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1.06: In which it's time for another round of everyone's favourite dysfunctional Vulcan family saga. Luckily for me, since I eat this stuff up with a spoon.
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My son attends an early college high school. What that means is that he’s in his junior year and is now taking all college classes. He’s always looked to me for help with his writing courses and writing assignments. Since I used to be a university English professor, I’ve a pretty good handle on essay writing and academic writing. His midterms for his English classes have been in-class essays. He’s a slow writer–he’s a science kid, and so he likes to write very carefully and slowly to be sure it’s right. I’m working on helping him learn the drafting/revision process. Anyhow, he’s got a midterm coming up. He likes to do a practice prewrite before so he has his head wrapped around the subject and what he wants to say. He can’t take it in, but it helps him cement his ideas for the exam.
His topic is on Orwell’s 1984. I haven’t read it in years. Years and years and years. So I’m rereading it now and it’s really surreal to encounter all the stuff that has become so central to today’s world. Not just Big Brother, but newspeak and doublethinking. It also represents a lot of what I wrote about in my dissertation–a system of social surveillance/self-patrol that’s built on Jeremy Bentham’s concept of prison.
I like to go back and reread books. Some people don’t. My son doesn’t like to. My daughter reads and rereads and rereads again and again and again. A few years back, I went through my shelves and took off all the books that I wouldn’t be rereading. I probably got a lot of them wrong, but decided that I was doing a little too much rereading instead of attacking my TBR mountain.
I did not get rid of my most favorites, or the books in unfinished series. I tend to reread series books with every new release. The problem is that none of that helped. I only acquired more books and my mountain kept rising. Making matters worse is the fact that I’ll buy books that sound good, and then when I get them, I’m not in the mood to read them. I find myself craving comfort-reads. Books that I know will satisfy and make me happy and don’t offer a lot of upsetting surprises.
I decided it’s because the world today has been too surprising and sad and difficult. I like reading books with a happily ever after, or a good triumphs over evil theme. I also like some of the comfort reads from when I was much younger, although some of those don’t hold up as well as I’d like. But the Riddle Master of Hed series is one I love. Robin McKinley’s Sunshine is another. Anything Jane Austen. Roger Zelazny’s Amber series. Lee and Miller’s Liaden books. There are a lot more.
I like Christmas romances a lot, and now’s the season. But so far, those I’ve been reading aren’t all that pleasing. I’m trying to decide if it’s something with me and figure out what I can do about it. I’ve been having some issues writing, too. But that’s a story for another time.
What are your favorite comfort reads? When do you go to them?
And I’ve a non-BVC book coming out in a couple of weeks. It’s the fourth in my Diamond City Magic series. Check it out on my website and read the first two chapters.
- There are, happily, new breeds of coffee plants being bred to cope with climate change. The Toronto Star reports.
- High labour and infrastructure costs means that Ethiopia is the only African power likely to challenge China in manufactures. Quartz reports.
- Wired's Kevin Kelly is perhaps on a limb in suggesting the lifestyle of Mongolian nomads is a viable world model.
- The flowing waters of icy Mars were icy, as Universe Today reports.
- Bad Astronomer Phil Plait reports on the naming of the features of the surface of Ceres.
- D-Brief notes that small-scale robotic manufacturing is now a thing.
- The Dragon's Gaze reports on a new study of exoplanets and their stars.
- The Dragon's Tales has a nice round-up of news on hominin research and primates generally.
- Hornet Stories notes that there is apparently a debate about women as drag queens. I don't see why they should not, frankly.
- Joe. My. God links to a Rolling Stone article celebrating Erotica and Sex, by Madonna, on their 25th anniversary.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the way Dollar General caters to a permanent underclass. Like Dollarama in Canada?
- Language Hat notes that Xibe, related to Manchu, is receiving protection from China.
- The NYR Daily reports on the mass killings, approaching genocide, in Indonesia in 1965.
- Starts With A Bang's Ethan Siegel reports on the proofs we have for the current age of the universe.
Two thoroughly exhausting (but mostly in a good way) weeks are behind me; first the Frankfurt Book Fair, then a workshop (in a splendid environment, but still, it was work from morning till night). Hence no posts; I could only get online very briefly.
( Macron, Merkel, Rushdie, Atwood et all under the cut )
Back in Oxford, I'm really missing it. I would go to church much more if it could be this simple - if I could just pop in between the farmer's market and the cafe as part of my weekend routine. In the week and a half I was in Russia, I went to more church services than I've been to in years. (Not to mention wore a headscarf more than I ever have... it was a good chance to use all the scarves I have lying around.)
Really I shouldn't complain. I know there are places, like in the American South, where you have to drive for hours to get to an Orthodox church. I grew up in a town with one, and I've just discovered that we have four here in Oxford, not two as I'd originally thought.
• the Greek Orthodox/Russian Orthodox one, the oldest Orthodox church in Oxford and the home of Kallistos Ware, which is unfortunately a long walk from my house
• the other Russian Orthodox church (Patriarchate of Moscow), which is also a bit of a hike
• a Romanian Orthodox church
• an Indian Orthodox church (Malenkara Orthodox Syrian)
Whether or not I manage to get off my couch within the next half an hour to go to church this morning, I must definitely plan to visit the latter two sometime - particularly the last, as I've never been to an Oriental Orthodox church before. We shall see...
ETA: I ended up going to the other Russian church, which I hadn't visited before in its new home, and turns out to be only 20 minutes walk. Not too bad.
Leaving M.C. Escher in Het Paleis, Hannah and I asked for directions to the Mauritshuis, The Royal Cabinet of Paintings, home of Dutch golden age art. It was always “Well, you walk across there and take the first right.” Or, “You walk across there and take the first left”, always with a vague wave of the hand pointing across a square toward a canal.
We passed a cello-maker. Since my husband once played one, I took a photo for him. The canals—of course there were canals—glistened like steel under the gray skies.
Hannah’s gift of navigation paid off, and we found ourselves entering a broad plaza bordered by straight-up Dutch structures housing Holland governmental bureaus. The only problem was, there was no indication of which housed the museum. We wandered through a gate toward a church, reversed directions, and going through an iron gate we asked a security guard standing in front of a lavish, mustard-colored mansion.
Of course, this was the Mauritshuis. (Maurice House is the English translation, according to Wikipedia.) It was originally the house of John Maurice, the Governor of Dutch Brazil. Imagine the Dutch in Brazil. They did get around back in the day.
The entry was to the side, down stairs that sank below the level of the canal. Through a gap in the wall we could look on the water dotted with bits of trash.
After purchasing our tickets, and having our purses scrutinized by a guard, we took the stairs up to the museum. My Belgian colleagues had called out the jewel of the art museum: Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring.
The Flemish school of painters flourished on and off from the 15th to the 17th Century in the Low Countries along the North Sea. Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Brueghel and more. The best known works are Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Rembrandt) and Rubens’ Night Scene.
These were all astonishing, but what I found myself obsessed with were the still lifes.
In the dozen or so I studied, all floral arrangements that the Dutch painters were admired for, I discovered an interesting similarity. There was a central vase loaded with oriental lilies, tulips, peonies, roses. On the table top on which the vase was placed, were more objects. As you face the painting, there was always an insect on the table to the right, and a fallen stem or bloom on the left.
The arrangement was the same, but the content differed. There were always flowers, but the insect prop could be a beetle, lady bug, butterfly, honey bee. The fallen stem may be a flower, or a leaf, or fruit, but the composition rules were always strictly followed.
Tired but pleased with our trek, we walked back to the train station. The interior of the Den Haag cafes were jammed with folks in the late afternoon. I wished I had stopped in one for dinner, since the Hilton restaurant was getting tiresome. Next time I stay on the train into Amsterdam and find myself a beer hall. Although my Belgian friends tell me Belgium has much better beer.
I was thinking how I came up against that wall around the same age, a bit earlier, and went looking for "world" stuff or just anything not English, US based, "western culture" wanting to see anything possible. Anthologies were good or looking by specific country or ethnicity. I would root through any library or bookstore. Encyclopedias too. The indexes of books were super instructive. It took just years for me to have any real handle on the depth of the problems of histories but it was clear from the beginning that A LOT WAS WRONG. I didn't go into that (right now it is better if I listen to him than talk about my own thoughts)
Anyway! I'm so, so proud of Moomin and his excitement about scholarly things. I feel like no matter what he does in life he will have that kind of love of books and knowledge and stories.
He also really loved Gilgamesh so I am going to show him those awesome debates online between Hoe and Plough, Fish and Bird, etc.
Deuce of Gears
A cog in the machine. Pawn of powers beyond your control.
(Yes, Jedao was being snarkastic when he chose it for his emblem.)
Also, I love my catten but...she's not very bright? She likes to sit on the ping pong table and will remain sprawled on it when the Dragon and I start up a game. The ball hits her in the leg, she remains sprawled. It took the next ball hitting her in the snout for her to skitter-kitter off the table. *facepalm*
That's not the part where she's not very bright. The part where she's not very bright is that she was on the ping pong table during a game yesterday and got hit in the snout by a ball then, causing her to skitter-kitter off the table. You would think she'd figure out that ping pong game in progress = don't sprawl on the table waiting to be hit in the snout?
Back to work...