kivrin: a church choir (choir)
( Sep. 26th, 2013 03:06 pm)
I'm still slowly picking at the Alison Weir book on Mary Stuart and the death of Darnley. SO MANY DAMN NOBLES OMG. As a kid I had an old (probably circa 1935 though hard to say) novelized life-of-Mary-Queen-of-Scots that I read several times, and I browsed the Antonia Fraser bookstop of a biography, so there's a haze of deja vu around Bothwell and Rizzio and Marys Seton, Beaton, Fleming and Hamilton, but no real understanding. [livejournal.com profile] breadandroses was asking, and I have no idea, why it is "Queen/King of Scots" and not "Scotland."

Series 2 of Call the Midwife is now up on Netflix; I roped [livejournal.com profile] breadandroses into watching the Christmas special with me and look forward to enjoying the rest of it along with more of Foyle's War. We watched the first episode of Bomb Girls the other night and were underwhelmed except by the costumes. In the non-BBC, non-mid-twentieth-century vein, we did start watching Agents of SHIELD last night. I fell asleep halfway through, which is more of a commentary on "rhinoviruses are evil" and "watching most of my TV on Netflix and download has left me unused to putting up with commercial breaks" than on the show.
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kivrin: Wash from Firefly in a hawaiian shirt (wash shirt (seanarenay))
( Sep. 13th, 2013 09:25 pm)
Other than that drippy Guy Perron in The Jewel in the Crown, has Charles Dance ever played a non-creepy character?

This question brought to you by series one, episode two of Foyle's War.
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kivrin: Elizabeth I holding a book to her lips (elizabeth book)
( Sep. 11th, 2013 11:50 am)
LAST BOOK I FINISHED

Happy Accidents, an autobiography by Jane Lynch. Not enough acting and too much stereotypically-artsy spirituality for my taste, but an engaging book nonetheless. I wanted more detail about her work with Christopher Guest (I just typed Christopher Guffman, OOPS.) The speedy progress of JL's relationship with her now-wife Laura disturbed me since it involved JL rapidly becoming a parent to Laura's child from a previous marriage. And damn, a quick google reveals that they're divorcing after three years of marriage and four years together. That poor kid.

CURRENT READING
Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley by Allison Weir. Royal Families: still the original soap operas.

The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein. Urban poverty and religious divisions in early-twentieth-century England. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn meets All-of-a-Kind Family.
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kivrin: (goofy boys (cannonsfan))
( Sep. 10th, 2013 01:20 pm)
- I already miss having a guaranteed shot of John Oliver available four days a week on The Daily Show, but it helps that The Bugle is back from hiatus.

- After months of having no creative energy for it, I have picked up knitting again and am working on some long-overdue mitts for a friend. I have also almost finished a baby cardigan for the impending third child of my oldest friends; I just need to wash and block it and sew on the button.

- Related to the above, I've made some strides in organizing or at least consolidating my stash of yarn and my knitting tools. The needles and other tools are now jumbled in a single drawer rather than being jumbled in three mesh cubes and two hanging bags distributed around my... GirlCave really doesn't sound good, does it? I'll say Introvert's Lair. I also frogged a cardigan I'd been knitting for myself but haven't touched for about five years, having realized that I probably wouldn't wear it; it was too bulky. I've wound the yarn and added it to the stash.

- Semi-related, I join the rest of the internet in recommending unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com. I've been reading it for months, and while it hasn't changed my life or the household, I think it has been helping with incremental steps, and the reminder that small steps help, and are more sustainable than marathons.

- Last month, in the final week of The Tempest at the Globe in London, Colin Morgan got sick and was unable to perform for most of the week. The Globe doesn't use understudies (and has an odd note on their website blaming it on the fact that they're not subsidized, which gives me an unfamiliar twinge of HARUMPH IN THE US WE HAVE UNDERSTUDIES WITHOUT SUBSIDIES! but I digress) so when an actor is out someone from the ensemble goes on carrying the script. Given the scope and passion of CM's fanbase, this was probably more than ordinarily terrifying for the man going on, but the fans reportedly behaved beautifully and a number in fact went around to the stage door, cheered the not-understudy when he came out, and asked for his autograph. DOING IT RIGHT, folks, DOING IT RIGHT.

- In the department of Doing Fandom Wrong, allegedly some young woman called Benedict Cumberbatch's hotel room. I say allegedly because she claims to have spoken with him, and in this day and age I can't imagine someone picking up a landline if they're not expecting a call. Still, ack, secondhandembarassment ack.

- QI Series K is in progress, and available on YouTube.

- A 2.916-year-old of my acquaintance has recently learned the now-I-understand "mmHHMMMmm" noise, as I found when he trotted up as I was playing a John-Oliver-on-Mock-the-Week clip. "What him name?" "His name is John Oliver." "oooOOOOohhh."
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LAST BOOK I FINISHED:
Monday night I finished the second Maggie Hope book, Princess Elizabeth's Spy. It is even more of a WWII Mary Sue fanfic than the first book was. Not only does Maggie go to Windsor as an undercover protective spy for young Princess Elizabeth (unlikely but okay) she and the princess are spoiler ) Also there's new people-have-been-keeping-secrets-from-you crazy for Maggie (someone else she was told was dead isn't dead!) And there's feistiness. Maggie is soooo feisty. Super super feisty in the face of moustache-twirling sexism that completely crumbles before her feistiness.

I will admit that if Maggie was crushing on a spunky lady-in-waiting or dashing Land Army woman rather than a procession of fighter pilots and senior (and therefore of course male) spies I'd have more patience with all the soap-operatic plotting and the dicey details (surely a new tutor wouldn't be invited to call the heir to the throne "Lilibet," and the phrase "on lockdown" wasn't used in 1940s Britain in the modern what-you-do-when-there's-a-mad-gun-wielding-person-in-the-school sense? If only because UK English so often does different things with prepositions than US English does.)

The book was a good illustration of some of the points raised in this interesting article on Strong Female Characters that [livejournal.com profile] penwiper26/[personal profile] eight_of_cups brought to my attention. It's as if the author doesn't trust readers to be interested in Maggie unless she's absolutely extraordinary - a brilliant mathematician, fluent in multiple languages, first to figure out all sorts of stuff, a favorite of Churchill, with a crazy history involving mysterious parents and hidden information. She can't just fight crime espionage, she has to be Super Super Special Good at it. She can't just be the protagonist because she's the protagonist, it has to be justified by her stupendousness.

It's tiring. And in the next book apparently she'll be parachuting into Germany (because she's totes fluent in German, of course!) I think I'll just reread Code Name Verity instead of pressing on with this series.

WHAT I'M READING NOW
A novel about Wallis Simpson, The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean. I'm not sure if I'll finish it - it's pretty romance-novel-ish - but at the moment it's a diverting enough look at high society (and would-be high society) in US cities in the aughts. Since most of my reading about the Windsors has been focused on QEII and her parents, the texts have tended to take an anti-EdwardVIII and anti-Wallis tack to reflect the views of George VI and his family, so it's interesting to read something sympathetic to Wallis.

I'm also reading Joseph Anton, Salman Rushie's memoir of his years in hiding after the publication of The Satanic Verses. ("Joseph Anton" was his alias, compounded from the names of two writers he admires, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.) It is somewhat exhausting in its detail about the nuts and bolts of publishing negotiations - there are pages I want to stamp with AND PEOPLE WERE TOO SPOOKED TO PRINT HIS WORK because that's the upshot - but it is vivid and compelling about the emotional (and financial) cost of living under the radar.

All the furor about The Satanic Verses happened when I was old enough to take notice but not old enough to have much of a grasp of the situation. An author had been forced to go "into hiding" - I pictured a man under a table. Years later, in a critical theory class in college, I offered the image as a joke on my young self. It turns out, however, that Rushdie did have to make uncomfortably frequent dives under tables and into closets whenever unexpected visitors turned up at places he was staying.

I really like his prose in the memoir, and I particularly enjoy his choice to write in the third person. It gives a sense of the disconnection he felt, but it also effectively underlines the fact that he is a writer before anything, and making narrative out of experience is something he does as much as he breathes. Unfortunately I don't expect to get any further in reading his fiction than I already have, because magical realism just... does not ring my bells. But I may try again after Joseph Anton.

WHAT I'LL READ NEXT

Absofricklinlutely no idea.
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kivrin: Andrew from BtVS saying "I'm on a geek high!" (andrew (glim))
( Aug. 19th, 2013 06:07 pm)
It is really remarkable that I had managed to not watch any of Call The Midwife before yesterday, because 1) period drama 2) in a medical setting 3) with an overwhelmingly female cast 4) WITH BONUS NUNS. It is as if the BBC knew me!

I watched five episodes yesterday while knitting - appropriately enough, I worked on an adorable little baby cardigan for the forthcoming child of friends. I fast-forwarded a couple times due to humiliation squick, but never for gore. I do find it absurd that the ACTUAL MEDICAL SHOW had a much less graphic, less upsetting eclampsia storyline than A Show About Pretty People's Problems, but I am also grateful, because I was not in the mood for graphic.

I love Sister Julian and Sister Bernadette, and Miranda Hart is brilliant as the nervous Nurse Camilla "Chummy" Brown. The central character, Nurse Jenny Lee, is a little tediously Mary-Sue-ish in the improbable speed with which she goes from being revolted by the conditions of life in the East End and being a friend to individuals, and a lot tedious in her I LOVE A MAN I CANNOT HAVE backstory, but she's all right.

On the continuum between Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman (protagonist can do no wrong) and Bramwell (protagonist gets hardly anything right), CTM falls more on the Doctor Quinn side, so far, which does make for more restful viewing.

I rate the series an excellent accompaniment to knitting; will watch the rest.
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Happy Birthday, [livejournal.com profile] kelilah! I hope it is marvelous.
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WHAT I MOST RECENTLY FINISHED: Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal.

My primary response to this book is to say, in the words of Eddie Izzard, "People, you're British. Scale it down a bit." Or, more specifically, be a young-woman-with-a-mysterious-past novel OR an espionage-in-wartime novel. Being both is just a little much. Also, try to reduce the number of pages spent on your protagonists figuring out something the reader has already been told. And explain why your red herring was so herring-y (though in fairness, maybe you did and the explanation was so flat that I looked right past it.)

If you have a weakness for women-in-WWII stories, you might find this a pleasant way to pass a few hours, but you'll also probably know as much (or more) about the setting than the author does and thus spend time sighing and saying YES I KNOW ABOUT ANDERSON SHELTERS CAN WE MOVE ON.

...I'm still going to read the next book in the series, though, because it's titled Princess Elizabeth's Spy. And because the mysterious-past thread does get cleared up in this volume, so I can hope the next will be more focused.
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One of the Kindle Daily Deals is $1.99 for Strong Poison. Get it here.
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kivrin: a church choir (choir)
( May. 29th, 2013 10:32 pm)
Oh, Smash. I enjoyed you so much but I also can't entirely regret you've been cancelled because there were some episodes this season that I really could barely watch for the degree to which they tripped my humiliation squick.

spoilers for the double-barreled finale within )
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WHAT I WAS READING ON THE WAY TO WORK: Mrs. Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light - a biography/social history of women who worked for Virginia (Stephens) Woolf's family. It's very readable, highly interesting, and highlights the class issues at work among the Bloomsbury group.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY FINISHED: Back Story, an autobiography by the comedian and actor David Mitchell, not to be (but now even more easily) confused with the novelist David Mitchell. He is even more neurotic than his panel-show persona suggests, and as such is a very reassuring object lesson that People Who Think Too Much can grow up to be Just Fine and in fact Quite Happy.

I am still getting used to the fact that people in mid-career in comedy are my age, and that if I met them I would be nervous about being, not young and insignificant, but just plain insignificant. Though, on the plus side, we could potentially bond about generational things, like "hearing about Salman Rushdie having to go into hiding and imagining him under a table." David Mitchell would get that. John Oliver, possibly not so much.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY REREAD: Drastically Redefining Protocol, a present-day Merlin BBC AU by Rageprufrock. I wish Hunith wasn't so weepy but otherwise I still enjoy it down to the ground.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Possibly Shooting Victoria, nonfiction about assassination attempt(s) on Queen Victoria.
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kivrin: Elizabeth I holding a book to her lips (elizabeth book)
( Apr. 17th, 2013 07:50 pm)
WHAT I WAS READING ON THE WAY TO WORK: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. And a long gen seaQuest fanfic, AU after season 1, in which the only allusion to a certain character is "Admiral Smith's daughter had been killed in the attack on [place X]."

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY FINISHED: Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY REREAD: Bits of The Mercy Rule by Perri Klass.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl because I've, uh, never actually read it. I was thinking, while I was reading the Francine Prose book, that I don't actually remember finding out about the Holocaust. I surmise that it was between when I was five and when I was eight or nine but I'm not sure. I think it was The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss, which I got out of the library at my school in India around my ninth birthday, that kicked off my READ ALL THE YA HOLOCAUST NOVELS stage, and it was I Am Rosemarie by Marietta Moskin that I read over and over. And The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black, since it's come in at the library.
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kivrin: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes looking elegant (Holmes (wens))
( Apr. 10th, 2013 02:05 pm)
WHAT I WAS READING ON THE WAY TO WORK: Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose (with a name like that, how could one NOT become a student of literature? And/or a novelist, as the case seems to be?) It's a fascinating exploration of the diary of Anne Frank as a piece of literature and as a cultural phenomenon, with sections on the creation, publication, adaptation to theater and film, and use in education. Last night and this morning I was reading the section on Holocaust deniers' attacks on the book.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY FINISHED: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. I <3 Gen. That is all.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY REREAD: Have His Carcase, Dorothy L. Sayers. Don't pay full price for the Kindle ebooks of LPW books. THEY HAVE TYPOS. It is not ok. Semi-recently I have also reread five or six of the Dragonriders of Pern books, which was interesting mostly in that it made me notice what I didn't notice when I read them in the early nineties. I remembered that I'd been disappointed by the "SETTLERS FROM EARTH" backstory because I didn't want science fiction mixed up with dragons, but I'd forgotten how present that thread was from early on, and had totally missed the suggestions of 60s/70s commune values that appear in the favorable contrast between sexually liberated weyrs and conservative holds.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Something by Neal Stephenson (I have both Anathem and Cryptonomicon on my reader) or, if it comes in at the library, The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black.
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kivrin: Elizabeth I holding a book to her lips (elizabeth book)
( Mar. 5th, 2013 06:39 pm)
So apparently noting your current reading on a Wednesday is a meme.

WHAT I WAS READING ON THE WAY TO WORK: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith. An interest in the present-day British royal family has been an adjunct to my Merlin (BBC 2008) fandom, particularly after I read Rageprufrock's classic fic Drastically Redefining Protocol. I love backstage stories and royalty spends a lot of time trying to negotiate the onstage/offstage transition. That's a fancy way of saying "I have read, on paper and in public, a pulpy joint bio of Princes William and Harry. And two other biographies of the Q-Unit.*"

* Her Majesty: Queen Elizabeth II and Her Court by Robert Hardman and Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor by Robert Lacey

Random memorable facts from the book: 1) The Q-Unit was once denied entry to the US upon landing in Lexington, KY because she doesn't have a passport. (The matter was resolved with a call to the British Embassy, who called INS, who called the customs official - it is not recorded if the customs official was told to look at a damn pound note.) 2) JFK was nearly ten years older than the queen. I don't know why that surprised me but it did. It rather neatly highlights the sharp difference between "young for a president" and "young for a monarch." When QEII visited the Kennedy White House she'd been a head of state for nearly ten years and JFK, while older, had been a head of state for about ten minutes (well, six months.)

(Recently I have also been listening to YouTube'd documentaries about various Hanover/Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/Windsor/Windsor-Mountbattens while doing data entry or other such tasks, and have finally gotten it absolutely clear in my head who it is who survived to kick off the alternate history in Peter Dickinson's King and Joker and also has been put forward as a possible Jack the Ripper. To wit: Prince Albert Victor, the oldest son of Queen Victoria's oldest son.)

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY FINISHED: either The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner or Christine Falls by Benjamin Black. Thief is YA adventure about Greeks and gods, and is highly enjoyable, though I felt slightly jerked around by a narrative twist. Christine Falls is the first in a series of mystery novels centered around a morgue pathologist in 1950s Dublin. It's... grim but very well written and compulsively readable.

WHAT I MOST RECENTLY REREAD: In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. Also a variety of P.D. James books, most notably Children of Men of which I said to my parents: "It's a lot better than I thought it was when I was sixteen. It's better than I think I was able to grasp at sixteen." At sixteen (or possibly fifteen or even fourteen, I don't remember exactly when I read it) my thoughts were mostly "where's Adam Dalgliesh?" and "wow, the end of the world is depressing." Now my thoughts include "this doomsday scenario is uncomfortably vivid" and "the should-I-get-involved-or-retreat-into-my-own-comfort question is both well-drawn and pointed" and "I'm sure I did not get, fifteen-plus years ago, how a female Archbishop of Canterbury features as PART of the dystopia."

WHAT'S UP NEXT: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.
So, for my birthday, [livejournal.com profile] breadandroses and I went up to NYC over the weekend and a very nice busy time. A few notes:

- One of Craig Ferguson's bits in his Saturday show at Radio City included an extended riff on "what it would look like if chocolate actually WAS addictive" which culminated in the question "Have you ever said 'I'll just have one Mounds bar' and woken up three days later on the floor of a Piggly Wiggly with a sore arse and Snickers in your ears?" The name 'Piggly Wiggly' is inherently hilarious to Yankees like me; when a Scotsman says it it's even better. When a MANIC Scotsman says it, it's sublime. The Manic Scotsman principle applies to a lot of Craig Ferguson's comedy; it's not that jokes about Hitler's vegetarianism are original, it's that CF delivers them with such verve.

- It's peculiarly informative to attend back-to-back events at Radio City Music Hall and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The venue designed for nonparticipatory events is more intimate AND has better sightlines. Both, however, have extensive corps of well-trained ushers.

- 300-voice choir? FRICKIN' AWESOME.

- Clergy and servers have got to be in good trim to process around the LARGEST CATHEDRAL IN THE WORLD, particularly because they don't start from the narthex but from the south arm of the crossing to then go BACK to the narthex and down the center aisle.

- "I think Episcopalians are trained to stand in doorways," one assisting priest was complaining as the procession wound back down the south aisle towards the crossing at the end of the service.

- Some popular parenting blogger in NYC needs to get the word out that, while the procession of the animals makes the Feast of St Francis (observed) a particularly engaging service for the small fry, the fact that the procession happens in the last quarter of a service that included (in this instance) four readings, a sermon, several anthems, two dance performances, and communion for, conservatively speaking, a thousand, and lasted nearly two hours, it's a poor choice for a kid who has no prior experience of religious services.

- Given that St. J's was being un-Episcopalian enough to be asking the congregation to raise our hands and sway, kumbaya-style, I feel they might as well have gone whole-hog and put up some jumbotrons so those of us west of the crossing could see what was going on at the altar.

- WE SAW A KANGAROO IN CHURCH A KANGAROO HOPPING UP THE AISLE ON A LEAD CHEERFULLY VEERING FROM SIDE TO SIDE TO INVESTIGATE THE HUNDREDS OF PHONES HELD UP TO TAKE ITS PICTURE.

- Also in the procession of animals: a camel (regal and relaxed), a donkey (trying hard to bolt from its handlers), a number of rabbits of various subspecies snuggling up to their people, a yak (so hairy I could not guess at its mood), a spiky-shelled giant tortise on a small wheeled platform garlanded with flowers, a snake in a terrarium, two black swans, a turkey, a macaw wearing a service animal badge, a fennic fox, a potbellied pig, and several lamas (one very nervous and clearly not having a good time.) And, bringing up the rear, a clean-up crew with a wheelbarrow and a shovel.
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kivrin: (goofy boys (cannonsfan))
( Jul. 3rd, 2012 12:43 pm)
Read more... )
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kivrin: Sherlock Holmes says ARGH (holmes argh (wens))
( Jun. 21st, 2012 01:10 pm)
I am wicked, wicked glad and grateful that I have a job.

I am also primal screaming because I

1) found out this morning that my boss is on vacation today through July 2
2) found out only when Colleague S failed to show up for his shift that HE is out at least for today so I had to redo the schedule on the fly while taking the first flood of researchers for the day.
3) found out when I tried to look up a manuscript location that the archives management program has unaccountably vanished from the computer in the reading room.


EVERYTHING IS FIRED.
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ME: Everyone always rags on David Mitchell for being ridiculously posh but he just doesn't seem that posh to me. Maybe it's another You Have To Be British thing.
B&R: Well, they probably just pick something. And he is pretty posh, he went to Cambridge and all.
ME: Does that make him that unusual on the British comedy scene? Stephen Fry went to Cambridge.
B&R: Stephen Fry is in a class by himself. A class made entirely of tweed.
ME: Right, fair point. But other people went to Cambridge! Not Lee Mack and Alan Davies but other people. I mean, nobody rags on HUGH LAURIE for being posh!
B&R: That's not about him being posh, that's about him being HUGH LAURIE. You don't rag on him AT ALL. Or his revenge will be swift and terrible.
ME: Right. Or long delayed and even MORE terrible.
B&R: Right.
ME: And involve the playing of blues harmonica at you.
B&R: Probably.
ME: And sometime, much later, when you're hanging around before a filming you might mention that you've taken up a new hobby of, like, macrame, and Hugh would say "oh, that's quite interesting, have you any macrame string here?" and you'd pass so over and he'd whip up a large Hadron collider out of it and say "oh yes, I see how that could be very relaxing."
B&R: I think you need to tell the internet about that.
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