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.

Open Thread: May Bells

May Bells by Bobby Mikul

Xanth: Practical Jokes and Magical Warfare

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 3

Chapter 3 (Jumper) flings us into the action: Dor has time-leaped into the tapestry and is now occupying the body of an adult barbarian warrior from Mundania. (We never get an age for this body, but I get the impression that he's 30-ish.) Dor's child body has remained behind in Xanth and is being animated by the Brain Coral from the last book, as it was curious about humanity.

You will please note that all this is happening in parallel "real time", i.e., that the time Dor spends in the tapestry is the same amount of time that the Brain Coral animates his body. And you will also please note that everything Dor does in the past is really being done; later Millie will almost-not-quite remember him. This will be important later, in the sense that Millie and Irene will be blatantly lied to in order to cover up what Dor and the Brain Coral have been doing.

Xanth: The Lot of Women

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 2

Chapter 2 (Tapestry) continues to hammer home how very awful Dor's life is, what with being the heir to the throne and expected to marry the princess (though only if he wants to, which is a level of choice which isn't really being extended to Irene in any real practical sense) and having the bestest talent for miles, etc. IT IS HARD BEING SPECIAL, YA'LL. And while I would normally be on board with that, I'm kinda being unforgiving here because this is all being used as a vehicle to dehumanize Millie and Irene into objects that Dor does and doesn't have access to, what a shame.

It was his general isolation from others that weighed on him, and his new awareness of Millie the ghost. What a difference there was between a brat like Irene and a woman like Millie! Yet Irene was the one Dor was expected to get along with. It wasn’t fair.

Please note that there is never any suggestion that Millie might not want to become romantically involved with the 12-year-old boy that she has raised since he was born--the book continues to insist that the only real obstacle in the way of Dor having Millie is his rival Jonathan plus some lip-service given to all those pesky adults who want him to hook up with Irene instead because of their political conveniences. The final chapter in this novel will be Dor convincing Millie that she's in love with him before backing away at the last second and throwing Jonathan at her as a distraction and it comes off as just being really really clear that he could have her if he wanted.

Let me reiterate: The narrative does not, for a moment, consider that Millie might have feelings about NOT sexing up her surrogate son that is less than half her age.

Xanth: Where Manhood Equals Adulthood

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 1

So, haha, I was feeling so bad during all the Source of Magic stuff because every so often someone would mention that Castle Roogna isn't that bad and I was, like, lolsobbing and rocking myself because haha I TOO THOUGHT THE SAME THING but it turns out my memories were lies made out of candyfloss and unwillingness to remember really awful things.

Like, just for instance? The cover to the left of this text? The one that has the barbarian and the spider meeting the nice centaur? An adorable little subplot in this book is about the centaur deciding (with the help of our protagonist) to rape his wife. HAHA!

So now that I've tantalized you with that little fact (omg one of the three people on the cover of this book is a rapist and we're supposed to find that hilarious and sympathetic) let me back up and give you a plot summary: Heir-Apparent Dor is the 12-year-old son of Bink and Chameleon and his magician-level talent is making inanimate objects talk. He's sad because his mom and dad have spent basically his entire life avoiding him, only it turns out that they've really been avoiding Millie because Bink doesn't trust himself around her sex appeal talent.

Open Thread: Dill

Dill by Vera Kratochvil

Xanth: White Male Tears

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Love Springs]

Source of Magic, Part 5

Okay! When we last left our heroes, they had basically forced Jewel into coming with them on their quest to find their missing friends because, uhhmm, they might find a potion to fix Bink after or during that quest, and Jewel needs to be with him so that he can fall out of love with her, and this is definitely Jewel's problem to help solve because, uhhmm.

Anyway! It's all okay, because Jewel is well on the way to falling deeply in love with the guy she's known for two days.

Then the worm lurched, striking a different type of rock, and Bink was thrown forward against the nymph. “Uh, sorry,” he said, righting himself, though indeed he was not very sorry. “I, uh—”

“Yes, I know,” Jewel said. “Maybe you’d better put your arms about my waist, to steady yourself. It does get bumpy on occasion.”

“I … think I’d better not” Bink said.

“You’re sort of noble, in your fashion,” she observed. “A girl could get to like you.”

“I—I’m married,” Bink said miserably. “I—I need that antidote.”

“Yes, of course,” she agreed.

MANPAIN! And, you know, I kinda feel for Bink just a tiny, tiny bit because it is difficult falling out of love with a spouse and trying to work out what to do about that. But Bink either hasn't fallen out of love with Chameleon or (if he has) won't own it because it would hurt his self-image so there goes all my pity right off the bat because I'm not a fan of him being a disingenuous ass.

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