March 28th, 2006

mmm books

Sayers, Dorothy - Gaudy Night

I liked this much better than all the other Sayers I've read, possibly because it's so different from all the others. It didn't hit the "OMG SQUEE" button in me, but I love it in a more quiet way. It's a surprisingly quiet book, and an extremely satisfying read.

I'm usually not that big on stories set at an academic institution and focus on the academics, possibly because I'm jealous, or really, who knows. But I really loved how big a role Oxford played in Gaudy Night and how much the book was about the intellectual versus the emotional, the different choices you can make with your life.

Harriet ends up celebrating a reunion in Shrewsbury, the all-female college at Oxford (made up by Sayers), and gets caught up in a round of increasingly malevolent pranks intended to publically embarrass the college. Despite this being touted as the big Harriet/Peter book, there is relatively little Harriet/Peter interaction. In fact, most of the book is on Harriet, on her attempts to figure out what is most important to her, where her values lie, and what she'll end up doing about them. Peter is, of course, a large part of these decisions, but I really appreciate that Harriet's attempts to decide if Peter will fit in her life are only part of the decision. He's affected by her choices, but he's not necessarily the sole driving factor of them.

This is probably a stupid thing to say, but GN is a remarkably feminist book. Obviously, I do realize that feminism existed back in the 1930s, but the commentary on women's career choices and how said choices affect husbands and children and what society thinks of women who don't go for motherhood are sadly contemporary. Yes, progress has been made, but on the other hand, recent articles on how feminism has ruined the nuclear family would fit right in Harriet's world and Harriet's dilemma.

And, oh, I liked Harriet before because she is stubborn and grumpy and not bowled over by Peter's charm, but I adore her now. I had a problem with Have His Carcase because of the imbalance in Peter and Harriet's relationship. It wasn't just that Harriet was resentful of how much she owed Peter, it was that she thought he was so far above her in terms of class, charm, intelligence, and everything. I still wish there were more in Peter's point of view as to why he fell for Harriet so quickly (maybe I need to reread Strong Poison), but I like that Peter loves her for her integrity and honesty.

One of my favorite scenes in the book isn't the final one on the bridge (though that's a good one). Rather, it's the one in which Peter directs the discussion of the various dons and scholars to that of professional integrity, and how they would choose if they had to sacrifice the personal or the professional. I especially like that the question isn't phrased in a way to make it a choice between a family life and a career; instead, the professional realm consists of one's values and one's notion of integrity. And I love that Harriet can't put the personal over what she thinks is right, and that that is why Peter trusts her so much. It actually reminds me a great deal of Freedom & Necessity (that probably should be the other way around, given the publication dates), in which James says that he couldn't love Susan if she put him over her own beliefs.

I had a problem with the mysteries in other Sayers, mostly because I could honestly care less who killed whom and for what reason. Thankfully, there's a wonderful thematic resonance in this one; the culprit literally attacks the world of Shrewsbury and the female, non-nuclear-family space there. And while I had problems with Peter always being the one to solve the mystery in prior books, his solving the mystery here works because it is too close to Harriet and she can't conceive of someone making the choices that the culprit does.

Hrm. It looks like I have actually descended into incoherent squee ;). But oh, I loved the layers in this book, I loved all the things it talked about and had to say, I loved watching Harriet grow and choose, and I loved watching a romance between two people who needed an equal relationship and would fight for one.

Links:
- sophia_helix's review
teru teru

Vid beta-ing

yhlee asked me to write about being a vid beta (vidder beta? beta for vids?) a while back and pointed me to sdwolfpup's take on having vids beta'd.

Finally, I get around to it!

I actually feel sort of weird writing this, because I've only beta'd yhlee's vids. I also am not a vidder, I really don't know much about vidding at all, and I largely got into watching vids because of the "ooooh, shiny!" factor.

Never underestimate the power of the "ooooh, shiny!" factor.

I also have very little knowledge of video editing or music, much less terminology.

My beta process generally consists of getting a vid from Yoon, downloading, and quickly watching it once. I don't take notes the first time or really do anything except watch. This didn't actually start out as a process, heh heh. It actually mostly just happened that way because I was too busy or too lazy to really take it on the first time! But then I found that I like doing it this way because I can get an overall sense of the vid. Usually I will have absolutely no idea on what most of the vid is about (my brain, it does not pick these things up quickly), but there will be a few cool image-music matches or a particularly neat lyric or shot that I'll remember.

After that, if things are going as usual, I will completely forget and be a horrible beta until Yoon asks again. Then I get very flustered and embarrassed!

Hopefully by this time, I'll still remember my first impressions. If not, I usually do a quick rewatch. Then, I settle down and play the vid a couple more times and try to figure out what's going on, how everything interacts with the music, etc. If I'm having a particularly good day, I can catch nifty tricks with motion or lyric matches. I, eh, often don't have time though =(.

By now, I should have a few not-so-shallow impressions of the vid, like some sense of where the story-structure is going, or what the argument is, if there is one. If I have no time (usually the case), I send a giant mass of impressions off to Yoon. If I actually do have time, I try to get timestamps. Sadly, I am a horribly remiss beta and rarely do timestamps.

Rinse, repeat.

It's actually really difficult saying what I do, because I don't feel like I do all that much. I just watch, and take down notes, and then send on. Occasionally I scratch my head and ask, "If you did such-and-such, would that help?" but usually I find that Yoon knows better than me how to fix stuff. Sometimes there are phone calls brainstorming how Angel could be Norma Desmond and such.

The nifty things about beta-ing include watching a vid take shape from draft to draft, watching the vidder move just a clip or two and have the entire vid's argument crystallize, or adding a few fades to create parallels were there were none before. I'm always amazed by this. Usually I send back comments on the first few drafts that go something like, "I am very confused. Uh... maybe redo entire portion?" and sit back and feel tremendously guilty. But then, it'll come back, and really, not that much will have changed, but the brief adjustments make such a giant difference.

It's also fun discussing things like POV and how to get it through strongly when there's a gender mismatch (I was trying to use Morgaine's "She Bangs" as a nifty example).

A lot of it actually reminds me of doing LJ book write-ups. I just note down my reactions and send them back on their way.