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I'm currently in CA, near San Francisco. My good friend Usakeh's mother has just died, so I have come out here to offer moral support. It's quite a blow for anyone, and harder when your mom is so young. [livejournal.com profile] millari is here, too, and it's been nice to spend time together. Things I like about it here: it's so sunny and mild; the gorgeous countryside of rolling hills; there aren't any mosquitos to eat me alive when I'm out exercising. What I don't like so much is that everything is more costly than back home in MA. If I were living out here, I'd really have to get a job.

Usakeh's dad is a Stanford prof, and he's been very accommodating of our presence, but I'm sure he'll be pleased to see the end of lounging on his sofas. Happily, it's a large, sunny, pleasant house so there is at least enough room. (Actually, the previous owner was apparently an AV nut, so there's a home theater room that's like a more comfortable version of the little downstairs venue at the old pleasant street theater.

We spent last weekend in Carmel, with U's grandparents (retired professors originally from Vienna), in a gorgeous villa overlooking the sea. It's probably worth millions now, but they've been there for decades and it has a pleasantly lived-in feel. It sort of reminds me of my grandmother's house, for all that it's a comfy Adobe structure on a slope with a gorgeous view of the bay, rather than a stodgy box in North Andover.

Lots of great places to go walking out there, and the most beautiful was Point Lobos state reservation. There were deer, seals, pelicans and many other birds, plus some truly gorgeous terrain and vegetation. I took a bunch of pictures, mainly thinking how Mole Underfield would love them and how he might paint them.

I'm flying back tomorrow, and then... Well, we'll see. No civil politics this week, as we're all away, which is a pity as Cruz and Kasich dropping out leave only Trump in the running for the GOP nomination is probably worth a few minutes discussion.

I have started reading the Three Musketeers, and enjoying it quite a bit. Dumas is quite the storyteller, and it's interesting to me how much I'm enjoying it despite the characters all being rather broad and archetypal. I wonder how much of that is because he created the archetypes? I have seen various movie adaptations, so I'm familiar with some of the story and general plot elements, but it's interesting to see how much of the milieu, the flavor of the story, comes from Dumas. Also, I'd forgotten that he was black. It fascinates me how much of the most popular pop culture is created by marginalized people.
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•Ran two Magic tournaments at the store this weekend. Was hoping for 32 people to play today, but only got 29. Still our biggest one yet, and I think everyone had a good time.

•I like the new set, Avacyn Restored. It has a lot of great cards, but I think my favorite is the Conjurer's Closet artifact.

•Feisty still sneezes sometimes, which worries me. I want to take her off the steroids altogether, but I don't want her to get plugged up again. She's nearly 14.

•Put $5000 more into the store, to help start up the New York location. I do hope this works out well.

•I have many balls to juggle, and a couple of them have bounced a bit.
-I need to finish and submit a claim for my dad's long term care insurance. (ughh, it's not the hard intellectually, but very difficult emotionally.)
-I need to fine a contractor to come repair the damage to my house.
-I have some work projects that dangle unfinished.
-My home is getting messy
-I'm not losing weight. I need to make more healthy food, go to Weight Watchers, and exercise. I still want to fit into my tux for Bottledgoose's wedding.
-I want to get some new furniture for my house, which is cash I probably don't have.
-Also, just spent 1300 getting brakes etc. fixed on my POS minivan. Probably more than its worth. Should have just unloaded it.
-I can't tell if I'm scarily obsessive about Grounded or not, because I think about her constantly. Not just every day, but all through the day, whenever my brain slips into neutral.

•Reading the new history of AIDS, Tinderbox, and loving it.

•Great TV: the recent run of Fringe, the season finale of the Good Wife, and the new Avatar series, Legend Of Korra. (Amon is totally a puppet of Ko, the Face-Stealer, hence the mask.) the Awake series is growing on me, too.
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One of my goals this year was to read 50 books.  I think I made it, but I'm not sure, as I haven't kept track this year and I'm trying to remember everything I read.  Let's see, looking over my LJ, I see that I have read the following:

I started the year by reading Christopher Paolini's regrettable Eragon, and Mark Smylie's excellent Artesia books (Artesia, Artesia Afield and Artesia Afire).  Also, I took part in a reading of Richard III, so I think that counts, too.

More recently,  I read the Undercover Economist, Pattern Recognition (by William Gibson), The Tipping Point, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier, and Cloud Atlas (which was absolutely terrific), Boarding The Enterprise (a collection of essays about Star Trek) and The Other Wind by Ursula LeGuin (what a great capper to the Earthsea stories).


Earlier this year, I read a book called, I think, Voice of the Beast that L&E were chucking--a forgettable fantasy novel.  I read Red Lightning and Mammoth by John Varley.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Queen & Country: Private Wars and Gentlemen's Game by Greg Rucka.  The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery.  A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss.    Back in June, I read Coraline by Neil Gaiman, and a more charmingly creepy children's book is hard to imagine.

Back in April I read the first three Temeraire books by Naomi Novik (His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War), Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things story collection and The Measure of All Things , all of which were just excellent. 


That's 30 odd books that I bothered to write down here in my LJ or that I read recently enough to remember/still have lying around.  I can't document it, but I feel in my heart that I must have read another 20 books worth at the store this year.  Actually, I made note of a few comics in my LJ as I went this year:

Miki Falls by Mark Crilley
Nothing Better by Tyler Page
Escapists, by Brian K. Vaughan
Order of the Stick: Start of Darkness
Macedonia by Harvey Pekar

In addition, I read a great many comics in periodical form.  I mean, I read the whole World War Hulk thing as it came out (not that it was that great), so that's a book right there, and there are a number of other series that I read as they come out, such as Ex Machina, Powers, New Avengers, Speak of the Devil,  Usagi Yojimbo, Countdown, and more.  (Note that I read some of them for fun and some because I work in a comic book store and it's a good idea to keep up on things.)  Also, there were several graphic novels that I read, too.  Wire Mothers by Jim Ottaviani, for example, which was another fine history of science comic, and he did another about illusions and magic (I forget the title).  I can't recall them all.  But I think there's enough that I can check off the 50 Book Challenge for 2007 with a clear conscience.

So, that's one thing I got done this year.

In terms of writing a book, I didn't do so well.  I did complete a piece of fan fiction that was about 15000 words, and wrote a couple of smaller pieces, too, including a few reviews for the Modern Myths blog.  It's more than I wrote the previous year, so I shall congratulate myself for progress made, and set my sights higher for 2008.  I hope that the writing workshop that I have joined on Wednesdays will continue to help.
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Yesterday M and I went back to Andover and celebrated the holiday with my family and hers together at the LANAM club.  It was all buffet style this year, and it created a relaxed atmosphere that made it the best Thanksgiving meal in many years.   It didn't hurt that we got there on time, for once.

Afterwards, I watched most of 2001 with my brother.  He's got hi-def TV and an HD-DVD player, so the picture quality was state of the art, and better than it could have been in earlier decades, and Kubrick's genius really stood out.  The film looks fabulous--flawless, in fact.  Everything was done without CGI, of course, and it looks better than almost any film I have ever seen, better than many state of the art movies of much more recent vintage.  There were little touches, like people moving within distant windows, that are still tough to do today, and which Star Trek, for example, couldn't afford to do 20 years ago, yet Kubrick did it 20 years before that. 

I like going on trips with M.  It was great to chat in the car, brainstorm about fic she's writing, start to plot for Xmas, etc.  Also, we listened to about an hour of Pratchett's latest book, Making Money on CD.

Right, bed time.


ETA: I should make a list and count them, but I have read a number of books lately, and I think I should have no trouble making the 50 book challenge, if I haven't already.  Since the trip to Vancouver, I have read the Undercover Economist, Pattern Recognition (by William Gibson), The Tipping Point, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier, and started Cloud Atlas.  I have also read a bunch of comics.  Right, now bed, for real.  Must work tomorrow morning, and then there's RAZOR tomorrow night.

Oh, yes: I'm famous

Well, slightly.
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After some thought, I believe I know why I found the epilogue to Harry Potter 7 disappointing.  (Many others have told me that they hated it, too, but no one who's explained their dislike to me feels as I do.)  Nineteen years after defeating Voldemort, Harry (when he would be only a year younger than I am now) and his friends is seeing his two sons off on the Hogwarts Express.  The scene is rather mundane.  His kids are nervous about going to school, or jealous that they aren't, and Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione are gossiping about their kids and their friends kids.  We hear about a few of the other characters (Neville is now a respected professor at Hogwarts), but nothing about Harry and his friends, except that they are parents.  His scar hasn't bothered him for nearly 20 years.  All is well.

Which is great, but feels quite unsatisfying.  Grappling with the happily ever after problem challenges even the best writers.  One of the reasons the Lord of the Rings is so good is that Tolkien devotes the last tenth of it to what happens after evil is vanquished, and in so doing integrates the extraordinary experiences of the book into the ordinary lives of the hobbits, explores what it means to live happily and explore the limits of human accomplishment, and tells us what happens to our heroes right up to the end of their days in Middle Earth.

Rowling's epilogue is less ambitious, but disappoints because it leaves unanswered so many questions.  What else do Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny do, besides spawn?  Harry is rich anyway, and I imagine that the public might well have awarded them a pension for saving the world, so they probably none of them need to work, but does that mean that they don't?  Does Hermione really stay home and make more Weasleys? 

The seventh book highlights the simmering tensions between human wizards/witches and the intelligent magical creatures of the world: centaurs, goblins, giants, and elves.  The humans treat all of them as second-class and restrict the activities of other species in a manner not unlike apartheid. Harry and his friends are keenly aware of this injustice, and one of the reasons they triumph in the end is that they are able to enlist the aid of these unter creatures, and one of the reasons Voldemort was so evil was that he wanted to enslave or exterminate the lesser species.    Has nothing changed in these volatile politics over the intervening 19 years?  Has the death of Dobby meant so little to Harry that he has been content to sit at home and not advocate for elf rights?  If selfless compassion is what made him so heroic, has he really just packed up and retired after defeating Voldemort?  Was defeating Evil enough for him?  Did he really not go on to fight for justice, too?  Rowling clearly wasn't overly interested in world building, and her setting has always had some unanswered questions, but she's actually good at establishing characters and cultures.  As rollick pointed out in her liveblogging piece on the Onion AV club site, the brief discussion of goblin ownership customs really is alien and does a lot to establish them as a culture different from Harry's or ours.  So, Rowling can do it, and do it succinctly, so ignoring these issues at the end looms even larger for me. 

I wonder if she'll return to this fictional world with new characters, and perhaps take up these gauntlets she has left for herself.  If she does, I'll be interested to read it.  If not, it's a real blemish on what was otherwise a really strong ending to the series, though I don't think she needs to die in a fire because of it.

Books!

Jan. 13th, 2007 04:35 pm
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In 2006, I read some books, many of them at work.  I don't recall them all, but here's a list of the one's that I do:

The Translator by John Crowley. 
The Dark Tower book 7, the Dark Tower by Stephen King.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Why We Buy by Paco Underhill
Call of the Mall also by Underhill
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee (wow, she's good.)
The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker
A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (read to me by Millari)
Brian Bendis's run on Daredevil


For 2007, I have so far read:

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (well, I skimmed it really, but that's all the book deserves.  It's not actually bad, but it is juvenile and derivative, and would not have been published by anyone other than his parents.  Let us hope that he continues to grow as an author, and years from now looks back on it with mild embarassment.)

Artesia and Artesia Afield by Mark Smylie (graphic novels).  The first two parts of the Book of Dooms, what promises to be a sprawling fantasy epic.  Avoid it if that phrase gives you hives, but if it doesn't, definitely check it out.  Smylie has a lush illustrative style, a complex and carefully considered imaginary world, and a good visual imagination for depicting magic and gods and spirits spread over a sweeping battlefield.  Artesia is a young mercenary captain and sorcerer who may have outlived her usefulness to her king.  In part two, she leads an army to join in a major war that has begun to the south.  This series is bloody, sexy, erotic, shocking, novel, and really good.  Smylie is, in part, writing military fiction about armies in conflict and units maneuvering.  This could be, and often is, dull and confusing in prose novels, but Smylie is doing a COMIC, so we can see what the hell is going on, and that makes it much clearer and more engaging.

So, that's three down, forty seven to go.
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On the recent reading front, I have finally gotten around to reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman, which I enjoyed.  Now, I'm reading The Gift of Fear for myself, and I have started reading Guy Gavriel Kay's marvelous Sailing To Sarantium to Millari.  I hope that she will like it as much as I do.
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When I was younger, from when I learned to read into my mid twenties, I read a lot.  Science Fiction and fantasy mostly, but I read a fair bit of history, some science fact, and other fiction, too.  I noticed last week that I don't read much prose anymore.  I read a lot of the stuff that comes into the store, of course, and unlike [personal profile] omnia_mutantur I consider comics to be real reading, but I just don't consume books the way I once did.  In part, as I have aged, I have become pickier, and I just don't enjoy what I used to enjoy.  (I notice this trend in movies, too.  I probably would have liked XMen 3 more when I was 20 than I do now at 36, though I don't think I would have loved it.) 

Also, I have more going on in my life, and I spend more time with people I love, especially[personal profile] millari .  And, I find that I am increasingly more interested in my own stories than in other peoples'.

That said, though, I do want to be someone who keeps reading, who keeps engaging with someone else's ideas and perspectives, so I'm making a point of reading at least ten prose books this year.  So far, I can only think of one such book that I have read, The Translator, which I discussed in a post last week.  So...

1) The Translator, by John Crowley.[profile]

I'm working on/about to start:

2) Historical Understanding, a collection of essays by Louis Mink.  He's a tremendous thinker, though I still have read little by him, and I don't think many people know who he is.

3) Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake, though it seems that I should actually have gotten out Titus Groan, since the jacket blurb says that Gormenghast is a sequel.  (Albeit the main character is only 7 years old when book two starts, so what the hell happens in book 1?)

4) Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut.  Actually, Millari will be reading this to me.  I look forward to it.

Eventually, I shall start 5) The Dark Tower by Stephen King.  I enjoyed the first six, so I look forward to the finale.

I welcome suggestions, too.


On the graphic front, I just got around to reading Craig Thompson's haunting reminiscence about teenage alienation and romance, Blankets.  It's really good, though full of unresolved pain (the character's, if not the author's.)

Book note

Jul. 4th, 2006 02:00 pm
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The Destroyer gave me two great gifts on my birthday--a brief case/new gaming satchel, and a book, The Translator by John Crowley.  It's an excellent book, and Crowley writes a suggestive book, both allusive and elusive, in which not much happens, and it's all on the small scale of a girl's life, and yet it is a deeply moving and engrossing book.  I recommend it to anyone interersted in good writing.  I must find something to give in return.

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