, said Hannah. Tell the blog.
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And then I wanted to say thanks to forum members and a few emailers who’ve made suggestions about where I might go for some beginner colloquial Japanese. I haven’t had time to do any tracking-down today but I will.** THANK YOU.
It is possibly worth mentioning however that by the time I’ve asked blog readers if they have any input I’ve already looked into whatever it is I’m asking about enough to know I’m interested—and possibly to have some very vague idea what I’m getting myself into.*** Also remember that I lived in Japan for five years and even as an American military brat you can’t help but pick up some sense of the real life of the country you’re living in—even at nine years old the very very different takes on what constituted politeness, for example, were pretty astonishing. And I’ve retained an interest in Japan and Japanese culture although I haven’t done much about it except hang out in the Far Eastern wings of museums a lot. But last year, rather than getting all my news from English newspapers and English radio, I was listening to local reports on the tsunami and the Fukushima meltdown on the net—reading subtitles but listening to Japanese newsreaders reading—and I was surprised and even shaken by how familiar the sounds and rhythms of the language are even if I remember about three actual words of it. So while I wasn’t planning on a Takahiro in SHADOWS it’s maybe not shocking that he’s appeared. And while I’m only planning on using about six words of Japanese in SHADOWS . . . well, I’d like to enjoy the process of putting them there, you know?
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So at 3:55 this afternoon I rang the garage, having carefully given hellhounds and myself a slightly curtailed morning hurtle in the hope that we would be yomping out to Warm Upford this afternoon to fetch the sound and healthy Wolfgang home for another year of bouncing over potholes and snagging shrubbery and doing sixty-seven-point turns in jigsaw courtyards. I got some random woman on the phone—I know all the regulars but I didn’t recognise her—who put me on hold to check Wolfgang’s status. She picked up the phone again and said, It failed. You can ring again tomorrow afternoon.
WHAT? I said, visions of the engine dropping out in someone’s hands or the glebbershiggleblatz exploding or something. £££££££££££££££££ = new car which I can’t afford. WHAT?
Er—what’s wrong with it? I said meekly.
Would you like to speak to the mechanic? said the random woman.
OH NO, OF COURSE NOT, I’LL JUST GO AWAY QUIETLY AND TERRIFY MYSELF WITH LURID IMAGININGS TILL YOU ALLOW ME TO RING BACK IN 24 HOURS, THANK YOU. VERY MUCH. OF COURSE I WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO THE RFFFLLZZZZGGMGGGGNG MECHANIC, YOU . . . RANDOM WOMAN.†
Yes please, I said meekly.
So Blaze came on and said . . . that I needed a new windscreen wiper and the plastic housing of the right rear taillight was cracked and had to be replaced because it had sharp edges and they had some trouble finding a new one because they don’t make new taillights for these cars any more†† but it should be in tomorrow and I should be able to pick the car up tomorrow afternoon.
YAAAAAAY WOLFGANG. Not so yaaay McKinley, of course, for whatever piece of hedgerow took the taillight out. But . . . yaaaaay.
Although I want the random woman’s head on a plate. ††† So, well, I didn’t go to Forza bell practise, because I didn’t have a car, but I also didn’t go because Peter and I had done another of our now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t fumbles with the diary and it turned out we had not one but two of Peter’s offspring here tonight. Whom Peter, bless him, firmly took off to a local pub for dinner‡, and left me to work. I was all set to fly through what I thought was a relatively straightforward scene and get a little ahead again and GAAAAAAAAAAAAH—WHAM as I ran into an unexpected discontinuity. That is, I knew about the discontinuity, but I didn’t expect it there. ARRRRRGH. Person Who Did Not Get A Little Ahead Tonight.
However I have now finished off last night’s bottle of champagne with a little help from Alastair (who was designated driver and therefore couldn’t drink at the pub), whom I am furthermore going to take on a hurtle tomorrow morning which means I’d better go home and go to bed so I can get up again before the morning is over. . . .
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* Hannah is not a big comic-book-superhero person. I don’t think she’s seen any of the X-MEN films. She nearly gave herself a hernia laughing when I tried to tell her how great BLADE and BLADE II are.
** Of course I may also have one or two books. Plus the CDs. And downloads. Or three or four. Maybe of each.
*** Dilettante? Me? —Okay, it’s true, innovative learning JapanesePod101.com has bumped chaos, quantum physics and Why Does E=MC2^ and Why Should We Care. But they’ll be back. And I’m still reading maths in the bath.
^ Okay, how do you get superscript numbers out of Word? They’re not in my ‘insert symbol’ table.
† Hmm. I’m having another capital letters moment.
†† Seventeen years old and PROUD. Oh that German technology. For which they clearly should keep making new parts.
††† Uh oh, I’m being CRANKY again.
‡ I’m not sure whether the mixed report on the food was meant to cheer me up about missing it and the food was divine and they just didn’t want to tell me.