Spectacular sunset over the lake

May. 26th, 2017 08:18 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

One of the benefits of being on a higher floor of the hotel, even if this also means a lot of rather tedious waiting for lifts. I was going to take and post a photo, but I really don't think that my present state of tiredness is a good state in which to get to grips with DW photo posting. Also, on essaying to take a photo for later presentation, realised that the grimy marks on the window would be rather obtrusive.

Quite a full day, which started with waking up rather earlier than I had hoped, but not horribly so.

Socialising has taken place. There was going to be a walk, but then it started to rain (I wouldn;t say there was no chance of a walk that day, but not at that particular time).

Also have been on one panel, which I think suffered a little from ambiguity in framing its terms but nonetheless evoked some interesting discussion.

Observations of note: in the stuffed toy and knickknackery shop just around the corner in State Street, there is a stufft swan, right at the front of the window display: also an inflatable pool version. However, I should eschew props for my reading.

Welcome to Books: FMK

May. 26th, 2017 01:08 pm
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
[personal profile] melannen has been culling her bookshelves by playing "Fuck Marry Kill" via poll. In the interests of doing the same, and also getting back to posting more book reviews, I have decided to join her. (I am doing "fling" rather than "fuck" just because my posts get transferred to Goodreads and I don't want EVERY post of mine on there littered with fucks.)

How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. (That could be a very long time.) Kill means I should donate it without attempting to read it. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them.

Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments. For this particular poll, I have never read anything by any of the authors (or if I did, I don't remember it) and except for Hoover and Lively, have never even heard of the authors other than that at some point I apparently thought their book sounded interesting enough to acquire.

Poll #18415 FMK: Vintage YA/children's SFF
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 38


The Spring on the Mountain, by Judy Allen. Three kids have magical, possibly Arthurian adventures on a week in the country.

View Answers

Fling
13 (43.3%)

Marry
7 (23.3%)

Kill
10 (33.3%)

The Lost Star, by H. M. Hoover. A girl who lives on another planet hears an underground cry for help (and finds chubby gray cat centaurs if the cover is accurate)

View Answers

Fling
17 (54.8%)

Marry
9 (29.0%)

Kill
5 (16.1%)

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, by Penelope Lively. Lucy visits her aunt in Hagworthy and is embroiled in the ancient Horn Dance and Wild Hunt.

View Answers

Fling
23 (67.6%)

Marry
5 (14.7%)

Kill
6 (17.6%)

Carabas, by Sophie Masson. Looks like a medieval setting. A shapeshifting girl gets accused of being a witch and runs off with the miller's son.

View Answers

Fling
15 (46.9%)

Marry
8 (25.0%)

Kill
9 (28.1%)

Of Two Minds, by Carol Mates and Perry Nodelman. Princess Lenora can makes what she imagines real; Prince Coren can read minds, but everyone can read his mind. (Ouch!)

View Answers

Fling
17 (53.1%)

Marry
7 (21.9%)

Kill
8 (25.0%)

Review Catch Up Post 2

May. 26th, 2017 04:02 pm
slashmarks: (Leo)
[personal profile] slashmarks
Again, one paragraph per book, and I'm starting in mid-April so my memory may sometimes be faulty.

Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel – Wilda C Gafney. I liked this! It is so unbelievably refreshing to read scholarship by someone who doesn't just take it as given that the past was a uniformly patriarchal hellscape. Suffered slightly from a lack of nuanced discussion of dating of the Biblical passages it was discussing, but the background in terms of the author's familiarity with archaeology and general Near Eastern history was good enough that it didn't bother me too much because she backed up things with non-Biblical contemporary evidence whenever she could. A couple of her conclusions I'd like to see discussed by someone with a good knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, though, also suffers from imo deeply unnecessary “and this is how this applies to modern Christianity” in places. I will be following up on the stuff about female scribes.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent – Marie Brennan. I have owned this for years and never got around to actually reading it. Protagonist is a Victorian lady who becomes a dragon naturalist; this is the first book in the series. Overall a fun book, I think anyone with a deep drive for scholarship will find the protagonist sympathetic and the plot problems fairly interesting. Some fairly major worldbuilding flaws that kept distracting me, though. It's set in an alternate history with primarily cultural divergence, and the culture is nowhere near diverged enough, it's basically renamed!England which is a really big problem because a) I got the feeling the author did this just so she didn't have to be totally accurate with all of the non-England countries and b) the cultural divergence is that supposedly Europe is Jewish instead of Christian and there is NO. FUCKING. WAY. That would precisely produce the exact social conditions and problems of Victorian England, I mean, WTF??? Like yes, there would be problems, but different ones. Also if usable iron was actually really scarce all of history post the Bronze Age Collapse would be deeply, wildly different and the chances of the colonial era happening as it did in our world are nil. But if those things will not make you want to pitch the book against the wall you'll probably enjoy it; I did despite the desire.

Man, that was a paragraph.

The Tree & Other Stories – Abdallah al-Nasser, translated by Dina Bosio and Christopher Tingley. Very short stories by a Saudi author. This is probably the first book I have ever felt totally unqualified to review, mostly because as far as I can tell every single one of these stories was set up to have a punchline and I got maybe two of them. I think this is the translators' faults; ideally, footnotes in translated literature are for explaining that sort of culturally-specific joke, not for unnecessarily explaining what terms for clothing in Arabic mean. So, uh, the prose was interesting, I did not find the plots compelling except for this one particular story, which is spoiled by the intro so I think I'm okay telling you the point is an ironic one about Western culture's disrespect of elders. I found it deeply, compellingly horrifying and accurate and I also hated it intensely so I don't know what to tell you.

Dead and Buried – Barbara Hambly. Another book in the Benjamin January series. I continue to love this series – I love the setting and cultural bits, I love the characters and their relationships, and – new in this one – I also love the plot, which seems to have captured exactly the right points of compelling-yet-hilariously-implausibility to capture me. I'm not sure if I appreciate action more now or if Hambly's gotten better; I suspect the latter. As per usual I recommend the series, which is a mystery series set in the free black community of pre-Civil-War New Orleans, and recommend you start in the earlier books so you know who everyone is, though the internal order isn't crucial. (In particular if you haven't spent at least a few books with Hannibal the reveal in this one will mean nothing to you.)

The Stars Change – Mary Anne Mohanraj. I wanted to like this book, because I liked the short stories I've read by the author and I also read her blog, but alas, I was unable to. There are brief points of brilliance – exasperated closeted lesbian asks her husband what he thought would happen when he cheated on her, relieved to have an excuse to walk out the door; many pieces of the worldbuilding, which is obviously Mohanraj's actual strength and interest; the moment when the community comes together to deal with a mortal threat and immediately begins to cook as step one. However, the prose is wildly uneven, I found many of the characters unlikable, the sex scenes were deeply unnecessary and uncompellingly to wincingly badly-written, and the plot makes no sense. It reads like a series of one shots of varying quality badly stitched together. In particular the ending failed to convince me; there was no reason for all of those people to be there to get killed, and the fact that they could have been needed is not sufficient in a novel where the author decided to put them there for no purpose. I thought it was a first novel until I checked the author's bibliography, at which point I was just confused.

Ran Away – Same series as above. I found this one particularly interesting because of the very long flashback section in which we meet Ayasha directly, Benjamin's deceased wife. I loved her instantly, and I think that view made Benjamin's renewed grief at being reminded of her freshly all the more compelling – it's really impressive, honestly, I knew she was dead from the first chapter of book one and yet I was still hit by it all over again in this one. That said, the portrayal of Islam here is... eeeeh. On the one hand, the Ottomans in particular were so screwed up I am not sure any of it was really wrong for that place and time; on the other hand it would have been nice to be clearer about the parts that were the special, Ottoman interpretation of Islam, particularly since Ayasha is from North Africa and would know. There were ways in which Turkish Islam was both better and worse than European Christianity for women in this period and it would have been nice to see the parts that were better. I think I would have liked it better if Ayasha was still actively Muslim, I don't think it would be a legal barrier to marrying Benjamin in France in this period if she hadn't converted, and if it was her conversion could at least have been in name only.

The Burning City – Alaya Dawn Johnson. The sequel to Racing the Dark, but new readers should know the series is on indefinite/permanent hiatus after this one. I enjoyed this one, and I think it improves on the first in plot complexity and worldbuilding, as well as in prose. The plot increases in complexity and got a lot more interesting to me and the intermixing of mythology with magic and life also becomes more nuanced here. I continue to really love Lana, the relationship with her father was painfully awkward, I really loved the bisexual threesome in the Black Book's plot thread and I think the book does an overall better job with disability representation than the first one, which was decidedly mixed. That said, I also wish the megalomaniac dictator was not violent because, essentially, he hears voices; like, given the worldbuilding I'm absolutely sure it's not psychosis, it's literally a spirit appearing to him masquerading as his dead sister, but it would be nice if it did not come off as psychosis to all of the characters? I am very curious about how Johnson would have tied up the increasingly complicated plot threads, and disappointed I probably won't find out. Also, just, points for high fantasy set in the Pacific Islands and all of the stuff you don't often see in high fantasy, like, government that isn't a misunderstood version of feudalism, civil war fought in a city, etc.

Why you deserve it

May. 26th, 2017 01:24 pm
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I have just finished watching season 1 of Skin Wars on a friend’s recommendation. It is very very far from my usual sort of thing: it’s a reality show that’s a competition in body painting. My friend promised that it was very low on the interpersonal cattiness/drama, with lots of very skilled work and a certain amount of people learning stuff about their art, learning from each other. New art and learning? Hey, I’m there for that. And I was immediately hooked, and I will definitely watch the other two seasons, especially since my friend is a person who would have warned me if there was a lot of body-shaming weirdness in store.

One of the things that fascinates me is that the artists involved in this were often financially struggling–it’s not a fast route to fame and fortune–and they had pretty well-entrenched justifications for why they deserved success that were not always easy to dislodge by circumstances that really should have dislodged them. Examples:

I have put in the time. I have worked long hours. This is a competition with firmly set time limits, around each piece and around the competition as a whole. Each artist gets literally exactly the same amount of time. There are no examples of artists putting their feet up and being done early, and beyond that here is absolutely no way for anyone to put in more time than anyone else. Eventually this got clarified to:

I have put in the time. I spent my whole life learning this. Finally someone turned to the person who kept repeating this and said, how old are you? and determined that they were very close to the same age. And that they had both spent their whole life learning it, so…yeah. Not a distinguishing feature. I’ve seen both of these at conventions, though: I have devoted more time to science fiction than the other people at my day job! And I’ve seen a certain amount of it in various factions in the field who are convinced that they are the ones who are truly, deeply devoted–and that that kind of devotion has to be what matters. (Spoiler: it does not have to be. Sorry.)

I need it the most. My living conditions are worse than other people’s without recognition. There are indeed need-based scholarships for various types of study, and I’m very glad. But they’re usually clearly labeled, and “I like your art a lot” and “I think you need money” are not actually the same thing–and “you should like my art a lot because I need money” doesn’t actually work very well.

I need it the most. I poured my heart into this piece. “You should like my art a lot because I need validation” does not turn out to work better than “you should like my art a lot because I need money.” It is often a great idea to pour your heart into art. I recommend it. Then make more art and pour your heart into that. Also technique at the same time.

I have the most technical skills. Ever heard a pianist play Hanon? They are finger exercises. They are finger exercises, they are to make you a technically better pianist, and nobody plays them in concert because they are no fun to listen to. (Or play. Freakin’ Hanon.) Okay, okay, they have a certain hypnotic power, they can be impressive, but…at the end of the day if you are showing up and playing Hanon, nobody is buying your book, your painting, or in the most literal sense, tickets to your piano concert. (Freakin’ Hanon.)

It is apparently really, really hard to say, “Mine is good. Here is what I did well. Look at this part. I deserve this because mine is really good art. I combined the technical and the creative, this has thought and feeling and everything it’s supposed to have, and who cares whether I picked up those skills in two minutes or ten million hours, who cares whether someone else thinks that they are overall better than me and paid their dues more than me, here is the thing I made, it doesn’t come with dues, it comes with awesome.”

It is even harder to say, “I don’t know what’s missing. I did everything right. It’s just not happening for me. Can you help me see what’s going wrong in my piece?” And sometimes there are ten million answers, and sometimes there’s one answer, and sometimes there…isn’t. And sometimes the artificial contest structure of a reality show has made something happen that reality doesn’t support, it has made a thing where there is a winner and a loser where actually in a group of ten there might be three pieces that really work and four that don’t and three that meh, or ten that meh, or any other combination of numbers.

But the attachment to previous explanations of why you deserve it, the strength of that: that really got fascinating for me, and I will be riveted to see whether that continues for future seasons.

(no subject)

May. 26th, 2017 09:41 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] aedifica and [personal profile] the_rck!

Music meme: day 1 of 30

May. 26th, 2017 01:01 pm
liv: alternating calligraphed and modern letters (letters)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait and a bunch of other people are doing a 30 day music meme, and it's really interesting to see people's choices! In some ways music isn't a big part of my life, so I might struggle with this one, and anyway I'm not going to commit to posting every day for 30 consecutive days, but I thought I'd give it a go.

The first is A song you like with a colour in the title, so I went for White winter hymnal by Fleet Foxes. I don't always love the kind of very blurry musical style that Fleet Foxes go for, but I got really fond of this song a few years back and it's one that always raises a smile when it comes on shuffle.

People are generally linking to YouTube, and I'd never actually seen the accompanying video for this one before. It's kind of a cool claymation thing, so I'm glad I searched it up.

Embedded video )

Citizen

May. 26th, 2017 12:15 pm
hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
I didn't really get a chance to catch my breath about the citizenship, because of the job interview appearing so quickly on its heels. Now that I've got the inevitable rejection out of the way, I'm starting to think a little more about it again.

I've been forgetting about it, or I've been at best excited that I have my passports back. I really underestimated how much I would hate being without them (plural because the expired one has my proof of Indefinite Leave to Remain in it, which is my proof I can work here and hopefully what keeps the border guards at Manchester Airport from being completely awful to me whenever I come back, so the expired passport is still an integral part of the deal).

Working on my book (I owe Kickstarter an update too). I am so stressed about it at this point, but Andrew's looking at what I have today and assures me it's not as bad as I feared and it's not as far from being done as I feared either.

And [personal profile] po8crg and [personal profile] haggis are taking me out for dinner tonight to celebrate my UK citizenship, so that should help make it seem a bit more real!
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
Today was cold and grey and generally sucked and the first three restaurants I thought to check for borscht didn't have it on the menu at the moment (and the fourth was two states away), but we walked out to Inman despite the drizzling rain and I had a bowl of borscht with sour cream at the S&S and it was extremely satisfying.

1. I am very glad to read that the revised travel ban continues to be ruled unconstitutional.

2. This is a very sweetly drawn comic about bisexuality.

3. Courtesy of [personal profile] gaudior: an appreciation of the Mahler's 6th mallet. I feel someone should point Hurra Torpedo at this symphony.

In conclusion: borscht.
umadoshi: (mermaid 02)
[personal profile] umadoshi
Fannish/Geeky Things

"Artists are creating gorgeous mermaid art all #MerMay". [The Daily Dot]

"Rihanna and Lupita Nyong'o will costar in a buddy movie directed by Ava DuVernay for Netflix".

"Josh Boone Says THE NEW MUTANTS Is A Full-Fledged Horror Movie".

"The Origins of Anime: Watch Free Online 64 Animations That Launched the Japanese Anime Tradition". [Open Culture] (Note: I haven't delved into this yet.)


Photography

"How dogs get older: A fascinating and deeply touching photography project".

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] larryhammer, "Photographer Uncovers The White Ravens Of Legend In West Coast Forest".

"Fallen Cherry Blossom Petals Fill a Lake in Japan for Naturally Beautiful Scenes From Above".


Miscellaneous

"All The Wrong People Are Asking All The Wrong Questions About Fidget Spinners". [Sarah Kurchak at The Establishment]

Via [flocked], "Angry otter pursues Scottish man". [~40 sec. video]

"A Moose Destroyed a Flowerbed Planted to Celebrate Canada’s Sesquicentennial". [Atlas Obscura]

"Fairy Princesses And Mermaid Queens Have Been Waiting For These Fishnet Stockings".

"Why Americans Smile So Much".

"Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them". "For me, as for many daughters, the time before my mother became a mother is a string of stories, told and retold: the time she got hit by a car and had amnesia; the time she sold her childhood Barbie to buy a ticket to Woodstock; the time she worked as a waitress at Howard Johnson’s, struggling to pay her way through her first year at Rutgers. The old photos of her are even more compelling than the stories because they’re a historical record, carrying the weight of fact, even if the truth there is slippery: the trick of an image, and so much left outside the frame. These photos serve as a visual accompaniment to the myths. Because any story about your mother is part myth, isn’t it?" There's an accompanying collection of photos on Instagram: [instagram.com profile] mothersbefore.

Via [dreamwidth.org profile] ironymaiden, "I Got Drunk With The Funeral Industry To Find Out What Happens When We Die". [Buzzfeed, 2015] "The Ideal Death Show initially started out in 2011, not as an industry shindig, but as a Six Feet Under fan convention in Bournemouth. It was run by a guy called Brian Jenner, who is a professional speechwriter and not remotely connected to the funeral industry except for this one weird thing. [...] When everyone turned up for the Friday night welcome wake, it was clear that what Jenner had accidentally organised was an industry meeting for people who worked with the dead; undertakers on a busman’s holiday, stood around a cardboard coffin in a room full of lilies.

The next year he stripped away the HBO pretext and just made it that: a bunch of people talking about death, once a year, with other people who know about death. They needed it – death can literally be a lonely business."



Via [dreamwidth.org profile] alisanne:

--"You Can Stay Overnight In A Jail Cell At This Haunted Prison In Canada". (I'll pass, thanks.)

--"10 Beautiful Photos Of Dogs Underwater" by photographer Seth Casteel.

--"I’m A Barista From Korea Who Creates Art On Coffee".

So here I am again

May. 25th, 2017 09:20 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

And this year I did manage to get a massage from the amazing massage therapist at the place on the square, it was quite entirely wonderful.

Yesterday and earlier today it was still quite cool and cloudy, but seems to have warmed up by late afternoon.

Spent a mostly quiet and lazy day before going to the A Room of One's Own Reading.

Have managed to see and have some degree of conversation with the old familiar faces.

Have registered and must now look through the schedule to see what (apart from panels I am actually on) I want to go to.

Really, no news here, pass along.

green_knight: (Konfuzius)
[personal profile] green_knight
3 pose sketches

I'm kind of amazed that these are my drawings, from reference images (but not traced): they look recognisably like human bodies, and while I'm not happy about the heads - there have got to be better ways of suggesting heads and faces, all I manage is awkward - I am starting to capture the human form with a few bold lines and I'm liking the results.

This is nothing short of miraculous.

The number one tool for this has been the practice of lines: straight lines, C-curves, S-curves; learning to draw them boldly and confidently and more or less where I want them to go. Combine that with a drawing course that teaches you to apply these lines boldly, to capture the energy of a human body rather than trying to find exact lines, and suddenly I get the feeling that I'm doing the right thing (just need to work out a lot of details) rather than doing something completely hopeless.

And yes, I am currently sourcing my poses on body-positive blogs: I don't find the 3D dummy all that interesting to draw, and seeing pictures of squishy bodies looking fantastic is a really useful exercise for me.

Between this My mental model

and the above is a month. And while I have practiced _some_ drawing, I have not practiced anywhere near enough drawing to justify the improvement, which kind of confirms what I've worked out anyway: if I can find a way to work that suits my learning style - kinesthetic, Gestalt-oriented - I find most things relatively easy. (I'll never be _great_ at this drawing thing, but I think I can get to 'competent' from here). If something is presented in a way that makes no sense to me - if I am trying to learn sequentially and if the practices is stressful - I can suck terribly badly and feel that I'll never get there.

The answer to that is not to practice harder. Practicing things that are stressful is counterproductive for me. Looking for 'the right way to learn' is, of course, a path with a very obvious failure mode - never applying oneself, and always looking for 'the right' method that will miraculously get you to where you want to be, without having to put in any of the work, but while, in principle, I am extremely opposed to that idea, I have to admit that _it works for me_.

And it's hard to talk about this without sounding like I'm bragging. I'm all too aware of my artistic shortcomings; I'm a perfectionist, I can see a dozen things wrong with every drawing I make and I'm fully aware that there's probably a dozen more that I can't see because I'm not trained _enough_, I can only draw the poses I see, not any other possible poses, but when I started this six weeks ago I thought that maybe in a year I'd be able to draw like this: confident lines with recognisable results. And I'm willing to bet that if I had stuck to techniques that don't work for me, tasks that seem unsurmountable, exercises that stress me out, that make me feel completely incompetent and like I will never learn - I would not have reached this stage yet, if ever.

This, in short, is why learning styles matter, and why we need to take responsibility for our learning, and find out what does and doesn't work, and insist on finding resources that resonate: there are no shortcuts to becoming skilled, but if you can follow a straight path instead of floundering around, you *will* learn things in a reasonable amount of time, whatever that thing is.

Talent might get you there faster, by more paths, and take you further, but the right teaching will get you places surprisingly quickly and painlessly.

I can't wait to continue with my courses and learn more; I just wanted to bounce a little at how far I've come.

Loose-leaf Links #40

May. 26th, 2017 08:00 am
calissa: A black and white photo of a large, dark teapot and a small Chinese teacup with a fish painted on the side (Tea)
[personal profile] calissa

Australian Grapefruit, Adore Tea, sencha, green tea, Earl Grey Editing, Loose-leaf Links

Loose-leaf Links is a feature where I gather together the interesting bits and pieces on sci-fi, fantasy and romance I’ve come across and share them with you over tea. Today’s tea is Australian Grapefruit from Adore Tea. It tastes like a plain sencha at first, but finishes with a strong citrus aftertaste.

Awards News ) Community and Conventions ) On Equity ) For Writers ) For Readers )

Mirrored from Earl Grey Editing.

hollymath: (Default)
[personal profile] hollymath
I didn't get the job. Boring details about that. )

Anyway, almost as soon as I got home from the interview, it was time to leave again. Part of me wanted to sleep for a week but I'd arranged to go to the theatre with James and Jennie and Other Holly back when I couldn't have known what a tiring week this was going to be, and the rest of me knew that I'd feel better once I got myself there.

And I did. We saw "The Play That Goes Wrong," which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. [personal profile] miss_s_b's review is here (very slight spoilers) which is lucky as I think I'm getting a migraine so should get off the computer before I could write one myself.

To hers I only need add that she was awesome for giving me a little impromptu audio description, which especially at the beginning of the play where the gags were all visual was very welcome because we were sitting way at the back and so I was doomed to hearing people laughing a lot and having absolutely no idea why, which wasn't exactly the mood-lifter I needed. I was worried someone would tell us off for Talking During the Performance but luckily no one did and it totally made the experience for me. There were lots more dialogue-based jokes later on and some of the phsyciality was stuff I could just about discern, but I still would have felt like I'd missed out on a lot if it weren't for my kind friends.

We were a pretty noisy audience eventually anyway, so maybe I needn't have worried. Some asshole to the left of us started shouting "funny" things (as opposed to actually funny things) almost right away, and continued to throughout the first half. And eventually, the po-faced actor/director-playing-the-inspector's tantrum included "Despite appearances tonight, this isn't a pantomime!" and I feel I earned all my British-citizen cred by being the first person (from what we could hear, anyway) to shout "Oh yes it is!"

Lando and Cap and me

May. 25th, 2017 12:55 pm
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Look, I am only a casual superhero comics fan, but here’s my sideline/peripheral take:

When I was two years old, Lando Calrissian betrayed his friends to the Empire. And then he thought better of it and became a good guy again. Two years old. I don’t actually remember experiencing this story for the first time, it’s a thing that entered my brain through cultural osmosis and repetition. I am now almost thirty-nine.

Why do I bring this up?

Because “maybe someone you thought was good is actually bad! but wait, no, they’re actually good again!” is not a new story for anyone who is an adult now. We have all done this one. It is not daring and new, it is not a shocking twist, it is–in fact–kind of the default. Yes, yes, who can you trust, anyone might turn out to be blah blah whatev.

We have never experienced a Superman without a kind of kryptonite that can turn him evil. We have never had a hero without shades of gray. And I’m not suggesting that we should do a ton of that. I’m not suggesting that abandoning nuance is the way to go. I’m just suggesting that “the ground beneath your feet is shifting! who should you trust!” is yeah, yeah, yeah, pretty old hat to more than one generation in a row by now. So you really need something better than that if you’re going to try to convince readers that you have something great up your sleeve. As far as twists go, this is as twisty as “maybe they’re all dead we promise they’re not oh wait they are.” Other people have made the moral arguments already, the arguments based on character background/origins. I find them pretty compelling. I just wanted to say, also? it’s really sad when you go to shock people with things that have been standard templates for longer than they’ve been alive. It relies on one of us not paying attention, and buddy, it’s not me this time.

Garden addition

May. 25th, 2017 06:21 pm
nanila: nellie kim is awesome (purple nellie)
[personal profile] nanila
Back story: The garden behind our house is a very peculiar shape. It is quite wide at the back of the house for about 10 metres, then narrows abruptly to a very skinny path alongside the canal towpath hedge. It goes along like this for about 5 metres and then ends in a round, fenced-in patch about 4 metres in diameter. The round patch has a concrete pavement in a pretty circular pattern.

We’ve been trying to work out what to do with this odd space since we moved in. It’s a fair way from the house and not visible from the back door. Jacuzzi? Too much maintenance, plus it’s too far to trek on a horrible winter night. Bike shed? Functional but boring, and also bike sheds are ugly. This is a pretty space, ringed by climbing roses and vines.

A few weeks ago we went to the garden centre and found a display of cute playhouses with trimmed roofs and windows, and an interior upper floor reached by a child-sized ladder. The 6’x6’ models were on sale. As we had to carry the children away from them, literally, we thought, perhaps this is the optimal use for that round patch.

Thus far, we have been proved entirely correct, and the expense has been justified. Since it’s been installed, both children come home from nursery, dash through the house and out the back door into the playhouse to draw, play on the tablet or just run up and down the steps and in and out the doors. (There’s an adorable toddler-sized door out the side in addition to the larger front door.) The only things that brings them back to the house in 15-20 minutes are the requests for drinks and fruity snacks, which are then carried back up to the playhouse.

tl;dr version We got the kids a playhouse for the garden. Photos below!

20170523_184119
[Keiki on a wooden chair outside the playhouse. “Oi* shut da door on moi sister!”]

+3 )

* The Black Country is strong with this one.
** There is a whole separate post brewing about how I simply do not understand Danger Mouse.
umadoshi: (Saiyuki nobody's saviors (oyceter))
[personal profile] umadoshi
If we ignore the fact that I'm behind where I'd like to be on the work front (meep), I've gotten a reasonable amount of adulting done in the last 24 hours or so. I have:

--been to see Lawyer Friend with [dreamwidth.org profile] scruloose and signed a heap of financial paperwork;

--voted in the advance polls for the provincial election (which is this coming Tuesday);

--called (CALLED, with the despicable VOICE APP) to follow up with the library branch where I returned the book last week (the library staff member who picked up was awesome);

--successfully ordered a Slasher Chicks tank top from Unicorn Empire (tomorrow is the last day to order, y'all), which I'm counting as adulting because it got stressful when there was a period of many hours when the tank top option vanished, and I really want that and not either of the t-shirts (and okay, the shop didn't respond when I asked about it on Facebook, but the tank top did eventually reappear and I still asked, which is hard for me);

--tweeted at the local community net to ask after my still-unanswered/unverified "please renew my account" email (a small thing, but again, stressful);

--done a fair bit of laundry.


Okay, that's not actually as long a list as I'd hoped, but some weeks you take what you can get. And now I'm gonna get to work.

I am up to my ears in marking...

May. 25th, 2017 03:30 pm
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
[personal profile] nanila
...so here, have a photo from yesterday evening instead of hearing me moan about that.

IMG_5yqare
[Humuhumu and Keiki in their swimming costume & swim nappy respectively, eating ice creams in the paddling pool.]
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
[personal profile] sovay
I want my country to figure out a way of being angry that its political system has been externally manipulated without becoming any more nationalistic than it already has, since that's being a disaster.

My mother showed me a one-panel comic with one of those hot dog carts on a sidewalk and two passers-by looking on. The cart's umbrella advertises it as "Vlad's Treats"; the menu is "Borscht—Caviar—Unchecked Power." One of the passers-by is saying to the other, "It's an acquired taste." It is very obviously a Putin reference, but it still rang off-key for me. I don't want to move back into an era where we have ideological purity food wars. It was embarrassing enough when French fries were briefly and xenophobically renamed in 2003. No one in my family has been Russian for more than a century (and Russia might have disputed whether they counted in the first place, being Jews), but my grandmother made borscht. I don't make it with anything like the frequency I make chicken soup with kneydlekh, but that's partly because kneydlekh will not make your kitchen look like you axe-murdered somebody in it. I order it every chance I get. For my mother's seventieth birthday, my father took her to a Russian restaurant especially for the caviar. It can't be much of an acquired taste if as a toddler I had to be stopped from happily eating the entire can my grandparents had been sent as a present.

And let's face it, if I get this twitchy (and vaguely sad that at four-thirty in the morning there's nowhere I can get borscht in Boston), I assume the dogwhistles are much louder for people for whom Russia is closer than their great-grandparents. Can we not do McCarthyism 2.0? Especially since we sort of have been for some years now and it's, see above, not so much working out?
sovay: (I Claudius)
[personal profile] sovay
Tonight in unexpected numismatics: identifying two kinds of coins in five different writing systems for my mother. The former had classical-looking pomegranates on the obverse and were obviously Israeli because they said so in Hebrew, English, and Arabic; they turned out to be Israeli pounds or lirot issued between 1967 and 1980 and the design of a triple branch of budding pomegranates looked familiar to me because it was patterned after the shekels issued in the first year of the First Jewish Revolt (66–67 CE). My grandparents almost certainly brought them home from their visit to Israel in the mid-1980's. The latter were very worn, thin copper or brass cash and I thought Chinese, which meant the latest they could have been issued was 1911; they turned out to have been struck in Guangdong in the reign of the Guangxu Emperor, specifically between 1890 and 1908, and the script I didn't recognize on the reverse was Manchu. We have no idea where they came from. I really appreciate the role the internet played in allowing me to stare at images of different kinds of cash until I recognized enough characters to narrow my search parameters, because I don't actually read either Chinese or Manchu. I mean, I know now that the Manchu for "coin" is boo and it looks like this and the Chinese inscription on the obverse of that issue is 光緒通寶 which simply means "Guangxu currency" (Guāngxù tōng bǎo) and the reason it took me forever to track down two of those characters turns out to be the difference between Traditional and Simplified Chinese, but seriously, without the internet, that would have just been a lot of interesting metal to me.

(Me to [personal profile] spatch: "This is ridiculous. If I can read cuneiform, I should be able to read Chinese. I feel incredibly stupid." Rob to me: "You can't call yourself stupid if you're teaching yourself Chinese!")

(no subject)

May. 24th, 2017 08:32 pm
skygiants: Moril from the Dalemark Quartet playing the cwidder (composing hallelujah)
[personal profile] skygiants
I have spent the last five days rereading through Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief books at the rate of one a day, and doing very little else!

If you've missed them, the long arc of the Queen's Thief series features the three warring alt!Grecian kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis and Attolia getting their act together to avoid being absorbed by an alt!Babylonian empire. The books are heavy on well-researched worldbuilding, political complexity, and third-act twists; they are light on divine influence, though the gods do have a plan and they would rather like the protagonists to stop whining about it. Books include:

The Thief: A magus, his two apprentices, a soldier and a thief go on a life-changing field trip to steal a divine king-making relic, and Megan Whalen Turner shows off her unreliable first-person narration.

The Queen of Attolia: All three kingdoms start a slapfight with each other while the series protagonist sulks in his room, except when he's stealing important political figures from other kingdoms. Megan Whalen Turner would like you to know she can dance deftly around significant information just as easily in omniscient third as she can in first.

The King of Attolia: A sweet, honest guardsman punches his king in the face, and proceeds to regret every single one of his life choices. Megan Whalen Turner's like "look, this time I'm using limited third and telling you EXACTLY what my protagonist thinks and believes at any given time, it's not MY fault he only knows like 20% of what's actually going on."

A Conspiracy of Kings: The heir to the kingdom of Sounis is like "I COULD sort out this civil war by becoming king OR I could do hard labor for the rest of my life and honestly the latter sounds more appealing?" Megan Whalen Turner returns to first person but is too busy examining questions of ethics around violence in the political sphere to put all that much effort into setting up twists.

This is the part that's spoilery for the first four books )

Anyway, yesterday I finally got to the point where I could read the just-published new book, Thick as Thieves. So this is the part that's spoilery for Thick as Thieves. )

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