Sunday, October 19, 2008

Palin SNL

So, Sarah Palin was on Saturday Night Live.

(You should watch the sketch on the top because Amy Poeler was FREAKING HYSTERICAL!)

Here are my thoughts on this. Sarah Palin is not the first political figure to appear on SNL having been mocked week after week in their sketches. I remember when Bob Dole appeared and he and the cast had a good time poking fun at the way he always referred to himself in the third person. But here is the difference between Bob Dole and Sarah Palin: Bob Dole was always taken seriously. Sure, sketch comedy shows mocked him, but public perception of him was that he was a serious candidate with experience and a legitimate claim to the presidency. He lost of course, but not because of questions about his experience or knowledge. Sarah Palin is questioned about those things constantly. She's already made herself human and approachable with all of her down-home talking - what she needs to do for her image is to make herself seem MORE serious and MORE capable. Her appearance on SNL (while proving she is a semi-good sport) just makes her seem all the more frivolous.

But seriously, watch that first sketch. Holy crap it's funny.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
fiction/fantasty, (c)1984, 383pp
rating: **

The Wandering Fire by Guy Gavriel Kay
fiction/fantasy, (c)1986, 375pp
rating: ***

These two books comprise book 1 and book 2 of the Fionavar Tapestry, the first series of books by fantasy author Guy Gavriel Kay. I am still reading the third one, so it will be reviewed separately. Earlier in the year, I read Song for Arbonne also by Kay. I liked it well enough - it was a quick and engaging read though not without some flaws and not something I'd pick up over and over again. However, it was engaging enough and I know enough people who love this author that I thought I'd give the Fionavar Tapestry a try. People who are rabid fans of Kay insist that these are his best books.

All I have to say is it is a good thing that I read something else first or I would never go back to him as an author.

The overall story of The Fionavar Tapestry is that five university student from University of Toronto get whisked into an alternate world called Fionavar. They think they are going as part of a ceremony for the High King of Brennin but it becomes quickly clear that there is more going on in Fionavar than meets the eye. And, conincidently, all of the students brought to Fionavar are destined to play different intricate roles in the upcoming battle between Rakoth - god of evil - and the combined forces of light.

Does any of that sound familiar? If you've read any fantasy novels at all, you should recognize one of the universal plots. If a writer can't think of anything new, they can always have a fight between the forces of good and evil. In this case, the fight borrows a LOT of JRR Tolkien. There are the usual creatures - dwarves, humans and "lios alfar" - aka elves. In fact, the lios alfar also "go west" when they die, much like the elves do in the Lord of the Rings series. They create an alliance against evil - also much like in the Lord of the Rings series. Rakoth rules with a bunch of nasty creatures and one traitorous mage (Saruman anyone?) from a mountain fortress (Mordir anyone?)

The truth is that tons of fantasy writers borrow from Tolkien and in this case I think part of it was intentional. Kay has this idea that his world will wrap up all sort of themes from other worlds that repeat themselves over and over and over agfain - although it is never made clear whether or not the Tolkein-esque elements are part of this idea. What is made clear as part of this idea is bits of Arthurian legend. Yes, that's right, out of the mists come elements of Camelot and King Arthur and his love of Guenevere. I thought all of that seems contrived and very out of place in the book - especially the way that all of the characters greet King Arthur as if they know him somehow.

Of the two books, the first is worse than the second. In the first book, we are introduced to a huge cast of characters within a span of 50 pages with no character development whatsoever. The characters and the mythology of the world made such a small impression on me that I kept having to flip to the cast of characters to remind myself who all of these people were. The five university students in particular are given very little character development and seem to take it in stride that a mage from another land would just pop up on the University of Toronto campus and whisk them away. We can tell that some of the characters are holding deep and hidden pains but it's hard to care without the backstory. After the character development in the first book, this gets easier in the second book and I stopped having to check the different characters every 30 or so pages.

Also in the first book there is a rape incident. I hate hate hate it when fantasy authors incorporate rate or threat of rape as a major plot point in their novels. But that's a matter of taste I suppose.

The writing in these books is not as good as in his later books. A lot of the foreshadowing is extremely heavy handed. The omnipotent narrator says things like, "And in this one there was something more. She looked like someone. He knew this, or he sensed it to be so, but although he was quite right, he had absolutely no way of knowing whom, and so could not warn anyone." Who could she be, the reader is suppose to ask themselves. And of course, we do .. but there are less heavy-handed ways to get the reader thinking along those lines.

Something kind of interesting about this book is that he obviously decided to go back to some of the themes and ideas from these in his later novels. In Song for Arbonne, the priestesses are blinded in order to commune better with the goddess; in The Fionavar Tapestry, the Dalrei blind their seers so he can commune better with the gods. In Song for Arbonne, Midsummer's Eve is a time of rampant sexuality - the same is true in The Fionavar Tapestry. And there are similar echoes of the rights of women to choose their mates in the Dalrei of Fionavar and the women of Arbonne.

Anyway. I almost didn't bother to read the other books, but I always finish what I start. So now I'm starting the third one. May it be better than the other two combined.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blue & Sheets

Mr. Blue likes the new sheets I got too!



Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I bought new sheets today. I should not be trusted in houseware stores alone with a credit card. It's funny - marriage is not a priority for me, but I would love to register for stuff. It's kind of a geeky thing but I love all of the sheets and curtains and new pillows and soft fluffy towels. I had to restrain myself from buying a bamboo hamper and two thirty dollar bath sheets of the softest, most buttery and absorbent cotten ever. But the sheets! They called to me. They said, "We're 300 thread count sateen!" They said, "We're a beautiful orange paisley pattern that compliments your decor in all of it's jewel-toned richness! You must buy us!"

... so I did. And all I wanted were some cheap picture frames to hang some of my photos in my bathroom. I spent the better part of an hour being filled with the familiar mixture of happiness and shame - happiness with my new purchase and the shame of having made it when I'm so close to utter financial ruin. Happiness will win out when I slide between them tonight. Ah, new sheets, I love you so.

On Saturday, I switched over my aquarium from a 40g tank to a 75g tank. It looks SO much better and makes the room look larger. Once I get my wood panels made and the old tank out, I'll take some pictures of my apartment. The best thing is that by just selling my old skimmer (filtration device), I've paid for my entire upgrade since so many of my friends gave me stuff for free and I was able to use a lot of the things I already have. It's nice to have generous friends. Everything is still settling in; photos forthcoming.

Thursday, October 02, 2008