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Saka to Mai. [Apr. 20th, 2014|12:05 pm]
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[Current Mood |Tragicomic.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the comical tragedy of johnny socko]



We had a nice Friday night at Matt & Kathleen's new place with Brian & Dave. Roof deck! Ended fairly early, so we were going to stick around Alphabet City to get a bite to eat. Jennifer picked out a smart route to the train that went past her top three choices, but they were all lines-out-the-door busy. Instead, we realized we were near SakaMai, where we'd had a date before. Hey, it is still my birthday week, even after Hedwig so we decided to use that excuse & pay more money than we'd planned on dinner to get the tasting menu & sake pairing. It was pretty great-- egg on egg on egg is Jennifer's favorite (like, her soul mate) but I think the sashimi was the star player; we both agree that the black crème brûlée custard was worthy of psalms-- & it went later than we normally stay out. A fun & unexpected party night. Anyhow-- a segue I over-use, I know, but anyhow-- here are the pictures, though I guess I "forgot"-- read, alcohol!-- to get the black cod. That was surprisingly good too!













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Come Dio Comanda. (16, 5:11) [Apr. 19th, 2014|07:59 am]
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[Current Mood |Fight fight fight!]
[Current Music |crown me king- radio seti]

As God Commands by Niccolo Ammaniti.

Elite Banana!
Banao strikes like lightning!
Martini? Shaken!

I think I'm in a fight with carmyarmyofme now. Or I will be by the time I finish writing this, because I don't have anything nice to say about the book I got from her via the Eleven-Books Club's white elephant gift exchange. I won't go on & on about it but...this was not my cup of tea. Carmen wrote a note in the front of it-- very clever-- saying that it was her pick because it was a book she liked that had characters that she disliked, which has been a book club topic. I don't think it will blow anyone's mind that I agree that the characters are very unlikable-- the neo-Nazi, the rapist, the alcoholic & the kid-- but um...I'd go the extra inch & say I really disliked the book, too. You know what it reminds me of? Michel Houellebecq, who I also dislike (except for his essay on Lovecraft, which is great). They are part of a certain European tradition. I don't know how to articulate that thought but there is a "thing" in common, a paradigm that seems related. You know, male with contempt for women, with openly racist opinions, safely fictional...but in a book where the authorial voice never contradicts them. Let's put it to brass tacks: we get the humanizing viewpoint passages from the point of view of the neo-Nazi father, an abusive scumbag. We get it for the kid, & the shitty social worker, & the drunkard, & we don't get it from women. We get a chapter from a young teenager's point of view in which they implausibly talk about how they only want to taunt men with their sexuality, & then the other time you get to see her perspective? Is when one of the other protagonists rapes her to death.

A thing I like to rant about frequently is the sorry state of drama. Oscar bait, that sort of thing. Creators who try to make "feel bad" art as a short cut to being taken seriously...& are invariably rewarded for it, when they are just shock jocks. "Throw in some Nazis! Dead babies! Rapists & eating poop!" Like teenage rebellion. The equivalent in comedy would be...fart jokes. I find it juvenile & sophomoric most of the time, & if it isn't, then...you just made me feel bad with a suckerpunch? No points for that. Yeah, it is stressful to read about a girl being raped & murdered, but that isn't like...a testament to your craft. Oh & in the case of As God Commands I don't even like the structure; this meandering story where everyone you meet is the worst, in a vaguely believable way, & their narrow, intolerant outlook is reflected in the book. It is a story that climaxes in the middle with tawdry cheap tragedy & then (like one of the characters) it lingers on in a sort of half-life, a coma. The book acts like it is "asking questions" with its open-ended conclusion, but all I read was "does not have a thesis." The point is, what, there are poor people in Italy with terrible lives, who do terrible things, & the cycle of abuse is self-reinforcing? Well, sure, & water is wet. Ugh, & it is a book about "men"? Poor marks all around. Luckily for me, I'm sure that's no skin of her nose!
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Like I Killed the Giants. [Apr. 16th, 2014|07:48 am]
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[Current Mood |Okay: everybody!]
[Current Music |crown me king- radio seti]



Digesting the politics of Hedwig & the Angry Inch is complicated. I like it, but I certainly don't think it is above critique. Nor do I think critique destroys my ability to like it. & for that matter, I don't have to agree with critique. Like, when people say that the ending is transphobic because the wig ends up on Yitzhak's head, on a cis woman. Except, you know, that overlooks the fact that the show cast a woman to play a man's part & spent most of the time undermining the binary. Then again, signs & signifiers, it does have an impact. Then again, was Yitzhak always played by a woman? I know Hedwig had male & female performers over the years. So I guess my point is, I don't have answers, or a thesis, but I'm open to discussing it. Like, to me it seems like John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig & Neil Patrick Harris's Hedwig is an interesting look at "passing"-- John Cameron Mitchell, who was there last night, is tiny & has a small frame, Neil Patrick Harris is tall & built-- but right, I don't have a thesis. Or the skill set to really create one. Just an observation. Is the conflation of drag, trans, immigrant & queer issues a mish-mash? Well, yes. Is the ending problematic? Sure. But to me there is a value in that confusion. Trans stories are usually "boy feels 100% like woman. Struggle, magical surgery, now the binary is reinforced!" Or you know, it is possible I am just making excuses for something I like. Cis guy apologetics. I just think hey, if a piece of pop art leaves you wanting to have a discussion...good? How did I like it? I think Neil Patrick Harris hit all the loud parts but wasn't up to the movie for the quiet parts. I wasn't cool enough to see this in the late 90s when I was coming to Metropolis, so I can't compare it to an early stage show, & I have a lot of devotion to the movie, so again...acknowledging biases. I will say that NPH as Tommy Gnosis was a great fit; the "Barney" persona taught him a bunch about sleaze. Lena Hall can sing like heck. The best part was when Hedwig was interacting with the audience & licked a guy's glasses; you know "it's a carwash, ladies & gentlemen!" but then she took it up a notch & I laughed out loud. Rolling on floor. Oh & the Belasco Theater? That's a really nice venue. & the use of a transparent screen to project animations for "The Origin of Love" worked super well. Anyhow, happy birthday to me.
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LOOK BEHIND YOU! (15, 4:11) [Apr. 15th, 2014|07:19 am]
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[Current Mood |Coffee.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the miracle machine]

Rat Queens: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch.

The dwarf fighter shouts:
"I shaved before it was cool!"
Her friends roll their eyes.

I reviewed Rat Queens for Tor.com in all its charming, bloody, fantasy RPG homaging glory.
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#TorDnD Session Two: The Sewers! [Apr. 15th, 2014|07:00 am]
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[Current Mood |It is my birthday today.]
[Current Music |crown me king- nautilus pompilius survives extinction]



We sought adventure, & we found it! Last session, our heroes found work investigating a kidnapping, & we descended into a sewer-dungeon of Tim, the DM's, creation. Whenever I share a picture of this campaign, someone invariably-- & rightly!-- asks me about the furnishings. All the pillars & decor are made by Tim. The rest of the group is: me, as Don Pantalone, tiefling jester-wizard, Bridget as my adopted daughter Columbine the tiefling rogue; we're joined by Scaramouche, my chickken familiar, Jonathan as Aegwyn the half-elf paladin of Erevan Ilesere, Sam as Kit the human cleric of Ehlonna & Irene as Wren, the human ranger with a hummingbird companion. The five of us-- seven if you count fowl-- explored an abandoned warehouse & after defeating the foes we found there, thanks to Pantalone taking a tragicomic tumble down the stairs & alerting them, we questioned our prisoner & climbed down the pit we discovered..& into the sewers proper. Poo water & all.

Exploring the sewers was fun. I have a saying-- "every stone golem or gargoyle is a potential statue!"-- by which I mean, I will play stuff on the map that would otherwise be suspicious, & then...nope. Players can meta-game by whether you are using the battle mat & they will always stay well clear of a statue in the middle of the room...just in case it is animated. Being a DM involves chicanery, & Tim is great at it. Was the little alcove we discovered just a red herring, or did we fail to discover what it did? Either way, it provided enough room for us to fight the....AHHH! Otyugh! Garbage eating horrors of tentacles-- two tentacles have teeth, one has eyes-- they are a classic monster. I don't think I ever fought one! But I did have the toy growing up, which is odd considering I wasn't allowed to own D&D books because Satan. The fight was hard: Aegwyn was grappled & dunked in the sludge, Wren & Columbine peppered it with arrows & I think both were at one point grappled, Pantalone failed to distract it but did at least colour spray the thing & magic weapon Wren's bow...but Kit was the most valuable player, pulling belts to give grappled characters Advantage, healing, just all around. When we slit open its gullet? A pearl necklace!



Down to the crypt & then further down again? Takes us to our final confrontation! We see the hairy, oily warrior & I think hey-- this would be a great opportunity to use my chicken familiar to draw him over so I can cast charm person! A chicken could find its way into the sewer, that would be odd but not implausible. Tim plays his NPCs smartly-- if outnumbered, they will bolt, if confronted with a con, they might suss it out-- so here it was mostly a matter of hoping the guy came close enough. He didn't-- almost-- but he did get his friends to come look too. When I say "friends" I mean, ogre! Fray! We charged in. In the room were cages with three kidnapping victims, & more foes. I was able to get the ogre with hold person which was a nice coup-- thanks, low Wisdom monsters-- that allowed us to take control of the fight early. A dark priest appeared, joining the conflict with his blasphemous blessings & negative energy attacks, & things got harder. The drow hiding on top of a broken plinth taking pot shots didn't help either.

Then, the man of the unholy cloth-- he worshipped...Kord? Which is unusual, don't you think?-- pulled a lever & dropped dire rats into the cages with the prisoners. A fight clock, hey, fun! Less fun? When the ogre goes down, the priest shouts "get your ass in here!" & ogre two comes lumbering out of the back quarters. Well, I'm mostly out of spells, so hello invisibility. Kit has sanctuary on, & he's a lean mean healing machine. Aegwyn get smashed by the fighter-- a critical hit on a great axe will do that to you-- but thanks to those spells he's back up. Columbine is a nimble little Muhammad Ali; she gets in there, stabs, & gets out again. It's racking up! Wren engages the drow, eventually toppling from his sniper spot up high-- not before he gets off a globe of darkness-- & then she takes the spot, raining down arrows. Pantalone, invisible, picks the priest's pocket, steals the keys & starts opening cages. I make it through the fight unharmed, though the second ogre's sensitive nose-- fee, fie, foe, fum!-- lets him take two really scary swings with his huge great club at me. Eventually, we win, free the hostages, loot the place, & return to the surface for our just rewards...of all you can eat at McArdy's golden arches! & one of the perks of playing with the guy who draws the Game of Thrones maps (#humblebrag) is that he can sketch this:


("Sewers & Otyughs" by Jonathan Roberts.)
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Dark Souls II. [Apr. 12th, 2014|02:04 pm]
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[Current Mood |Relaxing.]
[Current Music |crown me king- malleus, caeli & tophet]



I wrote my playthough of Dark Souls II as a four-part game review for Tor.com. If you've talked to me at all this year, you know that I can't shut up about Dark Souls. It is my favorite PS3-XBox-era game by about a mile, & you remember how much I liked Skyrim, too. I describe it as ICO only instead of a little kid with a stick & someone who helps you that you need to protect, you are a dangerous killing machine & you still need someone to help & protect you. Rumors of it's difficulty are over-rated; it is hard, yes, but it is hard like an old NES game. If you die, you typically deserved it. Hard & fair. Oh, not fair in the sense that the whole thing isn't designed to cheap-shot you with a one hit kill trap that is hidden around a corner & oh, why not say, guarded by a ton of minions, no, scratch that, let's just use a miniboss from earlier in the game & make a mob of them. Just that when you figure that out, & go back later, & snipe them from across the room with poison arrows? You are totally justified. Two other things stand out, besides that it is gorgeous & fun-- that alone is enough to put it on par with something like Skyrim. One is the very clever conceit of the game; you are Undead, & when you die in the game, you don't just use video game logic to respawn at a save point. No, the game is autosaving all the time; when you die, you die, & are weakened, & are sent back to the last mystic bonfire you rested at, where your body reforms. & then? All your unspent Souls-- the experience/gold mechanic-- are left on the bloodstain where you died. You have to fight your way back there to reclaim them...& only your most recent stain stays, so you can lose them all pretty easily. Danger! Second, the co-op mechanic is amazing. Listen, I hate playing games against savant-like twelve year olds & couch-bound gamer addicts who just want to shout slurs while camping out & head-shotting you ever time you re-spawn. This isn't like that. So, in Dark Souls I & II, the world is flickering out, the Fire is guttering. Time & space have started to decay, to slip over each other, so that the last remaining parallel realities are clumped & crashing together. You are the Chosen Undead; but there are others, in other worlds. You can Summon-- & be Summoned by-- those other messiahs, to help fight in their world, & learn from them how to defeat the traps & bosses in yours. Or...you can be Invaded by them-- or Invade-- & see to kill the other to steal their Souls & Humanity. So listen, the whole thing is very fun. Go read about it if you like.

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Oubliette Session Ten: The Tomb of the Royal Physician. [Apr. 12th, 2014|12:02 pm]
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[Current Mood |Ib & Sheut.]
[Current Music |crown me king- puns in the key of ancient egypt]


(The Tomb of the Royal Physician; art by Daren Bader.)

Last session, so many moons ago, our intrepid Kitsune nobles & their Zaibatsu allies passed through the Shrine of Yama-of-Many-Faces & into the Pyramid of the Royal Physician, & we rejoin them there. We've established that Ren Jokoizumi, Eric's urchin-turned-taikomochi, is constantly coming & going, appearing & disappearing. He's like the Emcee from Cabaret, so it doesn't really matter that he's going to be late; I'll just have him pop off & then pop back in when he gets here. Silissa & Nicole were the first to arrive-- it's not a race, & if it was, they'd have an unfair advantage, since we work together & left all at once-- & they are the Zaibatsu agents I mentioned. Moe no-Cho, alchemical researcher for the Butterfly Corporation & Keku no-Kin, the cyborg fixer working for the Gold Corporation. Luke & fatbutts are next, as our aristocrats, Haru o-Kitsune-- bureaucrat, spy & occultist-- & Amina o-Kitsune, the oni-worshipping bushi. Music was Fantômas' Delìrium Còrdia & I think it was Luke who noticed that Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra's "13 Angels Standing Guard 'round the Side of Your Bed" has been the leitmotif for the dramatic bits of the campaign so far. Good catch, because I've totally been doing that on purpose. Pizza, beer & sake round out the evening.

The game was heavy with player-driven drama, which you know is my sweet spot. Before we get too deep into it; first, they are pretty beat up. There hasn't been a chance to rest, & since the World of Darkness is pretty brutal with damage & doesn't have clerics, it sticks. I should probably do a tutorial on damage, actually. The group gets it, but the bashing, lethal & aggravated damage isn't entirely clear in their minds. Also, Willpower is pretty scarce in the group these days. I think the Character Trait system is working well, but I wonder if five plus the Virtue & Vice is too many? That is, it might dilute focus & overwhelm players? While I'm talking about mechanics, I accidentally spilled the beans about a mechanical "trick" that I had up my sleeve. See, I wasn't going to make Blood Magic a big part of this campaign, since I'm already ripping off Legend of the Five Rings enough for inspiration, but Amina & Haru have stumbled into it of their own accord, & last night I made the "mistake"-- not actually a big deal-- of saying that Blood Magic is an auto-success. I forgot I'd been keeping that under my hat. Like a lot of rules, though, it is probably best that it is out there in the open. It might be time to actually talk about putting a more formal "Blood Magic" system in place for them.

Having escaped a room filling up with scarabs & scarab larvae by using fire, & accidentally triggering a sand-powered mechanism that slammed the door shut-- but only after robbing the tomb of a heavy golden scarab amulet-- the party debated going down or up. When they entered, they had seen a path tilted downward, mirroring the upward slant they took; further up the slope, however, the hall widened into a gallery the size of a football field. As I said, this was a very role-play heavy session, with a lot of quick "asides," so events are somewhat difficult to discuss coherently. Keku, holding the amulet, feels the pull of an additional set of Virtues & Vices-- Vanity & Memory-- & Nicole uses that to good effect. I was really happy to see a player run with that. Moe decides to snatch the necklace from her-- she's no pickpocket, so she relies upon surprise & force-- & yanks it over her head. We go aside & she's once more speaking to the Royal Physician. What they discuss I will leave private, for now, even in this recap (where I generally speak fairly freely, because I trust my players to keep "out of game" knowledge separate from "in character" knowledge.


(The Royal Physician & his companions; photo by me.)

The walls of the place are carves with faded bas-relief glyphs & pictures. Steeped in the artistic styles of the Shogunate-- & failing at their Academics & Expression rolls-- the party has a hard time making them out at first, but Keku makes out that the door that slammed shut, the secret door into the scarab hall, has a group of magicians removing the heard of a woman. Amina & Haru, meanwhile wander into the gallery above, where the carvings on the wall are bright, almost glowing with paint-- or well, glamour-- with vivid scenes of the Pyramid & a city around it, a city that in one picture shows the people starving while frogs & toads devour the crops, in another a black vortex, like a tornado of hail & lightning, storms. Haru cuts his hand & invokes the Dark Arts, & Amina cuts hers & his & lays her hand overtop in a gesture of family solidarity. A failed & a successful Humanity check later (respectively) & there is a moment of vertigo, as the walls of the bas-relief dilate like a pupil, their blood spreading & pouring off the edge in a waterfall of blood, a torrent of red. They are looking down, now, on the Pyramid from a great height, & it is a deluge of blood, pouring from the sky, drowning the city around the Pyramid...which slowly starts to open like a flower blossom, growing impossibly golden bright & then--

They are back, & Moe's eyes are golden. Not just gold pupils, as seen when Ren fed her the gold pill & when Amina gave her the golden dribble from the corpse of Gale; now the irises are golden, as well. There is some disagreement & a clicking sound that only Keku hears, accompanied by the sound of rushing water. The party debates whether to go up-- which Moe is for, & Keku too-- or down, which Haru advocated for, backed by Amina. Ren shows up, with more torches, & just as he does-- good timing, Eric-- the door to the gallery they came in comes crashing down, clearly water-driven much as the last door was sand powered. & yes, of course, the room is flooding. Up it is; Keku is there with her clockwork expertise to keep that door from sliding shut! Up! Or it would be if, possessed of some unknown impulse, Moe mixes all the poisons, toxins & dangerous herbs in her satchel together at once & swallowing it down. She falls over in a seizure, frothing at the mouth, blood from her nose & then...still. The party freak, trying to resuscitate her with CPR-- which seems anachronistic but there was a pseudo-CPR in 18th century Japan, so I think it's actually in-genre!-- & every trick at their disposal. Eventually she sits up...but her heart isn't beating. They follow her upwards, into a room crawling with roots, vines & skeletons in wall sconces.

Finally, they are face to face with the giant mummified corpse of the Royal Physician. It speaks, mouth unmoving, in unison with Moe who echoes its words...& when Silissa speaks as Moe, the Royal Physician parrots what she says, as well. The conversation is, like any conversation with a millennia-old undead, enigmatic. They've spoken to the Royal Physician before, or anyhow it's proxies & avatars, like the sand golem, but this time they seem to be speaking to...more of a "person." They put the golden scarab chestpiece on the mummy, &...scarabs swarm into the room from the niches holding the decayed bodies, scuttling across the floor, into the giant skeleton & then...they seem to compact, to smooth, to settle into the shape of a nude woman wearing the necklace. She's still cold, undead, but there is more passion to her now. The Royal Physician, a lady as it turns out! She calls Haru the "Black Fox" & Amina the "Devil's Bride," & she says that she has no power over the Pyramid; they must bring her Shadow to her, from below. & so they go to do so...with Keku showing Moe how to use her tools & passes on her observations from keeping the door open...& still not-breathing Moe walks into the water. Minutes later, there is a tug at their ankles as the water starts to drain...


(The Royal Physician clothed in flesh; Isabella Rossellini from Death Becomes Her.)
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Vim & Vigour. (14; 4:10 ) [Apr. 10th, 2014|06:28 am]
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[Current Mood |In your eyes.]
[Current Music |crown me king- planet of the trilobites]

Valour & Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal.

It's not true that
you can't con an honest man.
But can he con you?

You know I like Robinette Kowal's "Jane Austen with illusion magic" novels. On, before I go on, did I mention that I watched Austenland, the movie made out of that Shannon Hale book? I don't think it had the budget to be all that great, but as far as popcorn goes, I liked it fine. Maybe worth throwing on Netflix, if you like romcoms or Austen or just feel like it. Okay, back to Valour & Vanity. Oh, so extraneous u's, British spelling! I've got a bunch scattered in my spelling. I don't know why; I remember deciding to rep the ampersand, & I am not shy about owning up to my pretentions, so I would if I could. The nearest guess I can come up with is that I'm a terrible speller & I just learned the rule wrong, or maybe British anthropology texts? I certainly have seen "artefact" a lot. A mystery to me, & & can't decide if I should try to scrub it out or just accept it as it is. I err with the later.

This time really back to V&V. So you remember the premise? Jane is a plausibly feminist woman in Regency England, & she has picaresque adventures with her husband, Sir Vincent...& they are both Glamourists, masters of illusion (the only kind of magic that exists-- or at least that we've seen so far). Romance is a theme, but so is adventure; they've tangled with Napoleon! Unlike a lot of Regency writing, Robinette Kowal constantly puts her characters at the intersection of race, class & gender issues. When ends up resulting is a fun story with complexity & depth. Plus also, for instance, pirates. Or Lord Byron, in this one. Byron is mentioned early, & his first appearance had me in stitches.

I liked this book quite a bit but I should tell you: the last act is the best one. When I was talking about The Goblin Emperor, I mentioned how stupid protagonists are my pet peeve, yeah? Well, I take it back when it comes to Mary Robinette Kowal's characters; their flaws are her strong suit. It could be easy to turn Jane into a Mary Sue, into an anachronistic character who uses modern feminism to knock down straw men, but Jane is a character, with her own biases & blind spots. So when I start yelling at the book-- "no, can't you see, gasp, sputter!"-- it is, what do the kids call it: dramatic irony. & thank heavens, she doesn't leave the reader on the hook too long. The characters do figure it out & then they do something about it. They get all Heist Movie. They provide...leverage.
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The Lightning Tree. (13; 4:9) [Apr. 9th, 2014|07:32 am]
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[Current Mood |Alchemy, too.]
[Current Music |crown me king- Apple-7-KBT]

The Telling by Ursula LeGuin.

Gather round, listeners,
Yoz, it's time to hear the Maz!
"Roll initiative!"

The eponymous "Telling" is a religion based on storytelling. Or sort of, anyhow; "religion" is the right word for it, but it is more transactional, more entertainment & education-- though having watched Cosmos last night, I have no problem acknowledging that at times many religions have had strong education & entertainment roles...& they certainly are transactional. I will also admit that my first thought was "so this planet had a religion where they venerated Dungeon Masters?" So yes, Le Guin's Hainish Cycle continues to be my favorite...& we're at the end of the novels, now. I want to chase down the short stories. Looks like if I get The Wind's Twelve Quarters, The Birthday of the World, A Fisherman of the Inland Sea & Four Ways to Forgiveness, I'll have all of those. This story is about a woman from Earth who grew up during a period of intense theocratic oppression, & left to join the Ekumen, the global society...& was sent to a world in the throes of intense corporate oppression. The oppression is ever-present but isn't the heart of the story; the heart of the story isn't even The Telling. The Telling is the body of the story; the heart of the story are the pains people have, & how those pains can, like curved glass, either warp their perception of the world or bring it into focus. I remain astonished at Le Guin's mix of rational ethics, & I mention that specifically because this is by far the most "spiritual" of the Hainish Cycle I've read. I will say, however, now that I've read them all, that the math orcs of The Dispossessed will always have my heart.
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#TorDnD Session One: the Kidnappings! [Apr. 5th, 2014|11:39 am]
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[Current Mood |Mister Seignor Don Pantalone, Esq.]
[Current Music |crown me king- harlequinade]



Bridget: "Did you let your beard get long just so you could stroke it like a wizard?"
Mordicai: "What, that's ridiculous, but of course, absolutely, yes. Meh!"

I managed to fall backwards into a Dungeons & Dragons game! I ran into, I think Bridget & Irene in the elevator, & they were like "so we were talking about that game & we really want to do it!" & I was like what are they talking about whatever it is I want in, "yeah, sure, start an email thread!" Only later were they like, "hey, that time we all were at that party & decided to have a DnD game, were you even there?" & I was like "nope!" Even better, Tim agreed to run the game. It is great getting to be a player for a change, & it is cool to see another ply their craft; I'm always looking at play style, & Tim rolls on the table, in front of everyone. One of those "you get what you see." I hedge my bets-- I fudge, but I fudge both less & more than I pretend, I fudge when it doesn't look like I did, & I didn't when it looked like I did. You don't know me, man. Anyhow, Tim's style has a brutal elegance to it.

I talked myself into playing the Wizard-- quite happily!-- & while my original character idea was going to be a gnome wizard, & then I thought "wait, that's Encre Panache! I can't play him!" & then I thought, wait, I certainly could, David as could as said he might have been resurrected by Liam, & I asked David & he said "sure." So then I thought, wait, what if I play a like, weird Gepetto gnome with a puppet son? & then I was like, wait I've got it, sorry gnomes-- I still think Encre is out there...-- & I went with Tiefling & I went with the Jester background & I was going to be like, a fake powdered wig barrister yes-man bantam. Until. I realize the best jester wizards in the world belong to the ancient & inscrutable, possible fey or possibly fiend, urges, Demiurges, Passions, the college of the Commedia Dell'Arte. & so my jester wizard was born, Don Pantalone, the fool who say the things man was not meant to say, who knows the things man was not meant to know.

Even better, Bridget & I this whole time have been planning on playing father & adopted daughter, & her rogue would parter up with my jester. A wandering duo. & when we walk in to play, Bridget says, "I still need a name," & I say "Oh, Colombine!" & so we are, Pantalone & Colombine! Or at least, that's who we are in my wizard's over-taxed mind, at the very least. I'm quite pleased. & our companions are Jonathan, the half-elf paladin Aegwyn who is much more...morally flexible than you'd expect, Irene as Wren, the human ranger constantly accompanied by k'Arl, her hummingbird, "played" by Carl who was sitting in, & Sam as Kit, the human cleric of Ehlonna. & of course don't forget Scaramouche, my chicken familiar!

Our first session starts with our characters broke, an intolerable situation for Don Pantalone, & the others too I suppose-- & in search of trouble what should we come across but "Reward: 500 GP." That's a lot of chickens. The deed? The city has been plagued by kidnappings-- ten all told, three nobles, two of whom from a house of ill repute, & worst of all, one found dead in the river-- & we convince the Captain of the Guard-- Il Capitano-- that we're the group for the job. Jonathan's paladin has a background as a soldier, & Pantalone is a officially licensed fool! I really like the Jester background, by the way, for making the role of the fool a legitimate way to play. I am to do so without being too disruptive. A fine line to walk, but I think I'm doing okay; at least half the time I try to use it to shift focus to another PC.

The first thing we do is question the urchins-- or Sam's cleric does, anyway-- but they are no help. They do, notably, smell bad. No really: our next stop is at one of the nobles, the ones who de facto rule the market place, & the son-- kidnapped & returned-- tells us his captors stunk. The mother also intimates that there might be an additional reward, but to discuss it would be...too bourgeois. "Is there anyone...more bourgeois in your household we could speak with?" says Pantalone, & then he & the butler go off to have an aside that rings, to me, like Shakespearian clowning, Malvolio & & his stockings. All of the clues we get point to this abandoned warehouse as central to the crimes, & so that's our next stop, when night falls, & of course we find...danger! The scouts do wonderfully, Wren & Columbine, the infiltration is going great, until...I botch a roll & tumble down the stairs like a buffoon. I warned everyone that the dice hate me, & this session is no exception. Maybe it is time for me to buy a new set of dice.

On the plus side, traditionally Panalone falls over backwards like a turtle & can't get up...so I'm really hitting my archetype. Down the stairs is a witch doctor, a berserker, & a trio of fighters. I burn though a bunch of spells, but in this iteration of DnD Next, instead of having infinite uses of cantrips, mages can regain spell levels with a short rest. Irene's ranger is all arrows, arrows, arrows; the paladin smites & tanks, getting the lion's share of attacks. Columbine flanks, Sam heals, & Panalone...well, I have Acrobatics & it would be cool if I could kip up off the floor, but remember my luck with dice? My hold person spell is useful, but cause fear & colour spray aren't. Still, we win the day, capture the last enemy alive & question him. I'm forced to cut off a thumb, for what it's worth. Panalone is shaken but his bluff was called & it turns out...he wasn't bluffing!

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I AM THE GOBLIN KING! (12; 4:8) [Apr. 4th, 2014|07:50 am]
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[Current Mood |Shower!]
[Current Music |crown me king- the babe with the power]

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Raise the clockwork bridge!
Advancement fights tyranny,
if you do it right.

I read this back during the weekend of Jess & Rasheem's wedding, & subsequently lost my notes. When I read I either fold a big index card in half or a piece of paper into quarters & I write my notes-- with page numbers-- on it. It helps me remember specific things & find them in context, but now...lost. Well, "lost" them; I am sure I stuck them in another book to start using as notes, I just can't remember which, & I've waited too long & now I have to write something before I get lost. That's fine, really, though, because I mostly have generalized things to say about this book. Like, first & foremost I liked it a lot! So the plot, in a nutshell, is that the King of Elfland & all of his heirs die in a zeppelin crash, & his half-goblin son-in-exile inherits the throne, & he does his best not to fail. "Elf" & "goblin" are-- or at least appear to me to be-- different ethnic subtypes of the same species.

So here is a thing: I don't like the tendency of epic fantasy to make up unreadable names full of uncommon consonants & apostrophes. I'm of the Book of the New Sun school of thought; I want names to be, well, names. I think the land of Fra'frazz has less verisimilitude than the Black Hills, to make up an example out of thin air. Now, conlang nerds are the big exception to the issue; if you know your linguistics, you can runaround the whole game. Constructed languages are great. I just wish I'd known there was a glossary in the back; I ran out on the train ride home because I didn't know about the endpapers, & I never got to consult them; learn from my mistakes!

The story is political & personal, in turns. My biggest pet peeve-- way more than Scrabble Gobbledegook proper nouns-- is an incompetent & stupid protagonist. Not a flawed protagonist-- that is of course necessary, & the Goblin Emperor Maia is-- but one who is so dumb that we the reader experience less of the story. Or well...how to put this. So my big problem with Moffat's Sherlock is that we the viewer are smarter than Sherlock Holmes. Watching from home, if you can't figure out "A Study in Pink," well, then you are not a good detective...so when Sherlock Holmes can't figure it out before me, I feel cheated. Sort of the same; when I the reader am watching an author be clumsy in exposition & foreshadowing with characters too stupid to figure it out? I hate that.

So...this is the opposite of that? Not quite what I call "competency porn"-- something like Queen's Thief-- but a more moderated, measured version of it. Maia's not useless as emperor. In fact, he's pretty good at it, & when the story drops hints as to what is to come, the characters catch those hints....or at least, often enough. Another interesting thing about the book are the layers of subversiveness in it. That is, Addison writes the serving staff & the other people usually invisible in a fantasy story-- why talk about cupbearers & who is pouring the wine, Aragorn & the horse-lord are arguing!-- as characters, but at the same time, the noble characters don't see them as people.

If they do, as Maia does, they have to stop, because the class system in place is more powerful than the people in the class system. The narrative tensions of the story are all class driven-- the minority goblin ethnicity correlating to poverty, as a rule-- with Ayn Rand terrorists who have a surprisingly good point, the rich versus the noble, the old money versus the new, & social order versus technology...& the poor generally being shafted across the board. The biases are real, but not authorial, & the authorial voice similarly holds off on being condemnatory or preachy. She lets her writing do the talking.
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I AM SHACKLETON. (11; 4:7) [Mar. 27th, 2014|11:06 am]
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[Current Mood |Nimrod!]
[Current Music |crown me king- nimrod!]

Shackleton by Nick Bertozzi.

"Hvem er du," huh?
Oh, I'll tell you who I am:
I AM SHACKLETON!

I mean, I really like Antarctica, I really like comics, & I sort of like history; what's not to like here? The Kate Beaton quote on the back should be all the urging you need. What can I really add, except perhaps to say that the heart of Antarctic exploration is the almost extra-terrestrial nature of it, which Bertozzi captures, & the sheer bloody Lovecraftian absurdity of it. You could be playing soccer on an ice flow & suddenly have to worry that you are being hunted by orcas; nature is red in tooth & claw & so are you: like space rockets discard their fuel tanks as they climb into the heavens, you will ride your dog sled & kill & eat the dogs along the way. Cold & brutal. Recently Alexander Skarsgard & Harry Wales were racing to the South Pole & they had to call it off; the race part, I mean. They still made it, but their press release charmed me a lot, they were like "due to the fact that this is way more brutal than we could have imagined, even with the full force of infinite money & technology, we still can't afford to screw around playing games." Cracked me up, anyhow, but then, I'm also the kind of guy who follows current events in Antarctica. Anyhow, I really liked this book & it is great as a visual reference, as I'll show you below. Makes me think this would be a good teaching aid.



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Weddings, Tattoos & Cabaret. [Mar. 23rd, 2014|08:10 am]
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[Current Mood |black hex]
[Current Music |crown me king- mood ring]



Social media has made the world a weird place. I don't want to get too deep into it at the moment, but remember how everyone used to think it was weird to keep a blog? Heck, people still do, which is...even stranger? Anyhow, I have a whole thesis on the hierarchy of content creation, content remixing, content resharing & content consumption that maybe I'll finish articulating some day. I bring it up because there are just many different information streams. You could get a sneak peak at the pictures you are going to see here by following my Instagram, for instance, or my Twitter or by being friends with me on Facebook. Heck, you could see more than you'll see here. I guess that is what I want this to evolve to become; something a little more mindful. My Tumblr is a relentless stream of resharing (with some commentary), my Twitter & Instagram I feel no compunctions about bombing with a zillion pictures, but this is where the stuff that makes it through the filter of laziness to have a better signal to noise ratio. Or well, at least, if you like reading about books & DnD.



I took Thursday & Friday off work for Jessica & Rasheem's wedding. Grabbed a tux-- Vera Wang-- popped up to Penn Station, had a frantic train platform exploration as I tried to find her, & off we went to The Long Island. Met up with Libby in the hotel bar, had a drink & then zip! Off to the venue. Ice luge, that was worth noting. The wedding was lovely-- like Kira & Nino, they went with a pretty hippy officiant-- & the reception was a lot of fun. Photobooth with costumes, goofy light shows-- I like goofy light shows-- good dancing, shots, everything you could want. We were befriended by Rasheem's buddy from college, Anita, but she did not get into any wedding hookup shenanigans, not for lack of me trying. Back to the hotel late & drunk as skunks, & the rail road in the morning with fordmadoxfraud & Libby. Home was...much needed. Jenny slept all day, David came over to work & I played a little Dark Souls 2 & got some work done. Oh & we watched Frozen-- the opening number was fun but otherwise I wasn't a big fan-- & Austenland. I like Shannon Hale but the movie was only blah.



So Saturday was like another going away party for David? Basically. Since Libby is moving out to California, that is one less reason to keep up the bicoastal commute! We'll probably not see him till July Shenanigans. It started out as brunch with fatbutts & James, but when the waiter got Lilly two-fisting it, it was on. Walked back to their place, grabbed a dog & grabbed booze, walked to the art supply store to buy India ink & a needle & thread, & then James started doodling. Came up with a squat little television that Jennifer liked, with a few tweaks, & then David tattooed it on the back of her leg with the stick-n'-poke method. Then the same thing was repeated with Lilly, only she got a skull with the letters "T.V." instead of eyes. Take a deep breath because we're still not done; we shoo'd everyone out & then headed to go see Cabaret! Alan Cumming reprising his role as the Emcee, Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles. Verdict? Alan Cummin is still hilariously as sexy as he was twenty years ago-- good work on that, sir-- but Michelle Williams sounded a little too much like someone doing a British accent. The crowd was an older, Broadway crowd, & there was some grumbling by an old woman in the middle of the show, but very fun to be able to see it again with Jenny.

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Hi Ho, Silver! (10; 3:7) [Mar. 16th, 2014|10:13 am]
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[Current Mood |loogaroo.]
[Current Music |crown me king- golden goose]

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi.

O goodness gracious!
Underneath her skin, she is
a great ball of fire!

You know, this is the second time that a blurb on the back of the book has really been right on in our book club. That is, first off, this was Liz's pick for Eleven-Books Club. Someone on the back of The Dispossessed was like "such an economy of writing, everything is meaningful!" & they were right. This time, it was The Austin Chronicle, who said White is for Witching was the heir to Shirley Jackson. (It is also the second book in our book club to have pica as a crucial plot point, the other being Mermaid in Chelsea Creek. I get it; I used to be a little obsessed with pica, too; I still have story ideas floating around in my head about it, too.) I've only read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but that is why I recommended it so heartily to handstil. Seems up her alley, & it was up mine to but by means of another angle of approach: magic. This has some supernatural teeth. Like Among Others, it kind of messed me up in parts. I'm a warlock, I want to get in there, scrapping. Listen, if you have a haunted house, you should call me. Or if you get cursed, or if Caribbean vampires are after you, or whatever. When I hear soucouyant I know how to deal with it-- thanks, Kit Marlowe & Co.-- & I know it is a skin-changer like the loup-garou. The Goodlady makes me think of Carlo Ginzberg & Bensozia & I start getting my game face on & then I remember that it is just a book. "Just" a book, because if you think books aren't spells, you are...wrong.

It took me a long time to "get" what this book was about-- it wasn't until page 137 that my theory was confirmed-- & heck, it took me a long time to figure out what ethnicity the protagonists were. So with that in mind, I suppose spoilers follow? I'm going to stay vague & generally talk more about broader themes & the occasional discreet element-- as I normally do-- but Oyeyemi has a flourish for the post-modern. Which is to say, this isn't a book full of exposition, so talking plainly about things is inherently an act of hindsight. Does that make sense? Like Dark Souls-- yes, I can turn any conversation into a conversation about Dark Souls, apparently-- the story is told in the margins, so to speak. In hints & clues & scattered statements that all together build a picture, but are presented puzzle piece by puzzle piece. The author is a black British woman-- I realize that the ethnic identity of being a Afro-Caribbean Brit is complicated, like hey! The pilot in Code Name Verity, but I don't know a lot about it, so if I stumble in terminology or say something stupid, let me know-- & West Indian mythology & Haiti are referenced in the opening pages, but the Silvers are white people. "White is for witching" is...a statement about how this is a book about a racist haunted house. It is also put me in mind of Saruman of Many Colours: "White!" he sneered. "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken."

Oyeyemi's book is about race, but it is never about race, except when the haunted house is speaking. It is about immigration, or the casual use of strange slurs out of context-- like "golliwog" to refer to a brand of cigarette-- or adoption, or class, or any of the other dogwhistle terms you can hear on the news. Only here, rather than being cryptoracist "code," those are more often terms for the blank stupidity of people who act as cogs in the greater machinery of racism. The house-- which seems, from the wreckage of Miranda's dream sequences, to have been blown up in the Blitz & to be a ghost of itself even?-- is the unspoken racism, & ironic racism, unexamined biases & privilege are weapons in the specter's arsenal. You know, & haunted elevators or poison apples or nightmares & hallucinations, possession, mesmerism, whatever evil Alice in Wonderland stuff it can scrape together & use to terrify. & it works, enough for me to feel it as I read the book, to want to yell at Eliot for failing to be the dark knight (the witch's champion!) he knows he's supposed to be. There is other magic afoot in the world-- the tower of guns, voodoo & dark gods in feathers in Haiti could be just a dream, but I don't think so-- & their housekeeper Sade sets her magic against the house but really all she can do is delay, aid, assist.

What happens at the end of the book? Well, finishing, I wrapped back around & read the first few pages & I still don't have a cogent thesis. I'm going to start rambling-- more than usual, I mean-- here, as I try to sort out my thoughts. It isn't all out there in the open, though I am willing to believe all the answers are here, hidden in plain sight, in nooks & crannies, under lock & key. Reminds me of Gene Wolfe, that way. First, can Miranda defeat the Goodlady, the haunted house? I don't think she can, not on her own. Eliot...I don't think Eliot is useless but like Sade, I think he can only offer so much, & from the apple pie at the end I wonder if he isn't entirely compromised. No, it is up to Ore I think, Ore who uses necromancy to blind the ghosts to pass among them, she cracks open the skin of the soucouyant, who could be the vampire slayer but chooses...mercy? Or is weak? Or whose story isn't finished, yet. Ore, who is from Kent, like me, & studied "arch & anth" like me. Ore, who holds the hand of the one she loves & trusts that she won't let her crash when she has her eyes closed, as I trusted my love Jennifer, who led me into a pole when we first started dating... Miranda is in the house. Is she dead? Who do you believe?

The meeting itself was pretty heavily attended! Liz was first, followed by Rasheem, fatbutts, carmyarmyofme, littlewashu, May, fordmadoxfraud-- in the flesh!--, Terra-- via the Matrix-- & last but not least, Beatrice. You can tell by the proportion of Livejournal users that it was a group of hoopy froods who really know where their towels are. We had a pretty rousing discussion about the book-- generally very well liked, though the consensus was that it was mostly a meandering tale rather than a tightly crafted one-- Carmen's review called it "ping-pong-y"-- backed up fairly conclusively by author statements. I compared her to Gene Wolfe-- because I think second readings will be rewarded, as Kerry said in her review-- but David pointed out that it was more impressionistic, which led me to conclude it is Lynchian; like Twin Peaks it holds tight to its internal logic, but that "logic" is dream logic. Other people thought that it was less a "racist haunted house" & just hated outsiders, but I still disagree. Wanted to put down their thoughts for posterity though! We also had a book exchange! Lilly got my pick, We3-- which I chose because, well, I'm into cheap shots-- & I got Carmen's pick, As God Commands.





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All Yumens Must Die! (9; 3:6) [Mar. 6th, 2014|11:12 am]
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[Current Mood |Timber.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the king of candlemakers' skull]

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula Le Guin.

The Dreamers don't shout:
"the Sleeper has Awakened!"
as they never Slept.

This is a pretty explicit condemnation of colonialism, with a tempered view of insurgency. I also have this theory that it is Ursula Le Guin's Homo floresiensis story, but that is because her science-fiction has-- so far-- reminded me a lot of Oubliette, & as you may or not be aware, my fantasy "races" are in fact different hominins. The Word for World is Forest is another story told in alternating chapters-- Le Guin loves that trick-- cycling between characters. "New Tahiti" is what the Earthlings call it; their representatives in the story are the jingoistic racist military guy-- who is all the more plausible because history is littered with his type-- & the treehugger scientist who tries to help. His story is the most interesting because it involves a lot of complicity on his behalf while he tries to work for a greater good; the native Athsheans are being raped, murdered & enslaved, & the best way he can stop that is to be a good little soldier & to keep trying to get his superiors back on Earth to intervene. Is that the best way to do it? What about when directly confronted with the atrocities? Good questions all around. Selver, our viewpoint Athshean-- "creechie" is the Earthling slur for them-- is the first to embrace "asymmetrical warfare." His story is of justice, revenge, freedom, mercy &...well, being a god, the god who said for the first time "let us kill them." & I mean, the Athsheans are not angels; the crux of their bloody plan is...pretty bloody. & the consequences for embracing that cultural shift, in creating an "us versus them" mentality, are quite possibly dire. This isn't a straight forward story of heroes versus oppressors; that is the frame, but the guts of the tale show how simplistic that viewpoint is, while at the same time showing that it is a better paradigm than "colonists versus subhumans," which is still the dominant Western view.

So I make it a habit to sort of poke holes in Le Guin's utopias. Because well...I'm a genuine utopian, but I'm also a nihilist, so I'm well aware of the pitfalls in optimism. Like, The Dispossessed gets around a lot of trouble from the Problem of Others by...being in outer space. The commune is more or less safe from force because...it is on the moon. Hey, that was true of the planet Earth for periods of history, if you substitute "ocean" for "space." The Dispossessed also makes some reference to guerrilla fighting, which is an interesting counterpoint, but not a fully convincing one. The Word for World is Forest featured a criminal justice system I've seen Le Guin bring up in a bunch of the other Hainish novels; criminals are exiled. In The Left Hand of Darkness it can be a death sentence, but in other stories it essentially just makes hermits out of them (...Forest, again Dispossessed). That is another one of those environmentally driven options; the developed Earth doesn't have very good spots left for "exile," unless you want to start a gulag in Siberia or Alaska, or create a penal colony...which are both options with their own problems. The Problem of Others again, this time in the guise of crime, not war.
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Oubliette Session Nine: The Cult of Yama-of-Many-Faces. [Mar. 1st, 2014|03:29 pm]
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[Current Mood |Ib.]
[Current Music |crown me king- nezumi packrat]


(Idol of Yama-of-Many-Faces; art by PO-WEN.)

Finally-- first time this year, actually-- I got my Oubliette campaign going again! Well, Silissa took some credit for the delay, with her pottery class! Fair enough. First to arrive was fatbutts & Luke, the Kitsune nobles, Amina o-Kistune the diabolical bushi & Haru o-Kitsune the scheming kage. Luke & I have been talking about his Occult paradigm, & so he bought the "ley lines" specialty for it to make things official. Eric & Silissa & non-player baby Indigo were next up; Ren Jokoizumi the taikomochi survivor & Moe no-Cho the zaibatsu herbalist, who brought her Perception skill up to OOO. Nicole was last-- she was at a book club but was able to make it after all-- so Keku no-Kin showed up as well. Actually, it took me too long to round them all up in the same place; maybe next time in the same situation I'll just have the curtain come up with all of them already reunited rather than trying to railroad the group into a reunion. We recapped last session & then got into it.


(Osamu of the cult of Yama; Hansel & Gretel concept art by Ulrich Zeidler.)

We started with Haru using his new specialty to bust out a dowsing rod & examine the Pyramid of the Royal Physician. Besides seeing that it seemed that the Pyramid was siphoning cosmic energy from the sky & channeling it into the desert to create the oasis, it also seemed that of the four greater dragonlines leading out of the Pyramid, only two were still extant: one passing through the Arboretum & the other passing through the skull-faced pagoda that the players had steered clear of until now. Now, they head there, where Ren took Mollie's old-character, now-NPC, when she fell into a coma. They walk through the giant wooden skull whose teeth serve as a door to the first floor of the shrine, & are greeted by Osamu, an ancient crone of a woman. She tells them this is the shrine of the death cult, worshipping Yama in his guise as Yama-of-Many-Faces, but that their order is fading, dwindled to only Osamu, her equally aged companion Nana, & the young orphan Morikun. Amina is interested in joining the order-- the worship of the death kami Yama would fit along side her reverence for Mao, the oni god & judge of the dead-- as are a few others, but they put a pin in it for now. Into the pyramid, under a massive stone deadfall trap, warning them to be wary of other traps. As old as they are, the women can't tell them what lies within; no one from their order has entered in generations...another reason they want to re-vitalize their order.


(Scarab larvae & the face in the larvae; photo by me.)

Dungeon time! This is me as a Dungeon Master: either I want to have a session where the conflict is all character driven & social interaction, or I want to lock you all in an old school tomb. Just how I do. The party needs torches, but Ren is ready; his character is adept at scavenging, always stashing or pocketing useful items, & generally a useful packrat. Entering there is a passageway slanting up, & a passageway slanting down. The players decide up is the way to go, along the hieroglyphs & faded paint of the wall, along the...shiny metal bar running along both sides of the wall. I think you know where this is going...Zzzzap! After some shenanigans, they pry the bar out of the wall, breaking the "circuit" so to speak, though Keku noticed it flickers with black lightning back behind them, in the tunnel going down. Everyone is fairly beaten up, from pterodactyls & lightning traps & sand golems. They find a secret door, leading into a wide chamber, decorated with images of keys & feathers, with a dais at the end. As they enter, grubs & scarabs pour down the wall sconces, starting to fill the chamber. The party uses fire to pin them in-- they noticed the chutes leading in & assumed stuff would come down them-- so despite some back & forth, they make it to the other end, even as the maggoty creatures form a column & a face. On the raised altar, there is a golden scarab necklace, which Keku grabs & they run out of the chamber even as another deadfall starts coming down, sealing the room behind them. At least, I'm pretty sure the door slammed shut on them; it was pretty dang late & I had drank more sake than I meant to!


(The Scarab Amulet of the Royal Physician; Pectoral with the Throne Name of Tutankhamun.)
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Injury to Arm Motif. [Feb. 22nd, 2014|07:44 am]
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I started physical therapy for my arm. There isn't a good story behind how I hurt it. In November Jenny woke up with a gasp, so I jerked awake. A pillow had fallen, that was all, but I had been sleeping with my arm pinned under my body & I wrenched it. It hasn't really stopped hurting since then. I've had problems with my rotator cuff before, so after a couple of months of it not healing I finally was like, "doctor time!" Well, okay; first I tried a witch-doctor-- the chiropractor-- which did nothing for me, but the massage therapist in his office felt nice but didn't seem to "fix" anything. So then doctors & then physical therapy. Actually, I am not sure if I'm supposed to see the doctor again; he gave me an ultrasound & shots of steroids & sent me on my way. Physical therapy is in three phases, when I go. It starts with the therapist stretching me & poking my tendons. Manual therapy which, like I said, isn't my jam, but I will say that not relying on "cracking" & actually doing more therapeutic poking does seem more effective. Then I do exercises; there are some lying on a foam roller, some with a resistance band & some with the weight machines. It all ends with electroshock & ice sleeve, which makes me look like Ivan Drago. When I said that they were like "oh yeah, no one has ever said that before." Which...how? It seems like a gimmie.
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All These World Are Yours, Except Europa. (8; 3:5) [Feb. 21st, 2014|03:06 pm]
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[Current Mood |Opalstone.]
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Worlds of Exile and Illusion: Rocannon's World; Planet of Exile & City of Illusions
by Ursula Le Guin.


White gold, yellow gold,
lonely against black velvet,
the stars of our worlds.

These are three more books in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle, telling the Dark Times, the Age of the Enemy, & shortly before. The Dispossessed is chronologically first, dealing with the FTL math of the ansible as the frame story (Planet of Exile has a character named "Shevik" which makes three Sheveks, the bolt inventor & the mathmatician included), & then there is another I haven't read, then these, which set the stage for the rise of the Ekumen that represents the human worlds in The Left Hand of Darkness. These three are actually the most Oubliette-y of her books, as they are post-technological. That is, Rocannon's World is about a human ethnologist on a planet with multiple hominin species, & for the aborigines, it is very much a fantasy novel, complete with different fantasy "races." Planet of Exile is a colony descended from spacefarers trying to make piece with the natives on a world where years are sixty Earth-years long. City of Illusions is a post-modern identity story about...well, what is it about? A man who lost his memory trying to rediscover it on a post-apocalyptic Earth kept by the alien overlords, who appear to be benign (or malign?) Illusionists; in a way it is reminiscent of the Oankali of Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis & the Oankali. With...a dash of The Glass Bead Game. The first two might as well be fantasy, with space elements, though in truth they are science fiction with a veneer of low-tech fantasy tropes; time distillation from near-light travel sure sounds like going to Fairyland & losing a century of time while you dance with the fey for a single night. I gobble that stuff up, as should come as no surprise. A quick note about ordinal terms; these three novels are collected in an omnibus. I'm counting them as separate novels, rather than one big "book" because that is how I've always done it. Since I had an additional filter-- reading women writers-- that can have an inflationary effect, so I wanted to mention it, but I don't really think it will skew things, since my plan is to try to skew away from men, anyhow. Fifty/fifty is my worst case scenario.
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HC SVNT OGRESS. [Feb. 16th, 2014|07:36 am]
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[Current Mood |The Glower.]
[Current Music |crown me king- Apple-7-KBT]



It was the Eleven-Books Club meeting for fatbutts's pick, The Mermaid of Chelsea Creek. Opinions were not really split, except for Lilly, who liked it despite the problems other people had with it. A few issues of note: one, fordmadoxfraud was in from San Francisco for this meeting. It was very well attended; actually, I think we had everyone, sans May. Terra beamed in from China via Facetime. A real quick side-note; we have the Chromecast, & while I really thought it would help make video conferencing easier, it hasn't. Facetime & Chromecast not working I can at least understand; as was pointed out to me last night, Apple & Google aren't the best of friends. The fact that Google Hangouts & Google Chromecast are non-compatible, even with plug-ins to sort of make it work, just makes me crazy. All I want to do is make people's faces be on the television, with their words coming out of the speakers. It seems like it shouldn't be this hard. It has become a running gag: watch Mordicai fumble with computers & A/V wires for an hour at the beginning of every book club! It is worth it, obviously; having our friends able to be on a Star Trek video screen is a perk of living in the future. I just wish we were a little bit further along into the future. Jenny baked homemade pretzels, macaroni & cheese & rice crispy treats (she took the photo above as well)...& of course since she did, this is the meeting everyone brought food too. Pretzels, so many pretzels! Probably because salt plays a big role in the book.

Consensus on Mermaid... was basically "why the heck is this a trilogy?" with a dash of "this book needs an editor." Liz & I especially on that latter bit, per the LA Times review discussing how neither she nor her editor had YA experience. The book retreads scenes, even freezes the action, & does a lot of telling rather than showing. The book should have been a stand-alone, or failing that, the first book could have had an arc? Liz's theory is "three book deal," which...is probably true. The rest of the consensus view was that she does well with "real world" stuff-- her relationship with her mother, her best friend-- but that the deeper you go into the supernatural, the further that dissipates. I forget who it was-- book clubs are for wine!-- but someone said that the Polish mythology felt more like she had Wikipedia open in a tab, less "lived in," & I think it was Beatrice who said that everything magical comes to her without effort or training. Using magic powers as a metaphor for emotional catharsis is one thing, which you could argue she's doing, but I tend to agree, though for me the "martyrdom by Care Bear Stare" thing isn't too appealing. It was a fun meeting; we broke up early because I thought we'd lost Terra-- she was feeding Mal-- while Liz had a second party to go to (as is her wont) & littlewashu was off to a concert. I don't know if it actually was short; felt like it. One of those books where we all agree & thus run out of steam.
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Ratatosk, Skald subclass. (5; 3:2) [Feb. 6th, 2014|03:35 pm]
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[Current Mood |Really sleepy.]
[Current Music |crown me king- SAN check]

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard Volume Two by David Petersen, et al.

Crown of insect scales,
almost my favorite, but then:
the ghost of an owl!

Another Mouse Guard anthology to enjoy. My feelings on the Guard are pretty clear: super awesome. The Black Axe was one of my favorite books last year. My favorite is Jemma Salume's ghost story, though to be fair, if you had asked me to guess who I would like best, I would have guessed Salume. Oh, speaking of, random note; since this is an anthology, I wasn't going to count it for or against my plan for reading half women writers, but with Salume as the only woman, I'm counting it as a boy's club pick. Eric Canete * Cory Godbey, & like them a lot as well, & that is reflected in their stories. There is a lot of great stuff here; I think I liked the first Legends of the Guard better but I enjoyed this plenty. Not as good as the "real thing," but it has other virtues like, Stan Sakai! & knowing a little about his real world situation makes me wonder about what other personal touches & easter eggs might be in the frame story...
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The Age of Salarius. (4, 2:2) [Feb. 6th, 2014|06:55 am]
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[Current Mood |Morning bell.]
[Current Music |crown me king- laura dernhelm]

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea.

Sulfur, quicksilver...
...salt, the fruit of the dead sea.
Nackle, soldier's wage.

Wait, this is the first part of a trilogy? That isn't okay. This is fatbutts' selection for Eleven-Books Club. It didn't need to be a trilogy of books. Looking back on it, on how there was an establishing scene X, then scenes Y & Z on the same subject? You could have cut out all of that. Or how about showing instead of telling? We hear lots of characters talk about how bad Kishka is, but it isn't until the last few pages that she starts acting that way, after staying off stage for so long. I don't know, I'm not normally bothered by things being extended into a trilogy, but for some reason it is bothering me. I think because it really is the difference between m liking this book & me being okay with this book. I like trilogies, I don't even mind reading the first book as part of book club; that is what happened with Seraphina & This Dark Endeavor. It just bugs me I think because it is the difference between this book being fine & this book being good. Dragging its feet like this, it is sort of in the range of mediocre Gaiman. You know me; I like Neil Gaiman & I think some of his work is amazing, but I also think a lot of his novels are the pits. As onatopofthings said when he gave me a bunch of Arby's sauce, Gaiman's problem comes when he has to write more than two hundred pages. Ha, ha. True though. Anyhow Michelle Tea has the opposite problem. Ramblings. We didn't need the umpteenth scene with the pigeons, or the Dola bit where she just refuses to progress the plot of the story, or the...well, basically there is a system like this. Show Checkov's Gun. Come back later & go "golly, that sure is a big gun!" Then after that, return to the scene to make sure it is loaded. Then in a little while maybe show the gun again, talk about how loud of a bang it makes. Maybe one more scene with the gun, just in the background ominous. Firing the gun? Nah, save it for book two or three! See?

It also reminds me of Half World. Or oh, the WondLa books. I guess these are the new urban fantasy sorts? The mix of fairytale stories & trailer park woes. I wonder about that flip, from posh Narnia to poverty. I suppose that is the gritty "realism" of the modern, in the truer sense of "modern." I don't know, I don't mean to sound dismissive at all! Poor teenagers exist a-plenty, writing for their experience is fine by me. I think that is Tea's strength, actually; writing to evoke truth in the little things. The dirty river? I grew up by the Cuyahoga River, & in college that river was my hang out spot; there was an island on it I marked out for mine, & the train I took to Metropolis ran along side it. Superfun cleaned up the river that caught on fire, but I think I still have a decent claim to fame for knowing about dirty rivers. Michelle Tea's is in her writing; she "gets" it. When she writes about teenage girls acting bad for attention, I wrote a note to my self saying "what Klausner thought she was writing." I actually really like her worldbuilding; her use of historical elements to blend a witchy whole. I just wish she'd get on with it, repeat herself less, require less heavy-handed exposition scenes. & I wonder if she's got something more clever in store for the end than just a big Care Bear Stare. Or if she does just hug it out, if it will be a martyrdom, Hrm, another reason to be bugged that this was a trilogy, not a stand alone. No closure; cliff-hangers work best when it can compel me to get the next episode, but here it just left me disconnected.

Oh, & a thing? Just a musing. People described this book as "radical." I don't...see how? So far it has been a "magical European lineage of magic!" story, with a dose of "helpful brown supporting character who tells the main white character that she's the reincarnated brown messiah." Which isn't really what it is, it isn't Harry Potter Dances With Wolves, it is just a diverse cast, with their own mythopoeias. Mythopoeodes? So far queerness has been used as a slur (by dumb characters, not authorially, obviously) & as a thought experiment about androgynous people, as others, but not really been present. Which, hey, having a poor straight female protagonist in a mixed community who is Polish is cool, I'm not casting shade, I don't mean to. It just...there are no real issues of race, gender, sexuality, class or anything discussed or really central to the book. Which is fine; it is a YA supernatural story, it doesn't have to be a forced metaphor for Marxism or something horrid. I just wonder why it is being called radical. I mostly mention it because I'm going to bring it up at book club & want to sort of figure out what my thoughts are about it. Not to sound hyper critical, which re-reading it I think it does. Over analyzed about stuff that I would normally have given a pass. It is a book about girls & quests & magic. That is awesome & I like that. Ultimately I was let down that it was a trilogy, & not complete, but there is a decent chance I'll follow up on it, especially if Jenny gets it from the library or the Superhero Supply Co. store & then I can just pick that up. How is that for an unbiased assessment?
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3, 2, 11. [Feb. 5th, 2014|06:58 am]
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[Current Mood |Time to start waking up.]
[Current Music |crown me king- crow-taker]



I went to go see King Lear at BAM with onatopofthings & Jennifer last night. Same theater with the super steep stairs where we saw Patrick Stewart in Macbeath. It was my first time ever seeing Lear, & I'm one of those people who hold to the self-evident truth that Shakespeare, read, isn't a patch on the real thing, performed. So Lear. The titular character was played by Frank Langella. The other actors are unknowns to me-- which is meaningless, they may be very famous in circles I'm ignorant of-- but of them the guy who played the bastard Edmund, Max Bennett, & the guy who played the Fool, Harry Melling, both stood out. So Lear makes me feel very Game of Thrones-y, you know? I can't help but agree that an absolute dictator who has gone mad has to be removed from power. Heck, I would have jumped to murder-- uh, euthanasia-- way sooner. Hey, this is the other side of the coin that people are always telling princesses. You are a royal, not a person, your life is the realms, not your own, you will marry who is best politically, you will die when you become a danger to the kingdom. Oh, I don't know, I get why it is sad & all that, I guess I just mean to say that I don't condemn any of them. Except maybe Edgar; that guy is both dumb & weird, in a way that cracks me up. "I'll fall for every trick but then trick my dad with a prank about suicide!" Uh, okay?



I don't like cop shows & I don't like dramas. I don't like "serious television" unless it has a dose of the surreal. True Romance-- edit-- I mean, True Detective--doesn't have that sense of the surreal, but I've seen people trying to compare it to Twin Peaks & I get why. I can't quite explain it, but I get it. To me, it is most like the first, strange half of Fire Walk With Me, with Special Agent Chet Desmond, played by Chris Isaak. The levels of poverty are similar, trailer parks & prostitution; the people you meet are strange & become embroiled in torrid relationships. If that's the case then Matthew Mcconaughey is playing like the inverted Dale Cooper. He's always got the most nihilistic & paranoid thing to say, but he's also got the like, obnoxiousness of a 15 year old who just decided to get mouthy about atheism. Anyhow, so I like this show; it is brutal & "dark" or whatever they say, so yeah, if you don't want that on your plate right now, steer clear, but I think this show is going to become the ubiquitous water cooler show in a week or two so you should start catching up now is my point.



Goodbye Matt Smith. Okay, I liked this episode, so before I get to that can I just say what really got under my skin? With the whole crack in the world, with the whole trying to go away & not being able to, the whole growing old & raggedy...didn't this feel like this should have been Amy Pond's finale? I don't mean this as a dig at Clara or Coleman! I just mean the writing of the episode really made it seem to me like it should have been Amy at the end, since Amy was the one with him on the adventures with the Silence & the Angels & the Crack. I don't want to be the cliche that can't let go of the Doctor or the Companion I started watching. In fact, I'm ready to give Capaldi a chance, despite the fact that he's a white guy. Boring. I just...well, I do miss the Ponds, but also, I just felt like it was...their story, there at the end. It could have been a perfect excuse to explain what that point in time the Angels sent them to was a fixed point in time, because the Doctor went back that later to take them on further adventures, or something. Now I'm just rambling. Matt Smith was 900 years old & 9 years old. It was a great melancholy, man. I saw you getting old & Baker-y. I bet that was a set-up for your encore in the 75th anniversary special as the weird Curator. Sure like a long con.
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Oubliette in Three Words: Liches in Spacesuits. (3, 2:1) [Feb. 4th, 2014|04:12 pm]
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[Current Mood |Canard.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the sanity of randolph carter]

The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker.

Inside the Flint Cube,
the keyboards smoked & shot sparks.
The Man of Gold lives!

I'm not going to get into this now; we'll be doing an Advanced Readings in D&D follow-up on Barker, so it will end up there.
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Ai Was Right! (2; 1:1) [Jan. 24th, 2014|03:47 pm]
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[Current Mood |Protoculture.]
[Current Music |crown me king- audible]

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin.

Across the ice caps
& around the equator
your shadow follows.

So this is part of the same cycle-- the Hainish Cycle-- as The Dispossessed, but it was written earlier. The events of The Dispossessed predate The Left Hand of Darkness but that is really academic. Like Iain Bank's Culture novels, they can be picked up in any order, I think. What do I know, though; I've only read two. I wasn't as blown away by Left Hand as I was by The Dispossessed, but that because of a couple of different factors. First, being written earlier means that her craft has time to develop; not just her skill as a writer, but her development as a writer. The big for instance: The Dispossessed takes a lot of progressive stances on gender for granted, with the main "thinking" & brooding being done on the subject of hierarchies & anarchies. The Left Hand of Darkness on the other hand (puns) is about gender. The Gethians are hermaphrodites-- humans, but altered genetically-- who develop into either male or female during their monthly cycle. The book is about an Envoy, sent from the Ekumen-- the benevolent, mystical space government-- to the Game of Thrones-y world of Winter, of Geth. The Dispossessed had a capitalist dystopia & a communist dystopia-- or really a corporate state versus a police state-- & The Left Hand of Darkness has a similar dualism, the feudal decentral kingdom & the faceless organized bureaucracy. Most of the story is personal, is a bridging of a non-gendered cultural landscape & a navigation of alien social mores & psychology. I'm definitely going to read another one of the Hainish cycle soon; probably interspaced with a M.A.R. Barker re-read (Geth & Tékumel share traits in common, if you ignore the weather). Part of what makes Le Guin's work so great, though, is that they aren't a polemic, & even when she's exploring issues of gender & freedom, she doesn't neglect the story. Mortaring in the keystones of arches with blood, religious schisms, white ice grass, arts of meditation that increase strength-- adrenaline?-- all wrapped around a central act that resembles nothing so much as Cherry-Garrard's diary. Like a reviewer said on the back of The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin has a habit of laying out Chekhov's Gun, but without letting you notice it is a gun. Chekhov's unassuming details. Things that happen in the story have a purpose, they wrap back around. It is pretty impressive. This was a gift from Libby, along with two other female SF authors, who I think you can expect to hear about some time this year.
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My Cackling Mad Genius. [Jan. 24th, 2014|12:44 pm]
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[Current Music |crown me king- top it off]

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Best Books of 2013. [Jan. 21st, 2014|02:49 pm]
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[Current Mood |ROY! INVINCIBLE!]
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I've done Best Of lists for a few years now; sorry this one is so late! Last year was a bad year for me keeping track of the books I read; general malaise paired with getting paid to write for Tor.com-- especially the Advanced Readings in D&D project-- cut into it, especially the more casual "I read this, here are a few off the cuff remarks" sort of thing I would do for books I was more or less lukewarm about. I'll try not to fall into the same trap this year. I won't make a resolution of it, because I took a page from littlewashu-- as well as Jennifer & Liz & other people who might not have the letter rule but have the spirit of the rule-- & pledged that at least half of the books I read this year will be from women authors. No excuses for "oh, I had to read it for work" or "this is for a blog project," either. I'm planning on padding at least some of the stuff early in the year with Ursula Le Guin's science-fiction stuff. You know how I normally say this list is in no order? Well, that is true again-- mostly the list is arranged by the horizontal size of the cover image, to be honest, since I was making the cute little banner-- with the exception of The Dispossessed, which is just flat out my favorite book from last year. I did a Top Three Books for Tor.com, but those had to be books that were published this year, but all three of those-- The Black Axe, The Land Across & Mummy-- all made it onto here, as well. No honorary mention list this year; I just wasn't feeling it, in all honesty. I had a top ten in a way that in years past I haven't. Certain books are negotiable, maybe something else will stick with me or some other thing will be forgotten. That's the fun of writing things down, though, isn't it? Coming back to it later & seeing it in new light, either vindicated or supplanted?

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.
Mouse Guard: the Black Axe by David Petersen.
King of Chaos by Dave Gross.
Nevada by Imogen Binnie.
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks.
The Land Across by Gene Wolfe.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.
Forerunner by Andre Norton.
Last Ape Standing by Chip Walter.
Mummy: the Curse by Onyx Path.
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Sad True Book Club Story. (1; 1:0) [Jan. 19th, 2014|07:48 am]
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[Current Mood |Glad for MLK day, actually.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the oath of fëanor]

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.

Grasshopper & ant,
otter, immortal, Rupture.
I dislike them all.

This was May's pick for Eleven-Books Club &...nope. I tend to be leery of "literary darlings" anyhow, generally finding them to be the middlebrow equivalent of Two & a Half Men-- "oh, the problems of young white straight men!"-- & while I'm sometimes, often even, surprised by what I find (the whole point of a book club!), this wasn't one of those occasions. In a nutshell: you never meet a character who isn't described a a hodgepodge of racial stereotypes. The topic of gender is addressed thus: ardent, pathetic men & neurotic, gold digging women. "But wait," you say, "those are just the loathsome protagonists!" Well, I don't buy it-- it is tough to argue authorial distance when one protagonist is a thinly veiled author insertion-- and either way, the voice of the book seems to want me to condemn the characters for the wrong things. Even if I wanted to cut some slack & grant the axioms, this dude who pushes a victim of domestic abuse into triggering situations because he only likes her when she's vulnerable? Yeah, I don't want to read a book about him. As for the portrait of the future...nope. It has all the nuance of a Fox News scare-teaser. "Is your kid huffing fermented farts...TO DEATH? Tune in at eleven!" Actually, I think it was Liz who said that it reminded her of a guy writing about youth culture based solely on moral panics about lipstick parties.

Seriously, you know the Socrates quote:"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders & love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food & tyrannize their teachers." Just that old chestnut, but you know, kids these days with the cyber-sexting & the chat abbreviations! Shteyngart posits that kids will be sub-literate & speak in Lolcat...but also will refer to everything by it's full corporate conglomerate name, Saeder-KruppLittleDebbieRenrakuCorp or whatever. Some of the elements of economic decay were alright but they weren't particularly prescient, nor did I find them clever; basically take the general fear of the Chinese, add in a dash of IMF & WTO as left-wing canards for the sort of UN, Agenda 21 right-wing conspiracy theories, put a veneer of anti-Republicanism in, & then...that's enough, right? Or books. I don't believe the axiom that print is dead-- the numbers don't support it-- but all of that aside, let's grant his axiom. Let's say books are obsolete, no longer existing. You know who the last people who'd still like them would be? Rich old people for whom they remained a symbol of nostalgia & conspicuous consumption. Maybe that is all me, all my own brand of putting geeky stuff out there are cool, but I think the rich old people who wanted to live forever would probably make good clients for Lenny.

The meeting was a lot of fun. May, littlewashu & Rasheem all liked it; me, Jennifer, Liz, fordmadoxfraud & fatbutts didn't. carmyarmyofme didn't either; every fourth book club or so Carmen & I synch up our opinions, & this was one of those times; everything she said was right. Terra was quiet on the Hangout, since her bouncing baby boy Mal was up, & Beatrice didn't make it. Those of us who didn't like it didn't like it for the same reasoning, hating the characters, finding parts lacking verisimilitude, that sort of thing; some conceded that pieces of the writing were nice. Those who liked it dismissed the complaints by saying they were loathsome characters & that the haters are judging it wrongly, to which we replied that a thinly veiled author insertion character compromises any authorial objectivity, & Carmen said that she found the authorial voice identical in Absurdistan. There was wine & beer a-flowing-- Kerry brought a cooler from a party she just had-- & a log of Oreo ice cream. Not too shabby! We were pretty loud & boisterous & oh, it was Rasheem's first time! Welcome, welcome, stick around. Departures came in waves; Liz had things to get up to & was first out, but despite the trickling exodus, things went on for a while, & were pretty book club themed even. In that I started reading The Left Hand of Darkness & thus wanted to talk more about The Dispossessed, because it is in the same science-fiction cycle & I always want to talk about The Dispossessed now. Also, Kerry is reading The Silmarillion, so we got to talk about Lúthien Tinúviel, too!
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Mix Tape: "So Grossly Incandescent!" [Jan. 10th, 2014|04:26 pm]
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WTF. [Jan. 9th, 2014|09:12 am]
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Shout out to the old ladies who disengaged me from the homeless guy I was getting ready to wrestle, less props to the MTA guys on the train who didn't do anything, but heck, they aren't cops & they at least acknowledged that I played it cool. So that is how my morning started, with the trains all screwed up (I guess from a mechanical problem) & then a homeless person shoved me as I tried to get onto the train & then followed me on. The best I could come up with was "don't make a problem." It wasn't working though, but then the ladies tugged on the hem of my coat & indicated that I should move toward the middle of the car, like "what are you doing, that isn't working, this guy is crazy, just walk away." Which was obviously the correct course of action, but when I get all adrenalined up my brain gets rational but not smart. Like, it tries to work through things in a logical way, but in the most backwards & circuitous route possible. Anyhow, that isn't even actually how my day started; it started with me waking up at 5:30. Because that is how my internal clock works now. "Middle of the winter, pitch black? Who cares, cock-a-doodle-doo!" (Important sidebar: wait, spellcheck wants to correct that to "cock-a-doodle-dew?" What?! Oh, it is probably just spellchecking the parts separated by hyphens separately. Nevermind.) So I had just enough time to get up, get a ton of souls, & die stupidly twice in a row, losing them to the Abyss. Oh! & my Twitter got hacked! I changed my password & tried to clean up my third-party access, but I'm still paranoid that it is compromised. I'm on a roll today. At least last night was a nice Television Night with special guest elladorian! Beauty & the Geek Australia season one, which I watched when I was sick but remember very little of.
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America's 2014th Birthday. [Jan. 5th, 2014|01:29 pm]
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[Current Mood |I made myself hungry...]
[Current Music |crown me king- jolly cooperation!]



New year, I guess, at least by the popular calendar I use. So here is what is up with that: on New Year's Eve I ran some errands with Liz in the morning, errands of hers, since we'd put them off till then on my laziness/insistence/playing Dark Souls & my bank was closed. So Liz! She's my new friend. We both have the sort of social disconnect/hyper-connect that leads me to joke about being on the sociopath spectrum; in this case it means that we met at Katie's birthday last year & we were like "oh this drunken conversation is fun, let's hang out all the time," & then we did. Picture: tiny, mohawk. Or whatever you call a wide mohawk; I'm sure there is a name. Maybe it is more accurate to say the sides of her head are shaved. Whatever, I'm not going to fall down a Wikipedia hole on haircuts. Anyhow, we tried to get a fun lunch, but it was freezing & everywhere was closed, so we ended up at some little Italian joint in Carroll Gardens & then I walked home...at which point Jennifer & I went over to Kira & Nino's for their New Year's Eve party. Frank & Donna are visiting from Oxford-- it was their wedding in San Francisco-- & I was like "oh, Donna's new nickname is "Beans." Ian & Jessica joined us; I've met them a few times before. They are like a good champagne together; he's dry, she's bubbly. Seriously dry; when Ian mentioned birthing a new science into the world, I was like "I'm pretty sure this is going into the humor zone, but given Frank's academic work & Donna's academic life there is a chance this could be legit." Well, as legitimate as Popstrology. Also, they are not used to Kira's cooking; as the child of a family of chef's, Kira usually brings some intense game to the table, but for holidays? Get out of here, of course she goes all out, of course there is another course. & then when she was finally finished-- except dessert-- she was like "Frank & Donna helped me in the kitchen." & I was like "Frank & who?" & she realized I was talking about my joke about Donna's new nickname & it clicked & Kira was like "FRANK & BEANS!" So that was a fun time. New Year's Day was at carmyarmyofme's; this is the third year running. Black-eyed peas for luck & collard greens for wealth. Carmen said that the ham & the cornbread don't symbolize anything so I coined some: they are for the power to defeat your enemies in the coming year, flora or fauna, vegetable or meat. The party was full of a bunch of kids but before you know it I found the parents who run a OSR game with Rolemaster crit tables. My people.
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In the news! [Jan. 5th, 2014|07:16 am]
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[Current Mood |Building habits.]
[Current Music |crown me king- the oath of galadriel]



I'll try to be a little bit better about writing here; at the very least some rundowns. Last year I was terrible about books even, let alone the humdrum everyday, but you know, I also wrote a lot for Tor.com & that will probably still continue to be a pattern. I just need to, I don't know, occasionally put in those cross-post indexes, at least, or blurb books I read with a placeholder even if I don't "get into it." I have been pretty good about "event" blogging, like my game or fordmadoxfraud's game or book club, so I don't think I've been too absent, just no where near as prolific as I've previously been. kingtycoon blamed it on my Tumblr, which isn't really true, but I mean, my feed reader & my outgoing feed is a thing I cultivate. My point is, I've at least been up to stuff. You know, I've gone through phases of being good about talking about the media I consume; maybe I'll give that a whirl. So I saw World's End (& I just wrote a miniature review & then accidentally deleted it by hitting ctrl-r when I meant to hit ctrl-t) which many others had recommended to me, chiefly littlewashu who picked it as her movie of the year. It thus had to work against expectations, to live up to the hype, which is never a good situation to be in. It is a nice rejection of the manchild, in a world where manchildren, menchilds, menschild, whatever, are constantly celebrated, especially in comedies of this sort. That said I was mostly...meh. I mean, I enjoyed it but really my favorite thing about it? The fight choreography. The brawls were really cool & really fun. The day before that? The new season of Community, now that Dan Harmon is back. Episode one, "Repilot" was blah but the second episode started getting its feet back under it. I appreciate the weirdness of the situation-- seriously, how did Dan Harmon get re-hired?-- & I want to support that, but I'm very "once bitten, twice shy" thanks to the network's crazed meddling. Oh & then the day before that-- last one-- we watched the newest episode of Elementary. Moriarty is back! I know Order of the Stick was just joking about it, but I like the "evil mastermind behind bars possibly trying to find redemption but probably playing the long con but...?" concept. Blacklist is the same thing but without the romance angle. Oh you know what, I lied, one more: we finished The West Wing. My advice? You should watch it, bear with a somewhat shaky start-- the curse of all Sorkin?-- & then you should bail when the showrunners leave at the end of season four. The show moves from being a high stakes workplace comedy to become a boring political drama, & all the characters get substantially dumber. You should listen to me on this, just like you should listen to me when I say you should watch the first season of Veronica Mars before the movie comes out. You might end up hooked, in which case you can watch the second season, but it isn't as good; avoid the third season, you'll just end up angry & heartbroken.
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Trekmas Loot. [Dec. 25th, 2013|03:15 pm]
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[Current Mood |The Planet Gothos.]
[Current Music |crown me king- skullmas]



















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Trekmas Eve. [Dec. 25th, 2013|07:36 am]
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[Current Mood |Some stolen from ranai & fatbutts.]
[Current Music |crown me king- lisa frank camelot]





















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