Friday, July 13, 2018

Endless Water, Starless Sky by Rosamund Hodge

Endless Water, Starless Sky (Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, #2)
Romeo had looked at a Catresou girl and loved her. He had believed that Juliet was more than a weapon, and that it was worthwhile to love her, however little time they might have. He had died believing it.

Juliet had believed that once too.

She couldn't free her people. She couldn't free herself. And she couldn't save the city from its doom.

But she could be like Romeo, and learn to love her enemies. She could protect these people around her for whatever time they had left.

It wasn't exactly hope, but maybe it could be enough.
This is the second half of the tale begun in Bright Smoke, Cold Fire which I reviewed here. It will come out on July 24.

The city walls are not holding despite increasingly large blood sacrifices. The dead continue to rise, mindlessly hungry. (Yep. Zombies and the end of the world.)

The Juliet has been trapped into protecting Romeo's family at great cost to her own. Meanwhile, Romeo is attempting redemption by protecting Juliet's family. (Oh the irony! And the romantic gestures!)

Paris is still dead but alive enough to obey the necromancer's spell. Runajo is still trying to find a way to protect her city while tortured by her betrayal of her friend Juliet.

So we've got the perfect setup for the conclusion of Rosamund Hodge's riff on Shakespeare.

The story is complex enough that I'd forgotten important details from the first part and had to reread it before I could launch properly into Endless Water, Starless Sky. We still have all the big themes and literary devices that gave the first part depth and complexity. Here the story has everyone running as fast as they can to try to avert disaster, both of civilization and of their personal lives. There is a lot of fighting and a lot of talking in the first half — we did mention this is a riff on Romeo and Juliet, right? But it all works.

As engrossing as most of the book was, it really entered new territory in the last fourth where it becomes an otherworldly, Dante-esque journey. This part was wildly inventive and yet delicately balanced to guide the reader to the ultimately satisfying conclusion.

I really loved it and will definitely be rereading it, sooner rather than later. If you liked the first half, you'll like this. If you haven't read either, then you've got a treat in store.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Around Here: Dickens and the Sandwich

Having visited Dickens and Boxers yesterday made me remember another thing I love and its connection with Dickens — sandwiches. This is from 3 years ago but well worth revisiting. At least it was for me!

Sandwiches and Dickens

I was reading Barnaby Rudge and was startled by seeing a sandwich mentioned:
He was not without some refreshment during the long lonely hours; generally carrying in his pocket a sandwich of bread and meat, and a small flask of wine.
Now I know sandwiches were invented some time ago but I hadn't come across them in fiction this old, especially as a reflection of casual everyday life. And this book was set around the time of our Revolutionary War so I had 1776 firmly in mind.

Did they eat sandwiches then?

Finishing up Barnaby (not bad, not bad at all), I picked up The Pickwick Papers for a bit of light bedtime humor.

I was stunned to find ... another sandwich in Mr. Jingle's shocking but funny story:
Heads, heads — take care of your heads!... Five children — mother — tall lady, eating sandwiches — forgot the arch — crash — knock — children look round — mother's head off — sandwich in her hand—no mouth to put it in — head of a family off—shocking, shocking!
This made Tom look up the origin date of the sandwich which, of course, no one knows. The famous story about the Earl of Sandwich, all honor to this lazy but tidy card player (bread kept the meat grease off his hands and cards) who invented one of my favorite foods, is placed in the late 1700s.

Of course, sandwiches were around before then but they weren't called sandwiches. They were known as "meat and bread" or "bread and cheese." It is when the name "sandwich" became commonly used that is interesting. And then we have this bit of evidence:
That respectable body, of which I have the honour of being a member, affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty, perhaps, of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin, in the middle of a coffee-room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich, and drinking a glass of punch.
Edward Gibbon, journal entry, November 24, 1762
So that's all right then, for Dickens use in Barnaby Rudge. And it turns out that Dickens had his own sandwich memories, though this one doesn't seem happy at all:
A longer time afterwards he recollected the stage-coach journey, and said in one of his published papers that never had he forgotten, through all the intervening years, the smell of the damp straw in which he was packed and forwarded like game, carriage-paid. “There was no other inside passenger, and I consumed my sandwiches in solitude and dreariness, and it rained hard all the way, and I thought life sloppier than I expected to find it.”
Dickens writing of his journey when he was 10
to join his family in their new home,
Life of Charles Dickens by John Foster
I found a few more of Dickens' sandwiches when I was looking around.
Great Expectations: My guardian then took me into his own room, and while he lunched, standing, from a sandwich-box and a pocket flask of sherry (he seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me what arrangements he had made for me.

Bleak House: "My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "you have four schools this afternoon. I would recommend a hasty sandwich."

Mugby Junction: "Well!" said Our Missis, with dilated nostrils. "Take a fresh, crisp, long, crusty penny loaf made of the whitest and best flour. Cut it longwise through the middle. Insert a fair and nicely fitting slice of ham. Tie a smart piece of ribbon round the middle of the whole to bind it together. Add at one end a neat wrapper of clean white paper by which to hold it. And the universal French Refreshment sangwich busts on your disgusted vision."

Uncommercial Traveller: Between the pieces, we almost all of us went out and refreshed. Many of us went the length of drinking beer at the bar of the neighbouring public-house, some of us drank spirits, crowds of us had sandwiches and ginger-beer at the refreshment-bars established for us in the Theatre. The sandwich--as substantial as was consistent with portability, and as cheap as possible--we hailed as one of our greatest institutions. It forced its way among us at all stages of the entertainment, and we were always delighted to see it; its adaptability to the varying moods of our nature was surprising; we could never weep so comfortably as when our tears fell on our sandwich; we could never laugh so heartily as when we choked with sandwich; Virtue never looked so beautiful or Vice so deformed as when we paused, sandwich in hand, to consider what would come of that resolution of Wickedness in boots, to sever Innocence in flowered chintz from Honest Industry in striped stockings. When the curtain fell for the night, we still fell back upon sandwich, to help us through the rain and mire, and home to bed.
Dickens must have enjoyed a good sandwich as much as I do. I'll have one of those universal French Refreshment sangwiches for lunch, please!

Summer, James Tissot

Summer, James Tissot

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Worth a Thousand Words: Zebra Back Rub

Zebra Back Rub
taken by Valerie of ucumari photography
some rights reserved
You're really missing a treat if you don't browse Valerie's photography. There are some simply wonderful candid animal shots.

Lagniappe: Boxer

Boxer, feeling that his attentions were due to the family in general, and must be impartially distributed, dashed in and out with bewildering inconstancy; now, describing a circle of short barks round the horse, where he was being rubbed down at the stable-door; now feigning to make savage rushes at his mistress, and facetiously bringing himself to sudden stops; now, eliciting a shriek from Tilly Slowboy, in the low nursing-chair near the fire, by the unexpected application of his moist nose to her countenance; now, exhibiting an obtrusive interest in the baby; now, going round and round upon the hearth, and lying down as if he had established himself for the night; now, getting up again, and taking that nothing of a fag-end of a tail of his, out into the weather, as if he had just remembered an appointment, and was off, at a round trot, to keep it.
Courtesy of Project Gutenberg where
this novella is available free in a variety of formats
One of my favorite bits in the beginning of The Cricket on the Hearth is accuracy of Charles Dickens' description of the Perrybingles' dog, Boxer. Ours is a "double Boxer" household and ours are almost constantly displaying some of those very attributes.
Chances are that the Boxers of Dickens' day didn't look precisely like those we have today, but they surely acted like them!

This article shows several breeds past and present, among which is the Boxer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"I wouldn't want to do this with anyone but you."

These little choices to not selfishly take out one's frustration on another are not so different from the choices we have to make elsewhere in life in order to get along with others. In this sense, getting along with MrsDarwin is not so very different from getting along with anyone else. Thinking about marital virtue in this regard, one can think: Love is a choice. It doesn't have to be just one person.

There's truth in that too. Yet, it's so much easier to make those choices with someone to whom I'd so much rather be married.

I wouldn't want to do this with anyone but you.

The best of all is when I love him because he is, literally, God’s gift to me: the unique spark of God’s creative love through whom, by the graces of marriage, I find my path to heaven. The path may be dark sometimes, or rough, or busy, or blissful, but it’s never solitary. Through the sacrament of marriage, we walk it together, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
Mrs. Darwin
Over at DarwinCatholic the Darwins have a lovely post in praise of marriage that is written with both idealism (even after 17 years) and loads of reality (because - 17 years). I really enjoyed it and the above excerpts can't do it justice. Please do go and read it for yourself.

Summertime in Holland

Allegory of summer, Jan van Goyen

The medium and the message

In Jesus Christ, there is no separation between the medium and the message: it is the one case where we can say that the medium and the message are fully one and the same.
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Light

On their way to Petra, Julie thought she overheard Scott telling someone "You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?"

What he actually said was, "You do see, don't you, that burgers are best grilled?" No one had the heart to tell Poirot. Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie is the subject of Episode 186 at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ridiculously Entertaining: Tashan and Dhoom 3

I was going to stop talking about Bollywood movies unless I came across something that I thought would be good entryway films.

And then this weekend I came across two such movies. These are both by director/screenwriter Vijay Krishna Acharya. That is completely coincidental but it did wind up leaving me with my first Indian director to keep an eye out for. Both these movies were on the top 100 Bollywood movies list that Rose is working from for guidance in exploration. Dhoom 3 has the added advantage of starring Aamir Khan who is a favorite of ours.

At any rate, both these combine recognizable Western styles with Bollywood filmmaking. It makes for extremely entertaining viewing.

Jeetendra Kumar Makwana is employed full-time at a Call Center and works part-time teaching English. He is recruited by an attractive young woman, Pooja, to teach her Hinglish-speaking boss, Bhaiyaji, English. Jeetendra agrees to do so, falls in love with Pooja, and joins forces with her to steal a bag containing 25 Crore Rupees in cash. He will soon find out that Bhaiyaji is a hoodlum and extortionist known to the Police as Lakhan Singh. And that spells big trouble for everyone.
Tashan means style and this picture has it in spades. It is ridiculously fun Tarantino style action (without the gore because it is Bollywood not Hollywood) with big song and dance numbers (Bollywood not Hollywood). Indian reviews wavered on giving approval but American reviews all raved, as did we. This director obviously has a way with movies that appeals to American sensibilities.

My favorite character was the hit man sent to retrieve the two thieves. The "Jackie Chan of India" he played a character who turned into a lovable oaf (much like Jayne on Firefly) and won my heart. My favorite number was the Hollywood film one, which got so many tiny Hollywood things wrong (in a charmingly Indian way) but still worked most amusingly. It also gave me a new Khan to keep an eye out for — Saif Ali Khan — whose charming twinkle reminded us all strongly of Bradley Cooper.

This was a milestone for us in several ways because we got an in-joke about Indian movies, recognized posters for other movies on city streets, and recognized two of the stars from other movies we'd seen. Baby steps. But fun.

To avenge his father’s death, a circus entertainer trained in magic and acrobatics turns thief to take down a corrupt bank in Chicago. Two cops from Mumbai are assigned to the case.
Another ridiculously entertaining film from Vijay Krishna Acharya, starring Aamir Khan who carries the film on his broad, capable shoulders. It is part of the Dhoom buddy-cop franchise only in a minor way, with Jai and Ali's part being a subplot rather than the main action. And that works. In case we we were wondering who the movie is about, three of the four musical numbers are Aamir's, while the fourth is the female lead's audition for the Great Indian Circus — danced for Aamir. Aamir is the film's ostensible villain but by the time the film ends, we were wondering why policeman Jai gives a spech about the evil bank. (I guess that told us who the real villain is.) Anyway Aamir Khan's character is what this movie is about and Our household approved all the way.

This movie was set in Chicago which made us even more interested to see it and, as with Tashan, there were some endearing misunderstandings of America. My favorites were a newsstand which clearly looked Indian and the fact that the flashbacks were costumed as if they were from the 1920s instead of the 1990s. We could only figure that the filmmakers wanted to be sure we got a sense of "long ago" and couldn't find enough obvious differences between the clothing of 2013 and that of 20 years before. Regardless, it was extremely entertaining and those little missteps only added to the charm for us.

Optional Memorial: Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions

“St. Augustine Zhao Rong”
Artist and Date are unknown. Via Memorial Bench.
Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China's relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (eighty-seven) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to seventy-two. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The thirty-three foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000. ...

The fact that this considerable number of Chinese lay faithful offered their lives for Christ together with the missionaries who had proclaimed the Gospel to them and had been so devoted to them is evidence of the depth of the link that faith in Christ establishes. It gathers into a single family people of various races and cultures, strongly uniting them not for political motives but in virtue of a religion that preaches love, brotherhood, peace and justice.
I am not sure why but I have always been fascinated by the witness of these brave Catholics in China. Perhaps it is because I've always been interested in China anyway and so these saints naturally draw my attention.

You may read more about the individual martyrs.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Clara the rhinoceros in Paris in 1749

Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Clara the rhinoceros in Paris in 1749
Clara wowed them in Paris, prompting a lot of paintings. This is the one usually featured and I really love it.


Helen shivered next to Jane. “Perhaps we should return to Charlotte. She probably misses us.”

“Us? Charlotte doesn’t know you exist.”

“Well, if she did, she would surely miss me.”
My Plain Jane; Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
I might find this as amusing as I do because I really loved Helen's character.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Some Great Summer Reading: My Plain Jane and Understanding Movies

My Plain Jane
My Plain Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Move over, Charlotte Bronte. You may think you know the story. Penniless orphan Jane Eyre begins a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester-and, Reader, she marries him. Or does she? Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions.
This was thoroughly enjoyable. I love Jane Eyre and these authors honor that classic novel by being (mostly) true to the storyline while simultaneously weaving it into another story completely.

Both Jane and her friend Charlotte Bronte get swept up in this tale which is loaded with ghosts, murder, revenge, love, and friendship. And humor. Lots of humor. As with these authors' previous book, My Lady Jane, you could see major plot points coming but it didn't take away from the fun.

I said it before for My Lady Jane and I'll say it again for My Plain Jane: For what it was — a humorous, inventive, light, romantic, alternative history — it was practically perfect in every way. It was sometimes silly but always charming and I was glued to it in every spare moment.

A wonderfully entertaining summer read read by the perfect narrator.

Understanding Movies: The Art and History of Film (The Modern Scholar)
Understanding Movies: The Art and History of Film (The Modern Scholar)
by Raphael Shargel
Why does the cinema have the power to move the heart, stimulate the mind, and dazzle the imagination? How did the art of film develop from its origins to the present day? In each lecture, Professor Raphael Shargel introduces a period of film history, talks about its importance, covers aspects of cinematic technique, and illustrates his points by analyzing specific movies from the era under discussion. The course thus has both breadth and depth, covering the major movements in film history while at the same time focusing on key pictures worthy of study and enjoyment.
I really learned a lot from this class. The teacher has an mild-mannered, personable style that I enjoyed a lot and his own love of movies came through clearly though he never allowed his own preferences to overpower the commentary. This is only available as an audio class and there are a lot of negative remarks about sound quality on Audible. The sound must have been cleaned up at some time because I didn't hear any of the problems mentioned. This was delightful if you like movies.