nightdog_barks: Retro comic illustration of a woman wearing a futuristic space helmet by W.T. Benda (Rocket Woman)
Otherwise known as jury duty, which I was summoned to this week.

Cut for a lot of blather about what it was like ...  )

OTHERWISE. It is hot and humid. In recent weeks, I have read:

The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan. Apocafic, ahoy! Really liked it, two thumbs up.
Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived, by Penelope Lively. Memoir of the English novelist's Egyptian childhood. Very interesting, would recommend.
The Astaires: Fred & Adele, by Kathleen Riley. Short dual biography of Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele. Maybe a bit too heavy on the details of the behind-the-scenes construction of a Broadway musical, but still good.

Not sure what is up next -- maybe Min Jin Lee's Pachinko, maybe Paul La Farge's The Night Ocean, maybe something else. :-)
nightdog_barks: Illustrated close-up of a bird's head grasping a red berry in its beak (Bird with Berry)
1) It is heating up for summer, and I am tired and blah and ugh. :-P

2) I made a donation to the Public Theater, the organization behind the Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar that has Delta Airlines' and Bank of America's knickers in a twist.

3) The less said about that insane Potatohead praise circle this morning, the better. Jesus H. Christ, how has the earth not opened up and swallowed all these spineless sycophants?

4) Has anyone here seen the Australian movie The Babadook? I missed the first 20 or so minutes, but the rest of it was amazing and holy shit, so DARK and creepy as hell.

5) Currently reading Jenni Fagan's The Sunlight Pilgrims. Aside from what I thought was a bit of unrealistic dialogue in one chapter, I am liking it a lot.

6) Blackmare and I should have a Housefic up pretty soon. :-)

7) Pretend there's a number 7 here to make an oddpost. :D
nightdog_barks: Crispin Glover as Mr World in American Gods (Mister World)
1) Ugh, a very blah day today. Mostly sunny and humid, but looking forward to tomorrow because our local Calloway's will have marigolds for 99 cents. Our two big flowerpots out front are empty and some bright, happy marigolds will look nice up there.

2) Still reading the Walter Winchell bio, and was amused to learn that his first job as a "real" newspaper columnist (as opposed to working for an industry organ) was for a publication (the New York Graphic) widely regarded as the worst newspaper in America, if not the world. In covering one crime story involving a killer named Carillo, the editors found that they didn't have a photo of the man, so they used a picture of the actor Leo Carrillo (note spelling) instead. :D

3) Layla may be two and a half years old, but she proved last night she still has some puppy in her when she stole one of Mister Nightdog's running shoes and neatly bisected one of the laces.

4) Still watching Doctor Who and Class, but right now I think I am getting the most enjoyment out of American Gods. Crispin Glover as Mr. World in the last episode was just a walking Ball of Sheer Crazy and was absolutely terrifying. That smile omg.

5) Working on a fic but it is going very slowly.

Friday

May. 12th, 2017 04:01 pm
nightdog_barks: Illustration of a young girl wearing a cat mask bandit-style (Mask Girl)
Partly cloudy, partly sunny, cooler than it has been, which is a relief. There was another young opossum in the backyard last night -- Layla was barking at it ferociously and scaring the hell out of the poor thing (it was backed up against the fence as far as it could go without becoming one with the fence), so we made her come back in the house. We have not seen the baby bunnies in several days, so I'm devoutly hoping they've hopped away to other, greener yards.

Finished reading Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. It was definitely a page-turner, but the more it went on, the less connection I felt with any of the characters, and I thought the SPOILER ) was ridiculous. So, well. One thumb up?

Now reading Anthony Loyd's My War Gone By, I Miss It So, which is a nonfiction account of his time in Bosnia in the 1990s as a war correspondent. As one might expect, it is not a fun read.

Thought the second episode of American Gods was much better than the first. Guest spots from Gillian Anderson and Cloris Leachman really lifted this one. Still enjoying Class on BBC America.

In old news, President Potatohead and his cronies are still pigs.
nightdog_barks: Man on a white horse (Passion)
So I read Kij Johnson's The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe and really liked it. It's basically sort of a fanfic remix of H.P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, with the protagonist changed to a middle-aged lady professor of mathematics. Reader, I loved her. Vellitt Boe was smart and sensible, and I could've easily read another hundred pages of her adventures (my paperback copy was only 165 pages, so it's a very short book). I know she could easily have slipped into Mary Sue-dom, but she really didn't ping my Sue-dar at all. Okay, I did think the Quest went on a little too long, but that was my only complaint. Two thumbs up, 9/10.

Also I have been watching Class on BBC America and enjoying it, especially Katherine Kelly as Miss Quill. I also watched the first episode of American Gods and thought it was pretty good (I read Gaiman's book years and years ago but don't recall a great deal about it). I am amused to see that Ricky Whittle (playing Shadow Moon, the main character) is a Brit -- I thought he was an American. :D

Weather has turned cool and windy again. This is an up and down spring.
nightdog_barks: (Dorothy)
Literally, it was a blur. I had my annual eye exam, which involves doing the pupil-dilation thing so the doc can peer into the depths of your skull eyeball. It's not a fun activity, and I actually skipped it last year because I am a big wuss. Anyway, my life was a bit fuzzy around the edges most of the day. It's all good, though -- no diabetic damage, and the "little cataract" (doc's term) in my left eye ... is remaining little. :D

Started reading Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture, and so far, despite some very long sentences, I am enjoying it. *g*
nightdog_barks: English robin on a white background (English robin)
I was so sorry to hear that Jonathan Demme has passed away. We saw his Talking Heads' concert film Stop Making Sense in the theater when it came out, and it was a revelation in movie-making. I own the DVDs for both that film and his Neil Young: Heart of Gold, which is (almost) equally terrific.

Finished reading Elif Batuman's The Idiot last night, and ... well. I really liked it. I liked it a lot. I thought Batuman did a pitch-perfect job capturing the voice and outlook of a 19-year-old college freshman and thrusting us into her life. What really disappointed me were the many stupid comments on the "pro" review sites (Slate, the AV Club, the Washington Post), left by people who had never read the book but thought they knew everything about it. I know, I know -- you're not supposed to read the comments. :-P

Weather is on a yo-yo string; ridiculously warm yesterday, almost chilly today. Have not seen any baby bunnies for a couple of days now (and I am glad; they are adorable but I want them to move on because Layla). Also noticed we have another tomato, this time from one of the Black Krims.

Watched Lincoln the other night and enjoyed it. Afterwards I fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole -- guys, meet the last person to have looked Abraham Lincoln in the face. (The Life magazine article cited at the bottom, #6, is a somewhat more detailed write-up, although you have to scroll a ways to see it. But then you get to see all the cool period ads.) :-)

Goings On

Apr. 18th, 2017 06:46 pm
nightdog_barks: (Tomatoes)
We have a baby green tomato! Carnival turns out to be first past the line -- all the other plants are blooming, but this is the first fruit I've seen.

Also in the news ... I thought the little baby cottontail I first wrote about on April 14th had been relocated by Mama Bunny, because the fluff covering the nest had gotten much sparser and Layla didn't seem to be interested anymore. BUT NO. We discovered this afternoon that Little Bun is still here. Layla was very excited, so I moved a bit of fluff away, and lo and behold there was a tiny hind leg, kicking. The burrow (and it looks like a decent burrow now, not a shallow scrape in the soil) is deeper -- the only thing I could see was that little hind leg. Not that I wanted to see any more; I'm sure it's got enough on its tiny bunny mind, being barked at by a giant black dog. *g* I had been planning to remove the lawn chair and tomato fencing we've got over/around the nest, but obviously ... can't do that now.

I finished reading Zadie Smith's Swing Time, and I felt pretty ... meh about it. I loved the first section, when the (nameless) narrator and her friend Tracey are little girls growing up in London, and I really wished Smith had kept that focus instead of opening up the story to include this Madonna/Angelina Jolie mashup character that Nameless Narrator worked for. Parts of the book were terrific (especially the early parts), but as a whole it just didn't work for me. Anyway, now I am reading Eunice Lipton's A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance, and a Family's Secrets, which is nonfiction and is about Lipton's search for the details of her uncle Dave Lipton's life -- an uncle who died very young, fighting in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. I also bought Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky and a collection of short stories, The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories (edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin).
nightdog_barks: (Sunflower)
Well, it appears we have gone straight from winter to summer. It was 92 here yesterday (33.3 Celsius) and today it is supposed to be around 88 (31.1). Everything is green and growing, but jeez this is too warm too early.

Anyway. Here are the last three books I've read ...

1) All Things Cease to Appear, by Elizabeth Brundage. I liked this a lot! Unfortunately I thought the ending was way too rushed and tied up much too neatly, but it was still a very good read. It's a ghost story/murder story (I'm calling it "murder story" instead of murder mystery because c'mon, there's really no mystery about who the killer is), with distinct echoes of Donna Tartt (a lead character is an art historian at a small upstate New York university) and Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley). The author does a great job of a place in time (the late '70s), and I'd be interested in picking up another book by her.

2) Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard. (Actually it's a much longer title but I'm not going to type it all out kthx.) Omg I loved this. Millard has the wonderful ability to take a story we already know the answer to (Winston Churchill's capture and escape from the Boers during the Boer War) and make it nail-bitingly exciting. RISKS! CHILLS! THRILLS! WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Well, dead, but still. Somebody should make a movie of this. Two thumbs up! :D

3) Sweet Lamb of Heaven, by Lydia Millet. I wanted to like this. I really did. Woman hears voices in her mind, woman leaves creepy husband, woman finds refuge in run-down old motel on the Maine coast ... woman's story descends into New Age-y psychobabble about God, the language of trees and other plants, metaphysics, and an antagonist who is either God, the Devil, or a technological glitch in reality. I don't know. By the end, I didn't care. No stars, no thumbs up, wtf did I just read?

SO. Now I am reading David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter, which is about the Korean War. Figured I should learn about the first one before the next one starts. AMIRITE OR AMIRITE LOL :-P

Points

Mar. 5th, 2017 06:56 pm
nightdog_barks: 1920s style illustration of a woman reading (Reading modern woman)
1) A very grey and dreary day here with occasional rainy sprinkles. A pair of wrens have built a tiny "cave" inside a thatch of dead lemongrass (in a large pot on a wrought-iron table on the deck) and lined it with dead leaves. I can't tell if they're using it, though -- every now and then I take a peek inside but they're never there and I haven't seen them going in & out lately. From what I've read, wrens build more than one nest and then choose one, so maybe they didn't choose this one. I'll give them some more time.

2) Speaking of birds, here is a gorgeous example of a murmuration of starlings from today (in the UK, on Twitter).

3) Finished Montefiore's Romanov biography and immediately ordered his history of Jerusalem. Two thumbs way up for the Romanov book, strongly recommend, but good god in the end it is so sad. Three hundred years of history coming to a squalid, brutal little end in a dark little cellar -- murder by a group that included at least one drunk and a psychopath, and the whole gang of them couldn't even shoot straight.

4) Watched two silly movies last night -- The Nice Guys, and X-Men: Apocalypse. Did not care that much about either film, but I did laugh out loud for real at the elevator scene in The Nice Guys.

5) Here is a really interesting article from Smithsonian magazine about what happened to the Greenland Vikings. I don't actively look for stories about the Vikings and/or Greenland, but when I see them I read them, because many years ago I saw an article like this, and I immediately thought of an AU historical fic in which House was a Viking put out to pasture, as it were, running a small shore station with a few comrades. I still think about it every now and then. I wrote quite a bit; maybe I should release it as a Fly Free Little WIP. :-)

Five things make a post. :D
nightdog_barks: Illustration of a rabbit's head with long ears, facing left (Father Rabbit)
There was a cottontail in our backyard last night. Layla, needless to say, was very excited and wanted to go chase it, but we wouldn't let her (we are very mean). The cottontail could tell it was being watched (by us and the dog), and so it just sat still for a while. Then it relaxed enough to look around, and then enough to forage around in the grass and dirt. Layla eventually got bored and decided to take a nap. :D

Finished a very good book -- Wake, by Anna Hope. The story follows three women -- Ada, Evelyn, and Hettie -- through one week in November, 1920. The Great War has only been over for two years, and its effects are still rippling through their lives. I really enjoyed this short novel and give it two thumbs up. Now reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's new history of the Romanov dynasty, and so far it is excellent.

The weather is still wildly unseasonable -- much too warm, and today we are waiting for rain.
nightdog_barks: (Gingko Leaves)
It started raining last night at around 10:30 or 11, and basically didn't stop until about 40 minutes ago. So that's a good soaking that we really needed.

Finished reading the Steven Jobs biography last night and thought it was terrific, although at times it was genuinely painful when Isaacson would talk about Jobs' acts of selfishness and all-around general assholery. I mean, the man screwed his friends and colleagues out of bonus money and stock options. He treated people like dirt. He parked his Mercedes in handicapped-parking spaces (sometimes he would angle it in so it blocked two spaces) (I am not making this up). AND YET. He was a creative genius. He changed the way we use computers, the way we make phone calls, the way we listen to music. (I'm using the general we here; I don't own any Apple products.) He was a genius, and yet he could be such a shit human being. (Aside: I have Isaacson's bio of Benjamin Franklin on my to-read shelf; I suppose I'll get to that sooner rather than later.)

Also last night was the 10th (and final?) episode of The Young Pope. I've watched all 10, and for me, they were 10 of the best hours of TV I've seen in a long time. I loved this series -- its moments of surreality, its dream-like atmosphere, the beautiful cinematography, the very human protagonists. Two of the episodes (Nine and Ten) reminded me of Magnolia and the way that movie treated the stories of secondary characters. Kudos to The Young Pope, and especially to Jude Law, Silvio Orlando, Javier Cámara, Cécile de France, and, I suppose most of all, to Paolo Sorrentino, the writer/director/creator of this dazzling show. If it was available on a U.S.-compatible DVD set, I would buy it right now.

And I guess that's all I've got. :-)
nightdog_barks: (Oak Leaves)
The windows are open because it is 76 degrees here (24.4 Celsius). Just this afternoon I've seen chickadees, house finches, and bluebirds in our backyard. The bluebirds are especially pretty. I actually thought I might see Early Girl tomato plants for sale at Sprouts yesterday.

Finished reading Michael Chabon's Moonglow, and yes, I liked it a lot. But (is there always a but?) Chabon's narrative device kept me from being fully immersed in the story. What we have is something along the lines of Big Fish, where a father tells the story of his life to his son, except in Moonglow it's a grandfather telling the stories. And ... that, for all intents and purposes, is the character's name. He's my grandfather, and the other characters are my grandmother and my mother. Some of the secondary characters have names, but the main triad is nameless for 99% of the book (I think we learn the grandmother's name very late, but to me it wasn't clear if that was her or not). Anyway, this kept tripping me up. I mean, I guess I shouldn't have had a problem, but I did. Also there were a couple of points in the narration that seemed to be either bad editing or plot holes or Chabon indicating an unreliable narrator -- one of them was explained near the end, the other wasn't (a character who had two eyes, about 10 pages later, only had one). ANYWAY. It's a good read (some of the writing is just exquisite), but I think I liked Kavalier & Clay better.

Now I am reading Iron Towns, by Anthony Cartwright, and it is short and pretty good.

And because I am a Tom Hardy fan, I watched Taboo last night on FX. I like dark, gritty, and silly, so I thought it was great. :D

Sunshine

Jan. 4th, 2017 04:02 pm
nightdog_barks: A reclining winged cow reads a book (Reading critter)
Well, the fourth day of the new year is bright, but it was cloudy and grey earlier. It's still damp and chilly out, though. Supposedly we have a chance of snow flurries Friday morning. :D

Reading Michael Chabon's Moonglow, and so far it is very good but wow, the narration jumps around (in time).

Have resolved to try and finish some more Housefic WIPs. :-)
nightdog_barks: (Reading Girl)
Books read in 2012
Books read in 2013
Books read in 2014
Books read in 2015
Books read in 2016


2017

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, David Jaher
Moonglow, Michael Chabon
Iron Towns, Anthony Cartwright
Hitler: Ascent, 1889 - 1939, Volker Ullrich
Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
Wake, Anna Hope
The Romanovs: 1613 - 1918, Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Visible Filth, Nathan Ballingrud
All Things Cease to Appear, Elizabeth Brundage
Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, Candice Millard
Sweet Lamb of Heaven, Lydia Millet
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, David Halberstam
The Blizzard Voices: Poems, Ted Kooser
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
A Distant Heartbeat: A War, a Disappearance, and a Family's Secrets, Eunice Lipton
The Idiot, Elif Batuman
The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
My War Gone By, I Miss It So, Anthony Loyd
White Tears, Hari Kunzru
Brightness Falls, Jay McInerney
Winchell: Gossip, Power, and the Culture of Celebrity, Neal Gabler
The Sunlight Pilgrims, Jenni Fagan
Oleander, Jacaranda: A Childhood Perceived, Penelope Lively
nightdog_barks: Illustration of a young girl wearing a cat mask bandit-style (Mask Girl)
You were a pretty good month, except that you gave us a lunatic pea-brained grifter for a President.

Watched a really dumb movie, Eddie the Eagle, and a really good documentary, Underfire: The Untold Story of Pfc. Tony Vaccaro. The former was not redeemed by the presence of Hugh Jackman; the latter was amazingly good, the story of an American soldier who used his own small 35mm camera to document his WWII experience.

Still reading Farthest Field, which has gone from being "interesting" to "downright amazing." Seriously, this is such a good book about a subject I know very little about -- modern Indian history, specifically the role of India in the Second World War and the lives of individual Indians during that period. Two thumbs up so far.

Starting to see lighted Christmas decorations on our nightly walks, which is nice, especially as Layla is sometimes bemused by them and stops to stare. :D
nightdog_barks: (Newspapers)
Grouchy and growly all through the holiday. Generalized anxiety and free-floating testiness FTW!

I did read Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad, which just won the National Book Award, and I thought it was ... good. Not great. Did it deserve the National Book Award? I don't know; I haven't read the other nominees, although Paulette Jiles' News of the World is on my to-read list, and Lydia Millet's Sweet Lamb of Heaven (which was on the award long list) is in my to-read stack. (The complete list of awards is here.)

So anyway, now I am reading Raghu Karnad's Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War, and so far it is interesting.

I think I have stopped watching Westworld. The last episode I saw was "Trompe l'Oeil." After the supporting-character death in that episode, I thought about it a lot, and I finally came to the realization that, while I liked some of the show's characters (Dolores and Maeve, in particular), I really didn't care about any of them. Add to that the sheer unrelenting bleakness of the show, and, as technically beautiful as I think it is, I was like "Why keep watching?" So far I'm not missing it. Still watching Lucifer and Timeless, both of which are very silly.

So, IDEK

Nov. 13th, 2016 05:37 pm
nightdog_barks: (Oak Leaves)
Beautiful weather here today -- bright sun, cool temps. Squirrels are chasing each other around the backyard, but Layla is taking a nap so she doesn't see them. On our walk last night we saw a house with a very large, fully-lit Christmas tree in the front window. :-/

I have been reading The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters (by Laura Thompson) and am really enjoying it. Absolutely fascinating, but I would warn potential readers that the first sixty pages or so are ... a rumpled mess slog. A lot of information, really fast, with an assumption that the reader already knows about the Mitfords' parentage and ancestry. But keep going, and the book is very rewarding in terms of presenting a time and place and social history that is truly interesting. Last night I read the chapter in which Unity Mitford (one of the sisters) wrote her fan letter to JULIUS STREICHER. Oh my god. I was so angry for a while at this sad, stupid girl who's been dead for sixty-eight years. (There's more of the letter in the book than is quoted in Wikipedia and jfc it is just terrible.) I mean, I knew Unity had a thing for the Nazis, just as her sister Diana had a thing for British Fascists. I didn't realize it was that ... overt, I guess.

SO ANYWAY. Anyway. I made Crustless Cranberry Pie on Friday and it is so good (I know, it's not a very attractive name). I left out the walnuts and used an 8x8 square pan. Eh, that seems to be all for now.
nightdog_barks: (Jalapenos)
Had to turn the a/c on AGAIN because ffs it is almost 90 outside. >:-[

Finished the new biography of Shirley Jackson (by Ruth Franklin) and really enjoyed it. Was sad to realize that she died at such a young age (48) in 1965 -- she could've lived well into the 1970s and '80s and even the 1990s, and written so much more. Am now reading Entry Island by Peter May, which I am liking although I think the narrator/protagonist is a bit of a Gary Stu. :D

Also have been watching Westworld on HBO and Timeless on NBC. The former has exactly the kind of gritty, dark story that pulls me in; the latter is ... not that. *g* Timeless is a goofy series about three time travelers in pursuit of the bad guy, trying to keep him from changing the past. There are so many plot holes you could drive multiple trucks through them, but it is an endearingly silly show and the actors are giving it all they've got, so I keep tuning in.

That's it, but here's a poem by Philip Larkin ...  )
nightdog_barks: Illustration of a rabbit's head with long ears, facing left (Father Rabbit)
And already I like you because you showed me four baby bunnies last night. The bunny encounter ...  )

So that's the rabbit story! Omg I wanted to pick them up and cuddle them SO MUCH. I resisted by thinking "fleas ticks tularemia" but wow, the human cuddle instinct is strong. I read later that baby wild bunnies are prone to just keeling over ded from stress, so I'm glad I didn't touch any of them.

I am reading Tim Winton's Cloudstreet and liking it very much. It is a challenge sometimes, though, to decipher the Australian English. I already knew that chickens are chooks, but why the heck is a bundle of dry branches called props? And why is a bicycle a grid? And omg, it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize a teachest is a TEA CHEST. Nevertheless. I am enjoying the story of the Lamb and Pickles families ("It's gunna sound like a counter lunch -- Lamb and Pickles.") :D

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What I'm Reading Now

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The Night Ocean, by Paul La Farge

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The Astaires: Fred & Adele, by Kathleen Riley

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