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A rant – I’m officially one of the masses.

(I should note, here, that this rant is somewhat fuelled by an on-going struggle I have with the “intelligent” reading and writing community’s constant aversion to fantasy. Be warned.)

I love George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Some of you know that, some of you don’t, but regardless, that’s the case. Last night, the first episode of Game of Thrones (HBO’s television adaptation of the series) premièred.  Three days earlier, Ginia Bellafante over at the New York Times decided to write a review about it, and like every geeked out girl on the internet, I’m freaking the fuck out over what she wrote. Why? In short, because her review is ludicrous. Ludicrously BAD.

I am not going to even attempt paraphrasing. Even with a mouthful of sarcasm I can’t capture the mind-blowingly irritating words from this review:

In a sense the series, which will span 10 episodes, ought to come with a warning like, “If you can’t count cards, please return to reruns of ‘Sex and the City.’

…The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise. While I do not doubt that there are women in the world who read books like Mr. Martin’s, I can honestly say that I have never met a single woman who has stood up in indignation at her book club and refused to read the latest from Lorrie Moore unless everyone agreed to “The Hobbit” first. “Game of Thrones” is boy fiction patronizingly turned out to reach the population’s other half.

…When the network ventures away from its instincts for real-world sociology, as it has with the vampire saga “True Blood,” things start to feel cheap, and we feel as though we have been placed in the hands of cheaters. “Game of Thrones” serves up a lot of confusion in the name of no larger or really relevant idea beyond sketchily fleshed-out notions that war is ugly, families are insidious and power is hot. If you are not averse to the Dungeons & Dragons aesthetic, the series might be worth the effort. If you are nearly anyone else, you will hunger for HBO to get back to the business of languages for which we already have a dictionary.

Can you see? Can you see why I’m not even sure where to begin here? How about Bellafante’s complete ignorance regarding the female fantasy fan-base. I know I’m a creative writer, and that coming up with intelligent responses is the one thing I am supposed to be good for, but honestly, all I feel like responding with is: What the hell, Ginia?  Because I have tits, my reading selection is limited to Candace Bushnell novels and romance? I enjoy chick lit. I’m not about to lie about that. It’s great for when you just need something easy, something fun, to escape from the trials and annoyances and bill paying of the real world. I read those books for the escapism, not for the sex.

Bellafante’s assumption that GRRM’s books (and to follow, the television series) are too heavy to interest women, and that it is only some tossed in “illicitness” that would make any woman want to read them, is not only ridiculous, it’s insulting. Just because Game of Thrones requires a bit of thought to follow the characters and the intrigue doesn’t mean I’m going to get bored until I see some fucking on the screen. In fact, if we’re going with overtired clichés, I thought it was men that needed the sex factor?

Then we have the final quote.

This massive misconception (or preconception, really) that people like Bellafante have regarding fantasy drives me insane. Fantasy is not dumbed down. It is not useless and it is not unintelligent. It may not be your genre of choice, but that does not mean it is without the numerous qualities any well-written fiction has in supply. I have read few books that have the character development, the plot intricacy, and most importantly, the constant thrill of GRRM’s books. Westeros may not be a real place, but it confronts the reader with real, interesting problems – and honestly, I don’t care that they may not entirely be relevant to me (really, even in the realism world, how many realist books have you ever read that truly applied to you?). Suggesting that it is impossible for a fantasy world to tackle “real-world sociology” as Bellafante does is absurd. Metaphor, allegory, symbolism – there’s an entire range of literary techniques dedicated to the practice of saying something without actually coming out and saying it. Look at as broad an example as Shakespeare. I had an entire lecture in my second year on Shakespeare’s use of the historical genre to make valid points regarding the politics of the time without getting himself into any libellous trouble, and every word the man has written is now worshipped as a classic.

Okay, so I’ve digressed. I’m not trying to suggest that every fantasy novel ever written has a hidden metaphorical agenda, or that it should in order to be important. Equally, fantasy can be without all of the above. It can be pure escapism, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. And in that sense, that is the part of the review that really gets me. There are countless aspects of Bellafante’s review that irritate me, but what I take beef with the most is her suggestion that a book (and the television series) need have some goal, some ultimate lesson, in order for it to be valid or distinguished. This is the problem I have with cannonical literature in its entirety. This vague idea of importance is what so many intellectuals use to completely write fantasy off. I took a contemporary fiction class and in the first seminar, we were asked for our names and favorite authors. God forbid you utter Tolkein, GRRM, or Rowling – fantasy fed to masses is apparently a “guilty” pleasure in the literature world. Wanting to write it? Even worse. When I read Bellafante’s review, which clearly had this fantasty-is-sub-literature point of view, it rekindled every frustration I’ve had with reading and writing and my course over the past three years – hence the overblown, 1100 word reaction.

Anyway. This rant isn’t the most well-written (there are certainly better out there – just Google the review and you’ll find plenty), but I honestly could not stop myself from at least attempting a go after reading that NY Times review. I’ll end with this: give Game of Thrones a shot. It’s amazing. I love it, and I’m a woman. And while apparently according to Ginia Bellafante that makes me a pretty fucking rare individual, I think you’ll find most viewers agree with me.

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The Disney Memo

Over the past year and seven months that I’ve been here it has come to my attention that many English people – and, I fear, non-Americans in general – have an unacceptable understanding of the various Disney amusement parks of the world. Keep in mind this is tongue-in-cheek…but a good lesson for those uneducated in the ways of Disney as well.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle, 1950's

Above, in all of it’s original 1950’s glory, is Sleeping Beauty’s Castle as seen in Disneyland. That would be DISNEYLAND, no city name attached (although it is located in Anaheim, California), because it is the original Disneyland. Opened in 1955, home of the original rides Pirates of the Caribbean (Jack Sparrow, anyone?), the Haunted Mansion (Eddie Murphy? Let’s pretend that didn’t happen), and the Matterhorn. The original Disneyland has New Orleans Square, Frontierland, Tomorrowland – oh god, just writing about it is making me smile. I don’t care what you say, Disneyland seriously is the happiest place on earth.

Disneyworld, which came after Disneyland, is epic, but not the original. It’s exceedingly larger than Disneyland and on the other side of the country and humid where Disneyland is mild and awesome. Yes, yes, I know I am ludicrously biased, but like 75% of what I’m saying here is true.

The rest of the Disneylands are fantasmic, I’m sure, and full of amazing Disney magic. I’m not saying that they are no good and subpar and that the original Disneyland is the best (it is). I just get sad every time this conversation happens:

Me: I love Disneyland!

Person: Oh, when did you go to Paris?

Me: I didn’t…? I mean the original Disneyland!

Person: Oh! Wow! When did you go to Florida?

Me: Oh, no, that’s Disneyworld. I mean the original Disneyland, in California!

Person: WHAT! There’s a Disneyland in California?

(And yes, that conversation has happened more than once. And no, I don’t get tragically sad, just the kind of sad you get when you see a lonely kid in the corner that nobody knows the name of.)

So there’s that.

One word: Stokage.

So it’s been two months now – two months and two days, to be exact. I have had a Tahoe-filled, World Market-tastic summer full of friends, family, and tanning. Basically, I did a fan-fucking-tastic job of absorbing as much Californian amazingness as is physically possible in 63 days. I have little to no time left in lovely little El Do, and then it is off to the airport, then to Las Vegas, then to Gatwick, where the FABULOUS Laura Wells will be picking my fine self up. To finish up this paragraph of really direct, fact-filled sentences, I’m going to say that my summer was perfect.

When I arrive back in England, I won’t be going straight off to Norwich. I’ll be near Brighton for a few days with Laura, and then I’ll be lugging my ridiculous suitcases off to move into the HOUSE off on Unthank. You know, the HOUSE HOUSE HOUSE!!!! that I’ll be living in this year. Just kiiiind-of excited about that. Because I’m amazing, I got THE best house-warming presents EVER for my three ridiculous guy housemates. I would totally show them off here, but on the off chance that any of those three crazies (I love you guys) read this, I’ll keep it a surprise.

These days when talking with people, be it at work or with friends, it’s inevitable for the, “So…which do you like better, California or England?” question to come up. As follows, it is then inevitable for me to not know what to say. Do I like England more than I like California? I don’t know. California is my homeland, I fucking love it and always will, and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. At the same time, I love England. I love it. I can’t imagine spending three years there and not staying. Both places are absolutely, incredibly amazing. So basically my plan is to marry a rich English man and just jet between the two. I’ll let you guys know when I come up with a better plan than that.

For now, though, just getting back to England will do. Getting back into the whole living-in-another-country thing should be interesting…and by interesting, I definitely mean TEN KINDS OF HOLY SHIT I’M BACK AWESOME =]]]] . I cannot wait. This year, I can at least pretend I know what’s coming…and if it’s anything like what I imagine, I will have plenty to write about.

Dust off your transatlantic, guys. 48 hours and I’m back.

xxx

Freebies.

So here we go.

I spend far too much of my time looking up absolutely ridiculous things on the internet. With the help of websites like Cracked, Wikipedia, Digg, and the like, it’s pretty impossible to run out of invariably interesting, funny, and stupid things to read.  Now that I’ve given you a sentence with six commas, I’m going to set you up with some of the stuff that recently has made me crack a smile or two. God knows sometimes that’s what you need in life.

I found these first three on a Top 10 Impersonations list on Unreality. If you’ve got time, you should check out the other ones they have listed. These three are just my favorites.

Don LaFontaine, with a bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Must watch.

Nicholas Cage – Oh my gosh, I love this one.

15 Seconds of Christopher Walken

Another awesome thing I found, and I think this one I found through digg, is the epicness that is Wordle. Basically, you put in a paragraph or a whole document or a website, and Wordle takes it and turns it into a hot piece of graphic win. Here is a Transatlantic Kathy wordle:

Pretty win, no? I thought so.

Personally, I think that every once and a while there’s nothing better than a bit of internet time-wastage. At least this way I got you off of Facebook for five minutes.

I know, I’m awesome. I do what I can.

=]

Deja vou?

So I’m not exactly back in England yet, I know.

And it hasn’t really been a month since I left, I know.

But…I go back to school, to England, to the most incredible floor, in three days. Can you blame me for being a little premature in my excitement? The answer to that question, by the way, is no. There’s no way I can be excited too early, or excited too much, or any such concept of excitement in excess.

Do you know why? Because in three days, Round 2 starts, and I’m ready to blog about it right this instant, like the ridiculous person I am. Hopefully at least one of you enjoys the reading.

=]

Transatlantic Interlude.

Everyone’s starting to leave for Christmas break, and as logic would have it, the halls are slowly emptying. There’s nothing sadder than walking down an empty hall.

The bright side? Home, and every incredibly amazing person, place, and Angus that includes, on Monday. Three days.

The down side? The part of my life as I’ve known it for the past three months is basically done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m coming back here in January – you couldn’t keep me away if you tried. But certain indescribabley special people won’t be living here when we all start trickling back, and that will be very sad, and it will take some getting used to. Next term will still be amazing, but it will be yet another different amazing. So we’ll see who moves in down the hall and how ridiculous they’ll think we all are.

Anyway. I’ll leave you with a story of my near failing before I put this wordpressage on hold for a month.

I’m a procrastinator, as it happens. I’m pretty pro at it. Avani and I decided to start our Reading Texts and Lit in History essays, each 1500 words, at the library at 9.30 PM. On Wednesday night. When they’re due at 12.00 PM on Thursday.

We work, we work, we work…and finish, oh, at 8.00 AM the next morning. I then go to turn in my paper, but then find out that the school office doesn’t open until 8.30. So, the intelligent thing to do would be go sit it out for half an hour and then just turn it in, right? Well, I decided to troop back to my flat and just hang out for a bit.

Didn’t really plan on passing out on my bed before setting a safety alarm.

I’m laying in bed, and the wall-penetratingly loud noise that is Sharaz’s conversational voice wakes me up. Curtains are drawn. So I grab my phone to check the time…and it’s 11.53.

I jump up, grab essay, throw on shoes, and RUN. I never encountered such a thing at UCSB, but here, you have to timestamp all the papers you turn in at the school office. So basically, I’m screwed.

I run into the building, take the stairs two at a time, shove through the office, grab a cover sheet, and jam it into the timestamp machine.

Pull it out, and take a look.

And a close-up, with the contrast upped so you can definitely see my epicness:

Yeah. Basically, I’m pro. And really, really lucky that Sharaz talks so fucking loud.

Anyway, that was the end to my academic stress of the term. I am ready to say goodbye to those sorts of worries for the next four weeks, and to just enjoy being home.

Home. I am SO excited. That’s all I have to say. I am so, so, SO excited.

So that’s it till January. Yay for Chrimbo break, and for home, and for everything else amazing in life. Thanks for reading!

Kathy King xxx

Being a Pseudo-Adult

Here’s the thing: if I were really intent on being adult about things, I’d get going on the two 1500 word papers I have due on Thursday, and the 1800 word short story I have due next Monday. Instead though, I do things like go to symphony concerts in six-hundred-year-old buildings with Maggie McBride in an attempt to feel cultured amidst all this youthful procrastination. To be fair, it was Beethoven’s 9th. And you can’t turn down a live performance of Beethoven’s 9th. Besides the obvious choral ridiculousness that is the finale, there is my favorite movement, listenable here because I’m awesome:

Mmm. I fucking love that movement. It’s kind of amazing. DUDE. As were the dresses that the two female soloist opera singers wore tonight. AMAZING!

As Maggie and I made our way to the bus stop, we started arguing about something or other. Pretty sure it had something to do with me having bad timing, but that’s irrelvent.  The important thing is that the two drunk English guys about twenty feet behind us heard her echoing statement of, “That’s TOTALLY unrelated!” No sooner had she said that than the two guys burst out laughing, then recited a nasal, “TOTALLLLLY”. Aaaaaand Maggie and I about lost it. It was SO funny. Then the two guys start talking with us a bit, and chastise Maggie for wearing (very awesome pink) wellies, despite the non-wellie weather (actually, it would seem that even in wellie weather, nobody really wears them over here, but that’s besides the point). Basically this utter randomness that was Maggie and I exuding foreignosity ended with the guys inviting us out for a beer, and us politely declining and finding a different way to get to the bus stop. Pretty much it was a hilariously not classy end to a classy evening.

A week from today I will be stress free and hopefully asleep, STOKED BEYOND STOKED by the fact that in twenty-four hours I WILL BE HOME! How excited I am for that moment – or for that matter, any moment beyond 3:00 PM Thursday – is inexpressible. For serious.

And speaking of inexpressible? How about my desire to write those papers. Just seeing the words “word count” beneath this post as I type makes me want to vom. Violently. FAIL.

But to counterract that fail we have most everything else in life right now, so I guess I’ll survive. And if you don’t believe that most everything else in life statement, just take a look at the below photos of St. Andrews Hall, and imagine how fucking amazing it would be to hear Beethoven’s 9th live there.

Oh, and one more thing that was great about tonight? Seeing the little old English lady totally hand the bus driver his ass for misleading her regarding the bus route. “No thanks to you, I’ll be missing my carriage, sir! THANK YOU, indeed!”

Win, win, and win.


trans-tweets

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photo cred to myself and Maggie J. Moxie