The Amber Spyglass / Philip Pullman



   The only way to deal with all my feelings re: this book, while maintaining a somewhat reasonable tone is to fall back on the good ol' open letter. If you haven't read this book, you should probably stay that way but still know that this is going to be spoiler-y. And so:

   Dear Philip Pullman,

   We get it, Philip Pullman, you hate God and you think anyone who believes in God is either very stupid, very subservient, or very evil. Did you have to write this book to reiterate your point in as many ways as possible? The Golden Compass was so good and The Subtle Knife was almost as good and then...this. I had hope, despite my doubts, and despite the warning signs sprinkled throughout the two first books in the trilogy, that you would be reasonable or at least employ a modicum of fairness and open-minded-ness but no: what I got was a lengthy tome just a hop skip away from hate speech. But then you turn around and make a new god out of Dust? Either one or the both of us is confused here, Philip Pullman. 

   While we're talking, Philip Pullman, I really have to ask: have you ever met a twelve year old? Or a grown woman? Because it seems like you've maybe seen children and women but you don't know any. In the first two books Mrs Coulter was pretty much Lady Macbeth but then she saw her child and BAM: woman helpless under influence of maternal feeling. Mary Mallone is the warm-hearted fairy godmother hiding 'neath the guise of an ex-nun psychicist who rejected her faith because of powerful man-kisses. 

   Speaking of kissing, please, please tell me I was reading it wrong when you were implying that 12 year olds had sex and thereby saved the multiple universes with their magical love. They are TWELVE, Philip Pullman. Twelve. Call me a prude but I really think people should develop adult cognitive faculties before having sex. And if you weren't weirdly saying they had sex but just meant that they smooched for awhile, why did you write it so weird? SO WEIRD. I felt icky reading it, Philip Pullman. ICKY I SAY. 

   The device of using prepubescent sex as a deus ex machina aside, the plot in this book was so all over the place that all I can think to do is send you my deepest condolences for the death of your editor, since there can be no other excuse for the truly heroic lengths you went to to build such a bizarrely labyrinthine plot that promises so much and delivers so little. You added characters to the story whose only purpose was to add far too many pages of pointless narrative to an already too-long story. (Like Father Gomez. Why was he there? And then he was killed by the angel who we all assumed was dead a few hundred pages earlier. Why do you hate me, Philip Pullman?)

   Philip Pullman, you are the person who gets drunk at parties and then rants about vaccines being the tool of the communists, speaking in increasingly confused metaphors and using increasing muddy logic until everyone is embarrassed on your behalf. You end your rant by yelling "better dead than red" at anyone who tries to say anything and still you think you are the wisest of all. 

   At least I can finally check off His Dark Materials on those book-lists I use to make myself feel well-read. If I've got you totally wrong here, Philip Pullman, feel free to reply. 



this is how you make me feel, Philip Pullman


"You first make thieves and then punish them"

   Currently I am avoiding reading about cultural policy in Canada, so let's talk about movies! Excellent.

   The movies from the previous post:
  • Ever After (98)
  • The Hunt for Red October (90)
  • Nightcrawler (14)
  • Noah (14)
  • Cinderella (14)

   A few weeks ago I found out that my kid sister (who is 19, and not really a kid) had never seen Ever After and do you know what that is? A crying shame. So naturally I immediately texted some friends of mine who were equally appalled and we arranged a movie night, which quickly expanded to include eight people. I have a deep-seated love for this movie, and I barely know why. I'd like to tell myself that it presents a more nuanced and agency-granting version of the Cinderella myth than other versions, but it is so hard for me to look at it objectively that I just can't tell. What I can tell is that the characters have interesting and convincing arcs, the characters who are meant to grow experience growth, the characters who are there just to be bad are so delightfully bad, and wow there are so many placement-in-history mistakes that the whole thing turns into a great joke, with the part where Leonardo da Vinci pulls the Mona Lisa out of a tube and unfurls it being the punchline (it's funny because the Mona Lisa is definitely painted on a plank). Also, come on: "there was a bee"? So good.

  Speaking of people who haven't seen movies, it came to light that the single solitary Sean Connery movie that I'd seen in my entire life was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (DO NOT WATCH, it's soooo bad) and when my friend found out he was shocked, and started naming Sean Connery movies until we'd established that, a) yes, I knew what movies I'd seen, b) Casino Royale is the extent of my Bond-watching, and c) we needed to have a movie night soon. Well, now I've seen The Hunt for Red October and it was great in the way that I am sure most Sean Connery movies are. Also: baby Alec Baldwin.

   HOOOOO BOOOOOY Nightcrawler. Okay. What do I say about Nightcrawler? For starters, it completely blew my idea of Jake Gyllenhaal as an only-okay actor completely out of the water: the man is a triumph. Secondly: this movie is completely insane and I watched the last twenty minutes of it with my hand over my mouth in shock. I'm trying to find words here, and it's hard. I watched Nightcrawler so that I would have a second modern movie to talk about in my film noir paper, and the paper ended up being mostly about Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler picks up where The Sweet Smell of Success and Ace in the Hole left off, and just runs and runs. Lou Bloom is a stringer who films accidents and crime scenes and sells the footage to a news channel, and the story follows him as he, essentially, ruins the lives of everyone around him. When I watched it I had just finished a course in criminal psychology, and everything Lou Bloom did brought me right back to the unit on psychopathy. ALSO he is one of those characters that is the furthest thing from psychically intimidating, but it somehow makes him all the more sinister.

   When Noah came out there was such a flurry of think-piece-ing and arguing that I was overwhelmed and refused to say anything about it beyond "Darren Aronofsky is an artist, you can't deny that this film is beautifully made." BUT NOW, we're a year removed and I have more things to say, but I have SO MANY things to say now that I think I will write Noah it's own post. Basically, Noah makes me think about two things: apostasy and sign-seeking. FUN. 

    Sometimes you watch two versions of Cinderella in quick succession and it's a bit odd. This movie was good, but oh my WORD the colours were so saturated that I was distracted from what was happening. Seriously, I missed a good deal of the dialogue due to my brain trying to filter through the in-your-face colours. I get that it is supposed to be magical and other-worldly but wow. Cool it, tiger. My four-year-old nieces came to see this movie and while taking small children to the movie theatre is always a risk they were delightfully cute and attentive even though they were more invested in the Frozen short than in the actual movie. Side note: omgosh I am so over Frozen. TANGLED IS BETTER THAN FROZEN DON'T EVEN GET ME STARTED.

   ALSO: three movies from 2014 and two versions of Cinderella? What's happening? 


16-20, 2015

It's Victoria Day! Celebrate by guessing the titles of these here movies, which are, incidentally, the 16th - 20th movies I've watched this year:


Fin: The Minithon

   Minithon is a wrap and my accomplishments were suitably small. Here's what I did:
  • Listened to two parts out of twelve of The Amber Spyglass and was somewhat confused, since I don't remember the two previous books being quite as thoroughly soaked in anti-God vitriol. 
  • Read one short story out of Vampires in the Lemon Grove and was hella spooked. (It's called Proving Up and y'all should read it asap)
  • Did a bunch of laundry.
  • Made and consumed (very tasty) mini-muffins.
  • Mourned the failure of my mini croissants, which turned out not only to be kind of gross but also NORMAL SIZED, an offense I canna forgive.
  • Read a whopping two pages out of Why Humans Like to Cry, high-five, self.
  • Had an unexpected visit by some out-of-town friends and their adorable dog.
   All in all, I'm calling this minithon a roaring success. Reading for 24 hours straight? Cray. Reading and snacking for 8 hours with many breaks for twitter? Yes please. Here's to next time!


   Will I participate in this season's eight hour mini opus of mini foods and mini books? YES I THINK I WILL. I have a clear Saturday and it looks like it's going to be about 11 degrees and raining so really, what better to do with my time than eat tiny croissants and read? The lovely Tika at Reading the Bricks is hosting and everything is awesome.

   And now to the most important part of the day: the snacks. I have the aforementioned croissants, along with, of course, mini coffee. I can see baby carrots in my future, as well as a smoothie which is mini because it is a mixture of very small bits of fruit. Also, obviously, there will be crackers and cheese. Maybe crackers with cheese melted onto them! OMGOSH. The miniest of pizzas!

I will savor my snacks
   But what books will I be delving into? Let me tell you:

  • Vampires in the Lemon Grove / Karen Russell
   A book of short stories that I have been in the middle of for way too long, which I intend to read at least one story out of, maybe less, who knows, it's minithon day. Mini justification? SHORT STORIES, don't even have to reach for it. Boo-yeah. 

  • Why Humans Like to Cry / Michael R. Trimble
   I have this book from the library and I have high hopes for it. Maybe too high. TELL ME WHY I CRY, MICHAEL R TRIMBLE. Mini justification: tears are mini amounts of water.

  • The Amber Spyglass / Philip Pullman
   Audiobooks! I love 'em. I absolutely need to finally finish reading this series, it is a crying shame that I haven't yet. Once in library school we had to do a presentation "creatively" (our instructor gave us the WORST assignment descriptions) and one of my pals who we (lovingly) described as "Jon the smarmy bastard" decided that it was his duty to dress up as Lyra, bring a stuffie to school, and do his presentation AS LYRA it was amazing. Mini justification: audiobooks take a mini amount of effort to read! Children are teacup humans! I'm sure Pantalaimon turned into a moth or something at some point (it's been awhile since I read the first two)! 

   I also have episodes of Elementary to watch in case the reading gets to be just too much, and a great deal of tea, and OH, the naps I might have. The day is just BURSTING with possibilities. Also! My twitter handle is @olyvianne. I'm stoked to minithon with you, you beautiful sunbeams.


Y: The Last Man, v. 1-2

   After reading Herland last year I didn't know quite what to say about it, and so didn't write anything about it on this here blog. Don't get me wrong, it was an excellent read, I just found it difficult to match up my 21st century brain/learning/reading/feminism with Charlotte Perkins Gilman's version of a female utopia. I do my best to judge our predecessors by the standards of their own time instead of by ours, but no matter what era it's set in, the link between eugenics and early feminism will always elicit the same response from me and that response is "no, no, no, no, no, no."

  My homeland has a bad history when it comes to eugenics. I am deeply grateful to the Famous Five, but it is a hop, skip, and a jump from the Persons Case to reading more about Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung to understanding their role in the creation of the Sexual Sterilization Act of Alberta to finding out that it wasn't repealed until 1972 and being equal parts angry with some of the women who, essentially, made me a person under Canadian law, and sorrowful for the more than 4,000 people who were sterilized, many of them without their knowledge or consent. It's a tricky landscape. First-wave feminism is rife with gender essentialism and racism and so many other problems, but out of it also came marital property rights, political rights, prison reform, and a myriad of social assistance programs. I have to constantly remind myself to look at these women through their contemporary paradigm. Nevertheless, it hurts to know that the woman who said "never retract, never explain, never apologize - get the thing done and let them howl" also thought that people with mental disabilities shouldn't be able to have children.

   Sans Teeth, Sans Eyes, Sans Taste, and Sans Men While We're At It

   But the title of this post isn't Herland, so why am I talking about it? Herland is about a prosperous country populated only by women, and Y: The Last Man is a comic about an apocalyptic event where every human male on earth (except one, Yorick Brown) dies, along with every mammal with a Y chromosome (except one, Ampersand the monkey). Herland is a story of utopia; Y: The Last Man is most definitely not. Thinking about Herland made me want to read Y again, and so here we are. I don't know if I'll write about the entire thing as I'm reading it, we'll see how it goes.

   First things first: Y: The Last Man is 500% not a book for children. It is a book for thinking adults. This is for a plethora of reasons, among which is graphic violence and plenty of nudity, but also a whole lot of political and philosophical ideas that you need developed cognitive functioning to think through. All you have to do to know that this book's audience should be smaller is to go over to Goodreads and see people decrying The Daughters of the Amazon as feminists, which brings me to my first point. Actually, my only point, because if I go into everything this book is making me think about this post will last for a hundred years. 

   The Daughters of the Amazon Are Not Feminists

    Here is what feminism basically is: the belief that people should not be discriminated against or oppressed based on socioeconomic status, race, or gender, and that all people have equal value and should have equal rights. This does not allow for the idea that The Daughters of the Amazon are in any way feminist, as they destroy sperm banks (because to them sperm = poison), maim and/or murder women who in any way assist Yorick, claim that men are deformed women (a gender-bent idea direct from ancient Greece), hunt down and murder transgender people, and desecrate any sort of monument to the deceased half of the population. To them the event of all the men dying was a righteous judgement from Mother Earth, and it is their job to erase even the memory of men from the minds of the last generation. They are militant and violent, and kill anyone who opposes them.

   The women who join the Daughters are programmed to be zealously loyal and obedient, while becoming increasingly willing to  use violence and coercion to achieve their end. The leader of the Daughters, Victoria, at one moment claims that all are equal, then issues orders to kill which she expects to be obeyed, referring to herself as a queen and to the other women as pawns. To Victoria, and to the women she leads, "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

   When I read about these women I don't think "feminism", I think "oh, they embody the worst of patriarchal society, it's just flipped around." Someone who can read "men are deformed women" and equate it with feminism has clearly neglected to do any sort of background reading, and missed the part where the ancient Greeks said "women are deformed men," and used that reasoning to reduce women to chattel. The Daughters of the Amazon are clearly militant extremists, using much of the same rhetoric that has been used to oppress women for centuries. They are not, and never were, feminist.

   In Conclusion

   If you decide to read this comic, I recommend you do so with your thinking cap on. If you want to read a comic written by Brian K Vaughan that doesn't involve worldwide man-death, read Saga instead. It's currently ongoing. Both stories, Y and Saga, are Shakespeare-esque.


April's Reading

   I read waaaaaay more in April than I thought I did, primarily due to the wonderful world of audiobooks. Honestly, if it weren't for audiobooks and short memoirs I would've read very little, probably just Villette (because of grand ol' readalong) and Steelheart (because of my low, low level of self-control when it comes to science fiction). I also wrote something like 7500 words for school and who knows how many on here AS WELL AS going to Skaha and climbing so uhhh, what's with you April? I'm definitely not complaining; did you somehow stretch to fit everything I wanted to do??? Are you bigger on the inside than on the outside?

Mary Poppins is a Time Lord
   Here's what I read:

  • Girl in the Dark / Anna Lyndsey: rife with choice metaphors. Quick, very interesting. 
  • Villette / Charlotte Bronte: this was...an experience. Readalong? Delightful. This book? All over the place but good, and full of evocative writing. Often frustrating, but also moving. We are all Lucy Snowe and Lucy Snowe is all of us, in various ways.  
  • Steelheart / Brandon Sanderson: I'VE SEEN STEELHEART BLEED
  • The Art of Communicating / Thich Nacht Hanh: useful! Practical! I took a mindful breath just now!
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck / Nora Ephron: one essay is mostly about hair removal and one is mostly about death! What? 
  • Blue Nights /Joan Didion: I read about grief a lot? 

   WHAT WILL MAY HOLD? I can tell you what it'll hold: Cultural Policy in Canada, Media Ethics, Children in Media, and Psychology and the Mass Media. Hooray for summer semesters? BUT it won't be all schoolin' all the time, since: a) it is nigh on summer and I got hella rocks to climb, b) my cousin lent me her banjo while she is travelling I HAVE A BANJO (for a couple months), c) I got some serious comics-reading to do, and d) there are cliffs to jump off of (into water, of course), lakes to swim in, hikes to go on, bicycles to ride, fires to light (in a fire pit of course), tents to sleep in, and SO ON. I adore summer. The days are long, the nights are short, the sun is hot. There will probably be a drought this year here in Alberta which is less awesome than all these other things, especially since drought = forest fires, BUT summer is great nonetheless and May is the beginning of summer. I say this even though is snowed a bit last weekend, and there is more snow in the forecast.


The Sisters Brothers / Patrick deWitt

    At last I have finished reading The Sisters Brothers and I have some FEELINGS about it and they are mostly that EVERYONE SHOULD READ THE SISTERS BROTHERS STAT THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

   Who knew that a old west book about two murderers would be so beautiful? I would start quoting bits of it here but then it would pile up and up and up until this post was just the entire text of the book.

   The other day I was at a friend's house watching Daredevil, and we were both exclaiming over how great it is to see a show put effort into humanizing its villains. They aren't just blandly and inexplicably evil. WELL, The Sisters Brothers has a pair of enforcers/executioners at its center and wow. Just wow. I feel like I can't do this book justice. It is so perfectly written! When Eli talked about everyone being subject to suffering I just about cried.

   So far this post is quite effusive but I'm not really saying much but just BELIEVE me on this one: this book is pure gold from start to finish and everyone should read it. I don't know why it took me so long to get to it, since bloggers have been gushing about it since it came out and I've been seeking out good Canlit and I super enjoyed both True Grit and Neverhome which are similar in style/execution. There were constant highlightable sections and the mood was perfect and even Tub the horse was excellently characterized.

my sentiments exactly
   ALSO Patrick deWitt looks like one of those TV villains who you only realize is the bad guy near the end of the show and it just blows you away because HOW COULD HE BE BAD but then you look back on the season and it dawns on you that he was pulling all the strings all of the time and your eyes are opened. Maybe he lives in Portland now but I am claiming him for the True North Strong and Free.