wednesday reads 'n things

Jul. 26th, 2017 04:04 pm
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What I've recently finished reading:

Text: Empowered: Agent (Empowered, #1) by Dale Ivan Smith, which so far is the best Instafreebie book I've tried (a rather low bar). The world-building is simple but fun; it's not just that Empowered people (that is, people with superhero-type powers) exist, but it's also an alternate history - one in which Richard Nixon prevented a nuclear war from escalating into global destruction "after Washington DC had been destroyed by a Soviet nuke fired from Cuba." (So I guess Kennedy didn't stop the Soviets...) This only shows up incidentally, at least in this book, but I am charmed by Nixon being considered a hero in this universe.

Mat is a good character, an interesting woman with a skill - manipulating growing plants - that is clearly much more useful (and lethal) than anyone gives her credit for. The Hero Council choice of "join us if we can use you, otherwise you must swear to never use your power" seems rather terrible to me, a bit of shoddy world-building but I guess it's needed for the plot. Her choices and actions are reasonable, especially as circumstances paint her into a corner. I like that she has a family she cares about, and I also like the lack of romance (though I suspect one is building).

The writing is okay, not great, though it's mostly free of typos and technically adequate. There are few obvious errors (such as a character being identified by name before Mat would actually know her name) but also few flashes of brilliance. Mostly it's just somewhat flat. I didn't feel particularly pulled along or emotionally invested, and this, plus uneven pacing toward the end, contributed to a general feeling of anticlimax.

Audio: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama, which was a SYNC offering, and surprisingly enjoyable and novel for dystopian YA. This is set in an alternate future in which the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 led to the need for split-shift staffing of hospitals, a day set and a night set of doctors and nurses, which in turn proved so efficient that the division between day workers and night workers was expanded to all parts of life, formalized and codified and enforced by law. But as daylight living is more natural and presumably more enjoyable, gradually the night people ("Smudges") became stereotyped as stupid, undesirable, lesser than the day people ("Rays") - and it took me until about 3/4 through the book to realize this was a civil rights allegory.

Yes, there is some suspension of disbelief required, but no more than, say, teenagers fighting to the death broadcast on television, or a society discarding all but a hundred selected novels, songs, and films. And what makes this an actually good book is that the plot is legitimately interesting and complex, and goes in unexpected (but foreshadowed) ways. There is a romance, which is somewhat cutesy and predictable, but at least it's not a love triangle - and, speaking of YA tropes, though this is in first person it is in PAST TENSE THANK GOD.

I liked the ending, which is not pat or universally happy, and which leaves a lot of things open-ended for a sequel (or for fanfiction). I would like to have seen a more explicitly "fight the system" plot, with Sol and the other characters actively working to bring the system down - maybe this will be in a subsequent book? Finally, I ship Sol/Gigi la la la and will be nominating this for Yuletide.

The audio version also includes "Noma Girl", a prequel short story which is also available free online. It was a nice fleshing-out of incidents only alluded to in the novel, but there's no new worldbuilding or anything unexpected here. I did like the more sympathetic view of Gigi. I don't think it will make sense if you haven't read the novel.

Webcomic: For some reason I followed a link (from Goodreads, maybe?) to The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E. K. Weaver, which I'd vaguely heard of through osmosis but really didn't know anything about (I didn't realize it was a comic, for one; for some reason I thought it had to do with lesbians) and devoured it over the course of four or five days. It's a gay (m/m, and has some nsfw) roadtrip story in which the title characters get to know each other and find themselves (well, sort of). If you haven't read it, I recommend it! There is a tiny fandom, and I believe the comic was originally posted on LJ as a WIP.

What I'm reading now: Cibola Burn, the fourth Expanse book. So far I'm about 25% in and enjoying it more than the previous book, Abaddon's Gate. Also, wow, apparently all minor characters are gay in this universe, or at least every throwaway line about people being married refers to a same-sex relationship.

What I'm reading next: Now that I'm recommitted to this book series, I've got the next two on my phone.

What I've just finished watching:

Movie: I finally watched Hidden Figures, and it was every bit as awesome as I'd hoped. ♥ My mother was a chemist for the FDA before and during this era, and I realized that at least she had the advantage of being white (though she had the disadvantage of being Jewish). I can't imagine what it must have been like to have both racism and sexism barriers looming so hugely in one's life.

TV: We have finished S2 of The Expanse! I am still a little weirded out by the timelines of book series and show being off from each other. I also thought the Ganymede plot was done better by the show, but the Avasarala and Bobbie plot was done better in the books.

What I'm watching next: Nothing for a while, because on Saturday we are headed out for a week of backpacking in the wilderness and so we might as well hold off on starting anything new. I'm trying to talk B into getting a short-term subscription to HBO Now via Amazon Prime so we can watch Game of Thrones. (His objections are that a, he hates WIPs even more than I do and wants to be able to watch every day or every other day rather than waiting a week between episodes, and b, he is sure they will make it hard for us to cancel after a month or two.)

In the meantime, [community profile] remixrevival has signups through Sunday, and [community profile] crossovering has extended signups through Sunday, so if either of these interest you, you have a few more days to join up!

Wednesday in July Is For Fiction

Jul. 26th, 2017 05:07 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . I may have read more fiction this month of July than in all of 2015 - 2016 and the first half of 2017 put together. 

This means novels that I started and read straight through, completing them to the last page.  I pick up a lot of fiction and give up on the book by the end of the first chapters, as well as many others where I get about half or two thirds through and quit due to do not care, and also, why is this so much longer than it needed to be? 

So July's fiction reading is much more than usual, that’s for sure.  Staying home alone during the brutally hot, polluted and humid 8 days that el V was off to hot and humid Cuba, and feeling physically crummy is probably responsible -- that, and maybe some novels I wanted to read.  


Brookmyre, Christopher. (2016) Black Widow.


Right after finishing this novel, which I'd picked off the shelves without any prior knowledge of either the book or the author, I learned Black Widow was just award the UK's Crime Writers' Association Golden Dagger award for 2016.


Nerd pop culture references all the way through, which gets wearing and doesn't wear well for readers of the future. The investigator of the mystery, and primary narrator is really too old for this stuff, so it was annoying as hell.  But since many of the other  characters were nerds and young and live in that culture I kept page turning / reading, until fairly close to the end I got all too familiar sensation that comes with trying read fiction, which is "Isn't this over yet?????" -- "gads, this is at least 50 pages too long!" --  so skipped to the end to find out who did it and why. Spoiler alerts!   


SPOILER CONTENT HERE


Read more... )


SPOILER CONTENT ENDS


Pop culture / nerd culture, you bet he does GOT too.  Feh.  He and his ending let me down, as endings so often do.


However the following books all have satisfying endings.


Cleeves, Ann (2016) Cold Earth.


The latest of her Jimmy Perez Shetland series.  It was slow-going, particularly in getting going, in an almost exact replication of the first Jimmy Perez - Shetland Islands book I read. In fact, the location is where the first one took place even. This in an on going problem in almost all of her Shetland books. though not in the television adaptations.


One of the many pleasures I receive from reading Cleeves (she's the author of Yorkshire's Vera Stanhope novels too -- the first one of which, The Crow Trap, originally published in 1999, I finally got to read last month!  And it was the very best of the Vera novels I've read so far), is how different the television series are from the books.  Both the Vera and Shetland tv series are among my big watching pleasures.  These provide good lessons in how to adapt successfully from print to screen. The first lesson, may well be the most important -- the casting makes all the difference, and when it's perfect, the visual adaptation may well be more compelling than the print, without being in the least faithful to the plots or even who the characters are -- but then television has its own rules, which may not be necessary for the page.  As said, an education in writing.


French, Tana; (2008) The Likeness.

 

I’ve read all of Irish writer French’s novels almost as soon as they were published in the US, except this, her second one.  It was involving, though the pretext, that divine, insulated group of college kids who are interested only in each other is rather more than tired. But so talented a writer as French (rather like the great talent that was Daphne Du Maurier for our age)  did something fresh with it. The problem, though, is is that they really aren’t kids, and don’t even feel in the early 20’s. So how does this undercover female detective protag manage, since, even though older than the 'kids', still her experience seems too deep for her early 30’s, as she says she is, even though she supposedly looks a lot younger.


But hey, it’s hot, I read in the bed, with the a/c cranked until deep into the night.  I turned the pages compulsively. This passed the hours most agreeably until I could relax enough and sleep while el V was in Cuba.


Leon, Donna (2016) The Waters of Eternal Youth: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery. 


Venice is drowning in tourists and their crap, immigrants, the mob and general corruption of everything.  But still, despite everything being online these days, the Commissario and his family continue to read the classics and eat the most wonderful meals at least three times a day.


Rankin, Ian. (2016) Rather Be The Devil.


Rankin's hard drinking, chain smoking, 60's rock and roller, rule breaking, ass kicking, Scott's cynic Rebus is retired from Edinburgh's police force. It's all caught up with him after many books in the Rebus series.  He's not smoking, but coughing disgusting crap with a shadow on his lung, trying to cut back on drinking.  But he’s still dueling with Big Ger, frustrating Siobhan Clarke and everyone who cares for him, but going to the center of what has happened in the past that has bled into the bloody present. Another change in Rebus --  the proverbial lone wolf detector, he's one of three -- and actually cooperating as much as Rebus can cooperate with them. This means the narrative provides additional povs beyond Rebus's in this convoluted case, which is about – what exactly? The disappearance of a banker, who seems to be connected to all sorts of nefarious financial deals, drugs, gambling, homicide – and, well, not Russians, but Ukrainians, laundering money in and through Scotland. But then Rankin's Rebus has never about the case, really, but about the wild ride he takes you on..


In the end, again, Rebus's nemesis, and in these later novels, now at least a frenemy, if not friend, Big Ger Cafferty’s back, old as he is -- as old as Rebus, but he's not over the hill yet, any more than is Rebus. But Rebus has learned to work with others, as much as Rebus can: Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and the male officer promoted and moved over her, to international crime, Malcolm Fox. They all get what they want. Further, Rebus still has his girlfriend from the previous book, Deborah Quant, who works post mortems for Edinburgh, has since the last book acquired a dog named Brillo – and he’s lost weight.  Neither Big Ger nor Rebus are anywhere near down for the count yet, and they glory in it -- and that they have both proved they are both still at the top of their intersecting game.


It was good reading for a hot and humid July weekend in NYC.


Today the weather is splendid, a perfect July summer day.  There's enough July left that I may be able to get in yet another novel. Tonight I begin an historical set colonial Manhattan of 1746. I've been looking forward to this one. 


Spufford, Francis (2017) Golden Hill.


 If I am able to finish this one (it's not long) it would make a grand total of six -- 6 -- novels, I read this month!

 

Anniversary -- And, Now, Mexico

Jul. 26th, 2017 10:34 am
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . For an anniversary day that was as difficult and frustrating for us both -- involving computers of course! -- it ended special, so soft, tender, relaxing.

Ned's been working with the Adobe InDesign program, which he pays $30 a month for, to do his Cuban travel brochures.  As these digital / online brochures feature many photographs (he's not lost his terrific eye for taking pictures, that's for sure!) and InDesign doesn't bother to provide actual, you know, directions and instructions, just menus, when it comes to formatting for the vast variety of devices and platforms, this is very difficult.  That was his frustrations yesterday.  Mine was zotzing my Outlook Live.com contacts, etc.  Fortunately, we both basically prevailed.

We failed, however, at coming up with a plan for anything special by which to observe our anniversary.  The weather was lovely -- cool and not humid.  So we strolled about, stopping at two different tapas places.  So many really good ones, run by Spaniards, have opened in the last 10 years here. The walking smoothed out our jagged nerves. The tapas were delicious -- plus I had some of the best wine I've ever drunk, and most flavorful olive oil for dipping and saucing. We planned our fantasy trip to Spain while dipping, nibbling and sighing with pleasure.

We walked back in the dark to our own neighborhood, very mildly buzzing from the two glasses of wine we'd had.  We finished at the Bistro, with champagne and chocolate mousse.  The people were as welcoming and pleased to see us as ever.  Our amigo, the maître d, upon our entrance, immediately programmed Cuban musician Lecuona's magnificent piano on the music system.  The Bistro's front was open to the street and air. It was still too early for the riotous young to throng the sidewalks howling and yelling. Both the street front and the restaurant were quiet (unlike the cavernous tapas restaurants filled with shrieking females, yelling bombastic boys and thud thud thud syntho euro disco pop. We sat with our champers and gazed goofily into each others' eyes, holding hands and talking, talking, talking.

What did we talk about?  

We talked about October, which isn't far away at all.

     . . . . October is filled up, with the Cuba Rumbazo, Baranquilla's Jazz Festival (Colombia) -- and then, the second half, the Veracruz (state), Mexico American Slave Coast event.






We're the lead 'act' so to speak for Vera Cruz's (city) annual Jazz Festival and the accompanying academic symposium at the city's campus of Universidad Veracruzana (the home campus is in Xalapa.   

So, having to put away Far From Anywhere for now, it feels as though I'm working to write a whole new and different Slave Coast as I swot up the research on Mexico. 

Even most US historians do not yet know in their bones, just how different slavery was here, when compared with just about everywhere at every time. They do not understand how thoroughly our economic and social slavery system affected all the aspects of our national history, the consequences of which remain fundamental sources of national conflict today.

So Mexican historians won't know this either. Compared to the Caribbean and Brazil, Venezuela, etc. few Africans were brought to Mexico (the largest percentage to what is now the state of Veracruz), and most of those came in the 16th and 17th centuries. Slavery in Mexico was abolished already in 1829, just as the Cotton Kingdom in Dixie was ramping up and Indian Removal was Jackson's number one priority. 

We're doing the keynote address at the university track of the festival, so the focus has to be on how our slavery, its system and consequent slaveocracy affected Mexico, including the Texas "republic',  the Mexican-American War, the vast territory the US acquired that up to then had been Mexico - New Spain's -- and particularly what it meant that the US possessed previously Mexican California and the Southwest. 

)

Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and wife Charlotte (Carlota) -- the world's most attractive couple -- not!

Further, it has to include the takeover by France during the War of the Rebellion over US slavery, and the Union - US response. 
 In 1866 General Philip Sheridan was in charge of transferring supplies and weapons to the Mexican Liberal army ( by now, of which the Union had a huge surplus), including some 30,000 rifles directly from the Baton Rouge Arsenal in Louisiana. Long before that, while Buchanan was still in office, the Union was deeply concerned about French incursion into its hemisphere. There were desperate proposals from the foundering CSA at the hapless Hampton Roads Conference of 1865 that this terrible war could be over if the US joined forces with the CSA to take France out of Mexico. One can imagine how Lincoln -- and Grant -- snorted at that proposal for peace that would leave slavery intact -- Grant who always maintained that the only reason for the Mexican American War in the first place was to expand slavery.

By 1867, Seward shifted American policy from thinly veiled sympathy to the republican government of Juárez to open threat of war to induce a French withdrawal. Seward had invoked the Monroe Doctrine and later stated in 1868, "The Monroe Doctrine, which eight years ago was merely a theory, is now an irreversible fact."

None of this was the focus of The American Slave Coast. Of course it's reference, but not presented in granular detail, with facts, figures and other stats that are part of presenting and doing seminars with an international cast of Spanish speaking academics, scholars and intellectuals.

The art part, with the music for the Jazz Festival etc., that's all up to Ned and Donald Harrison.  But the academic track, for obvious reasons, is pretty much up to me. I have to research and write it. Then Ned has to translate it into Spanish. it's a lot to get ready in these few short weeks.
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[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Moonbreaker.

A novella by Heather Rose Jones, Three Nights at the Opera (2014), prequel to Daughter of Mystery.

There was indeed a new Catherine Fox, Realms of Glory, delivered to my Kobo well in time to beguile my journeyings. Very good.

Alex Hall, Glitterland (2013): m/m contemporary romance, which was an absolute page-turner and I will even give it a degree of pass on the phonetic rendering of Estuarine speech, on the grounds that this might be down to the first-person narrator's attempt to depict Difference.

Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (2016): I had a bit of a problem with the rather gender-stereotypical allocation of science vs magic, and also with the way that both of them, in particular Patricia, are shown as coming to their powers as a result of familial dysfunction and school bullying (are US high schools really quite so generally toxic as literature would have me believe?), which is not that dissimilar in its rather Spartan overtones to the ethos of the military school to which Laurence is briefly sent. But I read on.

Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (2013) - there were parts where I thought this was a bit slow, and possibly about showing off the author's research, but then it all came together with all the threads meshing at the end.

On the go

The end is almost in sight with Prince of Tricksters. Also continuing with Rejected Essays and Buried Thoughts, as and when.

Up next

Well, I have lately had delivered to my Kobo Kate Elliott's Buried Heart (2017), conclusion (?) to the Court of Fives series. But I've also, finally, received Monica Ferris's cozy mystery, Knit Your Own Murder (2016), at last a) out in paperback and b) actually in the mailer received from the seller.

(no subject)

Jul. 26th, 2017 08:59 am
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[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] el_staplador and [personal profile] mrissa!
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . .  "I Don't Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction" by Roxanne Gay runs in today's NY Times Op-Ed section.

NYPL pay wall, so url not link:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/opinion/hbo-confederate-slavery-civil-war.html?


She hits all the points I've made, including the one that people tend to stay far away from, which is art and entertainments' civic, social and moral obligations to the polity.

Why yes, it is odd that whenever there is a reimagining of antebellum slavery and the Civil War, it always is white supremacists win and white supremacists are always in charge.  IOW, this is no alternate history, it is how things always were.  Why don't we reimagine a nation without color coded slavery, or any slavery at all?  Why don't we imagine a nation in which there was no Napoleonic cession of the Louisiana Territory? A reimagining in which Texas and California etc. stayed with Mexico?  Hmmmmm?  Why don't we?????? 

     . . . . That *&^%$#$ McCain did it, by the way.  The Kill Bill has been passed, thanks to his vote and thus the the tie-breaking by the Speaker.

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[personal profile] oursin

I noticed - flitting past me on Twitter the other day - somebody eyerolling at, if not codfishing, some bloke's plaint that watching Dunkirk had made him realise that The Modern Man does not have these Manly Challenges To Rise To -

And being a historian, I thought that, actually, there have been long generations, at least in my country, where most men were not being called upon to take arms and fight, and the general attitude to the soldiery was summed up by Kipling in Tommy.

And that thing about Challenges to Rise To always tends to be seen in a context which leads to e.g. the Battle of the Somme, rather than to being a despised Conscientious Objector, a decision which history may read entirely differently -

Which possibly links on to that thing I also saw flit past me on Twitter apropos of alt-history narratives which allow the viewer to believe that they would be The Resistance, which reminded me of that nasty piece of work Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger going 'where are the good brave causes?', and really, one can think of a few relevant to the 1950s, not to mention, we do not, ourselves, envisage J Porter going off to Spain in the 30s.

And the whole notion of Heroic Actions and somehow, not here, not now.

And I thought, did not my beloved Dame Rebecca say somewhat to this point in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, and while this has the rhetorical universalisation and generalisation to which she was (alas) prone, it does seem relevant to this notion of some kind of masculine Rite de Passage:

All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.

As opposed to, persistently beavering away at the moderately disagreeable in the hopes that it might become a little more agreeable.

Another Disaster

Jul. 25th, 2017 01:01 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . Foolishly,  I thought I'd clear caches this morning.  What I did was zotz my Outlook live mail account, losing everything including my contacts list.  

This being my primary, personal e-mail account, is a serious problem in itself.

BUT!  beyond this!  it seems to have removed my actual live mail e-mail address / name, insisting I use my gmail name / address.  So I'm receiving enormous amounts of ads and junk in the Outlook box, but not anything addressed to my 'name.'

Today's our anniversary.  I really am observing it.  ARGH!!!!!!!

OK.  Restored.  Gads what a waste of three hours.  And there's no one to blame but myself.




Culture Consumed Tuesday

Jul. 25th, 2017 10:50 pm
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[personal profile] vass
Books

Read Ann Leckie's Provenance (in ARC. It's coming out on the 26th of September.) Spider mech, spider mech, does whatever a spider mech does. (Disconcert people, mainly.) This is in the same universe as the Radch trilogy, but in a different region and with different characters, voice, and tone. I have some friends who couldn't get into Ancillary Justice, wanted to like it but found it too hard going, and I would be curious if this one worked better as an entry point for them.

Leckie's repeatedly cited Cherryh as an influence, and if you think of the universe the Ancillary books are set in as like Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, a big canvas covering a lot of territory in time as well as space, then this book in relation to its universe is a bit like a railway junction. It opens some new routes, introduces some new important players, but the most important universe-scale historical events (as opposed to system-scale or planet-scale or individuals) are offstage.

To say more about voice and tone: the Radch books are in first person, and that person is Breq, who is... Breq. Over two thousand years old, and even if you consider the destruction of Justice of Toren as a kind of rebirth, by the point we meet her she's a hypercompetent badass who's been surviving on her own in her single body for nineteen years. Also she's not a human, so there's that.

Ingray isn't Breq. She's very much human (and has an entirely reasonable terror of AIs,) a lot younger (I don't think her exact age is stated, but early twenties would be my guess,) and infinitely less sure of herself. She's also spent her entire life to date having her head messed with by her shitty family. My first two impressions, right from the first three chapters of this book, were: one, you can really tell the author was spending a lot of time in airports when she wrote this; and two, Ingray has the sort of family life where the closer your geographic proximity to your relatives, the more difficulty you have with being a decent person. The rest of this book bore this out (I mean the family, although there were definitely more airport-equivalent scenes too.)

If you're one of the people who disliked Breq because she was "too perfect" (I disagree with you about her being perfect, but) you might find Ingray and her smaller scale problems (compared to entire empires and species) more relatable.

If the Radch trilogy is about personhood and the fight to be recognised as a person when you don't fit a society's definition of who counts as a person, then Provenance about growing into oneself not as a person (that was never in question for Ingray) but as an adult (a coming of age that, by contrast, Breq never had the luxury of needing.) And if the Radch trilogy is about resisting societal/systemic forces, Provenance is about resisting social, personal pressures (family and peers.)

Finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Binding Thorns. And after this and Provenance I'd like a short break from books about difficult family situations, please! I liked this better than The House of Shattered Wings, but the tone was still bleaker than I usually go for. Characters I particularly liked: Madeleine, back from the previous book; Thuan the dragon prince, and Berith and Francoise the Fallen/human couple trying to manage outside the Houses. Grandmother Olympe, the elder of the community where Berith and Francoise live, was also pretty great. And I warmed more to Asmodeus than I did in the first book.

Unfortunately, I think I'm the wrong audience for this. The things The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns do well (decayed elegance, gothicism, Paris, fallen angels), they do really well, but they're not things I particularly love (I don't dislike them, they're just not my catnip.) So, like, I can't actually rave about these books, but I do want to wave them really hard at people who do love those things.

Comics

Some zines I ordered from Rooster Tails's Etsy store showed up, and he kind of threw in a bunch of queer fanart glossy note cards (maybe to make up for a delay, idk, I'm not complaining!) and they're so beautiful and I didn't know I needed a picture of Daria holding Jane's hand and saying "I hate you the least," or adorably cartoony Finn smooching Poe, or cartoony Gabrielle climbing Xena like a tree, but I definitely did need those things. Now I'm trying to decide whether to keep or send to people.

The zines are #my gender is..., three tiny A6 cardbound volumes made in response to answers people gave the author when he asked people to fill in the blank.

Mainlined 17776, which is web based multimedia rather than comics, but I'm putting it in this category because what everyone's comparing it to is Homestuck. It's about satellites watching football in an unimaginably future, but also post-scarcity/post-singularity anxiety and Millennialism (as in epochs, as well as as in snake people) and play as the ultimate point of human existance, and it's funny and elegiac and cool and reminds me of David Foster Wallace in some ways.

That said, it is worth talking about who's at the centre of this narrative. No, not robots. No, not humans. Americans. White, suburban, minivan-driving, 80s-and-90s-born Americans. So conflated with the essential nature of humanity that they don't even notice they're doing it. Even the probes are two American probes and one European (but not Russian) one. I mean, Mangalyan does exist, you know? And so does Chang'e 2 and Kirari. And Libertad I and Fajr and... I mean, not all of those are still in space, or left Earth's orbit, but they could. Not to mention that it's science fiction and at the present date JUICE is still in development, why not a future Ghanaian or Iranian satellite mission? Which is not even my point, my point is that the regressive fantasy that the humans fall back into when faced with the crushing boredom of their eternal lives is... the 1960s and 1970s but without the race riots or Stonewall or Watergate.

It's still a good story/multimedia work/thing, and I still enjoyed it. I just... that particular nostalgic fantasy makes me very tired sometimes. And no, not tired in a way that makes me want to give up on the weary work of human endeavour/struggle/progress to take refuge in looking back down at the things that are really important to us/humanity, i.e. a sport which people in my country don't play.

TV and Movies

Watched the first episode of Black Sails. Was unimpressed. I hear it gets better, though. Flint's fury at the stolen log page reminded me of this.

Music

Gave my sister the Hamilton soundtrack for Christmas last year or her birthday this year (I forget which -- my gift-giving punctuality standards are seriously slipping at the moment.) Success: she's hooked. Very hooked.

Games

Third week of [community profile] hexarchate_rpg. So far haven't panicked and run away yet (me, not my character) so that's good.

Still playing Binding of Isaac. In one especially good run, I met Isaac's mother for the first time, and defeated her! Which meant that, next time I got to that level, defeating her led to having to climb into her womb and fight more monsters there. Which... is definitely a narrative choice a person could make.

Started playing Hexcells, a puzzle game; not to be confused with Hexels, a different puzzle game. The latter is like 2048 but in three directions not two; the former is kind of like a griddler/nonogram, but in three directions and its own specific language of clues. Played all the way through Hexcells, then started Hexcells Plus. Got the Perfectionist achievement for the original Hexcells. Then Hexcells Plus. Then started Hexcells Infinite, and am at 90% of that.

The problem with me and Hexcells is not the logic. I'm not super great at the logic, but with time and effort and occasional appeals to online walkthroughs I can succeed (usually by speaking the chain of logic out loud over and over because I can't hold the branches in my head long enough otherwise.) The problem is that that one of the achievements is to do all the games with zero (or only one) mistakes, and the way my brain works (or the way my working memory doesn't work) it's very easy for me to make one stupid error too many and ruin an hour of work. Which is really frustrating and upsetting. At least Hexcells Infinite lets you save your progress. The first two games didn't, so if you need a break before finishing the level, you have to leave the app open.

Garden

The compost bin is full. That took about three months to fill a 220L bin. I had to look up what one does once the bin's full. Leave it to cure for a month or so while starting a new bin, apparently. Or alternatively, lift the bin off the compost (it doesn't have a bottom) and set it down next to the compost, shovel whatever still looks like vegetable peelings and cat litter back into the bin, and use whatever just looks like soil to grow things. (But not herbs and vegetables, because this is cat litter compost, so it's contaminated with toxoplasmosis. This compost can nourish pretty flowers and Native Plants To Encourage Local Species.)

Food

Baked scones. Also tried out a couple of recipes from my long backlog of bookmarked Recipes To Try Someday:

- Jack Monroe's Queen of Hearts jam tarts recipe. Not too bad given how seldom I make pastry. If you have fifty grams of butter and a scant cup of plain flour and some jam, this is an okay thing to do with those ingredients, but the scones were better.

- AoM Bratwurst Sandwich. This contains one thing I eat normally (mustard), one thing I've had decades ago but haven't cooked with (bratwurst), and two things I hadn't had before (sauerkraut, pumpernickel.) The bratwurst and mustard and sauerkraut were good. The pumpernickel... yeah, no, next time I make this I'll just use a dark rye.

I could have adapted to the flavour, but its lack of structural integrity meant that according to the Earl of Sandwich litmus test this is not even a sandwich. (i.e. "I pretend I am the original Earl of Sandwich. I have asked for non-bread foods to be brought to me inside bread, that I might more easily consume them one-handed while gambling. This does not enable my wretched regency habits. This is not what I asked for. I do not deign to grace it with the name of my house.")

This would fall apart in his hand, scattering boiled rye grains all over his elaborate necktie and playing cards.

Admittedly, the degree of difficulty was higher for me since I had to eat it one-handed while fending off a very interested black and white cat with the other hand.

Other

Broke my daily meditation streak at 219 days. Very pissed off about it, in a not zen at all way. The last time this happened it was at 149 days. Forming habits is hard for me. (This is not a request for reassurance or advice. Especially not advice.) Took four days off meditating out of pique.

Cats

Have been fighting a lot these last few days. At first I thought Beatrice was the main instigator, but last night while she was aggressively licking Dorian, I saw him nip her.

He hasn't learned to lift the toilet lid yet, but it's hard for me to remember to leave it down since my already established habit was to close the door but leave the lid up.

(no subject)

Jul. 25th, 2017 09:27 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] adair and [personal profile] owlfish!

Dear Crossovering writer or artist

Jul. 24th, 2017 04:09 pm
isis: (gryffindor sheppard)
[personal profile] isis
Dear writer or artist! Thank you for offering to create a fanwork crossing over two of these sources. As long as you generally stick with things I like and avoid things I dislike, I will love your story or artwork even if it doesn't take on any of my prompts, which are only suggestions. I am [archiveofourown.org profile] Isis on AO3.

Some general stuff about my tastes: For written works, explicit sex (slash, het, or femslash) is okay, non-explicit sex is okay, no sex is okay, but any sex should be in believable language for the source, and there should be more to the story than just PWP. If you choose to write a sex scene, I prefer those that focus on emotions and perceptions rather than on the mechanics of what goes where, and I am rather vanilla in my preferences where kink is concerned: mouths, hands, genitals, toys, all are fine, but I'm not into BSDM or bloodplay or watersports or anything that might get a special tag. Gen is a-okay with me too. For art, I prefer R-rated art to NC17-rated art, and I'm totally happy with lower-rated art.

I have made some prompts and suggestions, but feel free to take things in whatever direction you like and/or include characters I haven't mentioned. I like: historical/worldbuildy detail, scenery porn, non-explicitly-detailed sex, ghost stories, supernatural elements, what-if AUs, original characters. My favorite tropes are time travel, bodyswap, and afterlife stories, though I'm perfectly happy with an entirely canonical scenario. In general I'm not a fan of AU that completely changes the setting, but if you have a brilliant idea, go for it; I would prefer "interesting" to "mundane" AUs, e.g., in SPAAAACE yes, coffeeshop no. (Coffeeshop in SPAAAACE, okay!). Except as noted, I would like happy endings and no major character death (unless it's canonical and results in ghost-fic).

For fic, I generally prefer plot (as in, things happening; doesn't have to be elaborate or long – as contrasted with character studies), past tense (either first person or third person – I don't like second person), and lots of dialogue. But these are preferences, not hard DNWs, and if you have a brilliant idea that requires second person or present tense, go ahead. My only hard preferences are for conventional pronouns, capitalization, and punctuation.

For art, I am happier with AU than in fic. I am totally fine with simple portraits, though if you want to show characters interacting, I have a soft spot for art in which one character is doing something typical-but-alarming, and the other is rolling his or her eyes, or reacting with horror, or getting ready to douse them with a bucket of water, or whatever. I like line drawings as well as full color. Stylistically, I love interesting and experimental compositions, unusual perspectives, emphasis on textures such as hair and clothing, and scenery porn (Mountains! Trees! Cliffs with water crashing on them! Brooding ruins of an ancient castle!)

This is a placeholder and will be edited to add specific fandom likes and prompts. )
al_zorra: (Default)
[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . Quote:
She was born to royalty in British colonial Burma, but rejected that life to become a cross-dressing warlord whose C.I.A. supplied army established opium trade routes across the Golden Triangle.
 
 
Not thriller copy but The New York Times! 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/world/asia/burmese-warlord-olive-yang.html? 

As thrilling as the first clauses are, the final one that is the shocker: " whose C.I.A. supplied army . . . ." Well, probably not. We know how much the US forces of every kind got involved for fun and profit in the southeast Asian drug traffic in the 70's. Did they ever quit it, one wonders? They pulled that shyte during Reagan to fund illegal operations in the 80's. we know. 

In the meantime I woke to temps in the 60's! Wonderful. 

And rain. 

We had such a nice time yesterday, late afternoon and evening, up on Harlem's Jumel Terrace A real backyard bbq (I ate none of it or anything else either as my appetite is still rather repressed from the days of heat, pollution and humidity), filled with a variety of guests that we have known for so long, from the great African scholars like HD and DD, including Robert Farris Thompson, to all those Cuban musicians that el V's been working with one way and another -- plus beloved C&K. It was very humid, and very crowded. About 6:30 we departed for C&K's own brownstone around the corner, for a more quiet get-together. We also lucked out -- the subways came quickly, were not packed and suffered no delays, going up or coming back. 

A passel of the guests are going together as ethnomusicologists / anthropologists / comparative art historians, etc. to Cuba in 10 days. Some of them haven't been back there in quite some time so they had lots of questions for el V. The biggest change in the last year, even since the last time he (and I) were there, in March is -- the Russians are back! El V said they were everywhere, as tourists, not ag advisors or whatever, but tourists. One Russian Aeroflot plane after another was arriving or taking off from the José Martí airport. He added in these intervening years it had been such a relief not to see Russians or hear about Russia.  

So one wonders what this about in terms of Putin's Russia. They are in deep economic stagnation. Cuba did a great deal to bankrupt the old Soviet Union. Now it owes some billions to Putin's Russia for oil and gas and other large ticket items.

[ It being the NY Times paywall here is the url, not a link:]

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/23/world/europe/trump-putin-sanctions-hacking.html?

The romperitler is going to have sign the bill for further economic sanctions against Putin's Russia, while laundering huge amounts for his pal Putin and many others. At the same time he is determined to force himself into Cuba's hotel industry or destroy it if he can't have his way. 

What will happen on that island in the Caribbean in the next 6 months, caught between Putin and romperitler cray cray? 

What will happen to NYC in the next 6 months, caught between two a$$holes that NYC hates, two a$$holes that hate NYC? The romperitler is considering replacing Sessions with Giuliani. How much humiliation is Sessions prepared to up with put? 






In the meantime Ned is thinking that this Central Cuban trip in January, going to the very poorest towns in Cuba, the still functioning centrales (sugar mills), the little towns where the sugar industry is centered -- and which are still generating original culture just as in the days of slavery and up to the Revolution (many of them are of Haitian descent, so lots of vodoun, who came as braceros at the last part of the 19th and first part of the 20th century -- may well be too arduous for me. That el V would even consider this is the case, speaks volumes for how difficult it will be. This is for hard core ethnomusicologists, musicians, etc., perhaps. I am not them.



And then, today, el V got an invitation to go at WOMAX's expense back to Havana in September for a special Cuban international music expo -- centered in el teatro de Alicia Alonso.  This is a gorgeous theater.  Experiencing a ballet performance there is one of my most treasured memories.

So much Cuba in our lives!

 

So, anyway, excursion to Darmstadt

Jul. 24th, 2017 05:04 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

This involved a certain amount of faff and hassle about making sure we were buying the right kind of ticket for the train which would also give us free rides on public transport, ascertaining which platform the train in the right direction left from, etc etc. And then when we arrived a) finding the right stop for the tram b) missing the stop we wanted and being carried on to a point we didn't want.

Except it turned out to be right around the corner from Hundertwasser's Waldspirale apartment block, which was on the list of things to see.

After which we wandered down in the direction of the Schloss (which can only be seen by way of guided tours, we passed) and had what was a rather more leisurely lunch than we had intended at the Altes Rathaus before going to the Hessische Landesmuseum, based on the collections of the Grand Dukes, which has some nice stuff.

We then went out to Mathildenhöhe, which was where the artists of the Jugendstil Art Nouveau movement hung out. This includes a Russian Orthodox Church (not particularly Art Nouveau) and the Hochzeitsturm, Marriage Tower, which looks as if it might be the HQ of one of those somewhat spooky early C20th New Agey cults that crop up in mysteries of the period, and a rather small museum (but I think part of it was closed) of furniture and objects created by the artists of the colony.

And then back to Frankfurt, whence we flew home today.

***

And in other news, spotted this in today's Guardian: the strange world of book thefts:

“We caught a gent last Christmas with £400-worth of stolen books in his trousers and elsewhere.... As we showed him the door he told us: ‘I hope you’ll consider this in the Žižekian spirit, as a radical reappropriation of knowledge.’”
As an anarchist friend of a friend remarked when his car was nicked, 'Property is theft: but so is theft theft'.

(no subject)

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:42 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] heyokish!

Brainstorming For Yuletide

Jul. 23rd, 2017 06:12 pm
calliopes_pen: (lost_spook will serve for lives)
[personal profile] calliopes_pen
I am compiling a list of things I would want to see nominated (or might nominate on my own) when Yuletide nominations do open in September. These are what I am currently taking into consideration:

-Makt Myrkranna | Powers of Darkness - Valdimar Ásmundsson
-The Haunting (1963)
-The Innocents (1961)
-The Uninvited (1944)
-Dark Shadows (1991)
-Dracula - Bram Stoker
-Dracula (TV 1968)
-Count Dracula (1977)
-Nosferatu (the 1979 remake) -Hammer Horror Films
-Universal Monster Movies
-Crimson Peak (2015)
-Fright Night (1985)
-Ghostbusters (Movies 1984-1989)
-The Last Unicorn (1982)

At the moment, I suspect that I’ll be nominating Makt Myrkranna (the Icelandic version of Stoker's Dracula that I discussed a while back) in that first slot. Either Dracula (TV 1968) or Dracula - Bram Stoker would go in the second slot unless someone else eventually nominated either one of those.

If it were going to be being released sooner than December, I would be able to add Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water to my list of potential things to throw in there.

Oh, and on a note that doesn’t involve Yuletide: I finally watched Jack The Ripper (1988), and I loved it.

No culinary activity, obvs

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:50 pm
oursin: The Accomplisht Ladies' Delight  frontispiece with a red cross through it (No cooking)
[personal profile] oursin

Today, in spite of various travel muddles and confusions, we went to Darmstadt. However, possibly more detail when I am less tired and it's not so late in a long day.

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