Open Thread: Pink Flowers

Flowers by George Hodan

Open Thread: Ars Poetica

Ars Poetica

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time 
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves, 
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time 
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.
-Archibald MacLeish1892 - 1982
I recommend this poem on this recommends day because I'm a big believer in the whole "Not mean; but be" thing.  While we don't deal with poetry here, I think a lot of the issues we have found in works like Narnia and Twilight come from a friction between the meaning (e.g. "But it's a metaphor for...") and the being (e.g. "It's 300 years of genocide and he's a part of it.")
Now I have to be careful here because I could give the wrong impression.  "A lot" is not the same thing as "most" and certainly not the same thing as "all."  We have found mountains of problems and so sometimes a subset that is a distinct minority is still quite large.
In general I think meaning-being issues cause us to go, "Wha...?  I don't ... I mean-- Huh?" rather than, "Wow, that really shows [sexism/racism/bigotry/prejudice]."  Though that's only a general thing and individual results vary.

A particularly egregious version pops up a lot in children's and young adult fiction.  A character is treating a problem like the end of the world.  It's a metaphor for how people, ostensibly young people but in truth every age group does it, can blow things out of proportion and treat minor concerns as apocalyptic.  The other characters follow the metaphor and thus treat the problem like they would if a child were blowing a small thing out of proportion BUT in the text of the fiction itself the problem is literally the end of the world and so the characters that are supposed to be stand-ins for people with decent perspective become complete monsters who would watch the world burn around them while the people screamed out in bloodcurdling cries of cacophonous agony rather than listen to someone they think they're above.
Anyway, there's a poem that I think helps put an endemic problem in fiction into perspective.  What are some works that you find broad application for?
Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!
And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 

Xanth: Surprise Sex

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 6

Chapter 10 (Battle) gives us the scene on the front cover of the book, where Dor learns how to communicate with his workers, and to inspire them to obedience. Unfortunately, he accomplishes this by helping the head centaur conspire to sexually assault his wife. But the book hastens to assure us that this is all harmless shenanigans because she was totally asking for it by being evil and probably this is just consensual sexy power games. Or something.

But first we'll check in with Good Magician Roogna, who I'm increasingly convinced is evil.

[Dor and Jumper] arrived at Castle Roogna without further significant event, in the afternoon. The King was highly gratified by their tidings. “So you persuaded the Zombie Master! How did you do that?”

“Actually, Millie did it,” Dor said, remembering the possible limitations of his own actions. “She is marrying the Zombie Master.”

“That must have been some effort you people put forth!”

“It was.” Better to omit the details.

Millie isn't present for this conversation, by the way; she and the Zombie Master are trailing a day or two behind because the zombie army moves more slowly than Dor and Jumper did and they wanted to get to Roogna first to let him know help was on the way. Just to be clear that there aren't any social cues in this scene of Millie snuggling happily in Jonathan's arms or whatever.

Metapost: So. Um. Hi.

So. Um. Hi. *waves* I'm here. I haven't stopped existing. :)

I'm incredibly and intensely grateful to Kristy and Chris for keeping the open threads going, as well as to everyone for commenting in them. I get the comments, I read them, they make me happy. I've been going through a bad place with my depression, and it's nice to have those nice things to brighten my day.

There will be a Xanth post going up after this, mostly because I just... needed to write something today, and we'd left off there and it helped to write about it. I don't know if there will be more, I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but it's there and um. Yeah.

I don't really have a lot more to say about the stuff that happened earlier this year beyond what I've already said. I am still very sorry to all the people who have been hurt by my words and actions.

I do think--and I understand that this isn't an excuse--that there have been misunderstandings that I don't really know how to avoid or correct. Frex, I've seen people take my earlier comments about this being an "Advanced Feminist Space" to mean that I think I have no privilege or I'm perfect at feminism or nothing ever goes wrong here, when really I just meant "if you show up asking me whether I've considered that maybe women lie about rape, you're going to be shown the blog-door because I get no pleasure from rehashing rape apologetics 101."

I don't really know how to correct or avoid misunderstandings like that, since the misunderstandings seem to predicate on words meaning different things to different people. I will just say that I'm sorry that my failures to communicate have harmed people. I've tried to remove references to that phrasing, since that was apparently a source of confusion. And I am sorry for all my other failures, both in communication and just, um, general human beingness.

This is, and always has been, a private blog by a private person. I'm sorry that I ever gave the impression otherwise, and I will try to be clearer about that in the future. I'm sorry that I have harmed people in my interactions with them, and I will try to be more thoughtful in my responses. That's all I have, really. I'm sorry, and I'm thankful and grateful to the people who have been kind enough to stay and be supportive as I work through my depression and other sundry health issues.

Thank you.

Open Thread: More than a little learning

Brought to you by students who want more than a little learning even though their university says that's all they need.
Photograph by me.
Excerpt from An Essay on Criticism

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th' Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen'd Way,
Th' increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,
Hills peep o'er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

- Alexander Pope


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 

Open Thread: The Fan Version

Mona Lisa Modification

For as long as there has been a written record people have been taking intellectual property that didn't belong to them and screwing around with it.  We know the results of this as Greek tragedy, midrash, apocrypha, [every play that Shakespeare wrote], and fan fiction.

This post is brought to you by Mona Lisa with a colorful background.  If it could be posted in 7236x10782 you'd see that it's more different than it at first appears.


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore!  

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 

Open Thread: Fruit Cocktail

Hosted by - you guessed it - fruit cocktail
Fruit Cocktail in Light Syrup

Rocket-shaped popsicles that dyed your lips blue were popular when I was a kid.  That era got labeled "the space age" in honor of some longed-for, supersonic, utopian future.  Another food of my youth was candy corn, mostly seen on Halloween. With its striped triangular "kernels" made of sugar, wax, and corn syrup, candy corn was a nostalgic treat, harkening back to days when humans grew, rather than manufactured, food.  But what was fruit cocktail's secret meaning?  It glistened as though varnished.  Faint of taste and watery, it contained anemic grapes, wrinkled and pale.  Also deflated maraschino cherries.  Fan-shaped pineapple chunks, and squares of bleached peach and pear completed the scene.  Fruit cocktail's colorlessness, its lack of connection to anything living (like tree, seed, or leaf) seemed cautionary, sad.  A bowl of soupy, faded, funeral fruit.  No more nourishing than a child's finger painting, masquerading as a happy appetizer, fruit cocktail insisted on pretending everything was ok.  Eating it meant you embraced tastelessness.  It meant you were easily fooled.  It meant you'd pretend semblances, no matter how pathetic, were real, and that when things got dicey, you'd spurn the truth.  Eating fruit cocktail meant you might deny that ghosts whirled throughout the house and got sucked up the chimney on nights Dad wadded up old newspapers, warned you away from the hearth, and finally lit a fire.

 - Amy Gerstler

Open thread: Friday Recommendations!  Tell us what you're watching, listening to, reading, and especially writing!  (Or talk about the hopelessness inherent in fruit cocktail, that's cool too!)
 ~ Kristycat

Open Thread: Big Kitties

Hosted by a napping kitty

You know what I am a sucker for?  I am a sucker for big cats acting like little cats.  Big cats in boxes, big cats playing with toys, big cats unraveling toilet paper, it's all awesome.  I'm not sure WHY it delights my soul to see leopards and tigers and jaguars and ocelots acting like giant versions of my own goofball kitties, but it so does.

Open thread!  Do you know any cool big cat trivia, or have any big cat stories?  Do you have any more cool pictures or videos along these same lines?  (The judges will also accept "wolves acting like puppies" or other related themes.)  Or for that matter, any cool trivia or stories about small cats?  (Alternately you could ignore cats altogether and talk about, I don't know, Zen Buddhism or multivitamins or whether or not Darth Vader is a role model for fathers everywhere, cuz, y'know.  Open thread.)

 ~ Kristycat

Open Thread: Mandolin

Hosted by a mandolin
A friend of mine is learning to play the mandolin.  Cool kids learn to play guitar; nerds learn fun instruments like the mandolin and end up playing minstrel by a bonfire, strumming it like a lute and singing a song that could have come straight from the 1500's while passing around a bottle of mead.

It's got a decent enough sound - I'll be honest, I am a sucker for the rich tones of a good acoustic guitar, and compared to that a mandolin sounds a little tinny.  But it fits the music it's meant for, and the tone is just different enough from what you're used to that it helps build the illusion of being elsewhere and elsewhen.

Open thread!  Does anyone play an instrument?  Does anyone play a relatively unusual instrument?  Let's talk about music, about instruments, about folk songs and every other type of song, or about anything else for that matter, it's an open thread!
  ~ Kristycat

Open Thread: I, uh, couldn't think of anything

The title basically covers it, I sort of dropped the ball here but do please say interesting things.

Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore! 


And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 

Open Thread: Zombies from different angles

Hosted by Jason Chan's Zombie Playground
So, thanks to Mr. Chan for giving permission to use this picture, and I really do recommend looking at it full sized (this version is at about 42% size.)  Here's the link again.

Chan chose to make the playground picture because he figured it'd be a different take than what most other people were doing.  As a musical accompaniment I give you another, entirely unrelated, example of someone doing a different take on zombies:

Also: Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s coming up, give us something new to explore! 


And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else! 

Open Thread: I Swear I Did Not Make This Up

Hosted by an actual sign from my actual hometown

So this is a thing that happened, for real, in real life.  Welcome to Florida. 

Although I have been assured that it would fit right in in Texas as well.

Open thread!  Discuss the implications of getting a shotgun with your jewelry purchase!  Discuss what on earth it says about our culture that you CAN get a shotgun as a free gift!  Writer's challenge: come up with a non-horrifying scenario where someone sees this and goes "Hot damn, jewelry AND a gun!  Just what I needed!"  Discuss Florida and Texas and other regional stereotypes, and whether they are (in your experience) justified!  Or discuss something else entirely, it's a open thread!  Have fun :)

 ~ Kristycat

(side note: there are more than a few interpretations of this that can be trigger-ific, please note comments accordingly!  Thank you!)

Open Thread: Cherry Blossoms

Hosted by Sakura Trees, by Petr Kratochvil

                               Sakura, Sakura
sakura sakura
noyama mo sato mo
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
asahi ni niou
sakura sakura
hana zakari

sakura sakura
yayoi no sora wa
mi-watasu kagiri
kasumi ka kumo ka
nioi zo izuru
izaya izaya
mini yukan
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
In fields and villages
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the morning sun.
Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Flowers in full bloom.

Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms,
Across the spring sky,
As far as you can see.
Is it a mist, or clouds?
Fragrant in the air.
Come now, come now,
Let's look, at last!
-Japanese folk song
My mother used to sing this song to me; she learned it on the Navy base in Okinawa when she was a little girl.  I never saw cherry trees until I went away to college, and then they were all over the quad at my school.  Every spring they'd bloom, and every spring I'd walk through them, grinning and singing words I didn't understand in a language I didn't speak.

Open thread!  Are there cherry trees where you live, and do you watch the petals fall?  Have you heard this song before?  If there are no cherry trees near you (or if there are, and you just don't like cherry trees), what do you think are the prettiest trees?

Also, it is FRIDAY OPEN THREAD, which means recommendations - self-promote or point us towards something cool!

~ Kristycat

Open Thread: Summer

Hosted by Summer by George Hodan

I may have posted this song last summer; I don't care, I like it.

Summer is usually one of my favorite seasons; currently my air conditioning is broken, so I'm perhaps not enjoying it QUITE as much as usual!

Open Thread!  Do you like summer, and if not, which is your favorite season?  What do you like to do during summer?  How do you beat the heat?  If you're in school (teacher or student), do you do anything fun with your vacation?

~ Kristycat

Open Thread: Earth

Hosted by Earth in High Definition

Hello, everyone!  It's your friendly* neighborhood moderator, Kristycat.  If you missed the previous announcement, Ana is on hiatus, and there is a very good chance she will not be coming back.  However, the blog is not closed yet!  Until and unless that happens, we are going to keep Open Threads up and running, so that people can chat and be social and so that the community can keep going.

Today's open thread is brought to you by pictures of Earth from space.  Because when I'm angry, they make me feel calm and happy :)  Astronaut Reid Wiseman has posted a whole metric fuckton of gorgeous pictures on his Twitter account, and that link there has 55 of the best of them.  They are beautiful!

Open thread!  Which pictures are your favorite?  Are you as excited about the space program as I am?  Do you have any interesting facts or exciting news about space or space-related science to share?  If outer space isn't really your thing, what other pictures or songs or stories, etc., do you like to use to help you feel calm and happy?  Please share!

~ Kristycat

*for given values of "friendly."  Results may vary.

(Mod note: commenting rules were significantly relaxed during the previous thread.  They are BACK ON.  Please be respectful and observe the comment policy.)

Metapost: I'm Sorry

As of this morning, the SKA site owner has posted an "ask" soliciting comments and submissions from people who have met me in real life.

I don't feel like I can do this anymore.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to the friends I've been neglecting because I've been dealing with all this exacerbating my depression and because I can't work up the energy to respond to emails half the time and because I don't like being that person who only has depressing things to report and talk about and so I say nothing at all rather than bring everyone down.

I'm sorry to the readers who have been wanting more Twilight or Narnia or Ross or Xanth or whatever and I've not been scratching that itch. I've been in your seat before, watching a blogger go through stuff, and I know that feeling of helplessness when something you like or care about or read for self-care starts floundering and I know how awful it can be. One of my biggest sources of guilt these past few months is knowing that someone, statistically-speaking, has been using my posts as a source of depression-relief as I used to with the favorite blogs I used to read, and I feel genuinely awful for not being there for that reader.

I'm sorry also to the people who have been hurt by me or feel they have been hurt by me. I know that will come as a surprise to some of the people who have been following along, or that there will be claims that this apology is insincere (it's not) or insufficient (I hope that it's not, I don't know how to do more than this, but it's not my call to make). I am sorry that there are people who feel that I have bullied them or hurt them or attacked them or yelled at them; if it helps at all, it genuinely was never my intention to hurt anyone as a blogger or a moderator but intent is not a magical shield that prevents harm from happening and I know that and so I am sorry for any and all harm that I have caused.

I really am. I'm sorry. If I could go back and do everything differently, I would.

I have always known that I have made mistakes as a blogger and a moderator and a feminist and a person. I have hurt people with my privilege. I am deeply, heartily, thoroughly, completely sorry for those mistakes. I do not know how to address them at this point except to withdraw. I have asked Melissa to remove me as a contributor for Shakesville, and I am walking away from my site for a bit. I'm walking away from this blog for a while. I don't really know if or when I am coming back, and I don't want to promise to come back when I'm not sure if I can or will.

I'm sorry. I feel like I should say more than this, but I don't know what or how. So I'm just going to hit post and close the browser for awhile.

Open Thread: Yellow Grain

Yellow Grain by Petr Kratochvil

Xanth: Nothing Worth Gaining

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Whorephobia, Slavery, Violence]

Castle Roogna, Part 5

OK, before we go any further, one of you wonderful people sent me a link to this and it is wonderful: Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth. (I'd credit the sender, but I don't know if you want to be credited, so let me know if you'd like and I will!) Update: Sent by the wonderful mcbender, who is okay with being credited. Thank you! :)

Now. We're halfway through the book and I'm cranky and sleep-deprived so let's see how far we can ride this train before we have to stop for peanuts. Or however that metaphor goes. Chapter 7 (Siege) is about an army of barbarian Mundanes besieging the Zombie Master's (ZM's) castle because there's a sexy girl inside and maybe also treasure.

The siege was serious. The Mundanes were reasonably apt at this sort of thing, since they were an army. Motivated by vengeance and greed and the knowledge that at least one measurelessly pretty girl was inside the castle, they knew no decent limits. They closed in about the castle and readied their assault.

Metapost: Welp

[Content Note: Harassment]

The next time someone asks why I don't just ignore the existence of sites that are dedicated to harassing me, the answer is that I try but apparently the people who want to harass me don't like me ignoring them. Imagine that.

(The above screenshot is dedicated to That One Guy From The Pharyngula Comment Thread who valiantly argued with all the nice Pharyngula moderators that I must be lying, mistaken, or delusional about harassers coming to my board specifically trying to direct me to the harassment tumblr.) 

I do find it kinda amusing that in a post that is complaining that I banned someone after they kept emailing me after I asked them to STOP (and yes, posting about it a year later on a harassment site definitely makes me think that this person cared about my boundaries as much as they kept claiming they did), there are also complaints that I'm not posting enough content that THEY like (boo Xanth, more Twilight) and that I post too many metaposts.

Lots of metaposts in the last 6 months of 2012, you say? Would those be the six months that directly followed major back surgery and even more major depression? And I nearly got laid off? And my medication--the medication that I'm still daily on--was severely fucking with my head? Those six months?

Yeah, that's fair. I definitely deserve to be harassed for letting people know about that stuff. And I definitely deserve to be harassed for not posting more Twilight even after your site harasses me for talking about Twilight.

Xanth: Inflatable Breasts and Manipulated Cocks

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Hatred of Sex Work and Sex Workers, Slut-Shaming]

Castle Roogna, Part 4

Chapter 5 (Castle) lands us at the construction site of Castle Roogna, which is where Trent and Iris hang out in the main timeline and where Dor will live when he is king, so he's understandably curious about its construction. In this chapter we will also get to meet our protagonist and antagonist in the backdrop of war that occurs throughout this book.

Our protagonist is Roogna, whose Magician talent is that he can "adapt" magic into other forms of magic. So, for example, he can turn magic fruit trees into other magic fruit trees. Not a bad talent all things considered, but criminally underused in this book, in my opinion, presumably so that Dor can shine with his talent of talking to walls in the middle of a live war. (Uh-oh, I'm being uncharitable already. MOAR SPYMASTER FIXFIC, STAT.) Roogna is described as old and grandfatherly-looking and much like a working-class gardener. You are supposed to like him.

Our antagonist is Murphy, whose Magician talent is basically Murphy's Law, i.e., anything that can go wrong, will. His talent is entirely contrived for the plot of this book and I'm tempted to use it as a thwacking stick from here on out for every time a woman's talent is deemed non-Magician, because it is the most useless talent ever. Murphy can't control the outcome of what will go wrong or how it will go wrong, and the curse can be easily thwarted by non-Magicians like Jumper as long as they plan meticulously for failure. Murphy is more urbane and attractive than Roogna, and you can basically apply the Trent Template to him: he's "evil" but noble and attractive and good and possessed of understandable motives that he follows nobly, etc. You are supposed to like him.

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