Sunday Sum-Up: February 26, 2023

Every year, I drag my feet when it comes to filing my taxes, and every year it takes far less time than I think it will. You would think that I would realize that by now, but I always imagine that it’s going to take me hours. No. This time, it took about forty-five minutes. So I’ve filed my taxes, and while I know that I had another two months to get it done (and thus have not really been dragging my feet), I like to have them filed by early- to mid-February.

Once I’d finished that and completed some other clerical-type tasks (and then doing the laundry and the dishes), I treated myself to a trip to the bookstore downtown where I picked up a copy of The Lais of Marie de France and a fancy new journal so I would have a specific notebook for a new project I’m poking at. I also stopped into one of my favorite coffee shops for a cup of their fancy hot cocoa. All in all, it was a great afternoon. The only bad part was the rain and sleet, but even that wasn’t bad. So I have no real cause to complain about the weather, for once.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

We’ve had a few nice days around here, and Mina has been making the most of the sunlight coming in in the morning. She enjoys sitting in this spot- on top of the low bookshelf next to the window in the living room- in general, but when the sunlight streams in, she especially loves it. It probably doesn’t hurt that there were bits of catnip caught in the edges of the shelf. I’ve thought about putting a blanket or pillow there for her to lie in, but she likes to sprawl and stretch out up there, so I feel like putting something specific up there would crimp her sprawl style. Besides, she doesn’t mind sitting on hard surfaces, so I’ll be leaving that shelf bare so Mina can maximize her sprawl.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Screaming Staircase is the first in Stroud’s Lockwood and Co. series about a small company of teenage ghost hunters in modern London. It must be teenagers who find and fight the ghosts because the ability to see or hear the paranormal fades with age, so adults aren’t as effective. Lucy and Lockwood take what seems like a simple job to clear a ghost out of a house, but find themselves in hot water (and a lot of debt) when the job goes terribly wrong. Time and the authorities are not on their side as they seek to find a way out of their problems, while Lucy grows ever more intrigued by the ghost of a young woman she encountered on the disastrous job at the beginning of the book. I thought this was a thoroughly entertaining YA fantasy novel that had a lot of threads that could have gone out of control, but that Stroud kept firmly in place so he could weave them all together at the end, and include enough openings for the next books in the series. The writing was clear and efficient, and Lucy didn’t spend all her time mooning over who she might date. She had more important things to worry about than who to go to the movies with. I liked that. I’m on the waiting list for the audiobook of the next installment, and I’m hoping it won’t take the fourteen weeks the Libby app estimated.

The Obsidian Tower is the first in Melissa Caruso’s Rooks and Ruin trilogy about Ryx, a castle warden and member of a family whose magic enhances the living things of their country. Ryx’s magic, however, is broken– it kills everything she touches, leading many family members and diplomats from other realms to mistrust her. When Ryx’s magic causes the death of a diplomat who was investigating a part of the tower that is sealed off, Ryx must appease the vengeful Shrike Lord, stop a war, and ensure that nothing dangerous emerged from the tower after the magical seals were broken. Of course, nothing goes right and the more Ryx investigates, the direr the situation becomes for everyone. I thought this was a fun book with plenty of engaging characters, and while the pacing was a little off now and then (certain scenes and events happened very quickly, and would have been improved with a bit more build-up), overall I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next. I’ve already ordered a used copy of the second book, and it should be here next week.

What I’m Currently Reading:

Black Tudors provides brief biographies and foundational histories for several Black people who lived in Tudor-era England. Contrary to a lot of popular belief, people did travel in the medieval and early modern eras, and sometimes they ended up living- or at least spending years- in lands far from where they were born. Kaufmann’s account provides as much detail as possible about some of these Black Tudors, though there often isn’t a lot of information regarding their lives. But what is there is intriguing, and it’s bittersweet to find out that, in the early 1500s for example, an enslaved Black person who found their way to England or ended up on an English ship would automatically be granted their freedom. Obviously, this changed later on- specifically in the mid-seventeenth century when the first laws regarding slavery were passed in the American colonies. Kaufmann’s accounts can be a little dry at times. Still, overall these brief histories of ordinary Black people living their lives in England or on English ships is fascinating, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a broader account of life in Tudor England than just what Henry VIII was up to.

The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe is exactly what the title indicates: A history of magical beliefs in early medieval Europe, and how the Church condemned or embraced these beliefs depending on the time period or the region. This is an academic text, so it’s pretty dense and rather slow going. But what I’ve learned so far is pretty interesting. But while I’m halfway through the book, I feel like I haven’t gotten very far thanks to the 82-page introduction.

What I’ve Been Listening To:

I didn’t make a separate post for my reactions to the 2002 winner of the Academy Award for Best Original score (Elliot Goldenthal’s music for Frida) due in part to a lack of time at the end of the week, and also because my reaction to it was more “oh” than “wow!”. I’ve never seen the movie Friday, and I wasn’t able to find it either on DVD or on the streaming services I have access to, so I couldn’t watch it. I also couldn’t locate any analysis of it on YouTube or anything like that, so I know very little about the score’s background. It’s a collection of fantastic music with a lot of songs by (I assume) Mexican musicians, but it seemed like less than half the music on the Original Soundtrack Recording available on Spotify was actually Goldenthal’s, and while it was good music, I wasn’t blown away by it. It was fine, I would listen to it again, but without having the context of the film, it was hard to tell anything more about it.

Next up on this list is music that I am far more familiar with: Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

In other music news, I listened to several albums by Björk, and found them all to be fascinating:

  • Medulla (2004)
  • Drawing Restraint #9 (2005)
  • Volta (2007)
  • Voltaic (2009)
  • Biophilia (2011)
  • Vulnicura (2015)
  • Fossora (2022)

One of the great things about Björk is that she’s always pushing the envelope for her music. While everything is recognizably “Björk”, she is always experimenting with sound and rhythms, and is never content to say, “well, my last album was successful, let’s just do more of that”. She pushes her voice to new places– even if those places are throaty or growly. She can sing like an angel, but she doesn’t always. Sometimes she growls or just makes strange noises, and while it can be a little off-putting if you’re looking purely for pretty sound, it’s fascinating if you’re willing to sit with the strangeness for a while and let it work on you.

I’ve now listened to a lot of Björk’s music, and while Vespertine is still my favorite album, I appreciate what she’s done with the later albums. I love ‘The Dull Flame of Desire’ from Volta is a lovely duet backed up by a brass ensemble, and the title track from 2022’s Fossora reminds me of Icelandic waterfalls like Gullfoss or Skógafoss.

Aside from the score for The Return of the King, I’m not sure what I’ll listen to this coming week. Probably Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 2: The London Symphony, but I’m not sure what else will pique my interest.


7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: February 26, 2023

  1. I like to get my taxes done early too, just to get it out of the way, and like you, I often overestimate the time it actually takes to do so. Glad you got that done and can focus on your other more exciting projects, e.g. reading and listening to some good stuff! Hope you have a great week!

  2. It’s kind of funny how we overestimate how long it will take to do an unpleasant task. And then we put it off and get stressed out about it, and all it would take is putting aside that little bit of time…. I have all of next weekend off, and I am very much looking forward to having the whole weekend to do All The Things, without having to worry about taxes or anything like that. You have a great week, too!

  3. The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe sounds like a fascinating topic, but I can see how it being a more scholarly piece might affect one’s enjoyment. There is a difference sometimes between reading as research and reading for enjoyment, though it’s always nice when they overlap.

  4. It is definitely nice when research and enjoyment overlap. I’m reading about the medieval practice of astrology in the current chapter, and it’s interesting to find out how the early church was pretty much okay with that, but loathed divination through other means. But I have to pay close attention to what I’m reading, or I’ll miss stuff altogether. Which is why I haven’t made as progress as I would have with a popular history book.

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