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“"Chris decided to take a little cat nap," Johansson remembered. "He collapsed into a giant perfect heap, his lion’s mane gracefully falling around his prominent chiseled features. ‘My, God,’ proclaimed Ruffalo, ‘what a specimen.’"”

-

Scarlett Johansson (and Mark Ruffalo) on Chris Hemsworth’s beauty

[source]

(via ohmyvengers)

“I think someone has a crush!”

“She’s married, Robert! And anyway that’d be like dating my sister.”

“…yeah, Scarlett is totally who I was talking about.”

“Mark Ruffalo has children!

“That’s never stopped my crush on Jude.”

[RDJ Advise Chris Evans on his Life Choices]

Daily Happiness

Mar. 28th, 2015 01:10 am
torachan: black and grey kitten on the back of a chair (heidi on chair)
[personal profile] torachan
1. I finished most of the translating I meant to get done tonight.

2. Three days of sleeping in coming up! That's good because I've gradually slipped into a later and later schedule, which I don't like but can't seem to get out of. :( I used to wake up before my alarm on the days I had to go in in the morning, but now I'm almost always sleeping until the last minute (which means I don't have time to eat breakfast before going to work, either). I'm hoping to get back to going to bed earlier, but in the meantime, at least I have a few days of no alarm coming up. :p

3. Speaking of work, I'm going to be getting a significant raise! It won't go into effect until May 1st, but that's not so far away!
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ink-splotch:

You are seven when you watch your mother wither away with grief. 

You run out into the fields the day she dies. They let you go, knowing you will not go far, not good Eowyn, not the obedient second child of Eomund and Theodwyn. They think you are crying, and maybe you are, but mostly you are smiting the ground with your feet and slashing your hands at the gently waving stalks of grass. 

You smite the ground. You must wonder, with the memories of your father’s war stories still ringing in your tiny ears. You must wonder, with the adrenaline still high in your veins from a pretend sword fight with your brother in the stables that morning, the adrenaline now warring with grief. You must wonder how a woman of a house so very brave could wither like an ailing flower. 

You swear you will never make such useless choices.

They will call you the names of flowers all your days, Eowyn, White Lady of Ithilien, though you do not know this yet. You are so determined not to be your mother. It will give you comfort that they never call you withered, drooping, delicate. They call you frosted. They compare you to a lily, death’s flower, and don’t even realize what they say. When they call you a flower, they describe one with a core of brittle steel. 

They send you and Eomer to your uncle the king. Theoden is young and strong, welcomes you with warm, open arms. You are unconvinced. His son Theodred is your cousin, and his laugh is the loudest thing you will ever have the privilege to hear, until you meet a pair of hobbits. You do not smile back until Theodred challenges you to a duel with wooden swords in the stables. 

Before you go to sleep that night, aching with more than bruises in this unfamiliar bedroom, you stare up at the unknown ceiling. You map the contours of the room. A good shieldmaiden knows her surroundings.

You make a promise in the dark, pledging all seven of your years against the long oath of your life. Your mother withered, but you will break. You swear it. When you go to the ground, food for white daisies, you will be beaten into it. You hold that promise to your chest. You have so few things these days that you can claim, but this, this is yours.

You grow. The streets of Edoras become your home. Theoden becomes your father, and Eomer’s, except that your names still are echoed with “children of Eomund.” You miss your father. You miss versions of your mother that you rarely even met in that last year. 

Theodred learns a king’s ways, Eomer tags at his heels, and you tag at Eomer’s. They are good-natured lads, if distractible, and you are better at sums than Theodred. No one laughs like him, though, and you can see every person in Meduseld glow when they hear the sound of their young, strong heir. 

Your uncle’s vision starts to go, so you sit with him and read him his reports. He is still strong, though, you tell yourself, and ignore the white creeping over his temples like frost.

You have other duties, too, now. Some were handed to you, lessons meant for a lady of the noblest house of Rohan. Others you seized, a conquest, a victory written in the hall steward’s leftover tasks and escorting the cook to barter for bulk goods. You are so desperate not to be useless.

You become a young woman. You barely notice. You are busy gathering up new duties and burrowing your hands and heart into the work.

Old man Hama, who served in the Riders for four decades and now cannot do more than whittle, has a little house, heavy blankets for his bed, some bread and two hot meals every day. It is one of the first tasks you gather for yourself, this delivery of hot meals to an old man who gave his lifetime to your uncle’s service. 

There are dozens more, old men like Hama, old women with gnarled hands and secrets tucked in their aprons. Some of the women, like you, loved the sword. Some of them, unlike you, have seen battle. You would sit at their feet for days, as a girl, but now you bring them hot soup when you can and then go back to your uncle’s side.

You do not bring food to Old Hama or the others yourself, not every day, not as you grow older, and you feel guilty about it. You admire service, loyalty, and patience, you respect them.

Old man Hama whittles beautiful things (he knew dwarves in his youth, the rumor goes, and they taught him how to make the intricate toys he whittles for the children of Edoras). You do not wish to meet dwarves. Adventure was always the thirst in Eomer’s blood, why he beats at the walls of Theoden’s hall, ranges farther and farther on patrols, but not you. You wish the dwarves all knew your name, that in a hundred years the glory of your house was sung from peak to peak.

Your uncle grows wearier. He grows older by years in the space of months. You read him his reports, but you have to wake him when he falls asleep by page four. You take over scheduling his appointments and rulings. It is months before you realize that yours is not the only hand lightening the load.

Grima Wormtongue lurks in the shadows of your uncle’s hall. He gathers duties to himself, too. You do not think a fear of uselessness is what drives him. He certainly does nothing useful with the power he gains. 

You can feel him watching you when you walk to your uncle’s side. You lift your head. You do your duty. 

The subjects who bring you tithes of produce, grain, and fish are treated kindly. They return home better shod, better fed, singing the praises of Theoden-king. The traders from the north and south and west are treated firmly, richly, proudly, and return home glowing with reports of Rohan’s fine steeds.

You feel guilty that you cannot repay service with service, each good Rohan man and woman with your own hands. When you have time, you taste the veterans’ meals before you have them sent out. When you have time, you bring them out yourself.

The men of Edoras watch young Eomer and Theodred when they ride out, when they spar, when they sit respectfully or argue in council. The boys ride off to their first skirmish while you watch from the steps of your uncle’s hall. The men watch them. They watch you go back into the hall and get back to work.

You feel guilty. You feel like your hands are empty of worth more often than not. They watch you, Theoden’s men, Meduseld’s women, the veterans and the stable boys, the goose girls of Edoras. They count your deeds and they find you overflowing.

All your life you are strewn with death. Before your uncle begins to wither in his throne under a curse you cannot name, before your cousin rides to a skirmish and doesn’t come back, before Grima’s sly tongue banishes Eomer in Theoden’s name, you know loss well. 

You wonder if you were born under a fell star, of a plague, or into one of your mother’s worst days. You ask yourself if you are damned. When a Nazgul lies dead at your feet, years from now, you wonder if it was meant to be a blessing, these curses you have borne. Did you walk so close to death because you were meant one day to wield it?

You with your death’s imagery, you are cold, fragile, frosted, hard, winter’s child and summer’s wraith. Proud, in all that pride’s a sin. Loyal, for all that the old loyalties cling to you, bind you, and bring you low.

Handmaiden to a broken house, you once watched your mother wither with grief and now you watch your uncle.

You think you might break when Theodred dies, but you do not. You think you might break when Eomer leaves. You do not. You have been preparing for this for years, you realize. Your father rode out one day and never came back. Your mother turned her face to the wall, and she never came back. Your uncle snuggles into his thick robes, the ones you make sure will keep his limbs from chilling, his joints from aching. You are never sure he will remember your name.

You watch Eomer ride out into the hills with his three hundred men. You do not break.

You are left, alone, in your uncle’s hall. There are loyal men here, still, but all the loud, the brave, the strong, they followed Eomer. Those that remain are tired, loyal to Theoden’s ghost, or under Grima’s spell. 

Tucked in your seat behind Theoden’s throne, you murmur soothing things to your drifting uncle, listen to your own heart break, and work on figuring the taxes with an abacus tucked in the folds of your skirt.

Some hours you have to escape. You go up to the watch towers. You think, Horses bite. You know this. Wild horses do, untamed horses, and you know that is not you. You, standing high on this wooden tower, staring into the teeth of the wind, a pretty banner, a cold grace, you know you are no wild horse.

You walk back to your uncle’s darkening throne room, preparing to wrap yourself in his withering grief and swallow none of it. You know you are no wild horse, but you swear you are not a tame one. You are a warhorse trained for battle, stamping in the stables. When Grima Wormtongue next turns unasked eyes your way, you bare your teeth.

Eomer is all you ever wanted to be. Or maybe Theodred—your cousin was bright, was strong, was allowed, and now he is dead. You wait on the sidelines of other people’s stories, trembling with what they call cold and you name bitter rage.

You will never wither like your mother. You whisper this promise to yourself at night.

But maybe you will break. You push yourself against the beams of your uncle’s hall, against the belt you pull tighter and tighter around your middle, against the cold cage bars you feel every time Theoden-king rasps “sister’s daughter” (two sins against your name). You push yourself against every nightmare. You will never wither, but some nights, late nights, cold nights, you hope to.

Where now the horse and the rider? Where the mother that wept? The cousin that laughed? The brother? They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadows, like a withering of the frost. How did it come to this? How did it come to this?

Three warriors and a wizard come out of the hills. There is bloodshed in your uncle’s hall. Your uncle screams under the wizard’s staff and if you had a sword—if you had a sword—

But then he stands, golden-haired, your blue eyes set in his own weary face, Theoden-king.

You want to go with him, to keep an eye on these strange violent people who have healed your king. You do not trust them, not yet, you wary child of dangerous hills. But your uncle says to trust them, to trust him. You let him go. After all, Theoden is not your mother. He came back.

As the weeks pass, you find your gaze drawn more and more to the dark Ranger from the north. They will tell stories of your love for Aragorn—maybe even you tell yourself a story of your love from him—but you know the truth.

You are not here for Aragorn. You were never here for Aragorn. You are here for the light in his eyes, the light on his swords, the deeds that trail behind his name. You want these things and more. (Pride is ever the bane of your house, but greed, greed too lingers here in the halls of men). You do not want the only legacy of your name to be none at all. Your mother left behind instructions on how to wither. She left Eomer. She left you behind, you and your cold nights.

But even that, even you—you are no legacy. You are Eowyn, daughter of Eomund, caretaker of Theoden’s hall. Even you are not Theodwyn’s legacy, not in name, not in any way that matters.

Rohan prepares for war. You know the number of every blade and shield they will take with them, the herds, the rations, the blankets and  medical kits. You marshal supplies like a high general, and then you watch your men go to war without you.

You bristle, surrounded by women and children, tied down by a duty you cherish and hate with equal measure. Your hands are full of field rations and careful notes on supplies, and they feel empty, useless, cold.

After the battle, after the visit to Saruman’s flooded citadel, Eomer brings you news of Grima’s death like he thinks it will warm your heart. You are busy carrying the numbers of blankets and food stores in your head, doing spur of the moment mathematics and arguing with men thrice your size as they try to take more than their share.

You return home. You settle in and Rohan remembers what it is to be at peace. Then Gondor calls for aid. 

Your uncle forbids you to ride with them. Aragorn denies you, and what’s more, he pities you. It is obvious. You remind yourself that you will never wither, not even under that pity. You will break and it will not be by this kingling’s hand.

Your brother laughs at you. You fume off into the night, like into a field when you were seven, and make bloody oaths to the dark. Eomer’s laugh (it will never be Theodred’s, never as large, though you swear you can hear some echo of it, swear Eomer learned half his ways from his cousin) cuts through the night again. You circle back and see the subject—a Halfling, the quieter one, Meriadoc Brandybuck. Merry looks like a child. His chin juts out, stubborn, fierce. He looks like you at seven.

You choose the name Dernhelm that night. When you pick out a fierce mare for yourself the next morning, you find yourself making sure she’s strong enough to carry two.

This time, you, too, ride to war. You do not ride alone. You can feel Merry shake beneath your cloak and you do not ask him which emotion drives him.

When you stand on Pelennor Fields, over your king, against a lord of darkness they say no man can kill, you still do not understand your mother.

Or maybe you do, just a little. You are never sure, not for the rest of your days.

You do not understand the withering, but there is something here, something worthwhile in this useless act. There is no killing a deathless thing. There is no saving the man gurgling his last on the ground behind you. But you raise your sword in challenge. You are a shieldmaiden of Rohan and you will stand by your king. You are Eowyn, Theoden’s daughter in all but name, and you will defy this horror until the very end of you.

But you are no man. They do not tell any stories of your end. 

So you do not end here. 

The Nazgul named itself deathless, above such petty things. But you have its shadowy life spilt out on your sword. Your arm is shattered, your heart is breaking. When you wake in the Houses of Healing, to Aragorn’s cool hand, the sharp scent of crushed kingsfoil, and your brother’s weeping face, you think, one of us was deathless, demon, and it wasn’t you.

You weep when you are told Theoden-king has passed away. You already knew, but you weep.

He will be deathless, you tell the Nazgul in your head. I will teach songs of him to my children. He will laugh in the halls of our fathers and watch them grow. You I will forget. You will pass like a shadow on the mountains.

(Your arm will ache all your days).

(But so will your heart, and one of these you have learned to listen harder to).

They leave you in Gondor, to wait and to hope, to heal. It feels like you have spent so much of your life sitting, watching horizons for patrols to come home, but that’s not true. This is: you have spent so much of your life catching glimpses of horizons as you swept from task to task, your hands full.

Now, you stand at the window of the Houses of Healing. You are injured foreign nobility in a city of white stone, the epitome of uselessness. You feel colder than you ever have. One day there is a warmth at your shoulder.

Faramir does not ask you for your smile, or for your death. He does not ask you to be warm. He does not ask to save you. He does ask you to walk the walls with him, but that is because you have nearly worn the floor to its knees from your pacing.

He does not believe he deserves to ask for things, this child of Gondor, this sun-browned Ranger who so loves his shadowed kingdom.

You hear stories of Boromir. You are glad Faramir does not love as hard as his brother and his father did, to death and madness. You have spent too much of your life understanding the costs of such love.

You corner the healers, offer your hands, ask to learn. You need something to do with your hands. They fill your hands, with bandages and pain, with herbs and poultices. There is a beauty in this. You are cold to your very bones, but there is a beauty in this. There is a usefulness and it warms you.

You say you will retire your shield and sword. You will learn. You will plant thickets of kingsfoil in your garden, and breathe deep for the rest of your days.

One day, you gift Faramir with a smile. One day, you gift him with your hand in his. One day, he asks a question and you say yes.

When you come home, a bride of Gondor’s steward, a veteran yourself, you stop to bring old man Hama a bowl of hot soup. You pack your dresses, your saddles, your sword, your abacus. When you ride down to the main gates, there is weeping in the streets. Eomer, king now, is ruining his dignity, but the people of Edoras cheer you through tears. “Our White Lady,” they say, and reach out to brush your skirts in farewell. You feel like you might glow, might burst. Your wounds are aching (they will ache every day of your life). You know the names of the people of this crowd, and they know yours. This, you think, is glory.

Gondor has been a city at war for so long. The homesteaders who live outside the walls are all hearty folk, stubborn and cautious. You pile your saddlebags with blankets and jerky, dried soup balls and your medicines, blank bound books for taking census notes.

They are wary of you, you pretty woman from Rohan. You ask them their children’s names. You ask them what they need. They grumble things but attach the appropriate honorifics. They eye the mud on your hem, and send you away.  They learn that when they tell you what they need, you bring it, or when you can’t you return all the same, penitent, and apologize. Your medicines are used on oxen as much as people. You are invited in for warm milk and biscuits. They learn to badger the guilt off your face as well as any citizen of Rohan.

You and Faramir make a home outside the high white walls of Minas Tirith. You settle in the hills of Emyn Arnen, across the river from the great white city. These are the shadowed abandoned lands where Faramir walked as a Ranger of Ithilien. Slowly, step by step, Gondor reclaims its own. 

Orcs still run wild in these hills. Faramir rides out with his men. There are pitched battles in the hills. The homesteaders have strong sons, have places to hide and to hide their winter supplies, have long years of experience in scavenging through the shells of their own pillaged homes after an attack.

You ride out with your swiftest mare and your sword, medicines and census records in your saddlebags, a few guards at your back. You have traded the name of shieldmaiden in for stewardess, for healer. You think you’re even less likely now to allow an orc to stand between you and your people.

You help a young woman cut her hair behind the stable, give her something to bind her chest. You introduce her to the guard captain as Eodred, a distant cousin, here to learn from Gondor’s finest. You tell her, like you tell every fledging young recruit no matter if you have watched their hair fall to the ground behind the stable, about the cold aches of war.

You are Theoden’s legacy. You are Theodred’s. You are Eomer’s hope and Faramir’s light. You are Theodwyn’s daughter. You have her blood and her pull towards oblivion, toward tattered memories and a love that scars the earth.

You and Merry go out into the Pelennor Fields before he leaves for the Shire. You walk slow to match the hobbit’s stride. The two of you find dozens of places where the grass is torn up and the ground scarred, by fire or curses or oliphants. You cannot remember which scar was yours, where the Nazgul fell, where Theoden fell, where you and Merry fell until your brothers found you.

Merry goes back to the Shire, but he and Pippin Took come back to visit now and then, dropping in to Rohan and Gondor, stopping by Fangorn to have tea with Treebeard. You walk the old battle fields with Merry every time, talking about your children, talking about your kingdoms.

Faramir teases you, calls it going out with old friends to look for old deaths. It is a morbid kind of humor that runs through your household, but a warm one. 

You come home after a long day of distributing supplies, of reviewing potential sites for new settlers on this side of the river, of rocking babies while you settle their elders’ debates with a steely hand. Faramir lifts his head when you come into his study, puts down his pen.

You look at Faramir’s smile, the ink rubbed off on the side of his nose. You think, I love you. You think, I would not die for you.

The hills of Emyn Arnen tumble away outside the open window and Minas Tirith stands gleaming white in the distance.

I would die for this, you think. I would live for this.

The scent of kingsfoil is crushed in your palms. 

A little whinge

Mar. 28th, 2015 07:05 am
strangecharm: (Default)
[personal profile] strangecharm
The ridiculous quantity and quality of nightmares I've had lately are killing me. I'm sleeping a lot and still exhausted all day long, and I think the bad dreams are part of the reason why. It is most dispiriting.

Life after Death, the Plantagenet way

Mar. 28th, 2015 07:46 am
selenak: (Richard III. by Vexana_Sky)
[personal profile] selenak
This week was Richard III week in England; being frightfully busy, I could only catch glimpses from abroad. But have some links:

The poem by Carol Ann Duffy written specifically for the reburial at Leicester, read by Benedict Cumberbatch


The detective novel that made the case for a generation: Josephine Tey is hardly Shakespeare, but if there's one work of fiction that has reliable acted as the pro-Richard counterpoint and for many first introduction to the controversy for more than half a century now, it's that short and entertaining volume, "The Daughter of Time". (By now the research she used is outdated, of course, but it's still an immensely readable book.) The New Yorker article describes how it came to be written, and which effect it has.

Since I've been reading up on my Tudors in recent months: Imperial Ambassador Chapuys dissed Henry VIII. in his dispatches by comparing him to Richard III. not once but twice. Or rather, the first time he reports others doing the dissing:

"Every day I am visited by people of quality, who break my head with speeches and writings, giving me to understand that King Richard, the last of his name, was never so much hated by his subjects as this present king is, and yet that he was dethroned by two or threethousand Frenchmen under the leadership of a prince hardly known in this country."


Far from getting his head broken, Chapuys seems to have taken note, because some time later, he used the Richard comparison himself in a direct conversation with Henry as a stealth insult. This was during another round of arguments about Henry's treatment of Katherine and Mary. Henry said that since Archbishop Cramner had declared his marriage to Katherine null and void, he was legitimately married to Anne now, and Mary could no longer considered or be treated as his legitimate daughter, surely Chapuys could see that. Upon which the Empire struck back (sorry, I couldn't resist), telling the King:

"With regard to the sentence pronounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the divorce suit, he ought to make as little of it as that of which King Richard caused to be pronounced by the bishop of Bath against the sons of King Edward, declaring them bastards."

This was a particuarly masterful burn because of course Bishop Stillington, the bishop of Bath mentioned, who swore he'd witnessed a contract between Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler which automatically rendered the Edward/Elizabeth Woodville marriage null and void, had by his testimony not just declared Edward's two sons bastards, but all the children of that marriage. Including the oldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIIII.'s mother. In other words, Chapuys wasn't just saying "you're behaving just like your family's arch nemesis, the guy your dad called an ursurping tyrant", he also said "if your daughter is a bastard now, then so was your mother, which means the Pole family has a far more legitimate claim to the throne than you".

To give credit where due: Henry wasn't bad at the stealth insult game himself. Contrary to his image, he didn't shout back at this but told Chapuys magnanimously he could send him several books which would explain why Mary was a bastard now and couldn't inherit. (Chapuys was a highly trained lawyer.)

"Begin as you mean to go on"

Mar. 28th, 2015 02:40 am
rosefox: Me blowing out a birthday candle. (birthday)
[personal profile] rosefox
Happy 14th anniversary to this journal (a day late, almost to the minute if one goes by the timestamp on my first entry). That's the longest I've consistently kept up with anything other than, like, breathing.

My first day on LJ, I made five posts: one meta plus daily diary, one about staying up until 4:30 making art, one with a to-do list, one about interpersonal difficulties and trying to understand myself better, and one about body shape and weight and physical self-image. That's pretty much what I've used it for ever since. I've changed a great deal over the past 14 years, but I still feel strongly drawn to examine and muse about my inner and outer selves, my inner and outer lives, and this is still the best medium I've ever found for it.

LJ/DW aren't as conversational and social as they were, but I have Twitter for that now (as I had IRC and Usenet then), and I think I also need the commentary and discussion less than I did. How funny that I started out keeping this journal as a way of interacting with other people, and along the way it also taught me how to do the thing most journals are for: write for myself. I certainly don't mind if someone reads it, but I also don't mind if no one does. I think I'd still find it extremely hard to keep a purely reflective journal in a paper book or a file on my personal computer--there's something important about doing this as a public exercise, and about being part of our increasingly tangled digital web--but I'm no longer constantly refreshing my inbox waiting for the next comment email to land. In fact, I'm always vaguely surprised when someone does comment. :)

I keep fumbling around theatrical metaphors, but "performance" implies a degree of artifice that I've always tried to avoid in this space (and, over time, in all spaces). I'm not onstage, you're not the audience, and there's no row of footlights between us. I'm not even sure why I'm looking at metaphors when it's so easy to state it plainly:

This is where I talk about myself and my life. Sometimes other people come by and we talk together. Sometimes I talk to myself. That's what the space is designed for, and it works very well. It's comfortable. I like it. I think I'll stay around a while longer.

New Verses

Mar. 28th, 2015 01:25 am
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Thanks to a donation from Stephen Laird, we had an audience poll.  There are 8 new verses in "Often Buried Deep."   Astin picks up asteroid gems.  There are 10 new verses in "Settled." Aidan checks to make sure that Danso is okay, and explains some of what happened with his talent.

And Ng_moonmoth just finished "Often Buried Deep" so you can read the rest of that now.  Astin, Spalling, and V conclude their latest round of trade and enjoy each other's company.
celli: a woman and a man holding hands, captioned "i treasure" (Default)
[personal profile] celli
Who needs a CPA?
Well, you're never gonna get her
Who needs a CPA?
Tell me, what's that for
Who needs a CPA?
Be happy with Jackson Hewitt
Celli's busy doing taxes from the Second World War
muccamukk: Milady looking pensive, in sombre colours. (Musketeers: Faded)
[personal profile] muccamukk
In the pouring rain of late, there's been some pretty good incidental bird watching. About a thousand American robins, ruby-crowned kinglets and Rufus hummingbirds, as you'd expect, but still the odd varied thrush and northern flicker mixed in, and we've also had a western meadowlark and a red-wing blackbird. Oh, and I saw a yellow-rumped warbler last week. Most of my birdwatching is done out of my windows, so I can stay try, so the habitat is a patch of lawn, my rose bush, a western hemlock (usually full of chestnut-backed chickadees), and a marshy bit of garden.

In the garden, the daffs are finishing (save the paperwhites), and we're on to forget-me-nots, bluebells and tulips. I have bedding plants under lights indoors, and am attempting to start delphiniums.

I listened to Doctor Who "Robophobia" with Seven, which was pretty good in terms of plot twists, and a bottle plot with a sense of menace (everyone trapped on a ship with possible evil robots), and had a nice mix of whimsical and dangerous Seven (who I mostly wanted to punch, but that was what he was going for). It also totally blew the ending due to complete science fail (like Space Dragon in the Moon, level), and only had one female character who I'm pretty sure was only female because she was playing companion of the week. She's also going to show up in Dark Eyes, which was why I was backtracking for her, and was pretty great. This episode was also a direct follow up to "Robots of Death" with Four, which I haven't seen, but mean to catch up on.

Also listened to "1963: Fanfare for the Common Man" with Five and Nyssa, where the Beatles were replaced by... well, you'll see, which was aces start to finish. It had great use of time travel, and a bit for everyone to do, plus Liverpudlian accents that didn't sound like perodies, and one hundred and one nods to history. Fantastic.

Then I started back on the EDAs with "Dead London" by Pat Mills, though it felt very Ben Aaronovitch, with its shifts between different periods of London history, and general shenanigans. I liked the guest characters a lot, especially Sophie, who was an obvious nod to Jack Sheppard, and liked that Lucie got to figure things out and generally take things in stride. Oh, and they didn't use Jack the Ripper when they totally could have, so yay! I'm not sure about the ending though. I don't understand why the Doctor didn't just use the TARDIS to put everyone back.

I've always said that the Top Gear send up "Max Warp" by Jonathan Morris is one of my favourites, and it still is. Lots of fun, some very hard jabs sent towards Clarkson, and all kinds of female characters. Oh, and aliens that are actually alien. Lucy was a bit clueless, but the whole thing was played for laughs, and she did rather turn out to be right a lot. Plus her mocking the TARDIS was aces.

"Brave New Town" by Jonathan Clements is kind of a filler episode, but it's got a good plot, and I liked the character and how the mystery turned out. I remember being surprised and delighted the first time around. One does wonder what happens to the town after the end though. I don't think we ever hear about it again. Lucie is also slightly trending towards ditzy here. I'm really hoping this isn't her characterisation for the series, though I honestly don't remember.


I'm on my dismal plod to the end of series two of The Musketeers. Though I did actually like "The Return" quite a bit, even if it did have way, way too much rape, and Porthos' "plot" continued stupid. On the other hand, we got away from stupid Rochfort and the stupid court politics for a week, and also got the hilarity of no one giving a shit about Athos' manpain. Plus some cute Athos/d'Artagnan scenes, and a couple interesting new characters and bits of backstory. Of course the one thing I really want to know remained a mystery.

Milady was pretty much the saving grace of "Through a Glass Darkly" which otherwise had Two Face kidnapping the king, and a lot of boring stuff. Though Milady being AMAZING and the Constance/Anne bits made up for it, plus there were some nice Porthos/Aramis bits, and Athos and Traville hanging out. I love that Traville is still living in his office, because he has no where else to go. I'm so sick of Rochefort and how he and the plot are treating Marguerite.

"A Marriage of Inconvenience," on the other hand, had a good, non-boring plot and fantastic guest stars, and some lovely h/c. Which really makes up for all things, doesn't it. Though it also had domestic abuse, and way too much Rochefort being tiresome and awful, and Aramis being a dick. I'm enjoying how Milady and Athos are getting along, or not, this series, and am hoping that Milady gets to bad murder kill her way to the top. More of the dreaded Porthos "plot" next, which I'll try to watch tomorrow, along with the rest of the series.


I read the intro, notes and appendixes of Landmark Herodotus, which were very informative, especially the sections on navel warefare and Scythia. I would recommend it as a companion to any version, or as a way to read it on its own.

Also read, Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal, which I maybe just wasn't in the mood for. I liked a lot of aspects of the book, especially the development of Jane and Vincent's relationship, and how they're continuing to negotiate what their marriage means. I also liked the secondary characters such as the nuns and the glass artists, though including Byron as a character felt even more self-indulgent than the persistent Doctor Who cameos. The setting was cool and well-used, and I'm enjoying the expansion of glamour technology.

I guess I mostly didn't feel like the main plot held together that well. All the dots technically connected, but I never felt that engaged in it. Heist plots, especially written ones, are difficult to pull off, and this one didn't quite make it for me. This author perhaps does better with more emotionally-based main plots. Still I'm looking forward to the next book, and conclusion of the series.
[syndicated profile] alas_a_blog_feed

Posted by Ampersand

cutting-with-scissors

From the Florida Sun Sentinel (if that link is paywall blocked, try this indirect link).

Despite the threat of being jailed Tuesday, a West Boynton mother hid with her 4-year-old son in a domestic violence shelter, the latest twist in a widely reported court fight to stop the boy’s planned circumcision.

But Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen still signed a warrant for Heather Hironimus’ arrest, refusing requests from her lawyers to first consider a mental health exam of the boy and appointing an independent guardian to speak on the child’s behalf in court. […]

On Friday, Gillen declared the mom in contempt of court for violating an order enforcing a 2012 parenting plan, which makes the dad responsible for arranging the circumcision. The mom and dad did not marry either before or after the boy’s birth on Oct. 31, 2010.[…]

“I will allow her to avoid incarceration or get out of jail if she signs the consent to the procedure,” [Judge] Gillen said Friday.

The judge found the mom had willfully violated the plan she signed when the boy was 1. The judge also said Hironimus had committed a “direct, contemptuous violation” of court orders by continuing to team with circumcision opposition groups — called “intactivists” — that have “plastered” the child’s photos and name “all over the Internet.” […]

The father says the boy has a condition called phimosis, which prevents retraction of the foreskin, but the mother has said there is no such diagnosis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of newborn male circumcision are lower risks of urinary tract infections; getting penile cancer; and acquiring HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Judge Gillen mentioned these benefits in court last week, and called the procedure “very, very safe.”

My goodness – so much to unpack here.

1) In essence, what the court is doing is enforcing a shared child custody agreement. From the Judge’s perspective, ordering the mom to comply with an agreement to go along with the circumcision of her son is no different from ordering the mom to comply with an agreement to give up custody on alternate weekends. If someone continuously refuses to comply with a court-enforced agreement, being thrown in jail is a widely-accepted last-ditch method for courts to force compliance.

2) This story is news because it involves involuntary circumcision. But really, this sort of thing is bound to come up in a society in which involuntary circumcision of boys is a legal and normal thing. In other words, the problem isn’t this judge or this court case; it’s that circumcision of underage boys is considered normal parenting in our society.1

3) Nonetheless, I think Judge Gillen has made the wrong decision. A four year old is not a one year old, and forcing a four year old to have an unwanted circumcision is taking a big, and needless, chance of creating long-term trauma.2

4) Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing about this case in Salon several months ago, made a good point:

Ultimately, though, it seems pretty obvious that what we have here is a mother who feels strongly that her son should not be circumcised, and a father whose commitment to having his son undergo the procedure was so casual he put it off until the kid was almost four years old. Yes, a contract was signed. But were it a true priority the circumcision would have been done a long time ago. And at a certain point, it’s fair to reassess and understand that a preschooler is not a baby, and that compassionate parenting means erring on the side of being as minimally invasive as possible.

5) James Smith, in the comments at Reason, argues (I think persuasively, but of course I’m no lawyer) that this is technically not a matter of contract law, but of Family Court law. So if that sort of technicality interests you, go over to Reason and search for Smith’s comments.

6) The father’s argument that the circumcision is medically necessary doesn’t seem persuasive to me (there are alternative treatments for phimosis), and I suspect didn’t matter much to the Court. (That is, I think the Judge would have made the same decision, based on enforcing the parenting plan, regardless of the claim of medical necessity.)

7) I don’t like the judge ordering the parties not to speak about the case publicly, because that goes against free speech. (So good on the mother for refusing to comply with that order). There are cases where gag orders are necessary (for instance, in a case involving the identity of informants whose lives could be endangered), but I don’t see why this case is one.

8) Some parents have protested Judge Gillen’s decision by posting photos of their small kids holding up protest signs: “The irony — of people arguing that boys shouldn’t be circumcised until they can consent yet using their own toddlers to make points in social media campaigns — was not lost on some commenters.” But I agree with Ophelia Benson, who says that the equivalence doesn’t hold water.

9) I’m skeptical that it will do any good, but there’s a petition to sign here.

  1. I say “of children” because I have no objection to a grown-up choosing to have a circumcision for themselves.
  2. Some anti-circumcision activists would argue that all circumcision is a kind of long-term trauma, but – even though I oppose child circumcision – I can’t say I find my own infant circumcision to have been lastingly traumatic.

That Cricket Match

Mar. 26th, 2015 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tbray_ongoing_feed

Posted by Tim Bray

I spent many hours last Tuesday in Auckland watching the Cricket World Cup semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand. It was insanely intense. I will probably spend most of Saturday night up watching the final. Herewith words and pictures, including a bit of overview for us New-Worlders to whom cricket is (mostly) foreign.

How I got there

Back in January, an Aussie friend told us that the CWC would be on while we were visiting New Zealand. I checked, and impulse-bought tickets for a semifinal. I had no idea how big a deal this would be.

Crowd at the New Zealand-South Africa ICC semifinal

Some of the 45,000-strong crowd. Cricket fans

are loud but generally polite and cheery.

How big a deal is it?

Well, Cricket World Cup matches feature prominently on the List of most watched television broadcasts. Countries where cricket is as central as the NFL is to America: Australia, Bengladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Add up those populations.

The match was at Eden Park, all new and sparkly and renovated. Somehow, my random Web ticket shopping got us seats six from the front, just off the axis of the wicket; which is to say, perfect.

Eden park

Wide-angle-lens fun!

The narrative

The tournament had 14 teams, of which exactly four were credible championship threats: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and India. In other years any of England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the West Indies or Bangladesh might have been, but not in 2015.

Predictably, the top four roared into the semifinals. The bookies had Australia favored over India (not a hard call), and (surprisingly, I thought) South Africa over NZ, probably because SA’s captain de Villiers had been racking up big numbers, brushing off bowlers like cobwebs.

Backgrounder

The World Cup was in One Day International (ODI) format. Each side bowls 50 “overs” (of six balls each, thus 300 in total) to the other, unless ten batsmen are put out first. 250 runs is an acceptable score, 300 is excellent and usually wins. They toss a coin, the winner usually decides to bat first, then the other side has to “chase” the run total.

A game can last eight hours, or be over in under four if the bowlers are getting outs. This one had a rain delay and went from 2PM till nearly midnight.

The core of cricket is sustained attack. A batsman faces dozens or hundreds of balls, from multiple bowlers, each one an attempt to get him out, while he tries to send them where the bowling side’s fielders aren’t. As in baseball, the fast balls are over 90mph; but the slow twisters can be more dangerous. Landmark scores for a batsman are 50 (good, but happens most games) and 100 (not that uncommon).

The semifinal

The early game was very even, NZ taking a few wickets and posting a few maidens while the South Africans kept the scoreboard ticking. The only real highlight was a circus catch by Guptill.

I was much-taken with Boult’s bowling form.

Boult bowling in the New Zealand-South Africa CWC semifinal Boult bowling in the New Zealand-South Africa CWC semifinal

The game really didn’t get its chokehold on the audience till the much-feared de Villiers came on.

De Villiers comes to bat

Sure enough, he and du Plessis (what is it with the French-named South Africans?) looked stronger and stronger, loading on the runs and not seeming much bothered by any of the Kiwi bowlers. I think they were on course for a win when the rain started…

The rain is setting in

Two hours later, New Zealand came out looking sharp and refreshed, finally got du Plessis, and pretty soon were up to bat chasing 298. The tension at the start was white-hot: #1 batsman McCullum roaming the pitch, agonizingly slow, tamping down invisible imperfections; the South African side practically panting with eagerness to be at him. On the first or second ball, he stepped awkwardly out of his shoe; surely a bad portent. Then he went crazy and lashed out 59 runs on 38 balls, dropping one after another into the stands. He didn’t last long, but by the time he was gone, the required run rate was down into totally reasonable territory.

McCullum at work

McCullum at work.

Then the Kiwi batsmen set out to drive the crowd insane by playing cautious, conservative, cricket for over after over after bleeding over; letting old-school Test-match style short shots die at their feet. Also, getting the rock-steady Guptill run out in a blaze of amateurishness didn’t help. They let the run rate creep back up, but never too far.

As midnight neared, they needed 46 runs from 30 balls. Then 36 from 24. Then 29 from 18. Then 23 from 12. Then, finally, 12 from the last 6. At bat, the transplanted South African Elliott was looking untroubled. But opposite stood the aging, flaky, spin-bowler Vettori, whose batting stance looks something like a wading bird hunting fish. But somehow he wriggled a nasty low stroke out for 4. At this point, the roar of the Kiwi crowd was almost equaled by the pitter-patter of their dripping sweat. I’ve never been in a more electric venue. A couple of singles later, 5 behind and 2 balls remaining, Elliott arced what baseball fans would call a “walk-off” six into the south stands, and I was standing in a bath of raucous joy. I was thinking of Joe Carter in 1993; but this was way bigger.

You can watch the highlights here.

This match has been covered to death, but I thought most of the write-ups missed a key point: The South African field placement was astonishingly accurate. Time after time a Kiwi smacked a bouncer really hard toward a boundary; and there was a South African fielder waiting.

In any really memorable, really close game, each side will have made some dorky mistakes: In this case the Blackcaps’ high-school running, and the South Africans’ failure to catch soft flies. But it all balanced out.

Afterstory

I thought the Aussies were a safe bet against India — they just have way better bowling — and so it happened.

So the final is Australia/NZ, appropriate since they’re the co-hosts. Given meaningful money to bet straight up, I’d take the Aussies, even though NZ (barely) won their first-round match, a rousing kill-all-the-batsmen bowlers’ party. But my wife and children are New Zealanders and so I’ll be backing the boys in black.

How many chances do you get to see a semifinal in a World Cup of anything? I’m a lucky guy.

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