China Mieville and Socializing

We have a list of books that are "not so new" at work. Returning them to the regular shelves includes peeling off stickers and tape, as well as changing their shelf location. This is often where I find books that I want to read, as there is so much work involved in processing that I often don't have time to look at the new books, other than to glance at a title and decide in a split second whether I'm interested or not.

Well, one day I saw the name "China Mieville" on the list and remembered that I had always intended to read his work but never got around to it for various reasons. This book of his, that was not so new, was Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories. Needless to say, it is now checked out to me. I don't know what I was expecting of Mieville's work, but whatever opinion I had of him before has been entirely flipped around.

The horror in these short stories is not in the strange environmental and biological changes that occur, its in the indifference of the narration by human characters. The horror is in how quickly the strange and bizarre becomes the new norm, the new mundane. In the second short story, Polynia, the narrator views the icebergs that grow above London with fascination as a child, obsessed with any new information that comes to him. By the time he's 26, they're just icebergs, hovering above ominously. Its in this blase reaction that Mieville's horror comes through.

I did take issue with one Goodreads review that said Mieville isn't particularly good at writing short stories because some of the ones included in Moments are thirty pages long. This is the wrong way to think about short stories. A short story is a short story until it's a novella, at 17,500 words. There are so many short stories out there that are longer than 30 pages. I write short stories longer than 30 pages. It doesn't mean that it isn't a good short story, it just means that some stories require a heftier word count.

Speaking of writing, I did something social.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Blackstar - David Bowie

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Every now and then, that little bug nips at my skin. A popular book that I can't stop hearing about, constantly being recommended to me. Popularity tends to rank on the "hit or miss" scale with me. For example, I loved The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I don't even remember how long that book was, only that I had to keep coming back to it. Featuring characters who were so incredibly unlikable that they were strangely likable and incredibly beautiful, lyrical prose that called to mind the very classics that these college students were studying. I loved Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, with prose that infused the novel with an unsettling, eerie atmosphere. On the other hand, I kind of hated Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Her Fearful Symmetry, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and A Darker Shade of Magic.

Thus, Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. Recommended to me by several people. Massively popular. Made into a movie franchise (that ultimately trickled away into the dark recesses of development hell). A TV show, even! I knew of Clare and her dealings on the internet, as well as the claims of plagiarism. But hey, I'm an adult. I can read a work without considering the dealings of an author. And initially, I thought, "I can do this! This isn't so bad! There's a light at the end of this tunnel!"

You see, for as much as I didn't like the previous popular novels mentioned above, the least I can say for them is that they were written professionally. Edited. Showcased sentences of varying length and word usage. And as much as I disliked how bisexuality was portrayed in A Darker Shade of Magic, well . . .

How can tangles be fragrant?Collapse )
  • Current Music: Burn the Witch - Radiohead
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Angel's Egg (1985)

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I never got around to talking about Mamoru Oshii's Angel's Egg and I don't feel as though I have the words to talk about it now (Oshii would later go on to direct Ghost in the Shell and Jin-Roh). I will say that I felt an eerie sense of familiarity while watching this film, that sense of, "I've seen this before." And I think it was due to my dad's love for obscure science-fiction films. Perhaps I was hiding behind the couch while he watched In the Aftermath. I'll never know.

Here are all the screen captures I took of Angel's Egg, as the strange beauty of this film (with designs by Yoshitaka Amano) needs to be seen.

They forgot where they were from . . .Collapse )
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The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon

"Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair."

I can't even begin to tell you what it is like to suffer from depression. Only that there is an indescribable ache within you, the ache of alienation from your self, from others, the ache of detachment from life. Every conversation, plagued with thoughts denying that anyone could possibly like you. Every effort, being reminded that there is nothing you can do to stop the void that is mortality from claiming your weak, lazy body. Understanding is difficult to find, especially when you don't even know what it is you have.

The present tense of mild depression envisages no alleviation because it feels like knowledge.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Must Fight Current - Deerhoof

Plans + Music

In the past week, I've attempted to write two posts, but the language hasn't been satisfactory for me. This is a problem I'm trying to get over, that I should write even if I hate my words. I just had an increase in my medication as well, which is . . . I don't know how to feel about that. I'm glad that I'm not jumpy and panicking constantly at work while trying to hide it behind a nervous laugh, but there's the thought that I'm now fully committed to my medication than ever before. I don't know why taking a lower dosage felt as though I was taking a dip in the waters, though. It's also difficult to find the right words when it seems as though there's no logic in the world.

So I focus on flippant matters. That's the only thing that takes my mind off of life. I ordered an object to go with my camera, which is all for something I've been planning for a while. It's in the works.

I've also been focusing entirely on music. I purchased Deerhoof vs. Evil, which I forgot how much I loved it. Deerhoof is seriously incapable of producing a bad or mediocre album. I've also been considering purchasing The Shins' Port of Morrow, Elvis Costello's This Year's Model and Patti Smith's Horses. They're all $5 on Amazon Music, but then I remembered that I have Freegal, through my library. I used to listen to The Shins in my early years of college, until they released Wincing Away the Night. A friend (I'm afraid of using this term, but I think that's what he's honestly become) at work recommended it to me, saying that it's excellent with really depressing lyrics and happy music. Belle and Sebastian still wins in that category for me. No one can make failure as catchy as Belle and Sebastian. And I own practically half of This Year's Model. Lipstick Vogue is still one of my favorite songs. I love how Costello takes the nostalgic charm of 50's era sounds and turns it cynically onto itself.

But then I listened to samples from Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool and David Bowie's Blackstar and found myself emotionally moved. More on those as I listen to them further, but the fact that I'm swayed by only 30 seconds of sound is impressive.

More later, I guess.
  • Current Music: Behold, A Marvel in the Darkness - Deerhoof
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On Slipstream

Thoughts have been accruing. I believed it best to start categorizing my books on Goodreads into neat little shelves. The firm belief in order gave me respite from a rather crazy week, in which I had both a shock of pure anxiety and a tumble back into the lower depths of depression. Now, I am ill and I have been doing small things to calm myself. Susan Sontag is entirely correct in stating that photography is an act of forcing order upon a chaotic world. I started taking pictures again, with a new camera, enthused that nature could be captured in a single image. But the shelves - that proved the greatest pleasure.

I guess Goodreads now allows a feature where you can search other shelves and see what else has been placed under the title of your shelf. So I searched on my collection of "slipstream" novels and was quickly disheartened to see the likes of Susanna Clarke and Neil Gaiman near the top of the list.

Too often, slipstream is muddled with science-fiction and fantasy. Slipstream actually has very little to do with genre and more to do with atmosphere. Anna Kavan's Ice is considered a prime example of slipstream and yet, the genre of the novel does not feel anything like science-fiction or fantasy. Instead, what is most important is the feeling of wrongness, of oddity in the atmosphere. I think that many people confuse "strange" for slipstream.

My problem with Clarke and Gaiman being so near the top of the list is that their works are far too definitive to fit within the slipstream label. Gaiman's works often irritate me in that there is always a character who is versed in the weirdness and will point it out to the main character who knows nothing of it. The universe is too defined.

For me, slipstream is best expressed in Possession, a film entirely about wrongness. The scene that has always stuck with me is when the refrigerator is opened to reveal that their laundry has been sitting in there. The Silent Hill series of video games is also quite good at this, particularly in 2 and 3. In the second game, there is a moment when James and Maria enter an elevator and the game suddenly develops a sense of humor. In the absence of humor, the intimation of it gave me a very odd sense of horror, something that is hard to find in any fictional work. As far as modern written works go, The Virgin Suicides is excellent at producing this feeling with the very first line.

It's taken me a long time to identify exactly what I write. I don't say this in some futile attempt to make myself appear better. I even have a hard time identifying my personality. But there is a sense of wrongness that I connect to and that I try to incorporate in all of my work. I'm not sure if it's due to the anxiety and depression that has always been a part of me - I think always of Andrew Solomon's question now in The Noonday Demon, when does personality end and ailment begin? But the universe is a strange, absurd place. And I'm less frightened of it these days and more fascinated.

These are the thoughts of an ill, frightened, depressed person.
  • Current Music: Myxomatosis - Radiohead


If there"s anything I can applaud CLAMP for, it"s that their depictions of Tokyo are fantastic. #clamp #manga

When I went in to work Thursday afternoon, I came across a collection of books that made me pause. They were brand new, waiting for me to process them. I didn't want to thumb through them. I desperately wanted to thumb through them. Somewhere between those juxtaposing thoughts, I decided that I had to thumb through the books to see what volumes were included in each one. This was the wrong decision to make.

The second I opened the first volume, seeing the artwork alone sent me back to high school. I was fourteen, hanging out in a comic book shop in Santa Barbara, doggedly interested in anything that came from Japan. This particular series, a friend had mentioned to me as being difficult to find. And the grotesque has always interested me. I remember flipping through the pages and seeing black ink drawings of blood. Somewhere along the line, I thought, "This is me. This is so me. I have to have this." $20 spent on one manga volume. It was a different time back then. You paid for the distributors to switch Japanese comics to read as American comics did. It wasn't uncommon to find singles of chapters sold like regular comics; in Japan, these comics were released in published collections, like Shounen Jump.

Anyway, present me (but not present NOW me) did what anyone encumbered with the presence of nostalgia would do: I put the volume on hold. This is becoming a problem for me, especially when I see all the new shipments of books that come in. I put everything on hold. I have books I'm not even sure I really want to read, but hey, I'll try it. This is where my curiosity gets me, with too many books and lacking Felix the Cat's wormhole of a bag. I thought about putting all the volumes of this series on hold, but then I realized I didn't have a feasible way of carrying them home.

If Neon Genesis Evangelion was completely new territory for me, then this series is a trek deep into the past for me. It's completely important to me and completely unimportant to me. I kind of hate it. I kind of love it. It's a strange position to be in with a fictional work. I honestly think that without this series, Axle wouldn't be who he is now. After hating this series, I made it my mission to make Axle such an anti version of the main character. And while Axle has absolutely nothing to do with this main character these days, without his presence I think the Axle I know would be someone entirely different.

You probably already know what series I'm talking about. Secrets are not necessarily my thing. And yes, I fully intend to read it all over again and talk about it here. Because I can't bring myself to watch the anime. I see feathers and glass shards and I can't take it. I can't.

So here's to . . . remembering?
  • Current Music: Distance Equals Rate Times Time - Pixies
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Bookshelf Tour

I found a thing. And when I have no idea about what to post or am lamenting the fact that I'm still trying to finish Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression (so much information in the history section, I'm trying to take notes on it all) or am trying to wrap my brain around writing a post on a film I love as much as Wings of Desire (I think I almost have it, even when I never truly have it). Thus, I found a thing and like most things in my life, I am happy to collect things and place them upon my shelf. Blog. Journal. What have you.

A thing. Here's a thing.

The only thing more scattered than my mind right now, my bookshelves.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Cathy with the Curly Hair - Eleanor Friedberger
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Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Hearing the words "Marvel," "Civil," and "War" used in a titular fashion tends to make me giggle. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I know of the comic series, the ridiculous story, and the rather black and white takes on rather ambiguous stances (Iron Man = Bad! Captain America = Good! Iron Man = so wrong, wrong wrong. Captain America = so right, right, right). The other reason is entirely personal and is a rather amusing memory from a creative writing class in which we had to make plot triangles on stories we liked. One student did his on Marvel: Civil War and I will never forget the gravitas that he possessed as he spoke that title. I had to keep myself from laughing as he discussed the plot elements within the story as if it was Dostoyevsky. I sound like a jerk right now, I know, and I apologize. I was in my early twenties. I have very fond memories of this student and I hope he's doing okay now.

The point is that I have a very difficult time taking Marvel: Civil War seriously. When I started to hear good things about Captain America: Civil War, I had little interest. The last time I saw a film that included Captain America, it was The Avengers and I didn't care for that film at all. In fact, I'm just not a big fan of the Captain America character. And Chris Evans isn't allowed to do much with the character other than crack a few jokes here and there and spew typical American rhetoric about doing what's right. Because those are American values . . . right?

You guys ever seen that really old film, The Empire Strikes Back?Collapse )
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40 for 30

My birthday has consisted of a whole weekend, apparently. Friday, the 13th, my actual birthday, wasn't so great. I worked for seven hours, went out for food with family and then crashed for three hours out of pure exhaustion. I over-work myself. I have only one free day ever other week and I'm starting to get to the point where I just need some sleep. My cat Bentley even came in to check on me.

And then I did the unthinkable: I did something social on Saturday. I went out to go see a film. With someone who wasn't a family member. This frightened me greatly. Also, it was a film I knew I wasn't going to be as excited about, but. Surprising myself, I had fun. I enjoyed conversing with the person I went with. And I didn't outright dislike the film I went to see (let's not talk about my opinion on the first Avengers; the last time I saw a Marvel film, it ended with me trying to discuss my thoughts and my niece taking it all so personally. Ha, just kidding me, the last Marvel film you saw was Guardians of the Galaxy). I'll explain more of my thoughts on the film later. In short: some really great ideas and some interesting thoughts on politics and superheroes unfortunately forced to be dumbed down by the usual conventions of a super hero film. Also, Chadwick Boseman as a superhero! I approve of this. (Personally, not falling asleep during an Avengers type film is an improvement for me)

Then, today, I had to go pick up my cake in Santa Barbara. The sun was out. Lately, we've had those muddling clouds of a near-summer that is typical for California. But today, it was absolutely clear. I had wandered into the courtyard in the old Paseo. There was a slight breeze and as I looked up, I saw bright orange citrus from on a tree. I saw the rustic Spanish-style buildings. I saw the native succulents growing in pots, left in a long dried-out fountain. And that moment crept up on me again, that feeling of happiness. Brief as it was, it's something that I'll treasure for a long time - looking up and seeing those oranges, feeling such relief that they were bright and hanging from a tree.

I did make a playlist for my birthday though, so here it is. Instead of titles, there's lyrics! And if a song comes from a film, there's quotes.

40 for 30Collapse )
  • Current Music: Tetsuwan Atomu - Stereo Total