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Tales of Beadle the Bard: Well, you can read it if you cough up the dough.

Tales of Beadle the Bard: Well, you can read it if you cough up the dough. published on 1 Comment on Tales of Beadle the Bard: Well, you can read it if you cough up the dough.

As a follow-up to my earlier diatribe against the philosophical concept of J.K. Rowling’s Tales of Beadle the Bard, I would like to mention that it is being published for the unwashed hordes as of December, 2008. Hissssssss. I stand by my earlier arguments.

Three Hands for Scorpio by Andre Norton: three thumbs up!

Three Hands for Scorpio by Andre Norton: three thumbs up! published on 1 Comment on Three Hands for Scorpio by Andre Norton: three thumbs up!

A set of magically empowered and noble triplets are kidnapped and dumped in a hostile wilderness full of weird animals and unknown threats. They must use their wits and their magic to find their way back home. Things are complicated along the way by the appearance of a young man who may or may not be a missing prince. He helps out the triplets and embroils them in a plot against the crown, which makes their return home all the more urgent so they can warn the royal family.

Though Three Hands for Scorpio was apparently Norton’s last published work before she expired at 93 and therefore not up to par with the works of her golden age, I still found much to enjoy in it.

It’s a straightforward adventure story, and that’s one of its greatest strengths. Women and men are equal at ass-kicking — indeed, one sign of the plot against the throne is that priests gaining power want to repress women — but Norton does not get hung up on this point. Neither is there any romance between the triplets and the maybe-prince. Neither is there any bitchy infighting among the triplets, who share a form of mind-reading that’s rather endearing, or between the triplets and their parents. As a matter of fact, the triplets, their mom and their dad present a rare picture of a functional fictional family where all members love each other. But that’s not the main point of the story. Basically, it’s just a race to discover the mysteries of the wilderness and get home. Norton’s use of female protagonists in a story where many authors would default to male ones thus strikes me as a subtle and very welcome feminist decision.

Beyond its general awesomeness as a feminist statement, Three Hands also works exceptionally well as a suspenseful adventure mystery. Who kidnapped the triplets? What monsters will they meet in the wilderness? Is the maybe-prince friend or foe? Who’s gunning for the crown, and why? Norton drives the story with all these questions with a nimbly paced plot that bristles with gods, powers and borders, leaving you to work out the connections as you read. It’s not complicated, but it is tightly woven, so the archaic style [consistent and convincing, thank you very much] may impede you. However, just ride along on Norton’s inventiveness as she lets the triplets explore a world where spiders are the size of dogs and wildcats talk through ESP. Her endlessly creativity lets you experience the triplets’ wonder as they discover the wilderness.

Of course, Three Hands has its weaknesses. Its major flaw is that the triplets are undifferentiated. Even though they take turns narrating, they don’t sound like separate characters. They don’t really act differently from each other either; they’re all smart and quick-witted and resourceful and magically gifted. This flaw could have been righted simply by making the protagonists twins and developing them in the lazy manner that many authors use to differentiate pairs: giving them opposite major traits. I personally accepted the similarity of the triplets very easily because my sister and I did a series of stories about twins who talked in the first-person plural all the time. Others of you may not be so lenient.

In summary, Three Hands is a clever story that combines a simple, linear quest with a mystery. Refreshingly swift and condensed in plotting, it features easily likeable [but undifferentiated] heroines and blessed freedom from sexism and other stupid stereotypes.

If most fantasies are bloated, three-layer burgers, flaccid with toppings and useless surprises, Three Hands is a compact, tasty, satisfying slider.

The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze

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With the final book of the Twilight Saga coming out on Saturday [woo hoo!!], Laura Miller takes a critical look at the immensely popular glurge. She correctly notes that Bella’s extreme lack of personality makes her a Mary-Sue-shaped costume which the typical fan, a young teenaged heterosexual girl, can climb into so that she can have virtual smoochies with Edward:

She is purposely made as featureless and ordinary as possible in order to render her a vacant, flexible skin into which the reader can insert herself and thereby vicariously enjoy Edward’s chilly charms…Edward, not Bella, is the key to the Twilight franchise, the thing that fans talk about when explaining their fascination with the books. 

Continue reading The power of the glurge: Laura Miller checks in to the Twilight craze

Rambling about Labyrinth

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 rambles intriguingly about Labyrinth in an entry from November, 2007, and why it’s so powerful…because of the final showdown. In the final showdown, where Jareth grovels and Sarah stares him down, we receive an example of a climax so rarely according female protagonists: the direct confrontation with the evil and the rejection thereof. Sarah sees through Jareth’s bullshit; she acknowledges her equality with, indeed, her supremacy OVER, him. She rebalances her life by asserting herself to be the stronger character. I agree with bellatrys’ comment that the movie should have ended there, without the puppet party afterward. [Found via The Hathor Legacy.]

All of this makes me think that, even though I no longer actively work on Jareth’s Realm, Labyrinth remains the dominant narrative template through which I live my life. It keeps infiltrating all of my own artistic endeavors.

1:6 annoyance: lack of historical clothing

1:6 annoyance: lack of historical clothing published on 1 Comment on 1:6 annoyance: lack of historical clothing

I’ve been having trouble with two of my historical dolls, Little Will and his mom Leonora. Both of them are from the 1870s, so they should be wearing historically accurate [or historically approximate] hair and clothes. To add to the fun, Leonora should be in some sort of wheeled chair. To make the fun even funner, both of them need to be more slender than my usual robust CG base because they are sickly, scrawny characters.

After a frustrating consideration of many possibilities, in the end, I’ve decided to modify articulated Barbies for both of them. I’ll just masectomize one and drastically reduce the legs for Little Will. *ominous sounds of hand saw and Dremel revving up*

I found a historically approximate outfit for Leonora. It’s from Victorian Lady Barbie. I am, however, having a hell of a time finding something for Little Will. A detailed investigation of Ebay and demonstrates that Barbies are not a reliable source of historically accurate dress, especially not for children’s fashions. I thought I’d use an “Alice in Wonderland” dress + pinafore combo, but Mattel doesn’t produce any; Azone is out, and I really don’t feel like importing one from Japan for $30.00. GRAR!

Wow, I actually like a Triad product!

Wow, I actually like a Triad product! published on 2 Comments on Wow, I actually like a Triad product!

Lola is the first Triad Toys doll that attracts me. It’s not the fetishy schoolgirl outfit, though I do like it. It’s not the thigh-high black pleather platform heels, though they are perfect for Will. It’s not the custom cartoony bomb and the match, though Baozha would love those. It’s not the backpack with the teddy bear, though I can always use more backpacks, and I know Will wants the teddy bear. It’s not the guns because, unless they are squirt guns, firearms are irrelevant to my LHF universe. It’s not even the Otaku body, which sacrifices form over function.

It’s her face, her weary, sarcastic, annoyed face. 

Get doll; keep head, hands, clothes, shoes, pack, bomb, match, teddy. Sell body, guns, holsters and other weapon-related crap. Body should go for $30.00. Guns should go for $10-15.00. Recoup ~1/2 of purchase price.

Give doll pink hair!!!

Doll notes

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Doll stuff to get


Materyllis’ body use cheap one and paint

Materyllis’ hair use black yarn

Materyllis’ clothes Legacy of Valor WAVES long slim skirt, blouse w puff sleeves and neck/yoke deco

Little Will’s body use Obitsu slim male, cut down

Little Will’s clothes Goth dress, bloomers of simple sleeves and rubber bands

College Anneka’s body share w regular Anneka

College Anneka’s clothes share w regular Anneka

Leonora’s hair sculpt

Leonora’s body

Leonora’s clothes Gibson blouse, long bell skirt

Leonora’s chair use Max’

Alexandra’s head and body WAVES

Alexandra’s clothes use from collection

Max’ head and body use Alexander the Great

Max’ clothes use from collection

Max’ chair use Mattel Becky

Minerva’s head George Taylor

Minerva’s body use spare

Minerva’s clothes use from collection

War Toys

DML Alexander the Great 17.95

DML George Taylor 7.95

Dragon Lord shirt 1.25

Dragon Lord shirt and pants 2.25

Good Stuff to Go

WAVES 19.00

Junky Spot

Obitsu slim male 20.99



Rocky Horror Picture Show remake?

Rocky Horror Picture Show remake? published on 2 Comments on Rocky Horror Picture Show remake?

Continuing in a long tradition of mediocre remakes of classic films [Psycho, Wicker Man, War of the Worlds, King Kong, et hoc genus omne], MTV and 20th Century Fox are apparently retreading The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie. Like most remakes, it will be weak, pointless, dull and did I mention POINTLESS? Useless, pathetic remakes always make me roll my eyes in disgust; my eyes are revolving especially hard in their sockets now because Fox and MTV are messing around with a movie that I like. Blech. WHY???

Dark Knight review: WHOOOOT!

Dark Knight review: WHOOOOT! published on 2 Comments on Dark Knight review: WHOOOOT!

In the latest Batman reboot, Batman has to deal with both the Joker and Two-Face, all while contemplating whether he’s any better than the ends-justify-the-means dudes that he fights. Movie portrays a consistently murky, satisfactorily melancholy vision of Gotham in which it’s always night and no one is quite sure they’re doing the right thing. New ass-kicking technology, including wings for Batman and a muscular Batmobile with LOITER and INTIMIDATE modes [and the ability to eject a Batbike], provides spectacular pyrotechnics to distract from the fact that most of the acting is serviceable but not exciting. 

Should be telling that the audience cheered and laughed only when the Joker was on the screen. While everyone else is repressed and dire, Ledger’s Joker capers in his own manic world, creepy, unpredictable and much more interesting than Bale’s Batman, who we know is dull enough to eventually do the right thing [supported, of course, by moralizing from Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon].

The movie’s strengths are its action scenes, special effects and the Joker. Weak points are the otherwise complete lack of humor, frequently ponderous script and lack of psychological realism, especially in the character of Gyllenhaal’s Dawes. Why does Rachel like Harvey Dent? There’s no chemistry and no interest. After all those resentful looks she passes Bruce Wayne, why does she insist that his penthouse is the safest location in Gotham? Who cares? This is not a movie about female characters. Screw the female characters. We have no need for them [even though the mayor, some Mob players, Lau and Gordon could be female characters without any problem at all]. This is a movie about MEN and MORALS. Also BIG FUCKING EXPLOSIONS. At these three things, it succeeds.

Three and a half out of five stars!

Dolls I Have/Don’t Have

Dolls I Have/Don’t Have published on 2 Comments on Dolls I Have/Don’t Have

Dolls I currently have


















Materyllis [SST Jinx, needs paint, body and clothes]

Little Will [Takara Ice, needs body and clothes]

College Anneka [Obitsu pink, needs body and clothes]

Leonora [BBI Beka, needs hair, body and clothes]

Dolls of current/upcoming characters that I would like to get




Alexandra BBI Officer Somers



Caveat BBI Tyr


Awesome 1:6 AA male headsculpts!

Awesome 1:6 AA male headsculpts! published on 1 Comment on Awesome 1:6 AA male headsculpts!

Apparently Amok Time is doing LE 1:6 figs of Blacula. I have no interest in Blacula, but I think the prototype dolly looks stupendous, especially the 3 included heads. The ones with flesh on them evince a particularly fascinating combination of sleaziness and seductiveness.

Chasing the Dead by Joe Schrieber: silly yet awesome

Chasing the Dead by Joe Schrieber: silly yet awesome published on No Comments on Chasing the Dead by Joe Schrieber: silly yet awesome

A kidnapper steals Susan’s young daughter and delivers an ultimatum. Susan must follow a prescribed route through eastern Mass. in order to get her daughter back. But history lies uneasily in these small New England towns; in fact, as Susan makes each stop along the way, history rears out of its grave to shamble after her. As she races to protect her child, Susan discovers the truth, not only about the darkest moment of her own childhood, but also about a centuries-old, supernatural evil that’s been haunting the region.

Schrieber pushes Chasing the Dead along with quickly paced prose full of nervous beating hearts and splattering viscera. His simple story trades in archetypes — Mother on the Defensive vs. Sadistic Monster — without complexity of character. Not a problem, though, because Schrieber is too busy grossing you out and pulling you along to the next chapter. The perfect mindless suspense novel, strengthened by the fact that Schrieber portrays a convincing eastern Mass. setting.

My one complaint is the gratuitous use of “voodoo” as the ultimate source of the centuries-old, supernatural evil. Instead of Haitian voodoo, the evil character could have been transformed by anything labeled “sinister magic.”  Since the evil character started off as a white, English-speaking colonist, he could have made a deal with the Devil or some local New England witches, which would have made much more sense, considering his background and beliefs. Why toss in an unneeded exploitation of “voodoo?” Bullshit like this just reinforces the popular American misconception that Voudou/Voudun is some morally suspect practice involving zombie creation, rather than a legitimate religion.

[Filed under “vampires” for the use of unkillable, soul-sucking evil.]

Davry is done!

Davry is done! published on 1 Comment on Davry is done!

I initially created Davry purely as an experiment in rendering a person with achondroplastic dwarfism. Because I was successful with my digital model of him, I naturally progressed to the idea of a 1:6 version of him. After discovering the perfect head and amassing other parts and clothes, I now have a Davry doll!

1:6 Davry was going to be a DiD Timo head on a DiD Hermann body, but the DiD body was too scrawny, so it went to Chow instead. [Pictures of him later when I finish his hair.] So I turned to an Ertl Sportsman fig from Andrea for Davry’s body. Since the Ertl dude was 12″, I started by taking 2″ out of the legs, 1″ from the thighs and 1″ from the floor up. I glued the shortened legs back together with my bestest friend [viz., hot glue] and smoothed the thigh splices with Sculpey, which I boiled for 3 minutes to harden. Davry lost his feet, which I consider one of the most expendable parts of a fig, but none of his knee or thigh joints were compromised.

Next, I removed a total of 0.5″ from the arms, 0.25″ from the uppers, 0.25″ from the lowers. Again, Davry lost some of his reach, but none of his articulation was hindered, although his lowest elbow joints are a little sticky. He even retained use of his original hands!

At this point, I had a body with an average-sized torso and short, stubby limbs. I removed the original Ertl neck and sculpted a short stubby one in its place with Sculpey [boiled again]. I carved out the bottom of Davry’s head so that it could just slide over the neck stump. His neck lost tilting action, but, like feet, I consider this an acceptable sacrifice.

As for Davry’s head, I modified it by coloring over the original DiD paint job. I darkened his hair to a vibrant red with dark purple accents. I drew on lightning-shaped sideburns and a goatee in an attempt to make him seem older. I darkened his eyebrows and added bags under his eyes to age him as well. His head was sealed with matte varnish.

Davry now stands about 9.5″ high in high-heeled boots. He’s probably closer to 9.25″ high. Compared to my dolls who represent barely pubescent kids, he is much stockier. He looks young for his physical age, which I put in the upper 30s, but he can’t be mistaken for a kid. He looks rather like a teenager trying to be mature. Unfortunately, his lightning-shaped sideburns don’t help in this department. :p

After Absinthe, Davry is only my second 1:6 body mod. I’m very pleased with the way that he came out. His build looks like that of a person with achondroplastic dwarfism. More importantly, his character has the general personality that I imagine him to have: that of a playful man who doesn’t act his age.

True Blood: Is this going to be good? Y/N.

True Blood: Is this going to be good? Y/N. published on 1 Comment on True Blood: Is this going to be good? Y/N.

I can’t tell whether this is a miniseries or an open-ended series, but HBO has True Blood starting in September.

Pros: Vampires, Anna Paquin, created by Alan Ball who did Six Feet Under.

Cons: Based on an incredibly boring paranormal romance, on cable which I don’t think I have.

Truthfully, I would be more interested in a second season of Moonlight because it’s so baaaaaaayud, but apparently someone put a fork in it because it’s been cancelled.

Investigate Lavena Jackson’s murder, you liars.

Investigate Lavena Jackson’s murder, you liars. published on No Comments on Investigate Lavena Jackson’s murder, you liars.

From Feministing: Armed forces refuses to investigate the suspicious circumstances of Lavena Jackson’s death. She was the first female soldier from Missouri to die in Iraq in 2005. Strong evidence suggests that she suffered assault and rape before being murdered, but the armed forces call it a “suicide.” Online petition to open an investigation here. I don’t understand how the armed services thinks it can successfully persuade people to join if it rejects people for being gay, harasses and murders people for being female and does not adequately support its veterans. 

My tag on the petition:

Investigate the misidentified “suicide” of this soldier and expose the physical assault and other suppressed circumstances surrounding her death. Challenge the regime that, through cover-ups, allows such sexual abuse of female soldiers.

1:6 stuff coming in

1:6 stuff coming in published on No Comments on 1:6 stuff coming in

I ordered last night from War Toys, and they’re shipping out the order today! Wow, that was quick.

I ordered a nude Hermann Miller for Davry’s body. It’s an 11″ DiD body that’s supposed to be a young boy. I’ll have to hack out the upper arms, upper legs and torso in order to make a convincing example of a person with achondroplastic dwarfism. As a bonus, the Hermann head that comes with the body is attractive, possibly usable in future for another character.

I also ordered a nude US Navy EOD by Soldier Story for Sibley. He looks prissy and disapproving [it’s the mouth], which is how I always imagine Sibley: better than you and cognizant of it. Poor Sibley…He irritates me so much as a character that I don’t want to have a doll of him, but I have scenes planned involving him, so I need him. He’d better stop acting like a dipstick soon, or else he’ll antagonize the entire cast. Wait…he already did.

I also ordered some atrocious clothes for Will, including a tropical print shirt, a white mesh tank top and an olive tank top. I think I ordered some normal jeans too.

My wife is helping me order Chow’s body and a jukebox for my 1:6 Nightcrawler. I should work on dolls tonight, sculpting Chow’s hair and taking some pictures of Absinthe, who is now done, and my 1:6 scenery in progress.

Amusing derogatory book review

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Paul Constant over at The Stranger writes a scathing review of Noelle Oxenhandler’s memoir The Wishing Year. While incisively sarcastic, Constant’s review succeeds because he backs up his poor opinion of the book with examples of its failings. My favorite sentence:

Oxenhandler is exceedingly relieved that the African-American syrup advertisement has absolved Nicholas of generations of slave-owning guilt, and she goes about the happy work of intervening in his life.

Maybe, if I hone my rapier-like wit enough, I can be that vicious in a book review and get away with it. Until then, I will enjoy others’ excoriations of trash.

Favorite dismissal of an atrocious book, attributed to Dorothy Parker:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Writer’s Block: On Character Preferences

Writer’s Block: On Character Preferences published on 2 Comments on Writer’s Block: On Character Preferences

First of all, that should be “your favorite fictional character” with an “r” goddammit. My favorite fictional literary character is Willa Rahv from Early Disorder by Rebecca Josephs. Nominally about a 15-year-old’s struggle with anorexia, Early Disorder is actually more of a slice of life for a young girl as she tries to find her place in her overbearing, perfectionist family, a fast-paced, overwhelming school and a city that teems with life that she would like to be a part of. Witty, pretentious, oversensitive and insecure, Willa embodies many of the strengths and fallacies common to young teenagers. However, her sarcastic, keen-eyed first-person perspective evinces a deft sense of humor and a maturity that she eventually grows into. I find the theme of coming into one’s own eminently relatable, and I’ve always found Will a sympathetic protagonist over the decades during which I have cherished this book.

I’m also really keen on the eldest princess in A.S. Byatt’s short story “The Story of the Eldest Princess” [available in The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye] because she’s smart and assertive and reflective. She realizes she’s in a skewed fairy tale and forms her own happy ending, which does not involve happy hetero marriage.

In TV or movies, my favorite characters are Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth [details at Jareth’s Realm], Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture Show [details at The Frankenstein Place], Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer [details all over this blog] and Dean Winchester from Supernatural [details all over this blog].

In fiction that I have created, my favorite characters are Will and Anneka because they have pink hair and no fashion sense. I also really like Mark because he’s such a  dweeb, Chow  because  he’s  probably  the only wise character around and Viktor because his constant attempts to screw anything that moves are amusing.

In any medium, I dislike whiny characters who do not stand up for themselves. Three particularly egregious examples are Sarah from Labyrinth, Harry Potter from the seven books concerning him and Bella from the Twilight Saga. Make that EVERYONE in the Twilight Saga.

EDIT: BWAH HAHAHAH. I notice that Edward Cullen, abusive personality extraordinaire of the Twilight Saga, appears most frequently as a favorite character, clearly nominated by people without critical intelligence.

Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >:

Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >: published on 2 Comments on Hey HHS, get OUT of my uterus! >:

According to the NY TImes, “The Bush administration wants to require all recipients of aid under federal health programs to certify that they will not refuse to hire nurses and other providers who object to abortion and certain types of birth control.” This same proposal also wishes to define the use of common contraceptives as abortifacients because they terminate “human life” “before…implantation.” 

Thanks to tikva’s highlight of the especially galling sections of the report and to hammercock’s link to NARAL, I E-mailed my Congresspersons.

Subject: I oppose the proposed HHS ruling where contraception = abortifacients

Dear [Decision maker],

I’m writing to express my opposition to a proposed new Health and Human Services regulation that could discourage doctors and health-care clinics from providing contraception to women who need it.

Not only does the proposal interfere with women’s rights to do as they wish with their own reproductive systems, but it also makes no sense, as on p. 30, lines 8-11. In this section, “abortion” is referred to as “the termination of the life of a human being…whether before or after implantation.” This definition equates an unimplanted embyro with a fully developed human being, which it is NOT. The proposed HHS rule would thereby privilege the unimplanted embryo over the fully developed, autonomous woman that carries the embryo.

Such discrimination against women should not be tolerated. Oppose these regulations and support reproductive rights for women. Thank you for your attention.

Of course, this won’t do anything, but I feel a tiny bit better for spitting in the hurricane. And look…I did it without swearing.

Writer’s Block: Becoming a TV Character

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Since Jareth the Goblin King from Labyrinth is not a TV character, I’m going to pass. If it helps, though, Rory Gilmore [The Gilmore Girls] + pre-magic-addiction Willow [BTVS] combined provide the best representation of my personality. Rory contains the overachieving, sarcastic, obedient intellectualism. Willow contains the progression from anxious, shy and doubtful to more open and confident, as well as the clueless sense of “style” and the flexible sexibility. [Yes, I made that up.] Wait…I don’t think that helps or answers the question. Who cares? I just thought it was interesting.

How my wife and I feel about each other’s favorite movies!

How my wife and I feel about each other’s favorite movies! published on 1 Comment on How my wife and I feel about each other’s favorite movies!

I enjoy Wondermark. It’s like My New Filing Technique Is Unstoppable, only with more wit, concision and punctuation.  

This echoes the sentiment:

P.S. THe most accurate rendition of a car alarm sounding that I have ever run across: 

American Girl dolls: what do they represent?

American Girl dolls: what do they represent? published on 4 Comments on American Girl dolls: what do they represent?

Prompting by the recent theatrical release of Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl, some Slate writers have an informal discussion about the series of dolls that spawned said movie.

Pleasant Company started off with three “American Girls” in 1986. Kirsten was from 1854, Samantha from 1904 and Mollie from 1944. The dolls came with scads of historically accurate and really expensive accessories, as well as mediocrely written stories in which they demonstrated how caring, assertive and morally sound they were. The Pleasant Company line soon exploded in popularity, resulting in its inevitable buyout by Mattel and the current proliferation of American Girls in all colors from all time periods. Unfortunately, they all have the same poorly articulated bodies and scary faces, with round eyes way too far up on their heads, flat noses and teeth ready to BITE YOU!

Having read AG books and catalogs in the past and having long sustained an interest in dolls, I read with avidity said Slate discussion about the messages of the AG empire. The participants seem to agree that the AG empire promotes conspicuous consumption by showing an upper bourgeois lifestyle in its books and pricing items so that only rich people can afford them. One commenter, Nina, has the following insight:

I like the idea of teaching kids that quality and craftsmanship matter and that investing in special items can be OK. But it doesn’t just stop at the dolls—there’s the outfits, and the furniture, and the tea parties. And that makes me a little uncomfortable. It feels too much like a patina of morality masks conspicuous consumption. It’s the kind of rationalization that makes it seem OK to spend thousands of dollars on, say, a mint-condition Eames chair. 

The phrase “patina of morality [masking] conspicuous consumption” is spot-on. AG empire books always end with morals that promote friendship, acceptance, kindness, bravery, loyalty — like some class-, race- and gender-blind version of the Girl Scouts. However, the books and dolls exist to reinforce each other, which is to say that the books ultimately do not wish to promote morality. The books actually subserve greater consumption of AG goods.

I noticed the problems of class and consumption in the AG empire when I was reading the Pleasant Company catalog back when I was 8 or 10. Of course, I wasn’t talking with sophistication about patinas of morality, but I did notice several things about the catalog that really pissed me off. For one thing, dolls and their accessories were sold separately. [They still are.] Since the dolls were frequently shown using their accessories, I had assumed that dolls and accessories came in one package. I regarded the separation thereof as a misleading disappointment and a way to get more money out of people.

Another example of implicit bourgeois assumption that I noticed early on appeared in the owner-sized outfits sold along with the dolls. One winter outfit inspired by the Kirsten doll included a pair of soft, moccasin-like boots. The copy described them as “perfect for apres-ski.” I was puzzled by this until I figured out that “apres-ski” meant “post-skiing,” and even then I was still puzzled. In my personal experience, I and all the other skiers I knew put on their regular, everyday boots after skiing. In my frame of reference, there was no need for specific apres-ski footwear. The advertising copy clued me in to the fact that some people somewhere did have specialized post-skiing boots, which meant that they probably had more money than I did, which meant that the advertising copy was not talking to me. I didn’t end up wishing for apres-ski boots in an aspirational sense; I just ended up annoyed. Now I can finally articulate why.

Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, Oracle’s Queen — all by Lynn Flewelling

Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, Oracle’s Queen — all by Lynn Flewelling published on 2 Comments on Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, Oracle’s Queen — all by Lynn Flewelling

The Bone Doll's Twin, Hidden Warrior and Oracle's Queen, all by Lynn Flewelling, have an unusual premise for your standard Training of the Fantasy Prince trilogy. Prince in question is actually a princess who, through the help of necromancy suffered shortly after birth, has appropriated the body and likeness of her dead twin brother.

Continue reading Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, Oracle’s Queen — all by Lynn Flewelling

Late to the game about the racist New Yorker cover

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This is what I have to say about the racist, sexist New Yorker cover portraying Barack and Michelle Obama as militant Islamic [?] terrorists: 

1. It’s only satire if it’s obvious to intelligent, discerning viewers that it’s satire. Intelligent, discerning viewers at Feministing and Michelle Obama Watch [and other blogs rounded up by MOW] do not, at the very least, think it’s obvious. If it’s satire, then it’s bad satire. It hits the rim of the SATIRE basket and falls into the trash heap.

2. Privileged people hardly ever make innocent fun of people who do not have a certain privilege. Whatever its actual editorial make-up, the New Yorker represents dead white male power; so the cover represents dead white male power making fun of African-American people. Since dead white male power and all those who support it have a long, sordid history of making fun of African-American people, this cover joins that tradition of sexist, racist bigotry.

I E-mailed the New Yorker and the cartoonist [Barry Blitt] with the above message, which will do exactly shit.

EDIT: HAH! Blitt’s mailbox is full. Looks like he’s being roundly criticized [and probably praised from some quarters] by many others.

Twilight, the wish fulfillment

Twilight, the wish fulfillment published on No Comments on Twilight, the wish fulfillment

Several weeks before Breaking Dawn crawls out of the coffin [August 2, baayyyyybeeee!], New York Times columnist Gail Collins examines the appeal of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. Jessica Valenti and Courtney Martin, both of Feministing, a blog I check frequently, provide input. Valenti and Martin observe that lusty and repressed Edward represents a chaste and non-threatening affection, sexually speaking. [We won’t address the fact that his emotionally manipulative and controlling acts make him a prime example of an abusive personality.] His cuddly sexlessness represents one extreme that today’s teen girls are pulled toward. 

Courtney Martin, the author of “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters,” spends a lot of time on college campuses and says students seem to be torn between anonymous sex and monogamy — “either hooking up with no expectations or you’re basically married. You stay home and watch movies.” 

The implication is that a balance should be struck, that young women who are growing up and exploring their sexuality should not be bound to emotionally involving but sexless chastity or anonymous, promiscuous activity without emotional connection. Ideally, these young women should find sexual identities that incorporate both human drives to be understood and get laid. The Twilight series, with its extreme insistence on sexual repression, does no justice to the variety of human experience. And this is only one of the reasons it’s so bad.

Witchblade finally hits DVD!

Witchblade finally hits DVD! published on No Comments on Witchblade finally hits DVD!

Witchblade, the thoroughly mediocre and yet strangely compelling combo of cop drama and supernatural hooey that ran for two summers in 2001 and 2002, comes to DVD at the end of July. Hooray! I have a special place in my heart for that show, having watched it when it first came out, perhaps because it is simplistic enough to listen to and pretentious enough to be laughable. I’ve been surviving on crappy bootleg DVDs for years now, so I will be able to replace them with shiny good ones.

Wanted Action Figure does very accurate likenesses

Wanted Action Figure does very accurate likenesses published on 2 Comments on Wanted Action Figure does very accurate likenesses

For those of us who want, say, a Dean Winchester doll, Wanted Action Figure does detailed likeness sculpting in a variety of scales, including life-size, 1:6 and Mego scale. I paged through all the likenesses available for purchase, and I have to say that Wanted Action Figure captures the essentials of the celebrities they are sculpting. I really wish that they did more women, though.

Today’s word: “chyron”

Today’s word: “chyron” published on 3 Comments on Today’s word: “chyron”

 I found a new word today: chyron. Emily Yoffe uses it in a Slate blog post here:

Hanna, you quote Ellen Tien’s assertion, “Beneath the thumpingly ordinary nature of our marriage—Everymarriage—runs the silent chyron of divorce," and wonder if those of us whose running chyron is saying “I am so lucky I am married to this man” are deluded.

From the context, I thought it was something like a constant refrain, so I looked it up. It turns out that "chyron" is the technical term for combinations of graphics and text that appear at the bottom of a TV screen. Chyrons often include the name of the story being shown, its location, the name of the presenter or the name of the person currently speaking.

My Google search suggests that this word is well-known within the news and reporting industry, but little known outside it. We should all use it more, however, because, as the usage above shows, it has great metaphorical potential!

Making a kid-sized body for 1:6 Absinthe

Making a kid-sized body for 1:6 Absinthe published on 1 Comment on Making a kid-sized body for 1:6 Absinthe

As I am recreating the LHF cast in 1:6, I, of course, want to make their plastic avatars as accurate to their likenesses as possible in terms of build, relative height and general proportion. I don’t have a problem with anyone over 18, since I can use CGs/PBs for the women and DMLs/Obitsus/BBIs for the men. I do, however, have a problem finding good, highly articulated bodies for children. Obitsu bodies are very flexible, but slight and frail in build, which means that they usually look out of proportion with the fashion doll/action fig heads I’d like to use for my kid dolls. What do I do?

Take the example of Absinthe. She’s Will’s first significant other, the one who turned him into a vampire. Since she died somewhere between 11 and 13, she has a barely pubescent body. However, she has matured emotionally and mentally since dying in the 1820s, so she’s essentially a grown-up in a kid’s body. My 1:6 version of her needed to be at least as articulated as a CG [double-ganged elbows and knees being key], of average build [as opposed to the Obitsus], proportionately smaller than my 1:6 adults and capable of accepting an action fig head.

Started out with a Toybiz fem body, as found on the LOTR 12″ figs that came out a few years ago. Took off the feet to reduce some height, but legs were still way too long.

Took 0.75″ out of each upper thigh with a small craft saw.

Did a double masectomy with craft saw and Xacto knife. Smoothed edges with 150 grit sandpaper, but didn’t fill in holes, as they will be covered with clothing. Plus I am lazy.

Carved down upper thighs with Dremel, Xacto and 150 grit sandpaper. Again, no finishing as this will be hidden anyway. Lower legs reattached with hot glue, my bestest friend. Testing out Obitsu slim male hands in this photo, but they are too large. Head is a repainted Sea International fem.

Ended up using original Toybiz hands after narrowing fingers down with Xacto knife. Absinthe, now 8.5″ tall, is waiting for her hair.

The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting…

The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting… published on No Comments on The most gloriously silly phrase in the history of copywriting…

Here it is: “artillery-laden ski pursuits.” Ever since reading this phrase off the back of a video box for the Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, I’ve tried to worm it into my daily vocabulary as much as possible. When I’m really rich and I have extra money to throw around, I’m going to buy just for the hell of it. That is all.

Young Blood is the best vampire novel ever!

Young Blood is the best vampire novel ever! published on 3 Comments on Young Blood is the best vampire novel ever!

Summary: Brainy philosophy major student and her biochem boyfriend take different perspectives on the vampire haunting their lives. Is he a dream, a virus, a reality? One character is destroyed; both are transformed, and both learn more about the murky, shape-shifting nature of self and consciousness. Clarion writing, believable characters [especially Anne], unexpected plot twists that reflect great insight into workings of the human mind, a knowledgable representation of the geography of the human imagination — all these elements add up to a cerebral masterpiece of psychological horror.

Okay, I exaggerate. 

Young Blood is the best vampire novel after Carmilla and Dracula…the best MODERN vampire novel. Written by Brain Stableford, perpetrator of the abysmal Hunger and Ecstasy of Vampires, Young Blood focuses on philosophy major and college freshman Anne, her boyfriend, biochem grad student Gil, and a vampire from the borderlands, Maldureve. Anne welcomes her relationship with Maldureve because his blood-drinking brings ecstasy and his teachings bring expanded perceptions. She’s perfectly willing to accept Maldureve’s reality, while Gil thinks Maldureve is a mental disease, a virus prompting him to horrible deeds. 

Is Maldureve real? Is he benign or malign? Stableford takes the story for some surprising twists and turns as his intelligent protagonists try to make sense of everything. In lucid prose, convincingly distinguished for different sections from Anne’s and Gil’s perspectives, Stableford creates a work as much about the nature of consciousness and all the selves inside us as it is about vampires. Young Blood is like a cross between The Doll Maker [innocent, intelligent ingenue comes of age] and The Duke in His Castle [small cast, intense focus, great psychological acuity, delicious allegory]. Unlike anything else I’ve read, it accurately captures the thrill, doubt, power and intoxication of creating, nourishing, talking to and learning about characters in one’s head.

Dolls with disabilities are DETRIMENTAL?

Dolls with disabilities are DETRIMENTAL? published on 4 Comments on Dolls with disabilities are DETRIMENTAL?

From Shakesville. The Times Online covers a thriving tangent of the toy industry in its article “Disability dolls become more popular.” Dolls like this are nothing new, as far as I’m concerned, so what interests me about this article is the people who object — OBJECT — to the very concept of dolls portraying people with disabilities. 

Jenni Smith, a chartered educational psychologist in London, says: “I feel that children who have disabilities, including children with Down’s syndrome, tend to see themselves as ‘like everyone else’ and to offer a toy that ‘looks like them’ may only emphasise the difference.”

Does Smith know any children with disabilities? If she does, does she even pay attention to them? In my experience, people with disabilities — especially those whose disabilities have outward markers such as certain facial features, paralysis, speech impediments or the need for mobility/communication aids — do NOT see themselves as “like everyone else.” To take a mild example, I’m near-sighted, so I wear glasses. From the very first time that I wore them at age 8, I noticed the obvious, namely, that I had glasses, and most other kids didn’t. I had an outward sign of a mild visual disability, unlike many of my classmates. I was therefore not “like everyone else.” My conception of myself therefore includes my visual deficits, my corrective lenses and my resultant difference from everyone else.

From my personal experience and from my experience with other people with disabilities, people who have disabilities recognize that that are not the same as “everyone else.” However, while we may function or look differently from “everyone else,” we are the same as everyone else in one way: we want to see ourselves reflected in the books we read, shows we watch, toys we play with, et cetera. In my case, I want dolls with glasses. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find in-scale glasses for 1:6 figs, but I have pursued this goal to the point of importing them from Japan at exorbitant prices because, contrary to Jenni Smith’s claim, I do want dolls that look like me. As for my sister, who has cerebral palsy and uses an electric wheelchair, she too wants to see images in her media and her toys that reflect her own experience, which is why almost all of her dolls use wheelchairs too, even if they did not come with mobility aids. Toys that mirror the experience of people with disabilities do not “emphasise the difference” between people with disabilities and the rest of the world. In fact, dolls with disabilities validate the experience of people with disabilities, demonstrating that their disabilities are acknowledged by others [in the form of media companies or toy manufacturers]. To see representations of oneself out in the world is to receive proof that others see one and know that one exists. In some way, dolls with disabilities thus have an inclusive, affirmative function, saying to the people with disabilities, “Yes, you exist; you are people too; we acknowledge you.”

P.S. Raise your hand if you too want the little doll with Down’s Syndrome shown at the top of the article.

Mulch: the ultimate weapon against zombies

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Photographic evidence that you can repel a zombie invasion by separating them from you with copious amounts of ordinary garden mulch. Presumably something in the mulch hastens their decomposition so that they literally fall to pieces in minutes, unable to attack you and feed upon your flesh.

I imagine an entire horror garden of such sinking statues. A great variation on the rising zombie would be a person at the base of a tree, trying desperately to extricate him/herself from invisible quicksand. You could see deep scoring lines in the trunk where he/she had dug in his/her fingers in a futile attempt to get free from the hungry ground. Another awesome variation, usable only in winter, would look like a person flattened against a window, only you’d put it at the bottom of your pond so the person would appear to be smothered under the ice in the winter. There could also be statues that look like they are trapped in the trunks of old, cavernous trees a la Merlin, statues that look like they have been run over with glacial boulders, even statues that look like they’ve been stabbed with fence posts! The possibilities are endless!

Someone needs to get this statue and then do a photoshoot in a cemetery.

Recommended: Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series

Recommended: Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series published on No Comments on Recommended: Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series

I’m currently reading Blood Colony, the last book in Tananarive Due’s African Immortals trilogy. Continue reading Recommended: Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series

History is people, and they are talking to you.

History is people, and they are talking to you. published on No Comments on History is people, and they are talking to you.

Fountain Hughes, 101 when interviewed in 1949, talks with his nephew about what it was like, growing up as a slave. You can actually hear an audio recording of him!! My favorite part is when he’s talking about the music that he sang in church, and he “gets the spirit,” but he can’t sing because he’s “too hoarse.”

Tempe Herndon Durham, 103 when interviewed in 1937, says she was “real lucky” compared to other slaves. Not an audio recording, unfortunately, but you can get an idea of her speech patterns with the relatively phonetic transcription here. My favorite part is when she’s telling about jumping over the broom on her wedding day. Her husband trips, so her master teases her husband that her husband will be bossed by Tempe all his days. Dramatization of an excerpt here.

Shadow of the Vampire: Creepy, subtle, well-acted

Shadow of the Vampire: Creepy, subtle, well-acted published on No Comments on Shadow of the Vampire: Creepy, subtle, well-acted

F.W. Murnau’s German Expressionist classic, Nosferatu [1922], is arguably the best vampire movie ever made. Capitalizing on the heightened emotions and stark shades of black-and-white, silent film, Nosferatu basically rips off the plot of Dracula, but simplifies it to its basic darkness vs. light plot. Max Schrek, looming with inexorable and silent menace, embodies the Nosferatu character so well that he seems less like an actor playing a role and more like a nightmare given substance.

Shadow of the Vampire takes this idea — what if Schrek really was a vampire playing an actor playing a vampire? — and runs with it into the territory of midnight-black comedy and dazzling insanity.

F.W. Murnau, played by John Malkovich, strikes a nasty deal with a blood-sucking monster, played by Willem Dafoe. Telling others on the set that Max Schrek is a peculiar character actor who always appears in makeup and costume and never gets out of character, Malkovich provides the perfect cover for the vampire’s hungry infiltration. Murnau thus achieves his goal of capturing the perfect performance and preserving it forever on film, while “Schrek” gets what he wants: victims. In their pursuit of their desires, however, Murnau and “Schrek” get more and more unhinged.

Malkovich and Dafoe carry this film, both of their intense, stylized performances creating a binary star of obsession. Malkovich tamps down his usual twitchy weirdness in order to play Murnau as a nit-picking control freak who manipulates his actors like puppets. While Malkovich’s Murnau is physically restrained, possessed of a certain inhuman detachment, Dafoe’s “Schrek” is expressive, almost flamboyant in his sneezing, sniffing, cowering, truckling, nail sharpening and other bestial mannerisms. I wouldn’t say that Dafoe hams it up or overdoes it, merely that his “Schrek” fidgets in constant motion, as if he’s made out of swarming bugs, or as if he can barely master his desire to eat something.  Both Murnau and “Schrek” complement each other because they both display the same hunger for humanity, the same life-draining impulse, merely manifested in different ways.

Moody, chiaroscuro set design and lighting pays homage to the deep shadows of the original Nosferatu, while creating new layers of creeping dread. A toned-down palette, mostly greys and some heavily saturated greens and browns, and a spare score [mostly in the form of music that would be playing as Nosferatu is filmed] balance out the energetic performances of the stars. Mordant, deadpan humor and a strong absurdist streak make Shadow of the Vampire both amusing and thought-provoking.

Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus

Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus published on No Comments on Field Guide to Literary Devils: Logorrheus

Logorrheus: A minor demon among those that bedevil writers, Logorrheus is recognized by its bloated form full of bombast and hot air. Its skin is purple so that it may blend in with the type of prose that it feeds on. Though Logorrheus has a distinctive form, authors usually recognize the demon’s presence not because they have seen the demon itself, but because they have seen its effects. Wreaking devastation upon the libraries of writers, Logorrheus consumes all manner of reference books, including dictionaries, thesauruses, style guides and Bulwer-Lytton’s Least Comprehensible Poetry of the Victorian Era, then shits it out everywhere. The resultant fecal matter, which, according to observers, often smells overripe or overdone, contains linguistic abominations once thought achievable only through the unholy congress of monkeys and typewriters. To wit:

“It’s for you,” Japhrimel said diffidently, his eyes flaring with green fire in angular runic patterns for just a moment before returning to almost-human darkness. [Turd from The Devil’s Right Hand by Lilith Saintcrow.]

Writers afflicted with Logorrheus are advised to abstain from authors that could worsen the condition, including Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien. Instead, victims of Logorrheus can repel it with frequent use of any concise, pithy writer. Especially efficacious are Ernest Hemingway [possible side effects: inflated sense of machismo, obsession with Africa] and Emily Dickinson [possible side effects: inordinate interest in bees, romantic liaisons with a mysterious “Master”].

The Time of the Vampires and The Dracula Tape

The Time of the Vampires and The Dracula Tape published on No Comments on The Time of the Vampires and The Dracula Tape

The Time of the Vampires, a 1996 anthology edited by P.N. Elrod and Martin Greenberg, is like Mary Quite Contrary: when it’s good, it’s very very good, but, when it’s bad, it’s horrid. The best stories use the bloody torture and redemption at the heart of Christ’s suffering to inform plots about devout Christians attempting to minister to monsters. In “The Blood of the Lamb,” by Lillian Carlisle, a nun tries to save the soul and life of an injured vampire. In “Faith Like Wine,” by Roxanne Longstreet, a follower of Jesus’, cursed with unending life, seeks an end to her torment in the person of a charismatic modern prophet. While these two stories rework the hunger, suffering and sensuality of the vampire myth, most other stories in the anthology try too hard to shoehorn vampiric explanations into actual historical events and personages. For God’s sake, if you’re gonna write about Oscar Wilde as a psychic vampire [“In Memory Of,” by Nancy Kilpatrick], you should make him marginally charming, witty and original, instead of dull, vacuous and horrifically uninspired. Verdict: Not worth your time.

Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula Tape is, quite simply, Bram Stoker’s Dracula from Dracula’s point of view. Liberally quoting the original in order to scoff, mock, undercut and controvert, the Transylvanian count insists that he is not a monster. He didn’t violate Lucy, but loved her consensually, and, after her death, most of his actions can be explained by his desire to be united with his true love, Mina, forever. Also, Van Helsing, Harker and the rest of the vampire slayers are idiots. Best appreciated by people who have read Dracula enough times to be very familiar with its details [who, me??], The Dracula Tape is interesting, but doesn’t build to any major revisionist revelation. It would make a great novella for an appendix to an authoritative, annotated edition of Dracula. Verdict: Not essential to anyone’s enjoyment of Dracula, but stil mildly diverting.

I’ve really been shooting blanks recently, unable to find any good vampire fiction. Well, #3 in Tananarive Due’s African Immortals series, Blood Colony, is waiting for me at the library, and I have high hopes for that, so it better deliver!!

An irritating supernatural romance: Bustin’

An irritating supernatural romance: Bustin’ published on No Comments on An irritating supernatural romance: Bustin’

Bustin’ by Minda Webber would like to be a light-hearted, wisecracking supernatural romance, but it fails. Heroine Sam, supposedly an exterminator of paranormal pests, suffers from a tendency to rant, which makes her seem unhinged and prejudiced, rather than charmingly eccentric. The setting suffers from gratuitous alliteration, unimaginative pop-culture puns and a cast of secondaries who compete with each other to see who can be the quirkiest. I hear that Sam exterminates ghosts [one of which is a soup-can-painting spirit named Andy *GET IT hah hah hah winkwink nudgenudge*] for a vampire prince, meanwhile falling in love with a werewolf, but I put the book down before the love interest arrived. As a native Vermonter, I could not forgive Webber for setting a book in Vermont and refusing to describe the state in any remotely convincing detail.

Life-sized, jointed dolls…errrr…medical mannequins!

Life-sized, jointed dolls…errrr…medical mannequins! published on No Comments on Life-sized, jointed dolls…errrr…medical mannequins!

A post on Oobject collects a bunch of medical mannequins from various vendors, including robot-like dental mannequins, rubber CPR dummies and highly articulated trauma mannequins with multiple injuries. [See my earlier entry about a Japanese elder care mannequin for another example of these figs.] They are all real examples of teaching tools that are really for sale, and their high level of detail, realism and flexibility makes them beautiful works of sculpture. Whenever I get a life-sized articulated doll, I will use a medical mannequin as the base for the body, as fashion mannequins do not match the sheer number of joints possessed by some of these plastic trauma victims.

Seduction of submission, creepiness of dolls in The Doll Maker by Sarban

Seduction of submission, creepiness of dolls in The Doll Maker by Sarban published on 3 Comments on Seduction of submission, creepiness of dolls in The Doll Maker by Sarban

Summary: Creepy, luxuriously described dark fantasy about lonely, intelligent Clare and her seduction by titular doll maker. Convincing, sympathetic main character, smooth prose, kinky subtext and great insight into the weird, ambivalent relationships people have with their dolls — all these things make The Doll Maker a neglected gem.

Most of us, with some atavistic part of our hearts, secretly suspect that our toys are alive. Of all playthings, we feel most ambivalent about dolls. The humanoid shapes of dolls make them seem more like Homo sapiens than, say, stuffed animals or toy cars. We easily envision dolls as alive. The perfection of their small scale and the stillness of their beauty seduce us with admiration and longing. They will never change, never wear, never die, never degrade. They are unsubjected to time and therefore immortal and desirable.

But there are melancholy currents in our yearning. Though pure in their design and unaging in their flawlessness, dolls are always under the control of their owners, which means that they are often victims of their owners’ careless abuse. When they are not being played with, dolls lie in a state of suspended animation like death. Their existence is bounded subservience on one end and coma on the other. What sort of immortality is this?

Sarban [pseudonym of John William Wall] explores the weird attractions of dolls in his novella of psychological horror The Doll Maker. It is the story of the lonely, intelligent ingenue Clare, a boarding school student in her last year before college, and her relationship with the titular character, a young scion of the nearby manor. Lacking room to exercise her curiosity and intellect, she first sees Niall [the doll maker] as an opportunity to open the narrow avenues of her mind and her life. As she pieces together the truth about his sinister, magical art, however, Clare realizes the danger of submerging her will in his: she might never get it back. She struggles to thwart Niall’s designs while she saves other students and herself.

For a story that’s basically a fairy tale of a young woman under the spell of an evil magician, The Doll Maker packs a surprising amount of character development and psychological truth. As a rule, I’m deeply suspicious of male writers who write about female characters seduced by male ones because male writers seem much more likely to create wilting, pliant, submissive, boring, UNREALISTIC female characters. Therefore, I approached Sarban and his portrayal of Clare with defensive hostility.

I was, therefore, gleefully surprised when Clare turned out to be an actual, fully rounded, active character. Sheltered, chaperoned and guarded by her boarding school, Clare first comes across as introverted, lonely, detached and dreamy, like a ghost with no place to haunt. At the same time, while not wildly rebellious, she is smart and curious, and these traits propel both her meeting with Niall and her eventual discoveries of his secrets. Clare is both appealingly intelligent and thoughtful, but also naive enough to be susceptible to Niall. To his credit, Sarban presents both Clare’s brains and her inexperience in measured detail, taking her seriously, rather than mocking her. In a delicate balancing act, he makes her passive enough to temporarily submit to Niall, but assertive enough to eventually throw off his yoke and find her own identity.

The Doll Maker crackles with sexual tension. As Niall tries, in some sense, to make a doll out of Clare, he brings the artist’s craft out of the realm of inanimate material and into the social world, where doll making becomes a power play. Niall wishes to be Clare’s creator and to make her do as he sees fit. He portrays his mastery over her as a release from the cares and changes of life, a perfectly fulfilling dream. Uncertain about her scholastic future, friendless and anxious, Clare eagerly lets him manipulate her. She does indeed gain a certain swooning ecstasy from Niall’s control over her; in fact, the passages in which she feels powerless and yet peaceful are accurate descriptions of the altered state of consciousness that a submissive may feel in BDSM play when he/she is being effectively topped by a dom. Clare’s pleasure dwindles when she realizes that Niall’s domination depends on death and annihilation. She must assert herself against Niall’s destructive power. The kinky subtext of The Doll Maker adds another level to the story so that it can be read as a sensually charged but non-explicit story of a woman who finds some erotic satisfaction in submission, but who eventually has to free herself from an abusive partner/dom.

I strongly recommend The Doll Maker to people interested in horror and/or dark fantasy and/or dolls and/or feminism and/or rites of passage for female characters and/or kinky sex. First published in 1953, The Doll Maker is inexplicably out of print as a stand-alone novel, but you can buy it in The Sarban Omnibus. Incidentally, I hear that The Sound of His Horn is also weird and strange and erotically charged too, although not as good. I should probably get a copy of The Sarban Omnibus because I bought a 1960s paperback of The Doll Maker, and it’s falling apart, and I am very sad, and so are my dolls because they want to read it too. :p


The Office: hah!

The Office: hah! published on No Comments on The Office: hah!

I recently started listening to some season 4 eps of the American version of The Office on hulu. It uses the mockumentary form to capture the oblivious comedy of petty pencil pushers who take themselves too seriously. At its best, it’s like a Christopher Guest film, allowing the characters to reveal their own social absurdities and skewer modern humankind generally in the process. At its worst, it contains cheap-shot jokes delivered in a deadpan that’s really milking for laughs. Most of the time, however, it’s generally amusing.

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