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) Stuff I've been watching:

Brooklyn 99, which I started marathoning a couple of weeks ago and am now all caught up on. I was a little dubious about the first few episodes because Jake was such an asshole, but he kept getting his comeuppance for being an asshole, which was encouraging. And then he became much less of an asshole, and all the other characters are pretty damn awesome, and Andre Braugher and Marc Evan Jackson are husbands. I like it a lot.


Broadchurch S3. I finally got up the nerve to watch this. It's much better (by which I mostly mean less frustratingly implausible and contrived) than S2 and not as wrenching as S1, though still plenty grim.Somewhat spoilery things under the cut )

It was interesting to see two performers I strongly associate with comedy--Lenny Henry and Charlie Higson (formerly of The Fast Show)--take on dramatic roles and do very well in them. I adore Charlie Higson in particular and now need to look up what else he's been in. And, in tribute to my facial-recognition ineptitude (I recognized both Henry and Higson by their voices) I will acknowledge that for the first two episodes, until I looked it up, I thought Trish was being played by Fiona Shaw. Julie Hesmondhalgh, who actually plays the role, is excellent.

Paddington 2, which is even funnier and lovelier than the first one, and which focused on the value and power of community in a way I found pleasing and timely. Hugh Grant nearly steals the show as a sharp parody of himself.


2) Stuff I've been reading:

Point of Sighs, by Melissa Scott. I had not known this was coming out, so it was a wonderful surprise. Like the previous Fairs Point, it integrated character development with plot really well, but in this one the plot involves tea and underwater monsters instead of dog racing, so it was much more my jam. My only quibbles were Spoilers )

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. I liked A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet well enough, but this one, not a sequel but set in the same universe and featuring a few characters from the first book, is better. It's still got too much of its plot stuffed into the last 40 pages, but this time there's some build-up, and more importantly, the characters are sympathetic, well-intentioned, decent people who still have conflicts with each other. Small Angry Planet oversold everyone's pure nobility a bit for my taste; Common Orbit feels more real and more complex.

The teaser chapter to KJ Charles's Henchmen of Zenda, which will be released on May 15th. I can't wait!


3) Stuff I've been cooking:

Strawberry-rhubarb pie. I more or less followed this recipe, but with a cream-cheese pastry crust (mostly because I didn't have enough butter) and with a few other small adjustments, namely a little less sugar, omitting the butter in the filling, and using a few drops of orange extract in place of the orange juice. Also, my strawberries had been macerating in a bit of Cointreau and sugar overnight, because I didn't initially intend to turn them into pie. And the strawberries were halved or in thick slices instead of chopped. It turned out delicious, although more watery than I was expecting from a recipe that promises you it absolutely will not be watery.

I was going to post pictures but the DW posting interface is making it waaaaay too much of a hassle.

I have also cooked a pork and kimchi stew (several days ago, before it turned unpleasantly warm here), made a batch of pesto, and made a "kedgeree risotto" loosely based on Nigella Lawson's recipe. I can almost see kedgeree purists cringing, but the one time I made a kedgeree the proper way, I found it dry and dull and not at all enjoyable. The lovely creaminess of a risotto-style preparation is much closer to what I imagined kedgeree to be when I'd only enviously read about it. Anyway I considerably adulterated even Lawson's "inauthentic" version, using smoked salmon instead of smoked white fish, which is hard to find in the US, adding some shrimp (plus simmering their shells with the broth to add flavor), using spiced ghee and a good dollop of Penzey's curry powder, adding some peas, and even finishing with (gasp!) a little cream. Lawson calls for quail eggs, which are both hard to get and, to my mind, ridiculous, so I topped the rice with a plain hard-boiled egg. It was yummy and I regret nothing.

Oh, and because I got some more rhubarb very cheap from work. I have made a rhubarb syrup which, added to plain or sparkling water, will make a delicious cool drink in the style of a Persian sharbat. The recipe is from A Taste of Persia by Naomi Duguid, a fascinating cookbook that I got for just a couple of dollars as an ebook from the Evil Online Commercial Empire. (Take 1.5 lb of rhubarb, cut into half-inch slices. Put in a pan along with a scant 2 c sugar and 1 c water. Bring to a boil, then simmer strongly for 20 minutes. Strain out the rhubarb, add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the rhubarb juice and return the juice to the pan. Simmer another 15 minutes until thickened a bit. You should have about 2 cups syrup. I strained my syrup through cheesecloth because it was a little cloudy. At this point you can add a dash of rose water; I didn't, because I didn't have any, but I did add a little orange extract along with the lemon juice. Put the syrup in a jar and refrigerate up to 3 months. Dilute with 1 part syrup to 3 parts water to use. The strained-out rhubarb pulp is tasty and can be eaten by itself, as a topping for yogurt or ice cream, etc.)


I have been writing this post for about a thousand years and it's getting very long, so that's all for now.

kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)

1) Stuff I've watched

Altered Carbon: The first episode only, because I wasn't that impressed. It looks nice, but the plot is just a bunch of not-very-novel SF tropes strung together, and the characters all seemed flat and uninteresting. I liked the AI hotel better than any of the people, but alas, we will probably see no more of him/it. The male lead is quite physically attractive and had slashy chemistry with James Purefoy's character, but it wasn't enough to keep me watching.

Queer Eye: The new iteration, just released on Netflix. I've never seen more than a few episodes of the old series, but I liked the new one enormously. It's fun, but it's not just fun. Especially in the first four episodes, there's a compelling subtext about toxic masculinity--not the virulent kind that encourages male violence, but the quieter kind that gets men to close in on themselves, trapping them in loneliness because feeling any emotion or reaching out for connections is dangerously feminine. And it's not every makeover show that gives us a black gay man and a white, straight, Trump-supporting cop having a conversation about police violence against black people. Plus, it feels very much like it was made for a queer audience rather than to explain/justify queer people to straight people. All that plus useful (to me) clothing tips = win!

Planet Earth II: Gorgeous, interesting, and not so heavy on environmental gloom as to make me miserable.

Blue Planet II: As you can see, I've been in a mood for nature documentaries. I've only just started this.

Strictly Ballroom: I know it's a cult classic, but I felt pretty meh about it. For one thing, I wanted more dancing and less romance. On the whole, I would rather have watched a movie about Fran's father and grandmother, who were more interesting than anybody else onscreen.

Paddington: Yes, the animated children's movie. It was a lot of fun, surprisingly sophisticated when it wasn't deliberately juvenile, and--perhaps because it's English rather than American--fairly unconventional and not too treacly in its take on family.

Think Tank: New Australian game show hosted by Paul McDermott. A bit too slow-paced; all questions are read out twice and panelists are asked to explain their reasoning for every single damn answer. But it has Paul McDermott. And because there are no prizes except a trophy, there's a friendly feeling I enjoy.


2) Stuff I've read

Not much (well, considerably more if you count reading news on my phone), because my e-book reader came over all brick and the local library system is underfunded as hell. I did read and enjoy The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters, which I bought from the Evil Online Retail Empire discounted to $1.99. The premise is that the world is doomed due to an oncoming asteroid, and all kinds of things are falling apart as people quit their jobs or commit suicide. But the protagonist, a small-town New England cop, decides that one suicide doesn't look quite right and proceeds to investigate. The worldbuilding is really strong and the characterization's good too. I especially liked the exploration/subversion of certain common end-of-the-world tropes. The book has two sequels that I haven't read yet, and I almost don't want to, because the first one ends in a way that feels like a real and proper ending.


3) Stuff I've cooked

Red peppers stuffed with leftover cornbread (tasted good but the texture was monotonous), potato soup with ham, red beans and rice. I roasted a chicken a couple of weeks ago and then made chicken stock with the bones. Currently I've got a pot of white beans simmering in the slow cooker along with some onion, celery, carrot, a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, and bits of not-authentic-but-cheap "prosciutto". Later I will add beet greens, radish tops, and some arugula that needs using. I haven't been in the mood for elaborate cooking, which is just as well because I don't have the budget for it. Fortunately I am a food hoarder a believer in a well-stock pantry, and I have lots of beans and pasta and cornmeal and frozen leftover chicken and frozen leftover ham and etc. etc. to use.

fail

Jan. 22nd, 2018 06:52 pm
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
Dear otherwise well-written and entertaining male/male romance novel,

Why are all your black characters grotesquely offensive racist stereotypes who speak in phonetically-spelled "dialect"?

Much less love than I would have liked to feel,

Me
kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Airship)
1) I thought episode 2x09 of The Good Place was the season finale (it helped that I also thought it was numbered 2x10), but apparently there's more, yay! Spoilers for the actual 2x10 )

2) Season 4 of Grace & Frankie was released on Friday and I binge-watched over the weekend. It's good, very very funny, and much lighter and more sitcom-y than previous seasons. Usually I wouldn't like that, but these characters have been through so much, and I like them so much, that I'm glad to see them catch a break.


3) I've been trying to read the two-volume Building the American Republic, which its authors (Harry L. Watson--brother of the more famous John?--and Jane Dailey) and publisher (U of Chicago P) have made available for free as an e-book, citing an urgent current need for US-ians to understand their own history better. For a few years now I've felt I should correct my ignorance of American history, which I hated learning about as a kid because of the terrible, jingoistic, uncritical way it was taught. (I have vivid memories of a couple of days in 11th grade, when we were learning about the Constitution yet again, and the teacher showed us a film about the Constitutional Convention. And suddenly it was interesting--instead of some kind of sacred perfect object that fell from the sky, the Constitution was being shown as the product of clashing interests and hard bargains. It was a thing people made and it wasn't necessarily perfect. Alas, we then went back to reading from the textbook.) Anyway, I'm going to keep trying, but at the moment I'm bogged down very early, in some discussion of early modern English politics and culture that, well, aren't wrong exactly, but are so oversimplified that it hurts me. (The Elizabethan Settlement was not a tolerant religious compromise, as I would think the 200+ Catholics executed during Elizabeth's reign would demonstrate. Also the noncomformist Protestants who were suppressed and penalized in various ways.) I know some oversimplification is inevitable, but it does make me wonder what other important things are going to get that treatment.


4) Did a bit of cooking this weekend. On Saturday I made a stew of chickpeas, lamb, and roasted eggplant with pomegranate molasses, which turned out well. It was entirely improvised, because I found myself in possession of three! eggplants because they were on sale 3 for $1, and even though I'm not a huge eggplant fan I couldn't resist. Approximate recipe under the cut )

Today it was unexpectedly snowy and cold, but I went shopping in the morning anyway and bought a chicken, since it seemed like the perfect kind of day to roast one. Every time I roast a chicken I am reminded of why I don't do it very often--the cooking is as simple as can be, but the cleanup's a pain. Anyway, I'm now simmering up some chicken stock in the slow cooker, to become a soup tomorrow with some of the breast meat and some kale and other veggies. And my freezer will be overflowing with leftover chicken and leftover chickpea stew, which is a good thing. A full freezer = safety and happiness.
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
1) My seven-year-old Sony ebook reader has, after long and faithful service, bricked itself. *sigh* I don't like reading on my computer (plus I'm having some vision problems that make it easier to read on a screen or book that I can hold close to me), but I'm reluctant to put my ebook files on my phone because, um, quite a lot of them were acquired through alternative means because I have no money. And as much as I love my phone and use it all the damn time, I still think of it as corporate spyware I carry around with me. I may need to buy a Kobo if I can ever afford one. I don't want to get a Kindle because Amazon, spyware, etc., plus I have the Kindle app on my phone anyway so I don't need a separate reader.

I'm nearly ashamed to admit this, but I don't think I like paper books anymore. Except if it's cookbooks, or books that aren't available in any other form. But I've gotten used to the light weight of an ebook reader, and the adjustable type size, and the built-in dictionary, the search function, etc.

Plus, it's much harder to find decent affordable secondhand books than it used to be. Maybe it's where I live now (a small town without a university), or maybe it's that ebooks + amazon are killing used bookstores, I dunno. But when I go into local used bookstores I can never find anything interesting.


2) I was a bit startled when the most recent episode of The Good Place turned out to be the last of the season. I liked S2, though I didn't think it was nearly as brilliant as S1. But the premise of S3 is amazing and I'm looking forward to it.


3) Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency got cancelled by BBCAmerica, which apparently wants to air nothing but gardening and antiques shows in the daytime and Doctor Who reruns and 1990s movies at night. Any hope that Netflix (which was BBCA's partner in making the show) will continue it is fading as the weeks go by with no announcement. It's a shame, because it's a really good show and I recommend it a lot. (S2 does have a proper ending, no cliffhangers or anything, so the two seasons make a satisfying watch. I just want more.)


4) I've been watching The Doctor Blake Mysteries (which my brain keeps renaming Doctor Blake, Medicine Woman even though Dr. Blake is a man) on Netflix. It's an Australian show set in 1958, about a mystery-solving police surgeon with a Tragic Past, and it's . . . okay of its kind? Slightly above average? None of it's terrible in terms of objective quality, but none of it's great, and it does this annoying thing where it wants to be socially relevant but doesn't quite have the courage of its convictions, so that, for example, we get queer characters for one episode where queerness is a plot point, and all the main characters get to demonstrate their tolerance, but none of the main or recurring characters is queer. Similarly for immigrant characters and characters of color. And so far there have been no indigenous Australian characters at all. Yet I keep watching. It's very much a popcorn show--like popcorn, there are both tastier and more substantial things you could be consuming, but it's easy to munch down a lot of it.


5) Speaking of consuming, I've managed to do a little cooking and baking. Yesterday I baked some Blue Sky Bran Muffins, using some peach and sour cherry compote from my freezer as the fruit. I fiddled around with the recipe, as I tend to do--I substituted oat bran for a little of the wheat bran, and whole wheat flour and barley flour for a little of the all-purpose flour. And I mixed the compote into the batter instead of making a little pocket of it--I've made the recipe both ways and in my experience, the result of trying to put the fruit in the center is not worth the trouble. Anyway, they came out nice and now I have a bunch of them in the freezer.

I also made some cornbread with bacon, cheese, and green chiles. I based it on this recipe at Serious Eats, but with changes. I used 1.5 cups of cornmeal and .5 c flour, cut the sugar by half, omitted the scallions/green onions and added some roasted chopped green chile. Also I don't have a cast iron skillet so I used a metal pie tin instead, and it worked fine. I should note that I followed another Serious Eats tip and cooked the bacon in the oven (on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, at 425 Fahrenheit for 20 minutes) and it worked great. I will never cook bacon on the stovetop again.

Today I'm going to made stuffed red peppers using things I have on hand, namely rice, some cheddar and blue cheeses, and some of the vast quantity of ham I still have leftover from Thanksgiving.

I've discovered lately that many kinds of leftovers can be successfully turned into soup. Perhaps this was only news to me? Anyway, I've made soup from the leftovers of a baked rice + tomatoes + ham dish (added to commercial chicken broth along with some beet greens) and from leftover potato gnocchi in what turned out to be an excessively strong puttanesca sauce--yes, I know, but it seemed like a good idea at the time--once again added to commercial broth along with some spinach and some frozen bell-pepper-and-onion mix. (I've been buying frozen veg because at this time of the year it's as good as the fresh vegetables in the supermarket and both cheaper and easier, which helps me eat more vegetables when my desire to cook is fairly low.) In both cases, dishes that had been no more than okay in themselves made quite tasty soups. This makes me happy, because I take a weirdly strong pleasure in using/transforming food that might otherwise go to waste, and because it's a way to have soup for virtually no effort.


6) And now I should start cooking the rice.
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 )

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