Saturday, February 3, 2018

January Pt. 2

Already slowing down for the second half of the month, or so it feels. Hopefully that doesn't portend my reading habits for the remainder of the year.
  1. This is Water by David Foster Wallace
    • Listened to it for the first time after reading it eons ago. Just as good, if not better, than the first time I encountered this graduation speech. If this is the sort of thing I missed when I didn't go to my undergrad ceremony, I might sort of regret it, but I get the feeling it wasn't anything close.
  2. Too Many Moose by Lisa Bakos, illustrated by Mark Chambers
    • I love the illustrations, the rhythm, the playfulness of the whole thing, and how it all ends (just as you knew it would).
  3. The Reasons for Love by Harry G. Frankfurt
    • Re-read.
    • Well I suppose wholehearted self-love does come with rather a bit of difficulty to some of us, so if we refuse to take ourselves too seriously, as Frankfurt advises, it should blunt the failure in ourselves of our inability to live such a satisfactory life.
  4. Wave (2015)
    • Quite enjoyed this one, even as I found the probability that the entire family should have survived to be quite slim. Why couldn't the dad have died at the end? I suppose that would've been a sour point for the son to live with. How did he survive in that car with the other woman when the wave hit? I also get the feeling that death by drowning looks much less painless than is portrayed in this movie.
  5. Big Nate: In a Class by Himself by Lincoln Peirce
    • Much better than Diary of a Wimpy Kid in my opinion! I'm not sure how well it captures a sixth grade boy's mind, especially in terms of the writing, but Peirce definitely does a better job balancing silliness with some semblance of reality.
  6. How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays by Mandy Len Catron
    • The whole notion of being deserving of love and having value as a person that doesn't depend on being as unnoticeable as possible, catering to people, being the best doormat that ever was, was great to see in print. I mean, I know all of this, yes, but at the same time I feel like there are certain times in life when you need someone to sort of slap you across the face and remind you that no, you don't need to be a "good" person in socially conventional gender norms for girls* sort of way in order to be deserving of anything good. In fact, the whole thinking about deserving anything is a bit odd, considering the way the world is and the way we might think it ought to be don't always coincide - the ratio varies person to person, I should think.
      • *I write "girls" rather than "women" because of the infantilization of women and the way in which the qualities that characterize a "good" girl (in any stage of her life), from the way I perceive it at least, seem to coincide a lot with passivity and taking power and autonomy away from them, as though we were children that needed coddling... or perhaps "someone older and wiser telling [us] what to do" (there were some problematic aspects to Sound of Music, looking back).
    • On not needing someone in your life but still wanting them to be in your life, and how that's really honestly probably the best you can hope for.
  7. 5 to 7 (2014)
    • So... in the end, we have a return to the white heterosexual monogamous norm that I for some reason or another thought ever to question, or assumed this movie was out to question?
  8. Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun
    • Hmmm.... it was all a bit too focused on the religious aspect of marriage for me. I preferred How to Fall in Love with Anyone more than this, though I get the feeling I'm probably getting some of the chapters confused between authors because I read both in close succession.
  9. To Die Like a Man/Morrer Como Um Homem (2009)
    • I feel as though this could have been so much better. There were parts I genuinely enjoyed, such as when Tonia & Rosario go digging in their little garden for everything the dog had hidden away, and the film as a whole got better towards the end, but the majority of it had this odd momentum to it, as though it couldn't decide whether to stop or go.
  10. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    • AMAZING.
    • Bradley perfectly captures the petulant, confused, and completely overwhelmed Ada as she navigates the differences between what she has always been told by her mam and what she now encounters outside her home with Susan. The tantrums, the insecurities that cause Ada to go into herself while everything horrible happens around her, were relatable and also portrayed in a realistic light: she knows at times she is being horrible, yet cannot stop herself from doing so because of her doubts, her insistence on not letting herself believe she can be completely happy lest it all be taken away the moment she lets her guard down.
  11. Good Neighbors (2010)
    • For a movie that takes place in Montreal, why is "neighbors" spelled the American way rather than the Canadian "neighbours"?
    • Weird. Creepy. Crazy cat lady on full blast?
    • Even if Louise left it all alone, wouldn't the police have identified Victor anyway? Considering she used his sperm? Though I suppose she would've had to clear up the whole fiancée business, and Spencer would still have been around. Well that certainly wrapped up nicely.
  12. Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
    • This was surprisingly well written! I'm actually genuinely impressed and see how the craze I hear surrounds this series should have arisen. At some point I did start getting tired of the endless description, but overall, I would recommend this book in a heartbeat.
  13. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
    • It's my first time reading this series, and I think I might have enjoyed it more as a child, precisely because there are all these remarks that break the fourth wall and address the reader directly both assuming the reader has a decently sized vocabulary while simultaneously assuming otherwise. There were a lot of things that happen in this installment that were way out there (e.g. Uncle Olaf striking Klaus, the complete apathy of Mr. Poe, the entire plot to marry fourteen-year-old Violet - I assume there has to be something that prevents that situation from happening anyway... I mean, you can't both be the husband and be the guardian that allows a minor to enter into a legal marriage, right? Any way you look at it that sounds plain wrong), and I'm not sure what for, if that makes sense? Yes, I expect a certain sort of suspension of belief, but it almost seems like Snicket was simply trying to shock the reader. Or push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable in children's literature? (Of course, there's much worse that happens in children's literature, I'm sure, but still!)
  14. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (audiobook)
    • It's my first time really listening to an audiobook, I think, and I'm having a surprisingly good time of it! It helps that the author is a comedian and is reading her own work. (The last audiobook I remember being forced to listen to is for The Giver by Lois Lowry, and I don't know which version of it we listened to in elementary school, but it was sheer torture. The voice just droned on and on and on and on! I remember being fond of the novel, but the audio really kind of ruined it for me. Over a decade later, I am finally giving audiobooks another chance. Wait, I do remember listening to Tom Hiddleston reading some children's novel - I don't even remember the title, to be honest - but let's be honest: I didn't care a fig about the novel (which wasn't that great, by the way, because I was actually listening to the content and not just Hiddleston's rendition of the whole cast of characters - arguably the best thing about that whole audiobook).) Part of the issue for me personally in terms of whether audiobooks work for me is that I don't drive, and if I'm playing the audio off my computer, I want to be doing something with my hands and looking at/watching something - knitting is great up until your wrists are in pain and you need to give them a rest except you also want to continue listening. I suppose I could in theory download the mp3 off Overdrive and listen to it on the bus, but I'm a bit wary of taking myself away from receiving as much input from around me as I can when I'm crossing streets (enough cars seem to want to run me over as it is while I'm crossing at the signal and looking drivers in the eye) and waiting for buses (what if it just passes me by?).
      • I guess that's part of why listening to a book can strike someone as being less worthy, as counting less (see below article linked), than reading a book, though that doesn't actually make sense considering how much effort goes into following along to the spoken word. It feels like you're not doing anything productive, and if there's one thing you learn to do in North American society in order to be a good human being, it's to be productive. With listening to audiobooks, I feel the need to be doing something actively with the rest of my body - as though listening to something shouldn't be absorbing enough to merit my full attention - whereas with reading, there's precious little else I could be doing because my eyes are on the page and my hands are doing their job keeping the book open and if I try to do anything else, well, we know how multitasking is actually just you switching between tasks and doing all of them less well. And with audiobooks, you get a certain version of the book that isn't quite the same as you might get with a physical book where you might still be conjuring up your own version and interpretation, but the voice doesn't actually exist as in the audio.
    • The chapter on rape jokes and how they can be acceptable depending on what they aim to do was enlightening.
  15. Adrift/Á Deriva (2009)
  16. Francis, the Little Fox by Veronique Boisjoly, illustrated by Katty Maurey
    • Beautifully illustrated - I love all the buildings as we walk through town and how palpable Francis' emotions are, from when he spills the frozen yogourt on himself to when he sees Mouse up on the closet. That being said, I'm not too sure about the pacing of the story, or even just the entire plot in general? Perhaps this would've worked better if split into separate chapters in this picture book, I'm not sure.
  17. The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson
    • Very well written, and I find myself wondering how the rest of the series is going to go. You get a pretty good breadth of characters from fairytales and folklore all over, and different types of them, too. What's even more interesting is that Prince Charming and the Big Bad Wolf are characters that are shared amongst all the different fairytales in which there are prince charmings and big bad wolves. I wonder if Mr. Seven is one of the seven dwarves?
    • Sabrina in all her foibles is equal parts maddening as well as endearing, because you feel for her in her situation - really, you do, as she's just an 11-year old girl trying to do the best she can for her and her younger sister - and yet you can't help wanting to smack her upside the head because of how incredibly obstinate she is!
    • A cookbook that teaches you how to make all of Relda Grimm's secret recipes would be amazing.
  18. Casa Grande (2014)
  19. Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis
    • I'm pretty sure I've read some of these essays before in some incarnation or other (as Kipnis herself addresses in the acknowledgements), and there were certainly one or maybe two that were a particular joy to read, but this volume fell rather flat for me. I find this was more about Kipnis' self-investigation than anything, outing herself for whatever foibles she diagnoses in the men she talks about, except in a more roundabout way for herself.
  20. Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
    • It was interesting definitely to see how despite how far we have come from the ancient Romans & Greeks that we haven't come quite as far as we might think in terms of shutting women up and the discomfort women in positions of authority arouse in men. (This was also a topic of much interest in Men by Laura Kipnis, above.) That being said - and Beard addresses this in the afterword - I think these two lectures would have made a great introduction to a larger volume.
  21. The Adventures of Captain Underpants: Color Edition by Dav Pilkey
    • What foray into children's literature would be anywhere close to complete without Captain Underpants? Again - surprisingly? Or perhaps no longer surprisingly, all things considered - another very popular series even back when I was the target audience that I didn't veer anywhere near. (I think there was a bit of the hipster in me as a child. Or I suppose it's just that I was a literary snob? I'm not too sure.) All this to say, I didn't expect to be delighted by Captain Underpants, especially seeing how pointedly un-delighted I was reading other well-loved series such as Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And yet Pilkey managed to deliver something lighthearted and funny, that operates by the rules we normally go by but stretches them a little bit to sci-fi or fantasy, and includes the reader (and the book itself) as you make your way through the book. The flip-o-ramas were a wonderful (and evidently well loved) feature, and at no point did I feel as though the illustrations got in the way of my reading of the text, as I sometimes felt in Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries (less so with Big Nate, I think?). I also really enjoyed the little bit at the end introducing the author in many more pages than are usually allotted this kind of thing.
  22. A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer
    • Bolaño builds up the suspense through Bianca's narration of the whole tale, and you kind of get the feeling this is what will happen, which is exactly nothing. Which is also kind of great? What was the crime, if nothing was committed? Is it more that "leading a life of crime" constitutes such a great part of her identity now that she cannot but look at what she did as a crime? (Unless she just means prostitution. I'm not familiar with the laws around sex work in... I don't actually remember the exact setting for the novel.) Anyway, everything presents itself as somewhat surreal: you're never sure how total and complete the story you're getting is.

On the back burner/working on:
  1. Magic for Beginners: Stories by Kelly Link
  2. On Truth by Franklin
    • I've got no clue where my copy of On Bullshit went, so I'm just going to go ahead and re-read this as a standalone.
  3. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    • Re-reading this.
  4. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks

A selection of articles I've been reading:
  1. Do Audio Books Count as Reading? on Lithub
    • This came up completely independently of my decision to give audiobooks another go.
  2. Actually taking a look through my Nautilus magazines instead of filing them away on a shelf never to be looked at again. Some interesting articles.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January Pt. 1

The list is getting a bit long, so let's just split it up into two parts.
  1. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
    • I suppose this is going to set the tone for the rest of the year, then?
    • Well written and enjoyable, and it's actually quite eye-opening that the places I thought people were going to meet other people offline comprised such a tiny percentage of actual couples' origin stories: online dating is winning by far. Which is kind of scary.
  2. Great Myths of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex and Marriage by Matthew D. Johnson
    • While I enjoyed the numerous citations and references to studies, I'm not coming away from this with any sense that I really learned anything. To begin with: Who's the target audience?
  3. The Swimmer (1968)
    • Well that was weird.
      • What's with the soundtracks from this era? I'm saying this based on The Haunting (1963) and this movie, but I could date this movie as being from the same era as The Haunting even without knowing when either of them were produced. That's kinda freaky.
    • So the synopsis I was told that had me watching this movie at all was that a guy swims across a county via people's backyard pools. Which is a comedic enough premise that I figured it'd be, y'know, comedy. It's pretty random and out there, and swimming your way through a county just by going through backyard pools sounds rather like fun (I'm the life of the party, I know). So what was with all the sexual tension? And he seems to be going through his life and breaking down in terms of his memory and where he is with every pool he swims through. He starts off pretty well, well-liked and shaking hands with everyone, but as he progresses, discovers that no one loves him anymore and that everything he believes is true has either passed or has never been true.
  4. In Therapy/Divã (2009)
    • This was actually a really good movie! I was expecting something super lighthearted and flippant, something rather predictable, but this went from comedic to tragic to just kind of how to live with the changes that inevitably crop up in your life. The funny parts were funny, the sad ones made me choke up a bit, and there was a lot less focus on the affairs (on both sides) and other relationships beyond what they contributed to Mercedes' life. This was a change from, say Goodbye to All That (2014), and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It might have been that my expectations were rather low to begin with, and so I enjoyed it more as a result, but either way, I'm glad it went completely off the rail I laid down in my head for it.
  5. Next Year, for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
    • THIS. Was what I was looking for when I went to watch Call Me By Your Name. It's sweet, it's sad, and maybe not much happens most of the time, and everyone is accepting and flawed, and there's really no "bad guy". When you put the book down, Chris seems to be on a downward spiral, but he also knows that he won't continue sliding down - Peterson ended this beautifully, with all the necessary tact to close up loose ends in a loosely tied knot. I get the feeling everyone reading this will be satisfied with the ending, which is a pretty difficult feat, especially in a novel that explores relationships in a more unconventional manner, treating alternatives to strict monogamy with a gentleness and openmindedness that allows for a deeper discussion to be had.
  6. Found Memories (2011)
    • Rather slow, but I'm glad I stuck with it till the end. I'm not sure whether what comes across to me as the rudeness of Rita is typical, or if she really is just being rude. A village where God has closed the cemetery, where the villagers have forgotten to die, and the repetitive days they pass.
  7. O Outro Lado da Rua (2004)
    • I wasn't sure about this until the very end, but what an incredibly gentle movie. Camargo's forgiveness of Regina at the end, his willingness to quite literally step into her place and see her through her eyes, is quite touching, as is Regina's son welcoming her back into his life (and Regina's decision to stop judging everyone around her in such black and white terms, thus showing up at her grandson's birthday party at all).
  8. Children of Invention (2009)
  9. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
    • Beautiful illustrations, as with the other one: What Do You Do With a Problem?
    • Again, part of me thinks the story itself dragged on a little longer than I would've liked, but it's a lovely message to be true to yourself and nurture your ideas and creativity without letting others get you down.
  10. Only When I Dance (2009)
  11. Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian, illustrated by Tim Bowers
    • I love this so much! The dry and curmudgeonly tone of the goldfish, the panic that increments day by day, and even the ending! So perfect!
  12. Whiskey Words & a Shovel II by R. H. Sin
    • While I'm usually not that big on poetry, a few of these really got to me. That being said, reading through the entire collection in more or less one go, it started to get a little repetitive in terms of the themes and content. Perhaps these were meant to be enjoyed over a longer period of time? I've also got a few other of the poetry books by Sin on hold or checked out, and I'm desperately hoping they're a bit different - not because I didn't enjoy the spontaneity and relatable nature of the poems in this collection so much as because I'm actually kind of getting tired of it by the end already.
  13. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
    • Why do kids like this book? This series? Granted, I've only read one of the series, and this is the very first book, so perhaps it gets better, but this is pretty boring. In terms of how well the writing actually captures the mind of what I was like in elementary school, this falls way short.
  14. The Bad Guys: Episode 1 by Aaron Blabey
    • Starts off really well, and gathers momentum quickly enough at the beginning with the chutzpah of the wolf, but that middle part really killed it a bit. It's as though Blabey wasn't sure how to segue into the main mission: freeing canine inmates at a prison. The irony of how this is a good deed is not lost on me, and of course it's great seeing the "bad guys" turn a new leaf and discover how good it feels to do good, but I hope that in the next few installations of the series Blabey improves on the flow of plot as a more cohesive whole.
    • Would probably be a great companion to The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith. I remember being assigned that in grade 5 to read in class (though I'm pretty sure we also read To Kill a Mockingbird in grade 5, so the reading levels of the assigned reading materials ranged quite a bit).
  15. Time by Eva Hoffman
    • I'm not sure why, but the entire book read as rather disjointed to me, in that I wasn't able to fully grasp the entirety of it as one thing. Each chapter worked on its own, but for me, it didn't tie together quite so well from chapter to chapter. However, the last part, Time in Our Time, was very on point:
      • quality of time > quantity of tasks crammed within time period
      • We try so hard to extend the length of our lives, but at what cost? Does it decrease the quality of our lives? Do we value the time we have in our lives less because we have more of it? And do we devote more of our lives to being cogs in the wheel as a result of that?
      • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
    • I remember there were more specific points I wanted to talk about, but was too lazy to make notes as I made my way through the book, so alas.
  16. The Little Book of Heartbreak by Meghan Laslocky
    • It was so promising! I was expecting something more along the lines of a compendium of revenge stories regarding not completely peaceful breakups throughout the ages, especially judging by the little blurb on the back. And Laslocky does sort of deliver those, but there's this entire section, Culture, that doesn't touch on sordid stories of heartbreak gone rogue at all, and as we continue on, there's less of a scandalous  amusement that peppers the pages than I would've liked. It's as though Laslocky wasn't sure how serious exactly to make the book, and thus went this way and that before realizing she had run out of things to say (topping it all off with a bit of self-help advice in the afterword).
  17. Rest in the Mourning by R. H. Sin
    • This one resonated with me a lot more than whiskey words & a shovel II, and covered a bit more in terms of variety of topics.
  18. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
    • I have to say that this is another one of the books that I must have gravitated towards primarily because I tend to seek out reading materials that have confirmation bias potential. I can think of at least one person I would love to recommend this book to, but that would probably be ill advised for obvious reasons.
    • Are there really just the 3 stages in which we can find ourselves throughout our lives, aspire, success, and failure? Where would a contentment with where we are with ourselves and our lives stand in relation to this tripartite structure? As in a state where there isn't much striving for anything further (unless you would count striving to stay woke, to continue sweeping every day, to employ the metaphor used in this book). Stagnation, I suppose, which doesn't sound all that great. It's not that you'd want to not improve yourself so much as, isn't your entire life placed in the phase of aspiration in that it's a constant struggle for self-improvement, even while we succeed at various things and fail at others (occasionally the same things at which we previously succeeded)?
  19. The Bothersome Man/Den Brysomme Mannen (2006)
    • That idyll is so creepy, and I'm wondering if it's that Andreas died, arrived at purgatory (the velkommen gas station), was driven into heaven, ate the forbidden fruit (which is why the other guy was allowed to leave), and was thus sent into exile into the winter landscape. What does the wintry end signify? Is this a social critique of Norway, or more generally a critique of the way in which we now present what constitutes a "good life" by generally accepted social standards - a partner, a good and stable job, a good relationship with coworkers - yet somehow misses something vitally human in its components?
    • Although I'm not sure exactly how to read this film, and it's sure to take a bit of time to fully digest, I am quite in love. This might be my favourite film so far this year.
  20. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
    • Yes, again. And I enjoyed it a lot more this time around.
    • What do you do once you've had that very special friendship though? How do you go about the rest of your life? Better to have had it than not, for sure, but what if you never find it again?
    • The soundtrack is amazing also. Absolutely in love with Visions of Gideon & Mystery of Love, as well as Chalamet on the piano.
  21. The Pool (2007)
    • That ending though.

Still working on:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chrysanthemums

lukknits
The WS is facing the camera, but you get the gist.


I've had the Chrysanthemum Shawl by Francoise Danoy in my library for a while, and it's sort of been waiting for the right occasion to come up for me to knit it up. When my mom brought up knitting a small shawl or scarf for an auntie of mine, I dug through what patterns I had queued up, as well as trawling the free lace shawl patterns on ravelry before realizing I had the perfect pattern and yarn waiting to be knit up together.


lukknits
A nice size to drape over your shoulders


To be honest, I didn't really take too close a look at the instructions beyond how to start the tab at the beginning of the shawl, how to do the yo rows (because it's not completely a pi shawl), and following the charts. Which turned out to be fine, actually, so if you know how to knit a circular shawl, or at least the general pattern recipe, then this pattern is really easy. The only lace chart I had a bit of trouble with was the last one, because I wasn't paying much attention and kept making mistakes, but everything's relatively mindless. (And I can say this because probably a good 80% of this shawl was knit while marathoning season 2 of Preacher.)


lukknits
How do I put this on in time for the time- oh. Every time this happens! Every time!


Personally, I would've liked a slightly larger shawl, but that could have been in part because I didn't block as aggressively as I could've (no pins used at all). And besides, the request was for a wee scarf, without much bulk, so this definitely fits the bill. I've got way more yarn left over than I expected, too, considering the entire skein fell right within the pattern requirements: I used 75g of the 100g skein (100g = 765 yards), and the pattern asks for 730 - 766 yards. I thought for sure I was playing yarn chicken, but alas. More leftovers to mull over.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's That Time of Year Again

Lots of movies these days! None of them cheesy Christmas movies, for which I never quite developed the taste.

  1. Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love
    • There's nothing quite like a deadline to make you finish reading something!
    • Wow are these illustrations ever beautiful. And they work so well with the text, as both interact with one another across the space of the page to give you a fuller experience of reading the myths (in all their perplexing detail and rather ambiguous moral takeaways) than a more traditional take in the form of text separate from the images. I would heartily recommend this version of the Norse myths to readers of all ages; it's an absolute delight to make your way through, and I can see each of these chapters working very well as a bedtime story.
    • I added this note to the November list as well, but the structure of the collection of Norse myths here made me think of Márquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I wonder whether that was what Márquez was going for, the mythical quality of the shape of that family's tale.
  2. The Girl King (2015)
    • Now I'm interested in reading up on the story of Kristina of Sweden! That being said, the film doesn't really do too great a job portraying how her reign affected Sweden and its people: did her dreams actually become reforms to educate the population? How did her abdication of the throne affect her reforms, and did her successor continue through with them and in trying to maintain peace? Did she actually convert to Roman Catholicism, or was it just a rumour? The film makes it sound as though that is what she did end up doing, but we're not sure whether that's the reason she abdicates. Also, the film makes her look like a horribly irresponsible ruler who basically dedicated a decade on the throne to fulfilling her own desires without too much regard for the populace, despite her initial speech to educate the masses. I suppose the focus was more on her personal life than on her reign, but still. It would've been nice to know how competent a ruler she was in reality.
  3. Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy
    • This is a pretty straightforward celebration of children's literature as something to be read by all ages, but also a fun look at children's authors and how some of their lives certainly didn't seem to provide any clues that they might be particularly good at writing children's lit; in fact, many of them remained childless, from the brief survey of many popular authors featured in Wild Things, and further, many of them didn't really enjoy the company of children. They liked what children liked, and so in writing what they liked, were able to write things children enjoyed.
    • Several passages made me laugh out loud, and it's the tongue in cheek manner that Handy writes in that makes this a delight to read. Most of this really just confirms what I already think about children's literature, but I haven't read a lot of the novels and picture books referenced throughout. I'd like to re-read this one in a number of weeks, since I did have to rush through it a bit because there were holds on it.
  4. The Virgin Suicides (1999) as part of the Sofia Coppola: A Name of Her Own series at the TIFF
  5. The Haunting (1963) as a part of the AGO's Nightmare on Dundas Street Movie Nights
    • I don't suppose this was meant to be funny?
    • There's this sense that Nel is always being acted upon, and never really an agent in her own life. And the one time she does try to be an agent, she's deluding herself entirely, because she's being controlled by the ghost or whatever it is that haunts Hill House (I'm of the understanding it's actually the house itself). Is this actually a cautionary tale directed at women to overthrow the patriarchy, or at least make sure you are an active agent in your own life, lest you end up like Nel? Though arguably, Nel is happy because she gets to stay with the house always, which is exactly what she wanted at the end, though perhaps not quite the way she anticipated.
  6. Goodbye to All That (2014)
    • Eh. Not great. I mean, I'm kind of glad he chose to stay for his daughter and complete the stone wall - finally complete a project - but at the same time, that non-ending could've been much better, I think.
    • Frankly, I'm more interested in the trailers that came before the movie.
  7. Why Grow Up? Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age by Susan Neiman
    • Reading this more or less in conjunction with Wild Things actually makes for quite a nice pairing.
    • While most of this is not so much a rehash of what I already know insofar as that I haven't learned about Kant, Rousseau, and Hume's philosophies on childhood and how to become a mature adult, but I couldn't help but feel as though I must be doing some sort of confirmation bias in my selection of what to read, even in this section bordering between self-help and philosophy.
  8. Vikings exhibit at the ROM
    • I didn't get to spend as much time here as I would've liked, but it was surprising how far the Vikings got and either conquered or traded with, as well as how intricate their decorative metal parts were, whether they be brooches or the hilt of swords.
    • The hanging nails that form an implied ship was pretty well done as well. I always thought that the burning ship burial was the norm, so I felt a bit foolish when reading about how the whole shebang was probably a bit of a waste of precious materials, because that should have been pretty obvious if I had given even just a bit of thought to it.
    • Also, I don't think I knew that the 3 sisters who spin, weave, and cut your thread of life came from Nordic myths (they're the Nörns). I get the feeling I did know, but I think you hear about the Fates in Greek mythology as well, don't you? The moirai. I wonder who influenced who, or if this is just a happy coincidence? What other cultures have them, if any, and was it because they traveled, or is there something about 3 sisters spinning, weaving, and cutting your fate that come from the universal unconscious?
    • I loved seeing the spindles, needles, and weaving tablets, as well as the textile fragments! I'd be very interested in seeing how they used the weaving tablets - if there was a workshop, I'd have signed up.
  9. Nocturna (2007)
    • Cute movie about facing your fears. The little boy seemed really pathetic throughout to me, though I understand why he had to be that way and that his character is probably very relatable for young children not yet fully ready to let go of their parents or their nightlights when headed to bed. Some of this really reminded me of The Cat Returns: the hoard of cats, the other world happening in the nighttime (when the king of the cats visits Haru v.s. Nocturna), the huge creature that guides the boy through the night (like Muu? Or whatever the fat cat's name is). Overall, really well done!
  10. Comet (2014)
    • Pretty cool concept, and I'm left not sure whether these events really do take place over parallel universes or if they simply happen in the same one, as experienced by different Dells & Kimberlys in that they are different people at different points in their lives. I'm kind of put off by the ending though, and really wish Dell could have come to accept that Kimberly has moved on with Jack, and simply be able to appreciate that she is glad their relationship happened, that their past has changed her perception of the world for the better (in her opinion).
  11. Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis
    • By the author of Unwanted Advances, this is a hilarious read about love and its place in society. It reads much like a tirade, in that I can imagine the tone of voice and incredulous gesturing about - as though to say, "Do we really subscribe to this? Are we really so daft?!" - throughout much of this polemic. Kipnis does bring this around towards the end to more serious matters though, and you get the feeling that what she really wants to bring to the fore are conversations around why extramarital affairs take place, questioning primarily the institution of marriage itself, from the religious & political levels. (The personal is political, after all.) I almost want to hear this as a TED talk or something. Though there are plenty of TED talks centered around love & marriagedealing with "issues" in marriages.
    • Looking forward to reading her other books.
  12. Ears to Speak Of (Amalia Pica), Urban Now: City Life in the Congo (Sammy Baloji & Filip de Boeck), and Demonstration (Michael Landy) at the Power Plant
    • Concrete Utopia and basically all of Urban Now was pretty powerful and makes you consider that huge gap between what is being advertised as the modern urban hub - those colourful ads and the dream of the useful tower that uses solar power - and the reality of the situation. There's also a whole conversation to be had about taking the land from its original owners and inhabitants and selling it off. The video upstairs where chiefs recount their histories and the stories of the land, and describe how the arrival of the Belgians ruined their way of living, really sticks with you. In part because it's like the family histories you might hear from your parents or grandparents, but this history will no longer proceed the way it has gone, and there's a realization things can no longer be as they once were.
  13. The Night Gardener by Terry Fan
    • (Not-so) little acts of beauty, no matter how fleeting, will forever change someone's life, all the more if you are following your passion.
  14. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas
    • Cute and uplifting, though the moral of the story being that hard work will not go unrewarded strikes me as patently false. I was also not all that uplifted by the end, but... it's a picture book. Perhaps my standards or expectations are a touch high?
  15. The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability by Laura Kipnis
    • Much less acerbic than Against Love, though I suppose that's a matter of difference between the polemic structure of Against Love and the more essay style Kipnis employs here in The Female Thing.
    • I can see the beginnings of her essay Unwanted Advances in the last chapter here on vulnerability. And while I agree with Kipnis on the topic of how toxic the enterprise of rendering women victims is, she does develop it way more in Unwanted Advances than here.
  16. Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel
    • In much the same way in which every generation laments how it's all going downhill and how things were better back in the day, it seems like we also tend to lament the death of dating before its actual demise - dating simply changes its form (and perhaps the slang used to refer to the process).
    • It was pretty interesting to see how what we have come to think of as dating has changed throughout the ages, from calling to dating, to the Steady Era, to Rating and Dating, to what we now consider dating (I might be missing one or two transitions, or have put them in the wrong chronological order). And to think of dating as something much more fluid than it might seem at first glance (at the romance self-help section in bookstores & libraries everywhere) does make it a lot easier to negotiate where you stand in relation to the social structures surrounding the process, as opposed to having to either subscribe to a rigid system or refuse to do so altogether.
  17. Willy and the Cloud by Anthony Browne
  18. What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
    • Covering the same theme of what to do with a problem (also see Sam's Pet Temper, another gorgeously illustrated JP), though I personally enjoy this one over Willy and the Cloud for several reasons:
      • Personal preference for the style of illustrations
      • The use of fantasy to bring in the magical process whereby the little boy changes his entire world, rather than the use of an animal stand-in
      • Pacing
  19. Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
    • I'm surprised it took me this long to actually get to reading this JP, considering how many times I've seen it around. It was a sweet ending, but I was pretty confused for quite a bit of the book before realizing that the little boy running through the garden was the grandson.
  20. The Waiting Dog by Carolyn Beck
    • Whoa. I heard it was gory and extremely detailed, but this was plain creepy! I did enjoy the singsong beat of the text, how the dog seems most playful until it doesn't, and the entire story goes downhill real quick. And in such detail, too! I imagine the author had no end of fun writing this with the target audience of "ages 8 and up" in mind, thinking of ways in which to scandalize the parents of that audience. You do learn quite a number of body parts as you turn the pages, and you also learn that we have 206 bones in our bodies! So I suppose it's educational as far as picture books go regarding concrete facts.
    • While I wouldn't read this for a storytime (not that I do any storytimes, so I guess that point is rather moot), I'd love to see what kind of discussion bringing up this book in a children's literature class might generate!
    • As for the story itself, I'd have to say it's not really all that interesting. I think it's much more about the concept and having it published as a children's book than anything: its merit lies in its shock factor and the horror it strikes in its readers.
  21. Rose's Garden, I'm Here, and So Few of Me by Peter H. Reynolds
    • Reynolds has sort of been hit and miss with me: I really enjoyed Rose's Garden, which was incredibly sweet, but I'm Here was a bit of a flop for me, and So Few of Me didn't really stick with me too much, though it wasn't bad either.
  22. Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl/Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura (2010)
    • Back at it with the Portuguese films!
    • I knew where this was going more or less from the beginning, when the main character tells his uncle over dinner that there were 150 handkerchiefs unaccounted for that must have been stolen, and I'm not sure the ending was all that satisfying to me. But it seems to be characteristic of Portuguese films?
  23. Call Me By Your Name (2017)
    • I had such high expectations of this one! And it's not like it didn't totally deliver, because it was indeed a sweet, feel-good unconventional romance movie, but for me, it moved a little too slowly and sometimes the scenes would feel a little abrupt. I wonder if it would be better to have read the novel first?
    • The message towards the end from the father to Elio was almost a bit rambling, but felt more real for it. The parents' attitude toward Elio & Oliver's relationship, whether they knew for sure or thought simply that they were great friends - kindred spirits, perhaps - was also wonderful in how much freedom they allowed the both of them to explore what their relationship meant to the both of them.
  24. The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity by Esther Perel
    • I'm a little disappointed, because I was expecting a more comprehensive and thorough take on the subject, but I like that Perel makes an argument for the active negotiation of what terms your relationships take on, instead of simply accepting whatever you think (and what you think your partner(s) think) constitute the labels that you put onto the relationship (e.g. monogamy - what a loaded term! But also, where are its boundaries exactly?).
  25. Neighboring Sounds/O Som ao Redor (2012)
    • Portuguese films sure do love their open endings. Well, not quite so open, but there's so much more ambiguity to the ones I've watched - perhaps it's just that the library's collection is skewed towards these "cinema"-type Portuguese films? - as compared to North American movies. I feel like they're more similar in type to French films (though Call Me By Your Name was also redolent of the sort of feeling or shape of the Portuguese films I've watched). I'm also wondering whether most of the films I've watched thus far come from Portugal or Brazil, and whether there's a difference in the sort of movies they each release.
    • From the synopsis, I was expecting something more along dystopian lines, but this was very far from that, and I'm not too sure what to make of it. I enjoyed the movie overall, and am starting to take pleasure in seeing the everyday reflected within films as well, such that not everything necessarily drives the plot toward its end, rather filling in the blanks and fleshing characters out.
    • I'm also very interested in how social class features in this film, because I'm unfamiliar with both Portuguese and Brazilian culture.
  26. The Best Things in Life: A Guide to What Really Matters by Thomas Hurka
    • Well, I definitely took the wrong approach to reading this, because what I really desperately wanted at the time was something that could tell me how to live a good life in no uncertain terms, which paradoxically upon reflection I would most likely reject outright because who's the author to tell me how to live a good life? And of course, even just in conversation with the person who told me to read this I knew the topic had to be a lot less black and white than that. (I told him, "help me out with some RA for me: something on morality & ethics - I want what I read to destroy me". This destroyed me in a different way, since it was so far from what I was looking for, but really it's nothing I never knew.)
    • tldr: There are many different ways to live a good life, and it really just depends on your individual circumstances. To cushion the negative consequences of dying, all you've got to do is live the best life you can before you die.
  27. How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behaviour by Laura Kipnis
    • I really only started reading this because Kipnis is the author, but to tell the truth, my enjoyment of her books has dwindled as I went along her publications in chronological order: I enjoyed the first three quarters of Against Love greatly, identified with The Female Thing, but experienced the same tapering enjoyment as I read along, and now with this one, I don't have much to say about it. Either my expectations are way higher than they should be, or Kipnis has a tendency to weak conclusions (you can feel them coming at you a mile away).
    • Going by Kipnis' description, I think I'd be more interested in reading the other book on scandals that Kipnis cites in her bibliography: On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art by Ari Adut.
  28. Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess by Rachel Renée Russell
    • I realize this is all supposed to be written in the voice of a 14 year old, but I'm quite close to certain neither I nor my friends were quite this vapid at the age of 14. That's what, grade 9? Also, way to reinforce gender norms! The villain, Mackenzie, is just as empty a character as Nikki, and Brandon the love interest is similarly flat. Maybe it's because it's all described through the eyes of Nikki, who's just really fixated on Brandon and her animosity towards Mackenzie. I don't know if I can recommend this in good faith to anyone, to be honest, and if the rest of the series is like this, I'm actually rather worried that this is the sort of drivel children like to read. I'm interested to see how Diary of a Wimpy Kid compares. (I'm working under the assumption that Dork Diaries is a response to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, except trying to target little girls as the audience.)
Working on:
  1. We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks
  2. Heidegger's Aesthetics, written by Iain Thomson
    • A coworker recommended I start reading around Heidegger before trying to read actual Heidegger and gave me a couple of people to search up, Iain Thomson one of them. And now that someone else thinks they want to read Being and Time (making it so I have to actually return the book on time), I think I'll take his advice and read around Heidegger before turning to Heidegger proper.
  3. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Articles
  1. I find this quote from Deathblow Dealt to Dark Matter Disks from Quanta absolutely hilarious: "The possibilities for dark matter are virtually endless, given the stunning absence of experimental hints about its nature" (Wolchover, Quanta magazine). I'm not sure if this is being delivered in the absolute driest tone of voice achievable or if the author of this article is 100% sincere when they type this. (In other words: dark matter has close to endless possibilities regarding what it is and what it can do, because we haven't found anything to actually prove beyond a doubt it exists; it's kind of that nice, convenient catchall.)
  2. Not strictly about why the holiday season is so oppressively cheerful, but I feel that so much that I need to remember it's not just me, even if this article is actually more a list of books to help take away some of that forced joyfulness.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Honeydew

lukknits
DONE.


It's been a while since I've posted anything but books and movies. Three whole months! The library life is certainly one I can't quite seem to separate from what would be personal life, and at any rate I'm not entirely sure I want to expend too much effort trying to do so: reading and books (two separate things, yes; they're related, but owning the latter does not mean I do the former for every book I own) are such integral aspects of my life that I'm not sure what would be left if I were to make a conscious effort to stop myself reading on my downtime. (Also, that would mean I'd have to actually lug all the books & movies & CDs I borrowed back to the library where they belong. Which at last count is numbering over 50 and thus strikes me as too much a hassle.) But all this has nothing really to do with this dress.


lukknits
Flounces were supposed to go where the vertical shaping is at

The original design has actually gone quite down the drain altogether:

  1. The horizontal flounce that had been the design feature being scrapped altogether for the ones at the waist
  2. The romper jettisoned for a dress (easier to wear)\
  3. Sleeves added
  4. Added pockets, but of a different sort (originally wanted angled side pockets)
And that's just an incomplete list. In short: I still have room in my wardrobe for the original design and I'd like to do it because I swatched for it, darnit!

It just goes to show how utterly unpredictable the design process can be from thinking up what I'd like to make, to figuring out the logistics of actually making it (e.g. top-down? bottom-up? provisional CO so I can do both? how should I be picking up those flounces?) , to doing the swatches and then actually knitting it up. In this case, I ripped out the top half I think 3 times because my swatch kept lying to me or I simply left things to chance and refused to actually face reality: I'd have to do some more calculations. The first time I ripped out, I even made sure to use the top that I had knit to recalculate the gauge, since that should have given me a more accurate gauge! To be honest, I still have no idea what my true gauge actually is, which is why I ended up changing the entire back to be ribbed.

The story doesn't even end there. After wearing the completed dress out once, I realized I  had to change the bottom hem of the skirt from just a tubular BO to a round of decreases about 3" above where I wanted the skirt to hit, followed by 1x1 rib (from 2x2 above) all the way down before binding off tubular. This was because it was doing that thing where the skirt gets caught between your legs when you walk and it looks like you're wearing shorts. Not pretty. Then since I was at it, I ripped out the neckline to pick up fewer stitches (3/4 rather than 4/5), doing the same *CO 2, BO 5* ruffled BO as before. It forms rather a pretty picot that isn't too flashy, which worked well for all the flounces too (minus one BO in between picots, since that wasn't too important).

Oh, and did I mention I picked up and knit another layer under the actual skirt in 1x1 rib almost all the way down (minus an inch or two), then tried it on and ripped it all back out, because you could see where the underskirt ended and that wasn't elegant enough a solution for me? This dress has had me running in circles!


lukknits
Real talk: When is the answer ever "no pockets" though?


There were so many details that had to be hammered out along the way - pockets or no pockets? Am I adding in the horizontal flounce? What about the one at the waist? I can't add that in the same way after I pick up the waist stitches for the skirt, so I have to decide that soon!, etc. - but all in all, I'm happy with how it turned out. I learned a new BO method that worked really well with the ruffles and made for a nice neckline as well so I didn't have to do anything particularly fancy with that, and figured out a way to make thinner pockets that also have the added benefit of staying in place, which is great. The only downside being that I have to do a touch of seaming after knitting the pockets, but it was well worth it.


lukknits
So glad it's done! I don't even care my face isn't in focus here!

Friday, December 1, 2017

November

  1. The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, a Soulpepper production
    • Missed the first 15 minutes or so.
    • I was not prepared for that ending. Not prepared. At all.
  2. The Gift of Reading: A Guide for Educators and Parents by David Bouchard
    • I agree with what Bouchard is saying - I really do - but I found it pretty repetitive overall, and pretty commonsensical. Especially seeing as I currently work at a library, it's kind of like he's preaching to the choir. That being said, I'm going to take as one of the biggest lessons here to actually read some of the popular children's series (e.g. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Adventures of an 8-bit Warrior, Dork Diaries, Captain Underpants, Gordon Korman books, Eric Walters, etc.) so at least I can have some idea of what they're all about and what people who like one might be looking for next. It's always been on my list of things to do, but I've never gotten around to it, so let's make it a goal to at least read 3 books from popular children's series (or just plain ol' popular children's books) before the end of the year.
  3. Daughter at the Theatre Centre
    • What an intense performance!
    • I was left wondering what exactly to think - there were certainly a great number of instances where I was completely appalled by what came out of his mouth, accompanied by sudden - and not so sudden - changes in the atmosphere when the audience was no longer able to laugh. Part of me wanted to ask why people were laughing at times: was it because they genuinely found what he was saying funny, or was it a nervous titter?
    • Am I the only one who's exhausted hearing about violence against women? I don't mean to say it's not a conversation we should have, because it definitely is, but there's just so much of it, all at once, that everything I want to watch or read seems to be bringing up the conversation, whether it be LO (or Dear Mr. Wells), Daughter, or the various articles about violence against women, or all the sexual harassment and assault allegations that are coming out - it's as a flood. It's timely, and part of the point of Daughter, I think, so the fact that I'm thinking this at all is great - for Daughter.
  4. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
    • Well that only took a year to finally finish! Though to be honest, this was read over a day or so, with this talk & screening at the TIFF being my main motivation to get it done. I'm really glad I did finish it, though, especially because I ended up rewatching Stalker and I think it helped in adding a bit of background information that maybe wasn't necessary, but was still appreciated. I think what was said in this article about Call Me By Your Name on LitHub also applies to Stalker and Roadside Picnic: "I have to say that I’ve never encountered an adaptation of a novel that felt as much like a companion piece to the original text, as opposed to being simply an imperfect version of the same thing in another medium" (Temple, LitHub).
      • Also very much looking forward to Call Me By Your Name coming out at the TIFF soon! Hopefully I'll also get the book around that time, since there's quite a waitlist for the only copy we've got floating around in our system. To be honest, I didn't even realize it was a movie adaptation of a novel before I came across the article, since I marked it down as something I wanted to watch (but ultimately didn't end up going to) when the actual festival was going on at the TIFF.
  5. Rewatched Stalker at home because I didn't make it to the screening above.
    • OK. So that last scene: is it the train, or does Monkey have telekinetic abilities?
    • How good is our position in being able to tell what our truest desires are - the ones we keep buried - and is it for the best that they never be fulfilled, and remain unknown to ourselves all our lives?
    • The way the Stalker is presented in the movie is much different than in Roadside Picnic, and I'm not sure which I enjoy more. I'm more attached to the Stalker version, but I suspect it's somewhat due to my having been exposed to him first, before reading Roadside Picnic and meeting Redrick Schuhart. Also, Guta's character has been changed completely! I've found that scene where she's falling to the floor tearing herself apart (almost literally) in ancient Greek fashion somewhat hilarious, but I wonder if that's something that makes more sense in terms of Russian film?
  6. Leonard Cohen: Une brèche en toute chose/A Crack in Everything at the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montreal
  7. Bill Viola: Naissance à Rebours & L'Offre at DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art
  8. The Curious Explorer's Guide to the Moominhouse by Tove Jansson
    • Those peek-a-boo cutouts are so well done. So. Well. Done. 
  9. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
    • I'm not sure that I can do this novel justice in my review of it, but let me start by saying this: READ IT.
    • The whole novel almost feels like one incredibly lush, self-contained solitude that would fill your imagination for one hundred years before collapsing in on itself as you read and re-read and re-read it again and again, with each reading providing a different world and a different interpretation, I imagine. I already want to revisit it from the beginning, though I'm sure it'd be good to give myself maybe at least a week or two to fully absorb everything in my memory before going through it all again.
    • Some parts of it read as pretty straightforward political critiques, but at the same time, I'm not sure how straightforward they actually are, because everything grows and dies and contorts itself, interbreeding and confusing everything as it does so.
    • So I've just finished reading Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love, and somehow the way that all of the generations and myths and tales of the Norse gods ties itself back up so well, beginning and ending with the king of Sweden who disguises himself reminded me a lot of the shape of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Would it be too much to say that One Hundred Years of Solitude is as epic a myth as the Norse myths?
  10. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • The dynamic duo, once again.
    • I loved it, but there was something that I do feel like this one missed just a smidge from the mark? I really love that line from the duck, though: "I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten", or something to that effect? Hilarious! And the logic that goes, it's better to have already been swallowed rather than live constantly in fear of being swallowed. It took me for a loop when Barnett and Klassen made it into an "and this is why the wolf howls at the moon" story though!
  11. Mr. Shi and His Lover (Tarragon Theatre)
    • Where does the performance end and become reality? Also questions the nature of truth and of lies - he let himself be deceived; he let himself believe in the performance, but didn't the performance at some point become the truth?
  12. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
    • I've gotten at least 2 requests to place books of this series on hold in I think just as many weeks, and my coworker also urged me to read it after I asked her about it. This is a tearjerker of - maybe not the highest, but - at least moderate degree! And I love that it doesn't talk down to children's experiences at all, or even try to wink at adults who might be reading it (though I do also love that kind of writing), and takes seriously the concerns and growth of each of the students. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series!
  13. Solaris (1972)

Reading
  1. Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles #1) by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
    • While I'm not actually sure how popular this series is, it caught my eye a while back and I've finally placed them all on hold for myself and am starting to make my way through them.
  2. Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy
    • So I bookmarked this article thinking, "Hey! I'm reading this book about pretty much the same thing! It's pretty cool that this article should happen into my periphery", without knowing it was a review of the exact book.

Articles
  1. On Rape Culture in Crime Fiction
  2. Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm For Their Genes, Defying Mendel's Law (Quanta)
    • Well I mean, didn't Mukherjee also note how Mendel's stats seemed to be way too perfect in The Gene? (Or, I'm pretty sure that's where I read it.) So I'm not too surprised that something built upon an experiment which results - I suppose? - no one tried tried to duplicate (though this sounds suspect to me: someone must have tried to replicate the results, right? Considering the importance of Mendel's Law?) should now be proven to not work across the board as perfectly as was assumed.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

(Not so) Spooky Reads

  1. The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers by Scott Carney
    • I didn't realize that the donation of eggs was meant to be an altruistic thing, and that people are only supposed to be compensated for their travel fees... I mean, did anyone actually think it was going to work that way? Honestly? Honestly. As a whole, I found the stories and information fascinating, and I agree with the afterword/epilogue, where Carney discusses how to move forward (either revise how we think about human bodies as essentially sacrosanct and free from commodification, or face the reality of altruism not quite abounding and change the regulations on how we compensate people for their organs), urging transparency above all.
  2. Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory by Brad Hooper (with a chapter by Joyce Saricks)
    • I'm quite motivated at this point to revisit all the reviews I've done for the library over the course of this year (or thereabouts) and - for lack of a better word - review them all for myself. One of the things I'm terrified of finding is the dismissiveness or sarcasm Hooper advises against, though I generally try to avoid it, as I'm sure it does slip through.
    • Truth be told, I think most of this was not new to me, apart from maybe the audiobook section, and that's mostly because I simply don't listen to audiobooks, thus not having created an opportunity for myself to review one before. It's nice to see it in writing though, laid out in terms that are simple to understand, with exercises and examples of both good and bad reviews.
  3. Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure by Samira Kawash
    • This has been on my list for a while, and it seemed thematic given October.
    • The tongue-in-cheek style Kawash writes in is such a great fit for the subject matter, and the text moves inexorably forward through the century as perspectives on candy change, doing a 180, then seeming to repeat history all over again this second century's worth of history in the making around.
      • Before there was the fear of poison candy that had been tampered with being handed out on Halloween, there was the fear of "poison candy" that came with the unease accompanying the rise of industrially produced food - and alongside that fear, the propagation of headlines that were unproven, but made to play with existing suspicions about candy and its wholesomeness or purity. Kawash points out that the $100 prize for bringing to light an undeniable case of candy causing death went unclaimed throughout all these headlines claiming yet more children had died and the culprit was candy, and notes that in more recent times (1984, so not quite so recent - not sure whether times have changed and the dangers have become ever more real or simply the paranoia), there was simply no evidence to show that Halloween candy had been tampered with by people handing them out; in fact, she presents two cases where the children themselves are the ones making their candy poisonous or dangerous (one involving ant poison and the other a pin in a Tootsie Roll (p.274)).
      • I never knew how much of the food we consume is actually just corn or corn derivatives, and I think Kawash actually makes a pretty good point about candy at least being upfront about being of no particular nutritional value.
    • As a whole, I found this history quite comprehensive in that Kawash doesn't just present the history of candy as separate from its context, but goes into detail about the times and the perceptions, and how those perceptions changed throughout the years. The war between Lucky Strikes and the candy industry was quite amusing, and the overview of how current Halloween traditions came to be was new to me. (No one that I know of would be prepared if they rang up a house and the occupant say they would prefer a trick than give a treat to appease the trick-or-treaters.)
  4. Birding with Yeats: A Mother's Memoir by Lynn Thomson
    • My first thoughts upon reading this were, in this order: 1) it's not quite the same Yeats I was thinking, and 2) oh dear. Is this boy going to be dead by the end of the memoir? Everything's written in such a way that his death seems a very real possibility.
    • That's what I wrote last month. And now that I've finished the memoir, I can actually say that #2 felt like it would happen even towards the very last chapter. In a way, I suppose the Yeats we meet at the beginning - the child - no longer exists, and Thomson does seem to mourn the loss at the end, though at the same time taking some measure of calm in knowing that he's simply finding his own way in the world and gaining independence, but it kind of felt like we were gearing up towards a moment at the end of the book where, when Thomson reminisces about the two anniversaries, you feel as though one of them would be the death of Yeats.
    • I really had to push myself to finish this, in part because I had already written a review about it and I felt as though my work was done, but also because at some point halfway or maybe about two thirds of the way in, it felt like a laundry list of things Thomson had done and seen. There was too much of a remove: it felt as though she wasn't really writing about her own life from her point of view, despite the intimacy it appears to provide to the reader. According to a friend who has seen her in person - I believe at a book talk? - she speaks in much the same way as well, so perhaps I shouldn't feel that it's suspect.
    • Those parts where she talks about George, the birding guide, seem to give ever more credence to - wherever I read it - the disappearance of middle-aged women in the public sphere, or perhaps it was in literature? It's as though women, once they hit a certain age, cease to exist in and of themselves, taking on roles in which they are identified in relation to someone or something else (e.g. a husband, a child, their work), rather than being seen as themselves.
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
    • I almost quit after 20 pages in. I kind of wish I did? The writing's just not quite up to snuff, the issue in part I'm assuming due to translation, but in a word or two, the writing is boring. Dull. There were a few different threads that came together and once the investigating part came into full force and things started popping up, I did enjoy the pace, but there were a lot of things that smacked of a lack of revision to me. There were also the million Vangers that you had to keep track of - maybe it's just me, but when no one stands out in particular and all the introductions are being made over the course of maybe a page or two, it's kind of difficult to remember who's who.
      • Again, a matter of translation, I'm assuming (or hoping, rather, I suppose): the repeated use of the word "retard" or "retarded". This wasn't published that long ago, and I'm about certain that it wasn't politically correct when it was published. And there's no good reason for the use of that (rather outdated) term, either, which is what really rubs me the wrong way: if there were a good reason for it, like maybe if the entire novel was set a number of decades back when that was the term the psychiatric community used, then at least I'd understand.
      • Then there's also what appeared to me like blatant advertising for certain things, like the iBook and Photoshop? Or maybe Larsson just wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about? Not sure. Maybe it's a matter of a lack of editing.
    • I feel like this entire novel is in part a critique of Swedish society, especially because the parts are all introduced with a statistic about women being subjected to abuse in Sweden, but I don't think Lisbeth's character does a good job in that regard (if that's the aim).
      • I'm still confused as to why the entire thing with Bjurman and why it was necessary to include that scene? I guess it helps cement the idea that Lisbeth doesn't take any shit from anyone, but I mean... that's such a strong scene that it really needs another tie-in. Maybe that comes in the later books?
    • Can we talk about why Lisbeth had to fall in love with Blomkvist? Honestly? Honestly. And that ending? (I realize it's a series, but that ending is still reminiscent of a high school creative writing assignment. By which I don't mean to demean high school writers so much as to suggest it's juvenile.)
      • Why is Salandar so undeveloped as a character? It's like Larsson had to have her as this fantasy female character - you never get the feeling that she could be anything close to real. There's no fleshing out of her character, and what character development does happen is still flat.
    • Vanger's obsession over the years of detailing one specific day in which a possible murder happened reminded me greatly of Uncle Julian from We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Except nothing else in this novel is quite as good.
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
    • I watched the Swedish one since I was told it's better than the English one, and given my not-so-glowing review of the book it's based on, I figured I should go for as good as it got. Fortunately, the movie rounded out a lot of the things that made the novel such an abject horror to trudge through:
      • They're no longer advertising specific hardware or bragging about their knowledge: the Mac is just there, no explanation needed, and the explanation about how much film reporters went through was given by a character rather than through the narration.
      • A lot of unnecessary details are cut out, such as the whole thing with Cecilia Vanger. By the way, in the novel, Cecilia was supposed to look a lot like Anita, who in turn was supposed to look a lot like Harriet. Except no one notices the similarities between all three of them and makes any connections? Let's talk about overlooking details.
      • A lot faster paced, and it focused on the investigation.
        • Many of the digressions or subplots (e.g. Millenium & Vanger dealing, Cecilia Vanger arc, etc.) were skipped, and everything came together a lot better than in the novel.
      • Lisbeth is a much more fleshed out character in the movies. Whereas in the novels, I almost want to say she almost presents as a fetishized character (doll-like, thin, looks prepubescent, badass with emotional scars... need I go on? I don't know if the tropes existed before this character, but in written form, she just doesn't work well, at all. Might be translation; might be Larsson's writing.) I suppose the director also had the benefit of having access to all three of the books, so they were able to draw background information from them to help build Lisbeth's character.
  7. Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War by Peter Edwards & Antonio Nicaso
    • One of my coworkers also has an interest in reading about the mafia, so when I made a mention of my reading list a couple of months ago, he gave me a couple of recommendations.
    • All in all, it felt like the book was poorly organized and not compellingly written. Not to say that I distrust what Edwards & Nicaso wrote, so much as that the plot - if I can refer to it as such - isn't driven forward at a good pace at all, and the people that are mentioned, with nicknames and all, aren't woven into the big picture as well as they could probably have been, which would have made the entire thread easier to follow. That being said, I read this over the course of a week or so, with a couple days of not touching the book at all, so  that might have also contributed to it? But the chapters were short, and I think many of them could have been better organized. The same people get multiple chapters as we move through the book, but I almost always have to take a moment to remember who they were to begin with before continuing on with the chapter.
      • I think part of the reason for the organization of this book and what sometimes felt like short newspaper articles or snappy taglines is because Edwards is a Toronto Star author, but I would think that Nicaso being in academia would balance that back out?
    • I would have loved to read more about how Libertina acted as the effective don after the death of Nicolò, also.
  8. Lo (or Dear Mr. Wells) a Crow's Theatre Production
    • I missed Asking for It, so this wasn't my first choice, to be honest, but I did enjoy the play, and think it brings up important issues surrounding consent. It's made all the more uncomfortable because yes, both parties are saying "yes" to the relationship, and yet it's clear that what is happening on stage is not something we can accept. I suppose it more opens up the question of what constitutes consent, and how the narrow definition of consent as obtaining a "yes" from all parties involved can lead to disastrous consequences.
  9. The Sixth Family: The Collapse of the New York Mafia and the Rise of Vito Rizzuto by Lee Lamothe and Adrian Humphreys
    • What's with the sudden interest in the Rizzuto family? Business or Blood suddenly had 4 holds on it, and now The Sixth Family is on hold by someone else.
    • I'm going to go ahead and assume this was written before Business or Blood, because it sounds like Vito Rizzuto was still alive at the time Lamothe & Humphreys were writing and when the book was published in 2006. Business or Blood being in 2015. So that makes sense.
    • Pretty much a rehash of Business or Blood, with some details that weren't in the other book. I did get the feeling that Lamothe & Humphreys are rather pessimistic about bringing down the Mafia as a whole, though. Even in Business or Blood, to be honest, the note it ends on is, well, there's a new leader now to pick up where Vito left off, and his vendettas were still being carried out - there's no end to it; it's like a hydra.
  10. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters at the AGO
    • So... does del Toro just have Poe and Lovecraft hanging out at home?
    • Really enjoyed the live accompaniment - that was a nice surprise. And all the additions from the AGO collection as well, especially that really creepy corner of the wall with the hidden mother baby photographs.
A selection of articles:
  1. THIS. I read the books in Portuguese once upon a time last year and Brain Pickings published an article about the first book of the series just this month! Exciting times. It's usually the other way around (i.e. I see something I like on Brain Pickings and go find it to read).
  2. Demand your cup of stars and accept no less. I have yet to read The Haunting of Hill House, but what I have read of Jackson really gets under your skin.
  3. Philip Pullman and Milton? I've never read either, but that first line of the article reminded me of FMA.
Working on:
  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. Poisoned Pens: Literary Invective from Amis to Zola by Gary Dexter
    • The quotes are kind of hit and miss, but when they're a hit, they are beyond hilarious!
  3. The Gift of Reading by David Bouchard