Good things

Aug. 2nd, 2015 12:49 am
sasha_feather: Cindi Mayweather (janelle monae) (Cindi Mayweather)
[personal profile] sasha_feather
1. I've really enjoyed seeing my pals lately. I went to the cheap seats to see Mad Max (for the 3rd time); saw some friends and acquaintances at Comics Club today, and saw the film Mr. Holmes yesterday. Gabby is back in town which is great.

2. I got an awesome haircut which was a collaboration between Jesse and my neighbor Devyn, both of whom own clippers.

3. I read Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley and loved it. It features a talented, flawed woman as the main character. Katie is the main chef at a successful restaurant called Seconds, where she also lives. She wants to strike out on her own with a new restaurant, but is having trouble with that venture. Her ex-boyfriend is hanging around and things are awkward. When a young co-worker gets in an accident, party due to Katie's negligence, a house spirit appears and gives her the opportunity to fix it. Katie then gets addicted to fixing all the mistakes she can, and things start to go bad. This book is funny, charming, affecting. I loved it.

Privation of good

Aug. 1st, 2015 10:46 am
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
I've always heard that the idea of "privation of good" was something Augustine came up with. (Summary: evil is not a thing in itself, but only the absence of good-- like how darkness is the absence of light.) But 300 years earlier, Epictetus was saying:

"As a mark is not set up for the sake of missing the aim, so neither does the nature of evil exist in the world." (Enchiridion, 27)

Isn't that the same idea?

Apropos of Nothing

Jul. 31st, 2015 11:21 pm
yasaman: a little cartoon bear wearing head phones saying music makes me invincible! (music makes me invincible!)
[personal profile] yasaman
A not-so-brief and incomplete list of songs I find intensely satisfying to belt along to when alone in my car:

(no subject)

Jul. 31st, 2015 04:58 pm
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
A list of authors I have mentioned reading in my Boring Ranting about Books tag this year, sorted by gender:

Female: 15
Courtney Milan
Jennifer Graham
Alena Graedon
Ilona Andrews
Rainbow Rowell
Diana Wynne Jones
NK Jemisin
Dorothy Sayers
Connie Willis
Emily St. John Mandel
Marjorie Liu
Katherine Addison
Ann Leckie
Jo Walton
Julie Czerneda

Male: 17
Rob Thomas
Jim Butcher
Ilona Andrews
Marko Kloos
Michael Lewis
Chris Beckett
John Varley
Robert Heinlein
Kazuo Ishiguro
Kevin J. Anderson
Max Gladstone
Myke Cole
Cixin Liu
Lev Grossman
Ramez Naam
Ken Liu
Michael Chabon


A few notes: Ilona Andrews is a pen name for a husband and wife team, so it appears on both lists. I suspect in total page count the count would lean more heavily male, because of all the Butcher. But I'm surprised how close it is to 50:50 on author count. I doubt that would have been true a few years ago. 7/32 are authors of color, ~20%.

Corbyn and electability

Jul. 31st, 2015 06:33 pm
marnanel: (Default)
[personal profile] marnanel
I don't give a damn whether Labour is electable under Corbyn-- the next election's too far off to worry about. What I *do* care about is having an effective Opposition, and that's something I'm certain he can provide. Six PM's questions a week, the chance to choose who's on the front benches, and a guaranteed place in almost every political TV show-- given a year or two, he'll move the Overton window enough that today's estimations of who's electable will be irrelevant.

I don't believe for a moment that Labour can't gain power with Corbyn as leader-- we can't know, because there hasn't been a Labour Party that was much distinguishable from the Tories since the nineties.

No, I don't think Corbyn is the second coming of Marx. I don't think the Labour party is going to do a great deal of good for ordinary people any time soon. I don't believe electoral politics will deliver enough change to fix the system. But I do believe that the parliamentary Labour Party can do more good in the world than they're doing right now.

Linkspam Does Health By the Numbers

Jul. 31st, 2015 12:19 pm
jjhunter: Anthropomorphized numbers 4 and 5 are having too much fun (statistics)
[personal profile] jjhunter
John Timmer @ Ars Technica: Ebola vaccine trial in Guinea suggests it’s 100% effective
Today, The Lancet released the results of a large field trial of a vaccine against Ebola [...] The results were so good that the trial itself has been stopped, and the vaccine is now being used to control the spread of the disease.

Atul Gawande @ the New Yorker: The Score
The question facing obstetrics was this: Is medicine a craft or an industry?

Stephen Engelberg @ ProPublica: Editor’s Note: ‘Dr. Abscess’ and Why Surgeon Scorecard Matters
[Surgeon Scorecard] marks ProPublica’s first attempt to make data available about surgeons.

Jaime Lowe @ NYT Magazine: ‘I Don’t Believe in God, but I Believe in Lithium’
Scientists say it took three minutes following the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, for the first three elements to emerge — helium, hydrogen and then trace amounts of lithium, atomic number 3.

Peter Watts @ Rifters: No Brainer.
Lewin’s paper reports that one out of ten hydrocephalus cases are so extreme that cerebrospinal fluid fills 95% of the cranium. Anyone whose brain fits into the remaining 5% should be nothing short of vegetative; yet apparently, fully half have IQs over 100.
jesse_the_k: Cartoon of white male drowning in storm, right hand reaching out desperately, with text "Someone tweeted" (death by tweet)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
When a web page address (“URL”) appears as-is in the text, it’s a “bare link.”

For example, this URL:
http://jesse-the-k.dreamwidth.org/profile
takes you to my profile page.
two ways to make links )
In Dreamwidth and most other online writing spaces, a bare link automatically becomes clickable. I prefer bare links because
  • They’re easier to type, test, and proofread.

  • They simplify working around link rot.[2]
more details details details )

(no subject)

Jul. 31st, 2015 10:52 am
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
Books that I have read recently:


-Four of Courtney Milan's Brothers Sinister romances, which were a lot of fun, in general, and not at all cringeworthy in the way they told stories about relationships. The obstacles to romance were meaningful and different. I think my favorite was the Suffragette Scandal because it pushed the timeline down the road a few years and showed all the different outcomes, but it wasn't just an excuse to do so. The main storyline was interesting on its own terms, and so the background catch-ups to all the other marriages was effective without being obtrusive.

-Veronica Mars: Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Jennifer Graham and "Rob Thomas". Given how much more I liked this than the movie, I'm fairly convinced Thomas had little to do with it, other than approving the limits of canonical deviation. More Mac and Wallace than the movie, a lot less Logan than the movie, a compelling Veronica/Keith story, a compelling Veronica/Lianne story, fun cameos from Weevil and Cliff and Dick and a few others... and in general, a story about the costs of giving up New York that worked for me a lot better than the movie and made skillful use of the movie's time jump.

-Books 8-11 of the Dresden Files. No, I have not made it to Skin Game yet, and will be leaving it off my ballot in any case for Puppy reasons, but I'll keep at it.


Books that I am in the middle of:

-The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon, which got off to a rollicking start and then lost me. It's about a future where smart phones have technologically advanced to the point where they're essentially auxiliary brains, and then their software catches a bug which gives users some sort of SFnal aphasia. Graedon made the dubious decision to try to represent this in text by randomly replacing words in her narrators' narration with nonsense words, and since this is a progressive aphasia, it gets worse and worse the deeper I get into the book. Protip: If you're going to try to make me read a book full of nonsense words, they'd better at least be puns like in finnegans Wake. I'm still trying to finish it, but my motivation to finish has vanished.

-Changes by Jim Butcher, book 12 of the Dresden Files. In which changes happen. No, I mean, in which Harry finally gives into one or several of the temptations to power that he has systematically denied for every book up to this point, in the name of rescuing a daughter he never knew he had. It's pretty interesting to watch the process happen, and to realize it's been happening for several books: Harry is turning into Gandalf, or if not precisely Gandalf, into a Gandalf-type wizard. He is unrelatable because his building power is now substantial enough that his goals are inhuman. I don't think I've ever actually seen a story do this part of the journey... wizards are almost inevitably either novices figuring out their powers, or inscrutable masters of powers beyond the ken of man. (Though I've been told that the third book in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy more explicitly covers this territory)

-Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews. Gritty urban fantasy set in Atlanta. True, it's a later book in the series, but 20 pages in I already was liking it more than the Dresden books. The city is more present, the sense of community stronger, the characters more believable, the danger more scary.
qian: Tiny pink head of a Katamari character (Default)
[personal profile] qian

As I said in my last post in this series, once I had a complete novel manuscript I had rewritten once, line-edited and proofread, I started querying agents with it.

I’d once read a blog post by a published novelist who said that they’d queried around 40 agents before signing with one, and the process had taken 18 months. Totally arbitrarily, I decided I would only think about rehauling my manuscript and/or giving it all up and running away to the circus after I’d queried 40 agents and/or 18 months had passed without my receiving an offer of representation.

This might seem an odd way to do things, but I find with writing that you really just want to figure out a way to trick your brain into not worrying about the publishing side of things, so that it can get on with the work. (The work is the writing. The writing is the most important thing. I know I keep saying this, but it’s true!) The idea was to buy myself 18 months of peace of mind. As you’ll see, though, I never got a chance to find out if it would have worked!

I’ll talk about my query in detail in another post, but it was pretty standard US-style: I explained what the story was about, talked briefly about myself and ended by offering to send a partial or full manuscript if they were interested. Funnily enough, the chief thing that helped me draft my query letter (and actually just figure out what the book should be about) was Linda Colley’s Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 — but I’ll explain that in that other post!

I sent off my queries to 10 agents, eight of whom I’d basically just found on the Internet, and two of whom I’d been introduced to by author friends. Then I sat back, feeling contented with a good nine months’ work, and started thinking about the next project. It was going to be a space opera novella set in a world inspired by the maritime kingdoms of classical Southeast Asia (working title: Space Villette). I figured I’d have time to make a good start on a novella before I started hearing back from agents — heck, I’d probably be able to draft the entire thing by the time I had to think about Sorcerer to the Crown again, either because I had an offer of rep, or because I’d been rejected by 40 agents and had to rethink my approach.

So, er, I was wrong about that.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Zen Cho.

STATUS: Friday, July 31st

Jul. 31st, 2015 09:55 am
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

The Daily Report

Apologies to John Z. Upjohn and his readers for the lack of a new Liberty chapter on Wednesday, but I was busily backing up hard drives in preparation for the Windows 10 launch, which as I mentioned has gone fairly smoothly for me.

I mentioned “internet hiccups” in my update post yesterday, and it turns out it wasn’t a coincidence of timing, but neither was it anything terribly dire. My new computer came with a wireless networking card built-in, something I had never noticed before because my office nook is way too far away from the cable hook-up to get decent wifi reception, so I have a USB repeater cable that goes out into the hall, twines around the banister, and then dangles down to where the signal’s clear.

Windows 8 made that the default network adapter as soon as it detected it. After the upgrade, it was trying to use the on-board adapter. I figured that out just before going to bed last night. I couldn’t figure out how to change that, so I disabled the card. This morning things are working fine.

I’ve probably been a little overly cautious about doing stuff on my computer while it does things like copying a backup or installing the update (which even comes with a cheery—by Microsoft standards, anyway—invitation to keep using your computer while it’s working), but the computers I grew up with were a bit more touchy and temperamental. The few things that hadn’t backed up to the cloud before my previous computer bit it have made me a little jumpy.

The State of the Me

Doing good.

Plans For Today

It’s possible I might have a family tech support call to take today, though it’s supposed to just be a quick drop-off of a thing I can hopefully take care of over the weekend. Supposed to be. That’s a bit of a wild card. Given that it’s Friday and thus posting day with that in the mix, I’m not making any other plans beyond tying together the chapter and putting it up.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

qian: Tiny pink head of a Katamari character (Default)
[personal profile] qian

I am going to have copies of the super rare and totally awesome SPIRITS ABROAD and CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA paperbacks at Nine Worlds! A few of them are already reserved:

IMG_0456

I KNEW I was going to find a retrospective excuse for having bought these incredibly cute post-it notes at Daiso.

IMG_20150613_225004

And here’s what CYBERPUNK: MALAYSIA looks like in the flesh. Shiny and chrome!

I’m hoping the books will be available at the Nine Worlds dealers’ room, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to arrange that. However, you can place an order for the books now and/or buy them from me directly at the con!

I am selling the books for £5.00 each, and I am happy to sign and personalise them for you. You can even ask me to do a doodle! I can only draw friendly elephants, though. Also, there will be ultra secret, super exclusive SORCERER TO THE CROWN swag, which I will totally give you FOR FREE. (I mean, I don’t want to inflate expectations. It’s just stationery. But I think it’s going to be nice stationery!)

If you think you’d like to buy them from me in person, I will beg you now to bring a £5 note if at all possible. Of course, it’s easiest if you pre-order using the form below — that will enable me to put aside a copy for you, as stocks are limited. And also it means I don’t have scrounge up £5 bills!

RESERVE YOUR BOOKS

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Zen Cho.

A thought on emotional labour

Jul. 31st, 2015 02:13 pm
alias_sqbr: (existentialism)
[personal profile] alias_sqbr
I found this post on emotional labour and the metafilter post it grew from really interesting, I'm still poking at the comments. Aside from the obvious take away of "if you're a woman don't date men" haha (which doesn't neccesarily mean don't date, metafilter commenters) it got me thinking about the place of emotional labour in my own life.

Being disabled has vastly cut down on my ability to do a lot of stuff, emotional labour included. I found presents increasingly stressful so just stopped doing them. Most of my friendships have gotten more distant and I don't see my family as much. But looking back I've always felt really guilty at being bad at certain kinds of emotional labour(*), I'm this weird mix of extrovert and...socially anxious or something (I've intermittently suspected myself of being on the autism spectrum) I tend to feel like it should just be ~natural and spontaneous~ and worthwhile in it's own right. I should just want to spend time with people because I am good and caring, and wanting to spend time with them means I will want to do the things that leads to it: sending cards and presents, making phone calls etc. And most of the time I don't want to do those things, I find them stressful and difficult and often unrewarding, even when in the long run I really like the person and enjoy their company. And I feel bad about that, and that bad feeling just makes everything more fraught.

But thinking of it as work is helpful. A friendly interaction doesn't have to be fun in it's own right, it's ok to think of it in cold/meta "I have not spoken to X person in a while, and I like them, I should maintain the friendship, what is the most efficient way to do that?" terms.

So I sent out short friendly texts to a few people I wish to better maintain friendships with! And it did make me happy, but it also made me stressed, so in and of itself I'm not sure it was a net positive experience. But two of them replied and we organised to hang out/skype and that made me (and hopefully them!) very happy. Hmm!

I'm finding it useful when approaching my inbox too. Like a lot of people I get overwhelmed by guilt about neglected correspondence, and thinking about replies in terms of what I want to achieve with them is making them less scary, especially when I remind myself that replying at all sends a positive message. But that it's ok to not reply sometimes, because it's work and I only have limited energy.

(the post has also got me thinking about the same gender related issues everyone else has been talking about, but I have nothing new to add there)

(*)I'm really good at other kinds, in that typical female-socialised way. And of course I'm sure that same socialisation is a big part of why I feel defective for not being good at other kinds.

Just a quick update…

Jul. 30th, 2015 06:15 pm
alexandraerin: (Default)
[personal profile] alexandraerin

Sorry for the blog being dark the past few days. I’ve been working on getting both my laptop and my desktop from Windows 8 to Windows 10, and working on stuff on my phone while they download and set up. It’s been pretty smooth so far, though there have been some odd internet hiccups that might well be a coincidence of timing. Everything else seems to be noticeably faster, which I wasn’t really expecting. I’m definitely liking it better than 8.

Originally published at Blue Author Is About To Write. Please leave any comments there.

urban skills to admire

Jul. 30th, 2015 04:51 pm
crystalpyramid: painted portrait of me, sitting on the floor mending something, beneath a crooked painting of the house I grew up in (orange)
[personal profile] crystalpyramid
Space your children far enough apart that when you wheel your baby's stroller up to the steps in the subway station, your little daughter is big enough and competent enough to smoothly pick the baby up out of the stroller and confidently carry them up the steps for you while you wrangle the folding stroller up just behind her. Or I guess you could switch it and take the baby while the kid takes the stroller. Top of the steps, unfold the stroller, put the baby back, proceed on your way, without missing a beat.

(no subject)

Jul. 30th, 2015 10:43 am
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[personal profile] seekingferret
I had a really good conversation about the weekday Shemoneh Esrei this Shabbos with my Rabbi.

[obligatory context: The Shemoneh Esrei, or Amidah, is the central prayer of every Jewish prayer service. It is a rigid, dense, multifaceted prayer that is adapted for each occasion- there is a particular Amidah recited on weekdays, on Shabbat, on holidays, on Rosh Chodesh, on Rosh Hashanah, etc... Each of these prayers has a common (sometimes slightly modified) introductory section, a common (sometimes slightly modified) ending section, and a middle section that varies quite dramatically depending on the context. Particularly relevant to this post, the weekday Shemoneh Esrei's central passage consists of a long stream of supplicating requests that is deemed inappropriate to recite on occasions like Shabbat and holidays that are dedicated to praising God's creation. Only during the mundane week do we make supplications a central part of our conversation with God.]

Here is this section, in Chabad's (IMO mediocre but adequate) translation:

You graciously bestow knowledge upon man and teach mortals understanding. Graciously bestow upon us from You, wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Blessed are You L-rd, who graciously bestows knowledge.

Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah; draw us near, our King, to Your service; and bring us back to You in whole-hearted repentance. Blessed are You L-rd, who desires penitence.

Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned; forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed; for You are a good and forgiving G‑d. Blessed are You L-rd, gracious One who pardons abundantly.

O behold our affliction and wage our battle; redeem us speedily for the sake of Your Name, for You G‑d are the mighty redeemer. Blessed are You L-rd, Redeemer of Israel.

Heal us, O L-rd, and we will be healed; help us and we will be saved; for You are our praise. Grant complete cure and healing to all our wounds; for You, Almighty King, are a faithful and merciful healer. Blessed are You L-rd, who heals the sick of His people Israel.

Bless for us, L-rd our G‑d, this year and all the varieties of its produce for good; and bestow (During the summer season say:) blessing (During the winter season say: dew and rain for blessing) upon the face of the earth. Satisfy us from Your bounty and bless our year like other good years, for blessing; for You are a generous G‑d who bestows goodness and blesses the years. Blessed are You L-rd, who blesses the years.

Sound the great shofar for our freedom; raise a banner to gather our exiles, and bring us together from the four corners of the earth into our land. Blessed are You L-rd, who gathers the dispersed of His people Israel.

Restore our judges as in former times, and our counsellors as of yore; remove from us sorrow and sighing, and reign over us, You alone, O L-rd, with kindness and compassion, with righteousness and justice. Blessed are You L-rd, King who loves righteousness and justice. (During the Ten Days of Penitence substitute with: the King of judgment.)

Let there be no hope for informers, and may all the heretics and all the wicked instantly perish; may all the enemies of Your people be speedily extirpated; and may You swiftly uproot, break, crush and subdue the reign of wickedness speedily in our days. Blessed are You L-rd, who crushes enemies and subdues the wicked.

May Your mercies be aroused, L-rd our G‑d, upon the righteous, upon the pious, upon the elders of Your people, the House of Israel, upon the remnant of their sages, upon the righteous proselytes and upon us. Grant ample reward to all who truly trust in Your Name, and place our lot among them; may we never be disgraced, for we have put our trust in You. Blessed are You L-rd, the support and security of the righteous.

Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem. Speedily cause the scion of David Your servant to flourish, and increase his power by Your salvation, for we hope for Your salvation all day. Blessed are You L-rd, who causes the power of salvation to flourish.

Hear our voice, L-rd our G‑d; merciful Father, have compassion upon us and accept our prayers in mercy and favor, for You are G‑d who hears prayers and supplications; do not turn us away empty-handed from You, our King, for You hear the prayer of everyone. Blessed are You L-rd, who hears prayer.
]

This is the central component of a prayer I've recited... well, not necessarily every day, but certainly multiple times a week, for more than fifteen years. This is a prayer I can recite from memory.

In any case, I initiated the conversation by summarizing this Facebook post by David Zvi Kalman, which summarizes the conversation on a previous Facebook post where Kalman solicited personal perspectives on what's in peoples' heads during the Amidah.

Kalman draws the conclusion that a lot of people feel like in some way or another they don't give proper attention to this part of the prayer, and he extracts several main reasons, some of which are competing with each other in some way. One reason people 'zone out' or don't adequately focus on the central parts of the Amidah is because they don't find the supplications relevant to their wants. On the other hand, another reason is because they (we/I) are hyperfocused on one particular part of a supplication that has meaning for them to the exclusion of other parts.

Kalman in speaking about 'good days' is taking as assumed that the reason for zone-outs is not normal justified distractedness, that everyone is going to have days when they just can't focus on their prayers for biological or emotional or other personal reasons, but that we often feel like we fall short of where we want to be in terms of kavanah even when we don't have those reasons.

The thing to realize is that Kalman, and the people he's summarizing, are not talking about zoning out because the prayer is not meaningful to us. They're not talking about prayer as rote. They're talking about zoning out because the prayer is too meaningful, too dense with memory and emotion and spiritual meaning, for us to approach it with the appropriate discipline.

This is the prayer I recited after I heard about 9/11. This is the prayer I recited after my grandmother died. This is the prayer I recited when I got into college. This is the prayer I recited when my mother was in the hospital. This is the prayer I recited when the Yankees won the World Series. It's the prayer I recited when the Yankees lost the world series. This prayer is such a deep part of who I am, and it's so embedded in how I approach the world, that the very act of reciting it is distracting.

So after I summarized all of this, and told my Rabbi that a lot of it resonated with my davening experience, I said that I feel like a lot of the time, we don't feel like we have permission to discuss tactics for improving our prayer technique because we only talk about the 'right way' to daven, not how to get there. He disagreed, but in any case, he mentioned some techniques he used, some of which I liked and some of which I'm still trying to make sense of.

In general, he said that he finds that making a conscious effort to... vocalize was, I think, his exact word, but I think the sense he was conveying was to enunciate rather than merely vocalize, each individual word of the prayers helps him maintain his sense of the meaning of the prayer and his relationship to it. He tries to give every single word his full attention as he's saying it, and he admitted he doesn't always succeed, but this is his basic strategy for maintaining proper focus on the prayer he's saying as he's saying.

I objected that given how quickly one moves from one theme to another in this central section of the weekday Amidah, actively focusing on each word is problematic because it means you're constantly jumping from theme to theme rather than maintaining a specific thought. In response to this, he suggested pausing before each paragraph and kind of gathering together your wits and saying "Okay, now I'm about to pray for healing" or "Okay, now I'm about to pray for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy." This struck me as a useful idea, though still somewhat at odds with the ambition of focusing on every word and phrase of the prayer, because now you're also carrying in your head the overall theme of the paragraph while reciting the specific words of the prayer, as well as the things.

And then I asked what his approach would be when you hit themes that either in general or specifically at the moment you didn't really want to pray for. The threads I link to have various examples of this, and it definitely is something where I've had different problems with various parts of the tefillah at different moments, but usually my issue as a believing Orthodox Jew who's also to some degree a pluralist is with the paragraph called V'lamalshinim, the one that the Chabad translation above begins "Let there be no hope for informers," and which is pretty clearly in the Hebrew a polemic against non-Jews and Jews who have abandoned Orthodoxy.

I get to this paragraph when I recite this prayer and I always kind of go "But I don't really mean it" in my head as I'm reciting it, and it's a definitely flaw in my commitment to the Amidah.

My Rabbi gave me this kind of amazingly SFnal approach that I'm going to have to ponder more. He said "Look, there's evil in the world, right? There are enemies of the Jewish people and people who have no morality, people who are really threats. And God stands in opposition to them. There is darkness in the world. And when I get to V'lamalshinim, I imagine that darkness as a literal darkness, and then I imagine the light of God emerging and sweeping away the darkness. And I hold that image in my head as I recite V'lamalshinim."

The interesting thing was that when I thought about it that way the next time I said the Amidah, I couldn't really take his SFnal vision of God seriously, but the underlying metaphor it's communicating for me actually led me to a new insight about the overall shape of the Amidah. Explaining which requires more context on what the Amidah is.

Ritualized prayer in Judaism, as I understand the history, may predate the destruction of the Second Temple slightly, but not by much, and the codified forms we recite today are very heavily informed by the destruction- the prayer services are designed to take the place of the daily and holiday sacrifices offered in the Temple, and make both explicit and allusive reference to them.

And it's reasonably obvious that there is a linear progression in these central supplications toward requesting that a Third Temple be built and the era of Messiah ushered in. But thinking about V'lamalshinim in terms of this overall progression was never straightforward for me since I had such deep objection to its sentiments. Thinking about it in terms of eradication of evil by God's truth made it easier for me to see its place in the Geulah.

I don't know... this all still feels scattered, but I think the conversations have been useful, and I'll keep chewing on this stuff.

(no subject)

Jul. 30th, 2015 12:45 am
denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
[staff profile] denise
Today I found out that open source community member, feminist, activist, and fucking awesome human being Nóirín Plunkett has died. I have no words for what we've lost in losing Nóirín; I think the open source community is going to keep running headfirst into that loss for years to come.

Nóirín, wherever you are now, I hope it's full of everything you would consider paradise. It's going to be a long fucking time before I stop looking for you at every conference I go to.
emceeaich: A close-up of a pair of cats-eye glasses (Default)
[personal profile] emceeaich

In response to this bit where a libertarian lawyer chortles over a terrible Supreme Court decision, which includes this banality:

“[E]nsure that the position exercising those oversight powers believe in free market ideals.”

I must wonder whatever became of the no-religious-test clause of the Constitution?

Gimme shelter

Jul. 29th, 2015 11:12 am
badgerbag: (Default)
[personal profile] badgerbag
We all need shelter some of the time.

Hug or send your good thoughts to a feminist activist today

Or just anyone near or far.

Baahubali: The Beginning

Jul. 29th, 2015 09:15 am
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
In brief, AMAZING. If it’s playing anywhere near you, run and see it immediately. (It only has about two more days left in the USA.) If not, see it on DVD when it comes out.

This is a difficult movie to review because I don’t want to give too much away. It not only has several surprising plot twists, but also a lot of gorgeous imagery that’s wonderful to see for the first time, when you don’t know it’s coming. So I won’t say much about the plot.

Baahubali is an original historical fantasy that plays out like it was based on an ancient myth. Though it doesn’t have the complexity of character or moral ambiguity or intellectual heft of The Mahabharata or Ramayana, those epics and other the ancient tales of India clearly inspired its epic scope, archetypal themes, and magical imagery.

Classic tropes from Indian legend – the boon, the rivalry between princes with disastrous consequences, the humble but loving mother who adopts a son with a destiny, the mountain in the clouds, the war formation the enemy doesn’t expect, the woman wronged who demands bloody revenge – all make appearances here, and are given their proper, larger-than-life weight. The hero reminded me of Bhima in personality and physique, but a number of incidents were clearly inspired by the life of Krishna. For instance, the baby held above the waters echoes Vasudeva crossing the flooded Yamuna to hide away the infant Krishna.

The song I linked in the last post is a version of a hymn to Shiva, the Shiva Tandava Stotram, which is attributed to Ravana. I’ll quote some of it because even in translation (by P. R. Ramachander), you can feel its power and beauty and sensuality. (Remember how magnificent it sounded in Telegu.) That is the sort of ancient writing, still living today, which inspired this movie.

The celestial river agitatedly moving through his matted hair,
Which makes his head shine with those soft waves,
And his forehead shining like a brilliant fire
And the crescent of moon which is an ornament to his head,
Makes my mind love him each and every second.

He, with the shining lustrous gem on the hood
Of the serpent entwining his matted locks,
He, who is with his bride whose face is decorated
By the melting of red saffron kumkum,
And He who wears on his shoulder the hide
Of the elephant which was blind with ferociousness,
Makes my mind happy and contented.

A lot of the movie walks the fine line between magnificence and camp, but even when it’s ridiculous, it’s gloriously ridiculous. This is what you get when you put together an extremely talented director steeped in Indian myth, a brilliant cinematographer determined to tell the story visually so even people who don’t understand the dialogue will love it, and a totally committed cast, and have them all go for broke. Sometimes this results in "Did somebody order a LARGE HAM?” hamminess. More often, it captures the larger than life spirit of myth.

When a woman reveals her secret plan for revenge, a strong warrior staggers backward from the force of it. A desperate prayer to Shiva is answered with a boon that allows a dying woman to walk underwater. A man whose destiny is to climb the unclimbable mountain falls a thousand feet, only to rise to climb again. A sleeping warrior on a riverbank, her arm dangling in the water, is seduced by a prankster lover who swims through schools of bright fishes to paint a tattoo on her hand. If you ask why he was in the river and where he got a set of underwater paints, you’re missing the point.

A lot of the power of myth is in its lack of naturalism. Events occur and choices are made not because of the realistic motivations of ordinary humans, but because archetypal stories are playing out. If Baahubali had been more realistic and less theatrical, it wouldn’t be half as magical.

It was the most expensive movie ever made in India, and while the CGI is occasionally a little shaky, it uses its budget to the max. When CGI first came upon the scene, I thought it would be used to create fantastical worlds and creatures – sense of wonder brought to sight. And sometimes it is, but more often it’s used to create big, pointless, repetitive explosions. Baahubali uses CGI to create beauty and wonder. Just look at the waterfall and the city in the trailer. The entire movie is like that.

(Plus blood-splattering battle sequences and bull-wrestling. I’m glad they put the disclaimer that no animals were harmed and all animal falls are CGI at the start of the film rather than the end, because otherwise I’d have been concerned.)

Though I’ve emphasized huge! Epic! Grand! In my review, there’s also lots of nice little touches. Many of the characters have marks on their foreheads, like bindi, which helpfully identify them when you’re trying to distinguish Magnificent Warrior Dude # 1 from Magnificent Warrior Dude # 2. (This isn’t usually difficult. They all look quite different, and also have different Magnificent Moustaches. But given my general terrible facial recognition skills, I appreciated it.) The hero has a coiled cobra, the mark of Shiva. A pair of princes are marked with a sun and moon. There’s a complete throwaway bit, lasting maybe five seconds, where a pair of bull-masked dancers butt heads, that is SO COOL. I also enjoyed the funny-on-purpose moments.

My only real criticisms are political rather than artistic. There’s a song/dance number where the hero melts the warrior heroine's icy heart via stylized fighting and pulling off her clothes. It’s clearly meant to be about him breaking her emotional barriers with his sincerity, sensuality, and passion. But, well. Not to mention the unfortunate implications of what was actually intended, where she embraces her femininity and warmth… and then totally forgets how to fight so he can rescue her. And then there’s the attack of the dark-skinned barbarians, with its own set of unfortunate implications.

In a more enjoyable use of traditional gender roles (traditional in India), there is not one! Not two! But THREE awesome middle-aged moms! One is a loving mother raising a son she doesn’t quite understand. One is a total badass who rules a kingdom with cool authority after taking on a regency with a baby in one hand and a bloody dagger in the other. The third initially seems passive, turns out to be anything but, and has one of the best scenes in the entire movie. (For the benefit of my one reader who’s actually seen Baahubali: a handful of twigs.)

Be warned: Baahubali ends on a very dramatic TO BE CONTINUED!!! Well, it is subtitled “The Beginning.” But I ate up all three hours and would have happily sat through three more. The first hour, especially, is pure magic. I haven’t felt so transported in a movie theatre since the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Rings.

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