Depression log: 1

Life is pretty boring right now.

I bought some old games on Tuesday – Fallout 1 and 2, Civilization III, and Starcraft. I’ve only installed Fallout 2 so far, and was pretty into it yesterday, but today I can’t maintain interest in it. I play for a few minutes and then exit in frustration. Installing another game seems too much work, especially if I can’t get into it either.

It’s awkward when your interest in things is broken. If you’re bored, you can’t fix it by simply doing something different like you normally would. It’s not what you’re doing that’s the problem, it’s your ability to engage with it.

I might watch a Countdown episode I recorded yesterday. The finals are on at the moment, so there’s a high standard of play.

Who cares, right?

Published in: on December 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fiesta : The Sun Also Rises

So I finally got around to reading some Hemingway. Pernod. Bullfights. Tennis. Fishing. Hanging out with prostitutes. French brandy. Spanish wine.

Jake loves Brett, and she loves him (in a way), but any chance of a relationship is complicated by both of their personalities – and by the fact that Jake has an “injury” from the War. Awkward. So, during the Fiesta in Pamplona,  Jake sets her up with his Spanish bullfighter friend, Romero.

I was impressed by the way Jake presents himself. He’s a pretty good model of a certain type of narrator; he observes and reports on the action to us, without being too involved in what’s going on. The fact that he acts as impotent procurer for the woman he loves is a pretty key example of this; he’s a sort of passive mediator there. There’s also a scene where Jake watches while a friend of his is repeatedly insulted by his wife. Jake is watching his friend and wondering “why does he just sit and take it?”. It really brings out the embarrassment of watching a couple airing their dirty laundry in front of you – I think you can really put yourself in Jake’s place a lot of the time.

On the other hand, Jake is competent, capable, well liked, and well-connected; in mundane things, he’s a vigourous man. This seems like it would contradict Jake as a passive observer (and I think there is a real contradiction there), but at the same time his character doesn’t seem divided. I think this adds something quite good to the novel.

Hopefully I’ll be reading A Farewell to Arms sometime soon – I don’t have much else to say on Hemingway yet, but maybe reading something new will bring new insights.

Edited 2017-12-23 because I’ve been misspelling Hemingway’s name for years.

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Company She Keeps

I’ve just finished Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps. I knew McCarthy from her introduction to Nabokov’s Pale Fire, so when I came across her first novel, I thought it might be worth a read.

The novel’s “hook” lies in the fact that each chapter is written from a different perspective. We have one chapter in the first person (“an extract from memoirs begun by the heroine”), one in the second person, and a couple of third-person portraits at various levels of intimacy – some with the heroine as the subject, and some, as it were, catching her unawares in the background. Although we are never directly narrated to by any of the other characters, we get a lot of opportunities to see the heroine through their eyes. McCarthy handles this really well, and in particular the second-person chapter came across very naturally.

This heroine I mentioned is Meg Sargent, a young woman living in New York in the 30s. Although intellegent, cultured, and (no doubt) attractive, she has trouble committing – both professionally and in romance. After a divorce, she finds herself drifting; living a rather “second-rate” lifestyle and getting involved with men who are all “lame ducks” in one way or another. All this, of course, is borne of existential angst and unfortunate childhood experience (the poor dear was Catholic on the mother’s side), with a dash of bourgeois guilt thrown in. However, because Meg is a bright girl, and pathologically honest to boot (she never lets herself believe the lies she tells), it is not quite as simple as that. Although she searches for meaning, she tends to see through any answers (and men) she and others come up with.

A friend of mine pointed out that I have a tendency to enjoy these semiautographical studies of medium-strong female characters – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie being another major example. Actually, Spark’s novel has an unusual narrative structure too. I’m not quite sure where the appeal lies, but I guess interesting form and psychological insight are pretty good traits for a novel to have, especially if the insight is into the mind of a sexy lady!

The only real problem with the book is the introduction. Here McCarthy pretty much sabotages the story by giving a rather pat explanation of the heroine’s motivation. It’s odd because in the text itself we grasp this motivation quite subtly, which is much more satisying. Funnier still, McCarthy does exactly the same thing in her Pale Fire introduction – she gives away her interpretation of the “true” story behind the narrator’s account, and this can really spoil our enjoyment of Nabokov’s hinting style.

The Company She Keeps, despite the many narrative perspectives, has a lot of coherence and unity. As such, it is self-sufficient, so it is probably hard to write a good introduction about it. If you consider the novel on its own, it is a very good read.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Here’s a comic that I’ve been working on since July of 2009

Bad thigns can TRANSPIRE

I couldn’t have done it without Dave

Published in: on March 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barthes and Myth

This post isn’t finished yet – I’m just putting it up because I’m hoping it’ll help me get over some writer’s block.

I’m rereading a few of the essays in Mythologies at the moment, the ones where he deals with manufactured physical objects: “Soap-powders and Detergents”; “Toys”; “Ornamental Cookery”; “The New Citroen”; “Plastic.” Barthes tends to use a sort of alchemical langauge to describe these objects; just as water, for Aristotle, was essentially cold and wet, so metal, for Barthes, has an essential “flat hardness.” The substances that form the basis of this alchemy come from the world of sense, but not necessarily the world of nature; we also have “civilised” categories of substance like finished wood, rubber, plastic, paper, varnishes and glazes.

The interesting thing about Barthes’s alchemy is that he sometimes stands outside it to criticise the beliefs that arise from it, but he also sometimes seems to have become trapped within these beliefs himself. In the essay on soap powders, for instance, he is clear that the properties attributed to cleaning products by their manufacturers are mythical, but

Barthes does not like plastic, and I suspect this is for two main reasons.

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chocolate Beverages

I was at the vending machine in college today, and got both a “hot chocolate” and a “chocomilk” to compare. They were… pretty similar. They both were served hot. The hot chocolate was a shade darker, and had slightly more of an aroma of cocoa, but they tasted almost the same. Maybe one is suitable for lactose intolerance and one isn’t – I don’t know? A friend I was with thought that the chocomilk had more of a milky taste, but I was only half-sure I could detect this. There definitely wasn’t a more “creamy” texture to the chocomilk; both drinks had a certain viscosity to them, and a slight tendency to coat the tongue. The “chocolate” taste was a little dusty in both cases, and I found them both a little oversweet.

I don’t think I’ll be changing from my usual coffee.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 12:10 am  Comments (2)  
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Sexism in the Aristocats

At the risk of seeming fixated on Disney (but then, I am), I thought I’d mention this. In the Aristocats, the cat Duchess’s two male children, Berlioz and Toulouse, are named after a French nineteenth-century composer and painter, respectively – appropriately, since Toulouse paints and Berlioz plays piano in an early scene. Her daughter, by contrast, is given the much more generic name “Marie” – possibly after Marie Antoinette. Why not name her after a nineteenth-century prima donna or something (since Marie sings along to Berlioz’ playing)? I sense a lack of respect for women in their creative endeavours…

Hm, in the time it took me to write that out, I managed to lose interest in the subject. Yawn.

Published in: on May 5, 2009 at 11:41 am  Comments (1)  
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Oh, the Indignity…

Well, I’m home from hospital for the long weekend, and am, predictably, rather bored. I’m simply too depressed to read anything more demanding than over-analyses of cartoons – but then, at least they’re pretty fun.

In a bid to get me out of the house (fresh air being conducive to mental health, I imagine?), my father has taken to going for walks with me in Saint Anne’s Park in Clontarf. Today, there was a light rain falling, and the only other people in the park were dog-walkers. This made me feel rather “doggy”; I was, too, after all, being “taken” for a walk.

I can’t walk by the playground in that park without feeling a twinge of nostalgia – I used to go to there fairly regularly until I was maybe ten or so, and then didn’t go to the park at all for most of my adolescence. As a result, there is a gap in my memory; I don’t remember growing too old for the playground, but here I am, seven years older than the upper limit. Nostalgia!

Anyway, it’s back to hospital for me now. I might write another entry there. Or I might have a nap. It’s all good.

Peace Out!

Published in: on April 13, 2009 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment