Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s easier to breathe nowadays? Is the news out of the White House almost boring in comparison to the past four years? Was anyone else giddy when the clock rolled around to 12:00 noon in Washington D.C. on Wednesday? What a fantastic day it ended up being. I got a new president. I went for a long walk on a beautifully sunny day. I had a delicious salted caramel cupcake. I got some snuggles in with the cats.
Wednesday was a wonderful day.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
This kid wants to be an International Cat of Mystery, but the biggest mystery is why she desperately wants to be in the lower kitchen cabinet, where I store things like the Swiffer pads and my tools. If I let her, she’ll slip inside and hang out on the bottom shelf for a few minutes, then she’ll nose about and hop up to the second shelf. And if she’s feeling fractious, she’ll jump onto the top shelf, which is small and probably not very comfortable for her to sit on, given how much stuff is on it.
I don’t understand her desire to get into that cabinet, given that she has a bed and a couch to hide under, as well as a fuzzy house and her carrier (which lives next to the couch, which she’ll happily to go bed in at night).
There is no accounting for the behavior of cats. Dogs can be explained. Cats never will.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- The Daughters of Ys by M.T. Anderson and Jo Rioux
- Burning Roses by S.L. Huang
- The Book of Lost Tales, Pt. 1 (The History of Middle-earth #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Daughters of Ys is a graphic novel based upon a Breton fairytale. It is about two sisters– the daughter of the King of Ys and a faerie woman. As children, the girls are inseparable, but their paths diverge as they grow up. One sister falls in love with the land and its creatures and spends her days among the trees and birds. The other sister becomes enamored with the strange magical powers they inherited from their mother. Everything seems fine at first, but the power and beauty of the kingdom of Ys is built on a dark and deadly secret. This was a beautifully illustrated fairytale, and while I’ve heard of it and the kingdom of Ys in some of the Arthurian tales I’ve come across, I’ve never seen it told in full like this. Add this to Tolkien’s The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, and you have a couple of stories that make me want to delve deeper into Breton lore.
Burning Roses is a strange novella about Red Riding Hood– Rosa– and how she, as a middle-aged woman, is trying to overcome her hatred of the talking beasts who live in her world. Some of them, like the Wolf who devoured her grandmother, are evil. But some of the creatures are kindly creatures just trying to get by in the world. It’s been hard for Rosa to learn the difference, but thanks to her friend Hou Yi, Rosa is learning to question herself, her motives, and her past actions. It’s not an easy road to travel, and Hou Yi’s past is no sunnier than Rosa’s. Huang’s story is a dark tale about redemption and the journey to forgiving one’s self. The writing is spare, but effective and it makes me want to seek out more of Huang’s work.
The Book of Lost Tales, part one is basically an early version of the Ainulindalë, which is the account of the creation of the world and the waking of the Eldar as we see it in The Silmarillion. There is an interesting framing story involved, in which the character of Eriol arrives in The Cottage of Lost Play, where he encounters a series of storytellers who give him the accounting of the creation of the world, the Ainur, the chaining of Melko, the waking of the Gnomes (Tolkien’s earliest version of his Elves), and the arrival of Men. It’s a very different story, however, and much rougher in form. You can see where the myths began, but the ultimate paths of the tales changed quite a lot. Some characters appear and then disappear mid-paragraph and are never heard from again. Others, like Manwë are there from the beginning and don’t change all that much. It’s an interesting book to read, but it’s really only meant for major Tolkien fans. If you want to see the layers of worldbuilding that Tolkien used to fully shape Middle-earth, then The History of Middle-earth is the series for you. If you’re not all that interested, you’ll probably want to skip it. Unless you enjoy reading notes, rough drafts, and partial drafts that some professor wrote in notebooks in the 1920s and then packed away for decades.
What I’m Currently Reading:
Strange as it may seem, I haven’t listened to a single word of A Promised Land since Wednesday. I was listening to it on Tuesday night, and Obama got to the part where he was deciding who he was going to choose for his running mate in 2008. It was between Tim Kaine and Joe Biden, and his description of Biden was everything I needed to keep calm during those last hours in the run-up to the inauguration. But there ended up being no major protests and no crazies trying to incite violence in D.C. or any of the state capitols. And now it’s like the country isn’t holding its breath anymore. And I haven’t felt the urge to listen to the audiobook of A Promised Land. Weird, huh? That said, I do want to finish this book, but I will probably see about borrowing a physical copy, since Obama is an incredibly slow narrator. Even with the speed set faster than a mere 1x.
For some reason, my Google newsfeed has been suggesting all sorts of articles about Australian Gothic fiction, so after reading a couple of them and seeing Flyaway recommended in both and then seeing it on the ‘new releases’ shelf at the library, I picked it up. So far, it is a weird story about a young woman whose father and brothers mysteriously disappeared, but her memories of the whole incident are gone. Her mother, a vain and controlling woman, seems to know what happened, but she’s not telling. And there’s this strange power about her that makes her frightening, even though she’s described as this somehwhat frail woman. And there are these strange dog-like creatures that play a role, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all intertwines.
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
- Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson
I was about thirty percent of the way through Breath by James Nestor when he got to a chapter about carbon dioxide levels in the body, and his assertion that humans, in fact, have too little CO2 in their blood. He and one of his fellow ‘pulmonauts’ went for a run, and in the course of this run they deliberately breathed as little as possible. The other guy mentioned that people will occasionally pass out while trying this, but not to worry, as eventually they get used to it. And that’s basically where I decided that Nestor’s theories are crackpot theories, since an exercise regimen that could cause you to pass out (but “just until you get used to it”) sounds like a terrible, terrible idea. His other assertions- like stating that nose breathing will obviously straighten your teeth don’t seem to be backed up by any particular research (and doesn’t do much to explain why, for example, two of my front teeth are crooked in the exact same way that my dad’s two front teeth are crooked, because genetics just might play more of a role than breathing through one’s nose). It seems like Nestor looks to ancient history for his ideas about the benefits of ‘proper’ breathing, and comes to the conclusion that if the Chinese or Greeks or whoever was doing this thing 2,000 years ago, then it must be better than what we’re doing now. But if, say, Olympic athletes, who will do crazy things if they think it will give them the slightest edge, aren’t doing the sorts of things Nestor suggests, then it means that those sorts of things probably don’t work.
I was about 150 pages into Oathbringer when I realized why I hadn’t read a Stormlight Archive book in nearly six years. It was because I stopped caring about the characters at the end of Words of Radiance. I don’t care about Dalinar’s tragic past (and I definitely don’t want to read flashbacks about it); I never really liked Shallan, and I liked Kaladin less and less as the story progressed. There was really only one character I was interested in, and reading a 1,200 page book to see them show up once in a while wasn’t appealing. So I’m giving up on The Stormlight Archive, and probably shifting away from fantasy written by white guys (again), because even though I’ve only briefly dipped into the popular stuff that everyone and their dog is reading (Stormlight Archive, Wheel of Time, The First Law, etc.), I find that I am not very interested in it. Despite the major differences, they all feel very… same-y. And while the novellas I’ve been reading don’t have the massive worldbuilding of a Wheel of Time book, I find them incredibly appealing and a lot of fun. And I appreciate an author who knows when they have a story that’s worth 800 pages, and when they have one that only needs 150 pages.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two (The History of Middle-earth #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
- The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two deals with early versions of things like the Tale of Beren and Lúthien and the fall of Gondolin. I’ve already read the books dealing with those stories (titled, oddly enough, The Tale of Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin), so I don’t know how much will be new to me, and how much will be a refresher. But I love those stories, so it doesn’t bother me to read them again.
I’ve been listening to Roman Mars’s podcast, 99% Invisible for several years now, and I always learn so much about design and how it functions in the world– and how much it drives what we do and experience. I bought my brother-in-law (a graphic designer) a copy of this for Christmas, and then I decided to buy another copy for myself. I’m looking forward to reading about all the not-so hidden and very functional designs that are all around us, that we barely notice.
I managed to finish several more rows on the blanket I’m working on. I’m probably back to where I was when I had to unravel all those rows last weekend. This time, I managed to keep track of the number of stitches, so everything has remained on the straight and narrow. Well, not narrow. It’s a blanket. But you know what I mean.
I’m starting to think about what sorts of projects I might start once I finish the blanket (or at least when I get much farther into the blanket, and I don’t want to spend all my crafting time on the same project for months on end). I definitely want to get to the Vasti Shawl from my Northern Lights crochet pattern book, but I also want to see about making some kind of skirt with the rest of the wool I bought for the witch hat I made last Autumn.
But knowing me, I’ll probably think of something else to make in the meantime.
About that Writing Thing:
I’ve been spending all of my writing time working on one of the short stories I want to post before my current (big) work in progress goes up. And because this is me, and my short stories always like to get carried away with themselves, the little story that this was meant to be has ballooned to something longer than I intended. But the trimming of the fat is for the editing process, so I’m going to try to finish it up today so I can get to editing it soon. And then I’ll probably start on the second of the two short stories I have planned. Then it’s back to the main story and the weirdness up ahead.