a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
sovay: (Claude Rains)
Realistically, I know I've delivered more than 4 x 500 words on film this month—my post on Max Ophüls' Caught (1949) would have handled the wordcount all on its own, if that were all I was keeping track of. Pedantically, I want to have written four actual posts for my Patreon, because it feels like the one intellectual endeavor I have left these days and because I guaranteed it. The problem is that this month has been a nightmare of interacting stressors and despite seeing any number of interesting films mostly in theaters, I've recorded very little about any of them. I've written no poems and no fiction. It just hasn't been a very contemplative August. I really did want to write about David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970), which [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel and I saw for the first time a few weeks ago: it has a reputation as a trainwreck and much to our surprise we didn't find it so. Consider these notes toward a review of Ryan's Daughter. I'll come back to the real thing when I have time.

It is not actually the film's fault that it's not an epic. In many ways, it doesn't present itself as one; it has the deliberately small scope of a character study, observing a few months in the life of a small community in which everything changes for the major players and nothing at all for the wider world. If Lean had filmed it with the monochrome intimacy of Brief Encounter (1945), I don't think it would have received half the opprobrium it did on release. He was coming off a streak of epics, however—The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965)—and so he gives a political love story the full 70 mm treatment, including a leitmotiv-heavy score to whose charms I was impervious. The cinematography, however, knows what it's doing. Because the film is set in a small village in the west of Ireland in 1916, because nothing about the plot makes sense without the tense current of nationalist politics and the claustrophobic isolation of fictional Kirrary, the Irish landscape needs to register on the audience as vividly as any of the human figures that populate it. The panoramic approach is immersive, tactile, and in the case of a spectacular storm scene, disorienting, overwhelming, and awe-inspiring. It's not unlike an Omni film of a novel. I'm willing to believe that critics expected the same kind of breathtaking sweep from the narrative and excoriated the film when instead they found something much more human-sized. It's on the writer, the director, and the editor, however, that the script feels like it could have used one more pass. It's not shapeless, and it pays off emotionally with startling intensity, but we found curious ellipses and late-mentioned details that felt like either casualties of editing or signs of a troubled production, information that could have shaped the story more effectively throughout. There's some question as to whether the copy we had access to was missing scenes, in which case I'd like to get hold of a recent DVD and rewatch before making any definitive statements; even if we got a truncated version by mistake, I can say in its favor that it never felt like a three-hour slog. Something is always happening onscreen, and it's always worth watching, whatever it is.

Robert Mitchum, for example. Normally he looks like film noir or terrifying Americana and here he's both plausible and poignant, cast against type as widowed schoolmaster Charles Shaughnessy, whose marriage against his better judgment to the much younger Rosy Ryan (Sarah Miles, then married to scriptwriter Robert Bolt) is the beginning of both their troubles. His character is a kind, shy, erudite man with a melancholy look in his heavy-lidded eyes; he inspires passion in the restless Rosy, but he can't give it to her. Her wedding night is a painful contrast between bawdy shivaree in the street below and unsatisfying lovemaking in the bedroom above: she's a virgin, he's conventional, and the rapidity with which he falls asleep afterward is almost a punch line. She lies to him a little, telling him that he's all right; she lies awake afterward, staring at the rain cracks in the ceiling. She didn't know what she was expecting, but it wasn't that. He's aware almost as soon as she is of the indifference that has settled over their marriage where at first it looked like a fairy story—the retiring older man drawn out by the fierce love of a barefoot girl—but he keeps it to himself with a strange hopeless wistfulness, as though naming the problem will make it real and enduring it silently might make it imaginary enough to bear. By then she's met Major Doryan (Christopher Jones), however, and made a dangerous decision in Ireland of the Troubles: when the handsome British soldier crumples with shell-shock in her father's pub, she not only offers him a hand out of the darkness, she kisses him impulsively and does not resist him when the emotion of the moment converts itself instantly into physical desire, wanting her as blindly and passionately as her husband never did.1 Their affair is so gobsmackingly stupid that it hardly needs a case of informing and mistaken identity to endanger them both. It goes wrong faster than they think it will; not so the audience, but we've had the advantage of screaming at the screen from the second act.

With one striking exception, the affair itself is always seen from Rosy's perspective.2 It's a kind of tight third person and it fascinates me. Her first experience of sex and her first experience of fulfilling sex are each an astonishing combination of the explicit and the symbolic: unambiguously physical action surrounded by more customary implication. On their wedding night, we know exactly when Charles enters her for the first time: her face tightens with pain, she makes a noise that is almost protest and flinches away from his rhythm, and the rest of the act's unsuccessful nature is indicated by the traditional shorthand of the wife gazing listlessly over her husband's shoulder. When she trysts with Doryan in a glade of bluebells, we know exactly when she experiences sexual pleasure for the first time: her face opens with shocked delight, she grips his back to press him more deeply into herself, and the rest of the act's rapturous nature is indicated by evocative shots of the sun glimpsing through trees, the rubbing of boughs together, a spider's crystal web trembling in the breeze. Usually directors pick one mode or the other. I'm curious whether I can attribute the mix to the year of filming, as the need for suggestiveness gave way to the ability to show. If you can get past the bluebells, it actually works.

Here is where I stop for the night. Short version short: despite its reputation, the movie doesn't suck. It has gorgeous cinematography, complex doubling, and an impressive amount of female gaze on its sex scenes, considering its director was a dude born in 1908. John Mills as grotesque village idiot and local doppelgänger Michael deserves a post of his own. I have to sleep first. This sketch sponsored by my understanding backers at Patreon.

1. Doryan is one of the script's stumbles for me, unfortunately. The actor is undeniably beautiful, with a masklike symmetry reminiscent of Hurd Hatfield in the 1945 Picture of Dorian Gray; the trouble with his damaged imperturbability is that we get almost no sense of him as a person except during his shell-shock episodes, when the mask comes unglued and he looks desperately frightened and very young, recoiling in memory from earth-showering explosions, hiding his head from mortar fire that can't touch him, and none of that tells us what Rosy sees in him when he's in command of himself and only limping from the most visible of his war wounds. It's possible that he's intentionally one-dimensional. Rosy gets conversation, affection, stability from her husband; what she does not get is sexual satisfaction and that's all she cares about with Doryan. She doesn't need to know about his childhood or his war record. The intensity with which he wants her is attraction enough. But there's so much implied to the audience in those few destabilizing moments, it struck both me and Rob as weird never to follow up on any of it. Barry Foster is onscreen for maybe fifteen minutes total as an IRB leader and we know nothing about him beyond what he's willing to do to get weapons for his cause and he's arresting. You can have conversations about him afterward. Christopher Jones is pretty and shell-shocked. At least Rosy likes him.

2. The one exception is marvelous: Rosy and Doryan in each other's arms on a windswept hillside, the music swelling around them; cut sharply to Charles, watching them from inside the house, on the other side of a closed window from the hillside and the wind, and there is silence. He does not share the music or the romance. He is cut out, shut in, excluded. You don't get the offstage chorus when you're not the one who's loved.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
Because I have not yet seen the finale of Hannibal, my Tumblr interactions are currently self-limited to sites where it should not be possible to encounter even a stray crossover Richard Armitage, like Archaic Wonder, Dark Beauty (tentacles, nice), and Leslie Howard Forever. The latter has just reminded me that I never wrote about The Petrified Forest (1936), even though it formed a critical part of my adult discovery of Leslie Howard in 2008. Let's fix that.

When I say that I have acquired my knowledge of film all out of order, I mean it. The Petrified Forest also marked my introduction to Bette Davis. She was my age at the time and has no difficulty playing about fifteen years younger as the story's heroine, Gabrielle Maple. Gabby is the only child of a man who runs the most neglected roadside café in Arizona and an absent Frenchwoman who stuck out a year or two in the tumbleweed wastes with the father of her war baby before fleeing prudently back to Bourges, from which she sends her daughter yearly care packages of French literature; she's smarter than her father, who still plays at soldiers with the Black Horse Vigilantes, smarter than her grandfather, endlessly retelling the time Billy the Kid didn't actually shoot at him, and orders of magnitude smarter than the college football never-was with whom she is going through the motions of courtship because there's nothing better to do. The desert is beautiful and she despises it: "They say it's full of mystery, and it's haunted, and all that. Well, maybe it is. But there's something in me that makes me want something different." True to the double-edged nature of wishes, two strangers from the outside world arrive on her doorstep in the same day, a down-at-heels drifter with a fatalist's way with words and a gangster with a nationally broadcast manhunt close behind him. The results are very clearly a well-filmed stage play, with only minimal effort made to open the action out for the screen, but unless you have a problem with tightly focused character dramas, it doesn't suffer thereby.

Famously, The Petrified Forest is the movie that made Humphrey Bogart a star—he had originated the role of Duke Mantee in the original Broadway play, but Warner Bros. planned to replace him with Edward G. Robinson on film. Leslie Howard refused to reprise his part onscreen unless his co-star was given the same consideration. The rest is film history and Casablanca (1942) playing at the Brattle every Valentine's Day until the end of time.1 Saying that Bogart's subsequent career rewarded his friend's trust, however, skips over the fact that he's also just really good in the part. Playwright Robert E. Sherwood based Mantee's character on John Dillinger, who was dramatically gunned down by federal agents in 1934; Bogart reportedly studied footage of Dillinger and his gang for his portrayal. I can't evaluate the likeness for myself, but it's notable that while some of his crew have the slangy theatricality of movie hoods, Mantee himself looks mostly like a man who's much too young to be as hard-bitten as he is. Even in his shirtsleeves, unshaven, run to earth, he has an edgy magnetism, hands curiously suspended like a gunslinger ready to draw; his eyes are constantly taking in the room, combat-focus. He doesn't have a romantic streak so much as an odd, deliberate loyalty, so that he will wait as promised for his lover long past the point where any other self-respecting gangster would have chucked the moll and run for the border, and he'll agree in all seriousness to honor a quixotic deathwish from a stranger he met only a few hours before. The violence in him is nothing so obvious as simmering. Onstage, where the audience's attention cannot be directed as meticulously as on film, you'd have needed co-stars of Howard's caliber to keep him from simply walking off with the show.2

[Two-hour delay goes here, in the course of which I obtain my father's assistance in figuring out how to uninstall a particularly sticky application that installed itself without bothering to ask me first. That was . . . not fun.]

Although the Brooklyn Daily Eagle's description of the delicacy and melancholy of Howard's performance is quite accurate, they are not primarily the reason I love him in the film. His character is a curious twist against type: his poetry3 and his whimsical fatalism make him look like the disillusioned dreamer looking to do one last good deed, but the facts of Alan Squier's life describe a rather sketchy failure—a novelist manqué who was more content to be kept by his publisher's wife than to write the great American anything, a self-declared intellectual who proclaims himself an outmoded species and neurosis the work of a vengeful Nature, his air of melancholy romanticism undermined by his volatile sense of humor. He's as likely to snicker after a philosophical pronouncement as cap it with another aphorism. Even his accent is not quite the cachet of class it first appears: when eagerly asked if he's English, Squier replies with the half-apologetic admission of a commonly disabused illusion, "No. You might call me an American once removed." He attempts to pay Gabby for his meal with the romantic gesture of a first and last kiss, only to be made to confess shamefacedly that he hasn't a penny in his pockets. He doesn't intend to entangle himself in her life any more than the play-acting of chivalry demands. It seems to surprise him more than anyone that he changes his mind. If he's really in search of anything, it's a grand exit: he claims to be hitchhiking across America to drown himself in the Pacific Ocean, which he later modifies to a burial in the Petrified Forest. "It'll inspire people to say of me, 'There was an artist who died before his time.'" Sydney Carton, he's not. He's no Quixote, either, a gentle anachronism hurt into gallant madness; he seems to find tilting at windmills too much of a commitment, choosing instead to fade elegantly out of the picture, trading on a kind of wistful self-destruction. And it is exactly that confusing blend of genuinely attractive qualities with the danger signals of a complete fuckup that interests me, much as it does Gabby. It all goes a bit Liebestod in the end.

And Davis is very good, though she's less complicated than her male foils: the nowhere girl whose innocence is curdling for want of experience. She was a studio substitution, but she holds her own.4 I just like the film, all right? It's not as dreamy as it first looks. This recollection sponsored by my wonderful backers at Patreon.

1. In thanks and memoriam, Bogart and Bacall's daughter—born in 1952—was named Leslie Howard Bogart.

2. I don't know if Slim Thompson originated his role onstage, too, but he's one of the supporting highlights of the film: a rare black character in the era of the Production Code who doesn't have to be subordinate. As one of Mantee's gang, he carries a shotgun and operates as independently as any of his fellow criminals; he has a striking, scathing interchange with a black chauffeur who won't accept a drink without asking his employers for permission: "'Is it all right, Mr. Chisholm?' Ain't you heard about the big liberation? Come on, take your drink, weasel!" He appears to have done very little else on film, which I was sorry to find out.

3. Gabby is reading her way through François Villon as the story starts. Once she and Alan meet, Swinburne's translation of the "Ballade for a Bridegroom" forms a recurring refrain.

4. I still haven't tracked down the 1934 Of Human Bondage in which she and Howard starred together for the first time, although I know it was her breakout role. Recommendations for? Against? I bounced off the novel in college.
yhlee: sleepy kitty (Cloud)
- recent reading
Gangsta vols. 2-3 (manga). I have also seen through 1.3 of the anime. Read more... )

Mercedes Lackey. Exile's Honor. One of the Valdemar novels. I made it to the top of page 128 (because powers of 2 are fun!) before quitting.

I used to love the Valdemar novels; my favorites were probably the Last Herald-Mage even if I hated Tylendel for spoiler ) and, despite the sheer ridiculousness of the unfireable nanny (yeah, Selenay, so impressive) Arrows of the Queen. I also enjoyed the Tarma and Kethry books, although I got into an argument with a friend in college about the unreasonable "niceness" of the mercenaries in By the Sword. (My feeling is that mercenaries would be more like Glen Cook's The Black Company, not...nice.)

All this to say, I have some basic familiarity with the setting, and Alberich is even a character I remember from another point on the timeline. But Exile's Honor, which is about how Alberich was Chosen from Karse and came to Valdemar, is so damn slow-paced I just gave up waiting for something interesting to happen. Which is a shame, because I still like Alberich, but I do not have the patience for over 100 pages of mostly maundering.
31 August 2015 21:48 - This I believe
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Squirrels understand the implications of window glass wrt the cats on the far side of the glass.
31 August 2015 10:22 - Day One
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

My first Monday as a full-time writer!

Jim sleeping

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

31 August 2015 09:54 - I am in the library
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Also in the library: a young, bookish kid for whom this is their first visit to main branch.
sovay: (Rotwang)
Saturday: I spent the afternoon baking a birthday cake for [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks with three layers of chocolate meringue and chocolate mousse. Gladly accepted a ride from my mother because that was not a cake that would have survived public transit. Delivered cake to Rush-That-Speaks and [livejournal.com profile] gaudior's refrigerator, where it would spend the next five and a half hours as we drove to Providence—making sure to pick up [livejournal.com profile] jinian first—and celebrated Rush's birthday dinner at Julian's. Fun fact: scallop rangoons are exactly what they sound like, only really good; less cream cheese, more scallop mousse. The avocado-wasabi purée that came underneath the smoked duck was so good, I think I just need to make it as a regular condiment. I had a drink called the Bruce Banner. Cachaça, chartreuse, basil and bitters and one other ingredient I cannot remember; in the low light it glowed a pale radioactive green and tasted, as Rush correctly diagnosed, as though it could Hulk out on you at any moment. I liked it when it was angry. For dessert we all split the gummy bear sorbet, because we were curious; the weird thing was not that it tasted exactly as advertised, the weird thing was that it was delicious while tasting exactly as advertised. Afterward we drove back across the highway, parked I have no idea where because I find Providence both non-contiguous and non-Euclidean, and walked around WaterFire for maybe forty-five minutes. The bonfires burning on the river were beautiful, the music a pleasant and unexpected combination of folk-pop in multiple languages and opera, and the grove of memorial lanterns was really amazing. We saw a person in a Pierrot costume poling a boat on the river; later we saw them listening to a body-positive punk brass band that was covering "Killing Me Softly" with more trombone than that song usually sees. After that my tolerance for breathing woodsmoke ran out right around the same time Rush maxed out on crowds and we retraced our steps to the car thanks to Jinian's navigation skills and Gaudior drove us home. Cake was eaten. We ended up watching old Sesame Street songs off YouTube, mostly the ones scored by Philip Glass. I got home and looked at too many apartment listings and melted down, which was not the fault of anyone I spent the evening with, including the smoked duck.

Today: I was so exhausted that I got nothing done in the afternoon unless you think making a sandwich is serious business, but I still managed to leave the house with [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel in time to catch the closing night of Maiden Phoenix's inaugural all-female production of The Winter's Tale. Staged outdoor at Powderhouse Park, using the powder house itself as the backdrop for Act I and the natural stage of the climbing rocks on the other side of the park for Act II. The sun set during the intermission. I keep forgetting the play is basically a Greek romance instead of a Ruritanian one, but there's the Delphic oracle just in case you weren't sure. All of the cast were good: most vivid to me were April Singley doubling as a frightened, steadfast Antigonus and an outrageously Mummerset Shepherd, Cassandra Meyer's grave Hermione with eyes like an inlaid statue giving way in the second act to a shepherd's son just clever enough to be a fool, Sarah Mass' ribbon-bedizened Autolycus alt-rocking out "Two Maids Wooing a Man" to the admiration of rustic groupies, and Juliet Bowler as a chilling and chastened Leontes. I have drunk and seen the spider. The exit-pursued-by-a-bear was done so ferally, it made me want to want to see this company take on the Bacchae. And they reconstructed the ending in two ways I agreed with, first by undoing the neatly tied loose ends of Leontes' last speech to more emotionally nuanced effect (I know it's a comedy if it ends with a wedding, Will, but not everyone needs to pair off like place settings) and by redistributing the messenger speech of the climax among the characters each set of lines pertained to, so that Leilani Ricardo's Perdita named the recognition tokens by which she was identified as her father's daughter and the ghost of Antigonus appeared for a moment to relay the long-lost story of his death and kiss his wife, Gail Shalan's staunch Paulina, once more before vanishing, like a shade from the Greek underworld. There was a dance to see all the characters out, some in the floating jackets of their costumes, some not. It was pretty great. I am looking forward to whatever this company does next.

(But I do think the Bacchae would be fun. I've never seen a female Pentheus before.)

Tonight: I am looking at this Colchian woman's diadem. That's Medea's jewelry. Or would be, if my visual template for Medea's jewelry was not the archaic golden coronets and chains worn by Maria Callas in Pasolini's amazing Medea (1969), but it's still an evocative object. This black-figure kantharos just mostly makes me think of the next door neighbors' obnoxious party two weeks ago.
30 August 2015 19:53 - Stolen from File770
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
What stories from 1940 do people like for next year's retro Hugos?
30 August 2015 12:54
phi: (Default)
I just packed an entire box of nothing but saran wrap and ziploc bags. And then when I thought I had packed all the plastics, I found more. (My mother-in-law went through a phase a few years ago where she brought massive CostCo quantities of disposable food storage things and then hid them in various places in the kitchen. I keep reminding myself that I got lucky in the in-laws lottery, as mine are loving and mostly harmless despite their odd fixations.)

I have found a great many things to sell/give away. Will be updating this post throughout the day. Things small enough to mail will go in the mail tomorrow because neither M nor I want to haul them across town on Tuesday. Larger things locals can come pick up now. All of this will be put on the curb and posted to craigslist tomorrow morning.

1 Kate Spade bangle, silver colored, no idea of it's real silver, reads "THIS IS THE YEAR TOO..." on the inside and "learn a language start something new see and be seen travel live the hotel life meet new people" on the outside. Yeah, I don't know either. Gift from a well meaning family member who was trying very hard.

1 60GB solid state drive and enclosure

Wiscon Chronicles Vol 4

Wiscon Chronicles Vol 6

The Physics of Solar Cells
by Jenny Nelson
Principles of Power Electronics Kassakian, Schlect, Verghese

approx 50 handmade stitch markers (I don't have the wherewithal to split this into multiple lots)

Several Sassafras kickstarter reward posters (with apologies for Sassafras members reading this; I backed the kickstarter mainly to support y'all and because I wanted the songbooks; I don't really "do" posters)

1 bottle lovecraftian themed perfume oil

A couple of Puzz-3D brand jigsaw puzzles

1 5x5 Ikea Expedit (the older, heavier model)

1 window A/C unit

1 pair vintage pierced earrings, gold and green, probably paste and not real stone, definitely not real gold

About twelve Two reams of very nice Savoy cream colored paper. I will split this up into lots.

A passel of bamboo knitting needles, 12-14" long sizes US 6-10-ish I think?

A Good Girl's Guide to Bad Girl Sex by Barbara Keesling (I was very confused in my early 20s, okay?)

Spartacus Blood and Sand season 1 DVDs

The Pretender season 1 DVDs

many copies of Salsa Nocturna by D.J. Older

Packages are made up for everyone who commented before 10:48pm eastern US time. I'm so sorry guys, I usually write nice notes on nice paper for this sort of thing, but all my fountain pens, inks, and decent paper are packed. You get sharpie on printer paper. *facepalm*

30 August 2015 08:49 - boy anachronism
metaphortunate: (Default)

It occurred to me the other day that Captain America would smoke like a freaking chimney.

(yes I have been keeping myself calm over the past week by drawing Captain America chain smoking)
(it's very soothing)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
Like the one [personal profile] coalescent did a while ago. Chad's hoping for one.
30 August 2015 03:05 - "I can't see why I miss you so"
rosefox: Me staring off into the sunset. (wistful)
I felt fidgety tonight, so I sat down and scanned in FutureKid's sonograms. Then, since I had the scanner set up, I scanned some old photos from my mother's side of the family. I never quite noticed before, but most of the photos of my grandmother from the 1980s (the last decade of her life) show her with an expression that I can only characterize, in the modern idiom, as "no fucks to give". I guess I take after her. :)

The photos were in one of the two storage bins I brought home from a recent trip to the house of a friend who's been holding on to a lot of my mom's things, since she doesn't have space for them. I had no idea what was in the bins; they were just labeled "Rose". Turns out they contain heaps of photos, my baby book, my birth certificate (not the original but a certified copy), an autobiography I wrote when I was 10 (screamingly hilarious), more photos, copies of the book in which my first published story appeared, a blank notebook that my mother and I doodled in when I was maybe two years old, a comic strip I drew in first grade, a binder of photos of my grandparents' house, even more photos... I only managed to get the binder and a handful of the other pics scanned in. It's time-consuming. I scan as PDFs so I can leave notes on the image with info about the print photo, like a good archivist.

Grandparents and melancholy )

Young Rose and hilarity )
ceciliatan: (default)

All righty folks! I’m gearing up for the big finale of Magic University at last. THE POET AND THE PROPHECY goes live on September 15th and can already be pre-ordered at Amazon and Smashwords, with other ebook sellers coming online this week.

The big cover reveal was Friday at Tor.com and they published the image with my essay on What #FanworksTaughtMe and all the fandom connections in the series, from the inspiration for writing it, to my beta readers, to the fans who wrote Magic U. fanfic themselves, to the cover artist who has done such incredible covers for me! (Check out her store: Art by Fox) Head over to Tor.com to read the essay and see the cover in beautiful full size: http://www.tor.com/2015/08/28/digging-into-fandom-cover-reveal-for-the-poet-and-the-prophecy/

Bloggers, if you want to get involved in launch events, Rock Star PR is handling the blog tour and everything. Signups are here: http://rockstarlit.com/content/the-poet-and-the-prophecy-magic-university-book-four/

On launch day I’ll be hosting a Facebook party from 4-5pm and 11-midnight, with other new adult college-setting authors in the hours in between: https://www.facebook.com/events/1647147665517621/

And I’ll likely do a livechat on my Youtube Channel, exact time TBD!

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
Happy birthday, [livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks, my best cousin, my blue-haired love. We live in a world where people make photoshoots of the death of Hyakinthos in Apollo's arms.

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
So whatever you do, don't link to it and especially don't sing it if a CPC candidate slithers out into the light of day.

28 August 2015 16:13
pantryslut: (Default)
Parent at school's Friday Morning Coffee Circle: "I'm drinking decaf. I hope it's OK to join you."

Me, the Coordinator: "I'm drinking tea."

Another Parent: "I'm drinking caffeine-free tea!"
28 August 2015 17:40 - LibreOffice is weird
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
There's a noticeable delay between me hitting a key and the letter appearing on the page. And while it plays badly with my site in a different way than OO, it still plays badly. What do people like about LO?
28 August 2015 16:58 - Achievements unlocked
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I have a new CPAP mask and I managed to walk across all four lanes on Victoria without getting smushed.
28 August 2015 14:24 - The Regency Gentleman
wcg: (Default)
Last Saturday (August 22nd) I participated in a dance demonstration at Dumbarton House in Georgetown, over in the southwestern netherworld of the District of Columbia. In addition to the English Country Dancing, it gave me a chance to debut my latest outfit.

Drawing back the red velvet curtain, we see... )
28 August 2015 12:36 - Spotted in my Mail Box
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Good timing because I also found a copy of White Queen.
28 August 2015 10:57 - Cool Stuff Friday
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Friday is looking forward to sleeping in on Monday.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

yhlee: wax seal (hxx Deuce of Gears)
Writing note of the day: If I have to type "All units banner the Deuce of Gears" one more time, I shall scream. Why are my macros not working???

- recent reading
Tanya Huff. Fifth Quarter. This is #2 in some series whose first volume is Sing the Four Quarters and whose third volume is No Quarter; I don't think I've read #1 and I definitely haven't read #3, although I want to. (I've been informed that #1 is skippable.)

Fifth Quarter takes place in a well-worked out fantasy setting where Bards can sing "quarters" (the kigh, or spirits, of the four elements respond to each corresponding quarter)--in particular, in an empire with a well-organized (and well-researched) army.

Vree and Bannon are sister and brother military assassins, trained, unusually, to work together; most assassins work alone. The two are very deadly, have a rather codependent relationship, and to top things off, Vree (the protagonist) is battling attraction to her brother. (This is not even subtext. It's very clearly text.)

Things take a turn for the worse/hilarious when they go to assassinate an aged governor--who turns out to be a body-hopper, Gyhard, and who takes over Bannon's body to survive. Bannon manages to hop into Vree's body as a last resort. Gyhard and Vree-Bannon end up traveling together, the latter hoping for a chance to shove Gyhard out and restore Bannon's body to him, the former hoping to upgrade to an even better body--that of a prince whom Vree and Bannon, as army assassins, are sworn to protect. The question of who will prevail first becomes even more complicated when it turns out that Gyhard has information on another threat to the empire, a rogue bard who's going around raising the dead.

This is a fun romp that's both hilarious and melodramatic by turns, with some serious thematic material on the importance of different kinds of family and togetherness. The worldbuilding is very solid, with great details, and beyond that, it's a fast, entertaining read. Recommended.

- recent art
Thanks to [personal profile] telophase's pointer I signed up for Schoolism's online video art lectures; they also have some (rapidly-filled) slots for individual instruction with feedback videos but I can't afford those. :p With the $144/year plan, you can sign up for one course and go through it at your own pace, then spend $1 at any time to switch to another course. I'm currently going through a five-lesson course, Drawing Fundamentals with Thomas Fluharty, because I am pretty much self-taught and I figured I ought to start with the basics. I'm hoping to get to Gesture Drawing or Fundamentals of Character Design next, if I make it that far.

Lesson 1 of Drawing Fundamentals is about learning to see and breaking down what you want into basic shapes, something that I somehow managed not to grasp despite reading a zillion how-to art books for beginners talking about this. It really is easier with a video talking me through. :p Fluharty goes through an example with a dog, then has you accompany him with a frog, and then assigns you a giraffe, which is pure evil because my God all those spots. exercises )
27 August 2015 19:41 - and now I know
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Judging by the uncontrollable laughter, apparently I should not append to any statement about my suspenders "and not just because it looks really cool."
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

The Hugos and Worldcon are over, and thus did the internet see the Eighth Plague of Post-Hugo Pontification. Some declared victory, while others declared victory for totally different reasons, and lo did they yelleth at one another over whose “victory” was bigger.

But on the fifth day, a lull did fall upon the web of the wide world, as rational and informed people of all nations looked down in agreement and unity. For generations of canine tribal war paled in the face of one simple truth:

This was dumbassery most epic. Most epic indeed…

Hugo legal threat 1

Hugo legal threat 2

ETA: Good gravy, there’s more, and this one wants to bring in the FBI!

Hugo legal threat 3

I invite fans on all sides to finally come together as one to ask, “Dude, seriously?”

Because wow…

Loki Facepalm

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
My poem "Firebrands" is now online at Through the Gate. The title comes from a line attributed to Nicholas Noyes, an ancestral relation of my husband's and the officiating minister at the Salem witch trials: "What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there." He was speaking of Martha Corey, Mary Eastey, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot Redd, Margaret Scott, and Samuel Wardell, Sr., all executed in September 1692. At the hanging of Sarah Good earlier that summer, he had famously urged her to confess and received the reply, "I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life, God will give you blood to drink." He died of a throat hemorrhage, choking on his own blood. Nathaniel Hawthorne was so struck by the story, he put it into The House of Seven Gables (1851). When [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel and I were in Salem last spring, we talked about looking for Nicholas' grave, but we looked at the sea instead. It is pretty much the fault of Warlock (1989) that this poem exists at all.

The rest of the issue is small, but very sound. Go read all of them!
ceciliatan: (darons guitar)

Mirrored from the latest entry in Daron's Guitar Chronicles.

In this last one of my contributions to the Daron fanposts this summer, I will present you with a few free LGBT-themed webcomics (earlier, we’ve done free short original fiction and free epically long original fiction). There are many, many, many LGBT webcomics, and I encourage you to explore as many as you can. There is a great, comprehensive, list (though not complete, new ones start every day, after all) right here, or you can poke around on Smack Jeeves, for instance, where you can do searches for BL (boy’s love), m/m, gay, transgender, or any other flavor of the rainbow spectrum.

New webcomics get started every day, many of which will be works-in-progess (WIPs) for a long time. Many sadly get abandoned, and some actually finish.


I have selected a few that have managed to keep my attention for several years.


Ones that are Finished.


For those of you that hate WIPs (really? And you’re reading Daron?)

The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver

In the span of a single day, Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender… and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen.

TJ claims that the two have made a drunken pact to drive all the way from Berkeley to Providence. As it happens, Amal promised his sister he’d be there for her graduation from Brown University. And TJ, well… TJ has his own reasons…

Read the rest of this entry » )
ceciliatan: (default)

Right now my nerves are on fire, I’m jittery as hell, and yet I’m also so exhausted I can barely move. I might be about to cry, or scream, or maybe pass out. Why do I feel this way?

It might be that I gave in to my intense chocolate craving today and had far too much of it than is healthy (plus lots of tea), so perhaps this is caffeine overload.

It might be that my erratic hormone cycles are about to coalesce into something.

Or maybe it’s merely that I’m deep in the guts of the rewrite for TAKING THE LEAD, my next romance novel for Hachette/Grand Central/Forever…

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from blog.ceciliatan.com.

pantryslut: (Default)
I'm still reading A Brief History of Seven Killings, slowly. The week has been very busy, what with the last few days of summer and the first day of school today and all the preparations thereof. I am about three days behind on my e-mail, too.

Enjoying it so far. (The novel, not so much the e-mail.)
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
1. My short story "Skerry-Bride" has been accepted by Devilfish Review. It was written while listening to Moss of Moonlight's Winterwheel in November 2013, right before I saw Thor: The Dark World; it's about jötnar. The magazine is a new one for me and it should be obvious why they got my attention. They give out the Kraken Awards.

(Moss of Moonlight are now Felled and have a new side project. I recommend.)

2. The fuzzy nautilus is not extinct! I do not think I had known that Allonautilus scrobiculatus existed prior to this article, but I'm very glad it does. I hope it continues to. Those are beautiful animals.

3. I realize that these archaeological windfalls have caused the city of Istanbul so much construction tsuris that The New Yorker cannot resist invoking Boston's Big Dig, but who says history doesn't have a sense of humor?

In fact, a tiny Byzantine church did turn up in Yenikapı, under the foundations of some razed apartment buildings. But the real problem was the large number of Byzantine shipwrecks that began to surface soon after the excavation began, in 2004. Dating from the fifth to the eleventh century, the shipwrecks illustrated a previously murky chapter in the history of shipbuilding and were exceptionally well preserved, having apparently been buried in sand during a series of natural disasters.

In accordance with Turkish law, control of the site shifted to the museum, and use of mechanical tools was suspended. From 2005 to 2013, workers with shovels and wheelbarrows extracted a total of thirty-seven shipwrecks. When the excavation reached what had been the bottom of the sea, the archeologists announced that they could finally cede part of the site to the engineers, after one last survey of the seabed—just a formality, really, to make sure they hadn't missed anything. That's when they found the remains of a Neolithic dwelling, dating from around 6000 B.C.

The shipwrecks are wondrous to me. The article asks some worthwhile questions.

4. I like George Mackay Brown's poetry wherever I find it and "The Horse Fair" is no exception. I still need to track down a recording of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Kestrel Road (2003); it sets two of my favorite poems that are not "John Barleycorn."

5. This gemstone looks like the start of a story: the god Pan studying a dramatic mask. I keep forgetting that he has anything to do with Greek theater. I imagine him the kind of critic who throws things and heckles. God of fields and wild spaces, also the peanut gallery.

Autolycus has draped himself over the arm of my office chair and is patting at the screen with one paw. I am not sure if he's reacting to the movement of the cursor or the world's cutest sea slug. [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel calls it the Shaun the Sheep Slug. My favorite may remain either Nembrotha cristata or Stiliger ornatus. Yes, I'm still missing the sea.
yhlee: (SKU: Anthy/Utena (credit: sher))
- recent reading
Max Gladstone. Three Parts Dead. The Craft Sequence #1. (I first read #3, Full Fathom Five. Please don't spoil me for later books even though I read out of sequence!)

This is part urban fantasy, part magical legal thriller, following Tara Abernathy as she pursues revenge against a magical ("Craft) teacher with devious plans and a priest, Abelard, whose god may have been assassinated for reasons that may go deeper than they know. I have say that as a former energy market intelligence analyst, the paragraph that made me swoon in pure geeky love was the one on how times of day, season, etc. cause differences in power draw because something very like that was my job. (I didn't have to understand the technical details of how the power plants worked, just basics like: nobody ramps up a nuke plant for two hours of demand, that stuff is strictly baseline generation, you use GTs for that because they spin up on a dime, etc. etc.) Gladstone is really, really clever about drawing all the plot strands together--I found the jigsaw-piecing multiply satisfying.

- recent dance!
Today was East Coast Swing Beginners' #2. It started with review and the new thing was getting both turn in and turn out for underarm turn. Twirl! Twirl! I had trouble with it last time but got the hang of it this time. I can sometimes see people logicking their way through choreographed/etc. movements in classes like this, and I can't do it that way at all. For me the only thing that works is bloody bullheaded repetition until it burns into muscle memory. And then once I have it, I can't actually explain it. It's there but I can't do it in words at all. It's like my body and whatever part of my brain does words don't talk to each other at all.

But anyway, it was fun! We did rotations for the first time and it was super. I am starting to be able to tell the difference in how people lead but not really how to tell skill levels. (Some people have had a little dance experience, and of course everyone learns at different rates. I'm pretty sure I'm a moderately terrible follow!) I was complimented on my Clockwork Scent Locket from Black Phoenix Trading Post. :) It''s the only jewelry I wear and I get compliments on it--I've always loved the piece myself, to the point where I basically stopped acquiring necklace-y things after Joe bought it for me, because I knew I wasn't going to wear anything else.

(We lost our wedding rings within a year of the wedding, but since we spent about $40 total on them and they were just tokens for the ceremony, whatever. I'm prone to losing rings anyway. And I still have the Joe. That's a win.)

The music we practiced to was faster this time but it was fun!

I need to put together a music-to-practice-swing-to playlist for home, although I don't really have swing-style music, just a bunch of stuff that happens to be in common time.

So as far as I can tell the jitterbug thing we've been doing is 4/4 + 2/4 = 6/4. V. mentioned that lesson #4 we do triple-step swing and that will mess us up. My conjecture is that it will be some form of 3/4 + 3/4 = 6/4, still to common time, for a whole new hemiola experience, but that's just conjecture. I'll find out when we get there. =)

- recent viewing
Gangsta 1.2. Read more... )

Gargoyles 2.3-2.4. Read more... )
26 August 2015 14:35 - Absent With Leave
swan_tower: (Default)

Normally I remember to mention this more than 24 hours before I depart, but: I’m going on vacation. :-D

My husband and I are going to Venice for a few days, followed by a cruise to Barcelona, stopping in Dubrovnik (home of many locations you might recognize from Game of Thrones — I’m looking forward to taking photos), Kotor, Corfu, Naples (saw Pompeii last time, so we’re gonna go to Herculaneum, eeeeee), Rome (bring on the Etruscan necropolis!), Florence, Monte Carlo, and St. Tropez. Three weeks door-to-door, and most of it the lovely laid-back relaxing kind of vacation you get when you’re on a cruise ship.

I will not have internet access for most of that time, so if you send me an email, don’t expect a very rapid reply. :-) When I get back, I hope to have some exciting publishing-related news to share with you all . . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

26 August 2015 15:17 - Social Media Gravity Well
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

No blog post today. All of my social media energy has been drawn into a conversation on Facebook about respecting people’s gender identity.

600+ shares and several hundred comments later, I’m still dealing with comment management and a little bit of bigot herding.

Seems like an awful lot of argument over a post that basically comes down to, “Hey, if folks could treat other people with respect and common courtesy, that would be great.”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

26 August 2015 14:02 - Or
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I could zip over to Waterloo Public Library and review that copy of Jupiter Ascending they have on hold for me...
26 August 2015 13:28 - Wait, what?
I'm about halfway through Marcia Muller's excellent (so far) 1982 detective novel Ask the Cards a Question, and hit this passage:

". . . the chocolate bar she had eaten had been Hershey's, an excellent brand. As far as serious chocolate lovers were concerned, the best thing about Ghirardelli was the wrapper."


Don't get me wrong -- Muller (well, technically her detective, Sharon McCone, but this seems like a pretty clear example of the author speaking through the character here) is correct about Ghirardelli, especially since this was during the period when it was owned by Rice-a-Roni. But has Hershey ever in my lifetime been "an excellent brand?" I mean, sure, when I was ten (as I was when the book was released), I loved their stuff, but even by the time I got to high school, I knew that the best thing that could be said for Hershey bars is that they weren't Nestle bars. Now, it's not that Hershey's sucks, per se -- they have Special Dark, and Reese's, and a few other things I'll eat. But since the late '80s, I can't remember anyone ever really regretting not eating a Hershey's bar unless they were making s'mores.

So for folks slightly (or significantly) older than me, or who have access to that information (including via articles of the time), was Hershey's actually the sort of chocolate that a "serious chocolate lover" would ever actually crave?
26 August 2015 13:04 - Well, bother
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
I have absolutely no idea what book it was I intended to write a review of today. Well, there's one I can write a review of so I will do that.
26 August 2015 10:26 - Said by Lou J. Berger on Facebook
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve handed out awards to many a square-jawed hero blasting bug-eyed monsters, but the overall trend has been left-leaning.

"Square jawed hero" and "Left-leaning" are not opposed concepts.

sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
Last night I met with [personal profile] skygiants to watch Max Ophüls' Caught (1949), the first of his two American films noirs. It's not as complex or as coherent a picture as its follow-up The Reckless Moment (1949), which stunned me in May, but it's a striking, strange, surprisingly blunt examination of the ways in which a woman can be trapped and bound by social conventions, constructions of gender, her own body and the laws which govern it. Much of it is still all too relevant and recognizable today, and I don't say that just because the film opens with two roommates morosely totaling their limited finances and complaining about the humidity.

At first the story looks like a simple cautionary tale: the terrifying ease with which a Cinderella romance can turn into a Bluebeard marriage. Despite his brusque manner and his contemptuous affections, ex-carhop and recent charm school graduate Leonora Eames (Barbara Bel Geddes) allows herself to accept a proposal of marriage from high-powered businessman Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan), because he's worth ninety million and how do you say no to that? No sooner are the wedding headlines yesterday's news than the reality of Leonora's situation sets in: her husband is a chilly, controlling, volatile man who gets his philosophy straight from Ayn Rand; he views every interaction as a transaction and despises his wife for marrying him, because her acquiescence only proves that he met her asking price. He only married her to spite his psychiatrist.1 Very sensibly, she flees Ohlrig's cavernous rococo mansion and takes a job as a receptionist in an East Side clinic where she forms a friendship with unfazeable obstetrician Dr. Hoffman (Frank Ferguson) and something closer with his partner Dr. Larry Quinada (James Mason), an idealistic dropout from the upper middle class still figuring out what a bedside manner looks like. "I'm a very good textbook doctor," he admits after his underestimation of an anxious mother risks a child's life; he's tactless and prone to mansplaining, but we are encouraged to view him sympathetically in part because the film consistently calls him on it and he actually learns. He's the obvious romantic hero. He can't quite understand why Leonora is shy of him, especially when the mutual attraction is as plain as the smile on her face. Inevitably he proposes to her, but she's still married to Ohlrig and there's an additional catch . . .

This is almost exactly the two-thirds mark of the film, by which point it had taken several turns neither of us was expecting. I wasn't even expecting the main characters, honestly. Turn the trope kaleidoscope a little and Smith Ohlrig could be the alpha hero of a billionaire romance, wealthy, workaholic, control-freakish and ultimately vulnerable—but he exists in the real world, and so he's an abusive asshole. He gives a touching speech about the hardship of his upbringing in which we learn that his father only left him four million, he had to bootstrap the rest: "I didn't drink it away, I didn't gamble it away, I didn't marry it away . . . That's what everyone wants, isn't it? Well, I've got it. And I made it myself." When he can't get what he wants by social leverage or main force of money, he suffers apparent life-threatening nervous attacks that he attributes to "a bad heart." The aptness of his words bypasses him completely. He needs either to own people or destroy them. As Skygiants pointed out, the film is a primer on the ways in which a relationship can be abusive without physical violence. Ohlrig never lays a hand on Leonora. He doesn't need to, when he controls her finances and her social access. He calls his wife his highest-paid employee, treats her as if she's a prostitute not worth her price; he humiliates her in public and private and holds the simultaneous lure and threat of a divorce over her head, freedom if she complies with him, ruin if she doesn't. And over and over again, he browbeats her with the reminder that she only married him for his money—an accusation that Leonora protests whether she hears it sneeringly from Ohlrig or uncomprehendingly from Quinada. We never see her think of herself as a gold digger. She's reluctant to accept even a party invitation from Ohlrig's slithery factotum Franzi (Curt Bois) because it makes her feel "cheap"; it's her roommate who advised her to put herself through charm school, in order to equip herself with the proper graces to land a rich husband, but Leonora's daydreams are romantic: Prince Charming discovering her at the perfume counter.2 Each stage of her attempts at self-improvement, from the aggressively socialized, self-effacing femininity of charm school to her new job as a department store model that requires her to display herself and a $4995 mink coat equally, reinforces the idea that she's a piece of interchangeable merchandise. What she wants is to be loved for herself, not the glaze of nicely mannered passivity she's been taught to put on like a beauty mark over the small mole on her cheek. But the entire weight of societal expectation is against her and the compromise she makes, in order to marry an industrial tycoon without feeling like she's sold herself, is to convince herself she's in love.

I am fascinated by the film's willingness to star a heroine this ambivalent and, for lack of a better word, implicated in the system she's trying to resist. She's more sympathetic if she's a "good" girl, isn't she? She's more realistic if she's not. And the film rewards her throughout with a sympathetic sensitivity that didn't shock me after The Reckless Moment, but still found ways to surprise me. Her marriage has wounded her in ways I don't think I've often seen depicted onscreen. There's a beautifully observed moment early in her relationship with Quinada in which he drapes the surprise overcoat he's bought for her—after she told him not to; he thought she just didn't want to be a bother—around her shoulders and she freezes utterly. It is not pleasant for her to have men buy her things. It does not make her feel like a valued colleague or even an affectionate friend; it reminds her that she's trapped in a toxic economy where she is expected to reciprocate a material down payment with her body. She knows what Quinada means by the gesture; it's a trigger all the same. That's like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) levels of unspoken attention to the small details of surviving abuse.3 And once again I can't talk about the aspect of the film that really interested me without spoilers, so proceed at your own risk as usual.

He can't hold her now. She's free. )

I know I am shortchanging Quinada, when Mason does a very good job with his first American role and one of his rare positive leading men. It is crucial to the film that neither Ophüls nor his scriptwriter Arthur Laurents positions him as an unmitigated hero; he is Leonora's ally and would-be lover, but he's not her savior, and he has perhaps even more trouble disentangling himself from absently sexist, heteronormative habits of thought than she does. She is not rescued from one man by another. With his background playing charismatic antiheroes for Gainsborough, Mason has the ability to acknowledge the problems with Quinada while making him believably appealing. He's complicit, too, but he's trying. I'm not at all surprised that Ophüls gave him an even better part in The Reckless Moment, morally shadier and even more attractive. That's a film I recommend for Mason; this one I recommend for Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan, and Ophüls' awkwardly paced but astonishing confrontation with all the things wrong with being a woman in America, in 1949 and nowadays. Since I have said nothing at all about the cinematography, which is magnificent and pointed, as effective and conspicuous as a good prose style, I leave you with Mason's last word on the subject, written after two films with the director:

I think I know the reason why
Producers tend to make him cry.
Inevitably they demand
Some stationary set-ups, and
A shot that does not call for tracks
Is agony for poor dear Max,
Who, separated from his dolly,
Is wrapped in deepest melancholy.
Once, when they took away his crane,
I thought he'd never smile again.

This study courtesy of my steadfast backers at Patreon.

1. Ohlrig's psychiatrist is a magnificent human being played by Art Smith who is obviously not being paid enough to listen to this self-justifying Randian bullshit. Whenever he offers an insight about Ohlrig's behavior, his client dismisses him as a Freud-babbling quack. The movie spends the rest of its runtime proving that everything he said about Ohlrig was right.

2. Her roommate Maxine (Ruth Brady) is cheerfully upfront about her intent to marry for money if she gets the chance, love being an incidental but not necessary bonus. We thought she'd have done fine marrying Ohlrig and then living as a glamorous estranged wife in Paris with a stipend and a string of admirers.

3. Skygiants made some cogent points about the character of Franzi which I hope she will repeat in a post of her own, but he illustrates the complexity of the system: he is both an enabler of Ohlrig's abuse of Leonora and a victim himself. When she slaps him in a moment of uncharacteristically violent frustration and apologizes at once, he responds evenly, if a little breathlessly, "It's all right. It saves him from getting hit. That's what I get paid for." It doesn't make him a nice person, but it makes the film subtler and more like the world it's representing, where the patriarchy lets very few people off lightly.
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