October 26th, 2010


This is why I don't nap!

Yesterday I got back from touristing and felt pretty tired. I decided to take a nap. I ended up taking a three hour nap and only woke up to go down and eat dinner otherwise I knew I'd be starving at like 3am. As I sat in the bar staring at Monday Night Football (Countdown actually), I felt like I was in a trance and remembered why I hate napping. I always feel so much worse afterwards. I ate dinner, went back up to my room, watched some of the Giants v Cowboys game before going back to sleep. Then woke up every two hours after about 11.30 till I gave in at 6.30am and came down to breakfast.

Grr to naps!

Also I had this postapocalyptic dream during the nap that was highly detailed and complex and every time I went back to sleep, I ended up back in the damn dream! Even after coming back from dinner.

Interestingly, I noticed a couple of female commentators during the game - not on the main panel but who they did live crosses to out on the field. I've not seen that at home for footy or rugby.


DC Day 4

Well yesterday I decided I would go on down to the Washington Mall and see things I'd always been sorry not to have seen the last time I was in DC. I started with the Vietnam Memorial so I took the Metro up to Fogggy Bottom (heee) and then wandered down to the memorial via George Washington University. I got my first glimpse of the Washington Monument on the way

and also enjoyed the trees which are changing colour.

I found the memorial very moving. So many names. 58 000 in fact. And you walk down into the memorial so that you are under the ground level, I guess, 6 ft under? So many names.

I was trying to read the dedication and ended up behind a family who had found a name and were wondering about it and the volunteer came over and explained that the status of soldiers is correct every May. For each confirmed dead soldier, there is a dot next to their name. For those who are missing, there is a small cross. And when they are found, the cross is turned into a diamond in May when the memorial is updated. He took a rubbing of the name for them and explained that at some point, their soldier was missing and since, his remains have been found. It was very moving.

I've never been really interested in war. I find the politics interesting but not war especially. But since finding myself in a relationship with someone who serves, it's changed for me. He calls me after work each day and I ask him how he is and he says, "Well, I'm alive", which within the context is sorta less amusing and more an actual status update. My interest/engagement in war has changed, I guess.

After the memorial I headed up to the Lincoln Memorial which is right there. It's pretty impressive.

And then I needed a break. I took a refreshment at the refreshments place - coffee, which was vile, and a bagel with cream cheese (because apparently, I live the cliche according to maelkann). I just sat overlooking the Potomac, watching the birds and the trees and the people going by. It was really very lovely.

The plan was to head down to the Smithsonian at this point. As I wandered off, I saw the Korean memorial so I stopped to have a look at that. The statues are very moving and the rest really quite contemplative.

And then I headed off down in the museums direction. I ended up passing the WWII memorial and had a look around. It was quite odd to see different dates (1941 - 1945). There's this futuristic feel to this memorial, reminded me of the sorts of scenes from Star Trek or BSG. Just kind of expansive, a lot of water and fountains and majestic with the Lincoln Memorial in the background. Grande. I suppose.

As I was walking off from here, it started to rain. And I didn't much feel like wandering around in the rain. I decided to try and find the Metro and head back. Well, I get lost easily so I found myself wandering around past the Holocaust Museum and the Treasury and the Printing and Etching Dept and all sorts of places, with really no idea where I was supposed to be - I thought 14th or 12th street maybe and D but it was pretty bad. So I stood still, to just gain my composure and stare off in all directions to see if I could find a clue. And there, one block down was a big M sign! At the Dept of Agriculture! And so with much relief I headed back to the hotel.


Weird Food 1

I am trying to find the weirdest or most American stuff to try. I kinda get a kick outta that kind of stuff. Mostly I'm really hating the food and I think that must surely be because I am eating in the wrong places. Hopefully to be corrected once I hit Ohio.

Anyway, here are a couple of things I bought at Trader Joes. I loved that store - so many really interesting, but also delicious looking things to try. I'd love to have brought them back as presents - especially candy covered sunflower seeds for kathrynlinge but the small size in the US is not that small and that one would never have gotten through quarantine.

This one was an attempt at getting snacks for the room that were somewhat healthy - blueberry oat bran muffins. They were yuck. Who cares about low GI when its inedible. Large clumps of flour and it was dry dry dry. Yuck.

I totally bought this just to see what it tasted like - chilli pineapple pieces. I ate one and now feel that I got my experience's worth out of it. It's a hot, chilli, piece of pineapple. Not really something very moreish.

I also bought some gluten free puffed corn - sour cream flavoured - which are kinda like eating flavoured clouds.


Weird Food 2

The Hilton is a lovely hotel, service wise, but it falls down on facilities, particularly food options between 2 pm and 5pm. Also its dinner menu is rather limited. And no bar fridge. Yesterday I got back to the hotel at about 3pm and could find nowhere to buy a drink (the machine on the bottom floor wouldn't take coins).

So I headed out and ended up finding a 7Eleven not too far away. I figured it was a really good chance to check out what real 7Elevens stock. Americans were complaining at Worldcon that food was really expensive in Australia and they reiterated that to me this weekend.

Here's why:

All of this cost me $8.50. When you look at some of the health issues currently being faced in our generation, it's seems ridiculous to ignore the cost of unhealthy, processed junk food.

I didn't end up getting to try the juice because I couldn't refrigerate it and I ended up napping when I got back etc. The grape Fanta tasted like ... fake grapes! Woot. The mini donuts are ... vile! It's like a tasteless, cardboardy thing dipped in cheap chocolate. Twinkies I've had before but I haven't tried this lot yet. The lollies are watermelon flavoured which was kinda cool.


Book Review: Fire Watch by Connie Willis

I must confess that I've never read anything by Connie Willis before. It turns out that there is nothing quite so offputting as people telling you what you should read. Many people have mentioned Willis to me as in "you'd quite like her" but not "why" I would like her. It turns out that I *love* her. Willis is simply brilliant. She has a sharp mind, keen wit and great intelligence. Having spent time with her at Capclave this weekend, I realised after getting to know her a little bit that I would indeed love what she writes. She has so much to say about so many things and what she has to say is *informed*.

It was with this in mind that I grabbed a copy of Fire Watch, a limited edition of this Nebula and Hugo winning novelette was printed by WSFA Press this weekend for Capclave. I knew going in it was a WWII story but my respect for Willis was such that I decided to go in anyway. Fire Watch is Willis' first WWII story, originally published in 1982, and in fact eventually leads the way round to her new two volume novel Blackout and All Clear. I had no intention of reading these new books when they were released this year because of my lack of interest in WWII but now I will of course be making my way there.

In Fire Watch, Bartholomew is sent back to St Paul's during the Blitz to take his history practicum. In his time, historians are sent back via time machine to witness history as it happened. Except, Bartholomew wasn't specialising in London during the Blitz and doesn't know what exactly the practicum will require of him. He is sent to St Paul's to be part of the Fire Watch - a group of ordinary people standing watch on top of St Paul's Cathedral and putting out fires from the German's bombs each night of the Blitz hoping to save St Paul's.

Fire Watch is an engrossing read. Willis paints such a clear picture of both London and those staying to protect the city from the bombs. We follow Bartholomew as he tries to figure out friend from foe and the point of his being here at this time. Is he to save St Paul's? Can he save St Paul's? Just what is he to learn from this adventure? 

I loved this book because whilst it's about war and set in wartime, what it's really about is the people. Willis has a deep respect for the average person on the street and the everyday hero. She creates such rich characters who you want to believe in and the reward is an engrossing read which demands you bring along tissues. 

Wild Weather

I'm watching the weather on CNN - tornadoes have hit in the midwest including Ohio.

I'm guessing I might have a delay tomorrow when flying into Chicago and out again.

Given what else has happened on the peripheral of my life this week, I might buy a lottery ticket.

ETA: Chicago (Ohare) seems to have a 75 minute delay.


Book Review: Remake by Connie Willis

I heard Connie Willis talking about her research method on a panel this weekend and how she spent 2 years lying on the couch watching musicals over and over to record the steps exactly right; how Doris Day's toothy smile began to haunt her; how ethereal Fred Astaire danced and how seamlessly he partnered Ginger Rogers and about how he had painstakingly rehearsed for each movie. And I knew this was a book for me; I needed this information alone. I hunted it out in the dealer's room and accidentally bought myself this copy, hardcover, in a box and freshly signed by Connie earlier in the morning. I'd only been anxious to get my hands on it to read immediately. The rest was bonus.

Well, the book is fantastic. I'm a movie buff, especially old movies and especially especially musicals. I absolutely loved the characters' constant quotes from movies instead of thinking up their own dialogue and the constant stream of imagery that is snippets from movies. A large percentage of the book is a mashup from all kinds of movies spanning about the now of when the book was written (published in 1994) to all the way back to the b&ws. It's a real blast if you're a fan of the movies.

The plot? There is one, yes. I was interested to hear Connie Willis talk about her science fiction and how she is sometimes labelled as not science fictional enough. She talked about how her science fictional elements are in the background with the plot, often character driven/relationship focussed, in the foreground. I've been thinking about that a lot since she said it. It's not a new idea to me, it's not anything we haven't covered on Galactic Suburbia before. But it's gotten me thinking all the same. It seems to me, that the kind of story I see as mature is one that takes a "what if" and then builds a world around that. I'm interested in how a world would be once you extrapolate from the "what if". When a story focusses just on the science fictional element, to me it feels like an undeveloped one, like the idea of "what if" was all that was of interest and the taking it somewhere was too hard. It's often called "soft science fiction" to focus on people or relationships within a science fictional context and maybe I'm showing my female POV but I really am interested in how people would live within the "what if". I'm interested in what would be different about people's lives with the change in technology or shift in history or political beliefs.

As Connie says, isn't the point of it all love?

Anyway, the plot. Hollywood in the future has taken itself to the ultimate endpoint. Why bother making new movies when you can remake old ones? Why bother dealing with warm bodies when you can pick up onscreen images of actors from yesteryear and remake them in movies where the plots already worked and the stories were already great? Now Hollywood is made up of comp people who can edit and reedit and tweak and change movies to whatever the execs want. Kinda interesting - a bit like seeing a play performed with different actors. River Phoenix plays Cary Grant etc.

Tom wants to be a movie director but instead is stuck hacking and slashing movies to whatever he's asked to do, pasting faces of his bosses new girlfriend into the movies or removing evidence of offending Addictive Substances or whatever to pay for his chooch and rent. Basically he's selling his soul and has lost all belief in the movies. That is until he meets Alis, whom he thinks is just another face and warm blooded wannabe but who actually wants to dance in the movies, for real, with Fred Astaire. Tom knows it's impossible but is captivated by her and her pursuit of her dream no matter what.

It's a glorious tribute to the movies and also a harsh commentary on Hollywood. It's funny and nostalgic and cutting all at the same time. And I read it in a day and a half.