sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
Our house smells like the sea. A sea-fog came in through the windows before midnight, as strong and salt as standing on the docks: I was lying on the couch and thought that if I looked out the windows, I would see water moving under the streetlights, and first I got Jacques Brel's "La cathédrale" stuck in my head and then I fell asleep. I was saying elsewhere in a discussion of dead zones/waste lands in weird fiction that someone must have set a weird tale in the deep anoxic waters of the Black Sea because it's too uncanny an environment to pass up (the millennia of preserved shipwrecks alone), but I can't think of any examples. I hope I don't have to write one. See previous complaints about research.

(no subject)

Sep. 25th, 2017 10:08 pm
skygiants: Kozue from Revolutionary Girl Utena, in black rose gear, holding her sword (salute)
[personal profile] skygiants
I happened to see on Twitter that today was the 30th anniversary of The Princess Bride, which I guess makes it a good day to post about As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride.

This is Cary Elwes' memoir of the making of the film, a book I had vaguely meant to read for years, but did not actually get around to until our new roommate left his copy in the house this summer as a sort of placeholder before actually moving in. It's very charming! I'd sort of always had a vague sense that Cary Elwes must in some way resent being forever branded as The Man In Black, and I'm sure that at some points he has and does, but this write-up is probably the most overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic Hollywood making-of memoir I've ever read. It's clearly intended for people who love the film and want to go on loving it, without a complicated feeling in sight.

My favorite part was probably the enthusiastic things that Cary Elwes and everyone interviewed had to say about Robin Wright and her acting as Buttercup; they're all like "we sailed through on jokes! playing the straight man is the hardest role in the cast! ALSO SHE CAME FROM SOAP OPERAS, SOAP OPERAS ARE SO HARD, DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY LINES PER DAY --" I went in braced to feel vaguely defensive of Robin Wright and Buttercup, as I so often do, and instead I was charmed and endeared!

I also enjoyed accounts of:
- Mandy Patinkin turning up to the first rehearsal with six months of sword practice under his belt, much to Cary Elwes' dismay
- William Goldman freaking out about Rob Reiner setting the leading lady on fire
- Andre the Giant accidentally conking Cary Elwes out on set
- Cary Elwes carefully arranging himself on the grass in an elegant lounging position to hide that he'd broken an ankle joyriding in a golf card
- so much detailed description of sword training and fight choreography! *__* SO MUCH

Guess who has two thumbs

Sep. 25th, 2017 10:07 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
And was in a vehicular mishap that got him to work two hours early?
[personal profile] miladygrey
First I moved house in June. Now the Best Little Law Firm in Delaware is moving offices on Friday.

Time for another round of OMGWTF, How Did I Acquire So Much Stuff? With bonus anxiousness over whether any of the papers I'm stuffing into the shredder pickup bin are vitally important somehow.

At least my new office will not overlook a vacant lot full of cats in heat, rampant weeds, and the occasional homeless dude. Aveline also assures me the new place is within walking distance of a nice little coffee shop.

Reading Log: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow; The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Suzanne Cokal; I'll Have What She's Having by Erin Carlson; The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare; The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst; Vengeance Born by Kylie Griffin; Secrets in Death by J.D. Robb; Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw; Darkchild by Sydney Van Scyoc; and the 5-author serial novel The Witch Who Came in From the Cold
oracne: turtle (Default)
[personal profile] oracne
Wow, that festival took a lot out of me. Taking the day off Friday was a terrific plan; I slept until roughly lunchtime, then spent the rest of the day being entertained by the Small Monkeys, Now Much Less Small Than When They Were Born. This resting helped me not keel over and die on my NYC daytrip until it was almost time to go home; I shall report on that later. First, the final two operas I saw.

"Elizabeth Cree" was a world premiere, based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd which I have not read (and do not plan to read). The small cast wore Victorian costuming to match the setting and moved amidst a mixture of physical furniture, a movable open metal staircase, and projected silhouettes and text.

I enjoyed this quite a lot, more than I'd expected; I did not quite figure out the mystery until it was about to be revealed, and all of the singers were incredible, particularly Daniela Mack as Elizabeth Cree and Joseph Gaines as Dan Leno. Before I went to see it, I called it a "murder opera," and I stand by that - several brutal murders are discoursed upon and shown in filmed silhouette, and the policeman is more concerned about his own future should he fail to solve the murders than he is about the victims.

Thematically, Murder as Spectacle was reiterated in several different ways, and critiqued by Karl Marx and George Gissing. Women's constrained roles, and the results of those constraints, also popped up, both through what the characters did and through what we the audience thought of what they did. In short, I thought this was great, and I would see it again. I'd put it my second favorite of the festival premieres, after "We Shall Not Be Moved."

Opera News review. Schompera review.

I saw "The Wake World" last night; notably, it was staged at the Barnes Foundation, one of Philadelphia's major museums. Most of the action took place on a long catwalk, with the audience seated or standing around it. The audience was free to move around, and sometimes the singers (mostly chorus, sometimes soloists) moved amid the audience as well.

I liked the idea of that, but in practice I found the constant audience movement distracting from the music, and sometimes I had difficulty seeing over people because I am not tall. The music itself was dreamlike and stuffed with overblown purple prose, most of which I quickly began to ignore in favor of just enjoying the splendid singing. The protagonists, Lola (soprano Maeve Höglund) and The Fairy Prince (cross-dressing mezzo Rihab Chaieb), were excellent in singing, acting, and embodying sex appeal, which was a good thing, since the plot (?) was just a weird, color-based advancement through a dream palace to achieve the ideal lover. Or something like that. The Fairy Prince managed to be really sexy in his three-piece suit and pipe while also mansplaining the palace and its rooms to Lola, which made me kind of hate him. I know characterization and plot was not the point, though, and the whole thing was successful as a spectacle that pushed against boundaries of opera staging, plus the chorus had a lot to do, yay - I used to sit next to the chorus' conductor, Liz Braden, back when my choir was conducted by Donald Nally.

The Broad Street Review's critique.

Dates are already set for next year's O18, so I am going to assume this year's festival was a success for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Go them!

little moments of alienness and not

Sep. 25th, 2017 09:10 am
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
[personal profile] brainwane
Years ago, when Leonard was writing Constellation Games, he named the various alien species after different human words for "alien" or "foreigner". So there are Aliens, Foreigners, Farang, Gaijin, Extraterrestrials, the Others, and so on. One species of them is the Auslanders; later a German-speaking friend told us the spelling of the plural ought to be Auslender.

Today I was rereading a little chunk of Lake Wobegon Days and came across Keillor referring to Ausländers, and was reminded of that moment years ago. And then just after that was the passage about Flag Day, and I was catapulted far further back, to fourth grade and the first time I read (or was read?) any of this book. I was in a Gifted and Talented class in an elementary school in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, with that teacher who had a chunk of the Berlin Wall in her classroom. Did she read that to us or did I read it by myself?

Saturday I was on the 7 train back home from Maker Faire and I was sitting near some girls who -- as they happened to say aloud, in their conversation with each other -- were 12 or 13 years old. I am about three times their age. Yet I wanted them to look at me not as an alien grownup but as someone they might be like. They all have smartphones and evidently deal with boys sending them dick pics. And they act blasé about it; I don't know how they actually feel. The next day I talked about this with the people staffing the table next to mine. One of them suggested that boys have always done sort of body-part-display to girls less as a sexual come-on and more as a thrill-of-the-forbidden act, with dick pics as analogous to mooning. We joked about the dedication of an imaginary man from a previous century who worked in rotogravure or lithograph or woodcut. Or at least, like, Matthew Brady or someone using silver nitrate film.

cue "Ashokan Farewell"

My dearest Elizabeth. Tonight the Union Army rests. We know not what battle the general will order us to tomorrow. But know that my love for you is the wind that calls your name through the trees. Here's a dick pic. I had to sit for five hours for the army portrait painter boy to make this.

Sergeant Cowling was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.


I was laughing pretty hard by the end of this.

Maybe one reason I like laughing with others, and making others laugh, is because it is a kind of proof that we are not entirely aliens to each other.
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
[personal profile] sovay
I don't understand Facebook's algorithms. Independent of any pages shared by my friends, it keeps presenting me with this photo of violinist Gil Shaham, upcoming guest of the BSO, and I cannot tell if it thinks that I am the sort of person who listens to classical music (true) or the sort of person who thinks this particular musician is great-looking (also true) and in either case I have no money for the symphony and extant commitments on one of the days he's playing anyway, but I still want to know which data they were farming to produce this result. Seriously, it's been every time I go to check in on the news. I'm not complaining, but I am impressed.

Gil Shaham


(I did not make it to the Brattle's screening of A Matter of Life and Death (1946), so the question of whether I find David Niven as beautiful in that movie as Andrew Moor does will have to wait for another time.)

I would have thought lawful

Sep. 24th, 2017 11:59 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
I Am A: Chaotic Good Human Paladin/Sorcerer (4th/3rd Level)


Ability Scores:

Strength-13

Dexterity-8

Constitution-16

Intelligence-10

Wisdom-8

Charisma-7


Alignment:
Chaotic Good A chaotic good character acts as his conscience directs him with little regard for what others expect of him. He makes his own way, but he's kind and benevolent. He believes in goodness and right but has little use for laws and regulations. He hates it when people try to intimidate others and tell them what to do. He follows his own moral compass, which, although good, may not agree with that of society. Chaotic good is the best alignment you can be because it combines a good heart with a free spirit. However, chaotic good can be a dangerous alignment when it disrupts the order of society and punishes those who do well for themselves.


Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.


Primary Class:
Paladins take their adventures seriously, and even a mundane mission is, in the heart of the paladin, a personal test an opportunity to demonstrate bravery, to learn tactics, and to find ways to do good. Divine power protects these warriors of virtue, warding off harm, protecting from disease, healing, and guarding against fear. The paladin can also direct this power to help others, healing wounds or curing diseases, and also use it to destroy evil. Experienced paladins can smite evil foes and turn away undead. A paladin's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that they can cast. Many of the paladin's special abilities also benefit from a high Charisma score.


Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.


Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

The Good Place

Sep. 24th, 2017 04:57 pm
sartorias: (Default)
[personal profile] sartorias
I've been watching this really clever sitcom while doing the exercise bike. Sadly, I only have a couple of episodes to go for the first season. Why couldn't it be longer?

It is so rare that I like a sitcom, but this one is smart and funny, and the actors terrific.

A leaf

Sep. 24th, 2017 04:57 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Taken from a couple of angles over about a minute.

Read more... )

I am taking care of someone's cats

Sep. 24th, 2017 04:45 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
As one does, I keep a log of my visits.

The cats expressed their appreciation for my record-keeping.

Read more... )
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I dreamed I was in Providence last night, visiting friends who don't exist in waking life. There was no particular occasion—I hadn't seen them in months, NecronomiCon notwithstanding. I had brought one of them a ring I had found in a thrift store in Boston. It looked like heavy gold with a blurred device on the signet and chips of emerald down the band; I thought it was costume jewelry. It had been priced accordingly. The girl at the register hadn't been able to tell me where it came from. I almost tossed it to my friend as we walked through Burnside Park, telling him it had looked like his style. He didn't even put it on: he turned it over once or twice and dropped onto the nearest bench like someone had kicked his feet out from under him and burst into tears. I thought at one point he said, "How could you do this to me?" but I didn't have an answer and I wasn't sure he was asking me. When he left without looking at me, he left the ring resting on the bench behind him. I put it back in my pocket. I went back to their house. He was there helping his partner prepare dinner; no one said anything about it. I can do something with this dream, I think. [personal profile] spatch asked me months ago if I had ever written Lovecraftian noir and I couldn't think of a way to do it without being cheap or clichéd or ripping other authors off: I might have dreamed myself a way in. I just wish I could think of things that don't require research.

1. Thank you, question mark, Facebook, for pointing me toward this teeth-grinding article: Zoe Willams, "Yes, yes, yes! Welcome to the golden age of slutty cinema." I was a little wary of the opening, but then we reached the following claim—

"On the big screen, we look to the 1930s and 40s – rightly – for an object lesson in how to make a female character with depth, verve, wit and intelligence, but to expect those women to shag around would be unreasonable, anachronistic."

—and I blew a fuse. Can I chase after the author screaming with a copy of Baby Face (1933)? Or the bookstore clerk from The Big Sleep (1946)? Pre-Code cinema in general? A stubborn and sneaky percentage of Hollywood even after the ascendance of the Production Code? "It is a radical act," William writes, "which every film generation thinks they are the first to discover: to create characters who are not good people"—well, apparently every generation of film critics thinks they discovered it, too. I wrote on Facebook that I was reminded of the conversation between an ATS driver and her prospective mother-in-law in Leslie Howard's The Gentle Sex (1943), where the younger woman declares proudly that "for the first time in English history, women are fighting side by side with the men" and the older woman quietly lets fall the fact that she served as an ambulance driver on the front lines of the last war. Just because the young women of the rising generation don't know about the social advances of their mothers doesn't mean they didn't happen. Just because the author of this article lives in a retrograde era doesn't mean the onscreen representation of morally ambiguous women is some kind of millenial invention. It's so easy to think that the past was always more conservative, more blinkered, more backwards than the present. It's comforting. It's dangerous. It permits the belief that things just get better, magically, automatically, without anyone having to fight to move forward or hold ground already won. Once you recognize that the past, even briefly, got here first, it's a lot harder to feel superior for just being alive now. We can't afford it and anyway it isn't true.

2. Apropos of nothing except that I was listening to Flanders and Swann, I am very glad that I discovered them before reading Margery Allingham, otherwise I might have thought she invented "The Youth of the Heart." It's quoted in a scene in The Beckoning Lady (1955)—correctly attributed, but her books are so full of fictional artists and musicians that when I read of "Lili Ricki, the new Swedish Nightingale, singing Sydney Carter's lovely song against a lightening sky," I might have easily had the Avocado of Death problem and assumed she made them both up. As it is, I know the song from a recording of Swann performing it solo as part of At the Drop of a Hat in 1957, since he wrote the music. And I was reminded of Allingham because there's a copy of Traitor's Purse (1941) on Howard's bookshelves in Howard the Duck (1986). I assume someone in the props department was a fan.

3. The Somerville Theatre has announced its repertory schedule for October. I am sad that the double feature of James Whale's Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) is the same night that [personal profile] rushthatspeaks and I already have plans to see William Wellman's Beggars of Life (1928) at the HFA, but I am looking forward mightily to the triple feature of Psycho (1960), Psycho II (1983), and Psycho III (1986), because it is the Saturday before my birthday and five and a half hours of Anthony Perkins seems like a good preemptive birthday present to me. I have never seen Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963), either, or Anna Biller's The Love Witch (2016), and I always like Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead (2004). I know Brad Anderson's Session 9 (2001) was shot at the derelict Danvers State Hospital before it was demolished for condos, a decision which I hope is literally haunting the developers to this day. Anyone with opinions about the rest of this lineup?

I am off to write letters to politicians.

letters, Johnson & DeVos

Sep. 24th, 2017 08:25 am
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

You have been saying terrible things about people with "pre-existing" conditions for all of 2017, comparing us to cars, saying that we should pay more for our healthcare, even though most "pre-existing" conditions are not caused by anything a person does or by bad choices they make. In fact, since pregnancy is a "pre-existing condition," you are actively punishing people for having families--which seems to run counter to the agenda the Republican Party has been pushing for years The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal, which callously strips all protections from people like me (and which makes it entirely possible that a premature baby will hit his or her lifetime cap before leaving the hospital for the first time), makes it clear that in fact you have no idea of what it's like not to be able to afford healthcare, or to have a chronic, incurable condition, and that you don't even have enough imagination to be able to empathize with the people whose lives you are destroying.

Moreover, given that there is astonishing unity among healthcare professionals, patients' interest groups, and major insurers (plus all fifty Medicaid administrators and a current count of eighteen governors), it is quite clear that you aren't doing this because it's a good idea. You don't care whether it will be good or bad for your constituents. All you care about--and more than one of your Republican colleagues have admitted as much--is repealing "Obamacare." You're doing this because you made a campaign promise, and you're too blindly self-centered to see that this is a promise that would be better honored in the breach than in the observance. You and your colleagues are behaving childishly, destroying something only because you hate the person who built it. The ACA is not failing, as you keep claiming it is, Senator. It is suffering mightily from obstructionism and deliberate sabotage from you and your colleagues, and, yes, it does need reform. But your proposal isn't reform. It's wanton demolition of legislation that is working, legislation that is succeeding in making the lives of Americans better, demolition which you are pushing without the slightest consideration of its effects on the people you claim you serve.

I'm not writing this letter because I expect you will change your mind--or, frankly, even read it. I'm writing this letter because I'm angry and scared and unbelievably frustrated with your deliberately cruel and blindly stupid determination to do something that no one in this country wants. You won't change your mind, but you can't say you didn't know there was opposition.

P.S. I'd still really like to see you denounce white supremacism, Senator. Because right now, I unwillingly believe you don't think there's anything wrong with it.

***

Dear Ms. DeVos:

I am appalled at your decision to roll back the protections given to sexual assault survivors by Title IX. I'm not surprised, because it's perfectly in line with the other cruel, short-sighted, and bigoted decisions you've made since being appointed Secretary of Education, but I honestly wonder (and I wonder this about a number of Trump appointees, so you needn't think you're alone) how you live with yourself. How do you justify, even if only to yourself, the damage you're doing? Do you believe the lies you tell?

I'm not going to quote statistics, because I'm sure they've been shown to you. I'm not going to try to change your mind with personal stories. I am going to ask, futilely, that you stop and truly think about the young women whose college careers, already catastrophically imperiled by the sexual assault they have survived, may be destroyed because of the policies you're implementing. And I'm going to ask how on earth you think this destruction is part of your mandate as Secretary of Education?

Everyone's civil rights need to be respected. I believe this strongly enough to belong to the ACLU. But victims' rights are historically ignored, trampled on, and outright broken, especially in cases of sexual assault, especially when the perpetrator is white and male. I also strongly believe that the purpose of government should be to ensure that privilege is not used to skew justice. It was already crushingly difficult for sexual assault survivors to report their assailants. You have made it that much harder, and that much more likely that they will simply remain silent. I cannot help thinking that that silence is your goal, and that, Ms. DeVos, is truly shameful.
child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
[personal profile] child_of_the_air
The Greek myth that everyone knows about the seasons is the story of the abduction of Persephone to the underworld, and her mother Demeter's long search for her daughter.  Demeter arranges her daughter's release, but only after Persephone has caved in and eaten six pomegranate seeds, condemning her to stay in the underworld forever.  As a compromise, Zeus allows her to live six months of the year with her mother and requires her to live six months of the year in the underworld.  

This myth isn't just well-known among Americans: it was central to, among other things, the Eleusisian Mysteries, the most important of the Greek mystery initiations.  These were more about the underworld and life after death than about the seasons: Persephone isn't just a nature goddess, but also the Queen of the Underworld, and strongly associated with Hades, her abductor and sometimes husband.

My own pagan practice, however, isn't built on a traditionalist reconstruction of Ancient Greek religion.  I do read the writings of some Hellenic Reconstructionists, and I am often informed by their understandings but, aside from the practical difficulties--I have no way of making the burnt offerings so central to Ancient Greek religious practice--historic reconstruction doesn't feel right to me.  Instead, what I practice is a sort of bastardized Hellenism, and is, as much as anything, an attempt to use Greek names as labels for the gods I worship because I don't have any other names for them.

In any case, my own association with the turn of the seasons--and specifically with the equinoxes, though weather here doesn't really get fall-like for another month--is with a duality of Persephone and Prometheus.  Prometheus brought fire to humanity, and was bound and tortured for a time on Zeus's orders in punishment, until Hercules broke his chains and freed him.  Besides the fact that they are both gods who are associated with a form of captivity, they are both gods who are associated with bringing humanity something associated with warmth and light: fire in Prometheus's case, and the warm growing season in Persephone's case.

I've come to think of winter as the season of human-made fire just as summer is the season of warmth from the sun, and so treat Persephone and Prometheus as a pair: in summer, Prometheus is bound while Persephone walks the earth, while in winter, Prometheus returns to give us fire, but Persephone returns to the underworld.  This leads to the equinoxes being a sort of changing-of-the guard observance, greeting one of them and saying farewell to the other.

Unfortunately, I haven't managed to come up with a well-considered ritual practice for the equinoxes, though I have some ideas.  If anyone wants to make suggestions, I would appreciate them.

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