She was actually surprised by the twist. This is such a novel experience, I felt I had to record it for posterity.
We've also watched Empire Records (Eva was deeply caught up in the question of whether or not Joe is actually Lucas' foster father, or if he's just fatherly) and 10 Things I Hate About you (we lost Heath Ledger entirely too soon). Also, unrelated to this all, Jenn and Eva watched Legally Blonde. I was surprised that Jenn had never seen that movie before. She was surprised that I've watched it at least seven times already. I'm not sure which fact is more surprising.
( Read more... )
1. Taken far too many people on apartment showings. (Due to a handful of early move-outs, we now have four sample apartments we can show people with no prior notice. In theory this is a good thing. In practice, it means I have been doing significantly more walking-and-talking than I consider ideal. *wry*)
2. Addressed, wrote, and mailed a batch of thank-you notes for my church stewardship committee.
3. Rented two parking spaces.
4. Stayed on top of office paperwork and now finally have some time to get non-paperwork tasks done, like updating apartment photos on our website and refreshing our ads on rental listing sites. \o/
So I'm going to get on that photo stuff.
I only gave everything a quick listen so far, but my favourite, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Italy, because they take things very seriously at the Sanremo festival and have great concept songs, with modern sound and excellent poetry. I loved it:
Italy: Mahmood - Soldi
Australia is a precious glitter roll too good for this world, too pure. Note the teetering & flying background acrobat:
Australia: Kate Miller-Heidke - Zero Gravity
The Dutch had a tasteful and emotional entry:
Netherlands: Duncan Laurence - Arcade
Spain has an incredibly vivacious and upbeat anthem about integrity, values, and not being a sellout. Love the parkour and the dance moves:
Spain: Miki - La Venda
Sweden has an extremely nice pop-soul-gospel entry:
Sweden: John Lundvik - Too Late For Love
This year's most epic power ballad is also this year's most feminist entry, from North Macedonia (the Country Formerly Known as the Former Yougaslavian Republic of Macedonia):
North Macedonia: Tamara Todevska - Proud
Cyprus is too on trend (remember, "In real life this is 30 years old, but in Eurovision it will give your number a contemporary feel!") but catchy:
Cyprus: Tamta - Replay
Azerbaijan is also on trend, but crazier! That's more like Eurovision:
Azerbaijan: Chingiz - Truth
This year's inevitable quasi-American-country music entry is Switzerland, again (compared to last year's Zibbz, I guess this is more reggaeton?):
Switzerland: Luca Hänni - She Got Me
Actually, the déjà vu is strong as always: last year's Madame Monsieur co-wrote this year's French entry, and you can kind of feel it:
France: Bilal Hassani - Roi
Belgian entry is exactly what you expect, practically a genre in itself:
Belgium: Eliot - Wake Up
However, I believe Slovenia might have outhipstered Belgium this time:
Slovenia: Zala Kralj & Gašper Šantl - Sebi
San Marino should unironically get a special award for nailing the quintessential Eurovision lyrics:
San Marino: Serhat - Say Na Na Na
Eurovision has also graciously delivered on things that may be underrepresented yet sought for by the listening masses, such as:
- frozen disco furries (thank you, Norway);
- cages and BDSM fetish gear (thank you, Iceland);
- adult man in a white leather jacket and giant fluffy angel wings singing about love (thank you, Croatia);
- scissor claws and techno-sorcery ballet fantasy in feathers (thanks, Portugal);
- nude men floating underwater (thanks, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands).
Do you have any Eurovision favourites this year? What interests you the most?
#beaherobetherainbow #wearetechnicolourwatchusgo #icouldbethesunthatlightsyourdark
Mood theme of the day: Michela - Chameleon (ESC 2019 Malta)
plassyuing flight rising bc i can do that w right mouse hand
& weirdly, ipad & pencil 2 drawing on procreate. last night: sketches of pike & enperoro georgiou
ara ius playing the game arsenal an fps w evil chickens. i thought of you, rachelmanija
oik, typing 2 hard. see y'all l8r
One of the fun things about a paid account is being able to upload customized mood themes like it's 1999 (literally—that's when LJ started up), and I just happen to have a MILLION zip files of other people's mood themes saved to my computer.
So, if you're interested, leave a comment and pick a couple; I'll upload the zip files to Mediafire and add the links to this post. Warning: They're all LJ era fandoms, and accordingly some have better resolution than others. Also the pictures vary from tiny to big.
Here's a list: ( look it's the aughts again )
I haven't used moods in such a long time I forgot how...weird the options are. No "helpful" or "useful," no "industrious." Guess I'll go with busy.
all I need to know
PG-rated, established relationship, no particular spoilers
Summary: Three months of mutually investigating each other, occasionally crossing over into actual B&E and/or stalking, and Shen Wei decides to enforce his boundaries now, when they’re finally together?
The transcript for Podcast 347. Becoming My Own Audience: An Interview with Dahlia Adler has been posted!
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
Have you ever wondered just what a rabbit has to do with the resurrection of Jesus? Or what the word “Easter” really means? And, for that matter, what’s with all the eggs? Could it be, as Jon Stewart once wondered, that it’s because Jesus was allergic to eggs?
Alas, no. But how we got to all this egg and bunny business is nevertheless a cool and rather medieval story.
But before we get to the Middle Ages, there’s some earlier Christian history and theology to unpack to understand Easter’s importance and its resulting traditions. I’ll try to keep this as succinct (and objective) as I can.
Rome and Messiahs
Aside from a fringe of folks who subscribe to the Christ Myth Theory, there’s near universal scholarly consensus that a Palestinian Jew named Jesus preached in the first decades of the Common Era. The year of his birth is unclear (the Christian Gospels seem to contradict themselves on the dating), as is the year of his death. He was a charismatic figure, though. He drew crowds, and he was almost assuredly proclaimed as a Messiah by many of his followers.
Then he died.
And dying is very much not what a Messiah was supposed to do.
A Messiah (Hebrew: מָשִׁיחַ), you see, had a fairly specific checklist of duties according to the Bible and the Jewish traditions surrounding it during the lifetime of Jesus. Most vitally, the Messiah needed to defeat the enemies of the Jews, and, following the example of King David, re-establish a properly Jewish kingdom in Israel. I’m simplifying things a bit here, but the Top 10 List of Israel’s Enemies during the life of Jesus would have looked something like this:
- People who work with Rome
So kicking Rome in the tail, to say the least, was pretty much a necessary thing to do for those who claimed to be the Messiah at the time.
And, as it happens, lots of folks were claiming to be a Messiah. During the year 4 BCE, for example, there were at least four different Messiahs running through the countryside around Jerusalem. One of them, a man named Simon of Paraea, was a former slave of Herod the Great; he was tracked down by the Roman general Gratus and beheaded—a death that has been theorized to be behind the mysterious “Gabriel’s Revelation” stone. (Shameless Plug Alert: The Realms of God, the third book of my Shards of Heaven trilogy, includes part of Simon’s story.)
Needless to say, being crucified by Romans, as Jesus apparently was (or beheaded by them, as Simon was), didn’t really fit with the idea of defeating them. So, like the followers of the defeated Simon, the followers of Jesus must have decided he wasn’t the Messiah after all and trundled off to follow another leader… except, well, they didn’t.
According to Christian history, the reason this particular movement didn’t dissipate is that three days after Jesus died, his followers began to claim that he had reappeared. He had been resurrected by God, and not long afterward he ascended into Heaven.
That still wasn’t what a Messiah was supposed to do—Rome was still around, after all—but it was hardly what had happened to Simon and all the other would-be Messiahs, who’d (presumably) died and stayed dead. The Resurrection was something very different, and the followers needed to figure out exactly what that something was.
In the end, through the twists and turns of a variety of fascinating thinkers (yep, I read Origen alongside Origin), Christian doctrine posited that Jesus really was the Messiah: folks just hadn’t really understood before him what a Messiah was actually supposed to do. The war the Messiah was waging wasn’t against Rome, they said, it was against Death. Jesus’ Resurrection, his followers said, had defeated Death and saved folks from everlasting torment in Hell.
So, yeah, for these believers, the Resurrection event was pretty much the biggest thing ever possible.
Even bigger than Christmas.
The Christian calendar, for all the above reasons, was built around the annual celebration of the Resurrection event. This was the real “New Year,” and dating it should have been easy: the Gospels were clear that Jesus died in Jerusalem during the Jewish celebration of Passover, and Passover begins on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan every year, which falls on the first full moon after the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. Piece of cake.
Trouble is, the Jewish calendar is lunisolar (dealing with the moon and sun), whereas most folks in and around the Mediterranean used the only-solar Julian calendar. So confusion about the “correct” date started early. Even by the middle of the second century, we know from the meeting of Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna) and Anicetus (bishop of Rome) that churches in the east and west held different dates for this most important Christian celebration. Polycarp and Anicetus agreed to disagree, but as time went on it was clear that something had to be done. In the year 325 the First Council of Nicaea—where good St. Nicholas did his heretic punching!—it was decreed that the Jewish calendar was officially abandoned and that Christians would henceforth celebrate the resurrection on a Sunday. Problem solved.
Unfortunately, this decree didn’t resolve things. Which Sunday was it? Elaborate tables were constructed to enable the correct execution of the Computus, as this most important calculation came to be known. Different calculation tables led to different solar-calendar dates for Easter.
In one memorable event, Celtic and Roman Christians running into each other in the north of England in the seventh century found that they had such different dates that the Synod of Whitby had to be called in 664 in order to resolve the issue and resolve the impasse. The decision at Whitby favored Rome, which angered the monks of Iona but at least allowed everyone to get back to work in Whitby. Good for Whitby, but folks still had different calculation tables in other places, and then the Gregorian calendar reform came in 1583 and the Catholics and most Protestants adopted it because it was easier, but not everyone did because a lot folks wanted to keep their older traditions and…
Well, it’s all still a jumble even today. In most Catholic and Protestant churches Easter is defined as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the March equinox, which means it can fall for them any time between 22 March and 25 April on the Gregorian calendar. Most Eastern churches, though, didn’t adopt the Gregorian reforms; for them, it can fall between 4 April and 8 May.
Long story short? Don’t feel bad if you’ve no idea when Easter is next year.
(And if you want a high-res look at the Computus tables in a marvelous 12th-century medieval manuscript, check out this site!)
So about the Bunny and the Eggs…
Jews and Christians aren’t the only folks who tied a major holiday to the spring equinox. It’s pretty universal, in fact, for human cultures to take note of the cycle of increasing and decreasing periods of daylight: this is a relatively simple way to track the seasons and thus the best times to plant and to harvest. Put simply, the spring equinox set off a time of “life”, while the flip-side equinox set off a time of “death” (and thus contributed to the formation of Halloween).
It’s pretty fitting, then, that Christianity’s story of Jesus rising from the dead should be associated with the spring. Most resurrection and/or fertility deities are.
Among a long list of such figures, it’s worth it to point out one: Ēostre. She was a Germanic goddess of the dawn, bringing life back into the world after the cold death of night. The spring equinox would have been her most important festival, representing her overcoming the frigid grasp of Old Man Winter and such. Her importance to the moment led to her name being applied to the month of the equinox (“Eostur-monath,” as the Venerable Bede recorded it in his 8th-century work, The English Months). This popular pagan name survived past the conversion of the populace, so that the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection (in which the “light” of the “son/sun” conquered the “darkness” of “death/night”) came to be called, in many Germanic areas, Easter.
It seems likely, too, that Ēostre gave Easter more than its name. As a goddess bringing new life, she would have had strong connections to fertility, which could be symbolized by both eggs and rabbits (for obvious reasons).
In a parallel development, hares were also associated with the Christian story since, in the Middle Ages, it was believed that they could reproduce without losing their virginity, which associated them with the veneration of the Virgin Mary in church iconography. So the appearance of an Easter Bunny, a kind of springtime Santa that brought eggs to good boys and girls, was probably inevitable. (It’s first attested, just so you know, in 1682 in the writings of the German botanist Georg Franck von Franckenau.) Painting or dyeing these eggs made the event even more celebratory, especially in using the colors red (for sacrifice) and green (for new life).
As a side-note that may interest Tor.com readers, this movement of the egg from Ēostre’s fertility connections to Jesus’ resurrection connections is paralleled in the Ukrainian folk-art of Pysanky (seen above), which in origin pre-dates Christianity but has very much subsumed its traditions into this new religious framework. (And a shout-out here to Amy Romanczuk’s Patterns of the Wheel, which embeds pysanky symbolisms into a coloring book for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.)
Why hide the eggs? Sadly, no, it’s not because Jesus was allergic. The hiding and finding of the eggs enabled believers to have a participatory connection to the finding of “new life” on Easter. An Easter Egg hunt also functioned as a reward if eggs weren’t eaten during Lent (the time leading up to Easter); finding an egg meant (finally!) getting to eat the egg.
As someone who doesn’t care for eggs in any way other than scrambled, I’ve got to admit I’m super-glad this “treat” notion has left real eggs behind in favor of chocolates and jelly beans.
Anyway, whether you and yours religiously celebrate Easter or just religiously eat Peeps, here’s hoping you all had a wonderful holiday this year!
Originally published April 2017 as part of the Medieval Matters series, and again in March 2018.
Michael Livingston is a Professor of Medieval Culture at The Citadel who has written extensively both on medieval history and on modern medievalism. His historical fantasy trilogy set in Ancient Rome, The Shards of Heaven, The Gates of Hell, and The Realms of God, is available from Tor Books.
( ~700 words under cut )
I know there's probably entirely justified concern about what information Facebook is gleaning about people who use it - and even if my use of it is pretty minimal it would still be problematic to give it up when there are people in my life who do use it as their primary means of contact.
But I have been lately been given to wonder exactly how granular and detailed is the information that is gleaned, and, okay, I daresay my adblocker is blocking ads so I'm not seeing these anyway, and I've gone into the ads settings and turned off just about everything that might be deployed to advertise things to me -
Which hasn't stopped, once or twice over the past weeks, sponsored advertising posts popping up in my timeline WOT, but after I have spent some time clicking to hide these, the hint appears to be taken...
But, anyway, in the wholly Point Thahr: Misst stakes, when I go into Settings/Ads/Preferences/'Advertisers', and find a whole swathe who come from 'contact list added to Facebook', they are 99.9999 recurring US-based, most of them realtors, with a tiny sprinkling of health-related organisations. And I go through, and I delete them, or at least remove them from view, and wonder Y O Y? how pointless is that? given that my location is one of the few bits of public-facing information available?
Or is this a subtle misleading? and in fact I am being bombarded with subliminal wombattery, because their algorithms have noted that what I post is mostly wombats? and I am being lulled into a false sense of security?
In any case: I can't knit as much as I usually do. I've removed all purling and learned to mirror knit and I've put a timer of 15 minutes that I'm allowed to knit before I take at least 15 minutes break. I hope it will help.
Turns out that coming up with things to do during those breaks is rather annoying though. So far I've picked up origami and making knitting markers. Today, I started writing a story in the Narnia Charn universe - Susan's story in fact, since I've had it sitting in the back of my head for ages. It's interesting to see how the story develops as I write - I never plan but let the story grow inside of my head.
I sorta hope it will become something I can post - the Charn universe has a lot of stories that I could probably write.
So happy anniversary, Dreamwidth! My anniversary here isn’t until next month.
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I have finished my MDZS WIP (on my phone, so no wordcount updates; it must be over 40k though) and can now do other things with my life for a bit!!! I'm not letting myself touch it for edits until next weekend. It needs editing, and lots of it, but: complete first draft!
Happy full moon, everyone.
For today's Friday Favorite, I'm reposting a review of Peter Watts' "Blindsight" (free to read online) that I wrote years ago, with a few updates. Wow, I used to write longer reviews back in the day …
"Blindsight" is a first contact story in a technologically advanced future, where humans have finally gone where they aren't biologically meant to go, which is to say, they are generating and discovering more data than their brains and meat can handle. Cybernetically augmented people act as the conduit between the technology and the people. One of these augments is the protagonist, Siri Keeton, who had half his brain removed as a child, resulting in losing much of his capacity for emotions and empathy. As an adult, Siri specializes in interpreting incredibly high orders of data and patterns, thereby acting as a middleman between humankind's incomprehensible technology and humankind itself.
Sidenote 1: this book was written in 2006, predating Apple's Siri, but you could take it as an accidental prophecy.
Sidenote 2: I'm not super on board with how Watts talks about autism in this story. It's not my place to talk about it, so I'll point you to Ada Hoffman's commentary.
One day in 2082, Earth is visited by a group of projectiles that flash over Earth and then vanish, leaving no clue behind. Siri is sent with a similarly enhanced five-man team towards the unknown, in order to investigate. The crew is incredibly complicated and interesting, all manifestations of the author (a professional marine biologist) exploring a number of neurology, biology, and cognitive science theories such as manufactured multiple personalities, sensory augmentation, and even resurrected vampires.
The first contact is a harrowing one, and as incredible discoveries about the aliens come to light, we find ourselves asking along with the protagonists the big question of the book: what good is consciousness? It's a risky proposition for an audience that is only able to process the story through consciousness. The titular real-life condition of blindsight--in which a person with blindness resulting from brain damage to their visual processing center, can nevertheless respond to visual stimuli, such as catching an object that they are unable to see--is used to convey to us how it "feels" to be a creature with intelligence but no sentience. Uncoupling "intelligent responses" from "sentience" is an interesting move, because that is one enormous question of AI: at what point could humans make a sentient machine? Can we ever tell if it is a sentient machine, due to the fact that we can never see from the machine's "mind"? "Blindsight" makes the argument that it doesn't matter. "Blindsight" says: we don't really know what thinking is, or what a soul is, or what it really means to be a sentient thing. Therefore the only logical response is to use the only measure we have of intelligence, which is that the entity is capable of learning, of pattern recognition, of improved performance, at which point this begins to sound very familiar to computer science folks.
Many people act as if the be-all end-all of machine learning, of making a "thinking machine", necessarily ends in sentience. The hypothesis posed by "Blindsight" is that such a statement is being human-centric, perhaps even sentience-centric. Rather, it is entirely possible, and perhaps evolutionarily favorable, to become extremely intelligent without developing sentience. Such organisms would not so much think as calculate, sifting and gathering through patterns and then reacting. Living in the void of space as they have for ages, crunching the pure hard data of natural physics and mathematics, they have perfected themselves. But human data is infinitely messier, often purposeless, stuffed with what entertains a sentient mind but is meaningless to a data processor.
So--who's going to win?
In the book, the reader is invited to "pretend you are Siri Keeton" and if you do so successfully, then you might end up rooting for the aliens made of pure data. And I actually did briefly, which is perhaps the highest praise a book like this can receive, and which is why I put this down as a favorite. I wouldn't say it was a fantastic emotional experience reading this book, but as a conceptual exercise I found it incredibly well executed.
We never actually find out who ultimately wins--Siri isn't there to see it--although he closes the story with a hypothesis … which I will not spoil, but which I disagree with.
The book (or Siri) posits pretty hard that humans are cognitively weaker than aliens made out of pure data, because we have the useless middleman of a consciousness slowing things down. Last I checked, humans have built some pretty spiffy machines that can crunch data at incredible speed, and in Blindsight it's advanced beyond what we can imagine today. So I truly see no reason that humans are inherently disadvantaged.
I feel like the battle of the races in Siri's mind is a metaphorical one, and ends the way that he--nearly an alien himself--finds the most comforting.
Then again, perhaps I'm doing the same thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Late Call by Angus Wilson. I was a little worried about this 99 Novels selection because Wilson's The Old Men at the Zoo was one of the few 99 Novels that left me cold - but I liked this one a lot. The satire is much more down to earth, and kinder - it's about an old woman retiring to live with her son in a postwar New Town, with her difficult, charming, poisonously bitter old husband and his resentments, and her son's resentments and his grown-up children's, and all her own memories crowded together in a modern house with intimidatingly self-sufficient stove and washing machine.
I mentioned Frankenstein last week, and my thoughts on it are not deep nor have they changed much: Victor Frankenstein is a world-class idiot who can bring life to lifeless matter through science! and decides that the best use of this incredible new technology is OBVIOUSLY "build a guy from scratch!" but apparently never counted on having to make any other decisions with regard to his shambling emo teen creation. As soon as the creature opens his earnest, innocent, love-seeking eyes, Victor runs off to have a nervous breakdown about how (totally unexpectedly!) hideous his creature turned out to be. Victor, maybe you should have prepared for this moment by building a slightly larger than average frog first? Or something? He also can't figure out that "see you on your wedding night, sucker!!" might constitute a threat to anyone but himself, even though the monster has just painstakingly explained that his vengeance M.O. is "kill everyone Victor cares about." He decides that this threat means that the creature is going to kill him on his wedding night, and then it'll all be over! So obviously he has to get married as soon as possible so his fiance will be safe forever! Victor is the stupidest mad scientist.
Victor's creature is an instant classic and I love him. He gets carelessly knocked into life by a total doofus and has to fend for himself, a stranger and afraid in a world he never made, and damn it, he does the best he can. Anyone whose introduction to human emotion is The Sorrows of Young Werther is bound to experience some social difficulties, even setting aside the whole "giant reanimated corpse patchwork" aspect of things. Ok, so you shouldn't kill innocent people, even if you have a legitimate beef with your creator and are feeling legitimately betrayed by humanity. But it's hard not to feel for him just the same. Is he the grandfather of all sad monsters? I don't know enough about sad monster history to be sure, but he's a memorable one.
I feel like I must have read Frankenstein at some point, possibly in high school when I read a lot of things I forgot immediately after. At least, I experienced a lot of deja vu while reading - which might just be free-floating Frankenstein cultural osmosis. I wasn't keeping a reading log back then so there's no way to know for sure.
What I'm Reading Now
I'm in the middle of U.P. by R.A. Riekki, which is a fantastic book about scrubby angry-bored inchoate-longing-addled teenage boys in the late-eighties Upper Penninsula of Michigan, and just picked up Black Spring by Henry Miller (a used bookstore acquisition driven by my pledge to finally read Henry Miller) whose first chapter about growing up in Brooklyn dovetails perfectly with the concerns of U.P. in spite of vast distances in time and space and degree of urbanization:
The boys you worshipped when you first came down into the street remain with you all your life. They are the only real heroes. Napoleon, Lenin, Capone -- all fiction. Napoleon is nothing to me in comparison with Eddie Carney, wh gave me my first black eye [. . . ] All these boys of the Fourteenth Ward have a flavor about them still. They were not invented or imagined: they were real. Their names ring out like gold coins -- Tom Fowler, Jim Buckley, Matt Owen, Rob Ramsay, Harry Martin, Johnny Dunne, to say nothing of Eddie Carney or the great Lester Reardon. Why, even now when I say Johnny Paul the names of the saints leave a bad taste in my mouth. Johnny Paul was the living Odyssey of the Fourteenth Ward; that he later became a truck driver is an irrelevant fact.
I'm also reading The Spire by William Golding, about a bunch of medieval sinners building a cathedral to no avail - actually re-reading, because William Golding is too damn subtle for me; I got halfway through and realized I had missed 9/10 of the innuendos.
Also, Kristin Lavransdatter! ( under the cut )
What I Plan to Read Next
I'm going out of town this weekend, and as usual when I go out of town I get ambitious and pack a lot of books, thinking I'll have more free time than I do. This time I've got ten. One of them is Kristin Lavransdatter. Tuck Everlasting and Light in August are in the pile along with some reference-y books about the past, and The Canterbury Tales. We'll see what I end up reading.
Sadly, neither The Defence by V. Nabokov nor Heartland by Wilson Harris are available at the local library, so I'll either have to buy them or ILL it if I want to continue my 99 Novels in chronological order.
But the book perks up when Valerie meets Chloe, another new girl who swiftly becomes Valerie’s best friend. They share a sardonic sense of humor, a love of thrift shops, an interest in art, a sense of “us against the world” - and slowly their friendship begins to grow a new dimension of sexual attraction.
( Spoilers )
Even though the prose is rough in places, the story was satisfying. I read it all in an evening, partly because it’s pretty short, but also because I didn’t want to put the book down till I knew how it all turned out.