rushthatspeaks: (our lady of the sorrows)
When I went to Paris, the first thing I remember is exhaustion, as we had taken the sleeper train over the Alps from Italy, an experience which is a strange combination of fascination (what does this little built-in lever next to the window do?) and deep physical discomfort (despite sincere efforts on the part of the railway to alleviate it). I got the kind of sleep where you do sleep, but you don't feel as though you did and might feel better if you hadn't. It was cold as soon as we stepped out of the train station, too, the kind of biting, bitter cold where you stifle in a scarf but wonder sincerely about a third pair of socks. Cold that sinks into the bones, bypassing the skin and going directly for prognostications of doom. And the light was cloudy, grey-pink-yellow, early light: and it was Christmas morning.

Not much is open in Paris on Christmas but the churches.

There was Mass going on in Notre-Dame-de-Paris, of course, but cathedrals don't mind people drifting in and out and looking at things during Mass, as long as they are quiet about it. And the Middle Ages came to life for me in a very specific way, which they never had before, not as a result of sight, or sound, or even smell, but because Notre Dame has never had any sort of heating put into it, no pipes, no space heaters, no under-floor anything.

Which is because it didn't need it. When the church was filled with a sufficient number of people, it attained the perfect air temperature all by itself, from body heat.

And I mean perfect. It was the only time, in Paris, that entire trip, that my feet were ever actually okay. It gives you a visceral sense of fellowship, that atmosphere, the knowledge that you are literally being warmed by strangers, whom you in turn keep warm. Think of that, in the bitter winters of the Little Ice Age, and every year, until this year.

Oh, I know they will rebuild it. Fire happens to cathedrals, and they have this one mapped to the quarter-inch. The world's experts will put it back together, and there will be signs and exhibits about the fire, and everyone will marvel at how good the restoration was; in ten years, or twenty-five, that will be the story.

And yet--



My memories of Gene Wolfe are not personal ones, though I walked by him in the hallways at Readercon, and saw him on a panel or two. I mean, I think of him every time I bite into a Pringle. But the memory I have that I think says the most about what Gene Wolfe means, to others and to me, is a public one which didn't involve him, as such, at all.

I walked through Harvard Square one time, and one of the panhandlers had propped his sign on his cap and taken a break from actually panhandling. He appeared to be about a third of the way through The Claw of the Conciliator and he was oblivious to the outer universe. I left all the cash in my wallet in his hat, quietly, as I did not want to interrupt him.

While I was walking away, I realized that I had reacted to him with exactly the same sort of thrill that I have for a really good busker. Here was someone doing something virtuoso, in collaboration with both a specific artist and a deep body of general knowledge, and doing that thing in public, and doing it well, and with evident pleasure in it. And I was glad to see it done, because that should exist in the world.

I realize that could certainly happen again this year, or anytime, or never, and doesn't depend on Gene Wolfe as a living human being.

And yet--
rushthatspeaks: (the unforgiving sun)
Lucien went this morning. We called the vet in; it was clearly time; he was breathing very badly, with a wheeze in it.

The last thing he did before the vet came was to go over and take a few nonchalant, expressive bites of his brother's cat food. Actually eating it was not, of course, the point-- he stopped actually eating sometime yesterday.

I think he went peacefully. It looked peaceful.

Lucien

Apr. 8th, 2019 10:40 pm
rushthatspeaks: (I want the moon)
Lucien has been our cat, and my cat specifically, since the spring of 2002; he and his brother Rafael are nearing seventeen.

Lucien has been medically fragile since an early age. I do not think he would have survived in the wild past three or four, which is when he stopped being able to tolerate non-prescription cat food. If not then, I do not think he would have survived past six or seven, when he stopped being able to tolerate cat food that was not single-protein, or eight or nine, when the single protein started to have to be denatured. (For a long while the kind of meat in the single-denatured-protein catfood was venison, which has always given me hilarious images of him hunting it himself.) He's been on steroids continuously since he was ten, and they destroyed his pancreas. The resultant diabetes was difficult to get under control, especially with the nausea and inefficient digestion that go with whatever the hell his issue is in the first place (various vets have suggested IBS, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, etc., but it's very hard to make a clear diagnosis in this area in a live cat). We also had to start sprinkling pancreatic enzymes on his food. At his worst, a cat whose healthy weight is in the fourteen-pound range was barely scraping seven pounds, being bruised by the sharpness of his own bones, and was on ten medications as well as subcutaneous fluids.

We've always been very aware that there would come a point after which medical intervention would only be cruelty, and I was astonished that, at his lowest, we never reached it. He always reacted to food with appetite and zest, kept drinking, playing with his brother, and getting into human laps and purring. We reached the point where, even with this metric, we were not going to interfere anymore except for rehydrating him and continuing meds he was already on-- and he recovered completely and totally. For the last two years, he's been heavily medicated but stable. He was even able to come off fluids, and got back up to fifteen pounds. He is literally the living creature, human or animal, whom I have seen recover most thoroughly after having been sickest.

So now we are in the position that, in the medical field, I believe is called a complete success: we have kept him alive long enough that he is now dying of something totally different.

We took him in for an ear infection like a month ago, and got given earswabs, which didn't work entirely, so we took him in a couple weeks ago for antibiotics, which did, but he didn't seem to be bouncing back, so Ruth took him this morning to see if his delicate GI balance had been destabilized or what. It's a fast enough cancer that the symptoms weren't present a couple weeks ago. Looking at him with a neutral eye instead of one expecting him to recover from a known issue, I suspect he has days, not weeks, and not many days at that.

And that's all stuff we've done and facts about the situation, but I don't know how to tell you how upset I am for my bitchy, sardonic, sarcastic, charismatic, ludicrously intelligent friend, who used to drop from the ceiling at the scent of pumpkin muffins, who once killed and ate an entire avocado skin and all right down to scraping the pit clean, who once used a coincidence of leverage and a pull-tab top to open his own can of cat food. Who still thinks having a baby is something we did to him personally, but who will now, with a look of great condescension, allow Fox to pet him, gently. Who went viral once on Tumblr when Ruth said something sensible. Who has lived in New York City and Boston and College Station, Texas and Boston again, in small spaces and palatial spaces and several in between, and whom I have seen most days since the George W. Bush administration.

Fox is too young to get it, yet. They get that we're upset, and sad, but not that there's nothing they can do to fix it, and there's nothing more heartbreaking than watching a toddler try to cure the incurable which they legitimately do not understand. We've been telling them it's okay to be sad when sad things happen. [personal profile] sovay has gotten them a picture book about cats and death. I am finding Fox's radiant zest for life and optimism difficult to bear, just now.

Oh, Lucien. In some ways I have been grieving for him for most of his life, because of his long span of slow-motion health catastrophe.

It doesn't help.
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
Fox, like most small children, is wired to rise before the sun does. For the first year or so of their life five a.m. was their official wake-up; then it was six for a while; now it is six-thirty. They know when they are allowed to get up because they have a glowing clock, which glows bright yellow when they are supposed to be in bed and turns bright green when they are allowed to get up. (We are still working on the concept that it is all right for them to play quietly in their room before the clock turns green, and that the clock really indicates when it is okay to wake Ruth up, but that's a little more complex, so they haven't gotten there yet.)

The thing is, it is six-thirty under protest, and they'd really rather it still be six. I usually go to bed ~five a.m., having adjusted to the previous schedule, but if I am running late, Fox runs into me on their way out of their room too early. Which they do not like, because then I try to prevent them from waking up Ruth until the proper time.

Not that Ruth can actually sleep through the full-blown temper tantrum that results, but it's the principle of the thing.

So a couple of mornings ago, I said, in the sort of bright and cheery tone that one regrettably develops under these circumstances-- the kind that sounds fake, even when it actually isn't-- no, you are not going to wake Mom right now, because Mom wants to get more sleep.

And Fox broke down sobbing and said, in so many words, "I not WANT Mama to get more sleep! No more sleep for Mama!"

"Indeed," I said. "Thank you for being honest. I believe you there, buddy." (I could faintly hear Ruth giggling from upstairs.)

Then, when I was describing this to V. this afternoon, Fox chimed in, again, that they do not WANT Mama to get sleep-- at all-- ever, and indicated, as far as I could tell, that they are pretty sure Mama does not want to sleep, ever, anyway. They then went through a fairly long list of people they know and explained that none of them are ever allowed to sleep.

Luckily for me, I am not on this list.
rushthatspeaks: (marquise mindfang)
I've been poking around for like the last year trying to gather material for a mixtape themed around songs which don't seem remotely political, until suddenly someone hands you the context, and then they do. However, after said year, I still only have the three I started with. So I may as well just post those.


Casanova, Rayland Baxter (link is to Youtube official audio).

I heard this one on the radio fairly frequently, and it sounded like the title--

I borrow the money from a woman
Can you believe I never met her?
Can you believe she never met me too?
But she calls me every day, telling me to behave
and you know I never listen


-- except then I randomly heard an interview with him, and the woman's name is Fannie Mae, which puts a bit of a different spin on things, and elevates the whole affair from a pleasant dirty blues into something resembling a generational complaint.


The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness, The National (link is to Youtube official audio).

I am used to the National being a band about disintegrating and dysfunctional relationships with the occasional touch of the world-historical as it refers to individual circumstances (the line in 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' about how 'I still owe money to the money to the money I owe' remains the single best summary of the mood post-2008-crash that I've encountered). This one looks at first glance like a standard National song:

The system only dreams in total darkness
Why are you hiding from me?
We're in a different kind of thing now
All night you're talking to God


and again, I stumbled across an interview, and actually this song is about finding out that someone you care about voted for the current President, and is a desperate attempt to make some sense of the whole thing.

And I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way


Which changes my usual feelings about a National song-- i.e. COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER, DAMMIT-- into genuine terror and tragedy.


High Ticket Attractions, The New Pornographers (link goes to official music video).

I... honestly don't know what I initially thought this song was about, besides being catchy. I mean,

You can imagine all the factions
That form around high ticket attractions


did not to me immediately signal significant intellectual content? But, again, I stumbled across an interview, and this song turns out to be the New Pornographers' attempt, via rock single, to warn the U.S. that we might be getting a tad complacent before the 2016 election.

High on the spirit, hopped up and mystic
After the flame baptism you're fearless
, i.e. the Obama years and the success of those political campaigns, but it's really the chorus that gets to me with its mix of hope, resignation, fear, and pragmatism:

This thing could go two ways
Won't be another exit for days
So pack a small suitcase
Anything else can be easily replaced


-- lines which did not give me chills before November 2016. The context also turns the video from an adorable celebration of teenage energy and anarchy into an adorable celebration of teenage energy and anarchy with a complex and shifting underlayer of hope for the next generation and worry about what everyone will have to wrangle for things to be even moderately okay.


Here's an explicitly political one as a bonus: I Want To Be Here, Case Lang Veirs (link to Youtube official audio).

The hungry fools who rule the world can't catch us
Surely they can't ruin everything



In conclusion, the author is dead etcetera, but interviews really can occasionally be surprisingly rewarding.
rushthatspeaks: (feferi: do something adorable)
I am feeling a bit better, though I'd say I'm only at about seventy percent if that, and I can't get one of my nose rings back in and am going to have to go to a piercer grr aargh.

One thing I have been able to do is breathe, and continue to have a sense of smell. I bought myself some perfume as a going-to-have-surgery present, and this was wise, as I can in fact appreciate perfume even when I cannot narrative. (I can kind of narrative now. For short stretches. Easy things.)

So, mostly for my own reference, I thought I'd write up some notes on my new perfumes. These are all from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which sells sample sizes as well as actual bottles, and which always throws a couple of free random samples into every order. I used to have a massive BPAL collection, but then we moved cross-country twice. Have decided to rebuild judiciously.


Perfume: O, as in The Story Of
Lab notes: "amber and honey with a touch of vanilla"
In bottle: This is an old favorite, that I rebought because I missed having it around on a day-to-day basis. It's pretty darn sweet, but the amber tips it enough into incense-y to keep it from being cloying. I'd describe the bottle scent as honey and vanilla with a touch of amber, but a little amber goes a long way. Also, this is one of the scents the Lab thinks is sexual, and they're right.
First application: The first perfume I ever found to smell better on me than it does in the bottle. On me this goes extremely complex-- the amber splits into at least three registers, and the vanilla really gets its whole range playing. It makes me want to breathe very slowly to get a better idea of what's going on.
Later/Overall: At least eight hours of having loved ones ask me happily what that great perfume is and strangers look pleased without appearing overwhelmed. I could probably get away with wearing this every day, but honestly? Too sweet; after a couple of days I want something more astringent.


Perfume: Mata Hari
Lab notes: "five roses with soft jasmine, warmed by vanilla, fig, tonka bean and mahogany, spiced with a drop of coffee bean"
In bottle: Honestly? A lot like O, which would be the vanilla and tonka; I think the fig is filling in for the honey note. The florals merge as an upper-level sweetness. But! The wood and coffee provide that astringency I was craving. I bought this because I'm a sucker for a rose, though they don't often work on me-- jasmine, vanilla, and tonka are always-works (though I'm not terribly fond of tonka), mahogany and fig have gone badly wrong in the past, and I think this is the first thing I've ever tried with a coffee note.
First application: Oh wow. This is a real work of art-- both stunningly complicated and one, whole, indescribably interesting thing. It's not too sweet! It's not too spicy! It's not too incense-y! I suspect I am the poster child for how this perfume is supposed to smell. It's like O, but with a businesslike attitude, which is perfect for its name, honestly.
Later/Overall: Solid six hours of smelling so interesting to myself that it was sometimes extremely distracting. Honestly, I might make this a signature scent-- it's that good. Also, I can now tentatively remove mahogany from the list of possible culprit notes in The Worst Perfume Experience Of My Life, which was entirely a skin chemistry thing; smelled great in the bottle and on me it smelled, literally, like spoiled tuna fish salad, and wouldn't come off, either. I have been very wary around dark fruits and dark woods ever since.


Perfume: Y'ha-Nthlei
Lab notes: "the deepest marine notes with bergamot, eucalyptus and foamy ambergris"
In bottle: Well, that does what it says on the tin. Imagine if sticking your face in a fish tank filter were somehow a moderately pleasant experience. I bought this because I was hoping for marine, but I was hoping for more beach and less aquarium. Maybe I should have gotten something with ozone?
First application: Smells on me exactly as it does in the bottle, so mark down dark marine notes as things that play well on me.
Later/Overall: Eight hours of total scent fidelity. The thing is, even though it is a moderately pleasant fish tank filter, I do not want to spend eight hours smelling like a fish tank filter. I also suspect that most of the general public doesn't want me to, either. [personal profile] sovay will like it, definitely on me and possibly on herself, and [personal profile] ashnistrike may be interested in trying it. Decidedly an occasional scent for a very specific mood.


Perfume: Bess
Lab notes: Modernization of a 17th-century perfume blend: "rosemary, orange flower, grape spirit, five rose variants, lemon peel, and mint"
In bottle: I have never smelled anything else that resembles this in any way. People don't smell like this nowadays. Nothing smells like this nowadays. I bought this because I was intrigued by the pedigree and also a sucker for a rose, even though I generally dislike mint. This exists in a universe so totally separate from most ideas I have come across of what perfume is and how things ought to smell that I have no idea whether I like it.
First application: I was worried about the grape spirit because dark fruits, but it's perfect, like inhaling over a bottle of verjuice, and doesn't tip over into wine at all. Which is nice because there's really strong grape on first application, so I'm glad it's pleasant.
Later/Overall: The roses came out to play, and the spices, and this turned out to be magnificent-- cerebral yet decadent, always on the verge of overwhelming. Again, so interesting that it distracted me at regular intervals for... a full twenty-four hours, good lord. Now that is throw. Not an everyday, especially since I have no idea what people who aren't me are going to think of it, but I kind of love this and am mentally subbing it into various period dramas. (This absolutely would cover up manure and ordure of all sorts, and honestly that may be how it evolved.)


Perfume: Roses, Pearls, and Diamonds
Lab notes: "red roses, dazzling crystalline musks, and pearlescent coconut-tinged orris"
In bottle: Coconut. Only coconut. I can detect nothing else. This is worrisome, as, while I like coconut, I have never had much urge to wear it. Musks generally play well on me, and I'm always looking for a rose that will smell like a dark red rose. This... is coconut.
First application: That is really, really, really coconut. It is not, thankfully, terribly sweet coconut; I have not been hit in the face with a pie, or even applied suntan lotion; apparently somebody spilled coconut water on my arm.
Later/Overall: At, and I timed this, hour THREE, the roses come out and the musk emerges and we get some actual interest. Sadly, these are not dark red roses, more in the medium pink range. I will probably like this more if I can manage to appreciate it for what it is and not for what I wanted it to be, but I'm going to need some time to adjust my expectations.


Perfume: Aizen-Myoo
Lab notes: This was one of my freebies. "yuzu, kaki, and mikan with cherry blossom and black tea"
In bottle: I never think of kaki as having a scent, only a taste, but of course they do... This is, in fact, pretty much what you'd get if you took a perfumer aside and said 'make something that will make Westerners who smell it think of Japan'.
First application: Black tea is an always-works, and the others I haven't had before. Very, very light, evanescent, floaty, drifting. Charming in an almost little-girl way, except that the tea does ground it.
Later/Overall: I liked this while it lasted, but it lasted two hours and was then completely and totally gone, which is not the staying power I have come to expect from BPAL. I can see it being good for an occasional pick-me-up.


Perfume: Defututa
Lab notes: "olive blossom, honey, smoky vanilla, cinnamon, jasmine, and champaca flower"
In bottle: Picked because everything in the middle works for me, and the olive blossom and champaca are the wild cards. I suspect this of smelling heavily of olive blossom, which I have never smelled before. It's kind of nice, more an herby floral than a sweet one, but I am worried at the reticence of the many, many other notes. There is also actual smoke going on here.
First application:  Very smoky, very sweet. Smells like a headshop, which is probably the champaca. The herbal note I detected in the bottle has vanished almost entirely, though there is some of it around the edges.   
Later/Overall: This dries down into the distinct aura of someone barbecuing in a headshop. Nope. I mean, it's not terrible, but jeez.


Perfume: Jezebel
Lab notes: "honey, roses, orange blossom, and sandalwood"
In bottle: This is a whole bunch of stuff I know will work on me and an attempt to get those notes to showcase the roses. Honey-drenched, and really a very nice orange blossom, and the sandalwood is a pretty deep bass; I have hopes.
First application: Whoof, sweet! I think my skin may actually amplify a honey note. There are florals here, but they are lurking with only occasional emergences, and I am getting a hint of the dreaded Transformation Into Baby Powder.
Later/Overall: The orange blossom either goes to powder or is Not Appearing In This Film--it alternates. The rose came out to play for a while somewhere around hour three or four, and it was quite nice while it lasted, but the powder intermittently obscured it. And the whole thing dries down into a base that resembles O a great deal, but isn't as good. Not a keeper, I'm afraid.


Perfume: Cheshire Cat
Lab notes: This was my other freebie. "grapefruit, red currant, dark musk, Roman chamomile, delphinium, and lavender"
In bottle: Iiiiii would not have bought thiiiiiis... I actively like the smell of redcurrant, but it is a definite culprit in The Worst Perfume Experience &c.; I am not particularly fond of chamomile as a scent, lavender tends to go to soap on me, and I cannot imagine wanting to smell like grapefruit. The musk will probably be fine? What does delphinium even smell like anyway? Inhaling over the bottle, what I get is red grapefruit and something that makes me want to sneeze. Which is appropriate for the name, but I sense an oncoming disaster.
First application: Wow, that musk really comes out. Which is good, because it is choking the grapefruit down to a reasonable level. And the grapefruit and chamomile are playing off each other to give an impression of 'clean' without being too soap-aisle. And... oh, what must be the delphinium is really nice, actually, filling in the body and acting like honeysuckle or just plain honey. I cannot isolate either red currant or lavender, which is just as well. I'm not sure this scent suits my personality, but it's actually surprisingly layered and interesting? Also it changes into something different and intriguing every thirty seconds of the drydown? Huh. 
Later/Overall: Well, it works. It's the weirdest thing I've had work, so they named it well. I'm not sure how often I want to wear it, because it's a really imposing, grand, I-am-going-to-be-present-AT-you smell, and it doesn't last all that long. But it makes grapefruit into a scent I both like and find regal, which is very impressive. Definitely the thing to wear should I ever again have a job interview, and on days when I need a confidence boost. I should look up other things with delphinium.
rushthatspeaks: (dirk: be uncertain about this)
So I had a minor outpatient surgery on Wednesday. After they'd already knocked me out they found out they didn't have a piece of equipment they needed, and therefore could not do the procedure they were supposed to; they therefore did a different procedure that had a chance of working, but not a certainty, so that at least maybe they didn't knock me out for nothing. Maybe. I get a scan in two weeks and we'll see, and maybe the whole thing will have to be done over... or maybe I'm just going to not, because since coming back from the hospital I have not felt well enough to: a) put my nose rings back in; b) shower; c) follow narrative in anything fictional; or d) follow more than two paragraphs at a time of anything nonfictional.

Also I have rather nasty tube-down-throat bruises, and a fucking subconjunctival hemorrhage, and overall the anesthesia seems to have acted on me as though it were a literal punch in the face. I am not happy with my docs right now.

Supposed to call them if I have a fever, but all of our thermometers are sufficiently inaccurate that I legitimately cannot tell.

Bearing in mind that I cannot narrative right now, would appreciate cheering links, cute animals, that sort of thing.

icon meme

Jan. 28th, 2019 11:20 pm
rushthatspeaks: (platypus)
[personal profile] ursula asked about my platypus/philosopher icon, and yeah, there is something of a story behind that.

So back in about 1997, there was a Beanie Baby craze, which I'm sure some of you remember. It was completely ludicrous how much money people could be induced to pay for Beanie Babies, which, I mean, are decent stuffed animals but come on. The high school I attended at the time, which was always hosting events that could conceivably fall vaguely under the description of 'community outreach', for some reason somehow managed to host a Beanie Baby fair/expo-thingie. Right at the height of the craze.

And, seeing as how I was fairly broke most of the time as a teenager, I signed up to work at the darn thing. I figured, you know, six hours of retail, free lunch, whatever. I had not quite understood that this was not just a toy fair: we were at the epicenter of the Dutch tulip bubble.

Anyway, six completely ridiculous hours of chaos later, the people who organized the fair gave each of us who worked there a Beanie Baby, randomly selected from the bins of stock which were in their van for the next fair. It was not going to heal the scars of that work experience, but honestly it's probably good to get some idea of the worst retail can be while you're still young. I happened to draw a very cute platypus Beanie Baby, which happened to be bright fuchsia in color.

I named it Nietzsche, because from the point of view of a tiny Beanie Baby platypus with bright fuchsia fur and safety orange beak and feet, God is most certainly dead. I liked Nietzsche; he was a friendly plush who reliably made me smile.

At some point in the next couple of years, the Beanie Baby company made much larger plush versions of the really popular items, and some friend or relative who saw that I had the tiny platypus got me the bigger one, which was at least a foot long. I named that one Kant, because I couldn't. So. Very. Fuchsia.

These both wound up among the objects that I took to college, and my friend group wound up learning the platypus names and found them funny. After that, one of the hobbies of many people I knew was giving me new platypus objects in order to see what I would name them.

I made it clear early on that, since I don't particularly identify with the platypus, or like it more than all other animals-- I mean, it's neat and all-- I did not want to be drowned in platypus items, and that I would only accept new and different platypus objects which did not resemble those previously given to me.

Over the years, people did get pretty creative. I have a stuffed platypus that came in a can (Diogenes, for the barrel), a copy of Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus (it has the names of two philosophers right there on it, guys, naming it would have been redundant), a custom piece of ASCII platypus art (Vinge, as it had undergone an early form of Singularity), a six-foot inflatable platypus (Keynes, who has of course since burst), and a nice crystal platypus pendant on a chain (Aquinas). Transitory platypus objects included an eggplant carved into a jack o'lantern version outside my door one Halloween (Hobbes, nasty, purple, and short), and origami instructions which turned out to make a platypus (Bashō). Ruth, bless them, wore a platypus costume to attend the presentation of one of my theses, which did not confuse my department as they had seen, by that time, everything undergraduates can possibly come up with.

Anyway, I picked up a Livejournal shortly before graduating, and the icon was a present sometime during the first couple years I had it. The icon is one of the later platypus presents, and I'm just as well pleased about not having had to name it. I use it for congratulations, humor, things that confuse me, and posts about philosophy.

I did, later on, see a live platypus, in the Sydney Zoo, and the thing that astonished me is how much smaller they are than everybody assumes they are. From tail- to beak-tip it can't have been the length of my forearm. Astonishingly quick and lithe, too; it was in continuous twisting motion for the entire thirty seconds it was in view. (They're very shy, so those thirty seconds were lucky, and the reward of poking my head back in on our way out of the zoo, after having carefully checked the platypus building every time we moved between exhibits.)

I suppose if somebody gave me a new format of platypus I'd still try to work with it, but honestly I'm kind of glad the joke has run its course after lo these many years, and I'm glad I didn't get stuck being the platypus person and having everyone give me platypus everything forever. It was fun while it lasted.

If you'd like me to ask about one of your icons, let me know in the comments.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
It's the end of the year, so it's time for the annual list of stuff I edited. By which I mean line-edited, by the way, as opposed to acquired; acquiring decisions are joint at SH.


Obscura, by Yoon Ha Lee. A fantasy about, among other things, photography. Evanescent and melancholy, with a tinge of gentle hope. (And it's always nice to get to work with a friend.)

All of Us Told, All of It Real, by Evan Dicken. This is a neat metafictional horror story, and it's also pitch-perfect regional writing. About Ohio, to be precise. I hated living in Ohio.

Variations on a Theme from Turandot, by Ada Hoffmann. This is necessary fix-it fic for the opera, and also an interesting meditation on the relationships between art and characters and performers and creators.

Quietly Gigantic, by K. C. Mead-Brewer. I guess subtle suburban horror is a motif of stuff I worked on this year? This one is about feminism, unrequited love, and the importance of having a room of one's own. The previous sentence probably just gave you the wrong idea.

Chasing the Start, by Evan Marcroft. This is far-future SF set in a universe so lush with detail that there are multiple paragraphs I wish had novels of their own. Mostly, the story is about running, which is neat.

The Palace of the Silver Dragon, by Y. M. Pang. This appears on the surface to be a fairly classical riff on folklore about sea dragons. That isn't quite where it winds up.

Asphalt, River, Mother, Child, by Isabel Yap. So every year I seem to edit at least one thing where if you're feeling particularly emotionally fragile you probably shouldn't, and this year it's this one. But it's SO GOOD that I suggest bracing for impact and reading it anyway. It's about the current state of purportedly-anti-drug extra-judicial murder in the Philippines.

Some Personal Arguments in Support of the BetterYou (Based on Early Interactions), by Debbie Urbanski. Okay, maybe this is the not-if-you're-feeling-fragile one, because this is the one about how still, for too damn many people, It Does Not Always Get Better. SO GOOD, THOUGH. Also, suburban horror is definitely my thing this year, yep.

The Names of Women, by Natalia Theodoridou. We managed to time the release of this for our fund drive pretty much exactly with when she won the World Fantasy Award, and that was just a really nice moment for everybody. This story is about Philomela and the shapes of mythology.


Nine stories seem to be about what I can usually fit into a year, but this year was six times busier than last year on the personal front and I also had major medical issues, so I'm pleased and relieved to have managed it. A couple of pieces I didn't edit that have stuck with me: We Feed the Bears of Fire and Ice, by Octavia Cade, the not-actually-a-metaphor-for-climate-change story we all needed, and Toothsome Things, by Chimedum Ohaegbu, which is, and after the number of years I've spent reading both for myself and as an editor this astounds me, a Red Riding Hood variant I still like.

Fox update

Dec. 20th, 2018 10:52 pm
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
At two months past two, Fox is a very happy kid and doing really well.

They're ~26 pounds and have gone from being Very Tall to being bang on average for their age, though I have forgotten what that height actually is. Their hair will now kind of consent to be tied back for reasonable intervals of time, now that it's basically waist-length; it was really too fine even at shoulder-length. Some day I am going to braid it and see if that lasts all day, but I don't see them wanting to hold still for that anytime soon.

They're doing well both at fine motor and gross motor things-- can keep up with me easily as I walk, run quickly in circles without falling down, walk backward, carry two-liter bottles up flights of stairs. They're working on the Velcro of their shoes and on making the marks they intend with crayons and markers.

Big jump in imagination recently. Suddenly they really get narrative, and we spend a lot of time going over sequential events like what we did yesterday, or last week, or what x person did at the supermarket. Sometimes these conversations repeat verbatim two or three times before being deemed sufficient. They also like being told stories now, and you no longer need a book with supporting pictures to keep their interest. I think they're starting to get the distinction between real and imaginary, but am not entirely sure. They have occasional nightmares now, and consequently have spent a while afraid of dragons, for which Ruth got them a sparkly magic wand to wave and shout things like "Hence, dragons! Begone!". It seems to be working.

Book-wise, they have started liking more complicated narratives than they did. Current favorites include Madeline and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. That last they'll read to us, which involves them turning the pages, pointing at the pictures, and reciting what they remember of the book-- sometimes this resembles what's written on the page, and sometimes not. They continue very fond of a photobook from the Louvre, which they like to have flipped open at random and then we read the text about the art and try to explain as much as we can about what the art is and what it depicts and where it comes from and so on. And they continue very fond of poetry, especially 'Jabberwocky', which they'll have their plushies act out, and the toddler redaction of A Midsummer Night's Dream that [personal profile] nineweaving got them. I had thought it would be at least another five years before the wandering-around-the-house-randomly-spouting-Shakespeare phase, but I was wrong.

I think the most notable word I've heard them say lately is 'pomegranate', and the sentences I've taken notice of include "Mama said, [Fox], go back to bed" (indirect discourse!) and "We're out of almond milk." We were, too, and I hadn't known about it. They can almost pronounce their mom's last name, which if you know anything about our last names around here you will understand to be a significant achievement.

They have been on an airplane now, and though they did not like it they spent ninety percent of the time not actively melting down, so I think it worked out okay. In general they melt down only when dramatically tired or overstimulated, which I am glad of; I think it is a factory-built-in temperament setting and not one we had anything to do with. I'd say they don't really have tantrums about stuff they want so much as that we get into endless arguments about whatever it is-- the phase where one has to keep repeating 'no' every thirty seconds indefinitely, to show that one still means it. We really don't say no to them very often, though, mostly only about things that are actively dangerous or destructive, so we do really mean it when we say it, which I try to remind myself of when I think I sound like a broken record. Also we can now have the sort of conversation which goes 'I want x' 'no, because y' 'oh okay that makes sense', which I honestly appreciate.

We watch a lot of Peppa Pig, and they are extremely into trucks and more moderately into dinosaurs. I don't think they know more about dinosaurs than I do yet, but they absolutely know more about trucks. The lovely thing about the formal turning of their car seat around to face front on their second birthday is that now if I see a backhoe or an ambulance or something and tell them to look, they are facing the right way such that they usually get to see it, when before it was scattershot.

I can't prove that they're reading yet, though there are several things that would make more sense if they can, but they can definitely recognize more than half the alphabet, and have for reasons I do not understand decided that the letter P should not be used on signs. The problem with this is that of course parking lots frequently have signs which are just large Ps, and Fox regards these both in sorrow and in anger.

I think that about sums it up.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
1. What is your favorite type of bookbinding?

I don't have a specific favorite, because different bindings are useful with such different materials and in such different contexts. I do, however, have a least favorite binding, which is the glued-together paperback. I realize they're meant to be cheap and disposable, but I grew up reading the ones my dad bought in his youth in the late nineteen-sixties and early seventies, and sometimes they just... casually drop one page from somewhere in the middle, while the rest of the block remains intact. Or split down the middle. Or the spine and both covers peel off and the page block clings together out of sheer inertia. And if all of that is avoided, well, the makers weren't paying much attention to the pH of the paper, let alone that of the glue, so the whole thing starts developing the color and crumbling tendencies of your average late-autumn leaf pile.

I still have six jillion of these because my father systematically went through and replaced his with better editions, and I took all the old ones. Every so often I want to sit down with one of them and some PVA, but it feels like a completely lost cause, you know? If I had a book press I could de-acidify, and then it might start to be worth it... I think glued-together paperbacks made today have at least a better pH balance overall, though I still suspect most of the ones I own haven't fallen apart merely because they haven't sat long enough.

I do appreciate it when commercial publishers do color-coordination on a book's headband and tailband; that tends to indicate that they've considered the small details in a way that means the whole thing will probably hold together well.


2. Who's your favorite visual artist?

Botticelli. No contest. The Madonna of the Magnificat is not just my favorite painting, but a strong contender for my favorite object in the world. Unfortunately, no duplication I have ever seen has captured anything at all of how good the painting is. There are a lot of good paintings out there that are irreproducible, but usually a facsimile gives you some idea of why the painting is good, whereas I have seen one-to-one micrometer-perfect repros of the Magnificat and it does not come through. The only explanation I have is that Botticelli painted angels from life, and they don't consent to show up in the reproductions.

I'm also very fond of the art of Judson Huss.


3. Do you have a ritual that you do before bedtime?

Nope, unless you count between forty minutes and three hours of repeating to myself that I should really shut the computer and go to bed as a ritual.


4. What's a food you crave right now?

The answer to this is always chocolate, unless it is red meat. Red meat means my iron levels are slipping. Chocolate seems to even out my hormones, and it's one of the few things that does, so I do eat a fair bit of it, but I have to be careful as it is possible to overdose.


5. What's your favorite flower?

Roses. I have strong feelings about roses: as dark a red as possible, and as strongly scented as possible. I'm all right with the classic shape, but the antique varieties with fifty jillion petals are also lovely. And I am agnostic on the question of climbing.

I like pink roses, white, and peach okay, but not yellow.

Sadly, rose and other heavy florals do horrific things on my skin. Some rose notes go to powder, some to metallic, and a couple just give the strong sense of something decaying nearby. It's not as bad as plumeria, which on me literally smells of spoiled tuna fish, but it's not wearable. I can wear jasmine and orange blossom all I want with great smell fidelity, but I don't want. The consistent struggle for florals that will work on my skin and not smell oversweet to me has mostly left me not wearing florals, honestly.


Comment if you want five questions.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Earlier today I read Ottessa Moshfegh's new novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which has been gathering a lot of buzz in mainstream lit circles, and which is certainly noticeable in a bookstore, since its cover fuses a po-mo hot pink with a painting from the circle of Jacques-Louis David that somehow manages to express infinite irony when juxtaposed with the book's title.

I had been wanting to read it, not because of the buzz (though that's why I heard of it), but because the protagonist goes (attempts to go) to bed for a year, and going to bed for a year is something I have done myself, though it was not particularly intentional on my part.

It is not something I have read many books about, because it is not an experience all that many people write books about. The most recent other book I've read in which something similar happens is Porochista Khakpour's Sick: A Memoir, which is, in fact, a memoir, about the author's experiences with chronic Lyme disease.

I might have expected the books to be, in some ways, diametric opposites, since Khakpour has spent a large percentage of her life trying to get out of bed, while Moshfegh's unnamed protagonist devotes a great deal of time and effort to staying in it. But it became clear to me fairly early on that both books, along with a third I read at some point in the past few months, Sayaka Murata's Convenience Store Woman, read to me as though somehow, either through zeitgeist or through deliberate theoretical exploration, we are beginning to see the emergence into the literary mainstream of Sick Woman Theory.

Which, as a sign of life in a set of genres I have found fairly moribund for huge stretches of time, those labeled "respectable literature", is heartening.

All three books feature a central woman who narrates the book first-person, in an extremely distinctive voice. In the Murata, this woman is a convenience store worker, who is devoted to her job and to the smooth, swift, and pleasant operation of the convenience store; in the Moshfegh, she is twenty-something, beautiful, and privileged, with an inheritance sufficient to keep paying her rent and a previous attempt to enter the art world. She did not so much fail at that as wander away from it. In the Khakpour, she is a literature professor and extremely talented writer attempting to make sense of the illness-filled stretches of her previous life.

(Yes, I know it's problematic to compare a memoir so closely to fiction; I'll get to why I'm doing that in a bit.)

All three women are seen by somebody, possibly a lot of somebodies, as sick, and that vision drives the narratives, though of course there are also other things going on.

The convenience store woman is seen by her family, workmates, and acquaintances as sick because she does not share the standard, societally-accepted ways of expressing and feeling emotions. She has settled on the convenience store as a life strategy, because by being a good worker, by putting in work for a socially appropriate amount of time for which she is paid, she can pass as acceptable to others, and is therefore allowed to survive. She enjoys her work very much: the bargain she has made with the world (an illuminating typo: I originally typed 'with the work') is that she is competent and thorough and cheerful at her job, and that equals normality to everyone around her, and they don't bother her about her differences as they did all through school. Except that, as she ages, the social expectations around womanhood start to come up-- marriage, family, the idea that a convenience store is a temporary job for students or else a career in which one is eventually promoted to manager-- and these expectations force her to recalibrate her bargain, because she can no longer manage to be left alone.

She does not see herself as sick. She is a happy, productive person who likes other people, and her infectious cheer is part of why others pathologize her, because how can anyone be that happy in a convenience store job?

Moshfegh's unnamed protagonist does not particularly see herself as sick, though she uses the language and specialized vocabulary of sickness to manipulate her psychiatrist (chosen specifically for incompetence) into giving her sleep drugs. What she wants is to sleep. She wants to sleep until all the aggravations of her previous life fall away from her, because she hates absolutely everything about her life. Her wealthy, privileged, unloved childhood, her Ivy League education, her discovery that the world of art (where one might have expected she could rebel) is another facet of exactly the things that motivate everyone else she's ever met: she hates everybody and everything. She does not hate life, she does not want to die, but she hates her life, and hopes that if she can sleep for long enough, she can get rid of all of it.

She might see herself as sick, sometimes. It's difficult to tell, because Moshfegh's corrosive satirical voice is so logical, persuasive, charmingly worded that, well, everybody and everything in her life is eminently hateable, while remaining, unfortunately, fairly close to the bounds of realism. I can't manage to read her as depressed, but as a person experiencing a rational reaction to a ludicrous reality. It might be stupid to go to bed for a year, but it isn't a bad idea, given the circumstances.

And yet, the thing that others (including readers) are most likely to pathologize her for is, in fact, that powerful and desperate hatred. How can anyone find working in an art gallery that nauseating?

As you can see, I don't actually consider either protagonist to be sick at all. They are at right angles to what other people expect of them, and both are in varying degrees of complicity with the myths of what they are supposed to be. Either of them could easily, as Moshfegh's protagonist pretends to do, enter the medical establishment and try to receive some set of diagnoses.

The question is where things would go from there.

This is why I wanted to talk about the Porochista Khakpour, because her experience is a) real and b) heavily involved with that medical establishment. In her case, the thing that is going against everyone's expectations, including hers, is her own body. As many who have chronic, debilitating illnesses with long lists of symptoms do, she finds it difficult to get a diagnosis, still more difficult to get a diagnosis that is in any way useful, and most difficult of all to get helpful treatment. Especially since, as so many women have been told for so long, she gets the repeated insistence from doctor after doctor that it's all in her head.

In short, her illness places her, whether she likes it or not, at an angle to the rest of society, and it becomes very clear after a time that what the people around her expect, and have great difficulty with her not managing, is that she either get better or die.

And so her career, her writing, her teaching, her personal life, are these things that she has scratched out with great and laborious difficulty from that space between getting better and dying, that liminal space for which we do not have good words or good explanations. (There used to be the concept of the invalid, but how often was the invalid productive? Our current system holds that if you are managing to be productive, then, in some way, you aren't really sick, are you. Illness and labor as opposing states.)

Khakpour would, I am certain, prefer not to be in pain, and her search for that option, given the way her doctors are about it, is a story of dogged resistance. I don't mean that in the inspirational-disability way, of Overcoming Great Trials; I mean that, whether she wants to or not, in order to survive she has to insist repeatedly and with great effort that she is sick. That she will not shut up about her pain, that she will continue trying to seek solutions, that professional success does not mean she has stopped hurting. Illness has to become part of her identity, because it's only on that level that she can start getting other people to take it seriously.

Her memoir is interesting as a constructed narrative-- it does not have much shape. It cannot, because chronic illness, when it truly is chronic, when it is going to go away and come back again for the duration of a lifetime, resists most conventional concepts of narrative. There is no final resolution, there is no climax. The shape of the book is bent around pain the way that her life is bent around pain. What we are left with is pain, the systems of the world that are perpetuating and not assisting with that pain, and resistance to both pain and those systems.

Which is also what we are left with in that pair of novels. The resistance is the thing the three books have most in common. (Cf., as I said, Sick Woman Theory.) The fiction is, as fiction does, using metaphor and symbolism to filter and reshape the same sort of experience Khakpour is working with, the liminal spaces between sick, well, productive, non-working, a knot of cathexes centered around friction between women and illness and late capitalist society. Both novels are, due to their non-reality, free to concentrate somewhat less on pain, and free to tip over into surrealism; this is part of the process of exploring the space that lives like Khakpour's have long taken place in while invisible to fiction.

And this, I think this is huge, as a theme coming up in not just literature, but in literature that is being critically acclaimed and selling books to highbrow types and winning awards. I think it says something that all three of these books are by women of color, and that all three are getting amounts of publicity and critical discussion that indicate they are being read and to some extent respected. I think it says something that these are three separate approaches to carving narrative out of subjects that have traditionally not been considered appropriate subjects for Great Art.

Of course, I'm glad to see this kind of innovation in narrative and these themes partly because of their applicability to my own life. (Do I have migraines because of the PTSD, or because I had meningitis at twelve? Do I have PTSD partly because of the migraines and how people around me as a child failed to notice or treat them, or is the PTSD entirely about the abuse? Is the endometriosis because of the abuse, or related to the PTSD? Who knows?) (No one. There is no way to know these things.) (How am I supposed to know what, in my own life, counts as resistance?)

But I'm also glad to see this because it indicates that something is shifting, somewhere, in the edifices of power. I am used to this sort of literature being labeled experimental and being printed by small presses and sold in feminist bookshops. I am used to this sort of book being marginalized.

May whatever is shifting keep shifting: this kind of narrative is, given the world we live in at the moment, necessary. Because those of us who cannot necessarily make it to marches or stand in the street need a politics of resistance, too, and narratives of resistance are one of the ways to inch into conceiving those politics.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
Voted.

It was physically very difficult, as I have a health issue which has been causing me a lot of pain recently. Fox's bubbe comes over on Tuesdays till three, and I had meant to haul myself out of bed around one-thirty and go vote then. But it is also absolutely pouring, and I was hoping it would stop if I waited a bit. It did not stop, so I got up around two forty-five and consequently had to take Fox with me to the polls.

They've been before, multiple times, but they were smaller and less interactive. Also, even though our polling place is not very far away from our house, it was a pain day such that I had to drive. Luckily, I managed to find a parking space right in front, despite there not being any spaces marked out specifically for voters. But walking from the car the fifty feet into the building was enough to soak us both. (I cannot keep hold of Fox's hand, carry the diaper bag and my own bag, and wrangle an umbrella, and I hold Fox's hand anytime we are crossing anywhere cars can go, even though in this instance it was a driveway and not a street.)

This is one of those times when I'm very thankful that Fox is a reasonable person, which I really didn't expect them to be for years yet. Because 'I need you not to wander off' and 'even though the polling booths are divided from each other at a height above your head, that doesn't mean you can go into any booths that aren't mine' are concepts that I can communicate and get a copable set of actions about. So they were bored, but not disruptive.

I was like, this child is doing so well, I should get them something at the bake sale, at which point I promptly discovered that all I had in my bag by way of cash was a large pile of nickels and pennies. By the time I counted all that out, I was sure Fox would have completely had it, which would be only fair. The bake sale staff saw me dithering, and a guy who'd just bought ten items and apparently was entitled to an eleventh free decided to hand that one over to Fox, which was very sweet of him. Fox surveyed the entire table of fudge and cookies and cake and brownies and macaroons and what-have-you, and, as I had expected, selected a banana. They are at this point basically a fruitarian. And they remembered to say thank you.

And we got soaked again on the way out, of course.

... according to Ruth, who got home while I was writing this, this was Fox's second time at the polls today-- and their second bake-sale banana. Heh.

Trying not to check news too obsessively.
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
From [personal profile] ursula. I get out of the habit of writing entries, and memes help get back into it. If you want questions, ask.

1. What is something you miss about Philadelphia?

There's a line of trees in front of the Bryn Mawr student center, used to be, anyway, and I assume there still is-- flowering plum interspersed with cherry. Every spring I'd go out while the blossom was setting and walk around barefoot for a while under the trees. There is nothing quite like walking barefoot on flower petals when they have fallen so thickly that they really are the major surface.

It turns out that this is not an easily duplicated experience, because it takes the correct mix of flowering trees, and the correct climate such that the ground isn't either frozen or muck, and the correct mix of public and private so it's reasonable to be barefoot in the area. I have come close to it a few times, but never the same, and I have considerable hiraeth for it whenever the cherry-blossoms set.

2. Tell us about a thing you made recently.

There hasn't been much. My health has not been good, and between mid-August and early October there was so much Major Life Stuff that no one in my family had time to sit down. (Mostly good, just very hectic.) I miss having the energy to cook, and I miss having time to knit. I've been writing reviews, I guess? I have caught a lot of Pokemon. We have a happy healthy child, though I take limited responsibility in that direction.

3. What is your favorite frozen dessert?

Baked Alaska, but I don't get it often. I made it once, with [personal profile] sovay and my friend T., from T.'s grandfather's cookbook (he is a famous food writer). We used Earl Grey ice cream from Toscanini's for a large baking dish and khulfi for a small uncaffeinated version and it was basically perfect. It is not a small job, though.

4. Unicorns, mermaids, or none of the above?

More often mermaids, because unicorns have a tendency to go Lisa Frank, which I find aggravating. Peter S. Beagle-style unicorns, or Cloisters-tapestry unicorns, sure. But more often mermaids, because even if they've been done as nauseatingly cute they don't tip over into twee nearly as easily.

In fact, though, and under all circumstances, sphinxes.

5. Tell us about an unexpected app on your phone or paper on your desk.

... I caved while traveling earlier in the summer and downloaded Lyft. Because it was either do that, wait like two hours for a taxi which might not actually deign to show up, or walk an unsustainable amount of distance in an unfamiliar city very late at night. I Googled 'ethical rideshare service [name of city I was in]' and came up bupkis. Having the Lyft app then proceeded to save me a great deal of time and effort when I got stranded in small-town Vermont on my way to Montreal last month, as the town was too small to have an actual taxi service. Since it saved me vast quantities of time, energy, and probably money twice in six weeks, I am reluctant to delete it, and at least Lyft is vaguely less evil than Uber. I have a forty-five minute rant about why Uber needs to be regulated severely, and if that puts them out of business, well golly gee whiz I guess they couldn't afford to run a cab company. Eighty percent of the rant also applies to Lyft, but at least Lyft doesn't go around acting like the sort of villain who monologues and twirls mustaches. There is so much Snidely Whiplash going on at Uber.

Recommendations for ethical ride-sharing services cheerfully accepted, as the Boston-area taxi-medallion racket also leaves much to be desired. Though it's still preferable to Uber, as are walking, not going, and literally setting fire to a small amount of money instead.
rushthatspeaks: (the unforgiving sun)
Dear Arisia Programming:

Please remove me from any and all programming unless and until Crystal Huff's post detailing her experiences with and accusations against Noel Marc Rosenberg, currently the convention's president, is addressed in full. This would have to include sufficient consequences for Rosenberg, extending to being removed as the president and banned from the convention.

I believe Crystal Huff, and this also explains to me why the conduct complaint I brought against a panelist on a panel I moderated in 2015 (which was, admittedly, a relatively minor complaint) went absolutely nowhere and produced no effects. I had assumed that was due to overall disorganization, but I am no longer prepared to offer the benefit of the doubt.

I will not be attending this convention unless there are noticeable signs of organizational change, and I will be making this clear in public and on social media.

Regards,

[my wallet name]


Saw Huff's post via [personal profile] swan_tower; thanks.

The guy I tried to complain about in 2015 really didn't do anything too egregious-- he kissed my hand without asking me or warning me, which I found creepy, smarmy, and inappropriate for a panelist's actions on meeting the panel moderator for the first time. What I wanted the con to do was give him a warning, because I didn't think said warning would register in the guy's head coming from me. My complaint got lost in a sea of not knowing who I should be talking with, to whom I ought to be explaining what, and general bureaucratic weirdness. I was like, okay, it is a really minor thing, I'm not going to spend too much time and effort chasing it (even though I was pretty creeped out). I figured the people I was interacting with were probably having trouble with it because it was such a minor complaint and on the boundary where doing anything about it might be controversial; that sucked, but I understood it.

It now appears to be part of a pattern, and part of a much worse pattern than I had any way of seeing.

I am not going to Arisia anymore until they can offer evidence that they have rooted this pattern out.
rushthatspeaks: (vriska: consider your question)
It was pointed out to me fairly recently on Tumblr that Hamlet takes place at Christmastime, and the poster was consequently bemoaning the lack of Ugly Christmas Sweater stagings of Hamlet.

I started thinking it over, and wow, it just about writes itself. I mean, Claudius and Gertrude have truly horrific sweaters that are part of a set, and they have one for Hamlet in their first scene, which he refuses to wear-- I'm picturing sweaters here with, in giant letters, KING SANTA CLAUS, QUEEN MRS. SANTA CLAUS, and PRINCE ELF. Hamlet won't even take it out of the box, he just drops the whole thing on the floor once he sees inside.

Then of course Ophelia is knitting a sweater for Hamlet (she never finishes it; the Sweater Curse is real), and he won't try it on or let her measure for it because it looks too much like the parental ones, i.e. it is also red, green, white, and festive. She's already knit one for Polonius, which was her first-ever finished wearable garment, and it's really bad, she blushes every time she sees it because the mistakes are now so obvious to her. It objectively looks terrible on him, but she can't pry it out of his hands. The one she made for Laertes fixed all her previous mistakes and should inspire, when he comes on stage, the reaction of 'how in the hell does he make that Christmas sweater look that classy?'.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern match too. Theirs are the kind which have literal twinkly Christmas lights in them. Theoretically they are wearing them ironically, but no one actually believes that. Again, they brought one for Hamlet, but he refuses to twinkle.

For the play-within-a-play, Hamlet turns up wearing an unthinkably Goth Christmas sweater in black, white, and grey, the kind which has skeletal reindeer and Santa Cthulhu and a really unnerving font. Nobody knows where he got it. (He inherited it from Yorick.)

When Fortinbras comes on, he is wearing a Chanukah sweater.
rushthatspeaks: (feferi: do something adorable)
Everything around here is stress and logistics, and will be for the foreseeable future. But a cool video game thing happened on Wednesday.

I play Pokemon Go somewhere between casually and obsessively-- I fire it up most days, I actively go out of my way for raids and new Pokemon, but I don't minmax anything and I am decidedly a solo player. I use the new friendslist feature, but it has all of two people on it that I actually know, and the rest is full of internet random. (That said, if you play and I know you and you'd like us to be on each other's friendslists, let me know.)

A few months ago, Pokemon Go added a feature called Field Research, where you do small tasks for small rewards, and after you've finished seven tasks you get to catch a very rare Pokemon. This is one of the only ways you can get some of the Legendary-types, especially if, like me, you only do solo raids. Which very rare Pokemon you can get through Field Research changes every month. I went into August with seven tasks done, and only had to trigger the encounter to get my nice lightning-dog-thing Legendary Raikou... supposedly. The darn thing wouldn't load. Whenever I triggered the encounter, all I'd get is a blank white screen, and the app would freeze until I turned my phone on and off again. This was extremely aggravating, especially as August wore on, and I became worried I'd miss this particular Pokemon entirely.

In addition, back in like May or June or so Pokemon Go added a feature called Special Research, where you do a lot of small-up-through-aggravating tasks for small rewards and then get to catch a Mythical Pokemon. This is the only way you can get the Pokemon in question, period. I did fine right up through the very last bit of the very last task, which-- okay, so when you catch a Pokemon, you throw a ball at it by swiping with your finger on your phone. The throw can be various degrees of good according to the game, everything from normal to Nice to Excellent, and you get rewarded with experience points and a higher chance of catching the Pokemon for better throws. Additionally, you can throw what's called a curveball, which is trickier, for even more bonuses, and those also go up to Excellent. The final Special Research task to get the Mythical Mew was to throw an Excellent Curveball.

The thing is, my phone lags. I mean, it really lags. The ball is perceptibly dragging behind my finger, so my timing is always borked. Also, I don't understand the timing of an Excellent throw anyway, and watching tutorial videos was doing nothing. So I was stuck on that Excellent Curveball for well over a month. Which was extremely aggravating, because I couldn't even tell if I was getting better at it. I was trying to throw everything as a curveball, and going through Pokeballs like there was no tomorrow, on the theory that surely it would happen eventually just through sheer luck, but mostly what this resulted in was taking six times as long to catch anything and a lot of swearing.

The combination of the two things I couldn't do was driving me away from the game, which was sad, because I have been doing this for like a year-and-a-half now and it is one of the few things keeping me sane through some parts of baby-wrangling, but every time I thought about opening the app I would think about how it wasn't working and become annoyed.

Finally, it occurred to me that simply closing and restarting the app is not actually the equivalent of 'have you tried turning it on and off again', so this past Wednesday when I had a free moment I uninstalled the app and then reinstalled it from scratch. And opened it, cautiously, and triggered the encounter... and there was my Raikou! It loaded!

Of course, I still had to catch the thing, so I started throwing balls at it.

And the third turned out to be, completely by chance, an Excellent Curveball. So I got my Raikou and my Mew within thirty seconds of each other, thereby eliminating everything that has been annoying me about the game since, like, May in one swoop.

It's not even a dopamine hit when that sort of thing happens. It's a dopamine high.

Especially since all this took place on my actual birthday. I'm not saying that the game should have gone around pissing me off for several months in order to cause me to grin like a loon for the entire afternoon of my birthday, but, on reflection, I'm not saying it shouldn't have.
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
This time of Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver. Short version: Yay, someone has written Jewish high fantasy!
rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
Not all of the reviews I've written for Locus have wound up on their website, though all have been in the print version. I'm not sure what the algorithm is for what goes where when, but here are the two that are available free online:

My first review for them, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang, in which I endeavor to figure out how thoroughly it is reasonable to express in this venue that this book is really, really bad.


From the month after, The Book of Hidden Things, by Francesco Dimitri.
rushthatspeaks: ([         ]  is a badass)
I feel like writing about something I really love.

Mob Psycho 100 is a completed fifteen-volume manga series by the webcomic artist ONE, which ran between 2012 and 2017. The first season of the anime adaptation aired in 2016. Both are instant classics which are easily among the highlights of comics and animation of the last decade.

ONE is more famous for his other series, One-Punch Man, which I do not like. It is a deconstruction of superhero fiction, which is simply not my genre, and while I admire its craft and spectacle, it's a bit cold and calculating for me to find enjoyable. Mob Psycho 100, however, is about psychic kids, which definitely is one of my genres. It's also a warm, intimate, human story which I think would be enjoyable whether you know about the tropes of psychic-kids fiction or not.

Shigeo "Mob" Kageyama is an ordinary kid in his second year of middle school, except for his unfathomably, ludicrously, immeasurably powerful psychic abilities, which include telekinesis, seeing ghosts, and pretty much anything else paranormal he tries. Frightened of his own capacity for violence should he lose control of his powers, Mob has basically shut off all his emotions. He is adept at blending into the background: he is academically average, he doesn't do sports, he doesn't really have friends, and he goes through his life just showing up. That's where he gets the nickname Mob, which is the Japanese term for the undistinguished extras in movie crowd scenes, the people there to fill the scene out.

However, emotional repression is not exactly sustainable as a long-term strategy, and every so often things get through Mob's barriers. There's literally a narrative gauge that shows to what percentage he is angry, frustrated, etc., and when his emotions hit one hundred percent, there's the potential for... explosions. Which is where the show gets its title.

Luckily, Mob has something of a support structure. His parents are just kind of there, but his little brother, Ritsu, although without psychic powers of his own, is intelligent, popular, athletic, talented, and genuinely concerned for Mob's well-being. Also, there's Mob's after-school boss at the Spirits and Such exorcism agency, the greatest psychic of the twenty-first century, the overwhelmingly powerful... okay, yeah, I can't get through that sentence, Mob's boss Reigen Arataka suspiciously resembles a completely non-psychic regular con artist. Reigen has a good suit, a bad office, a silver tongue, and an empty wallet.

Have I mentioned yet that this is a comedy?

And it's that rarest of things, a comedy that is in no way mean-spirited. The humor comes entirely from character and situation. The series has a large cast and I love them most of them dearly. Mob, Ritsu, and Reigen are three of the best characters I have encountered in a very long time, because they are genuinely three-dimensional, and both their flaws and their strong points are written with that shock of unexpectedness you get when someone you know well does something you didn't know they were capable of doing, but which nevertheless makes perfect sense once you think about it. Reigen is actually even sleazier than I have already made him sound, and I will legitimately go to bat for him and Mob as the best parental relationship in anime, period, end of sentence, no other contenders.* The plot is tightly woven in ways I did not see coming; the manga may be the best plot I've seen in manga in terms of pacing, shape, and element of surprise. The anime has not yet covered all of the manga, but it leaves off at a good stopping place, and a second season has been greenlit.

Flaws? Well, there's one major, obvious one, although in my opinion it doesn't necessarily count as a flaw at all, and it can even be said to have done very good things for the series.

You see, ONE can't draw.

I mean at all. I mean the man cannot render a figure. The reason that One-Punch Man and Mob Psycho 100 were initially webcomics is that no professional publisher would purchase visual art produced by someone who draws as badly as ONE does (before they were proven properties, that is). There's an effect that often happens in webcomics, where the sheer amount of practice the creator gets by meeting a regular posting schedule causes leaps and bounds in the skill of the art-- even the XKCD guy draws better stick figures than he used to. This did not happen to ONE. Thousands of pages of manga have failed both to teach him how to draw an elbow, and to convince me that he ever will learn how to draw one. He cannot do perspective and he cannot do foreshortening. I thought for a while towards the end of Mob Psycho that he was getting better, but then I found out he hired an assistant. I know real, live ten-year-olds who draw better than ONE does.

When One-Punch Man became a gigantic basically-printing-money-with-this-property hit, the publisher Shueisha, in desperation, hired the manga artist Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21) to redraw literally the entire series, one for one, panel by panel. It's the only time I've ever heard of a publisher doing anything of the kind. This has not happened for Mob Psycho 100.

And it doesn't need to, because ONE can't draw at all, but what he can do? Is make comics. They redrew One-Punch Man panel for panel because in terms of visual flow of the page, layout, choosing exactly what information to convey in each panel, blocking of action shots, control of the flow of time between panels, camera angle, and the thousand other little details that make the difference between a comic and a tangled mess, ONE is a straight-up genius. Even his character designs are carefully planned to take advantage of his, um, art style, because he knows exactly what he can do, and he maximizes it on every single page. You can parse many of his pages without needing the dialogue-- but you want it, because it's great.

So you may find Mob Psycho 100 ugly, and if you do, that's fair, and there are some people who can't put up with the visuals, which is also fair. What you will not find it is confusing, over-drawn, or poorly laid out, ever. Honestly, after a few volumes I began to find the art endearing.

Which is also the attitude Studio Bones took when they made the anime adaptation; they looked at it and said, what if exactly this, but with the best animation you have ever seen in your entire life? Seriously, if you are into the technical aspects of animation at all, you have probably already watched this show, but if not, run, don't walk. The opening sequence is in my list of top five or six anime openings of all time, the dreamy paint-on-glass of the ending sequence is jaw-dropping, and the show itself throws everything from CGI to oil pastels at you. It is the most adventurous TV animation I have yet encountered, and it does not look like any other anime out there.

Okay, I'm going to embed the opening, because I love it just that much:





Actual flaws: It takes a while for the series to develop good female characters, and there aren't as many of them as I'd like when they do start getting attention, to an extent where the anime mostly hasn't gotten to any of that yet. Also, the anime starts rather slowly-- I like the bit they start with now that I know the characters well, but I'm not sure it's the best introduction. Give it several episodes for the writing to kick in if it's not catching you.

Also, one reason I am writing this review now is that-- okay, so there's only so much Adaptation Luck to go around, right? Like, if a thing is good in one medium, and then it's good in another medium, after a while you just kind of start pushing it if you keep putting it into more and more media. I say this because Netflix just released a live-action adaptation, and it, by itself, is so hideously, karmically bad that it makes up for all the amazement of the manga and anime on its own and probably guarantees that season two will be godlike. I am not talking amusing-bad, I am talking they misunderstood the point of the series so direly that they don't deserve to share the title bad. I am talking bad like the time some misguided fools made a Film We Don't Talk About out of The Dark Is Rising. I am talking so far into Let Us Never Speak Of This Again territory that I legitimately hope everyone will forget this thing ever existed within a couple of years. It is a master-class in how to fuck up good writing and I recommend avoiding it like the plague it is. Maybe no one will watch it, and it can all just go away. I wanted to help make sure no one tripped and fell into it by mistake and wound up missing the good versions.

Oh and there's an OVA, but it's a recap of season one with a light frame story, so don't watch it unless you've already seen season one. I love the characters so much that I found it delightful even though less than ten percent of it is new footage, but there's no point unless that's where you are too.

The anime's on Crunchyroll and the manga's coming out from Dark Horse later this year. This was the show that got me back into watching anime after several years of having wandered off because of bad light-novel-based harem shows, and it's on my list of personal classics with things like Baccano! and Haibane Renmei.

Now at some point I need to manage to write about Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, and then I'll feel like I'm basically caught up to myself in anime reviewing.



* I once rewatched this series for parenting advice.

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