larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (endings)
[personal profile] larryhammer
For a Poetry Monday, something that really isn't a response to last week's Wyatt, but I mentally link them together anyway:

“And if I did, what then?” George Gascoigne

    “And if I did, what then?
Are you aggriev’d therefore?
The sea hath fish for every man,
And what would you have more?”

    Thus did my mistress once,
Amaze my mind with doubt;
And popp’d a question for the nonce
To beat my brains about.

    Whereto I thus replied:
“Each fisherman can wish
That all the seas at every tide
Were his alone to fish.

    “And so did I (in vain)
But since it may not be,
Let such fish there as find the gain,
And leave the loss for me.

    “And with such luck and loss
I will content myself,
Till tides of turning time may toss
Such fishers on the shelf.

    “And when they stick on sands,
That every man may see,
Then will I laugh and clap my hands,
As they do now at me.”

Gascoigne was many things over his life, including soldier of fortune, courtier, member of parliament, and playwright. He was also the premier English poet of the 1570s, though his reputation has been completely overshadowed by Spenser's arrival on the scene a few years after his death. This is the final poem of The Adventures of Master F. J., a sort-of-novel-shaped thing of mixed prose and verse, with a layer of epistolary indirection, about a love affair that goes very wrong. It's an odd beast, but I don't regret having read it (many years ago), and I especially don't regret several of its poems. (BTW, in the narrative the speaker was, as per the second stanza, nonplussed by his mistress, and walked home before writing down this response.)

---L.

Subject quote from "Farmer Refuted," Lin-Manuel Miranda.

(no subject)

Sunday, 25 June 2017 14:15
skygiants: Princess Tutu, facing darkness with a green light in the distance (cosmia)
[personal profile] skygiants
I have never read Dhalgren or indeed any Samuel R. Delaney. However, as of yesterday I have at least had a Dhalgren Experience, thanks to [personal profile] aamcnamara, who turned up a local theatrical-dance-music-light-'architectural puppetry' performance of something called Dhalgren: Sunrise this weekend.

Dhalgren: Sunrise is comprised of bits of text from what I assume is Dhalgren the book, accompanied by dance, light, and music, almost all of it improvised. Also, some of the music was performed on imaginary instruments. "That must be a theremin!" I thought brightly to myself on seeing one of the instruments, mostly because I don't know what a theremin looks like and therefore I assume that any instrument I don't recognize is a theremin. But it turns out it was not a theremin, because there was a credit in the program for 'invented instruments,' though I don't know whether the one I saw was the Diddly Bow, the Bass Llamelophone, or the Autospring.

Anyway, so my new understanding of Dhalgren is that it is about a city in which Weird, Fraught and Inexplicable Things Are Happening. This is not a very thorough understanding, but it's still more of an understanding than I had before. The show is composed of seven scene-vignettes:

Prelude: A brief reading of [what I assume to be] the book's introduction.

Orchid: Three women dance on a bridge and a man acquires a prosthetic hand-weapon-implement. The director at the end gave special thanks to the dude who made it, understandably so, because it very effectively exuded Aura of Sinister!

Scorpions: Gang members dance and fight in front of a building? Alien gang members? Just aliens? Anyway, some entities wrapped in glowing lights have a dance fight in front of a building; the text is from the point of view of a worried inhabitant of the building who Has Concerns.

Moons: The moon has a new secondary moon friend named George. The dancing in this section was one of my favorite bits -- the Moon did some amazing things with her light-strung hula hoop. [personal profile] aamcnamara pointed out later that the narration in this bit, which featured a wry and dubious radio announcer, seemed like a perhaps-intentional echo of Welcome to Night Vale. I have never actually listened to Welcome to Night Vale, but from my cultural osmosis knowledge this seems about right.

Fire: The light show took front and center in this bit about everything being on fire and also, simultaneously, not on fire. The maintenance man doing the narration is very plaintive about all of this. There may also have been dancing in this bit but I don't remember what anyone was doing.

Sex: The guy with the sinister prosthesis has an intimate encounter with two other people inside a blanket fort. I always like the blanket-fort method of showing sex onstage, it hints appropriately while allowing actors not to have to do anything they're uncomfortable with. At some point in this process the sinister prosthesis is removed for the first time, which I expect symbolizes something about human connection.

Sunrise: The characters who have previously just had sex emerge from the building and now seem to have a difference of opinion about whether the sunrise is just normal, or whether the earth is actually falling into the sun. Eventually all the characters are onstage being distressed, along with the music and the lighting -- again, really cool light effects here, especially the final overwhelming projection of light followed by and darkness.

It's a one-hour show without intermission, which we all agreed afterwards was for the best; the deeply weird mood and atmosphere would have been difficult to slip back into if one could get up in the middle to go to the bathroom. For those of you who have actually read Dhalgren, I will leave you with [personal profile] aamcnamara's sum-up: "It was a strange experience, but honestly could have been stranger."

(no subject)

Saturday, 24 June 2017 17:08
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
Our adventures with Star Wars: The Clone Wars continue! Though, alas, those of many of our clone buddies do not.

Episodes 11-20 of Season 1 under the cut )
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
[personal profile] larryhammer
As usual, three links make a post:

This is What Happens When You Teach an AI to Name Guinea Pigs. (via)

In Japan, robot battles often take place in small sumo rings and are incredibly fast -- these videos are real-time. (via)

Woodswimmer: stop-motion animation of successive cross-sections of wood. "There's a lot going on inside wood." (via)

---L.

Subject quote from 'Pogo," Walt Kelly.

(no subject)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017 19:36
skygiants: Drosselmeyer's old pages from Princess Tutu, with text 'rocks fall, everyone dies, the end' (endings are heartless)
[personal profile] skygiants
I recently reread Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death. It remains an onslaught of a book, although being somewhat braced for the barrage of ANGER INJUSTICE GENOCIDE GONNA DESTROY A WHOLE CITY NOW does allow a little more time to, uh, stop and appreciate the occasional non-fraught thing that happens along the way? Onyesonwu makes friends with a camel at one point! That's nice!

(...for the record, my review from 2010 seems to indicate that at the time I understood and appreciated what happened at the end. Well, good job, past self, because my present self has no idea. Spoilers ))

Anyway! Rereading Who Fears Death got me thinking about the kind of books that are constructed around an ancient lore or a knowledge of the world that turns out to be fundamentally wrong, cultures constructed around poisoned lies. The Fifth Season is the other immediate example that springs to mind of a book like this -- not that there aren't other parallels between The Fifth Season and Who Fears Death. It seems to me that I ought to be able to think of more, but since I can't I'm sure you guys can.

When I mentioned this to [personal profile] genarti, she immediately said "YA dystopia! Fallout!" and that's true, a lot of dystopias are built around a Fundamentally Flawed Premise that has been imposed upon the innocent population by a dictatorial government. Those feel a little different to me, though, maybe just because that sort of dystopia very clearly grows out of our own world. We know from the beginning how to judge truth and lies, we're WAY AHEAD of our naive heroine who believes the color blue is evil because the government put an inexplicable ban on it. But Who Fears Death, while it may be set in our future, is in a future so distant from our own that there's no particular tracing back from it, and The Fifth Season is another world altogether, and we don't have any home court advantage over the protagonists as they figure out where the lies are except a belief that something that poisonous has to be wrong; maybe that's the difference.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
[personal profile] larryhammer
For a Poetry Monday, let's reach back half a millennium for a poem, shall we? We shall:


"They flee from me that sometime did me seek," Sir Thomas Wyatt

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
    With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
    That now are wild and do not remember
    That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
    Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
    When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
    And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
    But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
    And I have leave to go of her goodness,
    And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.


Plus ça change, and all that. Wyatt was a diplomat for Henry VIII (including the embassy to the Pope asking for annulment from Catherine of Aragorn), and he brought back to England the continental manner in Renaissance poetry -- he wrote the first sonnets in English as imitations of Petrarch, whom he also translated, and he was constantly experimenting with style and form in his lyrics. (Though, interestingly, that "newfangleness" is straight out of Chaucer, meaning fickleness.) Of course, being a courtier in Henry's court was dangerous: he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of having an affair with Anne Boleyn and was freed only after her execution, which he witnessed and wrote about.

---l.

Subject quote from "The End of the Play," William Makepeace Thackeray.

(no subject)

Monday, 19 June 2017 09:12
skygiants: Jadzia Dax lounging expansively by a big space window (daxanova)
[personal profile] skygiants
I knew I probably should have written up A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet before I read the sequel, because I loved A Closed and Common Orbit SO MUCH that now there is no way I can do justice to the first book.

I mean, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is certainly a lot of fun! It feels a bit more like a season of television than a novel -- very much out of that genre of beloved, relatively lighthearted crew-is-family space TV, full of aliens and semi-incidental interstellar politics, with approximately one episode dedicated to each crew member's interesting alien culture or surprise dramatic backstory as well as episodes where Everyone Just Goes On A Shopping Trip. There is a Noble Captain, a Friendly Polyamorous Lizard Alien Second-in-Command, an Earnest Financial Assistant, a Manic Mechanic, a Caring Chef Who Feeds Other Species To Compensate For The Embarrassing Genocidal Tendencies Of His Own -- ok, some of the archetypes are more archetypal than others. In the dramatic season finale, our plucky band of space truckers reaches their long-haul destination at last and becomes involved in a major diplomatic incident, the outcome of which is the one thing in the book that rubbed me slightly the wrong way ) Anyway, if you like this sort of thing, you will almost certainly like this particular thing.

I like this sort of thing all right but the things A Closed and Common Orbit is doing appeal to my id MUCH more. A Closed and Common Orbit focuses on two characters who appear relatively briefly in A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: Sidra, an AI who, due to compelling personal circumstances but counter to interstellar law, has been installed in a designed-to-be-instinguishable-from-human artificial body; and Pepper, the mechanic who has volunteered to take on responsibility for her.

The main present-day thread of the story involves Sidra's attempts to figure out whether she can comfortably inhabit a body that she was never designed to inhabit - not just whether she can live permanently as something like an independent intelligent biological life-form without giving herself away, but whether she wants to do so. The plot is mostly comprised of small slice-of-life events like Sidra Makes A New Friend or Sidra Considers Getting A Tattoo, all interwoven into a really compelling and thoughtful examination of artificial intelligence, self-determination, and free will.

The other half the book delves into Pepper's backstory as an artificially created human being, designed to be cheap disposable labor. As a child, "Jane 23" mostly-accidentally escapes the factory where she labors, and is subsequently raised by an abandoned ship's AI in a junkyard. The backstory plot does a couple of things: a.) serves as an excellent example of the always-compellingly-readable 'half-feral child must make home in dangerous environment, survives with ingenuity and a box of scraps' genre; b.) works in dialogue with Sidra's main plotline to complicate ideas of 'human' and 'artificial' and 'purpose' and 'free will'; c.) gives me FIVE MILLION FEELINGS ABOUT AI MOMS WHO LOVE YOU. Sometimes a family is an AI mom, her genetically engineered daughter, the daughter's boyfriend, their AI roommate, and the roommate's alien friend who honestly didn't even particularly want to be there that day! AND THAT'S BEAUTIFUL.

Fox update

Sunday, 18 June 2017 16:33
rushthatspeaks: (parenting)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Fox has just turned eight months old.

They are mobile. Oh, so, so mobile. They move very, very fast. Also, they went straight from crawling to working extremely hard at being vertical. Behaviors we have observed include standing on their own for a couple of seconds without holding onto anything, standing indefinitely while holding on with one hand, cruising (holding onto a crib or other edge and walking along it), and-- and this shocked me-- holding onto the crib edge and jumping up and down. They can also move from seated to squatting to standing or vice versa, easily, usually while holding on with one hand. They are clearly going to be walking pretty soon. Apparently the youngest baby documented walking was six months old, so this is early but not ludicrous. It seems that usually babies take some time to settle into crawling and make sure they've gotten good at it before focusing effort on walking this way? Not Fox. Fox wants to be UP.

We have had our first major trip with the baby, which involved driving from Boston to the D.C. area, spending a week with B., and driving back. Fox was pretty much fine with all the driving and a little weirded out by the new place-- it took a couple of days for them to be able to nap there, for instance. At B.'s, they developed a very specific 'chasing-the-cat' noise, as B.'s place has many long straightaways and lines-of-sight where they could just take off after the kitty. (Our place does not.) They had no hope of catching her, and the kitty is already putting up with a Pomeranian and an elderly Border Collie, so she seemed thoroughly resigned. We appreciated her patience a great deal.

New behaviors: within the past week Fox has started getting upset when someone they know leaves the room. Leaving the room is Just Not Allowed. We try to explain to them where we are going, what we are doing, and when we expect to be back, but it is too early for this to help much.

Fox has started sitting for stretches of up to twenty minutes at a time with a single board book, turning the pages, looking at and poking the illustrations, and chewing on the corners. It is adorable. They also crawl under their bouncy seat with a pile of books every so often.

We have only just started solid food, because they got a nasty cold at the wrong time and we didn't want to try introducing solids while they were on an intrusive and aggravating nebulized-medicine-through-a-mask treatment. Rice cereal gave them significant stomach upset, which is peculiar; oat cereal and unsweetened applesauce seem to go down better, although Fox's reaction to solid food is shock, betrayal, and confusion no matter what the food is. They're at the stage where they'll eagerly watch us eating and put small pieces of food in their mouth, but once it's there the switch flips to NO NO NO NO NO. Hopefully this will change soon, as the doctor says that at this height and weight (two feet four inches, eighteen pounds) they simply cannot get all their necessary nutrition from formula.

I've seen evidence of the babble syllabary broadening, and about two days ago they learned how to flap their lips with a finger and say 'Phhhhpppth'. If they do this in your direction, you are supposed to do it back, and one can have very long conversations this way. We are also getting more communication along the lines of holding arms up to be picked up (or not; if we ask 'do you want to be picked up?' and don't get arms up we don't pick them up, since gesturing for yes is now consistent enough that that works), and we're getting things like pats on the face that are clearly affectionate. B.'s new partner T. taught Fox how to kiss people on the cheek and it seems to have actually stuck.

They are learning how to use their voice generally, and I have asked [personal profile] gaudior on several occasions if they are aware that they gave birth to a pterodactyl. The pterodactyl screech is loud and unmistakable.

They are still focused on people more than on anything else, and need to at least say hello to everyone in the room before even considering the presence of objects. Pets get about the same amount of interest as humans, and about the same degree of gentleness, which is usually gentle enough that they can pet pets without them fleeing for the hills-- at least for a while.

Overall, an exceptionally happy, outgoing, cheerful sort of baby, who is obviously working very hard at understanding and interacting with the world. I think things are going pretty well.

Vid: Halfway Away (Yuri!!! on Ice)

Saturday, 17 June 2017 19:27
starlady: (bibliophile)
[personal profile] starlady
source: Yuri!!! on Ice
audio: CHVRCHES, "Clearest Blue"
length: 3:54
stream: on Vimeo
download: 229MB on Dropbox
summary: "While you were being heterosexual, I studied the blades on ice." -- @viktorbottom

Premiered at [community profile] vidukon_cardiff 2017.

tumblrAO3


Password: katsudon

Vidding TV shows is so much work. I was cutting this one until about two hours before the deadline, exacerbated by the fact that the Blu-Ray of the last volume came out literally the day before the deadline. I initially used a low quality rip of the creditless ending and was resigned to a different version online than on the con DVD, but then due to some serendipitous technical difficulties, resolved at length by the very patient and excellent con staff, I actually was able to get a file with a high quality rip of the ending into the con--of course it came out less than 24 hours after said deadline. (If I ever get access to Blu-Ray rips, I may remaster it, just because they changed so much for the disc releases.)

As for the vid itself…I had this song in mind since about January. Yuuri and Victor love each other a lot, okay, and they meet each other in the middle, eventually, every time.

Lyrics
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
[personal profile] larryhammer
Sometimes, all you come up with is random links:

A selection of photos from this year's Red Bull Illume Image Quest photo competition. Full-screen this one. (via)

New Study Bolsters the Lead-Crime Hypothesis. (via)

It's been a long time since I've played Words with One Beat, so I'll just link this and say no more: History of the United States in Words of One Syllable by Helen Pierson.

---L.

Subject quote from "Ever let the Fancy roam," John Keats.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (la!)
[personal profile] larryhammer
It is easy to do so, but please do not confuse Lawrence Alma-Tadema with Laurence Alma-Tadema. The former is the painter (birth name: Lourens) and the latter is the poet (birth name: Laurense).

Note that they are indeed related, being father and daughter. The names changed when the family moved from Belgium to England.



Painting of Laurence (behind her sister Anna) by Lawrence.

This public service announcement is brought to you by me (birth name: Laurence) finally figuring this out ...

---L.

Subject quote from "somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond," E.E. Cummings.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
[personal profile] larryhammer
Reading Wednesday is ON baby. For there's been some reading, despite it all.

Finished:

Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3) by Graydon Saunders -- this is NOT the book to start the series, as it is the second half of the story started in A Succession of Bad Days and heavily relies on knowing those characters, with the addition of a new one left unexplained for a long time -- and who despite being an extremely interesting idea, is basically kept mute the entire book. The expansion to multiple first-person POVs also dilutes the narrative line. That said, this does a good job poking at some of the moral underpinnings and consequences of the world Saunders created. And, yanno, sourcerer/unicorn romance is nothing to sneer at, especially when the unicorn is an obligate magicvore.

Reynard the Fox: or, the Ghost Heath Run by John Masefield, which remains my favorite of his narrative poems, despite the long, Chaucerian introduction of all the people hunting the titular fox -- a very pretty gallery of portraits, but less than a handful are actually relevant to the story. (Relevant to the depiction of one strand of English country life already fading at the time, sure.) The best part is the second half, mostly from the fox's point of view -- and you don't lose much just starting there. I note only excerpts from the chase get included in anthologies of narrative verse.

Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough, which remains my favorite of his poems, period. Yes, it's an anatomy of a failure of … dunno whether to describe it as "will" or "character." A failed romance, and there's more than a little class conflict in the mix. Claude's hesitations, this time through, remind me more than a little of Trollope's stock hobbledehoy character, only in an intellectual version. Sort of. Maybe. Ah, whatever. I still like the poem.

In progress:

The Earthly Paradise by William Morris, starting with rereading "Prologue: The Wanderers" -- which has to be the most insistently middle-aged work I've read in a long time, for all the wanderers are described as "old" -- and the frame narrative & plot summaries up to where I last broke off (the very long Laxdaela retelling), with attention to reactions to both stories and seasons. This is not a simple poem, and when the frame narrator calls himself "an idle singer of an idle day" he is not being an escapist Victorian but -- sarcastic is the best word I can think of, as ironic doesn't have enough bite. And dang, but so many reviewers and critics have missed this. If only Morris wasn't so strenuously heteronormative and gender essentialist. (No, Mr. Morris, if a young woman does not want marriage at this time thank you very much, the answer isn't always because sexual hostility.) (Thank all the gods he didn't try his hand at Calisto.)

Erotic Poems ed. by Peter Washington, another small format Everyman anthology -- and another reread. I admire how the editor was willing to spend 20-odd pages on "The Eve of St. Agnes" -- that's a lot of space for a book this size. NB: no porn, but a lot of sensuality and some explicit descriptions. Organization is not topical, nor is there a plot/relationship arc -- this is a mixed jumble of poems, associatively (and sometimes cunningly) placed. Am about ⅔ through, having been interrupted by:

Thick as Thieves (Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whalen Turner, yays. This one is from the POV of the slave secretary of the Mede who made a play for the throne of Attolis in #2, dealing with some delayed, dire consequences of his master's failure. I find it interesting that he is refusing to name his traveling companion, Costis (from #3), and I'm looking forward to learning how the heck Gen is chessmastering this whole adventure from across the sea. A little more than halfway in.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Walker of the Snow," Charles Dawson Shanly.

(no subject)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 22:32
skygiants: the Phantom of the Opera, reaching out (creeper of the opera)
[personal profile] skygiants
Catching a chunk of the Tony Awards the other night (bless Bette Midler, who WILL NOT BE SILENCED) reminded me that I never wrote up Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway, a nonfiction account of (primarily) the Shubert Organization, Broadway's largest theater-owning company, with stopovers into the offices of other leading Broadway financiers along the way.

The book starts out with Broadway ticket-scalping scandals, jumps back to a overview of the lives of the original Shubert brothers, and lays out the drama of various generations of hard-partying Shuberts eventually being ousted by Responsible, Respectable Lawyers Jerry Schoenfeld and Bernie Jacobs.

Then Michael Bennett, legendary choreographer of A Chorus Line, enters the picture and the whole book gets sort of carried off by him for a while. A great deal of page space is devoted to the psychodramatic relationship between Bennett and Jacobs -- as recounted in this book, a wildly unhealthy pseudo-father-son dynamic in which Jacobs constantly attempted to ensure Bennett's emotional and financial dependence on Jacobs while Bennett was constantly attempting to break away and BE A PRODUCER ON HIS OWN, DAD. An excerpt featuring further Michael Bennett drama, including one of history's most melodramatic Tony Awards, is up in Vanity Fair for the curious.

And then it's Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andrew Lloyd Webber, alongside an in-depth discussion of the various political and financial campaigns that eventually led to the Disneyfication of Broadway after its days of 1970s sleaze, and that brings us about up to the present day.

It's an interesting, rather gossippy account of the money, organizational politics, and personal quirks that underlie the eventual decisions about what makes it onto a theater stage; I read the whole thing and then left it in the airbnb I was staying in when I finished it, because I felt I had taken what I wanted from it and couldn't really imagine wanting to read it again. It's certainly interesting to know how the sausage is made, but it's occasionally a bit depressing to look at Broadway largely from the perspective of the people for whom profit is the most important consideration.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
[personal profile] larryhammer
Three great posts from Jason Kottke:

The 100 best solutions to reverse climate change, ranked.

Michael Lewis and the parable of the lucky man taking the extra cookie.

Systemic racism in America explained in just three minutes.

---L.

Subject quote from "Shout," Tears for Fears, which is about political protest not primal scream therapy yes if i could change your mind i'd really like to break your heart.

About

Warning: contents contain line-breaks.

As language practice, I was translating classical Japanese poetry -- most recently, book 11 (love part 1) of the Kokinshu anthology. This project is, however, on hiatus. Past translations are archived here. Suggestions, corrections, and questions always welcome.

There's also original pomes in the journal archives.

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