A weekend of WTF

Monday, 11 August 2014 12:31 am
mokie: They're coming to get you, Barbara! Zombie attacks a woman in a car (distressed)
Saturday, police shot and killed an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. Eyewitnesses said the officer pulled up, tried to put Mike Brown in the squad car, and he resisted. His hands were up and he was running away when he was shot in the back; the officer walked over to where he'd fallen and, standing over him, shot him again and again, a total of ten times, in the head and chest. The teen's body laid in the street for four hours with police standing over it while crowds gathered in outrage. In response to the angry crowd, the police brought out dogs and a vehicle so heavily armored that it looked like a fucking tank.

People who knew the teen said he was a good kid who had never done anything wrong. Bystanders said he hadn't done anything to warrant being stopped by the police - he was just walking down the street with a friend. The only whiff of explanation I could find was a vague mention of 'stolen candy', and the suggestion that the officer tried to stop him because he fit a profile. There has been no official explanation of why the officer stopped this kid.

Update: The friend Brown was walking with says the cop told them to get out of the street, and they replied that they were almost home anyway. Also, the number of shots is now less clear, with some sources saying eight and some saying ten. For more information, read "Different versions of the encounter that led to a fatal police shooting" by Jeremy Kohler at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This morning, police held a press conference saying the incident is under investigation and the officer is suspended, and his version of events was that when he tried to put the teen into the car, the boy went for his gun and assaulted him. STL Public Radio has discussed the legality of the shooting ("The Constitution does not permit police to fire at unarmed, nonviolent, fleeing suspects unless there is a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or the public"), but the police have all the evidence: they knocked down a local business's surveillance camera and went inside to seize the tapes, and intimidated a witness into surrendering her phone and recording of the incident.

A vigil/demonstration was organized outside the police station, which was reportedly well-attended and well-behaved, but at some point in the evening, a portion of the crowd turned violent. Things were thrown at journalists, shots were fired at cops, and shops were looted, with at least one set on fire afterward.

Protest organizers tried in vain to calm the crowds and get people to go home. The social media response is split evenly between, "These are people outraged at a long history of systemic bullshit, finally blowing up and expressing their rage," and "These people are not from the area and have no respect for the murdered teen or his family - they're just opportunists." It's probably both.

A massive police presence has been mobilized to the area, the local news has finally figured out that we don't really care about that concert Downtown, and this is important enough to keep the information flowing.

So, hello Monday.
mokie: A shadowed figure in fire and smoke (dream nightmare)
I woke up telling myself to remember and record the nightmare, but tripping over three cats to get to the bathroom distracted me long enough for it to escape. Damn.

In the dream, characters in an in-dream movie were participating in some sort of search or scavenger hunt, like an Augmented Reality game in which they travelled with a large tablet that showed what it was pointed at, but also some game-relevant image overlays or interstitial movie snippets. It was a little like a '50s screamer gimmick too, in that at certain points, a frightening creature, all taut skin over bone and teeth, would appear on the screen and the players needed to get away.

Except it wasn't a game: the tablet was a sort of transdimensional gate, and what it was showing was very, very real.

When the characters came to the creature, I (as a viewer) realized their mistake. While they giggled and ran away, I fumbled for a way to turn the movie off before these idiots got me killed too. Maybe I could contact the creature to let it know I wasn't involved in their bullshit--perhaps it had contact information on IMDb...

Notes, details and explanations
#1. This is a dream stub--the only part I remember of a much larger and more involved dream. I'm kicking myself for not writing the whole thing down right after climbing out of bed, because I have a gnattering it was a properly scary and convoluted nightmare.

#2. I see two sources coming together for the 'game' in the dream. First, concertina42Tina invited me to hang out while she plays Ingress, an AR game which involves either helping or hindering things which are trying to break into this dimension. I don't know the game at all, but after mentioning the invite to someone, I had to give them an explanation of AR games, which planted the concept firmly in my brain's composting box for a few days.

Second, I have a whole lot of Slender Man on the brain these days. The original Slender-series, Marble Hornets, is drawing to a close; it relies heavily on paranoid characters recording their every move with video cameras because the cameras capture things that the individual may not be able to see. I also purchased Slender: The Arrival but haven't been able to play it yet, between a crazy workload and technical problems which I haven't time to iron out, because of the crazy workload, and it's irritating the hell out of me.

#3. I'm pretty sure the in-dream movie didn't start out as a movie, but was the dream itself until that point. What this usually means is that I partially awoke, and which partially ruptured the dream, so when I went back into it, it was a little different and I was a step removed from it. This is why it never pays to go straight back to sleep.

#4. That last bit is not a joke--in the dream, I went to IMDb to look for contact information. I don't even know, you guys.
mokie: A book with scissors in them, and text, "Grrr... bad book!" (reading boo)
"The Great God Pan," by Arthur Machen
Edition: Manybooks.net's plain text & Librivox's audiobook on mp3

Info
Published in 1890, "The Great God Pan" was reportedly blasted by Victorian critics due to its lurid style and sexual content. Many readers and authors of weird fiction/horror, however, consider it to be one of the best examples of either ever written. The inaccurately named TV Tropes refers to the work as "one of the prototypes of the Cosmic Horror genre"; H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" is based on the story, and it was the inspiration for Shub-Niggurath, Black Goat of the Woods and Mother of a Thousand Young, whom I still can't think of without a perm, thanks to Bruno the Bandit's Shub Megawrath.

Story
Convinced that this world is merely an illusion, a crackpot doctor of 'transcendental medicine' believes he can snip a few synapses and allow someone to 'see the great god Pan'--the more-real reality underlying all things, lost to modern man but passed down in myth and legend. The experiment is a wash: though his test subject clearly experiences something the doctor cannot sense, she's left mentally incapacitated by the experience.

The doctor's witness, an upstanding member of society who secretly enjoys cataloguing the supernatural, is years later approached by individuals with stories which I will cut for spoilers. ) Hearing this, the witness contacts the doctor, who finally reveals that in his arrogance and eagerness to cut a hole into reality and peer in, he hadn't anticipated what might come through from the other side.

Progress
Finished. I finished it a while ago, actually, which maybe tells you how excited I was to write up a review. (I give it two 'mehs'.) I like the idea of the story. I like the components. When I lay out the plot, and chatter about the symbolism and meanings and connections, it's all very fascinating. It was reading the damn thing that was a problem.

Very little happens. Character A tells character B what he heard from character C, with character B waiting till the end to fill in what he heard from character D, and both proclaim that they are just shocked and scandalized. Everything is a step removed. Where there should be creeping dread, there is only the creeping pace. At every point, spoilers occur ); I came away thinking of our heroes as an extremely unlikable bunch.

The author's cloak and dagger Victorian subtlety felt like a Monty Python wink-wink-nudge-nudge routine in earnest. I don't need graphic violence and explicit sex, but had I gotten this from a modern novel, I'd jab it right in its metaphorical eye and call it out as laziness:
"But you remember what you wrote to me? I thought it would be requisite that she--"
He whispered the rest into the doctor's ear.
"Not at all, not at all. That is nonsense. I assure you. Indeed, it is better as it is; I am quite certain of that."
So what was happening that they couldn't say outright? Scandalous things! ) Of course, I could be wrong, in which case I misread the story entirely. That kind of thing can happen when the whole damn book is hints and innuendo.

The sad truth is that I enjoyed reading about the novella more than reading the novella itself. For example, "Arthur Machen’s Panic Fears: Western Esotericism and the Irruption of Negative Epistemology" offers historical context, not just on the fin de siècle disenchantment with the Romantic movement (that embraced Pan as a benevolent nature spirit) reflected in the story, but also with contemporary literary connections, including one that suggests 'Vaughn' may be meant for spoilerish things ). Miss Darcy's Library draws a line between things what spoil )

After finishing the story, I wondered if maybe I'd gotten an abridged copy, but I wasn't keen on reading Machen's tortured dialogue again. I decided to grab the unabridged audio book from Librivox and give it a shot, even though I generally can't stand audiobooks, podcasts, talk radio and the like. I don't take in audio information well, especially if I'm doing anything else at the same time; I shut down one or the other, usually the audio. (And that's why people who talk to me while I'm working may have things thrown at them.)

I was pleasantly surprised--Machen works much better aloud than he does in print. (Lovecraft, on the other hand, I had to stop taking with me on housesitting gigs, because there's nothing like creeping yourself out in a neighborhood prone to brown-outs. But read a page aloud, and it's the silliest crap ever.) It turns out I hadn't missed anything and it's still not my cuppa, but I gave it a fair shot.

[Reading "The Great God Pan": And I thought I was wordy (12 Nov '12) / All hints, no happenings (25 Jan '13)]

Get off my lawn!

Sunday, 23 December 2012 06:58 am
mokie: A screaming child holding a headless teddy bear (exasperated)
I don't usually need to point this out, but...

This is a personal journal. There is no theme. There is no community gathered to seriously discuss serious topics in a serious manner. I am not interested in turning this into a debate forum. Been there, done that, not as much fun as it sounds. This is my Internet front lawn, where I unfold a chair, kick my feet up, and chat about whatever comes to mind with whatever neighbors might wander over.

You are welcome to take a break on my stoop. You don't have to agree with me, but whichever side of the conversation you might be on, you do have to keep it civil. You also have to accept that in the end, we'll probably still disagree, and that's okay. If you can't let it end without 'winning', getting prickly or getting the last word, consider avoiding topics that you feel strongly about.

Hint: watch for phrases like, "Let's agree to disagree." That's a brake applied when the conversation is (or is bordering on) no longer casual/civil/enjoyable. I am not obliged to keep a conversation going because [insert reason here], but you are certainly welcome to invite others to continue the discussion in your own blog.

I am also not obligated to let you turn my lawn into your soapbox, and don't give me any, "I thought you also supported [insert cause here]!" You go play your Sarah McLachlan puppy snuff videos on your own lawn--I'm trying to enjoy my drink here.

Do not lecture me. Do not tell me what I really think. I will turn the metaphorical hose on your rude ass.

In short, this is my happy place, to spill my brain and sort through the contents. It's not your Internet forum to argue, pick fights and take a stand for the whales. If I've asked you to knock it off, dial it back, or take a hike, it's not because you disagreed with me--it's because you've forgotten this is my lawn, and got prickly and rude, or yelled at my guests, or flipped my table in rage, or tried to hijack my conversation for your cause, or lectured me, or got creepy and made me feel uncomfortable in my own space, or just plain were a buzzkill.
mokie: Cartoon of an angry tea pot raging (drink tea)
While talking tea with the vampyrichamsterHamster Of Darjeeling one day, she pointed me toward the Coffee & Tea Exchange (sometimes listed as the Chicago Coffee & Tea Exchange) as a purveyor of tasty delights of good and proper strength.

The Hamster is native to Malaysia, you see, and finding teas strong enough to hold a spoon up in the cup without eating through it has been an ongoing trial since she moved to the US. During her global migration, she was also stymied by the tendency of different countries to prefer a different regional tea as a base/basic tea; Australia, if I remember correctly, was a little bright and citrus-y for her tastes, and our own supermarket basic was politely tipped into a potted plant when heads turned. (Okay, that one's an exaggeration.) I'm of limited help in these teaxplorations, as I usually tend to under-steep just a touch and so don't mind a somewhat weaker tea. But I do have an eye for resteepability, which is of great importance to both of us, as we are both cheap frugal tea snobs.

One tea leapt out at me from C&TE's website: Sassafras Delight!

Sassafras! I'm a sucker for a sassafras tea. It's pure memory-fodder of my youth, when my grandfather used to head down to our stretch of sticks and ticks to bring home firewood. I've had the real, honest-to-Missouri thing, though I was too young to properly appreciate it at the time, and I've had bagged versions, the best of which came from a little Victoriana shop many, many years ago. Mostly, though, I just stick with Pappy's Sassafras Concentrate, because it's tasty and affordable and right there at the grocery store, and because I don't even know where I'd find a sassafras tree to maim for DIY tea instead. Maybe one of these days I'll just order sassafras bark directly and go to town.

(For sake of objectivity, I point out that some die-hard sassafras purists say Pappy's tastes like root beer candy, or more sarsaparilla than sassafras. The listed contents are filtered water, 'extractives' of sassafras, 'natural flavors', caramel coloring and potassium sorbate (preservative). Alas, here in the USA 'natural flavors' can mean anything the manufacturer likes--I don't know if it's a shot in the arm after filtering out safrole, or plain old root beer flavoring. Overall reviews suggest that if you aren't a connoisseur of sassafras, it probably won't be an issue.)

I cooed over C&TE's Sassafras Delight but decided against it. I'd like to say it was because I'd just ordered tea and was practicing self-control, but it was plain laziness: they don't take Paypal and I didn't feel like digging out the credit card. But then the Hamster decided to make me a Christmas gift of it. Like the gift of the magi! Where she sent me tea and went without caffeination herself, and I sent her homemade soap and went without...nevermind. On to the review!

In the Bag:
That smell! It's a finely cut tea, with tiny bits of sassafras bark in it and cinnamon oil for flavor. The cinnamon oil doesn't show up in the scent, but I'm not surprised--sassafras is a strong, strong scent that expands to overpower and fill up all available space, much like BO and fandom. It reminds some of licorice, though I don't smell it--a little odd, since I love absinthe too, and it also has a licorice-like smell. As a side note, I love the company's brown paper bag. Eco-chic!

The Steepening:
Again: sassafras scent expands to fill up all available space. My whole apartment smelled delicious.

For the first tasting, I used plain cold tap brought to a boil, without a rinse because the Hamster had noted that C&TE teas didn't need it, and steeped to the full time for black teas. For later tastings, I used less tea, did the rinse as usual, and reduced the time. First tasting was taken plain, second with sugar, third with stevia, fourth with hot cocoa, fifth with coffee...

The cinnamon oil is strong in this blend. Too strong. My lip went numb and tingly. There's no sign of the base tea in the cup, but I expected the sassafras to overpower that; I didn't quite expect the Red Hot Cuppa, though. To borrow Barq's catchphrase, it has bite--not so much root beer bite as rabid dog bite. Sugar didn't cut the fire a bit, and stevia turned it into a syrupy, nasty mess (oh stevia, why do I keep trying?), and weaker steeping didn't even put a dent in it.

I kept at it, because goddammit, I will not be denied sassafras tea. It was a good flavor profile, just very, very, very strong. (See also: Hamster-recommended teas of good and proper strength.) And I finally hit on it last night: it's all about the resteepability! Instead of rinsing, I need to steep as usual and pour that first cup out. The resteeped cups are a much more mokie-friendly strength. In the process of getting to that, I also discovered that the tea makes a great replacement for water in hot cocoa, which tempers the cinnamon nicely while letting the sassafras do its thing, and goes very well mixed into coffee for an extra kick of flavor.

Oh, and that this tea needs a dedicated pot. Everything else that goes in after it will smell and taste like sassafras and cinnamon for a good while.

The Verdict:
Not a tea for the weak, or for those who like their teas weak! It will fight you every step of the way, and sometimes it will win, and sometimes it will break your heart (though mostly, it will leave your lips numb and your face twisty). But if you stick it out, it's so, so worth it.
mokie: A skeletal figure with horns (dream stub)
I woke from sleep yesterday remembering only a bare fragment of my dreams.

There was a villain, in the villainiest sense of the word. I don't remember who he (or she) was or what nefarious plots were afoot, but to fight off those of us who were on his (or her) trail, the villain kidnapped people and turned them into zombies. Zombies armed with tiny chainsaws.

Okay, they weren't dead, infected and resurrected ex-people, per se. They weren't even Vodou victims of pharmacological sorcery. They were more like over-the-top Bond bystander-bots, hypnotized, armed and thrown in our path to deter us from pursuit. But they were still zombies!

I know that because Daryl Dixon was with me, helping me neutralize them as we made our way to the villain's lair...
mokie: Eyes formed of leaves (dream meta)
I know I dreamt of some terrible disaster, but all I remember is the calm and friendly crowd, waiting to for the call to move out, being entertained by a guy with a little portable mic and a penchant for games and matchmaking. "Here's a girl who's a little bit herbal--she needs a guy who's a little bit metal!"

One of the games the crowd came up with was hitting the snooze button, then reporting back the weird bits of inspiration it introduced into the interrupted dream. (Yes, my interrupted dream.) Someone also realized it had potential as a problem-solving method, though I can't remember anything that it brought into the dream, except Judge Ito, since they called the process itu or ito.

Is there a word for the opposite of lucid dreaming? Where the dream realizes it has you?

Once I finally crawled out and checked the clock, I saw that the people in my dreams had played itu for two hours...

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.

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