I have to start generating draft post link dumps as I post things to G+.

On movies:

You should be reading Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his movie criticism, regardless of whether you want to see the movies he's writing about. Here he is about the truly appalling Ted 2:

For people of color, some aspect of friendship with white people involves an awareness that you could be dropped through a trapdoor of racism at any moment, by a slip of the tongue, or at a campus party, or in a legislative campaign. But it’s not always anticipated. You don’t expect the young white man who’s been seated alongside you in a house of worship to take your life because you’re black. Nor do you expect that a movie about an obscene teddy bear would invoke a sexual stereotype forced upon you the way Kunta Kinte was forced to become “Toby” [in Roots].

And as a palate cleanser, his review of Magic Mike XXL.

The AV Club's Random Roles series is almost always great. Here's Diana Riggs, who I've never even seen on screen and who I now want to be when I grow up.

I also love their Expert Witness series; here's a recent one on being a second-unit director on Hollywood blockbusters and one I somehow missed on from a camera operator on the Puppy Bowl.

On TV:

I don't watch Penny Dreadful but [livejournal.com profile] glvalentine's recaps of it are worthy of live-blogging on their own. The one about the most recent episode contains such gems as "Somehow opting not to just go full Gothic and have sex in front of the corpse" and "(He had so much trouble just facing his mother’s death that he made three more people. Then he had sex with at least one of them. The man is troubled.)"

I also don't watch Parks and Recreation (though I'm considering it), but I suspect fans of it would like this vid by [personal profile] such_heights.

On books:

This review of For Such a Time by Kate Breslin makes you wonder how on Earth anyone could possibly think that it was a good idea. (Content notes: Holocaust, dubcon.)

Palate cleanser: absolutely hilarious Imperial Radch AU by Rachel Swirsky.

Miscellany:

@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment, an interesting look at the growth of that Twitter account and what the academic behind it decided to do with the social capital it had.

Yakhchāls: "By 400 BCE, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of storing ice in the middle of summer in the desert."

A Mostly Accurate Norse God Family Tree, in comic form, with research notes. A.K.A., "TIL that Odin's grandparent was a cow."

The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction, an interview with someone whose work was appropriated by Supernatural fandom.

Did my boyfriend just get married? on AskMetaFilter; search the poster's username for updates.

What This Cruel War Was Over, the meaning of the Confederate flag in the plain words of those who bore it.

I'm excited, except for the bit where it's already nearly here, ugh, where does the time go?

I don't have my Safety Committee schedule yet, so I can't make plans to see people, but if you're going and I don't already know, please tell me!

Friday July 10 - 2:00 PM - ENL - The Parental Undertones of Fannishness.
Toni Kelner, Kate Nepveu, Jennifer Pelland, Diane Weinstein (leader).
After the first Peter Capaldi episode of Doctor Who aired, Jet Cuthbertson (@Jet_Heather) tweeted, "Hard to sum up my feelings towards #DrWho- at once completely critical, but protective & adoring. Condemning, but desperate for another fix." This summarizes the conflicting urges that drive many fans to create fanfiction and fan art with the goal of improving a book or show that they find simultaneously appealing and insufficient. But it also sounds like a description of parenting: protective and loving, eager to see achievement that matches potential, critical of shortcomings, concerned about conflicts between the parent's goals for the child and the child's own ambitions. What leads fans to take on this parental role with the works they love? Is it appropriate and respectful, or literally paternalistic? How does it mesh with the parental feelings that creators often have for their own works? And what can fans learn from the struggles and successes of parents?

Friday July 10 - 7:00 PM - ENL - Recent Fiction Book Club: Persona.
Victoria Janssen, Kate Nepveu (leader), Fran Wilde.
In a world where diplomacy has become celebrity, a young ambassador survives an assassination attempt and must join with an undercover paparazzo in a race to save her life, spin the story, and secure the future of her young country in this near-future political thriller. For author Genevieve Valentine, restraint is a mode of composition, both in the beautifully understated sparsity of her prose and in her protagonists' taut, tense stillness. In Persona, where the degree to which one has or has not smiled reveals or conceals a wealth of information, restraint is crucial to a Face's survival. Persona brings up questions of identity and celebrity, managing to be a tense, carefully wrought thriller while still nodding and winking at the camera. You'll never look at a red carpet the same way again.

Saturday July 11 - 10:00 AM - F - Successfully Writing About Horrible Things.
Mike Allen, Catt Kingsgrave, Shira Lipkin, Kate Nepveu (leader), Patty Templeton.
If you're not writing horror but your plot calls for something horrific to happen to a character, how do you handle it? You might go overboard and be detailed to the point of undermining or derailing the narrative, or might be so vague that the horrific event has little effect on the reader or the story. A reader who's been through a similar experience might be offended or distressed by a description of awfulness that's lurid, gratuitous, clichéd, or bland. What strategies can writers use to help readers empathize with the characters' suffering and build stories that respectfully handle the consequences of terrible events, without falling into these traps?

Sunday July 12 - 12:00 PM - ENL - Fandom and Rebellion.
Gemma Files, Catt Kingsgrave, Kate Nepveu (leader), A. J. Odasso, Ann Tonsor Zeddies.
ifeelbetterer on Tumblr writes, "No one is more critical of art than fandom. No one is more capable of investigating the nuances of expression than fandom—because it's a vast multitude pooling resources and ideas. Fandom is about correcting the flaws and vices of the original. It's about protest and rebellion, essentially.... Fandom is not worshipping at the alter of canon. Fandom is re-building it because they can do better." Our panel of creators and fans will dig into the notion of when, why, how, and whether fan works and remixes are "better" than the original, especially when they come from a place of protest and challenge.

Sunday July 12 1:00 PM - CO - A Visit from the Context Fairy.
Kythryne Aisling, Stacey Friedberg, Gwynne Garfinkle, Kate Nepveu, Sonya Taaffe.
In a blog post at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith writes about the opposite of visits from the "Suck Fairy": going back to a book you disliked and finding that the "Win Fairy" (to coin a term) improved it when you weren't looking. Are the Suck Fairy and the Win Fairy really two faces of a unified Context Fairy? If context is so crucial to loving or hating a work, how does acknowledging that affect the way a reader approaches reading, or a writer approaches writing? How does one's hope for or dread of the Context Fairy influence decisions to reread, rewrite, revise or otherwise revisit a written work?

Thoughts on these? Comment, do, I always find it helpful and interesting!
More insta-reactions, though this time almost a week late.

spoilers )
I am behind on everything, including the things that must be done by tomorrow morning, and falling over tired, so here is an easy thing out of the vast queue:

Thanks to the comments here, I have a serious longing for a Silmarillion/Mad Max: Fury Road fusion. Imperator Luthien and Mad Beren! Come on, isn't it eerily perfect?
Super-quick reactions before one kid or another wakes up, without doing a lot of book-checking or sleeping on it (a refined, overall version will come to Tor.com at the end of the story). Basically I liked it.

spoilers )
when I am not typing while the dog eats her dinner and am about to leave to bring the kids to taekwondo, but:

The reason "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" is SFF is that the first time you're reading it, you don't know if it's set in a world where If The Velociraptor From Jurassic Park Were Your Girlfriend (for instance) could be real, and it's that tension about the possibility that gives the story some of its emotional weight.

(Yes, I know the second link came after, I'm using it as an example.)
Because if you need a preschooler dressed like a superhero being photobombed by a first-grader, well, that's a very specific need and I've got you covered:

right behind the cut )

And now, to eat the breakfast I haven't yet in order to get them out the door on time, walk the dog, and do all the housework that I comprehensively failed at last night. Also go to work.
Two Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell links:

I was interviewed by Lost Hope, a podcast discussing and, eventually, reviewing the show as it airs on BBC America. The first interview is Peter Harness, writer of the series; mine starts at 23:34 (with a Drawlight-style introduction that does a commendable job of pronouncing my last name, even though I'm not technically a Mrs.). Having steeled myself to listen, I think I kept myself to a reasonable speed and only rambled a little bit . . . ?

A couple interesting tidbits from the Harness interview, which I will cut for super-minor spoilers:

really, very minor )

Also: BBC America has put the entire first episode up on YouTube! The schedule on my TV—this coming Saturday!—shows it as an hour and fifteen minutes, so at least the first aired episode will not be trimmed for US commercials; we'll see if the subsequent episodes follow the same plan.
I basically passed out as soon as I could last ngiht, but I'm at my car dealership this morning waiting for maintenance, so I can burble about yesterday's new WtNV episode.

spoilers for Fashion Week )

I haven't been keeping up with fic in this fandom; anyone have recs, particularly of stories in script format or otherwise extremely canon-typical in tone?
And now for a completely different entertainment review: a musical adaptation of a bunch of Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books, titled We Are in a Play!

Elephant and Piggie, if you're not familiar, are early reader books (i.e., extremely limited vocabulary and low-density text) about the two best friends of the title. They are to be treasured, because they are adorably fun for adults as well as children—SteelyKid can rattle through them with ease, now, but the Pip also loves them to pieces, and they're wonderful for dramatic readings. (I went to our local used bookstore, hoping to get a stack of them, and couldn't find a single one of any of Willems' books. The library has an entire shelf of Elephant & Piggie that sometimes goes down as low as a couple of books.)

This was about an hour long and transitioned between, uh, at least seven of the books. [*] The Pip got a bit restless by the end, especially as the adaptation of We Are in a Book! to ...Play! involved audience participation, which he was not having any of (that's my kid), but on the whole it went down well with them. I liked it too, except the song they made of I Am Going!, because having Gerald (the elephant) not only sing at Piggie about how he doesn't want her to go but physically stop her is weird and creepy and yuck.

[*] I Am Invited to a Party!; Elephants Cannot Dance!; Listen to My Trumpet!; I Love My New Toy!; I Am Going!; Should I Share My Ice Cream?; We Are in a Book!. I am not entirely sure of the order of these.

With that caveat, recommended. And seriously, Willems is a treasure, you can't go wrong with E&P, or the Pigeon, or the Knuffle Bunny trilogy.
Saw it last night. It's better than I expected but not as good as many people seem to find it.

I saw it described numerous places as a two-hour chase scene and that just sounded really tiring, especially combined with its over-the-top aesthetic. But it does know that viewers need quiet moments to catch their breath and the pacing works pretty well—though I misunderstood spoilers and thought the movie ended somewhat sooner than it actually did, so that was a little weird for me.

I've seen a lot of praise for the action scenes, particularly their use of actual vehicles. To me, something about the way the first vehicle sequence was shot didn't make it look any more or less "real" than good CGI—I think it may have been slowing down and speeding up things for effect? It wasn't very engaging, anyway, though not as distancing as the truly terrible opening sequence of Ultron. By the last big setpiece I was engaged, but that was probably as much emotional as anything. And, overall, the aesthetic was not particularly my thing (except for Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron's character, which (a) has her face and (b) is about the most simple thing in the movie).

Yes, it is about the toxicity of masculinity in a sexist world, and yes, there are lots of matter-of-factly disabled characters, including at least one and possibly two protagonists, depending on how you view things. (However, there is just one obviously non-white character.) But enough was done right about sexism and the female characters that three moments spotlighting male characters at the expense of female characters felt particularly jarring to me—not enough to completely overcome the overall effect, but enough to be distracting and unpleasant.

Finally for general comments, many of the logistics make zero sense, as people have noted. The majority of them I can accept as (a) the product of a deranged mind who doesn't care so much about efficiency as supporting a cult (the water distribution, human milk, gasoline wasting) or (b) the price of admission (Max's likely age). The one I can't actually handwave past is Furiosa having the position she does, actually; she's the only woman we see driving rigs or in a position of explicit authority over men, and I have no idea how she could've got there in this atmosphere. There'd be no movie otherwise, so, price of admission, but I care about her unlike Max, so I poke at the question. (Well, I care about Max, but only with Furiosa. I started getting into the action sequences when they started wordlessly working together, handing each other weapons and trading off shots; and as Chad tells me someone said, there is more chemistry in the bit with the shoulder rest than in the entirety of Ultron.)

Before I get into spoilers, the last thing I can say outside a cut is that that song "Matches" I mentioned last week is totally apropos to this movie. *puts on repeat*

Now, for spoilers. First a thing that is a moderate spoiler but is also an important content note/trigger warning that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere (though I haven't been reading a ton of stuff about this movie):

moderate spoiler, content note/trigger warning )

And now for the rest of the spoilers.

spoilers )

New-to-me trailers:

Vacation. Oh geez, make it stop. (NSFW.)

San Andreas. I am so fucking over the expectation that I will find the deaths of millions entertaining. Especially when the trailer ends with a super-cynical effort to mitigate its own disaster porn by linking to a disaster preparedness website. Fuck. Off.

Crimson Peak. Nice to see a trailer for something I won't see because it looks good at what it does. (I don't do horror. Which is too bad because, Jessica Chastain's face.)

Terminator Genisys. I like that they're starting with Sarah already badass, but do we really need to keep doing this? I don't think so.

The Transporter Refueled. I entirely checked out during this, other than to note that Jason Statham apparently is too expensive for these now.

"Matches" by Sifu Hotman [*] was this past episode's weather on Welcome to Night Vale, and as soon as I had a minute, I went and bought the entire album (only $5 on Bandcamp!). Here's an embed of the song, which you can also download for free through the link:

embed which is doing weird things to the whitespace on my reading page but plays just fine )

[*] BTW, best band name or best band name?

It builds, so you should listen to the whole thing, but really, it says quite a lot of what you need to know about me to know that I find the last section genuinely comforting (my transcription):

There are no stories told in a vacuum, there is no prophecy lighting our way
There is just a lot of darkness to be afraid of, so it's a good thing we are not afraid
There is no Superman in that phone booth, there is no rewarding our faith
There is no-one who can save us, so it's a good thing we don't need to be saved
There are no starships in low Earth orbit, no aliens to save us from ourselves
There is no voice willing to speak for us, so it's a good thing we know how to yell
There is no Chosen One, no destiny, no fate, there's no such thing as magic
There is no light at the end of this tunnel; so it's a good thing we brought matches

I haven't listened to the rest of the album yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. Check it out.

So I have come home from the latest live Welcome to Night Vale show, taken some Tylenol, given it time to kick in before I stuck my hands in hot water because it's my night to do the dishes, and done the dishes, which means it's time to briefly write up the show so I can go to sleep.

As the above may have suggested, I had a terrible headache through a good deal of the show. Note to self: you are 5' 3", literal front row seats before a raised stage are not a good idea. Between the neck strain, and some confluence of the speakers and the bass output of the opening musical act that had me feeling like a glass of water in a Jurassic Park movie, well, not so good.

Also, have an extremely vague description of part of the show, so vague that I doubt anyone who hasn't seen it will know what I mean: so, so vague )

But the guests were delightful and clearly having a ton of fun. If the guest list counts as a spoiler to you, avert your eyes now: )

Finally, a fanwork rec:

Open & Notorious (45 words) by fleurrochard, Torra, Rhea, cantarina, bessyboo, Verbyna, anotherslashfan, jedusaur, knight_tracer, argentumlupine, regonym
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Welcome to Night Vale intro segments
Rating: Not Rated
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Joseph Fink
Additional Tags: exciting news, existential quandaries, your linen closet, socket wrenches, Podfic & Podficced Works, Podfic, Podfic Length: 10-20 Minutes, Multiple Voices
Summary: We are all, in our own way, Joseph Fink.

This multi-voice podfic takes Joseph Fink's (and "Joseph Fink"'s) intros and runs with them; it is amazing and if you like Night Vale you will like it—even if you don't like the intros, because it makes them entirely Night Vale-ian instead of only occasionally so. The scripting and editing is impeccable, I laughed out loud at least twice, and basically it's just super-cool.

Inspired by a picture on FB of a friend with one of my prior go-to baby toy gifts (alas, apparently no longer being made), and because I'm home this morning, I thought I'd link to my two other reliable gifts in this vein, for people who may be unfamiliar with kid toys but need a gift or to start their own collection.

1) For when they start holding things: this soft-sided sorter comes with three different kinds of stuff inside, hard rattly things, vinyl squeaky things, and soft fabric things, all of which are likely to be of great interest to a young child (and, judging by SteelyKid, to be tasty, too). Plus you can zip up the top and keep all the things inside, which is great for travel. (FWIW its availability seems to wax and wane, as I've bought it for cheaper than the current price and avoided buying it at other times.)

2) For when they start manipulating things: I spent way too much time looking for stacking rings, and these look and feel really nice, plus the slightly different design lets kids experiment with different stacking patterns as they grow.

(Bonus: not a toy, and don't give it as a gift unless you know the kid is using this particular kind of pacifier, but these pacifier holders were essential for us.)

And not for babies, but while I have my Amazon history open:

A really nice tea set.

Open the doors and find animals.

Magna-Tiles are expensive but they're very durable and endlessly fascinating. Good for as young as three, and possibly earlier.

(Finally, if you like to give books, try the "That's Not My..." board books from Usborne (available in any bookstore); any of Sandra Boynton's board books; any of Mo Willems' Pigeon or Elephant & Piggie books; or Peekaboo Morning.)
On the theory that just because the Olivier Mira Armstrong figure was super-hard to find, that didn't mean other cool FMA: Brotherhood figures would be.

And, well:

super-terrible picture )

[Image: blurry phone pic of figures of Edward Elric, Scar, Winry Rockbell, Greedling, Ling Yao, and Fuhrer Bradley]

This picture came out even worse than usual, so here are links to the Greedling and group figures snagged from the eBay auctions (except for the different Bradley hand-sword combination).

I swear, they were really not expensive averaged together, even with shipping across the Pacific included, honest! I wasn't going to put up the Ed and Winry, since I already have them (that set's been moved to another bookshelf to share space with an art print, since they're smaller), but I do love Ed's dramatic red cloak, and Winry's wearing more clothes here, so I couldn't help it, I kept them.

And now, since I appear to have a fever, fucking hell, I am going to bed.
AV Club article on restoring The Apu Trilogy and its burned negatives. I assume those of you who do this sort of thing professionally know about this project already, but, way cool.

The Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell TV adaptation finally has release dates: Sunday, May 17 for BBC One and Saturday, June 13 for BBC America. (I am sure I will have many words to write about this! I'm not sure in what form or where yet, though.)

MCU & Ultron stuff (is that how we're referring to it? A:AoU looks like a werewolf howl): Max Gladstone has interesting thoughts, of which my favorite is the bit about character totems at the very end.

Did I really not link to [personal profile] skygiants's hilarious Ultron summary? Well, there you go.

I transcribed Natasha's speech in That Scene in a comment at Tor.com, which I will probably want to be able to find again (ugh).

Finally, All Trailers Are the Same.
Another pretty dire lot.

Southpaw: dead wife, daughter taken away, boxing, blah blah manpain.

Jurassic World: I'm pretty sure I'd get more enjoyment of out re-reading If The Velociraptor From Jurassic Park Were Your Girlfriend.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: holy shit it's actually worse than everyone's jokes about it.

Pixels: here I was, desperately hoping for something fun, I actually laughed at the appearance of Pac-Man, and then boom! Adam Sandler. GAH.

Fantastic Four: it might be the contrast, but this didn't look actively terrible? Not, like distinctive or necessary or anything, but not actively terrible. (It was this one; I gather others were different.) I still roll my eyes that they couldn't cast Sue as a black woman too—I mean, yes, it's absolutely possible that she and Johnny are biological sibs, rather than adopted, but actual literal visibility matters. (Yes, I'm aware about the potential relevance to Sue's powers, but still: cast a very-light-skinned black woman if that's what you're going for.)

Tomorrowland: this is the second trailer I've seen for this, and at least it gives me way more of a sense than the first one? I'm still unsure about it, though.

Ant-Man: well, this trailer was more appealing to me than Guardians, which pisses me off because it'll probably do just as well and I don't want it to, because of (presumed spoiler) and also because I still resent its existence.
Elaborating and expanding on last night's.

Here's a non-spoiler version:

I told Chad that I had pretty low expectations and it exceeded it. And in the light of day, I stick by that, but only barely, now that the high of action scenes and that last shot have worn off. I suspect one main problem of the movie may have been insoluble: Avengers couldn't even juggle six team members, and the number of characters goes up considerably here. But until now (absent Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: The Dark World, which I haven't seen), I've generally felt that the MCU has done a good job of rewriting comics canon to suit itself. Not so much this time. Add that to the "include all the things" problem, and what should have been the core of the movie felt hollow and warmed-over to me.

(Apparently there is to be a Peter Jackson-style director's cut on the DVD release, which is really something I do not wish to encourage: do it right the first time, for fuck's sake. But I admit to interest in what it might contain, I can't help it.)

Also, the levels of heteronormativity were almost literally toxic.

That said: it didn't do one thing I was dreading, in the moment I was entertained more often than not, and the very very end made me super-happy. So, on balance, exceeded low expectations.

Finally, before the spoiler cut: news articles beforehand said that there was a scene during the credits and none after, which a friend of mine stayed all the way to the end to confirm, so once you've seen the fancy credits and the extremely short scene after that, you're good to go.

all the spoilers, now, plus speculation based on information released about forthcoming movies )

But hey, on the bright side, I can catch up on the last . . . month, probably . . . on Tumblr now!

July 2015

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