Friday, December 11, 2009

I've been Grinched!

And the Grinch didn't steal Christmas, he stole my heat! Now, I know it's supposed to be cold in Michigan in December. Even though this recent cold spell of temps in the teens (and wind chills in single digits) came on suddenly, I'm a native Michigander! I laugh at Southerners when they freak out at half an inch of snow! I snicker at Floridians shivering in 40-degree temps! Single digits is nothing!

I saw a lot of pissing and moaning on Facebook yesterday about all the cold and was getting ready to say, "Hey people! Don't be wimps! I dare you to think of the positive things about the cold weather!" I could think of plenty of positive things, of course: my cats become snugglier when it's cold; the garbage with old cat litter doesn't smell; I don't have to do any gardening, or hear neighbors mow their lawn at 8 am on a weekend morning.

That was just off the top of my head, and I'm sure I could think of more ... if my brain hadn't suddenly started freezing. Last night, although I had two quilts and two cats on top of me, I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed my feet were cold. Lately our furnace has been acting up a little, switching off unexpectedly, but we've always been able to restart it. Today? Not so much. I went to type "think positive," but my house is only 55 degrees, so my fingers wouldn't work. Instead, I say, Bah humbug! Go away, cold, and let me get some work done!

Luckily the heating guy is here and will hopefully uncover the problem and fix it soon ... if not, I'll be reduced to a shivering pile of blankets in front of the gas fireplace.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Janespotting: Sense and Sensibility and Silliness

Now that I've left my Remedial Lit project behind with summer, and managed to survive a busy busy fall filled with football games and marching band and NaNoWriMo and multiple assignments, it's time to get back to exploring Jane Austen and her myriad imitators. After all, how better to curl up and block out the cold, dark winter than with Jane and a cup of tea?

I was going to move onto Northanger Abbey, which is a favorite Austen novel and her funniest, imho, but when this book came into my library, I felt obligated to read it. After all, I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a quite entertaining mashup, as strange as it sounds. Zombies have always been a great metaphor for social stagnation, which would make them appropriate to mix with a novel about women who are often forced to choose between love and security. So could Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters) provide a similarly scintillating scenario?

As you might deduce from my excruciatingly excellent example of alliteration, the answer is: not particularly. Now, I could see mashing up Persuasion with sea monsters, as the leading hero is a naval captain and the main characters make a visit to the seaside resort of Lyme, but although Sense and Sensibility takes place in Devonshire, it's not really situated on the coast. So it felt to me like the only reason to add "Sea Monsters" was for the alliteration. Turning Colonel Brandon into a fellow cursed not only by a broken heart but by a sea witch (hence the facial tentacles) is weird, not revealing. Changing the sisters' trip to London to a visit to "Sub Station Beta," an undersea colony headed for disaster? Distracting, not enhancing. Putting Barton Cottage on an island that's really located atop a Lovecraftian leviathan? Just plain strange. The whole thing was quite silly, really, and I finished it just to finish it.

I suppose the publisher thought that after the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (not only was it a bestseller, it's been optioned for a movie), they could cobble together any Austen novel and any monster, but in this case they ignored what made P&P&Z so much fun: it was still mainly Austen's words, around 85%. The story was just tweaked here and there, enough to amuse but not confuse. S&S&SM goes way over the top, adding too many new things and changing the characters from their essential natures. You change things too much and it's no longer a parody, just a weird pastiche that's neither familiar nor amusing. I would have preferred mixing S&S with vampires—the novel's themes of letting emotions run away with you would seem to be perfect for it—but it turns out there are already a couple of Darcy as vampire novels out there. [rolls eyes] (I'm really going to have to run out of "sequels" before I get to those...) So enough with the weirdness! Next week I'm heading back to original Austen and Northanger Abbey.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photo of the Week--12/7/09

No pigeons in this photo ... because they are definitely not native to Finnish Lapland. However, there were plenty of reindeer on this trip, which we took a couple weeks before Christmas 1999. It was actually only a couple days before the winter solstice, and at a latitude above 68°N (and yes, that is above the Arctic Cirlce) it was dark for most of the day. This photo was taken not long after lunch, when it was very dusky out. It was a very atmospheric trip—lots of snow hanging on evergreen branches, in addition to the crepuscular light—topped off with a visit to Santa's cabin in the snow. I can't imagine why Boy was so hesitant to say hello to this reindeer; it looks so friendly, doesn't it? More awesome, in his mind, was the ambulance that took his mom away after a tobogganing accident, and the cart with the flashing light we got to ride through the airport. Ten years later, and I'm still terrified to go near a sled.