in The West Wing Recaps
as back-room dealing, congressional politics, episode 5, episode recaps, gun control, law-making, politics, season 1, The West Wing, video
Episode Four of The West Wing Recaps! Apologies for not posting yesterday. Lazy blogger is lazy and didn’t get it edited before bed-time last night. Thank you for your patience!
This episode sets up some major character developments and also delves into a perennially relevant topic for the U.S., I.e. gun-control. It’s a little less frenetically-paced than previous ones. We’ve already introduced all the important characters, so now the writers are free to slow down a bit and focus on fewer story-threads in each episode. Anyway, here we go, and don’t forget spoilers abound, so read at your own risk. Read more…
in Book Thoughts
as adventure, amazing women of history, archaeology, book reviews, books, field work, history, history of archaeology, nonfiction, Reading, women
Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and their Search for Adventure by Amanda Adams.
I’ve been reading this intermittently between other books I got from the library a few weeks ago. It’s an in-depth biographical look at 7 of the first women to venture out into the field when Archaeology was in its infancy. Some were adventuresses more than scientists and others were true archaeologists. Most are middle to upper-class white women, with one possibly mixed-race (Zelia Nutall’s mother was Mexican). All contributed in some significant way to the development of archaeology, and all did so at a time when women were not encouraged to use their minds or exert themselves physically. Some of them are more well-known than others (Agatha Christie and Gertrude Bell). Some were proto-feminists eager to help their sisters up in the world and others were as misogynistic as any man. But all were brilliant, strong women whose place in history should not slide into obscurity as they are doing.
One of the most exciting moments while reading this book was reading about Amelia Edwards, an early Egyptologist. I had one of those moments where I am convinced that I had discovered the historical inspiration for one of my all-time favorite fictional characters. That is a special moment, resulting in some ecstatic history-nerdery. It helps that Edwards was so very amazing herself. She essentially shepherded the study of Egyptology from the pursuit of dilettantes and adventurers and into its infancy of real scientific study. She was the mentor and friend of one of the most famous early Egyptologists, William Flinders Petrie. Petrie is one of the first great men in his field, who focused on the importance of every artifact no matter how tiny and mundane, instead of only being interested in plundering great treasures. But Petrie himself was brought into prominence by Amelia Edwards. Yet in all my years of studying Egypt and the history of Egyptology I had never run across her name. Possibly this is because she was more well-known in England than the US, but I feel reasonably assured that’s not the whole story. Archaeology is not so much a ‘boy’s club’ as it was during the glory-days of the women profiled in Ladies of the Field, but there still exists plenty of bias and overlooking of women’s contributions to the field.
The seven women profiled are Amelia Edwards (1831-1892), Jane Dieulafoy (1851-1916), Zelia Nuttall (1857-1933), Gertrude Bell (1868-1926), Harriet Boyd Hawes (1871-1945), Agatha Christie (1890-1976), and Dorothy Garrod (1892-1968). They ranged from Egyptologists to pre-historians in their professional interests, but many of them focused on excavation in the Middle East and Mediterranean, the exception being Nutall who focused on Mexico. But the most interesting statistic to me, pointed out in the epilogue, was these women’s ages. Almost all of them began their careers in archaeology in middle-age. Some of them gave their greatest contributions to their fields while in their 50s or 60s. Personally, I found this inspiring. Of late, I’ve been feeling a bit like I’ve given up my opportunity for a good career in the interest of being a mother and have missed my window for field-work at the ripe old age of 28. These great women, the foremothers of my chosen career, rejected that message of “too old” and went on to satisfying careers started late in life. Ladies of the Field reminded me it’s never too late to achieve your dreams until you’re dead AND buried.
I would also note, at least two of the women profiled were both successful novelists AND archaeologists. Hopefully the reason I found this fact compelling is obvious to any readers of this blog!
in Book Thoughts
as Fantasy, Jay Lake, Kalimpura, motherhood, queer women, reviews, series, spoilers, women of color, women warriors
I posted about reading Kalimpura by Jay Lake before, but since I’ve now finished it I can give a little more informed response to the book. Overall, I greatly enjoyed it and will certainly be seeking out the two prequels, Green and Endurance. Throughout, the style of the narrator Green is reflective, as she looks back on the events of her youth from great age. She alludes several times to events which happen later in her life, some of them seeming interesting enough to hope that Lake is not yet done with Green.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this third book of Green’s story is not well marked as such, and I’m afraid that does it a grave disservice. Without having read anything else by Lake, I still enjoyed it. But I know I missed some significant points throughout it, as I do not yet have the frame of reference provided in the prequels. For instance, I’m certain the very end is a reference in some way to the beginning of the first book. The context implies this, but as I haven’t read that book yet, the significance is lost on me. Still, I’m not sorry I continued reading.
Kalimpura opens with Green having recently given birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Green is a fighter, and evidently quite young and brash, so the enforced idleness of pregnancy and post-partum grate on her sensibilities. But the story is ultimately about her internal journey from that impetuous youngster to a more stable and thoughtful adult. Along the way she performs miracles, speaks familiarly to gods and Titans (the parents of the gods evidently), and strides through rivers of the blood of her enemies.
Green’s enemies have stolen her friend and fellow Lily Blade (a sect of warrior-women dedicated to a goddess of women) and another friend’s only child. Soon after the birth of her own children, she sets out to recover the hostages and defeat her enemies. At this point the plot becomes more complicated and confusing, involving several enemies all working together against Green. I think my confusion is mainly due to not having the appropriate context from earlier books, but it’s difficult to tell. However, it seems that nearly everyone wants to kill or capture Green for largely unspecified reasons. She manages to stay one step ahead of them, barely, and win allies for herself in the process. Eventually she succeeds and returns to living in the temple of her Lily Goddess.
There are several big themes in the book that I really like too. First, Green is a bad-ass queer woman of color. Her story isn’t about any of those aspects of her, they just are facts about her. Sometimes those facts contribute to her interactions with other characters and sometimes they don’t. This is so important. Especially because Green is young and brave and flawed and impetuous and foolish and special all at once. She’s an individual, not a stereotype, and we need more of those depictions of queer women of color in our literature.
Another theme in this book, though one that is rather lightly touched on, is the femininity and it’s nature as well as its relationship with masculinity. There is a sub-plot involving a sect of god-killing assassins who seek out and destroy goddesses in the name of masculinity or something. This is one of the things I would like to see expanded on in a later book(s), as I felt this thread was left a bit dangling. But, folded in with this exploration of femininity was some exploration of motherhood and what it meant to be one. Green herself is a mother, but her close friend Ilona is also a mother. The two are very different, one a warrior steeped in violence and the other a quieter sort, more scholar and priestess I think. Lake holds both up as examples of motherhood. This is another important portrayal. It’s rare to find a depiction of a woman who is simultaneously a mother of young children and an active fighter.
I’m glad I picked Kalimpura up on impulse at the library those weeks ago. I’m glad the cover drew me in and introduced me to an author I’d not yet read. I just wish there had been mention of the prequels so I could have checked them out at the same time! Still, this means there’s a library trip and new books in my near future, and those are always enjoyable.
in The West Wing Recaps
as Charlie, Dule Hill, episode 3, episode recaps, foreign policy, interpersonal relationships, race, season 1, sex workers, The West Wing
Hello again! Time for the next episode of The West Wing! I hope everyone’s enjoying these as much as I am. As always, the greater part will be below a cut due to length and spoilers. So let’s dive in, shall we? If you remember, last week’s episode ended with President Bartlett’s personal physician being shot down near Jordan while on his way to a teaching hospital. The President is taking this very personally, so now we’re ready to find out how he handles it (hint: not at all well to start with!). Read more…
as books, branching out, Fantasy, Green, Jay Lake, Kalimpura, new releases, Reading, series, thoughts
There’s really nothing like picking up an intriguing new book by an author you’ve never read before, liking the synopsis enough to start reading…and discovering that the book is clearly the tail-end of a series. *sigh*
I picked up Kalimpura by Jay Lake from the library a few weeks ago. It was in their SF/F new-releases section, and I liked the look of the cover. It has a woman of color carrying two babies in slings and a long knife in her hand, looking determined. Since I’ve become a mother, I’ve found myself more drawn to stories featuring mothers, so I was intrigued. It took me a few weeks to start it, as I didn’t feel emotionally up to it for a little while, but once I did I certainly have been enjoying it. Really, I only have one complaint, and that’s the lack of any signifier of its series-status on the cover or inside!
Honestly, I almost want to quit reading it (I’m not very far in yet). Mind you, I enjoy the character of Green so much and Lake’s style well enough that I want to start reading Green (the apparent first book of the trilogy) in its place. I just feel like I’m missing a lot in Kalimpura, references to the previous books. It’s been rather hard to work out what’s supposed to be going on and why.
Then again, I’ll probably just keep reading. Green just beat the snot out of an assassin who tried to threaten her children, despite being recently post-partum and out of shape. And before that she got uppity with a god of pain and got away with it. She’s pretty bad-ass. Also, this is my first Jay Lake book and I’m a little too early in the book to decide for sure whether I love the style. But I’ll say this:
For a middle-aged guy, Lake sure has a rock-solid grasp of what it’s like being a mother of newborns, complete with the leaking and weird feeling body and the intensity of emotion and the protectiveness.
I’ll probably post my thoughts on the complete book at some point. Most likely in 4 months or something.
in The West Wing Recaps
as character deaths, episode 2, episode recaps, interpersonal conflicts, narrative choices, politics, season 1, sex-worker portrayals, The West Wing
Here we are again with the second episode of The West Wing. Today we’ll be getting a little bit more in depth than last week as we get into the swing of the show after the Pilot. This episode begins with a quick 30 second recap showing a few key scenes to remind us of important events from the previous episode. These include Sam’s night with Laurie, Josh’s job troubles, Mandy’s new job helping Senator Russell, and Sam’s encounter with Leo’s Daughter. Read on after the cut, as always beware spoilers! Read more…