juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
[personal profile] juushika
I woke to rain outside, and kept hearing it, on and off, through the day; hearing it because I've been able to keep a window open and the fan off for a few days now. The window here is behind a substantial bush, so the light is gentle in the mornings (the birdsong, on the other hand, not so much). Yesterday morning, I sat under that open window and peeled and cut apples while watching Supernatural. (Every year about this time I catch up on Supernatural; every year it's still awful, but the kernel of the show it could be, the 11.4 "Baby" show, the AU werewolf!Claire show, the show of ambiguous landscapes of denuded, earthen British Columbia forests pretending to be the Midwest, the show of flannel and bunkers and overnight drives, always leave me wistful.)

The apples came from the back yard, half-feral apple trees that produce tart, hard, dry green apples with just a few bugs. When I taught Teja how to make applesauce, I told him "peel, chop, boil over medium heat"—it's impossible to screw up. This year made me wonder if I was wrong; the first batch was prone to scalding and awfully tart, and required a cup of water (I'm used to ladling off excess fluid instead) and half a cup of brown sugar (there are greater sins). And it wasn't ruined, it turned out fantastic. Homemade applesauce always is.

Anyway, I moved last month. Moving is objectively always awful, but this went fine, even if it left me wishing I owned zero physical objects—despite that it was making a place for objects (specifically, an overhead shelf with nothing but blankets and plush and treasured figurine) which made me feel settled in.

August and Gillian are settling in too, decently well. The stress of the move, and the smaller space and relative isolation, has made them much more companionable. They've lived together for five years, with tolerance but no intimacy. Now, they're touching all the time! They share a blanket! This morning, August licked Gillian's face three small, sweet times. I'm not getting invested in the future of this intimacy, but feel blessed to witness the little signs of it.

I've been taking a few shitty snapshots of the cats, and you can find them over on my Tumblr; here are some cat-touching highlights:






Their peace and comfort, and also mine, has been interrupted by a fairly severe flea infestation—with which we are dealing, but which may be an ongoing/reoccuring battle for reasons outside my control, and I'm mad about that. They're just so uncomfortable, and only have the energy to groom and eat and then nap; not eager to play, too sore for most cuddles. Hopefully things will improve as the medication does its thing.

Autumn is the season of my heart, and the weather report says the rain is not just today, it is the next five days, and by then it's late September; 70 degree days after that will just be sunny days in autumn—the season is here. Most people don't get such a clear cut-off date! But ours was September 17, and rain, and rain, and rain.

COALition of Crazies

Sep. 15th, 2017 11:34 pm
izmeina: A cute cartoon critter with a bag and a teapot on his head (jolly swagman)
[personal profile] izmeina


Two years as Top Dog and this is all Trumble has to show for it. Sharing a bed with Bananaby Joyce and pretending that there isn't really a certain third person in the marriage

What's the point of all those brains and eloquence when at heart Trumble is little more than a spineless blobfish who dreams of being an Irukandji when he grows up just like his 'joined at the hip' best mate Donald who really is the most toxic blob on the planet


juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
[personal profile] juushika
Moana, film, 2016, Disney
Came for Accessible Disney Emotions; largely received them. It's interesting the way that gender/racial choices reinvigorate traditional heroic quest arcs—because this is extremely by-the-book, but feels empowering rather than redundant; Moana's personal growth and the way it ripples out to supporting characters and the resolution is extremely satisfying. Interesting musical choices: when they started a song about coconuts I was underwhelmed, but there's—

(Now imagine a pause while I check Google to see if anyone else has made a link between the lyrical evolution/reiteration of Moana's "I want" song and the unique lyrical style of Hamilton, and then I discover that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote that song, and that the link isn't influential but direct. I sincerely didn't know he was involved with this movie.)

—there's a beautiful lyrical evolution/reiteration in that main theme which is reminiscent of the self-referential wordplay of Hamilton; it's clever, and substantial enough to carry the film's emotional thrust. But while the denouement is fantastic, the resolution is flat, and that's all due to the design of Te Fiti—there's a dozen ways to conceptualize nature-as-humanoid/-goddess which is more evocative and less "vaguely fuzzy giant green lady" (even the willow tree in Pocahontas was better!), and what's rendered here undermines that final emotional resolution. I also hate the water tentacle—the hair is amazing! the natural water is beautiful! there are some great renders in this, but the nondescript water tentacle that shakes its head isn't one of them. Also: I sincerely don't get why anyone cared about the chicken, and the grandmother is one of the best characters I've ever seen and I both want to know her and want to be her, someday. I found this more successful than not, but the ending missteps.

Closet Monster, film, 2015, dir. Stephen Dunn
This is really good. It perfectly bridges its surreal/imaginative/symbolic aspects to its concrete events. It's sincere, convincing, compelling; accessible but also private; heartbreaking but cathartic, without being exploitative or simplistic. (The way it depicts violence is particularly successful, cutting away/using discretion shots in a way that simultaneously preserves tension, confers respect, and still conveys trauma). There are flaws (the hamster is heavy-handed; the final scenes too idyllic), but I'm sincerely impressed by what it achieves.

The Levelling, film, 2016, dir. Hope Dickson Leach
If I had thought about it, perhaps "vet student from a farming family" and "family trauma post-suicide" was not an ideal combination for me, in particular; but I didn't think about it, and did watch this through, and it was vaguely unlikable, if only for slipping "forgive and reunite with you abusive family members" in there at the end. I do this a disservice: the interstitial shots of an English countryside caught between the idyllic and the eerie and the muddy mundane, and the localized loss in the wake of a suicide, are effectively staged; the whole weight of the film rests on Kendrick's shoulders, and she can bear it. But it is absolutely about how awful suicide is for the survivors, and about forgiving/healing past familial abuse, and using violence against animals/the farming industry as psychological manipulation and metaphor: all tropes I deeply despise and shouldn't've put myself through.

American Fable, film, 2016, dir. Anne Hamilton
Honestly, pretty awful. There's an interesting story here, about poor rural white America's interaction with—well, Jewish bankers, the boogeyman of Jewish wealth, economic antisemitism and both sides of economic anxiety; you can't cast an identifiably Jewish person in the role of "wealthy man buying up farmland who is kidnapped and tortured by farmers" and then not address the Jewish issue—it creates a Jewish narrative in absentia and I have no idea: is that intended? is it just really poorly executed? is it just because of Schiff's casting? It doesn't particularly matter as the rest of the movie is forgettable, hamfisted plot development and campy horror pacing, with a beautiful setting, promising but undeveloped imagery, and some decent acting from Kennedy and Schiff that has no particular payoff.

I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, film, 2016, dir. Oz Perkins
I thought I would like this; I really did like this. April Wolfe of The Village Voice described it as "the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Shirley Jackson book that never existed" (thanks, Wikipedia)—and it's no Shirley Jackson, but it does have that feel to it: a strong sense of place and costume and set design, an investigation into women within gothic archetypes (and women's life as gothic) which isn't hugely robust but is largely successful, some gentle queer subtext, a plot which isn't hugely complicated but which does clever things with narration, and a really satisfying tone. It wasn't objectively perfect, but I wanted it to never end; I wanted those empty rooms and facile but appealing metaphors and mustard accents to last forever.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
[personal profile] juushika
Title: The House of Binding Thorns (Dominion of the Fallen Book 2)
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Published: Ace, 2017
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 230,925
Text Number: 737
Read Because: recommended by Rachel, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Not long after the events of the first book, House Hawthorne becomes embroiled in conflicts and alliances with the dragon kingdom. This has a slow start—there's a big cast and numerous subplots, all tied together by something like a murder-mystery (of which Bodard is fond, and I am not); it stands largely independent of The House of Shattered Wings, and maintains most of that book's weaknesses (like repetitive descriptions) and indulgences (like the moldering elegance of the setting). It's the second half where things come together. The plot coalescing is adequate, and Bodard has a knack for large finales (here, perhaps, overlong), but the real joy is in the characters—there's a number of great character types (a pregnant woman and her angel wife is an especial delight), and Asmodeus's development, as an unrepentant and unforgivable person who still has depth, even value, is ambiguous and subtly-wrought. I didn't particularly enjoy this, but appreciate its payoff; it's more successful than Shattered Wings, and may be worth reading if you've already begun the series.


Title: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
Author: James Tiptree Jr.
Published: Tachyon Publications, 2004 (1990)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 505
Total Page Count: 231,430
Text Number: 738
Read Because: personal enjoyment
Review: Eighteen stories, most published under the Tiptree pseudonym, combining themes of gender, sex, death, and speculative science. This is a long and thorough collection, in part because many of the stories are novella-length, in part because Tiptree's voice and theme are confrontational and fatalistic. Tiptree has some repetitive stylistic choices: many of the stories end with a twist or thematic summation, often individually successful (as in "The Screwfly Solution"), but transparent and repetitive when viewed in sequence; in the forgivable search for an idealistic solution to the anger and fear that motivate these stories, some are over-long, some defy suspension of disbelief ("With Delicate Mad Hands"). But, while the angry, didactic tone can be punishing, the content and perspective more than compensate. Tiptree embodies a masculine point of view while writing feminist fiction ("The Girl Who Was Plugged In," "The Women Men Don't See"—a central, prevalent doubling of identity, including but not limited to gender identity), intertwines speculative concepts with intensely critical social themes, and possesses intensity, vigor, and valuable rage. The cumulative effect of this collection far exceeds its component parts. .


Title: Way Station
Author: Clifford D. Simak
Published: Open Road Media, 2015 (1963)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 215
Total Page Count: 231,645
Text Number: 739
Read Because: recommended by Kalanadi, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review:

That was how it started, Enoch thought, almost a hundred years ago. The campfire fantasy had turned into fact and the Earth now was on galactic charts, a way station for many different peoples traveling star to star. Strangers once, but now there were no strangers. There were no such things as strangers. In whatever form, with whatever purpose, all of them were people.


From a Midwestern homestead, one lonely man runs a way station for alien travelers. This takes a quiet, almost distant approach to its premise; the protagonist is more witness than actor and the tone is wistful, contemplating the vastness of the universe and what role humankind deserves within it. It's eminently quotable.

"There may come a day," Ulysses said, "when it won't be like that. I can look ahead and see, in some thousands of years, the knitting of the galaxy together into one great culture, one huge area of understanding. The local and the racial variations will still exist, of course, and that is as it should be, but overriding all of these will be a tolerance that will make for what one might be tempted to call a brotherhood."

"You sound," said Enoch, "almost like a human. That is the sort of hope that many of our thinkers have held out."


Half of the narrative is akin to a science fiction fairy market, a cavalcade of wonders which rambles almost like a travelogue, slowing the pace but suiting the tone. The plot eventually coalescences, pulling neatly from perhaps too many of the established elements, and is a little too large, leaning on coincidence and hinging on problematic tropes regarding disability. But the ending preserves the overall tone, and if the small pieces are better than the larger plot, then they are fantastic pieces: beautiful, mournful, hopeful, idyllic but not idealized, profound without slipping into the facile. I sincerely loved this; a pleasure to read.


Her Smoke Rose Up Forever and Way Station both made it on my favorite and formative list—there are absolutely objective flaws here, and ones I can recognize (unlike the rare favorite which I know must not be objectively flawless & yet which makes me convinced it is), but they're solid 4.5 "it feels like a 5-star book," where feeling is the operative response—they are both a little more than themselves. Satisfying to have a few of those after a slew of sheer mediocrity.

September Snippets

Sep. 9th, 2017 10:22 pm
izmeina: (circle serpent)
[personal profile] izmeina
Izzie has been missing in Dreamwidth Land for so so long lately. Was almost time to send out a search party.
Both Daisy and Dudley have gone back home so slowly getting back to the usual routine. It was nice spending so much time over at Privet Drive but it all got too much for this introverted serpent and needed to escape and get away from it all now and again.

Aside from Dursleyish dramas, been distracted by the nightmare across the pond. It is like watching a train wreck and being unable to look away.
In fact, stalking and snarking the Donald on twitter was pretty much the only link to Cyberia over the last few months or so.
November is around the corner and it is time to get back in the habit of squiggling. The magic is gone. Totally uninspired lately and not even managing to do the usual 20 minutes here and there just dumping stuff from the green skull into the Pensieve. That could explain the current crazy distracted state of the serpent.
Too much stuff out there and no time to sort it all out and make sense of it all. So so needing to get back to to the rituals of squiggling just to preserve some semblance of serpent sanity.
Sensible sorts use cycling, walking or sport to let off steam. Then of course there’s art, music and other such creative activities. I guess it’s good to diversify. I have all those eggs in the word basket. Not so bad if I had not been neglecting it so much lately.

Maybe it is time to diversify. Doctor’s orders and all that but that is a tale for another day
As well as squiggling, also getting back into the routine of pottering around and doing stuff in the garden. The orange tree is having a second flush of flowers. That is the first time this has happened. Weather has been so weird in the last few years.

Was up in Kings Park today drooling over the wicked weeds. It is the height of the wildflower season here and for folks who cannot get out into the countryside, the botanical gardens at Kings Park are a perfect place to see them. The botanical gardens are well worthy of being on the bucket list of anyone who is nuts about weeds. Australia really does have so many amazing and interesting plants as well as cute and cuddly creatures.

The birds are squawking and the bees are buzzing. It is the most amazing time of year.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
[personal profile] juushika
Title: Call Me by Your Name
Author: André Aciman
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 250
Total Page Count: 229,885
Text Number: 734
Read Because: recommended by Holly Dunn, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: One summer in Italy, a teenage boy grows infatuated with his family's boarder. That narrow perspective—focused almost entirely on one time, one place, one formative relationship—set within hot, idyllic Italy is certainly an experience: intimate, claustrophobic. The fluid sexuality, sincere intimacy, and the sense that a relationship can be simultaneously transitory and indelible are all well-realized. The voice, a stream of consciousness memory, dense with mixed metaphors and the inconsistent but sincere revelations of adolescence, is perhaps less so: it contributes to the atmosphere but is samey (the dialog sounds just like the interior monologue) and sometimes rambling and inaccessible. There's something seductive in the experience of this book, and I can see why some readers fell in love; it failed to quite grab me.


Title: The Bear and the Nightingale (The Bear and the Nightingale Book 1)
Author: Katherine Arden
Narrator: Kathleen Gati
Published: Random House Audio, 2017
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 340
Total Page Count: 230,225
Text Number: 735
Read Because: recommended by A Case for Books & others, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A daughter with the second sight tries to save her family home from the deadly Russian winter, the old spirits from the rise of Christianity, and herself from a woman's fate. This succeeds when it creates investment in the protagonist, Vasya, which it does: as a rare exception to female social roles and thus the consequences of a misogynistic society, she's sympathetic wish-fulfillment; the final act, with its large magics and an opportunity for Vasya to win the day, is a strong finish. But this is unremarkable on the whole, from the uninspired characterization (especially of antagonists) to the predictable pacing; Arden renders a strong sense place, but her voice isn't especially evocative. Mostly, this fails to feel larger than the sum of its parts, to be numinous or profound—an arbitrary judgement, but one that determines whether or not I find a fairytale narrative successful, which this one is not; it feels instead like the promising but unrefined debut which it is.


Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Book 1)
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2012
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 360
Total Page Count: 230,585
Text Number: 736
Read Because: multiple recommendations, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Two boys met, become best friends, and survive adolescence together. Once again: it's (mostly) not you, young adult contemporary; it's me. The characters are realistically rendered, the themes are well-intended—but the voice is flat and repetitive (especially the dialog; especially how often people break out laughing), and, while I see the appeal of the arc from drama to tragedy to happy endings, while I think happy endings are valuable especially for teens in minority groups, the end of the book bothers me. The final deus ex parents is ridiculous and removes the protagonist's agency; moreover, he transitions from a troubled young man to someone completely cured. It's untenable and erasing; it feels more like everything wrong with the "it gets better" campaign than anything truly productive. These criticisms are unfair: the journey is frequently more realistic than the destination, and the happy ending obviously works for most readers; I imagine the narrative and voice are more successful for fans of the genre. But this fell flat for me.
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