robot_mel: (Bank Icon Nov 07)
2009-05-04 06:28 pm

Dreamwidth

I have jumped on the bandwagon to see what dreamwidth is about. If nothing else it is a good backup. I'll see how it does with the Chinese entries! I don't want LJ to die. I like it here.
robot_mel: (Default)
2009-05-04 11:28 am

Trail

Yesterday after studying more Egyptian and Chinese at the literary café Bill and I explored the rest of the old railway trail by our house, this way walking to Finsbury Park. It was very cool, lots of great nature, an abandoned adventure playground and this guy



Which after having just finished all the Charles de Lint seemed very appropriate.
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-05-03 11:21 am

Onion Girl by Charles de Lint

After finishing Widdershins I decided I really needed to go back and re-read the Onion Girl. The book which Widdershins was kinda a sequel too. It was interesting to see how in this book there was a much less of the magical fairy tale type reality and much more of the real world. It seemed to be around two thirds of the book took place in the real world and most of that was about coping with abuse and tragedy.

The two main characters of the book, Jilly and Raylene had both been horribly abused as children. Jilly is a character whose appeared a lot before, Raylene was new. In this story Jilly was the "good" character and Raylene was "bad". Though I really didn't see it that simply in my mind. Jilly ran away from her brother, became a junkie and a prostitute and was "saved" by a social worker and given a chance to finish school, and became an artist whom everyone liked. In this story the tragedy she faces is being hit by a car and becoming crippled. Raylene seemed much stronger. She had a close friend she stayed with her whole life. Her friend gave her a knife and she was able to stand up to her brother, cut him so he'd stop abusing her. She was determined not to become a prostitute, and never got into drugs. She was strong and clever and used her knowledge to take care of her and her best friend. Though of course she also became a con artist and a thief, but she managed to pull herself up and never relied on outside help.

It was a very interesting book, without such heavy moralising, and without a happy ending, especially compared with Widdershins. It seemed less exciting but much more tragic. There was a lot more sitting around talking and a lot less going around and rescuing people. It was interesting to read the two back to back, and in the wrong order. I think I did prefer Widdershins, and you could probably read it without reading this one first, but they do go very well together. There's just a couple times where the gritty realism doesn't quite seem real enough. But I did really enjoy it, particularly the characterisation was very good. And as I said about Widdershins you can really picture everything that's happening and it totally absorbs you. It's good to go back and remember why you like an author so much.
robot_mel: (Seshat - for Egyptian)
2009-05-03 10:50 am

Egypt day

Yesterday I started to learn some Egyptian. I think this is going to be MUCH harder than Chinese. There is far too much spelling! The thing that makes Chinese characters easy is that they have a stroke order, which makes it easy to write and remember the order, no such luck with drawing birds. But I managed to practice the alphabet and learn a bit of basic theory. Hopefully this week I'll be able to manage to memorise the alphabet and then can move onto more interesting things.

Learning ancient Egyptian gives me the giggles for all the wrong reasons, last night we went through Bill's Egyptian dictionary looking at all the birds and he told me which ones were common! Apparently when you start to draw them you end up with a lot of fat birds. I cannot say how happy this makes me. ;)

After studying in Green Park and a coffee shop I needed a nap. After the nap I had a very sore ear so failed to make it out to Dead and Buried and instead we stayed home and watched, "The Awakening" (The Charlton Heston film "based" on the Jewel of the Seven Stars). It was good fun, with lots of lovely shots of Egypt. I would have so loved this film at 12, Stephanie Zimbalist with waist length hair turning into an Evil Egyptian Queen. I would have thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Afterwards I started reading a book about Egyptian mythology. Needless to say last night I had lots of Egyptian based nightmares. But not enough to put me off studying again today.
robot_mel: (Daleks for MSC)
2009-05-02 10:01 am

For the geeks

The roleplaying game I helped write for is now available as a downloadable PDF.

Unhallowed Necropolis and Unhallowed Metropolis are both now available as downloadable PDFs from DriveThruRPG. Each PDF is $20.

Unhallowed Necropolis™ is the supernormal source book for Unhallowed Metropolis™, the gas-mask chic role-playing game of Neo-Victorian horror.



We have added an index to the Unhallowed Metropolis PDF and integrated all the errata.

We will be updating the online store in the very new future (hopefully by the end of the day)


I've not seen the final version of Unhallowed Necropolis yet, but from what I saw when we were working on it i is Very Very Cool!
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-30 11:41 am

Widdershins by Charles de Lint

I’d been feeling rather disconnected from myself and decided that what I really needed was a good dose of Charles de Lint to remind me of the way things were and should be. I went to Amazon and found he’s been busy since I last read the Onion Girl, and bought this one as it was Newford. It was so nice to go back and revisit a well loved town and see what the familiar characters were doing. It was as comforting and emotional as I’d hoped. It reminded me that it’s good to start trusting people again and important to try and do the right thing and be a bit more optimistic about life.

It was interesting to see how Newford’s changed over the years. While there wasn’t much of the city itself within the book, the suburbs were growing, gentrifying and becoming more expensive, small towns were being transformed into tourist havens because they didn’t have anything else to do to support themselves.

I love the way Charles de Lint writes, he just has the ability to take you out of your time and place and transport you to somewhere he’s created that as fantastic as it becomes always feels astonishingly real, you can see the characters and know what they’re doing. You feel like they have lives beyond the current story they are in. It really is very magical.

The plot of this book involved the healing of Jilly, the ongoing conflict between the native spirits and the fairy and some new characters having adventures. After reading so many 19th century novels it was amazing to see how much was happening in this book. As always there were many different plots interacting in different ways. I have to admit at times it did seem a little overcrowded with such a large cast of characters, but I still loved it.

The book is very introspective, a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s going on inside their head, and examining their motivation. But I enjoyed this. It did seem a bit overly moral compared to some of his stories, particularly the shorter stories, but I didn’t mind as it was one of the reasons I wanted to read it in the first place, to remember that people can be good to each other and should be. I found myself tearing up for huge parts of it. When it was done I couldn’t leave the world behind and now I had my happy ending went back and started re-reading the Onion Girl as I just didn’t want to leave the characters behind, and didn’t think reading anything else would be enjoyable so soon afterwards. I’ve also ordered his other new Newford book, which happens before this one and I’m really looking forward to reading that too. It’ll be hard to remember that I have 100 books waiting to be read on my shelves and not just go back and re-read all his books again.
robot_mel: (Atmospheric Whitby Oct 06)
2009-04-27 06:37 pm

I just CAN'T believe the absurdity of life today in England

A woman fined over £500 and given an ASBO for 4 years for enjoying sex with her husband in her own home???????????????????????

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wear/8021185.stm

I'm speechless with disgust.
robot_mel: (Chinese)
2009-04-27 05:47 pm

I love MDBG

Searching for Mummy

妈咪 mā mī Mummy (mother)
木乃伊 mù nǎi yī mummy (preserved corpse)

(It was of course the preserved corpse I was looking for!)
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-27 04:21 pm

The Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

I did enjoy the style of this book a great deal. It read somewhere between, Dracula, Denis Wheatley and a Hammer Horror film. A nice little occult story about an Egyptologist, his daughter, a dead Egyptian Queen and a QC. There was also an asortment of Police Inspectors and Doctors, which reminded me a bit of Lucy's entorage is Dracula, being that they didn't really seem to have much purpose for the story.

The narrative was quite slow and introspective, not a great deal seemed to happen and the ending was unexpected, and a little disappointing. But the unexplained mystery and beauty of the book made it well worth reading.

I liked the scientific turn of the century approach to magic and religion. There were several points about Egypt that seemed a bit wrong to me, the Queen in the story was said to be the only Queen of Egypt, and the only female Pharaoh. (Which made me wonder if this was before Hatshepsut was discovered, or inspired by her discovery) and the father mentioned how Egypt had no women doctors, which I'm fairly certain it did.

Still despite being a bit slow in places I found it enjoyable and will definitely read other of Stoker's books as I come across them.

EDIT: Turns out there are two endings to this story, the 1903 and the 1912. In order to get it re-released Stoker had to make it happier. Have just found the original ending online and while not quite as mysterious is probably much better!
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-26 11:35 am

The herd boy and the weaving maid 牛郎织女 by Yung Tenng Chia-yee

A retelling of the legend of the Herd boy and the weaving maid in under 300 characters! Very simple to read. It was lovely to be able to sit down and read a Chinese story cover to cover in under and hour and understand everything. It didn't really feel like studying but like a reward, and it was good practice for remembering how sentence structure goes.

The legend is lovely, though the Queen Mother of the West comes across as a mean for separating the lovers for no good reason. And in this version the couple had children, but no mention was made of them when they were separated and turned back into stars.

While below my level it was nice to read something that wasn't a stretch for a change, will have to see if I can track down the other books in the series, though as they were printed in the 70s that might be a bit difficult.

EDIT: The other volumes cost £10-50 on Amazon! But SOAS library has all four! Horray! Now I just need to read the French book about medieval Chinese libraries and I can go and pick them up!
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-25 05:06 pm

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

This is a book written by a bibliophile for other bibliophiles. Rather than a straightforward history of libraries in Western culture it is rather a series of essays looking at the meanings associated with books, libraries and the pursuit of knowledge. The essays tend to have one or two major historical people or events that are discussed in relation to his ideas. Some of these examples fit better than others and towards the second half these seem to be a bit haphazard. But I learned a lot from these examples, from the destruction of the Aztec's books by the Spanish, to the life of Abi Warburg, (who I learnt spent 4 years in an insane asylum after his library was opened to scholars). In addition to the standard early history of libraries, library classification and architecture he also looks at censorship, book burning and the destruction of libraries and cultures.

The book is full of interesting and useful information but there were a couple of times where it was felt that he was missing the point. He came across as very critical of digitisation and the use of the Internet and digital libraries. He seemed to misunderstand their purpose a bit. When talking about his personal library he talked about how it was great that books could be related to each other and how reading a part of one would give him an idea to follow in another. Clearly this type of idea is one of the main reasons behind digitisation and the use of hypertext and the Internet, where it is much easier to relate ideas to each other than in the printed page. He also mentioned the Dunhuang manuscripts, but failed to appreciate their significance, he thought of them as a haphazard collection, collected by Stein, "change brought them together" rather than looking at the contents of the library as a whole, which were very specifically selected and sealed up together. A very specific library in a specific time and place that can teach us a great deal about not only the social history of the time, but also the intellectual and economic history. It is not "the stammering chronicle of a lost civilisation" (174).

The book is also full of gorgeous illustrations of libraries and books. My personal favourite though was the Biblioburo, because it was such a funny image.

In all it was an interesting and insightful read. It had its flaws, and I have to say it was a little overtly personal at times, going on about his own library a bit too much, but even those times just gave the impression that it was written by someone who was clearly obsessed with books and knowledge. Something which I can very much appreciate.
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-25 10:51 am

Flowers in the Mirror by Li Ju-Chen

I've wanted to read this book for ages but it is quite hard to find. I managed to rescue a copy at work from disposal, which appeared not to have been read.

The author is one of the great critics of the treatment of women in Chinese society and in many ways the book is designed to point out the injustice of the inequality between the sexes. In the book the women are all educated and achieve great success with their literary abilities. Set in the time of Empress Wu, she ordains that there should be examinations for women, and the 100 girls that are the focus of the novel, all pass the imperial examinations. However, after passing the examinations none of them enter government, but most of them marry, and in the course of events later in the story end up committing suicide when their husbands die. Likewise the author points out the pain of footbinding, and the frivolity of beauty. However, the main focus of the book is also to reclaim the throne for the Tang emperor and dispose of Empress Wu. So on the one-hand women should be treated better, but they should still know their place.

The book was written as a satire and is intended to be very funny as it points out the absurdity and hypocrisy of many aspects of Chinese society. Even in this translation it does this well, not only in the section of visiting many lands, but also in the end with the self-defeating spells where the men all fall victim and die of gluttony, alcoholism, lust and avarice. (And of course the women are able to break the spell and save the day for the army).

The main characters are the flower immortals that were cast down from heaven for obeying the wishes of Empress Wu, to make all the flowers bloom at once in defiance of the laws of heaven. The flower immortals are all reincarnated as young girls who are good scholars, and some good warriors from China and the strange countries around the sea. Part of the book also describes the visit by the main character's father to many different islands; this part of the book is why it is often referred to as the Chinese Gulliver’s Travels.

Like most traditional Chinese novels it is 100 chapters long and unfortunately the only translation of it that I've been able to find in English (Even the dual language version) is about a quarter that. At least the translator will sometimes give brief descriptions of the parts that he skipped; though it often seems that these parts are very interesting and quite exciting. The biggest problem with the translation is as he puts it
I have tried to render a version which will appeal to the Western readers. The original version had some 400,000 words of which I have deleted most of the passages which have to do with classical texts and discussions of Chinese language, dissertations on history, poetry, phonetics, etc

which begs the question why would you be reading it if you weren't interested in Chinese, history, poetry and philosophy? It's like he said I'm taking out all the bits about Chinese culture cause people reading a book famous because of it's criticism of Chinese culture won't be interested in that! Needless to say I found that terribly frustrating and added it to my list of reasons to keep studying Chinese so that someday I can read it in the original. (I've already found an e-text version and with Pera-kun might be able to get through it in a year or two).

There was an amazing part that was left intact where the danger of drinking tea was discussed at great length. I was of course reminded of Sheridan La Fanu and all the health benefits associated with Green Tea in today's health food circles. After discussing the history of tea, Purple Jade goes on at length to criticise it.
As for tea itself, apart from quenching thirst, nothing good can be said about it. In the Book of Medical Plants, it says tea will take off fat and make a person thin. Tea often makes all kinds of illness converge in the body. In my father's book, he also counsels people not to drink too much tea. He often tells me, it is better to drink less tea than more tea, and to drink no tea than little tea. There are a few good teas, and many bad ones. If tea is good, it is habit-forming, and too much tea-drinking will impair the principle element in the body and cause the blood and vital essences to be reduced, and cause stomach troubles, stones in the stomach, as well as paralysis, both the painful kind and the kind which is not painful. It will cause the small intestines to swell and be obstructed. People who have diarrhoea or vomit or stomach ache, or are thing and swallow-complexioned due to internal injury can often find that tea is the cause of it. But few people know this, and seldom blame tea for their illness. The ancients lived a long time, but nowadays people do not enjoy such longevity. That is because tea and wine are taken in too great quantities and do harm to the internal organs. Thos who like tea and wine always burst out laughing when they hear this argument, and say that it is not true. People say that tea is a greater purger of the impurities of the body, but are not aware of its hidden bad effect, which works slowly in the body.

Despite the abbreviated translation it was very enjoyable, a delightful read, and one I really look forward to reading all of someday.
robot_mel: (Daleks for MSC)
2009-04-24 03:22 pm

(no subject)

Huge apologies for Daily Mail link but just saw this via facebook (see it is evil!)

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1172944/X-Files-star-Gillian-Anderson-returns-screens-evil-scientist-Doctor-Who.html

Gillian Anderson playing an evil Time Lady with the new doctor! Sounds great. Sigh, too bad it's not Romana though...
robot_mel: (Pretty Grave Whitby Oct 07)
2009-04-24 10:58 am

Let the Right One in.

Went to the cinema last night for the first time since Batman! I have to say I really enjoyed the film. It was funny, spooky and great! It even gave me nightmares. May have to track down a copy of the book now...
robot_mel: (Chinese)
2009-04-22 11:21 am

Chinese classics digital library

While not up to the standards of Perseus Project interesting digital library of classical chinese texts that includes dictionary feature (and possibly English translation). Great for studying classical Chinese.

http://chinese.dsturgeon.net/index.html
robot_mel: (Books)
2009-04-22 11:02 am

World Digital Library is up!!!

I wrote about this for my term 1 essay. Very exciting to see it's now available. Had a quick look at their Chinese stuff, which is good, though brief. Excellent quality images that you don't need a plug in to look at.

http://www.wdl.org/en/
robot_mel: (Chinese)
2009-04-19 07:23 pm

(no subject)

Melanie 正在使用 中文(简体) 浏览 Facebook。
robot_mel: (Chinese)
2009-04-16 03:37 pm

Cool English language website on Chinese culture

http://cultural-china.com/

They seem to have e-childrens books. But as I don't have the plugin at work can't tell if they're in English or Chinese or both.
http://www.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/features/ebooks01/play_newyear.html
robot_mel: (cemetery reading icon)
2009-04-16 01:27 pm

The Saga Library vol. 1, Howard the Halt The Banded Men; The Story Of Hen Thorir by William Morris

I managed to buy a lovely 1890s set of 4 of the volumes in the Saga library for cheap on ebay and it was very nice to read such great old editions. I had heard that these translations aren't considered to be that great but I wanted to read them anyway as I'm so fond of Morris' own prose romances. I did enjoy the writing and the stories just not as much as Morris' own.

The stories were supposedly histories of the Kings of Iceland. There was a lot about fighting, sheep stealing and trials. It reminded me a little of Arthurian myths without the magic, where everyone was very "wroth". In fact the language was very old fashioned and enjoyable though it was a little complicated to keep track of who was who and what was happening at times, still I am looking forward to reading the rest of the volumes.
robot_mel: (Pretty Grave Whitby Oct 07)
2009-04-15 04:51 pm

Japanese Transnational Fandoms and Female Consumers

This will be of particular interest to [livejournal.com profile] feralboy [livejournal.com profile] mskoi and any others of you into Anime, Manga, Gothic Lolita, Cosplay, queer issues, gender issues and Japanese Dolls. This months issue of the Intersections magazine (about gender and sexuality in Asia and the pacific) focuses on international fandoms. It has one section of articles called Boys Love Goes Global

http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20_contents.htm

The link is to the table of contents, just click on the author's name to access the full article.