[BLOG] Some Thursday links

Sep. 21st, 2017 01:10 pm
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  • Centauri Dreams considers the idea of dispatching a fleet of sail-equipped probes to map the asteroid belt.

  • Crux considers the importance of the invention of zero for mathematics.

  • D-Brief notes that Scotland's oldest snow patch is set to melt imminently.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at the stability of multiplanetary systems in star clusters.

  • Imageo notes the modest recovery of icecaps in the Arctic this summer.

  • Language Log notes the importance of Kazakhstan's shift to using the Latin script for the Kazakh language.

  • The LRB Blog reports on a writer's visit to Helsinki.

  • The Map Room Blog notes a giant relief map of Guatemala, built to reinforce claims to what is now Belize.

  • The NYR Daily considers the continued salience of race in the fragile liberal-democratic world, in America and Europe.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders if the heavy-handed Spanish government is trying to trigger Catalonian independence.

  • Roads and Kingdoms considers the palm wine of Senegal, and its vendors.

  • Understanding Society considers the Holocaust, as an experience sociological and otherwise.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy makes a libertarian case for open borders.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi celebrates his meeting mutual fan Alison Moyet.

  • Window on Eurasia notes how Belarus' cautious Belarusianization is met by Russia's pro-Soviet nostalgia.

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Posted by Mari Ness

As we all—well, at least some of us—prepare to view Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast once it arrives on Netflix in just a few more days, I thought it might be fun to look at the other live action adaptation currently available on Netflix: the 2014 Beauty and the Beast, a French-German film starring Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel as Belle and the Beast, respectively.

Beauty and the Beast begins with a meta scene acknowledging its own fiction: a woman (no prizes for correctly guessing who she’ll turn out to be) is reading a story to her two children. Some clever camerawork and CGI link the book to the children and then to the tale in the past, as we meet Belle and her family.

For once in film (it happens more frequently in novelizations of the tale) Belle’s siblings are given somewhat individual personalities, partly for plot reasons. Oldest brother Maxime has managed to get involved with a local gang; second brother Jean-Baptiste is an aspiring novelist, and Tristan stands around until the plot needs him to ride a horse or get hit by someone. Older sisters Anne and Clothilde are terribly, terribly upset that their father has lost all of their money, forcing them to go into the country. They aren’t actively cruel to Belle, but they aren’t exactly sensitive, either.

It’s at about this point that the movie starts to go wrong, primarily because someone decided it needed to be longer, and needed a villain not involved with Belle or the Beast, and therefore needed to spend a significant amount of time on a sideplot focused on Maxime, the gang, the gang leader and a tarot card reader. This all does eventually have something to do with the final plot, but it also means that the film spends much less time with Belle and the Beast, much to the film’s later detriment.

Eventually, the film gets us back to the traditional story, as Belle’s father finds himself in a terrible snowstorm, forced to find shelter at the Beast’s castle—AFTER HE ABANDONS HIS STILL LIVING IF INJURED HORSE IN THE SNOW TO FREEZE TO DEATH like if you want me to cheer on a character, film, this may not be the way to do it. Already established as not the greatest guy, he proceeds to show that he has terrible table manners, not to mention that he’s the sort of guy who won’t hesitate to steal roses. Possibly not the sort of father you really need to rescue. But Belle, after reminding us that her mother died in childbirth, decides she can’t have both parents dying on her behalf—and heads straight to the castle to take her father’s place in a visually spectacular wonderland.

The castle and its immediate, enchanted surroundings are drenched in color—I suspect quite a bit of computer work here, along with the more obvious CGI for the moving, shifting vines and the enchanted creatures—but regardless of how the film got here, it looks spectacular: nearly every shot could be used as an illustration for a high fantasy or fairy tale. The Beast and the castle give Belle increasingly impractical if straight from fairy tale dresses to wear, and she begins to explore the castle and the lands of the Beast.

At this point, I rather expected the story to take the traditional route of Beauty and the Beast falling in love, learning not to judge by appearances, even if those appearances include imprisoning you, and the film sorta does, abandoning—for a short time—the whole gangster plot for a magical exploration of an enchanted land and dreams and cute transformed dogs, not to mention a dance between Beauty and the Beast. It also draws from the earlier, longer version of Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, by including dreams that let Belle know the history of the Beast. SPOILER ALERT he was kinda awful.

The Beast’s backstory takes a decided turn here: rather than a prince who found himself the innocent victim of tangled fairy plots (as in the original French version) or a prince who was rude that one time to a lovely Enchantress (as in the Disney version), in this film, without spoiling too much, I can say that yeah, he kinda does deserve to be trapped in a castle, transformed into a Beast. Not that this has improved him in the slightest: he yells at Belle (who snaps back; this is a Belle with some spirit), enters her bedroom without asking and at one point seems on the verge of raping her, stopped only when the ice cracks beneath them.

This makes it rather harder than usual to cheer on the romance between Belle and the Beast. To be frank, I spent about as much time wondering why he was falling in love with her, besides the wow, Léa Seydoux, the actress portraying her, is a stunningly beautiful woman.

Still, BIG UNEXPECTED SPOILER (ok perhaps not all that unexpected) the Beast turns back into a man after some fun with stone giants and angry plants. But not quite a prince. The film never really explains how, since the next scenes show Belle and the transformed Beast living in the country house with her father and her two children. Belle explains that her three brothers have gone into publishing—not exactly the career I would have predicted for Maxime the thug, but ok—and her two sisters have married identical twins. Her father now sells flowers; the Beast works in the garden, which now features roses instead of pumpkins. This is all very nice if quite a shift from the original French tales, half the point of which was to assure readers that yes, a true prince could be hiding beneath the fur of a vicious looking beast—or man.

It’s still a bit odd, however, given the way that the film adds various touches from other fairy tales—Belle grows large if implausibly lightweight pumpkins, for instance (note to the director: it might have been wise to remind the actors in that scene just how much, exactly, pumpkins weigh before filming it, even if this was otherwise a nice touch). The Beast’s castle, inside and out, is surrounded by briars and roses and plants that can injure people trying to get in—or part for the right person or phrase, just as in Sleeping Beauty. The two older sisters seem to be partly taken from Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont’s version of the tale, and partly from Cinderella—though neither of them are particularly cruel, just foolish and focused on superficial things. Indeed, they seem genuinely fond of their father, and if they later respond to Belle with more than a bit of terror—well, they did think she was dead, and thus, that she could be a ghost.

And I can only wholeheartedly agree with their disapproval of the red dress Belle is wearing just then. Sure, it’s a beautiful, fairy tale dress, but practical it definitely is not, and given that Belle is just about to do a lot of running through the woods and around stone giants and up several flights of stairs, I gotta agree with her sisters that she should perhaps—just perhaps—be wearing something different.

Other scenes seem—well, let us be kind, and instead of using the word “stolen,” try “inspired by” a certain animated film created by a certain very large multimedia company generally represented in popular culture by a mouse. These scenes include the arrival of Belle’s father to the castle, in a scene that not only quotes the earlier film nearly word for word, but also copies the camera angles; the attack by the gangsters on the Beast’s castle; Belle penetrating the Beast’s private rooms in the dark, the Beast terrifying her, and Belle fleeing right into the snow; and yes, a ballroom dance scene between Beauty and the Beast, begun under considerably different circumstances, but also duplicating many of the movements and the camera angles. I am, shall we say, suspicious—even if this film has just a touch more nudity and violence than that certain very large multimedia company tends to put into its animated films.

The largest problem with the film, however, is not its borrowing from other films and tales—indeed, those moments are some of the most effective parts of the film. No, it’s the relationship between Belle and the Beast, coupled with the issue that this Beast is a pretty awful person, to the point where I found myself cheering on the villain, Perducas. (It helped that Perducas was also after two of the other unsympathetic characters in the film, Belle’s father and her brother, Maxime.) Possibly some scenes were cut from an already overly long film, but at no point do we ever see Belle falling in love with the Beast, even when she dreams of his former self. Nor, to be fair, do we ever see the Beast falling in love with Belle.

This is a slight issue when attempting to retell their tale.

Indeed, it reached the point where I found myself wondering why, exactly, Belle was bothering to do anything for her terrible brother, her willing to abandon injured animals in the snow where they will freeze to death father, or the Beast—though I suppose her willingness to forgive the first two sorta explains how she could fall in love with the last.

The film is, however, gorgeous to look at, drenched in color and CGI and roses. The enchanted little dog things are adorable. The dreamlike elements are pure fairy tale, filled with glorious imagery. Nearly every frame could be a painting from a fairy tale. The actors, if not necessarily convincing as Belle and the Beast, are convincing enough as her siblings and gangsters and a tarot card reader, providing the added bonus of providing plenty of eye candy. If you ignore the love story, and the gangster story, and the back story, and just need something to look at, it might well be worth your time.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

NS: It's Marvel, Baby!

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:50 pm
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After all the hype and worries, MARVEL vs. Capcom is back with MARVEL vs. Capcom: Infinite! Has anyone here had a chance to play the game yet? If so, what do you think of said game so far?

Hearphones update

Sep. 21st, 2017 04:15 pm
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Posted by Sharon

So, we took the car in for the 10,000 mile check-up and tire rotation thingy, then went to IHOP for breakfast and a test drive of the hearphones.

The hearphones…are problematical on two fronts.

Front One:  I can’t keep the damned things charged.  Admittedly, this files under Operator Error, but I’m not usually an idiot about keeping the toys charged, so there’s some subtlety I’m missing.  And it doesn’t lessen Operator Aggravation to arrive at the Test Location and find that the ‘phones are, ahem, critically low on power.

Front Two:  Hearing my own voice in my ears is gonna drive me bugs.  And this may actually be a deal-breaker.  Steve urges me to give it another run, to see if I get used to it, which is fair, but at the moment what I’m doing is whispering in an attempt not to hear my own voice, which is…not really much better than sitting like a stump at a group dinner because I can’t hear what anyone else is saying.

The plaque (and check) which together comprise “Wise Child’s” Readers Choice award arrived yesterday.  The check we deposited in the bank today while we were out and about.  Here is a photograph of the plaque, being modeled by the delightful Mr. Miller.

So, my next order of business is to read another 50ish pages of the Neogenesis page proofs.  Lunch is on the schedule, and, very possibly, a nap, because we not only got up at stoopid o’clock to take the car in, but we got flu shots (the high-test flu shots reserved for those of us who are temporally elongated), too.

Everybody be good.

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Black Mirror: Volume I Charlie Brooker Cory Doctorow Claire North Sylvain Neuvel

Black Mirror creator/mastermind Charlie Brooker, fresh off winning two Emmys for last season’s beloved episode “San Junipero,” has announced the first group of authors who get to play in his twisted world for Black Mirror: Volume I. Or, as he calls it, Black Mirror: Paper Edition.

According to the announcement on Penguin Random House UK’s website, the first of three volumes (edited by Brooker) will feature three novella-length stories (with plots soon to be announced) by Cory Doctorow, Claire North, and Sylvain Neuvel.

It’s a fascinating mix whose perspectives, especially in recent novels, seem as if they would fit well in Brooker’s context of the thorny relationship between humans and technology: Doctorow pondering what it would be like to leave society behind entirely in Walkaway; North introducing us to an unforgettably forgettable woman in The Sudden Appearance of Hope; and Neuvel’s fascination with Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods.

The authors shared their excitement on Twitter:

Black Mirror: Volume I will be published February 20, 2018; the second is expected to be released fall 2018, the third in 2019. Black Mirror season 4 should be premiering on Netflix sometime later this year; check out the first teaser.

via Mashable

Edgedancer Reread: Chapters 7 and 8

Sep. 21st, 2017 04:00 pm
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Posted by Lyndsey Luther, Alice Arneson

Brightlords and ladies, parshendi and spren! Have you gotten your fill of speculation after reading chapters 10-12 of Oathbringer? Well, you’ve come to the right place, because this week Alice and I are tackling chapters 7 and 8 of Edgedancer! These chapters are considerably meatier than those we’ve analyzed so far, so strap in and prepare yourselves for some Diabolical Deeds, Awesome Adventures, and Scrupulous Spren! Alice, you got any more fun alliterative descriptions of these chapters?

Alice: Edgedancer Eavesdropping and Purloined Pancakes, naturally!

The Awesomeness

Chapter 7: After her encounter with Stump and the Philosopher, Lift has a discussion with Wyndle in which she theorizes why Stump may be trading dun spheres for infused ones (none of her theories are terribly complimentary). She follows Captain Hauka back to the captain’s apartment and climbs the wall, where she falls asleep, leaving Wyndle to keep watch. He wakes her some time later to inform her that Darkness has arrived. She listens in as Darkness interrogates Hauka about Lift’s antics earlier, then follows when he leaves.

Chapter 8: Lift tails Darkness into a market, where he catches a young thief. He summarily kills her with his shard(honor?)blade. Lift attempts to heal her, but fails (*sob*). She follows Darkness back to a building, grows a tree outside of a first floor window in order to gain entry, and proceeds to steal his pancakes.

Kadasixes and Stars

“Anytime you can make someone else feel something, you’ve got power over them.”

Lyn: This is SHOCKINGLY insightful for such a young woman, and really speaks volumes about both her fear of attachment and how mature she is (for her supposed age). An argument is always more persuasive if you can elicit an emotional response.

Alice: All true, Lyn. Lift is such a chameleon, it’s often a shock when she says something so profound. When she wants to annoy Wyndle, she talks like a street urchin, but when she forgets to be annoying, she’s astonishingly perceptive and articulate.

“You did come to the city chasing him,” Wyndle said.

“Pure coincidence,” she mumbled.

“No it’s not. You showed off your powers to that guard captain, knowing that she’d write a report about what she saw. And you knew that would draw Darkness’s attention.”

“I can’t search a whole city for one man; I needed a way to get him to come to me. Didn’t expect him to find this place so quickly though. Must have some scribe watching reports.”

A: She’s also clever—and occasionally too clever for her own good. I’ll admit that I honestly didn’t think very much about why she made such a scene at the guard post, very visibly snitching food and dumping the grain. She’s perfectly capable of doing something like that solely to get some food and some entertainment. Besides, it was a way to get into the city and at the same time take food from a thief and give it to the hungry, which is a very Lift sort of thing to do. So, yes, I had to have it spelled out for me: she did it primarily to get Darkness out looking for her. The rest was just serendipity. Crazy child. And again, it shows remarkable understanding of human behavior.

L: I’ll go after this from a more “analysis of writing” stance in a later section.

Pet Voidbringer

“She’d never been good with time”


A: Ummmm… Sure, Lyn. Absolutely.

L: You’ll see! You’ll all see! ::maniacal laughter::

“You don’t need sleep, right, Voidbringer?” “I do not.”

L: Well that’s an interesting little tidbit of information.

A: Okay, so I had to go look it up, because it seemed like I knew that already. Kaladin had the same question for Syl—she was amused by the idea—and asked her to keep watch over him at night to make sure Gaz didn’t try to kill him in his sleep. (TWoK, Chapter 14)

L: Unsurprisingly, I had completely forgotten about this.

“If she didn’t use the power, it eventually vanished. Took about a half a day.”

L: Good to know.

A: So… does that mean she can only turn it into stormlight while it’s in her stomach or small intestine? Sounds like it, if Brandon did his usual research. Once the food gets beyond a certain point in the system, or beyond a certain degree of digestion, she can’t use it.

L: This is interesting. If my understanding of biology is correct (and please note that it’s been a long time since I took any classes), the way that the body metabolizes energy from food is that enzymes in the stomach and intestine break the food down into amino acids and glucose, which are in turn used by cells as energy. The stormlight reaction, however, appears to happen almost immediately upon ingestion. Does this mean that there’s a secondary biological function happening here, happening before the body’s natural processes? If not, how much of the nutrients are being allocated for stormlight and how much for the body’s necessary functions? Lift doesn’t seem as if she’s eating considerably more than she should (like some of the Flashes from DC Comics have to, for example), which leads me to believe that there’s some sort of secondary reaction happening here.

A: Well, I’m not really capable of intelligent evaluation on this subject. I skipped biology and went for chemistry, so anything I know about it would only be google-fu. On a guess, based solely on how I read her Interlude, I’d say there’s some of both. She gets some nourishment from anything she eats, but not as much as she would if she weren’t turning it into Investiture right away.

“Mistress, please don’t get yourself killed. It would be traumatic. Why, I think it would take me months and months to get over it!”

L: Only months, huh, Wyndle? Nice. Real nice.

A: Okay, I laughed! But her rejoinder was a winner: “That’s faster than I’d get over it.”

L: Let’s talk about how much power it takes to do things, as this is a bit of a sticking point for me in the Stormlight Archive. I love this series, but nothing’s perfect, after all. She has a little bit of awesomeness left over from what she ate last night, since I don’t think she ever managed to get a bite of that purple fruit, and with that she manages to grow this tree probably a few feet (something that usually takes months to years in the real world), the rockbuds around her feet, some vines, and (presumably) unconsciously grow the vines that were surrounding her in the morning when she’d woken up. This seems to belie Wyndle’s earlier assertion that growing things will take more energy than consuming them would provide! If she can grow this tree a couple FEET on such a tiny amount of awesomeness, I can’t imagine that expending enough to grow a few fruits would be much of an issue either… Perhaps someone who is more well versed in physics (conservation of energy?) or biology can weigh in on this one. I will note that she says “a couple pieces of fruit didn’t provide much”—so she did eat that purple fruit earlier, then?

A: There are a couple more steps in there, actually. We don’t know for sure that the vines on top of the wall grew around her by feeding on her Stormlight overnight, though it certainly sounds like they could have. While following Darkness, then, she does think about not having eaten since the night before, and picks up the purple fruit. It’s not clear whether or not she got a bite, but even if she did, she used it plus what little was left from last night, all on trying to heal the girl Darkness killed. But after that,

“Lift seized two of his fruits and stared him right in the eyes as she took a big, juicy bite of one and chewed.”

While we’re not told specifically, it seems safe to assume that she ate them both while following Darkness the rest of the way, and that’s why she thinks about the “couple pieces of fruit.”

L: Ah, yes. I had forgotten that bit.

A: Even so, it does seem a bit much to think she could make that little tree grow so much. My best guess would be that producing vines and leaves doesn’t take as much energy as producing fruit, but that’s a pretty lame justification. It really doesn’t seem like two pieces of fruit should let her grow that much stuff.

L: Moving on… So Lift doesn’t just GROW the vines to push aside the bar inside the window—she directs them WHERE to grow as well. I feel like this is a significant distinction.

A: Back in the Interlude, she grew some vines up around the window frame to pop it open and let her into the palace, but this seems much more finicky. I’m assuming skill increases with practice, but this is pretty wild.

L: It raises some interesting questions for sure. Is she using some sort of subconscious negotiation skill like Shallan tried to do with the stick? (“Wouldn’t it be nice to be fire?”)

“So, guess we go spy on them, eh?”

Wyndle whimpered, but—shockingly—nodded.

L: This little interaction between the two of them makes me so happy. Wyndle’s clearly coming around to his own responsibilities as the spren of a burgeoning Knight Radiant. With great power, Wyndle…

A: I’m so with Lift on this—I’m shocked that Wyndle agreed! But yes, absolutely happy that he’s accepting the need to do something about Darkness. It’s a scary thought, because these two up against Nale is just bizarre, but it needs to be done.

L: I love the imbalance of power. It’s a very David and Goliath archetype.

Journey before Pancakes

L: Purple fruit! Aaaaand that’s all we got about it.

A: Well, that and you take a bite straight out of it, rather than having to peel it, I guess. I can always come up with some kind of lame add-on… ;)

L: Something like a plum, maybe. So, regarding Lift stealing Darkness’s breakfast:

Most dangerous man in the world? Check.

Possibly a Knight Radiant? Check.

Owns a shardblade, and has no compunctions about killing little kids for stealing food? Check and check.

Operation Steal Breakfast is a GO.

A: Naturally. I mean, we’re all about growing and facing increasing challenges, right? Back in WoR, she thought about robbing the Bronze Palace, “Seemed like a dangerous thing to try. Not because she might get caught, but because once you robbed a starvin’ palace, where did you go next?” Guess she figured out the answer to that question.

“One of the pancakes was salty, with chopped up vegetables. Another tasted sweet. The third variety was fluffier, almost without any substance to it, though there was some kind of sauce to dip it in.”

L: First of all I’d like to say that this is one of the few (very few) times that I wish Sanderson would channel his inner Brian Jacques or GRRM and really make us TASTE these things. I always appreciated how the Redwall books could make me salivate just from the descriptions! However, Sanderson’s already edging in on nearly-too-long wordcounts, so maybe this is for the better.

Anyway. The first one sounds more like a savory okonomiyaki, as we’ve discussed previously. The second could be a type of crepe, whereas the third sounds like a modern American pancake to me.

A: That third one sounds familiar, but I can’t quite figure out what it sounds like. “Fluffy buttermilk pancake” doesn’t quite fit my idea of “almost without any substance to it” … but I’m stuck.

Thanks. This will now prey on my mind for the next week or until I figure it out. Better yet, maybe someone will address this in the comments. (Please? Pretty please? HELP!!!)

L: Help us, Obi-Wan Commentors! You’re our only hope!

A: I have a bad feeling about this…

Friends and Strangers


“Tashi doesn’t care much for what you do here… In fact, I’d pray that he doesn’t reach your city, as I doubt you’d like the consequences.”

L: Another Herald?! I wonder if he’s the crazy king in the neighboring city that was mentioned earlier…Is this Talenel, Herald of War? Ishar? Both of them together maybe, or just a misinterpretation/mispronunciation of one of their names?

A: Did we address Nun Raylisi in Chapter 3? I get so confused trying to keep track of the names of the various gods of the myriad cultures… Nun Raylisi reminded me of Nu Ralik from the Purelake religion, but there the other half was Vun Makak, and here it’s Tashi. Or maybe Tashi and Nun Raylisi don’t have anything to do with each other. And how many of these are based on Heralds? Shards? Sheer human inventiveness?

I’m so confused… but in this case, it certainly seems that Nale knows exactly who “Tashi” is supposed to represent. My best guess is that it refers to Ishar, but I have no real support for that notion.

L: Dear Sanderson: Please give us a list of names of characters (and aliases) someday…

A: Amen.

Old Skybreaker Man

A: So… dude on (a very casual) watch at the door of Nale’s Local Skybreaker HQ. No idea if he’s important or not. He’s not a very good guard… But then, he couldn’t be expected to watch the windows, I suppose, and it’s not too shocking if he figures he’ll hear anyone at the door while he does his business.

Storming Mother of the World and Father of Storms Above

“I ain’t gonna talk about bollocks and jiggers and stuff. I’m not crass.”

L: Sure you’re not. Suuuuuuuure.

A: ::crickets::

Darkness & Co.

“He’s hunting someone in this city, Wyndle. Someone with powers… someone like me.”

L: If we didn’t know for certain that he was hunting potential surgebinders before, we know now!

“Can I see your papers again?”

“You will find them in order.”

L: I don’t know why this amused me, but it did. Just the matter-of-fact “Yes yes, I know what I’m doing, back to business please”-ness of him.

A: Like most things about Nale/Darkness, it creeps me out. He’s done everything he can to leave his humanity behind him. I’m not a big fan of drama queens, but he goes much too far the other way!!

L: See… I’m a huge fan of anti-heroes, which may be why this called to me a bit. But then later he goes too far, even for me. This isn’t to say that he might not eventually pull a heel-face turn—god knows that Jaime Lannister did for me, even after permanently disabling a child in book 1.

A: That may be part of it; I’ve never much liked the anti-hero approach. I enjoyed the Covenant books, but have no desire to reread them; it was too annoying to have the main character be so determinedly gittish. Can’t comment on ASoIaF—I’ve neither read nor watched.

“Special operative of the prince…” “…an ancient but rarely used designation.”

L: I wonder if it’s THIS prince or a past one that he gained this title from. If he, being immortal, gained said designation hundreds or even thousands of years in the past, it would still apply, and therefore adhere to the letter of the law (which definitely seems to be his modus operandi). How very… Aes Sedai of him, if it’s true. He’s the very definition of lawful neutral.

A: Well, that’s a thought. I just assumed he searched back and found some title that could be used, and arm-twisted the Tashikki prince into granting it to him. It would be much more fun as a title he was granted centuries ago!

He seemed to move too quickly for his own steps, like he was melting from shadow to shadow as he strode.

L: Some form of Power? Or simple familiarity with the terrain?

A: The Skybreakers have the surges of Gravitation and Division. While we know some of what Gravitation can do, we know almost nothing of Division (except that Dustbringers could apparently make stone burn). I read this as being indicative of Surgebinding, but not in any way we’ve seen yet. ::shrug:: I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this shows up again when we see more of the Skybreakers?

“Removing a hand leads to high rate of recidivism, as the thief is left unable to do honest work, and therefore must steal.”

L: Excuse my language, but… GodDAMN, Nale. That’s some dark s***. I mean… probably true, it makes sense logically and all, and I’m certain that he’s lived long enough to have gathered a large sample size proving this conclusion, BUT STILL. Immortals not caring for the lives of mortals is always a story trope that fascinates me because it DOES make a lot of sense, and the addition of his adherence to law just enhances this, but… dude. It was a KID.

A: So cold. Inhumanly so. I mean, the whole “chop off a hand for stealing” is a stupid sort of law, for exactly the reason he states, but that doesn’t make killing the girl a better solution.

L: It’s a very “A Modest Proposal” type solution… only not satire.

A: Yes. Loss of a hand for stealing is not an uncommon punishment historically, IIRC, but at the same time it’s not a very effective one.

L: Well… one could argue that it’s VERY effective as a crime deterrent. Commit a crime—die. That’ll sure make you stop and think before doing it.

A: As a deterrent, if it’s strictly enforced, I suppose, but as a random act it’s just bizarre and frightful. Also inhuman, dude.

L: True. :(

Wyndle: “He has eyes you cannot see.” “He will have a spren, like me.”

L: I find it veeeerrrrrry interesting that Wyndle can’t tell a Herald from a Knight Radiant.

A: I know, right? I’d have expected a spren to be able to tell, somehow. They’re supposed to Know Things.

Everything Else

L: So do we have any idea what the difference is in value between a dun vs. infused sphere? I can’t imagine that it would be TOO much, seeing as how all they’ll have to do is wait until the next highstorm and it’ll be infused again. The “devaluation” is transient, not permanent, so it can’t possibly affect the value more than a small percentage, right?

A: I think this was addressed in TWoK, maybe? The fact that it’s infused proves that it’s valid tender; if it’s dun, you can’t be 100% sure without either taking it to a professional, or waiting for the next highstorm to hang it out for recharging. But you’re correct, the difference in value isn’t all that high.

“What game are the Alethi playing?”

L: Again, this seems like a very mature thought for her. (I’m clinging to this tinfoil theory until the bitter end, Alice.)
A: I’ll laugh myself sick if this turns out to be true, Lyn. I don’t think it is, but it’s a hilarious theory.

L: ::sings:: It’s my tinfoil, and I’ll wear it if I want to, wear it if I want to, wear it if I want to…

A: Bahahahahahaha!

Nice of them to leave it out, up high enough that only she could get to it.

L: Shades of Wayne from Mistborn Era 2, here.

A: So much yes.

“She hadn’t realized that she’d picked a spot surrounded by and overgrown with vines…”

L: I’m willing to bet an emerald broam that they weren’t there when she went to sleep, and she’s been growing them in her sleep somehow. This is interesting, that she can use her powers unconsciously.

A: It’s not 100% provable, but it certainly seems reasonable, given the wording. It’s a very Sanderson thing to do.

“You showed off your powers to that guard captain, knowing that she’d write a report about what she saw. And you knew that would draw Darkness’s attention.”

L: Told you I’d get back to this eventually. Here we have another example of Sanderson’s mastery of hiding the truth from the reader through use of an unreliable narrator. We saw him do the same thing in the original Mistborn novel, where Kelsier was planning things that the reader never suspected, even though we were in his head. I love it when he does stuff like this.

“Infused spheres, captain?” “I traded for them.”

L: From Stump, I wonder? Can Truthwatchers infuse gems? Which order was speculated to do that, again? I can’t see how anyone would have any infused gems at all this far after a highstorm, unless someone invested them…

A: Earlier, Lift mentioned the unexpected highstorm, and that only those who had left spheres out by luck would have them infused. All things considered, though, I don’t think Hauka would have gotten infused spheres from Stump, knowing what we know about the latter’s activities. Then again, since she doesn’t entirely know what those activities are, maybe so.

Regarding children sewing while taking lessons in order to pay for the education:

L: Yet another really cool little worldbuilding touch! Guess there’s no tax-funded public education in this town.

A: In sort of a bizarre way, I kind of like this idea. Then again, I’m the one who always has to have something to do with my hands in order to concentrate. Keeps taxes down, anyway.

“Was that necessary?”

L: He says what we’re all thinking!

Lift resurrecting the girl…


It fails.


A: ::sniff::

“Ah,” Wyndle said. “Yes, separated from the rest of the city by raised lips. Rainwater in the streets will flow outward, rather than toward this cistern, keeping it pure. In fact, it seems that most of the streets have a slope to them, to siphon water outward. Where does it go from there though?”

L: Wyndle making mention of the rainwater being siphoned away from the cistern in the center is going to be important, isn’t it? I feel like Wyndle, with holes in my memory!

A: I needed to quote this just for the sake of discussion, since the question was asked early in the reread. We’re going to get a little more explanation in a future chapter, but at this point we mostly get to make note that the civil engineers did actually think about what happens when a highstorm dumps several inches of rain onto a city cut into the ground. (It’s also worth noting that a highstorm in Tashikk isn’t quite the same thing as a highstorm on the Shattered Plains. By the time the storm has crossed most of the continent, it’s much weaker; there’s far less wind, and presumably somewhat less rain as well.) Given the location of Yeddaw, I sort of assume they had the foresight to carve a drainage channel to the east that slopes all the way to the river.

“But of course, this wasn’t the right kind of listening.”

L: So SHE knows the right kind, but she’s not telling US. Stingy kid! Give us some intel already, Lift!

She’d stolen from a palace, and the starvin’ emperor of Azir. She’d needed something interesting to try next.

L: Easy there, Locke Lamora Jr. Next thing we know she’ll be telling someone she only needs to hold them until Wyndle shows up, or punching old ladies. (And now I want to see this team-up.)

A: Once again, I have no idea what you’re talking about. (Well, only sort of one.) Someday, I’ll have to go read those…

A: Well, there you have it—another episode of the LynAndAlice comedy show. (L: ::jazz hands::) Or whatever. Not so comedic now; Darkness shows up, and things get… well, darker. Join us in the discussion and share your insights. And please, someone, identify that pancake for me.

Lyndsey (gleefully) played a lawful evil character in D&D once or twice, but even she thinks that Darkness took this a bit too far. You can follow her writing or cosplay work on her website or follow her on facebook or twitter.

Alice, on the other hand, has trouble playing Monopoly or Risk because she hates being mean to people and can’t collude worth beans. She is enjoying the discussion of the Oathbringer preview chapters more every week, and hopes you all have seen and had the opportunity to participate in the kickstarter Kaladin project by The Black Piper. (Time is running out on that one, by the way. Just sayin’.)

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Posted by Michael Moreci

There’s a certain type of sci-fi story that we all know: visitors from beyond make contact with humans and teach us something important about who we are and where we’re heading. It’s in 2001, Arrival, and Independence Day—well, maybe not the last one so much, but you get the idea. One of the great things about Gattaca, Andrew Niccol’s 1997 masterpiece, is that it doesn’t need an outside other to deliver a powerful, moving message about humanity; instead of aliens, we get a meditative, deeply introspective examination of the human spirit that’s limited strictly to humans. The result, I’d argue, is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made.

Gattaca’s story is both simple and brilliant: in the future, genetic manipulation allows parents to do what all parents are driven to—give their children the very best they can. In this case, that means genes that’ll make them healthier, smarter, stronger, and allow them to live longer lives. Two children are born to the same parents: Anton (Loren Dean), who underwent genetic modification, and Vincent (Ethan Hawke), Anton’s older brother who was conceived without his genetics being altered. Anton is smart, strong—a nearly perfect human specimen. Vincent, according to genetic testing done right after his birth, is at risk for a number of health issues and likely won’t live past the age of 30. He’s known, in this world, as “in-valid.”

Despite all of his disadvantages—which are only magnified by the near-perfect people who occupy his world—Vincent refuses to allow science to control his destiny. He refuses to believe that there isn’t more to who he is than what can be learned from genetics testing. Vincent has a dream to work at Gattaca Aerospace Corporation and become a navigator on a manned trip to Titan. Vincent’s biology says he can’t make that kind of trip, not to mention hold such an esteemed position; but Vincent’s willpower—his soul, his spirit, whatever you want to call it—says otherwise.

What follows is the story of Vincent’s elaborate attempt to become part of the team traveling to Titan. He forges a partnership with Jerome (Jude Law), a man whose genetics have been altered, like Vincent’s brother, and is therefore qualified to work at Gattaca. A murder mystery unfolds—bringing Vincent’s brother, who is a police investigator, back into his life—and there’s a race against the clock as the noose tightens around Vincent, desperately trying to avoid being discovered for who he really is. He has to elude his brother just long enough to board the rocket to Titan—the goal for which he’s sacrificed everything in his life.

The film’s sci-fi noir backdrop gives it a visually stunning quality; the set, the costumes, the overall design all add a wonderful, artful element to the movie. Gattaca looks and feels terrific. And while the story is somewhat pedestrian, it’s made into so much more by the meditative qualities that vaults Gattaca into the ranks of Asimov, Bradbury, Le Guin, and other sci-fi writers who used the genre to examine—with a clinical deftness—what it means to be human. On the surface, these luminaries seemed to have been staring into space when, in reality, they were peering into the human soul. And that is the thing that Gattaca achieves with unparalleled grace.

Now, I don’t want to veer too deep into a tangent, but it’s worth noting that I believe that there’s something unquantifiable within all of us. Again, call it what you want: a soul, a spirit, a life force, cosmic energy, whatever. But there’s something embedded within each and every one of us that transcends our DNA, our physiology—all of it. And whatever this thing is, it defines us more than anything we can see with our eyes and examine under a microscope. Gattaca is an inspiring affirmation of this quality, and the film’s message of triumph, of willing yourself to prove “I can” when everyone and everything else says “you can’t” will always be a powerful one.

There’s a moment at the end of the film where Anton discovers Vincent. They return to a place they visited as kids, a lake where they used to play chicken—meaning they’d swim out until one of them quit. The one who quit, always, was Vincent.

Now adults, the story is different. Vincent swims out past where Anton is willing to go, and in his exhaustion to try and keep up, Anton nearly drowns. Vincent saves him—like Anton saved Vincent when they were younger. Back on the shore, Vincent reveals how, after all these years, he was finally able to best his brother:

“I never saved anything for the trip back.”

It’s a line of profound beauty and meaning, and it perfectly captures Vincent’s journey of willpower and determination.

Gattaca is a movie rich in many themes, including bioethics and genoism. But like the story itself, what’s most profound, most moving, is Vincent’s journey—the human story that explores our limitless potential in the face of any adversity.

Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is set to be released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.

Groo - Friends and Foes #1 (2015)

Sep. 21st, 2017 10:28 am
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[personal profile] riddler13 posting in [community profile] scans_daily
"Each month of this yearlong series, Groo and his faithful pooch, Rufferto, encounter a different acquaintance--or enemy--with the usual dire consequences! In #1, Groo crosses paths with Captain Ahax, the seaman with the world record for most ships sunk by the all-time stupidest character in comics! Brought to you by the award-winning team of Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier!"

The plot revolves around a little girl, Kayli, who is looking for her father - a member of the Groo cast (fortunately for her, it's not him). She stumbles upon Groo and they travel along while he wreaks havoc unintentionally.

Seaman *snickers* )

oh Hillary

Sep. 21st, 2017 07:25 am
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[personal profile] calimac
In the airport, waiting for my flight out, I wandered into the bookstore to see what there was to read, and saw the newly-released Hillary Clinton memoir, What Happened (this was last Thursday, and the official publication had been that Tuesday).

Excellent. This was my chance to register my vote against those who had been declaring that she should keep silent and disappear. So I bought a copy, and read it on the trip. Now B. has it.

Anyone who says that the author blames everyone but herself hasn't read the book. She takes on a full measure of responsibility and owns up to some specific mistakes, as well as to some decisions that might have been mistakes or not (like not calling out Trump when he stalked her onstage), because who knows how it would have come out if she'd done differently?

But, you know, 'it takes a village' and Comey and the feckless media deserve their share of blame too. (And if defeating Trump should have been a slam dunk, then why couldn't Jeb, Mario, Ted, or any of the rest of that gang do it? Especially after all the pleadings to suspend the rules and do it?) In fact, the only people whom Clinton doesn't blame at all are her staffers.

Which points to the problem with the book, which is that, while Clinton may be willing to own up to having committed faults, I don't think she really understands what they are. Too much of her defense consists of demonstrating that she tried hard, as if that amounted to doing a good job (the "A for effort as a final grade" fallacy). Nor does she seem to be able to think of appropriate sound bites to respond to attacks. She was flustered by the quoting out of context of the "putting coal miners out of work" line, so why didn't she respond by putting it back in context by simply repeating the next line of the original speech, which amounted to therefore we must take care of these people?

Like the policy wonk she is, Clinton spends a lot of the book diving into specifics of proposals, which is fine; but, like Obama too often, she lacks aspiration, stars to steer by, goals that may be unreachable but that at least you aim for. That's what gives people hope, and gives them the energy to work for the lesser, practical goals that are actually achievable. Bernie Sanders understands this, and that's what generated enthusiasm. Electing a woman shatters a barrier but isn't a substitute for this.

There'll be plenty of time to move on to the next thing. But as historians, we need to understand where we've been and how we got there. This is a start.

Introducing Randall Flagg

Sep. 21st, 2017 10:17 am
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[personal profile] cyberghostface posting in [community profile] scans_daily

Today is Stephen King's 70th birthday. To celebrate I figured I would post a few pages from Marvel's adaptation of The Stand showcasing Randall Flagg, who I think is one of King's greatest villains.

I'm a man of wealth and taste. )

Picturing The Hobbit

Sep. 21st, 2017 02:00 pm
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Posted by Irene Gallo

The Hobbit has been inspiring artists and readers for generations, ever since its publication 80 years ago today. Artwise, I’ve always had a soft spot for The Hobbit; I love that it lends itself equally well to delightful and weighty interpretations. Below, let’s take a look at how just a few of the unofficial band of “Tolkien artists” have approached Bilbo’s story.

Above, Over Hill and Under Hill by Chris Rahn.

(Click any image to enlarge.)


Alan Lee’s goblin king: this whole post could be full of Lee’s work. He’s truly one of the best of our contemporary painters. You’ll see that I restricted myself to just three throughout the post…


Queer Lodgings, part of Sam Bosma’s great series of Hobbit paintings: “I like the eagles a lot. They only do good in the stories but Tolkien is very careful to not make them cute. They are still giant raptors that steal livestock and might hunger for a hobbit-sized snack at any time.”


Gollum, from Swedish author and illustrator Inger Edelfeldt.


Tim Kirk captures The Riddle Game


Greg and Tim Hildebrandt made their careers painting Tolkien’s world: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”


Darrell K. Sweet’s eagle’s nest. Donato Giancola (who now owns this painting) often credits Darrell with helping to ignite a life-long love of Tolkien’s work in him.


Barrels Out of Bond: Ted Nasmith’s Barrel Rider.


Donato Giancola’s “expulsion from paradise” take on The Hobbit.


J. R. R. Tolkien’s own drawing of The Hobbit landscape.


Roger Garland, with a relaxed Gandalf.


Eleanor Grosch’s Bilbo enjoying simple pleasures.


Justin Gerard, who said about painting The Hobbit, “I like drawing monsters that are just a little bit human, and who have personalities that you might recognize in people you’ve encountered in your own adventures, and The Hobbit has the very best of these.”


J. R. R. Tolkien


Peter Konig: concept art for Smaug, back when Guillermo del Toro was working on the movie.


The whole story told in the round, by Ian Escobar Loos:


Riddles in the Dark: David Wyatt did a series of great ink drawings for the book’s chapter heads.


David T. Wenzel: “Chip the glasses and crack the plates! / Blunt the knives and bend the forks! / That’s what Bilbo Baggins hates.”


Cory Godbey’s simple yet heroic Bilbo.


Iain McCaig, the man who invented Darth Maul, with a fierce Gandalf.


Super-cute Bilbo and Gandalf by António Quadros.


Greg and Tim Hildebrandt and An Unexpected Party.


Eric Fraser: “Farewell!” they cried. “wherever you fare, till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!”


Michael Hague: Rescued From Wolves.


Sam Bosma: “The Dwarves of yore made mighty spells / while hammers fell like ringing bells / in places deep, where dark things sleep / in hollow halls beneath the fells.”


From German illustrator Klaus Ensikat:


The Rankin/Bass animated Hobbit….one of my most favorite movies as a kid. (And read-along record album.)


A battle scene by Matthew Stewart:


Mikhail Belomlinsky’s scratchboard Hobbitses.


John Howe—famous, of course, for being the lead artist on the Peter Jackson movies—has a long and wonderful history of painting Middle-earth.


Jonny Hodgson’s painting based largely on Tolkien’s Smaug graphic (seen below.)


The legendary Frank Frazetta: “Feeling tricksy, my precious?”


And a pen-and-ink, also from Frank Frazetta.


Randy Berrett, now working his magic at Pixar.


Acclaimed Dutch artist Cor Blok:


A drunken Galion from I. Hmielnickij.


Maurice Sendak was briefly assigned The Hobbit. Sadly, I don’t think the project got any further than this one image.


Finland’s national treasure, Tove Jansson (of Moomin fame) did a wonderful series of Hobbit drawings. You can see them all here.


John Howe, Gandalf in Hobbiton


The Battle of Five Armies by Justin Gerard:


Ted Nasmith, particularly good at capturing the landscape of Middle-earth.


One more from the Rankin/Bass movie, because I love it so.


Klaus Ensikat, for the second German edition of The Hobbit:


Another from Michael Hague:


As I mentioned, this whole post could be full of Alan Lee; here are two more because I couldn’t resist:


David Wyatt’s crafty Smaug:


And it seemed fitting to end on J. R. R. Tolkien’s own cover for The Hobbit, There and Back Again:

This post has been updated since its initial publication in December 2012.

Irene Gallo is the Art Director of Tor Books.

rfmcdonald: (photo)
[personal profile] rfmcdonald
The Cavendish Cemetery, on the southwest corner of the intersection of routes 6 and 13, is famous around the world as the place where Lucy Maud Montgomery rests in eternal peace. Alongside her are buried many of her relatives, including her mother and her maternal grandparents, MacNeills all. A sign at the entrance asks visits not to leave artificial flowers.

Approaching Cavendish Cemetery #pei #princeedwardisland #cavendish #cavendishcemetery #latergram

Graves of MacNeills #pei #princeedwardisland #cavendish #cavendishcemetery #lmmontgomery #macneill #grave #latergram

Entrance #pei #princeedwardisland #cavendish #cavendishcemetery #lmmontgomery #latergram
rfmcdonald: (photo)
[personal profile] rfmcdonald
The newly-opened Trillium Park and William G. David Trail, part of the ongoing redevelopment of Ontario Place, is superb. Though the landscaping is still raw, just three months after the parks opening, the bones are good ones. Walking along the trail on a beautiful warm evening, seeing the park full of people enjoying the grass or the concert or the views of the lake and the Toronto Islands, I knew this park is a success.

Entering Trillium Park

Looking east

Path ahead

Two routes

Trail tree

Gathered for the concert (1)

Gathered for the concert (2)

Looking at Hanlan's Point

Looking at Billy Bishop


Hough's Glade

Evening in the park

Walking by boats on the lake

Sun Bear

Sep. 21st, 2017 02:01 pm
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[personal profile] guppiecat

Sun Bear_3

That feeling when you finally build up the energy to go climbing only to run out of tree.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.

A Series of Unfortunate Monograms

Sep. 21st, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

Who thought this was a good idea?


Or this?

(Never in my life have I so fervently hoped that a cake was chocolate.)


Or, Aunt Flo help us, this?

"So, when's the party?"

"At the end of the month."


Amy M., Jenna B., & Kim W., URQTs. At least, I like to think that you are. Not in a creepy way, of course, or like I know firsthand because I secretly stalk you or anything...that would just be weird. I mean, look, I'm just trying to give you a friendly compliment, in a completely platonic, non-stalker-esque kind of way, Ok? Ok. As you were.


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

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Posted by Tor.com

Last week, The Verge revealed the cover for Martha Wells’ Artificial Condition, the second book in the Murderbot Diaries series. Murderbot, a human-like android, has bucked its restrictive programming and would rather be left alone, away from humanity and small talk. Unfortunately for Murderbot, it keeps getting sucked back into adventure after adventure—and we couldn’t wait to reveal book three, Rogue Protocol. Check out the full cover by artist Jaime Jones below!

Rogue Protocol is scheduled for August 2018 from Tor.com Publishing. From the catalog copy:

SciFi’s favorite crabby A.I. is again on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah’s SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

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[personal profile] theferrett

In case you forgot, I’ll be at Borderlands Books (my favorite place in SF) at 3:00 pm this Saturday to read to you from my new book The Uploaded, sign whatever you put in front of me, and to, as usual, go out for hamburgers afterwards.

(And if you’re extra-special-good, I may do a super-secret advance MEGA-preview reading of The Book That Does Not Yet Have A Name. Not that, you know, you shouldn’t be rushing out to your stores to buy The Uploaded right now.)

I will, of course, bring donuts after my massive DONUT FAIL in Massachusetts, which I still wake up in cold sweats about. I will bring you donuts or die.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.


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