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9th-Oct-2011 08:34 pm - Hallowe'en watchlist 2011
Oliver & moths II
xiaobellsa and I decided that we would devote October to watching lots of horror-themed movies (which we're defining really generously, so it can include really scary/gory action, or SFF with horrific things happening or nasty imagery, or the odd murder-mystery, or general gothic-ness, etc). So last night I rummaged through our mammoth collection of DVDs and pulled out the following:
  • Alien(s) 1 + 2
  • Battle Royale
  • Beetlejuice
  • Clue
  • Cube
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Death Note 1 + 2
  • Dracula (Gary Oldman/Winona Ryder version)
  • Dracula 2000
  • Ghostbusters 1 + 2
  • Ghosts of Mars
  • Gremlins
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Hidden
  • The Host
  • Interview with the Vampire
  • Jaws (earmarked for Hallowe'en itself)
  • Krull
  • Labyrinth (some freaky imagery - yeah, we're stretching with this one! But we never really need an excuse to watch Labyrinth :-)
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Lost Boys 1 + 3 (earmarked for Hallowe'en itself)
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
  • The Mummy & The Mummy Returns
  • Nightwatch
  • The Phantom of the Opera
  • Pitch Black
  • Predator
  • The Prestige
  • Queen of the Damned
  • Ring
  • Robocop
  • The Rocky Horror Show (earmarked for Hallowe'en itself)
  • Scream (earmarked for Hallowe'en itself)
  • Screamers
  • Se7en
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Silent Hill
  • Sin City
  • Skin Walkers
  • Terminator series: T1, T2, Salvation, Sarah Connor Chronicles
  • Twin Peaks
  • Underworld: Underworld 1, Rise of the Lycans, Evolution
  • The Witches of Eastwick
  • Wolf

Pretty good list, eh? Naturally, we won't get through all of this, so selectivity is the name of the game. The other day we polished off some episodes of Sarah Connor Chronicles, Terminator 2 and The Mummy 1 (I'd forgotten how much good, dumb fun the latter was). I'm not sure what we'll settle on next weekend; I know I'd like to try something I haven't seen before, and I also want to watch The Ring (the Japanese original) and totally freak myself out...

1st-Oct-2011 03:30 pm - My Goodreads account is now active
Shaun Tan - Flying monster
Just to let those of you who were asking know: I am now on Goodreads as well as Librarything! (I am salimbol in both places.) I'm going to use Goodreads only for things I'm currently reading, so ideally I'll be rating and reviewing books there as I finish them, as well as for seeing what friends are reading as well. And I'll keep on using LibraryThing as A) my primary catalogue of all my books, and B) my reading log for the past 20 years. We'll see how it goes, and how I'll fit this LJ account in with it all.
Oliver & moths II
What is with this weather? Aren't we officially a month into spring now? Why am I still huddling in my winter woollies, even though spring flowers have been blooming for months?!
On the plus side, it's a great way of making me stay inside and do all sorts of things I've been putting off, such as slowly but surely loading up the last five years' worth of reading onto my LibraryThing account. Yup, everything that I've read from 2006 till now is on LibraryThing! (Only 15 more years worth of reading to go, as I started keeping a book log in 1991... But, looking on the bright side, everything I own is already up there. This will just be loading the 1000s of books that I've read but don't own... Yeah, I'll shut up now. Long term projects FTW!)
Also, I have fallen in love with Evernote, a web-clipping, note-taking application that can synch between multiple devices. I started out slowly and cautiously with it at first, but now I'm using it for heaps of things- sticking in lots of articles about librarianship (e.g. ebooks, search tools, the future of libraries, etc), geeky things (reviews of books and TV programmes, interviews with writers, fanfiction, etc), funny things, photos, word documents, spreadsheets, recipes, and oodles and oodles of lists that I can edit at work and at home as I go along. You can share your "notes" via email, twitter and Facebook, and share "notebooks" with other Evernote users, which is really useful. Since I'm sticking lots of image-heavy webpages in there, I've upgraded to the premium account, and now I can upload 1GB worth of stuff per month (I seriously doubt I'll ever need that much, but it's cool to think that I can merrily clip with no limits). But even with the free account, you still get 60MB per month. It works on Macs and PCs and all manner of devices that use those operating systems, and you can archive things as HTML files if you don't want to get tied into the one application. Plus its got a cute little elephant sigil button (because it's for remembering things, of course) that sits in your browser for instant clipping, so you don't have to open it up and copy and paste. I highly recommend it!
20th-Sep-2011 04:18 pm - Icon glee meme
Oliver & moths II

This good old icon meme is making the rounds again, and since it's always fun and I've totally refreshed all my icons since the last time I did it, I thought I'd have another go :-).

Meme:

  • Reply to this post, and I will pick five of your icons.
  • Make a post (including the meme info) and talk about the icons I chose.
  • Other people can then comment to you and make their own posts.
  • This will create a never-ending cycle of icon glee.

The five icons picked by vierran45 are:


This is a scene from the Clone Wars movie, where Anakin, his new padawan Ahsoka, and Artoo (thus "The A-team") have crashlanded on Tatooine and have to walk across the Dune Sea. It's a scene full of Anakin's deeply ambivalent feelings about being "home", and it really works for me. I particularly love the rich, saturated golds and browns of this icon and the framing of the shot of the three of them, moving in procession. Made by ladyaeryn.


This is an icon I made from a scan of Shaun Tan's astonishing wall mural The Tea Party. This was just one tiny element from the huge painting, and the sheer weirdness of it appealed to me. I have dubbed this icon the "House Monster". I also have one of a Flying Monster That Delivers Mail. Made by salimbol.


Another Clone Wars icon! This is of Barriss Offee, a padawan who appeared briefly in the background in Attack of the Clones and has since been fleshed out in the Clone Wars TV series. I love the reddish Geonosian tints in this icon, and I think the flowers webbing the icon on the left make a really nice contrast to the diamond-shaped markings on Barriss' face. In short, I think it's really pretty! Made by [info]mark_pierre.


This one is a new acquisition. It's Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist, one of my very favourite not-quite-canon-OTPs. This icon reflects her sworn mission to protect him. I like the soft, silvery rain-like effect of the whole icon, contrasted with the delicately-edged fluorescent heart above their heads. Made by [info]jordannamorgan.


I have a long-standing love of the Muppets, so I wanted at least one  Muppet icon! I love the fractured-mirror effect, and the vividness of the greens and red/pinks. It's a really happy icon, and I should try to remember to use it more :-). Made by [info]juanxyo.

Girl Genius - Agatha + spanner
It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day! To my great amusement, when I went to my LibraryThing account an hour ago to add a book, everything had been piratised. So my Wishlist is now "Booty to be plundered", My Library is now "Yer cargo", and covers are "Book Britches". Heh.

More importantly, it's also Women's Suffrage Day here in New Zealand. I remain immensely proud of the fact that NZ was the first country in the world to give women the vote, especially when I think of how long it took in some other Western countries (yeah, a state in Australia and I think one in US did this the year before  - but NZ was the first self-governing nation to do so, and with no provisos about race or social level; the vote went to all women). So, all respect to my foremothers who fought for that bill in 1893, and the generations of women (and men) after them who have continued to champion the rights of women. There's still a long way to go, of course, but what a magnificent achievement that was.

In honour of this momentous day, I'd like to have a little burble about a graphic novel series that is stuffed to the gunwales with awesome women and would best be described as a rollicking, steampunk fantasy-adventure story, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure (see how I have cunningly combined my two reasons for celebrating here ;-).

I read the first volume of Phil & Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius a couple of years ago and enjoyed it, but I could only ever lay hands on a few volumes at the library, and I wasn't quite ready to commit to importing fairly pricey graphic novels (um, at that point I didn't know it was a webcomic. I can be a bit slow about these things). So when all the Auckland libraries amalgamated into one mega-system last year (with all the purchasing power and ability to loan to all Aucklanders that that suggested), they obligingly filled in most of the gaps for me. And that was all it took for me to become addicted! Here's the official synopsis:

"Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!

The Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare. It has been sixteen years since the Heterodyne Boys, benevolent adventurers and inventors, disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Today, Europe is ruled by the Sparks, dynasties of mad scientists ruling over--and terrorizing--the hapless population with their bizarre inventions and unchecked power, while the downtrodden dream of the Heterodynes' return.

At Transylvania Polygnostic University, a pretty, young student named Agatha Clay seems to have nothing but bad luck. Incapable of building anything that actually works, but dedicated to her studies, Agatha seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown by the ruthless tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, Agatha finds herself a prisoner aboard his massive airship Castle Wulfenbach--and it begins to look like she might carry a spark of Mad Science after all."

Yes, before you can say "it's alive!" (or "shiver me timbers!"), she's tangling with talking cat-kings, sentient castles, idiot gentlemen adventurers, former-pirate-queens-cum-airship-captains/homicidal-maniacs, actors, clockwork princesses, monster-soldiers called Jagers (who have great hats), slaver wasps, and several attractive young Sparks vying for her hand. And it all comes with sly, witty dialogue, and gorgeously-coloured, distinctively-rounded drawings (very rounded - we're talking some seriously voluminous bosoms here :-). I have fallen totally in love with all the characters, male and female (is it wrong to love the Baron as I do, I ask myself?), and it's had me laughing out loud over and over again. I spent the weekend listening to the audiobook version of Agatha H and the Airship City (a novel based on the first three graphic novels), and it was so much fun! It has translated very well into a full-length novel, I have to say; the authors have been able to add in some more extensive world-building and spend more time inside their characters' heads, which is great. On top of that, the narrator Angela Daw was truly excellent at handling all the characters (special props to her Jagermonsters, who were hilarious. Oh, and her rendition of Dupree, too!). In short it's great stuff, and I want to spread the love to the whole universe. Go forth - try it!
18th-Sep-2011 06:05 pm - Reading Round-up
Oliver & moths II
This week has marked a minor yet momentous occasion for the year, as I have now read 100 books so far. So, highlights of the past year so far for novels include:
  • Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain (which I did not get to read as a child, to my regret - still, there's always something to be said for reading a famous children's series as an adult).
  • Patricia McKillip's The Bards of Bone Plain and Od Magic (I think these two might make it into my top five favourite McKillip's).
  • Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series (it's his clever plotting and world-building that I admire; I think he's still got to develop his characterisation and description. But the first two he does very well indeed).
  • Ray Bradbury's Classic Stories 1: From the Golden Apples of the Sun and R is for Rocket (I hadn't read any Bradbury for years, and I'd forgotten what a good teller of yarns he is).
  • Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind (a very solid, intelligent fantasy. Not as earth-shattering as some have proclaimed, but still very good).
  • Catherine Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (a magnificent feast of words and imagery).
  • Terry Pratchett's Men At Arms and Moving Pictures (Pratchett seems to be endlessly inventive and clever).
  • Sarah Ash's Songspinners and The Lost Child (two of her earlier works. Intelligent, non-standard fantasy).
  • Sean William's The Crooked Letter (smart, thought-provoking and somewhat creepy. Looking forward to reading the next book).
I have also finally started reading my way through the Science Fiction Masterworks series, which I started collecting in 2000 (! Ahem - better late than never?). I am picking volumes by A) the year I bought them, so I'm tackling the ones I've had longest first, and B) slimness of the volumes - I'm reading them at work in little dribs and drabs over breakfast and during tea-breaks, so I'm not selecting ones that are longer than 300 pages. Fortunately, unlike the mammoth Fantasy Masterworks volumes, most of these are fairly slim. So far I've read: Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Samuel Delany's Babel-17, M. John Harrison's The Centauri Device, Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, and Brian Aldiss's Non-stop. This week, I've started George R. Stewart's Earth Abides. I can definitely see why they were all picked for this line-up, and they're all interesting reads (with a surprisingly contemporary feel, too, given most of them are at least 50 years old).

On the graphic novel front, I have filled in the gaps of my reading of Bill Willingham's Fables series, which is excellent, have become a confirmed fan of the Foglios' awesome Girl Genius books (which really deserve their own post and will get one, soon), and have been introduced to Warren Ellis' creepy but fascinating Freakangels. I have also read the most recent volumes of Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist manga series, which I love so very, very much (every time I read it or watch the anime, it ends up jumping higher on my favourites list).

Owing to my unstoppable fondness for buying books, I have had to add the following to my collection this week:
  • Sorcery Rising (Fools Gold, Book 1) by Jude Fisher
  • The Sky Warden and the Sun (Books of the Change, Book 2) and The Devoured Earth (Book 4 of the Books of the Cataclysm) by Sean Williams
  • The Court of the Midnight King by Freda Warrington
  • The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment, Book 1) by Kim Falconer
  • Sir Thursday (Keys to the Kingdom, Book 4) by Garth Nix
  • Feast of Souls (Magister Trilogy, Book 1) by C.S. Friedman
  • Rosa and the Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins
Nevertheless, I am making steady inroads into my backlog, and am trying to clear through the last of the books that I bought in the 90s and the early 00s. So my total to-read pile is standing at about 150 books, which isn't too bad.

In addition to this, I realised that I have now watched exactly 3500 episodes of anime over the past nine years (not counting re-watches, obviously). Banzai, anime!
11th-Sep-2011 12:16 pm - Yummy yummy cake
Oliver & moths II
Ever since we've got back from Japan (nearly two years ago - I can't believe it's been that long already!), xiaobellsa and I have been fantasising about the awesome cakes we had there. Happily, we have finally found some recipes for Japanese-style strawberry shortcake, which is A) delicious and B) very different from American-style shortcake. So xiaobellsa had a go at it yesterday, and this is how it turned out:


Not bad, eh? The sponge was a bit compressed, but the thickened cream frosting was a definite success, and the whole thing tasted very close to the real deal. Banzai!
9th-Sep-2011 03:56 pm - Rugby World Cup madness!
Recipe for Gertrude - Puppen and
Y'know, I don't give two hoots about rugby normally, despite being a Kiwi (heretical statement, I know) - but it's pretty hard to not get excited about the Rugby World Cup kick-off tonight! Not with a bubbling atmosphere electrifying the whole of Auckland, not with being allowed to leave work early today to either A) avoid the traffic getting home or B) head to the waterfront or Eden Park to partake in the festivities, not with it being a glorious early spring day, not with the flags of many nations waving from buildings and bridges and people's cars. And not with some really cool flashmobs performing the haka!
Yep, a few days ago in the Sylvia Park shopping complex and today in central Auckland, bunches of guys converged to peform the traditional Maori war dance the haka (which our rugby team the All Blacks also perform before matches) in front of delighted crowds:


Makes you realise just how damn effective it must have been as an actual wardance, back in the day, ne?
Now, the big burning question: should we just watch the ceremonies from the comfort of our living room, or drive up the big hill nearby and watch the fireworks as they burst over the city? Hmmmm.
Also: Go All Blacks! Good luck Tonga!
4th-Sep-2011 09:03 pm - Happy Father's Day!
Shaun Tan - House monster
To all the dads out there - you rock! Of course, my Dad is no longer with us, but we did lots of things today that he would have approved of. Chief among which was going to see the 25th anniversary re-release of the classic NZ animated film, Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale.

Dad and I were mad fans of the comic strip Footrot Flats, and he took us to see this film on New Year's Eve in 1986 (my little sisters and I took our new Dog stuffed toys to watch along with us, of course). I hadn't watched the movie for umpteen years, and I was really delighted to discover: A) that it has held up really well and is still hugely entertaining (though I have absolutely no idea of what non-Antipodeans would think of it), and B) that it's completely a product of a time that has long gone, so there's a major nostalgia factor there). It's the same era that the awesome movie Boy was also set in - it's all ratty-tatty, backwater country stuff, before NZ got dragged, kicking and screaming, into the mad commercialism of the 80s. It's totally scungy and bucolic, but also very vital and quite adorable in its way. Not to mention the fact that it's got a wonderful cast of characters, and the voice actors really do them justice.
Perhaps the coolest thing about it was making the acquaintance of Horse (the toughest cat EVER) again. This is Horse:

I found this youtube video of Dog and Horse versus the Rats; it's kind of neat (picture quality is crap, though):

Horse arrives at about 1.20 minutes. Cat knows how to make an entrance :-)
5th-Aug-2011 02:20 pm - Books, books and more books
Oliver & moths II
I'm having a long weekend in Wellington, so it must be time for a book-buying spree! I have scored the following:
  • Palimpsest by Catherine Valente (I loved her kids' book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, and I thought it was time to try one of her adults' books).
  • World Without End by Sean Russell (Book 1 of Moontide and Magic Rise; I read Bk 2 earlier in the year and found it very interesting).
  • Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler (Bk 2 of Xenogenesis; I've never read any Butler and now's a good time to remedy that).
  • Hogfather, The Last Continent, Monstrous Regiment and Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (gotta fill the holes in my small but growing Pratchett collection).
  • Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (haven't read Bk 1 of the Rain Wild Chronicles yet, but it's on the to-read-shortly list).
  • The Blood Debt by Sean Williams (Bk 2 of the Books of the Cataclysm; I just finished Bk 1 the other day, and found it excellent, so on to Bk 2 in short order. The cover's got zeppelins/blimps flying over a Grand Canyonesque chasm. Looks cool.).
  • Moths to a Flame by Sarah Ash (her first book, I think, and the only one of hers I hadn't come across yet. I'll read anything she chooses to write :-).
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (the last in His Dark Materials trilogy, which has been on my to-read list for years. Finally, I'll get to finish it).
  • Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock (Bk 53 in the Science Fiction masterworks series. Sounds good, and I'm always keen to plug the gaps in my SF Masterworks holdings).
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (now I just have to get his book of poetry, Beyond This Dark House - which I'm reading at my sister's house at present - and Ysabel, and I'll have all his stuff).
  • Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, art by Ed Young - a gorgeous kids' picture book about a Japanese cat who goes in search of the meaning of her name, and finds it's to do with the Japanese concept of beauty in simplicity. It's peppered with haikus, and has lovely collage-style art. Here's a link to its LibraryThing entry: http://www.librarything.com/work/5294163, so you can see its cover art
ETA to add link and extra text.
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