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Posted by Victor Mair

The mighty Liao Dynasty (907-1125) of the Khitans ruled over a vast empire in Northeast Asia and Inner Asia that included Mongolia, Manchuria, parts of the Russian Far East, northern Korea, and northern China.

They spoke a language that is held to be Proto-Mongolic and had two writing systems, known as the large script and the small script. The two writing systems were separate, but seem to have been used simultaneously and continued in use for a while after the fall of the Liao.

The Liao Dynasty was destroyed by the Tungusic Jurchens (ancestors of the Manchus) of the Jin dynasty (1115-1234) in 1125.  The remnants of the Khitan established the Qara Khitai (Western Liao dynasty, 1124-1218), which ruled over parts of Central Asia before being defeated by the Mongols.

I have spent so much time introducing the Khitans (called Qìdān 契丹 in Chinese), since their name is the source of the Russian word for China, Китай (Kitay), and the English word Cathay.  Considering their legacy, one can well imagine how powerful they must have been when they were at their apogee.

In the Xīn wǔdài shǐ 新五代史 (New History of the Five Dynasties) (Beijing:  Zhōnghuá shūjú 中華書局, 1974), 72.890, we find this interesting statement attributed to Abaoji, the founder of the dynasty:

Wú néng Hànyǔ, rán juékǒu bù dào yú bùrén, jù qí xiào Hàn ér qièruò yě.

「吾 能漢語,然 絕口不道於部人,懼其效漢而怯弱也。」

“I can [use] Han language, yet I refuse to speak it with the tribesmen, fearing that they would emulate the Han and become timid and weak.”

The north(west)ern rulers who dominated the Chinese for long periods of history* often issued warnings to their people to shun the language and ways of their subjects, who, though vastly more numerous than themselves, they viewed as effete and cowardly.

Perhaps the Liao Khitan ultimately fell because they failed to pay sufficient heed to the ancestral precepts of Abaoji to maintain their separate identity, including language.  This is the so-called process of Sinicization, which is a hotly contested topic in Chinese historiography.


*See Victor H. Mair, "The North(west)ern Peoples and the Recurrent Origins of the 'Chinese' State", in Joshua A. Fogel, The Teleology of the Modern Nation-State:  Japan and China (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 200), pp. 46-84.

[Thanks to Zach Hershey]

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During a speech Sunday at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Hillary Clinton announced a few details of her proposal for restoring the decaying U.S. infrastructure. Clinton told a crowd packed with members of the Laborers International Union and Carpenters Union that, as president, she would boost federal infrastructure investment by $250 billion over the next five years to "bankroll upgrades to roads, bridges, airports and public transit." She said she would also put $25 billion into an national infrastructure bank:  

"To build a strong economy for our future, we must start by building strong infrastructure today," Clinton said flanked by paintings of Daniel Webster, Samuel Adams and George Washington. "I want our cities to be in the forefront of cities anywhere in the world. I want our workers to be the most competitive and productive in the world. I want us, once again, to think big and look up, beyond the horizon of what is possible in America."

The former secretary of state teased that the plan would also call for universal broadband by 2020, more focus on creating a clean energy grid and bringing back Build America bonds, municipal bonds that were used during to fund infrastructure projects during the Great Recession in 2009.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s only real competition in the race for the Democratic nomination for president, proposed in January a trillion-dollar infrastructure investment plan—the Rebuild America Act of 2015—over five years, which includes money for an infrastructure bank. He has said he would pay for this by closing business tax loopholes. Clinton said she will cover her plan with business tax reform, which would also mean closing loopholes. 

The infrastructure bank concept dates back to the 1980s and the campaigns of Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis. Bill Clinton proposed the idea in 1992. It was raised again by Democratic Sen. Christopher Dodd and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel in 2007. In 2008 and again in 2010, President Obama backed their $60 billion bank proposal. But congressional Republicans blocked the legislation. The idea behind the bank is to leverage private investment in infrastructure. The Clinton campaign estimates private investments from the candidate’s proposal at $225 billion. Sanders’ infrastructure program would also seed the infrastructure bank with $25 billion, but his campaign estimated the privately leveraged investment from the bank’s efforts would tally $250 billion. 

The need for infrastructure investment is certainly there. Indeed, a much larger plan would not be out of line given the very great needs. For instance, 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband. 

The problem—as Sanders, Clinton and everyone else who supports a greater investment in infrastructure are all too well aware of—is that Congress is controlled by people who would rather see the rot continue than even hint at the possibility of adjusting the tax code to pay for the needed improvements. As expected, a number of right-wing organizations immediately criticized Clinton’s proposal as a boondoggle.


Nov. 30th, 2015 01:26 pm
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Posted by SaySayTheWeirdo


While watching him draw, and sulking in her own darkness, Natasha wonders how Steve does it. How he gets out of that dark place that they all disappear in after a bad mission. His answer surprises her, and helps her open up to him, and find her own clarity.

Words: 2560, Chapters: 1/1, Language: English

Pull List: Pretty Deadly

Nov. 30th, 2015 05:00 pm
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Posted by Alex Brown


At this point, if Kelly Sue DeConnick is involved, I’m guaranteed to be there front and center. She could reboot the phonebook and I’d have it in my pull list the second it was announced. It’s more than just being a fan of her work. Yes, she’s a feminist icon and a comic book powerhouse, but more than that she uses an old medium to tell new stories, well, maybe not new per se but overlooked and ignored. Her take on Carol Danvers reinvigorated a wasted character into a truly amazing run on Captain Marvel. By blending the lost art of Blaxploitation and age-old fears of a patriarchy run wild she created Bitch Planet, a high watermark graphic novels will spend decades trying to match. And with the hook of a genderbent Spaghetti Western, Pretty Deadly came roaring onto shelves.


Origin Story


Pretty Deadly is the story of battling women, the men who fuel their fury, and the not-so-innocents caught in between. As narrated by Bones Bunny and Butterfly, we learn the myth of the Mason who trapped his beautiful bride in a tower to keep her away from the lustful eyes of other men only to lose her to Death. While Beauty trades one prison for another, her daughter becomes a Reaper of Vengeance. Deathface Ginny rejects the will of both her fathers so fellow reaper, Big Alice, is sent to bring her back to the Underworld. Above ground, a blind old man named Fox protects an orphan in a vulture cloak named Sissy from all manner of evil. Johnny Coyote, his talking raven, and a Black frontierswoman named Sarah are yanked into Sissy and Ginny’s intertwining fates.

The first arc—entitled “The Shrike,” presumably after the bird who earned its Latin name Lanius, meaning “butcher,” after the way it impales its prey on thorns before consuming it—deals with what happens when Death shirks his duties for love and the underlings are left to pick up the shattered pieces. As of this review we’re just one issue into the second arc, but it looks like the new storyline will explore the fallout from the choices made by Sissy and Deathface Ginny in both both the magical realm and the real, war-torn world.

Pretty Deadly is written by the incomparable Kelly Sue DeConnick, and the artist is the immensely talented Emma Ríos. The colorist is Jordie Bellaire, letterer Clayton Cowles, and editor Sigrid Ellis. The series has been running since October 2013 but with a 3 month pause and 17 month hiatus. Issue #6 just released, with #7 scheduled for late December. Like Bitch Planet, these issues tend to sell out quickly, so if you have a pull list at your local shop, add this to your subscriptions ASAP.


To Pull or Not To Pull


A series like Pretty Deadly could only exist under Image Comics. Never in a million years would the Big Two put out anything even close to like it. The story unfolds gradually until you find yourself drowning in it. Its opaque references and sudden introductions can be overwhelming, but it’s worth sticking with it. The cast grows but it feels less like overpopulating the world and more like adding threads to a cobweb—the bigger the cast of characters the more intimately they’re bound together and to the plot.

It reads best when read through several times. Dialogue isn’t sparse but context is often oblique. In other words, be prepared to work for your supper with this one. Nothing is given but the answers are there if you’re willing to let them find you. The plot is a bit top-heavy, sometimes confusingly so, and the art can veer from dreamy to frantic in a single panel. Patience is necessary but rewarded. DeConnick and Ríos are playing a long game full of whispered secrets and unfurling mysteries and are in no hurry to get to the big reveal.

On the face of it, Pretty Deadly is a story about death. But look a little deeper and you’ll find the bigger theme is really life itself in all its infinite permutations. Life is full of blood and chaos, of love and lust, of births, deaths, illnesses, and torments. To live is to die and survive and hope and fear. Old age happens to the luckiest of us, even if the journey there is fraught. Good things make their way in from the edges and settle in amongst the nightmares and regrets. Beauty can be grow from pain just as grief can spring from love, as Fox, Johnny Coyote, and Sarah know all too well, no matter how much Ginny and Sissy may not wish to admit it.


Emma Ríos’ work evokes a manga-like style, drawing characters with slightly exaggerated features, dramatic and unconventional angles, and implying motion and energy without relying on traditional comic book tactics. Its hand-sketched quality complements the fable and builds a weary, rusty atmosphere. It’s a story rife with folklore from the time before the city slickers closed the frontier and won the west. A tale like this deserves a rougher hew than most artists offer. It feels like something found buried in a box under the floorboards of a ramshackle cabin in a desert ghost town or a half-forgotten dream made hazy by time and old age. There is depth to the simplicity of Ríos’ style—in that way her work reminds me more than a little of Fumi Yoshinaga—and when her ragged, heavy linework is paired with Jordie Bellaire’s bold palette, the results are hauntingly vivid, like a peyote-induced fever dream. Jordie Bellaire’s talents cannot be under-praised. She’s breathed life into DeConnick’s words and added layers of tone and mood to Ríos’ pen strokes.

Speaking of unsung heroes, lettering is one of those jobs that most people overlook but just like bad ADR can kill a movie or television episode, poor lettering can absolutely break a comic book. Fortunately, Pretty Deadly lucked out on scoring Clayton Cowles. Cowles has quickly become one of those names I look for in a series to know whether or not it’s worth my time. He’s been involved in nearly all of my favorite titles of the last few years—She Hulk, Bitch Planet, Spider-Gwen, Phonogram, The Wicked and the Divine, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Black Widow, and on and on and on—and his work is always superb. In her own words, Sigrid Ellis’ role here is as “an extra set of eyes, a helping hand when needed, a reminder system, a cheerleader, and an eager first reader.” She says the “creators do the heavy lifting,” but she’s an important cog in a great and glorious machine, and I was pleased to see her return to the series with Issue #6.


This is absolutely a must read series, but it could be a steep hill to climb for newcomers. There are hints of similar titles swimming in the same genre soup, but it is ultimately unlike anything else. The closest comparison I can think of in terms of tonal and textual influence is ODY-C by DeConnick’s husband Matt Fraction and artist Christian Ward. Both comics feature characters steeped in legends suffering through harrowing experiences thrown at them by mercurial deities, but where Fraction and Ward have a vast universe of gods and humans at their disposal, DeConnick and Ríos have narrowed their focus to a few small corners of life and death. DeConnick’s story isn’t nearly as dense as Fraction’s but it’s just as challenging.

In Pretty Deadly, DeConnick and Ríos have crafted is a ferocious series of powerful characters born of gorgeous art. It is Sergio Leone crossed with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a hellish yet alluring mix of epic mythology from the ancient poets, the relentlessly unforgiving fairy tales of the Old World, and the blood-soaked folklore of the Old West.

Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter and Instagram, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.

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Posted by Natalie Zutter

Peter Jackson Peter Capaldi Doctor Who BBC

In 2012, when asked if he would ever direct an episode of Doctor WhoLord of the Rings director Peter Jackson said, “I’m a huge Doctor Who fan… Just name a time and place, and I’ll be there!” Looks like that time and place will become clear very soon, as evidenced by this tongue-in-cheek video Jackson posted to his Facebook page over the weekend.

Jackson (with his daughter Katie) pokes fun at himself in a number of ways, from how he hasn’t answered Steven Moffat’s emails (which the Doctor Who showrunner has corroborated) to how he would take six months to shoot an episode in New Zealand, instead of Cardiff in 12 days. Then things get even sillier when the Doctor himself—a.k.a. Peter Capaldi—drops in to get Jackson to sign a contract from the BBC:

And why is there a bookmarked copy of The Silmarillion lying on the table? Hmm…

Need a Ride? BITE by K. S. Merbeth

Nov. 30th, 2015 04:35 pm
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Posted by Niall Alexander


Back in the distant past, when Mad Max: Fury Road was still a big hit in cinemas, Orbit announced—not coincidentally, I think—that it had acquired “a dark debut” complete with “an amazing world” and a “strong female main character” sure to prove perfect for fans of George Miller’s movie.

The book in question was BITE by Kristyn S. Merbeth, “the stark and darkly comedic story of a young girl who joins a crew of bandits in a lawless, post-nuclear world,” and last week, its publisher showed it off properly.

Let’s begin with the blurb:

Kid has no name, no family and no survival skills whatsoever. But that hasn’t stopped her from striking out on her own in the wasteland that the world has become.

When Kid accepts a ride from two strangers, she suddenly becomes the newest member of a bloodthirsty raider crew. Propelled on a messy chase, through shootouts and severed limbs, the group must outrun everyone they’ve wronged. In a world that’s lost its humanity, not everything is as it seems—and this time it isn’t the monsters that crave flesh…

It’s us! Or rather the cannibalistic characters at the heart of this narrative—characters Merbeth drilled a little deeper into when asked in August about the inspiration behind BITE:

In post-apocalyptic stories, there are always groups of gun-toting psychos looting and killing their way through life. They’re usually presented as mindless villains, by-products of the craziness of the world, without backstories or motivations or anything that makes them seem human. And yet, they are human. So I started to wonder—who are these people? How’d they end up this way? What are their lives like behind the scenes? And those questions spawned the idea of a story with typical “bad guys,” a crew of raiders, as the protagonists.

An interesting premise, yes?

And thanks to Lauren Panepinto, BITE has a good look, too:


A good look, to be sure… but not, at a glance, particularly original. Panepinto has obviously amped up the red and the rust, and made the placement of the text’s title more prominent, but the centrepiece of BITE’s cover does rather resemble the bloodstained Wraith that adorned Gollancz’s out-of-print first editions of NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, doesn’t it?


Not that that should take away one whit from what’s within, which sounds—even to my miserable old man mind—like a whole bunch of fun.

Be ready for BITE to take a bloody chunk out of your summer when Orbit publishes it in the UK and elsewhere late next July.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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Posted by Emily Asher-Perrin

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

Remember that part in the story where Doctor Frankenstein breaks Igor out of a bear cage, freeing him once and for all from his sad life as a hunchback circus clown?

Of course you do. That’s everyone’s favorite part.

Victor Frankenstein is not something fun to talk about unless you can discuss the whole thing, so here is the short review for those of us who did not behold its glory over the Thanksgiving weekend or just want a quick recommendation: Do not imagine you’re going to see a good movie, because there are many more apt adjectives to describe this film. Bombastic, perhaps? Preposterous is a good one, too. Also, you can’t go wrong with misguidedly tenacious.

If you’re the kind of person who goes to movies to watch your favorite actors chew scenery, then run to the theater and don’t look back. You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone. (Least of all me.)

Spoilers for the entirety of the film below. Also, quite a few curse words.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

So Daniel Radcliffe isn’t actually Igor. He just a nameless circus performer, casually abused by his costars. And he’s a hunchback, and also obsessed with human biology and medicine. (He’s not actually a hunchback, though—we’ll get to that later.) One day the flying trapeze woman of his dreams takes a horrible fall mid-show, and a strange man comes to his aid: Victor Frankenstein. We know this because when Radcliffe asks who he is, the frame freezes on McAvoy and the words “Victor Frankenstein” stamp themselves across the screen. Victor isn’t much help without equipment, leaving circus clown Radcliffe to show off his genius medical chops and get his trapeze pal breathing again.

I’m gonna wrap that man in silk and put him in my pocket, says Frankenstein. Or something like that. Okay, fine, it’s more like “You are brilliant! You are way too good to be in a circus wearing a crusty wig of what is either dreadlocks or just a lot of matted hair!” The ringmaster isn’t fond of talent poaching, so he locks young Radcliffe up, necessitating the above-mentioned break out. Victor takes the former clown back to his rooms near the college where he studies, and touches the guy all over, sucking fluid from his body to make him feel better.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

…by which I mean, he realizes that Daniel Radcliffe’s hunchback is actually an abscess that must be drained, then manhandles his new friend into a back brace to help him to stand upright.

Why, what did you think I meant?

Victor wants help with his creepy research that works to bring life to dead tissue, and asks Radcliffe to pretend to be his old, strangely disappeared roommate named Igor. He also asks for help with said research, and now-Igor Radcliffe agrees in the name of science! Gross science. Match made lab partner heaven.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

Or not. Because Andrew Scott (more commonly own as Jim Moriarty) is a detective for Scotland Yard of the decidedly pious persuasion. His name is Turpin, and he knows this twisted Frankenstein guy is doing the work of Satan, probably. Turpin comes off like a creepy, cross-wielding version of Sherlock, which makes it extra weird.

Igor is now helping Victor reanimate all sorts of body parts, which his buddy then takes down into the basement to do who knows what. (Well, we do… this story isn’t exactly new.) Igor’s trapeze pal, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey fame) is all healed thanks to his knowledge and access to money, and she gains a benefactor once she’s well, allowing her to dance in a cabaret and be a concubine in public—her benefactor is into dudes, so she’s basically a well-kept beard. Igor’s crush rears its head because it helps to detract from his obvious adoration of Frankenstein. Poor Lorelei is barely a character; she’s nice and so good to dear Igor, but she might as well have “NO HOMO” tattooed across her forehead for all of her true purpose as far as the plot is concerned. Ah, well. She meets the two of them at a fancy party where Victor tells Igor not to embarrass him. Victor then proceeds to sit at a table with Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and shout “BABIES IN VATS!” at the top of his lungs.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

…He’s talking about how women need not be involved in their own pregnancies, so they can go to school and have lives if they want them. So Victor is at least leaning toward feminism. Or perhaps he’s only feminist when he’s wasted. (That’s a thing, right? Drunk feminism?)

Victor eventually shares his basement project with Igor—he’s pieced together an entire creature, mostly from chimpanzee parts. He uses his magic electric device to bring the thing to life, then tells Igor that they’re going to present it in public. Igor is understandably concerned with this unexpected direction, but also really into his new title: Frankenstein’s partner.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015
So they present and it goes terribly until the last moment, when they supercharge the creature and it goes hog wild, tearing up the school. Eventually, they have to kill it. But it’s fine because the only person aside from Lorelei to see the entirety of the presentation is a guy named Finnegan (Freddie Fox), son of one of the wealthiest families in in England, who is some nightmare cross between Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas and Draco Malfoy. He is prepared to give them all the money they need, provided he has absolute power in the relationship. (He makes this proposal while eye-fucking Frankenstein in a decidedly unsettling way, but at this point we’ve already seen so much of that in the film that it hardly comes off as surprising.) He wants them to start on human experimentation immediately. Victor says yes because science again!

Inspector Turpin shows up to have a “Which is Better: Faith or Science?” fight with Victor, and nearly gets him to confess to creating something creepy that was set loose on the school. But Victor demands a warrant, and Turpin leaves with a warning, then goes obsessed-bonkers and decides that warrants shouldn’t matter because God. I never said the themes here were subtle.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015
A brief aside: this saintly crew of actors made the choice to treat this script as award-worthy material instead of the hilarious schlock it is, and the performances are gorgeously melodramatic. Daniel Radcliffe is endearing and timid and utterly sympathetic all the way through. Andrew Scott plays the part of zealot with surprising depth. James McAvoy is positively manic—his dizzying vacillation between emotions, his highs and lows, it’s all captivating. You end up adoring Frankenstein just as much as Igor, despite the fact he’s an asshole. Some people have all the charm.

Later, Victor’s dad CHARLES DANCE shows up—because when McAvoy is on form, who the hell else can you call in to bring him down a peg?—to tell him that he’s a disgrace to the Frankenstein name and his brother was way better. (Gee, wonder if that will be important.) Victor is depressed by this, so Igor shows up to help, and they both drink bottles of whiskey and talk about Victor’s special pocketwatch while designing their new monster who will have two sets of lungs, two hearts, probably two livers, and two spleens, and two—

—well. You get the picture.

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015

Inspector Turpin shows up with a crew to break down their door, and our heroes retreat to the basement where Igor discovers the body of the real Igor, Victor’s old roommate who died of a drug overdose and had his eyes pilfered for experimentation. New Igor realizes that maybe his love BFF isn’t the best guy to be in cahoots with, and tries to convince Victor to stop this madness. Instead, Victor runs to Bosie Malfoy, who promises to set them up with a castle in Scotland. Igor won’t go, so Victor parts from him with hurtful words (things like “I made you” and “you’re making a mistake” and “no one will ever dress you as well as I did”…or definitely those first two at least), and Igor almost gets murdered by Bosie as a means of protecting the Finnegan family investment.

Suddenly, (Eureka!) Igor finds out that Victor’s pocketwatch belonged to his older brother, who died in a snowstorm they played in as kids, and this leads him to tell Lorelei that nothing is more important than his relationship with Victor, so they pack up and take a carriage to Scotland. They’re blocked from entering the place by Bosie Malfoy’s men, so Igor climbs up the side of a mountain with his bare hands to get into the castle. He tells Victor that what happened to brother was not his fault, and that this experiment won’t help fix it. But really, the conversation goes more like—

Igor: Victor, no.


(Unsurprisingly, that’s a summation of every conversation in the movie.)

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015
So Victor gets the experiment going with a bunch of technicians standing around (Mark Gatiss, what the hell are you doing here? Did someone come kidnap half the cast of Sherlock while you were filming your Christmas special?) and the creature lives, and then everything just explodes and lots of people die, and then Victor gets a good look at his monster and apologizes to his dead brother because the creature clearly isn’t alive in any sentient sense. (While this is all going on, Daniel Radcliffe’s hair goes from sopping wet to blow-dried’n’fluffy every time the camera cuts back to him.) Andrew Scott tries to kill the thing with a gun, and that goes over as well as you’d expect. So it’s down to Victor and Igor stab the it with lots of poles and stuff before it finally dies. Igor gets knocked out and wakes up to his lady love and a note from Victor telling him that they should part ways for now, and that he’ll always consider Igor his greatest creation.

*giggles hysterically*

Victor Frankenstein, movie 2015
By the end of it all, I have a personal peeve with this film. Yes, it’s silly and overblown, and that is completely fine for a fun afternoon of diversion. But the easiest fix to this mess of a film would have been to go where the script kept leaning—if you’re making Gay Frankenstein, don’t half-ass it. If this movie had just owned its homo-eroticism and run with it, the whole exercise would have been 8000% more fun, and distinguished itself among the dozens of lookalike Frankenstein narratives. It’s not like McAvoy couldn’t have handled that; hell, while you’re at it (with a set of actors who already classify as genre candy), have Michael Fassbender play the monster and give fans from every fandom what they want.

Gay Frankenstein. You have nothing to lose at this point, Hollywood. Bosie Malfoy is rooting for you—we all are.

Emily Asher-Perrin was not the only person in the theater who outright giggled at the end of this movie. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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Posted by Scott K. Johnson

Enlarge / Roses are red, violets are blue, turbines use magnets to generate power which can be used to make light, and without light you are likely to be eaten by a grue. (credit: Northern Power Systems)

BARRE, Vermont—It started with Mars. In 1993, NASA gave a Small Business Innovation Research grant to Vermont-based Northern Power Systems (NPS) to build a very southern wind turbine—as in, a turbine that could reliably work at the South Pole.

NASA was interested in a wind turbine that could potentially provide power for human exploration of Mars, and the National Science Foundation was interested in some electricity at its South Pole station that didn’t require flying in fuel. NPS set about tackling both challenges in one fell swoop, designing a low-maintenance turbine using components that could survive the deathly Antarctic (or Martian) cold. A few years later, a 3 kilowatt turbine was spinning away at the South Pole.

Video: Ars visits Northern Power Systems to get our wind turbine learn on. Shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

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Posted by Andrew Cunningham

Enlarge / The new Apple TV. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Over the weekend, Amazon's tech support team confirmed that Amazon is working on a Prime Video app for the new Apple TV. Amazon has become a major player in the streaming video field over the last two or three years, and the service's absence on Apple's newest streaming box is one of its biggest holes relative to competing boxes from the likes of Roku and Amazon itself. As of the end of October, Amazon officially had nothing to share about an Apple TV app, so this news is a welcome reversal.

This is notable partly because Amazon pulled the Apple TV and Google's budget-friendly Chromecast from its store back in October. Though all of those devices just happen to compete with Amazon's own hardware, the reason given at the time was that those boxes didn't mesh well with Prime Video streaming service. In addition to the Fire TV and Fire TV stick, Amazon continues to stock the Roku lineup and a bunch of minor-league players that don't support Prime Video but were apparently not important enough to delist.

Apple served as a gatekeeper for the third-generation Apple TV, so the move sort of makes sense for that box—the only way to stream Prime Video on that model is to use AirPlay from an iPhone or iPad running Amazon's app, an experience that is subpar at best. But Amazon just happened to delist Apple's boxes at the same time as Apple was releasing a new fourth-generation model with a full SDK and App Store. In other words, the only thing keeping Amazon from adding Prime Video support to the Apple TV was Amazon, since the company already offers an app for iOS and tvOS offers many of the same capabilities.

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Michael and Neil Fletcher were hunting in Ontario's Windy Lake when they spotted a bald eagle caught in a claw trap. However, freeing the bird was no easy task. When they got close, the eagle tried to fly away. They eventually were able to calm the majestic bird by throwing a hoodie over its eyes. All the while, their golden retriever sat extremely curious.

The brothers eventually set the bald eagle free, but not before capturing this unforgettable selfie.

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Posted by Angela Nichols



  • Places like Refinery29 are noticing the importance of what fans do. "Urrata, who is studying English lit, film, and women's studies, sees femslash (the fan-art romantic pairing of presumed-straight female characters) as a way to do 'what fan artists do best: attempt to close the gap between the media we are given and the media we want.' Like racebent casting (fans adding actors of color to movies and TV shows that lack diversity), Disney femslash is a way of taking action rather than simply discussing frustration over the lack of representation."
  • Chicagoist reported on an event with Carrie Brownstein in which she discussed the importance of fandom in her new memoir. "'My story starts with me as a fan,' she writes, 'And to be a fan is to know that loving trumps being beloved.' Hopper asked her to talk further about what being a fan has meant for her, and Brownstein credited being a music fan with giving her both stability and community, calling fandom itself 'sacred' with 'a desire to connect' at its heart."
  • She Knows interviewed author Christopher Rice about a planned m/m romance novel and noted "Thanks, in part, to the world of fan fiction, man-on-man action has become pretty popular with the female population. Not only are women reading it, but they're writing it. Rice isn't surprised. He said, 'It's a stereotype that men want to see two women roll around in a bubble bath, but oh, women don't want to see two men. The real fact is women may not want to see it, but they do want to read it.'"
  • Various outlets wrote about the planned Star Trek series, noting that CBS is counting on fans to make its new service successful. "Is this the 'killer app' for CBS All Access? It’s certainly required to get your name on the map. If there’s a property that can get folks to buy into a service, it’s either this or Star Wars at this point." CBS itself stated "We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access...We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.”

How have you noticed the importance of fan activities? Write about them in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn't guarantee that it will be included in a Fannews post, and inclusion of a link doesn't mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.


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Nov. 30th, 2015 10:38 am
lireavue: A woman in red in a classic ballet pose. (grace and strength)
[personal profile] lireavue
Русский язык )

Here's hoping Kiki's dragged herself out from under translation hell? (Hi Kiki!) Not least because apparently genitive case is coming up this week halp. >.>

So I think I'm just about done getting presents sorted for most people, because I am awesome. And there was an abundance of plotting this morning. And we kinda have an abundance of Amazon points to use on buying shit for other people.

I would very much like it if my proprioception would catch up to what I'm doing to balance my leg and hip and ass muscles with PT, because I'm currently running at 3-4 bruises on my legs depending on level of healing, for about the last 2-3 weeks. It is VERY FRUSTRATING. On the other hand, I'm seeing results in less split-second hesitation to trust all my weight to my bad leg! So that's good.

The idiot cat dropped a crinkle ball IN THE SHOWER WITH ME this morning, because she has skills. I'm fairly certain this was deliberate, but as I was facing away from her at the time all I have to go on is the smug mrrrow? of "what you didn't think playtime was OVER?" Bratty feline. At least she didn't try to climb in past the back ledge with me, I don't think she'd've liked the results much.

Finally got up a combination of energy and boy corralled into ironing this weekend, and now I have half or a little more of the dishcloths and coasters washed and blocked and most of them dry. Next time I will hopefully remember that it's not difficult and with the new no-rinse soaps people are putting out there, literally the only thing I have to do is dump it into the sinkful of water with soap and walk away. And then get C to take the iron to it. (I hate ironing. So much. SO MUCH. No, more than that.) Which, hey, that makes blocking a lot of other stuff super easy too. I just also need to FINISH stuff, and the one afghan will require a blocking grid or, at minimum, one square that blocks neatly and then get all the others to match.

Aaaand then I just looked at the "stop smoking pot you assholes it is THIS FLOOR" notice shoved in the door, so I guess that means we really do have two problem neighbors and the smell in the downstairs bathroom last week was not just mustiness from winter and leaving it closed due to excessive felinity. I hate monkeys. :|

Right. If I can get my todo list cleaned up in time, I can spend awhile knitting and if I am VERY lucky this will allow me to wash and block the rest of the household linens on Wednesday. I so need more 7s. The todo list is not awful! But it's very gray and rain-sleet-snow disgusting and I am SO GLAD for all the light and pretty colors we've established in this apartment.

Goodbye NaNo, hello DeDe

Nov. 30th, 2015 11:49 am
silverr: (WoW_kaelchibi)
[personal profile] silverr
So my plan to write rough drafts of the remaining chapters of Deceiver fell a bit short. I did get chapter 15 written, polished and posted, but a number of RL things fragmented my time all to hell, and by the time I was at the point where I would have had to have wriiten 3500+ words a day to finish... yeah, no.

I also realized that I would have to add yet another chapter, bringing me back up to 20. Which is okay: the outline has expanded and shrunk and then expanded again, and thinking the end was closer than I'd originally planned helped me get over the mid-novel doldrums.

Buuuut... I still would like to wrap this up by the end of the year, and so I'm going for Deceiver December. Four full chapters—16 through 19—left (though 18 and 19 might re-merge after all), and a short chapter 20+ epilogue. I'm calling it 45,000 words. Just under NaNo length, and one extra day. If nothing else it'll get me closer to that "done!" point.

I think Yuletide is the only exchange running whose pinch hits might tempt me, but so far none of the ones flying by have.
[syndicated profile] dailykos_feed

Public defenders in New Orleans are looking for a little bit of mercy this holiday season. Many indigent defense offices nationwide suffer from chronic understaffing and underfunding. But the crisis is particularly bad in Orleans Parish, where both clients and public defenders are victims of budget cuts in an illogical funding system. Aljazeera America reports:

About 85 percent of people charged with a crime in New Orleans are represented by public defenders, because they can’t afford a private attorney. With more than 20,000 indigent clients a year, the Orleans Public Defenders office needs 70 lawyers and an $8.2 million budget to “protects its clients’ constitutional rights,” according to a 2006 American University report.

Yet while the office handles the vast majority of the city’s cases, it has about 50 lawyers and a $6.2 million budget. […] And the situation will likely get worse next year. Projected budget cuts of about $700,000 will further strain the defenders office, increasing case processing time, jeopardizing everyday court proceedings and potentially causing “constitutional crises” for the local criminal justice system, according to Orleans Parish public defender Derwyn Bunton.

It was Bunton who "made an unusual request for judicial mercy" last week when he asked a Criminal District Court judge to stop giving his office new cases until the understaffing crisis is fixed.

[syndicated profile] dailykos_feed

Donald Trump had this to say in a Morning Joe appearance just days after a reportedly Christian white guy surrendered to police in a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood:

HEILEMANN: “Do you think that Islam is an inherently peaceful religion that’s been perverted by some? Or do you think Islam is an inherently violent religion?”

TRUMP: “All I can say is there’s something going on. I don’t know that that question can be answered. It could be answered two ways. It could be answered both ways. But there’s something going on there. There’s a lot of hatred coming out of at least a big part of it. You see the hatred. We see it every day. You see it, whether it’s in Paris, or whether it’s the World Trade Center….

“There’s something nasty coming out of there. You could answer it any way you want. But at least we have to know the problem.”

Can we get someone to ask him the same question about Christianity?


cynthia1960: me from Wiscon Chronicles v. 3 (Default)

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