What I've just finished
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer, which I definitely enjoyed even though I had a hard time keeping track of the various jihadi groups that splintered and renamed themselves etc. The one thing I wish it had included was pictures of the manuscripts. And more detailed maps. You can never have too many maps in a book, imo. I am just saying.
Darth Vader #22, which, aside from the Aphra stuff, I don't think I understood at all? Idek.
Grayson Annual #3. Oh Dick. This was fun - I especially liked Harley's part - but I docked it at least 1/2 a star because ugh, Azrael. Why? WHY?
In other comics news, newredshoes linked to this article on Comics Alliance about the current differences between comics creators and the influx of new fans created by the movies etc.: Where Have All The Good Men Gone And Where Are All The Gods? Reflections On The Rifts In Superhero Fandom by Andrew Wheeler. (I guess he wanted to earworm everyone. Heh.) It's a good read.
What I'm reading now
Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was by Angélica Gorodischer (translated Ursula K. Le Guin), which is beautifully written (translated?) and a joy to read in the sense that the sentences are beautifully constructed and the stories are interesting, but I'm not sure I'm getting what the point is? I don't know. Also, possibly I am a terrible person, but I keep hearing the Jane the Virgin Latin Lover Narrator as the storyteller (even though the storytellers are not the same in each story). Maybe I just want Anthony Mendez to read everything to me! You don't know me! Ahem.
What I'm reading next
*hands* I did just get The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports by Jeff Passan for $1.99 for kindle, so maybe that? I don't know. Given the Mets' recent troubles, it seems timely.
- What did you recently finish reading?
Listing back a little ways, since these books are thematically akin:
Full Fathom Five and Last First Snow by Max Gladstone, Night Flower by Kate Elliott, The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, and Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks.
I read the first of Gladstone's Craft books, and found it interesting, but a little too aggressively weird for me to relate to any of the characters. Full Fathom Five, on the other hand, drew me in quite quickly. This could mean that I connect with hopelessly noble finance nerds, or that a postcolonial Polynesian setting is easier for me to deal with than a bunch of skeletons. The book starts out looking as if it's a thinly veiled meditation on the machinations that led to the Great Recession, and ends up being about faith. Recommended.
Last First Snow is about, variously, war, gentrification, and choosing to be a parent. Heroic efforts mean that a doomed plan results in only about 95% of the expected carnage. Meditations on the nature of manhood & fatherhood aren't a theme that I connect with, particularly; if those themes matter to you, I suspect this book will be fascinating/ gripping/ horrifying. I read it in small increments while moving, and had to rush to finish the last ten percent before my library ebook expired.
Night Flower continued the colonialism theme, and features another Kate Elliott heroine who is really good at selling fruit. Does not emphasize the horrors of war & its aftermath, which was a nice break.
I read The Winged Histories in one sitting, on a flight to England. I associate Stranger in Olondria with sobbing in a hostel in Toronto; I didn't quite have tears running down my face on my intercontinental flight, but it was a near thing. My thumbnail description for Stranger in Olondria was 'if Ondaatje wrote fantasy novels'. At WisCon, I went to Samatar's talk on influence; she did indeed namecheck Ondaatje, and read excerpts from War and Peace. If you cross that book with The English Patient and then imagine the protagonist as a teenage girl with a sword, you will have some idea of what reading The Winged Histories feels like.
I'm not entirely convinced The Winged Histories stuck the ending: it's an astonishingly beautiful doomed moment, but the book is complicated enough that I want to know about the messy things after the last page. I should note, also, that while meditations on fatherhood never quite draw me in, meditations on siblinghood always do. Still thinking about that strand, among many strands.
Fire Logic felt rather a lot like the Steerswoman books in style; if you thought that that series would've been improved by more women kissing, this is definitely the book for you. Oddly, Karis reminded me of my maternal grandmother.
- What are you currently reading?
I started The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, which like all Ryman books is fascinating, brilliant, and very, very weird. It's also an excruciatingly realistic portrayal of how awful it is to be a teenager. I am not quite ready for another amazing literary novel just now, and may put this aside until I'm ready to stop thinking about The Winged Histories.
- What do you think you'll read next?
The new Laundry Files book. I'd hoped to find this while at a conference in England, but was thwarted by the paucity of airport bookstores.
Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson was more upbeat than I had been expecting. The narrator is a twin - a former conjoined twin - and her twin has all the magic. I particularly loved how the various gods/godlings (their relatives) were portrayed, distinct personalities that fit their spiritual roles but were never too human, despite having once been human. Also, the sister relationship was deep and complex, and really rewarding to read about.
Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson has been in the TBR for a really long time, and I'm not sure why. I started it while doing laundry and stayed up way too late to finish it because I was worried about everyone having happy endings, though they pretty much got them (Warning: a sad animal death). The book takes place in Vienna shortly before World War One, and that was at the back of my mind the whole time, though the characters were mostly unaware, save one career army man. Like other Ibbotson I've read, if I had to come up with one adjective to describe it, I'd choose poignant.
I meant to save League of Dragons by Naomi Novik, the last Temeraire book, for vacation, but couldn't wait. I found it a satisfying end to the series; I will miss these characters.
BECCA: all of Duane's TOS characters are always so pleasant and philosophical and well-intentioned and consistently competent
I don't know if I believe it but it is soothing to read
GEN: heee, right?
I am very fond of that part
also they all stop and think fondly about astrophysics in ways that I do not think fits what's actually onscreen but DO think fits what ought to be true of people in this career path so I'm good with it
BECCA: 'snappy banter,' says McCoy, thinking earnestly about how the crankiness is a useful persona that he puts on when it's convenient for the well-being of the rest of the crew
and for his own entertainment, but yes
BECCA: they DO stop and think fondly about astrophysics with GREAT FREQUENCY
and the value of gathering scientific data for the sake of gathering scientific data
way more than any character on TOS ever has
I mean it feels -- and it is -- very much the kind of fanfic in which the author firmly writes all their own ethics backwards into canon.
GEN: To me it's always felt like she's writing the attitudes of 70s/80s TOS fandom into TOS
like, "I know all of these super geeky writers who are really into space and whom I really like as people, THIS IS THE STAR TREK OF THEIR HEARTS"
BECCA: hah that is probably also true
I mean it also very much does feel like fanfic
'Chekhov's catchphrase!' says Checkhov, in his first appearance, and then wanders off to be competent somewhere offscreen
'Nurse Chapel's off taking her doctoral exams!' says a throwaway line, a/n: 'ok it's always been my headcanon that Nurse Chapel eventually moves up to MD'
The actual plot involves the Enterprise going to investigate a planet where three different intelligent species have independently evolved and trying to convince them to join the Federation; everyone frantically runs around taking soil samples and trying to get enough linguistics data to calibrate the universal translators, Kirk leaves McCoy in charge as a joke and then beams down and gets lost while having a philosophical discussion with an alien, some cranky Klingons show up and everyone rolls their eyes at them, there's one or two space battles but mostly, you know, it's philosophical discussions and harassed linguists complaining about verbs. As I said, it's a pleasantly soothing read! And significantly more invested in the actual day-to-day labor of the scientific and exploratory process than any episode of Star Trek ever has been or will be.
(No, I'm not joking, Google this, there are photos.)
Also we don't seem to have a functioning government or an opposition.
This has been today's dispatch from the poisoned trash fire that is my country.
The book is an expanded dissertation, so its introduction starts by the numbers with theorists: Frantz Fanon, Benedict Anderson, Partha Chatterjee, and Ranajit Guha, only we keep going with even more names, so I stopped writing them down. Park asserts, "I transpose the humanist prophecy for liberation into a problematic of colonial domination in everyday social life" (2). The bed is capitalist, the bedmates Korean "peasants" and Japanese power holders (24). Park seeks to map the social transformation of Manchuria at two "historical moments," before and after Japanese political actions of 1931 (16). Both Chinese and Korean communists regarded Manchuria as an extension of their respective states, which prefigures the NK state as more nationalist than internationalist. Anderson aside, I lack depth in whichever critical vocabularies she uses.
( Read more... )
You know who is invisible here? The Manchus resident in and around Kando. Park writes as though they have left, too, or been displaced, which seems unlikely. No mention of Koryo saram, either, the deportees of only a few years later. Not even an "I have chosen not to discuss," which would be fine and then this graf wouldn't exist.
Friday Himself and I drove down to Tyngsboro on the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border to watch Now You See Me 2 with other members of the Granite State Magicians, for the purpose of pointing and mocking (and admiring the occasional actual bits of stage magic that somehow slipped into a really stupid plot.) We did this as a down-and-back, arriving home around midnight.
Sunday Himself and I drove down to Lowell, Massachusetts, for the purpose of participating in a group reading of Viable Paradise staff and alumni at the HyperText Bookstore, once again as a down-and-back, this time arriving home around 8 PM.
Monday -- which is to say, yesterday -- Himself and I drove over to Conway to attend an informational workshop put on by the New England Foundation for the Arts, for the purpose of picking up some tips on networking and presentation as a performing artist, i.e. a magician, arriving home around 7 PM.
And today I feel pounded flat as a veal cutlet. Though I suppose having last night be so hot and sticky that -- even though I was exhausted -- I didn't really fall decently asleep until about 5 AM didn't help. (I suppose I must have slept some of the time in there, because I don't recall hearing the clock in the dining room chiming the hours or the quarter-hours, but it wasn't the kind of sleep that feels like sleeping, if you know what I mean. Not restful at all.)
And the timber sale check is still in transit.
Agent! Our fellowship of Her Majesty's Occult Service has resurrected, through unholy (but authorized) methods, our March 2015 Bundle of Laundry, featuring the licensed Laundry tabletop roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 Entertainment. The Laundry RPG is based on The Laundry Files novels and stories by Charles Stross about a modern counter-occult espionage agency. Laundry agents fight Cthulhu Mythos horrors and bureaucratic supervisors. They can save the world, but they have to get a receipt.
The stars are right for this revival, because Charles Stross has just published his new Laundry novel, The Nightmare Stacks (Amazon Kindle edition), and last year's The Annihilation Score is out in paperback (and you can still get its Kindle edition). The Laundry RPG is a great introduction to this ever-sprawling bureaucracy. This collection has everything you need to protect humanity from higher-dimensional apocalypse while following correct paperwork protocols.
Our Starter Collection (US$8.95, retail value $40) includes the complete Laundry rulebook and the Agent's Handbook for players. And if you pay more than the current threshold price ($24.18), you'll regain Sanity and also get all five supplements in our Bonus Collection (retail value $75):
Black Bag Jobs (retail $15): Six self-contained missions ranging from the war-torn hillsides of Afghanistan to the corridors of power in Whitehall, from yoga lessons in Devon to the end of the world.
Cultists Under the Bed (retail $15): Eight of the nastiest, most tenacious foes of the Laundry, plus dozens of minor ones.
God Game Black (retail $15): Expands on the revelations of The Apocalypse Codex novel to send your games hurtling towards Armageddon.
License to Summon (retail $15): The dark side of Computational Demonology and arcane science in the Laundry, as well as the magic of other agencies -- and other entities. New spells, new gadgets, new ways to end the world!
The Mythos Dossiers (retail $15): Dozens of reports, handouts, eyewitness accounts and deranged speculations from the murkier reaches of the Laundry's archives.
As you may have heard, JK Rowling posted a story about the origins of Ilvermorny, the North American school of witchcraft and wizardry, today. And I know there are issues with the lack of Native American roots in the North American school, I do. But the story she tells us today rings true as the origin of a based-on-European-model-(Hogwarts) school brought by settlers. I'm sure the Native American magic folk had their own (no doubt better) way of doing things before, during, and after Ilvermorny was set up. And I think the story leaves us room for that option.
What I'm really jazzed about is the fact that she placed Ilvermorny on the peak of Mount Greylock. Because this means that the North American school of witchcraft and wizardry is literally in my backyard.
I mean literally. I took this picture from my porch.
And, look. I feel like it's my moral duty to set some people straight on some things about the area, already. io9's already complaining about ~of course it's in Massachusetts~ and my fellow Williams alums, as much as I love them, are claiming Ilvermorny for themselves, but I need to be clear.
The *peak* of Mount Greylock is in Adams, Massachusetts. And we *need* this. Badly.
I mean, we've got Susan B. Anthony's birthplace, and that's pretty good. But the people who started and run her museum are of the "SBA was anti-abortion" ilk, and that's....not my jam. Adams isn't ivy-covered. It's an old mill town that's struggling to figure out what it's going to be in the 21st century. North Adams has started to be the new, cool, Art town. Williamstown will always have Williams. All Adams has is the peak of Greylock. (And it's been trying desperately to get something going there for decades.)
And now it has Ilvermorny.
So, things to know if you're writing about Ilvermorny and you need a local guide. First of all, here's an album I made years and years ago for an online friend who lives in N. Ireland and wanted to see what the area looked like (and, okay, yeah, there's some Williams in there too. I do love the place. It's just not Ilvermorny. :D)
Second of all, the Audubon Society probably has the best map and good information about the mountain and its environs.
And yes, it's basically a hill, but it's the highest point in Massachusetts, which is probably why she picked it.
It's also ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE STATE from Plymouth, so it would be awesome if fic set in this setting could acknowledge that fact. ;)
I mean, it take four hours to DRIVE that distance. In the 21st century. Just sayin'
At present, there is exactly one stoplight in Adams, Massachusetts. There is a McDonalds and a Subway, and a couple of family-owned local eating joints. A diner/pizzeria and a a couple pubs. A decent Austrian restaurant that also used to be an Inn. One elementary school. One charter school (where I used to work), and a regional high school shared with two other towns, and is technically on the town line with one of them. There is a statue of President McKinley in a little traffic circle in front of the library and one of the three Catholic churches in this tiny town of under 9000. One of them is closed now, but the people of the town held vigil in one of the other ones to keep it open. There's a large Polish heritage contingent in town, and St. Stanislaus Kostka's is theirs.
We have lots of street parties in the summer, and outdoor movies projected on the lawn of town hall. Basically: we're Stars Hollow, not Cambridge.
I'm here for more Ilvermorny context details, seriously. Just ask.
Info: the Serpentine Lido is open 10 to 6 every day.
It's (surprisingly) wheelchair-accessible, though they don't advertise this. There's a wheelchair-accessible loo, and a gate they can unlock in the fence around the lido so that you can cross from the changing rooms into the lido without having to go up and down any stairs (this does mean crossing a path in your swimming costume, but the alternative is crossing a small metal bridge over the path in your swimming costume, so).
It is a section of the lake, which you are sharing with assorted waterfowl and algae, so if you have a compromised immune system, it might not be ideal.
Especially on weekdays, the lido is blissfully uncrowded.
Because the lake edge is fairly shallow, a good half of the lido is standing-depth. So if you're a nervous swimmer, you don't have to venture out of your depth.
You need a swimsuit and a towel. There are coldwater showers on the bank, and shower gel/shampoo is forbidden as it runs off into the lake. Therefore, it's best to plan to rinse off some of the pondweed on the bank then have a proper bath/shower when you get home.
If you might be interested, this week or at some future point, just comment or PM me.
I know this article is basically reassuring, but any time public transit is found to be less gross than the human body, I feel it is less of a victory for public transit than a rather serious statement about the human body: "Boston's subway cars hold fewer harmful microbes than our guts."
Listen, I am having a bad hair day. I can't be held responsible. Also I didn't mean to say it out loud. But people started shuffling back, so go me? I just can't with people who plant themselves toward the front of the bus and don't move when there's clearly a huge crowd of people trying to get on! Like, sure, okay, you're standing with your kid, that's fine. At least try to not block the whole aisle and let people pass! And take your fucking backpacks off for god's sake. What the fuck.
I think that I am also just losing patience with people in general, because the other day there was a man on the bus stop looking for Republicans and I honest to god might have hissed at him when he asked me. I made a disgusted sound, anyway. I didn't mean to. but. You are on the Upper East Side! Those of us taking the bus are unlikely to be the voters you're looking for!
In other NYC news, they're doing another 1-year rent freeze, so I might just stay where I am one more year despite everything. I guess it depends on what is actually in my new lease. Because I do love the neighborhood and I also have not done as much as I should have over the past few months of getting rid of stuff, and it'd give me more time to save money. It's not that I don't want to move. But I don't want to move? I want to have moved, without any of the work or hassle involved. Sigh.
We also got a Pew grant, to fund 1734-1735: A Season in the Life of J.S. Bach. We're going to do all of the 18 cantatas performed by Johann Sebastian Bach during that liturgical year, while he was choir director of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, so that's "four concerts in fall 2016, together featuring a total of eight cantatas for the Trinity Season; three concerts in early 2017, offering eight cantatas for Epiphanytide; and two concerts in spring 2017, presenting four cantatas for the Easter Season." I'm really looking forward to that!
Heh, BAD IDEA, but the new front door that I painted not long ago has an upper pair of panes, and I could knit
Possibilities: Dappled Lace; Lotus Lace in a narrower yarn; and okay, it could be crochet if it's in sport-weight yarn or circular medallions. I admire Hartmut Hass's designs, especially this one, but I can't make them properly---and I'm certain because thread crochet is where my self-taught fibercraft began, 20+ years ago.
Also, some of you know this headiness, but I'll walk through it anyway:
A year ago, I bought a pair of Betabrand's work from home slacks---twilled tencel. Though I paid much less than the current US$88 list price (introductory offer, credit from unrelated return that didn't fit), I can't say that the construction is worth even what I paid: the seams are serged, the pockets are loose flaps, and they're not kidding about the paper-bag waist. But, says the invisible urchin atop one shoulder, I could lay mine flat and inside out, trace the simple seams with allowance, and make my own second pair from the two yards of dark grey linen/cotton remnant in the next room.... There's always the option of this similar pattern if the tracing seems unconvincing.
Have I mentioned? Reason is excited enough about two mama-made nightgowns that she's requested one more, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, so I've traced the purple one onto yet another remnant piece with adjustments for her request (higher neck, i.e. same front/back) and mine (longer length to be wearable next spring/summer as well). It's cut and pinned, or rather wonder-clipped (mine are all red), and sits in a folded stack on my desk. Soccer moms often drive minivans---I wonder what the externally obvious accoutrement is for parents who fall into household craft, or are pushed.
Car Seat Headrest, "Something Soon"
I was referring to the present in past tense
It was the only way that I could survive it
Dana Falconberry and Medicine Bow, "Alamogordo"
But if my bones are made
Of sand from which they came
Then I will keep locked in your gaze
I will not be afraid
Elvis Perkins, "I Came for Fire"
I hear the choirs from inside the curtain
I came for fire
If I go, I know I come back again
Jerry's Diner, "Break Under Pressure"
Will you see me giving up, giving up?
Johnny Flynn, "Sweet William, Pt. 2"
For the world has begun with the birth of the sun
And its death the very same day
The Kills, "Future Starts Slow"
You can blow what's left of my right mind
I don't mind
The Magnetic Fields, "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side (feat. Dudley Klute)"
'Cause I've got wheels and you want to go for a ride
Ought, "Men for Miles"
If we're being honest, who would want to live here?
Fourteen clocks and half as many walls
Parquet Courts, "Berlin Got Blurry"
You can't crop yourself out of the picture
Out of focus, but still framed inside
Twice as Much, "Play with Fire"
But you'd better watch your step, girl
Or start living with your mother
I did think they have probably found a really good use for Christian Slater's Christian Slaterness, as it were, which isn't always the case. As an actor, he seems very good at being a particular version of himself, or maybe I'm just always expecting JD from Heathers to appear at some point. Anyway. I also liked the use of NYC as itself, mostly. And Rami Malek is a joy to behold.
I also wanted to try UnReal but it didn't seem to be streaming? Do I need Hulu for that? *is old*
I've come to the conclusion, not for the first time, that Mondays are not the inherent problem. No, Mondays themselves don't bother me much. It's Sunday nights that will kill you every time. Sigh.
So far as C. and I could tell, every single character was hot for Sigourney Weaver's Elaine Barrish.
The thing I liked best about the miniseries, though, was the complexity of the characters. New levels were revealed bit by bit, and the best parts involved relationships you don't often see on television, for example a grandmother and her addict grandson, or a female politician and a female reporter. Seeming stereotypes got more depth gradually; for example, though Ciaran Hinds plays a womanizer, he still loves his ex-wife, and repeatedly shows his political acumen by making connections between disparate facts. Sigourney Weaver, meanwhile, is the moral compass of the family, but she's still wrong about things and makes mistakes with her children.
Ellen Burstyn as Sigourney Weaver's mother was my favorite character. She plays a former showgirl who remains outspoken, so her every scene is a joy. She and Sebastian Stan were adorable together.
Even if you don't usually like dramas (I don't), I'd recommend this if you like bickering, imperfect families that do in fact love each other.
Local note: at one point near the end, two characters were in a park, and I realized from a glimpse of the Goat statue that they were in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
It's been good so far. Last week and the week before were a crapload of work, but I've finished most of it, and this morning I finished off another part. Namely, I led service at church; a somewhat lightweight singalong morning, and I didn't write a reflection ("sermon"), but I did tie it together with our month's theme of Perception, and I did have some serious moments, and I got a lot of compliments afterward, which is always nice! And then I spent a long time talking with a frie4nd I haven't seen in a while, and another long time talking with a friend I'd just seen two days before. (She just kicked her parttime boyfriend to the curb for repeated dickheadedness, so she was definitely in need of extra hanging out, and also the brocade coat I tweeted about finding at a yard sale a few weeks ago really fits her much better than me, so I gave it to her.
Then I came home, pottered about a bit, and Geoff and I are about to go out dinner. The weather is hot and glorious, just like I like it. Yay for birthdays!
3/5. On a planet whose only significance is the sea creatures who can grant extended life, winter is drawing to a close. Soon technology will withdraw when the wormhole closes, and power will change hands to the summers. The winter queen does not want that to happen, so she seeds the summers with her clones, hoping that at least one will survive to take her place.
My wife has two enormous framed prints, one of the summer queen, one of winter. They might be the cover art? They're currently in a closet, but they were hanging up in our last place with a lot more wall space (seriously, these things are huge). I said when we hung them that they ought not be across a room facing each other, so we ended up putting them on parallel walls offset to each other. Looking toward the same thing, but from a different place. That was accidentally correct on my part, since I hadn't read this yet.
This book is . . . strange, concerned with the shapes of relationships more than the relationships themselves, if you know what I mean. Concerned with the myth, and pacing out its convolutions with these particular people. This sort of thing usually irritates me. I know better than to read that YA series retelling Cinderella on a moon colony; I know it would not go well for me. I always catch myself so completely not getting the point. Like for the first quarter of this book, which I spent entirely focused on whether there is an Earth in this timeline, and if these are very distant Earth colonists, and if so did those Earth people carry this myth? Because they couldn't have, otherwise everyone would be way more self-conscious. But if they didn't, then –
Totally missing the point on these, that's me.
This did win me over. It's amazingly 80's and it made me laugh where it did not mean to, but at its heart it is about intersecting layers of exploitation; how this interstellar power is using a natural resource in, it turns out, a horrifyingly unethical way, how the queen's efforts to snatch power back make her complicit in that, how she in turn exploits her population as her plans spin out. There are intersecting images of captivity – animals in cages, people in cages, machine intelligences stuck on their tracks. It all ticks through with inevitability, which is a thing you don't see much these days. I did mention 80's.
Glad I read it, but this doesn't really speak to me.
The second half of Cox's book has her pursuing her US/Soviet swim, a darkly humorous endeavor in which she is spied on by some seriously incompetent FBI agents, repeatedly bangs her nose against the Iron Curtain, and ends up with the CIA and KGB simultaneously tapping her phone. No one can quite believe that she really is doing this because she wants to, and primarily because it's the most challenging thing she can think of, rather than for some dark political purpose in which she is merely the cover. (She does, in fact, have a political purpose, but it's secondary and personal: she hopes her swim might have a sort of butterfly effect on US-Soviet relations, showing both sides that they are human beings, not the Evil Other.)
However, the same persistence that makes her a great swimmer enables the swim to happen - she keeps banging down doors until both governments, rather bewilderedly, decide that maybe they can make political hay of it. She makes the swim, and the butterfly effect actually does seem to happen. So for a while Cox does a number of other swims intended to both challenge herself and act as gestures of goodwill between countries. These are all vividly described, as she faces off with sharks, ice bergs, sea snakes, ice sharp enough to slice a boat's hull in half, and her own cold and exhaustion.
But eventually, she can't resist the ultimate swim: Antarctica. This is in water so cold that no one is sure it is even survivable. Once again, she returns to the researchers and their rectal thermometers. This time technology has improved and they want her to swallow a mini-thermometer and data-gatherer, emphasizing that it's very expensive and they need to get it back, both to download the data and because it's re-usable - "Just use a plastic bag!" Cox, suspicious: "Am I the first person to swallow this thing?" The researcher assures her that she is, while accidentally also making it clear that she won't be the last.
The reason I read this book was a brief article on Cox's swim which noted that before the swim, her teeth had to be specially sealed and some of her fillings removed and replaced, because otherwise they would shatter from the cold. That, I thought, was hardcore. At the end of the book, she notes offhandedly that the nerve damage she sustained from the cold (which she only barely mentions otherwise) is repairing itself, and she's resting while looking forward to the next thing.
Once again, highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.
Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer
*and other famous men, and well-heeled white men who aren't famous, and I realize there's a lot of stuff about race that factors in as well that I'm not able to untangle.
I said all right, because mediocre Aiken is still usually bound to have its redeeming qualities, and then forgot about it until just recently when I was feeling in the mood for a.) Aiken and b.) Gothics.
Morningquest is not really quite a Gothic, as it turns out, though a girl definitely does meet a house in it. I don't really know what it is. It begins when Our Heroine Pandora Crumbe is introduced by her mother -- a very quiet and self-contained person with an unhappy marriage and a quiet, narrow life -- to the wealthy, talented and eccentric Morningquest family.
On their first visit, Pandora's mother keels over of a heart attack at the dinner table!
Thus, Pandora is sort of accidentally bequeathed to the Morningquests, who include:
GIDEON MORNINGQUEST, a tremendously successful conductor with a moderately limited interest in his children
MARIANA MORNINGQUEST, a beautiful and famous soprano who has a mysterious connection to Pandora's mother (subtext: they were probably in love), with whom Pandora falls promptly also in love
and the Morningquest children
DAN, possibly a musical genius, definitely a smug asshole with no morals
BARNEY, the good-looking brilliant one, who leaves behind him a trail of abandoned girlfriends and cats (all named Mog)
TOBY, the sweet scientifically brilliant one who only really talks to his sister Selene
DOLLY, the passive-aggressive and mildly toxic one who is, alas, not really brilliant at all
SELENE, the reclusive one who only really talks to her brother Tony
ELLY AND ALLY, chaotic neutral telepathic twin geniuses
plus assorted household extras
UNCLE GRISCH, an artist, former dancer, and gay Holocaust survivor who is busy rewriting great works of English literature
TANTE LULIE, a Jewish refugee relative of Gideon's first wife, who makes all Mariana's clothes and keeps the household fiscally solvent
DAVE, a useless American that nobody likes
The rest of the book sort of weaves through Pandora's interactions with various Morningquests, her development as an artist, and her search to find out more about her mother.
Along the way, there are various plot threads that spring up involving baby theft and attempted murder and incest and the aforementioned telepathy and drug smuggling and secret underground tunnels and surprise marriages, but, like. Most of these .... don't actually turn out to be all that significant to the shape of the book? Not in a dropped plot-thread way, exactly; more in a 'life just sort of goes on' way. The woman whose baby is stolen in chapter five or so is obviously really devastated, and eventually ends up leaving town, and by the end of the book she's remarried and has another baby, and eventually towards the end of the book a working theory emerges about what the hell was going on with the baby theft, but by that point it's too late to do anything about it, so ...
What actually is significant to the shape of the books? Families, I guess, and a sense of home, definitely, and what home means for refugees, immigrants, people whose past has been lost -- Tante Lulie and Uncle Grisch are the most constant and stable presences in Pandora's life, Pandora's non-Morningquest love interest is a Czech filmmaker-in-exile, Mariana's a possibly-Jewish refugee from Europe, and eventually Pandora finds out that her mother was Jewish too. Which is a surprise to her, but it wasn't a surprise to me.
Because the thing is, the whole Bohemian intellectual cobbled-together family of refugees full of complicated backstory revelations feels -- well, kind of seventies, sure, but one hundred percent real to me. My grandmother and grandfather were both Jewish refugees -- he German, she Czech -- who met and married in the UK in the 1940s. My grandmother was one of a handful of women in her Cambridge med school graduating class. I never met her, but by all accounts she was a wildly brilliant and charismatic person whom everybody fell in love with, who had a habit of picking up lost people and installing them in her house. On my shelf, I have a photocopied book of the letters that she wrote to her long-term lover, who lived in Israel, which his wife sent to my aunts after my grandmother died. My mom and her sisters had a very Morningquest childhood. I'm still finding out things that I never knew, and so, I think, are they.
And, I mean, I NEVER expect to walk out of a Joan Aiken book going 'wow, such realism! what a true portrait!' ESPECIALLY GIVEN the telepathy and the baby theft and all the rest, but there we are.
(And maybe I would have been less punched in the chest by refugee feelings had I read this a different week than this week that we are in right now. There's that too.)
*As a result, I can barely walk myself, though at the time my hip was not particularly painful.
1. I wish Free State of Jones (2016) were getting better reviews; the real history of Newt Knight and Jones County is fascinating. To my knowledge, the only other movie to draw on the story of the Free State of Jones is the very loosely inspired Tap Roots (1948), which is where I first heard of it. I can't speak to the 1942 source novel by James H. Street, but I bailed on the film despite its glancing brush with history and the novelty of Van Heflin and Boris Karloff in the same movie (and Arthur Shields in a bit part, speaking of character actors). Heflin has a mustache, proving that Universal learned no lessons from MGM's Green Dolphin Street (1947), and Karloff is playing a Choctaw character, albeit one who gets to show off his beautifully modulated British accent, and there was too much antebellum melodrama and then when we got to the bellum the melodrama didn't let up and I had better things to do with my time, like brushing the cat. Possibly I am just setting myself up for more of the same if I try out Free State of Jones for the sake of Matthew McConaughey and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but I'm still considering it.
2. Three poems I'd been meaning to link for some time: Eloise Klein Healy's "The Lyric in a Time of War," Chris Emslie's "Prayer for Anything but Prayer," and Harry Giles' "Piercings." I found this one yesterday, but I was right that I'd want the collection it came from: Owen Sheers' "Mametz Wood." It's very strange to read someone whose way of thinking about the war dead of the Western Front is so close in language to mine, even if we did different things with the imagery; I want to look for the common ancestor. I wonder if I can blame David Jones. He's not mentioned in the notes for "Last Letters," but he is the nameless poet with the terrible arcana: "praise for the action proper to chemicals . . . candle-light, fire-light, Cups, Wands and Swords, to choose at random."
3. Internet, I wasn't looking for a photo of Elisha Cook, Jr. at the time of his military service, but I'll take it. The weird thing is, from that angle he looks like someone I knew in college. The obituary photo of Harry Rabinowitz really looks like someone I knew in college, give or take fifteen years and a pinstriped suit. It is extremely jarring to see that sort of thing in a sidebar.
Back to bed.
It is true that as yet I have no idea what I will wear to Club Vivid this year, but in waking life I don't think I'm especially anxious about that.
I do frequently have anxiety dreams that have to do with suitcases and packing: needing a wardrobe I don't have, or not being able to find the clothes I need. I think the dream probably fits into that category: I'm preparing for a major life change (divorce + moving out) and on some level my subconscious is concerned about whether I have the resources I need to become the person I want to become.
(Psst, subconscious: I do. You can calm down now.)
I had no idea there was an opera of David Jones' In Parenthesis (1937). For years it has been one of my favorite bewilderingly obscure works of art; I am glad to see that's changing. Also, I get the impression I should read Owen Sheers.
I think I have come down sick. My entire body hurts, I slept almost eight hours, and I feel worse than I did when I went to bed. That always feels particularly unfair.
Rewatcher’s note: Back in 1987, one of the best reference works of its kind, Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, was published, and it is one beloved by many Star Trek fans. Its author, Shane Johnson, has since transitioned and is now Lora Johnson, and she’s having some major medical issues relating to a heart defect, and needs help. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help her with the massive medical bills. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Lora's Medical and Surgery Fund
Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.
Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.
Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.
After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.
While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.
Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.
I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.
I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.
I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
* I haven't been able to read fiction for two or three months now. Last try was three weeks ago: +1 epub at 3%. A similar cloud seems to have shaded my tolerance for doing two things alongside evening knitting on nights when I'm not working extra, which is to say, anglophone tv requiring nothing complex of me is okay, whereas k- or j-tv needs aural as well as subtitle attention and I'd prefer above both not to undo knitting. Hey, at least I've managed to catch up on 4-5 unread weeks of syndicated feeds (blog stuff) during the last 1-2 weeks.
* It's taken a long time for a different penny to drop---Amami Yūki is a speaking pseudonym, not a random stage name. "Yūki" can be a man or a woman, and she started her career with the Takarazuka Revue. The kanji is not usual, I think: 祐希. "Amami" sounds like the archipelago's name but uses different kanji---name = 天海, islands = 奄美 (where I recognize 美 as Ch mei, K mi = pretty). Oddly, the name's glyphs befit the archipelago better than the official ones do: 天 = sky, for which "ama" is an archaic reading, and 海 = sea, with the complication that 海 may be read "ama" or "mi" or half a dozen other ways onomastically (nanori). Though Wikipedia's archipelago entry cites different kanji for references to the islands over time, none overlaps the actress's usage.
Somewhere, at least one solid explication of the pseudonym must be available in Japanese, since the actress has been active and well regarded for twenty years. I can only mess around with Wiktionary and a hanja dictionary....
* Recent political events: heart is heavy.
Dave Eggars has a fairly damning report on a Trump rally in Sacramento. Damning for what it says about Trump's appeal, rather than for what Trump himself says. Interesting...
This won't convince anyone, but it's a great essay debunking a lot of the asserted reasons for hating Hillary Clinton. (Protip: it's sexism.) And again: why is Hillary being held to a standard that never appears to be applied to her male counterparts? Am I not supposed to notice that a media frenzy has been aimed at Hillary Clinton for accepting speaking fees of $225,000 while Donald Trump has been paid $1.5 MILLION on numerous occasions with hardly a word said about it? Am I supposed to not notice that we are now in an election season in which Donald Trump, a proud scam artist whose involvement in "Trump University" alone is being defined by the New York Attorney General as "straight-up fraud", is regularly calling Hillary Clinton "Crooked Hillary" and getting away with it?
This is a bit hyperbolic, but I could see at least some of it happening: The hack that could take down New York City.
This book about beauty looks really fascinating.
This is kind of a great story -- a dude rescues a baby deer.
Noted for later reading: The Guardian on the evolution of personal taste (I think).
Also wild times in Utah.
In other news, I haven't read all of this yet, but apparently there are new guidelines from Paramount for fannish Trek films? Um. If they're fan films, how can Paramount issue guidelines? (I know, I know, with the threat of lawsuits, naturally.) But really, if they fall within corporate guidelines, they're really not transformative texts anymore, they're approved derivative uses. Or so I would guess.
... and now that I've looked at the summary at Tor.com, holy cow. This is so gross. I really love the one where the fan filmmakers are forbidden to make their own props. And the one where they're required to only distribute via streaming or download -- they can't distribute on dvd/cd. (Sorry, fans in places without broadband, you're not allowed to watch fan films!)
Eh. I'm sure IP attorneys will have more sophisticated takes than I do, but this will chill any critical takes on the Trek franchise. Although I'm not sure how critical any of the fan episodes/films are -- fan films require so much more labor than fanfiction does, I don't know how far afield those folks tend to go.
In other fannishness, I finished reading League of Dragons last night. And ... I liked it. Didn't LOVE it, but it was entertaining, and resolved a lot of stuff in pretty thoughtful and creative ways. There is, in fact, one particular bit at the end where Temeraire goes to thank someone and is roundly rebuffed for his pains, that I just really appreciated. That said, I didn't love the way the narrative cut away from some of the more dramatic moments, only to tell us about them later. In fact, three of the most dramatic things to happen in the entire series are never shown, which I found... baffling?
Anyway, it was still pretty fun and I think anyone who has been sticking with the series will find the conclusion pretty sound. Stuff mostly gets resolved and you can see an interesting future ahead for most of the characters.
This is where light gets in
small acts of kindness
- 'Where Light Gets In'
My mother used to work in sales. "And I was very good at it," she always adds, staring me down as if she might transmit some of those magic sales skills directly eye-to-eye. From her sales training, there are apparently three things I must communicate for a successful conversation:
- Why should the other person listen to you? aka What do you have for them?
- What do you want them to do?
- Why now?
As Antanas Mockus puts it, "The idea of modern democracy is inseparable from the possibility that different reasons may back up the same rules." My mother's sales pitch trick has an unspoken first step: don't start with your values. You don't need them to share your exact values to get their support for a common goal. Start with a goal, work together to make it a common goal, and let that be grounds for shared respect and maybe grounds for talking about values.
I think of values as prime examples of Atul Gawande's slow ideas. ( Read more... )
Memoirs by athletes who are famous in non-famous sports are often very interesting: they're not about being famous and meeting other famous people and (often) getting addicted to drugs/fame/sex, they're about what it actually feels like to do their sport. (Also, they're way more likely to be written by the athlete rather than a ghost writer.)
The best ones are usually by people whose sports involve a lot of endurance and are at least somewhat solo (rather than team sports; you're competing as much against yourself as against others.) I am very interested in physicality, people's relationships to their bodies, the mind-body connection, and pushing the limits of the mind and body, so I like that sort of thing. Especially when interesting locales are involved. People who get seriously into things like rock climbing, long-distance swimming, mountaineering, etc, tend to have mindsets that would not be out of place in a Zen temple.
Cox discovered an aptitude for cold-water, long-distance swimming as a child; she was rather hilariously inept at all other sports, and had a three-year battle with a PE teacher who hated her and kept refusing to excuse her from volleyball to do stuff like train to set the world record swimming the English Channel at age fourteen. Cox was completely self-motivated; her family supported but did not push her.
At this point she is looking for new frontiers. This is all swimming in oceans, not pools. While stymied in her hope of swimming from Alaska to the Soviet Union by 1) everyone telling her that the water is so cold that she would die in ten minutes, 2) her only landing point being a Soviet SPY BASE which they understandably did not want to let an American on to, she joins a study on cold water swimming led by Dr. William McCafferty and Dr. Barbara Drinkwater (seriously), partly to pass the time and partly in the hope that she'll learn something that will enable her to swim in water that normally kills people.
Dr. Drinkwater explains that men have less body fat, and so tend to sink. Women have more, and so tend to float. But… "You're different. You have neutral buoyancy. That means your body density is exactly the same as seawater. Your proportion of fat to muscle is perfectly balanced so you don't float or sink in the water; you're at one with the water. We've never seen anything like this before."
Cox is fascinated by this finding, which meshes with both her abilities and her sense that she is, in fact, one with sea water. But they want to see how she reacts in a natural environment, not in a lab, so Dr. McCafferty and his wife walk their dog on the beach while she does her daily workout in the ocean.
Before and after these workouts, I'd hide behind a bush and take my core temperature using a rectal thermometer, the only way to get an accurate reading after an immersion in cold water. I always made a point of telling Dr. McCafferty my temperature just as joggers were passing; they'd give him quizzical looks, since it appeared to them that he was talking to the bushes.
Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer
This Sunday, the 26th, we will be reading at the HyperText Bookstore in Lowell, MA. 2:00 pm is the time.
Our reading will very likely be the World Premiere of “Gertrude of Wyoming,” a short story that will be published in Altered States of the Union later this summer.
HyperText Café and Books is located at 107 Merrimack St., Lowell, Mass. 01852; 978-677-7191.