Wonder Woman: A Very Short Review

June 26th, 2017 07:06 am
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

My son and I agree that the super hero movie is now become formulaic. You need your origin narrative. Your superhero debut. Your major conflict, ideally involving saving the world. It’s as rigid a formula as the Western.

It’s about due for a shakeup IMO. We don’t get it with Wonder Woman, because DC is not where you go to for innovation, But as any romance writer will tell you, there’s a reason why formulas exist. And this movie does show why, by demonstrating the excellence of the old tropes. Her Amazon heritage and upbringing on Themiscyra, the arrival of Steve Trevor and the move to Man’s World, all there. The battle with Ares is very nice, tying together her innocence (a new and welcome addition to the mythos) and the Amazon mission which dates back to William Moulton Marston’s original conception of the character.

My son assures me that moving her origin from WW2 to WW1 was to get the character away from Captain America’s resolutely WW2 origins. I got no problem with it — clearly the first World War was a good moment for an Amazon to appear and try to end mankind’s war. And this neatly demonstrates her immortality — she hasn’t aged a day in a hundred years. My complaint is, if you’re going to be historical, then do it. Steve Trevor doesn’t look or speak like an American who must have been born in the 1890s. This is the more annoying because they knew how to get it right. All of Trevor’s team of misfits sound right; their very existence (a motley crew of multinationals) is a tip of the hat to ‘Over There’ adventures of the period.

Another much-noted novelty is the all-around excellence of how a female protagonist is handled. There’s no gratuitous T & A (although that brass bustier must be horribly uncomfortable, especially under the arms). Diana has full agency and is in complete control of her decisions. And oh! Etta Candy! The chubby girl is here at last! No, this is an excellent superhero movie, and since the form seems to dominate the summer movie, let them be good movies, like this one.

 

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No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin

June 26th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by News Editor

 

No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le GuinBVC mirrors founding member Ursula K. Le Guin’s blog. We are happy to report that selected blog posts will appear in No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.

Review:

Barbara’s Picks, Nov./Dec. 2017, by Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal. “Le Guin here collects the best essays from her blog, a new medium for her that fits her pointedly glistening writing.”

 

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梅雨 Diary - Settling in (23 June)

June 26th, 2017 09:24 am
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
Perhaps I should make some attempt to describe this campus. Toukyou Joshi Dai isn't a big university by the standards of the UK (it has about 3,000 students to Cardiff's 30,000, for example). It takes up what in American terms would be a block (if you're from Bristol, think of the zoo). That space has quite a few older buildings dotted around, like the one in which I'm living, some of which were apparently designed by a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright with a taste for inverted dishes, as well as a few plate-glass jobs with offices and teaching rooms.

DSC00028
This turns out to be purely decorative, and not after all a way of communicating with extra-terrestials

There's also a rather grand main building, with the Latin motto "QUAECUNQUE SUNT VERA" inscribed on the front. For this is a Christian foundation, as its English name (Tokyo Woman's Christian University) makes clear, even though the "Christian" bit is dropped in Japanese translation.

DSC00054

There are trees (木), groves (林) and woods (森) (who said that kanji were hard to learn?), and although these come with matching mosquitoes I think it's well worth it. It certainly doesn't feel like the middle of one of the world's great metropoles. In some ways it resembles my idea of an American liberal arts college, although before you use this as a reliable reference you should remember that my ideas of American liberal arts colleges derive entirely from having read The Secret History and Tam Lin. Unlike a typical liberal arts college, this university appears (as far as I can tell) not to be a hub for ritual murder, whether inspired by Dionysian frenzy or the need to pay a tithe to hell, and as far as I'm concerned this is a plus. On the contrary, they take rather paternalistic care of their students, locking the gates at 11pm each evening (though nothing as extreme as the broken glass and razor wire I saw surrounding the female dorms in a Christian university in Taiwan a few years ago). Even I, when I leave the campus, have to hand my key over the guards (there are usually at least two) and pick it up again on my return - perhaps five minutes later, after a dash to the combini. I'm not sure what purpose is served by this requirement, but the guards are always very cheerful and polite, so I can't resent it.

The area is neither central Tokyo nor the suburbs, but a sweet spot somewhere in between. Turning left from the main gate the streets are quiet, with houses, family restaurants, antique and bookshops. There are people milling about, but no sense of city hustle, and more bicycles than cars. Here it is at about 7pm on my first evening, with dusk already falling in the abrupt Asian manner:

DSC00025

In the other direction is fashionable Kichijouji, a far more bustling place, for shopping by day or eating by night. Here's where you need to go if you want to eat a curry doughnut, which I intend to do as soon as may be:

DSC00051

On my first full day in Japan, though, I contented myself with buying a yukata and all the trimmings - something I've wanted for a long time. I placed myself in the hands of a very friendly department store assistant, and luckily it was one of those days when my Japanese was flowing pretty well (it varies greatly). She walked me through the process of putting on the underdress, the yukata itself, the obi, the geta (alas! my feet are so large that I had to get men's ones), and then set me up with accessories - a flower for the hair, and of course one of those terribly useful baskets.

DSC00070

I hesitate to say how much all that cost, but suffice it to say that it sated my desire to shop for at least a day.

"They order these things better in Japan" Dept. A useful feature of Japanese supermarkets is that, rather than put the food into your shopping bags at the checkout, potentially holding up other customers as you do so, they provide tables where you can take your shopping basket/trolley after you've paid, and put things in bags at your leisure - rather like the tables in airport security where you can sort out your possessions after they've been through the scanner. A simple idea, but a good one - which I noticed only having held everyone up at the checkout putting things in bags, of course.

On the other hand, here at Toukyou Joshi Dai I seem to be a celebrity:

DSC00069DSC00053

Let's hope I live up to the billing.

Saturday 25 June 1664

June 25th, 2017 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

We staid late, and he lay with me all night and rose very merry talking, and excellent company he is, that is the truth of it, and a most cunning man. He being gone I to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon to dinner, and then to my office busy, and by and by home with Mr. Deane to a lesson upon raising a Bend of Timbers,1 and he being gone I to the office, and there came Captain Taylor, and he and I home, and I have done all very well with him as to the business of the last trouble, so that come what will come my name will be clear of any false dealing with him. So to my office again late, and then to bed.

Footnotes

  1. This seems to refer to knee timber, of which there was not a sufficient supply. A proposal was made to produce this bent wood artificially: “June 22, 1664. Sir William Petty intimated that it seemed by the scarcity and greater rate of knee timber that nature did not furnish crooked wood enough for building: wherefore he thought it would be fit to raise by art, so much of it in proportion, as to reduce it to an equal rate with strait timber” (Birch’s “History of the Royal Society,”)

Read the annotations

Bits and pieces

June 25th, 2017 09:42 pm
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
[personal profile] shewhomust

  • Poking around the internet, looking for something else, I found this article about the decline in puffin numbers in Iceland. It dates back to 2013, and blames the mackerel, heading north on the warmer waters and eating the zooplankton which would otherwise feed the sand eels (ans eating the odd sand eel, too). The evidence is circumstantial, but persuasive. In passing, it suggests that the technique of catching puffins in flight using a net on a pole is actually less damaging to the puffin population than the previous method of catching them from the burrows: "Pole netting targets the tremendous wheels of flying puffins that form just off the colony cliffs. Thousands of birds spend hours flying in an arc out to sea, then banking and coming back low over the cliffs. The birds that do this are mostly adolescents. They have free time, and they spend it endlessly reconnoitering the cliffs, trying to learn what it takes to find a burrow and a mate." Of course: birds that spend their time flying round aimlessly in circles, what could they be but adolescents?

  • I described the practice of pole netting in a post last year about a television programme, also about the decline in seabird numbers, presented by Adam Nicholson. I am now reading his new book, The Seabird's Cry and hoping for more up to date information. I've barely started it, and have only just reached the chapter about puffins, but I loved this hint of how they spend their winters: "Winter puffins, dressed in grey, float in silence, picking at fish and plankton alone on the surface of the sea." Something very chilly about that wording.

  • And one puffin-free item: Harry Potter, the Durham connection. I am mildly shocked at the idea that Durham University is offering a Harry Potter module as part of its English degree: the course, as described, sounds like a very good way to teach civics to schoolchildren, but not the material for undergraduates on - oh, wait, can I even assume that it's a literature degree? Better stop here and go to bed.

Culinary

June 25th, 2017 08:47 pm
oursin: Frontispiece from C17th household manual (Accomplisht Lady)
[personal profile] oursin

During the week, baked a loaf of the Shipton Mill 3 Malts and Sunflower Organic Brown Flour.

Friday supper: Gujerati khichchari - absentmindedly used ground cumin rather than cumin seed but I don't think the effect was disastrous.

Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft rolls recipe, 2:2:1 strong white/wholemeal/dark rye flours with maple sugar and sour cherries.

Today's lunch: redfish fillets rubbed with Cajun seasoning, brushed with milk and egg and coated in panko crumbs, panfried in olive oil, served with steamed samphire tossed in butter and baby leeks healthy-grilled in avocado oil and splashed with gooseberry vinegar.

A Week of Skulls

June 25th, 2017 05:03 pm
muninnhuginn: (Default)
[personal profile] muninnhuginn
Monday
Bookish...
check the titles )
Tuesday
Preparations (tiny sketch)
sketch )
Wednesday
Embroidered sample
embroidery )
Thursday
The things we keep in our lives...
candle )
Friday's serendipity
Seen in a shop...
silver skull in dome )
Saturday
Buttons (a homage to Neil Gaiman's "Other Mother" in Coraline)...
buttoned up skull )
Sunday's serendipity
Found on the side wall of Tesco...
Grafitti )
glaurung_quena: (Default)
[personal profile] glaurung_quena
The original series of pulp novels is called "miniskirt space pirates," and the anime was released in English as "Bodacious Space Pirates", so you'd think this was a crappy sexist production full of fan service aimed at appealing to arrested adolescent males. It's absolutely not, which is why I'm using the Japanese title up there in the subject.

This is a fun, lighthearted space opera series focusing on girl power, girls working together to overcome adversity, and girls achieving their dreams (which have nothing whatsoever to do with boys or boyfriends). And it is completely devoid of the T&A fanservice bits that marred "Read or Die." The endemic sexism of the Japanese anime industry had to express itself somehow, though, so this lovely feminist series has a title that is almost guaranteed to drive away some of the people who would most appreciate it.

Backstory: In the distant future, humans have colonized the galaxy. A planet orbiting Tau Ceti called Sea of the Morningstar gets tired of being a colony subject to the homeworld, and they launch a war of independence. Lacking a space fleet, they take a page from the 17th century and issue letters of marque to pirates willing to harass the homeworld's fleet. The war is a success, but some bureaucrat made a minor mistake: the letters of marque have no expiration date. Issued to the captains of the pirate ships, they are passed down from parent to child, and you have pirate dynasties, operating with legal sanction.

100 years after the conclusion of the revolution, dozens of the pirate ships chartered during the revolution are still in business. In addition to taking on odd jobs too irregular or too risky for the taste of regular space merchants, the pirate ships get hired by the insurance companies that underwrite interstellar cruise liners. The pirate crews dress up in traditional pirate costumes, raid space liners with guns and swords drawn, and steal valuables from the high class passengers. This is deemed part of the entertainment provided during the voyage, and the cost of hiring the pirates and replacing the stolen valuables is factored into the first class ticket price.

Just prior to the first episode of the series, the pirate captain of the Bentenmaru, one of the first pirate ships commissioned by Sea of the Morningstar, dies. His partner Ririka seems to have decided that a pirate ship was no place to raise a child, so it comes as quite a surprise to 16 year old Marika Kato to learn that she can, if she wants, become the new captain of an honest to gosh pirate ship.

Marika thought she understood her life: she waitressed at an ice cream parlour, attended a fancy girl's high school, and belonged to the space yacht club at the school. Now she has to deal with a pirate crew that isn't quite sure if she has what it takes to command them, and various government agencies and rival pirate ships that are extremely interested in whether or not she plans to assume the mantle of her father (if she doesn't take over the letter of marque, the Bentenmaru's commission will expire and there will be one less pirate ship in the galaxy). Not to mention keeping up with her schoolwork and getting enough sleep.

Fortunately Marika's mom is awesome, her yacht club is full of resourceful girls who have her back, and the Bentenmaru's crew wants her to succeed because they want to keep their pirating gig.

While Read or Die had a few short story arcs to establish characters and then launched into a high drama, high stakes story that took over a dozen episodes to tell, Mouretsu Space Pirates sticks to shorter 2-4 episode stories throughout. The tone is light, the drama and the stakes are real but less nerve-wrackingly intense. Stories alternate between adventures with the yacht club and adventures with the Bentenmaru's crew (which appears to be half female).

Every so often I see people complaining about how North American SF has become too grimdark, too obsessed with dystopias. Japan is one of the places to go for optimistic SF, and this is one example. There doesn't seem to be any poverty in Marika's universe, and crime seems to have been made so rare that people pay to experience the thrill of being robbed. When it is revealed that the president of the yacht club is a lesbian and one of the Bentenmaru's jobs is to aid her lover, this is accepted by everyone without question (although there's quite a bit of blushing and looking away when the reunited lovers embrace).

I strongly recommend this series (26 episodes, plus a movie that feels like another standalone story from the series with a bigger animation budget) to anyone looking for girl-heavy SF that breaks away from the grimdark tone of so much Anglophone SF these days.

(no subject)

June 25th, 2017 12:34 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] shana!

Interesting Links for 25-06-2017

June 25th, 2017 12:00 pm

Blending People

June 25th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Steven Popkes

(Picture from here.)

Human beings are biased towards themselves.

We then to think of the world as reflections of ourselves. We project our nature on our pets, our automobiles, our weapons, the landscape and fictional entities. Sometimes I think we are incapable of separating ourselves from the world.

But we force three qualities together that are completely separable because they are bound together in us. These qualities are sentienceconsciousness and intelligence.

Let me define my terms.

Sentience is the ability to feel and experience. It is the capacity to suffer and feel joy. Consciousness is the ability to be aware of ourselves as an entity. While sentience allows us to suffer, it is consciousness that determines that we are suffering as opposed to anyone else.

Which leaves intelligence as the ability to learn, retain knowledge and apply that knowledge. It is the ability to perceive the relationships between things.

In human beings, these are all mixed up. We are thinking, feeling beings that are aware of ourselves. Consequently, we blend these things when we think about things other than human beings. Bacteria, fungi, ants and bees function intelligently. Are they sentient? Are they conscious? Rats are sentient and demonstrably intelligent. Are they conscious?

Working with vertebrates, we start to see a difference between them regarding these qualities. That tetra has some intelligence– intelligence is, in some ways, more easily demonstrable than the other two qualities. We have mechanisms we can use to test it. How can we test consciousness and sentience?

We can create avoidance situations for even lower animals– a grid with an electric shock. The animal is shocked, behaves as if it find the experience is unpleasant, and moves off the grid. If a planaria exhibits the same behavior, is it sentient? Does it suffer?

In vertebrates, we can make an association based on how like us the animal is. Dogs and cats are clearly sentient and conscious. They can apparently model other animals’ behavior and change their own accordingly. It is, therefore, reasonable to presume if they can model other animal behaviors they can model their own– a prerequisite, I think, for consciousness.

Anybody who’s seen a dog suffer knows they’re sentient.

But when we drop down to frogs, are they conscious? The electric shock test still holds so we can intuit they might have sentience. They exhibit some intelligence in their interactions with the world– not much, but some. But are they conscious? Does that green frog over there know who it is? I suspect not.

Do ants and flies? Is suspect that not only are ants and flies not conscious but they maybe non-sentient as well. Ants might flee a noxious substance but do they do it out of pain or is this an avoidance circuit of some sort, devoid of actual feeling?

These are important questions as we start to create truly intelligent systems. I think consciousness derives from the mechanism in the brain that models the behavior of other agents. One way– perhaps the only way earth organisms have created– is to model oneself as interacting with those agents. I suspect here– the modeling of oneself– is the origin of the little homunculus inside that is consciousness.

It is a common trope in SF that systems of sufficient complexity become conscious. Sometimes they become sentient as well. Neither of these propositions is inevitable or even likely. I think consciousness in organisms was selected for just like any other phenotype. Therefore, it derives from an organism’s heritage and has value that is then supported at significant cost. The human brain uses up to 20% of the calories absorbed by the organism. It is unreasonable for that 20% to be preserved if it is merely a parasitical accident.

We must be prepared for artificial intelligences that have no consciousness or sentience. Or AIs that have only consciousness. Or have only sentience. Humans in their design select for intelligent systems. We like smart cars, phones and airplanes.

The Human Brain Project has, as part of its research, the full simulation of human brains in silicon. Other animals will also be modeled. Is a rat modeled in silicon sentient? Does it suffer?

I think that’s likely.

Is a human brain modeled in silicon conscious? I think that’s likely as well.

In 2014, the K supercomputer was used to model 1 second of human brain activity. It took 40 minutes and modeled only 1% of the actual neuron and synapse population. What is 1% of a human being? Is it enough to experience consciousness and sentience? Was that one second an eternity of pain for the equivalent of a severely coginitively impared human being?

Forget our moral obligations to an AI, what are our moral obligations to a simulated human being? A simulated dog?

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The Reluctant Traveler is Still Home

June 25th, 2017 06:00 am
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Posted by Jill Zeller

(Warning! Scary pictures not appropriate for entomophobics)

My husband and I think of ourselves as fairly knowledgeable organic gardeners. When considering a topic for this blog, I thought I would write about bugs. However when I browsed through our small library of gardening books, I found a gap. We don’t have even one good book about bugs.

Any recommendations?

I suspect everyone knows about ladybugs, praying mantis, lacewings and nematodes. And adorable little pollinators.

Mason Bee

Yellow Bumble Bee

But I want to write about another group, maybe not so popular with people in general.

Wasps. Spiders. Dragonflies.

Let’s talk about wasps. This is a huge family of insects, my Field Guide to Insects and Spiders in North America tells me. (At least we have this one book). I mean there’s a lot. They belong to the order Hymenoptera (nice name for a character in a fantasy novel, I think—the Wasp Queen). Their relations are ants and bees. The book describes hymentopteran anatomy in great detail, and I won’t do that here, but at one point the book says that, outside of termites who are not in the family, hymenopterans are the “only truly social insects”.

Maybe that’s why my husband and I like them.

From childhood I was taught to not be afraid of “bees”, a name people use for any buzzing, flying insect that looks rather gold or yellow and is not a fly. The credo was, “don’t bother them and they won’t bother you.” Anyone who has been stung by a yellow jacket or a bald-faced hornet, as I have, learns a healthy respect for their personal space.

I learned this one day in our back garden, a chunk of flat land behind our house just south of Seattle, bordering the Duwamish River. We’d planted a small orchard of mostly quince, comice pear, apricots and medlars. One lovely summer day I was in the orchard battling one of our enemy plants—bindweed—when I felt a sharp burn on my wrist above my garden glove. I froze, then saw, hovering roughly 12 inches from my face, floating back and forth, a buzzing flying insect. Then, in the gloom of the quince tree, glued to branches and leaves, the biggest wasp next I had ever seen. The size of a basketball.

 

I obeyed the warnings and left immediately.

No one chased me. It was enough that I had left the vicinity.

The Internet told me these were bald-faced hornets, who are not really hornets and related to yellow jackets. It made me ask what is the difference between a wasp and a hornet? If a yellow jacket is a wasp, then who is a hornet? The New Oxford American Dictionary was not helpful, showing an example of a bald-faced hornet in the definition of hornet. It also told me that a wasp is a social stinging insect.

Back to the Internet.

As you might think, there’s a lot of information on the Internet. YouTube provided a clue: hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. Hornets are the biggest guys, and this group includes, depending on which expert you listen to, yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets. Their sting is the worst too.

(Caution. Scary picture follows)

And I learned even more, shortly after my encounter with the bald-faced scout. We’d heard from other organic gardening friends that there was this guy who would come to your home and capture the hornets to sell to serum-makers, suppliers of antidotes to insect stings in people with extreme hypersensitivity to wasp stings. I don’t mean these are people super nervous around wasps—a lot of people are—but some people have overwhelming histamine releases to an insect sting, enough to jeopardize their lives.

I finally got him on the phone, and he proceeded to talk me out of destroying the nest.

“Just think what an abundance of insect life you have in your garden, enough to support a giant colony like that. You don’t use pesticides. Everyone benefits!”

He also said he had all the bald-faced hornet venom he needed that year.

So we stayed out of the orchard that summer. As the venom-guy had predicted, the hornets disappeared when cold weather came. As did the yellow jackets living in the ground near our house in one of our driveways (the one we rarely use, fortunately).

I respect the credo of live and let live. The hornets probably came back for a while, always building their mega paper nest in a different location. What saddens me now is that, in the years since that bald-faced scout warned me away, I think the hornets are gone. Seattle is under extreme-growth pressure, and our once rural-ish neighborhood on the Duwamish is slowly disappearing under concrete and massive homes.

And people who spray.

I say, all you hornets and wasps—come on over. The orchard is still here. The quince still grow and we even have peaches now. And we don’t spray. At least, that’s something.

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Friday 24 June 1664

June 24th, 2017 11:00 pm
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Posted by Samuel Pepys

Up and out with Captain Witham in several places again to look for oats for Tangier, and among other places to the City granarys, where it seems every company have their granary and obliged to keep such a quantity of corne always there or at a time of scarcity to issue so much at so much a bushell: and a fine thing it is to see their stores of all sorts, for piles for the bridge, and for pipes, a thing I never saw before.1

Thence to the office, and there busy all the morning. At noon to my uncle Wight’s, and there dined, my wife being there all the morning. After dinner to White Hall; and there met with Mr. Pierce, and he showed me the Queene’s bed-chamber, and her closett, where she had nothing but some pretty pious pictures, and books of devotion; and her holy water at her head as she sleeps, with her clock by her bed-side, wherein a lamp burns that tells her the time of the night at any time. Thence with him to the Parke, and there met the Queene coming from Chappell, with her Mayds of Honour, all in silver-lace gowns again: which is new to me, and that which I did not think would have been brought up again.

Thence he carried me to the King’s closett: where such variety of pictures, and other things of value and rarity, that I was properly confounded and enjoyed no pleasure in the sight of them; which is the only time in my life that ever I was so at a loss for pleasure, in the greatest plenty of objects to give it me.

Thence home, calling in many places and doing abundance of errands to my great content, and at night weary home, where Mr. Creed waited for me, and he and I walked in the garden, where he told me he is now in a hurry fitting himself for sea, and that it remains that he deals as an ingenuous man with me in the business I wot of, which he will do before he goes. But I perceive he will have me do many good turns for him first, both as to his bills coming to him in this office, and also in his absence at the Committee of Tangier, which I promise, and as he acquits himself to me I will willingly do. I would I knew the worst of it, what it is he intends, that so I may either quit my hands of him or continue my kindness still to him.

Footnotes

  1. From the commencement of the reign of Henry VIII., or perhaps earlier, it was the custom of the City of London to provide against scarcity, by requiring each of the chartered Companies to keep in store a certain quantity of corn, which was to be renewed from time to time, and when required for that purpose, produced in the market for sale, at such times and prices, and in such quantities, as the Lord Mayor or Common Council should direct. See the report of a case in the Court of Chancery, “Attorney-General v. Haberdashers’ Company” (Mylne and Keens “Reports,” vol. i., p. 420). — B.

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Learning to be a librarian

June 24th, 2017 10:09 pm
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Posted by Mary Beard

This is not just a first world problem. It’s a first world ACADEMIC  problem. So please take it in the sense it is meant.

We have just built a new bit of book-shelf extension onto the house (thanks to the excellent Henry Freeland, Andrew Turner and Bob Button — all of whom, if you want to know, are highly recommended). The fact is that I have two shared offices half full of books, and every floor in the house is piled high. So now is the moment to take action (I am thinking about retirement when those two half-offices no longer exist) and to put the old books on the new shelves. The fact is that we are now coming to see what librarians have been working on, and trying to sort out, for centuries.

First of all, how do we manage between us (husband and me) to have so many duplicates or triplicates. When I bought (cheaply) a second-hand of the 2003 National Gallery Titian Exhibition a few weeks ago, did I not realise that we had two already (no, because they were in those unsorted piles on the floor)?

But just as pressing is the size and shape of the books. We are well used to the Cambridge University Library system of classification by size (from ‘a’ big, to ‘d’ small), but it does seem a bit self-aggrandizing to do that at home. All the same, even when you try to do it in a small way, you get clobbered.

I can’t tell you how many series of books have changed their size (that must really irritate the UL. So you start putting Penguin Classics (or Cambridge ‘Green and Yellows’) onto their own perfectly appropriately sized shelf….then ffs you discover that a few years ago they get bigger and don’t fit. Meanwhile, the Journal of Roman Archaeology and the Journal of Roman Studies have downsized, and didn’t actually need those supersized shelves allocated.

And that is before you get to all those knotty questions of classification. Does a book about the nineteenth-century history of Pompeii go with archaeology or classical reception? Blow me if I know…

… but I do know that I cant retire till I get these books sorted (I have 5 years to go, and on this rate of progress it will take me that long to have a decent few shelves).

If I have ever poured scorn on the librarian’s skill, this is the time for me to eat humble pie.

The long way home

June 24th, 2017 08:15 pm
shewhomust: (puffin)
[personal profile] shewhomust
So that was the end of our stay on Lindisfarne. Memo to self: a half-week in a holiday cottage is shorter than a full week than you would believe possible. Also, much as I enjoyed our trip to Scotland last year, I do love spending time on Lindisfarne. But now it was time to go home. We could do something fun on the way home, though, couldn't we? [personal profile] durham_rambler had a request for what we might do. And it began like this:

Stairway to Heaven


More pictures under the cut )

A pique-nique of linkspam

June 24th, 2017 02:57 pm
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin

I am fairly hmmmm about this piece on empaths, and wonder if some of those consultant empaths are employing the cold-reading tricks attributed to psychics, but buried in it is actually an interrogation of how useful quivering responsiveness to emotion is and the suggestion that 'empathy alone is not a reliable way of coming to a moral decision', and

Empathy is not action. It’s much more useful to be knowledgable about what’s happening so you can effect structural change. If everybody’s swimming in a sea of feelings, it’s an impediment to action.

And possibly somehow related to this, on the advantages of scheduling over spontaneity.

See also, review here of Selfie by Will Storr: 'This engaging book links the ‘self-esteem’ industry to Ayn Rand and neoliberalism. But is the selfie-taking generation unusually narcissistic?'. And is there not something problematic about making a big deal out of a single young woman who takes a lot of selfies? (shoutout here to Carol Dyhouse's Girl Trouble and the constant motif of young women's behaviour epitomising what is supposedly wrong with These Here Modern Times.)

And in Dept of, Countering National Stereotypes, the French minister who wants sexual harassment fines and is annoyed by the cultural myths about Frenchwomen.

Born in 1799, Anna Atkins captured plants, shells and algae in ghostly wisps and ravishing blues. Why isn’t she famous? - how long have you got to listen to my answer?

A book on hares which is, it sounds like, more about hares than the writer's journey and epiphany from their encounter with nature

Interesting Links for 24-06-2017

June 24th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Posted by Sara Stamey

Thor, Bear dog, and I don’t always get to escape to the mountains for our outings, but luckily we have some wonderful Greenways trails in our community of Bellingham, WA. Bear dog needs a daily run, and a segment of the planned Bay to (Mount) Baker trail happens to run a couple blocks from our home. Parts of it are wooded and serene, where you almost forget that other sections run alongside the Squalicum Way truck route or over/under railway trestle and tracks, past industrial plants like this Oeser wood products.

We fondly call our mostly blue-collar part of town the North End, where nature snuggles up to industry, past and present. An off-leash area in the last segment of the trail and along Squalicum Beach on Bellingham Bay, is a popular neighborhood destination for people and canine pals.

For a few years, the creek and bay here were posted as contaminated from the Oeser plant, and people were advised to keep kids and dogs out of the water. After extensive cleanup, it’s safe but not exactly appetizing for human swimmers. It’s usually pretty murky from the natural Nooksack River silt that empties into the bay a little farther north. The dogs, Canada Geese, herons, ducks, and fish don’t seem to mind.

Bellingham Bay is still an active port, even though the old Georgia Pacific plant is gone and finally undergoing a cleanup for commercial and recreational development. (When I was growing up here, we often had “chlorine fog” and avoided the water due to mercury contamination. Oh, the wonders of “Better living through chemistry.”) The wooded hill is our protected Sehome Arboretum, with more trails, and the buildings clustered at the treeline are Western Washington University, where I taught creative writing until my recent retirement (hurrah!). Thor has another year to go as Professor of Paleontology and Geology.

Today we find a cozy spot to enjoy the sunshine and waves, beneath the railroad trestle.

 

Bear dog is not a swimmer, but he loves to wade and snap at the waves, watch the shore birds, and climb around on the logs.

A favorite activity for beach visitors is collecting rocks and making stacks. These modest ones we found near our picnic spot.

Thor, as a geologist, naturally bonds with the rich assortment of beach rocks, some formerly part of Mount Baker that have been broken, weathered, transported by the river, and are awaiting their final dissolution as part of the sea floor. Today he became quite inspired and declared himself “High Priest and Story Teller of the Stones.” (As part god, I guess he’s entitled.) We even did an impromptu interpretive dance of the epic battle or “cosmic cycle” of stone versus water.

This small stone encapsulates quite a drama. Called a “turbidite,” it was likely created by a very localized episode of turbulence in the bay or one of our nearby lakes. The sedimentary material was disturbed by a small mudslide or other shakeup, moving quickly, then more slowly. The heaviest grains settled on the bottom layer, medium in the middle, then the lightest silt on top. Pressure solidified everything, then weathering forces broke off pieces to be smoothed by water. Thousands of years of history to hold in our hands.

As the High Priest explains, every stone has its own story.  This one is “breccia,” gravel, probably limestone, that was broken up and buried, then glued back together with a water and silica-based cement and pressure.

Our yard is full of “rocks of the walk” from our many beach outings. Here are a few in our fountain basin, surrounding a chunk of columnar andesite from Mt. Baker. Can you hear all their stories they’re singing to Thor?

And, speaking of North End stories, the latest is Walter the Wayward Bear, who has been visiting bird feeders near our neighborhood, and peering in windows. A juvenile who probably got booted out by his mother, he seems to be having a good time. Dave Jones, our Fish & Wildlife warden, has been trying to trap him for relocation, but, “He’s a slippery character.” Last word is he might be heading east out of town, toward the mountain, so maybe we’ll see him on the trails.

Happy Trails to all of us!

*****

You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest novel from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.

 

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New Worlds: Status Without Wealth

June 23rd, 2017 01:00 pm
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Posted by Marie Brennan

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

We all know that status has its benefits. Rather a lot of them, in fact, and the lack of it is rarely a good thing.

But it also brings burdens. And when the benefits and the burdens get out of balance, being a person with status can suck in some creative new ways.

Last week I talked about the dynamics that arise when wealth is not (supposed to be) the metric of your rank. But I spoke of it mainly from the direction of people without status having lots of money, rather than from the other side — when rank is accompanied by insufficient cash.

This is the “keeping up with the Joneses” dynamic. Even in the absence of laws requiring the upper classes to wear expensive fabrics or finely-tailored official robes, there’s still a weight of expectation saying that you should. (Most of the time. There have been puritanical societies, e.g. the actual Puritans, with different views.) In cultures that make a major virtue out of generosity, you’re in trouble if you don’t throw lavish banquets or give away possessions to anyone who admires them. Your house must be grand, your entertainments grander. And over time . . . being important can bankrupt you.

If you don’t do it to yourself, someone else may step in. In Renaissance England, the monarch would sometimes go on a “royal progress,” i.e. a political road trip around their realm. Being visited by the sovereign was a great honor — so great, in fact, that some people built lavish manors with chambers intended for royal use, which then sat around unused and chewing through maintenance money while their owners tried in vain to attract the king’s or queen’s eye. But the angle I find especially interesting is when the honor of hosting the progress was used as a means of control, or even punishment. Because of course you aren’t just hosting the monarch: you’re hosting their progress. Which is to say, an enormous retinue of servants and attendants and hangers-on and the servants and attendants of the hangers-on, all of whom expect a roof over their heads (well, the servants might not) and regular meals and meanwhile their horses are trampling your fields and eating you out of house and home and you didn’t need that firewood or coal for this winter, did you?

Hosting a progress could ruin a person. So while a close ally of the king of queen might receive a brief visit — enough to shine the light of royal attention on them; not enough to become a burden — a fractious noble might find himself crushed under the weight of a lengthy stay. By the time the progress moved on, that noble barely had enough money left to repair the damage it had done, let alone plot rebellion. It’s an elegant way to ruin someone, and look gracious while you’re doing it.

Mostly, though, what happened over time is that the basis of aristocratic wealth fell out from under the upper classes. This dynamic crops up in both England and Japan, two countries whose histories I’m pretty familiar with; I bet it happened elsewhere, too. Go back a thousand years or so, and you’ll find that land ownership and exploitation is the main source of wealth, via farms, mines, and other such modes of production. Therefore, the people who owned the land (or at least its products) were also the richest, and the ones with power.

But over time, that changed. If you want to see this in action, read Neal Stephenson’s “System of the World” trilogy; he gets more detailed about the process than you’re likely to see anywhere outside of an economic history textbook. Short form is, things like commerce rose in importance while the value of land ownership declined, via everything from overworking the soil to the partition of estates. Cue the rise of mercantile classes — but long-standing prejudices meant the aristocrats were reluctant to sully themselves with money earned from sources other than land or investments.

Run this shift for long enough, and you wind up with rich merchants living the high life, and penniless aristocrats with little of value to their names apart from the names themselves.

Ever wonder why so many of those eighteenth- and nineteenth-century young Englishmen were forever dodging their creditors? In some cases it was because they were truly feckless, but in others it’s because the sand was washing out from under their feet. Expectations hadn’t yet caught up with the fact that the peerage wasn’t as rich as it used to be, so people spent far beyond their long-term means. Even today, you can find English aristocrats hocking their ancestral estates, or turning them into museums in a desperate bid to make the places bring in enough money to cover their upkeep. If their families had no status, it would be easier for them to scale down over the generations, or accept the new economic reality and adapt. But when you’re carrying the weight of a title, a lineage, the expectations of your social class . . . then it isn’t so simple.

Which means it’s an engine for story. Whether you feel sympathetic to people in that situation or not, it’s fodder for everything from romance plots (Impoverished Aristocrat Seeks Wealthy Plebian Bride) to tragedy (shouldn’t have gone to that guy for help with your debts . . .) to intrigue (the horse-trading of political influence for monetary support) and more.

I’ll be honest with you all; I kind of loathe economics as a subject. I blame a very bad experience with studying it in high school. But I find myself coming back to it again and again, never in major, plot-centric ways, but as minor touches in the background of a whole bunch of different stories. It lends a note of reality, creates little patches of conflict, gives characters motivations with an extra layer of complexity. So even though my eyes cross at the first mention of GDP, I try to pay attention to this — and I like stories that do the same.

The Patreon logo and the text "This post is brought to you by my imaginative backers at Patreon. To join their ranks, click here!"

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Posted by News Editor

Book View Cafe is delighted to announce that Marie Brennan has joined the fiction-writing team for the relaunch of the game Legend of the Five Rings!

Set in the fictional, Japanese-inspired land of Rokugan, L5R has been a fixture of the card game and roleplaying game scene since 1995. Its most noteworthy feature has always been its interactive story: an ongoing narrative about the Great Clans of the Emerald Empire and the deeds of their heroes and villains. Player input via tournaments and other contests shapes the tale, deciding who will live and who will die, who will be allies and who will be foes. Marie’s first contribution to the new story is “The Rising Wave,” which introduces readers to the reclusive Dragon Clan and the challenges they face. Other fictions published so far are “Her Father’s Daughter” (introducing the elegant Crane Clan) and its sequel “The Price of War” (introducing the militaristic Lion Clan).

And that’s just the beginning! Keep an eye on Fantasy Flight Games’ website or forums to catch all the new developments as they come out.

the logo for the game LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS

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The Language Attic

June 22nd, 2017 06:44 am
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Posted by Brenda Clough

by Brenda W. Clough

Our language is a treasure house. Some of its glories are well-used and well-polished, taken out and set on the table every day. But up in the attic we’ve got some thrilling long-lost terms. This is a series devoted to dragging some of the quainter antiquities out, and dusting them off for you to see.

And today’s fun word is fistiana. Oh, you have a dirty mind. I can see what you’re thinking. No, no — it had nothing whatever to do with X-rated matters. We have pure minds around here, at least at this moment. Maybe later in this series we’ll get some really colorful words. This word’s close relative is boxiana, and both words refer to boxing — pummeling people with your fists.

Here’s the link to a piece in the New York Times from July 20, 1860, discussing the Zouave troops. The American Zouave regiments were based upon the Algerian originals, who were widely admired not only for their jazzy uniforms but their unquenchable martial spirit:

The fancy fez, the hollow backed jacket, the baggy trowsers extending to the calf of the leg and tying up in folds, the slashing boots and the general devil-me-care style, was calculated to take the eye, please the sense, and impress the scene indelibly on the mind of the beholder. If the Zouaves should be deprived by siege of their ammunition, they would fight with the butt end of their guns; if by stratagem they should lose their guns, they would throw stones; if there were no stones they would indulge in fistiana, and if their hands and feet were cut off, they would “butt” with their heads and pummel with their stumps.

Why, you may reasonably ask, did not the sensible and ordinary word ‘boxing’ get used, instead of these fancified variations? I attribute this to the Victorian appetite for polysyllabic terminology. A longer word was always preferable to them — it showed off your education and vocabulary, and made it more difficult for the hoi polloi to understand you. For the same reason you might lard your speech with quotations in Greek or Latin. If you graduated from Harvard or Oxford, let the peasantry know it! Ease of reading and comprehension took a back seat.

Now, somebody tell me what a hollow backed jacket is!

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Posted by Nancy Jane Moore

I went to a college graduation in a sun-drenched football stadium on a recent hot Saturday afternoon. Having spent a lot of my life in hot climes, I was drinking lots of water as well as wearing light clothes, a hat, and sunscreen.

Graduation ceremonies are lengthy events, so I slipped out before things got underway to find a bathroom. Just under the stadium I spotted a tell-tall line of women and joined it. It turned out that we were the line for two gender neutral, accessible individual bathrooms. I’m sure there were other, larger facilities around, but the line wasn’t that long and, given the size of the crowd, there was no guarantee that the other places would be line-free.

While we were standing there, a man walked up, looked at the line, and started to walk in, saying, “Is the boy’s room open?” He obviously assumed that it was.

We all took great pleasure in informing him that there was no separate boy’s room and that he was obligated to join the line if he needed to pee.

I cannot tell you how satisfying that experience was.

Every woman will understand; the experience is universal. All of us have stood in line, crossing our legs and hoping the person ahead will hurry, while watching men come and go from the men’s room.

But I had an even more interesting experience with gender-neutral bathrooms in San Francisco a couple of days later. We were at a lecture at the Nourse theatre, and decided it was wise to pee before heading home. One facility was labeled “gender neutral,” so my sweetheart and I headed over to it.

It turned out to be what I suspect had once been a woman’s bathroom – a row of stalls with metal dividers, but no urinal – with the usual row of sinks and mirrors on the other wall. When I walked in, I saw both men and women at the sinks. I stood in a short line behind a guy or two.

I was surprised. Somehow I hadn’t expected to see a truly gender-neutral facility that was just like the regular large-scale bathrooms I was used to in big public places. But I wasn’t uncomfortable. No one else appeared to be uncomfortable either.

I noticed a couple of things. First of all, if you’re sharing that kind of bathroom with men, odds are the guy before you didn’t lower the seat. Secondly, there wasn’t the kind of chatter that’s common in women’s bathrooms. People used the toilets, washed their hands and left.

I wonder what will happen as those kind of bathrooms become more common. Will the casual social behavior common to women’s bathrooms assert itself, or will we end up with the basic “taking care of business” attitude that I saw?

Those who have not spent a lot of time in women’s bathroom may not be familiar with the social side of such facilities. In fact, based on scenes in the movies, they may be under the impression that women’s bathrooms are primarily places where the mean girls remind the outsiders that they don’t belong.

Truth is, women’s bathrooms tend to be friendly places. Folks complain about the lines, adjust their clothes, comb their hair, compliment strangers, comment on the event we’re attending. It’s not necessary to talk, but friendly words to strangers are accepted at face value.

Women’s bathrooms have been a small place of refuge. For those few minutes, you get to let your hair down, so to speak. Or maybe the proper phrase is adjust your armor. It’s OK to let a little uncertainty show – what happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom.

In a sexist world, that bit of refuge can make a woman’s day easier. Back when I was in law school there was a woman’s bathroom that was actually a full-scale lounge, with couches, easy chairs, and a few tables. At the time, the student body was less than 10 percent women. Many of us studied in that lounge.

It’s not that women don’t compete with other women in all kinds of ways. But to some degree, that behavior is off-limits in bathrooms.

Personally, I’d like to see a variant of friendly women’s bathroom behavior in gender-neutral bathrooms. That is, I’d like to see men take it up. We’re all in the bathroom to take care of our natural functions, so it’s not a place for the pretense that we’re somehow above all that.

But even if it means that casual sociability will disappear, I’m in favor of gender-neutral bathrooms like the one at the Nourse. Lines move more quickly at those than they do in the individual ones. An event can draw an unequal number of men and women without adding pressure on the facilities. And it is obviously a blessing for trans and genderqueer folk, who all too often run into barriers at the bathroom door.

I noticed the Nourse also had a traditional women’s bathroom – I spotted the line. I’m sure it had a men’s room, too, probably with a urinal. Those are probably necessary for now. But as we loosen our gender definitions and roles, all the rules on bathrooms will fade away. I look forward to it.

By the way, I’m sure someone will disagree with my use of the term “bathroom” for these facilities, since very rarely do such rooms in public places include bathing facilities. I am aware of the distinction. But I’ve never much liked the word restroom and toilet just sounds crass to my ear. So I say bathroom.

Though more often, I say facilities. I’ve noticed that everyone has their favorite terms for both the room and for excusing themselves when they go in search of it. My father used to powder his nose. Some people see a man about a dog. Some are just blunt enough to say they have to pee.

However we say it, we all need the facilities, sometimes in a big hurry. Gender-neutral makes it easier on everyone.

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Posted by News Editor

Clarion WestFour members of Book View Cafe — Kristine Smith, Nancy Jane Moore, Vonda N. McIntyre, and David Levine — are participating in the Clarion West Write-a-Thon for 2017.

The Write-a-Thon is a fundraiser for Clarion West, the six-week “boot camp” for writers held every summer in Seattle. It runs at the same time as the workshop, so the writers participating in the Write-a-Thon are writing at the same time as the students attending Clarion West. Both the workshop and the Write-a-Thon began June 18.

Writers who are participating promise to produce work. They seek sponsors to contribute to Clarion West in support of their participation. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: Clarion West gets the money it needs to operate (it’s a non-profit and gives scholarships where it can). Outside writers know someone is counting on them to produce work, so they sit down and write — always a useful thing. And the students know there are lots of other people out there who care about writing and Clarion West.

To support Kristine, go here.

To support Nancy, go here.

To support Vonda, go here. Note that Vonda will give one of her beaded sea creatures to the first 20 people who sponsor her at the $100 level.

To support David, go here.

Any writers who want to participate can sign up until June 25. Supporters can sponsor a writer at any time until the end of the workshop (and the Write-a-Thon) on July 28.

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Writing Nowadays–My Summer Office

June 21st, 2017 10:31 am
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Posted by Steven Harper Piziks

When summer comes, I like to move outside to my summer office. It’s the front porch of our lovely house. It faces north, so it’s always cool and shady. We’ve installed some comfortable porch furniture out there, along with a porch rug so I’m not on bare cement. We aren’t far from a pond, so I can hear red-wing blackbirds sing and mourning doves call, both birds I remember from my childhood in Wheeler.


Although the porch looks out onto the street, bushes and trees surround it, giving me a fair amount of quiet privacy. I’ve put up hanging baskets of flowers and other plants around, and also put more plants on the rail for more greenery and privacy. If I don’t move, no one even notices I’m out there. 🙂 This is my view:


When it rains, it’s even more beautiful.  The porch stays perfectly dry, and I can admire the rain while I write.

When I was a child, we lived in a big farmhouse.  Next to it was a small milk house for storing fresh milk in the days when the place was a working dairy farm.  It was the size of a garden hut and hand a concrete-lined pit in the bottom that you filled with cold water from the nearby well.  Then you put the big metal milk cans down in the water to keep the milk cool.  The house was also shaded by pine and lilac trees to keep it cooler still.

My mother covered the pit over with a wooden platform and converted the milk house into a playhouse for my sister and brother and me.  We played house and created fairy tales and other games of pretend in there.

And I wrote in it.  I had a pile of notebook paper in a blue folder and a lap desk, and I often sat out there to write.  I remember sitting out there in the rain and once even a thunderstorm with my papers and pencil.  I felt adventurous and secretive and cozy all at the same time while I put those words on paper out in the little house among the trees and the rain.  I don’t have the old manuscripts anymore, but I have the memories.

Sitting on the front porch to write on my laptop makes me feel like I did when I wrote in the milk house, and I like it very much.

–Steven Harper Piziks

DANNY on sale now at Book View Cafe.

Danny Large

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Posted by Jennifer Stevenson

Writing the Sluts has been an exercise in writing the other, and never more so than with Coed Demon Sluts: Amanda, releasing today.

It was no stretch for me to write about Cricket, a chirpy little 98-year-old Jewish matriarch whose zest for life is too strong to let her quit. She knows more Yiddish than I do, and she has given birth a bunch, but Cricket is no stranger to me. Of course she takes the offer to become a succubus. A new experience! At her time of life! Irresistible.

Amanda, though, is an alien creature: Army brat, highly functional in a structured environment, repressed. So not me. Unlike me, Amanda sacrificed her life to her parents’ needs: first to the Army, the invisible woolly mammoth in every room, then to their declining health. Her father’s parting gift to her was to get her a desk job with a defense contractor. By imperceptible degrees Amanda finds herself behind a desk in hell, at first grateful to be numb, then bored, then stifled, at last restless. When a chance to join Team Slut presents itself, she jumps. I could imagine the jumping part easily. Her obedience and patience within the System—first in her family and the Army, then in hell—not so much.

This story is less boffo than the first three Slut adventures mostly because Amanda needs to travel such a long way from numbness to love. I found myself siding with Cricket a lot, prodding Amanda emotionally in the middle of the night, tickling her sense of humor, luring her into the woods, leading by following, crashing around in her life like upbeat ball-lightning, tempting her to live a little.

The result was another imperceptible slide for Amanda, a long, slow courtship, and as nice, as happy a book as I could write.

Now that I’ve spoiled it for you—surprise, she gets the girl!—you can relax and just wallow in it.

________________________

The Coed Demon Sluts are available here at Book View Café and at all your favorite ebook retailers. Read more about them here. Coed Demon Sluts: Pog, the final adventure, launches right here on July 12.

Coed Demon Sluts: Beth by Jennifer Stevenson  Coed Demon Sluts: Jee by Jennifer Stevenson  Coed Demon Sluts: Melitta by Jennifer Stevenson  Coed Demon Sluts: Amanda by Jennifer Stevenson  

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Posted by Madeleine E. Robins

Do you need to read accented speech with an accent? Let’s think about it.

Dick Van Dyke is appearing in the new Mary Poppins film–not, blessedly, as Bert the Sweep, but in some other role. And according to Mr. Van Dyke, they had a dialogue coach glued to his elbow at all times. With reason. When the first Mary Poppins came out, people were a little more understanding about accents–or rather, it just didn’t seem to matter so much. But Van Dyke has taken… well, anywhere from teasing to abuse over the failures of his Cockney accent for fifty years.

Van Dyke is an absolutely wonderful performer (I’ve had a crush on him since I first saw him pitch forward over the hassock on the Dick Van Dyke Show), but he does not have a mimetic ear. Many actors don’t: far worse than Van Dyke’s Bert, in my book, was Leonardo DiCaprio playing Louis XIV and his twin in The Man in the Iron Mask, where Di Caprio, bless him, couldn’t pronounce his characters’ names. There’s no shame in not doing accents well–but you need to know that that’s the case.

So maybe, even if you hear the words you’ve written with a perfect what-ever-it-is accent, you’ll want to think carefully before giving voice to their accents. This is a time when enlisting the assistance of a friend can be useful. Read aloud to them and ask them to tell tell you if it works. If your listener says you’re more Bert than Sir Ben Kingsley, rethink.

But my dialogue is written in dialect! Okay, but you don’t have to read inflections that are not in the page. If you’ve got a character saying “I don’t know ‘ow!” you can soften the presumed “Oi” in I; if you aren’t good at the vowels, don’t hit ’em hard. And remember, it’s more important that your listeners follow the sense and meaning of the words than that they get a full theatrical performance.

You can also give the impression of an accent by varying your tempo, by changing your pitch, by adding a little vocal fry (vocal fry is when you lower your voice enough to get some gravel in it, which Wikipedia informs me is “produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency”). This last is a really good tool for a reader, as it gives your character voices a quality which can suggest age, gender, or social class.

Now, there may be a time when it’s important to the reading of your story that you be able to sound like Alfred P. Doolittle or Pepe LePew or Boris and Natasha–that is, that you sound like a comicstrip version of the accent you’re using. In which case, go for it.

What you want, in the end, is to read your words in such a way that the hearer is not distracted from the action, the characters, the story of your story. Even if you’re good with accents (or good with some accents…) don’t make that the focus of your reading. It’s just another tool.

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Posted by News Editor

Coed Demon Sluts: Amanda by Jennifer StevensonCoed Demon Sluts: Amanda
Coed Demon Sluts Book 4
by Jennifer Stevenson

Aren’t you tired of doing everything right?

Wouldn’t you like a second chance to go back and do it wrong?

Coed Demon Sluts: There’s always room on the team.

Cricket’s family may be ready for their 98-year-old great-grandma to go gently into the good night, but she sure as hell isn’t. So when hell comes calling in the form of Delilah, she’s ready to sign on the dotted “succubus” line.

Army brat Amanda has spent her life letting everyone else call the shots. With a shiny new contract, and a shape-shifting body as tough as titanium, she’s ready to call some shots of her own–on the basketball court.

Now roommates at the Lair, this odd couple are ready to set the Regional Office on its ear with history’s first coed demon basketball tournament–and to discover that you’re never too old or too shy to find new friendships–or love.

The fourth adventure in the Coed Demon Sluts series!

Download an Ebook Sample:

EPUB MOBI

The Coed Demon Sluts series:

Coed Demon Sluts: Beth
Coed Demon Sluts: Jee
Coed Demon Sluts: Melitta
Coed Demon Sluts: Amanda
Coed Demon Sluts: Pog (forthcoming)

Buy Coed Demon Sluts: Amanda at BVC Ebookstore

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梅雨 Diary - Arrival (21-22 June)

June 24th, 2017 08:48 am
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On the 21st the sun rose early (as one would expect on the solstice), but not as early as me, nor many other Bristolians, who were making pre-dawn departures in various directions. Some, I've no doubt, were heading east to Stonehenge, but a large contingent was going south to Glastonbury, and I encountered a good wodge of them in Bristol bus station, where special coaches were being laid on at regular intervals.

IMG0403AIMG0404A

As for me, I was off to Heathrow, though I did get to see the solstice sun rise in Wiltshire, admittedly over the M4 rather than the heel stone:

IMG0405A

The journey all went very smoothly. After some hairy experiences at Schiphol two years ago I'd been worried by the fact that I only had an hour to make my connection at Frankfurt, especially as it involved two different airlines (Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways), but the combination of German efficiency and, er, Japanese efficiency, meant that I needn't have worried.

On the plane from Frankfurt to Tokyo I found myself sitting between two middle-aged Japanese women, both of whom spent much of the next 11 hours in face masks, but who were to play a significant role in my journey.

I'd secretly been a little annoyed by the woman sitting to my right, because she closed the window just before take-off, depriving me of a view I always enjoy. Also, I remembered that you're meant to leave the windows open on take-off and landing, for the grisly reason that it helps recovery workers count the bodies in the event of a crash. I composed a Japanese sentence to this effect in my head, but hesitated to speak it, considering that it would be kind of snotty, however perfect the grammar, and that we were after all destined to be companions for quite a while.

She rose considerably in my estimation when I woke from a nap to find her absent from her seat. How had she escaped without waking me or my equally slumberous companion to the left? A minute later I had my answer, when she returned, removed her shoes, and clambered over both arm rests with the considerate dexterity of a service-industry ninja.

Then, about half hour from arrival, she became a friend for life by positively shaking me to point out a beautiful view of Mount Fuji.

Apart from one very distant blurry glimpse from a Tokyo high-rise last year, it was my first Fuji sighting, and it looked marvellous in the clear early-morning sun (for it was now 6am the next day, thanks to the magic of time zones), brown with an icing-sugar sprinkle of snow. Of course, I tried to take a picture with my crappy mobile phone, but captured nothing but a blur. Then I remembered that I'd bought a camera especially for the trip, and dug that out. Unfortunately I hadn't yet taught myself to use it, and my attempts were really no better than before. Eventually my kind companion suggested I photograph the picture she'd just taken with her iPhone. So here it is, my photograph of the next-door passenger's iPhone's photograph of Mount Fuji:

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Just like being there, isn't it? Hokusai would be proud.

As for my left-hand companion, she chatted politely with me, asking why I was coming to Japan, and so on, which was a good chance to give my Japanese a light workout. When I explained about the lectures I'd be giving in Tokyo she promised to tell her daughter, who was interested in anime - but added that her cousin (who was travelling on the same plane) happened to live in Kichijouji, near the university where I'd be staying, and would be happy to show me there when we landed.

So it was that I spent my first hour in Tokyo with left-hand companion and her cousin, the latter seeing me through the Tokyo tube in the rush-hour crush (no joke when you have two sizeable cases), all the way to the door of the university. She'd made a couple of remarks about looking forward to getting back to her Japanese life after her stay in Germany (her younger sister had married a German and even taken citizenship), so I thanked her for her "authentic Japanese hospitality" (本物の日本のおもてなし) - which I think pleased her, but was sincerely meant.

I spent the rest of that day meeting people, paying rent, registering at the library and getting online, and so on - more or less in a daze, for it was 24 hours since I'd had any sleep worth the name. I'll leave that aside for the moment - we will meet these actors again - and just give you a quick tour of my dwelling, the Foreign Faculty House, where I am sole resident. The outside I've already posted, but here it is again, in glorious colour:

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So far, the rainy season has consisted of bright sunshine and 29-degree heat, and my little patch of garden is alive with butterflies and dragonflies. A murder of crows has taken up lugubrious residence in a nearby grove.

Inside, I have a spacious and comfortable apartment, though rather oddly appointed. The building, being almost 100 years old, is in any case ancient by Japanese standards, with polished wooden floors on the landings to facilitate the swish of kimonos (not that kimonos do swish, but this is the obligatory word to use with female clothing of yore) and, I suppose, the clatter of geta. There is an ominous stairwell that leads up into a void, but from which, so far, nothing has issued. Anyway, here are a few shots of the inside, to give you a feel:

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Some of the facilities, though not quite coaeval with the house, have a distinctly retro vibe - but this makes me feel quite at home, my heart spending much of its time in the 1970s in any case.

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Japanese error in most urgent need of correction? Why, that would be my habit of pronouncing "Toukyou Joshi Dai" (the abbreviation everyone round here uses for the name of this university) as "Toukyou Dai Joshi", which translates rather unfortunately as "Tokyo Big Girls".

This must end.

Thursday 23 June 1664

June 23rd, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] diaryof_samuelpepys_feed

Posted by Samuel Pepys

Up, and to the office, and there we sat all the morning. So to the ‘Change, and then home to dinner and to my office, where till 10 at night very busy, and so home to supper and to bed.

My cozen, Thomas Pepys, was with me yesterday and I took occasion to speak to him about the bond I stand bound for my Lord Sandwich to him in 1000l.. I did very plainly, obliging him to secrecy, tell him how the matter stands, yet with all duty to my Lord my resolution to be bound for whatever he desires me for him, yet that I would be glad he had any other security. I perceive by Mr. Moore today that he hath been with my Lord, and my Lord how he takes it I know not, but he is looking after other security and I am mighty glad of it.

W. Howe was with me this afternoon, to desire some things to be got ready for my Lord against his going down to his ship, which will be soon; for it seems the King and both the Queenes intend to visit him. The Lord knows how my Lord will get out of this charge; for Mr. Moore tells me to-day that he is 10,000l. in debt and this will, with many other things that daily will grow upon him (while he minds his pleasure as he do), set him further backward. But it was pretty this afternoon to hear W. Howe mince the matter, and say that he do believe that my Lord is in debt 2000l. or 3000l., and then corrected himself and said, No, not so, but I am afraid he is in debt 1000l.. I pray God gets me well rid of his Lordship as to his debt, and I care not.

Read the annotations

Recent Reading

June 23rd, 2017 06:04 pm
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

Some things I’ve read recently!

The Last Good Man by Linda Nagata

If you didn’t read Nagata’s The Red Trilogy, well, you might want to consider doing so. But whether you have or you haven’t–The Last Good Man is near-future military sf. It’s tense and compelling, and features a middle-aged woman protagonist, an ex-Army pilot who now works for a private military company. During a rescue mission she discovers something that casts a new and disturbing light on an event that she’d thought, well, not safely in the past, but over and done with and accurately understood. But she wants the truth, no matter the cost. If near future and/or military is your jam, don’t miss this.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This is volume 1 of the Murderbot Diaries, and I suspect a certain percentage of my readers don’t need to hear anything more. Go, purchase, download! You will enjoy this.

Murderbot is a SecUnit–a security android, part organic part mechanical, that isn’t supposed to have any sort of free will. It does, though, and having achieved that free will it secretly names itself Murderbot and then works hard to hide its freedom of thought from the corporation that owns it. It doesn’t actually want to murder anyone, though. It just wants to be left alone to watch its stories. Unfortunately, someone is trying to kill the humans Murderbot has been tasked to protect.

I’m not kidding, I can almost guarantee that my readers will enjoy this. I have already pre-ordered volume 2, which is out in January.

Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns

So, Lesbian Space Pirates. Out at the end of October. That may be all I need to say.

Or not. Our heroines hijack a colony ship in a bid to join a famous band of space pirates–only to discover the pirates are not, as widely believed, hiding out on Barbary Station rolling in money and loot, but are in fact trapped there by the station’s renegade AI. Why is the AI doing what it’s doing? Is it conscious? Does it matter when it’s trying to kill you?

This book is good fun. Set in the Solar System, lots of action, I really enjoyed this, and I bet you will, too.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

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