alexxkay: (Default)

I had hoped to get back to “Round the Bend” by now, but have instead been obsessively annotating The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Tempest.  (Plus, of course, the usual integration of useful comments on the various projects.)  While my fellow Tempest annotators have been making invaluable contributions, I have a combination of OCD and skilled google-fu that has let me add a lot to all the issues so far. I’ve finished my first pass on all four issues so far, but am in the midst of doing some follow-up to clean up remaining typos and whatnot. Some highlights from the notes: <cut>

  • Issue #2, page 7, panel 5: First appearance of the Pink Child. She is from Marco Denevi’s short story “La niña rosa”, in his anthology Falsificaciones (1966), though as that book doesn’t seem to have been translated into English, it seems likely that Moore got her story from the “Pink Palace” entry in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (which seems to be largely a verbatim translation of Denevi’s story). The Dictionary was a major source for The New Traveller’s Almanac, where the Pink Child was first mentioned by Moore, in what seems like a good summary of her story:
    …within the south-most reaches of Peru, stands a solitary Pink Palace that may once have been a part of Gunda, but which stands in much better repair than Gunda’s palaces, and which is still inhabited. Herein lives the Pink Child, an ageless and perfectly beautiful girl (possessing neither knees nor elbows, since these body parts are less than beautiful), who spends her days amidst exquisite loveliness and whose sole utterance is said to be “I pray thee, do not rise.” Although she has once travelled widely, witnessing the filth and squalor of the world, this has not ruffled her deportment or serene refinement, and she still draws swans with one pink fingertip upon the scented air of the Pink Palace, murmuring, “I pray thee, do not rise.”
    (Note that, as described, she is drawn without elbows or knees.) The Almanac does not elaborate on when the data on the Pink Palace was collected, but as Mina and Orlando recognize the Pink Child here, it seems likely that it was during their early 20th century travels, suggesting that the Pink Child is unaging. The Pink Child also had a brief cameo in the Blazing World section at the end of  Black Dossier (P187p1-2). In Nemo: River of Ghosts, it was established that Hugo Coghlan has (at least mostly) been working for the Pink Child since fighting Danner (seen on pages 2-3 of this issue, set in 1919). Theis would seem to imply that since N:RoG (set in 1975), Coghlan has been employed by both the Nemo family and the Pink Child, and that the Pink Child has moved to Lincoln Island, possibly to help facilitate this arrangement.
    • In “La niña rosa”, while her only directly-reported speech is two instances of “I pray thee, do not rise,” the story does say that one of the things she habitually does is to “recite in French La cigale et la fourmi” (the fable of the grasshopper and the ant). Hence, Moore’s claim of her having a “sole utterance” is a change from the source material.
  • Issue #3, page 7, panel 2: “Didn’t get bitten…” – These are the opening words to “Immortal Love” by “Eddie Enrico and his Hawaiian Hotshots”, which was intended to be included as a record with Black Dossier (but never actually was). A limited printing of the record eventually surfaced, and is linked above. As published, “Immortal Love” was not included, but was referred to on pages 155 and 157 of Black Dossier. The song is definitely about the love between Allan and Mina, and it’s even likely that “Eddie Enrico” is an alias for Allan himself.
  • Issue #3, page 30, panel 2: “The Unknown” […] refers to a supernatural realm frequently seen in ACG comic books, including Moore’s beloved Herbie. Moore describes it in Jerusalem as follows:
    […] ACG’s distinctive green-tinged afterlife. This occult region, carpeted in limeade-coloured clouds, is a Rod Serling version of Eternity that features intermittently across the outfit’s other books and is referred to as “The Unknown” on what looks like a hand-painted sign in its cumulus-strewn reception area. The place is an abode of sheet-clad ghosts, trolls, leprechauns and monsters cribbed from Universal Studios’ back catalogue, along with wingless, robed custodians who seem like biliously-hued Frank Capra angels, tubby and avuncular.
  • Issue #4, page 18, panel 3: The prismatic controls of the surveillance system are quite at odds with what we saw earlier this issue. On page 11, the (cartoonish) tech could be out of the 1950s. On page 14, it appears to be 1980s vintage. Here, the technology is positively futuristic. This would seem to correlate with an increased degree of "realism", and an increase in the (apparent) age of the target audience across the three scenes.
  • Issue #4, page 25: Unlike most other episodes of Seven Stars, this episode has very few references to British comics, and lots of references to American comics. Perhaps this is due to the way that, when Moore and O’Neill were growing up, comic books from America seemed otherworldly. As Moore says in The Mindscape of Alan Moore:
    …when I was seven, I picked up my very first American comics. These were bright, garish four-colour things, that rather than taking place against some anonymous Northern British backdrop, took place in cities like New York, which to me were as exotic as Mars.</cut>

Hopefully I’ll get back to “Round the Bend” next time, but quite possibly not, since the penultimate issues of both LoEG and Cinema Purgatorio are due to drop tomorrow…

alexxkay: (Default)
Since died, I discovered that there was no longer any easy way to read this marvelous twitter thread online. Luckily, my wife kept a transcript I sent her, which I now share with the world.

Seanan's Epic Owl AdventureRead more... )
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I just finished reading the series collectively titled The Memoirs of Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan. For some of you, the briefest review I can give it is that it is not as good as The Steerswoman series, but it IS worthy of comparison with. And it has one signal advantage, in that it is actually complete, and a satisfying conclusion at that.

Those who like a hard line between their fantasy and their science-fiction will be annoyed by this one also. While this series is deeply invested in the concept of dragons, it’s from the point of view of a scientist investigating, as the title of the first book puts it, Natural History of Dragons.

The setting is a world which is in many ways similar to our own, but which absolutely isn’t, what with the dragons and all. It does, however, bear a striking resemblance, politically and culturally, to our world in the late 1800s. Indeed, the DNA of the book contains noticeable amounts of Regency romance (though romance takes a decided backseat to scientific investigation). The names and the specific details of the countries are all different, but it’s pretty easy to recognize not-England, not-Russia, not-China, etc.

Our protagonist is, at the beginning of the series, a young woman struggling hard against a culture in which feminism is just barely beginning to be a thing. The pain of her struggles is lessened (at least for this reader) by the fact that they are narrated from the position of being an old and powerful peer of the realm. It does take her a lot of decades to get from point A to point B of course, with many entertaining adventures on the way.

Each book is a discrete narrative unit with a satisfying conclusion, though elements of arc are visible pretty early on. Do read them in order if you can, though, especially the last few, as each builds upon the discoveries of the previous volumes. There are five books in all, plus a short story that appeared on that can be read without significant spoilers.

Highly recommended.
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I’ve had a really interesting half year. I can put together a coherent narrative now, though it was confusing and distressing going through it.

Late last summer, I started experimenting with a thing that Kestrell does all the time: listening to an audiobook while going to sleep. (Only listening to books I knew well already, so that I didn’t get confused when they suddenly seem to skip ahead several chapters…) This was designed to accomplish two goals. First, to avoid the behavior where “I’m bored; I’m gonna get up and do something.” Secondly, to avoid what my therapist refers to as “rumination”, lying in bed worrying about things that you can’t do anything about.

At first, this went great. I adjusted to it quickly, and it accomplished both goals extremely well. And it had some mildly interesting neurological side effects. Sometimes the book would bleed over into my dreams. Sometimes I would wake up, but my ability to parse spoken language was still turned off, so it was several seconds until I was able to actually hear the still-playing audiobook. The phone app that (crudely) monitors my sleep patterns show that there were definite differences, but everything seemed to be going swimmingly.

Around November, I started entering a significant depressive episode. During therapy, I realized that I seem to be missing a sense of validation. My initial reaction was, “Maybe I should just ask for some?” I went on to the Alan Moore Scholars group and told them that I was depressed and could use some encouragement. There was a significant outpouring of appreciation for my work, which was great on one level. But… I didn’t actually feel any better afterwards.

Christmas was rough, really rough. I am subject to chronic (and hereditary) seasonal depression, but it was much worse this year. I was just seized with self-loathing through the whole holiday season. This despite several events which even in my depressed state I could tell were on objective proofs of my having value. I just couldn’t FEEL that.

In early January, I had a therapy session with several breakthrough events. Firstly, I identified that “The part of my brain that is able to accept validation is just BROKEN.” Possible breakthrough number two was moving on from that to “Maybe I should give antidepressants another try?” (I am, but it’s still early days to be saying whether or not that is helping.) Most significantly, however, I gave some thought as to how or why this should be happening and suddenly noticed a possible correlation with the whole audiobook/sleep thing. Could this new brain malfunction actually be a side effect of messing with my sleep process over a period of months?

So I stopped listening to audiobooks while sleeping, and within DAYS my ability to receive validation came back! I’ve been feeling MUCH better about myself, and about life in general. This has led to a certain amount of overwork, and hence aggravation of my chronic pain. But I feel good enough emotionally that I am totally willing to take that hit physically.

So, that’s the state of the Alexx. Shared both because many of you care about my state, and because brains are complex and interesting.
alexxkay: (Default)

Productivity continues, after some loss of time due to seasonal depression. Less than last year, at least…

  • Helped annotate Cinema Purgatorio #16, dealing with the life and death of George Reeves, TV’s Superman. Naturally, Moore has strong feelings about the corporate exploitation of this classic character.
  • Annotated about half of section 11 of “Round the Bend”, Audrey Vernall, in which Lucia meets one of the central (if elusive) characters of Jerusalem, Alma’s cousin Audrey. I wonder if Moore was feeling depressed when he worked on this section. Within the space a few sentences, I found the words “inkwaste” (inquest / waste of ink) and “boregaim” (bargain / bore (Neil) Gaiman). Didn’t finish this, however, due to the big news:
  • Jess Nevins having too much paying work to annotate League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Tempest, I am part of a team that is now (with his blessing) working on this project. I worked up issue #1, based on Jess’ notes, but adding lots more, and am busily helping out on issues 2-4.
  • The usual integration of useful comments on the various projects.
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It being the season for such things, I want to say thank you to all of my Patrons. It may not seem like much money, but on my near-zero income, it makes a significant difference. More than just the money itself, the validation that comes with the fact of your support is a big help in dealing with my chronic depression.

Been a bit slower lately, but still got things done:
• Annotated section 9 of “Round the Bend”, The Nene Hag, in which Lucia meets the Nene Hag, who inspires some unwelcome reflection on the similarities between the monster and Lucia.
• Annotated Section 10 of “Round the Bend”, Cemetery, in which Lucia visits the cemetery where she is buried, and socializes with a lady assassin.
• The usual integration of useful comments on the various projects.
• No new issue of Cinema Purgatorio has come out lately, but that’s not my fault :-)
alexxkay: (Default)
I am seeking person(s) underemployed, who (unlike me) has the available spoons to sell things on eBay on commission. I have many boxes of surplus Stuff (mostly books) that I want to get rid of. I have given away a lot, and have thrown out a lot, but there’s a considerable remainder that seems like it might be worth something. I’d like these things to go to a good home, and possibly even make some money on the side.

I offer the following terms:
* You keep 2/3 of the profits.
* If you want to keep any particular items you find, feel free.
* If there are particular things that you are reasonably sure won’t sell, you don’t need to bother. Ideally, donate such things to a library or bookstore, but if that’s problematic, they can be thrown out. (On no account is any of the Stuff to come back to *me*!)
* Start with a few boxes, to see if you can do this, and if it ends up being worthwhile. If it works out, I have lots more boxes...

This offer open to pretty much anyone I know, or who is vouched for by someone I trust.
alexxkay: (Default)
First things first: despite the “based on” this is NOT Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. It has some substantial quotations from Jackson’s text, and considerably more paraphrases and echoes. Nonetheless, the plot, characters, and even tone are all significantly different. While this TV show is undeniably inspired by Jackson’s novel, it is not an “adaptation” in the normal sense.

Despite that, Writer/director Mike Flanagan has yet to make an unsuccessful story. This is the first time he’s made anything of this length (10 episodes of about an hour each), and you might worry for the first few episodes that the pacing was too slow. It is a slow build, but a steady one, as he puts all his pieces in place, including many that you don’t realize were there until hours later. By the midpoint, there were no more complaints about pacing. If anything, some sequences bordered on the too intense.

The show is an ensemble piece. There are seven main characters and many more supporting. Pleasantly, even most of the small parts get their moment in the spotlight. While Flanagan is certainly capable of bravura, show-off direction (one episode features some astoundingly long takes), he’s also fond of giving characters significant monologues where he simply puts the camera in front of them and lets them act. One of them in particular struck both Kestrell and I as the equivalent of Quint’s speech from Jaws; it came out of nowhere and just completely transformed the tone and raised the stakes.

The one thing that I would say is completely shared between the novel and the show is that they both posit a world which definitely contains scary, unexplained supernatural things – but in which the supernatural is not remotely as terrifying as the experience of lonely human beings attempting to connect with one another (and all too often failing). Many of the most harrowing scenes contain little or no supernatural element, just human dynamics taken to extremes.

I admit that I felt conflicted about the final 20 minutes. A surprising (to me) number of the characters got happy endings, to an extent that I don’t feel was quite earned. But that’s not going to stop me from watching it again (after some recovery time). I wholeheartedly recommend this show to the discriminating horror fan, or for fans of highly emotional drama.
alexxkay: (Default)

Productivity continues. The last update saw me past the halfway point of RtB, and I’m now close to the 2/3 mark!


Jul. 26th, 2018 08:10 pm
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It was only dusk, not yet full dark, so when I heard more odd noises outside the kitchen window, I peeked out. Raccoons! At least five of them! Presumably, this is the same family I overheard about a week ago. They weren't as talkative this time, but what vocalizations they did make sounded the same. They didn't *smell* the same, but it may be that one of them had recently had an argument with a skunk upon the previous occasion.
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I went down for a meal around midnight (as I often do), and found... visitors outside the kitchen window in the darkness. Quite noisy visitors, both in terms of rustling around through the foliage, and in terms of vocalizing. At least, I presume they were plural, as most single critters out at night aren’t so vocal. There were several different varieties of sounds, none of them quite familiar: chittering, cooing, and, once, a sort of bark/scream. I tried to record them, but didn’t get anything very audible. There was also a very strong musky smell. It didn’t smell like angry skunk, but a skunk family is certainly one of the possibilities. Others that have at times been evidenced in this neighborhood are raccoons and opossum.

(goes to youtube for animal noise videos…) Probably skunk, maybe raccoon, definitely NOT opossum.
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Tim's Vermeer is a movie which every SCAdian I know should see, even though it has, ostensibly, nothing to do with the SCA. But it *does* have to do with that great SCAdian pastime, Experimental Archeology, the practice of trying to understand what people did in the past by trying to do what they did, and seeing what happened.

The film is directed by Teller, and produced and narrated by Penn Jillette, but it is not at all focusing on either of them. Rather, it focuses on a wacky inventor friend of theirs named Tim Jenison. Tim invented a lot of important computer/video technology, so now has money and leisure time available to spend on more abstruse projects. Such as figuring out how to paint something as good as Johannes Vermeer, using 17th century optical technology, despite not having any training as a painter (or any of the dozen other professions he needs in order to reproduce the 17th-century room he then wants to paint).

Spoiler alert: he succeeds. Tim makes a startlingly convincing case that Vermeer essentially invented a form of photography using paint and optics. Which is not to take away any of Vermeer’s credit in artistic composition or craftsmanship. One of the points that the film makes is that our modern antipathy between Art and Technology is very much a modern thing, and not a divide that existed much in the past.

Along the way there are many interesting discoveries, and discussions about the nature of Art. Highly Recommended.
alexxkay: (Default)

Been fairly productive of late:

  • Helped annotate Cinema Purgatorio #14, focusing on the life and films of Tod Browning, most notably the beautifully odd “Freaks”. Kevin O’Neill used a *lot* of reference for this episode, much of which is pictured in the notes.
  • Annotated Section 5 of “Round the Bend”, J. K. Stephen, wherein Lucia meets a minor Victorian poet and Jack-the-Ripper suspect. Naturally, Moore revels in the chance to re-use all his From Hell research. My most significant finding was probably the true history of the “Kaphoozelum” rhyme that features throughout Jerusalem – which, contrary to Moore’s suggestions, has nearly nothing to do with Stephen!
  • Annotated Section 6 of “Round the Bend”, Ogden Whitney, wherein Lucia meets the artist behind Herbie Popnecker, the Fat Fury! This section was super-enjoyable to work on, as I have long been a fan of Herbie, and got to put in lots of silly illustrations.
alexxkay: (strawberry patch)
One of the things I value the most is Truth. In service to that principle, one of the personal qualities I value most is the ability to admit error. As a male raised in a Western patriarchal society, it is a constant struggle for me to do so, but I’m working on it.

There is something that I have claimed on many many occasions to many different people. And it was so utterly incorrect. It’s past due for a public acknowledgment.

Often, in years past, when I would feed people fresh strawberries from the Melville Keep garden, they would ask me “How hard is it to grow strawberries?” I would invariably answer with some variant of “Not hard at all!” As it turns out, I was speaking from a position of unconscious privilege and was wrong in every important respect.

Now, I KNEW we paid a gardener to come in and do some amount of work. But I figured that the bulk of her work must’ve involved the decorative flowerbeds on the borders of the garden. I knew she did things with the goal of encouraging the strawberries to grow, but that seemed almost redundant, given how much I observed them growing enthusiastically on their own. And, yes, she weeded; but I weeded too, in the midst of my harvesting.

All that was years ago, when the household budget was less strained. Times have gradually gotten tougher, and it’s been several years since we had a gardener. Over this time span, I have spent more of my time and effort on gardening tasks, only to watch entropy gain steadily and inexorably upon my efforts. You may have noticed that it’s been a long time since anyone here said “Please come and pick our strawberries; there are too many for us to eat.” Indeed, the crop has been steadily shrinking in both number and duration, and is now well below the level which I would like to eat all by myself.

Growing strawberries is HARD. Gardening is HARD. I apologize for ever being so foolish as to believe and say otherwise.
alexxkay: (Default)

Man, it has been a long time since I’ve updated. It was a bad winter for me, in terms of both physical and mental health. But I have started producing again.

As predicted last time, I did, by mid-December, complete:

  • section 3 of “Round the Bend”, in which Lucia Joyce meets John Clare for some hot and filthy literary sex.
  • Updating the Dragaera Timeline with information on Vallista. I do feel the need to say “Fuck time travel!” Still, I did manage to arrive at a set of interpretations that only accuse the author of one out-and-out error, so I feel well-accomplished.

New things completed:

  • Helped annotate Cinema Purgatorio #13, with looks at English comedian Arthur Lucan and his delightful character Old Mother Riley (though Joe Linton did most of the heavy lifting on this one).
  • Completed section 4 of “Round the Bend”, Chaplin films and dark days, which is an interlude in which Lucia considers how the nature of time is like a Charlie Chaplin film, and the vicissitudes of her own life during the 1920s and 1930s. Since last time, I have acquired and read Carol Loeb Shloss’ biography of Lucia Joyce (which I believe was Moore’s major source as well), so I have been able to make much more informed commentary about the biographical details versus Moore’s inventions. I’ve also started a new formatting convention, where I am putting the “most significant” annotations in boldface for those who want to just browse the highlights.
alexxkay: (Default)

I have recently become mildly obsessed with the YouTube channel of Dr. Jackson Crawford, a scholar who for the last couple years has been spreading knowledge of Old Norse mythology and culture in brief, informative mini-lecture videos. There’s videos on sources, specific myths, topics of general interest, and language and pronunciation. The videos link to each other, and to other sources, forming a massive hypertext corpus in bite-size chunks.  Crawford is an engaging speaker, and (essential to any good scholar) is willing to correct his mistakes, and to admit when he doesn’t actually know something.

 He also has a good sense of humor, and is clearly engaged with 21st Century culture. I was particularly tickled by the video Canon, "Fanon," and Variation in Norse Myth. He also refers to some later sources as “Medieval fanfic” of earlier ones. Indeed, his first go-round with internet-fame was back in 2010, when he wrote Tattúínárdǿla saga, a mock-scholarly work about the Icelandic  sagas that George Lucas based Star Wars upon. More recently, he’s recorder a couple versions of The Cowboy Hávamál, the classic Norse work of advice on life, translated into the idiom of a cowboy in the American West.

 Whether you’re new to Norse Myth, or want a deep dive into details, he’s got a lot worth seeing. Very Highly Recommended.

 (I miss Kali…)

alexxkay: (Default)
I just sent this to the WicDiv letters page, and thought it worth sharing with y'all. Spoilers for issue #33Read more... )

In other WicDiv news, one of Woden’s outbursts from a few issues back made her say “I want that on a T-shirt!” After a little discussion, we modified the quote slightly to say “I’m the scary Dark Arts Professor who scares the shit out of the Slytherin kids.” I spent a while working on a design, then went to one of the big online custom T-shirt makers to get one printed. And then tried a second one. To my disgust, all of them seem to have been intimidated by Rowling’s lawyers, and will not print a custom T-shirt that contains the word “Slytherin” (TM). I am disgruntled.
alexxkay: (Default)
While looking for Alan Moore videos, I ran into this talk *about* Watchmen by another favorite comics writer, Kieron Gillen.  He's not the best speaker, but his actual insights are great, including a few even I hadn't made.
alexxkay: (Default)
Al Ewing is a comics writer I started following a few years ago. He writes big, brash, silly superhero stories, but with a large amount of thought, symbolism, and subtext underneath the action. In Ultimates^2 #100, he presents a new metaphor that I think deserves to be spread far and wide:

The character speaking is Blue Marvel, a black scientific genius and superhero:
"Where fascism gets its name from--the Latin fascis, meaning bundle. Except a bundle of sticks is only strong when firmly held.
"Let it be, and it's just dead wood, rotting down. Most people take the wrong lesson from that. Strength is not a bundle of sticks.
"Strength is a tree. We're stronger when we can grow."

alexxkay: (Default)
The inimitable John M. Ford once said: “Every book is three books, after all; the one the writer intended, the one the reader expected, and the one that casts its shadow when the first two meet by moonlight.” Of course, the number is far larger than three, for EVERY individual reader has their own expectations and casts their own shadow across the work. Also of course, this is just as true of movies as it is of books.

Today, Kestrell and I each saw a movie that no one else will ever see.

Mindhorn is a fun, silly movie. It opens with a prologue in the 1980s, where actor Richard Thorncroft is starring in the hit TV series “Mindhorn”, playing a police man with a bionic eye that also functions as a lie detector. When the story jumps to the present day, however, we find that Richard hasn’t landed a decent role since. He is therefore thrilled to find that some actual police need his help in a way which he hopes will generate publicity. They have a lead in a murder case – but the suspect refuses to speak with anyone except Detective Mindhorn. Along the way, Richard reunites with several friends (and enemies) who he hasn’t seen in a quarter century. Needless to say, wackiness ensues, and before long Detective Mindhorn is actively investigating the case.

The script is decent, if rarely actually surprising. The actors are engaging and funny. I can recommend it as an amusing bit of fluff on those grounds.

But the movie which Kestrell and I saw was side-splittingly HILARIOUS for reasons which we did not anticipate. You see, it turns out that this suspect who will only speak to Detective Mindhorn demands to be referred to as “The Kestrel”. Which is often followed up by an utterance of “Ca-KAW!” It is quite common for us to take longer than the stated running time to watch a film because I frequently pause it to describe a detailed piece of visuals. It is less common that I have to pause to wait for one or both of us to stop helplessly giggling. Today, there was A LOT of pausing.

ETA: Kestrell's take.


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Alexx Kay

March 2019

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