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A while ago I saw Tanna (2015), a love story that takes place in Vanuatu and involves a volcano, and is acted entirely in the local languages, Nauvhal and Nafe. Well it turns out that 2015 was *the* year for movies featuring a volcano and acted in non-dominant languages, because that was the year that Ixcanul, a film set on the slopes of a volcano and acted almost entirely in Kaqchikel, a Mayan language, came out. A couple of nights ago, we saw it.

The trailer for it might lead you to believe it was a love story, and the Netflix blurb is accurate only for the first third or maybe half the film ("A Mayan girl working on a Guatemalan coffee plantation dreams of escaping an arranged marriage to make a new life in America")

Instead, it went in directions I didn't expect, with characters acting in ways I didn't expect (but was gratified by), developing, in particular, a really touching mother-daughter relationship, but there are all sorts of touches, small and large, that appealed (including, for example, some tenacious, and dangerous, but also sacred, snakes).

Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/901395.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Interview with the Little Red Reviewer!

Merry December 27! Today I have an interview with Andrea Johnson, who maintains a very fun, thoughtful, wide-ranging fantasy and science fiction book blog at The Little Red Reviewer. She relates to the books she reads in a really personal way and makes interesting connections, like in her review of Martha Wells’s Artificial Condition, which weaves in her reactions to the video game Detroit: Become Human and her own experiences at the day job. (It’s a super post.) In January, after what will be almost nine years of book blogging, she’ll be launching a Kickstarter for a best-of book of her reviews, and this interview is to help spread the news about that--and also because it's fun to talk to interesting people.

Artificial Condition

Detroit: Become Human

You’ve been entertaining and informing readers with your book reviews and related posts on your blog since 2010. How has the book blogging landscape changed over the years?

One of the biggest changes I've seen is that publishers and publicists have realized that book bloggers exist and that we can actually help sell their books. Give a blogger an ARC of a book they are eagerly anticipating, that blogger will do just about anything for you. Back in the day, I don't think publicists and authors knew what to do with us. We weren't magazines, we weren't beholden to anyone, we also weren't required to read the book, give a glowing review, or publicize the review. Were we worth sending ARCs to? No one was really sure. Publicists realizing bloggers were free advertising and Netgalley changed all that. Yes, we are worth sending ARCs to! In fact, these days it's not unusual at all for bloggers to use their blog as a stepping stone to get into the publishing world.

Evolving technology has made blogging much easier. I no longer have to download the book photo from my digital camera to my hard drive and then upload to my blogging platform software. Now I can do all of that in 15 seconds from my phone. It's suddenly much easier to include more photos, short videos, or to shift your entire blog to Youtube and be a Booktuber vlogger. Instagram has a huge bookstagram area, with image-heavy posts. I am very curious to see how book blogging evolves over the next ten years. Will text-heavy sites like mine be considered “old fashioned”? Will Wordpress give me more space to store images and videos so I can imitate Booktubers and Bookstagrammers?

No matter how much the technology evolves, blogging will always involve hours and hours of reading the book, thinking about what you read, and typing up a review.

As a follow-up, I’m wondering about ways your approach to book blogging may have changed. Back in your first year, you wrote,
I review about half the books I read. Some books I pick up knowing I’m going to write a review, and other books I just pick up on a lark, and some books that I pick up on a lark I decide halfway through that I should write a review.

How have things changed for you (if at all) since you wrote that?

Only the first sentence has changed! It's still true—some books I pick up knowing that I'm going to review them, others I pick up on a lark and only later decide to review them. These days, I'm reviewing closer to 75–80% of the books I read. When I started my blog, I was working part-time, and many days my job at work was to “be available if people needed me, but other than that, stay out of trouble.” So I sat in the corner and read. What a heavenly job! I was easily reading 3–4 books a week. These days, working full-time, I'm lucky If I finish 3–4 books in a month. Less time to read means I'm more picky about what I pick up, means I'm paying much more attention to if the book is worth my time. If I get 40 pages in and the book just isn't doing it for me, I'll abandon it and pick up something else that looks more promising.

There is a stack of abandoned books next to the bed. These are books that I picked up one evening to read at bedtime, and then abandoned. Maybe I'll finish them one day, maybe not. My husband calls the stack the “book graveyard.”

If I finish the book, there is a good chance I'm going to review it.

more interview questions--and books!--under hereCollapse )

Thank you so much, Andrea, and good luck!

She’s called the little red reviewer, and she really does have gorgeous red hair

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/900831.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

People Change, by Gwynne Garfinkle

I loved this collection. It makes me wish I’d known Gwynne Garfinkle when I was 10–12, because boy could we have played some great imaginary games together.

I’ll start with the stories, because those are what I read first. One I’d read before, “The Hedgehog and the Pine Cone,” a fable about depression, isolation, and friendship, but the rest were completely new to me. The first one I experienced was “Man Size,” which my daughter picked out and read to me when I was cooking one night. It’s a gripping story of a type of vampire unfortunately all too common in real life—one who gains power and vitality by belittling and negating others. Then I read “Don’t Look Back,” a powerful Orpheus-Eurydice story, a turn-back-time story, with the roles changed, interesting thoughts on trade-offs, and tragedy still waiting. I loved these lines:
Orpheus tears himself apart. Try as they might, the Maenads can’t put him back together again. They wail and rend their garments. Then they get very drunk

Where the protagonist of “Don’t Look Back” had the power to rewrite history, the protagonists of “The Paper Doll Golems” and “The Imaginary Friend” have the power of animation. The first is told from the perspective of Ruthie, who animates her paper dolls, while the second is told from the perspective of the titular imaginary friend, a stranded alien based on the hero of a movie beloved of Gigi, the girl who creates him. (Knowing that Gwynne is a film buff, I went searching for this movie, but alas, it seems not to exist, though I suspect The Cat from Outer Space was a partial influence [ETA: I guessed wrong! She says it was inspired by Planet of the Apes.]) Both stories have things to say about power and helplessness. Gwynne is definitely here for women who have been crushed, erased, belittled, co-opted—or murdered or otherwise destroyed. The opening story in the collection, “In Lieu of a Thank You,” sets the tone in that respect, transforming a damsel in distress into something much more powerful.

The poems were equally absorbing—one, in fact, entered my dreams last night: “Levitation Class.” That poem was absolutely perfect for me last night, and in my dreams I rose just as the poem describes. Thanks for that, Gwynne:
when you and your pain reach the ground
try to retain the sensation of flight

On the page facing “Levitation Class” is “Dorothy’s Prayer,” a beautiful poem from the perspective of Dorothy from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz that contains a cyclone in it. Many of the poems are inspired by or in conversation with films: “50 Foot” (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, 1958)—“They wanted you invisible or dead./Daring to take up space makes you monstrous”—and on the facing page, “love song from The Blob to Steve McQueen,” (The Blob, 1958) which contains these excellent lines:
it’s how I roll, it’s how I scroll
I’m my own red carpet
because I’m the star of the show

“Mysogyny” takes on The Stepford Wives (1975), asking us to imagine what Stepford looks like decades later. Maybe fathers initiate their sons into the dark secret, but what, the poem asks, do they tell their daughters? And “Linda Blair Pantoum” (shoutout to pantoums—I love that poetic form) sent me to Wikipedia to find out the significance of the references—and now I want Gwynne to write a poem entirely for Mercedes McCambridge, originally not credited as the voice of the demon in The Exorcist (1973). But I don’t want you to get the impression that you have to be a film fanatic or do tons of research to enjoy these poems: they’ll speak to you even without that knowledge. (They just say even more if you do have it.)

People Change is number 63 in Aqueduct Press’s Conversation Pieces series.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/901335.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Being special

Sometimes in yoga class, we balance on one foot. If we're all balancing with no problem, the instructor suggests we try it with our eyes closed. "It's much, much harder," she says. Have tried, can confirm.

This came up in the movie Roma, which I watched the other day. The protagonist--young housekeeper Cleo--is trying to get in touch with the asshole father of her baby, who's doing some kendo-style training out in the back of beyond. They're all chanting Japanese numbers in unison and taking stances, and then a guest sensei-type says he's going to show them something impressive, and he asks for a blindfold. Blindfolded, he balances on one foot with his arms forming a diamond over his head.

"You think this is nothing much?" he says to the trainees and those watching. "You all try." So everyone starts trying, and everyone's losing their balance and hopping around and falling over. Except Cleo. In a long-distance shot of her up on the ridge, with other onlookers, you see her balancing perfectly. It's just for a moment.

... Annnnd it doesn't really have any significance? The movie just keeps going along.

I was telling the story of this to the healing angel, and she immediately tried doing the thing--of course, who wouldn't! But she really, really wanted to be able to do it, and this was making me think how driven people are to have external markers of specialness, regardless of any meaning or context. If she could do it, or if she gets to be able to do with with practice, what will that mean... other than that she can balance in a manner that very few people can do? Is that in itself an accomplishment? I mean, if it makes you happy and doesn't harm others, I don't have a problem with it, but.

... Which is also making me think of an assignment the students had at the program I help out at (not the jail, the other one)--they had to talk about the use of the word "special" as an insult. One of the other volunteers went so far as to say that no one ever wants to be special in any way; everyone just wants to blend in. I don't think this is how most people feel; I think a lot of people would like to be special if it's a good kind of special and not a bad kind, especially in societies that set a high value on individualism. But maybe I'm conflating good-specialness with excellence.

... Just random thoughts. I haven't posted in a while and wanted to share something, and that's what came out.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/901046.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Koba and Calle 13

I've seen banana leaves on banana trees, so I know they're big, but somehow I was still amazed to thaw out a package of them and see how they take over a kitchen, like really large caterpillars or space snakes.

banana leaf is long

loooong banana leaf

I used some of them to make koba, a Malagasy sweet:

in the pot, getting ready to be steamed
banana leaf and koba packets

finished product

I've never had the real thing, so I don't know how well mine approximated it, but it *looked* right, and it tasted good.

... Eating food from faraway places is one way to bring them a little closer.

Music is another great way. This song, "Latinoamérica," by Calle 13, is powerful stuff (I'm on a Calle 13 kick right now), and the video is just incredibly beautiful, showing faces of people from all over Latin America. At the start, the radio announcer switches from Spanish to Quecha, and about two-thirds of the way through, the chorus gets sung in Portuguese. Powerful stuff.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/900585.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

"squirrels are like cats"

I was at an event last week, a breakfast event, and I was sitting at a table with people I didn't know, but we were all making conversation, and somehow the talk turned to animal visitors, and one woman started talking about how a squirrel had been paying them visits over the summer:
I left the window open, and there's no screen, but I didn't worry about anything getting in because we're on the second floor. But I had a bowl of nuts on the kitchen table, and it kept on going down. I kept on refilling it--I thought my husband was eating the nuts. But it was a squirrel. A squirrel was coming in and eating the nuts! But you know, squirrels are like cats. If they like you, they'll leave you something, as a present. Better than a cat's present! Well I guess the squirrel liked us, because one day I came into the kitchen and there was a doughnut on the table.

"Is this your doughnut?" I asked my husband.

"No, it's not mine. I thought it was your doughnut."

"If it was my doughnut, do you think it would be sitting here, uneaten?"

It was the squirrel. It had had so many of our nuts, it decided to leave us a doughnut.

Now maybe the squirrel just happened to be carrying a doughnut it had pilfered from somewhere else, and it set it down to much on some more of this woman's nuts and then scampered off in a panic, forgetting its doughnut. But I really like the woman's interpretation of the events.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/900156.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Hot Chocolate Run

It was raining and about 37 degrees F/3 degrees C, so Wakanomori and I got bundled into many layers to join a crowd of 6,000 other participants in the Hot Chocolate Run.

Here is my outfit! Thanks to you all, I was able to raise $228.63, which meant I was given a red cap to wear and a special red number bib.

During the race, the wish cards gradually got soggy and fell off--let's think to ourselves that at that moment, the wish was promised fulfillment. Three wishes managed to hang on the whole time--let's put a favorable spin on that too and imagine they got the support of a full 5 kilometers.

I think my pace will be somewhat lower than last year, but that's okay. It's not even up yet--they only have results for people who ran it in 27 minutes or less... which is not me. (I'm also fretting that maybe the chip was broken and they're not going to have recorded my run at all, which would be a HUGE HUGE TRAGEDY and I will shed many bitter tears ... yeah no. I know I really ran it, and the money is already safely in their hands, and so todo bien, todo bien.)

ETA: They did post the times--yay! I ran a whole minute and 4 hundredths of a second slower than last year. Boo!

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/899872.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

A thought about daylight

Daylight plays hide-and-seek with the world. It hides in the southern hemisphere at the year's end/beginning and in the northern hemisphere in the middle months. It wears itself out running, but it has a safety zone--a save point, a "base"--in the equatorial region. It always rests there.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/899689.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


wishes so far

I have a great bouquet of wishes for the Hot Chocolate Run--which is this coming Sunday. Behold!

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/899470.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

a house, a stove, an iron

[personal profile] sartorias's really moving entry on places she's lived and what became of them reminded me of a conversation I had yesterday when I went out looking for an iron. I'd been ironing, and mine had given up the ghost, just one sleeve short of a finished shirt. (You know what that means! I finished ironing that sleeve by heating up my cast-iron skillet on the stove. We need full use of all our limbs in this household.)

There were no irons at the supermarket and no irons at the CVS, but at the Dollar Store I hit the jackpot. The cashier, a woman maybe in her forties, was chatty, so I told her the story of ironing the remaining sleeve, and she expressed delight at meeting someone else who used a cast iron skillet and said it was good thinking. I said, "Well, it's what the old irons were made of, after all. My grandmother had a couple of them--she used them as doorstops."

"My great grandmother had some of those, and she used them as doorstops too! She used them to keep us out of her bedroom," the cashier exclaimed. "But I can't picture using one as an actual iron."

"You know those old cast-iron stoves? They used to put the iron right on that, and then when it was hot, you could use it."

"My great-grandmother had one of those stoves!" the cashier said, eyes shining.

"So she could have used the irons as actual irons," I said. "Where did she live?"

"Oh, over in Bondsville. You know where 'the grog shop' is? Across the street from that. It's totally different now though. After she died no one wanted the house--except me; I wanted it, but I couldn't afford it--so they sold it. The new owners totally changed it. I look at it, and it's not--it's just not the same house."

--All that's left are memories and shared stories. But sometimes those can be so vivid, like [personal profile] sartorias's, or the cashier's, and when you share them, they live in someone else's mind, too.

Here's a tailor's stove with an iron on it, courtesy of --Kuerschner 17:20, 1 March 2008 (UTC) - own work, own possession, Public Domain, Link

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/899266.html. Comments are welcome at either location.



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