Thursday, December 20, 2007


Again, I am playing catch-up. Fortunately, this one's easy. I love YouTube and have for quite some time. It's a fantastic thing. I can watch clips from concerts I have no hope of ever getting to. I can watch British tv. (Oh, QI, how I adore you! Why are you not broadcast anywhere in the states?) I can listen to music and find new artists I like - artists that I can't necessarily find at the library. 8)

I never quite got into the whole video-blogging phenomenon - somehow, it hits my embarrassment squick. But it's a really cool idea.

YouTube is my supreme time wasting device. I'm sure that there are educational and inspiring videos out there, but mostly I love it for the people who make it their mission to upload all of MST3k in 10-minute chunks. People who do that, I salute you! You have entertained me throughout hours of sewing time.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion

All right, I give in. Thanks to Hannah's repeated urging (and the idea that if you want something written, you have to write it yourself), I have tenatively started an audiobook review blog:

Sara's Adventures in Audio-land

There aren't any reviews up yet but I hope to have one there by the end of the day. Check it out, if you've a mind to, and feel free to stay and participate.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It's quiet, so I'm still playing 2.0 catch up. LibraryThing is pretty nifty. (My library is linked in the handy widget to the left.) I will say, though, that I find the entering of my books to be somewhat tedious. Still, once I get some entered, it's neat to see all the covers all in a row. 8)

It's amazingly easy to get lost in LibraryThing - like wikipedia, you can spend hours simply following a chain of link after link after link, noting down titles or interesting bits of information to follow up later. For instance - while entering books into my library, I discovered that there's a new Captain Raptor book* out! How awesome is that? While following tags on things I had already entered, I found a list of books on runes that I've never read. And new books on horror films that I'll have to track down. It's all very exciting.

Unlike flickr, I can see myself continuing to play with this one. And I haven't even touched the more social aspects of the site yet.

*Captain Raptor is about dinosaurs in space ships. Also, there are robots. And jetpacks. If there is anything in the world that is better than that, someone needs to tell me about immediately.


So...I've been totally slacking on my 2.0 stuff - time to play catch up. Today, I am browsing through flickr.*

Personally, I don't take a lot of pictures. My family tells me that this is a failing. I do have various pretty pictures that I've found on the internet stored on my computer, but none of these are things I've taken myself. I save them because they're shiny and then I reupload as needed, because hotlinking is rude. I tend to use for that because, well, when I was a wee interweb n00b, it was what was free and available. And it's pretty easy to use, for my purposes.

Flickr is very pretty. And I like being able to search other people's pictures - with just a cursory search, I've found some amazing raven and crow pictures that I'll have to add to my collection when I get home. (Seriously - is this not gorgeous?) I'm pretty sure my mom uses flickr to upload pictures of her artist trading cards - she goes through a lot of pictures space. (Or does she use picassa? I'm honestly not sure.)

As for me, despite flickr's prettiness, I really don't have so many pictures to share with the internet that I would need a huge picture community to do it. Photobucket works for the few pictures I have so, at the moment, that's probably where I'm going to stay.

But I'll head to flickr the next time I'm looking for pretty corvids.

*I cannot type that word properly to save my life. My fingers really want it to be "flirk" and that's completely incorrect.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Audiobook reviews

Y'know what there should be? There should be a website or something that reviews audiobooks as audiobooks. Not the book itself but the reader's performance - their vocal quality, the animation of the narration, the various voices the reader may put on. A critique of the performance as a performance.

See, I don't get audio versions of books I haven't already read. I already know whether or not I like the book. But readers are tricky things and a bad one is just impossible to listen to. Book reviews sites - at least, the ones I've played around on - don't give you the kind of information I'm looking for. And the few audiobooks sites that I've found have very very few reviews available.

Anybody have any suggestions?

On a related note, the audiobook of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is really very good. The reader's voice suits the dry whimsy of the prose and his voice for Mr Norrell is perfect. (I am not quite convinced by his Drawlight but I'm willing to work with him there, as I don't care terribly much about Drawlight. His Childermass, though, makes me very happy indeed.) I'm only on disc three, so I haven't gotten to Jonathan Strange as yet and thus can't comment on the voice given him. But the bit I was really worried about are the footnotes, as that's difficult to do in an audio format and they're so very important to the book as a whole. I needn't have worried - the footnotes are handled beautifully, in a way that flows into but doesn't disrupt the larger text.

As I say, I'm only on disc three and it's likely to be slow going as I can't listen to this one at bedtime (I'll never be able to sleep for trying to follow the story). But I'm very much enjoying it. I may have to copy it to the computer for future re-listening.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Action Figures

Yesterday (my day off), I went and poked around at the Toys R Us. This is a thing that I do occasionally. See, I like action figures. I'm not a hardcore collector or anything but hey, I like small shiny toys that I can put on my desk and play imaginative games with. Action figures are pretty good for this. Wonder Woman, Darth Vader, Sherlock Holmes, and Nancy Pearl all occasionally have epic adventures on my desk. It fills the time while I wait for things to load on the computer. 8)

The problem is, though, that I always end up wanting action figures for things that toy companies would never in a million years make action figures for. They're almost always books - literary characters don't get made into action figures until they're first made into a movie. For instance - to my knowledge, there are no action figures for characters in George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, even though that would rock. Surely that series is ripe for action figures. There's dragons and knights and assassins and shadow-witches and ice zombies and semi-vikings and semi-Mongol hordes, etc, etc. (And just think - the toy company would have fewer and fewer of them to produce as the series went on. By the time you get to book four, practically everyone you met in book one is dead.) It would be brilliant.

The last time I started thinking about this, I was reading Crime and Punishment. I still vaguely want an action figure of Raskolnikov. He would come with an axe for killing elderly pawn brokers, a couch for having a nervous breakdown on and possibly a dead horse. (Of course, you'd end up having to get Sonya and Razumikhin to go with him. And maybe Porfiry Petrovich.) I could pretend my desk was St Petersburg and have him walk around on it, talking to himself and gesticulating wildly. (Our Rodya canonically walks around talking to himself - the gesticulating is probably just me.)

I asked my sister what literary character she'd want an action figure of and I think her answer was cooler than mine: she wants Gregor Samsa from Kafka's Metamorphosis. This is awesome because her action figure would be a transformer. That is magnificently cool.

Anyway. The action figure thing is a good game. Want to play? What literary characters would you want as action figures, greater blogosphere? What kind of accessories would they come with? Would any of them have kung-fu grip?

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Today is RSS day! Yet another thing that I've heard of in my internet travels but have never really played with. Now that I've got an account on bloglines, following other people's blogs is certainly easier.

In my previous blogging experience, I've tended to use services like journalfen or insanejournal, which have a sort of built-in RSS feature. Once you sign up for a blog at a service like that, you get what's called a "friend's page" - a way to subscribe to the journals of people or groups that you want to continue reading. I'd missed that on blogger, so I'm glad to find a comparable way of doing things.

(I still think the other way's easier, since it's built in and you only have to have one account. Having seperate accounts to read and post from seems silly to me. Ah, well.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rosie is Now Internet Famous!

Inspired by westie_servant over at Animal Lover, I give you a picture of my dog.

This is Rosie the Wonder Corgi, caught in a rare moment of a quiet relaxation, enjoying the poetry of e. e. cummings. Possibly, she is absorbing the poetry through some form of canine osmosis.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guilty Pleasure Books

This past week, I've been rereading The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop. I'm mildly ashamed of that. See, they're not terribly good books. The main character is pretty much the biggest Mary Sue that ever lived, at least half of the plot is utterly ridiculous, and the world building makes pretty much no sense. Plus the covers pretty much broadcast to the world exactly what I'm reading - a vaguely silly fantasy story that wants so much to be Dark and instead is halfway to being a romance novel. Every time I read them, I tell myself that I shouldn't like them as much as I do.

But I love reading them. They're fun, they're mindless, and they have a happy ending. The bad people are killed in satisfying ways, the good people get properly rewarded, the estranged couple end up together. Plus, there are telepathic wolves and a honking big dragon. What more could anyone want out of a junk food book? Reading The Black Jewels Trilogy is like sitting around in my pajamas and eating a big bowl of ice cream - it's not terribly good for me and I'm sure there are more productive and improving things that I could be doing but, at the time, it's incredibly enjoyable.

So tell me about your junk food books. If you don't mind sharing your guilty pleasures, that is. 8)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My favorite part of AV is the A

Y'know what's fantastic? Audiobooks. Audiobooks are one of the best thing in the world. See, I love being read to but it's hard to find people who want to sit still and read to me for hours on end. Especially when I'm trying to go to sleep or when I'm going to be crocheting for a long time. I'm an audiobook junkie. My favorites, I've ripped to my computer so that I can listen to them whenever I want (or put them on my iPod for use in the car). I love the Discworld audiobooks though, alas, the older ones read by Nigel Planer are a little hard to find and my copy of Men at Arms kind of sucks. The newer ones read by Stephen Briggs are fun, as well. (I am incredibly amused by the fact that his Carrot is Welsh. I'm not sure why that's funny.)

Good readers are incredibly important. A bad reader will turn me off a recording at lightning speed, even if it's a book I dearly love. I tend to avoid books that are read by the author for that reason. Reading well is a difficult skill to acquire (one that I've never manged, myself) and a lot of authors don't have it. Neil Gaiman does fairly well on his own books, though. Fortunately, one of my favorite readers (George Guidall) is incredibly prolific. And even if he weren't, seeing as he's read Dune, American Gods, Crime and Punishment and most of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, I'm pretty much set.

And Constance, I know you've mentioned C. S. Lewis and Narnia recently - have you heard the audiobooks? Dawn Treader's read by Sir Derek Jacobi and is amazing and, although I'm perhaps overfond of Silver Chair anyway, I really like Jeremy Northam's recording of it. I'm very fond of his Puddleglum.

Audio drama? Also good. The BBC has a fantastic full-cast dramatization of that I was addicted to as a teenager. (Eventually, someone gave me a copy as a gift. The tapes are still under my bed, close to the stereo in case of audio emergency.) Audio drama is almost more fun, for me, than television. TV's all right, as far as it goes, but I tend to watch tv in an odd way, where I don't actually look at the screen much. Especially when I'm crocheting or doing something else with my hands. (I fidget. A lot.) So I end up missing a good bit of the narrative because it's visual. With audio drama, I get the acting, I get all of the narrative, and I get really good special effects because my brain generally has a bigger FX budget than most tv shows. 8) Also, I can listen in my car. (Audio dramas don't work at bedtime, though. Too exciting.)

I don't really have that many links for audio drama* but I can give you a nifty one for straight audiobooks - Bunches of books on which the copyright has expired, all available for free and immediate download. The sound quality isn't fantastic, perhaps, but the selection is nifty and hey, it's free. (Also, the files are very small indeed so you can fit several books on even the smallest mp3 player.)

*I have one link for audiodrama but it's a bit specific and a little weird. Anyway. If you are a Doctor Who fan who doesn't know about Big Finish Productions, hie thee there immediately and find yourself a way to acquire a copy of Jubilee. You will not regret it.

(Yes, it stars the Sixth Doctor. Yes, you probably think you don't like the Sixth Doctor. I don't care - you will like Jubilee. And here are three advantages that Jubilee has over actual Sixth Doctor episodes: a) better writers, b) neither Peri nor Mel are anywhere to be found and c) you can't see the coat.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Today, I am playing with I'd heard of it in my internet travels before the whole krl 2.0 thing but I'd never been quite sure what it was. Looking at it now, with a better understanding of it, it's pretty much totally awesome. I've actually set up two accounts - one for work and one for my internet leisure time. 8)

For work, having resources I regularly use (and a network of other people who are also listing useful sites) right at my fingertips has obvious advantages. At home...well, I have a huge and intimidating folder of bookmarks at home. I save a whole lot of things - recipes, crafty things, stories of all kinds - and then, when I want to go back to them later, I can never find them. It's going to take weeks to categorize and tag all of my bookmarks but the end result will be well worth it. God, I love tags.

And in the mean time, I get to rediscover all the stuff I thought was worth saving.

(Though I have to say, I find the name off-putting. I mean, I know most people just say "delicious" but it's get all those periods in the middle! Surely, one is meant to pronounce them in some way. Are they glottal stops of some kind? Since the "icio" and the "us" are split apart, is one meant to pronounce them more separately? These things bother me.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Making Money

Yesterday, I had several hours of free time which I spent in reading and now I have finished Making Money. I shall endeavor to post a bit of a review without actually posting spoilers.

Generally, I liked it. I don't think it's Pterry's strongest work - this and Thud have seemed to lack the coherence that books like Feet of Clay or Hogfather had. Still, it was a lot of fun to read and if it does occasionally seem to be bouncing all over the place, at least it isn't trying to be two distinct and seperate books. (Oh, Reaper Man, I loved Bill Door but what the frell was going on with the shopping carts?)

The two Moist books are especially fun because we get to see characters that we're attached to from a completely different point of view. I'm a Watch book girl, primarily, and so seeing Vimes and Carrot through Moist's eyes is very entertaining. Vetinari is a slightly different character with Moist than he is with Vimes. (Also, we get to see a lot of him with Drumknott, which I'm particularly partial to.) And Moist making fun of William de Worde is comedy gold.

And the new characters are fun, Mr Bent especially. (Well, for me.) The Lavishes aren't my favorite villains ever but their rather banal brand of low-grade evil works for a book about banking. And I love Moist. And Spike. And Moist and Spike together.* 8)

I love the continuity the later Discworld novels are developing, where the fallout of the last novel still has effects in the next one, even if it's only in tiny ways. In Making Money, we get mentions of Devices and the Low King which, even if they're not important right now, make me wonder what effects of Thud we may still be building on.

All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon and I think it will be rereadable. I'll have to see if I can get the audiobook next. (Oh, Stephen Briggs, I am terribly fond of you.)

And now I have to go and find another book.

*I always want to like Pterry's romances but for the most part, they don't work for me. I don't care for the Witch books in general, the Death books don't do romance, I do love Vimes and Sybil but the romance we often get in the Watch books is Carrot and Angua and oh Lord, but I hate Angua. Which leaves me with William and Sacharissa (who will never actually happen) and Moist and Miss Adora Belle Dearheart. Spiky and snarky no-nonsense romance is one of my favorite kinds.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Campfire Stories

All right, friends and neighbors, it's October 12th. Which means that we're nearly halfway through October. Which in turn means that it's nearly Halloween. It's scary story time. So let's play a game: I'll tell you about some of my favorite scary stories and then you can tell me about some of yours. It'll be like campfire time at summer camp. Feel free to chime in with anything in any medium: book, short story, film, tv episode, song, picture, internet urban legend, actual campfire story. They're all good. I'll give you three stories in three different mediums.

First: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. First of all, let me say that this book is a bit challenging to read. There are multiple entwined narratives, footnotes that may not refer to the page they're printed on, pages that you have to hold upside down or sideways or up to a mirror in order to read. If you're a fan of non-standard and non-linear narrative, this is the book for you.

The book opens with our narrator, Johnny Truant, being brought to the apartment of a dead man, Zampanò, who has left an enormous manuscript in a battered trunk. Johnny takes the manuscript home and begins to read it. From then on, we alternate between Johnny's narrative and Zampanò's manuscript.Johnny Truant's story is horrific enough - he is eventually driven mad by the manuscript he's discovered. But it's the manuscript itself that's the most interesting part of the book, to me. It concerns a nonexistent documentary called The Navidson Record, filmed by Will Navidson who discovers that his new house is larger on the inside than it is on the outside. 1/4 of an inch bigger, to begin with. Now, I know that doesn't sound terribly frightening, on the face of it. (My first thought was "oh, the house is dimensionally transcendental" but that's because I'm a giant dork.) But think about it - we trust our homes to be safe. That's why the haunted house is the archetype it is. We trust reality to be solid, reliable, to act by certain rules. When those rules fall apart, nothing works anymore. House of Leaves is about being betrayed by reality. Eventually, that betrayal becomes much more spectacular and the house sprouts impossible endless hallways and cathedral-sized caverns. But the most frightening moment, for me, comes early on when a pile of books go tumbling off their bookshelf because it 's no longer flush with the wall.

House of Leaves isn't a traditional haunted house story. There are no ghosts in the house, no monsters that the human characters don't bring there themselves. The house is alien, unknowable, and implacable. The horror here is classically Lovecraftian* - there's no malice. The house won't destroy you because it hates you. The house destroys because it doesn't know you're there. Which is much more frightening, to my mind.

For my second story, I'm going to have to go to a vaguely dorky place because I'm going to talk about an episode of an obscure science fiction television show. Anyone out there ever watched Sapphire & Steel? It's an odd little British show from the late 70's/early 80's starring David McCallum and Joanna Lumley. Sapphire and Steel are...well, actually, no one really knows what they are but what they do is fix problems with time. But don't worry about that - it's not important right now. What is important is that the second arc of the show - "The Railway Station" - is a nearly perfect ghost story. An abandoned railway station is being haunted by the spirits of dead soldiers and it's Sapphire and Steel's job to get rid of them. By any means necessary.

I'm not going to spoil any of the story here but I do want to talk about atmosphere. Sapphire & Steel, as a show, moves very slowly. This is great, as it allows for build. There are very few big scare scenes - nothing jumping suddenly out of the shadows - but there's a constant and ever-building feeling of creep. The railway station is dimly lit and full of neglected rooms that echo with long-dead voices. The lamps are burnt out and the potted plants on the platform are wilted and dry. Except for when they're not. The other advantage the show has working for it is its lack of budget. Seriously, this thing had less money than Doctor Who and, unlike Doctor Who, its makers didn't react to this by trying to make convincing monsters out of bubblewrap and potted cacti. Instead, they decided to rely on the power of suggestion. The human brain is capable of conjuring horrors greater than anything that can convincingly be shown on screen, if you let it work. Sapphire & Steel lets your brain do all the heavy lifting.

The pacing is, as I said, very slow and the credit sequence is, I regret to say, a little embarrassing, but the show itself is well-worth making the effort. We don't have it in the library, alas, but it can be rented through Netflix, if you've got an account. "The Railway Station" is disc two, if you decide to seek it out specifically, though all of the show is worth watching.

Lastly, I leave you with a song. Sussex Ghost Story, by John Wesley Harding. (To download, click on the link, find where it says "download link", and click.) It's short, it's shivery, and it's an eminently singable little ghosty revenge story. It is our anniversary and you cannot run away from me...

So, greater blogosphere, what are some of your favorite scary stories?

*Well, perhaps not quite. There's nothing squishy enough to be perfectly Lovecraftian. 8)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brief Nuts and Bolts Question

Does anybody out there in the greater blogosphere know how we're supposed to find out if people reply to our comments? I managed to find the setting where I can get email notifications if someone comments on my blog but is there any way to find out if there's a reply to a comment I make elsewhere without actually going back to the post I commented on and physically checking? It seems to me that this would make continued conversation much easier.

More than likely, this is an impossibility. But still, it never hurts to ask.