Hello, friends and enemies. Yesterday, I left my enclosure to do a little roller derby commentary. I was on the mic for Sacramento Roller Derby’s first home team game of the season. It feels nice to still be welcomed even though I’m not skating anymore. A little while before the game started, I turned on the mic and said “test, test, test” and the skaters started cheering. Easy crowd, yes, but I’m glad people like to listen to me narrate roller derby. If only this was a skill I could use to make money, haha. I was also glad that my former home team, Blue aka Blue Steel, won.
Books and Other Words
I tried something new for this week’s post. I’ve been writing out my thoughts about the books I read as I finish them instead of waiting two weeks then struggling to remember what I wanted to say. Please enjoy these new and improved book thoughts.
I bought Art in the After-Culture: Capitalist Crisis & Cultural Strategy by Ben Davis without knowing much about it (this feels like a recurring theme for me), but I was intrigued by the idea of art criticism through the lens of socialism. This book looks at how art intersects with a lot of topics, from social media influencers to climate change to QAnon, and I learned a whole lot. There was so much trivia in here that I want to remember, like the fact that the DDoS attack was invented as a method of digital protest and first deployed in solidarity with the Zapatistas. I mean, what? The whole book is rich with tidbits like this employed in the larger narrative of examining art’s role in and relationship to modern issues.
I enjoyed The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera. It’s set in an alternate universe version of what seems like southeast Asia. Our protagonist, Fetter, has been raised by his mother to be an assassin and murder his father, who leads a religion (or perhaps a cult, it’s a grey area). This sounds thrilling but it’s not really that kind of book. Fetter grows up and immigrates to a new place and lives in public housing. He goes to his group therapy and gets somewhat accidentally gets involved in a political movement. In the background, the state is imprisoning low-caste citizens (Fetter has to reference an almanac to try to figure out where people fall in the caste hierarchy–and still remains confused). There is plague and revolution but Fetter is really just trying to live his life. In this sense, the book is highly relatable.
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem is a new fantasy novel that takes place in a world based on medieval Egypt (I’m honestly not sure if ‘medieval’ functions as a description for non-European countries but it’s the best I can offer). Our protagonist is the titular Jasad heir, a deeply traumatized orphan whose family was murdered at the hands of another kingdom. She, like the rest of her family and people, can wield magic, but given past atrocities, it’s now illegal to be magic so she suppresses it and lives as a peasant. Naturally her world gets turned upside down in service of the plot. I liked the book well enough. I always enjoy fantasy based on places other than Europe, and it’s especially nice to get something that’s Arab-inspired, although the bar for that field has been set especially high by S. A. Chakraborty and her Daevabad “trilogy.” I’ll be curious to see what Hashem does with this series.
I am a contrarian, a misanthrope, and at times, a hater. So when something reaches a certain level of popularity, I tend to assume it’s not that good (apologies to Taylor Swift fans; no apologies to Twilight fans). Still, I decided to see what all the fuss was about over Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue, a gay romance that was recently adapted into a movie. For the first part of the book, I was not that engaged and was thinking about how I prefer science fiction and fantasy with romantic elements to a straight (lol) romance because there’s more to think about. However, this book unleashed a mega fantasy scenario, as unreal as anything set in space. We’ve got the bisexual coming of age story of the first woman president’s son. He goes enemies-to-lovers (more like ‘doesn’t-realize-he’s-bisexual-and-holding-a-grudge to lovers’, but that’s neither here nor there) with an English prince. We’ve got the millennial parent apology fantasy. Most of all, we’ve got a Trump-free world. The main character’s mom becomes president after two terms of Obama. I WANT WHAT THEY HAVE. I think this, as much as anything, explains the appeal of this story. It’s romance in a world where we didn’t have to endure the worst president of all time and slide towards fascism.
Meanwhile, on the internet:
- It’s Official: Cars Are the Worst Product Category We Have Ever Reviewed for Privacy via Mozilla Foundation. So most cars have a big computer in them now and that computer is collecting all kinds of information. Car companies are doing nothing to protect that data, which is troubling. There’s a link at the bottom of the article for a petition you can sign about it, if you feel so moved.
- Mexico decriminalizes abortion, extending Latin American trend of widening access to procedure via the Associated Press. Shout out to Mexico for doing the damn thing! Orále!
- Did you know that men are just out here, living their lives, and constantly thinking about the Roman empire? There’s a meme of women asking men “How often do you think about the Roman empire?” and recording the answers. Men everywhere are thinking about the Romans a LOT. This is news to women. Very funny news. Why are you thinking about this so much? Why are men not discussing these thoughts? As usual, I’m lead to more and more questions.
TV and Music
We started (and finished, at least of what there is so far) watching Foundation recently. I read the original Asimov novels when I was a teenager and watching the show has me wracking my brain trying to figure out how much I actually remember to compare it to the television adaptation, and this has made me want to read the books again. The show is very good though. It’s pretty, the characters are well developed, and it’s taking us to interesting places. I hope they make more.
Knitting and Crafts
I’m finally getting back into my knitting and I’ve been working on this marsh pattern. I was struggling with it at first because (I suspect) I wasn’t paying attention enough. After ripping out some 80 rows, I have been more carefully working this piece back up. I’ve re-done 40 rows so far and it’s looking a lot nicer, so even though I was mad about undoing so much work, it was the right call. I need to finish this up and start knitting some holiday gifts before it’s too late!
The only new and noteworthy food I made this week was this giant skillet cookie, which was as good as it sounds. I added mini M&Ms because there are no rules. I got a great new cooking tip from one of my facebook groups (this makes me sound 100 years old) this week. I saw a suggestion to use a large tea diffuser when cooking beans. You can put all the spices and seasonings in the diffuser ans save yourself the effort of fishing out the bay leaves, chilis, and other bits from the broth at the end. So I bought one and tried it out and it did make my life a lot easier.
Finally, here are some cat photos for your nerves.