Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for the First Sunday in May

Thor is happy

It's been awhile since I've done one of these, so...

Currently reading:

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett: If you love books and libraries, you need to read this novel.

Posted:

The Vegetarian discussion post. I also wrote a review of Trust Me by Laura Florand, but I didn't post it. I'm not sure if I will.

Movies:

la la land
La La Land, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling

Oooooooooomg. Love this film. Love love love love love love! It's like a love letter to classic Hollywood musicals. The first half, where there's a TON of singing and dancing and insanely awesome choreography, is especially enjoyable. The second half has almost no singing or dancing, which I did not like as much. But, I mean, I laughed, I cried, I didn't hate it too much for not having a happy ending. If seeing a CinemaScope logo at the very start of a movie gives you warm fuzzies, you need to watch this movie. It was made for you.

the fate of the furious
The Fate of the Furious, starring Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel

If you ever feel like your brain needs to be beaten into a porridge-like substance unable to produce anything resembling logical thought–and I have felt like that on occasion–may I recommend this movie. It's actually not that bad. I mean, yeah, some of the stuff defies the laws of physics, but that's what you want in a Fast and Furious movie, right? Plus you got your exotic locales, cars falling out of buildings, that British guy who always plays a sketchy spy, the guys exchanging humorously insulting quips, super shiny, fancy motorized vehicles arranged in ways suspiciously resembling a car commercial. What's not to like?

These weeks in heidenkindom:

Have you ever had periods of time where you try to plan or do something and absolutely nothing ever works out? I think I'm in one of those periods right now.

Bonus:

Want some books about art? The Guggenheim has over 200 free to read online.



Have a great week, everyone!





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Saturday, May 6, 2017

9 Reasons The Vegetarian Will Change the Way You Think About Everything

the vegetarian by han kang

(Note: As Chrisbookarama pointed out, The Vegetarian cries out for a clickbaity title. So I used a link bait title generator to come up with one.)

A few days late, but still here! As you might know, I hosted a readalong of The Vegetarian by Han Kang for Book Bloggers International last month. Here are the discussion questions and my responses. Feel free to participate in the discussion yourself if you've read the book!

Questions:


First of all! What did you think of the book in general?

Well, I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, but then I'm pretty sure that's not its purpose. It's kind of a South Korean version of The Yellow Wallpaper. It wasn't an easy read, but it did make me think.

We never get to hear directly from Yeong-hye except in brief snippets of dream and memory. Why do you think the author tells her story through the lens of other people? Do you think this is effective?

I think Kang wanted to avoid giving the reader any illusions about Yeong-hye's agency (she has none) or choice. The book as a whole really makes one question how much choice any of us have. Like you may think you have control over your own body, your decisions of what you eat every day, who you marry, and so on, but how much of that is free will and how much of it is an attempt to fit into the role and circumstances you were born into?

Yeong-hye says she stopped eating meat because she had a dream. What do you think the dream was actually about?

I think the dream was about how much she wanted to get rid of her Objectively Awful Person (TM) husband, and she realized she could either kill him or reject violence completely. Hence the veganism.

Vegetarianism and fasting has been used as a form of social protest in the past, particularly among women (see, for example, "The Awakened Instinct: Vegetarianism and the Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain" by Leah Leneman and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams). Do you think this is what Yeong-hye is doing? Is she refusing to eat meat in order to stick it to the goddamn patriarchy?

In a way, yes, although I don't think she sees it like that because her actions are driven by her subconscious, not logic. She just got so SICK OF IT, she had a mental break. And as my Anthropology 101 professor once said, "Our culture dictates how we break."

As the story goes on, Yeong-hye seems to be transforming into a plant herself (or at least wanting to). Is this an art-imitating-life situation?

Her hubby certainly treated her like a plant. Like, "I got this plant because it looked okay and I thought it wouldn't be high maintenance, and for a while it grew just fine as far as I could tell. Then it started withering up so I decided to get rid of it."

He's a prince, ladies.

Yeong-hye's brother-in-law may seem more sympathetic to her than her husband, but is he?

Uhg, what a perv. He obviously views himself as better than his brother-in-law, but I doubt he sees Yeong-hye or his wife as people any more than Yeong-hye's husband did. There's also a part where he says he just assumes her silence is consent. Um, no.

There's a surprising amount of violence, both psychological and physical, in this book. Why do you think that is?

Yes. One would expect a book about a vegetarian to be violence-free, but nope! I think it's a response to the conformity of the society. People can't act out or express their emotions, so anger and fear and other negative feelings get pushed deeper and deeper inside until a person can't take it anymore and then it explodes out of them in unhealthy ways.

There's a part of the book where Yeong-hye says she felt like the dream that made her turn vegetarian came from her stomach. "The face is inside my stomach. It rose up from inside my stomach." I found that interesting because the gut is called the "second brain," and it responds to a lot of the stimuli in our brains that we don't want to deal with.

I also think part of it has to do with certain social contracts that accept violence as a way life, which exist in all cultures. Extreme examples would be slavery, or war. The killing of animals for meat is also an act of violence, one we accept because we're taught we have the right–maybe even the responsibility–to eat meat. But whether that's true or not doesn't make the members of a society any less complicit in the violence perpetuated by that act.

There are a lot of themes in the novel: obsession, dreams, conformity and acting "normal," choosing to act morally and choosing not to. Which of these themes stood out for you the most?

I would say each part of the book focuses on one theme more than the others. Part 1 was about conformity and Yeong-hye's rebellion against society and her husband's and family's expectations. Part 2 was more about obsession and allowing it to overtake your life to the point where right and wrong don't matter as long as you can make your fantasies a reality. Part 3... well, that one was a little muddy for me. I would say normality and how there's no such thing as "normal," but I don't think Part 3 was as well-realized as the previous two parts of the book.

Finally, what did you think of the ending? Does it negate the previous sections of the book?

To be honest, when I first read it I hated the ending. I thought the point of Yeong-hye's story was that she wasn't crazy, people just thought she was because she was rebelling against a false construct wherein she had to put up with raw deal she never agreed to. But the ending implied Yeong-hye was certifiably insane. So if that was the case, her family was right and choosing not to eat meat was the act of someone with "hints at hysteria, delusion, weak nerves and so on".

However, later I read this review of The Vegetarian, where the writer suggests that maybe Yeong-hye's gradual starvation is a form of sallekhana, a fast to the death practiced by Jains in order to "extricate... the devotee from the endless cycles of violence in which we are embedded." That sounds like it fits into the themes of the book better than just making Yeong-hye crazy. But it's hard to say for sure if that was Kang's intention.


Have you read The Vegetarian? What did you think?




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Saturday, April 29, 2017

April 2017 #Readathon

24 hour readathon

Another Readathon has come and gone, whomp-whomp. I did manage to complete my goal of reading The Vegetarian by Han Kang, so yay! That makes it the first and only book I've ever started and finished in a single Readathon. I wouldn't say I enjoyed reading it, but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be an enjoyable read anyway. It was really dark and violent and weird and disturbing. But, if you can get past that, well worth the time to read I think.

If you read The Vegetarian too, be sure to check out my discussion post for it on BBI.

CLOSING SURVEY

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?

Honestly, there were a lot of daunting hours. The three hours it took to make dinner, which turned out to be a disaster, for example. Also around 2am I was just really tired and fed up with reading The Vegetarian.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?

No.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?

Idk, I kind of miss the cheerleaders. Maybe people could commit to a length of time and platform?

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Even though I got annoyed with it, reading one short book during the Readathon worked out better than I expected. I may do something similar next time.

5. How many books did you read?

One (and on a side note, how do people manage to read multiple books??? I know I got a late start, but I was also up until 4am, so it's not like I wasn't putting time into reading)

6. What were the names of the books you read?

Don't make me type it again.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

I didn't.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

All of them.

9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate if I am able!


STATS

Mini-challenges completed:

  • One Night Reads
  • Show Us the Weather
  • A few of the #IGReadathon challenges
  • Summer Road Trip
Consumed:
  • 2 glasses of water
  • 1 cup of coffee
  • A piece of breakfast casserole
  • Snacks: grapes, apple, hummus and pita chips
  • Roasted chicken, paprika-parmesan corn, yeast roll
  • Wine/martinis
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Hallo hallo. For those of you who don't know, today is the 24 Readathon, aka the bibliophile's Super Bowl. I'm getting a late start on the Readathon this time around, even by my standards, but I am awake at last a ready to read!

Let's get this party started with the opening survey. I'll be updating this post throughout the Readathon instead of creating new posts because laziness.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

"I believe I have seen hell and it's white, it's snow-white."

A snow-packed Colorado.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

My goal is only to read one book this time around, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, for a readalong I'm hosting over at Book Bloggers International. It's a live readalong!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I don't really do snacks. I am looking forward to the breakfast casserole I currently have in the oven, and maybe leftover enchiladas for lunch.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Okay! I have three dogs: two Scottie/schnauzers from the same litter and one miniature schnauzer who's a rescue dog. They enjoy watching Cesar Millan and Animal Planet.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Usually I just try to finish what I'm currently reading during the readathon, but this time I'm focused on getting through one book. Fortunately Andi said it was a fast read and she was right! I'm already 10% through it and I literally just woke up.

MID-EVENT SURVEY

It's the middle of the Readathon already??? Wow, time flies when you sleep in till 10. Here's the mid-event survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

The Vegetarian

2. How many books have you read so far?

Zero!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I'll probably pick up What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol. 3 if I ever get through The Vegetarian (I'm actually more than halfway through already, I just know that after dinner when Doctor Who comes on and everyone piles into the living room it will be a challenge to focus on reading).

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Not really. I took a shower.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

It's been a pretty quiet Readathon. I wish it was warm so I could sit outside with a glass of rosé, but otherwise it's been what I imagine an ideal Readathon would be like.


Are you joining in the Readathon today? What are your plans?



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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Snapshot – Spring is Here!

The eye of Calypso

Currently reading:

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles: Idk, I don't hate it, but I do wish I was finished with it already.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by GS Denning: Absolutely hilarious.

Posted:

Reviews of Act Like It, A Study in Charlotte, and Beastly Bones over at Book Riot; and a peek at the exhibition Japan Style over at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center.

Movies:

cafe society
Café Society, starring Guy Who's Not Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart

Ooof. This script needed A LOT more work. One thing you should know before watching this movie is that the first 2/3rds are a prologue. The actual story about the "Café Society" doesn't start until there's only about forty minutes left to go! But since we've fiddle-farted around with the prologue for so long, none of the secondary characters are fleshed out and the story has no emotional impact. The narration should have been done away with completely, Kristen Stewart and Not Michael Cera have zero chemistry together and are occasionally painful to watch, and even the art direction made me feel like I was wasting my time.

There is one good line in the movie, though: "Socrates once said, 'The unexamined life is not worth living.' But the examined one is no bargain."

This week in heidenkindom:

Not much new and noteworthy to report, but spring is in the air and that makes me happy (most of the time). Here are some pictures of flowers!




Bonus:

When we think of novels that inspire people to do crazy things, we probably think of Catcher in the Rye. But Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired so many people to commit suicide that it was banned in Leipzig, Denmark, and Italy. Even today, a rash of suicides in a single area is called The Werther Effect.

the more you know


Have an excellent, Werther-free week, everyone!



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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Snapshot for the Last Sunday in March

High winds tore the roof off my local library

Currently reading:

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino: Coming across an old school chum is never a good sign in these books.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter: TBH I've completely forgotten what these two are investigating or why.

Posted:

Discover the other wines of Champagne and meritage, the New World wine blend to look for if you love Bordeaux.

Movies:

woman in gold
Woman in Gold, starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, and Tatiana Maslany

LOVED IT. This movie shows exactly why I study art and why I think it's important: it tells us who we are. But it doesn't necessarily tell the story we think it does, or tell a single story. I ugly cried at the end and I didn't even care. The scenes of pre-War Vienna were also perfect; Tatiana Maslany really looked like she could be a younger Helen Mirren.

My only criticism is that Ryan Reynolds struggled with the whole mild-mannered nice guy persona. Sometimes he'd break character, and when he wasn't breaking character it was painfully obvious he was Acting!.

life
Life, starring Rebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Bradley Cooper (kidding, it's Ryan Reynolds again)

Scientists at the International Space Station collecting samples from Mars discover an adorable single-celled organism named Calvin that's all eyes, all brain, all muscle, looks like a vampire bat, and grows rapidly. What could go wrong?!

Idk about this movie; I spent most of it rooting for the alien. Also there are a ton of inconsistencies: lack of oxygen is supposed to kill Calvin, but it spent 20 minutes frolicking around in outer space like a kid in a McDonald's play area! I think it would have been better if the filmmakers had pulled a Jaws and not let us see Calvin for most of the movie. Because it was way too cute.

foodies movie
Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set, directed by Thomas Jackson, Charlotte Landelius, and Henrik Stockare

This documentary follows the life and adventures of top-tier foodie bloggers, who travel the world in their quest to eat at Michelin-starred restaurants. In other words, the life I wish I had.

If anything, this film made me glad I'm not one of these super food bloggers, or whatever they call themselves. Yes, I have scheduled portions of vacations around eating in specific restaurants before, but they weren't Michelin restaurants, and even if I could afford such a diet, I wouldn't even want to eat in these fancy-ass places for all three meals every damn day. I would have liked to have seen some questioning of the Michelin rating system and a few bloggers who don't slavishly follow it, as well. Overall just an okay doc.

snowden
Snowden, starring Shia Lebeouf? wrong! Joseph Gordon-Levitt

You can really tell this movie was directed by Oliver Stone. For some people that might be a good thing. For me, eh. I enjoyed JFK, but that movie was actually entertaining. This one, on the other hand, is too vague and bland to be terribly interesting. Your time would be better served watching Citizenfour.

I did like the performances, however! I was impressed by how well Lebeouf–no–Levitt transformed into Snowden, but really all the actors do a top notch job. My favorite by far, however, was Rhys Ifans as Corbin O'Brien. He brought some very much needed personality and energy into this film.

miss peregrine's home for peculiar children
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, starring Eva Green and Asa Butterfield (for whom I couldn't invent a more appropriate name)

Okay, but not as good as the book. I would have expected a movie like this to be totally up Tim Burton's alley, but he never went for the jugular with it. It could/should have been scary, or at the very least creepy, but instead it was all nice, bright skies, flowers, fun people with British accents, etc. Plus they kept the prologue and, while I can understand why they did, I still found it irritating.

Bonus:

Time is getting on, so I'm going to skip the updates for this week. I did want to share one link, though. Remember how I started keeping track of the nationality of all the authors whose books I read this year? Well, check out this handy map of every country's favorite/most famous novel.


Have a great week, everyone!



Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Snapshot: Saving Daylight

Calypso needs a few more zzzzs

Currently reading:

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas: So far I'm enjoying it a helluva lot more than Marrying Winterborne.

Beastly Bones by William Ritter: Frankenstein!

Posted:

Learn about Jura, France's most obscure wine region! And read my article on the Denver Art Museum's Mi Tierra installation art exhibit.

Movies watched:

gods of egyptGods of Egypt, starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler

I expected this movie to be pretty stupid, and I'm happy to say I wasn't disappointed! Although it is better than some other ancient tymes action flicks I've seen (Prince of Persia, The Last Legion, The Scorpion King... I could go on, I've yet to come across one I can say no to), it was about as accurate and plausible as one would expect. Which is to say not. at. all.

This week in heidenkindom:

Whelp, daylight savings is upon us (if you live in most of the US anyway). The long slog through winter is semi-officially over! Sometimes I don't have any problems adjusting to the time change and sometimes it takes weeks; I have a feeling this year it's going to be the latter.

Art history time:

jug in the form of a head gauguin
Jug in the Form of a Head, Self-portrait, Gauguin, 1889. Kunstindustrimuseet, Copenhagen.

I thought this was pretty damn fascinating: Only days after his epic fight and split with Van Gogh, Gauguin attended a decapitation in Paris, where he conceived of Jug in the form of a Head, a self-portrait-as-beheaded-death-mask. Even more curiously, the head has no ears. Is it a reference to Van Gogh cutting off his ear in Arles?


Have a great week, everyone!


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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Snapshot is MARCH-ing Along (See What I Did There?)

This is why we can't have nice things.

Currently reading:




Posted:




Movies watched:

i don't feel at home in this world anymore
I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, starring Melanie Lynskey and a completely unrecognizable Elijah Wood

When Ruth's laptop and her grandma's silver are stolen, she finds the police not just unhelpful, but completely without fucks to give. So she decides to take matters into her own tentacles and look for the stuff on her own, with a little help from a not-so-mysteriously-single neighbor.

Imagine Kill Bill, but instead of a ninja assassin seeking vengeance for a wedding massacre there's a shy nurse trying to find the people who broke into her house, and you basically have this movie. I thought the start of the film and the conclusion didn't really go together, but I did enjoy both parts for different reasons. Weirdly, it reminded me of Idiocracy–it's in that same lane of really sharp social commentary crouched in a completely ridiculous plot. Worth watching, I think!

This week in heidenkindom:

Not a lot going on this week, aside from the usual, which is nice after a hectic February. I finally finished Pretty Face, which was a slog (review to come!), and started The Last of August yesterday. Oh, and I made homemade hamburger buns from starter on Wednesday.

We've actually been trying out a few new recipes recently, and I have to say America's Test Kitchen has been killing it this season. Their cast iron steak and chicken are both simple to make and fantastic, and I tried their pan seared salmon this week and it was SO GOOD. Even my dad was like, "This is my new favorite salmon recipe!" (Note you have to create an account to access ATK recipes on their website.)

I also got a cookbook called Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World, where all the recipes have no more than 4 steps and 6 ingredients. So far every recipe we've tried from this cookbook have been absolute winners! Full of flavor and just plain delish. Some of the recipes are "strange" by American standards (it was written by a Frenchman and originally published in French), but as far as I'm concerned that only makes it more fun to flip through. It's fascinating to get another cultural perspective on basic, everyday dishes. I definitely recommend this one!

Bonus:

Tif is hosting a readalong of The Underground Railroad over at Book Bloggers International this month. The first discussion will be Monday, March 6th, for those who want to join in.


Have an wonderful week, everyone!



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