sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] sovay
A Facebook friend asked: "For my film-loving friends: what are films you hope to see in the Criterion Collection someday? Not just films you love, but films that fit the aesthetic and would make sense as Criterion films." So I posted the following textbrick in reply and figured I might as well reproduce it here, now with (occasionally really old) links:

The complete Derek Jarman, Super 8 shorts and music videos included. Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982), because it has always confused me that you can get the documentary from Criterion but not the film itself. Anything by Ulrike Ottinger, but especially Johanna d'Arc of Mongolia (1989) and Taiga (1992), which one could and should pair. Some kind of box set of Dennis Potter, making sure not to leave out the long-banned original TV version of Brimstone and Treacle (1976). Wayne Wang and Paul Auster's Smoke (1995). Some reasonable amount of Peter Greenaway, but The Pillow Book (1996) and Prospero's Books (1991) in their proper aspect ratio should head the list. Fred Zinnemann's Act of Violence (1948), a knockout noir about memory and atrocity with far less of a reputation than it deserves. Max Ophüls' The Reckless Moment (1949), one of the most devastating—and feminist—noirs I've ever seen. John Ford's The Long Voyage Home (1940), Eugene O'Neill's favorite film realization of any of his plays. Ben Wheatley's A Field in England (2013). And while I'm dreaming of ponies, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953).

—There are other movies I'd like to see from Criterion, of course. Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973), especially considering the plethora of versions that have existed over the years (and may still be buried under the M4). I don't know if they'd go for Roy Ward Baker's The October Man (1947) unless it was part of a set of British noir, but seriously, how bad would that be? If they can announce an upcoming release of Agnieszka Smoczyńska's The Lure (2015)—the day after my birthday, I appreciate it—surely they could provide me with a nice edition of Marcin Wrona's Demon (2015). I'm sort of confused they've never done anything by Dorothy Arzner. I'm really confused they haven't already done the Wachowskis' Bound (1996). And so on. Some of it is the definitive home release idea, but a lot of these movies I would just like to be able to show people more easily than 35 mm or unpredictable flybys on TCM.

F&SF story interview

21 July 2017 06:32
mrissa: (Default)
[personal profile] mrissa

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I’m back from Boston! I had a lovely time going to Readercon and writing and seeing friends and riding back and forth on the T and wandering up and down Mass Ave. I am now convinced that wandering up and down Mass Ave is a substantial part of what you do in Boston. Things are there. Also, every time you come out of the Harvard T, there is Greer Gilman, so it is written and so it must be.

But other, less eternal things are written, and you can read them! Such as this interview about my story in the July/August issue of F&SF. Interview with me! Things you might want to know! or maybe not, but there it is anyway.

I answered these interview questions in the spring, and one of the things they’re showing me now is that life moves fast. Well. I knew that. And if it’s going to move fast and smell all right while it goes, I’d better get a load of laundry in. More, much more, soon, now that I’m home for awhile.

(no subject)

20 July 2017 17:36
skygiants: Fakir from Princess Tutu leaping through a window; text 'doors are for the weak' (drama!!!)
[personal profile] skygiants
Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age is a fairly fascinating book that's trying to do a lot of things at once: the book starts out with the dramatic recounting of MURDER!!! and then immediately takes, if not a deep dive, at least a vigorous swim through such varied topics as the history of British radio and the BBC, Keynesian economic philosophy, copyright limitations, and the founding of Sealand in order to contextualize it.

Once we get back to the story of the murder itself, however, it turns out: IT'S BONKERS. The principals in the case are two pirate radio impresarios in 1966. Oliver Smedley, An Ardent Free-Trade Capitalist, was running a station called Radio Atlanta on a boat off the coast; Reggie Calvert, A Dance Hall Impresario, had taken over an entire abandoned British navy fort called Shivering Sands in the Thames Estuary and staffed it with a rotating encampment of youths running a station called Radio City. At one point Smedley and Calvert were going to have a merger, but then they had an ACRIMONIOUS BREAKUP spurred on in part by:

- the fact that Smedley was supposed to give Calvert a shiny new transmitter and instead provided an old one that never worked
- the fact that Smedley never paid all the bills he had promised Calvert that Radio Atlanta would pay
- the fact that Calvert got sick of all this and decided to merge with another station instead

The reason for all these pirate radio stations on boats and naval forts, by the way, is because in 1966 there was no legal pop radio in the UK (as explained, extensively, via the history of radio and Keynesian economic theory etc. that makes up the first half of the book). Because the pirates were technically outside of UK territory, on the other hand, they could technically get away with doing whatever they wanted, or at least the government like "it will be way too embarrassing to launch a huge naval raid against a bunch of youths on was a fort with a radio transmitter, so let's not."

HOWEVER, the fact that everything was happening outside of territorial waters where British laws and police had no jurisdiction BACKFIRED when:

- Ardent Free-Trade Capitalist Smedley decided he was so mad that Calvert had made a deal without him that he was going to MAKE SURE that the deal could never go through
- he was going to GET BACK HIS PROPERTY [the transmitter that had never worked]
- so he sent an ACTUAL OCCUPYING FORCE composed of out-of-work dockworkers to Shivering Sands, stole a bunch of key broadcasting equipment, took a bunch of it back to the mainland, and left a bunch of toughs to hold everybody who was on the station at that time hostage!!!
- (when they met the invading force, the hostage broadcasters were like 'welp' and made everybody tea)
- ("the vessel had to return briefly to pick up [the contractor who recruited the gang], who had been left behind drinking his tea")
- and then Smedley went to Calvert and his partner, an actual professional broadcaster, and was like 'I will not let you broadcast from there again or finish making your deal unless you pay me FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS'

Naturally, everyone involved was like 'wtf????' and refused to pay Smedley a dime; Calvert threatened to involve the police but the police were like 'ummmmmm technically we can't do anything for the same reasons we haven't been able to stop you from broadcasting;' Calvert then made a whole bunch of other even wilder threats; and all the hired dockworkers sat around cheerfully charging Smedley for hostaging operations which he was rapidly running out of money for.

Anyway, in the middle of all this, Calvert drove out to Smedley's house in the middle of the night and started screaming at him, and Smedley shot him and then claimed self-defense and that his HOSTILE OCCUPATION OF A POP RADIO STATION was just a little joke gone wrong! No harm no foul if only Calvert hadn't been so UPSET about it! It did help Smedley's self-defense case that Calvert happened to be carrying A FAKE PEN FULL OF NERVE GAS at the time, which apparently, according to his family, he always carried around just for safekeeping.

...so the author's point in writing about all this seems to be that a.) this incident was crucial in getting the pirate radio boats shut down and the formation of the current BBC radio system that includes actual pop radio, b.) that this is all a forerunner of later copyright battles and offshore data centers and so on, c.) pirate-radio-on-boats in the 1960s was a WILD TIME. About the latter, at least, he is most surely not mistaken.

(This has nothing to do with the main brunt of the book but I have to spare a mention for Radio City's chief engineer, who later was hired by the mob! to perform an assassination attempt!! using a spring-loaded hypodermic needle full of cyanide!!! in what it turns out was ACTUALLY a sting operation by the U.S. Treasury department who picked the hapless Radio City engineer to act as the assassin because "he needed the fee while being clearly incapable of killing anybody"!!!! This whole incident gets two pages in the book because it's somewhat irrelevant to the author's argument but seriously, where is this guy's movie?

For the record, the same mobsters then tried to intimidate Reggie Calvert's widow into selling them the remnants of the station and she was like 'lol no' and they were like '....well, when a lady knows her own mind, she knows her own mind! No hard feelings.')
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
Can somebody update me on the present legal status in the US of graphical user interfaces as intellectual property? Am I correct in believing they can't be patented (though the code can be copyrighted)?

What I really want to know: Can I rip off GVoice's old/retired web interface legally? Or more accurately, can I pay somebody else to do it for me with reasonable ability to assure them they won't go to jail or get sued into oblivion for doing it?

To be clear, there are some nifty functional subtleties I'd want to make off with, which I wouldn't even want to bother pretending I came up with on my own. For instance, there's some interesting algorithm for how texts are batched into threads which I haven't entirely reversed engineered, but make a huge difference in readability.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
My poems "A Death of Hippolytos" and "The Other Lives," published last October in The Cascadia Subduction Zone 6.4, are now free to read online with the rest of their issue. The first was inspired by Jules Dassin's Phaedra (1962) and especially by this afterthought, the second was written for Rose Lemberg after discussing Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). [personal profile] gwynnega has poetry in the same issue.

I had heard absolutely nothing of Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water (2017) until this afternoon, but the trailer makes it look like something I should very definitely see in December. It looks like William Alland and Jack Arnold's Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) retold through Jane Yolen's "The Lady and the Merman," which has haunted me since elementary school when I first read Neptune Rising: Songs and Tales of the Undersea Folk (1982). It looks sea-deep.

Speaking of oceanic things for which I may existentially blame Caitlín R. Kiernan: Delphine Cencig, "Poulpe Fiction."

In fact, I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow.
swan_tower: (Default)
[personal profile] swan_tower

I should have posted this yesterday, but appropriately enough, I was too busy prepping for the game I ran last night. 🙂

Dice Tales: Essays on Roleplaying Games and Storytelling is out now! If you play RPGs and have an interest in them from the narrative side of things — the ways we use them to tell stories, and what GMs and players can do to make them work better in that regard — you may find it of interest. Follow the link to buy it from Book View Cafe, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, or (in a first for me) DriveThruRPG. And if any parts of it wind up working their way into the games you play or run, let me know!

Also, the New Worlds Patreon has headed off into the wilds of rudeness, with two posts on “Gestures of Contempt” and “Insults.” The theme will continue through the end of this month before turning in a new direction for August. Remember that patrons at the $5 level and above can request topics, so if there’s something you’d like to see me discuss, you can make that happen!

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

sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
Second doctor's appointment in as many days, coming up. First, links.

1. [personal profile] spatch sent me this handy-dandy list: "Times Doctor Who Was Ruined Forever." The site is snarky and some of their tags are jerkass, but the article itself is gold. "21/03/1981 – The best Doctor ever is replaced by a vet. Doctor Who dies."

2. Following my belated discovery of Jack Buchanan, I am pleased to see that the HFA will be showing Ernst Lubitsch's Monte Carlo (1930) on Friday. I wonder if I have ever actually seen Jeanette MacDonald.

3. I had no idea one of the performers of "The Grass Is Always Greener" was Lauren Bacall (and I think I had forgotten the song came from a musical by Kander and Ebb, although listening to its brassy swing, I don't know who else it could have been). Standing Room Only on WERS used to play it all the time. I like how her voice softens on the repeated line That's wonderful, but her unimpressed What's so wonderful? could pass for Elaine Stritch. This makes me desperately sad that Bacall never recorded "The Ladies Who Lunch."

4. This is a gorgeous photoset, but I would love to see the on-set photos from the shoot. Like, the backstage stuff. People just standing around on snack breaks, being Klimt paintings.

5. This was true last weekend as well, but I was at Readercon and couldn't do anything about it: [personal profile] spatch swapped in for one of the hosts of the PMRP's Murders and Scandals: Poe and Doyle at the last minute, so I'll see him this weekend on one of the nights I'm not seeing Jack Buchanan.

Wednesday Reading Meme

19 July 2017 08:18
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

Pierrepont Noyes’ My Father’s House: An Oneida Childhood, which I liked very much; although of course I would, being fond of a) childhood memoirs (I tend to agree with C. S. Lewis that “I never read an autobiography in which the parts devoted to the earlier years were not far the most interesting”), b) memoirs about cults (really anything about cults), and c) the nineteenth century.

But even if you are interested in only one of those things, this is an engaging book; much recommended. The one thing it will not give you is a clear description of the Oneida Community’s collapse: Noyes was ten at the time and found the whole thing ominous but fuzzy.

I also finished rereading A Wrinkle in Time. I’m glad I reread it because I no longer feel that vague gnawing sense that I just didn’t get it - but at the same time, it’s a bit sad to reread it and realize that I’m just never going to love that book the way that some people do.

What I’m Reading Now

Kidnapped! I only intended to begin it, but somehow I ended up halfway through the book already. It’s such a cracking good adventure yarn, it’s very hard to put down!

I have begun Jane Langton’s The Astonishing Stereoscope! It’s early days yet, but I have high hopes that it will live up to the other books in the series - or at least the early books in the series; I hold a real grudge against Time Bike for being so dreadful that it stopped my exploration of the Hall Family Chronicles, even though I adored both The Diamond in the Window and The Fledgling. But fortunately the good books in the series are the kind that are just as good if you read them first as an adult.

What I Plan to Read Next

The Railway Children, which I also intended to read next last week, but I bought Noyes’ memoir at the museum and it simply had to take precedence, so… But this week I am quite determined! Railway Children or bust! Unless I find something simply irresistible in Amherst.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
[personal profile] sovay
Van Heflin's first starring role and the feature debut of director Fred Zinnemann, MGM's Kid Glove Killer is not a lost classic of crime cinema, but it is a fun little procedural of a B-picture with some sharp dialogue and more forensic detail than I've seen in this era until John Sturges' Mystery Street (1950); its technical tickyboxes include ballistic fingerprinting, fiber analysis, spectrography, endlessly labeled slides, and the first-rate chemistry in-joke of mocking up a reaction with dry ice so that the flask looks like it's got something really fancy going on inside it. The film's heroes are a pair of underpaid scientists working for the crime lab of the Chicago-ish city of Chatsburg, which has lately suffered the shocking double loss of both its crusading DA and its sincerely incorruptible mayor, neither of natural causes unless ropes, ponds, and car bombs can be filed under acts of God; despite the necessarily painstaking nature of their work, Heflin's Gordon McKay and Marsha Hunt's Jane Mitchell find themselves expected to deliver miracles on command, conjuring a killer's name out of the stray threads and burnt matches and dog hairs that might as well be so many oracle bones as far as the impatient police, press, and public are concerned. No one outright suggests railroading the small business owner seen loitering around the mayor's house the night before the explosion—furious that the new DA's vaunted crackdown on crime didn't extend to the hoods shaking him and his wife down for protection—but there's a lot of official pressure to connect the dots to Eddie Quillan's hot-headed innocent. In the meantime a sort of love triangle is progressing between the two scientists and one ambitious lawyer, although the viewer can't invest too much in the romantic suspense since our privileged information includes the identity of the murderer. I confess I'm not sure where the kid gloves came into it.

It is rare for me not to like Heflin in a film, even when he's playing kind of a dick, and he makes an engaging proto-nerd here, a slouchy, grouchy smart-ass in a lab coat who has managed to figure out that he's in love with his educated, attractive coworker but not yet that flirting by insult only works for Oscar Levant. (His eventual apology is legitimately adorable.) Hunt as Mitchell is nicely, unequivocally competent and has little time for her colleague's negging even as it's clear from space that she'd reciprocate his interest if he were only a little less schoolyard about it, but her character feels like a conservative compromise when she insists repeatedly—despite sufficient aptitude for chemistry that she has a master's degree in it—that forensics is "no career for a woman." I do appreciate that heteronormativity is defused at least once by McKay conceding wryly that it's "not much of a career for a man, either. No prestige, no glamour, no money. People holler at you when there are no miracles." I suppose it is also sociologically interesting that the script's anxiety about science and gender runs both ways—unless it's to prove that spending nine-tenths of your life behind a microscope doesn't make you less of a man, I have no idea why McKay is apparently incapable of confronting a suspect without a fight scene. He is otherwise not very macho, which I am fine with. He can't throw a dart straight to save his life. If the human heart were located in the right elbow, though, that firing-range target would have totally had it.

The extremely spoilery original trailer suggests that Kid Glove Killer was intended as the start of a series and I'm almost surprised it didn't happen—if Thin Man stand-ins Joel and Garda Sloane could get a trilogy, I don't see why we couldn't have enjoyed more McKay and Mitchell. As it is, the one film is all we've got. It runs 72 minutes and they are worth it all for the scene in which Heflin performs a precise, self-annotated mime of catching, cleaning, preparing, and then jettisoning a trout, all with the serious concentration of the slightly sloshed. He handles plain air so confidently, you can see the glint of the butter knife he's cleaning on the tablecloth and want to hand him one of those modern-day rubber grips for the ketchup bottle with the sticky cap. I have no idea if it was part of the original script or improvised on set or what on earth, but now I want to know where I can find more Van Heflin doing mime. He and Zinnemann would later reteam to superb and less comic effect in Act of Violence (1948). I appear to have seen Hunt as the Broadway-bent eldest of Frank Borzage's Seven Sweethearts (1942), but I don't hold it against her. Ava Gardner cameos as a cute married carhop. I hope to God mineral oil salad dressing is as much a thing of the past as the constant chain-smoking in chemically sensitive laboratory conditions. [edit: WHAT THE HELL IT'S NOT.] This investigation brought to you by my scientific backers at Patreon.

Herb Garden

18 July 2017 16:41
osprey_archer: (nature)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
Micky and I swept through Cornell today, first to the art museum, where we spent most of our time on the top floor with the Asian Art - they go all across Asia, which naturally takes up quite a bit of space and time, so we were tired out by the end and didn't stop long in the rest of the museum. Well, except for a beautiful display of Tiffany glass on the landing between the second & third floors.

And then we went to the Cornell Botanical Gardens today, although it was rather hot, and had an absolutely splendid time walking around their herb garden - which was separated into themed plots, "Culinary Herbs," "Herbs for Tea," "Healing Herbs," "Herbs from Literature," and so on and so forth. (Many of the herbs were of course in more than one plot.)

I had a brief but intense interest in healing herbs when I was a kid, so it was nice to be able to see all those herbs that I'd read about in the flesh, if you will.

And also to sniff the leaves of many, many different kinds of mint, and try to pick up the non-mint undertones that are supposed to be there - apple mint, chocolate mint (yes, that's it's own plant!), mint sage... But really they all smelled like mint to me.

***

After that, being rather hot and tired, we repaired to an ice cream shop and thence to Micky's house (where I have been TRYING to do my laundry, but I fear I have become the Bane of Washing Machines - I broke the one in my apartment not too long ago, did I tell you? Well, I don't think I did anything to break it, it just broke while I was using it, but still...

In any case I have been having trouble getting the machine to work. Nothing seems to be working this afternoon: I also attempted to write a bit more of the Adventures of Harriet and Troy and alas have come up against the rocky shoals of Peter Wimsey's inimitable voice. He never sounds like himself when I write him. i suppose I could just cut him out entirely and have Troy meet Harriet all on her own, but then Wimsey can't discomfit Alleyn by calling him by his old Eton nickname (which, I have decided, should be "Allers,"), which would be too bad...

Oh well, dear. This is all lots of fun to brainstorm about, but I really can't do Peter's voice justice, and on the whole it's really more ambitious than I think I want to write. Perhaps it's just better to accept that the brainstorming will be the final product - as tormenting as that may be. Surely it's better than having nothing at all?

***

On the bright side, Micky has introduced me to The Great British Bake-Off. In fact she is at least the third friend to recommend this to me, but the first one to take the necessary step of forcing me to sit down and watch an episode, and it is just as charming and delightful as everyone has always promised.
swan_tower: (Default)
[personal profile] swan_tower

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael F. Haspil at Denver Comic-Con recently, and he had me at the word “Egyptology.” The hero of his debut novel is a mummy and former pharaoh — how could I not be interested in that! But I’ll let Michael tell you about how it took a different character to bring his mummy’s story to, er, life for him.

***

cover art for GRAVEYARD SHIFT by Michael F. HaspilI wrote the original version of GRAVEYARD SHIFT during NaNoWriMo some time ago. However, I still remember when the story really jumped into gear and, regrettably, that wasn’t truly in the first draft, though at the time I thought it was.

As I began revisions and sorted through the aftermath of a NaNo first draft, certain aspects stood out as being decent. The main character, Alex Menkaure, an immortal pharaoh now working in a special supernatural police unit in modern-day Miami, and his partner, Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, needed minor work. The climactic battle at the end against the villains needed a lot of polish. While the action was solid, I wrote the section in a blur and it showed. Also, there was something missing. While Alex and Marcus are formidable, the villains I’d set up for them to go against were more so, and they needed help.

The help came in the form of Rhuna Gallier, a young but vicious shapeshifter with her own agenda. I’d had an idea for her character while brainstorming another novel, but realized with some minor tweaks, Rhuna and “The Pack” could fit into GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s story and world.

When I wrote the next draft, as I seeded Rhuna’s presence throughout the book, she threatened to take over the entire thing and make it hers. This may sound weird to non-writers, but she didn’t seem to understand this was Alex’s story and she was a supporting character. So I promised her besides the climax she would get a cool action scene. I knew in the scene Rhuna needed to be mostly on her own with minimal support so I could showcase her lethality.

In GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s world, a practice goes by the underground name of S&B. It stands for Sangers, a derogatory name for vampires, and Bleeders, humans who willingly let vampires feed on them to experience the pleasurable sensations that come with it. Participants meet in bloodclubs, which are akin to prohibition-era speakeasies. Many unsavory activities such as human trafficking, blood and drug dealing, and murder, happen near the clubs and they are part of Miami’s criminal underbelly.

In the early draft, I had a criminal vampire who liked to prey on young girls, take one of his victims to the club. It was an unhappy chapter and ended with the vampire killing another victim. In the new draft, Rhuna showed up. That’s when the story jumped to life. Rhuna took the place of the victim and suddenly where I had a naïve girl falling prey to an old vampire’s wiles, now I had Rhuna going in as a Trojan horse and the vampire and his companions never knew what hit them.

I rewrote the sequence, several chapters long, in one sitting. Now, I can’t wait to write Rhuna’s novel. It’s going to be great fun.

***

From the cover copy:

Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.

When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.

If they succeed, they’ll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodier than any the world has ever seen.

Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul. An avid gamer, he serves as a panelist on the popular “The Long War” webcasts and podcasts, which specializes in Warhammer 40,000 strategy, tactics, and stories. Graveyard Shift is his first novel. Find him online at michaelhaspil.com or @michaelhaspil.

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

(no subject)

17 July 2017 20:54
skygiants: C-ko the shadow girl from Revolutionary Girl Utena in prince drag (someday my prince will come)
[personal profile] skygiants
[personal profile] genarti read The Privilege of the Sword for the first time recently, because I had been telling her to since 2008, and then kept trying to talk to me about it. Unfortunately at this point I did not remember most of the things she was trying to talk to me about because I hadn't read it since 2007, so eventually I also had to reread it in self-defense.

It turns out this is still and probably will always be my favorite Ellen Kushner book. The central plotline follows Katherine, a cheerful young lady who gets invited to restore the family fortunes by going to live with her incredibly weird uncle in the big city and becoming a swordsman!

Unlike many plucky heroines, Katherine does not initially have really any interest at all in cross-dresing or becoming a swordsman. However, eventually she comes to enjoy swordfighting for its own sake, helped along by the mentorship of her incredibly weird uncle's nice ex-boyfriend, the necessity of dueling for a friend's honor, and the discovery that bisexuality and gender fluidity are potentially relevant concepts to her teen coming-of-age story.

...that's the A-plot! B, C, D, E, and F plots include:

- Katherine's mom's reparation of her relationship with Katherine's weird uncle
- Katherine's weird uncle's actress girlfriend's dreamy new cross-dressing fantasy Broadway show
- Katherine's weird uncle's unfortunate friendship breakup with his mathematician bestie
- Katherine's bff's attempts to overcome trauma from rape-by-fiance by engaging in romantic gay roleplay via letter-writing
- Katherine's other bff's attempts to overcome trauma from an abusive childhood by engaging in competitive voyeurism
- Katherine's bff's gigolo cousin's star-crossed romance with a scriptwriter/potter who is on the run from her abusive in-laws who do not appear in this book
- trade routes?? politics?????

I'm pretty sure that's not all the plots. There are so many plots in this book. It's fine because the plots are barely the point at best, the point is coming-of-age and life after trauma and thumbing your nose at Societal Conventions while getting to know and like yourself! I especially enjoy how in the end, spoilers )

(Note: emo murderous Alec from Swordspoint drives me up a wall in his own book, but is significantly more tolerable to me when he's just Katherine's incredibly weird uncle. I mean he still drives me up a wall here but it's much funnier when he's driving everyone else up a wall too.)
sovay: (Claude Rains)
[personal profile] sovay
So there is a famous scene in Sidney J. Furie's The Ipcress File (1965) in which Michael Caine's Harry Palmer impresses Sue Lloyd's attractive fellow counter-espionage agent with a home-cooked omelet prepared and plated as deftly as a fine restaurant; it impressed me, especially when he cracked the eggs one-handed (in a close-up cameo from author Len Deighton) without crumpling fragments of shell everywhere. I've still got this brace on my right hand, so [personal profile] spatch cooked me an omelet for dinner before he left for work tonight because he had made one for himself last night when he got home and it had looked beautiful and I'd have needed two working hands. With my one working hand, however, I can now crack an egg on the side of a bowl without crumpling fragments of shell everywhere two out of three times (the third time required some fishing) and I am genuinely pretty proud of this fact.
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
The one logistical thing that has not gone swimmingly with D's move to assisted living has been moving her landline.

The extent to which Verizon has screwed this up has been epic. [personal profile] tn3270 referred to it as a Russian novel.

Penultimately, I had a conversation with billing that went approximately thus:
Billing: Hello, Verizon Billing, this is [NAME]. How can I help you today?

Me: You can waive this month's bill because Verizon has screwed up two move orders so far, and the 90 year old account holder hasn't had access to her phone line for five days and counting. It's still not on at her new place, but I understand there's an expedited technician order for today. But who knows? You're the seventh Verizon employee I've talked to so far, and I've been told a variety of wrong and contradictory things every step of the way. This has been the worst corporate fiasco I've been involved with in years.

Billing: ...yes, we will totally credit the account for the month.

I had originally thought that we might have trouble because Verizon had security and stuff, and I wasn't the account holder (D) and I wasn't the contact on the account ([personal profile] tn3270). But no. I text chatted with Verizon in advance of putting in the order (CSR #1), and they told me what authentication tokens I needed to authorize the move order, I got them, and they worked fine when I put the order in.

No, everything went to hell apparently due to galloping incompetence on Verizon's (staff's) part(s).

Initially, I was told we didn't need a technician to come out for the line move, unless we wanted help plugging the phone into the wall; they could do it on their end. For the record, this is a good ol' fashioned POTS line, and moving within the same town. Fine. Once we'd nailed down the move date and booked movers – June 30th, to be precise – I got back in touch – btw, I was using the Verizon website realtime customer service chat, because I couldn't find a damn customer service phone number. It's 1800VERIZON, btw. So I fired up the chat thingy, and talked to a customer serv rep (CSR#2), who said they'd be happy to do the move order for me. Somewhere in the middle of the process, he apologized to me and said that the system was saying that a technician is required for that address; that there were no available technicians on the move in date, but could do the day after (7/13) between 1pm and 5pm, and it wouldn't cost anything to have the technician. I said to make it so, so he put the move order in. I asked him to confirm the service and he quotes me a price that I later find out is almost twice D's usual bill. I ask him whether he needs the account contact there to meet the technician, and he doesn't know, so he transfers me to another cust serv rep (CSR#3), who says, no, any adult who can let the tech in is fine, and who confirms the order is all complete, and (he specifically said this) the previous CSR did everything necessary.

Subsequently, [personal profile] tn3270 got a phone call from Verizon confirming the incipient move.

On Thursday, 7/13, 6pm no Verizon tech, and D's landline still has no dial tone at the new place, and is still working at her old place.

I am working until 9pm, so when I get home around 10pm, I get back on the text chat, and ask what happened. I'm informed they can find no move order on the account. The cust serv rep (CSR#4) asks if I have an ID number for the move order, and I don't have one. But they're happy to submit a new move order. Grrrrr. I say, yes, do it. After a long pause, the cust serv rep apologizes and says they can't do the move. Because it's a landline. The text-chat customer serv reps can't do landline moves. For that you have to call in. 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM EST Monday through Friday or 9:00AM to 5:00PM on Saturday. Also, he tells me, I might need to present paperwork in person at a local Verizon office.

It's after 10pm on Thursday, so I have to wait until the phone is staffed again. Why they can have 24/7 text chat CSRs but not 24/7 phone CSRs, I don't know.

Other stuff comes up, that has priority Friday, so I don't get to call Verizon until Saturday, 7/15. The rep I speak to (CSR#5) tells me she sees no record of the move order for Thursday, but she can totally put in a move order for right now immediately. I say the guy I talked to on Thursday said I needed a technician and special documentation; she said she had no idea what he was on about, no technician was needed, and no, they didn't need any special documentation. She said it would be done by "5 today, though maybe really more like by midnight". I make her give me the order number for this move order.

Sunday, 7/16, still no dialtone at her new place, dialtone at the old place. Verizon is closed for phone calls.

Today, Monday, 7/17, I call Verizon and ask WTELF. The CSR (CSR#6) calls up the account and says, "Oh, I see you had a move order for last Thursday." "WAIT. WUT. You can see that order? I was told you guys had no record of that order!" I make him read me the order number; so now I have the order numbers for both move orders that failed to happen. He then apologizes on Verizon's behalf and tells me they over-booked technicians, and that is why no technician came out. "BUT, BUT, WAIT. NOBODY EVER CALLED OR EMAILED. I WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO ORDER. THE LAST PERSON TOLD ME WE DIDN'T NEED A TECHNICIAN AT ALL." The CSR apologized again, and said he'd put the order in, and expedite it, and a technician would be by today.

Then I explained that I wanted the bill credited, and he referred me to billing (CSR#7), who both credited the bill ([personal profile] tn3270 has already got the confirmation email) and confirmed her service level and price, contra CSR#2.

Miraculously, a Verizon technician actually showed up at the assisted living facility today. He did a bunch of stuff, including something in the network closet and sticking some sort of probe in her wall socket, and assured us everything in the building is all set.

She still doesn't have dialtone, though; the technician confidently told [personal profile] tn3270 that the problem was on the pole outside. They'll have a lineman deal with that tomorrow (Tuesday, 7/18).

Next up, contacting the Mass DTC to see about filing an official complaint.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
I am home from Readercon and I have fed the cats and I think Autolycus has even forgiven me for not being around the last few nights to provide a keyboard for him to walk on, since he just sprang up and left the comment "ggggggggggggggggggggggggggcfghhhhhhhhh" on Facebook. (It was surprisingly apt in context. More people have liked it than have liked the actual-words comment I'd left just above.) Hestia has rubbed her head all over my shirt in order to reclaim me as part of the household rather than a hotel that doesn't even smell like cat. I had a really good weekend.

I had five program items on Friday. The first was my reading, which I think went well; it was recorded by both Readercon and Jim Freund of Hour of the Wolf, so I'll link to either or both as they're made available. I read from my recently completed, as yet unpublished short story "The Face of the Waters" with new poetry on either side and wore glasses in public for the first time, which was less a cosmetic issue than a matter of figuring out how to negotiate eye contact with my audience without bifocals. Of the panels that followed, I don't think any of them were trainwrecks: "I Am Become Death . . . No, I Mean Literally" went off-script almost immediately, but in an abstract, ethnographic way that the audience as well as the panelists seem to have enjoyed, and "The Works of Tanith Lee" was as wide-ranging as the literature we were talking about. I feel bad about overstating the degree to which I believe Owen Davies is a parental fuck-up during "Classic YA Book Club: The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper," but I regret nothing about rhapsodically anti-recommending Kathleen Sky's Witchdame (1985) in "Terrible . . . but Great" because somebody turned to me abruptly in an elevator the next day and complimented me on my flailing. More seriously, someone else told me that they had scoured the dealer's room for Lee's work because of the way I talked about her on the panel and been rewarded by everything they had read so far. That was really nice to hear.

In the one non-programming group activity I managed all weekend, I joined [personal profile] rushthatspeaks, [personal profile] ashnistrike, [personal profile] skygiants, and [personal profile] kate_nepveu for dinner at Taipei Cuisine, with dessert at Yocha afterward. There was sweet corn with salty egg yolk and chili-fried shrimp with peanuts and lotus root with mushrooms and sesame chicken and a couple of dishes that didn't work out but were worth ordering just to see what they were like, although "with bones in" is not how anybody was expecting the popcorn frog. I hope I can get a coconut smoothie with lychee jelly other places than Yocha, because it's a really nice dessert. I would not be the person to write it, but I hope someone does a serious critical survey of that phase of '80's fantasy when it was all idtastic, all the time.

I do not know if I can promise a Patreon review of it, but I nonetheless recommend "Level Seven" (1966), a formerly lost episode of Out of the Unknown (1965–71) adapted by J.B. Priestley from Mordecai Roshwald's 1959 pre-and-post-apocalyptic novel of the same name; it is more streamlined and more of a parable than its source material, but pulls no more punches when it comes to the likelihood of surviving MAD. Young David Collings turns out to remind me of Peter Cushing. I think it's the cheekbones and the breakdowns.

The rest of Friday night was terrible. Between four and five in the morning, I had some kind of severe allergic reaction to an unknown trigger. It was like anaphylaxis with violent nausea: I took Benadryl as soon as I realized that my throat and mouth were prickling and swelling and I had suddenly stopped being able to breathe through my nose and for all I know it saved my life, but did not prevent the rash all over my body or the wheezing when I breathed. Sleep was not so much a thing for the rest of the night. I took Benadryl conscientiously round the clock until this evening and the symptoms gradually subsided, but it took a full twelve hours for my mouth to stop being numb. I have no known food allergies; I am hoping I have not suddenly developed any. The best medical guess right now is either one bad shrimp or some kind of slow-building reaction to a medication I started a week and a half ago. I will be calling my doctors about it on Monday. It was scary.

I had one panel on Saturday at noon and I feel slightly as though I hallucinated my way through it, but I remember talking about Phyllis Gotlieb and Yoon Ha Lee and The Robots of Death (1977), because the panel was "Life, Love, and Robots," and then I drifted briefly through the dealers' room with my mother and ran into [personal profile] aedifica for a very careful lunch (I dissected the chicken out of a chicken sandwich) and then I slept for the rest of the afternoon. I did not manage to have dinner with [personal profile] yhlee. I did not manage to have dinner at all. I did manage to spend portions of the evening hanging out with Yoon and [personal profile] choco_frosh and Rush-That-Speaks and Ashnistrike and [personal profile] nineweaving, cautiously drinking herbal tea and eating my way through the pocketful of ginger chews I stole from the green room. Instead of attending any of the con's numerous room parties, I went back upstairs and answered some e-mail and continued reading Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising (1973), which I had brought in hardcover to the previous day's panel. [personal profile] spatch came out after his evening show and stayed with me just in case I stopped breathing in the middle of the night. I didn't.

I got the news about Jodie Whittaker's Thirteenth Doctor right before arriving for "Disturbed by Her Song: Gender, Queerness, and Sexuality in the Works of Tanith Lee," so Rush-That-Speaks and Steve Berman and I talked about Doctor Who for the first five minutes and I maintain gender-changing, self-reinventing immortals are totally on point for a discussion of Tanith Lee anyway. It was an enormously fun panel and may have repercussions.

This was a good year for books. I came away from the convention with Michael Thomas Ford's Lily (2016), L.A. Fields' Homo Superiors (2016), John Maddox Roberts' The Seven Hills (2005), Michael Cisco's The Wretch of the Sun (2016), Yevgeny Zamyatin's The Dragon (ed. and trans. Mirra Ginsburg, 1967), and five pulp novels by Fredric Brown all courtesy of [personal profile] alexxkay: The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), The Dead Ringer (1948), The Bloody Moonlight (1949), The Screaming Mimi (1949), and Compliments of a Fiend (1950). I could not afford the first edition of Nicholas Stuart Gray's The Apple-Stone (1965) on display at Somewhere in Time Books, but I am going to look for it in libraries because either I've read the Nesbit-like scene in which the children bring a Bonfire Night guy to life and it takes its face and voice from all of them by turns or someone once described it to me and either way it gave me the same jolt of half-recognition as Eleanor Farjeon's The Silver Curlew (1953), so I need to figure out what happened there. This was not a good year for seeing people, but I am glad to have caught the people I did, like [personal profile] lesser_celery and Gillian Daniels and briefly [personal profile] rosefox, and especially pleased that I managed to snag a conversation with Michael Cisco and Farah Rose Smith on Friday before my corporeal manifestation blew up. I did not take notes on any programming, but Kate Nepveu did.

(Can Martin Landau have played one of the first queer characters I ever saw in a movie? We can argue about the positive representation of "Call it my woman's intuition, if you will" Leonard in North by Northwest (1959), but he's not even subtext: I always read him and James Mason and Eva Marie Saint as a triangle. I found out he had died as soon as I got home; I had already seen the same about George Romero and Maryam Mirzakhani. Jeez, Sunday.)

Either to sum up or really bury the lede, I can now announce that Steve Berman of Lethe Press will be publishing a collection of my short fiction in 2018. Details are yet to be determined, but it will be my first fiction collection since Singing Innocence and Experience in 2005 and I am incredibly happy about it. I will share the details as soon as they exist.

My plans for the immediate future involve sleep.

Ithaca

16 July 2017 23:00
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I am arrived in Ithaca! The one in New York, not the Greek island, although the Greek island would also be a splendid place to visit someday.

We had a splendid dinner at a restaurant called Rulloff's, which is named after a famous nineteenth century Ithaca murderer (or famous at the time, at least; I had not heard of him until I read his famous last words written up on a chalkboard on the wall in the restaurant), and possessed of excellent food. We had crepes for dessert - or at least, we ordered crepes; I am not sure the chef understood that crepes are in fact supposed to be thinner than ordinary pancakes. However, as the pancakes were topped with raspberry compote and Nutella creamed into mascarpone, of course we forgave them their trespasses and ate them up entire.

***

And I had another thought about Oneida, which I forgot to put in my post yesterday.

Our guide mentioned that over the years in Oneida, the community voted to stop using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. Now on the one hand, these are all pretty normal nineteenth-century candidates for reform (the Mormons also banned, and IIRC still ban, all three).

But at the same time, hearing about this reminded me of the Rat Park experiments, which were studies in morphine addiction that took place back in the seventies. Rats in ordinary lab rat cages swiftly get addicted to morphine when they're offered the opportunity to take morphine-laced water. However, Bruce Alexander discovered that rats who lived in a less restricted environment - in a structure he called Rat Park, where they had toys and (more importantly) other rats to play with - barely used the morphine water at all.

And what occurred to me is that, for all its problems - which were after all severe enough to eventually break the community apart - Oneida was basically Human Park. Here you've got all these people hanging out together all the time, even doing a lot of their work in bees (think quilting bee, not spelling bee) so it will be more social and fun, constantly putting on entertainments for each other and playing croquet together and, of course, having lots of sex. Who needs cigarettes or beer or even tea when they've got infinite croquet?

...I mean, you'd still have to pull my tea out of my cold dead hands. But then I'm not living in Oneida, now am I.

***

Although it's also worth noting that living for five years in Oneida failed to dent future presidential assassin Charles Guiteau's delusions of grandeur even slightly, so clearly all the togetherness in the world is not a panacea.

(no subject)

16 July 2017 09:37
skygiants: Nellie Bly walking a tightrope among the stars (bravely trotted)
[personal profile] skygiants
Rose Melikan's The Blackstone Key is one of the few books I've grabbed at random off a library shelf recently without ever having heard of it. Then I immediately grabbed the next two books, The Counterfeit Guest and The Mistaken Wife, so I guess they were doing something right, although also several things not right.

These books are deeply fluffy YA-ish Regency espionage hijinks starring Mary Finch, an impoverished orphan schoolteacher turned (by the end of the first book) surprise heiress with an unexpectedly encyclopedic knowledge of British law and an enthusiastic penchant for Adventures! !! !!!

Captain Holland, the series love interest, is an artillery officer who is good at mechanics and up on new military technologies. Other salient characteristics include:
- a terrible tendency towards sea- and carriage-sickness
- an ongoing resentful inability to understand all the clever literary and historical references being tossed around by the rest of the characters
- CONSTANT MONEY STRESS

I'll be honest, he won me over during the first book when Mary's like "am I a bad person for worrying about how the outcome of all this espionage will affect my potential inheritance?" and he's like "DEFINITELY NOT, if anybody tells you they don't stress about money THEY ARE LYING."

Rose Melikan is a scholar of the period and very good on British military history. She is not so good on plot. The first book is complete, hilariously convoluted nonsense involving SMUGGLERS and CIPHERS and MYSTERIOUS WATCHES and a SURPRISE CHANCE-MET DYING VILLAIN. It turns out that spoilers )

The second book is probably my favorite and definitely the least nonsense plot-wise; it's about the 1797 naval mutinies, and Our Heroine gets recruited to spy on a plotter because she happens to know his wife and will likely be in his house, which does not stretch suspension of disbelief too very wildly. (It's also sort of entertaining to watch the author do a careful dance between what I suspect is a personal sympathy for unionization and strike tactics and the fact that Mass Military Mutiny Is Definitely A Bad Thing, Our Characters Must Stop It At Any Cost.)

...then in Book Three we are expected to believe that an actual professional spy sees no better alternative for an important espionage mission than taking a well-known youthful heiress and society figure whose salient skills are, as aforementioned, a knowledge of British law and an enthusiasm for Adventure, and sneaking her off to Paris in a fake marriage with a clueless American painter while her respectable household desperately tries to pretend she's in London the whole time. At this point suspension of disbelief goes straight out the window again.

I have mixed feelings about Book Three in general; it's the darkest of the three and several sympathetic characters die as a direct result of Our Heroes' espionage endeavors including infuriating spoiler ) I'm not here for that! I'M HERE FOR THE HIJINKS.

Oneida Community

15 July 2017 17:23
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I discovered, FAR TOO LATE, that it is actually possible to stay in the old Oneida Community building: they have converted part of it into a hotel (and an even larger part of it into apartments). IF ONLY! But they seem to get booked up far in advance, so probably even if I had popped over to their website when the idea of a road trip first occurred to me in June, I still couldn't have stayed there.

Still. MAYBE SOMEDAY. Upstate New York is so beautiful - I've never been here before, but I love the mountains - and so full of history: I just happened to stumble upon L. Frank Baum's hometown today. They have an Oz museum, which I did not visit, but if I come back...

Mostly I spent the day visiting the Oneida Community Mansion House, where the three hundred odd members of the community lived from the 1860s to 1880, when the community broke up. (They were in the area since 1848, but it took them some time to gather the resources to build that stately brick house.) I took the guided tour, which was really wonderful - we had a thoughtful and well-informed docent, a former English teacher, who not only knew everything about the house but had read most of the books in the gift shop and helped me decide which one to buy. (I ended up with Pierrepont B. Noyes' memoir of his childhood at Oneida, which is delightful so far.)

The Oneida Community was a Christian perfectionist cult - perfectionist in the sense of "We can achieve sinless grace on earth!", not its modern meaning. They practiced:

1. Bible communism. Everyone in the community holds all goods in common; the community takes care of everyone and everyone does work for the community, and all kinds of work are held to be holy.

2. Complex marriage. All the men and women in the community are heterosexually married to each other. People at the time often figured that there was a constant orgy going on in the mansion, but in fact sexual contact had to be carefully negotiated, usually through an intermediary, and anyone had the right to say no. (Charles Guiteau, who later assassinated President Garfield, lived in the Oneida Community for five years and could not get laid.) You'd think women would be getting pregnant all the time, except the community also practiced

3. Male continence. Men were not to ejaculate during sex. This apparently worked really well - there were only forty pregnancies in the group's first twenty years of existence - possibly because incorrect ejaculation would come up during Mutual Criticism, which would be totally mortifying and also limit one's future sex partners.

4. Which brings us neatly to Mutual Criticism, during which people were allowed - nay, encouraged! - to tell you all your faults so you could try to correct them and thus approach nearer to spiritual perfection. This sounds excruciating, but Pierrepont Noyes, in his memoir, comments that "because members had the opportunity to criticize each other openly, Community life was singularly free from backbiting and scandalmongering," so perhaps it's a case of ripping off the bandaid all in one go rather than taking it up millimeter by excruciating millimeter.

And also everyone except John Humphrey Noyes, the founder, underwent Mutual Criticism, so any impulse toward harshness much have been tempered by the knowledge that the criticizer might soon by the criticized.

I have no idea if the Community owned this many portraits of Noyes when it was active, but now they are everywhere. It reminded me a bit of the omnipresent Lenins in the Soviet Union, although this comparison is unfair to Noyes: he seems to have been about as benevolent a patriarch as it is possible for any human being to be, spoken of with love and respect even after the community fell apart.

Although I do think the comparison does serve to show the limits of the Oneida community, as enticing as certain aspects of the experiment seem. (I for one like the idea of living in a mansion full of like-minded people with a well-stocked reading room and an endless round of entertainments: the Oneidans, no ascetics, played croquet, put on plays, read novels aloud to each other, and fielded a full orchestra.) Communes seem to need a charismatic leader to succeed - hence the mayfly nature of most nineteenth-century commune experiments - and there's no guarantee you'll get a benevolent Noyes rather than someone voraciously power-mad.
osprey_archer: (writing)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I have to leave Lily Dale today, and feel rather as though I am being pushed out of paradise. It is so quiet here! So quiet – and so many flowers – and I’ve gotten such a lot of work done – 7,000 words on a new novel!

Which is perhaps too similar to The Time-Traveling Popcorn Ball in some ways, by the by, but perhaps that one was not quite ready for prime time yet, poor thing.

But there are no rooms at the inn, so I must be moving on. I’m heading up toward Oneida, I think. We shall see if I actually make it all the way to my stated destination this time…

***

Oh, and also – I hope you’re happy, you monsters:

“Lord Peter Wimsey was one of your schoolfriends?” Troy asked.

“A schoolmate, at least,” Alleyn said, after a slight hesitation. “We investigated a case together at school.”

Under other circumstances, Troy might have laughed, or pressed for details. But now she simply smoothed the letter in her hand and frowned down at it again. “And now he wants me to paint his wife, the suspected murderess.”

“Acquitted,” Alleyn reminded her. “Not all suspects are guilty, you know.”

“Of course,” Troy said. Her own days as a murder suspect rose in her mind. She pushed them ruthlessly back. “But no one seems to have impressed this on the press. A suspected murderess painting a suspected murderess – soon I will be painting nothing but pretty murderesses for their rich foolish fans. So many criminals have the most boring faces.”

As she spoke, a newspaper photograph from the Vane case floated up in her mind. The girl had looked almost ugly, with a sullen mouth and a strong, dark brow.

It was the brow that made Troy pause now. There might be something in that. One could not tell from a newspaper photograph.

“I suppose,” she acquiesced, “it will do no harm to meet her.”
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