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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Wake Me Up

When September ends (does anyone remember this song?)
  1. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Palace: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • Alright, I admit it: the main reason I picked this up was because Jon Klassen illustrated the novel. But I'm glad I did! It's tongue-in-cheek, and while I never read the Series of Unfortunate Events, I'm willing to bet that this would be a pretty good read-a-like for those. I'm interested to see where this series goes with the mystery that surrounds Ashton place.
    • The children learning how to speak... well. Of course, there's a fantastical component to all this - it's a novel after all, and a children's one no less, which requires a certain suspension of disbelief (which Wood discusses within the novel!). I am willing to suspend my disbelief a while further and continue on this series!
  2. I Saw the Devil (2010)
    • Amazing film, but I lost interest somewhere halfway because it felt incredibly long (2.5 hours) and I was baking bread at the same time. I loved the cat-and-mouse dynamic, and was glad to see that Soo-hyeon didn't escape from his actions without any consequences, at the end. I'm confused as to the role of the wife of the second serial killer, who ate his victims, apart from having her there to throw Soo-hyeon off and have him injured, though.
  3. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • Things are getting more interesting in this volume: Lord Frederick seems to be exhibiting signs of... wolfishness; the Lumleys are alive and sending mysterious postcards to their daughter, who happens to have the same shade of auburn hair as Agatha Swanburne and the three Incorrigibles. Then there's still the attic in Ashton place, as well as the Ominous Landscape painting in both Gallery 17 and in the attic, and what connection does Agatha Swanburne have with the Ashtons, the siblings, and the Lumleys? Then there's the fact that Judge Quinzy isn't a judge at all; and how does Madame Ionesco figure into the entire thing?
    • For all the excitement and action, though, I do hope that the children falling into every set-up (the Christmas party, the Pirates play) doesn't continue as predictably into the next couple of chapters. And this volume feels more like a setting up of all the mysteries, where the first book was an introduction to the main characters, so I'm looking forward to seeing how everything either comes together all at once, or is resolved volume by volume?
  4. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  5. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • Does Frederick remember that his father actually is Quincy, whom he had asked to impersonate his supposedly dead father? He seems to appear the rest of the night, so why is there some sort of selective recollection happening here?
  6. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood, illustrated by Jon Klassen
    • Well I'm going to go ahead and assume Miss Mortimer is Penelope's mother. But does that mean the three Incorrigibles are her children as well? And that something's going to happen at sea to make them all turn back to England. As for how to make it so one of the branches of the family tree gets wiped out altogether so that only one remains, wouldn't marriage take care of that problem? There would only be one branch remaining, and it's far enough down the line that concerns of genetic similarities should no longer be an issue. I can't wait for the final installment of this series to come out next year!
    • Lord Frederick & Lady Constance's characters have changed quite a bit from the start, though not overly much, for which I'm glad. And Penelope & Simon are coming along well, too.
    • Wood's take on the drama and ridiculously complex love shapes (for they are usually in more complicated shapes than simply triangles, and don't always connect back to actually form a shape at all) was quite funny, in a good-humoured way.
    • I love that there are little lessons peppered throughout the books, such as a gentle reminder to actually read the terms of whatever contract you sign, as that became a rather major plot twist! All of the asides are quite amusing, too, the "as some of you might be aware" and the like.
  7. The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
    • I'm not really feeling it for this one. Which is a pity, because this would probably have been a great read-a-like for the Incorrigible Children series. I think this story might have benefited greatly from choosing a specific old-fashioned story rather than a rickety amalgamation of a variety of what Lowry considers to be old-fashioned stories.
    • I actually just gave up on reading this. There's no two ways about it: it's boring. And there simply isn't enough time in a life to read everything that interests you, let alone books you have no interest in finishing!
    • There's an interesting article on LitHub: There's No Such Thing as Historical Fiction that seems to me to be related somewhat to what I'm thinking with regards to all these references to old-fashioned stories. They were just stories.
  8. Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
    • While it's great that Turtschaninoff doesn't turn away from the grim realities of what happens to women and children when invasions or surrenders occur, and there was certainly a huge sacrifice that Maresi had to give (almost, but not quite, her life) in order to play her part in saving everyone, I do think it all went a little too smoothly. The novel faces the difficulties and fears that accompany becoming an adult, replete with all the responsibilities that come with getting older, but having lived for four years at the Red Abbey, I kept feeling as though despite Maresi being only 13 years old, she really should be better equipped to handle emergencies. All the more since Mother herself informally asked her to take care of the children. I suppose it's more that the entire novel reads as though it's written for children (with an especially young teenage protagonist), but has content that's rather inappropriate for younger ages (e.g. burying people alive, rape, abuse). I wonder who the target audience is? Children? Teens?
    • I had some hopes that this was going to be a long series, with a number of different characters that make their own way in the world after leaving the Red Abbey, and then somehow merging together into one huge plot where these women are able to enact significant change in the outside world, but alas! According to Goodreads, Naondel, the next book of the series, serves as somewhat of a prequel to Maresi. It doesn't seem like it's going to go the way I hoped.
  9. Crimson Peak (2015)
    • Well that was terrifying.
  10. Bird Sense: What It's Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead
    • Birkhead does a wonderful job balancing results from scientific research with anecdotal evidence, either from himself or from others - in the field of ornithology or otherwise - all the while noting the progress in our understanding and knowledge of bird senses - what they are and how they differ from the "same" senses in humans - in (incredibly recent) history. I would recommend this volume in a heartbeat!
    • Personally, I would have preferred the book be a bit more in-depth, with even more references to further articles to look into, but that's not what Birkhead's objective is with this book, so he has done a wonderful job in rousing the curiosity and interest of the reader - me - in how birds experience the world around them. A similar book is The Thing with Feathers by Noah Strycker, which I've read many moons ago and which I wrote about in brief (a little too brief when I look at it now) in this post here.
  11. Waiting for Godot (Soulpepper)
    • I've owned a copy of the script for several years now, though I've yet to read it. From what I remember though, it's quite a slim volume, so how the play itself took place over 2hrs 40min with a 20min intermission is beyond me. Which is not to say that I didn't think the experience was worth it, so much as that it felt like the play was interminable, and I could feel myself wanting to nod off throughout. I suppose the audience is taken along for the ride waiting for Godot with Vladimir and the other guy. Golgo?
    • Was reading this article from Lithub about Waiting for Godot before I actually went to go see the play.
  12. Caniba (2017)
    • I tried; I really did. I had to leave around the one hour mark because I was about to faint, but not because the documentary was gory or what was being portrayed made me queasy: the entire film more or less being in closeups, many of the scenes unfocused, or focused but not really moving much (but not not moving) made me motion sick and I couldn't stay for the last half hour or so. I'm not sure what happens in that last half hour, so I don't think I can speak to this documentary, unfortunately.
    • On that note, I'm not sure if I made a note of Leviathan on this blog, but I did try to watch that as well, to no avail. I couldn't make it through for much the same reason, though I watched it at home, so I simply couldn't make myself sit still and watch it without going off for food or drink or just a change of visuals. The idea of both of these documentaries gets me really interested, and I want to watch them. I suppose there are just some things I'm not made to watch though.
  13. Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
    • The (admittedly self-imposed) weekly blogging deadlines for work are starting to creep up on me. In hindsight, I really should have read a few more books into the series before starting it, especially knowing that a series would have more than one book being featured (usually) per post, but I thought I'd be able to keep up! And that all of the books would just be available! Alas! Anyway, a few of the reviews/summaries in the series have already been based only on half-read or skimmed books, but this is the first post I'll be doing where I've really only read one or two of them and am basing another one completely off of Goodreads to do my virtual book talk (book write? I'm not really talking about it). Of course, I'm not even talking about this book in particular, because I could get my hands on this one, and I've read enough of it to give my impressions of it. I'm talking about Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson, which I'd love to read (truly), but we only have one copy and someone has it. I simply didn't plan far enough in advance, and it's killing me a bit inside. Anyway, back to the book at hand: Crow Planet.
      • I ended up not even writing about Corvus in any detail, only passing over it as a possible recommendation in place of Crow Planet for those interested in actually reading about crows, so phew!
    • Wow do I ever have some gripes about this book! For a book with a title like "Crow Planet", you'd expect the main subject to be crows, right? Not so! I'm almost willing to bet that Haupt could replace about 85~95% of the crow references with some other common bird seen around town, with some exceptions that are repeated a million times over the course of these 200 or so pages (e.g. crows specifically being native birds) and the overall book will remain unchanged. The subtitle of the book could become its main title and there will be much fewer complaints and disappointments all around.
      • In a later chapter, Haupt talks a bit about how vision is the main sense birds rely on, and that the reasoning that the robin cocks its head to hear the worms burrowing under the ground is pure myth: they are clearly looking for the worms, not listening for them. Which... after reading Bird Sense, makes all of the information Haupt presents a bit more suspect.
      • There's also the fact that I'm starting to think Seattle simply has more crows than Vaughan/GTA does, because no, I have never seen a crow suntanning. I've only ever encountered one murder of crows ever, and that's coming from someone who loves crows and looks out for them basically whenever I'm out and about. I've also never had crows drop their babies in front of me to watch my reaction, nor been dive-bombed during nesting season by crows (though I've been dive-bombed by an Arctic Tern in Iceland). Or perhaps the crows in Seattle are simply less cautious around people. I don't know.
    • Now in the author's defense: I understand where the one star comments are coming from on Goodreads, that complain about how this book is basically a book about Haupt and how she's holier than thou. But I don't think she takes it as far as these comments make it sound. Approaching this book as an exhortation to become an urban naturalist and to really notice and see what nature we have in the concrete jungles that are our cities will likely decrease the amount of ire a reader might feel towards Haupt and her seemingly mistitled book.
  14. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
  15. I Am Not a Witch (2017)
    • What an amazing film! I got to hear a Q&A with the director, Rungano Nyoni, who said that she was aiming for a mix between the real and a fairytale, based upon Zambian fairytale structures. Part of me wishes that the witch camp portrayed was more true to life in terms of what was used to keep the women imprisoned and prevent them from leaving, but I do understand that it would have made the entire story rather difficult to understand.
    • So do they all become goats, or do they all die? Or do they simply cut themselves free and wander off to live in the world as people rather than as witches? And in a way, Shula did become the witch that the Queen heard about, that could bring about rain - it took her life, but the rain did come.
  16. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
    • More of the uncannily sinister story I have come to associate with Jackson based on the short story collection in The Lottery & Other Short Stories. This one read much like a fairytale, in a way that reminded me somewhat of The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches by Gaétan Soucy. I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I thought I would - something about the ending didn't ring quite right, or rather it wasn't as complete as I wanted, I suppose? Though as it is, Merricat and Constance continue to live on in the dilapidated house, living off the guilt of the townspeople and becoming mythical characters insofar as tales associated with the town go, acquiring magical prowess, as though they were witches capable of enacting revenge when really they cannot even bring themselves to take a step outside.
  17. Shark Drunk: The Art of Catching a Large Shark from a Tiny Rubber Dinghy in a Big Ocean by Morten A. Strøksnes
    • Strøksnes takes you right on the trip with his friend Hugo as they make their way out into the Vestfjorden on their tiny rubber dinghy in their quest to capture a Greenland shark. I've got some reservations about capturing a creature that might have been living for the past few hundred or so odd years in the ocean (as Strøksnes himself notes), but you barely even get started on your moral high horse while reading this because that's not the point. The journey is what makes this book, not the end result.
    • Strøksnes is given to exploring varied ideas and taking us away from the actual sitting in silence beside one another inside the tiny rubber dinghy: he transforms what might otherwise be a rather boring narration of the events as they came to pass (consisting of many hours spent waiting for the Greenland shark to bite) into an opportunity to reflect upon their surroundings and the history behind both the place and what they are doing. The dynamic between Strøksnes and his friend Hugo is at times funny, at times illustrating perfectly how they complement each other to work their way to safety (though I suppose Hugo is doing the majority of the work when the snow obstructs their view after they went out on a bogged-down boat that they then filled up with cod), but I get the feeling it's a pretty accurate portrayal of their friendship: the comfortable silences, dry humour, and the realistic portrayal of the building up of tension between them as they have to stay on dry land, the boat out for repairs.
  18. It (2017)
    • This was scary.
    • What happened to all the children who floated back down, in the end? And do they represent all the children who weren't afraid of It? Or did he keep those children whom he ate as well, floating?
    • I felt like the little speech Bill gave to his friends about how if they don't do anything about it, they'll be just like the previous generation and everything will repeat itself, and how would they be able to live with themselves, came out a bit strong and in contrast with the rest of the film. I'm wondering if it was like that in the original, or if it's also in light of what's going on around the world that the message became a bit stronger?
  19. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
    • This was... interesting. The back insert mentions how Moshfegh writes similarly to early Nabokov and Shirley Jackson, but I feel like it's quite a bit different from what I've read of Jackson. I don't know about early Nabokov writing, since I've only read Lolita, but with Jackson, what you get is more a surface look at what's happening, with the odd wrinkle here and there to let you know not everything is as it seems - or perhaps what strikes you as uncanny is that everything is precisely what it seems? - whereas with Moshefegh here in Eileen, you get an incredibly self-conscious narration by the titular character that you're not sure to trust fully precisely because of its self-consciousness. But that's exactly the part that feels true to life, because although Eileen might be more neurotic than many of us, there is something in it that still rings true. (Or perhaps it's just me and I'm revealing more than I realize?)
    • I'd probably put this in a list with Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi; I'm pretty sure that I got all these titles (Flowers in the Attic/Petals in the Wind by V.C. Andrews being another of them) from a list either from Hazlitt or LitHub, so no wonder that I'd put them all together. Whether Jackson's novels would belong in the list, I think, is a decision more on the fence though. White Oleander by Janet Finch might also make the cut for a read-a-like, I think!

Working on:
  1. 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.
  2. The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers by Scott Carney
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
    • Reading this on recommendation.
  4. Writing Reviews for Readers' Advisory by Brad Hooper (with a chapter by Joyce Saricks)
    • I know I've been writing reviews for a while, but most of them are for myself, really, to trigger my memory and my impressions. (That is to say: everything on this blog, in contrast to stuff I post on the library blog.) And while I do post regularly on the library blog, and make sure to modulate my voice so that it's less caustic and repetitive than one might find here, I couldn't not pick this publication up once I saw it!

Gave up!
  1. A Year On the Wing by Tim Dee
    • I'm not sure I'm ever going to pick up a book that has had comments of "lyrical prose" again for a while. I know I probably do the same thing in my own writing sometimes, but this was just overkill! I can't bring myself to finish it. Part of it is due to the writing, which isn't actually bad, just not for me right now, but part of it is also because I've got so many other books I've got to finish in order to keep up with the posts (for work) that I haven't got the time and leisure to read everything: there simply isn't enough time in a life to waste on books you don't truly want to read! Or so I feel right now.

Friday, September 29, 2017

That Movie I Haven't Watched Yet

lukknits
Aimed a bit high - wanted it to go around neck level.


The Wonder Woman Wrap enjoyed a tremendous amount of love the moment it came out from what I can remember, and there are currently (as of writing) 1086 projects, combined with the addition of being listed in 2393 queues. And that's only counting the knit version! That's phenomenal. But I think also well deserved. I downloaded the pattern back when it only had one size, so I'm not sure whether there have been any changes made since, but I followed the instructions exactly (without swatching), making no modifications whatsoever, and the shawl came out beautifully! It was a pretty magical moment watching it all come together; I don't think I've been so enthralled with pattern instructions for a while. Honestly, this pattern is absolute genius. The use of short rows and the different types of increases really makes this wrap sing, and I love it to bits!


lukknits
Those wings!


At least, I loved the making of it and the actual finished product. I don't see myself wearing it (in part because I haven't actually watched the Wonder Woman movie, so I feel as though I'm not quite qualified to do so). Which is why I asked a coworker of mine whether she would be interested in wearing it - and she seemed absolutely ecstatic over it, so I'm glad for that! - and now it has a wonderful new home where it will be loved and worn, as it was meant to be. Hurrah!

I'm actually pretty inspired by this pattern to use more short rows and increases & decreases to create shapes in general. It's really cool and was a lot easier to knit than I would've thought at first glance. Maybe something to consider for future designs?

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Too Little Lilla My

lukknits
Lilla My sweater/shirt for the brother

So... this was what it was meant to be, for my brother (above).


lukknits
Lilla My on the front


This is how it came out (above).

Now, my brother's about one full size larger than I am as far as clothing goes. So suffice it to say it doesn't fit him. The good news is that it came out pretty true to the illustration, at least! The slightly relaxed fit, the drop shoulder, the Lilla My... the size just came out completely wrong. About a full size wrong. What went wrong? I can only guess at a few possibilities.

  1. I had two gauge swatches: the first was not quite tall enough, but used the chart, and the second was the bottom half of the shirt after I had ripped out the colourwork because my row gauge was wrong and I had to reknit it. I should have made two swatches: one with the chart, and one plain stockinette. Then I could probably have made more accurate calculations regarding how to make up for the difference. Measuring again using this finished shirt, here is the stitch gauge: 25 sts (stockinette) and 28 sts (over chart) = 4". That's a pretty big difference.
  2. I put too much faith in the magic of blocking. It seemed to stretch out somewhat and relax into a good shape after the first block, so I didn't have my brother try it on or compare it against the tee he gave me as reference after that.
  3. I tried it on in the last few stages and saw that it fit me, and assumed my brother being only one size larger should be ok with that too (and besides, it would stretch back out a bit after blocking, right?)


lukknits
Weeeell... what can you do right?

I'm actually pretty miffed about the whole thing because this would have been the first thing I knit specially for my brother, but well... what can you do? I'm not about to rip the entire thing out (who knows if I'd ever finish it again after frogging the entire sweater?) and the sizing issue's a bit too much for me to just adjust it little by little, so. The shirt will have to be for me and/or my mom, since it fits us pretty well. And just in time, too! It's getting a bit chilly, but not outright cold just yet, so we'll be able to make good use of it, I'm sure.

And besides, this is sweater/shirt #2 completed for the Very Shannon Summer Sweater Knit Along 2017! Considering my progress in 2014, this is amazing.



lukknits
Welp!


At least I've learned a few things from this project (in addition to getting a nice new shirt, though it's not really my style):

  • Make proper gauge swatches! Especially if I'm going to be doing colourwork, because now I know that my tension goes horribly awry when I do that.
  • Use smaller needles for the inside of the folded hems: I had to reknit the sleeve hems because (as you can see in the photos above) the folded hems are kind of popping out a bit. That's because I knit them using the same size needles. I went down to 2.5mm needles afterwards for the inside bit.
  • The sweater curse runs true, even if it's only for your brother! (For further proof, see the unfinished Sherwood sweater, which I'm pretty sure is actually also too narrow for him.)

Friday, September 1, 2017

August

There's this folk tale I haven't been able to find online, that I remember my mom telling me as a child (and she remembers the gist of it, too, as well as my brother remembering having heard it before). It's the story of why the sparrow hops. I don't know the set-up, unfortunately, but here's the bare bones of it: the king summoned all of his subjects (or perhaps it was only the sparrow? this detail is a bit fuzzy) and the sparrow refused to bow/kowtow to the king, and so the king inflicted punishment upon the sparrow for its impertinence by forcing it to hop for the rest of its days (apparently the sparrow looks like it's constantly kowtowing with every hop it makes). Except I've got a couple questions:

  • Was this just the king of birds, or was it the Emperor?
  • Why did the sparrow refuse to bow or kowtow? Was it a pride thing?
  • In the other two versions my friend, who can actually read & write/type in Chinese characters, found on Google, the sparrow's legs are actually chained. Were there chains in this version as well?
    • The other two versions are as follows:
      1. A sparrow killed & ate the pigeon's 3 offspring, and so the pigeon went to tell the King of Birds of the heinous deed. The King called the sparrow to court and the sparrow confessed its crime. The punishment meted out to the sparrow was to have its legs chained so it must hop for all time.
      2. The sparrow, which loves to eat grain, once ate the grain set aside as offerings for the gods. The gods, who were angered by its disrespect, punished it for this transgression by binding its feet in chains.
It's times like these that I think it would be great had I paid a bit more attention in my Chinese school lessons back in elementary school, because I couldn't find anything about the folklore using English search terms, but these popped up relatively quickly once my friend at work searched it up in Chinese.

  1. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li
    • A collection of short stories, these were strangely reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and Other Stories that I read earlier. It's certainly a different sort of uncanny feeling you get from both authors, but it might be because both of them distill elements and details that focus less on presenting the full picture, instead almost creating the effect of being in someone's consciousness as they turn their attention to one thing, then the other and accompanying their sudden jumps in their thoughts. These short stories are halfway between what one might expect of a full novel, or a novella, and fairytales or myths, in a sense. They have the "stock" characters that you expect once the tone is established for the rest of the book, yet these characters are far from stock characters, idiosyncratic as they are. There is this pervasive understanding throughout all of the stories that we can never fully understand the full intentions and motivations of anyone else, and that of course relationships can never be as pure and beautiful as they may be portrayed in fiction, nor people as comprehensible as we wish they would be.
  2. Birds by Jeffrey Fisher, illustrated by Christine Fisher
    • I didn't realize the parliament of rooks actually had some kind of logic to it: apparently rooks occasionally form a circle around one or two other rooks, appear to deliberate as to what to do with them, before either deciding to pardon one (or both) or to peck them to death. Whoa.
  3. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
    • Not mind-blowing, but I did like it. I also quite enjoyed the size of the book, the colour palette, the photos, the illustrations - it was well designed (unsurprisingly, considering this is a book about hygge and the Danes).
  4. Prestige (2006)
    • I really wish Nolan didn't introduce the completely magical component (ironically the one "true" thing on stage that happens in the movie) - the film would have been so much better if there was some way to make everything actually fantastic magic tricks. I guess I just wish these two men could be outsmarting one another all the way through without resorting to fictional inventions, just pulling trick after trick from up their sleeves.
  5. The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection by Louisa Thomsen Brits
    • This presented as one big list of "hygge is....", split up into a few chapters that could be called themes, but that are in fact simply one big repetitive list. I'm not saying it's bad... per se - it simply isn't my cup of tea.
  6. The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
    • Surprisingly good! I was gripped throughout most of the story. Apparently there's going to be a sequel released sometime next year, so I'm looking forward to seeing how Nessa & Anton play their parts in helping to eradicate The Call altogether. I was just thinking that there didn't seem to be much in terms of closure for the plot, in the issue of those who had made deals with the Sídhe didn't really get wrapped up, so thank goodness there's going to be a sequel. Some of the characters died before you really got to know and care about them, and to an extent, even when Megan died, it wasn't heart wrenching. There's also quite a bit of violence and gore, both implied and described, which is expected but also not. It's kind of like it's darker than I would have expected, but not in a perverse way where every bloody detail gets described in full.
    • A couple of shout outs:
      • Protagonist with disability that still kicks ass with her resourcefulness and physical strength
      • Non-heterosexual characters: one of the mothers of one of the children, I forget who, who happens to love and live with a woman (but does and still does love the man she left); Aoife & Emma; possibly Megan
      • Most of the characters, while not fully developed and endowed with flaws and weaknesses, are round characters
  7. How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen
    • A good chunk of the pages are dedicated to recipes, running the gamut from fika treats (think cardamom twists and a mouthwatering-looking sour cherry bundt cake) to every part of a meal, including sandwiches (featuring an ultimate grilled cheese), salads, mains, and a few boozy concoctions for every season. Johansen takes a slightly different approach to hygge, focusing more on the outdoors activity - living an active life in general - rather than the comfort and coziness of home and the conviviality of a gathering. She's also pretty upfront about hygge not being a shortcut to a happy life: "to a certain extent, you have to earn it" (p.7), which I quite appreciate.
    • Where the other two books on hygge focused more on the getting together part of hygge, and trying to define what exactly hygge itself is and isolate it in order to figure out what it is, Johansen covered a lot more ground, I think, and in doing so, provides a more realistic look at what Nordic inhabitants are doing well in order to live lives that are hygge. What I appreciated most about her approach, I think, is that she makes no secret of the fact that you can't just make your home a certain way using dimmer lights, or by lighting candles, and indulging in everything you'd like throughout the week, and not change your general outlook or perspective, and expect that to bring hygge: it actually takes effort to achieve (as I noted above).
    • Here are the main points I remember, without looking at the summary that Johansen provides at the end:
      • Enjoy the great outdoors, or at least get out of the house when you can, regardless of the weather
      • Exercise - outdoors if possible
        • Don't do it in order to get to a certain body shape, so much as in order to enjoy yourself
      • Cleanliness
      • All things in moderation, but indulge yourself
        • In the same vein, eat well and don't go for fad diets
      • Be present with other people, especially during meals
        • Take your time and enjoy the meal, rather than rushing through it
        • Enjoy the social aspect of it also
      • Surround yourself with good design & lighting - doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but it has to make you comfortable
    • There are also a number of recipes featured in this book that I'd like to try out, such as the cardamom twists and the bundt cake, which I mentioned above, but the mains also look delicious!
  8. Anomalisa (2015)
    • I don't know that I agree with the summary of the plot here... or it may have been that I was under the impression that it was going to be about Michael not being able to see faces properly. Perhaps it's more that the "mundanity of his life" from which he escapes during those two days is simply represented by his seeing everyone as being the same person - and it's ironic that although he espouses seeing each customer as an individual, as each person in the audience is, he is unable to do so himself in any part of his life, except for that brief interlude with Lisa - but I was hoping for a discussion on prosopagnosia, which did not come up.
    • The stop motion animation is beyond amazing! Just absolutely incredible! I'm completely blown by how smooth everything is, and there were times when I wondered whether it was stop motion at all because of how seamlessly everything flowed.
  9. Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg
    • Wow is that font ever tiny!
    • The recipes included I wasn't super impressed with, though I did enjoy the photos throughout. I also quite enjoy the aesthetic, but it didn't really resonate with me as much as How to Hygge (above) did. The mystery snowflake poetry or letter tradition was really interesting, as well as learning about some of the different, more obscure, holidays or feast days, such as that for the last day of April. There was also a pronunciation guide, or rather instructions that teach you how to pronounce the enigmatic hygge, which was fun (and confirmed that I was pronouncing it correctly inside my head - I still have no idea whether I can actually say it the way I know it's said).
  10. The Circle by Dave Eggers
    • Very 1984, even in the way that it ends. Except Mae doesn't waver nearly as much once she has been converted, and it only takes periodic doses of two of the Wise Men telling her she's doing the right thing to get her back on track. There were a couple of typos, which were circled by someone who had borrowed the book before me, but apart from that it's written well. The insistence of Stenton & Bailey, and Mae's complacency, are a bit difficult to believe - especially on Mae's part - because there's less resistance than you might think in Mae, and I would have enjoyed a bit more of a twist or turn here and there, maybe? It's pretty easy to guess who Kalden is early on enough, and I wish he played a slightly bigger role, or was a bit more successful - to truly trick the audience into believing for a second that maybe Mae would side with him, because as it is, there's no doubt that Mae will turn on him - but it was fine.
    • It's relatable, even if not quite to the extent that Mae takes it by becoming transparent in the novel, in that the fear of too much (personal) information being made available on the web, along with handing all the power over to one entity, even if it is a company, is a recipe for disaster. And while I don't think it's going to get to the point that the novel reaches, it's still an unsettling picture all the same.
    • I'm wondering whether Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is like this as well?
  11. Pantheon by Hamish Steele
  12. Following (1998) by Christopher Nolan
    • Going back and forth in time from frame to frame, it was a bit confusing to get straight when what happened, but this film certainly keeps you on your toes the entire time! I think this had a lot more draw to it than Prestige, personally.
  13. The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia by Michael Booth
    • I swear it's a coincidence that I've been reading a stack of hygge books, followed by a dystopian novel, then going on to this book seeking to debunk the utopian view of Scandinavian living. There's actually no connection - this was one of the books I picked up while making the Armchair Travel list months ago for work, of which Ice Diaries and The Shepherd's Life were a part, as well as The Bookshop on the Corner. See my reviews for those here in June.
    • Part of me wants to think Booth is taking his witty repartee a bit far, but at the same time, he addresses the issues the hygge books inevitably bring up. And apparently the xenophobia extends beyond just hygge into the other Nordic countries as well. (Which gels with what a coworker friend of mine had told me about her experience of Denmark.) At times hilarious and always entertaining - though some of those chapter titles I'm not quite getting... such as Stockholm Syndrome when nothing of the sort takes place in that chapter - this is an interesting foray into debunking the myth of the utopia found in Scandinavian/Nordic countries.
    • Booth does seem to have something against Sweden, and he readily admits that when faced with these seemingly perfect facades that are the Scandinavian reputations at first glance, there is certainly an urge to expose the dirty underbelly, and he says of himself that perhaps he hasn't resisted that urge as well as he perhaps should have or wanted to, but still - it's as though all the animosity the other Nordic countries have towards Sweden have been absorbed by Booth and he's simply out to expose them for their flaws and denial.
  14. Death by Hanging (1968)
    • I'm not sure how to talk about this film, in part because I'm not too knowledgeable as regards the treatment of Koreans living in Japan after WWII, as well as the horrors inflicted upon Korea by Japan during the war. By which I mean that I know an overview, from an art history course, but I also don't feel as though I'm in a position where I can make meaningful commentary about the movie and all that it, in turn, comments on.
    • Of course, there's the theme of guilt, as well as of responsibility and personhood running through the entire film, but I can't really speak to much of it without doing further research, I don't think.
  15. Out of the Depths: The Blue Whale Story at the ROM
    • I went with a friend who is a bit squeamish, so we did skip the flensing video, but went through the rest of the exhibit and interacted with most of the stuff there (except for the video game). Personally, I don't think I really learned anything in particular from the exhibition, and the immensity of the full blue whale didn't really surprise me as much as maybe it should have - I do think the models in the Whales of Iceland exhibit were pretty close, if not, 1:1 - which is not to say that the exhibit was underwhelming! But I did get the feeling the target audience was probably families, especially those with younger children. Lots of interactive components, including a plastinated moose heart you could touch, as well as a photo booth section where you could dress up as krill and step into a whale's mouth (or at least the skeletal remains of its mouth, complete with baleen).
    • A lot of the information was covered in the Whales of Iceland exhibit, which I actually enjoyed more overall, but I'm still glad I went to this one!
    • There was also a very conspicuous smart car right beside the plastinated heart (for which they didn't really explain the process of plastination either, sadly, or that I could see), which was probably the most blatant advertising by a sponsor that I had ever seen in a ROM exhibit... ever. The car had heart-like vessel designs on it, but let's be real: it's nothing more than advertisement. My friend also noted how a lot of the information presented in the exhibit also led you to other organizations.
  16. The Milliner's Daughter (Ydessa Hendeles) at the Power Plant
    • WOW. That was probably my favourite show this year - maybe tied with work.wear, but definitely up there on the list!
    • I'm getting lazy at this point, but here are some things I would talk about if I were to put the time into it (horrible, I know):
      • Flat characters in fairytales, and the lack of individuality in collective groups, or the herd
        • Are we playing roles in the tableaus Hendeles sets up? Which roles do we play, and how best should we approach them?
      • Nietzsche?
      • Also the amorality, or ambiguous moral lessons, present in less edited fairytales (I'm looking at Grimms' as highly touched up, so no, I don't just mean return to Grimms' original publications)
    • Can we ring the working bicycle bell? We didn't, and it doesn't look like you should, but in truth are we allowed?
  17. Legacies 150 at the Harbourfront Centre
    • I really enjoyed the tablets on the table in the center of the gallery space where you could watch/scroll through each of the stories.
  18. Quanta article: Interspecies Hybrids Play a Vital Role in Evolution
    • So you mean convergent evolution doesn't explain everything? It might actually just be that they swapped DNA somewhere down the line?
  19. Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? by Andrew Lawler
    • I was reading this at the same time as I was reading Bird Sense (below), and had coincidentally just got to the Touch chapter of Bird Sense before reading the final few chapters of Why Did the Chicken Cross the World, where Lawler talks about how hens are debeaked... right after I had read about beaks being a sensitive sensory organ. A lot of the last third of this book was uncomfortable to read, but rightly so! The poultry industry drives invention to produce chickens that produce more meat or more eggs with less feed, and over a smaller span of time, to the detriment of the chickens themselves, whose very bone structures don't have time to grow before the meat packs on. Some of them can't even walk to their feed and water bowls because of how they have been bred to prioritize heftier chests that grow in some forty odd days. And their invisibility in everyday life - I get that banning backyard chickens is probably more out of fear of the diseases associated with fowl - makes it that much easier to turn a blind eye. I never realized that free-range, organic chickens don't necessarily have the time of their lives either, some having the same chance of seeing the light of day as their caged brethren. Which is to say: none.
    • Because my parents do use Hmong chicken in their cooking, I am familiar with the black skin, flesh and bones that pops up in our soups every so often, and I do find that they taste different. While I'm pretty horrible at discerning different tastes - as an example, it took me a good two minutes or so to figure out the flavour of Jelly Belly I was eating the other day, despite its familiarity: black pepper - I think it's safe to say that it would really be quite a pity if we simply lost all the different types of chicken indigenous to different parts of the world, for we would be giving up a whole world of flavours (even without the consideration of genetic diversity and how that might help to produce chickens that will survive in their respective climes, outside of layers and cages).
    • While I'm not about to purge poultry from my diet, I don't think that's exactly what Lawler had in mind either, so much as to force you to become more aware of the industry and thus have you make more informed choices. I like the idea of having a photo of the hens' living conditions on the egg cartons, so that consumers cannot simply turn away from the knowledge that the chickens aren't living a glamorous life. Besides providing a wonderful history of the chicken and its journey across the world, along with its role and significance in different times and different places, I think what Lawler managed to do spectacularly well is to not present as sermonizing about the chicken industry while at the same time giving a sobering account of it. Part of it is that he, and the people he interviews, are quite realistic about the situation: chickens are doomed. But the beauty of it is that people are still researching and doing their quixotic parts to help chickens for the sake of chickens - as Brisbin (who rescued wild Red Jungle Fowl from destruction in the 70s) says, it's "a way to say thank you" (p.264).
Still working on (and new ones):
  1. Toppamono by Miyazaki Manabu
  2. The Bird by Colin Tudge
    • There's a lot of "more on this later", which gets a bit irritating after a while, to be honest, though I also do a fair bit of that in my own writing. Although it's good for those who might be interested in a specific topic, to see (see Chapter 4) or something along those lines, to know exactly where to skip to, for myself personally, if there was something I was looking for, I'd just go to the index or the table of contents, so all these internal "links" are distracting at best.
  3. Bird Sense by Tim Birkhead
    • I really like the way this is laid out, how Birkhead goes from some background history of our knowledge of bird senses and how it has changed over the years, and what appears to be a pattern of "we didn't know this until recently", coupled with personal anecdotes and many examples that illustrate the senses, from notable abnormalities (e.g. the use of echolocation by oilbirds and a certain swift) to common sense capabilities.
  4. Beautiful Angiola translated by Jack Zipes
    • Unfortunately, I had to return this before I finished reading all the tales, but I do enjoy the queens' roles in these! Ever so exasperated and rational - "Just give it up, son! She doesn't want you!" or "Leave the poor girl alone already! She's suffered enough!" - and ever so ignored. There's quite a bit more murder in these fairy and folk tales than in the Grimms, I think, in that they are glossed over much more perfunctorily. And the running theme of beauty being of utmost importance is readily apparent also. There's also the fact that some of these tales can be seen in both Grimms as well as in this collection, or at least they are similar enough (like the story of the fur skin, or the really dirty princess with the three beautiful dresses).

Sunday, August 13, 2017

5-Year Old Sheep

I suppose the sheep are closer to 3 years old since I reknit them all in 2014?


I think I can call it a year now. This sheep sweater-turned-vest-turned-sweater has finally - finally - been finished! It's come a long way, and I just discovered the progress updates information on the ravelry project page, so I have a bit of a better idea when I did what... kind of:

  • April 2012: CO and work on it sporadically until sometime in May
  • 21 months pass
  • March 2014: join in SSKAL14 in an attempt to motivate myself to work on it again - it didn't work.
    • I ripped this out all the way until the ribbing, re-knit the sheep and basically got myself back to where I was before picking it back up again, I think?
  • 4 months pass
  • September 2014: unfortunately I didn't write any notes down as to what I did to it during this time, but I remember just knitting it straight up to the armholes and starting the armhole shaping
    • I also started to knit a sleeve, because my original plan was to knit it all in one piece, connecting the sleeves and knitting the armhole shaping all at once.
    • The sleeve was frogged for several reasons: it was way too roomy because of the sudden increases right after the ribbed cuff (part of original pattern that I ended up changing), but also because I was rethinking how I wanted to knit the sweater
      • I think I also decided to make it into a vest around this time, so that probably gave me a good reason to just rip out that entire sleeve.
  • 33 months pass - 33!
  • July 2017: pick it back up again, just in time for the SSKAL17!
    • Had to re-knit the ribbed neckline once because I just winged it and it was a bit of a tight fit.
  • August 2017: finally done!

It's been a long time coming.


Longer armholes next time, maybe?


To tell the truth, I probably wouldn't be casting this on if I saw the pattern today. It might make it into my favourites, but I don't think I'd even have added it to my queue: I just wouldn't be able to see myself wearing it. So thank goodness I cast on before I started actually thinking about the practicality of casting something on! It's a pretty basic sweater, and I know the sheep aren't all that sheep-like, but it's cute, it's comfy, and I think it'll probably see some use once fall and winter roll around. It's actually the first stranded sweater I've ever knit, and what's even more amazing is that knowing that there was colourwork all throughout the entire thing didn't faze me a bit - me, who had yet to do any stranded knitting before; who didn't get gauge so had to recalculate the pattern (though this has never really fazed me so much as irritated me because it was extra work - though satisfying once everything came out just as it was supposed to!); and me, who didn't understand what magic blocking could generate (as evidenced by the pink sage). Though I'm pretty sure everything to do with knitting can't be that difficult, really, and that it's mostly a matter of practice and going for it, which has been my attitude since I started. And which is why I ended up knitting wight in a completely different gauge, and did the math to make a sage pretty early on. Knitting finally made me see the practical use of the math I had been learning all those years - truly, it did!




lukknits
Loopy stitches possibility - neckline too wide to do this


Originally (by which I mean my Plan B after I decided I'd cut myself some slack and make it into a vest instead of a full-blown sweater), I was going to add a loop stitch funnel neck (as in the sketch above) to really bring out the sheep colourwork at the bottom hem, but the neckline ended up too wide and I really didn't want to rip it out and re-knit the neckline for both front & back again, so I ended up just doing a regular red ribbed collar. Because all the measurements for the finished garment were for a slightly drop-shoulder sweater, it ended up being too wide to change into a vest, so despite having ripped out an entire sleeve before some years ago, I went ahead and knit some sleeves to go with the body. Everything came full circle.


Impractical with shorts? Definitely!


This sweater has gone through so many revisions, starting as a sweater and then turning into a vest, then returning to the original sweater plan because the body was just too wide to be a vest; not to mention the frogging of everything except the ribbing at one point! It's been a solid 5 years since I cast on in April 2012 and I'm so glad it's done and out of my WIP pile! And now I've only got one more long outstanding WIP: the Sherwood sweater for my brother. I started that one in July of 2013, so I've got one full year more to just get on that before I break my record for this sheep vest. It will get done eventually, or so I tell my brother (who has  long since stopped asking about it). At least my completion of the sheep sweater should serve as proof of my word!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July Reads

Hmmm... it's been slowing down this month.

  1. The Lunchbox (2013)
    • I saw the trailer for this in one of the pre-movie trailers from another movie and remember marking it down, but I rarely ever actually follow up on stuff like that, so I was pretty surprised to see The Lunchbox on display when I went to cover at another library, making sure to bring it home with me.
    • The Lunchbox is a very gentle love story, but not just a romance, because it touches on some of the insecurities and worries both Saajan and Ila as people living their own lives, but also both in Mumbai as they live through the ever-changing city. We see only snippets of their lives through their letters to each other and how they respond to them, and it is this remove that allows them also to develop the affections for each other that they do. I found the movie very satisfying, and am glad it ended where it did.
    • That lunchbox delivery system is pretty cool. How do they make sure they get the right lunch to the right person? I saw a number written on the lunchbox handle in a shot, so I'm assuming those do the trick, but the workers who actually hand out the lunches must have amazing memory! I wonder if the strong message against smoking (literally printing "smoking kills" on the screen in a corner whenever Saajan smokes on screen, as well as having a lengthy information session before the movie starts about how smoking affects your health) is government-enforced?
  2. Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus by Laura Kipnis
    • I never really understood why any attempt to even just think about proposing that both men and women get educated on how to ask for consent and protect themselves respectively (or perhaps not strictly respectively, since there are also men who are victims of sexual harassment and abuse) made me feel as though I were going down the route of victim shaming, even when I wasn't. There's this need to qualify the statement, "Now, I'm not suggesting that the blame lies in the victim, but..." And now Kipnis has written about it! Hurrah!
    • Well written, with a touch of wry humour throughout, Unwanted Advances is a delightful read that makes every bit of sense. Title IX sounds horrifying and it's a surprise to me that something with that much power should not be standardized, at the very least. I would have liked to see more of an exposition of how Title IX investigations and proceedings go, and how flawed they are, in a more systematic study, to absolutely crush public perception of them and reveal how arbitrary the system is/can be, but this is not the book to do so.
  3. The Beguiled (2017) by Sofia Coppola
    • I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but watching the trailer certainly gave me a good idea in terms of the atmosphere and the whole aesthetic of the movie. My friend was telling me how people generally either love or hate Coppola's works, precisely because of her aesthetic and the unconventional plot lines, and while I have yet to watch anything else of hers, I can see why that might be so. I did enjoy the almost dreamy quality to the entire film, an everyday mundaneness made eerie by the danger lurking outside, contrasted with the young girls and women living in this school. I'm not sure how unexpected the turn of events was, in that the man (spoiler alert) dies by the women's hands, and even in the trailer, you see the turning point already. What does surprise me is that Edwina was able to calm him down (by confirming his masculinity and what he thinks his place is amongst all these young ladies) - or rather, that she should want to at that point - and yet still deign to return to the way things were before (or a version of things as they once were, before the disturbance).
  4. Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
    • I was working on a display about sex and gender, and a couple of fiction books popped up with "intersexuality - fiction" as the subject, of which this was one, another one being Annabel by Kathleen Winter. I have yet to read Annabel, but I'm pretty interested to see how these two novels featuring an intersex protagonist differ in their portrayal of the individual, especially since they are categorized as being for different target audiences (Golden Boy being for young adults; Annabel for adults). I realize that differences in the way intersexuality is presented between the two novels of course will be due to differences in the authors as well, but it'll be interesting to compare how intersex characters are portrayed in fiction.
    • I really enjoyed reading this. While some characters were less developed than I would've liked (e.g. Karen & Steve, the parents, as well as even Sylvie), Tarttelin did a wonderful job switching perspectives and presenting where all the characters stood. It's also one of those novels that doesn't tie up all the loose ends: the mother and father live separately at the end; Max tries to kill himself; and his being intersex does not become public knowledge, so there's still the question of how everyone is going to navigate that.
    • While it sort of feels as though Tarttelin tries to deal with too many topics at once - gender & sex, intersex, identity & coming of age, rape & the domino effect of its consequences for everyone - I think she did a pretty good job juggling them all.
      • One little quibble I've got concerns the doctor. The parts where she explains her research about intersex individuals and what she uncovers in her brief search online (at Wikipedia... despite being a doctor and thus very likely being more than qualified to look at the scientific literature), was presented in an information session-like form. There's also the fact that it's only when she slips up that Karen, the mother, realizes what happened. Karen's character isn't entirely believable, in how childishly she deals with everything - not facing reality, refusing to listen to Max, her inability to realize that Max is a person rather than a thing - but it certainly drove the story along.
  5. Search and Spot: Animals! by Laura Ljungkvist
    • Yeah, I know, I jump from one end of reading topics to the other. This reminds me of the way there are now adult colouring books; this search and spot book of animals is absolutely delightful. And that's not an exaggeration in the least. I couldn't find the last hooting owl, or two of the snail buddies, or one of the fish swimming upstream. Admittedly, I had been staring at the entire thing for probably a good half hour to an hour, but that it entertained me for so long, and that my joy was unabated throughout, is a testament to what a wonderful book this is! The illustrations are playful and set the mood for the entire book, which I love, and it's surprisingly complicated, with layers upon layers of things to look for - between finding animals, spotting line colours, directions, and different colours of a variety of animal body parts, you'll be absolutely consumed by the illustrations and instructions. In the best of ways, of course. I see that there's also a Go! edition that features vehicles and things related to things that go, so I'll have to keep that in mind for a lazy day like when I stumbled upon this treasure.
  6. Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
    • I liked the movie quite a bit, which is the reason I'm picking up this book, but I'm really put off by the writing. It's kind of imitating that patronizing way adults can write when writing for children, except you don't find that in children's novels so much nowadays, I don't think, because it's a bit of a sly wink at the child also, in that the author knows the child must know more than what's written, and thus it's written the way it is, but it's strangely frustrating this time.
    • The movie was a lot better. I didn't like the novel at all! I know it's trying to imitate a bit of that fairytale style, but it's a bit too much. I don't really know what the takeaway is, either? I feel as though it was just poorly executed for a story with some promise. Characters weren't developed, and came across as incredibly flat. Clara in particular had no role in the novel. I much preferred the movie adaptation on this front, as well as on Hector's part.
  7. The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood by Irving Finkel
    • So... there's a notes section, but none of it is directly noted in the text, and I'm kind of confused why they're not. How else are you supposed to know that there are notes to look at at the end of the book? There were also some sentences I couldn't be sure were just poorly written or I couldn't parse it because I was trying too hard, and one part that referred you back to chapter 10 (while you were in chapter 10), except I think it meant chapter 9.
    • Very interesting! It's amazing how the discovery of one small tablet unleashed all this new information, allowing us to reinterpret older tablets that have long been decoded. All the cuneiform tablet photos look like gibberish to me, so it's pretty cool that so much information could be written into such small tablets, made of clay no less. Not that I have much interest in learning how to read them, personally, but I do think the decoding and comparing of various sources is fascinating nonetheless. Especially as it concerns what may be the source of some Bible stories (apart from, obviously, the Flood). I was expecting something else altogether, in part because I had been reading up so much on the ocean, so I was quite pleasantly surprised to see that this book is based pretty much entirely on written tablets.
    • I love that Finkel includes the math in an appendix! Not that I went through it in much detail, but I still love that it's there!
  8. Angels, Mobsters, and Narco-terrorists by Antonio Nicaso & Lee Lamothe
    • I was chatting with coworkers about how I really wanted to have someone have already published a book comparing different criminal organizations and exploring how they all interact with one another, and lo and behold! It just so happened one of the people I was chatting with had also read John Dickie's Cosa Nostra & Blood Brotherhoods, and upon hearing my plea, guided me over to this title over here. We are on the ball with reader's advisory!
      • I guess what I'm more interested in is simply information as to why certain organizations arose of the society that they did - i.e. why it's not just different incarnations of the mafia the world over. There are subtle differences to each of the organizations, I'm sure, in terms of both the structure of the organizations themselves, as well as myths, but also in how they fit into the societies they grew out of. And of course, why some of the differences may have arisen: why, for example, is it allowed for those in the Russian mafiya & the Japanese yakuza to wash their hands of that life, but not the Sicilian Mafia? This book does not cover much of the history behind the organizations.
    • Did anyone proofread this book before it hit the press? No? I didn't think so. Beyond weird sentence structures (e.g. starting off a sentence with "while..." and not balancing it back out with anything on the other side of the sentence), there are at least ten typos where entire words - conjunctions for the most part, granted, but still! - are just wrong.
      • I also did not feel like the entire volume was very cohesive as a whole. I suppose rather than a finished product, it feels more like the in-between stage where the authors have clearly done their research, but they haven't tied everything together nicely. There's no conclusion to sum things up either, though I suppose the Canada chapter serves, in theory, as the conclusion? Overall impression: weakly compiled, repetitive (how many times do you have to define "snakehead" immediately after mentioning the term? Once should be plenty, thanks), uncompelling writing.
      • Nicaso & Lamothe do a good job covering organizations around the world, though, and I think it's a good starting point for if you're interested in reading about mafias and gangs around the world and aren't sure where to start. There's the obvious ones like the Italian mafias and the Chinese Triads, maybe even the outlaw motorcycle gangs, but others might not immediately come up as something to look into, for example other Asian crime organizations, the Russian mafiyas, or the involvement of Africa despite the absence of a traditional crime organization native to the land.
        • There's a clear difference in how much weight is given to each organization - the yakuza only gets about a page or two, for example, which is especially odd considering the fact that the yakuza are introduced as being the largest crime organization worldwide, as compared to the entire chapter dedicated to Italian organizations - but if you're just starting to look at the topic, this is a good place to get terms & names to continue your research, I suppose.
    • The entire book could have been expanded into at least three times the size to be a bit more comprehensive and produce more information about each of the areas, as well as benefit from proofreading and better structure in general. It's not bad, but I wouldn't really recommend it either. It would probably be more worthwhile to simply track down more in-depth books discussing each of the different types of organizations around the world. But then again, it might just be my own expectations.
  9. Tabu (2012)
  10. The Journey by Francesca Sanna
    • The style of illustrations and my expectations based on the cover were so incongruous with the story that there was this disconnect when I flipped to the second page and the war started. What a powerful book. And the illustrations are absolutely phenomenal.
Working on:
  1. Toppamono: Outlaw. Radical. Suspect. My Life in Japan's Underworld by Miyazaki Manabu
    • The straightforward style of writing, and frank admissions that come of it throughout, made this a really enjoyable read for me. Miyazaki makes sure to note the social context around which he grew up, and explain how that affected even the yakuza side of his upbringing by contrasting it with how things are now (as of first publication, I assume, in 1996).
  2. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li