?

Log in

pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
allochthonous

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Living in interesting times [Mar. 4th, 2014|03:04 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Gorgeous long weekend lazing around in the mountains (actually only a bit of lazing, I also climbed the occasional hill). I also wrote about my enduring love for the bath houses of Tbilisi on my Proper Blog, and spent a lot of time catching up on my enormous pile of bookmarked links.

Talking of Georgia, this is a lovely article about eating and drinking there (a Georgian feast is one of the best eating experiences you can have). Another from a  few years ago highlights the huge number of varieties of fruit in the region, far more than people in the west are familiar with (I can vouch for the figs, which are amazing). Agronomists from the US are searching for new cultivars in the Caucasus which could eventually be grown in the US under changing climatic conditions.

Which smoothly segues into new research showing the link between the collapse of the Indus civilisation and the drying of the climate in the Middle East towards the end of the Bronze Age. I love paleoclimatology, it's just a shame that actually doing it involves spending so much time looking at bloody foraminifera.

This is a remarkable story about a highschool dropout from rural India who spent years developing an affordable machine to make sanitary towels for rural women. His single-mindedness-to-the-point-of-obsession meant that he lost his family and almost all his money on the way, but the final product has been very successful (and his wife came back, so yay, happy ending!).

I have also spent a lot of time side-eyeing the situation in Ukraine. I read an article last week from a liberal Russian journalist, written before the Russian troops moved into the Crimea, and this paragraph, on how he felt when the Russians moved into South Ossetia in 2008, really struck me.

In my picture of the world, nothing of the sort [Russia sending troops into Crimea] can happen, but I remember my picture of the world in August 2008 – back then, in my picture, Russia couldn’t have sent troops into Georgia, but it up and sent them. On the morning of August 8, 2008, I flew to Moscow from Chelyabinsk, and watched the events in South Ossetia from an overflowing waiting room in a little southern Urals airport. There were a lot of people there, but I was the only one surprised by Russians tanks in the Roki Tunnel; the rest of the passengers perceived this as a given. Because I built my picture of the world by reading independent political analysts, independent media and social networks, and the rest of the passengers didn’t read any of that, but read Komsomolskaya Pravda and watched state TV channels. And that morning it turned out that their picture of the world was closer to reality than mine. On the whole, that morning produced a very strong impression on me.

It chimes with this article on how the west (and the US in particular) and Russia operate almost on entirely different planes of reality when it comes to their understanding of their relationship. I am watching Putin's press conference,and I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
link1 comment|post comment

What are you reading Friday has snuck off for an early long weekend [Feb. 28th, 2014|05:30 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Kazbegi]
[mood |sleepysleepy]

Long weekend courtesy of Georgian mother's day (or something, no one at the office seems quite sure), so I have buggered off to the mountains for some Scenery and quality reading time. Not getting much of the former as yet owing to the large snow cloud that has descended over our hotel, but all forecasts swear blind that it'll be clear tomorrow, so photospam appears likely.

In the mean time, have a very delayed reading meme.

What are you reading now?

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which so far seems to be a cheerful ripoff of the Scarlet Pimpernel etc, and there is clearly going to be cross dressing and swashbuckling and hijinx galore, and is great fun.

What have you finished reading?


I spent much of last week staying up until 2 am reading, which is something I haven't done for a very long time.

The Golem and the Djinni, Hellene Wecker. Lovely fairytale-esque story of new arrivals in New York in the nineteenth century. The backstories of every character were so well written and engaging that I could put up even with the longeurs in the middle where nothing much happens apart from a lot of wandering around the city. Absolutely fascinating for someone like me who knows bugger all about the history of NY, and from a basis of total ignorance, it really seemed as thought the author had done her homework about the Syrian and Jewish immigrant communities of that time.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. Amazon appears to be filing this under Nordic Noir, but it's not quite like anything else I've read: a strange and unsettling thriller set in a small town in Finland. It doesn't really go anywhere, but is thoroughly creepy and peculiar en route.

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. I can see why this has been praised to the skies - it really is gripping - but good Lord, everyone involved is a terrible, terrible person, almost to the point of caricature. I finished it in two days flat but was disappointed that the ending (spoiler!) did not not involve every single character getting struck by lightning simultaneously.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
, David Mitchell. I have never run into a Mitchell I didn't like, and damn, that guy can write, but it took me a while to accept that  in this one no one was going to turn out to be the incarnation of a character in the book they'd been reading two chapters previously or similar, and was just going to mope about forbidden love in Edo Japan in exquisitely written prose. There was a Mystic Cat though, that was good.

What will you read next?

Glory be, all of the Attolia books are finally out on kindle (for ages Queen of Attolia wasn't) so I can spend a peaceful long weekend lounging around inhaling the lot of them. I have only read The Thief so far, which I loved, but held out on the rest until I could read them in order. Also I have Serious Books (The Luminaries is apparently quite good?) but who'm I kidding, nineties YA fantasy all the way.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
link3 comments|post comment

We need to talk about Hal [Feb. 21st, 2014|05:31 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

So the RSC just released their trailer for this season's Henry IVs, and despite the Anthony Sher as Falstaff factor, I am a bit concerned:



I'm really not sure I can sit though six hours of bildungsroman for a member of the Bullingdon club*.

*This is perhaps a little unfair, but the actor reminds me very much of Toby Stephens when he is poshing it up to the max, which rather sets my teeth on edge. He's got the smugness well and truly nailed, though.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

A mixed week [Feb. 14th, 2014|12:10 am]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |sadsad]

Tbilisi has gone overnight from -15 C to +11 C which, while giving one slight clothing-related whiplash, does mean that I no longer have to sleep in the living room right next to the heater on full blast, always wondering if I am not in fact going to wake up next morning due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Feeling the cold in your actual bones is interesting from an academic perspective for about thirty seconds, but then gets old pretty rapidly.

Mixed week. My best friend is getting married, which is fantastically exciting (and long overdue), and I have a new job starting in April (full time with the Tbilisi crowd, means I get to spend a month in Vienna too) which is also excellent. Then Mum emailed to say that our much adored Buffy had had to be put to sleep. She was nearly fourteen, which is old for a big dog, and she had been going downhill for several months, and just wasn't able to stand up anymore. She'd been blind for a couple of years, but that hadn't really seem to put her off, as she ricocheted very slowly off fences, walls, stray furniture en route to her food bowl. Right until the very end, despite her reluctance to go on walks she could still make it up twelve stairs to steal the catfood whenever Mum had her back turned. Feels very much like the end of an era - any other dog my parents get won't be "mine" in the same way.

Oh God, my kettle has apparently been on fire the entire time I was writing this entry. This is what happens if you don't have a smoke alarm. Fortunately it's just the wooden handle that's gone (FFS why would you make a kettle with a wooden handle?) and has done nothing worse than stink the kitchen out. Note to self: keep a closer eye on open flames.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
link2 comments|post comment

What are you reading Wednesday is all about the gin [Jan. 29th, 2014|12:15 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |exhaustedexhausted]

I think I may have a new job. It's kind of dfficult to tell. More on this as it emerges.

For reasons best known to themselves, over Christmas Amazon decided to replace my broken and very out of warranty Kindle Keyboard with a Kindle Touch. The touchscreen alarms me somewhat, but hey, free kindle, and access to books again! I had reached the stage where I was forced to try and play sudoku on the in-flight entertainment to distract me during take off (I find I like flying less and less the more I do of it. I took 38 separate flights last year. It's becoming a bit of a problem).

What are you reading now?


Let Our Fame Be Great
by Oliver Bullough, which I bought without looking too hard because I thought it was about the South Caucasus; it’s actually about the North Caucasus and all the more interesting for it. Whereas the primary cultures of the SC (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris) more or less came to terms with the Tsarist armies and in several cases actively preferred them to the Persian and Ottoman threats to the south and west, the north Caucasian peoples were less convinced, and consequently got genocided (under the Tsars) and mass deported (under the Communists) in a pretty hideous way. Fascinating and depressing reading, and gives you yet another reason to feel icky about Sochi (slap bang on the 150th anniversary of the Circassian genocide).

What have you finished reading?

A reread of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, just because. Also, I have been having great fun with Amanda Downum's Necromancer series. The Drowning City is a cheerfully swashbuckling fantasy in an interesting SE Asia setting (protagonist is from a fairly standard W Europe setting though) and The Bone Palace isn't too shoddy either. Good female heroine and large percentage of female characters not defined by their relationships (not all heterosexual either). Depressing that this should be such a selling point, but there you go.

What will you read next?

A lot of people on a forum I frequent have been raving about Gun Machine, so I'll give that a crack. I've also got the first volume of the Earthsea Quartet (can't believe I've never read those) on reserve at the English book swap.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

A very belated happy new year [Jan. 26th, 2014|11:28 am]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |contentcontent]

I've started so many posts the last few weeks and been distracted. Lovely time in London over Christmas (although I'm not sure we had a single dry day) but back in Georgia now, which is a great relief because I can curl up on the sofa with a bag of walnuts and a massive hunk of sulguni cheese and a cup of coffee and not have to move because someone needs to watch The Holiday or whatever. To ease myself in, have some links.

An absolute must-read  photoessay from varlamov.ru on the street battles in Kiev (getting a lot of traffic so you may need to reload); couple that with Ten Things the West Needs to Know About the Situation in Kiev. The protests may have originally kicked off about the backtracking of the government on signing an Association Agreement with the EU, but the violence is now very much in response to the massive clampdown on civil liberties from the government.

This video from the Donmar Warehouse of the cast preparing for a performance of Coriolanus. If you are anywhere near a theatre showing the NT Live screening of this production on Jan 30th (later dates in the US), beg, borrow or steal a ticket (or, you know, ring up and book one like a normal person). One of best bits of theatre I've seen for a long time, and one day I will actually finish writing up my review of it.

The new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next  to the Globe looks so beautiful. It's a reproduction of a Jacobean theatre, complete with lighting via candle  (candelabra descending from the ceiling! It sounds delightful, but how do they ensure people don't get wax dripped on them? Or maybe that's an essential part of the Jacobean experience). It's tiny, and I wonder if it is going to prompt a Donmar-style scramble for tickets every season, which is something those of us who are less orgnanised really don't need.

The list of things for which I need to return to London this summer grows ever longer: Simon Russell Beale's King Lear, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies at the RSC (I am curled up on my sofa with a cup of coffee rereading BUtB for the umpteenth time and doodling little hearts around Mantel's writing, I love these books so much), and the British Museum's Viking exhibition. I do love a good viking, and I even more love the glee with which the press are making Ikea jokes about the BM being sent an entire flat-pack longship from Denmark.

Tbilisi is not looking so hot at the moment. So here are some old paintings I found of Tbilisi looking exciting and romantic and far more dramatic than it actually is (it is pretty dramatic, though).
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

I dedicated the script to you [Nov. 24th, 2013|10:17 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]

Yeah, yeah, The Day of the Doctor and An Adventure in Space and Time were great and all, but for my money the best thing to come out of Wholapalooza 50 was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, a superbly funny half hour film by Peter Davison about the quest of Five, Six, Seven and Eight to take part in the 50th anniversary special. Cameos and in-jokes galore; I defy any Who fan to watch the trailer and not immediately inhale the whole thing.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
link2 comments|post comment

At least it's not three days this time. [Oct. 15th, 2013|08:20 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|]
[Current Location |Kiev]
[mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

About to get on the sleeper train from Kiev to Minsk. Coming to the realisation that while this kind of thing is great fun if you're a backpacker who already smells a bit and doesn't have to do anything on the other end, rocking up to a business meeting straight from the station in the clothes you slept in, having been woken up twice in the night to cross the border, maybe isn't something that responsible grownups do. On the other hand, it's cheaper, my WWF colleague has been mollified by my reduced carbon footprint (entirely undeservedly as I have at a rough count taken 25 flights this year so far, which given the nature of my job, drives a tank straight through "ironic" and out the other side) and I apparently have serious ex-Soviet sleeper train nostalgia, which proves that there is no experience so uncomfortable that time can't work its magic.

On the other hand, new episode of Welcome to Night Vale. Neat.

Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

no one's safe place [Oct. 3rd, 2013|07:05 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]
[mood |fullfull]

It is National Poetry Day in the UK, so Twitter informs me, which is a good moment to link to this post by Sofia Samatar, who wrote  . the beautiful-but-not-very-plotty A Stranger in Olondria. Samatar has done translations of some classical Arabic poetry by women; my favourite is this, by tenth-century Cordoban Aisha bint Ahmed al-Qurtubiyya, who knew how to send someone packing:

I'm a lioness.
I'll never be anyone's safe place.
And if I did choose that, I wouldn't love a dog
when I've been deaf to lions.

There are some lovely (and very funny) poems at the link - do have a look. Aisha herself sounds awesome:  she died in 1010 having never married, but she seemed to have far more fun being an excellent calligrapher, writing copies of the Koran, collecting books and being keen on science. And living in Andalucia, which no doubt was pretty OK, too.

I am having an unusually delicious day: determined to break out of my carrot and ginger soup rut, I made spicy aubergine, apricot and tomato soup for lunch (it still has ginger in it. Baby steps.), and carrot, cumin and bean burgers from A Girl Called Jack for supper. Working from home has its upsides.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

What are you reading Wednesday has an "Oktoberfest" hangover [Oct. 2nd, 2013|01:46 pm]
allochthonous
[Tags|, , , , , ]
[Current Location |Tbilisi]

I have had a fairly hectic couple of weeks - a nastily timed bout of flu means that I am about two hundred quid out after missing two flights to the Netherlands, and then I was at one of those conferences last week which has stuff basically scheduled from 7am to 9pm, and you find yourself having extended meetings until 1 in the morning while the restaurant staff are just begging you to leave. But now I am back in Tbilisi, which is lovely and autumnal, and I had the odd realisation that for the first time my flat feels more like home to me than my parents' house. Better late than never, I suppose.

Surprisingly, I went to the theatre a bit in London!

Edward IICollapse )

Much Ado About NothingCollapse )

What are you reading now?

Nearly done with The Moonstone, which was free on the kindle, and long so good for plane trips. It is apparently one of the first detective stories in English, and very similar in tone to the Sherlock Holmes books (though obviously much longer). Good fun, give or take the very of-its-time attitude towards those wacky Hindoos (sic).

What have you just finished reading?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, which I got from a recommendation by someone on my reading list. One of the best YA fantasies I've read for quite some time: dragons, excellent worldbuilding, ace female characters, and a love interest that doesn't overwhelm the whole plot. Although I agree with the original rec post, which said that it would have felt slightly more realistically if Seraphina herself had been aged up a bit. She pinged me far more as late teens/early twenties than sixteen.

What will you read next?

It's nearly Republic of Thieves time! I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies (now containing actual women!) and can't wait to see what Lynch does with this.
Crossposted to Dreamwidth.
linkpost comment

navigation
[ viewing | 10 entries back ]
[ go | earlier/later ]