Book-a-day: Day One

Jul. 26th, 2017 12:30 am
chantefable: ([fisher] train of thought)
[personal profile] chantefable
1. (Favourite) book from childhood

More lovely pictures here

Comet in Moominland / Kometjakten / Mumintrollet på kometjakt / Kometen kommer by Tove Jansson. It is a sequel to The Moomins and the Great Flood, so it picks up the story of the Moomin troll family and their new acquaintances as they are settling into new life in the valley. Moomin and Sniff go hiking (local eco-tourism) and meet interesting folk - like harmonica-playing Snufkin, the gold standard for travelling minimalist philosophers everywhere! Adventures are had. Snork Maiden saves Moomin from an octopus. A comet is coming and is supposed to destroy everything. In the spirit of friendly community, all friends of different species find shelter in a cave and wait for, well, the end of the world / total destruction / death, and fall asleep. In the morning, they discover the comet has passed earth and everything is okay. Everyone is joyful.

This is a lovely book for children and adults alike. It carries a very particular zen, and teaches useful & true things about life: that things beyond our control happen, and it's okay to panic a bit and be emotional about it, but ultimately, you need to deal with it in an efficient way and live on regardless; that you don't necessarily need to fight something, that life is no competition; that the world is full of very different and very interesting people; that new people will arrive in your valley and make a home there, and that's okay; that people you hold dear may leave, and that's okay, too; that travelling is good, but so is coming back, and it's okay to want both; that all kinds of occupations & vocations are valuable and respectable; that it's great to love doing something; that if you cock up or someone is harmed as a result of your actions, you don't sulk or go on a stupid heroic quest or something, but apologise and to practical stuff to remedy the situation.

Life is better with Moomins. :)

Book-a-day Challenge Masterpost

Jul. 25th, 2017 11:55 pm
chantefable: ([mood] cheerful)
[personal profile] chantefable

A lovely meme as seen over at [personal profile] vaysh11's journal. I love it so much when my f-list talk about books (the lovely Wednesday reads [personal profile] sineala & [personal profile] isis are doing, and [personal profile] osprey_archer's never-ending book discoveries), so I'm going to try switching from the constant stream of fanworks reccing to published books for a bit. No pictures promised, but much book talk. :)

NIF: eps 15-16 Lanterns and Swords

Jul. 25th, 2017 08:57 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
These are transitional scenes in that they flash to the past but are building toward a coming confrontation. But on repeated viewings, we can see deep groundwork being laid for even bigger stakes.

And oh, the emotional moments are riveting.
Read more... )
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
[personal profile] sovay
There is now a Blu-Ray of The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). And it's region-free.

Well, I'm delighted.

(I have to thank Cine Outsider for the tip-off; I had no idea until I was scrolling down as I do about every month or so and then what? I still have dreams of seeing an actual print someday. The film was shot in Technicolor. It may have been chopped to pieces by Columbia, but what's left should still look good. Besides, I have always had the sneaking suspicion that even the most faithful digital transfer cannot properly reproduce the full effect of Dr. Terwilliker's hat.)
sineala: (Avengers: Not tonight)
[personal profile] sineala
Don't mind me; I needed a place to put my Cap-IM Bingo fics. These have all been previously posted.

Card and story list under cut... )

chantefable: ([txt] it's research)
[personal profile] chantefable
I realise this is a bit like screaming into the void, but I have to ask:

Remember how in Batman v Superman, BAMF Lois Lane is somewhere in "Nairomi, Africa" (WTF?) about to interview some shadowy local general, and is accompanied by Jimmy Olsen (who is supposed to be a Daily Planet photographer). Jimmy Olsen has that styled fake-rugged model look that makes him look like an extra from Alias. And indeed, he turns out to be CIA with a tracker in his camera, uncovered by the general's security. (Poor Lois barely makes it three questions in the interview.) Agent Jimmy tries to broker a deal with the general on behalf of his agency, and is killed.

This is seen by his superiors/support team (via heat vision cameras), who refer to Jimmy as 'Talon'.

Codenames are all nice and good, and I thought no further until I read a couple Batman fanfics about the Court of Owls, which is apparently this secret society with hands in many pies intent on world domination. (Not to be confused with League of Assassins, which is another Batman-related secret society. League of Assassins was in Nolan's Batman and had Marion Cotillard.) Court of Owls hasn't been anywhere I noticed? Except -

- except this Court of Owls has these hordes of brainwashed / zombie-like / reanimated replaceable agents or dispatch assassins (IDEK?) who are called 'Talons'. And now I'm thinking, was that an Easter egg or something. Was this supposed to mean that in DCEU, Court of Owls has infiltrated agencies. Or that Jimmy Olsen is going to come back as an undead assassin.

See, I'd say this is weird, but on the other hand, Brubaker had teenage Bucky Barnes shed the booty shorts and come back from the dead with a metal arm and Soviet technomagic hitmanship on his CV, so how do we measure weird? Is bumbling happy-go-lucky Jimmy turned into an extra from Alias turned into a Talon of the Court of Owls 'weird' or... 'comic-book logical'?

EDIT: I stand corrected, Wikipedia informs me that in Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar (who else?), Jimmy Olsen is an agent of the CIA who eventually becomes the director. Moreover, he joins Dr. Lex Luthor in his Presidential bid and becomes Vice President. So I guess yes, magically reanimated Jimmy Olsen + Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor = supervillains forever in future franchise movies?

Thoughts? Links? Fic recs?
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
[personal profile] sovay
So I had a completely miserable night with a lot of pain and zero sleep and only managed to nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon and woke up to grey rain and some potential medical news I'm going to want a serious double-check on, but as I made my intermittent rounds of other people's Tumblrs I saw that [personal profile] selkie had just tagged me for a gifset of twenty-year-old Jeremy Brett as some kind of uncredited beautiful student in Noel Langley's Svengali (1954) and that does help, thank you.

rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Illness memoirs, like child abuse memoirs, have a number of pitfalls. They’re about depressing topics and so are hard not to depress the reader, they’re often by people who don’t write professionally and so are not well-written, and as the subject is inherently self-focused, they can very easily come across as self-absorbed. Even if they manage to avoid those problems, many are valuable works of self-help, self-revelation, community-building, comfort, and calls to action… but are not interesting to someone who mostly wants to read a good book.

This one is a good book.

Julie Rehmeyer, a mathematician and science writer, chronicles how chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) crept up on her until her entire life had vanished and she was frequently completely paralyzed. While she desperately tried to find a treatment, she instead encountered an array of quacks, snake oil salesmen, nice but useless therapists, nice but useless doctors, a patients’ community full of apparent crackpots, and medical literature claiming that it was a mental illness caused by, essentially, being lazy and whiny.

In desperation, Rehmeyer finally starts listening to some of the apparent crackpots… and when she applies her scientific training to their ideas, she finds that stripped of the bizarre terminology and excessive exclamation points, they sound surprisingly plausible. With her entire life at a dead end and nothing left to lose, she reluctantly decides to try a treatment which is both radical and distinctly woo-woo sounding.

And it works.

But unlike every other “How I cured/treated my illness by some weird method” memoir, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, she not only researches and theorizes about how and why it might have worked, she interviews scientists and doctors, and even arranges to do a double-blind experiment on herself to see if it’s a real cause of her symptoms or the placebo effect. I cannot applaud this too much. (I was unsurprised to find that every article I read on her book had a comment section claiming that her results were due to the placebo effect.)

Lots of people have suggested that I write about my own horrendous illness, crowd-sourced treatment, and jaw-dropping parade of asshole doctors who told me I was lying, a hypochondriac, or crazy. While you’re waiting… read this book instead. Though it’s not the same disease and she was treated WAY better by doctors, a lot of her experience with being beaten over the head with bad science and diagnoses based purely on sexism was very similar. As is much of her righteous rage. I am way more ragey and less accepting than she is. But still. It’s similar.

Overall, this is a well-written and honest memoir that shines a welcome light on a poorly-understood illness. Rehmeyer's perspective as a science writer provides for clarity, justifiable anger, and humor as she takes apart the morass of bad science, victim-blaming, and snake oil that surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. It's informative without being dry, easy to read and hard to put down.

Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand

Anthony Burgess' 99 Novels

Feb. 2nd, 2015 12:36 pm
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[personal profile] evelyn_b
Archived from Livejournal

I copied out Anthony Burgess' entire list of favorites from 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939, so that I could keep track of which ones I read. It's a great list!

Future favorites and nemeses, below the cut )

Twelve of the 99 books are written by women -- just over twelve percent, which could technically still be worse! Burgess is cheating a little with his counting, or maybe a lot -- there are a lot of trilogies and quartets here, and worse -- Strangers and Brothers is "a sequence of eleven large novels" and, well, it remains to be seen whether I'm going to be on board for reading all of them.

There are books here I've never heard of, books I was already planning to re-read, books I'd sworn never to read again (hi, Nineteen Eighty-Four!) and books I've been meaning to read but never got around to, plus plenty of books I've seen around for most of my life that never called to me with any particularly enticing song. I'm looking forward to discovering unexpected gems, being bored out of my mind, and enjoying the epic love-hate relationship that has already begin to develop between me and Anthony Burgess.

I am especially looking forward to reading Portnoy's Complaint as an adult! I read it when I was much too young for it to be anything other than a bizarre curiosity, so I have no idea what I'll find.

There are no books on this list for 1971, 1972, 1942, or 1943. If anyone would like to suggest a good book published during one of those years, I would be happy to throw it on the pile.

A Method to Your Murder Monday

Oct. 3rd, 2016 12:32 pm
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[personal profile] evelyn_b
Archived from Livejournal

What I've Finished Reading

The Good Detective by H.R.F. Keating, who was president of the Detection Club from 1985-2000. This is a police story, kind of rough and laddish and also very 90s, with its ecoterrorists and pointed pronunciations of "Ms." Ned French is a CID man who, years ago, bullied a young fanatic into confessing to planting a bomb that killed four people. Now, new information has come to light and the case is being reopened. Since Ned and his supervisor deliberately falsified records to make their interrogation look less torturey, this can only mean trouble for Ned and the CID. Will the crusading lawyer ruin Ned's takedown of a dangerous new crime family with her nosy ways? What does it mean to be. . . a good detective?

Spoilers ahoy )

What I appreciated: this book doesn't fall into the Law and Order: SVU trap of making its criminals EXTRA SUPER TRIPLE HEINOUS in an attempt to make an emotional case for unscrupulous policing. There are no serial killers or torture dungeons, just some unattractive middle-aged wankers who are out to make a buck and don't care about beating a few guys to death along the way. I don't know if the sordidness is really successful, but it's an honest attempt.

I also appreciated how unabashedly pasted on the sexual tension was. At the first meeting between Crusading Lawyer and (Not Actually) Good Detective, the narrator says, in effect, "Suddenly, there was sexual tension! Ned couldn't figure out why." Their relationship becomes a driving force of the plot, but no one ever does figure out why. Sometimes that's the true mystery.

What I'm Reading Now

I'm excited to be reading The Mysterious Affair at Styles, because even though I've been reading Christie off and on since 2014, this is the first Christie, and reading it feels like embarking on a long and important journey. . . OF DEATH. It's a great debut novel, brisker and smarter than The Secret Adversary, which will be Christie No. 2. It's a nice job of misdirection to have Hastings, our affable Jam Watson, announce to his hosts at Styles that he has "always had a secret hankering to be a detective."

"But really, seriously, I am awfully drawn to it. I came across a man in Belgium once, a very famous detective, and he quite inflamed me. He was a marvellous little fellow. He used to say that all good detective work was a mere matter of method. My system is based on his -- though of course I have progressed rather further."

Alas, the dream is destroyed once the man himself turns up, now a refugee under the protection of the philanthropic Mrs. Inglethorpe, whose murder is soon to confuse everyone. Poirot is a little more demonstrative here than I remember him from the future, but can you really blame him? He "clasped [Hastings] in his arms and kissed [him] warmly."

"Mon ami Hastings!" he cried. "It is indeed mon ami Hastings!"

The edition is odd - an attractive new paperback with elaborately reproduced handwriting (not handwriting font) for the handwriting parts, but full of typos; about a quarter of the "mon amis" are printed, "Mom ami."

What I Plan to Read Next

More from 1921's most promising debut author, Agatha Christie! I've actually read a couple chapters of A Conspiracy of Paper, too, but I don't have anything to say about it yet.

Lost Time Thursday: Fresh Defects

Sep. 29th, 2016 12:28 pm
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[personal profile] evelyn_b
Archived from Livejournal

This week in Lost Time: Little M. goes to a party, the Guermantes are glib about the Dreyfusards and Swann's poor health, M. de Charlus takes an opportunity to be offensive, and M. has a talk with Swann. He goes home early to keep an appointment with Albertine, but she hasn't called.

Civilization enables fresh defects )

AND. Saint-Loup is back, only now he's all cynical because he's given up on Rachel. He doesn't even want to talk excitedly about Stendhal anymore, because that's Rachel stuff. All he wants to talk about is a bunch of brothels and how love is a lie. I miss the old Saint-Loup.

What's the Difference Wednesday

Sep. 21st, 2016 12:16 pm
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[personal profile] evelyn_b
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What I've Finished Reading

The Groves of Academe )

(This book should not be confused with The Graves of Academe, which is a collection of one guy's angry letters about how badly written all his university's interdepartmental memos are).

The True Actor )

What I'm Reading Now

I accidentally ended up re-reading a bunch of the Anne of Green Gables books at once, and I'm predictably full of feelings. I still can't stand Davy and Paul Irving, but there's a lot of great stuff in Anne of Avonlea that I'd forgotten, like the return of Mr. Harrison's wife and the time Anne and Diana put together The Greatest Lunch Ever for their favorite girlhood novelist, only to have her show up on the wrong day with nothing to eat in the house and Anne covered in feathers from changing the bedding. But it turns out all right anyway, thanks to quick thinking and Anne and Diana being unstoppable housekeepers.

Also: I thought I was over my dislike of Gilbert Blythe, but it turns out I am not over it AT ALL; he's worse than I remembered in House of Dreams. Anne tries to sympathize with Leslie's feeling that her life and gifts are being wasted, and Gilbert's all, "Oh, Anne, SOME PEOPLE might say that YOU'RE wasting your life by marrying the man of your choice and living in a rural community like you've always wanted! Aren't you going to reassure me even though I know the answer :D ??" SHUT UP GILBERT not everything is about you and your stupid happiness. >:(

Gilbert aside, though, Anne's House of Dreams is great, even if a huge chunk of what makes it great is "Anne gets confronted with loss and suffering."

I've gone back and forth on Anne of the Island all my life -- first I loved it, then I didn't, now I'm back up to strong liking. I'll never find Phil's cutesyness as funny as I did when I was 10, but I appreciate the last days of Ruby Gillis a lot more.

Other than the Annes, I'm reading a non-fiction book called The Spiritual Life of Children by Robert Coles. It's a collection of conversations with children about their thoughts on religion and spirituality. The author is a lot more into Freud than I'm used to, but the conversations are good.

What I Plan to Read Next

Wise Blood! Probably some other things, too. Witches Abroad as soon as I finish this little stack I'm supposed to be working through.

Murder's Best Friend Monday

Sep. 19th, 2016 12:14 pm
evelyn_b: (killer dolphin)
[personal profile] evelyn_b
Archived from Livejournal

What I've Finished Reading

I'm sorry to report that HARDMAN #6, Murder's Not an Odd Job left very little impression on me in the end. There's a guy some people are trying to kill and some women and HARDMAN worries about his weight and eventually he and HUMP DAVIS hole up in a shack in the mountains to shoot some people for reasons that weren't clear. HARDMAN has a girlfriend, but he also sleeps with other people, because 1) it's the shock-proof 70s!! and 2) he needs to reassure himself that his aging body is still desirable, poor guy.

I left it on the library's "adopt-a-book" shelf as I came in and when I left the library, it was gone. If no one had picked it up in the course of the afternoon, I meant to take it back and try to figure out some more things, like what actually happened in the plot, but fate decided otherwise. Good night, sweet HARDMAN. I hope your next reader appreciates you a little more.

I'd bought a beautiful first edition of Grave Mistake by Ngaio Marsh many months ago, in what I thought was good condition. The dust jacket is still fine, and the spine seemed all right when I bought it. But apparently it was only holding out long enough to entice someone to buy it, because as soon as I started reading it, all the glue crumbled away and all of the pages fell out into my lap, like it had just touched down on human roads after three thousand years in fairyland. I've taken a picture of the cover so you can see how nice it looked (it's a little deflated from losing the pages).

grave mistake

Grave Mistake itself is pretty good. I enjoyed the wry spinster playwright (not named Ngaio)'s relationships with her selfish, hypochondriac friend and the friend's much more sensible adult daughter. I guess she can't properly be called a "spinster" now that it's 1978(!) There's some good interrogation in this one, where everyone has a dark secret or two and can't see why it has to come out just because some silly woman got herself murdered. The murder motive was a bit hard to sell, but you can't let a little thing like that spoil your fun. Besides, good motives for murder are just depressing.

Dumb Witness didn't have as much of its title character as I would have liked, but if it were up to me, all books would just be pictures of dogs. That's not true all the time, but it's true now and then. This is a solid but not breathtaking Christie with a good cast and lots of Hastings being stupid but making up for it by being adorable and playing with the dog. And there's this charming slice of backstory:

"Remember a case that made rather a stir in the late nineties? Mrs. Varley? Supposed to have poisoned her husband with arsenic. Good-looking woman. Made a big to-do, that case. She was acquitted. Well, Thomas Arundell quite lost his head. Used to get all the papers and read about the case and cut out the photographs of Mrs. Varley. And would you believe it, when the trial was over, off he was to London an asked her to marry him?"

My heart goes out to you, Random Poisoner Marrying Guy, but where is your sense of self-preservation? Anyway, he doesn't get poisoned (not a spoiler), but his grown children certainly come in for a lot of suspicion when their great-aunt fetches up dead of maybe-poison. Eventually, The twin specters of Evil Foreigners and Bad Blood are neatly sidestepped. There is a happy ending for the dog and that's all that really matters.

What I'm Reading Now

Every time I pick up Photo Finish, the part of my brain that is slow on the uptake expects it to be about horse racing. In fact it has nothing to do with horse racing and is about an opera singer who is plagued by a tabloid photographer before being murdered. Troy is invited to paint her portrait! in beautiful New Zealand! so we are treated to a double dose of New Zealand Scenery and Theatre People. The opera singer has just shelled out a tremendous amount of money to produce a new opera written by her young protege/lover, but the poor guy is so tormented by the knowledge that his opera is actually terrible that he comes on stage, following a perfectly adequate debut in which everyone was being polite and a few people even enjoyed themselves, to apologize for the opera and announce that he wished he'd had the strength of character to withdraw it as soon as he realized it was bad. Oh, opera guy, no. :( I'm afraid this is a terrible impulse I can relate to all too well, though I am sadly lacking in fabulously wealthy patrons with no taste.

The last book in my Mystery Bundle is called something like The First Rule of Hawkins or The Fourth Law of Harris; I have left it at home and am unable to check. It's about a very angry guy who drinks tequila and orange juice out of a jar in public and hates his ex-wife for 1) being obnoxiously saccharine and innocent, and 2) failing to save him with her innocence, which apparently he tried to apply to himself like some kind of dodgy Victorian poultice to soothe his Vietnam (or possibly Korean) war wounds. Does he realize that this was a bad reason to get married? It's not clear. PLEASE MARRY RESPONSIBLY. The guy also has some strong feelings about religion. So far it is all the angst with none of the detection, and it remains to be seen whether it will be good or "interesting" or bad. But it will be a neat trick if I end up sympathizing with this guy after all.

What I Plan to Read Next

Whatever's next in my stack! There's this historical thing called A Conspiracy of Paper that may or may not be good. And Light Thickens, of course. I hope Alleyn doesn't die in the last book. Closure is all very well, but I don't want any. :(
evelyn_b: (killer dolphin)
[personal profile] evelyn_b
What I've Finished Reading

The stories in The Listerdale Mystery are nearly all in the "silly fun" category of Christie shorts - lots of perky young women testing their men for manliness, and downtrodden young men getting a new lease on life through some staged or accidental adventure. When you line them all up together, Christie's faux-adventure rom-com romps get a little samey, but they're all right in isolation - though nothing has yet come up to the gold/cheese standard of The Man in the Brown Suit, with its high-quality hand-wringing and island-pacing action. There's one genuinely chilling murder story in "Philomel Cottage" and a black-comic one, with a predictably wicked twist, in "Accident" - the latter featuring an intrepid investigator who strides manfully forth to bite off more than he can chew.

What I'm Reading Now

Murder at the ABA is a tale of murder! At a meeting of the American Booksellers' Association! What could be better? It's important to note, as the book itself does at the outset, that it is both written by Isaac Asimov and includes a character called Isaac Asimov who is a "prolific writer and self-esteemed wit." Is this a good idea, the best idea, a bad idea, or the WORST idea? Or is it, as sometimes happens, a four-car pileup incorporating all of the above? All I can tell you is that it introduces a straw feminist character on the first page, and on the second, burdens the s.f. with the minor (but hilarious!) humiliation of a nip-slip.

(NB: not actually all that hilarious).

What I Plan to Read Next

Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie and Unfinished Portrait by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie).
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
[personal profile] sovay
I do not think after all that I have read Nicholas Stuart Gray's The Apple-Stone (1965); I think I have just read a lot of E. Nesbit, Mary Norton, and Edward Eager, all of whom are obviously in the DNA of a novel about five children—the English narrator and his two sisters plus their Scottish cousins who are known collectively as "the Clans"—who find a strange, ancient, sentient power that brings magic into their lives for about a week and then moves on, leaving mostly memories and just a few things changed for good.

"One touch from me animates the inanimate," boasts the Apple-Stone, the "small, bright, golden ball, about the size of a marble" that assisted in the birth of the universe and gave rise to the myth of the Golden Apples of the Sun; the children find it on the highest bough in the orchard, like a Sappho fragment come to life, and they make enlightening, foolish, dangerous, and kind use of it over the next twelve chapters until it returns to the earth to sleep and restore its power and find another apple tree to bloom from, decades or centuries hence. Most of their adventures have a comic slant, as when they animate the decrepit hearthrug to settle a bet over what kind of animal it came from and never find out because they spend the day having confused their "Lambie" with an actual escaped leopard prowling the moors, or have to play detectives for a lost glove weeping bitterly over being separated from its beloved right hand ("I'm deeply attached to it. I love it"), or create an intelligent, talkative, opera-loving sheep about twice the size of a Great Dane for reasons that make sense at the time. Sometimes the comedy turns spooky, as when they accidentally animate a feather boa and get Quetzalcoatl, who not unreasonably expects a sacrifice for incarnating when called, or an episode with a formerly model rocket triggers an international incident and science fiction, or the narrator discovers an unexpected and unwanted affinity for night flight on a witch's broom. An interlude with an effigy of a Crusader constitutes the kind of history lesson that would fit right into Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), as some of the children have their romantic illusions punctured and some come away with an interest in astrology and medicinal plants. And the two weirdest, most numinous chapters are the reason I can't be one hundred percent sure that I didn't read this book a long, long time ago: the life and death of the Bonfire Night guy that is partly the sad, passionate ghost of Guy Fawkes and partly a pyromaniac patchwork of the five children whose castoffs and imagination gave it form (as it explains in one of its more lucid moments, "Everyone is a mixture, you know, and I'm more so than most") and the introduction of new magic when the weeping gargoyle off a nearby church turns out to be the stone-trapped form of a medieval demon named "Little Tom," a wild, ragged, not quite human child in tricksterish and forlorn search of a witch to be familiar to. Both of them gave me the same half-echo as Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew (1953), again without any of the language coming back to me. I might run it by my mother to see if she remembers bringing it home when I was small. On the other hand, it might just be that I know [personal profile] ashlyme and [personal profile] nineweaving.

The Apple-Stone is the second book I've read by Gray and The Seventh Swan (1962) almost doesn't count, since I know I read it in elementary school and all I can remember is that it upset me more than the original fairy tale, which I suspect means I should re-read it. I like this one a lot, non-magical parts included. We learn early on that the parents of the English family are the puppeteers behind the popular TV show Ben and Bet Bun and absolutely none of their children think once of bringing the Buns or the Foxies to life because they find the whole thing desperately embarrassing. (The Clans' parents are rocket scientists and the narrator envies them deeply. "We're fond of our Mum and Dad, and hope they may grow out of it in time.") The children as a group are a believable, likeable mix of traits and alliances, differentiated well beyond obvious tags like Jo's academic crazes or Nigel's artistic talent or Douglas' belligerence or Jemima's imperiousness or Jeremy's daydreaming. They fight almost constantly with one another—the Clans especially, being composed of one Campbell and one Macdonald, are engaged in the kind of dramatic ongoing feud that is half performance art and half really blowing off steam—but close ranks immediately against outsiders, even supernatural ones:

"But I must tell you straight, gentles, that I can't do much of the true Black Art," said the gargoyle. "I'm not one of the great ones. I was never aught but a very little 'un. Horrid tricks I can manage," it added, boastfully, "like makin' folks squint, or muddling their minds, or twisting their tongues so that they stammers and stutters—"

"I c-can do that without your help!" snapped Nigel, going red.

"And I'm muddleheaded enough for everyone," I said, quickly.

"No, you're not!" said Jo, fiercely. "And Nigel only stutters when he's away from his home." Then she turned on the gargoyle. "You'll do no horrid tricks, do you hear? We're not sorcerers. We brought you here to help you."

The creature was still changing during all of this . . . Its hair was long and black, and tangled. Its ears were still pointed, though not as huge and batlike as before. It gave us a scornful grin, and said, "Many sorcerers don't care to admit to it."

If you have not read this novel, you can probably tell by now if you're going to like it. The Nesbit it reminds me of most is The Enchanted Castle (1907), but it feels like itself and it feels like its own time, which is equally important. I am actively sad that the near-fine UK first edition I saw at Readercon cost sticker shock—the library copy I just finished reading is the American first edition and the illustrations really didn't work for me. (I'm sorry, Charles Keeping! Your work for Alan Garner, Mollie Hunter, and Rosemary Sutcliff was great!) Maybe sometime I'll get lucky at the Strand. In any case, the text is what matters most and that I recommend. It is good at the strangeness of things that are not human and it never risks making even the cute ones twee. It's good at children's priorities and the ways that not being an adult doesn't mean not seeing the world. I didn't quote much of a descriptive passage, but I like its language. Anyone with other favorite novels by Nicholas Stuart Gray, please let me know.

Everyone make their best dead faces

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:55 am
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
I did not make it to the last day of Necon due to circumstances falling through, but fortunately [personal profile] handful_ofdust was flying back to Toronto from Boston, so I took the time-honored Sunday combination of very slow buses, trains, and shuttles out to Logan Airport and had a splendid time hanging out for two hours before her flight, even if I still miss being able to walk people to their gates and wave them off onto the plane. We had dinner and talked about everything from neurodiversity to Orson Krennic, Imperial Poseur; I came away richer by a binder of DVDs (through which [personal profile] spatch is happily poring as we speak: "We could watch Moana! You know you've also got Deathgasm? Ooh, Night of the Comet. Logan, that's good") and a Gemma-made necklace of amethyst, pearls, gold and amber glass beads, and a frosted-glass pendant that used to be an earring. Coming back, I foolishly thought it would be faster to cut over to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing and that is how I spent forty-five minutes asleep in a sitting position on a bench at Sullivan Station because there were no buses and I was very tired. The air was cool and smelled like the sea. The cats came and curled up with me in the last of the sunlight when I got home. Worth it.

This could be good...

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:59 pm
sineala: (Avengers: Welcome to NY)
[personal profile] sineala
In fandom-related news, in case you are not breathlessly following the various SDCC announcements, Marvel Comics finally announced the last of the post-Secret Empire comics... a Cap comic. A Cap comic by Waid & Samnee!

I think a lot of people who don't generally read comics are mostly just thrilled that Steve won't be Hydra and that Nick Spencer is off the book. And I think people who do generally read comics are thrilled because it's Waid and Samnee. They had what were apparently good Daredevil and Black Widow runs recently (I've never read them) and Waid is currently on Avengers (which is decent but not spectacular) and Champions (which is mediocre)... but everyone really likes his Cap.

I have never read Waid's actual Cap run -- although I guess I could, because it's shorter than I thought (v1 #444-454 and v3 #1-23) -- but I have read the Cap/IM '98 Annual (as have all 616 Steve/Tony fans), Sentinel of Liberty (a fun miniseries), Cap #600 (the story about Tony buying Steve's ID card), the Avengers x.1 mini recently (Kooky Quartet! so much fun!), and of course the Man Out of Time mini that obviously everyone loves and that I think we have all decided to rec to everyone as a great place to start reading Steve & Tony comics. So, I mean, he's got a good grasp on Steve's character (and especially, I think, on classic Steve), so I am... optimistic. (I know, I know, we were all optimistic about Bendis taking over IM and now Tony's dead and his characterization has gone in weird MCU directions, but... I am somehow more optimistic? They're BRINGING THE HEADWINGS BACK.)

In MCU news, I am mostly just thrilled that my fave JANET VAN DYNE is going to be in the universe (even if I am eh about the casting and still sad she'll never be a founding Avenger now) and also that the Captain Marvel movie will be Carol fighting Skrulls in the '90s. (I like how fandom is already taking bets as to who has secretly been a Skrull.) I thought MCU didn't have Skrull rights but maybe that's just the Super-Skrull. Maybe it'll be the Kree/Skrull War? I guess we'll find out.

Fannishly related to the above comics news, now that it's officially open I guess I should mention that [personal profile] kiyaar started a Discord chat server for 616 Steve/Tony, membership 18+ only. There are a lot of dick emoji. And a weekly book club -- we're kicking things off with Man Out of Time in honor of the Cap announcement. More information (and the server link) is available here.

I owe a bunch of people comment replies/emails (sorry!), but I should probably just say that if you liked the story I posted yesterday, Caz drew some art for it and it is BEAUTIFUL. EEEEEEE.

(Now I just have to finish my Anniversary Zine story ASAP. *deep breaths*)
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
The next three episodes are a minor arc: the first two end mid-conversation. This is the arc that got me obsessed with the show—not only was the emotional dimension compelling, but I was catching Mei Changsu in the act of greatness, showing us how he does it. And the conversations about the past, about political expediency and loyalty and so forth resonated to the backs of my eyeballs, all the more considering the daily news here, focused on politicians from whom absolutely nothing can be believed or trusted, whatsoever. Nothing. It’s such a horrible, helpless feeling as we watch the limits of democracy tested, that watching a show in which people with good intentions slowly gain agency to the benefit of the innocent pretty much took over my life for the duration.

And it helps that the actors are all so gorgeous, the clothes jaw-droppingly beautiful, the sets all places I would dearly love to live in myself.

Anyway, Marquis Xie is shaping up for a major power play, thinking that he is maneuvering behind the scenes while his targets fumble in the light of day. But as yet he doesn’t know that he is quietly being outpaced, step by step . . .
Read more... )


Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:31 am
asakiyume: (glowing grass)
[personal profile] asakiyume
The Ashley reservoir is now one of my go-to places to take people when they visit. I took my old college friend and her husband there, and learned that the water-loving plant that I had thought looked very mangrove-y is buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), which grows up and down the Atlantic coast and as far inland as the Mississippi, and is indeed a species in the mangrove biome!


button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Yesterday I took [personal profile] osprey_archer there (and we read aloud to each other--so much fun), and lo and behold, the buttonbush was in bloom! I didn't have a camera, so she obliged me with a photo:

Buttonbush in flower, by [personal profile] osprey_archer

The flowers look like how pollen looks under a scanning electron microscope:

Buttonbush flowers....

buttonbush flowers

Pollen, much magnified:


Or, um... like an influenza virus...


It smells nice, though, and bees and butterflies love it. AS DO I.

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I don't know if I saw relatives of mine this afternoon.

My grandfather's father was born in Lodz. He was the eldest of six siblings, three sisters, three brothers; the family owned a textile mill in the city and the father was a Talmudic scholar of some repute. My great-grandfather was expected to continue in his father's religious footsteps; instead, after a stint in the Imperial Russian Army (from which he must have deserted, because he sure didn't serve twenty-five years), he became what my grandfather once memorably described as a "Zolaesque freethinker" and emigrated to America in 1912. One of his brothers followed him; though we're no longer in contact with them (a little thing about declaring my mother ritually dead when she married my father), his descendants live in Florida. Another brother is buried in Israel, though I'm not sure how or when he got there—his older children were born in Lodz, his later ones in Tel Aviv. None of the sisters made it out of Poland alive. The middle one I have almost no information about, except that Lodz is listed as her place of death. (Her children survived: they too turn up later in Israel.) The eldest and the youngest died—as far as I know, with their families—in Chełmno and Auschwitz. These are the cousins who feel like closer ghosts than they should, dying in 1942 and 1945, because their descendants would have been no farther from me in blood than [personal profile] gaudior. They are loose ends, like other family stories. I don't know what there is to be known of them anymore.

Because the exhibit is closing in a week, my mother and I went to the MFA this afternoon to see Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross. If you live in the Boston area, I don't say it's a light day out, but it's worth your time. Ross was one of the few survivors of the Lodz Ghetto, a staff photographer employed by the Judenrat. He was supposed to take the nice pictures of the ghetto, to document how productively and well the Jews were getting along under Nazi supervision; he used his license to take the ones that were not so nice, dead-carts instead of bread-carts, chain-link and barbed wire, the sick and the starving, the broken walls of a synagogue. He documented the resistance of living, which sometimes looked like defiance and sometimes like collaboration: the slight, quietly smiling man who rescued the Torah scroll from the smashed-brick ruins of the synagogue, the young wife and plump child of a Jewish policeman like the ones seen—perhaps he's among them—assisting a crowd of Jewish deportees aboard the boxcars that will take them to Auschwitz. Pale Jude stars are so omnipresent in this black-and-white world that even a scarecrow wears one, as if to remind it to confine its trade to non-Aryan fields. Ross took about six thousand photographs total; in the fall of 1944, as the ghetto was being liquidated, he buried the negatives as a kind of time capsule, not expecting to survive himself to recover them. He was still alive and still taking pictures of the depopulated ghost town the ghetto had become when the Red Army liberated it in January 1945. His face cannot be seen in the photograph of him reclaiming his archive because he's the figure at the center of the grinning group, the one bending to lift a crusted box from the dug-up earth. Groundwater had rendered about half the negatives unsalvageable, but rest could be developed, warped, nicked, bubbled, and sometimes perfectly clear, their damaged emulsion showing scars and survival. He published some in his lifetime. He never arranged the complete series to his satisfaction. My mother would have seen him on television in 1961 when he testified against Eichmann. The MFA has a clip of an interview with him and his wife Stefania née Schoenberg—his collaborator and another of the ghetto's 877 Jewish survivors—eighteen years later in Israel, describing how he took his covert photographs hiding his camera inside his long coat, how just once he snuck into the railway station at Radogoszcz to record the last stages of a deportation, the freight train to the "frying pan" of Auschwitz itself. He died in 1991. It is said that he never took a picture again.

(I know there are philosophical questions about photographs of atrocity: how they should be looked at, what emotions they may have been intended to evoke, to what degree it is or is not appropriate to judge them as art. I'm not very abstract here. They were taken to remember. You look at them to make sure you do. What you feel is your own business; what you do with the knowledge of the history had damn well better concern other people.)

My great-grandfather's sisters would have been deported from the Lodz Ghetto. Their death dates even match the major waves of deportation to their respective camps. I have no idea what either of them looked like. I have seen maybe two photos each of my grandfather's parents: aunts and uncles, nothing. I'm not saying the photos don't exist. My grandfather had a sister; she may have inherited a better pictorial record. But I haven't seen it. And looking for people who look like my grandfather is no help; Henry Kissinger went through a period of looking like my grandfather and that was awkward for everybody. Any older woman might have been either one of them, any older man one of their husbands, any young people their children, any children their grandchildren. None of them might have been my family. Maybe theirs were among the images destroyed by the winter of 1944, as unrecoverable as their bodies. Maybe they were never captured on film at all. I wouldn't know. I don't know. I pored over faces and thought how beautiful so many of these people were (not beautiful because of their suffering: bone and expression, the kinds of faces that are beautiful to me), how many of them looked like both sides of my mother's family. Almost no one was identified by name. Maybe no one knows these people by name anymore. I hope that's not true.

You can look through the contents of Henryk Ross' archive yourself. They are, like most photographs, historical and modern prints both, better in person. We left the museum and had dinner at Bronwyn both because we lucked out parking two blocks from the restaurant in the middle of a street fair and because it was Eastern European food and it felt symbolic that we were here to eat it, even if I am pretty sure that a Hungarian-inflected chorizo dog is food of my people only in the sense that I personally would order it again because it tasted great. I did some badly overdue grocery shopping and caught the closing performance of the PMRP's Murders and Scandals: Poe and Doyle and spent nearly the entire cast party upstairs reading the scripts for the second through the fourth seasons of Babylon 5 (1993–98) and as much of the fifth season as doesn't suck. Autolycus fell asleep on my lap almost as soon as I sat down at my computer and I haven't been able to move from this chair for hours. I can't imagine what the world looks like in which I have so many more cousins of the degree of Gaudior, although I know that I am tired of fictional versions in which neither of us would even be here (the same goes for other atrocities, imagined worse for purposes of entertainment). Maybe in that other world, we have more family photographs. Maybe we're not in contact with them, either. Maybe I still don't have faces to go with the names. It doesn't matter if they were all strangers, though, the people from this afternoon and more than seventy years ago: they were alive. They are worth remembering. Especially now, they are worth remembering why.


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