Spring Fever, Part Deux

So you know how I was talking about how awesome spring is when it comes to northern France? Scratch all that. Spring is the product of an evil, mocking God. It's as if Persephone keeps telling Demeter that she'll be out in a minute, really, just let her finish up one or two things, she's on her way, she promises, and Demeter sort of thinks that possibly Persephone is delaying her on purpose because she's busy losing her virginity to the Lord of Death, making her (Demeter) behave like some sort of manic depressive alcoholic psychopath, all throwing empty bottles around the room and having hysterics about ungrateful children and how they expect everything from you and then leave you with nothing and don't care about your feelings even though you slept with your little brother and gave birth to them for heaven's sake.

So we had that lovely sunny weather. Then it rained. Normal.

Then it snowed. The third snowfall we've had this year. Then it cleared up. Then it rained some more. Then it half cleared again, then it SLEETED. Then it sleeted some more. Then it poured rain. Then it cleared up and looked pretty.

Did I mention that that whole description of the weather is a description of what the weather has done since eight o'clock this morning? I thought living up in the mountains I'd seen it all, like the one time junior year when snow came crisply and beautifully down out of a completely clear blue sky. But as temperamental as the weather in a high desert area can be, it at least has the benefit of being relatively dry most of the time. And it is extremely annoying to have to change clothes three times a day, and then get caught with no overcoat while it is sleeting, because when you left the house half an hour ago, it was half clear and sunny and you didn't need an overcoat.

Sigh. At least my boots remain my (waterproof) touchstone.


L. M. Montgomery -- The Blue Castle

This was a Montgomery I hadn't read before -- although it doesn't make much difference. Her books tend to blend together after awhile. Of course I can still distinguish Anne from Emily -- one has red hair and the other black, uh duh -- but they all, novels, short stories, series -- follow the same mold, and are about roughly the same thing, the only difference being that sometimes she writes about small children finding fraternal and parental love in small towns in Canada (usually from tough, aunt-like old maids who find their lives mysteriously turned around by the young orphan or half orphan or whatever that they have graciously agreed to care for from a sense of duty) and sometimes she writes about young women who have paricular, dreamy notions about what love ought to be and what is waiting for them, and gently or ungently are led to the realization that the boy they have known from childhood fits the very ideal they didn't know they had in small towns in Canada. (The revelations take place at night, either from the fear that the loved one is going to die, or the conviction that he will soon marry someone else, or a significant look passed between them while other people chatter on, oblivious. Occasionally a combination of two or more of the above.) Often the heroine has literary ambitions of one sort or another, and we can thrill and sympathize with her acceptances and rejections by popular magazines. And of course, there are always poetical descriptions of the Canadian wilderness -- or small rural towniness -- in the various seasons, somehow always managing to be beautiful, when really you're willing to bet that beautiful or not, the characters are freezing their collective asses off. (Our Heroine isn't beautiful, though -- it's always her best friend, or occasionally her cousin, who's really the stunner. But Our Heroine is beautiful in an unconvential way -- in certain lights and moods and whatevers she manages to outshine her companions. So she finds True Love anyway.)

Sometimes you get the feeling that you know rather more about Ms. Montgomery's psyche than she is aware of having told you. But anyway.

All this is very satisfying to read about, as long as you don't expect anything different. You can read a new book and have it feel like an old one. Whatever Josephine Tey's bedridden detective says about it, there are times when a new-old book is the most comforting and fun kind to read. You have all the fun of a new book, new characters and twists and turns you haven't exactly taken before -- but at the same time it's very un-taxing on the brain and you know exactly how it will turn out, and you can enjoy the ride free of any sort of stress or anxiety, just getting pleasantly emotionally involved with the heroine's various love trials while knowing it will end perfectly wonderfully for everyone involved.

The Blue Castle
is a case in point, obviously, or I would have been describing it for the last three paragraphs. It is almost the Platonic form of Montgomery. Valancy Stirling, an old maid at twenty-nine and completely under her mother's thumb, whose only joy comes from reading nature books by an anonymous author and her own daydreams of a Blue Castle, complete with white knights, has been suffering heart palpitations. She goes to the doctor and discovers she is seriously ill and has anywhere from a month to a year to live. After a "white night" -- Montgomery's words -- she decides (as one does) that she's sick of living for other people. She begins saying exactly what she thinks to her family members -- causing a predictable amount of rumpus -- , and eventually leaves to nurse a dying classmate who is scorned by the other townsfolk for having a child out of wedlock. Under her death sentence, Valancy becomes more and more emotionally free, and eventually marries Barney Snaith, a local recluse with a bad reputation. If you've ever read a Montgomery book -- or really, any book -- before now, you know what's coming. But it's fun nonetheless.

Valancy isn't quite as charming as Anne or Emily -- which is pretty much why it's a standalone -- but she's fun to read about; equal parts submissive and sarcastic, and interesting either way. Her Barney can be annoying at times, (but so can Emily's Teddy; not even this is new) and very occasionally I wanted to bop him on the head with something moderately heavy. A puppy, say, or a large paperback book. But I could see why Valancy fell for him (I keep wanting to type Valency, as if she were an electron), and nothing he did offended me too much. Not my type, but they can't all be Gilbert. Who, now that I think of it, occasionally showed traces of the same sexism as all the others, so what can you do.

I finished the whole thing in one day -- most of it in one evening, because I was putting off application work. And I got exactly as emotionally involved as I wanted to be. I like Valancy; she doesn't have Anne's charm, but she's got conviction, and she's fun in a modern kind of way. She's sarcastic, and she does things for good reasons. Plus, the men around her are allowed to swear and get drunk off their asses without her minding at all. She is not allowed to do these things -- nor does she have any desire to do them -- but it's refreshing that the other characters not held back by her ladylike charms. And her love story is relatively believable, if you're in the Montgomery mindset when you start the book.

It has all the usual Montgomery weaknesses, of course. If you're not in the mood for it, there's no point reading it; you'll only get annoyed. Even in the mood for it, there are three or four scenes that just go on too long. Montgomery's dialogue is generally very strong, but she can get carried away in her descriptions. Yes, we get the point. A paragraph by paragraph description of each of Valancy's many aunts and uncles, and the individual ways in which they have been horrible to her isn't necessary. Nor is a three page description of her various childhood tragedies, nor is the detailed description of the Canadian wilderness in month of the year. Thank you, Lucy, we get it. I'll be sure to vacation there the very next chance I get. Move the damn story along, why don't you?

But the general impression of the book is sweet, and predictible, and nice. You're happy for the lovers, and it's comforting to see Valancy turn her life around. No reminders of the actual annoyances of living in her circumstances, or anything like that. Only exactly as much salt as Montgomery puts in to make her books readable. Very relaxing after a long day, but don't read it when you have things you'd rather be doing. If that makes sense.


Why I Am Not a Meteorologist

I think that might possibly be the worst career choice possible: I take the weather so personally. Right now, for example, the weather is taunting me. It is sunny, and gorgeous, and warm (as in I don't have to wear my winter jacket while I'm exercising) and the flowers are in bloom and it is springlike and wonderful, and my soul is lapping it up like springtime manna, or whatever the appropriate metaphor would be. And I can see God in the background going, "heh. You like this, puny human? You think this is just awesome, don't you? Think it's great, being able to go outside in sunglasses and a light sweater. Think your problems are over, think spring's here and you'll be able to deal with your life and keep your room clean and exercise regularly and be happy. You totally think that, don't lie. Well, guess what! It's MARCH! This shit won't last! I could take it away at any moment! You're going to relax your guard, just like you do at the top of Drop Zone or whatever that ride is called, and then I'm going to bring back the rain and send your psyche plummeting into emotional apathy and ruin." (This is God from the Old Testament, obviously.) So I think, if I were a meteorologist, and both saw it coming and took it personally, I would lose all will to live.


Reread Reviews -- Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden

So I have actually been reading new books too, but I am currently in the middle of a few long ones (deliberately; I love it when I know it will be awhile before I finish) so I have very little to write about in the way of books I've just read for the first time. (Although I'm looking forward to finishing Maia, just so I can harsh on Richard Adams' sexist nonsense in public.)

But I did just reread a couple, and I can have thoughts about them, can't I?

The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You know, I liked A Little Princess better when I was a kid, and I thought maybe now I'm older the gap would have closed. But, no, I was right the first time: Little Princess is a better book. For one thing, Sara is a more compelling character than Mary. But much more than that -- a hell of a lot more happens in A Little Princess. I don't just mean the whole being rich, being poor, being rich again thing, I mean that Sara's days are just more full and involve more things than Mary's do. The whole point of The Secret Garden is that there is absolutely nothing for Mary to do all day except to dig around in the dirt looking for keys and bulbs and whatnot, and as a kid it was reasonably compelling, but I'm sitting here as an adult, and the whole thing just sounds intensely dull. When I have nothing to do except dig around in the dirt I either find a book or kill myself. I realize that the point of the book is that Mary's mind and body and spirit and all are healed from her communion with nature, and it's touching, but it's not nearly as interesting as I thought it was when I was a child.

And you know I'm not a kid anymore because instead of charming and mysterious I found Dickon a little smug. And Colin! God, don't get me started. I'd totally forgotten how much Burnett likes to talk about Magic without actually crossing the line and writing, you know, a fantasy book, and in Little Princess it more or less works, because it's a person doing things that appear magical to other people, and it's kind of fun, you can see it from both sides. But the whole Magic of Nature thing doesn't have the human interest element, and I'm very sorry, but Colin's smug little speeches are the height of annoyance. I ended up skimming through all that stuff. There's no humor in the story, and Mary doesn't have Sara's drive and therefore it's much harder to identify with her. The best scenes are when Mary and Colin are both screaming their fool heads off at each other.

As a whole, really disappointing. I have clearer memories of the movie than of the book, and that is really sad.

Disturbing Trend

So I'm not a very good teacher yet, and every time I find something that remotely works I immediately use it in every single class where it would be remotely applicable. Sometimes this works well, sometimes I grossly misjudge my audience, and sometimes the effects are just incredibly bizarre.

The latest example is the Detective Game, which, for the unitiated, involves sending a volunteer out into the hallway, deciding on a criminal, deciding on a crime, sometimes deciding on a victim, and bringing the detective back into the room to ask penetrating questions and try to force the witnesses to crack under the pressure (read: start giggling uncontrollably). It's not very complicated, it's not especially exciting, except for the few seconds when it's time to choose volunteers, but it gets the job done and it's wicked good for practicing questions in the past tense. (To illustrate while protecting the innocent, guilty, and "dead" I will use the French equivalents of John and Jane.)

So I have played it with my sixieme (6th grade), and the crimes and questions are very simple. "Have you got the glove?" and so forth. And I played it with my cinqieme (7th grade) and they already know the past tense, so the questions become things like "Did you take the glove?" and "Did you sell the drugs?" and occasionally "Did you attack Jean?" Today, however, was the first time I played it with my quatrieme (8th grade) students, and, since they are very familiar with the past, you have to work to find verbs they don't already know. So for about half an hour today, I had a pint-sized Sam Spade wannabe demanding of his classmates "Did you decapitate Jeanne?"

I rather suspect that were I to play it with the ninth graders, we'd eventually degenerate into "Did you take over the world?" and "Did you cause the Holocaust?"


Spring Fever

Oh, my God, it is the third sunny day in a row. I am SO HAPPY. God, every year, I mock my dad for how enthusiastic he gets about springtime, and this year is no exception, but after living out here for six months I understand much better. I think this is the longest in a row I've seen the sun since Christmas in California. It makes me feel like I used to back when summer vacation meant laying around with a book, rather than working at a summer job. Sun is so exciting.


The Vacation of La Rochelle

So my week sucked ass last week (people! stop taking my shit! it is mine! get your own shit! then it will be yours! gah!) and I was completely unable to deal with it, and had a breakdown. Said brekadowns are becoming, not at all coincidentally, a monthly occurence, which is also annoying.

But anyway. One of the suckinesses of last week was that I was planning to go to Amsterdam this weekend, and had to cancel that trip, but on the advice of a friend, instead of moping around all weekend, I took myself off for a mini-vacation. So I am in La Rochelle today, the Santa Cruz of France, which I picked because Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan laid seige to it in The Three Musketeers. Other candidates were Tours, where Aramis's mistress lived, and Brest, which was actually recommended to me by someone who went there, but La Rochelle won out. (No, not all my geougraphical knowledge of France comes from Dumas. How could you suggest such a thing? Some of it comes from Hugo and de Laclos.)

And since I am here, and the train ticket was less than half of what I though the train ticket to Amsterdam was going to be, I am splurging, staying in an honest-to-God, very fancy, real live, cheap hotel instead of a hostel. The hotel comes with free wifi, too, so I shall post pictures soon, of La Rochelle and of the castle in Nantes, which I got to see while I was waiting for my train. It has a real moat, which is just so exciting. To me. Shut up.

So, in conclusion, soon I will get all caught up on my updates, and talk about Prague and Angers and Nantes and the Veronica Mars reveal (which everyone seems to have predicted except me, but I prefer it that way) but right now I am going to go freeze my feet off in the Atlantic.


Veronica Mars -- Papa's Cabin

Oh, my God, LUCKY TIM! That was totally awesome. That was the best reveal since Aaron Echolls. And I liked the different format, where it was very verbal, very not a thriller, although I must admit I was very nervous that Tim would try to stab her in front of all the other criminology students.

Everyone -- by which I mean my sister and TWoP, but which would include my mother if my mother were keeping up on Veronica Mars instead of just waiting for the DVDs so that she can fast-forward through any scenes that don’t feature Logan -- (kidding, Mom, kidding) -- (it’s totally true, everyone except Mom, you know it is) -- predicted the Lucky Tim killer thing. But I love being surprised, so I don’t mind feeling a little dumb to that end.

I did have the satisfaction of feeling like something was off about Tim for the first thirty-eight minutes of the episode. The whole time, even as I was enjoying Veronica being teamed up with someone and also getting to tell him what to do (she really does need Wallace and/or Piz and/or Mac to help her more actively in her cases, simply because I would find it fun and hilarious), there was the impending doom feeling of Wait A Minute, No Way is Tim Really That Stupid. (But dude, the latex glove scene was hilarious.)

I generally really like the villains’ motivations on VM, and think they’re believable and interesting. I think the creators do a good job generally of making them personal enough to resonate. (There are one or two exceptions; I didn’t love the fake rape and the reason behind it; I get both of those on an intellectual level but it was hard for me to plug into the characters and they didn’t resonate with me as I think they should/could have. But I liked the thought and effort that went into them.) This particular motivation, though, carries a certain amount of both resonance and catharsis on a purely personal level. You see, back in my formative years (read: a year and a half ago) I had a lovely prof who I admired and respected, who gave me lovely grades and had nothing but nice things to say about me in my conferences. She paid me very high compliments and said totally fantastic things about my paper. (I was the best paper I’ve ever written, so it deserved lots of good things said about it. But I digress.) So, the following year I ask her for a recommendation and she hems and haws and says that she can’t in good conscience recommend me for a grad school program and she has reservations about my writing. Now no one should recommend a student they don’t feel comfortable recommending, but for heaven’s sweet sake, students generally won’t ask you to recommend them unless you pay them lots of compliments and talk like you think they’re brilliant, and it’s a very annoying mixed message to send. (This prof pulled the same stunt on a couple of my friends, too, so I kind of think she was just passive-agressive.)

In any case, to return to Not-All-About-Me Land, what Landry did is far worse, since you should never say you’ll serve as a reference for someone and then not actually give them a good reference. But it was so much fun -- and if not exactly realistic, certainly just as realistic as anything else on VM -- that Tim would want to set Landry up for the murder to get back at him. I never considered that particular solution, but then, I was a philosophy major. (Now I’m trying to think of what the philosophy major alternative would have been. Maybe having her on my oral committee and then making her look like an idiot.)

Moving. On. Because this is dull to everyone except me.

I am so totally bummed that Lamb really is dead. I don’t mind the way he died; I thought the show sent him off as well as TV shows generally do; there’s no real way to kill off a main character so that you don’t piss everyone off. When you’re putting your main characters in more or less life and death situations every week, it’s really hard to have a death that’s meaningful. Because if something fairly standard gets them -- as with Lamb -- then you feel sort of gypped; but if something Very Special happens to kill them off -- the example that comes to mind is the death of Dax on DS9 -- then you feel like it does their character a disservice, because the very special thing is also generally very stupid, and you’re like, what? huh? and it feels too sudden and disconnected from the show as a whole. So really, there’s no way to win when you kill off a credits-character. There are ways to not lose as badly; Buffy used to do pretty well with that kind of thing, Joyce’s death was well done and Tara’s didn’t especially suck, but then, they dropped the ball with Anya and Spike, so what can you do. So the way Lamb died didn’t especially bother me, but the fact that he died did, if that makes sense. I thought Lamb was just so entertaining, and Muhney did such a wonderful job; I’m really going to miss that dynamic.

And you know, I really like Veronica and Keith better as PIs. I think that that element gives the show part of its noir grittiness, and I associate Keith being sherriff with the time before Lilly died, when Veronica was -- not dumber, but less hardcore, less interesting, less jaded, less fun to watch. As I think I’ve posted about before, I really like having Veronica need to walk the line between being a good PI and being a well-adjusted human being, and I think that line is easier to walk if you’re a regular police officer or sherriff, because you’re up against people breaking definite laws rather than people being kind of morally awful. I mean, Keith and Veronica handled things that were agains the law, as well, obviously; they just went after Dean O’Dell’s killer. But they also spent a lot of time going after people who were cheating on their spouses, or handling cases that the law couldn’t just step in and cover, and if the show loses that sort of -- how do I want to say? Reliance on situation? Moral grayness? Moral discussions, that kind of thing? If it simply becomes a matter of catching people who are breaking the law, I think it will lose a lot and I would be really disappointed. However, due to all the philosophical reading and so forth, I have a very black and white, idealistic view of what laws should be and what following them should mean, so I think I see a necessity to be more black and white that doesn’t actually exist. And I do trust the show not to lose its moral grayness; in the interviews I’ve read they seem very keen on that element and very determined to keep it. So if they can keep pulling off the kind of episodes they’ve been doing, but with Keith as sherriff, that will be really interesting, and I’ll be very impressed.

Oh, and I haven’t even hardly talked about the plot. I liked that Landry killed Mindy, by the way, and I like that it was an accident. Not because I don’t like Mindy -- I didn’t love her, but she was fine, whatever, hardly matters -- but because I really liked where that left us-the-viewers with regards to Landry’s character. Because Landry has never been exactly eeeeeevil, he has always been very self-serving, arrogant, and kind of slimy. And I like that, if we’re going to finish up with him (at least for awhile) that we get left with that taste in our mouths. He doesn’t exactly mean to kill Mindy -- not in the evil mastermind way of Lucky Tim -- but he doesn’t exactly mean for her to live, either. I thought the end of his arc was very consistent with his character, and I really liked that. And I won’t really miss Mindy, either; she was kind of a self-serving brat.

Oh, what else? I’ll be interested to see how Logan and Parker work out. I’d like to get invested in their relationship, but it will be difficult, since it’s been a long time since I was as invested in a TV romance as I am in the Logan/Veronica relationship. I mean, Willow and Oz were awesome, in a warm-fuzzies way, but I don’t usually get invested in relationships as dramatic as L&V’s. Buffy/Angel did nothing for me; neither did Rory/Jess on Gilmore Girls. I think it’s a tribute to Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring that I care so much what their characters think of each other, since usually this kind of relationship would bother me and in fact I haven’t squealed at the TV this much since Mulder and Scully. Before they started sucking completely, I mean. But go for it, Logan, ask out Parker; maybe Veronica can date Piz for awhile. And then you can come running back to each other like two little dysfunctional pinballs in love. (Which is totally going to be the name of my new album.)

Okay, enough rambling. No, wait, one more thing. I have to say, I really hope they keep the mini-arc format instead of just individual episode by episode mysteries next season. I like the episode by episode mysteries just fine, and it’s not like I’ll boycot in protest or anything (heaven forbid). But it takes out some of the fun if you don’t have a few episodes in between to try to guess who did it. Bare minimum, I hope they have a few three and four parters -- not just one and two -- next season, because I think they do them just brilliantly.


Veronica Mars -- Mars, Bars

Not my favorite episode of the season, but still very strong, very enjoyable. I know my sister loved it and I can totally see why. Part of the problem was that I had, like, three days in between watching the first half and watching the end, so I sort of lost the plot for awhile.

One thing at a time. The scavenger hunt. I still love the Mac/Bronson pairing, although I wish they got more screen time, and I continue wishing we'd had more chances to see the relationship develop. They're cute enough that they could really milk it for awhile. I guess they did that with Beaver, and now the viewers would be suspicious and all if she didn't get some pretty quick, but... I don't know. They remind me more of like, Willow and Oz from Buffy except that they're going so quick. I hope Bronson sticks around for awhile, I feel like we the viewers don't know him that well. I think I would be all for a Logan/Parker pairing too, actually, if I weren't still so hung up on Logan and Veronica. After the (AWESOME) elevator ride last week I can't get invested in a new relationship so quickly... if I could, though, I would think that Logan and Parker are a pretty good match. Seems like she would keep him in line to a certain extent; she's outgoing in a very different way from Veronica and she doesn't really cut Logan slack for his bullshit, but also doesn't get so emotionally invested in his behavior (which I think Veronica did from the very beginning, because of their very tangled history) so that she can let him off the hook for certain behaviors that Veronica wouldn't tolerate. So yes, I think that the relationship could work, but I'm still sort of firmly on the Veronica side of the equation.

Jail... the jail stuff was pretty good, although I have to say, my parents would have killed me if I was jailed for being some sort of accomplice and then smartmouthed about it. Like, I get that Veronica and Keith have a very different relationship, and you know, it's TV, and it's Veronica, of course she's going to snark off, and I would probably find it funnier if I had seen more of the movies that she referenced. But it seemed like such an inappropriate time to be sarcastic that it kind of annoyed me. Not that she should have felt guilty or submissive by any means, but geez, you can tone it down a little, Veronica. On the other hand, I thought Wallace's comment to Sherriff Lamb was hilarious beyond all reason. Not because Lamb acts remotely gay, but because the wordplay was clever, the turnaround was appropriate, and it was sort of nice to see someone make a joke at Lamb's expense that wasn't about how ineffective and stupid he is. Not that that ever gets old, exactly, but it was nice to see Wallace reacting in a way Lamb wasn't expecting.

On the topic of Lamb... I'm kind of refusing to believe he's actually dead. I mean, everyone's sort of treating it like he is, so probably I'm wrong, I haven't read any spoilers, I don't know. But the fact that Keith was there, and Lamb said something to him, the fact that Keith got the call and sort of immediately became acting Sherriff again... I kind of feel like he and Lamb sort of planned the whole thing so that they could somehow together catch Dean O'Dell's killer. Of course there is Lamb shooting the mirror that works against that argument; it would have been a hard situation to be in control of, and all that, and the idea of Lamb and Keith working together without being forced is seriously hard to believe. But it would be the kind of twist this show could pull off really well, theoretically, so I'll actually be pretty disappointed if Lamb is just straightforwardly dead. Although the people you know dying thing is also something this show does well, so there you go. Anyway. I thought the death was well done, but I'll be sad if it sticks, I think Lamb is an absolutely awesome addition to the show, and although his send off was good I'll totally miss him. Plus I like Keith and Veronica much better as PIs; I don't want to see Keith lose his edginess if he becomes sherriff again.

Landry and Mindy... okay, I don't know who killed the dean, but if it's either of them, or Mindy's ex, whose name I have never bothered to memorize, I will need some serious twists and turns to make that okay. Like if it's sort of straightforwardly one of them, for a reason we've already been exposed to, that would disappoint me. I can't believe that it would be Mindy; the thing that makes the most sense to me right now is it being Landry, Mindy knowing it, and her asking Keith to investigate it so that she can stop covering for him, because she doesn't love him anymore, or something like that. In fact, that's sort of my best prediction at this point, but there'd have to be at least one more twist to make it okay. Also, I can't see Dean O'Dell being like "What are you doing here?" all calm and confused if Landry showed up in his office after that particular evening. I also can't see someone as intelligent as Landry using Veronica's perfect murder setup to get away with his own; seems like he'd use his own ideas. And I'd be upset too if it were Mindy's ex, unless he was working with someone (preferably one of the kids). Okay, those are my muddled thoughts, now I get to go find out who it actually was.

Still More Vienna

Bah. Teach me to start a post, get distracted by Feministing, forget to save and then sit around on my ass until Mozilla self-quits and eats my post because it hates me. Now I must describe again my last full Vienna day.

Since it was not entirely cloudy or pissing down rain, I started at the giant ferris wheel. I was expecting something along the lines of the London Eye, more of a sightseeing tool than an amusement park ride, but no, it was part of a small amusement park (the rest of which was closed, it being February). The ferris wheel is pretty massive, but it's like a luxury theme park ride. You can see a lot of the city from the top, though, and it's a gorgeous ride. Plus, the little amusement park, which has a couple of fairly small roller coasters, the usual throw-up rides, a water ride, etc., (it is very little though; think Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk without the beach, the boardwalk, or the good Mexican food) and is next to a minigolf course and a planetarium. If I lived in Vienna year round, and therefore spoke German, I think I would spend all summer at that place. Mini golf and a planetarium within three minutes walk from each other? I'm tempted to move to Vienna and learn German to get in on that action. As it was though, I settled for grafitiing the ferris wheel and moving on. In the corner of one of those cars is a teeny tiny 'Libby USA 2007'.

After that was the adventure of finding the Austrian Resistance Museum. I've been reading Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which, though dry, is very informative, and so I'm curious about any WWII memorial type things European cities happen to have lying around. There's a monument, in downtown Vienna, that I also saw, it's mostly just depressing without being super informative, but it's nice to see the effort. Living here is giving me stronger feelings about the war -- it's such recent and real history here that it's hard not to be affected. I don't notice, and don't notice, and then I saw this memorial erected on the site of an apartment building that was bombed by the Allies. In France, I see that kind of thing and feel guilty on my country's behalf for how little we valued the destruction of European cities in our invasion; we seemed to have no conception that people actually lived there. But in Austria I found myself having a much more emotional reaction -- something along the lines of well that's what you GET when you SIDE WITH THE NAZIS. Which is unfair, and sad, and inappropriate. I'm embarrassed that I had that reaction, but between being here and the reading, I couldn't quite suppress it right away. It's been... odd. One of the things I find most upsetting is the sheer numbers in support (although the Nazis did not in fact command an absolute majority of voters before they outlawed every other political party; interesting fact) and how quicky so many countries had to just turn their political philosophies completely on a dime. I can't even imagine... Obviously, of course, it wasn't that cut and dry; there were so many people and they had so many different opinions, and anyway that's what happens when you lose a war. But the difference between "in power over half of Europe" and "the byword for absolute evil" is so big, and the change had to take place so quickly... not that I'm questioning either of those labels, at all, but that's something else that just makes it so difficult. I have to just read more until it starts to make sense, I think.

Anyway, case in point is the Resistance Museum, which is what I was talking about before I got sidetracked. The Resistance in Austria, unlike its French counterpart, was kind of tiny and ineffective. (This is not my interpretation. The museum admits this upfront.) They passed out pamphlets, basically, which didn't change much except to get most of them killed. The museum itelf is small, although I think the library it houses, which is reserved for academics and people who speak German, is more extensive. It's very interesting, though, and the explanations in English were good.

After that, I wandered some, ate a salad, and tried to talk myself into doing something musical. You can't really visit Vienna and not do something musical, I argued to myself. But my appreciation of music is roughly comparable to a deaf dingo's, myself argued back. And I'm all alone, no one will ever need to know I blew off seeing anything remotely musical in the one European city that is completely famous for its composers. Bullshit, I argued back, how can you tell anyone you went to Vienna and didn't see Mozart's memorial at least? This continued until we struck a compromise... I would walk in the direction of the House of Music, the big, famous, music museum in Vienna, and if I could find it, and if it were open (it was nearly 5pm by this time) then I would go, dick around a little bit, and reward myself for it by going to the movies in English in the evening. Aren't you all glad you don't travel with me? Think of how confusing this stuff could be to negotiate! Oh, wait.

Anyway, it turned out to be an absolutely brilliant move to go there, so much so that I blew off the movie afterward because I'd had such a good time. It got off to a great start because first of all, it was open until ten, so I had as much time to poke around as I wanted, and second of all, the lady at the desk gave me student rate despite me actually being a teacher. The House of Music is divided into four or five parts, each dedicated to different things, and it's brilliant. The first part is about the Vienna Philharmonic, and is only moderately self serving. And I say that partly because after seeing a video of their New Year's Concert (well, part of it) I was inspired to buy the CD because they are awesome. That section was fine. After that there's a whole floor dedicated to how your ear perceives sound -- the different parts of the ear, sound waves and how they travel, even a room where you get to hear what a fetus supposedly hears in the womb. Plus computer programs that you can access, showing how you determine which direction a sound is coming from, and what things sound like based on different acoustics, and all that stuff. So that was pretty wicked. Next floor up is the famous composers floor, room for Beethoven, room for Mozart, room for Strauss, Mahler, and like six other ones whose names I don't remember. You know, the guy who had the parrot, the guy who everyone thought was shy except that he gave big parties for his friends (on second thought, possibly that was two different guys) etc., etc. They give you an audio guide for that part, which is nice; it's very informative, and they play musical selections from all the guys while you're passing through their rooms. My only complaint was that there was so much information on the audio guide, and really you can only spend so much time in each room before it's boring, so it's not paced especially well. After that, there was an experimental floor, where you could mix sounds like traffic and blowing your nose with Strauss's Radetzky-Marsch, and that was just awesome. There were also rooms where you could create different sounds by moving your body, or messing with your voice.

My family would have gotten such a huge kick out of the whole thing -- in fact I can't think of a single person I know who wouldn't have. This is the burden of traveling solo... but I did my best to make up for it in the gift shop. My family totally scored. Heee! Scored. Like a music score... okay, you know what, you can just shut up or you don't get your present, how does that sound? Hee! Sound.

Right, fine, shut up, I'm stopping. I left in a wicked good mood, eager to listen to my new CDs and not at all feeling like a movie, so I blew it off and wandered around to find something to eat. I ended up in a Mexican (-ish) place, where I sat at the bar and got a quesadilla. I should have gotten a wicked cool exotic drink while I was at it, because the place clearly specialized in that, but between the pear cider mishap on the previous evening and my somewhat-in-effect resolution to quit drinking solo, which is a bad habit, I settled for a mango juice. The best part though was just as I was finishing my meal (not bad; quesadillas are hard to fuck up. The salsa and the salad were questionable, though) they switched from the salsa stuff they'd been playing before, to ... the Beatles. I KNOW. So I was sitting at a Mexican bar, in Vienna, listening to "Hey Jude." It was totally excellent.

So that wraps that up... stay tuned for Prague!