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Yep, my home town has been one of the casualties of the California fires, specifically the Sonoma County fires. As far as I have heard, everyone I know is safe and well.

We don't know yet if our house survived. It's way up a hill where they're not going to get video from emergency responders driving by, and the mandatory evacuation is still in effect, so the tenants can't go back to see. All in all, as the photos start to come in, the damage is not as bad as it was in my head. The plants are going to come back fast, which is a comfort.
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Better late than never, happy Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!

I have been reading my son The Lord of the Rings. Alas, we are making very slow progress because I only read it once a week (the rest of the time his dad reads other books), and since school started, he's been so tired with his own evening reading to himself that he falls asleep after about one section.

"When will we reach the Black Riders again?" he asks.
"If we never reach the Prancing Pony, it will be a while," say I.

Other than that, my mind has not had much room for LotR this season. It is filled with many things, but the love is perpetual.
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I have finally put my old Blake/Avon fic "Mnemonics" on Ao3. It is an AU (i.e. the last episode was different) future fic and has the distinction of being my only B/A slash fic.
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I am officially in love with Kyugo’s BL manga series, Acid Town, and want to spread the love to others. Many thanks to [ profile] imperfekti for putting me onto this wonderful series. She likened it to Mirage of Blaze (novels) in having an intricate, interesting plot with a great ensemble of characters, and that’s all quite correct.

General Review and Rec:
spoilers only for the chapter 1 setup

The story, which is currently ongoing, is set in a near future dystopia run by yakuza and opens with the tough life of a teen boy, Yuki, who has to pay the hospital bills of his chronically ill and adorable little brother, Jun. Yuki and his friend, Tetsu, get a break—or do they?—when a yakuza boss, Hyoudou, agrees to pay Jun’s bills in exchange for Yuki visiting him once a week.

Acid Town is definitely boys love, but it breaks a lot of conventions. The reader has to wait for the romance, and when it shows up, it’s not necessarily where or how you might expect it. Like many a BL manga, it is rife with sexual abuse. But it also devotes a great deal of attention to relationships that are not sexual, producing a strong sense of multiple ties that bind people simultaneously to family, friends, lovers, colleagues, mentors, etc. It is a tightly plotted, intricately crafted story that builds its relationships (sexual or platonic) out of a lot of typical angsty tropes but also out of a great deal of psychologically astute character development. Read more... )
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Over here in Oregon, we are bathed in ash and setting temperature records as fires rage in the Columbia Gorge, and I have soothed my sense of frustration a little by purchasing 150 tons in carbon offsets from Climate Neutral Now.

It is true offsets are not the best answer. Like geoengineering, they can make us feel like we're doing something when what we really need to do is reign in our own carbon emissions. But they do do something: these UN-vetted projects are not only reducing carbon emissions but helping create jobs, education, and healthier local environments in the developing world.

As opposed to REDD+, which has been widely accused of exploiting indigenous populations in the name of industry offsets, Climate Neutral Now favors local projects that return benefits to the local ecology/economy. I encourage folks to check it out.
labingi: (inu)
I have been reading my son The Lord of the Rings while rereading Mirage of Blaze myself, and this has led me to the thought experiment of how Mirage of Blaze would be received as a story in Middle-earth. The answer, I believe, is not as badly as you might think.

(In case you have been residing under a rock, SPOILERS follow for The Lord of the Rings. General Mirage spoilers, nothing too plotty.)Read more... )
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I’ve just written a critical—though, I hope, civil—letter to Rachel Maddow for her coverage of Hurricane Harvey, which, despite many interesting observations, was also twenty minutes of not mentioning climate change once:

I wrote her, as opposed to everyone else who hasn’t been mentioning climate change, because I suspect she really cares. And I suspect she’s under orders from her superiors at MSNBC not to get into climate change. She’s one person who, I suspect, if she were to get a lot of letters noting this omission might take it seriously and might even speak to her superiors about it.

If anyone else feels like dropping her a line, here is the contact page for her show, with lots of options for getting in touch:
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We stayed home (in Oregon) for the solar eclipse. We weren't in the zone of totality, but it was still pretty awesome. Once the kids were pried away from screens, they enjoyed it. I really enjoyed seeing the crescent shadows in the tree shadows. And we did have a cricket come out.
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I saw Dunkirk yesterday and highly recommend it. It's very good across the board, gripping, gritty, and realistic. I have only two small quibbles: it was hard to hear the dialogue over the music and bombings. (My hearing is getting progressively worse, but my partner agreed.) The non-linear storytelling sometimes worked for me and sometimes was just a bit confusing. It didn't seem like a story that really needed non-linear storytelling to get the point across. Otherwise, it's an utterly fantastic look at the terrors of war and the courage of people pulling together in crisis. (Oddly, it made me think, "Maybe we can survive climate change.")

The film I am most reminded of is Grave of the Fireflies, though Dunkirk is about soldiers (mainly), not civilians; takes place over a day or so rather than months; and is not animated. It is, however, a story about the horrors of war with virtually no reference to the politics of war. The enemy is nothing but an implacable force raining down fiery hell. The whole story is from one side's perspective, but that's okay because that perspective is not used to project anything onto the other side; it's really just all about surviving hell and making us ponder why we put ourselves and fellow people into situations like this.
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I was just reading [personal profile] veleda_k's great post on gender in The Lego Movie and commenting on how I worry about how messages like this affect my kids, but it put me in mind of a more hopeful recent gender moment with my son.

I've been reading him The Lord of the Rings, and we came across some line (I don't remember exactly) like whoever has the Ring, it will corrupt "him":

Son: Who's "him"?

Me: Whoever gets the Ring, whoever possesses it.

Son: But it could be a woman.

Me: That's true, but this older English from a time when "he" meant any random person, including women.

(Son looks at me like both I and the world are insane.)

Me: One day I will show you the Blake's 7 episode where Avon uses "he" (actually "his") to refer to a group of one man and two women.

(Son looks even more dubious.)

(Mom's heart is profoundly encouraged.)
labingi: (inu)
I've been rereading Mirage 15, and there is much to love, but I'm going to zero in on Kagetora's thoughts about his own psyche, which capture so magnificently how the human mind works. (And with apologies, there will be some comparison to my own life by way of exemplifying the text's realism. Yes, God help me, my life is like Mirage of Blaze—sometimes.)

Spoilers up to volume 15…Read more... )
labingi: (ivan)
Review: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro's 2005 novel Never Let Me Go is a science fiction story about three young people, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, grappling with their emerging awareness of the disturbing social destiny they were born for. It may be one of the best written novels I have ever read, which makes it interesting that it's not better reviewed by readers: Goodreads gives it 3.8/5 stars, Amazon 4/5, not bad to be sure but not world class. I'd argue that this slight disconnect with many readers (evident in written reviews as well as ratings) reflects precisely why it is important that Ishiguro wrote this book. The novel challenges our blindness to how our own social indoctrination works. It asks us to face realities we not only don't wish to but have genuine conceptual difficulty with. This is not to say some criticisms are not valid, but they pale, in my view, next to the book's achievements.

Most of this review will talk about ideology and indoctrination, but that is not all the book is about, and I want to be sure to mention a couple of other ways in which it excels. It is one of the most realistic and subtle portrayals I have read of how deep friendships (often) operate: the good, the bad, the habituation, the ability to read each other, the passive-aggressive patterns, the maturing and evolving, the joy, the hurt, the power plays, the mutual support, the altruism, the mess of it all. Though the characters’ trio of best friends does not externally resemble my primary relationships at all, I saw my relationships everywhere, so much so that I fantasized about contacting the friend who’s severed ties with me and saying, “Read this book. This is about us.” The book is also about facing death, and apart from the story’s particulars, which I’ll come to, there’s an extent to which this is everyone’s story: we are all faced with our ending, with the years flying by and the likelihood of decrepitude and dependency and the loss of loved ones before a possibly physically painful ceasing to be. This is also very well captured.

As to the rest, spoilers follow… Read more... )
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A while ago, I wrote my representative, Earl Blumenaur, asking him to support a carbon tax. Though his form letter reply did not address that proposition, it did include this very fine sentiment:

"The challenge of climate change is not just a matter of scientific consensus or political debate. It is a challenge that we must embrace fully as a moral responsibility to fellow creatures that share our planet, to vulnerable human populations who contribute the least to climate change but will suffer the most, and to our children and future generations."

Hear, hear!
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Happy 4th of July in a year with little to recommend it for America. On such a 4th, here are some things I am grateful for about America:

* The US Constitution. It is clunky in some ways and arguably suffers from being so much the prototype of modern democracies and, thus, less polished than some systems that came later. It's the first concept album of Les Mis version of a modern democratic republic, but if we didn't have it, we would currently be living under a dictatorship--and we're not. So bless the Constitution.

* The American belief in freedom of speech, not only as enshrined in the First Amendment, but as a cultural assumption. Yes, it has been abridged at times. Yes, it is under assault now. And, yes, it is very often used to voice idiocy very loudly.

But I truly believe that Americans are so deeply culturally tied to expressing their own voices that true diversity of discourse would be hard to radically suppress. America will not soon be North Korea. That is, perhaps, my favorite American cultural characteristic, for all its downsides.

* The grassroots resistance. It's only just getting started, but it's getting started in a big way. The pendulum is swinging left, and the serious move to reclaim democracy from corporatocracy is beginning.
labingi: (inu)
My thinky thoughts inspired by the first two Mirage of Blaze stage plays continue, and in this post I want to talk principally about the construction of Kagetora's emotional-sexual needs as informed by the context of the plays. More general thoughts/review are here.

Mirage SPOILERS follow:Read more... )
labingi: (Default)
Mirage Plays

Many thanks to [ profile] imperfekti for a) informing me that Mirage of Blaze Showa period stage plays exist and b) doing excellent summaries so that I can sort of tell what's going on. I have got my hands on the DVDs for the first two, thanks to [ profile] demitas, who used her Japanese skills to order them for me. And now I have thinky thoughts. To begin reviewish stuff:

Reviewish Thoughts on Mirage Stage Plays )
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Here was I feeling angry and self-righteous when Robbie Burns reminded me of this:

Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman;
Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human;
One point must still be greatly dark,--
The moving Why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark,
How far perhaps they rue it.

Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
Decidedly can try us;
He knows each chord, its various tone,
Each spring, its various bias:
Then at the balance, let's be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What's done we party may compute,
But not know what's resisted.

And I am rightly schooled. Thank you, Rab.
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Medicaid renewal hell has just opened for the year. I've just spent 2 hours doing my preliminary renewal application for myself and my kids, assembling about 10 pages of supporting financial documents, and starting a "paper trail" (detailing on what date I did exactly what in this application process) against the next several months of ensuing tug-of-war as the Oregon Health Plan repeatedly mails me to say my coverage has been cancelled because they never received the documents I sent them several times. (Bright spot: their forms are actually better this year and fewer documents are asked for, so maybe that won't happen for the third year running.)

This year I'm actually near the income cutoff for coverage (though maybe not once deductions are figured). (The cutoff for being poor enough to qualify is around $26,000 for a family of 3.) We'll see how they compute things. However, even if we keep our coverage this year, this will be a problem if I ever manage to have a career that pays a livable income. My employer has few health insurance slots and only for people who always work over half time--and I have yet to work a year there where I've been offered over half time for a whole year. The marketplace will be expensive. My partner currently has no insurance through his work (a contract position likely to end in 3 months), so he can't cover us on employer-based insurance. (He has ACA insurance now.) And this is the status quo: who knows what the Republicans might do.

Really, really tired of most Democrats not even mentioning Medicare for All. No wonder it's not part of that national conversation.
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Logan does what big, established franchise films should: it uses its built-in budget and audience to do high quality, authentic storytelling rather than safe-bet replication of the usual action-hero(es) formula. Imagine: the entire movie—employing 15,000 people, the end credits tell us—has not one youthful action hero-protagonist at the height of (or discovering) his powers. Instead, it has a run-down guy who looks fifty, a guy in his nineties, and a kid. My God, it's a breath of fresh air.

Logan is a story about getting old. And superhero movie though it is, its exploration of aging could hardly be more down to earth. It has introduced me to an entirely new experience: personally identifying with Wolverine! He's in a position that many of us are in, myself included: feeling the wear and tear of age sapping our physical strength and energy at the very time we find ourselves caught between caring for aged parents and raising still young and needy children. We find ourselves Aeneas, carrying our father on our backs, holding our son by the hand, and hoping to survive whatever ordeal a difficult world has thrust us into.Read more... )
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Happy Downfall of Sauron Day! I'm off to California (sans kids), so I will have 9 hours in the car to think about the downfall of Sauron but no time to write about it. Wishing you a fannishly happy day!


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