South Park Self

one day, when the tonguin' is done, we'll take our leave and go

Apparently we are in another part of the pandemic where we are singing about the dark times, and I have learned a new random collection of words, which is "TikTok shanty fandom". It is curiously pleasing that the TikTok sea shanty fandom exists, and that it randomly builds multi-part shanty versions which disparately add a voice or instrument line in a fine spirit of emulation and community. The version below of the current viral sensation "Soon may the Wellerman come" loses me a bit when it adds the canned beat and starts remixing, but it's the best quality edit of the first part I can find. (Also, the first bass addition, the cheerful blonde dude in the cap who basically started all this, has a completely phenomenal bass voice).

This is a bloody catchy piece of music, and I love what the communal treatment has done to it, but it's also fascinating and faintly horrible that it's become a viral meme at this point in time. I mean, yes, it's catchy and we're all bored, and it's also communal and we are all relying on each other very heavily through the internet to beguile us through this crisis. It is curiously akin, in its creative/collaborative spirit, to making bread. But it's even more interesting in purely thematic terms.

This is a whaling song. It arises from the nineteenth century whaling industry in New Zealand, major participants in which were the British Weller brothers, who built and lost a small empire in Otago in the 1830s, both running and supplying whaling ships. The Wellerman, with his "sugar and tea and rum", is bringing supplies to the whalers while they pursue their whale, and while they look forward to the day when the whale is caught and "the tonguin' is done" (tearing the blubber off the dead whale in strips, eeuw).

But there's a lot more going on here. The accounts I've been able to find are either "yay NZ industry" or "boo dead whales", and comparatively few mention the fact that the whalers were not salaried, they were paid in supplies, in fact, in the "sugar and tea and rum" carried by the Wellerman. Who was thus both boss and supplier, in a little closed and incestuous loop which gave all the power to the Wellers, who did indeed grow rather rich on whaling and supplying whaling ships, at least before the whale-oil bubble collapsed. The song is about entrapment, the ship hooking and endlessly being dragged by the whale, the whalers endlessly bound into the work/eat cycle of their moneyless employment, which ensured they couldn't actually easily leave it, because they could build up no savings on which to do so. "The Wellerman" is the whaling version of the coal-miner's "Sixteen Tons" - another day older and deeper in debt, I owe my soul to the company store. It speaks, under its jaunty tune, to pandemic and lockdown because of that claustrophobic sense that you can't get out.

It also implicitly speaks to our current late-stage capitalism, and its absolute disregard for the wellbeing and prosperity of the workers it exploits. The whalers under the sway of the Wellerman are desperately akin to the Amazon wage-slaves who are slipping into poverty while Jeff Bezos accumulates billions. While I love the song and its communal expression, it has also made me incredibly depressed, because it suggests that there is something fundamentally broken and intrinsically unlearning about humanity: nearly two hundred years ago we were not only slaughtering whales, we were exploiting the workers so a tiny elite could make money, and we're still doing it. Slavery, and indentured service, and exploitative and inhumane companies who care about money and don't care about people and deliberately locked them into service so they couldn't escape, are baked into our cultural DNA. I hate that. I hate that America is still fighting to implement a minimum wage which has been fought over for so long that it's no longer a liveable amount. I hate that the "New South Africa" notwithstanding, there are people digging in our bins every time we put them out, and the divisions between our poverty-ridden rural or township citizens and the wealthy commercial or political classes are huge and growing huger. We've always done this, how can we stop doing it?

It's giving me a micro-version of the grief and despair I felt when America elected Trump: that there is a segment of humanity - capitalists or Trump supporters - whose thought processes are so alienatingly inhumane to me that I can't feel any sense of connection to or kinship with them. And their inhumanity is dominating the directions our culture takes, precisely because it is exploitative and uncaring, and tramples the people who feel otherwise. And it's a lot of work for a sea shanty to be doing, but we're all trapped in this, working endlessly at awful, destructive jobs for which we are paid insultingly and from which we cannot escape, because the system has put us there and keeps us there deliberately. All we can do, apparently, is sing about it.

Aargh. And I'm tired and in the middle of exam committees and virtual registration, and losses and dissolutions are characterising my social circle, and I have a sinus headache, and it's hot, so probably I'm more pessimistic than I should be. But aargh. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

cupboard love (/sarcasm)

I have been working my way gradually around the kitchen cleaning out cupboards and evicting beetles over the last couple of weeks (it's tiring and annoying and I have Zelda to play, so I've been doing it a bit at a time rather than as a single massive clean-up, which possibly means they're moving in behind me as I go, but honestly I can't.) And on Sunday I reached the large crockery/booze cupboard under the kitchen counter, and moved everything out and cleaned it obsessively, and boxed up things I never use to take to the charity shop, and rearranged it all neatly, and it was extremely satisfying.

And ten minutes later, when I had returned to my righteous tea-drinking and Zelda-playing, there was a weird, muffled, sliding crash from the kitchen, and I did a reflexive button-mash and died (again) by falling off a rock into a mudpool (sidebar: fucking Trial of Wood), and swore, and went to see what had happened. And nicely-distributed selection of the little plastic brackets holding the shelf in the newly-cleaned cupboard had popped out of their holes, dropping and tilting the shelf so that everything slid down to the end. Mercifully nothing actually broke, because that was the booze end, and there's a fair amount of liqueur as well as wine in there, and the mess would have been epically sticky. So I had to take everything out of those cupboards again, as a result of which my kitchen has spent two days looking like this:

I know these damned shelf-brackets of old, they randomly pop out all the time, they're tiny cheapy plastic things, and have worn their holes too large because they're drilled into chipboard and don't have any sort of plug or housing. And when I texted the landlord to check if he's okay with me getting a damned carpenter to put proper supports in, he remained true to his slightly kludgy DIY ethic and said, oh, no, you don't need to do that, you can put paper around the stud, or glue it. So I said, fine, if you're okay with me gluing the little buggers in, so be it.

So I have propped the shelf up on random bits of thing, and carefully collected the supports, and wrapped every stud in paper (bits of printer label, so they stick), and then glued the hell out of it with copious quantities of wood glue, with which I managed to refrain from sticking Jyn to the woodwork as she had to explore the nice new empty shelf expanse and have her nose in everything I was doing. And after I let it dry overnight, I lowered the shelf carefully back onto the supports this morning, and nothing popped off. As I should bloody well hope, after all that, it should be rock solid. I have just finished rearranging everything (again!), and my kitchen is clear, and the counter open, and I propose to go and make myself coffee walnut cake by way of self-congratulation, and also reward for having spent the last week checking board schedules, and also fortification for the next three days of exam committees.

Several things have emerged from this:
1. The damned landlord half-arses half his renovations, it's maddening. Everything's done cheaply and not quite well.
2. Having clutter all over my countertops and table for two days appears to make me very twitchy and slightly grumpy, I hate clutter.
3. My overall fitness is actually a lot better than it was a couple of months ago, apparently my not very serious exercise routine over the last six weeks or so is actually working in terms of being able to crawl around and get up off the floor and angle myself into cupboards to hammer recalcitrant shelf supports.
4. Jyn was really enjoying the empty shelves, while I was putting everything back she was seething around my ankles and growling at me!
5. I need to find a worthy recipient for all that booze, I can't actually drink at the moment, even a glass of wine gives me a serious headache the next day, and there's only so much I can use for cooking. And it's not as if I can entertain, because pandemic. Sigh.

I was very close to simply hiring the next door neighbour to do all of the above, it was a pain, but clearly sheer bloody-mindedness prevailed. I am triumphant. And also annoyed. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

people are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it

In an unprecedented move blindsiding everyone except anyone with a brain who's been watching Trump in the last four years, MAGA goons today attempted to occupy the Capitol, in order to disrupt Senate ratification of the election results in favour of Biden. Two things about this.

One: cruising through my various social media feeds today, I am struck afresh by how much we seem to be living in a clichéd and not very well written science fiction dystopia.

Two: the attempt to disrupt congress and force an electoral decision in Trump's favour appears to have been half-baked at best, conceptualised by idiots as an idiot gesture, and fizzled without achieving anything except unnecessary death and destruction, and to unnecessarily underline the extreme and terrifying fragility of American democracy as a system, and the depth and ferocity of the country's social divides. Which, frankly, could happen to anyone, nationally, and has been exemplified all over the globe in the last hundred years or so, see badly written sf dystopia, above.

But the pointless gun-toting posturing of the invaders is actually an irresistible parallel to the delightful video I actually wanted to post today, whose wantonly inept robots exemplify all of the above flailing futility with considerably more innocence and charm.

This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

that was definitely one of the years I've ever had

Trying to generate an Annual Scorecard for 2020 is really rather like surveying the shattered ruins and desecrated coastline where Great Cthulhu rampaged out of the ocean, and trying to award it points for formal landscape gardening. It feels both futile and hubristic. Which isn't going to stop me from doing it, because Tradition Must Be Observed, but if I'm carried off by nightgaunts tonight you'll know why.

It's not even as though 2020 has been, objectively, the worst year in my life: large tracts of its day-to-day have been placid, even pleasant, and I have some slightly epic bad stuff to which to compare it. I have survived, in the course of a life spent in a relatively small corner of southern Africa, one war, two regime changes, my parents' divorce, a home invasion, some unusually destructive romantic relationships, two graduate degrees, depression, injury, a DVT with pulmonary embolisms, two years of student protests, and the slow death by motor neurone disease of my incomeless father. I can't say that 2020 has been the worst year of my life, because (a) its manifest evils impacted me personally only at second hand, and (b) it's difficult to quantify across such disparate experiences, like the Professor Branestawm process of trying to do sums in apples and oranges and get the answer in lemon curd tarts. Both the protests and my dad's death were probably more savage in terms of actual psychological wear and tear on me personally.

But on a global scale 2020 has definitely been the most comprehensively befuckened, and has reshaped most dramatically the structure and tenor of my daily life. I was fortunate, in 2020, to have a guaranteed salary and the infrastructure to work at home, and to escape both COVID infection and the infection or death of anyone close to me. I am horribly, horribly conscious that huge numbers of others, both at home and globally, have been nothing like so lucky in either medical or financial terms: that kind of privilege is an empathic responsibility. It's also a testament to the clusterfuck that this year has been that America's BLM movement and increasing drift to a fascist state, and the UK's Brexit stupidities, have been eclipsed. In any other year they would be the top of everyone's worry list, not a couple of items down in a plethora of ills.

Things achieved by me in 2020: Survival with health and sanity more or less intact, which is in itself a commendable achievement under the circumstances. Sufficient self-discipline to be very, very careful and aware of COVID precautions. The successful and relatively painless translation of major faculty admin processes into remote formats. An ordered and increasingly comfortable home (being at home 24/7 is really good for noticing and remedying minor home decorating deficiencies, who knew?). Considerably advanced strategies in surviving endless Teams meeting while keeping the swearing and screaming firmly on mute.

Things not achieved by me: A new job, shaking the dust of the country off my booted feet, global political optimism. Since the epidemic kiboshed all of the above fairly comprehensively there isn't really much I could do about it, so I propose not, for once, to feel guilty.

Losses: respect for the US and UK's political systems; any desire to live in either. 1.8 million COVID deaths, which is staggering enough to be faintly unreal. It will only get worse.

Things discovered by me in 2020: mask-construction, mask-wearing, hand sanitiser, working from home, Teams, Zoom and their horrible ilk, robot vacuums, white chocolate in lemon cheesecake, The Amazing Devil, console ownership, Becky Chambers, Vitamin D, The Witcher in both book and game form and the inevitable fanfic (was that all only this year? good lord), even higher than the usual levels of apocalypse-anticipatory grocery hoarding, sharing memes with my niece (the Destiel meltdown was a gift), American and UK politics as a rather nastily tragicomic spectator sport.

Resolutions for 2021: remember to brush my teeth in the morning, working from home has screwed with my usual home-leaving routine and I keep forgetting. Any further commitment, resolution-wise, seems incautious. I am confidently expecting 2021 to be as much of a shitshow, if not more so, and it definitely will be COVID-wise; there's slightly more hope that the US political nastinesses will die down with sane incumbents in office, and with any luck the UK will break up so that sensible portions of it can rejoin the EU. However, I am not sanguine, and will therefore make no further resolutions other than to keep my head down, survive and remain healthy. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

so apparently I'm now a console gamer

This is my Christmas present to myself. Because it's been a hellyear from the nether pits of hell, and I have held impossible faculty processes together with my bare hands in the teeth of the odds, and have also managed to save slightly ridiculous amounts of money on account of not being able to leave the house ever, and I really, really want to play Zelda again. And it was delivered (once I could actually order it, after two frustrating months of unavailability of any Switch except the Fortnite branded one, spit) within 24 hours of ordering even under COVID and two days before Christmas, as apparently the SA Nintendo are wildly efficient, or at least really, really want to hook me into their console. Which is lovely, as I shall now spend Christmas in Hyrule, being cutely animated and pretending none of this is happening.

I have played Breath of the Wild already, I borrowed stv's console for a happy few weeks a couple of years back while he was embroiled in Playstation (because, unlike my pc-fondling self, he's a Real Console Gamer), but this is part of the appeal, which is also a feature of the 2020 hellscape: I cannot play or watch new media. (Or read new books, really: I am reading voraciously, but things I've already read, either fanfic or murder mysteries, currently all the AJ Ordes and half the Lilian Jackson Braun Cat Who series in the last week). I keep trying new films or games or TV, and bogging down in the weirdest sort of anxiety half an hour in because I'm all tense and panicky about what might happen next. It's particularly odd because anxiety is not my mental illness of choice, under normal circumstances I'm much more about depression. To these depths does COVID sink us. Also, I was very alert to the Borrowed Console thing while playing the first time, and didn't feel able to deprive stv of his rightful Switch for any longer than necessary, so didn't feel able to indulge to the fullest my usual playing style, which is glacially slow and completist and involves, in an open world setting, wandering happily around pursuing absolutely every possible side quest ever, however trivial, with small cries of satisfied glee.

I am on leave between Christmas and New Year, which is the maximum time I can take off given how much I still have to do. I have no plans for Christmas bar lunch with my sister and niece on Boxing Day, and propose to spend the time (a) not leaving the house (we have a spanky new COVID variant which is more virulent than the original and our numbers are spiking horribly, I predict more lockdowns), (b)de-beetling my house (AGAIN! they're back), and (c) playing Zelda. This suits me absolutely down to the ground. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

reconciled among the stars

Yesterday was a public holiday*. Owing to the featureless slide of pandemic days spent working from home, I had completely forgotten about this, so I staggered out of bed at a quarter to eight as usual, placated the cats, watered the garden, sat down at my desk and cleared my inbox before realising, an hour later, that I needn't be working, actually. Apparently the pandemic and attendant socio-cultural wossnames is capable of delivering pleasant surprises occasionally. Pleased, I spent the rest of the Day of Reconciliation peaceably slaughtering raiders and supermutants in Fallout, so at least I was on theme.

Other tiny silver linings to this year's horrible black clouds: working from home means I am actively and somewhat more effectually druiding than usual. The giant granadilla vine in the big box died a few months back, which I honestly don't think was me, the neighbour's spirited attempt at Audrey II died at the same time, so I am darkly suspecting a granadilla-fancying disease. Possibly COVID. In the spirit of battening down the hatches in an apocalypse, I tried planting veggies again, which worked appallingly when I tried it when I first moved in here (I killed tomatoes! tomatoes are unkillable!), but which has seemed to benefit from the continuous attention. I now have broad beans, and spring onions, and fancy dark-leaved lettuce! One bean plant randomly died for some reason, I think something gnawed its feet off, I shall cautiously put a baby tomato into the gap and hope.

* Day of Reconciliation, which is, if you think about it, a bizarrely edgy and blood-soaked sort of commemoration, representing as it does two opposed military achievements: the Afrikaner victory over the Zulus at Blood River, and the founding of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the ANC's armed wing in the struggle years, and its subsequent campaign of bombings etc. Which didn't, I have to say, create nearly the body count of Blood River. I find the duality of the date to offer rather an odd notion of "reconciliation". More of a meaningful nod, with aggressive eye contact, from the new dispensation to the old. And ritualistically and slightly threateningly remembering war doesn't seem to me to be a good basis for peace, really.

My subject line is T S Eliot, weirdly, the one oddly rhythmic and rhyming bit in the middle of "Burnt Norton" which I've always loved, and around which I once wrote a largely unsuccessful science fiction story which was rejected, with a very nice note, by an sf magazine. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

I cry, why not, it's free

Well, that was illuminating. Yet another interminable university-level meeting. During which a higher-up notes in passing, as a frank, manly confession which does not at all suffice to compensate for the actual transgression, that if there is one area in which the upper management of our Cherished Institution has not really delivered adequately during the Current Crisis, it has been in communication, both to its students and its staff.

Armoured as I was by my microphone and camera both being off, the effrontery of this gratuitous understatement caused me to laugh out loud. Still laughing, I rolled my chair back from the desk and proceeded, to my own startlement, to degenerate into a sort of manic, bitter giggling which appeared to be entirely out of my voluntary control, and which persisted in an increasingly hyena-like manner until it rocketed into hysterical sobbing. All of which provided a fascinating counterpoint to the more-or-less irrelevant and pointless administrative wurbling as the meeting continued in the background.

I don't think I've every had full-blown hysterics before. It was illuminating. And surprisingly cathartic. And made me realise how precarious and misleading the calm, featureless nature of my working-from-home days must be, and how much my ongoing irritation with my Cherished Institution is actually quite profound. Under that surface, apparently, is lurking a buttload of stress and possible actual trauma. It's all very exhausting, and now I have a headache. The meeting having fumbled its way though circumlocution and repetition into something resembling an ending, I am now going to go and make consolatory and self-rewarding tiramisu. With berries, because I can.

On a happier note, this morning's 5.30am wake-up and happy two-hour lounge in bed with a cup of tea and two affecionate cats was enlivened by finishing Becky Chambers's The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which is an utterly charming space opera with nicely-realised alien races and an intensely millenial focus on found family, and which made me cry rather differently - the happy tears of response to a well-judged and ultimately uplifting emotional punch. I loved it, and have ordered all the available sequels. Do recommend. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

a million little nights and days go by

Student funding application deadline this week, which means my inbox has been flooded with last-minute students needing my advisor signature on their appeals, leading to such student gems as "Do I qualify for the course I want to add?" with no further details. My life is not made measurably better by the need to fire off frequent emails in the genre of "Which course, exactly, do you want to add?" and its ilk. I personally think my patience is commendable, the poor little buggers are all stressed to hell and I mostly manage to refrain from biting them.

Work continues to be infested with annoying dictates from On High, all sublimely detached from the realities of actual students or staff. The repetive nature of this is not contributing in any positive way to the rather alarmingly featureless nature of days spent working from home: one day is very like the next, each week is indistinguishable from the previous, time goes very fast and I genuinely lose track of what day it is. Friday today, apparently, which is nice. I could do with a weekend. The last one was either a month and a half ago or yesterday, one or the other.

The one interesting thing which has inserted some sort of change into the uniform parade of days is the realisation, a few weeks ago, that the city relaxed water restrictions at the start of November: all the dams are full, we are now allowed to water gardens before 9am or after 6pm with hand-held hoses. Presumably this means we're no longer obliged to restrict showers or put grey water into the loo, but it turns out that a few years of water-saving obsession will hardwire you quite effectively, thank you. I am still saving grey water, it feels deeply wrong not to. It's lovely to be able to wander around the container garden with a hose if I need to, the grey water has never been quite enough to cover it and I used to have to ration carefully and endure the poor plants being a bit thirsty in hot weather, but even if they're gasping I have to quite deliberately overcome the knee-jerk reluctance to turn on the tap. Which is terribly lawful good, and probably not a bad thing.

My subject line is, I realise, Magnetic Fields; the phrase has been wandering disconnectedly around my brain all day, without context or identity, and it's been driving me insane. More insane. 2020 is a good year for insanity. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

but what colour should it be?

Work is currently giving me strong and recurrent desires to run in tight circles, screaming and tearing my hair out. The only saving grace of interminable, tedious Teams and Zoom meetings (I had eight last week. EIGHT!) is that I can, when the level of fuckwittery reaches critical, double-check that I'm on mute and rocket into the garden in order to soothe my soul a bit by petting kitties, talking to the spring-burgeoned plant life, or, in extreme cases, pacing up and down swearing creatively and shaking my fists. One of these days I'm going to forget the mute-check and whichever meeting it is will be electrified by various iterations of "fucking x and fucking y and why the fucking fuck they can't just fucking z" from my general direction, muffled in the distance amid the plaintive meepings of cats.

A university is not an efficient thing, god wot. It's a giant bureaucracy existing perpetually in the middle of an extremely turgid identity crisis, with its competing "selling a thing" and "testing the competence of a thing" goals being, at times, mutually exclusive. Students are, somewhat complicatedly, both a client and a product, which is why the default state of university administrators of any persuasion is "borderline insane". At the best of times the modern university lumbers around like an unamiable academic dinosaur, trampling its own student clutches and being shrewdly stung at intervals by managerial wasps: managerialism, and the increasingly sublime disconnect between upper leadership and the mere peons labouring at the actual student coalface, has done horrible things to our functioning. In the particular case of my Cherished Institution this manifests as recursive, self-replicating committees which bumble blindly about in something like a Dickensian Chancery fog, wherein actual measurable achievement is obscured almost completely by confused and conflicting management dictates, administrative intractability, membership bloat, and descent into the default tragic academic hubris, viz. addiction to the sound of one's own voice.

Add to that a giant world-threatening epidemic and the need to translate, at short notice, absolutely all of our firmly in-person processes to the virtual, and it becomes almost impossible. Balancing the competing needs of COVID safety, academic quality assurance, student sanity and university solvency is not a realistic goal in a reality with the normal number of dimensions. Everyone is stressed, tired and panicking; the institution has always worked in very distinct faculty silos, so the challenges of each faculty are different, and apparently all of the attempts to resolve wildly differing problems have to be debated at length, with appropriate woe.

The response to difficult problems appears to be to throw more people at them. This means that almost every meeting has new members, who will infallibly derail procedures by revisiting and rehashing issues we actually dealt with weeks ago. I swear six out of last week's eight meetings spent four-fifths of their time solemnly reinventing the wheel, arguing about its colour, entering caveats about how many we needed on any given vehicle, and eventually discovering, with innocent surprise, the same thing that we realised last week, and the week before, and the one before that: that the reason why we can't reach agreement is because Humanities has a unicycle and Law is a sixteen-wheeler, and you can't treat either of them the same way you do Commerce's sexy sports car with its regulation four. The whole is complicated by the occasional infusion of directives from the managerial godly bods up on wasp Olympus, who have vaguely heard of this "wheel" concept and have decided there should be five and a half of them and they need to be triangular. And purple.

My second, well-developed coping mechanism, after the "run in circles in the garden, screaming" one, is to remain very quiet in meetings, and to placidly continue to develop the orientation and registration programmes I think will probably work best, ignoring all dictates from on high, and occasionally nicking good ideas from more sane colleagues. At infrequent intervals I erupt into the meeting with barely-restrained ire, delivering a few pithy sentences to point out exactly how (a) this is irrelevant, and (b) it was also irrelevant last week, when we beat it to death. I am collecting those happy little yellow Teams upvote thumbs as a faintly reassuring reminder that I am not, in fact, alone in the frustration.

But I have never been so tired. Apart from the futility and exhaustion of these meetings, they're lengthy and time-consuming and cut into the limited time I have to actually do all this real work. Aargh, is all I can say. Aargh. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.
South Park Self

various flavours of yay. Also, can(n)on.

Serious kudos to any Americans likely to be reading this, for having ejected the Orange Menace handily by democratic processes in the teeth of despair, distraction, astonishingly egregious voter suppression, media manipulation, a no doubt by this stage burning desire to rather eject him into the heart of the sun by cannon, and the determination of a resolutely blinkered subset of your population to cling to said Orange Menace in the teeth of corruption, racism, sexism, anti-intellectualism and the wanton and unnecessary deaths of in excess of 230 000 people. Also, to bring in the orange-ejecting election result in the teeth of an entirely lateral and unexpected broadside from the Supernatural fandom meltdown, which has catapulted Destiel to heights of trending despite the urgency of the election news. It's been a bloody bizarre week, is all I can say. Were I to have grandchildren, they'd never believe it. But it's deeply satisfying, that the best efforts of the bloody Republican corruption machine couldn't actually torpedo the election results. Y'all reasonable Americans have worked so hard, and the world is so grateful.

Can I also just say? Four Seasons Total Landscaping. It's an entirely symbolic and deliciously schadenfreude-laden ending to this whole sorry mess. Yes indeed does the Orange Menace exist, futilely and incompetently, between the sex shop and the crematorium. Snerk.

In other, unrelated yay-news, I have prevailed over the labyrinthine twistings of French banking websites! I spent twenty minutes on the phone last week with an utterly delightful French helpline lady whose English was, it transpired, only somewhat better than my French, which means we negotiated the conversation haltingly and bilingually, with much recourse to slightly frangled self-translation as things became utterly bogged down. The eventual upshot was that she couldn't help me with the account access issue, that needed to go through a different helpline, but she could undertake not to close my account while she sent me forms through the post so I could submit the necessary documentation.

I boggled a bit at doing technical cellphone access queries in French through another helpline, and made one last-ditch attempt at a web form, and the third version I found actually worked! a nice techie person has just sent me a charming email to say they have eradicated the extraneous zero in the phone number I originally uploaded, which I could swear I didn't actually insert myself, I have no idea where the system unearthed it, and it now dutifully sends me French SMSes in South Africa. This means I can access the account (it works!) and have now uploaded all the necessary documents, thereby rendering entirely futile both the desperate conversation with the lovely helpline lady, and all her forms.

But it's ok. I exist again, and have proven my existence in the nick of time, and in the teeth of language difficulties. I am exhausted, bloodied but unbowed. As is, I think, America. I'll take it. This entry has been crossposted from my Dreamwidth blog at The comment action is all over there, and supports OpenID.