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Monday, September 25th, 2017 23:22
So, earlier today, the neighborhood cat paid a visit to my apartment, meowing up a storm, purring, demanding pettings, and scent-marking everything in sight. I suspect I may give in and contribute to feeding it, if and when I can figure out where its habitual feeding place is. (I'm doomed, right?)
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Monday, September 25th, 2017 09:10
Years ago, when Leonard was writing Constellation Games, he named the various alien species after different human words for "alien" or "foreigner". So there are Aliens, Foreigners, Farang, Gaijin, Extraterrestrials, the Others, and so on. One species of them is the Auslanders; later a German-speaking friend told us the spelling of the plural ought to be Auslender.

Today I was rereading a little chunk of Lake Wobegon Days and came across Keillor referring to Ausländers, and was reminded of that moment years ago. And then just after that was the passage about Flag Day, and I was catapulted far further back, to fourth grade and the first time I read (or was read?) any of this book. I was in a Gifted and Talented class in an elementary school in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, with that teacher who had a chunk of the Berlin Wall in her classroom. Did she read that to us or did I read it by myself?

Saturday I was on the 7 train back home from Maker Faire and I was sitting near some girls who -- as they happened to say aloud, in their conversation with each other -- were 12 or 13 years old. I am about three times their age. Yet I wanted them to look at me not as an alien grownup but as someone they might be like. They all have smartphones and evidently deal with boys sending them dick pics. And they act blasé about it; I don't know how they actually feel. The next day I talked about this with the people staffing the table next to mine. One of them suggested that boys have always done sort of body-part-display to girls less as a sexual come-on and more as a thrill-of-the-forbidden act, with dick pics as analogous to mooning. We joked about the dedication of an imaginary man from a previous century who worked in rotogravure or lithograph or woodcut. Or at least, like, Matthew Brady or someone using silver nitrate film.

cue "Ashokan Farewell"

My dearest Elizabeth. Tonight the Union Army rests. We know not what battle the general will order us to tomorrow. But know that my love for you is the wind that calls your name through the trees. Here's a dick pic. I had to sit for five hours for the army portrait painter boy to make this.

Sergeant Cowling was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.


I was laughing pretty hard by the end of this.

Maybe one reason I like laughing with others, and making others laugh, is because it is a kind of proof that we are not entirely aliens to each other.
Monday, September 25th, 2017 00:53
1. I actually got to sleep in this morning and didn't have to go in to work until around noon! I was so worried I was going to get called in for something or other, but thankfully no.

2. I have jury duty tomorrow. Bleh. But on the plus side, I did the online orientation, so I don't have to be there until 9:30am instead of the usual 7:30 or something ridiculous.

3. It was supposed to get hot again this weekend and into the week, but although it did get a little warmer, it's not really hot, and the humidity is low, so it's pretty nice.

4. Such a pretty kitty!

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 23:20
Fact: I almost moved to Atlanta because of a grocery store.
Sunday, September 24th, 2017 18:37
I'm rereading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers for the first time in maybe a year, since I just switched my Audible membership over to .ca instead of .com, and the Canadian website has the rights for the book when the American website has just been promising to have it for ages but never actually being able to sell it.

In that time I've read Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, which very closely details the rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe between the French Revolution and the Second World War. Sayers is an awkward novelist in that her writing in the 1920s and 30s is sparkling in many ways, but soured a few times a book by discordant notes whenever "those people" are mentioned--Sayers seems to think that she is being very liberal-minded by mentioning Jewish people at all, much less having her characters vaguely tolerate them and discuss how a Jew might be as moral as the next fellow. (She had an unhappy early affair with a Jewish writer that seems to have affected her strongly)

I can see no situation in which they might ever have met, but still, the whole thing solidifies mentally for me into a unified whole if I imagine them at some evening party full of urbane and witty literary people, drinking and smoking and sounding clever, where Sayers is holding forth and being pleased with herself and Hannah Arendt is smoking in silence and taking down extensive mental notes for an essay later. She smiles when Sayers passes her an ashtray, but she's already plotting her revenge.
Sunday, September 24th, 2017 12:04
Currently Reading: pre-print proofs for a book I need for my thesis, that the author has kindly sent me; Alex Beecroft 'Blue Eyed Stranger'. I've got a few more things ostensibly currently-reading that I need to get back to, including 'Medievalism: Key Critical Terms', Mary Webb's 'Gone to Earth', and a book of Joyce Carol Oates' poetry.

I'm a chapter and a bit into the second Gentleman Bastards book, and having trouble getting into it - not because it's not interesting, but it keeps filling me with nebulous dread. The prologue scene is set later in the timeline than the first few chapters so I KNOW things are going to go QUITE WRONG. Or maybe the apparent wrongness is a cunning trick and our hero-bros will be fine! But first, long detailed scenes involving gambling scams! It's very good writing, and it's giving me anxiety.

Recently Finished: This is the third weekly post in a row (normally I aim for every 2-3 weeks) and STILL these reviews are four books behind my actual recently-finished list. Welp.

Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home CookingVegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a delight to read, and a logistical pain in the ass to cook from, unless you live somewhere with access to really good Indian grocers. Asfoetida, where do you even BUY that?

Still, I'm getting there. My cupboard is now home to four different kinds of daal. I've even put my coffee grinder to work grinding spices, because that's the kind of person I have become.

Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European LiteratureBrothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature by Carolyne Larrington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


YES GOOD VERY USEFUL MUCH WOW


The Course of HonourThe Course of Honour by Avoliot

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Well this was an absolute delight of trope-tastic proportions. I particularly enjoyed the unexpected detour into 'plot devices we loved in Inception fandom circa 2011' toward the end.

It's also very skillful writing, esp in terms of examining without over-explaining one character's experience of relationship abuse. And it doesn't fall into lazy racist tropes, either! In this it leaves Captive Prince dead in the water.

Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1)Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed the set-up to this and massively side-eyed the, like, six week transition from 'why hi i have never come out to anyone but you're hot' to 'picket fence cohabitation'. Excellent cast of side characters, though, and if I'm going to be reading sickly HEA it's nice not to have it set in the US, for once.


Also finished: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland; a book about the American founding fathers and their female friends; Ben Law's Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools; Griffith Review 56.

DNF: Clare Hemmings, 'Bisexual Spaces'. The ILL was overdue and I skimmed the intro and decided it was *too dense* for me right now, and despite the title, not actually about space (I was hoping it would be about gender/sexuality and architecture or geography some how - useful for thesis purposes). I've put it back on the to-read list though. Another day.

A recommendation I forgot this when I reviewed the last Meanjin, but Jock Given's essay Enterprise in the Forest weaves together the story of the early development of QLD state parks and the story of the wreck of a Stinson aircraft in the south queensland highlands. I sent the essay to my Dad and he tells me he learned the story very young, because my grandfather knew someone who knew someone who knew the guy who found the aircraft (via the Army, or boxing, or Pop's brothers, Dad isn't sure).

[Site note: my computer just turned itself off and on again without warning. That's... less than ideal]

Up Next: I have a stack of books about semiotics, for work, and Rita Felski's 'The Uses of Literature'. I think my next fun book in hard copy might be The Essex Serpent.




Music notes: I got nowhere near my habit targets for this week, so no new purchases. I have, however, organised a bunch of tango and flamenco music into a spotify playlist for which I blame the entire sport of figure skating.

I also unearthed an old link I'd saved to Sara Bareilles' King of Anything, and from there the soundtrack to the musical Waitress and that's pretty awesome right now.

(I also reached the point in Postal Survey Coping Mechanisms that involved loop-listening to 'Epiphany' from bare: a pop opera, because words alone cannot express the furious feelingswamp this whole bullshit thing induces.)
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Sunday, September 24th, 2017 00:55
1. Welp, I ended up having to go in at 8:30 this morning, and I had to be there at night, too, because our weekend closing stocker is on vacation, and it was super busy, but thankfully I was able to come home for a couple hours mid-afternoon and have lunch and rest for a bit. I'm always glad to live so close to work, but at times like this, especially so.

2. Look at this sweetie baby!

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 02:10
KJ Charles protagonists by Hogwarts house.

Gryffindor: Stephen Day, Archie Curtis, Richard Vane, Silas Mason, Nathaniel Roy, Jonah Pastern, Simon Feximal

Ravenclaw: Dominic Frey, Rowley Green, Crispin Tredarloe, Saul Lazenby

Hufflepuff: Harry Vane, Lord Gabriel "Ash" Ashleigh, Clement Talleyfer, Ned Hall, Ben Spenser, Martin St Vincent, Robert Caldwell

Slytherin: Lord Crane, David Cyprian, Daniel da Silva, Justin Lazarus, Julius Norreys, Francis Webster, Theodore Swann, Randolph Glyde

Which means we have:

Gryffindor/Slytherin x4, Gryffindor/Ravenclaw x2, Gryffindor/Hufflepuff x2, Ravenclaw/Hufflepuff x2, Ravenclaw/Slytherin x1, Hufflepuff/Slytherin x3
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 16:15




I had cause to pull this off the shelf the other day in order to write a Tides of Time article. I'm sure Perfect Timing wasn't the first Dr Who charity fanfiction anthology but it was the first of a new wave that started during the "wilderness years" when the line between fan and professional Dr Who fiction was particularly blurred. Perfect Timing 2, obviously, was its follow up and charity fanfiction anthologies, as far as I can tell, have continued to be published on a regular basis ever since.
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 06:46
Thursday was family games night, with pizza. [personal profile] sithjawa joined, as well as the partner's large array of siblings and their spouses/etc.

After games were done, my partner showed me Who Framed Roger Rabbit? out of the "You haven't seen that yet?" queue. And we watched more of The Orville, and I tested out my stand mixer by making some cookies.

Friday, in honor of the equinox, I baked a sweet cardamom loaf. Then we did a shopping run, and my partner made dinner.

These past two days have involved a lot of small gas-powered motors around. Partner has summoned a yard maintenance company to take care of some of the tree, bush, weed, and tenacious invasive morning glory things that the ex neglected in the interminable six months leading up to departure. It's been loud, but is so much better looking now. Though there are still some more things left for today, like the stack of lichen-covered branches in the driveway.
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 13:39
Reread.

Ah, Culture what would SF be without you? Probably vastly poorer and leaving us without suitable similes for things like Asher's Polity series.

Anyway, this is a Culture novel that has multiple strains of narrative, somewhat inter-related (even if it's not always that obvious). It is also a story about love, about sorrow, what constitutes good and evil. And possibly slightly about the responsibilities you have as a civilisation, for your past and future actions.

One strand is a composer, who's of a race of predators (the Chelgrsomethings), but who has now solidly decided that his former home memetope is no longer for him at all and has emigrated to a Culture Orbital.

Another strand is a Culture anthropologist/biologist/something who's way out in a weird "I am made entirely of gas" planet but not really a gas giant (ultratech, weirds everything, you know).

A third strand is a Chelsomething military, on a secret mission. A mission so secret that not even he knows what it is.

And then stuffs happen, in unimitable Banksian style. Possibly not the best first introduction to The Culture (mine was Player of Games, then Excession if memory serves me right), but probably not the worst possible.
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Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 13:36
Reread.

Third book in Saunders' Commonweal series, wherein we see more of what we saw in the second book, and get to know what happens to a (relatively) small economy, when you introduce several orders of magnitude of difference in capability. Yes, it involves people discussing difficult things. No, it does not feel like "as you know, Bob".

All in all, if you liked the first two books, this is probably well worth chasing down, trapping in your book-trapping trap, then stun it for long enough that you can read it before, like the book it is, it turns around and devours you from the eyes inwards.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine books are, in the Second Commonweal. At least the really vicious ones.
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Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 13:20
Hope Not Hate have an excellent blog post explaining who they are and why they're going international.

We are coming to the United States because we have to. In our increasingly interconnected world, what happens here impacts on Europe. What happens in Europe has an impact on what happens in the United States.

Last year Britain voted to leave the European Union (commonly known as Brexit). This would not have been possible without the intervention of Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica. Likewise, Brexit gave Donald Trump a huge boast and convinced him and his supporters that anything was possible.

One of the main protagonists behind the Hillary Clinton conspiracy stories was Paul Joseph Watson, a 32-year-old man who lives in a flat in London. More recently, the ship charted by far right activists from across Europe in the Mediterranean was funded primarily by Americans.


From last year -- here's a Guardian piece on a Hope Not Hate workshop:

The Guardian: What does Hope not Hate actually do?

In November, I went to a Hope not Hate event at a mosque in Cardiff – a three-hour workshop on how to challenge and discuss anti-migrant and prejudiced sentiments. It drew a crowd of around 20, one or two of them local muslims and a few with migrant backgrounds, but the majority were white Welsh, many of whom had not previously been in a mosque. The organiser, Jonathan, began the session by asking what had prompted people to attend. Many described feeling worried, frustrated and in need of a toolkit for discussing race and immigration with family, friends and colleagues.

Their undercover reporter [twitter.com profile] patrik_h -- looks like a cinnamon roll, will secretly infiltrate your international white supremacist network:

https://twitter.com/patrik_h/status/910245564780081152

Dagens Nyheter: The Swede who infiltrated American Nazis

”He offered me to speak at the opening about my thesis topic: how the left has infiltrated the right. I spoke in front of 75 armed white supremacists.”

The Local.se: Meet the Swede who went undercover for a whole year with the alt-right in the US and UK

Of course, then I was scared. I mean, there was this combination of a group of young men with guns and a violent ideology. That's not a great combination.
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 01:22
1. Ridiculously hectic day today, almost twelve hours at work. But this weekend shouldn't be too bad. The worst today was mostly because there were a lot of big deliveries thanks to everyone not ordering stuff before inventory and ordering it all now.

2. We had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. So tasty. It's probably been years since I had one, as I usually opt for quesadillas instead, but Carla brought home some sourdough yesterday and that turned out to be really just perfect for grilled cheese.

3. I love this picture of Molly. Spotted her through the front window and she's totally got this "caught in the act" look on her face.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 23:51
I just went through a new Elizabeth Wein book in 24 hours flat. *glows* The Pearl Thief is set in 1938 and features a fifteen-year-old, bisexual-as-fuck Julie Beaufort-Stuart.
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 00:48
1. Had a pretty relaxing day off. I wish I'd spent less of it practically falling asleep at my desk, but oh well.

2. We had chipotle tuna sandwiches for dinner tonight. (Mine also had avocado, sprouts, and cucumber on it, for extra tastiness.)

3. It's so chilly tonight I actually have on a sweater. (Though sadly we are in for some hot weather in a few days.)

4. I've never seen all three kitties on the living room shelves together before, so I'm really glad I was able to get a pic!

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 10:32
So, in about 20 minutes I'm going to be leaving my parents' place, so that we can all go to the airport and travel to the country where my family has lived for as many generations as we know about (at least 4) and left when I was 7.

I've never been to the capital. I don't speak the language that people mostly speak there. (Everyone else in my family does speak it, but at home we always spoke Russian, the de facto lingua franca of the USSR, and that's all I managed to pick up by 7.) Kiev is new to me, and not new because I grew up on stories about it. (My aunt grew up there.) Odessa is familiar, full of people who will be happy to see me, but foreign too, like just another random European city, with buildings and customs that don't conform to the West Asian norms I find familiar and standard.

Anyway, if I started describing my feelings in earnest we'd never be done with parentheses.

I expect this trip will be a mindfuck. I expect being stuck with my parents for two weeks straight will be... a challenge. I hope, intensely, that the next two weeks will be wonderful and healing as well, as going home usually is.

Take care, friends.
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Thursday, September 21st, 2017 18:14
What are you currently reading?
I'm about a third of the way through on Satan: A Biography and enjoying it so far.

I've been finding it hard to make progress on Meddling Kids, though, as despite being really excited by the premise, the book itself is kind of disappointing so far. The writing itself is not great, and the story is not making up for it. I'm hoping it'll get better as it goes along, though.

I also started Beezus and Ramona and am about a third of the way through that, too. I downloaded all the Ramona ebooks a couple years ago to do a reread and then never did, but then iTunes was updated the other day to remove ebooks and apps from the interface, and when I finally figured out how to add ebooks to my phone the new way, I tested it with this book, and then since I wasn't feeling Meddling Kids, just started reading it.

What did you recently finish reading?
Volumes two through five of Giant Days, as well as a bunch of single issues after that (I still have a handful of issues to read before being completely caught up, and then I will be sad because I love this series so much).

What do you think you'll read next?
The rest of Giant Days, for sure, and also volume 10 of You Will Hear the Voice of the Dead came out the other day and I'd already preordered it so it's on my ipad awaiting me.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 23:19
1. I had to go in to work earlier than I'd hoped, which meant I didn't get much sleep, but I did manage to get out of there by midafternoon, so that was good. And I have tomorrow off.

2. Carla arrived back safe and sound tonight.

3. We watched last week's Rick and Morty, which I hadn't seen yet because Carla was out of town and I was too lazy to watch it on my own. It was pretty good, but not as awesome as the week before or Pickle Rick.

4. Jasper is such a cutie.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 17:17


Title: Musume no Iede
Original Title: 娘の家出 (Musume no Iede)
Author: Shimura Takako
Publisher: Jump X
Genre: Seinen
Status in Japan: 6 volumes, complete
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations + muge
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates

Summary: When Mayuko's mom announces she's getting remarried, Mayuko runs away to live with her dad and his boyfriend. This heartwarming slice-of-life series follows Mayuko and her family and friends as their stories interweave.

Chapter Summary: A girl named Ako has a crush on the single father of her little brother's preschool classmates. But after planning a birthday party for her brother just so she can see this guy, he ends up unable to make it due to work and sends his sister, Niina, instead.



Chapter 16: Love Me on the A-Side
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 14:00
Thanks to [personal profile] cesy for the heads-up -- Hope not Hate have launched a US site:

Hope Not Hate (Twitter: [twitter.com profile] hopenothate_USA)

By way of making a dramatic entry, this seems to have been timed to co-ordinate with the announcement of their epic undercover project: Patrik Hermansson, an extremely brave young Swedish grad student, infiltrated the alt-right and lived undercover in the movement in London and the US for nearly a year, wired for sound and carrying hidden cameras. This ultimately included being at Charlottesville and witnessing the car attack that killed Heather Heyer.

The documentary is coming soon, and the comprehensive report on the international alt-right (for which the infiltration was part of the research) is here:

The International Alternative Right

News reports:

New York Times: Undercover With the Alt-Right

Raw Story: ‘It’s gonna end with concentration camps’: Alt-right executive boasts of a future Europe with Hitler on their money

As you will have noticed, I love HnH. They have a long history working against fascist and far right groups in the UK, through research, infiltration, legal action, anti-racist/xenophobic education and campaigning, and their work seems to have naturally become international as the "alt-right" has (e.g. with the "Defend Europe" boat). I think their expertise (and the willingness of their reporters to put their necks on the line, holy fuck) will be a formidable addition to the US scene.

Also they will allow you to give them money to help sue Nigel Farage, and honestly I would love them for that alone. PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY, PLEASE.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 03:25
1. I was at work from 9am to after 2am, but inventory is over and I don't have to think about it for another six months. Also unless I get an emergency call or something tomorrow morning, I'm planning on only going in for a few hours in the afternoon to do my ordering and anything else that urgently needs to get done.

2. I walked in to see Chloe being super cute on the couch.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 10:14
The Guardian: Medieval porpoise 'grave' on Channel island puzzles archaeologists

I love everything about this story:

Archaeologists digging at an island religious retreat have unearthed the remains of a porpoise that, mystifyingly, appears to have been carefully buried in its own medieval grave.

MAYBE THE PORPOISE WAS A MONK, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THAT.

... and now I eagerly await the medieval monk were-porpoise shifter romance.

For a different kind of wonderful:

The Fader: This Artist Is Filling London With Murals Of Extraordinary Black Women

The art is gorgeous, but what I really love is that he's portraying his female friends, people who aren't famous but are ordinary/extraordinary people - a youth worker, a psychotherapist, and so on. And I love the shots of the murals with the real women posed next to them.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 09:33
Hope not Hate is coming to the US, to counter the rise of international hate groups. American friends, you can sign up here.
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Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 11:46
I posted on my other blog about supporting a new New York City Council bill that would require city agencies to publish source code used to make decisions.

On MetaFilter, I posted about a transparency case pending before a California appeals court; the EFF and ACLU have submitted amicus curiae briefs saying (to simplify) that the right to due process includes the right to inspect source code used to convict you. Evidently the creator of the closed-source DNA testing software doesn't think so. As is often the case on MetaFilter, there are very lucid explanations in the comments regarding complicated technical issues.

And I really like the photo I used to illustrate the potential for algorithmic bias.
Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 10:45
Via [tumblr.com profile] vassraptor and [tumblr.com profile] realsocialskills:

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network: ACA repeal is back – and so are we

Explanation, script and guide to contacting your representatives.
Tuesday, September 19th, 2017 00:47
1. I actually slept in until ten, which is not something that usually happens lately even if I have the opportunity.

2. I had a nice relaxing day and didn't go anywhere or do much of anything.

3. Cooler weather means cats in the bed.

Monday, September 18th, 2017 16:18


Title: You Will Hear the Voice of the Dead
Original Title: 死人との声をきくがよい (Shibito no Koe wo Kiku ga Yoi)
Author: Hiyodori Sachiko (Uguisu Sachiko)
Publisher: Champion Red Comics
Genre: Shounen
Status in Japan: 9 volumes, ongoing
Scanlator: Megchan's Scanlations feat. Nostal
Scanlation Status: Ongoing
More Info: Baka Updates

Summary: Sickly Kishida Jun has the ability to see ghosts, but in his opinion, it's a stupid power and nothing good ever comes of it. Considering the number of grisly situations he seems to find himself in after the ghost of his childhood friend Hayakawa Ryoko starts following him around, he may have a point.

Chapter Summary: In chapter 19, strange things start happening after Kishida and Koizumi find themselves near a tunnel where a bus full of students died in a fire. In chapter 20, the occult club finds themselves trapped on a farm, surrounded by pigs who seem to have developed a taste for human flesh.



Chapter 19: The Haunted Tunnel
Chapter 20: Day of the Pig

And this brings us to the end of volume 3, so here's a full volume download for those who want it.
Monday, September 18th, 2017 01:08
1. Day off tomorrow! Tuesday is the dreaded twice-yearly inventory, and I will likely be at work for like eighteen hours or something ridiculous like that, so I am going to enjoy my day of rest tomorrow.

2. I got some really good cuddle time with Jasper today. Poor baby misses Carla so much. :( But I'm loving the cuddle time.

3. Despite some recent hecticness, things are actually going really well at work right now.

4. I love this pic of Molly.

Sunday, September 17th, 2017 20:08
Currently Reading: Alex Beecroft, 'Blue Eyed Stranger'; Griffith Review 36; misc other... stuff

Recently Finished:

Interpreter of MaladiesInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was an *interesting*, if unsettling, book. Some of the stories keep coming back in fragments in my mind: the perspective choice in When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine, to recount the Bangladeshi-Pakistani conflict through the incomplete perceptions of a child, was a particularly arresting one. The Treatment of Bibi Haldar left me with anger I was unable to properly defuse for some time - the girl with her under-treated illness, the it suddenly became clear she was being sexually abused, without the story ever specifying that because none of the characters even seemed to *think* of it. The titular story made me quite uncomfortable, but was intricately composed.

I think my favourite was the last, 'The third and final continent' - its characterisation of the boarding-house owner in particular moved me, for whatever reason.

Courting the CountessCourting the Countess by Jenny Frame

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Mmm, I just don't know how I feel about this one. It was compelling, and it was a nice change to see this rough plot arc played out with women (I see it a lot in m/m romance: career focused commitmentphobe meets some nice chappy who insists on commitment in red letters, angst ensues and we end with matrimony-like arrangements). But I found myself irked by the emphasis on Annie's lack of experience, and by just HOW heavily the 'the right woman will cure all your emotional traumas and then you marry' notes fell.

I found myself shipping the two supporting characters, Bridget the Vicar and Quin the Farmer, much more strongly than the main pairing. Apparently there's a sequel about Bridget the Vicar but it's not matching her with Quin the Farmer, so. I may or may not.

Spindle's EndSpindle's End by Robin McKinley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a delightful fairy tale, but like... inexplicable heterosexuality? I mean. The two girls were running around BREATHING THE SAME BREATH and there was TRUE LOVE'S KISS and everything. Narl was sweet, but note Our Heroine only fell in love with him when she suddenly thought he was in love with her best friend? And when her best friend suddenly and obviously fell in love with another dude?

Look Both Ways: Bisexual PoliticsLook Both Ways: Bisexual Politics by Jennifer Baumgardner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was a frustrating book. I learned a lot of interesting trivia about 90s pop culture, including that there were far more bisexuals in it than I thought. There were some occasionally well-phrased ways of expressing ideas I've seen before, but nothing particularly ground-breaking. Even taking into account that it's over a decade old, 'Closer to Home' is much older and MUCH more insightful.

This was... magazine-y. I've never read Ms magazine, for which the author used to write, but in Australian terms it felt like... Cleo: The Bisexual Special. Only with a weirdly uncritical Thing for second-wave feminist foremothers, without any of their depth. (One of the well-phrased ideas was that second wave feminist criticism did not actually equip the young women of the 90s to fully reshape or realise their relationships with men, but even that point turned into weird bitterness without offering an alternative. I wanted to smack the author upside the head and say READ MORE BELL HOOKS.)

For something subtitled 'bisexual politics' it's actually about 'bisexual female existence in a particular culture bubble', with limited political ANYTHING.


Also finished, to review later: Madhur Jaffrey's 'Vegetarian India'; Carolyn Larrington 'Brothers and Sisters in Medieval European Literature'; Aviolot 'The Course of Honour'; Alex Beecroft 'Trowchester Blues'; Catherynne M Valente, 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making'.




Music notes: Saw Back N Black, the Swiss all-girl AC/DC cover band I saw back in 2014. They seem to be going through Drama, and were filling out the ranks with dudes on second guitar, bass and drums, but it was still a pretty good show. I got showered in fake blood courtesy of BB, the lead guitarist. This was unfortunate for my new cream t-shirt, but I think I've go the stains out now.

In celebration I bought myself 'Let There Be Rock'. I actually only owned one accadacca album and a couple of stray MP3s, until now. Clearly an oversight.
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Sunday, September 17th, 2017 12:00
I have been writing a post about Top of the Lake for literally like 4 years. FOUR YEARS. I keep writing drafts and never finishing them, because it all just feels so enormous and too much and I need like an entire day to get all my thoughts in order.

But, it's happening today friends. IT'S HAPPENING TODAY. SO HELP ME, THERE WILL BE A POST. It will be cobbled together from different drafts I've started over the years, but IT WILL EXIST.

So, below are my thoughts, which were written a few years ago, before I'd seen Mad Max: Fury Road, before Jessica Jones, before Wonder Woman.

Anyway, this post is still not even a fraction of the thoughts I have in my head about this show, BUT. We are doing this. THIS POST IS GETTING POSTED.

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Well, there's now not one, but two versions of Broadchurch (both starring David Tennant!) and I still haven't gotten around to the show that, to me, is the far more subversive, far more interesting, far richer and more beautiful original version of what has now become a multi-season franchise.

I haven't been able to write about Top of the Lake until now because my talents do not lie in talking about the things I find overwhelmingly amazing. I had to wait such a long time for the edges to fade, for this show to settle in my head and become digestible (this is after multiple viewings, because of course I rewatched parts of it ad nauseum) and analyzable and describable.

The non spoilery version is this: Robin (Elizabeth Moss) is a detective who comes back to her small town in New Zealand to visit with her gravely ill mother. At the same time a 12 year old girl in the town is discovered to be pregnant. Robin is called in, because of her big city specialist training, to help interview the girl - however the girl claims she remembers nothing, and Robin ends up leading the investigation into what happened. To unravel this mystery Robin will have to face old friends and enemies, the local gang, police corruption and the secrets of her own family.

If you, like me, are utterly bored by detective stories and mysteries, let me attempt another pitch: Top of the Lake is probably the greatest story I've ever seen about a heroine who is flawed and competent and human, who's allowed to unravel, whose power is never undermined even when she's as low as she's ever going to get, even when the odds are insurmountable. Robin is a heroine you root for when, like Buffy, she has nothing left but herself, her body, her wits. She's someone you root for while you recognize her blind spots, her privileges, her biases. Robin is someone who always, always comes through. Stripped down to the bone she rises, like Lazarus, unstoppable in her passion, her moral duty to do right by the marginalized, her incredible strength.

The amazing thing about Top of the Lake is that it's about a girl who loses everything, but never loses herself. It's about trauma, it's about survival, it's about revenge, it's about justice, it's about compassion and love and forgiveness, it's about asking the ugly questions about ourselves and being uncomfortable and trying as hard as you can to be the best person you can be. It's about trying to make sure no one has to suffer the way you've suffered.

And of course - Jane Campion is an amazing director, and stepping into her world for 7 episodes was like suddenly finding myself in an alternative universe where complex, challenging visual stories are told for me, as a woman. Where the male gaze is not even a distant memory.

Here's one last way of putting it: Robin and Leslie Knope (of Parks and Rec) are two extremes on the same continuum. Leslie is Robin in a light-hearted, brightly lit comedy - Robin is Leslie in a graphic, gritty detective story. Robin is the grown up version of Veronica Mars. The settings, the moods, the tropes are different but the women are the same - beacons of resilience, fortitude, open-eyed optimism, competence, who are the heroes rather than the victims of their narratives.

spoilers )

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And now an addendum written by today!me:

Top of the Lake is the spiritual mother of so many modern shows, and I'm so happy (SO SO HAPPY) that I get to place it a broader than ever tapestry of women heroes of all kinds.
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Sunday, September 17th, 2017 02:46
Breakfast with partner and metamour Leopard Girl.

Seanan McGuire event in Silverdale. We brought tribute, and were briefly Seanan's favorite. (Diet Dr Pepper and candy corn. Seanan is a being of predictable tastes.)

Mini muffin tin quest!

Partner made a note they should chat with our mutual friend in London about stuff. Hooray, viable communities.

Dinner for the extended polycule, with many dishes thanks to Trader Joe's. (Rice, orange chicken with extra zesty sauce but no carrots since we ran out, BBQ pork buns, pot stickers, spring rolls, and green beans. The rice and green beans weren't pre-packaged, and I do a little customization to the chicken by adding orange peel and scallions. The gyoza and bao steam over the rice, and the spring rolls could bake with the chicken. The green beans start frozen and get gently fried with seasonings. Usually it's butter and Montreal steak seasoning, but Stray Puppy Girl is very lactose intolerant, and Leopard Girl dislikes red pepper. So I went for sesame oil, garlic, onion, pepper, salt, ginger, a packet of soy sauce that needed using, and the excess teriyaki sauce from the other night. It turned out well. To my immense gratification, my partner really likes all the iterations of the green beans that I have made so far. Generally they disappear immediately.)

Club night. Without going into excessive detail, one of the groups near the people I was with were having a hilarious time, and kept setting each other off giggling. That prompted our group to giggle. The glee was infectious.

Everyone is spending the night. We hauled the camping pads out of the alleged guest room (it is currently not in a state for guests as my textiles have exploded all over it) and they're set up next to the futon in case it turns from cozy to crowded in the middle of the night. Things are well set up for breakfast, and there should be cheesecake at some point (thus the mini muffin tins).
Sunday, September 17th, 2017 00:37
1. I got to sleep in and go to work at my scheduled time and didn't have anyone calling or texting me in the morning about urgent stuff. (Hopefully can replicate that again tomorrow.)

2. One of the samplings we have at work this weekend is ramen and that made me want ramen for dinner, so I bougt some and made it and it was delicious.

3. Our Apple TV has been malfunctioning even more than usual lately, but we didn't want to buy a new one just yet considering they were going to be releasing a new version soon. Well, they finally officially announced it and we have ordered it and it will be ours in a few weeks.

4. My cats are just so cute I can't stand it.

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 20:44
Reread.

Second book of Saunder's A Book of the Commonweal series (that's what's on the books, calling it a trilogy feels a bit weird, since I have vague recollections of a fourth book on the way). it takes plce not long after the events in the first book. I don't think it's ever explicit, but I'm thinking "weeks to a few months".

We're primarily following Edgar (occasionally just "Ed") who starts the book just waking up from a coma, feeling very weird indeed. And there's a really good reason for that. It turns out that Edgar has spent most of his life having his magical power completely consumed by a metaphysical (and probably also physical) parasite. And now it's been taken out because that's what you do with parasites. And now there's a problem, because Edgar is too old for traditional wizard training to work. But too powerful to not be trained, otherwise things like "death" (and occasionally "mayhem") happens.

And so an alternative is found. We follow Edgar and his fellow students through approximately the first year of training, learning more (much more) about how magic works, as well as how the Commonweal works.
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Saturday, September 16th, 2017 11:32
Reread.

This is Saunders' debut (as far as I'm aware) book. My recollection of this, when it came to re-read it, was "stuffs happened" and that was pretty much it. The book is... dense. Informationally speaking, that is. I can't, to be honest, tell you that I'm sure if the narrative voice is first person or just extremely tight third, but it's one, the other, or switching between those.

Anyway, this is a book set in the Commonweal. And, I hear you ask, what is one of those. Well, it would've been cool if there was an explanatory chapter, but there is't. So, as far as I have inferred, the Commonweal is the creation of the Wizard Laurel, about 500 years ago, as a general "I am so fed up" reaction to the last, what, several many thousands (hundreds of thousands, possibly) years of sorcerous rule (basic pattern: "magic user gets powerful, kills the previous ruler; mass sacrifices and brain squishing ensues", then repeat with the magic user from the previous sentence switched to the ruler position). So, the obvious solution is something that pretty much looks like representative democracy, with a heavy dose of enforced resource equality.

Now, some of that Commonweal information is gleaned from the next two books. Where was I? Oh, yes, as we start the book, it seems as if one of the neighbouring "we keep cycling through previous ruler and mass sacrifices" areas has decided that it is Really Time to enter the Commonweal, in force, and we get a first row seat to the experience of a small band of brave people trying to force the invaders back (or, as the case MAY be, keep them outside the border).

All in all, pretty good reading.
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Saturday, September 16th, 2017 11:20
Reread.

This is the third book in Sanderson's "first Mistborn trilogy" (there now seems to be ore than one, which is fine, I should try to remember looking into perhaps get hold of the first one). All in all, this is a series that plays on your expectations, but not in what I would consider a malicious way.

I did find it quite interesting to notice the things I did and did not remember from the first time I read the trilogy, there were vast chunks that had just left my mind, but other things were relatively as I expected. Memory says I last read this some 5-6 years ago.
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Saturday, September 16th, 2017 11:18
Book list )

A linear extrapolation says 124.5 books by year's end. August was pretty much a miss in the "reads lots" department, with travel that was full of sufficiently interesting distractions that, well, this ain't just been a month for reading (also, perhaps, signalled by being about two week's late wit hte monthly summary).
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