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04 July 2016 @ 05:22 pm

Picoreview: The Legend of Tarzan: Unexpectedly good!

Now, I grant you that it’s possible my expectations going in were *so low* that anything that didn’t make me hide behind my hands and moan with the horror of it all was going to be unexpectedly good, but honestly, I really enjoyed it. I would watch more of those, and not just because Alexander Skarsgård spends a gratifyingly large percentage of the film with his shirt off (although sweet mistress of the moon, that doesn’t hurt. he’s really beautiful in this movie.).

But, okay, so here’s the thing:

It’s a Tarzan story. It’s inspired by books that are a hundred years old, and it wants to be recognizeably *of* those books. That means it’s pretty much “What These People Need Is A Honky,” and it’s my opinion that you can’t really take that away without completely divorcing it from the source material so thoroughly that it’s no longer the thing you’re advertising it as. So I have to say that I start by accepting that it’s an inherently problematic premise.

That said, it felt to me like as bang-up, respectful a job of a WTPNIAH story as is possible.

It’s a film set mostly in Africa that’s actually full of African people who have lines and opinions and, indeed, personalities even if they have no lines. (There’s one young man, I think the actor is Ashley Byam, who is so charismatic it practically hurts. I would watch him in *anything*, dear *lord*.) They’re only ever condescended to by the bad guys, and they deliver more than one slap-down in the face of that condescension.

There’s a moment in the film where Tarzan makes a plan, has an amendment suggested by one of the African tribe members, and goes “okay” without hesitation, which is not generally how these things work in movies. It was, to me, extremely like the moment in Fury Road where Furiosa changes routes, a guy says to her “What’s up,” she says “Change of plans,” and he’s just like, “Okay! Change of plans!” which also never, ever happens in film: women are always argued with (see: ALL of Jurassic World) and white heroes among the natives always have the better plans. But I thought there were a lot of moments like that, and moments where it’s not…I mean, yes, it’s White Man Tarzan Swooping In For The Rescue, but it’s also equally Inhuman Wild Man Tarzan Clearing A Path which allows ordinary mortals (including Jane and Samuel L Jackson’s American soldier, George Washington Williams, but equally often, the tribal members) to achieve the actual goal. And so *flails*, again, yes, WTPNIAH, but equally What These People Need Is A Superhero. It *worked* for me. It worked *well* for me, given the constraints of what makes a Tarzan story.

Margot Robbie doesn’t have a great deal to do as Jane, but she repeatedly does well with what she’s got. She’s a vastly more vibrant character than Tarzan, honestly, happier in Africa for reasons that make sense in the context of the story (she’s not the one trying to wear a human suit that doesn’t fit especially well), and she’s *fierce*. I’d pay to watch a Jane film, honestly. Jackson was a lot of fun as the American totally unsure of how to deal with Tarzan’s wild skills, and he’s given a bit of backstory that comes from somewhere less obvious than I’d expected, which was cool.

The CGI was mostly good, the scenery was gorgeous, I liked the *costuming* (and I’m not just talking about Skarsgård running around half naked for two-thirds of the film), and just overall I was unexpectedly delighted with it. I hope it makes tons of money, because I’d genuinely love to see more.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

27 June 2016 @ 11:08 pm

We’re on holiday in America. Flew to Michigan, then drove to North Carolina. The first night in the RV, we stayed at one of those RV campground type places that feature heavily in horror movies. Obviously we survived, but Ted and I kind of went O.O at each other. Also I flooded the back of the RV by over-flushing the toilet! Go me!

But fireflies! I’ve finally seen fireflies! They’re goddamn magical, OMG. Wow. Wow. SO COOL! Also cardinals and bluebirds! I’d never seen them before! (My high school was the Kenai Kardinals. I honestly thought ‘cardinal’ was spelled with a K until I was about 20, and spent a fair number of years wondering why the cardinals in Pamela Dean’s Secret Country books were mis-spelled. #blush)

Thunderstorm along with the first fireflies, too. Lightning in the background, flashing purple against the clouds, with golden lightning bugs scattered thru the trees in the foreground. So beautiful. I wish I had the photographic skills to have captured the imagery.

Driving through MI, there are all these great little red-winged blackbirds all over the place. Very crisp coloring. “They look like little fascists!” said Ted.

“Well-dressed ones,” I said.

“Aren’t they all?” Ted asked.


Also me: oh 57km to Madison oh that’s not ba–oh wait that’s miles i really don’t belong to this country anymore

Northern Tennessee, I guess. Driving thru soft misty green rolling hills. Strikes me that maybe I’m sposd to see them as mountains & that we’ve reached the Appalachians. (TBF, they were probably the Appalachian foothills, as the Appalachians proper are somewhat more mountain-like. Wee soft things, but still, pretty definitely mountains.)

Americans are so…American. So friendly. Much smiles. I’d forgotten how when you’re on a walk most of the drivers will wave at you as you go by.

And the food. Weird goddamn flavorless anemic American butter. Weird goddamn cloying corn syrup American Pepsi. O blessed American root beer. O god, the land of 40oz “medium” drinks, wth, America.

Me: I’m fine, I’m sunscreened, I just turn hot pink in the heat.
(I am tanning, though. For my value of tanning.)

I don’t want to live in the hills of North Carolina myself, but I can understand why people do. None of it’s anything like Alaska, not really, but it reminds me of home in its way, and it’s beautiful. I’d be really happy to come out here for a month or so to write and let Indy run around in the sunshine.


(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

19 June 2016 @ 06:05 pm

Almost four hours into his Deep Brain Stimulation app calibration Dad texted us:

Almost done. Exhausted but elated. Am texting this with steady hands.

We all got a little emotional, to tell the truth. Dad’s DBS surgery was just over a month ago, and he’s been healing ridiculously well. Every single wound site is essentially invisible, with no obvious scarring or trauma, and we’ve all been kind of trying to imagine just how different life was going to be for him when he returned home from his calibrations.

When he arrived home, he said, sort of bemused, “All I did was sit there for four hours saying, “Mary had a little lamb,” and bringing a cup or a biscuit to my mouth over and over again, but it was really intense!” But then, four hours of repetitive motion is pretty damn intense even if nobody is running itty bitty electrical currents through your brain to see how they affect your motion, and that, of course, is exactly what the team was doing with him for all those hours.

Although apparently pretty well the entire surgical team stopped by to admire their handiwork, there was a smaller team on hand for the calibration process: the doctor, the nurse who held Dad’s hand through the surgery, and the software representative for the company that developed this particular DBS app—remember that Dad is only the second person in the world to have had this specific surgery, which makes him an exceptionally interesting test subject.

It also means there’s no template at all for these calibrations, and while he imagines that everyone goes through an equally intense and careful process for DBS calibration, we expect the work they’re doing with him will become part of their template, which is pretty amazing.

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(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

17 June 2016 @ 10:37 pm

I don’t have anything wildly brilliant to say about my Early Morning Oxford Photography Expedition, except that I was very, very glad I’d gotten up so early because the day was absolutely glorious, and the next morning, which would have been my only other chance to take pictures, was heavily misty, which wouldn’ta been so nice. :)

I have a deep fondness for shadow-selfies. I don’t know why, really. I just find them pleasing, and the gold wall with gold morning light seemed a particularly suitable place for one. :)

This is the quite magnificent Methodist church more or less around the corner from where I was staying. (The place I stayed, called the Cherwell Guest House, was about as minimial (and as cheap) as you could possibly find in a B&B, but they were incredibly understanding about my whole “well I’ve booked for 11 nights but I could be here 8 or I could be here 15, I just don’t know,” situation, and were perfectly happy to let me go home with no penalty after 4 nights, so frankly if you need genuinely budget accommodations in Oxford and very nice people running them, I recommend it. None of that has anything to do with the church, but all I know about the church is it’s pretty, anyway, so. :))

Edmund’s Church, Oxford, is off to the right there. I spent a fair amount of time taking pitures of its very cool garden through its gates, and didn’t come up with one I liked enough to share. :p

Towers cast morning shadows on Radcliffe Library, or at least I think that’s what the rotunda is called. Possibly it’s the University Church towers casting the shadows, but I don’t think so. I think it’s just the super cool building beside the rotunda. :)

Said super cool building can be seen to the left, here. :)

I wish this was a much nicer picture, but I couldn’t get it any better without climbing over things I wasn’t supposed to. Anyway, it’s for Tersa, even if it’s not actually a rose window. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

14 June 2016 @ 11:34 pm

I feel that that’s a provocative subject line, but it’s the root question being posed here, so…

I’m reading a book. It’s a decent book. Written by a guy, four or so main characters, one of whom is a woman, and she’s beautiful, which is fine. Viewpoint Bad Guy Character creeps on her, which is creepy but okay fine he’s the bad guy. He creeps on all the other (attractive) women he encounters too. It’s gross but certainly recognizeable.

Hero Viewpoint Character does not creep on her, which is good! What he does do, though, is constantly, *repeatedly*, every time he looks at her, thinks about her beauty, admires her beauty, says to himself, “Self, I would like to spend more time with this woman,” which okay fine whatever, I find it sort of nauseating, not quite as uncomfortable as the Viewpoint Bad Guy but still pretty much “ugh,” and so my question became:

Is this just bad writing (because it is bad writing, it makes me go “ugh” and I’d like to think if it was well done I wouldn’t go “ugh”) or is it actually decently representative of how men think?

Or I don’t know, maybe how *people* think, except, I mean, I know some very beautiful people, people I like to look at, but I do not actively think of their beauty every time I look at them. Literally the only time in my life I can remember thinking of someone’s beauty every time I saw them was Harry Cavill in The Man From UNCLE, because every time he came on screen I was just like “my GOD he’s beautiful, my GOD he is SO BEAUTIFUL,” and I thought it was *ridiculous* that I couldn’t think of anything except his beauty.

I mean like there’s the opening credits of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid where there’s this sepia shot of Paul Newman and even in sepia his eyes are just so freaking blue, so clear and so incredible, that it’s a *moment* of sort of falling over sweet jesus what beauty, and there’s like that gif of Marlon Brando rolling his eyes that I could stare and giggle helplessly at for like a week straight, and okay possibly the entirety of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Newman and Taylor is pretty nearly like that, but those, to me, are pretty extreme cases. I mean, Ted wandered in the other day to see a picture of George Clooney on the screen and said, correctly, “My God, he’s beautiful,” which is absolutely true, but that’s a passing observation; one swiftly becomes *accustomed* to that beauty, and moves on. That was why Cavill in The Man From UNCLE was so absurd: I could not stop noticing how utterly beautiful he was, and that was completely outside my experience.

But that kind of writing from a male POV isn’t all that *unusual*, and so it leads me to wonder if that really *is* decently representative of the male experience (or indeed, the female experience outside my own).

(If it is in fact representative of the male experience but not, broadly speaking, the female experience, I have a lot of Opinions about society and expectation and objectifying and things like that on the matter, but it’s late here and we’ll leave the unpacking of that for another time. :))

ETA: I should note the Hero Character does not seem badly socialized or at all an ass; I have the impression that if the Female Lead said “nah, not interested” he’d be all “okay, cool” about it, not manboy-crushed-self-esteem or anything, which is actually I think why I’m asking: this isn’t the boy who can’t take a hint or doesn’t know how to talk to girls or whatever, it’s an apparently pretty average decent human being, just with this weird-to-me constant *active* awareness of/fixation on How Lovely This Woman Is, and do men really just do that all the time or is it really just bad writing?

ETA2: I mean I get being aware you’re attracted to someone and even noticing “god damn they’re hot” unexpectedly, perhaps even often, and perhaps it’s just that it’s compressed into a book and therefore really noticeable and stuff in which case it’s emphatically bad writing, but…yeah, I’m going to bed now.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

13 June 2016 @ 09:41 am

I started a new playlist the other night, “Gospel Truth,” which currently contains the following songs:

Alison Krauss: Down By The River To Pray
Kansas: Wayward Son
Rufus Wainwright: Hallelujah
Zulu Tradition: Hallelujah
Cole Porter (Kevin Kline, De-Lovely): Blow Gabriel Blow
Bon Jovi: Keep The Faith, Captain Crash & the Beauty Queen From Mars
Jon Bon Jovi: Bang A Drum
Guys & Dolls: Siddown You’re Rockin The Boat, Luck Be A Lady
Taylor Swift: Wildest Dreams (this may go, not sure yet), Out Of The Woods

Queen: Who Wants To Live Forever, The Show Must Go On
Hozier: Take Me To Church
Guns N Roses: Knocking On Heaven’s Door
Heart: Stairway to Heaven
Amazing Grace (bagpipes)
Meat Loaf: For Crying Out Loud
Bon Jovi: Living On A Prayer
Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah
Take That: Rule The World

I’m looking for other recommendations for the playlist! Favourite covers of Amazing Grace and Hallelujah are particularly welcome, as it’s impossible to have too many versions of those songs (someone’s recommended John Cale’s Hallelujah but I haven’t downloaded it yet). Nor have I gone through the rest of Alison Krauss and/or Union Station to pick up what’s best from them, but as you can see, the vibe here isn’t meant to be so much actual gospel (although that’s obviously good too) as a certain vibe that I think the above songs generally encompass. So I’m looking for songs that speak a truth to your soul, basically. Hit me with your best shot. :)

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

10 June 2016 @ 03:01 pm

I’d brought my Big Camera (the DSLR) to Oxford because we’d been told 10 days for recovery for my dad’s brain surgery (he’s doing well, he goes back next week to get the power turned on), and I knew Oxford was beautiful and I wanted to spend a few mornings and afternoons taking pictures.

Then Dad did so brilliantly they were threatening to send him home after 3 days (!), so I got up Very Early and went out with my camera, because damned if I was gonna have lugged the camera and an extra lens all the way to Oxford and not use it!

And I do mean Very Early, because I wanted the sunrise light, so I was out on the streets before 6am. And then the light had changed by 7:15 or so and because EUROPE there weren’t any damn cafes or anything at all open yet and the Botanic Gardens, which I wanted to go to, didn’t open until 9, so I spent a great deal of time wandering around in an exhausted haze.

Eventually the gardens opened, and to my offense I had to pay a fiver to get in (Dublin’s are free, and better), but I got some pictures I loved, so it was all good. :)

This is the most Stock Photography photograph I’ve ever taken. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s so Stock Photography that I find it ridiculous. :) It needs a little bit of fill light on the foreground to really make it pop, and while it’s probably possible to do that with Photoshop, I didn’t know how any more than I had a fill flash with me, so it’s not quite as Perfectly Stock as it could be, but it’s Pretty Stock. :)

I should probably not love the intense saturation of colors as much as I do, but, well, I do, and so that’s my photography aesthetic. And to be fair, these tulips in the morning sunshine really were very strongly colored!

These tulips are METAL, folks. Look at those ragged edges!

I am deeply, deeply in love with this photo. My goal was a crisp close-up with the petals rising toward the lens in sharper (but inevitably blurred because focal point) focus, but lacking three hands, I couldn’t hold the camera properly and hold the flower *still* in the mild wind, so there was an even softer focus than I’d intended and I just love it.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

09 June 2016 @ 01:17 pm

I’ve just gotten the counter-signed contract, so I can make a Big Announcement!

I’ve been in (slow, because of me, not them) talks with Markosia Enterprises, a comics-and-graphic-novels publisher in the UK, and I am SO EXCITED to tell you that my comic book series, “Take A Chance”, is FINALLY going to be available as a graphic novel!!!

I don’t have a release date for it yet, or a pre-order page, but it should be available late this year or early next, and HOO BOY am I gonna come begging you wonderful people to pre-order when the time comes, because (honestly) you’d be astounded at how few sales (in the grand scheme of things) can get graphic novels onto bestseller lists. There are enough of you to make it happen, let me put it that way. <3 <3 <3 OMG SO EXCITE *SO EXCITE*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

07 June 2016 @ 08:30 pm

I’ve forgotten, in the interim between posting the last coloring pages and these ones, what exactly I did with the photoshop levels to make the whites so crisp and clean last time (Ellen, you posted a coloring how-to blog or something that was profoundly enlightening, but I can’t find it again!) so these colors aren’t so nice, but they’re pretty good. :)

I actually thought I’d long since posted the first of these, as it’s been done for ages, but apparently I hadn’t, so here’s two, but not the two I’d planned on posting. I’d been gonna do the two facing pages of the second page all at once so I’d be consistent with which colors I used. I did a bunch of skin tones (and kept missing entire, like, torsos, which, just, wut? I was looking SO CAREFULLY, and still missing them!) and hair (ditto missing them) but then got drawn into leaves and wolves and things and finished up one page without the other being more than a quarter done.

I believe Nightrunner (Cutter’s wolf) changes color in every single frame he’s in in these two pages. I’ve read enough comics in my life to know that’s a hallmark of professionalism. :) (Also I honestly don’t remember what color he’s supposed to be. Mostly I’m like, “Brown, wolves are grey or brown,” with the occasional moment of WAIT DEWSHINE’S WOLF IS NAMED LIONSKIN HE’S GOLD NOT BROWN that primarily goes to show just how many long-term memory brain cells I have dedicated to ElfQuest…)

Elfquest Graphic Novel &quot;Coloring Book&quot;, page 5


(x-posted from The Essential Kit)


A friend introduced me to Bullet Journaling, which I looked at with shining admiring eyes and said “Yes, but digital,” and then I went to look for something that I could do that with digitally.

I found Workflowy, which is a 100% ideal work-based Thinks To Do format for me. I’m going to use it for work stuff, because it’s cross-platform, it collapses the to-do lists which is awesome for ease of navigating, you can bullet-point your way in for increasingly minute aspects of the job to your heart’s content, it’s drag and drop so I can move completed projects to the bottom of the list easily, it uses tags in a comprehensible way, it lets you add notes and thoughts to any given bullet point without cluttering up the main view of it, it’s simple, basically it’s absolutely perfect for work stuff.

Sadly for my daily life to-do lists I want something more…agile.

This is what my phone homepage currently looks like. Observe the event, “June Bank Holiday”, which is demarcated by a little *, as opposed to the ✓ of the next item, which is a Thing To Do but comes up on this functional but unattractive calendar widget associated with Any.Do. I can switch to Google’s more attractive calendar widget, but then I lose the To Do list, which is about 90% of the whole goddamn point.


Any.do is exceptionally good for its rolling Daily Things To Do aspect, but I don’t find it particularly easy to add tasks, especially because I’m using their “Cal” calendar interface because their actual Any.do widget interface gives you a “today tomorrow upcoming” but doesn’t add calendar events in, whereas the Cal widget will show not only the to-do tasks but also the calendar events, and the point of this long sentence is that because it’s the Calendar widget, clicking the + in the top corner brings you to ADD EVENTS, not ADD TASKS, which is really frustrating when I just want one. goddamn. app. to do all the things, and 90% of what I add are things to do, not events.

Google Calendar doesn’t add *tasks* easily enough, and has no rolling daily things to do list aspect that I can locate, and that’s 90% of what I use a to-do list for, so that renders it pretty fecking useless to me.

What I want right now, clearly, is the following:

– Workflowy style easy-to-use heirarchical outline-style to-do task list (AnyDo’s interface, even the web one, just isn’t as slick to use for nested lists)
– with AnyDo style rolling today/tomorrow/upcoming/someday appearance task list (Workflowy’s tags could easily be used for this)
– and an easy-to-add appointments/events function that
– automatically integrates with (in my android-using case) Google calendar so if I’m doing a month-at-a-glance thing I see the appointments and so if I buy plane tickets & Google adds them to the calendar they appear as appointments/events on the app
– all with an attractive widget interface

I passionately want this. Not passionately enough to learn to code it all, though, god damn it. And honestly, I don’t know if my desires here are just REALLY DIFFICULT to code and that’s why it sees like nobody’s done what I’m looking for, or if I’m just the only person on earth who wants this.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)