( Details )
Oh man, if I were to try and discuss every element of this book I found fascinating or thought-provoking or saddening or enraging, I'd produce a masters-length thesis. I've dog-eared practically every third page for further contemplation. Highly, highly recommended.
Bonus poll of curiosity:
Is dog-earing a library book okay?
Yes, for everything I find interesting!
Sure, but only to mark what page I'm up to
I wouldn't do it myself, but I don't mind the practice
Yes! Others appreciate my contributions!
Pencil only, dudes
I don't, but I like reading what others have found interesting
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Some people thought it could've done without the last line; I thought it was perfect. It's a line I've heard so many times, from the mouths of fictional characters and real people both, and every single time it makes me so furious that I can't breathe.
I was rewatching Quantum of Solace the other day, and when I mentioned to The Boy how much I'd enjoyed it (I'd forgotten how it hits my every single button oh my god, but that's a post for another day), he said, "Is that the one with the stupid oil-for-water plotline?" To which: yes, admittedly stupid, but unlike most of the low-brain-quotient/comfort media I consume, the international politics of it didn't actually leave me frothing at the mouth and wanting to stab a Hollywood scriptwriter in the eye with his or her own pencil.
Bit sad, really, that it's so hard to find something to be fannish about that's not actively enraging.
A while ago, though, I stumbled across one of mementis's recs (er, I think it was from mementis) for a novel-length Star Trek reboot story and saved it without much thought for following through and reading the whole thing. Last night I finally cracked it open, and HOLY MOTHER OF GOD could I not stop until midnight and 100,000 words later. An immensely satisfying reading experience, and one I haven't had in fandom for a good long while. (Which speaks more of how little I've been reading, obviously, rather than the quality of available stories.)
The Lotus Eaters by aldora89
Stranded on the planet Sigma Nox while searching for a missing away team, Spock and Kirk find themselves pitted against a disturbing native life form. With the captain out of commission on a regular basis and Spock struggling to preserve his stoicism, staying alive is difficult enough – but when a slim chance for escape surfaces, their resolve is truly put to the test. Together they must fight for survival in the heart of an alien jungle, and in the process, uncover the mystery of the planet’s past. Slow build K/S.
There are so many things that impressed me about this story, but two things in particular really made it stand out in my mind from a lot I've read recently. The first thing is that the storytelling was masterful: tightly controlled, interesting, and with a great page-turning quality. The mild horror of the early scenes develop into a wonderfully engaging, suspenseful middle act where Kirk and Spock struggle to survive and, in the process, slowly piece together the planet's (fascinating) history. The second thing I particularly loved was just how vivid and visceral the depictions of the alien planet were. The landscapes, the flora and fauna-- everything was brilliantly rendered, sometimes to truly terrifying effect (I had alien-related nightmares last night, I'm just saying), with the result that the story felt present and alive on the page. A lot of Star Trek feels kind of grey and blah to me, courtesy of too many industrial interiors, but this was wonderful, inspired worldbuilding.
To be honest, I almost could've done without the K/S and the final act, I just wanted to wallow in the adventure so much. I wanted more of that world, and the new characters and mysteries! Highly recommended for when you want a long, absorbing read.
So what else did I miss in GK during anno domini 2010? Fill me in! GK and I broke up for a while back there, but current developments suggest we actually have one of those love-hate on-again-off-again relationships that everyone else is sick of hearing about. Sigh.
I mean, god knows I've been an idiot about race an uncountable number of times in my life, but for fuck's sake. I wanted to punch him in the mouth. Or evict him. I could. Instead I guess I'll just pretend nothing happened, and he'll just continue floating along on his little imperturbable cloud of privilege (which I'm sure he just thinks of as being 'rational' in the face of my 'over-sensitivity'). The thought of attempting to thrash it out is, frankly, just too fucking exhausting.
To cheer myself up I finally got around to watching the wonderful Medicine for Melancholy, which was pretty much the perfect antidote. It's a beautiful, thoughtful film about identity, race, temporary connections, and San Francisco. The colour correction and grainy, soft-focus camerawork give it a unique look, but watch it for the mood: all those silences and fumblings and miscommunications and the gorgeous oh-so-human detail.
Smitten Kitchen's cinnamon-chocolate-sour-cream cake. This started out disastrously for me -- the recipe made way more oddly-textured batter than I was expecting, and it rose so dramatically that it overflowed the tin and turned into a neverending molten cake volcano -- but once I swaddled it in foil to stop the haemorrhaging it somehow miraculously turned into a delicious, picture-perfect cake. I'd personally reduce the sugar (including using bitter rather than semi-sweet chocolate), but still: nom. A household-wide hit. I have no idea how much 16oz of sour cream is, but I used about 350ml of sour cream and a couple of spoonfuls of natural yoghurt, and that worked just fine. Just use a big cake tin.
Bangarra Dance Theatre. If you're in Melbourne and in the vicinity of the Arts Centre, take twelve minutes to check out the Bangarra film playing on the ground floor in the nook between the cafe and the circus exhibition. Three amazing performances of Bangarra's unique modern/indigenous dance blend. Transfixing stuff. They're coming to Melbourne in September; I'll probably go, if I can.
The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Nicely made mini webisodes featuring a cast of young, attractive, skilled break-dancers and poppers, the vast majority of them being POC. Some of the episodes are better than others, but they're diverting enough and the whole project is a nice idea. (I particularly liked Fanboyz, Elliot's Shoes and Robot Lovestory.) The videos have a tendency to make my Firefox crash, though.
I've actually long thought that a 'Bring your work to fandom' day would be great fun. (And come on, if they can make a popular sitcom about a paper distributing company, don't tell me your job isn't interesting enough for an AU.) And now I'm trying to think of other excellent examples off the top of my head-- there's miss_porcupine's SGA marines, and Sihaya Black's 'Pas De Deux', and has toft written classics slash? (or am I imagining that), and roga's IDF version of Generation Kill, and that recent Inception one where Arthur is an art historian, and dark_reaction's GK fashion/modelling AU (maybe that was just well-researched), and maybe that Merlin one about rowing, and the one where either Jensen or Jared was a chef, and-- ugh, why aren't thousands more stories leaping to mind immediately? (I know they're out there; I remember reading them.) Help me out, people!
'War Games' by Linda Polman ( Read review )
Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam ( Read review )
I also saw Inception. I didn't love it; it felt hollow to me, like a shiny Christmas cracker with a disposable trinket inside. And yet-- here I am, well into a medium-length story already. Oh well, whatever gets the muse going.
PSA: Remember, it's Ramadan next week!
Detainees Barred From Access to U.S. Courts - So if the US government captures you and sticks you in Guantanamo, you have the right to contest your detention a US federal court. But if it captures you and keeps you in a hole in the ground in Afghanistan, it can do so indefinitely and there's nothing you can do about it. Awesome!
U.S. Approval of Killing of Cleric Causes Unease - The CIA is apparently allowed to kill US expatriates without judicial review. So do you get to find out if you're on the kill list, or is it like the no-fly list-- only instead of getting turned away at the airport without explanation, you get a bomb dropped on your head? (Or the heads of the unfortunate people living next door, as the case may be.)
Obama Jokes About Killing Jonas Brothers With Predator Drones - Yeah, my Pakistani friends found this hilarious. Because, you know, targeted assassinations with substantial civilian collateral are totes funny.
French cabinet approves burqa ban law - Because it's totally all about women's rights. Uh-huh.
Secret plan to boost spying - ASIO gets weapons and ASIS goes paramilitary. Yeah, I can't tell you how many times I've thought: man, Australia is really missing out on the whole 'paramilitary organisations that kidnap and
Drink Up, Dreamers (The Jaded Underworld Remix) - (via lassiterfics) Wonderful Dean-and-Sam-and-Castiel gen story from the remix challenge. Fraught and shivery and full of a feeling of... vast oldness, if that even makes sense.
Why is my list of happymaking things so short? Any recs from you guys?
Misha Collins is apparently roaming Australia looking for kangaroos. I've decided that if I were ever to do that 'five fictional people you'd like to hang out with' meme, Misha would be, like, #3 on my list. Oh, come on, he's totally made up; nobody is actually like that in real life. I particularly like ethrosdemon's story where he hangs with Eric and Pam and does a spot of necromancy.
This video always makes me want to write that mountain-biking GK AU that's been sitting on my mental shelf for, oh, about two years. Seriously: he rides his bike along the top of a spiky metal fence. Part of me thinks it's the most awesome thing ever, but then I can't help thinking about other extreme sport enthusiasts who met sticky ends. It's all fun and games until you end up impaled on a street sign.
I enjoyed aesc's new Dean/Castiel epic, Freedom hangs like Heaven. People rarely write Castiel to my liking (why does a fandom dissolve into sugarpuff marshmallow-land as soon as angels are involved?), but here he's refreshingly cranky-- just like in canon. ("Don't ask stupid questions.")
God, I only ever get this bored when I have essays due. Quick: distract me with a summary of the new Sookie Stackhouse book! Bonus points if Eric's boxers are involved.
(a) Why can't you pick good TV shows to be fannish about? and
(b) How come you have to listen to such shitty music while writing?
I believe the answer to both can be found in this Dean/Castiel vid of awesomeness.
(Yes, so I may have listened to Ke$ha's 'Blah blah blah' exactly 205 times last month while writing an essay on Security Council reform; it has a good beat, okay?)
As my paltry contribution to the chatter, I offer you a book rec:
Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz
I found this by accident as part of my increasingly desperate search for this other Arabian Nights-based novel, title unknown, that I saw last year in Kinokuniya in KL (but, ironically, put aside to buy Mahfouz's 'Cairo Modern' instead). Recently released blue paperback, author possibly called Taufiq someone, first chapter starts with some sultan being forced to take another wife-- a situation he's less than pleased about, because he happens to be very fond of his current one? --Anyone? Sigh.
Anyway. Mahfouz is an Egyptian who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, defended Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' and then got stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife for his troubles (he survived). 'Arabian Nights and Days' was written in 1979, but the translation is fairly new. It's a follow-on of sorts to the Arabian Nights: the Sultan Shahriyar has (temporarily) stopped killing the town's virgin daughters, and his wife Shahrzad (Scheherazade) is wary, pragmatic and resigned to her fate as the one person stopping him from starting it all up again. In a series of interlinked short stories, the novel follows Shahriyar, Shahrzad and various other members of their community as one by one they fall prey to the whims, schemes and tests of the local genies.
What I particularly liked is that each of the stories is a small meditation on morality. Power and opportunity corrupt. In difficult situations, people make even worse choices. Redemption is through the mercy of God. Bad things happen to good people, but bad people do (occasionally) receive their just desserts even in this world, and certainly in the next. I always find it interesting reading this kind of philosophical fiction when it comes from a non-Western, non-Christian frame of reference -- and while I'm fairly sure I didn't understand most of it, I definitely enjoyed it. And I'd read it again, but what with uni and part-time work and the Supernatural story that ate my brain (shut up), I'm currently surprisingly busy.
So, yes. Here I am back in Australia, and feeling pretty weird about it. Reverse culture shock, I think, as well the unsettledness that comes with having bounced constantly between cities for the past fortnight. Things will probably even out in the next couple of weeks as we move permanently down to Melbourne and start semester.
In lieu of actual content, I give you some books I've read recently on various aeroplanes:
De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage. Lebanon torn apart by sectarian violence on the eve of the Israeli invasion in 1982. This novel blew my mind-- the prose is just astoundingly good, balletic and violent and as unique as I've read in a long time. The story itself is masterfully handled, and the ending is like a punch in the face. Follow it with Waltz with Bashir for another perspective.
Wetlands by Charlotte Roche. Ha! I wanted to read this ever since the epic kerfuffle surrounding its original release (in German). It's unashamedly a manifesto -- a call for acknowledgement and ownership of all aspects of our female bodies, no matter how 'disgusting' (shit, piss, secretions, orifices, embarrassing medical conditions, you name it) -- and it definitely comes across as a bit of a one-note piece. I kind of got all I wanted out of it by the second chapter, and the characterisations and ending were fairly unsatisfying. Still! It was interesting gauging my own reactions to the text, especially when reading it in public. Also a great conversation starter-- two separate people (male and female) approached me while I was reading and struck up a conversation about it, both enthusiastically!
Stripping the Body Bare, by Mark Danner. Danner writes on foreign policy for the New York Times and New York Review of Books, and authored some of the NYRB's flagship pieces on torture last year -- including the breaking piece on the leaked ICRC torture report. This collection includes his earlier reporting on Haiti, the Balkans and Rwanda, as well as his ongoing coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan. The sheer breadth of the collection is useful for giving historical context to US foreign policy. The newer articles are available online in various places, but I've found the collection handy for dipping into.
Admin note: I'm slowly trying to consolidate my reading list onto DW, so that's what's up with the defriendings on LJ. This is probably a good time to add that if you've been following me for East Timor or Generation Kill, you may want to give me the boot from your own flist-- I foresee little of either in my immediate future!
I was particularly interested to see a discussion of anorexia in Hong Kong (which ties in with recent discussions about Liz Williams' 'Snake Agent'-- and in fact actually supports that novel's Western-centric use of anorexia in a future Asian city!), and schizophrenia in Zanzibar (which has definite parallels to how mental illness in general is perceived in East Timor). But the whole thing is fascinating-- I strongly recommend it, and I'm putting the book version of the essay (Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by Ethan Watters) on my shopping list right now.
Less pleasingly, I see that Elizabeth Gilbert (she of 'Eat, Pray, Love' fame) has a new book out. Where apparently she takes yet another tour through Asia, briefly interacting with a very limited number of local people but yet somehow able to write all about them. And yes, Curtis Sittenfeld, there's probably a reason 'Eat, Pray, Love' hasn't yet 'hit it big' in South-East Asia*. If I may hazard a guess, might a possible reason be that Asian readers aren't so interested in a fairly wealthy white woman's post-divorce schlepping through their countries to find, you know, spiritual enlightenment?
*Although as I did read the book in a (very poor) Indonesian translation, there must be some demand. And the quality of the translation does have some bearing on my attitude towards the book, given other people have said one of its strongest points is Gilbert's self-deprecating sense of humour (which I either didn't pick up on due to comprehension issues, or the translator didn't manage to convey satisfactorily. I suspect the latter-- not because my Indonesian is flawless, but because the rest of the text is peppered with mistranslations).
Here are some things whut I have particularly enjoyed so far:
The Green Prawn - District 9. Perspectives on the odd prawn.
Made the Lord God to Grow - Near Eastern Mythology, Bible (Old Testament). Yahweh at the beginning.
Telemachies - The Odyssey. Telemachus, in the style of Samuel Beckett?
Complete Blank - Grosse Pointe Blank. Martin and Debi get married. Absolutely delightful.
It's Just the Way the Game is Played - The Wire. Bodie!
No Place for a Street Fighting Man - Generation Kill. Doc Bryan goes to med school. Amazing voices.
It's The Thought That Counts - Harold and Kumar. YES!!
A Room With a View - Temeraire. Perscitia and Kitty Wellington.
How does this fandom have so much awesomeness in it? I really don't know.
Oh -- and I figure that everyone who wants one probably already has one, but if anyone wants a Dreamwidth invite, I've two to give away. Send me an email at inekemeyer at gmail if you want in.
Speaking of Dreamwidth, I figure you may have noticed I've joined the Great Fannish Migration of 2009 and become tevere. But I'll be cross-posting to tevere for the foreseeable future. Comments at both places, at least for the time being.
I mean, dude! I'm not reading vampire fiction for the realism! Is it too much to ask that my after-work escapism remains untainted by this-- this thing that everyone must insist on talking about day and night?
Separately, and because I'm tired to the point of non-functionality after a week of obnoxious plane travel, all I can do is gesture limply in the direction of hollycomb's fearsomely good Calvin and Hobbes story, Theories About Nuclear Winter (Calvin/Susie, as teenagers). This is the story you never knew you wanted.
Why is nobody talking about the new X-Men movie? It's good, y'all! I mean, except for the bit where they mock the overweight. And casually reference crimes against humanity in Vietnam. Aside from that, I liked it! PS: HUGH JACKMAN.
I was quite proud of it, though eventually made a half-hearted effort to pull it apart (resulting in what might now be termed a 'dread clump'). Google tells me that I've been inadvertently following the unfavoured 'neglect' method of forming dreads -- and now, on closer inspection, I can see that after more than eighteen months of no conditioner and no brushing, my hair has kind of separated itself into long, individual locks with varying degrees of internal cohesion. I hadn't really noticed, since the matting starts in at the ends and works its way upwards. The roots are still smooth, and they're generally all I notice when have my hair tied back the way it always is.
I'm half-tempted to encourage my hair to dread up entirely. I do, however, have the following concerns:
- How do I make sure the insides of the dreads are completely dry after washing, given that I can't be bothered blow-drying?
- If the insides aren't dry, will my hair go mouldy?
- Is it unreasonable of me to do it if The Boy disapproves?
- Can you still put your hair up in a way that guarantees no part of it will touch the back of your neck? (I hate the feeling of hair touching the back of my neck, especially in hot climates.)
- Are dreadlocks actually considered 'acceptable' these days in white-collar office environments?
In other news, the second season of So You Think You Can Dance: Australia started last week! Too early for me to be attached to any of the competitors yet, but there's already been some stellar performances, and I'm glad to see the Asians representing *fist bump*. I don't think there were any Asians in the Top Twenty of the first three seasons of the US series (although I think there was a Korean girl in S4, which I haven't seen yet). And it's interesting to see which styles are more popular in Australia than in America, and vice versa. Australian auditions seem to see more jazz, tap and drag (is 'drag' a style?), but less krumping and ballroom.
(ETA: Because I'm an unremembering idiot, norah reminds me that there have been four Asians in US SYTYCD: Ryan and Melody from S1, Hok from S3, and Katee from S4.)
Also, you should all check out norah's fabulously hot and kinky little number If Love is a Red Dress, based on this SYTYCD S4 performance of awesomeness.
Extra also, is it just me or has SPN been knocking it out of the park for these last couple of episodes? I was toying with calling it quits after that horrible mid-season Ben Edlund patch, but Friday's episode just KILLED ME DED.
And next Friday is TSCC! Life is good, my friends.
(Thanks for all the cat-wishes, by the way.)
1 cup self-raising flour
5T castor sugar
1 cup (approx) chopped dark chocolate
2t whole flaxseed, ground and added to 1.5T water, stirred until goopy
160ml soy milk
1/4 cup oil
Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix. Pour into greased muffin pan and cook for 20-25 minutes at 190C (375F). Makes six medium muffins, i.e. one for you, one for morning tea tomorrow, and a couple for your least hated colleagues. Recipe adapted from here.
Having moved to a land deprived of the ethical egg (the choices being imported cage eggs, or a 50% hit ratio on rotten egg when purchased from the local market), I've actually become quite the convert to flaxseed as an egg replacer. Also, you can just keep the seeds in a jar and grind them when you need them, which saves having eggs kicking around the fridge for yonks. Extra also, people can send you flaxseed by international mail. Free-range eggs, not so much.
The other thing on my mind tonight, besides the craving for chocolate baked goods, is the realisation that I just used the word 'blessed' in an LJ comment. As in, "I'm blessed because [xyz]." As an atheist, I'm usually fairly careful about trying to use secular terminology wherever possible. I've scolded The Boy for using 'sin' as a shorthand for 'deliberately causing harm', had epic arguments about whether or not 'good' and 'evil' actually have meaning in a secular context (The Boy studied computer science and I studied engineering, so we never had these arguments in university like the humanities kids), and (so far unsuccessfully) tried to ban Christmas entirely from our household.
I suppose what I was reaching for was the more unwieldy concept of 'good fortune without having done anything to particularly deserve it'. To me, the word 'blessed' implies a certain element of intentionality. I was chosen. Everything happens for a reason. I guess I think about it like this: when I look around, I can think of ways in which I'm more fortunate than pretty much everyone I see. Call it luck, call it privilege, whatever -- but what it doesn't mean is that I'm intrinsically more special in any way. I'm just a regular person chosen by the cosmic dice. But if I turn it around to thinking that I'm more blessed than everyone around me, suddenly it's no longer random. It's about me, an intrinsic quality of me. And... now I have no idea why I'm discussing semantics, when I started off talking about chocolate cake.
Speaking of good and evil, or perhaps merely of 'people whose lives have sucked more than my own', you should all now go away and read And then they came for me, a shudderingly affecting posthumous editorial by murdered Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga.
Say what you like about my government, at least it hasn't tried to hurt or injure or murder me.* Which, sadly, yet again makes me more fortunate than pretty much everyone in the world.
*Though it has, of course, hurt and injured and killed many, many others, and continues to do so.