political performance

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:18 am
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[personal profile] lamentables
The first of the festival performances was by a cultural troupe that looked very Chinese to us - in their faces, hair, and clothes - and distinct from the locals. The music they were dancing to also sounded very Chinese. D observed that they are clearly happy to be part of India, which is not sure of all the tribes in the state. In the Tawang region, however, they are probably very aware of the oppression of Tibet. Until he said this, it had not occurred to me how political this performance was, just by the fact it was happening.

a different dance

After that there were speeches from the monks that went on far too long - the locals were looking pretty bored. (I forgot to mention: we were, as promised, welcomed to the festival as honoured guests in the opening speech.)

faces and schoolgirls and proud fathers, oh my )

After that there was another dance troupe, wearing tentacle hats, and then it was time for us to leave.

yak wool hats

who wouldn't want a crocheted tie?

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:01 am
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[personal profile] lamentables
Yesterday we managed to combine being completely relaxed with starting to explore our environs. After a morning of chilling, and a light lunch, abrinsky and I went out for a walk. Our plan was to go to the local supermarket to buy some kitchen roll, but first we set off in the opposite direction.

Our holiday property, a big square block that was once the police station, is about half way along the high street, so we are surrounded by interesting shops and buildings. There's a fantastic decommissioned chapel with a wonderful wooden door and short-but-commanding turret for sale, but sadly the deadline for offers passed on Friday, so our sudden interest in owning a Welsh chapel was short lived. Then there was a big old building housing an interesting looking café and a couple of shops, one of which was a secondhand bookshop. You will be unsurprised to learn that we went in the bookshop, and bought a couple of books. abrinsky, to our amazement, found a book about Mizoram, an Indian state on which we've found very little published in English. We snapped that up. When we got back we discovered that it's the memoir of a Welsh missionary woman in Mizoram after WW2.

My find was a book of crochet patterns, published by Batsford in 1969. I love Batsford's modern textile books (which tend to have lovely tactile covers), and their older ones are also very desirable. There are lots of patterns for placemats, table cloths, tray covers, pillowcase edgings, and other household items that are very much of their time. There are also some clothes that I would definitely wear:

Fab Batsford book of #crochet patterns from the 60s. Would def wear this. Find #oftheday

I'm seriously thinking of having a go at that or one of the other tops, but they are crocheted in very fine yarn with a 1.25mm hook, so I estimate it will take me around seventeen years to complete. This may be a good thing - a way of filling my need to make, whilst slowing down my rate of acquiring stuff.

abrinsky, however, rejected the opportunity to be a style icon with a crocheted tie:

But @abrinsky has refused the opportunity to become a style icon in a crocheted tie 😂

After the bookshop was St Cadfan's church, which is 1500 years old and very impressive. I haven't uploaded the other photos yet, but this head from one of the pillars intrigued us because it seems to be a woman, where all the others are clearly men. (We could be misreading, but we spent ages comparing faces, facial hair, and apparel.)

Face #oftheday #tywyn #stcadfans

After the church there were derelict buildings, ghost signs, a C20 Catholic Church that we couldn't get into and a plan to go to the beach. But then it started to rain, so we headed back and stopped at Dolly's where they serve delicious gluten free cake and acceptable coffee.

(We didn't actually buy any kitchen roll.)
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[personal profile] ritaxis
I think someone else would like this better than me. I skimmed a lot of it because the voice of "Ralph Trilipush" didn't engage me. The core question's pretty easy to the reader, but that's not a problem, because the secondary questions are the point anyway. I think the right person would like it: even though it is not actually a thriller, I think thriller readers would be about right. I looked at his other book, called Prague though it is set in Budapest, and I was not taken with it, but again it looked like someone else might like it better.
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Posted by Guest Reviewer


The Velvet Promise

by Jude Deveraux
RomanceHistorical: European

Squee from the Keeper Shelf is a feature wherein we share why we love the books we love, specifically the stories which are permanent residents of our Keeper shelves. Despite flaws, despite changes in age and perspective, despite the passage of time, we love particular books beyond reason, and the only thing better than re-reading them is telling other people about them. At length.

If you’d like to submit your reasons for loving and keeping a particular book for Squee from the Keeper Shelf, please email Sarah!

My favourite romance novels of all time are the four books of Jude Deveraux’s Velvet series: Velvet Promise, Highland Velvet, Velvet Song and Velvet Angel. I first read them when I was about fourteen, and the impact of these books on my reading, my writing, and probably my love life cannot be overstated. My friends and I sat in our boarding school dorm and devoured—lived, breathed, slept, dreamed, ate up—these books and their one-for-each-of-us heroes: Gavin, Stephen, Raine, and Miles. The names still dredge up a sigh of contentment, of nostalgia for a simpler life when we could dream of meeting boys who would miraculously be just like them (spoiler alert: I married Raine).

All these years later, I have found that every hero of every romance novel fits one or a blend of two of these brothers. The hero of my first manuscript is Gavin mixed with Miles; book 2’s guy is Raine. Book 4’s is Stephen. Not because I’m copying these books, but because Ms. Deveraux gave us heroes with different strengths and flaws which make for good stories no matter what era you set them in. It’s like getting a lesson in character arcs and having a rollicking good time while you’re at it.

That’s not to say that, like 99% of Eighties romances, there aren’t serious issues with the plots these four gents and their feisty, abundantly-haired heroines get into. I’ll get to that. But Ms. Deveraux gave me a blueprint not only for how a woman should be treated (yeah, like I said, I’ll get to that), but the emotions that a good romance should evoke in a reader. I’ll be applying those rules for the rest of my life. The heroines in these books are strong-willed women who wield power in their own way. While they sometimes have to submit to the mores of the time, they figure out ways to turn them to their advantage, and generally take very little shit from the heroes. The heroes are… well, let’s get to that.

In Velvet Promise, Judith, who has been brought up to become a prioress, is forced to marry Gavin Montgomery instead. Gavin is your basic alpha male. You’d be forgiven for thinking his name is Hawk because that’s what she describes him as most often. Gavin runs the family property (and this is the best bit) badly, although he runs around like a headless chicken (hawk?) trying his best, poor lamb. Judith is used to running her awful father’s lands and so comes in and instantly makes Gavin’s life better. But first he hits her and then he rapes her. Sigh. I know. Eighties, right? He’s all kinds of sorry in a macho ‘I could have done better than that her first time’ way the next morning, but there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a total asshole at this point in the story.

BUT. (Okay, there’s never a ‘but’ where rape is concerned, but I’m going to ask you to go with it for now.) We are given so much of Gavin’s background that all his missteps, and there are many, are kinda sorta understandable (okay, not the rape part, but stay with me). He’s been left with almost no female company his whole life, except for the manipulative and godawful Alice, who has become his version of what the perfect woman is. We know Alice is a money-grubbing harpy who’ll have people killed to get her way, but to Gavin she’s a simpering miss who wells up in big pretty tears whenever he gets close to figuring out who she really is. She didn’t even show any signs of pain the first time they had sex. She swore it was her first time. It thoroughly wasn’t. Alice likes rough, violent sex and the power she can wield through it. She is the benchmark of comparison by which the intelligent, upstanding, red-haired Judith is judged and found wanting. Even when Gavin acknowledges that Judith kicks butt, he’s all confused because he thinks he’s in love with Alice.

Highland Velvet
A | BN | K | iB
All kinds of dreadful medieval things happen here, including, as someone on Amazon pointed out, a lot more rape (but not by Gavin again). I honestly don’t think it’s put there to titillate, or to imply that it’s a good basis for a relationship and the woman will always forgive you. I read these books at a very tender age, and the lesson I learned is, Gavin deserves a kick in the nuts, and this is never an acceptable way to treat a woman.

Eventually, Judith loses a baby because of Alice and Gavin learns what real love, and real grief, is. He realizes his mistake and is genuinely lovely to Judith. Alice can’t stand it, goes nuts and nearly kills Judith, scarring herself in the process. It’s a great book about redemption, though Gavin is remarkably stupid at first.

Highland Velvet is about Stephen, the blond one. He is sent by the king to marry Bronwyn MacArran, who unusually has been made laird of her clan. This is the Hot Scot plot with a twist—she’s the hot scot and she schools him in so many ways it’s just… delightful. Stephen goes from being the arrogant Englishman, off to teach the heathen Scots the correct way to go about their business, to being a man proud of his wife’s power, and ready to be her helpmate in any way she needs. He embraces her clan, and her culture, body and soul. Plus he’s got awesome legs in that plaid.

But more awful things happen to people in their families, partly coordinated by Alice, who is still scarred and still nuts. She married into the Chatworth family and because of her actions, and those of her brother-in-law, the families become deadly enemies. Raine, the third brother, retaliates against the Chatworths and is declared an outlaw (because you would be, wouldn’t you).

Velvet Song
A | BN | K | iB
In Velvet Song, we meet Alyx, a wonderfully ordinary heroine, except that she has incredible hair and a remarkable singing voice. But she is forced to pretend to be a boy and goes into Raine’s outlaw camp to seek shelter as his squire. You can imagine the hilarity that ensues. Alyx is an inveterate snob and thinks herself above the people Raine is helping in the camp (though she is merchant class and also yells at Raine for the extravagance of the rich). Raine—built like a brick privy, think sexy Hagrid without the beard—is a voice for the poor and teaches Alyx their value. They make love when he’s in a fever and all that his-huge-sweaty-body-on-her-slim-boyish-but-not-too-boyish-one is great stuff. Then when he wakes up he pretends he doesn’t remember and orders her around for another few minutes before she figures it out. It’s fantastic.

A woman who has lusted after Raine for ever, and caught him once, is jealous of Alyx and contrives to have her thrown out of the camp for stealing. No one defends Alyx because they know she looks down on them. Raine is about to leave with her, which would leave him open to arrest as soon as he leaves the forest (oh, yeah, Robin Hood anyone? You UK peeps will remember Robin of Sherwood was on TV at about this time and, I’m just sayin’, Michael Praed. Le Sigh.) So Alyx kisses another guy (her only friend) in front of Raine and pretends she never loved him so he won’t leave with her. “‘Have I been a fool?’” he says, and we all weep.

She and her friend leave and end up as minstrels at the house of the Chatworths. Alyx is heavily pregnant and has been helping out the poor people she meets on the road. See? Satisfying character arc! At the Chatworths a bad guy recognizes Alyx and kidnaps her to get Raine out in the open; at the same time they kidnap Elizabeth Chatworth, beautiful sister-in-law of crazy Alice, and decide it would be a great lark to deliver her to Miles, the last brother, whom I used to wish REALLY HARD was real.

Alyx is nearly burned at the stake, Raine’s gang rescue her, but oh noes, he hates her because she tricked him. Eventually she sends their daughter to him and that breaks the ice, and it’s all good, but let’s move on because Miles.

The Velvet Angel in question is Elizabeth, who is delivered to Miles naked in a rug. Elizabeth is pathologically afraid of men, and with good reason. Her psychotic brother, whom Alice married, would place bets with his friends on which of them could take her virginity, so she learned long ago how to fight them off, literally.

Velvet Angel
A | BN | K | iB
Miles, to make it all interesting, is the Pied Piper for women. As the story points out several times, no woman has ever said no to him: “Even newborn girls clung to him.” Okay, so get it? He’s a chick magnet. And Elizabeth is his polar opposite. His reputation has also exaggerated his prowess, so she believes he has an army of bastard children, and since she loves children, she hates him even more. In fact, he has four, whose backgrounds we are told so we don’t believe he’s an asshole. Also, medieval, so, no birth control! What’s a man to do??!

Miles sets out to break through Elizabeth’s fear and it’s a splendid third of the book where his actions and those of his men, who aren’t assholes either, teach her that some men can be trusted. Of course, he’s hot as molasses in July and when Elizabeth gets drunk one day, off they go. Now, you could, and perhaps should, have a problem with all the times Miles was touching her, holding her on his horse, kissing her (she wipes it away each time) and generally getting in her personal space without permission. But… if he’d sat on the other side of the room and made his points with flowcharts it wouldn’t have been quite the same story. When they do come together (*snigger*) her release of all that fear and pain is superb.

But of course that can’t be the end of the story. Elizabeth’s slightly-less-awful brother (although whether you forgive him for what he did in Book 2 is up for discussion) comes for her and she leaves with him so he won’t kill Miles. Miles thinks this is a bad idea, to put it mildly.

One of the things that makes this more than a run-of-the-mill romance is that Elizabeth’s choices are not clearcut. She has Miles, yes, but her brother has a whole other side to the story, and she doesn’t know who to believe for a while. The plot jumps the shark here a little, but the misunderstandings and reconciliations are well laid out. In the end, the women band together and save Miles from Alice’s last and most trumped-up scheme. It’s all wrapped up with a lovely bow and the promise of future books. Which I didn’t read because after Miles, there was nowhere else for me to go.

And there you have it. Four men, four women, four stories, infinite permutations. Gavin is the alpha male who needs to be schooled. Stephen, the thoughtful beta who will fight to the death for those he considers his people. Raine is the educated mountain man looking for beauty in art. And Miles is the strong, silent type whom you just can’t resist once he turns his eyes on you. I give you the Montgomery brothers. You are welcome.

The Velvet Montgomery series comes from Kimberly Ash’s Keeper Shelf! Kimberley Ash is a writer, mom, and British ex-pat, who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs, she writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction, and contemplates ​ex-pat life. You can find her on her website, and on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

The Velvet Montgomery series are on her keeper shelf because they are the benchmark for emotional trauma and hotness factor against which all other romances are compared. Also, if she hasn’t mentioned it yet, Miles.

Anime Summer Week 7

Aug. 21st, 2017 01:49 am
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[personal profile] lovelyangel
Unhappy Chi-chans
Unhappy Chi-chans
Mitama sisters • Centaur no Nayami, Episode 7

Here are the shows from this season that I watched last week…

Tenshi no 3P! (Angel’s 3Piece): Episode 6
Something of an artificial conflict episode, centered around Nozomi. Fortunately this was a one-and-done crisis. But the series would have been fine if this episode had never occurred. Like a filler arc, the story is back to where it was before the episode appeared.

Yōkai Apāto no Yūga na Nichijō (Elegant Yokai Apartment Life): Episode 7
Not surprisingly, the Petit Hierozoicon was pretty useless. The best thing about his episode is that Hase is becoming more involved, and he appears to carry a secret related to magic. His character might be a good counterbalance to Yūshi, who seems rather directionless.

Isekai Shokudō (Restaurant to Another World): Episode 7
I wasn’t really expecting another dragon… and she seems very awkwardly inserted into the restaurant situation – as though an editor said, “we need another character working in the restaurant!” The whole setup is weak, but I guess we accept the premise and move on.

New Game!!: Episode 6
This was as close as New Game!! gets to an “intense” episode. I was rooting for Aoba all the way, but I was also glad that Kou displayed an abundance of class and talent. And Kou, after all, is my favorite character in the series.

Tsurezure Children: Episode 7
It looked like Hotaru, Jun’s little sister, was going to start a chain of misunderstandings – and I would have hated that. To my delight, Yuki identified Hotaru immediately – and proceeded to troll her mercilessly. I loved it! (And Yuki = Kana Hanazawa!) Ayaka and Takeru struggled with their feelings and communications. Haruhiko x Saki still haven’t recovered from their texting fiasco… but with Shin’ichi (the dating master) giving (cliché) advice to Haruhiko, hopefully things will clear up soon. I’m rooting for Chizuru x Takurō, but Chizuru remains clueless, and this week was no help. Will these two ever get together?

Mahoujin Guru Guru: Episode 6
You can’t even explain these episodes. But they’re still very funny.

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations: Episode 20
A lesson for kids – don’t jump ahead of the adult-supervised group and dash into dangerous places alone. Sarada no baka! And, again, the competition between Sasuke and Sakura for worst parent intensifies. At any rate, it was nice to see Naruto (and Kurama) power up for once. Naruto in action energizes any episode. And, hey… sharingan awakening! So plenty of good stuff.

Gamers!: Episode 6
I was going to be soooo annoyed if this episode ended in a cliffhanger – as it was pretty clear that the two minutes it took to repeat that single moment on the clock could ultimately leave us all hanging. I was supremely happy with the final burst of (accidental) words along with Karen’s immediate autopilot response. Yay! I was in agony during for 23:25 and ecstatic at the last 0:18. “Surprise Happy End” is right! I also loved the change of music when the focus shifted to Karen’s inner thoughts at that last moment. Also, I recommend viewers revisit the first part of episode 1. Confession: I’ve rewatched the last three minutes quite a few times. I even made Karen’s “Hai! Yorokonde!” a tone on my iPhone!

Konbini Kareshi (Convenience Store Boy Friends): Episode 7
Haruki is a clueless wimp. It was totally frustrating that Miharu gave him the perfect chance, and the indecisive guy blew it. Then he had a perfect second chance, and he blew that, too. And the one final chance seemed to go sideways. Next week – next month (October) – the story shifts to a different couple – so we’ll be tortured by the glacially moving romances until the end of the season, it appears. Ugh.

Jigoku Shōjo Yoi no Togi (Hell Girl: The Fourth Twilight): Episode 6
I guess this was the end of the Michiru arc. It seemed a bit choppy and illogical – and didn’t feel like full closure – like, what happens now to Ai Enma? The remaining episodes this season are reruns. I’ll probably discontinue comments for this show in my weekly post.

Hina Logi – from Luck and Logic: Episode 9
Obligatory school festival preparations… and a kinda pointless mock battle exercise in the middle. Yayoi remains the mature one, in contrast to just about everyone else. Looks like Lion has to put in extra work.

Boku no Hero Academia: Episode 33
Finally… some of the backstory for All for One. I’m sure there’s more, but the facts revealed this week were pretty important. Izuku has a long ways to go – and the clock is ticking for All Might. Serious stuff. In contrast, there was Mineta, who remains the most annoying of all the classmates.

Centaur no Nayami (a.k.a. A Centaur’s Life): Episode 7
The first slice-of-life story was much better than the second. In the first story all the friends and siblings (and one cousin) – 10 characters – had an outing at a public pool. All the little interactions and vignettes were revealing and interesting – including how a centaur puts on a two-piece bathing suit… and what a centaur has to watch out for when she swims in a pool… and what Manami was like as a little girl. The Chi-chans were cute, as always. And Suu-chan showed much graciousness. The second story was much less interesting – scary story night at the school – a pathetic cover for one member of the Occult club to make a move on the club president. Ick.

Knight’s & Magic: Episode 8
The accelerated pace of this adaptation makes each episode seem like glorious fan fiction, which I’ll perfectly comfortable enjoying. In any other series, the battle to defend Alfheim would have been at least a full episode – maybe 2. In a series like Naruto, Ernesti’s stay at Alheim to learn the secrets of the ether reactor would be multiple episodes (see: Mt. Myoboku training for Sage Mode). Development of Ikaruka would be at least one more episode. Yet here all stories were squeezed into a single episode with room to spare. No filler here!

Owarimonogatari Second Season: Episodes 1–7
Aaaaaaaah! I was so busy this weekend I still couldn’t get to this. I’ll have to do a separate post sometime during the week.

Kou Yagami
Kou Yagami
New Game!! Episode 6

Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 2

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:50 am
[syndicated profile] mangabookshelf_feed

Posted by Sean Gaffney

By Leiji Matsumoto. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Zack Davisson.

These Emeraldas stories we see in this second omnibus tend to be fairly stand-alone and separate from one another, connected only by the interlocking narration of our titular heroine – indeed, sometimes the narration gets so interlocking it’s hard to tell when the chapter breaks are, which I’ve no doubt is somewhat on purpose. This is a long, endless journey through space. There’s no real destination, there’s no particular character development – Emeraldas is who she was at the start, and Hiroshi Umino may be hiding his identity behind a fake name, but is still essentially the same as well. So what you get in this volume is the delight of the scenery along the way, with Matsumoto’s sparse yet compelling art portraying a vision of space that its readers long to visit, even though they know that, since they aren’t Emeraldas, it’s likely they’ll end up as dead as most of the people in this book.

If you’re wondering where this takes place in the Harlock/Emeraldas/GE999 canon, the answer is “slightly early”, as we get a few shots here of Emeraldas observing (and really, that’s pretty much all she does) a short, teeth-filled man who faithful readers know is Tochiro, who will eventually be the love of her life. For the moment, though, the reader merely observes him dealing with life in a very Wild West-influenced outer space – much as Emeraldas is a grand Wagnerian opera, there’s also a large chunk of Hollywood Western to it as well. Of course, we’re not actually telling the story of Tochiro and Emeraldas yet, so which they interact, they eventually move on, just as everyone else does. Emeraldas is an anthology, and as such rarely stops to take on backstory. Still, it’s great to see him.

The series ends with a few short stories. The second one feels very much like the rest of the book, and is quite poignant. The first one… does not. I’m sure that in a collector’s sense the Matsumoto fan is delighted with its presence in this book, if only for the sake of completeness. As someone who’s read the rest of the series, however, the story of Emeraldas and her goofy female pirate crew running into Harlock and his male crew in an effort to find a treasure map feels like finishing off dinner at a 5-star restaurant with a bag of Doritos. I’m not sure if this story came out well before the rest of the book – I’ve been burned saying things like that before. But it FEELS like an earlier work, and while it’s quite funny in places, and it’s nice to see Harlock, I found its presence in the end simply jarring.

But that does not take away from the grandeur of the main work, and it’s been a treat reading Queen Emeraldas in English. It’s even more of a treat knowing that more is coming, as we have Harlocks both new and classic in the near future. Can a Galaxy Express 999 re-release be far away? (OK, probably, yes, it can.) In any event, classic manga lovers, fans of space opera, or even pirate kids will greatly enjoy this series. Long may she sail through the stars, narrating gravely as she goes.

(no subject)

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:20 am
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[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] kerrypolka!

Amsterdam trip - day 3

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:17 am
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[personal profile] wildeabandon
I did not sleep especially well on Sunday night, and woke up with an explanation for why I’d been so sleepy during the day in the form of an unpleasantly sore throat. I threw painkillers at it until it subsided and decided that I would give up on any silly ideas about morning runs until I was feeling back to 100%.

By the time I woke up properly and we’d eaten breakfast, Ramesh realised that he was also feeling quite under the weather, and decided to treat it with spending a while longer in bed, so I set off into town alone to spend some time in the red light district. Naturally, I spent that time looking at churches. Why, what else did you expect? First I went round the Oude Kerk, which was originally a Catholic cathedral, but became protestant during the reformation. There was a very good audio guide, which managed to personalise the experience without being twee. It had been left very austere by the iconoclasm, but in recent years has been used as a space for new art, sacred and secular. Afterwards I went on to Our Lord in the Attic, a house church which has been reconstructed to be very similar to how it was in the seventeenth century. Catholicism at that point was not exactly tolerated, but the authorities would turn a blind eye if people weren’t too blatant about it, and despite looking like a normal house from the outside it was impressively spacious and opulent inside.

After an ecclesiastical morning I went and had lunch with [personal profile] ewan (because what foreign holiday would be complete without running into someone who lives down the road and just happens to be visiting the same city). We met at the Foodhallen, which had a good range of choices, including several for the vegan. After lunch I gave Ramesh a call to see if he was feeling up to coming out, but as he wasn’t I went for another attraction he was less interested in - the Zoo! I hadn’t been to the Zoo for about 25 years or so, and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. There was a panther who was very stealthy, sea-lions who were very loud and playful, lions who were very sleepy, a gorilla and a capybara who were both completely uninterested and much smaller and much larger than I expected respectively.

By the time I got back to the hotel Ramesh had rested sufficiently and we went out looking for dinner. We had foolishly assumed that on a Monday evening we’d probably be able to just walk into somewhere, but after the first three places we tried were fully booked, didn’t have any veggie options, and fully booked we decided to go back to the sushi place we’d liked on Saturday, and make a couple of bookings in the places that were popular enough to be fully booked.

Notes on The Defenders

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:35 am
roga: coffee mug with chocolate cubes (coffee chocolate)
[personal profile] roga
Which I come at from the point of view of someone who has only seen Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and the first episodes of Daredevil (which I might one day catch up on) and Iron Fist (which I definitely will not).


Spoilers for all episodes of The Defenders )
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Posted by SB Sarah


Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

by Anne Helen Petersen
June 20, 2017 · Plume
RomanceHistorical: European

Anne Helen Petersen’s byline on any collection of words means that I’m going to drop what I’m doing immediately to read it. I don’t read a lot of celebrity gossip and culture, but her analyses are fascinating on multiple levels. Not only are they thorough and drawn from a variety of sources, but they attempt to frame one or several layers of meaning around a celebrity’s brand or image, often locating that meaning in a complicated larger context. Because Petersen has studied the gossip industry in its past and present iterations, the context is very often, “We’ve been here before, and here’s another example.”

I was very excited to read Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud – so excited that when I received the email alerting me that my turn on the hold list at the library had arrived, I got to the library branch before they’d put the book out on the hold shelves for me to pick up. (No, I promise I didn’t drive Too Fast to pick up this book. There are speed cameras everywhere and I learned my lesson long ago.)

If you like Petersen’s long form celebrity analyses, you’ll like this book. Each chapter focuses on a different person, and each is a chronological examination of how their brand or public image has shifted, and how coverage of that person personally and professional has evolved. Each chapter also spends some time identifying and then dismantling the overarching perception that follows each individual. The chapters in order are:

  • Too Strong: Serena Williams
  • Too Fat: Melissa McCarthy
  • Too Gross: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
  • Too Slutty: Nikki Minaj
  • Too Old: Madonna
  • Too Pregnant: Kim Kardashian
  • Too Shrill: Hillary Clinton
  • Too Queer: Caitlyn Jenner
  • Too Loud: Jennifer Weiner
  • Too Naked: Lena Dunham

The book as a whole was a very quick read for me, and I found myself taking pictures and sharing images of particular paragraphs that resonated. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about each chapter as soon as I read it.

Unruliness is defined in the introduction as possessing of attributes that are antithetical to expectations to traditional femininity. Unruly women:

…question, interrogate, or otherwise challenge the status quo. Of course, there have been unruly women for as long as there have been boundaries of what constitutes acceptable “feminine” behavior: women who, in some way, step outside the boundaries of good womanhood, who end up being labeled too fat, too loud, too slutty, too whatever characteristic women are supposed to keep under control.

So, yeah. Here for this, 3000%.

Each example starts with one element of “unruliness,” but no criticism of women is ever singular; there are many other systems of oppression involved. The chapter on Serena Williams traced how descriptions of her body have not changed all that much over time, locating those descriptions and the attitudes toward her skill and dominance in the larger context of the overwhelming whiteness and racism of tennis as a sport and performance, with a side order of sexism and classism.

I thought the chapter was fantastic, and since my husband likes tennis (and most sports on tv, come to think of it), I passed the book to him so he could read it when I finished. He did the same thing I did: nodded at the page and kept reading. His review: “I knew all of these things already, and I read most of the articles about Serena that are cited, but I hadn’t seen them organized in that way before.”

That’s a pretty apt summary of each chapter: the organization of the story tells another story. The coverage of a celebrity – the narrative that is manufactured by them, or about them, or both – is organized and examined in a way that reveals larger themes and the often massive obstacles that person deals with. In other words, there is a story about the person being profiled, and that story, the way it is told, the words that are used, and the source of the story and who tells and repeats it, reveals a LOT.

Each “too” example is often the reason pointed to by many who criticize or dislike that celebrity or their work. Each chapter pokes at the descriptor to highlight the sexism, misogyny, racism, and prejudice working against that person. Some work steadfastly against their label, and some engage with it deliberately, consciously undermining it or highlighting it to point out how ridiculously limiting and reductive it is.

To say this book gave me brain popcorn is an understatement.

Here are some of my favorite parts, which I had to mark with sticky notes because this is a library book and I am not a total monster. From the chapter on Serena:

“Imagine, too, a woman whose dominance on the court leads to discussions of her skill, not her body. Imagine a scenario in which strength, manifest in physical and mental form, is figured as a pure testament to skill, not as a means of distracting from it. Imagine a world in which female athletes do not provoke anxiety; in which black ones are not automatically perceived as a threat; in which unruliness doesn’t need to be blunted….

A woman who responds to the cries that “she’s too strong,” then “she’s too sexy,” then again “she’s too strong” with “Well, can you choose one? But either way, I don’t care which one they choose. I’m me and I’ve never changed who I am.”

From the chapter on Hillary Clinton (which was a little painful to read):

“Shrillness” is just a word to describe what happens when a woman, with her higher-toned voice, attempts to speak loudly. A pejorative, in other words, developed specifically to shame half the population when they attempt to command attention in the same manner as men.

And in the chapter on Jennifer Weiner, which also addresses a lot of the sexism surrounding the term ‘chick lit,’ an examination I found deeply deliciously satisfying, there’s a discussion of the imbalanced hierarchy within the publishing and the marketing of books:

Women make up around 80 percent of the fiction -buying public, making them an incredibly powerful market force. They’re just not buying the right books – at least according to a pervasive and problematic cultural assumption. The right books are “difficult”: experimental, impenetrable, male. They get written up in prestigious book reviews; they win awards that place a tasteful gold stamp in their corner. Their authors don’t blog or tweet about them because they don’t blog or tweet…. They occupy the rarefied air of high art. And the majority, but certainly not all, of the authors of these books are men.

On the other end of this hierarchy, there’s the feminized, the commercially popular, the books reliant on tacky self-promotion.

I finished the chapter on Nikki Minaj wishing there had been more focus more on the ways she questions the treatment she receives as a female artist and businessperson, and while there was some, I wanted more. (Also: “When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. When a woman is assertive, she’s a bitch. No negative connotations to being a boss.”)

I appreciated that the analysis of each person didn’t assume my sympathy for the person, or my support, and I appreciated that the tone wasn’t one of, “You should support this person and here is why.” From the conclusion:

Questions of representation – who controls it, and who says where and at what point it becomes “too much” in any capacity – have served as the foundation of this book, whose premise is predicated on the small yet significant ways that women have either resisted or wrested control of the way that men have represented them.

Which isn’t to say that they always succeed: the imperative against unruliness might be largely created by men, but as these chapters have shown, it’s often enforced by women.

That was the part I found most interesting, asking myself how I contribute to the castigation of unruly women, and how I manage the accusations of the same when I receive them. I mean, it’s a site called “Smart Bitches,” so I hear opprobrium about our unruliness collectively or individually on a weekly basis. But I had to ask myself about the chapters regarding women I wasn’t as curious about, why was I harboring dislike for that person? Why do I think that way?

Which is the point of the book itself, I think: to challenge readers to measure and examine their dislike or conceptions of individual celebrities in different spheres, and to potentially nudge readers to challenging the way they absorb and examine the presented stories about other people. In other words, don’t believe everything you think. Why do you think that, anyway? How we view other women and how we view ourselves are crucial examinations, and the world of celebrity gossip and public performance make for an accessible on-ramp to the difficult questioning.

I found this book to be fascinating and very edifying, almost comforting at times. I imagine many of us have been told we were both “too much” and “not enough” through our lives. Seeing how that narrative takes shape on a larger scale helps me examine how I absorb and deploy that same contradiction. If you’re at all interested in celebrity culture and how it intersects with cultural expectations and narratives, or you want to celebrate nonconformity and being “too much,” this book will be a treat.

Seeking a book for someone.

Aug. 21st, 2017 02:07 am
thnidu: Gay-friendly poly-friendly pagan-friendly monogamous straight Jew (friendly)
[personal profile] thnidu
I just saw a request on a community called findthatbook, which I am pasting below. I don't remember if nonmembers can read posts, but they can't post. Since I know that a number of LGBTQ people read my blog, rather than link to there I told the OP I would ask here and pass the information on to them.

gay novel from the early 80s?

I recently remembered a book I last read in the early 80s, but can't recall the exact title (or author) - I *think* it was called something like The Stairs on Avenue C but googling that and some keywords like 'book' 'novel' or 'gay' got me nowhere. it was a paperback about a gay guy in New York City (who lived on Avenue C?); and I vaguely remember the cover illustration was a doubling-back staircase - I think the cover was greenish. It was definitely no masterpiece and I think relatively negatively slanted; I can't remember if the protagonist turned out to be a serial killer or died, but that's the sort of impression I have. it was early in my discovery of gay lit, and I was gulping down anything I could lay my hands upon. and now I'm vaguely curious about it but unable to gratify that curiosity.

anyone have any pointers for where I might look?

midnight science

Aug. 20th, 2017 11:08 pm
runpunkrun: jamie hyneman holding a radio transmitter, adam savage standing behind him with his arms in the air, triumphant (science: it works)
[personal profile] runpunkrun
Okay, so I was sitting here, exhausted, thinking, "Fuck, I have to force myself to care about the fucking eclipse tomorrow."

Except I do care. So I found an old shoebox and made a pinhole viewer with these instructions (pdf) my pal kormantic sent me. And I even wrote ECLIPSEPOCALYPSE 2017 on the side, so it's super official. And I REALLY banged my knee on the table when I sat down to make it, so that'll be a nice memory.

I guess I'll go stand out in the yard around ten o'clock with my shoebox and see what happens.

Monday 21/08/2017

Aug. 21st, 2017 07:49 am
dark_kana: (3_good_things_a_day official icon)
[personal profile] dark_kana posting in [community profile] 3_good_things_a_day
1) Managed to get out of bed in time, so I arrived at work in time to be able to leave in time this evening for my appointment. 

2) Going to visit a house this evening.

3) Going to visit my grandmother this evening.

gay novel from the early 80s?

Aug. 20th, 2017 10:38 pm
dine: (bookbeach - jchalo)
[personal profile] dine posting in [community profile] findthatbook
I recently remembered a book I last read in the early 80s, but can't recall the exact title (or author) - I *think* it was called something like The Stairs on Avenue C but googling that and some keywords like 'book' 'novel' or 'gay' got me nowhere. it was a paperback about a gay guy in New York City (who lived on Avenue C?); and I vaguely remember the cover illustration was a doubling-back staircase - I think the cover was greenish. It was definitely no masterpiece and I think relatively negatively slanted; I can't remember if the protagonist turned out to be a serial killer or died, but that's the sort of impression I have. it was early in my discovery of gay lit, and I was gulping down anything I could lay my hands upon. and now I'm vaguely curious about it but unable to gratify that curiosity.

anyone have any pointers for where I might look?

Done last week (20170813Su - 19Sa)

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:44 pm
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
[personal profile] mdlbear

The last pod has been emptied -- it will be hauled off on Wednesday -- so I guess that means we're officially moved in. So many things we really shouldn't have taken! (And a few we should have, but gave away instead...)

We decided not to go to Oregon to see the eclipse. Just didn't start soon enough; maybe we can get to 2024? Tough decision, but we hadn't planned far enough ahead; with the expected traffic we probably wouldn't have made it, we would have had to scramble to find someone to care for the cats, and the room was expensive.

A lot of overload/stress/depression/anxiety problems, especially Monday and yesterday. Yesterday was particularly bad -- I felt drained pretty much all day after a morning meltdown. I probably need to bunny more.

There are continuing problems with the cats. Bronx is still pretty sick, and Ticia spent much of the week hiding under the bed. We finally set Colleen up in the brown recliner, with her usual bowls of water and treats. That seems to have worked, or at least helped. She's still awfully skittish. May have to do with the kittens. Especially Bronx.

Notes & links, as usual )

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