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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . The same untalented, ethically, socially and historically ignorant sexist and racist team that brought you limitless gratuitous graphic scenes of female nudity, rape and torture to HBO via Got, now presume to bring the the same, now set in an 'alternate' historical time line in which slavery remains legal because the CSA successfully seceded.


Just for that latter, a "successful" secession has Andrew Jackson spinning in his monument.  He didn't squash Calhoun, South Carolina and Nullification in 1832 for morally bankrupt 21st century media to make it entertainment.  See the Nullification Proclamation By Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, to South Carolina, here.

NY Time pay wall so the url rather than a link is provided: 


     . . . . In any case, the south couldn't have successfully seceded because Lincoln and many coalitions behind  him wouldn't allow it. As Jackson knew, neither division would have stood long before England and France picked both of them off. As it was during the first three years of the War of Southern Aggression a faction in both England and France did their best to help this along.  Also because the whole point of secession was to provoke a war with the non-slavery forces so the slaveocracy could then take over the entire nation -- they didn't want to be left alone with their peculiar institution.  Their objective was to aggressively force their peculiar institution upon all by the force of arms.  There is a reason that the U.S. Civil War's official name in the government records is "The War of Southern Aggression."


So Grant whipped Lee's army, and the CSA melted because it was essentially nothing but the Army of Northern Virginia, never a functioning nation. If you don't believe me, read some contemporary







military histories of the Virginia campaign by military historians, such Crucible of Command, and Lee's Army. Among the reasons the CSA was never a nation is that the CSA power elites didn't believe in government in the first place, and couldn't work together any better or effectively than the people in the White House right now do. 







Killing black people at whim with impunity, raping black women anywhere anytime at whim without repercussion, raping black children without even being socially ostracized, torturing and incarcerating at will, using as unpaid labor black people who are prisoners of the entire slavery system, in an what has to be (speaking from historical evidence), an all white country, since slave labor makes immigration unattractive if not downright impossible, since color-coded slave labor fills all the labor slots from housekeeping, to hair stylist to mechanic, to street cleaner, miner, etc . -- in our current climate in which lynch nooses and random, arbitrary of killing of African Americans and threats to do so happen all the time -- can anyone with any sense of artistic talent and social conscience really think this thing which didn't happen and couldn't have happened is a good thing for popular entertainment and the nation? 

This is the height of irresponsibility, as a member of our civic, economic, social and political polity. Media and entertainment does shape all these matters.  Historical accuracy, even in entertainment, is civic responsibility. Ask the  historic slaveocracy that blamed Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom's Cabin for the Civil War.

Shame HBO and everyone involved, shame, shame, shame.


Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 05:58 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
     . . . .  Yah, it's ten to 5 PM, and I am just having it.  Maybe . . . it's really dinner

I had a smoothie for breakfast at 8 AM and that's it so far for today. 

So hot humid polluted, don't have a lot of appetite. 

But this 'lunch' appeals. An heirloom yellow tomato, homemade pesto, artichoke hearts, olive oil, vinegar and crunchy bread. 

The NYPL electronics have been down all day again, for the second day in a row, with intermittent glitches on Monday. It's the whole system: all the branches and the research libraries. One cannot even return materials, much less access the catalogs and data bases. Are the cray crays hacking libraries now? 

In the meantime the NYU library's a/c went out, within minutes of my arrival and set-up and logging into JSTOR . . . . 

IOW, in some ways, this has been somewhat of a frustrating day. Nor have I managed to unearth the North Dakota materials I was looking for, particularly the genealogy of my maternal grandmother's family. 

So -- once I eat my delicious lunch - supper, I'll crack open a chilled Czech pilsner and watch some eps of the second season the SyFy channel's The Expanse (from the Daniel Abraham -Ty Franck series).

Sample dialog:  "You can't negotiate with a girl who thinks she's a space station."  Ay-up, guys wrote this.

NIF: Eps 5-6, Palace Dynamics

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 05:35 pm
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
Episode 5

This and the next episode was the turning point for me: up until now I enjoyed the episodes, but didn’t feel much engaged. I know it’s different for different people, just as in anything else: one friend was hooked from the first episode at the sight of MC gliding in that flat boat as he played that compelling minor key melody on the flute. Another didn’t get hooked until a certain point in the story a few eps on, and then all of a sudden got hooked so hard that they had to mainline the entire thing until the end. And then promptly rewatch it all.

For me, it was the conviction that I got through this and the next episode, which I think of as a pair, that not only was Mei Changsu as brilliant as promised, but I was going to see proved, bit by bit. That intrigued me. And that intrigue began deepening slowly, until the emotional layers of friendship, loyalty, brotherhood, hidden and obvious—all the conflicting emotional currents—gripped me.
Read more... )

Ypsilanti Dirt

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 04:54 pm
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[personal profile] stevenpiziks
Today I visited the Ypsilanti Historical Library for the Work in Progress.  I needed to verify a few facts.  To do so, I needed to check the history of the First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti, which was founded in the early 1800s.  They first met in a frame house, then built a brick church with one spire, then rebuilt the church so it had two spires.  I've been trying to find out exactly when the two spires version was done.  I have three different dates, and can't seem to verify any of them.

Anyway, the Historical Library archives has a file on the FSCoY, and the archivist cheerfully handed it over to me for perusal.  It's a hanging file about four inches thick, stuffed with a pile of papers, transcripts, orders of service, century-old pamphlets, and other memorabilia.  One object in the file is a heavy, punch-bound book of transcripts.  I paged through it and realized someone had typed up all the hand-written notes from weekly church meetings from 1832 until 1875.  This had to be a monumental task--the original pages were included in the file, and the handwriting old-fashioned, spidery stuff done with a dip pen, barely legible.  This historian had meticulously read and typed up hundreds of pages, and for this I was grateful.

The church meetings were mostly records of who had joined the church (lots of people moved to Ypsilanti from other areas, and they seem to have brought with them letters of recommendation from their previous ministers, which helped matters), who had been baptized, and who had left the church, either by moving away or dying.

There were several references, incidentally, to the church calling various members up in front of the council to defend themselves for drinking, either beer or hard liquor.  (Temperance was a hot social topic in Michigan during this time period, and apparently the First Presbies landed on the "alcohol is evil" side.)  One member confessed to the drinking, but said it was "for his health."  The council rejected this argument and banned him from attending church until he could prove he had made proper penance (which wasn't specified).  This sort of thing seemed to happen fairly often, and you would think the church would give it up as a lost cause, but the council showed continued enthusiasm for alcohol's punishment and penance.

The last page truly caught my eye.  It seemed to be random notes. It said:

Mr. Hammond's Testimony - that Mrs. G. admitted he got in a passion - was sorry that it had happened - cross examined - Mrs. Hammond - Talking hard of her Mother Octavia - could live in this way -
Mrs. Hyde - choked - threw potatoes -
  -   - pushing his wife
  -   - pushing his Motherinlaw [sic] - ordering her out the door -
William Glover -

What the heck?  "Got in a passion"?  Was this anger?  Sex?  Who threw potatoes?

I paged through more of the book.  In entries dated April, 1835, my eye flitted across another reference to Samuel Glover.  There were several references to him and to Mrs. Hyde over several weeks.  Eagerly, I paged over them, flipping backward until I found the earliest one--and the beginning of the story.

From what I could gather from Church Clerk Ezra Carpenter's cryptic notes, Samuel Glover was married to Virena Glover, and they had a son William.  Virena's mother Lucy Hyde lived with them, and she and Samuel did NOT get along.

According to Virena, the two of them fought quite often, mostly because Samuel beat Virena.  One day, Virena was carrying in a heavy basket of potatoes, and she asked Samuel to help her.  He refused, and she became upset with him.  He shouted and cursed at her and threw several potatoes at her head, until Lucy intervened and told him to stop.  This didn't make Samuel very happy.

Another time, Samuel was arguing with Virena and shouting at her in the front yard.  A neighbor saw Lucy trying to get him to stop.

Another tidbit says Samuel called a neighbor a "God damned Frenchman."  Someone else testified to him shouting "J___ C____" in public.  (Ezra Carpenter refused to put "Jesus Christ" into a transcript as a curse, though he readily put the word "god" down as one.)  Someone else testified to hearing Samuel use the word "devilish" to describe his children, and also calling them "little devils."

Another time, Lucy Hyde testified that Samuel whirled an ox whip over Virena's head and swore he would beat Virena "by J____ C____."  She also said she saw Samuel choke Virena and push her to the floor more than once.

Then Samuel got really mad at Lucy and one day literally shoved her out the door, ordering her to never "darken his doorstep" again and "if I rotted above ground he would never bury me."  She went to a friend's house, and the next day various people persuaded her to return.  Samuel allowed that she could as long as she was nice to him.  Lucy reluctantly returned.

The pastor asked if Samuel was nice to Lucy after that, but (according to Mr. Carpenter's terse prose), Lucy wouldn't answer directly, which speaks volumes.

Samuel claimed he had witnesses who would speak to his good character, but none of them showed up at any of the hearings, which also speaks volumes.

In the end, the council rendered its unanimous, terrifying verdict: Samuel was guilty of violating the church's covenant in multiple ways.

His sentence?

No church for three months.

That's it.  And there were no more references to Samuel Glover or Lucy Hyde in the rest of the book.

I doubt Samuel stopped abusing Virena and Lucy.  I suspect he just got better at hiding it--or of terrifying them into silence.  Lucy was already uncertain about testifying this time.  I hope they eventually left him, or threw him out, but I doubt it.  The church couldn't even bring itself to censure Samuel for more than 90 days, let alone grant a divorce.

And you'll notice that despite several people testifying that Samuel was guilty of assault many times over, there was no mention of legal involvement.  None.  Virena and Lucy went to the church for help, and barely got any.  (The testimony took place over several weeks.)

Domestic abuse.  It ain't a new idea.

Incidentally, I did find the date of the spire, but it was from a secondary source, and it's still unconfirmed for me.  Sigh.


A little digging turned up a bit more information elsewhere.  Samuel and Virena (whose name may have been Vinera--records disagree) had a total of twelve children.  The last two were twins, born on February 14, 1847 in Osceola, Michigan, which means the Glovers moved.  The twins died two weeks later.  Virena died the following March at age 44.  So Virena stayed with Samuel another 11 years and died, worn out from giving birth over and over, and from the beatings he gave her.  (Another Glover child, Sarah, died two years later, by the way, at age 24.)

And Samuel?  He left Ypsilanti and slunk back to New York, where his parents originally came from.  By 1850, he was married to a woman named Maria, who had five children of her own.  Only TWO of Samuel and Virena's children came with him--Alanson and Daniel.  What happened to the others?

Three--Sarah and the twins--had died.

Four were adults by 1850 and didn't need to live with their families.  None were living in Ypsilanti.  It's telling that they moved away from their father.

Samuel Glover, Jr. (age 15) went to live with a merchant named John Cody and his family.

Vinera Josephine Glover (age 10) is unaccounted for.  She is not with her father or any of her adult brothers or sisters.  Where did she go?  She marries William P. Paine in 1857 in Ionia County, Michigan.  She would have been about 17 then, though the question is, how did she get all the way up to Ionia and meet him?

George W. Glover (age 8) vanishes entirely. No records of what happened to him exist.

The 1860 censucs shows Maria Glover (Samuel's second wife) Census living in Webster, New York as a widow, but Samuel is still alive at this time and living a little ways away in Rochester, New York.  He died in 1870.  Did Maria divorce him and lie about her marital status?  What happened there?

Having a blended family that's a hot mess isn't anything new!

NIF: ep 4, rumbles of thunder

Monday, July 17th, 2017 06:31 pm
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
On my first viewing, I found Nirvana in Fire pleasant to look at—beautiful people, excellent costumes and sets, gorgeous martial arts, what’s not to like? It wasn’t until the next couple of eps that I began to get hooked, but on subsequent viewings, when I know the layers below every glance, every line, it’s too compelling to stop, and I keep turning away from what I should be doing to watch just a little more. [The constant heat and stickiness don't help.]

The complexity is there, and so brilliant, and this ep finishes setting up one sequence so that we will in the next actually see MC’s brilliance, step by step, unfold before our eyes. We’ve been told—and now we’ll be shown. It was then that I got hooked.

But first, episode four, which sets up not just that aspect, but a whole lot of important emotional beats: we’re beginning to get clues to what happened twelve years ago, that no one dares talk about.

Read more... )

Weather. Ugh.

Monday, July 17th, 2017 07:15 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
So we had a good time down in Peabody MA at the Granite State Magicians' magic contest -- I suppose I can now honestly call it the First Annual Granite State Magicians' Magic Contest, because they're already planning to do it again next year -- and had dinner out afterward at the Cheesecake Factory on the GSM's dime because we were part of the contest crew. (I was the timekeeper, with signs for 5 minutes left, 1 minute left, and Stop, and my handy countdown timer.) Then we crashed for the night in Lyndeborough with another member of the GSM who has an air-conditioned house with a spare bedroom, and drove north again in the morning.

It was a good expedition, and mostly funded in one way or another by Himself's stage-magic work. But now I'm back up here in Colebrook, where the humidity is higher than the temperature and the temperature is high enough by itself to be uncomfortable -- nothing like it was down below, but as always, it's what you're used to. We had a thunderstorm and a downpour earlier, but it was one of the ones that don't leave cooler and drier air behind them, just more humidity. (On the other hand, it did lay some of the pollen, so that helps a bit.)

Tomorrow I have to phone the car people and make an appointment to get the brakes fixed, because they are making a Bad Noise. We also need to get the exhaust manifold fixed, but the brakes need to come first.

Such excitement.

NIF: ep 3, painful rencontre, and badass fun

Monday, July 17th, 2017 10:01 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
This extraordinarily popular series is based on a novel written by a woman, and was first published online. She published it serially, and it became enormously popular, so much so that a film company contacted her and she wrote the screenplay for the series. She has also published at least two revised editions online that I know of — none of this being translated into English; I’ve found out this much by trolling through sites where people who and speak English have talked about it.

So, on to episode three.
Read more... )

NIF: Episode Two, we meet Prince Jing

Sunday, July 16th, 2017 11:43 am
sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias
Every man in the capital city wants to marry a princess.
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sartorias: Mei Changs (MC)
[personal profile] sartorias

Last November, I posted about this series after my first watch. Some of the below is taken from that post, but I’ve expanded it.

 On the surface Nirvana in Fire (Lángyá Bǎng in Chinese)

is about revenge, but that’s far too simplistic. Justice is truer, and so is recovering the truth.

 I suspect, especially these days, if Hollywood had made this story, they would probably have climaxed it when the Big Bad was taken down, and ended with the heroes trotting off for celebratory whoopie.

 Don’t think the final sequence taking down the Big Bad isn’t nail-bitingly intense, because it most definitely is, but the true climax is even more powerful—everyone, especially our hero, risking absolutely everything to gain justice for people not just killed but whose reputations had been destroyed thirteen years ago.


And those who did the deed—who begin the story arc wielding imperial power—don’t cynically shrug off the past. They will do anything to keep their secrets, which—one picks up through the subtleties of phenomenal acting, because the subtitles are at best adequate—haunt them.


It’s tense, passionate, romantic, full of great battle and ninja action as well as complicated political gamesmanship and quiet, tender moments. It’s funny, tragic, more tense, and always, always visually stunning.


And here’s the other thing I love. The female actors don’t have to strip in order to convey sexual politics or relations. And we don’t have to see tons of graphic torture scenes (though there is one, and the perpetrator is not who you'd think) for those dungeon scenes to be breathtakingly, harrowingly intense.

Some background 


I don’t speak Chinese, I’ve only read a handful of Chinese novels translated into English, and while I’ve read some Chinese history, the emphasis is on the ‘some’—a tiny fraction of the hundreds of books I’ve read over sixty years about European history.

China has such a long, fascinating, complicated history, which furnishes an equally long-view historical outlook that we just don’t find much of in the USA.  


When I compare this to those bits of early episodes of Game of Thrones that I saw, with the generic faux-medieval design and actors who seemed uncomfortable in their tunics and gowns, while I understand there was some fudging-for-modern-audience about the design of Nirvana in Fire, the characters wear the clothes naturally, their interpersonal customs flow naturally, even when rigidly constrained into ritual. Everything feels authentic, to the tiny steps mandated in court to the way men and women played their fans, and held aside their sleeves when pouring tea.


But that’s window dressing. What compelled me was the paradigm. Reputation is important—and not just to the good guys—especially family reputation, for it lasts beyond death. Friendship is important. Loyalty is vitally important. There are some things worth dying for. Given the news lately, I find recourse to this series not just entertaining, but necessary for sanity.

The series apparently comes out of the
wuxia tradition— the word “wuxia” being a compound composed of the elements wu (lit. “martial”, “military”, or “armed”) and xia (lit. “honourable”, “chivalrous”, or “hero”). And this genre of story has been popular for at least two thousand years; Chinese literary tradition mentions a critic making fun of wuxia back in the third century B.C.


When comics and film came along, wuxia spread into those media, and flourished. During my lifetime, the USA has  important tons of low-budget Chinese martial arts films, most of which more or less fall under the wuxia umbrella. On the plus side, these include badass female warriors who whirl through the air like balletic chainsaws, gracefully wielding as much power as the males—though female non-warriors still represent the traditional submissive female, whose power is covertly expressed.


This seeming contradiction isn’t contradictory to the Chinese, who have grown up with the jianghu tradition, which runs parallel to wuxia in a way I would love to understand better, but it seems even older. My still-tentative take is that the jianghu world is the world of the outsider, always fascinating to a complicated, repressive cultural order.

The jianghu world exists amorphously within the rest of China, in some stories with actual lands (formidably defended by martial artists, as in this story), and in others existing as a type of roaming martial art outsider.


Jianghu warriors paid no attention to the various governments, and dealt with high and low without any distinction, except maybe a preference for the latter, which made them popular, especially when they adhered to a code of honor.  In most English translations, jianghu seems to be rendered into the somewhat quaint ‘pugilist’ as in Pugilistic World.


So Nirvana in Fire is set in a sort of alt-600s, during the time of the Wei and Liang dynasties, in the north and south respectively. It will help you get into the story to know that the pugilistic world when this story occurs is represented by the Jiang Zuo Alliance, with its headquarters high in an amazing place called Langya Hall, which was the Google/Wikipedia of the 600s.


People can climb the billion steps to ask any question by putting a slip of paper in any of a number of boxes in a wall, and within a period of time get an answer, while overhead pigeons are constantly bringing messages from all over the world, keeping otherwise isolated Langya Hall up to the minute on all happenings great and small.


Early on in Episode One, we only see the data archive for a short time, but it is mind-bogglingly awesome, establishing its presence so vigorously we absolutely believe in its power and reach through the entire series.


Before I get into Episode One, let me provide an insight that only occurred after I’d seen the rest of the serial once, then twice: and that is, every single line of that first episode is important. Every single line packs a live mine that is going to explode during the rest of the series.




I strongly encourage the English-speaking viewer, who is going to be compounding with subtitles (not always grammatically correct, sigh) not to worry about that.


Don’t try to make sense of the story in the first episode. There are a lot of characters to introduce, and all of them have their motivations and goals. Let the colors, the expressions, the action, and the mood begin to build impressions. By the third and fourth episodes, you will discover yourself recognizing characters and beginning to understand the main goals well enough.


Okay, Episode One.


The first minute or two is horrific—a truly nasty battle sequence. What we are seeing is nightmarish memory, as our main character fights, looks around in bewilderment and despair as everyone around him is slaughtered, and then clings to his father’s hand. His father lets him go, yelling at him to survive as he falls into the abyss . . .

. .


And our main character wakes up. We pull back to see him sit up in bed, hair hanging in his face, then we see his bloodshot eyes, and after that he fingers a silver bracelet on his hand. All these signs are important: the nightmare. The bloodshot eyes. And the bracelet.


But we don’t need to remember them—we’ll see them all again, and what they mean, when it’s necessary. It’s that second viewing when you gasp and think OMG because you know what everything means.


We go directly to a pigeon flying to Langya Hall, which we see in all its spectacular beauty. We see information arrive and get brought to Lin Chen, the Master of Langya Hall. The info brought is important, but again, don’t worry about remembering it. It will be re-introduced when it matters.


Then we meet Prince Yu, sixth of the Emperor of Da Liang’s nine sons. We also meet the Emperor, getting a message that Prince Yu has completed his inspection of distant provinces, and as the emperor talks with his trusted Head Eunuch, the talk touches on the intense rivalry between Prince Yu and the Crown Prince, to whom we’re briefly introduced next as he asks for news.


Again, don’t worry about memorizing all these guys. Their distinctive personalities will emerge as events do. Just watch, as the Crown Prince’s assassins try to take out Prince Yu. He doesn’t fight—his bodyguard dispatches the assassin—but we see that Prince Yu is cold and assured even when the assassin’s blade gets close enough to slice his hand. And he knows who sent the assassins. But as he evaluates international news (remember that pigeon in the earlier scene; he has his own methods of obtaining intel) he decides that he needs to visit Langya Hall, too, if the world’s royal power brokers are advancing by asking advice of the Hall.


We then see Lin Chen do an exquisite kata on a soaring cliff, in wuxia style, with lots of martial air ballet. So we’re establishing that this man is Master of Google/Wikipedia/Head Warrior Honcho . . . and we will also find out that he is a very skilled doctor. (And he will nearly steal the show in the last five episodes.)


He gives orders about what data to hand off to Prince Yu, which incidentally is also being sent to the Crown Prince. Langya Hall is utterly neutral, totally detached from political struggles in governments. Their alliance is a free-wheeling one, their lands fiercely protected, as we’re about to find out.


Prince Yu gets home, and he opens his message at the same time as the Crown Prince does, both pondering the disconcerting news: whoever possesses the Divine Talent will hold the world. Of course they begin politicking, meanwhile mentioning a mysterious case of a Duke Qing who is in trouble for real estate fraud (called land grabbing). Don’t worry about this. You will never meet Duke Qing—it’s the fallout of this case that will unfold over several episodes.


But first, assassins dispatched to chase some innocent servants of the duke, and kill them before they can talk, manage to slide into the waters of the Pugilist World. Three ships full of fierce armed guys encounter a slim boat with our hero standing up in it, playing the flute. It’s the only time we will ever see him play that flute, so enjoy it.


Also enjoy how the sight of him scares the sweat out of said three ships of fierce warriors. As our hero calmly remonstrates with them, a teenage boy, Fei Liu, lands from the sky into the boat, bringing a beautiful cloak to put around the shoulders of our hero. (We will see all through the story friends and enemies alike making sure he is warm enough.)


When one of the warriors starts talking tough, Fei Liu launches high into the air, plucks the burly guy up, and tosses him overboard, then lands lightly in the little boat again. So right here we learn two things: Fei Liu, small as he is, is an incredible badass, and 2) the Jiang Zuo Alliance (the Pugilists) have a really scary rep when you cross into their territory. The ships about face and creep off, leaving the little boat to skim by apparently magical power in the other direction.



So, what is a Divine Talent? A super-smart military strategist and an elder statesman rolled up in one, an eminence grise, or Richelieu, to those who know Western history.


We switch back to the emperor, who laughs comfortably at the idea of a Divine Talent disrupting his empire. “My empire is something he cannot take so easily,” he says. Famous Last Words.


We switch back to Langya Hall for the last time, as we see Lin Chen and our hero sitting face to face in their gorgeous flowing robes and hair. Lin Chen is now in his doctor guise, trying to talk our hero out of leaving, but he knows it’s a lost cause. Our hero tells him that he’s been planning for ten years—and he pleads for two—to get his goal accomplished. Lin Chen gives him some heart pills for when he's in bad shape, and when they are gone, he will come.


It’s a fairly elliptical scene. Again, I’d say let it flow over you. Every word strikes very hard on the second viewing—every single word.


For now, let me just say that our hero is going to have three identities in this story, and we’ll get to why the third is necessary a bit later. Right now: the young warrior in the horrible battle was nineteen year old General Lin Shu, brilliant leader and son of Lin Xie (last name first in Chinese), head of the Chiyan Army. But now he is Mei Changsu, head of the Jiang Zuo Alliance, even though he is unable to do martial arts: we get the sense that he is extremely ill. But that does not affect his mental abilities. Mei Changsu is the Divine Talent, first on one of Langya Hall’s Lists—each year they rate scholars and warriors according to ability, and other things besides.


Mei Changsu is heading for the capital city, which he has not seen since before that terrible battle. He will be going accompanied by two sprightly young men, Jingrui and Yuzin, who we meet shopping, when they are distracted by the arrival of some grim warriors. They comment on these guys, who have not dared come around for over ten years, and again, that will only make sense later. Just look and listen now.


We will be learning lots more about the boys, too—but right now they seem to be happy-go-lucky young guys in their early twenties, rich, well trained. Jingrui a Pugilist, trained by his adoptive brother (and we’ll be finding out a lot more about that relationship, hoo boy).


Jingrui’s father is the Marquis Xie—the sinister eminence grise behind the Crown Prince, though everyone else thinks he’s politically neutral.  Mei Changsu is going to be staying in his guest house.


The young guys Yuzin and Jingrui (sometimes called Xiao-Jingrui, Xiao being an honorary title that will pop up a lot for various young male characters; the female equivalent is jiejie, or jie) and their guest in his covered cart approach the capital, and we see Mei Changsu’s face as he looks up at the walls again. There is so much repressed emotion there.


But first the boys encounter another party, led by Princess Mu Nihuang of Yunnan. She attacks Jingrui and his buddy Yan Yujin, and defeats both, but compliments them on their learning. She wants to know who is inside the closed carriage with them, and they explain that it’s a sick friend coming to town to recover. She glances curiously, but inside, Mei Changsu/ Lin Shu listens with an expression of yearning, and we wonder if he and this gorgeous fighting princess have a history. In fact you just know they have a history.


Before they get to the fortified mansion belonging to the Marquis Xie, Mei Changsu asks the boys to introduce him as Su Zhe, a sickly traveling scholar. You’re thinking really? Three names, two of them disguises?


The thing you begin to pick up is that the Su Zhe guise doesn’t fool anyone long, but it forces everyone who wants to possess, bribe, threaten, or annex Mei Changsu to deal with the scholar fiction, if they want to save face. This fiction keeps a kind of polite balance, and it persists pretty much through the entire series, more or less.


Sometimes less, with dramatic results.


But that’s way later.


So Mei Changsu comes in behind the oblivious boys who are chattering, and the Marquis is about to ream Jingrui when he notices they have a guest. Meanwhile Mei Changsu (MC) experiences a few second flashback that is quite startling. It is so fast that I didn’t notice it the first time through. But on the second, I realize just how much he is masking his emotions as he greets Xie, and the men exchange polite bows.


The boys are oblivious to any undercurrents.


Then we switch back to the emperor, who tells the princess that it’s time for her to have a suitor. Now, on first watching, this doesn’t mean much, but I think it will help viewers to know that she is not at all up for this. She was engaged to Lin Shu (we find that out soon enough) and has stayed loyal to his memory all this time. What we don’t know in these early episodes is how extremely dangerous it would be to let the emperor get any hint of that.


Instead, she insists that there be not only a martial contest, but a scholarly one. She will consider the top ten winners . . . but if she beats any of them in martial arts, all bets are off. And she is on the Langya List, so we know she’s a badass.


Her best friend Xia Dong, an officer of the Xuanjing Bureau (FBI/secret police), arrives. The emperor assigns Xia Dong the Duke Qing case. The women leave together and talk, and we find out that Nihuang still feels loyal to Lin Shu, and that Xia Dong hates Lin Shu because of all the evidence provided by her own bureau that the Lin family was responsible for the death of her husband. So the women agree to disagree on that front. They are still friends . . . and the second-time viewer is shaking their head thinking, oh wow, Xia Dong, have you got some eye-openers ahead of you.


So that is episode one. So far,  we have:


Mei Changsu/Lin Shu, wearing the scholarly mask of Su Zhe.


Princess Nihuan, badass of Mu.


Prince Yu and the Crown Prince, rivals for the throne. (Crown Prince isn’t fixed. Far from it.)


The super-snakey Marquis Xie—whose house MC is staying at.


Jingrui and Yuzin, delightful young friends of MC.


The Emperor, his Empress and Consort Yue (briefly met), adoptive mother of Prince Yu and mother of Crown Prince respectively.


We will learn a lot more about them all, and meet our second hero, in the next episode.


Until it reaches the USA market in a professional form, you can find it at here:

And at YouTube, Here:  but beware—some episodes in, the YouTube subtitles begin at the start of the title roll, and so are two minutes or so off.


I do recommend the German subtitles at if you can read German—they are better than the English (definitely better grammar and spelling), but the English are okay. Watch the characters, whose acting is brilliant, and you can sift out  the emotional subtleties.

Achievement Unlocked: Terrible Twos

Saturday, July 15th, 2017 09:17 pm
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[personal profile] gorgeousgary
Yes, Sam turned two on Thursday. Hard to believe it was only two years ago (today in fact) we were holding this tiny, not even 7-pound baby in our arms. In just 24 short months he's become an adorably cute, constantly moving (except when napping or sleeping), babbling, chaos-causing whirlwind of a toddler.

Our lucky boy has had an entire week of birthday celebrations. The festivities started last weekend when my dad and stepmom flew back up for a visit. We had a quick meal Sunday night and a birthday dinner Tuesday night. (Marred only by the string on his balloon breaking as I was bringing it and him in from the car after dinner. Goodbye balloon!) We also brought mini-cupcakes to day care on Thursday for his teachers to give out to his classmates.

Today we threw a 2nd birthday party for him. Sheryl's parents are in town for the weekend, my mom came over, and our friends Jen and Steve (and their little one) and Cat and Jason (and their not-so-little one) joined us for the festivities. We'd intended a bit larger of a gathering, but a combination of illness, deaths in the family, and vacations meant a bunch of folks couldn't make it. Still, Sam got a bunch of presents, there was cake, brownies, fruit and other goodies, Nova got pettins and scritchies, and much fun was had by all.

(Speaking of cake, we learned our lesson from last year's party and only ordered a quarter-sheet. We still have leftover cake, but nowhere near as much as last year!)

Tomorrow I am hoping I can take Sam to the pool. It was on the agenda for last Sunday, but I realized there were far too many errands that we needed to run, plus dinner out, so the pool was deemed expendable. Tomorrow should be a much more relaxed day; our only commitment is our usual food shopping.

Another extravaganza, or not

Saturday, July 15th, 2017 01:44 pm
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[personal profile] sartorias
I've been reading plenty, but all along I've felt that itch for the grand and powerful, as I felt when rereading Lord of the Rings. So I began a rewatch of Nirvana in Fire, which is even better, exponentially better, once one knows the story.

So my question is, should I live-blog it, or is no one but me interested?

Unsucking the Classics

Saturday, July 15th, 2017 07:12 am
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[personal profile] sartorias
Which assigned stinkers and snores of days of yore have you reread that turned out to be pretty good?

Do you think kids should be exposed to the classics? And if so, how?

Why on Earth...

Friday, July 14th, 2017 01:08 pm
malkingrey: ((default))
[personal profile] malkingrey I keep getting spam phone calls from The Brace Hotline?

I know the answer, I suspect. My age has put me into their target group, and they think that I'm stupid. Or rather, they know that enough people in the world in the target group are stupid that if they call a sufficient number of them at random, they'll pull in enough fish to make their quota.

Fortunately, they use a robo-caller, so as soon as I hear the words "Brace Hotline" I can press "END" and make them go away.

The pollsters, on the other hand . . . either the Republicans are getting nervous or the Democrats are already beginning to rev up their engines for 2018, because we're starting to get those again.

Dragging On

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 08:15 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . Really sick, both of us, for days and weeks now. The coughing never stops, so we are so sleep deprived that thinking has gone out the door.  Not to mention that the weather here is deep humidity, Caribbean quality, with air filled with toxic pollution chemicals, and hot, hot, hot -- though still not has hot as on, say on Cuba.

Nevertheless the all important Memorial for Michael went off yesterday without hitch and also brilliantly.

We spent all today, preparing for el V's prospecting trip for music, accommodations and restaurants in Central Cuba for January 2018.  He leaves at 6 AM (from here) tomorrow.

We are both exhausted and unfit.  But one must continue, until no longer able.

Hummer in the kitchen window

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 02:57 pm
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[personal profile] sartorias
If you click the image, you might be able to see the tiny bird among the pine needles. You have to look directly above the pink rose on the bush against the patio wall.

This hummer and a red-throated one have been vying for territory, both fleeing a big yellow bird.

Hummer in kitchen window

No Readercon This Year

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 02:01 pm
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[personal profile] malkingrey
We don't have the spare cash to spend on a convention where we aren't on programming and where most of the people we used to go there to see don't attend it any more.

Also, we have the Granite State Magicians' magic contest in Peabody starting at 1 PM on Sunday, so we'd only have had about three-quarters of a convention at most.

Just not worth it. Even if the Good Fairy Department were to drop a large sum of money on us at the last minute, said large sum would go to car repairs and the winter electric bill.

(Oil heat, goddamit. It's currently beating out permanent, as opposed to tarp-and-board, repairs for the roof in the when-we-get-money fantasies.)

M's Memorial

Monday, July 10th, 2017 07:56 pm
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[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . Our dear friend, artist and houngan, M died May 5th of lung cancer.  He'd been given four months to live -- to put his affairs in order -- but didn't make it three weeks.

It's been an enormous amount to sort, from art, to lease, to money, to family, to widow and stepdaughter.  Several people have have stepped up, to contribute substantial material, financial and emotional assistance. This was all more essential as his widow is Haitian and much of how things are done here around death are so different than back home.  Also her own personal Haitian family, other than her young daughter (thirteen) are not here, so she doesn't have that traditional network to fall back on.  Among those who have been instrumental at every stage and with everything (except the loft itself -- getting the lease transferred to his widow, etc.) has been el V, of course.  But so many have been involved,  It been a true NYC art community pull-together.

Finally, the memorial could be scheduled, planned and held.
 It is tomorrow, at the Kitchen.  After that, the Vodun side of things will continue at the loft where M has lived ever since coming to Manhattan from Buffalo. The drummers and celebrants have all arrived by today, from Haiti and New Orleans.  Tomorrow is a very big day for them -- so much responsibility, to open the doors and escort M's spirit to where it should be.

Dance . . .

Monday, July 10th, 2017 03:33 pm
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[personal profile] sartorias
It was so hot in here last night my brain was melting. I couldn't even read as my glasses kept fogging up from the humidity just enough to make my head throb, so I watched TV instead, specifically The Band Wagon, a 1953 flick starring Cyd Charisse and an aging, sarcastic Fred Astaire.

The styles are hideous fifties, (I remember being knocked off my pins as a toddler by those horrible stiff skirts), the storyline painfully forgettable, but the real treat is watching Astaire, who could do nothing ungracefully, and Charisse. I loved Fred's acerbic lines about his age. The story does insist on pairing him off with Charisse--you had to have romance in musicals--but it's lightly done, the inevitable kiss coming ten seconds before the end.

Once we get past Cyd Charisse's horrible "ballet" solo, she is able to come out with her real strength when she dances with Fred. Those are lovely, though I think Fred was physically not quite up to her dynamic presence. I don't think it's his age so much as that he's a little on the thin and frail side. But their "Girl Hunt" dance is full of humor, and calls to mind the utterly terrific dance she did with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain--she wears this terrific green dress, and the two of them have such chemistry and humor. I wish Kelly and Charisse had made as many films together as Fred and Ginger.

Oh, I looked up the film, and stumbled over the fact that Cyd was born with the jaw-droppingly awful moniker Tula Finklea. There was a klunky middle name in there, too. She had way too much style for that!
al_zorra: (Default)
[personal profile] al_zorra
      . . . . In 18th century England and Europe, with the technological innovations in what was still the rather new-fangled printing press technology books became available commercially to anyone who could afford them. 




Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, self-taught scholar and poet of New Spain (Mexico).


No longer was reading for pleasure, inspiration or information limited to  academics and churchmen with access to archives and libraries, or exceedingly wealthy individuals who could patronize poets, scholars and historians, and buy expensive hand-written manuscripts and the finely crafted tomes.

Though the price remained out of reach for poor people, the rapidly expanding middle-class could easily afford books. Even those who served the middle-classes were able to acquire reading materials for fun and instruction.

Still, candles remained expensive, and so did fuel for fires.  Many people's vision was too poor to read for themselves in such dim light -- and it would be only at night they could find an hour for themselves.  So it was the most natural thing in the world that along with the flood of commercial reading materials came the practice of reading aloud in groups.




Abigail Williams has presented us with a lively account of the vastly popular activity of reading aloud in The Social Life of Books.  

Williams, who teaches at Oxford University, explains that from the vantage of our own age, saturated as it is with entertainment and information, “it is hard to imagine the excitement felt by previous readers at the possibility of gaining access to a new book.” 
.... In the pages of his magazine, the Spectator, Joseph Addison commanded that culture come “out of Closets and Libraries, Schools and Colleges, to dwell in Clubs and Assemblies, at Tea-Tables, and in Coffee-Houses,” and it did. 

Review of The Social Life of Books here

She explains how reading became something of a “spectator sport.” Of course, as with any type of performance, one had to be properly prepared, and this led to a surge of instructional manuals, further fueling what Williams designates “the great age of elocution,” in which Britons of all backgrounds were gripped with “a near obsession with learning to read out loud.” Tradesmen formed what were rather memorably known as “spouting clubs” for aspiring public speakers, relying on such handbooks as “The New Spouter’s Companion” and “The Sentimental Spouter.” Women, who very often found themselves omitted from public performances, quickly took to them in the home, entertaining friends and family with tales and poems while they knitted or otherwise busied themselves around the hearth.



One of the reasons this reader particular enjoyed Abigail Williams study of books as a popular social activity is because it brought back vividly my first ideas of reading aloud, entertainment, instruction and novels went together naturally.  It was an illustration, of a servant girl by the kitchen fire, reading aloud to the rest of the household staff, the latest installment of Samuel Richardson's Pamela: Or Virtue Rewarded.




In the Book of Knowledge's history of literature section, it was carefully explained to the young reader how important reading and novels were in instructing the poorer, less educated classes in morality and social behavior.  Pamela was the paragon of virtue that all young women should model themselves on.  The most important lesson of all that Pamela taught poor young girls who served in more prosperous homes that at all costs she must preserve her chastity from the household men who all would set siege to corrupt her from the paths of virtue.  But if she followed Pamela's example she would not only preserve her all important good reputation -- she may well marry the son of the house and become the lady of the house, no longer a servant.

I have looked and looked in vain for an 18th century illustration that shows a young servant girl reading aloud by kitchen fire light to her gathered sister - fellow servants, but have not. It must have been an illustration created for this section of The Book of Knowledge.

It seems that in the 18th century when servants congregated together below stairs out of the view of their employers did nothing that interested the popular press illustrator other than drinking and generally roistering.  Which reveals even more about the popularity among servants for reading aloud together 'improving' literature.


Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 08:10 am
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[personal profile] stevenpiziks
When I was a kid, my parents firmly believed that you had to wait an hour after a meal before you could go swimming.  Swimming during that hour after eating would, at best, give you cramps (though these cramps were never specified--stomach cramps? leg cramps? menstrual cramps?), and at worst, you would somehow DIE (presumably because the cramps would make you double up and you'd drown).

This drove me and my siblings crazy.  Mostly it was that it never made the slightest bit of sense.  Every time we went to the beach, we'd eat lunch, and my mother--or grandmother--would say, "You have to wait an hour before swimming!  So go play." 

"Play what?" we'd demand.

"Go play on that playground over there," she'd say.  "Or play hide and seek.  Or tag.  Or whatever else you want.  But go play."

In other words, we could use all the muscles we used during swimming AS LONG AS WE WERE ON LAND??  How was it that running and jumping on land wouldn't kill us, but swimming would?  How did our cells know we were submerged?  "Hey Fred!  The body's underwater!  Cramp time!"  What the hell?

And why an hour?  So at 59 minutes and 59 seconds, we'd die if we put a toe into the water, but one second later, we were safe?  What?

On top of it all, my mother was a NURSE, and should have known better.

No, swimming after you eat isn't harmful in any way.

We also had this little rhyme: "Step on a crack, and you'll break your mother's back!"  It meant if you stepped on a crack in the sidewalk, your mother would die, so you had to watch where you were going.  A variant of this was "the devil's back," so you were supposed to step on as many as possible.  No one I know seriously believed either one, though--it was just a silly chant and an excuse to dance around on the sidewalk--so I don't know if this counted as a superstition.

The Mid-Atlantic states also have a superstition that says if you eat dessert after a meal of seafood, you'll DIE.  Literally keel over and die.  The sole exception to this rule is a dessert of lemon custard pie with a saltine crust.  Many people believe this superstition to this day, apparently.  This is another that falls apart if you look at it closely.  What does "dessert" mean?  Anything sweet?  Does yogurt count?  A soda?  How long after supper?  Midnight?  Not until dawn?  What if you have an early seafood supper and get hungry around 8:00 and snack on a pudding cup?  Will you die?  Seriously, people.

What superstitions did you grow up with?

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