Greetings from the apocalypse. The whole western United States is on fire or shrouded in smoke, so this blog is live from the end times. I’m kicking myself for not buying an air purifier after the last big fire season. It seems like an extravagance right up until it isn’t. It’s hard to accept that these kind of extreme fire or weather events are the new normal thanks to global warming. It’s also hard to contemplate the fact that I’m able to improve my home environment because I can afford it, but many other people cannot. I’m glad I can buy things to make my indoor time better and healthier, but I don’t think breathable air should be limited to those who can afford it. Call me a radical socialist, I suppose.
The air has been a yellow-grey all week and I’ve spent the whole of it inside. My house is getting dusty but I’m not inclined to clean it before the smoke settles down. It’s hard to keep my spirits up amid a combined fire and plague season although I am trying. Ever returning to something resembling “normal” life feels further away all the time. I’m trying to embrace the chaos.
Here are some things I’ve recently read, watched, or bought.
I thought I was really going to love The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. It’s a perfectly good and entertaining book, but I felt like it was trying to be too many things. It’s a space opera in which one set of characters is living with kind of a Handmaid’s Tale vibe and the other set of characters is fighting against its own shitty culture with stark wealth inequality. The two cultures are at war because … they’re mad (real wars have started for less, I suppose). Eventually everyone gets together to fight the power. This is an arguably relevant and hopeful story, but it wasn’t my jam.
However, I was suitably impressed by the bookmark my sister cross stitched for me, seen here peeking out of the book.
Meanwhile, on the internet:
- “We should have the right not to like men”: the French writer at centre of literary storm via The Guardian. French writer Pauline Harmange published an essay about hating men and now the French government is saying this is basically a hate crime. Seems like they might have their priorities out of alignment, but what do I know?
- Habituation to horror via Culture Study. A fine description of the feeling of this moment plus a call to action to take advantage of this “plastic” time.
- Italy’s Bergamo is calling back coronavirus survivors. About half say they haven’t fully recovered via The Washington Post. Honestly, this scares the fuck out of me. The more we learn about the long-term effects of coronavirus, the more I want to avoid getting it.
- How conspiracy theories are shaping the 2020 election—and shaking the foundation of American democracy via Time. This is also very scary but for different reasons. The part that has stayed with me is this: “Democracy relies on an informed and engaged public responding in rational ways to the real-life facts and challenges before us. But a growing number of Americans are untethered from that. ‘They’re not on the same epistemological grounding, they’re not living in the same worlds,’ says Whitney Phillips, a professor at Syracuse who studies online disinformation. ‘You cannot have a functioning democracy when people are not at the very least occupying the same solar system.'”
- Why Goodreads is bad for books via the New Statesman. I don’t use Goodreads, as I’ve talked about before (I’m on LibraryThing), so, in a way, I enjoyed hearing that Goodreads is not good at what people want from it. It sounds like people are stuck there for lack of an alternative, similar to how many of us are trapped on Facebook. Even though I am happy with LibraryThing, the article made me curious about some of the alternative book sites out there. I’m thinking I’ll investigate this week.
I finally started (and have nearly finished) watching Pose. Why did I wait this long to watch it when it’s exactly the kind of show I would like? For that, I have no good answer. I love how earnest it is and I always enjoy media about finding one’s chosen family. I was reflecting on this theme and I realized a number of things I’ve enjoyed recently deal with that like Becky Chamber’s book A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. There’s something powerful about finding your people and deciding who you want to share your life with. I like that Pose celebrates that concept.
It’s interesting to watch a story about people living through the AIDS crisis when we’re living through our own plague. I’m not the first to draw the comparison but it is difficult to deal with a disease that is taking so many people down and that we don’t fully understand. In a way, it’s encouraging to see other people living and thriving despite a terrifying disease that no one in power (in this country, anyway) seems to care about. It’s a reminder that you have to do what you can to take care of yourself and take responsibility for living your best life while helping your community.
Outside of these heavier concepts, I’ve enjoyed seeing Damon’s character develop as a ballet dancer. After my two months of ballet lessons I’m more interested in seeing how the professionals dance. I also live for style icon Pray Tell, who was obviously going to be my favorite.
On Friday I had an appointment with my optometrist downtown, so I decided to make the most of it and pick up some things from local shops. I ordered a few new books from Capital Books and was able to drop in to pick them up. I also picked up a box of macrons from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates because food is one of the few reliable coping mechanisms we have these days. The macrons are already gone.
Making Things and Doing Stuff
I’ve spent the week doing nothing especially noteworthy. I’ve been knitting a sock and watching Pose (there’s not enough sock to bother sharing a photo yet). I’ve been exercising on my new bike/rower, which is great, and I had fun at ballet class this week. Beyond the norm, there’s not a lot to comment on but I am making a valiant effort.
I had my first Spanish class after my August break and it was good. I told my teacher that I want to work more on translating and developing vocabulary in more areas. She was totally on board with that and sent me some articles to translate from Spanish to English for my homework. We also went over one of the translations I was doing for a volunteer gig. One of the organizations I’ve started working for is Reiman Gardens in Iowa. I translated their volunteer mission statement into Spanish, which was tricky—I was glad to get the extra help with it. Translating into Spanish is not ideal since I’m a native English speaker, but it is what’s in demand. Reiman Gardens said they would send me more things to translate, so that’s exciting!
I didn’t feel particularly moved to make food last week, although I feel that’s about to change since it’s not so damn hot. However, I will share what little I did make. First: nachos. I like to cook some chicken and beans in the crockpot then use it for burritos and nachos. I’ve started prepping the nachos on parchment paper. I put it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese and slide the whole thing onto a plate. I also tried out a chickpea burger recipe that tasted okay but was incredibly crumbly. I’m assuming that’s at least partially my fault since I haphazardly combined these two recipes. If anyone has a chickpea burger recipe that they love, please send it to me.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.