Archive for March, 2008

Someone called Lindsay Addison has created a website with a pretty comprehensive listing of obscure (and some that I personally consider obscure) words used in the various Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It’s called Stephen R. Donaldson Ate My Dictionary, and I salute it and its creator.

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Full of emptiness

Life feels like limbo right at the moment. I’m waiting for my criminal record Freedom of Information access thingy to come back and in the meantime, I’m not really doing much of anything. My available funds have dropped to less than £700 now and that’s made me wary of doing stuff that would cost money – I have two trips to London (probably), a notarisation, an apostille and sending documents to Korea to pay for yet.

A week or so ago I had an interview with someone from Adventure Teaching – an agency for English teachers in Korea. It went OK, I suppose; sitting in the cold on the stairs I started getting more tense as the interview progressed. It mainly covered what kind of post I was looking for – student age, hagwon size, location etc.

I have been thinking of signing on once more and of looking for a part-time job, but a large part of me doesn’t want to (more accurately, doesn’t want to bother). I’ve been looking at information about Job Seeker’s Allowance, and there’s a possibility I might not be able to claim it as I left my last job in the UK voluntarily – if so that puts the kybosh on the idea of claiming and not trying very hard to get a job.

Having a job (or, strictly speaking, being paid) would also interfere with my sister’s benefits; she suggested a workaround for this: using her ex-partner’s address as mine. I don’t know what his address is at the moment.

I spent some time yesterday looking for roleplay games to join, and it looks like Manchester is my best bet for this. I’ve found a couple of gaming/comics shops – Travelling Man (whose Bristol branch I’ve been to a few times and has apparently closed – or is closing) and Fanboy3. The latter has roleplaying nights, but they look like they’re on weekdays, and I’d need to catch a train back to Whaley Bridge at about quarter to eleven.

On the slightly positive side, I’ve been playing Pharaoh. It’s quite an old game now, but it’s lost nothing of its playability. I think I’ve got further through it now than in the previous two periods I played it. For the first time on this go-around, I had to start a mission from scratch yesterday, having realised that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil one of the requirements (at least, not without major city redevelopment), which was to evolve four ‘palatial estates’. Some clues from a still-active discussion forum (whose logo is a palatial estate) helped me finish the level. Also, this time I’m playing the game on ‘hard’.

What else? I’ve been reading The Chronicles of Morgaine, but it’s a pretty big volume (a trilogy ‘on-my-bus’, in fact) so it’s taking a while. It’s also pretty good – better than Fortress in the Eye of Time.

I watched Sky’s The Colour of Magic over the weekend. I found the first part rather dull, to be honest. It seemed badly edited – lots of disparate scenes with little forward momentum making you want to watch more. The second part I watched at my sister’s ex’s (very spacious) flat, where she and the kids have been spending the holiday. Having to contend with small children climbing on me while watching somewhat enlivened the programme.

The last few weeks have been ruled by inertia (story of my life, ha). But in the next few I intend that there should be at least a little more going on.

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A book with covers

George R R Martin has just revealed the US and British covers of the long-awaited A Dance with Dragons on his blog. Naturally, the British one is far superior.

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Visiting George R R Martin’s newly refurbished blog today I found a link to this piece on Robin Hobb’s website – on the subject of the pernicious evil of blogging.

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Nuclear underpants

Despite my dwindling funds, I’ve just ordered some more music from an eBay shop called The Electric Trousers Store. The description says they ‘specialise in rock, metal, punk and indie’, but they don’t have an especially extensive range – there’s certainly very little contemporary metal. The shop has over 50,000 positive ratings and 11 negative.

I got the last two Queen studio albums I don’t have – A Day at the Races and News of the World – and their live album with Paul Rodgers, and the other Police album I don’t have – Outlandos d’Amour.

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Soon, but not yet

Today I had a letter from Derbyshire Constabulary. It confirmed receipt of my subject access request for information about me held by the police (the new Korean regulations for granting visas mean that prospective English teachers need to have a criminal background check. If I was getting a job in the UK this would be done by the Criminal Records Bureau, but only organisations can initiate this; getting a disclosure under Data Protection provisions is the next best thing). I might as well quote the letter directly:

Your application has been processed by Derbyshire Constabulary and forwarded to the National Identification Service who will reply direct to you.

Please note that the Police service, in common with all other users of computers, is required to supply the information within 40 days of receiving such a request. There are a considerable number of requests similar to the one made by yourself and as a result the reply from the National Identification service is likely to be towards the end of the 40 day period.

Should you have not received you response by 19/04/2008 we ask that you make contact with this office in order for further enquiries to be made on your behalf.

The letter is dated 11 March and 40 days before the deadline it mentions would be 10 March. I sent the application off at the end of February, so either it took its time getting there or the 40 day period started when Derbyshire Police sent it to this NIS … or it was just sitting in an in-tray for a week. I really ought to have done this earlier, but not for nothing do I tag myself ‘the Prince of Procrastination’.

If I take this letter at its word (so to speak), I won’t be returning to Korea, probably, until May … hmm, around about the time of my birthday, in fact.

I’ve recently been in touch with a couple of parties regarding teaching jobs – one being the fiancée of one friend in Korea, the other being Adventure Teaching, an agency recommended by another friend in Korea – and I’ve e-mailed them to give them the news. Having had a similar experience last time with my university transcripts, I reckon it’s going to put a damper on job offers until I get it sorted.

I’ve also found a group on Facebook snappily entitled The Korean E2 Visa Application Helpdesk Centre for UK & Irish Applicants. It has what seems to be an excellent guide to the visa application process – it has similar information to what I’ve gleaned from other sources, but all in one place and specifically oriented to inhabitants of the British Isles. From this, I gather that once I get my liberated information I’ll have to take the document to a solicitor to get it notarised, and then take it to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to get it apostilled (which is essentially notarising the notarisation). Which will entail another trip to London and more expense (I could post it, but it’ll be much quicker to go in person).

Also, it looks like the days of the traditional ‘visa run’ to Japan are over; according to what I’ve read, visa issuance will be, um, issued from Korea and I’ll then have to take that to the Korean embassy to finally get the visa. Which will entail another trip to London and more expense (I could post it, but it’ll be much quicker to go in person).

With all this prospective expense and such it occurs to me that I could, indeed, ought to get a part-time job (the shock! the horror!) – my savings account is now down to a measly three figures (not including those after the decimal point). I’m thinking something along the lines of shelf-stacking – nothing too demanding. Also, it gives me the go-ahead to try establishing a social life in the area. I’ve thought on and off of joining a roleplay group or a book club, but, well, we all know about my procrastinatory nature.


Whilst writing this post I had a sudden revelation and made a decision of a nigh on life-changing nature … and I’m not going to tell you what it is.

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David Langford, Ansible 248, referring to a quote from Snarky Bastards.

In the same edition, Langford comments, vis a vis the recent death of Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, ‘I liked the on-line suggestion that fans should club together to build him a vast tomb full of the deadliest imaginable traps.’

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Most books one reads, one has little idea what exactly will happen, but reading the original novel of one of the most famousest stories ever is a little different. My secondhand edition is actually a tie-in with the Francis Ford Copola film from the 1990s (how long ago that was), which I’ve seen, but not at all recently, so it’s difficult to compare the movie to the novel. In fact, while I tended to visualise Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman in their respective roles, the rest I imagined anew (Winona Ryder I left out completely – and anyway, was she Mina Harker or Lucy Westenra?).

The best part of the book, by far, is the first four chapters, wherein Jonathan Harker travels to and is imprisoned in Castle Dracula. The story is thick with mystery and tension, and while we, the reader, know exactly what the deal is with Count Dracula, Jonathan’s bewildered account creates a certain incipient terror.

The next section of the story deals with Mina and Lucy exchanging gossip. Actually, the rest of the book is an anticlimax – much weaker than that opening segment.

The story takes the form, mostly, of diary entries from a number of characters. This has its merits – it can have a great immediacy, and is an important part of the book’s 19th century character – but in Dracula it also brings some problems – or, in fact, one big problem: lots of redundant stuff. Like, for instance, the aforementioned gossip – which, OK, is there to build the characters – but as I read the novel I got more and more irritated by all the praise the characters heap on one another.

The resolution of the story is pretty weak. Once Van Helsing and company have found all of Dracula’s chests of earth, how does this epitome of evil respond? He runs off back to Transylvania. Once the good guys finally catch up to him and are about to decapitate him, what does he do? Well, nothing – it’s still daylight and he’s a vampire.

On the subject of daylight, it was interesting to see that the sun’s light didn’t harm Dracula at all – it just reduced his powers, such that he couldn’t change form. Having said that, there also seemed to be an inconsistency in that sometimes Dracula was up and about in the daytime, yet sometimes he was immobile in his coffin.

One little thing I kind of liked was that Van Helsing, being Dutch, doesn’t speak perfect English; for instance, he doesn’t conjugate his verbs (ie, he doesn’t add -ed or -s).

I can quite imagine that the reason Dracula is such a popular subject for screen adaptation is that, while the central idea is fantastic, the plot is relatively weak. Filmmakers therefore have to rewrite the story for it to stand any hope on the big screen, thus merging their own ideas with the classic vampire tale.

It’s an intersting book, and actually very readable, but dated and something of a disappointment.

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Post watch

Last week I posted a box of books to a friend in Korea. The books are for me – they’re a selection of books I own but haven’t read, and really ought to read. Plus, it’ll save me having to buy books over there (although I like buying books – hence all these unread ones). I expect over the next year I’ll get Toll the Hounds (Steven Erikson) and Necrophenia (Robert Rankin), which are due out this summer, and maybe A Dance with Dragons, should George R R Martin finally get round to finishing it. Before I left Korea last year I posted my self a similar but larger box; if I remember rightly it weighed about 20kg and cost 40-odd thousand won (20-odd pounds). The package I sent last week weighed 8kg and cost £75. £75!

Also recently, I received Reise, Reise (Rammstein) and Queen Rock Montreal, having won them on eBay. They only took a month to arrive – and, in fact, got here a couple of days after I sent a second message to the seller asking where they were. Haven’t really listened to the Queen CD, but the Rammstein is pretty good – it has a big, fat, epic kind of sound.

I’ve currently got a couple of bids in on the two Rammstein albums I don’t yet have – Mutter und Herzeleid. I suppose I can only hope that they’ll arrive a little more swiftly – before I depart for the Orient, anyway.

Whilst on eBay, I had a brief look at kinetic watches. The idea of a watch that powers itself from your body movement and is therefore self-sufficient (as it were), is very appealing, but they are very expensive (my current watch was £25 several years ago; it’s had three new batteries, I think). Anyway, I noticed that most of the pictures of the watches showed the time as 7-10 minutes past 10. Strange, but surely not a coincidence. The explanation that occurred to me was that the hands at this time form a tick, and therefore constitute a subliminal message: ‘A-OK’.

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If you spend any time in London, you can expect to see the occasional random famous person – or at least a person you recognise from TV – walking down the street. You don’t expect it so much out in the provinces. I’m sitting in a Subway in the Arndale Centre, and had just finished writing my post about my guitar case when I saw John Thomson (of Fast Show fame) walk past.

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