Friday, October 31, 2008

No Time for a Real Post Today

. . . so instead, I'll just comment that apparently the room for nursing mothers at my office is called the "Wellness Room." Kind of vague, hrm?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Always Stuck Repeating

The of Montreal blog posts links to two new interviews today. Both focus on mention Kevin's ambition to write songs on Skeletal Lamping that differ from the standard pop template, "something that was constantly shifting, constantly changing, with no rules and no limitations, no structure really...." The interview with The Toronto Star even features Kevin saying, "I know people don't want this record, really – I can tell by most of the reviews. Everyone seems so befuddled. Some people are actually pissed off. `How dare he make this record? Obviously, he can write pop songs. Why is he doing this?' It's absurd, the reaction, when people are given something that is complicated and unconventional and exceptional. They don't even know what to think of it." A statement which is totally true - I've seen reviews along those lines.

So maybe now is the time to mention that I just don't think Skeletal Lamping is all that weird. I don't know. I mean, yes, some of the songs really differ from traditional song structures, like the opener, "Nonpareil of Favor." That song basically follows the structure ABCD and is legitimately unusual. But there are also several songs that seem to mostly follow a standard verse-chorus structure, maybe deviating from this slightly at a couple of points, but not to any genuinely unusual extent. "An Eluardian Instance," "Triphallus, to Punctuate!," and "Beware Our Nubile Miscreants" all strike me as fitting to at least some extent to the standard pop song verse-chorus template, and are three of the most immediately catchy songs on the album, presumably because of this; first single "Id Engager" fits into this category as well, which is, again, presumably why it was chosen as the first single. Even the lengthy "Plastis Wafers," which certainly doesn't fit the standard template, actually starts out with an ABCABC structure, enough to make the song's catchy "chorus" get stuck in my head, at least, even if it moves on to different places from there.

Furthermore, even when it comes to the album's more unusual songs, intellectually, I certainly notice the disorienting effects that Kevin and his interviewers are talking about, but, viscerally, I don't feel like what I'm listening to is particularly bizarre. I don't know. Is there something unusual about the way that I listen to music? I don't feel disoriented at all, and I'm not sure I feel like listening to Skeletal Lamping is different from listening to any other reasonably good album. Does anyone else in the world feel this way? Or is there really something I'm missing?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Lack of Need for Words

A long time ago, at summer camp, someone discussed the topic of "should we think of song lyrics as poetry?" I like song lyrics, I like poetry, but, much to my surprise, I decided that, no, we shouldn't think of song lyrics as poetry. This isn't to argue that song lyrics cannot be effective poetry, but I feel like this is something totally irrelevant to whether or not they are effective song lyrics.

Recently, I've been thinking of this because I've found myself with the CD Firebrand by a capella filk group Sassafrass. When I get new music, I always listen to it, many times, because I tend not to be able to successfully evaluate my attitude towards a song until I've heard it many times. I was a little biased against "Firebrand" for irrelevant personal reasons, but now that I've listened to it a few times, I think that I am legitimately not too fond of this CD. Oh, sure, I get songs from it stuck in my head, but you get songs from anything stuck in your head if you listen to them enough. I can't imagine ever thinking that I want to put on a song from this CD to listen to in the future, however, or even thinking about it much after I stop listening to it.

I'm reasonably sure that the CD doesn't work for me for a pretty simple reason - I don't particularly care for this kind of music ("folk in style with Renaissance elements"). On the just-linked website, the group gives some fairly valid reasons for their lack of interest in doing the more typical pop-based a capella songs, which I totally understand, but I'm just more interested in that type of a capella. I'm not good enough at dancing about architecture to explain my taste, but I'm conscious enough to be aware of it. So this is music that fundamentally bores me, and that would be why I'm not so fond of the CD.

But I'm also interested in my reaction to the lyrics. The lyrics, mostly written by the group itself, are not your standard pop-style lyrics, either (as to be expected from a filk group). And, to my mind, at least, they seem to be particularly poetic lyrics - often narrative poetry, going into great detail on various stories, but sometimes more lyric poetry. What makes me feel this way? Hard to say (I'm not an expert on writing about poetry, either - even in my academic studies, I'm pretty much a narrative girl rather than a form girl), but I think it's the sheer complexity of the lyrics. Listening to the song isn't enough to get all of the meaning out of it - you simply need to read the lyrics to follow along (and I feel like I'm missing a lot from those songs where the group hasn't published lyrics on their website yet). It takes time to process them (an exception would be "A Proper Mermaid Tale", which has clever, funny lyrics that are simple enough that you can probably get the joke just from listening to the song).

Some of these poetic lyrics aren't particularly interesting, good or bad. So "Toys for Big Kids" has lyrics definitely more complicated than those of most songs I listen to, but, ultimately, I think they're pretty disposable. I wouldn't be interested in this poem, but I wouldn't hate it, either. Some of them are a little worse, like "Somebody Will," which seems irritatingly preachy - I wouldn't want to read that poem.

But the one that interests me the most is "Fall", because I actually really like these lyrics. Of course, I would - they're revisionist Christian mythology lyrics, and I'm pretty much a sucker for revisionist Christian mythology. I really like the lyrics as a poem, and the fact that I like them does improve the song, in the sense that, when this song comes on, I kind of want to listen to it, to hear the story again. As a poem, these lyrics are at least as good, if not better, than Kevin Barnes' lyrics to "The Repudiated Immortals," a song which, similarly, seems to have something to do with revisionist Christian mythology.

Now, if you read over the latter, you'll notice the definite difference between Sassafrass and of Montreal. "Fall" really does tell a story. It's a narrative poem. "The Repudiated Immortals" seems more like an abstract painting - a couple of lines that gesture at a deeper meaning. I don't really know what the scenario behind the lines is; I just have a sense of a couple of scenes. I'm not sure how you'd evaluate it as a poem, without music. You might not look at it twice. But the music for "The Repudiated Immortals" is much more appealing to me than the music for "Fall," and that makes a difference. The music and the lyrics for this song really work together in a way that I'm unable to perceive them doing in "Fall" - the sketchiness of the lyrics means that the music is able to fill in the holes, and the lyrics add the slightest dash of representationality to the music, and it's just much more powerful (for me) than the combination of music and lyrics in "Fall."

So that's why I'm not interested so much in evaluating song lyrics as poetry - because, for me, the best song lyrics combine with the music to create an aesthetic experience that would be lesser with either part left out (my favorite example here is Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts' "Call Me Call Me," with lyrics by Tim Jensen - I once had a major epiphany in part caused by the combination of music and lyrics in this song). I think it's awesome that Sassafrass could write a really good poem, like "Fall," and I respect them for that, but, as lyrics go, I'd take "The Repudiated Immortals" any time!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Need for Words

I was just having a conversation with someone about Hatikvah, which reminds me of one of the funniest things ever. Unfortunately, you need to be a DWJ fan to find it funny, so I'm just going to have to write about it here.

So, DWJ has this book, The Magicians of Caprona, featuring a tune to which no one knows the correct lyrics. Eventually, it transpires that it's vitally important to find the correct lyrics - this is the key to saving the entire city of Caprona. The whole plot of the book is thus directed around the search for the lyrics to this tune.

I don't think it ever occurred to me that DWJ might have a particular tune in mind, but, in this interview with Judith Ridge, she mentions that, in fact, she was thinking of Smetana's Vltava from Ma Vlast. In fact, the inspiration for the book was her feeling that the tune of Vltava needed words and didn't have them.

But, as it happens, Smetana didn't actually make up the tune himself; he got it from a very old folk tune that also happens to be the source for the melody of Hatikvah. I guess this tune has had lyrics set to it before, but, right now, the most obvious counter-example to DWJ's anxiety about the lack of lyrics to the tune is the Hatikvah. Which means that really, all throughout The Magicians of Caprona, the characters were really looking for the Israeli national anthem to save their city. It also sort of half-implies that the city-state of Caprona, for which the song is a kind of anthem, is in fact Israel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

I am a girl who loves her sleep. I've been known to spend well over 12 hours in a row in bed, even when I'm not sick, and the majority of that time isn't while I'm awake, either. Moreover, I don't really look on that as a problem or flaw - I actively desire sleep. It seems like a really good way of spending my time!

My best friend has queried me about that a couple of times, asking me how I could possibly enjoy sleep so much when I don't experience anything whilst asleep and even asking me once why, if I enjoyed sleep so much, I didn't just commit suicide and be unconscious forever. I've answered her in a couple of ways, pointing out that, while I don't experience dreamless sleep, I do experience (and enjoy!) being half-asleep and having dreams. I think these are more or less the appropriate answers, although, obviously, even if I did enjoy being unconscious more than anything else I do (and I don't even enjoy being half-asleep and having dreams more than anything else - narrative art still wins), I think I could still legitimately argue that it's worth not committing suicide, because just because something is one's favorite activity does not mean that one would be happiest doing only that activity. And death is pretty much ONLY being unconscious, forever.

I was reminded of these conversations by this Scientific American article about "why we can't imagine death" (which I found a link to at yhlee's blog. The article makes the point that we can't experience "dreamless sleep," so that it doesn't help us to imagine death. Obviously, therefore, whatever it is that I mean I love when I say "I love sleep" isn't the dreamless sleep. And I'm willing to admit that it's the periods of distorted consciousness - the dreams and the half-asleep bits - that I love. Sleep, therefore, contra my best friend and Hamlet, is not as good a metaphor for death as we might like - in fact, we don't really have any great metaphors for death, because no experience is like no-experience. This makes it kind of hard to look forward to death, even though I can empathize with the desire to avoid life-as-we-know it (although I admit that I've never actually been suicidal, so I'm not sure what suicidal people actually feel).

That having been said, I do spend a perhaps inordinate amount of time thinking about what kind of experience would be my ideal, if there were limits on me except for those of my imagination. I come up with various ideas, and most of the time the one I'm about to mention isn't actually my favorite, but sometimes, especially when I'm feeling particularly melancholy (or creative!), it seems extremely tempting: not to die, but to sleep, and, yes, indeed, to dream, forever. Some of the most pleasurable days I've had in my life have been those where I spend the day in bed, alternately thinking about my favorite stories, dreaming, and having that no-experience dreamless sleep. I couldn't possibly desire dreamless sleep forever; it's a contradiction in terms. And I know that it's impossible to spend a lifetime in bed. Most of the time, I don't even want to. But just because it isn't really my ideal and couldn't be achieved even if it were doesn't mean that it's not more desirable than this existence (I feel this way about some supposed dystopias, too. They may not be the utopias they pretend to be, but they're still better than the real world as we know it!).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confusion Creeps Inside Me!

Yoko Kanno is one of my favorite musicians of all time - but, yesterday, I found a message board post listing examples of how she's plagiarized other musicians. I'm not quite sure what to think about this.

I'm not quite sure how accusations of plagiarism work in music, for one thing. What's the difference between the similarities between "Hello I Love You" and "All Day and All of the Night" on the one hand, and those between "My Sweet Lord" and "He's So Fine" on the other? That YK's "Call Me Call Me" uses some music that sounds exactly identical to the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony" is obvious as soon as you listen to the two songs, but I've never thought of it as plagiarism - the songs otherwise strike me as very different, and I love "Call Me Call Me" as more. But it's true that if it were a work of literature, that one line would be enough to make it plagiarism and to affect my attitude towards the literature. I guess because of the generally contentless nature of music, my attitude towards melodies is generally different.

Another issue is that the most obvious, blatant, and thorough piece of plagiarism that was reported, YK's "Mushroom Hunting" and DJ Food's "Let the Good Shine", can't possibly have bothered DJ Food too much, as they ended up remixing one of Yoko Kanno's songs after the publication of "Mushroom Hunting." So that makes me wonder if there's something more behind this story that we don't know about yet.

And then the third thing is that even if this is, really, as bad as it looks, well, I've gotten a lot of great music out of the situation that I wouldn't have heard of anyway. Perhaps the best plan for me to make is that someday, I'll buy all of this music that I've discovered through Yoko Kanno, from its original creators. For example, yesterday, I listened to the first movement of Steve Reich's The Desert Music. This is a piece of 20th century classical music, not at all the kind of thing I normally pay any attention to. But I really enjoyed it - as much as I enjoy the YK song, "Powder," that sounds like it. It's hard to be angry at Yoko Kanno for introducing me to this music, but it might be good to tip Steve Reich a few bucks, if he's the one who actually created it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Go on an Anti-Humanity Rant

There's a certain train station bookstore of which I have very fond memories. It's where I bought PKD's A Scanner Darkly and a really good book of Ted Sturgeon short stories. Recently, I happened to be passing through that train station again, and I didn't have enough to read for the trip ahead, but there wasn't anything nearly as tempting in the bookstore this time. I wound up buying City of Ember, which I knew I'd heard of because of the current film, but which I was also pretty certain I'd read about on Farah Mendlesohn's blog. Unfortunately, while I had remembered correctly, what I hadn't remembered is that Farah hated the book. Whoops!

I wouldn't say that Farah's quibbles weighed on me as much as they did on her, although they did, I think, make the book feel more childish. But I'll tell you what bothered me at the end of the book. In a fairly unsurprising plot point, it transpires that Ember, the underground city, was founded by people who were afraid that all of humanity would die out. They built the city and sent a group of elderly people and babies to live there so that at least one small sliver of humanity could survive. This is explicitly stated - "it's supposed to ensure that, no matter what happens, people won't disappear from the earth" (259). However, they deliberately asked the elderly people not to reveal anything of human culture to the babies, "so that they feel no sorrow for what they have lost" (260).

Okay. So that point is clearly necessary for the plot of the book to work - you need the people of Ember to be completely ignorant in order for there to be all the exciting revelations of things like boats and candles to people who've never even heard of such ideas before. But, to me, at least, this seems to kinda sorta negate the purpose of having Ember in the first place. First of all, it seems ludicrous to me that the babies would feel such sorrow at all. They might vaguely miss having the lives of their caretakers, but it's very difficult to feel such profound and deep sorrow over the absence of something you've never personally experienced. I often think that there are elements of life in the past that sound entrancing or desirable, but, if I've never experienced them myself, I don't really feel strong emotions about it.

But, leaving that aside. . . I don't see the point of saving humanity if you're not saving human culture, too. I see the value of saving individual human lives. We like humans, we like it when they don't die. And I see the value of saving human culture. Human culture is great! It's what makes life worth living. But I don't really see the virtue of saving humanity as anything other than a necessary aspect of saving human lives and a potential vector of saving human culture. If all of humanity were to die out, I think the particularly undesirable aspects of that would be: A) if it involved lots of people dying, not just lots of people not being born, and B) that no one would be able to appreciate or carry on human culture. I don't think the mere fact of this species not existing any more is so drastic - that's simply something that happens to species eventually.

We aren't told, in this book, what disaster exactly threatens the world at the time of the foundation of Ember. I guess that's explained in the prequel. And if it turns out, in that prequel, that Ember was immediately necessary in order to save actual human lives, I can accept that motive for the founding (although I still think the killing off human culture stuff is ludicrous and unnecessary). We should totally take drastic steps to save human lives! But if there wasn't any immediate threat, and the goal really was just to save humanity, then I'll be kind of pissed off. What makes us so great? Well, the culture, of course. But apparently Jeanne DuPrau isn't convinced. . . .

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Passage of Time

I don't actually read xkcd on a regular basis, but every once in a while my best friend points a specific strip out to me, and I read it. This strip is about Burma-Shave. Why did I get a joke about Burma-Shave? Because of a much older joke about Burma-Shave - from a Mad Magazine from the early 60s, one of the many that I used to read every single time I went over to my grandparents' house as a little kid. Remembering that reminds me of how important Mad was to me as a small child - not only did I obsessively devour 60s Mad magazines at my grandparents' house, but I also spent my time reading the more recent vintage in the children's section of the library every single time I went to the library. In retrospect, this is kind of strange - I probably knew very little about the pop culture of either the 60s or the 80s, so I doubt I got a lot of the jokes in either subset of Mad magazines. And yet I sure enjoyed reading them! I haven't even though about Mad in years - at some point, I read all of the ones there were at my grandparents' house, and I started actually caring about picking out my own books to read at the library (before that, while I sat reading magazines, my parents would pick out books for me). It's always slightly disconcerting to remember how something that was very important to you at some point in your life drops out of it almost completely. Or, at least, I find it so. It takes me a lot of time to realize that I no longer love something qute as much as I used to, because I find it so difficult to admit!
This is a really appealing interview with Georgie Fruit (not Kevin Barnes, Georgie Fruit). Or, at least, it appeals to me. Georgie Fruit sounds suspiciously like Achewood (n.b., I do not read Achewood, but I know enough about it from my brother to be able to tell). I like what he has to say about Kevin. One assumes that Kevin was ventriloquizing Georgie Fruit again. . . . I would love to talk about myself from the perspective of another persona, but I don't feel like there's much room in my life to do that. A lot of artists whom I'm very drawn to have interests in Dissociative Identity Disorder (off the top of my head - Philip Dick, Jenna Moran, Tetsuya Takahashi, DWJ, and Kevin Barnes all seem to fit the bill). I'm always curious as to why, given that it's something that I find almost impossible to imagine for myself. I always feel pretty secure in my identity and selfhood - so I'm not sure why I love so much to read about the experiences of people who don't, why this, in particular, should be a theme that appeals to me so significantly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Apparently, some of the designers of Xenogears (including Kunihiko Tanaka and the awesomeness that is Yasunori Mitsuda) have put out a game, entitled World Destruction, in which the protagonists' goal is, in fact, to destroy the world. Also, one of the playable characters is a pirate teddy bear.

I suppose I will never play this game, but that's probably okay. There is no way that it could possibly live up to that description. No way.

Anyway, this news requires a song. My brother made up this filk when we were playing Xenogears together, and it's just too appropriate. Sing along, now. . . "Destroy the world. Make it a better place. . . for me. There are people dying. . . so it's a better place. . . for me."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lack of Sleep Makes Me Post More (and Other Things, Too)

I just muttered something under my breath and then noticed, after the fact, that it had been half in Japanese, half in Chinese.

Keep in mind that I only know Japanese from anime. . . .

Quick Question-I-Had-at-Work Post

It's kind of a commonplace of discussion about the history of Western thought that we have this religious/Platonic idea running throughout it that consciousness precedes the external world - an idea that has had many permutations of varying levels of interest. However, leaving aside the truth or falsehood of the concepts that consciousness in general precedes the external world or some form of Platonic/Wordsworthian barely-remembered reincarnation exists, surely our actual experience of our individual consciousness that we can actually remember tends to suggest that this one thing does, in fact, come after the external world. Like, there's this big world with a lot of stuff in it that seems to have been around for a while, and, while our experience of consciousness is obviously guided by various mental constraints that allow us to learn, surely every actual experience is new to the individual mind (and it's not like we have memories of some other experiences that are no longer happening to us). So why is the idea that consciousness comes first so prevalent? Does Freud talk about this?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Was Going to Write About Iceland Last Week, but I Didn't Have Enough Time, so This Is Still a Purely Of Montreal Blog

I listened to this BBC interview/performance with of Montreal. It was interesting, because I felt a little embarrassed while listening to it. The interviewer obviously knew nothing about the band, and I suppose I just felt a kind of sympathetic awkwardness - I would feel so embarrassed if I were supposed to be somewhat well-known and got interviewed by people who knew nothing about me.

I have, of course, been reading and listening to a bunch of of Montreal interviews lately, some of which have been heavily criticized by fans of the band. In general, though, the interviews I've read and heard seem to involve interviewers who know quite a lot about the band's history and background (example of a radio interview here). I feel like it's not so awkward for the band members to answer a question about a potentially touchy issue like Kevin's creative domination of the band when everyone's starting from the awareness that that's true. Even if the question is hostile, the interviewer and the interviewees all know what the situation is, and the interviewees can just casually deflect and say something along the lines of: "We know you think this is bad for us, but, just like we've said a million times before, no, we don't mind it." But I feel like the situation is different when the interviewer really genuinely believes that maybe everyone in the band takes a creative role. I feel like the answer to this question in the BBC interview was more awkward for Kevin to give, because the person asking the question isn't starting from the premise of knowing anything about the band. Even in bands that tend to have one dominant creative force, they usually aren't as dominant as Kevin, who basically makes the entire album himself and only gets the band to play on the live shows. So I feel like Kevin would have to really shock the interviewer if he was to give the whole truth - which is why he kind of hedges in this interview, at least in my reading of it.

Maybe this is actually perfectly comfortable and non-awkward for Kevin, since he's presumably at least somewhat secure in his decisions, as, one would hope, are the rest of the band. But I'm not. If I were to start a band, I'd feel really, really weird about saying, "Okay, I am going to define the sounds of these songs precisely, and your only job is to recreate them when we do a tour." Our perceptions of bands are shaped by groups where often there's a dominant creative force but all of the other members at least get to play their own instruments and affect the sound that way. I'm hardly trying to say that I think Kevin is wrong in what he does. Actually, I think he's a brilliant genius and that if this is the best way for him to make music than, Jesus, he should go for it, and I'm glad he's found a bunch of people who are happy to support him. But I think it makes me feel slightly insecure, because it's out of the ordinary, and thus I feel embarrassed for his deviation, even if he doesn't, and even if I support him.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just Wanna Play with You

I don't know why I love listening to pop music so much, but I guess one reason why I love to go to pop music concerts it's because it's an accepted space where grown adult people act completely ridiculous and over-the-top. And I don't mean me - I mean the performers. I love the way they behave completely differently from what we would expect of ordinary people - they way they are putting on a performance that has only a fairly tenuous link with reality.

One aspect of pop music as performance that does seem to carry over, every so often, into the music itself is the idea of singer as playing a role. For whatever reason, first-person confessional is by far the most common mode for pop music lyrics. I think that listeners and songwriters definitely realize that this can easily be fictional; although many of the songs I listen to apparently refer actual events in the writer's biography, many of them don't, and the same is true for people who listen to very different music than I. Nonetheless, even when writing about fictional events or emotions, the writer still tends to use "you" and "I." But some writer/performers take this a bit further and end up constructing an entirely fictional character whom they explicitly play on the stage, and who has at least something to do with the lyrics they write. The most famous example of this is, of course, David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust.

I find this fascinating - but then, I always like to think about people who are pretending to be other people; it's one of my favorite topics. For over a decade now, I guess, I've been creeped out by the actual song "Ziggy Stardust." Bowie, singing this song onstage, was performing in the role of Ziggy Stardust but somehow simultaneously singing a song from the first-person point-of-view of another character ("we were Ziggy's band" clearly indicates that the singer is a member of Ziggy's band, not Ziggy himself). The lyrics of the song, to at least some extent, involve the narrator expressing his somewhat ambivalent feelings towards Ziggy - but the person singing the song is in the role of Ziggy himself - Ziggy is ventroloquizing his own band members' somewhat negative attitudes towards him! I just find that soooooo creepy!

Right now, Kevin Barnes is taking on the role of "black she-male" Georgie Fruit. And yet we know this is just a role - I don't think he's constantly playing Georgie Fruit the way Bowie probably was always playing Ziggy in that stage of his career, and certainly not all of the lyrics on Skeletal Lamping could possibly be Georgie's. I continue to find this role-playing fascinating. In particular, at the beginning of "Death Is Not a Parallel Move," Kevin sings? raps?, "All of my thoughts come from a foreign host. I feel just like a ghost." The rest of the song would seemingly be sung from Kevin's own point of view - Kevin must be addressing his family when he sings "lille venn" - it apparently means "little friend," a term he commonly uses when singing about his family, in Norwegian, his wife's native language. But surely "all of my thoughts come from a foreign host" must be Georgie talking? After all, it's Kevin's body and brain that are the foreign host for Georgie, and it's Kevin who's actually the creator of the Georgie persona. A casual listener might think that the line involves Kevin expressing his anxiety about his thoughts coming from Georgie, but this seems highly implausible to me, as Georgie has no actual body of his own. And so we come across something as creepy in its own way as what David Bowie sung in "Ziggy" - Kevin is ventroloquizing the fictional Georgie Fruit's discomfort with their* own fictionality, their own forced binding to the body and mind of Kevin Barnes. And yet it's Kevin who's creating that very dissatisfaction! Fascinating!

First Actual Post

This post is about politics!

Well, maybe it's actually about of Montreal.

So, today, John McCain said this:

I think he is ignoring the wisdom so well-expressed by Kevin Barnes:
"This life is not a prison. We are always free to go, any time."

About Me

Now that I've introduced the blog, it's time to introduce myself.

I am in fact female, but I'm ethnically Ashkenazi, not Irish. I'm far closer in age to Bryce Dallas Howard than to Nicole Kidman. I've lived most of my life in the American northeast, which is where I live now, although I've spent half a year in Scotland and a year in China. At the time of writing, I work at an extremely menial job in publishing; I'm hoping to be an English teacher next year. I have an MA in English. I am pretty far left, politically, for an American. I have been in love with many works of art and the city of Edinburgh but never with a human being.

The rest of this post is just a list of art that is very important to me now or has been in the past:

Authors: Diana Wynne Jones, Henry James, Jenna Moran, Dave Duncan, Theodore Sturgeon

Books (by other authors): Please Save My Earth, Angel Sanctuary, Valis, A Scanner Darkly, Absalom, Absalom!, Giles Goat Boy, The Great Gatsby, "Death in Venice"

Bands: Pulp, Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts, Belle and Sebastian, of Montreal

TV Shows: Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Mulberry, Trigun, Buffy, Angel, House, Lost

Webcomic: College Roomies from Hell!!!

Movies: Dogville, Badlands

Video Games: Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears

Poems: "The Second Coming," "The Book of Thel," Prometheus Unbound

I guess that's it for now - anyway, hopefully that gives you at least some kind of guide.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Welcome to My Blog

Hello! Welcome to my blog!

The basic idea behind this is to serve as a response blog. I am hoping to post my responses to things that interest me here. I tend to be more interested in art than in life; thus, more of my responses will probably be to art than to life, although this is a prediction, not a rule. In particular, I like the narrative arts and music, so I expect to focus on those areas. Again - prediction, not rule.

What kind of responses can you expect? Fundamentally, I think they'll end up falling somewhere in between "review" and "paper." I don't generally enjoy writing that's focused entirely around whether or not I enjoyed something - that kind of evaluative text doesn't inspire me to think about the kinds of topics I like to think about. On the other hand, if I wanted to write analytically deep, impersonal academic papers all the time, I'd get a PhD, not write a blog. Thus, I have no intention whatsoever of concealing my likes and dislikes. The closest match to the kind of tone I'm going for is probably Micole's blog - she ends up writing more reviews than I really intend to, but a post like this (warning, Angel Season 5 spoilers) is a good example of the kind of writing I'm interested in. But I'm also interested in incredibly short posts that just comment on something amusing to me!

In terms of audience, I'm going to be writing posts with the idea in mind of talking to mythical people out there who share all of my interests but do not personally know me. Obviously, no such person is likely to exist. However, there are definitely real people out there who share some of my interests but do not personally know me. Therefore, if anyone outside of my family ends up reading the blog, I fully expect it to be people who just wander in for a single entry that they happen to find because they're looking for the topic on Google (there is a sad lack of blog entries on Dave Duncan's Man of His Word series, for instance) and then wander out again. That's fine! I'm happy to have long-term readers but don't demand them; I would be very cheerful indeed to have a conversation with someone about something we both like to talk about, even if I never hear from them again.

The combination of the preceding two paragraphs should help to explain my spoiler policy - expect spoilers on any topic I discuss. I'm writing responses, for a hypothetical audience of people who also want to respond to whatever it is that I'm responding to, so the more we can discuss details, the better. I will try to provide tags for each post that detail what I'm talking about, though, so, if spoilers bother you, check the tags. If spoilers don't bother you, that's fine, too!

Finally, this is a pseudonymous blog, for largely psychological reasons - I feel more comfortable making my likes and dislikes very clear and expressing my analysis when I know that no one is going to be judging me for it. As I've already said, I don't intend to engage with whatever I respond to on a purely intellectual level, but I don't feel comfortable publicly fangirling too much, either. I'd rather you think about the writer of this blog as Grace Mulligan and not as me. Otherwise, I don't think I could post.

Next post will be about me, so if you're interested in what kind of things I'm liable to post about, you can get a list of my interests, there.