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?

Button, button...

Jul. 22nd, 2017 02:22 am
nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
My twenty-seventh! (of 28) Readercons went rather nicely.

How I love listening to intelligent people!  And it’s exhilarating (if scary) to try to make sense on panels.

Only three mishaps, one on the way over.  The highway traffic was appalling, bumper-to-bumper, and my lift, distracted by Siri’s countermands, slid gently into the car ahead, out of which burst an irate and vengeful Chinese couple, dancing like furies round and round both cars, heedless of the six-lane traffic, shouting, “You pay cash!  You pay cash!”  But on the sight of a cellphone, they vanished like spirits at cockcrow.

Next, I discovered that I’d left my carefully curated selection of chocolate and tea—all carefully matched to my program—on a chair at home.  Ah well, there were M&Ms in the green room.  And Taylor’s of Harrogate tea, not at all shabby.

After my reading, I found I’d lost an especially pretty and unmatchable hand-painted bead-button from a favorite dress, and was disconsolate.  It could have fallen off anywhere in the hotel.  But I searched what I could search—my room—before checking out, and discovered the button in the darkest corner of the closet, glinting back at my Light app like a mouse’s eye.  I felt (as one does) disproportionately elated.  I swear it hadn't been there the first six times I looked.  Don’t you love happy endings?

I heard four remarkable readings.  Sonya Taaffe gave us intense shards of poetry and a short story about the post-punk tutelary spirit of a Birmingham canal; Lila Garrott read from their astonishing misfits-in-Utopia novel-in-progress, which is stranger than you can imagine, and utterly lucid; Kathleen Jennings read part of an Australian Gothic novella about an outback town invaded, all but strangled, by alien intrusive flowers, and a tale of a wandering exile oneirically entangled in a Briar-Rose-like labyrinth.  And the peerless John Crowley read from his essential mythic tale of an immortal crow, Ka : Dar Oakley in the ruin of Ymr.  It will be out at last in September!  He gave me an ARC!  Calloo!

For all the brilliance, all the wisdom, wit, and passion lavished on the dizzying array of panels, the hour I remember most vividly was the hilarious Terrible But Great, on irresistibly awful books.  What a hoot!

Of my own panels, Good Influences and Sororal Fantasies were simply a joy; and I plume myself on getting through the Deaths of Gods with James Morrow and Max Gladstone without being cut to ribbons intellectually.  It was like jumping into Double Dutch with lasers.  But I sideslipped the Tetragrammaton:  I went pagan, and talked about the voice from the island crying, “The great Pan is dead,” and about walking down through San Clemente in Rome, from Baroque exultation, down through mediaeval austerity, the abyssal ἰχθύς of the catacombs, the rock-hewn and bull-blooded temple of Mithras, down to the ever-welling spring.

And my reading—always the locus of hope and anxiety—went quite well.  There were more than a handful in the audience:  they listened intently, laughed at the right places, and asked impassioned questions.  They loved the scene I hadn’t read before, about John Donne’s wife and daughter and the compasses.  And wonder of wonders, I have a recording!  As many of you know, Readercon has been recording its panels and readings for decades, way back to wax cylinders (for all I know), and squirreling them away in a vault somewhere.  Possibly in catacombs.  After the apocalypse, I imagine they’ll be used to recreate civilization from scratch.  Gods help us all.   I’ve been asking forever and ever where the archived recordings go.  Some of us would love to revisit fondly remembered hours.  (There was that panel on language when Crowley recited the first page of Lolita...)  This time, the sound guy (there's only one, racing about like an electron) said, Sure.  Got a USB stick?  I had, and he just popped the files onto it.  Golly.

The bookroom is simply paradise.

Over the four days, I had lively and engaging conversations with (among others) [personal profile] ashnistrike , [personal profile] sovay , [personal profile] rushthatspeaks , [personal profile] gaudior , [personal profile] yhlee , [personal profile] negothick , Crowley, Michael Swanwick and Marianne Porter, Glenn Grant, Michael Damian Thomas, and too little time with John Clute and Liz Hand, Chip Delany, and Suzy McKee Charnas.  Long may they all continue!  Oh, and the little Fox came on Sunday and charmed everyone.  He's just learned to wave bye-bye, and has acquired an enchanting deep chortle when you fly him overhead.

Then I tottered home and slept eleven hours...

Nine

vid recs?

Jul. 21st, 2017 09:39 pm
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
ETA: And if anyone knows where on earth I can find an Angel S4 AU vid to Will Smith's "Black Suits Comin'" I will be eternally grateful. (I can't remember the vidder, which is making this difficult to Google.) Also a Buffy/Angel shipper vid to Darren Hayes' "Insatiable," likewise apparently impossible to Google without the vidder's name.

I have gotten out of the habit of chasing down fan vids and would like to download some to my laptop for enjoyment purposes. I find them to be a lovely pick-me-up--they don't necessarily have to be cheerful vids. But I probably can't deal with extreme gore or realistic violence (I've seen half an extremely well done Hannibal vid that I had to nope out of because I am chicken).

Some vids already in my collection that I really like, to give you an idea (in no particular order):
- [personal profile] bironic's "Starships"
- bopradar's "I Kissed a Girl"
- Lithium Doll's "All These Things"
- [personal profile] laurashapiro's "Ing"
- [personal profile] giandujakiss's "A Charming Man"
- obsessive24's "Cuckoo" and "Remember the Name"
- [personal profile] shati's "Hope on Fire"
- sisabet's "Cowboy" and "Two Words"

Fandoms I especially like watching/or have some clue about:
- Buffyverse
- Firefly
- I like the visuals of Game of Thrones although I've only watched one episode (have read most of the extant books, though)
- Leverage
- Arrow
- The Good Place
- recent Star Wars
- The Great Queen Seondeok
- Suits
- The Good Wife

That being said, if the vid can be understood without having seen the show, I'm happy to watch it. :)
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... )

(no subject)

Jul. 20th, 2017 05:36 pm
skygiants: Fakir from Princess Tutu leaping through a window; text 'doors are for the weak' (drama!!!)
[personal profile] skygiants
Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age is a fairly fascinating book that's trying to do a lot of things at once: the book starts out with the dramatic recounting of MURDER!!! and then immediately takes, if not a deep dive, at least a vigorous swim through such varied topics as the history of British radio and the BBC, Keynesian economic philosophy, copyright limitations, and the founding of Sealand in order to contextualize it.

Once we get back to the story of the murder itself, however, it turns out: IT'S BONKERS. The principals in the case are two pirate radio impresarios in 1966. Oliver Smedley, An Ardent Free-Trade Capitalist, was running a station called Radio Atlanta on a boat off the coast; Reggie Calvert, A Dance Hall Impresario, had taken over an entire abandoned British navy fort called Shivering Sands in the Thames Estuary and staffed it with a rotating encampment of youths running a station called Radio City. At one point Smedley and Calvert were going to have a merger, but then they had an ACRIMONIOUS BREAKUP spurred on in part by:

- the fact that Smedley was supposed to give Calvert a shiny new transmitter and instead provided an old one that never worked
- the fact that Smedley never paid all the bills he had promised Calvert that Radio Atlanta would pay
- the fact that Calvert got sick of all this and decided to merge with another station instead

The reason for all these pirate radio stations on boats and naval forts, by the way, is because in 1966 there was no legal pop radio in the UK (as explained, extensively, via the history of radio and Keynesian economic theory etc. that makes up the first half of the book). Because the pirates were technically outside of UK territory, on the other hand, they could technically get away with doing whatever they wanted, or at least the government like "it will be way too embarrassing to launch a huge naval raid against a bunch of youths on was a fort with a radio transmitter, so let's not."

HOWEVER, the fact that everything was happening outside of territorial waters where British laws and police had no jurisdiction BACKFIRED when:

- Ardent Free-Trade Capitalist Smedley decided he was so mad that Calvert had made a deal without him that he was going to MAKE SURE that the deal could never go through
- he was going to GET BACK HIS PROPERTY [the transmitter that had never worked]
- so he sent an ACTUAL OCCUPYING FORCE composed of out-of-work dockworkers to Shivering Sands, stole a bunch of key broadcasting equipment, took a bunch of it back to the mainland, and left a bunch of toughs to hold everybody who was on the station at that time hostage!!!
- (when they met the invading force, the hostage broadcasters were like 'welp' and made everybody tea)
- ("the vessel had to return briefly to pick up [the contractor who recruited the gang], who had been left behind drinking his tea")
- and then Smedley went to Calvert and his partner, an actual professional broadcaster, and was like 'I will not let you broadcast from there again or finish making your deal unless you pay me FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS'

Naturally, everyone involved was like 'wtf????' and refused to pay Smedley a dime; Calvert threatened to involve the police but the police were like 'ummmmmm technically we can't do anything for the same reasons we haven't been able to stop you from broadcasting;' Calvert then made a whole bunch of other even wilder threats; and all the hired dockworkers sat around cheerfully charging Smedley for hostaging operations which he was rapidly running out of money for.

Anyway, in the middle of all this, Calvert drove out to Smedley's house in the middle of the night and started screaming at him, and Smedley shot him and then claimed self-defense and that his HOSTILE OCCUPATION OF A POP RADIO STATION was just a little joke gone wrong! No harm no foul if only Calvert hadn't been so UPSET about it! It did help Smedley's self-defense case that Calvert happened to be carrying A FAKE PEN FULL OF NERVE GAS at the time, which apparently, according to his family, he always carried around just for safekeeping.

...so the author's point in writing about all this seems to be that a.) this incident was crucial in getting the pirate radio boats shut down and the formation of the current BBC radio system that includes actual pop radio, b.) that this is all a forerunner of later copyright battles and offshore data centers and so on, c.) pirate-radio-on-boats in the 1960s was a WILD TIME. About the latter, at least, he is most surely not mistaken.

(This has nothing to do with the main brunt of the book but I have to spare a mention for Radio City's chief engineer, who later was hired by the mob! to perform an assassination attempt!! using a spring-loaded hypodermic needle full of cyanide!!! in what it turns out was ACTUALLY a sting operation by the U.S. Treasury department who picked the hapless Radio City engineer to act as the assassin because "he needed the fee while being clearly incapable of killing anybody"!!!! This whole incident gets two pages in the book because it's somewhat irrelevant to the author's argument but seriously, where is this guy's movie?

For the record, the same mobsters then tried to intimidate Reggie Calvert's widow into selling them the remnants of the station and she was like 'lol no' and they were like '....well, when a lady knows her own mind, she knows her own mind! No hard feelings.')
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.

fountain pen sale

Jul. 19th, 2017 03:31 pm
yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
[personal profile] yhlee
The time has come to find new homes for some of the vintage fountain pens in my collection.

These are all great pens, but the truth is I have a fair number of great pens and these are ones that simply aren't making it into my rotation. I'd rather someone else get some enjoyment out of them!

All prices include shipping within the continental USA. Elsewhere, please inquire--I will probably have to charge you shipping at cost. I accept payment via Paypal.

If interested, either leave a comment or email me (yoon at yoonhalee dot com).





From left to right:

1. Wahl-Eversharp Doric in Kashmir (a sort of dark swirly marbled green). Lever filler. The great thing about this pen is that it has a #3 adjustable nib. It goes from Fine to Broad on the flexiest setting. The only reason I'm letting this go is that I have a Wahl-Eversharp Doric in black with a #7 adjustable nib, and I honestly don't need two adjustable Dorics.

Please note that the #3 Doric is a petite pen--unless you have very small hands, you will probably want to use this posted.

Price: $225. SOLD

NOTE: [personal profile] troisroyaumes gets first call on this one. If she doesn't want it, then someone else can have it!

2. Waterman Lady Patricia that I bought from Mauricio Aguilar of Vintage Fountain Pens. He graded it a superflex, and it's a pleasurable and absolutely reliable writer; I've always had great experiences with the pens I've bought from Mauricio. Lever filler. Again, this is a lovely pen that I simply don't use--in this case because I'm busy using a different pen that I bought from Mauricio, a Waterman 52V (for which Jedao's Patterner 52 was named :p). Like the #3 Doric, this is a petite pen, and probably best used posted unless you have very small hands.

This is a handsome pen with green and brown swirls, and I love looking at it, but I really prefer for all my pens to be working pens that get used. Maybe you can have fun with it!

Price: $410.

3. Conklin Crescent Filler--the crescent filling mechanism is not that different from lever filling and is very simple to use, and really neat if you love geeking out about different filling mechanisms. This is a wet noodle that does hairlines, if you're into flex writing or copperplate; I probably wouldn't recommend it for sketching because of the fineness of the nib, but it would make a great fountain pen for non-sketch-speed line art.

Price: $320.

4. Osmia 34 in gray candy. This is a very flexy nib that goes from Fine to Broad, and unusually, it's in a piston filler. Please note that the material is discolored along about half the barrel (ambering)--this doesn't affect the pen's functionality, although if you care more about aesthetics this is not the pen for you. This nib has an almost painterly feel to it that is very pleasurable for writing.

Price: $240. [Going to [personal profile] rushthatspeaks for a trial run!]

5. The last two are a Sheaffer Balance in Marine Green, fountain pen and mechanical pencil set. The fountain pen is a lever filler and has a flex nib; I'm not sure what width graphite the pencil takes, although it comes loaded with one. The set is very handsome; please note that the fountain pen has a chip near the lever. This doesn't affect function but may be an aesthetic concern.

Price: $210.

NOTE: [personal profile] troisroyaumes gets first call on this one. If she doesn't want it, then someone else can have it! (She decided to get the Wahl-Eversharp Doric instead, so this pen and pencil set is available!)

Chicks Dig Gaming

Jul. 19th, 2017 12:25 pm
yhlee: Avatar: The Last Airbender: "fight like a girl" (A:tLA fight like a girl)
[personal profile] yhlee
Chicks Dig Gaming, ed. Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith? [this appears to be part of the author name, as it's listed with the interrogation point in multiple places], and Lars Pearson is one of the books I picked up at Pandemonium Books & Games in Boston. It's an absolutely delightful collection of essays about gaming by women, ranging the gamut from board games to video games to one anthropologist non-gamer who decided to play Portal to study the phenomenon of gaming and explore her reasons for not being a gamer. :p

A few of the essays didn't speak to me personally, but that's fine--for example, there was one about adventure games through the lens of the Monkey Island games, which I did play, but I didn't imprint on the genre. It's not that it was a bad essay, but rather that it was a type of gaming experience I just wasn't as interested in. And that's fine; for some other reader that could be entirely their thing.

Here's a rundown:

cut for length )

To sum up: highly recommended.

梅雨diary: Yukata be Kidding Me

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:15 pm
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
Early in my stay at Tonjo's Foreign Faculty Building, I joked to Miho that I didn't want to end up as the main character of a Japanese tale, 「可哀相な外人の物語」, or "The Story of the Pitiable Foreigner". The thought had been prompted by my bedtime reading of a Japanese novel that had one of its main characters, sleeping alone in an old building, rather suddenly and unexpectedly introduced to a ghost to his room at night. At that point, as I looked out at the grove surrounding the large and otherwise deserted old building in which I was then sleeping alone, I had decided that light fiction was a better choice.

The yurei and obake of Tonjo ignored me, happily, but I felt that fever took me pretty close to "Pitable Foreigner" status, had I not been able to pull out of the dive for my last evening in Tokyo, merely scraping the tops of trees and getting bits of bird's nest in my cleavage.

I was particularly glad, because this was the day that Satomi, her mother and her friend Chiaki (who as luck would have it works in a kimono shop) were coming to do yukata-related things with me. Our original plan had been ambitious - to go to Kanda shrine and watch rakugo. Gradually, though, with the temperature being in the mid-30s, this was reduced to eating some nice desserts at my flat, then walking elegantly around the grounds of Tonjo drawing admiring glances from all who beheld us. Anyway, here are some of my favourite pics from the occasion. There are quite a few, but feel free to scroll past:

DSC00212DSC00211P1270005P1270036P1270070浴衣de東女_170716_0001P1260997

P1260973
Obi Wonky Maybe?

Of course, I only included that last photo so that I could use the caption.

Then it was on to Miho's place in Nakano, where my appetite returned on cue, and I had a wonderful meal cooked by her husband Hiroshi, a fine chef as I remember from last year. (Unfortunately, he wasn't feeling well himself, for much the same reasons as me before, and had to retire early.) Satoshi Kitamura, whom I'd met at the Mexican embassy, was another guest at supper, and we had a very good talk about the varying degrees of (in)directness one might expect in different cultures, which issued in the following Buzzfeedish joint declaration (apologies for the national stereotyping, but sake is no friend to fine distinctions):

If an American thinks it's a bad idea, they'll say, "That's a bad idea."
If an English person thinks it's a bad idea, they'll say, "That's a very brave suggestion."
If a Japanese person thinks its a bad idea, they'll say, "The weather's been hot, recently, hasn't it?"

We had drunk quite a bit of sake by that time. Afterwards we walked fifty yards to the local festival, the other reason for being yukata-clad. It's a small affair but a popular and traditional one: Miho reminisced how the sound of the festival music used to excite her when she was at primary school (she's a little older than me), and she'd run home to change, ready to dance. As is typical in such affairs - not that I'd seen one before in real life - a temporary tower had been built in the centre of an open space, with a small stage surrounding it. At the top, a taiko drummer accompanied a set of maybe half a dozen tunes (each of which had a different dance associated with it), which were basically played in rotation throughout the evening, and from the tower strings of lanterns radiated like filaments from a web. There were various food and drink stalls (though not goldfish scooping, sadly!) around the edge of the area. Some people were watching, some were dancing - the dance involving (whatever the tune) a slow, anti-clockwise circuit of the tower, done in conjunction with various combinations of arm gestures, claps, turns, and forward and backward steps. Not too hard to learn, if you've had enough sake, and I followed Miho and gave it a go. I am no dancer in any idiom, but I remembered the lyrics of the Awa Bon Odori:

The dancers are fools
The watchers are fools
Both are fools alike so
Why not dance?


This has been my motto throughout the trip, and to be honest it's not such a bad one for life.

If you want a flavour of the sound and movement of the thing, please click through to the video below:

20170711124355

That marked the end of my Tokyo stay, and the next morning I boarded the shinkansen to Kanazawa in the west of the country, a town famed for fresh seafood, for the garden of Kenrokuen, and for putting gold leaf on so many things that it would make a rapper blush.

The first thing that fascinated me, though (because I am a Big Kid) was the fountain at the station, which was also at times a digital clock. Cool! (I'm sure they have these kinds of things elsewhere too, but I've not seen one.) The station itself is pretty impressive. This huge structure at its entrance seems new, and I suspect may have been erected to celebrate the arrival of the shinkansen line from Tokyo a couple of years ago, after which Kanazawa put itself on a no-holds-barred tourist footing.

DSC00261DSC00265

I'd put myself up at an air BnB for three nights in Kanazawa, to justify two nights at a proper ryokan in Takayama afterwards. It was my first Air BnB experience, and while it was nothing special nor was the price I paid for it. The room was pretty bare, but everything promised was present, and at least I had this as the view from my window:

DSC00221

I have to say that, throughout the next few days, my energy and appetite, briefly resurgent for the Nakano matsuri, went back into abeyance, so I don't think I was able to do Kanazawa justice. However, I did put the miles in! First stop was the impressive fish market (which looked delicious but prompted no appetite in me at all, alas), followed by the castle park. Of course, no one knows whether samurai armour was originally modelled on the appearance of Japanese castles, or the other way round. What is certain is that in the feudal period, once two castles spotted each other they were apt to convert (much like the Transformers of our own day) into mechanised fighting machines of ferocious violence and battle it out until one of them was a flaming heap (which was then officially blamed on earthquakes). The sight so disconcerted the shogun that he ordered that castles should never be built within 4 ri of each other, an ordinance still in place today.

Actually, that may have been the fever writing. Interesting as Kanazawa Castle may be, it's actually less famous than the adjoining garden, Kenrokuen - so called because it's a park (en) containing six (roku) features (ken) thought notable - although I'm not sure which six they had in mind. I saw a lot more, personally. Even for someone with low energy levels it was a very pleasant place to walk around, and oddly reminiscent (in its penchant for sudden prospects, islands with "fake" temples, sinuous walks, water features, and commitment to "nature methodised"), to the kind of thing that was being done in English landscape gardening over the same period. (I wish I had the knowledge and vocabulary to expatiate on this.)

DSC00240DSC00246DSC00248DSC00253DSC00255DSC00256


Naturally, after wandering in the heat for a while, you want something to help you cool down. As I mentioned earlier, putting gold leaf in, or on, pretty much everything is a Kanazawa speciality. Want yourself a gold-leaf face mask? We've got you covered. Sweets or soap or sake with bits of gold leaf inside? Of course. Actually, why not just buy yourself an ice cream cornet covered in a single sheet of gold leaf?

DSC00258

Oh, okay then.

NIF: Eps 5-6, Palace Dynamics

Jul. 18th, 2017 05:35 pm
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
Episode 5

This and the next episode was the turning point for me: up until now I enjoyed the episodes, but didn’t feel much engaged. I know it’s different for different people, just as in anything else: one friend was hooked from the first episode at the sight of MC gliding in that flat boat as he played that compelling minor key melody on the flute. Another didn’t get hooked until a certain point in the story a few eps on, and then all of a sudden got hooked so hard that they had to mainline the entire thing until the end. And then promptly rewatch it all.

For me, it was the conviction that I got through this and the next episode, which I think of as a pair, that not only was Mei Changsu as brilliant as promised, but I was going to see proved, bit by bit. That intrigued me. And that intrigue began deepening slowly, until the emotional layers of friendship, loyalty, brotherhood, hidden and obvious—all the conflicting emotional currents—gripped me.
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truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
Dear Senator Johnson:

Thank you for speaking out against Senator McConnell's methodology, which looks suspiciously more like tyranny than democracy. I hope that you will publicly refuse to vote to repeal the ACA with nothing lined up to take its place. McConnell's plan is catastrophic and could only be put forward by someone who neither knows nor cares anything about the healthcare needs of his constituents. I am strongly in favor of bipartisan reform for the ACA, and I hope that you will reach out to your Democratic colleagues to make that happen.

I know I will never persuade you that you are wrong about the effect of the free market, but, because I choose to believe that you are acting in good faith, I have to--in good faith--try again:

The problem with the free market is that it erodes ethics. Free-market capitalism says that ethics are irrelevant--if they're not actually a liability, making you less able to compete. This is why it is crucial that the government regulate corporations. The government doesn't need to worry about corporations making money. They'll take care of that part themselves. The government needs to ensure that they don't run roughshod over employees and consumers in the process. Deregulating everything and trusting to the free market to solve the problem is like opening all the cages and trusting the tigers to solve the food supply problem. Corporations, like tigers, will solve the problem for themselves. We need the government to make sure the problem is solved for everyone.

This is why we need government. This is why government should never be run on the corporate model. It is not a corporation, and if it is to succeed in providing justice for all citizens, it cannot be a corporation. It has to be the balance to the corporations, to keep their untrammeled free market competition from literally poisoning everything they touch. In the past fifty years, America has proved repeatedly that deregulation is not the answer. Deregulation only and always makes things worse, because--hey, wait for it--our country is not a corporation. Treating it like one merely destroys it.

This is why ethics are not something that can be discarded. Because without ethics, you get the Trump administration, and I have to tell you that, no matter how it looks from where you are, from where I am, all I see are tigers.



There's also email to Governor Walker about why isn't he one of the governors speaking out against ACA repeal?

squee!

Jul. 17th, 2017 09:46 pm
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee
You guys, among many many other works, Ninefox Gambit is listed as one of the inspirations for Paizo's forthcoming RPG Starfinder! Tons of other authors and media there too.

I'm also chuffed to see I'm not the only one who has found Jack L. Chalker inspirational for sf purposes (although in my case it was Soul Rider and one that's not mentioned in the list, Rings of the Master).

My husband has preordered Starfinder but does this mean I now have to fight him over the hardcopy? LOL.

NIF: ep 4, rumbles of thunder

Jul. 17th, 2017 06:31 pm
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
On my first viewing, I found Nirvana in Fire pleasant to look at—beautiful people, excellent costumes and sets, gorgeous martial arts, what’s not to like? It wasn’t until the next couple of eps that I began to get hooked, but on subsequent viewings, when I know the layers below every glance, every line, it’s too compelling to stop, and I keep turning away from what I should be doing to watch just a little more. [The constant heat and stickiness don't help.]

The complexity is there, and so brilliant, and this ep finishes setting up one sequence so that we will in the next actually see MC’s brilliance, step by step, unfold before our eyes. We’ve been told—and now we’ll be shown. It was then that I got hooked.

But first, episode four, which sets up not just that aspect, but a whole lot of important emotional beats: we’re beginning to get clues to what happened twelve years ago, that no one dares talk about.

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(no subject)

Jul. 17th, 2017 08:54 pm
skygiants: C-ko the shadow girl from Revolutionary Girl Utena in prince drag (someday my prince will come)
[personal profile] skygiants
[personal profile] genarti read The Privilege of the Sword for the first time recently, because I had been telling her to since 2008, and then kept trying to talk to me about it. Unfortunately at this point I did not remember most of the things she was trying to talk to me about because I hadn't read it since 2007, so eventually I also had to reread it in self-defense.

It turns out this is still and probably will always be my favorite Ellen Kushner book. The central plotline follows Katherine, a cheerful young lady who gets invited to restore the family fortunes by going to live with her incredibly weird uncle in the big city and becoming a swordsman!

Unlike many plucky heroines, Katherine does not initially have really any interest at all in cross-dresing or becoming a swordsman. However, eventually she comes to enjoy swordfighting for its own sake, helped along by the mentorship of her incredibly weird uncle's nice ex-boyfriend, the necessity of dueling for a friend's honor, and the discovery that bisexuality and gender fluidity are potentially relevant concepts to her teen coming-of-age story.

...that's the A-plot! B, C, D, E, and F plots include:

- Katherine's mom's reparation of her relationship with Katherine's weird uncle
- Katherine's weird uncle's actress girlfriend's dreamy new cross-dressing fantasy Broadway show
- Katherine's weird uncle's unfortunate friendship breakup with his mathematician bestie
- Katherine's bff's attempts to overcome trauma from rape-by-fiance by engaging in romantic gay roleplay via letter-writing
- Katherine's other bff's attempts to overcome trauma from an abusive childhood by engaging in competitive voyeurism
- Katherine's bff's gigolo cousin's star-crossed romance with a scriptwriter/potter who is on the run from her abusive in-laws who do not appear in this book
- trade routes?? politics?????

I'm pretty sure that's not all the plots. There are so many plots in this book. It's fine because the plots are barely the point at best, the point is coming-of-age and life after trauma and thumbing your nose at Societal Conventions while getting to know and like yourself! I especially enjoy how in the end, spoilers )

(Note: emo murderous Alec from Swordspoint drives me up a wall in his own book, but is significantly more tolerable to me when he's just Katherine's incredibly weird uncle. I mean he still drives me up a wall here but it's much funnier when he's driving everyone else up a wall too.)
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
This extraordinarily popular series is based on a novel written by a woman, and was first published online. She published it serially, and it became enormously popular, so much so that a film company contacted her and she wrote the screenplay for the series. She has also published at least two revised editions online that I know of — none of this being translated into English; I’ve found out this much by trolling through sites where people who and speak English have talked about it.

So, on to episode three.
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la! sewing hopes

Jul. 16th, 2017 10:12 pm
yhlee: rose in a hexagon (hxx emblem Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
I have just ordered Gillian Conahan's The Hero's Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming [Amazon] and am looking forward to it. :D Conahan is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns (!).

A couple reasons:
- I have toyed with the idea of getting into cosplay but need to learn to sew.
- I would love to learn to do basic sewing things and maybe work up to fancier sewing things. Like, it would be great to be able to shorten pants legs on my own, or shorten sleeves! That would expand my wardrobe options tremendously. (I know tailors do this stuff, but we are too disorganized to get to the tailor.) Not-so-secretly I want to be able to make slightly fancier outfits for dancing in or cosplay, BUT I know that would be a long way away and I should start with easy basic stuff, like pillowcases. =)

One of the book's reviews indicates that it's good for beginners and talking you through pattern alterations. I might try to swing a beginning sewing class eventually, but first I'm going to try Youtube and check this book.

I have also ordered a couple of Japanese pattern books for menswear and unisex (is that still the preferred term?) military jackets. I have a military surplus military jacket that I love dearly, but for half the year in Baton Rouge it is too damn hot to wear comfortably. I crave a military-jacket-alike done in very lightweight fabric that I can wear most of the rest of the year. But I will have to learn to read and alter patterns for this, so this is more in the nature of motivational hoarding.

Also, if I learned to sew cosplay outfits, I could deck out family members and pose them and take photos of them for art photo reference purposes. =D

Right now the big obstacle is that my sewing machine, which I had only played with a little, was one of the flood casualties. I was not really happy with the bobbin-loading whatever, which seemed to come out really lopsided no matter how I did it, so I might go with a different model this time.

So the subgoal to that is to scrape up the money for a sewing machine. I think a budget of $300 will probably get me a machine that is both friendly to beginners and capable enough to last me as I *knock wood* learn to use it and grow more skilled. (This is based on casually Googling for "best sewing machine for beginners 2017.")

Probably the fastest way of raising the money is selling off the stash of older BPAL LE bottles that my mother-in-law uncovered [1] and also trying to sell off some of my spare fountain pens. Is anyone here in the market for vintage fountain pens? FPN Classifieds or asking a seller I have bought from before for an appraisal is probably the likelier bet...? Let's be real, I have a number of lovely vintage pens that are just not making it into the rotation, e.g. a Waterman Lady Patricia with a superflex nib and a wet noodle Sheaffer Balance and another wet noodle Conklin Crescent and a wet noodle Wahl-Eversharp Doric with #3 adjustable nib, are you sensing a theme? [2] Since they're on the somewhat spendy end, the appraisal might be best, but if anyone here has been in the market for a wet noodle/superflex fountain pen, THIS COULD BE YOUR CHANCE.

[1] I don't have a list right now; I'm recovering from a migraine (yay Excedrin) and I made Joe take the perfumes into another room because something in there (the cinnamon AT MINIMUM) was setting off the migraine like whoa.

[2] I have basically settled into my Waterman 52V and Wahl-Eversharp Doric #7 adjustable nib as the two wet noodle pens that will do me for the rest of my life. The rest have become kind of redundant.
yhlee: Shuos Jedao (Hellspin Fortress) (hxx Jedao 1x10^6)
[personal profile] yhlee
PREAMBLE: I had a conversation with someone at Readercon whom I'm not going to name to save them the embarrassment. They will undoubtedly recognize themselves if they stop by. You're not a bad person, but you're human and you messed up, and I need to explain why and maybe reduce the odds of something like this happening to me again. Please don't ~FEELINGS~ at me here, even if you're tempted to; I don't need or want an apology; just go think about it in your own space, with your own people.

So. I was chatting with someone who knew of my writing but whom I did not know personally (we were meeting for the first time in any venue), and as the topic meandered, they asked me if they could ask me a personal question.

Fine, I said. (How bad could it be?)

They asked me about living in Louisiana, and whether my marriage to my husband Joe was considered valid.

Well, I said, Louisiana doesn't do gay marriage. [EDIT: 0] However, I haven't transitioned legally (or physically) [1]. On all my legal documentation I'm a woman. So as far as the state of Louisiana is concerned, my marriage to Joe is a marriage between a man and a woman, and I'm legally in the clear. (Please refrain from telling me about how terrible this situation is. Rest assured that I'm in Louisiana, I'm not stupid, I have my own thoughts.)

[0] Huh--it was banned the last time I looked it up several years ago, but the ban apparently has since been struck down. So I said this in error; on the other hand, I would personally have serious reservations about visibly going around as half of a m/m couple in my daily life.

[1] I have reasons for this that are none of your business, and I will not be discussing them here.

Point the first, before I recount more of this conversation. I feel rather strongly that asking a complete stranger about the validity of their marriage is something that you should refrain from doing, even if you have taken the precaution of asking if you can ask a personal question. I answered the question, but I was honestly kind of taken aback and I was in "I must show my public face as an author interacting politely with a reader" mode. The blunter version is that the question was rude.

Anyway, my interlocutor blurted out (in response to my explanation about being listed as a woman on all my legal documentation), "They just MISGENDER YOU???" (with about that emphasis).

Let me explain to you why this form of performative pearl-clutching is deeply unhelpful. The misgendering is a consequence of decisions I have made about my own life. As y'all have figured out, I live in Louisiana; I'm in a more or less conservative part of the country. In addition to choosing not to pursue legal or physical transition, part of not attempting to present as male in my daily life in Baton Rouge (besides the fact that I can't reliably pass, absent transition) involves my calculations regarding personal safety.

Again: I made this choice because it's my life and I have to live it. There are a lot of complicated factors involved that I do not feel the need to explain to the world at large. Who the hell are you, a complete stranger, to judge my life choices? Because that's what that was. Judgment.

What happened next was that my interlocutor was extremely performatively upset "on my behalf" to the point that I had to spend the next ten minutes calming them down and reassuring them that I was all right. This was exhausting for me. Look, I live this shit every day, and I have coping mechanisms, but it's deeply unhelpful to have to come up with extra coping for a complete stranger. If you find the whole situation viscerally horrible or whatever, fine, but that's your damage, not mine; I have my own. Deal with your damage on your own time. For my part, I can't sit here clutching my pearls about my own life situation 24/7 or I'd be paralyzed to the point of uselessness.

Dear reader, next time you're tempted to open your mouth and ask a complete stranger about the status of their marriage, or force them to perform emotional labor reassuring you about the details of their own life, maybe consider shutting your mouth, going away, and working through whatever issues you have on your own time. You're not evil; but you're not helping, either.

Readercon bookspoils

Jul. 16th, 2017 06:22 pm
yhlee: chessmaster (chess pieces) (chessmaster)
[personal profile] yhlee
*shifty eyes*

From Pandemonium Books & Games:
- Chicks Dig Games, ed. Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith?, and Lars Pearson. I'm only a little way into this but really enjoying it, and looking forward to passing it on to my daughter (a girl gamer!) to read.
- Kingdom by Ben Robbins. This is "a role playing game about communities," recommended to me by [personal profile] maga ages ago. I'm glad to have a chance to pick it up in hardcopy (I prefer hardcopy for games).

- David Weber's The Shadow of Saganami (recommended by [personal profile] davidgillon [1])

[1] I ordinarily do not take book recommendations UNLESS I ask for them. I asked David for a specific reason. Please no book recs; it's not you, it's me.

- Seth Dickinson's The Traitor Baru Cormorant, which he gave to me since he was toting around a copy and was pondering giving it away, and I said, "Give it to me! The ARC you gave me drowned in last year's flood." So he did. =D I love this book so much, and I'm excited for the sequel, parts of which I've read in draft.
- C.J Cherryh's The Faded Sun trilogy, the three-volume SFBC hardcovers with the not very good cover art. I love this trilogy and my omnibus with the lovely Michael Whelan cover art (originally from Kutath, I believe) drowned. This was in the "free books" area at Readercon--some astonishingly good stuff got dropped off there, although of course it got picked over within minutes. I decided this was enough of a lucky find and then took it and ran rather than being greedy and looking for more. ^_^
- William Barton's Dark Sky Legion, which I grabbed last-minute from the free table because, although it looked like no one else wanted it, flipping open to a random page suggested that it might have SURPRISE CLONES. =D Also, it has a cover that honestly looks like...look. The smoldering (figuratively, not literally! with sf/f you have to specify XD) white man appears to be buck-naked, is holding a bunch of wires or something that conveniently, along with some smoke, conceal his crotch area, and also he is ripped. =D I mean, this book could be COMPLETELY TERRIBLE, but who knows? It might live down to its cover in wonderfully cracktastic ways! Especially if there are SURPRISE CLONES!

And then I fell prey to the used books available for sale in the Bookshop at Readercon--mainly because a lot of these I am not sure are even available as ebooks and if they're cheap, why not? (We're going to need another bookcase though...)

- David Feintuch's Fisherman's Hope. I've read the Seafort Saga before; this is vol. 4, my favorite one, and later this week I should probably talk about why.
- Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia. I pounced on this when I spotted it--I had previously owned but not actually yet read a copy of this novel, and then flood. So this time I'm going to read it, dammit.
- Walter Jon Williams' The Praxis, The Sundering, and Conventions of War, first three books of the Dread Empire's Fall space opera series. I have read something short by Williams somewhere and remember being intrigued, so I figure this might be worth a try? Joe might like it?
- Steve Jackson's Sorcery! Book Four, Crown of Kings. =D =D =D I used to own this in hardcopy and flood, so being able to replace it = A++.

NIF: Episode Two, we meet Prince Jing

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:43 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
Every man in the capital city wants to marry a princess.
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