Sunday Sum-Up, or The Best Laid Plans of Mice

This week was an example of best plaid plans going somewhat awry. Not awry in a terrible way. More like, “I planned to do this, but I guess I’m going to do this other thing instead”. Part of it was due to the weather, which went mad with storms on Thursday and Friday, with Friday’s storm throwing hail, heavy rains, wind gusts of up to 88mph (100mph in Omaha, where several houses were destroyed), and a small tornado that touched down just three blocks from my apartment! Three blocks! And the tornado sirens didn’t go off!

Luckily, it was a very small tornado and touched down in an open field that belongs to the University’s agricultural college, so there was no damage. Around town, a lot of trees, tree branches, and power lines were downed and a lot of people lost electricity. It was not as bad as it could have been, though. No one was injured, even though this was a huge storm system that swept across the entire eastern section of the state.

Yesterday was thunderstorm-free, though it was cloudy all day and started raining off and on again. I had made plans to see the Flatwater Shakespeare Company’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at a park near where I work, but I decided not to because of the rain. It’s an outdoor production, so lousy weather is definitely a factor. Fortunately, it’s running for another couple of weeks, so I have more chances to see it.

Hence, ‘the best laid plans of mice’:

 

I went to the theater to see two movies this week! That’s more than I usually see in a month! First off was A Quiet Passion starring Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle.

imagesThis was an odd movie. It had a stellar cast and beautiful locations, but it was presented and shot very strangely. The actors spoke in turn without interrupting each other, even when they were angry, like they were in a play instead of a film. And while the language was period appropriate and went right along with the costumes and sets, it sounded strange coming out of their mouths. So while it was good overall, I don’t think I’d recommend A Quiet Passion unless you are a die-hard Emily Dickinson fan.

 

 

I had to take my car in for a lengthy repair on my day off, and because Panera prefers to refrigerate their customers, I decided not to stick around and read like I had planned to do. Fortunately, there was  a movie theater nearby, so I decided to go see a movie instead of slowly freezing to death while reading at Panera.

The movie I saw:

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Let me start by saying that I hadn’t intended to see this when it came out. When they announced it way back, I thought, “Oh. Another superhero movie. Great”.  I was going to let it pass me by, when I saw a post about it online regarding the fact that it stars a woman and is directed by a woman (and also, the screenwriter is a gay guy). The commenter stated that seeing Wonder Woman was like having the scales fall off her eyes regarding superhero movies. Finally, she said, there’s a superhero who isn’t being portrayed specifically for the male gaze. It’s not all T&A, or stick-thin actresses in corsets and stiletto heels. Here, the Amazons are powerful women with a range of skin color and body types, all of them with actual muscles, looking like they could wade into a battle and kick everyone’s ass. And who was leading them? Hippolyta, played by Robin Wright, a 51 year old woman in an action role in Hollywood where women are considered ‘old’ when they hit 30.

And can we talk about Gal Gadot as Diana? Another woman with muscles! And she’s not a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with an All-American accent. She’s obviously from ‘somewhere else’ (aka Themyscira), and that’s the way it should be. She’s an Amazon warrior. She shouldn’t sound like she’s from Iowa. Her armor, too, fits the character. The short skirt and sleeveless top don’t seem like they’re meant to show off her body so much as to mimic the armor of ancient Greek warriors. You know, like the Spartans who held off the massive Persian army long enough to let the rest of the Greek city-states gather to defend their homeland. And maybe there were a couple of missteps in the film, but they weren’t enough to bother me. I loved Wonder Woman.

Something else notable…  the battle scenes- with the Amazons on the beach of Themyscira, and later with Diana charging the German forces by herself- honestly made me cry. Not because some syrupy emotional element had been added in, or because I was scared that Diana was going to die or anything like that. It was because- finally– there is a portrayal of a woman warrior who can lead the charge, wield a weapon as well as any man, and fight for what she believes in without needing a man to speak for her or defend her. I didn’t realize how much that would mean to me, or how it really has been lacking in Hollywood. Historically, women have been warriors. Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Sarmatian, and other cultures I can’t think of right now have graves of warrior women that have been found, and more will be revealed as archaeologists and historians go back and test the DNA of the bones found in previously unearthed graves.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, might have been an anomaly when she was first dreamed up, but history is coming to show that she is not such a lonely figure after all.

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Now, onto books! I finished Dava Sobel’s The Glass Universe, Roshani Chokhi’s The Star-Touched Queen, and Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. The Glass Universe brings many women scientists out of obscurity and describes how their work- often derided as mere drudgery- was truly revolutionary and in many ways laid down the foundations of modern astronomy. Thanks to Edward Pickering, who hired the first women at his observatory at Harvard, many women were able to get their start and contribute to the study of the stars.

Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is pretty much that. He discusses nearly every branch of science, goes into their history and talks about the various scientists (and their oddities) who contributed to their fields, and discusses the field itself. Physics, quantum physics, biology, chemistry, geology and others all get their say in this book, which is written with the same sort of wry humor as the other books I’ve read by Bryson.

 

I’m still working on Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, which I had to put aside for a bit so I could finish up A Short History of Nearly Everything before it was due back at the library. I’m looking forward to delving further into The Bear and the Nightingale! I haven’t gotten any further into Glen Cook’s The Black Company. I’ll try to get through more of it this week.


My pottery class is going well. It helps that we all have a background in art and have done at least some work on the potter’s wheel, so the teacher isn’t have to start with the “What is clay?” lecture. We dove right in, and the technique mostly came back, even though it’s been years since I had a lump of clay in my hands. The next class is tomorrow night, where we’ll learn about trimming pots.

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Proof that we are, indeed making things and not just eating cake and drinking beer (though we’re doing all three).

Sunday Sum Up

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Really. It’s been hot this week. I’m sitting here with a big fan about three feet from my face. The high temperatures might be part of the reason I devoured Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman in two days. Thinking of a snowy Norway helps keep my mind off the oncoming summer.

On the bright side, I’m taking a pottery class starting this week. I haven’t touched clay since I was in college, so I’ll be brushing up on some very rusty skills and maybe come out of it with a cup or bowl or two. I’ll keep you posted!

In addition to The Snowman, I finished up Conn Iggulden’s Bloodline and Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban.

 


I am currently reading three books, and I’ll have to start another one pretty soon. I have several eBooks on hold from my library, and they usually auto-download when they come available, so I’ll be minding my business and all of a sudden a book shows up on my phone. The books I’m working on are The Black Company by Glen Cook, The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel, and The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen is the most recent download.

 


I’ve read fifty-three pages of The Black Company, and I’m still not sure what I think about it. The characters are certainly interesting, but the plot is flitting around a little, and it’s hard to get a sense of exactly what’s going on, what with all the “that sucked, so we’re going over there. But we found out that it sucked over there, too, so now we’re going here”. I could do with a little more description of the events and the world, honestly, but I’m probably going to give it to page one-hundred before giving up on it.

The Glass Universe is as interesting as Sobel’s other books, but there are so many names to keep track of! Also, I’d thought it would revolve around the women of the story, but there is a lot to do with the men. It makes sense, given that it’s the men who are running the program that hired the women to process and interpret all the information they gathered, but still.

I haven’t really started on The Bear and the Nightingale yet. I glanced at the first page, was intrigued, and then decided that I should work on The Glass Universe on my lunch break today. I haven’t started The Star-Touched Queen at all. I don’t mind being in the midst of four books at once, but I’d like to get my mind made up about The Black Company and get closer to finishing The Glass Universe.

In other news, I ended up with two free tickets to see A Quiet Passion tonight, so I’m taking a friend out for a movie and drinks. Neither of us knows much about it besides the facts that it’s about Emily Dickinson and it’s been very well reviewed.

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