rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I am mostly concluding this review to point you to the comments in the DW version of the previous post on this book, in which Rydra Wong recommends a truly amazing set of books and articles, most of which I had never even heard of, by thoughtful athletes in unusual sports who write about why they do what they do and what it feels like. I am very interested in mind-body issues, and these sorts of books are an excellent source of writing on it that is actually good and not just an annoying stew of vagueness, fifth-hand Zen, and blaming the reader for sundry failures of body and mind.

The second half of Hill's book has her pursuing her US/Soviet swim, a darkly humorous endeavor in which she is spied on by some seriously incompetent FBI agents, repeatedly bangs her nose against the Iron Curtain, and ends up with the CIA and KGB simultaneously tapping her phone. No one can quite believe that she really is doing this because she wants to, and primarily because it's the most challenging thing she can think of, rather than for some dark political purpose in which she is merely the cover. (She does, in fact, have a political purpose, but it's secondary and personal: she hopes her swim might have a sort of butterfly effect on US-Soviet relations, showing both sides that they are human beings, not the Evil Other.)

However, the same persistence that makes her a great swimmer enables the swim to happen - she keeps banging down doors until both governments, rather bewilderedly, decide that maybe they can make political hay of it. She makes the swim, and the butterfly effect actually does seem to happen. So for a while Hill does a number of other swims intended to both challenge herself and act as gestures of goodwill between countries. These are all vividly described, as she faces off with sharks, ice bergs, sea snakes, ice sharp enough to slice a boat's hull in half, and her own cold and exhaustion.

But eventually, she can't resist the ultimate swim: Antarctica. This is in water so cold that no one is sure it is even survivable. Once again, she returns to the researchers and their rectal thermometers. This time technology has improved and they want her to swallow a mini-thermometer and data-gatherer, emphasizing that it's very expensive and they need to get it back, both to download the data and because it's re-usable - "Just use a plastic bag!" Cox, suspicious: "Am I the first person to swallow this thing?" The researcher assures her that she is, while accidentally also making it clear that she won't be the last.

The reason I read this book was a brief article on Cox's swim which noted that before the swim, her teeth had to be specially sealed and some of her fillings removed and replaced, because otherwise they would shatter from the cold. That, I thought, was hardcore. At the end of the book, she notes offhandedly that the nerve damage she sustained from the cold (which she only barely mentions otherwise) is repairing itself, and she's resting while looking forward to the next thing.

Once again, highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.

Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer
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Posted by /u/cool_lanyard_dude

I heard a fire truck racing down Ditmars (probably responding to the smoke coming from Astoria Park?) with its sirens on—then a loud crash and no more sirens. Look out the window to see people running west on Ditmars toward the intersection. Went down to see it myself and there's a bus whose front end is almost into the storefronts of Bowery Bay and the shops adjacent to it. There are people on the pavement (sitting, talking, some lying down) being treated by the firemen from what I'm guessing was that firetruck.

Anybody actually see what happened?

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Jun. 26th, 2016 09:46 am
skygiants: fairy tale illustration of a girl climbing a steep flight of stairs (mother i climbed)
[personal profile] skygiants
At a con last year, [personal profile] coffeeandink handed me the Joan Aiken book she'd been reading on the way down there, remarked that it had not been her favorite Aiken, and asked if I wanted to read it on the way back anyway.

I said all right, because mediocre Aiken is still usually bound to have its redeeming qualities, and then forgot about it until just recently when I was feeling in the mood for a.) Aiken and b.) Gothics.

Morningquest is not really quite a Gothic, as it turns out, though a girl definitely does meet a house in it. I don't really know what it is. It begins when Our Heroine Pandora Crumbe is introduced by her mother -- a very quiet and self-contained person with an unhappy marriage and a quiet, narrow life -- to the wealthy, talented and eccentric Morningquest family.

On their first visit, Pandora's mother keels over of a heart attack at the dinner table!

Thus, Pandora is sort of accidentally bequeathed to the Morningquests, who include:

GIDEON MORNINGQUEST, a tremendously successful conductor with a moderately limited interest in his children
MARIANA MORNINGQUEST, a beautiful and famous soprano who has a mysterious connection to Pandora's mother (subtext: they were probably in love), with whom Pandora falls promptly also in love

and the Morningquest children

DAN, possibly a musical genius, definitely a smug asshole with no morals
BARNEY, the good-looking brilliant one, who leaves behind him a trail of abandoned girlfriends and cats (all named Mog)
TOBY, the sweet scientifically brilliant one who only really talks to his sister Selene
DOLLY, the passive-aggressive and mildly toxic one who is, alas, not really brilliant at all
SELENE, the reclusive one who only really talks to her brother Tony
ELLY AND ALLY, chaotic neutral telepathic twin geniuses

plus assorted household extras

UNCLE GRISCH, an artist, former dancer, and gay Holocaust survivor who is busy rewriting great works of English literature
TANTE LULIE, a Jewish refugee relative of Gideon's first wife, who makes all Mariana's clothes and keeps the household fiscally solvent
DAVE, a useless American that nobody likes

The rest of the book sort of weaves through Pandora's interactions with various Morningquests, her development as an artist, and her search to find out more about her mother.

Along the way, there are various plot threads that spring up involving baby theft and attempted murder and incest and the aforementioned telepathy and drug smuggling and secret underground tunnels and surprise marriages, but, like. Most of these .... don't actually turn out to be all that significant to the shape of the book? Not in a dropped plot-thread way, exactly; more in a 'life just sort of goes on' way. The woman whose baby is stolen in chapter five or so is obviously really devastated, and eventually ends up leaving town, and by the end of the book she's remarried and has another baby, and eventually towards the end of the book a working theory emerges about what the hell was going on with the baby theft, but by that point it's too late to do anything about it, so ...

What actually is significant to the shape of the books? Families, I guess, and a sense of home, definitely, and what home means for refugees, immigrants, people whose past has been lost -- Tante Lulie and Uncle Grisch are the most constant and stable presences in Pandora's life, Pandora's non-Morningquest love interest is a Czech filmmaker-in-exile, Mariana's a possibly-Jewish refugee from Europe, and eventually Pandora finds out that her mother was Jewish too. Which is a surprise to her, but it wasn't a surprise to me.

Because the thing is, the whole Bohemian intellectual cobbled-together family of refugees full of complicated backstory revelations feels -- well, kind of seventies, sure, but one hundred percent real to me. My grandmother and grandfather were both Jewish refugees -- he German, she Czech -- who met and married in the UK in the 1940s. My grandmother was one of a handful of women in her Cambridge med school graduating class. I never met her, but by all accounts she was a wildly brilliant and charismatic person whom everybody fell in love with, who had a habit of picking up lost people and installing them in her house. On my shelf, I have a photocopied book of the letters that she wrote to her long-term lover, who lived in Israel, which his wife sent to my aunts after my grandmother died. My mom and her sisters had a very Morningquest childhood. I'm still finding out things that I never knew, and so, I think, are they.

And, I mean, I NEVER expect to walk out of a Joan Aiken book going 'wow, such realism! what a true portrait!' ESPECIALLY GIVEN the telepathy and the baby theft and all the rest, but there we are.

(And maybe I would have been less punched in the chest by refugee feelings had I read this a different week than this week that we are in right now. There's that too.)

Privacy Brainstorming

Jun. 26th, 2016 02:49 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

The garden I’m docent-ing    had this narrow trellis, just inside the fence, which supported a massive wisteria. We’ve been struggling with the lack of privacy in our backyard — as you can see in pictures 2-4, it’s overlooked by an apartment building immediately next door, as well as a set of new townhouses that are being built to the northeast.
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We’ve been talking about what we might do to amend that space. There are some plants there — a hedge rose, a somewhat blighted young cherry tree, but both of those could be moved, along with whatever random perennials and bulbs are there. I’m not sure where I’d put the hammock, but maybe it’d go to sun. But the question is what we could do for shade, given the restrictions on fence height (it’s currently at max).
 
The typical choice there is arborvitae, tall, skinny trees — I had been thinking they would be too wide, and would really crowd the space, but I’ve been looking at it again, after seeing some arborvitae at one of the other garden walk homes, and I think they might work there. The bed is about 4′ wide, I think? I should measure. Do you think a row of them would fit? It would make the yard somewhat darker / shadier, but I think that’d be all right — the other side is still plenty sunny, if we’re in the mood for sun.
 
Alternately, we could build a trellis like the one she put in for the wisteria, but build it even taller? Would that look goofy, to have a two-story trellis? It could run all the way to the garage, in theory, shielding the townhouses from view as well.
 

There are also fence extensions I think you can add to an existing fence (train clematis or some such over it for screening), though I might have to check code and/or check with my neighbor who owns the apartment building. I’m guessing he’d be fine with my adding more screening / privacy, that his tenants would like that at least as well as looking into my yard, but I should check with him.

A combination, maybe?  Arborvitae to anchor the ends and block the worst of the privacy issues, and a trellis or fence extension screens in the middle?  Another option is possibly bamboo (it looks like variety Nuda grows to about 10′ in the Midwest)?

South Scoville

Jun. 26th, 2016 02:21 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj

This is the garden I’m docent-ing today for the Garden Walk. It’s a postage-stamp of a garden, on a small lot, but she has packed an amazing number of plants in. There’s a host of sunny plants in front, but my favorite parts were the way she used heucheras, hostas, ferns, etc. to create a colorful mosaic in the backyard shade. I’m heading in that direction for my shady spots, but still have a ways to go. And I must add a water feature (or two)!

IMG_7715 IMG_7716 IMG_7717

[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj


Dipika’s husband is Malaysian; the novel was deemed ‘too political for America’ by publishers she submitted it to here. It was published by a U.K. press, and I’m looking forward to reading it.



 



I do wish Serai (Chicago’s only Malaysian restaurant) was a bit closer, as I would gladly eat their chicken curry with roti pratha (buttery, flaky deliciousness) and their nasi lemak (coconut milk rice, fried egg, beef rendang, pickled vegetables, and onion sambal) every week. Worth a trip to Logan Square, recommended. Yum.



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“In Mukherjee’s contemporary political novel, colonialism threatens a family. Jay Ghosh, professor of biotechnology and a Malaysian living in Boston, returns home after 30 years to pay back debts to his mentor, Colonel S, and to the family of his lost love, Shanti. His presence disturbs Shanti’s daughter, Agni, and her grandmother, Shapna, as do the street protests of ethnic Indians, “immigrants” who have lived in Malaysia for decades. Worse, Colonel S, an expert in explosives, plans to take matters into his own hands. Mukherjee imbues her family drama with the crossbred history of intertwined communities who celebrate one another’s holidays even as they carp about one another’s failings. Jay and Agni, the “broken things,” approach healing through their buried history “until the river floods and the silt uncovers what should remain hidden.”” — Publisher’s Weekly review



 


This Week

Jun. 26th, 2016 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] catehuston_feed

Posted by Cate

IMG_4445

Life

Hanging out with friends in the UK, and making new ones. Managed to go swimming twice and wonder around a bit. Flying back to Medellin to move into my new place – yay!

Work

Hectic 2 days trying to get a week’s worth of meetings in (nooooooo!) and then management training, and conference. Had hoped to disconnect a bit, but that didn’t really work out.

Places

Stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster, had afternoon tea at the Berkeley, at dinner at Ping Pong.

Media

Reading What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Finished Season 8 of How I Met Your Mother.

Published

A new edition of Technically Speaking is out.

I sent a Where the Hell is Cate letter from LHR.

On the Internet

[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking or the social media filter bubble I'm in, but there seems to be a more-than-zero chance that Britain won't actually leave the European Union, despite last Thursday's vote. For one thing, as I mentioned in my Friday AM post about Brexit, the vote is not legally binding. The Prime Minister needs to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which has not happened yet.

But there's no requirement that the UK invoke Article 50 in a timely fashion. Indeed, both Cameron and Johnson have said they think it's appropriate to dawdle; Cameron says he'll leave the decision to invoke to his successor, and Johnson has said there's no rush.

It wouldn't be tenable for the government to just completely ignore the vote forever, even though that is legally permissible.

But perhaps not untenable. A Guardian commenter speculates that Cameron did something politically canny when he passed the buck to his successor. As the full ramifications of Leave become apparent, it may be that the consequences of leaving will be transferred from the voters to the person who decides to invoke Article 50...i.e. it may become politically untenable to leave.

Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor.

And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten ... the list grew and grew.

The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.

The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?

Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?

There's also been talk that Scotland could veto Brexit.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC that Holyrood could try to block the UK's exit from the EU.

She was speaking following a referendum on Thursday which saw Britain vote by 52% to 48% to leave Europe.

However, in Scotland the picture was different with 62% backing Remain and 38% wanting to go.

SNP leader Ms Sturgeon said that "of course" she would ask MSPs to refuse to give their "legislative consent".

But perhaps the most heartening bit of information comes courtesy of David Allen Green: that boat never did get named "Boaty McBoatface", vote or no vote. Prime Minister David Attenborough anyone?

Tags: Brexit   David Allen Green   David Attenborough   European Union   UK   politics

Is this right?

Jun. 26th, 2016 04:06 am
giandujakiss: (Default)
[personal profile] giandujakiss
Brad DeLong highlights a smart comment on Brexit:
Throughout the campaign, Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away. Whether implicitly or explicitly, the image was clear: he would be giving that notice under Article 50 the morning after a vote to leave. Whether that was scaremongering or not is a bit moot now but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor. And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legislation to be torn up and rewritten... the list grew and grew. The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction.

The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50?

Who will want to have the responsibility of all those ramifications and consequences on his/her head and shoulders?...

The Brexit leaders now have a result that they cannot use. For them, leadership of the Tory party has become a poison chalice....

All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.
[syndicated profile] aerogram_feed

Posted by Pavani Yalamanchili

hiam.h.finalistFilm fan and third-year college student Hiam Hafizuddin, 20, is diving into a double dose of serious pageantry this summer. She’s not only competing as a finalist in Miss World America which starts on July 4 in D.C., she’s also working to organize the second annual Miss Bangladesh USA on August 6. She founded the latter pageant, currently the only pageant for Bangladeshi women in the world, as a web-based competition in 2015 and it has evolved into a live event taking place in Chicago for 2016 which will be live telecasted on Bangladeshi TV. The Aerogram connected with Hafizuddin over email to find out more about her and what drives her passion for pageants.

You’re a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. What are you studying there and what kind of things are you up to when you’re not focused on the 2016 Miss World America competition?

I am pursuing a dual degree in Finance and Media and Cinema Studies. I am a huge fan of film, and I am actually part of a project called “365 films in 365 days” where every day for a year I watch a different film. In my spare time, aside from watching films, I often work on creating my own short films. It is my greatest dream to become a filmmaker to showcase themes of social justice. Besides that I also am involved with dance, singing, and photography and I love to go out and hang out with my friends.

A photo posted by Hiam Hafizuddin (@hiamamani) on

What sparked your interest in pageants in general and in competing in this year’s Miss World America? Can you tell us a little about how Miss World America distinguishes itself from other pageants?

I mainly became interested in pageants because my two favorite Bollywood actresses (Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra) were both Miss Worlds. And because of that having the ability to compete in Miss World has been a lifelong dream of mine. In the past the delegate from the US was chosen from the modelling community; however, last year they reinstated the Miss World America pageant and I knew right away this was my chance to realize a dream I’ve always had. Luckily, I was selected as national finalist and now can live out my dream.

“I mainly became interested in pageants because my two favorite Bollywood actresses (Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra) were both Miss Worlds.”

The greatest differences between Miss World America and the other big pageants are that the winner goes on to compete at Miss World (opposed to Miss USA who goes to Miss Universe), the swimsuit competition has been replaced with sports and fitness, and the biggest emphasis on the pageant is Beauty with a Purpose which is the philanthropy project that each girl works on advancing. BWAP is huge for the Miss World Organization and has offered humanitarian relief to troubled people worldwide.

What inspired you to found Miss Bangladesh USA in 2015? Are there other pageants in the United States for people of Bangladeshi background?

Currently, Miss Bangladesh USA is the only pageant of Bangladeshi women in the world and it is this fact that served as the impetus for me to start this pageant. I wanted women of my background to have a platform to inspire social change, promote education, showcase talent, and celebrate our culture. A pageant is a great way to do this all, and I am so proud I could create this for my people.

  A photo posted by Hiam Hafizuddin (@hiamamani) on

What kind of reactions have you received from Bangladesh and the community in the United States about participating in Miss World America?

The Bangladeshi community has completely overwhelmed me with their love, good wishes, and support. I was very wary that I would receive a lot of criticism for going into pageantry because for a long time this was very taboo considering that Bangladesh banned all its pageants. However, to my shock, Bangladeshis have erupted in excitement for me and are truly expecting me to bring the crown home. If I win Miss World America, I will be the first Bangladeshi since 1996 to compete at Miss World and this is huge for Bangladesh. The historic possibility of me being the first Bengali Miss World has really gotten Bangladeshis excited.

Have you competed in other pageants before becoming a national finalist in this year’s Miss World America? If so, what was that experience like?

I have participated in a few local preliminaries for the Miss America Organization and one County Fair pageant. They were all very great experiences and nothing like what I had thought. Going into pageantry, I based all my assumptions on Miss Congeniality and Toddlers and Tiaras, but I was quickly proven wrong. The stereotypes of pageants being superficial and catty are absolutely wrong.

“Going into pageantry, I based all my assumptions on Miss Congeniality and Toddlers and Tiaras, but I was quickly proven wrong.”

The women I have met at every pageant are absolutely amazing and inspiring as they all are trying to make a positive impact. These women are compassionate and really try to make friends with you. Pageantry is a true sisterhood. A lot goes into preparing for a pageant and it is an emotionally riveting time and only other pageant girls who are going through exactly the same thing understand this. It is amazing that at each pageant all the girls help each other get ready and relax their nerves. I am so fortunate to be a part of something so big and to have actually gotten one of my closest friends, Rachel Janovsky, from competing at my first pageant. Since then she has helped me with preparation for every pageant and it is great to have that support system.

For Miss World America the competition includes interview, sports and fitness, evening gown, runway, public speaking, video introduction, social media, and on-stage question. Which one appeals to you the most and why? Which one presents the biggest challenge to you and why?

I am most drawn to the Beauty with a Purpose Public speech. MWA really places a focus on finding the girl who can serve as a spokeswoman for BWAP and this is something that really drew me to this pageant. I am very passionate about my project — Unity through Diversity: Bridging the gap between differences through cultural competency. I am beyond excited to have this ability to raise awareness and talk about the need for cultural competency in education to address the problems with prejudice plaguing our country.

Sports and Fitness is my greatest challenge because growing up I haven’t been the most athletic; however this portion has really pushed me to work hard on my physical health and the results have been amazing. I would’ve never been able to imagine myself running miles the way I do now.

* * *

Pavani Yalamanchili is an editor at The Aerogram. Find her on Twitter at @_pavani, and follow The Aerogram at @theaerogram and on Facebook.

The post Meet Hiam Hafizuddin, The Bangladeshi American Who’s A Finalist For Miss World America 2016 appeared first on The Aerogram.

RIP Bill Cunningham

Jun. 25th, 2016 09:54 pm
[syndicated profile] kottke_org_feed

Posted by Jason Kottke

Bill Cunningham

Sad news from the NY Times: legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham has died today at the age of 87.

In his nearly 40 years working for The Times, Mr. Cunningham operated both as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist, one who used the changing dress habits of the people he photographed to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more diffuse and individualistic.

At the Pierre hotel on the East Side of Manhattan, he pointed his camera at tweed-wearing blue-blood New Yorkers with names like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Downtown, by the piers, he clicked away at crop-top wearing Voguers. Up in Harlem, he jumped off his bicycle -- he rode more than 30 over the years, replacing one after another as they were wrecked or stolen -- for B-boys in low-slung jeans.

I saw Cunningham out on the streets of NYC twice and both times chills ran up my back watching a master at work. Unless Cunningham had something in the can before he died, it looks as though the last of his On the Street features is about black and white fashion. Tonight might be a good time to watch the documentary Bill Cunningham New York -- it's available on Amazon (free with Prime).

Tags: Bill Cunningham   fashion   NYC   photography

V has a dream

Jun. 25th, 2016 09:21 pm
[syndicated profile] incrementum_feed

Posted by Mary

They were at school, with his sister A, his friend G, G’s older friend O, and L from his previous school.

“And there were big bugs there. O showed us a secret hideout and we blasted off into space. And there we were.

“You two weren’t in my dream.”

Busy Saturday

Jun. 25th, 2016 05:54 pm
[syndicated profile] mamohanraj_feed

Posted by Mary Anne Mohanraj


Okay, finished draft for Chapter 6 of Tremontaine, whee! Quick lunch (forgot to eat while writing, oops), get a few plants in the ground, and then I shower and dress and head into the city for Dipika Mukherjee‘s book launch at Serai — looking forward to yummy Malaysian munchies.



 



I can’t stay long, because I need to get back to Oak Park to help set-up / preview the garden walk, which is happening tomorrow. Busy-busy! Thanks to Kevin who is watching the kids (even though he has class prep to do, since he’s teaching this summer), so I can do all this.



 


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