Mittwoch reading post

Oct. 22nd, 2014 06:12 pm
oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
[personal profile] oursin

What I read

Finished Spirits Abroad which was lovely - short story collections can sometimes be a mixed bag but I thought this maintained a consistent standard of excellence.

Finally achieved the new Jane Haddam, Fighting Chance, and wow, that started in a desperate place and finished in a really grim twist.

Agatha Christie, Partners in Crime(1929), in which, in service to a longer plot arc, Tommy and Tuppence pretend to be running a private detective agency, leading them into solving various mysteries in the style of noted fictional hawkshaws of the day, not all of whom are noted by posterity. This rather undermines the joke.

Mary Cadogan, Mary Carries On: Reflections on some favourite girls' stories (2008) - bits and pieces, essays that didn't really add much to her existing ouevre.

Also, knocked off some Sekkrit Projekt reading.

Plus, while traveling, various short pieces on the Kobo.

On the go

Started a re-read of EM Delafield's Gay Life (1933), which is an exemplar of just how uncosy, how very not gentle-humour, EMD can be.

Up next

Dunno. Have some SP reading with me plus masses on Kobo.

(no subject)

Oct. 22nd, 2014 09:01 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] catdraco and [personal profile] gryphynshadow!

31 Days of Horror: “Candyman”

Oct. 22nd, 2014 01:55 am
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Candyman” is a classic horror movie about racism, abandonment, and Chicago.

I grew up in a really religious household, although I didn’t realize it at the time. I went to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, I went to Catholic school from second grade (CCD classes prior to that) through High School. The way I was raised just felt normal. Most of my friends were Catholic, or came from conservative families, or both. My parents were a little stricter in some ways than my friends’ parents, and I felt very little desire to rebel against them (out of very real fear of rejection/abandonment. Ironically, I got thrown out of the house for doing laundry at the wrong time and not for any petty teenage rebellion or high spirits. In retrospect, I could have lived it up a lot more and gotten the same result.). So when my parents banned almost every movie in existence, I didn’t really question it or try to sneak around to watch them. The upshot is that there are a ton of classic movies I have never seen. “Candyman” is one of them.

“Candyman” is a movie set in Chicago. Like the best urban fantasy and horror the city is a vital, integral part of the story. It’s almost a character in its own right. The movie opens tracking vehicles along the knotted tangle of expressways, moving from the South Side Northwards. Views of the luxurious high rise condos of the Gold Coast through protagonist Helen Lyle’s window; the cop car tooling down Lower Wacker Drive; Cabrini-Green, the setting of much of the horror; the University of Illinois at Chicago, pre-extensive external renovations; the bridges spanning the cold murky depths of the Chicago River; Stroger Hospital. Part of the character of Chicago is racism and segregation, and the movie digs much more deeply into issues like systemic racism and sexism than I was expecting.

Grad Students Helen Lyle and Bernadette Walsh are working on a thesis about Urban Legends, back when your average college student didn’t know what Urban Legends were. Helen’s husband, Trevor, is a professor at UIC. Despite her protests, he touches on Urban Legends in a lecture, cuing in potential interviewees/story tellers about what Urban Legends are and how they spread. He’s also very flirty with a female student, something he seems to have a history with. While transcribing tape recordings about a Bloody Mary-esque character named “Candyman” in her office, a cleaning lady mentions she’s heard about him. Intrigued and hungry for more data, Helen asks her and then another cleaning lady (who lives in Cabrini-Green) questions. They tell her a story about a woman who was killed by Candyman when he came in through her bathroom mirror… waiting in an adjoining apartment, removed the mirrored medicine cabinet, kicked her mirrored medicine cabinet out, and came through the hole. Helen does a bit of research and discovers that this is an actual thing that actually happened, and that the Housing Projects were so poorly made that the medicine cabinets were just set into holes in the cinderblock walls. There was nothing, no barrier, between the medicine cabinets. The victim called the police twice about the intruder, called 911 to report a break in, and was ignored.

I want to point out two things here:

1) Bernadette and the cleaning women are all Black, and the film passes the Bechdel test with wildly flying colors. Helen listens attentively to the cleaning women and treats them as experts in their knowledge, learns from them… but she’ll also be profiting from their story in a way they can’t, as she has access to academia and publishing and they don’t.

2) The bit about the congruent space between bathrooms? True. People WERE murdered by intruders punching through the bathroom cabinets. “Candyman” is based on a Clive Barker short story, a story written by an Englishman and set in England. Bernard Rose, another Englishman, wrote the script and directed the movie and did a fantastic job localizing the story. At the same time, he’s a white man who is literally profiting off the pain of Black people, sensationalizing actual horrific things that actually happened to actual people and making money off them in ways the people who experienced these things don’t have means of doing. Themes of abandonment thread their way through the film: people call 911 and are dismissed; Helen calls her husband for help and he’s off fucking a student; Helen and other people scream for help and are ignored; Trevor abandons Helen for his sexy perky-nippled student; multiple housing projects holding thousands of people are left to rot and decay, those within written off as unsalvageable human trash.

After a smug, condescending lecture from another man doing Urban Legend work, Helen decides that she and Bernadette are going to gather some first hand data and visit the Cabrini-Green projects, interview some residents, take some photos. This is a shockingly bad idea and Bernadette, who has actual brains in her head, does everything she can to convince Helen not to go. The two women wind up going together. A resident points out that every time white people come by bad things follow them, and this is very true as Helen’s actions rile up Candyman and cause problems for everyone, including herself.

The “real” history of Candyman, which omits his name and date of birth or death, is an absolutely unrealistic bit of unlikely circumstance and convoluted torture and murder, yet is told as unassailable fact by a man who studies Urban Legends and their hallmarks. The Urban Legend of a man breaking through a medicine cabinet is revealed to be true. UIC, a campus rich with Urban Legends of its own (both legends common to any campus with heavy use of Brutalist Architecture as well as more specific ones relating to the Behavior Science Building and Art and Architecture Building), is a wonderful choice as Helen and Bernadette’s college. Helen is attacked, but is not sexually assaulted or raped; she undresses on camera and it’s not titillating or voyeuristic. Her friendship with Bernadette is deep and loving. Helen repeatedly crawls through small openings, emerging from screaming mouths, born again from concrete birth canals. Helen fights to retain control of herself, of her mind, of her actions.

“Candyman” also explicitly questions the function of Urban Legends. Why are they so wide spread? Why are they so important? What do they mean, what do they offer? What if they are religion, a sacrament, something sacred and divine? What if we create god? What if our desires and fears manifest themselves as power and flesh, and become hungry? What if Urban Legends grant a special form of immortality?

It’s a fantastic movie.

It’s also not without its flaws.

One of the themes of the movie is that Candyman, a large Black man who is literally not human, preys upon and controls a white woman. He ruins her character, destroys her mind, posesses her, touches her body, kisses her. This is a pretty common, and pretty racist, fear about scary Black men despoiling white women. This could have been avoided by casting Helen Lyle as pretty much any ethnicity other than white, even made less obvious by darkening her hair. Urban Legends and stereotypes about sexually insatiable white-virgin-deflowering Black men abound. Does the movie knowingly play with this trope, or simply lazily fall prey to it?

Ultimately, I was pretty blown away by this movie and wish I’d watched it earlier. I was aware of its status as “cult classic,” and all too often that means “kind of shitty and very dated” (and so much about this movie IS dated, like UIC’s East Side architecture which as drastically been changed, or the fact that most of the housing projects have since been torn down and the ones close enough to the Gold Coast developed as luxury condos… which were supposed to be mixed-use with a certain percentage going to CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) tenants. That has overwhelmingly failed to happen, and a whole lot of people have been left homeless.). But there’s a lot about this movie to enjoy, to think about, and to unpack.

In my personal rating system for 31 days of horror, 5 stars means “buy this movie, it has good re-watch potential”; 4 stars means “rent this movie, watch it”; 3 stars means “find this movie for free, eh”; 2 stars means “skip it”; and 1 star means “ugh.” I’ve run across one movie that I thought deserved negative stars. “Candyman” is the first movie I felt deserved 5 stars. There’s a lot going on.

5 out of 5 stars for “Candyman.”

I’m really glad. I was getting super burned out by shitty, hateful, shallow gore horror and flapping tits.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

In Munich

Oct. 21st, 2014 06:17 pm
oursin: Sign saying 'Hedgehog Xing' and drawing of hedgehog (Hedgehog crossing)
[personal profile] oursin

Since partner and I have not really had anything like a joint holiday this year (except for that week father-sitting, during which I was essentially in the pacing up and down, wringing hands, stage of writing my keynote talk for Ottawa).

In spite of my waking up to radio saying flights out of Heathrow were being cancelled for weather reasons, Gatwick was unaffected. The only slightly hairy element was unanticipatedly heavy traffic meaning we got to Victoria just too late for train we were aiming for, but no great disadvantage.

So, here

Manhattan 1.13

Oct. 21st, 2014 08:37 am
selenak: (Obsession by Eirena)
[personal profile] selenak
This was the season finale, right? It definitely felt like one. And I am ever so glad we're getting another season.

Some revelation is at hand )

In conclusion: definitely one of the smartest shows of the year, about complicated people and issues. So many pop culture stories treat WWII basically as the ultimate role playing game, clear cut good/evil issues, compromise with the other side impossible because the other side is bent on genocide and led by the embodiment of evil in the 20th century, therefore only dashing heroism on the Allies side. And so often it gets contrasted to the present with murky issues, endless wars, and ever shifting alliances and the impossibility to see anyone as the dashingly heroic side. Yet here is this show, picking up a very specific part of the homefront of the war seen as the "good war" in US public memory, and relates it directly to one of the most disturbing current day issues, the way state surveillance, "enhanced" interrogation and the giving up of liberties has become an accepted and even deemed necessary practice. Wow.

31 Days of Horror: “Vampires”

Oct. 21st, 2014 01:10 am
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Vampires” is a pseudo-documentary about vampiric society in Belgium.

I’m a big fan of vampires, and a year or more ago saw a trailer for a vampire mockumentary making its rounds online. When I was flipping through netflix and saw a vampire mockumentary I thought YES THIS IS IT FINALLY and settled in. I was soon confused. This was… subtitled? I didn’t… remember… subtitles? It turns out the trailer I had watched was for “What We Do In The Shadows” which hasn’t been released in the USA yet but contains the line “we’re Werewolves not Swearwolves.” Can you see why I was so excited about it?

The movie I actually watched is simply called “Vampires” and is a Belgian film.

The film asks very reasonable questions: what if vampires existed? How would their society work? How would it affect human society? Are all vampire societies the same? What would happen if a documentary crew followed a vampire family around for a while?

Like good fake documentaries/mockumentaries, the film takes itself just seriously enough. It’s grounded very firmly in reality and recognizes that vampires living openly would cause some pretty big changes in human society. I was expecting more dark humor than there was, though. There is a lot to poke fun at or find tragihumorous with regard to vampires, and the “dark comedy” wasn’t very comedic… or perhaps humor was lost in translation.

One interesting aspect of the film is that the vampires are very much portrayed as the 1%, so to speak. They keep a woman, a former prostitute, in their house. They refer to her as “Meat” or “The Meat” and feed from her on special occasions because she tastes good, much as one would keep a goat around to milk it. The cops bring them (Black) “illegal immigrants” and criminals, who they refer to as “sausages,” who are kept in a pen in the back yard like livestock to be drained to death to feed them. They apparently stole the house they live in, the former owners dessicated body stored in the living room, wearing a clown wig. Vampire families with children are given (take? are assigned?) houses while vampires without children are forced to live in the basements of vampire families. The family that’s followed is casually racist, sexist, and ablist. When they are exiled to Montreal, Canada the adults are shocked to find that they are expected to work for a living and can’t casually murder anyone they feel like. But the social commentary is glancing at best, not very meaty at all.

This was an ok film with a few interesting concepts, but it doesn’t go deep enough, far enough, or darkly humorous enough. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

OuaT 4.04 The Apprentice

Oct. 20th, 2014 02:32 pm
selenak: (Gold by TheSilverdoe)
[personal profile] selenak
In which Goethe joins the ranks of OuaT writers, and given Regina's stated goal this season, this suddenly makes me think of crazy RPF crossovers. She'd be his type. Emma, otoh, would be Schiller's.

Hat der alte Hexenmeister sich nun einmal wegbegeben... )

Gladly wolde he lerne

Oct. 20th, 2014 01:23 pm
oursin: Drawing of hedgehog in a cave, writing in a book with a quill pen (Writing hedgehog)
[personal profile] oursin

Came across something recently which was going WOEZ that apparently a significant % of people doing a PhD are not going on to become academics.

Which, given that it is currently a truth universally acknowledged that the academic world is vastly oversupplied with keen young creatures with shiny new PhDs looking for jobs which NO CAN HAZ except on sweated-labour terms that recall to us Thomas Hood's Song of the Shirt, is this necessarily A Bad Thing?

Not everybody who undertakes a PhD is necessarily aiming at a career in academe.

Or at least, not as a academic doing the teaching thing. There are people working in related areas (e.g. information professionals, administrators) who find that there is no harm, and potential benefit, in gaining an advanced degree (if only for the added cred it gives them when dealing with srs academics).

Some people may just want to pursue knowledge in a structured way with access to institutional resources.

A PhD is not just, or not merely, a vocational qualification. Indeed, ideally it is a contribution to KNOWLEDGE.

(And there have been distinguished persons of learning who never actually got the PhD on their rise to distinction, including Nobel Prize-winners.)

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)
[personal profile] brigid

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“The Awakening” is a tense ghost story set in a boarding school in the early 1920s.

If you’re anything like me, you saw “The Awakening” available to watch on netflix and thought to yourself “Huh. I wonder if there’s any connection to Kate Chopin’s feminist short story about desire and sexual awakening.” The answer is no, although the trousers-wearing (at home, at least), cigarette smoking, atheist, ghost debunking Florence Cathcart has consensual sex with the emotionally traumatized but sex headmaster of a haunted boarding school, which is pretty great for a woman in London in 1921. Cathcart, who’s written a best selling novel about ghosts not being real, also works with the police to debunk fraudulent charlatan spiritualists intent on ripping off grieving patrons… an actual thing that actually happened, although in real life they pulled cheesecloth “ectoplasm” from various orifices, instead of using blood capsules and killing birds. After one successful raid, she’s approached by a teacher at a boys’ boarding school in Cumbria. A boy has died recently, apparently at the hands of a ghost, and the students are terrified. After a bit of emotional blackmail on his part, she agrees to join him at the school and investigate things.

At the school she reveals she attended Cambridge, unusual for a woman of her time. She sets up a variety of ghost/fraud hunter traps including tripwire cameras, and investigates the school. Despite some creepy events (including an alarming and unsettling dollhouse), she figures out what happened: some of the boys pranked her… and the dead child was killed because the English teacher locked him outside in the dark to help him “man up.” Terrified and alone, he had an asthma attack and died. “These boys must be strong– stronger than us,” he says in his defense.

The specter of both victims of the flu and the dead and surviving soldiers of World War I are laced throughout the film. There’s conflict between Robert Mallory, the teacher who contacted Cathcart, who is a veteran and Edward Judd, the groundskeeper, who faked physical disability to avoid being drafted. Mallory resents Judd’s cowardice while Judd resents that Mallory and other veterans are treated as heroes, as his betters. Cathcart, it turns out, is obsessed with ghosts because she desperately wants them to be real, she desperately wants to make amends to her dead fiance.

The acting in the film is fantastic, and the cinematography is interesting. It has a washed out, faded look and feel to it that I absolutely adored. Had the movie ended with Cathcart solving the mystery of the student’s death and leaving the fate of ghosts up in the air, I would have been very happy. A nice little mystery neatly solved, with the question of spirits not conclusively solved. Sadly, the movie continues on, and although the acting and atmosphere are both wonderful the plot descends into convoluted yet predictable plot twists and el oh el the skeptic is proven wrongity wrong about her deeply held beliefs and career.

There’s also an attempted rape scene, where Judd just happens to witness Cathcart and Mallory having consensual sex, so he decides that Cathcart is a slut and he beats her and tries to rape her, because that’s the price that must be paid if one is to see a woman in a film I guess. It’s a price I’m getting increasingly tired of paying, and quite frankly I’m getting burnt out on movies at this point. I was really enjoying “The Awakening” ridiculous over-telegraphed “plot twists” and all, and then BAM! a violent struggle and attempted rape of a very cool woman. There’s no escaping it. And that’s just so incredibly depressing and disheartening.

If the movie had ended after the mystery of the student’s death was solved, I would have rated this a 4 out of 5 stars. But it went on and took some bad turns and ultimately, as much as I wanted to like this movie, it only gets 3 out of 5 stars. Which is a shame. The acting is great, the ghostiness is great, the creep actor ramps up nicely (I’ve never seen such an effective use of a spooky dollhouse), and the cinematography is gorgeous. Alas.

Post Footer automatically generated by Add Post Footer Plugin for wordpress.

Dear Yuletide Writer

Oct. 20th, 2014 07:15 am
selenak: (Default)
[personal profile] selenak
Dear Yuletide Writer,

I'm happy and grateful you're going to write a story for me. We must share at least one fandom, and I hope you'll have fun writing in it. The ideas in my requests are just that: ideas. If you feel inspired by another direction of story altogether, go for it, as long as it features the characters I requested.


General likes and dislikes: pretty ordinary. I don't like character bashing. (Or the bashing of a relationship in favour of another, but that hardly applies with my requests.) Not to be confused with whitewashing; some of the characters I asked so have canonically done some pretty apalling things, and you don't have to pretend they didn't, or that it was all someone else's fault, just because I love them. As long as they come across as three dimensional people with flaws and strengths, I'll be content.

Quiet character exploration or plotty tale, gen or slash/het/any combination thereof, humor or dark fic, it's all good, though unless you're one of those awesomely talented people who can write characterisation via sex, I'd prefer a story that's more than a PWP.
Now, as to individual requests:



The Americans )



Penny Dreadful )





15th Century RPF )

Profile

sister_luck: (Default)
sister_luck

October 2014

S M T W T F S
   1234
5 67891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Most Popular Tags

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags