missroserose: (Book Love)
[personal profile] missroserose
Hello, book friends! Last Friday I announced my intention to pursue music again and bought a piano, despite my historic ambivalence on the musical/performing front. And then while writing about that ambivalence here on DW, I hit a serious patch of Feels. Like, angry, ugly-crying, wanting-to-punch-something capital-F Feels. I don't get angry that often! It was disconcerting. Still, I had a good cry on Brian's shoulder and talked to a friend and wrote a lot of pages in my paper journal and felt better. I don't expect the path ahead to be smooth, but I'm hoping there'll be less resistance now, if that makes sense. Although I doubt that entry is going to ever see the light of day, haha.

Anyway, time for books!

What I've just finished reading

Nothing new this week - I'm working on finishing the good-size books I have going.

What I'm currently reading

The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. I'm 80% through this tome, and some things have finally happened! Teresita has died and returned to life, is being venerated as a saint, and is preaching revolution to the Mexicans! These large-scale events are all interesting, but continue to be sketched entirely through small interpersonal vignettes that often seem to obfuscate as much as they illuminate (what exactly was Don Tomás' motivation in acknowledging her as his illegitimate daughter, pre-death? How is the rancho dealing with the sudden descent of thousands of pilgrims, and presumably the associated loss of much of their income? What precisely is it that the revolutionaries don't like about the current administration?). It feels more than a little bit like observing history through a single window - you see particular scenes in great and vivid detail, but any kind of broad-scale analysis is difficult if you don't already have the background knowledge of the time to give context. Which, given that I undertook this novel in the hopes of gaining some of that knowledge, is slightly frustrating. Still, the individual vignettes continue to be engaging; I particularly like how Teresita's relationship with her father (who's not previously been known for his respect for female intelligence) is evolving.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin. "The Lottery" might have put Jackson on the map as a storyteller, but with Life Among the Savages, her gently humorous account of domestic tribulations, she's become a bona fide bestseller - and not soon enough, given her large family's precarious financial and housing situation. While she anticipates this cushion giving her relief from her husband's constant henpecking about her work habits, I suspect his ambivalence in their relationship - enjoying and appreciating her financial success while feeling stymied and overshadowed in his own career, a particularly toxic combination for the mindset of the typically-socialized 1950s man - will only grow.

Ambivalence is definitely a theme in both their lives; Jackson enjoys cultivating an unusual and even outré image (decades before the Goth movement, she marketed herself as "the only currently publishing author who is also a practicing witch"), but the social penance she pays for her image is not small, especially in the tight-knit New England towns where she's already marked as an outsider. Having spent much of my school years in that same "I don't want to be part of your dumb ol' club anyway! (but it still hurts that I'm not)" space, I really feel her; we all have social needs, but what do you do when your immediate social environment is so hostile to your personal values? Perhaps it's not at all surprising that so many of her stories focus on socially alienated families in large houses, or that she and Stanley regularly hosted all-night parties with their New York writer friends (which only further aroused the curiousity and suspicions of their neighbors, in, the literary historian in me notes, a century-and-a-half-later echo of the suspicions of the local villagers of Byron and his crew). Perhaps Jackson's later somewhat infamous descent into agoraphobia is unsurprising, given the circumstances.

What I plan to read next

I'm determined to knock The Hummingbird's Daughter off this week, so I suspect that'll be a good chunk of my reading time. After that...hm. I picked up a copy of Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology metanarrative from my neighborhood bookstore that I'm looking forward to. We'll see!

Coyote Cinema: Bladerunner 2049

Oct. 16th, 2017 08:08 pm
cyrano: (Coyote Cinema)
[personal profile] cyrano
This is, no argument, a beautifully shot movie. It's dustier/hazier than the original, but of course they spend a lot of time heading out to the desert. There were lots of reflections from the original, but I couldn't tell if they had any thematic consequence or if they were just easter eggs. ("Nice dog. Is it real?" "Why don't you ask him?") And at the end of the film, nothing seems to really have changed. The viewer has caught up on the secret, but aside from the people (and AIs) who died, everybody seems pretty much in the same place they started from.

I expect to get some push back on this view, and am looking forward to it. I'd love for this movie to be more than bioluminescent sea foam frothily floating across the screen for three hours.

Today's Troubles

Oct. 14th, 2017 01:53 am
cyrano: (Scream)
[personal profile] cyrano
And every time trump takes a sledgehammer swing to the ACA, bravely defending us from not dying and maybe Obama getting a scrap of credit from it, my stomach knots a little tighter and anxiety ratchets up another notch. And I think what the hell is going to happen to me next year? Especially if he manages to take out Medicare on his way through. But wondering about it, worrying about it, won't change anything. Do you know who your representatives are? Better yet, do they know who you are?
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
[personal profile] missroserose
Hello, book friends! Today I went to Sculpt for the first time since traveling and recovering from a cold. (I hit a class last Saturday but realized ten minutes in that I was not recovered, and ended up sitting a good chunk of it out.) I was pleased to discover I could make it all the way through with minimal modifications; it's definitely tougher than it was three weeks ago but getting back to where I was shouldn't be too difficult of a climb. For the moment, though, I'm rather glad I don't need to raise my arms over my head anytime in the next several hours.


What I've just finished reading

The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England, by Ian Mortimer. Not a bad little trip, on the whole, although the criticisms about its sexist outlook are not without merit. Still, I learned a few things and laughed a few times, so on the whole I'll take it. I appreciated the picture sections with tapestries and manuscripts from the era; many of them I'd seen before, but it was cool to examine the fashions and art styles and whatnot just after reading about them.

The Ruin of a Rake, by Cat Sebastian. I've read a few of Sebastian's romances now, and unfortunately, all three have come up basically...not-quite. The dialogue feels not-quite-natural, the characters don't quite spring off the page, the chemistry never quite clicks. Which is a shame, because her setting and her plot both work beautifully. But especially with romance and especially-especially with sex, the interest is in how the characters get from civilized-and-guarded-with-defenses-firmly-in-place to primal-and-intimate-and-terrifyingly-open. And I don't think she's quite mastered that segue yet.

What I'm currently reading

The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea. I'm having an interesting relationship with this one. When I think about it objectively, I feel like not a lot is happening, so I end up drifting off to this or that new book...but then I finish that book, pick this one back up again, and am immediately absorbed in its colorful depiction of late-nineteenth-century Mexican life. So I can't say I'm not enjoying it, but I'm really wondering where it's all going, or if it's actually just a 528-page vignette.

What I plan to read next

I'm thinking it's time I pulled up Google Translate and Bara roligt i Bullerbyn - I got bogged down about 2/3rds through and never got around to finishing it. But man, it's hard to read in a second language - I'm so used to being able to look at a paragraph and pick up its meaning almost effortlessly, so having to work it out word by word is humbling. I know learning to read English was hard, because my mother tells me that I struggled with it, but I wanted to be able to read books for myself so badly that I was strongly motivated. But I don't remember any of that - I literally can't remember a time when I couldn't read. So the exercise in humility is probably good for me, heh.

On Ancillary Justice and identity

Oct. 7th, 2017 10:57 am
missroserose: (Inspire)
[personal profile] missroserose
As I mentioned before, I very much loved Ancillary Justice, in part because of the multilayered approach - the story works very well on its own, but there are a lot of Big Ideas addressed both overtly and subtly, and so many crunchy questions of ethics and morality and technology and culture to debate. The aspect that caught my eye the most, though, was how a little over midway through the book, it also became a parable about identity.

Spoilers ahoy! )

I recently came across a wonderful metaphor for consciousness in (of all things) Come As You Are. Nagoski describes our minds as being like a flock of birds - at any given time you have your ideals, your assumptions, your values, your emotions, your opinions of the world, the information given to you by your senses, your feelings about that information, your memories, all flying at once. When they're all in harmony with each other - when they're all on a level and all agree with each other about which direction to fly - all is well. When some are in disagreement, however - when past actions disagree with your values, or when you receive new information that's at odds with your assumptions of how the world operates - this causes cognitive dissonance, which can be uncomfortable enough to eventually alter our values and thus the direction of the entire flock. In extreme cases, where traumatic events take place and our flock goes all over the place, we end up paralyzed. But most of the time, it's not that extreme; we continue on, and eventually resolve the dissonance by changing what we can -
whether that's our behavior or our beliefs.

But how often have we accidentally entrapped our friends within that dissonance? How often have we, in not wanting to address our own shortcomings, put those we care most about in a no-win situation? I think particularly of romantic relationships, because they're so emotionally fraught and full of scenarios where our feelings don't live up to our values. Say a partner breaks up with us; we believe that they're an individual and have the right to pursue their own happiness, so we do our best to keep our chin up and bravely soldier on. But breakups hurt; social disconnection hits at our very core sense of self-worth (not to mention our more primal fears of survival, as social connection is fundamental to that survival). Then some weeks later - long enough for us to have gotten over the worst of the sting, but nowhere near long enough to have recovered entirely - someone we care about approaches us and tells us they've been wanting to see our former partner romantically, and is that okay with us? We're faced with a dilemma - no, emotionally it's not okay with us, but to say so means admitting our humanity and our vulnerability on this point, not to mention demonstrating that we're not living up to our vision of ourselves as someone able to Get Over Things. So we say that it's quite all right, thus setting our friend up for precisely this kind of failure - if they take us out our word, we resent them and possibly lash out at them later; if they don't, they're as good as saying they don't trust us. Either way, disconnection.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons I find teaching yoga so rewarding. My emotional integrity has improved by leaps and bounds since I began practicing regularly; something about the meditative aspects of yoga really helps me acknowledge and be more compassionate towards the parts of my consciousness that don't align with who I most want to be, and the physical activity helps to defuse the stronger emotion and get that part of me flying in line with the rest of the birds. I hope that, to some extent, I share that same feeling with my students; it's the kind of small-scale change that can have a huge effect in a person's life, and perhaps even ripple out to have positive effects on everyone around them.

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