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I am packing semi-earnestly now, so here are about 6 months of books that have landed on my bedside table that are going to be packed shortly. This in no way represents the sum of books I've read in total at that time - just what I finished while I was sitting in bed.

Rough chronological order, lots of re-reads. I've marked those with asterixes.

Kinsey - Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.* This is the Kinsey biography, that they based the movie on. Very humanising and well-researched.
A History of Britain, pt 2 - Simon Schama. One of the books accompanying the TV series, which I didn't watch till recently. From Cromwell to the War of Independence in America
Starbucked - Taylor Clark. History of the rise of Starbucks, which is thankfully not a hagiography.
The Complete Book of Knots - Mario Bigon and Guido Regazzoni. What it says, as shown by a pair of Italian sailors. Not the best knot book, but is decent and has some interesting variations.
The Herrano Legacy - Elizabeth Moon. Elizabeth Moon can be a bit hit-or-miss for me - ex-military people with writing that implies only military types are effective and get things done has this effect on me. But these books are entertaining space opera.
Time of Death - Jessica Snyder Sachs.* Popular science book on the historical difficulties of defining death and when it's actually happened.
Erotic Bondage Handbook - Jay Wiseman. I don't know why I got this. I don't like Wiseman's writing, and it's actually pretty useless for explaining good bondage. There are lots of options/positions described, but diagrams are very limited, nor are the instructions step-by-step. So, meh. Also, for someone who is supposedly safety-minded, he recommends a clove hitch a lot, which is a knot that tightens (not that great for limbs, frankly)
Phryne Fisher Omnibus - Kerry Greenwood. First three Phyrne Fisher books, which I'd not yet read in sequence.
Kindred in Death - JD Robb. Totally escapist entertainingly-written not-exactly-trash.
Screw Inner Beauty - Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby.* Good book on weight issues and the "Health at Every Size" (HAES) philosophy.
A History of God - Karen Armstrong. How "god" has been constructed through the ages, particularly in relation to Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but with reference to many other religions.
Betrayal in Death - JD Robb. More fun reads. Like potato chips in terms of their satisfaction in consuming.
Smile or Die - Barbara Ehrenreich.* Great book debunking the whole "positive thinking" movement that is so popular. Starts from the context of her encountering it in overdrive mode as a cancer patient, but she reaches right back to sources like Christian Scientist teachings for the origins over the whole "mind over matter" school of thought regarding health.
A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson.* What it says on the tin! It's really a short scientific history.
The Complete Mary Poppins - PL Travers. Such classics. If anyone wants a Potter replacement for 5-10 year olds, this would not go amiss. And the movie isn't in the same league. This omnibus has 4 stories in it.
The Rowan - Anne McCaffrey.* Yes, I still read some of her tripe, but at least it's completely mindless and only mildly irritating in parts.
Bath Triangle - Georgette Heyer. Eh, not as elegant as some of her others. I mean, you could see how everyone was going to end up as soon as the primary characters were introduced, and how they got there in the end wasn't particularly entertaining. No shootings of love-interests, alas.
Santa Olivia - Jacqueline Carey. Really cool post-apocalyptic story which is not part of her two main series. Hope this one continues!
The Nearly Men - Mike Green. History of scientists and inventors who didn't profit much from their inventions/discoveries. Eh, I wasn't taken by the overly-laboured writing style and the examples weren't that interesting. Also, all MEN, as it says - not even sure why I picked it up. I'm not packing this one.
At Home - Bill Bryson. A social history of the (English) home, and how it got populated with the items that are typically it them now.
City of Sin - Catherine Arnold. A social history of London, focussing on sexuality. Stories of prostitution, homosexuals (yeah yeah, I don't care if the term is "anachronistic" - queers have always existed), kinky sex. I dunno, kind of interesting but lacking something.

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Stupid Socialist Alliance assertion du jour (at least according to a banner I saw of theirs today): apparently capitalism is responsible for all the nasty ills of the world, such as wars, racism, pollution and something else I've forgotten now. Now, I'm not pretending that capitalism is not a very effective way of delivering various kinds of oppression, including the economic kind, but wow, I totally had no idea of the utopia embodied in absolute monarchy, feudalism, dictatorships (of the right and left kind) or even the good old days of tribes and their chieftains fighting over neighbouring hills.

There's nothing wrong with pointing plenty of fingers at capitalism, but correlation does not equal causation.

In other news, the new Connie Willis book, Blackout, has arrived in Oz, and what a disappointment. This review on Amazon summarises exactly how irritating it is. Such a shame. Anyway, I'm not bothering to go back for Part 2 - the whole "miscommunication" trope was wearing on me a bit in To Say Nothing of the Dog, but this book tipped it way over. It's also EXTREMELY irksome that there is no mention of the fact that the book - nearly 500 pages - is part one of two, until you get to the end and find a very subtle (not) advertising blurb to buy the next. No thanks.

And cocktail invention of the month:

In a cocktail shaker lid, lightly crush two cloves. At 1-2 Tbl of overproof rum and heat over a tealight until bubbles start to form. Flame the rum, allow to burn for a few seconds and extinguish by covering the lid (with the bottom of the shaker, a glass, whatever). Strain the rum over ice in a short glass. Pour over a shot of light rum (decent quality, plz), 1/2 a shot Grand Marnier and a shot of orange juice. Top up with pineappe juice and stir. To be classy, make a twist of orange peel, flame it and use it to garnish the drink.

Nom nom!

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The Guardian today has an article on rejection letters sent to various people, and the one to Gertrude Stein is pure WIN.

Dear Madam,

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your MS three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Many thanks. I am returning the MS by registered post. Only one MS by one post.

Totally agree with the sentiments as well. :-)
trixtah: (octopus)
Is it only me who finds that "epic" should always be suffixed with FAIL? I heard some young'uns today talking about how something was epic.... I kept waiting in vain for the other shoe to drop.

Oh, and while it's not exactly language-related, I am so sick of people going on about Freakonomics. It's well-and-truly jumped the shark (and did about 5 minutes after being published). Here's a precis for you:

Dubner: Oh HAI. I'm a journalist and I was desperate to get something more than 800 words published, so I tracked down this pointy headed intellekshul and basically wrote this book for him. But he's really really cool. Really. And comes up with cool provocative things that I will dumb down for the masses in a "folksy" kind of way.
Levitt: Yes, I am a pointy-headed intellekshul - actually, I am an economist. And also, I actually admit that economics is a social science, which is amazing because most economists try to pass it off as science-science. But anyway, enough about me, here's a provocative essay on abortion and how since we're killing off all the potential crims at birth, we have less crime! Yay abortion! Although boo, because, you know, those moral things that people keep talking about. And really, it's not about abortion, it's about crime. And those millions of poor aborted babies don't balance out the thousands of nasty crims we execute once they're grown up.
DubnerWasn't that cool? And provocative? Isn't Levitt so intellekshul? And provocative? And look at that insight.
LevittSo now I'll state the frigging obvious about how real estate agents can do dodgy deals on their own behalf, and how lower-echelon drug dealers are poor. And that some teachers cheat with their students' exams. And see, look, I'm so radical because I'll borrow some research that shows that some student - not me, I don't know this kind of person - actually talked to drug dealers. See, they can talk!
Dubner: Wow. Isn't it amazing how he can explain these radical concepts to idiots like the general public and journalists. He really is cool.
Levitt: And here's some more stuff that sounds impressive, but is really a lot about demonstrating "correlation does not equal causation". Did you say the word abortion again? No? Oh well, but this stuff is just as valid, honest. Especially the part where I explain that employers are racist when they perceive someone's name is "black". Oh, right, perhaps that comes under stating the obvious again.
Dubner: Dude, did you know I love you? I really really love you. I just go the glasses and the cute side-parting.
Levitt: Um, yeah. Moving right along to the blog. I'm up with the modern technologies! Although I really only post when it's time to sell more books. That's what I have my blog-peons, sorry, co-contributors for, to keep up the content.

trixtah: (bookporn)
I'm renewing the lease on my flat - I've been here over a year, OMG - and the nice landlady wants to do an inspection. Also, it was about time I got it looking slightly more presentable.

As part the spring clean, I've cleared out the load of books that have ended up by my bed. This in no way represents the total of what I've read these last few months - it's just the ones I happened to finish it some point before switching off my light. :-)

Creation in Death - JD Robb. I love these trashy futuristic detective stories. Not candy floss - more salt n vinegar chips washed down with a beer.
In the Last Analysis - Amanda Cross. This is the first Kate Fansler detective story that "Amanda Cross" (Carolyn Heilbrun) wrote in the early 60s, and how nice to see a strong independent female detective-cum-academic lead character in that era.
Economia - by Geoff Davies. This is a very long look at alternatives to the current economic systems. He is a geologist by trade, and navigates an unusual route to discuss what he thinks an economy could look like (he essentially likes mutual banking systems). The main things I agree with are the fact that growth for growth's sake is unsustainable, and that despite the pretence otherwise, economics is a social science, and humans are not necessarily rational actors. So, interesting food for thought, but I unfortunately believe - like anarchism - his ideas have a snowball's chance of being implemented.
A Grave Talent - Laurie R. King. I think Laurie King is one of the best contemporary detective writers. She writes a whole series based on the Sherlock Holmes stories - which are great and really well done - but this is one of her lesbian detective stories. So nice to have queer protagonists in books written by non-queer authors.
Undead and Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson. Just as trashy as you might expect, but an amusing romp.
Fool's Gold - Gillian Tett. This book by a Financial Times journo is the best analysis of the recent credit meltdown I've read so far. While she leans a little heavily on her apparent sources inside J.P. Morgan, she clearly explains the issues, what CDOs and the other derivatives actually do, and also explains some of the personalities involved. I laughed out loud at the assertion by one of the players that markets are "efficient and rational" - do economists and other people in the money business seriously still believe that? - but she reported it with a straight face.
I Never Knew That About London - Christopher Winn. Little quirky facts about various places around London, organised loosely by borough. Since I've read quite a bit of the history of London, there was a reasonable amount I did know, but there are also lots of interesting nuggets that I didn't.
Confessions of an Eco Sinner - Fred Pearce. This guy decides to trace the origins of various goods and foods he consumes, and finds out some interesting stuff. Frank, but balanced and non-preachy.
Strong Poison - Dorothy Sayers. A classic. Nuff said.
Dare, Truth or Promise - Paula Boock. A great teenage coming-out story/romance set in NZ. One of the better ones I've read from any country.
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte. Another classic.
Big Bangs - Howard Goodall. A book based on a TV series done by the composer to discuss the five greatest innovations in Western music. He talks about musical notation, the invention of the piano, the equal temperament developed by Bach, opera,  and the invention of recorded sound (he makes the observation that recorded music actually makes it possible to listen to music by ancient instruments that would not normally remain in tune for an entire piece). All interesting stuff.
Amazons - edited by Jessica Salmonson. This is a fairly typical assemblage of fantasy short stories written by women up to the 1980s. She says in the introduction that the stories were not chosen to be about victims or revenge, but seriously, FAIL. Depressing earnest angsty stuff, and it epitomises the strain of women's SFF I loathe. Sort of the flip side of the Stephen Donaldson/George R.R. Martin genre. God knows why I've hung onto it this long - time to toss it.
Sacred Spirit - Mercedes Lackey. I know I know, about Lackey, but about 1 in 7 of her books are entertaining reads, even if they're not the most nuanced fantasy books in the world. These are like eating fries from McDonalds - you know you shouldn't, but sometimes they just hit the spot.
The Time Trap. Classic time management how-to book, and it's bounced off me entirely. I need to figure out a way of organising myself, but I haven't come up with a method that's likely to work for me yet. I am not and have never been a list-maker, and a book that is essentially about making lists doesn't help much.
Wavewalker - Stella Duffy. I love these suspense books by Stella Duffy. Kiwi-in-London author with dyke protagonist FTW.
Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary - Monica Nolan. A hilarious piss-take of 1950s pulp novels, and a cute romance story as well.
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen. Totally my favourite Austen, closely followed by Northanger Abbey.
Play Piercing - Deborah Addington. Pretty obvious what this one's about!
The Flame Takers - Lilith Norman. Classic children's fantasy story by a prominent Australian children's author. I bought the book from AbeBooks for a ridiculous amount of money quite recently. Of course it's out of print.
The Changeover - Margaret Mahy. One of Mahy's best young adult stories, set in suburban NZ. I like her combination of suspense with nice resolutions, and the fact she doesn't back away from teenage sexuality.

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So, I have been rereading Jane Eyre last week, which is probably in my top 5 best-loved novels, and during that time, I also happened to read a post on from a few months ago about "dog-whistle evo psych". So, I was nodding along quite happily - as you can imagine - and started trolling through the comments.

At 03:04 PM (the permalink to the comment doesn't seem to work for me), after a bit of thread-drift, Essie Elephant wrote apropos Jane Eyre: "It’s not a particularly feminist piece - read it today and you’ll think that it’s okay for men to keep their insane wives locked in the attic, for them to sexually harass the help and treat them like shit in order to provoke sexual tension and jealousy, and that it’s perfectly acceptable for missionary men to condescend to complete strangers, as long as they are women." ... "I tend to think that Austen et. al. is just something that can fall either way on the feminist scale, depending on how you chose to view it. And I think both views are correct."

I'm sorry, but what? WHAT? This person has obviously never heard of social mores, of it being a book ahead of its time in terms of (proto-) feminist sensibility, and actually, I don't recall Rochester "sexually harassing the help" until Jane expressed her own feelings to him. It was perfectly fine to lock insane people in your attic, and in fact would be considered to be the humane thing to do (rather than lock them up in an asylum). Of course, Rochester's motivations are a bit more complex than that, as is shown. Finally, there is the fact that the condescending missionary is portrayed as being a total tool, for chrissakes. There's more discussion on it downthread, but it seemed that this person was not going to be budged on his/her recollection of the novel's themes.

While I totally can relate to the fact that most things are relative and there are a myriad shades of grey, what the fuck is going on with the fence-sitting remark that "both views are correct" in terms of where the book can be situated on a feminist continuum? Seriously, bullshit. It either predominantly is, or it isn't. Forget this "both views are correct" crap.

I totally agree that a lot of it can be seen to be uncomfortable in terms of modern sensibilities. There is classism and racism. We don't generally lock madwomen up in our attics these days. The men are mostly arseholes and the women are treated like crap from our POV, because, hello, we are still not living an a post-feminist society, and they certainly weren't then. Jane often expresses her feelings towards Rochester in what could be seen to be submissive terms (like "master"), although I'd argue that "acts of service" are included in the "five love languages" that have been discussed everywhere for a reason (and it definitely seems to be one of Jane's predominant "languages", which she uses to express her feelings for everyone, male and female, that she cares about); and also, that a word like "master" has become somewhat less nuanced over the last 150 years.

But I can't see how, even if you aren't willing to contextualise all the foregoing in its era, you can't see the embodied feminism of the book. Despite all the propaganda of the time, with its assertions that women were the "weaker vessel" and inferior to men in every way, except, perhaps, in "moral suasion" (and the book is a little too early for that), Jane asserts her equality to Rochester as soon as she admits her love for him. In fact, by feeling equal to him, she can love him. She does this throughout - she feels that she is the equal to all the members of the aristocracy, the men, everyone she encounters. She states that her heart and her feelings are the same as a man's. It's an incredibly powerful notion for a woman of that time to assert her equality so positively (if silently, in the main, due to her position).

In addition to Jane's fundamental expectation of equality, every single time that Jane is confronted with a dilemma, she asserts her right to make her own choice. The words "choose" and "choice" are extremely important throughout the novel. She does what she thinks is right all along, and she is very conscious of exercising her choice. And of course, the notion that women could actually assert their own choices was pretty revolutionary in those days. It doesn't matter that Rochester and St John argued and tried to convince her that her choices weren't correct. See above about it not being a post-feminist society now, and certainly not then. And neither of them succeeded in persuading her to change her mind once it was made up, for the record.

There's also the aspect that as the whole book is about Jane observing and commenting on the various injustices that she is subject to, it is political, in that "personal is political" vein. No, she's not lobbying for votes - it's 50 years too early - but she's certainly not sitting there saying that injustice and oppression should be women's destiny (unlike the prevailing view of the time).

So, since the fundamental feminist view is that women should be considered to be societally equal to men, and that women should always have the right to exercise their own choices, it seems pretty evident to me that Jane Eyre does not contradict those principles, even though it doesn't exactly look like the way we expect feminism to be now.

The kind of argument that says it's not exactly like modern feminism (and which strain are we talking about? is it still "modern feminism" if it's Saudi women lobbying for the right to drive? what about Japanese or Afghani or Indian feminists, who have quite different feminisms to the Western kind?) reminds me of the weirdly distorted arguments that say that "gay" people are a modern invention. Sure, in terms of how gay identity is constructed now, but the argument also tends to obscure the fact that people who prefer same-sex partners have always existed. The way anyone constructs their identity is different to how it was 200 years ago... but we shouldn't neglect the precursors. In any case, as I've explained, I think that Jane Eyre presents a fairly modern feminist POV, even if the society in which it was expressed is quite different from ours.

(/rant of the day)

Also, I must see if I can download the Jane Eyre movie with Charlotte Gainsbourg in it. Although, William Hurt, eh. I liked the last Beeb version too, although Ruth Wilson's accent isn't sufficiently educated-sounding for someone who grew up in an upper-middle-class household and became a school teacher and governess fluent in French, even though she's perfect in other ways. I don't know what the Beeb were doing around then - there was also the stupid accent they had for Nan in Tipping the Velvet.
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One of the drawbacks about living in the antipodes is the ridiculous price of books here. Also, some books are simply not available, unless ordered at great extra expense, and shipping via Amazon is horribly expensive.

I've found a couple of excellent sites that provide good alternatives. One is Better World Books, which is a charity promoting literacy around the world. They sell both new and used books, they ship worldwide for less than $US4, and for free in the US, AND they do carbon offsets of any shipping they do.

Another is Book Depository, which is a UK-based company (yay for UK English editions! - I've been gritting my teeth about buying hard-to-find Diana Wynne Jones books from Amazon, and now I won't have to buy the Scholastic editions) that ships worldwide for free. Neither of these organisations ship super-fast airmail, but who cares? It sometimes takes me two weeks to get things sent from Sydney, and I've received things sent surface mail from the US in less than a week.

Now, the extra-bonus search engine, from an Australian perspective - and I think for kiwis as well, since prices for shipping to Oz or NZ from the UK and the US are pretty similar - is a metasearch engine,, which accumulates both the list price and shipping price from a number of sites, including locally-based (including the Melbourne Uni bookshop?) and overseas. So, The Vorkosigan Companion, which costs $AU48 from Collins Australia, and $36 including shipping from Amazon, can be ordered from Book Depository (ie. via the UK) for $30 bucks total. 20% off the Amazon price. I got Yes Means Yes from Amazon last month for over 30 bucks, when I could have gotten it from Better World for under $27 (that one is particularly irritating - 10% off and helping a worthy charity).

Even if you don't want to open accounts with a number of vendors, you can still use the booko search engine, and just select from the vendors you're happy to do business with. I've got BWB and BD accounts underway as we speak. Booko does DVD searches as well, and they have a listing for the Collector's Edition of When Night Is Falling - gah, I only bought the original DVD (and I'm still not sure if the Region 4 copy I have was derived from the cut US version, or from the "unrated" Canadian one) a couple of years back - which has the Amazon price only $2 more expensive than the cheapest offering - hardly worth creating another account for that.

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Ganked from [ profile] kikibug13 and based on a Beeb "best reads" list from some years back. The Guardian has just been doing a series of  1000 "best reads" as well. I'm afraid I find many of their selections to be overly literary. The SFF section has some great choices, but too much magical realism, horror, alternate histories and "ghost stories", and some really annoying omissions. I'm sorry, Affinity by Sarah Waters is not a fantasy book. And nor is Naked Lunch.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the ones you're half way through.
4) For all the bold ones you have read, put a bit of commentary - be it snark, poetic, or just explaining what the book is - but no longer than a sentence.

Read more... )

trixtah: (Default)
Some of it is good for those of us negotiating open/multiple relationships. But some of the therapy-speak drives me up the wall.

For example, sharing sex. To me, "sharing" something has the connotation of something being doled out. So, I'll have a sex, and you can have a sex, and we'll just share all these seXX0rs. Saying that you're having sex with someone is much more immediate and descriptive of what you're doing. Like a good meal when you're hungry, you're diving in and consuming it together. Nom!

So, why the "sharing" of sex rather than the having of it? Possibly due to the association of "having someone" when referring to less-than-egalitarian sex? Do we avoid certain verbs because they can be used in a negative construction as well as the very positive ones? I'd really love to know how the "sharing sex" locution came about.

Moving onto a more serious topic, there is a discussion about the fact that no-one can make anyone feel anything. This is true. No-one can make me be angry or indifferent or happy. However, the behaviour that someone carries out can have the effect of eliciting a reaction. Depending on what buttons they're pushing (or not) with that behaviour, that reaction may be positive or negative, strong or mild.

Following on from the premise that no-one makes anyone feel anything, no-one is responsible for someone else's feelings. And again, this is true, when it comes down to the essentials. We all own our own feelings, not anyone else.

What they're aiming at here - I think - is the idea that if your partner is jealous, or experiencing some other negative emotion, the best thing you can do is "be there" and listen to them express their feelings, but you're not responsible for what those feelings are. I had one partner who, when she was drunk and when I merely talked to another woman, would fly into a jealous rage. I've had sex with another person in front of another partner, who thought it was great. So, yes, the stimulus most certainly does not necessarily predict the response.

I agree that we should not feel responsible for fixing someone's feelings, or, actually, for how they manifest themselves. But in the need to be groovy and not get into guilt-tripping, I don't think ignoring someone's agency in what feelings they elicit is that constructive either. Other people are going to piss you off, whether by ignorance, indifference or outright malice. With the latter two motivations, there really isn't much point in blame, other than yourself for putting yourself in their path.

But for problems that relate to ignorance or thoughtlessness, I think expressing your displeasure and clearly identifying where you think the problem lies - that behaviour of theirs - is something you should do. Wimpily sitting around and saying "I was upset and felt abandoned when you spent all night shagging girlfriend X" is going to achieve sweet F-A with those who are determined to be obtuse (although with the chronic and wilful obtuse types, DTMFA is the best solution). Saying "I was pissed off that you stayed out all night with X when you said you'd be back by 9. A phone call to let me know what was happening was the least you could do." seems to me to be a constructive approach. Problem, desired solution. And in response, I would not like this kind of thing: "Yes, I hear your anger. I bet you felt abandoned." I'd want to hear acknowledgement (of "responsibility" for the behaviour that upset me?) and a solution. Possibly a request for clarification if they didn't understand why I felt so strongly about something (because maybe my response was disproportionate to the stimulus... or there was a simple misunderstanding). I also think a response of "Get a grip, that curfew was last week due to the fact we were getting up early the next morning - this was my usual stay-over date night with X, and I didn't feel I had to renegotiate" is also perfectly valid!

I agree that blaming individuals tends to be pretty much a zero-sum game. Telling someone they're an irresponsible fucktard is only going to get their backs up without creating a solution (and why waste your energy on an actual irresponsible fucktard). But identifying problematic behaviour - at least what you find problematic, in the context of whatever kind of relationship you have - and expecting those who carry it out to acknowlege their agency seems to be not unreasonable either.

So maybe I simply haven't got to the point in the book where people have to own their fuckwittedness as well (and preferably do something about it), or maybe I'm missing the actual point. Maybe we need to evolve different language around things like "responsiblity" for emotional reactions - I do think we are responsible for the triggering (I loathe that term, but oh well) behaviour, even if we aren't directly reponsible for the resulting feelings.

I think that part of being responsible within a relationship is learning as well as one can what behaviours are likely to tweak one's partner... and being responsible for dealing with the consequences. Whether it's to vow to completely change a long-embedded behaviour (ok, I'll put my socks in the laundry basket from now on!), or to tell them to get over it, or all points in between. However, we can't be aware, responsive and responsible all the time, and we all get surprised by what others around us react to. Responsibility for our actions does not have to equal guilt or being accountable for fixing the problem... but I don't think we should dodge the times when we should be accountable for the effects our behaviour may cause. Or maybe we need to think of responsibility as a thing of degrees, not absolutes. Contributing factors? Hm.
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When you see a Bujold quote in someone's journal, post another quote in your L/J, and we'll see how long we can keep it going.

And, hah-hah!, I just re-read The Vor Game last week. One of the more rompy books near the beginning of the Miles stories.

War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.
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via [info]jekni

Actually, I didn't find this one too challenging, but I wouldn't really want to discuss the works with the quiz designer, since I think I only liked Jane Eyre:

Your result for The How Well-Read Are You? Test...

Incredibly Well Read

Your level of Well-Readliness is 100 %!

*Applause* You. Are. Amazing. You may also be bothered by the fact that the first three sentences were not proper sentences at all but, rest easy now, the periods are there for emphasis. Also, I apologize for making this test to measure 'well-readliness' but nothing else would fit properly. Well, then. I could easily talk to you for hours. We could have a field day discussing Capote, Austen, Chaucer, Steinbeck, and Dickens, just to name a few. Chances are you really enjoy reading, which is wonderful in this day and age, and you either impress or annoy those around you with your vast knowledge of the best literature the world has to offer. Bravo, my friend. Bravo. Let's do tea sometime.

Take The How Well-Read Are You? Test at HelloQuizzy

trixtah: (bookporn)
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicise those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them. As Dorothy Parker said, when invited to make a sentence that included the word "horticulture", "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think" (although I think plenty of whores are quite cultured). I also don't think reading these books is particularly indicative of the amount of culture you have, or how worthy you might be in general. So there.
5) Put a star next to those you've only partially read.

I'm also going to strike the ones I somehow finished and yet loathed.
Read more... )

To sum up, books I've actually completed - 49. Books I picked up and disliked or was so bored by that I didn't complete them - 20. So I've sampled 69% of the list - not bad going.

Also, my absolute favourites on this list? Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland (both in my top 10 books ever), and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (top 20) . Followed by Lord of the Rings (top 30-ish).
trixtah: (bookporn)
This meme has been going around discussing the risk for Americans with regard to literature addiction. However, it's a worldwide problem, and should be addressed. I've included the questionnaire as provided by various sources - please excuse the bias. A discussion of the issue follows the survey questions.

Read more... )
trixtah: (Default)
There's a discussion over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about people pirating huge quantities of ebooks and making them available for download. As I mentioned in the comments, I can see both sides of the resulting argument.
  • It stinks that people make money off someone else's work.
  • Traditional media has been crap at making stuff readily available online at reasonable cost.
  • For me, music downloads are a great try-before-you-buy method - but not everyone as ethical as I am in terms of getting rid of the stuff they have no intention of purchasing.
  • DRM is a fucking PITA - it doesn't stop piracy (obviously!), it increases costs, it restricts portability of the media, and it restricts media to those who possess the correct hardware or software for the DRM to work. That's the reason I won't use something like iTunes.
  • If you don't support the artists, eventually they will stop making art.
  • Most e-copies (especially of books) are ridiculously over-priced. I shouldn't have to pay the same for a e-version as I do for the actual media.
  • A lot of people download free stuff that can't be obtained otherwise (in other words, it's not available for purchase, in an e-version or the original).
What's the solution? Make high-quality media (including "uncompressed" versions) available for a reasonable price, free of DRM, and including as much as the back catalogue as possible. Amazon and their ilk have amply proven that "long-tail" marketing works. Out-of-print items are incredibly frustrating to obtain - if there's an e-version, there is no need for it to go out-of-print.

There is some movement underway in audio media, with sites like Magnatunes and Deutsche Grammophon modelling a new way of selling music. Acts like Metallica have amply demonstrated the idiocy of bitching about file-sharing without providing an alternative distribution source.

Regarding e-books, I also proposed an "online lending-library" on the SBTB site (since one criticism of the illegal downloaders  (of the many) was that they could read books for free at the library). Living in a city with a frankly crap library system, I can certainly see the limits of that thinking. However, a place that puts a big and broad selection of books online could be a winner. As a subscriber, you could purchase "book tokens" that entitle you to read, say, 10 books online for $5. Once you've "activated" a book you want to read, you have 30 days to read it (although maybe some kind of method of temporarily suspending your access to a book during that period, and then picking up where you left off could be useful). More popular books could require more tokens to "rent". Links should be provided to allow subscribers to purchase (non-DRM'd!) copies for permanent use. If you purchase a book, your reading token could be re-credited. Naturally, suitable royalties and costs would return to the author and the publisher (if the publisher isn't doing it themselves, which would be stupid for the large houses).

Can I imagine a publisher doing this in the near future? No, unfortunately. Baen is the only major publisher I'm aware of that makes an effort to make e-books cheap and appealing (with lots of free downloads). Since that model certainly hasn't seemed to have hurt them, it'd be nice if more publishers saw the light.
trixtah: (Default)
While it may be a surprise to some, I think manners are one of the most important glues that hold society together... or at least enable us to have contact with each other without wanting to kill each other. I think one of the hardest things that society is negotiating at present is moving towards allowing more individual freedom (despite the efforts of various governments to try and undo that), while still retaining (or evolving new) structures and mores that allow us to retain some degree of social glue and capability for collective action. I certainly think we haven't achieved that balance yet, and that we've (in a societal sense) have been guilty of throwing the social cohesion baby out with the individualist bathwater. And as someone who subscribes to anarchist principles, it's interesting to reflect on just what structures we should retain, whether or not we generally buy into one-size-fits-all rules.

[ profile] saluqi started some of this train of thought off by lending me It's Not Etiquette : A Guide to Modern Manners by David Meagher, an Australian journalist who writes a "Mr Manners" column. The title, and the rest of the book, make the great point that manners does not necessarily denote an arbitrary set of rules, and are rather a set of courtesies that enable you to not drive the majority of people insane. He has quite a number of prescriptions for getting by in modern Western societies, although I could have probably done with a bit less of his sartorial advice (not being a bloke or a normal woman). Still, his guidelines on handling introductions, going to parties, cellphone courtesy and so on are practical and great for the kinds of things encountered today. I particularly like the underlying principle that in a day-to-day setting, courtesy is not about arbitrary rules of etiquette.

This week, I bought a book by another Australian journalist, Lucinda Holdforth (heh), called Why Manners Matter: The Case for Civilised Behaviour in a Barbarous World. Now, this is fab, because she's not so much about prescription (although she does list a "10 commandments" of courtesy), but she explains why manners should be crucial to us. To give you a flavour, I'll list the chapter and subchapter headings:

1   Because man [ack! - that nearly put me off] is an animal
    .... a social one
    .... with a habitat to protect
2    Because manners are more important than laws [yes, yes, YES! - what are laws but a way to define and enforce courtesy?]
    .... less invasive than morals [oh, yes]
    .... and better than social confusion
3   Because manners nurture our equality
    .... modify self-esteem
    .... and connect the self to society
4   Because sovereignty demands self-sovereignty [I agree with this, in the main, but she goes off a bit of a tangent about rules which annoyed me slightly]
    .... order is necessary to freedom [um, yes, kind of]
    .... and manners reconcile liberty to stability [again, with caveats, and she does discuss how social change sometimes comes about through lack of stability and people "acting out"]
5   Because who else can we call on?
    .... rudeness won't make us authentic [too bloody true]
    .... manners aren't just the tool of right-wing bigots [and that myth that they are infuriates me]
    .... and they advance social progress
6   Because McDonald's doesn't own manners [and bought desperate over-politeness from salespeople isn't exactly manners - and we notice and don't respond as we do to the genuine thing]
    .... corporations don't own our souls
    .... and manners are no barrier to greatness
7 Because manners give us dignity [and some of us need all the dignity we can possibly get]
    .... improve communication [too right]
    .... prevent premature intimacy [thank god]
    .... unlock our humanity
    .... and make life beautiful

She pretty much touches on all areas of our lives where social interactions make a difference. While there are a few paths she goes down that I won't follow, the most of it is fantastic, beautifully argued, and nicely salted with contemporary anecdotes. There's some excellent political philosophy (if that's not too exalted a term) brought into play as well.

There's quite a lengthy discussion on Alexis de Tocqueville's observation about the newly-independent Americans: In democracies where the differences between citizens are never very great..., numerous artificial and arbitrary distinctions are invented to help individuals in their attempt to remain aloof for fear of being swept along with the crowd...

In other words, in a democratic society, social competition is increased, with a resulting breakdown in the kind of social mores that were previously enforced by the aristocracy's foot firmly on the necks of the serfs. We have more power, and that includes the power to fuck each other over. Of course, we can choose not to do so.

Later on, and unrelated, there is a discussion about the role of manners in social interactions:

Manners offer the protection of social constraints. Often they take time, too much time. But they also confer time. Time to get to know someone, time to think about how we feel, time to consider our reactions and respond wisely and well. (I could do with plenty of this last).
People think manners aren't sexy. Transgression is sexy; busting taboos is sexy. How can manners be sexy? ...Manners play their delightful part in creating tension, anticipation, curiosity. They respect the essence of each partner's separateness. (Also, for the record, it's about selective taboo-busting - if you busted every taboo, the situation would be pretty fucked. So I don't think the two concepts - appropriate taboo-busting and manners - are orthogonal to each other.)
Those magazines and self-help books that tell you to unload your every little passing thought, feeling and criticism on your partner are cruelly misleading. When love means never having to say you're sorry, it's nearly always because you weren't unkind to your partner in the first place. (In-bloody-deed!)

I won't rant (more) about how much I loved the statement that manners are more important than laws (and "morals", as she mentions), but if more people exercised their manners, we would have need for a whole lot less laws. As well as the obvious social costs, ripping off people for their life's savings or polluting the river that other people use is simply not polite.

Anyways, excellent book, thoroughly recommend, 9/10.
trixtah: (Default)
I've been reading some more-or-less worthy books in amongst the usual sort of tripe I read.

Firstly, Ozonomics - Inside the Myth of Australia's Economic Superheroes by Andrew Charlton, who lectures at the LSE. It's an excellent read, and demystifies economics nicely - in fact, deconstructs economics with three words: productivity, jobs and equality. His essential premise is that all the credit that Howard and Costello have grabbed regarding the strength of the Australian economy has in fact been nothing to do with their policies. All they have done is meddle in social policy, and erode workers' rights. As Charlton points out, there is no way in hell Australia can compete with cheap Asian or third-world labour, and joining in to a race to the bottom in terms of worker's rights is a zero-sum game. Also, and crucially, he points out how too much inequality in an economy is bad overall.

lots of rantings on economics )

But despite my minor quibbles (there are a few more), it really is a good overview into the myths and legends of the Australian economy.

Then I read The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery. He nicely explains the whole climate debate, and discusses the science behind the conclusions that the vast majority of climate scientists have reached about climate change. He also nicely debunks the idea that higher temps overall and increased carbon dioxide in the air may be beneficial. It's just difficult to be optimistic - as long as governments and business bullshit about the potential costs (and he points out regulatory costs are always wildly overestimated when environmental impacts are involved), nothing will happen fast enough. Hopefully the argument that it'll cost a lot less to do something now, and take the chance that the artificially-caused nature of climate change might be wrong, than to do nothing at all.

Finally, I read Sarah Waters' latest, The Night Watch. God, if she heads down the Winterson route... Anyways, it struck me as 98% of "literary" fiction does. Depressing and ultimately meaningless. Ok, the take on people (mostly queers) who lived in the interstices of post-war London is interesting, and it's obviously beautifully researched, and is nicely consistent, but why is it that "literary" authors seem to think it's more real if the story is miserable? Basically lots of aimlessness, internal dialogue, dull drama and eventual pointlessness (ie. no plot to speak of - I don't mind if it's non-linear, even). Not even particularly gripping prose, either (at least you can say that Winterson has a distinctive style).

Anyway, I blame the Modernists. Can anyone think of any literary fiction since Woolf, Joyce et al (actually, probably Hardy and Eliot, although at least they had plots) that isn't miserable? Various critics wah on about the dearth of people reading "quality", but, leaving aside their dismissal of any number of a ton of fantastic genre books, it's no wonder that people aren't keen to read pretentious and stultifying stuff, even if it's "good" for them.
trixtah: (Default)
This looks like an interesting site: or What with all the kerfuffle about A&R, and the fact I still feel guilty when I walk into a Borders, this outfit run by a couple of kiwis looks worth a look. It has the Flannery book I've been looking for (and which none of the bookshops in Civic have in stock - I might have better luck in Manuka, and I am intending to look there this weekend), and it even has *gasp!* 8 books on polyamory!

Including The Lesbian Polyamory Reader, which may well be perfectly worthwhile, but which I've been gritting my teeth re buying due to the v. v. v. earnest-looking 80s-dykes-with-mullets-and-flannies cover (although *cough*, I have one flannie. I have never had a mullet. OMG, I'm not a twooo butch!). Maybe the book isn't all cultural-lesbo-feminist "all wombyn are higher-evolved beings who are naturally anarchist and share everything (including lovers)", but the signs aren't good. Athough it was actually published in 1999, so maybe it's just a bad choice of cover art.

Well, it's cheaper than ordering from Amazon. And the site's got a simple clean design too (reminiscent of Amazon's, but I suspect they may be using something like ZenCart underneath).
trixtah: (Tattoo)
...that drinking proper tea makes me very happy.

That is all.

PS. And I'm rereading Lorna Doone, which still holds up well, despite the fact I'm no longer a teenager. I like the sly humour, and, especially, the descriptions of nature.
trixtah: (Default)
Best ever quote:

I don't want
[political] power. I just object to idiots having power over me.

Oh, and while I'm on the topic of reading, two annoyances. Why o why did I get that David and Leigh Eddings book out of the library? I knew I'd hate myself, and I do. The book was Polgara the Sorceress, and it's one of the Belgariad books, which are absolute tripe, but were entertaining enough on the initial read. But. O dear god, but. Apparently the last 40 years haven't happened for the Eddingses. Apparently women (even mighty sorceresses) play stupid "battle of the sexes" crap to manipulate the poor stupid men who don't realise that women really rule the world.  And men. (Sure they do, it's obvious).  Women also have special knowledge and skills that men can never hope to gain, such as knowing what someone really thinks by the marvels of feminine intuition.  I would open the book to get a quote... but I can't do it. Feh. It's bad enough when men come up with sexist bullshit, but when women do as well, it drives me right up the wall.

Then I read Beastmaster's Circus by "Andre Norton" and Lyn McConchie. Why why why do (did) established authors allow such tripe to come out under their names? Ok, I realise Andre Norton was practically on her deathbed at the time, but how did she get hooked up with this "co-author"? I read a couple of collaborations Norton did with PM Griffin, and they were fine (despite the fact I still can't get over Jellicoe on the Solar Queen having a love interest - he's queer, for god's sake!) What's worse is that Lyn McConchie is a kiwi. The plot is ok, but the writing is absolutely 100% crap. All the sentences are about 10 words each, except for the occasional longer one that comes complete with comma splice. A fact needs to be repeated about three times in as many paragraphs, preferably by different characters.

There is an entire plot point about booby-trapped cages, which one of the ambiguous characters has been aware of all along, and which isn't mentioned at all until the time comes to have a crisis because of it. Ok, you can err on the side of squid-on-the-mantelpiece, but to have the ambiguous character be working in and around the cages constantly and observing from his POV, not to mention a couple of people staying in one who apparently don't need to take any precautions... until it's time for a rescue attempt (not of the people), and then suddenly there's a booby trap? Puhlease. Oh, and the protagonist is saved by her unknown brother (of course, that was amply telegraphed about 150 pages before the big denouement) after conveniently redeeming himself and dying in the process. GAH.


trixtah: (Default)

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