Open Thread: Focus


With cameras as with people, sometimes you can focus on everything but what you're actually trying to focus on.
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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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!

Let's Play: Long Live the Queen (Briony Romance)

It's another Let's Play!

Technical details first: I used LiteCamHD to grab the video and my voice, and I used Freemake Video Converter to merge the video files together whenever I had to stop for any reason. And I am still unable to find a way to transcribe these with any degree of accuracy, and I apologize for that; I'm sorry to our deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the community.

Copyright permission next: I thank Hanako games for responding to my request for copyright permission to use this material with "open permission for people to make let's plays of our videos and to use the standard youtube monetisation tools if they want". That's a wonderful policy.

Content summary: Walkthrough 08 (Briony Romance) is my playthrough where I travel with Briony to the old forest, win the naval battle, and romance Briony for the ending (though we still marry other men). Game achievements include:

1. There And Back Again (You have survived a visit to the Old Forest.)
2. Things That Go Bump In The Night (You have encountered a monster.)
3. Victory At Sea (You have won a naval battle without disturbing what lies beneath.)

YouTube video below the cut, plus game transcript. I also strongly recommend the LLtQ wiki for any questions about the characters.

Open Thread: Dinosaur


As seen at the Great Vermont Maze.  The maze, for whatever it's worth, is a corn maze.  Which means that if you're going to get technical about it (or try to explain what it is to someone not from these parts) it's a maze made out of maize.
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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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!

Narnia: Boys Do It Better Than Marsh-Wiggles

[Narnia Content Note: Misogyny, Ableist Language, Self-Harm, Child-Harm]

Narnia Recap: The trio have reached Harfang and suspect that they are now prisoners.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 9: How They Discovered Something Worth Knowing

Chapter 9 is somehow the best and the worst chapter of this book. On the one hand, we finally get to see the female ostensible-protagonist actually do something; on the other hand, what she does do is coded heavily with female stereotypes, and the narrator even explicitly tells us that she's the best of the trio at this social stuff because she's a girl.

And the thing is, I don't think this necessarily has to be terrible. I don't recommend doing it when you only have one female protagonist in your book, because then you get into the small-sample-size problem of stereotyping minority characters, but the thing is that there is some small justification for female characters being decent at social skills in the sense that:

IF your female protagonist lives in a world that pressures her to be good at social skills
THEN she may have social skills that are useful in social situations

But just because it might make sense to equip a female character with female-stereotype powers doesn't mean that the end result is going to be palatable. We are, at the end of the day, left with a situation here where the one thing Jill is allowed to do well is a "girly" social skill.

We could be charitable and file what Jill does here under "subterfuge", but let us also be clear that what she is doing would more accurately be called "simpering" (and really only works because the giants are too stupid to recognize how far overboard she is going). And because Lewis hated simpering girls, and because hatred at what Jill is doing drips off the page, that also kinda takes away from any of the possible empowerment in this situation. As the reader, you're probably not thinking "aw yeah, Jill is Narnian Black Widow" so much as "yuck, girls sure are good at sucky things". (Because let's be clear: Eustace shoots food with a motherfucking bow and arrow, and Jill prattles and giggles. These are the skills being brought to the table here.)

And it's not just the narrator who hates what Jill is doing; Jill hates what Jill is doing. Again, I think this could be done well in the right hands, like with a character working through her anger at being forced to conform to these expectations by a patriarchal system, but I just plain don't think that's what Lewis was going for here.

Open Thread: Icicles


Picture taken on the seventh day of the year.

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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!

Let's Play: Long Live the Queen (Exiled Queen)

It's another Let's Play!

Technical details first: I used LiteCamHD to grab the video and my voice, and I used Freemake Video Converter to merge the video files together whenever I had to stop for any reason. And I am still unable to find a way to transcribe these with any degree of accuracy, and I apologize for that; I'm sorry to our deaf and hard-of-hearing members of the community.

Copyright permission next: I thank Hanako games for responding to my request for copyright permission to use this material with "open permission for people to make let's plays of our videos and to use the standard youtube monetisation tools if they want". That's a wonderful policy.

Content summary: Walkthrough 07 (Exiled Queen) is my playthrough where I instigate a civil war, end it by strategic use of a hostage, and get driven out of Nova and into Talasse by the invading Shanjians. Game achievements include:

1. A Hostage To Fortune (You have demanded a ransom.)
2. A Land Divided (You have faced a civil war.)

YouTube video below the cut, plus game transcript. I also strongly recommend the LLtQ wiki for any questions about the characters.

Open Thread: Apricots

Lynn Greyling's Apricots on a Twig

Narnia: Taking The Blame

[Narnia Content Note: Misogyny, Fat Hatred]

Narnia Recap: The trio have reached Harfang.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 8: The House of Harfang

The hardest thing for me about going through Silver Chair is seeing how much of a decoy protagonist Jill is when I really dig into who-does-what-and-when. I really did like this book best of the series when I was a kid, and I really do think part of the appeal was having an actual female protagonist who isn't a straight-up saint (Lucy) or being slandered by the narrative at every turn as the sinsyest of sinners (Susan). Jill was a chance to have a "normal" girl, just like me, having adventures and doing epic things.

So it's incredibly disappointing to me that she... doesn't. We've given a lot of well-deserved flack to, say, Bella Swan for being the most unmotivated of protagonists, but when you really dig into the action of Silver Chair, Jill comes across to me as so much worse. At least Twilight is about a high school romance and I can realistically expect that homework assignments and long Saturday afternoons will be boring and unepic. Jill, in contrast, is on an adventure where epic things are constantly being hurled in her direction, and she keeps essentially playing dodgeball with any kind of plot involvement, character growth, and even just on-page screentime. She literally seems to be here for two reasons: (a) to mess up the signs so that we can have a plot where people keep messing up, and (b) to take the blame.

I was thinking about this when I was sitting down to write this post, and it occurred to me that I can't even say that Jill isn't the protagonist we were "promised", because every cover of this book that I've ever seen has always had Rilian on the front, not Jill, doing his manly stabbing of either the serpent or the silver chair itself. And, you know, I can't even imagine what iconic Jill scene you could use to replace that. My first thought was flying on the owl's back, but that would be the scene where Jill fell asleep and left the actual exciting adventures to Eustace. So not very exciting and iconic after all.

I've already complained that much of the book so far has been Puddleglum being the real protagonist and getting significantly more screentime for his opinions and thoughts than Jill. Chapter 8 is now going to expand that trend in order to give more screentime to Eustace. Hooray.

Open Thread: Fake Bear


One of an installation of three bears (the others are an adult and one other cub) on loan from the Ira Mountain Association.  People viewing it at the I-95 rest stop are encouraged to visit the public overlooks and scenic views on Ira Mountain.  Route 16, Kingfield, Maine.

(I said a while ago that I was probably going to run out of interesting pictures.)

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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: Geese


Geese!
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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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: One eyed flower turtle sculpture thing


"Turtle sculpture thing," said in the cadence of  the last three words in "this sort of mission... quest... thing."

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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! 

Narnia: Bother the Signs

[Narnia Content Note: Depression, Misogyny, Death by Exposure]

Narnia Recap: The trio have met the Green Lady and are now obsessed with going to Harfang.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 7: The Hill of the Strange Trenches

I've mentioned throughout this book that I really like the traveling parts of this tale. I like travel tales, probably because I can't travel so there's a vicarious interest there. I was one of those who really liked the bits in The Hunger Games where Katniss had to, like, iodize water or whatever because I think shit like that is cool. One of my biggest gripes when I tried to read the unabridged version of Journey to the Center of the Earth (it's awful) was that they took meat and biscuits "enough to last six months" but "of water, not a drop". Instead they took gourds expecting to find all the drinkable water they'd need on the way. Gah!

I mention all that to now mention this: I'm in a spring cleaning mood because of the nice weather, and I've been reading a lot of DIY organization sites which are a real head-trip for me, but in a good way. I got to a tip about storing nails and screws and tiny things in DYMO labeled Altoid tins and I was like "aha! something I can do!" because fuck putting up shelves and things on my nice empty walls. (Empty walls for the win, is all I'm saying.) Anyway. I was startled and pleased to realize that there is an entire industry of used Altoid tins on eBay and you should never throw your Altoid tins away because you can sell them for, like, a dollar each.

Why? you ask. Because survivalists and campers and such have all these lovely instructions for making first aid kits and camping kits out of Altoid tins. I read up on several of these and was fascinated and very amused to find that the survivalist kits recommend carrying condoms in the Altoid tin because a condom can hold a gallon of water. One, I am dubious about this measurement. Two, I was sad to see that not every instruction site mentioned getting condoms which are not pre-lubed or spermicided, as this seems an important detail to neglect like that. Three, one site suggested that in the absence of purification tablets, a day in the sun will kill all nasty things in the water, and I'm dubious about this as well. Four, mostly I really just want condoms to be handed out at, like, Boy Scout meetings in order for the Texas politicians to have a fit, because this would amuse me.

Open Thread: Footprints

If anyone wants context, go here.  Sadly, I have since lost the hat.
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I dreamed that I was walking down the beach with the Goddess.
And I looked back and saw footprints in the sand.

But sometimes there were two pairs of footprints, and sometimes there was only one.
And the times when there was only one pair of footprints, those were my times of greatest trouble.

So I asked the Goddess, "Why, in my greatest need, did you abandon me?"

She replied, "I never left you. Those were the times when we both hopped on one foot."
And lo, I was really embarrassed for bothering Her with such a stupid question.

--Carl Muckenhoupt

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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! 

Narnia: Gentle Giants and Strange Women

[Narnia Content Note: Racism, Animal Cruelty, Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: Jill and Eustace are on an adventure with Puddleglum.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 6: The Wild Waste Lands of the North

Sorry I haven't updated sooner; life got busy and then Husband got sick (and still is, poor bab) and Jill ended up taking kind of a backseat for awhile.

Chapter 6 is difficult to pull apart because it's simultaneously sorta empty and full at the same time. Not a lot happens, but we're finally on our journey and there's a lot to see and look at, and in terms of just "reading for enjoyment", this is probably my favorite chapter in all of the Narnia series just because we're finally allowed to look around us for a little while and drop all the theologies. The problem is that Lewis couldn't drop both the theologies and the racist xenophobia so... hang on to your hats.

The chapter opens with the trio setting off over the moor. The going isn't hard but it's clearly not comfortable, and a decent balance is struck between the two, I think. Again I'm reminded of the traveling bits in Lord of the Rings, which I also liked because there's something fundamentally nice and warm and cozy (to me) to be found in reading about long cold wet travels when you're in your warm dry comfy home.

Open Thread: Remnants of Solstice


This thread brought to you by what has been left behind.  Or rather left up.  It was either that or someone playing hockey by himself on the pond these trees surround.

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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: Ducks


And their reflections.  The last time I was over that way there were still ducks in the area.  They were all crammed together in the only un-frozen spot, which wasn't really big enough to hold them.  From a climate perspective there is no way that that should be true (should have frozen completely long ago), but that risks going down a dark and depressing path which would miss the important point which is: Ducks!

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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! 

Narnia: Tea in Tins

[Narnia Content Note: Depression]

Narnia Recap: Jill and Eustace have attended a parliament of owls and are ready to start their adventure.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 5: Puddleglum

Chapter 5 is aptly named "Puddleglum" because that's who the chapter introduces and it largely revolves around dialogue with him. And I want to give props here: if you don't dislike Puddleglum, this is a reasonably good chapter. It's maybe not as tight as might be imagined in a perfect world, since we're still hitting the Narnia trend of the first 5+ chapters not actually having much in the way of action, but we're at least planning now, instead of backstorying, and there's some nice character development and fleshing out and nothing here is too offensive to me. So massive props, Lewis, for writing a chapter I can't pick on too much.

'Course, you'll have noticed I said "if" you don't dislike Puddleglum, which is going to be a matter of personal mileage. I'm going to note upfront that adult characters in children's fantasy stories are difficult to write. If the adults are too competent, then the children can't make as many mistakes, and their victories are perhaps shared more than might be satisfying for the reader, since the child character starts to lack a sense of agency when they're just following around the more competent adults. For instance, if Trumpkin or Caspian had provided an armed escort, then Jill and Eustace would have been boiled down to a guide, at best, or a good luck charm that Aslan had provided.

The ideal solution in these situations is usually to provide an adult who can do all the Icky Hard Things (for example: Puddleglum will hunt their food and skin and clean and cook it on the road), but will be respectful enough of the children's opinions (or enough of a pushover) to let the kids call the shots and run the show. (This is not unlike my basic philosophy for NPCs being dragged along plot rails by the PCs, ha.) At the same time, you have to justify as the author why the kids aren't turning to the vastly more experienced adults and saying, "So what do you recommend here?" and then just doing that. (If you don't justify this, the children come off as ridiculously arrogant to an almost unrealistic degree. I was a pretty stubborn child, but I still would have delegated all adulting to Puddleglum the second a blizzard hits later.)

Open Thread: Legos


Once upon a time Legos were the go to toy for gender-neutral innovation limited only by the child's imagination and the parent's bank account.  There's no reason they couldn't be that again.  Would be nice.

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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 ahead, give us something new to explore!

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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! 

Narnia: The Parliament of a Parliament

[Narnia Content Note: Death, Poisoning, Snakes, People / Children being killed on adventures, Violent Kings, Misogyny]

Narnia Recap: Jill and Eustace have had a lovely evening and now shit's gonna get real.

The Silver Chair, Chapter 4: A Parliament of Owls

Alright people, once more into the breach!

I think it's a little interesting, the more we go through these books, to see the author struggle with keeping the action going and you guys, this is a legit hard thing to do. There's always this tension between whether to keep the characters stumbling towards the goal line or to actually slow down and info-dump all the world-building and backstory and there really is no One Right Way to do it because there are readers who couldn't give a toss about the backstory and there are readers who want pages and pages of this stuff, so I am inclined to give Lewis a touch of a pass on this just because this is genuinely hard and he tried. You Tried, Lewis.

Like, I'm reminded of all the early parts of The Fellowship of the Ring where, okay, it was genuinely in-character for Frodo to drag his feet on everything but as a kid I was like oh my god this is the most boring thing ever just go already THIS IS NOT HARD and then they FINALLY get on the road and exciting things happen but HAHA NOPE now we're going to sit around in Rivendell for what feels like YEARS AND YEARS so that people can recite poetry at you and I realize that there are fans for whom this backstory stuff is like sweet, sweet candy--and omg I respect the fuck out of these people, I really do--but all I wanted to do was read about this damn ring being melted, okay? So let's give Lewis props for at least not making us sit through eighteen pages of poetry about the Horse and His Boy but then I must immediately take those props away because he then made a full book out of the story so I GUESS WE'RE EVEN.

Anyway, like all the books that have come before it in this series, we are now going to have backstory and politics vomited at us, but it only takes one chapter this time instead of the three (or more??) chapters that it took in Prince Caspian so... yay, I guess?

Narnia: Far Worse Than You Think

[Narnia Content Note: Death, Old Age, Insensitive Treatment of Hearing Disabilities]

Narnia Recap: Jill has been given really unhelpful instructions by Aslan and now we can get on with it

The Silver Chair, Chapter 3: The Sailing of the King

I really liked the comparison last time to the prophetic instructions being given to Jill by Aslan as being "plot coupons". I've been writing a lot in my quiet sabbatical from the internet, and I think I also mentioned that I've been running a role playing game. In both cases--as writer and storyteller--it actually is pretty hard to give clues and plots to the reader/players such that they feel like they're participating actively in the story as opposed to just being pulled along by the nose.

Here again I wonder if Narnia wouldn't have been a better story if Lewis had left out the religion, because I really do think that the plot coupons could have been done so much better if he hadn't felt the need to make them all vague and prophecy-like to suit his religious bent. All this stuff about memorizing the signs and rules seems to be a combination of the commandment in Deuteronomy to remember god's laws, filtered through the modern Christian interest in being ready for the future because (a) Jesus' Second Coming or (b) your own personal death and judgment, whichever comes first.

But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. 
--Silver Chair, Chapter 2

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. 
--Deuteronomy 11:18-21

As a means to crowbar Deuteronomy into your book, it's not the most inelegant approach Lewis could have taken. But once Deuteronomy has been awkwardly crowbar'd into your book, now it's sitting there like a lumpy frog squatting over everything else, because--as everyone pointed out very nicely in the last installment--this basically ensures that Jill and Eustace have been setup to fail. Case in point, let us remember the first "sign" (which is not really a sign at all, but whatever):

First; as soon as the Boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once; if he does, you will both have good help.

So. Okay. Eustace and Jill have now set foot in Narnia. What do we see there?

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