Well. Well, so back to Dreamwidth. What can I write about? Books and video/television viewing? Okay...
My reading took a huge dive - I abandoned both the books I was properly, attentively, reading, and will have to start them all over again. Mostly, I just read scraps of things picked up from what was around. Two such things were:
Sallust, Jugurtha and The Cataline Conspiracy, as translated for a Penguin Classic, I think - it was an oldish paperback, anyway. I read them because I was pleased to be learning even one name of an African king, even if he was a ratbag (according to Sallust), and also because I vaguely wondered if looking at pre-Caesar Roman evolutions might give me some ideas of how to look at how things are changing politically, now. But mainly just because the book was to hand.
I also read great chunks of the Iliad, in an online translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, in order to argue (amiably) with someone about whether Paris was a coward etc. (I would be delighted to discuss such stuff while it's fresh in my mind, if anyone's interested.)
I've watched three oldish British television renderings of PD James novels featuring the detective Adam Dalgliesh. The first one I saw was about the residents of a stately old abbey, stuffed with priceless art, facing the prospect of its shutting down. The second one was about the residents of a stately-home-turned-museum, facing the prospect of its shutting down. The third one was about the residents of a stately home, facing the prospect of... but I gave up on that one before we'd even got to the second murder, because I thought I was getting the drift.
I watched - now this is good! - parts of several episodes of an Australian six-part mystery, called Seven Types of Ambiguity - yes, of course the title's a steal, and that's not something I like, in general, but the Empson book is part of the plot, sort of. The acting and the writing is mostly very, very good, and the cinematography as well. I had to leave and so have missed the closing episodes, but what I saw was very good indeed, good enough to have conversations with strangers about. (What? I'm not sure if that's a sane measure of anything.)
To mark the day, I went to a theatre show last night based on the eighteenth-century Story of Kieu - or on part of it, because it's a long story, covering fifteen years of the protagonist's various struggles against a very oppressive and anti-woman society. ( Cut because of spolier! )
More sombrely, an article about the real-world continuing oppression of women:
The Handmaid's Tale has already come true, just not for western women.
I didn't get to see Arrival over the weekend, as hoped, nor have I yet managed to return to Nirvana in Fire. :( And things don't look like letting up for the next two-three weeks. (I did manage to return to the Narnia Prince Caspian read-through, after a very long absence.)
And now I've checked some of your posts, and found news of the decades-long campaigner for human rights in Manipur, Irom Sharmila Chanu! Wonderful! Brilliant!! More power to her, and achievement of her goals, which are not just for her, but for everybody in Manipur (even the oppressors, who are without question damaged by the wrongs they inflict). And for women everywhere working for a better world!
I haven't done much reading - still stuck at Chapter Three of Nation. I haven't even been able to watch another episode of Nirvana in Fire - and I have a DVD or two hanging ... errr... fire. Still, there's time for two quick stories of good things happening:
Even in a not too flash area of a big city, developers can come knocking on the door of a hotel with offers of big money for a sale - but this hotel-owner would rather keep the low-level good things happening there, happening.
And in a restaurant on the other side of the world, an owner-chef appreciates the hard work and great camaraderie of the whole kitchen team - starting with the dishwasher.
And here - have a link to a couple of great musicians, whom I saw in concert late last month! :)
I've been reading quite a bit, here and there -
- reading the book Nation by Terry Pratchett, and thinking (so far, three chapters in) that it's very good, but erratic and a bit patchy.
- have read the book Olive, by Mrs Craik, which interesting as a record of thinking on various matters (women's art being marginalised/suppressed, physical "deformity" cutting a woman out of the marriage market, race, religion) - but is not particularly worth much as a novel.
- reading The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, which sketches out much fascinating material, so far, but isn't really catching fire (bad metaphor, in the circumstances).
This was also a test-post on cross-posting to LJ; it seems to have worked fine.
So does everybody, of course - I mean, so everybody always has, whether they knew it or not. Today's also, more or less, a hundred years since the stunning, out-of-nowhere (ha!) end of the Romanov rule over Russia, on the back of the chaotic butchery of WW1 and of riots over incipient (or actual?) famine.
Coincidentally, on Nirvana in Fire, talk has turned to how a failure to provide relief in such crises leads to rioting and thus to regional (at least) instability - true enough, and I'm sorry Nicholas II hadn't better advisors, or (if he had them) that he'd listened more. A sad ending for an amiable family.
Great sonnet, isn't it, by the way? :)
So... I plucked those cumquats which were ready to fall from the New Year's cumquat tree, and made spiced cumquat chutney - and I made muesli bars, too, to use up some over-ripe bananas. Went marketing, of course, and accidentally brought home a mountain of lettuce, and much green herbage (because it was past ten, and the market-seller wanted to pack up and go home). Also triumphantly tracked down cinnamon bark, for the chutney, down a market side-street, and generally had a good time. :)
And then on Sunday I went to visit an aged friend - that was absolutely great! She is recovering from a stroke, and it was wonderful to see her so much better, so much stronger. We just sat together for three-quarters of an hour, and drank water, and talked of nothing much - of planting trees recently, and looking at photos . Not a long visit, because I didn't want to wear her out, but a very, very happy one - it was so good to see her, and to see her so strong. :)
And I took in various media throughout the weekend:
- watched the 27th episode of Nirvana in Fire, which means I'm exactly half-way through;
- read some of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, which is about very exciting things, but so far is not very well or engagingly written;
- and read some newspapers online, of course, which yielded this lovely story (with picture) of a desert turtle.
What an amazing creature! And how beautiful it seems in the picture - to me, at least - gold and emerald. :)
Also, I chortled at a word attributed (wrongly, I'm sure - possibly autotranscription from a recording?) to the herpetologist, which suggested that the turtles are excavating underground - making a second pleasing picture, of a different, totally imaginary, sort! (But now I've been back and they've fixed it up - good to see journalistic diligence at the ABC. Unless it was the mortified herpetologist who set them straight.)
Two fannish things
1. Nirvana in Fire - I'm getting deeper in; the turnings of the plot are getting grimmer and more challenging - not in terms of visible bloodshed, but more in terms of the damage wreaked by ruthless and amoral politicking. That sounds so simple - like the Sheriff of Nottingham - but it isn't like that; nothing is simple and innocence is lost, and the consequences of actions keep rippling out forever. The damage, including spiritual damage, rebounds everywhere, including on those who commit to wrenching things and people back from their destructive trajectories, to restore right. I'm reminded of Shakespeare: "the time is out of joint. Oh cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right."
2. Halfamoon has finished, I suppose; at least, it was billed as running for the first fourteen days of February. As the organisers half-anticipated, people's engagement was way down this year. I myself couldn't seem to manage any fiction; I posted three short pieces about characters who met the prompt criteria - appreciations of bad, wonderful Senora Madeline Neroni, and of two of the women in Nirvana in Fire, and of Missee Lee, who is, IMO right now, the most stunningly impressive heroine in all of twentieth century children's fiction.
Two LJ things - one pleasant, one puzzling
1. The problem I mentioned a little while back, about difficulty updating an entry, is now solved - thank you, <user name=maraun.livejournal.com>! (And the trouble there, in that last sentence, is all Dreamwidth's. I've tried three separate ways to link to maraun, beginning and ending with the style set out in DW's FAQ. None of them has worked.)
2. In my inbox is a message reading, in its entirety: "(You are not authorized to view this comment.)" Then why send it to me? (Is there any person who's sent me a message which I seem to be ignoring, perhaps?)
Also about yesterday's post: the move I mentioned to sell off public land in the US, which stank to high heaven, has apparently seemed too bad even for the current climate there - or was it that hunters and shooters threw their voice into the protests? I don't care - it's been stopped, as reported by twistedchick here. and I'm glad.
As for today: it's World Wetlands Day, and people are celebrating the glorious world of places which aren't safe, steady land, and aren't clear open water - fens and swamps and marshes and bogs and quagmires. (What a gorgeous word, by the way! - quag-mire. Is it that the ground quakes, do you think, or does quag refer to its sticky, sucking character?).
But leaving the words, lovely as they are, and just thinking about the wetlands themselves - places betwixt and between, and so which feel mysterious and not quite in our ken - and thus in turn have given us so much, much wonderful literature: desperate freedom fighters holding out against the Normans, and the Swamp Creature, and a gigantic hound with dripping phosphorescent jaws, lolloping towards to an island in the fog, and the Black Lagoon, and bells ringing out from a huge church rising from the flood, and mangroves which are a story in themselves, and strange girl butterfly hunters, and Puddleglum and all Marshwiggles, ever.
editing to add: this link spells out the scenarios, much more informedly than I could, what might be behind the "smokescreen" I was talking about.
All honour to those who are making a stand against unethical, illegal or immoral acts, especially the former Acting Attorney-General, who is one of those described in last Sunday's psalm, about those who can't be moved or shaken, who stand by their undertakings, (as she, Sally Yates, stood by her oath to uphold justice) and don't sell out the innocent - for money or a career move or for anything else.
I said especially her, but I suppose there are others not in the public eye, in humbler positions who dare not go public, but are quietly not selling out the innocent. All honour to them, and may they one day get their due as people who upheld humanity when the system around them went the other way.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to trawl through mainstream media for good news on a daily basis, following megpie71 's lead. Not always easy to find things, but I find it useful, to keep afloat.
February means that halfamoon has opened - fourteen days of celebrating women in fandom.
I'm not feeling any fiction nudging to be written by me, but I'll be contributing by posting about some women characters, anyway, and maybe about a TV series which is crammed with women characters.
And the honey...
I was browsing through some regional newspapers - I think it was the South China Morning Post - when I came across a story of a man hospitalised after eating "mad honey" from Nepal. (Yes, it was the SCMP!) Just one spoonful was enough to leave him in a bad way (temporarily - he recovered!)
But... whoever heard of "mad honey"? Not me, so i went to look for more info, and was vastly intrigued. ( Honey-focussed ramble follows, with various links follows... )
And that's the end of my ramblings about honey (and a little bit bread). :)
In more local news:
The Tet goldfish have all been released into waterways, to become celestial dragons for the three kitchen gods to ride back to heaven. I mentioned last year that student groups and other young volunteers were asking people not to toss their fish-carrying plastic bags in when they released their fish - this year that's become a campaign, with posters and more volunteers and council workers, stationed at the likely places (where there are steps down into the water, mostly).
The poster says: Let loose the fish, hold onto the plastic bag!
I have new glasses, and the world is crystal-clear. (Or as close to it as my eyes allow, anyway.) I am being amazingly conscientious about putting them back in their case, but I expect it won't be terribly long before they're being slung around casually, and ending up as battered as all previous pairs of glasses have been.
Yesterday I made crumpets from scratch! I used this recipe, which weirdly doesn't reveal that the crumpet so made should be toasted later - i.e. that it's not intended to be eaten in its flabby original first-cooked state. The dough/batter was really strange - very gloopy and gluey - but the result on cooking was instantly recognisable as crumpets, though not exactly round due to my not having the poaching rings to make them in. They toasted up well this morning, but were regrettably doughy inside. :( If I do it again, I'll cook them longer at lower heat, in the first cooking.
Thanks to a tip from puddleshark, I've been looking at and enjoying Nirvana in Fire, a 54-part series (I'm up to part 9) set in eighth-century China. ( Read more, if you like... )
So that's one thing to help stay afloat, in these troubling times: the daily good news - big, small, local, global - so long as it's good, and so long as it's news. Worth checking out - and she's very much okay with people replying with more, too.
sovay recently recalled her experience of a large protest march in 2011, and her observation then that in large crowds, mobile phones (cell phones) don't work, or don't work well. This was absolutely new to me - and set me thinking.
Of course pay phones are being ripped out everywhere, and have been for years. I can see the inevitability of this. But given the enormous importance of communication in times of crisis, I'm thinking we should all encourage the preservation of remaining public landline phone facilities. (And maybe be aware of where these might be, in case of need.)
Horse-snowboarding! A new snow sport. (link goes to German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, with link to video, 1 min 40 seconds.)
This one doesn't reflect well on me, because the article is about serious stuff (refugees in Belgrade) but I was distracted by the photo that went with it. It struck me as very Caravaggiesque, in the bold perspective as well as in the light-and-dark of it. At first I didn't understand what the main figure was doing; his lifted hand seemed to me to be raised in recognition of significance, or maybe sheltering/shielding the other figure - which was my misreading entirely, of course, but I thought I'd share the picture with you nonetheless. (And the article's good, too.)
Okay! Resolutions - ( How did I go in 2016? )
( So what's the plan for 2017? )
There! The long-delayed New Year's resolutions post is done - and now to make a sticky post to record books I've read, as I read them, in 2017
Dark emu, black seed - Bruce Pascoe. ( Read more... )
Under Siege - Literary life in London, 1939-1945 - Robert Hewison. ( Read more... )
Then after the swim was breakfast - or breakfast/brunch by the time we got to it - raspberries, strawberries, cherries, pancakes, cream, coffee, maple syrup, Cointreau, ice-cream, in various combinations as desired, which will be about it for Christmassy-special food, because we accidentally left the pudding that we were given at the house we were in last weekend in the house we were in two nights back, and we didn't ever manage to think of anything else - but we were given a present of glorious many-coloured home-grown heritage (I think) tomatoes yesterday, and I have some capsicum and some haloumi and garlic and olive oil, and foody magic will happen!
Not just now though... we've had the second swim of the day; there were still crabs, but no dolphins, and lots more people, and all very cheerful and calm and enjoying life. As we are ourselves - just relaxing now to the strains of ABC Classic FM - foody magic can wait till late afternoon.
Meanwhile to all of you here reading I send all good wishes - may joy and peace be yours, and your lives be wonderful, even if occasionally jumbled, and goodwill and love be with all of us.
Fanny Price (Mansfield Park): I love how her strengths shine in adversity - the Portsmouth scenes are just brilliant, showing her coping wonderfully with a shamingly (and deeply disappointingly) rowdy, quarrelsome, slovenly family. And I like her steadiness when she's the more-or-less downtrodden nobody, too, and her clarity of vision. Oh, and I really like the genuine affection between her and her brother. I guess constancy and a kind of gallantry could be the words that come to mind. But in prosperity she loses some of her virtues, I think - she is never guilty of any charity to her cousin-sisters that I can see - and she and Edmund end up, after all, replicating the pettily smug life once led by the Norrises - safely ensconced in a family-held living, close to the big house - and profiting from plural benefices as well, despite the earlier high-minded talk about how only an on-the-spot clergyman can hope to do his duty adequately.
Friedrich Bhaer (Little Women series): Awfully worthy, of course, and I take the author's word for it about their long and happy marriage, but as a matter of fact, I can't really come at him, for Jo. I try hard to explain it as the lure of a great mind - I could see that all right, easily! Jo is just the sort of person whose mind could be set ablaze by great new ideas, brilliant intellectual debate, new worlds opening... except he doesn't ever actually show it. (He gets argued to a standstill in the one philosophical debate we see him undertake.) I wish the author had written him more compellingly intellectual, actually. I wish she'd written him as revolutionary, as political refugee. Ah well - he is what he is - lumbering, inelegant, beery, good-hearted, Jo's perpetual moral leader and guide (bleugh - I would like her to straighten him out, for once!) .
Falstaff (Shakespeare): The most terrifically multi-sided supporting character in the whole of Shakespeare. We see him roistering, cunning, cowardly, despicable, pitiable, using, used, rejected, despised, resilient - he's Blackadder and Baldrick both - and like them, suddenly inside-outs the comedy to end in grim death. Liking him, not liking him - doesn't apply. He blasts past like a windstorm.
Fantine (Les Miserables): I hate how much she loses and loses and loses, to the extent that it starts to seem wilful. She seems to go out of her way to have the most horrible time she can. Yes, devoted mother, but (sorry about this) stupid. I mean - when her looks are her one great asset, to sell her teeth?! So not bright, Fantine! The first betrayal is pretty intolerable, though - I mean that rich men's stunt at the restaurant. But come on, Fantine! Take a bit of control for a change!
Miss Flite (Bleak House): She's a most unsettling character. Her sudden, stabbing insights, and fluttering ways make her seem one of her own birds - her name's not accidental, I guess - and of course she's as caged as they are, fluttering against the bars, and will be freed, like them, when Judgement is delivered (ha!). A caged bird, or a captive blind prophetess, maybe - a Sibyl, who spells out dark truths in riddles, or Cassandra, dismissed as mad by those around her who cannot hear what she believes she is saying plainly. All of which makes her a tragic figure as well as an unsettling one. (But then I find the whole of Bleak House unsettling.)
If anyone would like to play, I'll gladly give them a letter!
(I'm abashed to see, on reviewing what I've written, that I'm not wholeheartedly admiring about any of them. Oops.)
I can feel both of these in myself, at different times, and I can feel in myself how trust in authorities has eroded
- I don't trust any government and scarcely any politician to tell the truth at any point (note for Australians: I was fooled by the children overboard story, because I couldn't imagine that the then Prime Minister would flatly lie).
- I don't trust news sources, other than for the broadest outlines of stories (yes, Aleppo's being bombed - that's the broad outline; after that, it's murky). There's moves in Germany to make the deliberate publication of false news a crime - which is not an idea without precedent or problems.
All of which is hideously dangerous, and not just for any one political system.
Meanwhile, there are still people trying in good conscience to analyse what's going on (politically, environmentally, economically, socially) and to put their analyses out there - ie sharing what is as close as they can get to the truth. I was hanging about in a hospital waiting room this week, and read an old article in the Guardian weekly. It's a long article, but very impressive. In fact the Guardian is one of several news sources which has seemed to me to nosedive over the last few years, but I was impressed enough by that article - not least because the writer (Kathryn Viner) was honest about how her own paper had colluded gleefully in spreading a not-exactly-true story earlier in the year - that I took out a subscription to it. Oh, and I've been trying to get my head around writings by the economist Wolfgang Streek.
Does anyone have any other suggestions, for news sources or particular analysts?
Here - something not at all angsty! Isn't this a terrific picture? ( A guess at what it is )