Jan. 24th, 2013

tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
So, a common piece of advice to the new parent is to try and take a nap whenever your baby's asleep. But I swear to god, I have never encountered anything quite so infuriatingly infantilising as The Boy's mother constantly asking if I plan to take an afternoon nap. Uh, hello, I may be the caretaker of an infant, but I am still a fucking adult and I have SHIT TO DO during the day, okay.

Random thing the first: My good friend [livejournal.com profile] supacat is one of the smartest women I know, and the best I've ever met at understanding and explaining the nuances of storytelling technique. Her amazing Captive Prince series is deservedly well-known, and now the first two books are finally available for purchase in paperback and ebook! For all those people who've been putting off reading CP "because it's a WIP; I can't bear WIPs", take this as an opportunity to think of it in mainstream-publishing terms: it's two fully-satisfying, full-length novels that just happen to comprise Parts 1 and 2 of a trilogy, with the third and final installment forthcoming. It's the perfect time to give this incredible page-turner a chance, so please do!

Random thing the second, less pleasing: Judge rules that it's okay that British undercover police had sex with members of the activist communities they infiltrated, because James Bond did it. Yes, as far as I know it's not illegal for someone to instigate a sexual relationship premised on a false understanding of one's identity, e.g. someone saying they're single when they're not, or whatever. (Let's not discuss the case of that Palestinian guy who allegedly said he was Jewish; I don't know the details, I don't know Israel.) It's a dick move, no doubt. But there's a difference between something being 'not illegal' and being an activity condoned by, or directed by, the state. What about the children born from these unions? False name on their birth certificate? No recourse to child support? No access to medical histories? General abandonment issues when their parent fucks off, never to be found again? Again, lots of people fuck off and never see their children again; some people are dicks. But that's different from it being the result of an official police operation. Setting aside the question of whether or not the police should be infiltrating activist communities, there's absolutely no good reason for undercover operatives to be having sex with the people they're targeting: nobody needs to use sex to obtain information, or to build trust, or gain standing within a community. There will always be another way. Be better at your job; don't fucking rely on the lazy, unethical approach, and if you need sex, get it elsewhere. ALSO JAMES BOND IS NOT A GOOD FOUNDATION FOR A LEGAL RULING ON POLICE ETHICS, JUST SAYING.

Reading meme

I enjoy seeing what other people are reading! I feel very scattered in my reading at the moment, mainly because a lot of my available reading time is sucked up by research for an original fic project, and partly because I'm more distractible these days.

What I'm Reading

Return of the Condor Heroes (神鵰俠侶), Jin Yong. Given how well-known Jin Yong's wuxia stories are throughout Asia, it's amazing how hard it is to get hold of English translations. I'm reading a serviceable-enough fan translation. This series was recommended to me by a Chinese friend as a good example of a pop-culture product that says a lot about Chinese philosophy. I must admit I'm finding the martial arts sequences boring (I prefer them filmed), and the surprise stranger rape as a plot device to separate the hero and heroine was unnecessary, but I'm gradually getting into it.

Binu and the Great Wall, Su Tong. A nicely-written but fairly straightforward retelling of the myth of the woman whose husband was worked to death on the construction of the Great Wall, by the guy who wrote Raise the Red Lantern. Reading this retelling of a well-known story reminds me of an article I read last year that claimed that a (supposed) lack of creativity and innovation in Asia was the result of rote learning in schools. "What point is there in memorising a bunch of Tang Dynasty poems?" I believe the article asked (I paraphrase). I'm not an expert in Chinese literature or pedagogy by any means, but a few things occur to me. Classical Chinese literature was highly allusive, and in addition to that often used and retold and refashioned elements from older stories. As an educated individual you knew the canon back-to-front (the novels, the poems, the myths, the works of philosophy), which when encountering new material allowed you to recognise the origins of the material as well as the allusions within it to the existing body of works. And when you wrote something, you reached back into those works to make your own allusions. Like the shared sensibilities and conversations we have in the world of fanworks, allusions and retellings weren't stale repetition and a 'lack of orginality': they created a depth of meaning and an intertextuality; they placed works within an ongoing conversation. It's creativity that doesn't necessarily rest on invention, and I think that's what people miss when they issue blanket statements like, "Rote learning kills creativity."

What I Just Finished

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, Adam Phillips. When I read a review of this, I thought the premise was compelling: we're all haunted by the lives we haven't lived, the unrealised promises of our childhood specialness and 'potential', the paths not taken. We live in envy of what could have been, what we might have been. It's a fairly privileged worldview he's looking at, I think; some more than others are told from birth how special they are, how much potential they have, and then suffer the attendant disappointments. (See also criticism of Anne-Marie Slaughter's piece about being told she could 'have it all', and her realisation that she couldn't.) I can put my hand up as someone who was always told she was gifted and special, and I certainly haven't fulfilled any of those expectations in the way it was wished of me, but I'm at peace with that. I have a strong vision of my unlived life-- it's always singular, as there were three distinct branching points I think would have led me to the same place-- and it makes me shudder and think, repeatedly, how lucky I am. If I were religious, I'd say: but for the grace of God, there go I. Anyway! Don't read this book, it's a load of old-school psychoanalytic codswallop that I found an unreadable mess. I couldn't finish it.

Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living with Mindfulness, Ezra Bayda. I have a soft spot for self-helpy books about mindfulness and meditation. A couple of new meditation techniques, and some Zen-ish, CBT-ish ways of dealing with emotional discomfort. Quite useful for my needs, but I think it's hard to offer objective assessments about anything on this topic.

What I'm Reading Next

Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You, Jerome Groopman

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, Andrew Solomon

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