The 2005 annular eclipse

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:40 am[personal profile] mount_oregano
mount_oregano: Let me see (Default)
In 2005, I was living in Madrid, Spain. Here’s my blog post from that year’s eclipse. The map below from the Planetarium of Pamplona, Spain, shows Universal Times, and the Madrid peak time was 10:58 a.m. Luckily, I still have my Eclipse Shades™ to witness next week’s eclipse here in Chicago. Many suppliers are sold out already.



This morning, October 3, was cool and cloudless. My husband and I were sitting on the grass next to some rose bushes at the esplanade of Madrid's Planetarium. More than 2,000 people had come to witness the first annular eclipse of the Sun visible in Spain since April 1, 1764. It was about 10:30 a.m., still 25 minutes away from the big moment, but the Sun already had become a remarkable crescent.

One of the young women sitting behind us looked up. “¡Ay! ¡Qué chulo!” she said to her friend: Wow! It's so neat!

An LED screen in front of the Planetarium offered a live view of the Sun, or from time to time, explanatory videos. The orbit of the Moon placed it a bit far away from the Earth at that moment, so it wouldn’t cover all of the Sun as it does during a total eclipse. People on the ground in a narrow band from Spain to Somalia would see it cover 90% the Sun and create a ring of light in the sky.

Of course, no one should look at the Sun directly, so the Planetarium gave away 1,600 Eclipse Shades™, cardboard glasses with plastic lenses so dark nothing dimmer than the Sun could be seen through them. Someone had put a pair on the statue of the late, beloved Madrid Mayor Enrique Tierno Galván that presides over the esplanade, and groups of friends photographed each other standing beside it, everyone in their Shades.

Other people held the glasses as an improvised filter over the camera lens of their mobile telephones. More professionally minded photographers, there in abundance, used real filters. School groups, retirees, but most of all young people had come out: unemployment is high among young adults in Spain, so they had the time and the proper finances to appreciate a free show.

Refreshments, so to speak, were provided by Wrigley's, which introduced a new brand of chewing gum that day to Spain: Trex Eclipse. Representatives handed out free packs. The advertising campaign called the gum “intensely refreshing.” It tasted very minty.

Over loudspeakers, an astronomer described other eclipses as the heavens continued to move above us. By 10:45 the light was noticeably dimmer, like a cloudy day, and, next to us, the light diffracting through the tiny spaces between the leaves of the rose bushes dappled tiny crescent shapes on the ground.

A Telemadrid TV station helicopter began to circle the Planetarium, photographing a sea of people staring through cardboard glasses at the sky. Some people waved.

The moment approached. The crescent shrank into a tiny sliver.

The Planetarium had arranged for a violinist, Ara Malikian, to play his composition, Moon Shadow, during the peak minutes of the eclipse. He was introduced to applause. The work made use of the ability of a violinist to play two strings at once, the two notes representing the two heavenly bodies as they reached harmony — though he was hard to hear over the TV helicopter.

The Moon kept moving, and, finally, to more applause and shouts of “¡Vamos!” All right!, it made a ring out of the Sun.

For 4 minutes and 11 seconds, a beautiful halo of light floated overhead, too brilliant to see without shades, wonderful but weird. The shadows under the rose bushes became rings. The light was dimmer, and shadows sparkled with a new geometry. People looked up and around with delight.

Then, the ring thinned at the bottom, and there was a flash of a Baily's bead, a pearl of light that marked the rays of the Sun passing through a valley on the edge of the surface of the Moon. The Sun became a crescent again, to more applause.

The violinist explored the slow separation of the two spheres, ending with two sustained, simultaneous notes, to yet more applause. The crescent gradually grew, and eventually people began to drift off to the street, pausing for one last observation of the Sun through their souvenir glasses before they entered the subway and returned to their normal Monday routine.

— Sue Burke

The Panel Not Taken

Aug. 16th, 2017 08:51 pm[personal profile] mrissa
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

One of my friends was recently talking in Slack about his role as a moderator at a Worldcon panel, and one of the things people agreed was a moderator’s role was keeping the panelists on topic.

And I wanted to put a word in for the times when that doesn’t happen.

The times when you have all sorts of keen ideas–either as a moderator or a panelist–about what this panel will be, and you get up on the panel, and it’s interesting, and it’s active, and it’s going places, people are engaged, discussion flows freely…and the places it’s going are not where you thought. Sometimes really not where you thought. And you have to use good judgment, because when you have a panelist who has already been bloviating for five minutes about book five of their own fabulous off-topic series and takes a breath to start in on book six, it’s time to jump right on in and get that panel back on track.

But when you’re having a really good discussion among lots of people, and it just doesn’t happen to be the good discussion you thought you were going to be having? Square your shoulders, take a deep breath, and wave goodbye to the panel not taken.

It might have been a beautiful panel. A lovely panel, an insightful panel. It might have been such an important panel that you can propose it again under a different name. (Or y’know, the same name. Sometimes audience members notice that there is more–or something in the first place–to be said.) But it is not the panel you are having right now. And taking a panel that is full of inspiration and ideas and energy and turning it into a panel that has been stopped in its tracks and wrenched around is not a success condition. It’s just not.

I was on a panel at Readercon where Maria Dahvana Headley was the moderator, and she asked the panelists a question, a good question, an insightful question, a question that might have taken us interesting places. And Max Gladstone said, “I’ve been reading about hyperobjects.” I think I blurted out something encouraging like, “Good!” so this is also on me. (I have been known to encourage Max. Maria has been known to encourage Max. Random passersby…well. You get the idea.) And then Max kept talking about hyperobjects, and it was interesting, and everyone in the room was interested, and…I caught Maria’s eye…and we could both see her question disappearing over the horizon. We traded little smiles as we saw it go. Goodbye, little question, goodbye! Because then we went from Max’s hyperobjects to whatever else that made the other panelists think of and then whatever questions the audience had and then the audience still had questions but the panel was over…and it was fun and everybody was talking after with thinky thoughts…and saying, “Stop, Max, stop! do not talk about this interesting thing! Talk about the other interesting thing!” would have made everybody feel stifled and weird and the total number of interesting things talked about would almost certainly have been fewer.

Sometimes there is still time to say, “Wow, cool, that was really interesting, but I wanted to get back to this idea Maria had twenty minutes ago/the panel description/that question Beth asked that I don’t think we fully answered/whatever.” But often there really, really isn’t, and that’s okay.

And this is true in less formal conversation, too. Extremely often I come home from my monthly lunch with one friend, I think, we didn’t even get to this bit, I forgot to tell him that–or I’ll be driving him back to his office and trying to quick hit the highlights of major life areas the leisurely lunch conversation missed. The Minnesota Long Goodbye is legendary in these parts, possibly because of this, possibly because it just takes us a long time to put on winter gear and you might as well catch up on how auntie is doing in the meantime, but possibly because there are always going to be The Conversations Not Taken, and oh crud now that you’re leaving it occurs to me what they were.

I think we all know about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that’s relevant here, but there’s also not letting the good be the enemy of the other quite good. And you can tell yourself you’re not aiming at the perfect panel, you’re just aiming at the on-topic one, and that’s all very well, but writers and fans and sometimes editors and agents and artists being what they are…goodbye, panel that might have been, farewell, you were interesting, on to the panel that is and how it can be its best self.

Gratitudes

Aug. 14th, 2017 08:32 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: glasses of pink wine (rose)
1. Sitting on my mirpesset listening to a chorus of late-summer crickets and cicadas.

2. Watching the sky change colors. Right now the far horizon has a tinge of pale orange, and then it's a gorgeous ombre of light blue to French blue to darker blue overhead.

3. Glass of rosé.

4. The experiment in Kid Trimming His Own Fingernails was a success. No more fighting over fingernails!

5. This morning on a phone call with [personal profile] samtheeagle we wound up in a Muppets Singing High Holiday Liturgy place and I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Wow, I needed that. :-)

Hǎo de, shǒuxiàng!

Aug. 14th, 2017 07:39 pm[personal profile] gramarye1971
gramarye1971: Jim Hacker about to receive some illegal alcohol in "The Moral Dimension" (YM: Diplomacy)
As a small bright spot in an otherwise dismal weekend, I received a AO3 message requesting permission to translate Resource Allocation, the extremely silly Harry Potter/Yes, Minister crossover drabble I wrote ages ago, into Chinese. So with thanks to [archiveofourown.org profile] liangdeyu, 【翻译】Resource Allocation资源分配, is now available. I'm very pleased to see it.

(This does remind me that at some point I need to pick up a copy of Yes, Prime Manipulator, a book about the Chinese translation of YPM -- Hǎo de, shǒuxiàng -- written by the translator.)

Charlottesville: two points

Aug. 14th, 2017 07:44 am[personal profile] dichroic
dichroic: (oar asterisk)

I have a question. Is there *any* accurate (non-alt-right) evidence that the “antifa” engaged in unprovoked violence in Charlottesville? I am seeing a few well-intentioned people saying that they deplore racism yada yada but that they deprecate violence on *both* sides.

I went combing through the news and the only evidence I could find of violence from people on the left was that the protests and counterprotests devolved into ‘taunting, shoving, and brawling’. Of course I’d like to believe that the Nazis started it, and others were only defending themselves – but either way, in my opinion, brawling with people who are brawling with you is waaaay different than

1) Arranging a riot and showing up armed and ready to fight
2) Trapping activists inside a church where they’re holding a prayer vigil
3) Surrounding and roughing up a small group of UVA students trying to defend their campus from interlopers
4) running your car into counterprotestors and then reportedly backing up over them to cause maximum damage

So, OK, I’m against initiating violence, but even violence has degrees – and defending yourself and others is not only OK but required. It’s not a binary “did it happen or didn’t it” thing, and while I’m perfectly prepared to call out my own fellow travelers for conduct unbecoming when required, I don’t think there was any here that needs to be called out.

While I’m at it, another quick question: I first saw that term “antifa” or “anti fa” used by the alt-right. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. Are we reclaiming it? Is “anti fa”, with the space, meant to mean “anti fascist”?

II.
I just heard a fascinating and somewhat depressing discussion on Federal prosecution of the man who killed Heather Heyer. Apparently this may be tricky for them (this applies only to the Federal case; VA laws may differ).

  • They may not be able to make a hate crime charge stick because, no matter who he was aiming at, the victim in this case was white. (Maybe they can still get that to stick because others were injured? I don’t know.)
  • The Federal KKK law will only apply if he turns to to have been conspiring with others, not if it was a lone-wolf attack
  • If they call it terrorism, that gives the investigation more power but they can’t prosecute it as terrorism because the Federal law only covers the international variety, not domestic terrorism.

Sounds like we need to rethink some laws. At least murder is still illegal.

Mirrored from Dichroic Reflections.

Gratitudes and a PSA

Aug. 13th, 2017 12:20 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: A glass of iced coffee with milk. (coffee)
1. Sunshine. Swimming pool yesterday. Generally happy seven year old in aforementioned swimming pool. Yay.

2. Coffee. Because coffee.

3. I am once again marinating tilapia in lime juice; there will be ceviche for my supper!

4. Finding a local protest to attend this afternoon. Part of me feels like that doesn't really make a difference in the world, but another part of me needs to stand up and be counted -- and I want to be teaching my kid that it's our job to build a better world than this goddamnit.

5. High summer lunch: good bread, good cheese, fresh tomatoes.

Take care of yourselves, y'all -- if you are protesting, be safe -- if you need to take a break from the awfulness of the world and immerse in fandom or a book or a nap or whatever brings you comfort, do that -- you are precious; don't burn yourself to a crisp.

Kitten preparations

Aug. 11th, 2017 04:40 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: A house on a hill; the word "home." (little home)
Our kitten is coming later this month! In advance of this happy occasion, I've been doing some house prep. There is now a truly delightful scratching post / cat tree / climbing thingy in the dining room. (Yes, I know the kitten will still treat every single object in the house like a climbing gym, but this is an excellent one, and also, sisal-wrapped post for happy claws.)

I've re-homed all but two of my aloe plants: one is in a high place I don't think the cat will get to, and the other will be re-homed next week. My one remaining jade plant is likewise in a high place. (And needless to say, if it looks like Mister Kitten wants to get to those places, I'll re-home those two plants too -- though my previous cat was never interested in nibbling on succulents, so we'll see.)

Of course, once I got rid of my aloes and my lily the house seemed oddly devoid of living things, so I went plant-shopping. The first nursery I tried was too geared toward people who actually garden (so they didn't have houseplants per se, and the things they did have -- beautiful plants full of tiny red peppers, and chrysanthemums -- are all toxic to beasties.) But the second nursery I tried had many fine options, and now I have a rubber plant, a kitten-safe varietal of philodendron, a rabbit fern, and a spider plant.

My new plants make me happy. Yay for growing things that will be alive in my condo even once winter falls. And I am also happy at the mental image of this cat tree eventually being home to a very small and very fluffy cat. \o/!

Books read, July

Aug. 10th, 2017 10:02 am[personal profile] mrissa
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

Traveling in mid-July means a combined post, so settle in, friends, this is going to take a minute. Especially because travel this time meant a lot of reading short things on my Kindle on public transit.

Kate Bernheim, How a Mother Weaned Her Girl From Fairy Tales. This is mostly fairy tale-esque and fairy tale-inspired short stories. They are published with the gimmick–and I do feel that gimmick is the right word–of one paragraph per page, which means that some pages contain a single line. If you’re not reading much that’s fairy tale related, this volume will probably be a revelation. If you are, it’s another contribution to the sub-genre, fairly far over to the self-consciously literary end, but not particularly a stand-out.

Michael Bishop, One Winter in Eden. Reread. I could see that these stories were decently well-written, and yet none of them really got to me anywhere emotional. Very Cold War, I should have reread this for the Cold War Fantasy panel. Ah well.

Chaz Brenchley, Dust-Up at the Crater School Chapter 5. Kindle. Moves the plot forward considerable-like. Probably will not get to another chunk of these until I’m traveling again, as I am not a good serial reader, and they are acutely and deliberately pieces of a thing rather than whole things on their own. Still, there is plot and to spare here.

Marie Brennan, Lightning in the Blood. Second novella in its series, still using memory loss and identity to good effect, still doing action fantasy things but not solely action fantasy things. Quick and fun.

Octavia Butler, Mind of My Mind. Reread. This is an incredibly nasty book about telepathy and its implications for a caste system and parenthood and interpersonal relationships. It being Butler, it’s incredibly well done, and I’m going to want to reread the rest of the series before I have fully formed thoughts about what it’s doing, but it made me squirm quite a lot.

Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker. A novel in pieces, reflecting the effects of a man, a torturer working in a prison for a totalitarian regime and then moving on, moving away to America, on the people around him. Fascinating and kaleidoscopic, although in some places too successful at getting me invested in one character or another who was going to disappear into the rest of the background and never become foregrounded again.

Bradley Denton, One Day Closer to Death. Reread. Oh, you can smell the prairie coming off Brad Denton’s short stories. They smell like the dust that comes off corn fields in August, the weeks when the highs are all over 100 F. Some of these are incredibly nasty work, some only mildly unpleasant, and I still love them, they are still worth rereading, they still hit me in the places where I know where the hits are coming. I reread this for a Heartland Fantasy panel that went completely different places than I expected, so we only brushed by it briefly, but I still don’t regret the reread. I look at some of the old pieces differently than I did–oh, the women in “The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians”–but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving them.

Chynna Clugston Flores et al, Lumberjanes Gotham Academy. This is the first crossover issue of a comic I’ve ever read where I’ve been reading both streams being crossed. So now I can say for sure: I just don’t like crossovers. I particularly think they’re a terrible idea for two ensemble cast comics like Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy, where you’re juggling large casts anyway. What’s Maps doing plus what’s Ripley doing would have been quite enough to keep track of without throwing in every single other character. It’s kind of a mess, and for me there was less fun than a single volume of either comic, not even the average of the two, much less the sum of the two.

George Fosty and Darril Fosty, Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes. Kindle. Come for the hockey history, stay for the history of Black Canadians. Wow, the Fostys are going to make sure you get schooled whether you wanted to or not. (I did want to.) And they make a quite solid argument for Maritime Black hockey players making serious strides in the game decades ahead of white players. If you’re a hockey fan, if you’re interested in history of the icy regions, if you’re interested in how different cultural groups have interacted–and an unflinching look at how power has corrupted that–this is a solid and not unduly long look at all of that.

Lisa Goldstein, Tourists. Kindle, reread. Why didn’t I hate this book? I still can’t tell you. The title comes from the observation that we are all tourists in each other’s lives, which does not have to be true and I think is not in better lives true, but wow do these characters ever live as though they’re determined to make it true. Nor do they have a great deal of growth over the course of the book. Meanwhile the pseudo-Arabic country they’re visiting is entirely backdrop for their own (lack of) character arcs, its mythos writing itself on the messed up visitors’ minds, sometimes literally, and…why don’t I hate this book? It’s pretty messed up, honestly, and I can’t recommend it. All sorts of better books do better things with culture clash and visiting. Maybe I just want to keep it around to contrast with Hav or The Necessary Beggar or…something? I am still turning this over in my head.

Paul Gruchow, Boundary Waters: The Grace of the Wild. Hiking memoir in four seasonal sections. This has some of the best writing about hiking while cranky I’ve ever read. There are also more traditionally lyrical sections, but I howled with laughter as Gruchow got more terse, his sentences more clipped and bitten off, as his dreadful day hiking wore on…and then he told of the same hiking buddy teasing him for the foibles of the day on a trip together three years later. This is the first of his books I’ve read since the memoir of the depression that eventually killed him, and I could see the shadows of that here, but not enough to make it a sad book for me, not to spoil my love of his nature writing. Which feels like an honor and a relief.

David George Haskell, The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors. This is a set of essays on different specific trees in different parts of the world. Conveniently for me, one of the types he was talking about was very familiar, very close to home (chert-rooted fir), so I could gauge how he talked about things I don’t know by how he talked about things I do. I would happily read more of this sort of thing all the time.

Billie Holiday with William Dufty, Lady Sings the Blues. This is the sort of autobiography that’s done as an “as told to,” and my golly do I not recommend it for a day when you’re already feeling dubious about humanity, because Holiday’s life, particularly her childhood, was utterly harrowing. Dufty captures her voice in a breezy, very readable way. I read that there was some question about some of the fact checking, but human memory is fallible, and there were limits on what she was permitted to tell of her truth in the late 1950s; I was moved to seek out a later, more comprehensive biography from the recent past, when a biographer would be permitted to be clear about interracial and same-sex relationships while still focusing on the strength of Holiday’s music. That’s just come in from the library; stay tuned. In the meantime, while her life was harrowing, her voice is not. Pick a day when you’re feeling strong, but it’s worth your time if you’re at all interested in jazz.

David King, Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World. Kindle. Oh lordy this book. The title does not tell you what it is actually about. It is actually about this Swedish speculative archaeologist in the seventeenth century, Olof Rudbeck, who decided that Atlantis was located in…Uppsala. And he kept going, he kept finding all the other Greek mythological stuff elsewhere in Sweden. No, all of it. No, really, all. He just. Kept. Going. There is that seventeenth century thing where you have someone genuinely erudite–Rudbeck discovered the lymphatic system–and then he goes completely off the rails and finds an entirely new set of rails to go off of, like, builds an entirely new railway system just to go off it. I was talking to my friend L about this and they mentioned autodidact syndrome. I think that the entire seventeenth century has that–there was the thing where they were largely self-taught by modern standards–and hoo boy, did Rudbeck ever. He decided that it made no sense that Greek could be derived from Phoenician when Phoenician had no vowels and Greek did, but! But the runic alphabet did! So clearly the Greek alphabet was derived from the runic alphabet! Also the derivation of Hercules (Herakles) made no sense to him because of that hero’s rocky relationship with the goddess in question, so he “found” an alternative Swedish derivation meaning “dressed in warrior’s clothes” that made much more sense to him. And it just keeps going. And I sat and read this while eating sushi by myself in a restaurant and thinking, surely he will come to his senses, and no, he decides that they have to teach classes at Uppsala in the original Swedish, which, great, except, wrong reasons, and everyone is all in a dither, and oh this book. Oh. This. Book. It was a great lunch.

Nancy Kress, Tomorrow’s Kin. Discussed elsewhere.

Mark Kurlansky, The Basque History of the World. Reread. I think my main complaint about this book, nearly two decades later, is that it isn’t, it’s mostly a Basque history of Basque country, which is very interesting and I liked it a lot and found it worth keeping around, but there was a Basque diaspora. He mentions it. He mentions having cousins in America. He just…doesn’t talk about what they did there, what the cultural effects were both directions. So…that, maybe? But early microhistory is hard, determining what belongs in it. Still cool.

Ellen Kushner, Thomas the Rhymer. Reread. Captures the fairy tale voice of the ballad, goes on beyond the original ballad tale’s end into implication, picks up perspective from other characters. Unlike some others in this series, the setting is very much the setting of the original ballad, more or less–country appropriate, generically time appropriate to when such a tale might have been set by those telling it. So from here it feels like the least revolutionary of Kushner’s books. But it was a comfortable and lovely read, and certainly made me think not at all of the plane around me, and very few things in the world can be The Fall of the Kings; only one that I can think of.

Ben Loory, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day. These stories are the kind of very short dark fantasy/horror that feel like they have the same kind of messagey twist at the end, a revelation that is not as startling as it could be, but is supposed to make you gasp at the prose and also make you think. And they are all of a piece. I think they will work better if you read them one at a time with long pauses between, instead of the whole book at once. There will be some that really will be revelatory both in prose and in twist. But it’s a lot to ask of every story with the same structure all in a row.

Elizabeth Lynn, A Different Light. Kindle. So there is an artist who has gotten stale because he has to make art living on the same planet all the time, but he has a genetic condition that is going to kill him much quicker if he travels off-planet. And I thrashed a bit at this premise, because literally every artist we have ever known has had to make art living on the same planet all the time. Like, ugh, you are cramping my style, entire planet! This guy has gotten to be all of the elderly age of thirty and he is so stagnant because one planet is not enough, and I just eyebrowed so hard and thought, how am I going to get through an entire book with this spoiled damn brat of a man. But okay, okay; some of us are not really all that happy in some settings, I decided to go with it. And it worked out all right, he ran around and figured out some things and met some people and there was plot and there were relationships and Lynn carried through on the premise: there was no magic hey-presto your genetic condition is all fixed now yaaaaays. So there were interesting things about this, and if you can get past the initial moment of are you kidding me thirty years on just one planet poor you, I found it worth reading.

Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String. This is the kind of very short story where the author has aimed at surrealism by substituting in words nonsensically, often proper names for common nouns, giving you the rhythm of language without the sense of it. Sure, fine. I get it. I decided to keep reading in case the cumulative effect was more pleasantly disorienting or gave me a different angle on what he was doing. Not really. Eh. Quite often people who write this sort of thing want to categorize readers into those who love it and those who don’t get it, and: eh, fine, sure, if you like that, but: not really.

Emma Marris, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World. The thing that I really appreciated about this book is that it was willing–alone among the environmental and nature writing I read–to seriously interrogate what is practically possible for habitat restoration and–here’s the important bit–what we are doing it for. Marris did not entirely pretend that she had complete answers, that any one person had complete answers. But she was willing to ask questions that feel fairly taboo in other nature writing, or that feel…too reverential, perhaps? That feel as though their writers don’t want to ask them because asking them is used as a rhetorical device to say that there is no answer, rather than that there are several answers.

Colin Meloy, Wildwood. Meloy is the frontman for the Decembrists. You can tell. One, because there are occasional word choices that feel very familiar if you know the Decembrists, and two, because children’s books are not mostly permitted to ramble quite this way if the author isn’t either established or Somebody. This is an urban fantasy with its urban not-really-wild-erness tucked into Portland, Oregon, and it’s not quite coherent about that. The wild creatures are basically entirely citified, inside their “Impassable Wilderness”; they are mostly anthropomorphic birds and animals but some humans also, and they have things like postal services and militias. Very wild. The villain is going to use an invasive species and infant sacrifice to destroy all the other species, but not in favor of, y’know, development or something, because the city here is Portland, and Portland can’t be bad. Portland also can’t be specific in any way. You get the feeling of Portland from the characters if you’ve spent any time in Portland, not from the details of the setting. It is very, very white and very, very hipster, and very, very Portland. I like Portland. I never thought that I should put down this book with its cyclist heroine and superhero-drawing hero and go read something else. And yet I kept noticing all the opportunities it missed.

Judith Merril, Daughters of Earth and The Tomorrow People. Reread. I read these for an appreciation panel about Judith Merril, and most of the people on it also clearly had reread some of her work too, which was a joy. One point I did not get to on the panel: I think The Tomorrow People is the only portrayal I can think of where vestibular effects and anxiety effects are correctly tied to each other. Well done. Also: in what other work of that early era is a returned astronaut allowed to be a drunken wreck? She was doing all sorts of things other people were not even thinking of.

Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary, Better to Have Loved. Reread. Fascinatingly juxtaposed with her fiction, not always in an entirely self-aware way. For someone who claims never to have internalized stereotypes, she certainly could reproduce some of them to specification…and yet there are some amazing and fascinating stories here, some of which made me want to cry and punch people on her behalf. Even having read them before. Maybe especially having read them before.

L.M. Montgomery, Short Stories 1896 to 1901. These are in some ways fascinatingly linear compared to her novels. Good intentions always carry the day. “Let’s do something nice for someone–yay, that was nice!” is not at all how it works in Montgomery’s novels. In these short stories? Always. Nothing ever backfires. Strange to see the contrast, especially with such little investment required.

William Morris, News from Nowhere. Kindle. This is the kind of utopian fiction that is entirely didactic: you go around with the protagonist and hear how well things work in the future, tra la. How much nicer it all is. And in fact this works far better than when Morris is trying to make fiction go, so I enjoyed it better than with plot–but the time travel aspect is frustrating, knowing that the protag will awake and find him on this cold hillside of the Victorian present.

Carrie Anne Noble, The Mermaid’s Sister. What a weird and uncomfortable book. The message is ostensibly about accepting people for who they are. But actually there is a metric buttload of modesty politics (ew) with a side order of weirdness about “Gypsies” (WHAT NO STOP THAT). Also the love story is basically 95% pining and then 5% surprise this all worked out, so…yeah, that did not work for me. At all.

Henry Petroski, The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure. This is mostly a book about roads and bridges, with a digression in the middle about whether our perception that things used to be built better in the past is about survivorship bias. There is so very much about infrastructure that Petroski barely skims or does not even touch on. (Ports. Waste treatment. Need I go on.) And…it’s a short book, but he chose to write a short book. This is okayish as far as it goes. Like most of our infrastructure planning and funding, it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Marta Randall, Journey. Kindle. This is a book with a family taking care of refugees and having fallout from different choices and different reactions to those choices. Why did no one tell me about Marta Randall two decades ago? Well, never mind, we’re here now, with family relationships and consequences and being the political back end of the galaxy and new tech that isn’t quite what we wanted it to be and all sorts of other things I like in science fiction.

Robert Reed, The Dragons of Springplace. Reread. This is another set of short stories that was quite well written in some directions and made no emotional impact on me whatsoever. I put it back on the shelf so that when I pick it up to reread in another fifteen years, it will be entirely new to me again. I wanted to love something here, but alas, I just didn’t.

Pamela Sargent, The Alien Upstairs. Kindle. The title made this look like a romp to me. It was not. It was a quietly panicky book about a real dystopia, not a flashy thing with sorted categories but a society in which everyone is poor and struggling and everything is falling apart and everybody is making do the best they can. And into this comes an alien with more resources, and he turns things upside down in some ways, for the characters, between the characters, and they have to sort themselves, they have to figure out what to do about the entire situation, what to do with themselves, what they want to do with themselves. This book feels very modern in that way that things from the beginning of the Reagan era with the late ’70s remnants of gas shortages and some mysterious disease coming up and who knew where that would even go can feel very modern in the beginning of the Trump era when everyone you know is in some direction not okay, and I recommend it conditionally: if that will feel comforting, companionable, this is the book for you, and if the opposite, back away.

Ageeth Sluis, Deco Body, Deco City: Female Spectacle and Modernity in Mexico City, 1900-1939. This is a brilliant work that weaves in fashion, colonialism, post-revolutionary work for women, and various aspects of architecture. It is like literally nothing else I have ever read in the types of thought and human interaction it is trying to discuss together, and I found it wondrously useful and interesting. You probably can’t find it at the corner market, but I absolutely recommend finding it somewhere.

Jo Walton, The Prize in the Game. Reread. Various people treating each other as various kind of object and rebelling against same, or not, in their own ways. I found this immensely absorbing on the second read, many years after the first read; its speculative conceit is a very particular kind of destiny, and I’ve had conversations with Jo about the different kinds and concepts of destiny since I first read it. I think not the book of hers she would want you to start with, probably not even the book of hers set in this universe that she’d want you to start with, but I was glad to return to it all the same.

Eliot Weinberger, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (with more ways). What a brief and delightful book. It deconstructs a Chinese poem in detail, from the character level upward. By the time he got to the first decent version, he had shown me enough that I could blurt out loud, “Now, there you go!” There are forays into translation from Chinese into Spanish, German, and French; there are discursions into single prepositions and also bits where Weinberger gets quite sharp with other translators about botany, there is a point at which he makes a dire academic enemy, and more than one member of my household had to look up for absolutely certain whether Eliot Weinberger was a real person or a joke Octavio Paz was having on all of us. It is hilarious, sometimes intentionally so. It grasps a great many important points about translation extremely keenly. There may be a point or two about the philosophy of the original poem that fall by the wayside along the way. But there are only 88 pages in this volume, so it will cost you very little time to find it and judge for yourself.

Barbara Willard, The Lark and the Laurel. Reread. This is an historical YA romance from my own youth, and it doesn’t really do much plot except for the plot twist that is simultaneously predictable and alarming. However, the prose rattled along briskly and there wasn’t much of it, so I felt entirely fine reading it until it was done; I just don’t think I’ll want to reread it. It’s set at the beginning of the reign of Henry VII, but far from court and focused on non-courtly virtues, which I would expect to like more than I did. Maybe if the romance plot twist hadn’t been so much itself.

Patricia C. Wrede, Snow White and Rose Red. Reread. Another fairy tale retold, this one very very Elizabethan. It has John Dee in it, and I do not pitch the book across the room when he appears, so you know that it is well-done, because: John Dee. I like stories with bears in them, but not enough to make up for John Dee without some other things well-handled also.

Isabel Yap, Hurricane Heels. Five girls grow to young womanhood fighting the forces of evil as superheroine avatars of a goddess, in anime mode but in a story told in prose. They become close friends, not entirely by free choice–but very few of our relationships are shaped entirely by free choice. This is very much a story centered on women’s friendships. Two of them also have a romantic relationship for part of the book. I think it would not have worked at a much longer length, but it didn’t have to; it was the length it needed to be. It was sweet and fun and had characters whose backgrounds were ethnically and personally specific. I am so glad there is this book.

mount_oregano: and let me translate (translate)
You can read my translation of “The Story of Your Heart,” by Josué Ramos, in Steampunk Writers Around the World, Volume I, by Luna Publishing.

In Josué’s short story, people can get transplants to fix or improve themselves, or they can be donors – by force or by choice.

The anthology is bilingual, in English and Spanish. Its eleven stories came out of a project that encouraged writers to engage with each other across borders and to express how steampunk, though global, is born from the unique culture of its setting.

It was a pleasure to translate Josué’s story from Spain. I hope you’ll enjoy it. Other stories come from places as varied as Cuba, Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Hawaii, Africa, and India.

You can also read four poems I translated, with Christian Law, by Vicente Núñez, in
The Northwest Review of Books Issue I: Literature in Translation. Núñez is one of the most daring and important poets of Andalusia, Spain, in the second half of the 20th century. We translated the poems as part of a project with the Vicente Núñez Foundation.

The four poems are “Books,” “Hymn I,” “Hymn III,” and one of his most famous love poems (and my favorite), “Twilight in Poley.” If evening has not touched the divine grace / of your dark eyes gazing at the fading / yielding light....

The issue also contains poetry and prose translated from Chinese, Danish, Farsi, French, Hebrew, Russian, and Yiddish, and commentary on works by Haruki Murakami, Tulsidas, and Diego Zúñiga.

More Núñez, from the poem “Books”: On the soulless scrolls of questionable publishers / I poured out all the yearnings of an unmeasured passion.... From “Hymn to Trees III”: If we are condemned to burn / it will be by divine eternal lightning.

— Sue Burke

Gratitudes

Aug. 8th, 2017 08:01 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: glasses of pink wine (rose)
1. The feeling of pushing my way through a forest of fruit-laden sungold cherry tomato plants, seeking out the little golden balls and twisting them free with my fingertips. Those of you who cannot safely eat, or do not like, raw tomatoes are so totally missing out, I cannot even. :-)

2. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, recommended to me by (I think) [personal profile] bironic at Vividcon? (I have con brain.) They are ridiculous goofball steampunk romance comedy-of-manners, as though someone had put Jane Austen and a bunch of vampire and werewolf fic in a blender. I am enjoying them.

3. Dinner, which involved a giant bowl of arugula and lettuces with tahini-lemon dressing, followed by eggplant and zucchini marinated in sesame-soy-sriracha, and also some scallions and carrots, all from the CSA, as well as some chicken thighs that were marinated in a similar mixture (with the addition of worcestershire and ginger-garlic paste), tossed with noodles. It is so easy to eat well in high summer.

4. Sitting on my mirpesset, breathing the scent of citronella and rosemary plant, watching the sky change.

5. It is wine o'clock. :-)

How are y'all?
mrissa: (Default)

Originally published at Novel Gazing Redux. You can comment here or there.

I was talking to someone who is planning on doing programming for a convention, because I think everyone, or nearly everyone, who is on panels has opinions about how they should be done–certainly everyone who has helped with programming, which I have. And I wanted to say this in no uncertain terms: if you do not have a moderator, you do not have a panel.

I don’t care if you choose to have a participating moderator or a non-participating moderator. That’s up to you, your con, your topic, whatever. Do that as you will. Use your own judgment. But I can count on one hand the number of panels I have ever seen that would have done all right with completely freeform participation from the panelists and in the panelists’ interactions with the audience. I have seen several where the participants said they’d do fine that way. And generally having someone moderate either turned out to be the best decision or would have turned out to be the best decision; and quite often which person mattered a great deal.

Let me say that again: which moderator matters a great deal.

I know that it’s really hard to know who will be a good moderator if you’re doing programming for a large convention and you don’t know all the personalities of your panelists. You don’t necessarily know who will be shy, who will be balky, who will tend to ramble and then stop completely, who will talk over other panelists, who will talk over audience members, who will talk over audience members who absolutely need to be talked over…who will get a good balance of calling on rambly but interesting pros in the audience with calling on concise question-askers…moderating is hard, and moderating each specific panel is different. I know it’s hard to know. I’m sorry.

But you need a moderator. And you need to know more than five minutes in advance who is moderating, because panel prep is a thing for everybody, but it’s really, really, truly a thing for the moderator. The questions that keep a panel from being shallow and surface-driven can arise naturally and organically–but they don’t always. Sometimes the moderator brings them up. Sometimes the moderator brings them up in such a natural way that it looks like they’re natural and organic. The pitfalls that will make a panel truly dreadful: a prepared moderator can sometimes start to see them coming and steer frantically away.

And lately (at multiple conventions! I am not calling out any one convention!) I have seen a lot of “who wants to be the moderator?” as a means of choosing the moderator, and I’m sorry, but that is not enough. Quite a few people want to be the moderator who should not be the moderator. It is not quite to the level of “anyone who wants the job shouldn’t have it,” but…there are at least a great many obviously experienced people who have not been practicing using that experience to boost insightful voices with less experience. This is one of the cases where “I’ve done this ten million times and am comfortable with it” is maybe not always the thing to reinforce. Sometimes! Sometimes experience combines with awareness to give you a moderator who will help bring out new ideas, and that’s great. And other times you get someone who makes the panel their own personal pulpit, or who has vast experience with moderating badly, or any of a number of other problems. So: “I’m comfortable doing it” doesn’t always map to doing a good job.

Which may mean that I, personally, should not always be the moderator. I will try to do a good job when I moderate, but guess what? I will be the right moderator for some panels. And I will be the wrong moderator for some panels. I think that when someone comes in saying, you need a moderator to do these things, it can get read with an implication of like me, me, I would do this perfectly, I am the right choice, me. I want to explicitly say: nope. Sometimes it’s absolutely me, sometimes it’s absolutely not, and sometimes I’m the least of evils for the panelists you have. Me, personally.

But the worst panel horror stories invariably have someone asking, “And what did the moderator do?” And the answers are either: “Nothing!” or, “That was the moderator.” So: convention programming staff. Please, please, please. I know it’s a difficult question, I know you will not be able to get it perfect, and I don’t blame you when you try and it goes wrong. But I do blame you when there isn’t a moderator assigned. Please at least try. Think about the moderator as a careful part of how you do panels.

gramarye1971: Punie Tanaka from Dai Mahou Touge, looking satisfied in front of a burning Tokyo Tower (Dai Mahou Touge: Tora Tora Tora)
I'm feeling a bit too disorganised to post much at the moment, but one fun thing I've been doing lately has been testing out an online Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop game through roll20.net, a site that lets you use webcams and chatrooms to run tabletop campaigns in real time. The GM's a friend who's run a number of our campaigns before, but we're playing with several other different people in different time zones, so there's a new element to it as well.

Our game is set in a cyberpunk retrofuture 2020 Baltimore, with the following premises:
- Basically, there are cell phones but no real Internet, Taylor Swift is the current U.S. president, the Cold War turned hot in space about two decades ago, and the Inner Harbor and Johns Hopkins University are two of a handful of arcologies in a sea of shantytowns and otherwise crumbling infrastructure.
- Our characters are an A-Team-like group of hired guns and techies who operate out of a food truck that sells kimchi tacos.
- I'm essentially playing a character from the Gunslinger Girl anime: a cybernetically modified Ukrainian sniper/former child soldier who looks about 14 or 15 but is actually in her early 20s. She was "rescued" (more like kidnapped) by a U.S. charity that's involved in money laundering under the guise of helping war orphans, and she's young and blonde enough to be a public face for their child solider rehabilitation program. Unfortunately, she actually rather enjoyed wetwork operations, so she's working with the kimchi taco folks to save up money to go back to her home country and jump right back into the action.

Apart from some technical glitches, we managed our first mission well enough -- no one in our party died or caught on fire, and we got a busted-out sedan as a secondary vehicle to supplement the food truck. It's been a while since I've played such a morally bankrupt character type, but dumping all of my good stats into the weapons skills means that I don't feel too bad about treating her like a point-and-shoot glass cannon. Will see if the mechanics continue to work out.

Home again, home again

Aug. 7th, 2017 07:22 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: A house on a hill; the word "home." (little home)
My plane out of ORD was delayed in departure, and by the time we landed in DTW, Delta had automatically booked me on the next connecting flight...some seven hours later. I grabbed my stuff and ran like hell through the airport and just barely squeaked onto the plane!

This means I am now home safe and sound. A suitcase full of con laundry is now in the washing machine. (That'd be pretty much everything except my Club Vivid outfit. ;-) I am making myself dinner out of what I could scrounge, which is actually looking pretty decent. (Call it pasta primavera: CSA zucchini and a handful of wee tomatoes and half of a purple onion, with good olive oil and a handful of parmesan cheese -- not fancy by any stretch, but it's food, and there's even a vegetable in it.)

I am grateful to have made it to the con, and now it is good to be home. Best of all possible worlds, that.

I'll keep updating my con report with links to vids as I find them. Hope others who were traveling today had it as smooth as I did.

My Vividcon 2017

Aug. 6th, 2017 11:39 pm[personal profile] kass
kass: Veronica and Wallace stare at a screen (veronica and wallace)
Vividcon 2017 has come and gone, and it was a delight.

This year for me was all about a few things: 1) seeing friends, 2) realizing and reveling in how much happier I am now than I was a year ago, and 3) watching shiny vids. There was a strong skew toward the first and second items on the list (though I did see a metric ton of shiny vids too, and am coming away as always awed by y'all's collective skill and creativity.)

Below the cut: 3500 words or so about my weekend -- a miscellany of socializing and conversations, some vid links, etc. As always, I'll aim to update this post with links to vids as they are posted, though RL may intervene and I make no promises. :-)

Con report herein! )

It's hard to fathom the fact that this con will only happen one more time. I am endlessly grateful to everyone who makes it happen and to everyone who comes. I'm grateful to have a place where I can go and be unabashedly enthusiastic about things I love along with others who are equally unabashed and equally enthusiastic. I'm grateful for thinky thoughts and incisive commentary and the fact that those can coexist with squee. I'm grateful for your presence, and your creativity, and your friendship.

To those who are already gone: thank you for being here, I hope your con was as lovely as mine was. And to those who will be traveling tomorrow (as I will), safe travels. And to those who weren't able to be here this year, I hope to be with y'all next year.

Next year in Chicago, one more time!
kass: The Blues Brothers eat. (blues brothers (eating))
Last night [personal profile] heresluck and I went to Topolobampo for the third time in three years and holy wow was it amazing (again.)

Here's what we ate, so I won't forget. )

The whole thing was not cheap, naturally. But it was so worth it omg. And the company was as exquisite as the food. :-)

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