Book Review: The Children Act

At the beginning of January, I made a decision that I was going to try to read three books during the month. I intended to finish two of them and make a dent in the third. The first two books are novels; the third is a historical analysis of the Russian Revolution.

I haven’t done well with this goal…until today. This morning, I finally finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall. It was, as all Waugh books are to me, brilliant. Waugh has the amazing gift of allowing me to slip into another world, a world of laughter and humor and satire. It’s not necessarily a happy-go-lucky place, but it’s a place where I can laugh. And I always enjoy visiting that place.

The second book I wanted to read was The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I enjoy McEwan as a writer. I find him to be engaging and insightful.  His work forces me to think, and that’s good for me. So, this evening, I decided to start reading the book while I cooked some rice and then I kept reading while I was eating…which was NOT my original plan. And then I was still engaged by the book, so I sprawled out on my stone dining room floor and finished reading the book. Below you will see David Tennant demonstrating how I read the book.

Image from Pinterest

The book was thought-provoking to say the least. While I’m not personally opposed to blood transfusions, I can understand the struggle between faith and medicine. It’s never been a struggle that I’ve personally faced-and I hope it never is, but I can see how it is a complex issue. How do medical professionals handle a situation in which a patient has religious objections to the recommended course of medical treatment? How does the law play into that situation? How does that impact people outside of the professional sphere?

That it the realm the book explores. And it explores it in a brilliant, compelling fashion. I read the book in less than two hours because I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what was going to happen. What would happen to Adam, the ill child? What would happen to Fiona, the judge? How would all of this impact Fiona psychologically?

It’s not a hard read in the technical sense, but it is a good read. The thing which I most adore about Ian McEwan is that his writing demands that I think, and this novel was no exception. It definitely left me with some questions to ponder, but that (to me) is good. That’s what a book should do, and that’s what McEwan does best. I highly recommend it.

Tantramar Cowl

The final pattern of the 2014 Tanis Fiber Arts Year in Colour was the Tantramar Toque. It is a beautiful pattern with gorgeous colors-concord and cloudless. It’s lovely colorwork. But I’m not a hat person. So, I turned it into a cowl.The colorwork is addictive, and I’m planning on working it into a future sweater that I’m dreaming about. The colors are beautiful, and I love cloudless so much that I’m making a sweater in that color right now. The yarn is warm and snuggly. Overall, it’s awesome. I finished it a few weeks ago, and I finally took pictures of it today. IMG_2151 IMG_2152 IMG_2153Raveled here.

 

Movie Review: The Imitation Game

Those who know me well know that I am more than a bit of an Anglophile. I’m also a bit of a Benedict Cumberbatch fan. (I say “a bit” because I don’t feel about BTCC the same way that I do about Tom Hiddleston…which is to say that I have a standing agreement with my mother that if the opportunity ever presents itself she’ll throw me under TWH’s feet.) Anyway, given this information, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that as soon as I saw the trailer for The Imitation Game I knew that I had to see the movie.

Saturday evening, I finally got that chance. I went with a few friends-fellow Anglophiles and BTCC fans. I went in with high expectations, and mercifully, I was not disappointed.

The movie tells the story of Alan Turing, a mathematician who worked for the British government during World War II. Turing was involved in the project to break the Nazi Enigma code. He was also one of fathers of the modern computer.

Turing was an immensely complex human being. He was a genius although I’m not entirely sure that he would agree with my assessment of his brilliance or that he would appreciate my calling him thusly. And that may tell you a bit about his personality. While very intelligent, Turing struggled with social skills; the film says that he didn’t have many friends as a child, and he tells his one childhood friend that his mother calls him an “odd duck.” Based on the film’s presentation of Turing, I’d have to agree with that assessment. And while I find Turing endearing, I suspect that in real life I would struggle to like him at times. He is a person whose genius I could respect and admire, but I could see why others might find him difficult.

That said, the movie was impressive. The cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Allen Leech, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, and Rory Kinnear) was strong; I knew just from the cast list that this movie had serious potential. And the cast didn’t fail.

Mark Strong put in an impressive performance as Stewart Menzies, head of MI-6. Unlike my usual experience of Strong, here he was NOT the bad guy. (I know; I was surprised too.) Instead, he was compelling, a strong (pun intended) character determined to win the war at whatever costs necessary.

Keira Knightley did about as well as I expected. I’m not a fan of Keira, but I thought that she did well with what she had. She provided an adequate performance, and as Joan Clarke, she made a valiant effort to try to humanize the socially awkward Turing.

I could keep going, but I won’t bore you. Matthew Goode was definitely more than a pretty face-although I’ve no objections to Goode’s face. Kinnear was a sort of stand-in for the audience as Turing attempts to explain what he did during the War a few years later. Leech was charming and endearing. And Dance provided me with frustration but also with an understanding of how others viewed Turing. The child actors (Alex Lawther and Jack Bannon) who played the young Turing and his friend showed talent and maturity that offers hope for the future. Simply put, the supporting cast was excellent. They added depth to the story and helped draw the audience into the story.

But of course you’re probably wondering how I felt about Benedict. Well, he’s brilliant. The usually smooth spoken Cumberbatch stammered and stumbled over his words. He was awkward and uncomfortable and yet arrogant, and he was believable. I’ve seen Cumberbatch as Sherlock, as William Pitt the Younger, as Paul Marshall…looking at his IMDB credits, I realize that I’ve seen over half of the movies/TV shows that he’s been in. I’ve seen him play so many different characters, and he’s always different. He doesn’t play the same character over and over again, and that (to me) is the genius of Benedict Cumberbatch. He brought Turing to life on the screen, and he made me love the character. As I said earlier, I suspect that if I knew Turing in real life he probably would have frustrated me at times, but BTTC showed us the person inside, the real person.

That doesn’t mean that I understand or agree with everything that Turing did. He made some decisions later in his all-too short life that I’m not sure I would have made. Not being him, I can’t understand or change him, but there were definitely moments where I thought “I would have done X instead of Y” or “If I were Turing, I’d have done…” But one of the great and remarkable things about life that is that we are ultimately all individuals and we all make our own choices. (Also, I live in a radically different world than his, and so I don’t experience the world in the same way that he did.)

Overall, I loved the movie. It was heartbreaking, but I needed that in a way. I needed to have my horizons broadened. I need to see a movie that taught me something not only about history but also about humanity.

It was brilliant, and I highly recommend it.

FO: Jackson Creek Cardigan (Again)

A little over a year ago, I knit myself a delightful cardigan using Glenna C’s fabulous Jackson Creek Cardigan pattern. I love that sweater, and I wear it quite regularly-read almost once a week. I knew that I needed another Jackson Creek because I want to wear it so often, and so about six/seven weeks ago, I set to work knitting up another one. I used Tanis Fiber Arts amber label dk weight in the Jean Jacket colorway that Tanis created for the September edition of the TFA 2014 Year in Colour. And the marvelous Tanis graciously dyed a sweater quantity of Jean Jacket for me. And naturally, I had to make it into a Jackson Creek. I finished it on Thursday, and I’m unbelievably happy with the result. The yarn is so comfortable. The fit is divine.IMG_2138I finished it on Thursday, and I’m unbelievably happy with the result. The yarn is so comfortable. The fit is divine. IMG_2139

I did make a few modifications. Like I did previously, I knit the body in one piece to make the process go faster. As you can see above, I did raise the neckline from the original. This was NOT because I got distracted by the West Wing, but rather it was because Michigan winters are cold, and a higher neckline means a warmer me. IMG_2140 IMG_2141 IMG_2143 IMG_2144 IMG_2145 IMG_2147 IMG_2149Simply put, I love this sweater. and I wouldn’t be surprised if I made another at some point.

Raveled here.

 

“Adventure”

At the beginning of 2014, I made one of my yearly goals “going on an adventure.” I was thinking Hobbitishly. I wanted to go on a trip. Perhaps I would go to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Maybe I could go to Europe? I was going to Jamaica for a spring break mission trip, and that promised to be an adventure. All I knew was that I wanted an adventure.

And an adventure I got. I’ve blogged before about how I had my dream job and lost it earlier this year. 2014 was a very difficult year. In mid-May, I scrawled on my desk calendar, “Jesus, be real to me.” That became my daily prayer over the course of 2014.

That prayer didn’t make my life easier. It didn’t mean that God suddenly made these difficult circumstances (unemployment/underemployment, difficulties with insurance, emotional ramifications of the previous points) magically vanish. But I find myself becoming calmer, more peaceful. I had to be brave, which I didn’t particularly like. I had to be strong, which I can do, but I didn’t really want to. However, I’ve done these things. And I’ve felt peaceful in so doing.

My year was an adventure, and my adventure continues into 2015. But I’m moving forward with a feeling of peace and a belief that God will always be with me and will always provide for me.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

-Jeremiah 29:11

15 Goals for 2015

This is the fifth year that I’ve done this. Last year, I called that scary; I don’t even know what to call this year. Doing something for five years feels a little weird. It’s like point-blank admitting that I am an adult.

But anyway, here’s the 2015 list.

  1. Accept that I am an adult.
  2. Read The Dark Night of the Soul.
  3. Knit one sweater per month.
  4. Knit more socks. I have long forgotten how much I love hand-knit socks, but I remember this now.
  5. I really want to knit Jenny a sweater. (This will be one of my sweaters of the month.)
  6. I want to try cooking out of my Downton Abbey cookbook.
  7. I want to find a way to blog more consistently. Look out for more book reviews.
  8. I want to read the books that are sitting on my bookshelf unread.
  9. I want to live my life more joyfully.
  10. I want to go to at least four Tigers games this summer. I went to four regular season games and one playoff game this past season, and I’d like to do the same this year.
  11. I want to go to grad school. This one is kind of a joke because this year the pipe dream is finally becoming real. I’m going to grad school, and that’s super exciting for me.
  12. I want to read The Spirit of the Liturgy. Liturgy is becoming more and more important to me, and I want to learn more about it.
  13. I want to send 2015 working on loving people. I want to spend time with my friends and family making sure that they know that they are loved.
  14. I want to grow a plant and keep it alive.
  15. I want to donate my hair to charity. I’m planning on doing this either in April or June.