larryhammer: a symbol used in a traditional Iceland magic spell of protection (protection)
[personal profile] larryhammer
This morning, after helping me make brei, the Eaglet tried some plain matzoh, declared they like it, and cheerfully took half a square to the couch to munch on.

During Passover cleaning, New Cat (aka Princess Mischa Fuzzybutt) got outside three times -- and attempted several more breaks. She is totally getting locked in the bedroom for the seder. We do not need her personally welcoming Elijah.

A safe and happy Pesach to you all.

(Especially all firstborn children -- be careful tonight!)

---L.

Subject quote from La Belle Dame sans Merci, John Keats.

And oh, how they danced

Apr. 18th, 2019 09:52 pm
radiantfracture: (Default)
[personal profile] radiantfracture
As [personal profile] bibliofile promised, the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performance was fantastic. Their first two pieces, in particular, were -- of all the art I have seen in recent memory -- the most exciting for me (and likewise for my viewing companion J). Both were choreographed by Crystal Pite. I am no kind of scholar of dance, but on the strength of these examples I would follow her work wherever I could find it.

(Hey! She's Canadian!)

The first work was "A Picture of You Falling." It began with a voice that would iterate and elaborate phrases throughout the work, reminding me a little of Laurie Anderson circa the 1980s, though less preoccupied with cliche.

"This is your voice," a female-coded voice, British. "This is a picture of you." Enter a man in a suit, an almost disappointing sign for "the generic" -- then his path is crossed by a woman in a similar suit -- again, that sense of almost-disappointment -- oh, will she only enter the centre of the narrative through his signification? Will he still define the terms of this dance? -- but then the coat comes off and she begins an exploration of movement, extension -- "This is a picture of you leaning back" -- it becomes her dance -- and she gives a solo performance of such strength.

Another dancer. "This is a picture of you, falling. Knees, hip, hands, elbows, head. This is how you collapse. This is the sound of your heart hitting the floor." A kinetic, impossibly flexible performer abstracts and -- yes, again -- elaborates and iterates -- the phases of falling, through some kind of half-narrated dreamlike repetition, like trauma, relived and distorted -- the noise of traffic, metallic crunch, door slam -- I really felt, watching nothing but this solo dancer's body jolt on a bare stage, that his body might fly into pieces. It was terrifying.

Later there is a room, a relationship, a pas de deux of striking equality of power and movement, seeming (to me at least) largely cleansed of the gendered tics of dance roles -- "they danced each other," said J., and I thought that was perfect.

The second piece, "The Other You", is a mirrored work for two male dancers -- uncanny, comic, destabilizing. J. thought it was about depression and I thought it was about power.

I found a great quote on the website of Pite's troupe, Kidd Pivot: "Your actions are pivotal—each change of direction extends your perspective of the possible." Like that.

Here are some clips from a 2012 performance -- but honestly I think the one we saw was more powerful -- sharper, cleaner, stronger, more focused.

* * * * *


And! LES BALLETS TROCKADERO are coming next season! (The drag ballet troupe that Brooke Lynn Heights performed with for five years!)

(no subject)

Apr. 20th, 2019 12:35 am
zeest: (Bai Yu with brolly)
[personal profile] zeest
I know there are a number of people on my flist who want to watch Detective L, so just a heads-up because I'm not whether this info has been shared around.

This is the Detective L playlist on the WeTV youtube channel, which is the official yt channel for Tencent aka the production company behind the show. At the moment it has trailers for up to episode 12 and four private videos which I'm guessing is the four episodes that were aired in China this week (excluding the VIP ones).

The drama premieres on the youtube channel on Saturday, 20th April. (I poked around the other WeTV international channels and it seems like two episodes will be aired on Saturday 8.30pm GMT+8, and another two episodes on Sunday.)

Will there be subs? The playlist name says ENG SUB so maybe! :D Some of the other dramas on that channel also have english subs so there's hope.

(I've finished watching the first case and all I'll say is that I like this show A LOT.)

End All Wars — Wonder Woman (2017)

Apr. 19th, 2019 04:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Both Wonder Woman and Captain America were created in the days just prior to the United States’ entry into World War II. Both had costumes that evoked the red-white-and-blue of the American flag, and both spent their earliest days in comic book form fighting the Axis powers.

While Wonder Woman wasn’t specifically created to punch Nazis the way Cap was, the character continued to be associated with her WWII-era origins, in part due to the 1977 TV series initially taking place then. So when it came time to do a movie for her as part of DC’s Extended Universe, the powers-that-be decided to shift her back to the first World War to avoid comparisons to Captain America: The First Avenger.

William Moulton Marston, under the pseudonym Charles Moulton, created Wonder Woman in 1941 with Harry G. Peter. Marston famously lived a polyamorous lifestyle, sharing his life with both his wife Elizabeth Marston and their partner Olive Byrne. Both of the women in Marston’s life were inspirations for the character, who was created as a feminist icon before that phrase was really a thing, inspired by Marston’s own work as a psychologist, as well as the writings of many women’s rights advocates of the time, notably Margaret Sanger.

Wonder Woman has remained DC’s most prominent female superhero, often discussed in the same breath as Batman and Superman as DC’s “holy trinity.” Like most of DC’s characters, she was rebooted in 1986 following Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez, aided by Greg Potter and Len Wein, tying her more closely to her Greek mythological roots, and she was rebooted again in 2011 as the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta, making her an actual demigod instead of a being created from clay and infused with life by the gods. The character has received other revamps over the years, ranging from her separating herself from Paradise Island and losing her powers, becoming a martial artist, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to fellow Amazon Artemis taking over as Wonder Woman for a time in the 1990s.

Dozens of attempts over the years have been made to bring Wonder Woman to the screen in live-action, with only one truly successful: the 1977 TV series starring Lynda Carter. Prior attempts by William Dozier (which never got past its awful promo) and John D.F. Black (a mediocre pilot movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby) both failed, and subsequent attempts ranged from another failed pilot starring Adrianne Palicki in 2011 to multiple attempts to do a live-action movie with such names as Todd Alcott, Jon Cohen, Paul Feig, Leonard Goldberg, Matthew Jennison, Becky Johnston, Laeta Kalogridis, Philip Levens, Ivan Reitman, Brent Strickland, and Joss Whedon all attached to write and/or direct. Among the actor names attached over the course of the two decades leading up to the DCEU’s debut in 2013 were Sandra Bullock, Mariah Carey, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Lawless, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Warner Bros. eventually decided that a female director would make the most sense, initially hiring Michelle McLaren, who eventually quit over creative differences, replaced by Patty Jenkins.

Gal Gadot was already set in the role of Diana after being cast by Zack Snyder in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That movie also set up her World War I roots with a picture of her with several people from 1918. The people in the picture—Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Said Tagamaoui as Sameer, Ewen Bremner as Charlie, and Eugene Brave Rock as Chief Napi—all appear for real for the first time in this film. The cast also includes Lucy Davis as Etta Candy, David Thewlis as Sir Patrick Morgan (later revealed to be the Greek god of war, Ares), Danny Huston (last seen in this rewatch as the younger William Stryker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as General Ludendorff, and Elena Anaya as Isabel Maru (a.k.a. “Doctor Poison”). Playing Diana’s fellow Amazons are Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta (Diana’s mother), Robin Wright as Antiope, Lisa Loven Kongsli as Menalippe, Mayling Ng as Orana, Florence Kasumba as Acantha, Madeleine Vall Beijner as Egeria, Hayley Jane Warnes as Aella, and Ann Wolfe as Artemis.

Gadot, Nielsen, Wright, and Thewlis, will all next appear in Justice League. A sequel to this film, currently titled Wonder Woman 1984, was green-lit almost immediately after this one’s release, as it achieved a perfect storm of making a lot of money and having good word of mouth (the DCEU had only managed the first part up until this). WW84 is scheduled for a 2020 release, with Jenkins returning to direct, and Gadot obviously starring. Nielsen, Pine, and Wright are currently listed as starring in the film, along with Kristen Wiig as longtime WW adversary Cheetah. A third film is also planned, which Jenkins has said will take place in the present day.

 

“I can save today; you can save the world”

Wonder Woman
Written by Zack Snyder & Allan Heniberg and Jason Fuchs
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Produced by Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder & Zack Snyder and Richard Suckle
Original release date: June 2, 2017

Screencap: Warner Bros. Pictures

We open in modern Paris. A Wayne Enterprises courier delivers a package to Diana Prince in her office: the original of the 1918 picture of Diana with four men in France that we saw a digital scan of in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This prompts Diana to have an extended flashback…

On the island of Themyscira, hidden from the rest of the world, the Amazons live in peace and harmony—but also constantly training in combat. There’s only one child on the island, Diana, whom we learn was molded from clay by Hippolyta and given life by Zeus. It was one of Zeus’s final acts when Ares killed him, and the Amazons were given Themyscira to await Ares’s return and defend the world against him.

Diana wishes to learn how to fight, but Hippolyta refuses. However, Hippolyta’s sister Antiope trains Diana in secret, because the truth (which Hippolyta keeps from Diana) is that she was created to be a warrior who can defeat Ares.

Eventually Hippolyta gives in and instructs Antiope to train Diana harder than any of the other Amazons until she is their greatest warrior.

She grows up to be a mighty warrior indeed, and in 1918, she spars with her sisters, at one point crossing her arms in defense against Antiope—an action that sends her aunt sprawling. (It’s similar to something she did against Doomsday in Dawn of Justice.) Frightened at this heretofore unknown ability and horrified that she’s hurt her beloved aunt, she runs away to a cliff, looking out at the ocean.

While she’s watching, a plane comes through the force field that keeps the island shielded from the outside world (and also seems to keep the island in perpetual sunlight, as it’s dark and foggy outside the field), which is followed by boats. The pilot of the plane is trapped in his now-sinking vessel, and Diana dives underwater to rescue him. The people in the boat—whom the audience recognizes as German soldiers serving the Kaiser, though the guy Diana rescued is also wearing that uniform—start shooting at them.

Hippolyta, Antiope, and the Amazons attack the invaders, and the battle is joined. Diana is appalled by the presence of rifles, especially after seeing what they do to a human body.

However, the Amazons are triumphant, aided by the pilot, though not without cost—among the dead is Antiope. The pilot is taken prisoner, and bound with the lasso of Hestia, which compels him to give his name, Captain Steve Trevor, and his purpose, which is a spy. (He’s very reluctant to admit that, for obvious reasons, as the worst thing a spy can do is admit to being a spy, but eventually the lasso compels him.)

He explains his mission. The Germans are on their last legs, but General Ludendorff and a scientist he has employed named Isabel Maru (nicknamed “Dr. Poison”) are working on an ultimate weapon. Trevor was tasked by British Intelligence with going to Germany undercover as a German soldier and reporting on Maru’s work. Seeing an opportunity, he steals Maru’s notebook, then steals a plane, using it to do serious damage to Ludendorff’s headquarters.

His plane is then shot down over the ocean, where Diana rescued him. The Amazons in general and Diana in particular ask what war he’s talking about, and Trevor is gobsmacked. “The war,” he says, not knowing how anyone could not know about it, eventually adding, “the war to end all wars.” His enumerating the death count of the war, which has gone on for several years now, devastates Diana, and while Trevor is recovering from his wounds, Diana offers to take him home if he’ll take her with him. Diana sneaks into the armory (involving jumping over a big chasm and climbing up the wall using strength she only just now realizes she has) and takes the lasso, the sword (which her mother told her can kill a god), and a shield.

She and Trevor sneak out to a boat, but Hippolyta and several Amazons meet her there. Hippolyta tries to convince her to stay (“If you choose to leave, you may never return”) but Diana is determined (“Who will I be if I stay?”). Hippolyta gives her Antiope’s headband to wear.

They sail out to sea, with plenty of conversation that is about as awkward as you would expect from a 1918 man and a woman who has lived her life as among a bunch of scholarly warrior women (she proves herself well read as well as badass), and Trevor thumphers a lot.

They catch a ride with a boat that tugs them into London. (“It’s hideous!” is Diana’s first impression, to which Trevor says, “Yeah, it’s not for everybody.”) Trevor introduces Diana to his secretary, Etta Candy, who takes Diana clothes shopping so she’ll blend in better than she will in Amazon fighting togs.

Afterward, they’re ambushed by German agents who want the notebook, but Diana takes care of them in fairly short order, aided slightly by Trevor himself. (He initially tells her to stand back until she deflects a bullet with her gauntlets, at which point he withdraws that suggestion.)

Trevor goes to meet with his superiors—the War Council led by Sir Patrick Morgan—who are discussing the waning days of the war, and who are appalled when a woman walks into the room. They’re also more than a little surprised when Diana translates Maru’s coded notebook, revealing that Maru has developed a gas that will be unleashed on the Western front before an armistice can be signed.

The council refuses to do anything, and orders Trevor to stand down. Diana is livid, both at the council and at Trevor for acquiescing, until he wraps the lasso around his own wrist to make it clear that he was lying to the council and he intends to go anyhow.

Diana is convinced that Ares is responsible for this war, and based on what Trevor has told her and what she’s read in Maru’s journal, she believes that Ludendorff is really Ares in disguise.

Trevor and Diana gather some ne’er-do-well comrades of Trevor’s, including Sameer, a con artist who works as a freelance spy; Charlie, a sharpshooter and drunk; and Chief Napi, a Blackfoot who chooses no sides in the war, but can get supplies and material for anyone who can pay for it. While they’re impressed by Diana—who takes out a brute who wants to beat up Charlie—they’re less impressed by the fact that Trevor can’t pay them. But then Sir Patrick shows up and gives Trevor funds to pay them all, sanctioning their mission as long as it remains covert, with Candy coordinating with him from London.

They head to France, and work their way through there to the Belgian front. Diana gets to see the carnage, the broken and wounded and dead bodies, and is appalled. She’s even more appalled when she talks to Napi and learns that it is Trevor’s people—the Americans—who all but wiped out his own people.

When they arrive at the front, she learns that, on the other side of “no man’s land” (Trevor says that “no man” can cross it, and it’s to the scriptwriter’s credit that she doesn’t respond with an obvious rejoinder about how she’s no man), there’s a village called Veld that the Germans have enslaved.

Against Trevor’s wishes, and to everyone’s shock, Diana goes over the top and walks across no man’s land, drawing the Germans’ fire, which enables Trevor and his gang, as well as the British and French and American troops to charge across and take the German trench. Even as the soldiers secure the trench, Diana, Trevor, Charlie, Sameer, and Napi—but, y’know, mostly Diana—liberate Veld. (At one point, Trevor and the gang re-create a move he saw Antiope pull off on Themyscira involving Diana using a shield as a jumping-off point to take a mighty leap.)

The town is liberated, and the people celebrate. A photographer poses everyone for a picture. (Thus bringing everything full circle.) Diana and Trevor wind up sleeping together. They contact Candy, who informs them that there’s a gala for the German hoi polloi being held at a nearby castle, from which Ludendorff will launch his latest weapon from Maru. For their part, Ludendorff and Maru have already tested that weapon on a gathering of German top brass.

Trevor and Sameer infiltrate the party as a German soldier and his driver, but Diana on her own does likewise, stealing a dress from an aristocratic German woman. Trevor stops her from killing Ludendorff in the middle of the party, which would get them all killed. Ludendorff then launches Maru’s gas toward Veld, killing everyone.

Diana blames Trevor for staying her hand, and she abandons him. Napi tracks Ludendorff to an airfield where Maru has a lab. Diana goes there, and confronts Ludendorff, to whom Maru has given a gas that gives him super-strength. This means he’s able to put up a fight against Diana for more than six-and-a-half seconds, but she still is able to kill him—

—at which point, to her abject shock, the war doesn’t end. Trevor tries to explain that the war isn’t because of a god’s manipulation, but she doesn’t want to hear it.

And then Sir Patrick turns up, and reveals that he’s Ares. He didn’t start the war, he’s merely pushed at tensions and brutality that were already present. He wants humanity to wipe itself out so the Earth can be a paradise again like it was in the heyday of Mount Olympus. She tries to kill him with the sword, which Ares destroys. Ares reveals to Diana that she’s the god-killer, not the sword.

Trevor and the gang destroy Maru’s lab. Trevor says his goodbyes and I-love-yous to Diana and then hijacks the plane that will attack London with Maru’s new gas. Once it’s high in the sky, Trevor blows it up, sacrificing his life.

Ares offers Maru’s life to Diana by way of tempting her over to the dark side, but she refuses, preferring love over war. She spares Maru and then absorbs Ares’s direct attack upon her and throws his power right back into his face.

London is saved, the war ends, and Diana, Sameer, Charlie, and Napi have a muted celebration, given that Trevor is gone.

In the present, Diana e-mails Bruce Wayne a thank-you for the picture, and she reaffirms her commitment to fighting for justice.

 

“I cannot stand by while innocent lives are lost!”

 

Screencap: Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s easy, and a bit facile, to say that this is the best movie in the DC Extended Universe, as it’s damning with the faintest of praise. The best of its competition is mindless goofiness.

It’s just as easy, and just as facile, to call this the best female-led movie in this rewatch so far, given that the only serious competition it had upon its release is another movie adapting the same character: The New Original Wonder Woman four decades prior to this, and that was a pilot for a TV show. The feature film landscape of live-action superhero comic book adaptations has not been kind to women.

In truth, women have had far more success in this subgenre as leads on the small screen, most recently seen in Supergirl, Agent Carter, and Jessica Jones.

With this movie, we finally get a good live-action female-led superhero comic-book movie and a good DCEU movie, and it’s about fucking time. In particular, for the first time in this particular cinematic cycle, we have a movie that remembers that the world has color in it. While Zack Snyder’s fetish for browns, blacks, and grays in his cinematographical choices are easy to blame, it should be pointed out that Suicide Squad was almost entirely in grayscale as well, with most of the action taking place at night, in the rain, or in a city that was covered in a literal cloud of evil. Here, at last, we have colors, and it’s amazing! From the tropical sunlight on Themyscira to the red-white-and-blue of Diana’s outfit—which we don’t really get a good look at until that crowning moment of awesome when she goes over the top—it’s a bright, beautiful movie.

Gal Gadot continues her superlative work. After being one of the few bright spots of Dawn of Justice, here she gives us a Wonder Woman who is strong, passionate, compassionate, a bit naïve (though the movie is about her getting past that), brilliant, and happy. She is a person who takes absolute joy in life, and is fervent in all her passions, whether it’s something as minor as seeing a baby or as unexpected as being able to break stone and metal with her bare hands or as major as walking across “no-man’s land” to save a town.

It’s a testament to how strong the Themyscira segments are that I had forgotten what a tiny percentage of the movie’s screentime they actually have. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright only have a fraction of the film’s running time, but they absolutely make the most of it. Nielsen’s Hippolyta is obviously torn between protecting the island’s only child with her duties as queen, and Antiope is a most worthy mentor to a great hero, a powerful and wise warrior played with overwhelming gravitas by Wright.

Screencap: Warner Bros. Pictures

Chris Pine is also superlative as Diana’s sidekick. I like the reworking of him as a spy rather than simply an Army pilot, as his covert work makes him well suited to deal with the many curveballs that crashing in Themyscira throws at him. Pine has a particular ability to completely inhabit whatever role he’s playing, whether it’s Steve Trevor, Captain Jim Kirk, Jack Ryan, a drunken reporter, or a neo-Nazi speed freak.

I particularly like that Trevor and Chief Napi are the only people from America in this movie, and that the United States is mostly irrelevant to the story. It takes place in the Atlantic Ocean and Europe, the characters that aren’t from the mystical island that traces its roots to ancient Greece are mostly European, and both Trevor and Napi are working for British Intelligence specifically. It emphasizes Diana’s importance to the entire world, not just the U.S., to which she has always been unconvincingly tethered.

The script does a very nice job of balancing early-20th-century sexism with Themyscira’s more enlightened philosophy, and does so without overly caricaturing that sexism, but not pretending it doesn’t exist, either. Sameer’s attraction to Diana could be a leering stereotype and it’s to the credit of the scripting, the directing, and Said Tagamaoui’s acting that he instead simply comes across as tiresomely quaint. The support for the good guys is generally excellent, from Tagamaoui’s charm to Ewen Bremner’s drunken loopiness as Charlie to Eugene Brave Rock’s dignified turn as Napi to Lucy Davis’s hilarious and nicely layered portrayal of Etta Candy.

Sadly, the acting kudos can’t really extend to the bad guys. David Thewlis is perfect as the British aristocrat, but when called upon to be the god of war, buried in CGI garbage, he’s considerably less effective. It’s hard enough for anyone to play Ares without comparing them to the late Kevin Smith’s superlative work in that role in Xena and Hercules twenty years ago, and Thewlis just can’t convey the required menace once he’s dressed in CGI armor and shooting ray beams from his fingertips. And Danny Huston is just as boring here as he was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and at least there he had the excuse of being in that movie; he has no such out here, he’s just dull as hell. I’d much rather have seen more of Elena Anaya’s Dr. Maru, as she showed much more potential. The scene where Trevor, posing as a German general, tries to recruit Maru was brilliantly played by Pine and Anaya both, and the sight of her without her ceramic mask, revealing the scars from her own gas experiments, all hinted at a much more interesting conflict than the one with Huston’s bland Ludendorff.

The story borrows a little too much from other sources. For all that the comics character’s origin was yanked back two decades to avoid being too similar to that of Captain America, the story takes a lot of beats from The First Avenger, from the Howling Commandos equivalents in Trevor’s gang of ne’er-do-wells, to the bad guy murdering several high-ranking German officials with an unconvincing lack of consequences, to the male lead destroying a plane and sacrificing himself to keep that plane from causing wanton destruction to the good guys.

Screencap: Warner Bros. Pictures

However, the most frustrating theft is that of George Pérez’s initial story arc in his 1987 reboot of Wonder Woman, because it blows the ending. Pérez emphasized the diplomatic aspects of Diana coming to “man’s world,” having her be an envoy from Themyscira, not just a warrior there to fight. The script to this movie pays lip service to that, with Diana saying that love can save the world, but the actual actions of the movie belie that, as Diana saves the day, not with love, but with her ability to throw Ares’s ray beams back at him full force. Snore.

And what’s maddening is that the ending of that Pérez arc was a masterstroke. Wonder Woman doesn’t stop Ares—who has manipulated the U.S. and the Soviet Union into barreling toward nuclear war—by overpowering him, but instead by wrapping him in the lasso of truth and showing him what a nuclear war would actually mean.

This movie can’t do that exact story, as the devastation of World War I was not quite the same as a nuclear war would be, but it’s still pretty horrible, and having Diana win by showing Ares the truth, that wiping out humanity will just make him a god of nothing, would have been very effective, and spared us Yet Another CGI-Drenched Climax to a superhero film.

Having said that, the movie is still fantastic. Gadot beautifully plays a hero who starts from a place of compassion. When her parent cautions her against using her powers in the world, Diana gives the life-affirming, heroic response that Clark Kent should’ve given to his sociopath father in Man of Steel. The moment where she says, “Who will I be if I stay?” was one where I cheered (quietly) in the theatre, and did so again (more loudly in my living room) when rewatching it for this entry.

That is how you write a superhero. And she still has a journey to go on, as she’s so incredibly convinced that stopping Ares will stop the war. She can’t believe that people would be this horrible to each other, and it’s a bucket of ice water in the face when she realizes that Ares was just fanning a flame that was already there.

Wonder Woman is a bright jewel in a tarnished crown, and luckily works just fine on its own without the cruft of the rest of the DCEU, instead telling a story of the tragedies of war, and how one brave person can stem the tide against the darkness.

 

Next week, Bruce Wayne gets the band together for Justice League.

Keith R.A. DeCandido, whose birthday was yesterday, has compiled collections of quotes by and about both Batman and Wonder Woman for the Insight Editions Tiny Book series. The Batman book is entitled Batman: Quotes from Gotham City, and will be out in July—the WW book hasn’t been scheduled or titled yet. Also coming in July is Keith’s Alien novel Isolation, based in part on the 2014 videogame of the same name, as well as stories in the anthologies Thrilling Adventure Yarns and Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos, the latter of which benefits the Society of Women Engineers.

I am not Yours, Sara Teasdale

Apr. 19th, 2019 09:41 pm
toujours_nigel: (writer)
[personal profile] toujours_nigel
I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

Round 94, Hour -7

Apr. 19th, 2019 12:08 pm
inkstone: Avatar: The Last Bender's Mai, Zuko, Azula & Ty Lee huddled in a circle, text: plotting (plotting)
[personal profile] inkstone posting in [community profile] fic_rush_48
The tank has arrived! The elevator, however, is a non-functional mess and I missed seminar because of it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I did, however, eat lunch.

What are y'all up to?

(no subject)

Apr. 19th, 2019 11:55 am
violsva: full bookshelf with ladder (Default)
[personal profile] violsva
From [community profile] thefridayfive:

1. Did you enjoy your senior year of high school?

Certainly more than the other ones.

2. Did you have a senior trip (high school) and were you able to go on it?

A what now?

3. Was graduating (from either high school or college/university) a big thing with your family or just another day?

Well, I and my parents actually went to my high school graduation, so there's that. I did not attend my university graduation ceremony, mostly because the default was that you could have two guests and apply for a limited number of extra invitations, and there were at least four people I really wanted there and a couple others who would expect to be invited, so it was easier to just avoid the issue.

4. What were you looking forward to the most after graduating from either high school or college/university?

After high school I was looking forward to university. After university I ... wasn't really.

5. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your graduating self?

For god's sake go see a fucking psychiatrist. And the campus employment centre.

Alien: Echo Sweepstakes!

Apr. 19th, 2019 03:30 pm
[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by Sweepstakes

We want to send you a copy of Mira Grant’s Alien: Echo, an original young adult novel of the Alien universe, available April 9 from Imprint!

Olivia and her twin sister Viola have been dragged around the universe for as long as they can remember. Their parents, both xenobiologists, are always in high demand for their research into obscure alien biology.

Just settled on a new colony world, they discover an alien threat unlike anything they’ve ever seen. And suddenly the sisters’ world is ripped apart.

On the run from terrifying aliens, Olivia’s knowledge of xenobiology and determination to protect her sister are her only weapons as the colony collapses into chaos. But then a shocking family secret bursts open—one that’s as horrifying to Olivia as the aliens surrounding them.

The creatures infiltrate the rich wildlife on this untouched colony world—and quickly start adapting. Olivia’s going to have to adapt, too, if she’s going to survive…

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 11:30 AM Eastern Time (ET) on April 19th. Sweepstakes ends at 11:59 PM ET on April 26th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

New Books and ARCs, 4/19/19

Apr. 19th, 2019 02:53 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

I may be in London right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t still show off the new books and ARCs that came to the Scalzi Compound this week! Here they are. What here intrigues you? Tell us all in the comments.

(no subject)

Apr. 19th, 2019 11:31 am
kitewithfish: Evil smile (Default)
[personal profile] kitewithfish
From The Friday Five

April is half over and we are tumbling toward May and soon it will be the season of graduating. It seems like every class has a graduation now, so how about you

1. Did you enjoy your senior year of high school?

Ha - not really. It was anxiety producing and mostly focused on heading into college. There was a bunch of weird drama in my loose friend group and I honestly was out of touch with everyone there by the next year. 
 
2. Did you have a senior trip (high school) and were you able to go on it.

No recollection whatsoever.
 
3. Was graduating (from either high school or college/university) a big thing with your family or just another day?

It was both a big thing and a totally assumed thing - there was never any anxiety or doubt that it would happen, and going to college was treated as a done deal.
 
4. What were you looking forward to the most after graduating from either high school or college/university?

Ehhh, I went straight into grad school. Really, most of my graduations were shaped by anxiety and fear of the future.

5. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your graduating self?

Student loans are not your friend. 
[syndicated profile] sumana_feed

Posted by Sumana Harihareswara

This month a Recurser I know, Pepijn de Vos, observed a concentration of high-quality open source software in the developer tools category, to the exclusion of other categories. With a few exceptions.

I understood where he's coming from, though my assessment differs. I started reflecting on those exceptions. Do they "prove the rule" in the colloquial sense that "every rule has exceptions," or do they "prove the rule" in the older sense, in that they give us an opportunity to test the rule? A few years ago I learned about this technique called "appreciative inquiry" which says: look at the unusual examples of things that are working well, and try to figure out how they've gotten where they are, so we can try to replicate it. So I think it's worth thinking a bit more about those exceptional FLOSS projects that aren't developer tools and that are pretty high-quality, in user experience design and robust functionality. And it's worth discussing problems and approaches in product management and user experience design in open source, and pointing to people already working on it.

FLOSS with good design and robust functionality: My list would include Firefox, Chromium, NetHack, Android, Audacity, Inkscape, VLC, the Archive Of Our Own, Written? Kitten!, Signal, Zulip, Thunderbird, and many of the built-in applications on the Linux desktop. I don't have much experience with Blender or Krita, but I believe they belong here too. (Another category worth thinking about: FLOSS software that has no commercial competitor, or whose commercial competitors are much worse, because for-profit companies would be far warier of liability or other legal issues surrounding the project. Examples: youtube-dl, Firefox Send, VLC again, and probably some security/privacy stuff I don't know much about.)

And as I start thinking about what helped these projects get where they are, I reach for the archetypes at play. I'll ask James and Karl to check my homework, but as I understand it:

Mass Market: NetHack, VLC, Firefox, Audacity, Inkscape, Thunderbird, youtube-dl
Controlled Ecosystem: Zulip, Archive Of Our Own
Business-to-business open source: Android, Chromium
Rocket Ship To Mars: Signal
Bathwater? Wide Open? Trusted Vendor? not sure: Written? Kitten!



The only "Wide Open" example that easily comes to mind for me is robotfindskitten, a game which -- like Written? Kitten! -- does one reasonably simple thing and does it well. Leonard reflected on reasons for its success at Roguelike Celebration 2017 (video). But I'd be open to correction, especially by people who are familiar with NetHack, VLC, Audacity, Inkscape, or youtube-dl development processes.

Design: Part of de Vos's point is about cost and quality in general. But I believe part of what he's getting at is design. Which FLOSS outside of developer tooling has good design?

In my own history as an open source contributor and leader, I've worked some on developer tools like PyPI and a linter for OpenNews, but quite a lot more on tools for other audiences, like MediaWiki, HTTPS Everywhere, Mailman, Zulip, bits of GNOME, AltLaw, and the WisCon app. The first open source project I ever contributed to, twelve years ago, was Miro, a video player and podcatcher. And these projects had all sorts of governance/funding structures: completely volunteer-run with and without any formal home, nonprofit with and without grants, academic, for-profit within consultancies and product companies.

So I know some of the dynamics that affect user experience in FLOSS for general audiences (often negatively), and discussed some of them in my code4lib keynote "User Experience is a Social Justice Issue" a few years ago. I'm certainly not alone; Simply Secure, Open Source Design, Cris Beasley, The Land, Clar, and Risker are just a few of the thinkers and practitioners who have shared useful thoughts on these problems.

In 2014, I wrote a few things about this issue, mostly in public, like the code4lib keynote and this April Fool's joke:

It turns out you can go into your init.cfg file and change the usability flag from 0 to 1, and that improves user experience tremendously. I wonder why distributions ship it turned off by default?
Wikimedia and pushback: But I also wrote a private email that year that I'll reproduce below. I wrote it about design change friction in Wikimedia communities, so it shorthands some references to, for instance, a proposed opt-in Wikimedia feature to help users hide some controversial images. But I hope it still provides some use even if you don't know that history.

I wanted to quickly summarize some thoughts and expand on the conversation you and I had several days ago, on reasons Wikimedia community members have a tough time with even opt-in or opt-out design changes like the image filter or VisualEditor or Media Viewer.

  • ideology of a free market of ideas -- the cure for bad speech is more speech, if you can't take the heat then you should not be here, aversion to American prudishness etc., etc. (more relevant for image filter)

    • relatedly "if you can't deal with the way things are then you are too stupid to be here" (more applicable to design simplifications like Media Viewer and VisualEditor)

  • people are bad at seeing that the situation that has incrementally changed around them is now a bad one (frog in pot of boiling water); see checkbox proliferation and baroque wikitext/template metastasis

  • most non-designers are bad at design thinking (at assessing a design, imagining it as a changeable prototype, thinking beyond their initial personal and aesthetic reaction, sussing out workflows and needs and assessing whether a proposed design would suit them, thinking from other people's points of view, thinking from the POV of a newcomer, etc.)

    • relatedly, we do not share a design vocabulary of concepts, nor principles that we aim to uphold or judge our work against (in contrast see our vocabulary of concepts and principles for Wikipedia content, e.g. NPOV, deletionism/inclusionism)

      • so people can only speak from their own personal aesthetics and initial reactions, which are often negative because in general people are averse to surprise novelty in environments they consider home, and the discourse can't rise beyond "I don't like it, therefore it sucks"

  • past history of difficult conversations, sometimes badly managed (e.g. image filter) and too-early rollout of buggy feature as a default (e.g. VisualEditor), causes once-burned-twice-shy wariness about new WMF features

    • Wikimedians' core ethos: "It's a wiki" (if you see a problem, e.g. an error in a Wikipedia article, try to fix it); everyone is responsible for maintaining and improving the project, preventing harm

      • ergo people who feel responsible for the quality of the project are like William F. Buckley's "National Review" in terms of their conservatism, standing athwart history yelling "stop"

I haven't answered some questions: what are the common patterns in our success stories (governance, funding, community size, maintainership history, etc.)? How do we address or prevent problems like the ones I mentioned seeing within Wikimedia? But it's great to see progress on those questions from organizations like Wikimedia and Simply Secure and Open Tech Strategies (disclosure: I often do work with the latter), and I do see hope for plausible ways forward.

[syndicated profile] tor_dot_com_feed

Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal

It’s like this… An astronaut asks if you want to spend the day at work with him. You say, “Yes.”

More specifically, it was like this. Kjell Lindgren, a NASA astronaut who spent 142 days in space, was a consultant when I was writing The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky. So by “Would you like to spend the day with me at work?” what he meant was “Do you want to come to the NBL and watch a full dev run?”

Now, if you’re like me, you say, “Yes.”

Let me explain. He invited me to go to the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which is a swimming pool the size of a football field and three stories deep, containing a full-scale replica of the International Space Station. A “dev run” is a developmental run of a spacewalk—basically, they simulate a spacewalk in 6.2 million gallons of water.

But what he actually said was, “Do you want to watch me do a dev run at the NBL? But you probably won’t want to stay for the whole day because it will be really boring.”

To which, my basic response was, “Hey Kjell… Know how I’m a professional puppeteer? If you’re in NYC and want to visit Sesame Street, let me know. but you probably won’t want to stay for the whole day because it will be really boring.”

He acknowledged that I had a point.

We met at 6:30 am because a day at the NBL starts super-early. He needs to be ready for his physical at 7:30 am. Yes. They have to get checked out by a doctor before beginning a simulated spacewalk. Even so, when we arrived at the NBL, there was someone swimming laps in the pool above the mock-ISS. This is, apparently, one of the perks of working at the NBL. You get to swim in a massive, massive pool.

Until he went underwater, Kjell let me shadow him at poolside and during the mission briefing. I took six pages of hand-written notes and 3000 words of typed notes. Here are the Top Five Really Cool Things I Learned at the NBL.

1. The Mini-WorkStation, which had been described to me as being kinda like a toolbox, is not a box. It is a metal bar that is strapped to the astronaut’s chest and contains the things they think they’ll need on the spacewalk. It’s the jumble of random metal and tyvek to the left of the photo. Each astronaut sets the MWS the way they want it, which is what Kjell is doing in this photo. He’s holding a RET—retractable equipment tether.

2. Wire-ties. These are long brass pieces of wire with a loop at the end to make them easier to grab and use. There are short “US” wireties and long “Russian” wireties.

Funny story about their development. The Russians were at the NBL for some training and saw the twist ties on bread bags. Apparently, they twisted and untwisted them with great interest.

“These are useful!” they proclaimed. And then they went back to Star City to make larger brass versions of the same thing.

NASA saw them on the ISS and said “These are useful” and now they make them too. So… wire ties. Super-high-tech.

And the reason to not use a zip-tie in space? You have to use a blade to release them and they avoid anything sharp on a spacewalk because of the danger of a suit puncture.

By the way, the image here of the wire ties? I’d hadn’t gotten a good shot of one by itself while I was at the NBL, so I asked Kjell if he could take a photo next time he was there. He didn’t wait, because he had some at home. That he’d used on a spacewalk. As you do. No big deal.

3. The LTA or Lower Torso Assembly—AKA space pants. I had been told, before arriving, that astronauts do not, in fact, put their pants on like everyone else. This is true. If you look carefully in this photo, on the pool deck on either side, are two white mats with space pants on them. What happens is that the astronauts walk out in their Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment, which basically looks like long underwear with aquarium tubing sewn into it. The LCVG is designed to keep them cool inside the space suit. One of the things that’s tricky is that the suit is tight and lined with rubber which basically grabs the fabric of the LCVG.

So, they sit down on the pool deck and wriggle into the LTA with two highly trained technicians bracing it. It is like the least sexy floor dance in the world.

4. The EMU (EVA Mobility Unit or Extra-vehicular-activity Mobility Unit because NASA loves an acronym inside an acronym) weighs about 350 pounds. Walking in it is … challenging. So the astronauts put on their space pants and then clomp over to the donning stand which holds the upper part of the suit. After the technicians check them out to make sure that the suit is fully sealed, they use a crane to lower them into the pool. (Check out the video here.) My favorite bit of this is when Kjell splashes the kids as he goes under.

5. There are sometimes children of NASA employees at a dev run. Why would you bring a child to something advertised as “boring?” Because there are only a few times when an astronaut puts on the full EMU while on Earth: when they are are taking their official photo and at the NBL. So if you want to see an astronaut really and truly looking like an astronaut, the NBL is your opportunity. Please note that even adults will grin like an idiot and stand next to an astronaut to have their photo taken.

Apparently, one of the most common questions that children ask is, “How do you go to the bathroom?”

The answer is…

MAGs. Maximum Absorbency Garments. Which are tooooooootally not diapers. Definitely not. Definitely.

Definitely diapers. BUT thanks to modern improvements, they are pull-ups now. In fact … you can thank NASA for a lot of modern diaper technology. Although, again, astronauts wear MAGs, not diapers.

Also of note, the dia— I mean MAGS can only handle Number 1 and not Number 2.

My understanding is that you make dietary choices to make sure that you won’t have to Number 2 in the suit. At the NBL, they can pull you out of the pool. On the ISS? That’s a number 2 with no gravity to help it stay put.

So those are the top five things that I geeked about at the NBL. If you get me at a convention, I will talk about this AT LENGTH. “Probably won’t want to stay all day…” Ha!

The fact that Kjell thought I would probably find the NBL boring was a good example of how normal even extraordinary things can become when you deal with them every day. But, I mean… Space! Even simulated space! His normal is my astonishing. Seriously … look at how excited I got to talk about diap— MAGs. I’m excited to talk about MAGs.

(diapers)

Photos courtesy of the author.
Kowal’s The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky are available from Tor Books.
Article originally published in July 2018.

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of Ghost Talkers and The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, and the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel. Her latest novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, are set in the world of the Hugo Award-winning novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

Round 94, Hour -8

Apr. 19th, 2019 09:09 am
xandromedovna: usurpationcorn (Default)
[personal profile] xandromedovna posting in [community profile] fic_rush_48
Oh hey! Looks like y’all have been up to fun things, still need to catch up, but maybe you could give me the 411 on your dealings this hour? (Also if you have any orange juice, I’d take a glass)
jordannamorgan: The resistance's lighthouse headquarters from "V: The Final Battle". (Lighthouse)
[personal profile] jordannamorgan posting in [community profile] fan_flashworks
Title: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Fandom: None.
Rating: G.
Summary: Desktop wallpaper, 1366x768 resolution.
Content Notes: A sunset view from a coastal cave.

Light at the End of the Tunnel  )

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