Open Thread: Light and Leaves


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 still got a day left to it, give us something new to explore!

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Xanth: An A+ Plan

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 7

So, uh, Chapter 10. Didn't finish that last time, because all the centaur stuff took front and center. Dor gets to meet "neo-Sorceress Vadne", who is the evil scheming woman in this book (a la Iris) because she is beautiful and intelligent and powerful, and all three things combined strike terror in Xanth men's hearts.

Whereas in the first book, Iris was peeved because having boobs disqualified her in Xanth society from holding the throne (despite it being occupied by a dangerous incompetent in need of replacement), nu-Iris Vadne is upset because the Council Who Decides These Things has judged her as not-quite-a-sorceress and this affects her marriage prospects.

So they're basically the same character and if you're wondering how the author managed to crank out, like, 50 of these books, we may have just stumbled on the secret: half of the characters are reused wholesale under different names.

“Magician,” a dulcet voice said behind Dor. He turned to find a mature woman standing on the ramparts. “I am neo-Sorceress Vadne, come to assist the defense of this wall. How may I be of service?”

“Neo-Sorceress?” Dor asked with undiplomatic blankness. He remembered Murphy saying something about a Sorceress who was helping the King, but the details had fogged out.

“My talent is judged to be shy of Sorceress level,” she said, her mouth quirking.

I read a Robert Price book once, The Incredible Shrinking Son of God (which I recommend and found very fascinating), and was struck by his point that the literalist streak in a lot of modern Christianity doesn't make sense on a fundamental level because it basically assumes that the people in the past had no greater goals or ambitions than serving as perfect record-keepers for us in the future. And that, as a general rule, people mark down history with other, more-immediate intentions: to persuade, to explain, to justify, and so on, and usually to their more immediate peers and not to folks in the misty future. The point was that it would be wise for us to remember that we are not a universal high priority.

I say all that to say this. Apparently there are only a few hundred people in Xanth in this point in history. There are no Sorceresses in this generation. And even in "modern" Xanth, with its higher population, only one or two magicians are produced per generation (until plot starts ensuring otherwise). And yet despite this place having a population lower than most churches, they totally have a Council Of Deciders who make decisions on who is and isn't "really" a sorceress or magician, and they're super sticklers on the girls (despite the ruling being literally meaningless because "sorceress" carries zero political power with it) because... they really care about being strict for posterity? Like, I literally can see no valuable reason to piss off someone with powerful magic by splitting ridiculous hairs like this, and the only justification seems to be that if they relaxed the rules a little, the future would be in grave peril of doing the same. Which frankly seems like a weird priority in a situation where the basic Maslow hierarchy is barely being met in the one or two small existing communities.

But, hey, character motivation. The same character motivation that all the women villains in these books have: get power, ideally by forcing a powerful husband who hates you to marry you. A+ plan. There are then several pages establishing that Vadne's power sucks because she can "only" use it to transform attackers into ("living") stones to finish the unfinished castle walls, while Dor has the Magician-level talent of making flying arrows insult people which apparently causes devastating in-fighting. Sure. We check back in with King Roogna, who has been urged by both the goblin faction and the harpy faction to let them use the castle as a base of operations; Dor agrees with the King's neutrality (which will ensure that the harpies and goblins both fight the humans and destroy the castle) on the grounds that they're all gross.

“I regret we can not make our facilities available to you. We are not choosing sides.”

That was for sure, Dor thought.Both sides were repulsive.

Future king, also A+. Then we check in with Magician Murphy who is, I remind you, the actual reason why this war is going to happen and all human civilization will be wiped out. (His motives being basically Strawman Darwinism.) Murphy does a poor impression of "nice place you have here" and offers to fix things up.

“You mean you can call off the whole goblin-harpy battle, this whole siege, just like that?”

“Not just like that. But I can abate it, yes.”

[...] “The King’s talent is shaping magic to his own ends. Mine is shaping circumstance to interfere with others’ designs. Alternate faces of similar coins. All we have to determine is whose talent shall prevail. Destruction and bloodshed are no necessary part of it. In fact I deplore and abhor—”

“There has already been bloodshed!” Dor exclaimed angrily. “What kind of macabre game is this?”

“A game of power politics,” Murphy responded, unperturbed.

“A game where my friend was tortured by Mundanes, and my life threatened, and the two of us were pitted against each other,” Dor said, his anger bursting loose. “And Millie must marry the Zombie Master to—” He cut himself off, chagrined.

“So you have an interest in the maid,” Vadne murmured. “And had to give her up.”

“That’s not the point!” But Dor knew his face was red.

“Shall we be fair?” Murphy inquired meaningfully. “Your problem with the maid is not of my making.”

“No, it isn’t,” Dor admitted grudgingly. “I— I apologize, Magician.” Adults were able to apologize with grace. “But the rest—”

“I regret these things as much as you do,” Murphy said smoothly. “This contest with the Castle was intended to be a relatively harmless mode of establishing our rights. I would be happy to remove the curse and let the monsters drift as they may. All this requires is the King’s acquiescence.”

King Roogna was silent.

I don't really know what more to say about this except that, once again, the stakes here aren't a simple bowling trophy. The "acquiescence" that Murphy is requiring from Roogna is that Xanth effectively dissolve any attempt at government and from hereafter switch to a "rule by anarchy" situation in an environment where everyone will probably be killed before they can adjust to the newness of the complete upheaval of their entire political way of life for generations. And Murphy admits this and in fact openly wants this because the elements of humanity who manage to survive will objectively be the best and they will breed super-human X-Men.

I mean, I'm paraphrasing, but not by much. And so while it is relevant that this war will potentially kill Dor and Jumper, and has already resulted in Millie contracting a marriage that might bring her little joy, it keeps being forgotten that this war will also decide the lives and fates of literally every human in Xanth. And we kind of need to forget that, because otherwise we wouldn't accept the book's continued insistence that Murphy is an honorable Randian superman who is the hottest thing since molten lava covered Christian Gray.

“Murphy has honor, once you understand his ways,” Vadne said, glancing at the Magician obliquely. “I once sued for his hand, but he preferred chaos to an organized household. So I am without a Magician to marry.”

“You sought to marry above your station,” Murphy told her. Vadne showed her teeth in a strange crossbreed of snarl and smile. “By your definition, Magician!” Then she returned to Dor. “But I let my passion override me. Where did you say you were from, Magician?”

Dor suddenly understood her interest in him—and was glad he could prove himself ineligible. It would be as easy to deal with Helen Harpy as with this woman, and for similar reason. Vadne was no soft and sweet maid like Millie; she was a driven woman on the prowl for a marriage that would complete the status she craved.

Sigh. So perhaps the best part of this is the exemption of Millie from the "driven woman on the prowl" categorization despite the fact that she is literally in this novel because she left home planning to find and marry the most powerful husband she could snag with her talent. We have decided to forget all that, because only Bad Women make sensible decisions in an oppressive patriarchy.

I do like the implication, though, that Murphy will stay single his entire life for lack of someone in his "station". (Unless ya'll want to get some Roogna/Murphy slash going.) Like, yes, please remove yourself from the marriage pool, asshole. How all this intersects with the frankly bizarre interpretation of evolutionary theory that he lives by is beyond me, but since Murphy's entire character motivations seem to boil down to "be as much of a jerk as possible", I'm just grateful it worked in our favor for one.

Then there is some early skirmishing, none of which is particularly interesting, and thus ends Chapter 10.

Open Thread: Schlumbergera in bloom

Brought to you by an under-watered cactus that once belonged to my grandmother

The plant is in bloom, that must mean... actually it doesn't mean much of anything.  It does it all the time, usually without warning (unless you examine it closely enough to see the buds before they bloom.)

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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 coming up, give us something new to explore!

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Open Thread: Traditions

Brought to you by two people trying to diagram the song "Alice's Restaurant" on a white board.
The song Alice's Restaurant is traditional Thanksgiving fare for a lot of people, myself one of them.  It doesn't really have much to do with Thanksgiving, it's just that part of it happens to take place on Thanksgiving.  (Sort of like how Same Old Lang Syne gets played most often around Christmas.)

So yesterday, I put up a post with my preferred version (30 year anniversary of the Thanksgiving in question) as well as the video in two parts which the image above is taken from: two people illustrating the song in real time on a white board.  Why?  Tradition.  No other reason.

Thus the prompt for this thread, beyond recommends (see below) is tradition.  Yours, your family's, your friends' or those of any other group/person you care to discuss.  Don't be constrained by the time 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 coming up, give us something new to explore!

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Open Thread: Graffiti

Brought to you by someone with orange spray paint,
whose mazirati [sic] goes 185
Graffiti: sometimes pretty, sometimes profane, sometimes profound, sometimes obscene, sometimes an eyesore, and sometimes it sticks an ear-worm in your head.
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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 coming up, give us something new to explore!  
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Open Thread: Change your story

Brought to you by this image from the wilds of the internet.
Increasingly in the world today we can feel helpless.  Vote every election and bad people still end up in office.  Corporations wield power beyond our imagination, seldom for good.  Gerrymandering entrenches people in office, thus preventing voting from bringing accountability.  On a more personal scale we often see people we care about suffer for no reason while jerks get ahead.  And that's just in my general area.

It's important, then, to remember that things are not predetermined, that we are not powerless, that the narratives of our lives, while not wholly within our control, are written, at least in part, by ourselves.

Hence the image above.  A fictional character, meant to be a sock puppet for and face of a misogynistic movement run by the worst elements of gamer culture, no longer being someone else's mouthpiece but instead playing games that her creators mostly don't approve of (women in videogames, the horror) and finally, at long last, smiling.

Also some Lyrics from a song Trig introduced me to:
Just because I find myself in this story,
It doesn't mean that everything is written for me.
If I think the ending is fixed already,
I might as well be saying
I think that it's OK!
And that's not right!
And if it's not right,
You have to put it right.
In the slip of a bolt, there's a tiny revolt.
The seeds of a war in the creak of a floorboard.
A storm can begin // with the flap of a wing.
The tiniest mite packs the mightiest sting.
Every day // starts with the tick of a clock.
All escapes // start with the click of a lock.
If you're stuck in your story and want to get out
You don't have to cry, you don't have to shout.

'Cause if you're little you can do a lot, you
Mustn't let a little thing like, 'little' stop you.
Both sections from Matilda: The Musical.  First excerpt from the song "When I grow up" second from "Naughty".

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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 coming up, give us something new to explore!  
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Open Thread: The Color Of The Post Apocalyptic Landscape

Brought to you by a picture I took of train tracks
Around the time The Book of Eli came out a reviewer noted something the glut of post apocalyptic movies had in common: their color palette.  Zombies, nuclear war, infertility, whatever really, if civilization collapses everything will revert to grays and, if you're lucky, the occasional brown.

My own observations dispute this.  Above is a picture of railroad tracks.  The very symbol of technological progress and industrialization.  This is what happens to them when people stop maintaining them  This isn't deep in the wilderness or anything, it's inside of  a city and mowed grass is a few feet beyond it (hence the amount of light coming through the leaves on the other side of the tracks) and paved road a few meters beyond that.

My assumption is that if we should find ourselves fleeing zombies for any length of time the world will look like this, before the bright and colorful graffiti has had time to fade.

Anyway, it happens to be Friday:

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!  
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Open Thread: River Scenic Spot

River Scenic Spot by Larisa Koshkina

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,

Dumb
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
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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.
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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?
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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 coming up, 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! 

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

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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 coming up, give us something new to explore!  
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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.

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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 coming up, 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: 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! 


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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: 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! 

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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: 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!)

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