Wednesday, January 30, 2013


After a while unemployed, the Other Half has got a new job. This is good news, of course.

It's going to be interesting, as this is the first time we've both had full-time jobs at the same time. It has usually been me as stay-at-home parent or working part-time, although the past year he's been at home or picking up casual p/t work when he could.

Other people do it, so juggling house-work and child-care must be possible. It looks pretty complex. Really I need to be looking to change what I'm doing as I work into the evening - and his job is likely to be 'unsociable hours' and jump around, being hospitality.

But I want a different job anyway, so it's time to start looking in earnest. My ideal would be the standard 9 to 5. Dry your eyes, Dolly - it's much maligned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reading: The Changeling

I recently read the Changeling by AE van Vogt. I know I've read it before, but I had no memory of doing so. Usually part-way through a book will start feeling familiar on a re-read for me, but not this time. The blurb on the back of the novel is completely misleading and sounds like it's about a different book.

It was a curious tale of a man with toti-potent cells, which means he can regenerate limbs and recover from usually fatal injuries. He is a person of interest to science and to politicians, notably to an aspiring dictator, the US president. One of the downsides of his remarkable ability is losing his memory, however, and in this vulnerable state he is ripe for exploitation.

I enjoyed the novel overall, but found the depiction of women bizarre. In the world of the text, some women have chosen to be 'equalised' with men. It's not altogether clear to me what exactly this drug supposedly did - increased muscle mass? The primary difference between an equalised woman and a normal woman is apparently a brightness of eye. #Raised eyebrow#

The equalised women are a gun-wielding private army for the president who has taken them under his wing since no-one else will employ them, normal women hate them and "no man will marry them". #Howls of derisive laughter, mate#

So yes, er, um... I wasn't sure whether the intention was to be funny or whether it was just a product of its time (1967). My reading of it is that there is an underlying assumption was that women in political power is inherently dangerous: Vogt didn't need to explain what those dangers were to his audience of the time, because it would be a natural way of thinking to them.


Green Mars / Kim Stanley Robinson
Blue Mars / Kim Stanley Robinson
The Changeling / AE van Vogt

Monday, January 28, 2013

Liking the problematic: Rocky Horror

We recently went to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is touring in its "40th anniversary party" incarnation.

I really like the show and we've been a few times over the years. But it does have some problems that sometimes make me wonder about my enjoyment. I recently read this piece about liking the problematic, and I figured I would take some time to think aloud, as it were, about Rocky Horror.

What do I like about it? Well, it's the taking of the B-movie standards and playing with them - the conscious hat-tips to '50s horror and sci-fi films: the spooky old castle randomly occurring in small-town USA, the silver tunics and ray-guns, the apple-pie conservative couple suddenly plunged into peril. It takes genres I love and has fun with them.

Plus it's a musical with some great catchy songs.  There's a lot to like in that.

I also like the transgressive sexuality and the way it turns the male form into the primary object of desire and subject of the audience's gaze. A man in conventionally female underwear: basque, suspenders & stockings is hot, not ridiculous. Or certainly not when played by Oliver Thornton. Rowf. Frank adopts the uber-'feminine' poses of seduction/glamour models and there's humour in that, but it's not against him.

And what's not to love about a man in such garb, plus white coat, running around with a chain-saw?

For me, the most problematic part of Rocky Horror, are the rape scenes. As a fan it's hard to say the r word, but there's no real way round it. It's not seduction, because Franknfurter creeps into Janet's bed, pretending to be Brad, and has sex with her - and later does the same in reverse with Brad. He then persuades each of them respectively that they enjoyed it and they have sex again willingly.

It may also be a LGBT issue that the transgressor, bisexual transvestite Franknfurter, is a voracious sexual predator, who ends up dead in the end. This resonates to me of horror story tropes where the sexually active teens are always the first to die. Obviously Franknfurter, as a murderer and rapist, is not the same and may deserve his fate, but he is the sexual boundary breaker - so it's an interesting one. It's strange how likeable the character is, despite or perhaps because, of his arrogance and amorality. He's a bit of a tragic figure, because he isn't really capable of love, yet he is much-loved, even by those he betrays and abuses. His exuberance and vitality drive the story.

It's a whole lot of fun to watch 'though and the audience participation & dressing-up makes it an experience.


Walking home from work, an inebriated bloke who was putting his rubbish out, asked me if I wanted to party. I just said "No, thanks" and walked on. That was fine, wasn't worried, as I thought, but ..

I nearly jumped out of my skin when there was a loud exhalation behind my shoulder a moment later.

It was just a runner. But unfortunate timing.

I blame my mother, she was telling me off for the way I wore my scarf the other day, said someone could strangle me with it...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

That's not what I expected

I'm mildly annoyed by my bottle of Herbal Essences Uplifting Volume. I bought it because it is a nice orange colour to match in with the bathroom. (Yes, I choose my grooming products through colour. And yes, we have an orange bathroom. It used to be a rather cold purple from the previous inhabitants, and we wanted something sunny.)

But, as you use it, you discover the plastic bottle is pink and the shampoo itself is yellow! Pink.

That's not orange!

Is this a big issue worth writing about? No Yes of course. Shut up. #mutters#

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's on my bookshelf?

Today I thought I would pick one of my bookshelves at random, take a picture and then gibber on about what is there. So without further ado:

First, we have a copy of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. This is an edition I've had since a child, and it was published in 1955, so possibly was my mother's before me.

Second, Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth. I think I picked this up from a charity shop. It's a curious book, written in blank verse, all about a pack of werewolves in the US.

Third, Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I got this around the time the film came out. I really liked the film at the time and have the soundtrack somewhere. I can remember scenes from it pretty well, so it made an impact. The book is somewhat grittier and nastier. Had since college.

Three volumes of Maya Angelou's autobiography. I still haven't read I know why the Caged Bird Sings, and I think that is supposed to be the best of them. Bought from a school fair.

Dave Gorman Vs The Rest of the World. Gorman's funny account of his gaming. I dip into it ever so often and have read it fully a couple of times. A present for my birthday or Xmas one year.

A Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle. I started reading this a while ago, but gave up because I really hated the very old-fashioned feudal/misogynistic political system it begins with depicting. I don't have a problem with this sort of thing in pseudo-history or fantasy, but when it's set in the future it seems to lack imagination. I like SF that explores different social structures. Apparently when the Moties come in, it gets good, but I couldn't do it to myself. I should probably give the book away. PIcked up at a boot sale?

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I have read it, but I can't remember much about it. Bought in my mission to improve ponciness of my book collection!

Missing Pieces. I liked this book. My mum gave it to me to read after she enjoyed it a lot. I've never given it back. Oops!

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer. Why isn't this book in with the rest of my Georgette Heyers? My librarian card should be revoked. This is the first novel Heyer wrote and it's jolly good fun.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy. I have never been able to get into this. I should probably try again or give the book away. Acquired after recommendation on a website I was on.

The Time Traveller's Wife. I really enjoyed this one. Bought when it was recommended by Richard & Judy!

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author of the Yellow Wallpaper. A feminist utopia. Had this since college.

The English Civil War by Tristram Hunt. An interesting text about, er the English Civil War, strangely enough.   I learnt a lot. Bought this a couple of years ago when I developed an interest in the time period.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kelsey. Enjoyable but pretty misogynistic in parts. Think this was acquired from a charity shop about 5 years ago.

Phantoms in The Brain by VS Ramachandran. Really fascinating book about the weird things our brains can do. Had this a few years, got it when I was reading a lot of atheist websites. It's not an atheistic work, it was just suggested as something to read. They had good book suggestions.

Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time. Another classic feminist SF novel. Had this one since college.

Nightmare and Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Ed Wood Jnr. This is a biography of the infamous director Ed Wood whose best-known film is Plan 9 from Outer Space, an astonishing blend of sci-fi and zombie flick. It came with my copy of Plan 9 when I was really into SF B-movies.

Grow your Own Veg by Carol Klein. I got this a couple of years back, but haven't used it much because we're in a transition period with our garden at the moment.

The Bachman Books by Stephen King. This is a collection of novels King wrote under a pseudonym. It includes Rage which is one that AFAIK he no longer allows to be published as it deals with shooting in a school. Not surprised he doesn't want that out there any more. I can remember having this at college. I am pretty sure it originally was abstracted from my mother's bookshelves when I left home for uni.

Well, I enjoyed that.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Reading Record 2013

I read 46 books last year, quite a few of them re-reads. My usual time for reading is in bed in the evening or in the mornings when I can get a lie-in at the weekend, so how much I read suffered a bit with a change in lifestyle with the other half being home in the evenings. I didn't really do much by the way of different authors or genres. I don't have any targets in mind for this year, at the moment. Previous reading records are 2012 2011  20102009200820072006


Green Mars / Kim Stanley Robinson
Blue Mars / Kim Stanley Robinson
The Changeling / AE van Vogt - re-read
Rage / Stephen King (Richard Bachmann) - re-read


Black Sheep / Georgette Heyer


The Fry Chronicles / Stephen Fry - audio book
The Liar / Stephen Fry - re-read


Mistakes were Made (but not by Me) / Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson - audio book
Daggerspell / Katherine Kerr - re-read
Missing Pieces / Joy Fielding - re-read
The Ancestor's Tale / Richard Dawkins


Why be happy when you could be normal? / Jeannette Winterson - audio book
Driver / Taiye Selasi - short story on audio
The Family Portrait / Jon Ronson - 4 short stories on audio


Dreams from my Father / Barack Obama
Sleepyhead / Mark Billingham
The Female Eunuch /Germaine Greer
Burning Girl / Mark Billingham
Lifeless / Mark Billingham
Buried / Mark Billingham
Death Message / Mark Billingham


Living Dolls / Natasha Walter - audio book
At Home / Bill Bryson


World War Z / Max Brooks - audio book
The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins


The Scarecrow / Michael Connelly
The Drop / Michael Connelly
Bad Pharma / Ben Goldacre


The Ethical Slut / Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy - audio-book


Another World / Pat Barker
Magic Bites / Ilona Andrews - audio-book
L is for Lawless / Sue Grafton
V is for Vengeance / Sue Grafton
Maddadam / Margaret Atwood


Hyperbole & a half / Allie Brosh
Magic Burns / Ilona Andrews - audio-book
Raising Steam / Terry Pratchett

New Year

So, 2013, eh?

2012 was not a good blogging year for me - posting was sporadic. I do not know if this year will be better on that score, but we shall see. I do like blogging and I have been keeping this one for several years now, so it'd be sad not to keep going.

2012 wasn't a good year in some other respects, but on the bright side I got a new job. It isn't the best job ever, I wouldn't say I enjoy it, and I'm not sure it has the potential to lead anywhere better in that company after all - but it was a big boost to get it and it does keep our boat afloat.

It may be more pleasant now that a moaning colleague has left. I quite liked the guy, but everyday he would whinge about the job and every other week he would threaten to resign. It's kind of fun to have a good old moan about things sometimes, but it also started off every working day on a resentful, negative note. At least once a week I'd be crying at some point during the day, feeling disheartened & frustrated, often because he was the 'squeaky wheel' who always got the grease while I was sidelined. His leaving actually brought the line managers out of the woodwork to check in with me and be encouraging to me, so there's that as a benefit.

But I'd like to have a better job, so I will keep looking.

Other than that, I really want to be in shape for when I'm 40 later this year. I'm tired of not particularly liking what I look like and I am getting older, so being over-weight will begin to pose more health problems. It's a cliche of a resolution, but bah. Needs to be done.

Here's to a happy, fit 2013 for all.