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insufferable know-it-all
14 February 2018 @ 09:00 pm
Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, transl. Jonathan Wright

The transposition of the Frankenstein myth to Baghdad ca. 2005-2006 achieved some really interesting results. Gone were the anxieties about advances in science and medicine and the theme about the hubris of creation. In their place were meditations on how what initially seems like a pure pursuit of justice gradually degrades into revenge, corruption, confusion, with no end in sight; treatment of bodies, body parts and people's memories after bombings; the gray area between reality and the supernatural when loved ones return from the dead after long imprisonments or disappearances; and what it means to be an amalgam of people in mind and body when the various cultural/religious/ethnic groups that comprise Iraq are so policed and delineated.

That said, the Frankenstein plot was only a portion of the overall story, which followed the lives of several quite different characters, from a naïve young journalist to battling hoteliers to a failing elderly woman longing for her son to return from a war that ended decades earlier -- and, yes, the junk dealer who built the patchwork creature from accident victims before losing track of him. So many struggles. So many perspectives on what has changed and been lost in Baghdad and in the broader nation. Unsurprisingly, America does not come off well.

My main wish was for there to be more women in the story besides old Elishva, who, while complex and sympathetic, faded to the background for most of the second half of the book, and a mysterious, possibly duplicitous lady the journalist decides he is in love with.

Need to read more Arabic literature in translation.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

I've been struggling to post about this excellent short story collection because it's hard to find the words to describe it. Karen Russell blurbed it, and the back flap mentioned Kelly Link; both comparisons are on target. It's about women and their bodies and bisexuality and unapologetic carnal appetites and the cornucopia of violent physical and emotional acts men (and other women, and families, and society) perpetrate upon them. It's horror and fantasy and urban legend and humor and more reality than we'd like to admit.

There's a story about an apocalyptic plague that is also about falling in love with a series of people and striving for human connection and making lists as a life coping mechanism. There's a story about [TRIGGER WARNING] diet culture and body image and weight loss surgery in which self-hatred becomes externalized in a post-surgical shadow self, and one about [TRIGGER WARNING] rape recovery that spends zero time on the assault itself and instead focuses on the crumbling of the main character's relationship with her boyfriend and how she starts to hear the inner monologues of actors in porn videos. There's a novella in the middle that is a fanfic of Law & Order: SVU told in 200+ fake episode summaries that sound like the show except it gets progressively creepier and more surreal as ghosts of murdered and abused girls harrass Benson to fetch their bodies, Stabler hears a heartbeat emanating from the earth and grows ever more distanced from his family, and both characters discover sinister doppelgängers succeeding at their jobs and lives where "real" Benson and Stabler are losing their grips.

Highly recommended, albeit with a basketful of content warnings.

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/367823.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
13 February 2018 @ 09:48 pm
I churned through the short story collection The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories in the past few days because it was due back at the library. A decent read with lots of Middle Eastern, Asian and cross-cultural perspectives. Hardly any romance despite the title, which was fine. The first story, Kamila Shamsie's "The Congregation," came perhaps closest with its human protagonist longing for his lost djinn brother. A few authors had fun riffing on the mythology in sci fi and future-dystopian settings (E.J. Swift, Saad Z. Hossain, Jamal Mahjoub). I also particularly liked Kirsty Logan's "The Spite House," in which a djinn struggles with the simultaneous power and entrapment of finding they can grant wishes, and Sami Shah's "Reap," in which U.S. military staffers remote-monitoring a neighborhood with a Taliban operative witness a possession they can't explain. IMO the reprinting of Neil Gaiman's American Gods chapter on Salim and the ifrit was unnecessary, especially since another white author who'd notably written about djinn, Helene Wecker, came up with a new story for this volume.

Having djinn on the brain motivated me last night to open that languishing Jinni/Dustfinger crossover fic I swore to finish this year. It's not even long; I just lost the initial momentum in, er, 2016. Added a few lines, bridged a gap that had been bothering me, wrote a sentence that restored a little bit of my confidence that I can still do this fiction-writing thing.

I also finished a poorly acted movie called Dot the I that featured an infuriating plot about three men manipulating a woman plus an "edgy" message about the ethics and trickeries of moviemaking. However, as it also starred baby James D'Arcy, baby Gael Garcia Bernal and baby Tom Hardy, I couldn't look away. It has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which seems fair. One critic praised an "unpredictable twist" toward the end of the film that you could only not see coming if you believe the main character would go out of her way to resume a relationship with a man after finding out [spoiler] he followed and filmed her for months without her knowledge despite her history of being stalked, swapped a marriage certificate for a release form and faked his own death to obtain an ~authentic performance~ from her. Bleh.

Anyway. The fic and the movie are clearly to blame -- or rather, to be credited -- for a nice dream I had this morning about kissing Tom Hardy for a long time on a couch. It carried me through a busy workday and another spate of depressing national news. Now, speed skating and snowboarding on TV.

How are/were your Tuesdays?

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/367450.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
FOR THE RECORD, four of the five sources I offered for Festivids this year were NOT about vampires or outer space.

I loved What We Do in the Shadows when it came out in the U.S. and have seen it a few too many times since then. That said, I've talked with friends about how it would be tough to vid the movie well because of its specific, oddball humor. So of course that is what the Festivids algorithm fate matched us on.

I couldn't decide which of two song candidates to use--the more unconventional choice of "Hey Ya!", which had been on the to-vid list for years and would provide opportunities to include Katherine and Jackie, or an "I'm Too Sexy" mashup I found on YouTube, which would allow a dual focus on how these guys are terrible at being sexy and terrible at being vampires--so I started working on both, and figured I'd submit whichever one got done first. Except when "Too Sexy for My Fangs" wrapped up, I still wanted to work on "Hey Ya" because it was fun. The pace of the song and the need to fit the (pared-down) lyrics to the story made me work harder, and as a result I think the editing turned out better. Still nothing fancy, but a little peppier.

Both vids seem to have gone over well. So that is nice.


Hey YaCollapse )

Too Sexy for My FangsCollapse )

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/367296.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
28 January 2018 @ 09:13 pm
"Mystery Festividder" gwenfrankenstein made me a vid for Gods & Monsters, an Ian McKellen/Brendan Fraser movie set in the 1950s that is about being gay in England and Hollywood, and making the first two Frankenstein films, and art, and aging, and lost love, and never really recovering from war. The vid focuses especially on the last few themes, a tough and brave choice. I am glad to have helped encourage this vid into the world—and glad the vidder agreed to give it a less bleak ending than the original.

War Baby

* * *

As well, my personal faves from the collection:


The Scientist by violace for cherryice (Arrival) ♥


Relativism by cherryice for such_heights (Arrival) ♥

Human Elements by AurumCalendula for colls (Star Trek: Discovery)

Kings and Queens and Vagabonds by walkthegale for jagwriter78 (The Last Unicorn)


Hang Out With You by absternr for thingswithwings (Take My Wife)

Speak Your Heart by Josette_Arnauld for such_heights (Moonlight)


Weapon by eruthros for absternr (Janelle Monae works)


Cali God by anoel for NicoleAnell (American Gods) ♥

Ain't Born Typical by runawaynun for anoel (Atomic Blonde)

Work by bingeling for thirdblindmouse (Wanted)

CHARACTER STUDIES & ENSEMBLES that I enjoyed but also really loved the songs so can't tell how much of the enjoyment was due to that

Level Up by scribe for condnsdmlk (Killjoys)

Beautiful Hopeful by AurumCalendula for such_heights (Star Trek: Discovery)


they're good dogs Brent by bessyboo and platinumvampyr for cherryice (@dog_rates | WeRateDogs)


The Mystery Cat by seekingferret for elipie (American Vandal) - T.S. Eliot!

Pirate Jenny's Dream by cara marie/geniusshrike for himundergreen (Westworld)

Also of note! The vids for:
- America (comic) by absternr
- Underground (TV) x2 by thingswithwings
- Kiki (documentary) by metatxt
- Wondaland (music videos/record label) by eruthros - appreciation deepened after reading comments about art & community
- INSIDE (video game / WTF body globs) by mithborien

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/367012.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
21 January 2018 @ 08:36 pm
My Own Private Idaho

First of all, I'd been mixing this up with Stand By Me, another River Phoenix movie I've never seen. Second, I couldn't remember why I'd bumped this up in my Netflix DVD queue until halfway through, when Udo Kier danced with a table lamp while lip-synching. (I'd seen the scene on YouTube.)

THIRD, I had no idea this story about street hustlers in Seattle and Portland was also a loose, modern adaptation of Henry IV??? From soliloquies to Falstaff-brand beer...Collapse )

What a wacky mashup. It shouldn't have worked, this three- or four-time code switching—unsurprising to read that van Sant smushed together two projects—and yet the whole movie was so strange, it did. For me, anyway. It also reminded me a little of Lars von Trier, or a less nihilistic Lars von Trier, if that's possible, in, for example, its ironic use of American folk music and its one-two concluding slaps of "people will hurt you" and "people might help you, but does it matter when your heart's been broken?"

Life (2017)

I'd been interested in this movie since hearing a NASA staffer speak at a conference about real-life development of quarantine protocols for when scientists want to study an extraterrestrial sample without contaminating Earth or contaminating the object with Earth—for instance, if there's a possibility the sample contains life. One strategy would be to bring it aboard the International Space Station and examine it there, and this became the premise of Life. The speaker had either consulted on this (then-forthcoming) movie or knew the person who'd done so. So it was fun to get my hands on the DVD and see what the Hollywood machine did with—or to—the science.

Plot summary: Semi-diverse ISS crew takes aboard a Martian sample containing what looks like a single-celled organism; life is confirmed; the thing grows and evolves and instigates a series of cascading quarantine failures; and then we've got a space monster movie as the characters die one by one while making bad choices, including, of course, all the non-white and non-British/American ones, most notably Ariyon Bakare after an injury that was hard to watch. Similar structure to Sunshine, but not as good. Eventually, Earth's fate lies in the hands of Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, who have overlooked a whopping big problem with their last-ditch effort to preserve the quarantine. Ryan Reynolds was also there. Verdict: three stars out of five, including one for effort.


A.k.a. the one everyone was irritated about because misogyny.

IIRC, this movie was marketed as a science fiction romance where two characters accidentally wake up a lifetime too early on a generation ship headed to a colony planet—except moviegoers were in an uproar because Spoilers ahoy. Mention of suicide/self-sacrificeCollapse )

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/366759.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
21 January 2018 @ 05:44 pm
Carry On: Eh. It was fine. For all that it read like a watered-down version of Harry Potter and Harry/Draco, it had more modifications and original ideas than expected. That helped alleviate my low-to-moderate level of annoyance that someone made money off a novel only a hop away from HP fanfic. The solution to the Humdrum mystery was satisfying, although the other villain turned cardboardy. I wish there'd been more scenes in which to enjoy how Simon and Baz's magic worked better together than separately. I liked Fangirl significantly more than this semi-sequel—in fact, if I'd read Carry On first I don't think I would have tried Fangirl, which would have been a shame—but it was a quick and more or less pleasant read.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vols. 1-6: This series is such a delight. Rather than fisticuffs—although sometimes she tries that first and fails—, our heroine Doreen defeats villains by asking them what they want and helping them get it in a way that doesn't hurt others. She's skilled and confident, and she's not drawn as conventionally pretty, which is refreshing. The writing is funny and savvy and on trend, with one 2016 storyline centering on Not All Men and Nice Guy-ism. My current favorite supporting character is Brain Drain, a brain and eyeballs in a robot body who speaks in unpunctuated all caps as he pronounces the futility of human endeavors, or, in one memorable instance, tries to make friends with some "cool dudes." (Pic of the page.) Come to think of it, maybe the syntax/humor combination reminds me of Terry Pratchett's Death.

Black Panther book one: A Nation Under Our Feet (#1-12): The Ta-Nehisi Coates installment. I started it Friday and am struggling so far with the steep learning curve, not being well-versed in the Marvel/Avengers comics universe. It's dense and troubled and wrestling with real-life race politics and social unrest. The introduction by Seth Meyers, of all people, helped by previewing the theme of solutions not being simple and actions having consequences even for someone who is trying to do right by his people.

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/366274.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
19 January 2018 @ 11:17 am
People on our cross-town commuter bus generally keep to themselves, except the occasional passenger who comes on with a friend. Quiet, tired, just trying to get to or from work or medical appointments.

This week, though, I was struck by two small moments of people connecting.

There’s a young man who sleeps hunched in the front seat with his head on his backpack. He somehow wakes up at or just before his stop. A couple of days ago, he didn’t stir. A man who tends to sit in the perpendicular seat—I call him Mr. Bold Color Choices because of his socks and pocket squares—leaned forward, shook the kid’s arm, and said, “It’s your stop.” Kid said thanks and skedaddled.

Yesterday, we received yet another new and/or substitute driver who had not been given route directions from the dispatcher. A guy in front was using a phone app to guide him. The guy was only going a few stops, though, so when he was ready to get off, he turned around and asked if anyone could take over. A woman stepped up and helped the driver for another several stops. Then her stop came, and she asked if anyone was going to the end of the line. A man in the back I’d never seen before raised his hand and took the reins. It took an hour, but we made it from my neighborhood to my destination and presumably the two final stops. The amiable tag-teaming tempered an otherwise annoying situation.

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/366036.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
10 January 2018 @ 09:56 pm

I finally tried Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and I loved it. First, it fit the need for a novel and an easy read during this week of post-snow hell commutes. Second, it was more relatable and moving than anticipated. Plowed through the whole thing in two days.

Should I read Carry On next? I didn't have feelings about Simon and Baz like I had about Cath, but then, before starting Fangirl I didn't think I would have feelings about Cath, either.

Plenty of--maybe too many--other contenders for To Read Next, although none of them seem quite right at the moment. I combed my bookshelves this weekend and compiled a list of things I own and haven't read. It shouldn't have been long, not after I did a major cull a couple of years back when I decided to switch from "collector" to "curator" mode, leaving only books I (a) have read and liked or (b) truly want to / intend to read. Yet the list somehow topped 85? It's weird, it doesn't look like there are that many unread books on the shelves. And only 20 of them are SF/F.


Kubo and the Two Strings: engrossing story, good score, beauuuuuutiful animation, but super bizarre to discover that it was indeed an American production and not dubbed in English over the original Japanese, because how else on Earth can you justify the casting? White American, English and South African actors as the five main Japanese characters? Why am I hearing Ralph Fiennes while looking at this face? I mean, Charlize Theron stole the movie as the monkey, but those were some seriously questionable choices. Did enjoy the George Takei cameo.

Star Trek: Discovery: I still have no idea what this show is; it seems to change every two or three episodes. Since the pilot, which I loved, it has been alternately entertaining, infuriating and tedious. I don't identify with, adore or find myself fascinated by any of the characters so far, which is probably the main reason I keep taking breaks in the middle of episodes. I did enjoy the latest one and the time loop one, because time loops, and I gasped aloud during a certain moment this week, so some stuff is clearly working. Just not sure I'd still be watching if it weren't Star Trek. It's nice to see so many friends passionate about it on Twitter, though. I would read their Burnham/Lorca d/s fic.


Puttering away at the Festivid(s) and auction vid. In more important news, someone asked me to beta one of their Festivids, and it is AMAZING. [Extensive flailing redacted.] If it's not in my top five recs for this round, then we will have experienced a true bounty of excellent vids.


Battling the messy streets and sidewalks. We've barely had a thaw after clawing our way out of the city's third-longest recorded stretch of days below freezing. It's taking around 90 minutes to get to and from work, which is, by the way, four miles from my house, which saps energy and mood. Something weird was going on as well earlier this week where I kept falling asleep an hour or more early at night, having odd dreams and still waking up tired.

But: a couple of those dreams were good, such as the one where I was about to have sex with Jeff Goldblum. (TMI? Something about how, while we were both lounging in bed, he announced he had overcome his ennui and impotence for the first time in a while, I magically produced a condom, and then circumstances kept intervening.) And it was announced today that some things I wrote at work last year won awards in a national competition. That felt good for a while, until it started to also feel sad that I rely on that kind of external validation to gauge the quality of my work. But there it is.

How are you all faring?

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/365424.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
06 January 2018 @ 06:36 pm
(That is a Muppets reference)

We have a [personal profile] toft in town! [personal profile] marginaliana and I enjoyed a leisurely brunch with her and her +1, J., before Thursday's snowstorm turned the region into barely navigable marshmallowland. We had only met once before, briefly, at Vividcon in 2010; it was a joy to expand on that.

While I was in San Francisco for a business trip, [personal profile] rhoboat came over to hang out for the day. We hadn't properly met until Vividcon two months earlier, and I am glad we finally did, because rho is whip-smart and funny and engaging, employed in a field adjacent to mine, and generally an enjoyable person to spend time with in museums and foodie neighborhoods.

We visited the de Young museumCollapse )

Afterwards, [personal profile] laurashapiro was able to join for a delicious sashimi dinner and "yup, we're in San Francisco"-style ice cream. (I went for carrot halwa flavor.) Too brief a catch-up, but precious for its scarcity.

[twitter.com profile] iggyw came to stay for a night during her own business trip! We secured takeout and chatted while Star Trek reruns played in the background. I continue to adore iggy and am glad when work or play takes one of us to the other's city.

When I lived in D.C., I used to visit [personal profile] deelaundry & family almost every Saturday, so it was nice to fall into old, comfortable patterns when I visited for ~5 days over winter break. Poor Dee caught a cold and I am a bad friend when people are sick because my instinctual reaction is GET AWAY FROM THE GERMS AAAAH but it appears we are still on good terms, heh, whew. Anyway, we started to put their house back together after a renovation, ate a lot of tasty food as Mr. [personal profile] deelaundry rejoiced in having a kitchen again, saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and some Netflix movies, and played around with holiday gifts such as Paint by Sticker books.

Dee was scheduled to work the last two days so I hitched a ride into the city to see [personal profile] cinco and her +1, R. Because they got married after I'd moved away, I mostly know R. through what cinco posts about her. As above, it was great to spend a few hours getting to know her a little more, from culinary expertise to diatribes about education policy. And I always love the chance to have substantive conversations with cinco. We browsed a new-to-us wing of Kramerbooks before embarking on a Thai and chai tour of 17th Street. My only regret is I have but one life to-- missing [personal profile] alpheratz and the rest of the D.C. crew. Next time.

Okay, whatever, sometimes I think people are scary, and [personal profile] hollywoodgrrl and [personal profile] ohvienna are so cool that I had put them in the "too cool to hang out with" category at Vividcons past, but this time, this time I promised myself I would unload all of that onto them in a hopefully amusing way and then see if they wanted to have lunch. Which they did! The three of us and [personal profile] corbae went for ramen between panels/vidshows and talked about I don't even remember what, but it was fun. While they are still effortlessly cool, I am pleased to report they are not scary.

In conclusion: fan friends in other cities \o/

Also: fan friends in this city \o/

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/365287.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
insufferable know-it-all
02 January 2018 @ 09:36 pm
What... if... I wrote a few lines about a bunch of movies all at once?

Naked: A Marlon Wayans comedy that lured me in with this summary:
Rob's madly in love and about to be married. Unfortunately, he's also naked, stuck in an elevator and caught in a time loop.
It's not sci fi so much as one of those Groundhog Day magical realism narratives where the protag learns to get his life in shape. It didn't go anywhere unexpected, and I had a few quibbles stemming from Wayans having both written and starred in the movie and from his character parroting back what people said to him in previous loops rather than showing he truly internalized the sentiments, but I had a fun time anyway.

Gerald's Game: How did I not know Netflix produced an S&M-themed Bruce Greenwood movie? A trailer popped up while I was visiting deelaundry last week, and I had downloaded the file by the time I got on the plane a few hours later. Conclusion: meh. More horror than was advertised. Worth it for Bruce Greenwood in undershorts dangling metal handcuffs while his character attempted noncon roleplay with his wife (played by Carla Gugino), but that only lasted a couple of minutes. Detracting from the viewing enjoyment was the fact that Gerald was a jerk and his wife was not into it, because apparently they had never discussed the details of their first-time experimentation, nor set up any safeguards, before beginning. Then the movie shifted into Stephen King Bingo, as it was based on a novel of his. (Uncanny dog! Psychological horror! Monster in the night! Trapped on a bed in a remote area! History of familial abuse! Desperate self-injury! etc.) With an odd plot twist involving Carel Struycken, a.k.a. Lurch, a.k.a. Lwaxana Troi's attendant Mr. Homm.

Pitch Black: Holds up well on rewatch. I love its well-delineated structure and its leanness. It also benefits from having been made before Vin Diesel got famous and became an exaggeration of himself. My headcanon to prevent the whole scenario from having been a coincidence is that the gravitational shifts of the solar system lining up for its periodic triple eclipse are what knocked the Hunter-Gratzner off course as well as the ship that came before it.

...we interrupt this program to bring you a three-hour endeavor to thaw our frozen hot-water shower pipe. Now fixed! More summaries to come.

Originally posted at https://bironic.dreamwidth.org/364992.html, where there are comment count unavailable comments.