I've gone back to about 2014 and may tag the rest at some point (ETA: I've gone back to 2006, which is when the book tag overloads. Turns out you can only do up to skip=500. I'm not sure I had any useful opinions before that anyway). My book review format wasn't as... organised back then, and got less so as I go back. (I've also blanket-flocked my DW on posts older than 2016, which I might selectively deal with at some point. I have to and manually strip out too-specific location data on a lot of it. Argh, past self! Why?)
I know everyone keeps telling me I should post reviews individually, but I don't. I like Reading Wednesday. So if there's more than one book review in a post with that tag, I put in a little rainbow heart sticker on the one that's indicated () which will hopefully make finding things easier, visually anyway. For screen readers, at least it'll say "rainbow heart sticker"? I've only done this about two years back. It's a work in progress. (ETA: Which is now completed back to 2006. That was totally a good use of my time, right?)
Anyway, thoughts? Helpful? Twee? Something more useful I could do?
How many of you hated The Giving Tree and/or that horrible book with the fish that has to give away its scales?
OMG YES IT SUCKED
No, and I will tell you why in comments.
Let me tell you about another popular children's book I hated!
Ticky the tiki bar
Something else I will explain in comments
What I Just Finished Reading
Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer
So this is about moss. "What were you expecting?" a reader of this review might ask. Well, I didn't realise this was Kimmerer's first book, written a full ten years before Braiding Sweetgrass and only republished after that was a hit, so I was expecting it to be more like her second book. (Which deftly interweaves the author's personal life, history, her traditional knowledge as a Potawatomi woman, her scientific training as a botanist, and the life of plants. It was fascinating, inspiring, angry, and incredibly well written. If you are at all interested in natural history, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Braiding Sweetgrass.)
Gathering Moss is the book she wrote before that, and it's about moss. To be fair, only the first two thirds of it are about all the different ways moss grows and reproduces, how to study how moss grows and reproduces, things that remind her of moss (literally everything), how moss is really very cool and the author would like everyone to think moss is as cool as she does, and by the way, she spent her entire doctorate waist deep in freezing river water just to look at moss and thinks that was totally worth it. If you ever wanted to know rather a lot about this very specific topic, I would point you to this book.
The last third or so is about different cultural interactions with moss. There was a single chapter dedicated solely to traditional knowledge, and several that touched on both it and settler culture's interaction with it. (Apparently Oregon Moss products aren't sustainably harvested, and you shouldn't buy them.) I probably enjoyed this more, but mostly I was impressed by how much more engaging her second book was than this one. Unless you're really very interested in moss.
The author narrates the audiobook, and unfortunately has the kind of gentle, calming voice that used to put me straight into a deep sleep in ANTH 204.
Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures by Nick Pyenson
Seems to be a week for single topic natural history books. Anyway, I found this one a bit more engaging probably because I'm more interested in whales than I am in moss. Pyenson has worked in this area, and I'm somewhat familiar with his background, and with the history of whale evolution, but still learned a lot.
The first third of the book largely covers topics of whale evolution, along with stories about digs and fossils, the middle third covers, more or less, living whales, and the final third covers what might happen to whales in a changing climate. Though Pyenson is a palaeontologist by training, and much of the book is about the fossil record (and how awesome the collection at the Smithsonian is) there are some pretty graphic details of the up to your elbows in whale guts. Pyenson and his colleagues join Icelandic whaling expeditions in order to work on fresh carcasses (a concept he has ethical qualms about, but feels is worth it on the whole, as the whales are toast anyway), so if on-page whale death is going to make or break, give this one a skip. He also talks about mass stranding in the fossil record, whale fall, modern behaviour, why whales are big, why whales aren't bigger, and all kinds of cool things.
Overall, I'd rec it if you think whales are cool, and don't mind some blood and guts along the way. Pyenson also narrates the book, which is really seeming like a trend these days.
What I'm Reading Now
Audio: The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder By David J. Morris, narrated by Mike Chamberlain. Very interesting overview, as of about 3/4 in.
Library: Still My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman, translated by Henning Koch. Progress continues.
What I'm Reading Next
Audio: Not sure, going to be travelling, so maybe just podcasts. Library: The Raven Tower if I have time.
I spent a long weekend in Las Vegas at ClexaCon, which was an adventure. I flew out on Sun Country on Thursday morning in a blizzard, which was fun. 50 mph winds, snow, ice, other airlines canceling right and left, but Sun Country is hardcore and they just kept de-icing until it was determined that we could go (about 5 hours late). It was pretty bumpy but we made it. By then, I’d been up since 3AM my time and just wanted to get to Tropicana quickly. I foolishly took a cab (the nice fans that I met traveling to ClexaCon from MN took a rideshare) and we both arrived at the same time. Then we waited and waited and waited. The hotel let us all hang out in the checkout line for 45 minutes before more staff arrived. Then there was something of a scramble to connect with my table assistant, Theresa, to get my badge, dump luggage and deal with FedEx, which charged an extra “resort fee” just for being there, on top a $200 shipping bill because I didn’t ship “early” enough (I thought 4 days would suffice). But they had my box of books and my table banner and we were able to get set up without too much pain. Then I went off to dinner with Rachel Gold, Andi Marquette and Rachel’s friend Patrice. This was followed by an hour or so of lounging in the lobby with Andi and sharing publisher gossip, writing careers, conventions and other fun stuff.
Friday was an amazing sales day. I gather it was not the case for many of the other vendors, but for our table, it was terrific. We had Queen of Swords Press titles, Blind Eye Books titles and Rachel Gold titles and everyone sold at least a few books. Lots of cards distributed, lots of newsletter signups, all good. We did a decent job of spelling each other and it was a fine, if overly long, day (the dealer’s area is open 10-12 hours per day, for 3 days running). I wandered upstairs, took a hot bath, read and collapsed. Saturday was about the same, only somewhat less so. I bought Season 1 of Wynonna Earp and some comics, chatted with a bunch of folks and sold books like mad. The hours continued to be pretty grueling. There were also many, many artist tables with similar items for sale and no signage for the vendor area, and no good way for the artists to make their table stand out, for the most part. This became significant as the day wore on. I noticed that foot traffic was definitely down from last year, but sales for us were better than last year. Sunday, foot traffic was nil, sales were very low and a lot of people were not happy on many levels for many sound reasons. In short, it was a very uneven con to vend at. Other publishers had not great weekends, but I think the comics folks had the worst of it.
I had already had some issues with programming, who after insisting on adding an author to a panel we had already set up, failed to ask either her or the rest of us when we were available. They then proceeded to schedule the panel in the last timeslot so that it overlapped with the close-out of the Dealer’s Room on Sunday (where closing out early is discouraged, taxes have to be paid in cash and Theresa would have had to deal with packing up if I wasn’t around). When I asked them to consider changing it, I was informed that I “could just close up early.” Given that tables cost over $300 and last year’s Sunday sales were pretty decent, I opted to not appear on the panel. The author they were so eager to add? Left Saturday due to a scheduling conflict. The moderator was never informed that half the panel had bailed, just to make things exciting.
And speaking of exciting, there was a Saturday night dance party, scheduled to run until 4AM. I was on the 4th floor. At 2AM, I got blasted out of bed by a wall of dance music. From the first floor. Neither the air conditioning nor ear plugs made a dent in the volume. In desperation, I called the Tropicana Hotel desk to ask if they could get the volume turned down (apparently on the lower floors, beds were shaking from the noise) and was informed that they had “no control” over the event space (which is in in fact part of the hotel) and that lots of other people were calling so maybe they’d send somebody by to ask about turning things down a bit. Reader, this did not happen and I thought a whole lot less of both the Tropicana and ClexaCon as I lay awake for 2 solid hours before finally falling asleep for another hour before having to get back up again for another long day in the vending area.
In the meantime, other vendors had a much rougher weekend. It turns out that there was a leadership shakeup between this year and last, which was definitely better organized. Lots of things went awry and responses ranged from the clueless to the disrespectful and people are pretty pissed about it. There were apparently differences in what people were charged for tables, no signage for the vendor area and other significant issues that made this a very expensive con to travel to, but not make money at. Sales wise, we did well, but it certainly didn’t cover all our costs. We worked the table in shifts, which helped with the ridiculously long hours. But it still sucked doing it on too little sleep, which was the case for all of us. Would I go back? It depends. I’d like to because I sold books and met some nice people and I had some good chats, but this year’s event has taken a huge physical toll on me and the various and sundry semi-spontaneous fees (FedEx, noted above for example, plus The Tropicana’s charges) meant that I spent more than I budgeted for. So very much a mixed bag. At the same time, it is a unique event that focuses on queer women and allies in fandom and I hope they get their shit together and that there are more of these to come. Apparently 6 members of the leadership team resigned in the last two days so it’s not too clear what will happen next. Sigh. Now to rest up and prep for the UntitledTown Book Festival in Green Bay in a week and a half.
A History of Europe by JM Roberts. Not a great book, but not a bad one either. It really falls apart in the last section, what with trying to account for the end of the Soviet era as it was happening and in attempting to defend indefensible Thatcherite policies. I found the focus on Western Europe after the fall of the HRE really irritating, but Roberts was old school Oxford and it shows. The point of zooming through this brick was to figure out what I wanted to read more about.
currently reading: Medieval Europe by Chris Wickham. Published 2016 and it shows, what with the focus on archaeology, texts, and economics. I really appreciate his use of "unfree" to describe people who weren't quite slaves but also weren't at liberty. The prose, however, is both super-dense and assumes a familiarity with the subject that I don't really have yet. But what I wanted was something to show me how feudalism happened, what was there before aristocracies, where the money went, etc., and this is doing that.
If anyone has recs of early medieval Eurasian history, plz comment? I already know I want to find a good history of Byzantium and the East. And also the Magyars. And also...well, everything that was elided as the "Dark Ages" back in World Civ, because the scholarship has come so far.
Happy Zombie Weekend!
so much growing. The other day mom asked for a portion of my asparagus fern. I pulled it out of the pot to find it entirely root bound, every bit of dirt from just under the mulch to the bottom of the pot GONE. Wow. I have a sneaking feeling that's the case for everything, but there's only so much root pruning and repotting I can manage, esp given my stupid fatigue levels. Doh!
This interview is fascinating to me because I know basically nothing about cinematography, except insofar as it’s related to photography. So I love it when somebody gets down into the nitty-gritty details about how decisions regarding lenses and focus contribute to inequality, e.g. the fact that women on average speak about 25% of the time in a film + cinematographic technique that puts only the speaker in a shot in focus = not only are the women on screen silent more often than not, but they’re probably blurry as well. Backlighting, specific camera angles — she compares it all to the practice of airbrushing magazine covers, only there isn’t the same degree of public awareness that this stuff is being used to erase women’s flaws and present a constantly-idealized image. Plus lots of interesting discussion on how the relationship between a director and a director of photography differs between movies and TV, male directors and the YA film genre, etc.
- Slacktivist, “We Need to Do Something about Rick Wiles”
On the deep and poisonous stream of anti-Semitism that runs through far too much of white evangelical Christianity. Key quote:
And it doesn’t really matter which “theory” a conspiracist starts with — Moon-landing hoaxers, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, young-earthers, chemtrails, fluoridation, Planned Parenthood, Antichrist OWG, blue helmets, black helicopters, whatever — the belief that the Key to Everything is “the startling news that the media isn’t reporting!” always leads, ultimately, to anti-Semitism.
This got me reflecting on my own childhood. My elementary school had a large Jewish contingent; I’m not sure how many, but my mother estimates somewhere between a quarter and a third of my class. It got watered down as we fed into junior high and high school, joining other elementary school catchment areas, but overall, they were almost certainly the largest minority in my area. Large enough that Jewish kids didn’t stand out as unusual to me — at least, not until those two years where they were all going through their Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations and I learned that being Jewish meant you got a special birthday party. (I probably went to more parties in junior high than any other period of my life.)
But at the same time, we were also in the neighborhood of this church. (In opening that page, I note that a section which used to detail a sexual abuse scandal within the church’s leadership has been removed. A scandal which, for all I know, could have involved kids in my class or my brother’s — the timing was right.) I don’t know how much of that anti-Semitic ideology is present there, or was thirty years ago. But it makes me wonder how much, despite the large presence and general acceptance of Jewish families in our neighborhood, there were still incidents that happened out of my sight or flew over my head. I know the guy I went to prom with gave me the first Left Behind novel to read; I didn’t get more than about ten pages into it because the writing was so execrable, but later I learned that boy howdy are those books anti-Semitic. And there were enough Baptist and evangelical Christians around that I have to imagine some of that was an issue in my community.
Short of randomly calling up my Jewish friends from sixth grade and asking them whether they got shit from our fellow students, I’ll never know. But it’s a sobering thing to consider.
I guess I...start over, and return to using Scrivener for production work until I figure out where in tarnation that bug is coming from.
I was halfway done with today's writing, and now I'm back to 0. I guess I'll try to recover the 1,000 words and call it a day. This is just demoralizing. *sob*
Is anyone here knowledgeable in the ways of Twitter?
What I'm trying to do: deactivate my account, nuke it from orbit, whatever. I never want to look at it again.
Why I can't: Every time I go through the steps and hit the "Deactivate this account" button, it auto-relogs me in, reloads, and reactivates the account. It's infuriating.
Possible complication: I can only access mobile.twitter.com, not actual twitter.com, because a year or so back I brilliantly blocked twitter.com on my Windows and Mac machines, but neglected to block mobile.twitter.com. I cannot figure out how to undo whatever it was--something about blocking websites. The last time I tried to re-edit whatever file on my Windows machine, it wouldn't let me save it even though I'm the admin on this computer. I'm foxed.
tl;dr if you are good at computers and know how to make this happen, it would improve my life immensely.
*for certain values of "good", obviously
Bud went off his feed again for a few days, then started eating again two days ago in a big way; he scarfed most of his wet food (obliterated by an immersion blender and with water added) this morning, so there's a definite trend. I had him scheduled for testing tomorrow, but it would involve two blood draws and an ultrasound, and him staying at the vet all day. That's LOTS of stress that I really think it would be counter-productive when he's currently actually eating and behaving in good ways. Also, if whatever it is/was isn't currently affecting him, will the tests show anything? I'm leaning strongly towards cancelling, and rescheduling if he stops eating again. (The Zyrtec did NOT work, and might be one of the reasons he stopped eating. He is significantly less stuffy now, so I'm wondering if he had a cold...?)
Jack, by the way, adjusted to his microchip feeder immediately, no training needed. ( Once we got past the thing where his microchip had migrated to somewhere to the left of his shoulderblade and can't be read by the feeder. Grrr.) Jack Does Not Care. So he is now wearing a collar and, like Bud, doesn't appear to notice, except to maybe strut around a little more. His kidney levels have gone up a touch, but are still so low that we're not going to worry about it.
In other news, I have discovered fresh dragonfruit and I may never eat anything else again.
Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a novelette, I think, but that was all I could handle, anyway. The first person narrator is stuck wandering a physics-bending alien space artifact out beyond Pluto, alone, while becoming more and more unreliable. It was not pleasant reading, exactly, but was gripping. I was left unsatisfied by the ending, but am not sure what I would have preferred. The setting was perfect for generating additional stories, though, so I'm curious if that was part of the intent.
Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older is a Middle Grade fantasy set in an alternate version of Civil War-era New York City. The alternate part is there are dinosaurs living among people and being used as beasts of burden, though the possibilities aren't as fully explored as they might have been in an adult novel; I got the feeling they were around because dinosaurs are cool, and dactyls are cool, and I think that's cool, because why not? When I was a kid, I would not have blinked at this setup. (Adult me was wondering how the presence of dinosaurs would affect the Industrial Revolution and the development of associated technology, which appears to have happened here pretty much the same as in our world.) Magdalys Roca, the protagonist, is one of the kids from the Colored Orphan Asylum who get caught up first in the draft riots, then in a plot to rescue black people who've been captured to be sold in the southern states. The history is very beautifully integrated with the kid-focused action plot, and doesn't shy away from the racism non-white people are facing. The assortment of kids have interesting characterization, even those with smaller roles. Possible trigger warning: early on, a kindly adult figure is discovered to have been lynched in the riots after heroically giving children time to escape. Recommended because dinosaurs.