Today I was attending a small colloquium-type thing at Former Workplace, and, having said I didn't think I had anything to contribute in the way of a presentation to the former colleague who was organising our end (the other end is an organisation interested in history of [A Topic]), I was asked to chair the final panel discussion.
Fine, says I, but I have a meeting that was scheduled months ago with two researchers doing an interesting project and may have to nip off sharpish, i.e. before the few closing remarks by the their end organiser.
So, anyway, I was down for this (and on the preliminary programme, my job-title given as something that it isn't).
So at one point, there was supposed to be a 20 minute session for several really short snappy presentations (followed by TEA). The first person to speak took the best part of 20 minutes, and then the their end organiser (who was chairing, for some rather informal definition of chairing, the whole thing) got up to give their presentation, notionally a quickfire thing -
And took 40 minutes though some of that was discussion (yes, actually discussion was supposed to wait for the panel at the end, but this had pretty much gone by the board anyway).
It is just possible that they had made a mistake about what time it was and thought there was a gap to fill.
But the upshot was that by the time the last paper was finished, I was obliged to leave.
(Without time to pick up my messages which would have said that the people I was meeting had REASONS why they thought they had better defer, so I met them anyway and actually we had a good and lively and productive session.)
I am not sure how many squares on conference bingo this would tick - is there a square for 'chair & speaker same person, no-one to tell them them to stop NOW'? or reality check that they know what time it is?
(I'm in Bamberg right now and will be for another week, otherwise I could tell you first hand, since Munich is my main place of residence.)
Another great Munich fact from last week: when the right wing nutters from Pegida wanted to have an anti-asylum demonstration last week, they had to cancel not because of intervention but because nobody showed up. Seriously. Nobody, as in zero. Whereas half of Munich came to the main train station to help the refugees. Take that, hate speech producers!
Of course, it's important that this spirit of help remains instead of dissipating, because the situation in Syria and elsewhere grows only worse and the refugees will become ever more (Germany expects up to 800.000 to arrive 2015 officially, unofficially people say it's probably going to be more like 1 Million), but it's still something hope-inspiring in days of terrible news otherwise.
2) This reminds me of the pharmaceutical model -- the money is in chronic illnesses, not in curing you. The Ashley Madison hack revealed that fewer than 2500 of the accounts listed as female (which was under 15% of all accounts) ever were active on the site, as most were likely fake accounts.( Read more... )
3) In a conversation with shapinglight, I mentioned my reaction to the Netflix series Frankie & Gracie. I thus found it rather interesting to compare to my recent viewing of Last Tango in Halifax (also available on Netflix). ( Read more... )
4) This article is aptly titled America is for rich people, and discusses what inequality actually looks like in terms of compensation, though it could do more in pointing out how already having money gets you breaks in all sorts of ways (rather like the way a celebrity is more likely to be offered a free meal or item than someone who actually needs it).
5) I have my doubts about this result but it's an interesting study to have been done about TV viewers: "Teen boys were more likely than older Millennial women (25-34) to self identify as a feminist."
--Lord Darlington from "Lady Windermere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde
But now I'm thinking that maybe the quote above is closer to my philosophy of Spike than anything particularly deep. Tsk.
What I read
Heather Rose Jones, The Mystic Marriage (2015), which I thought rather stronger than its predecessor.
EF Benson, David Blaize (1916), which I read quite a long while ago and had on the e-reader. Really, really, BROMANTIC, with that trope of the idealised boy/young man fulfilling the same role as the Love of a Good Woman in reforming the bloke or turning him away from his potentially evil path. Query: within this particular trope, does the Ideal Figure of Chaste Manly Love have all the three-dimensionality of Irene Forsyte (i.e. NOT), and is it all about their part in someone else's redemptive journey? (or at least, that is the more interesting story.)
On the go
Susan Stinson, Spider in A Tree (2013), which I have been wanting to get to for a while, but had the whole Sekkrit Projekt reading thing going on. It's very good, and in some ways is reminding me of The Corner That Held Them, though I have a feeling that it speaks to a period of US history (and its cultural resonances) with which I am really, really unfamiliar.
E F Benson, David Blaize and the Blue Door (1918), about which, meh, and probably will not finish. O EFB, you are no Lewis Carroll, or even Mrs Molesworth. Also, how is it that David's father, who is a bumbling clergyman in the other two books about him, here appears to have a laboratory and be a scientist?
E F Benson, David At King's (1924) (very lately e-available). More bromance, no plot that I can discern, much hijinx with eccentric dons, etc etc.
Well, Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown is not out in the UK until 10th, chiz, chiz, so I'm not sure what will be next.
In news appertaining to my own books, I think The Textbook must be being set on various upcoming uni courses, by the Amazon sales rankings of recent weeks: though it's a pity that some people are still buying the first edition...
Here are the novels in question, their plusses and downsides in the opinion of your humble reviewer:
The Margaret of Ashbury trilogy:
1. A Vision of Light: introducing our heroine, Margaret, who dictates her memoirs to a monk and lives in the time of Edward III., but is totally not Margery Kempe, honest. Mostly not, I suspect, because Judith Merkle Riley wanted Margaret to enjoy sex more and be a bit more down to earth. But Margaret does have visions and chats with the Almighty, in between going through a vivid medieval life, including an encounter with the plague, becoming a midwife, marrying twice (spoiler: in this volume), and having the ability to befriend tremendously interesting people. Margaret is a delightful heroine, and like I said, not the novel's sole carefully drawn woman. You get a sense of how clichés are avoided/twisted around early on when he drunken father remarries, a not-attractive-anymore widow with two sons of her own who at first glance doesn't seem to care for Margaret. But no, we're not going the Cinderella/Evil Stepmother route; instead, Margaret due to an incident starts to see her stepmother as a human being and bonds with her (not to mention that Mother Anne teaches her the highly useful skill of brewing excellent beer). Later, when Margaret's mentor, the midwife Hilde, shows up, you think: mentor figure! Midwife in novel set in the late middle ages! She'll die! But no. Hilde is still happily alive and living with her trickster type companion at the end of the trilogy. And so forth.
If A Vision of Light has a downside, it's that the ending, the last 50 pages or so, are basically a set up for the next volume rather than a conclusion to this one. If there had been no more novels, I would gone "Hang on! Am I to believe this abrupt shift in their relationship will make either of them happy? But - but..." Knowing what will come, I'm fine with the twist.
2.) In Pursuit of the Green Lion: perhaps my favourite of the trilogy. Margaret and SPOILER have to deal with the fallout of that set up, and Judith Merkle Riley executes one trope I enjoy if well done - ( Spoilery trope named ) - in a convincing way. Also there's lots of sarcasm at the expense of the nobility, and two bickering ghosts. (In future books, Merkle Riley sometimes lets the supernatural elements go overboard, but here it's just in the right doses, plus one of the ghosts is someone Margaret loved and lost in the past, and the book makes the point that loving someone in the present doesn't mean all that came before wasn't as important, or, conversely, that having loved someone truly means you can no longer love anyone else. In short, it's the anti One True Love No One Else Counts trope I still wish was more common. Yay! This is also the first book set in France for a considerable part when Margaret & friends are undercover as pilgrims, giving us a wry and amused look at the Avignon era of the Church. Oh, and it features the first bunch of Merkle Rileys satanists; there's a Gilles de Rais type around...who has it in for Margaret's love interest because said love interest satirized the count's poems. Which is a very Merkle Riley twist.
3.) The Water Devil: a bit of a let down compared to the first two. Not that it's a bad book per se; by itself, it's a perfectly entertaining adventure novel, Margaret & friends are still a captivating lot. But the villainess is a paper thin cliché, and the story itself doesn't really add anything new to Margaret's development, as opposed to the first two. Ah well.
The Serpent Garden: set during the early reign of Henry VIII., and highly unusual already because it has nothing to do with his marriages. The most prominent Tudor in it is his sister Mary, since her brief marriage to the French king and subsequent one with Charles Brandon form part of the plot, but Mary is only a supporting character. Our heroine here is Susanna, soon widow of a morally no good painter and an accomplished painter of miniature portraits herself, who first becomes a part of Wolsey's entourage and then a part of Mary's. This novel has both a third act and a supernatural problem; for two thirds of it, Susanna is a fine plucky heroine using her talent in world that keeps underestimating her, plus the book offers a take on Wolsey during the height of his power. (No Cromwell in sight, though Cavendish shows up as a flatterer and Anne Boleyn as a teenage girl in France.) But Susanna's no good husband who dies at the beginning has been involved in supernatural treasure-hunting, and during the last third, the book gets dominated by an angel versus demon struggle with Susanna only playing a small part, and it's just not what I signed up for.
The Oracle Glass: My favourite of the standalones! Set in Paris during the Reign of Louis XIV, with the famous "Affair of the Poisons" playing a central role. Our heroine is Genevieve, clever, a book worm, but also handicapped, which is why her mother hates her. Genevieve gets thrown out after her father's death and gets picked up in the streets by Catherine La Voisin, the most (in)famous "witch" of Paris, soothsayer, abortionist, master poisoner, con woman and head of a whole network of women who have at least one of said skills as well. Genevieve gets a new identity as the 150 years old Madame de Morville and becomes a successful soothsayer, which works out well for her for a while, but if you know at least a bit of French history, you know La Voisin has a date with destiny. She, btw, is perhaps Merkle Riley's most successsful female villain/ambiguous character (sometimes one, sometimes the other), practical, ruthless, and basically a female Don Corleone, seeing herself as simply a very successful business woman with marketable skills. (Which she is, and has the business folders to prove it.) Genevieve's attitude towards her is a mixture of respect, (justified) distrust and some awe.
Meanwhile, Genevieve's blood family is dastardly rotten, except for her grandmother (whom she models her Madame de Morville persona after) and her sister, Marie-Angelique, who is another great cliché refuter, because she's the pretty blonde one to Genevieve's intellectual brunette, but she is also Genevieve's one good family member and consistently loving towards her, instead of being a mean girl (tm). Then there's Genevieve's maid Sylvie (who gets paid a lot to spy on her by various parties and cheerfully admits to it every time to Genevieve while keeping the cash), and the other ladies of La Voisin's network. This novel is just bursting with women who are interesting and have interesting relationships with each other. And I'm okay with the romance, too. Highly reccommended.
The Master of All Desires: alas. This one has the dullest heroine of the lost, Sibille, despite her being a writer (a poet). She gets completely overshadowed by two other ladies, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, since this novel is set in France, 1556. The title refers to the novel's McGuffin, a mummified head who can fulfill wishes but specializes in fulfilling them in a way that ruins everything for the wishing person. Catherine and Diane both want it, Sibille by accident has it, and Nostradamus tries to deal with the head in a way that avoids bringing on the apocalypse. This is a novel with a good premise, but it can't quite decide who the main character is - Catherine, Nostradamus or Sibille -, and Sibille, alas, is the most colourless of Judith Merkle Riley's OCs. Also Nostradamus having issues with poetry in general gets repetitive. Worth reading for the way Merkle Riley twists events at the end of Henri II.'s reign and after to be the result of ill-considered wishes by Diane and Catherine (let's just say wishing crowns for all your children is a baaaaad idea if you don't clarify three of them aren't supposed to get the same one), and for a take on Catherine de Medici which is traditional but also avoids the monster cliché (this Catherine has the potential but doesn't go there yet). Also if you enjoy twists on the "evil wish fulfiller: how to outthink them?" trope. But as a novell, it belongs with the "Serpent Garden" to those I think could have used a complete redrafting and/or different focus.
Her Very Own Igor , Willow/Dawn by velvetwhip.
Tricks Are For Magicians , Dawn/Willow by snogged.
Never a Good Time , Cordelia/Darla/Doyle by aaronlisa.
Distraction , Spike/Xander by sparrow2000.
High Times , NC-17 Spike/Xander by perverted_pages.
Spike banner, icon, wallpaper by comlodge.
TinyFences podcast talks What's My Line, Part Two.
Storywonk podcast talks Choices.
Fanfare podcast talks Something Blue .
Fanfare podcast talks Hush .
Fanfare podcast talks Hero.
Fanfare podcast talks Parting Gifts.
I tend to hibernate in summer, and this one was no different in that respect. We also got mega busy at work in the past month or so, and I have veered between long days at work and sleep. OTOH, I found out recently I will lose a week's accumulated vacation if I don't take it before mid-November. So I will have 5-6 three-day weekends in the next month and a half. Can't say I mind. I was saving up days for next year's Australia trip and possible days off due to my back procedures, and have not nearly had enough days off.
Watched Season 4 of OUAT when it came to Netflix. Still poorly executed, but it makes more sense the second time through when you know they aren't throwing free will off the table.
Anyone seen the new Star Trek online movie, Renegades? I just started it. Planet and ship special effects are much better than 90's series, but the ship interiors and some of the characters look like amateur YouTube Trek. This despite it being a collaborative project of several Trek veteran actors.
GF and I are watching Farscape. First time for her, second time for me. Enjoying it more the second time around. I guess seeing it before changes my expectations for it.
In writing news, I sidelined the novel I've been working on for the past few years because it was spinning out of control and not getting finished. Started a short story in a writing class that has now turned into a novella. How does this happen to me? Plan: learn the art of plotting for brevity.
An oldie (2013) but an apposite goodie:
Matt Haig, 30 things to tell a book snob. Go Mr Haig, such good sense.
More on male contraception, which comes to conclusions that, given the remarkable takeup of vasectomy in the 70s, seems surprising, even though they are the sort of thing that seems to make intuitive sense. (And as I have commented in this context before, there's a difference between positing a pill or an implant to blokes as just an idea, and the decision they might make within a particular relationship scenario.)
Most men say they wouldn't take a male contraceptive pill, and I'm not surprised. The anecdata factor in this looks strong...
And while I'm on the subject of the reproductive system of the human male: A year after it was established, Britain’s national sperm bank has admitted it has only nine registered donors – prompting its boss to urge men to prove their manhood by donating sperm. (Apparently business in imported sperm is booming...) Makes some interesting points about a) what people looking for donor sperm want and how realistic that is b) the tension between altruitism and vanity as motivations to donate.
Playing With Fire , Spike/Xander by forsaken2003.
And Make a Lost World Thy Home, BtVS/VM crossover by jesterlady.
Chapter Twenty of Broken Arrow by velvetwhip.
DarkHorse previews Angel & Faith, Issue No. Eighteen .
The HollywoodReporter reviews, back in 1997, Welcome to the Hellmouth.
EW includes Spike in their "16 TV characters who stuck around longer than expected". "Spike, a poet-turned-vampire sporting atrocious bleached hair and a leather jacket, was supposed to briefly appear as a villain and then die off, as temporary bad guys are wont to do. After he proved popular with fans of the show, creator Joss Whedon decided to fully develop his character".
The AVClub includes Winifred Burkle in their "The late greats: 18-plus TV characters who buoyed shows midstream". "it was only at the very end of that second season—when Amy Acker joined the Angel Investigations team as Winifred “Fred” Burkle—that Angel really became Angel".
(On a side note, I love how we've finally gotten a few shows with POC in leading roles and already there have been concern troll-y "But what about the white men?!" articles.)
Anyway, once the episodes stopped focusing on Piper, I started liking the show much more.
( Spoilers got time )
Also, the opening song is the best.
Since my last post, I've been buried in a mountain of work, which is sort of nice and sort of not. Of course, there was also a lot of travel arranging, which is like a second full-time job, at least the way I do it. There's also been plenty of recreation, including hosting houseguests, seeing bands, dancing, going to parties, having a girls weekend at a Napa vineyard with the "girls" from college. I also attended a tightly plotted drag show wherein the villain was named PIxie Pardonne Moi (sic). A friend had been tapped to pole dance (badly) during the intermission. Heh. Good times, y'all.
I've missed a lot of fun LJ activity. There were memes that seemed exciting, excellent art and fic — some of which I missed, I'm afraid — and this exciting party celebrating the 5th Anniversary of sb_fag_ends!
I only got my act together enough to post a silly prompt, alas, but the mods over there deserve to be fêted! Take a bow bogwitch, quinara, and shapinglight! Garlands also to all the contributors who continue to make that comm so great! Go, read, comment! I know I will.
My recent pre-series Giles fic, Giles and the Mountain, was nominated by very kind person(s) in Round 32 of the Sunnydale Memorial Fanfic Awards in the Best Gen, Best Drama, and Best Characterization (for Giles) categories, and also in Round 12 of the No Rest for the Wicked Awards, in the That Old Gang Of Mine (best gen) category. I'm touched that my sporadic work still appeals to somebody out there! There's still time to nominate your favorite fanworks, and make a fellow fan's day!
Because of being away for the Bank Holiday weekend.
There has been some bread-baking, however:
Last week there was a Standen loaf - 2:2:1 wholemeal/white spelt/buckwheat flour (white spelt because it turned out what I thought was a fresh bag of strong white was wholemeal).
Saturday breakfast rolls were Tassajarra method maple-ginger-cranberry.
Today on return I made a loaf of the Three Malts and Sunflower Seed flour.
Yes, it's Jonathan Jones again, this time dissing on Sir Terry Pratchett and people who write popular books (that is, people of this present day who write books that are loved by the public)*, in comparison to oh, ye Gr8 Canonykle Wryterz of Gr8 Litrachur -
Is this not, my dearios, a tiresome affectation that The Past Was Good, the Present Is Crap, that I noted in Mr Jones's moaning about modern artists and Kate Moss as icon?
Because he is a modern avatar of a recurrent theme, which is This Awful Modern Generation of [Practitioners of some Art/new genre of Art, popular among The Masses], so unlike Ye Passte, and in the 1930s he would have been moaning about movies as a form, including specific individual examples that I am sure he will now in this year of grace consider Classix of the Arte Cinematique.**
C. 1820 he would have been whingeing on that the Romantic Poets were AWFUL, so very much not like Pope, and what is this thing that this thing is, this dreadful NOVEL by A WOMAN about the trivial matters of a wimpy poor relation in a gentry household, how is this worthy to stand by FIELDING or RICHARDSON.
A few decades later and it would be (we guess) DICKENS is not like SCOTT and is a mere journalist pandering in sensation.
(This is, I think, a different thing from people who diss on Modern Art, which is seen as Highbrow and pretentious, rather than panderingly populist: in fact maybe it is just the inversion of same.)
I do not think that Mr Jones can have been reading the current series in The Guardian in which people write about the Books That Changed Their Life, because this shows how very various are the books that do that for individuals and it is not necessarily works of Universally Acknowledged Gr8 Lit.
As a palate cleanser, have this piece snarking J Franzen for his attitude to women writers and the quote-unquote 'sub-literary', and defending 'comfort reads'. I don't agree with it all, and I think it's possibly still a bit buying into the value-system, but it makes the case for LOVE of particular books rather than patting oneself on the back for having read/appreciated them because they are culturally respected.
*No, really, not linking, I am sure my dearios can make it up for themselves, second verse, same as the first, etc etc.
**This post gets him bang to rights about the embedded cultural elitism in that theme.