Trying stuff out

  • Oct. 19th, 2017 at 10:54 AM
1) A quick rundown on new shows that I tried out: Great News and The Gifted: Read more... )

2) During my trip I read the first of Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. I liked it well enough but am curious if anyone reading this has read more books in the series and whether they recommend them? Read more... )

3) We recently had another visit from the heron. It was strolling around our end of the lake.

Read more... )

4) A few more necklaces as well, Halloween and not Read more... )

5) Speaking of photos, it's interesting to see all the communities on LJ which clearly have absent moderators/owners because of all the dead Photobucket links in banners, backgrounds, etc. I wanted to ask if anyone knows of active Buffy communities here on DW that I might be able to post a promo to about Top 5's Classic Recs?

Deletions and Erasures

  • Oct. 15th, 2017 at 2:09 PM
1) So hello, I'm back from my trip! ::waves:: I didn't take a whole lot of photos this time but do have a few to share. Read more... )

2) This is rather late now but a side benefit to having a romance-only bookstore is that the owners have a additional incentive to research the stats on romances written by POC.

3) Every piece of software needs to have a giant undo option somewhere. It seems like stuff is constantly crammed into software that maybe 50 people across the globe actually use regularly and everyone else is stymied or tripped up by it. I was typing away on an email, three paragraphs in and I've no idea what a finger hit but suddenly the entire text just vanished. I thought maybe it had somehow been cut by accident but when I tried paste, nope, not there. ARGH!

4) For the probably 2 people actually reading any of my dissertation deleted scenes, here's another bit to share. On a section about conceptual frameworks, the following was cut because it got discussed in a later chapter. But this example described a way of interpreting interactions within the group. Read more... )

Patreon account!

  • Oct. 14th, 2017 at 8:58 PM
I’m really excited! I don’t write about fandom much here, since the fandom I’m currently involved with doesn’t really seem to have a presence on this website, but I have been writing tons of fiction for the past year in the fandom for the two British YouTubers Dan Howell and Phil Lester. I’ve written all kinds of stuff and it’s been really fulfilling, both emotionally and creatively. I like feeling like I’m actually accomplishing something, and though some people might think fanfiction is silly or even a waste of time, I know that I’ve been writing good stories and practicing my craft.

In fact, my stories have been quite popular, and recently a lot of fandom content producers (especially artists) have started creating Patreon accounts so that people who enjoy their work can offer them financial support. Then, more recently, I saw more and more fanfiction writers also creating Patreon accounts. Several people recently encouraged me to do it ... and so today I created a page, and half an hour later I already have two patrons!

What is Patreon, you ask? Patreon is a way for independent creative folks to get paid for creating the things they’re already creating: stories, non-fiction articles (like Shannon’s “Mechanics & Meeples”), artwork, webcomics, videos, songs, etc. So we keep making the same stuff we were making before, and we aren’t charging people for it, but people who like what we do and want to make life easier for us so we can continue to create neat stuff can choose to become patrons, sort of like in the medieval system. At Patreon, supporters/patrons pay a few bucks either per month OR per posted material released, and then the creator gets paid every month, or every time they release something new.

Since my mental health isn’t stable, I don’t feel comfortable promising people that I’ll provide a consistent amount of writing every month, so I’ve opted instead to have people sponsor me for individual fiction posts that I make (I post on two websites, Tumblr and Archive of Our Own). People pledge to pay me some certain amount of money for every story post I make (some are complete stories, whereas others are individual chapters of longer works), but they can also set a cap on their monthly amount, so that they won’t get charged a bazillion dollars if I suddenly start posting 20 stories a day. Usually, I post something about once a week, though it varies. For example, I didn’t post at all while I was in partial hospitalization, obviously.

Anyway, like I said at the start, I’m very excited. It sounds like a neat way for people to support my creative work, and for me to feel like I’m offering something people consider valuable, even if I’m still not able to work a normal “job.” The writing is something I can do from home, when I feel able, and not feel the kind of pressure that can lead to anxiety (which in turn can trigger mood swings for me). And I enjoy both the creative aspect but also the community aspect, as other people recognize and respect what I do. I’m making sure to keep the Patreon account as low stress as possible, and I really think it’s going to be a neat thing for me. And the little "rewards" I've set for the various levels of patrons are things I think will be fun.

I don’t expect anyone here to become a patron, since you don’t read the stories I’m writing and have probably never even heard of Dan Howell or Phil Lester, but if you want to check out my Patreon page just because you’re curious about what I’m doing, you can see it HERE! (It's under my username in the fandom: adorkablephil. Don't ask.)

While I’m at it, I should also point you to Shannon’s Patreon page for his “Mechanics and Meeples” articles, which is here.

Star Trek: Discovery 1.04

  • Oct. 10th, 2017 at 7:24 AM
In which Spock would be proud of Michael Burnham, while all previous Security Chiefs of Starfleet facepalm.

Read more... )

Foiled by history

  • Oct. 8th, 2017 at 3:14 PM
I see that this year, someone nominated (future) Friedrich II and Katte again for Yuletide (Category: 18th Century Prussia RPF). Having just read Michael Roes' novel "Zeithain" about Katte, I was reminded of joking with [personal profile] rheasilvia about how fandom would react if someone (HBO, Netflix, BBC, whoever) ever does a tv series about Frederick the Great with lots of budget and good actors. To wit: everyone would love the first season, because the youth of Frederick the Great follows favored slash tropes to ridiculous perfection. There's the mean, abusive Dad to bury all mean, abusive Dads. No need to invent or exaggarate anything - Friedrich Wilhelm, "the soldier king" - der Soldatenkönig, did it all: verbal abuse (especially Fritz and his oldest sister Wilhelmine), physical abuse (think gruesome historic punishments used in education and military training, multiply), homophobia ("sodomite" as a favored taunt) complete with possible supressed desires as cause (Friedrich Wilhelm was at the very least very homosocial, thirteen kids or not, he adored his soldiers and wanted to be with them always while not thinking much of women) and then he capped it by forcing Fritz to watch his boyfriend's execution. Try to top that, fanon bad fathers!

Then there's the tragic love story both people fond of royal tales and more critically minded "off with their heads" folk can root for. Our abused prince finds true love with his best friend, dashingly Byronic Lieutenant Hans Herrmann von Katte. When the King's abuse becomes too much, he wants to run away, and despite knowing this could go dreadfully wrong even if they do make it abroad because of the desertion factor (they're both members of the army, after all), not to mention that princes in exile don't exactly have a guaranteed income, Katte agrees, because he can't bear to see the prince suffer anymore. Things promptly go wrong, both of them get imprisoned, but the prince because he's a prince doesn't get condemned to death. The military tribunal condemns Katte to a life long prison sentence. Friedrich Wilhelm, the King, promptly revokes that sentence, says desertion is desertion and changes it into an execution order, complete with order his son is to watch the whole thing. (Possibly because he knew that "life long" would mean release as soon as Friedrich ascended to the throne, or, if you want to think better of him, because he wanted the law to be followed and didn't want the tribunal to give Katte a lenient sentence on Friedrich's account.) Katte was brave and dignified at his execution, with a heartrendering last encounter with Friedrich. (In French, because like much of the German nobility of the day, Fritz loathed the German language and spoke & wrote French whenever he could. (What documents exist of him written in German are terribly spelled.) "Veuillez pardonner mon cher Katte, au nom de Dieu, pardonne-moi!" ("Please forgive, my dear Katte, in God's name, forgive me."). With Katte replying: "Il n'y a rien à pardonner, mon prince, je meurs pour vous la joie dans le cœur!". ("There is nothing to forgive, I die for you with joy in my heart!")

As I said: all the tropes are covered. (Except for the last minute reprieve and happy ending, alas.) For those who want an interesting, layered female character whom canon will never put in a position to come between the OTP, she's there as well, in the form of Friedrich's sister Wilhelmine. (Undoubtedly the hypothetical tv show would also spawn some incest tales because that's how fandom rolls, but since canon would not go there, slashers whose 'ship is canon would not mind... I think?) Female characters turned into Yenta Sues, eat your heart out: Wilhelmine is her brother's confidante, has gone through the same abusive childhood and adolescence, and gets put under house arrest as well. (Though Katte exonorates her at his interrogations.) As the first season would undoubtedly end with Katte's dramatic death, the season hiatus would be spent by AUs, denial fic (endless last minute rescues - "faked his death", otoh, is not an option, what with the beheading in front of poor Fritz), and hurt/comfort starring Wilhelmine in the comforter role.

Season 2, otoh, would be hated by nearly all the fandom. Wilhelmine gets reduced from regular to guest star by marriage to a nonetity and gets estranged from her brother. Friedrich reconciles with the wrong people (read: his father, though how sincere that reconciliation was is debatable). He even gets married. Quelle horreur! Though since that marriage was Dad's idea and he's never more than coldly polite to his wife, parting ways with her as soon as his father is dead, fandom would go from detesting Elisabeth Christine sight unseen to feeling vaguely sorry for her and then forgetting she exists (as Fritz does).

Katte's actual successor in Friedrich's affections, Fredersdorff, would be very controversial and start fandom's first shipping war. "Too much of a power differential", "boring!" and "not enough chemistry" complaints would be countered by "you're all too addicted to angst, what's wrong with a secure relationship!"

Friedrich Wilhelm gets killed off mid season 2, and after Fritz ascends the throne, it would start to dawn to the Breaking Bad familiar of fandom that they're in for a main character arc that can be roughly described as "Jesse Pinkman becomes Walter White". In non-BB terms: fandom's woobie (Froobie, in this case?) turns into a magnificent bastard at best and a large scale manipulative life destroyer and creator of other woobies at worst. Friedrich reconciling with Wilhelmine would only vaguely pacify fandom. "Bring back Katte!" would still be the overwhelming cry.

Seasons 3 and 4 would regain some popularity for the show, with our (Anti?)hero now in full gear magnificent bastard mode, set on turning Prussia into the new European superpower, and the more woobie-longing part of fandom being given his younger brother Heinrich as a new favourite. (Heinrich is also openly gay, a gifted soldier, can provide some sibling jealousy angst and since he'll never rule anything won't be in danger of letting his admirers down by increasing ruthlessness and life ruining.) There are now three female characters as Friedrich's three major antagonists: Maria Theresia of Austria, Madame de Pompadour in France, and the Czarina Elisabeth in Russia. This again provides interesting women in major roles without breaking up any m/m couples, though with three female opponents, discussions about how much a misogynist Fritz is start. (Especially if the scripts include some of his more infamous statements about women, including about the way they smelled.) His defenders point out that he's also the most reform-minded ruler in Europe (true), with the episode in which a miller successfully sues the King in court (only possible in Frederician Prussia) being their favourite, while a part of fandom would embrace the "hate the main character, love the rest of the ensemble" way of fannishness and would point out to the Seven-Years-War bodycount as Friedrich's fault. Shipping wise, the introduction of Voltaire would provide fandom with its first love/hate 'ship in this 'verse. Snarky Voltaire would be the type of ambiguous trickster character with uncertain loyalties who is guaranteed to become a fandom favourite, and Fritz/Voltaire snark-and-sex stories would outstrip Fritz/Fredersdorff h/c and curtain fic in number , though neither would ever gain the popularity of Fritz/Katte.

Season 5 would bring things full circle with old Fritz managing one last major war victory courtesy of the Czarina dying at just the right time, and would even include a surprise new 'ship for the fandom (Casanova visits the court, briefly, and Friedrich canonically notices he's good looking). Mostly, though, this season becomes a beloved farewell season because it brings back Katte in the form of a ghost with whom old Fritz increasingly holds conversations as he prepares to meet his maker. The "King goes anonymous among the people" tropes are also served (especially since those tales were tradition about Old Fritz), with Friedrich realising the world is very different now (the French Revolution is just around the corner), whether for better or worse, he can't say, but it's time for him to go. As the season finale ends with his death and young Fritz having a ghostly reunion with Katte, even affirmed Friedrich haters sob in their hankerchiefs, though whether in grief or satisfaction, no one could tell.

One more thing: Zeithain, the novel I just read which brought the resurrection of this frivolous speculation, tries to avoid the Froobie-to-Prussian-Machiavel dilemma by being about Katte, with Fritz making his entrance only around page 500 or thereabouts. Before, it's a Bildungsroman about Katte, which gives him a bad Prussian dad as well (honestly, I have no idea whether or not Katte's father was particularly strict as far as non-Friedrich-Wilhem Prussian aristocrats went, the one thing I knew of him was that he tried in vain to get his son pardoned, which was natural, but doesn't say anything about how he raised him) and generally tells about how awful it was to grow up gay in 18th century Prussia. Our hero crushes on a schoolmate but doesn't dare to do anything about it, and doesn't have any sex until his (female) cousin casually deflowers him, which makes him realise what he does and doesn't want (he then goes off and has sex with a sailor). When young Fritz does show up, Katte is aware that actually caring about the a future king can't lead to anything good (even as just friends, because of the future power differential), but they fall for each other anyway, and history proceeds. The one point where I'd say our novelist is cheating a bit is that he has Katte, while waiting for his death sentence, speculating that while Fritz is going to survive he'll be emotionally crippled for the rest of his life, which is more hindsight of history and less what the character is likely to know/guess in these circumstances. But still, the story is movingly told.

However: the first person Katte narration is just one part of this book. It's interspersed by the increasingly tedious postmodern novel device, a contemporary character telling his story as well. Said contemporary is a fictional descendant from the Earl of Chesterfield, called Philip Stanhope like the Chesterfield's illegitimate son of famous letter fame, and thus distantly related to Katte as well, with the device connecting the two plots being that Stanhope has inherited some letters of Katte's to his British relations and is now tracing Katte's biographical steps. And the Stanhope part of the novel is just increasingly annoying. Because Katte and Friedrich between them don't provide enough daddy issues, Stanhope has a mean, distant dad as well. (Seriously, the only good father in the entire novel is Johann Sebastian Bach, because of course he is. Haven't come across a fictional take on Frederick the Great in which Bach doesn't get contrasted as the Good Father versus Friedrich Wilhelm as the Bad Father. The connection being that Friedrich had one of Bach's sons at his court as composer and met the great man himself once, too. In Zeithain, it's Katte who meets Bach decades earlier, watches him interact with his kids and for the first time realises that the harsh parenting he's experienced isn't without alternatives.) Stanhope's mean distant dad had a homoerotic interlude as a young man, as it turns out, in case we're missing the theme that homophobic dads are mainly homophobic because they themselves are repressed homosexuals. In conclusion, I really wish novelists would stop interjecting perfectly readable historical novels with present day interludes when these contribute nothing of interest to the tale.

Blade Runner 2049 (Film Review)

  • Oct. 7th, 2017 at 7:21 PM
Aka the movie I had no intention of watching until two reviews, one in English and one in German, swayed me. Mostly by the promise that it does manage to be both a good movie and a great homage while being its own thing, that most tricky of balances for sequels.

Now Blade Runner is one of my all time favourite movies, and when I heard there was to be a sequel, my immediate thought was "do not want", and until I read those reviews, I had not departed from it. Said reviews, however, were glowing enough for me to say, what the hell, let's watch it, I'll always have the original anyway. (In both director's cut and 80s voice over version. *g*)

So, did it live up to said reviews? Yes and no and yes and no and yes and no... First of all, it certainly lived up to the cinematography praise. Denis Villeneuve, of whom I had last seen Arrival, riffed on the famous iconic original, and came up with new images both gorgeous and disturbing as well. Importantly, he also took his time instead of going for something fast paced. This is a plus in my book. One reason why Blade Runner was a flop back in the day was that a great part of the audience seems to have expected something Star Wars like, an action movie, not least because of Harrison Ford, then at the height of his Han Solo fame. And if Blade Runner was regarded as slow back then, you can imagine what newbies think now. But Villeneuve still chose to give his film breathing room, let events proceed in that dream/nightmarish, slow way, the very rare occasional physical confrontation excluded. Hans Zimmer's soundtrack is Vangelis ventriquolism, so in terms of looks and sounds, we're good. Not to mention that the way the movie styles the actors does a creative remix thing in terms of the roles they play, i.e. the person they echo in looks is not necessarily the role they have in the new narrative. This helps providing the sense that you're in the same universe but at a different point in the symphony where the themes are played in a new variation, so to speak.

Content-wise, we get to why I have a mixed response to this movie. On the one hand, it tries to hit similar emotional beats without providing a mere copy. For example: the director's cut of Blade Runner, though not the original first cinematic release of Blade Runner, introduces ambiguity about whether or not Deckard himself is a Replicant (without being aware). (I can never make up my mind whether I prefer Deckard as human or as an unaware Replicant, but I'm happy to report the new movie doesn't settle this eternal question, either, but keeps the ambiguity.) On the other hand, Ryan Gosling's character, K, is introduced as a Replicant in his very first scene, which is why I don't consider it a spoiler. There is an ambiguity waiting for him to discover as well, but not about whether or not he's a Replicant. (On the other hand, the scriptwriter(s) is/are definitely fond of Kafka jokes, because when K later in the movie is given a name, it's Joe.) The questions of what makes a person a person, the question of memories and what they mean, they're all here as well.

But. And there's a massive but for me. The oddest aspect this movie had was the way its gender politics worked, or didn't. On the one hand, you had several characters as female who back in the 80s probably would have been cast with male actors - for example, K's boss, the harsh and weary LAPD Captain (Robin Wright!), the underground leader of the Replicants, the memory designer (who, like the original movie's J.F. Sebastian - who, remember, designed parts like eyes for the Replicants - , has a life-endangering medical condition. On the other, the design of this particular dystopia does not reflect this at all. For starters, the advertising (famously a big part of the Blade Runner look) seems to be geared towards straight men. (No gay men or women of any persuasion are paying for anything?) Then there's the central m/f relationship. Now the original Blade Runner had two of those: Deckard and Rachel, Pris and Roy. I don't think I'm very far off when stating that the one between the two Replicants, Roy and Pris, was the one that came across as both being between equals and as the more passionate of the two. (Which fit with the movie's attitude towards the Replicants.) Blade Runner 2049, otoh, has the one between K and Joi, a non-physical AI designed as a mass product for those who can't afford Replicants. (Basically, Joi is a hologram capable of adapting.) And while there is pathos there - they're both artificial beings designed as slaves, Joi as a simpler form, who still regard their emotions for each other as real - there's also a strict hierarchy which is never transcended. (Joi is designed to flicker from housewife to erotic fantasy to whatever male wish fulfillment her user wants to have, with him being her entire purpose. While Pris was designed as a "pleasure model" for off world colonists as well, while Roy was designed as a combat model, Blade Runner never gives you the impression they being together was anything but mutual choice, or that Roy is who Pris' entire existence depends on, or her prime motivation in life. (Like the other Replicants in the original movie, she wants more life than the four years the Tyrell Cooperation was given them.)

But okay, let's argue that besides the K/Joi relationship, the one actually proves K to be more than what he was created to be is spoilery ). That still leaves the new movie having almost all of its characters declaring the one key element that separates Replicants from humanity, the one that, if/when it's gained, will ensure the revolution, is a plot twist straight of a tv show I've watched in the last decade )

Not unrelated, two negative observations about the two villains of the movie: one is Wallace, our new Tyrell. Only this movie apparantly doesn't trust its audience to get that rich industrialists benefiting from slave work who confuse themselves with God are the bad guys. No, to prove his villainy, Wallace is introduced via a scene in which something sledgehammery happens ) Then there's Luv, his replicant henchwoman. Spoilery remarks about Luv follow. )

Retro gender politics aside, I think what may come down to is: Blade Runner was courageous in terms of its characters in the way this new movie isn't. The Replicants in Blade Runner get audience sympathy not because the audience is pushed towards it. They're introduced as the antagonists, and the movie trusts its audience to get that their situation is massively unfair while never downplaying that they're also lethally dangerous, and at least on one occasion even towards someone who means them well. The final sequence reverses every action movie cliché in the book in terms of how hero/antagonist confrontations are supposed to go. Blade Runner 2049, otoh, is very clear on who is good and who is bad, whom to sympathize with and whom to despise, and doesn't budge from that. Our protagonist has a learning arc, but the movie is careful not to let him do something non-heroic even before he knows better. More spoilers. ) The one character with claims to moral ambiguity, to not being identifyable as either a villain or a hero, in the new movie is Robin Wright's police captain, and all her scenes with K are excellent. Not coincidentally, she's also the character who owes the least to the original movie. (Deckard's boss was simply an evil racist, and we only see him twice.) The end of her plotline, though, is predictable.

After all those nitpicks, though, I have to return to the powerful cinematography. Dystopian Calfornia, without any natural life left. Las Vegas as an orange-palette fantasy. The rain and water imagery, which in a current movie doesn't just evoke the original but makes a very likely prediction about the climate. Return and change of the small animal figures as signifiers. (Oh, and an E. Olmos cameo, which reminded me that while I hadn't recognized him when starting to watch BSG despite loving Blade Runner, the first time I rewatched Blade Runner after having gotten aquainted with Adama on BSG was odd in that regard.)

Oh, and lastly: Treasure Island quote in unexpected places, and entirely for the win. I'd never have thought of this character as that character, and yet, it totalyl works.

So, in conclusion: if you watch it, try to do it in the cinema, because it's one of those movies really worth watching on a big screen, the bigger, the better. If you don't watch it, you're not missing anything that would either enhance or destroy however you feel about the original.


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