The Latest Doings & Goings-on

Reading:

Court of___________ series. Sarah J Maas. Three books & a novella with more on the way. I gobbled them all up like potato chips and have moved on to the author’s other series, the name of which I have misplaced.  Good, solid European/Celtic-based fantasy but with some quirks that may or may not rub a reader wrong.  (1) There’s a definite romance feel to the relationship developments and the physical descriptions, and although the books are published by YA Bloomsbury, um…there are full-on sex scenes too. Which I like but was not expecting. (2) The characters refer to people as males and females…that one starts to grate after a while. I know, the rationale is that there are Fae and fairies and arguments are made about man/woman only applying to humans, but…I respectfully disagree and dislike the reductiveness of it nonetheless. (3) There’s a subtext of “marriage & family is everything,” with romantic love complications being the only driving motivation for nearly every character’s development.

Me, I didn’t mind them, and the books are wildly popular, but…still. These are things I notice.

Viewing:

Avengers: Infinity War. (Sorta spoilers?) I enjoyed it right up to the end, which wasn’t an end OR a cliffhanger and has left me with…mixed feelings.  It’s worse than if I’d gotten to the last page of The Two Towers and was told I couldn’t read Return Of the King for a year, because reading even the most visual of books is not as visceral and immediate as viewing a movie. The choice of a total downer endpoint (and the painfully problematic nature of some choices leading to that point) pulled me out of the story, and that was disappointing. I wanted to be excited about anticipating the next part. Now I’m merely hoping it isn’t a huge letdown. Oh, well.

Winchester. A delicious old-fashioned haunted house story, complete with a cast of flawed protagonists, loads of  mysterious supporting characters, family failures and secrets, and tons of jump scares. The historical elements—including the magnificent sets & costumes—made for wonderful atmospherics. It’s beautifully produced, crisply modern, and yet it sets a retro 70’s horror movie ambiance in the best way.

Baking:

I have discovered that if I add an extra 1/2 c of greek yogurt and extra sugar to my cherry drop scone recipe, they taste a lot like cherry cheesecake. Next experiment: sub in some almond flour to see how it affects the texture.

And I’ve perfected the recipe I call “why buy teeny boxes of Boursin when I have goat cheese and yogurt plus herbs & spices from my kitchen & garden?”  It’s delicious on lots of things, and so easy I can make it in a bowl with a fork. Yum.

Yarding:

Spring has finally sprung. We’re still at half the average growing degree days for this point in the year, but with the summery days, we’re catching up fast.  I got the shrubs in need of shaping cut back just in time, before they leafed out practically overnight. And since Spouseman has enough energy back to join in the yard fun & games again this year (YAY!) the bindweed & dandelions in the beds are getting properly annihilated.

Most of the things I planted last year came back. I’ve added a few new perennials and moved around some that have been propagating.  On the annuals side, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are in, serendipity seeds have been scattered. Still to come: basil, more rosemary & lavender plants for pots and beds (maybe I can keep the pots alive this year…) and some geraniums for color.

And I need to buy more dirt. (Just writing those words makes me giggle—buy dirt?!—but it’s true. I harvest enough from the beds each year that I need to replace biomass. Because SCIENCE!)

And since you’ve made it this far, Writing:

My last post had the mopey details. The happy big thing is, I have met some fantastic folk at a sorta-local reading series. Gumbo Fiction Salon happens on second Thursdays at the Galway Arms in Chicago. There are a couple of featured readers every month and open mic. Genre-friendly to the max, but not restricted to science-fiction/fantasy, or even to prose. Supportive, audience of other writers 7 writing adjacent folk.  Good food, good company, good times. What’s not to love?

It’s only sorta-local because I’m near Chicago, not in Chicago. Near-ish. Like, it takes an hour to get there.) ANYway. It’s well worth the public transit adventure.

I’ll be there again tonight, reading from Rough Passages if I get a mic slot. I’ll definitely be reading in July, I’m a featured reader that month.

 

 

 

I’ve been watching things.

I’m in the middle of some Epic Fantasy, (NK Jemison, wooooooo!) but I’m not finished, I’m writing & revising but that’s boring to report on, and my baking adventures are getting their own posts.

SO. This episode of Sometimes I Do Other Things is all about the viewings of the last few weeks.

Exodus: Gods & Kings. A movie just as long as the Charlton Heston epic, minus two major subplots and without the golden calf sequence, with Yahweh inexplicably appearing as a small child throughout and also a lot of dramatic scenes of people glancing significantly at each other. OOF. I recommend AGAINST this one.

Atomic Blonde. Brilliantly-directed classic spy thriller, gritty and grounded in its time with a stunning use of period music. Wowza.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle. I have nothing good to say about this beyond, “Yes, I laughed at the funny bits and enjoyed it.” I also appreciated the moviecraft that went into the action sequences and the set design & cinematography were brilliant. Otherwise, from concept through character design to plot it’s a terrible, horrible, no-good,  scrub-out-your-brain-afterwards mess of septic tropes and poisonous cliches. Also the writers got simple bourbon-making facts wrong. SHAME. In short, a typical grand mess of a Hollywood blockbuster sequel.

Dunkirk. In many ways it reminded me of The Thin Red Line.  That is not a compliment. It’s all about insisting that the full scope of human experience can only be appreciated against a backdrop of  The Horrors Of War ™ Both movies looked at the same topic from different side. Instead of humanizing the grim bleakness of victory the way tTRL did, Dunkirk dramatizes the uplifting side of defeat. Or something like that.  Sorry to grump all over a movie that was super popular and beloved of critics. I’m glad I saw it. I just…I dunno.  I don’t need a lens of bloodshed and grit to celebrate humanity’s better angels.

Despicable Me 3.  An emotional palate cleanser after Dunkirk. Animated fun with all the elevated humor of a rowdy class of second-graders. Pretty sure that’s the target market, but like all the best cartoons, there’s plenty of higher-level fun for grownups to enjoy. Plus Agnes, Edith, and Margo are always fabulous.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard. I was hoping to add a movie to my growing “Hitman Comedies” list with Grosse Pointe Blank and Red, but nope.  It isn’t bad. I enjoyed it. I Won’t ever need to see it again, though.  Ryan Reynolds & Samuel L Jackson were both good, & Salma Hayek was excellent, but the plot intensity wobbled between The Whole Nine Yards and In Bruges and never settled anywhere.

Flatliners. Not sure why this got bumped onto Hollywood’s remake list. This is a solid take on a movie that wasn’t brilliant the first time. Far too much stalker camerawork, and even more too-muchness in the long lingering reaction stares and pointless telegraphed jump scare categories, but it stayed true to the original premise and only got a little muddy on plot.  Kieffer Sutherland’s cameo was the highlight for me.

Pirates of the Caribbean: something something something. What is this? #4? #5? Anyway. I’m sure many people adored it. Best I say nothing beyond SERIOUSLY WTF WHY WHY WHY…ahem. Sorry. You may safely infer I was not impressed. What a waste of so many things. Not my time, though. I folded laundry, came and went, played with my new iPad pencil and enjoyed the CGI. The graphics were marvelous.

Cloverfield Paradox. It was a space horror movie. Can’t recommend, can’t understand the hate it gets either. Compared to most of that sub-genre, it was

Altered Carbon. (Netflix original series) Holy fucking hell. Boom. This lets me wrap up on a high note. There’s an admantium Bladerunner skeleton under this show’s slick, modern, glamorous techno-skin, and the writing is full-on phenomenal. Some big gaps in plot, but I’m all about forgiving those when the premise is plausible and the internal consistency is there, and this show nails it.  Extra happy points for going equal-opportunity on the nudity (within the limits allowed by the annoying TV ratings system.)

It gets all my recommendations–with the caveat that it depicts a violent & bloody world where savage things happen…and gets moderately graphic about it.

Upcoming? OLYMPICS. Full television schedule bookmarked: check. Empty DVR: check. Food & beverage & power cord for the laptop: checkcheckcheck.

I record and time-shift the shit out of NBC’s commercial-soaked, propaganda-diluted fluff-piece-infested coverage. Comparing the number of jingoistic interludes & nationalistic melodramas to the number of actual events shown keeps me entertained.  And the internet gives me BBC & CBC clips. Huzzah for balance. And yay, sportsing!

 

 

Still Doing Other Things

otter things header

Media consumption continues. Documentation continues.

Movies & TV:

Dark Tower: This could have been great. It could have been good. It settled for sadly forgettable. Too bad.

The Mummy (Tom Cruise running edition) The best I can say about it is, “Welp, it kept a lot of production crew employed and effects people busy for a while.” If I hadn’t given up and started doing laundry & dusting after half an hour, my analysis would probably be more like, “OhgedohgedcanIhavethosetwohoursbackplease?”

Black Mirror: Episode 5 was a pointless exercise in directorial control. The rest, I enjoyed. Far less overt gore in this season, for which I am grateful.

A re-watch of Peaky Blinders + the new season. I don’t know if I ever remembered to include the previous watches in a media consumption post. I watched the first one while doing a Boardwalk Empire binge and my brain, being a cluttered place, put them both in the same memory drawer. Oh, well. It’s fantastic stuff: super-tight storytelling, phenomenal acting, brilliant direction, perfect costuming & production. Violent as hell.

Something or other Planet of the Apes. The last one. Um. Ew. Watching these is like picking scabs. I can’t stop, but I hate. No magical hydroelectric dam in this one, so it has that to recommend it. It also has Woody Harrelson channeling Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now, and I don’t know what to make of that.

Books

More Sarah Maclean aka “the Maclean I like better than the other two who also write 19th century British fantasies.” They aren’t deathless literature, but they’re jolly good.

Babylon’s Ashes. The next-to latest Expanse novel. I LOVE THIS SERIES AND ALL THE CHARACTERS IN IT. (pretty sure I say that every time I finish one of these tomes. It bears repeating.) Re-settling into the timeline took a few chapters, but I was expecting that. Setting up the plot-board on something big takes time, and the scope of this work is beyond epic. The authors’ take on colonialism’s problematic side make for a bloody conflict-soaked take on space settlement. And yet… it isn’t gritty, grimdark “we’re all gonna die” morality play.  It’s the opposite of the shiny, optimistic, idealist-populated perfect-people science fiction of my youth…and yet it is relentlessly, infinitely hopeful about the future. It’s a no-punches exploration of what it means to be human in an inhuman universe. I could go on for hours about the frail, imperfect, sometimes monstrous–and yet still heroic–protagonists. (but I won’t)

Other-other Things

That’s all for now. I’m back on a regular schedule, and progress is occurring in the writing sector, but those things will get their own updates in due time.  Gotta feed the blog something after all.