- Karine Polwart's Tiny Desk Concert. Proficient in the modern and traditional Scottish metiers.
- My Grown-Up Pony. Gemma Correll is one of my favorite cartoonists.
- The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Art (1460–1921). Public domain art and photos, emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- 7 People With Less Visible Disabilities Talk Misconceptions and Stigma. I have a lot of these feels.
How's about I review the books I read in a more timely manner?
First up, Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald. This is the concluding volume of his Luna series. The short version is that in the future the moon is run by five corporations and the families that own them. The series primarily focuses on the Corta family who produce helium-3 for export to an energy-starved Earth. But then their dome gets blown up in the first book, the Corta patriarch gets banished to Earth, but then returns with terrestrial allies to take over the moon in the second book, and now it's time for a showdown between the people of the moon and the people of Earth. The story sprawls out over a fair number of Corta family members so you get to see the conflict from a few different angles.
Overall, this book brought everything to a solid conclusion. The writing in this series has always been quite good along with most of the hard science. An easy recommendation if you're looking for intrigue, action and drama in a near-future setting.
Next up: Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker. Mr. Parker has written a number of well-received fantasy novels most of which make liberal use of actual history to help flesh out the details. This is a standalone novel about Orhan, leader of a regiment of Imperial Engineers. He spends most of his time building bridges and tearing down or building up defensive works. He returns to the Imperial City to discover unknown enemies have lured the defenders out into an ambush and they'll soon be bearing down on the city itself. Orhan has to organize his forces and the people remaining in the city to stall the enemy long enough until help arrives.
I stayed up waaayyy to late finishing this book off, which should probably be all the endorsement you need. The chapters are short, punchy, and always make you want to "read just one more chapter". The dialog is good, and Orhan is an active protagonist who is making plans, solving problems, and adapting to the enemy's efforts. The plot suffers a bit from Orhan's interactions with the enemy commander (in the sense that the enemy deliberately does stupid things sometimes) and the end is a bit unsatisfying (but it's not an unreasonable or illogical ending and it's only the last 10 pages or so). Still, this is a fun low-magic fantasy book which should make for some nice summer reading.
What Matters Most: The Get Your Shit Together Guide to Wills, Money, Insurance, and Life’s "What-ifs"", by Chanel Reynolds. The memoir part about her husband's accident and death was really hard to read but I think the checklists will prove useful to me.
Provenance, by Ann Leckie. A standalone story set in the Radch universe that involves history, aliens, family bonds, and capers. I started it and finished it in a single afternoon--tried and failed to put it down.
Descender, Vol. 6: The Machine War, by Jeff Lemire et al. Finale of this graphic novel series and it went in a direction I didn't expect. I liked it and will definitely be reading the sequel series.
Amnesty, by Lara Elana Donnelly. Third in the Amberlough trilogy, bringing the strands from the previous books together beautifully with love and loss. I loved it and recommend the whole series highly.
Also saw Hamilton tonight, about which there will be more later.
This interview is fascinating to me because I know basically nothing about cinematography, except insofar as it’s related to photography. So I love it when somebody gets down into the nitty-gritty details about how decisions regarding lenses and focus contribute to inequality, e.g. the fact that women on average speak about 25% of the time in a film + cinematographic technique that puts only the speaker in a shot in focus = not only are the women on screen silent more often than not, but they’re probably blurry as well. Backlighting, specific camera angles — she compares it all to the practice of airbrushing magazine covers, only there isn’t the same degree of public awareness that this stuff is being used to erase women’s flaws and present a constantly-idealized image. Plus lots of interesting discussion on how the relationship between a director and a director of photography differs between movies and TV, male directors and the YA film genre, etc.
- Slacktivist, “We Need to Do Something about Rick Wiles”
On the deep and poisonous stream of anti-Semitism that runs through far too much of white evangelical Christianity. Key quote:
And it doesn’t really matter which “theory” a conspiracist starts with — Moon-landing hoaxers, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, young-earthers, chemtrails, fluoridation, Planned Parenthood, Antichrist OWG, blue helmets, black helicopters, whatever — the belief that the Key to Everything is “the startling news that the media isn’t reporting!” always leads, ultimately, to anti-Semitism.
This got me reflecting on my own childhood. My elementary school had a large Jewish contingent; I’m not sure how many, but my mother estimates somewhere between a quarter and a third of my class. It got watered down as we fed into junior high and high school, joining other elementary school catchment areas, but overall, they were almost certainly the largest minority in my area. Large enough that Jewish kids didn’t stand out as unusual to me — at least, not until those two years where they were all going through their Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations and I learned that being Jewish meant you got a special birthday party. (I probably went to more parties in junior high than any other period of my life.)
But at the same time, we were also in the neighborhood of this church. (In opening that page, I note that a section which used to detail a sexual abuse scandal within the church’s leadership has been removed. A scandal which, for all I know, could have involved kids in my class or my brother’s — the timing was right.) I don’t know how much of that anti-Semitic ideology is present there, or was thirty years ago. But it makes me wonder how much, despite the large presence and general acceptance of Jewish families in our neighborhood, there were still incidents that happened out of my sight or flew over my head. I know the guy I went to prom with gave me the first Left Behind novel to read; I didn’t get more than about ten pages into it because the writing was so execrable, but later I learned that boy howdy are those books anti-Semitic. And there were enough Baptist and evangelical Christians around that I have to imagine some of that was an issue in my community.
Short of randomly calling up my Jewish friends from sixth grade and asking them whether they got shit from our fellow students, I’ll never know. But it’s a sobering thing to consider.
( List under the cut. )
I did start my ophthalmologist checkups, which is a good thing, but I'm not sure this guy wants to see me if I'm not in crisis. I may need to find a regular guy for more usual stuff. Everything else is going along and we did plan a vacation which will also serve as our Mary check-in. So that may get checked off in the next month too.
The burning of Notre Dame is breaking my heart.
I’ve read a lot of history. I could fill a whole post with nothing but a list of beautiful, significant buildings lost to fire. It’s happened before, many times, for thousands of years, all around the world. But it’s easy to fall into thinking that it can’t happen now. That sure, ordinary buildings may burn, because we can’t protect everything perfectly — but surely, with all our technology, we can keep the important places safe. The ones that matter not just to a few people, or a few hundred, or a few thousand, but millions upon millions.
But we can’t. Disasters still happen. We are not the unchallenged masters of our physical environment; things can still go wrong.
This one hits particularly hard for two reasons. One is that I was just there: when my husband and I visited Paris in 2013 the towers were closed for repairs, but after Imaginales last May I spent a few days there and got to climb up to meet the gargoyles. I haven’t been able to make myself look at many pictures, much less video, but even a glance was enough to give me that punch of I stood there. Right where it’s burning — I was there.
The other is more distant in some ways, but even closer in others. In 1666 the Great Fire of London burned, among other things, St. Paul’s Cathedral. Like Notre Dame, it was under repair at the time; the scaffolding surrounding it gave the spreading fire an easy foothold. That was 450 years ago, of course — but I researched it for In Ashes Lie, and then I wrote about it, immersing myself in that moment of terrible destruction. When I heard the spire of Notre Dame had collapsed . . . the spire of St. Paul’s had been gone for a century, thanks to a lightning strike, but the tower was still there when the Great Fire began. When it fell, it broke through the floor into a subterranean chapel where the booksellers of London had stored their wares for safekeeping. That image lives in my mind still. Notre Dame hits right where it already hurts, where a part of me has been grieving for a building I never saw.
I can’t follow the news right now. I’ll look when it’s over, when we know exactly how bad the damage is. I presume the cathedral will be rebuilt — and I know, because I read history, that this is part of how history works. That our world is a palimpsest, things erased and rewritten and revised and layered atop one another. The St. Paul’s Cathedral that stands now in London isn’t the building that burned in 1666, but it contains some pieces of it, and the cathedrals that went before (more than one) are all part of the story of that place.
But knowing that scar tissue will eventually become part of the beauty doesn’t make it hurt any less right now.
They may not care. They evidently don't want my feedback. But I think enough of my opinions that I feel that it's their loss.
Also I feel I'm saving my own time by not engaging.
Passengers are stranded in India and around the world after Jet Airways suspended all international flights.
Flights from London, Paris and Amsterdam are among those grounded amid fears about the survival of India's largest private airline.
The airline cancelled all international flights until Monday when, according to reports, it will meet its lenders again to try to secure funding.
Some of you may have heard about the Dream Foundry, an organization that aims to provide support and encouragement for new professionals in science fiction and fantasy writing and art. I’m a part of the group, and our project just got rolling in the last year or so (you may have heard some of us talking about it at Worldcon in San Jose); now it’s running its very first Kickstarter! There’s a five-year-plan for getting the entire enterprise up and running, and the purpose of the Kickstarter is to fund the first year of weekly articles and a discussion series. If it meets that goal — which is only $2000, and since we’ve already got $1766, the odds look good — then further funds will be used to extend that funding, recoup startup costs, expand our web presence, pay staff (all of whom are currently unpaid volunteers), and even provide the money to start up a contest for new writers and artists, with a substantial cash award and free workshop for finalists.
There’s an added twist here, which is that the Dream Foundry’s financial people have plans to apply for various grants and such — but in the perverse way of such things, it’s easier to get a grant if you can show a track record of other funding and results. So the more the Kickstarter can raise to get the Dream Foundry going, the better our odds become of keeping it going in the long run.
I got involved because my own career got started with an award and the monetary prize from that, and I’d love to see another such project aimed at people who are new to the field. The people behind the Dream Foundry are astonishingly well-organized, so I have every faith that with support, this can become not just a real thing but an amazing one. Back the Kickstarter now to help make that happen!
- Massive paper artwork at the Louvre is shredded by visitors. 1 minute video.
- 15 Of The Most Beautiful Metro Stations In The World. Love the New York station though I've never been there because it's closed.
- Twitter thread on intergenerational wealth in slaveholding families after the Civil War. Conclusion: it's the social connections. I could have told you anecdotally that they got it back by the early 1900s because I'm the descendant (by direct line and adoption) of some of those folks.
- Shady Sam, a game by Next Gen Personal Finance to teach you about loan sharking and how much you spend on credit.
- Exhibition Female Perspectives at Palazzo Pitti. 3 minute news video about a women's art exhibition in Italy.
Last week I was going out to work, which my friend Sarah and I have been meeting up to do in this sort of inept way--neither of us has WhatsApp notifications turned on because they're too distracting, but also neither of us ever thinks to text or call, so we attempt to communicate in what amounts to telephone tag except both of us have the phones with us all the time.
In this scenario, I am taking public transport and it is Pouring Rain.
Me: Hey I can get out to work
Sarah, 90 minutes later: oh great! I have to be at my new house waiting for the gas man from 1-5 if you want to come over and sit in the cold or I can meet you later!
Me, 15 minutes later: I can come!
Me, 40 minutes later, standing in the rain, banging on the door and getting no response, WhatsApps: hey i'm here
Me, 3 minutes later: *bang bang bang* / Hi hey I'm here?
Me: I'm here? Hello?
Me, 2 minutes later: HEY THIS IS A *PHONE* I COULD *CALL* *calls*
Sarah, sounding like I've woken her up: Hello?
Me, suddenly afraid my number is, like, no longer in her phone or something: It's Catie? I'm at your house?
Phone call goes dead. A moment later, a message arrives:
Sarah: OH MY GOD NO MY PETAL I THOUGHT YOU MEANT *TOMORROW* I AM AT THE LIBRARY (hence the super quiet indistinct speech of earlier) I WILL COME TO YOU IMMEDIATELY
Me: OH MY GOD NO IT'S POURING RAIN STAY WHERE YOU ARE IT'S NBD
Sarah: I RUSH TO YOU
Me: BUT IT'S POURING RAIN
Me, seeing a bus that will get me to the cafe: YES CAFE
Anyway, so she was meeting someone ELSE at her house the next day and just misread the text as saying I was also going to be able to go out and work the next day and thought "hooray we can all work together!" except...no. That wasn't what was happening. *laughs* But we got some work done, and got to see each other, which was what counted!
And then LAST NIGHT--so okay we've got double-feature tickets to Infinity War/Endgame on the 24th, right? Infinity War is at half eight, midnight showing of Endgame because that's how we roll. :) And a couple of friends are joining us, hooray! It's gonna be great!
Except last night one of our party texted me at 8:07pm with "I'm here, laden with snacks, where are you?"
I was like "um. at home? this is catie?" because I was convinced she was meeting someone else for a movie last night, since the one we had a date for wasn't for TWO FULL WEEKS, and just had texted me instead of her date for the night.
But no, she had the right number, just the wrong night. So I threw on my shoes and ran for the door and 31 minutes later arrived at the theatre so we could go see Captain Marvel together, because she hadn't seen it yet and how terrible to be left bereft at the movies when you expected an all-nighter with friends!
It was great fun and very very funny and I'm very glad I went and anyway, hell of a week of missed connections. :) :) :)
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman. First in an SFnal series about the library between worlds. I like the heroine and supporting cast and I have my suspicions about where this is going in terms of the very cool worldbuilding, so I'm in for the ride.
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran. First in a mystery series about the world's best private detective. In this case she has to find out why an ADA died during Katrina. Reminds me a lot of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries but with more drugs and without all the literary pretensions. There are only three so this was an easy sell.
Shazam. Follows the Marvel formula of superhero + genre by making Big as a superhero movie. It was a bit long in places but had a good heart. Also stay through to the end of the credits.