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Happy year! 2010 semiotically speaking has acquired increasingly dystopian associations from a Canadian perspective, but maybe semi-omnipotent aliens will turn Vancouver into a tiny sun. Actually that wouldn't really help.
George R. R. Martin, The Armageddon Rag
CJ Cherryh, Destroyer
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Have His Carcase (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (reread)
CJ Cherryh, Pretender
CJ Cherryh, Deliverer
Sara Ryan, Empress of the World
Somewhere in the middle of the month there I was evidently taken over by the urge to read about Harriet Vane for a while. I had forgotten what a lovely and assured prose stylist Sayers was, particularly in Gaudy Night, which in its own quiet way I think might be one of the best novels of the 20th century. I would like to read it together sometime with Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, with which it has a surprising amount in common (so perhaps it's not surprising that I should like it so much).

Speaking of Pamela Dean, I read The Empress of the World on her recommendation. There is something about both of the principals being women that breaks down my detached resistance to romantic tropes in a way that's very pleasant. (But the romance in this was not mindless or uncomplicated, and I've kept thinking about it since.)

When Rachel was here I introduced her to cryptic crosswords, which she got good at much more quickly than I did back when I first started. In the process of some incorrect speculation we came up with our own clue, "Editorializes to the trees. (6)"; later I encountered in a published crossword a very similar clue with the same answer, but I like our wording better. It is possible that we are nerds.

I've got out of the habit of linking things I write from this weblog, in part because I write things to link (or for that matter entries from which to link) so relatively rarely these days. But I did write a song and a poem I'm pretty happy with in 2009, so there's no reason not to get around to mentioning them.
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A couple of days ago I was eating Chinese food, and I became aware that I like the taste of onions. I used to find it unpleasant, and for some years now I've considered it inoffensive-but-boring, but now I am to the point where eating a bite with an onion in it was an unexpected pleasure; the sort of thing I might seek out, rather than just tolerating. The strangest thing about this is that I remember and recognise this taste I now enjoy from back when I didn't like it, and it's exactly the same taste. I always subconsciously assumed that there was something inherent that determined whether something tasted good or not -- I mean, not that the quality of 'tasting bad' was an integral part of any given food (despising cheese, which everybody else in the world is delighted by, made it impossible ever to make this mistake), but that the subjective sensory experience of it included a sense of its being either pleasant or not-so, so that 'badness' was part of the taste I experienced. I guess I kind of supposed that other people eating cheese were tasting something different. But no; there is nothing changed about the taste of onions now, except how I react to it. So the thing that caused me to find onions objectionable wasn't in my sensory perception of them at all, even though that's the thing I clearly didn't like.

It strikes me how much of the work of interpreting inherently neutral stimuli my brain is doing outside of (or rather, presumably underlying) my conscious mind. I've been thinking for a long time about the role of completely chemical-contingent (even by human standards) involuntary affective reactions in my experience of the features of people that I find physically attractive (that's what this poem is about), but clearly I still have some adjusting to do toward applying this sort of understanding more generally.

I keep feeling like I read a book that I forgot to write down, but if so I've since forgotten more than that, since I can't call it to mind. I might be getting a false positive from the Iain M. Banks book that some of you saw me with, which I put down not far in because I didn't feel like I was in a space to want to read about the protagonist's making stupidly self-destructive decisions. I'm sure I'll get into the Culture books eventually.
Madeleine Robins, Point of Honour
Steven Brust, Jhegaala
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Madeleine Robins, Petty Treason
Ekaterina Sedia, Alchemy of Stone
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Tam Lin (filk) )
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Few-months-old writings that I'm getting around to posting in my livejournal: poem, song.

On Tuesday (which was the first day of school), sometime during the two hour gap between Ethics and Japanese, the power went partially out. Some halls and classrooms were still lit, and others dark; about half the lights in the library were on, and a third of the computers. I went to Japanese, anyway, but before we were even through the roll call, the Langara security guard with the bushy moustache came in and told us that they were evacuating the building.

I hung around outside long enough to pick up on the general gossip that all the classes had been cancelled because of the power, and to run into Jen, from the Japan group, who was something like the third of the Japan people I'd seen that day, though aside from Marilee I haven't seen any since. It's good to know that they still exist. We talked a little (ruefully) about the tendency of that sort of group trip to develop a close camraderie among people who afterward, for the most part, immediately get about the business of never seeing one another again, and made vague suggestions toward counteracting that; eventually.

Most of the power was back on for Wednesday, but there are lingering aftereffects, the most noticable of which is that all the air-conditioning is down. This does not make it as fun as it might be to take classes on the stifling-even-in-late-autumn third floor of the A building. (Handy guide to Earth's northern hemisphere seasons: it is right now a late, and rallying, summer.) Estimates vary widely as to when this is liable to be corrected; Leduc-sensei, in Japanese, reported direly that she'd been told that it could be as long as six months, whereas Marilee on Thursday told me that she'd heard it would be fixed the next day. There was another power-down today -- that is, Sunday -- this one scheduled, for maintenance, so I suspect that this, if it didn't solve it outright, was at least part of the effort.

I've been kind of exhausted the whole week, stumbling over the sudden need to get up about three hours earlier than I'd been accustomed; this combined with the heat and the starting-school hecticness has often left me feeling in a sort of haze of mental slowness and clumsiness communicating. Because of this in turn I've been responding to my classes in general with slightly more anxiety than I might have otherwise, and feeling out-of-breath already keeping up. They justify this to greater and lesser degrees; Dale, teaching Ethics, is as charming and comfortable as always (he made all the same jokes the first day), while the English teacher has informed me to my horror that he expects handwritten drafts of all the take-home essays.

I do not remember if there are other things I meant to talk about. Wait, yes I do; I've been wanting to say at least a little bit about my impressions of Ursula K. LeGuin's original Earthsea trilogy, which I read for the first time immediately before school began. But I'm pretty tired, so I should probably do that later.
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[ profile] caduceuskun challenged me to write a sestina and post it in my journal, so, since I have, indeed, written a sestina since then, I suppose I ought to follow through. Cola provided me with the keywords; he insists that 'paper bird' should count.

I've been fascinated by the sestina form ever since I first learned about it; this is the first one I've ever finished, but I expect others to follow, which is good because I'm kind of underwhelmed by it. It has rather more plot than it has poetry.

Six one five two four three )
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Here is a poem of little consequence I wrote in April, and here is a sonnet I wrote this past fall.

I don't know whether I've been going through one of my periods of social withdrawal, or if my life is just in one of its summer-patterns where I'm not liable, in the normal course of things, to encounter socializing without actively working for it (which I've been distracted from doing). Clearly I haven't been feeling called to write in my journal, which may or may not be a clue. The lack is starting to itch a little, though.
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Here's a new poem I wrote.

The night before last, I had a dream in which I was writing an exam (in a crowded restaurant, with my father and sister), and had not read any of the last several chapters of the relevant textbook, so that the questions on the exam made no sense to me. There was no system in place to actually penalize me if I were to open the book and find the answers, so I was expending a lot of energy to resist that urge, which didn't seem to be in the spirit of the thing. This is the first time I have ever had any version of this dream; I think that there's some metric by which I am now officially a college student.

(My waking finals, which grew progressively more challenging and earlier in the day over the first part of the week, until finally for Sociology I had to write two essays at 8:30 in the morning, are all done with now. I think they went okay.)

On Thursday, which was very sunny and calm, cola was at my house, and I watched and laughed as he sat at my computer for an hour or two, playing intently with various absurd modifications of some photographs I'd taken. It made me very nostalgic for the multimedia room.
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Serenity is a child of Firefly, and of course it is a continuation of the story (though not an entirely consistant one), but it is a different thing from the series in interesting and unexpected ways: something angrier, brittler, less forgiving. It reminded me of the second part of - but if I finish that sentence, some of my readers will probably be able to unravel spoilers from it, so I'll forbear. It left me kind of battered; some of those I saw it with expressed the desire to see it again immediately, but I think that it will be good for me to wait a week or so.

I like Shepherd Book's new beard. The rest of this post will not be about the movie.

On the rare occasion that I am writing a sonnet - which isn't so rare very lately, but remains so historically - I am no judge of it at all; I am almost invariably convinced that it's terrible. The accumulated weight of everyone who has ever worked in the form seems to press down on me, and my use of language feels so clumsy in their footprints. It occurred to me the other day that something similar has probably happened to free verse. When I first discovered the form, it was through Marilee and Keri, and as I went on writing it I always had the context of a bunch of poets I admired but could consider to be my peers; over the past year or two, though, a very small percentage of the poems I've read has been by authors of that description, and in retrospect it's clear that at least some of the reason that I haven't been writing much is the bashful feeling that I am less qualified to be in a dialogue with the stuff I am reading.

There is something strange and strong in me lately that I don't think that I can describe; it might just be the Autumn, having its customary effect. Cool colours and colder winds, and tears, and gratitude, and ephemerality. I am no poet; I only throw words at things*. But if I could describe it, I think it would be in a sonnet.

(* This is not a protestation of talentlessness, but I don't know if I could tell you what it is instead.)

While we're on the subject of poetry, and I'm cheerfully leaping topics with each paragraph (this is clearly one of those occasions where I'm trying to make several posts at once), Rachel did this "poetry meme", which asks anyone who sees it and chooses to be bound by it to post a poem that they like. So here is a poem that Keri e-mailed to me once. It is called "The Quiet World", and apparently it is by Jefferey McDaniel:

The Quiet World )

Now to put all this aside and spend the rest of the week writing an essay.
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Three Megatokyo filks I thought of but never finished:
...and one that I finished after all:

To Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne". A very long time in the writing; begun November of 2002, posted today.
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The result of the STV referendum was 57 point something for, 42 point something against, or so I'm told; the threshhold was 60%. It still feels like a victory. I hope that the new(ish) government notices the majority there and feels obliged to make further overtures in the direction of reform, or that, failing that, the other parties call them on it.

I went out yesterday and bought the most recent Ani DiFranco album, which is awesome (and an old, cheap Sloan album, which isn't bad). I don't understand how this woman can release 1d2 albums a year for fourteen or fifteen years and still have so much of it be this good and this intelligent. I want to meet a girl who plays guitar like Ani does and marry her and get her to write guitar parts for all my songs.
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Oh yeah, so, I also wrote a poem.

I have a question, for those in my audience who don't just read words, but say them: how do you pronounce the word geas? I've always wondered.
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Every Summer they tell him the same thing -
"You're never getting this one back";
Every Summer young Donovan sets out
To liquidate this lack;

Every Summer he comes to the same
Conclusions all over again;
Every Summer that taste of foreboding -
Ignored, of course - and then,

Every Summer he turns to the strange old
Machine that he found by the shore;
Every Summer he says, "I need this just
A little more";

Every Summer we strive along
The same old, worn out track;
Every Summer is this one, forever,
'Cause Donovan brought it back.


Feb. 23rd, 2005 01:31 pm
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Carefully, he spat
In her ashes, and mixed them
Into a fine paste;

With this, he painted his face
An old ritual horror.

The beads she loved, he
Wrapped about his wrist - they would
Protect him later -

And he bound his hair until
It sang pain into his scalp.

The cold mysteries
Were his. In whispers, the dead
Began to know him.
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So, wifl is back!, though not in such a way that an old fan who were looking for it would be able to find it without my help, since for some reason Telus isn't letting Andrew use port 80 (this also means that a bunch of the internal links don't work). Still, this regains my ability to point people to the majority of my songs and poems (I think I'll mirror those directories on spiny, in case this ever happens again), as well as to speak of my wiflsite as the primary incarnation of my weblog, which feels important for some reason. And the front page looks very natural in my browser.

I haven't been feeling very articulate for the past month or so, and I've been aware of semi-consciously shying away from conversation (a process aided rather by a sudden renewed interest in video games). So, in response to the general occasional wondering where I've been (which is nice, though it does make me feel sheepish), I'm afraid that I've been hiding. I think I'm starting to come out of it, though.

Suddenly, it is almost both Hallowe'en and my birthday. I wonder if I can put together a good Dread Pirate Roberts costume in three days? If so, I shall shave down to my moustache, and wear it; if not... Well, I don't really have a backup plan. Perhaps I'll just try to sport a very unsettling smile.


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Andy H.

February 2013

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