mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday of the day)
January is full of kings - Three Kings Day, Martin Luther King Day, and the birthday of the King, Elvis Presley.

(And, of course, the Goblin King, but I try to celebrate David Bowie every day.)
mokie: Stonehenge with the sun shining through the stones (holiday hippie)
What better way to celebrate Secondhand Clothes Day than sharing the wonders of Katwise?

Kat O'Sullivan has built a glorious technicolor empire on recycled thrift store sweaters, transforming them into one-of-a-kind works of wearable art for bodies of all sizes. Her work is so popular that she can't keep it in stock: once a month she adds new sweaters to her shop, and they sell out within minutes. Her name is frequently used as a tag or description by the many copy-Kats, but rather than call the lawyers to go full-Disney on anyone who steps foot on her turf, she embraces the sweater love with grace and affordable tutorial PDFs so everybody can hop on the upcycling wagon.

And then there's her house - a 100+ year old farmhouse turned into a glorious riot of color, pattern and material, full of found and created art.

And her life...
"In no particular order: she’s worked for Mother Teresa, trained as a baker, been contracted by an exiled princess of Burma to teach refugees how to make Kentucky Fried Chicken, bought a burnt out school bus for $500 and painted it six thousand colours, learned how to poke thieves in the eye in Ecuador where she lived under an active volcano, perfected her Spanish as a translator in the Amazonian jungle, resided in a trailer on Broadway, hitchhiked across the Sahara and spent time in Mongolia where she came to the conclusion that she now wants a yurt." (Messynessychic.com)
It's a life of firsthand adventures, built on secondhand sweaters! I'd take the secondhand version, though - how do I be her when I grow up?
mokie: A child lays in a bed built into a bookshelf, reading (reading yay)
Happy 230th birthday to Jakob Grimm, an influential linguist better known for his tales of fantasy.

Hang on, why does that sound familiar? Oh, right, yesterday's birthday boy.

Attention aspiring fantasy writers: be born in early January.
mokie: A package of meat wishes you happy holidays (holiday internet)
Sure, technically there's a real holiday on January 2 - Hogmanay, a Scottish holiday that apparently involves bonfires and lots of food - but I'm not Scottish, and how many 'gorge yourself by a fire' winter holidays can a person take?

So I settled in for Science Fiction Day with an episode of Black Mirror, an acclaimed UK anthology series about the perils of modern technology. Or I tried to. Then I fell asleep, because flu.

Ah well, no harm done - every day is Science Fiction Day around here...
mokie: Vintage photo of a woman with legs crossed reading a book (reading smut)
So I was discussing fiction with a friend... No, that's not quite right.

So last year I started watching Hemlock Grove, but got distracted and wandered off. When I saw an advertisement for the upcoming second season, I thought two things: "Better to catch up and keep up, then," and "Wait, what? 'Emmy-nominated'? Hemlock Grove was nominated for a fucking Emmy, but there's no love for Hannibal?"

Because I like Hemlock Grove, more or less. Contrary to appearances, it's not yet another True Bloody Vampire Twilight Diaries teen romance soap opera with fangs, but a collection of Hollywood's classic Silver Screen movie monsters translated to a modern setting, and that's a pretty nifty idea. But I love Hannibal, and most of the critics who've bothered to watch it call it the best show on TV right now - better than Game of Thrones, better than Mad Men, better even, some thought, than Breaking Bad. And yet it was more or less snubbed by the mainstream American awards shows, and even the piddly media awards; for instance, it shows up only in vague "Best Villain" and "Best Show" categories on TV Guide's online awards voting. Why is that?

Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in not watching horror... No, that's not quite right.

Because society is full of snobby assholes who take great pride in bragging about not watching horror. And the little committees that pick award nominees and winners are loaded with those assholes. This is no surprise to 'genre' fans - we're pretty used to the world looking down its nose at us - but it is a surprise to see so many vampires and werewolves sprinkled around out in the open and accepted. They're not horror anymore, but romance, the new soap operas, and the voters are totes cool with them as long as they stay sexy and don't look like, y'know, monsters.

Even so, I suspect Hemlock Grove's nomination had more to do with patting Netflix on the head for making its own series than the series it made.

But anyway.

So I was discussing that with a friend, and we wandered off on a tangent about romance novels, including paranormal romances, historical romances, the old-fashioned gothic romances, and all that jazz. Eventually we circled around to poking the fanfiction concept of 'id fic' with a stick, because that is a clever, clever way to look at literature.

Id fic appeals to the squat little reptilian pleasure-seeking part of brain, your id, the little masturbating monkey mind, the part of your brain that embarrasses you at parties with inappropriate thoughts and grunts, "Uhn, sexy!" at shit you know just ain't right. As one fanfiction writer put it, "Because 'good' stories often have to temporize, to maintain reality and your suspension of disbelief and the dynamics of the canon. But idfic says fuck that, let's turn this shit up to ELEVEN and SEE WHERE IT GOES."

See? That's brilliant. Instead of blushing through flustered and defensive explanations of how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn has deeper meaning, or romance novels aren't really about the smut, or how pulp fantasy novels have deeper wish fulfillment blah blah blah, look at the freedom of just saying, "It's id fic" - acknowledging that the masturbating monkey mind loves its stories, too, and that this is totally okay.

But, at the same time, it also lets us see how V.C. Andrews' hypermelodramatic incest porn, etc., can have deeper meaning, because where you've got id, you've got context for the tight-laced and prudish super-ego to stroll in: the masturbating monkey mind likes it dirty, and what the masturbating monkey mind finds dirty has a lot to say about the culture and society and baggage of the mind it squats in. For instance, Wuthering Heights is a big ol' floppy melodramatic mess of id, crouched in the corner fapping furiously and leering at onlookers, but it's also a classic that "challenged strict Victorian ideals of the day, including religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality."

Would it be going too far to suggest there's also super-ego fic? Stories that consciously and purposefully poke at social constructs and cultural baggage, that get all up our noses about being a better person? Those stories certainly exist - they're the things we rarely read on our own, because they're preachy and boring, not at all as interesting as peering through a book-shaped keyhole with the masturbating monkey mind at things we know we'll later feel dirty for enjoying.

Maybe that's what I like so much about Hannibal - having both the monkey and the monk at the dinner table together, uncomfortably aroused.

Edited to add: Yes, I know, the id fic concept has been around for ages, but my circles don't overlap that way. Sometimes it takes a while for things to pop up on my radar. Also, when discussing some topics, particularly fandom or fan-adjacent topics, things work out best if I just assume that the other person has no idea what I'm talking about until/unless they say otherwise, and thus I need to explain from scratch without getting too slangful or complicated.
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (media pop culture)
#1. Room 237
The structure of this documentary about the search for hidden meanings in Kubrick's The Shining seems to intentionally mirror the movie: creepy labyrinthine rambling, and then someone whips out the crazy.

Long before the documentary rolled up on Netflix, I'd seen an article (or three) mentioning some of the more plausible theories, and did some back reading on them. That's why it's so odd that the film does a relatively poor job presenting those theories: the documentary is a long series of rambling interviews with voices we never seen, played over clips from the movie edited together, looped around, rewound and replayed, while the soundtrack jogs along being inexplicably more creepy than it was in the actual film. It could easily have been trimmed not just for a tighter pace, but to better cover the theories. Instead, the detached voices ramble, and the more they ramble, the more obsessive they begin to sound, like the famous director himself.

And then they get to the moon landing conspiracy theory, which sounds like it was added intentionally to make everyone involved sound crazy.

#2. Death Becomes Her
Death Becomes Her took the bones of Hollywood's classic monster movies and turned them into a Hollywood monster movie.

A disgraced surgeon working on corpses to give them the semblance of life? An inmate asylum who funnels their obsession into eating? A slinky and seductive foreigner offering eternal youth? Not one, but two brides? Even zombies get a nod near the end of the film.

The horror isn't shambling creatures rising from the grave in search of blood, but shambling stars emerging from the plastic surgeon in search of youth, part of an industry based entirely on the preservation of appearance, the rejection of reality and fear of the passage of time.

#3. Lilo & Stitch
Lilo & Stitch was the first Disney movie in which we see protagonists who are orphans and the implications of that.

The golden age princesses had their parents conveniently removed in favor of wicked stepmothers and fairy godmothers, and later animal protagonists lost their parents for drama points, but it never mattered: the princesses were content to sing and wait for their prince to come, the animals were too young to care or got a narrative cut-away to hit us with the death but spare us the grieving. (Damn you, Bambi.)

The Disney renaissance passed on stepmothers in favor of single/adoptive parents and wicked fairy godmonsters (hey, worked for Maleficent). Neptune's daughters appear to have no mother, but Ariel gets a little hand from Ursula, while Belle had only crazy old Maurice and a long-gone witch who thought it was appropriate to turn a castle's worth of people into furniture because someone was once rude to her. Jasmine's mother? Pocahontas's mother? Chief Powhatan's first on-screen act was to let us know she was dead. Hercules? Kidnapped, adopted by a nice couple, later reunited with his parents. Simba? Lost his father, adopted by a nice same-sex couple, later reunited with his mother. Tarzan? Orphaned (but too young to grieve), adopted by a nice couple (of apes), later reunited with his species.

Lilo? Orphaned, grieving, arguably acting out because of it.
Nani? Orphaned, grieving, trying to keep their tiny broken family together in spite of it.

Beside the fantastical half of the story, there's this small human story about loss and coping with it. No Prince Charming can come to their rescue, though David offers support; no evil monster is going to rip them apart, though a social worker threatens the family (out of concern rather than malice). The big scifi tale of an isolated special snowflake created in a lab (almost a shot at Disney's family-free princesses) gains its depth by smooshing it into this little human story.

#4. The Addams Family
The original comics, TV show and movies all show the Addamses as part of a community that accepts and even celebrates their weirdness. While the plot may be about the average Joe or Jane stumbling into weird Addams territory, the Addamses and their culture are always accepting and welcoming of these mundanes - more accepting and welcoming than the mundanes are, certainly.

Weird moment of synchronicity! I jotted that down several months ago intending to expand it into a whole ramble at some point. A day or two later, the_phredPhred shared a blog post arguing that the Addamses are the most well-adjusted family on television, because: Gomez and Morticia are clearly in love and enjoy spending time together while also giving each other space to pursue their own interests; Wednesday and Pugsley may play dangerous, but "seem to view one another as accomplices, rather than rivals"; it's an extended family, in which relatives and employees are clearly respected and cared for; and they didn't change who they were to please others, or demand that others change for them.

Another blogger expanded up on this with a brief comparison to the '60s other televised 'horror' family, the Munsters, and might have definitively explained why most people are either a Munsters fan or an Addams fan:
"On one level, the Munsters were a campy stereotype immigrant family, while the Addams' were strictly old-money. Two different spins on the American experience. On another level, the Munsters are 'externally validated' and live entirely for the approval of others. The Addams are 'internally validated' and totally comfortable with themselves as long as they live up to their own standards. The Munsters are ashamed of their unique qualities, while the Addams' celebrate and enjoy them. (Only Grandpa Munster is unabashed, and continually has to be reigned in). [...] In my experience, Business people, early risers, team sports players and dog owners all seem to like The Munsters while artists, night owls, individual sports players and cat fanciers see to prefer The Addams Family."
It makes me wish Mockingbird Lane, a very-Addams reboot of The Munsters, had been picked up. Ah well.

#5. Roseanne
In many ways, Roseanne is less about a working-class family than it is about the death of a small town.

The small town of Lanford, Illinois, is almost a character in its own right. Outline the series, and you'll see not just the changeable fortunes of the Conners, but the decline of Lanford: the closing of its primary employer, a loss of quality jobs, a slip in the local economy affecting local businesses, the town quietly fading into a trucker's stop-over point. It's part of why the last season rang so wrong, but for the right reasons (or, at least, right on paper): it wasn't a big fantasy about her husband not dying, but about the main character having the money to save everyone, culminating in saving the town itself by restoring its primary employer, Wellman Plastics. It all centers on one line in the monologue: "When you're a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security."
mokie: A big red dinosaur says, "Make me a sandwich" (grumpy)
The Black Death wasn't spread by rat fleas, says a researcher...

...promoting a TV special.

...based on 25 bodies in one British plague pit and a modern account of pneumonic plague.

...ignoring contemporary reports of the Black Death's spread and symptoms, which acknowledge that respiratory infections (pneumonic plague) occurred, but that they were less common than the regular infection presumed to be spread by fleas, whose symptoms (buboes, or swollen lymph nodes) gave the Plague its other common name.

...based in part on genetic analysis of the Yersinia pestis bacteria from those bodies, which he found to be almost identical to modern bacteria in modern outbreaks and which he thus concludes couldn't have spread as fast in its bubonic form as the Black Death's scale would have required, which ignores that (a) modern folks are by and large less cozy with fleas than medieval Europe was, (b) medieval Europe had seen a series of massive famines in the years leading up to the Black Death, and malnutrition leaves populations vulnerable to disease and infection, and (c) European researchers have found previously unknown (and hopefully extinct) strains of the plague bacteria which could easily have been nastier than the modern version.

...apparently jumping into the "It wasn't rats!" debate without actually addressing any of the rat-related evidence.

I love the hemorrhagic plague theory - the idea that Europe was struck not by the rat-spread Yersinia pestis bacteria, but by an Ebola-like virus. Or better, both, sweeping through a weakened population at the same time! And according to some researchers, there are a few assumptive leaps when it comes to rats spreading the plague in Europe, because of where specific rat species lived or had been recorded during the period.

But at the same time, we know Yersinia pestis hit Europe because the DNA is there, and we've known rats and their fleas spread the plague for years, because regular outbreaks in outbreak-prone areas in Asia were preceded by massive rat die-offs. That's what led researchers to specifically study transmission via rats and fleas. We know how that mechanism works. Getting rats and fleas off the hook requires more than proving that 25 bodies in a single British plague pit died of pneumonic plague rather than bubonic, because for all we know that pit was reserved specifically for victims of the pneumonic plague, since it was so very contagious and deadly.

Of course, you could argue that the real problem is that I don't know for sure that this is what the researcher is saying: I'm responding to a flurry of articles proclaiming that the flea and rat are innocent of all charges, and for all I know, it's just a bunch of writers misinterpreting one researcher's findings, just like the regular articles proclaiming that a cure for AIDS has been found because one researcher or another has found a promising technique that still needs years and years and years of testing.
mokie: Sleepy hobbit Will Graham naps on a couch (tired)
I have discovered a feeling more frustrating than having to interact when I'm feeling hermit-ish: being all out of social energy when all I want to do is be social.

The cold weather is mostly past, and I am itching to get out of the house and roam. Spring is ready to unleash some seasonal loveliness all over the place, and I am itching to photograph it. Things are happening around town, and I am itching to be there. There's a whole slew of local people whose company I enjoy, and I am itching to enjoy it.

And yet, I can't social. Half an hour of people-time and I'm out of social for the day. I don't explode in grumpiness, I just hit an exhausted but polite nodding stage.

Maybe my need to socialize is being trumped by my need to go outside and play...
mokie: Cartoon Calvin sneezes and checks his tissue (lurgy)
I recently discovered I might not be allergic to coconut after all.

When is an allergy not an allergy? When it's Oral Allergy Syndrome, also called Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome (along with several other names, because everybody wants to be the one whose name gets used on House M.D.), in which regular nose-based allergies masquerade as food allergies, due to certain fruit and veggie proteins vaguely resembling problematic pollen proteins.

Basically, it's like your body mistaking a dust-bunny for a spider and wigging out inappropriately.

Outside of allergy season the problem food isn't a problem, because your body hasn't been primed by pollen and pushed into kill it with sneezing! mode. The heat involved in cooking and canning can also denature the troublesome proteins, which is how some folks can be allergic to a raw fruit or veggie but able to eat the same item cooked--because they're not allergic to the food itself, even though they are having an allergic reaction to it. Either of these could explain why I've been able to eat coconut just fine until recently, mostly baked in cookies or simmered in soups, but also just noshing on raw flakes without any ill effect. I just happened to do it at the wrong time of year this time.

The upside of this, apart from that OAS usually doesn't cause anaphylactic shock, is that it would also explain why my late winter/early spring allergies have been so bad since moving to this neighborhood: birch.

I used to live next to Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden, two big green spaces dedicated to growing a large variety of greenery, pretty much all of which I tested allergic to back in middle school. Apart from swollen hands when walking past a bushy area on Magnolia Avenue, though, my allergies just translated to a runny nose and some occasional sneeziness--and good luck narrowing down which bit of all that greenery was responsible for which sneeze. (Especially since the allergy scratch test throws a lot of false positives, as dracunculusdracunculus pointed out.)

What the old neighborhood didn't have, and this neighborhood does, was a lot of birch trees. Specifically, a cluster of them half a block down from my current apartment.
In springtime, two of the biggest cross-reaction offenders are birch and alder trees. Depending on where you live, anywhere from 20 to 70 per cent of people who are allergic to birch and alder pollens will also have oral allergy syndrome. (Janet French, "Oral Allergy Syndrome: Why do Pollens and Foods Cross-React?" Allergic Living 2 July 2010)
The doctor interviewed in that article pointed out that OAS is more common than the legitimately scary food allergies like peanut, which might explain why so very many people believe they have food allergies even after a smug host points out that they just ate something they're supposed to be allergic to. (And fuck you if you do that to people. Seriously.) The article also mentions a point I regularly make, that chamomile and echinacea cause cross-reactions to ragweed because they're in the same family, which makes it really annoying when every suggested cure for your allergy woes is a nice cup of chamomile and echinacea tea.

The author does lose points for bad editing when she inadvertently (I hope) suggests that honey is somehow a plant related to ragweed, rather than that honey could contain ragweed (or related) pollen. That in itself sidesteps the point that many allergy sufferers intentionally eat honey hoping there's allergy-causing pollen in it, due to the old wives' tale that this will desensitize them. It doesn't work, though, because most of the honey on store shelves is (a) filtered, microfiltered, and then filtered some more to remove all possible pollen; (b) heated and treated till it's thoroughly dead so that it won't crystallize on store shelves; and (c) from China, and thus unlikely to contain any pollens you're familiar with. You could try raw local honey, but as someone who gave it a go, just go take a Claritin and save yourself the disappointment. (And the awfulness that is clover honey. Ugh.)

Back to the point! How vile is birch?

Here is the Wikipedia checklist of foods that are cross-reactive with birch: almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, carrots, celery, cherries, chicory, coriander, fennel, figs, hazelnuts, kiwis, nectarines, parsley, parsnips, peaches, pears, peppers, plums, potatoes, prunes, soy, strawberries, walnuts and wheat. That's not even a definitive list--other lists add all the tree nuts, and coconuts, and peanuts, and tomatoes, and turnips...

If you Google "oral allergy syndrome" and a food, Google will say, "Birch. It's the fucking birch, man."

Birch will take from you everything that you love.

Apart from a visit to an allergist, the only way to know for certain if my coconut allergy is a real allergy or a birch cross-reaction is to wait till the birch stops its arboreal spooging around June or July, and then nibble a little raw coconut while someone stands by with a heavy dose of Benedryl. A preemptive strike on the trees is out, as they wisely chose to be planted in front of a cop's house.

Sneaky, bastardly birch.

Update: TESTED AND CONFIRMED. The same coconut that made me miserable in April and May caused no reaction at all in June. Of course, now my grass allergies are in full effect, so I couldn't taste the coconut, but still...
mokie: Man with an old computer monitor for a head drinks through a straw (media pop culture)
A month or so ago, for reasons I can't remember, I found myself reading about milestone episodes of South Park--which episode really gelled the show's dynamics, and which episode cemented Cartman not merely as a tiny Archie Bunker but a budding psychopath, etc. This kicked off a marathon review of the entire series for me. It's turned up a few surprising realizations, like that Stan and Kyle aren't as interchangeable or even alike as many fans claim (and complain about), and I can't explain that without going full nerd, so I'll just leave it there, because that's not the realization I want to write about.

I realized that some of the episodes are so damn far ahead of the moment that many of us don't seem to get them at the time of release.

The episode that brought this home is season 12's "Britney's New Look", about the media frenzy over Britney Spears and her long, slow public meltdown. In the episode, the boys learn people will pay insane cash for Britney photos and trick their way into her motel room by telling a guard they're her kids. For the distraught but otherwise normal Britney, this is too much: under the stress of the media onslaught that she knows will never let up, she blows her head off. Through some fluke she survives, and nobody treats her any differently except the boys. They feel guilty and try to help her escape, only to discover it's a massive conspiracy, and she's just a human sacrifice for a good harvest. (Yes, really.)

(Edited to add: I refuse to add spoiler tags for a TV show that aired two elections ago, especially as the spoileriffic element is the whole point of the episode.)

First, there are the reviewers who see only a parody of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and describe it simply as that, even though I don't think that's technically accurate. The episode imitates the end of Jackson's story, the crowd surrounding the damned woman with cameras instead of stones, but it's using Jackson's story to satirize paparazzi culture, not satirizing her story itself. (Interesting aside: Jackson said about the original reaction to her story, "People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.")

Then there are the folks who missed the point. Spears fans protested that it was a heartless mockery of a low point in her life, and completely missed that she was being portrayed sympathetically, while everyone else (even the boys at first) were villains. Show fans whined that there weren't enough jokes, not enough Cartman, and the only laugh they got was hearing Clinton say "spearchucker" in debate with Obama, completely missing, well, probably anything in the series more intelligent than a fart joke.

And then there were the folks complaining that if they were going to do a Britney Spears episode, they should have done it properly, because there's so much to make fun of, missing both the point ('Holy fuck, there's celebrity poking, and then there's this, and this is not right--we as a society are killing this woman, let's back off and not do that anymore'), and the fact that they were in fact the very people the episode is actually satirizing. For example, and an egregiously creepy example it is, there's the review that crowed the episode "takes a stab at Britney Spears and her popularity" "[w]hen the Queen of Trailer Trash visits South Park," and "[o]nly the boys seem to notice her head is blown off in a great parody of her train-wreck life. We love how Matt and Trey treat her as a brain-dead machine propped up by the media. No head. No brain. Doesn’t matter. Look at the camel toe!"

That's driving right past the point and off the pier, into a lake of fire.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (geeky)
The season finale of AMC's zombie drama The Walking Dead airs tonight, and the network is running a marathon of the entire series so far. Since I'm a fan of the show, I figured I'd wax philosophical. And before anyone asks, I've not yet read the comics, so this probably won't be relevant to them at all. Don't open, spoilers inside )
mokie: A doll with an open torso featuring a diorama (yay for girls)
Feminism exploded all over my Internets from unexpected sources!

The other day, Cracked offered a lesson in tough love with 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person, and in the process nailed Nice Guys: "Don't say that you're a nice guy -- that's the bare minimum. Pretty girls have guys being nice to them 36 times a day. [...D]on't complain about how girls fall for jerks; they fall for those jerks because those jerks have other things they can offer."

Today, Gawker points out [the now-defunct site] "Nice Guys" of OKCupid in all their glorious douchebaggery, complete with a handy flowchart.

I'm surprised. I mean, you expect it of Jezebel, which even offered a field guide to Nice Guys recently, but Cracked? That's dude-central!

Edited for clarification: In much the same way that 'killer whale' as a term refers to a specific breed of whale and not just random homicidal cetaceans, 'Nice Guy' is a term for a specific type of guy engaged in a specific type of behavior, which is described in-depth at the sites linked above.

Essentially, a Nice Guy is a manipulative man who befriends a girl but has ulterior motives in doing so. He has a sexual/romantic interest in her but fears he'll be rejected if he asks her out directly, so instead he attempts to weasel into her circle of friends. There he encourages her to rely on him for emotional support, and often tries to sabotage her relationship by badmouthing whoever she's with ("Why are you with him? He's a jerk!"). The Nice Guy does these things under the mistaken belief that the girl will have a magical epiphany about how great he is, and he'll be upgraded to boyfriend/rewarded with sex. Unfortunately for him, girls can't read minds either, so the object of his affection generally thinks of him as a friend—you know, since that's how he's putting himself out there.

Since he's not actually her friend and it's all a sham, he will eventually turn on her for being a bitch who only likes jerks, and then wander off to whine about friend-zones and how girls only go for assholes who treat them like shit by, oh, asking them out directly and interacting with them like people instead of "machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out."

Naturally, Nice Guys don't grasp the difference between themselves and actual nice guys.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
Earlier this year, I imposed a tea moratorium: not another box, pouch, brick or bag would I buy until my drinking was under control. Until my stash no longer took up its own kitchen cabinet. Until I no longer had more varieties than the grocery store. Until I could look at my supply and reasonably say, "Uh-oh, better buy more tea before I run out."

It wasn't easy. I ran out of my favorite blends one by one. I used up my runners-up. I forced myself to pitch the try-it-outs that didn't work out. But finally, in November, my stash was down to one basket on the kitchen counter. Sure, it was holding about a pound of tea, but seven or eight varieties, and most of those green, and shut up, I don't have a problem, you have a problem! with cold weather coming, I decided some black teas were in order.

Long story short: I've got new sippage, so you get new tea reviews!

One of my new regular vendors is the English Tea Store, purveyors of bulk tea and snackage from the UK. One of the teas I ordered was 4 oz of blackcurrant 'naturally flavored' loose leaf black tea, to see how it stacked up to my custom currant-y blend from Adagio Teas. I love the custom blend, but Adagio botched it twice in a row and their customer service leaves one wishing for the care and attention of, say, Charter or AT&T.

I also regularly order from Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company, because they own the Eastern Shore Tea Company, seller of loose leaf tea in white paper pouches with nifty labels and reusable muslin bags. I don't remember where Eastern Shore and I first met, but after a long dry spell, they turned up again sporadically in the shop at the Missouri Botanical Garden, tucked behind items on random shelves like they'd been stocked by someone who's never worked proper retail before little surprises. Though it's been a few years since I had their blackcurrant tea, named Black Raven in honor of Poe, I purchased a pound because I remembered it fondly.

In the Bag:
- The English Tea Store's blackcurrant contains blue and yellow petals--cornflower and sunflower, probably, since they're popular fillers these days. (I guess hibiscus has been retired.) The petals aren't in the sample photo and the ingredients only list black tea and 'natural flavor' (i.e. flavoring sprayed on the tea leaves), so either the site is outdated or you only get uncut tea in larger amounts.

The bag smells like perfume with a whiff of berry behind it, and the reviewers describe it as 'smooth and fruity', much like you'd expect from people who've never tasted blackcurrant-flavored anything before. Put the two together and it doesn't bode well.

- Eastern Shore Tea Co.'s blackcurrant is just flavor-spritzed tea with no petals or mystery bits, so it's already a step ahead. It smells like malty black tea and Ribena. Taste buds puckered, I had a brief flashback and wondered what markfinnMark's up to these days. Good signs!

The Steepening:
Plain cold tap water boiled in the electric kettle and a little hot tap water in the pots to swish off any dust from the tea--a general hazard of dried plant matter rubbing against itself in packaging. Each tea steeped long enough for me to put on coffee for the non-tea drinkers, and each poured mug was sniffed and sipped hot before cream and sugar, for thorough comparisons.

- The English Tea Store's blackcurrant is ridiculously floral, almost like a berry chamomile, with a strange oily mouthfeel. Maybe the base tea is too bright--it's all perfume and no fruit, especially as it cools down. The effect is less a nice blackcurrant tea than it is sipping regular tea out of your great-grandmother's powdered cleavage.

- Eastern Shore's blackcurrant is already gone. I finished the cup before I could write anything down. Dark, malty and tart and perfect for cold mornings and long novels.

The Verdict:
Oh, Black Raven, I'll never let you go again.

Meanwhile, a quick trip to Google [turned up a now-defunct link that] confirms that it's not me: the English Tea Store's blackcurrant tea is all wrong. Not just cornflower and sunflower petals, but blackberry (not blackcurrant!) leaves, which are the special ingredient that gives Celestial Seasoning teas its gritty "How do you fuck up herbal?" astringency, and mallow flowers, which Google proclaims floral and earthy, and which is on the list of ragweed relatives (along with chamomile) for allergy sufferers to avoid--which explains why I had to suck down ibuprofen and sinus meds after breakfast.

And, again, none of these are listed as ingredients on the packaging or the website, but now I've got an inkling why their Earl Grey left me sick as a dog...

Update: The now-defunct link was to a blogger who had requested a full list of ingredients for the tea. The blog's MIA, but the English Tea Store itself now lists ingredients, so that's good.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
First I flood you with dream entries, then my social ineptness, and now nitpickity book talk. I bet this isn't the exciting chronicle of chronic excitement you thought it would be.

For those who believe there's nothing as boring as hearing someone else's dreams, let me reassure you that I don't usually remember and record them this often, and this recent burst of dream entries probably won't last. For those uninterested in my social ineptness, you and my mother both. For those who don't care what I'm reading, take solace in the fact that I at least cut the spoilers. Unless you're reading by RSS, which I hear ignores cuts, in which case...oops?

Now, onto the nitpickity book talk!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm twitchy about genres. There are genres for settings (westerns), genres for audience (young adult), genres about types of relationships (romance), genres that include unreal elements (fantasy), genres that include unreal elements that could be real maybe (science fiction), genres about types of relationships that include unreal elements (paranormal romance, though arguably chick lit would fit here too), genres within genres, genres overlapping genres, an entire wide swath of fiction dismissively dubbed 'genre'. It's chaos!

It irks me.

I look upon my shelves of science fiction/fantasy and sigh with relief at the convenient compromise that is 'speculative fiction'. I glance at the horror shelves and wince at the idea of a genre based not on the book, but on how the reader reacts to the book. I organize my nonfiction shelves by the Dewey Decimal System because it makes sense.

So I was happy to stumble on The King of Elfland's Second Cousin's entry "Ephemeral Horror and the Diffusion of Genre Markers" even if it wasn't about ephemeral horror, as I thought, but about horror as an ephemeral genre, which is something of an ephemeral horror. This will start making sense any minute now, I promise.

The following points made my inner M&M sorter very happy:

#1. "[W]e categorize stories based on the conventions they employ and the devices that show up within their texts. Spaceships, time travel, aliens? Let’s call it science fiction. Magic and knights? Let’s go with fantasy. [...] These devices, the objects and tropes of most genres, can easily be slapped on a cover to communicate the story’s category to booksellers and readers."

Sometimes, in my flailing about order and chaos and systems for big cohesive pictures, I lose sight of the tiny common sense trees--namely, that 'genre' is just a fancy French word for 'kind', and is not, never was, and never will be some high and mighty literary infrastructure. It's just a big mental box into which vaguely similar stories are tossed so that the stuff you like is near the other stuff you like, so you can find more stuff you like.

#2. "Horror lacks the constraints that more solidified genre conventions impose. We can write a horror story – like Shirley Jackson’s classic 'Flower Garden' – without a single element of the supernatural or the inexplicable. [...] This freedom means that – in order to be effective – horror must sneak past the reader’s natural defenses, must directly speak to the reader’s perceptions, values, and fears. This is the kind of deep-seated, emotional and perceptual communication that the literary fiction genre has traditionally claimed for itself. But where literary fiction uses such emotional and philosophical intimacy to explore comfortably distanced morality, horror uses a highly sensitized point-of-view to get as close to the nerve as possible, to map even the most painful experiences from the inside."

It's a fantastic parallel: like a good horror story, the horror genre is about wandering into the dark and unfamiliar room to check out that bump you just heard.

I've argued the merits of horror with haters before, and pointed out that like fancy pants literary fiction, good horror says something about the viewer and society (and not just "We watch movies with naked co-eds taking a hatchet to the face"). To play on our fears, horror has to be able to get into our heads and push the buttons it finds there.

#3. No quote here, because it's a bit too spread out, but the point is brilliant: there are (of course) horror tropes, except when we become too used to them, they stop being horror tropes.

When horror begins relying on tropes to define it, those tropes cease to be scary, and in a fundamental way, the works that feature them stop being horror. Once the tropes are no longer new and unsettling--once we know them by heart--we begin to redefine and re-imagine them. We turn vampires into moody romantic leads, disfigured undead serial killers into comedians, and the lonely werewolf from an alienated loner into a member of a highly organized underground society of walking AIDS metaphors.

It won't make me change how I organize my reviews, but it does have me rethinking the horror movies of my youth.
mokie: A girl in a bathtub wearing a snorkel (soap)
A while back, in response to a drawing of Steampunk Sailor Moon, sweetevangelinesweetevangeline posed a question: what would a Sailor Moon soap smell like?

Cherry blossoms! No, wait--basmati rice. Maybe cotton candy? But more importantly--swirls. SWIRLS!

Obviously, this required much deep thought.

The final soapy result: violet-scented cold process soap in white with pink and black swirls, topped with clear melt & pour soap in which iridescent pink glitter and tiny star glitter are layered for a holographic effect when the soap is tilted and turned.

Hologram soap!


It's an experiment at this stage. A few folks (including sweetevangelinesweetevangeline) have agreed to test it out when the cure's complete, to see how well the mixed bar holds up under regular use. (I have an immature sliver in the kitchen soap cup being used for that test. So far, so good!) A small bit of color lifted from the pink into the melt & pour on one bar, and fingerprints on glycerin are a nuisance. But so far, the only real problem has been photographing the effect: the illusion of depth comes from the twinkle of glitter at different layers, and there's no capturing that in a regular photograph.

Hologram soap, cut bar


Oh, and the part where I create an intensely girly soap, in pink and glitter and floral scents, only to have my 12-year-old nephew walk in, pick up a bar, admire the side colors and say he really likes this new flame soap.

Next batch will be bonfire-scented...
mokie: The Dark Knight's Joker inserted into a scene from Beetlejuice (confused)
This afternoon, the mokiemama was in the basement talking to the neighbor. He has a bunch of hand-me-down furniture down there, which makes me nervous as we've already had one nasty bedbug infestation thanks to a former tenant's found mattress. This stuff can't be too old, though, since he's thinking of selling it to make rent. He and Mom talked loveseats and kittens and random bullshit, and the neighbor asked if we wanted that one over there, since he knew we were looking for one. Mom thanked him and said she'd need to run the idea past me.

Upstairs, I scoffed for I am done with inherited furniture. And shuddered, because you have no idea how hard it is to get rid of bedbugs in an apartment building unless you've had to do it. Besides, we're saving up for a nice double-seater papasan and maybe a hanging pod chair, because we like them and we don't have to pretend to be sofa-loveseat-recliner people anymore. Suck my milkcrate shelves, world!

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door.

Mom back holding two kittens...

All in all, much better than a loveseat.
mokie: Ghostbusters' Vinz Clortho wears a collander and answers questions (nerdy)
The opening of the original V miniseries (1983) is a thing of beauty.

A Hispanic man in soldier garb is walking through a scene of chaos, discussing the results of their most recent action. His ranting pegs him as a Salvadoran freedom fighter, and as we pull back, we see his audience, an American cameraman. As the military bursts upon the rebel camp, Mike and his sound tech Evan alternate between dodging for cover and stepping out to get that perfect moment on film.

"You're going to get me killed this time, Donovan!"

"You're going to get another Emmy!" With clear admiration, Mike points out the rebel leader, who has calmly pulled a pistol on an encroaching helicopter. "Look at him! Look at him!"

The two journalists finally reach a vehicle and make a break for it, but are pursued and run off the road by another helicopter. Mike takes cover, camera rolling of course, to draw fire so the injured Evan can reach the trees, but the helicopter abruptly stops firing and pulls away. Mike turns to see the cause: a mammoth aircraft--no, let's be frank, it's a flying saucer--stretches across the sky overhead and grows larger by the moment. After a moment of shock, Mike has the presence of mind to resume filming.

Let's break it down, shall we?

- During the '80s, the reference to the conflict in El Salvador made this topical. War and revolution are timeless, though, so it also serves now, decades later, as a way to establish a time period for those familiar with history, and a foreshadowing tone for those not--and it does the former without seeming dated, like fashion or pop culture references might.

- We learn almost everything we need to know about Mike Donovan, who will go on to be the series' protagonist. Not only does he keep a clear head during danger, he has the guts to take big risks and the skill to make it work--which is a complimentary way of saying cockiness overrides the good sense to come in out of the bullets. He'll put himself on the line for others, and he has an idealistic streakpossible spoiler ).

- The early '80s loved their post-Vietnam para-military action flicks. First Blood had come out the previous year, Red Dawn would come out the year after, filmmakers chucked words like 'lone,' 'cobra,' 'wolf,' 'delta,' and 'force' into a hat for film titles, and nobody yet trusted Arnold Schwarzenegger with real dialogue. The miniseries takes advantage of the audience's genre familiarity by starting with images of guerilla fighters, guns and helicopters to establish a certain expectation for the series. And then it's batted aside almost casually, by an impossibly large flying saucer.

Independence Day owes a huge debt to V in terms of imagery, with giant craft hanging over iconic sites like the White House and the pyramids at Giza, but V goes a step better. We meet our ensemble cast with the news report's audio in the background as they discover the news, but where ID4 interrupted casual everyday activities, V interrupted guerilla activities, biomedical research, an archaeological discovery, a burglar at work, a child being hit by a car--each moment introducing a member of the ensemble cast and telling us something important about them. V's aliens didn't interrupt work or breakfast, they disrupted everything.

It was enough to put me on the edge of my seat in 1983, and it's still effective almost 30 years later.

Profile

mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
mokie

February 2017

S M T W T F S
   1234
5678 91011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728    

Credit

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Page generated Thursday, 27 July 2017 04:43 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

About dream/reading tags

y-* tags categorize dreams.

For types: beyond the obvious, there are dreamlets (very short dreams), stubs (fragment/outline of a partially-lost dream), gnatter (residual impression of a lost dream).

For characters: there are roles (characters fitting an archetype), symbols (characters as symbols), and sigils (recurring figures with a significance bigger than a single dream's role/symbolism).

x-* tags categorize books.

Material is categorized primarily by structure, style and setting. If searching for a particular genre, look for the defining features of that genre, e.g. x-form:nonfic:bio, x-style:horror, x-setting:dystopian.

Tags