Susan’s Salon: 2021 October 24/25

Please use the comment section to just chat about whatever you want. Susan’s Salon is posted early Monday (Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Whatever Standard Time, which is still Sunday in most other countries). It’s fine to be sad, worried, vaccinated, unvaccinated-yet, angry or maybe even happy (or all of those things at once).

Please feel free to post what you like (either troubling news or pleasant distractions) in the comments for this open thread. [However, no cranky conflicts between each other in the comments.] Links, videos, cat pictures 🐈 etc are fine! Whatever you like and be nice to one another 😇

68 thoughts on “Susan’s Salon: 2021 October 24/25

    1. It’s Labour Day Monday in New Zealand so unsurprisingly it has been a wet weekend. The silver lining I guess, is that the local dams are finally at above average levels and the water restrictions we have been living under for what seems like forever will finally be lifted.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Me too! It’s like the olden days, isn’t it?

      I have EGG on my lap. Being a Cat of Very Little Brain, he’s forgotten what rain is and so has been looking out the window like WTF?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! This is the weather I moved to the Bay Area for, thirty years ago! (Or close enough. 30 years ago I was a freshman at Cal, so even though I didn’t officially move here for a few more years, that’s when I started spending the majority of my time here,) Last time we checked we’d had a couple of inches so far, and that was a few hours ago.

        I thought Marble, our youngest kitty, might be freaked out by the rain, but I forgot a) she’s been with us over 13 months now so she’s seen rain a few times and b) this kitten is not afraid of anything, ever. The only time we saw her be wary was when she first arrived here, aged about six weeks, and was meeting our cats through a clear cat flap. She was doing that hilarious sideways/diagonal jumping thing where she’s trying to look big by turning sideways, approach the door out of curiosity, and sort of run away all at the same time. Once she was allowed into the rest of the house and started mingling with the other cats it was all over. In their faces, in their food, in their way. They let her get away with it, too. I wish our first cat Rufus were still here to knock some boundaries into her.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, I was disappointed by that, but I’ll take whatever I can get right now.

            There’s a bit of irony here for me in that I love rain and cloudy weather, but also have SAD. It’s really disconcerting to have two parts of my brain diametrically opposed like that sometimes.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Cold enough for hot chocolate after dog walkies this morning, though I wound up making chai because it was easier to get around my wife cooking her breakfast.
    Watched Species for my alien visitors book and Ben Kingsley sets new records for scientific idiocy (“Oh, these aliens who’ve given us useful inventions now want me to hybridize their DNA with human embryos, no way that could go wrong.”). Also caught a couple of episodes of Ben 10 — fun though I prefer Danny Phantom.
    Read a Depression-set fantasy “The Cunning Man,” which didn’t work for me though I can’t pin down why. And another urban fantasy, “Bless Your Heart,” which follows a horrific child murder that shakes everyone up with several chapters of the lead characters working out their relationship as if nothing had happened.
    Also read a book on the history of psychology that explains a lot about why it became so big in the post-WW II 1940s and 1950s.
    Wisp is coming in at night semi-regularly so I’m pleased with that. Her foot has healed up nicely.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. More summer here in Arkansas — high in the mid-80s today. But a storm is coming through tonight with cooler weather behind it.

    My kid is visiting for fall break, with his boyfriend. We’re having a big dinner tonight.

    Meanwhile, I am reading Glimmer, by Marjorie Kellogg. It’s pretty good — climate apocalypse in NYC.


  3. My reading lately has been mostly horror/Gothic. Having been a Ramsey Campbell fan since forever, I was interested to see that he’d made a slight return to the more blatantly Lovecraftian material he’d left behind long ago, with the recent trilogy that starts with The Searching Dead. Unfortunately the US publisher had a very long delay in putting those books out, so I only got The Searching Dead this summer and the second one just last week. I like the first one a lot, and the whole idea of the series: it’s almost like a Campbellian cosmic horror counterpoint to something like Stephen King’s It, in that it starts out with children uncovering evil things in a 1950s setting with heavily autobiographical elements and then they have to revisit it as grownups, but it’s a bit more like real life in that the kids don’t really grow up to be exactly what you’d expect them to be as adults, and the evil things aren’t exactly eternal but involve human beings who are growing and learning along with the kids. Unfortunately the second book was way less satisfying for me— I felt it got bogged down in a lot of wheel-spinning during which Campbell over-indulged in his penchant for having literally everyone treat the point-of-view character with the maximum possible misunderstanding and hostility— but I still want to see where this is going, whenever the third book is finally available here.

    I also made a long-overdue return to Joan Aiken. Strangely, I still haven’t read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase or much else, but as a kid I ran across her anthology A Touch of Chill and loved it, and although she seems to be almost entirely out of print here, I tracked down a used copy of A Touch of Chill (which turns out to have a few more stories that weren’t in the edition I had seen) and another collection, A Bundle of Nerves. Some of these are very slight things that are only about the naughty little thrill of realizing someone’s been murdered at the end, but overall, I adore her writing and it works for me now on levels I certainly couldn’t have gotten as a kid (for instance, her story “Lodgers”, in which a put-upon young widow with two kids is slow to realize that she’s rented a room to occultists who devour souls, is clearly a personal nightmare scenario for Aiken who had to scramble to raise young children after her husband’s sudden death). I do an occasional reading-out-loud thing online for a handful of friends, and I’ll definitely be doing at least a couple of these stories— the prose and the way they unfold is a joy.


    1. And, speaking of “the kids don’t really grow up to be exactly what you’d expect them to be as adults”— when I got to the 1980s storyline and saw that the autobiographical character, who as a kid had been all about trying to write pulp stories and fantasy and horror, had not grown up to be any kind of writer but was a university lecturer teaching a film survey course, I realized: 1. that was a clever way for Campbell to give himself an alternate history where he didn’t fulfill his goals, because he’s also been a film critic, and 2. off the top of my head it’s hard for me to recall any genre novel in which someone who wanted to be a writer (or other creative artist) as a kid does not end up being one.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. My first Aiken was one of the Willougby Chase sequels, the Cuckoo Tree — Hanoverian revolutionaries (in this timeline, the Stuarts were better kings and stayed around) plot to put Westminster Abbey on ball bearings and roll it into the Thames during the coronation of the next monarch. Can plucky orphan Dido Twite stop them? I was hooked.
      But her creepy short stories are excellent too.


  4. Finished the last cruise a week ago and did nothing but sleep and read Perhaps the Stars for the rest of the week. Finally feel almost normal again.

    Busy now turning the motor boat into a winter home and putting the butty to sleep for the off season. After that paperwork to catch up on and an endless list of maintenance work to do.

    Perhaps the Stars was an excellent end to an excellent series. May need to do a reread soon, but might be worth attempting the Iliad first? Any recommendations of a decent translation?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t know about a decent translation but I was given a copy of Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek legends of Troy (ie the Iliad plus background) and I enjoyed it. Nice to get the stuff that Homer’s audience’s would have already known but it means it’s a long way in until the events of the Iliad

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you don’t hate comics, you might have a look at Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze, which does something similar, and which is stunningly well-researched as regards the visuals of Mycenaean Greece and Hittite Asia. A few caveats:

        1. Shanower tries to bring in every single story about Troy that he can find, so the plotline gets just a little overstretched in places.
        2. He’s using the mode of Mary Renault (and of Herodotus before her) where there are signs and portents and accurate prophecies, but no on-stage gods or magic. (Thetis is portrayed as more a priestess than a goddess; the substitution for Iphigeneia takes place off-panel.) So if you like more overt fantastic elements you might be disappointed.
        3. Volume 3B of a projected 10 came out eight years ago, and there has been very little new work since then. I don’t expect to see it completed in my lifetime. (I would be ever so pleased to be wrong.)

        That being said, it’s stunning work that gets my highest possible recommendation.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’ve read the first few volumes, and it’s a *gorgeous* piece of work. The earlier stuff came out more regularly, and they even had a table at cons, but not for years.

          It’s not directly related, but “Kid Beowulf” (with his twin, Kid Grendel) is a very fun comic if you like your epics 99% less grimdark and more middle-grade. Have only read the first 2.


        2. I met Eric Shanower some years back when the series was in its early stages. IIRC, sales made it very hard to justify putting in more time. A shame — I agree with you it’s excellent.


    2. I only know that the Odyssey translation by Emily Wilson is astounding. (And amazing. 🙂 ) I had tried to read the Odyssey for decades, and when I got that one, I did it in 3 days. Could barely put it down to eat, etc. So it’s given me pretty high standards for any Iliad.

      I am pondering the Stephen Fry retelling as well. I don’t do audiobooks but I might in that case, because I’m sure it sounds wonderful.


    3. Thanks for the recommendations everyone!

      I do struggle with comics sometimes (too many pictures, not enough words!) but I’m happy to give to give this one a try. I think one of the family has the Stephen Fry book on audio. Something to listen to whilst tackling the endless maintenance tasks…


    4. Our little guy (age 11) wrote a paper for class in which he argued that the Iliad isn’t as good as the video games Minecraft or Call of Duty. Nowhere did he admit that he only read the comic book.

      His school requires kids read at least 15 minutes in class every day, but they let him read graphic novels. We have a required reading time of 60 minutes at home each evening, and he has to pick books from our list. (Currently he’s finishing “Call of the Wild.”)

      This creates the crazy situation where he’s reading literature at home and comic books at school.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. State of the Soon.

    Five months ago around this time, I held on to Fern as she breathed her last. I am still broken. Life is still tough, especially being in lockdown alone.

    I still catch up with lockdown buddies who live a few minutes away for some food & company, so I am not completely without human company. And there is Zoom with various people, including with the Ashtons & family in Melbourne. All that helps.

    A few weekends ago, I popped over to see Fern’s parents on their outside deck in a socially distanced manner. It was nice. All of us were at least 2 weeks after our 2nd vaccinations.

    Lockdown weightgain is a thing. I am trying to make more of an effort to watch my portions, but there is a reason it is called comfort eating…

    So I’m still here. Still thinking about Fern every day. Still taking it one day at a time.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I am with you on the lockdown weight gain thing. I reinjured a dodgy ankle in March last year when everything went into lockdown the first time. On the one hand it was kind of handy that I could sit around with my foot up a lot, but it also exacerbated the lack of activity.

      And socially distanced trans-Tasman hugs if you want them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I managed to keep the pandemic weight gain in check by taking an hour-long brisk walk every day, but depending on how the restrictions are in your part of New Zealand, that may not be feasible.

      Also, hugs from the far side of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve lost weight mainly be replacing my previous commuting time with walks i.e. if I’m working from home I always go for a walk to “go to work” and a walk “to go home from work”. Done wonders. That, and banning chocolate hobnobs from the house. Actually, banning hobnobs was the main thing.

        Liked by 4 people

  6. The oven is finally sort of replaced. It turned out the placement of the gas and electricity switches were not in line with building regulations (they were when the house was built) and needed to be moved. But the gas oven guy was not qualified to install a new power point, so currently we have an extension cord snaking out of a kitchen cupboard to a power point on the wall. But the new oven works very well, and I only dripped a small amount of melted butter inside it when I was baking (someone’s got to get started on that burned-on oven crust, right?).

    I also ran into this: which tickled my fancy no end, but joke academic papers are a particular weakness of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A friend just had to have their electrics completely redone in preparation for solar. It’s been a while since the 50s.

      That paper is EXCELLENT! It should be a model for all such, going forward. And their citation and footnotes game is perfect, as well as their puns. Formatting is great.

      The next conference (IRL or Zoom), that needs to be read out as a proper presentation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been waiting to post this: My spouse was chatting with folks this week, and over-heard a colleague announce that Moby Dick was their Favorite Novel of All Time. And I’ve been wondering ever since. Was this colleague *serious*? Or were they just trying desperately for some intellectual cred?

    Mind you, this was in an academic setting: tenured and non-tenured faculty (not the English dept.) and grad students. So I was willing to presume they were serious. But Moby Dick? Really?

    So that’s the question I have for you all. Have you or anyone else you’ve ever known really liked Moby Dick that much that it’s at least close to their FNoAT? Am I right to doubt the sincerity of this claim? Or should I just accept that others’ taste can differ so radically from mine that we should be living on different planets?

    But, Moby Dick? Really?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would not rule out a touch of insanity, common in academia as well as in Moby Dick.

      But outside of the English dept. or the marine mammal dept. I’d be surprised.


      1. I have finished Moby Dick twice. Can’t say I liked it either time. At least once in translation, can’t say I recall if the othehr was another translation (to the same language), the same translation, or in ENglish. Chances are that the first was a translation, and the second was English.


    2. I can’t imagine that either, but people have the strangest favourite.

      Since I have more than one favourite novel, I adjust the response to the person I’m talking to. If I’m in an academic setting, I usually say something respectable (V by Thomas Pynchon or maybe something by Jane Austen) I like a lot. Unless I’m feeling contrarian, then I may name some obscure and very lowbrow genre novel.


    3. I’ve read it twice. I’d say it has some of my favorite lines in it, but it’s not my favorite book. E.g.:

      “I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical”

      “Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn-cobs or broken crockery, there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not sleep”

      I also laughed out loud at the “proof” that a whale is a fish.

      But things like the elaborate allusions to the Masons just leave me cold. Worse. They leave me bored.

      I could see an academic enjoying some of the stylistic aspects of Moby Dick. For example, Ishmael seems to exist in a parallel narrative, in that he doesn’t appear at all in the primary narrative of the journey, and when he does show up, all the action stops. He doesn’t converse with the other characters; he interviews them. Supposedly there are six different levels to the story, but these two are the most obvious.


    4. Moby Dick is great if you only read the first chapter and the last three chapters. I found the rest boring, but I do know people who have gotten a lot out of it.

      There’s another chapter I’ve been thinking about lately, called, I think, “On the Whiteness of the Whale.” It’s about how white signifies evil instead of good, and gives examples. It’s an interesting idea in these days of white supremacy — in some ways it was ahead of its time. So, okay, the first chapter and the last three chapters, *and*…


    5. I like Moby Dick. Favourite novel? Maybe not. But I definitely like it. It’s got a solid core story (Ahab’s obsessive mission of vengeance), and then it’s got all these bizarre accretions hanging off it, and I can understand that some people won’t enjoy that sort of thing, but me? I love it. When the narrator’s enthusiasm gets the better of him, and he zooms off on a wild tangent about the texture of spermaceti or his invented taxonomy of whales, I am right along there with him, lapping that stuff up. I suppose it might be due to the early corruption of my literary tastes, when I cut my teeth on infodump-happy “Golden Age” SF, so all the digressions on the technical details of whaling are just the sort of thing I’m used to.

      I can absolutely understand that not everyone likes this sort of thing, and some people can’t stand it – nobody’s required to have the same tastes as me. But I think it’s a lot of fun, and Melville is a strong enough writer to make even the discursive bits flow nicely. So. Yeah. I like Moby Dick. No one else has to.


        1. Interesting question…. I’m not a huge Stephenson fan, overall; I’ve read some of his books and found them reasonably enjoyable, but he’s not an author I actively seek out. I suppose I’m less bothered by his infodumping habits than some other readers, but things like “Seveneves” got me irritated in other ways.


          1. Seveneves felt like either the last bit should’ve been cut, or quite a few words added. Stephenson have written multiple books that I enjoy, but he fundamentally fails to stick the landing.

            All in all, I’d say that my most faved Stephenson book is Anathem.

            Liked by 2 people

        2. Or Victor Hugo? I noped out of Les Miserables right around the extended and detailed description of the Battle of Waterloo with no apparent connection to the plot.


  8. Been a week of young adult SF/F duologies for me (which seems to be the big thing with YA publishing for the last few years).

    I read two first halves of duologies (All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman & Wings of Ebony by J. Elle) and one second half (A Queen of Gilded Horns by Amanda Joy). Oddly the trio really illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of the form.

    All of Us Villains, which comes out early in November, is a classic YA type novel – bunch of teens in a competition where they have to kill each other, in this case it’s a bunch of teens with magical skills fighting in a generational fight for a more powerful caliber of magic to be controlled by their family (It felt at times like a YA version of Kat Howard’s Unkindness of Magicians). There’s a lot of tropey stuff here, as expected from YA, and it’s fine if unexceptional, but like a lot of duologies, its ending basically just feels like the book stopping midway through a larger book, with like one of its cliffhangers being the reveal that the obvious antagonist was in fact the antagonist, which doesn’t help. Like I get YA novels aren’t supposed to be too big, but this one very much feels like it should have been part 1 of a larger book (although it’s not short).

    A Queen of Gilded Horns is the second half of a duology, which (in YA fashion) had some interesting themes about sisterhood, about prejudice, and about the challenge and struggle in righting generational wrongs and oppression, and this book feels like its going to make a big deal with that, with the hidden oppressed fantasy race (to be contrasted with the imprisoned-in-a-ghetto oppressed people from the same race) being revealed in a bunch of early chapters to not trust the heroine (she’s half-human) and to have their own prejudices to overcome if they want to work together…..and well, the book seems to run out of room to actually deal with this subplot, and thus it just abandons it, whereas if this was a trilogy might’ve actually done something interesting with it.

    Duologies can work, and the other duology i started this week, J Elle’s Wings of Ebony seems to show how (Basically the first book is satisfying on its own, even as it leaves enough unresolved for another book), but I really wish Young Adult Publishing would really take another look at whether they make sense to rely so heavily on them – some stories are 1 book in length, and some require 3 or more, but defaulting to 2 results in most just feeling off.


  9. Today it is pouring rain. This confuses EGG (much does) as it’s been so long, as I noted above. He’s on my lap for warmth. My sinuses are unhappy.

    Yesterday was warm and dry though, and actual PEOPLE came over to the house! o_O Excitement!

    2 friends we hadn’t seen since The Before Times (except on Zoom). We all sat out on the patio with about twice as much Korean fried chicken as we should have ordered, exchanged stuff we hadn’t been able to swap, talked, and ate ourselves into a coma. A fine time was had by all. I have custody of the leftovers. I may have to make soup for later in the week.

    11 days and the crown is still in place!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Lots of translation work last week, including a couple of “We need this by noon today, sorry” jobs.

    This afternoon, I went out into the countryside to see the fall foliage. However, there wasn’t much fall foliage to be seen, because the trees are seriously behind this year. Probably due to a combination of a wet summer and mild fall.

    However, I did pass a turkey farm with some very noisy turkeys. These were clearly happy turkeys, since they had a large yard to run around in. They came to the gate when I passed, clearly hoping for a treat of some kind. Of course, I had none, but I snapped a photo.


  11. Had lunch with old friends
    Binge watched Guilty (think Scottish Fargo with a better soundtrack)
    Re-read Foundation (first book) for a review I was asked to write

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your best bet is probably to contact the Worldcon 75 chairs and ask them to hunt down the videos.

      Someone made the decision to deactivate the YouTube channell, and they would have been fairly high-up in hierarchy.


        1. I’m not surprised, that Worldcon had a huge number of problems. I see that the (incomplete) video of the 2017 Hugo awards – the only extant copy of it – has also disappeared. 😦

          Who was the video person(s)? Maybe they still have copies.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. The Internet is much less effective an eternal storing place than people imagine. Everything I’ve ever written for newspapers has vanished from the web as newspapers shut down, change owners (and proprietary software) etc. Happily I have copies of the best stuff.

            Liked by 2 people

  12. Had another movie night. First we watched Coco, which is a sweet but emotionally manipulative movie. The kind that triggers all pressure points, but makes me resent it. On the other had, skeletons!

    Then we watched Song of The Sea, an irish animated movie about a little selkie girl. I found it sweet and beautiful, albeit a bit too childish for me.

    Last, we rewatched Ferngully that wasn’t as good as I remembered. Most likely because I thought the evil villain Hexxus was one of the coolest thing I had ever seen and he got much less screen time than I remembered. Also annoying 80s macho posturing. Still ok.

    Sir Scrittles and Nevyn are trying to adapt to being in an apartment again which means more necessary play time and birds on the TV. Sir Scrittles has murdered the toilet paper roll twice and been very pleased with himself and the paper shreds over the floor. Nevyn spent two hours murdering a new toy he got at movie night, until he managed push into some unreachable place that is still unknown.

    Myself, I went on a punk rock cruise on my birthday earlier this week which made it the best birthday I’ve ever had. Several great bands of the Swedish tralala punk tradition, and also some irish folk punk. Great time. Next cruise will be in May when Toy Dolls will play. Already bought the tickets.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I finally had my appointment for my temp crown, but it sits too high in my mouth preventing any other teeth from chewing. Sigh. I’m going to have to call and get a return appointment. God I want this saga to be over.


    1. I literally feel your pain.

      Someday we will both eat chewy food! (said with “next year in Jerusalem” intonation)

      I must say that at least my dentists make sure my teeth still meet before they send me out with the temp, because the temps are ALWAYS too high.


      1. They tested the fit and it was fine, but when they put in the cement it kept dropping off. Apparently the cement doesn’t cling to my teeth. So they tried something else – composite, I think they said. It fit when I was in the office but over the hours since then the back of the tooth is rising away and it’s now angled, leaving it too high.


  14. I didn’t get around to posting a weekly update here on Sunday, and I haven’t been religiously following all the Debarkle posts, but I know some of you have been discussing KU/however-many-Booksto50K topics, so I thought you might be interested in this New Yorker article. There’s a paywall, but it allows a few articles for free, so if you haven’t already been reading on the site without a subscription you shouldn’t have a problem.

    “Is Amazon Changing the Novel?”


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