Does anyone have good recommendations for "one action a day/week to oppose Trump" sites/mailing lists/other? I saw several right after the election but didn't note them down. Bonus points for ones that have helpful actions for someone living in a very Democratic-leaning state with Democrat elected officials (San Francisco, CA).
First, I am sure everyone has heard about this by now, but just in case you haven't or have but didn't check it out yet: Hamilton Original Cast Recording Spotify playlist (or if Spotify doesn't work for you, YouTube). I've been dying to see or listen to this musical since I heard about it a few weeks ago, and now that the soundtrack is out, I can at least listen to it. Lin-Manuel Miranda's mix of hip hop and Broadway and other pastiches (the BritPop!) is amazing, and it reminded me of the excitement of listening to Rent for the first time in the 90s after only having heard Andrew Lloyd Webber and Les Mis. The recitative bits sounds a little like Rent to me, but other than that, Hamilton is entirely its own thing. Also, Thomas Jefferson sports natural hair and purple velvet.
I also saw East Side Sushi over the weekend, a cute indie film about a Latina woman who gets a job in a sushi restaurant and decides to become a sushi chef. The plot is pretty much what you would expect—opposition from her more traditional father, racism and sexism from the Japanese owner, a competition where she Proves Herself—and it sometimes felt a little clunky, but it's extremely charming and features Mexican-Japanese fusion food. It's also filmed in Oakland by a local director, so I got a ton of enjoyment out of seeing familiar places on screen as well.
And I (FINALLY) played through Hatoful Boyfriend, aka the pigeon dating sim, thanks to bluerabbit. Although to be accurate, it's more a piece of post-apocalyptic science fiction masquerading as a pigeon dating sim, which was not what I was expecting. Also, you date pigeons (and other birds). If this interests you and you're generally not into video games, I'd give this a try. It's a visual novel, so there's not that much game play involved aside from making some decisions about who to talk to and etc., and it's worth it to go through all the storylines.
I also mean to rec N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season and Zen Cho's Sorceror to the Crown, but I am still holding out hope that I will write actual entries on them.
It's good I've heard so much good stuff about this from various people I trust, because otherwise I would have never made it past episode three and missed out. It is sad that Jenji Kohan felt that she needed to use white, blonde, upper-middle-class Piper as a kind of Trojan horse to get people to watch something primarily about women not seen on TV as often—queer women, women of color, women of various body types, trans women, old women, etc.—but I don't doubt its true.
(On a side note, I love how we've finally gotten a few shows with POC in leading roles and already there have been concern troll-y "But what about the white men?!" articles.)
Anyway, once the episodes stopped focusing on Piper, I started liking the show much more.
I've been hearing about Rose Lerner for a while, but I didn't particularly enjoy the first book of hers that I read (A Lily Among Thorns), so I didn't try any of her others until now. (I have been marathoning Parks and Recreation and wanted something that felt like the main romance in the show, and suddenly remembered Lerner!)
Her specialties so far seem to be: nice people who genuinely like each other, heroes who are decidedly not jerks, class issues, local life and politics, sibling dynamics, the weight of parental expectations, and protagonists who have a very difficult time knowing and/or expressing what they want because they have sublimated their desires, frequently out of the desire to be nice and get along with society. And the last bit seems very evenly split between the men and the women, which I very much appreciated.
So far, there has been more diversity around the protagonists rather than embodied by the protagonists, but like Courtney Milan, my sense is that she is pushing at a lot of those boundaries. There are secondary characters who are POC and gay and lesbian—I am using these terms as a shortcut, since they don't quite match up with Regency categories/ways of thinking—and her latest hero is Jewish! And it looks like the protagonists of her next book are in the servant class, which is nice.
In for a Penny - Lord Nevinstoke's father dies, leaving his family deep in debt, and thus Nev proposes to Penelope Brown, who comes with a substantial dowry courtesy of her father's success in trade. Together, they attempt to restore his family estate and prevent a peasant uprising! The couple is probably the most traditional in terms of romance norms, and I find them absolutely adorable. It also helps that "socially inept heroine who is good at spreadsheets + hero who is not the best with numbers but great with people" is something that hits rather close to home. The book tends to fall a bit into the "wealthy titled people rescue impoverished workers" thing, and the villain and final conflict feels over-the-top compared to the rest of the story, but I liked it a lot.
A Lily Among Thorns - I bounced off this one the first time because I wanted an icier heroine, but on rereading it and knowing better what to expect, I liked it better. Lady Serena, former courtesan and current innkeeper, wants to help Solomon Hathaway find heirloom earrings, as he's the one who gave her the money to buy herself out years and years ago. And then there are French spies and threats from Serena's father and the plot is a bit over the top still. Solomon the tailor (or rather, master dyer) is very cute, but I didn't fully buy that Serena was able to terrorize the London underworld. Good, but I think it's the weakest of Lerner's work.
Sweet Disorder - Nick Dymond goes to the town of Lively St. Lemeston, where his brother is running for office, in order to convince widow Phoebe Sparks to marry a Whig so that her husband gets her inherited vote. I love that Phoebe is middle class and worries about having to wear the same dress to parties and can't afford mustard. Also, she is fat and the narrative is fine with it, and the hero needs a cane due to wartime injuries. I think this is my favorite of Lerner's books so far, and I particularly love one sex scene that manages to be hot while also advancing characterization AND tying up the hero. Bonus points for many loving descriptions of Regency era sweets.
True Pretenses - Ash and his little brother Rafe are con men, but Rafe wants to get out, so Ash comes up with one last con to get Rafe married to an heiress so she can get her money and Rafe can get money for a commission. Despite his secret hopes that Rafe and Lydia (aforementioned heiress) will fall in love, Ash somehow ends up engaged to her himself. They bond over the difficulty of raising younger siblings while also wanting to give them everything and how conning people and being a gentlewoman call on a similar set of skills. I especially like how being Jewish is integral to the characterization of both Ash and Rafe. On the other hand, I didn't like this as much as I had anticipated because both Ash and Lydia are rather overbearing older siblings and I ended up sympathizing with Rafe a lot. That and I wasn't entirely confident about the happily ever after, not because I didn't like the characters together, but because I still stressed about how Ash's past could still be dug up. Still, I think this is probably Lerner's best and chewiest book to date. Also, I love that Lydia is a Tory while the main characters in the previous book are Whigs and that she doesn't get converted and still doesn't like them.
So that whole trying to ration out Frances Hardinge books so I didn't tear through her backlog too quickly didn't work so well. I read Fly by Night, A Face Like Glass, and Cuckoo Song over the weekend, all of which I loved. Hopefully a more detailed write up to come!
I also realized NK Jemisin's latest book just came out and promptly got it, and then got distracted by some novellas and short stories set in the Inheritance universe I hadn't read. So... I haven't opened the new book yet, but I am looking forward to it! I have also finally started Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, thanks to hearing about the TV series. I'm not very far in yet, but I'm enjoying the voice. It also makes me happy that qian's Sorcerer to the Crown will probably be out by the time I finish the Clarke, which means my desire for fantasy in Regency-voice will continue to be fed.
On a totally different note, I thought people would enjoy the latest episode of the Criminal podcast, which is about a grisly murder in 1896 and how it got turned into a murder ballad. It ends with a modern take on the ballad, which is very mournful, as is proper, but alas, the ending totally cracks me up, probably inappropriately (and unintentionally) so.
I feel like I have been hearing about Frances Hardinge from my dwircle for quite some time now, and I've finally gotten around to reading her after a reading binge that I blame on skygiants' posts on the Fionavar Tapestry. (I started with The Fionavar Tapestry last weekend and then.. kept reading things! It was great! I think I read more books this past week than I have all year to date!)
Ryan, Chelle and Josh are desperate for bus money one night, and Josh ends up sneaking down a well to grab some of the wishing coins. But then each of them begin developing strange powers (I am still viscerally creeped out by Ryan's), and they find that they have to start granting the wishes tied to the coins they took. And since granting wishes never goes well, things slowly start to go very, very wrong.
I've seen many comparisons of Hardinge with Diana Wynne Jones, and this book in particular feels very much like DWJ--the oddball kids, the way some unlikable characters grow likable and others turn bad, the slowly growing sense of dread and uneasiness. This book was very creepy in that damp fingers down your spine kind of way, which was not what I had been expecting. There's a lot here about what you wish for on the surface and what you actually want, and how you can be trapped in wishes you've outgrown. I also liked that even though Ryan, Chelle and Josh band together because both Ryan and Chelle would have been picked on at school if not for Josh, Hardinge takes time to show what bits are being friends just because there's no one else and how you can kind of be friends with someone and only get to know them better later.
The Lie Tree
So, I thought Verdigris Deep was creepy. The Lie Tree is SO MUCH CREEPIER O_o.
Faith's father is a discredited paleontologist who has taken his family and a secret project to an island to avoid the public eye, but growing a tree that feeds on lies that you spread never turns out well. This is set in the late 19th century, and it manages to make the time period feel just as alien as a built-from-scratch fantasy world. Hardinge makes fossils and the radical idea of evolution feel terrifying and world- and faith-shaking in a way I haven't really encountered before, and there's a matter-of-factness to the Victorian focus on morbidity that makes the entire worldview feel foreign. I went and looked up tons of details on Victorian photography and mourning rituals after this.
I loved Faith, who is clever and angry and not particularly nice, how she despises her mother and desperately wants her father's acknowledgement even though he is a terrible human being. I love that Hardinge doesn't try to file off her edges (or anyone else's, for that matter), and although it's not particularly new to talk about just how circumscribed women's roles were, it's rare to get that visceral feeling of being slowly stifled. Also, bonus points for not magically making Faith believe in evolution and other things we now know are scientifically correct; one of my favorite exchanges consists of one person arguing that something is caused by animal magnetism only to be pooh-poohed for being unscientific, as obviously it is spiritual energy instead.
This is a very, very good book, and I've been deliberately holding off on binging on more of Hardinge so I don't get through all her back catalog too quickly.
After watching several MCU movies (particularly CA2) in preparation for Age of Ultron, I wanted more source material and ended up mainlining this despite being completely meh about it when it first aired. I'm still unconvinced that the writers think SHIELD is as sketchy as I do, which is frustrating, because they keep toeing the line of "SHIELD is untrustworthy" and then hastily backpedaling and reassuring us that Coulson is great and trustworthy, and therefore by extension, so is SHIELD.
On the plus side, the second season added some much more interesting new characters and threw a few wrenches in the "happy team yay" vibe from the first few episodes.
Er, if I haven't commented on people's comments or posts, it is because I haven't really been online for the past few months =(. I have, however, been watching a ton of TV! I feel like I have finally recovered from grad school brain and been able to focus on things requiring more effort and attention span, like books and TV. It only took five years, ha.
Hi, I am alive! Obviously I have been terrible at being online, which then goes into the whole "I have too much to write up, so I don't write it, so then I feel even more behind" thing. It also doesn't help that my laptop is getting slow so I spend most of my computer time on my phone, which isn't very conducive to commenting or posting.
Anyway, life stuff is going on, mostly not too eventful. And I am watching a lot of TV! Here, have some impressions since the thought of doing coherent write-ups of each show keeps me from writing anything.
This started out as my laundry folding show, except then I got hooked. It is probably not the best show ever, especially in terms of writing, but I'm fond of many of the characters and the focus on family. Also, plot like whoa. My main gripes are the romance storylines, since they are mostly terrible, and how you of course learn all things mystical and martial-arts-y in Asia. Or from Asians. (Or sometimes from possibly non-Asian people in Asia? Let's not go there...) My main delights are Oliver's relationships with his family, particularly with his little sister, and assorted Team Arrow teamwork hijinks.
So of course since I got hooked on Arrow, I started The Flash, largely because Grant Gustin is ADORABLE. I also love how deliberately non-gritty it is; Barry helps people because he likes helping people. I do wish they weren't making the same mistake Arrow made with Laurel, which is to keep Iris in the dark and thereby make most storylines having to do with her boring. This is especially too bad because the actress is a lot more likable than Katie Cassidy (sorry Katie Cassidy!). On the other hand, the Joe-Barry relationship is BEST.
I have really been enjoying this show, and having a female protagonist is such a nice change from Arrow and Flash, much as I like them. I especially love how one of the main themes is Clarke becoming a leader. My other favorite thing is the various shifting alliances and groups and all the politicking. There are some things about the worldbuilding that questionable (Grounder culture, for one), but overall I love how much worldbuilding there is, and how large the world feels. This has really been scratching my SF/F genre itch.
This show! This is my new favorite and actually has me looking forward to something on Mondays. I love so many things about it, from Jane herself to the Villanueva family to the wtfbbq, telenovela-ness of some of the plot to Rogelio and his hashtags. This gives me all the warm fuzzies.
(Also, so many hearts to the show for having a bilingual household and not making it a big deal.)
I am enjoying this a lot! The Peggy and Jarvis snark is fun, and the bits fleshing out the larger MCUverse are nice as well. Mostly I am ignoring period accuracy but enjoying the clothes. Alas, this is also the whitest show on this post.
Fresh Off the Boat
This is the show I wish I were enjoying more than I actually am. I don't know how much of it is the sitcom humor, how much is the show finding its legs, and how much is stuff just feeling a little off.
One of the main things for me is that Louis and Jessica feel like second gen Chinese Americans, not first gen immigrants. Constance Wu's accent sounds a bit off (I'm not sure if Randall Park is even trying one? Which is probably the better option.), and of course, they don't speak Chinese at home! It's particularly glaring compared to Jane the Virgin's use of Spanish in the show. And when there is Chinese, it sounds a lot like it was written first in English and then translated.
That said, the 90's-ness of it cracks me up (even their light fixtures look it!), and I like it when the show focuses more on individual character quirks rather than commentary on being Chinese. Show! I hope you do well, even if you do end up being not for me.