Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Category: 2015

Deck the halls with something something

In the six months preceding November 20th, our calendar was blank. More or less. There was the odd afternoon here and the even odder evening there. BUT in the five weeks leading up to Christmas…

  • One epic family party
  • Two children’s birthdays
  • Two Christmas parties we are both invited to
  • Another two individual parties (each)
  • THREE children’s Christmas parties
  • Some random Christmas thingy we do every year
  • Two end of year events for the kids sport.

In five weeks, we had not one or two but FIFTEEN individual events. Of course, I do take full responsibility for the two kids birthdays – they’re my kids, and hey I should have twigged at some point that doing married people stuff nine months before Christmas will only lead to one thing. And doing it again? I am an idiot.

All the rest of the stuff, though? Fuck. We ditched three events that aren’t even on the list, and there’s another thing that I was invited to  but gave that the arse because fucking hell, fifteen things in five weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually hate Christmas – there’s a few aspects of Christmas that I really like. Things like Christmas cake and pudding and mince pies and shortbread and Baileys. Mmmm Baileys. And there’s the other matter of three days off once you get over Christmas Day. That bit is awesome, and best spent with cake and Baileys. I digress.

However, there is a HELL of a lot of stuff I don’t like… like the way the day itself is imbued with the whole borderline hysterical false importance when, particularly when you’re a secular soul such as my good self,  the day itself is basically all about a fancy lunch with presents. Every aspect of the meal gets smeared in significance – it becomes THE Turkey and THE Ham and THE Pork, instead of a selection of cooked meat (which is what it is) plus an assortment of side dishes and puddin and cake.

Don’t even get me started on the whole New Years Eve thing. As soon as the last dish is done from Christmas, it’s all “so, what are you doing for New Year?”Party here and party there… New Years Eve is just staying up late with fireworks and beer. And quite frankly, I think I’m a bit past all that. We got invited to a party on the other side of town – noice. But I have to drive and therefore not drink (don’t even go there. I drive. Reg drinks. Or we taxi. Not happening on NYE.) And to be honest, I don’t think I can be bothered staying up til stupid o’clock on a hot night.

Ok, I got started. But it wasn’t all bad – there was plenty of Baileys and mince pies and all manner of delicious things. And I spent (a little too much) time with my family. And read books. Because what else does one do when one has THREE DAYS OFF WORK!

Some things

Ok… what’s going on at Chez McGee? Some reading, some gallivanting about the country, some making of decisions, some watching of the telly and some crocheting and some stuff, really. Lots of things.

Firstly the reading – I read a book called The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It was um. Weird as fuck but I liked it. Some kid accidentally wanders into a school for magicians and learns about magic (think Hogwarts with more shagging and a dorkier uniform. The kids are 17 or so when they end up there, so yeah, sex and drugs and rock and roll). It’s sort of a bit wafty and bizarre but at the same time, totally believeable. The end was a bit WTF, though but then I discovered it was a trilogy and that explained everything. While I haven’t picked up the other two books yet, they’re on my ‘to acquire’ list. Apparently, it’s going to be a tv series. I could believe that. It’s that kind of book.

I’m currently reading The Peripheral by William Gibson. William Gibson invented “cyberspace” in Neuromancer – which is one of the few books I’ve read maybe ten times (I’m more of a once or maybe twice kind of reader) but the world of Neuromancer was something unbelievable but completely real at the same time. (Apparently it’s unreadable now, because it’s no longer speculating and it seems weird. I won’t be letting my battered, sandy, sunscreen stained copy go any time soon though.) The Peripheral is set in the nearish future and the later future at the same time. Can’t really tell you much more – I’m about a third of the way through it.

The thing about reading speculative fiction ties in nicely with the gallivanting – driverless car conference which was rather epic and rather good. Since I watched Bladerunner, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a future when you can call up a car to take you where you need to be and wave it goodbye when you don’t. The future is sooner than we think. If you can see past the future ridiculousness of the legislative dramarama that goes without saying when a very small population is spread over a very large area. Srsly, didn’t get rid of multiple gauge railways until  40 or so years ago. We’re good at ridiculous legislation – and this needs to be dealt with at a Federal level. BUT when the future gets here,  people who are unable to drive for whatever reason – age, disability, whatever – can potentially be handed the key to increased mobility. It has many potential benefits. And wombats (conference joke. Hur hur hur).

Reading reading…

Ok, I have been reading a bit. I’m on track to read about 25 books this year, which is one a fortnight. That’s not awesome, but hey, I can’t crochet and read at the same time. Not possible. So, I shall tell you all about the last few books I’ve read. Starting with the last…

I just finished the latest Val McDermid book (Splinter the Silence). It was ok, I think. I didn’t hate it, but it was more of a introduction to the next wave of the Carol and Tony series (which, I suspect, will be good) rather than an actual mystery. The key theme (cyber-bullying) was very topical and all, but the leaps and stuff… Pfft. There was something a bit skim over the top thing about the whole crime. It was like it was background to the ‘real’ story of Tony and Carol making up. And there was one thing that happened that I totally called (actually, two things. And a PSA.) Anyway, didn’t hate it, give it three stars because it was enjoyable while I was reading it, but afterward, not so much.

And the latest Kathy Reichs (Speaking in Bones) – that’s another one that was ok. I dunno, maybe I’ve read enough of these ones. The last couple have been a bit colour by numbers, this one wasn’t much different. Totally readable, though. I think when I read books with strong female characters, I have high expectations of their um. Strength. Mental strength. I also suspect that I equate mental strength with a high degree of sensibility. Sometimes Tempe does not show the mental strength I would expect of a character of her intellect. Also, the romance thing. Shit or get off the damn pot, wench.

(I also cracked it with the VI Warshawski books for a similar reason. Grown women don’t need rescuing because they’re idiots)

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell was absolutely brilliant, though. That one was was an absolute cracker. I didn’t do *anything* else while I was reading it and it made me stay up way too late – which is always a good sign. It’s sort of hard to explain. It’s a twisty turn-y across time story told from the perspectives of a few different people who cross paths and overlap here and there, with some psychic-y stuff thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to explain, but it was so engrossing, that I will quote the man in the hat and tell you to ‘do yourself a favour…’.

Station Eleven was another one that was worth the paper it was written on – sort of a zombie apocalypse without the zombies. There was a plague and almost everyone died. It’s another time-y wime-y one, back and forth along a series of timelines, with some interesting concepts along the way. As a completely related aside, check this dude out. He’s taken pictures of Fukushima after the tsunami where nature is taking over. It’s how I imagined the landscape after the plague in Station Eleven.

Oh, and speaking of books about people who always end up in pickles… Lee Child. Make Me. I um, actually paid cold hard cash for the paper version of this. However, it was worth it. Again with the colour by numbers… Jack Reacher discovers something that’s not quite right and punches people. Oh, and shags someone. (There’s usually only one someone suitable for shagging, that happens in every book, so not really a spoiler). The something NQR in this one was a bit WTF, to be honest. However, it provides an excellent diversion.

What else was there? THE DAVE!

How could I forget The Dave. Ascendance (Dave v the Monsters) is the third in the Dave Hooper series. I’ve mentioned the other two earlier (here, and here). They ARE the full ridiculous, and yeah, can’t wait for the next one to appear. It wasn’t until I’d almost finished this one that I realised all the action across the three books took place over maybe a week to ten days. Dave undergoes a physical transformation, but his general lugheadedness and being a bit of a dick-ery are obviously going to take a bit longer to transform. Karen/Karin is a Russian spy who is the lady equivalent of The Dave, just more badass and yeah, totally sensible. I can see her dragging Dave out of many many many scrapes. Also, there’s a posse of ladies who appear at the end whom I am seriously looking forward to. That’s the thing about John Birmingham. He writes ladies that are well capable of looking after themselves and they certainly do.

Last but not least…(ok, maybe least)… was the latest Charlaine Harris. Guilty pleasure, trashy reading. Couple of days to read. Completely silly. I can’t even remember what it was called… But yeah, it’s like reading a nice cake. Tasty and amusing, but you don’t want to read it too often.

That’s SEVEN books. Crikey.

Lalalalaaaaa

Greetings, earthlings.

(Someone’s been tagging “greetings earthling” on just about every flat surface near my house. Random, hey?)

I have not been reading much lately. Many reasons, some more spurious than others, but some involving people starting work at sparrow fart requiring people to not actually turn the light on to read. Normally, I read the e-books, but the book I am currently reading (and the next on my list) are paper books that require light to read. So I haven’t been. Turning on lights *or* reading. What I have done however is acquire another reading light that is not so annoying for sleeping people. (Yes, I know, I could bring my book onto the couch and read in the lounge room. But it’s not the same.)

So while I’ve not been reading, I have been watching a lot of telly. We subscribed to the Netflix, and we’ve been getting our money’s worth for certain sure. Chaos has watched 97 million episodes of Top Gear, Mayhem is obsessed with Pokemon (this cartoon is absolutely definitely *worse* than Top Gear.) Reg is introducing the kids to all the old movies he used to like. So, wins all round. And as for me, I’ve been indulging in my fair share of stuff as well. So far, I’ve watched bits and pieces of of a few shows, and watched a couple of series as well.

I caught up with Serenity and Firefly – well, just because I’ve always wanted to see it, and just never had the chance. I really liked Firefly, I liked the characters and where the series was going. It was a total space western, with all the goodies and baddies and goodies that aren’t as good as they seem and baddies that aren’t as bad. Shame it got cancelled – there were at least a couple more series in it, the way it was headed. Serenity attempted to tidy up all the loose ends, but really left more questions than were answered and I still want to know what happened next.

Daredevil – that was a pisser. That dude is the most inept ‘superhero’ that ever. Ok, he’s blind and has super senses to compensate for the sense that he lost, but he gets beaten up ALL the time, and if it wasn’t for the Nurse (who, I might add, fished him out of a dumpster), he wouldn’t have lasted past episode two!  The premise of the show is interesting, once you get past how crap Matt Murdock is as a crime fighter. I’m sure he improves, but crikey. Despite living in Man’s Land, I’m not exactly au fait with all the denizens of the Marvel Universe – sure, I know about the Avengers and Spiderman but the lesser lights? Not so much. I’d never heard of Daredevil before the telly show. Nice looking chap, interesting story line, super awesome baddie, (Vincent D’Onofrio – he was in one of those Law and Order shows, and he was creepy-good in that, and in this he is superb). First series went by in a flash, looking forward to season 2.

And Sense8.

Fuck me swinging.  This show is nuts. The basic storyline has eight people who are otherwise not connected, who develop a psychic bond and interact with each other on a psychic level, lending each other their particular strengths at times they need the other’s talents. Interesting, yes? If you like that sort of thing, yes definitely. Also, it’s supposed to be all kinds of ground breaking in the diversity of the cast both physically and sexually. And it certainly manages that.

There’s a load of cliches with the characters that makes them more tropes than characters. The trans woman had a domineering mother who tries to control her and take back her son, the policeman has a drunken alcoholic father, the Indian woman is entering into a loveless marriage… you get the picture. But that in itself isn’t the thing that bothers me (and even then that’s too strong. I’m not bothered by the cliches and the tropes. I’m not even bothered by the really violent bits (there’s a few of them).

It’s the sexuals. Now, I have no objections to two consenting adults doing whatever the hell they want to each other. And I’m not even averse to two ladies, two chaps or even a lady who used to be a chap and her lady friend sharing some sexy times. Two consenting adults and all that. BUT when I am watching a telly show, I don’t want to be seeing it every five minutes. Unless the sexy bidness is necessary to move the story along – GET OFFA MY LAWN. I just don’t want to be seeing a group of hot naked bodies writhing around on my telly. No, I really don’t.

Yes. Old person now. But even when I wasn’t an old person, I’ve never been a fan of using sex to pad out a story – and some of this is a bit ott (specially when everyone gets involved) and it sidetracks from the story and makes a discerning viewer wonder what the hell in fact is the story. I guess I’ll have to keep watching and find out. And closing my eyes in the sexy bits.

Annihilation and Punching People in the Throat

They sort of go together, although you’d be thinking the punching would come before the annihilation. However, that’s not the order I read them in.

Annihilation By Jeff VanderMeer  It was short, it was weird. It was very creepy and not really reading before bed material because of the creepy and the weird. It’s part of a trilogy, and while I have the next two in the series, i) I don’t know if I want to read it and ii) the first volume was really short, didn’t really end as such and really felt like I’d read a third of a book. But, it’s a third of a book that I really don’t know if I want to finish. The Narrator is – well, I don’t think she’s particularly trustworthy. Although I do want to know if she does do the thing she’s thinking about at the end of the book (not spoilers! Ha.)

So there you go. I don’t know whether I’m going to go the rest of the way or not. It’s weird, and  strange and creepy and well written and interesting and – yeah, I think I’ll wait and see if I miss it or not.

As for punching people in the throat…

I’m currently reading People I want to Punch In The Throat by Jen Mann. Now, this book is a collection of blog posts from the blog of the same name. (Hence not being an issue reviewing in the middle)She’s def a weirdo, though because people in real life know who she is! Unlike other people who like to remain nameless and faceless. Ahem. Now, people either like her or not, going by the Goodreads reviews. Me, I’d be her if I didn’t go back to work in an office full time and outsource raising my children to a very competent village. Oh, and I blog about books and how much I hate housework, and she blogs about all the things about being a parent in a smallish town. I have smallish children (slightly bigger than hers, I think), and I’ve been on the kicking end of the primary school totem pole for ages (you work? Full time? Oh, you can just make these ridiculous bits of tat in front of the television. Not while there’s Candy Crush to be played. And blogging. Ahem.) While I’ve never done school pick up in pjs, that’s more because I don’t often do the pick up (outsourced). I’ve definitely been to the supermarket in plaid flannel pjs and a fabulous coat though. Looking for Drano. Long story. Don’t ask. No, really. Do not ask. (yes, it involved vomit. No, it wasn’t mine. And yes, it was nearly midnight.)

And the “mommy mean girls” (mummy, damn it) definitely exist in every playground – I incurred the wrath of the Cool Mums by not having an acceptable part time job (cafe good, office job bad. Full time job REALLY bad), using after school care and not making my unco kid play sport. Oh, and I knew exactly what she meant when she was talking about Kindergarten Art… I saw the constructions of *my* peers when Chaos had to build a building out of cardboard boxes and crikey, the kids in his grade had talented parents (yes, we both helped Chaos, although the design and painting was all his own work, I made the stencil for nice windows, and Sir Reg did the industrial gluing. The frill necked lizard from an egg carton, a coat hanger and two pieces of construction paper, however – all my own work!) So so pleased that subsequent teachers aren’t as keen on the construction homework any more, and aside from whipping up  a scarecrow costume out of an old flannel shirt and some streamers (and inventing yellow brick rocky road), my construction skills have been resting.

So, I can definitely relate to Punch in the Throat. As I’ve said – I *am* her. Although, I don’t whine as much, I don’t think. I do however swear as much as she does (I’m still trying, ok.) and when you consider she’s American and they’re not as good at swearing as we Australians are… She’s VERY sweary. (one of the reviews described her as very sassy – I assume that’s American for says fuck a lot?) Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And it’s a nice palate cleanser from the last book. But I’m a bit leery of books that are marketed as “funniest thing evah” because I do have a peculiar sense of humour, and stuff that everyone else in the universe finds hysterical (I’m looking at you Seinfeld), well, I’m often still waiting to hear the punch line. So, I wouldn’t describe this book as the funniest thing I’ve ever read, but it’s certainly worth a giggle or two. And it’s damn easy to read before bed.

The Paying Guests

I’ve been a fan of Sarah Waters since Dee made me read Tipping the Velvet a really long time ago. I’ve always really enjoyed her books, and Ms Waters does write rather excellent sexy bits (very um cerebral), however, this isn’t the entire attraction – reading Ms Waters books really draws you into the very fabric of the society of the main characters. (Funnily enough, the Wikipedia says a couple of her influences are some of my favourite literary authors – John Fowles and AS Byatt, and Angela Carter – see, I’m not a total philistine!)

Anyway, in The Paying Guests, Miss Francis Wray and her mother (Mrs Wray) are living in straightened circumstances after the death of their slightly irresponsible father and husband, as well as the two sons of the family being killed in WWI (weird, reading a book about the aftermath of WWI in the midst of all the Anzac Day hoohah.) It took me a little minute to realise this book was actually set between the wars, because it felt more modern than that – I sort of though WWII. But I picked up pretty quickly. I’m slow, but I’m not chicken flavoured. Anyway, because of their financial situation, Miss and Mrs Wray are required to take in lodgers, and they rent out a part of their house to Lilian and Frank Barber who are definitely not like them at all. Frank struck me as being a bit of a spiv, and Lilian was a bit – the word has escaped me at the moment. A bit young and free spirited and blousy (that is so not the word. Far out, Brussels Sprout) And it turns out that Miss Wray had a ‘past’ including a lesbian lover and an ongoing friendship with said ex-lover. She was a “voice of reason” to Miss Wray’s somewhat overwrought histrionics.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into too much detail about the story. There was a plot twist that I was waiting for – it didn’t quite go the way I was expecting, although the fundament was there. And there were a couple of other directions the plot went that, while I was expecting it to head in the direction it travelled, it went by train instead of bus. (Cryptic description is cryptic. Plot device = predictable, mechanism of plot device = not what I was expecting).

I did enjoy it – I found it to be lovely and soft and soothing to read. This on the one hand meant that it took ages to read, because I’d fall asleep reading it; but on the other hand, when I got to the exciting bit, I stayed up reading ridiculously late and then I couldn’t go to sleep! BUT there were aspects of it I didn’t like at all. I didn’t like the relationship between Frank and Lil, at all. He was all sneery and leery and a sleazeball. There’s a scene that’s really NASTY. Sort of rape-y without actual penetration. And yeah, won’t look at snakes and ladders the same way again.

I’ll probably give this book about 3 and a half stars. I liked it, and missed it when I finished it But I forgot about it really quickly – I forgot that I’d a) finished it and b) not blogged about it.

Here be monsters…

In between procrastinating and writing reports and the like, I’ve done a bit of reading. I have given up on The Angel of Darkness. It’s not that I don’t like it – it’s interesting and well written and all that, but it’s so goddamn long and there’s a whole lot of other books I’m hanging out to read (Randomly, Caleb Carr’s dad was Lucien Carr – one of the Beat Generation, he hung out with Kerouac and William Burroughs. This may explain some things. Hrrm.) So, it’s gone back on the virtual shelf while I read some other stuff like “Trigger Warning” by Neil Gaiman and “Resistance” by John Birmingham which both had the advantage of being fast paced and action-y with explosions and the like, coupled with a decent degree of squicky disturbance.

Ok, Trigger Warning was light on with the explosions, and most of the stories weren’t exactly fast paced. But squicky? Yep. Bit squirmy? In places, definitely. The title comes from those earnest warnings at the beginning of stories and articles and letting people know there might be something they don’t like or find upsetting contained within the pages. To be honest, I personally find those warnings to be bit of a wank, like those “here be monsters” signs on old maps warning of who knows what lies beneath. (Apologies of sorts to those of you who appreciate those warnings. You can continue to be suitably warned and I shall continue to be mildly irritated by them. And yes, I have things that I don’t like to read about, and yes, I have *issues* but bloody hell, I do not want to be warned at the start of every bloody thing I read that the contents may disturb, if I come across something that presses my buttons, I move right along. Life is too short. But that’s just me and I am digressing. As usual)

Back to Trigger Warning. It’s short stories, which is good when one is accidentally reading a book in between another book. Some of the stories feel like snippets of longer stories, and some of them are completely satisfactory on their own. My favourite is the one about the uninventor, and the story in the world of American Gods. Roughly a month after I finished it, these two stories are the ones that have stuck with me the longest. I think I prefer Mr Gaiman’s longer fiction generally, but there’s nothing wrong with this collection at all. I’m looking forward to the next one. Whenever that may be…

(Ironically, the most viscerally unpleasant reaction I’ve ever had to reading something came from reading one of Mr Gaiman’s books. It was a kids book, and not something one would expect. I took something from the experience, and have continued to read and love Mr Gaiman’s books.)

And now, onto The Dave.

Complete with actual monsters.

Resistance is the second in the Dave Hooper trilogy. Dave is still a dick, however, in amongst the sexy times and the biffo with the monsters and Dave following his dick instead of listening to other people, Dave is starting to develop a hint of self awareness (and I don’t think he really likes what he sees.) This trilogy really feels like a bigger book in three parts, and I cannot wait for part three. There’s a character who’s name escapes me (Tinder? Trinder? because the book is in my room along with my own sleeping monster, I can’t go and check) anyway, what ever the hell his name is, Tommy Lee Jones should play him in the movie. The monsters are still monstrous, and they’re learning the ways of the food and how the food has evolved a tiny bit since they last walked on the earth. And they’re quite funny, these grumpy and outraged monsters.

I love these books. they are so totally and outrageously ridiculous, you can’t help but snigger like a grubby school boy the whole way through. It’s a beer and pizza kind of book and there’s absolutely nothing at all wrong with that! There’s explosions and fighting and neck beards. What’s not to love.

I think that means I’ve read nine and a half books in 12 weeks. That’s some kind of record since BC*, I reckon. Aside from the three months I spent commuting, that is – when I think I read three books a week for three months!

*BC = Before Children. I’m old. Not that old!