Calexit by Matteo Pizzolo. Comic series about a near-future California rebelling against a right-wing US government. Pretty good in terms of art and characters, but not a lot happens in this first volume, which is impressively thick but very padded out with extraneous material. Not bad, but sure I can be bothered with the difficulty of following the series.
What I'm Reading 2
Running With the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn. An amateur runner goes to Iten in Kenya to improve his own running and discover what makes the Kalenjin people in Kenya so fast.
A good book, better than I expected, doesn't go too annoyingly far in the patronizing learning-from-the-Africans vein. In particular when he forms a running club and tries to get them interested in the name, he starts to feel like he's trying to get a group of farmers interested in the colour of the shovels.
When it comes to what makes them so fast, he's pretty balanced. There are only about five million Kalenjin but they dominate distance running around the world to a huge degree, so it's widely believed that they must have a genetic advantage. However, there are a lot of other factors involved, and despite much effort no scientists have yet been able to identify specific genes that could give them an advantage
They Kalenjin live at high altitude which is a big training in itself. All the successful runners seem to come from rural backgrounds, where in childhood they run long distances to get around, often running to school and back, and home and back for lunch. That means they build an aerobic base much younger than developed world athletes. If their advantage was primarily genetic, you would expect urban Kalenjin to be as good as rural, but that doesn't seem to be true.
Also, in a generally poor region, running is one of the few ways to make money, so a lot of Kalenjin focus on running more seriously and intensively than developed world athletes, few of whom are full-time runners at an early age.
Overall, decent book if you're interested in running, but doesn't have any easy answers.
What I'm Reading 3
Hamlet: Globe to Globe by Dominic Dromgoole. Book about the project by the Globe theatre to stage Hamlet in every country in the world. Not quite was I expecting, which was a collection of wacky touring anecdotes though there are a few. He covers only a small fraction of the countries, in fairly long chapters, and in each one explores a different aspect of the play and how it relates to that performance.
Dromgoole is passionate and enthusiastic about Shakespeare and theatre and it really comes through in the writing. Informative and inspiring.
What I'm Reading 4
The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts. Psychological thriller. Two girls were involved in a seemingly motiveless murder in childhood. As adults one is serving a life sentence, the other is free but finds her new identity exposed.
I didn't like this one. The characters didn't feel very believable to me, and the plot just seems to be twisty for the sake of twistiness. The ending didn't feel 'oh, of course' but just 'huh'. Also after apparently decrying tabloid rage and the justice system, it sort of turns out that tabloid hate is justified and the miscarriage of justice is down to one person just not being honest.
Christmas went OK, just a quiet one at home, kid was satisfied with presents and routine. Just had chicken for dinner as only two meat-eaters in the house: Yorkshires and potatoes went OK. Afterwards took him to see my mother and had a good break there, she did a turkey dinner so the kid got that.
Haven't done much running, was a bit sick with a fever before Christmas and I seem to be taking a long time to recover. Will need to start slowly again in the new year.
Went to a panto, Snow White at the Richmond Theatre with Jo Brand. Very traditional pantomime with the usual mixture, dancing seemed decent and jokes were suitably groanworthy. Kid liked it.
"The Rise of Skywalker". I had fairly low expectations, thought it would be like Star Trek: Into Darkness, an unoriginal but competent space adventure by J.J. Abrams. In fact it was far worse than I thought. In fairness it might be because it was apparently heavily edited at the last minute with major story changes decreed by Disney. But the end result is just unprofessionally sloppy. For instance, the business where Finn has to tell Rey something, but we never find out what. Also the reveal of the big baddie in the opening crawl instead of an actual reveal, which might be because another baddie played by Matt Smith was edited out so the reveal scene had to go too. The plot that's left involves just a chase after three separate McGuffins the last of which turns out to be in literally the most obvious place in the galaxy anyway.
There are other weaknesses which were probably bound to happen anyway given the director Rose Tico barely features, we get no resolution to the Rose-loves-Finn-Finn-loves-Rey love triangle but I wasn't expecting something so amateurish. On the plus side, the action setpieces themselves are good and impressive, it's just that there's no actual plot and barely any character arcs.
Articles. ACOUP blog where a military historian looks at what fiction and games get wrong and right. Part 1 of 6 in Siege of Gondor in LoT. Part 1 of 3 on Game of Thrones and the Middle Ages, etc. Why are there no empires in Age of Empires? How fast do armies move?
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