Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 07:31 pm
It seems like it's been ages that I've posted anything substantial and non-FMK here (which I knew was a risk; I have enough social media XP (extroversion points) to keep up with approx. 1 DW post a week, that is well-established). So here is a 5 things to break the monotony:

1. Pokemon Go will not let me install the latest update (It gives an error message that says "we hates your phone, precious" [paraphrase] and then won't install.) So instead I have been playing Magikarp Jump, which the app store always tries to tell me pokego players will enjoy. So far:

This is my fish. There are many like it, but this one is mine. )


2. Also I finally won the last boss level in Alphabear, so until I got my fish game, I was totally at loose ends for mindless phone games, and started looking for ports of the ones I played as a kid. HOW IS AN ANDROID PORT OF GODDAMP CATERPILLAR 11 megabytes? I coded that from scratch on my TI83 when I was a kid! In, like, about 100 lines of code! WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?

(I also coded a text adventure with a gender-ambiguous protagonist on that calculator, actually...)


3. I finished cleaning my bathroom yesterday! It only took me about two weeks! It is so nice to go in there and have it be clean! clean ALL the things )


4. So last November I kind of went into power-save mode for awhile, quit using Habitica and also quit a bunch of the things I had been doing on a regular basis (tag wrangling, practicing piano, working on Spanish and Icelandic, writing on a regular basis, using Tumblr...) But my sister got me back onto using Habitica again, and now that all the cat-related tasks are gone (and I trimmed some other stuff) it's a much more reasonable list of dailies.

I had forgotten how very motivating it is to get to tick the thingy. Now I am debating whether to use my Orb of Rebirth and start over or not (And whether to try to get together an active party with more than just me and my sister and a bunch of inactive accounts.)

And I'm trying to get back to doing some of the other things I stopped, too. I gave Tag Wrangling an un-hiatus notice, so I'm committed to trying to be less fail at that, and I pulled out a piano book for the first time in months (I found a copy of the very first one I learned out of, The Joy Of First-Year Piano, to warm me back up) Og ég er að læra íslensku aftur. Þótt jurtabókin er erfitt. Það er of mikið um illt kaffi í bókinni. Y yo hablé español a una clienta hoy! Un poco español, pero un poco es más que nada.

The only thing I gave up that I haven't missed at all is Tumblr. *shrug emoji* (even that's not true, I have a secret backup tumblr to which are added a couple people who post mostly personal stuff and also a bunch of nature and solarpunk and library special collections photos, and no politics or fandom, and it's still fine.)

5. One of the things on my habitica dailies is to post an AO3 comment once a day. Another one is to do something with politics once a week. I got my wires crossed in there somewhere and realized that if I don't feel up to actually engaging with politics I can just send one of my (excellent) congresspeople an email that literally just says, "Hi staffer who reads these, you are fighting the good fight, keep holding the line, thank you", just like when I want to leave an AO3 comment but don't know what to say, and it STILL COUNTS.

Also, people are trying to get public outcry going toward Congress passing the nonpartisan bill Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017. (S. 200 - Senate, HR 669 - House.) which would make it so the US President could not launch a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war. TBH I can't think of ANY reason why that should ever have been possible, but ESPECIALLY now. So write your congresspeople or spread the word to #PULL THE FOOTBALL

/me crosses off "do politics" for this week
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 07:47 pm
I triumphed over the never-ending stack of leases, after which it was a slow-ish day. I showed two apartments and I think some of the people who went on the tour will come in tomorrow to rent an apartment, so that's nice.

I also got a raise! Only a small one, but even so. And what's nicer is that it's retroactive to June 1 (because our owner is an organized human being, really, I swear...) so I have a paper check I get to cash tomorrow. Yay unexpected extra money!

In news from my other job, today I finished one of my two tax update courses, and have registered for three live in-person continuing education classes, one of which is tomorrow night. The other two are next week, and I need to ask Miss Cactus whether she's willing to swap my Tuesday shift for her shift on either Monday or Friday, since the courses all start at 6pm and I work until 7pm on Tuesdays. (Failing that, I will ask Mom Boss if I can leave early that day.)

Continuing education requirements for tax preparers are 18 credit hours per year, allocated as follows: 13 federal tax law, 2 ethics, and 3 tax updates. You can, of course, take more than the minimum. I have currently finished 2 credits of tax law and 2 credits of tax updates. The three live courses will knock off another 9 credits of tax law, I have the second 2 credit tax update course ready to do whenever (probably Friday or Saturday), and the ethics and another 2 credits of tax law won't be too hard to knock off.

Then, of course, there are the New York state requirements, but I will deal with those in November. :)
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 05:44 pm
books
I'm revisiting Yuletide source, taking a lot of notes, & contemplating my reading challenge parameters for next year. This year I've focused on women authors again, but lately I've been thinking about literary awards. Maybe next year I'll try doing the Pulitzer lists or something.

respiratory infection
Thanks for the good wishes re the cold. It's still lingering but I'm largely better. I'm still baffled that my body allowed a respiratory infection to happen at all. Maybe my allergic responses are relenting a little? *hopes*

dirt outside, inside )

neighbors squeaky wheels among so many other nice people )

healthcrap osteoarthritis + fibromyalgia )

Hope y'all are well! <3
Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 10:43 pm
So my work day started with two tenants coming in to say they'd locked themselves out of their bathroom, continued through twenty million leases to process, and ended with another tenant coming in literally one minute before closing to say they thought they had to fill out a form, maybe...? which was actually three forms, one of which I had to generate specially and then highlight the relevant sections because nobody ever fills it out correctly otherwise. *headdesk*

I mean, at least I will get paid for the extra twenty minutes I stayed? But holy gods, argh argh and above all, argh.

(The bathroom, incidentally, was an easy fix. All it takes is a judiciously applied paperclip! But I had to go apply the fix in person because apparently tenants are bad at comprehending verbal explanations at 9am when they really need to pee. (To be fair, I probably would be as well.))

...

On the bright side, I got a two-hour tax continuing education course finished before Mom Boss dumped the never-ending leases on me, so that's something.
Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 07:40 pm
Last week's winners were not what I expected! But F goes to The Red Tent and K goes to The Magicians (which is WAY more hated than I had realized! For good reason apparently.)

How FMK works, short version: I am trying to clear out my unreads. So there is a poll, in which you get to pick F, M, or K. F means I should spend a night of wild passion with the book ASAP, and then decide whether to keep it or not. M means I should continue to commit to a long-term relationship of sharing my bedroom with it. K means it should go away immediately. Anyone can vote, you don't have to actually know anything about the books.

I pick a winner on Friday night (although won't actually close the poll, people can still vote,) and report results/ post the new poll on the following Tuesday, and write a response to the F winner sometime in the next week.

Link to long version of explanation (on first poll)

This week's theme: I have no idea what this book is about, I'm pretty sure I only have it for the title.

Poll: Bail, Capote, Carey, Collins, Connors, Corliss, Ericson, Galloway, Gould, Morse, Shann, Shreve, Townsend, Wodehouse )
Tags:
Monday, October 16th, 2017 04:52 pm
(Disclaimer: I'm severely hyposmic and synaesthetic, so my perceptions may not reflect common experience.)

My own experience includes a couple examples from BPAL:

This is the website's description of Iago: Malevolent, dark and shadowy: sinuous black musk, wet leather and vetiver. Anticipated synaesthetic color: matte black.

I love the hell out of vetiver, and menacing gravitas is among the aspirational qualities I seek in a bottle--but the fragrance came across as a soft, dry, somewhat dusty leather, whose synaesthetic color was a muted Santa Fe clay pinkish-red. I'd signed up for a date with Tom Hiddleston's Loki, only for Chris Evans' Steve Rogers to show up at the doorstep--but damned if it didn't work just fine as the aspirational scent of my inner Good Guy.

Here's the blurb for Blood Rose: Sensual, robust, and silken: voluptuous red rose bursting with lascivious red wine and sultry dragon’s blood resin. Anticipated synaesthetic color: the overwrought velvety cherry red of a Mister Lincoln rose, or--should the bloodiness dominate the sweetness--blackened yet intense red of a Black Magic rose--the color dubbed "sangoire", and reserved for those of the heroine's rare and cherished neurotype, in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy.

The scent that came out of the imp was a capslocked and bolded ROSE!!! of an altogether different color--this was a buoyant summertime Tropicana rose, whose translucent neon hue--straddling orange, red, and pink--was a soulmate to the aqua of swimming pools.

More prosaically, it also happened to coincide with a fondly-remembered smell I'd been seeking to approximate: that of Kutol Clean Shape hand soap; the church that hosted my old anime club's shenanigans used this liquid soap (which seems to be available only in institutional quantities) in their restrooms, and I'd despaired of ever taking it home--yet darned if it hadn't come into my hands by complete surprise, in a conveniently portable vial.

(I note that the tags include "horrible hilarious failure"; is "triumphant serendipitous failure" a thing?)
Monday, October 16th, 2017 03:46 pm
There is SO MUCH to be excited about in the new Black Panther trailer, but I have to tell you, by the end of it all I could think about was this interview with Michael B. Jordan from back in 2011:
AVC: Vince and Wallace and Alex [are] at heart good guys who just happen to come from difficult backgrounds. You never really play the badass. Is that something you’d like to do?

MJ: Playing a bad guy? Playing a bad guy would be fun, I’m not going to lie. I’d definitely do that in a heartbeat, because it’s so out of my nature.

I am THRILLED that he finally gets to do this.

I am also thrilled about basically everything else in the trailer, which looks amazing.
Monday, October 16th, 2017 12:00 am
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October 16th, 2017next

October 16th, 2017: So it turns out that the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL was super fun. I even commissioned some art from one of my favourite English cartoonists!

UPDATE: turns out Freaky Friday was originally a 1972 novel, retelling the same story first proposed (near as I can tell) in 1882. In our world, I mean. In dinosaur land it's exactly as shown in the comic and I have never made a mistake!!

– Ryan

Sunday, October 15th, 2017 01:01 pm
[personal profile] rosaxx50 said: I would love something for Karen & Foggy & Matt (or ot3!) + libel! Something about how vigilante/law/media deals with a case of libel in some way. (400 words exactly)

Note: Three months late, but look! I wrote a thing! :D Also, insofar as this has a canon setting, it's in a happy future sometime post-Defenders.

With Only Mild Complaining )

And now I will go eat lunch. :)
Sunday, October 15th, 2017 09:02 am
The proper grown-up blog I share with [personal profile] yiduiqie has been linked from some amazing places in the last month, and I just want to document it for posterity and ego boosting:
  • The New Yorker linked to our 2015 post about the sinister subtext of Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes, that New Yorker. Ain't no thang. *hairflip*
  • (That article was then shared at BoingBoing, where the comments were filled with nerds taking our silly post very seriously indeed.)
  • BookRiot's crime fiction podcast discussed our post on why we're not supporting the Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries film Kickstarter, and our earlier post (linked in our recent one) about the racism in the books and TV series, and how it's something that non-Australians seem to overlook.
  • The podcast included a wonderful bit where the hosts were like, "Well, these Australian ladies say the books are problematic, but we wanted to make up our own mind, so we read one each." But they chose the books at random, and had the misfortune to end up with Blood and Circuses, The One With The Infamous Clown Sex. (If you watched the series -- which I really love, when it's not being incredibly racist -- you should take a moment to appreciate the lack of clown sex. Really.) Anyway, they concluded that, yes, the books are very bad in terms of exotifying and othering people of non-Anglo backgrounds, but they're also just not well-written and ... bad. Which is fair. 
  • And The Monthly, an Australian publication whose essays and articles appeal to flat white-sipping inner-city lefties (so, me), linked to our first Discovery post in an article about angry, racist nerds complaining that Trek is "suddenly" appealing to an "SJW" agenda.
  • (I am extremely proud to get the word "feelpinions" into The Monthly, BUT I also wonder if my use isn't a bit defensive, ie, no one can accuse me of being emotional, irrational or otherwise a silly lady fan if I say it first. Am I putting myself at a disadvantage by emphasising that my posts are reactions, not reviews, and that my opinions derive from my emotions? On the other hand, what is television for but to elicit an emotional reaction?)
Finally, here is this week's Discovery post, which I almost didn't share because it wasn't wholly positive and ... IDK, I guess I've become protective of this ridiculous show, and don't want to play into the narrative of it being The Worst. On the other hand, it made some Bad Choices this week, along with some better ones. (And I note that the dude reviewers who have decried it as being The Worst really liked this episode, which only reassures me that I'm on the right track.)

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 02:40 pm
I was resigned to waiting until October 17th for A Skinful of Shadows to come out in the US. However, [personal profile] izilen, horrified at both the long wait after the UK publication and the clear inferiority of the US cover, acquired a copy on my behalf and mailed it over the ocean -- after first warning me it was the darkest Frances Hardinge book yet.

Having now read it, I don't know that it's actually that much creepier than the first third of Cuckoo Song, or the bits of Lie Tree where Faith in her deepest self-loathing slithers snakelike through the island purposefully destroying everything she touches. It definitely has a higher body count -- a much higher body count -- but I mean it's a book about a.) ghosts and b.) the English Civil War so maybe that's to be expected ...?

Like many of Hardinge's books, it features:
- a ferocious underestimated girl struggling to hold onto a sense of self in a world that wishes her to have no such thing
- a recognition that the people you love and who believe that they love you will sometimes betray you, sometimes for reasons they believe are good and sometimes not
- a ruthless and terrible female antagonist whom the heroine cannot help but respect and admire
- a struggling journey up out of solitude towards a coalition built of necessity with the least likely individuals
- including an undead bear
- admittedly this is the first Hardinge book to include an undead bear
- it is also the first Hardinge book about literal ghosts, a lot of ghosts, a lot of very unpleasant and sinister ghosts but also some ghosts for whom I have a very deep affection, including the very bearlike bear.

I also have a great deal of affection for Makepeace - the illegitimate scion of a very old noble family that is quite confident it will be able to chew her up and spit her out, and finds itself repeatedly mistaken. I don't think I love her yet quite as much as Trista or Faith or Mosca, but that's what I said about Faith right after I read The Lie Tree, too, and LOOK AT ME NOW.