Saturday, March 31, 2018

Março


  1. Carmen (2003)
  2. Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick
    • Hmm... I enjoyed reading about the five women, but I was looking much more for the history part of spinsterhood, and it was this point of interest that was covered in two paragraphs or thereabouts in the last chapter.
  3. Idomeneus by Soulpepper
    • What is the true story? What actually happened? The Truth is so slippery; all we get are versions of events and different perspectives, sometimes wildly different, until after we have combined all that we have heard, we are left ever more confused than before.
    • I was confused about the costumes, as they didn't reference ancient Greece at all, yet everything just worked. From the costumes to the voices speaking out, one after the other, to the dance at the very end, it all came together incredibly well.
  4. The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett
    • You really grow to pity Mr. Bunting at the end, when he slurps up his own imaginary. The description of how it had felt to him - like eating his own hand, then his wrist, and so on till he swallowed himself - was so cold and so sad. I would've liked to see Amanda conjure up an imagination strong enough to defeat Mr. Bunting with her own power and wit, but I suppose good timing will just have to do. The reunion between Friday and Amanda's mother was a nice touch, how he, too, disappears in the end.
  5. You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
    • Hilarious! And very relatable, as someone who spent much of my life avoiding what fell into my thinking as "stereotypically feminine". I kind of wish I listened to the audiobook version of this.
  6. Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders, illustrated by Jill Enders
    • This is a fascinating subject, and I don't get why we don't talk about intestine-aches rather than stomachaches, or why it's so incredibly taboo to talk about what goes on in our gut, because that silence makes it so we don't even know how our stool is supposed to look! The section on the stool scale was delightful, as was the explanation of the bacteria that live in our guts. I kind of wish it was a bit more detailed, but this is a great introduction to the subject. Next on the list: Gulp: Adventures On the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach.
    • "Women's large intestines are generally slightly more lethargic than men's. Medical researchers have not yet discovered why this is so, but the greatest likelihood is that it has a hormonal cause" (p.92).
      • Does this have anything to do with how girls are socialized as well? Because earlier in the book, Enders says "If we suppress our need to go [sic] the toilet too often or for too long, our internal sphincter begins to feel browbeaten. In fact, we are able to reeducate it completely. That means the sphincter and the surrounding muscles have been disciplined so often by the external sphincter that they become cowed. If communication between the two sphincters breaks down completely, constipation can result" (pp.14-15).
    • Spoon theory in hormone format?
      • "Under normal circumstances, we synthesize the stress-response hormone CRF (corticotropin-releasing factor) in the morning, creating a supply to help face the challenges of the day. CRF helps us tap into energy reserves, prevents the immune system from overreacting, and helps our skin tan as a protective response to stress from sunlight. The brain can also inject an extra portion of CRF into the bloodstream if we find ourselves in a particularly upsetting situation" (p.103).
    • I just read this Quanta article, Why Don't Patients Get Sick in Sync?, a day or two before reading this passage in Gut, which reminded me of it, especially the image halfway through the article illustrating How Chance Shapes an Invasion
      • "This effect is known as colonization resistance. The majority of the microbes in our gut protect us simply by occupying spaces that would otherwise be free for harmful bacteria to colonize" (p.157).
  7. So Sad Today: Personal Essays by Melissa Broder
    • Maybe I should be worried that I connect with so many of these essays on a rather disturbingly deep level, by which I mean to say: I guess whatever pervasive sadness is in my life and whatever depressing thoughts I have no reason in particular to be thinking don't even belong to me. In a way, perhaps the situation is even worse than it once was: my constantly berating myself for not being perfect, whatever insecurities and flaws and foibles I have that I once thought were something that were mine, turned out to be much more in the line of me absorbing the zeitgeist around me - even in the most depressing version of myself I'm outed to be much more boring and mundane than I ever could have hoped! Is this something to be happy over? To mourn? I'm not too sure, but I suppose statistically speaking, chances were that I wasn't special.
  8. Love Warrior: A Memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton
    • I'm reading this and So Sad Today around the same time, and everything's sort of blurring together, but I relate to both of these authors' insecurities to a degree that makes me worry. And I don't think I'm particularly alone in this either; it's not like it's a special niche or anything where people are just super insecure and get panic attacks and don't feel like they can be a proper human being in this world at a given time - it kind of feels like it might be a huge number of people (millenials?).
  9. Wonder (2017)
    • There were a couple scenes where I almost cried, and while my tear ducts are significantly easier to persuade to overflow nowadays, that's still something. I was actually pretty taken with Jack's character and his development throughout the movie, especially the very real moments where he chooses to say callous things about Auggie in order to fit in with Julian's group. On the other hand, while I'm sympathetic to Auggie's self-centered personality in which everything revolves around him, and obviously his physical differences are the reason for literally everything, I kind of had to wonder whether I lived in much the same kind of bubble when I was 10.
  10. Black Panther (2018) x 2
  11. Animal Farm (Soulpepper)
    • The overall effect I got was that the play was funny and delivered on the message, but that Orwell's novel did a much better job. I was looking forward to the whole thing with Snowball, but that wasn't covered in as much detail in the play, and it felt at times that they focused too much on trying to be funny and getting the audience to laugh. I suppose part of that is because it's a satire and they wanted it to be a bit over the top in order to make sure that was obvious, but you get less a sense of the slow horror over the slippery slope down which Napolean & the farm went.
  12. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? by Alan Alda
    • This connects a lot with the rest of the self-help and Eastern philosophy area of our collections that tell you to be present in your surroundings, to fully let yourself be affected by what is going on around you and react to what is rather than blindly pushing forward based on what you would will it to be instead - to improv rather than follow the script mindlessly.
    • Nothing particularly life-changing in these pages for myself personally.
  13. Naoko by Keigo Higashino, translated by Kerim Yasar
    • This is such a bizarre premise: Heisuke's wife & daughter end up in an accident, and his wife dies, his daughter in a coma. Shortly after his wife dies, his daughter wakes up, but it's not his daughter's consciousness inside of her body - it's his wife, Naoko.
    • That ending really throws you for a loop! And throughout the entire novel, I feel as though the reader sympathizes with Naoko more than Heisuke overall, seeing where Heisuke's jealousy takes him. That being said, he does mature a bit at the absolute end, I guess? Kind of?
    • And I love that Heisuke basically brings it upon himself by doing the whole investigation thing and following up in his earnestness to get the full story.
  14. Paprika (2006)
    • Interesting concept - using technology to enter dreams and having the barrier between those who are awake and those who are asleep break down - and beautifully rendered. I'm not too sure how I feel about the resolution, to be honest, but I did enjoy watching it. Ibara no Ou (2009) also had a similar thing happen, where dreams or at least the imagination could have real impact on the real world, though they are very different movies.
    • For a moment, Tokita's vision about the beauty of sharing a dream came to life, though with a completely different outcome than he might have expected or wanted.
  15. Gulp: Adventures On the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
    • While there was quite a bit of overlap between Gulp & Gut, I do think the two should be read together and that they complement each other rather than render the other redundant. Roach's humour here is used to much better effect than in Stiff, in my opinion, probably aided by the 9 years that separate the two publications. Interestingly enough, Gulp came out in 2013 and Roach notes in the introduction that the disgust associated with talking about what goes on in the gut & the taboo surrounding talk about is byproducts "has worked in my favor. The alimentary recesses hide a lode of unusual stories, mostly unmined. Authors have profiled the brain, the heart, the eyes, the skin, the penis and the female geography, event he hair, but never the gut. The pie hole and the feed chute are mine" (p.18). Two years later, in 2015, The Gut is published. Again, there's information in Gut that's not in Gulp and vice versa, so I'd say it's well worth reading both. Having done so in pretty quick succession, I can safely declare I wasn't bored reading Gulp even though I already knew a lot of the material from having read The Gut. And besides, the authors' enthusiasm over the gut is both palpable and infectious.
    • OMG. The possible origin of the fire-breathing dragon myths? Yes please! Find this on pps. 229-230, where Secor explains how the hydrogen buildup resulting from prey decomposition within the snake's stomach can exit through the mouth of a dead snake if someone, for example, steps on it, and if they further happen to be close to a campfire, this "breath" of hydrogen comes right out of the snake and bursts immediately into flame. Even better, "[t]he oldest stories of fire-breathing dragons come from Africa and south China: where the giant snakes are" (p.230).
  16. Una Mujer Fantastica (2017)
  17. Callgirl: Confessions of an Ivy League Lady of Pleasure by Jeanette Angell
    • So... I was really hoping for something with a bit more substance than this. I guess less an "this is how I'm different from others who were working in the sex industry" (even aside from the streetwalker v.s. escort demarcation) and more something that actually took a look at what exactly the stereotypes are concerning prostitutes, exploring why they're problematic and debunking them (or not!) through the author's experiences. What we actually get with Callgirl is the feeling that Angell is probably a bit infatuated with herself and that she thinks she's smarter than all men (and probably you, dear reader) - there are quite a number of generalized comments about men as a whole that I really, really didn't care for. On the whole, completely disappointed. Maybe taking her class would've been a better alternative to reading her book?
    • Can we also talk about the spelling mistakes in here? As well as the poor flow throughout? Well I mean, that's about as much as I have to say on the topic, but it could really have used several rewrites.
  18. Nise: O Coracao da Loucura (2015)
  19. The Constant Gardener (2005)

Maybe saying that I'm "working on" these books isn't quite as true as saying I've opened them and I've started reading them, but some just aren't going to get done anytime soon.
  1. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind by Siri Hustvedt
    • Am I the only one who found the titular essay kind of halting and awkward?
  2. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February

I foolishly set for myself a 150 books in 2018 challenge at the beginning of the year on Goodreads, which happens to be woefully public, so I was kind of worried, but given that I'm also counting picture books, I'm somehow now 23 books ahead of schedule? This is even more worrying - this time for my apparent lack of a life.
  1. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
    • Whoa. Is magic realism the genre under which to file this? I've been told that García Márquez is the king of magic realism, and this strikes me as quite different, but at the same time kind of similar in that it's rooted in reality, yet it's like the fabric of reality as we know it is warped, or wasn't warped quite as evenly as it appears in our day to day lives. Likewise with Shirley Jackson. Or would this just be horror? Either way, the stories range from disturbing to odd to haunting, and I love them.
  2. Seashore/Beira-Mar (2015)
    • Coming of age film. It seems like blue hair is the identifier in movies for LGBTQ characters? Or at least, I'm going by Blue is the Warmest Color and this one, so perhaps not quite representative, but enough for me to wonder.
  3. Carmo/Carmo, Hit the Road (2008)
    • Way to mark out the bad guys using physical deformities in facial features. I'm not sure if this was done for comic effect, but it's also not a funny movie, per se, which is why I'm a bit confused. Otherwise the friction between Carmo & Marco was nice to watch as they figured each other out and how to live with one another.
  4. Scapegoat: A History of Blaming Other People by Charlie Campbell
    • One of my favourite lines: "And that is how to excommunicate an insect" (p.136). Campbell has a rather dry sense of humour that I found fitting for the subject. You never get the sense that he's calling out past deeds and judging them using modern standards so much as highlighting past instances of human folly that might strike us as either somewhat obvious or perhaps understandably the lesser of two evils.
  5. The Bad Guys Episodes 4 & 5: Apocalypse Meow & Intergalactic Gas by Aaron Blabey
    • There's a script being followed here for each of the books, but it's great that everyone gets a chance to redeem themselves, each overcoming their fears or their weaknesses. It's funny, a bit out there, and every ending makes you think Blabey might be trying too hard to stretch the series out, but it's fine. I'd probably recommend this to Captain Underpants lovers.
  6. Operation: Secret Recipe (Geronimo Stilton) by Geronimo Stilton
    • It's pretty distracting, the layout, as well as the way the pages would sometimes cut off parts of the story while introducing information about Milan. I did enjoy the clues being dropped throughout the story that it was a cat that stole Stilton's identity, but I wish it were less obvious - that being said, it's intended for a younger audience than me, so it's fine. On the whole though, I didn't find the plot that engaging, and the recipe doesn't actually tell you how to make the panettone either! Maybe if you started reading from the beginning you would be more interested in all the characters in the family, but myself personally? I won't be picking up another Geronimo Stilton.
  7. Now Go Out There (and Get Curious) by Mary Karr
    • The anecdote about Walt Mink was beautiful, but I don't know how I feel about the layout of the entire book, with each page coupled with the illustration that grows and recedes over the pages as you read. Perhaps this works better as a speech than in written format. Either way, it takes constant reminders to yourself to remember to care about others and give them the benefit of the doubt, to treat them to lunch, and this is one such reminder amongst many others.
  8. Que Horas Ela Volta?/The Second Mother (2015)
    • An exploration of social class and how the it is only in the breach of those barriers (in this case with the arrival of the daughter, Jéssica) that those following its script become aware of the uncomfortable fact that they are in fact playing a role. It also addresses how the maids hired to take care of other people's homes and children end up leaving their own children and home behind in order to support them: Val is estranged from Jéssica in similar fashion to how Bárbara is estranged from her son, though to a lesser degree, and the threat of this happening all over again in the new generation with Jéssica and her son Jorge is circumvented only by Val leaving her job and by having the nuclear family stay together (as much as is possible). There's also this interesting contrast between Fabinho, who seems to sway between upholding class barriers - e.g. in his initial surprise that Jéssica is applying to FAU - and completely disregarding them as he treats Jéssica as any other person, dragging her into the pool to play just as another friend, and missing the reference made by his mother that Jéssica is the rat that polluted the pool. Of course, there's also Fabinho's relationship with Val, which is aware of the class barrier while simultaneously breaks it down in his going to her for comfort - for a mother, really.
  9. The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion by Peter Wohlleben, with a foreword by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, translated by Jane Billinghurst
    • I loved The Hidden Life of Trees by Wohlleben, so the moment I heard about this new book I put myself on hold... and then promptly deactivated it because I had a million other things already out, waiting for me to read. The conclusion was a fitting one, and reflected almost word for word a conversation I had with a friend:
      • "How, pray tell, are we supposed to feed ourselves in a morally acceptable manner if we are now justified in feeling sorry for plants, as well? Like many species, we cannot photosynthesize to create our own food, so we have to eat living entities to survive. The choices we make are very personal" (Wohlleben, p.248). Hasn't it always been the case?
    • While I enjoyed the anecdotes presented as evidence for animals being much more complicated creatures than many people give them credit for, and totally agree with Wohlleben that it's kind of weird we think of ourselves as somehow removed from the natural chain and call anthropomorphism foul in an attempt to keep humanity's exalted place at the top of the animal hierarchy, I found this collection much more scattered and less well organized than could be hoped for. There are also so many other books that focus on this topic, as Wohlleben himself acknowledges, and while I might not be the average layperson in terms of reading into how academic a book looks (because I tend to search those out and use those as the standard against which to compare everything else - or at least, the ones that appear to me as though more academically sound, which might in fact not stand for anything other than a cheap reassurance that what I'm reading is likely to be fact), I think others such as Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are by Frans de Waal and Animal Wise by Virginia Morell are both pretty accessible. From what I remember, they also cover most of what Wohlleben does in his examples, save maybe Wohlleben's expansion of the focus to insects and other unlovable creatures such as tardigrades and ticks.
    • There were things I think Wohlleben did pretty well though, including the chapter on instincts and how people actually come up with explanations to justify their emotions way after the emotion has already been decided upon - which is why there's no reason one should disregard instinct outright in animals - as well as one of the last chapters on the soul, where he raises the metaphorical eyebrow in his answering of the question of what would belong in heaven if heaven were to exist.
    • Overall, The Inner Life of Animals was an enjoyable read, if less in-depth than I would've liked, even for such a little book as this, as was found in The Hidden Life of Trees. Did we need another book like this in the market? I want to say no, but maybe. Especially given the popularity of The Hidden Life of Trees, perhaps this will reach a different audience than Are We Smart Enough and Animal Wise.
  10. Letters from Fontainhas: Ossos (1997) by Pedro Costa
    • Maybe if I actually gave it time and watched the entire trilogy it would be a more powerful experience?
  11. Aquarius (2016)
    • That did not go how I thought it would. Oh damn. Clara is such a boss! I absolutely love her interactions with people and her relationships all around (though you do start thinking that maybe she's being too obstinate or frank, except she just knows what she wants and makes it happen, obstacles be damned).
      • Also, "It's always good to ask" - yes.
  12. Whiskey Words & a Shovel III by r.h.Sin
    • Not that it's important, but I thought for the longest time that the author was a woman. Now I'm wondering whether they're writing for all the women they've come across that seemed to need these messages?
    • Repetitive. I don't really even want to read the second volume anymore because I've kind of grown tired of reading basically the same thing over and over and over again. Maybe it's because I tried to get through several at a time instead of reading one a day, or however they're meant to be experienced? And there's this sort of assumption that settling for anything less than perfection is somehow the wrong choice, even though I'm pretty sure relationships are based on more than just love - not to be too unemotional about it.
    • Also, while some of the passages made me feel like I really wanted to connect with them, it was hard for me to do so because I guess I've been really lucky and have only come in contact with decent human beings. (Is this the case? Is it just that I've been super lucky?) It kind of felt like I had to feel like a victim that was now rebuilding herself from whatever broken pieces someone else had made of my being in order for these poems to really resonate with me, and I want to know whether this actually feels touching on a personal level to that many people. I'm sure it does, but I also can't help feeling it feeds into the whole thing where women are made into victims (first, even if they're later told they're worth it and then are expected to empower themselves and make it their own way alone if they can't find Mr.Right). I know this is supposed to feel empowering to read, but I'm just really tired of hearing the same message again and again and again and again.
  13. Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles #1) by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis
    • While I found the entire narrative quite compelling and I loved how unclear it seemed to the characters which side was good and which was bad - as it can often be in real life - there's something about the endless descriptors that had me putting down the book every so often because I'd find myself skimming for plot. This isn't to say that it sounds overly flowery or excessive, or that it's poorly written, so much as, I'm not sure what the target audience is here. I would probably have put this book right down if I were a kid, even as book-loving a kid as I was when I actually was one.
    • The illustrations are lovely, and I looked forward to seeing them every time whenever I felt the slight difference in paper weight in the coming pages.
  14. On Truth by Harry G. Frankfurt
    • Finished this sometime in February...
    • Maybe Frankfurt's preaching to the choir, but I agreed with basically everything - in fact, I don't think I remember a specific point he made I didn't agree with? Though I can't say it was all that compelling a read.
  15. O Lobo Que Queria Mudar De Cor by Orianne Lallemande, illustrated by Éléonore Thuillier
    • I've been trying to get back into learning Portuguese, starting out with Transparent Language then moving onto duolingo, which I prefer by far because it gamifies the experience and helps you keep better progress of how far along you are in learning the language. Though I'm not sure how accurate the assessment is in terms of how fluent you are in the language, that percentage. I certainly don't feel 40% fluent in Portuguese just yet! So I figured I could help that along by reading some picture books. A lot of the ones I read before I don't see in our catalogue anymore, which means either I haven't browsed enough pages to go that far back, or they've been weeded because I assume our Portuguese collection doesn't really move all that much.
    • Anyway, back to the book. It's pretty cute, and I love the frame of Little Red Riding Hood on the first page! And I'm kind of not sure about the amorality of the entire tale - plucking all the feathers from a peacock, for one, or stealing the neighbour's roses - but it moves along in a fun manner and you know where it's headed. I also found that I could understand the story even though I didn't know all the words, which is great for me trying to learn, though I'm not sure what tense it's all told in.
  16. The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis
    • Oh. My. Goodness. Read this in one day because I didn't want to put it down, which hasn't happened with another novel for a very long time. Incredible character development, and I love Leda-Dante's navigation of their identity and how to fit into the world they've been thrown into, grabbing it by the reins and throwing all caution to the wind. The subplot in the form of memories of Cora surfacing and having Leda-Dante figure out how to live with themselves, forgiving themselves for not being able at the time to help Cora, was also woven into the rest of the story quite well; though you pretty much guess most of what happened to Cora early on in the book, it's the way in which Leda-Dante goes back and back to the memories and faces them more and more each time as they are also developing as a person.
  17. O Lobo Que Se Achava O Maior by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Éléonore Thuillier
    • Wow. I found a book that's not on Goodreads! (I mean, technically, O lobo que queria mudar de cor was also not on Goodreads in Portuguese, but this one's just not there at all.)
    • Awww this is a pretty cute one. A bit tongue in cheek considering how wolves are supposed to compete for the most villainous title, then the other wolves get miffed when Lobo plays dirty (as he's supposed to, right?). But of course, all ends well for him when his friends show up when he's most in need of them - only after a night of reflection, of course.
    • I got really lost on that page when the owl flies by Lobo down in the hole. I'm going to need to parse out that entire page and search up basically every word, I think. But on the whole, I think this age bracket (0-8, from what it says on the back cover) is a good range for me right now. I'm quite liking the series as a whole, though the one about O Lobo Que Queria Ter Uma Namorada isn't the greatest. (What is it with books that feature love as a grand quest? Why does the story just end when things are finally picking up? It's not like it's for sure that Lobo can win over the loba! We literally don't even see them together on their first date in loba's house with Lobo recovering from his starstruck wonder.)
  18. The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit
    • The way Solnit leaves hooks throughout her essays and weaves in references to them from chapter to chapter, slowly making her way through, doubling back, continuing forward, is exactly the sort of writing I aimed for in my artist statements back when I wrote those still. And this was all the more poignant for me because of the weaving references, about all the fiber-related language we use in our day to day speech without even realizing that we're weaving in more than just an idiom into what we say: the thread reaches much further back than we realize most of the time. (That thought being basically my entire artist statement in my last year's independent study, except tie in the concept on identity.)
    • The running script in the footnote section of every page that runs through the entire book was an interesting touch, though I'm not sure how you're meant to read it - I personally ignored it till I finished the main text, then flipped back to the beginning to start the one ribbon of text that takes you through all the essays all over again.
  19. Fèlix et Meira (2014)
    • The strongest scene probably comes towards the end, when Meira says to her husband, "Who says I'm not already dead in this life I lead here?" in response to why she no longer plays dead for him. I also quite appreciate the ambiguous ending, where Meira chooses for herself what strictures she discards and what to keep, continuing to speak in Yiddish to her daughter, a language that excludes Fèlix from the relationship, highlighting the instability of their foundations and inherent uncertainty of their future together.
  20. I Funny: A Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Laura Park
    • To be honest, I didn't find the jokes all that funny, but I'm also no longer 12. The dis/abled protagonist is great to see, as he's perfectly capable and makes a note of it throughout the entire novel. There's no point at which his being in a wheelchair gets in the way of what he wants to do (save the instance when his wheelchair is taken from him, which is to say when other people don't give him the respect as a human being that he deserves, with or without his disability). That being said, I kind of wish the Cool Girl wasn't such a miracle cure, and that he stayed down for a little bit longer - maybe that's just the part of me that wants to see the Dostoevsky-esque internal turmoil in every novel I read, even when it's not called for. Anyway, this would be a good series to look into for readers who enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I think maybe even Captain Underpants lovers.
  21. A Call Girl/Slovenka (2009)
  22. Bunny at Tarragon Theatre
    • I'm so on the fence about this one even though I really wanted to love it, and it's because of the way that it was set up, in that Bunny took us through her life and sexual hangups, stopping to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience directly at the peak moments of each of these vignettes. I identified with Bunny... somewhat? But that's as much as I can give it. Maybe I need more time to vegetate with it.
  23. Available: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Hookups, Love and Brunch by Matteson Perry
    • I think the one takeaway from this entire book is this: have intense long brunches, often. Which I'm down for, going by the fresh goat cheese description that peppers Perry's differentiation between "breakfast" and "brunch".
    • While it's somewhat frustrating that the entire narrative ends in a happily ever after of sorts, even as it acknowledges that relationships are ongoing things that require daily watering and grow better if you talk to them - I don't think Perry writes this out exactly, but I do come away from this book thinking it's not just a rehash of the fairytale story that floats around about us having soulmates and that there is someone out there that is tailor-made just for you - Perry does a pretty sound job making his sleazy project fun to read about (or maybe that's not as difficult as it sounds: people do love reading about sex and sleaziness, and not even necessarily both of those together), going from enthusiastic sleaze to having a moment where he realizes he might be taking things too far, followed by actually learning from his mistakes. Overall a fun read, I would recommend it if you're in the mood for some laughs and not taking yourself too seriously.
      • I wonder if all the women he wrote about recognize themselves in the book/were told they would be written about? I'm assuming all the names got changed, but still.
  24. Whiskey Words & a Shovel I by r.h.Sin
    • Perhaps I should've started with the first volume when reading this series? There's an introduction there that addresses what I wrote about for III (above), though the whole image still stands unquestioned. By which I mean the whole narrative about how there's someone out there for you, that they can save you, that obviously the let downs in previous relationships are due to your partner not being good enough for you (though in fairness, there are relationships in which people are horrible to one another or one to the other and I realize there are cases where the poetry will ring very true) rather than about your expectations about them being your saviour not being fulfilled... there was one poem where Sin addresses his expectations, something about being in love with the idea of you, except that he took it in a completely different direction than I thought it was going to go, namely saying he fell out of love with what they transformed into (or something along those lines)? I was thinking more that it wasn't the person at any point in time, rather the idea.
    • If I started off with this volume, I probably wouldn't have continued.
  25. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    • Thank you for putting into plain words what I have struggled to before when I asked a friend about whether he thinks about gender in bringing up his young daughter. They're all things I know, and things I should in theory have been able to articulate, but somehow the words got stuck in my throat and I couldn't communicate exactly what I was trying to say. This is everything and more.
Articles:

  1. Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read... by Julie Beck (The Atlantic) and The Curse of Reading and Forgetting by Ian Crouch (The New Yorker)
    • YES. I've noticed this more and more in myself as well, that I am ever more so less capable of bringing up synopses or reasons for which I enjoyed a particular book the further away from the undergrad life I get. And I think part of it, for sure, is that I'm not necessarily doing a close reading of everything that comes under my scrutiny - that is to say, I'm skimming quite a bit. But surely I should be able to at least hold a conversation about novels I've read recently, make recommendations to patrons who come to the desk asking for them, or, at the very least, be able to list more or less all the books & movies I've read & watched in the past couple of weeks or so? Not so. And if Beck's article is to be trusted, I think I can attribute most of the issue to the fact that I tend to read books in spurts, as close to reading it all in one go as I can. (It's actually rather sad to think that the books that actually make me want to devour them all in one day shouldn't last as long in my memory than the ones I read less enthusiastically, or sometimes even drudge through. Though for the latter, sometimes it takes so long I've forgotten the premise by the time I reach the end, so then again, perhaps not.)
      • This also explains why I still remember quite a bit of cetacean trivia, because I read The Cultural Lives of Whales & Dolphins over the course of a couple of weeks (or at least one full week, I think) if I remember correctly, then reinforced all the information by 1)making notes along the way, and 2)reading more books about similar subjects, on whales and dolphins, then finally 3)making comparisons between Cultural Lives and the other ones, which led to me reviewing parts of Cultural Lives and the other books and writing extensively on the subject (I think I typed out something like 10k in words just on those 3 books in that installment of what I read that month?).
    • But all this doesn't tell me what I really need to know: should I disparage myself for not remembering most of what I read, and what's the point, really, if it gets to the point where you have to re-read 5 pages into the book to remember that "Oh, right! I have read this before!"... and yet still not have that jog your memory of the rest of the novel? Is it for the temporary pleasure during the reading itself? Or is it as Crouch describes it, the reader as valiant hero slaying another monstrous beast of a book?
  2. Not really an article at all, but I moved on from Transparent Language to duolingo at the suggestion of my brother, and I love it! I'm much more committed because duolingo gamifies the whole experience of learning a language and gives you virtual currency that allows you to purchase more lessons and learn more (to an extent). It also tells you how fluent you are in the language in percentage format, though I find it to be rather optimistic: I highly doubt I'm actually 45% fluent in Portuguese.


Working on:
  1. Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bolick
    • I'm really hoping this will take us through the history of the term spinster in more detail than it covers in the introduction or the first chapter, wherever it was that Bolick quickly compared the trajectory of the terms "bachelor" (which went from being pejorative to neutral) and "spinster" (which went from being a positive term to being pejorative).
    • Halfway through, my hopes are slowly being crushed and strangled (yes, both) because it doesn't seem like Bolick has too much interest in discussing the history of the gendered terms beyond the introduction. That being said, I'm learning about women who lived (somewhat) alone, making (somewhat) spinstery lives for themselves. Well at least the book never purported to be anything other than it currently seems like it is: a journey through the author's life and experiences, told through her encounters with dead women writers who have influenced her life decisions. (It's actually filed under our Biography & Memoir section, so I really should've known better. But that title!)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

January Pt. 2

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January Pt. 1

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

Still working on:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Chrysanthemums

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


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


lukknits
A nice size to drape over your shoulders


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


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


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

Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's That Time of Year Again

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

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