Five possible names for a (hypothetical) cat, based purely on how much I want an excuse to stand in the backyard and call them out:

  1. Chrestomanci
  2. Bloody Mary
  3. Hathaway
  4. Stella
  5. Geronimo

Other contenders were “Doctor” and “Nooooo!”.

  1. Beds: unmade, double and low.
  2. Dishes: unrinsed and left in the sink.
  3. KFC: the one at Indooroopilly.
  4. Houses: without books.
  5. Story: absence of.

Return to Labyrinth, vol. 1. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is there, and the fantastic creatures, but it has had its heart cut out. The movie had its flaws, but it was wonderful and powerful, and if the main character was spoiled she was also lively and active and if she made mistakes she also made progress and friends. Volume 1 of Return to Labyrinth had none of that. For a moment there was a glimpse of grown-up Sarah, which was like seeing a glimpse of an old friend – heartbreaking because her life now appears to revolve around Toby (who seems to have grown very much into Nick from Deep Secret, but without any of the charm). I enjoyed the creatures and places, some known, some new, some developed (the forest of hat-birds! loved it). But it is, so far, a story of a spoiled and discontented child being led (not enough emotion to be ‘dragged’) against his will into a life of fantasy and privilege, which isn’t the same thing as a spoiled and self-centred child on the point of making a terrible mistake and jumping in feet-first to fix it and travelling through dangers unnumbered and hardships uncounted and loyal friendships and seductive promises and finally growing up. I will read another volume if it comes my way, just to see if the story becomes a deeper story, but it left me cold and sad and wondering if anyone ever can return to Labyrinth. Someone once, long ago, began a fanfiction novel which I found and read unfinished, and it promised so much more than this. On the art: this was my first manga and I do not think, from art I have seen around, that I should judge all manga by the quality of the artwork in this which was sometimes inconsistent to the point of distraction.

The Orphan Tales: In the Night Garden – Catherynne Valente. Fabulous. A filigreed nesting-box of wonderful stories. A thousand-and-one stories each part of the other. A genealogy of delight. The assistant editor at Bantam Dell whose card you can’t quite see on this page of my journal recommended it to me at a function at the Australian Consulate in New York. I could not find it in the days left to us in New York. It subsequently won the World Fantasy award and when I came home I ordered it at Pulp Fiction and – eventually – it arrived. It deserved the award. Now, when I started the book I was not sure whether it would leave me cold, and the first story, the upper layer, the framing story is on its surface a small tale and unfolds only at great intervals across the book. But the tales the girl with all the stories written across her eyelids told were luminous and strange, rendolent of Arabian nights and Norse legends and European maerchen, yet never retellings or rephrasings – always fresh and new and surprising and lovely and shocking and heartbreaking. Lovely monsters and terrible fates, wars and treachery, ambition, love, gold and starlight and foxes and otters, bears and phoenixes and Beasts, creatures of the stars that burn the grass they tread on, creatures of the moon which inhabit and discard cratered bodies, cities of rose domes, of spice, of towers built of ships and bones. And gradually each story feeds into the others, loops back, is threaded through, brushes against the others and builds a world of beauty and dark secrets. And if there were no further book I would be happy in the story – but now I do know and care about the upper layers and am very glad there is a second half, which is on order and I will report back on as soon as possible.

The Fantasy Artist’s Reference File - Peter Evans. I said I might review this. It was – oh, it’s the illustrated version of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland without the self-awareness or deliberate humour. (I think. There were a couple sections where I thought the author must be having a dig at his audience). It is a volume of photo-references of figures poses and costumes, complete with CD of images. The production values are high, the models appear very healthy and there are some unexpected inclusions. And I can’t not laugh. On a pay-per-read it may be one of the cheapest books I’ve bought. It includes poses, costume details, figure reference, facial expressions, ‘classic poses’ and suggestions for illustrating the following: Barbarian Warrior, Warrior Woman, Elven Warrior, Elven Queen, Fairy, Princess, Wicked Sorceress, Warrior Prince, Wizard, Evil Sorcerer, Warrior Dwarf, Cleric, Peasant Boy, Peasant Girl, Norseman and Goblin. And oh the cliches, they burn! And the intricate back stories and descriptions for barely related photographs (did you know: “Elves’ eyesight is far better than that of humans. They have a greater color spectrum and can see in the near dark”)! And the sight of a bearded, wise wizard in his underwear! What is seen cannot be unseen… Some noteable pose titles include: Death to the Dragon! Come forth, my paladins. Get back hordes of chaos. Dragon bait. Midnight abduction (two of these). I will rend your soul. Aaarrghhhh! No, that is not the way to do it. I had it when we left. Notable costume elements: Baggy hose (seriously, if they had not pointed it out I would not have noticed and now I cannot look away!). Puffy gold-lame wristlets. Skullband (as in, a headband on a skull).

I also read several short stories including ‘Tongue before Sword’ which received a longer review here, and Matthew.

  1. Wearing my blouse inside out. Worked this out at the bus stop, but I had to wait to get into the city, through two blocks and into MacArthur Central bathrooms before I could fix it. Trying very hard to be cool and deliberate but hampered by not remembering where the tags where and consequently walking with my arms very close to my sides in case they were in the seams. Of course, it turned out to be in the neckline and my hair was down, so that was why I couldn’t find them with my elbows.
  2. Trying on wigs. Genevieve even joined in! With a bob I look even more like my mother.
  3. Changing into sneakers and socks in the middle of Queen Street Mall. I saw stranger things go by.
  4. People watching and asking if they could take photos of me drawing the latin dancers. Well, this sort of thing has rarely embarassed me at the time.
  5. Buying the most delightfully awful book I could have cause not to regret buying. I’ve been dithering on this for a few months now and didn’t quite manage not to defend myself, but after telling the cashier it was for “comedic value” I salvaged the situation by asking if he read fantasy and (as he did) inviting him to look at the pictures, and he agreed with me. If you are particularly unfortunate, I may even review it.

It was an artistic Friday evening. After Genevieve and I had our semi-regular melting-moment-and-mocha at a cafe in the Myer Centre, we went to the photo shop so I could show her last weekend’s paintings and print out copies. While we waited, we tried on wigs in the wig shop (I found a nice length of bob for… $400+, so might get a more theatrical, cheaper wig unless I can bring myself to the overwhelming question of whether to cut my hair before the 1920s banquet). Genevieve left to practice her scales in the music shop and I returned to the photo store to discover they had printed 24 copies on gloss instead of matte. While they reprinted them I avoided buying a tripod (most of my photos are self-portrait/reference shots so my gorillapod and a chair will do for now) and resisted art books in QBD. Then I sat on a bench in Queen Street Mall and sketched passersby before buying a canvas board and the above-mentioned terrible book. I then proceeded to Brisbane Square, where I drew people dancing and other people watched and commented and cactusdude took photos over my shoulder which he may put up when he gets back to Sydney (he asked first and gave me his card after).

Then I walked back to Milton and had a bite in what is invariably the dirtiest McDonald’s of my acquaintance and would have finished being artistic then and there except that Sinatra came on the radio and two policemen who were just leaving started singing and whistling to “I did it my way”, so I drew a quick picture of that. Then I walked home and tried to take a picture of a frond of bougainvillea (hah! got it right first time!) which would have made a very pretty border ornament, except it was too dark to pick up anything except a distant pool of streetlight on my phone, and so was home by a little after 11.

In the end, the photo shop gave me both sets of photos (glossy and matte) so there may be some left over and I will probably offer them to the earliest takers before very long.

If I found any of these links through your blog and haven’t credited you, I apologise. I’m keeping track of referrers in future.

AWAITED

  1. Australian Speculative Fiction Carnival: Battle Penguins are Go! Among other things. (And I’m doing May, so please make interesting – or remarkably silly – posts about Australian SF between April 16 and May 15 and let me know).
  2. 20th Carnival of Feminist SF: Impenetrable undergarments and what almost happened to the Skywalkers.
  3. An answer to a LOLCats proposal (don’t read the comments unless you’ve got a strong tolerance for loosely invented dialects : ).

LANGUAGE & WRITING

  1. Signal to Noise: I really like the idea of enforced originality in forums. Or generally, at least as an intriguing linguistic experiment. And it might stop annoying calendar quotations.
  2. The same people are unable to resist spoiling their favourite word game.
  3. Can we write characters from other cultures? How can we do it? Should we try? Tobias Buckell on Writing us, not ‘The Other’
  4. Attack patterns in written language (via making light).

ILLUSTRATION & ART

  1. I’d like this article on Socar Myles’ silly/sombre bird people for just this line: “Cameras always lie. Had I known that, I’d have bought one ages ago.” But the rest is pretty good too.
  2. And of course there’s a Narnia dial. Found on Flickr – a good example of street art making the streets better.
  3. A comparison (with pictures) of differing styles in British and American cover art.
  4. Curious Art’s altered stamp – I really like this idea especially how she’s made the cat in the same style as the stamp.

BUSINESS AND POLITICS

  1. A selection of blog posts on the apology (via Gillian - my post is here).
  2. Cedric Hohnstadt’s Basic Business Tips for Illustrators, which are pretty good tips for anyone self employed or working from home.

DESIRED

  1. I trust life will emulate art in respect of XKCD’s What Would Escher Do wristband.
  2. If you can convince me it would be at all seemly for me to wear this ThinkGeek shirt, I would totally buy it and wear it anywhere I could. And huge tracts of land aren’t as rude as the “nice melons” shirts we almost had to wear that time I was packing rockmelons, are they?

VALENTINES

As I said on /Karen/’s blog, I wonder whether Valentine’s Day is perhaps a test of love more than the evidence of it. Like poetry in P&P: “But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.” There’s got to be something up with a day which so many people dislike that the anti-valentines (complete with anatomically correct, bloodied hearts) start to get trite. Here, however, are a few that caught my notice:

  1. And if you went to the Lolcats proposal at the start of this list, a few posts behind it you will find the worst valentine (baboonentine? baboonbehind?) ever, from which I am protecting you by not linking to it. My eyes, they bleed.

*I’ll tell you about this some day.

This year, I am Not Being Embarrassed (much). Here are five things I have not been embarrassed about:

  1. Walking at work with the strap on my shoe broken (because what exactly was being embarrassed going to do to help anything? See also zip, below).
  2. Being seen by unexpected visitors wandering the house in a strappy singlet.
  3. Cupcakes. (Because “we’re grownups now and it’s our turn to decide what that means”).
  4. The url of the article I was looking at when the firm-wide email came around warning us not to abuse our internet freedom. (Thankyou so much /Karen/!)
  5. Having a photoshoot in the loungeroom while my housemates sat around drinking champagne and watching me, made-up and coiffed, being told to stand like that, tilt my head like this, smile, throw my arms out etc. Oh, and my zip broke.

I think I am growing as a person.

Hitting the new year running:

(more…)

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