Monday, September 28, 2020

I Read Books: The New Orleans Cookbook

The New Orleans Cookbook
This is a magnificent set of recipes gathered from New Orleans, covering aspects from the highest to the lowest, though even for the lowest the authors seek out the most exquisite version. Some of these do get a bit excessive, especially those dishes for many people; red beans and rice for 8, contains 2 lbs of beans and has 1 lb of ham and another 1lb of pickled pork (a New Orleans speciality brined pork). There is a good discussion of some of the techniques, in particular the roux, the mix of fat and flour that makes the base and thickens sauces, which is allowed to brown in New Orleans gumbos and jamabalayas (and other dishes).

Perhaps more of interest for research purposes than a practical recipe guide, though as ever I rarely use most recipes in any book. Some of the sauces are straightforward and useful to bring into a repertoire. Many of the recipes do not look easy to adapt, being part of a particular cuisine and the associated ingredients.

Read This:
For some fun and exciting New Orleans cooking
Don’t Read This: If you want hints for a simple Thursday supper.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

I Read Stories: Two For The Price Of One by Amanda Bergloff

Two for the Price of One by Amanda Bergloff

Melarskey and Dunn tell fortunes. You don’t want to have your fortunes told by them.

Read This: It’s very short and very creepy
Don’t Read This: If your aversion to creepiness outweighs your love of tiny fiction

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I Watch Movies: Rise Of The Skywalker

Rise Of The Skywalker
The Last Jedi was in conversation with the previous Star Wars films, mostly asking the question “Hey, remember this, is Star Wars, but also, what if this is Star Wars too?” This overwhelmed almost everything in the film. On recently rewatching The Force Awakens I noticed that J J Abrams film had also done that, but much more gently, and much less often.

And I think that’s what’s going on here. Rise Of The Skywalker is perfectly happy to have a quick chat with The Last Jedi, especially the idea that there are (potential) rebels everywhere who will rise up given the chance, and even the thought that sometimes you need to throw your sword away (brought up in Return of the Jedi and cribbed from samurai films). And yes, it has a complex relationship with the suggestion that how you win is saving what you love.

On the other hand it just asserts the wrongness of Luke’s self-exile, and Poe again leads a suicide attack against overwhelming odds. Also forgets about arms dealers, just have 10,000 warships with planet-busting cannon appear on the Sith holy world, why not.

Anyway, plenty of Star Wars action, great to see Billy Dee Williams making a cameo, the new droid looks terrible but has a great personality, cavalry charge on the deck of a star destroyer, why not, the wreck of the Death Star as secret vault, it’s all good. Maybe slightly too much in love with the iconography of Star Wars to really dig into what it is and means.

Watch This:
It’s a bit dumber than the best Star Wars films, but it has friendship and excitement and that’s what counts
Don’t Watch This: It’s a silly space battle film that doesn’t really have much to say about the series to tie it up

Friday, September 25, 2020

I Read Books: Ship Of Magic

Ship of Magic
Robin Hobb followed up her Farseer Trilogy with The Liveship Traders, set in the same world. The Farseer Trilogy ended with a substance, skill-stone, being vital to the conclusion. This series has a related yet very different substance, wizardwood. You can build a ship from wizardwood and after three generations of the family who own it die on deck, the ship comes alive (speaking through the figurehead).

Wizardwood is rare and expensive and a monopoly of the Bingtown Traders. Their independence is threatened as their nominal overlord the Satrap has given permission for new settlers. Their economy is threatened by spreading slavery. But this is mostly about the Liveship Vivacia and people who have an interest in it. These include members of the Vestrit family. Althea the daughter of the captain who died on her deck to awaken it is cut out as new captain by her brother-in-law, who forces his son to stop his studies to be a priest to go on the ship (a blood relative is a requirement for Liveships, maybe). There’s also the landbound members of the family, who owe the Rainwild Traders for the wizardwood, and Captain Kennit, a pirate who seems to be destined to be king of the Pirate Isles, and wants a Liveship of his own.

Also going on is a cursed Liveship, blind and hauled out on the beach, a mysterious wood carver named Amber, the former mate of the Vivacia (a disgraced Trader's son) and the sea serpents, once legends, and who are not the mindless mankillers everyone thinks.

As is always the case with Hobb, characters make bad decisions and refuse to back down. They don’t talk to each other and when they do they don’t listen to each other and even when they do they refuse to accept any of the other person’s points. Althea refuses to accept her brother in law Kyle Haven can be captain of the Vivacia as she is blood-family and sailed on her for years. Kyle quite rightly makes the case that she isn’t experienced enough to be captain, and (less rightly) women shouldn’t and can’t be sailors and captains. And they never sit down to discuss it, just storm off and yell at each other, and if they did sit down then they still wouldn’t agree.

It’s going to take murder and piracy and revolution and revelation and two more books in the trilogy to resolve the issues.

Read This: For a slightly dark fantasy adventure about pirates and traders
Don’t Read This: If following half a dozen people down paths that inevitably get darker and that they really ought to know better, with magic ships, seems too much

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I Read Stories: The Prevalence of Dragozemlizhil in Nature by Roppotucha Greenberg

The Prevalence of Dragozemlizhil in Nature by Roppotucha Greenberg
The narrator and their companion an academic conference in a foreign place, somewhere with too many consonants. They want to take the opportunity to find a dragon.

The Dragozemlizhil might be an idiom and not a dragon’s lair. Or it might be a mistranslation.

Read This: For a story about the places dragons ought to be
Don’t Read This: If people misunderstanding each other profoundly makes you too sad.

I Watch TV: Westworld Season 3

Westworld Season 3
Westworld as a show has themes and messages and ideas coming out of the wazoo. And then it hammers them home from every angle which leaves me feeling there's little for me to talk about (iteration is one of the ways the hosts become self-aware, gaining humanity through practice, so at least this is thematically appropriate).

We leave the park and go out into the world to discover that the future is people being controlled by a big computer who is trying to prevent the world spinning out of control (“mass casualty events”, “population crash”, “fall of human civilisation” etc.) Obviously it does this by removing people who would cause trouble (also the inventor goes around troubleshooting). Equally obviously, Dolores, having escaped the park in a copy of the CEO of Delos the park operator, needs to bring down the computer, to leave room for the hosts to exist. Is she trying to destroy human civilisation while she’s at it, or is it just a pleasant side effect?

Anyway, some fair to good action scenes, some slightly over-stated future technology (the self-driving taxis that only open on one side look sort of impractical for un-reconstructed one way streets, though maybe that’s an understated bit of commentary), I liked the gig-economy crime app, though it was fairly obvious what it was about, and a little bit of sacrifice/Trojan horse gambits at the end that were just a little Matrix-y.

Watch This: Because you want another iteration to really drive the message through
Don’t Watch This: If violence and chaos are not for you

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Monster of the Week 41:Mushroom

Monster of the Week 41, Mushroom, he's kind of a fun guy, he spore's corn... no, I'm sorry I can't do this, the jokes are just too bad, let's just forget it and come back next week.

Monster of the Week is supported by my Patreon, where for subscribers it's already next week in Monster of the Week terms as they get Monsters two whole weeks in advance.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I Read Books: Mona Lisa Overdrive

Mona Lisa Overdrive
Like in Count Zero, Gibson follows a number of characters; Mona, a teen prostitute who resembles Simstim star Angie Mitchell who gets involved in a plot to kidnap Mitchell; Angie Mitchell herself, who has/had biochips in her brain that allowed her to talk to the AI voodoo gods of the matrix; Slick Henry, an ex-con whose memory forming abilities were messed with in prison who builds robots in the wilderness and finds himself caring for Count Zero (Angie’s ex) and a computer he’s plugged into called the Aleph; and Kumiko, the daughter of a Yakuza chief who has been sent away because of a gang war.

All of them find their lives twisted by the attempt of 3Jane from Neuromancer’s attempt to get revenge and/or control over everyone who freed the AIs in that novel.

Some secrets come out, there are some explanations and a couple of smart ideas are expounded. Yet it felt as though it was trying to tie up the loose ends of Count Zero (and to a lesser extent Neuromancer), expanding a little on what went on there rather than jumping ahead. The world hasn’t changed since Neuromancer, it’s still grim and dark and sometimes shiny and bright.

Read This: For a satisfying finale to the questions posed by Count Zero
Don’t Read This: If you don’t care about Count Zero