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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.
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The second photo shows the packaging together with the accessorized iPad Air, and a curious cat.
Read more... )
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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... )
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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.
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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
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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.
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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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The OH is learning to be a square dance caller and he sent out an email promoting square dancing that include some YouTube videos. I'm sufficiently mobility impaired that I don't do any kind of partner dancing that involves standing up ;) but this one made me wish I could:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rs8j4AezAUQ (Kilt tip at a Chicago Gay Square Dance Convention)

And this one helped me better understand some of the skills involved in calling:

http://youtu.be/qBe_fBmURcI (Teen square at convention)

Here are some videos for Bay Area square dance groups:

http://youtu.be/Je2bchbUJiw (Stanford Quads graduation dance)
http://youtu.be/w46EBHyvXAc (Ad for easy square dancing)
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I've read a lot of thoughtful, knowledgeable, compassionate stuff about depression and suicide in the past week. These are two of the best public pieces of writing I've seen about it.
http://theshadowsanctuary.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/on-suicide-shaming/
http://xiphias.livejournal.com/744129.html

It's about time some folks began to question the pressure-cooker metaphor of emotion management. Absolutely, stress can cause illness, but expressing your anger doesn't necessarily relieve that stress. The article eventually gets around to pointing this out, but first it gets all tangled up in claiming that expressing anger constructively or "clearly and firmly" helps your health and in suggesting that you might want to avoid getting angry more than occasionally. Most people I know don't have a lot of control over how much they get angry, although they have some control over how they express it.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140729-is-it-bad-to-bottle-up-anger

A woman spends a weekend being a "slouch-and-spreader" on public transit. I have uncomfortable reactions to the tumblrs about men who do this (e.g. http://savingroomforcats.tumblr.com/). On the one hand I think they're funny, and men do sometimes seem to aggressively take up space in public. On the other hand, I don't like it when people are judgemental about how much space others are taking, as if all humans are supposed to fit inside the same sorts of boxes you have to prove your airplane carry-on baggage fits into.
http://www.bustle.com/articles/34279-why-do-guys-spread-their-legs-when-sitting-on-the-subway-my-weekend-of-sitting-like

A doctor writes about becoming a patient after sustaining an injury. Part 1 of 4.
http://laurietobyedison.com/discuss/2014/06/at-the-will-of-the-body-part-i-pain/
"It is not clear to me whether it is a side effect of having gone to medical school or an inborn personality trait, but I have always had a rather distant relationship with my body. This, I believe, is not completely uncommon. David Sedaris, in an essay called “A Shiner Like A Diamond” (in Me Talk Pretty One Day) says that he and his brother thought of their bodies as “mere vehicles . . . machines designed to transport our thoughts from one place to another.” (p. 133)"

"In Praise of Idleness" by Bertrand Russell (1932): I tried really hard to find some choice quotes for this essay but everything was irretrievably attached to everything else (which is the way really good essays work).
http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html
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I have seen multiple posts about depression recently that compare it to diabetes and say something like "You wouldn't expect a diabetic to go without their insulin, right? Well you shouldn't expect a depressed person to 'just cheer up.'"

Here's the thing. There is lots of shaming of diabetics for being on meds or insulin. A lot of people think diabetes is a "lifestyle disease" and that one can choose whether to have it and how to treat it. There is probably considerable overlap between people with that view and the ones who think depression is a bad mood or a selfish play for attention.

I appreciate the attempt to educate people about depression and I'm not criticizing any particular person or post, but I'm thinking some other comparison would probably work better to get the point across that depression is a very difficult condition to manage.
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This post is about emotional policing in Buddhist communities, and it also makes reference to the tone argument, because of course emotional policing occurs in a lot of communities that aren't Buddhist communities too. It applies psychology theory to get at what's behind emotional policing (it's a tool of various kinds of defense mechanisms) and also discusses some of the socio-cultural aspects of tone-policing ("privilege and entitlement"..."overvaluation of positivity"...power dynamics).

Before I start quoting I want to say that I found a lot of useful stuff in this article that helps me define my own choices about speech, but I am by no means intending to "point it at" anyone.

http://enlightenmentward.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/emotional-policing/
Emotional policing as is meant here, is usually done by strangers in a drive-by fashion on the Internet and occasionally even in person in a social setting. They’ve generally never interacted with the person on the blog, twitter or whatever, never tried to have a conversation with them nor are they likely very familiar with the body of work the writer has put out. ...“Buddhists are supposed to be compassionate." “If you can’t control your words better then you’re a Bad Buddhist.”...“I thought Buddhists were supposed to be serene.”
...
The more people escape into “positivity” the more suffering is borne by those who cannot access that escape mechanism.
The post also goes into "How to stop emotionally policing people" and "How [to] deal with being emotionally policed (this all depends upon the circumstances)".

Finally the post links to a post by Terre Thaemlitz — http://www.comatonse.com/writings/2013_we_are_not_welcome_here.html — which includes this quote that made me stop and go WOW. I need to look for some more stuff this person has written.
I have spent the bulk of my adult life attempting to debunk notions of talent and creativity, particularly in relation to concepts of authenticity and innate attributes. I embrace fakery and hypocrisy as means of actively deprogramming my own relationships to essentialist and individualist identity constructs. As someone fitting into an MTF category, whereby I am instantly expected to be campy, upbeat and entertaining, I have gone to great lengths in my own performances to present an alternative transgendered stage that forgoes both glamour and trash in favor of critical minded boredom and uneventfulness.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terre_Thaemlitz
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Design yourself a 3-D printable kawaii neotenous puppy at PupWorkshop.com (clickable image)



"Dandyism was initially imposed on black men in eighteenth-century England, as the Atlantic slave trade and an emerging culture of conspicuous consumption generated a vogue in dandified black servants."
http://chronicle.com/article/Black-Dandies-Fashion-New/135954/
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00428MFUE

Arthur Chu, the hated Jeopardy champion, talks about being asked to do Chinese accents as a voice actor. I am getting something of a brain-crush on him.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/31/336380977/breaking-out-the-broken-english

Here's an article about the all-white-people Hollywood team behind the new James Brown movie. Via Nisi Shawl, who says "No, I am not advocating 'reverse racism.' I am advocating for inclusion and responsible representation."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gregory-allen-howard/whitewashing-of-james-brown_b_5638130.html

Charles "Lil Buck" Riley is the choreographer of Janelle Monae's "Tightrope." He also performs in the video, but on this video he dances solo to the song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LY2tjBFK20c
If you like that, you can then watch him dance "The Dying Swan."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZumgHLSW10

A young girl and a US Senator commit plagiarism. "When we fail to teach children about professional and personal ethics, when we don’t teach them how to make amends or learn from their mistakes, we tacitly approve their dishonest behavior and encourage them to replicate it on an as-needed basis throughout their lives. What begins as a mistake, a misleading quote given under the pressure of a first experience in the limelight, can become a desperate attempt to hold on to a career, a spouse, or a reputation."
http://m.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/07/plagiarism/374999/

Non-gender-binary folks and our problems with finding clothing that fits and getting salespeople to sell us the clothing.
http://www.timescolonist.com/life/bad-service-bad-fits-dressing-off-gender-binary-can-be-challenge-for-non-conformers-1.1264241
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Movies

Lucy

Lucy wasn't precisely the worst movie I've ever seen, but it had one of the largest expectations <> reality gaps. (I have been a big fan of the writer/director of this movie, Luc Besson, so I had high expectations.) Joe-Stef sez save yourself $9 and look at the YouTube trailer instead. It has almost all the good parts, in more or less the correct order. Then go watch 2001.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVt32qoyhi0

However, there is one good part, where Lucy phones her mother, that isn't in the trailer.

My friend [personal profile] snippy had a different take on it:
It has a female lead who has her own plot, her own desires and plans, and her own resolution of plot instead of being just the Macguffin for a male lead to get motivated. She doesn't give up her power or die or anything banal at the end of the movie.
I agree with [personal profile] snippy—the reasons I didn't like the movie had very little to do with sexism. And I have to say, it is really nice to be able to dislike a movie for reasons other than sexism.


Pete Seeger, The Power of Song

Biopic made when Pete Seeger was 88 years old. It's supposed to be uplifting I think, but it made me sad. Something about cultures dying and changing makes me sad sometimes, and I feel like the culture he came out of is dying, although that might not be true. Also when I see stories about people who live a life totally dedicated to one thing, that makes me think about people who don't or can't for various reasons. Also there's a thread in the biopic that claims Pete Seeger is completely straightforward and uninterested in self-promotion, and he achieved success because his talents and vision deserved it. Which is probably at least mostly true. But it makes me think about how managing one's image seems super-important these days if one wants to be a public figure. Also insofar as Pete Seeger didn't manage his image but just acted like himself and achieved fame that way, I think for every Pete Seeger there are a kazillion people who are straightforward and aren't remembered.

I am too complicated for my own good sometimes.

Tl;dr: If you like Pete Seeger you will probably like this biopic. The OH grew up with Pete Seeger and liked it.


Fiction

Rhys Bowen, A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness series #2)

I finished this fast. The mystery was heavily foreshadowed, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment much. I'm going to wait a while before getting the next one because I'm not crazy about the narrator. (Last week's info about the book and series follows.) Audiobook narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Light historical mystery / romance series set in England and Scotland in the 1930s. Lady Georgiana is 34th in line to the throne and has a family mansion in London but no money, so she puts on a disguise and cleans people's houses for a living, while the Queen involves her in matchmaking schemes. The Lady Georgiana character is a foil for the more broadly comic characters she interacts with. Many of the characters are kind of stereotyped and Kellgren's voices are sometimes a little forced so I am not quite sure why I like this, but when it came time to pick a new audiobook I felt like downloading this one instead of starting any of the ones I already have.


Kerry Greenwood, Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1)

Historical mystery set in the 1920s. I'm about 1/4 of the way in. The Audible description makes it sound pretty fluffy (dancing! gaming! cocaine!), but so far, although it's light, it's not fluffy; it's got a fairly serious focus on social problems and one rich woman's attempts to help with them. Elizabeth Peabody meets Dickens and Dorothy Sayers for tea, or something like that.


Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1)

Rowling really is an excellent stylist and that's probably what I liked best about this modern noirish mystery. It's got a pretty classic skeleton with some twists. Strike, the P.I. protagonist has an interesting family, and his female secretary ends up being his assistant and a good intellectual match. I love the way he and the secretary maintain an emotional distance from each other in the middle of being thrown together in weird circumstances. Strike has a disability, and the way Rowling describes how he deals with his disability rings true to me (I don't have the same disability, though).

I wasn't all that satisfied with that ending. (Obviously to say more would involve massive spoilers.)

There is one thing I strongly disliked about this book—there's a ton of classist, looksist, and somewhat racist judgementalism. And it feels to me like that judgementalism comes from Rowling and is inserted into her viewpoint character—some of it doesn't really fit with the rest of his personality.

I have this sort of problem with a great many mystery series, admittedly. I have a hard time going along with authors who seem to expect the reader to sympathize with all of their viewpoint characters' opinions, and that seems to be a general tendency in mystery series. Maybe I am wrong about what the authors expect. Or maybe part of the fun of mystery series for some people is getting to feel judgemental along with the protagonist about certain kinds of characters. I'm not going to pretend that I never feel judgemental or that I don't enjoy feeling self-rightous sometimes, but I don't seem to enjoy feeling judgemental about the same sorts of characters that some of the mystery protagonists do.
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One of the best AMAs I've ever read, featuring Guillermo del Toro.
http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2agklw/i_am_guillermo_del_toro_director_writer_producer/
I think that we live or die under the tyranny of perfection. Socially, we are pushed towards being perfect. Physically, beautiful to conform to standards that are cruel and uncommon, to behave and lead our lives in a certain way, to demonstrate to the world that we are happy and healthy and all full of sunshine. We are told to always smile and never sweat, by multiple commercials of shampoo or beer.

And I feel that the most achievable goal of our lives is to have the freedom that imperfection gives us.

And there is no better patron saint of imperfection than a monster.

We will try really hard to be angels, but I think that a balanced, sane life is to accept the monstrosity in ourselves and others as part of what being human is. Imperfection, the acceptance of imperfection, leads to tolerance and liberates us from social models that I find horrible and oppressive.
I don't agree with a lot of the recommendations about online shopping carts in this Oatmeal cartoon from 2011 (no, I NEVER want to check in to an etail store via Facebook!!!) Also, since it's The Oatmeal, there is gratuitous sexism including references to harming people's reproductive body parts. But it's pretty hilarious.
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/shopping_cart

This is one reason I was writing a lot of notes during my recent jury duty (I got questioned and dismissed).
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/17/332075947/study-reveals-worse-outcomes-for-black-and-latino-defendants

Like it says on the tin.
http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/t-s-eliot-illustrates-his-letters-and-draws-a-cover-for-old-possums-book-of-practical-cats.html

For information addicts: The Museum of Online Museums (MoOM)
http://www.coudal.com/moom/

This "spoon shortages explained" poster is good, but I'd prefer a poster that also mentions that any of these activities could randomly develop a spoon leak.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=657536917659006&set=a.471348919611141.1073741826.345920125487355&type=1&fref=nf
In fact, I am going to generally ponder thinking about disability-related energy shortfalls in terms of liquid rather than discrete entities like spoons. Some liquids evaporate/freeze/boil/expand/contract at different rates depending on conditions. Some liquids interact with their containers. It's easy to spill liquids of the containers aren't handled properly. And so on.

One of the best descriptions of how health fads work, including the fact that for any given fad (such as gluten intolerance), a few people probably are helped by some of the treatments.
http://butsrsly.com/2014/06/05/all-known-health-frauds-are-in-fact-valid/

And speaking of fads, let's have a cross-cultural look at the current fad of "happiness"/positive psychology. I like a lot of what's said here, but I think that saying non-Western cultures "fear" happiness might be going too far, and the article also suffers from the fact that "happiness" means about a billion different things and it's conflating a bunch of them.)
http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/its-time-for-western-psychology-to.html

Weird Al tweeted that he didn't realize "spastic" was a disablist insult and he was sorry.
http://arts.nationalpost.com/2014/07/21/weird-al-apologizes-for-offending-with-spastic-lyric-in-word-crimes-parody/
So I finally watched "Word Crimes" and I absolutely love it. Not so much because it's judgemental about language—I'm an editor but not a prescriptivist. I love it because of the dancing typography and the proofreading marks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc

Astronaut Chris Hadfield writes a hilarious article about some of the challenges of living in zero-gee.
http://www.cracked.com/article_21369_6-ways-movies-get-space-wrong-by-astronaut-chris-hadfield_p2.html
Before anyone asks, no, sex in space is not part of our downtime. We're a small group of focused professionals working in a zero-gravity enclosed environment without a lot of privacy -- even if we wanted to, it would be challenging, to say the very least. As space travel becomes more common and sophisticated, it will probably happen, but it's not happening at the moment, so please don't write any fan fiction about me.
Various authors write about the suck fairy.
http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/07/mind-meld-how-to-avoid-the-suck-fairy-of-re-reads/

If you let your camera geotag the photos you take of cats, and you upload the photos publicly, this site may show a photo of your cat in its approximate location. If you think this is a good project you can back it on Kickstarter.
http://iknowwhereyourcatlives.com
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1910822604/i-know-where-your-cat-lives

Some people can't cook because they lack privilege. Others, like me, have no excuse. [Actually I can cook when I put my mind to it, but I have some anxiety around cooking.]
http://meloukhia.net/2014/07/fear_of_cooking/
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Movies

The Tuskegee Airmen
1995 made-for-HBO movie (supposedly very lavish for its time). Stars Laurence Fishburne. Historical film about the first African-American fighter pilot squadron in WWII. Supposedly fairly historically accurate.

Fiction

Rhys Bowen, A Royal Pain (Her Royal Spyness series #2)
Audiobook narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Light historical mystery / romance series set in England and Scotland in the 1930s. Lady Georgiana is 34th in line to the throne and has a family mansion in London but no money, so she puts on a disguise and cleans people's houses for a living, while the Queen involves her in matchmaking schemes. The Lady Georgiana character is a foil for the more broadly comic characters she interacts with. Many of the characters are kind of stereotyped and Kellgren's voices are sometimes a little forced so I am not quite sure why I like this, but when it came time to pick a new audiobook I felt like downloading this one instead of starting any of the ones I already have.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Captain of the Pole Star"
Not a Sherlock Holmes story, more of a ghost story. I love Conan Doyle's writing and the way he draws characters so I thought the story was fun, although it's not as intricate as many of the Holmes stories. However, the audio version I had, narrated by Walter Covell, was awful.

Tananarive Due, The Good House
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Robin Miles. Due's second novel uses classic horror tropes about haunted houses and dysfunctional families with secrets and voodoo and multi-generational curses and small towns. But what's different from other horror stuff I've read is that every single one of her human characters is at least a little bit sympathetic and at least a little bit flawed. The protagonists are a mother and son, and there are occasional shifts to other characters' POVs. Race and racism are part of the their world but not constantly in the foreground. The horror comes from bad things happening to characters I care about, and characters making poor choices (either on their own or under outside influence) much more than from, e.g., the inherent ickiness of bodies (dead or alive). For example, mud and leaves aren't inherently scary, but when they show up in places they shouldn't be with no explanation, that is scary. The novel was longer and more rambly than I would have preferred, and there are a couple of plot points that I really disliked (one of these is a pretty big spoiler: (animal abuse, and a woman lying about having been raped [the "woman" is actually a demon in disguise, but it still bugged me]). But overall I'm glad I read it and if more horror were like this (making me feel "I really hope they figure a way out of this" instead of "everything is dooooomed for all time") I would read horror more often.

By the way, Due wrote a wonderful eulogy of Octavia Butler here: http://www.tananarivedue.com/octaviaebutler.htm

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men
Second book in the Nero Wolfe series. A while back, a fraternity hazing prank went wrong and resulted in a young man losing his leg. Now members of the fraternity are dying and it seems as if the man with one leg is murdering them, but nothing can be proved. The main plot was pretty easy to figure out but there were a couple of subplots that were more interesting. I really liked a lot of the Wolfe–Goodwin byplay in this one, but I don't think it's one of the best in the series.

Games

Pure Hidden
This is a hidden object game with puzzles, but it has no plot laid on. It's kind of like an adult's activity box (many of the puzzles would also be suitable for children). You open boxes that grow on a vine and interact with what's inside, which include searching for different objects, searching for many of the same object, picture-assembly puzzles, pipe-fitting puzzles, apps that create music or pictures (one of them was that typing on the keyboard caused different kinds of flowers to grow on the screen). You're also occasionally decorating a bathroom. The images you put together or search inside are beautiful and come in many styles. Once you've finished an image, it becomes part of a gallery and you can set it as desktop wallpaper if you want. Different ambient music goes with each hidden object game, and the music also comes in many styles. You can play in an easy mode, with copious hints and the ability to skip many of the puzzles if you want; or you can play in a point-scoring mode (I didn't try this). The hints come in handy because at least on my non-Retina screen a few of the images were impossible to see. But otherwise this is a really great casual game.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Movies

Blood: The Last Vampire (live-action)
A pretty different movie from the anime, except for the opening scene, the general setting (a US army base in Japan during the Vietnam war), and the main character (the monster hunter). I liked the anime better and the OH liked the movie better. I saw the anime first and the OH saw the movie first. Do you usually like best whichever version of a story you took in first? I think I generally do. Some differences between the anime and the movie: It's made clear right away that (spoiler) the monster hunter is a vampire. The person she is trying to protect is the daughter of the general who runs the army base. (In the anime, the person is a middle-aged fat nurse.) She is trying to kill the most powerful demon, which turns out to be her mother. I liked the demon/mother character a lot. Refrigerator moment: It isn't clear to me why she needs any human handlers. They supply her with blood, but surely she could figure out another way to get that. How did she survive the centuries before the human handlers showed up? (end spoiler)

Funny Face
Highly recommended if you can ignore the loud buzzing of the sexism fairy. Late 50s movie with Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, and Kay Thompson. Kay Thompson is more well known as the author of the Eloise books, and this was her only starring film role. The movie is about a fashion magazine. Two of the characters were apparently based on real people -- Avedon the photographer and Diana Vreeland the editor of Vogue. Kay Thompson plays the editor character, Maggie Prescott, who is middle-aged and FABULOUS. She pretty much upstaged Astaire and Hepburn. OK, I did keep saying that she reminded me of Rex Harrison* but in an absolutely fabulous way (plus she can sing and dance much better). The sexism fairy has been hard at work on the romantic plot  (spoiler)(being a model married to a guy who doesn't give a shit about your intellect is much better than being a single woman studying philosophy and working in a bookstore) (end spoiler), but when Hepburn's character isn't subsuming herself to a man, the character is great.

(*and thinking I'd like to see a crossover where Henry Higgins fights with Maggie Prescott over Eliza Doolittle)


Fiction
Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men

Tananarive Due, The Good House
This had a slow start but really caught my attention starting around 2/3 of the way in.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
I'm linking to a personal statement written by a member of the Wiscon committee charged to investigate harrassment reports against Jim Frenkel. There are many good comments on the post.

http://antarcticlust.dreamwidth.org/257808.html

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