Monday, January 15, 2018

Adventures in Bookbinding

My mom and I went to San Francisco, and we even drove there.  Which is insane.  I dislike going to SF, and I even more dislike driving there -- I can get very whiny about it.  I am an East Bay kind of girl.  But this worked out okay.  For one thing, it was on a Sunday, and also our destination was pretty close to the bridge and freeway, but south of it so that it was easy to park.  I did not believe the website's claim about "ample street parking" but it turned out to be true.

We actually arrived somewhat early, so we explored the neighborhood a bit.  We found an old, but apparently thriving, brewery.

We found a very interesting church!  I mean, it's like a mission style Orthodox church, two styles I never expected to see together, but in fact it's Episcopalian.  We were taking pictures of the outside and this guy invited us in, where a service was going on. 

You enter into a large clear area with an altar in the middle, and the dome is painted with a stunning mural of Christ leading people in a dance.  They chose ninety people to be portrayed as saints, from St. Francis (with a wolf) to Dante and Emily Dickinson and all sorts of people. 

 The people were very welcoming and clearly anxious for us to feel comfortable.  We just stayed and watched for a little while, since we had to go get lunch before our class.  Anyway, if you're ever in the neighborhood, St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church is well worth a visit.

After a quick lunch, we went in to the SF Center for the Book.  It is obviously a great place to do stuff in, and also fairly intimidatingly artistic.  There are all these presses in the main room, along with a side area for exhibits.  Other rooms are also stuffed with various giant metal presses and bookbinder tools.

Our class was in a smaller room.  There were five students and one teacher, and four of us were librarians.  We made four kinds of sewn paper books.  The first two are quite easy but look impressively artsy -- there's a do-si-do book where the signatures face opposite ways, and one that puts a cool tab between the two signatures but only has to be sewn once.  Then we learned to do some more complex spine stitching with a "dots and dashes" arrangement (the blue one below), and a final book had several signatures to sew and a separate book jacket.  My photo below, taken at the very last second during clean-up, does not really give a good idea at all, so you could head over to the class page for some better examples.  Ours were very plain, since there was no time for embellishment.  As it was we went nearly half an hour over.

The whole thing was very fun and I would love to do more of the basic book classes.  I don't know if I will; getting to SF for a full day class is quite a tricky prospect and all the driving is kind of exhausting.  (I'm not a good long-distance driver; I get sleepy and I need to stretch my legs often.)  But their list of classes is hugely tempting.  I'm not likely to really learn how to do leather binding and tooling, but surely some simple Coptic stitching and hard covers would be fun?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Something on Sunday, 1/14

I know you're all dying to know how my intro to bookbinding class went, and the answer is, it was fun!  And I'm writing a post about it!  I just need to sit down and spend a little more time on it.  This week, the kids went back to school, but I haven't gone back to my job yet, so in theory I have a lot of free time.  This has turned out to be largely theory (I scheduled dentist appointments) but I did get to work quite a bit on my Tardis quilt blocks.  I ran out of blue, bought more blue, and am not sure I won't run out again.  The blocks are quite large, you see.

The ingredients

Getting there...maybe 75% done with blue blocks
Would you like any used books?  Because boy howdy, have I got used books.  I think I've mentioned that I sort books for my library's booksale, and this week was a doozy.  I walked in and met this pile:

My mom and I work on this side of the table.  Other folks do other jobs; everybody has a specialty.  We managed to clear this table and get everything boxed, but I'm reliably informed that it looked just the same again a couple of days later.  It's a bit overwhelming, but just think: people are made happy when they buy super-cheap books, and the money goes to benefit the public library, so that's pretty good.

In other good news, I thought this was a pretty good op-ed in the New York Times the other day: Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History.  There's plenty to worry about, but let's make sure to notice that hey, an awful lot of things are getting better.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Reavers of Skaith

 The Reavers of Skaith, by Leigh Brackett

The last Skaith book closed with Stark and Ashton finding a ship to take them home.  Or so they thought; the captain promptly betrays them, deciding that plundering the entire planet, now that it's in chaos and defenseless, sounds like a better plan.  And he's not Skaith's only problem; the sun is old and cooling, and winter arrives extra-early.  Half the crops were ruined by war, and now the harvest fails completely.  Most of the world population is heading into the warmer areas, but there's no food to eat.  The government has nearly collapsed and its last supporters have turned.  Stark and Ashton head south through the tropical zone to the antarctic, chasing the pirates and meeting yet more fanatically violent warriors.

There is no group in the novel formally identified as "reavers," and I presume she means the betraying, plundering spaceship captain, but honestly it could be practically anybody in the story as a world's entire social order breaks down under the beginning of an ice age.

I do wonder if this novel is the first mention of the term "reavers" in science fiction.  I poked around a little bit, and the word goes back to Old English from Old Norse.  It appears in some of the first Anglo-Saxon documents we have; Alfred used it, it's in Beowulf and in the Bible and more.  To reave is to pillage or plunder.  It's gained popularity in science fiction -- I'm not very knowledgeable about comics but apparently there were some Marvel reavers in the 1980s, and of course we get really terrifying Reavers in Firefly.  I can't find anything much about reavers before that, though, so I'm going to guess that Leigh Brackett introduced the word into the SF world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Hounds of Skaith

The Hounds of Skaith, by Leigh Brackett

So hilariously bad.  Wow.

More fun on Skaith!  Stark and Ashton and company --which includes a pack of deadly Northhounds -- are heading south to try to get to Skeg, the only city on Skaith where spaceships are allowed to land, before the remnants of the Lords Protector can get there and close the spaceport forever.  Half the planet is in revolt and Stark has no compunction about encouraging the other half, through which he is traveling, to do the same.

There is a good deal of fairly interesting stuff on why the Lords Protector, as well as a bunch of other Skaithian peoples, want to get rid of the starships.  The government doesn't want to lose its slaves, but also they are all in a kind of culture shock.  It's only been ten or fifteen years since the population of Skaith found out about other planets and peoples, and many of them can't deal with it.  They'd prefer to pretend it didn't happen.  It's a bit like how the Krikkiters reacted to the same discovery!

Add caption
Skaith is packed with different kinds of people and tribes.  Besides your usual desert warrior nomads and such, there are groups that long ago did some genetic engineering on themselves to try to survive a dying planet, with varying degrees of success.  Amphibians, furry ice people, elvish cannibals, winged psychics, and really terrifying desert predators keep things interesting.  As the weather gets worse and resources dwindle, all these groups hate each other and fight endlessly over what's left.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Ginger Star

The Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett

For the past few Januaries, I've included some Leigh Brackett in my reading of vintage SF.  This year I have the Skaith trilogy, which features one of Brackett's most famous protagonists -- Eric John Stark, otherwise known as N'Chaka.  Raised on Mercury by aboriginal people, fostered by an Earth official, Stark is now the toughest mercenary around and he has innumerable adventures on strange worlds.  The Skaith novels come later in Brackett's writing career, and also seem to be the longest Stark stories, since the rest is mostly novellas, I think?  I'd have to know a lot more about Brackett than I do to be able to state definitively.

Stark travels to Skaith, a planet on the outer edge of Earth's administration, because his foster father Simon Ashton, now a high-ranking official, has been taken prisoner there.  Skaith is a newly-met planet; contact with it is only a decade or so old, and Ashton went to see if he could straighten out some problems.  Instead, the Lords Protector have taken him prisoner, and thus Stark has to go find him, alive or dead.

He gets a lot more than he bargained for, as he finds that the oppressed common people of Skaith are trying to leave the planet, and their governing body, the Lords Protector, won't let them.  Skaith is a very old planet; its star is getting more orange and cooling down (thus the 'ginger' star), and its shrinking arable lands cannot feed its people.  Once, it was a technologically advanced world, but now it's all fighting tribes.  Anyway, the people of the city Imran hail Stark as the prophesied Dark Man* who will destroy the Lords Protector.  The government reacts by trying to kill Stark, the prophetess, and most of the people of Imran.  Stark is pursued throughout a long journey north to the Citadel, the seat of the Lords and Ashton's prison, but the way is guarded by all sorts of interesting peoples and creatures, ending with the terrifying Northhounds.

I'm getting a great kick out of these stories.  They are the height of pulpy space opera, and they're pretty well-written, too!  Stay tuned for more Stark adventuring.

*Stark's race is not mentioned, but having been raised on Mercury without sunscreen or much clothing, he is always described as having dark brown/black skin as well as black hair and dark eyes.  Pulp illustrators tended to ignore this description, though.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Something on Sunday: 1/7

Let's see if we can start 2018 off with some nice things.

I started a new quilt!  I guess technically speaking, I started THREE.  Which is a little much even for me.  I've been looking forward for months to starting "Patchwork City," a very modern quilt design that I love and that will take me approximately forever.  It has 75 blocks, in three sizes, which can be fitted together if desired into 25 larger blocks (or indeed lots of other configurations).  So far I've made six, and they're quite intricate and tricky.  Fun!  I also started two Tardis quilts for my daughters who each want one.  This is a much easier job, actually, since I've worked out a pattern (of sorts) that will be fairly simple.  A quilt guild friend gave me her leftover "Police Box" fabric, so I have the signs, and I have lots of blue in my stash...

By the time you read this, I won't be here at all.  I'm very excited to head down to San Francisco for a bookbinding class!  I didn't even know it existed until a couple of months ago, but I'm going to the SF Center for the Book, a place that teaches all sorts of book arts.  Their class schedule is the yummiest, most tempting thing on the internet, I'm telling you.  My mom and I are going to do the introductory class, and I cannot promise that I will not try to take the next couple of Really Serious bookbinding classes too.  Even though I hate going to SF.  I like the East Bay and would be much happier if this place were in Oakland or something.

Finally, happy anniversary to me and my husband, since today is our 22nd.  That's like, half our lives.  No, it IS half our lives, since we are both 44.  Goodness.  Here we are, two doofy, clueless kids:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Long Mars

The Long Mars, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Happy New Year!  I've been having fun reading some old-school SF, as is tradition in January, but I also finally got The Long Mars.  I put it on hold months ago at the library -- it lived at another branch -- and it spent months in limbo, wandering around the system somehow until it landed where it was supposed to be, in my hands.  So I was happy!  And now I need to put a hold on the next book, The Long Utopia.  That shouldn't take so long to show up.

The Long War ended with the volcano at Yellowstone exploding on the Datum Earth, with global consequences (think Krakatoa, but more so).  Nations still exist, but the Long Earth is filling up with people who never intended to move there.  After that, we have three plot lines that work out practically separately:

Our original protagonist, Joshua Valiente, is asked to investigate the possibility that the Long Earth has sparked new developments in the human genome, and if so, what the deal is.

Sally Linsay's dad (the guy who unleashed stepping on the world in the first place) shows up and recruits her to explore Mars, leaving from the makeshift spaceport on an Earth next to a gap world.  Does a Long Mars exist too?  If so, are its layers in sync with Earth's, or do you get a whole different set of worlds?  And could life have developed on some of these versions of Mars?

Maggie Kauffman, US Navy Commander, is put in charge of the longest exploratory trip yet, with the goal of getting to Earth West 250,000,000.  And she's not told everything about her own mission.

On the whole, the novel is a great read, even though our characters' arcs are so disparate that they hardly ever meet each other.  The Mars exploration is fascinating, and so is Maggie's trip across millions of possible Earths.  I was a little disappointed that Joshua, who is having a hard time with his wife, simply never goes near his family in the whole book.  I don't want a whole lot of marital drama in my SF novel, but come on, he's got a family.

There were several nods to SF that has come before.  I wouldn't mention it, except that I was completely tickled by a spaceport geek guy wearing a faded t-shirt that says "Smoke me a kipper."  Now that is a good one.

I'm looking forward to the next two!  This is a great series and I think my husband and daughter would both enjoy it.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

My Life in Books: a Tag

Courtesy of Lois at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea, who is evidently the best at finding these things.  I thought it would be fun for an end-of-year post.

Find a book for each of your initials

J -- Johnny the Clockmaker, by Edward Ardizzone (Js are hard! It took me a long time to find this one!)
K -- Kaleidoscope, by Eleanor Farjeon
L -- Leave it to Psmith, by P. G. Wodehouse
P -- Persuasion, by Jane Austen

Count your age along your bookshelf... What book is it?

Before We Visit the Goddess, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.  A wonderful novel and a fun thing to get, since I got to meet her a year or so ago.

Pick a book set in your country

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.  It's a definitive California novel, after all, and partly set in Bakersfield, where I was born.  I should really re-read it.

Pick a book that represents a destination you'd love to travel to

Hum.  I have a long list of destinations I would love to travel to!  I'll pick Ireland, and I have this interesting book about medieval Irish monks called Sun Dancing, so I'll go with that.  Besides, it's timely; back when The Force Awakens came out, I recognized Luke's island as one where Irish monks lived.  I was quite tickled to see the beehive cells in The Last Jedi.  (It's the island Skellig Michael, but it had been too long since I read the book for me to remember the name.)

Pick a book that is your favorite color

Er.  My favorite color is lime green, which is not a color that books really come in very often.  Looking at my shelves, I see exactly one: Lingua Latina II: Roma Aeterna (per se illustrata).

Which book do you have fondest memories of

I don't know about fondest, that's a pretty high bar, but when I met my husband, he had been living in South America and working hard, and had fallen out of the habit of reading for fun.  I lent him Howl's Moving Castle (a UK paperback edition which we still have), and it reminded him about leisure reading -- and hooked him on DWJ at the same time.

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading

Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, because yow.  I didn't even get very far.

Which book on your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you read it?

Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, I guess.  Because it's STILL SITTING THERE.  Or, I also have the 10-volume Durant Story of Civilization, that one is a little daunting.

Favorite Books of 2017

Reading-wise, it's been a pretty good year.  Let's hope other things improve too.  I wasn't as consistent with my blogging as I would like to be, but it all got there eventually, and I read lots of great stuff.   This is not a list of my top ten or anything, and it doesn't include all the best stuff; I'm sure I missed lots.  But here are some favorites of 2017:

While I didn't get to read as much medieval literature as I would have liked (I guess this is a constant theme in my life, I did have the great fun of re-reading Eneas.  Another favorite was The Treasure of the City of Ladies.  And Bovo-Buch!   And Merlin and the Grail

I was in a kind of German mood and read some good history:  Germania and Stasiland were both excellent.

 Voices From Chernobyl -- well, there's not much to say about it.  A very important book that I'll never forget. 

 Their Eyes Were Watching God was a great novel, and probably the best American book I read all year.  It was fun to have my daughter read it in school some months later, too.

If you're looking for good writing and memoir,  The Burning Point is an incredible book.  I don't usually comment on writing too much, but Tracy McKay is an amazing writer.  Read this book. 

I got so much out of The Black Count  -- there's wonderful biography and history in here.  Just great stuff.

Celtic, Viking, and Anglo-Saxon Embroidery was one of the most inspiring books I read all year, as far as creativity goes.  I would like to be able to do all that stuff, please.

My #1 for 2017 is a book I'm still reading: Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts.  This is my new favorite book, and I'm going very slowly because it's so great.  Wow.

Goodreads says I have read 177 books this year. 

May 2018 bring you, and the world, joy and peace.  And plenty of good books to read.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mount TBR: Final Checkpoint

It's time for that final post on the Mount TBR Challenge, and Bev says:

1. Tell us how many miles you made it up your mountain (# of books read). If you've planted your flag on the peak, then tell us, take a selfie, and celebrate (and wave!).  Even if you were especially athletic and have been sitting atop your mountain for months, please check back in and remind us how quickly you sprinted up that trail. And feel free to tell us about any particularly exciting book adventures you've had along the way.
My goal was to read 24 books, and I exceeded it by reading 29.  Some of them were really great, and a few were kind of meh.  Dirt was meh.

2. The Words to the Wise According to Mount TBR: Using the titles of the books you read this year, see how many of the familiar proverbs and sayings below you can complete with a book read on your journey up the Mountain. Feel free to add/subtract a word or two to help them make sense.  

A stitch in time...[saves] The Treasure of the City of Ladies

Don't count your chickens...[before the] Steppenwolf [eats them].
A penny saved is.... (a ticket in) The Lottery
All good things must come... (to) The Broken Citadel
When in Rome... (visit a) Lady of Quality 
All that glitters is not...  Dirt
A picture is worth... The Castle of Wolfenbach
When the going gets tough, the tough get...Further Afield
Two wrongs don't make...  Half a Crown
The pen is mightier than....  The Man in the Iron Mask
The squeaky wheel gets... (a)  Storm in the Village
Hope for the best, but prepare for...(being) Down and Out in Paris and London
Birds of a feather flock...(to) The Heart of Mid-Lothian

As always, thanks to Bev for hosting this great challenge!