Saturday, December 29, 2007

a year's end list


Haruki Murakami, particularly Dance Dance Dance and A Wild Sheep Chase. The thing I like about Murakami, aside from the lovely writing (or, at least, the lovely translation of his writing), is how he wraps the surreal and bizarre in a mundane skin. You become so enmeshed in the solid detail of his worlds that you are ready to see, or taste, or feel anything he wants you to; and it's only when you put the book down and have sat back and had a cup of tea and thought about it for a while that you realize how preposterous such things are... but they're already sitting in your head like heavy little pebbles so it's too late to stop believing.

Ian McEwan. I read Atonement after reading one of those bright young thing books--a consciously literary story full of quirk and flying trapeze vocabulary--which was good, but exhausting. Atonement felt solid after that. It's claustrophobic and tragic and romantic and devastating; and while McEwan plays with perception and time, I didn't feel like he was ever just trying to dazzle with some sort of flim-flam. It's a well-made story and it made me feel, which is always the point.

Bill Bryson. I've been dipping into Bryson for a couple years, but I finally sat down and read A Walk in The Woods all the way through. It's absolutely hilarious and wonderful.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
. There were many things about this book that I didn't like. However, I'm also a person who has an obsession with knowing How Things Turn Out, so finally getting to read the last book was a relief. I could have done without knowing How Things Get Wrapped Up Nice And Tidy And Tied With A Shiny Ribbon though. That last epilogue had me gagging on happy endings. Snape continued to be my favourite character (I nearly did a small dance of giddiness during his chapter) and I was crushed that Sirius Black did not make a last minute reappearance.


Pushing Daisies. Whimsy, quirk, and oversaturated colors on top of a splendidly morbid premise. It's like a weekly dose of Jean Pierre Jeunet, only in English and with Jim Dale narrating.

Chuck. I love spy shows. I watched every single episode of Alias, even when it started crashing downhill at breakneck speed and the plots became more repetitive and more absurd than you might believe possible. Chuck is a spy show, but it's funny. It's also clever, ridiculous, and utterly enjoyable.

Torchwood. As my sister says, this scratches the itch but it's not as satisfying as the real thing. Maybe it's not Doctor Who, but it's still in a universe where the Doctor exists, along with monsters and space ships and marvelous, shiny gadgets.

The History Boys. Really excellent. Fascinating to see people who worked on the same part for so long in a theater setting transfer that work to film.

The Darjeeling Limited. Which has my favourite soundtrack ever. I play it over and over and over until anyone in the vicinity tells me to turn it off.

The Lives of Others. Made me cry, made me angry, and gave me a satisfied glow when the ending turned out exactly as good as I could have hoped. The brilliant thing though is that I thought the end was going to be sad and grey and unfulfilling, and then at the last moment it wasn't. Brilliant.

James McAvoy, because The Last King of Scotland and Becoming Jane were two of the few movies I saw this year that made me think, that was good. Also because he is Mr. Tumnus. Also because he was in Starter For Ten, which also boasts the amazing character of Salmon. My friend, Miguele, and I are going to start a fan club for the man who has the best sneer I've ever seen.


BBC Radio Plays. I had forgotten all about the existence of radio plays until my hurt knee forced me into long hours of sitting down. Now I want to write one.

Fionn Regan. Lullaby voice. I never actually pay attention to the lyrics because as soon as he starts singing I want to be curled up in an armchair and half-way to dreamy contemplation of nothing. He could be saying horrible, depressing, maudlin words and I'd never know.

The Kinks. Mainly for "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" and their songs in Wes Anderson movies.

David Bowie. "Starman" is making me rethink my childhood dislike of Labyrinth.

... I was going to write more, but I started this so long ago, back when it was still that dusty year of two-thousand and seven. Now we're in 2008 (such a round and loopy number, shall we all be fat and happily crazed this year?) and I don't feel inclined to finish. So here's my end of year summation, incomplete and inconclusive, leaving the way open for whatever treasures throw themselves across my path in this curvaceous, this round and contented, year of 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

safety scissors and glitter

I'm trying to find my way back into two projects, the first being my fairytale about jester, servant girl, prince, et al., and the second being a something that started as a quiet little story about a postman and then devolved into a mess of uncommitted murders, telepathy, and different narrators.

They are both giving me headaches.

The thing about me writing is that I haven't done much of it. I've always made up stories, but I hardly ever write them down. I'm always too busy with dance things, or too lazy, or too content just reading the work of others. So the writing is hard work. I feel like I'm just learning my way around a story, seeing how the hidden gears work, feeling the strong joints and the faulty ones. I really want to give it a go though; it's so refreshing to have a project that you can work on and then pull apart and then rebuild in a different shape altogether. It's like playing with a box of odds and ends, with some modeling clay somewhere in the middle. I don't know if the thing that I end up with is any good, but it's fun to poke around in the supplies.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

on chocolate

I wouldn't say I'm addicted to chocolate. I'm not the kind of person who MUST have chocolate every day, who delights in truffles and fudgey cakes, who always orders a dessert with chocolate in it, despite ominous titles like "Chocolate Volcano" or "Molten Hot Chocolate Cake" or "Chocolate Ecstasy". I don't like truffles. I REALLY don't like fudge. I've tried one of those chocolate fountain things once and found it disturbing and probably unhygienic. I don't say that I'm a "chocoholic" with equal pride and guilt.

However. I do like chocolate. I like, particularly, dark chocolate that's not too sweet, either plain or lightened with nice tidbits. I like good chocolate, except in the case of certain Japanese goodies which have a weird "chocolate"-like substance that's either waxy or fruity or nothing remotely like chocolate, but still manages to be tasty in some mysterious way.

Chocolate things I like at the moment:

1. Green and Black's dark chocolate
Very, very good chocolate. Not too bitter and properly smooth.

2. the Bread and Chocolate Bar from Theo Chocolate
Dark chocolate with speckles of salty, crunchy French bread crumbs. I know that this sounds slightly unappetizing, but it's addictive and delicious.

3. the fleur de sel caramel chocolates from Recciutti Chocolates
I'm actually not certain about the spelling there, but these are fantastic. A slim piece of salty and buttery French caramel dipped in dark chocolate. More gooey than I usually like, but there are lovely salt crystals pocking the caramels that crunch in a nice way.

Not sure what the point of this list was going to be. Probably it's just the result of me reaching the edge of boredom from sitting on the couch all day with a bum knee and the fact that I've been munching a Bread and Chocolate bar while watching The Lives of Others (which is excellent). It'll probably take about two more days to finish off this bar, because while I like chocolate, I also find that chocolate river in Willy Wonka's factory vaguely stomach-turning. Too much brown meltiness and stodgy boredom sets in.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

tomorrow, tomorrow

I have surgery tomorrow. Wish me luck.

I'm always complaining about the inferiority of American radio compared to the BBC. However, in a move of astonishing brilliance, NPR made a bid for the lead tonight. I caught an interview, partway through, of a scientist who wrote a book called (I think) The Metaphysics of Baboons. He discussed, in depth and with his own impersonations, the particular baboon call which proclaims their rank in the social hierarchy. These are called "wahoos." Mainly, I suspect, because they sound like "wa-hoo!" or "waaah-hooo!" or (in the case of those very low on the hierarchy due to poor physical condition, age, or injury) just a rather sad "waaah."

Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I shall be hunting an MP3 of that interview to cheer me up post surgery.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Three incentives for me to get past the sofa bound stage of recovery from surgery:

1. Atonement

2. The Golden Compass

3. Juno

I mean, I'll have to at least recover enough to drive myself to a movie theater where I can resume a sitting position.

Went to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. I didn't really like it very much. I so liked the idea of it when I first read about it, but it came off as a bit trite. Expectedly quirky, not dangerously on the edge of mad weirdness. It felt almost calculated in parts. Here is the eccentric old man and his young protege who lacks only in being unable to see her own wonderfulness. Here is the odd child who teaches the man in the suit to have an imagination. And that last scene, with Natalie Portman waving her arms to conduct waves of glitter and color, embarrassed me. I was sitting in my seat and cringing.

So, not a brilliant pick. I much prefer Helm's Stranger Than Fiction.

Much more exciting is the first season of 24, which we started this weekend. I've never seen the show before and it's HORRIFICALLY addictive. Mainly, I suppose, because you get no closure at the end of the episode. You are nearly compelled to press the next button until your eyeballs feel like they might fall out.

My story about glass, which is called "Heart and Legs" at the moment, is now 4100 words. I think there might be about a third to go. There's a jester in it, and a prince, and a brave serving girl. There are also oceanic monsters that popped up without warning. I rather like them.

Monday, December 3, 2007

progressing through the glass story

Right, so I was feeling so flush after finishing that last story that I decided to have a go at another. A nice little fairy tale this time, I thought. Only now it's getting all out of hand and sprawling and going sarcastic and being generally ornery. I'd like to chuck it all off till later and go back to my postmen, but I want to finish it off. In my head, it was going to be an easy job to finish it in an afternoon, but I've done nearly 3,000 words and only feels half done. Needed to take a break because I felt like I was hurling myself towards a finish, only to discover that someone moved it several miles further along. Meh.

What happens when you feel cocky? That's right, you trip and slip on a banana peel.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

pineapple nibbles

This morning my mom and I went shopping... There was this very odd event at the department store which involved breakfast-y nibbles, mimosas, terrible cups of tea, and a jazz band comprised of elderly men in natty plaid jackets. The band was quite good. So were the pineapple-ginger nibbles, which were basically chunks of pineapple, covered in bashed up mint and coconut, on little sticks. The shopping was tiresome; even at 9 in the morning there's a sort of manic frenzy around holiday shoppers that I find exhausting.

I've been reading The Modern Library Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch and so far it seems mostly sensible. I love that he quotes Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling in neighboring sentences on the same subject (character development). I also like that he never says anything with the whiff of "thou shalt not!" This quote, which Koch takes from Richard Bausch, is nice:

"Dream the story up, make it up, be fanciful, follow what occurs to you to say, and try not to worry about whether or not it's smart... Just dream it up and let the thing play itself out as it seems to want to, and then write it again, and still again, dreaming it through, and then try to be terribly smart about it."

Even though reading a book about writing is really one of my numerous techniques for putting off actually sitting at my own desk, I think this one is interesting.

I've just read this from Catherynne Valente writing on Jeff Vandermeer's blog, which I thought was funny. Mostly because I have a weakness for steam power/clockwork/Victoriana myself and the way she calls those sorts of stories "steampunk" and "clockpunk" was, I thought, very funny and appropriate.

I've also been reading bits of Jane Espenson's blog. She's a screenwriter and producer and her writing is very smart and funny. She also notes what she had for lunch every day. Like Cup of Noodle improved by a squeeze of lemon.

I think I'm becoming a bit of a blog junkie. They are just so addictive. It's a bit like reading the opinion section of a newspaper detailed exactly to my own tastes and interests. Every day there's something opinionated and personal to read about writing or reading or dancing or whatever, by people who I think probably have the brains and knowledge to back up what they say. Almost as tasty as pineapple nibbles, really.