proust post #1 – overture-combray


The whole reason I’ve been circling this book for the better part of a decade, carefully putting off reading it (as instructed by a professor — I need to be better about not being so obedient people in power over me in this way) until I was “old enough to appreciate it,” was that it was about memory. And it hasn’t been disappointing so far.

The class in which the book came up wasn’t even literary — it had to do with the fluidity of gender and its expression in media, primarily in Japan. But the professor sidetracked himself on a description of a scene which I now believe is one I’ve just passed in the book, about a madeline cookie dipped in tea prompting, through its taste, an unfolding of memories formerly locked away. The professor seemed to imply, at the time, that this dogged quest to retrieve lost memories, and then their sudden unexpected return, was a loop expressed throughout the full epic length of the book, but since that entire cycle was expressed in that one scene within the first fifty pages, I wonder if I have been loyally not-reading this book for 9 years in obedience to the orders of a man who hadn’t yet finished the first 100 pages himself.

Again, deference is great, but I should probably take less as gospel the words of people in power over me. Especially those I met for one semester, and never saw again.

Loyally cut for spoilers, because I still remember my resentment at the spoilers for Anna Karenina I received as a 15-year-old about to read it:

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the unexpected

This video plays on my computer at least once or twice a week:

This is because my USB wireless dongle craps out if you try to download too much at once. It’s a known issue between NetGenie products and Comcast. Yes, you can throttle down the speed, but that means pretending it’s 1999 and you’re spending two weeks downloading one song on Kazaa. When we discovered that long YouTube videos (kept up and running full-screen, not minimized!) kept the connection open and functioning, this became my go-to loop video to run as, for example, Elder Scrolls Online or ARK updated.

I never read YouTube comments. They’re bad for your health, is my thinking.

For this morning’s ESO update, though, as I frantically clicked open the looped video to avoid losing my wireless (which then necessitates a full restart), I accidentally scrolled down. And the top comment on this video is someone saying her 34-year-old son died listening to this. And to the Gladiator soundtrack and other stuff by Hans Zimmer. Somewhere there was a guy whose musical interests so well mirrored my own, and his mother found this and burst into tears because she remembered him listening to it on repeat as his cancer closed in on him. And he had been able to listen to it as he died because she knew her son, and the music he loved, and she found this for him in the fog of his pain.

Sometimes, reading the comments isn’t so bad.

no more waiting 

I was told not to read this until I was forty. But it was a fortysomething person telling me that, so for all I know he now thinks it would be better to wait until 50. But I’m done waiting. The bit about the panic in forgetting who you are upon waking was enough. The you don’t need Alzheimer’s lurking in your genes to feel such simple terror was enough. We read — I read — to see that we are not alone. So I’m not putting this one off any longer.

I know it’s not important and won’t fix anything.

Edit: I was lucky in my choice of translation, it seems.

the blight as climate change (and other theories)


Before anyone bristles at the idea of “wantonly politicizing” anything, let me point you to a few paragraphs from Last Flight, which I am currently reading (it’s the last Dragon Age book I’ve not yet read), and which details, among other things, the Fourth Blight:

Under the withering influence of the Blight’s magic, the coastlines had become bare strips of rock flagged wit the wrinkled skeletons of dead seaweeds. The ocean itself head deadened to a murky gray. Its fish had either fled or died, an the mussels and oysters that once fed the cities of Wycome, Hercinia, and Bastion had perished in the water, leaving vast beds of empty shells that clacked eerily in the tide.

Inland, the devastation was even greater, for it was not masked by the sea. Large swaths of the forests were dry and dead, the standing corpses of their trees blotched with unnatural fungi. Once-rich farmlands had turned to cracked hills of dust crowned by a few wispy stalks of headless barley. Children and livestock born under the clouds of the Blight tended to be small and weak, frequently deformed and easily lost to disease. The few wild birds and beasts that had escaped the traps and arrows of desperate Free Marchers had either starved or succumbed to corruption; after nearly a decade, even those that had survived long enough to become ghouls had died years ago.

This is not news, I know — we all knew the Blight made land unlivable — but the extent of it is worth noting. The extent, not just of its hordes of slavering minions, but of its long-term environmental effects. The sea creaking with the husks of dead mollusks is a particularly memorable detail. This isn’t a run-for-the-hills, come-back-when-the-Grey-Wardens-killed-all-the-darkspawn situation. Even when the people actively attacking you are dead, the landscape (or seascape!) you used to call home is fucked.

Speaking of the Grey Wardens:

“Were [blood mages] evil? I mean…were they all evil?”

The human woman shrugged. “I’d have to know what evil is to answer that, and I don’t believe I do anymore. The cleaner answer, the clearer one, is that they all broke the prohibition against maleficarum.”

“But why?” Valya pressed. “Doesn’t the why matter?”

“It should,” Reimas agreed, “but sometimes it can’t. Everyone has reasons for what they do. Some are persuasive, some are absurd. A few might be things I’d be tempted to believe. But how can you know? Whatever anyone tells you is only a tiny fragment of what is, and it’s colored by their perceptions and hopes and fears. Even if they’re honest — and what blood mage is, with either you or themselves? — their story is no more ‘real’ than a vision in the Fade. The one and only thing you can be sure of is that they have committed, and become, maleficarum. As a templar, that ends it. It has to.”

“The Grey Wardens have used blood magic,” Valya said. “What about them?”

“The Chantry teaches us that human pride and human ambition created the darkspawn,” she said, brushing her hair back into place when the breeze died out. “The magisters used blood magic to enter the Fade and despoil the Golden City, and in so doing, doomed all of Thedas to pay the price for their folly. Blood magic created the evil that the Grey Wardens devote their lives to stopping. I can’t help but feel that it is wrong to use that same cursed weapon to fight them.”

Soooo about that.

(Note: 90% of my traffic comes from people trying to google the World of Thedas recipes, so it’s unlikely this applies to you. But, for the sake of consistency, let me warn the statistically-unlikely remnant of you who may not have played Dragon Age: Inquisition and its Trespasser DLC, that there will be spoilers ahead for those, as well as for the Dragon Age comics.)

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