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?
  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

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.