Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blogging break

I've already unintentionally stopped blogging, having not posted in the last week, but now I'm going to make it official. I'm in the wrong headspace for blogging and for most reading, and a different part of the internet has captured my attention. I may still post occasionally, probably just links and maybe photos, reviews if I get round to reading anything. I'll not be actively blogging, though.

I'm still reading all the blogs I always read, and I'm still around, and hopefully I'll be back to the blog eventually.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Ephemera #71

Louise Brooks, the woman who supposedly popularized bobbed hair in the 1920s. I'm starting to think about my senior thesis this week, and this photo has a vague relation to it. Sorry, I can't remember where I found the photo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Downton Abbey

I've been watching Downton Abbey, the recent BBC miniseries that's now showing on PBS. We've had two episodes so far, out of four, and I'm quite enjoying the show.

In 1913, Hugh Bonneville is Lord Grantham, and when his two his two nearest heirs die, he's left when the question of whether to fight the entail of his estate. He has three daughters, but the estate is entailed on the male line, and the next male heir is a Manchester solicitor, resolutely middle class. The wonderful Maggie Smith is the dowager Lady Grantham, who, when someone mentions having to wait until the weekend, asks, "What is a weekend?" with perfect seriousness.

Like all the best stories about English country estates, there's as much drama downstairs as up. Mr. Bates is Lord Grantham's new valet, but he has a war injury which makes him unable to do some of the duties expected of him.

Period drama is nothing new for the BBC, but they do it so well we keep watching it. This is a great show no matter how many times this sort of story has been done, and I'm excited to see the second half.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Women of the Klan

Women of the Klan, by Kathleen Blee, tells the story of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization which existed in concert to the 1920s KKK. It's a delicate tale to tell, of course, given the KKK's history of racism, antisemitism, and violence, but Blee does it relatively well.

Blee asks what place women have in right-wing movements like the KKK. She presents the KKK of the 1920s as full of contradictions. The men's Klan used women as symbols, showing them as potential victims in order to bring men to their cause. On the other hand, the women who joined the KKK were often in some respects progressive and feminist. Women used their role in the KKK to increase their political power in the early days of women's suffrage.

The book suffers from lack of extant information. The KKK was shrouded in secrecy, and in the years after its heyday many of the original members have died or ceased to remember accurately. I don't think Blee made the best use even of the information she had. She conducted oral interviews, but quotes from these were infrequent. I thought she could have made more use of particular women's experiences, especially those who were average members and not leaders. The book seemed to go in circles, repeating things already said in a different way. It was worth writing, certainly, and worth reading, but it didn't live up to expectations, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


When Sherlock first aired on the BBC last August, there was a lot of talk about it. I started the first episode, and didn't even get as far as meeting Sherlock before I decided I wasn't in the mood. I definitely stopped too soon. The show is created and written by Steven Moffat, the writer of Doctor Who, and Mark Gatiss, who also sometimes writes (and acts) for Doctor Who.

Sherlock is a modernized Sherlock Holmes. I've never read Sherlock Holmes, so I can't judge how it relates to the canon, but on it's own merit it's a fabulous show. There were only three 90-minute episodes, three more to come next fall. I'm super impatient.

The acting is lovely. Sherlock is mesmerizing. With the exceptions of the unfortunate Asian stereotyping in the second episode, the stories are great.

Some shows are sort of... impregnable. You can't take them and play with them, because they don't leave room for that. Sherlock, on the other hand, almost seems like it's written with fans in mind. Everyone takes a show or a book and contemplates how it might have gone differently, or what might have happened in between scenes. Sherlock both leaves this open and makes suggestions. For example, people assume Sherlock and Watson (we call him John, here) are gay hilariously often. The two have a great dynamic, whether or not you want to form theories about them.

So that's my latest television obsession.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


109 cats in sweaters.

Beautifully calm and simple photography by Glen Erler.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. This exhibit, which looks fascinating, is soon to be at Odegaard Library on the UW campus.

Cyperspace When You're Dead. Do you ever wonder what would happen to your internet self if you died? That's what this article is about. It's fascinating.

Full Steam Ahead. Apparently, Seattle's very steampunk.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Ephemera #70

Bingo in the summer, New Ulm, Minnesota, circa 1975. Photo by Flip Schulke, thanks to the U.S. National Archives. I'm craving summer, can you tell?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Still here

I'm not dead, just for the record. Classes started last week, and I had most of last week's posts written ahead of time so they went up, but then I got sucked in to school and I haven't read anything that wasn't for school since. The new quarter hit me harder than expected.

I do want to talk about what I'm reading for school, though, as well as various bits of television I've just seen, so hopefully I'll manage to get those posts up next week.

My new classes are great, and all is more or less well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Doctor Who nesting dolls (and other fun Doctor Who stuff).

Scandinavia and the World, a webcomic about national stereotypes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Books Read in 2010

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Ephemera #69

1902, from the Illinois Urban Landscapes Project. I've taken to searching flickr Commons for random things related to whatever I'm musing on at the moment. This time I searched "metamorphosis".

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Charitable Getting

I've put off reviewing this, which I don't normally do, and I'm not sure why. You know I find Sam Starbuck fascinating, and Charitable Getting deals quite directly with a lot of the things that make him interesting.

The story centres around SparkVISION Consulting, a company which runs fundraising campaigns and PR for charities. The company is headed by Bo Sparks, a charismatic and slightly unusual fellow. The employees of SparkVISION are our heroes, ordinary people though they may be. It's an eccentric sort of office, full of gossip, secret love affairs, dancing bananas, and the occasional chance to torment the interns. Tanya Montray is a journalist who believes that Non Prophet, a popular blogger, is employed by SparkVISION, and she's determined to find out.

Much of the book is concerned with life on the internet and how it interacts with life in the real world, and how blogging relates to journalism. As a blogger myself, this is rather interesting, even if I am only reviewing books most of the time and not talking about news. But the internet has always fascinated me, and I think it's good that there are books out there that talk about it. As is said in the Afterword, this is a book that in 80 years will be completely out of date, so rooted is it in the world of late 2009. Sometimes it's worth it to spend a whole book talking about the present, to not worry about whether a book "lasts". It captures history in a way other books don't. I imagine that when students in 2111 are writing their theses about extribulum and the emergence of blogging, this will be a crucial text.

Having spent years reading Sam Starbuck's blog, I know the story draws heavily on his life. In some ways this spoiled the mystery of Non Prophet's identity. For anyone less familiar with the author, though, I don't think the book is at all predictable. As a story, this is mostly just a cheerful office novel, full of the ordinary dramas of people's lives. It's very readable and funny. It does have greater depths, though, and for anyone interested in the internet this is an important book, both in terms of the story and in terms of the writing of the book itself.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Challenges for 2011

I'm not a big fan of reading challenges, but there are some out there that I know I'll completely without even thinking about it, so I figure I may as well sign up.
The first of these is the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. I seem to read historical fiction no matter what, and I'd kind of like to read more of it consciously, so this seems like a good challenge to sign up for. I'll be doing the Daring & Curious reading level, which is five books, though there's a chance I'll read more than that.

I also want to do the Bibliophilic Books Challenge again this year, but I haven't found a link to it yet.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review: Ballet Shoes

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes is one of those classic kids' books I failed to read as a child. I wish I had; I know I'd have loved it. But I've read it now, at any rate, and it's one of those kids' books that holds up well to adulthood.

Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil are three orphans, brought home one by one by Great-Uncle Matthew (otherwise known as Gum) after he had filled up the house with real fossils. They are looked after by Gum's niece Sylvia (otherwise known as Garnie) and Nana. Gum goes away on one of his adventures, leaving the Fossils and their guardians provided for for five years. Five years pass, and Gum still has not returned. To earn money they must go to Madame Fidolia's Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. It's not an ideal situation--Pauline loves acting and Posy cares only for dancing, but Petrova wants to drive cars and fly planes. Still, they get along well enough, though the money is slowly running dry.

It strikes me that no modern children's book would be so much about money worries. This, however, was written in 1937. Most of the story is about how the children must find a way to earn money. It's an interesting comparison.

So it's a lovely book, which I wish I'd read when I was younger but which was not spoiled by my being too old.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A stocking full o' books

Here's the books I got for Christmas. That's the German translation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I know so well that it's easy to read in German even without a dictionary handy. That copy of Emma is also in German. Quite a German themed stack, given Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories, which I'm about to start reading. A new Connie Willis to look forward to, and Miss Marple just for fun.

I'm super excited to finally own Sam Starbuck's two novels, and one of them is signed! I've already reread Charitable Getting since Christmas, so I'll have a review of it soon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Just the one link this week, no doubt due to the lull that always happens between Christmas and New Year's:

Book Cover Archive.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reading in the New Year

I'm not really the sort for New Year's resolutions, but I am thinking about what I'm going to read in 2011, on this, its inaugural day.

My reading over the last year has been kind of haphazard. I've been reading books I know will keep my attention through my busy class schedule, because I was feeling like I'd stopped reading books purely for fun. I think the balance got a little skewed, though. I used to read classics because I felt like I should, because they might teach me something. I haven't done that much this year, and I think I've forgotten that classics are often classic because they are good. In 2011, I want to read a bunch of classics. I might use the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list as a starting point, not so much because I like the list as because it's got a fun checklist .pdf, and I love a checklist.

I've been in a very thinky mood, lately. I've been rereading old Copperbadge (Sam Starbuck) entries, which always puts me in the mood for study. I want to Be Scholarly about unexpected topics, and I'd like to do some reading in that vein.  And finish reading Invisible Cities.

2011 beckons. I'm about to start classes I'm super excited about, probably learning super interesting things (one can only hope). Other exciting plans are in the works. Here's hoping all goes as planned, except for good surprises. We like those.


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