I forgot to say: any questions on the story or anything mentioned in it are welcome. :)
It is far from a normal Monday, though, and going on like nothing happened feels, if not wrong, definitely out of place.
I feel bewildered, stunned into silence, and I believe it is time for silence, meditation and prayer.
I'll be back before or on next Monday.
A question, if you don't mind: every now and then we will have some Chinese words in the text, would it be better, according to you, have them transcribed (possibly with a note), like I did here for guangxi, or straight in Chinese characters (again with a note)?
Thank you for weighting in.
Last year I grabbed as a freebie, the second book in the series, Torch Ginger and I liked it enough to make a note of the author's name. A couple of weeks ago the first book, Blood Orchids went free as well and went straight to the top of my TBR list, as soon as I finished it I bought and read the third novel Black Jasmine and now Mrs. Neal is on my auto-buy list.
To be clear : the Lei Texeira books aren't cozy, the crime there is serious and bloody and the books deal with pretty serious issues, what I love, though is that nothing of it feels gratuitous (or, even worse, voyeuristic) and while there are no easy answers there is always the hope and the possibility of meaningful ones.
The series is set in Hawaii and the local culture is a very important part of the books, one element I like very much is that the author (herself a resident in Hawaii), doesn't exoticize the place at all, she strikes a very good (and difficult) balance between treating the reality of the islands as 'normal everyday' and explaining enough of it that somebody not familiar with the setting may make sense of the whole.
The main character, Leilani (Lei) Texeira is interesting and intriguing, has a very distinctive voice and a lot of demons she tries to deal with on a daily basis while doing her job the best she can. Lei is the daughter of a drug addict and a survivor of child abuse who still has flashbacks and moments in which she 'blacks out' in response to triggers (be warned, the content of the books my be triggery in itself). She is a complex individual and I found her reactions and voice very believable.
Mrs. Neal (a therapist herself) treats touchy topics with sensitivity and depht and is careful to avoid the trap of the 'miracle cure' that is seen way too often. For instance: falling in love and entering a relationship doesn't solve Lei's troubles, rather it adds another layer of complexity to her behaviour towards people. She is used to being alone and indipendent (" no one will love damaged goods / I don't need anyone") and simple things like letting her partner know where she goes often either chafe or slip her mind althogether (which brings in another, if small, load of guit for not being able to behave 'like everybody else').
For all this, though, the Lei Texeira books aren't bleak or depressing, far from it, people have agency, there is friendship and support and a lot of humor, and I really like how the anchor for Lei, in many occasions is her dog, Keiki (and the fact that Keiki is a Rottweiler, a breed that gets way too much bad rep, in my opinion).
I also held Mrs. Neal and Lei Texeira responsible for the newest addition to my hobby list:
...I had never been tempted by Nero Wolfe's orchid growing.
One last note to readers who prefer supporting indies, Mrs. Neal is one.
Till this spring, that is, when I first bought a young lemon tree at the supermarket (it's just 4 euros after all) and later, during one of my adventure trips with mother at a local garden center she was an active accomplice in choosing another lemon tree to keep company to the first (this one has a good shape and some fruits already on...) .
In fact fruits were there, and stayed on, growing all summer, while we were watching the two baby trees like hawks for signs of disconfort and reading all we could about the citrus family.
As time passed we realized that the two trees, although evidently related, were too different to be two cultivars of the same fruit, and that the 'lemons' on the older tree were getting rounder and rounder and suspiciously similar to...oranges.
Not sure of the right time for harvesting (thanks to the wrong nursery photo-ID), yesterday we had the first orange from our very own tree
The zest had a wonderful smell (we kept it for later use), the flesh was ripe and pleasantly tart, and the fruit was quite easy to peel.
I'm happy to say that both trees are thriving, maybe I'm not so hopelessy brown-thumbed, after all ;-).
Here is our weekly instalment of Black Fox (I really need a better title for this), I hope you are enjoying the journey so far. The previous instalments can be found under the 'fox' and / or 'romance' tag.
( Let the music speak... )
Yesterday I downloaded a sample of a book set in a science fiction world I like and dove in.
I was liking it, there was this android policeman waking up in an hotel (much to his dismay, since he never sleeps), suddenly realizing he was sharing the bed with a female in state of undress, then she wakes up, asks a question, and the whole mood falls apart since the author writes:
[i]Her tone was a pleasant baritone, made slightly deeper because she had just awoken[/i]
Well, given that baritone is a [i]male [/i]timbre, and the one deeper than that is bass, I can't help but see this 1.70 m., 57 kilos lady in the leading role in [i]Boris Godunov[/i], and the picture I get of the scene makes me burst out laughing every time.
Since there is no hint watsoever that this character is anything else than a biological female, my guess is that the author meant to write 'alto' and 'baritone' slipped in instead. As incidents go I think this qualifies as epic.
A word of warning, This scene rapresents serious violence on-stage, is not graphic but emotionally charged.
If you are new, here are the previous episodes:
( Let the music speak )
Next episode will be way lighter in tone, I promise! In the meanwhile have a great last day of 2012 and may 2013 be better than your hopes.
I think T. nailed the feeling we were left with: 'It feels like a feature in a theme park'.
Part of it might have been the dubbing (foreign films are dubbed by default over here), for instance Saruman sounded like he had a somewhat loose denture, but most of the people in Rivendell felt contrived, I didn't see Elrond this time, I saw Hugo Weaving with pointed ears.
Also, the reason of my dislike aren't the details they got wrong (like Mirkwood getting the name just about then), those are minor details that would have done for a few hours of book browsing at home and 'Ah, but it wasn't like that', no it goes both deeper and about way simpler things, here are a few.
( Comment with spoilers ahead )
And now part 3 :
It started with a suite of folk songs and dances, light-hearted, happy music celebrating spring or harvest time: brooks murmured, birds sang, smiling country girls danced easing the mostly Italian public into a different landscape, Hu Xiaowen’s bamboo flute soared with the swallows and voiced the dreams and hopes of the villagers .
afterwards we moved through space and time, sampling choice morsels from the different musical traditions of the ancient empire: pieces for ceremony, for the ancestors, for the glory of the emperor and for the private enjoyment of poets drunk with wine and inspiration; again the flute was our key to a time of history, myth and fable.
The intermission came and most of the public took the chance to move a bit, strolling to join friends and acquaintances spotted in the crowd. “ Care to drink something?” I asked my friend.
"Yes, thanks” she glanced at the crowd milling about “ Better go now, before they realize all that chatting has made them thirsty”.
The foyer was still half empty but a while later, as we stood there sipping our white wine, most of the spectators came in, in twos or threes, crowding the bar in a rush to get served before the concert started again. I caught snatches of conversation , comments almost drowned in the hubbub, there was tension in the air, a sense of suspense not unlike the pressure of a thunderstorm building in summer, Lucia looked at me: “ He has built a lot of expectation, hope he can fulfill it”. The lights in the foyer dimmed, I set down my glass, moving towards the entrance of the auditorium: “ We will know soon”.
The first piece of the second half was a movie score suite, music most of us had heard without really paying attention while following the struggles of Li Mubai or the tale of the nameless one, almost all, by now, could recognize the echoes and the twists of tradition into the modern pieces. We started to feel at ease convinced that that was it, we had got what was there to get, we were ready, we understood, and was this everything?
And at that point, when the last note had vanished and the applause had died down, the Maestro went to exchange a few words with his musicians, then he nodded towards the backstage door and, while the choir filed on stage among the startled murmurs of the audience, he came back to the podium and turned towards us.
“Signore e signori,” he announced in a mellow baritone and perfect Italian “ we have prepared a surprise for you tonight: the very first public execution of my newest work, the one-act opera Lullaby for the Lost Ones, in a concerto performance” And with that, while we stared at each other and at the programs in our hands, and the cultural attaché of the People’s Republic in the royal box dispatched a few people to find out what was happening, Hu Xiaowen gave the musicians their attack and the orchestra started playing.
Today's episode is a bit short, but this was the best place for a pause. You'll see why with the next instalment. :)
Allow me tonight to wish you the best possible Christmas, may it be as you hope.
...In the meanwhile I hope to move from being black and blue to purple and yellow.
This morning I went out to get wood for the stove and, as soon as I set foot on the first step I found myself airborne due to a very thin layer of ice and water. It must have played like a scene from a cartoon, since I landed on my... ahem...tuches, and proceeded to bounce-slid down the remaining steps. I am mostly unharmed (no permanent or even serious damage, I guess my 'padding' saved my tailbone), but I ache just about everywhere at the moment.
Part 1 is here
As we, arm in arm, entered the elegant eighteen-century building, I recognized a few familiar faces milling around in the stuccoed lobby: a critic writing for the local newspaper sneered something sottovoce to his companion, a false blonde with silicon-enhanced lips and way too much makeup for either the hour or the occasion. The critic’s expression didn’t bode well for his opinion of the performance, but everybody in town knew Mr. Lorenzi’s crankiness was as carefully cultivated as his Van Dyck .
I smiled spotting the tall figure and snowy hair of my high-school chemistry teacher. A gifted amateur musician, he was the terror of those of his students who were also in the conservatory. He never missed a dress rehearsal and, more often than not, followed the performance on the score taking notes.
Quite a few members of the theatre’s choir were there too, women making up at least three quarters of the total. Lucia followed my gaze : “Do you think that they are here for instrumental music?”
“ You are terrible, you know? Hu Xiaowen’s fame is well deserved and having him here in Chiarenza is quite the event, he usually moves in way more elevated circles”.
It’s not like we are a blank spot on the musical map, far from it. Our summer opera festival, held in the old Roman theater on the hill, is known world-wide and, together with our rich history and natural landmarks, brings to Chiarenza hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, it’s just that our winter symphonic season isn’t, usually, quite in the same league.
The lights flickered signaling that the concert was about to start, the noise level abated and the tension went up a notch while we all entered the auditorium looking for our places.
Inside, a troupe from a regional TV channel was checking their camera and sound set-up, the flow of incoming public parted around them, narrowly avoiding a minor disaster when an elderly gentleman tripped on one of the cables. As soon as the audience was settled the musicians came in, it wasn’t the full orchestra but a smaller formation with some new musicians carrying Chinese instruments among the local regulars. They took their seats on the stage.
“ What are those instruments?” whispered Lucia.
I leaned in her direction “ Those with the bow are erhu, a kind of Chinese violin, only they aren’t really Chinese, they originated with a nomadic people in the North; the wind instrument that looks like a bundle of bamboo canes on a pipe is a sheng, the mouth organ; the two ladies play the moon guitar, zhongruan and the gentleman standing in the back plays the bianqing, a lithophone”. An huff from the man sitting on my other side silenced me, I shrugged an apology to Lucia mouthing “Later”. The lights in the auditorium dimmed, leaving us in half-shadows; only a spotlight remained, aimed at the left side of the stage. Just a few moments before the tension in the audience started to ebb, Hu Xiaowen entered.
He was tall, with a longish, strong-boned face that spoke of Northern China and wide, intense eyes the color of dark amber. It wasn’t his looks, though, that held us all mid-breath, that would not have been enough, it was his effortless magnetism, the charisma he exuded with his simple presence that grabbed us and would not let go.
The guy from the Confucius Institute who entered after the maestro to introduce the program was the anticlimax. He must have felt it, because he tried to warm us up with a couple of jokes and keep up with his written presentation, extolling the ‘unwavering friendship’ and ‘glorious musical traditions’ of Italy and China, but after a couple of minutes he surrendered and went for a brisk, shortened version before disappearing again behind the curtains with a plastic smile stamped on his face.
Then the music took center stage.
And, since I am going to do it anyway, I thought of having my strange modus operandi work to my advantage : I'll start posting Black Fox (horrid temporary title) once a week, comments and discussion will influence the development of the story.
Hope to have you on board,
( Here we go )
NOTE: edited as per suggestions. Thank you!
Rapresentatives of The Great Sioux Nation and the Reynolds family signed the contract, the deal is done, Pe'Sla is safe.
Among the people and groups I follow on Twitter there is Medievalists.net (a wonderful resource on its own account), through them I discovered Unbound and a very special book.
Unbound is a British Kickstarter-like site, for books only, and the project Medievalists.net posted about is The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. The wake is an historical novel set in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, in the author's words it is a story of the collapse of certainties and lives; a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.
As if it wasn't enough (for me it definitely was), this is what the author has to say about the a very specific struggle I'm sure many on my friends' list will relate to:
More than three years ago, I began to write a historical novel which made me realise why I don’t read many historical novels. I couldn’t make the words fit, and I gradually began to see why: the language that we speak is so utterly specific to our time and place. Our assumptions, our politics, our worldview, our attitudes – all are implicit in our words, and what we do with them. In order to have any chance of this novel working, I realised I needed to imagine myself into the sheer strangeness of the past. I couldn’t do that by putting 21st century language into the mouths of eleventh-century people.
So I constructed, almost by accident, my own language: a middle ground between the Old English that would have been spoken by these characters and the English we speak today. The result is a book which is written in a tongue that no one has ever spoken, but which is intended to project a ghost image of the speech patterns of a long-dead land: a place at once alien and familiar. Another world, the foundations of our own.
Here is a short excerpt:
when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time.a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when there seems no end to its deopness
none will loc but the wind will cum. the wind cares not for the hopes of men
the times after will be for them who seen the cuman
the times after will be for the waecend
who is thu
who is thu i can not cnaw
what is angland to thu what is left of angland
i spec i spec i spec
no man lystans
I know this book will drive me crazy, but I also know I'll enjoy every minute of it.
Up to now our home-baked bread was made using brewer's yeast, that's the most common and,possibly, easier way over here. Given the shared passion for baking we decided it was high time to try the oldest method and start what we both hope will become a family heirloom (seriously, there are sourdough batches that go back multiple generations).
I love the idea of something alive that has to be cared for ('freshened' or 'fed' as home-bakers say over here) and that links together generations of women, and at the same time can be shared as a strongly symbolic gift and brought to a new house to 'warm it up' linking it to the previous home.
That said, 'sourdough' while descriptive and accurate, makes me think of something with a sour temperament, I much rather like the name we give to it in Italian: lievito madre, that is, more or less, mother-yeast.
If you speak languages different from English and your country/family has a tradition of bread-baking, how do you call sourdough?