Wednesday Reading Meme

Jul. 19th, 2017 08:18 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Pierrepont Noyes’ My Father’s House: An Oneida Childhood, which I liked very much; although of course I would, being fond of a) childhood memoirs (I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis that “I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting”), b) memoirs about cults (really anything about cults), and c) the nineteenth century.

But even if you are interested in only one of those things, this is an engaging book; much recommended. The one thing it will not give you is a clear description of the Oneida Community’s collapse: Noyes was ten at the time and found the whole thing ominous but fuzzy.

I also finished rereading A Wrinkle in Time. I’m glad I reread it because I no longer feel that vague gnawing sense that I just didn’t get it - but at the same time, it’s a bit sad to reread it and realize that I’m just never going to love that book the way that some people do.

What I’m Reading Now

Kidnapped! I only intended to begin it, but somehow I ended up halfway through the book already. It’s such a cracking good adventure yarn, it’s very hard to put down!

I have begun Jane Langton’s The Astonishing Stereoscope! It’s early days yet, but I have high hopes that it will live up to the other books in the series - or at least the early books in the series; I hold a real grudge against Time Bike for being so dreadful that it stopped my exploration of the Hall Family Chronicles, even though I adored both The Diamond in the Window and The Fledgling. But fortunately the good books in the series are the kind that are just as good if you read them first as an adult.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Railway Children, which I also intended to read next last week, but I bought Noyes’ memoir at the museum and it simply had to take precedence, so… But this week I am quite determined! Railway Children or bust! Unless I find something simply irresistible in Amherst.

witness bears

Jul. 18th, 2017 07:48 pm
asakiyume: (nevermore)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Out of the corner of my ear I was listening to a Cornell West lecture from the 1990s, and in it he said "witness bearers," but I heard "witness bears," and I know bare-bear-bear wordplay is low-hanging fruit, but here is a witness bear.

witness bear

In other news, Wakanomori and I are nearly done watching Person of Interest. I *really* have liked this show. Not every single everything--I'm not into gangster plotlines--but all the characters, intensely, and the care with which the overall story arc was handled, and the AI, free will, ends-means, creator-created stuff, very much so.

Herb Garden

Jul. 18th, 2017 04:41 pm
osprey_archer: (nature)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
Micky and I swept through Cornell today, first to the art museum, where we spent most of our time on the top floor with the Asian Art - they go all across Asia, which naturally takes up quite a bit of space and time, so we were tired out by the end and didn't stop long in the rest of the museum. Well, except for a beautiful display of Tiffany glass on the landing between the second & third floors.

And then we went to the Cornell Botanical Gardens today, although it was rather hot, and had an absolutely splendid time walking around their herb garden - which was separated into themed plots, "Culinary Herbs," "Herbs for Tea," "Healing Herbs," "Herbs from Literature," and so on and so forth. (Many of the herbs were of course in more than one plot.)

I had a brief but intense interest in healing herbs when I was a kid, so it was nice to be able to see all those herbs that I'd read about in the flesh, if you will.

And also to sniff the leaves of many, many different kinds of mint, and try to pick up the non-mint undertones that are supposed to be there - apple mint, chocolate mint (yes, that's it's own plant!), mint sage... But really they all smelled like mint to me.

***

After that, being rather hot and tired, we repaired to an ice cream shop and thence to Micky's house (where I have been TRYING to do my laundry, but I fear I have become the Bane of Washing Machines - I broke the one in my apartment not too long ago, did I tell you? Well, I don't think I did anything to break it, it just broke while I was using it, but still...

In any case I have been having trouble getting the machine to work. Nothing seems to be working this afternoon: I also attempted to write a bit more of the Adventures of Harriet and Troy and alas have come up against the rocky shoals of Peter Wimsey's inimitable voice. He never sounds like himself when I write him. i suppose I could just cut him out entirely and have Troy meet Harriet all on her own, but then Wimsey can't discomfit Alleyn by calling him by his old Eton nickname (which, I have decided, should be "Allers,"), which would be too bad...

Oh well, dear. This is all lots of fun to brainstorm about, but I really can't do Peter's voice justice, and on the whole it's really more ambitious than I think I want to write. Perhaps it's just better to accept that the brainstorming will be the final product - as tormenting as that may be. Surely it's better than having nothing at all?

***

On the bright side, Micky has introduced me to The Great British Bake-Off. In fact she is at least the third friend to recommend this to me, but the first one to take the necessary step of forcing me to sit down and watch an episode, and it is just as charming and delightful as everyone has always promised.

Ithaca

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:00 pm
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I am arrived in Ithaca! The one in New York, not the Greek island, although the Greek island would also be a splendid place to visit someday.

We had a splendid dinner at a restaurant called Rulloff's, which is named after a famous nineteenth century Ithaca murderer (or famous at the time, at least; I had not heard of him until I read his famous last words written up on a chalkboard on the wall in the restaurant), and possessed of excellent food. We had crepes for dessert - or at least, we ordered crepes; I am not sure the chef understood that crepes are in fact supposed to be thinner than ordinary pancakes. However, as the pancakes were topped with raspberry compote and Nutella creamed into mascarpone, of course we forgave them their trespasses and ate them up entire.

***

And I had another thought about Oneida, which I forgot to put in my post yesterday.

Our guide mentioned that over the years in Oneida, the community voted to stop using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. Now on the one hand, these are all pretty normal nineteenth-century candidates for reform (the Mormons also banned, and IIRC still ban, all three).

But at the same time, hearing about this reminded me of the Rat Park experiments, which were studies in morphine addiction that took place back in the seventies. Rats in ordinary lab rat cages swiftly get addicted to morphine when they're offered the opportunity to take morphine-laced water. However, Bruce Alexander discovered that rats who lived in a less restricted environment - in a structure he called Rat Park, where they had toys and (more importantly) other rats to play with - barely used the morphine water at all.

And what occurred to me is that, for all its problems - which were after all severe enough to eventually break the community apart - Oneida was basically Human Park. Here you've got all these people hanging out together all the time, even doing a lot of their work in bees (think quilting bee, not spelling bee) so it will be more social and fun, constantly putting on entertainments for each other and playing croquet together and, of course, having lots of sex. Who needs cigarettes or beer or even tea when they've got infinite croquet?

...I mean, you'd still have to pull my tea out of my cold dead hands. But then I'm not living in Oneida, now am I.

***

Although it's also worth noting that living for five years in Oneida failed to dent future presidential assassin Charles Guiteau's delusions of grandeur even slightly, so clearly all the togetherness in the world is not a panacea.

Coyote Cinema: Baby Driver

Jul. 16th, 2017 09:54 pm
cyrano: (Coyote Cinema)
[personal profile] cyrano
I went in knowing the director did Scott Pilgrim and that it was an 'untraditional heist film'. It met my expectations. This is one of those 'good man driven to bad situations' plots that I love, complete with brief glimpses of what could be if only he could escape his bonds. For pretty much the entire second half of the film, Baby is in peril, and the directing keeps that afloat. I got caught up in the characters, and I properly hated the bad guy. Props, btw, to Kevin Spacey for showing up to work in this project. I was really worried they were going to fuck up the ending, but I was very satisfied with what I got.

I found it very hard to keep my car under the speed limit as I drove home. IT DID NOT HELP that THIS is what came up on the iPod when I started it up.

The Red Shoes

Jul. 16th, 2017 02:47 pm
asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Today in church one of the altar servers was wearing red ballet-slipper-style shoes with sparkles.

red shoes

They were beautiful, and I was thinking, wow, church has come a long way since Hans Christian Andersen's time (different denomination, too, but let's sail by that issue), when the poor protagonist of "The Red Shoes" eventually HAS TO HAVE HER FEET CHOPPED OFF for the sin of indulging in vanity by wearing her red shoes to church. And then, even after she's repented and had her feet cut off, her bloody feet, dancing in the shoes, keep her from entering the church!

I have vivid memories of the illustrations accompanying this story from the version of HCA's fairy tales that we had when I was a kid--particularly the one of Karen, the protagonist, her hair a wild golden tangle, pleading with the executioner to cut off her feet. With much searching (a zillion people have illustrated HCA, including famous people like Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham), I found that the edition we had was called Stories from Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by twin sisters, Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone. They had an overly pretty, slim, stylized way of drawing people that I was fascinated by. I couldn't find the one illustration online, but I did find the one of her going into church all in white... but with the offending red shoes on. Unfortunately the person who took the photo cut off the feet (LOL), so you can't see the shoes, but you can see the glow from them:


(source)

If you click on the source link, you can get more of a sense of the illustrators' style. They had a great illustration for "The Wild Swans" of the prince who ends up still with one arm a wing, but I thought you might like this fairly hot (in an overly pretty way) picture from Tales of Greeks and Trojans:


(source)


Symbolism in Life

Jul. 16th, 2017 07:35 am
cyrano: (Clay)
[personal profile] cyrano
Take this as you will, in your personal theory of the metaphysical relating to the physical or avatars or ritual or totems or whatever your personal theories involve, but since I got my new tattoo I've been a lot more interested in sex.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Previously unread.

This is the, what, ninth? eighth? book in Stross's The Laundry Files and the wheels on the hand-basket are truly on their way out, along a radial trajectory.

This book sees the return of many faces from previous books, as we slowly see things unwind around Bob. I am trying real hard to not let anything slip here, you see, as I feel that approaching the book spoiler-free is the most, ah, enjoyable? way of reading it. Surprising at least.

Anyway, Laundry Files, if you've read some of them before, you know what to expect. If you haven't, might I humbly suggest that this is perhaps not the best starting point (although it may well work as an intro novel). We do a fair bit of POV shifting in this book, even if it's primarily a "Bob" book (we also follow Mo, Mhari and Cassie, as well as the occasional follow-the-baddies).

All in all, a gripping read. I shall blame technology (and not being completely done with the previous book in time for the release) for taking this abysmally long to finish off something that was released a whole 4 days ago.

Oneida Community

Jul. 15th, 2017 05:23 pm
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I discovered, FAR TOO LATE, that it is actually possible to stay in the old Oneida Community building: they have converted part of it into a hotel (and an even larger part of it into apartments). IF ONLY! But they seem to get booked up far in advance, so probably even if I had popped over to their website when the idea of a road trip first occurred to me in June, I still couldn't have stayed there.

Still. MAYBE SOMEDAY. Upstate New York is so beautiful - I've never been here before, but I love the mountains - and so full of history: I just happened to stumble upon L. Frank Baum's hometown today. They have an Oz museum, which I did not visit, but if I come back...

Mostly I spent the day visiting the Oneida Community Mansion House, where the three hundred odd members of the community lived from the 1860s to 1880, when the community broke up. (They were in the area since 1848, but it took them some time to gather the resources to build that stately brick house.) I took the guided tour, which was really wonderful - we had a thoughtful and well-informed docent, a former English teacher, who not only knew everything about the house but had read most of the books in the gift shop and helped me decide which one to buy. (I ended up with Pierrepont B. Noyes' memoir of his childhood at Oneida, which is delightful so far.)

The Oneida Community was a Christian perfectionist cult - perfectionist in the sense of "We can achieve sinless grace on earth!", not its modern meaning. They practiced:

1. Bible communism. Everyone in the community holds all goods in common; the community takes care of everyone and everyone does work for the community, and all kinds of work are held to be holy.

2. Complex marriage. All the men and women in the community are heterosexually married to each other. People at the time often figured that there was a constant orgy going on in the mansion, but in fact sexual contact had to be carefully negotiated, usually through an intermediary, and anyone had the right to say no. (Charles Guiteau, who later assassinated President Garfield, lived in the Oneida Community for five years and could not get laid.) You'd think women would be getting pregnant all the time, except the community also practiced

3. Male continence. Men were not to ejaculate during sex. This apparently worked really well - there were only forty pregnancies in the group's first twenty years of existence - possibly because incorrect ejaculation would come up during Mutual Criticism, which would be totally mortifying and also limit one's future sex partners.

4. Which brings us neatly to Mutual Criticism, during which people were allowed - nay, encouraged! - to tell you all your faults so you could try to correct them and thus approach nearer to spiritual perfection. This sounds excruciating, but Pierrepont Noyes, in his memoir, comments that "because members had the opportunity to criticize each other openly, Community life was singularly free from backbiting and scandalmongering," so perhaps it's a case of ripping off the bandaid all in one go rather than taking it up millimeter by excruciating millimeter.

And also everyone except John Humphrey Noyes, the founder, underwent Mutual Criticism, so any impulse toward harshness much have been tempered by the knowledge that the criticizer might soon by the criticized.

I have no idea if the Community owned this many portraits of Noyes when it was active, but now they are everywhere. It reminded me a bit of the omnipresent Lenins in the Soviet Union, although this comparison is unfair to Noyes: he seems to have been about as benevolent a patriarch as it is possible for any human being to be, spoken of with love and respect even after the community fell apart.

Although I do think the comparison does serve to show the limits of the Oneida community, as enticing as certain aspects of the experiment seem. (I for one like the idea of living in a mansion full of like-minded people with a well-stocked reading room and an endless round of entertainments: the Oneidans, no ascetics, played croquet, put on plays, read novels aloud to each other, and fielded a full orchestra.) Communes seem to need a charismatic leader to succeed - hence the mayfly nature of most nineteenth-century commune experiments - and there's no guarantee you'll get a benevolent Noyes rather than someone voraciously power-mad.

2017 - #72, "The Skinner", Neal Asher

Jul. 15th, 2017 01:55 pm
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

This is the first book in the Sptterjay series, set in Asher's Polity world.

Time-wie, the Spatterjay books fall well after the rest of the series (bar, possibly, Transformation), but as the first two books takes place entirely (or almost entirely) on the planet of Spatterjay (see how the planet meshes with the name of the series...), it's not massively important exactly how it lines up timewise.

We follow a couple of different viewpoint characters. Ehrlin is a Hooper (that is, someone who's been infected by the leech virus, present in most (if not all) lifeforms on Spatterjay), who's been away from Spatterjay for a while, having adventures. Janer is employed by a sentient hornet hive, that he (some decades ago) spent two years indentured to, for killing one of its bodies at a football match. Sable Keech is a reif (basically a cyber-enhanced walking corpse), and ECS monitor. Sniper, a war drone. And Windcatcher, which I shall say nothing about. And a few more, who get walk-on POV roles.

Fundamentally, this is a story about loss and revenge. And how these things change, as time passes. I guess there's some talk about life and what immortality may mean for the human condition.

Again, this is a Polity book so it's kinda grimdark, in places.

shy like a pigeon

Jul. 14th, 2017 10:18 am
asakiyume: (miroku)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Eve Shi introduce me to this great phrase, shy like a pigeon. It means someone who seems gregarious, but flies off if you get too close. I really understand that! I can be really sociable so long as there's a certain distance built in, like with .... drumroll .... social media!1 Specifically, the sort of interaction that you can get on LJ/DW. You can share all sorts of thoughts, chat, enthuse about whatever it is you want to enthuse about, even give or receive comfort and consolation--but you can also retreat, and by and large people won't mind too much. It reminds me of something [personal profile] sovay said about a writer's characterization, that his characters were "on the whole are drawn more vividly than deeply." It's that type of friendship, vivid but not deep.

Of course you can *make* it deep. I bet anyone who's been online for more than a few years has had serious, lasting friendships blossom from their online interactions. I know several people who've gotten married to people they met online. But when it gets deep, most probably you're no longer interacting solely through LJ/DW. Probably you're meeting up in person, sending private messages or emails, maybe exchanging paper letters, maybe phoning--you're getting to know the person through more than one medium.

But once a friendship is a deep one, you can't convert it back into a shallow one. You can drift apart as friends--that happens--but you'll never not have shared a deep friendship. And if you have a social-media space made up of people who are mainly close friends, that's very different from a social-media space made up of strangers and acquaintances. Speaking for myself (but I'm willing to bet this is true for many people), it changes how you interact. You have responsibilities in a way you don't if you're interacting with strangers and acquaintances.

Musing on the nature of online interactions and in-the-flesh interactions, and what friendship is, etc. etc., has gradually led me to the conclusion that I haven't been a very good real-life friend to very many people. I **haven't** done that thing that gets talked about in every movie and every essay on friendship: I haven't been there as a supportive presence for people in hard times. Not very much. Part of me wants to say that it took my mother dying, and having to be there for my dad, for me to understand what being there for someone really means. Kind of late in life to learn that stuff.

But I'm trying harder now. Still in a very limited way, because, see above, shy like a pigeon. (Or maybe I shouldn't blame shyness. Maybe it's just selfishness.)

I thought I might segue into talking about how being in a social-media space composed of actual friends lends itself to certain types of posts and inhibits others, but as I think about it more, I think a lot of that comes down to personal styles--it's actually hard to generalize on. Maybe what I could talk about would be my own feelings on that--but another time.


1And not just social media. Acquaintanceship through some shared activity can be like this; my interactions with people in my book group feels similar. Warm, friendly, but not too deep.
osprey_archer: (writing)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I have to leave Lily Dale today, and feel rather as though I am being pushed out of paradise. It is so quiet here! So quiet – and so many flowers – and I’ve gotten such a lot of work done – 7,000 words on a new novel!

Which is perhaps too similar to The Time-Traveling Popcorn Ball in some ways, by the by, but perhaps that one was not quite ready for prime time yet, poor thing.

But there are no rooms at the inn, so I must be moving on. I’m heading up toward Oneida, I think. We shall see if I actually make it all the way to my stated destination this time…

***

Oh, and also – I hope you’re happy, you monsters:

“Lord Peter Wimsey was one of your schoolfriends?” Troy asked.

“A schoolmate, at least,” Alleyn said, after a slight hesitation. “We investigated a case together at school.”

Under other circumstances, Troy might have laughed, or pressed for details. But now she simply smoothed the letter in her hand and frowned down at it again. “And now he wants me to paint his wife, the suspected murderess.”

“Acquitted,” Alleyn reminded her. “Not all suspects are guilty, you know.”

“Of course,” Troy said. Her own days as a murder suspect rose in her mind. She pushed them ruthlessly back. “But no one seems to have impressed this on the press. A suspected murderess painting a suspected murderess – soon I will be painting nothing but pretty murderesses for their rich foolish fans. So many criminals have the most boring faces.”

As she spoke, a newspaper photograph from the Vane case floated up in her mind. The girl had looked almost ugly, with a sullen mouth and a strong, dark brow.

It was the brow that made Troy pause now. There might be something in that. One could not tell from a newspaper photograph.

“I suppose,” she acquiesced, “it will do no harm to meet her.”

Lily Dale

Jul. 13th, 2017 10:42 am
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
A few years ago I read a book about Lily Dale, a small town - a hamlet, really - founded in western New York in the late nineteenth century as a center for Spiritualism. It is still around today, a bastion of slightly faded gentility: the white paint feeling, the dock sinking into the lake, but all the buildings bowered in daylilies and hydrangeas and black-eyed Susans.

I know this because I saw a sign for it as I was driving to Chautauqua a couple days ago, and skidded round the curve (well, not literally, but psychologically, if you will) in my haste to visit the place. It might make a nice afternoon, I thought.

I am still here. It's just so peaceful! And quiet! And full of flowers! The hotel has no telephones, television, air-conditioning, or internet (I'm eating a cinnamon roll in a WiFi equipped cafe right now), which appeals to a strange luddite part of my soul. Although perhaps not so strange, because the lack of any distractions means that I have gotten quite a bit of reading and writing done.

And speaking of writing - I think this town, suitably disguised of course, would make a fabulous setting for a book. Something with ghosts, naturally, or time travel, or not so much time travel as the layers of time shifting and overlapping each other, because time is an illusion - and never more so in a place that has become such a sink of spiritual energy. Everything that will happen, has already happened, and is still happening, all at the same time...

Wednesday Reading Meme

Jul. 12th, 2017 11:52 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I galloped through Have His Carcase and Gaudy Night, and enjoyed them so thoroughly that I lent them straightaway to Emma and therefore cannot quote from either of them, more’s the pity. Although in the case of Have His Carcase this is not such a problem, because it’s easy to discuss its virtues without reference to direct quotes: it has one of the most perfect twist endings to a mystery that I have ever read. Everything’s a horrible muddle up to the end, and then one little detail comes into focus – absolutely unexpected and yet perfectly foreshadowed – and all is illuminated.

Gaudy Night, though, could bear quoting, and extensive quoting, and I want to read it again and bookmark the relevant quotes about the contemplative life – the life of the mind vs. the life of the heart (insofar as they are set against each other) – the way that this thematic argument intertwines and somewhat obscures the mystery (at least to Harriet’s mind) and yet is integral to it.

…also, I want a story where Harriet Vane and Agatha Troy meet. They have so much in common! They’re both prickly artists, both pursued by detectives who are tragically awkward about love (although Alleyn at least has the dignity not to propose to Troy every five minutes), and both at one point in their lives murder suspects, although Troy only sipped of the cup that poor Harriet drank nearly to the dregs.

Perhaps Peter commissions Troy to paint Harriet’s portrait. (Harriet doubtless hates the idea, but acquiesces on the ground that if she must be painted by anyone, it might as well be Troy.) Murder, inevitably, ensues.

What I’m Reading Now

I spent most of yesterday reading C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life sitting either on a lakeside bench shaded by a weeping willow or in a white wicker rocker by the open window, and it has proven itself more than equal to both settings. I ought to write more about it; perhaps later.

And I’m about halfway through a reread of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and alas it is still no more than moderately pleasant. I had thought that perhaps I read it before I was ready for it, but maybe it simply was never going to be the L’Engle book for me. It just spells everything out, emotionally speaking – Meg meets Calvin and almost instantly there’s absolute trust and he’s pouring his heart out to her – and I guess I want more emotional tension between characters, never mind they’ve got cosmic evil to fight.

What I Plan to Read Next

Busman’s Honeymoon is next in queue!

And then, I think, I shall have a crack at E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children. I am a little concerned that one Nesbit will lead to another – and with Nesbit there seem to be absolute piles of others for it to lead to – but after all there are worse things.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

First book in Jansen's Ambassador series. I must've confused this with another "interstellar ambassador" book, since my distinct memory was "ugh, do not like". This, as it turns out, is wrong.

Where was I? Ah, yes, Cory Wilson, our intrepid viewpoint character, is just about to start his job as ambassador for Earth to the gamra assembly, part of the interstellar crowd that run The Exchange (basically, what enables interstellar travel). And as part of the upcoming travel, he's talking to the president of the UN (well, it's called something else, and it seems to be an actual ruling body, and, you know...) when the unthinkable happens. And the unthinkable is taht there's a direct attack on said president, while our POV character is in the office.

And from there, things start unravelling at a frightening pace.

All in all, eminently readable. Now I'm vaguely interested in chasing down my previous post about this one.

Montreal!

Jul. 11th, 2017 08:27 am
osprey_archer: (cheers)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I am returned from Montreal! Which was a delight! Emma and I took the train from Toronto and discovered that the entire street to the art museum is positively lined with statues for an art fair - I have some photos which I must post later; there were so tinselly metal trees that looked enormously like truffula trees.

Naturally we discovered this while walking to the art museum, which was also delightful. I wish we had more time there - I think you'd need at least two days to do it properly - we spent most of our time in the Canadian art building, on the grounds that one probably sees the best spread of Canadian art in Canada. And indeed, it had a lovely exhibit of modern Inuit art - in particular, a really lovely piece of a great glass sea creature rising up beneath the ice, a mermaid with much more fish to her than an everyday mermaid: arms melting into fins instead of becoming hands, the slits for gills across her breasts, tiny sharp teeth in her mouth as she gazed up at the men in a canoe far above.

Unfortunately the glare on the Plexiglass case meant I couldn't manage a good photo. Alas!

And there was a room below with the paintings hung salon-style (from the days when Canada had salon exhibitions), which is something I've seen before but always, always enjoy. Such a visual feast! If I could go back in time, I believe I would attend a salon opening somewhere - France would be most exciting but I don't speak the language (as a visit to Montreal cannot but drive home), so perhaps England. Or Canada, clearly.

And then we acquired a bottle of wine and a bag of croissants and hiked up the Parc du Mont Royal. We settled in the shade of an stately tree on the gentle green slopes around a small lake dotted with canoes and miniature sailboats. "Are they remote-controlled?" Emma asked. "They had them in Edwardian times, so they couldn't have been then," I said; but we never did find out if the modern ones are.

It was all very Sunday Afternoon in the Park. There were even a few parasols, a bright red one shading the ice cream cart that slowly perambulated the lake, and a little tiny one over a baby in a stroller.

I am a convert to the idea of wine in parks everywhere; the Montreal rule that the wine must be part of a picnic seems only sensible and likely to increase enjoyment in any case. In general I quite approved of what I saw of the city (wine in the parks, sculptures on the streets), although I remain puzzled by the massive staircases on the front of so many of the houses. They're very picturesque, of course - I bought no less than four postcards featuring their staircase glory - but they look like they would be such death traps in the winter.

Heading back to the United States today! Have not quite decided where I will go next. I am torn between Oneida (one-time home of President Garfield's assassin, Charles Guiteau! Who lived in a nineteenth-century group marriage cult where he couldn't get laid) and Seneca Falls, which seems like an awfully out-of-the-way place for the first women's rights convention, but there you are.

Chautauqua also beckoned me briefly - it was a great center for educational talks in the late nineteenth century - and there are of course the pleasures of hiking along the Finger Lakes... I have five days before I have another scheduled stop, so the possibilities simply multiply in all directions!

On the Road

Jul. 10th, 2017 12:11 am
cyrano: (Expecto Patronum)
[personal profile] cyrano
O'Hare takes on a completely different character on Sunday evening. Nobody's turbo race-walking through the terminal. There's room to go around people. There was room at the urinal corral when I stopped in to pee. I had time to chat with the folks at the lunch stand where I bought a Coke, and they gave me a free glass of ice since the Coke wasn't very cold. (They were fake-complimenting my nail enamel in Spanish, but I pretended they were serious and thanked them and told them how much I liked this color with my skin. Mia, it's the bottle you gave me.)

It's remarkably nice to get off the bus and know you're a block away from someplace you're welcomed and feel like you belong, and there's a key waiting so you can go in and decompress and cool down from the muggy warm trip. Dexter volunteered to be my surrogate Ichabod, and offered to sprawl on the floor so I could pet him and give him skritches. We had a group phone call with Rose's mum, which just accented that it's nice to be here.

The Bird Island Boat Tour

Jul. 9th, 2017 02:22 pm
asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
[personal profile] asakiyume
We didn't set out with any plan do anything like a boat tour, and when we saw a brochure in a visitors' center somewhere, featuring a puffin wearing a captain's hat and a promise of seeing puffins, we thought it would be fun, but still it wasn't something we were actually planning on doing.



conversation, legends, and bird information under the cut )

My attempts at photographing puffins, razorsbills, bald eagles, black guillmonts ("white wing patches, and sexy red legs" was how Ian taught us to recognize them), and cormorants hanging their wings to drain and dry were hopeless, so I'll post a couple of the Van Schaiks' own photos:

puffins!


razorbills




... and share my sketch of some seals instead. The scribbled note says "Mark said, when I said that they have dog faces, that his dad said the males have dog faces and the females have horse faces."



1 I can't find any corroboration for this legend elsewhere, and I may have mangled it--but anyway, it makes a good story. (The closest thing I find is the remarks of John MacGregor, published in 1828, remarking about fishermen on the other side of Cape Breton, that they
are Acadian French, who live by pursuing cod, herring, and seal fisheries, together with wrecking; at which last occupation, in consequence of the frequent shipwrecks about the entrance of the Gulf during the spring and fall, for several years, they are as expert as the Bermudians, or the people of the Bahamas.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
[personal profile] vatine
Reread.

Second of Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, starting about a year after the end of the previous book, taking things further and maybe kicking shit up a notch or two, as a sequel is wont. On the whole, eminently readable.

Many bookstores, Strong Poison

Jul. 7th, 2017 09:02 am
osprey_archer: (snapshots)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
A most successful hunt through the bookstores yesterday! Although amusingly I got the most books at a bookstore I had not realized existed: I stopped in the library for a drink of water, and there was the Friends of the Library bookstore, and I found TWO books there, hooray!

I also found a copy of E. Nesbit's The Railway Children, which I have long intended to read, in a Little Free Library, which is the first time I have found something I really wanted in a Little Free Library and marks an epoch in my life.

The Little Free Library! )

And eventually it grew too hot for traipsing from bookstore to bookstore, so I stopped at a cafe for a lemon bar and finished Strong Poison (v. much approve, have already started Have His Carcase, Peter has proposed to Harriet approximately five times including by telegram:

FOLLOWING RAZOR CLUE TO STAMFORD REFUSE RESEMBLE THRILLER HERO WHO HANGS ROUND HEROINE TO NEGLECT OF DUTY BUT WILL YOU MARRY ME - PETER

I feel that this persistence ought to be annoying but instead I find it weirdly charming.)

The cafe also had this delightful little door in the wall.

The fairy door )

I have always loved stories about tiny people who live in the walls. In fact when I was in kindergarten I invented a long one to amuse myself at school. The Paintwater Witches lived in the drains in the back of the classroom and used all the dirty paint water we poured down in their potions. Clearly the tiny people living in a cafe can expect far more gourmet fare!

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