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([personal profile] thistleingrey Jun. 28th, 2016 08:39 pm)
Hyun Ok Park, Two Dreams in One Bed: Empire, social life, and the origins of the North Korean revolution in Manchuria (2005): the title comes from "tongsang imong," and this post comes from a pile of slightly perplexed OneNote remarks to self, not all of which may have been expanded adequately, in which case apologies (and feel free to ask).

The book is an expanded dissertation, so its introduction starts by the numbers with theorists: Frantz Fanon, Benedict Anderson, Partha Chatterjee, and Ranajit Guha, only we keep going with even more names, so I stopped writing them down. Park asserts, "I transpose the humanist prophecy for liberation into a problematic of colonial domination in everyday social life" (2). The bed is capitalist, the bedmates Korean "peasants" and Japanese power holders (24). Park seeks to map the social transformation of Manchuria at two "historical moments," before and after Japanese political actions of 1931 (16). Both Chinese and Korean communists regarded Manchuria as an extension of their respective states, which prefigures the NK state as more nationalist than internationalist. Anderson aside, I lack depth in whichever critical vocabularies she uses.

Read more... )

You know who is invisible here? The Manchus resident in and around Kando. Park writes as though they have left, too, or been displaced, which seems unlikely. No mention of Koryo saram, either, the deportees of only a few years later. Not even an "I have chosen not to discuss," which would be fine and then this graf wouldn't exist.
mildred_of_midgard: (books)


([personal profile] mildred_of_midgard Jun. 28th, 2016 08:48 pm)
I have been too embarrassed to report my weekend discovery, delightful as it is: the Boston Public Library has a subscription to the OED online, meaning I can just put in my library card number and get free access from home. Oops!

I'm embarrassed because for the last two years I've been doing without the OED and grumbling, and because for at least two or three years before that, I forked over the $295 a year for access. I mean, I was in LA at the time, but I'm willing to bet LAPL has a subscription like BPL. Oops!

That said, BPL does *not* have a SpringerLink subscription, which is what I was looking for when I stumbled across the OED subscription. However, from my reading, I'm optimistic that I can walk into the Northeastern library and get access, like I used to do at UCLA.
sholio: Highlander-Amanda with Rebecca (Highlander-Amanda Rebecca squee!)
([personal profile] sholio Jun. 28th, 2016 03:32 pm)
The Kickstarter is funded, with a week to go yet! Yesterday's update (with pictures of cover progress) and today's update. Thank you to everyone here who's backed me and signal-boosted the project; I'm so thrilled. :D (And also relieved, because I had been nervously fretting at the beginning that I set the goal too high, so actually managing to HIT the goal is the biggest relief you can imagine!)
I'm probably going to throw myself into the Serpentine at some point this week anyway, and it occurred to me to ask if anyone had any interest in a tour guide/moral support (as it can be a bit daunting going for the first time) or if anyone's already a lido fan and just fancies meeting up.

Info: the Serpentine Lido is open 10 to 6 every day.

It's (surprisingly) wheelchair-accessible, though they don't advertise this. There's a wheelchair-accessible loo, and a gate they can unlock in the fence around the lido so that you can cross from the changing rooms into the lido without having to go up and down any stairs (this does mean crossing a path in your swimming costume, but the alternative is crossing a small metal bridge over the path in your swimming costume, so).

It is a section of the lake, which you are sharing with assorted waterfowl and algae, so if you have a compromised immune system, it might not be ideal.

Especially on weekdays, the lido is blissfully uncrowded.

Because the lake edge is fairly shallow, a good half of the lido is standing-depth. So if you're a nervous swimmer, you don't have to venture out of your depth.

You need a swimsuit and a towel. There are coldwater showers on the bank, and shower gel/shampoo is forbidden as it runs off into the lake. Therefore, it's best to plan to rinse off some of the pondweed on the bank then have a proper bath/shower when you get home.

If you might be interested, this week or at some future point, just comment or PM me.
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([personal profile] cahn Jun. 28th, 2016 01:20 pm)
(note to [personal profile] ambyr: I have also been working on a long Byzantine chain for… uh… six months now, in little bits and pieces. I'm hoping I can actually finish it up this month. I'll try to post a pic when I do.)

So as you probably all know about me by now, I get these obsessions that last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year long. They're about different things, but fairly reliably I can count on having an obsession every couple of years on some sort of jewelry-making, particularly with gemstones. Cut because apparently once I start talking about shiny things, I don't shut up. )

Pictures! )
Hexarch Shuos Mikodez.

Full-res version for printing out and coloring [hosted at my website].

For the curious, you can also find coloring pages for Captain Kel Cheris, General Shuos Jedao (scroll down a bit), and Hexarch Nirai Kujen.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
([personal profile] hawkwing_lb Jun. 28th, 2016 07:24 pm)
Weigh-in: 108.9kg.

Benchpress: 1x5 @65kg, 1x5 @70kg, 3x5 @75kg, 1x5 @70kg
Squats: 5x5 @110kg
Physio exercise: 2x30 @25kg/leg
Lat raise: 3x10 @8kg/arm
Overhead press: 4x5 @20kg
Incline situps: 1x10, 1x6
Thing I forget the name of but involves triceps: 1x10, 2x5.
oursin: Animated hedgehog icon (Animated hedgehog)
([personal profile] oursin Jun. 28th, 2016 06:53 pm)

A determined spammer keeps asking me 'interested in safe floors?'

And since one of my current occupations is channelling a renowned author of Gothick novels and horrid tales, the image this evokes is of floors that suddenly open up beneath one's feet leading to an Oubliette of Doom, or possibly Hell.

In fact, it seems to be about becoming a distributor for some product that promises 'slip-resistant floor treatment' for the kind of public premises that have slippery floors.


Also, requires a set-up fee of $5000 to get into this promising business opportunity.

One is so tempted to put them in touch with relicts of dictators...


In other news, and trying to look on the bright side (wot bright side there is no bright side):

The keynote talk thing that I have been sighing over has done that thing where it gives a little wiggle and suddenly looks a lot more close to DONE than I thought it was.

Also in being Some Kinda Academic, sent off the paper I gave in Montreal to the organising body's essay comp, as they had solicited attendees to do this.

In nature notes, today I saw a wee robin and some kind of tit (?) in my perambulations through local green spaces.

Also, have had the royalty statement for a particularly niche work of mine and it's still selling - the royalties are still pretty much tuppence-ha'penny once the non-sterling cheque has gone through the bank, but I never expected wealth beyond the dreams of avarice from it.

Kästner und der kleine Dienstag (Erich Kästner and Little Tuesday), directed by Wolfgang Murnberger: movie which gets around the biopic conundrum (i.e. if you film the entire life of a person, it usually comes across as a checklist of edited highlights, as worthy and dull or what not) the usual way, by choosing a limited time to cover, and one particular relationship to focus on. In this case, the time is 1929 - 1945, and the relationship is the one that develops between Erich Kästner (self and most of the German reading world would list him among their favourite writers any time; and not just the German reading world, [profile] abigail_n once told me he was the only German author who chose to remain in Germany during the Third Reich who still got published in Israel post WWII and ever after) and Hans Löhr. Who is Hans Löhr? In 1929, he was an eight years old boy who read Emil and the Detectives, wrote an enthusiastic fan letter to the author, then met him, ended up playing Little Tuesday in the movie version the UFA produced in 1931 (early sound movie, scripted by one Billie (sic, he didn't change the spelling until making it to the US) Wilder). Hans Löhr and Kästner remained in contact until Löhr died.

Now, had this relationship happened in any other era, it simply would have been a not quite father and son, mentor/protegé type of story, with the added factor of making one realise it couldn't happen today because an adult man befriending a child immediately invokes suspicion. But it started in the last years of the Weimar Republic, and then took place in the vilest dictatorship we had in this country. And the questions whether you can survive inside the system with your moral integrity, and what it does to you to grow up in such a system, are of course a big part of the story. Erich Kästner during the course of the film goes from young vibrant and successful Weimar Republic era writer, still more famous for his political sharp tongued poetry than anything else (though Emil and the Detectives changes this radically), always ready with a witty come back, to the haunted grey figure at the end of the war who is completely silent in the last scene. The question "why don't you leave?" is asked repeatedly - until 1939, when leaving or not isn't an option any more - and Kästner has different answers: at first he doesn't believe Hitler will last, then he wants to be a witness from the inside (he made lots of notes, some of which survive, for a novel about the Third Reich which was to be his big justirfication for staying, something he said couldn't be written from the outside, but in the end he never wrote it), there's also his mother (Kästner was a proud self declared Mother's Boy whose "Letters to Muttchen" filled whole volumes), and lastly he also names fear and laziness. The movie leaves him this ambiguity, not settling on just one or the other. One of the most important supporting characters, Erich Ohse, a cartoonist who illustrated Kästner's novels and poetry, like him remained in Germany (and was allowed to continue to work under a pseudonym, until he was denounced and arrested for expressing anti Nazi opinions, and committed suicide in his cell), once has a conversation with Kästner where he says, about both of them: "You can't say clean in a pigsty, Erich."

Kästner stays, sees his books burned in front of him - he was probably the only German author whose books were among those burned in 1933 who witnessed it -, isn't allowed to publish anymore officially (inofficiallly, he worked as a script doctor and in one famous case wrote an entire script under a pseudonym - the movie Münchhausen, plus he also lived from the sales of his books outside of Germany). There is a visual running thread from the start of the movie, when an overcrowded café where Kästner often hangs out is bursting with people (signal to audience we're in Weimar Germany: not just the music but also same sex couples in the crowd), and through the movie we keep returning to the café with fewer and fewer people until it's just Kästner and the waiter. If this sounds all very depressing, I'm selling the energy of the movie short. Like I said, it focuses on the relationship between Kästner and Hans Löhr, which means a lot of comedy early on, as Kästner, like many a successful writer of children's books, isn't actually keen on or used to interacting with real children but otoh devoted fan Hans (his initial fan letter even comes with chocolate for his new favourite author!) is so incredibly endearing (and persistent) he gets around that.

The relationship also keeps shifting. At first Kästner is indulgent; directly after the Third Reich has started and Hans' best buddy, being half Jewish, finds himself derided by their teacher while Hans' sister joins the Jungvolk (she's still too young for the BDM at this point), Kästner tries to provide some moral counterpoints; still later, when Hans, who is played by two different actors by virtue of necessity in this movie (and may I say: very well cast, because the boy and young man who plays Hans as a teenager/very young adult really look like one could turn into the other, and both have excellent chemistry with Florian David Fitz who plays Kästner) has grown up some more, it's he who provides the moral challenges - didn't Kästner tell him through his books that standing by and doing nothing is as bad as joining the harm? (It's also, among many other things, a growing up, seeing your idol as a flawed human tale.) It's a getting estranged, finding each other again tale. And one which inevitably ends up in tragedy. As I saidin an earlier entry, all but two of the children playing in the first movie version of Emil and the Detectives died in World War II. Hans gets drafted. In the Q & A afterwards, the producers, asked about reality versus fiction, said they made some changes to the timeline, the most noticable being the point of Hans' death, which in reality already happened in 1942 but in the movie not until 1945 so it can coincide with the end of the war. The very last images of the movie are clips from the 1931 Emil and the Detectives, so we see the real Hans Löhr, and then the image of all the children joyfully running overlaid with the lettering tha tall but two died in the war, which after spending the last one and a half hour with Hans is gut wrenching enough to make cry, and I knew it was coming.

Now, this is a low budget movie. Which means no big sweeping spectacle shots: you get bombed Berlin via people sitting in a bomb shelter and later via Kästner watching the ruins of the house he used to live in, not via the whole city panorma. It also is low key in another fashion, and I suppose you could accuse it of pulling punches, though for me what they did worked, to wit: the fact that we don't see Hans as a soldier other than briefly ducking shots. (As opposed to shooting people.) The reason why I wouldn't agree that it was evading the fact that Hans, as a soldier of the Wehrmacht in the East, couldn't be other than a participant in a genocidal war is that earlier there's a conversation between Kästner and Hans where they talk about the rumors that there are atrocities in the East, and decide on a code sentence Hans is supposed to write to his mother if he finds this to be true. (Because obviously all mail is censored.) And the next time Kästner visits Mrs. Löhr, and she shows him Hans' letter, the sentence is there, underlined three times. Which in all its implication is mirrored on Kästner's face.

Also, the insidiousness of non stop hate propagadanda - a very contemporary topic, alas! - is addressed a lot by the movie; I already mentioned Hans' teacher (and believe me, what he says in class really was every day). One key sequence, for example: Kästner and Hans listen to the first Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling fight (the one Schmeling won) on the radio. To them, being Max Schmeling fans, this is a joyful occasion; he was already 30 and thought to be on the decline, not likely to win against the much younger Louis. The next morning, however, at school, the teacher recontextualizes the fight as Aryan superiority winning over a "negro", and the realisation that there is really no area untouched by hate propaganda now hits home all over again.

I've seen a lot of movies and tv shows include the book burning, but they usually get the books in question wrong (Christopher and his Kind), or they leave it at the point of "this is barbarism having arrived", with the character witnessing the burning usually a concerned foreigner. The way this movie uses it is different, both because they get the books right (and Kästner's adult novel Fabian isn't the first to be burned, either), because Kästner is actually there, and because of the conversation he has with the other Erich, Erich Ohse, later about it. One: he points it it wasn't SS men who threw the books into the fire, it were students. "Our hope for tomorrow." And secondly: "I was there, and I did nothing. I said nothing. This is how it's going to work. Some who act, and the rest of us standing by frozen."

Again: this doesn't just have historical relevance, and more's the pity.

On a more light hearted note: things that would be edited out if this was a US movie: Kästner's chain smoking (he's hardly without a cigarette in this movie, which is true to reality), and his casual sexuality (multiple relationships early on, including one with a married woman). BTW, of course Hans who informes him that "we are divorced" hopes Kästner will marry his mother early on, but Mrs. Löhr refresingly isn't interested (Kästner isn't, either), and is a rounded character who gets to make a lot of good points. (For example, early in the Third Reich, that it's all very well for Kästner to talk to her son about pacifism etc., but Kästner can leave Germany whenever he wants to, whereas they, being a working class family, can't afford it.

Accents: Hans' best friend Wolfi Stern speaks Berliner German like a pro (or a native, which him being a kid I suspect he is, though the teenage actor later also does it), as do most of the other kids. Otoh, Florian David Fitz is doesn't even attempt to have a go at the slight touch of Saxonian Kästner had, and his voice sounds different (he's a tenor, whereas Kästner was a bariton getting only deeper through the years), but he's so good in the part that you don't mind, and this isn't about impersonation anyway.

Allusions to Kästner's works: plenty, obviously: Emil and the Detectives is a touchstone, but also Pünktchen and Anton and Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer. At one point, Kästner has the idea for Das doppelte Lottchen somewhat prematurely and bounces it off Hans, but never mind. The script also found a way to include several of the poems, and put them to great use - Die andere Möglichkeit and Kennst Du das Land, Wo Die Kanonen Blühen? especially.

Movie-wise, two scenes of the 1931 Emil are re-acted so the kid who plays Hans is in them, and like I said, we see the original clips later on at the very end of the film; there's also a clip of Münchhausen, which Kästner watches in the cinema when British bombs arrive. Billy Wilder as a young man shows up only silently during the Emil premiere celebration (you only know it's him if you've seen photographs of Wilder at that age), but he's referred to earlier as the script writer; the movie avoids Wilder and Kästner having had a typical scriptwriter of adaption versus novelist who has never been adapted before clash, since it hasn't got anything to do with the Kästner and Hans Löhr story. We see a lot of Erich Ohse's cartoons, both the Weimar era ones and the later "father and son" series he published under the pseudonym of e.o. plauen. And a great example of how the film uses the comic to set up the tragic: early on, when Emil just got published, Kästner charms a bookseller into putting it in the frontal display of her store's window, replacing the Heinrich Mann (not Thomas!) novel which was there before. Twenty minutes into the movie later, that same Heinrich Mann novel precedes Kästner's in being thrown into the fire.

Where to watch: not at all yet. It's not been released. But the house was packed, and we gave it a tremendous applause. And I think I'll visit Kästner's grave here in Munich again soon.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
([personal profile] davidgillon Jun. 28th, 2016 12:48 pm)
Just noting I've started adding my book reviews to Goodreads, see them here. The recent batch are up, I'll go through and add the older ones eventually.

I still plan on posting them here, so it won't make any difference, but if you have a goodreads account they're now there as well.

(Some of my fellow Pitchwars types have had suggestions it's a preferred form of web-presence when agents/publishers are evaluating new clients, so I've been meaning to do it for a while).

oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
([personal profile] oursin Jun. 28th, 2016 09:52 am)
Happy birthday, [personal profile] rmc28!
thistleingrey: (Default)
([personal profile] thistleingrey Jun. 27th, 2016 09:47 pm)
Status: blue shawl for me is four long rows from completion; masterclass gift is four medium rows from the pattern's first scary part, which I can't contemplate at present. Reason's candycane vomit may resume being the focus sooner than I'd thought.

Heh, BAD IDEA, but the new front door that I painted not long ago has an upper pair of panes, and I could knit or crochet wee lace curtains for them. (My filet crochet gauge has always been poor, too tight.) The space is agreeably sized: 1' = 30 cm high, ~32" = 80 cm across flat, including the narrow wooden piece between the two panes. That's like making an unaccompanied valance.

Possibilities: Dappled Lace; Lotus Lace in a narrower yarn; and okay, it could be crochet if it's in sport-weight yarn or circular medallions. I admire Hartmut Hass's designs, especially this one, but I can't make them properly---and I'm certain because thread crochet is where my self-taught fibercraft began, 20+ years ago.

Also, some of you know this headiness, but I'll walk through it anyway:
A year ago, I bought a pair of Betabrand's work from home slacks---twilled tencel. Though I paid much less than the current US$88 list price (introductory offer, credit from unrelated return that didn't fit), I can't say that the construction is worth even what I paid: the seams are serged, the pockets are loose flaps, and they're not kidding about the paper-bag waist. But, says the invisible urchin atop one shoulder, I could lay mine flat and inside out, trace the simple seams with allowance, and make my own second pair from the two yards of dark grey linen/cotton remnant in the next room.... There's always the option of this similar pattern if the tracing seems unconvincing.

Have I mentioned? Reason is excited enough about two mama-made nightgowns that she's requested one more, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease, so I've traced the purple one onto yet another remnant piece with adjustments for her request (higher neck, i.e. same front/back) and mine (longer length to be wearable next spring/summer as well). It's cut and pinned, or rather wonder-clipped (mine are all red), and sits in a folded stack on my desk. Soccer moms often drive minivans---I wonder what the externally obvious accoutrement is for parents who fall into household craft, or are pushed.
Hamlet, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Lisa Peterson

A fairly standard staging with a few exceptions, largest of which is the use of doom metal—the gravedigger stands atop the stage with a guitar, providing ambient audio; some soliloquies and sung lines are done with a mic. I buy this conceit in theory, but it failed to impress in practice. It muddies some lines ("To be or not to be" is so famous as to have become clichéd, so I understand choosing to mix it up via mic and audience participation—but what a flop) while adding little of substance besides ambiance.

But the casting is almost universally phenomenal, the characters so well-rounded. I took some issue with Claudius (maybe only an issue of costuming: the bulky crown on his bald head looks silly and exaggerated—exaggerated obsession with power, exaggerated evil) until 4.7 when he, with ruthless political acumen, invites Laertes to murder Hamlet. Ophelia's song's beautiful, and easily the best (and most natural) inclusion of music. Polonius! is phenomenal! this character needs to be the fool, comic relief with a grain of truth, and he needs to be lovable because his death must to be a loss big enough to mark a turning point within the play—this is that, most especially 1.3 "these few precepts" which is both officious and sincere. Horatio as a Black woman is brilliant, and she's the emotional strength and center, directing the audience's emotions through the loss of the cast. And: Hamlet. I have touched on this briefly elsewhere, but this is the Hamlet I dream of, a Hamlet large, who contains multitudes; a Hamlet of sincerity and performance, of flippancy and bereavement, consumed by a toxic self-knowing and yet so self-possessed. This script keeps both of my favorite soliloquies: 2.2's "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" and 4.4's "How all occasions do inform against me," and they were all I could have wished for: a Hamlet obsessed with how others perform grief and action.

Twelfth Night, Angus Bowmer, dir. Christopher Liam Moore

This production has two interesting directorial choices: it's set in 1930s Hollywood, and Viola and Sebastian have the same actor. I was initially doubtful of the first and ridiculously excited about the second; they both work, often because of how they interact with one another. In the reunion scene, a single actor is able to play both Viola and Sebastian because a screen descends and a projected black and white film version of the actor portrays the non-speaking twin; even better, the actor then steps into the projection, the twins embrace, and the actor exists the film-within-the-play to portray both of the roles simultaneously. Twelfth Night generally resolves its own queerness* by ending with heteronormative pairings; this defies that, it keeps the fluid orientations and queer subtext alive until curtains. The 1930s conceit is successful because it helps pull that off; also because the social and sexual freedom of the era well suits the content of the play.

I was impressed by the handling of the B-plot. There was some clever staging—separating the left and right sides of the stage into the A and B plot, one side of the stage going dormant while the other had a scene, with Feste thematically and physically knitting the halves together. The B-plot is given as much depth as the A-plot, but the character depth and growth in Toby in particular is never not allowed to overshadow the unforgivably harm done Malvolio, who I have also discussed elsewhere: what a sympathetic, unforgiving depiction of his experience, his growth, his anger. I'm not fond of physical comedy, and this has a lot of it; beyond that, what a well-cast and well-considered production. Attending a talk by an actor (who was equally passionate about Malvolio and about queering the text!) only made it better.

* moreso now than then, when crossdressing Viola was originally played by a male actor

The Wiz, Elizabethan Theatre, dir. Robert O'Hara

I can't separate the experience of this production from the production itself, because there just was that much rain, But the energy of the cast defied the weather. This is engaging and lively and not all that deep. Allow me to quality that: this is valuable in historical context, and still valuable now, for the all-Black speaking roles and also for the body-type diversity in the ensemble. The playful, irreverent, flamboyant tone is is engaging and alive, and the costume design (what we saw under ponchos!) is phenomenal, especially in the backup dancers, especially the birds. But beyond celebrating a new ownership and audience, it doesn't provide much as a retelling of the source material—feel-good songs, no particular reinterpretations or depth.

I'm trying to get caught up on reviewing some of the books I've read in recent months.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, Lois McMaster Bujold

The latest in Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga revolves around the two titular characters, Admiral Oliver Jole, commander of the Barrayaran forces on Sergyar, and Vicereine Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, the planetary governor. Three years have passed since the death of Aral Vorkosigan, and Cordelia has a plan for rebooting her life. Reproductive technology has been a consistent theme of the Vorkosigan books, yet Cordelia and Aral only ever had one child, Miles (at least directly and intentionally). But now Miles is Count Vorkosigan in his own right, an Imperial Auditor, with a beautiful and talented wife, and a growing brood of children, and he survived, eventually, the appearance of his clone-brother Mark. Galactic lifespans mean Cordelia still has time to raise a family, 76 is no age at all, and she and Aral had put by eggs and sperm in case of need.

Cordelia plans to have only daughters, to avoid any complications in respect to Miles’ title, but there are a handful of eggs that have been adjudged non-viable, for the production of Cordelia’s children at least. Those eggs could still host a fused nucleus, and Cordelia knows exactly the two parents she has in mind. Aral, and Oliver. We’ve known Aral was bisexual from the start of the series, but now we find out he actively engaged in an affair, with a certain Lieutenant Oliver Jole, with the full knowledge of Cordelia, ultimately evolving into a polyamorous relationship between the three of them. The relationship splintered with the death of Aral, but now Cordelia has a proposition for Oliver.

Oliver is poleaxed by Cordelia’s plan, a fairly typical reaction to any Naismith Vorkosigan plan, but the potential starts to grow on him, and as it does, it rekindles his feelings for a certain Vicereine. (All of this is on the table within the first chapter, when Cordelia has a plan she doesn’t hang about)

And so GJatRQ becomes a comedy of manners, as Oliver and Cordelia slowly romance each other. And the comedy element is completed when Miles arrives, hotfoot from Barrayar, with his entire brood in tow, because he’s finally found out what his mother has planned for the eggs.

This is Bujold in romance mode, Miles isn’t required to shoot anyone, and the deadliest threat to the core characters is a job offer. There are a handful of sub-plots, Oliver’s aide is being wooed by a rather ineffective Cetagandan attache, a ceramcrete company is trying to play the military for fools, and the plans for Oliver’s 50th birthday party keep getting more and more out of hand, but mostly it’s Oliver and Cordelia exploring each other, or trying to explore each other if their damned jobs wouldn’t keep getting in the way.

If only Miles in manic berserker mode works for you, then you should probably pass on this one, but if you liked A Civil Campaign, then put this on the list.

Gemini Cell, Myke Cole

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer gets home from a mission on which weird shit tm happened, only to have a hit team kick in his door in the middle of the night. He kills a bunch of them before they kill him, but not before seeing his wife and son hit.

Then he wakes up, in a secret facility, with something sharing his head on the inside and spooks on the outside. After telling Jim his family was killed, the senior spook explains to him that magic is returning, and the Special Operations community have caught themselves an Afghani who knows how to stick djinn in dead people’s heads. The djinn gives Jim effective superpowers – he can now jump out of helicopters without bothering with a rappelling rope, manifest spikes and blades from his body and so on, which is ideal for the programme, which wants to use him as a killing machine against magical threats. And if he’s really good they might let him get revenge on the people who killed his family. As Jim gets used to being an undead weapon, he starts trying to talk to the djinn, who turns out to be the soul of a warrior king from somewhere around the Babylonian period, and after three millennia stuck in Limbo he doesn’t have much time for the niceties of warfare. Or for sharing control of the body. So with occasional intermissions Jim’s story becomes constant warfare between the two of them for control of his body.

Meanwhile his wife wakes up in the hospital with minor injuries, as does their son. She’s told Jim was killed, and Oh, by the way, we cremated him for you, here’s the ashes. Needless to say she isn’t happy, and attempts by Jim’s injured buddy to take his place don’t entirely help.

Then both Jim and his wife become convinced the other is alive, and things escalate.

Which is the point I stopped reading, there’s a place for tension in a story, but this seemed to be nothing but, continually ramping up the threat level. The writing is fine, Cole knows his way around the military and at another time I might have finished it, but when the option to switch to another book appeared, I took it.

Atlanta Burns, Chuck Wendig

Described as 'Veronica Mars on Adderall' I think this suffered from being on the go at the same time as Gemini Cell; two stories dependent on ramping up the threat level towards their protagonists at once isn't a good combination. But the dedication, To the bullied, shows that the intent is very different here and Wendig does a fantastic job with Atlanta's voice. According to the copyright text it's a fix-up of a novella, Shotgun Gravy, and a novel, Bait Dog, both of which were originally self-published, which explains the slightly odd plot structure.

Set in a run-down Pennsylvania town, by the time the story opens our eponymous high school heroine has already defended herself from attempted rape by her mother’s boyfriend using a shotgun to the groin. This gives her a certain reputation, and when she saves a Latino kid from the school bullies he enlists her to protect his gay friend, and a cycle of escalation starts. Before Atlanta quite knows what’s happening people are dead, she’s realised the whole town is run behind the scenes by a collection of closet Nazis, and she’s quite deliberately pissed off their boss.

With that plotline seemingly exhausted (i.e. it's the end of Shotgun Gravy and start of Bait Dog) she gets herself hired to take down a dog-fighting ring, and you know you’re in deep when your only source of adult advice is your Adderall dealer. That's the point at which I stopped, with Atlanta on the way to sneak into the dog fights, but unlike Gemini Cell it's a book I dislike not having finished and I'll probably go back to it at some point.

forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
([personal profile] forestofglory Jun. 27th, 2016 02:29 pm)
Here are a few pieces of short fiction I read recently that I want to rec.

The Sound of Salt and Sea by Kat Howard A pretty and slightly creepy story. I liked the main characters attention to detail.

Whale-Oil By Sylvia V. Linsteadt I enjoyed this ecological themed story set in my home region of the San Fransisco bay area.

Mortal Eyes by Ann Chatham I had to stop reading this story in the middle to tweet about how the author got coppicing right, because I was very impressed. It is also a very good story, with a pregnant protagonist and fairies.

Not a short story or even SFF but I want to rec [personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan, which is the (fictional) memoirs of a Victorian courtesan. It is just lovey. It updates everyday and I always look forward to finding out what the characters are up to. If you need some sex positive domestic cheerfulness if your life The Comfortable Courtesan is for you.
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
([personal profile] rmc28 Jun. 27th, 2016 10:00 pm)
Tomorrow is my birthday and I have set up a fundraising page for the charity Bloodwise to celebrate.
oursin: The Delphic Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel (Delphic sibyl)
([personal profile] oursin Jun. 27th, 2016 07:12 pm)

I vaguely remembered this passage towards the end of Winifred Holtby's South Riding (1936), and looked it up. It's not sound-bitey enough to tweet, and probably needs the context.

It's the Epilogue, just before the Silver Jubilee celebrations, a year after the main action.

Sara Burton is talking to the pupils at her school just before the service, at which they will be singing 'I Vow to Thee, My Country':

'There's a couplet in it I've been thinking about this morning:
"The love that asks no questions, the love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best"
Don't take that literally. Don't let me catch any of you at any time loving anything without asking questions. Question everything--even what I'm saying now. Especially, perhaps, what I say. Question every one in authority, and see that you get sensible answers to your questions. Then, if the answers are sensible, obey the orders without protest.... This is a great country, and we are proud of it, and it means much that is most lovable. But questioning does not mean the end of loving, and loving does not mean the abnegation of intelligence. Vow as much love to your country as you like; serve to the death if that is necessary....' She was thinking of Joe Astell, killing himself by overwork on the Clydeside, dying for his country more surely than thousands of those who today waved flags and cheered for royalty. 'But, I implore you, do not forget to question.'

South Riding was published posthumously: Holtby died aged 37 in 1935 from Bright's Disease.

movingfinger: (Default)
([personal profile] movingfinger Jun. 27th, 2016 10:24 am)
In his diary for yesterday (Friday June 26 1663), he starts out,

"Up betimes, and Mr. Moore coming to see me, he and I discoursed of going to Oxford this Commencement, Mr. Nathaniel Crew being Proctor and Mr. Childe commencing Doctor of Musique this year, which I have a great mind to do, and, if I can, will order my matters so that I may do it."

Sam turned 30 in February, by the way. He graduated from Magdalene in 1654, so he's been out for nine years, but his university friends and contacts are still imporant to him. This struck me as such a typical modern thing to do, to go back to the old alma mater to see old friends honored at commencement. I suppose people have been going back to see their friends take higher degrees since there have been universities, but still, the whole scene---Moore drops by, "Hey Bill Child is getting his new hood and Crew is Proctor, shouldn't we go? Let's go, it'll be great!"---the happy anticipating of the outing to a place he really enjoyed being (he goes back regularly, participates in elections when he can), everything about the emotions and thinking here seems to directly connect us to him, even today.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
([personal profile] davidgillon Jun. 27th, 2016 05:10 pm)

Three sessions of working on the eBay chair setup, including straining to my limits to budge locked bolts and screws, didn't hurt myself once.

Push a cupboard door lightly shut, left index finger bends back on itself and the joint pops.

It'll probably be fine in a day or two, but just aarghh!



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