kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Being able to stream Netflix on my phone is leading to me watching a lot more (old) TV than I used to. After I finished Leverage, I tried a couple of comedies: Master of None, which I noped out on after about two minutes (explicit het sex plus pregnancy talk, nope nope nope nope), and Bordertown, an animated show about two families on the US-Mexico border. It's made by Seth McFarlane, so I should have known better--I lasted about ten minutes.

Several more TV shows under the cut )

When not staring at the extremely small screen, I've read Charles Stross's latest Laundry Files books, The Delirium Brief. The books have been getting grimmer for some time now, and this one most of all. A good book, but not recommended if you're already in despair about the state of the world.

I also read the new Rivers of London novella The Furthest Station, which is enjoyable as a side story to the main narrative. As usual, there is not enough Thomas Nightingale. I suspect that all those fans who interpret Nightingale as gay (I'm one of them, and I know Aaronovitch is aware of them because reasons) have freaked Aaronovitch out and we're never going to get another tender emotional moment between Thomas and Peter. Indeed, we seem to get less Nightingale with each successive book. *is sad*


Coming up, I want to watch a bunch of the Gay Britannia programming from the BBC. There are two shows about men falling in love during World War II! Oh, BBC, it's like you read my letter to Santa. I don't know yet if either show is any good, but I'm hoping.
kindkit: Picture of the TARDIS, captioned "This funny little box that carries me away . . ." (Doctor Who--TARDIS)
Things I've been watching:

That Mitchell and Webb Look. I've been binge-watching this for a couple of days now. I'm enjoying it a lot even though I find it (usually) more wry than laugh-out-loud funny. Sometimes it's actively unfunny, as in the sketch where a man goes into a little shop ostensibly to buy food, ends up buying two cans of cheap strong beer instead, and it's clear that this is a routine he goes through every day as he desperately, hopelessly tries to cover up his alcoholism. I was astonished to hear the audience laughing at it (or was it a laugh track?). Apparently the last sketch from the very last episode was the (in)famous old Sherlock Holmes, which makes everyone cry; somehow I'm not surprised that Mitchell and Webb chose to end the show that way.

Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain's most recent show, which is less about extreme food adventures than Bourdain's previous work and focuses to a surprising extent on history, culture, and politics. I was loving it, and then we got to the episode about New Mexico, where I live. I found it oversimplified, almost stereotypical, and much too filtered through Bourdain's romantic obsession with cowboys and the west (and guns--there was a long segment of Bourdain with gun enthusiasts that I skipped most of because it made me so furious). So now I wonder if the whole show is like that and I just didn't notice because of my own ignorance; other episodes, especially those set in troubled parts of the world, did seem a lot more serious and balanced to me, though.

Weeks ago I started watching Captain America: Civil War on Netflix and got so bored about half an hour in that I still haven't finished it. I guess I'll watch the rest eventually, but the whole premise is so contrived that it's hard to care. But part of the problem could be me: I often have a hard time settling in to movies, even though I can watch episode after episode of a TV series.


Things I've been reading:

Right now I'm about halfway through Matter, one of Iain M. Banks's Culture novels. I'm enjoying it all right, but I don't understand why so many people say these books are the best thing ever. The ones I've read have all been a bit same-y, and so the worldbuilding that was initially so impressive ceases to impress. I do give Banks some points for naming a ship Eight Rounds Rapid, though.

Before that I read Dan Chaon's new mystery/thriller Ill Will, which, again, I liked well enough, but which also seemed like another example of that phenomenon where a "literary" novelist writes a genre book and is wildly overpraised for things that are, in fact, pretty typical of the genre. Chaon did throw in a few self-consciously literary touches, but I don't think they were necessary or even beneficial to the story. And plotwise, I still can't decide potential plot spoilers )

A while back I read Kai Ashante Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps but forgot to post about it. It's a little bit slight and short, story-wise (it's a novella, really, not a full novel) but it's fantastically well-written; I especially admire how Wilson melds African American Vernacular English and a high fantasy setting in a way that is first surprising and then just absolutely, seamlessly right. The worldbuilding is tantalizing, too, and I hope Wilson writes more in this universe. And did I mention that the main characters are queer men?


Other stuff: I have a 24-day streak on Duolingo in both German, which I'm just beginning, and French, which I studied for years and then neglected for years. Has anyone else noticed that some of the Duolingo example sentences are rather . . . dystopian? I keep getting ones like "Don't believe that soldier!" and "It's better to avoid that zone." Or, today, "A little robot came and saved them," which was nice.


A request: Now that I've joined the 21st century and have Netflix streaming and Spotify, I'd love recs for movies, TV shows, and especially music.
kindkit: Rupert Giles drinking a mug of tea and reading (Buffy: Giles and tea)
1) The first episode of Buffy aired twenty years ago. Buffy was my first fandom, although I didn't start watching until the summer reruns before S7, and didn't connect to the actual fandom until the summer after that. In some ways it's still the greatest fandom experience I've ever had--such excitement and interest, so many smart people writing smart things--and in some ways it was the worst. But fandom changed my life, and I wouldn't have found it without Buffy. Also, the show was, despite some failings, wonderful, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

I feel like I should watch an episode, but I can't decide which one. I've been contemplating a re-watch, so I guess I could start at the beginning . . .


2) I finished the Aubrey/Maturin re-read some time ago, then I re-read most of Jane Austen, and now I've moved on to some new stuff. I can recommend Lyndsay Faye's The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, which is the best professional Holmes pastiche I know of. Faye stays essentially true to the canon, without any of the tedious innovations (Holmes in America! Holmes solve the Ripper murders! Holmes was Jack the Ripper!) that many other writers perpetrate.* The things she brings to the canon are good things, such as a subtle and never preachy concern for the rights of women and the poor and some reasonable attempts at resolving canonical contradictions. What she brings to pastiche is what's so often lacking: emotion. Holmes and Watson's affection for each other is central. My favorite stories are the ones set during and after the Great Hiatus, exploring Watson's grief and then, after Holmes's return, his anger and hurt. There's nothing explicitly queer here, but the stories from Holmes's POV make it abundantly clear, I think, that Holmes is in love with Watson in some fashion beyond friendship. Watson, alas, is shown as even straighter than canon makes him--he's constantly noticing women--but his love for Holmes is deep and enduring.

*She does put Watson in America in one story, set before Holmes and Watson meet. It makes nonsense of Watson's timeline and isn't a great story, but I forgive Faye because the other stories are so good.

Faye is also the author of the excellent Timothy Wilde series, set in New York in the 1840s when a professional police force was developing, and the country was moving inexorably towards civil war. The books are beautifully written in a distinct, fascinating, slangy voice, there's an amazing sense of place and history, and there are canonical queer characters in important roles.

3) Right now I'm reading the late Oliver Sacks's autobiography, On the Move, and enjoying it very much. Things I didn't know about Oliver Sacks: he was gay, he was into motorcycles and bodybuilding as a young man, and he found lasting romantic love for the first time at the age of 75. Cool stuff.


4) I've started doing Duolingo again, on my phone this time, learning German and brushing up my French. I'm trying to read some French every day, which I haven't done for years . . . also on my phone. I never thought I would be someone who would use their phone so much, but it seems I am. Some stuff is just easier that way; I don't know why. I'm staying much more aware of the news, too.

Lest you think it's all SRS BZNS, I admit to spending a lot of time playing Atomas. It's fun and complicated in just the right way for me, because the rules are simple but the nuances are endless. Plus it's completely nonverbal, and since I'm a highly word-focused person, that helps me relax, whereas Scrabble makes me tense.
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Currently reading: I've been re-reading the Aubrey and Maturin books, because I'm in a mood where I have to feel very, very confident that I'm going to like a book (and that it won't betray me with things like "Oh by the way this character you've been reading as queer is totally 120% straight") or I don't want to bother with it. I'm in the middle of The Thirteen Gun Salute right now and still enjoying almost everything on this third reading.


Recently read: I think the last non-Aubrey and Maturin book I read was Ben Aaronovitch's latest Rivers of London novel, The Hanging Tree. I had mixed feelings. It wasn't a bad book by any means, and I love the series as a whole, and I love most of the characters, but the Faceless Man plot has dragged on far, far too long. I could just about live with that if the worldbuilding was still as good as it initially was, but I don't feel we've learned anything really interesting about magic for a couple of books now. I'm also uncomfortable with not plot spoilery, but cut ) And finally, not enough Nightingale.


What I'm planning to read next: I'll probably finish the Aubrey and Maturin books before I move on. After that, I don't know.

various

Nov. 4th, 2016 11:29 am
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
1) I saw the movie Denial the other night. It's about the trial of Deborah Lipstadt, a history professor who was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving after she called him a Holocaust denier. The script created a surprising amount of suspense and tension from a story to which most people know the ending (Lipstadt was acquitted on the grounds that everything she said about Irving was true), and the acting was great. Rachel Weisz may have overacted a little bit in some scenes, but it's hard to be sure because she was playing a brash American among a bunch of restrained middle-class English people. Andrew Scott was great as Lipstadt's solicitor, Tom Wilkinson marvellously nuanced as her barrister, and Mark Gatiss imbued a small role with a quiet, mysterious charisma. Anyone who thinks Scott and/or Gatiss can't act should see this film.

The script, by David Hare, is a delicate balancing act. The plot trajectory is almost that of a feel-good film, in which truth wins out and the bad guy is reproved and shamed. But the truth that wins out is one of the greatest atrocities in human history. The film, especially in the final sequence, sharply restrains our celebratory reactions. In the end, that's what I liked most about it.


2) After seeing the film, I read Lipstadt's book on the Eichmann trial (I haven't been able to get hold of her book on Holocaust denial yet, but I want to read it although it's well out of date by now.) The Eichmann book was disappointing. This gets a bit long )

3) In (somewhat) lighter reading, I've been thinking about re-reading Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books so that I can finally read Secret Place and then the new one. I need to be reminded of the characters' backstories and interactions, but I'm not sure I can take that much concentrated bleakness in one big dose.

I'd like to know why so many contemporary mystery writers think the only story worth telling is one that makes you wish that whole human race would be wiped out in an asteroid strike.


4) Work post-mortem gathering tonight. I'm going, because I want to try to maintain relationships with people, but I can't say I'm eager. Hopefully the people I particularly want to see will be there, and not too many of the ones I don't.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Sorry I haven't posted for ages. At first I felt there was nothing interesting to say, then there were too many things to say and yet I still wasn't sure any of them were interesting. So I'm just going to post, regardless.

1) I keep reading everybody's Yuletide posts with envy and ruefulness. I'm not doing Yuletide this year, because I defaulted last year and I haven't managed to finish a story in a painfully long time. I'm looking forward to reading a bunch of new stories come Christmas, though.

2) Still not king feeling very fannish about anything. I continue to love most of my more recent fandoms (e.g. Hannibal, all the world wars-related stuff), but it's not an excited, "I want to write and read all the fic" sort of love. I guess this is just a fallow period for me. I'm trying not to worry about it.

3) The Great British Bake Off has got me baking again (the onset of autumn and cooler weather has also helped) but I don't feel the same intensity of interest in the competition as I did last year. Those who've made it to the semifinals all deserve to be there, but I'm not as impressed by their baking as I was by last year's semifinalists, and I don't feel the same attachment to any of them as I did to Ian, Nadiya, and Tamal last year. Still, it's fun to watch.

4) What have I been baking, you ask? In recent weeks I've made a (semi-successful) Victoria sandwich filled with strawberry jam and lemon curd; a rather good apple, walnut, and raisin cake; a savoury sweet potato pie; some very nice pumpkin cream cheese muffins (brought to work for potluck--I want to make another batch to keep for myself); some anadama bread made with cornmeal and molasses (horrible--I ended up throwing half of it away); and some proper cornbread with bacon, cheese, chipotle chiles, and no fucking molasses, which was delicious. Today I've got the dough for a four-grain pot boule resting in the fridge, since I want to start baking my own bread again instead of buying it like I did over the summer.

5) much, much more food talk underneath, including discussion of past weight-loss attempts, body shame, and disordered eating )

6) I've been reading Mark Billingham's series of mysteries featuring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, and just finished the most recent one today. It's a series I like a lot despite often wanting to give the protagonist a very hard slap. The early books are fairly standard serial-killer stories, but they have enough character development that they kept me interested anyway. The later books are much more driven by the characters and by an interest in the social and personal aftereffects of violent crime. My favorite, The Bones Beneath, features no detective work at all. Don't start with that one, though, because it refers heavily to things that happened in earlier novels.

There's a recurring queer character who gets good development, and a number of interesting women (though I'd note that the two women Thorne has romantic relationships with during the series are much more compelling when the relationship stuff is backgrounded and they're doing their own things).

7) I acquired the first two series of Penny Dreadful for very cheap ($6 for both) and will probably start watching today.


Comments are welcome, unless they're concern trolling about weight/food issues, in which case I will delete them with extreme prejudice. I'd love to hear what you've been cooking/eating/watching/reading or whatever--we almost all seem to post less these days, and I miss you!
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Thanks to Mary Beard, I now know about Allia Potestas, a Roman freedwoman who, round about the 2nd or 3rd century CE, lived in happy harmony with her two lovers. One of them wrote this epitaph that was carved on her memorial stone. There's a nice image of the stone here about halfway down.

How I wish that, back when I was trying to learn Latin, the textbook had given me more of this kind of thing and less about stern manly virtues.

reading

Jun. 16th, 2016 07:11 pm
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Recently read: Inspired by Melissa Scott, I've been re-reading Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels, which were dear to me in my youth. I was given the second trilogy, the Camber books, for Christmas when I was fifteen or sixteen; they were probably the first fantasy I'd ever read, and I fell in love with Kurtz's medieval-inspired world. It fostered not only my love for fantasy, but my later academic interest in medieval and early modern England.

More under the cut )

What I'm reading now: I'm about halfway through Mary Beard's SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. I'm impressed by this book, which does what I always want popular history to do: while definitely written for the nonspecialist, it retains some of the rigor of academic history. In particular I like Beard's attention to historiography. She pays a lot of attention to problems of scant evidence, biased evidence (e.g. most of what we know about Catiline comes from his arch-enemy Cicero), and what evidence is actually evidence of (e.g., ancient Romans writing about Rome's early history often imported the concerns of their own times). And she makes an effort to explore traditionally silenced perspectives like those of women, the poor, and slaves. Beard also writes brisk, clear, fluid prose that's a pleasure to read.


What I'm reading next: I have two library books next on the agenda. A Kill in the Morning, by Graeme Shimmin, is a post-WWII alternate history, a genre I'm shamefully fond of. Could be good, could be dreadful. Matt's Ruff's Lovecraft Country, which explores the Lovecraft mythos and its underlying racism through the story of African Americans in the 1950s confronted with bigoted white cultists, is a book I've heard very good things about. I'm looking forward to it, though with some trepidation because I expect it will be wrenching. (Though it would have to work hard to be as devastating as Kai Ashante Wilson's extraordinary and brutal The Devil in America, which tackles similar themes of the murderous history of racism in America, though without the Lovecraft element.)

After I've read those, it will probably be back to the Deryni for me.
kindkit: 'A man in WWII-era military uniform drinks tea in front of a van painted with "The Soldiers' Drink: Tea" (Fandomless: Soldiers drink tea)
1) Today I baked a pie, very very loosely based on one of Yotam Ottolenghi's recipes for a roasted vegetable tart. Said tart, while delicious-sounding, uses lots of flavors I associate with late summer and autumn, like sweet potato and roasted bell peppers, and I wanted springlike veggies. So I used spinach and arugula, artichoke hearts, and chives as well as the onion, garlic, feta, and ricotta called for in the original recipe. It turned out quite nice, especially the pastry (I used Paul Hollywood's shortcrust recipe), though unfortunately I didn't entirely think through the consequences of substituting very mild ingredients for strongly-flavored ones. So, yes, a little bit bland, but not bad. I want to make it again, with its original ingredients, in September or thereabouts. Anyway, I feel a sense of satisfaction at having achieved Proper Cooking--as I define it for myself--for the first time in ages.

I have a little steak thawing in the refrigerator for tomorrow, and I also intend to make an Amalfi-style potato salad from one of Marcella Hazan's cookbooks: small boiled potatoes dressed with anchovies, garlic, capers, and olives. This combines several of my current favorite things, so I'm looking forward to it.


2) I've finished my binge read of (almost) all of Dick Francis's novels. Reactions and such under the cut )
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Here's the latest news from Operation Lie In Bed a Lot and Read All the Dick Francis. I'm still feeling a bit under the weather--not actually ill but very tired, and emotionally a bit low--so lying down + light fiction has enormous appeal.


The Edge, 1988
Main character: Tor Kelsey, investigator with the Jockey Club

This has the oddest premise I've so far encountered in Dick Francis's books: it's set on a cross-Canada train journey, a sort of luxury excursion for racehorse owners that includes some stops for races, and which also features a murder mystery performed by actors who pretend to be guests and crew. Kelsey, in search of a real villain, is undercover as an actor who's undercover as a waiter. The plot is a bit overegged, and as a result the romance subplot is even thinner and less plausible than is typical for Francis, but worth it if you like journey stories (I do). There's also an interesting brief little scene where a gay man makes a pass at Kelsey.


Straight, 1989
Main character: Derek Franklin, jockey

After his elder brother's sudden death, Franklin finds himself having to run his brother's jewel import business. This one feels like a psychological novel wrapped in, and rather bogged down by, a mystery. To some extent it's about grief--the opening scene in the hospital is intense--and to some extent about identity, the latter mostly in creepy ways that I'm not sure Francis realized were creepy.


Longshot, 1990
Main character: John Kendall, travel writer and wilderness expert

Kendall becomes entangled in the family of a racehorse trainer whose biography he's agreed to write. There's a lot to like about this one, especially the family dynamics and the unusually complex way Francis handles the mystery plot. However, it is flawed by troublesome sexual politics that I wouldn't have expected from Francis.


Comeback, 1991
Main character: Peter Darwin, diplomat

This feels like more "typical" Francis than The Edge or Longshot, as Darwin, on leave and at loose ends, helps a veterinarian friend investigate a series of mysterious horse deaths during or after surgeries. It's perfectly entertaining but not a standout, except perhaps for some unusually disturbing violence.


Driving Force, 1992
Main character: Freddie Croft, owner of a racehorse transportation company

Croft tries to figure out who's been using his horse vans to smuggle, and what they've been smuggling. Again, fairly typical Francis, but with bonus points for Croft's sister (a physics professor and amateur helicopter pilot) and a sufficiently unusual love interest that it took me about 3/4 of the book to realize she was really going to be the love interest.


In general this is a good run of books; Francis's characterization has improved a lot, and they're less formulaic than the earlier novels.
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Still reading my way through Dick Francis's novels, and I thought I'd write up some brief reviews for anyone interested in trying them.


Twice Shy, 1981
Main character: Jonathan Derry, teacher, and William Derry, racehorse trainer

A departure from Francis's usual style, with two narrators and a time lapse of fourteen years between the first and second parts. This makes for a fractured story and neither protagonist really engaged me. The plot revolves around computers, and there's a certain hilarity factor in the details (an expensive specialist computer has a whopping 32K of memory!) if you're into that. Partway through this book I realized I'd read it before, back in the 1980s, and had disliked it enough that I had no interest in trying more Dick Francis books until recently.


Banker, 1982
Main character: Tim Ekaterin, banker

The plot is mostly about horsebreeding, and you'll probably figure out what's happened before the narrator does. Ekaterin is likable and there's some fun office politics, but the book as a whole is middling.


The Danger, 1983
Main character: Andrew Douglas, anti-kidnapping consultant

Both plot and characters are unusually thin, but I found the long middle section of the book, which is basically about how people recover or don't recover from trauma, highly engaging. Also, the love interest is a woman jockey (the first in a major role, I think, in a Francis novel) whom the protagonist deeply admires as well as loves. I wouldn't call her a nuanced character exactly but she's a nice example of Francis's interest in writing competent, independent women.


Proof, 1984
Main character: Tony Beach, wineseller

My favorite of this batch, with an engaging plot about the trade in fraudulent wines and spirits and a protagonist who's anything but a tough guy. There's no het romance here except in backstory; the emotional arc could not unfairly be described as "grieving widower (Beach) meets a good man and learns to be happy again." Slashy fun, perhaps best read with a glass of wine or whiskey to hand.


Break In, 1985
Main character: Kit Fielding, jockey

I wanted to like this, if only because of the main character's name, but it didn't work for me. Fielding is a throwback to Francis's earlier super-tough, super-stoic, super-competent heroes and much too Mary Sue for me. The plot was interesting at points--there's some resonant stuff about tabloid newspapers wiretapping people's phones--but ultimately overheated and implausible.


Bolt, 1986
Main character: Kit Fielding, jockey

I skipped this one. I wasn't enthusiastic about another dose of Kit Fielding, and from the first few pages it seemed like the plot was going to be about the international arms trade. Mystery writers (even my beloved Reginald Hill) aren't usually successful at such big sweeping issues, so I stopped after about 20 pages.


Hot Money, 1987
Main character: Ian Pembroke, amateur jockey and multi-millionaire's son

A lot of Francis's protagonists have little or no family, but the Pembrokes, due to patriarch Malcolm Pembroke's five marriages, are so numerous that there's a list of them at the start of the book. This is very much a family story, revolving around the question: who's trying to kill Malcolm? Characterization isn't really Francis's great strength, but he tries hard to raise all of the many (bitter, quarrelsome) Pembrokes above stereotype, and I enjoyed this book. In particular I like its clear-eyed insistence that money can, in fact, solve many problems.


Speaking of money, I've noticed that while Francis's early protagonists struggle hard to make a living, his later ones get richer and richer. There are exceptions, of course, but it does seem to be a trend. I suppose to some extent it reflects Francis's own experiences as his books became more successful, got made into films, etc., as well as the cultural shift as Britain moved from the last depressing remnants of postwar austerity into the loadsamoney Thatcherite era. Still, I find it easier to sympathize with the broke jockeys and hard-luck commercial pilots of the early books. There's definitely a very eighties atmosphere to the eighties books; they're full of merchant bankers, property developers, and stock market speculators. Francis doesn't endorse the greed-is-good mentality by any means, but I do sometimes wish his characters had to feel the damage being done to ordinary people instead of just looking sympathetically at it.
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
I'm feeling about 75% better now after most of a week on antibiotics. My sinus infection has cleared up, cough isn't as bad, and my ears don't hurt, although one of them is still a bit clogged and therefore my hearing isn't quite what it should be. I've only got two more doses of antibiotic and I'm a bit worried that everything will get horribly worse again after that, but I'm probably being silly.

My appetite is still low, which in a way I have welcomed. (Some weight/food talk follows, encoded in ROT13; go here to decode if desired.) Jura V jrag gb gur qbpgbe gurl jrvturq zr, orpnhfr urnira xabjf lbh pna'g qvntabfr na rne vasrpgvba vs lbh qba'g xabj ubj zhpu fbzrbar jrvtuf. V nfxrq gurz abg gb gryy zr gur erfhyg, ohg vg jnf tbqqnza CEVAGRQ ba gur "ivfvg fhzznel" guvat gurl tnir zr gb gnxr ubzr, fb V fnj vg. Naq fvapr gura V'ir unq gung ahzore ebyyvat nebhaq va zl urnq, znxvat zr srry onq nobhg zlfrys. V'yy trg bire vg, orpnhfr V xabj sebz rkcrevrapr gung qvrgvat znxrf zr sbbq bofrffrq naq penml naq V nyjnlf tnva onpx rirel cbhaq naq gurz fbzr, ohg vg'f tbvat gb gnxr n juvyr gb or noyr gb fgbc guvaxvat nobhg vg. Va gur zrnagvzr V'z shyy bs gur hfhny erfbyhgvbaf nobhg zber irtrgnoyrf naq jubyr tenvaf naq yrff whax, naq va trareny sbe zr gubfr ner abg onq tbnyf. V srry orggre jura V rng yrff cebprffrq sbbq, naq V rawbl vg, gbb. Ohg evtug abj V'z gverq nyy gur gvzr naq qba'g jnag gb pbbx, naq nyzbfg nyy gur avpr jubyr hacebprffrq sbbqf V jbhyq abeznyyl yvxr qba'g fbhaq tbbq gb zr. V bayl jnag fbsg hapunyyratvat sbbq, be ryfr penpxref, naq pbzovarq jvgu gur gverqarff guvf zrnaf guvatf yvxr pnaarq fbhcf naq Evpr-n-Ebav naq znlor, ng n fgergpu, fbzr cnfgn. Naq lbtheg (fcrpvsvpnyyl erpbzzraqrq gb zr ol gur cuneznpvfg, jub fnvq gur nagvovbgvpf jbhyq xvyy rirelguvat naq lbtheg jbhyq uryc oevat gur tbbq onpgrevn onpx) Ng yrnfg lbtheg vf abg shyy bs fnyg/fhtne/purzvpnyf, ohg sbe zr, naljnl, vg'f bayl na nqrdhngr zrny ol vgfrys vs V'z zhpu, zhpu fvpxre guna V nz abj. V nz qrsvavgryl ybbxvat sbejneq gb gur qnl jura fbzrguvat yvxr n fgve-sel jvyy fbhaq obgu nccrnyvat naq cbffvoyr. (Ol gur jnl, V'z abg nfxvat sbe jrvtug ybff nqivpr urer. Gunaxf naljnl, ohg guvf vf n cunfr V'yy trg guebhtu. V whfg arrqrq gb irag n ovg. Fhttrfgvbaf sbe rnfl, abg-gbb-cebprffrq guvatf V zvtug npghnyyl jnag gb rng ner jrypbzr, gubhtu.)

All I've done for about the last two and a half weeks is work, sleep, and read Dick Francis novels, so I'm up to 1980 in the Francis oeuvre, having just finished Reflex. I'm liking Francis more and more. The omnicompetent tough guys have mostly disappeared from his novels now, and instead we're getting Stoic Woobies and even Iron Woobies, who are more my type. And Francis does have the perception to suggest, sometimes, that ultra-stoicism is maybe a symptom of psychological damage rather than a marker of courage.

More about Francis, including women characters, queer characters, and slashiness )
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
When I got home on Friday evening I thought, "Screw it, I don't want to cook or bake or do anything this weekend."

Naturally, I baked chocolate & peanut butter brownies and a big batch of bread rolls. I also made a version of this Korean vegetable stew (mine included potatoes, zucchini, daikon, and tofu, plus half a packet of Vietnamese-style pork meatballs I had left over; I made the broth with konbu and my last packet of instant Japanese anchovy stock, because I can't find dried anchovies where I live). And today I baked the ham that I bought on sale the week before Easter. I didn't end up cooking the cauliflower with hollandaise sauce that I had intended to go with the ham, because I wasn't hungry enough. Maybe tomorrow.

There's a bunch of stew left over--because I made about a quadruple batch--and of course a ton of ham. Mmm, sandwiches and potato soup and bean soup and potato gratin and I don't know what else. Leftovers = opportunity.


The most recent episode of Grantchester spoilers )

I finished Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare At Goats, but I think it's my least favorite of his books. I'm sort of out of books now and have resorted to reading bits of Jane Austen's juvenilia and unfinished novels. Lady Susan is fun if formulaic, and I enjoyed the setup of The Watsons, which is a sort of comically exaggerated Pride and Prejudice, and would have liked to see more of Mr. Howard. I should try to read what there is of Sanditon, but it will make me sad. If I had the power to change literary history, I'd give Jane Austen twenty more years of good health.

I've now been reduced to reading Lawrence Miles's Dead Romance, which I'm enjoying all right despite its being by Lawrence Miles. Miles has a lot of talent, but like Grant Morrison he gets too enamored of his own weird ideas. And Miles' seething need to demonstrate that he's intellectually and politically superior to every else who's ever written a Doctor Who tie-in novel quickly gets tiresome. But Dead Romance is fine so far.

Book recs welcome.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Yesterday I took the risk of improvising a bit with my baking, and made dried cherry and blood orange rolls with cardamom. They turned out rather nice, so here's what I did.

Details under the cut )

I spent much of the weekend binge-reading books by British journalist Jon Ronson. I started with The Psychopath Test, in which Ronson explores psychopathy, other mental illnesses, and what he calls "the madness industry." He's especially interested in the flattening of nuance, whether that's the way the ever-expanding DSM labels more and more human characteristics as illnesses, or the way media such as reality TV shows focus on the more extreme, "madder" ends of people's personalities. Ronson has a healthy but not excessive skepticism; he's critical of the DSM, for example, without claiming that it's worthless or that psychiatry is nonsense, and he beautifully exposes the lies within Scientology's anti-psychiatry rhetoric.

Ronson is sometimes called a "gonzo" journalist, a label I thought was unfair after reading The Psychopath Test. His earlier Them: Adventures with Extremists deserves the label more, but it's not gonzo in the way I dislike. Ronson isn't putting on a show of machismo--the opposite, I'd say--and his approach is rooted in an interest in truth, not in thrill-seeking. The book is, again, surprisingly nuanced, though that doesn't stop Ian Paisley from coming across as a wretched bully in ways that aren't even directly related to his politics.

I also read Lost at Sea, a collection of standalone pieces mostly written for the Guardian. I liked it, and I'd especially recommend "Who Killed Richard Cullen," a terrifyingly prescient story about predatory consumer lending written way back in 2005, and "Amber Waves of Green," from I think 2012, in which Ronson interviews people (mostly Americans) at five different income levels, from a dishwasher making less than $200 a week to a multi-billionaire. (Guess who's the most angry and bitter? Hint: it's not the dishwasher.)

I'm now reading Men Who Stare At Goats, but I've only just started it.
kindkit: 'A man in WWII-era military uniform drinks tea in front of a van painted with "The Soldiers' Drink: Tea" (Fandomless: Soldiers drink tea)
This is Day 2 of my four-day weekend, for which I'm using two of my paltry five days of vacation this year. Is there a word for anticipatory sadness/anxiety you feel at the start of a vacation because you know that it will end? Because I was already sad about this on Thursday night.

I'm not going anywhere or doing anything in particular, just getting domestic. I've got some chickpeas in the slow cooker and I'm about to start some bread dough and probably some pizza dough as well (bread to be baked tomorrow, pizza dough to be frozen). I'll make soup later, one of those "stuff I have around" soups which will have chicken in it, and some little meatballs made of leftover pork mixed with raw rice which I'll simmer in the soup, and some spinach, and maybe one or two other things but maybe not. I tend to put too much stuff into soups so they all end up tasting the same, and I'm trying to restrain that tendency.

I also want to make brownies, and maybe another batch of scones so I can use up the last of the fantastic strawberry jam. And I just remembered I have some tiny eggplants that I'm probably going to roast and then marinate with garlic and oregano, following an Ottolenghi recipe. Some of this will happen tomorrow rather than today, I think.

My only non-domestic plan is to finally go and see Deadpool on Monday, as a bribe for going to the laundromat afterwards.

Recent viewing and reading under the cut, with spoilers for Grantchester S2 )
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Lethe Press, which publishes mainstream and genre fiction, mostly by LGBT authors about LGBT characters, is having a fantastic sale through the month of March. They've made their entire catalogue available as e-books for $1.50 each. You have to buy at least three books to get that price, but that's the only condition. And it's not hard--I tend to be picky, and I bought nine.

Among the titles are Melissa Scott's Astreiant series and her Death by Silver series, both of which I recommend highly, as well as a couple of her older books. I think all fantasy fans should read the Astreiant books, because the worldbuilding is just that good.

The website unfortunately doesn't do a great job of explaining how to get your books. You just click the "add to cart" button, BUT when you get to the checkout screen, there's a space for "notes" where you need to say what e-book format you want. And be sure you give a working e-mail address, because after you submit your payment, what you get is an e-mail from the publisher with all the books attached. (Not knowing this, I got quite irked yesterday when I didn't get an immediate download link like I expected. I sent in a support request, and Steve Berman, the publisher, kindly fixed it all--I hadn't said which format I needed, either--and threw in a free novel too. But I don't want anyone else to buy a bunch of books and then go "What the hell, where's my download?")
kindkit: 'A man in WWII-era military uniform drinks tea in front of a van painted with "The Soldiers' Drink: Tea" (Fandomless: Soldiers drink tea)
I have been to the laundromat! This is a chore I loathe, because I have to go out, where there are people, and then I have to sit there near other people while my laundry does its thing. So I tend to avoid it. But today I bribed myself by going out to breakfast first (this also involves being near other people, but there's food and I didn't have to cook it or wash the dishes afterwards). Thus I managed to get to the laundromat and run another important errand before noon. Go me, I guess.

bread, scones, pork roast, pizza under the cut )

I do sometimes do things other than work and cook. Here follow paragraphs about books, only some of them cookbooks )
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
1) I got a flu shot yesterday, and as a consequence am tired and achey today. I was expecting it but it's still annoying.


2) Today after work I went to the fancy cheese shop and bought some fancy cheese to eat on Christmas. I got a bit of Fleur de Maquis and whole little robiola foglie di castagna (I didn't pay $20 bucks for it, either, but I think mine might be smaller). I also got a tiny amount of ridiculously expensive rabbit and pork cheek paté. It was more splashing out than I had meant to do, but I love good cheese and it's been a loooong time since I was able to afford it even as a special treat.

I liked the cheese shop a lot, and I have a vague plan to go back once or twice a month and get a little of one nice cheese each time.


3) Work potluck on Christmas Eve. I've got a cranberry cake in the freezer that will just need to be thawed out and glazed (well, and also have the over-browned bits cut away) and I'm planning to make a big dish of baked ziti, which I'll prepare the night before and bake in the morning.

The gendering of the work potluck is interesting, I can tell you. Most of the people who bring nice homemade things are women (and me, but I'm not out at work so they see me as a woman); meanwhile, the men either come empty handed, the bastards, or they bring something like a storebought cheese and cracker tray or a bag of tortilla chips. Not everyone knows how to cook, of course, and men are more likely than women to never have been taught, but they could at least bring nicer things.


4) I have failed to write anything for Yuletide, even treats. In fact, I have failed to write anything since last Yuletide. (On further reflection, I think I did finish a chapter of the regency romance project, but that's all.) I have a New Year's resolution in mind to write 100 words a day, 5 days a week. This is very very minimal but I think I need to start minimal to get over whatever the hell the problem is.


5) I'm trying to read Iain M. Banks' Culture novels. I started with Player of Games because several people on FFA said it was a better starting point than the first Culture novel, Consider Phlebas. It turns out I've read PoG before but I didn't realize until I was a good halfway through, and I only remembered a few standout incidents, so that was fine. I enjoyed it, for a certain value of enjoy considering how terrible most of its events are; it was gripping even though I hated the main character a lot of the time, as I was probably supposed to. I'm now most of the way through Consider Phlebas, which is a weird experience because it's got a lot more plot and events than PoG, but they're all described in such unbearably complete detail that it's rather a slog. It's pretty standard space opera, too, unless there's a big twist coming; PoG is better on the worldbuilding front but it still felt rather thin. Does the series get more impressive as it goes on, or is Banks just remarkably overrated?
kindkit: Man sitting on top of a huge tower of books, reading. (Fandomless--book tower)
Recently read:

David Quammen's Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. I read this on [livejournal.com profile] astrogirl2's recommendation, and thought it was interesting, informative, and not as alarmist as the title and the front cover suggest. It was perhaps a bit long on anecdote and short on science-y goodness; I don't feel like I learned much about the mechanisms of spillover and what turns a spillover into a pandemic. There's some of that, of course, but I wanted more. My platonic ideal of science writing is Stephen Jay Gould, who would happily spend pages explaining scientific reasoning and evidence in detail, and I'd have liked more of that from Quammen.

Jordan L. Hawk, Widdershins. And for something completely different, m/m paranormal romance. I am 99% certain this book began life as fanfic for Sarah Monette's Kyle Murchison Booth stories (most collected in The Bone Key), and normally an obvious fanfic origin puts me off, but in this case I liked it. I am thoroughly fed up with Monette's tendency to pile loneliness and misery on gay male characters, and have often wished that she would give Booth (whom I love) some happiness. Hawk's book does that for her alt!Booth. The prose isn't as good as Monette's and the plot has some pacing issues, but it worked for me. By the way, this ebook is available for free on Smashwords if you want to give it a try.

I gave up on Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins books (the ones about the woman exorcist) after the third one, A Crown of Lights, which cut for spoilers, not that I think you should read these books anyway )

Currently reading:

I liked Widdershins enough to buy a couple of the later e-books, so now I'm reading the second one, Threshold. I'm not sure about it so far. Hawk seems to be having difficulty keeping the main character's personality distinct now that he's no longer so closely based on Kyle Murchison Booth. I'll see how it goes.


Up next:

I picked up several books from the library today, including Gary Corby's Death Ex Machina (set in classical Athens, about an actor--and his wife--who solve mysteries; I'm giving it a chance despite my innate suspicion of anything with that setting where the main male character is heterosexual); Ian Tattersall's The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack and Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolusion; and Vaughn Entwistle's The Dead Assassin, featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde as detectives (the author is English, which is a better sign in this kind of book than the author being American but still no guarantor of quality; in his author photo he looks unnervingly like Bill Bailey in a top hat). I also got a book about cheese, as you do.
kindkit: Hot dog walking hand in hand with mustard but thinking of ketchup. (Fandomless: Hot dog/ketchup OTP)
1) I had a pretty good Thanksgiving, in the sense of having a day off and eating lots of chicken and mashed potatoes.

2) I survived Black Friday and then had Saturday and today off, making up for last weekend's non-weekend. I had to come out of my usual workplace hidey-hole for a few hours on Friday to help customers, but it wasn't too bad. There was a weird moment about halfway through the day of realizing that, while we at the store have been preparing for Black Friday for weeks, this is actually the beginning of the Christmas retail season and not the end. There's still a month of escalating madness to go.

Baking, books, TV and Age of Ultron under the cut )

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