A pique-nique of linkspam

Jun. 24th, 2017 02:57 pm
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[personal profile] oursin

I am fairly hmmmm about this piece on empaths, and wonder if some of those consultant empaths are employing the cold-reading tricks attributed to psychics, but buried in it is actually an interrogation of how useful quivering responsiveness to emotion is and the suggestion that 'empathy alone is not a reliable way of coming to a moral decision', and

Empathy is not action. It’s much more useful to be knowledgable about what’s happening so you can effect structural change. If everybody’s swimming in a sea of feelings, it’s an impediment to action.

And possibly somehow related to this, on the advantages of scheduling over spontaneity.

See also, review here of Selfie by Will Storr: 'This engaging book links the ‘self-esteem’ industry to Ayn Rand and neoliberalism. But is the selfie-taking generation unusually narcissistic?'. And is there not something problematic about making a big deal out of a single young woman who takes a lot of selfies? (shoutout here to Carol Dyhouse's Girl Trouble and the constant motif of young women's behaviour epitomising what is supposedly wrong with These Here Modern Times.)

And in Dept of, Countering National Stereotypes, the French minister who wants sexual harassment fines and is annoyed by the cultural myths about Frenchwomen.

Born in 1799, Anna Atkins captured plants, shells and algae in ghostly wisps and ravishing blues. Why isn’t she famous? - how long have you got to listen to my answer?

A book on hares which is, it sounds like, more about hares than the writer's journey and epiphany from their encounter with nature

Invitation to the dance

Jun. 23rd, 2017 07:57 pm
oursin: Illustration from the Kipling story: mongoose on desk with inkwell and papers (mongoose)
[personal profile] oursin

Well, not literally.

But I have finally managed to have a discussion with the editor at the Very Estimable and Well-Reputed Academic Press whom I had hoped to get together with during the Massive Triennial Conference the other week, which did not happen for, reasons.

And they are very keen about a book I have been thinking about for ages, which is not the Major Research Project of the moment, though somewhat tangentially related, and I'm hmmmmmm about it.

Because it's a book where I haven't done more than research rather a small part of one angle of the bigger picture, but on the other hand, I do know what has to be in there and where to look.

And unlike the Major Research Project, which is large and contains multitudes, this would be a discrete project that wouldn't (I hope) keep starting yet more hares for me to go baying after.

*Wibble*

(no subject)

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:32 am
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[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] bessemerprocess and [personal profile] libskrat!
oursin: Photograph of a statue of Hygeia, goddess of health (Hygeia)
[personal profile] oursin
[R]ed tape also means regulations that protect citizens, at a certain cost to companies that otherwise have little incentive to sacrifice some profit to mitigate risk. It is because of red tape that you cannot buy a flammable sofa, and that you are very unlikely to die in an air crash.

Much red tape, indeed, is the frozen memory of past disaster. Modern regulatory regimes as a whole came into being in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of public outrage at the dangerous practices of unrestrained industry.

This is perhaps partly similar to the phenomenon that having effective infrastructure and ongoing regular maintenance of same is not as dramatic a story as horrendous accidents.

It's possibly also analogous to people becoming anti-vaxxers, because vaccination programmes have been so successful that there is no notion of the risks there used to be from common diseases of childhood.

For the first few years of 'there were no new cases of polio in the last twelve months' this is news. And then that becomes the default setting.

For those who decry 'Elf and Safety, I recommend a salutary reading of the London Medical Officer of Health reports from the C19th, freely available digitised and searchable online.

There are some Victorian values one can get behind, and the rise of public health is one of them.

On other Victorian values, however, and those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it, this person seems unaware that providing tied housing contingent upon working for a particular employer is nothing like a 'welfare state':

it was recently reported that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is spending is around $30m to provide short-term, prefab housing for 300 of its employees because Silicon Valley housing is in such short supply. Tech giants helped cause a housing crisis in Silicon Valley, now it seems they are becoming landlords. It’s feudalism 2.0.
Not so much feudalism as C19th model towns, e.g. Saltaire, founded by businessmen to keep their workers contented and (I hypothesise) spurning the trades union movement (having had to do with a late C19th enterprise with some of the same elements of benevolent paternalism towards the workforce).

And, looking at that article, was New Lanark really quite the same thing? Enlightened capitalism not quite the same as utopian socialism.

Also had the thought that people who are 'regulation BAD' seem to reverse this opinion when it comes to panic measures against terrorism that are often symbolic rather than proven efficacious.

(no subject)

Jun. 22nd, 2017 09:40 am
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[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] woldy!
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[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Binti. Reminded me a bit of other things I have read over my sff reading life, but well-done, may well go for the next one.

Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth (2017). Okay, everybody mentions the hippos, but isn't it, underneath that, a combination western/caper tale where an unlikely team is brought together and has its own tensions besides the issues with what it has to do? (not that that isn't a good armature). Enjoyable, but ended abruptly and cliffhangingly, and is the new thing (see Binti above) of issuing novellas which are only the beginning of a longer story arc the new allotrope of serialised fiction? (but hey, it worked for Middlemarch, though at least Ms Evans indicated that it was an ongoing story.)

Dana Stabenow, Bad Blood (2013). Not quite as good as the last one I read, I think, but ended with A Thing that makes me want to go on to the next quite shortly to see how that pans out for Kate Shugak.

Two short pieces of Barbara Hambly's 'Further Adventures': Hazard (2017) (Sunwolf and Starhawk) and Elsewhere (2017) (Darwath).

Picked up in booksale, Arthur Ransome, Missee Lee (1941). I remembered very little about this, even though I later discovered I already had a copy on my shelves. I don't think it was ever among my favourites of the Swallows and Amazons books; but I've found, on re-reads of these books, that somehow they do not do for me what they did in youth - something about the style? I don't know. Also, early C20th rendering of Chinglish, sigh.

On the go

Elizabeth George, A Banquet of Consequences (2015). I was considerably off these when they were turning Lynley's Epic Manpain up to 11, but this one was very cheap in a charity shop and promised mostly Havers. And really, do we not want more of the scruffy maverick with constant disciplinary issues who is also a woman? - the 'top brass not pleased' is massive at the beginning of this one. Okay, it's got a standard E George riff on 'all unhappy families are different in baroquely complicated ways, and there are no happy families' (the misery handed on is not so much a coastal shelf as the Mariana Trench), but I have stuck with it, though have just been irked that over 500 pages into the narrative they are only just looking into how anyone might have got hold of the somewhat unusual toxic substance involved.

Also, on the ereader, because I don't want to tote around a damn great fat paperback, from the romance bundle, Ivory Lei, How to Wed an Earl (2013) - not got very far, but seems as, 'be betrothed in infancy by respective parents' is how...

Up next

Well, in another charity shop found the preceding volume by Elizabeth George, Just One Evil Act (2013), which, I daresay, will reveal what got Havers into the deepest of disgrace and quite possibly the depths of depression, but I'm not sure I really want to commit to going straight on to another of these. Or maybe the next Stabenow in the series.

Or I could look through my tbr piles, actual and virtual.

(no subject)

Jun. 21st, 2017 10:09 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] adrian_turtle!
oursin: Books stacked on shelves, piled up on floor, rocking chair in foreground (books)
[personal profile] oursin

I was responding to someone else's post and saying that I'm actually quite hesitant about recommending some of the writers/works that I love, because I can see that they have very individual and distinctive styles and that these may not work for everybody.

Some while ago (but failed to save the link) read a post somewhere pointing out that if you write a book or make a movie or [whatever], that people really really LOVE it is pretty much certain that there will be some people who really really HATE it; and that people who are aiming to make something that will appeal to everybody end up with a bland mush* that nobody HATES perhaps but nobody goes raving enthusiastically about either.

For some people, and maybe in some genres, this is a feature and not a bug: I have lately been reading various romance authors and a lot of them seem fairly interchangeable to me, i.e. I would not pick up a work and immediately know it was by YX rather than XY. See also some of the comments I have made about the reissued 'Golden Age' mysteries I have been sent as freebies and made myself read. Sometimes e.g. Allingham may irritate me intensely, but you know that you're reading a book by her and not Any Old Person.

Me myself I am a sucker for a distinctive voice provided that it is fresh rather than derivative (suspect this may account for why I like the Flashman books but not the various works that have tried to do the same thing, without, I depose, anything like GMF's abilities).

Though I am also generally twitchy about people who proselytise for authors/works/movies; possibly the flipside of that is people who diss on something you're reading or have on your shelves, which is rude. (Plus, if you a person who reads ALOT, you are going to have books about that are not favourites of your heart or indeed anything but something you are reading, because reading is what you do, they are at least a step up from the back of the cereal packet.)

As I have heretofore remarked, there is no book that everybody SHOULD read.

*Though is there not a proverb about porridge and no danger of world shortage of oatmeal?

(no subject)

Jun. 20th, 2017 09:40 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] bzeep and [personal profile] tournevis!
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[personal profile] highlyeccentric
Currently Reading: Captive Prince, *again*, but this time it counts as work. Tanya Huff's The second summoning.

Recently Read: For work, King of Tars and Floris and Blanchflour. Floris gets smuggled into a harem in a CUP. Wtf.

Also for work, don't even ask, started and didn't finish 'Ai No Kusabi' volume one. I was pretty into the premise but the prose of the English translation was SO TERRIBLE I couldn't even.

Missed HerMissed Her by Ivan E. Coyote

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book. I had a problem deciding if I should shelve it with short-stories or memoir, but I bought it second hand with a library sticker on it saying FIC, so I trust unto librarians. The same week I read this I read Liz Duck-Chong's profile of Ivan in Kill Your Darlings, and experienced the same dissonance I experienced when I read Halberstam's Female Masculinity alongside a recent Halberstam interview. In both cases some things have shifted in the author's gender presentation, and possibly gender experience, but if it's public knowledge *what* shifted or why, I don't know it. Which is fine, but the dissonance comes in in that something in their old self-presentation, the butch identity that both is and is not woman, speaks to me. I'm not sure what it is, and it feels kind of weird to go looking for it knowing that's no longer how the author thinks of themself.



Selected PoemsSelected Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was... an interesting tasting plate. I was surprised to find that I don't like all Duffy's work consistently: I particularly liked the poems from Selling Manhattan (1987) and Mean Time (1993), was uncomfortable with the ventriloquising of non-white perspectives in some of the selections from Standing Female Nude (1985), and actively bored by everything from The Other Country (1990). And the final selection confirmed what I already knew, that I am just not that impressed with The World's Wife despite all the reasons I *should* like it.



Archer: The Non-Binary Issue (Archer Magazine #7)Archer: The Non-Binary Issue by Amy Middleton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I bought myself a four-issue subscription to Archer as a Housing Stability Present. I love their blog, and wanted to put more $$ into Australian independent media. At times I find their analysis pieces a little light, but at other times I am impressed by the knack their authors have of breaking down dense academic concepts. (Dion Kagan's Butt Politics from Issue 5 is a great example)

I was disappointed to find that my favourite essay in Issue 7 was one I had already read online, Devon Whipp's Versatile Tricks. Likewise Jonno Revanche's Generation Gaps, which fascinated me with its account of the author's identification with their grandmother. There were several pieces by Latinx authors, and across the three of them I was interested to note that one wrote of English as an imposition and Spanish as the fraught-with-gender 'language in which I learned to love'; the other two recognised the same rigidity of the gendered romance language system, but were also much more hostile to it, speaking of it as a language of colonisation. I suspect that reflects their respective family and class backgrounds - one wrote of indigenous Mexican cultures with sense of belonging, but none of the three went into detail.

The big difference between the magazine and the blog is that the magazine is lush with images - this issue contains two photo-essays and a fashion spread. I found that... a little difficult to access, because while the pictures are striking, I always feel l am missing layers of meaning in visual media.



Up Next: I am expecting new issues of both Archer and Meanjin soon. I have stocked up on romance ebooks for conference travel. Truly I am mighty!




Music notes:

Director CB, of the October show I'm doing, played some Zoe Keating he wants to use as background music, and I LOVE IT. Escape Artist is an awesome track.

I'm still listening to and enjoying Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment'. I purchased but haven't yet fully embraced the new Halsey; I've been listening to Lorde's Melodrama on Spotify but am not sure if I want to commit to it.

I bought Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk' and hoooo boy is that an Experience. I have a lot of feels about Fleetwood Mac, apparently, and some of those tracks are perfectly calculated to tap into them. 'Sara', particularly. I don't know if the reason this is new to me is that Dad didn't *own* Tusk or that he only had it on record so I never got to play it.

(Related: I found out Stevie Nicks had a thing with Mick Fleetwood too? An on-again off-again non-exclusive thing. Everything I learn about Stevie Nicks' love life both doubles my admiration of her and doubles my sense of 'wtf how did this band even survive as a band'.)

Incrementality

Jun. 19th, 2017 07:17 pm
oursin: The Delphic Sibyl from the Sistine Chapel (Delphic sibyl)
[personal profile] oursin

I was synchronicitously pleased to find this blog post crossing my line of sight earlier today: Prospecting for kryptonite: the value of null results, because I had been thinking about incrementality and the time it takes for things to see results, and this is not just about scientific research.

Lately, at a symposium-thing I was speaking at, in the question/discussion bit somebody asked, was [change in the law] down to its being the Permissive Society at the time. And I was, actually that change in the law was made by people who had been working towards it for several decades, and had finally got into positions of power and influence and had the clout to bring it about, and it was more the final outcome of stuff that happened in the 30s than something that can be attributed to its beneficiaries, the Sixties Generation.

I think I've moaned on before about the 'Spaceships of the Gods' hypothesis and the idea that certain forms of knowledge came from Out There, because Infinite Regress: who found out how to build pyramids in the first place? why couldn't they have put on the show right here in the old barn gradually developed the capacity to do so over time and trial and error. The pyramids did not grow up overnight. So it might just as well have happened here as Somewhere Else and been brought to us by ?benevolent aliens.

There was also a good post somewhere I came across about archival research and how it is not opening a file and DISCOVERY!!! it is looking through files files files and putting little pieces together.

Yes, there are moments when everything comes together, and when the outcome of the process finally surfaces above the horizon: but it doesn't Just Happen. There was history.

Culinary

Jun. 18th, 2017 08:41 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

During the week: Greenstein's 100% wholewheat loaf, 50:50% ordinary strong wholemeal/einkorn flour - v nice.

Saturday breakfast rolls: basic buttermilk, 3:1 strong white flour/medium cornmeal.

Today's lunch: partridge breasts seasoned and panfried in butter + olive oil, served with rosemary jelly and damson jelly, with sticky rice with lime leaves, buttered

Bread-making during the week I expect.

oursin: Text, nits, for picking of, lettered onto image of antique nitcomb from the Science Museum (nitcomb)
[personal profile] oursin

- that the plot of My Cousin Rachel is based on a very dubious understanding of English testamentary law.

According to the plot summary of the original novel here, Ambrose had never changed the will he made before marrying Rachel, which left everything to Philip.

Ahem: marrying voids existing testamentary dispositions, so, unless he had made another will embodying the same provisions after marriage (which he could have done, since there was no automatic obligation to provide for wife and children), everything would go to his wife, i.e. Rachel.

But even if he had made a new will in the same terms as the old, given that there seems to have been plausible medical evidence that he was not in his right mind at the time of death, she would anyway presumably have had good grounds for contesting the will.

oursin: George Beresford photograph of Marie of Roumania, overwritten 'And I AM Marie of Roumania' (Marie of Roumania)
[personal profile] oursin

And while I am all about let's have some Dorothy Parker love, I'm not sure this essay really does her any favours:

The wicked wit and enigma of Dorothy Parker – 50 years on

Enquiring minds wonder, was she in fact the only woman at the famed Algonquin Round Table? Not according to the Wikipedia entry, which suggests that the author of that column is in thrall to the 'There Can Be Only One' theory of women's presence. Or just Did Not Do The Research.

One is not astounded to be told of her support for progressive causes, which as I recalled even featured in that movie Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle.

Why is 'finding her work tricky?

[S]he’ll be slightly improbably shelved instead with literary giants: Penguin Classics’ The Collected Dorothy Parker.

WTF? Why not? (How bulky are the collected works of Oscar Wilde?)

It may be this protean, unpigeonholable aspect of Parker that most looks forward to female authors today, as they shift between, say, fiction, memoir, poetry, journalism, screenwriting, live appearances and social media.

And that is different from female authors of the past exactly how, come on down Dame Rebecca!

I think there are underlying assumptions there that Big Important Writers write Big Important Books and stick to their last.

(Unfortunately I can't find online the article by Benjamin Markovits taking on the class and gender assumptions of Cyril Connolly's line about the pram in the hall as one of the Enemies of Promise, which seems related to this.)

I don't think that solution works...

Jun. 16th, 2017 07:38 pm
oursin: Illustration from the Kipling story: mongoose on desk with inkwell and papers (mongoose)
[personal profile] oursin

Glancing through Captain Awkward today and seeing this problem, and looking at the comments -

This being about that thing when people come up to you for professional/expert advice when you are in personal or not-on-duty off-the-clock mode, which I may have whinged about in my working days in the library staff allotrope which is, the assumption that any member of library personnel who is not behind a desk but is doing something in the public bits of the library is not somebody doing something connected with a non-public-facing part of their job description (or indeed, improving the shining hour on break-time), but a walking, talking, context-sensitive help menu.

(Possibly the most persistent instance of this I encountered was a person who had been told that the person who dealt with [particular section of the collection] was away and if they were not on site, there was no-one else who could assist. Having been told this at the desk, person still came up to anyone who looked like a member of staff, including me, I think this was actually within the first fortnight I was even in post, badgering them to see if they could help. Though I have mentioned heretofore those people who think that there is a secret access code involving asking a specific number of times, and possibly giving the special handshake.)

Given that it was but a short walk to the main enquiry desk and they still did this, I am disinclined to optimism for the success for setting up special 'come and ask me about my area of expertise' sessions. (These may be a useful thing, but probably not for this type of person.)

I will give somewhat of a pass to people who wish to access my very own specific expertise on some matter, though I will be a lot more agreeable if you either email me about this or make a specific appointment rather than coming up to me when I'm actually engaged in my own research. (I wasn't too chuffed either with the guy who pursued me into the computer lab where I was checking my email during a conference.) But not the people who just needed to talk to an archivist, any archivist, of which during working hours there was always one on call for enquiries.

People who want to come and ask person going about their own business some matter that has crossed their mind and seems to them of burning urgency I suspect are never going to turn up to a 'bring us your questions!' sessions or read any online info they've been directed to.

This cynicism brought to you also by email chains from intending researchers asking for info which had already been sent about finding and ordering material (in some instances I am quite sure in the hope that we would crack and order it for them).

(no subject)

Jun. 16th, 2017 10:42 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] quoththeravyn and [personal profile] rahael!

Well, maybe

Jun. 15th, 2017 07:22 pm
oursin: Text, nits, for picking of, lettered onto image of antique nitcomb from the Science Museum (nitcomb)
[personal profile] oursin

There was an essay in the most recent Slightly Foxed on Esin Eden and Nicholas Stavroulakis, Salonika: A Family Cookbook, which mentions that Eden was from a family of 'Salonika's strangest and most secretive sect', pejoratively known as the Donme - followers of the C17th self-proclaimed Messiah Sabbatai Zevi, who converted to Islam in order to avoid execution. This led to a very eclectic and inward-looking sect.

The essay mentions in passing that they 'practised ritual wife-swapping'.*

And at first I was, o, come on, the early Christians were accused of holding orgies. See also the Ranters and the Brethren of the Free Spirit, where a good deal of evidence for their immorality comes from hostile witnesses, or even, it is suggested, lurid imaginations. ('They are against everything we believe in and that probably includes doing the things we are not supposed to do'.)

And then on the other hand I think of e.g. the Oneida Community and other sects and cults with similar notions of non-possessiveness and attempted practice of same.

And on yet another paw, ideologies suggesting free love as an ideal have been declared to be about 'holding women in common' rather than, you know, possibilities of choice (okay, often compromised in practice).

And anyway, am inclined to think that the term 'wife-swapping' is an over-simplification of what was probably a far more complex phenomenon.

*A little light googling brings up several what appear to be conspiracy theory sites about the sinister influence of the Donme, so, problematic, evidence-wise.

(no subject)

Jun. 15th, 2017 10:04 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] twistedchick!
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

K J Charles, An Unnatural Vice (2017): on the plane, downloaded to my tablet, because even though I'd enabled wifi on my Kobo Aura it sulkily refused to admit that this was in my library.

Then, also on the plane, wondering what was suited to my tired and foggy state, I embarked upon a bundle of romances I'd acquired for peanuts. The first one was something I found I was not interested in, but the second, Julie LeMense, Once upon a Scandal (2015), at least had something going on in the plot besides UST, even if it then piled improbability upon improbability. I've also ingested, over the past week, two more novellas/short novels, one of which was twee, Carolynn Carey, Merry's Wonderful Christmas Gift (2013) - the old tropes are the good ones? the misdirected or intercepted letters gambit, as deployed by Rhoda Broughton. Somewhat more interesting, Emma Barron, The Glass Orchid (2013), which at least reversed the usual gendered innocence/experience polarity.

The latest Slightly Foxed.

Megan Whalen Turner, Thick as Thieves (2017), and, okay, it was another of those good old plots of odd couple, quite possibly mortal enemies, who nevertheless have to undertake a perilous journey together: but well-done.

Sarah Dessen, Once and For All (2017), again, lots about it that annoyed me intensely, and yet, couldn't stop reading. Also, male lead was a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy.

Emma Newman, All Good Things (The Split Worlds, Vol 5) (2017), well, wow. I had no idea how she was going to resolve everything, and this both resolved things and left things open and unsettled.

Oh yes, and I finally finished the book for review, and written the review, go me

On the go

Nnedi Okorafor, Binti (2015), which has been on my virtual tbr pile for ages.

Up next

I probably need to look over my tbr piles, virtual and actual. But River of Teeth is rather calling to me at present.

Things are getting done

Jun. 13th, 2017 09:07 pm
oursin: Pciture of hedgehog labelled domestic hedgehog (domestic hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

Started the week with a life admin to-do list.

I've managed to knock off most things - also one thing (print out stuff needed to make expenses claim) that I hadn't thought of.

I've even got approximately half of a book review with impending deadline written.

Since the dental practice aren't yet nagging me about my hygienist appointment, I don't think that's urgent.

There's one other thing that is really not urgent, just note to self to do sometime.

There is one thing I didn't put on it that needs doing before end of week.

And there is also a guilt thing that I suspect its time has now passed.

But at least I have got my ironing done.

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