starlady: Toby from the West Wing with a sign that says, "Obama is the President."  (go vote bitches)

And despite what the icon says, this was brought to you almost entirely by Nancy Pelosi, who is officially my hero forever.

And despite the fact that it's not everything, or even really enough. But it is a start.

(Also, now I get to vote against my worthless DINO representative John Adler! I'm so excited! I know it's hard to be a Democrat in the New Jersey 3rd, but seriously, the answer is not to betray your principles and the people who elected you. IJS.)

starlady: A woman in a sepia photograph wearing a military uniform (fight like a girl)
The Young Victoria. Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, 2009.

I didn't really have expectations for this movie, but I knew I had to see it, and it turned out to be appropriate for Valentine's Day: Albert and Victoria's Epic Love Story.

The C19th and the Victorian Age have never really been my thing, but very recently I've become very interested in Victoria herself, since I am planning an alternate history in which she never existed. For all these reasons I found the politics surrounding Victoria's accession and early reign more interesting than Victoria and Albert themselves, though the movie made them seem fairly intelligent, and fairly realistic about the realities of royalty at the time, at least by the end, and I was quite interested in the portrayal of their uncle King Leopold of Belgium, since he was at one point in line to be Prince Consort of England. I was disappointed, though, that the politics dropped out of the movie's storyline as it progressed. Unsurprisingly, the movie takes a fairly benign view of monarchy as an institution, though it also provides an intriguing snapshot of that era when Parliament had wrested power firmly from the throne but the Lords still retained the premiership. The movie also doesn't focus much on Victoria and Albert's social policy views aside from vague talk about improving conditions for the poor, which is again unsurprising but also disappointing, due to everything I've heard about Albert's purported social conservativism and his influence thereby on the age's mores. But the costumes were pretty! (Thanks to [personal profile] damned_colonial I could tell that Albert liked linen shirts.) And the acting was good across the board--Paul Bettany rocks his mutton chops and his role as Lord Melbourne, and Emily Blunt was great as HM the Queen. About twenty minutes in I realized that Marc Strong, whom we just saw as Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, was playing Sir John Conroy, and it was like the world was reflecting my obsessions back at me. (No, really: I was writing more Holmes fanfic in my notebook until the lights went down.) Art and life, stay separate!

...They don't, though. Every time I ride the train to Philly, I pass the graveyard in which Walt Whitman is buried, and I am struck again by a recurring idea that I have: Walt Whitman rises from the dead and saves Camden! Obviously there are a lot of things wrong with this idea, starting with the obvious, but it will not go away. In my defense, "I dreamed I saw a city invincible" is an immortal (if bowdlerized) line, and it's graven on Camden's City Hall. Perhaps, someday...
starlady: (a sad tale's best)
Via [personal profile] coffeeandink and [ profile] rachelmanija:

[info]con_or_bust is back! It's running another fundraiser to assist people of color who want to attend WisCon. Bidding on the auction will run from Wednesday, February 22, 2010 (12:01 a.m. Eastern), through Saturday, March 13, 2010 (11:59 p.m. Eastern). You may post auction offers and make donations now. If you are interested in requesting assistance, there is more information here.

Additionally, [ profile] helptheproject, to benefit The Virginia Avenue Project, is still ongoing.

This morning I dreamed that my bird learned to talk and that when we took him out of his cage in the morning he said he wanted to go back to sleep. I immediately chalked that up as my subconscious taking on the form of my parrot to tell me what I already knew: I wanted to go back to bed. For the record, my parrot had a hoarse, ashy voice.

The snow is four feet high in my backyard and when I drove to work the world looked magical: azure blue sky and all the trees and the ground absolutely covered with white snow. It won't last, of course, but it's beautiful while it does.

Also, in a truly bizarre turn of events, today I was given, without any volition on my part, a perfect copy of Avatar. I think this means I'm just supposed to cave and watch the damn thing. On a similar note, I saw the trailer for the other Avatar failfest movie on TV last night, and...ouch. That movie could have been amazing! And yet it will probably save M. Night Shyamalan's career anyway.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
I have written before about how much I'm looking forward to N.K. Jemisin's debut novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, yes? Yes! Well, Jemisin ([ profile] nojojojo) is offering an autographed copy of THTK and a divine tuckerization in the third book of the trilogy at [ profile] helptheproject, which is cool, yes? Yes!

Equally cool, Jemisin has also posted her awesome, awesome story "The Effluent Engine" on her website as part of A Story for Haiti. Do yourself a favor and go read it now. Seriously, it is awesome, and not just because it is lesbian steampunk; I truly think that this story is perhaps the example par excellence of both steampunk and alternate history done right. (For context, [personal profile] naraht has an interesting post about [alternate] history and oppression here.)

Speaking of steampunk, everyone knows about [personal profile] dmp and her DW, Beyond Victoriana, right? It is always fascinating, but in particular I want to read the early 20thC Chinese novel mentioned in the last post. Maybe when I grow up I can translate it.

I just spent an hour shoveling. I'm told it's the second-most snow ever in our neck of the woods, though I'm sure that here in Jersey we got more than the 28.5 inches recorded at the Philly international airport (or maybe it just feels that way. This snow is heavy). As compensation, the purple and pink sunset over the fields behind my house was lovely. I was planning to go to the Dinotopia Family Day and see James Gurney at the Delaware Art Museum tomorrow, but I cherish my doubts as to whether the plows will come through in time. We'll see.
starlady: (a sad tale's best)
Tonight I went out to buy beer and hot chocolate. Upon consideration, I bought milk so that I would have enough for lots of hot chocolate. I bought bread and bananas since we'd run out, because we eat bananas and sandwiches almost every day.

The liquor store was empty, while the grocery store was both mobbed and stripped bare of most essential items, including guacamole. Seriously, New Jersey, you've got your priorities wrong.

With all this snow, it's almost like a real winter. But not quite.
starlady: Abraham Lincoln, vampire hunter (alternate history)
So I mentioned the Quaker democracy novel in a recent post, yes? I've been doing a little basic research into the origins of New Jersey (of which probably more anon) and of Haddonfield as part of that, and one book I obtained from my library is the inimitable This Is Haddonfield, published by the Haddonfield Historical Society in 1963 on the occasion of the town's semiquincentennial (250th) anniversary. Yes, the town really is snobby enough to warrant pulling out all the stops on the Latinate diction. And yes, my sister and I do have plans for parody lyrics set to "This Is Halloween." 

In the meantime, I can't not make this poetic gem about the Devil coming up to Jersey, and going down the Shore, available to all.

Only the strong survive )
starlady: (burn)
No gay marriage in New Jersey, at least for now: the state Senate has defeated the bill in question. Thanks for not listening to me, my representatives! I wish I could say they'll pay at the ballot box in November, but I've been voting against these people ever since I could, with no effect yet.

(And for the record, I support gay marriage because it's the right thing to do, because it's an issue of human rights, and because more human rights for everyone makes everyone's human rights safer from human rights abusers.)

via [personal profile] jonquil, scary stories from Borders' slow slide into oblivion reveal the true meaninglessness of bestseller lists, among other things. Borders is what passes for an independent bookstore in parts around me (sad, I know; the nearest independent bookstore is 45 minutes away, and the nearest independent sff bookstore is more than an hour away in another state), and I've always preferred it to Barnes & Noble for essentially idiosyncratic reasons, but Borders going under would be a body blow to the publishing industry, despite the fact that I can almost never find any of the books I'm actually interested in reading there.

When I was a kid I could browse the shelves and find scads of good books I hadn't read, but as I've grown older and my tastes more discriminating, bookstores' back inventory has simultaneously shrunk; I wandered around my local store for a good 40 minutes last week before deciding to use my $5 coupon on the MMPB of Anathem. Diversity in what's getting published doesn't mean crap if there's no way to deliver those books to potential readers.

I listened to this story about increased security for international travelers on NPR on my way home from work and it got me thinking about security procedures I have known. I remain skeptical of geographic profiling for multiple reasons, the most obvious being that geographic profiling wouldn't have caught Richard Reid, the would-be shoebomber, who has British citizenship. (Also, Cuba? Seriously?)

I'm also skeptical of full-body pat-downs. The only time I've ever had one of those (and I'm sure I won't be able to say that for much longer, given security trends) was when I was connecting through Frankfurt to Shannon via Dublin on an Aer Lingus flight in 2006--everyone on the flight had to line up to be frisked by a security person of the same gender before boarding, after having already gone through airport security. Note, what made me nearly miss my connection to Shannon, and what delayed my luggage joining me for an additional six hours, was the fact that someone had somehow managed to check bags onto our flight without checking themselves in, and we had to wait at the gate for those bags to be pulled out of our plane.

Actually, probably the strictest international air security procedures I have known were in Japan, of all places--I've learned the hard way, when connecting to anywhere in Asia through Narita on a U.S.-flagged flight, not to buy a bottle of tea in the airport, because the staff will make you either throw it away or chug it before you board your plane, despite the fact that this is not actually U.S. security policy. Strangely, Japan also takes the prize for the absolute laxest domestic air security I've seen. I didn't even have to show ID to get my boarding pass when I flew from Kobe to Tokyo, and the less said about the lackadaisical x-ray machine queue, the better.

So, basically, I'm agnostic to both sides of the argument here--I don't think that increased security procedures will make travelers "safer," but I also don't think that current security procedures are actually effective, because in my experience they aren't necessarily. And at some level I also question the assumption that we can and/or should keep death out of our lives, as well as the assumption that "security" trumps privacy, but that's another post.
starlady: (heaven's day)
My sister is home from Portland (Oregon) and has brought the Christmas spirit with her, in the form of one of our day-long Christmas cookie-baking marathons of insanity and hilarity. Recent events in brief )

So the last batch of cookies is in the oven as I write this (finally--we started at noon, mind you), and we are settling in to wait for the advent of the snowpocalypse. I'll believe it when I see it. I don't even have the energy to tell the "three days from transcript hell" story just now. I'll wait until I've finished up two of my last three apps, which...looks like it will happen tomorrow. Along with holiday cards, gingerbread persons, and decorating the tree. Fa la la la...
starlady: (rain)
Another day after an election, another day to have VNV Nation's "Honour" on repeat (I have the album cut and the Juno Reactor remix. In 2004 I had the Juno Reactor remix on repeat for, I kid you not, a week straight). Gay marriage was crushed in Maine, which is just disgusting (who else thinks that James Madison would not approve of putting the rights of the minority up for the approval of the majority at the polls? Yeah, that's right). Just enough of my fellow New Jerseyans, and people in Virginia, made the stupid, easy choice and elected Republicans (nothing wrong with them per se, but our governor-elect has absolutely no real clue how to fix what's wrong with our state. I'm not qualified to speak about Virgina). My GRE math score dropped 70 points, putting me squarely in the 50th percentile. And I really suspect that the Phillies are going to lose the World Series to the Yankees tonight. Finally, lawyers for our government and others argued before the Supreme Court today that there is no constitutional right not to be framed. Land of the free...but only until your luck holds out.

Bright spots: A Democrat was elected in the New York 23rd for the first time since the 19th century and my verbal score stayed the same (roughly 98.5 percentile). And the anti-government protests in Iran seem to be undimmed. Still, overall, blech.
starlady: Toby from the West Wing with a sign that says, "Obama is the President."  (go vote bitches)
Just got back from exercising my civic duty. It's a beautiful day for an election, way nicer than last year, when so much more was on the line and we had the feeling that we were on the right side of history, doing the right thing. That was a nice feeling. I do like voting, but that's partly because I like being in control.

GRE and a job interview (for holiday retail, but beggars, choosers, etc) tomorrow. I went running for the first time since I got that cold yesterday and was pleased with the results; we'll see if it holds up when I go again today. I honestly don't know if I'll be up for the 12K Sunday week, though, since I was sick for the weeks I should have been building from 4.5 to 5.5 miles per, and the race is 7.5. NaNoWriMo is coming along--haven't started in for today, but I have thought about where I'm going to go when I do crack open the word processor. Currently I'm at 6465, which puts me ahead of the curve, where I'm desperately hoping to stay. Seeing as I really should be writing my umpty-bajillion personal statements for grad school, we'll see how long that holds.

I read The Red Tree by Shaun Tan yesterday--it's a picture book, though the term seriously undersells the sheer giddy mastery of Tan's art, to say nothing of his storytelling--and I found it to be scarily applicable to my current situation. Tan just won a World Fantasy Award for Best Artist, and it was completely deserved. My copy of The Red Tree is a Canadian import by way of the divine Wild Rumpus Books in Minneapolis, but The Arrival and Tales from Outer Suburbia, which are even better, are widely available.
starlady: (akidzuki)
I slept the whole night through, which is a first since last week (yay!). Afraid cold remnants are transmuting into sinus infection (nay!). Though I didn't wake up I did have a long, involved dream featuring Darker Than BLACK characters (Hei and Yin), Kingdom Hearts characters (Sora and, um, Donald I think?), not a few of my own family members including my grandfather (one of them died? it might have been him), a wedding, I think, and a hurricane (warning--from which we were taking shelter in a cellar? I don't know). And floods, too, though I'm not quite sure how it all hung together. Moral of the story: Don't start watching anime and then go straight to bed.

I made banana bread and curry mee (chicken soup) yesterday. The soup is so good, and a very forgiving recipe, though definitely the ginger and the fried shallots shouldn't be left out like I did this time. I used half all purpose and half white whole wheat flour in the banana bread with no problems other than it being so tasty.

I read Matt Bai's New York Times magazine article on New Jersey, and the gubernatorial race (I just love the word "gubernatorial"), with a sort of painful recognition: Yup, that's us, unfortunately. The key sentence is probably "If California collapsed of its own weight and drifted off into the Pacific, New Jersey would instantly become the most dysfunctional state in the country." But that's not the full story by any means. What's wrong with New Jersey?
  1. Way too many municipalities and school districts (though, NB, Governor Corzine did this summer sign a law forcing school districts without schools to merge with nearby districts by next year). I think we have the most municipalities per capita of any state in the Union? This doesn't help corruption, either, though its main effect is to send local taxes (particularly property taxes) into an upwards death spiral.
  2. Voters want lower taxes, more services, and to keep their little towns and school districts as-is. Last Friday Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania characterized this attitude on Radio Times as "money for nothing and chicks for free," quoting Dire Straits--the stuff-without-pain attitude is a national problem, as Bai rightly points out in the article (he later quotes Rendell, too). Personally I'd quote The Arcade Fire: "If you want something, don't ask for nothing! If you want nothing, don't ask for something!" I have nothing but respect for people who want low taxes and no services, but we need a statewide, and a national, reality check: going into debt rather than raising taxes to provide services is ruinous in every time frame.
Choice quotation from later in the article: "New Jersey could raise up its own army and invade Pennsylvania, and all the state’s voters would want to talk about, still, would be their property taxes." Maybe we could annex the five-county metropolitan area from PA and get Harrisburg to throw Rendell in as a freebie? Well, a girl can dream.
starlady: (jack)
I may or may not have laughed 'til I cried.

ETA: Context (aka, the turkeys own the street in Cherry Hill, NJ).

starlady: (Rick Roll'd!)
My friend S and I went to see the Metropolitan Opera put on Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" in the movie theatre last week, as part of the Met's cinecast series. I'm not sure when the production was from--I think this past season--but it was very good. The cameras are situated right near the stage, so that it's quite easy to see the expressions of the singers; I think it's partly that visibility that made the opera so funny--I tend to prefer tragic or dramatic operas, but this one really was laugh-out-loud funny at times, despite the vaguely skeevy plotline. Also, as S commented, the Met performers are just good: they're stellar at singing (and particularly the people playing Figaro and Count Almaviva stood out in that respect) but they're also really good at acting. I wouldn't say it's the case that other operas I've seen have lacked acting chops on the part of the cast, but unsurprisingly everyone in the Met company seemed good at both. Like a U2 concert, the Met stage loops out into the audience, around the orchestra, which adds another wrinkle of dramatic possibility. My one relatively minor complaint is that the camera angles don't always allow one to choose where one looks--there were a few times when I would have liked to be able to watch Figaro, since he was hilarious, the real spirit of the play, as opposed to whomever the cameras were following, but again, a minor complaint. The crowd in the theater was fairly lively and into it too, which is always nice. I'm definitely going to keep this series in mind as a good way to expand my opera experience.

On Saturday my sister and I went to a pool party concert in the round with Dan Deacon, No Age, and Deerhunter at the Flying W in Medford--it's a private club and airstrip with its own airplane-shaped pool, and the draught beer was only $4 (there are advantages to being out in the boonies beyond the natural setting). All in all it was pretty damn amazing: we laid around on the grass and went swimming in the pool and ate veggie burgers and funnel cake and spiked water ice until the evening, when the bands set up and started playing--I told Dan Deacon that I liked his sparkly hat, and my sister got a picture with the lead singer of Deerhunter. Dan Deacon ensconced himself in the wooden playset (there were people swinging on the swings while he played, and people climbing halfway up the playset to crowdsurf), No Age set up poolside, and Deerhunter took over a portion of the wooden patio. I literally stood for almost the whole set (which was three hours long) two feet behind Deerhunter's drummer. There were small planes taking off and landing on the airstrip the whole time. All in all it was pretty damn amazing, and a lot of fun. My sister has played Dan Deacon (he of the corn-burning bus, which sadly was not in evidence) for me before, but it wasn't until I heard him live that I really got the appeal of his music (and he can get a crowd of jamming semi-drunk people to do his bidding, which is pretty cool). Deerhunter were pretty damn awesome too (though the singer is way too thin. apparently he's a vegan who doesn't eat tofu, which explains his near-skeletal appearance), definitely my favorite of the six bands (three opening acts) that played. The whole "round robin" concert concept is pretty cool; I'd definitely go see others like that.

All this was only $12, mind you, + a $2.50 surcharge, which leads me into this consideration of concert ticket prices, and what's wrong with them, in this week's New Yorker--or rather to the author talking about it on Fresh Air, since the article itself is subscriber-only.
starlady: (but it does move)
I saw "Coraline" with [ profile] sparowhawk  today (after many restaurant misadventures, we wound up at a really tasty Thai place. score! south jersey is not the culinary wasteland one might think from my rants, I admit). It's been rather a while since I read the book, though I do remember the book being creepier (and I think Wybie is an invention?), but I thought it was an excellent movie that doesn't condescend to children or to adults. And it certainly is creepy. The 3D was very cool (and not hugely obnoxious) too, and the stop-motion animation was excellent. Though I would gladly fling the glasses in the face of whomever thought another freaking "Ice Age" movie was a good idea. Schlock I say, schlock. (Item: it would be cool to write a story about a town where people spoke only in Shakespeare quotations.)

I also finished, at long last, Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, the final volume of his Baroque Cycle, the other day. I suspect that if I had read Cryptonomicon beforehand I would get some of the jokes about the future descendants of Waterhouse and the Shaftoes, and I have horrible suspicions about the Leibniz/Waterhouse logic mill, but I particularly enjoyed Eliza's pontificating on the nature of investing in intellecutal endeavors (yeah copyleft!), and the poignant touches in the end, particularly in the Newton/Leibniz philosophick showdown. Princess Caroline's nightmare has stuck with me too, and I wonder whether Stevenson would say that we are living in the era in which the System is breaking down, and if his book Anathem is set in the aftermath of its collapse. It's certainly dispiriting, in a way, that so many citizens of our time, at least in America, are unable to reconcile religion and Natural Philosphy as the founders of the latter did so passionately. Perhaps that's the flaw in the System that Caroline feared.

At any rate, I have quite a few more damned, thick, square books to get through before I'll be at leisure to tackle Stephenson's other tomes, but I can't recommend him highly enough.
starlady: (plenipotentiary)
Spike and I were putting the recyclables out Thursday night and said to each other, "Is something burning?" It smelled like it, and the entire neighborhood was smoky too. The next morning it was still smoky, and foggy, and we turned on KYW to find out why--it's from the forest fire down Route 206. I can still smell it intermittently on the breeze.

We went to see "Fidelio" at the Academy of Music last night, with dinner at The Continental first. Spike had the crab pad thai, which tasted far too much of peppers, so we wound up splitting our entrees, but dessert of cotton candy for her and raspberry truffle brownie for me made it all better. The beer of the month was excellent, too--an oktobrfest. As for "Fidelio," I can see why it isn't performed very often, despite being Beethoven's only opera. The music is grand, but the plot is pretty thin, even for opera, and there's just not much drama in it. Despite that, it's still possible to see a lot of the cultural and theological tendencies in early 19th century German cultural products that led straight into Wagner and Nietschze. In some ways my favorite character was Rocco, the gaoler--if nothing else, I think he's the one closest to the audience in terms of sympathies. Everyone else is sort of one-dimensional. This production was co-designed by the artist Jun Kaneko, and while it was quite interesting (people wearing assymetrical, Mondrian-ish clothing, the set divided into two black and white grid-halves), I don't think it was quite as fascinating as it's been played up to be. Still, much love for the OCP, and at only $10 a ticket, it was well worth it. I'm looking forward to "Turandot" in Februrary.

I've been on a mini-David Weber kick this week. I was originally thinking about possibly selling my Honor books, since I probably have most of them essentially memorized (this is true of many books I own. I do essentially have a photographic memory), but then I started re-reading them and decided that on balance they are too good to sell, particularly since I have first editions of all of them and I hate the new covers for the older books. Today I went out and bought At All Costs and The Shadow of Saganami at the book trader in Old City. I admit it bothers me that there don't seem to be any gay people in the forty-second century, and of course standard English will be quite different in the future too, and it's funny to think that from one perspective the books essentially endorse polygamous marriages, albeit with reservations, but all in all they're rollicking good stories. I'm looking forward to Storm from the Shadows and Mission of Honor. Those who like space opera, or Horatio Hornblower, or the Napoleonic Wars, would do well to check them out.

Bonus:'s analysis of New Jersey! As a native New Jerseyan, and a resident of this state for all but one of my trips around the sun, I have to disagree with some of the points in the piece (particularly the description of New Jersey as "maverick-y." I'm telling you, it all makes sense if you live here), and I think the writer underballed our willingness to be assholes to another (if this state had a state pasttime, it would be tailgaiting people on the highway). All in all, though, I was surprised at how Republican the writer characterized the state. There are Republicans here; they tend to fall in to two groups: those who drive pickups and have rifles and Confederate flags and live in the Pine Barrens, colloquially known as Pineys, and those (like those who live in my town) who are rich and white and suburban and scared and drive Hummers and SUVs. But both these groups tend to concentrate in South Jersey, while the north of the state is essentially blue, which of course is why the south gets screwed for state spending. But in the end, New Jersey is full of liberals (particularly liberals who identify as independents, as my parents and I did until this election), which is not a point I felt the writer made particularly strongly.


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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