darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Now playing in my Audible library: Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

Liz (I call her Liz) says a whole bunch of the things Steven Pressfield said in his wonderful The War of Art, but I vastly prefer the way she says them. Pressfield uses a lot of sports and war metaphors that don't resonate much with me. Liz, as you might expect from the author of a book called Eat, Pray, Love, has a more spiritual and nurturing approach.

But they both talk about creativity and fear, and they both have a primarily writerly bias, so they're both inspiring to me in their ways.

Liz, more than Pressfield, focuses on creative self-expression no matter what. She specifically does not talk about "winning". Her anecdotes don't end in, "and then she won a Pulitzer," but rather in, "and then she was happy".

Both of them embrace a concept of inspiration as a real, living thing, existing independently outside of us, and interacting with us. I like that. For Pressfield it's the Muse; for Liz, "ideas". Pressfield sidles up to the metaphysical in a slightly embarrassed way, whereas Liz has it right in her book title: Magic.

Big Magic is read (wonderfully) by the author. It runs about five hours. It's fantastic for me as a writer. I'd think it would be inspiring to anyone who makes anything for any purpose.
darkemeralds: Image of an open book whose pages are turning into wings and flying away (Winged book)
Currently on the beside table, Kindle app, and Audible player: )

And in lighter reading: I'm back on a Supernatural kick. [livejournal.com profile] roxymissrose has some great classic recs here--Amnesia fics. It's a whole category. God, I love fandom.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Current audiobook: Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things, read by Juliet Stevenson. I never felt the faintest desire to read Eat, Pray, Love and my only exposure to the author's work is her well-known TED talk on creativity. I'm glad I took the plunge. Signature is a terrific novel (so far--I'm about a third of the way into it).

The Signature of All Things )

Current Bingewatch on Netflix: Arrow Season 1. Cheesetastic but good in unexpected ways. The acting is stronger than I would have expected from a CW Parade of Beauty, and the writing veers all over the place from comic-book operatic to really solid. I'm way more interested in it than I thought I'd be.

Current Book: Dawn Powell's The Wicked Pavilion. Published in 1954, forgotten by 1965, and revived in recent years. Powell has a snarky, trenchant style, a bit Dorothy Parker-esque, very New York. My niece living in New York City recommended it and I can see its literary worth while not, strictly speaking, enjoying it.

Current Fic: I'm off fic at the moment. Open to suggestions, though.

Current Shows: Agents of SHIELD is growing on me a little. I said I'd give it six eps, so it's got one more chance to really hook me in. The new season of Grimm started off with a bang last night. Still enjoying Elementary. Loving Sleepy Hollow in spite of myself.
darkemeralds: Image of an open book whose pages are turning into wings and flying away (Winged book)
Current audiobook: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai. I bought it on the strength of Malala's speech to the United Nations, and because the audiobook reader is Archie Panjabi.

Malala's personal story is interspersed with political, geographical and historical detail. It's hard to escape a sense that this young woman is being swept along by the western publicity machine--maybe willingly, as she makes no secret of wanting to be the next Benazir Bhutto--but her story comes across as authentic all the same. I've learned more about Pakistan and the Taliban in a few hours of listening to this audiobook than I picked up in all the years after 9/11.

Malala herself reads her prologue, and it's interesting that Archie Panjabi, in reading the rest of the book, chose to replicate her youthful tone and, to some degree, her accent. It's very nicely done.

Current book: Captive Prince, Volume 2 by S.U. Pacat. It's good--everyone who recommended it was right. Self-published on Amazon and now picked up by Penguin, it's a fast-moving sort-of-medieval-alternate-universe where there's a lot of slavery and a lot of non-heterosexual sex and a whole lot of political intrigue. There's a long, slow-burn romance between the two leads (the captive prince of the title, and his captor, the crown prince of the enemy state) that is really compelling. The characterization of the crown prince is fascinating, and I can't be the only reader picturing Tom Hiddleston playing him. (Yes, Tom's too old. So what.)

My only real quibble with it--one that I hope an editor at Penguin will help sort out--is that it's slightly under-written. Its narrative is so stripped down, and so many characters, important places, plot points and political factions are introduced with less than a full sentence, that I've felt completely lost a few times. Had to go back and re-read Volume 1 and half of Volume 2 before I could continue. Not that I minded.

In fact I'm not quite finished with Volume 2 and I'm trying to stretch it out, because there's a Volume 3 that isn't out yet.
darkemeralds: Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon USA in twilight (Portland)
1. Posting from my phone. This works slightly better with the latest version of Chrome for Android than it did before.

2. Reading the Felix Castor books by Mike Carey. Urban magician, kind of, except he's more of an exorcist, and there are ghosts and zombies. In London. Good stuff. A long arc underlies the individual story in each book. I'm on book two and it's getting more intriguing as it goes along.

3. I made oatcakes for dinner and ate them all.

4. The weather here in Stumptown is PERFECT. I can't get over it. Bright and warm in the day, cool in the leafy shade, cool at night. Breezes are keeping air quality high. It's wonderful.

5. Eleanor O is in the shop overnight, having her brakes adjusted and getting a new bungee for her rear rack. This means a couple of bus rides for me, but I don't mind because it's just so nice here right now, nothing seems bothersome.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
While I stand here listening to Coffitivity and more-or-less patiently waiting for the lieutenants of finance to finish closing the damn fiscal year already, I found an ancient approach to mental health, Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek Philosophy, by a guy named Jules Evans.

Jules admits to having wrecked his own mental health with drug use in the 90s. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with its roots deep in Stocisim, was his road back.

I'm especially impressed by this statement (because I feel like I'm right at this very crossroads in my own mental health journey):

...after 10 years of practising philosophy, I wonder if it leaves something out, if it’s too rational, self-controlled and unemotional... this year I have started researching ecstatic experience, and how people can achieve euphoria through music, dancing, drugs or the passionate love of God. As a friend put it recently: 'Back on ecstasy, eh?'

He has a book, of course. Good advance reviews.

Listening

Apr. 27th, 2013 10:26 pm
darkemeralds: An old book whose spine reads Signsls and Cyphers, with the text DarkEmeralds (Cyphers)
Just finished my third and probably final pass through Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler.

I first listened to this one about three years ago, and one of the authors' key findings left a big impression: that your position in your social network a) has a lot of influence over your well-being and b) is partly heritable. If you're peripheral (few friends, weak ties, less able to benefit from the network), there's an even chance that you were born that way.

This notion planted a seed in my brain that's borne some interesting fruit. A vague sense that asexuality and "attachment disorder" (god I hate that term) might be related to network position has led me to a lot of research and some new ideas about myself and how maybe I don't need fixing. (My post about my simple mind the other day may be loosely bound in this constellation too.)

It's a fascinating book. For a short version covering the high points for free, Christakis gives an entertaining TED talk, and a more sciencey TED talk.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I just finished the curiously entertaining Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick with William L. Simon, and enjoyably read by Ray Porter.

My book report. )
darkemeralds: Photo of a microphone with caption Read Me a Story. (Podfic)
My week's vacation has been filled with good things: long bike rides in bright, cold sunshine, lots of knitting, a visit to my good friend [personal profile] roseambr (who is housebound following some foot surgery), a session with a spiritual healer, and some really good reading.

I knit Stephen King into my new fisherman sweater. )

I made significant progress on my current knitting project, a pale-gray Aran-style cardigan, while listening to 11-22-63 (that is a really hard title to hold in the mind!), and now Jake Epping/George Amberson, the Yellow Card Man, and the tail-fins of 1950s American gas-guzzlers are entwined in the moss-stitch and cables of the left sleeve.

It's cold and sunny again today and I'm going out in a few minutes to treat myself to a pedicure.

Then I'm gonna start on Death Comes to Pemberley. I'll get back to non-fiction next week.
darkemeralds: An old book whose spine reads Signsls and Cyphers, with the text DarkEmeralds (Cyphers)
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, is my latest foray into long, paradigm-shifting nonfiction. My last major such foray was Kevin Kelly's What Technology Wants, and there's an interesting common thread in the two works.

Both examine long spans of history to discover evidence for the trends they are talking about--in Pinker's case, that human violence is decreasing, and in Kelly's that technology is a seventh order of life; both suggest that the trends are inevitable and natural (in fact, that's Kelly's primary thesis), and both find hope and beauty in human life as a result of their examinations.

I'm only about a quarter of the way through Pinker's massive nearly 800-page (32 hour) tome, so I don't yet know precisely where he's heading (except towards the thesis defined by his subtitle), but he writes engagingly and with humor about the fascinating and repellent subject of human violence.

(There is a TED talk here where Pinker summed up his ideas a few years ago, clearly in the early stages of his writing this book, and it covers some of the book's key points. Warning for shocking illustrative images and descriptions.)

It's prudent to mention that in order to make his case, Pinker has had to describe some really horrific forms of violence, though I'll give him credit: you need to understand how bad it's been to follow his larger argument, and somehow past gories are easier to hear/read about knowing that the whole point is that We Don't Do Those Things Anymore.

Good book. I'm enjoying having my mind expanded in hopeful and positive directions.

Two words

Oct. 4th, 2011 03:00 pm
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (true colors)
[personal profile] executrix sent me a gorgeous book, Style Statement: Live By Your Own Design by Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy.

It looks like a coffee-table book of fashion and personal style, but it's really about discovering your true values. Big changes are on my horizon, and Style Statement looked like a great way to start designing the next phase of my life.

A battered street sign for North Kalaheo Avenue in Kailua, Hawaii1

It is. )
darkemeralds: An old book whose spine reads Signsls and Cyphers, with the text DarkEmeralds (Cyphers)
Stress, weakened eyesight, busy-ness, online activity, sore hands, fanfic, annoyance at technology, an internet-induced attention deficit, and probably a few other things have all conspired in recent years to curtail my reading of books.

Lately, though, I've sort of taken it up again, this book-reading thing. [personal profile] ravurian has heckled me into a bunch of it, actually going so far as to send me books.

I was gonna list a bunch of them here, but then I got all knotted up over fiction vs nonfiction and paper books vs ebooks vs audiobooks, and then I realized that if you count audiobooks, I've never stopped "reading", and if things like lectures and podcasts count as audiobooks, my absorption of material has been pretty good all along.

And of course, if you count fanfic, which...why would you not, really?...well, I read more than I thought I did.

But still, I was sitting up in bed last night with a nice bright reading light on, and a cat nearby, and a real book* in hands whose achy joints I was completely ignoring, and it was really nice.

*Nights in the Gardens of Spain by Witi Ihimaera.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Nerd)
I think I've finally been won over to the Kindle side.

Not that I have anything against ebooks--I really don't. I bought a Rocket eBook when it first came out, in 1999, and I've been an avid ebook aficionado ever since--in theory.

But somewhere along the line I kind of quit reading. "Real" reading gave way to fanfic--which I avidly read on my PDA, then on a succession of smartphones--but I gradually seemed to lose all power of attention, and switched almost entirely to podfic and audiobooks. I liked the Kindle in principle, but I didn't really need one.

[personal profile] ravurian (who has been the instigator of a number of changes lately*) recommended Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London, and located an audiobook version for me. I enjoyed it so much that I listened to it twice, the second time finishing this afternoon while I was ironing on my porch in the sun. I wanted to go immediately on to the sequel, but it doesn't seem to be available yet in audio.

So, with my new Android tablet in hand, and a Kindle-for-Android app before me, this evening over dinner I bought my first Kindle edition: Ben Aaronovitch's Moon Over Soho.

I'm in love. I can see it. I can read it. I'm reading again! It's wonderful.

* He also persuaded me to buy a hardcover novel not long ago--and I read it, but it took two months: Jo Walton's Among Others. Good book.
darkemeralds: Poster image of farm-fresh food (Eat Food)
I just chopped up every vegetable in the house, sautéed them all a little, and added a can of garbanzos and a bunch of chicken stock. That counts as soup, right?

Talk about satiety! One bowl of that stuff was mighty. (Also pretty tasty.) And there are at least eight bowls left in the pot. And hardly any calories. I'm starting to get the hang of this.

Meanwhile, books. )
darkemeralds: Manga-style avatar of DarkEm with caption Hee (cartoony me)
I just finished Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, and found it such compelling food for thought that I turned around and dived into What Technology Wants, by Kevin Kelly.

Sometimes I get in these moods.

Connected )
What Technology Wants )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I just finished re-recording chapter 4 (of 12) of my Podbang entry. I lost almost three weeks of podfic-recording time to the flu! I felt fine after one week, but my voice didn't come all the way back till yesterday. It will be a dash to get the remaining eight chapters recorded and edited by deadline. I'm gonna need another bottle of Scotch.

Along with making podfic, I managed to generate 3000 new words this weekend on the long Regency AU fic. Some of those words are good, and a few are even good in the order they're currently in. It's a great feeling to jumpstart a stalled novel. I love that thing.

In the department of consuming written material, I listened to another couple of hours of The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, and I have to tell you, the book is almost unbearably thrilling as the author follows the paths of several individuals involved in fighting the massive forest fire. I burst into tears at a couple of points, either from sadness or joy as these real, documented people--and their towns--perish or miraculously survive.

And in the department of consuming other things, I made a perfect-looking batch of Pandora cookies while I listened to my audiobook. They've been cooling while I've been recording my podfic. Now I get to go eat one! Or maybe two.

Fires

Nov. 5th, 2009 11:08 am
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Bonfire Night! I won't pretend to get all the nuances of Guy Fawkes Day, having lived in England for only one of them, but I love my annual chance to use this icon. *waves to all her UK friends*

Speaking of fire, I'm reading/listening to The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America, by Timothy Egan, the surprisingly thrilling and subtextually homoerotic history of the founding of the United States Forest Service.

I know, right? But the friendship between Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot was passionate and deep, and founded on a love of the American West that gave rise to the very concept of conservationism in the US. (I've lived near the Gifford Pinchot National Forest most of my life, and didn't know until this week that Gifford Pinchot was just, this guy, you know?)

Egan uses a devastating forest fire that burned much of northern Idaho and Montana in 1910, as the linchpin of his story--it's the kind of book that starts with a vivid and horrifying description of the approach of a disaster--the titular fire--then goes back in time and traces the threads that led up to that disaster and its importance as "the fire that saved America". I still don't know whether the town survived!

[ETA: [livejournal.com profile] nwhepcat has been there! It lives! Wallace, Idaho.]

The audiobook is read by Roberston Dean, whom I know nothing about except that he has a deep, rich, James-Earl-Jones-ish voice that's wonderful to listen to.

Highly recommended.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I don't really like books that much. I grew up with a librarian and a bookdealer. Freakin' books everywhere! I had my leather-bound and gilt-edged phase early. When ebooks came along, no one was more ready than I to leap on that bandwagon, and it remains my preferred reading format.
That said, it isn't as if I *can't* do the book meme. )

5) And as for passing this on: Tag, you're it:

[livejournal.com profile] kispexi2
[livejournal.com profile] wedjateye
[livejournal.com profile] tehomet
[livejournal.com profile] forodwaith
[livejournal.com profile] thecaelum

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