Lo! from the desert homes

Hello, kiddies.

I live. Apparently.

What did I miss?


Readin’ and Watchin’ and Drinkin’

It seems like we haven’t had a book post in a while, dears. I certainly have a backlog of books to tell you about. First, however, some music to get you in the mood. How about the wonderful Wasting My Young Years, from London Grammar…

or perhaps TR|PW|RE, a lovely swirling, bouncy track by commenter nastybrutishntall.

I’ve just finished The Days of Anna Madrigal, by Armistead Maupin. This is the ninth book in Maupin’s Tales of the City series. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Mr Maupin’s tales, then this isn’t the book for you, and you should immediately hie yourself to a bookstore and begin at the beginning, where all good stories start, back with Mouse and Brian in the popper and dope-smoke fug of the sexy seventies. If you have been following along then, happily, The Days of Anna Madrigal is a triumph. Anna may be 92, but she still likes a toke and a dance (honestly, who thinks of these things?), and her swansong is a gentle, bittersweet trip into the past and present for Maupin’s finest creation.

I’m making my way through Greg Ross’ Futility Closet. Subtitled “An Idler’s Miscellany of Compendious Amusements”, this book is a joy, not least for its … well, compendious (and fully hyperlinked) index, a masterpiece of the form which contains such gems as:

cats
authoring papers, 67
befriending racehorses, 74
besetting airships, 19
denoting verbs, 140
governing Bombay, 187
piloting bowls, 216 …

dogs
dusty, 174
faithful, 102
marauding, 145
self-mailing, 42

Also well worth your time are Alastair Reynolds’ Blue Remembered Earth, a sprawling, operatic romp that rockets all over our solar system and beyond, and his Doctor Who novel, Harvest of Time, which brings Roger Delgado’s Master thrillingly back to life while (importantly) making sure the character is still just a tiny little bit crap.

If you like police procedurals and have a taste for ghosts and gods and monsters, then have a look at Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series. Aaronovich’s London is perfectly evoked, and his characters get down and very dirty in the tunnels that lie beneath that stinking shithole of a city. (Thanks Tom!)

If tentacles and forebodings of doom are more your thing, then I heartily recommend Innsmouth Magazine – a thrice yearly collection of Lovecraftian tales.

TV-wise, I confess that I have been making heavy use of my AppleTV to keep myself sane until Game of Thrones and Broadchurch return, mainly because Australian television is far worse than you can imagine – a heady mishmash of bogans cooking, yellow people having their luggage searched, footballers in blackface, and current affairs shows that make Murdering Joe look like Edward R. Murrow.

I particularly enjoyed Utopia. Starring, amongst others, James Fox, Stephen Rea and the luscious Geraldine James, Utopia tells the story of a group of geeks who discover a global conspiracy hidden in the pages of a lost graphic novel. It’s incredibly, graphically violent, and beautifully shot in vibrant reds and greens. Best of all, it pays off every story thread in six taut, tight episodes. See it before some American remakes it and sucks all the pleasure out of it.

phryne1

I love a bit of murder and a good frocking, and so I have been making my way through both Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and Ripper Street.

The first is an adaptation of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher mysteries that lovingly recreates Melbourne between the World Wars, with lashings and lashings of blood, handsome policemen, shameless (but tastefully shot) rumpy-pumpy and the most gorgeous costumes you’re likely to see anywhere. It’s the kind of thing for which the term “frippery” might well have been coined – a glittering jewel to behold.

Finally, Ripper Street. Set in Whitechapel in the aftermath of the Ripper murders, this series doesn’t flinch from the muck, poverty and corruption of Victorian London. Matthew Macfadyen is perfectly stoic as the head of a fine cast, but for my money it’s Jerome Flynn’s magnificent turn as the lovelorn bruiser Sergeant Drake that steals the show.

So, what else should we be reading and watching?


When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra…

I love words, despite the indignities I enforce upon them, so I relish a little bit of grammar geekery.

Geoffrey K. Pullum has a wonderfully nasty post up at Lingua Franca and a wonderfully wonky post up at Language Log, both discussing an article by Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri.

Petri piles on poor old Bill Keller (isn’t being married to Emma punishment enough for you jackals?), not only for being a concern troll and a horrible human being but, worse still, a blatant and premeditated user of “passive constructions” in his writing. As Petri puts it:

Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses.

Pullum wonders whether Petri might be getting her “passive” confused with her “obscured agency”, and details his analysis in the Language Log post. There are tables and numbered lists. It’s great fun.

Pullum also links to his tutorial essay which provides a “clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is” in English, and his forthcoming article Fear and Loathing of the English Passive (pdf):

No folk rhetorical property could yoke together this diverse array of constructions. What is going on is that people are simply tossing the term ‘passive’ around when they want to cast aspersions on pieces of writing that, for some ineffable reason, they don’t care for. They see a turn of phrase that strikes them as weak in some way, or lacks some sort of crispness or brightness that they cannot pin down, and they call it ‘passive’ without further thought. And such is the state of knowledge about grammar among the reading public that they get away with it.

If concealed passives dipped in a little bit of scorn are your thing, then that will keep you entertained for a while.

Meanwhile, in segues, music. Sunday is Australia Day, and one of Australia’s proudest traditions – besides pretending to have invented pavlova*; meat pies; footballers in tiny shorts; dispossessing indigenous peoples; and shipping coloured people back where they came from – is the Triple J Hottest 100. Voting on the best music releases for 2013 has ended, but if you feel like an Aussie weekend, tune in online at 12 noon Sunday Sydney time (Saturday evening for most of you).

You may have to crank up the thermostat and buy some Australian beer to get you in the mood. Think James Boag or Little Creatures. Please don’t buy Fosters, because it is watered-down mule piss.

Cheers, buckeroos. I’m off to bed, for there is to be much drinking today, so that we’ve got a headstart on Sunday. I’ll post a post at Balloon Juice at Hottest 100 kickoff time for anyone who wants to listen along.

ETA: * Edited for accuracy

EATA: Jesus, you’re going to turn me into Greenwald.

Petri probably was using the term “passive construction” in some rhetorical sense to mean “hiding behind the alleged views of others”, but that means she was being unclear, and exposing herself to the argument that she didn’t know what the term meant. I’m a writer who agonises over every word (and I still manage to fuck up half my posts). I try to use words in a way that avoids confusion, and Petri wasn’t doing that.

I agree, however, that that doesn’t mean she deserves to be called a nincompoop.


Weekend Music


Hot Japanese Dancing Girls


Music

Happy weekend, kiddies.

Some music for you, most of it linked to by punters at Balloon Juice in my music threads. Suffern ACE came up with Hurray For The Riff Raff, with Look Out Mama:

Wasabi gasp comes through again with Elliphant – Down On Life

Katarzyna Nosowska and Marek Dyjak’s Ognia!

and Kat Edmonson – <I don’t know

Notmax with Pearl Bailey doing Big Spender

Violet with  Salsa Celtica’s Yo mvoy

To finish off, my current earworm:

and the cure for almost every earworm. It even works on Celine Dion.


Saturday Night Music

Hello kiddies. Did you miss me?

I’ve been quite the jetsetter these last few months, and I regret that I have been neglecting you all. My psychologist, Doctor Manfredsen, says that my blogger fatigue is responding to treatment.

I’m currently holed up in a Moscow airport hotel with no wifi and cockroaches the size of fucking beagles. The blankets made crackling noises when I first sat down on them. Mind you, there’s lots of vodka and a cute night-manager with generous ideas about customer service. Life could be worse.

What are you listening to? Bonus points for gratuitous shirt off action.

(Last one via YellowJournalism)


Happier than a dog with three balls

Hello, dears. Just popping my head up above the water to say hello and bring you a quick dump and run of delights.

First, I’m popping out the oldies with Lenny Bernstein’s slick version of Exultate Jubilate. The recording is very Lenny – a big church filled bombastically to the formerets with an orchestra consisting of every single fucking person in Bavaria who can play an instrument (cute violinist alert at 5.04) and a deathly silent audience, stunned into submission by the music and the stark staring terror that they might cough and Lenny would gut them with his baton. However, Arleen Auger’s voice is lovely, and this recording is the one I hear in my head if I happen to think of Lenny. It was playing one night at one of his parties, and he was serving drinks and bopping around like he usually did when he got to hear his own performances, like a drunk bullfrog that has been connected to the mains, and at the height of one particularly spastic conniption he managed to tip an entire jug of margaritas over Nancy Reagan, so it always makes me laugh. The recording of the Great Mass in C minor that goes with this on CD is a cracker, by the way.

Next, following on from Cole’s mustard abduction, a charming little story by Theodore Sturgeon called “Yesterday Was Monday” which was pointed out by KBS, and which explains everything.

Random food blogness: Fat Yu, who apparently IS FAT YU! (and also a tiny little bit racist on the Japanese), but who writes otherwise entertainingly of his eating exploits around Shanghai.

If you like a bit of tentacle in your tale and can “Ïa! ïa! Shub niggurath!” with the best of them, you might enjoy Innsmouth Mazazine. I have been working my way through them very happily, even if they do give me odd dreams.

Last, and then I am off to bed in my upside-down down-under bed, I suggest you go and see the website of sculptor Thomas Doyle to see the coolest things ever.

Goodnight my dears. Sleep well and dream of Ted Cruz slowly slipping down a slavering and drool-bespattered maw. Ïa! ïa! Cthulhu fhtagn!


Late night music


I shall endeavour to propitiate you with gifts

Well kiddies, it has been a while. I plead temporary insanity – of our country, not of me.

Endless bleating that Hagel is the suxxors because he hates all Jews everywhere, or because he did and said some stupid shit in the 90s (I remember the 90s, and we all did and said and wore some pretty stupid shit in the 90s) or because he doesn’t have a big D bedazzled onto his vagina.

Endless threads derailed by people who think that the suicide of a gifted yet misguided young man is their opportunity to call him names and gloat hell-fire-and-damnation style about how he deserved to be punished, rather than an opportunity to ask whether punishment should be the sole purpose of our criminal legal system.

We (the blog and the country) seem descended upon by an army of gun nuts and open carry weirdos, wingnuts and no-nuts and just plain-ol’ nuts, godbotherers, trolls, self-appointed rape inspectors, racists and ranters and self-talkers, all bereft of empathy, compassion or good sense. Dickheads everywhere, and the screeching! Jesus.

Never mind. Presents!

First, to get you in the mood, some music:

Next, Wodehouse, always such balm to the soul. I’m linking to a story called Ruth In Exile – a lovely little snip of a thing which will more than repay fifteen minutes of your time. If you have never read beyond Jeeves, then there is a world of joy awaiting you in Wodehouse’s short stories. If you have never read Jeeves? Well, get the fuck away from me until you have. Weirdo.

Then, my obsession for the last weekend – last year’s competition papers from the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad. I do admit that lingusitics puzzles might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but they kept me thinking, or at least cheating and pretending I knew the answer all along, for a good number of hours.

Food – I am going to point you to this caraway seed cake recipe from Hugh Fffernly Whiffingstable in the Guardian. It’s ludicrously easy to make. I tend to leave out the mace, substitute candied peach or apricot for the candied orange peel, and then ice the whole thing with an icing made by stirring together 2 cups of icing sugar, some grated orange rind and a big spoonful of sour cream. It’s a lovely cake – soft but with some weight, a crunchy top and that glorious anise and citrus tang of the caraway.

Finally, if you haven’t read it already, the Kitten Setting in which Mr Scalzi tells us of his inspired manner of dealing with trolls. One can dream.

ETA: Bonus!


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