And today's Guardian is all over the tender passion in the Weekend Magazine as well as a supplement on romance blossoming for people who did the Blind Dates feature.
Long-term love and various lit figures on the loved and lost - props to Margaret Drabble for this being a female friendship, which are what I tend to look back on with regret. Whereas with romantic partners, so often the feeling is 'whoa, lucky escape!'
However, and perhaps with a touch of irony, the review section has Sarah Waters talking about F Tennyson Jesse's A Pin to See the Peepshow and the Thompson/Bywaters case.
No, really, is it the case that the use of (animal) pet names for one's lovers is a distancing strategy? Philip Larkin appears to have been quite a lot about the distancing, but I'm not sure that one can make any universal point there.
Am sending an anonymous text to the Ponceyness Police to go and introduce Andrew O'Hagan to Mr Codfish: 'Not since James Joyce's Molly Bloom has a woman in literature spoken up for the true properties of her sex.' Oh, but he is a MAN and therefore must know...
A little bit of background, in case you missed my post that announced that I was doing one-off reviews! I have feelings about books, and I feel weird not writing them down. I DO. This is what this site has done to me! So, I’ll be bringing single reviews back to the site to discuss entire books, and this is what I’m starting with: Veronica Roth’s Divergent.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of abuse, racism, and violence.
I suppose I didn’t have much knowledge of the series going into it, aside from knowing that it was a dystopian YA novel. I hadn’t seen the trailer, though I’d seen commentary about whitewashing in the film adaptation. That’s it. Lots of my friends had either read the trilogy or loved it, but it just never got on my radar. Which is understandable! I kind of have a lot going on in my life.
But then, I was asked to cover for a friend of mine who could not be on a panel she helped design and plan for LeakyCon 2014: Disabilities in YA. And one of the main series she wanted the panel to focus on? Divergent. So I felt compelled to read the source material so that I wasn’t doing research at the last minute to be informed for the panel. Thankfully, the entire trilogy was on sale in the Kindle store, so lo and behold, I read Divergent in a single sitting from San Francisco to Orlando.
It’s a brisk read, despite being nearly 500 pages long. Roth’s prose flows rapidly on the pages, and I admit that I liked the simplicity of it. It’s a complex story, which isn’t always a good thing, so I appreciated that Tris’s narration moved so quickly. The tense? Yeah, I wasn’t really into first person present, so I’m thankful that otherwise, I was able to get into her style.
I don’t know, however, that I could have gotten through the first fifty pages if I hadn’t intended to finish it in a single sitting. I’m a fast reader, granted, and fifty pages is less than an hour of reading for me. But I had problems with the novel right from the start, and unfortunately, they didn’t disappear as I got further into the meat of the story. Simply put, I am still flabbergasted by the setup in this world. As of right now, I’m nearly halfway through Insurgent, and I keep waiting for someone – anyone, at this point – to just tell me how the fuck this universe is even possible. We’re told right off the bat that this world is split into five factions that keep order possible, and kids test into the right faction at sixteen. (I assume that it’s everyone who is sixteen at the time of the annual test, right? I don’t think it was everyone’s sixteenth birthday the day of Tris’s test, but that’s how little sense this makes.) What blows my mind about this whole thing is that at the end of the day, you can just choose to be in another faction. If that’s the case, why the fuck are there tests anyway? Why are people so shocked about the existence of divergent people if someone can be raised in one culture/faction but choose another? Clearly, people can possess two attributes at once, right? Like…
Okay, I realize that trying to parse this is an act of futility in one sense, since a lot of dystopian environments aren’t supposed to make sense in terms that we understand. But my problems with the factions comes from some place else: I don’t think the worldbuilding makes a whole lot of sense. Is there no central figure or organization that created this whole thing? What happened out in the world to bring about this version of Chicago? Do other cities have a similar set-up, or are we meant to assume that Chicago is the only place that survived…. something? I suppose that speaks to another issue I had with the book, which is that Roth dangles a lot of mysteries in front of the reader, and not a single one of them ever feels like they’re answered with any satisfaction. Which is okay in and of itself, because lord knows I love a good serialized narrative. But to give us so little to go on feels like cheating, because the mystery here isn’t the Erudite and Dauntless collaboration. I am far more interested in finding out what the hell happened to make this all possible, and I don’t get anything on that front. Oh, we get close when Roth begins to peel back the layers on Natalie and Andrew Prior, but nope! DEAD. No hope!
And seriously, let me get to the one thing that is pretty unforgivable for me. I can accept that it might take Insurgent and Allegiant to explain some of these issues. I might have to write a review admitting how wrong I was! But if you are going to set a book in Chicago, then I have to ask: Where are all the black people? Like… are they all factionless? If so, there’s absolutely no critical gaze turned towards that idea. Look, Chicago has been a majority-minority city (meaning that the non-white population actually outnumbers the usual majority white population) since at least 2000, probably earlier than that. I do not expect all of my fiction to be literate in critical race theory. I do expect that when an author chooses cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, NYC, etc., for their work, they understand that if they portray said cities as mostly white, they are actively erasing or ignoring what those cities are like. WHERE ARE THEY. Why are most of the characters in this book white?
I’m hoping that some of the conversation in the comments might clear up some misconceptions or misunderstandings on my part, but there’s a lot more going on here that pretty much kept me stuck on the fence regarding Divergent. Tris is perplexing to me, though that’s usually a good thing. If we accept that this novel is an exploration of identity, then I think it’s fairly realistic that Tris doesn’t always make sense. I don’t want my heroes and protagonists to be without flaws, and truthfully, a lot of Tris’s anxiety helped make her a lot more understandable to me. Finding out you’re leaving the faction you grew up with is bad enough, but to add the whole divergent thing on top of that? I think Roth did a fine job exploring how fucked up that would be for a person. Which is why Four works so well as Tris’s companion throughout the novel! He’s been through this very same struggle, too, though his situation is even more complex than Tris’s. His father abused him, which influenced his decision to go to Dauntless, and he’s got a past in Abnegation, too.
As for their romance? I admit it didn’t do much for me, though I am into stories where couples/partners work together to solve a problem. That made all their angst and disagreements a tad irritating to me because I kept wanting to shout that THE WORLD IS ENDING, GO DEAL WITH THAT OKAY. But I understood why these two were paired with one another!
What I totally did not expect was how relentlessly fucked up this book was. From the threats of sexual assault, to Al’s suicide, to the way that Dauntless is perfectly fine casting undesirables out of their faction, to THE ENTIRE LAST SET OF SCENES WHERE EVERYONE IS DYING AND WHAT THE FUCK, this book was incredibly disturbing. Some of it worked, but I found that I wanted more of a critical eye in the text when it came to certain aspects of the Dauntless world that were so upsetting. Like, isn’t stabbing someone in the eye in the middle of the night a sign of cowardice? Why didn’t anyone in Dauntless go after Peter? How on Earth did Dauntless come to develop such a brutal stance on who to accept, and how the fuck do they ever get new members? Why haven’t they died out yet???
As for the climax of the novel, it left me with more questions than elation or thrills. I still don’t know how this world came about, and while there’s a decent amount of explanation for the friction between factions, I was still confused as to why any faction would risk tearing apart this system in order to wield control. And what’s with Roth writing Erudite as utterly irredeemable? That caught me off guard. It’s almost like how Rowling wrote Slytherin at times, isn’t it? Basically, I feel like Roth was holding out on me in the end of Divergent. Clearly, Jeanine has something else planned, and the Priors knew way more about… something? They knew something about stuff for reasons? I dunno, I think it’s dangerous to withhold this much in your first novel, because I felt bewildered by the end of Divergent. I wanted to like the characters more, but I felt like I just had a billion questions that weren’t answered at all.
SO, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK? Please mind our normal commenting policy; all spoilers for anything beyond this book must be put in rot13. My next one-off will be for Insurgent once I finish it!
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OK, so I’m nowhere near Benji Franklin or Norm Rockwell. But it is Saturday, and that means it is time to bring out the “mag”… otherwise known as the stew of articles that caught my eye over this busy week:
- Jews in the South. If you get Reform Judaism magazine (as I do), you’ve seen those ads where the community of Dothan AL offers to pay Jews to move there. Ever wonder if it works? Here’s an article from the Forward that looks at the program and its successes… and failures.
- Perhaps the Older Ways are Better. If you’re like me, you dutifully rerecorded your records onto each new medium. I had a large cassette collection, which I rerecorded onto CDs. I’ve also added a large number of purchased CDs. But are CDs the best way to store things? It turns out that not all CDs last the same, and most don’t last anywhere near forever. Good thing I’ve got my music on my hard drive in a format that will never go away – MP3s
- Eating Food Right. Here’s a list of 25 foods that (supposedly) we’ve been eating the wrong way. Some of these I’ve seen before (such as the cupcake sandwich). Others are useful information for my daughter, such as using a waffle iron for pizza or hash browns. Others are cool, such as putting bacon in your cinnamon roles. I like the salad in a jar, m’self.
- Sound in a Bowl. From salad in a jar to sound in a bowl. The Hollywood Bowl, to be precise. Here’s an interesting article on the job of the sound technicians at the Hollywood Bowl. Most people don’t think about the sound designers … and that’s how they would like it.
- Tracking You. Perhaps you’ve heard that Google is tracking every move. Here’s another one: The new Corvette tracks everything that a valet driver does in the car. Now when you hand over your keys, you can know if they are going on a joyride. Let’s add one more to the tracking: DirecTV and Dish are teaming up to send political ads to just your television.
- I Don’t Recall. Speaking about vehicles, the government has released a useful new tool. Enter your VIN, find out if there are any recalls for your car.
- It Adds Up. Ever wonder about those partially used bars of soap from your hotel visits? Think they go to waste? Nope. Hotels recycle them to make new bars of soap for the homeless.
- Unknown Features. Here’s a useful list of the top 14 hidden features in Windows, iOS, and Android. I particularly like Win-X on Windows. I’ll have to explore developer mode on Android (of course, they don’t mention the most useful feature that is non-obvious: how to do cut and paste on Android). Since we’re talking computer stuff, here are 26 favorite fonts you can get for free (such as the Disney font).
- You Go Girl. And lastly, some good news. Women are dominating science and math at Cal State Northridge.
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It was not a good day to try to go straight, Kasanoda Ayaka thought as she leaned over her fallen friend Kibayashi Kaori.
And I wrote Alterations, which is ... another Capital Scandal fic. YOU'RE ALL SHOCKED. It's about Yeong Ran and Choi Hak Hee postcanon, and if you don't know who Choi Hak Hee is, that's OK, because I totally didn't know her name until I desperately went searching for "Na Yeo Kyung's mother" on dramawiki sites.
My bio for Hoyden still reads:
This page is the only place in the entire Hoyden community where Mary dares to confess that she is not especially interested in Doctor Who. She hastens to assure Hoyden‘s dedicated readers that she has nothing but affection for otters.
This is no longer quite true: I now watch the big events. I saw the 50th anniversary episode, the last Christmas episode and I have every intention of watching the first Capaldi episode and seeing how it goes. Thus, a thread!
Note on times:
In Australia, the ABC will simulcast the episode with the BBC. This means it will screen at 4:50am AEST on Sunday August 25 (4:20am ACST, 2:50am AWST). It becomes available on ABC iview at the end of the screening and will also repeat at 7:40pm in prime time.
No spoilers before broadcast please. Once the ABC and BBC broadcasts begin, this thread should be assumed to contain spoilers.
Fandom: Captain America (Movies), Marvel Cinematic Universe
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: Author Chose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Relationships: James "Bucky" Barnes & Steve Rogers
Characters: James "Bucky" Barnes, Steve Rogers
Additional Tags: Amnesia, Mind Control, Mind Control Aftermath & Recovery, Hurt/Comfort, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Post-Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Summary: "Do you remember anything?" the man says. "Do you know who you are?"
He stares, trying to connect himself as he is now to something that existed before. There is nothing, and the concept fits strangely in his head, unsettled and instinctive and repulsive at the same time.
"No," he says finally.
This is a lovely, wrenching take on certain post-CA:TWS themes, and I thoroughly adored it.
Workstuff: It was supposed to be the day for a fix release on the helpdesk software. We'll see how things are on Monday. We'll also see how my workload is going into Labor Day weekend -- Hipster Researcher has announced intent to come back from a conference with audio recordings. Since the point of my ridiculously detailed notes from 2nd Thursday is that we can't retain audio on the servers, he may have to cut bait if my workload is too high to spare time for that.
I have the butterfly & Gaiman package of BPAL from synecdochic! This whole thing is so much fun. And I have run into some scents that maybe I don't want to keep, which means eventual delight for someone else! (Either that or a garlic wine/cherry lime horrorsyrup situation, where the vessel of woe is tested by a succession of people until it is gone.)
It was beer bash day. I brought my own bottle of non-beer and secured a table. phone joined me, and Purple, and some of the guys. "Hi guys!" said Lennon Glasses Guy, and then realized that technically, if "guys" is gendered, I am the odd man out. So to speak. I allowed as how since I wasn't presenting particularly femme at that point, I wasn't particularly offended. Purple pointed out that the hat (a black floppy-brimmed sun hat, one of the woven paper and plastic thread ones that I go through slightly slower not-in-Arizona) wasn't particularly butch. I allowed as how the skirt of the day was fairly butch. Then we discussed how to butch up that hat. "A beer hat!" Purple declared. Yes. That is butch. Then we figured out how to *un*-butch the beer hat: fancy drinks (possibly with lots of fruit) in lieu of beers. Purple's brain got stuck on the mental image of the mojito-hat, and seemed to sort of white out from glee.
( A few of us made dinner plans. )
While we were cruising through an intersection, there came a honking from the right lane. Purple, who had been driving, hadn't registered the same level of detail I had. "The Civic cut in from the right and was going too slow for the Subaru, who was pretty mad judging from the way it honked," I explained. Purple had thought as much, but he'd been watching different parts of the road. Then traffic slowed hella down and halted for a traffic light, just as the Civic got out of the way of the Subaru and wound up in front of us, which put us about in line with the Subaru. "It's phone!" I said, and busted up laughing. Indeed, the somewhat honky driver of the Subaru was in fact our co-worker and friend. "Hey phone!" Everybody's windows were down. He heard his name (much to his surprise), looked over, saw us, and we had a short and hilarious chat until the light turned green and we headed off thattaway.
( Parking shenanigans and dinner. )
R and the Other Guy had ordered with dessert in mind. Then we learned that the place does not do dessert! So we set forth into the foodie district of downtown Palo Alto with dessert in mind.
The first place was too crowded. (Purple spoke up in praise of my being decisive, even though it was decisovely negative.) The place across the street was too young and hip. The place across the other street said it was "so good." We elected skepticism, and looked at all the buzzwords on the windows. The next place did have a dessert menu, but it also looked kinda trendy and such. ( Dessert was eventually accomplished. )
I laughed a lot tonight. I feel great.
It was not one of the bunnies; it was the fox who lives on the golf course across the street. He was just chilling out about three feet away from me, on the edge of the driveway just by the back lawn.
Looking at him was apparently enough to spook him, because he trotted down the driveway, head held high, then waited for the oncoming car to pass before darting out and walking along the side of the road for a few feet before dashing into our bushes by the sidewalk and loping off across our neighbor's front yard. I told him I hoped he had a good night and took my roses inside. :)
(It's kind of awesome living on the edges of the city but with such a great expanse of space across the street from us: the country club's been there forever so we know they're not going to sell to a developer and have McMansions turn up across the street in a year or two, and all that green space attracts all kinds of wildlife.)
BPAL Tags: Biblical - Antichrist, Carnation, Haughty, Lavender, Leather, Musk - White, Nobility, Sage, Vanilla, Wood - Cedar
In the vial: Cedar, something faintly sweet, something that's probably leather.
Wet: Cedar, carnations, and yep that's leather. At nose-to-skin distance there's also a little pencil shavings.
30 minutes: Cedar sweetened by carnations and vanilla, and then the leather pops and makes it more complex. Not getting any lavender at all.
Five Hours: Mellow blended cedar/sweet/leather.
Love this and want it. It was a frimp Synecdochic sent me and it was on my wish list because of a comment on a review. I dislike lavender, and generally like leather but had no idea what it would be like in a scent. Never would have wish-listed it without that comment.
The comment described it as Ronan Dex walking in the woods with a few crushed flowers underfoot. That was … a really vivid scent image.
I have actually used "marzipan" as a skin tone. Also cream, peach, toast, porcelain, bisque, alabaster, grub (as in insect, not food), and uncooked bread dough. (Some of the descriptions were from a less-than-positive perspective.) Also in the white-people range are the pinkish-fair tones that are not copper, so things like ruddy, flushed, coral, and rosy apply.
Kay in Schrodinger's Heroes is Hispanic, but has fair skin, which I have described as vanilla latte: a dark cream or the palest possible brown.
Then there was the time I spent over an hour hunting around for synonyms and metaphors of "brown" that were based on things NOT associated with the slave trade, preferably things relating to African culture. Kola nut was a favorite. Ebony, which is dark brown to black, is a sacred wood in Africa and thus legit.
My desertfolk often have two or three colortones combined: rose-gold, rose-mocha, toasted-peaches-and-cream. It's very rare to see truly pale skin or very dark skin in the Whispering Sands, but they cover an enormous range in between with subtle and complex variations of ruddy, shadowy, and tawny hues. Very beautiful. Oh, and to them "melon" is specifically the color of ladyparts and they make jokes about it.
Both sea otter and river otter lovers will be happy today – it’s bonus Double Otter Day! Our Open Thread this weekend is hosted by these whispering Asian Short-Clawed otters, courtesy of Tim Dutton on flickr:
And this sea otter, cuddling a clump of kelp. Why? I have no clue. This is by J. Maughn, also on flickr.
Please feel free to use this thread to natter about anything your heart desires. Is there anything great happening in your life? Anything you want to get off your chest? Reading a good book (or a bad one)? Anything in the news that you’d like to discuss? What have you created lately? Commiserations, felicitations, temptations, contemplations, speculations?