June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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November 23rd, 2015
Popular media where the twins are written like actual twins:
2) I have VARIOUS MISGIVINGS about I'll Give You The Sun but OK FINE THEY ARE TWINS WHO ACT LIKE ACTUAL TWINS
2 1/2) They had some twin-tropes I wasn't crazy about and my view is heavily colored by the sheer amount of twincest fanfiction, but OK, the Weasley twins in Harry Potter
Popular media where the twins are either unrealistically the same person, unrealistically total opposites, or seem to have some troubling psychosexual stuff going on:
Literally everything else.
(I am sure there are actual twins who have troubling psychosexual stuff going on but. Um. It still feels to me like a Weird Twin Trope).
This post has been brought to you by Jessica Jones, which I otherwise am enjoying very much.
Parents, don't name your twins Ruben and Robyn. Give your twins names that are ANYTHING ELSE BUT A MATCHED SET.
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November 21st, 2015
|03:24 pm - Who lives, who dies, who takes the GRE|
Saturday morning pre-GRE Hamiltunes: My Shot, Guns and Ships, Yorktown, Non-Stop. Because correlation is the same thing as causation, I have to give Lin-Manuel Miranda all the credit for my getting a significantly nicer score on the computer-scored portion of the GRE than I expected.
(And nobody cares! The only place I'm applying to that even wants GRE scores is Iowa, where they're optional! But if I don't get in this year, I'll be able to apply to Minnesota next year with these scores.)
Afterwards I had time for a teeny Hamilton walking tour, past Fraunces Tavern and the Hamilton gravestones at Trinity Church.
I need to be putting things in boxes, but I feel very tired and may have a cold or something coming on.
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November 10th, 2015
|09:45 pm - Committee Meeting|
YA Coordinator: So what should we put on the Mock Printz list?
Me: Symphony for the City of the Dead
Librarians: Did anybody read The Boys Who Challenged Hitler?
Me: It's good but it's not as good as Symphony for the City of the Dead.
Librarians: Did anybody read Most Dangerous?
Me: It's good but it's not as good as Symphony for the City of the Dead.
Librarians: Do we need another nonfiction on the list? It seems like there's good nonfiction this year. Did anybody read Stonewall?
Me: I actually was not very impressed by it. I think we should just do Symphony for the City of the Dead.
Librarian E.: I think we should let Emily present on Symphony for the City of the Dead
YES. THANK YOU. THAT IS ALL I'M ASKING FOR HERE.
(Symphony for the City of the Dead: Some things M.T. Anderson is great at include a perspective on the wide sweep of history, a keen sense for looking past the surface events to the deeper issues, and writing about music. When he writes about Dmitri Shostakovich being in fear for his life and wellbeing because party leaders found his music insufficiently ideologically correct -- while the definition of good communist music was constantly shifting and seemingly based more in keeping people in line than anything real you could point to -- it's not only genuinely frightening, but it's sobering, and makes me want to think harder about what it means to want art to do ideological or moral work. Amazing Shostakovich anecdote: He has an appointment to get interrogated, and he goes to it sure that he's going to get killed. So he gets to the door, and he explains about his appointment with the interrogator, and it turns out that the interrogator has just been executed for treason, the day before.
There's a lot in here I didn't know about Germany and Russia as enemies in World War II -- how Stalin was so afraid of a military coup that he massively weakened his own army, how he was only listening to his generals who said that they needed more cavalry, not more tanks(!), how inexplicable it was that he trusted Hitler not to invade Russia... but ultimately it's a book about art, and the political purposes for which art gets used and misused, and how difficult it is to navigate in that world as an artist when you have very little choice but to exist in that system where every artistic statement that you make is vulnerable to being used and misused, used to make it look like you support the regime or don't support the regime.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: ENTERTAINING AS HELL book about teenage saboteurs in Denmark during WWII. Full of excellent anecdotes. My favorite is the one where Knud Pederson, one of the leaders of the resistance movement, who's already doing things like stealing guns from soldiers, speaks with the girl he has a crush on and he's so freaked out by it that he has to leave school and go home in the middle of the day.
Most Dangerous: I did not know ANYTHING about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers before I read this book, much less the connection to Watergate, so it was exciting to learn that story! Especially the part where G. Gordon Liddy BREAKS INTO Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office hoping to get his files and get some dirt on Ellsberg! Very Relevant in terms of debates about Edward Snowden and under what circumstances it's right to leak confidential information.
Stonewall: I wish it had been longer, and I wish it had engaged with the subject at a deeper level -- it was a very straightforward, on-the-surface history narrative, and definitely one that centered cis white male perspectives. It ends up not working that well as either a comprehensive YA intro-to-gay-history or a history specific to Stonewall.)
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October 18th, 2015
|10:33 am - Even John Green did not get *huge* until he wrote a girl protagonist|
A lot of people who criticize women for reading Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight or whatever don't even realize that men would be responsible for just as many silly or mockable bestsellers if men were reading as much fiction as women are.
If you look at what was being published decades ago, pulp fiction was very gender-coded. There were, and are, romances for women; for men, there were a ton of western novels and adventure novels and Mack Bolan and whatnot. That genre is much smaller than it used to be because guys stopped reading them. The audience got older and the new generation that would've replaced them just started playing video games and reading blogs and articles on the internet.
A NY Times article from way back in 1997 says,
''The techno-thriller has become a kind of emoto-thriller, if you will,'' Mr. Kirshbaum said. ''What we used to call the boy books don't work nearly as well as they once did, except for a brief spurt at Father's Day.''
And I think that's not outdated -- I think it's the beginning of a change that has continued up until the present.
This is just meant as observation, not as criticism. People should do whatever makes them happy with their leisure time. If a person is kind of marginal in terms of how strong they are as a reader, then pleasure reading -- no matter how "unsophisticated"! -- is certainly a useful thing. I like reading fiction and I do have a financial interest in other people liking it too but I'm not one of those people who'll yell about The Decline Of Civilization, especially when I know lots of people who don't read much fiction because of time and attention issues.
But I do think it's odd when people talk about these books driven by women readers as a huge problem with literary culture, while not talking about the men who aren't reading fiction at all.
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October 13th, 2015
|03:36 pm - BECAUSE IT'S LITERALLY 1950, libraries with gender-specific programming.|
Another library with a "boys only" program is getting attention thanks to a tweet from Shannon Hale; the same day, a library student working on a research project asked me my opinion on programs only for boys.
I understand getting anxious about boys not coming to library programs! I understand being concerned when boys have lower rates of pleasure reading and lower grades in school! (Although to be fair a lot of that reading discrepancy goes away when you look at all kinds of reading, including nonfiction, comics, and web content, and not just things like novels.) It does sometimes happen that a specific clique comes to dominate library programming and anyone on the outside feels unwelcome, and it's conceivable that programs like this one were created to disrupt that dynamic. BUT. Once you are literally saying "no girls allowed" you have crossed over to the dark side. You need to figure out some solutions that do not depend on excluding people who often already feel excluded from STEM-related stuff.
And you really have to think about what message you're sending to trans kids, non-gender-conforming kids, everybody who gets marginalized just by the fact that there's this barrier between 'girl things' and 'boy things.'
Sometimes librarianship is frustrating because you can't fix THE WHOLE CULTURE but it feels awful to just submit to it: not just this heinous divide between 'girl books' and 'boy books,' but also things like this past weekend's "Star Wars Reads Day," when I am all curmudgeonly and no matter how much I like Star Wars I feel really weird about corporate synergy with a giant media conglomerate. At some point you have to make the case that part of librarianship SHOULD be standing up against what's broken in the culture instead of just going along with it because it makes your attendance numbers look better.
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October 9th, 2015
October 8th, 2015
|12:35 pm - I'm not standing still, I am lying in wait|
I think, as a Canadian who moved to the US at the age of twelve, it was inevitable that I become really cynical about American patriotism and a lot of the baggage around it (especially the whole "we can never have sensible gun laws because of an ambiguous sentence written over 200 years ago" thing); there was a whole lot of "you are not as great as you think you are, you know!" in my head. When I was in ninth grade (we were assigned to read Ayn Rand!) we had to write an essay on freedoms that you have as an American that you wouldn't have elsewhere, and, like, I grew up elsewhere. If you don't want to own a gun, it's not much of a freedom differential.*
And my attitude about the American revolution was fairly colored by the fact that Canada continues to be part of the British commonwealth and, you know, it's fine? I can't remember if I have any Loyalists in my family tree or not, but if you're an Anglophone from Quebec, it's fairly likely that you have ancestors who said "Revolution? Nah, let's not." I think I never learned a way of engaging with American history that wasn't based on a kind of unnuanced, unquestioning cheerleading of the revolution and the constitution and the founding fathers -- the most you could do was put in a little footnote there to say "Oh, yeah, slavery, that was bad."
So, I was joking before about listening to the Hamilton cast recording while filling out my citizenship application, but it was also kind of serious, because besides being some great music, I think it's actually provided me with a different way to engage with that history -- as rap battle, as soap opera, as the kind of thing where you care deeply about these people making TERRIBLE LIFE DECISIONS and it's not about passing judgment on these people as Good People or Bad People, but you can't help but be kind of impressed with all of them. It's total sincerity without the hagiography. And it's a story that feels suddenly really close -- Alexander Hamilton went to Columbia (as Kings College is now known)? I've been there! The Hamiltons are buried at Trinity Church downtown? I've walked past there! I kind of actually want to arrange a little American History Walking Tour for myself (which I might actually do because I have a 4-day weekend coming up?)
I still joke that I'm not actually a Shakespeare person, I'm just a Slings & Arrows fan -- well, I probably will continue to have lots of Complicated Feelings about the US and citizenship, but at least I can be a Hamilton fan?
* There is also some free speech stuff, but if I had been aware of that in ninth grade I definitely would not have wanted to write an essay on the right to hate speech and hardcore porn!
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Did you think, while listening to the Hamilton cast recording, "If this were a manga, Aaron Burr's kid and Alexander Hamilton's kid would end up together"? No? Just me?
Anyway, magneticwave wrote a modern AU in which 10-year-old Philip Hamilton is a little too quick to defend his honor at school... and luckily, Olivia Pope gets called in.
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September 22nd, 2015
|05:11 pm - Optimism: a definition|
"Ancillary Mercy is coming out soon? I'm gonna catch up on that whole series!"
"The last book of the Raven Cycle is coming out soon? I'm gonna catch up on that whole series!"
"Someday my Printz Will Come is back? I'm gonna read everything on that list!"
Also I reeeeeeally want to read Steve Sheinkin's new book on "Daniel Ellsberg and the secret history of the Vietnam war."
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September 21st, 2015
"Wow, these MBTI things, always so simplistic and reductive; on the other hand, I AM a crying potato that doesn't like conflict."
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September 20th, 2015
|10:39 am - Book Report: recent young adult|
The Dead I Know, Scot Gardner.
Published in Australia several years ago, only recently published in the US. Aaron Rowe finds employment as an assistant to a local funeral director; as he learns to deal with the dead, and with his new relationships at work, he starts to come to terms with the deaths in his past and his own present precarious situation (he lives in a caravan park with Mam, whose dementia is becoming more severe.)
When I read this book I was startled all over again by the occasionally-huge gap between "literary" YA and "commercial" YA, and -- once I realized it was Australian -- the gap between American and non-American YA. (I don't know if US/non-US is the right distinction; but even within the Anglosphere there are very different cultures when it comes to YA fiction, and I keep being surprised by these GREAT YA books coming out of Australia.)
It's a quiet book, written with a great deal of crisp precision; it reminds me a bit of Adrian Chambers, who writes boy characters who are sensitive and emotional in very believable ways. It's not a perfect book -- I think the development of the book's central antagonist could've been better, and I question how the book dealt with one of the funeral home's dead clients, who is fat. But it is deeply honest and complicated and emotionally affecting.
Show and Prove, Sofia Quintero.
Smiley King and Nike Vega are growing apart as friends. It's the south Bronx in 1983, and while Smiley is trying to negotiate being one of the few black students at the prep school he attends on a scholarship, Nike fears being left behind. They spend their summer working at the day camp of St. Aloysius church -- and (for Smiley) getting involved with an offshoot of the Nation of Islam, and (for Nike) falling in love with a girl who he doesn't realize is a refugee from Lebanon.
It's a book with a lot of issues (HIV, crack, conflict in the middle East, gangs, tensions between blacks and Puerto Ricans, welfare) and not a strong overarching plot, but the voices are very strong, and the way it evokes the atmosphere of the early 80s -- the rise of hip-hop, roller discos, Donna Summer giving a free concert in Central Park, break-dancing, the crushing poverty that exists alongside with the ordinary joys of life -- gives it a real energy.
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge.
When Triss wakes up, all she knows is that she fell into the Grimmer and has been ill. Her memories are fuzzy and untrustworthy, and she can't seem to stop eating; her mother coddles her, but her little sister Pen is terrified of her, insisting that she's not really Triss.
And she's not. But there's more than just the mystery of what happened to Triss; there are the letters that keep arriving from her brother Sebastian, years after he was killed in action in 1918; there's the snow that keeps falling on Violet, Sebastian's fiancee; there are those who Pen made a bargain with, a bargain that isn't over yet...
This is a book that is firing on every cylinder. The writing is lush and atmospheric. Hardinge intertwines a very personal story -- of Triss trying to recover her identity and peel back the layers of her family's lies and denial -- with a magical adventure story, and with a social story of the destruction wrought by the war and the sudden changes in the social order. Violet in particular is a fantastic character, a young woman who rides a motorcycle and goes to jazz clubs and yet has a lot more to her than being a signifier for a Cool Flapper Girl.
It reminds me a lot of Franny Billingsley's "Chime," but I think I might like it even better?
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September 15th, 2015
Trying to track down information on the pushback against humanities in Japanese universities, I found one article on the Yomiuri Shinbun site talking about arguments that it's more important to teach tips for getting a high score on standardized English tests than to teach English literature.
Maybe worry about basic communicative competency in English before worrying about either of those?
And probably, all else being equal, the person who studies English literature will get more English communication skills and more cultural competency than the person who just studies for the standardized test?
You don't have to go into any arguments about being a more holistically well-rounded human being; as a foreign language learning method, reading is just better than most of the drill stuff and nitpicky grammar stuff on standardized tests.
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September 14th, 2015
Whoa. It did not occur to me until just now that perhaps the reason the only library jobs that exist are the ones where poor people live (that have very bad salaries) and the ones where rich people live (that are located in extremely expensive areas, where the salaries would be perfectly good if rents were not ridiculous) has something to do with the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor, shrinking of the middle class, etc.
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September 1st, 2015
Every time people talk about how expensive it is to live in New York, you get some people saying, "Well, just move somewhere cheaper, then, there's lots of places to live where you're not paying $1800 for a one-bedroom."
And, you know, there are a lot of reasons why this is not a feasible idea for a lot of people, including:
- The difficulty of searching for jobs long-distance, especially for lower-income-to-middle-income jobs
- The expense of a long-distance move, especially for parents
- How much poorer people depend on local social networks in emergency situations and may correctly judge that they're better off poor in an expensive place than poor in a cheap place without those social networks
And all of this is stuff that I knew before, but also
- I spent well over $500 getting myself licensed, and that's when I already had a decent amount of experience as a licensed driver. If you are starting from scratch and don't have family to teach you and lend you their car, it would be very hard to get out for under $1000.
We have a stereotype of what urban poverty looks like. But in a lot of cities, living where the rents are cheap means spending two or three or four hours a day commuting, and often buying old and cheap cars that you have to pour a ton of money into for repairs because you certainly can't be without a car and you certainly can't buy a newer one.
And I know that I'm in a position of privilege as somebody who CAN say, "Hey, rents are too expensive, I'm gonna try to go live somewhere else." But I'm still obviously not having the easiest time of it ^^;;
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August 26th, 2015
|09:34 am - Schoolbooks & Sorcery|
My story "The Delicate Work of Bees" will be in the upcoming Schoolbooks & Sorcery anthology! There are some great authors in the lineup -- including Nina Kiriki Hoffman, who I've been a fan of since I was in high school!
I swear I wrote this story before Jupiter Ascending came out and all of fandom simultaneously started going wild over bees. (The main character is a young witch in training, who is apprenticed with her beekeeper aunt.)
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August 23rd, 2015
Sometimes it's hard being a Chomskyite in a world of people who don't know linguistics.
Like, at one level it doesn't even matter to the majority of language learners whether language is represented in your brain as deep structure (a little like computer code, with strict rules about nesting and syntax and recursion) or just a huge database of statistical data that, like my Swiftkey keyboard, can predict that when I type "most," the next words are often "important thing." I don't know that it much impacts the best strategies for learning languages either way.
But I do end up chasing down a Theory now and again, because "more comprehensible input" is usually the best advice I have, and that leads back to Krashen, and the whole idea of comprehensible input as the foundation for everything else sort of sounds like weird magic snake oil unless you go all the way back to Chomsky and his ideas for how your brain processes and models language.
There are not a lot of people writing at a curious-amateur level for people who want to know basic linguistics. Steven Pinker is actually pretty good when he's writing about linguistics instead of writing wrong political stuff (he represents a lot of stuff as true that's actually pretty controversial, but I agree with him about most of the controversial stuff, so I don't mind as much as I should). Bill Bryson is just incredibly wrong about most things.
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August 22nd, 2015
It is the worst when you have a seemingly very good interview and a specific time frame for hearing back, and then you don't hear back, and you don't know whether it's the silence of rejection or the silence of very long time frames for library hiring.
("THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL," THE LIBRARY DIRECTOR SAID TO THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR. I TELL YOU. No matter how diligently I try to practice Not Getting My Hopes Up, I was thinking I could get my hopes up a little.)
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August 20th, 2015
Riding the subway today, I had the strange impression that it was Cecil Palmer reading the subway announcements.
Alas, I don't think I'm going to write that fic; but I can tell you it almost certainly has the line,
"Remember, courtesy is contagious; but it's rarely fatal."
(Footnote for those who have not been on the NYC subways recently: one of the pre-recorded announcements exhorting passengers to give up their seats for people who are elderly, pregnant, or disabled ends with "Remember, courtesy is contagious; and it begins with you.")
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August 10th, 2015
|08:17 pm - Adam Sobel - Street Vegan|
I was very excited by this book! It is by the guy who ran the Cinnamon Snail food truck and he has many amusing anecdotes about running a food truck in New York and New Jersey. (His food truck career was rather full of mishaps. I cannot decide whether he ran into the food truck biz without sufficient knowledge and preparation, or whether that's just the life of a NYC food truck owner).
( Contains a lot of foodCollapse )
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