South Park Self

desires and dreams and powers, and everything but sleep

Very tired from the week, but I made my orientation leaders chocolate chip cookies, and they gave me sunflowers, so I think on the whole we probably negotiated the interpersonal relationship aspect of the orientation period fairly successfully. I'm a total zombie, though. Am playing Deus Ex and swearing a lot when I have to sneak around. I hate sneaking.

I have also, in between shouting at the screen during Smallville (predictable villains! I have seen all the "plot" "twists" in the last half dozen episodes coming a mile away), actually done some actual reading in the last week. Book club books, even. To distact me from registration woes. It ended up as an extremely bizarre selection that should probably be giving me mental whiplash, to whit:

1. Robert J. Sawyer, Wake. One of those beautifully elegant confluences of ideas which manages to make the Great Firewall of China, a blind internet geek, and apes communicating via Skype all perfectly logical and inevitable contributing factors to the development of AI. Conceptually I loved it. In terms of actual reading experience it drove me bats - Sawyer is in the "workmanlike" rather than "scintillating" prose category, and I don't think he quite pulled off the teen female voice. Even worse, the AI voice didn't work at all for me. I have no idea what a developing machine intelligence's thoughts would be like, but that wasn't it. Also, I do like some scintillation with my prose.

2. Kathy Reichs, Virals. YA sort-of-werewolf thriller. I ploughed through this like a rubber snowplough through syrup snow; its writing style is in the Dan Brown "incompetent mutated journalese" category, all sentence fragments and synonomous repetitions of ideas put into their own splendid isolation in a paragraph for added punch. The plot moves with glacial slowness and telegraphs its reveals well ahead; while it's an interesting concept and I rather liked the teen protagonists, it also suffers from unlikely villains and a perfectly disconnected and inexplicable teen debutante plot crowbarred into the middle of the thrillery shenanigans. I read it to the end more in stubborn disbelief than anything else. And for the cute wolfdog.

3. Elizabeth von Arnim, One Enchanted April. Possibly the original "life-changing foreign holiday for unhappy women" book. I loved how it was written - both pithy and inconsequential, and the characters extremely well-observed, compelling even when they weren't likeable. The plot does that sort of happy ending that works only because everyone's basically misunderstanding each other, but it's satisfying nonetheless. Recommended for lovers of period drama, awakenings and gardens.

4. Douglas Coupland, Generation A. Douglas Coupland is quite possibly certifiably insane. I honestly wouldn't have believed you could make a coherent narrative out of the death of bee populations, corporate drug plots, post-Freudian narcissistic individualism and cathartic storytelling in the interests of brain chemistry, but by gum he pulled it off. The different voices really worked for me in anchoring the weird conceptual stuff. Also, I think we need to be very worried about the death of bees.

Next up, the first volume of Superman comics, and Zamyatin's We. Now I am going to crash, because gosh wow I'm tired. My voice has dropped about an octave. It's usually a bad sign. 'Night.
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There's a rather charming film of Enchanted April. Just... sweet, and everything you say about the book applies. (I frankly can't remember if I've read the actual book. I know it has crossed my path, I think I picked up a pretty copy in a secondhand shop at some point but may have let it go on moving somewhere without actually reading it. But I think I did read it. But only really remember the film.) I think Miranda Richardson was the Downtrodden Madonna.
I loved the von Arnim. I found the character depictions to have a Jane Austin touch about them. A few pen strokes delightfully encapsulating a vivid character.

I did NOT think Douglas Coupland succeeded with Generation A. He had an idea fat with whimsy and sat down to write it too soon. It is full of holes. But yes, we should worry about bees. I recall that the thing which was killing bees was found - a combo of a virus and a um, a mould? Something like that.
You know me, I'm generally all about the tightly-controlled narrative, but actually I think Coupland gets away with the fragmentation. It works for me because his focus is contemporary society and everything that's sprawling, multivalent and incomprehensible about it - the all-over-the-placeness of the story is itself a commentary on the world he's describing, which is massive and complex enough that it can't be described. For me it wouldn't work if it was neat and comprehensible and finished, because absolutely nothing about contemporary life is neat or comprehensible or finished. If that makes any sense?
Yes, it makes sense, but it's not the fragmentation which bothered me. Frankly, I thought his ideas were Stupid. Is one allowed to say that about Coupland? :O
Well, I'd have to agree that they're certainly not realistic or particularly coherent. They just worked for me for what they are - emblematically rather than literally.
Bees and frogs
Yes. We should be very very worried about the bees. Also the amphibians. A third of our food relies on bees, and bee numbers are still dropping alarmingly. No single cause has been isolated, although apparently high levels of various toxins have been found in bees. (http://tinyurl.com/yflh3fv)

Frogs and general amphibians are also an indicator species. One thing that always makes me super-happy is that I have, for the last 8 years, always aquired frogs in my garden. I only use organic pesticides, and sparingly, so I know, when I hear the frogs, that I'm making a nice, healthy mini-environment.
Re: Bees and frogs
I really, really want a bigger garden :(. I don't use any insecticides and leave the herb flowers for the bees, and I have reasonable amounts of things like ladybirds and praying mantises and birds - and, FSM knows, greenfly and aphids and what have you - but it doesn't feel like enough. Would love to have frogs.
Re: Bees and frogs
We have the occasional random frog in our kitchen courtyard. I would consider our kitchen courtyard not very inviting, but I suppose it is dank...
Re: Bees and frogs
We have a leopard toad in our front garden. I'm inordinately chuffed as they're quite endangered now. I think it helps that we leave the garden quite overgrown.