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I will work my way up to nonfiction. For now I'm just glad to be reading things.

Flirt - Laurell K. Hamilton )

Alchemy - Margaret Mahy )

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell )

The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle )

The City Who Fought - Anne McCaffrey and S. M. Stirling )


I'm also sign[ing/ed] up to a lot of things - will post about exchanges, ficathons, and big bangs soon. And next weekend is the 33AR campaign LARP! YAY.
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In the last few years, my reading has decreased dramatically. I would like to read more. Especially, I would like to read more physical books - closing the laptop and focusing only on turning pages, petting my cat, and sipping my cup of tea.

I'm starting easy this year, with two YA/fantasy books.

The Keeping Place - Isobelle Carmody )


Foundation - Mercedes Lackey )
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Have a grab-bag (or even a snatch - these are were meant to be short comments) of media I have recently consumed.

The Tales of Beatrix Potter (1971), The Royal Ballet - this was Sam sitting me down with a Beloved Thing from his childhood. Some parts were more successful for me than others - for example, the fox/goose dance was really evocative, and the Two Bad Mice dance was a lot of fun. On an intellectual level, I could admire the athleticism of the dancing, and I could admire the choreography, direction, and acting that evoked one animal or another. (The squirrels baffled me. They didn't look like squirrels or move like squirrels, and then they caught fish and took them over a lake to what I can only assume was an owl idol. Then one of the squirrels lost his tail and everyone tossed it back and forth.) Some of the framing devices were also confusing - it does not seem to me to do much to have a woman playing Beatrix Potter sitting at her desk in Very Bored Mode. Then a shot later, she's unpacking her bags in the country. Exit Beatrix Potter for the rest of the film. Everything was fairly literal, which is probably a help to establish patterns in my head for the next ballet I see, but I was out of step with the pacing and had a hard time sorting between "this is just a ballet narrative convention, roll with it," and "this is a part of the narrative that it is valid to critique, interpret it."

.hack://sign - I'd always wanted to see more of this, and krastakin kindly allowed Sam and me to start on her box set. The background art is beautiful - imaginative and textured and vivid. The anime is set in an MMO, and although we don't see a lot of player interaction, the art is enough to convince me that players would be drawn to the game. It's really, really slow so far - we're up to episode 8 - but I'm enjoying it even so. I like the music. There's a song that plays at about the middle of each episode, and I smile each time it comes on. Here, have a fan's music video! So we're working through that gradually.

Athena - A Biography, by Lee Hall - I like the concept of using a biography framework for a mythological figure, especially when that mythological figure may have moved across cultures and had different meanings therein. However, I didn't find this particularly insightful or well-organised, and I got really annoyed by this chain of logic:

-Worship of a plausible Athena figure existed before Athena was described as being born from Zeus's head
-Because she is a goddess, Athena had control over, or opportunity to consent to, this revision of "her" "story"
-By consenting to appear in a story whereby males have procreative powers, Athena is betraying her sex and supporting the patriarchy
-(She is also betraying her sex in lots of other ways but I got bored)

I am not making this up, because I couldn't. I didn't finish that book.

The Mythology of the Night Sky: An Amateur Astronomer's Guide to the Ancient Greek and Roman Legends, by David E. Falkner - I read about half of this and flicked through the rest - I was looking for specific facts. However, I would recommend it because of the clear enthusiasm that shone through. It contains a lot of tips for people wishing to take astronomical photographs and was published in 2011, so may still be reasonably up to date. (I'm not sure. I have no interest or talent in photography, so I skimmed those bits.)

Gattaca (1997) - The night after the really big July earthquake, the 6.2, krastakin was around for dinner and we were all a bit rattled, so we decided to watch a movie. I got to pick, so I offered people four choices: Gattaca, Dredd, Casino Royale, or Inglourious Basterds. I enjoyed it. I felt that it had an unusually clean concept for a sci-fi movie: here is the premise, let's poke at it. I feel as though it chose specific aspects of the scenario to really convince the audience about, and everything else got firmly put in the "go with it" basket, and I like that: this was a thought experiment before it was a drama. Though, speaking of the drama, I really did like the codependency of the two lead actors. I loved the scene where they're drinking out in a restaurant. The ending saddens me. Also, I felt the relationship with Uma Thurman's character was one of the parts of the thought experiment that wasn't sketched out - it was raised as an idea, but it wasn't convincing. I feel the audience was meant to do the emotional/rational work there to play it out. Which was fine.

I feel as though when "attraction" is portrayed in media, the director/author/? can sometimes convince me of two things: that the people involved are complex, independent humans, and that they are in love or are attracted to each other. Sometimes, the individual text doesn't really have the scope for both of those. Within that limited scope, I'd rather be convinced that two people are complex and have the potential for a relationship than that they are deeply in love/lust but are cardboard cutouts.

Die Zigeunerbaron | The Gypsy Baron - This was the operetta whose chorus Sam was performing in. I'm glad I finally got to see him in it after hearing all about rehearsals.

Even if I had a strong motivation for learning to love opera and operetta, I don't think it would come easily to me. For one thing, I could comprehend barely one in ten of the sung words (all in English), and I found that maddening. I'm pretty musically ignorant; I could barely tell a trumpet from a trombone!, and I find it very hard to follow music on its narrative journeys. So hearing people sing while being unable to make out their consonants and vowels was like having people push sound at me. ARGH. But hey, I knew that going in.

Regarding the operetta itself - the plot was comprehensible, everyone had motivations (well, Saffi was more of a McGuffin than a person, but the same could be said of Ottakar, so we have a gender balance there). More than half of the characters were there for comic relief, and many performed this part admirably. The plot was comprehensible without the listener needing to understand the music. (BUT WHAT IS THE POINT OF THAT, yes yes, shushing now.)

I enjoyed the potential of the staging and acting when Czipra/Barinkay/Saffi see Ottakar sneak up to Arsena's balcony. Arsena and Ottakar's body language was tender and relaxed, and the trio on the ground were singing/miming indignation, and these two scenes were fascinating played off against each other.

There was an earthquake at intermission, of course. By the way, lots of earthquakes lately. LOTS. I reported one a few weeks ago that started a fire in my workplace; that was a Friday morning, and the one that followed it on Sunday evening was the real shocker of that bunch. Infrastructure all rattled, "don't go into the CBD until noon," unsettling. Since then, the aftershocks have stayed mostly below 5 on the Richter scale, and tailed off... until Friday just past, the 16th. There was a 6.6 at 2:30pm. I was at work. It started slow and rolled on and on, the lights above us swinging wildly on their chains. Everyone went under their desks. Then everyone went home. Wellington was gridlocked, and the Friday performance of the operetta was cancelled, because of the high likelihood of aftershocks, and indeed we had a 6.0 at 5:30pm that evening. The one at the opera intermission was 5.5. My little group - me, krastakin, M, V - shrugged. But some people didn't return for Act II...

I enjoyed Act II and III a lot more. I loved the absurdity of "our plot is at a standoff! THAT'S OK, THERE'S A WAR ON." Also, the performer in the role of the General/Count was a wonderful, wonderful ham. The recruiting scene was funny and so was every other scene with him in it.

Act III, with Arsena's song about falling in/out of love, was beautifully costumed. That was also the only song where I could grasp how this would be an attractive entertainment even without the words. Arsena's gestures and movements through the chorus made the song pretty clear, even though I could only parse a line and a half of it, and I enjoyed the interplay among the chorus. (krastakin leaned over to me at this point: "This is such dancy music, it's such a pity they aren't staging it this way!" And that was fun to visualise: a complicated pattern dance with Arsena as its unpartnered centre.

Also, Act III had Sam playing his most obvious narrative, to me, of the courtier playing up to various ladies, being rejected, moving on to the next. I wish I could have appreciated his singing more clearly, but I enjoyed his acting there.

I've probably missed a few things. I have also been reading a lot of YA literature - just before Fic_Corner sign-ups closed, I got a bunch of things out of the library, because I wanted to ensure I was widely matchable. But I don't want to talk about them here because they are clues as to the prompts I was eying up. :P And I've been reading things for Fic_Corner research, too.

Pffffargh

Jul. 30th, 2013 12:47 pm
morbane: pohutukawa blossom and leaves (Default)
Today I walked into the library to see a small, A4 poster announcing a question and answer session for the following Tuesday with one of my favourite YA authors, Isobelle Carmody. Unfortunately, next Tuesday I will be in Sydney with Paul and Joel.

(I checked. She only has one Wellington appearance. Pffffargh.)

Also, I just spilled coffee gloriously all over my desk. At least it was instant-granules coffee.

My coworker P: "Oh, it'll be exciting doing laundry this week!"
Me: "Really?"
P: "Yes! I do the tea towels. I get to soak them!"

So it seems I am blessed to be in the presence of someone who gets genuinely excited about soaking tea towels in water to avert coffee staining.

(Bemusement aside, P's pretty all right.)


Everything else is pretty OK and I should do a longer post. Media recently consumed: Gattaca, The Tempest, Merchants of Venus (sic), Code Name Verity, and coming up in my future is a recording of a ballet of Beatrix Potter.

I'm excited for Jukebox. It seems that saying to people who ask me what I am doing lately, "I am running a writing challenge based on music" is a slightly better conversational offer than "uh, fanfic." Not that I've been doing much writing lately. But by the time we head off to Sydney, I should have my Fic Corner assignment, so I can make some inroads on that in quiet moments.
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I finished C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image this weekend. I'd had it on my shelves for a couple of years - Robert Easting, my medieval literature professor, offered it to me when he was cleaning out his office for retirement - and marked it to actually read as a companion to Till We Have Faces.

The Discarded Image is 'based on a course of lectures given more than once at Oxford', and discusses the model of the universe held by a variety of medieval scholars and philosophers; Lewis's examples are centred on England in the 12th to 15th centuries. It is both polished and charming. I really enjoyed it.

Further commentary and extracts )

Next on my reading list - after I've finished some exchange fics - are Thomas King's The Truth About Stories, and William Manchester's The Glory and the Dream. The latter is a 1,300-page narrative of a period of American history which I love for its - worldbuilding, I guess - little details, and fine prose, although I've not yet been able to read past the era of FDR before it's due back at the library. See: 1,300 pages.

ETA: and also Jan Potocki's The Manuscript Discovered in Saragossa, because I'm pretty sure anord gave me the loan of it over a year ago. Bad SSar.

I am also just back from the vege market. )
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A book-pimping post (because 'review' would be misleadingly neutral).


Sunshine )

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