oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

I finished Once in a Blue Moon - as I said last week, reliable: it may not be pushing any boundaries but neither was the old Cafe Flo's confit de canard. Also Tales of the Hidden World - not sure that the short story is really where Green's talents lie, though these weren't bad. Though some of them are very, very early works.

I also - aided by the commute to and from the ExCel conference centre to attend Loncon - finally made my way through Women Destroy Science Fiction, which has given me a number of new writers to look for.

Also read Ruth Rendell, No Man's Nightingale, which was very readable, even if there was a certain amount of Wexford bumbling around on the unofficial margins of an investigation and the Hand of Coincidence dropping clues in his way. But are they any longer much about the puzzle, if they ever were?

There has also been some Sekkrit Projekt reading, though less than I would have liked.

On the go

Simon R Green Casino Infernale, on the grounds that if I take any physical books away with me next week they should be SP books, and otherwise I have masses of things on the Kobo.

Up next

As above, also I hope to get very soon to Greer Gilman, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, and a new collection of short stories by Rosaleen Love, which I picked up at Loncon.

(no subject)

Aug. 20th, 2014 07:55 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] gmh and [personal profile] ravurian!

In a word: no.

Aug. 20th, 2014 07:44 am
selenak: (Elizabeth - shadows in shadows by Poison)
[personal profile] selenak
It's weird what breaks one's suspension of disbelief. Here I was, starting a novel with a premise that's, well, extremely unlikely, but which I was prepared to accept for the fun of it, to wit, Roger Ascham taking his most famous student, 13 years old Elizabeth Tudor, abroad for a few months, and not only abroad but to the greatest chess tournament of the world, taking place in Constantinople. Where gruesome murders ensue which Ascham has to investigate. Roger Ascham as a detective, barely teenage Elizabeth as his Watson, Constantinople? Sign me on, thought I, what an entertaining premise, to hell with likelihood.

Bug then, on page 23 of Matthew Reilly's The Tournament:

"We were sitting in my study reading Livy's account of the mass Jewish suicide at Masada."

Livy. Masada. Livy, as in Livius, contemporary of the Emperor Augustus. The mass suicide at Masada, which took place during the Emperor Vespasian's reign. SEVERAL GENERATIONS LATER. My dear Mr. Reilly, thought I, I can buy any number of historical AUs but you have to show me you did your research first. The historian you want is Flavius Josephus, aka Josef Ben Mattias, and that's not really hard to find out. Off with your head!
oursin: Photograph of Stella Gibbons, overwritten IM IN UR WOODSHED SEEING SOMETHIN NASTY (woodshed)
[personal profile] oursin

I have expressed, here and there, the possibility that the Victorian male was not a happy bunny as regarded his sex life and the enjoyment of ye conjugalz, owing to all the fear and horror-mongering going on about LUST and PASSION.

And whaddayaknow, a sociologist has discovered that young men who are brought up in evangelical religion and under pressure to save themselves for the marriage bed, have problems:
What happens when evangelical virgin men get married?

They believed that sex was sacred, but they also talked about sex as beastly, as something that needed to be controlled. The “beastly” elements of sex, for them, are things like masturbation, pornography, lust and same-sex desire.
They believe that men are highly sexual beings and they have “natural urges” that need to be controlled, but they don’t believe that women have that natural desire to be sexually active. Women are the providers of sexual activity for their husbands.
Rather than saying, “I’m a man because I engage in a variety of sexual activity,” they’re saying, “I’m a man because I can avoid that temptation; I can control these things.”
When you spend the first twenty-plus years of your life thinking of sex as something beastly that needs to be controlled, it’s very difficult to make that transition to married life and viewing sex as sacred. And once these men are married, the church pulls away the support group. The idea is that once you’re married, it’s all good – you’re supposed to be enjoying sex with your wife.
But as one of the guys said, once you get married, the “beastly” doesn’t disappear.

More Links Than A Bag Of Sausages

Aug. 19th, 2014 03:21 am
petzipellepingo: (more links by eyesthatslay)
[personal profile] petzipellepingo
Blindfold (9) , Willow/Angel by [personal profile] velvetwhip.

Banked , Willow/Kendra by [personal profile] snickfic.

The Chains They Revere , BtVS/Hockey RPF by [profile] brutti_ma_buoni.

Pivot will be showing BtVS in HD starting today.

Manhattan 1.04

Aug. 19th, 2014 08:45 am
selenak: (Obsession by Eirena)
[personal profile] selenak
In which something I hoped for last week happens promptly.

Read more... )

Reading books about reading

Aug. 18th, 2014 08:33 pm
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

Trying to clarify my thoughts about that book about reading through random selection of authors who happen to be on a particular shelf -

- which, okay, does sound to be a bit in the same ballpark as those books which are about (and I made this up, but that doesn't mean that it mightn't be out there) How My Partner and I Worked Our Way Through All The Positions in the Kama Sutra, i.e. projects which appear to have been undertaken because they are embodied elevator pitches for A Book.

However, some of my best beloveds as writers have taken something like this - e.g. GB Stern using random objects on her desk to kickstart one of her ragbag chronicles, Margaret Drabble using jigsaws to focus The Pattern in the Carpet - as a way of getting going.

I.e. does it matter if something isn't generated by the deep upwelling of something from the inner springs of the human heart and indeed, might not one find that the most surprising and random things manage to tap those inner springs?

I'm also not sure that reading about someone else's reading is either a symptom of the superficiality of modern litree kulcha or the provision of a helpful reading list. I have e.g. enjoyed the writing of critics on films I have no intention of seeking out and watching, even if they may also have occasionally stimulated me to do so in the case of others.

It strikes me that there's something weird about demanding that people read books (or at least taking a position that they ought to be reading) but not books about somebody else's reading, because, on the whole, if you read books about exploration nobody says you should be out there in your solar topee with your machete and your inoculations up to date, or in your polar gear with your sled, or even doing some less extreme form of strenuous physical engagement with the world about you like walking the Pennine Way; and no-one suggests that instead of sitting down with MFK Fisher or Elizabeth David you should be slaving over a hot stove actually cooking yourself. (And there are occasions where one enjoys very much what a restaurant critic writes, but the general result is swearing never to go to that particular establishment.)

Reading about something - including about reading - is not a cop-out from doing the thing itself. It's another thing; actually, probably, all sorts of things depending on the particular reader.

Bavarian Visuals

Aug. 18th, 2014 02:41 pm
selenak: (VanGogh - Lefaym)
[personal profile] selenak
Living near the alps has its benefits. As I have to leave the area again and head for my annual longer stay in Bamberg with the APs, I have to share some photos from the past few weeks from the Tegernsee and its people:

 photo 2014_0811Supermond0001_zpsbd257e33.jpg

More beneath the cut )

That's, like, awesome

Aug. 17th, 2014 11:01 pm
selenak: (Buffy by Kathyh)
[personal profile] selenak
L.A. Confidential has been nominated at the SunnyD Awards ! In the categories: Best Comedy, Best Gen Fic, Best Characterization. Whoever did that: thank you so much! I'm one happy author.

 photo imagejpg1_zpsc97878fa.jpg

And now I have a whole new rec list of stories to check out via the other nominees on the list.

Although some bread is in the making

Aug. 17th, 2014 09:13 pm
oursin: The Accomplisht Ladies' Delight  frontispiece with a red cross through it (No cooking)
[personal profile] oursin

For reasons which are perhaps obvious, there has not really been any culinary activity this weekend, although there was pheasant and lentil soup for Friday supper and I have just popped a 3 Malts and Sunflower Seed loaf into the oven.

Did my other panel today - not sure how it went because it's hard to tell when you're actually on one, also the way it was framed was not quite in tune with My Thorts on the panel topic. However, I got in my obligatory Mitchison plug.

I then failed to get into the following panel of my first choice, as by the time I had got out of mine and got myself organised the queue was massive and I was several behind the last person they squeezed in. I did get into my second choice but found the room acoustics unhelpful particularly as there was apparently a film being shown in the adjacent room.

I then did a little final wander about before dragging myself home (actually this was less painful than might have been as I was v lucky with DLR & Tube connections).

Annoying history of feminism FAIL in passing comment in a review in the Observer on that programme about women in WWI: 'What Ms Adie failed to tackle, and only because it's such a gargantuan question, was why it was that feminism took a good 50 years to be reborn.', which is thoroughly AAAAARGH I don't even, because does Euan Ferguson think that equalisation of divorce law (1923), the 'flapper vote' (1928), various legislation relating to the rights of mothers and children, birth control, the abolition of marriage bars, etc, simply dropped as the gentle dew from heaven???

I find this creepy, because as a child I had statue-related nightmares: Statues of the great and good across the capital and Manchester will be able to chat to passers-by thanks to smartphone technology.

And I may return to this when able to brain more effectively: are such 'bibliomemoirs' a sign of an increasingly superficial literary culture or vital guides for a public swamped by choice? Or, can you say 'false dichotomy' and 'it's all more complicated'?

(no subject)

Aug. 17th, 2014 10:43 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] quiara!

More Links Than A Bag Of Sausages

Aug. 17th, 2014 02:49 am
petzipellepingo: (more links by eyesthatslay)
[personal profile] petzipellepingo
In Another World , Giles/Drusilla by [profile] xspike4evax.

Alone, For Now , Faith/Fred(Illyria) by [profile] kwritten.

[profile] rbfvid casts Buffyverse characters as felines .

Saturday evening news..

Aug. 16th, 2014 10:30 pm
midnightsjane: (Default)
[personal profile] midnightsjane
And another week flies by. I can't believe that it's the middle of August already. Blink and you missed it! At least this week has been a little cooler, so I've been sleeping better. A tired Jane is a grumpy Jane..

Had three really hectic days at work; I was so happy to finish last evening. It was perc valve Friday in CCU, the day they do the TAVIs (transcutaneous aortic valve placement, a procedure pioneered by one of our cardiologists in which a new heart valve is inserted via a femoral artery into the heart, thereby avoiding open heart surgery). It's done for high risk, generally elderly people who wouldn't tolerate open heart surgery, and it's pretty amazing. Most of the patients do well, and go home within 72 hours. We do three every Friday, as well as all the angiograms that get done every week day, and sometimes it gets pretty bloody busy in the CCU. Yesterday was no exception, and I was run off my feet. By around 6 p.m. I was trying to deal with both my patients who had come back from the Cath Lab within 20 minutes of each other. Taking vital signs and checking pulses every fifteen minutes, then pulling out the angio sheaths (the catheters in the femoral artery and vein) and all the other things...whew. My coworkers tried to help, but they had their own stuff to do to. I found myself standing in the hall dithering..trying to do ten things at once, and getting nothing much done at all. So I took 15 minutes to shovel my dinner down my throat, because I'm sure my blood sugar was low. I ended up working 45 minutes overtime, getting my charting done. I was very happy to get home and collapse. So when the phone rang early this morning (at 5:45) and staffing asked me to come in, it was all I could do not to laugh hysterically. No way. And again just now, they called wanting to know if I could work tomorrow. Nope. I think I deserve a few days off. After all, I'm supposed to be retired!!

I was out at the farm this afternoon to see my horses and check on my garden. It was lovely, a bit overcast and cool. Sue and Jack went out to do their weekend shopping, and I was there alone. It was so peaceful, except for the propane cannons going off at the blueberry farm next door of course..we're used to them and hardly notice usually, but when it's super quiet, the bangs really echo! Pretty soon they'll have harvested all the berries, and it will be quiet again. Midnight and Rochelle are still having a great time in the field; Rochelle is getting spoiled, and hates coming in to her stall. She'd better enjoy herself now, because soon enough the weather will change and they'll have to come back into their stalls and paddocks. But for now it's good.

Nicole was telling me that Midnight comes down to the sandy patch of ground by the gate every morning to get a drink and then lies down for a nap. Rochelle comes too, and once Midnight is down, she lies down beside him, even though he pins his ears at her. She just wants to have a wee cuddle with her BFF. Seems like they do this every morning, but I have yet to see it.

I checked out the squash plants that are growing on the manure pile in the field; there seems to be at least 4 different varieties. Acorn, butternut, and something I think is a delicata and maybe a turban squash. Funny thing is, I only remember eating the acorn and butternut varieties! There must be at least 40 squashes there, from what I could see. I picked a couple of the delicata and this evening I roasted them to make pureed squash to freeze. I toasted the squash seeds too; they're very tasty with a bit of salt. A nice healthy snack.

Picked a bunch of beans, some peas and a couple of cucumbers, as well as swiss chard and kale, from my garden. Some rhubarb too. There is something so satisfying about growing vegetables, then sitting down to dinner and enjoying the taste of something that was growing not two hours before. I'm very pleased with life at the moment.

I stopped off at my friends' bookstore on the way home to give Jill some of the bounty from the garden. Her father loves rhubarb, so she took some for him (hers didn't do well this year). I was browsing through the books, and came across a book I think Sue will enjoy: Poirot and me by David Suchet. Sue is a huge fan of the Poirot series on PBS, as am I, and we were just talking about them today. I bought the book, and have been reading it all evening. Fascinating insights into character development by an actor who has captured Christie's vision of Poirot like no other, a really enjoyable read. Going to finish it this weekend before I pass it on to Sue.

And now it's the end of the day, and time to say goodnight.

Xhorsted hedjog go splattttt

Aug. 16th, 2014 09:01 pm
oursin: Sleeping hedgehog (sleepy hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

There have been some good moments at Loncon today, I do admit, even if the venue is vast and exhausting to navigate.

Prearranged meetups worked (even if one of them involved an earlier start to the day than I had initially planned), plus also serendipitous encounters with others and general delightful conversations.

Hard to tell how panel I was on worked - it was the one that I was kind of WTF as to why I was on it in the first place, except on reflection could see why they might have thought me a fit for it, and I think I was able to make some not uncogent remarks, while finding myself pretty much singing from the same hymnsheet as the other panel members.

I did manage to get to another panel earlier on - '"Your 'realistic' fantasy is a washed out colourless emptiness compared to the Rabelaisian reality." Discuss.' - though I wish among the historians ancient and medieval there had been someone to speak to how crap novels can be at representing more recent bits of the past (wot, me scathingly bitter about pseudo-Victoriana? could that be so?) Also, the focus tended to be on women (though also touching on other issues of status, hierarchy, slavery, religion, legal codes, etc) and I never got to ask the question I wanted to ask about how thinking in a more nuanced way about the historical construction of masculinity might suggest that the grimdark depiction of men as sociopathic thugs is no more accurate than the denial of agency to women on the grounds of some narrow notion of what constitutes 'historical accuracy'.

Belle (Film Review)

Aug. 16th, 2014 10:36 am
selenak: (Guinevere by Reroutedreams)
[personal profile] selenak
This film, named after its heroine, got released in Germany two days ago (titled with her complete name, "Dido Elizabeth Belle"), a few months at least after the British release, so I'm not sure whether it's still in AngloAmerican cinemas. If it is, though, or you can watch it on dvd: do so. Especially if you like a) (good) romantic costume drama, and b) movies with social awareness of the times they're set in, not to mention the big one, c)a movie with a black heroine.

These factors are rarely united. Belle is based on someone who actually existed, Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race girl (black slave mother, white father), who as opposed as most children in her position ended up being raised by her father's white aristocratic family. There isn't much known about her, which gives the script lots of room, but one of the few known circumstances mentioned in every article I had read ahead of watching the movie was that the man who became her guardian, Lord Mansfield, in his capacity as Lord Chief Justice ruled in two important slavery cases which later became credited with paving the way to eventual abolition of slavery in Britain. Mind you, knowing this I was both curious and worried, worried that the movie would be solely his story, with Dido confined to being his motivation and having no agenda or personality of her own.

Which turned out not to be the case. Not only is Dido, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, assuredly the heroine of her own story, but one of the clever things the film does is to use narrative tropes familiar to the viewer from just about every Jane Austen adaption ever - the need to marry for economic reasons, status differences, various ill fitting suitors, hasty judgments, Mr. Right first sparring with the heroine, a cad revealed etc. - , and puts them in the (still) unusual context provided by Dido being who she is. And where she is, which is in between. She's regarded as enough of a family member so that she can't eat with the servants, but not enough to dine with the family if there are guests present. (Shared breakfasts sans guests are okay.) Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) can't imagine anyone worthy of his bloodline proposing to her because of her colour but won't accept anyone of lower status, so has her marked to follow the current elderly maiden aunt (played by Penelope Wilton, great as ever) as a glorified housekeeper. Because her father left her an inheritance, Dido has money, while the white cousin she was raised with, Elizabeth, has been disinherited by her father in favour of his children from a second marriage and thus doesn't get proper offers in the marriage market, either.

The "finding a husband"/"is a husband worth finding?" trope provides just one of the subplots, though. Another is Dido coming to terms with who she is, and forging an identity that's not based solely on her white relations. A visual theme through the film is Dido looking at the pictures in the splendid Kenwood House, which do have the occasional black figure - always in a servant position and somewhere in the background. (Throughout the film, however, the (historical) double portrait of her and Elizabeth is created.) When Elizabeth has her London debut, there is a black servant in the town house, Mabel, and Dido is at first very uneasy with her before steeling herself to ask whether or not Mabel is a slave. When first told there aren't likely to be any marriage prospects and there can't be an official debut for her the way it is for Elizabeth she, in the privacy of her bedroom, claws at her face. But throughout the film, the case of the Zong massacre is running, and Dido's growing identification with the slave victims of said massacre (who were drowned, all 142 of them, so the ship owners could cash in the insurance; the slaves had gotten sick and would have been sold at a lesser price than the insurance that was to be paid) becomes part of the identity she forges. At the end, she claims her mother as well as her father.

Sam Reid plays the idealistic John Davenier who wins her heart by supporting her in this quest. The movie's obligatory cad (interested in Elizabeth until he finds out she doesn't get an inheritance, leering at Dido) reminded me of someone, but I couldn't place him until the credits: it's Tom "Draco Malfoy" Felton in Georgian costume. But another attractive quality of the film is that it treats Dido's sisterly, supportive relationship with Elizabeth as equally important to her developing romantic relationship with Mr. Davenier. And, of course, there's the relationship with Lord Mansfield, who loves her like a father - but also has to work through his own bias.

Lastly: kudos to director Amma Assante for including black people other than Dido (and Mabel) in the London crowd scenes. Not a majority, of course, but enough to indicate that the big cities in England had at that point started to acquire (literally) a black and mixed race population.

In conclusion: a really enjoyable movie. And the next time a Daily Mail reader says you can't do British costume dramas and include actors of colour, just point them its way.


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March 2014


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