April/May life round-up

The top of a tree covered in pink cherry blossom against a bright blue sky

Obligatory spring blossom photograph

Life has continued to be hectic and stressful. I have a lot going on at work. The mice returned and we had to get pest control in to deal with them. I felt bad about it, but nothing else worked. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a terrible toothache. Apparently, the tooth is fractured and will need a crown. That’s gonna be expensive.  

It wasn’t all bad though. There has been some nice weather. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing Exhibition and it was pretty amazing to see the drawings close up. Then we saw Thea Gilmore live and that was excellent. 

Film 

We saw Captain Marvel and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m not really into the Marvel universe, but this was a good time. 

Reading 

I read a few crime thrillers. The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson is a proper literary thriller (post coming). I enjoyed The Dry by Jane Harper, but didn’t think it quite lived up to all the hype. The Old You by Louise Voss is a twisty thriller that’s probably best read on a plane, or the beach. 

The Ark by Patrick Tomlinson is quite a fun SF thriller and I really liked Una McCormack’s novella, The Undefeated. I’ve got a big pile of science fiction novels on the go at the moment. 

I’m chipping away at The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin. He’s a brilliant poet, but I am finding all the self-loathing and mid-century sexism a bit hard work. Still, he did write my absolute favourite poem set in the month of May, ‘The Trees

Television 

Of course we’re watching the superb Gentleman Jack. 

We started on The Orville, the premise of which is basically Star Trek: The Next Generation if the crew were ordinary people. I am a little surprised by the high quality of the storytelling on what appears (on the surface at least) to be quite a silly show.  It has me hooked. 

 

Delyth & Angharad (DnA)

Album cover is a painting of the Delyth and Angharad in subdued tones.

We were lucky to see this mother and daughter duo play at a local folk festival recently. Delyth & Angharad write and play absolutely beautiful Welsh folk music.  There’s an excellent review of their latest album Llinyn Arian (Silver thread) here.

Here they are playing Viva Cariad and an old favourite from my West Wales childhood Sosban Fach

The artwork by Carys Evans is gorgeous too. Love the Gwen John influence.

 

5 Things

I was very interested to find out about exercise bulimia, not least because I believe that I suffered from it for years. It’s reassuring to have a term for this kind of eating disordered experience. When I stopped showing the more conventional symptoms of bulimia, I thought I was better, but then I started engaging in exactly the kind of behaviours described in the article above. I exercised compulsively in my late twenties and early thirties, and my experience of exercise is still hijacked by my eating disorder. I find it very hard to exercise without making it into a sort of penance for eating. It’s a difficult condition to address because we tend to view exercise as being always beneficial.

This devastating article about boarding school trauma helped me to better understand my father. He was sent to a brutal Catholic boarding school and suffered from a lot of the symptoms described on the survivors website. He was a workaholic and terrified of abandonment. He struggled to maintain friendships outside of the immediate family circle and couldn’t give up the cigarettes that eventually killed him.  He was sent to boarding school at eleven, which is older than most of the men featured in the article, but what makes my father’s case so horrible is the fact that he was abandoned by his mother at the age of five. I just can’t imagine the trauma of that second abandonment by his father’s family. On reflection, I’m surprised that my father managed to be as functional as he was in life.

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5 Things

I liked Suzanne Heintz’s artistic response to the question Why aren’t you married yet? Fourteen years worth of pictures of herself posing with a mannequin family certainly draws attention to the mythology of white, middle-class family “happiness”. Even though Suzanne is posing with mannequins, these images and the meanings they are supposed to convey (and impose) are instantly recognisable. Perhaps she’s also suggesting that people don’t care who the members of her family are, or what her relationship with them might be, as long as “family” is performed in the correct way. There is even the suggestion that this mythology reduces people to the status of mannequins. Roland Barthes would be proud.

Ludovic Florent’s series of photographs Poussiere d’etoiles (stardust) inspired me after a difficult day. These images that capture dancers interacting with a cloud of flour are a gorgeous tribute to the art of dance and the power of the human body.

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Ursula K Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

The Left Hand of Darkness is one of my favourite books and this must be at least the fourth time I’ve read it.  On its publication The Left Hand of Darkness was received as a groundbreaking piece of science fiction, winning the Nebula Award in 1969 and the Hugo Award in 1970.  Compelling, atmospheric, sometimes frightening, it offers the reader some exquisite world-building and a story with profound meaning.

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Happy Halloween

We are spending it quietly this year, just staying in and watching The Haunting of Hill House.  We haven’t even carved a Jack O’ Lantern (that’s one my sister did a couple of years ago), but Andy doesn’t think there’s much point unless you can display it on your porch, which is difficult to do when you live in a second floor flat.

Still, here are some Halloween links:

The most amazing pumpkin carvings you will ever see

From Final Girl, some awesome horror movie posters

And for a Halloween read, how about The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This week’s culture round-up

From The Lesbrary, Have you ever thought to yourself, “Is there any way I can be more lesbian?” In my case, I would have to answer “not really” to that, but this post showed me how the ownership of certain books could possibly make me feel even more lesbian than I do already.

From Flavorwire,  Robert Maplethorpe’s portraits of cultural icons . I particularly like his portraits of Patti Smith and Debbie Harry –  I think the naked woman holding the gigantic snake looks a little tense though.

From Tor.com, Don your tights, glitter and goblin horns, it’s Labyrinth day. I loved Labyrinth when I was a kid.  It’s actually playing at a local cinema next month and we are so going to see it.

Jess McCabe has started writing a series called Murder, She Blogged on the representation of detectives, police and crime in pop culture from a feminist perspective.  That sounds awesome to me.  The first post is on the ill-fated series Mrs Columbo, which I never watched but which stared Kate Mulgrew who I later came to love in her role as Star Trek: Voyager’s Captain Janeway.

From Womanist Musings, The Problem with Urban Fantasy Fandom (and why we need to critique Buffy the Vampire Slayer).   Much as I love Buffy, and have been watching it addictively recently, I do think this show can stand to be critiqued on many levels.

From Flavorwire, Great parties in literature we wish we could have attended.  I wouldn’t actually want to attend many of these parties (especially not the one in Brett Easton Ellis’s Less than Zero).  Just for the record, I like riotous parties which involve lots of food, music and, if at all possible, dancing.

From Den of Geek, Terminator 2 is 20 years old.  No way!  That dates me.  My best friend and I went to see this film at least twice when it came out.  Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was a bit of hero of mine even in my pre-feminist days.

From A Piece of Monologue, one for the theory geeks, What is Hauntology? On a recent trend in Critical Theory.

Occasionally I see something that makes me feel sorry that I left academia.  This may be one of those things.

From 3am Magazine, Everybody is Writing a Novel.  I can assure you that I’m not writing a novel.  Ok, I might be lying about that, but this article about Roland Barthes is another one for the theory fans.