Category Archives: Fiction

Mundane Monday: CITO Events

This past weekend was Earth Day in the United States. There were marches in support of science in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, which I agreed with and supported, but didn’t end up going to. I am an introvert and don’t like crowds.

I did something more mundane, which was to go to CITO events. “CITO” means “Cache In, Trash Out,” and these are geocaching events in which cachers look for trash instead of geocaches, and pick it up and take it out of the park. Frequent CITO-ers carry trash grabbers, poles with a handle and button on one end and two pincers on the other, which close when you press the button. Having one of these means you don’t actually have to touch the trash with your hands, which can be a good thing. I bought my husband a really crappy one last year. It broke at our first event. We tried to fix it at subsequent events, but it never worked properly and we finally ended up throwing it in one of the trash bags. I bought him a new one this year that seems to be working better!

SchwanLakePark
Schwan Lake Park, Santa Cruz

We went to two events, one each day of the weekend. One was in Santa Cruz and one was in the Baylands Reserve near the Googleplex. As you can see, neither of them ended up having a lot of trash to pick up, but they were gorgeous walks in beautiful weather. The wildflowers are out and you can see them blooming, in contrast to the bright blue sky.

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Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Mountain View

And then, I used this online bio generator to make a satirical “artist bio” for my landscape photography for Mundane Monday. I thought the bio was surprisingly accurate (or at least amusing. And I learned some new words!) Plug in your own information and see what you get :-). For the Mundane Monday Challenge #106.

Karen Allendoerfer (°1965, Providence, United States) is a photographer who mainly works with the iPhone. With Plato’s allegory of the cave in mind, her photos references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Her photos demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the early part of the twenty-first century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By choosing mainly formal solutions, she makes work that deals with the documentation of events and the question of how they can be presented. The work tries to express this with the help of physics and technology, but not by telling a story or creating a metaphor.

Her works are characterised by the use of everyday objects in an atmosphere of middleclass mentality in which recognition plays an important role. By taking daily life as subject matter while commenting on the everyday aesthetic of middle class values, she investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. Rather than presenting a factual reality, an illusion is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.

Her works establish a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. These works focus on concrete questions that determine our existence. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she tries to develop forms that do not follow logical criteria, but are based only on subjective associations and formal parallels, which incite the viewer to make new personal associations.

Her works are an investigation into representations of (seemingly) concrete ages and situations as well as depictions and ideas that can only be realized in photography. By exploring the concept of landscape in a nostalgic way, she often creates work using creative game tactics, but these are never permissive. Play is a serious matter: during the game, different rules apply than in everyday life and even everyday objects undergo transubstantiation.

Her works are based on formal associations which open a unique poetic vein. Multilayered images arise in which the fragility and instability of our seemingly certain reality is questioned. Karen Allendoerfer currently lives and works in Mountain View.

Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

The Winter Knife (Minnesota Strange Book 1)The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good YA literature will stay with me long after I am finished with it, even as an adult. I would have been in the prime target audience for this book when I was a teenager, and I would have devoured it (pun intended). The story was a pleasant surprise on several levels. First, the author has a real gift for character and voice, especially with young teens. She manages to tell a fantastical story without talking down or condescending to her audience, while at the same time not going to any of the despairing, hopeless, or crazy places I feared she might be heading with the supernatural element.  Continue reading Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

Book Review: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L Garcia

Incursion (Catalyst Moon #1)Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first installment of an enjoyable saga, Catalyst Moon. I don’t read many series, though, and this book reminds me of why. Incursion does a good job of setting up the characters, the world, and the conflicts, but the pace is leisurely and once things are really getting going, the book ends. I might read the next one, but I have so many other things to read in the meantime that it will be months if not years until I get around to it. I don’t believe this book stands on its own.

Continue reading Book Review: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L Garcia

Book Review: A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf

A Gleam of Light (The Survival Trilogy #1)A Gleam of Light by T.J. Wolf

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Gleam of Light has many of the elements of a first-rate thriller: a sympathetic protagonist, mystery, conflict, and a fascinating backdrop. It’s clear that a great deal of thought and research has gone into this book. These elements, however, need to be put together differently to keep the reader really turning its pages.

Continue reading Book Review: A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf

Book Review: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey

Author’s Note: Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors as a teen. A high school friend gave me a copy of Dragonflight and I was hooked. But as time went on and I read more of the series I started to see its flaws. I wrote this review in college, when I was closer to both my love of and irritation with the books. Years later, I read the Harper Hall trilogy to my daughter, who enjoyed it but who never showed any inclination to pick up McCaffrey’s work on her own. The Harper Hall trilogy probably remains my favorite of all of McCaffrey’s work.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (Pern, #7)Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Anne McCaffrey’s previous six Pern books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you were getting tired of meeting the same characters with different names or beginning to get frustrated by the discrepancy between the books’ potential and what they actually delivered, Moreta will be more of the same.

Continue reading Book Review: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey

Book Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

Tales From Alternate EarthsTales From Alternate Earths by Daniel M. Bensen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this idea for an anthology and even though the premise is popular and often tried, I was intrigued to pick it up and explore the stories. My favorites were “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon,” which also had the best title and the most imaginative characters, and “The Secret War,” which provided a unique twist to a story I already thought I knew something about.

Continue reading Book Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

Book Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Water KnifeThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paolo Bacigalupi is a master of near-future dystopian science fiction. I’ve been dabbling in the genre, and reading this book made me realize that I have a long way to go with respect to world building. In many ways, this book is a textbook for how it should be done. The book is richly drawn, with complex characters, plausible extrapolation of current events, catchy slang, and unexpected twists and turns. With The Water Knife, Bacigalupi is at the top of his imaginative game.

Continue reading Book Review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

I was going to post this review a couple weeks earlier, but the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia, delayed my finishing it. Leia was barely in this installment, and much of the initial discussion of her cameo focused on the CGI. But even though I haven’t been a real Star Wars geek for many years, Fisher’s death hit me hard. Continue reading Film Review: Rogue One, a Star Wars Story

Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

As the newest film set in the Harry Potter universe and J.K. Rowling’s screenplay debut, Fantastic Beasts has gotten a lot of hype, and quite a bit of criticism too for too much detail, plot holes, unclear motivations, and uneven pacing. My own kids and I were a bit confused when we went the first time, but that didn’t stop both of the kids from seeing it again with friends.

It is a visually arresting film, and I enjoyed the experience of watching it.  With the twisted cities of Doctor Strange still in my mind’s eye from the week before, the scenes of mayhem in old New York in Fantastic Beasts made an impressive counterpoint. I know the Harry Potter timeline and universe pretty well and so I also appreciated the world-building and the background to the more well known events from the HP books and movies.

Thematically, much of this debate about “craft” may be interesting, but beside the point. In this film Rowling returns to a theme that may ultimately define her body of work: the plight of wronged, abused children, the incompetent and/or evil adults who fail them, and the others who try to make it right. In the modern HP timeline, Voldemort/Tom Riddle came out of such a situation. In this film, and in other more recent work (notably, A Casual Vacancy) adults explicitly manipulate and use children to their own ends, and end up not only destroying the children’s innocence but unleashing a chaotic evil upon the world that can no longer be controlled.

This theme is rich, but sometimes, in Rowling’s hands, too simple–especially when the adults become caricatures. Newt Scamander is a worthy and well-meaning hero but IMO he needs more to do and to learn before this series can do justice to its ambition. The children are watching.