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4/5. I really loved this book. Though something I should say about it is that I read the kindle sample and was... not thrilled by it? A large part of it is in second person (some of it is in first person) and nothing happened in the kindle sample and I was not sure whether I wanted to read the rest. Then I happened to be in the bookstore with my kids buying a birthday party present, and read something like the first 50 pages, and Things Happened, and I was utterly hooked and I actually bought it in hardcover, which never happens, and devoured it over a weekend. (All that is to say, read the first 50 pages before giving up.)

I wish I hadn't had the spoiler about its literary antecedents, because I would have enjoyed figuring it out on my own, but even so it was a lot of fun to trace the story through and figure out the inversions and motivations and how they differ from the earlier canon. (I also am told that there is another literary antecedent which I have not read and am thinking I have to now.)

I have So Many Feelings about this book which I am struggling to articulate, because I am not entirely sure why I loved it as much as I did, and I can't say that someone else might or might not like it. I think what I love about it is how Leckie is playing with this idea of the assumptions we bring to a text, and how we fill that in. This is manifest in both the rules of the narration as set forth by the narrator (who has to be very careful about only saying things that the narrator knows to be true, and so never assigns definite motivations or feelings to a character) and the way that the entire book functions as a retelling of a story we all know. We never really get the full backstory on Eolo and Mawat; we don't really know why Eolo is loyal to him or what that loyalty looks like from the inside (from either side) at all. But because we know this story, because we know that loyalty-relationship trope, the trope works and works brilliantly even though I closed the book and thought, "Now wait a second... there wasn't any internal scaffolding for that relationship there at all, how did she do that?!"

I was entertained that Leckie appears to have read Max Gladstone, or at least we are now living in a post-Craft-Sequence god-worldbuilding world, because the conception of gods appears to have some distinct similarities, although Leckie is interested in different facets of this conceit. Really interesting how the two authors took a similar idea in two rather different directions.

The book also kind of hit the sweet spot for me between having to sit down and figure out what happened via all the intriciacies of what was and wasn't true in the narrative, and being straightforward with a level at which I could enjoy it without figuring anything out and I didn't have to work so hard that I was frustrated.

And I haven't even mentioned the delicate way the book touches on gender, without it being a big deal. There's a lot going on in this book -- it's deceptively carrying a lot of freight, I think.

(ETA: Tried not to put spoilers in this post, but spoilers in comments are fair game!)
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OK I saw the Fleming-Hampson Arabella and I have so many feelings about it.

First, we have the following items:
-One tenor (Matteo) who is going around... being... a tenor
-One overreacting baritone (Mandryka), confronted with misleading though convincing evidence of soprano betrayal
-One mezzo (Zdenka/Zdenko) who is cross-dressing and complicating everything
-One utterly blameless soprano (Arabella) who nevertheless is not very pleased by everyone else going crazy around her and eventually gives up on trying to explain, especially since she doesn't actually know at this point what's going on
-One bass (Waldner) who is having some family HONOR issues as a result of all of this
-Some swords and/or pistols that make a convenient appearance at this point in the plot (it's not actually clear to me whether it's both?)

Basically speaking, all the ingredients for a Verdian level of tragedy.

And then --

Read more... )
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I wrote about this (denying baptisms and blessings to children of LGBT parents, and considering same-sex marriages as apostasy) a little here. I have been very strongly opposed to this policy. While I don't agree with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' stance on gay relationships in general, I understand why it is a natural consequence of the church's current theology. But this policy, I believe, was both incoherent with church theology and against scripture, in addition to it just being wrong. I almost left the church over it, and although I didn't end up doing so, I have only been active on the ward and stake level since then and have not contributed to the church as an institution.

I'm so, so glad they've walked this back.


Apr. 4th, 2019 06:22 pm
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Hey, I'm kind of catching up -- this is only two months late :)

So after falling in love with Book of Mormon of course my next step was to go look at what else Andrew Rannells has ever done (I also found that he's an excellent and witty interviewee, and writing this up reminded me to put his book on hold at the library), and when I found out he was in a musical with Christian Borle, whom I have been following ever since I found out about Legally Blonde lo these many years ago, I was going to be watching it despite its name (I'm sorry, but the name did not exactly evoke confidence in me), and I probably would have enjoyed it no matter how bad it was.

It was brilliant. (I watched an upload of a professionally filmed version -- I think they filmed it for PBS -- here, with the usual caveats about how they go down and back up again frequently, and if this link breaks let me know and I'll try to replace it if possible.)

I mean. It is set in the 80's, and originally produced in the 90's, and there's this sort of era where it feels like every story produced in the 90's and set in the 80's and involving gay men has to involve at least one of them dying tragically of AIDS. (And there's a distinct implication that his partner is going to die tragically of AIDS after the end of the musical.) But while that's the ending of the plot, it's not what the musical is about.

It's about family, and what that means, and how you make a family when you've intentionally fractured your own family, and how you recover from that, and it's about having a kid (Anthony Rosenthal is freaking brilliant in this, the whole cast is amazing but he's especially amazing) and how that kid relates to life and you and everything, and it's about being Jewish.

Borle and Rannells, as Marvin and his lover Whizzer, are both their usual great acting selves. I honestly think Borle's voice isn't that amazing, but his voice acting/acting can't be beat. He also is very convincing as a Marvin who is... very not-perfect, who is very flawed. I had never heard of Brandon Uranowitz before, but he's absolutely wonderful as the psychologist who marries Marvin's ex-wife Trina (and is often the voice of sanity when Marvin and Trina have conflicts). Stephanie J. Block I'd heard of before, but never really seen in action, and she is just amazing as the neurotic ex-wife. And just when I was starting to question why the only woman we saw was kind of neurotic, in Act 2, Tracie Thoms and Betsy Wolfe are just so great as the lesbian neighbors. (Can we have more lesbian doctor characters please? Thoms/Dr. Charlotte was so great!)

I was looking at a copy of the libretto for The Usual Reasons, and it struck me how much (and how well) it is written for stage; the dialogue doesn't seem like anything special written down on the page, but the actors make it come alive.

(I don't really have much to say about it, not because it was bad, but because it was so well done that I don't have much to say except "yup, that was brilliant.")
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So, for Reasons (beta reasons), I read and watched Crazy Rich Asians last November/December. It's the first movie I've watched since... umm... the seventh Star Wars movie? (I will watch the eighth one soon, as E is asking to watch it.) And, although lately I've been having a lot of trouble with movies (I just don't have the staying power lately, it seems -- I bail out after about ten minutes), I loved it.

The book was hilarious and I really liked it, although it's honestly not very good. The writing is reeeeally pedestrian, the characterization is pretty flat (Rachel, for instance, is introduced as a professor of economics, but you would never know it from the entire rest of the book), and all in all I don't think I could possibly recommend it with a straight face. But what it does do really well is, very breezily, give us a snapshot of an extremely rich society (which -- that alone I am willing to read poorly written books for; I just get a kick out of them) where everyone in the society pretty much acts like my family. I mean. I would put up with a lot for that.

The movie fixed a lot of things that annoyed me about the books -- Eleanor Young got much more of an arc (and it was really good); Rachel actually got a couple of bits where it was relevant that she was an economist; the sheer idiocy of Nick never talking about his family with his girlfriend was addressed. Also, like -- I have actually never felt overly-interested in or invested in characters who looked like me in movies. (Probably a lot of banana-mentality going on there.) So I was surprised when it moved me way more than I had expected to see a mainstream, popular movie where everyone looked (and acted, ha) like me and my family, and no one remarked on it. I mean, it was like part of me had been waiting for a movie like this my whole life, and I suddenly completely understood why it's a big deal.

I just read the two sequels China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. China Rich Girlfriend was my favorite -- I felt it was better written than Crazy Rich Asians, or possibly I just am more used to Kwan's style, because I had many fewer moments of "wow, this is terrible writing and although I am super enjoying it now I don't think I ever want to read it again." In fact I would go so far as to say I'd probably read it again :) Characterization continues to be paper-thin, but who reads this for the characterization?

Rich People Problems was my least favorite of the three, because it was depressing -- the first half of the book revolves around the impending death of a character, and the second half of the book revolves around everyone fighting over what's left. The tone continued to be light and breezily humorous, at odds with the more serious subjects, and it was a bit of whiplash sometimes. Kwan tried for emotional resonance sometimes but... mostly failed, and everything got really quickly wrapped up at the end.
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These are stories that I thought were really good and very well-written, possibly better-written than the stories that are actually going on my ballot; they had interesting premises and sometimes very cool execution. But they didn't quite... click for me. But they might for you. These are all from [profile] pscoptera.

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington
by Phenderson Djèlí Clark
. This is one apparently a lot of people liked (it's on the Nebula ballot) but I mean. It's about teeth. Well, it's about a lot of other things, but also... about teeth. Which is turns out is not really my thing.

Orange World, Karen Russell. Actually I thought this was a really good story, with the fantastic elements clearly in dialogue with the fears and magical thinking of being a postpartum mother. (Being a postpartum mother, specifically, in this decade in the US. Are you breastfeeding? If not, are you DOOMING YOUR CHILD TO low IQ and a terrible immune system and [insert study here]?? (Life spoiler: your baby will be fine whether you breastfeed or not.) Are you giving your baby enough skin-to-skin massages?? Etc. Oh God, I remember those days and I'm so glad they're over with, and this story really evoked that.) If anything I think my issues with it are that it starts bringing in all these really interesting questions and then it sort of backs away from really engaging with them in a meaty way. I don't know. It might end up on my ballot after all.

The Word of Flesh and Soul, Ruthanna Emrys. Grad school distorts your life in more tangible ways than in this universe! I'm not sure why this didn't grab me. I think part of it was the autism of one of the main characters and how the language they are studying refers to autistic people as "monsters," which was obviously supposed to be Making a Point, but instead it made me think about grad school in the sciences and how more than half of us weren't exactly what you'd call totally neuro-social-typical in every way and how that was generally regarded as pretty standard, and what would that look like in a story where what you were studying was literally magic, and okay I had started daydreaming a story in my head that looked very different from this one. Which is not this story's fault!

STET, Sarah Gailey. Okay, so, here's the thing. I really liked the unconventional format and sort of darkening way of telling the story. I did not like how the editor-character came across as so clueless as to be effectively completely unbelievable. I feel like there's a good story in here that I just couldn't buy the way it was.
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ahhhh it's Hugo nomination time and I haven't read anything that was published last year!

Well, okay, I binged a couple of days ago when I panicked, so here's what I've got. Thanks to [personal profile] forestofglory and [personal profile] isis who linked to [profile] pscoptera -- all the stories below come from those sources.

Recoveries, Susan Palwick, novelette. Hmm. It's about a female friendship that keeps going over several different kinds of dysfunction. I like Susan Palwick, and I'm always here for female friendship, although to be fair this one is a bit more dysfunctional than I usually like reading about. But I think I'm nominating this one.

If at first you don't succeed, try try again, Zen Cho, novelette, a very cute story about a dragon. Is "cute" good enough for nominating for the Hugo? I'm on the fence about this one.

What Is Eve?, Will McIntosh, novelette. I felt like this had interesting things to say about, well, middle school through a SF-nal lens. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt, but almost certainly nominating.

Thirty-Three Percent Joe, Suzanne Palmer, novelette. Sentient (and competent!) parts of a cybernetic soldier work together to try to keep him alive. Okay, this was obviously written with all of my likes in mind, so there was no way I wasn't going to like this one. I see this is the same author as "The Secret Life of Bots" last year, which also was written directly to my id. If you liked that one you'll like this one, and if you didn't like that one you probably won't think much of this one either. Nominating.

The Thing in the Wall Wants Your Small Change, Virgnia M Mohlere, short story, okay, this one was both super cute and appealed to my interests. I'm probably nominating this one.

On my list to read: the Murderbot novellas (I've read the first one) and Spinning Silver, although I sort of feel like they're bound to get on the ballot anyway, so I feel less pressure to read them. Also there is The Monster Baru Cormorant, which I guess I ought to read, and which I will probably enjoy and find devastating.

Looks like I have five days, more or less. What do I need to read (can I read) in the next five days?
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Wow, thank you mysterious person for the paid account! You are the best! <333333 Seriously, this was a really nice thing to have happened to me today. <3
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All right, I've wanted to do this for a while:

The problem with operas is that they're too long. By which I mean, if anyone in them was sensible they'd all be at most half the length.

So: comment with an opera name (*) and I'll respond with a short snippet of a canon-divergence AU where the opera is Much Shorter. Warning, of course, that at least some of the characters will be wildly out of character. That is to say, probably much more sensible. :)

(*) If it's an opera I know, you'll get the ficlet much sooner. If it's one I haven't watched yet, I'll put it on my list to watch and you'll get the ficlet once I've watched it. This is a good opportunity for you to get me to watch your favorite opera, since after I finish Norma with Caballé I'm gonna go back to RL opera friend and ask for more DVDs! (Though given my previous track record, this might also take a while.)

(cross-posted to tumblr)
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The Chatelet Don Carlos, which I promised [personal profile] esteven AND RL-opera-friend to watch in... October?? ... was yet another casualty of Holiday Vortex (yeah, I know that was months ago now, it has taken me that long to dig myself out), but here we are! [personal profile] zdenka sort-of watched Otello in tandem with me earlier (perhaps I will manage to post about that at some point), and that was so much fun that I twisted her arm into watching this DC in tandem with me ("It's in French! Thomas Hampson is in it!") which was really great <3 (not least because zdenka very helpfully pointed out all the places where it switches from tu to vous and back again and <333333) We watched over a period of about two weeks because of schedule and time-zone constraints (and also because we had a LOT of squeeing to do).

You will be totally unsurprised to hear that I have a lot of thoughts about this one. Basically: I loved it, I loved it lots and lots, just hearing the French is absolutely lovely, and the singing and acting was generally superb. Hampson of course (despite the wig, he's just always SO GOOD, both vocally and acting, omg), but also Karita Mattila as Elisabeth was Amazing, I loved her voice. But everyone was really just great.

(I switch between French and Italian/Anglicized names in the following: French when talking about this production, and Italian/Anglicized when talking about other productions I've seen, which have almost all been Italian. I'm also going to refer to the Hampson-Kaufmann Salzburg 2013 a bunch because it was really interesting to me to compare Hampson in the two productions.)

I also don't know that I've watched another Don Carlo(s) that's so romantic. Cut for length. )
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In November, I fell headfirst into falling desperately in love with the Book of Mormon musical.

I really wasn't expecting it to work in quite that way? I hadn't even ever watched it, although I've listened to the cast recording about a billion times, and am kind of desperately in love with parts of that, and I'd watched clips on YouTube. Cut for length. Lots of discussion of religion, at least tangentially. )
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It took me months and months -- October through December was a mostly lost cause, and January turned out to be not much better in terms of opera time -- but I finally watched the entirety of Les Huguenots, which I really liked! (It is on Youtube with subtitles!) Opera Australia, with Joan Sutherland as Queen Marguerite, Amanda Thane as Valentine, Anston Austin as Raoul, Clifford Grant as Marcel. (Marguerite is a minor character, but obviously Sutherland was a big draw.) (Sorry justplainsavannahd for taking sooooo long! I'd love to hear from you if you are still around, though I certainly understand if you are not.)

I thought they were all really good. I really need my opera to have excellent acting as well as good singing, and this production really delivered on that front. All the acting was brilliant. I'd listened to a recording on Spotify (thank you justplainsavannahd for the libretto!) -- this recording also had Joan Sutherland as Queen Marguerite, also Martina Arroyo as Valentine, Anastasios Vrenios as Raoul, Nicola Ghiuselev as Marcel -- and so I knew the broad beats and also that the melody of "Ein' feste Burg" was a prominent part of it (it's there. all. the. time. Which I mostly liked! But I would not blame anyone else for getting tired of it), but as usual for me it was about 500% more moving actually seeing it and seeing the staging and acting as well as hearing it.

So, randomly talking about the characters and the singers singing them, often at the same time!

Cut for length and I guess spoilers? I mean, this is both grand opera and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, it's not like you don't know this ends badly... )
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4/5. I finished Ash: A Secret History, and okay, yep, now I can recommend it (always with the caveat of grimdark and if you liked the Kindle sample, and with a couple other caveats that I'll poke at in the next paragraph). The E-book is $4 currently at amazon, and as it clocks in at 1120 pages, I have to say that the hours of entertainment to cost ratio has been higher than anything else I've bought for some time. except possibly for that one Don Carlo recording that I've listened to too many times to count. I wasn't sure at 30% whether the ending would live up to the wild plot-heaviness of the rest of the book, but it does!

This is one of those books where I feel it's better to have zero spoilers going on. That being said, (1) I must warn anyone who knows... anything... about science... that it does that Thing where "science" is basically used as a synonym for "magic" so you may be facepalming a lot at certain spots (... just call it "wakalixes," okay?), and (2) I must warn any medievalists (or even anyone who... just likes history) that there are lots of things here that might bother you, like the manuscript of Fraxinus not reading at all like anything even faintly from that time period, not just in word translation choice; and footnotes reading much less like what an actual academic doing a translation would write and more like what an author who had done a lot of research on the period would write; and emails from an academic that don't sound like anything an academic would think or write. (For example, at one point the academic is all "but the manuscript got X detail wrong, HOW CAN I TRUST IT EVER AGAIN" which... does not compute for anyone who's ever studied any kind of writing, medieval or not??) So. I was able to suspend my disbelief on all these points enough to really enjoy it (although there was a lot of eye-rolling and facepalming at certain points), but I would not blame you one bit if you couldn't.

Because of those things, I honestly do not know how much I'd like Gentle's other work. But all that being said, this book was awfully satisfying on a number of levels.

[personal profile] rachelmanija, WHOSE FAULT THIS ALL IS, has several posts of interest:
-The post that convinced me to pick up the Kindle sample (no spoilers, though general overall discussion)
-I got so WTF OMG about it in the comments to the above post (I did rot-13 spoilers) that rachel made me a readthrough post so I could flail around, MANY SPOILERS HERE
-Spoilers post, for those who have read it all the way through!
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[personal profile] rachelmanija posted about Ash (Mary Gentle) here. Faux-medieval history, mercenaries, framing emails -- lots of things I like here, so I downloaded the Kindle sample. Welp, very quickly I had finished the sample and bought the book.

And things keep happening in it -- it is a very plot-heavy book -- and I kept leaving comments to the post along the lines of "OMG [X] JUST HAPPENED" (I have rot-13'ed all spoilers on that post) and finally Rachel made me another readthrough post to continue basically liveblogging without having to rot13.

There is one thing that I find mildly obnoxious that might bother you not at all or might bother you much more: the "faux-medieval history" is really nothing of the sort, it is presented as one in the novel (complete with footnotes discussing translation choices) but it is very obviously a modern text, and although I certainly find 1120 pages (!) of modern text easier to read than pseudo-medieval text, the cognitive discrepancy is a bit jarring.

I can't exactly recommend it because I'm only 30% through and I've certainly had my opinion of books changed markedly between 30% and 100%, but otherwise, if you are OK with grimdark (there is a lot of rape and violence and people killing each other) faux-medieval history with mercenaries and framing emails sounds good, I would recommend trying the sample -- if it hooks you, then you may want to read the whole thing, and if not, then it's probably not for you.

(And then come read through with me on the readthrough post, which starts at 21%)

(Also, if you have already read it, rachel is hosting a spoiler post here that I am very carefully not looking at.)
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[personal profile] isis posted about the community [community profile] classiclitclub, which is reading the Iliad (this week is the first week!). She also linked to a translation by Caroline Alexander that is selling for $1.99. So far I'm really liking it!
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So, I will probably have to write a loooooong post about this later, but in the meantime:

1. While watching the opera Norma, I really felt like the librettist meant to write Norma and Adalgisa running off together and got told by the censors or someone that they couldn't do that and hastily pasted on an ending with the requisite dead soprano. (but only one!) I realize this is probably not the case, but it sure seemed like it.

2. Why didn't anyone, before my recip this year, tell me that Book of Mormon, in addition to being wildly and hilariously offensive and also tapping into a deep psychological truth in giving me the mental image of singing and dancing happy shiny missionaries (all of which I did already know), was also about a thoughtful and coherent character arc dealing with faith and crises of faith and faith vs. religion and the problematic nature of God answering prayers? Why didn't I know it was so directly relevant to my interests, particularly this year? IT IS SO GOOD. I HAVE BEEN CONVERTED.
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I fractured my finger bone in a really dumb kitchen incident - had the finger looped in a cabinet pull, then the cabinet door went one way and my finger went the other. Given that, it's about the best outcome I could hope for: my left (non-dominant) hand, fourth finger, treatment is just splinting for a couple of months, and although my finger might look a little funny afterwards (I am told the bone fragment is unlikely to reattach in exactly the place it was before) with any luck it should heal and have full functionality. And I can do most of what I could before while it's healing (except violin or piano, grump, but at least I got through the big Christmas things first) and in principle I can even type. In practice, it's awkward enough that although typing something this length is fine (and texting/chatting is fine because I can do that on my phone one-fingered), you probably won't be seeing me type long rants for the next couple of months. Which I am annoyed about, because I have several, including --

-The annual Yuletide canon rant (I will probably post a placeholder on this tomorrow, because I have That Many Feelings)
-The not-so-annual Yuletide beta canon rant (I watched a movie! And liked it!)
-justplainsavannahd, I am halfway through Les Huguenots and I really love Nevers
-esteven, I am 1.5 acts through Chatelet Don Carlos and wow it is shiiiiippy
-I keep meaning to write up that post about teaching Sunday School but it will just have to wait even longer
-probably other stuff

Comments are turned off for this post.
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So, at church I have an unofficial calling (as of last month) and (as of this morning) an official calling now! The unofficial calling is "music coordinator for the church Christmas music fireside," which people who have been around for several years might remember I did several years ago and it was a mess -- it is way less of a mess this year, thankfully -- and the official calling is "ward music chairman," which mostly means I wave my arms around on Sunday (this person also functions as the chorister) but might also mean I need to be involved in the morning church Christmas program.

Anyway, my December in numbers:

Number of church Christmas music events I have successfully completed: 1
Number of church Christmas music events yet to be completed: 3
Number of rehearsals I had for entirely different pieces with separate groups of people this weekend: 4
Number of times I am going to be performing in some capacity at the church Christmas music fireside next weekend: 4
Number of people who apparently wanted to perform "O Holy Night" at the fireside but did not tell me: 4
Number of people who actually did tell me she wanted to perform "O Holy Night": 1
Number of pieces that have been definitively planned for the morning church Christmas program: 0 (choir director and I are going to have a Talk tomorrow)
Number of people who are causing ~DRAMA~ in regards to the fireside: 0 (HUGE improvement over last time I had to do this)
Number of Yuletide fics I should probably be writing: 0
Number of Yuletide fics I am in fact writing: 2
Number of words I need to write in the next week while I'm also figuring out all the music stuff: ~1000
Number of words I could probably have written in the time it took me to write this: 100 (this fic is going kinda slowly)
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D's parents, who are awesome, came the week before Thanksgiving, and we all enjoyed having them here. There was quite a lot of confusion as to what exactly was going to happen with Thanksgiving, given the smoke and fires and shifting of where-people-actually-were, but just about the time we had settled on spending the holiday weekend with K/B/D, we had to change plans again to staying home when Kid #1 was sick and then kid #2 was sick with something that laid them out with erratic but sometimes quite high temperatures for days on end. (E was miserable; A was surprisingly mostly happy except when his temperature spiked above 103, which it did appallingly often for several days.) Today is the first day in a week that we have not had a child with an alarmingly high temperature in the house. I was grumpy about missing K/B/D (I'm still grumpy about that, for that matter), but aside from that it was... actually... a really restful Thanksgiving, and we are thinking maybe we should have holidays at home more often.

Also (you knew this was coming) it meant I got to watch some opera, which I hadn't had time for in a while :D

Les Pecheurs de Perles Teatro La Fenice 2005 , Macbeth ROH 2011 )

Next opera post(s), I promise, will be about Les Huguenots and the Chatelet Don Carlos :) (...speaking of which, shoutout to [personal profile] justplainsavannahd: I saw your tumblr was gone; are you okay?)
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I devoured The Coddling of the American Mind and I have a lot of probably-incoherent thinky Thoughts about it. I read the Atlantic article it was based on and wasn't really expecting much more from the book, but indeed the book is so much better because it's able to expand on and discuss things that an article isn't able to.

Us vs. them thinking, fragility and antifragility, parenting )


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