Saturday, October 22, 2016

Call me Philistine

I had access to all the Spanish and French books one could want (though no room in my bag). What did I bring home? Yup.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fi'ty States


I set foot in my fiftieth state several weeks ago. That goes with one territory and my hometown, the 51st state in all but political clout and self-rule...

Alaska was amazing. Ironically, but logically, it made me want to spend more time hiking in Canada. Since I finally got a passport, and it's not that far away.

We took a cruise on a smaller ship to take the GF's mother on a big birthday trip, as her choice. It was as strange as I thought it would be, but an interesting look at the whole phenomenon and a way to see some places I otherwise would not have just hiking or traveling cheap.

We ended up in Seward and took a bus to Denali National Park, where we spent two days, then took a touristy train with glass bubble top to Anchorage to fly.home. More on the trip later.

I spent the trip and since reading about the natural history and native peoples of Alaska and the Arctic, topics I know very little about. The Nathan Active cop mystery series by Stan Jones was the lightest fare, but has lots of animal lore and descriptions of travel, survival, flying, hunting and tracking in a remote area.

Our Ice is Vanishing: Sikvut Nunguliqtuq: A History of Inuit, Newcomers, and Climate Change is obviously heavier, but is interesting because it goes in depth into many topics but skips around eclectically.

I have John McPhee's Coming Into The Country on my list but have not gotten to it yet.  I may have read it before, as I read a slew of his books in the 90s, but I think not. He's interesting but it's dated. Though I'm very curious about the roots of Palinism and the whole dependency-hatred relationship to gummint AK shares with other petroleum-based and harsh climate states, after being there seeing and talking to a range of locals.

Chasing Alaska: A Portrait Of The Last Frontier by C.B. Bernard was what I mostly read whle in Alaska. It was somewhat rambling but also had a lot of random interesting history. He moved to Alaska in 1999 and later found out his grandfather had lived there on a boat and kept a diary.

The pitch sounded cheesy but the style is subdued and the stories of harsh winters, boat wrecks, and the native survival strategies and patterns of life made my visit, cruise and all, feel more informed and embedded (even if it wasn't.)


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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hard Light

I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Hand's Cass Neary novels, and the third installment did not disappoint.  Hard Light continues the themes of dark photography, wreckage, and both ancient and modern science, art, music and magick in the setting of Cornwall this time.  These books are bloody and grim, but they have hope and verve.

I also liked Wylding Hall, but not as much because it was in a more YA vs. hardbitten noir voice. It also spooked me, with one image that has lingered, though.

Otherwise, I'm working, through the usual bureaucratic pseudobizmgt obstructionism, and looking into starting a coffee shop in my neighborhood's coffee desert. I got off my duff and ran 3x last week. Pulled by dogs, but nonetheless.

The film fest, MSPIFF, was good, but I'll write about it later. I tweeted quite a bit but have not had any deep thoughts yet.

Best of Fest for me: Estonian historical drama The Fencer. Great followup to a year of reading Sofi Oksanen.

Runner-up: French Canadian rural political satire My Internship In Canada. I only saw that for Kreyol and French, but it turned out to be fast-paved, shrewd, moving, and funny.

Disappointing: No Finnish movie. Many movies focused only on men, despite coed situations and settings. It's 2016.

Also, the Germans did not provide a "civilizing influence" to the Ojibwe, as the local Prohibition doco claimed, according to a friend. We have other words for that now, and the closing night doco, The Seventh Fire, also local, made that clear.

Anyway, more later.

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mung bean pancakes

Spicy pancakes with pickled jalapenos, cilantro, and garlic for breakfast. That's how we roll, at least this early April crazy weather morning.

I cheated with a mix whose expiry date was "time to go," but they're easy if you plan ahead and soak the beans the night before...

Recipe:  Pesarattu 

I am reading a Finnish mystery, Leena Lehtolainen's Detective Maria Kallio series book one, My First Murder. Translator Owen F. Witesman.

It's better than the reviews on Goodreads so far, but then, I like the Scandi sense of humor and have some sense of where things are on the Finland map. Keeping track of the many characters with similar two syllable names was a little work at first, but then they started to take.

The description of drunken, incompetent middle management at Kallio's office was just like a friend's job and made her laugh too.  The dudeism in office politics Kallio mocks in her internal monologues is similarly well-recognizable across country boundaries...

I can't wait to get to the later books translated by Lola Rogers.  However, Book One, despite my initial hesitance about the Amazon Crossing logo on the cover, reads nicely and is pretty entertaining.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Winter fades

I was trying to get a picture of rhe new hipster condos next to the old, iconic apartment building where Somali refugees live. But the train moved.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

MSPIFF, belated follow-up

Also old, because Google is stupid and useless.

MSPIFF was very good this year.  Plus I chose well.  But that's about good movies being at more accessible times.  I planned to take some time off from work to see films, but then AWP took that leave up.

The Black Panther doc had amazing amounts of killer footage gleaned from people all over the world, particularly of the many women who made up a lot of the Panthers rank and file.  I thought it managed a good discussion of the wide range of issues from the time that it's hard to cover in two hours.  Their Kickstarter funded, so the doc will get a theatrical release: First Friday, folks.  That's the way to support the movies you want to see more like.

The Russian Woodpecker was a spellbinding whirlwind of conspiracy theories and solid interviews with ex-Soviet officials who spoke off the cuff and confirmed a lot of what the Chernobyl-survivor narrator suspected in his wildest flights of imagination.  Terrifying stuff.

Bands de Filles/ Girlhood is a well-put-together look at the lives of Black girls in a banlieue outside Paris, and what stands between them and living out their dreams.  Great music, visuals, and acting.  Really nice to see girls get center stage,  warts and all, without saccharin b.s.

The Blue Fox (old)

The Blue Black Wolf, c. S 2015

This is old, cos Google sucks. 11\15, probably.

I'm on to Icelandic fiction, having scoured the library for Finnish, Estonian, and some post-Soviet E. European lit.  The two non-mysteries that seemed most promising both turned out to be fantastical and straight out science fiction, respectively.

The Blue Fox (Skugga-Baldur), by Sjón.  In his headshots he looks like a hipster.  He wrote lyrics for Bjork.  He writes a lot of different stuff, but the interwebs give his title as Poet. 

Consistent with that, The Blue Fox is short but manages to compress a coherent and satisfying narrative into tiny little snippets.  Man immersed in Nature is no match for her.  Of course there would be no story if he respected her properly.  Don't mess with the Lady or her own, especially in deep winter. 

Virginia Cribb appears to be the go-to translator for Icelandic au courant literature, as well as at least some of the Arnaldur Indridason mysteries.  She translated the Sjon books I saw and Love Star by Andri Snær Magnason, the SF novel.  Her blurb: "works as a freelance translator from Icelandic to English. She has an MA in Icelandic and Scandinavian Studies from UCL, a BPhil in Icelandic from the University of Iceland, and lived and worked in Iceland for a number of years as a publisher, journalist and translator." Otherwise, not much on the interwebs but some poetry translation snippets.  Based on these and the books, she's damn good.

Magnason has an interesting blog, with content in several languages. 
Here's a recent Grist article about reinvention of an old coal plant that he was involved in.

His Swedish blurb sounds better, but the info impresses in English too:
Andri Snær Magnason är den ende författaren som fått Isländska litteraturpriset i alla tre kategorier: skönlitteratur, facklitteratur och barnlitteratur.

(He is the only author who received the Icelandic Literature Prize in all three categories: fiction , non-fiction and children's literature.)

I've only just begun Love Star, and so far it's a lot like Malindo Lo's Adaptation. I'm thinking there's no space aliens tho I could be wrong.

I'm hooked on Danish, Welsh, and French cop shows thanks to Netflix, one feminist and urbane despite the protag having moved back to her hometown of Aarhus, one brooding and very rural, and the last terribly lurid and morbid, so French, from the northern region: Dicte, Hinterlands, and Witnesses (Les Temoins).  Antigone 34 is good too, set in Montpelier.

According to Wikipedia, "Some critics complained that most of the actors' Copenhagen accents were not authentic for a show set in Aarhus, while other actors' accents were so overblown they seemed caricatures."

Everyone's a critic.  I know three words in Danish, all thanks to the show, so I can still enjoy it.  Tak.