Monday, October 31, 2011

A Clash of Kings, revisited

My Song of Ice and Fire reread continues. Book 2, A Clash of Kings, wherein the plot thickens and most of the characters remain surprisingly alive. (See my previous reaction, which was similar.)

G. pointed me to a sarcastic review of all 4 books entitled "Enter Ye Myne Mystic World of Gayng Raype," which highlights the author's treatment of the (minority of) female characters. I summarize: bad. They are portrayed as motivated by simple causes, having value deriving solely from biological function, and objects of threatened/actual/fatal rape. So in this read-through I noticed that her observations are true. Whether or not it is intentional (because Mr. Martin dislikes women) or authentic (because historically women were repressed just like this!), the women in this book are treated badly.

But, you know, so are the men. And I think it is unfair to cherry-pick the pieces from these books which support one thesis. By selective summarization and quotation, I could also make a similarly-convincing argument that Mr. Martin has an unreasonable, unhealthy obsession with food, or with what he might term raiments. Or even with the difficulty of moving without paved roads and gasoline-powered cars. Or with politics! Or religious wars! The books are long and full of material.

(If you yourself are unreasonably obsessed with food, I recommend the chapter which describes the seventy-seven-course wedding feast.)

This post's theme word is caparison, "an ornamental covering of a horse's saddle or harness" and barding, "strips." The stallion was caparisoned in ocher and sable, the colors of House Pretension for more than 500 years, and draped in cloth-of-gold bardings.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin reducing

I spent several hours this afternoon roasting and reducing a giant pumpkin.
This had the happy byproduct of snack seeds. Now there is a freezer full of single-pie bags of pumpkin concentrate. A season of pumpkin pies lies ahead!

This post's theme word is fulsome, "excessive to the point of being offensive." What fulsome pumpkin processing!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How to make Thai food

This evening we assembled to cook a Thai dinner. It begins with ingredients: green onions, peppers, noodles, peanuts, sesame oil, fish sauce, basil, hot peppers. Knife, cutting board, recipe. Plus one excellent chef guiding us through the meal preparations.
Crush the peanuts with a rolling pin!Then make some piles of deliciousness in various pans.Finally, plate as desired and eat.I took notes, so I should be able to recreate this meal. It was excellent. The secret of using fish sauce is to add just enough to counter the other tastes, but not too much that you can actually taste fish sauce, which smells disgusting on its own.

Thanks, E.!

This post's theme word is gasconade, "to boast extravagantly," or simply "boastful talk." The blog post provided no relevant instruction, serving merely as a gasconade of gustatory gratification.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Memories of autumn

The walk to campus each morning provides my gauge of the weather, the season, and local culture. This morning's walk was melancholy; the sidewalk had been cleared of fallen leaves, but their ghostly marks remain. Archaeology-like, I imagine the three-dimensional pile of leaves that left this image.

This post's theme word is esquisse, "a first sketch." This esquisse of autumn whispers of cold, windy weather to come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Octohedron octopus

On my desk this afternoon, I found:
The note reads (in an unsteady hand),
Greetings from under the sea! I am not too good at writing I heard you are kind to the tentacled. I was teased for being green. I disguised myself as an octahedron to slip past the mathematicians, take me home? [wiggly octopus self-portrait]
So of course I grabbed that green tentacle and shook it in a firm handshake, welcoming it to come home to my (increasingly silly) collection of tentacled things. When everted, the purple octohedron becomes the ink in a green octopus.
Many thanks to A., who was ultimately responsible for the creation and delivery of this octopus!

This post's theme word is imbosk, "to hide," usually in a wood. Environmental limitations make octopus imbosking impractical.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Game of Thrones, revisited

R. recently started watching the HBO adaptation of A Game of Thrones. I'm skeptical of video adaptations of my beloved books; there simply isn't a way for any visual representation to match the universe I've imagined. In addition, they often cut or alter bits of plot, which messes with my memories of how the story worked. Even earnest adaptations like The Lord of the Rings or the BBC Pride and Prejudice must exist as separate from the fantastic books they are based on.

I have absolutely no complaints in this respect about HBO's "Game of Thrones." The TV series medium means that there is plenty of time to explore the entire plot of the book, and the HD video makes it beautiful. (Plus, spoilers are nearly impossible.) Of course there are limitations: the actors are all too pretty, not as human-looking as I imagined their characters. And also, almost no time is spent describing clothing, flags, weapons, or food. (Tycho had very strong feelings that these books constitute some kind of literary food pornography, but I disagree. If anything, they are a kind of historical-genealogical glut of words. I end up recognizing even background characters in the show, and know their names, favorite foods, relationships with other characters, and lineages back several generations.)

So I reread A Game of Thrones, in order to refresh my memory and for ease of comparison with the series as we watched it. It was just as good the second time. I was particularly watching for the HBO series' interpretation of Renly Baratheon as homosexual; there is one semi-reference to it in the book, so ok, I guess they can get away with it. I learned new things, because the first read-through was so fast and the details too numerous to remember the first time through.

For example, the seven "great houses" are Highgarden, Storm's End, Winterfell, Riverrun, Casterly Rock, Sunspear, and the Eyrie. Inexplicably, King's Landing and Dragonstone are not "great houses," even though one is the capital of the continent and the other is the seat of the ruling family for the past thousands of years.

I continue to recommend A Game of Thrones, book and TV series. The book is slightly more appealing to me because of its lovely words, for which I know no match in visual appeal.

This post's theme word is anabasis, "a grand journey" or "a long military march." "A Song of Ice and Fire" contains many anabases, and attempting to read it takes nearly as long.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

8-point buck?

In the backyard! Just outside the (visible) deer-fence.
This post's theme word is paruresis, "a phobia in which the sufferer is unable to urinate in the (real or imaginary) presence of others." Hey, buddy, are you looking at me? -- well, look away, I'm trying to pee on your vegetable garden!