Happy New Year!
I hope all of you had a safe new year’s celebration, and that you didn’t indulge too much and end up feeling awful yesterday morning. Thanks to an incoming winter storm, I spent New Year’s Eve at home alone again. The forecast stated that the snow would probably start around 10:00 on New Year’s Eve, but it didn’t start until 10:00 on New Year’s Day morning. So I could have gone over to see friends that evening, but alas, no. So I went home from work, baked a pizza, and watched the last two episodes of The Wheel of Time while ringing in the new year with friends on Discord.
Perhaps I’ll spend next New Year’s Eve with friends. We’ll see. There’s been a recent spell of bad weather on December 31st over the last several years, so I might be at home again next time.
As I mentioned earlier, it started snowing around 10:00AM yesterday. I went out for a walk an hour later, after it had time to collect. I didn’t stay out as long as I wanted to, as my camera gave me a few errors due to snow collecting on it (and I didn’t want to test the weather-sealing more than I needed to), and the -20°F windchill was hard on my legs. But I managed to get a few photographs that I liked, and had a great time out wandering about in the snow.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina loves it when I go to the grocery store, as she always ends up with a paper bag to play in. Fortunately, Sidney doesn’t generally show much interest in playing in shopping bags, as he spends his days asleep on one of the beds next to the radiators.
But there was one day when I brought home three paper shopping bags. I set all three bags down in the living room. Both cats came in to investigate, and in a proper display of catlike behavior, both of them decided they wanted to be in the same bag. Two cats, three bags, and a skirmish erupted over one bag. I ended the argument by putting one cat in the bedroom (with a bag) and the other cat in the studio (with another bag). They both decided they didn’t want to play in the bags after that.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane, audiobook narrated by Matthew Waterson
- The Lord of the Rings (Illustrated Edition) by J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrated by the author
- Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef, audiobook narrated by Vaneh Assadourian
Underland is a gorgeously written look at the deep places of the world. Macfarlane travels to under-ocean mines, scientific laboratories located miles underground, the catacombs beneath Paris, and European caves where WWI and WWI battles were waged. He discusses fungal and tree root networks that are so hard to examine that humans didn’t know they existed until the past decade or two, and travels to Greenland to see melting glaciers that contain ice that’s tens of thousands of years old. In all of this, he talks about the fleeting human interactions humans have had with the underground and compares it to the deep time that caves and forests and glaciers reckon with, that human imaginations can barely comprehend.
What can I say about The Lord of the Rings? My favorite book ever. It’s the second time I read it this year, and I finished up the last few chapters on New Year’s Eve. There were a couple of things that struck me this time through: first, it didn’t occur to me before that Eowyn was overlooked by Theoden and Eomer when it came to her leadership skills, but the people recognized her abilities all along, and when Theoden asked who they wanted as a leader while he and Eomer were at Helm’s Deep, the soldiers of Edoras immediately put her name forward. It seems sad to me that the people Eowyn was closest to, her uncle and brother, did not recognize her abilities, and they were the two people she most wanted recognition from. Second, in the chapter ‘Minas Tirith’, there is a mention of dark-skinned people living in Gondor, so when the diversely-casted Middle-earth show premiers on Prime next fall, I think it will be perfectly canonical.
Shelf Life is Nadia Wassef’s memoir of opening a modern-style bookshop in Cairo in 2002, something people thought couldn’t be done in general, let alone by accomplished by a group of women. But Wassef, her sister and friend managed it and though they had their share of setbacks, they were incredibly successful. Their shop, Diwan, became a small chain which had ten shops open when Wassef was writing her book. It’s a fascinating story of a group of women striving to achieve a dream in a deeply patriarchal society, how they had to work around the sometimes-byzantine rules and censorship to import certain books, and how figuring out what books to sell in their shop made Wassef reconsider a lot of her positions and opinions on life, a woman’s place in the world, and how she interacted with the people around her. I downloaded the audiobook from my library and listened to the entire book yesterday. I didn’t want to stop because Wassef’s story was so candid. She was honest about herself and her faults, especially when it came to her inability to read people and what happened to end her two marriages. I definitely recommend this for people who enjoy books about books, and/or memoirs.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of the Great Detective in India and Tibet by Jamyang Norbu (48/280)
In ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’, Holmes mentions to Watson that after his apparent death at the Reichenbach Falls, he spent two years in India and Tibet. Jamyang Norbu’s pastiche novel gives an account of what Holmes was up to during those two years and tells the story from the perspective of Huree Chunder Mookerjee (a character that shows up in Rudyard Kipling’s book Kim). I’m not far into the book, but I’m enjoying it so far. It’s been interesting to see Holmes from a non-Western perspective (Norbu is a Tibetan who spent forty years in exile in India, and now lives in the United States), and to see a couple of Kipling’s characters from that same point of view. The English characters aren’t making a great show of things, for the most part, though Holmes is doing just fine. Which makes sense, as the canonical Holmes always had a wry sense of his fellow Englishmen. I’ll probably finish this off later today, as it’s beautifully written, and is turning into quite a compelling mystery.
What I Plan To Start Reading This Week:
- The Land of Stone Flowers: A Fairy Guide to the Mythical Human Being by Svetlana Dorosheva, translated from the Russian by Jane Bogaeva
- Tales of Moonlight and Rain by Ueda Akinari, translated from the Japanese by Anthony H. Chambers
- Odin’s Child (Ravneringene #1) by Siri Pettersen, translated from the Norwegian by Sian Mackie and Paul Russell Garrett
I did not intend to open 2022 with a bunch of works in translation, it’s just how things fell out when I looked through my StoryGraph TBR for titles available through my library. So here we are, with tales from around the world. The Land of Stone Flowers and Tales of Moonlight and Rain are fairly short, so I should get through them pretty quickly. Odin’s Child is the first book in a trilogy. It’s about 600 pages long, so it’ll take a bit to get through it. I’m looking forward to this one, as it’s based on Norse mythology, and I enjoy Norse tales.
What I’ve Been Watching:
The Wheel of Time
I watched the final two episodes of the first season of The Wheel of Time on New Year’s Eve, and, like the rest of the season, they were fine. It’s not my favorite adaptation ever, but I think they did a good job, and I definitely prefer the show to the books. I’ll watch the next season, but I’m not anxiously awaiting it. I still don’t care for the CGI visuals (they’re a little too sharp and too evenly lit), and Rand is a pretty bland character overall, but the female characters are interesting, and I am rather curious as to where the story going since it seems to have diverged quite a lot from the books.
The Book of Boba Fett
The Book of Boba Fett premiered last week. I didn’t watch it right away, as I wanted to finish watching Wheel of Time before I started anything else. But I sat down and watched the premiere last night, and I quite enjoyed it. That Boba Fett managed to survive falling into the Sarlacc pit has been unofficial canon for quite some time in the various Star Wars books. The show gives fans an idea of how he made it out, how he was separated from his armor, and what happened to him between The Return of the Jedi and The Mandalorian. Not a lot has happened in the main storyline so far, but a lot of things have been set up. I’m liking the show so far, and I’m looking forward to the next episode. I’d forgotten that Disney releases one episode per week, so I’ll probably be watching the next episode when it premiers later this week.