Archive for March, 2008

Back to what’s known to amuse

Sunday, 30 March 2008

I must admit to having finished the first of these (both of which I’ve read before) on Thursday, and the second yesterday, but unfortunately my computer and/or Firefox have been a bit slow over the weekend so I haven’t got much done. I should especially apologise for how late the NatCroMo game instructions were tonight. I really couldn’t fail to get them out tonight, after keeping it going all month, however. I hope tomorrow’s finale will be fun.

89. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I’ve actually only read this once before, but it’s a very good book, and I’m glad I returned to it. Christopher is a very engaging character and narrator, and the unusual situations he gets himself into are very believable. Haddon skilfully has Christopher show us clearly how those around him get themselves in a pickle through their human foibles, as well as how Christopher himself cannot understand this.

90. Pure Ducky Goodness: The First Sheldon Collection by Dave Kellett

I get the daily email of the new Sheldon cartoon, but I got the four extant print books as well (all signed and two with individual sketches inside). I really like the format and concept, but mostly the humour! Flaco is my favourite character, but the rest of the guys (there aren’t any regular female protagonists, as I’ve just now realised…) are fun too. This first book introduces Sheldon, Gramp and Arthur the duck, as well as Sheldon’s friend Dante. (Oops, Flaco isn’t in this one. It’s still good!)

Picturing nostalgia

Thursday, 27 March 2008

88. Shutting Up Shop: The decline of the traditional small shop by John Londei

Now this is a great book. Londei did the original photography and research in the 1970s and 80s, capturing an already endangered species of business, and then going back in the middle of this decade to find the shops and shop owners/workers he had photographed two and three decades before. Most of the shops had closed down, and many of the owners and employees had passed away in the meantime, but a couple have continued as they were, and a few more in a different form.

There had to be one…

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

… book I really didn’t like:

87. Daughters of the House by Michele Roberts

It’s boring, meaningless, jumbled and unresolved. Each little chapter is entitled for a physical object which comes up in the section, but many of these seem contrived and largely irrelevant. There are constant hints in the first two thirds to some great mystery or mysteries to come, but they fell very flat for me, as did their climaxes, when such were even recognisable. The questions weren’t even actually answered for the reader, in many cases. Basically the author does a lot of telling/hinting when she really should be showing.

I suppose it might have helped to have read this when less fatigued, but then again I might well have left it unfinished had it not been the only book in my hand luggage while travelling.

NatCroMo pictures

Sunday, 23 March 2008


This is where mine is up to, but really I wanted to show you the gorgeous pictures Sidhechile sent me. Each of them appears with one of the figures she makes. I heartily recommend checking out her Etsy shop.

Sidhechilde March 1-6
Sidhechilde 1-13 March
Sidhechilde 1-17 March
Sidhechilde March 1-20 March

Beautiful, no? The others are also fabulous (and very varied), but you’ll either have to join Ravelry or wait until it comes out of Beta to see them. Some people have blogged some of their progress with it. Share did so here and here. Tara has here and here. (Those are the ones linked on the Ravelry pattern page. There are lots more that I’ll try to link to once I’ve packed and travelled!)

What’s going on?

Sunday, 23 March 2008

I’m off for a short break for the next two days, so I want to catch up with some stuff now. I am aiming to bring the laptop, and definitely the new camera, but in any case I could probably get online each day even if I don’t manage to.

85. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

This has been one of my favourite novels (along with its sequels certainly my favourite series, by my favourite author) since I was about 14, and I was overdue on a reread (I have no idea how many times I’ve been through the series). Looking back, the most empathetic characters in this book don’t tend to recur in the further Lymond Chronicles (the two most compassionate, Christian Stewart – a real person, if I recall correctly (although I can’t find any evidence for this, and may well be incorrect) – and Gideon Somerville – certainly fictional – will be dead by the opening of Queen’s Play), but the intriguing ones all do, and tend to become more intriguing too.

I’ve probably had a very minor crush on Francis Crawford since I was fourteen, but with maturity, or even just a careful reading of the text, comes a realisation that he would be a very very difficult person to deal with day to day for most people. Unless you’re in a Catherine D’Albon role, perhaps. But that’s not until book 6 (Checkmate), and I really shouldn’t be referring to it here, just in case people only have read Game of Kings, as you really need the character development of the next five books for his love life to make sense. I’m wittering. Which is something Francis would certainly never do. (Except maybe near the end of this book when he’s with his brother.)

86. The Will by Chaim Greenbaum

Another of the multi-period Jewish novels (seriously, for a good while there are FIVE time periods being told – two during WWII, one in the 1960s and 70s, and two in different months of 2002) but it isn’t a bad thriller, and the morals make sense, mostly.

And now to my crochet, even though I haven’t done any over Purim or Shabbos.

The blanket is coming on. (And is pink, as my nice new camera recognises.)

The February mat is now into March, although not very far as I simply haven’t been keeping up with it. I was in a hurry to take this picture, so it isn’t lying flat at all. The shape of at least two of the sides is rather good.

The NatCroMo game is going well for everyone whose photos I’ve seen. Most of those are on Ravelry, but one person who isn’t on there yet has sent me some of her pictures, which I’m going to put in a separate post. Really beautiful.
I did take a very quick photo of the Seraphina’s Shawl, but the picture came out horrible, so you’ll have to wait until I can take a better one! Perhaps in daylight. I’ll be taking it to show my mother what I’m doing with the alpaca yarn she gave me.

Pensive on Purim

Friday, 21 March 2008

Purim is a time for fun, for dressing up and giving gifts (food to friends and charity/tzedaka to those in need), but it’s also a good time to reflect, to turn things over in one’s head, rather than just upside-down.

Reading the Book of Esther so soon after Parshas Zachor, and when I’ve been reading so much about the Holocaust (and other wars), and considering the ongoing and renewed conflicts across the world makes me think of how our lives can be overturned in an instant, and about how Yom Kippur is often glossed as Yom Ke-Purim, a day like Purim.

82. Trench Art by Nicholas J. Saunders

Simple evidence that whenever they can people will try to personalise, beautify the objects they use, perhaps more than ever in the the dehumanising atmosphere of front line war. (I actually read this yesterday, but didn’t get to blog it.)

83. Animal Groups: Life in a School: Dolphins by Richard & Louise Spilsbury

If even dolphins can regularly make the effort to help lift the weaker members of their school to the surface to breathe, what possible excuse do we as humans have for not caring for each other?

84. Hitler’s Forgotten Victims: The Holocaust and the Disabled by Suzanne E. Evans

And this is the book that has been overshadowing my mind for the last few days. I don’t even know what the most horrific part of this ‘programme’ was. I don’t even want to list the options, as it makes me feel sick to describe these disgusting ‘doctors’ who lost any vestige of humanity in their disregard for non-‘useful’ people and their leadership of the kind of ‘mercy’ killings such as starvation, gassing, botched sterilisations, experimentation and far more.

It’s not as if I didn’t know that anyone outside Aryan ideals was in severe danger in Nazi Germany/occupied Europe, but I hadn’t realised the extent of the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands of disabled people. Nor had I realised that the infamous experimenting and eugenic-obsessed ‘doctors’ like Mengele weren’t (apparently) rare aberrations, but a very significant proportion of influential medical leaders of the time and place.

So I’m sickened, and overnight I need to get back my joy in Purim and remember its message, that those who persecute will be overthrown, and in the end those of us considered lesser and worthy of extermination will survive and outlast our persecutors and their cultures. The Divine orchestration may be incomprehensible to us, but it will be worked out.

Destruction and Beauty

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

I felt the need to finish the Library of the Holocaust books, but to do so sooner rather than later, and then to read something completely different, so that’s what I did. The series, or rather the topic, brings me down, despite its importance, and I normally don’t read so much about it all at once. I prefer to focus and reflect on the personal stories, as more approachable, normally, but occasionally it’s worth reminding myself of the scale of this scar on humanity.

78. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Origins of the Holocaust by David Downing

This one discusses not just the 1920s and 1930s and Germany, but the ingrained Anti-Semitism across Europe and beyond over centuries and millennia.

79. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Fighting Back by David Downing

About the wide spectrum of resistance, from those keeping diaries and archives in secret to provide documentary evidence, going on with education and life beyond survival, through both Gentiles and Jews helping each other to survive, to the physical armed fighting back of the Ghetto uprisings and Resistance groups.

80. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Aftermath and Remembrance by David Downing

The ongoing impacts.

81. The Essential Rene Lalique by William Warmus

And this was my relief, showing beautiful jewellery and glasswork in the context of the time and Lalique‘s art and career. I had heard Lalique’s name, and that he had something to do with art glass manufacture, but I have now learnt a lot more, and did I have the time and money I think I would look into collecting some of his pieces. Although I don’t have the display space either! (I’ve discussed that before.) (Beware music on the company website.)

History’s Bigger Picture

Monday, 17 March 2008

73. England: An Aerial View by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn
74. England: The Mini-Book of Aerial Views by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn

These two books contain nearly all the same photographs, in a very similar order, but not precisely, and the pictures sometimes have different proportions or other final editing. The first book is a large (and heavy!) coffee table book, with very good historical overviews of the regions of England, with good captions next to each large photograph.

The Mini-Book has similar (but abbreviated) overviews and without the detailed captions, just the briefest few words giving the name and rough location of each. The photography in each are beautiful, and there are a few pictures that literally took my breath away (at least in the larger size). (NB I dithered over counting these as one read, but they aren’t precisely the same and I did read both.)

There is a Britain version of this pair of books, which I look forward to reasonably soon.

75. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Toward Genocide by David Downing
76. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: The Nazi Death Camps by David Downing
77. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Persecution and Emigration by David Downing

I’m going to summarise the review of the three of these together as well, as reading them had me in tears, and I don’t want to go into the detail again right away. This is a very well put together series however (we have three more I haven’t got to yet), that gives plenty of sources (plenty for the purposes of teenagers and personal readers, at least) showing some of the major trends and effects of the Holocaust. It’s for a general audience, and ‘explains’ what happened briefly, explaining how much the individuals actually knew at the time, as well as what we know with hindsight. It’s clearly written, and allows for people dipping in and out of the book, although each of them reads well straight through. It quotes personal testimony, but doesn’t tell individual stories, as most of the Holocaust literature I’ve read does.

I amn’t looking forward to reading the rest of these, but I think it’ll be worthwhile.

Grey, the new pink

Monday, 17 March 2008

This is the start of a blanket for me, from lots of old stash yarn. The non-variegated strand is really this vivid pink, but my scanner has decided it’s grey, unfortunately. Here is an old picture of the yarn for comparison:

I finally took my camera in for repair today, and tomorrow I find out could they actually fix it or not. If not it’ll take more time and two or three times the money to get the whole lens replaced, apparently, so here’s hoping. I really am looking forward to being able to show off/display all my projects again properly.

And no, I haven’t quite finished the Seraphina’s Shawl, I just decided I like having two bigger projects on the go to switch between, and so began this one too.

Subsuming the Centre

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I’m still trying to get my scanner do a camera’s job, and so this picture shows the new stitches around the edge of my game piece well enough, while scrunching the middle rather badly.

As you can see, I haven’t really learnt to do bullion stitches well. I need to practise those to get them even.

72. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Wow. This did not turn out quite as I had come to expect it to, from osmosis of the story through the general culture, or even from the earlier chapters. The Creature is both greyer and more black and white morally than I had anticipated, and while Victor Frankenstein remains emotionally immature he does display slight glimmerings of empathy near the end. Unfortunately far too late, when harsher emotions have taken sway of him, but they are there.

I’ll admit to not anticipating that Mary Wollstonecraft‘s daughter would write all her female protagonists as sacrificial angels, but then she was a very young writer of her time.

I’ve been listening to this on Craftlit for the last few months, and I’m really pleased to have ‘read’ it this way, as I might not have got to it in print for another few years. In fact I’m reasonably likely to so far sooner now than I would have been otherwise. I don’t want to get into the arguments over whether listening to a book is the same as physically reading it. Suffice it to say that I believe this rather depends on the concentration one puts in. It is harder, but quite possible, to read a book without taking it in, just as one can allow an audiobook to just wash over one’s head. In any case, Heather’s commentary and extra information really helps my concentration on the audio files she plays.

If you haven’t come across Craftlit before, I heartily recommend it. Now is a good time to start, as having just finished Frankenstein, she is about to begin Little Women, although the older files are all available, and it is well worth finding the time to go back and listen to Pride and Prejudice, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Turn of the Screw, A Tale of Two Cities, Tristan and Isolde and the various shorter stories and pieces she podcasts between the longer novels. The audio files actually come from Librivox, so you can get them alone directly, but Heather‘s introductions and discussions really help me get more out of the experience (she was obviously a brilliant English Literature teacher), and her craft talk is interesting too. She also rerecords the occasional chapter that got through Librivox’ quality control undeservedly.