Saucers of Mud

October 10, 2013

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 9:42 pm


Sometime I was thinking of rereading all her stories and blogging it (kind of like this James Tiptree, Jr. blog), but that’s on the shelf behind a lot of other projects.

Alice Munro has a Selected Stories anthology, to which I am morally opposed. You should read them all! Lowen Liu suggests five of her stories you should read. I disagree with her about “Dear Life”; you should save it for last, because it takes the themes of much of her work and lays out the facts behind them in a heartbreakingly straightforward way. I haven’t often been as poleaxed after putting down a book, if only because it was Alice Munro telling us that there wouldn’t be any more Alice Munro stories. But, without looking, here are my five:

“Friend of My Youth” (from the book of the same name). That theme: her mother. The story within a story, of two sisters the narrator’s mother had known long ago, would be enough from a lesser writer’s work. But Munro moves fluidly back and forth from this story to her relationship with her mother (and she’s said it’s her own), with one last transition that’s so quietly virtuosic that you’ll have read the story five times before you find the moment that Munro slips the knife in. After this story I thought that Munro might never be able to write with the same emotional impact again, because what more could she have to say? I was wrong.

“Carried Away” (from Open Secrets). Most of Munro’s stories move back and forth across time in a short span. “Carried Away” also moves back and forth across time in a longer span. Munro’s stories tend to be long but this is self-consciously epic, taking one character through her whole life in four episodes. At the end we feel lifted up and gently placed in another place, even as we’re not quite sure what just happened.
 (If you spend a lot of time rereading and dissecting Munro’s stories, and you should, you’ll realize that she often puts the climax in the next-to-last paragraph, before finishing you off with one last telling detail. “Carried Away” does this, and “Friend of My Youth” too, with very different emotional effects.)

“Fits” (from The Progress of Love). The first time I read this, I could hardly breathe. A murder mystery of sorts, with a building sense of dread, but the mystery is not who did it but why, and the dread isn’t in what happens to the innocent bystanders but in the things they won’t let themselves think about.

“Royal Beatings” (from The Beggar Maid/Who Do You Think You Are?). The second Munro story I read (after the short-short “Prue”), and the one that made me go out and get everything she’d written. Time opens up in all directions; we learn everything about Rose’s childhood through a few scenes told in no particular order (that is, a very particular order), intercut with a legend of the local town (as in “Friend of My Youth”), and the astonishing flash-forward ending ties it all up with a bitter commentary on the violence there is inside and outside the home. Question: In “Two Vancouvers dipped in snot?”, what’s “Vancouver” mean?

“Walker Brothers Cowboy” (from Dance of the Happy Shades). The first story of her first collection. The expanse of time is here as it is in so much of her later work, but rolled up, as a little girl travels with her father and brushes up against a past she doesn’t quite understand. Maybe the best place to start; linear but lovely.

And then you have to read the rest. Do it!

November 3, 2012

Not Really Misheard Lyrics

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 11:26 am

Boppin’ pottles in the eye, like a lizard

When we think we do it right from the gizzard

Eddie Izzard gonna slide, gonna be slick

Now I’m feeling all dry like I’m seasick

June 25, 2012

Greetings from the Plains

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 9:32 am

Yglesias, in a not unreasonable post about overspending in rural states, says “a number of the rural grants are going to low-unemployment plains states such as North Dakota (3 percent), Nebraska (3.9 percent), Vermont (5.6 percent), Oklahoma (4.8 percent), and New Hampshire (5 percent).” What does he think “Vermont” means?

June 19, 2012

A Song about Former Jacksonville Jaguars Placekicker Mike Hollis

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 7:33 pm

Mike Hollis lies over the ocean

Mike Hollis lies over the sea

Mike Hollis lies over the ocean

Oh bring back my colostomy

January 12, 2012

Benedict Cumberbatch Facts

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 7:32 pm

When Benedict Cumberbatch first started acting, he would frequently daydream and miss his entrances. The stage managers took to hissing, “Cue, Cumberbatch!”

Though he was born in Kensington, he has relatives who live near the famous botanic gardens, so that when people first meet him they often ask “Are you one of the Kew Cumberbatches?”

In school he took to teasing his friends that their births were so unexpected that they had been delivered while waiting for the taxi to take them to the hospital. Eventually one of his friends angrily retorted, “I wasn’t born in a queue, Cumberbatch!”

His wife, the former Nina Quincy, has angrily rejected the characterization of her as hapless and forlorn during the early days of her marriage. She says, “I wasn’t poor Nina Q. Cumberbatch!”

December 18, 2011

Has the Humble Indie Bundle ever included a game by a woman?

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 1:29 pm

The Humble Indie Bundle is a great thing; I picked up the latest one even though I won’t be able to play some of the games that interest me until I upgrade my computer.* But has it ever included a game whose lead designer was a woman, or one of whose lead designers was a woman? I can’t think of any, though I might have missed one. In fact, on a trawl through the credits of some of these games, the only woman who is a lead anything of any of the games may be Jenna Sharpe, the voice actress of Aquaria.

This seems like the sort of thought I should tweet to people, if I tweeted.

*That may be a feature, not a bug. That’s also when I’ll get to play Braid, I think.

November 20, 2011

The Coming of the Mirthful Messiahs

Filed under: IFComp — matt w @ 9:55 pm
Tags: ,

I wrote a really short IF game! It’s called “The Coming of the Mirthful Messiahs” and you can find it here, or if you want to go straight to the play online version it’s here. (The first link contains a bit of a spoiler, so if you want to approach it untouched you might just want to go to the “play online” link.)

I wrote this in under three hours, so it can be considered a belated Ectocomp entry; my actual belated Ectocomp entry went way over budget and may not show up for a while. Mirthful Messiahs. is massively unfair, though it’s also small enough that you may hit on the solution anyway. Everyone whose game I complained about can have their revenge on this! But seriously, I think it’s kind of funny.

If you need a hint, go here.

November 19, 2011

Bechdel-Testing the 2011 IFComp

A couple years ago, when I reviewed the 2009 IFComp, I Bechdel-tested it. That is, I asked of every work in it, does it have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? IF tends to have fewer conversations than a lot of other media, but it’s still illuminating to see how many — or how few — works meet the Bechdel test criteria.

(I don’t want to say “pass the Bechdel test” or “fail the Bechdel test” here, because I don’t want people to feel that their work is being judged. For me, the illuminating thing is how rarely the Bechdel test applies across a body of work, not whether it applies or doesn’t in one particular small work. So I’ll say “Bechdelian” or “non-Bechdelian.”)

Anyway, my memories may be hazy, but here’s the works that I recall as unambiguously Bechdelian:

The Play (Henrietta and Erica talk about the dress, in many playthroughs)
How Suzy Got Her Powers
Awake the Mighty Dread (I think the little-girl PC can talk to a robot queen or something; I couldn’t get much of a handle on this game)

There are some works that explicitly let you choose your protagonists’ gender, and are Bechdelian if you choose to play as a woman:

The Hours
A Comedy of Error Messages (I think; I didn’t play very much after the update that introduced gender selection)

There are some works where the PC’s gender isn’t specified, which would be Bechdelian if the PC is a woman:
The Ship of Whimsy
maaaaayyybe Playing Games (some members of the gaming club may be women, but the main NPC is definitely male)

There are some that probably fall into that category, but where I got a fairly strong vibe that the PC is male:
Taco Fiction
Beet the Devil

Yow. That’s not very Bechdelian, I think. I get the sense that last year’s Comp was more Bechdelian, and it certainly had more games by women (“Pam Comfite” is a man, so there are only four five games that I know to be by women in this comp). Disclaimer: There were a few games I didn’t play, my memories may not be entirely accurate (for instance, it’s possible that there’s a conversation between female bureaucratic demons in Beet the Devil), and some of my judgments about PC gender may reflect my own stereotypes and preconceptions.

In case you’re wondering about the gender-reversed version, I count at least ten games that definitely had conversations between men; all the ones listed above as conditional on the PC’s gender had conversations with male NPCs, and there are some others with a PC of unspecified gender that had conversations with male NPCs but not with female NPCs (for instance, Andromeda Awakening and Escape from Santaland).

[UPDATE: On second or third thought, this year wasn't much worse than the previous two, I don't think. It might just seem that way because the only two games where interaction between definitely female characters was really the focus were about little kids, and also had very similar scenarios. Last year The Blind House stuck out as a game that was about the relationship between two women, but there may not have been that many more Bechdelian games; though there are a lot of games from last year that I haven't played.]

IFComp Reviews, Part 8 and Last

This is my last batch of reviews for the IFComp! It’s not my final thoughts, though, which are here. More reviews are here. And though the comp is over, you can still play the games here! If you need an interpreter to run them, look at this page.

Last reviews: Taco Fiction, Cursed, and Ted Paladin and the Case of the Abandoned House.

November 17, 2011

IFComp Reviews, Part 7

The 2011 Interactive Fiction competition is over, but the games are still out there! Look here. Many of the games can be played online; for others you’ll need an interpreter (playing offline with an interpreter may improve your experience with some of the off-line playable ones). Other reviews here

In this post: Reviews of Tenth Plague, Six, and Cana According to Micah.

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