Recent Neat Things: Witches, Whishaw, Woolf

Time for a round up of Recent Neat Things. For the first edition of what will hopefully be a continuing series, I have mostly ‘W’ things. For some reason.

Music: Grimes and the ‘Witch House’ Genre

I never know what to say about the music I’m into, beyond “I like this — another” followed by my smashing something on the ground in glee. Grimes is good. Her music belongs to a number of genres, one of which is ‘witch house’, which I will admit I had never heard of before. My favourite Grimes songs are a bit too fey and airy for proper witch house (I think), so these songs are probably better examples of the genre: “Transgender” by Crystal Castles and this weird song by this weird Russian band.

Literature: Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts

15c_btaI have an ongoing fascination with Englishness and noise, so Woolf’s final novel appeals to me greatly. The narrative itself is very focused on sound — the noise of a gramophone (playing many different tunes but always returning to the chant “dispersed are we… dispersed are we…“) is a motif throughout the novel. More than that, though, the language that Woolf employs begs to be read aloud, to be heard. There are moments when her turns of phrase remind me of Old English poetry, with its primordial alliteration:

The old girl with a wisp of white hair flying, knobbed shoes as if she had claws corned like a canary’s…

Woolf’s prose here is very somatic — it is not just aural, but oral. Say it out loud, and you will enjoy the sound, but more importantly, you will enjoy the mouthfeel. “Claws corned like a canary’s” tastes like some sort of mantra or witchy spell; I’ve been muttering it under my breath at random points throughout my day.

Film: Lilting (2014)


Sad Gay Sweater Paws

I came for the sad, gay Ben Whishaw, and, let’s be real, that is part of why I stayed — but mostly I found myself captivated by the character of Vann. Vann serves as a translator between Junn and Richard, and it was fascinating to watch her fluctuations of identity. At points she utterly loses herself in the translation, slipping from third person to first person, subsuming her identity under the identity of the person for whom she is translating. She makes this pronoun slip during an argument between Richard and Junn, becoming Junn’s “I”, and Richard feels threatened, as if Vann is taking Junn’s “side.” In other scenes, Vann tries to assert her own agency by purposefully mistranslating, trying to push events in the direct she wants them to go. This also ends up making the other characters feel uneasy, threatened, out of control. Vann wields a great deal of power, but the other characters have the expectation that she will be an objective, impersonal conduit.

Desperate Attempt at Being in Control of My Life: Google Keep

I’m a sucker for ‘productivity apps’. I am under the constant delusion that if I have enough colour-coded lists, I will somehow be in control of my life. Google Keep is very minimalist — you can colour-code notes, and make checklists, and set reminders, but that’s about it. And this is good for me, as someone who tends to overload myself with tasks, get overwhelmed, and then crash and burn. That was very easy to do with HabitRPG (part of why I’ve quit using it for now), but difficult to do with Google Keep. Also, it lets you upload images for your notes, which means I can intersperse my tasks with pictures of Steve Rogers.

I'm a functional adult.

I’m a functional adult.

One thought on “Recent Neat Things: Witches, Whishaw, Woolf

  1. (Came here from tumblr)

    I saw Lilting recently! It’s interesting you mention Vann as the one with in control of conversation. I guess I didn’t notice it, because I speak Chinese. All of the conversations sounds like they’re doubling back, repetitive, dreamily echoing against themselves – lilting, in a sense. After awhile it gets hard to pay attention to what people understand or don’t understand, trying to remember that Junn didn’t speak English and Ben Whishaw didn’t speak Chinese. It felt like watching two people in separate cells. I can look inside both sets of bars, but they have a cement wall between them. I guess Vann guards the door in between. The ending frustrate me though. I can’t figure out if Sad Gay Ben Whishaw and Junn really understand each other, or if they only THINK they do, or if the film is suggesting the communication goes beyond language, or maybe language doesn’t matter in the face of Love and Grief and all that jazz. Sad Gay Ben Whishaw’s house in London was A+++ though. I want to live there and place my books in those minimalist Scandinavian wood shelves.

    And I do like Grimes. Her new album – Art Angels is more pop-dancey, but still really good! When did witches became such a hip thing for artsy kids?


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