Random Thought of the Day

Jul. 30th, 2015 01:08 pm
[personal profile] malkingrey
Is it that as I get older, I feel impending changes in weather more intensely, and from further out, or is it just that the older I get, the more experiential data I have for comparison, and the better I am at understanding what's going on?

I do know that when I was a child in Florida, my father used to say that he could tell when there was a hurricane brewing in the Gulf even before the meteorologists called it, just from the way my brother and I would behave. Or misbehave, as the case might be.

(This post brought to you by continuing crankiness on my part, and by the line of rain and thunderstorms currently over western Vermont and heading this way. Here's hoping we don't get another set like Sunday before last, which among other things inaugurated our current sporadic telephone problems.)


Jul. 30th, 2015 11:13 am
[personal profile] telophase
Toby worked from home this morning and reports that my Cintiq Companion 2 arrived, and turned on with no difficulties (so far). Woo!

Now to turn my mind to that customer service survey...

Bleh hot.

Jul. 30th, 2015 11:43 am
[personal profile] oracne
It is hot and humid in Philly this week, but I confess I have barely been outside in it for the last three days or so. By the time I left the gym last night, the sun was going down, so the temperature was bearable.

If I wanted, I could see an unstaged performance of Tchaikovsky's "Iolanta" tonight at AVA, but I recall the air conditioning in the hall is not so terrific, so maybe not. The other free concert I was supposed to go to tonight fell through. But I would like an evening to do laundry and make my final notes for the review I need to write this weekend.

My softball team won the Monday-Wednesday league but lost in the final game against the Tuesday-Thursday league. I did not go, and feel sort of bad about it, but I couldn't play, and at least in the gym I could get sorely-needed exercise. Also, air conditioning. I did an hour on the elliptical, for a total of 4.02 miles - that left me pleasantly tired. I am feeling twitchy because of not lifting, but the orthopedics appointment is tomorrow morning, so at least I feel like I am doing that.

(no subject)

Jul. 30th, 2015 07:32 am
[personal profile] skygiants
The other day I was trying to explain to [personal profile] innerbrat why I stayed up until 3 AM reading Rose Lerner's True Pretenses.

BECCA: OK, so the hero of this Regency novel is a JEWISH CON ARTIST, and he and the heroine bond over the fact that she's an upper-class woman who politely gets things done and there are a lot of ways in which being an upper-class woman who manages to get things done within the rules of propriety in Regency England is BASICALLY LIKE being a con artist! And the other thing they bond over is the fact that they both have younger brothers that they mostly raised from when they were small, and now both of their brothers want to go off and have their own lives, and their older siblings are not ready to let them go be adults, so they have shared sibling issues!

DEBI: I would say this book had 'Becca-bait' written all over it, except: is there cross-dressing?


Guys, I really, really liked True Pretenses. It starts off kind of Brothers Bloom, with Ash and his brother Rafe, con artists extraordinaire:

RAFE: I am ready to go straight and stop swindling people. :(
ASH: OK. OK, this is fine. We can handle this, this is fine, we will find you an attractive rich woman to marry and you will be set for life!

So Ash finds Lydia, an attractive and hypothetically rich woman who can't get into her money until she marries, and who really wants to get into her money so she can continue doing charity work and supporting the town's Tory party. Unfortunately, her younger brother is SO DONE with politics and has decided he's not giving any more money to the cause, so until she gets into her own cash she's kind of stuck.

ASH: Hello, we are respectable individuals! Allow me to smoothly matchmake --
RAFE: HI YO LYDIA my brother thinks we should have a marriage of convenience so you can buy me an officer's commission and then get into your money, is that cool?
ASH: *facepalm*
LYDIA: Ummm. Well, OK, I ... see the advantages of this, but ... actually I kind of think Ash is the more attractive one, soooo what if we did the marriage of convenience thing instead?
ASH: UM. I ... you're cute but ... that was not the plan, and -- don't know if want??

Then Ash and Rafe get into a huge fight about early-book spoilers )

RAFE: HI YO LYDIA by the way my brother and I are CON ARTISTS and we are also TOTALLY JEWISH and I am LEAVING and never want to see his face AGAIN!
LYDIA: ....well, I feel deeply uncomfortable about all this information. On the other hand: still really want into my money. Ash, I think we can make this work!
ASH: Aren't you worried about the whole con artist thing?
LYDIA: It's true, you could easily blackmail me by telling everyone in the world about my terrible con artist marriage of convenience. On the other hand, I could blackmail you by telling everyone you're Jewish and have also committed many crimes, so we're probably even as far as mutually assured destruction goes.

So Ash and Lydia do the marriage of convenience plot, and it's my favorite kind of marriage of convenience plot, where they're both REALLY ENJOYING THEMSELVES pretending to be googly-eyed over each other, and they're both in on the joke -- but also both aware that the other is not necessarily trustworthy, and definitely aware that the power dynamics have the potential to get really weird in both directions, given, again, the mutually assured destruction/potential blackmail factor, not to mention the huge class and cultural issues.

Let me repeat: I love the class and cultural issues! I love how much of the book is Ash and Lydia actually working at liking each other, around all the weird feelings raised by Ash's background and Lydia's enormous amounts of privilege; I love that Lydia wonders if her attraction to Ash is her creepily fetishizing DANGER AND POVERTY!!, if Ash's attraction to her is as much about her fortune and her lovely house at Netherfields as it is about her as a person. And both of these things are probably a little bit true.

I also am so into how the book throws itself behind the thesis that the accepted way for women to get things politically done in a system where they have many rules to obey and little direct power -- smiling, dropping hints, making people like you -- uses basically all the same skills as being a con artist. Lydia is really good at getting things done! SHE MAKES A WONDERFUL CON ARTIST.

I love the sibling issues -- how all four of them are trying to protect each other and end up stifling each other in different ways. I love that being Jewish means very different things to Ash and Rafe -- that Rafe takes ritual very seriously, and Ash not at all, and both of those things are valid. I love the whole thread about when and where they speak Yiddish; I love that they come from a poor Jewish community in London, that all of Ash's first girlfriends had Jewish names. I love that Ash is like "look, I don't tell people I'm Jewish because they probably say things that will make it hard for me to like them and I like liking people." I love that Lydia, who starts out with all the prejudices of her time, says several things, throughout the book, that make it harder for Ash and Rafe to like her.

And speaking of: wow, how much do I love that even though this takes place in the same town as Sweet Disorder, the protagonists from that book appear a grand total of once, and Phoebe and Lydia super don't like each other and probably never will? I am always so delighted when authors let sympathetic characters genuinely not get along for personality reasons! There's also a really good subplot about how Lydia and one of her friends approach friendship really differently, and have misunderstandings based on their different convictions about what friendship ought to be.

What a good romance novel. Or, more accurately: what a romance novel with 'FOR BECCA' written directly on it, probably in Hebrew letters.
[personal profile] lannamichaels

Apropos of nothing, here's a live version of Franz Ferdinand's Michael with "come all over me". (actually, this is the second live one I found, the other one was worse quality) (god bless youtube, since I'm sure I still have a copy or eleven of this stuff on my comptuer but lord knows where, and I may have lost it in the secondary-drive crash that lost me all my Tim Goebel vids)

I need a fandom with a character named Michael, because I've got vidding urges and it's either this or Gay Bar. I have never left 2004. (WHEN I DID IN FACT HAVE A FANDOM WITH A GUY NAMED MICHAEL AND OF COURSE I DID WHAT ANYONE WOULD DO.) (okay, this is entirely apropos of me being under the impression that someone kudosed that fic yesterday but apparently I was mistaken? why was that fic coming to my attention yesterday? ANYWAY GAY PORN.)

(belated realization: Graceland. Graceland has a character named Mike. Who is of course Michael. And is played by Aaron Tveit, aka the reason I watched the show. This is how much I still care about this show, I completely forget that.)

Nummy books

Jul. 29th, 2015 07:37 pm
[personal profile] kass
Wow, The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber made me happy. A pastor in space! Aliens! Epistolary fic! It is awesome.

And so is Cinder, the first of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles books. It's a fabulous fairy tale retelling, and it also manages to be a lot of other fabulous things besides. I am downloading books 2 and 3 even now.
[personal profile] sovay
It is nauseatingly hot outside. I mean that literally. Running a half-hour errand on foot has made me feel physically sick. I have drunk water, eaten salt, and am sitting in front of a fan. This is not the weather I operate best in.

1. I really wish I were at Bard College right now. I had heard of Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers (1906), because the subject matter is germane to my interests and because it kept coming up in discussion of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes (1945), sort of simultaneously as a forerunner of Britten's work and a point against the notion that English opera sat around looking at its fingernails for the couple of centuries between Purcell and Britten; I had heard of Smyth herself because she was a mostly lesbian suffragist as well as a composer and one of the models for Hilda Tablet. I cannot make either of the remaining performances. Anyone who lives in upstate New York and wants to tell me how it worked out, please go!

2. If these poems are representative, I need to read a lot more by Niall Campbell: "The House by the Sea, Eriskay" and "The Letter Always Arrives at its Destination."

3. Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] rose_lemberg: all available evidence indicates Alyssa's father has been fishing in a hell dimension.

Even more than watching an opera about wrecking, I wish I were by the sea. I've been meaning to post this picture for months: it always looks like a summoning to me. I wish I had an offering that worked as well.

While I'm here at this address, however, I just opened a large package from [personal profile] yhlee and not only does it contain two year's best anthologies, a complete paperback set of Geraldine Harris' Seven Citadels (1982–83), and a splendidly cracky-looking manga by the name of MYth: A Promise (2007–2013), but there is also an assortment of Magic and Legend of the Five Rings cards tailored to my interests. I now have an Ancient Carp! (It's iridescent.) The flavor text makes me associate it unfairly with Leviathan. Thank you.


Jul. 29th, 2015 01:28 pm
[personal profile] telophase
You have to fight the last celebrity you saw on television with the object immediately to your left. How screwed are you?

(When I first encountered this question this morning, the answer was Michael Palin, with my cat Sora. Right now, it would be Michael Palin with a 1973 penny. Either way, I don't think much of my chances.)

Gimme shelter

Jul. 29th, 2015 11:12 am
[personal profile] badgerbag
We all need shelter some of the time.

Hug or send your good thoughts to a feminist activist today

Or just anyone near or far.

You know it's hot out there...

Jul. 29th, 2015 01:00 pm
[personal profile] telophase
...when the squirrel comes and lays down on your windowsill for a while.

It wasn't there for long--we keep forgetting to refill the feeders and haven't put any seed out on the sill for a few days, and I think it was really snuffling into the crack between the window and the sill to ferret out any stray seeds, but it still looks like it's taking a nap!
[personal profile] musesfool
Late yesterday afternoon, just as I was packing up to leave work, I suddenly got the shakes, and felt all clammy and also like I might pass out. I don't know what it was, but ugh, what a terrible feeling. I got a bag of M&Ms from the vending machine and wolfed them down to feel steady enough to make the commute home, and by the time I got home I felt okay, but totally wiped out. So I had dinner and then managed to stay awake until 8:45, at which point I just went to bed. And I slept pretty well, too, straight through for about 6 hours and then fitfully after that.


Wednesday reading!

What I've just finished:
Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris, which is the fascinating account of five very famous Hollywood directors who joined up after Pearl Harbor (or a few months before, in John Ford's case) to help document the war and/or produce propaganda for it: William Wyler, John Ford, Frank Capra, John Huston, and George Stevens. It probably helps to have some familiarity with their oeuvres, though I certainly haven't seen a bunch of the films mentioned. (I do want to actually watch The Best Years of Our Lives now though - I've mostly avoided it previously because it looks depressing.)

The House That BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan is a highly enjoyable sequel to Those Pricey Thakur Girls. The main romance is between Bonu and Samar, the next generation, but Eshu and Satish get a look-in as well, and of course, the family drama continues. I think the family drama is the most entertaining part, tbh, and while I enjoy the romance, I just mostly want to spend more time with the sisters and their various relations and hangers-on.

What I'm reading now/next:
I don't know? I just finished The House That BJ Built this morning, so I'll start something new at lunch. I have a bunch of stuff on my iPad, so it could be anything.


Oy, work is very busy today. Let me post before I get interrupted again.


Baahubali: The Beginning

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:15 am
[personal profile] rachelmanija
In brief, AMAZING. If it’s playing anywhere near you, run and see it immediately. (It only has about two more days left in the USA.) If not, see it on DVD when it comes out.

This is a difficult movie to review because I don’t want to give too much away. It not only has several surprising plot twists, but also a lot of gorgeous imagery that’s wonderful to see for the first time, when you don’t know it’s coming. So I won’t say much about the plot.

Baahubali is an original historical fantasy that plays out like it was based on an ancient myth. Though it doesn’t have the complexity of character or moral ambiguity or intellectual heft of The Mahabharata or Ramayana, those epics and other the ancient tales of India clearly inspired its epic scope, archetypal themes, and magical imagery.

Classic tropes from Indian legend – the boon, the rivalry between princes with disastrous consequences, the humble but loving mother who adopts a son with a destiny, the mountain in the clouds, the war formation the enemy doesn’t expect, the woman wronged who demands bloody revenge – all make appearances here, and are given their proper, larger-than-life weight. The hero reminded me of Bhima in personality and physique, but a number of incidents were clearly inspired by the life of Krishna. For instance, the baby held above the waters echoes Vasudeva crossing the flooded Yamuna to hide away the infant Krishna.

The song I linked in the last post is a version of a hymn to Shiva, the Shiva Tandava Stotram, which is attributed to Ravana. I’ll quote some of it because even in translation (by P. R. Ramachander), you can feel its power and beauty and sensuality. (Remember how magnificent it sounded in Telegu.) That is the sort of ancient writing, still living today, which inspired this movie.

The celestial river agitatedly moving through his matted hair,
Which makes his head shine with those soft waves,
And his forehead shining like a brilliant fire
And the crescent of moon which is an ornament to his head,
Makes my mind love him each and every second.

He, with the shining lustrous gem on the hood
Of the serpent entwining his matted locks,
He, who is with his bride whose face is decorated
By the melting of red saffron kumkum,
And He who wears on his shoulder the hide
Of the elephant which was blind with ferociousness,
Makes my mind happy and contented.

A lot of the movie walks the fine line between magnificence and camp, but even when it’s ridiculous, it’s gloriously ridiculous. This is what you get when you put together an extremely talented director steeped in Indian myth, a brilliant cinematographer determined to tell the story visually so even people who don’t understand the dialogue will love it, and a totally committed cast, and have them all go for broke. Sometimes this results in "Did somebody order a LARGE HAM?” hamminess. More often, it captures the larger than life spirit of myth.

When a woman reveals her secret plan for revenge, a strong warrior staggers backward from the force of it. A desperate prayer to Shiva is answered with a boon that allows a dying woman to walk underwater. A man whose destiny is to climb the unclimbable mountain falls a thousand feet, only to rise to climb again. A sleeping warrior on a riverbank, her arm dangling in the water, is seduced by a prankster lover who swims through schools of bright fishes to paint a tattoo on her hand. If you ask why he was in the river and where he got a set of underwater paints, you’re missing the point.

A lot of the power of myth is in its lack of naturalism. Events occur and choices are made not because of the realistic motivations of ordinary humans, but because archetypal stories are playing out. If Baahubali had been more realistic and less theatrical, it wouldn’t be half as magical.

It was the most expensive movie ever made in India, and while the CGI is occasionally a little shaky, it uses its budget to the max. When CGI first came upon the scene, I thought it would be used to create fantastical worlds and creatures – sense of wonder brought to sight. And sometimes it is, but more often it’s used to create big, pointless, repetitive explosions. Baahubali uses CGI to create beauty and wonder. Just look at the waterfall and the city in the trailer. The entire movie is like that.

(Plus blood-splattering battle sequences and bull-wrestling. I’m glad they put the disclaimer that no animals were harmed and all animal falls are CGI at the start of the film rather than the end, because otherwise I’d have been concerned.)

Though I’ve emphasized huge! Epic! Grand! In my review, there’s also lots of nice little touches. Many of the characters have marks on their foreheads, like bindi, which helpfully identify them when you’re trying to distinguish Magnificent Warrior Dude # 1 from Magnificent Warrior Dude # 2. (This isn’t usually difficult. They all look quite different, and also have different Magnificent Moustaches. But given my general terrible facial recognition skills, I appreciated it.) The hero has a coiled cobra, the mark of Shiva. A pair of princes are marked with a sun and moon. There’s a complete throwaway bit, lasting maybe five seconds, where a pair of bull-masked dancers butt heads, that is SO COOL. I also enjoyed the funny-on-purpose moments.

My only real criticisms are political rather than artistic. There’s a song/dance number where the hero melts the warrior heroine's icy heart via stylized fighting and pulling off her clothes. It’s clearly meant to be about him breaking her emotional barriers with his sincerity, sensuality, and passion. But, well. Not to mention the unfortunate implications of what was actually intended, where she embraces her femininity and warmth… and then totally forgets how to fight so he can rescue her. And then there’s the attack of the dark-skinned barbarians, with its own set of unfortunate implications.

In a more enjoyable use of traditional gender roles (traditional in India), there is not one! Not two! But THREE awesome middle-aged moms! One is a loving mother raising a son she doesn’t quite understand. One is a total badass who rules a kingdom with cool authority after taking on a regency with a baby in one hand and a bloody dagger in the other. The third initially seems passive, turns out to be anything but, and has one of the best scenes in the entire movie. (For the benefit of my one reader who’s actually seen Baahubali: a handful of twigs.)

Be warned: Baahubali ends on a very dramatic TO BE CONTINUED!!! Well, it is subtitled “The Beginning.” But I ate up all three hours and would have happily sat through three more. The first hour, especially, is pure magic. I haven’t felt so transported in a movie theatre since the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Rings.

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Jul. 29th, 2015 11:05 am
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The Red

The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

And that is my 109th review of a book by a woman this year, which means I can now say I have reviewed more books by women in 2015 than tor.com, Romantic Times (spec fic only), SFX, Strange Horizons, Interzone, io9, F&SF, Vector, Analog, Asimov's, NYRSF, Science Fiction Studies, Foundation, CSZ, and LARB did in 2014.

On track to exceed Locus' numbers in this matter on or around the 7th of August.

(no subject)

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:52 am

one thing

Jul. 29th, 2015 07:34 am
[personal profile] thistleingrey
atikmdag.sys is harshing my Windows experience at home, on 8.1 Pro. I've uninstalled Flash, which I basically don't use (the occasional YouTube video is played by Chrome, though I prefer Firefox in general). Thus, instead of blue-screening, Windows turns off the display occasionally in manner of overzealous screen saver.


The Flash connection isn't random, but it's as far as I've gone so far. At least I haven't seen BSOD since removing it.

The story so far...

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:38 am
[personal profile] telophase
Wacom Cintiq Companion 2 update:

Story so far--I ordered a high-end tablet thing from Wacom at the end of June, and heard nothing. My account on wacom.com showed no order history, even though I had the emailed order confirmation. I finally emailed them and inquired as to this last week, at which point they informed me it had already been shipped, two days after I ordered it, to somewhere in Orlando. I got on the phone, stat, and after investigating in their system, the rep on the phone said she had to talk to the shipping department and would call me back.
Did she call me back? )

alpha and omega

Jul. 29th, 2015 07:32 am
[personal profile] thistleingrey
G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen (2012): I wonder a lot how this novel goes for readers of Arabic, mixed desi, and/or east and south Mediterranean heritage; though it seems relatively even-handed to me, nearly all cover blurbs come from white US folks. Anyway. A hacker of mixed heritage in his early twenties who goes by Alif is in puppy-love with Intisar, who must now marry whoever her rich parents want. After Alif's code is breached, he flees for his life while taking responsibility (he thinks at first) for childhood friend Dina. A book containing The Thousand and One Days, the jinn version of the human Nights tale sequence, comes into play. It is hard to determine how much to say---both a simple book and a very complex one in terms of character perspectives, what's voiced, what's tacit.

Around the seven-eighths mark the pacing thumps to a halt for me, but I like it anyway: plausible-sounding hacker adventure in meatspace, virtual space, and jinnspace.

Duh, self, the Erem of Bear's central Asianish trilogy is Irem. A certain character is right that it's fallen from human awareness---I've read half the books mentioned currently at that Wikipedia page and I still forgot.

Wednesday Reading

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:32 am
[personal profile] oracne
This week's reading was a mashup of a lot of things. I finished a slog of a review book, and caught up on some issues of The Economist.

Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick was a lot of fun - excellent dialogue, and a surprisingly complex storyline, as in the characters (the aliens as well as Carol Danvers) had to make a lot of decisions, all of which would have both good and bad results. Basically, Carol has gone out into space to take an alien back to her people, and ends up embroiled in a conflict between an empire and a planet full of refugees from a wide range of planets. The Guardians of the Galaxy have a story role, as well. I recommend this if you're interested in superhero/sf comics and don't want to struggle with decades of old continuity.

In fanfiction, Frog in a Blender by feldman and Thassalia is a slowly built, effective NatashaRomanoff/Bruce Banner romance with a bonus action plot, that I would love to see explored further in a sequel. The romance goes AU before Age of Ultron.

hey good looking, what's cooking by Beatrice_Otter is a lovely Peggy Carter missionfic with bonus Angie Martinelli.

I started reading Power and Majesty by Tansy Rayner Roberts again; I'd started it a while back, while riding the bus, but had only read the first chapter or so. I got back to it this week (again on the bus!) and am determined to finish it this time, so I can move forward in the Terrifying TBR. It's fantasy, the world seemingly loosely based on the Roman Empire. At least the religion is very Roman, as are the names of people and things. The magical source is called animor, and if you have it, you can see things others can't, and are able to fight beings? forces? that attack through the sky at night, and can remove whole cities from reality and memory. The characters are complex and intriguing, and I especially like the main female character, Velody. I could read a whole novel just about her and her two female friends and their couture business, but I can tell there's about to be a lot more magic happening.
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

Gwen Jacob was acquitted on December 9, 1996 by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that the act of being topless is not in itself a sexual act or indecent.

And yet, a mere 19 years later:

Kitchener women say they were stopped by police for cycling topless

Thus (facebook warning)

On Saturday, August 1st, we invite all people of all genders to march with us revealing as much or as little of their torso as they feel comfortable (please wear sunscreen though) in solidarity to support women's right to be topless in public, and also to show support for desexualizing women's breasts. We encourage you to bring your children and friends and ask that men and allies allow women to lead the march by taking a step back toward the back of the train to show their support.

This event is a celebration of all body shapes and types. Individuals who are not supportive of all bare-chested folk will be asked to leave.
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I will write a real review later, but in brief, this is a south Indian historical fantasy that plays like a myth transferred straight to the screen. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, is full of moments straight out of legend, has a fantastic score and amazing action sequences, and also has a number of surprising plot twists.

It's only playing in the US for about two more days, and should be seen on the big screen. I haven't enjoyed a movie this much in literally years.

Trailer. (Not subtitled, but the movie has English subs.)

One of my favorite songs.
[personal profile] musesfool
Yesterday, I almost had a wardrobe malfunction! I mean, I did have one - one of the layers on my tank top ripped free, but luckily it was covered by the top two layers, so I didn't flash boob at anybody on the commute home. (I was wearing a cardigan over it all day at work, and hadn't noticed.) Oh well. I liked that top, too.

When I got home, I heated up the oven and took the tiny roast (1.75 lbs) I'd bought on Sunday out of the fridge to come to room temperature before cooking it. I bought it before I knew I was meeting L. for dinner on Sunday, so I needed to use it quickly. I seasoned it and put it in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes (20 minutes per pound at 375°F) but then I forgot to start the timer. Oops. So it was a lot of checking the internal temperature after the 30 minute mark. The roast ended up being more medium than medium rare when all was said and done, but it was quite delicious, and there's enough left to make another dinner, so it turned out all right. I just didn't get to eat until almost 8 pm, which is later than I prefer on a work night.


A few weeks ago, I asked [personal profile] serrico to talk about the difference between watching a show week to week vs. marathoning (the network vs. the Netflix model), and I've been thinking a lot about it myself. I wrote something in her comments that I'm expanding on here, because it came up again – both with my own marathon of Steven Universe last week, and a discussion with my brother and sister-in-law and their kids regarding their own marathoning of Friday Night Lights.

I do think having a show drop all at once makes it harder to grow and sustain a fandom, since unlike something that airs week to week, with hiatuses for people to catch up, everybody's at a different point in viewing so having conversations becomes difficult, especially when it comes to avoiding spoilers, and that has a negative impact on attempts to build community. (In microcosm, it was difficult to talk about FNL with my brother's family, because one of them was finished with it, one had dropped it after season one, one was in season 3, and my brother and his wife were just starting season 5.) Fandoms for these shows start to feel more like summer movie fandoms, or seasonal fandoms (i.e., shows that come on in spring or summer when many of the usual fannish suspects are not airing) - they show up and everybody talks about them, and then they fade away until the next batch of episodes is released.

I think Daredevil, with its connection to the MCU, its background as a comic, and the promise of three other shows interweaving with it, might be an exception to this? But I feel like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards had a big moment bursting on the scene, and then they fade out until the next time there's new canon. I guess we'll see what fandom does with Sense8, since it is so much more fandom-ready, I think, than most other shows (on network, cable, or any streaming service). Certainly I think the idea of a cluster of telepathically connected people will migrate out into many fandoms, much the way drift compatibility did from Pacific Rim.

Personally, I sometimes find it harder to hold onto a canon that I've marathoned, vs. one that I've watched week to week, in the sense that I can't always remember what happened in what order/in what episode, which makes writing fic more difficult than when you've got a week (or more) to absorb and rewatch each episode. And I do miss the frantic scramble to get a post-ep story posted before it got jossed by the next episode (of course, my main fandom is a movie fandom now, so it's a whole different model of canon).

I also think some shows are more suited to marathon watching than others – personally, I know if I cue up AtLA's "The Library," for example, I'm not stopping until the end of the season (though I might skip "The Serpent's Pass" or "The Drill" or both, if pressed for time). Steven Universe episodes, at 10 minutes apiece, make for perfect mini-marathons – you can watch 6 in an hour and still have time to watch a full slate of primetime shows or that night's baseball game! Otoh, I can't take more than one or two episodes of something like Friday Night Lights, because it's emotionally draining. My sister-in-law said she's gone to bed sad every night after watching two FNL episodes every evening for the past couple of weeks. (I commiserated, because I cried at nearly every episode of that show as well.)

She also mentioned the melancholy that sets in when you're done mainlining something that has 60 or 100 episodes (and even more so if it's a closed canon and there's no promise of a new season coming at some point down the line). You spend an hour or two (or three) with these characters every night for a few weeks, and then it's over. It's like the same letdown on returning to reality after finishing a great book. What am I gonna do without this show every night? I felt it after Sense8 and I'm feeling it right now with Steven Universe, and I think it's one reason I've rewatched AtLA so often (often enough that I do know what happens in what episode pretty easily). It's not necessarily the same sadness as when a show you've watched for years ends – sometimes we drift away from a show, sometimes we rage-quit, sometimes we still watch but without the passionate intensity we had for earlier seasons, and sometimes a show is canceled too soon and all we have is 12 episodes and a table-read (and some supplementary comics) to get us through.

Doling a show out two episodes a night for a few weeks is still a slower pace than watching it all in one weekend, so you do get some chance to linger and live in a particular universe, without the agita that comes from having to wait a week in between (and then months of mid-season and summer hiatuses), and also without the "wait, did that happen in the second or fifth hour I watched in the middle of the night last weekend?" feeling.

I mean, I am a total marathon reader/watcher. It's one reason I hate reading works in progress, even if the author swears the story is done – I want to read it at my own pace and my own pace is going to be a lot faster than is probably wise. So I'll just wait until it's done. (it's also why I am more of a trade-waiter with comics – I can't remember what happened in 15 pages a month ago, and I'm often disappointed by how little the story moves in one issue. [And by how much it costs for those little slices of story that are over so quickly.])

I don't know what model of television is going to win out in the long run, but I really do like the option of being able to watch shows all at once, even if I might relate differently to them than I do shows I've watched over time.


fiber tuesday

Jul. 28th, 2015 08:35 am
[personal profile] thistleingrey
The Cosette cardi---for me named Eponine instead; if it doesn't work, "Why regret what cannot be," indeed---hasn't been ripped back yet. :] I'm becoming faster, it seems: #1 took a month to knit but three years to give up on, #2 eight months between cast-on and raveling, #3 only six weeks. I'm about ten days into #4.

Two links:

A darning sampler that I find impressive. It's a sampler, an inexpert one, but I doubt I'd ever become proficient enough with a needle to make such a thing---yet most people around here think I'm eccentric at best for mending my child's torn clothing. The time I fixed a garment she'd cut deliberately in several places became an inadvertent icebreaker with two of her former teachers, both immigrants. I mean, why wouldn't one mend a garment that still fits if one can thread and knot a needle. My mother used to mend things but didn't teach me; though what I've figured out is nowhere near as lovely as that sampler, it suffices for my limited purposes.

People who like reading about clothing alterations may find Lime Scented's posts of interest, e.g., because she describes with some clarity the adjustments she makes. Informative to me, anyway, while being very much my inverse (she makes things with shaped shoulders become raglans!! plus FBA, whereas I'd need SBA for sewing and can knit ± flat). She once turned a scarf into a cardigan that suits her well, and has shaped a baggy boatneck pullover (the kind of thing I'd hide in) to fit her while retaining its twisted rib motifs. My hat's off to anyone who can modify knitted motifs across curves, and not only because the curve of the upper arm and shoulder continues to stymie me somewhat.

Calloo Callay.

Jul. 28th, 2015 09:10 am
[personal profile] oracne
After three tries, I have an appointment to see someone at orthopedics for my finger. It hasn't improved, and the injury is over a week old. I really hope there's something that can help it improve; aside from wanting to lift weights and do pushups and the like, this is my dominant hand, which I need for rather a lot of things.

My softball team won without me. Yay team. I am a little sad, though. Instead of going to watch, I worked out on the elliptical. I put my health first, and I'm not sure it was the right decision. Who am I kidding? It was the right decision. My exercising is already impaired from not lifting; doing nothing would be even worse.

(no subject)

Jul. 28th, 2015 08:41 am
[personal profile] telophase
There is something I really, really like about this model, but I can't think of any scene/environment to put her in that's different than the ones in the photographs (or that's more of a fantasy than historical setting. :/ (check the "With the same model" below the pic for additional pictures.)

In other words, home for part of the day as I've had a headache overnight that seems to be worse when I look at screens and sit under florescent lights. Got a meeting this afternoon, so I'll head in then.
[personal profile] jjhunter
Jess Zimmerman @ Hazlitt Magazine: A Midlife Crisis, By Any Other Name
Existential collapse is often treated as the domain of men coming face to face with their mortality. For me and other women, our crisis wasn’t how much life was left, but how much of it we gave away.

various @ MetaFilter: “Where’s My Cut?”: On Unpaid Emotional Labor (comments recommended)*
Housework is not work. Sex work is not work. Emotional work is not work. Why? Because they don’t take effort? No, because women are supposed to provide them uncompensated, out of the goodness of our hearts.
* For choice highlights, see quotes in comments at [livejournal.com profile] siderea's post [feminism] This Changes Everything: the UEL Thread on Metafilter and [personal profile] kaberett's posts Excerpts: emotional labour and Another quick hit on emotional labour.

Oliver Sacks @ NYT: Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer & Oliver Sacks: My Periodic Table
I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

[personal profile] rydra_wong: "a bioarchaeology of care"
I feel like "compassion" might be the wrong word and framework here, though [...] We could, equally well, be looking at interdependence.

Book View Cafe: Guest Post: Nicola Griffith: Who Owns SF?
The big “What if…” in Hild is: What if women had always been real human beings, human in, of, and by themselves rather than in relation to men? What if, despite the stories we’ve been told—and ask yourself who told those stories—women have always found a way around their constraints, just as we do today?

[tumblr.com profile] thefourthvine: Team Angry Cat
A lot of times, I don’t reach for support because I don’t expect it. I don’t talk about the random elevator dude type aggravations of life, because I assume there’s a good chance most people will side with the elevator dudes of the world. It’s worth it to find the places where that isn’t true. And it’s worth it to reach for support when I can.

single perfect tear

Jul. 27th, 2015 10:40 pm
[personal profile] metaphortunate
I know, I know, you wonder what FFA is even for, but I am here to tell you: for the Great Woobie-Off.

And best of all: [personal profile] skygiants informs us that the winner, the Woobiest of all the Woobies, is, of course:

Vanyel Ashkevron. Search your feelings: you know it to be true.

On a similar note, would you like to have your heart broken, and then fixed better than it was before with gay porn? Damn, son, [personal profile] cesperanza has still got it: "All the Angels and the Saints", Captain America/Bucky Barnes. Yeah, I know this is like a year old; this isn't even my fandom, I haven't been reading in it, I ran into this randomly, and whoa.
[personal profile] sovay
So I have a theological question.

I am re-reading Elizabeth Goudge's The Valley of Song (1951) for the nth time. It's one of the books where I notice different things with each reading; that's part of the reason it's her best book, although others include the beauty of the writing and the numinous generally busting out all over. This time, a line in the scene in which the protagonist is waiting outside the door to the Valley of Song (only children may enter this country which is called by mortals "Fairyland, or the Garden of Eden, or Arcadia, or the Earthly Paradise, or the Elysian Fields, or some such ridiculous name. We just call it the Workshop," so in order to let someone else go in, Tabitha has taken on some of their years as her own and is now too old herself to be allowed inside) sprang out at me:

Andrew turned to Tabitha, his face radiant. "I may go in!" he said, and he gripped her hand. "Come on, Tabitha."

Tabitha pulled her hand away and leaned against the wall, hiding her face, and the same misery that had overwhelmed her when Julie went in without her came over her again. This dreadful shut-out and cast-away feeling! She had never felt so wretched. She had not known one
could feel so miserable. Her voice came to Andrew from behind her hands, muffled and forlorn. "I can't go in with you. I'm too old."

"Too old? You can't be!" said Andrew, and he pulled her hands away from her face.

"Five years too old!" sobbed Tabitha. "I'm fifteen. I can't go in."

There was a long and anguished silence, while Andrew struggled to make up his mind about something, then he took a deep breath. "Then I'm not going in either," he said. "If you're shut out, I'll be shut out too."

Tabitha liked to hear him say that. It was almost worth being shut out to hear him say that. The door swung wide and a great breath of life-giving air blew through it.

"Come in, both of you," said the splendid voice, and there was almost a note of celestial impatience in its splendour. "Little girl, you carried that burden well, but long enough for a child. Come in and be with him. He'll need firm handling. Boy, you were ready to be exiled with her, and the readiness is all. Am I to be until the Last Trump holding this door open?"

Those of you who have read Mary Renault may be nodding already, because this is a concept I learned first from The King Must Die (1958):

"Horses go blindly to the sacrifice, but the gods give knowledge to men. When the King was dedicated, he knew his moira. In three years, or seven, or nine, or whenever the custom was, his term would end and the god would call him. And he went consenting, or else he was no king, and power would not fall on him to lead the people. When they came to choose among the Royal Kin, this was his sign: that he chose short life with glory, and to walk with the god, rather than live long, unknown like the stall-fed ox. And the custom changes, Theseus, but this token never. Remember, even if you do not understand . . . It is not the sacrifice, whether it comes in youth or age, or the god remits it; it is not the bloodletting that calls down power. It is the consenting, Theseus. The readiness is all."

Where does this idea originate? Is it as simple as going back to the Binding of Isaac: that it was enough for Abraham to be willing to sacrifice his son? Is there a more complicated aetiology I don't know about, or a particularly Christian significance that would have been important to Goudge? I happen to believe it, just as I believe that an unconsenting sacrifice has no power (see Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn (1968): "Real magic can never be made by offering someone up else's liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back. The true witches know that"), and I think it is not an uncommon belief. But I don't know where it comes from, if it doesn't come from the story I thought of first, and I'm curious.
[personal profile] yhlee
The lizard (our daughter) rescued a lizard (a reptile) from the cat. The cat is currently attempting to eat the lizard (a reptile)'s tail, which the cat broke off in the course of going after her prey. The lizard (our daughter) put the lizard (a reptile) outside.

Good grief, I can't even blame anyone else for this particular disambiguation pickle.

JS&MN series overview

Jul. 27th, 2015 09:20 pm
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
At Tor.com. Includes spoiler-free "is it worth watching" section.

(no subject)

Jul. 27th, 2015 05:22 pm
[personal profile] skygiants
Twice recently [personal profile] rymenhild has brought joy into my life. The first time was when I found out that there was a Valdemar ficathon scheduled and emailed her about it. She explained to me that the Valdemar fandom had experienced a small explosion, and the ficathon was in fact the celebration of a victory won by an anonymous fail_fandomanon person, known only as Vanyel's Campaign Manager, who after much successful lobbying and quoting of Mercedes Lackey's loving depictions of Vanyel's tragedy at last saw Vanyel Ashkevron crowned the Woobiest Character Ever.

This is so appropriate that I don't really have words to express it. The nineties have returned -- the once and future nineties -- and Vanyel reigns enthroned, as always was destined, from the beginning to the end of time, below a banner that says "Saddest of all the medium-length* tales ever told."

*you know, the ones appropriate for a three-volume novel in mass-market paperback form

The second time was today when she told me that Frank Wildhorn -- my favorite-least-favorite composer of musical theater, author of such enduring works as The Scarlet Pimpernel: The Musical, Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical, and Death Note: The Musical -- just got married to takarazuka actress Yoka Wao, known for playing such roles as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and Dracula in Wildhorn's own Dracula: The Musical. That last one isn't even a takarazuka show! They just cast her as Dracula anyway, I guess because she's just that good at incarnating seductive evil in a tuxedo.

When Andrew Lloyd Webber cast his girlfriend as Christine, that was creepy. This? This is AMAZING. Frank Wildhorn is a man who is living his dream, and I have never liked him better.
[personal profile] yhlee
- recent browsing
A cool web implementation of Borges' "Library of Babel."

- recent gaming

The latest new-to-me game that I have played is a worker-placement board game called The Lords of Waterdeep. It was introduced to me by a guy at Little Wars who had bought it. I was intimidated at first by the rules summary (I have played very few games in this genre) but even though I came in dead last I ended up enjoying it quite a lot! As you might imagine, it is Forgotten-Realms-themed, although the only Lord whose name I recognized was Khelben Arunson. (I used to read Forgotten Realms novels, back in the day. What can I say? They were in the library and they were entertaining and I liked AD&D 2nd ed.) I'm told the setting has changed over time, which, reasonable enough.

Anyway, each character is secretly one of the Lords, each of whom gets bonus points for different kinds of completed quests. I think the types were something like warfare, commerce, piety, arcane, and maybe there was another, maybe not. I ended up with a half-drow who got bonus points for piety and arcane, which sucked because by dint of shuffling we hardly saw any of those until later game. Each player starts with two agents, and starting with the first player (at first determined by who's been out of town most recently--in this case me, because of Readercon!--and then by whoever has the First Player token that you can claim by placing one of your agents in a particular location. Each location will give you something, like (say) two fighters or four ducats or the chance to play an Intrigue card from your hand. You can also build more buildings, and the building's owner collects particular things (say, a ducat, or a choice of a cleric or a rogue) whenever someone uses that building. You score points mainly by completing quests from a quest deck, which you do by paying off the prerequisites--say five fighters and four gold, or whatever, and then they'll award you points and/or some other benefit, like a couple of mages. It's all very smooth, and the game ends in eight turns, period. After the first two I felt pretty comfortable with the rules--I didn't play well, but I had some sense of how to play. Definitely worth a try.

- recent reading
Lorin Wood. Woosh!: Spaceship Sketches from the Couch. Exactly what it says on the tin, most of them rendered in markers, pens, and white pens. This is a short book (80 pages) but I'm looking for examples of how to sketch spaceships, and it's very charming. There's a brief interview with the artist on the back, and the artist's bio says that he was "encouraged...to pursue the visual arts from his earliest years" (80). I wonder what that must be like? My parents did not at all encourage me in writing. They told me it was a waste of time. Of course, since I am oppositional and my response to being told not to do something is to do it...anyway, they supplied me with everything I needed to write (paper, notebooks, writing implements, later computer and word processing software and printer) so I can't complain too much.

Gencon soon! In the meantime, off to code...
[personal profile] the_shoshanna
One year ago, almost exactly, I officiated at the wedding of Geoff's brother and his boyfriend. Having gotten married, they decided to go on to the next step and have kids!

(I teased them about rushing into kids in the first year of marriage; maybe they should take some time as a couple first? They've been together for twenty-seven years.)

They mixed sperm and hired a surrogate mother through a clinic in Mexico. The first pregnancy, earlier this year, sadly failed; but they just sent us video of the ultrasound of the current one -- TRIPLETS! Two are boys, and the doctor thinks the third is a girl but can't be sure.

They're due late this fall, but of course they're virtually certain to be premature; the dads are expecting to spend a couple months with them in Mexico before they're able to come home. Anybody know any good resources for a couple of almost-fifty first-time parents about to be outnumbered by their newborns?

Recipe post: Lemon Couscous

Jul. 27th, 2015 01:20 pm
[personal profile] phi
Make plans with your lover to cook an elaborate middle eastern dinner, starring the preserved lemons you put up last month.

Get distracted by pointless meetings all week at work and end up taking work home with you for the weekend.

Show up to your lover's house an hour late, with a half-written slide deck and a broken Powerpoint master template. Narrowly avoid having a complete meltdown over how your virtual desktop display has decided to develop a heretofore unseen bug in which it does not resize to fit your laptop screen, and won't let you view anything useful on the remote screen, and how are you supposed to get the data you need out of the remote server if you can't see or enter commands into your fucking terminal.

Realize that there is no way you are going to make an elaborate multi-course dinner tonight. Stubbornly insist on doing something with the preserved lemons anyway.

Root around in the freezer and find an uncooked hamburger patty and some ground pork. Remember that there's a jar of instant couscous in the pantry. This is enough to improvise with.

Ask your partner to chop up and saute an onion in olive oil while you curse at your virtual desktop software, powerpoint, and yourself for agreeing to give a talk first thing in the morning on Monday.

When the onion is caramelized, add spices to taste and lightly fry them. Ground coriander seed and dried parsley are good choices. Do not add salt at this point, because the lemons are preserved in brine and are very salty. Crumble the hamburger patty and add it and the pork to the onions. Cook until the meat is browned. Dice up a preserved lemon (leaving several remaining in the jar for the elaborate tagine that you are definitely going to make some day that is not today). Add the lemon and a cup or so of couscous to the pan. Lightly toast the couscous in oil, because Mark Bittman says you must never neglect to toast couscous before adding water, regardless of what the instructions on the package of couscous says, and you should never go against Mark Bittman's advice. Except when you should, but toasting the couscous is actually a pretty good suggestion.

Add the couscous, meat, onion, lemon, and all to a pot of boiling water. Turn off the stove and let the couscous rest for several minutes. Marvel at how delicious your half-ass improvised meal turned out to be. Resolve to repeat this experiment, but adding fresh fennel and shaved carrot next time.
[personal profile] musesfool
A brief pictorial account of my weekend.

Not pictured: last night, L. and I tried out the new bar that replaced the tapas place that replaced our favorite neighborhood bar. It was okay? I didn't love it. We ended up going somewhere else to eat, after a couple happy hour beers. But at least we tried it? We never bothered with the tapas place (and neither did anyone else, I guess, since it closed so quickly).

[personal profile] mousapelli sent me an extended version of the Steven Universe theme song (it contains some spoilers, if you're not caught up on the show), and I can't get it out of my head. It seems like tv shows are where all my earworms come from now - first it was the theme song to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, then it was "What's Up" from Sense8, and now it's the SU theme song.

I haven't written a word since I posted the crossover for my birthday, though I have several wsip I'd like to finish, and even the occasional new idea (Ronan teaches Blue to fight; hilarity ensues), but meh. There's always something less frustrating to do than write.


Deeply dreaming foxes

Jul. 27th, 2015 08:49 am
[personal profile] telophase
Right! So you've heard of Google's Deep Dream, which uses a neural network to find and enhance images in photos, and which ends up in some trippy-ass shit, often with eyeballs everywhere. There's an online service now that will run your photo through the Deep Dreaming code, but it does take about two days at the moment, because there are thousands of pictures in the line. They give you a URL that you can check every so often to see if your pic has been processed yet.

So of course I put a couple of pics through it. I did this one, of the fox shrine in Arashiyama that [personal profile] rachelmanija and I happened upon back in 2007. (Pic from 2015, on my visit with Toby.)

What hath Google wrought? )

I also did this one, a candid shot I grabbed on an observation deck overlooking Tokyo Station:

The world of a child's imagination... )


Jul. 27th, 2015 08:57 am
[personal profile] oracne
I went to my first ever yoga class on Saturday morning with C., who had found a teacher interested in starting a Size Positive class - that is, one mostly intended for women of larger sizes. The teacher was a large woman herself, so it was nice to see someone who was both fat and strong. There were six students; four of them had taken yoga before, some for quite a while.

I am terrible with choreography, especially on the fly, but I did my best to follow instructions and get used to what the different positions felt like. We shall not speak of how I transitioned between them! I could feel my muscles working, though. The day after I had a lot of tightness in the backs of my thighs, and slightly bruised knees. My upper body work with weights helped me a lot, I think. I can do push-ups, and I seemed to be using some of those same muscles for some of the things.

I spoke to the instructor before class to let her know I couldn't put a lot of weight on my right hand at the moment, and she had some suggestions, but I wasn't good at following those suggestions in the heat of the moment, except for the one about folding up layers of the mat for more padding. I compensated by putting more weight on my left hand, and using the heel of my right hand. This would have worked better if the mat had been less slippery; I exerted myself more to keep from sliding and landing on my face. Hopefully, that aspect will improve when my hand is better. I'm still waiting for an appointment with an orthopedist.

Overall, the class went quickly. I couldn't quite keep up with all the yoga-specific vocabulary, and the business of breathing through your nostrils in sequence and saying "omm" seemed dubious to me, but whatever. It wasn't for that long, and wasn't too goofy for me to endure.

I would definitely do it again, preferably when I have less hand pain.
[personal profile] batwrangler
50 Books 2015-32: Death at Victoria Dock, Phryne Fisher Mysteries #4 (unabridged audiobook)

50 Books 2015-33: The Green Mill Murder, Phryne Fisher Mysteries #5 (unabridged audiobook)

50 Books 2015-34: Ruddy Gore, Phryne Fisher Mysteries #7 (unabridged audiobook)

50 Books 2015-35: Urn Burial, Phryne Fisher Mysteries #8 (unabridged audiobook)

50 Books 2015-36: Raisins and Almonds, Phryne Fisher Mysteries #9 (unabridged audiobook)

Phryne Fisher Mysteries
by Kerry Greenwood, read by Stephanie Daniel
Each has a brief book-specific interview of Greenwood by Daniel st the end

"Outnumbered a million to one"

Jul. 27th, 2015 05:12 am
[personal profile] rosefox
The next time I say I can do RWA in NYC without taking time off from my regular work, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me loudly and firmly.

This post brought to you by my very sore arms from doing a whooooole lot of catch-up work tonight, and more to do tomorrow.

Poor arms. I quit PT too soon, I think, or maybe it just didn't do enough good. I've upgraded my insurance so I'm going to try some fancier physical therapists and see whether they can help more. That means commuting into Manhattan but oh well, arms are worth it, and at least once a week I can do it on a day I'd be in Manhattan anyway.

RWA was mostly exhausting. I didn't get to any program items at all. I went to five cocktail parties in one night and two the following night. I skipped the award ceremony, though I watched from home until the livestream cut out (and cheered [twitter.com profile] tiffanyreisz). I felt lost and alone in the sea of people I didn't know. I saw a lot of people I probably know on Twitter but didn't recognize. A few people who knew me from Twitter said hello. I met a few people who were really nice. I hung out with a few people I already knew. I wore my pronoun button and it was consistently ignored, including by people I'd just finished explaining it to. Everything was very white and Christian and het and cis and I felt very uncomfortably marginalized pretty much the whole time, all the more so because my experiences at Readercon were so totally different. Now I'm more wary of going to WFC, where I won't know as many people as I do at Readercon and where there hasn't been a massive cultural change toward treating people like me as human beings, but I don't know whether that's exhaustion anxiety talking.

I got no good sleep last night, and I only know that I slept at all because I had a really unpleasant dream about being sexually assaulted. My SleepBot motion tracker looks like a ventricular fibrillation ECG. I was so exhausted that I burst into tears midday for no reason at all. I pulled myself together to spend a little time with J before he left for a week-long business trip. Then I caffeinated, got work done, went to an absolutely stellar TMBG show (one of the best I've ever seen, approaching the awesomeness of the 2007 Bowery Ballroom shows but with a totally different vibe; once that wiki page exists I'll put my full comments up there), and came home and got in a quick videochat with Josh and did more work and iced my sad sad arms (and my inexplicably sad left thumb--no idea what's up with that). Now it's nearly 6 a.m. and I don't even know what I'm feeling other than all the way through tired and out the other side. But I think I should sleep.

Fig is still afraid of hairbrushes

Jul. 26th, 2015 11:11 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
And I kinda think the maniacal way Groucho reacts when he is brushed doesn't help.

Well, now I can say

Jul. 26th, 2015 10:27 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
I've seen all three Hobbit films. Assuming the sun doesn't expand into a red giant before the third one ends.

speaking of books to read

Jul. 26th, 2015 09:53 pm
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
This is a good time for commissions: down to three, I think. And still waiting for my copies to come in.

catch the trade winds in your sails

Jul. 26th, 2015 02:57 pm
[personal profile] silveraspen
A little while ago, I asked for writing topic suggestions to help me get back into the habit of posting here. I received a few, and combined with old December meme posts that I am still behind on, I think I've got enough to be going on with for a bit, starting with this one by [personal profile] gramarye1971: Do you have any interesting upcoming holidays/vacations planned?
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

While I've been known to take a few days off and spend them at home (for various reasons), to me a true vacation will always include some kind of travel. It doesn't have to be a long trip; it doesn't even necessarily have to always be somewhere new. For example, I'm writing this now across from [personal profile] agonistes at a familiar table at Coal Creek Coffee, in Laramie, Wyoming, alternately looking out the window at the blue sky and watching the trains go by at the end of the road.

I've written a little before before about how I feel about the various landscapes of Wyoming and Colorado, and it's no less true today. The day is utterly clear, without even the haze that sometimes develops against the mountains, and one can see for miles upon miles. It's interesting, because I know that not everyone likes the open landscape in this region; some people have said that it feels like the blue vault of the sky is pressing down on them like a weight, crushing them into the earth and making them feel very small. For me, it's the exact opposite. When I cross over from the urban environment into the grasslands, it sometimes feels that everything around me expands into welcoming space, space in which I'm able to breathe deeply and freely.

(Don't get me wrong - I like the city, and I love Denver. But there's something about the wildness of mountain and plain that I find soothing, all the way to the depths of my soul.)

Anyway, getting back to the original question, I can't think of anything better to spend time and money on than travel. I've been fortunate enough to have visited 16 countries in addition to many places in the United States. Travel has given me some of the most wonderful experiences in my life, and it's something that I have never, never regretted.

A glance at my calendar so far this year shows that I've both planned and done much more in the way of long weekend trips than I have in terms of longer vacations. Previous trips of that kind that I still need to write up include four days in west Tennessee and three days in Santa Barbara, California; future ones include a trip to east Tennessee in October for my cousin's wedding, a possible Vegas weekend, and the upcoming planned Labor Day weekend in Georgia (as usual).

Longer trips are a little harder for me to manage, but well worth it. For example, three weeks ago - after a bit of a wild work-related spiral that nearly led to me cancelling the trip - I arrived in the Lake Tahoe area to join friends for a week's vacation. (The length of this year's vacation may be a relative thing in my case, as I ended up working for three of those days, but the principle still applies, and it was much more fun to be working in Tahoe than it'd have been to be doing the same work elsewhere.) This is the same group of friends that I spent a week with in Maine last year, and the same group of friends that I'm planning a trip to Spain with for next year. I'd never been to the Sierra Nevadas before, and I'd definitely never seen that lake, other than in pictures. The country there is gorgeous, with so much more to offer than I'd ever imagined - including wine tours, crystal clear deep blue waters and beautiful bays, miles and miles of hiking trails, colorful sunsets and brilliantly starry skies that were lit up at different times with fireworks, planetary conjunctions, and the soft glow of the Milky Way. Overall, the vacation itself was absolutely wonderful, an utter delight in ways both expected and very unexpected, and I'm glad I went.

As for upcoming longer trips -- while I tend to plan these further in advance, there's also room to squeeze in things on a more impulsive basis (as I did last year with the trip to Belfast). Things in varying stages of planning at the moment include Spain next year, hopefully a birthday celebration at Disneyworld for the sheer fun of it the year after that, Scotland at some point because I have always wanted to go and I cannot believe I have not yet been -- maybe I'll do that if Disney falls through -- and a trip to Cologne, Germany this fall.

Whew. I think that's about it for the moment, and I also think that I'm very fortunate to have wandered so much of this wide world. I can't wait to get started on exploring the rest of it.
[personal profile] sovay
And today I appear to be sick. I refuse to regard it as payback for the pleasure of the last two days. I'm still not thrilled about it.

1. My poem "Keep the Home Fires Burning" has been accepted by Not One of Us. I wrote it last November in a state of slightly hallucinating exhaustion because [livejournal.com profile] ashlyme had written this post. It features the return of Charon's bee-stamped obol, which should be a title of its own.

2. Have a Roman glass fish flask. Because it is very beautiful and also looks like a fish.

3. This is a pretty great condensation of a hilarious episode from Herodotos. While we're talking about classical beauty, I cannot argue with this observation about Idris Elba.

4. I love this portrait. It looks like a frame from a slightly skewed film. The model's own photography is surrealist and great.

5. Last night I re-read Sheryl Jordan's The Raging Quiet (1999) for the first time since college. Now I'm trying to figure out why its setting still doesn't quite work for me when Orsinian Tales (1976) is probably my favorite book by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Background, in case you have not read the latter: Orsinian Tales is a collection of short stories set in a small country in Central Europe that is fantastic only by virtue of being fictional. It shares historical events with Hungary, the now Czech Republic, Poland; its language reminds me of Romanian. It is none of them and takes its name ultimately from its creator. It was her earliest secondary world. But it is shaped by the events of this one, as reflected in the stories—they are recurringly political and personal, the one against the backdrop of the other. The earliest takes place in the mid-twelfth century, the latest in the original collection in 1965; the title story of Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996) later extended that timeline to 1989 and something very like the Velvet Revolution, after which I have seen no more Orsinian tales. (The Compass Rose (1982) contains one other Orsinian story and a science fiction piece that shares some ambiguous references—I wouldn't count it, but Le Guin herself notes that one of the protagonists has an Orsinian name.) All together, they make a mosaic of an imaginary country that seems to exist, like Jan Morris' Hav, in the interstices of very real ones. I do not feel the same way toward Le Guin's Malafrena (1979), an ambitious attempt at a nineteenth-century novel which is not quite believable as Orsinian metafiction, but I recommend the collection to everyone I can get to hold still long enough to listen to me about it. "Brothers and Sisters" is one of the stories I keep coming back to. I was two years older than Stefan Fabbre when the keystone was knocked out of my arch.

The Raging Quiet's setting is one of the reasons I have trouble getting a fix on it. Nothing about the plot demands a secondary world. The protagonist is a sixteen-year-old widow accused of witchcraft in the small fishing village where her much older husband brought her, abused her, and shortly thereafter died; her closest friend is a deaf boy mistaken for a madman and beaten to drive out his devils; their only ally is the village's priest, who still cannot save her from being tried for witchcraft. The names are more or less Irish, except when—in the case of the landed gentry—they're more or less English. The author explains in an afterword that the characters and their story came to her "so vivid and complete that I found I could not force it into a particular time or place in history, for fear of distorting what I had been given. So I left their tale in the freer atmosphere of myth, and simply wrote a fantasy set in an ancient time." I have trouble taking the setting as either ancient or mythical; the coastal village of Torcurra and the manor house of Fernleigh have an eighteenth-century feel except for the outcroppings of medievalism, like some of the information we are given about men's clothes and the persistence of trial by ordeal, all of which I could accept as fantasy except that Christianity is a huge force in the novel, explicitly. And that anchors the story for me quite firmly in our world sometime, because unlike C.S. Lewis I do not believe that Christ just happens across the multiverse. As a result, it's impossible for me to accept the setting as purely otherwhere—like Greer Gilman's Cloud, which has witches and manors and a religious system which never even heard of monotheism—and I keep trying to evaluate it by the standards of historical fiction, against the author's wishes. I genuinely don't know why she didn't set the novel in historical Ireland. It already has characteristic speech patterns, weather, geology; there's peat-cutting, for crying out loud. There are stone circles and passage tombs. I knew much less about history in high school and I remember finding the half-fictionalization jarring even then. This time around, it really jumped out at me.

And I don't know if this is unfair of me, because Orsinia has a Karst like Slovenia and Guy Gavriel Kay's Sarantium is blatantly remixed Byzantine history with more magic and if we want to be really brutal about it, Lloyd Alexander's Prydain isn't Wales, but you could have fooled me from the way people go around being named things like Gwydion. I don't know why I find it harder to accept Jordan's early modern not quite Ireland, unless it's the reasons thrown out above: it's neither close enough to real history to read without apparent anachronism nor sufficiently marked as some other genre (alt-history, high fantasy) to forestall comparisons; and it tells me something about Jordan that she didn't think of Christianity as a marker of our history. Or maybe I'm missing the point entirely. Has anyone else read this novel? It's YA, it deals with difference and disability, and I still like best the character I liked when first I read it, because some things about me haven't changed in sixteen years and character preferences, unless I do something boneheaded like forget Owen Davies, are one of them. I still wish it had been a historical novel. Given all the elements that are necessary for the story, I don't see how a real time and place would have damaged it.

P.S. Ashlyme sent me this just now and it's fantastic: Delia Derbyshire and Barry Bermange's "The Dreams: Sea" (1964), from a series of soundscapes built around people describing their dreams. I always die on the land. The land at the bottom of the sea.

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