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today's word: presbyopia!

I went to the eye doctor today, got an exam and ordered new glasses. $$$OMGSTICKERSHOCK$$$ It all cost about twice what I was expecting to pay, largely because I now need bifocals and apparently they are not cheap. I also need a strong prescription generally, which means either buying fancy ultra-thin lenses or wearing the proverbial Coke bottles, which I'd rather not.

Getting old is expensive!!!

(Luckily--for some value of luckily--when I lost my old job I had the option to take cash from my retirement account, and I did so specifically to get new specs, get my car fixed, and a few other not-small expenditures I'd been putting off.)

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recipe . . . Sunday?

I didn't manage to make this post on Friday, so today will have to do.

Something I've cooked recently: I cooked the things I mentioned in the last post. The chicken fricassee with anchovies and olives turned out salty, as I ought to have expected, but it was nice when eaten with lots of polenta. The meatball soup was delicious even though it was made with supermarket chicken stock and supermarket frozen meatballs (also a tin of tomatoes, a bunch of chard including the chopped-up stalks, some barley, and a couple of minced cloves of garlic cooked briefly in olive oil and stirred in at the end of cooking for a nice garlicky kick).

Today I cooked some lentils (the nice little French green ones) with lamb merguez sausages. It was very simple and turned out well. I browned the sausages in olive oil, then set them aside and briefly cooked a couple of finely chopped shallots in the oil, added three minced cloves of garlic and a pinch of whole cumin when the shallots were ready, then added the lentils, some chicken stock, and half a bay leaf. I added water as needed as the lentils cooked, and once they were pretty much done I put the sausages back in to simmer for ten minutes or so--that way the sausages weren't overcooked and the lamb flavor didn't take over the whole dish. At the end I added some parsley and mint--I can now advise you not to bother with the mint unless you have a cheap source for decent quantities, because it didn't do much--and finished the dish with feta crumbled on top and a bit of harissa.

And I did end up making a Bailey's cake of sorts. It turned out that I didn't have any eggs and didn't feel like going out to buy any, so I modified a recipe for a very 1960s retro dish called "chocolate pudding cake," which has a cakey layer on top and a gooey chocolate sauce/pudding underneath. Its chief virtues are simplicity and not requiring any eggs. In its original form it's absurdly sweet and not very interesting, so I reduced the sugar, upped the cocoa powder, added some espresso powder, and used 1/2 cup of Bailey's in place of the same amount of water and milk. These changes improved it a lot, but one of these days I'll have to make a proper cake. I thought about making one today but I turned out to be almost out of sugar.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I don't know how near, but I seem to have committed myself to cooking the quails stuffed with sweetbreads, in that I have bought some frozen quails. And I found an actual local butcher shop that can readily supply sweetbreads, as well as house-made charcuterie and all kinds of other treats, including the lamb merguez I used in today's stew. Not sure what I'm going to have with the quail, but I'm thinking about a mushroom risotto. I feel a bit ridiculous and a lot extravagant, cooking such fancy things just for myself, but on the other hand there's something to be said for the Hannibal Lecter philosophy of treating oneself as a most honored guest. This would be TV Hannibal, obviously; other versions of the character are (even more) terrible role models.

Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: I've got a recipe for a chicken pie stuffed with chicken livers that I want to try. I should probably make other pies too in the next few months, as this cold weather is far better for most pastry-making then summer heat. And I'm still craving soups and stews. This is part of the reason I'm using commercial chicken broth: my need for broth/stock has far outstripped my consumption of chicken and thus my accumulation of chicken bones, and I can't quite bring myself to buy chicken just to make stock from it.

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DAAS stuff

1) Last night I watched this concert film of DAAS at Redlands Community College in Queensland. I'd never seen it before--last time I was fannish about DAAS, it wasn't on the internet. It was great to see routines I didn't know, even if a lot of it seemed like new pieces being tested that weren't fated to make the cut. The boys seemed to be having an off night as well. But all that means that the anarchic potential people say was characteristic of their live shows is much closer to the surface than in their more polished concert films. And if for nothing else, I must love it for the "sociology experiment" in which Paul selects a man from the audience and kisses him lengthily.

2) There's a moment in the song "I Love the French" when the boys shout out "baise mon cul." They probably thought they were saying "kiss my ass," but what it actually means is "fuck my ass."* I'm equally amused by the possibility that their ignorance of French turned an aggressive statement in a xenophobic song into a plea for some foreign lovin', and the possibility that they knew perfectly well what they were saying and it's some meta-ironic thing.

*Baiser is a notorious opportunity for French learners to embarrass themselves. As a noun, un baiser does indeed mean "a kiss." But the verb baiser means "to fuck."

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Wednesday reading meme

Currently reading: I've been re-reading the Aubrey and Maturin books, because I'm in a mood where I have to feel very, very confident that I'm going to like a book (and that it won't betray me with things like "Oh by the way this character you've been reading as queer is totally 120% straight") or I don't want to bother with it. I'm in the middle of The Thirteen Gun Salute right now and still enjoying almost everything on this third reading.

Recently read: I think the last non-Aubrey and Maturin book I read was Ben Aaronovitch's latest Rivers of London novel, The Hanging Tree. I had mixed feelings. It wasn't a bad book by any means, and I love the series as a whole, and I love most of the characters, but the Faceless Man plot has dragged on far, far too long. I could just about live with that if the worldbuilding was still as good as it initially was, but I don't feel we've learned anything really interesting about magic for a couple of books now. I'm also uncomfortable with not plot spoilery, but cutCollapse ) And finally, not enough Nightingale.

What I'm planning to read next: I'll probably finish the Aubrey and Maturin books before I move on. After that, I don't know.

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a beverage meme

Seen in various places on DW, but originally from [community profile] thefridayfive.

1. How do you like your coffee? I'm only an intermittent coffee drinker, and often I'm just drinking it for the caffeine. But there's one local coffee shop where the coffee actually tastes good, and I will go there sometimes for one a latte. I always take coffee with lots of milk (or better still, half-and-half) and no sugar.

2. How do you like your tea? It depends on what kind of tea. I drink green teas and certain black teas, such as lapsang souchong and good darjeeling, unadulterated. Same with iced tea. Cheap black tea, such as the "English Breakfast" blend I drink in the mornings to wake up, I take with milk and sugar. Oddly enough, I use the same blend of tea for iced tea, which I drink straight, but chilling the tea seems to tame the bitterness. I put sugar in most herbal teas, but my dream is to discover some that taste good without it, and I've finally found one: the chamomile and lavender tea from The English Tea Shop. It is the best herbal tea ever.

3. What's your favorite late night beverage? In warm weather, water. I drink lots of water all the time. I have to for medical reasons but I also really like it. In the winter I like something warm at bedtime--herbal tea or occasionally a hot toddy or hot whiskey.

4. If you could only drink one thing for the next week, what would it be? Let's assume that water is allowed regardless. So: lapsang souchong. I can drink it when the thought of almost anything else turns my stomach, which is important because I am not a natural early riser and I often feel gross in the mornings.

5. If you were on vacation, what would be the first thing you'd drink to celebrate? Assuming "on vacation" implies travelling, probably a local beer of some kind. Or wine if it's really a wine place and not a beer place, but I'm not a wine fan on the whole. If I were in Japan I would set out to drink all the gyokuro, because it's my favorite tea.

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recipe Friday

Something I've cooked recently: Not a lot. On Sunday, while I was opening up a tin of tomatoes for a pasta sauce, I cut my thumb open pretty deeply on the lid. It still hasn't entirely healed, and that's put a damper on cooking and other activities requiring opposable thumbs.

However, today I'm planning to cook a chicken fricassee with anchovies and olives from a recipe by Marcella Hazan. And right now I'm frying delicious bacon for a delicious bacon sandwich.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: I'm going to make a soup with meatballs (store-bought in a moment of weakness, and there's half a packet left that I need to use up), chard, and barley or maybe farro or maybe Israeli couscous, depending on how I feel about it on the day.

Something I'm vaguely thinking about cooking eventually: I recently acquired Feeding Hannibal, the cookbook by the show's food stylist Janice Poon. Some of the recipes are far too ambitious for me, but I'm tempted by the quail stuffed with sweetbreads and hazelnuts, which is meant to mimic the flavor of ortolans (real ortolans, not the ortolan-shaped marzipan the actors actually ate during the scene). Quail are easy to find and not too expensive, and while getting hold of sweetbreads may be difficult, at least (unlike tripe) I love to eat them, with no ambivalence whatsoever.

I also plan to make brownies or cupcakes or something using some of the Bailey's I bought at Christmas.

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sometimes old fandoms really don't die

Recently I rewatched some old Doug Anthony Allstars stuff and fell in love all over again.* I did some googling and discovered that DAAS have actually gotten back together**, with a new show that they performed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and then toured.

I'm torn between joy (it's a fan's dream come true! it's the kind of thing that never happens, but it did!) and frustration that I'll never get to see them play live. Hopefully they'll release a DVD, anyway.

The new show, "Near Death Experiences," is apparently based around Tim Ferguson's worsening multiple sclerosis--he uses a wheelchair now--and the fact that they're all almost thirty years older. Where the old DAAS's favorite taboos to comedically break were sexual ones, now they're joking about illness, disability, aging, and mortality. Or in other words, the topics I am increasingly drawn to as I get older. I really, really want a DVD, oh yes.

Here's a pretty good interview with Tim:

A more group-focused piece in which Paul nearly loses his composure every time he's asked about his feelings for Tim:

And in case you're thinking "The Doug Anthony who with the what now?", have some clips from their days of youth and stardom. The second and third clips are HIGHLY NSFW.

*Seriously, we live in a world in which Donald Trump can be elected President of the US and yet I am still not Paul McDermott's boyfriend. How can this be?

**Sort of. Richard chose to keep his day job and was replaced on guitar by Paul Livingstone aka Flacco.

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true culinary confessions

I threw the tripe away.

This would be the tripe I was cooking last week for a stew. After ten hours in the slow cooker, the tripe was still rubbery. It also had a slight but distinct unpleasant smell and a dank taste. I stuck it in the fridge for a couple of days, but couldn't bring myself to go back to cooking it. I don't like wasting food, but it seemed better to waste the tripe before I added chickpeas and sausage to it, so into the bin it went.

I ended up making a similar stew, only without the tripe. I browned some Spanish-style chorizo and some garlicky smoked sausage, added a chopped red onion and cooked it for a few minutes, added several cloves of minced garlic, then added cooked chickpeas along with their cooking water and a bit of crumbled dried sage. It was delicious. (The water from cooking dried chickpeas is very flavorful and can replace broth; if you're using canned chickpeas, I'd drain and rinse them and use chicken broth.)

At the moment I'm making a Thai-flavored vegetable soup. By which I'm mean I'm using the vegetables I had that really really needed using up--some zucchini/courgettes, some spinach, and some tomatoes--plus tofu, cooked in a combination of coconut milk and chicken broth with Thai red curry paste.

Soups and stews are about all I've really wanted lately, because it's been so cold here. Anybody have great recipes to share? I'm especially interested in ones without a lot of meat, or at least with the meat in the form of sausages or meatballs (or broth, of course), because I've been getting weird lately about the texture of wet-cooked meat.

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and the year finally ends

I'm at home, not feeling very well--I was just getting over a cold and then I got kicked in the head, almost literally, by what seems like a sinus infection. But I have eaten some fancy cheese, and now I'm drinking something bubbly (cherry lambic, perhaps not the height of sophistication but awfully tasty). I will probably go to bed quite early, especially if I finish the bottle of lambic.

So, goodbye 2016, year in which David Bowie and Alan Rickman died*, Donald Trump got elected president of the US, and I got laid off. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, horrible old year. (*All too many other gifted artists also died, but they were closest to my heart.)

Tomorrow I will cook tripe for a Spanish-style stew that also features chickpeas, chorizo, and ham. I will force myself to go to the laundromat. A new year will begin.

I don't normally make resolutions, but in 2017 I resolve to be here more often, to keep in better touch with all of you (because you're important to me), to post even if it just means talking about cooking, to try to participate fannishly again in some way. We have all lost so much, one way and another; I want to hold on to the friends I've made, amazingly, all over the world.

Much love to you, and wishing all of us a better 2017.

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advise me, internet people!

So, I'm thinking seriously about getting a cat. I love cats and I've wanted one for ages and ages, but my life and especially my finances never seemed stable enough. They still don't, but I will have some money coming in because of stuff to do with my old job, and I would be able to afford the adoption fees, the nonrefundable pet "deposit" my apartment complex demands, and all the equipment I'd need.

But I have doubts. Or at least I have a great ability to worry and consequently, a lousy ability to make decisions. What if I get the cat home and then I don't like it? What if it does something horrible like pee everywhere? What if it climbs up on everything and breaks all my stuff? What if it gets sick and I'm stuck with enormous vet bills I can't afford? What if my apartment (an efficiency) is too small and the cat feels caged up and bored? (It's not too small for me, but then, I get to leave.)

What should I doooooooooooo?

I should note that I specifically want to get an adult cat, not a kitten, and that I'll be looking for one with a fairly mellow personality who's used to being an indoor cat. I'm hoping that will help with the getting restless and climbing and breaking everything issues.

All advice welcome. I'm particularly worried about peeing/spraying. How common are these problems? Do neutered male cats mostly not spray, or should I only consider female cats?

And the real deepest worry: is it ethical to get an animal even though, if it gets, say, cancer, I wouldn't be able to afford kitty chemo and I'd have to have it put to sleep?

Damn it, I've made myself cry. This is why I need advice from people who are not as anxiety-ridden and prone to think of worst case scenarios as I am.

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recipe Friday on Sunday

Something I've cooked recently: Since the election it's been all about the comfort food. Yesterday I cooked polenta with a creamy mushroom sauce, and today I made a mediterranean-ish soup (beef stock, tomatoes, onion, lots of garlic, a little barley, a little kasha, zucchini, spinach, chickpeas, and small meatballs made of ground beef and grated onion; bay leaf and a bit of Greek oregano for seasoning; a squeeze of lemon and a little crumbled feta cheese to finish). It was very loosely based on a recipe from Jerusalem by Yotami Ottolenghi and Samir Tamimi, and it was yummy.

Something I have concrete plans to cook soon: oden, the Japanese fish and tofu stew. I adore it but don't make it often because the ingredients are costly, even if you cheat like I do and mostly buy the less expensive fish cakes and tofu products manufactured elsewhere in Asia, rather than the authentic Japanese ones. But when I was in Albuquerque on Friday, the siren song of the big international grocery lured me in, and I bought some fried tofu and several kinds of fish balls, and proper Japanese kamaboko (a sort of shaped fish loaf) and konnyaku (a sort of extremely firm flavorless jelly/jello made from taro root--it doesn't taste like much but you can form it into cool looking twists). I'll add in some daikon, some boiled eggs (the eggs are the best part of oden!), and maybe, inauthentically as far as I know, some fresh squid. Normally oden is eaten with rice but I confess that I often eat it with soba noodles instead. I think the earthiness of soba is a great match for oden. Apologies if I have just horrified any Japanese people or connoisseurs of pure Japanese cuisine.

Something I have vague plans to cook eventually: I'm supposed to bring a pie to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, but not a pumpkin pie because the friend's making that one herself. I think I'm going to go for a chocolate and orange marmalade tart that I found in one of my cookbooks. Almost everybody loves chocolate, and the recipe is easy but not uninteresting since it calls for you to make your own marmalde filling.

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love is not a victory march

I didn't cry about the election.

Well, not until I watched this. From Saturday Night Live, of all places.

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election question

Has anybody seen hard data on whether, and to what degree, low-income white voters went for Trump? I've found lots of statistics broken down by race, education, income, etc., and some combined data (race + education or race + sex), but I haven't seen race + income anywhere.

The stereotype is that Trump's base was poor and working class whites, but other statistics do not seem to bear this out: a significant majority of people with incomes under $50,000 voted for Clinton. But I'd like to see those numbers broken down by race. (There's also a weird demographic twist where the less education a voter--especially a white voter--had, the more like s/he was to vote Trump. But the income figures are basically the opposite, and I'm wondering who all these less-educated rich people are.)

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this is just a bad dream, right?

President Trump.

President Trump.

How the fuck did this even happen? How could half the country be willing to vote for a megalomaniacal racist, misogynist, and avowed sexual assaulter of women?

I mean, I know that a disturbingly large number of people voted for him because of that stuff. See also: basket of deplorables.

But I can't imagine what was in the minds of the people who voted for him despite it.

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why, Facebook, why?

I'm trying again to use Facebook to keep in touch with people. Which is to say, I'm trying to make my affection for the people overpower my hatred for the cluttered, unintuitive, inconvenient interface.

But please tell me, o knowledgeable Facebook users: is there really no way to limit your news feed to posts by your friends, instead of getting a post ever damn time a friend "likes" something or comments on something? I only have about 30 Facebook friends and already the signal-to-noise ratio on my news feed is pretty terrible. I know about using friends lists, but I still don't want, say, a baby announcement from a grad school friend's cousin turning up on my feed because my friend comments on it. I don't know how people with hundreds of friends wade through the sea of posts to find anything of real interest.

Second question: is there a way to not see someone's posts without actually unfriending them? I have an old boss friended, but O.B. posts a ton, and a lot of it's Christian stuff or cryptic but probably pro-Trump election stuff, and I don't want to see it but I don't want to offend O.B. either.

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1) I saw the movie Denial the other night. It's about the trial of Deborah Lipstadt, a history professor who was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving after she called him a Holocaust denier. The script created a surprising amount of suspense and tension from a story to which most people know the ending (Lipstadt was acquitted on the grounds that everything she said about Irving was true), and the acting was great. Rachel Weisz may have overacted a little bit in some scenes, but it's hard to be sure because she was playing a brash American among a bunch of restrained middle-class English people. Andrew Scott was great as Lipstadt's solicitor, Tom Wilkinson marvellously nuanced as her barrister, and Mark Gatiss imbued a small role with a quiet, mysterious charisma. Anyone who thinks Scott and/or Gatiss can't act should see this film.

The script, by David Hare, is a delicate balancing act. The plot trajectory is almost that of a feel-good film, in which truth wins out and the bad guy is reproved and shamed. But the truth that wins out is one of the greatest atrocities in human history. The film, especially in the final sequence, sharply restrains our celebratory reactions. In the end, that's what I liked most about it.

2) After seeing the film, I read Lipstadt's book on the Eichmann trial (I haven't been able to get hold of her book on Holocaust denial yet, but I want to read it although it's well out of date by now.) The Eichmann book was disappointing. This gets a bit longCollapse )

3) In (somewhat) lighter reading, I've been thinking about re-reading Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad books so that I can finally read Secret Place and then the new one. I need to be reminded of the characters' backstories and interactions, but I'm not sure I can take that much concentrated bleakness in one big dose.

I'd like to know why so many contemporary mystery writers think the only story worth telling is one that makes you wish that whole human race would be wiped out in an asteroid strike.

4) Work post-mortem gathering tonight. I'm going, because I want to try to maintain relationships with people, but I can't say I'm eager. Hopefully the people I particularly want to see will be there, and not too many of the ones I don't.

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mostly about baking, one way and another

I'm back again, after an unexpected hiatus. The touchplate or whatever you call it on my laptop stopped working, and I had to buy a mouse.

I'm feeling somewhat disconnected with fandom, especially since I've been away for so long. About all I've been doing that's remotely fannish is watching the new series of The Great British Bake Off. (As always, I've love it if you pointed me towards books/movies/TV you've enjoyed and think I might too.)

Some thoughts under the cutCollapse )

As usual, the Bake Off (and the onset of cooler weather) has got me baking again. Today I made a peach pie, which turned out rather nice despite some trouble with the pastry. I used the tricky-ish recipe for Flaky Pastry from Paul Hollywood's Pies and Puds. It's about halfway between a normal flaky pastry and a puff pastry: you rub some of the fat into the flour, but you scatter most of it over the dough and then do folds and turns, and I had trouble with the butter wanting to come through the dough each time I rolled it out. Also, I discovered too late that the recipe doesn't make quite enough pastry for a covered pie, so I had to roll it worryingly thin.

Besides the pie, I made a potato salad dressed with anchovies, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and chopped olives, based on a recipe by Marcela Hazan. I also cooked some broccoli until just tender and tossed it with a similar dressing of anchovies, garlic, olive oil, lemon, and some grated pecorino cheese.

In a little while I'm going to make up a sort of coleslaw dressed with oil, lime juice, and cumin, which I plan to eat tomorrow alongside roasted pork tenderloin with an orange and chipotle chile sauce.

My cooking, like the local weather, is hovering at the edge of autumn. Usually I look forward to colder weather and heartier dishes, but about a month ago I became obsessed with watermelon and crave it all the time, and I'm not ready yet for it to go away.

On the other hand, soups. Lovely, lovely soups.

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It is 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) outside. Not much less than that inside, I suspect. I'm supposed to be cleaning my apartment for another stupid inspection on Tuesday, but it's not really happening. They probably won't pick my apartment anyway, and in case they do I might just hang a note saying "It's been too damn hot to clean. Deal with it."

Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that I'm going to be mostly offline from tomorrow until July 7th, because money's a bit tight and I can't spend it on internet access right now.

Best wishes to all, and do please leave links here to things you post or interesting posts you see, so that I can check them out when I get back.

Must go now because computer is v v hot.

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is there a novel about her yet?

Thanks to Mary Beard, I now know about Allia Potestas, a Roman freedwoman who, round about the 2nd or 3rd century CE, lived in happy harmony with her two lovers. One of them wrote this epitaph that was carved on her memorial stone. There's a nice image of the stone here about halfway down.

How I wish that, back when I was trying to learn Latin, the textbook had given me more of this kind of thing and less about stern manly virtues.

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Recently read: Inspired by Melissa Scott, I've been re-reading Katherine Kurtz's Deryni novels, which were dear to me in my youth. I was given the second trilogy, the Camber books, for Christmas when I was fifteen or sixteen; they were probably the first fantasy I'd ever read, and I fell in love with Kurtz's medieval-inspired world. It fostered not only my love for fantasy, but my later academic interest in medieval and early modern England.

More under the cutCollapse )

What I'm reading now: I'm about halfway through Mary Beard's SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. I'm impressed by this book, which does what I always want popular history to do: while definitely written for the nonspecialist, it retains some of the rigor of academic history. In particular I like Beard's attention to historiography. She pays a lot of attention to problems of scant evidence, biased evidence (e.g. most of what we know about Catiline comes from his arch-enemy Cicero), and what evidence is actually evidence of (e.g., ancient Romans writing about Rome's early history often imported the concerns of their own times). And she makes an effort to explore traditionally silenced perspectives like those of women, the poor, and slaves. Beard also writes brisk, clear, fluid prose that's a pleasure to read.

What I'm reading next: I have two library books next on the agenda. A Kill in the Morning, by Graeme Shimmin, is a post-WWII alternate history, a genre I'm shamefully fond of. Could be good, could be dreadful. Matt's Ruff's Lovecraft Country, which explores the Lovecraft mythos and its underlying racism through the story of African Americans in the 1950s confronted with bigoted white cultists, is a book I've heard very good things about. I'm looking forward to it, though with some trepidation because I expect it will be wrenching. (Though it would have to work hard to be as devastating as Kai Ashante Wilson's extraordinary and brutal The Devil in America, which tackles similar themes of the murderous history of racism in America, though without the Lovecraft element.)

After I've read those, it will probably be back to the Deryni for me.

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Fandomless: Blue ship
when regiment is gone


April 2017



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