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|Sunday, April 6th, 2014|
This morning Jemmy got a not-entirely empty cream cheese container stuck on his head.
I regret to inform you all I was laughing too hard to get a picture before he freed himself.
|Tuesday, March 25th, 2014|
|Improving my mind
So now I'm reading E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros as one does, and it's rather like sitting down with an entire cheesecake; no matter how good your appetite, there's a limit to just how much cheesecake you can have at one go.
A friend pointed out to me that the language is not immune to parody:
(Lord Juss and Brandoch Daha, along with the one of the few surviving Impland nobels, Mirvash Faz, pass Yule night in an enchanted glade)
All the creatures of the forest came to that feast, for they were without fear, having never looked upon the face of nan. Little tree-apes, and popinjays, and titmouses, and coalmouses, and wrens, and gentle round-eyed rabbits, and badgers, and dormice, and pied squirrels, and beavers from the streams, and storks, and ravens, and bustards, and wombats, and the spider-monkey with her baby at her breast
And then this, more recent, classic of another medium:
Cleric: [reading] And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and large chu...
(Yes, I know there's no proof the Pythons were taking a jab at Eddison. And yet…)
|Sunday, January 5th, 2014|
Right now, so the little weather quickie app on my phone tells me, it is 48 degrees (F) outside. The phone proclaims we will get up to 54 degrees after lunch. By midnight we should be down to 3.
Now, while 54 is warm for January, it has been known to happen here. The Gulf of Mexico is a day's drive away for people, and there's not much of note between here and there to cool off a warm air mass. Except, it looks like, another air mass.
There are large parts of this country where 3 degrees in January is business as usual. I do find the idea of a fifty degree drop rather distressing, and am anticipating a significant sinus headache.
|Thursday, December 5th, 2013|
|Friday, October 18th, 2013|
|On the television, we have Bad History
So, I've been watching the baseball playoffs, which means I've been exposed to ads for Other Shows, and thus I started watching Sleepy Hollow
This show has even less to do with Washington Irving's story
than that movie with Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci did, despite having a Headless Horseman and everything. So far, I have my love for Orlando Jones' brand of keyed-up intelligence left intact, and have spent a lot of time shaking my head over the writers' urges to drag in every bit of early Colonial and Revolutionary American history they vaguely recall from school and couldn't be arsed to study further.
Because they're so lazy, not only do they perpetrate absurdities*, but they end up missing lots of opportunities for Cool Stuff, and really, a show like this should have all the Cool Stuff it can fit in.
We start out (skipping over the introduction where Crane meets the Headless Horseman and kills, gets killed, and then exhumes himself) with Crane's explanation of himself. He was a professor at Oxford who ended up in the British Army, got sent to America, and deserted to the Rebel side.
Shall we unpack that just a little? ( Read more...Collapse )
|Sunday, September 8th, 2013|
|Meanwhile, in other entertainment genres.
Because we haven't had any opera around here in a while, let me mention that I saw this production
of The Barber of Seville
a short while ago. Cecelia Bartoli is, of course, Cecelia Bartoli, and Robert Lloyd's take on Don Basilio is not to be lightly dismissed. The production was not ridiculous, in terms of sets or costumes (always a risk with opera); apparently the people doing this one figured that if there's an opera that will drag in people who have no patience with excessively imaginative stuff and nonsense, this is it. If you want a well-sung, well-staged version of The Barber of Seville
that will not disconcert viewers, this is a safe bet, and would be a good one for introducing someone to opera.
|Friday, September 6th, 2013|
|Murder most foul
So, whether you call him Judge Dee or Detective Dee, Di Renjie
, one of the great officials of the Tang Dynasty, has a place in the popular Chinese popular culture that's all his own. He served Empress Wu Zetian in many important positions, and managed to do a great many good things while in government service. He was also, as legend would have it, an exceedingly perspicacious investigator.
He's also, in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
, an action hero. (Let me point out here that the Wikipedia article is full of spoilers.) The historicity of the plot may be considered as neglible. They have the correct era in history, instead of having Dee working for, say, the Guangxu Emperor, but after that I think you can forget it.
It's a fun movie, and worth seeing, if you like sword fights and imperial splendor and complicated plots and dirty work at the crossroads. Carina Lau makes Empress convincingly beautiful but not young, intelligent, and ruthless. There is a trope-breaking albino (who is not evil, but an intelligent, effective, and loyal official), and Tony Leung Ka-fai (not to be confused with Lau's husband, Tony Leung Chiu-wai) does more with body language and facial expression than many actors could hope for. Tsui Hark does what he does, and Andy Lau delivers what they pay him for.
The DVD from Netflix offers both Mandarin and English-dubbed versions; I find it depressing how poor the quality of the choices for most of the voice actors were; they didn't stumble over their lines, but with only a few exceptions, the American voices are badly pitched and thin.
|Monday, July 29th, 2013|
|Oh, God, make it stop, make it stop!
That is, no doubt, what's going through the mind of the misguided youth Balduin in Paul Wegener's Student of Prague
as his Doppelgänger careens about wreaking havoc. It's certainly what's going through my mind as I watch this nice DVD of the old silent. The movie? No, the music, which appears to be a shiny 21st century attempt to channel the power of the Mighty Wurlitzers of the old movie palaces. Unfortunately, the composer appears to have no idea of how music was used with silent movies, and we have a piece of portentously repetitious modern jazz for organ. There is no increase in tension, no romance, no threat, no humor, no resolution. So far young Balduin has sullenly sloped off from a beergarden where his friends are carousing, chatted with a mysterious stranger, rescued a beautiful woman from a riding accident, bought flowers from a barefoot maiden, gone courting, been flouted by his ladylove's father, signed a deal with the devil, and is now pitching woo at a ball. The music has been one unchanging cascade of arpeggios. It's enough to raise the ghost of Reginald Dixon and send him, trailed by every other silent film accompanist of the past, into the recording booth screaming "You're doing it wrong, for godssake!"
The movie itself isn't at all bad for something from 1913, and has far less of the broad acting you often see in old silent films. More title cards would help, but I suppose it's a bit late to suggest that.
What is it about Prague, anyway? Should we blame this on Rudolph II and his crowd?
|Sunday, July 14th, 2013|
|These little things that ladies do
We all know the framing: Women's work is tedious and unexciting. Women's work is of minimal value compared to men's. It's trivial. It's insubstantial. Women's recreations are even worse.
Once upon a time, many years ago, when the K was getting used to just having Canada in its North American empire, a man named John Graves Simcoe went to Upper Canada (now Ontario) as lieutenant-governor. Being a domestic sort of soul and expecting that this would be a rather long gig, be brought his wife Elizabeth and their two youngest children.
Wile they were in Canada, John Graves Simcoe founded Toronto, established courts, abolished slavery in Upper Canada, dealt with problems with the United States, the effects of the Northwest Indian Wars, trade and First Nations issues and all the other sorts of things a dedicated and conscientious imperialist runs into. Elizabeth kept house, had at least one more child, maintained an active social life, wrote lots of letters home, updated her journal regularly, and painted a whole lot of watercolors of the Toronto area. Because watercolors are the sort of elegant, generally useless past-time ladies might have engaged in without fracturing their gentility.
And now Elizabeth Simcoe's water colors are an important source for what Toronto looked like before Yonge Street got all built up, and her journals and letters are an important source for the non-political aspects of colonial life in Upper Canada.
But women's work and women's recreations are trivial and insubstantial.
|Monday, July 8th, 2013|
no one's seen Petr Wiegl's Winterreise
that saw the previous post, or at least felt like commenting. You should see it if you have a chance, and like your Romanticism straight up, no chaser.
Weigl's done a lot of filmed opera and other films using classical music, as his IMDB page attests. This film uses Schubert's Winterreise
as its soundtrack, but doesn't follow it as the source of the plot. I gathered as much going in, as I had seen bits and pieces on Classic Arts Showcase, but it seems only fair to emphasize this discrepancy. If you are enough of a literalist (and some people are) this may prevent you from enjoying any part of this movie, but I think it's worth it to let go and see what Weigl does. Here's a bit ("Der Lindenbaum")
It's a beautiful film, and well worth hunting up. I got it through Netflix as a DVD; since I'm not set up for streaming, I'm not sure if it's available that way or not. Netflix is pretty cagey about showing you things outside what you're subscribed for.
The action of the movie itself alternates between shots of Brigitte Fassbaender singing the lieder
(wearing what could be a nun's habit) and her trio of allegorical backup mimes, and the actors performing what we should consider the main action. They do so silently. The action is fairly clear throughout most of the time (the allegorical mimes provide commentary by their actions from time to time) but, because of the lack of spoken word (other than Fassbaender's singing) or even old-style title cards, some ambiguity remains. (Of course there are spoilers behind the cut. This plot is pretty predictable as soon as you see the characters involved anyway--it's how the story is told that matters. Weigl throws in so many bits and pieces, with so many beautiful shots, each adding some new layer of sense or emotion of symbolism that you can't dismiss any as throw-aways. Feel free not to click if you'd like to see it unawares.) ( So about that triangle...Collapse )
|Saturday, July 6th, 2013|
|Thursday, June 13th, 2013|
|Premodern transportation for fantasists
This post continues on from this conversation
, and this follow-up post
of mine. The inciting spark, of course, was hawkwing_lb
's comment: I'm beginning to think that writers of epic fantasy and SF should be required to learn about the anthropology of material culture.
This is about transportation. It's a topic where I have a slight advantage when it comes to considering history, in part because my mother was born in 1916, only a few years after Henry Ford began to drastically alter the American view of automobiles. When she was born, her family traveled by horseback, wagon, and buggy; their version of public transportation was the train and the steamboat, with trolley cars in cities like St. Louis. My father and his brothers learned to plow and harrow with mules instead of tractors to pull the equipment, and their family trip in 1931 to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in an old Huppmobile touring car took close to thirty hours to cover a little over 200 miles (the trip my mother's brother-in-law took about the same time from Missouri to California, by way of Colorado was an epic journey worthy of Homer). The world without personal motor vehicles traveled a lot more slowly than this one, and even motor vehicles dependent on dirt roads weren't fast. I suspect even most people who don't drive and rely on public transportation don't realize how slowly things moved, or how far twenty miles is when your top speed is likely to be around five miles an hour. ( Read more...Collapse )
|Sunday, March 24th, 2013|
|because my previous post made me think of some of these things
There will probably be more than one of these posts, since there are a variety of different topics which all end up tied in together. The original post of twitter which started all this off was hawkwing_lb
's: I'm beginning to think that writers of epic fantasy and SF should be required to learn about the anthropology of material culture.
This started quite a few people off into different directions, all of them interesting. A lot of my thoughts are a little too wordy to be condensed into 140-word tweets, even if I tweeted from now until next Friday, so I'm putting them up into a series of posts here. ( Read more...Collapse )
|Sunday, March 17th, 2013|
|Transcript of Twitter conversation
This began with a tweet by hawkwing_lb
and went on from there. I have posted a transcript here, as everyone involved, including those like me who were mostly reading instead of tweeting didn't want to see it vanish into the aether of Twitter's supposed archives. I have done some light editing and made sure there were workable links to a couple of pieces rose_lemberg
shared. No typos have been corrected.
I don't know if everyone involved is on LiveJournal or not; I know kateelliott
I will remind anyone reading this that the tweets copied here are the property of the original posters, as are the opinions expressed therein. If you want to copy and repost them and weren't a participant in the original conversation, check in with them and make sure it's all right with them. Linking to this is not a problem; the intention was to make sure there was an easily accessible copy of the conversation available for the participants.
I have done very little to rearrange the original threading here; as a result, this has the effect of the verbal equivalent of a very long jazz jam session. People perform little duets and trios while others perform solos. If this troubles you too much too follow what was said, I'm sorry. You should have tried copying it and being sure you got all the bits and pieces! I'm still not sure I've managed that; if anyone has something I should have included please let me know. ( Read more...Collapse )
|Friday, January 11th, 2013|
|So I watched a movie, again
I never rode shotgun on a stage before.
Yes, it's The Magnificent Seven
, which of course is derived from Seven Samurai
, but with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, and music by Elmer Bernstein.
Sturges and his writers use a twist on the original at the beginning of the movie. When the villagers come into the American town to try and hire the gunmen they need, they encounter a dispute between the local undertaker, a couple of traveling salesmen, and the townsfolk, who are unwilling to see a dead Indian buried in their Boot Hill graveyard--the town's become civilized, the undertaker says, and people don't want to see an Indian buried among white men, derelicts and low-lifes though they were. They've threatened to shoot anyone who drives the hearse up to Boot Hill. So a gunman named Chris Adams offers to drive the hearse, and a drifter who's new in town, Vin, borrows the stagecoach shot gun, and gets up beside him. They drive to the graveyard, and the burial proceeds.
The villagers don't have nearly enough money to buy guns for themselves or to hire the gunmen they need. It's a hopeless case. But they know Chris Adams is their man. He drove the hearse, after all.
|Tuesday, December 18th, 2012|
I have failed the cats to a great and tragic degree. Despite all their parading, cajoling, marauding, toe-snatching, preening, and coaxing, gooshyfudz did not appear in their dishes the way they did last night.
They have been failed. They have not hesitated to make this plain.
Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.
|Thursday, November 15th, 2012|
|So I watched a movie
on television, on the Sundance Channel in fact, and after I saw it once, when they showed it again I went back and watched it some more.
It's a Korean movie, called The Restless
in English, and Joong-cheon
or "Midheaven" in Korean. It was directed by Jo Dong-oh, with the screenplay written by Jo and also by Choi Hee-dae. Technically it falls into that East Asian genre of wuxia
, or Sort-of Historical Tale with Swordfighting and Stuff, sometimes with a side of Doomed, Hopeless Love.
It is, of course, a lot more complicated than that. On the one hand, we have a perfectly serviceable story of lost love, betrayal, supernatural creepies, and valiant combat against evil. On the other hand, we have a lot of complicated thinking about love, death, memory, rebellion, acceptance, duty, obligation, and such things, with lovely and terrifying images. If all you wanted was a heroic sword-fighting movie, there may be some moments where you'll find things dragging a bit, but the fighting is gaudy enough to stick with it anyway. However, pretending that this movie isn't a philosophical meditation disguised as a wuxia( Read more...Collapse )
|Saturday, October 6th, 2012|
|Thursday, September 20th, 2012|
|Saturday, September 15th, 2012|