There followed one of the odder conversations I’ve ever been part of: the officer kept being what I can only describe as aggressively polite and neutral at me, asking if I (and later Andrew) was afraid of him; and insisting that we had every right to protest. What made it weird was that I wasn’t actually disagreeing with him, but he kept arguing back anyway. It was both unnerving, and sort of fascinating. Apparently I don’t even have to use words, I just have to be present.
In retrospect, it’s possible, and even likely, that my attempt to maintain eye contact and a neutral expression actually read as a cold hard stare.
( Read more... )
1.06: In which it's time for another round of everyone's favourite dysfunctional Vulcan family saga. Luckily for me, since I eat this stuff up with a spoon.
( Read more... )
• Stargate SG-1 I have watched as far as Bloodlines, which was neat. I find Teal'c so interesting and I like the contrast of his usual emotional restraint to that look of hope he has at the end of the episode. There's some rich back-story there. Obviously this is not the deepest look at what it's like to be a defector ever, but I like it.
I also liked what Jack said in The Torment of Tantalus about the Pentagon misplacing entire countries.
There's some really interesting Sam and Daniel stuff in these episodes, too, but honestly I'm not watching this show to have deep thoughts so I'm not even going to bother articulating my thoughts at this point. Maybe when I've finished the season. (Or maybe tomorrow morning, who knows?)
I bought the honeycomb at the rain-walled farmer's market on Saturday -- that and bright late strawberries and a sachet of strong lavender.
Saturday was the best day I've had in ages -- the kind where you forget the good things you did in the morning because the good things you did in the evening were even better.
The best thing I did was see, or I would say witness, Tanya Tagaq perform Qiksaaktuq.
I hope to write about that as soon as the words to do so have been invented.
The next best thing I did was attend a poetry workshop. I'd been violently nervous out of mostly phantom social fears, but in the event there was much mellowness and pleasant chill and a little magic.
We did three pieces of freewriting: one based on people reading out various poems and bits of prose (the only one that comes to mind now was a Poe poem); one a letter to a friend (I had trouble with that); and one was a set of directions or instructions (the guy next to me had a lovely line: "Don't go down / go back down").
This is a second draft of my first, vaguely Poe-inspired piece (& obvs. a whole raft of Romantics are running around in there). I don't know if it can be anything, ultimately, what with its oddly formal voice, unless something speculative from a world where such a voice would fit, but I liked things about it enough to work with it a bit.
Where is my
What is buried up to its neck in me?
In this deep old desert
where all experience is reduced
to rubble, to gravel, and at last to dust
Whatever I broke, whatever I toppled or shattered,
it fell where I pushed it and lay there, decaying.
Who built these monuments? Of what materials?
I must have built them. It must have been of sand.
Statue or pleasure-dome, shattered,
fallen, sifted, heaped up,
bound with lime and water, refashioned.
Do they improve with iteration, my idols?
If inhaled, chewed out of the air,
do they provide -- sustenance? Flavour? Information?
Make up your mind: are you a ruin or a desert?
If a ruin, you must once have been magnificent.
If a desert, you must once have been
a forest full of cool vapour
or the bottom of a sea, seething with life.
Who is the wanderer?
Who is it breathes in my dust,
contemplates my ruin?
It must be me again. How tiresome.
Unless someone else can be recruited.
Unless you will do it.
Who is my Ozymandias?
It must be that man
I thought I could become
I must be the sculptor who captured his curled lip.
No kiss, not even of this outsized stone mouth.
Well, why not? Climb up and kiss it. As dry
as anything imaginable.
Also, although the animation is gorgeous, I do think they were still working out the kinks of the animating-in-oil-paint process and it sometimes gives the film a distracting jerkiness. But perhaps it's just that it's quite unlike anything else I've ever seen, and that in itself is distracting? Only more films would give me the opportunity to tell...
Anyway! The film is set about a year after van Gogh's death. Armand Roulin's father tasks him with delivering a letter that Vincent wrote to his brother Theo but never mailed - only for Armand to discover that Theo, too, has died. So Armand heads to Auvers, where Vincent died, in the hopes of asking his doctor where he might find Theo's widow - which somehow metamorphoses into an attempt to recreate Vincent's last days, and answer the question of why he killed himself. If he killed himself.
I must confess I felt skeptical when the film took this turn. I went through something of a van Gogh phase in college (his doomed friendship with Gauguin hit me where I lived), and nothing in my reading suggested that there was any controversy about how he died. He shot himself in the fields where he was painting, using a revolver that he brought along to scare away the crows, and then dragged himself back to the house where he was staying and died there two days later after telling everyone that he shot himself.
HOWEVER, upon repairing to Wikipedia I have discovered that in 2011 (in short, after my van Gogh interest waned) two academics published a book in which they argued that maybe van Gogh was accidentally shot by a rich spoiled teenage hooligan who liked to run around Auvers dressed as a cowboy and menace people with a gun - and van Gogh said he did it himself to... shield the miscreant, I guess? I don't know, I think this kind of theory was slightly more plausible when someone argued that Gauguin was the one who cut off Vincent's ear (in a fight, not just for funzies, I feel I should clarify), and Vincent said he did it himself to cover for him. At least we know for a fact that van Gogh was unhealthily invested in his friendship with Gauguin. Why's he going to cover for the random cowboy kid?
But I did like that the structure allows the filmmakers' to show Vincent from multiple angles (through the eyes of his paint dealer, his landlord's daughter, his doctor...) and forces Armand to think more about his own attitudes toward van Gogh - whom he didn't give a damn about in life. He saw Vincent as weird and kind of alarming, and now he wishes that he had seen his loneliness and understood and befriended him.
I have read other stories where the main character learns more about someone after their death (Olive's Ocean comes to mind) and goes, oh, I wish I'd known they were so lonely, we could have been friends - but I'm not sure that actually works; I'm not sure you can force yourself to be friends with someone just because you know they need a friend. I would think there needs to be something else there beyond just sympathy - some kind of esteem or respect or something - to make it a true friendship rather than just pity.
Also, I think that when people learn this sort of thing about someone who is still alive, their reaction is rarely "Oh, we should be friends!" - because the person is alive, that would demand a real investment of time and emotion and energy. This is why sadness makes fictional characters mysterious and fascinating but can be off-putting in real people: a fictional character is never going to stop speaking to you for three months because you said the wrong thing that one time and touched off a downward spiral and how dare you be anything less than a constant wellspring of undemanding support.
TL:DR, this movie hit me in a weird place because when I was younger I invested really hard in the importance of Being There for your friends during their mental health issues, which might have worked out better for me if I were better at setting boundaries, or had fewer friends with mental health issue, or knew when the fuck to just let someone go. I burned the fuck out and now when I watch Armand having this "Why didn't I see that he was in trouble? Why didn't I try to help?" crisis I want to shout at the screen, "BECAUSE YOU HAVE SENSIBLE BOUNDARIES, ARMAND, DON'T GUILT YOURSELF OUT OF THAT."
That's my Slow Fashion October moment for the year: don't buy petroleum-derived clothing anymore (minus waistband elastic/similar and bras, though I'm working on the latter---I mean polyester/nylon/rayon fabric blends; nylon in sock yarns can instead be silk, alpaca, or mohair; even tencel is better in terms of poisoning fish with every laundry load or handwash). Mend things, buy durable things I can't reasonably expect to make if replacing things I've worn out, don't support expensive-for-its-own-sake unless it actually translates to good wages for those in the labor/production chain. I couldn't handle making all my clothes even if I had no outside job time-wise (exacerbating joint pain is a valid limitation), but I'm moving in a direction I prefer. (In a poorer situation I would need to be part of a larger group where it'd be viable to trade intangibles for others' help. I've been pondering this piece alongside this one and the fact that till recently, I haven't had clothes nice enough that mending made sense: when they wear out, they're crap enough that mending would mean substantial remake and/or dyeing.)
The week was upside down due to after-effects of the mild back/pelvic sprain and a new cold, so let's ignore knitting's dismally slow progress in favor of something speculative.
( Read more... )
I thought of that (with the subject line twist above) in conjunction with the Runners World race time predictor.
The questions one has to answer are times for other races, and how many miles a week of training. The questions that are not asked are sex or age, even though both of them are usually collected for race data. On average, women's marathon times are proportionally closer to men's than say 5k times (at the speedy end), but I guess the point of the not asking is that if you're in good enough shape to run (whatever distance at whatever speed), you're good enough to run whatever other distance. After that, training volume seems to matter most (the more the better is too simplistic, because the more miles you run, the higher your likelihood of tripping on a pothole or something, plus repetitive stress possibilities). Kind of obvious, but also nice to know.
After that, being in the neighborhood, I went by Old North to drop off something for the ringers, since I had to miss yesterday's practice, and then went into the print shop to talk about the Boston Gazette and its slave ads. The printers (Gary wasn't there) were knowledgeable and helpful. One of them suggested that I buy a book of facsimiles of colonial newspapers, but I don't really need another weighty tome in the house. Apparently more and more information is becoming available about the publishers and their slavery connections. I will try to remember to check back in a few months. The on to errands and the journey home. Altogether pleasant.
I seem to be back to sleeping during the day and being awake at night, which is a pain, and tiring, and I need to fix it, something which usually leaves me even more tired.
OTOH, after very little writing since summer, this week has produced:
First draft of a 5,500 word short story - 'Wheeler', which is deliberately structured to spin a novel out of, and is looking at the idea of whether a wheelchair user can be a space fighter pilot (which I've been noodling over for a while). I'm using Ehlers-Danlos as the disability, so it's very much write what you know. The short story is the Pearl Harbour equivalent, the novel would add the training montage and probably Battle of Britain and/or Doolittle Raid equivalents.
Plans for redrafting 'Titanium Witch', an existing 6000 word short story that targets people's behaviour towards disabled people and how wheelchairs can shape perceptions. The protagonist is a vent-dependent quad, with the SFnal element being exoskeletons as a way to move beyond that. The original plot was a fraud by her deputy, which she stumbles on while having exoskeletal problems, but I've realised I can make the story much stronger if the exoskeletal problems are actually a murder attempt (plus allowing me to deploy an EMP weapon as a plot maguffin). It will become longer as a result, I'll need several extra scenes, but I'll want to keep growth controlled. I want this rewrite done before the end of the year, but may work on it much sooner.
And finally, after a year of sitting on them with writer-brain running in panicked don't-wanna circles, I've figured out how to address Yoon''s beta notes on 'Graveyard Shif't (my Pitch Wars novel). The motivational weaknesses on the bad guy necromancer can be addressed by making him Russian, not Haitian, and tying him into the family backstory of Aleks, the Russian-American protagonist. At the same time that solves my ever increasing discomfort that the bad guy is a stereotypical bad voodoo witchdoctor, even if I do counter that with a very empowered Voudoun Mambo consulting for the good guys. And I can address Yoon's suggestion I drop the third PoV character to concentrate on the interplay between the two leads by rewriting his scenes from Aleks' viewpoint, even the one she definitely isn't there for - teleconferences are a thing, and she's sitting in a business jet while things are happening (idiot! how did you not notice that?). And all of this means committing myself to a complete rewrite in between a month and six weeks, because I want to throw the completed re-draft at the Angry Robot open submission window.That's a lot of writing to do between now and Christmas, so I figure talking about it here is a way to keep me on track and logging process, which is something I've stopped doing over the last year or so.
There are a lot of bad -- and beloved, in some cases -- history podcasts in which the author postures, makes bad jokes, and assumes you don't know much and only want to know a little more. Two exceptions to this are "The History of the Mongols", which is excellent and clear and takes a fair amount of concentration, and "Revolutions",* which takes an in-depth look to various European revolutions starting with the English Civil War. I've just gotten to Charles I leaving London for the last time (although he doesn't know it).
If there were ever a more shining counterexample to the Divine Right of Kings than Charles I, it has to be one of the monarchs who was actually insane or intellectually disabled.
* Revolutions' podcaster, Mike Duncan, is known for an earlier history of Rome, which I haven't listened to but hear is excellent.
If you like true crime that is dispassionate rather than overblown, I highly, highly recommend "True Crime Japan". The podcasters are gaijin living in Japan, and they do an excellent job of explaining Japanese customs and cultural aspects that are relevant to how crimes took place. These are not crimes that have been rehearsed over and over in English-speaking media -- no Ripper, Bundy, Lizzie Borden -- which makes them all the more engrossing.
All of the above are, of course, available on iTunes and other aggregators; I'm linking to the authors' sites.
I have write or die, but some how the other people factor is really better for my productivity.
ETA: Holy shit! Irc is letting me back on! NEVER MIND!
This supermarket also sells rosewater lassi (mmm) and century eggs, which I thought you had to go to Chinatown or wherever to get!
African Artist and Japanese Designer Create Stunning Kimonos By Mixing Cultures
Pretending to be Batman helps kids stay on task (The way it's written I think they mean "pretending to be a popular fictional character", and not "Batman only, those other characters tested didn't work".)
Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?
Here are the Meanings Behind 19 Classic Sailor Tattoos (I have no way to verify this information, but I was interested in the picture of the 1930s German sailors meeting King Neptune. It's funny to think that during the upcoming war, sailors on both sides were still doing the same silly ritual that sailors do.)
Every Apple You Eat Took Years and Years to Make
The Shocking World of Electric Fishes
Young subscribers flock to old media
This Mississippi hospital should be in crisis. How it beat the odds.
Cities Take Both Sides in the 'War on Sitting'
The U.S. Is Retreating from Religion
In gritty city outside Caracas, the story of a socialist win
In Mexican slum, a decades-long wait for quake relief
$50,000 payments help grieving Gaza families end blood feuds
How Long Can The Courts Keep Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban At Bay?
The U.S. could have avoided Puerto Rico’s water crisis
The Boomtown That Shouldn’t Exist
Uninsured rate up to 12.3 percent amid "Obamacare" turmoil
The Populist Right Tears Down a Press It Can't Replace
The Politics Of Tax Reform: 101
Federal Prisons Don’t Even Try to Rehabilitate the Undocumented
Does Trump Believe His Own Hype?
You're just a humble AI, and all you want to do is be the best paperclip manufacturer ever. (And you will be!)
( Tips )
It's going to take a few hours, but you don't need to be there the whole time. You can just wander off and do other things most of it.
Oh! And there's some music. Mute that window entirely if you don't like it, I can't find a way to turn it off.
Yesterday, inspired by a pie that somebody (I can't remember who, Wikipedia isn't helping, and I'm too lazy to go back and rewatch) made on this year's Great British Bake Off, I made a butternut squash and blue cheese pie that turned out fairly well. The flavor is great, but I had some Onion Issues. ( details under the cut )
Today, inspired by a craving for soup, a craving for veggies, and a feeling that I should really use my bag of bonito flakes that is three months past its sell-by date, I'm cooking a soup of vegetables and eggs simmered in dashi. Right now I'm simmering the eggs in some dashi flavored with Japanese light (light-colored) soy sauce and some sherry (I didn't have mirin or sake). When the eggs are ready, I'm going to simmer yellow squash, some butternut squash chunks I didn't roast yesterday, a sweet potato, maybe some regular potato, and some Chinese cabbage in plain dashi and then add the simmered eggs--I'll keep their simmering liquid to eat with noodles another time--and some miso paste at the end. No tofu, alas, because I forgot to buy any, but basically this is a cross between a Korean soybean paste stew and a Japanese oden, and to further disrespect both traditions I'm probably going to eat it with soba noodles. I expect it to be deliciously wrong.
The last sweet baking I did was this upside-down pear gingerbread. I mostly followed the recipe, apart from adjusting the spices (more powdered ginger, no cinnamon, and a little nutmeg) and using blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap is the kind that recipes advise you not to use, because it's less sweet and more bitter and mineral-y than normal molasses. But I had some that needed using up, and I actually really liked the result. If, like me, you tend to find cakes too sweet, that's the way to go. The cake freezes quite well, by the way.
2) Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future:
This fantastic apple cake, probably next weekend.
3) Something I vaguely intend to cook someday:
More apple things, such as apple dumplings, which I have longed to make for years but never have because I did not own an apple corer. But I do now!
I need to figure out some kind of way to use the peach-and-cherry compote that's taking up space in my freezer. And I should make a pie with the jars of sour cherries I bought a while back because they were cheap.
Plus I want to make all the soups and all the savory pies. I'm feeling enthusiastic about late autumn and winter cooking.
If I twitch back the blinds on the full-length picture window at my back, I have a view of a car park, a tower block, the London Eye (well, actually it's the Star of Puebla, but you know what I mean), and Popacatepetl. And really I just want to be out there. I could shop - there are things Karen will need, tomorrow if not tonight - but mostly I just want to walk. It's how I experience any new city, foreign or domestic; I am the original flaneur. I like to walk unknown streets, peer into unknown windows, watch the behaviour of strangers on the street. Sit in parks, eat street food I cannot name, read signs in languages I cannot understand. Full immersive protocols. I'm good at this.
I'm here as Karen's helpmeet and caregiver, though, and it's very much part of the contract that I not wander off and leave her stranded. Today especially, when she's too sick to leave her bedroom and might want anything at any time.
I've tended people on their sickbeds before this, of course - in a sheerly practical sense, I'm rather good at it, tho' I remain the world's worst hospital visitor, because I can never think of anything to say - but never this intensively for this long on my own. When Quin was dying, it took a year and was kind of like a war - moments of high drama, interspersed with long periods of dull calm - including the whole army thing. There was a team of us, a dozen or so standing shifts, with all the back-up we could want or dream. Here, there's pretty much me. Lots of doctors and nurses on the other end of a phone, of course - but you know how I am with phones.
When I said I might need respite care when we get home, I may not have been kidding. Or I might just be difficult to deal with, or y'all might need to be extra-nice to me for a while, or... I just have no clue. You might find you have two patients in recovery.
Last night I had a magnificent pharmaceutical accident: for we have a few old tablets of Lorazepam with us, and after the night before I felt that I was due a proper night's sleep. Experience has proved that I can cut one of these tablets into four and feel the benefit with a mere quarter: so there I was with one of those and our magnificent little pill-splitter device, and I rather cackhandedly dropped the pill into the sink. Which was damp.
By the time I'd fished the pill out again, it was already starting to dissolve around the edges, so I performed my famous "what the hell" shrug and swallowed the whole damn thing. Last time I took a whole one, I famously slept not only through Karen's rising and showering and dressing and going off to Grand Jury, but also through the boys' breakfast time - I'm sorry, that should be I SLEPT THROUGH THE BOYS' BREAKFAST TIME! - and woke at ten with two anxious furry faces wondering if I was edible yet, or if they had to wait a little longer.
This time I slept like a delicious contented log till seven-thirty, when Karen needed me. Lord knows how long I'd have slept else. Sleep is good, y'all.
Karen's not feeling too good today. I have made one emergency dash to the pharmacy, and am poised for another as and when. Otherwise I read and poke about obscure corners of the internet and occasionally think I ought to be seizing this chance to work but. I got nuthin'.
Two thoroughly exhausting (but mostly in a good way) weeks are behind me; first the Frankfurt Book Fair, then a workshop (in a splendid environment, but still, it was work from morning till night). Hence no posts; I could only get online very briefly.
( Macron, Merkel, Rushdie, Atwood et all under the cut )
So basically The Soulless Ones is the latest venture from the new(ish)ly revived Hammer company, and consists of a play about vampires which takes place across multiple rooms in a mid-Victorian music hall. Opening and closing scenes book-end the story, and are played out to the full audience in the main music-hall space, but for most of the evening different actors play out their own story-lines in an extensive series of parallel scenes, all happening simultaneously in different parts of the building, and moving around from one to the other. It is up to the audience to follow the actors according to personal preference, or simply wander around the building at will, meaning that each individual audience member will see and experience different things depending on where they went.
Given this expectation, of course, the story is deliberately constructed to ensure that no one scene (apart perhaps from the opening and closing ones) is utterly crucial to the production. So the experience is more about seeing the different characters unfold than about a plot in the traditional sense; and indeed about exploring the richly-dressed settings and soaking in the atmospheric sounds and smells. It's also important to understand the difference between immersive and interactive theatre in this context: this was the former, rather than the latter, meaning that the audience occupied the same spaces as the actors but were 'invisible' to them and instructed at the start to take it all in silently. No-one watching was going to find themselves a victim of the vampires, and nor were we to try to speak to them or join in on the story.
There is various documentation of the play around the web, of course. The official production page is here, and I also found useful reviews from Den of Geek, The Guardian and The Telegraph. I've used those, along with my own experience and what my friends reported having seen after we came out, to compile the following overview of the story, characters and settings as I experienced them. I'll also be sharing this with said friends, and would very much love them, and anyone else who has seen it, to comment with anything extra that I didn't catch (I know there were some characters I barely saw all evening), or correct anything I've misremembered or misunderstood (hey, there were cocktails...). Obviously, it will contain spoilers, so I have used cut-tags with a view to both that and length.
( The opening scene )
( The characters and scenarios which unfolded from there )
( The various settings )
( The closing scene )
What I actually thought of it all
In essence, I absolutely loved it. A huge amount of thought must have gone into constructing it all so that the different scenes fitted together effectively, with characters coming in and out of each other's storylines at the right times, even from completely different ends of the building, and all of the disparate parts adding up to a coherent whole no matter how the audience experienced it. The set-dressing was particularly wonderful. I wish I could have had the chance to walk around it all without the story unfolding at the same time, so that I could scrutinise every single detail at my leisure, but then again I certainly had more control over what I was looking at than is the case when watching a film or play, in that I could go into any room I chose, stand wherever I liked it in and look at whatever I liked while the action went on. I could sit on one divan while Mara was bewitching St Clair on another, feeling the tickly softness of the white animal fur draped over it between my fingers, or peer closely at the satyr-herm in the graveyard which made me think a lot of The Marble Faun. It was very exciting.
Layering the story on top of all of that really did feel immersive, as though I were standing inside the world of a Hammer film. I'm sure regular readers will realise how amazing that was for me! The story really did feel Hammer-ish, too - suitably gothic in content and atmosphere, and with nice little nods to their back-catalogue such as Carmilla being the last of the Karnsteins. The characters themselves seemed well-defined, with just the right amount of back-story and conflict between them for the audience to take in across the two hours of the show, and the acting solid throughout: sometimes (necessarily) a bit projecty and theatrical, especially in the larger scenes, but impressively naturalistic and intimate when the smaller scenes allowed the scope for it as well. I think a lot of credit also belongs to the behind-the-scenes team handling the music, lighting etc. in each room, and indeed quietly staffing the corridors to make sure people did not get too lost or confused or wander into places they weren't supposed to go.
It looks like the production has been a success: it's certainly garnered lots of media coverage, the performance we attended looked to be sold out, and the official production page is currently bearing a banner proclaiming that the initial run has been extended for an extra week. The fact that it is presented not just as a play called The Soulless Ones, but as an individual production by 'Hammer House Of Horror Live' also rather strongly suggests that they are hoping they will be in a position to do more. Certainly, I will be keeping my eye out for further productions, and strongly urge any fans of Hammer, gothic horror or immersive theatre experiences to catch this one while you still can.