firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

Movies


The Expendables
Good-natured way over-the-top ensemble old guy action movie, directed by Stallone, with cameos by Schwartznegger and Bruce Willis, and a good performance by Mickey Rourke.

Nosferatu
I have never acquired a taste for the kind of acting that is often done in silent movies and my experience of Nosferatu suffered from this, but I'm glad I watched it. I wish I knew more about all the ways it was influential on movie-making. There's a famous scene where Nosferatu rises straight up out of his coffin. I found myself mumbling "wire-work."

Episodics


Hawaii Five-0 (reboot)
We're watching season 2, and enjoying this more since Masa Oki became a regular character

Fiction


Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost (#2 in the Night Prince series)
Vampire romance. I like them except that the plots are too heavily driven by manufactured relationship angst of kinds that would make a sensible person run screaming in real life.

Fire in the Blood, Blood on the Water (Vampire Files #5-6) by P.N. Elrod
It's the early 20th century in Chicago, and a journalist who was recently made into a vampire (Jack Fleming) works with a human British P.I. who used to be an actor (Charles Escott). They associate with gangsters and femmes fatales a lot but they mostly have modern middle-class values (e.g. the vampire doesn't hunt human victims but drinks from cattle at the Chicago stockyards). Although these are technically 2 novels, they come in an omnibus (Vampire Files part 2) and Blood on the Water doesn't really stand alone. I was pretty annoyed at the ebook because it was a badly done OCR conversion and had not been adequately proofread. For example, there is a character named Escott, but his name is spelled Escort half the time. And one character has a book called The Invisible Matt on his desk. I like the protagonists a lot and there are quite a few very competent female characters in the series. And this vampire has a really good romantic relationship that has no manufactured angst at all.

Nightingale's Lament (Nightside #3) by Simon R. Green
I want to like this series more than I do. Green has a fabulous imagination at times, but it's mixed in with a lot of fairly cliched noir tropes and moralism.

The Moor, Laurie R. King (Mary Russell #4)
This is really well written in loving detail. I loved her descriptions of the moor and it was amusing to see Holmes reacting to people wanting to talk to him about The Hound of the Baskervilles. The mystery itself I didn't care that much about...the villains were not very interesting, and for the most part the solving of the mystery wasn't very interesting either; it was more of an excuse to get Russell and Holmes interacting with local folks. For calibration purposes, I don't know anything about Sabine Baring-Gould. I will read more of this series.

The Sittaford Mystery, Agatha Christie
Audiobook. I picked this up while reading The Moor and was amused to discover it is also about Dartmoor. It's a little Dartmoor fest over here.

Games


Little Inferno
This is the most adorable, bizarre game ever. You have a fireplace and you can buy stuff and burn it. Weird things happen when you burn certain stuff. And you have a penpal. If that sounds boring, I hope you go try it out anyway.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I seem to be learning Spanish. I got sucked into it via an iThing app called DuoLingo, which I found pretty addictive.

DuoLingo is also a web site and you can also learn other languages there. They currently only have languages that use the Roman alphabet.

I'm not sure if it is the best way for me to learn a language, because it does not teach about grammar at all; it just tests you on phrases and sentences in various ways. Which does work for me to some extent, but eventually I began to seek out other sources.

Anyway, I went through the whole mini-course on the iThing app and now I want to branch out. Have you learned or practiced or brushed up on Spanish using any particular web sites or apps that you recommend?

I'm willing to spend money. I don't actually want to interact with anybody, though, so I am not up for taking in-person classes or doing chats over the Internet or anything like that.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I got a 5 star Magpie from [livejournal.com profile] elisem as part of [livejournal.com profile] botmo year 11. The theme I picked was "focals and earring pairs." Elise included a card saying "I got a little carried away." I say OOH SO MUCH SHINY.


(click to embiggen)

Never fear, the cat got her condo back shortly after this photo was taken.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I've mentioned before that Dreamwidth has a set of emoticon-icons (there's probably an official term for these but I don't know what it is) that one can use with a comment. (In my DW style you get to them by clicking the smiley face to the right of the Subject field.)

DW user mm-writes figured out some CSS to add to make them show up without needing to click. mm-writes' journal is locked for security reasons so I'm copypasting the relevant part of the post here. (Any formatting errors are mine.)

===

Here's the CSS:

#subjectIconList table {display: block!important; margin-left: -.2em; margin-bottom: -2.5em;}

#subjectIconList table, #subjectIconList {border: 0!important; background: none; display: inline!important;}

#subjectIconList:before {float: left; margin-left: .1em; margin-right: 1em; content:" Click on any subjectline icon below to select it"; margin-top: .3em; font-size: 80%;font-weight :bold;}


Here's what that code does (all uses of !important are to override DW's default CSS):

#subjectIconList table {display: block!important; margin-left: -.2em; margin-bottom: -2.5em;} The icon table (actually, it's a blockquote but uses both table and text-list CSS!) is set to display: none unless you click on the lone greyed-out smiley face that's normally present on the "more options" comment form, then the entire table just drops out of nowhere like, "BAM! Need an icon table?". Setting this to visibly display at all times (which can be through an inline or block setting) fixes this.

#subjectIconList table, #subjectIconList {border: 0!important; background: none; display: inline!important;}For aesthetics I removed the border and background that are inherited from my custom .entry .blockquote CSS and set subject icons to display: inline.

#subjectIconList:before {float: left; margin-left: .1em; margin-right: 1em; content:" Click on any subjectline icon below to select it"; margin-top: .3em; font-size: 80%; font-weight :bold;} Here I used content:""; to add visible text that points you to the icons and tells you how to add them to your comments and floated it left.

To get the filled-circle backgrounds behind subject icon images on page replies I added: .comment-subjecticon {float: right; margin-top: -2em;} .comment-subjecticon img {width: 16px; height: 16px; border-radius: 100%; background: #333; padding: 5px;} I wasn't sure where to set the icon image because by default it lands top left and lays on top of my comment titles, so I pushed it right to get it out of the way and set it to line up with comment title text accordingly, then added a background color and border-radius.

===

To implement this, go to http://www.dreamwidth.org/customize/options?group=customcss and paste the code into the "Use embedded CSS" field. You might need to have a paid account to use this, I'm not sure.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

Movies


Frozen

I loved the "Let It Go" song and scene, but otherwise I didn't like it that much.
Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I promise not to accumulate such a huge backlog of these in the future.

Movies


Captain Horatio Hornblower
Gregory Peck 1951 movie. It seems like Star Trek: TOS swiped some of the theme music and sound effects from it, as well as the concept of "Hornblower in spaaaace.") Pretty good sea adventure. I found the romance annoying.
Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
The ridiculous and erroneous lengths that athletic organizations will go to, to try to ascertain whether the people participating in athletic events for women count as women.
16% of his male athletes had lower than expected testosterone, whereas 13% of his female athletes had high levels of testosterone "with complete overlap between the sexes".

In other words, the gap that exists for testosterone between men and women in the general population does not exist among elite athletes.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/29446276
Read more... )
firecat: janelle monae (archandroid janelle monae)
Janelle Monae is awesome, and [personal profile] beatrice_otter made some icons of her.

My favorite song of hers is "Tightrope", for many reasons, not the least of which is her dapper tuxedo.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
State of the [personal profile] firecat: Happy. I went out and stood in the first rain of the season last night!

~~~
Comments left for others:
Things you don't want your doctor to say while peering into your body cavities: "Oh, wow."
~~~Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
So Facebook is targeting certain individuals for not using their legal names, and as a result a lot of folks, especially queer folks, are signing up for other social media sites, especially ello.co. And some of them are saying they're going to go back to Livejournal. I signed up at ello too because I feel compelled to stake out my preferred name everywhere, and because a lot of my friends have joined. But I am really sad and annoyed that no one seems to be considering Dreamwidth as an alternative social media site. I trust Dreamwidth a lot more than ello.co (nothing against them, but I don't know the people running it) and more than LiveJournal (although I'm still cross-posting to LiveJournal).
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I bought an iPad Air and some accessories the other day. Although I bought them all at the same time from the same company, they arrived in five separate LARGE boxes, all of which contained a smaller box.

The first photo shows the packaging.
Read more... )
The second photo shows the packaging together with the accessorized iPad Air, and a curious cat.
Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
If you have 33 minutes or some subset thereof, Stef-Bob sez sit back with your favorite mind altering substance, or not, and check out this animated video score of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." Definitely right up there with the best laser light shows I've seen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IXMpUhuBMs

~~~
Read more... )
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I am trying to take a course on edx.org called The Science of Happiness. But I just did 1/5 of the first week's work and I'm not sure how far I'm going to make it. Here is what I tossed into the discussion forum after reading two articles with an increasing sense of outrage. I'm darned if I'm going to make myself unhappy over a course about happiness.

These are the articles I'm commenting one.

Four Ways Happiness Can Hurt You by June Gruber
Is a Happy Life Different from a Meaningful One?" by Jason Marsh & Jill Suttie

~~~

The June Gruber article and the Jill Suttie/Jason Marsh article are taking correlations and assuming causal relationships without showing their work. June Gruber's article first.

These statements are contradictory, but no mention is made of this fact.
"too much positive emotion—and too little negative emotion—makes people inflexible in the face of new challenges."

"When feeling happy, we also tend to feel less inhibited and more likely to explore new possibilities and take risks."

"positive emotions like happiness signal to us that our goals are being fulfilled, which enables us to slow down"
This statement does not provide any evidence that pride "leads to" mania instead of being associated with mania or mania causing excessive feelings of pride. Isn't mania understood to have a biological component? If so then it would seem more likely that mania could lead to excess pride than that excess pride could lead to mania.
"when we experience too much pride or pride without genuine merit, it can lead to negative social outcomes, such as aggressiveness towards others, antisocial behavior, and even an increased risk of mood disorders such as mania."
In the context of human behavior, "hardwired" means "biologically or genetically determined" rather than "culturally determined." Americans don't have different genes than people who live in other countries, so it's pretty silly to assert "We seem hardwired to pursue happiness, and this is especially true for Americans."

Why would people who are depressed or who have bipolar disorder be more likely to 'pursue' happiness? Perhaps because their conditions make it more difficult for them to feel happy? Suggesting that their striving is causing their disorders seems like blaming the victim (especially since these conditions usually have a biological component).
"the pursuit of happiness is also associated with serious mental health problems, such as depression and bipolar disorder. It may be that striving for happiness is actually driving some of us crazy."
The final paragraph is written with highly questionable assumptions that constantly creep into self-help and pop psychology articles: that a person has finely detailed control over how and when they experience certain emotions and can therefore create an emotional experience as easily as making an omelette, and that it is necessary to constantly apply this sort of control in order to be "healthy."
"First, it is important to experience happiness in the right amount. Too little happiness is just as problematic as too much. Second, happiness has a time and a place, and one must be mindful about the context or situation in which one experiences happiness. Third, it is important to strike an emotional balance. One cannot experience happiness at the cost or expense of negative emotions, such as sadness or anger or guilt. These are all part of a complex recipe for emotional health and help us attain a more grounded perspective."
Jill Suttie and Jason Marsh's article is not as problematic as Gruber's, but it isn't free of the problem of confusing correlation and causation either.
A recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that people who reported more eudaimonic happiness had stronger immune system function than those who reported more hedonic happiness, suggesting that a life of meaning may be better for our health than a life seeking pleasure.
It must be that pursuing meaning causes better health, because it couldn'tpossibly be the case that people who are healthier find it easier to pursue meaningful activities than people who are having immune system problems all the time.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Bacteria are building major metropolitan areas in my sinuses, so this linkspam is fluffier than usual.

~~~

Epigenetics is a new way to blame mothers! But the article goes further than that to examine how people's values and sense of "how things ought to be" influence how they use the concept of causality.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/08/25/343121679/using-science-to-blame-mothers-check-your-values

~~~

Captain Awkward sums up in one post 90% of what I've learned about social interaction in 52 years.

http://captainawkward.com/2014/09/01/618-my-ex-is-pushing-me-out-of-our-friend-group/

~~~

Ganked from [personal profile] jae. What would happen if a rock musician's guitar were suddenly replaced with a giant slug?

http://slugsolos.tumblr.com/

~~~

Erik Kwakkel, a medieval book historian, posted about some medieval books that were bound in complicated ways.

In a way that's hard to explain, these make me think about the Burgess Shale, a bunch of fossils from a period when animal body plans were even more diverse than they are now. I guess it's something like "When [life | bookbinding] was young, we still had the resources to experiment with outlandish designs." Click the second link to get an animated gif of a binding that included six different books.

http://erikkwakkel.tumblr.com/post/58806441078/siamese-twins-the-bookbindings-above-are-as-odd

http://cdn8.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/dos-a-dos.gif

~~~

Animals will eat almost anything, and veterinary X-ray technicians will photograph it and send it in to a contest sponsored by Veterinary Practice News.

content warning: animal suffering discussed.

spoiler: all animals recovered.


Favorite quote: "This patient recovered fine, but the $1.29 did not go toward her bill."

http://veterinarypracticenews.com/2014-X-Ray-Contest-Winners/

~~~

A cheetah gives birth to four cubs (article and edited highlights video of the birth). One of my responses was "aww, kawaii" and another was "this whole 'live-bearing of young' idea could use some tweaking."

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2014/08/05/birth-of-rare-king-cheetah-cubs-captured-on-video/

~~~

It's about time that heavy metal got mashed up with J-Pop.

The article goes on about how "traditional" metal has these rigid genres. When did that happen? It was all pretty fluid back in the 70s.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2014/09/04/345778225/deal-with-it-headbangers-babymetal-is-here
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

Movies


Appleseed: Ex Machina
2007 anime movie. A sequel to the 2004 Appleseed, which I saw but can't remember a single thing about. Deunan, a human, and Briareos, originally human but now in a cyborg body, are lovers and special ops partners. (Spoilers for general plot points) Briareos is injured in a battle and while he is recovering, the team leader tries to pair Deunan with another agent, who looks like Briareos used to look when he was a human, because he's a bioroid engineered from Briareos's DNA. Deunan is not happy about any of this. Some people try to take over the world with a satellite network, and the special ops team tries to stop them. I really liked this for the beauty of the fight choreography (especially in the opening scenes), for the relationships, and for the exploration of body and identity issues. It's a bit like Ghost in the Shell but more grounded, if that makes any sense.

Read more... )
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This one is a real page-turner.

Katherine Lampe writes something like paranormal fiction but her protagonists aren't vampires or shapeshifters. They and other characters in her books have some personal magic power, and also access power and communicate with supernatural entities use a variety of magic forms and rituals that are common in the Americas and Europe. This lets Katherine get her characters into and out of trouble using everything from Tarot readings to shamanic journeying to charms you can buy off the Internet or make with supplies from your local craft store, which I think is a lot of fun. In this story, for example, a love charm ends up implicating someone as a murder suspect.

The relationship between Caitlin and Timber (who are married) is a delightful change from the usual antagonistic romantic relationship (or its opposite, the soulmates-until-the-end-of-time-even-though-we-only-met-two-days-ago relationship) in many paranormal romances.

This novel uses elements and gods from African religions, and the antagonist is an African woman. Because people might feel this is cultural appropriation, Katherine includes an afterword explaining her choices and how she researched these subjects. Because of that and because I'm white and they aren't my religious elements or gods, my enjoyment of the story wasn't affected.

The story shifts between Caitlin's and Timber's POVs. They have really distinctive voices. For example, Timber is much more tentative about communicating with himself verbally. I really sense that his relationship to the world is mediated through his body.

(Spoiler of a general plot point) In this story Timber is subject to sexual harrassment and rape. There are other paranormal novels where a male character has a history of being sexually abused, but I haven't often read one where the abuse happens during the story.

Sexual harrassment is often used as a plot driver in the paranormal genre in ways that make me uncomfortable: there is a trope (I'm looking at you, Charlaine) where male characters use sexual harrassment against female characters as a form of flirting/power-jockeying with other male characters. I hate that, and I am glad that is NOT happening in this book.

I was glad to see Tintri Fionn again, from an earlier book. He's one of my favorite characters.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I like this post about self-care, ableism, and activism for two reasons. One, this person has the same experience with anger that I do.
Some people can sustain rage. I'm not one of them. Anger lights me up like a burning oil slick, and the smoke fills my lungs and clouds my eyes. Anger consumes me from within, and unfortunately comes with pronounced physical deterioration as well as emotional. It could, with some stringent control, be channeled into some sort of constructive output, but most of the time I do not have that control, and it's probable that I never will. It simply isn't the relationship that anger and I have.
...
Ironically and disappointingly, this means drastically turning down the volume on what news of bigotry or theories on social justice to which I am exposed....I need to be able to function as a person before wading in to battle. We all do.
Two, this:
the industry (for lack of better word) of activism is based upon the principles of labour laid out by a patriarchal and imperial system, the same system we are trying to dismantle. The value and worth of the work you do is measured against external criteria determined by what is best for the economy; not the individual.
http://silence-without.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/self-care-in-social-justice-ableism-in.html

Read more... )
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Movies

The Bodyguard
Thai gun-fu/wire-fu action comedy. We stuck it on our Netflix queue several years ago because we like Tony Jaa. We started watching it with few expectations and ended up REALLY impressed. The director-star, Petchtai Wongkamlao, is a SUPERB actor and comedian. There are lots of very long choreographic gunfights and kung fu fights in various styles. Tony Jaa is on screen for only a few minutes in a scene set in a supermarket. The funniest scene was (no, I'm not going to tell you, it's funnier if you don't know what's going to happen). The star is a little plump but nothing is made of this. There is another fat guy in the movie who wears outrageous costumes (normally I wouldn't like this, but the people making fun of this character are portrayed as ridiculous and he is portrayed as dignified; also they make fun of his costumes and not his size, so it didn't bother me). One of the actors appeared to have Down Syndrome. On the less enjoyable side, there was some sexism and body mockery among some minor characters that did bother me, but the rest of the movie made up for it. For all that I liked it, I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to these genres.

Guardians of the Galaxy
I made a separate post about this.

Episodics

The Wire
Seasons 1–4 were the best serious television I've ever seen. We had heard that Season 5 was good, but not as good as the other seasons. We watched three episodes and were not very happy with it, so we decided to stop watching. The episodes of Season 5 we watched had moments, but overall it was feeling meaner than the previous seasons, and we thought that some of the character development wasn't right. E.g. it really bugged me that McNulty went from all-but-teetotaling throughout season 4 to drunk-off-his-ass and cheating every night starting in episode 1 of season 5 and no reason was given for the change at all. I also looked at the plotline for the rest of the season and I didn't want to watch Omar or Prop Joe or Snoop getting killed although I'm sure the actors turned in great performances on those scenes.


Nonfiction

Robert Greenberg, Mozart: His Life and Music
Series of lectures by a professor of music. He is way over the top; listening to him is more like listening to a stand-up comedian than to a typical professor. But if you don't mind that or like it, it's fun. Of course he spends much of the time vociferously debunking various myths about Mozart's life. (One I didn't realize was a myth, although I should have, is that "Amadeus" is not Mozart's real middle name; that is, he was not christened that and didn't use it during his lifetime, except as a wordplay.) There are bits of good music, if you like Mozart music and/or his contemporaries. I thought Greenberg could have done a more thorough job of explaining what to listen for in the music, but he did do some of that.


Fiction

Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)
Continuing

Tessa Harris, The Anatomist's Apprentice (Dr Thomas Silkstone Mysteries #1)
Narrated by Simon Vance, who is very skillful but I am starting to hate him. This series "uses a fictional character Thomas Silkstone to examine the beginnings of forensic science, anatomy and surgery" (sez Wikipedia) and is set in the late 1700s. There's a lot of dissection/autopsy porn. It's got a classic mystery plot (country estate, lots of suspects, dark family secrets revealed, etc.) that's done well until just before the end. There's also a romance, which I didn't find very compelling. I didn't like the ending very much.


Games

A New Beginning
Daedalus point-and-click game/story about time travel and environmentalism. I got sucked into it (there's good voice acting and the Bent Svensson character is interesting), but I didn't really like the story. There is an interesting female protagonist but she gets verbally abused a lot throughout the story (for incompetence), she has a technical job but constantly has to ask male characters about technical stuff, and then she sacrifices herself at the end to save the male protagonist. There were some things I liked about the gameplay, but I am not clever at lateral thinking (or grinding through trying every combination of possibilities) of the kind that this game often relies on for its puzzles, so a lot of the puzzles were too obscure for me, and I used a walkthrough.

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