A New Thing

I’m going to revive here a thing I was doing a while ago on Tumblr. It’s called “Book Descriptions I Didn’t Finish Reading,” and it’s primarily for my amusement, but you are all welcome to enjoy.

Also, I think we will be reviving The Coffee Thing sometime in the next month or so. Watch This Space. Well, not literally this space. This space won’t be changing very much.

Point – [Media] – Swoosh

Chris Pratt put up a very funny post on his Facebook page, pre-apologizing for the stupid, offensive, or inappropriate things he might say during his upcoming promotional tour for Jurassic World:

I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming ‪#‎JurassicWorld‬ press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).

I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. Those rooms can get stuffy and the hardworking crews putting these junkets together need some entertainment! (Likely) that is who I was trying to crack up when I (will have had) made that tasteless and unprofessional comment. Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) dubbed “JurassicGate” is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).

Funny, right? Well, The Mary Sue thought so too, and laughed along at Pratt’s forward-thinking approach and his jab at the uproar caused by some of the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron in their press junkets. But I think The Mary Sue misses a significant part of Pratt’s point. He may be making fun of himself and the AoU  foofaraw, but he is also taking a fairly pointed jab at the Outrage Beast that lies in wait for celebrities on press tours, waiting for them to make a misstep and say something ill-considered or unwise, so it can pounce on them and do its best to rip them to shreds.

How do I know The Mary Sue missed this point? Because after lauding Pratt’s humor, the column goes on to say:

That said, I hope he doesn’t actually think this apology lets him off the hook if he does screw up. The point of apologizing is that you know exactly what you’re apologizing for, and can be very specific both about what you did, and to whom you’re apologizing. Instead, I hope that this humorous pre-apology means that, despite exhaustion or a need to entertain the folks around him, that he’s planning on being a little more mindful of what he says; that he’s thinking about that in advance, too – not just about preemptively covering his own butt.

In other words, “Very funny, Mr. Pratt. But we’ve got our eye on you. And if you step over the line, we are prepared to let loose the Outrage Beast.”

Look down, quick! Aw, you missed it.
Look down, quick! Aw, you missed it.

Look, it’s easy to offend people inadvertently, and when it happens, the right thing to do is to apologize. But The Mary Sue’s commentary suggests that the site is actually looking for excuses to be offended, or at least is ready to be very quick on the  trigger. And worse, is completely oblivious to the fact that such eagerness in the media is what Pratt’s post was about.

I am kind of interested in whether Jurassic World will be any good, given that I thought the original Jurassic Park was tolerable at best. And I wish Chris Pratt eh best of luck navigating the minefield that his press promotional tour has undoubtedly become. (Projected example question: “Why do you think they made the big bad dinosaur female?”)

In Which I Should Probably Just Keep My Mouth Shut

There has been a lot of discussion this week about the end of last Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, titled “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” I have been thinking about it, so why not throw my own two cents into the shark-infested waters? Warning: Long post with spoilers.

Continue reading “In Which I Should Probably Just Keep My Mouth Shut”

Well, It Kinda Counts Maybe?

This post is music-related, so it’s going to stand in for Friday Finds this week. The excellent news is that I found out how to get music from my library at home onto my new phone. Oh sure, it’s so simple that actual blocks of concrete can do it, but the point is I never did it with my old phones, so I had to ask the Internet how to do it.

Of course, I have 13,000 tracks sitting in my music library, and picking the subset to transfer over is a time-consuming process. But I need them there to be able to make ringtones from them, so I’ll make the sacrifice. I’m so brave, I know.

Oh hey, I haven’t told my erstwhile compatriots yet, but I’m thinking of rebooting The Coffee Thing this weekend. I should probably tell them, huh? I just want a reason to visit Bad Wolf again before it goes away at the end of the summer.

Caught in the Web

I used to have a whole long list of webcomics that I would read religiously. Some of them I caught onto in the beginning; others I saw and went back to the beginning, spending hours catching up on the archives. For a couple of years now, I haven’t really kept up with most of them, finding I don’t really have the time to read so many of them, what with all my Facebooking and video gaming and online board gaming and offline board gaming and… well, you get the picture.

There are two, however, with which I do try to stay au courant. One of them is John Allison’s Scary-Go-Round, which follows several characters – some school children and some adults – through adventures great and small, bizarre and mundane. The school kids, in various combinations and permutations, have solved odd mysteries in their small English town of Tackleford. The adults have had their own strange and wonderful stories. I would not do them justice by trying to write synopses, so I will just say click the link above, or better yet, start with Bad Machinery, which introduces Jack, Sonny, Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte (aka Lottie), and Linton on their first day at Griswalds Grammar School; then follow all their cases. Or scroll down and look at the other archives – the original Scary-Go-Round, or the two “Bobbins” series. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable rabbit hole to fall into.

The other thing Mr. Allison does, or at least used to do, is a year-end Top 20 records review, featuring his characters Shelley Winters and the aforementioned Lottie, who is definitely the most enthusiastically and misguidedly ambitious of the Griswalds schoolchildren. The two girls have opinions, and they have introduced me to some really excellent music I might otherwise never have heard of. (I’m don’t think those reviews are available online, sadly.)


The other webcomic I am most enamored of started out as a not-web comic, but its creators have moved it to a webcomic format and have been putting all the back issues on the website. I speak, of course, of the Wonder and Glory that is… Atomic Robo. This has it all: humor, adventure, nefarious villains, action scientists, the robotic progeny of Nikola Tesla. It is impossible to catalog all the ways this book makes me happy. Here’s how much I love Atomic Robo: I don’t do cosplay, but I am seriously considering designing, building, and wearing an Atomic Robo costume. (Which doesn’t sound like much, but it has become more than just a fleeting “Oh, wouldn’t that be cool” kind of idea. It’s an idea that has sunk its tendrils into my brain, and won’t let go.) Last Saturday being Free Comic Book Day, there was, of course, a free Atomic Robo comic (although really, now that they’re on the web, they’re all free, but the FCBD 2015 story isn’t all available online yet – I got it via Comixology), starring my favorite villain, Dr. Dinosaur.


‘Nuff said.

Wire’s 14th Album Proves It: This Is One of the Best Bands Ever | Observer

via Wire’s 14th Album Proves It: This Is One of the Best Bands Ever | Observer.

I cannot argue with the Observer here. I have been a Wire fan since college, back in the last Ice Age. During the reading period before finals, our college radio station ran “orgies”–blocks of programming dedicated entirely to a single composer or band–and I remember pulling an all-nighter writing a paper during a Wire orgy. “Three Girl Rhumba” is permanently etched in neural channels in my brain as a result. (I have a clip of the opening to that song that I use as a ringtone on occasion.)

So I was not surprised that the band’s latest album was good. What I didn’t necessarily expect was that it would be great. This release, more than 2011’s Red Bark Tree, is a sonic callback to the earliest albums, with strong doses of Pink Flag (1977) and Chairs Missing (1978).  (The band’s 2013 release, Change Becomes Us, is also a reflection of the early days, but that is to be expected, as the songs on that one were unreleased tracks from 1979-80.)

Through the liquid flow of bass and keyboards, Colin Newman’s vocals take on a slightly muted tone, as if burbling up out of a well. The lyrics are tuned to modern life – the lead-off track, “Blogging,” is a sharp look at our mobile (as in device) culture – but the sounds are classic Wire. The band’s line-up is not the same as it was 35 years ago, but the music is a solid return to the original sensibility that struck such a chord in me back then.


Somebody posted something recently in one of my feeds about the new Avengers movie, and I guess they must have been posting from a phone, because they referred to “age of lutein.” It turns out lutein is a real thing (which I guess is why someone’s autocorrect would use it); it’s a yellow pigment found in plant leaves and egg yolks. THIS IS HOW TRIVIA HAPPENS, PEOPLE.

And of course, lutein is sold as a dietary supplement because plants.
And of course, lutein is sold as a dietary supplement because plants.
The lutein centipede. OH HO!
The lutein centipede. OH HO!

Anyway, I am going to see Avengers: Age of Lutein tomorrow evening with the Boy, the Girl, and one of the Boy’s friends. Mrs. Someone can’t make it, so that means some subset of us will undoubtedly be seeing it again sometime fairly soon. I’m looking forward to it. The Boy and I watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we enjoy seeing how the movies are tied into the TV show (or is it vice versa)?

In Dead Tree news, I just finished reading The Three Musketeers (Gutenberg Project link). I’ve seen the movie–and as far as I’m concerned, there is only one “The Movie” when it comes to this work: the 1973 Richard Lester version, starring Michael York, Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, and Raquel Welch–but I had never before read the book. The movie tells only the first half of the story; I never saw the sequel (The Four Musketeers), which tells the second half.

The book is a great deal of fun. The language is pretty florid, but it’s hard to tell if that’s the result of mid-19th century literary sensibilities or Alexandre Dumas’s tribute to earlier times (with a wink to the reader). Overall, the book is quite funny (though fairly gruesome in parts). The religious and political setting is one with which I am entirely unfamiliar, so it has spurred me to further reading. I would like to read Dumas’s follow-ups, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later.

But that will have to wait, as I am now on to Ancillary Sword, the sequel to Acillary Justice (about which I wrote last week). I just started, so I have little to say about it, other than that I really like the way Ann Leckie evokes the cultural and religious background in which the story is set.

Return of the Son of Bride of Friday Finds

Actually, this week has been a bear–literally, a large Alaskan grizzly, or perhaps a Kodiak bear*–so I have not had time to engage in any of the music discovery that I would normally report on here. So for this week, I will just put up this video of some little English band of yesteryear singing a little ditty I have been learning on bass. (For such a simple song, it’s a pretty complex bass line. Not difficult, necessarily, but deeper than you might expect.)

Next week, maybe something new and previously unheard…



*Please don’t write in to complain. The management is aware that a Kodiak bear is the same as an Alaskan grizzly.

MorF? ForM? Who Cares?

I recently read Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Ancillary Justice Cover

The story takes place in a universe dominated by a religious empire (the Radch) that has expanded aggressively, using (among other things) sentient starships which interact with their human commanders through human bodies called ancillaries. The narrator, Breq, is a former ancillary from a particular echelon of ancillaries of the warship Justice of Toren, platoon of its ancillaries, but is now a single individual. Breq’s sole goal now is to exact revenge against the person who effectively destroyed her as a ship and left only the one ancillary.

The story itself is a little slow to get rolling, but ultimately becomes a compelling space opera, weaving together Breq’s current journey with the slow reveal of what happened to the Justice of Toren. What I (and many reviewers) find so fascinating about the book, though, is that the Radch empire uses a language (which presumably reflects a culture) that does not mark gender. Breq and the other Radchaai characters refer to everybody using feminine pronouns–“she,” “her”–even while describing or otherwise indicating that particular individuals are male. Thus, on a planet outside the empire, whose native language does recognize gender differences, Breq will listen for cues from natives as to whether a particular person is male or female, while Breq’s internal narration consistently uses only feminine pronouns.

At first, this was a little odd. In the beginning, the use of “her” and “she” in conjunction with a description of a character as “probably male” (Breq’s not very certain all the time) jars one out of the story a bit. About 50 pages in, though, it struck me that gender didn’t matter. Whether a given character had male or female genitalia, or whether they identified as one gender or another, was entirely irrelevant to the story, because (a) most of the action didn’t have anything to do with sex, romance, love, or anything that might implicate gender or gender roles; and (b) even in those few instances where relationships were relevant, the gender(s) of the participants were not.

I think that when we read a book, we look for cues in the text to help us develop an internal image of the characters, and that’s why the use of non-gender in this book was a bit jarring. But when it finally clicked for me, I realized that my internal visual image of the characters was irrelevant to the story and to my enjoyment thereof. The use of feminine pronouns dispelled the “default” maleness for characters whose sex is not specified (because–again–it doesn’t matter).

I am sure there are people who think the genderless approach is a gimmick, or who will bristle at not knowing exactly which equipment a particular character is sporting between their legs (or who will be offended at the idea that a male-sexed character–whose maleness might be cued in the text–would be referred to as “she”). Some might think it distracts and detracts from the storytelling. In a lesser story, maybe any of that distraction would have been a negative; but for me at least, the transition from catching myself constantly wondering and adjusting my internal image of the characters to realizing that I knew exactly what was going on and it didn’t matter whether a particular character was a man or a woman or something else added a cool dimension to the whole experience. I’m looking forward to reading the next two books. (Because isn’t everything at least a trilogy these days? Ancillary Sword is already out, and Ancillary Mercy is coming this year.)