Two interesting articles instead of a big post

I’ve been doing research for my History of Children’s Book Publishing class instead of writing an article today, and tomorrow I’ll spend as much of the day as I can cooped up in the Houghton Library at Harvard doing more research.  I should have gone there earlier, but for the past week and a half every single day that I planned to go (and haven’t been busy with other things) the library has closed because of snow.  Fimbulvetr has struck Boston, such is life.

In addition to that, I’ve been trying to figure out which story I want to continue for Chuck Wendig’s current flash fiction challenge.  I haven’t yet decided, as I’m still reading through some of the initial submissions.

But that doesn’t mean I have nothing interesting to share!  Two things have caught my attention today: one is an article about the ideological and theological underpinnings of ISIS / ISIL / Daesh, and the other is some super cool news about nanotech being used to fight cancer.  The cancer one is a super fast read and is worth checking out, and the other one is just straight up fascinating as an examination of the self-proclaimed caliphate as a fundamentally apocalyptic millenarian organization.

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The Wizard’s Dilemma, by Diane Duane

JacketWelp, this one took me a long time to finish.  I’m still not quite sure how that happened.  Part of it was that I started the book while I had far too many things on my plate and thus got distracted.  But part of it was that at a certain point in The Wizard’s Dilemma, I felt like I could see where all of the pieces were, where they needed to go, and had a pretty good idea of how they were going to get there… and I really wanted them to just be there already, instead of making me wait.  I suspect that this is the price I pay for reading so much.  Or perhaps for being impatient.

It turns out that I was right about most of those various story beats, but seeing what Diane Duane did with them was far more satisfying than what I’d imagined.  I probably should have seen that coming, given that I’ve read the earlier books in the series and know how good Duane is at her work.  Once I finally got over my block and moved into the last parts of the book, I didn’t want to put it down.  And then, of course, the climax made me cry.  Whatever the real reasons for my reading delays, I feel quite certain in saying that this was an excellent book, one worth reading, worth recommending, and one that leaves me wanting to read the next one in the series.  Just like the previous books in the series.  I probably could have seen that coming too.

So, why the heck did this book make me cry?
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The Fault In Our Stars Made Me Cry

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Have you ever tried crying surreptitiously on an airplane?  It’s a very strange experience, perhaps doubly so as a man when so much of our society puts a premium on men “being strong” (crying in public is a definite no-no).  I was always a bit weepy as a child, particularly where movies were concerned, and as a boy I was teased mercilessly for it.  I worked hard on suppressing that behavior, until I got to the point where almost nothing could make me cry; eventually, someone who was well and truly pissed with me called me “Ice man” for my lack of affect or reaction (not in a kind way, nor as a reference to young Val Kilmer… which might have been kind?).  I’ve definitely reached a happier emotionally demonstrative balance, but this balance has given me the questionable pleasure of feeling awkward, wiping away my tears while the woman sitting next to me (watching the same movie) was completely dry-eyed.  Oh well.  All of which was a round-about way of saying that The Fault In Our Stars (the movie, not the book which I haven’t yet read) made me cry.

The movie (and presumably the book) is about a teenaged woman who has survived a bout with cancer and come out with less than half the lung capacity she should have, the specter of cancer returning in the near future, and a tendency for her lungs to occasionally fill with fluid without warning.  She’s understandably less than enthused with life around her.  The story, however, focuses on her budding relationship with a boy who is also a cancer survivor, one who has escaped mostly unscathed.  Mostly.

Ok, look, I don’t want to spoil anything more for those of you who hate spoilers.  I’ll leave that for after the break.  Suffice to say, if you have loved ones who’ve gone through cancer (or died to cancer, or saw their loved ones go through cancer), you might find this movie a bit emotional.  There are other reasons for it to be both good and sad, like watching teenagers trying to deal with imminent mortality, but I invite you to find out on your own.  And as I mentioned above, maybe it will do nothing for you.  The lady sitting next to me certainly didn’t seem very effected.

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