Life-art-life

Jul. 28th, 2017 07:07 am
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
[personal profile] kate_nepveu
last night, I went to see part 2 of Angels in America, where the "have you no decency" quote from the McCarthy hearings plays a prominent role, and this morning before I'd looked at any news, Chad said to me, "so, McCain, huh?"

honestly it seems a little on-point, I'm afraid to trust it.

HOLY FUCK

Jul. 28th, 2017 01:49 am
kore: Captain America waves a giant rainbow flag (lovewins)
[personal profile] kore

nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
Whish ... Whish ... it said up in the sky as the northern lights flickered and flared; they were the Snow Queen’s fireworks.

I am going to Finland, though not in the robber girl's mittens.  And what I carry to be read will not be written on a stockfish, though it all goes into the saucepan of story.   Whee!  "The Snow Queen" was always my favorite of Andersen's tales, with its puzzles of ice, and its intermezzo of flowers, and somehow later on the Finland woman morphed into Mally.  "The Little Mermaid"?  Huh!  Titus Andronicus with fish!

And let's not talk about "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf."

I have a day's layover in Iceland on the way.  So cool.

The Worldcon 75 programme is enticing, with its blacksmith and its bears.  They've given me a very brief schedule, which leaves all the more time to look and listen.

Thursday, August 10

3:00 PM
Magical Libraries and Archives
Greer Gilman, Kathryn Sullivan, Lauren Schiller, Kat Takenaka

From Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural to Warehouse 13 through Librarians and Doctor Who - libraries and archives have hoards of amassed knowledge and magical items! How is this trope handled in audiovisual media and does the reality becoming more digital have an impact?

Friday, August 11

4:00 PM
Invented Languages

David J. Peterson, Anne Lyle, Greer Gilman, John Chu

Many fantasy worlds contain their own languages. Are they any good? Can the quality of a fantasy world be measured by its language?

Sunday, August 13

10:00 AM
Reading: Greer Gilman, William Ledbetter

I have no idea why I've been paired with a military SF guy—we will mightily puzzle each other's audiences.

Silly me—I didn't sign up for an autograph session, because there are never many people—sometimes none—and it's embarassing.  But once or twice at every con, someone thrusts a battered old Moonwise or an archival Faces of Fantasy at me (an old fan at Readercon this year brought six).  And I didn't think, hey, Finland is a whole new crowd of people.  Maybe I should ask to be squeezed in?

Things I've been told not to miss in Helsinki include the red squirrels on Suomenlinna, the Aeolian Sibelius monument, and Helene Schjerfbeck's paintings.  I look forward to cloudberries, mushrooms, and herring.

I can't believe I'm doing this.  I must be mad.

Nine



2017 Reading [37-85]

Jul. 28th, 2017 01:03 am
musyc: Black and white image of multiple stacks of books (Books: So many books)
[personal profile] musyc
Reread
Room - Emma Donaghue
Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett
Snuff - Terry Pratchett
Martian - Andy Weir x2
Scott Lynch - Gentleman Bastards series (3)
Robin LaFevers - Grave Mercy
Deborah Harkness - All Souls series (3)
Jean Auel - Earth's Children series (5)
Daniel O'Malley - Rook, Stiletto x2
Lemony Snickett - ASOUE #1, #2

New )
gingicat: the hands of Doctor Who #10, Martha Jones, and Jack Harkness clasped together with the caption "All for One" (all for one)
[personal profile] gingicat posting in [community profile] metaquotes
The characters I liked best? The bad guys. They were hard-working citizens who got screwed out of jobs that were legally contracted as theirs. So they decided to do something else, by selling alien equipment.

Context contains spoilers for a movie currently in theatres.

Time is so sweet and absurd

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:15 pm
sovay: (Default)
[personal profile] sovay
We have a couch! We finally have a couch! It is grey-green and comfortably springy and fits into the space between the windows at the front of the apartment and there was an exciting hour when we weren't sure if it had been lost in transit because the tracking website listed it as delivered and it was definitely not in the apartment and the warehouse couldn't get hold of the drivers to ask where on earth either they or the couch were, but it arrived and was carried upstairs by two very pleasant and competent people who took all the packaging away with them afterward and then I sat on the couch in my living room and talked with Matthew until he had to leave to catch his train, although he took a picture of the couch first:



Hestia set the first claw in it, of course. Now she crouches on the back like a demon rabbit, staring out into the world with wide gold eyes. Autolycus leapt onto the cushions, prowled, sniffed carefully all around, and then took possession of a stack of displaced boxes of slightly greater elevation. I am sitting on it with my computer like a sensible person. I could sit on it and read books. I could drag the coffee table over and watch a movie without being at my desk. I could, some afternoon, fall asleep.

Yay, having furniture.

(no subject)

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:58 pm
kore: (Scarlet Witch - Aja cover art)
[personal profile] kore
OH, IT GOT EVEN 'BETTER'

LOOK WHAT THEY DID TO WANDA

(rape warning)


....do you not WANT my money, Marvel? For any fucking thing? Because real life already punches me in the face with this shit already. I don't need my hobby to do it too.

Writing in my sleep

Jul. 27th, 2017 01:53 pm
nineweaving: (Default)
[personal profile] nineweaving
I dreamed that all the personal names in a mystery manuscript were wrong, and called my dream-editor with changes:  the middle-aged detective-figure and her brother the Duke were now Helen and Humphrey, and their eccentric brother, Lord Instead.

I wish my waking muse were that inventive.

Nine

[TV] IN WHICH I HAVE FEELINGS.

Jul. 27th, 2017 06:16 pm
kaberett: Clyde the tortoise from Elementary, crawling across a map, with a red tape cross on his back. (elementary-emergency-clyde)
[personal profile] kaberett
Feelings the first: I've just had A finish Season 1 of Korra, and I'm going to be making him watch Spirited Away before Season 2, because that sequence is frankly one of the few things I like about Season 2, so. BUT. Having very recently watched the end of Book 3 of A:tLA with him, I Noticed a Thing about the end of Season 1 that I had not, previously, and then FEELINGS. Spoilers, obviously. )



Orphan Black is also a bunch of FEELINGS, also has spoilers (up to 5.07), and also comes with a content note for Significant Gore slightly beyond what one normally expects of the show, along with all the usual "everything is horrifying but I love all of them" caveats.

Read more... )
sovay: (What the hell ass balls?!)
[personal profile] sovay
I made a new icon. I'm not sure how much I'm going to use it, but something about the ongoing politics seemed to call for it. I believe I have [personal profile] choco_frosh to thank for introducing me to the original context in Questionable Content. Anybody who finds the icon useful should feel free to abstract it.

The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells

Jul. 26th, 2017 03:06 pm
rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
I haven't reviewed anything here in far, far too long, and I certainly didn't think this book would be the thing to push me into wanting to write something. However. At Readercon, I picked up the new collection of Ursula K. Le Guin essays, Words Are My Matter, of which this is not a review because I am nowhere near finishing it, and I noticed that there are three separate essays on H. G. Wells. Three! This is not unique, in the structure of the book-- there are also three separate essays on José Saramago-- but that makes more sense to me, because Saramago, you know, Nobel laureate, relatively recent death, work in an interesting position vis-à-vis speculative fiction as a genre, there are some conversations to be had there that seem very much in Le Guin's chosen critical milieu. But H. G. Wells! Hasn't everything been said already?

Then it occurred to me that I, personally, had not read any Wells since the age of eight or nine, when I'd read The Time Machine and found it pretty and confusing, and then hit The War of the Worlds and found it extremely upsetting and went away again. So I went back. The Time Machine is indeed very pretty, though far less confusing to an older person. The Island of Dr. Moreau turned out to be the most vicious piece of theological criticism I have encountered in years, and an actual novel with things like character dimensionality to boot, as well as such an obvious influence on Lovecraft that I was shocked I hadn't heard that mentioned before. And then I got to The War of the Worlds.

It turns out the reason I found it very upsetting at eight or nine was because it is very upsetting, and at that age I had no context for or capacity to handle the ways in which it is upsetting.

We all know the basic plot: Martians invade, humans are technologically overpowered and defeated, Martians eventually drop dead because of Earth's microbiota. The novel came out in 1898, after having been serialized the year before, and has been dramatized and redramatized and ripped off and remade so often and so thoroughly that it has entered the collective unconscious.

The original novel, however, is notable in intellectual history not just for the archetype of the merciless and advanced alien invaders, but because it is an ice-cold prevision of the nightmares of the twentieth century. The phrase 'concentration camp' had already been coined, c. late 1860s by the Spanish in Cuba, though it would not become widely known by the English-speaking public until the Boer War, which Wells' novel just predates; that phrase is the only part of the vocabulary of future war to which Wells could have had access, and the phrase does not appear in the novel. Here are some of the concepts that do, without, as yet, any names: Genocide. Total war. Gas attack. Blitzkrieg. Extermination camp. Shellshock/PTSD. (Also, on a slightly different note, airplane.)

Wells' vision of war was ruthless, efficiently technological, distanced from the reader of the time only by the fact that the perpetrators were incomprehensible aliens. But he does not let you rely on the comforting myth that it would take an alien to perpetrate these atrocities, as perhaps the book's worst scene, in terms of sheer grueling terror and pain, is the sequence in which six million people attempt to evacuate London on no notice, with no overall organization, no plans, and the train as the most modern form of transportation. The Martians are miles away from that, literally. The only thing Wells spares you is the actual numbers of the death toll... but you can get an informed idea.

And, just in case you happen to believe that people (as opposed to aliens) are too good at heart for this sort of warfare, this novel is also a savage theological takedown*, in which the idea of humanity as the center of a cosmos created by a benevolent God is repeatedly stomped on by the sheer plausibility of the nightmare, the cold hard logistics of enemy approach + insanely destructive new bombing technology = frantic evacuation and a military rout. The priests and churchmen in War of the Worlds generally go insane**; their philosophical framework has left them ill-equipped to handle the new reality. Wells is displaying humanity as a species of animal, no more nor less privileged existentially than other sorts of animal, who may be treated by a sufficiently technological other animal in the way that humans often treat ants. He explicitly uses ants as the comparison.

This is where I noticed something fascinating. War of the Worlds has the most peculiar version of protagonist-centered morality that I have ever encountered: only the protagonist and his nearest and dearest are allowed to perform moral actions that are not shown in aggregate.

Everyone else either does good as a faceless mass, or neutral-to-evil at close proximity. The military, as a force, is allowed to act against the Martians, which is seen by definition as moral, but they are at a distance from the novel's viewpoint such that they don't emerge as people while they are fighting-- we meet an occasional refugee from a destroyed division, but we don't see people giving orders, taking orders, firing weapons. When the ramship Thunder Child attacks two Martians at close range in order to save shipping in the Channel evacuation-- a sequence distressingly like Dunkirk, only in the opposite direction and sixty years early-- it's one of the few acts of heroism and selflessness in the novel that actually works, and it's the ship personified who takes the action. Here's the middle of the fight:

"She was alive still; the steering gear, it seems, was intact and her engines working. She headed straight for a second Martian, and was within a hundred yards of him when the Heat-Ray came to bear. Then with a violent thud, a blinding flash, her decks, her funnels, leaped upward. The Martian staggered with the violence of her explosion, and in another moment the flaming wreckage, still driving forward with the impetus of its pace, had struck him and crumpled him up like a thing of cardboard."***

Notice how there are no humans, individual or otherwise, even mentioned here. And this is the high point of the book as far as moral action taken, a direct self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. Individual people range from the curate who hears the narrator calling for water "for hours" and doesn't bring him any to the men whom the narrator's brother finds in the process of robbing two ladies and has to fight off at gunpoint. Even most mob action is inimical, including things like the looting of shops and the literal trampling underfoot of the weak.

The narrator and his brother, however, mostly behave as one would hope to behave in a catastrophe. They are constantly picking up strays, helping total strangers pack to evacuate, fighting off muggers, attempting to assist the trampled, sharing their provisions with others, etc.. They are the only people in the book who do this sort of thing-- every other individual (except a couple of the strays, who are there to be rescued and get in the way) is out for themselves and can, at very best, be bought with cash on the barrel at a high price.

Now, it's not that the narrator and his brother are saints. They're fully developed, three-dimensional, relatively decent people. The brother participates in the looting of a bike shop, refuses water to a dying man for fear of putting his own people in danger, and fails to rescue anyone from the relentless trample. The narrator may well kill a man to save his own life, and certainly aids and abets the murder if he does not strike the final blow (it's impossible to find out exactly when the man dies or what specifically killed him).

The odd thing is that nobody else has any of their virtues. No one else is picking up strays; no one who isn't under military orders to do it is knocking on doors to begin the evacuation; no one is giving away food and water; no one except the military is attempting to place themselves between those they love and danger. In short, there is none of the kind of everyday, tiny, sometimes futile heroism that the twentieth century has shown us is almost impossible to beat out of humans entirely.

Now, I think this is intentional, as part of Wells's argument: the Martians have broken the human social order as if it were an anthill, and none of the ants has any idea what to do anymore. It's part of the demystification of humanity's place in the cosmos and the insistence on our nature as intelligent animals.

However, I think it skews the thought experiment in two ways: firstly, the narrator (and the only other POV character, the brother) have to be decent enough that we as readers are willing to read a book from their perspectives, and in 1898 that was harder than it is now. "Probably murdered somebody who wasn't a villain or an enemy combatant, and is never punished for it in any way except by vague remorse" is a pretty radical stance for a first-person narrator in an English novel of that period, and Wells has to talk us round into considering this a sympathetic or at least justifiable stance by having the narrator be in most other ways a flat-out hero. I don't think this does too much damage to his argument, as the resemblance of the narrator to other hero-types of the period makes Wells's more radical premises easier to communicate than they would otherwise be. It's not the presence of altruism in the narrator that is the major way the experiment is skewed.

It's the absence of altruism in others, as shown by the work of Rebecca Solnit, the memoirs of Primo Levi, the oral histories of the camp survivors of several cultures: one reason The War of the Worlds is so very upsetting is that its events are more unmitigatedly depressing than the same circumstances would be in real life. One of the wisest men of the twentieth century, Fred Rogers, said that in tough situations you should look for the helpers (and somewhere elsenet I saw the corollary, which I think Mr. Rogers considered implicit but which could use unpacking anyway, that if you cannot find them, the helpers had better be you). In The War of the Worlds there are no helpers at all, except what little the narrator and his brother can manage. We have actual science now about the way people form communities in catastrophe; we have innumerable anecdotes from the worst places and times in the world about those who in small ways, quietly, do what they can for others with what they have. It's not that Wells was wrong about us being animals, about trying to knock us off the pedestal that insists that everything was made for humanity and we are the only important beings. It's that while we are a social animal, we are a social animal on the micro-level as well as on the macro, and we have now seen that the micro-level does not have to be limited to immediate biological family, because the bonds of catastrophe can cause, and in fact seem to produce, some amount, tiny though it may be, of genuinely altruistic behavior.

When I happened to say to [personal profile] nineweaving that I was in the middle of a Wells re/read, she promptly replied with a couplet from a comic verse she had memorized as a child: "H. G. Wells / Creates new hells."

Which is true. His Martian invasion, the twentieth century through a glass darkly, is right up there on the list of the most nihilistic things I've ever read, not because of the Martians, but because none of the humans are outright villains. Some of them are insane, and some are annoying, and many are behaving in ways unconducive to long-term survival, and all of them are terrified; but you believe in them not only as individuals but as a plausible set of people for the narrator to run into in the middle of a war. It's only after thinking about it for quite a while afterwards that I noticed how neatly Wells had removed the capacity for altruism from his secondary characters. The Martians are frightening and cool and interesting (and clearly described as being drawn by H. R. Giger, which has not made it into any of the adaptations I've seen), but I think one reason this particular nightmare has lasted so long and clung so thoroughly in the back of our heads is that it would take recreating these terrible catastrophes in almost every particular to prove him wrong about the essentials of human nature and the ways people would behave in these circumstances. That's part of the book's appalling genius.

The thing is, though-- we did.

And he is.



* albeit not as much of one as Moreau, which is saying something

** that classical nineteenth-century insanity in which they rant and rave and chew the furniture, i.e. nothing you can find in the DSM, and therefore I just use 'insane' as I am not sure there is a less aggravating descriptor for this particular literary trope

*** Via Project Gutenberg's HTML copy
sovay: (Sovay: David Owen)
[personal profile] sovay
In today's political news, I would like to introduce the man in the White House to the Greek hero Kaineus (m.), born Kainis (f.), whom it took the entire Centaur side of the Centauromachy to defeat, his invulnerable body hammered all the way down to Hades with stones and piled pine trees. We can argue about what the United States should be doing with its armed forces, but not about who counts sufficiently as people to continue serving safely in them.

1. On the very crowded Red Line around five-thirty this afternoon, I saw two girls—late high school, early college, one white-looking and one not—practicing what they called "subway surfing," keeping their balance without recourse to poles or hangers or fellow passengers as the train rocked and bucked between Harvard and Davis. I appreciated what they were doing; the car was so sardine-packed that I couldn't get near a handhold myself, plus I was carrying a couple of books from the dollar-sticker carts outside the Harvard Book Store (I sense a theme) and a halva brownie from Tatte's that was trying to melt through its paper bag. It was a miserable commute experience and they were making the best they could of it. I did not appreciate the male commuter about my age who turned around as he got off the train at Porter to yell at the girls for "screaming in [his] ears." They stopped subway surfing after he left. They separated and found different poles to hang on to and did not try to talk to one another across the thinning space of commuters between them. The thing is, the guy had not even been their neighbor. He'd been standing right in front of me the entire time, holding on to the pole I couldn't find room on. He could legitimately have yelled at me for breathing into the nape of his neck, but even had the girls been shouting at the tops of their lungs, thanks to our respective positions their conversation would still have had to travel through me before getting anywhere near his ears. So when the train ground to a halt between stations—because there was another train on the line, because the T never has enough money, because Charlie Baker would rather privatize public transit than allocate it any reasonable amount of public funds and incidentally fuck the unions—and there was a brief lull in the racketing noise, I attracted the attention of the nearer girl and told her that she and her friend were great subway surfers, that I'd seen and appreciated them, and that the guy had been completely out of line. I hope it didn't weird her out. I wanted to give them a reality check. The guy annoyed me. Congratulations, you don't like being on a sardine car at rush hour—neither does anyone else, but at least those girls were getting something fun out of it. They weren't losing their footing and banging into people. They were laughing. Don't yell at people when they're trying to make the world better. I feel this lesson can and should be generalized.

2. I did not expect to find myself explaining the technicalities of 70 mm to a completely different set of kids at the door of the Somerville Theatre, but they all bought tickets for Dunkirk (2017) and showed interest in the upcoming 70 mm festival—they wanted to know not just about the format itself and whether it would look different from a DCP of the same movie (spoiler: yes) but the system on which the film would be shown, which I could at least explain was not a Hateful Eight retrofit but a pair of Philips Norelco DP70s designed for just this format, installed in this theater well before Tarantino started shooting in Ultra Panavision, lovingly maintained, and capable of magnetic rather than digital sound. Then I got asked how it was possible to show 70 and 35 mm on the same machines and at that point my knowledge of down- and upconverting degenerated into "I'm not the projectionist! I don't even work here!" (After the conversation was over, I promptly went upstairs and bugged David the projectionist about the specifics just in case this ever happens to me again. I hate being asked technical questions for which I have only partial answers; it makes me feel worse than having no answers at all.) Mostly they seemed concerned that they wouldn't be able to appreciate the beautiful information density of the format if it was filtered through a system that wasn't built to handle it, the same way the high fidelity of a recording is immaterial if all you can play it back through is some crackly laptop speakers. I could reassure them that was not going to be the experience at the Somerville. I realize that programs for movies are not so much a thing anymore, but I'm thinking for this one maybe it couldn't hurt.

3. I like the photograph of this person who looks like they are wearing a spell of the sea: Taylor Oakes, "Rhue."

4. I am delighted that I have now read multiple poems employing Wittgenstein's concept of language-games, also specifically this ambiguity: Veronica Forrest-Thomson, "Ducks & Rabbits."

5. In unexpected and welcome writing news, Clockwork Phoenix 5 is a finalist for a World Fantasy Award for Best Anthology. I have a story in it, so obviously I hope it wins, but the rest of the list is full of extremely cool people and the extremely cool things they have written and I wish everyone luck!

Returning after long absence

Jul. 26th, 2017 11:42 am
1_mad_squirrel: (Default)
[personal profile] 1_mad_squirrel posting in [community profile] 2017revival
Any Pride and Prejudice or Lost in Austen active communities?

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