Monday, November 29, 2021

Book Review: Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear

Published: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Scribner
Received: purchased through Life's Library subscription
Read from October 9 to November 24, 2021

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A writer’s search for inspiration, beauty, and solace leads her to birds in this meditation on creativity and life – a field guide to things small and significant.

In 2012, Kyo Maclear met a musician with a passion for birds. Curious about what had prompted a young urban artist to suddenly embrace nature she decided to follow him for a year to find out.

Observing two artists through seasonal shifts and migrations, Birds Art Life celebrates the particular madness of chasing after birds in a big city, and explores what happens when the principles of birdwatching are applied to other aspects of art and life. It looks at the ecology of urban spaces and the creative and liberating effects of keeping your eyes and ears wide open. Far from seeking the exotic, Kyo discovers joy in the birds she spots in city parks and harbours, along eaves and on wires. In a world that values big and fast, Kyo begins to look to the small, steady, slow accumulations of knowledge, and the lulls that give way to contemplation.

Moving between the granular and the grand, peering into the inner landscape as much as the outer one, Birds Art Life asks how we are shaped and nurtured by our passions, and how we might come to love and protect not only the world’s natural places but also the challenging urban spaces where so many of us live.


Birds Art Life has probably been the quietest, most contemplative book I've read all year. It has a tone and pace that I don't typically gravitate towards in books, but since this was a Life's Library pick, I was going to give it a shot. Life's Library doesn't usually let me down, and that was true this time too.

This book is a memoir that takes place over a year, with each chapter representing a month. The author befriends a bird watching musician after deciding that she wants to try bird watching herself. What follows is a lot of reflection on birds, art, and the author's life, hence the title.

I wasn't on the edge of my seat while reading Birds Art Life, but reading it was an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

If you want a fast-paced book, this probably won't be the one for you, but if you're looking for something reflective and slow-paced, this is a great choice.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Star Trek: Discovery Review: 4x01 "Kobayashi Maru"

Discovery is back! I've been excitedly waiting for this season for what feels like ages, especially after I re-watched season three. I don't feel disappointed by the first episode either.

The episode starts with Michael and Book on a diplomatic mission, which gives us a good idea of what Discovery have been up to in the gap between the seasons. Things don't go well, and I have a lot of questions about why they kept talking when everything they said just made it worse. But my favorite part about it was getting a glimpse at the Federation building up support again.

The Discovery crew have new uniforms this season, which isn't a surprise as we saw them at the end of the last season. I don't know how I feel about the uniforms themselves, but it does help solidify the feeling that we're in a different era now.

We get a glimpse of Kaminar, where Saru and Su'kal have been for six months. After everything that happened with Kaminar earlier in the series and the tidbit last season about how Su'Kal had been taught both Kelpien and Ba'ul traditions, I was very curious what Kaminar looked like now, so I appreciated getting a glimpse of that. Though we didn't see much of the planet, it did give us a good idea of how Kelpians and Ba'ul work together. It's a pretty hopeful scene considering the state of the rest of the world.

Su'Kal, though, knows that Saru isn't very happy there, and he makes a good point about Kaminar not really being the home that Saru lost anymore. That must be freeing in a way because it leaves him to go with the Federation without mourning the life he could be living (at least not in the same way). I'm assuming Saru will be back with Star Fleet by the end of the season, but it'll be interesting to see if it happens right away or if we'll get more of Kaminar first.

The president was an unexpected addition to this episode. I've found that I'm very distrustful of every new Federation person that pops up since season three, and each time so far it's ended up being a little unwarranted. Still, she provided a lot of tension in this episode, and the thought of everyone doing their jobs with her there watching them... I feel stressed on the characters' behalves. That's especially true for Adira, who was nervous and then has the president there for the whole thing too.

Speaking of Adira, they've been made an ensign. We also see them speaking with Gray a bit, and that scene was such a fun one. I love seeing them joke around together after what they went through last season, and Gray's joke about getting a body makes me wonder what we're in for this season in terms of that storyline. It seems like something that will definitely come up again.

There was enough light-heartedness in this episode that the ending came as an even bigger shock. Book's home planet is destroyed just after we got a sweet scene of him with his nephew. I'm assuming that what caused the destruction of the space station and Book's home planet is going to be what drives this season.

At the end of the episode, the president also questions Michael's abilities as captain. This was discussed last season too, in way, when Michael was stripped of her position. The president makes comments about how Michael is going to get everyone killed, and I have a feeling that was foreshadowing of some big disaster later in this season, which has me nervous.

Despite the ending, the tone of this episode did feel more hopeful than the beginning of season three thanks to seeing the graduation and talk of more planets joining the Federation. Time will tell if that holds throughout the season, but it's nice to have an episode that feels a bit more light-hearted compared to the last season.