Well, it isn't surprising that the latest Irish budget is harsh and unfair, but it still makes my blood boil. I loathe cuts in social welfare, and the cynicism and arrogance of politicians who make them, taking advantage of the traditionally weak voice that recipients have in society.
I'm in a well-paid job now, and don't mind paying the taxes that come with that (which, incidentally are higher than what I'd be paying in Ireland) because I can afford it.
But I've also been unemployed, and know what it is like to try and get by on social welfare. I wasn't unemployed for that long (one year), but it was enough to basically mark me for life - working habits, spending patterns, long-term planning, all of those are impacted if not dictated by my horror of ever being in that situation again.
Because it's shit. If you haven't been there, you can't understand it - and I bet most FF haven't been there and don't even want to understand it.
The money is so small that you have to live pretty much hand to mouth. If you have no nice clothes for a job interview, that's just too bad. If you get an interview on the other side of the country, you can't afford to get to it. You can't get a chocolate bar because you're peckish. You can't even afford to nip in somewhere and get a cup of tea, just because you need to use their loo. Some of these sound like trivial things, but they are still examples of things that I get to do now, and that I am still grateful for because I remember not being able to.
You quickly realise that the only way you can get by is by staying at home. All those things you had planned to do if you had the time are right out because you can't buy the parts / get there / pay the lunch fee. And now you're supposed to do it on 8€ less a week.
I have come late to audio fiction, I think I first started buying audio books in 2007 or 2008. My main motivation at the time was to find something to distract myself from mundane tasks, like housework, and because I had a disjointed commute so reading from a traditional book was difficult as I kept having to change from train to bus and back again, and because I wanted to be able to 'read' while I did things like cycling to the office, or walking with Tesla, or continue my never ending project of building a model of the Unseen University.
audible.com tells me that I have a library of over 50 books now, although several of those are free chapters and interviews and such - in addition I have a few books from other sources, like iTunes or even (gasp) an actual bookshop with aisles I can walk through etc.
I no longer listen while cycling, because I live on the kind of roads where you really want to hear the traffic (which is sparse but fast), and I also no longer listen while I walk the dogs (we got another dog), because I live near the kind of woods where you really want to hear what is happening (like being charged by a spooked elk). But now I am driving instead, so I am trying with some success and some failure to listen to audiobooks while on the roads.
I need a new car stereo so I don't have to burn everything to CD and then stop to swap them out and in. But that's besides the point.
What I meant to talk about was the podcasts from Escape Artists: Escape Pod, PseudoPod and PodCastle.
For those who don't know, Escape Artists' podcasts are professional SF (, horror, and fantasy) short stories narrated by fans, available for free (donations welcome). I loved them when I first discovered them (which was probably 2008 too), because of course I would - I love SF, I love audiofiction, I love amateur dramatics and I love fan-driven activities, and Escape Artists hit all of those buttons.
Except then I stopped loving them. And I felt really bad about it, then I figured out why I didn't like them any more, and I really still feel bad about, it but I'm going to explain it anyway.
The fannish narrators, it seems to me, are not fans of audiofiction. The best audiobooks are, in my opinion, performances by the narrator as much as stories by the author. Sometimes, they have multiple actors narrating different sections, sometimes they are even more dramatised, with multiple actors narrating direct speech in character, with musical interludes and sound effects. Other times, they are just one actor, taking different voices for different characters (something I cannot do, and therefore admire all the more).
The worst audiobooks I have purchased have been narrated by the author, far too quickly and with the same speech patterns repeating, and repeating, and repeating, and ... I jerk awake. I sometimes scrub backwards, trying to find out who it is who started this speech. I restart the chapter, not sure I got the whole sense of it. I put my iPhone on half speed, so I can understand one sentence before the narrator has moved to the third one. I give up.
Escape Artists podcasts follow this trend. I don't care about lower production values in amateur things, and I have a big rant about mainstream theatre production values sucking up arts funding to prove it (maybe later). I do care about translating from one medium to another without researching and loving and understanding the second medium - and a big "hello" to all the novelists who think they can write plays without understanding how a theatre and a stage work. Fans working to create their own versions of the things they love, I love it too. Sheesh, fans run better conventions than professionals, for no pay and out of love. (I don't follow fanfiction and fanart much, so I can't comment on that aspect.)
So. I don't listen to the Escape Artists podcasts any more. I doubt that they have noticed, which is good, and they shouldn't really care, either. What would make me happy, though, should anyone read this from Escape Artists, and what would make the podcasts better, is if they got their narrators to listen to some professional audio work, and maybe take some basic acting lessons. One acting lesson might be all it takes, where the lesson is about all the different nuances you can give to a simple phrase.
So, last Spring's entries, especially here I talked about my role as the 84-year-old Madame de Rosemonde in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. For a change, I thought I would give some closure on the problems that were facing me back then.
(Also, I'm trying to write more on LJ and this seems like a good topic.)
I don't think I ever really did find Rosemonde's inner life - when I stabbed in this or that area, the director corrected me, so I settled to playing her as directed and concentrating instead on the physical parts. Don't get me wrong, the director was absolutely right to pull me up when she did, since on at least one occasion my interpretation made a scene really boring for the audience. But I never really was Rosemonde in my head.
After the dress rehearsal and opening night, I was fortunate to have a major makeup re-design, so I no longer looked like a thirty-something woman in too much stage paint - very subtle shading with eyebrow pencils under my jaw line and in laughter lines worked miracles. I am good at the physical side of acting, so I picked a couple of gestures that Mark's (84-year-old) grandmother uses a lot, and worked from there. My greatest compliment was people's surprise when I came out of the dressing room decades younger than they thought I really was.
We had six performances. Leaving the pub after the fifth one I slipped and sprained my ankle*. The following day was a bit dramatic all round, as when I woke I wasn't able to walk, but I did eventually hobble onto the stage and had a very convincing night. No cast party for me, though.
* I know what you are thinking, but you are wrong! I am far too old to go on stage with a hangover, so I was mildly tipsy at best. If I had been blotto I probably wouldn't have hurt myself so badly :-P
I watched this documentary last night on TV, about women who fall (passionately) in love with various objects. At first I thought it would be freak-watching, yet of the two women who feature most in it, both came across as actually pleasant and interesting people. Except that they have sex with inanimate objects. Like the Eiffel Tower. Or the Golden Gate Bridge.
What I found maybe most disturbing was that I could understand, somewhat, where they were coming from. I like massive works of engineering, too, and find many of them aesthetically pleasing. I admire the human achievement that they symbolise, and, you know, I like the elegance with which they solve problems. And I can easily get caught up in them - a performance piece that I wrote a couple of years ago had me this close to becoming a crane spotter. I still get a thrill of pleasure when I pass a particularly large luffing crane.
The difference, of course, is that my thrills and aesthetic admiration are non-sexual in nature. I want to stand before them in awe, not to get my rocks off. But watching that documentary, when one of the women was pointing out the finer points of her (fairground ride) lover to the other, I could appreciate her points. Yeah, it (or "he") did have a nice counterweight system and good lines. Behind the naff signs and decorations, it was a fine piece of engineering. Yep, definitely impressive how long it had been in service, doing the same job safely. Yes.
They had difficult childhoods, and I didn't, but I don't think that I am a difficult childhood away from being like them. I don't even think I'm particularly unique in liking bridges and cranes and monuments made out of metal - it's an old-fashioned view, agrarian idealism is more today's flavour (especially in Finland), but not unique. I don't really know where I'm going with this, I'm still mulling it over, but this is definitely the first of the 'weird people' documentaries that SubTV shows where I found myself that close to their viewpoint.
So, we are moved in to our new home, or at least we have all of our stuff here even if the vast majority of it is still in boxes.
In between the unpacking and furniture assembling and trying to decide what goes where, we have been finding names for the various rooms and places in the house - so we can both refer to them quickly and unambiguously.*
We’re trying for more interesting names than “The guest room”, so this is what we have so far:
- the Garret (mentioned before, the small attic room with the low ceiling)
- the West Wing (which will be Mark’s study)
- the North Bedroom (which is the main guest room)
- the Fortress of Solitude (a platform in the master bedroom which we will hopefully use as a kind of reading nook)
- the Grey Room (my study which also doubles as the second guest room)
- Hypochondriac’s Corner (probably temporary name, the corner of the kitchen where currently all our medicines are stocked)
Still to name is the master bedroom itself, the sitting room, dining room, fireplace room, and the two leikimökkis**. As well as areas in the garden.* We work in IT, these things are important to us
** Literally translated, they are “play cottages”, a bit more than a shed
So, as I mentioned in my last entry, I got a part in the next production from the Finn Brit Players, which will be Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton. I am playing Madame de Rosemonde, the elderly aunt of Valmont (she was played by Mildred Natwick in the Dangerous Liaisons film, FWIW). Anyway, similar to many ‘old rich lady’ parts, she is crucial to the plot, and has a kind of god-like status among most of the characters. She controls the money and is, in the words of Valmont, immortal.
Unlike, say, Lady Bracknell, Rosemonde seems to be a very kind, wise and gentle creature. She is demonstratively affectionate to everyone, but her lines show that she is aware of most of what goes on between the others. They also show (to my great joy) that she has a whole back story that is unexplored, that she has lived her life to the full, and this is why she is so wise.
For the record, I also love love love her name. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos is the original novelist, and for him to name an old woman “Rose of the world” is really startling. Even today, people consider old women to have no existence before their current age, as if they were always old. Which makes no sense. I like looking at older people (on the train or bus, for instance) and imagining their younger days, what they though, who they loved, how they rebelled (because we all rebel). Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The real issue is that I cannot find her inner life, which is a completely new experience for me. I don’t know who she is, I can’t get myself to think the way that she thinks, to use the cliche: I do not understand her motivation. Today I thought that I could get to her by considering her an older and gentler version of Merteuil (Glenn Close’s character in the film) - but though some lines suggest that she has certainly done her share of bed hopping, she is far too empathetic to use people the way that Merteuil does. The stage directions are quite detailed, and show Merteuil’s callousness but they don’t show the same for Rosemonde.
Her typical scene goes: Rosemonde enters with someone, affectionately greets someone else, gives someone a hug, says kind and wise things, and finally delivers some killer line that (if I do it right) makes the audience realise some crucial plot element. Like that maybe Merteuil killed her husband.
So now I’m beginning to think that maybe she is one of those people who really does like everybody that they know. I have a couple of friends like that, who are obviously wonderful people, they haven’t got a bad word to say about anybody. I am not the same, and though I treasure them dearly I’m not sure I can put myself inside their minds and skins to find Rosemonde there. And then imagine them saying the killer lines, too, I don’t know if that is within them.
*sigh* I should be enjoying the challenge. I’ve always previously been able to just step into a role, find enough of myself within them that I can focus on the physical side of things, how they move, how they react, what their quirks are. I am now several steps behind this, and the rehearsal schedule is kind of tight, I don’t have many rehearsals in which to explore possible interpretations.
I’ll get there. I was thinking of writing some short stories from Rosemonde’s past, to see if I could invent her that way. If they’re any good, I might post them here. Prepare for weirdness.
I'm drawing up my theatrical CV at the moment, I can't find any previous versions so it's from scratch. So far, I have 28 separate productions, and I have a nagging feeling that I am forgetting several. In fact, I know that I've forgotten several from my school days, but those are less important than adult work.
And have I really only acted in three of the Finnbrit Players' productions? I thought I balanced backstage and onstage stuff more...
In related news, I have been cast as Rosemonde in the summer production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses - it's a cool part, very few lines (yay!) but an important and challenging character. I like those kind of parts, I like challenging the assumption that the best parts have the most lines. It does mean that I will be onstage for my birthday this year, playing an 84 year-old woman - if I don't like my performance I'll be hideously depressed for months afterwards.
And in unrelated news, we have sold our current house and are about to make an offer on a new place. Far out of town, but lots of land and a beautiful house, no renovation necessary, just some new wallpaper in a couple of rooms. It includes a writer's garret! How can we not want it?
It’s been almost three months with my iPhone and we are still madly in love. Oh. My. God. After seven years with Nokia phones, I am just overcome with the joy of an interface that tries to help me, that realises that, hmm, maybe the people I call the most don’t have names beginning with ‘A’, so gives me a favourites list. That lets me view the text message I’m answering while I’m answering. That lets me send photos I take from either the Photos app, or the Messages app, or the Mail app, instead of picking one at random and making me guess until I just give up. That turns off data roaming by default so that when I’m abroad, I’m not suckered into spending 20€ by accident. There’s a Compass app, so I can orient myself to face North, the way I like it, without peering at maps! Oh, iPhone. I love you.
And that’s before I get to the App Store, and the low priced joys inside it. I could go on for hours just about my favourite apps, but I will limit myself to three.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock: uses the built-in accelerometer to monitor my sleep patterns, and wake me during my lightest sleep. I set the latest time I want to wake, slip it under the sheet by my pillow, and some time up to thirty minutes beforehand, it wakes me up - and I feel refreshed and ready for the day! Also, I get graphs illustrating my sleep patterns for the previous night, and averages on my sleep time. I love it! I bought it on sale for 0.79€. I have pimped it non-stop ever since.
Momento: I was only introduced to this a couple of weeks ago, so we are still in the first flush of love. I think it cost 1.79€ but I won’t swear to it. Basically, I can link use it as a private diary, tag entries, add photos, and sync with my Facebook (and Twitter, but I don’t Twitter) too, so I have a public and private record of my days. For someone with a memory like mine, it’s wonderful to be able to flick back and see things like - oh, I don’t know, the last time I felt motivated at work, for instance.
Ice Age 3 Platform Game: bought on sale for 0.79€, with the easiest interface to a game that I have yet found on the iPhone. You play as Scrat, chasing acorns through levels that are really great puzzles, ability to go back to checkpoints instead of having to start the whole level over again, and 36 standard levels to complete. If you get all the acorns in all the levels, then bonus levels unlock. There’s hours of playing in there, for less than a euro! Oh, I love it so so so much.
I could go on. Just picking three apps has me twitchy, since I’m missing out so many other other ones - Things! Notebooks! ShoppingList! ReittiGPS! Stanza! And the best things is that these apps are continuously being updated, by people who are not entirely unlike me, so if I send them an email pointing out small problems or annoying features, or ways that it could meet my needs even more fully - I’ll probably get a polite and friendly reply, and might even see fixes and new features that I suggested. Free! It’s wild!
Basically, my iPhone is the all-in-one SF device that has been promised to me since I started reading SF in the late eighties. I’m a techie, gadgety type of person, so I have been lusting for this gadget for the vast majority of my life. It’s amazing to finally have it. The future is here - I can die happy.
I was telling a friend of my parents about how this is fulfilling something I had always dreamed of, and she told me that she had had the same desire when she was a child, after watching a film of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. From a privileged family in the South of France, there was a constant argument about who had to open and close the gate, especially at night, and she had longed for the Open Sesame of Ali Baba. Then, when the automatic gate opening devices had been introduced, her dream had come true - it was magic! She had longed for it, yet never thought that it would actually happen.
We decided that we didn’t really care if flying cars were invented or not.
I'm planning a trip to Greenland some time this year (I hope), and I've been trying to find some good books to start research early, to get a feel for the country and for the people we'll meet while we're there.
One of the lessons I learnt from RaceFail was that local voices are often ignored when white westerners do this kind of background reading, and therefore the same distortions are perpetuated. This is such an obvious point, when it is pointed out, but I know I've fallen in that trap before. So, not this time! I want to start my research with material written by Greenlanders themselves, about themselves and their country, and I want to expand my reading based on suggestions in those works.
Off I go to the trusty internet, and google various terms like 'greenland authors', 'greenland literature', and so on. It is much more difficult than I expected. Howard Brenton wrote a play called _Greenland_ (which isn't about Greenland the country), and that is the major hit for the first search term, and the second term produces mainly travel writing by, you guessed it, white westerners.
One site, Maps of the World looks promising, with the following quote:
Greenland has produced a wealth of literary works compared to the other Inuit in the Arctic.
And then it gives the following list of "great works" (my comments in italics
- Lonely Planet Greenland and The Arctic - Deanna Swaney white woman, I didn't find her nationality but noticed a distinct lack of questions along the lines of her background as a Greenlander
- The Greenlanders – Jane Smiley American
- The Arctic, A Guide to Coastal Wildlife – Tony Soper British, and anyway this book covers the whole Arctic region including Northern Scandinavia and Russia
- This Cold Heaven, Seven Seasons in Greenland – Gretel Ehrlich "was born on a horse ranch near Santa Barbara, California"
- An African in Greenland – New York Review Book author is Tete-Michel Kpomassie from Togo, though this would be interesting to read
- A Nature and Wildlife Guide to Greenland – Gyldendals Forlaq actually this is by Benny Gensbol, published in Denmark first I think. I can't find any information about Gensbol except that he has published a lot of books on birds from around the world.
Now, to give credit where credit is due, under this list of great works there is actual mention of some actual Greenlandic authors, but holy crap, I'm just speechless at the lack of thought on that page and in that list!
2010! Yes, yes, I too see all the sci-fi connotations, but my self-centred reaction is to feel really old. And what have I achieved in my life? Sure, I’ve done plenty of things that many other people haven’t done, but most of the unique things happened to me by accident, or without any advance planning, or because my parents dragged me along, or without any effort on my part, or some combination of the above.
My aim for this year is to take the first steps towards doing something that I can take huge pride in, that I can look back on and see as something I worked for and achieved. I have a couple of ideas for what that will be, and I’ll fill in more details as they become clear and / or inevitable.
Completely unrelated: when did “fandom” come to mean the fanfiction community? Or am I just reading the wrong communities? I can’t make head nor tail of what half of them talk about! I’m like a granny showing up to a rave, ready for a good time but just ... confused.
This winter is turning into the snowiest one yet (since I’ve been here in the Frozen North). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, because it is still a problem - I need more words for snow in English. I can describe very fine distinctions between different kinds of rain (I am Irish, after all), but for snow I’m always stuck with similes and metaphors: “lazy snow”, “fluffy snow”, “snow pellets”, and the worst one, “it’s snowing hard”. These just aren’t enough! I sometimes try and adopt the rain terms for snow (right now, it’s lashing snow), but they don’t capture the essential snowiness
, or the silence, of the conditions I’m trying to describe. I could get all arty, I suppose, but it just embarrasses me.
Canadians have proved a constant disappointment in this quest for good terms. Damn Canadians!
My Mac Mini’s hard drive died just before Christmas, and I am in mourning. I heard today from the local Mac shop (actually, Varimport
, who are brilliant and less than a hundred metres away) that 95% of the contents were recoverable, but the hierarchy has been lost. Luckily, I had the most essential things backed up in the cloud nightly, but when I think of the number of .jar, .pl, .py, feature.properties files etc that are waiting for me I start to despair. I expect I’ll have to spend a good two days basically reinstalling all my old apps from scratch, configuring them how I like them, and just hope that iTunes will be nice with the scattered files from the music library.
I think I’m going to buy a fucking huge external hard drive, too. I’m going to call it Balor.
I had planned to go to Ireland for P-Con this March, but now I’m reconsidering. A main motivation was to meet up with my old friends from the Culture mailing list, but since Banks has pulled out as GoH, I’m less keen - as are the friends. I’ve had several unexpected expenses in the last few months (Mac Mini hard drive failure is the least of them), and while I can afford the trip, my credit card is constantly close to max, our mortgage repayments barely cover the interest, and I have no savings. I’d rather save up money now, and travel more later.
This not my final decision. But it’s close to it.