sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Today I received a five-foot-long shed snakeskin as a present and made myself a lobster roll for dinner. [edit: Not with the snakeskin. With some Caesar dressing and a piece of toasted bread, on account of not actually having hot dog buns in the house. The snakeskin is in an appropriately sized plastic tube on top of the bookshelves and will turn into a shadow box as soon as I can back it with some black cloth or paper. Just to be clear.] I am exhausted and appear to have misplaced the brain with which I wanted to write about things tonight, but I have had objectively worse days.
sovay: (Sydney Carton)
[personal profile] sovay
So I tried InspiroBot, the random generator of inspirational quotes that is going through my Facebook friendlist like surrealist wildfire. I think I lost:



As [personal profile] handful_ofdust says encouragingly, "One can try!"

I've learned that my short story "The Trinitite Golem" (Clockwork Phoenix #5) has received honorable mentions in both Gardner Dozois' The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fourth Annual Collection and Helen Marshall and Michael Kelly's The Year's Best Weird Fiction, Volume 4, neither of which I was expecting and both of which I am happy about.

Having been out of touch with Badass of the Week for some years, I am very grateful to have been pointed toward their entry for Joe Beyrle. "I shouldn't have to go around reminding you that 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' is pretty much the only phrase in recorded history that Captain America, George S. Patton, and The Dead Kennedys have ever completely agreed upon without even the slightest bit of argument—so clearly there has to be something tangible behind that sentiment."

I don't know what you call this kind of photoset illustration of a piece of poetry, but I really like it.
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
 You know when you finish a book and you're sad because you know you won't ever write anything nearly as good?

That.
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
Bad news: I just woke up now. Good news: I slept six hours. Frankly, after this week, I'll take it. A few things off the internet before I head out to meet [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and Fox and later [personal profile] phi

1. Solaris has put up a hexarchate faction quiz for Yoon Ha Lee's Machineries of Empire! I got Shuos, which is not what I was expecting. Maybe I flunked the trolley question.

2. Girl of the Port (1930) had almost no internet footprint when I watched it—I could find links to contemporary reviews on Wikipedia, but almost nothing by anyone closer to me in time. By now it's been reviewed by both Mondo 70 and Pre-Code.com, clearly from the same TCM showing. Honestly, this is pretty cool, even if I wish it were more like discovering and promoting a cult treasure than a thought-provoking trash fire.

3. I have been meaning to link this poem since Juneteenth: David Miller's "Hang Float Bury Burn." I wish I knew where to nominate non-speculative poems for awards.

I asked my smart phone if she's gay

Jun. 23rd, 2017 08:37 am
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
And she replied: "I haven't been around very long. I'm still figuring that out. Grin."

I think that is one of the best answers ever.
sovay: (Viktor & Mordecai)
[personal profile] sovay
Happy solstice! I was indeed awake all night. I'm still awake. Sleep or no sleep, however, sometimes a person has to yell about a movie on the internet.

Girl of the Port (1930), directed for RKO by Bert Glennon, is a pre-Code curiosity if ever I encountered one: a hopelessly confused adventure-melodrama-romance between a tough-cookie showgirl and a shell-shocked veteran set in the South Seas islands, which is part of its problem. Its title is technically relevant in that the heroine is the only female character of any prominence, but thematically it would have done much better to be released under its production title of The Fire-Walker, after the original short story by John Russell. Story elements include World War I, half a dozen nervous breakdowns, British tourists, mixology, untranslated Chinese, institutional racism, surprise aristocracy, the climactic if no longer eponymous firewalk, and the whole thing's over in 65 minutes, so it gets the plot in with a crowbar. There are really interesting things in it and there are really frustrating things in it and they are not arranged in any separable fashion. I am not sorry to have seen it, but I do not expect anyone else to feel the same.

It opens with title cards, setting the zeitgeist of the Lost Generation: "Not all the casualties of war are in hospital cots. There are wounds of the spirit as lasting as those of the flesh, but less pitied, and little understood. Few know the dark fears brought back from the battlefront. Even fewer know that those fears may be cast out . . . but only by the mind that harbors them." The sequence that follows startled me; I keep forgetting that while the Production Code did its best to reduce the realities of sex, race, and gender to cartoons, it also did a lasting disservice to violence—not the two-fisted pantomime kind where bullets leave no marks and people's eyes close gently when they die, but the kind people should be scared of. We see it in the barbed wire trenches of World War I, where a battalion of British soldiers is getting ready to go over the top. It's cold, dark, ghostly. A young officer is trying to reassure an enlisted man even younger than himself, a hollow-eyed boy whose head is already bandaged bloodily under his tin hat. Five in the morning is zero hour; he re-checks his watch, takes a deep breath, and blows the signal. All together, his men call out their watchword, "God and the right!" and scramble up over the sandbags into no man's land. Their German counterparts affirm, "Gott mit uns!" and do the same. There's little sense of strategy on the British side, just a loose line of men ordered into hell with rifles and nerve.1 They walk into a nest of German flamethrowers. It's horrifying. At first they don't see the danger, decoyed by the smoke and the disorienting concussions of the mortar barrage covering the German advance; then it's too late to get out of range. There is something uncanny and inhuman in the flamethrower troops with their deep-sea gear and the long, long streams of fire they send snaking out before them, licking and curling as if they were living and hungry things. The young officer stands his ground with his service pistol, trying to take the flamethrowers out, but soon he's dry-firing and then a stutter of enemy machine-guns takes him in the leg and the arm; he tumbles into a shell-hole alongside the feebly flailing body of a fellow soldier with some obliquely shot but grisly makeup effects on his face—burned, blinded. He keeps crying about the fire, about his eyes. With his helmet knocked off, we can see the officer's face under its stiff tousle of dark hair, terrified and suddenly, desperately young. "Stick close to me," he said confidently, just a few minutes ago in the safety of the trench, "and don't forget—those Fritzes are nothing but men." But fire is more than men, fire can eat men alive, and it's doing just that all around him. Everywhere he looks, the white-hot hissing light of the flamethrowers coming on and the bodies of men he knew burning, or worse, stumbling through the inferno, screaming. He's trapped. He can't get out. Suddenly he's screaming, too, high and hoarse and raw: "Oh, God, don't let the fire get me—don't let the fire get me—oh, God!" And scene.

It's a harsh opening and the viewer may be forgiven for feeling a little whiplashed when the action jumps years and genres to the rainy night in Suva, Fiji when footloose, all-American Josie (Sally O'Neil, a mostly silent actress new to me) blows out of the storm and into MacDougal's Bamboo Bar. Late of Coney Island, she fast-talks her way into a bartending job with theatrical sass, booting the current barman and introducing herself to the appreciative all-male clientele like the carnival talker of her own attraction: "I don't need no assistance, thanks. My father was a bouncer in the Tenth Ward. My mother was a lion tamer with Ringling. I was weaned on raw meat and red pepper. Boo!" She's petite and kitten-faced, brash and blonde as an undercranked Joan Blondell; her dialogue is a glorious compendium of pop culture and pure, nasal Brooklyn slang. She refers to her pet canary alternately as "John McCormack" and "Jenny Lind," derides a hoary pick-up line as "old when Fanny was a girl's name," and deflects an incipient attack of sentiment with the admonition not "to go . . . getting all Jolson about it." A handsy customer gets the brush-off "What are you, a chiropractor? You rub me the wrong way." When she finds another new patron passed out face-first on a table, their exchange as he groggily props himself up gives a good idea of the script's overall mix of the snappy and the sententious:

"Who in blazes are you?"
"Lon Chaney."
"I'm coming up to date. Usually at this stage I'm seeing Jonah's whale."
"Snap out of it, bozo. Ain't you glad you don't see pink elephants?"
"Lassie, I drink so's I
can see them. They crowd out other things. Four fingers, please."

Asked for the color of his money, the man produces a military decoration: thin and scruffy in an old collarless shirt, no longer quite so boyish with the haunted lines in his face, it's the young officer of the opening scenes (Reginald Sharland, also new to me; he had an eleven-film career between 1927 and 1934 and by turns he reminded me of Richard Barthelmess, Peter Capaldi, and Dick Van Dyke, which is a hell of a thing to say about anyone). He has shell-shock you can see from space. When the bar pianist starts tinkling a jaunty improv on "Tipperary," he recites the chorus in a kind of bitter trance, tellingly omitting the last line about his heart. Josie tries to break in by guessing his rank; when she reaches "Captain," he jolts to his feet like a snapped elastic, giving an instinctive salute and then a haggard smile: "Clever, don't you think yourself?" In a welcome gesture toward nuance, he's fucked up, but not totally pathetic. He's known as Whiskey Johnny, after the stuff he drinks more thirstily than water and the song he'll perform in exchange for free glasses of it, especially when egged on by white-suited local bully McEwen (Mitchell Lewis, wait for it). This sort of setup is usually the cue for public humiliation, but Johnny can actually sing and he grins round at the room while he does it, a slight, shabby, definitely not sober man, drawing his audience in all the same. I had a girl and her name was Lize. Whiskey, Johnny! Oh, she put whiskey in her pies. Whiskey for my Johnny! He balks only when McEwen presses him to sing the last verse, the one that Johnny nervously protests "isn't done amongst gentlemen, is it? Not when ladies are present."2 In response, McEwen insults Josie, Johnny insults McEwen, words escalate to fists escalate to McEwen pulling a knife, Johnny grabbing a chair, and Josie throwing a bottle that smashes the nearest lamp. The oil ignites as soon as it hits the floor, a quick mushroom of flame spurting up right in Johnny's face. He was unsteady but combative a moment ago; in the face of the fire, he screams like a child. "Oh, God, the fire! Don't let the fire get me! Oh, God, let me out of here!" A few voices call after him as he blunders jaggedly away through the crowd, plainly seeing nothing but Flanders and flames, but most dismiss him as a "ruddy coward . . . not worth stopping, with his tail between his legs." The next morning, flinchingly hungover on the beat-up chaise longue in the back room of the bar, he tells Josie the story of how he won his medal, the sole survivor of his company decorated for bravery for cowering in a shell-hole "watching the others crisp up and die—hearing them die—seeing the fire draw nearer, nearer, seeing it all round me—oh, God, don't let the fire get me! Don't let the fire get me!" He can recover a wry self-possession in quieter moments, but he "can't face fire" or even the memory of it: the terror is always just below the surface. McEwen has only to flick a cigarette into a bucket of gasoline to bust him back down to a shuddering wreck, trying to hide in the furniture, chokingly gulping the drink he just swore he wouldn't touch.

Josie's solution is unorthodox but unhesitating: she has him move into her cabin. McEwen can't get at him there. House rules are they don't sleep together and Johnny doesn't drink. As the intermittent intertitles tell us, "Half her time she saw that men got liquor at Macdougal's . . . the other half, she saw that one man didn't!" After eight weeks, their relationship is a comfortable but charged mixture of emotional intimacy and unacknowledged sexual tension and I think accidentally sort of kinky. Each night when she leaves for work at the bar, she locks Johnny in—by now at his own request—so that he can't wander off in search of booze despite his best intentions. He refers to her as his "doctor, nurse, pal, and jailor—and savior, you know. That is, if a chap who didn't deserve it ever had one." His hands shake badly when he kneels to put her shoes on for her, but he insists on doing it anyway, just as he insists on helping with the washing-up even when they lose more plates that way. She treats him practically, not like something broken or breakable; she calls him "Bozo" because she doesn't like "Whiskey Johnny" and he doesn't like "Captain." Eventually, diffidently, he introduces himself as "Jameson," at which Josie shoots him a skeptical look: "I've seen that name on bottles." She's fallen for him by now, which the audience could see coming from the moment she deflated his romantic sob story of a contemptuous fiancée who betrayed him with his best friend with the tartly dismissive "What a dim bulb she turned out to be," but she keeps a self-protective distance, correctly recognizing that she's given him a breather, not a miracle, and in the meantime he's imprinted on her like a battle-fatigued duckling. When he declares his love, she warns him, "Now don't go mixing up love and gratitude, 'cause they ain't no more alike than champagne and Ovaltine." They end up in a clinch, of course, and a jubilant Johnny promises that they're going to "lick that fear—together," waving her off to work like a happy husband already. The viewer with a better idea of dramatic structure vs. runtime waits for the third-act crisis to come home to roost.

All of this is an amazing demonstration of the durability of hurt/comfort over the decades and to be honest it's pretty great of its type, even if occasionally over the top even by the standards of idfic. Both O'Neil and Sharland's acting styles are mixed somewhere between early sound naturalism and the full-body expression of silent film—O'Neil acquires a vocal quaver in moments of emotion and Sharland employs some highly stylized gestures in his breakdowns, though there's nothing old-fashioned or stagy about his screams—but since they are generally in the same register at the same time, it works fine. They make a sympathetically matching couple with their respective fears of being unlovable, Josie who bluntly admits that she "ain't a nice girl," Johnny convinced he's a coward and a failure, "finished." Some of their best romantic moments are not declarative passion but shy happiness, the actors just glowing at one another. The trouble is that what I have been describing is the best version of the film, the one without the radioactive levels of racism that start at surprisingly upsettingly high and escalate to Jesus, was D.W. Griffith ghosting this thing? and essentially make it impossible for me to recommend this movie to anyone without qualifiers galore.

Perhaps you have a little something yet to learn about native blood, milord. )

I do not know how closely Girl of the Port resembles its source story, which can be found in Russell's Far Wandering Men (1929). Since he seems to have specialized in South Seas adventures, I assume some of the racism is baked in; I also wouldn't be surprised if some of it was introduced in the process of adaptation. I can get his earlier collection Where the Pavement Ends (1919) on Project Gutenberg, but Far Wandering Men isn't even in the local library system, so it may take me a little while to find out. Until then, I don't know what else I can tell you. "Frustrating" may have been an understatement. I don't want Sharland, O'Neil, and lines like "There you go, full of ambition. You have your youth, your health, and now you want shelves" to have been wasted on this film, but I fear that they may. Duke Kahanamoku certainly was. Mitchell Lewis, by the way, is most famous these days for his uncredited three-line role as the Captain of the Winkie Guard in The Wizard of Oz (1939)—I didn't recognize him as such in Girl of the Port, but once I made the connection, the deep voice and the strongly marked brows were unmistakable. I like him a lot better when he's green. This damaged recovery brought to you by my stronger backers at Patreon.

1. And kilts, which means they must be one of the Highland regiments, but in the chaos of battle I did not get a good look at the tartan.

2. Seriously? I've got like five versions of "Whiskey Johnny"/"Whiskey Is the Life of Man"/"John Rise Her Up" on my iTunes and I wouldn't call any of them racy. It's a halyard chantey. What have I been missing all these years?

3. Once safely outside MacDougal's, Kalita spits on the coin in disgust and then throws it away in the rain. I really think the script is trying its best with him, but because even his positive scenes rely on stereotypes, I credit most of his extant dimensions to Kahanamoku.

4. With a slur I've never heard before: "That little tabby over there . . . T-A-B-B-Y, tabby. The girl that's trying to make you!" From this context I assume it means a gold digger or a tart, but if it's real slang rather than minced for purposes of the Hays Code, I don't think it widely survived.

5. We are also, presumably, supposed to cheer plucky Josie for finding a way to turn the villain's heritage against him: before she agrees to his blackmail, she makes him swear to keep his end of the bargain on something he won't be able to cheat, not God or his honor, but the carved shell charm from his Fijian mother that he wears beneath his European shirts and suits, the hidden and telltale truth of him. "Swear on this Hindu hocus-pocus," she challenges, gripping it in her white hand. "Go on. That'll hold a Malay." Native superstition out of nowhere wins the day. Looking suddenly shaken, he swears.

Stuffs

Jun. 21st, 2017 10:14 am
ironed_orchid: marilyn monroe with birthday cake (marilyn)
[personal profile] ironed_orchid
I had a birthday last week, I am now 45, which I think makes me officially middle aged or something.

My dear friend Charlie Quinn has a Patreon which I support and as a result I get sent postcards which they have designed. These postcards come in an envelope because they are not always safe for work. The June card is a very good example of NSFW language but completely awesome and amazing.

click )

I love it so much. The Trash Panda magnet in the photo was a gift from colleague and made by one of her amazing talented daughters who makes fantastic pins and magnets and stickers and cards and things and here are some examples of her works, but is currently taking a break from her Etsy shop due to life. Here are some examples including a much better photo of the Raccoon magnet: click because biggish )

(Her twin sister also makes amazing arts, mostly in the form of delicate vulva vases but also some other quirky ceramics like these claw handled mugs.)

---

I'm having a Hogswatch party on Saturday, I have even ordered a leg of ham. I have the next few days off and will be cleaning all the things then cooking all the things. I'm looking forward to it and wish that many of you could be there.

Your evening schadenfreude

Jun. 20th, 2017 07:41 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
GUYS!

Remember that hilarious story about the Parkdale gentrifiers? Did you think that after Jesse Brown tweeted the Parkdale Tinies that the story couldn't possibly get any funnier?

parkdale tinies

How long can Toronto keep a thing going, you might wonder. Surely not this long...

How my family came to be the most hated family in Toronto (at least for 24 hours)

By Julian Humphreys


You owe it to yourself and your lulz to click that link and read the whole thing. It is GLORIOUS. It is 10,383 words long. It quotes ADORNO AND GOETHE and my buddy Todd and I can't breathe through my tears. It is full of not-very-subtle digs at his wife and even worse digs at his editor, who really can't be blamed for not turning down this pile of comedy gold because tbh no one was really reading Toronto Life before and now everyone is in the hopes that there will be more of this kind of thing.

Some choice quotes:

"Back when I was in academia and enamoured by writers like Jacques Derrida and Judith Butler, I was particularly in to the idea of origins, and where exactly we can trace origins back to."


"My mum emigrated to the UK in 1939 from Germany. Yes, that’s right, she was a Jew, or at least somewhat Jewish."


"[My counsellor] then proceeded to give me a lecture on cell biology, including how many bookshelves it would take to hold all the information contained in a single human cell. The lesson being, we are endlessly complex beings, and attempting to oversimplify both ourselves and the world is foolish."


"I did try to clean myself up at one point, attending a 10-day silent retreat in Southern Thailand. But the switch from partying on a Thai beach to sitting quietly for 12 hours a day in a Thai monastery was too dramatic, and I only lasted 5 days before I was back to Bangkok and their opiated grass."


"So let me explain what really went down during our reno from hell. Not that my wife mis-represented the facts – for the most part, she didn’t. But a) she was at home looking after our newborn for most of the year of our reno, so doesn’t know first-hand what really went on; b) she was constrained by a word limit of 4000 words; and c) she was working closely with an editor at Toronto Life, who clearly had his own agenda that overwhelmed her own."


"I had concerns about how I would come across in the piece, but I was prepared to put my ego aside for the sake of a good story and in support of my wife’s career. "


"Looking back on that telephone conversation now, I realize that Malcolm never did assure me that he would look out for my wife’s best interests."


"Although I could see the literary merit of these additions, a mean-spiritedness was entering into the article that was not in the original draft."


"I also didn’t like the photo because in reality my wife is much more attractive than she appears in that photo."


"Criticisms of capitalism presented by the bourgeoisie are nearly always duplicitous, masquerading as in solidarity with the proletariat while cutting off real protest at the knees. And this was exactly what was going on here. By seeming to sympathize with the downtrodden, Malcolm was hoping to humanize us just enough to avoid a revolution, while dehumanizing us enough to garner clicks."


"We could have called an ambulance, I guess, but that, in my mind, would have been a gross invasion of his privacy."


"My wife does, however, say that we were ‘a young family without a lot of money’ and whether this is true or not depends on what you consider ‘money.’"


"[O]n the one hand yes, I made some bad decisions. And yet we came out ahead. Was this luck? Or strategy?"


"It’s better to move forward without all the answers in place than to not move forward at all, an assumption best expressed in this quote attributed to Goethe..."

"His gift substantially changed my life, and I show my gratitude by honoring his generosity as best I can. I could have snorted $100,000 of cocaine, but instead used it to prepare myself, however tangentially, for a career in which I feel I make a positive difference."

Oh, just read the whole thing, trust me.

Bonus: Here is his Twitter.

'Cause I don't tell all I know

Jun. 20th, 2017 05:35 pm
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
It is almost the solstice and I am skeptical that I will sleep through any of the shortest night, the insomnia is that bad right now. I spend my days feeling like everything is wound in layers of cotton batting and my nights not understanding why being tired does not equal being asleep. I'm losing so much time. On the other hand, the sky is tall summer-blue and the clouds look like there should be the sea under them and I was just reminded that Egon Schiele's Trieste Harbour (1907) exists and that makes me happy, even if my brain is now trying to make Der Hafen von Triest scan to Jacques Brel and that's just not going to work out.



I have to write about something.
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
Or rather, the lack thereof, because a study had indicated that the cats that live with humans are still not very different from their wild cousins.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/cats-are-an-extreme-outlier-among-domestic-animals/
sovay: (Default)
[personal profile] sovay
I do not like to talk about stories while I am working on them or before they have been accepted, but I have completed my first piece of original fiction since the fall of 2015 and I think this is a good thing. A comment [personal profile] ashlyme left was the inspiration; at least I feel it bears the signs of recent exposure to Sapphire & Steel. If I can place it, I'll say more. I am still not doing so great, but I feel it is important to record this sort of thing when it happens. Autolycus, purring at Cape Canaveral volume and trampling on the keys as I type, feels it is important to pay attention to the cat.

The League of Extraordinary Dragons

Jun. 18th, 2017 07:44 pm
redheadedfemme: (sparkle dragon)
[personal profile] redheadedfemme
League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

3 of 5 stars

This is the final book in the long-running and mostly worthy series. I've heard it referred to as "Patrick O'Brien with dragons." It takes place on an alternate Earth where there is a second sentient species--dragons--and said dragons are drafted to engage in aerial warfare, long before the airplane is a mote in anyone's eye. (Indeed, one wonders if air travel will even be invented in this universe.) Napoleon Bonaparte plays a huge role in this series, and in this last book he is finally defeated and exiled to the island of St. Helena, which is what happened on "our" Earth.
 
It's been evident for the last few books that the author is better writing her draconic characters than her human ones, and that pattern continues here. There is a surprising amount of humor in this story, especially in the chapter where Temeraire and Iskierka are arguing over which of their men will marry the peasant girl. We are introduced to a new character, the dragonet of Iskierka and Temeraire, Ning, who is a tart-tongued delight. Laurence is dealt with a little better in this book than some; at least he's gotten to the point where he'll refuse unlawful orders and stand up for dragonkind. (He also retires from the aerial service at the end of this book, which frankly he should have done at the beginning when he saw how Temeraire and dragons in general were treated by the British.) The overall running theme of this story is the dragons' fight to be recognized and treated as sentient beings, and the book ends with Temeraire planning to run for one of the twenty seats set aside for dragons in Parliament. 
 
Having said that, there were some serious pacing and plot problems with this book. Especially in the second half, the author developed the annoying habit of leading up to an action scene, coming to the end of a chapter, and in the next chapter skipping right ahead in time and completely depriving the reader of exactly how our crew got out of their predicament. I don't know if she thought she needed to wrap the book up right now or what, but I would rather have had a fatter book and those scenes left in. This is particularly exasperating in the final showdown with Napoleon and Lien--are we to believe Lien, Temeraire's primary antagonist throughout the series, wouldn't put up a hell of a fight at the last? I don't remember any of the previous books doing this, and I wish she hadn't written the book like this. 
 
Overall, this is an engaging series, and I do own all the volumes. Just be aware that the quality tails off at the end.  
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
I am not talking much about politics at the moment, not because I don't know the rising number of people confirmed dead in Grenfell Tower at the price of £2 per square meter or that the murderer of Philando Castile walked free because it is more important than justice that a white man should be able to shoot whatever scares him or any of the other appalling, routine betrayals of a society's vulnerable by those with more power in it, but because I am not doing so great at the moment and I don't know what I could contribute other than being upset. [personal profile] truepenny has a list of reasons against Trump and it is worth reading and keeping, because this is still not normal.

I just checked in with the internet and saw that Stephen Furst has died. Pace the New York Times, I never saw him in Animal House (1978) and I don't know that I'm ever going to. But I loved him as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 (1993–98), second only to Peter Jurasik's Londo Mollari and Claudia Christian's Susan Ivanova and the eventual Regent of Centauri Prime played by Damian London, none of whom had better go anywhere in the near future, damn it. The Centauri characters were overwhelmingly my favorites. They had the morally messiest arcs and besides, I came to Babylon 5 right off Robert Graves' I, Claudius (1937) and its 1976 BBC adaptation; I never had a chance. When my high school's concert choir went to England and France for a week and a half in the spring of 1999, I evaluated Versailles in terms of Centauri Prime. Actual Centauri Prime, I am pretty sure, was mostly a matter of CGI reflecting pools and a lot of draperies on the walls, but I believed in its fabulous age and decadence and post-imperial resentment and it provided me with political lines I still quote literally, as in earlier this afternoon, to this day. "Only an idiot fights a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots fights a war on twelve." "Arrogance and stupidity, all in the same package. How efficient of you." And Vir, in the face of Londo's nationalist nostalgia, saying something that is by no means less relevant now than it was twenty-two years ago: "Every generation of Centauri mourns for the golden days when their power was like unto the gods! It's counterproductive! I mean, why make history if you fail to learn by it?" He was the kind of character I loved around the edges of stories, accidentally backing into the center of the narrative this time and then going nervously but resolutely forward when he realized where he was, a nebbish with—somewhat to his own surprise—a spine. A good person, which did not mean an uncomplicated one. Very funny, which the character as much as the actor seemed to have developed in self-defense. Not biologically equipped to handle fast food, which I could really sympathize with. I feel he would be unsurprised if amused to see that, unless they've fixed it by now, the Times obituary spelled his name wrong. It got Furst's right, fortunately, which I recognize is the important thing here. But I never saw him as anyone but Vir and it's hard not to feel that's who we've lost.

Ave atque vale.

Vir

He's a sweetheart, calls me Mistress

Jun. 17th, 2017 10:30 am
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
It seems I can htell Pyewacket to call me "Mistress."

I also tried out the "Tell me something interesting" command, and Google Assistant's interesting fact was that, according to the Smithsonian, there are about ten quitrillion bugs alive on the earth at any one time.

"That's not very interesting," I said (yes, I did actually think it was interesting, but this was an experiment, for science).

"I know. I'm sorry. I get so excited about facts!"

Big surprise: even my smart phone is a Ravenclaw.
redheadedfemme: (wonder woman reading)
[personal profile] redheadedfemme
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

4 of 5 stars

I'm a great fan of the TV series based on these books, The Expanse on SyFy. I watched the first two seasons without having read any of the books. Now that I'm getting into the books, I must admit it's been a bit of an education. I can see where this book's storyline was changed (although not all that much, fortunately) and compressed, and I applaud the producers' decision to bring in a character who actually isn't in the print series until the second book. The series has definitely captured the gritty, messy future described in this book, where humanity has spread within the solar system but still hasn't left behind its endless fighting. 
 
This series takes place about two hundred years in the future, when Mars, various moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and the asteroid belt have been settled, and Mars is in the process of being terraformed. The point is made that these new generations born and raised in space have already started to tweak human evolution, as Belters are taller and thinner than Earthborn humans, due to living in lower gravity. Mars is the golden child, with plenty of pretty military toys, technologically advanced; Earth is the aging mother, overcrowded (with a population of 30 billion--I cannot imagine this) but still supplying the colonies with food and air; and the Belt and its denizens are the orphans fighting to survive in the solar system's dregs. This tinderbox, and its very uneasy and delicate status quo, is upended by the discovery of an alien nanotech supervirus, launched at our solar system billions of years ago and kept from settling upon the infant Earth by a fortuitous accident (Saturn basically getting in the way). Unfortunately, an Earth corporation discovers this ancient invasion, and since Earth corporations are still assholes in search of endless profit even hundreds of years from now, it takes this virus (dubbed the "protomolecule") and promptly starts experimenting with it...on individuals and eventually a million and a half people inside a settled asteroid. 
 
Our two viewpoint characters in this system-spanning disaster are James Holden and Joe Miller, the XO of the ice freighter Canterbury and a cop working on the asteroid Ceres respectively. Holden is an idealistic do-gooder in way over his head, and Miller the weary, hard-bitten soul who is just trying to solve a mystery and gets dragged into a mess. Of the two, Miller was the better character to me; I wanted to slap Holden several times. This is a very long book (561 pages) but unlike the last doorstop I suffered through, the pacing was good and the story flowed nicely, and infodumps were kept to a minimum. (No pages upon pages explaining how the Epstein drive worked, for instance. It's there, it uses fuel pellets at extremely high efficiency, it enables travel at high enough gees that drugs are required to keep people from blowing their organs and blood vessels, and we go with it.)
 
I'm glad I watched the series first, as it made for an interesting comparison and I don't mind spoilers. This is a gritty, dirty, lived-in world, and the politics are as interesting as the protomolecule. It doesn't envision a particularly nice future humanity, with schisms and prejudices and tribalisms that endure beyond this planet and into the stars, but these many shades of gray make for fascinating reading.
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Every single aspect of today except for the cats and the Double Awesome from Mei Mei has sucked exhaustingly. I am very tired of seeing doctors who don't take me seriously because I'm not emotional enough and then seeing doctors who don't take me seriously because I'm emotional at all. I thought the pattern had broken lately, but here we are again. I am not looking for a medical discussion or recommendations. I am just upset. Also it is pouring rain and while I remembered an umbrella on leaving the house, I forgot boots. My shoes are drying in the bathroom because it is the only room in this apartment with a radiator.

I can't believe I've remembered for years that Michael Goodliffe was Thomas Andrews in Roy Ward Baker's A Night to Remember (1958), but forgot or never noticed that David McCallum was Harold Bride. To be fair, I had also forgotten completely about Honor Blackman, but historically I feel very fondly toward Harold Bride. McCallum must have been close to his age at the time of filming. [edit: Indeed, that's a very young David McCallum.] Chances are good that no matter what, I would have bounced off James Cameron's Titanic (1997) in exactly the same way ocean liners don't bounce off icebergs, but childhood exposure to the British film can't have helped.

This is a very fine ghost poem that I didn't write: Rachel Hadas, "Mervyn Peake (1911–1968)."

I have been enjoying this compilation very much.

Full of rage

Jun. 16th, 2017 06:07 pm
sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (Default)
[personal profile] sabotabby
Apparently I am not completely desensitized to horror, which comes as a relief in a strange way. I'm just full of rage—at the acquittal of Philando Castile's murderer, at the barring of Black Lives Matter activists from testifying about the impact of cops in schools, and, most acutely, at the completely preventable tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The latter is, to me, the starkest depiction of austerity and late-stage capitalism in action. The residents called for repairs. Labour called for tighter safety regulations. Boris Johnson literally told them to go stuff themselves. The cladding, which was probably a major factor in the deaths of 100 or so people, was installed not to protect the building's tenants—low-income, many of them racialized, many of them Syrian refugees—but to hide the unsightly nature of the tower from wealthy neighbours.

I kind of get why people lose their shit over terrorist attacks and mass shootings, but this gets me more. There's a lot we can do as a culture to reduce terrorism and mass shootings, and of course we tend to do the opposite of that, but even in a perfect world, not every act of senseless violence would be preventable. Norway still produced Anders Breivik—even a utopia would have its madmen.

But a situation where you have people saying, "this tragedy is going to happen if you don't fix the thing," and those in charge do not fix the thing, because money is more important than human lives—that is totally preventable and entirely foreseeable. There was an obvious, simple way to prevent those 100 deaths, if our civilization valued people as much as it valued profits.

There are death tolls to tell you how many people died because of communism. There are no tallies of deaths under capitalism, as if starvation because of collectivization is somehow less preferable to starvation because of austerity, or a firing squad is worse than a fire.

This is the very heart of my politics. This is why I fight, even though it doesn't affect me, even though I don't really know how to, even though I'm exhausted. Sometimes fury is the only thing that keeps me going.

Baths of days past

Jun. 15th, 2017 05:59 pm
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
I'm reading about the Summerland fire disaster (a resort on the Isle of Man burned down, killing 50) and I got to the list of special baths offered.

At street level, there was the remedial entrance for persons using the aerotone, sauna, steam, hot, cold plunge, slipper, Vichy douche, massage, Russian vapour and Turkish baths. Some facilities on this level, such as an aerotone bath, did not appear in the original plans and were added during construction because they had proved to be profitable additions to swimming baths in mainland Britain.

Aerotone baths (do watch the video!) were a sort of early Jacuzzi with bubbles and a cold rinse at the end.  As far as I can tell, a slipper bath is a plain ol' bathtub with one sloped side for reclining.   A Vichy douche was, at Vichy, a four-hand massage under a hot shower of Vichy water.  At Summerland, it was presumably just a massage under a hot shower, which still sounds swell to me.  I do not know the difference between a sauna, a Russian vapour bath, and a Turkish bath. 

Sandwiches Have Gone Modern

Jun. 15th, 2017 05:15 pm
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
From Woman's World, August, 1936 p. 24, but this time not nasty. 


To begin at the beginning, here are two quick sandwich breads -Chocolate Bread which you will find perfectly grand for cream cheese or marmalade sandwiches, and Date-Nut-Orange Bread.

Chocolate Bread
3 cups sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter or shortening
1 1/4 cups milk
2 squares (ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add sugar and when thoroughly blended moisten with the beaten egg. shortening and milk,. adding these gradually and mixing well. Finally add the chocolate and when well blended turn into a greased loaf-pan and bake in a moderate oven-350 degrees F.--about one and a quarter hours.

Date-Nut-Orange Bread

2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon soda [baking soda, I assume, not washing]
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups graham flour
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup chopped nut-meats
2/3 cup pitted dates, cut small
Grated rind 1 orange
2 cups sour milk
1/2 cup molasses

Sift together the white hour. soda, salt and baking powder. Add the graham flour, sugar, nut-meats,
dates and orange rind and moisten with the blended sour milk and molasses. Turn into one large well greased bread pan and bake in a moderate oven-350 degrees F.-about one and a quarter hours.

...
Another variety of the rolled sandwich is the one where buttered fresh bread is rolled around a spray of watercress. a short stalk of celery (plain or stuffed) or a tip of cooked asparagus, any of these being first dipped into French dressing for greater flavor.
[I've seen recipes where the asparagus was dipped in hollandaise. Mm.]

...
Afternoon Tea Sandwiches

Cucumber: White bread with filling of finely minced well drained cucumber seasoned with onion juice, lemon juice and minced parsley.

Rolled Mint: Cream butter for sandwiches then work into it very finely minced mint-1 teaspoon to 2/3 cup butter.

Peach Cream: Spread white, graham or whole wheat bread first with softened butter then with cream cheese., next with peach (or apricot) marmalade. Nuts if you like but they are good enough without. Serve either as open or closed sandwiches.

Tropical: Use white bread, spread with creamed butter then with currant jelly into which shredded coconut, plain or toasted, has been beaten with a fork. Top with thinly sliced bananas sprinkled with lemon juice. Serve either open or closed.

Date Nut: Thin slices of pound cake or sponge cake with filling of chopped dates and nuts (in equal proportions) moistened with orange juice.

Campfire Sandwiches

Split, toast and butter round sandwich rolls. Fill with piping hot slices of sautéed canned corned beef hash, top with a little prepared horseradish, mustard or mustard pickle. Serve dill pickles on the side.

Roquefort-Ham for the Slag Party*

Combine finely minced ham with one-fourth its bulk each of mashed roquefort cheese and chopped sweet pickles. Moisten with French dressing or mayonnaise. Use buttered whole wheat or rye bread or pumpernickel, topping the filling, if desired, with thinly sliced, well chilled, seasoned fresh tomatoes.

Century Club

Use three slices buttered toast for each sandwich. Arrange on the first, lettuce, crisp bacon and sliced tomato moistened with French dressing or mayonnaise. Cover with second slice of toast, placing on this lettuce, cold tongue and minced mustard pickle. Top with remaining toast slice, cut through to form two triangles and garnish with pickle fans.

* okay, it's really Stag Party, but I prefer the OCR version. 

Bet my morning was weirder than yours

Jun. 15th, 2017 07:11 am
kestrell: (Default)
[personal profile] kestrell
Wandering into the kitchen to get some caffeine, my slipper got stuck to something and, when I went to peel whatever it was off, I found that it was a glue trap. More precisely, it was a *giant* glue trap, made up of five glue traps stuck together. And it really did not want to give my slipper back. I finally gave up and went into the bathroom to wash my hands, which is when M. came into the kitchen and paused at the sight of a single slipper stuck to a giant glue trap in the middle of the kitchen floor. So I came back in and explained about how my slipper found the glue trap and M.--who also had no idea why there was a giant glue trap there to begin with--took pity on me and pried my slipper off it using a pair of pliers.

And now I am safely returned to the aerie hoping I don't meet up with that mouse.

Profile

rinue: (Default)
rinue

June 2017

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18 19 2021222324
252627282930 

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jun. 25th, 2017 08:48 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios