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Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - April 5
Time:10:47 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Devil's Feast – M.J. Carter
So. Damn. GOOD.

Seriously, this is the best thing she's written. Expect an entire entry devoted to this book in the coming days.


What I Am Currently Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
It's insane how much Japan has changed in 90 years, and how Westernized it's become. Incidentally, standards of acceptability for educated Western authors discussing other cultures have also changed massively, and thank goodness. For instance, in the six chapters I read this week Carpenter makes much of the West's superiority to Japan, particularly in the realm of gender equality. And yet he regularly pens things like: Not in all Japan were there enough maidens with shapely legs. Perhaps it is the habit of squatting on the floor that gives the Japanese women such ugly legs. At any rate, a rainy day in Tokyo is full of disillusions for the foreign admirer of the ladies of the “Sunrise Kingdom,” for as they go long the streets with their kimonos lifted out of the wet, they expose about the most unlovely limbs imaginable.

As far as Carpenter's concerned, a woman's worth is determined solely by how pleasant she is for men to look at. And if she's also an accomplished artist or the founder of a multi-billion dollar corporation, well, that's an oddity worth remarking on in passing, but more importantly, Is she pretty? There's no men's “rights” movement hostility here; Carpenter assumes as a matter of course that the interests and opinions that matter are those of men, and writes to them exclusively. It's a nice reminder that for as bad as things still are, they really have improved.

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
This is the worldbuilding that I desire.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
I rabidly despise the chaotic evil alignment. Locke Lamora is a chaotic evil character, and therein lies my problem with this book. At this point, I doubt there's going to be any soul-searching; Lamora is the hero because Lynch says he is, and the same vicious behavior is good when Locke does it and worthy of drawn-out death when another character does it because Lynch says it is. For all he's constructed a massive fantasy RPG setting, Lynch is stunningly imperceptive when it comes to human interaction. I hope fanfic is its saving grace.

The Wasting of Borneo – Alex Shoumatoff
I've had to put this book down several times already, and I'm only 18 pages in. Shoumatoff is a talented chronicler of humankind's degradation of the environment. It's necessary but difficult reading.

Indonesian: A Comprehensive Grammar – James Sneddon, K. Alexander Adelaar, Dwi Djenar
I've started hopping around a bit to cover some of the things I find myself regularly needing to use, to include: pun, the passive-two construction, embedded questions, and dependent clauses with yang.


What I'm Reading Next
Caitin Moran's Moranifesto is $1.99 on Amazon today, so probably that, along with half-a-dozen or so library books I need to return soon.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - March 29
Time:10:06 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter
Because The Devil's Feast was officially released in the US today. Where is my package, Amazon?

Also, GUYS, THERE IS A BLAKE & AVERY TAG IN NIGHT ON FIC MOUNTAIN.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
I'm glad I read this, but it is a bit dated and I don't know that I'll ever return to it again.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer
I deeply enjoy Schumer's comedy and social commentary; she's right up there with Caitlin Moran. It takes a few pages for Schumer to translate her style into this medium, but once she gets going, it's amazingly good.

Until the second half of the book, where she states the following: “Definitely end it with [a] guy if he and his mother have one of those dynamics where you can tell the mom always kind of thought she would end up with her own son.” Not bad advice, except it becomes increasingly clear that Schumer always kind of thought she would end up with her own father, in ways that frequently undercut her pointed cultural observations. It's a blind spot big enough to sink the Titanic in, and an unfortunate drag on an otherwise excellent book.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Original Dream – Nukila Amal
The stream-of-consciousness narrative continues in the second chapter, which centers on a disorienting but well-written dream sequence. More intriguing yet, it morphs halfway through into a deconstruction of the “Original Face” koan. I'm intrigued to see if this is intentional on Amal's part, or if she's figured it out on her own.

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
In which we discuss how policemen are woefully underpaid but compensated in respect, Imperial succession politics (which are no closer to being solved today), the “soshi” gangs-for-hire (precursors to today's yakuza), and are treated to this jaw-dropping insight: “The way in which the Japanese have sat for generations has had a great deal to do with making them such a short-legged people.”

Trump's America – Scott Dikkers
Subtitled Buy This Book and Mexico Will Pay for It, it is, like the object of its satire, best digested in small doses.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
WE HAVE WOMAN IN REFRIGERATOR SIGN! Three whole female characters have appeared in the first 44 percent of the novel; one of them is now dead so that the male characters can Feel Things about it and be Motivated.

In larger developments, our titular character is currently being menaced by the Gray King—a thief with more resources and superior bastardry than Locke. I get the sense Lynch wants me to hate this guy, but I'm rooting for him hardcore. After all, if Locke's willingness to lie, cheat, and fuck people over is what I'm supposed to like about him (and “Lamora” is an anagram of “amoral,” so come on), why would I not like the “villain” who's beating Locke at his own game?

I hope this is setting up some major soul-searching, but: “I wonder, I really wonder. Is this what other people feel like when we're through with them?” Lamora asks after he finds himself in the Gray King's sights, only to be told by his best friend, “I thought we'd agreed long ago that they get what they deserve, Locke.” Which makes me fearful that it isn't, and that Lynch just wants me to ignore the hypocrisy behind the curtain. But we shall see.

The Iron Flute – Nyogen Senzaki
Steve Hagen's introduction is the single most cogent presentation of Zen I have ever encountered. It alone justifies the cover price.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
Kinda crapped out on this one this week; have made it partway through the aces.


What I'm Reading Next
The Devil's Feast, Bezos willing. Otherwise, my goal is to get through my heaping pile of Wired back issues.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - March 22
Time:10:52 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Nothing this week either, unless you count a ton of newspapers and magazines.

What I Am Currently Reading

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
We've moved on to the government, which is particularly interesting because it's a contemporary account and I'm used to reading postwar histories.

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter
Finished except for the historical afterword (which in Carter's novels is nigh indistinguishable from her dialogue).

10% Happier – Dan Harris
This is the second time I've read this book and it holds up quite well indeed. Harris' narrative is honest and funny, and along with Batchelor, his explanation of the mechanics of meditation is as good as any you'll find in a secular volume.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
It's hard to enjoy a fantasy set in the Islamic State, which this novel essentially is, with its public hangings, drownings, exsanguinations, and torture-as-public-entertainment. Then we have the well-respected religious leaders who are actually frauds fleecing their gullible congregations for all they're worth (realistic, yes, but I want fantasy from my fantasy reading). Then we have the titular Locke Lamora and his gang of Gentleman Bastards, who rob the rich so they can...pile the money up in their hidey-hole because they have precisely zero use for it. And this makes them different from the obnoxiously privileged elites they're robbing, how? It's as if Lynch expects me to cheer for these characters merely because they are the main characters...but so far they're just as odious as everyone else they've encountered. I hope some character development is in store in the latter two-thirds of the book.

Don't Be A Jerk – Brad Warner
Warner is currently giving his take on the Bendowa and where it fits in Dogen's overall corpus. I'm still very much enjoying this one.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
Working through the twos and aces this week.

What I'm Reading Next
If my delivery isn't delayed (and I hope, hope, hope it's not) Carter's The Devil's Feast.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - March 15
Time:8:55 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Legacy of Lhasa – Anna Hestler
While this volume is certainly visually attractive, its discussion of Tibetan iconography never rose above the superficial, and thus disappoint.

Followed by Frost – Charlie Holmberg
Yes. This is what I want from a fantasy novel. I was concerned in the early chapters that Holmberg was setting up an all-too-typical plot that's a particular squick of mine, but I needn't have worried. What she wrote instead is a little gem of a story, with likeable characters and a narrative arc that foregoes attempts to be a sweeping epic in favor of telling a less grandiose story very well. That the novel incorporates multiple narrative kinks of mine—exile, found families, language acquisition, sign language, reconciliation—is just the icing on the cake.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
This one just never clicked with me. It's the fantasy novel equivalent of a hoarder's house: so crammed with needless things you can't move. Smith introduces so many characters she can't focus on any of them, with the result that she has to tell, tell, tell readers about their personalities and motivations. The end result is that they're less like people than paper dolls Smith can dress up in whatever clothing she requires to move to plot forward. I didn't really care what happened to any of them. It's too bad; this could have been a compelling novel if she'd reined in its focus.


What I Am Currently Reading

The Original Dream – Nukila Amal
There's some nice imagery in the first two chapters, although I hope the entire novel is not written in their stream-of-consciousness vein.

Japan and Korea – Frank Carpenter
Thus far, the author has discussed the changes he's witnessed over 30 years in Tokyo. It's good stuff.

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter
Yes, again. I am counting down the days until the third novel's US release.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
This novel has an intriguing premise: orphaned master thieves operating in an alternate reality Venice. It's the tone that's not working for me: Lynch tries for a sardonic worldliness that largely falls flat, and he can't make up his mind whether to write the narration and dialogue in quasi-archaic constructions or Deadpool-style wisecracks.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
In this week's chapters, we begin to follow the Communists' rise.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
I've wrapped up the first volume in this anthology and moved on to its translation of the Mumonkan. It's definitely a dated translation, but still surprisingly readable.

Don't Be A Jerk – Brad Warner
Don't Be A Jerk is Warner's rescension of Eihei Dogen's Shobogenzo into modern, informal English. I'm still in the early chapters, but thus far it's avoided all the obvious pitfalls such an endeavor could fall into.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
On to the two's this week. Reading the volume this slowly has made me realise how much less attention Williams pays to these middle sets in the Minor Arcana.

How Computers Work – Ron White & Tim Downs
I'm still in the early, text-heavy chapters but already enjoying this very much.

세상에 없는 아이– 김미승 (Sesang-e Eomnun Ai – Kim Misung)
It is an engaging read, but like much Korean writing, lord is it dark.


What I'm Reading Next
I'll either continue to wrap up these volumes or return to some of the books that dropped off the pile this week.
Comments: Read 4 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday: March 8
Time:6:31 pm.
And after a short hiatus, I am back.

What I Just Finished Reading

Nothing. Eheheh.


What I Am Currently Reading


Journey Into Mystery: The Complete Collection vol. 1 – Kieron Gillen et al.
I'm one third of the way through the issues collected in this volume and still very much enjoying the ride.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
Read the fours and threes this week.

Followed By Frost – Charlie Holmberg
I very much enjoyed The Paper Magician, and have been waiting for this volume to go on sale to see if Holmberg's follow on effort was as delightfully imaginative as the earlier novel. One chapter in, the gender politics are retrograde (read: horrific) but the worldbuilding has promise.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
Our hero has reached adulthood and is planning out some heists of his own. The adjective onslaught continues unabated.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
This week's chapters covered the end of the Qing dynasty and the lead-up to World War I. Pomfret's clear and engaging prose continues to shine. In fact, it's such a pleasure to read it's easy to overlook how much of a Sinophile he is. To wit: these chapters are a litany of countries—Japan, Britain, the US—jockeying for influence and hegemony. But Pomfret's narrative begs the question: influence and hegemony over whom, to say nothing of how the conditions were created that enabled this state of affairs. Indeed, the Chinese are consistently absent from this narrative; it's as if the foreign powers whose machinations Pomfret discusses were acting in a vacuum.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
While Zen Flesh, Zen Bones may have qualified as scholarship in the mid-20th century, it would not do so today. Reps and Senzaki present their material without explication, either modern or traditional. It is the book's strength, and also its weakness.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
I had hoped part two would agree with me more than the first, but Smith continues her streak of misdirected answering. I want to know what Inda thought of life on the high seas. What challenges did he face? How did he adapt? What adventures did he have? Alas, Smith foregoes all of this to skip forward several years in time and have various characters narrate plot developments to one another, instead of actually showing them.

세상에 없는 아이 - 김미승 (Sesang-e Eomnun Ai - Kim Misung)
A husband brings his starving, pregnant wife a gift of whale meat he's received from a palace official. She subsequently gives birth to a massively strong girl with an ugly face like a whale's. The girl is currently being bullied by her father and the townspeople, and is about to have a doubtlessly life-altering meeting with a yangban.

천수・금강경–무비스님 (Thousand Hands & Diamond Sutras – Mubi-seunim )
Still working my way through the modern Korean translation of the Sutra.

Martin & John 1 – 박희정 (Martin & John vol. 1 – Pak Hui-jeong)
Still reading through the second story of Martin and John, in which one of the titular characters is deceased, and the other is reminiscing about him with the woman he married before he died.


What I'm Reading Next
I should probably wrap some of these volumes up before adding any new ones to the list.


これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Time:7:10 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Loki: Agent of Asgard vol. 2 – Al Ewing, Lee Garbett & Jorge Coelho
This volume suffers from typical Marvel Tie-In disease. If you haven't read the issues in other Marvel lines published concurrently with those collected in this volume, you aren't going to understand what's going on. That said, the story was still cohesive and engaging, and Coehlo and Garbett's art complements Ewing's narrative nicely. There are moments of surprising humor and drama. This is one of the better Marvel runs.

Loki: Agent of Asgard vol. 3 – Al Ewing & Lee Garbett
I entered this series hoping to be entertained, but holy crap, what Ewing has written here is freaking transcendent. Dear god, this is the first time I've ever had to put down a Marvel book to catch my breath. Unbelievably good. Unbelievably damn good.

Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III
This was very well done, and may even have replaced World's End as my favorite run in the Sandman series.


What I Am Currently Reading

Journey Into Mystery: The Complete Collection vol. 1 – Kieron Gillen et al.
Because Ewing's conclusion was so freaking good I had to backtrack to everything post-Siege. Alas, this collection is no longer available and used copies cost 1.5 to two times more than the volume's cover price when it was still in print. But wait! Hadn't I seen a copy of this on the shelves of my local comic book store not two weeks ago? I had, and you better believe I marched myself down there directly after work to buy it before anyone else realised what was what.

Three issues in, I'm very much enjoying this run. Unlike many of Gillen's titles, the story doesn't feel rushed. If anything, I feel it's fleshing out some of the superficial elements in Siege. I'm digging the mythological tone, and Doug Braithwaite's art and Ulises Arreola's colors perfectly complement the narrative.

Young Avengers vol. 1 – Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Started and then put on hold after I got my hands on Journey into Mystery. The story does feel a bit hurried and the Gillen-McKelvie combo makes it feel like a Wicked + Divine cameo is always just around the corner, but Gillen's Loki and Wiccan are spot on, and there are some delightfully funny moments.

The Legacy of Lhasa – Anna Hestler
This is certainly a visually attractive little book, which one would expect of a volume from a series on Asian furniture (which I did not realise this was when I acquired it). Having said that, it's a disappointing volume. Tibetan art is richly symbolic, but Hestler either isn't sufficiently familiar with its iconography to explain it, or for whatever reason chose not to. We're thus left with a book that's long on “mystic Tibet” tropes but lacking in educational value.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
Still bursting at the seams with adjectives. Maybe I should try reading this one earlier in the day.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom – John Pomfret
A very well written survey of US-China relations from the 18th century to the present. I'm currently in the lead-up to World War I and thus far have found nothing to disappoint.

Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
This Tuttle volume collects two volumes of koan, an exegesis of Kakuan's 10 Bulls paintings, and a translation of a Sanskrit text the authors claim influenced Zen. The Zen volumes were published in the mid- to late-1930s, and the Sanskrit translation in 1955; thus far, they're about what you'd expect from Western writing on the subject from that period.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
I wrapped up part 1 of the novel this week; what happens to Inda next has pretty much been telegraphed regularly through the first half of the narrative.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
Spent time with the fives this week.

プラネテス 2 – 幸村 誠 (Planetes vol. 2 – Yukimura Makoto )
In which volume one's terrorists make their reappearance, with some interesting twists.

천수・금강경–무비스님 (Thousand Hands & Diamond Sutras – Mubi-seunim )
In contrast to Japanese sutras where the Japanese glosses the original Chinese, here the hanzi gloss the hangul, which is kind of fun for me. I've started with the modern Korean translation of the Diamond Sutra and plan to work my way backward through the Chinese and then on to the Thousand Eyes and Hands Dharani.

Martin & John 1 – 박희정 (Martin & John vol. 1 – Pak Hui-jeong)
This was the first manhwa I tried reading, way back in the day (when the title was still rendered Martin and Jhon!). I learned a lot of coarse language from this book. It's also an interesting contrast to Earthian, which is definitely a relic of its time, while Martin and John does not feel like something first published in 1988.


What I'm Reading Next
I have so many in-progress volumes this week I doubt I'll start anything else until I wrap up more of the above.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday: February 22
Time:8:52 pm.
A good mix of fiction, nonfiction, manga, and comics this week.

What I Just Finished Reading

Loki: Agent of Asgard vol. 1 – Al Ewing & Lee Garbett
I'm always leery of Marvel series by authors I don't recognize—Marvel's business plan (bare bones characterization, speed of light plot developments, and tie-ins to every other current issue to force readers to buy them all) can really tank a series in the wrong hands. But one volume in, I'm very much enjoying this ride. Agent of Asgard follows a reincarnated Loki trying to get the red off his ledger. The plot is rushed, but Ewing does a good job of making it coherent to readers who aren't following the entire line, and he's written an excellent mashup of MCU Loki with the cheesy wordplay and sci-fi kitsch of the vintage runs. I'm on board for the next volume.

Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III
Confession: I bought half of the individual issues back in the day, but never read them because I feared they'd been published because Gaiman needed the money. I needn't have worried. This is Sandman at its best. It's all here—the internal cosmology, the references to world cosmologies, the pop culture quotes Gaiman trusts his readers are smart enough to get (MCU! Firefly! Farscape!), and a Dream who is correcting many of the cultural assumptions I found most troubling in the original series. Add to this Williams' jaw-dropping art—god, he is hands down the best—and you have a book worth savoring.

A Mother's Reckoning – Sue Klebold
I can count on one hand the number of books that have been this affecting. It is brutal to read an account of love, grief, and incomprehension as honest as this. Klebold's insight that murder-suicides spring from suicide radically changed my worldview in a way few things have done in recent memory. There are a few stumbles, as when she says that suicidal people are “hiding” their intentions from those around them, or that video games (vice other elements she understands such as alcohol or guns) contribute to mass shootings. But they are so obvious precisely because they are such outliers. At its heart, A Mother's Reckoning is a 295-page koan: What are the limits of love? How should one weigh a lifetime of human goodness and flaws against a day of unspeakable violence? When and why do feelings of hopelessness tip irrevocably to death?

Bugs Us All – Scot Slaby & Walter Gurbo
This is a charmingly presented book suffering from a massive identity crisis. Gurbo's illustrations are attractive, but Slaby's poems veer wildly between bedtime story-cute and kinkily sexual and bloodthirsty. The latter preclude the volume from being something most people would want to read to a child, but the darkness lacks the Gorey-esque wit that would make it appeal to adults.

Little Owl's Night – Divya Srinivasan
This book is pure comfort, which I needed after A Mother's Reckoning. The final pages, with the ghosts of dawn, and the sunflowers and moonflowers, are undiluted joy.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch – Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli
Neil Gaiman needed money.

Juzu no Hanashi – Gendai Bukkyo Kenkyukai (数珠の話 – 現代仏教研究会)
This treatise on juzu (or nenzu, or mala, or “Buddhist rosaries”) is informative and perplexing in the way only Japanese nonfiction can be. The author is a Tokyo-based Rinzai Zen monk in the Myoshinji-lineage from a Soto Zen family whose mother and sister subsequently converted to Nichiren Buddhism who never manages to give his name. There is a lot of good information here that anyone getting ready to dive into the Hanazono University or Myoshinji stuff might want to check out as a toe-in-the-water exercise. It's clearly and efficiently presented. There is also a digression on ecumenism that is my favorite thing since Koike Ryunosuke's “why Soto Zen is like vintage British punk” and an interesting but why-on-earth-is-this-here discussion of Nichiren seance rites. That said, Japanese readers with an interest in the subject will find much of worth in this volume.


What I Am Currently Reading

Korea: An Illustrated History from Ancient Times to 1945 – David Rees
The back copy says that David Rees is “renowned as an expert on the history and affairs of the Far East for several decades.” And yet, this is a book that was published in 2001 that talks about countries sharing borders with the Soviet Union and contains no statistics post-dating mid-1987, which rather calls Rees' expertise into question.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
There's the inkling of a riveting novel in here, but Smith lacked the editors to shepherd it into publication. It's never a good sign when readers greet a major character death with a shrug. I really wish someone had wrangled Smith's gratuitous POV changes and clunky phrasing into an airtight novel.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
On to the six's and five's.

プラネテス 2 – 幸村 誠 (Planetes vol. 2 – Yukimura Makoto )
In chapters 2 and 3, Yukimura explores the big questions like how to balance innovation and dreams with human connections and family, and how to evaluate the worth of progress if it has to come at the expense of emotional connection. Good stuff.


What I'm Reading Next
Aside from making further inroads on the in progress stuff, I'll probably pick up Pleasure Bound, Jerusalem, and the second volume of Loki: Agents of Asgard.

これで以上です。
Comments: Read 5 orAdd Your Own.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Subject:Because it's International Fanworks Day...
Time:9:49 pm.
...I wrote a drabble.

Title: Reading Assignment
Fandom: Injection
Summary Red's mission, should he choose to accept it...
&c. Falls at an indeterminate point after issue 6, 100 words, rated G. In response to the prompt, "What does your favorite character—or your favorite pairing—get fannish over?"

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - February 15
Time:8:48 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

The Aisles Have Eyes – Joseph Turow
I'm glad I read this interesting book, but it also frustrated me. Turow does a stellar job examining the ways that developers and retailers are trying to monitor consumers online, on mobile platforms, and in brick and mortar stores, and how they're working to build complete data profiles of individuals' families, location, income, tastes, health, and habits. Much of this information comes from theoretical discussions in trade publications and websites; after all, companies aren't about to make their data mining tactics public for obvious reasons. But I hungered for more information on how companies use this information in practice. For instance, how does Amazon use factors such as Prime membership, abode, age, and buying history to alter the search results it shows to an individual or the price it offers them? Or, do customers who don't participate in Safeway's loyalty program subsidise those who do, or does the grocer try to take everyone for a ride, just to different degrees? It's frightening stuff, but without concrete examples such as these it's hard to remember Turow's discussing things that are actually happening to consumers. Having said that, this a a very well-written, informative book, and kudos to Turow for including concrete suggestions for improvement in the final chapter instead of just ringing alarm bells.

アーシアン 3 – 高河 ゆん (Earthian vol. 3 – Kouga Yun )
Earthian is supposedly the story of pairs of angels sent to Earth to evaluate humanity to determine whether it deserves to be annihilated; one angel tallies the good things and one the bad. I was hoping for a darkly philosophical examination of human goodness and mankind's capacity for evil, but what I got instead was this hot mess. Kouga's focus (it's an arguable point that she has one) is on bad YA romance between the leads: angels go into heat and are hopelessly attracted to members of the same sex, but this has caused birthrates to nosedive, so same-sex love is a death sentence! And there's cancer that turns your hair black and everyone pines dreadfully for their soulmates, though woe, it can never be. Apparently Kouga employed a small country of assistants on this series, which beggars belief because the art is mostly minimal line drawings on white space with paltry use of screentones. Only two more volumes to go.


What I Am Currently Reading

[Placeholder] – [Placeholder]
:)

The Strangler Vine – M.J. Carter
The Devil's Feast will finally be published here at the end of March; I hope the third volume returns the series to its original form.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
I'm 30 percent finished and finally have hit the point where I'm engaged enough not to put the book down for weeks at a time. That said, I don't yet feel affection for any of the characters and the constant POV jumps are as jarring as ever.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
Currently chilling with the 7's of each suit. It's slow going because while the book provides zodiac and astrological correspondences, it does no more than that, which necessitates a fair amount of googling to get at what Williams and Goepferd are trying to convey with each card.

プラネテス 2 – 幸村 誠 (Planetes vol. 2 – Yukimura Makoto )
Earthian palate cleanser. Here we have sci-fi drama with solid characterization and plotting. In this volume a captain of industry is developing a spacecraft to take people to Jupiter so they can mine it for natural resources. He cuts corners and people die, but he's blase about the whole thing because he's famous and claims to be powerful and who's gonna stop him. And that's only the first chapter. It resonates frighteningly well in this age of いわゆる president trump. Yukimura is so damn good. Everyone should read his titles.


What I'm Reading Next
Did I make any inroads on last week's Reading Next list? No, no I did not. I hope to do better this time around.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - February 8
Time:7:52 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Injection vol. 2 – Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
Yes, even better on the second read. Injection is my favorite ongoing title and this will probably be my favorite collection in the series. Volume two does the Sherlock Holmes trope right, and the way Ellis' script and Shalvey's illustrations build on each other is second to none. Everybody should be reading this series.

Promethea vol. 4 – Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III & Mick Gray
In which our heroines complete their journey through the sephiroth and return to earth for a confrontation that is less dramatic and momentous than it should be. This is my least favorite arc, as its content boils down to “men represent logic, action, wisdom, art, science, and literature, and women have vaginas and are unknowable.” It also contains the “secretly, she wanted to be raped” reference that shows up in everything Moore writes. (One has the sneaking suspicion he's “had sex” at least once with a woman who's cried and begged him to stop, and is trying to convince himself he's not despicable for doing so.)

Promethea vol. 5 – Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III & Mick Gray
The series reaches a predominantly satisfying conclusion after stumbling in the previous six issues. Moore tackles Big Issues here—the biggest there are—and by and large does so with sweetness and finesse. It's also amusing (bemusing?) that Moore's pretty much taken a big scenic cruise through astrology, Tarot, kabbalah, and neo-pagan syncretism to essentially arrive at Buddhism with bells and whistles on. So it goes.

アーシアン 2 – 高河 ゆん(Earthian vol. 2 – Kouga Yun )
In which I am struck anew by how much trashier and less coherent manga was back in the day. To wit: an early chapter involves a young man who lives for free in a doctor's clinic (Why? Who knows!) and saves Number 71, a young girl who's mute and randomly bursts into flame because she's been held captive by experimented on in a hospital. Why was the hospital holding her captive? What was the point of making her “ignite,” as the manga puts it? Who knows? In fact, why are you even asking, reader? Kouga may have started to address this in later chapters, but there's so little cohesion within any given episode that it's hard to pick up what, if any, strings thread between them. So it goes.


What I Am Currently Reading

[Placeholder] – [Placeholder[\]
Still for reasons.

Celtic Knotwork – Iain Bain
In this week's chapter, Bain discusses how to break and/or mirror a 1.5-unit interlace to arrive at more complex knots. These are things I'd figured out through playing around and trial and error; it's interesting to see how an engineer arrived at the same results through a systematic, streamlined approach.

Avatar The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures – various
A decade(!) on, I still love this series so. Damn. Much. This volume anthologizes 28 stories released through DVD inserts, Nickelodeon comics, and Free Comic Book Day issues. The art is top notch and it's an interesting and entertaining look at plotlines that were probably considered for inclusion in the series' episodes.

Jerusalem – Alan Moore
Only another 1200-odd pages left to go. This week's chapter follows a former gangster-turned-homeless-man as he makes his way around the city; about 20 pages in, we begin to realize his narration is not as reliable as it seems. Put another way, this chapter is a 40-odd page remix of the Discworld pantheon and Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis, right down to the gods playing parlor games to decide humanity's fate and with 'Puck's Hat' standing in for Root. “Women like rough fucking” makes the obligatory appearance here too, although this time with the consent of both parties. Hurrah for small miracles.

The Aisles Have Eyes – Joseph Turow
This week's chapters discuss the various tactics retailers and groceries have used to try to capture customer information via cell phones. To my mind, it's nowhere near as nefarious as the back copy would lead you to believe, but then again I've only made it to around 2005, and I disable pretty much every feature on my phone unless I'm actively using it, so I'm a step away from the data collection Turow's describing.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
I covered the 10s through the 8s of the four suites in this week's reading.

What I'm Reading Next
My books owned to books read ratio has returned to Code Red: Humiliating, so I'll probably be looking for easy wins with manga and the like. I will also start Sue Klebold's A Mother's Reckoning, which will probably destroy me long before I finish it. Beyond that, I'll try to wrap up some of the 30-odd library books I've signed out.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Time:6:46 pm.
Holy crap, I said as I started to compile this list. I mean, I love reading, but I haven't done it this compulsively since...the last Bush administration.

And there you have it.

What I Just Finished Reading

The Wicked + The Divine vol. 2 – Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
I'm puzzled by the LT reviews of this volume that compare it unfavorably to the first. I found the pacing and worldbuilding smoother and deeper here, while the latter element remained as intriguing as in the first volume. Volume 2 fills out the entire pantheon of reincarnated gods (and then some!), and introduces a kicker of a reveal that I caught just before it Gillen dropped it—what a great mix of hinting and misdirection he had going on—and a gut-punch of a cliffhanger.

Shutter vol. 2 – Joe Keatinge & Lila De Luca
Shutter hits its stride in volume 2. The main pro- and antagonists all get some nice character development and the art, which I suspect takes some inspiration from Minekura Kazuya, is top notch. Keatinge is setting up an interesting world and I was excited for his characters to explore it more.

Shutter vol. 3 – Joe Keatinge & Lila De Luca
The momentum continues in volume three. Keatinge performs the neat trick of turning previously deplorable villains into not exactly characters redeemed, but characters whose motivations are revealed to have more depth and meaning than you'd originally believed. The worldbuilding here is fantastic and includes a pseudo-Venice populated by cats. Give me more.

Injection vol. 1– Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
I really liked this volume on my first read. Now, I love it. Ellis' twist on English faerie and the effing stunning art hooked me on the first read, but it took a second one for me to catch all the little insights and easter eggs we're given into the main characters.

Red – Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner
Re-read (or should that be “re-red?”) for reasons. The moral of the story bothers me as much as it did during my first read in 2006, but I have a better appreciation for just how flat it could have fallen, but didn't.

Promethea vol. 3 – Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III & Mick Gray
In which our heroines continue to journey along the Sephiroth. There's a rare misstep in Moore's praise of the ancient Greek city states as just the bestest societies where everyone lived in freedom, happiness, and harmony (Really!? How awesome was it for the women there, Alan?) but the issues in this volume contain some of the most mindbending depictions of the concepts Moore's exploring in the series that it's still a winner.


What I Am Currently Reading

[Placeholder] – [Placeholder]
For reasons.

Injection vol. 2 – Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey
The second volume of this series focuses on Vivek Headland, a wealthy Manhattanite with fastidious taste in clothing and food who studies ethics and moonlights as an inspector when the police are stumped. I usually dislike the “crimefighter of genius intellect” character trope, but I am infatuated with Headland. Ellis' sly dialogue and Shalvey's wry, nuanced illustrations are just alchemy. This is perhaps the best serial currently out there, and I will be buying the individual issues.

Pleasure Bound – Eeborah Lutz
This week's chapters dealt with homosexuality in Victorian Britain and the various ways polite society and contemporary countercultures expressed and sublimated it (religious imagery, flagellation porn, and homosocial artistic endeavours, primarily). Lutz's prose is as clean and illuminating as ever.

The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
So many adjectives. So. Many. Adjectives. I'm excited to ultimately read this one, but I'm going to put it down for the time being, until I'm ready to meet All The Adjectives head-on.

Jerusalem – Alan Moore
This 6" x 10" novel had to be typeset in size-10 font with half-inch margins—in other words, to make use of every space-squeezing trick in the book—to come in at “only” 1,266 pages. Thus, prepare to see it popping up with regularity, as I will be reading it for the rest of my life. This week's chapter, written in the voice of a drug-addled prostitute, was an uncomfortable reminder of the way in which many of those white, down-and-out rust belt trump voters perceive the world.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
In which the protagonist begins a tentative rapprochement with his brother. There are so many names, nicknames, and titles here I can't keep them straight anymore, so I'm now just along for the ride.

The Aisles Have Eyes – Joseph Turow
The week's main nonfiction book examines how retailers use personal data aggregation to decide which customers to court and which customers to discard. I'm in the midst of the early chapters, in which Turow is explaining the change from a bartering economy to today's familiar regime of set prices. The writing thus far is crisp and engaging, which is good, because the subject is potentially quite frightening.

The Light and Shadow Tarot – Brian Williams & Michael Goepferd
The Light and Shadow Tarot has been one of my go-to decks for 20 years now. It's been a while since I worked through the book, so I'll be doing that over the next few weeks, focusing particularly on the astrological correlations.


What I'm Reading Next
I need to wrap up the first volume of Kouga Yun's Earthian, though it'll be hard after this week's string of wins. Also on deck are Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell's Murder Mysteries and Gaiman and Michael Zulli's The Facts in the ase of the Departure of Miss Finch, in addition to the in-progress volumes above.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Subject:Oh, hey, is it January 20th?
Time:8:42 am.
Comments: Add Your Own.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - January 18
Time:10:36 pm.
What I Just Finished Reading

Trees vol. 2 – Warren Ellis & Jason Howard
Transmetropolitan is still far and away Ellis' best, and Injection is quickly rocketing to number two. Trees cements its position as a solid third place with this second volume, and I'm intrigued to see how (if) Ellis' fascination with the accoustics of Britain's henges is developed differently here than in Injection. Stay tuned.

DMZ vol. 1– Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
The supposed gritty realism falls flat for me when Wood fails to explain how warzone Manhattan manages to keep the lights on, the septic systems running, and the population fed and clothed. (PS: women in real-world war zones in sub zero temperatures wear more than pasties and thongs, boys.) If you aren't going to go the full-on sci-fi route, you better have an explanation for the above. Wood doesn't.

DMZ vol. 2 – Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
The sloppy worldbuilding, alas, continues into the second voluem. I would probably have been better able to suspend disbelief had I read this during the Dubya Bush administration, of which it is clearly a reflection; read in another time, it hasn't aged well. That said, there's a bit more dimensionality to this volume than the first (although its clumsy, self-conscious hipness is painful in places). I'll keep reading to see where it goes.

What I Am Currently Reading

[Placeholder] – [Placeholder]
For reasons.

Celtic Knotwork – Iain Bain
In this week's chapters where Bain explains the ratios of cord thickness to cell dimensions alongside highly technical explanations of how to construct circles and curves sans compass. I haven't touched geometry in ages, so it's interesting, but slow, going, and still the best book on the subject by far.

Yoga for Athletes – Ryanne Cunningham
Does what it says on the label, which makes it an interesting read. Here is yoga described to people who familiar with the names of muscle groups and sports terminology, and not “shining the heart forward” or “hugging the muscle to the bone.” The instructions are clear and photographs useful; kudos to Cunningham for using models of all genders, races, and body types. That said, some of the models in the photographs are doing the poses dangerously incorrectly, so proceed with caution if you're using this as your introduction to yoga.

Pleasure Bound – Eeborah Lutz
An illumiating and highly readable book on Victorian attitudes to gender and sexuality. I wholeheartedly recommend this one.

Yogafit – Beth Shaw
Another nicely produced offering from the publisher of Cunningham's volume. Clear instructions, lots of color pictures, and a variety of nice sequences to work different muscle groups. In contrast to Cunningham, Shaw goes more into the philosophy of yoga writ large, so this is the volume for people who want some Sanskrit terminology and chakra theory along with their physical stretches.

彼方者の困惑 – 直野儚羅 (Atchimono no Konwaku – Naono Bohra
At one point I knew, and then somehow forgot, that this is the second volume in a series that came out during the years I wasn't living in Japan. Consequently, I never read the first and am a bit at sea as to who this new set of characters is. That said, the art is still top notch, and I will always have a place in my heart for Naono's grumpy oyaji.


What I'm Reading Next

Probably vols. 3-5 of DMZ since I already have them, and then I've got some books on Korean and Tibetan history I mean to start.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Subject:And now the inarticulate fangirl squee
Time:6:26 pm.
Beneath this cut, it does what it says on the label.

This is going to be shorter not because I feel there's less good than bad in this episode, but because I experience happiness as something largely beyond words, whereas I can be articulate about things that dissatisfy me.

Now, onto the things I loved. Namely, that scene. That scene. THAT SCENE.

That scene. That scene is everything I love about Sherlock. How something amazing comes at you out of the blue. The foreshadowing and the sly visual humor. (Just what are you supposed to remind us of, Mrs Hudson? ) The way the writers reward fans for attentive viewing and good memories. The way they create characters for whom I feel such affection, even when they're as deeply horrible as Moriarty. How I know I should care but I don't, because I'm so happy to see these old friends again.

And in general. The references to canon. The references to real world politics and events. How Sherlock's grown into a good man, and that the writers realize that's rarer, and better, than being a great man. How Sherlock shows it. (“Thanks, Greg.” OMG two words and I am filled with SUCH JOY. Sherlock not just knowing, but understanding what he's doing to Molly on the phone.) The way Sherlock and John and Mycroft buoy each other up. Mycroft trying to anger Sherlock into saving John...oh my god.

And the sense that there are still mysteries to be explored. Case in point: what is with all those lovingly lingering camera shots of Mycroft's wedding band?

And that's it for now, because while I've watching and mulling over and writing, my laptop battery's been dying. But to conclude: so much awesome in this show, and I hope there's more of it.


これで以上です。
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Subject:My thoughts on yao-- I mean, my problems with The Final Problem
Time:6:25 pm.
There is so much to like about this episode, but before I can talk about it, I have to work through everything Collapse )

これで以上です。
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Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Subject:Fandom Snowflake 2017 - Day 7
Time:12:25 am.
Let's have some Sherlock meta. Be warned; some explicit spoilers for the first two episodes of series 4 throughout.

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これで以上です。
Comments: Read 2 orAdd Your Own.

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Subject:Snowflake Challenge 2017: Day 12
Time:11:17 pm.

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Day 12

In your own space, post a rec for fannish spaces and resources - comms, challenges, twitters, tumblrs, etc. Tell us about where you hang out. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


Hands down, the Beamdog Forums are the fannish space I've hung out in the most over the past year. The world has had almost two decades to come up with a series of games I'll love more than Baldur's Gate and it has yet to succeed. That these forums are so active is testament to the fact that many others feel as I do. As an added bonus, after you're finished playing through with a variety of party and alignment configurations, there are tons of mods for you to explore.

これで以上です。
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Subject:Snowflake Challenge 2017: Day 14
Time:10:44 pm.
Eep, I'm behind. Let's see if I can clear out the backlog, back to front.


Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner


Day 14
Go forth and commit an act of kindness. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it, tell us about it if you’re comfortable doing so.</b>

I fed the neighborhood Little Free Library.

これで以上です。
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Subject:What Am I Reading Wednesday - January 11
Time:7:52 pm.
This was primarily a newspaper, Economist, and TV catch-up week, given all the household maintenance I had to do. That said, I still managed the following:

What I Just Finished Reading

Our Bodies, Our Data – Adam Tanner
This well-written book examines the physician- and pharmacy-driven trade in patient medical data and how the industry's end users, adept at identifying patients and combining this data with other information on the individuals' socio-economic status, habits, and tastes, threaten patients' privacy. Tanner is wise enough to avoid bombast and hyperbole for explication and is clear about when both data aggregation's advocates and critics are unable to support their claims with evidence. If anything, his evenhandedness makes the nontransparent and largely unregulated phenomenon he's describing all the more concerning.


What I Am Currently Reading

[Placeholder] – [Placeholder]
For reasons.

Inda – Sherwood Smith
I'm not a huge fan of frequent POV jumps, which Inda has in spades. Still, the interpersonal dynamics Smith's setting up continue to ring true, and I have hopes for a huge dynastic power struggle in future chapters.

DMZ vol. 1 – Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
This series, about a no-man's-land New York City set between two halves of a United States at war came highly recommended. The premise is intriguing but the series lost me when our photojournalist intern protagonist, stranded in the opening scenes in downtown Manhattan, expresses amazement at how well civilization's been preserved on the city's rooftops; after all, facts on the ground are wholly unknown to everyone outside. You're telling me no journalist or military commander thought to take a look at Google Earth? No wonder we weren't smart enough to avert civil war...

彼方者の困惑 – 直野儚羅 (Atchimono no Konwaku – Naono Bohra
I love Naono, I love her youkai, and I love how she plays with age and hierarchy conventions, but I wish this had been one of her doujinshi so she could have written something less constricted by Reijin's one-shot template.


What I'm Reading Next

Long weekend coming up, so I'll probably try to knock out the second volume of Ellis' Trees and a full length novel or nonfiction book on top of wrapping up the volumes above.

これで以上です。
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Subject:Snowflake Challenge 2017: Day 10
Time:11:45 pm.
Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner

Day 10

In your own space, share your love for a trope, cliché, kink, motif, or theme. (More than one is okay, too.) Tell us about it, tell us why you love it, give us some examples and recs. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.


By far my favorite trope is the antagonist's redemption. Give me a character who seems like an asshole until that critical reveal, and then rake them over the coals as they try to right things; you will have my rapt attention. Think the Winter Soldier remembering flashes of Bucky Barnes, or Cho Hakkai trying to nice his way out of who he slept with and how many people he's killed, or Sugiura Shiho's Blood or Chigusa learning humanity, or Zuko questioning whose side he's really on, or Snape bullied and shafted and snarling at everyone while fighting the good fight solo...the list goes on.

If you then write me a plot arc where that character reconciles with their former nemesis, I will eat out of your hand. God, I have such a thing for people at each other's throats working their way through misunderstandings and shitty circumstances and external threats and realizing the other has decency and worth and that they need them. Thor and Loki, Mulder and Krycek, Snape and Harry, Attolia and Eugenides, Jane and Mr Rochester, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, SHIELD reuniting, every one-shot Naono Bohra's ever written, the glorious cluster of an Akitsuki Koh or Mizuno Tohru novel... I want the antagonist brought low, and then the protagonist taken apart when they're forced to reevaluate everything they've ever thought they knew about how horrible the first character is. Let's wallow.

It's a fine line to walk, though, because there really does need to be transformation, redemption, and catharsis for it to work for me. (Hence my eternal gnashing of teeth at the typical Kdrama story where the lead chooses the abuser because she knows he means "I love you" when he's humiliating and degrading her. No bueno. Nor does the having the antagonist die at the end, a la Snape, do anything for me--that's not redemption, it's authorial cowardice.) But show me two characters coming together and softening each other's edges where they couldn't do it on their own, and yes, please. Every time.

これで以上です。
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