Huzzah! Exciting new layout

August 12, 2008

Although classy I was finding the old layout a little hard to navigate. The type was also too small. And I wanted tabs at the top, which I have now used to start noting down my list of books that I want to read that usually rattles around in my head. Undoubtedly this will grow, suggestions are welcome. I think I’m labouring under the falsehood that eventually I will be able to read ALL the books. All the books ever.

I think I have a stone uterus: I can feel a whole lot of squeezing but not a lot of blood is coming out. A good metaphor for my own stubborness but uncomfortable when stuck on a crappy office chair.

I apologise if that was a little graphic for anyone but it says on the back of my feminist membership card that I can and am actively encouraged to blog about mentruation. So there it is. I’m not sure what the rest of the card says; I’ve had it in my back pocket for a while and some of the words have rubbed off. I did pull it out yesterday though, after soon-to-be-ex Housefolk made some joke about not needing women’s sports to which I replied “We do need them, or else we wouldn’t have any Olympic medals.” Take that, foolish fool!

The conversation took place after Team GB had won gold for street cycling and gold and bronze in swimming. I’m not in to sports myself but hope that these medals go some way to strengthening the legitimacy of female participation.

A terrible accident

August 11, 2008

Something awful happened yesterday. I was meeting one of my significants in town he called to ask where he could find me – on the spot I answered Borders. He arrived just ten minutes later but it was already too late and I had picked up a massive stack of books. It is the first time I have used a basket in a bookshop it was that bad. I purchased:

  1. The Watchmen graphic novel (that I tried to get last year but is now suddenly available since the movie trailers started showing)
  2. The Gothic and Lolita Bible (I had no idea that non-goth lolita was so popular. Also included bonus sewing patterns)
  3. Red Seas under Red Skies (the sequel to the Lies of Locke Lamora)
  4. An economics book (for the education of my brain)
  5. That GMTV Penny Smith book for my mum
  6. A gift for my partner to calm him down before his job interview

This is what happens when I decide to not spend money for a bit. And now my book pile is mountainous and will probably fall on me causing me to die horribly of crushing injuries and papercuts. If I should die with books unread I will ensure a clause in my will forces someone to read them all.

Superiority complex

August 8, 2008

My personal privileges as a white middle class UK citizen were brought to light this week by two very different encounters. The first was when a large group of black teenage boys wanted to get on the bus, weren’t allowed, then one of them sabotaged the bus. Although sabotaging a bus is rarely the best cause of action I sympathise with the boys. They are one of the most despised groups in our society, and one that it seems socially acceptable to despise since all the press about gangs, knife and gun crime. They were probably correct when they claimed the bus driver was being racist. I can appreciate the driver was intimidated by the number of them and only wanted to admit some to reduce the chance of rowdiness, but the fact that they could see there was space for them all to fit antagonised them. Unfortunately they did get a little rowdy then, proving in the minds of the passengers what they had suspected all along.

It’s actually that part that happened after that I had most problem with. The boys were not a gang, they were a football team on their way to practice. Despite that the disruntled passengers complained the driver should have done something sooner, they shouldn’t have been allowed onto another bus, and one of them called the police. These were all middle class white people, all very annoyed that their bus had been messed with. The guy who called the police actually shouted at the rest of us for not standing up with him when he confronted one of them (he’s obviously been reading too many opinion pieces on the Independent website). No one spoke up for the kids, but I guess there could have been some secret sympathisers.

I understand why they feel safer in large groups now, with so many suspicious glances.

Not that I understand their entire lives, obviously, though I do think hating teenagers is one of the first signs of aging.

My second encounter was with my new friend Neighbour. Neighbour lives next door (duh) and gets the same bus as me in the morning, giving us the opportunity for a five minute chat before the bus arrives. He is about 60, a working class Brummie who builds staircases for shops. I, being middle class and highly educated, assumed that I was so very much more clever than Neighbour, until we had a chat about books. He is a sci-fi fanatic and loves to read at any given opportunity, though for unspecified reasons (probably since he started living in pokey bedsits) he hasn’t read a book for 3 years. I could not allow this so I lent him A Brave New World and Oryx and Crake the next day: the only sci-fi books I could find at short notice. He was most pleased, and promised to lend me a book of his when another friend returns it, about a half-human half-martian and featuring philosophical discussion on the value of marriage. That is a book I would like to read. Which surprised me. Because I do have huge prejudices in the way I see the world, and I judged Neighbour on his appearance and class and his current main hobby of drinking Carling.

I am glad Neighbour befriended me, he has helped me see flaws in myself that I can address.

Book fail

July 28, 2008

I am developing an increasing loathing of mail order book companies. To put it in vulgar terms: they suck painfully hard. In the past my naive self signed up for a company thinking that the initial joining deal would furnish me with books so cheap I could sell them at profit and that after that I could order books that I either needed for my course or would enjoy to read (there was also a free gift which broke). An error on my part, certainly, but I learned from the horrible bruise on my wallet.

I realised during this time that the books clubs can sell so cheaply because they produce and sell their own cheap-grade hardback copies of books rather than the larger, higher quality versions you can get in shops. They especially like to produce their own versions of popular classics that are out of copyright, generating even more profit. A good business model, I guess, but having just bought a (second hand) Reader’s Digest copy of the Phantom of the Opera (one of my favourite books and one of the first ‘classics’ I ever read) I was upset to find a printing error: 15 pages had been repeated and the next 15 omitted. The book is impossible to read. This is probably why it was in the second hand shop. Naughty the person who sold it to them, and naughty Reader’s Digest for not having proper QA procedures (or for simply not caring, knowing that many people will consider it too much fuss to complain or not notice until after the return period).

I will never again join a book club. I know I was a fool to join one in the first place but they do work for some people. I found the selection very restricted, the quality poor and the shafting unwarranted. It may just be that after an initial flummox on leaving uni and having no more course texts to absorb I have found my feet and know how to find things I want to read – often things not available in high street bookshops which makes me feel ever so superior.

I have book lust

July 10, 2008

While procrastinating between revisions today I happened on the obituary of Thomas M Disch:

I hadn’t heard of him before but the descriptions of his writing (doom-laden speculation + the brave little toaster) caught my interest and I read the plot summaries of his books on Wikipedia. The one I would most like to read 334 as it sounds deliciously distopic. I want to go to Waterstones after work and see if they have it, which could be amusing given what happened when I went to look for Zelda Fitzgerald. (well I thought it was funny. The assistant jumped in to assist but all he could tell me was that they didn’t stock it – Femme and I then wandered out complaining loudly about how much Thomas Hardy sucks and yet they carry his entire output. The part I liked was articulate, knowledgeable us acting like children.)

I was also distraught to discover that I in no way was original in the idea of a corpse brothel as Disch wrote about one in the seventies. Is there nothing left for me to create? I suppose it just means reading more and trying harder.

Looking up these books reminded me of other books I long to read. It’s a long list of longings and I’m afraid to formalise it until I’ve conquered a little more of my current backlog. I estimate that I’ve read about 30 books in the last year but have gained around 10, leaving my ‘to read’ pile still perilously high (maybe 100? After I filled the available stacking space I stopped digging them out). Some of the pile books I bought years ago and it has been joyful to finally get to them and eat their lovely brains.

I am slightly afraid to go to Waterstones as I could easily fill a wheelbarrow with things I want to read. Despite this virtually the only time I spend reading is while commuting and on my lunch break. I usually find my house is too bustly and noisy and that cross stitch is much more compatible with the social environment. Of course I wouldn’t want to sacrifice cross stitch either. I have started planning my next design in my head, again for a friend who I hope will like it.

I’ve started to read the story I was writing as a teenager. On one hand I am impressed how much I tried to cover, how varied the character perspectives were supposed to be, but at the same time I can see how limited my knowledge and skills were at that time. I can see the old adage ‘show don’t tell’ flashing out of every page and on one page I used the word ‘such’ about 20 times – surprising as the first half I remember was extensively revised. I haven’t finished reading it yet, it’s quite long. I feel it could have potential, depending on what direction it was going in (I can’t remember what happened in the last 10 pages at all). I had no sense of pace then but the manuscript is mostly dialogue and the characters had a certain degree of individuality. The names are terrible and my naive conceptions of how idyllic such a post-apocolytic society would be are adorable but would have to go. What I do see in this is a lump of clay that I can now sculpt. What I will sculpt it into has yet to be decided.

What does the z in zomg stand for?

June 18, 2008

I’m not sure if it’s for emphasis or if it means something specific. What you might call a headscratcher.

Zomg! No post yesterday due to unprecidented busyness. A cackload of work made its way to my inbox and I barely had time to compose a thought of my own, so busy was I expressing the will of others. It saddens me because I had promised to read something for a dear friend, which I now aim to finish this afternoon.

Zomg! Housefolk did not pass the army fitness test as he injured himself half way through. They have invited him back to try again later. This does mean he no longer has anywhere to go – an important factor in the housing debate. He has made many suggestions of friends and family who may be able to put him up and get him jobs. This is his pattern, to not do anything himself but depend on the kindness of others. I think he would be ideally suited to a corporate environment but after living in London for a year he didn’t get anywhere near an office job. Where is his motivation? His desire for personal improvement?

Zomg! My partner got his results yesterday and is now the proud achiever of a first class degree. He now has Bsc hons after his name. I am very proud. Tomorrow he will get his mark for his dissertation which I am very interested in as I read all sixty pages of it to check spellings etc. Nothing quite like having a professional spellchecker on hand. He is pleased and it has given him the confidence to apply for better jobs. I hope he gets a job soon – we will feel tremendously rich with two incomes and it will help when house hunting.

Everything is useful

June 9, 2008

It is a commonly held superstition that all the little things you learn and save will one day be useful in some way. I was overwhelmed by this feeling earlier when in reading I came across the word ‘prestidigitator’ and remembered my dad teaching it to me 15 years ago and it occured to me that if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have known what it meant. It also took 15 years for a single instance of the word to crop up before my avidly book loving self, but when it did it was so worth it.

The cat recovered, incidentally.

Harold and Kumar was a great success, it was great to see a buddy movie that is both funny and features intelligent, articulate characters without them being geeks.