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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.
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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.
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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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Unsqueamish science geeks will enjoy this post from Vincent Racaniello's Virology Blog about visiting labs that experiment with infectious agents. Vincent Rancaniello is sort of the Carl Sagan of virology. I highly recommend his virology MOOC at Coursera.
http://www.virology.ws/2014/07/14/visiting-biosafety-level-4-laboratories/

Kay Thompson, the author of the Eloise series of children's books, was seriously multi-talented.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0860373/bio

Can you never get enough of lightning storms? Here is a map where you can watch them in almost-real-time. You can even have sound, but the sound needs work (it's a small "tick" instead of a giant "KABOOM").
http://www.blitzortung.org/Webpages/index.php

Some people like electric shocks. But as for the general notion that people don't like to sit around with nothing to do, I used to have a tiny frisson of panic when my dinner companion left to go to the bathroom, but after I learned to meditate, I look forward to an opportunity to sit around with nothing to do. (Even so, I don't do it on my own, only when I am waiting somewhere.)

Funny bit: "(In the lab studies, one participant’s data was tossed because an experimenter had accidentally left a pen behind and the subject used it to write a to-do list. Another’s was tossed because an instruction sheet had been left behind and he used it to practice origami.)"
http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/07/people-prefer-electric-shocks-to-being-alone-with-their-thoughts/373936/

Oh no, millennials are living with their parents! Or are they? (Spoiler: People living in college dormitories are counted as "living with their parents.")
http://m.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/everybody-freaking-out-about-millennials-living-with-their-parents-needs-to-read-this-1-sentence/373893/

Supposedly in the early 80s you could only get a job working on the Macintosh team if you loved pineapple pizza. Things haven't changed much in high tech Silicon Valley. "The first step toward dissolving these petty Cultures is writing down their unwritten rules for all to see. The word 'privilege' literally means 'private law.' It’s the secrecy, deniable and immune to analysis, that makes the balance of power so lopsided in favor of insiders."
http://qz.com/225782/the-next-thing-silicon-valley-needs-to-disrupt-big-time-its-own-culture/

How constantly trying to make ends meet stresses people in poverty. "In making day-to-day financial decisions, Shafir says, "the poor are just better than the rich. They use their dollar better than the rich. They're more efficient. They're more effective. They pay greater attention." But they have less mental energy for other things.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/14/330434597/this-is-your-stressed-out-brain-on-scarcity

The OH sent this to me with the comment that this is "why I wear purple [cochlear implant] headpieces."
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/17/332255209/hey-miss-idaho-is-that-an-insulin-pump-on-your-bikini

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/14/331298996/why-did-black-voters-flee-the-republican-party-in-the-1960s

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/07/10/330422908/dress-codes-are-open-to-interpretation-and-a-lot-of-contention
http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/08/02/racist-color-blind-dress-codes/

Parodies of "Blurred Lines" that aren't by Weird Al
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKfwCjgiodg (This one has an excellent fat female rapper)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC1XtnLRLPM (This is by a group called The Law Revue Girls)
Article about the Law Revue Girls version: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/03/robin-thicke-blurred-lines-feminist-parody_n_3858992.html
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

Movies


Batman
1989 version with Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, and Jack Nicholson. I felt that it didn't age well. I liked the way Bruce Wayne was drawn, but there was a particular type of female character in a lot of 80s movies who was supposedly very competent but as soon as she got anywhere near an interesting man she turned into a wet rag, and I thought Basinger's character was like that. It's fun to watch Nicholson chew the scenery and wear purple clothes, though.

Episodics


Rome
I am watching this because it has footnotes. That is, the DVD has a special mode that pops up annotations explaining Roman culture and history. Most of the explanations are basic but occasionally there are bits I didn't know.

I love most of the acting in this series and it's really beautifully filmed, but I'm getting sick of the blood and rape and "let's drive the plot solely by thinking of the worst thing that could happen to this character" so I'm glad I only have three episodes to go.

Nonfiction


John McPhee, Basin and Range
I like most of the McPhee I've read (especially Uncommon Carriers) and I like geology, but they didn't mix well for me in this audiobook (and part of it was finding Nelson Runger's narration annoying). Anyway, I gave up on it.

Fiction


Nora Roberts, Morrigan's Cross
Supposedly Nora Roberts' first paranormal romance series. This is a "listening in the bathtub" book. So far the characters are so formulaic it feels like I'm reading one of Jung's dreams or something. ("Oh, there's the Anima. Oh there's...") It's funny to listen to Dick Hill (also the narrator of the very American Jack Reacher series) trying to do an Irish accent.

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men
I wondered why this book wasn't as easily available as some other Nero Wolfe books. Perhaps one reason is that there's an Evil Cripple character. But there are some superb Wolfe–Goodwin moments.

Tananarive Due, The Good House
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
Great illustrations
http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-responses-to-sexism-that-just-make-everything-worse

Long article about the seafood industry that traces the fate and rising price of a single lobster from trap to table (and is a little callous on the question of whether lobsters can feel pain and whether it matters)
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/my-travels-with-larry/article19557387/

Sometimes apologies are done right
http://fusion.net/modern_life/story/cards-humanity-creator-publicly-apologizes-transphobic-card-790882

Sometimes guys come to understand how privilege and sexism can affect them.
http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-06-18-editors-blog-i-am-sexist

What doctors don't know about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and some of the reasons why (part 1; part 2 is linked in the article). Short bite: the medical community can't decide on which symptoms are diagnostic of CFS. Exercise intolerance might be one of the more definitive symptoms.
http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2014/04/23/guest-post-pt-1-why-are-doctors-skeptical-unhelpful-about-chronic-fatigue-syndrome/

A neuroscience researcher who is a Buddhist is interviewed about the scientific literature on the health benefits of mindfulness meditation. There isn't that much solid evidence. And there's not a lot of support in medical mindfulness programs for some of the uncomfortable states of mind that meditation can bring up. (Which isn't to say "No one should do it." It's to say that perhaps people are treating mindfulness meditation as a hammer, running around looking for nails and forgetting to get their thumbs out of the way.)
http://www.tricycle.com/blog/meditation-nation

Prince Fielder is a pro baseball player who sometimes gets mocked for his size. He posed nude for ESPN magazine and IMHO he is GORGEOUS. Rated PG.
http://usatthebiglead.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/prince-fielder-naked1.jpg

Jury nullification: It's the law and sometimes it's a good idea. However, the courts don't want you to know it's the law, so defense attorneys are forbidden to talk about it in court.
http://www.thenation.com/article/180544/jurors-secret-weapon-against-harsh-sentencing
Nullification dates back to the trial of William Penn and William Mead in 1670 in England. When jurors refused to convict them of unlawful assembly, the judge imprisoned the jurors. On appeal, a higher court released the jurors and found that they could not be punished for acquittal. The first chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay, said in 1794: “The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy.” And it remains entirely legal for a jury to acquit, regardless of the evidence, as a means of resisting unjust laws and sentencing. Juries have nullified to protest injustices throughout American history—in defense of the Boston Tea Party, against the Fugitive Slave Act, against Prohibition.

Despite this proud tradition, nullification has been a well-kept secret since 1895, when the Supreme Court ruled that while juries had the right to nullify, judges were not required to inform them of this power.
31 Struggles Kids Today Will Never Understand: So wow, now the generation after mine feels old. They remember being sad about not being able to fit their whole music mix on a CD. It was more painful when it was a cassette and you'd already painstakingly recorded most of the music onto it. In a shoebox in the middle of the road.
http://www.buzzfeed.com/ariellecalderon/struggles-kids-today-will-never-understand
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
When Aahz and I went to Wiscon, we flew into Chicago and rented a car from Enterprise to drive to Madison.

Because there are a kazillion toll booths along the route, we rented an automatic toll transponder along with the car.

A couple of days ago I get in the mail from Enterprise two separate notices that we failed to pay tolls at certain places and so they were going to charge us the tolls plus fines plus administrative fees. The total amount is about $30.

I go to the Enterprise web site and there is a form to fill out to appeal toll violations. I fill it out and say I don't owe these tolls because I rented a transponder from them.

Today I get an email from Enterprise saying that I have to phone their "specialized group of citations specialist who handle tolls" [sic] and leave them a voicemail, and they will call me back. The number I have to call is not a toll-free number. (Of course, why would they have a toll-free number for toll citations?)

I looked this up online and found a bunch of other people complaining about toll violations they got from Enterprise for places they were nowhere near in an Enterprise rental car or times when they were not using an Enterprise rental car. In my case at least they got it right that I was on that tollway at the times listed. But honestly, how hard is it for them to correlate the date and time of the toll violation with the fact that the renter for those dates and time rented a transponder from them?

I don't care about $30 but I do care about being ripped off in such a blatant and clumsy manner, and I do care about my time.

I also hate having to switch my business to a different rental agency to avoid this bullshit.
firecat: circle with plus, arrow, and various tools sticking out of it (gender swiss army)
Dear Crunchyroll, you just lost a potential customer because you demanded that I choose either "male" or "female" before letting me sign up.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
"Bill and Hillary Clinton were up to their ears in more than $10 million worth of legal debt at the end of Clinton’s tenure as president. Donald Trump was bailed out of four bankruptcies. But Detroit residents are having a basic human right – the access to water – cancelled for being late on bills of $150....residents with delinquent water bills are losing their water while prominent Detroit corporations with much larger delinquent water bills are being left alone. The Palmer Park Golf Club owes $200,000. Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owes DWSD $80,000. Ford Field owes $55,000."

http://detroitwaterbrigade.org/apartheid-detroit-water-corporations-people/

I don't understand how this even BEGINS to be legal. I am living in a very different world than I thought.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)

Movies


Blood: The Last Vampire
Anime short from 2000 that's about half the length of a feature film (they meant to make more of it but that didn't happen for some reason). About monster hunters. Set in the 60s. I don't usually notice sound design in shows I watch but this show had such awesome sound design that I could just sit and listen to it multiple times just for that. The way live music playing in a large room high school gym sounds when you're several hallways away. The sound of a rotary dial phone. The sound of the subway.The set design was also stunning. Institutional colors. Vintage furniture. Some of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood are based on history and find old institutions to use as sets, and this had a similar feel. I also liked how realistic many of the characters looked. One of the major characters is a fat woman.

Episodics



The Wire
Finished the fourth season, which is about missing bodies and ex-police trying to make a difference in public schools that are hamstrung by testing requirements. I love this show so much.

Pinky & the Brain
My current favorite Pinky & the Brain episode was on this week's disk: the mini-episode "Calvin Brain" where Brain is a fashion designer and Pinky is a male supermodel.

Hawaii Five-O reboot
Almost through the first season. The police parts are fairly routine but they make more of an effort than most police shows to take actual science and technology into account (e.g., they sometimes run out of bullets in gunfights, and the term "IP address" was used correctly in a recent episode I saw). The team is multi-racial. There are positively portrayed fat characters and fat people (well mostly men) walking around as extras. There seems to be some effort to respectfully portray Hawaiian culture.

Fiction


Rachel Swirsky, "The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window"
Short fiction about a spirit that is bound until the end of the universe and is periodically summoned by leaders to give them advice. It's kind of unclear at the beginning what kind of story it is, but I like what it turns into.

Peter Watts, "The Things"
This is a nifty story about a really alien alien. But for me the experience was almost completely spoiled by the final line.

Rex Stout, The League of Frightened Men
This is the first Stout I've read rather than listened to. I love the audio series because the narrator, Michael Prichard, gets Archie and Wolfe SO RIGHT. But I wasn't able to find this one on audio. Reading it is an equally superb but quite different experience. Stout's language precision is more noticeable. I've listened to enough Prichard that I can hear him doing the characters while I'm reading it, which is fun.

Tananarive Due, The Good House
Just started. Horror. I like how Due discusses race and family issues around the edges of her stories.
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
It's actually not legal to rent pieces of a public street!
http://consumerist.com/2014/06/23/san-francisco-sends-cease-and-desist-letter-to-app-that-auctions-off-public-parking-spaces/
[more of the same]
http://blog.sfgate.com/cityinsider/2014/06/23/sf-cracks-down-on-street-parking-cash-apps/
http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5285-greedy-parking-apps-told-to-suck-it-by-city
Facebook decides breastfeeding is a family-friendly subject.
http://www.thebolditalic.com/articles/5269-breasts-ok-on-facebook-so-long-as-babies-are-attached-to-them
Patient zero found for this year's measles outbreak in Minnesota.
http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/measles-outbreak-traced-back-single-unvaccinated-child
Cue Bach (because "Schadenfreude" scans the same as "Hallelujah").
http://consumerist.com/2014/06/23/american-apparel-ceo-fired-for-allowing-public-shaming-of-employees-generally-being-a-jerk/
If crowdfunding sites wanted to be welcoming to women, how would they be different?
http://geekfeminism.org/2014/06/21/what-would-a-feminist-paymentfunding-site-look-like/
Apparently this photo of a woman breastfeeding her baby during her college graduation got a lot of flak. I think the photo and the woman and the message (education is compatible with having children!!!) are beautiful.
http://newsone.com/3018051/karlesha-thurman-breastfeeding-photo/
At some colleges and universities, disabled students find it hard to access services that are required to be available to them.
http://www.alternet.org/education/why-are-huge-numbers-disabled-students-dropping-out-college?page=0%2C1
For all of the Neil deGrasse Tyson fanpeople (includes photo of high-school age Tyson in a wrestling singlet):
http://www.openculture.com/2014/07/neil-degrasse-tyson-high-school-wrestling-team-captain-invented-a-physics-based-wrestling-move.html

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