Don't Drink and Drink

Jul. 24th, 2017 10:41 am
handful_ofdust: (Default)
[personal profile] handful_ofdust
Just came back from the States again, after serving as co-Guest of Honor with Laird Barron and Weston Ochse at Necon 2017. Everyone's been telling me what a great time that is, and heigh-ho, turns out they're right! Though I could probably have done without literally drinking myself into a blackout on the last night.

Me: "Yeah, I have a vague recollection of being in Catherine Grant's hotel room, and then the next thing I knew I was waking up at 11:30 AM. My underwear was lying on the floor, totally soaking wet; I had my pants on inside out and backwards, and my shoes were shoved so far down the bottom of the bed I couldn't find them for five solid minutes. So I packed really quickly, went outside and asked the first person I saw what I might have done during the portion of the night I couldn't remember. 'Nothing I heard about!' he replied, cheerfully."

Sovay: "That's hilarious. And sort of horrifying."

Me: "Yep."

Well, it is what it is. The rest was wonderful, and I'm an adult; I made my choices. And now I'm home.
sovay: (Haruspex: Autumn War)
[personal profile] sovay
I do not think after all that I have read Nicholas Stuart Gray's The Apple-Stone (1965); I think I have just read a lot of E. Nesbit, Mary Norton, and Edward Eager, all of whom are obviously in the DNA of a novel about five children—the English narrator and his two sisters plus their Scottish cousins who are known collectively as "the Clans"—who find a strange, ancient, sentient power that brings magic into their lives for about a week and then moves on, leaving mostly memories and just a few things changed for good.

"One touch from me animates the inanimate," boasts the Apple-Stone, the "small, bright, golden ball, about the size of a marble" that assisted in the birth of the universe and gave rise to the myth of the Golden Apples of the Sun; the children find it on the highest bough in the orchard, like a Sappho fragment come to life, and they make enlightening, foolish, dangerous, and kind use of it over the next twelve chapters until it returns to the earth to sleep and restore its power and find another apple tree to bloom from, decades or centuries hence. Most of their adventures have a comic slant, as when they animate the decrepit hearthrug to settle a bet over what kind of animal it came from and never find out because they spend the day having confused their "Lambie" with an actual escaped leopard prowling the moors, or have to play detectives for a lost glove weeping bitterly over being separated from its beloved right hand ("I'm deeply attached to it. I love it"), or create an intelligent, talkative, opera-loving sheep about twice the size of a Great Dane for reasons that make sense at the time. Sometimes the comedy turns spooky, as when they accidentally animate a feather boa and get Quetzalcoatl, who not unreasonably expects a sacrifice for incarnating when called, or an episode with a formerly model rocket triggers an international incident and science fiction, or the narrator discovers an unexpected and unwanted affinity for night flight on a witch's broom. An interlude with an effigy of a Crusader constitutes the kind of history lesson that would fit right into Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill (1906), as some of the children have their romantic illusions punctured and some come away with an interest in astrology and medicinal plants. And the two weirdest, most numinous chapters are the reason I can't be one hundred percent sure that I didn't read this book a long, long time ago: the life and death of the Bonfire Night guy that is partly the sad, passionate ghost of Guy Fawkes and partly a pyromaniac patchwork of the five children whose castoffs and imagination gave it form (as it explains in one of its more lucid moments, "Everyone is a mixture, you know, and I'm more so than most") and the introduction of new magic when the weeping gargoyle off a nearby church turns out to be the stone-trapped form of a medieval demon named "Little Tom," a wild, ragged, not quite human child in tricksterish and forlorn search of a witch to be familiar to. Both of them gave me the same half-echo as Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew (1953), again without any of the language coming back to me. I might run it by my mother to see if she remembers bringing it home when I was small. On the other hand, it might just be that I know [personal profile] ashlyme and [personal profile] nineweaving.

The Apple-Stone is the second book I've read by Gray and The Seventh Swan (1962) almost doesn't count, since I know I read it in elementary school and all I can remember is that it upset me more than the original fairy tale, which I suspect means I should re-read it. I like this one a lot, non-magical parts included. We learn early on that the parents of the English family are the puppeteers behind the popular TV show Ben and Bet Bun and absolutely none of their children think once of bringing the Buns or the Foxies to life because they find the whole thing desperately embarrassing. (The Clans' parents are rocket scientists and the narrator envies them deeply. "We're fond of our Mum and Dad, and hope they may grow out of it in time.") The children as a group are a believable, likeable mix of traits and alliances, differentiated well beyond obvious tags like Jo's academic crazes or Nigel's artistic talent or Douglas' belligerence or Jemima's imperiousness or Jeremy's daydreaming. They fight almost constantly with one another—the Clans especially, being composed of one Campbell and one Macdonald, are engaged in the kind of dramatic ongoing feud that is half performance art and half really blowing off steam—but close ranks immediately against outsiders, even supernatural ones:

"But I must tell you straight, gentles, that I can't do much of the true Black Art," said the gargoyle. "I'm not one of the great ones. I was never aught but a very little 'un. Horrid tricks I can manage," it added, boastfully, "like makin' folks squint, or muddling their minds, or twisting their tongues so that they stammers and stutters—"

"I c-can do that without your help!" snapped Nigel, going red.

"And I'm muddleheaded enough for everyone," I said, quickly.

"No, you're not!" said Jo, fiercely. "And Nigel only stutters when he's away from his home." Then she turned on the gargoyle. "You'll do no horrid tricks, do you hear? We're not sorcerers. We brought you here to help you."

The creature was still changing during all of this . . . Its hair was long and black, and tangled. Its ears were still pointed, though not as huge and batlike as before. It gave us a scornful grin, and said, "Many sorcerers don't care to admit to it."


If you have not read this novel, you can probably tell by now if you're going to like it. The Nesbit it reminds me of most is The Enchanted Castle (1907), but it feels like itself and it feels like its own time, which is equally important. I am actively sad that the near-fine UK first edition I saw at Readercon cost sticker shock—the library copy I just finished reading is the American first edition and the illustrations really didn't work for me. (I'm sorry, Charles Keeping! Your work for Alan Garner, Mollie Hunter, and Rosemary Sutcliff was great!) Maybe sometime I'll get lucky at the Strand. In any case, the text is what matters most and that I recommend. It is good at the strangeness of things that are not human and it never risks making even the cute ones twee. It's good at children's priorities and the ways that not being an adult doesn't mean not seeing the world. I didn't quote much of a descriptive passage, but I like its language. Anyone with other favorite novels by Nicholas Stuart Gray, please let me know.

Everyone make their best dead faces

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:55 am
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
I did not make it to the last day of Necon due to circumstances falling through, but fortunately [personal profile] handful_ofdust was flying back to Toronto from Boston, so I took the time-honored Sunday combination of very slow buses, trains, and shuttles out to Logan Airport and had a splendid time hanging out for two hours before her flight, even if I still miss being able to walk people to their gates and wave them off onto the plane. We had dinner and talked about everything from neurodiversity to Orson Krennic, Imperial Poseur; I came away richer by a binder of DVDs (through which [personal profile] spatch is happily poring as we speak: "We could watch Moana! You know you've also got Deathgasm? Ooh, Night of the Comet. Logan, that's good") and a Gemma-made necklace of amethyst, pearls, gold and amber glass beads, and a frosted-glass pendant that used to be an earring. Coming back, I foolishly thought it would be faster to cut over to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing and that is how I spent forty-five minutes asleep in a sitting position on a bench at Sullivan Station because there were no buses and I was very tired. The air was cool and smelled like the sea. The cats came and curled up with me in the last of the sunlight when I got home. Worth it.
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
The next three episodes are a minor arc: the first two end mid-conversation. This is the arc that got me obsessed with the show—not only was the emotional dimension compelling, but I was catching Mei Changsu in the act of greatness, showing us how he does it. And the conversations about the past, about political expediency and loyalty and so forth resonated to the backs of my eyeballs, all the more considering the daily news here, focused on politicians from whom absolutely nothing can be believed or trusted, whatsoever. Nothing. It’s such a horrible, helpless feeling as we watch the limits of democracy tested, that watching a show in which people with good intentions slowly gain agency to the benefit of the innocent pretty much took over my life for the duration.

And it helps that the actors are all so gorgeous, the clothes jaw-droppingly beautiful, the sets all places I would dearly love to live in myself.

Anyway, Marquis Xie is shaping up for a major power play, thinking that he is maneuvering behind the scenes while his targets fumble in the light of day. But as yet he doesn’t know that he is quietly being outpaced, step by step . . .
Read more... )
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I don't know if I saw relatives of mine this afternoon.

My grandfather's father was born in Lodz. He was the eldest of six siblings, three sisters, three brothers; the family owned a textile mill in the city and the father was a Talmudic scholar of some repute. My great-grandfather was expected to continue in his father's religious footsteps; instead, after a stint in the Imperial Russian Army (from which he must have deserted, because he sure didn't serve twenty-five years), he became what my grandfather once memorably described as a "Zolaesque freethinker" and emigrated to America in 1912. One of his brothers followed him; though we're no longer in contact with them (a little thing about declaring my mother ritually dead when she married my father), his descendants live in Florida. Another brother is buried in Israel, though I'm not sure how or when he got there—his older children were born in Lodz, his later ones in Tel Aviv. None of the sisters made it out of Poland alive. The middle one I have almost no information about, except that Lodz is listed as her place of death. (Her children survived: they too turn up later in Israel.) The eldest and the youngest died—as far as I know, with their families—in Chełmno and Auschwitz. These are the cousins who feel like closer ghosts than they should, dying in 1942 and 1945, because their descendants would have been no farther from me in blood than [personal profile] gaudior. They are loose ends, like other family stories. I don't know what there is to be known of them anymore.

Because the exhibit is closing in a week, my mother and I went to the MFA this afternoon to see Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross. If you live in the Boston area, I don't say it's a light day out, but it's worth your time. Ross was one of the few survivors of the Lodz Ghetto, a staff photographer employed by the Judenrat. He was supposed to take the nice pictures of the ghetto, to document how productively and well the Jews were getting along under Nazi supervision; he used his license to take the ones that were not so nice, dead-carts instead of bread-carts, chain-link and barbed wire, the sick and the starving, the broken walls of a synagogue. He documented the resistance of living, which sometimes looked like defiance and sometimes like collaboration: the slight, quietly smiling man who rescued the Torah scroll from the smashed-brick ruins of the synagogue, the young wife and plump child of a Jewish policeman like the ones seen—perhaps he's among them—assisting a crowd of Jewish deportees aboard the boxcars that will take them to Auschwitz. Pale Jude stars are so omnipresent in this black-and-white world that even a scarecrow wears one, as if to remind it to confine its trade to non-Aryan fields. Ross took about six thousand photographs total; in the fall of 1944, as the ghetto was being liquidated, he buried the negatives as a kind of time capsule, not expecting to survive himself to recover them. He was still alive and still taking pictures of the depopulated ghost town the ghetto had become when the Red Army liberated it in January 1945. His face cannot be seen in the photograph of him reclaiming his archive because he's the figure at the center of the grinning group, the one bending to lift a crusted box from the dug-up earth. Groundwater had rendered about half the negatives unsalvageable, but rest could be developed, warped, nicked, bubbled, and sometimes perfectly clear, their damaged emulsion showing scars and survival. He published some in his lifetime. He never arranged the complete series to his satisfaction. My mother would have seen him on television in 1961 when he testified against Eichmann. The MFA has a clip of an interview with him and his wife Stefania née Schoenberg—his collaborator and another of the ghetto's 877 Jewish survivors—eighteen years later in Israel, describing how he took his covert photographs hiding his camera inside his long coat, how just once he snuck into the railway station at Radogoszcz to record the last stages of a deportation, the freight train to the "frying pan" of Auschwitz itself. He died in 1991. It is said that he never took a picture again.

(I know there are philosophical questions about photographs of atrocity: how they should be looked at, what emotions they may have been intended to evoke, to what degree it is or is not appropriate to judge them as art. I'm not very abstract here. They were taken to remember. You look at them to make sure you do. What you feel is your own business; what you do with the knowledge of the history had damn well better concern other people.)

My great-grandfather's sisters would have been deported from the Lodz Ghetto. Their death dates even match the major waves of deportation to their respective camps. I have no idea what either of them looked like. I have seen maybe two photos each of my grandfather's parents: aunts and uncles, nothing. I'm not saying the photos don't exist. My grandfather had a sister; she may have inherited a better pictorial record. But I haven't seen it. And looking for people who look like my grandfather is no help; Henry Kissinger went through a period of looking like my grandfather and that was awkward for everybody. Any older woman might have been either one of them, any older man one of their husbands, any young people their children, any children their grandchildren. None of them might have been my family. Maybe theirs were among the images destroyed by the winter of 1944, as unrecoverable as their bodies. Maybe they were never captured on film at all. I wouldn't know. I don't know. I pored over faces and thought how beautiful so many of these people were (not beautiful because of their suffering: bone and expression, the kinds of faces that are beautiful to me), how many of them looked like both sides of my mother's family. Almost no one was identified by name. Maybe no one knows these people by name anymore. I hope that's not true.

You can look through the contents of Henryk Ross' archive yourself. They are, like most photographs, historical and modern prints both, better in person. We left the museum and had dinner at Bronwyn both because we lucked out parking two blocks from the restaurant in the middle of a street fair and because it was Eastern European food and it felt symbolic that we were here to eat it, even if I am pretty sure that a Hungarian-inflected chorizo dog is food of my people only in the sense that I personally would order it again because it tasted great. I did some badly overdue grocery shopping and caught the closing performance of the PMRP's Murders and Scandals: Poe and Doyle and spent nearly the entire cast party upstairs reading the scripts for the second through the fourth seasons of Babylon 5 (1993–98) and as much of the fifth season as doesn't suck. Autolycus fell asleep on my lap almost as soon as I sat down at my computer and I haven't been able to move from this chair for hours. I can't imagine what the world looks like in which I have so many more cousins of the degree of Gaudior, although I know that I am tired of fictional versions in which neither of us would even be here (the same goes for other atrocities, imagined worse for purposes of entertainment). Maybe in that other world, we have more family photographs. Maybe we're not in contact with them, either. Maybe I still don't have faces to go with the names. It doesn't matter if they were all strangers, though, the people from this afternoon and more than seventy years ago: they were alive. They are worth remembering. Especially now, they are worth remembering why.

"Close enough for jazz"

Jul. 23rd, 2017 03:13 am
rosefox: Me snuggling a giant teddy bear, entirely contented. (sleeping)
[personal profile] rosefox
Vacation to-do list/wishlist summary: not too bad! Especially given that today was totally eaten by stressful unexpected circumstances. (Everyone is fine now.)

Things without deadlines (fun):

* Watch Voltron: Legendary Defender and do some knitting
* Stroll in the Botanic Gardens (I didn't do this but did go read in the park near our house)
* Maybe steal the baby from daycare early one day and get extra baby time
* Read (three books! in one week!)
* Cook
* Lunch with my mom
* Sleeeeeeeep

Things without deadlines (productive):

* Shower and dress in real clothes every day (mostly)
* Tidy room enough for vacuuming
* Unpack
* Vacuum (well, I swept, but it's pretty clean underfoot now)
* Catch up on laundry
* Celebrate the 1st anniversary of Story Hospital (!)
* Call insurance company about that bill
* Call doctor's office about that prior auth
* Finish setting up Tinybeans
* Remake OT appointment for next week
* Do a family Readercon debrief/postmortem

Oh dear

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:00 pm
cupcake_goth: (Default)
[personal profile] cupcake_goth
I have learned that there is a whole world of DIY kits for steeping/infusing your own bitters, that come with all of the "bitter" herbs and spices in the correct proportions. Just add them to alcohol with whatever fruit, flowers, or spices you want, infuse for a couple of weeks, strain out the solids and simmer them with some water, mix the two liquids together, and bottle.

I am very, VERY tempted by this. Because no one is making rose bitters right now, and I am almost out. HOW AM I TO MAINTAIN MY FANCY EXISTENCE WITHOUT ROSE BITTERS, I ASK YOU?

I know, I know, I don't need any more hobbies. But rose bitters! And it's not like I can enjoy rose syrup any more ...

Attention tax

Jul. 22nd, 2017 09:32 pm
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

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

One of the things that has been making me furious about sexual harassment lately–secondary to all the other things that make me furious about it–is the attention tax it imposes on women. The time spent figuring out whether there’s enough evidence for us to be taken seriously this time, whether the people who were in the “surely you misinterpreted” and “that doesn’t mean what it blatantly means” camp last time will finally take us seriously, the time spent recovering from someone shouting in our faces and someone else grabbing our asses, the time sharing stories and pooling information and cleaning up messes and figuring out what to do, what we can do, what we have the power to do. That is time not spent on other things that are frankly a whole hell of a lot more interesting.

When it’s in convention terms, the time spent discussing who did what and what to do and letting the adrenaline settle and coping is time not spent on ideas for books and stories and where to go with them. It is very directly a tax on attention that could and should be going toward work. And it makes me exhausted and resentful, and then I try to corral my attention back to my work, because that is a far, far better place for it to be. I have directly observed that when I am at a con where people are dealing with an ongoing situation of this type, I come back with far, far less in the way of inspired notes for new projects–not just coming away drained instead of energized, but the specifics of what business are we doing here, where is our attention going.

I’m lucky. I know a lot of good men. I know a lot of good straight, white men. One of the benefits of this is that when a straight, white dude is an asshole, I am clear that it is artisanal assholery that he is hand-crafting by choice, not a trait he can’t avoid by his demographics. And a lot of good straight, white men have been stepping up to share the work of dealing with sexual harassment on a community level. I appreciate it. I do. But that is a choice they are making. Statistically, on average, the nonconsensual part, the part where you have to cope with the fallout of being harassed again, the part where it happens several times in a row and then it’s on your mind and you go into the next professional situation having to have a plan for how to cope–that’s a drain on your time and attention that you cannot have back, that other people can help with structurally but not in the moment. They can donate their time but not hand you back yours, not give you back those hours and days of working on the situation and processing and coping. It can happen to men. It does happen to men. And as one woman I know never loses an opportunity to point out, it does not happen to every woman. But statistically, on average, it is an attention tax that falls much, much more heavily on women, for things that we did not ask for and cannot change.

It’s not just sexual harassment. This is not the only attention tax, and I don’t mean to talk as though it is. Racist bullshit and the people who visit it upon people of color? That is, among other worse things, an attention tax on those people of color. Having to cope with accessibility issues and prejudice against the disabled? Attention tax. Homophobia and other forms of anti-queer assholery? Attention tax. Navigating the world while neurodiverse, even in ways that do not feel like a disability internally, among people who are going to be utter jerks to any hint of non-neurotypicality? Attention tax. And while I’ve talked about men and women above, the amount of attention tax that falls on gender-nonconforming and non-binary people gets mind-bogglingly larger the more gender-policing the subculture they’re interacting with gets. One of the fundamental questions is: how much jerkitude are people going to blithely shovel on you for being you and then skip along with their day, and how much will that pull away from the focus you need to do your stuff that you do.

Do I imagine I’m the first to observe this? Hardly. But “show don’t tell” is hardly new advice, either, and writers get blog posts out of that several times a year. What I’m saying to you is: this is affecting the work of people you know and care about. All the time. It doesn’t have to. It is literally all entirely voluntary. The thing I said above about artisanal bullshit: last month I got very tired of people saying “so that’s a thing that happened” when they were describing a choice someone made. So let’s not do that. Let’s not ascribe to fundamental forces things that are actual bad choices people are making.

And also: people who are doing work through all these attention taxes, who are managing to push it aside and fight their way through to focusing on making something awesome: I see you. I appreciate you. I’m sorry it’s like this. I keep hoping that some of the draining work will gain us some ground and it will be long-term less necessary. But in the meantime, thanks for clawing back some of your own in the face of it. It’s so hard, and it matters so much.

juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
[personal profile] juushika
Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children Book 2)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Published: Tor, 2017
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 190
Total Page Count: 222,575
Text Number: 708
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A pair of unhappy twins girls discover the Moors, a dangerous portal world which will redefine their characters. This follows their lives from birth and has a slow start: to spend 20% of a portal fantasy within a stifling parody of suburbia is distinctly unmagical. But the Moors are fantastic—not perfect: I wish there were more danger and more moral relativity (especially in Jack's life)—but a Hammer Horror-style world is engaging and atmospheric. And the character growth of the protagonists is sincerely, inextricably tied to their world, which is what this book demands. I loved Every Heart a Doorway for its portal fantasy meta more than its plot, and didn't think I would enjoy the further stories of Jack and Jill when they had been the weakness of the first book. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a more traditional narrative, but its meta elements remain in a present narrator who speaks directly to the reader and directly about the narrative—reminiscent of Valente's Fairyland series (but toned down), not entirely at home in the modern-day frame narrative, but preserving that focus on portal-as-character-growth, on the relationship between person and narrative. I have technical quibbles about this book (I haven't even mentioned the rushed ending), but it exceeded my expectations. There's so much room in my heart for stories which take a diverse, self-aware, dark approach to portal fantasy while maintaining a sense of wonder and aesthetic.


Title: The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen Book 1)
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Published: Blackstone Audio, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 415
Total Page Count: 222,990
Text Number: 709
Read Because: reading more form the author, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review:
In Paris, in the aftermath of a devastating war, a vulnerable house of fallen angels is threatened by both a curse and competing houses. The premise is fantastic and atmospheric: aristocratic in-fighting, diverse and present pantheons, dangerous magic within the decrepit homes and cathedrals of Paris. It's at best indulgent, but at worst overwrought and—unexpectedly—cold. There are things that Bodard consistently does well: significant character growth, socially-complex worldbuilding (Philippe and his background is the easy highlight of this book), and big, magical climaxes. But, while present, those elements are unfulfilling because it takes so long to reach them and the journey is tedious: repetitive phrasing, politcking that reads like bickering, plot intricacies that have more to do with bad communication than true complexity. It feels long—not just longer than it needs to be, but longer than it is. I liked it more than the Obsidian and Blood series (although I'm convinced they could exist in the same universe), but, I suspect, for arbitrary reasons; it isn't good enough to recommend, or to make me read the sequel.


Title: Crucible of Gold (Temeraire Book 7)
Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published: Recorded Books, 2012
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 355
Total Page Count: 223,345
Text Number: 710
Read Because: continuing the series, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Temeraire and Laurence are reinstated and sent on an ambassadorial mission to the Incan Empire. Another rambling book; it does a better job illustrating the ways that alternate history and world forces are shaping the war, and but much of that is still backloaded while traveling and survival make up the bulk of the book. There's some welcome reoccurring characters, and Incan society provides another interesting take on dragon/human social structures, but this too is familiar to the series. As this series grows longer and its individual installments lose their cohesive plots, it lives and dies on the strength of previous investment in the characters and world—and I have that in droves, and will happily read the daily tribulations of Laurence and crew. But this is late in the game to still be waiting for the plot to coalescence and the pacing to pick up.
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
In this next arc, we see the powerful Marquis Xie moving toward securing more power through the oblivious Crown Prince. But he’s not merely the usual rug-chewing bad guy, which makes him so much more interesting. And also unpredictable.

Meanwhile, we are getting to know Xia Dong, Princess Nihuang’s bestie, who still refuses to speak to Prince Jing. She is loyal and honest and a fierce warrior. (And she has a very, very bumpy ride ahead of her.)

Finally, Princess Nihuang is confused and intrigued by this reclusive scholar who has the power to send military aid to a province on the other side of the continent, and yet who refuses to set foot in a falling-down house . . . and we see the building emotional cost to MC when spending more time with the princess and with Jing.

The next few eps are the midpoint of act one, and reach a climax I thought really intense on the first watch. I couldn’t believe that the intensity was going to scale upward exponentially—but it does. And by intensity I don’t mean climbing body counts, which enervate me fast. I mean real, personal stakes. Emotional cost. Political layers with real cost. So much intensity, so much beauty.
Read more... )

Summer brain

Jul. 22nd, 2017 06:29 am
sartorias: (desk)
[personal profile] sartorias
Another book seems to be trying to grab me, so while I veer between ongoing projects and escaping the unrelenting heat with tv watching (more NIF later today) and reading, I'm writing notes and watching the tetris pieces fall and interlock. If they fuse, well, then, that's what I'll be doing.

In the meantime, an interesting discussion, which I hope to wring another BVC blog post out of. (It's getting hard to figure out something to write, but I committed to it, so . . . besides, it's good for me to test my ideas against others. Too easy to get locked inside my head.)

Anyway, the discussion subject was words you don't use. I don't necessarily mean cuss words you avoid, but words that have too much freight for whatever reason. Like, the discussion got started when someone mentioned that when we were growing up, nobody ever said the word 'cancer' or wrote it. Sick, ill, other euphemisms, but she felt that there was this tremendous fear around the word because it was always a death sentence, especially as the constant cigarette atmosphere around us started catching up with people at not very old ages. Saying it was impolite, like saying pregnant (expecting was the word back then), but also there was a kind of superstition like mentioning it would invite it.

Another person said she refuses to use the word 'literally' because she hears it so much, usually used wrong, that is, as an emphasizer, which she sees as sloppy language.

A third person at that discussion said that that was weird, and why avoid any word?

Thoughts?
sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] sovay
A Facebook friend asked: "For my film-loving friends: what are films you hope to see in the Criterion Collection someday? Not just films you love, but films that fit the aesthetic and would make sense as Criterion films." So I posted the following textbrick in reply and figured I might as well reproduce it here, now with (occasionally really old) links:

The complete Derek Jarman, Super 8 shorts and music videos included. Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982), because it has always confused me that you can get the documentary from Criterion but not the film itself. Anything by Ulrike Ottinger, but especially Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia (1989) and Taiga (1992), which one could and should pair. Some kind of box set of Dennis Potter, making sure not to leave out the long-banned original TV version of Brimstone and Treacle (1976). Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's Smoke (1995). Some reasonable amount of Peter Greenaway, but The Pillow Book (1996) and Prospero's Books (1991) in their proper aspect ratio should head the list. Fred Zinnemann's Act of Violence (1948), a knockout noir about memory and atrocity with far less of a reputation than it deserves. Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment (1949), one of the most devastating—and feminist—noirs I've ever seen. John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), Eugene O'Neill's favorite film realization of any of his plays. Ben Wheatley's A Field in England (2013). And while I'm dreaming of ponies, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953).

—There are other movies I'd like to see from Criterion, of course. Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973), especially considering the plethora of versions that have existed over the years (and may still be buried under the M4). I don't know if they'd go for Roy Ward Baker's The October Man (1947) unless it was part of a set of British noir, but seriously, how bad would that be? If they can announce an upcoming release of Agnieszka Smoczyńska's The Lure (2015)—the day after my birthday, I appreciate it—surely they could provide me with a nice edition of Marcin Wrona's Demon (2015). I'm sort of confused they've never done anything by Dorothy Arzner. I'm really confused they haven't already done the Wachowskis' Bound (1996). And so on. Some of it is the definitive home release idea, but a lot of these movies I would just like to be able to show people more easily than 35 mm or unpredictable flybys on TCM.
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
In the next pair of episodes, as Mei Changsu begins his campaign to take down the corrupt court, we start getting to know a couple of very interesting women, both challenging.

And MC walks into another emotional gutting.
Read more... )

F&SF story interview

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:32 am
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

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

I’m back from Boston! I had a lovely time going to Readercon and writing and seeing friends and riding back and forth on the T and wandering up and down Mass Ave. I am now convinced that wandering up and down Mass Ave is a substantial part of what you do in Boston. Things are there. Also, every time you come out of the Harvard T, there is Greer Gilman, so it is written and so it must be.

But other, less eternal things are written, and you can read them! Such as this interview about my story in the July/August issue of F&SF. Interview with me! Things you might want to know! or maybe not, but there it is anyway.

I answered these interview questions in the spring, and one of the things they’re showing me now is that life moves fast. Well. I knew that. And if it’s going to move fast and smell all right while it goes, I’d better get a load of laundry in. More, much more, soon, now that I’m home for awhile.

This is weird. Good, but weird

Jul. 20th, 2017 09:53 pm
cupcake_goth: (Default)
[personal profile] cupcake_goth
Today was the Botox injections day. A total of six injections, one on each side in the muscles at the base of my skull, temple, and jaw. My headache (which had come back sometime last night) started lessening after the first two injections. Now? Now it is COMPLETELY gone. No trace.

Being completely headache-free is WEIRD. Awesome, absolutely! But weird. It's been a very, very long time since I've had that. (Like, years. I don't actually know how long.)

Nothing in my face feels odd or frozen, and I can move it like normal. (So, like a cartoon character, really.) Dr. Ryan the awesome dentist said that I should give him updates over the next couple of weeks, whenever I feel like it over on FB, and OMG we need to go makeup shopping together.)

(He also correctly identified which bunny I brought with me for emotional support. (Merricat.)) I LOVE DR. RYAN WITH A PURE AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

No headache. NO HEADACHE.

The next step is to talk to my doctor and get her help in convincing the insurance company to pay for this treatment every four months. If they won't, then I am seriously considering squeezing the household budget to pay the over-thousand-dollars ourselves, because this feeling is worth it.

---

In Shallow Fashion Craving news, I showed the Stroppy One that skirt from Amazon that I posted here the other night. He Did Not Approve of the graphic design. He liked the idea in theory, but felt the actually quality of the rose print was lacking. This is part of the fun of being married to an artist - they will give you useful feedback when you're looking at fashion.

Hamilkitties!

Jul. 20th, 2017 03:09 pm
rachelmanija: (It was a monkey!)
[personal profile] rachelmanija


Curious Alex.





Erin, waiting for it.

truepenny: photo of the keyboard and raised lid of a 1911 Bluethner grand piano; the inside of the lid has inlaid brass letters reading BLUETHNER LEIPZIG (bluethner 1911)
[personal profile] truepenny
So this year, after a gap of twenty-five years, I started taking piano lessons again, focusing--because I'm an adult and get to choose for myself--on ragtime. There's a bunch of stuff around this decision that does not need to be explored at this juncture, because what I want to talk about is one of the biggest fucking paradigm shifts I've ever experienced.

I learned piano very much in the traditional you-learn-pieces-and-perform-them-at-recitals-and-they-get-progressively-harder mode (also traditional is the nice Lutheran lady teaching piano in her living room), and one of the reasons I started again was that I could work with somebody who went to UW-Madison for music--somebody, in other words, who's been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings not just of music, but of teaching.

Dude rocks my fucking world, I tell you what.

Partly, this is because I'm an adult and I've been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of teaching (I always know when a teacher is using a particular pedagogical technique on me--which interestingly doesn't always make it less effective). I learn differently now and with a different understanding of what "learning" is. This is the place where Csikszentmihalyi has been extremely helpful to me, because I can recognize how a successful learning engagement works. ("Learning experience" would be a better phrase, but it already has connotations that are really kind of the opposite of what I mean.) And the pressure to learn pieces for recitals is mercifully off, which helps, too. But partly it's because this guy approaches music completely differently, bottom up instead of top down.

But the thing that has changed my relationship with my piano is something my teacher said (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was) that made me understand--quite literally for the first time in my life--that fingerings aren't arbitrary and they aren't just put in music so that teachers can judge whether students are obeying them or not. Here's where playing the piano is exactly like rock climbing:

The notes in the score are like the hand, finger, foot, and toe holds used to set a route in a climbing gym. You work the fingerings out yourself, the same way that a climber works out her own solution to how to get to the top of the wall using the holds available. And he said, "This music is for playing." A weirdass chord progression or run is like a difficult sequence in a route; it's a game, a puzzle that a musician who's been dead for 100 years set for all the pianists who came after him to solve. You work out the fingerings (4-5-3-5 WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK) so that you don't hang yourself out to dry, the same way that a climber works out her holds so that when she has only her right hand free, the next hold isn't three feet to her left. When you make a mistake, you laugh and pick yourself back up and go up the wall again, because it isn't a pass/fail test. It's a game. You have a sense of glee that you share with the route setter about solving this incredibly intricate puzzle almost--in a weird way--together.

What that means is, (1) playing piano, which I have always loved, is now infused with a sense of fun that it truly has never had; (2) I know what I'm learning--not just "music" but the route up the wall, the game that underlies the performance; (3) when I'm fumbling through a new chunk of music, I know why I'm fumbling. It's not because I'm stupid or the music is stupid; it's because my brain is trying to process so much new information that it gets overwhelmed. That's why I miss easy chords and consistently play that damn C-sharp when the piece is written in G. Because THAT'S WHAT THE LEARNING PROCESS LOOKS LIKE.

But honest to god the idea of music as a game being played between composer and performer, and not a game like tennis, but a game like riddling--riddle set and riddle answered--is a seismic paradigm shift for me. Everything looks different now.
cupcake_goth: (Default)
[personal profile] cupcake_goth


Yes? No?

On the one hand: B&W stripes! Giant red roses! Oooh, it's all very Night Circus, isn't it?

On the other hand, I can't tell if this is too busy. Plus, while it's a full skirt, it's also 100% polyester.

But let's be real here, I'll probably end up buying it.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
My poems "A Death of Hippolytos" and "The Other Lives," published last October in The Cascadia Subduction Zone 6.4, are now free to read online with the rest of their issue. The first was inspired by Jules Dassin's Phaedra (1962) and especially by this afterthought, the second was written for Rose Lemberg after discussing Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). [personal profile] gwynnega has poetry in the same issue.

I had heard absolutely nothing of Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water (2017) until this afternoon, but the trailer makes it look like something I should very definitely see in December. It looks like William Alland and Jack Arnold's Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) retold through Jane Yolen's "The Lady and the Merman," which has haunted me since elementary school when I first read Neptune Rising: Songs and Tales of the Undersea Folk (1982). It looks sea-deep.

Speaking of oceanic things for which I may existentially blame Caitlín R. Kiernan: Delphine Cencig, "Poulpe Fiction."

In fact, I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow.
cupcake_goth: (Default)
[personal profile] cupcake_goth
One problem with this new-ish fascination for vintage floral print full skirts is that so many of the sellers on Etsy and eBay use a slur in their description. I know they're clueless and think it evokes a free-spirited air, but dammit.

With that bit of venting out of the way, these are different ones I'm idly contemplating. (All images hotlinked from the various Etsy listings, because apparently that's an okay thing to do now, especially because places like Etsy are never going to run out of bandwidth.)

I really like this one.



The print is beautiful in this, but I'm not sure about the mix of colors?



This is probably my least favorite, mostly because it's similar to the skirt I have that kicked off this whole fashion tangent.

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