copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Come in, please, come in. I can’t entertain you shipboard as I once could, but there is tea and plenty of food, and I understand you’ve done well for yourself at the gambling tables. I suppose I can afford to lose a little now and then. My late first husband was a wealthy man and I magnified his wealth – well, you know how.

I think there should be discipline in everything, you know, even lawlessness. When I ruled the sea and the Red Flag Fleet, no one disobeyed me. Literally. Those who did were beheaded. But, on the other hand, I think my rule was mainly benificent. Did you know I forbade those under my command to steal from villagers who supplied us? That only made sense, of course. Death was also the sentence for any assault on a female captive. One makes these laws when one grows up as I did.

I also insisted that anything taken from town or ship was to be presented, registered, and given out amongst all – oh, the original taker got a percentage, and twenty percent is better than nothing, you know. That’s how you keep a sailor happy.

My dear second husband, he also issued some laws, I suppose, but they weren’t written down or very well enforced. What were they? Who knows. What does it matter? My laws were what mattered.

Eventually, of course, it became easier just to tax the local cities than to keep sacking them. Nicer for all concerned and not so much work for us. Bureaucracy will have its day, sooner or later, always.

That is how I came to be here, you know; several years ago, after I defeated their entire Navy, the government offered amnesty to pirates. Well they might; what other option did they have? But I was wealthy, so why should I continue to work when I was no longer a criminal? It was in 1810 that I left crime behind forever and opened this little gambling house. Here I am content, you know, and I think I will be until I die. Hopefully not for a long, long time!

Oh, I am called many things. I was born Shi Xianggu, and I am called Cheng I Sao, sometimes, but mostly I am known as Ching Shih – the Widow Ching, wife of two pirates, but a pirate empress myself.

(After all, it’s Talk Like A Pirate day, not Talk Like Every Pirate day. I chose Ching Shih.)

(Also if you enjoyed this, consider dropping some spare change in my Ko-Fi!)

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Excited and Somewhat terrified.

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:15 pm
aedh: a plushie triceratops (Default)
[personal profile] aedh
This weekend for the first (and quite possibly only) time in my life. I have work in a show. Specifically in the Sackler Gallery of the V&A. The summary of what is going on is here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/network/digital-design-weekend-2017

So, if you have time this weekend and are in London. Come see my werewolf story that I've been threatening for years. In the form of a game, that I built with my own two hands and enough brackets to finally fill the desperate need in my heart. Coding is great if you have an unholy need for brackets.

I'll be around for some of Saturday, probably the afternoon. (Will firm up when under lock once I actually know). I have just remembered I'm terrified of crowds, so I'm trying to contribute heavily during the set-up phase.

If you're specifically looking for my work, it has my legal surname attached and will be in the code liberation section. Equally, black and bright neons are its calling card. Also, come see the cool things people I've been on the course with have made, because honestly, the work they've made is really cool.

(no subject)

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:45 am
copperbadge: (radiofreemondaaay)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Before we start, a quick note because I've had a handful of issues with this lately -- if you want to bring a cause to my attention the best way to go about it is to fill out the Radio Free Monday form (also linked from the sidebar of my tumblr page). It's not just that I might not see a post tagged to me or that it saves me a ton of time, but also that it makes sure I get the information I need to describe the situation, link the appropriate pages, and name and gender people correctly.

The form doesn't ask many questions, doesn't pull any metadata (literally it doesn't even record the date you entered the information), and is as anonymous as you want it to be -- there are options for complete or partial anonymity for the person submitting the item.

Ways To Give:

[tumblr.com profile] prismatic-bell linked to a fundraiser for Congregation Beth Yeshurun and their attached day school, which were flooded by Hurricane Harvey, which hit two Jewish neighborhoods in Houston especially hard. The families are currently attending Temple Brith Israel, and the children from the day school have had to scatter among several schools temporarily. You can read more about the damage here, reblog here, give directly to the rebuilding fund, or purchase toys and learning materials or replacement books for the school directly through Amazon.

[tumblr.com profile] reesa-chan is preparing for surgery and gathering supplies to make recovery go as smoothly as possible, but they're coming up short on a few things and surgery is looming. They have a Amazon Wishlist available here and have their paypal giving page here.

Anon linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] poplitealqueen, who is trying to help her mother get some experimental medical treatment which might allow her mobility without the use of a wheelchair. You can read more and reblog here (including links at the top to Patreon and Ko-fi) or give directly to their Ko-Fi here.

[tumblr.com profile] quinfirefrorefiddle linked to a fundraiser for [tumblr.com profile] niines9s, who is trying to escape an abusive home and needs funding for housing after graduation. They are offering commissions and also taking donations; you can read more, reblog, and find paypal information at their post.

Anon linked to news about a Christian group, Faithfully LGBT, who are fundraising to aid transgender people with gender-confirming surgeries as a way of atoning for religious discrimination against transgender people. You can read and reblog the story here or give directly to the Tithe Campaign here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

News To Know:

Anon linked to a post called Saving Your Grades From A Mental Health Crisis, which is about what to do if you're in college and dealing with mental illness.

And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
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[personal profile] copperbadge
Wow, you guys, the me of 2014 was such a good bro, he bought an extra three years of premium-level warranty coverage on his laptop.

I wasn’t even looking for whether I was still covered by warranty, I just assumed I wasn’t, but I went to Dell’s website to get the model number of my laptop so I could look up how to open it up properly and fix the terrible groaning noise my fan is making. And Dell was like hey, here’s your model number, also your warranty is good through June of 2018. 

I’m still gonna try to open it up and fix the fan myself, but if I can’t, I can send it in and get the fan fixed AND get a repair on the housing that’s starting to crack. 

Good job, 2014 Sam. You had no idea the crazy shit that was ahead of you but by god you knew you’d need three years of warranty. You and me, buddy, we’re fucking killing it in the adulting department lately. 

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[personal profile] erinptah
"A self-described "email prankster" in the UK fooled a number of White House officials into thinking he was other officials, including an episode where he convinced the White House official tasked with cyber security that he was Jared Kushner and received that official's private email address unsolicited."

"Among [McMaster's] biggest challenges was holding the attention of the president. [...] Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated politics or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span on the subject, said senior White House officials."

From August: "Residents told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that at least 100 civilians had been killed [by US-led airstrikes on Raqqa] since Sunday, with 55 civilians killed in the eastern neighbourhoods of Bedou and al-Sukhani on Monday."

"And my eleven-year-old asked me what that sticker meant, and what did it have to do with Trump, and weren’t we not supposed to use words like that."

Meanwhile, when people were lining up for a Hillary Clinton book signing (starting the night before), she sent her staff to deliver them pizzas. Imagine having someone like that in the Oval Office. Imagine.
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Me: R’s in town this weekend so we may meet up.

Mum: Send me a picture of you and R when you’re hanging out!

Me: Not sure when it’ll be yet but I’ll do my best. It’s a little uncertain right now.

Mum: If it were certain, I’d be worried it wasn’t really R.

She knows us both so well. 

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sketchdump.

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:42 pm
syntheid: a person perched on a windowsill with tea (wren(ish))
[personal profile] syntheid

ruffled blue heron sitting on a rope in ballpoint pen and tombow markers

a mouse sitting in a flowerpot with sorrel

doodle of Tykket

ballpoint pen value study of a japanese iris

wip shot of an attempted fanart of atomic blonde

portrait of a person laying on their side merging into fungi



In... order of posting, either L to R or Top to Bottom or something depending on where you're viewing this, but. (Click on them for full size.)

1. Just some random blue heron from a ref on pixabay. Turned out surprisingly well for a sketch that took about an hour, using markers I have no idea how to use with a very limited color selection.
2. My mouse on Mouse Guard is named Sorrel, and a friend of mine was talking about planting sorrel, the plant, in pots, and it just made me think of "potted Sorrel" so. I keep trying to color this and failing.
3. My Asuran mesmer on Guild Wars 2, Tykket. Someday I'll try to tackle the armor but I was just trying to work out how to customize her hair a bit to make her less generic.
4. An iris I decided to try to make a value study of using... ballpoint pen. It took me basically a full day, it was kind of ridiculous, and I regretted the decision one petal in, but it did turn out pretty neat.
5. WIP of fanart of Atomic Blonde that I'm failing to figure out how to actually color. I wanted to watercolor it, but I really am not good enough at watercolor yet and also still couldn't figure out how I actually wanted to color it, so I'm trying digital. Someday I'll finish it?
6. Left-handed drawing in ballpoint and colored pencil. Started out just as a doodle of fungi, then I got lazy about finishing the trunk and put a face on it instead.

I kind of hilariously got a couple more paints so I could have a better range of colors for watercolor and then... haven't managed to do anything.

(ETA: ughhh browser incompatibilities rendering flexbox, I'll try to fix the wrapping again tomorrow, sorry for the overflow.)
(ETA2: fixed, I think, hopefully isn't overflowing on anybody's system now... unless you're still on IE11, then I'm sorry)

Yuletide nominations and stuff

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:54 pm
naraht: (other-Yuletide squee)
[personal profile] naraht
How can the Yuletide season be starting already? Usually I'm on top of these things but this year I was caught without even a potential nominations list.

So, in a fit of absence of mind, I have nominated:

Return to Night - Mary Renault
Hilary Mansell
Julian Fleming
Lisa Clare
Elaine Fleming

Figure Skating RPF
Evgeni Plushenko
Stéphane Lambiel
Johnny Weir
Evan Lysacek [not so attached to him, does anyone have someone they'd like me to nominate instead?]

Cycling Commentator RPF
David Millar
Ned Boulting
Carlton Kirby
Sean Kelly [ditto... does anyone want Gary Imlach or Matt Stephens or Brian Smith?]

I'll be in North Wales for work tomorrow (!) and staying into Saturday for a mini-break, so I thought it was best to get things tided away now, lest I forget.

Not-exactly-fmk: Gor and Yuletide

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:05 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
So in FMK reading adventures, I finally finished the first Gor book, that was voted K early on but I decided I wanted to read before dumping just so I could say I had.

I should have trusted y'all: it was mostly just incredibly pointlessly bland, occasionally rising to actively annoying. It wasn't even really bad enough to be interestingly bad. There was a lot more flying around on giant soulbonded warbirds than I expected, tbh (somehow I had though that Tarnsman meant "man of the mountain lake country" but I think that was giving him too much credit for having a vocabulary,) but the warbirds are so badly wordbuilt and lacking in individual personality and the flying scenes so lacking in joy that the only time I actually cared about them was when the abused half-starved ones were about to eat the MC and I roused enough to cheer them on. The plot is built on bad characterization and improbable coincidences; the language aspires to basic competence; you can very easy disassemble it into its component stereotypes; and all sense-of-wonder or hints that the MC is not a sociopath are missing. Also amused that the author refuses to comment on whether it's John Carter of Mars fanfic (it's really badly done John Carter of Mars fanfic, omg.) I understand the series gets far more batshit later, but I don't think I need to read far enough to find out.

Also, thank you all for your help with picking a yuletide nomination! I shall be ignoring the clear preference of the poll, and nominating Mr. Trash Wheel RPF. He didn't win, but he did win the vote of everybody I know who has taken a selfie with him, and their votes count 10x, sorry.

(this is Mr. Trash Wheel: )

I will also be nominating Professor Trash Wheel and a five foot long West African Ball Python as characters, of course. I am stuck on who should be my fourth nom, though. A modular robotic eel that hunts for water pollution? Lynyrd Skymmer? Some other celebrity of the waters that I don't yet know about?


Clearly there's a market for Always Coming Home, though. Someone else should nominate it. (If I requested it, it'd just be as "tell me a story of the Valley", so I don't care about characters.)


Meanwhile, I re-read The Girl With The Silver Eyes to prepare to nominate. That one does hold up very well! Things I had forgotten about this book: the muumuu wearing old fat lady who lives alone with her cats and her books and gives no fucks and is #rolemodel. The fact that Katie can TALK TO CATS. The constant references to other YA fantasy/sf novels by the same imprint that she is reading. How much this book distrusts all adult men. How much this book also distrusts all non-readers. How yes they have psi powers and are super-smart, but they're also explicitly non-neurotypical in a way that read a lot more Autism Spectrum than any of the books about supposedly autistic kids that I was reading at the time, and that's more of an issue for them than the psi powers.

The book really needs an active fandom if only so we can have epic fanwars about whether they spoilers )

Anyway I am stuck for character noms there too, because I want all the kid characters but I also want Mr. C, Mrs. M, Miss K and Jackson Jones.

FMK #23: Long Book Is Long

Sep. 12th, 2017 01:51 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Last week's F winner, after a very close race, was a tie between Beguilement and Daughter of Witches! I picked Beguilement because I know I'm keeping the rest of Lyra regardless, so Beguilement is more likely to lead to me dumping several books at once. K winner was The Death of Sleep, so goodbye Lunzie!

The comics bonus round winner was Asterix le Galois. Of course the bonus round I threw in because "comics are fast and easy!" gets won by one where I'm going to have to review a whole other language first... There was no K majority for the comics round, although I'm curious about the fact that Maison Ikkoku nearly got it, because I had not idea there was active dislike for Maison Ikkoku out there.

I am going to spend two days of next week trapped in a car with a couple of cats and almost no luggage space, so it's time to finally roll out the LONG BOOKS ARE LONG poll. That way I can only pack one and be reading it all week. :P

I don't know if I'll have internet next Tuesday but likely not (we are helping sister move) so there may be another break in fmk next week.

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Adams, Asaro, Clarke, Coville, Delany, Hobb, Hunt, Jemisin, Lynch, Melville, Michalson, Pynchon, Stephenson, Williams, Williamson )
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
You guys today I researched someone who is such a rank evil motherfucker that the person who was going to meet them to ask for money came over to my desk after seeing my research and was like “What a rank evil motherfucker.” 

And I was like I DIDN’T EVEN PUT THE WORST OF IT IN BECAUSE WE CAN’T PROVE THE WORST STUFF SINCE IT’S ALL TECHNICALLY SPECULATION BY LIBERAL WATCHDOG GROUPS BUT I KNOW THEY DID IT. They gave millions of dollars to climate-change denial (which I learned today is referred to as CLIMATE INACTIVISM) two weeks ago. 

But I am heartened that a) the fundraiser saw through my VERY CAREFULLY professionally neutral report to the truth of the matter and b) they called their boss and were like “I’m not taking this meeting” and THEIR BOSS read my report and said “Yeah this is a PR disaster waiting to happen, don’t take the meeting.”

And normally I’d be like “yes take their money, take it all, take them for everything you can wring from them” but what makes this one so unsettling is that their donations always come with creepy post-contract strings. If we take the money, we’re gonna pay for it down the line, so I’m just as glad we aren’t. 

Once in a while in my profession I come across someone who is such a force for destruction on an international scale that I genuinely hope they will die in some very public and ironic way. I yearn for the day I read of their demise.

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Weird thoughts

Sep. 11th, 2017 10:35 pm
aedh: a plushie triceratops (Default)
[personal profile] aedh
I was paging through my sketchbook and for some reason, it clicked in my head that this was a real sketchbook. Which, arguably, is sort of ridiculous. There's no qualifying condition for a sketchbook, and this is not even close to my first sketchbook, but it feels more real for some reason. I have a lot of bad art lying around.

The drawing in it is still questionable by the way, in case you were concerned, but there is a lot of it.

(no subject)

Sep. 11th, 2017 07:40 am
copperbadge: (radiofreemondaaay)
[personal profile] copperbadge
Good morning everyone, and welcome to Radio Free Monday!

Ways To Give:

Anon linked to a fundraiser for Melissa, a trans girl who recently escaped an abusive home and is struggling to make ends meet. She has been unable to get car insurance, and is also recovering from expenses and injuries from a recent accident. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] nivcharayahel and her sister are raising funds for help with September's rent, to avoid eviction; they are dealing with recent unemployment and underemployment. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] butnotinthisone is dealing with fallout from hurricane Harvey, including being unable to return to their apartment due to continued flooding; their apartment is on the first floor and they will likely be facing property loss and damage from the water. You can read more and help out here.

[tumblr.com profile] rilee16 is struggling to cover medical expenses after two head injuries last year, and has a fundraiser running to cover living expenses, previous medical bills, and a recent rent increase. You can read more and help out here.

Help For Free:

[livejournal.com profile] rua_m linked to Zooniverse, specifically their Weather Rescue project, which allows you to help recover forgotten weather data by transcribing Ben Nevis observatory records. Zooniverse is a great site that lets people participate in citizen science and historical preservation by categorizing and transcribing documents; I'm actually a member and work on some of their animal-related stuff.

Anon linked to Halloween Lifestyle, a Halloween website recently put up (and so still a little sparse) by the mother of [tumblr.com profile] nextrrickanvils. You can read more and reblog here or go directly to the site here.

Housing:

[personal profile] in_the_bottle is looking for a new housemate in London, in Fulham SW6, bordering Hammersmith. Two professional females, at least one fandom friendly. You can read more and get in touch here; they also have an ad up on SpareRoom here with photos.


And this has been Radio Free Monday! Thank you for your time. You can post items for my attention at the Radio Free Monday submissions form. If you're not sure how to proceed, here is a little more about what I do and how you can help (or ask for help!). If you're new to fundraising, you may want to check out my guide to fundraising here.
copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
On April 1, 1985, a piece by George Plimpton was published in Sports Illustrated, called “The Curious Case of Sidd Finch”. It presented a new rookie pitcher for the Mets: Sidd Finch, an aspirant Buddhist monk and French horn aficionado, who could throw a pitch around 160mph. If you’re not familiar with baseball, a 90mph pitch is a good ticket to the majors, and the fastest pitch on record is around 105mph. The article was a joke, of course – April Fool’s – but the reaction especially among Mets fans was electric. Within sports journalism it’s widely considered to be one of the best hoaxes of all time.

Plimpton eventually expanded the article into a novel in 1987, and I finally got around to digging it up and reading it – it’s what I’ve been reading on the train to the last few Railcats games of the season. The Curious Case of Sidd Finch, as a novel, is in a way a time capsule; it captures a very weird era for the country and a pre-player’s strike, pre-Moneyball era for baseball. But it’s not really a book about baseball, despite Plimpton being primarily a sports journalist. It’s easily accessible if you don’t know a ton about the game, primarily because neither does Sidd Finch.

Rather, the book struck me as drawing heavily on what I think of as the “parable novel”, a genre popular in the seventies – part religious/philosophical treatise and part self-help book disguised as a fictional narrative (the most famous is probably Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach).

The novel’s narrator and fictional author is Robert Temple, a former journalist living in Florida and suffering from a decade-long writer’s block; he literally can’t write anything, including shopping lists and notes to self. (I’ll come back to this.) By a chance of fate he learns that the Mets have a rookie player named Sidd Fitch who can throw a 160mph fastball with uncanny accuracy, but who is still uncertain he actually wants to sign with the club. After getting thrown out of his boarding house for bringing a girl over, Sidd and his girlfriend Debbie Sue end up living with Temple at the request of the Mets, who hope Temple can convince him to sign with the team while he attends spring training in Florida.

It’s a really compelling read with enjoyable characters, and there’s some good tension set up in the question of whether Sidd will sign with the Mets, and whether it would be good for both Sidd and the sport as a whole for him to do so. And I appreciated that the one full pro game Sidd pitches isn’t the climax of the book – this is not a book about sport but a book that uses sport to meditate on other matters.

It does have its issues, however. Temple, the narrator, draws the reader in because we understand that he was a writer and no longer is, but we don’t know why – we know he’s suffered some terrible psychological blow, just not exactly what: 

If he had taken the time to check it out, he would have discovered that I was not capable of writing a paragraph, much less a line of copy. I was a completely defused member of the communications industry. 

[….]

I took my sister by the elbow afterward and I said, “Well, that’s my problem, isn’t it? I’m not really alive. I’m perhaps a quarter alive.”

“You’re coming along,” she said. 

I think it would have been best for that information to come out slowly in drips here and there, perhaps eventually being told more fully when Temple explains to Sidd or Debbie Sue why he can’t write. Instead we get an early-on chapter about it – basically a brief autobiography where he goes to Vietnam to cover the war as a journalist, has a breakdown, and retires to Florida where he fills empty days with pointless tasks as a way of keeping himself alive. It’s…not the most interesting chapter. And then he can’t really explain it to the others because we’ve already sat through it once. 

This complicated history is also a problem with Sidd, our young pitcher – Sidd is struggling with both his faith and what his purpose in life should be, and that’s immediately something people can identify with. The issue is that Plimpton, the actual author, built on the biography he created for Sidd in the Sports Illustrated article, which was a joke and thus comedically complicated. Sidd is an orphan from England adopted by an English anthropologist who then died in a plane crash when Sidd was a teenager, and he found Buddhism while looking for his father in the Himalayas. Sidd also, randomly, is very good at the French horn. This is a complex backstory for a baseball player and it’s not entirely well-told within the boundaries of the book, though it’s also a pretty ripping adventure story as Sidd runs away from boarding school to look for his dad and eventually ends up an aspirant monk who uses Buddhists lung-gom teachings to train himself to throw a 160mph baseball.

We never really get to the heart of why Sidd walked up to a Mets talent scout one day and decided to get himself recruited; there are hints here and there, and it does lead to a masterful set of discussions about why baseball is a game for mystics:

“Why baseball?” Frank Cashen asked. “Why didn’t he go back to England and play cricket?” 

Dr. Burns put his fingertips together. “Baseball is the perfect game for the mystic mind. Cricket is unsatisfactory because it has time strictures. The clock is involved. Play is called. The players stop for tea. No! No! No!” Burns sounded quite petulant. “On the other hand, baseball is so open to infinity. No clocks. No one pressing the buttons on stopwatches. The foul lines stretch to infinity. In theory, the game of baseball can go on indefinitely.” 

[…]

“I got very interested in the idea of causing a commotion at Point B when standing a long distance away at Point A. To throw an object that connects those two points is a very heady thing to be able to do…especially if you can do it time and time again with accuracy. It is something archers and hunters know all about – the trigonometric closing of lines.” 

[…]

I suddenly had a clear image of what Sidd was doing to the game. It was what the listeners were suggesting – he was changing the properties and the essence of the ball itself. It struck me how often the ball is inspected during a game, as if anyone who touches it has to make sure the ball has not changed its properties. If the ball disappears over the fence, another, like a youngster’s dream pinball game, emerges from a black sack at the umpire’s side. He looks at it and gives it to the catcher, who rubs it briefly, and after a glance fires it out to the pitcher; he looks at the ball and rubs it with both hands, his glove dangling from its wrist strap, and then, as he stares down at the catcher for the signal, his fingers maneuver over its surface feeling for the comfort of some response – yes, this time it will do exactly as he wishes! […] Football players do not have this kind of kinship with their ball. Most of the players don’t even touch the thing during the course of a game. It sits stolidly on the grass. The center comes up over the ball from the huddle and barely giving it a glance turns it under his hands; his eyes are staring across the line of scrimmage at the unpleasant visage of the nose guard opposite. A defensive tackle is so uncomfortable with the ball that if he chances to pick it up on the practice-field he tends to throw it end over end to get rid of it. […] Tennis balls are not kept on the mantlepiece. Too many of them around. Who cares?
 

But there’s never that moment where Sidd says, this is why I came to America to play baseball. Especially since he knows so little about it going in. I suppose Plimpton had to make him a foreigner so he wouldn’t know much about the sport, but honestly, you can grow up in America and not know much about baseball, especially at the pro level. Though I do enjoy some of the eccentricities of the game that Plimpton chose to focus on: 

“They have shown me the heavy ring that one slides on the bat to make it seem lighter. I had thought originally that the heavy ring was a talisman to bless the wood. No! One has only oneself to rely on within the confines of the batting box.” 

There’s also some pretty lowered stakes in this book because everyone, even Sidd, is wealthy. Temple can afford to do nothing all day for a decade while still seeing an expensive private therapist about his writer’s block (and eventually supporting Sidd and Debbie Sue when they move in) because his family is rich and supportive. Sidd, an innocent who travels with very little, still has access to his father’s fortune and has a mansion waiting for him in England. Debbie Sue, the free-spirited beach bum that Sidd falls in love with, comes from a wealthy family and was attending an ivy league school before she left it all behind to windsurf full-time in Florida. Even the most desperate people in the book, namely the coaching staff of the Mets, are only desperate to get Sidd to play. Nobody’s life or livelihood is riding on anything in the book, which to me makes it slightly less effective as a philosophical treatise because everyone starts from a place of wealth and comfort. On the other hand, it does allow the reader to engage fully with the psychological side of things, and there’s something to be said for not having to worry about where Sidd’s next meal is coming from:

Rather haltingly, Sidd asked me if I would come to New York and see him through August and September…perhaps share an apartment. He didn’t feel he was going to feel at ease in the city. Over the phone he made one of his brilliant vocal imitations – the sound of a taxi horn, a police siren, and the sigh of a bus pulling away from its passenger stop.

“There are no mantras,” he said, “to take care of this sort of thing.”

All that said, it is a really fun book. Everyone in it is charming and funny, Sidd’s bewilderment over the rituals of pro baseball is touching, and there’s an interesting hint of threesome-ness (probably unintentional) to the bond between Sidd, Debbie Sue, and Temple. As a baseball fan I appreciated the thought Plimpton put into how and where the characters and the sport interacted, and you can tell he has a genuine love of the game. He also appears to have done his research about Buddhism – it’s not just a stand in for woo-woo esotericism, the way it was a bit in the original article. There is some of that, but there is also a lot of genuine discussion of Buddhism which seems, in my admittedly very limited experience, to be correct.

Sidd smiled…very much as Dennis Brain probably had on the stage of the Jubilee Hall. “There’s a saying of Buddha,” he said. “Be earnest in cessation although there is nothing to cease; practice the cessation although there is nothing to practice.” 

So yeah, do recommend The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch if you’re interested in baseball or just in a pretty good story about a baseball player. 

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[personal profile] erinptah
The last flight out of Puerto Rico, ninja'ing its way out the narrow spiral between the body of Hurricane Irma and one of the arms. These pilots, and the people on the ground who plotted that flight, deserve some kind of medal.

“They helped him get job training. They helped him get counseling. And now, as a former white supremacist himself, he will receive training on how to help other people. It’s a very individual program and it really works.” The important work of Life After Hate (whose government funding got cut under this administration, because of course).

"I was a neo-Nazi. Then I fell in love with a black woman." It's more complicated and less Pollyanna than the headline suggests, but the progress is genuine.

"For three months, the [Canadian] federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world."

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are."

yuletide etc.

Sep. 9th, 2017 01:48 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
So, Yuletide noms are open!

I am definitely nominating:

The Saga of Burnt Njal (with characters from Njal's generation - all the existing fics are post-canon about Kari)
The Girl With The Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts (because we all had a discussion on one of [personal profile] rachelmanija's FMK posts about how we all wanted MORE after we read that.)

I can't decide on number three, and I'm pretty sure the other stuff I definitely want to request will have other noms. So:

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 22


My third yuletide nomination should be:

View Answers

Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
15 (68.2%)

The Hidden Almanac (the podcast)
6 (27.3%)

King's Blood (Steve Jackson games)
1 (4.5%)

Mr. Trash Wheel RPF
4 (18.2%)




I am also trying to at least finish the first chapter of the Discworld Sedoretu fic before I let myself read any of the fics that are now revealed in the fest, but I have not yet. :/

Instead, have some reviews of the CDs I bought for $.10 each this morning:

Delmarva Groove Kings
Genre: Is "Groove" a genre?
Local kitsch factor: Well, "Delmarva" is in the title, but they appear to actually be from Clinton, which isn't really Delmarva? Also we're pretty sure the bridge on the cover is the Golden Gate, not the Chesapeake. 2/5
Cover art: Oil painting of a viking ship sailing past a decaying suspension bridge against a red sky. -1 point for not being the right bridge and for not having any cover credits so I can't track down the original. 4/5
Song titles: Titles include "Northeast Corridor Blues", "Evil", and "Dueling Hillbillies on the Mother Ship". 4/5
Music: Ehh? Some of the songs appear to be just screaming over boring electric guitar chords, but some of the more bluesy ones are pretty okay. 3/5
Comment: This was originally a benefit to pay for someone's cancer treatment. Why do I still live in a county where people think it's ok that you have to sell benefit CDs to pay for someone's cancer treatment.

Celtic Fury - O'Malley's March
Genre: Basic American Celtic
Local Kitsch Factor: Yep, it's O'Malley as in Governor Martin O'Malley! This was his band's first CD, that they put out while he was still just on the city council. 5/5
Cover Art: Black-and-white photo of the band. TERRIFYINgLY BAD PHOTOS. Two of them look like they are planning to lure you into a white van, one of them looks like he is wearing a human mask and hasn't quite learned how to make it smile yet, and one of them looks like they stuck a dead person's head on a mannequin. O'Malley hardly looks sinister at all in comparison, which may be a first. 1/5
Song Titles: Mostly your basic sort of Celtic standards, but there is one called "Mickey Chewing Gum" and one called "Streets of Baltimore". 3/5
Music: Would hire them to play on one of the outdoor stages at a street fair. Competent. The lead singer sounds weirdly insincere about everything he sings, but maybe that's just because I know it's O'Malley. 3/5
Comment: It's autographed by the whole band! I wonder if I could sell the Governor's autograph for more than I paid for the CD. ...Actually I probably know some people who would pay me at least twice that just to burn it while cackling.

Review - Every Heart A Doorway

Sep. 6th, 2017 11:32 pm
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[personal profile] erinptah
There was a ton of buzz going around about this book not long ago, and understandably, given the amazing premise. A boarding school to accommodate all those kids who have wandered off into magical fairylands for a while, and help re-acclimatize them to reality? So much possibility.

Guys, it...it really squandered the premise.

After a promising setup, Every Heart A Doorway turns into "a fairly gruesome murder mystery at a school for kids with weird/magic abilities."

They don't actually have any scenes of the kids in classes, much less any "here's how to deal with reality" sequences. It's insular, almost claustrophobic -- the characters never leave the school. There's no mention of phones, Internet, pop culture, anything connected to the Real World they're supposed to be reintegrating with. Early on one of the characters mentions looking something up on Google Images before she arrived, but if it wasn't for that reference, this could've taken place any time in the past hundred years.

When the gruesome murders start, there's no police investigation, no real-world forensics, no "here's how crimes are solved in a world without magic." Even the adult authorities at the school, who are In On The Secret, don't manage the situation at all. It's just...left to the teenagers to solve on their own, with the residual supernatural talents they have from their fantasylands.

(How great would it have been to have the cops show up with all their mundane nonmagical expectations, and the teachers run interference, and it takes their combined efforts to make progress? Better yet, what if the investigative team included a former student, who could handle both aspects of the case at once?)

Without spoiling any specifics, by the end of the book, it doesn't support the idea that "learning to be part of the world you're in" is a worthwhile goal in the first place.

This in spite of the fact that some of the kids' fairyland-developed coping mechanisms...do not seem healthy. I don't mean "sensible by fairyland rules but maladapted to our-world rules," I mean generally unhealthy.

You know what series handles this really well? Star Versus The Forces Of Evil. The heroine in this case is native to magicland, studying abroad on Earth, and the show does a lovely job of exploring the nuances from "Star learns that this behavior isn't culturally appropriate for Earth" to "Star learns that this behavior is uncool anywhere."

And I've loved fanfic that explores post-magic-journey culture shock. The Pevensies struggling to balance "solving problems by breaking out our mad skills as former-adult Kings and Queens of Narnia" with "not freaking out everyone around us." Lyra and Pan having to remember to stay close together. Dorothy getting so much cross-cultural experience so young that, after a certain point, she can drop into pretty much any world and have no trouble going with the flow.

The students in Every Heart A Doorway don't get any "here's how to codeswitch to Earth-appropriate behaviors" or "wow, you're interacting with regular Earth culture really well already" or "this isn't good at all, let's learn and grow and develop as characters." They stay in their insulated setting with all the patterns they learned in other worlds going pretty much unexamined.

So much potential material here! So painfully unexplored!


~*~


People were also talking a lot, when the initial buzz was going around, about book's the asexual protagonist.

Again: cool in theory! In practice, all it seems to mean is that her narration keeps doing unnecessary and shoehorned-in detours about how totally uninterested in sex she is.

The first time it came up was fine. Awkward, but forgivable. The rest, not so much. There's a scene where she's having a friendly conversation, and suddenly goes into an internal monologue about how she's flirting, and this is fun, but she's totally uninterested in having sex with the people she flirts with. It's like she's jumping in to correct an assumption that the reader isn't making -- I hadn't even realized she was supposed to be flirting in the first place.

The scene that struck me the most is: she's admiring the beauty of a male classmate, and thinks all the other girls around her must feel the same, "although she was sure she was the only one whose attraction was aesthetic, not romantic."

First point: the character is not aromantic. (She says so. In those words.) It's possible to feel romantic attraction in general, and not specifically feel it toward this guy. For her. But...not for literally anyone else?

Second point: why does she think there are no lesbians at this school? Why doesn't it occur to her that some people are aromantic? Why does she show zero awareness that even straight girls (and bi/pan girls, although I'm not sure she realizes those exist either) don't have to feel attracted to every boy in existence?

Is she just supposed to be really blinkered and self-centered, as a character flaw? Maybe, but I never felt like the narrative saw her that way.

Is it a "the lady doth protest too much" situation, where she is falling in love with the guy, and is aggressively denying/projecting to avoid facing the idea? Also possible, but has Unfortunate Implications for the way her asexuality is established by repeating "and she totally wasn't sexually attracted to people, nope, not at all."


~*~


The book is really weird about gender. Most of the students are girls (a couple hundred of them, to a grand total of 5 boys), and this is explained as a result of socialization and sexism and boys not wandering off as easily without getting noticed.

Which...doesn't track with the genre it's supposed to be commenting on. At all.

For every Lucy and Susan, there's a Peter and Edmund. For every Alice through the looking-glass, there's a Milo in a phantom tollbooth. Wendy Darling disappeared with both of her brothers in tow, and that's not even counting Peter and the Lost Boys. Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot are balanced out by Button-Bright and Zeb. Lyra had her Will. I could go on.

On top of that, this main group of characters ends up including 2 of the boys (along with maybe 4 girls).

Why establish a mostly-female setting if you're then going to overrepresent the male characters that dramatically? Why not just have a roughly-gender-balanced school in the first place?

And it manages to wring a heck of a lot of heterosexuality out of this casting. Every major female character mentions having a male love interest in whatever fantasy world she wandered into. One of the boys basically wandered into Halloweentown and had a romance with a skeleton...very specifically a girl skeleton. I already mentioned the ace girl's weird obliviousness to the possibility of gay people. And the only flirting we see between students is m/f.

The aforementioned super-beautiful boy is trans. Which is nice! And the subject is handled more naturally than the asexuality. Doubly nice.

But in some ways that only makes the broader context weirder. If there's a setting where nobody is explicitly LGBT, it's easy to read that as "underneath the veneer of everyone politely ignoring the topic, people are still LGBT at the average rate."

Here, the author wants to have explicit representation! But it's like...she made one of her boys trans, and one of her girls ace, and then just...stopped. Without considering the idea of LGBT people existing generally. In background characters. In sidelong references. In the concept of female characters other than the heroine who aren't into a hot guy.


~*~


At least it was short? I blew through the whole audiobook in a single work day, so the disappointing aspects weren't dragged out for long.

But seriously, there were a lot of disappointments. And now I'm worried there are people writing better versions of the premise but getting shot down as ripoffs, or getting publishing deals but no hype because all the "what a cool, unusual premise!" posts have been done.

...Does anyone have recs? I'll also take recs for your favorite culture-shock fics of existing portal-fantasy series. Anything that takes this book's premise and actually, wholeheartedly, runs with it.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl is, above all, a good book. And I don't mean in the sense of well-written or I liked it (although those are also true) but good the way a good person is good. Good like a video of a puppy rescuing a kitten. Goodness baked into it all the way through. It was exactly the sort of book I needed to read these last couple weeks.

When I started I honestly wasn't expecting to call it good in any of those senses. The main character, Elana, is just. Super-annoying in all of the best YA ways. The book starts with Elana, who we are told is a disciplined trainee with lifelong dedication to the most elite, dangerous, and important of careers, stowing away on her dad's dangerous and vital mission because she was bored.

Then we start getting right into love triangle territory.

But. Somehow, it all works. )

Anyway, I liked it, it reminded me that sometimes there are good things that are just good when I needed that, I'm glad I read it and it's definitely a keeper.


I also read Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe by Robert Asprin and George Takei. Imagine if someone had gone to George Takei in the 70s and said "if you could publish any book, what would it be about?" and he said "Japanese-American fencing ninja vs. corpocratic killer robots in space."

If your reaction was "yes, good, do that" you would probably find this book at least mildly entertaining.


I'm also trying to read Han of Iceland by Victor Hugo but, folks, it's... not good. Also I added it to the poll on the basis of I've had an ecopy on my phone for several years waiting to be read, and also it was short so it couldn't be too painful, but the OCR on all the online versions was terrible so I got a library copy, but then it became apparent that all of the online versions must just be Part 1 of 2 despite not being marked that way, because in fact it is not short. I dunno if I can do this.

My mom saw the library copy lying out and since she's also been reading books about Iceland she picked it up and said "the very first line of the introduction is about how terrible this book is, why are you reading it?" (I told her my internet friends dared me to. She has learned to just accept answers like that.)

FMK #22: Yuletide Fandoms

Sep. 6th, 2017 05:32 pm
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
...Let's just pretend today is Tuesday, okay?

Last week's poll was very close until the last minute, but Omnitopia Dawn edged into first for F at the last minute, just beating out The Android's Dream. The most K votes was Down And out In The Magic Kingdom, which I honestly did not expect! However it did not have a majority of K votes. The only one with a majority of K votes was Radio Freefall.

Reviews post for the ones I've read lately DEFINITELY coming later today, yes def.

This week's theme: Yuletide fandoms! (As measured by number of fics on AO3, because that was easier than trying to figure out what had actually had noms.)

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

Poll: Asaro, Bujold, Feist, L'Engle, Lackey, Le Guin, Levine, Martinez, McCaffrey, McKillip, McKinley, Moorcock, Norton, Scalzi, Shepherd, Wellman, Wilson, Wrede, Zelazny )

Bonus Round: Comics )
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