Saturday, January 30, 2010

"don't ever link those two things again..." (2 of 4)

a quick review from last week saturday: in the spirit of "don't complain about something if you're not prepared to do it better," i noticed over the past couple of weeks two lists -- one from wired and one from a blog i know not of called ink-stained amazon which i have to say is beautiful to look at it -- that both purport to be 'essential lists' of 'geek culture' quotes.


okay, so the wired list starts off with monty python and the holy grail and the amazon list includes the sarah jane adventures -- but i'm still not wildly impressed with either one.

i figured i could do better.

then i thought about it and realised that, on my own, i didn't have the time to do better so i roped in my ever-patient girlfriend to help me do better. :)

first off, a couple of notes:

1. this is for fun. if you're not amused, go read something else. i won't be offended, promise. that being said, suggestions and additions (politely phrased!) are welcome in the comments. but keep in mind this is installation 1 of 4! not everything will fit in here.

2. these are probably mostly going to be dredged out of my memory, anna's memory, imdb, or official show/movie sites. inaccuracy is, therefore, almost inevitable. not to mention repetition of shows or characters. if this annoys you-- well, make your own list. :)

3. i'm not aiming for some kind of "worst to best" or "best to worst" list. they're here because the two people making the list think they're fun or because one of us was able to strong-arm the other into including them. brief context is provided where anna or i thought it was necessary.

5. i am aiming for 4 posts of 25 quotes each over the next 4 weeks. tune in each friday/saturday for your new installment! and here's the link to the first post way back there last week saturday. or sunday. or something.

okay, and that being said...

1. Evelyn Carnahan: "I -- am a librarian!" The Mummy.

2. Stormtrooper: "Look, sir -- droids!" Star Wars: A New Hope. [and a freebie 'cause i always think of it now when i have to find the sw movies by number -- Eddie Izzard [re the Lucasian number scheme]: "He's fucking with us numerically, you realise that, right? 'Kids, count to 10!' '4 5 6, 1 2 3, -- uh --'" Circle.]

3. Luke Smith: "I think I may have made a social blunder. I showed them how to destroy the world." The Sarah Jane Adventures, "Revenge of the Slitheen."

4. The Doctor: "Because I'm very clever." , "Midnight."

5. Dutch [to the Predator]: "You are one ugly mother-fu---" Predator.

6. Ellen Ripley: "This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off." ALIEN.

7. Red Queen: "You're all going to die down here." Resident Evil.

8. Mercedes [to Captain Vidal about his infant son]: "No. He won't even know your name." Pan's Labyrinth.

9. Captain Jack Sparrow [to Kraken]: "'Ello, beastie." Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

10. Eddie Izzard [re: the British Empire]: "We ruled the world through the cunning use of flags." Dress to Kill.

11. John McClane: "Yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker." DieHard.

12. Malcolm Reynolds: "Were there monkeys, Kaylee? Space monkeys?" Firefly, sorry, forgot which episode. second or third, i feel...?

13. Chancellor Palpatine: "The Sith had many powers, some considered to be unnatural." Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

14. Neo: "Whoa." The Matrix.

15. The Doctor [immediately prior to regenerating]: "The end has come -- but the moment has been prepared for." Doctor Who, "Logopolis."

16. Jozef Kastan: "You seriously drink this stuff? What is it -- like, non-fat, vegan, soy blood?" Moonlight, no idea which episode.

17. River Tam: "I can kill you with my brain." Firefly, no idea which episode. whoops.

18. James Bond [when asked how he would like his drink prepared]: "Do I look like I give a damn?" Casino Royale.

19. Alice [to the White Queen computer about the Red Queen]: "I knew your sister. She was a homicidal bitch." Resident Evil: Extinction.

20. Capa: "When a stellar bomb is triggered, very little will happen at first -- and then a spark will pop into existence and it will hang for an instant, hovering in space, and then it will split into two, and those will split again, and again, and again... detonation beyond all imagining - the big bang on a small scale. - a new star born out of a dying one... I think it will be beautiful. No, I'm not scared." Sunshine.

21. Captain John Hart: "Did I mention I'm armed?" Torchwood, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang."

22. The Doctor [on Rose pointing out that he sounds North of England]: "Lots of planets have a north!" Doctor Who, "Rose."

23. Riddick: "Anybody not ready for this?" Pitch Black.

24. Rygel: "I am Rygel the XVIth, dominar of over six billion people -- I don't have to talk to you!" Farscape, no idea which episode. something in the first season, i feel.

25. Buffy Summers: "You forgot about dawn. It's in about six hours, idiot." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Welcome to the Hellmouth."

Thursday, January 28, 2010


okay, so a somewhat shortened version of this post since blogger already ate the perfected version. annoying, but what can you do.

anyway, if you're looking for something fun and light and amusing to watch this weekend and either a) have netflix therefore netflix insty or b) enjoy messing about on youtube and/or google video a lot, may i suggest that you watch the television adaptation of the colour of magic?

really, it's an adaptation of the colour of magic and the light fantastic, the first two of terry pratchett's discworld series. the first few discworld novels -- the first three or four, if i remember rightly -- focus on a character named rincewind. death -- a recurring character on the discworld -- once ruminates that rincewind may in fact be a mythological necessity: for every "hero with a thousand faces," perhaps there also needs to be "a hero with a thousand retreating backs." rincewind is a failed wizard and a terrible coward. he runs away from just about everything and always -- but always -- expects the absolute worst. he lives in a condition of expecting the apocalypse to show up just about any minute. the reasons for his failure as a wizard are interesting and complicated and very neatly explained in the first 10-20 minutes of the show, so i won't spoil them for you. suffice it to say that there are some books in a magical library which you really shouldn't touch.

i'd heard of this adaptation before but had put off watching it fearing that it would be clunky or weird or just plain bad. i'm not wildly fond of the first few discworld novels in and of themselves -- rincewind as a written character wears thin very quickly -- but i'm really fond of the discworld as a series and i didn't want to see some crap adaptation that might then spoil the books. the adaptation is lovely -- it's charming and fluffy and never serious. and sean astin, i have to say, does a marvelous job as twoflower, the discworld's first -- and perhaps last -- tourist. i never would have thought to slot his name in for the job in the game of "who would you like to play---" but he does a great job. he's got the perfect mix of intelligence, innocence, willful blindness, and stubbornness that make twoflower able to wander through the world as one vast cross-cultural encounter.

there are some other awesome cameos, too, most notably tim curry as a villainous wizard, trymon, who is determined to get to the top of the academic hierarchy and jeremy irons as patrician vetinari. i have to admit, i've had irons's name written in as "would be ideal to play the patrician" for a long time but i never thought anyone would get him to actually do it. there's also christopher lee as death and some truly lovely dragons.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

why didn't i just turn it off?

think of me kindly this morning as you go about your daily affairs -- i will be starting my new part-time temporary job at the countway medical library. it's part of the harvard system but, luckily for me, it's on this side of the river and only about a 45 minute walk from home and a 10 minute walk from northeastern. i'll be transcribing 19th century french medical ledgers into a computer database so i anticipate lots of eyestrain and repetitive motion discomfort, but the material is truly awesome and i get to play with it. :)

but in the spirit of giving you something interesting to read on tuesday morning, here are some thoughts on the completely non-classic horror flick, the burrowers. i got this movie from netflix on the basis of this highly complementary review from the kindertrauma site. if you don't know kindertrauma, you really should. it's really disturbingly wonderful -- look, it's even pink! how much more horrifying can you get!

anyway, the movie rented because a) of the positive review above; and b) because said positive review mentioned that clancy brown was in the cast. i wouldn't say that i'd watch anything clancy brown makes -- but he'd have to make something with someone i really hate to make me avoid it once i knew it was out there.

sadly, this is not his best. it's not anyone's best. it really just isn't that good.

the basic idea is good. it's set in the dakota territories in 1879. a settler family, who we have been introduced to through a beautifully filmed nearly silent scene where she accepts a token from her lover, is killed by the ever-popular something. it's fast; it's nasty; it's nearly silent. this is all we know. and, when the aforementioned lover arrives the next morning to chat up his sweetheart and finds nothing but a couple of the bodies and a pool of blood and signs of abduction, we also know that they like to take their snacks with them for later.

the kindertrauma review made much of the "pace" and "tone" of the movie, saying that it was paced like a western and not like a more modern horror movie. i don't know about this; the western isn't a particularly favorite genre of mine but i seem to remember the good solid john ford/john huston westerns as booking along at a pretty good pace. the burrowers, on the other hand, very patently and obviously invites you to stop and smell the roses, inspect the grass, think about the sky -- in fact, don't get fixated on the action because there really isn't much.

there is some appallingly childish screenwriting; the worst being a cavalry officer who was so broadly racist and unsympathetic to the native american and african-american characters that i practically expected the actor to mug at the screen and say, 'just kidding, folks!'

the beasties aren't bad -- they're kind of like moles with bad attitude. they like to snack on the odd settler or native american, injecting a neurotoxin that paralyses the victim so they can be dragged away and buried to soften up. this is fairly horrible, i have to admit, and one of the few (the very few) effective scenes in the movie is from the point of view of a young man undergoing this process. the ground-level p.o.v. and hand-held camera work really well here. despite this, i'm pretty sure that real science doesn't work this way: i mean, you're paralysed, okay, but you're not dead. you will die, obviously, if buried -- but the beasties seem pretty clear on burying their victims with noses or mouths above ground so they can breathe -- which means that you'll starve to death slowly, digesting all your soft bits on the way so that the monsters would have nothing to eat. perhaps i just think too much.

the upside of all this is that the film is wholeheartedly gorgeous. really, it's beautiful. the cinematographer, director of photography, locations scout, etc., should all get bonuses or extra chocolate cookies or something. there's something the proposition-like about the whole thing -- barring, of course, the skill and thought that went into the minimalist story and exceptional acting of the proposition.

so, yes -- unless you're really desperate for some 2nd-rate thrills, i'd avoid the burrowers. not even mr. brown makes it worthwhile. he tries -- more power to him -- but he can't overcome a script with no character development or plot larger than the immediate scene. it's unclear what relation the characters bear to each other or why they act in the way they do. this is pretty much the death of any movie regardless of genre.

the upside of this piece of cheese -- apart from the landscape -- was this trailer for crank 2, not a movie i ever intend to see, but i hadn't known about the cameo appearance:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"people don't understand about time."

i had some things i thought i was going to be prepared to blog about by this weekend but, between being unwell and...well, being unwell, it didn't happen. i've got a whole stack of books to read -- not for the edification of whoever's reading this blog necessarily but just for the hell of it -- and some movies backed up on my netflix queue, but it's hard to feel enthused about speculative fiction when you can't breathe through your nose. at least, it is for me.

so for this sunday, we just have some random links of things that came across my feed reader this week which i think are interesting.

first off, there's a link from jo walton over at of "neglected books." if you're looking for something to read the next time you're at the library, this might help!

also from, some stories available online from the year's best fantasy 9. there's some awesome stuff in here: kage baker (two stories!), cathrynne m. valente (if you haven't read the girl who circumnavigated fairyland..., you also might want to look into that -- y'know, if you've got a couple of days to kill), kij johnson.

more from tor about the new companion in the yet-to-be-seen 5th season of doctor who. personally, when it comes to the use of the companion as a bit of eye-candy to make the show's ratings jump a bit, i always remember an interview with louise jameson (leela over there at the left) when she was talking about her experience on the show and all the fanmail she found she got from fathers rather than children: "but i guess when you wear a leather bikini and you're on right after the pools results, that's what you're going to get." she was massively good-tempered about it and seemed to look on the whole thing more as a good joke than as anything offensive or troubling.

a distressing (for me anyway) snippet of news via the scifiwire: fox may be developing a u.s. version of torchwood. since the bbc hasn't said anything about a 4th season of the show post-children of earth (and, really, who'd be left to be in it?!), you'd think i'd be more enthusiastic about news that the show could have a new home. i'm not. fox is a show-killer. beyond that, they are ratings-hogs show-killers. one of the things i adore about torchwood is the subtlety of the inter-personal relationships (shall we say); i can't see fox preserving that. what'd be a grand way to get ratings? sell it as gay scifi. please, mr. barrowman sir, refuse.

and still on the scifiwire/torchwood kick, another film version of sherlock holmes with the odd familiar face or two in it...

from the more academic side of things, a speech from the most recent american historical society meeting in san diego earlier this month: "is google good for history?"

and there's ten ton of stuff i have marked about the recent kerfluffle in northern ireland about the robinsons and mrs. robinson's affair and the dust-up about the devolution of police powers to northern ireland -- but that's a whole 'nother post and so i will leave you with a mstk3 clip for the day:

Friday, January 22, 2010

"don't ever link those two things again..." (1 of 4)

okay, so in the spirit of "don't complain about something if you're not prepared to do it better," i noticed over the past couple of weeks two lists -- one from wired and one from a blog i know not of called ink-stained amazon which i have to say is beautiful to look at it -- that both purport to be 'essential lists' of 'geek culture' quotes.


okay, so the wired list starts off with monty python and the holy grail and the amazon list includes the sarah jane adventures -- but i'm still not wildly impressed with either one.

i figured i could do better.

then i thought about it and realised that, on my own, i didn't have the time to do better so i roped in my ever-patient girlfriend to help me do better. :)

first off, a couple of notes:

1. this is for fun. if you're not amused, go read something else. i won't be offended, promise. that being said, suggestions and additions (politely phrased!) are welcome in the comments. but keep in mind this is installation 1 of 4! not everything will fit in here.

2. these are probably mostly going to be dredged out of my memory, anna's memory, imdb, or official show/movie sites. inaccuracy is, therefore, almost inevitable. not to mention repetition of shows or characters. if this annoys you-- well, make your own list. :)

3. i'm not aiming for some kind of "worst to best" or "best to worst" list. they're here because the two people making the list think they're fun or because one of us was able to strong-arm the other into including them. brief context is provided where anna or i thought it was necessary. i also tried to find links for character images that were from the episode/scene/moment where the quoted line was spoken. this isn't always possible but i'm fairly pleased with myself for getting as close as i did! fair warning: links may contain spoilers, particularly links to doctor who or torchwood episodes.

5. i am aiming for 4 posts of 25 quotes each over the next 4 weeks. tune in each friday/saturday for your new installment!

okay, and that being said...

1. Tim Latimer [talking about the Doctor]: "He's like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe...and... he's wonderful." Doctor Who, "The Family of Blood."

2. Captain Jack Harkness: "Torchwood: outside the government, beyond the police. Tracking down alien life on Earth, arming the human race against the future. The twenty-first century is when everything changes. And you gotta be ready." Torchwood, Season 1 opener on all episodes.

3. Brother Justin Crowe [talking about his upcoming radio broadcast]: "In a single coast-to-coast broadcast, I will speak to more souls than our Lord did in his entire lifetime. It's going to be breathtaking." Carnivale, "Ingram, TX."

4. Dominic Toretto: "I retract my previous statement." The Fast and the Furious.

5. Murtagh [in reference to a stone wall he and Eragon have run up against in their attempt to join the rebels]: "Tell me your vision looked something like this." Eragon.

6. The Guide: "Don't Panic." The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

7. The Doctor: "Don't blink." Doctor Who, "Blink."

8. M [to James Bond as he almost says her real name]: "Finish that sentence and I'll have you killed." Casino Royale.

9. Captain Jack Sparrow [in reference to almost anything]: "Not good -- not good!" Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.

10. Alice [before killing the monster that used to be her work partner and "husband"]: "I'm missing you already." Resident Evil.

11. Riddick: "If you can't keep up, don't step up. You'll only die." Chronicles of Riddick.

12. "I'm going to curl up in his sock drawer and sleep for days." MST3K riff in MST3K: The Movie: This Island Earth.

13. Dean Winchester: "Well, that's healthy." Supernatural, Pilot.

14. C-3PO: "Shutting up, sir." Star Wars: A New Hope.

15. Dr. Frank N. Furter: "What ever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate satin-draped it clung to her thigh as I started to cry... 'cause I wanted to be dressed just the same..." The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

16. Jim [wandering in an empty London]: "Hello! Hello -- hello! Hello!" 28 Days Later.

17. Temperance Brennan: "I don't know what that means." Bones, multiple episodes.

18. Plankton: "Well, goodbye, everyone. I'll remember you all in therapy!" Spongebob Squarepants, "The Algae is Always Greener."

19. Wesley Gibson [talking to Sloan who may, or may not, be trying to induct him into a secret brotherhood of assassins]: "So do you make sweaters or do you kill people?" Wanted.

20. Toshiko Sato: "Because you're breaking my heart." Torchwood, "Exit Wounds."

21. The Doctor: "Well, progress is a very flexible word. It can mean just about anything you want it to mean." Doctor Who, "The Power of Kroll."

22. Michael Corvin: "Are you fucking kidding me!" Underworld.

23. Mme. de Pompadour [talking to/about the Doctor]: "Such a lonely little boy. Lonely then and lonelier now." Doctor Who, "The Girl in the Fireplace."

24. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker: "We're smarter than this!" "Apparently not." Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

25. Marvin the Paranoid Android [about life in general...]: "I have this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side..." The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"she is...not complete yet."

brief book review: the life of louis xiv's mistress, athenais, the real queen of france, by lisa hilton. i'm not bothering with the diacritics in athenais' name. i'm sure i could get blogger to add them in but, really, just imagine them. there's a long 'e' accent and an umlaut over the 'i.'

the good things: highly readable; well-written; clever; good bibliography.

bad things: hilton's attitude towards the people (women) she's writing about; lack of footnotes; poorly reproduced graphics.

taking them in reverse order: the graphics probably aren't hilton's fault. it's a trade paperback with full-color paintings reproduced in black-and-white. they're okay for reference but lousy for getting an idea of what people actually looked like. there are some interesting issues here to be discussed about the reliability of portraiture particularly if the client is the king of france standing six feet away glaring at you from behind your canvas and if you don't make him look damn good, the guards at the bastille may be your new best friends. hilton doesn't talk about this.

there are too few footnotes. there are always too few footnotes. this is my personal issue and i accept it. i love footnotes. they are your best friends when it comes to following an argument and deciding whether or not the book is worth the time you're spending on it. in this case, i'm forgiving a lot because hilton has a kick-ass bibliography, some footnotes, and has done some of her own translations.

her attitude towards the people she's talking about, however, i find somewhat more difficult to deal with. she's talking about the court of louis the xiv in the second half of the seventeenth century and specifically about louis' second mistress, athenais de montespan (married name). this is all fine and quite interesting. i can leave aside the fact that she insists that louis was the outstanding monarch of the seventeenth century (in a century which also features james i, charles i, charles ii, and james ii of england) or that louis' court was the best and the brightest ever invented (see restoration england.) everyone thinks their period and their subjects are the best and the most exciting ever. that's why we write about them. if we didn't think they were fascinating, we wouldn't spend hours and hours and hours in archives, reading rooms, microfilm rooms, library stacks, and more and more hours in front of desktops, laptops, netbooks, notebooks, legal pads, proofs, galleys, and other detritus of the publishing industry trying to tell other people about them.

but hilton's attitude towards the women she's writing about seems particularly peculiar -- she discounts anyone who wasn't deemed to be physically attractive. louis' queen, marie-therese, is described almost solely as being unattractive. other women at court who don't come up to the mark of physical beauty set by athenais are discounted as being below the required standard. some of athenais' rivals at the court -- other women, married or single, who might have been on the make for louis' affections -- are described as having the envy of unattractive women for a beautiful one. the hanoverian palatine elizabeth-charlotte -- by other accounts that i've read an incredibly influential and intelligent woman who used her time at louis' court to observe the vagaries of the french aristocracy as well as doing her best to further her own political interests from the palatinate -- is also dismissed as being plain, dumpy, and, obviously, therefore of no interest to anyone. marriages that aren't between two partners of equal attractiveness -- judged by the aforementioned standards of portraiture which i would have thought would be highly suspect -- are clearly dysfunctional and doomed to failure.

yes. thank you. because of course all motivations for women -- or, indeed, almost anyone else in hilton's account -- can be resolved down to the matter of 'who's the prettiest.'

i could get quite catty here about the fact that hilton herself, to judge from her jacket photo and author biography, is quite gorgeous and, apparently, an ex-model. i'm sure there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn here. i'm not going to do it. i feel some (bad) jokes simply make themselves.

Monday, January 18, 2010

intellectual vanity

i saw this article in the guardian over the weekend and thought it was worth ruminating on it a bit here, since it also followed through on a conversation i had with friends over dinner on friday night. natasha tripney over at the guardian books blog wrote about "the unvanquishable bookpile."

i have pretty much had the "unvanquishable bookpile" since i could read. it varies in height, weight, dust collected, and number and genre of volumes included based on my proximity to a library (or libraries), my ability to afford bookstore prices (used or otherwise), and whether or not i'm in school. during my time at simmons, i have to say the bookpile was most often made up of irish history or historiography reading i was woefully behind on. you don't want to know how much of it i managed to catch up on -- really catch up on -- before finishing my thesis. we'll just say it was a percentage.

now the mix is better. there's still a lot of irish history because, well, it's what i do and i love it and i can't imagine not reading more about it because that would be silly. but now there's the new stephen king novel (100 pages in), wolf hall (2/3rds of the way in) and some other assorted random stuff, mostly culled from the "new books" shelves at the library because "ooh, that looks cool." it may be; it may not be; but now that i'm not reading against time for my thesis, i can find out.

if i'm closer to a library -- or more than one since i currently have lending privileges at three, one academic and two public and both public ones are part of ginormous lending consortia -- the bookpile expands geometrically. it's so easy to follow up on interesting book reviews, footnotes that look intriguing, or recommendations from friends.

having book feeds continually dumping new and interesting stuff via google reader or oldfashioned email isn't the most helpful thing, either. pretty much every day there's something from the guardian or bookninja or tor that just cannot be passed by. this is what the goodreads list is for, i figure. i dump it on there; if i come back across it in six months time and still remember what it is and why i put it on there, i'll see about finding a copy. it's the same theory as the bottom 100 on my netflix queue. every now and then i pass through the list and if i have no idea why it's there, out it goes.

and then there's the whole question, as ms. tripney notes, of how you find what you're reading. this is why the bookpile never, in essence, gets smaller. as far as academic reading goes, the pile is never going down. there's always a footnote or a reference or a related field or a new theoretician -- at least someone you haven't heard of or haven't read or haven't read enough of -- to follow up on. i think this is why it stays continually fascinating. and there's always something new to read that makes you want to go back and re-read something old because now you have this great new idea for how it could be interpreted or applied or used.

this, of course, leads to book-sluttery of major proportions. not only bookstores, but used bookstores. not only used bookstores, but $1 carts -- of which boston is all too full! not only used bookstores and $1 carts, but amazon's used section. and not only amazon's used section but powell's and the book depository--and--and--and-- and a continual shortage of bookshelves, in my experience. thus the unread book pile, not shelf or case. you don't have enough shelves. there are never going to be enough shelves.

and that's fine by me. yes, there are days when the book pile must be sorted and shelved or at least maniacally dusted, but for the most part i'm content to have it there. after all, there's probably something really awesome in it somewhere.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

theobromos cacao

this is not a post i wanted to write.

kage baker, one of my favorite authors, is dying. there are a couple of stories about it here and, from, here.

i never write to authors. ever.

i'm going to write to her because her books are phenomenal.

if you haven't read them, you should. they're hard to find but, i promise you, it is worth it.

it is stupid and awful and pointless that there won't be any more of them.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"quod.......the fuck."

so a few last thoughts on the eddie izzard "big intimacy" show and then i promise i'll shut up about him for awhile.

as you may have noticed in my thursday post, anna and i had a phenomenal time at the show. neither of us are big on concerts, shows, or big arena-type events and it was the first time either of us had been at the banknorth garden. i have to say, though, for a relatively big event, the running of it was really smooth. the banknorth staff were really helpful and very polite. our tickets got upgraded very seriously at the last minute -- not that we realised this until we were sitting down and triangulated where our original tickets would have placed us -- and the process went really smoothly.

with the new tickets, we weren't quite "stage-side" but we were way closer than we would have been which was originally somewhere in the nosebleeds of the nosebleed section. we wouldn't really even have been able to see the jumbo-tron screens very well. as it was, we were about a dozen rows back from the seating on the actual floor and just about ideally placed to take advantage of the three gigantic screens on the stage. mr. izzard looked quite tiny by comparison to the giant digital versions of himself. he did realise this and made a point of telling the audience, particularly those in the front rows, that they weren't to feel obligated to try and look at him: "because, really, that guy up there? he's doing the exact same things as me. except -- maybe a bit slower."

honestly, i thought he was hilarious. three hours worth of pretty damn solid hilarious. when considering live performances, i try to take into account -- for some strange reason -- whether or not i could or would be willing to try and do the same kind of thing. in this case, hell, no. i am in awe of his skill at a) remembering material; b) handling an audience; and c) making them both seem effortless. i mean, i am sure he could recite this material if woken up out of a dead sleep he's said it that many times -- and it seemed new. it seemed as though he were just making some of it up for our benefit right then and there because he thought we'd think it was funny. making that kind of connection with an audience of several thousand people is a fucking impressive skill. this is why great rock band front men are great. the same skills apply here, i feel.

and you know what else is a fucking impressive skill? getting that same audience of several thousand people in tears of laughter over latin. latin, people. (i apologise for the sound quality on this one; it's a little dodgy. but also lots of thanks to anna for digging up all the youtube clips for me when i didn't have the time to do it in time to put this post up.)

i did have a moment or two of indecision when it came to using these at all since "no recording" rules were on the tickets. but then i decided...well, what the fuck. it really is too funny to give up the opportunity of illustrating my point with primary source material, so to speak.

the only real irritation in the show came from two young women seated behind anna and myself -- they left just after the start of the "second act," thank god, or i would've had to dopeslap them -- who insisted on critiquing the show quite audibly and discussing their social lives when they weren't commenting that, "oh, he's done that joke before" or "that's just what he did in st. louis." well, yes, probably both true. two essential points that you're missing here: a) he is here, now. why don't you shut up and enjoy the show in front of you? and b) there's a fine line between "recycled material" and "a long-standing joke with the fans" both of which he had but he mostly managed to keep the first feeling like the second. it has to do, i think, with the variety of characters he manages to summon up out of thin air to populate the stage and illustrate what he's talking about:

see what i mean? sheep, wolves, persians, and spartans. all sort of magically there. not to mention the raptor with the trilby, a jazz chicken, mrs. badcrumble (yay!), god, noah, moses, and various other characters who floated by at one time or another.

and now because i must get back to the bread i'm trying to make and stop boring you all to death with my paean to eddie izzard, one last clip and you may return to your regularly scheduled saturday:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

important scientific research

so i'm writing this post on sunday evening in the full anticipation of being so fried by thursday of this week that i will barely be able to think straight let alone post anything particularly wonderful.

there is much visiting to be done with diana who is coming to boston for alise conference ahead of the ala midwinter conference. there is contemplation of the eddie izzard concert on tuesday to be done. there are preparations to be made for new job, letters to be written for possible future jobs -- just all sorts of things that i'm anticipating taking up time this week.

so go find out about pavlov's cat results. you didn't know about those, did you? no, i didn't think so. :)

pre-posting/post-writing edit: the eddie izzard concert was knock-down fan-fuckin'-tastic. three solid hours and my throat ached i was laughing so hard. he got laughs off of jokes about latin -- latin, mark you! and mudskippers. to say nothing of badgers, raptors in trilbys, giant squid, and the existence or non-existence of god as evidenced by the fact that no-one reached down from the sky to knock hitler's head off.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

was being a child really that much better?

along the lines of my previous post about the delights of buying pets to give your unwanted books to, this post from helen stringer at caught my eye. she wrote a piece about a week ago called "read like a child" which is absolutely worth clicking through to read. she's mostly talking about what she remembers of reading as a child when it was an immersive, absorbing experience which blocked out the rest of the world in favor of the printed page.

We no longer lose ourselves and, you know, it really isn’t fair. Why should children get all the fun?
it's a good point. i'm all in favor of kids not getting all the fun. beyond the fact that the ones i see on a regular basis rarely seem to be having any fun at all but it's hard to tell under all the winter gear this time of year. i am pleased to see that children do seem to inhabit the coolidge corner library (of which i can find no pictures, distressingly enough) on a regular basis. i'm less pleased that they're loud but these things happen, i suppose.

i do remember reading in the fashion she describes but, for whatever reason, i also don't remember it "switching off" as she does. i still read like that every now and then; granted, the book has to be really good and it isn't every book that does that but it never was, really. i think there are always going to be authors and titles that do a better job -- often at a given time and place --of grabbing your attention. i've never revisited, for example, ernest hemingway's for whom the bell tolls because i have such vivid memories of reading it while working as a 'security guard' at the 4-h exhibit hall during the skowhegan state fair one summer when i was in high school. i don't know if it would ever be able to live up to my memory of reading it that summer. perhaps it would and i'm selling it and myself short and i should try it again.

but there is also something to be said for her last suggestion of turning everything "off" to read -- i generally, out of habit more than anything else, have music or something playing as 'background noise.' most of the time i like to have something rabbiting away in the background as i do other things; it makes the apartment seem more lived-in, prevents me from wishing to rip people's throats out during the honking contests on our corner, and generally just makes life a little more fun. also, given how my memory works, it also means i memorize frighteningly large portions of things i wasn't even aware of listening to which is always fun for startling and dismaying your friends and loved ones.

still, sometimes it is lovely to turn everything off, close the laptop, let the tv be a silent black box, and go back to reading the way i did in my parents' house when i was a kid and couldn't just turn on mindless electronic entertainment whenever i wanted to.

i have to say, though, that a really good book -- y'know, the kind you don't want to put down last thing at night even when your eyes are aching and stinging a little and you know you have to get up for work in the morning but, really, just one more page... -- can pretty much block out anything else going on.

but you know one thing you probably can't do when you're a kid? you (most likely) cannot get tickets to go see eddie izzard live in concert at the banknorth garden tonight!

which i can. and have. and will. :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"this is the biggest library in the universe. so where is everyone?"

not to start out on a negative note, but i have hated quite a few books in my time.

movies and tv shows, too. not so much cds since i don't buy them as frequently but the aforementioned? oh, yes, yes. but i have never gone to the extent that joseph sullivan at the book design review apparently did in buying pet hamsters just to destroy a book he didn't like.

i'm kind of thrilled by it.

i'm not -- either personally or professionally speaking -- in line with the destruction of books, but this almost edges into performance art. and that it would be a heinlein novel, too -- it probably makes me a bad geek on some level and most likely a bad genre geek, but i really don't care for heinlein that much. or silverberg. or asimov. or any one of another of long list of genre masters. i know they're great in some intellectual fashion but they speak to me not even the slightest bit. i don't know why; they just don't. i've stopped being upset by it. i'm more just mildly puzzled by it now.

i really did give heinlein more than a fair shot, too -- i read stranger and the moon is a harsh mistress and friday and the number of the beast, some random novellas and short stories and an omnibus book club edition that put together several of his novels about the time-travelling whateveritis family that ends up having so much incest it isn't even funny. and, really, they all blended together in the end. it was fun -- sort of -- but it wasn't fun enough. there are books by authors i love stacking up and gathering dustbunnies; why should i slog through another silverberg tome when i could be reading the sons of heaven which i've been putting off for well over a year in the hopes that kage baker will write another "company" novel to follow it up and not leave me alone in the dark and the cold with no joseph, mendoza, or lewis to amuse me?

i'm not writing this to advocate for hamster-fuelled destruction of books you don't like, but i really am intrigued by the question that sullivan asks at the end of his post:
tell us about the one (or two) novels that made you want to set yourself on fire, punch yourself in the face, or question why you learned to read in the first place.
i was thinking about this on and off while i was at work -- tracking down orphan images isn't that exciting of a job! -- and i really couldn't decide. bad books, too, i tend to forget; i read them, spew poison about them to whoever is standing nearby; and then allow my synapses to rinse themselves clean. bad movies, now, those i remember for years!

and, too, lately i have taken to abandoning bad books. as per the stuart evers piece from the guardian that i linked earlier -- i'm not quite at the point in my life where i want to declare that time is all too short and i don't have the time to waste but -- there are other things i could be doing. unless the book is bad enough to be fun, why slog? for example, i recently gave up entirely on the dacre stoker/ian holt sequel dracula: the un-dead because...well, it was awful. it wasn't even bad enough to be fun. it was just crap. it took the original characters, swung them around its head, and let go, landing them all in a nice ripe pile of -- well, bad things.

but what book have i read and loathed enough to want to donate it to shred-happy rodents? hm. perhaps steinbeck's the red pony, read under duress in freshman english in high school? or perhaps a separate peace, read under equal duress in sophomore english? or there's always tess of the d'urbervilles -- but i still don't know that i would use any of them as animal bedding. after all, there's probably someone out there who picked up one of those three and went, "my god! this is what the english language was meant to do!"

after all, dandelion wine doesn't work for everyone.

Friday, January 8, 2010

"whatever you're doin', do it faster!"

okay, despite the claim in my last post that i do think about things other than genre films -- and i do! -- i watched the fourth indiana jones movie over vacation and i really do feel the need to talk about it.

i have no particularly deep connection to the original three movies; i feel this needs to be out there in the spirit of a disclaimer. i saw them sometime around high school; enjoyed them; owned them; wasn't inordinately attached to them; and haven't watched any of them in quite a while. my favorite was always temple of doom but that could have been as much out of a sense of stubbornness because no-one else seemed to like that one as much as any genuine feeling of liking it!

spoilers below. probably.

the fourth was fun. it was silly and flashy and fun. it wasn't as good as the original three. there were some great moments and, since marion ravenwood was always my favorite "indy girl," i was delighted to see her back and still willing to slap indy in the face for being an idiot. cate blanchett clearly had a hell of a time being a black-dyed baddie; her accent came from nowhere and was almost totally unidentifiable -- full points to her! ray winstone ditto; i'm not exactly sure whether he was meant to be a good guy gone bad or a bad guy gone good or a good guy gone bad trying to be good or maybe even a bad guy gone good but not quite convinced or what, but it really doesn't matter. shia laboeuf was a slightly puzzling addition to the cast list, but he and ford bounced off each other really well and, in the end, the american nuclear family triumphs again! it's a shame that indy, sr. apparently will no longer be "whinnying with us" if they make -- as i hear they might -- a fifth movie in the series.

it was also a nice touch to memorialize denholm elliott's character from the original trilogy; marcus would have probably been very embarrassed by a huge statue of himself in the middle of the college campus, but i thought it was rather sweet. i always liked marcus and i was sad when denholm elliott died.

it felt a little frustrating that the end of the story was "aliens did it!" but since the end of temple of doom was "gods did it!" and the end of last crusade was "the apostles did it!", i guess it's sort of in line with tradition after all. they were certainly really freakin' cool aliens; i liked their neutrality. despite a passing resemblance to the actual one-and-only alien, they clearly had a different agenda and seemed, for aliens in a blockbuster action flick, strangely non-violent. even in the end, they don't so much act to defend or revenge themselves as they offer a gift and they give it. it isn't their fault -- so much -- that the gift makes blanchett's brain bubble.

i can't say that i had a lot of deeply profound thoughts about this movie; it was flashy popcorn fun. it was a little disappointing as a next entry after last crusade which i always felt was a strong final note in the trilogy, but it didn't ruin the previous movies as, say, the matrix sequels or x3 come really freakin' close to doing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

new experiences

i was thinking about this blog while i was home with no internet connection and, therefore, no immediate reason to spring to a keyboard and put my ideas into action. the best time to plan, i feel. really, planning becomes an excuse for having a second -- third? -- cup of coffee and flipping lazily through whatever book is closest to hand. (john mortimer's summer of a dormouse, in case you're curious.)

as a result of all this coffee and mortimer-induced flipping, i have some pleasantly vague ideas as to things i'd like to do with this blog in the future. over the last month, i know, i was unhappy that my entries had become "here's what i watched/read most recently" and then scatterings of youtube clips when i could think of nothing else to do or was totally out of time. really, i do think about things other than genre movies.

as a result of that, there is today's brief (but pleasant) post centered around an article from npr i read the other day, titled "lets resolve together to make 2010 the year we leave the window open." this sounds like something to do with getting more fresh air into your life -- which might not be a bad thing either! -- but, really, it's about being open and receptive to things you might not otherwise try. linda holmes, the author, is talking about movies, books, and music, but the underlying argument can just as readily be stretched out to include just about anything including vegetables, socks, or seats on the t.

speaking as someone who is a fairly good representative of her astrological sign -- i'm a cancer; we don't like change -- i liked this article. holmes makes her point without being either pedantic or holier-than-thou about it. if you try something new, she says, and don't like it; great. you don't have to. but isn't it better to have tried and found out? at least now if you hate the latest teen pop star or prime-time television hit, you can argue about it from a point of information rather than simply "i know i won't like it, so i won't bother."

Monday, January 4, 2010

"not many people can take the tale of patrick braden, aka st. kitten..."

"and -- i'm back in the game!" alternately: "we're back in the car again." pick your movie. the upshot is that i am back in boston, having survived a rather nasty nor'easter in maine -- anna, bless her heart, drove up into the worst of it on saturday and we drove alternately in and out of the lessening edge of it on our way back down to boston on sunday. unpleasant driving; good traction but lousy visibility.

i took a whole great big bag of books with me up to maine intending to get some good solid reading done and, in the end, read next to nothing. of course. because i jinxed myself. these things happen. i still have the books so that's all right. i did get to see some new movies including breakfast on pluto.

it's a long trailer and the quality of the text isn't that great, but i liked it a lot better than the "international trailer" which was my other option. since i don't own the disc myself, i can't play around with sampling one of the trailers and posting that.

breakfast is a very good movie. cillian murphy, brendan gleeson, dominic cooper, liam neeson, stephen rea; some of these are main characters, some are not. directed by neil jordan who also made interview with the vampire (probably best not to hold it against him -- we all make mistakes), the crying game and butcher boy (about brendan beehan which i realise i should have read/seen but haven't). i haven't seen the crying game, either, although everything i've ever heard about it has been good. so i don't know if breakfast is in line with what else jordan makes but it's -- really weird.

i can say that the presentation of the ira is pretty much spot-on. it's the late '60s/early '70s - the ira were not a nice bunch of guys. one of the things they managed to do most consistently was kill people they shouldn't've done. while this isn't a very violent movie, there are a couple real kickers and i think their unexpectedness makes them more effective.

as you can probably tell from the trailer, the main character for breakfast is patrick (patricia) "kitten" braden (cillian murphy who is really just absolutely gorgeous). the movie is more of a series of loosely connected vignettes than anything else, following kitten from birth through young adulthood as he moves from county cavan to london; back to cavan; back to london; trying to find work, a home, his mother, a lover, pretty much anything which will remain permanent for more than five minutes at a time. he doesn't have a lot of luck with any of this, sadly.

there are really, lunaticly (is that a word?) funny moments (i refer to you to the first job kitten finds in london), but the story isn't played for 'weirdo transvestite' laughs (to coin a phrase from eddie izzard) which would have been very easy to do. kitten has friends who love and listen to him as there are also people who desperately want him to be different or "normal." i must say it was nice that kitten himself never seemed to suffer any real doubt or serious existential angst over who he was or what he wanted. and anyone who doesn't go "ohhh..." when kitten mourns the loss of his first boyfriend, huddling in a cheap plastic folding chair outside a nasty little trailer he's been trying to turn into something like a home just isn't paying attention.

i'd suggest avoiding the extras on the disc. the interviews with jordan, gleeson, murphy, and other cast members are pretty dull and won't cast a lot of light on the story as a whole. probably better to find the book and read that, instead. i did think it was funny, though, that murphy had to find a way to shoehorn into his discussion of playing kitten that he, murphy, wasn't gay. listening to him talk about the difficulties of playing a character with a sexuality that wasn't his own (and it wasn't like he had to do anything particularly explicit), all i could think of was, "so beating the kid to death with a cricket bat in 28 days later and doing it in such a way that the audience doesn't immediately want to scream for jim's blood was a doddle? floating around in a wire harness against a green screen and pretending to be stranded between spaceship airlocks in sunshine? this was harder? really? seriously?"

breakfast might also be well viewed on a bill with kinky boots, priscilla: queen of the desert, or perhaps the dresser.

and as a closing thought, i offer up this official bbc trailer for the new season of doctor who.

i'm not sure; i really am not.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"it made me happy."

and for my last post before returning from vacation, i had some thoughts on a recent episode of supernatural. first season -- don't remember the episode number -- but it's called "the benders" and, for those of you who enjoy cross-show continuity, it guest-stars jessica steen who played dr julia heller on earth 2, a sadly short-lived show which nbc killed in much the same way as cbs did moonlight.

anyway, that's neither here nor there -- although earth 2 is totally worth watching and available on netflix insty if you have an account. :)

so "the benders" was last episode of supernatural that anna and i watched in our game attempt to get to the end of season 1 in reasonably short order. i found this british v/o'd promo on youtube:

and as the episode -- which begins with a young boy seeing someone disappear in a parking lot and works up to being a full-on the hills have eyes-style hillbilly family kidnapping people to play out a "the most dangerous game" scenario -- went its merry way, anna and i began to feel that we had seen something like this before.

and we had. it's this:

the supernatural episode was good. solid, a little gross, not terribly spooky -- bar the little girl of the hillbilly kidnapping family who is quite definitely terrifying. you can get an idea of it from this scene where dean has been captured trying to free sam and is being interrogated by the family. the girl is there, too, and freakily happy to be left to guard dean.


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but the torchwood episode promo'd there, called "countrycide" and from the first season, is chilling. (probably best not to watch this clip if you don't want to see the end of the episode. it will still be scary, i guarantee you, but it might lack a bit of punch.)

and i'm pretty sure this isn't just me; it's the same damn story bar the cages. and the fact that i find the torchwood episode much scarier -- that could just be me. i'm deeply prejudiced in torchwood's favor. and i realise that this is a common storyline in dark fantasy and horror: inbred families -- outlaws, deserters, genetic mutants, it's your choice, really -- of some sort who live in the woods -- mountaintop, valley, distant moor, name your favorite deserted location -- and nab passersby -- on a regular, cyclic, or irregular basis -- to eat -- have sex with, sacrifice, etc. -- and therefore form part of a local legend -- ghost story, myth, scare the children story -- or what-have-you.

there really is no grand over-arching point to this post other than i thought it was funny that the two episodes -- separated by time, cast, crew, location, and writers -- came up with so nearly identical storylines to call on a persistent horror myth.