owlmoose: (da - flemeth)
July was a busy time for me at work, and then I went on vacation, and as usual political events moved really quickly. It seems like years have passed since the last time I did one of these, although in reality it was just under a month. So it goes when you're on Trump time. But Congress is on its summer recess (mostly -- the Senate pulled a procedural trick to keep the chamber officially in session, so that Trump can't make any recess appointments; this isn't an unusual practice, though), and the big man himself is on a seventeen day vacation (because he's been SO HARD at work these last several months, you know), so maybe things will be a little quieter for a bit, and we can catch up.

It's nice to think so, anyway.

  • The big story on Twitter this weekend is an anti-diversity memo making the rounds internally at Google. The full text was leaked to Gizmodo; I'm not going to link to it, since it's 1. easy enough to find and 2. the same tedious MRA/alt-right bullshit we've all seen a million times about how women are too emotional to be good coders and "meritocracy" and why Google's REAL diversity problem is not enough Young Republicans (although Anil Dash's short version is pretty entertaining). However, I will link to this ex-Google employee's response, which is excellent. I also direct you to Dr. Nerdlove's Twitter thread on why "at least it's promoting discussion" is exactly the wrong response.

  • The Washington Post examines exit poll data from the last few president elections in search of "Trump Democrats" only to find that they basically don't exist. Most of the voters who switched from Obama to Trump were Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote for Obama. Yet another reason for the Democrats to stop chasing this demographic and focus on pleasing their actual base.

  • Speaking of, yet again more nonsense about the DNC/DCCC giving money as support to anti-choice candidates. Stop. Just stop. It's never helped us before and it's certainly not going to help us now. I will never forget how anti-choice Democrat Bart Stupak almost derailed the passage of the ACA by pushing for anti-abortion provisions. I don't believe in ideological purity tests, and I know that not every regions of the country is willing to elect loud and proud abortion activists. Candidates and elected officials can believe whatever they want, and take more moderate positions on the issue. But when it comes down to it, if you are a Democrat, you support reproductive rights. The end.

  • That said, I have a huge issue with purity politics in general. Bustle has a good article on why women politicians in particular are hurt by an insistence on ideological purity. I'm really ready to be done with circular firing squads now.

  • On the lighter side, sort of, it recently came out that Trump considered buying the San Francisco Giants back in the 1980s. Sports writer Grant Brisbee reacts with the appropriate levels of existential horror.

  • On the occasion of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller impanelling a grand jury, Vox presents a really handy explainer of the probe, what Mueller's authority is, and how the investigation might go.

  • Hey, remember back when we thought Trump's real endgame for his campaign was to launch his own TV network? Well, would you take a look at that.

  • Because of the time gap since my last post, I missed the rapid rise and meteoric fall of never-quite-officially White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci (aka "The Mooch"). He'll be a great trivia answer in about ten years. Anyway, Jay Smooth had a great take on the whole thing.

  • The central topic of my last linkspam post was the Senate's continuing attempts to ram through some flavor of ACA repeal; as we all know, that didn't happen, in dramatic eleventh hour fashion. One of my favorite stories about that night comes from Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut, who shared his view from behind the scenes.

  • You may recall a senator with cancer who got a lot of attention for his last-minute no vote. I'd rather celebrate Senator Mazie Hirono, who flew to DC from Hawaii right after surgery for Stage 4 cancer, held the line on every vote, and gave a beautiful, impassioned speech.

  • Speaking of credit where credit is due, let's not forget two other Republican Senators who have stood firm against ACA repeal, almost unwaveringly from the beginning: Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

  • Here's an interesting report on the number of Congressional challengers who have already filed to run in 2018 and comparing them to other elections at this point in the cycle. It's worth reading the whole thing, but the upshot is that, in wave elections like 2006 and 2010, opposition party candidates file early in considerably larger numbers than those from the party in power, usually about twice as many. This year? It's an order of magnitude. (209 Democrats vs 28 Republicans.)

  • In the interest of this post not being five million pages long, I'm not even going to get into the whole Donald Trump, Jr., saga, but I was amused in an eye-rolly sort of way by this report from The Hill that Junior is "miserable and can't wait for his dad's presidency to end". Join the club, kid. (Note, autoplay video at that link.). Also, from the BBC, an article on whether this might be the smoking gun, and whether a smoking gun is even enough anymore.

  • Finally. this article is a little older, but it's from the man who coined the phrase white fragility, and it is a very good examination of the subject. Every white person should read this essay with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
owlmoose: A photo of a Highway 1 roadsign, with the California Coast in the background (california - sign)
This long weekend in Los Angeles was just what I needed. We did too much for me to go into depth about everything, but here are some highlights:

Friday: Drove down, taking the Central Valley (I-5) route. I got to LA (actually Orange County) around 5pm, not too bad considering that I drove through most of the LA Basin during the first part of afternoon rush hour. There I met my friends A and AM (whom some long-time readers might remember as [livejournal.com profile] luvmoose and [livejournal.com profile] letters_to_ed; they were both regular players on the "guess the song lyrics" game that I used to post every week). We stayed with friends of A's, who were excellent hosts. I was tired from the drive, and A and AM were on East Coast time (they had flown in from Boston early in the morning), so we just had dinner and then found ice cream for dessert. And when one of the top hits on Yelp was Creamery N7, I knew where we had to go.

Saturday: The initial reason A and AM planned this trip was to attend a concert on Saturday night. (I'll explain my reason for joining them a little later.) But first, it was time for a spa day. We dropped by A's favorite nail place in Hawthorne for pedicures, then spent the rest of the afternoon at Burke Williams in Santa Monica. I got an excellent massage and then mostly lounged around reading my book, Heroine Worship, chosen because I thought it might be good vacation reading -- and I was right. Afterward, we drove up to downtown LA for the show, 80s Weekend 4, which is one in a series of concerts that bring together a bunch of New Wave bands, hosted by legendary DJ Richard Blade. The lineup: Berlin, Colin Hay (lead singer for Men at Work), The Fixx, Belinda Carlisle (my main draw to the show), The Psychedelic Furs, and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (aka OMD). I didn't know all the songs, but I knew at least a few things played by every band, and they were all engaging and high-energy performers. I sang, I danced, I had a good time. Right before the Psych Furs came out, Blade announced the line-up for 80s Weekend 5 in January, and A bought tickets before the show was over. (I might join them; depends on what else is going on then. One of the bands is the Violent Femmes, so it is tempting.)

Sunday: And now we get to my reason for traveling to LA this weekend. But first, a bit of context. A lived in LA for a couple of years a little while back, and while she was there she took a class at The Magic Castle, a private magician's club in Hollywood. She went to the club on a regular basis (that's actually how she knows the friend we stayed with), and still gets back whenever she has reason to be in the area. A few years ago, she mentioned that she had recently seen one of her favorite close-up magicians: Steve Valentine.

Yes. THAT Steve Valentine.

After recovering from my fangirl freak-out, I made A promise to let me know if she ever went back to the Magic Castle at a time she knew he was performing. Unfortunately she only got advance notice once, and the dates conflicted with FogCon, so I'd never managed it. (However, on that occasion she did somehow convince him to leave a message on my voice mail). So it remained a pipe-dream... until A called me about a month ago to inform me that he was performing his one-man show on July 30th and I was coming down to see it, and I concluded that she was right. So thanks to the cosmic good timing of the universe, the three of us went to see the show. It was splendid, an excellent blend of magic and memoir and storytelling, and afterwards I was brave enough to go up and say hello and get a picture.

omg I still can't quite believe this really happened )

He was very sweet and gracious, and if he didn't actually remember the voicemail incident, he did an excellent job of pretending. They say "never meet your idols" but I think it went pretty well this time.

Monday: AM got us day passes to use the pool facilities at the Hyatt in Newport Beach. It was swanky and nice, a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. I dipped in the pool but spent most of the time lounging again, switching between my book and my phone. This was the day that Anthony Scaramucci's brief moment in the sun came to an end, and the three of us had enjoyed reading each other our favorite Tweets and Facebook posts about the Mooch. That night, we went to the Magic Castle, where we saw three magicians (two of whom were women, which is unusual). The Castle is a neat place, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit I recommend it. (A took me once before, back when she was taking her class.)

Tuesday: Time to go home. I took the coastal route back (US 101 version, not Highway 1), which only takes a couple of hours longer and is a nicer drive. The return drive was mostly uneventful, except that I got rained on in the Santa Barbara area, highly unusual for August. I got home just before 7pm, missing the worst of SF traffic, and settled in for a nice evening flop on the couch.

Even after this brief a trip, I've still had some readjustment to normal life. But it was the perfect break, and I'm really glad I took it.
owlmoose: (quote - westing game)
Days written: 16/31
Words written: 5,487
Words of fic written: 2,599
Stories worked on: Three
Stories posted: One

Charts knew this was going to be a tough month )

Specific goals:

1. Write at least six days a week except while traveling. I was on pace for this until Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age came out. Silly me, not accounting for major video game releases in my writing goals.

2. Finish and post the FFXII story I've been working on. I got a draft to beta, so I'll call this half a success.

3. Write at least two posts for [community profile] ladybusiness -- a book review and a mid-year media report. Mid-year media yes, book review no. Although I did review Spider-Man in my own journal. So that's half a win also.

4. Identify a fic exchange or Big Bang to participate in later this year. Success! I signed up for Remix Revival, which is running this month and next. I got my assignment a couple of days ago and need to decide what I'm going to do with it.

Goals for August:

1. Write at least five days per week (total, not on average) and hit my writing goal for [community profile] getyourwordsout's Mid-Year Marathon, which is a commitment to write a particular wordcount during the months of July and/or August. Because of travel and other things, I knew July wasn't going to work, but I've decided to participate in August -- and I'm doing it for the next challenge level up (200k/year instead of 150k). So that's 16,986 words for the month; that's ambitious given my wordcounts this year, but I have a few bigger projects in mind for it, so wish me luck.

2. Finish, edit, and post the FFXII story.

3. Write complete draft for Remix Revival assignment.

4. Two book or other media reviews for [community profile] ladybusiness.

5. Work on sequel to Face the Music, which really wants to be written.
owlmoose: (avengers - captain america)
Title: Public Service Announcement
Fandom: MCU (The Avengers / Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Rating: Gen
Wordcount: 588
Characters: Steve Rogers
Spoilers: Minor spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming (no plot spoilers). Set about two months after The Avengers.
Notes: My inspiration for this story is a bit spoilery for Homecoming, so I'll put my notes behind the cut.

Here are the spoilers )

Summary: Next time, Steve Rogers will be more careful when he agrees to lend his name and likeness to a project.

Also on AO3
---

Several hours into filming, Steve Rogers had to admit that this job wasn't the worst he'd ever done. )
owlmoose: (avengers - assemble)
I had been up in the air regarding whether I would see Spider-Man: Homecoming on opening weekend. Like many MCU fans, I've been resentful of Marvel's willingness to shoehorn the character into the franchise the second they got the rights back, especially in comparison to their mealy-mouthed excuses for not making a Black Widow film at the height of her popularity. Add in the annoyance at yet another white-dude-centric film and yet another Spider-Man reboot, and I was ready to put this film deep on the back burner. Maybe I'd see it later, like Ant-Man and Guardians; maybe I'd wait for video, like Doctor Strange.

But then. Despite his last-minute inclusion, Spidey was one of the best parts of Civil War. And then advance word came out that they weren't doing an origin story, and that they would follow up on Civil War's promise of Peter Parker as a legitimate awkward teenager. And then the early trailers were super-promising. Finally, the reviews started to come out so positively that T wanted to see it on opening weekend. So in the end I decided I couldn't say no. And you know what? I am really happy I did.

[twitter.com profile] kaytaylorrea put it perfectly in her early reactions: although the world doesn't need more white teenage boy coming of age stories, if we must have another Spider-man reboot, this was the best way to do it. Tom Holland may have just turned 21, but I 100% bought him as a geeky sophomore, torn between wanting to do normal teenager things and his desire to become a full-fledged Avenger, surrounded by other high schoolers trying to figure things out -- especially his best friend, Ned, who is a pure delight, and Zendaya, whose snarky, no-bullshit performance as Michelle made her a favorite character. Tony Stark's extended cameo adds just the right level of connection to the rest of the series without overwhelming the show. Adrian Toombs/Vulture as played by Michael Keaton is easily a top-5 MCU villain: complex, sometimes sympathetic, with realistic motivations, and genuinely threatening without feeling unbeatable. The third act fell apart somewhat, as third acts of superhero films often do, but the beginning grabbed me so, so hard that I can forgive its later flaws.

To talk about why requires some spoilers. So I'll put them behind a cut. )

I also appreciated watching a genuinely funny superhero movie that did not punch me in the face with gratuitous sexism and abusive relationships (I'm looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man), the comparatively diverse cast, and the hints of what might come in future installments. (Zendaya and Jacob Batalan (Ned) and Donald Glover had better be back, or I'll sit on Marvel's doorstep until they are.) And possibly the best post-credits scene in the history of post-credits scenes.

So: fun time, happy to have seen it. Happy that Marvel made it? I'm not sure I would go that far. But within the universe of choices that Marvel actually made (instead of the big picture choices I wish they'd made instead, I'm glad they went this particular direction.
owlmoose: (ff12 - ashe)
I started playing yesterday and got a couple more hours in tonight. The music and voices are remastered wonderfully, and the graphics are quite nice, even if the faces and Vaan's abs are still a little off (but much better than they were before). I cannot wait to sink back into this world again.
owlmoose: (da - seeker)
McConnell didn't have the votes ("You don't have the votes / You don't have the votes"), so the Senate healthcare bill got delayed. There's still a lot of public posturing and wavering, but you can bet once the recess is over, the GOP leadership will start wheeling and dealing to get to fifty. They have room to play with two no votes, so just like in the House, I suspect they'll give the two most vulnerable some cover (my money is on Collins and Heller), then twist arms for the rest. So we need to keep twisting back, and harder.

  • Osita Nwanevu wrote this long and excellent article about the history of US democratic primaries, with a thesis that (contrary to the narrative that BernieBros and others have been trying to push) racial and social issues have been keeping white working class voters away from progressive candidates since 1972. Not coincidentally, this was the first presidential election after the GOP adopted the "Southern strategy", Richard Nixon's plan to attract racist white Democrats alienated by the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Nwanevu is a little too quick to throw around the word "neo-liberal", but otherwise this is a fascinating look at history and trends.

  • It's easy to dismiss the various Twitter-tempests-in-a-teacup as distractions from "real" issues, but let's consider that Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are accusing the President of the United States of blackmail, and that's not a small thing.

  • Not politics exactly, but a hot topic in tech lately is allegations of inappropriate behavior of venture capitalists toward women who are asking them for funding. This Guardian article uses one particular case as a jumping off point to talk about the problems with sexism and misogyny in the tech world. I also found this Facebook post to be a thoughtful response.

  • Speaking of Silicon Valley and its sometimes-toxic culture, this video from Fusion does a good job of why the resignation of Uber's ultra-bro CEO, Travis Kalanick, will not solve all the company's problems.

  • In voter suppression news, I was cheered to see so many states pushing back on or flat refusing the administration's request for voter data. And this hasn't been a particularly partisan response either -- only 17 states have Democratic Secretaries of State, but as of the most recent count, at least 44 states are refusing to cooperate, either wholly or in part. When the governor of Mississippi told Trump to "jump in the Gulf of Mexico", I figured that was pretty much the ballgame. Maybe there's some hope for the republic after all.

  • "I Don't Know How to Explain Why You Should Care About Other People" is an article that sums up a lot of my feelings right now, and a lot of other people's too, if the number of times I've seen it shared on social media in the last couple of weeks is any indication.
owlmoose: (ffx2 - baralai suspicious)
Days written: 24/30
Words written: 11,857
Words of fic written: 4,857
Words written in 2017 so far: 51,311
Stories worked on: Two
Stories posted: None

Charts recognize that things could be worse. )

Specific goals:

1. Write at least six days per week (not on average). I would have made this goal, but I wasn't accounting for having out-of-town guests at the end of the month. I'll call it close enough.

2. Write and publish a story every week. Oh good lord no. I did make substantial progress on the FFXII story I mentioned, but it's not finished yet, and the rest of the writing went by the wayside.

3. Write and publish at least one article for Lady Business. I didn't manage this, but I did post multiple substantial things in my own journal this month.

It's also time for a mid-year check-in on 2017. (Do I haaaaaave to? Yes, yes you do. Okay, here goes.)

1. Sign up for [community profile] getyourwordsout with the intention of hitting the 150k goal. I haven't even hit the monthly target yet (this month came closest), so I don't know if this will be possible without a big push somewhere along the line. But I'll keep plugging away at it.

2. Keep up the regular linkspam posts in my journal; write at least one, ideally two posts for [community profile] ladybusiness every month; and stay on top of contributing to [community profile] ladybusiness anchor posts and group projects. Linkspam is down to twice a month or so, but I think that's enough. I continue to keep up on the regular Lady Business features. I'm still falling down on solo posts -- I did post two book reviews in May, but that's been pretty much it so far.

3. Participate in at least one Big Bang and two fic exchanges. Of these, at least one of these should be new to me. Still no. Sadly nothing has really jumped out at me so far. Any suggestions? I might have to dial back on this goal a bit, given that the year is half over and I haven't even started.

4. Once Wardens of Ivalice Part 2 is finished, pick a month to prioritize writing a first draft of Part 3, with a goal of getting it posted sometime in 2018. I expect do this sometime in the fall. September or October.

5. Find a fic prompt community I like and participate regularly. Recommendations welcome! [community profile] monthlysupergo has not turned out to be quite what I wanted, so it's back to the drawing board on this one too.

Okay, let's think about July. I have some travel at the end of the month and a banner number of social engagements throughout, AND work is likely to get quite busy. So I don't want to be too ambitious, but I don't want to give myself permission to slack off, either. Here's my attempt at a middle ground.

1. Write at least six days a week except while traveling.

2. Finish and post the FFXII story I've been working on.

3. Write at least two posts for [community profile] ladybusiness -- a book review and a mid-year media report.

4. Identify a fic exchange or Big Bang to participate in later this year.
owlmoose: (B5 - londo oh dear)
Photobucket discontinues 3rd-party image linking unless you get a paid account that costs $400 a year.

Without warning, either. So many sites host their images on Photobucket. This is going to break so much fandom history, I don't even know where to start.

ETA: Okay, maybe one thing. Looking at the new ToS, they offer a number of tiers of service, from free through the top-tier $400/year. Only the top level offers third party image hosting. Dear Photobucket, if you think millions of people were using your site just for personal image storage, I have a surprise for you.
owlmoose: (marvel - jessica jones fractured)
On the occasion of Tumblr potentially being at risk because of Verizon's recent purchase of Yahoo, this article talks about the problem of Internet culture websites and their inability to turn a profit. Although the focus isn't on fandom, I feel like it's an encapsulation of everything I've been saying for years about the difficulties inherent in building fannish communities on sites owned by for-profit companies.

I recommend reading the article, even if it does lean a little too heavily on "Tumblr users are mostly excitable teenagers" when the site's own demographic data shows that this isn't true -- in 2015, over 40% of the site's users were 18-34, and only 15% were 13-17 (the same percentage as 55+). It brought me to a lot of thoughts about fandom, and how it operates today, and how it's splintered. Tumblr is still active, but it's not the hub it used to be. LiveJournal is all but dead (I assume coincidentally, today's episode of the Reply All podcast is about the Russian government's concerted, and essentially successful, attempt to kill LJ). Facebook thrives, but it's a terrible place to do fandom, and for once fandom seems to agree. Dreamwidth is seeing a bit of a resurgence, but I doubt it will ever become a thriving community the way that LJ used to be, and the same is true of AO3. The Imzy experiment has come to an end. A lot of the action has moved into walled gardens like Discord and Slack (I myself spend more time on a private Slack than anywhere else on the Internet by a large margin right now), which is understandable from the point of view of wanting to avoid random drama and trolls, but the isolation makes it so much harder to discover new communities and meet people. (Also, I kind of hate the Discord interface; Slack at least is much cleaner.)

I don't have any specific recommendations or conclusions to share right now. But this issue isn't going away any time soon, and if Tumblr closes, the issue may be forced sooner rather than later. Where do we go from here? Is there even anywhere left? Can fandom take the reigns and build a community platform for itself, along the lines of AO3? Or will we end up depending on the goodwill of fandom-friendly for-profits, like Dreamwidth and Pinboard? Time will tell.
owlmoose: (ffix - garnet)
This past weekend was super and fabulous. I was fortunate enough to be able to snag four tickets to Hamilton for this past Friday, and I invited [personal profile] justira and [twitter.com profile] kaytaylorrea to join me. They both came into town, [personal profile] justira with their partner in tow, and the four of us had a great time not just at the show, but hanging out in SF.

Friday's show was a matinee, so we grabbed a quick lunch beforehand, then an early dinner after. The show was just as wonderful the second time, and in some ways I feel like it was better -- when I went in April, this particular troupe had been together for less than a month. Now that they've had two more months to work together, the ensemble gelled more, and I saw more nuances in some of the performances. I also saw a couple of different actors, in particular a different Angelica, and although her voice wasn't quite as powerful, I loved the acting choices she brought to the role. Another thing I noticed overall is just how funny this performance was -- this particular cast plays up the humorous moments in the songs and the choreography in a way I found really effective.

All three of my co-attendees loved the show as well, despite bringing very different levels of familiarity with it (one who has listened to the album a million times, one who'd never heard the music but read all the lyrics in advance, and one coming in almost completely cold), and it was fun to talk about how their various expectations colored their watching experience.

On Saturday, [personal profile] justira and I met up with [personal profile] forestofglory to wander the Ferry Building and Farmers Market. We noshed our way through, one of my favorite ways to eat breakfast in the city, including some breakfast ice cream at Humphry Slocombe (taking advantage of the lack of line). After that I met Kay for a Giants game; our boys lost (not unsurprisingly; the team is TERRIBLE this year), but we still had fun. Then we all (minus [personal profile] forestofglory, who had a prior engagement) gathered at my place for more chatting and hanging out until far too late, chattering about fandom and everything else under the sun, driving poor T to distraction I'm sure. I was particularly happy to see how well everyone clicked, considering that my two guests didn't really know each other before the weekend. There's nothing better than introducing two friends and watching them develop a quick rapport. :)

As Kay said a couple of times over the weekend, our parents were wrong: always make friends with strangers on the Internet. Sure, there's a risk, as people are always a risk, but the rewards are one thousand percent worth it.
owlmoose: (Obamoose '08)
This is it folks, this is the big one. I don't need to tell you that, I suppose, but here we are. Even in California, where my Senators are firmly No-votes and leaders in the resistance, there are things we can do to stand up and fight -- here's a short to-do list for anyone who lives in a state with two Democratic Senators.

A few links on healthcare:

And other things:
  • The Brookings Institution put out a scathing editorial on voter suppression in the United States, a good overview of recent court decisions with some damning statistics.

  • The Associated Press published a report on the effects of gerrymandering, and it's not pretty.

  • It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the Democrats lost the special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, and in fact the narrow loss continues the trend of being competitive in districts that ought to be safe GOP, but given how much effort and money we poured into that district, it's also understandable that people were disappointed. But the rush of pundits and BernieBots to blame Nancy Pelosi for the loss is both a headscratcher, and almost unbearably stupid. Charles Pierce explains why.

  • And maybe before you get too invested in demonizing one of the most powerful women in the Democratic party, maybe you should consider who is in the trenches, doing the actual work in places like the Georgia 6th.

  • Meanwhile, another Congressional special election flew completely under the radar: the South Carolina 5th. The Republican won that seat as well, but by an even smaller margin. This is not a seat that any polls suggested ought to be competitive, and the Democrats spent almost no money here. This ought to scare the GOP; we'll see if they heed the warning.

  • Maryland and the District of Columbia have sued Donald Trump for violations of the emoluments clause and other conflict of interest laws.
owlmoose: (da - seeker)
It's been a week for finishing video games; first ME:A, and now this. I've been slowly working on a Qunari mage Inquisitor, Nazlin Adaar since about ten minutes after I finished up my Trevelyan warrior playthrough, and I wrapped her up through Trespasser yesterday. She is easily my favorite Inquisitor so far: fun and snarky, thoughtful and caring, and I loved playing out the Josephine romance with her.

I went into this playthrough with three goals in mind, besides the obvious ones of seeing how the game plays out for a Qunari and with a mage, and wrapping up my Garrett Hawke's canon: 1) an F/F romance; 2) seeing a different outcome at the Winter Palace (both of my previous Inquisitors put the same person on the throne); and 3) befriending Solas, something that neither my Cadash nor my Trevelyan remotely managed. Other than that, I let Nazlin make all her own decisions, which may be why I enjoyed her so much.

It was a fairly light playthrough, all things considered -- I didn't quite finish Jaws of Hakkan (even with difficulty turned down to Casual, it was clear that I was never beating the final boss with the team I wanted), didn't even start Descent, and left a lot of the optional areas only half explored. And I'm okay with that, considering how little bearing most of the sidequests, even the major ones, have on the outcome. Even the ones that are interesting for their own sake tend not to differ from Inquisitor to Inquisitor. I doubt I will ever play a thorough game again, which is kind of too bad, but I feel like that's the best way to feel like I'm seeing different stories each time: concentrate on the content that can change.

Next up is DA2, where I will continue Loral Mahariel's universe. I started that game awhile back and got a little into Act 1 (meeting Merrill and her clan). This Hawke is a female mage, mostly aggressive so far but with a side of snark; I want her to romance Isabela, but otherwise I don't have much of a concept for her yet. That will set up my elf Inquisitor, probably my first male, probably to romance Dorian or maybe Cassandra. Since Loral was my Morrigan romance, I'm pretty much dying to see that play out in DAI, but I do need to get through DA2 first. It'll be nice to get back into that story -- it's been quite awhile.
owlmoose: (da - aeducan)
We finished playing through the main storyline of Mass Effect Andromeda this weekend. I've heard many of the complaints about the game, and I'm hard put to really disagree with any of them -- sub-par graphics, too many meaningless sidequests, an uncomfortable colonialism narrative, etc. But ultimately, I enjoyed myself. I found most of the characters interesting, played out a satisfying romance, and for the most part had fun with the gameplay. Since I feel no deep personal investment in the Mass Effect series overall, I feel like I spent less time comparing it to the other installments, and more time appreciating the game for what it was.

Rather than a straight up review, I'm going to tell you about my Sara Ryder and use her story as the framing devise for my thoughts on the game overall. Spoilers ahead.



Pull up a barstool and settle in as I tell you a tale of a lady, her spaceship, and her traveling companions. )
owlmoose: stack of books (book - pile)
It's E3 time, and although I haven't been paying super-close attention, a few things have broken through. One of the harder stories to miss is the controversy over The Last Night, a side-scrolling platformer in a cyberpunk setting. Among other issues, the game seems to be set in a dystopia designed to be a critique of socialism (in contrast to most cyberpunk, which tends to be anti-capitalist). I'd seen a number of takes on the issue, but the one that broke through and inspired me to write my own thoughts was this Twitter thread by [twitter.com profile] petercoffin (the thread and replies are recommended reading, both up and down):



I retweeted it a couple of days ago, with a promise to come back and say more, and here we are. My thoughts are going to be less about capitalism vs. socialism and the many issues with this specific game (Peter and the rest of the Internet have that aspect amply covered) and more about the economics of creativity, specifically the economics of fandom, which is where my creativity has lived for the past decade and more. I said in my tweet that I have "literally never" been paid in money for creative work; there are some hairs to split (I've written freelance a little bit, mostly advertising copy, and [community profile] ladybusiness launched a Patreon about six months ago), but I think it's fair to say for the creative work that's personally meaningful to me -- fiction, fannish meta, book reviews, essays like this one, etc. -- I have never received renumeration. I consider this to be choice, because I have immersed myself in fandom, writing fiction of a type that I legally cannot sell. I've chosen not to write original fiction, or file the serial numbers off my fic; I've chosen not to pitch essays or reviews to paying venues; and I've chosen not to set up a personal Patreon or any kind of tip jar. Within my corner of fandom culture, we mostly accept that we're creating for the love of it, and for the personal satisfaction of sharing our creations with others.

So I look at a sentiment like the one that Peter describes, and it's alien to me. Many years ago, at my first FogCon, I got into a brief debate with a professional author during a panel about fanfiction, and why anyone would put time into writing something you couldn't sell. (Perhaps ironically, it was a panel about cyberpunk and other "-punk" genres.) Although my comments were well-received in the moment, the pro who raised the issue admitted that he still didn't really get it; he offered to continue the discussion over email, but I was too shy to take him up on it, so it ended there. I still think about it sometimes, though. There are plenty of people who undertake creative pursuits with no expectation of making them into a career: crafters, home cooks, musicians. I've never made money off music, either -- I actually pay for the privilege of singing in my chorus. Amateurs often create for love, in all kinds of fields. Why should writing be any different?

Fandom has an economy, of course. Most often it's described as a "gift economy", meaning that you publish your work as a gift to the community, with no expectation of receiving anything in return. Another, in my experience more accurate description, is the "attention economy". Instead of money, creators get "paid" in attention: likes, kudos, clicks, reviews. Both of these models are somewhat limited, and the "attention economy" frame in particular is still rooted in the paradigm of capitalism, but I think there's something worthwhile in both descriptions. One of my favorite articles on the subject is The Economics of Fandom: Value, Investment, and Invisible Price Tags by [personal profile] saathi1013, which goes into detail about the "work" it takes to be in fandom, and the different ways in which we value and/or are compensated for that work.

On the other hand, there are signs that this may be changing. In this respect, there's always been a disconnect in fandom between fanfic and fanart -- unlike fanfic, there's a long tradition of selling fanart: at comics conventions, for example, or via commissions. In professional comics circles, there's an expectation of sorts that artists will cut their teeth on fanart and perhaps even include it in their portfolio. And increasingly, fanfic authors have been questioning why they can't benefit from selling their work, too. I've known fanfic authors to take commissions, or set up Patreons. And the practice of "filing off the serial numbers" has gotten more transparent with the success of authors like E. L. James and Cassandra Clare. Everyone knows that 50 Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight AU, and that Clare was offered a book contract on the strength of her following in the Harry Potter and LoTR fandoms. As IP holders have grown less likely to bring down the hammer on fanfic authors, fanfic is coming out of the shadows. Can a growing commercial acceptance be far behind?

To me, maybe it doesn't matter. Although I certainly appreciate no longer living in fear that I'll receive a cease and desist letter someday, I don't know that I would try to sell my fic even if I were given the opportunity. Essays and reviews might be a different story, further down the road, but for now I'm happier where I am, in (what feels to me) like the lower-pressure environment of fandom, where I can write for the love of it, and in the hopes of finding fellow travelers who will love what I love with me.
owlmoose: (quote - bucket)
owlmoose: (marvel - peggy hat)
Ever since this movie was announced, I've been both excited and afraid. Excited, because of course I was excited. Even though I'm not super familiar with the Wonder Woman mythos (probably my strongest exposure was from the 1970s and '80s Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon), and I don't have the deep connection with the character that many of my friends share, I'm well aware of her stature in the mainstream superhero canon and her importance as a feminist icon. But precisely because of her iconic nature, and also the habit of Hollywood to use the failure of high-profile superhero films with female leads as an excuse not to make more, there was an awful lot of pressure to get it right. Not to mention the way that Hollywood blockbusters tend to misunderstand and objectify female characters. There were good signs -- a female director, promising previews, Diana being hands-down the best part of last year's Batman vs. Superman -- but I didn't want to get my hopes too far up, especially given the lack of high-profile marketing in comparison to other DCEU films (although ScreenRant presents an interesting counter-argument).

Then the buzz from pre-release reviews started building. Between rapturous comments from people who'd gotten an early look at the film and the sky-high Rotten Tomatoes rating (96% pre-release, which made it the highest-rated superhero movie in RT history; it has since settled at 93%, which puts it just behind Iron Man and The Dark Knight), it was impossible not to get at least a little hopeful. I saw the film yesterday, with T and three friends, and I am thrilled to report that my hope was warranted. Wonder Woman is a solid movie, one of the best examples of the mainstream comic book superhero genre so far. I had fun watching it, I walked out of the theater happy, and even after a day of reflection, I can't find much to complain about. (Not nothing, of course; it was by no means a perfect movie. But it doesn't need to be a perfect movie. Its average rating on Rotten Tomatoes is around 7.5 out of 10, a respectable score for an action blockbuster, and that feels about right to me.)

Some non-spoilery thoughts: Gal Gadot was fabulous, perfectly cast as Diana, able to pull off all the emotional beats as well as the action and a number of fish-out-of-water moments (some funny, some poignant) that hit all the right notes. The rest of the cast were also great; I particularly liked Robin Wright as Amazon war leader Antiope (and how fantastic was it to see a middle-aged lady in such a strong action role?) and Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy. Both of these roles were fairly small, but they stuck with me in a good way. Chris Pine was a fine Steve, too, acting alternately as Diana's support and as her foil as circumstances dictated. The action sequences, mostly set pieces that could have been lifted from any modern superhero film, did get a little draggy in places. The film's action was at its best when it focused on Diana: her strength, her agility, her determination, and the high-quality fight choreography that showcased all of these things. Apparently Gal Gadot undertook extensive martial arts training for this role, and it shows. Maybe more than anything, though, is that Wonder Woman is a superhero movie that takes a solid point of view: on the horrors of war, on the twin pillars of goodness and evil that are innate in humanity, on finding a reason to fight the darkness without and within. I also appreciate how little Diana was sexualized, and for the most part neither were the Amazons. Instead, they were presented as images of female agency and power. I suspect Patty Jenkins, the film's director, should take credit for this achievement. What a difference it makes, not to have a male gaze behind the camera's lens.

And now for some spoilers )

In conclusion, it was awesome. Not perfect, but what film is? And it shouldn't need to be perfect -- Hollywood should also have room for mediocre superhero movies featuring female leads, and it sucks that Wonder Woman needed to be twice as good to get half the buzz. That said, the opening weekend has been strong (at $100.5 million domestic and $200 million worldwide, it shattered the record for opening day take for a female director), and between the finances and the solid reviews, I have to expect that a sequel is on the horizon. And maybe now we can start getting all the other female heroes we ever wanted. Give me Black Widow, give me Ms. Marvel, give me Oracle, give me Storm. Give me all of them, good and bad and everywhere on the spectrum in between. You can do it, Hollywood. I have faith.
owlmoose: (da - avaline)
Days written: 23/31
Words written: 10,103
Words of fic written: 2,352
Stories worked on: Two (one all editing)
Stories posted: None new, one re-post

Charts are happy that it's almost summertime )

Specific goals:

1. Write at least six days a week when not traveling. I got sick a few days before Wiscon and lost all my progress toward this goal. However, I actually did write almost every day at the con (all journal entries, but still), so I almost broke even.

2. Finish posting A Guardian's Legacy, with more editing if necessary. Success! I only edited a little bit more though. I enjoyed this exercise very much and will probably do another pass through my website this summer and see what other gems are missing from my AO3 archive. (And I'll think a little more about what to do with the collaborations.)

3. Write two reviews for [community profile] ladybusiness (both books already planned). I did this, too! Wrote and posted reviews of The Lady Trent Series by Marie Brennan and InCryptid by Seanan McGuire.

4. Complete draft of FFXII fic recently requested by [personal profile] renay. Not complete, but I did make some progress.

So, I hit almost all of my goals, but none of them were particularly ambitious. Since I'm not going anywhere in the month of June (although I will have houseguests one weekend), I think I want to step it up a notch.

1. Write at least six days per week (not on average).

2. Write and publish a story every week. This is my own adaptation of a project that's happening at [community profile] getyourwordsout this month, where people are committing to write a new story every day for a week starting on June 6th. That's way beyond anything I might be able to do right now, but one short story every week ought to be doable. I plan to start with the FFXII story I mentioned last month, and then go from there.

3. Write and publish at least one article for Lady Business. Possibly Hugo reading, possibly Mass Effect: Andromeda if I finish in time.

That's only three goals, but considering how ambitious #2 is, I think I'm set for the month.
owlmoose: stack of books (book - pile)
Links to previous days! Arrival Day / Day One / Day Two / Day Three

This was a programming-free day, because I decided to sleep in and take it easy rather than rush to any of the panels. It was the correct decision. Although I feel much better today than I did at the start of the con, being sick the entire time did put a crimp in my con experience; I didn't sleep as well, had much less energy than I wanted, and my voice was pretty thrashed by the end of every day.

So, anyway, after a casual breakfast, packing up, and checking out, [personal profile] renay and I said goodbye to [personal profile] justira, who had an earlier flight direct out of Madison, and went to the sign-out, where Nay added to the autograph collection in her copy of Joanna Russ's How to Suppress Women's Writing. It was delightful to join her for this leg of her quest, and to see the reactions of such women writers as Pat Murphy, Alexandra Erin, and Nisi Shawl. I also got Kelly Sue DeConnick to personalize the copy of Bitch Planet Vol. 2 that I bought on Friday.

Then, after a flurry of goodbyes, Nay and I hit the road to Chicago. The drive to the airport was mostly uneventful -- only a little more traffic than on the way up to Madison -- and we are now safely ensconced at our respective gates, waiting for the planes that will take us away from con space and back to real life. Even if the con experience wasn't exactly the one I would have asked for, I'm still so glad I went, and I absolutely plan to make the pilgrimage again next year. If I met you there, I hope to see you again, and if I didn't meet you, I hope I do.
owlmoose: (stonehenge)
I had fully intended to get up for morning panels today, but I guess my body had other ideas because I woke up at 9:55am, and the panel block started at 10am. So instead we bailed on the morning and had a leisurely brunch, followed by a trip to the chocolate shop. (I'm having a delicious fudge snack right now.)

So then came the afternoon panels. First up was a panel about the women of Luke Cage, and it was awesome. Awesome. Probably my favorite panel this year. Five black women, talking about these black female characters who meant so much to them, and the great things and not-so-great things about how the representation. Panelists and audience members discussed issues like respectability politics, colorism, the importance of Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, and also whether Shades is or is not an appropriate Supportive Murder Boyfriend. I highly recommend the hashtag for this one. The panel was recorded, and will be posted on the Nerdgasm Noire Network, and if you get a chance you should totally listen.

Next up was a panel on comics, focusing mostly on recommendations, and featuring "comics matchmaking", where an audience member would ask for a rec based on their specific parameters, and the panelists and audience would make suggestions. There were far too many recs for me to catch them all, but moderator [twitter.com profile] crosberg promised to post up a complete list on their website after the con. (It seems I will have a lot of things that I need to come back and share with you soon.) We closed out the afternoon with perhaps the most entertaining panel of the con: an examination of which superpowers might be the most useful for banging. Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin; the hashtag has more. We laughed, a lot.

After dinner, it was time for dessert salon and the Guest of Honor speeches. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Amal El-Mohtar were both brilliant and moving in their own ways, both of them urging us to stand up and support each other and fight against the terrible and growing injustices in the world. I imagine the full text of both speeches will go up eventually, and I'll make sure to link those too. Unfortunately I had to leave before the presentation of the Tiptree Award, because I had a 10pm panel and the speeches were running over. The late panel was on "how to ship without being a jerk", but the conversation ranged much more widely, into the history of ship wars and fan entitlement (I got to share my favorite story, about Louisa May Alcott getting into a ship war with her own fans), and how and why fandom conversations have gotten to be so toxic. It was more about root causes than solutions, but I still found it an interesting conversation, and we all had fun with it.

Then we hung out in the lobby for a little while, before coming back to the room to wind down and start packing. Tomorrow will be a light day for me -- no panels, probably, just the sign out -- and then we drive back to Chicago to end the weekend.

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