[story] The Ghost and Its House

Jun. 27th, 2017 10:04 am
yhlee: sleepy kitty (Cloud)
[personal profile] yhlee
For P.H.
Prompt: "ghost consciousness."

The house had lain ruined for decades upon decades, quiescent at the edge of the town. Once, it was said, a fine family had dwelled there, wealthy at first, much given to parties and entertainments. The oldest people in the town still remembered the parties: the music of string quartets, and cakes decorated with spun-sugar ornaments, and couples dancing gaily through the night. But now none of the windows had glass in them anymore, save for a few sharded teeth, and the wind blew freely through the rooms where people had once gathered to gossip.

Nevertheless, the house was not entirely uninhabited. A ghost remained attached to the house, and it murmured to itself during the long winter nights, singing tuneless ghost-songs of the shapes that shadows make in the dark, and the sounds that mirrors make when no one is around to hear them, and footsteps in the distant wood. The ghost did not remember the name of the person it had been, once upon a time, but neither did this make it unhappy.

In time a pregnant cat moved into the house for the shelter it offered. The ghost did not remember much about cats, except that they liked cream, and it had no such thing to give the cat. But it had other things to offer. It encouraged the old closets to throw their doors open and disgorge their rotted linens so that the cat would have something to nest in, and it offered all house's hiding places, as well as the lullaby of the crooning wind.

For her part, the cat was a pragmatist. She did not share human prejudices against ghosts, and a ruined house was as good as any other place for her to raise kittens. She merely made sure that there were no raccoons or the like already occupying the place, and then she set to building her nest in earnest.

Cats are not the most talkative of folk, but this cat was friendlier than most. She asked the ghost why it lingered in the house, instead of going to its rest the way humans usually did. While she didn't always put credence in human stories, she had heard that ghosts usually stayed in the realm of the living because they had left some task unfinished.

The ghost said to the cat, "The only task is the task of the house itself. It was my home when I lived, and it remains my home in death."

"Then I am sorry I cannot help you," the cat said, dismayed in spite of the very pressing matter of the kittens she expected to arrive in a matter of days. "A human could help you restore the house, but I am a cat. I may have clever paws and whiskers, but they are no good for building."

The ghost's laughter gusted through the house, although it tried to keep the worst of the cold from the cat. "What do I care about restoration?" it said. "Perhaps once, when I had flesh, it would have mattered to me. But now I am a creature of shadows and dust and ash, and this house suits what I am now. I can keep it safe for you and your kittens. They can play in the house's halls and grow to adulthood without fear of being chased out by human owners; is that not enough?"

"If that is the case," the cat replied, "I shall gratefully accept your hospitality, and my kittens and I will keep your house free of mice."

"It is a very old bargain," the ghost said, "and if it suits you, it suits me."

Two days later, the kittens were born without fuss, or more fuss than the usual, anyway, and in the years to come, generations of cats made their home in the house. They probably live there still. As for the ghost, it has been busy adding the songs of cats to its repertoire. The result is noisy, but none of them mind.

Prompt for 2017-06-27

Jun. 27th, 2017 09:22 pm
sashataakheru: (Default)
[personal profile] sashataakheru posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is 'cold'.

Mama Robin

Jun. 27th, 2017 08:55 am
shadowycat: (Butterfly)
[personal profile] shadowycat posting in [community profile] common_nature
 photo DSCN2264_zpsm47grdsw.jpg

A mama robin has taken up residence in a nest in a tree next to my back patio. The nest was occupied last year by a robin, too. Of course, there's no way to know if it's the same robin sitting there now as sat there last year. Regardless, I was surprised to see the nest occupied again. I didn't think robins did that sort of recycling. From what I was able to find on the subject, it's not common but does happen occasionally. Has anyone else seen this sort of reuse of old nests?

Some things

Jun. 27th, 2017 10:23 pm
alasse_irena: Photo of the back of my head, hair elaborately braided (Default)
[personal profile] alasse_irena
I posted in a friending meme, so I thought I'd better post something. I've been in study land and let the blog go into hibernation.

1. A friending meme! Go make friends with people.


2. I have a lot of Doctor Who thoughts that I'm going to write up after the final episode next week. Basically I've enjoyed this season more than expected, with the exception of that monks/pyramid section, which was pretty rubbish.

3. I am flying to warmer places next week to see the Royal Ballet. The tickets were expensive but we're staying with family, so that makes up for it, and also it is not so fucking cold as here. (I say this as an Australian. The Bureau of Meteorology says it's 9.7C right now; all of you from colder climes, I am glad not to be you.)

4. I am thinking about taking up aerial hoop, and also my favourite ballet teacher is running a class I can finally make it too!

5. What is which that thing where you decide to go and have a shower or whatever, and then somehow an hour later you are halfway between the couch and the batthroom reading some shit on your phone and you are stuck?? Why is that a thing? Humans are badly designed.

6. My friend's parents somehow...impulse-bought an old Church three hours drive from the city? Anyway, I went with a group of friends to stay there over the weekend, got super drunk on fortified wine, got to know a lovely and interesting person who had previously only been an acquaintance, and saw an old volcano crater!

7. I handed in a draft of my thesis, and while it's only half the work of a whole thesis, I feel happy to have got through it. I'm giving myself a week's break before I get back to work. (Except reading. My primary sources are memoirs and super easy to read, so they can double as recreational reading, as long as I remember to take occasional notes.)

Nominations Are Open!

Jun. 27th, 2017 05:17 pm
[personal profile] genexmod posting in [community profile] genex
Nominate

Tagset

You may nominate up to seven fandoms, with a maximum of 7 relationships per fandom.

Please only nominate & relationships (i.e. gen relationships.).

Please ignore the instructions at the top of the form regarding crossover relationships. Crossover relationships go under 'Crossover Fandom'. The instructions to nominate crossover relationships under either fandom are AO3's automated instructions, and, unfortunately, I can't find a way to remove them.

All Media Types tags are not allowed for Tolkien and Star Wars. Tolkien will be split as LotR books/LotR movies/Silmarillion/Hobbit books/Hobbit movies. Star Wars will be split as Originals/Prequels/Sequels/Legends/canon comics/canon novels/individual TV shows.

Please also avoid All Media Types tags for fandoms as much as possible. As specific or general (eg: individual movies or umbrella franchises) as you want is fine, but I'd prefer to minimise AMT tags as much as possible.

Please also note that I won't be able to approve tags very quickly until the 28th or 29th, possibly the 30th, because my home Internet is down and repairs are ongoing. I will be approving nominations on mobile as fast as possible, but disambiguation will take time. In particular, disambiguating when nominating for the following fandoms would make the process faster:
Marvel
DC
  • Tolkien
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek
  • Stargate
  • George R. R. Martin
  • Fullmetal 
  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  (TV/movies)
  • Sherlock Holmes
Once nominations begin to be approved, if your noms have mysteriously vanished, been moved to the wrong fandom, or otherwise messed up, please let me know! Ditto for duplicates and misspellings/nonexistent characters.

Munich Film Festival II

Jun. 27th, 2017 11:28 am
selenak: (Orson Welles by Moonxpoints5)
[personal profile] selenak
The Infiltrator was part of the Bryan Cranston retrospective and basically came across as a well-made routine thriller without anything being either bad or having anything innovative going for it. I.e. if you've watched thrillers about undercover cops working to bring a drug cartel down, you can predict all of the story beats. (Other than one spoilerly bit ).) It's entertaining and does what it sets out to do, and needless to say Cranston is reliably good in the part, but I wouldn't say it's a must.

City of Ghosts, otoh, was a fantastic documentary, directed by Matthew Heineman, about the citizen journalist group Raqqa is being slaughtered silently (RBBS). Before I watched it, I was unfamiliar with the phrase "citizen journalist" , but it's really a perfect description, because before the IS came to Raqqa, only one of them was a journalist, the rest had professions like high school math teacher or engineer. Nonetheless, they took incredible risks getting out photos and film evidence of the atrocities the so called Islamic State visited - and still visits upon their city. The surviving founders of the group had to flee but they still have some members in Raqqa, trying their best to continue getting material out. I'm always hesitant to use the phrase "real life heroes", but these people are truly heroic, and one thing that galls me especially is that when they've made it alive to Germany and safety, they promptly run into one anti-refugees march by the godawful AFD in Berlin.

The documentary starts during the "Arab Spring" in 2012, for which the Assad Regime going after Raqqa school children was one of the local triggers, and ends last year. We follow the core group of RBBS; Heineman is an invisible presence, he lets them narrate their stories, and when there's background information/exposition, such the way the IS uses the media for recruitment changed radically from the very early static speech videos to the Hollywood style big production videos that came into use after the fall of Raqqa, the activists are doing the explaining (subtitled, for the most part, everyone talks in Arabic) while the audience sees excerpts of the videos in question. BTW, I'd never seen an IS recruitment video before, and I have to say, the exact copying of action movie gimmicks and aesthetics (complete with following-the-bullet shots, soundtrack, etc.) is nearly as unsettling as the content. It's not much of a comfort that RBBS was able to puncture the IS self image enough by getting videos and photos showing the true state of Raqqa out to counteract the IS claims about it that the IS forbade any satelites in Raqqa and ordered the inhabitants to publically destroy theirs, so they regain control of the imagery. But it's something.

If the excerpts from the IS videos go for action movie gloss on violence, the mobile phone camera made videos of the RBBS are shaky, abruptly cut off, full of (inevitably) strange angles - and shocking in quite a different way. For example, the first time we see executions, the abrupt deaths and the already dead bodies lying around are bad enough, but without either the camera or any narrator pointing this out, what is as gruesome is what you see in the background. Yes, these are heads on pikes on what used to be the town square, not cheap movie props in the latest zombie splatter, but real human heads.

There's a lot of survivors guilt among the activists; one of them had to watch his father being executed in punishment, all of them are directly threatened by the IS who calls for their deaths, one lost his brother who was among the refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean, and when he talks about his dead brother, he says he still sends him messages per Facebook (as the account hasn't been taken down). "I am broken, my brother. Broken." And yet, and yet, they still continue to risk their lives. There's also a lot of comraderie we see, being physically comfortable with each other, and the rare moment of pure joy, such as everyone having a snowball fight in Berlin. You feel for them, and admire them - and hope the movie will be seen by as many people as possible. Maybe it will remind them that 95% of the victims of IS terrorism are Muslims - and said victims won't, shan't be silenced, are doing their best to fight back.

L'Intrusa, directed by Leonardo di Costanzo, is, like The Infiltrator, "based on a true story", with organized crime in the background, but the contrast couldn't be greater. While delivering a tight narration, there's nothing routine or slick about this movie, which is set in Naples and manages to avoid every single cliché. The fact you don't see the Vesuvio or the bay anywhere is just one of them; L'Intrusa is set in one of the poor quarters. The central characteris Giovanna, who has organized a miixture of daycare centre and social centre for kids and teenagers to offer them a life off the streets. When the film starts, the centre is well established and has been running for years, has been embraced by the neighborhood - but then something happens that puts Giovanna in an unsolvable dilemma. One of the small to mid level gangster's wives - Maria - and her two children have come to the centre, claiming refuge. Giovanna, Maria's daughter Rita and Maria are the three main characters; the supporting cast is also individualized, from Giovanna's right hand woman Sabina to the widow of a man Maria's husband has shot to the little daughter whose father was beaten to a pulp by Maria's husband right in front of her.

L'Intrusa never shows on screen violence. It doesn't show the Camorra doing what the Camorra does, but the after effects are present everywhere. This was a deliberate choice by the director, who in the Q & A said that if you depict Mafiosi "from the front", i.e. put them in the centre of the narration, even if you position them as villains, you end up making them in some ways sympathetic or even glorify them. "So, in my films, I only come at them sideways" - i.e. they're not there on screen, but there's no mistaking the terribile effect they have. Now, the centre is a film full of life and joy, with a community acting together, and it's rare and very attractive to see that. But it's not utopia, and in fact the need for it directly grows out of the unseen horrors around it. Not surprisingly, more and more parents object to Maria's presence. Giovanna gets accused of prioritizing the perpretators over their victims. The aunt of the little girl who has seen her father beaten into a pulp demands to know how she should justify to her sister letting her niece interact, let alone play with Rita, what that would do to her niece. Things come to a head when Rita and some of the kids argue, a normal kids' argument, with the parents drawn into, but Maria isn't just any parent, and so when she says "if you touch my daughter again etc.", the awareness that this is the wife of someone who casually kills people, even if he's currently arrested and hopefully won't get out of prison any time soon, makes this a direct threat to the other kids.

Otoh, Giovanna's argument is: if you ever want to break the cycle of violence, you need to make sure that the Marias of the world don't raise their children to follow their fathers' footsteps. That these children learn other values, learn something different. If she turns these children away from the centre, this will not happen.

As I said: it's an unsolvable dilemma, and the movie doesn't simplify it. It even adds to the stakes because Maria at first comes across as arrogant and rude (it's not until well into the film when you see her alone that you realise she's shattered and scared as well). Not to mention that she starts out by deceiving Giovanna, and there's early on not much to justify Giovanna's hope that Maria actually wants a change for herself and her children - nothing but the fact Maria is here instead of being with her rich sister-in-law, who in the movie shows up twice in a big car to retrieve Maria, in vain, and evidently lives the well funded Mafia spouse life. Basically: you understand where everyone is coming from.

Something else I learned in the Q & A was that most of the actors were lay actors, actual Neapolitans whose main job is in social service (though no one played themselves), with Giovanna being played by a woman who is a dancer and dance choreographer. "Because Giovanna doesn't say much, she's so stoic, she expresses herself through her body language," said the director, "I wanted someone who could do that, that's why I picked Raffaela Giordano." Who indeed is able to express much by the way she looks at people, by her movements, and who looks like she's closer to 50 than to 40. Everyone looks "normal", i.e. like people you could meet on the streets, not like well styled actors with a daily workout. But none act amateurishly in the sense that you're taken outside the story or feel they're talking stiltedly; given Rita and the other children are a big part of the story, that's especially amazing.

Favourite detail: one of the projects the kids in the centre work on, and the one Rita falls in love with and participates with, is building a robot they name "Mr. Jones" out of old bicycle parts. You can bet that in most other movies, Rita and her baby brother would have changed placed in age and it would have been a little boy fascinated with the robot.

In conclusion: probably my favourite movie so far, and highly reccomended

Oh, God will save her, fear you not

Jun. 27th, 2017 04:42 am
sovay: (I Claudius)
[personal profile] sovay
I enjoyed this review of a new biography of A.E. Housman, but I got to the last paragraph and disagreed so violently that I spent my shower fuming about it:

But that sweetness, verging on sentimentality, is also Housman's limitation: the lads and lasses slumbering under the grass, never growing old or sick or worrying about how to find a job. Sadness in Housman is a one-size-fits-all emotion, not one rooted in particulars. It puddles up automatically. And reading "A Shropshire Lad" you can find yourself becoming narcotized against feelings that are deeper and more complicated. That may be the real secret of the book's enduring popularity, the way it substitutes for a feeling of genuine loss the almost pleasant pain of nostalgia.

The reviewer claims earlier that "one reason 'A Shropshire Lad' has been so successful is that readers find there what they want to find," so perhaps I am merely following this well-worn tack, but I don't see how you can read Housman and miss the irony, the wryness, the sometimes bitterness and often ambiguity that never prevents the pleasure of a line that turns perfectly on itself. Some of his best poems seem to take themselves apart as they go. Some of them are hair-raising. Some of them are really funny. (It is impossible for me to take "When I was one-and-twenty" as a serious lament. In the same vein, it wasn't until tonight in the shower that I finally noticed that "Is my team ploughing" owes a cynical debt to "The Twa Corbies.") That is much more complicated than a haze of romantic angst and the vague sweet pain of lost content, especially seeing how much of Housman's language is vividly, specifically physical for all its doomed youth and fleeting time, not dreamy at all. Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale. I am not sure why the reviewer knocks Housman's Shropshire for not being "particular," either. Of course it's not actual Shropshire, where the poet himself acknowledged he never even spent much time. It's Housman's Arcadia, et ego and all. I finished the review and found myself thinking of Catullus—again, I had to have my hair full of soap before I realized why. I don't understand why anyone looks for the undiluted Housman in A Shropshire Lad any more than the Lesbia poems should be assumed to contain the authentic Catullus. Pieces of both of them, sure. But my grandmother didn't need the identity of the addressee of "Shake hands, we shall never be friends, all's over" pinned down in order to copy out the poem and save it after a college relationship broke up badly. (I thought it was hers for years.) Who cares if its second person was Moses Jackson or fictional? It spoke to a real loss. I don't think there is anything anesthetizing in that. I doubt Housman would have wanted the particulars known, anyway. I have to figure out a way to stop fuming and start being asleep.
umadoshi: (Deadline Russian cover)
[personal profile] umadoshi
New DW Communities

[dreamwidth.org profile] drawesome is "a friendly community of fan-artists who enjoy drawing. We hope to inspire and motivate each other to practice and hone our drawing skills in a stress-free, supportive environment."

[dreamwidth.org profile] comicsroundtable is "a fannish community for comics discussion, reviews, and general chat."


Fannish/Geeky Things

Neat Twitter thread on Wonder Woman costuming, written by a costume designer.

"Wonder Woman Actor Says Chief Is Actually a Demi-God". [io9]

"Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women".

"More Murderbot Adventures from Martha Wells". [Tor.com]


Miscellaneous

"Disney Princesses Reimagined Years Later As Queens By Daughters And Mothers". "The main idea was to portray the relationship between a true mother and daughter as the same princesses a generation apart to show the similarities, the features that are alike." (Related ~10-minute YouTube video, which I haven't watched.)

"Report Finds Diverse Movies Outperform White Ones At Every Level".

"Declawing: A new study shows we can’t look the other way".

"Host a Silent Reading Party in 7 Easy Steps". [Book Riot]

"Why Honeybees Are The Wrong Problem To Solve".

"Invention Saves Wildlife From Drowning in Swimming Pools".

"Sitka artist designs slinky dress from 20,000 salmon bones".

"How I use comic books as a learning tool in my social studies classroom". [March 2016]



On Atlas Obscura:

--"Most of the World’s Bread Clips Are Made by a Single Company".

--"Jupiter Is Even Weirder Than We Thought".

--"Laurel Dinosaur Park: This dig site outside D.C. is known for its exceptionally high density of baby dinosaur fossils and dinosaur eggs".

--"The Wartime Spies Who Used Knitting as an Espionage Tool".

Replica

Jun. 26th, 2017 08:40 pm
yhlee: Shuos Jedao (Hellspin Fortress) (hxx Jedao 1x10^6)
[personal profile] yhlee
Jenna Black's Replica is a YA sf novel that I picked up from the library one-cent-a-book discard sale along with its sequel Resistance. I have just finished Replica and have not yet read Resistance, although I plan on getting to it soon. My verdict is that this is a good novel, but it could have been so much better.

I was attracted to Replica because clones and faux!amnesia are bulletproof narrative kinks for me. You have to work to foul those up for me. Here's the back cover copy:
Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake's marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege, even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image--no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he's more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She's not exactly his type...not that he can tell anyone that.

But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory backup, he doesn't know what--or rather, who--killed him.

Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

What's good: there's a lot packed into the premise. Nadia is genteelly raised, but far from spineless, and easy to sympathize with. Nate is a closeted gay man in a social class of a future society that strongly discourages homosexuality, and one of his major motivations is to protect his lower-class lover. And Nadia and Nate's friendship with its ups and downs is believable.

Neutral: the Executive class of elites allows women to inherit, but there's a behavioral double standard as to what men and women can get away with, which is why Nadia has to watch her every move so she doesn't cause scandals while Nate can act out all he wants. The narrative states that this is some kind of throwback to the nineteenth century (Western, presumably?). There isn't much explanation given for how this developed, but I've seen sillier setups in sf so I was willing to go along with it.

What's less good, without going into spoilers: As far as I can tell, the entire named cast minus one character (Chloe, a friend of Nadia's) is white. There is lip-service paid to Chloe feeling like an outcast because she's black, and then Chloe is very rapidly shuffled off-stage and we never hear from her again.

That's not actually my biggest complaint about the novel. My biggest complaint about the novel is that it has a lot of tense action and still never manages to punch hard enough. And I don't mean this in the social justice sense of punching down or sideways or diagonally or whateverthehell. I mean this in terms of narrative impact on the reader.

I can't discuss further without spoiling the whole thing, and I am really frustrated by the fact that this fairly good novel could have taken my favorite tropes and done them even better, so let's have a spoiler cut: Read more... )

Check-In – Day 26

Jun. 26th, 2017 09:45 pm
samuraiter: (Default)
[personal profile] samuraiter posting in [community profile] writethisfanfic
*coughs*

Let us pretend that I did not miss a day. What have you been doing today?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

And the question for today: What one thing will get you to drop your writing instantly, whether you wish to or not? (In my case, it's a new Fire Emblem game, but that's me.)

Sign-ups

Jun. 26th, 2017 08:53 pm
evil_plotbunny: (Default)
[personal profile] evil_plotbunny posting in [community profile] fic_corner
Sign ups are due to end in 48 hours. What time is that for me?

I'm a little worried because we're currently under 20 sign-ups and I'm not sure if we're going to get enough to make matching possible. Hopefully everyone's waiting till the last minute. Hopefully everyone's waiting till the last minute. Tell your friends, tell your enemies. Encourage them to sign up!

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