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Sorry, Interweb...http://www.ansereg.com had some problems due to high traffic and it'll be live again shortly.

Life here is good, having had a family holiday with my partner I'm now catching up on chosen family.
tyellas: (Runescript)

Last night, I reprised something from 10 years ago by seeing a Wellington-first-public showing of a Tolkien film by Peter Jackson at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington. How time flies!

At the Embassy, unlike ten years ago, everything was set up for Wellington fans to be pampered - a luxurious theater, free movie snacks with our tickets, free professional photos, spot prizes, roving reporters. Apparently, I made a breakfast TV show in my elf gown from 10 years ago recounting being there 10 years ago. 90% of the movie goers were contest winners, and 10% was the local Tolkien society, following a ticketing issue that made the news - that's how I got my ticket.

So. The film. First, and IMPORTANT: Tolkien fans, see the 2D version. Avoid the 3D version if at all possible. Every critique of the  3D version in 48fps was true for me –facial prosthetic falseness, surreal over-reality, a sense of being a TV show or an extract from the ‘Making Of’ DVD. Apart from that, as a big ol' fan I give it a solid B+.

BEYOND HERE BE SPOILERS! And sleep-deprived impressions. )
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Two weeks out from the first installment of The Hobbit, Wellington is officially bonkers. Official events include:

* Banners everywhere promoting The Hobbit
* Hobbit silhouettes on the post office building
* Bag End door installation at Wellington Embassy theater
* Gollum installation at airport
* Traffic blocked/cut off downtown on day of movie premiere with parade
* Front page articles about Hobbit in local paper every day for past 2 weeks
* Hobbit stamps
* Hobbit collector's coins
* Hobbit market downtown this weekend
* Hobbit window dressing competition

Unofficial events include lots of bar parties - ale will be quaffed. The festivities were not so elaborate nor entrenched when I came down from Auckland for the TT and RoTK premieres. This should be, for a Tolkien fan, fandom paradise. Also, traffic at my fan site, and related correspondence, is up and positive. And yet...

I have heard from several folks that the people making this movie happen are under huge deadline stress about it, 100-hour weeks, not leaving the studio, etc. God knows what they're not saying. Dream jobs turn into nightmare jobs when workplace rights are swept aside. This fandom delight of a movie and associated festivities is a privilege, not a right decreed by Warner Brothers. If it takes longer to produce this media spectacle to allow the creators to rest and have lives, I've got no problem with that.
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To help those of you caught in the heat wave cool off - the cutest thing I've seen all year that doesn't involve cats - this music video. I have the pleasure of being acquainted with the songwriter/singer.

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Yesterday the phone rang exceptionally early. I grabbed it in a state of expatriate freak-out, expecting news of a car accident or something. It was my mother, who's usually excellent about this sort of thing. Turns out that she is going to be having carotid artery-clearing surgery in the very near future. Her carotid arteries are 90% occluded, and her side of the family has a history of strokes.

Anybody have any stories/experiences related to this? The Internet is surprisingly terse about it. Possibly because the older generation that has this surgery isn't as wired. She should have ample support in the USA, but I'm still twitchy. I am also trying to put together an indulgent care package for her: her escapist reading favorites are "gentle mysteries where there aren't any murders". So any book recommendations are very welcome too.
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Rather touched - the Rome Tolkien Society has just asked to translate my seven-year-old essay on Tolkien and the British Arts and Crafts movement.Re-reading that old thing, there's some interesting stuff about the first round of the modern craft movement and Britain's love of the industrial and new, which we are, oh so ironically, romanticizing today as steampunk.

Everything here is both cram-jammed busy - on the cusp of one of those Wellington weekends where everything is happening - and slowing down somewhat for winter. I'm sitting here with freezing toes after getting too involved online and forgetting to start the fire. No slippers tonight, because I have been drying a pedicure.
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Ahahahah! Tolkien fandom trope bingo cards! My personal favourite was “Eligible Bachelor Baggins,” which we’ll be seeing a LOT of starting in December.

It’s about the 10th "fanniversary" of the Ansereg site. Ten years of sharing stories and ideas, fielding odd questions on sexuality in Tolkien, and being corrected on the % of Maia that Elladan and Elrohir have in their ancestry. I glued elf ears on my head, got kidnapped by an orc at the Return of the King premiere in Wellington in 2003, gave a talk at Tolkien 2005, and met fantastic people from around the world, both in NZ and overseas. -wipes away sentimental tear-

Moving to Wellington, NZ's Middle-Earth central, had an odd effect on my fandom output: I haven't written any fanfiction since 2007. Since then, I wrote an original novel that failed to find a publisher, there was a fiction blog for a while, and now, a style/femininity blog. But my fandom quiescence has earlier roots than that. When I finished the story Magweth Pengolodh: The Question of Pengolod, I felt, on a very deep level, that my Tolkien muses were satisfied...

The Tolkien fandom has blessed me with too many BFFs to count around the world. Some of them are still on LJ, or still in the fandom; others, not so much. Some of them I've heard from this week in private correspondence. All of them literate, fascinating, fabulous people. You are what have made it so much fun for so long. Thank you for all the friendship and feedback. Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo, y'all.
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Due to my health, I wasn't going anywhere yesterday. Which was probably for the best. I hadn't been planning on going to the Hobbit casting call - I didn't fit any of the criteria, being neither very short, tall, jolie-laide, or elvishly lovely. But even without me, it was so crazy that the police shut it down! Traffic in the area, ten minutes away from my house, was completely snarled. I wonder if they'd thought they'd keep it under control by having it in obscure, public-transport-unfriendly Belmont.

Also, some folks are kindly asking if I'm OK after the murder in my neighborhood. It's a sad thing to happen, but I didn't know anybody involved. Didn't even hear the sirens, although I was home sick that day.
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Augh. The night before last, a dream about my dead cat - that I had raised her from the dead with inappropriate bad-karma necromancy, for a briefly allotted time. In the dream, I alternated between cuddling her frantically and worrying about dispersing the gelatinous blood fetish-glob that was part of the spell. In the morning, I had the question: why doesn't more horror fiction focus on dead pets?

Then, last night, I got home at twilight. Unheralded, my neighbor's beautiful Birman cat appeared at my ankles. I've known this cat for a long time, and in his kittenish younger days, he would sometimes jump into my car with me. That night, he slipped past me as I opened the door and went into my house. Softly, pale in the falling dark, he explored every corner, drifting up onto furniture, suddenly appearing in the room where I was, turning away from an open outside door to explore some more. Being petted was secondary to exploring this tantalizing new space. Just as suddenly, it was time to leave.
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I'm intrigued by the "man who owns 15 things." Does he sleep commando, or in the t-shirt and running shorts? Does he not miss cooking for himself and others? How are two shoes not making it 16 things? And how big is that "toiletry kit"?

I was intrigued enough to come up with my own minimal traveling/working self set of possessions. I bumped it up to thirty things, and I put a star beside every item I own already that pleases me so greatly it would be one of the 30.Read more... )
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Even though I'm off work until January 9th, this hasn't been a very restful vacation period: there's been two bouts of hosting/entertaining, separated by two bouts of home renovation (at my place and my S.O's place), and peppered with freelance work. I've got two guests asleep in a bedroom, a tidy garden, and a freshly painted guest room. The weather is gentle. Is it la dolce vita, NZ-style? I think the NZ-style dolce vita is pictured as beginning when all "the renovations" are done. I've got two more days of paintbrush-wielding to go, so for the moment, I'll say it's dolce enough. (Personally, next time I buy a place that "just needs paint" I am attending to this immediately upon moving in, instead of doing it year by year.)

So, happily busy here. Before I leave the house today I'm joining a new professional association and cancelling my land line. It's a new year, time to start the future.
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I had been thinking that my ambivalence and stresses about owning my own abode were a classic “first world problem.” Poor me! So spoiled! Have to decide whether to paint the guest room cream or sage all on my own! And then I saw this piece:

Women own 1% of world’s property.

Which made me go "Huh." Because, in the US, for at least the past 5 years, approximately 20% of homes are bought by single women. Even when the single women are making about $10,000 less than single men purchasing a home (noted in article sidebar here.)

What kind of property are women owning? How do partnered or family-trust women get tallied in this? (It's got to have a vast impact in NZ.) If we're seeing the first 2 or 3 generations of women in the West starting to own their own property, and only 1% of the world's land is owned by women, then a whole lot of my gender is in the equivalent of minimal first homes. We do not, in fact, have huge tracts of land.

As a gender, we could have increased our percentage of Planet Earth ownership by buying different property. But for so many of us, simply getting in the door, simply having the door, was important. (Really: I did a large freelance job to literally get a new front door for my house.)

Still, standing back and taking a deep breath, the stresses I feel about my house don't seem particularly gendered. These stresses are:
* Not enough time/inclination to garden/maintain landscape.
* Longer-term maintenance expenses (in second half of 2011 I was hit with $2000 in essential structural repairs).
* Geographically isolated/distant from events, volunteering, socializing = travel/vehicle expenses and high carbon footprint.

My resources as a financially independent non-corporate individual, who is doing OK regardless of gender, are maxed out owning and caring for 440 square meters of Planet Earth. I know several women who dream of farming and owning more land, and I believe the planet would be better for it if they could. But, again - resources.

Aside from the land issue, in discussing issues of women and space and doors with people, I'm disturbed to note that Virginia Woolfe’s classic essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” seems to be slipping out of the public consciousness. Unfortunately, the essay's beginning is seriously tangled, which doesn't help in our aliterate era. It's the home of the classic quote, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”. More delicious quotes are here. The essay focuses on female voice and authorship, but its points about privilege and space and time resonate on the topic of women and property.
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Welp, my cat's dead and National (the local equivalent of the Republicans) is back in power after New Zealand's election this weekend. So I may as well extend my grumpiness with a post about fracking.

I've been paying quiet attention as the gas extraction/mining process known as "fracking" has spread. Fracking is particularly prevalent in Pennsylvania, my old geological stomping grounds. Pennsylvania also has a long history of suffering from mining practices that turned out to be longer-term geological bad ideas. Centralia, PA’s coal fire, started in 1962, is still burning underground. Abandoned mines and mine shafts are a serious safety issue. For a long time, Pennsylvania had the second highest rate of coal-mining-related acid rain in the U.S. (second only to West Virginia).But I digress from fracking.

I'm very curious to see Gasland, the movie about fracking.

Here's an excellent shorter overview from the New Yorker.

Longer piece from the New York Times. This has it all, the happy, the disgruntled, the sick children and dead animals.

What does this mean for New Zealand? There seem to be fracking permits issued for Canterbury.
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-biggest sigh ever- Put down that glass of water: it's safe on any surface, now. I had my cat Northey euthanized yesterday afternoon.

She was still under the shade of the tree ferns where you in LJ land last saw her. At 3 PM, I'd gone out to check on her, and her breathing was harsh and labored, open-mouthed gasping. After two phone calls, we were on our way to the after-hours vet. A painful hour and a failed oxygen treatment later, she was dead in my arms.

Everyone is being really, really nice to me, considering that this is a cat that died after 13 very-cared-for years. Even her death expenses are mitigated for me by her cat health insurance. I find myself re-reading Jilly Cooper, sappy fiction where it's OK for characters to dissolve into endless tears over their dead animals.

Behind the cut: Northey's glamour shot. )
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Aw, LJ friends galore, thank you for all the good wishes for my cat Northey. Today she's slow, breathing hard if she moves too fast, and evidently not well. But she is doing what she wanted to do this morning. Sitting outside in a spot that's half-sun and half-shade, enjoying the spring breeze, watching bees bumbling around the foxgloves in bloom. With her brain the size of a walnut, she's just enjoying the moment.

Myself, I've had two phone consultations about web sites so far this Saturday AM. I know which of us has enjoyed the morning more.
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Today, I took my cat Northey to the vet for a standard day of vet care - grooming, vaccines, the like. She's 13, had been a little lackluster, and her last vet visit was seven months ago, so it was time. I expected to post amusing "shaved pussy" photos on the Web afterwards. Instead, I got a call from the vet. They wanted to drain fluid from her lungs, and to send her to another vet for an ultrasound. The words "dyspnea" and "neoplasia" were uttered. "Neoplasia" is vet talk for "tumors." I gave approvals, and picked up a very upset feline two hours later.

We're back home. Northey crawled under the kitchen table, a very sensible reaction to the events of the day. I brought her a glass of water - she prefers to drink from a glass. After a period of distressed heavy breathing, she has conked out, right where she laid herself.

Oh, Northey. It'll be a sad day when I can leave a glass of water unattended in this house.
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My thoughts on taking a budget cruise...

Read more... )
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Cruising...hmpf. Not so sure about this. The infrastructure of it is flawless, but it's like being inside a television show. An Australian television show. An extremely mainstream idea of The Good Life is socially constructed around us, nothing is intellectually taxing, the staff resemble the cast of a Bollywood movie, and shipboard magazine yesterday was emblazoned with the headline "The Fine Art Of Doing Nothing." If I ever do this again, I'm bringing along as many of my fellow freaks as I possibly can.

That said, I'm enjoying spending copious amounts of time with my roommate/friend Jan, I've got a new friend named Kikka from Melbourne, and today I've enjoyed rambling around Port Vila, Vanuatu. It's...a second-and-a-half world country? With the half due to its copious cellphone company sponsorship, probably. Went to some trouble to go to the Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Foundation Art Gallery, which was a vivid dream in the forest, and the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, where they spoiled me during an hour when I was the only visitor. In the marketplace, a vendor chased us down to say, "You're from New Zealand - the All Blacks won last night!" The ni-Vanuatu are very happy that the French, their former colonial occupiers, didn't win.

I'm at the Yacht Club's internet cafe. The bulletin board just outside, with its flyers about boats and small businesses for sale, is the stuff idle dreams are made of. In half an hour, I get to go see if I can get a friend's birthday present, a mask from the island of Efate, back through Customs...
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Today I had a very interesting conversation with a dear friend in the USA. Her job involves some complex permutation of health insurance, and as part of it, she deals with "clients" (families) working out their healthcare solutions and options. Often her "clients" are retired. She often goes to their homes for consultations and she says:

"People in these affluent neighborhoods have no savings, a lot of them are living on pension income. Only two out of five households have any retirement savings. In the affluent neighborhoods, none. Which is freaking me out. You can't tell from the curb anymore... Keeping up with the Joneses has cost these families a lot. It's very depressing. The people who are supposedly chic and fancy are broke as all get out and filing for bankruptcy. So it's redefining what success means in pop culture."

She went on to observe that she enjoyed visiting her clients in working-class neighborhoods more, because the economic news there was generally better: that was where she found the savers.

She also praised me for budgeting, even though I am spending all my money this month on home repairs (removing some rot from a corner of the house.) As I type this, an updated dishwasher (new to me, used) is currently gently caressing its third load of dishes. Seeing my drinking glasses come out immaculate is so delightful that I will happily stay home, amusing myself by letting the machine wash the dishes.
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I went to Auckland this weekend, and it was a bit creepy how perfect it all went. There were three missions: Cirque du Soleil with some friends, spending the night with more friends, and a volunteer meeting the next day.

First, I wandered around briefly, on my way to meeting [livejournal.com profile] mundens and [livejournal.com profile] seraphs_folly. When did downtown Auckland get turned into someplace mildly interesting? Like they looked at Cuba Street in Wellington and said, "Well, that works, let's do that." Auckland was much warmer - all the young'ins had read the style blogs, then cracked out the summer dresses and transparent chiffon pants. Melon-colored transparent chiffon pants. I met my more sanely dressed friends quickly, they knew the perfect cafe for lunch, and then we walked to the arena.

Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanco show is at least 15 years old, and the first part of it did feel very 90s. The guy sitting next to me kept exclaiming, "Far out!", which added to my back-in-time sensation. The second part of the show was magnificent and timeless - perhaps it had been tweaked, naughtified, and bespangled more over time.

After the show, I took the bus up to the Ponsonby neighborhood and was catapulted back in time further. I was crashing with a friend who was living on a street I remembered, near cafes I used to go to. (Later that evening, I'd find out that my friend was going to the same doctor I used to go to, at the top of the street.) The smells of spring, the plants crawling up the privacy walls, the villas mixed with 80s townhouses, the very slant of the sidewalks took me back to an earlier time in my life. Auckland's climate is so much gentler than Wellington's, and the place has a lazier feel overall. I felt like I could step right back into living there, and that I'd be just as bored as I was before...still, it's amazing the difference that the presence of a great and good friend made to the gravitational pull of the area.

My friend and I, reunited, talked about art all evening, and then all morning over breakfast. She went to art school in Florence for 3 years and came back producing troublingly perfect classical works. Even within her art school's strictures, her work occasionally shows a Leyendecker flair, and she hadn't even heard of Leyendecker. Her new partner, who she met at the program, produces works of similarly eerie perfection. Those classical Florentine art schools seem to encourage the artistic equivalent of making the trains run on time. Away from the school, they're applying their own personalities and quirks to their work at last. They're both very "saleable," have business plans in place to back up their talent, and are confident that they'll get gallery representation soon.
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