rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-05-27 12:22 pm

FMK # 2: Gothics!

How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. Kill is actually "sudden death" - I read a couple paragraphs or pages, then decide to donate or reshelf (or read) based on that. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them. Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments.

Italics taken from the blurbs. Gothics have the best blurbs.

Poll #18418 FMK # 2: Houses Are Terrifying
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 43

Castle Barebane, by Joan Aiken. A series of lurid murders... a roofless ruin with crumbling battlements... nephew and niece callously abandoned in a slum... a man of mysterious origins and enigmatic habits... dark emanations from London's underworld... Mungo, an old sailor...

View Answers

21 (50.0%)

14 (33.3%)

7 (16.7%)

The Five-Minute Marriage, by Joan Aiken. An imposter has claimed her inheritance... a counterfeit marriage to the principle heir, her cousin... family rivalries festering for generations... a shocking episode of Cartaret family history will be repeated.

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24 (60.0%)

8 (20.0%)

8 (20.0%)

The Weeping Ash, by Joan Aiken. Sixteen-year-old Fanny Paget, newly married to the odious Captain Paget... in northern India, Scylla and Calormen Paget, twin cousins of the hateful Captain, have begun a seemingly impossible flight for their lives, pursued by a vengeful maharaja... elephant, camel, horse, raft... The writer has used her own two-hundred-year-old house in Sussex, England for the setting.

View Answers

15 (34.9%)

14 (32.6%)

14 (32.6%)

Winterwood, by Dorothy Eden. The moldering elegance of a decaying Venetian palazzo... pursued by memories of the scandalous trial that rocked London society... their daughter, Flora, crippled by a tragic accident... Charlotte's evil scheming... a series of letters in the deceased Lady Tameson's hand

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21 (55.3%)

3 (7.9%)

14 (36.8%)

The Place of Sapphires, by Florence Engel Randall. A demon-haunted house... two beautiful young sisters... the pain of a recent tragedy... a sinister and hateful force from the past... by the author of Hedgerow.

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19 (48.7%)

7 (17.9%)

13 (33.3%)

Shadow of the Past, by Daoma Winston. An unseen presence... fled to Devil's Dunes... strange "accidents..." it seemed insane... the threads of the mysterious, menacing net cast over her life... What invisible hand threatened destruction?

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13 (36.1%)

2 (5.6%)

21 (58.3%)

rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-05-27 11:53 am

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, by Penelope Lively

The winner of FMK # 1! Alas, I did not fall madly in love with it, but I did enjoy it. FMK is definitely off to a good start, because God knows how long that book has languished unread on my shelves. I'm pretty sure at least five years and possibly ten. But I'm very glad I finally got to it.

Twelve-year-old Lucy returns to the small English village of Hagworthy, which she hasn’t visited since she was seven. There she stays with her aunt, reconnects with some childhood friends and finds that both she and they have changed, and looks on in growing alarm as the well-meaning but ignorant new vicar resurrects the ancient tradition of the Horn Dance, which is connected to the Wild Hunt.

The premise plus the opening sentences probably tell you everything you need to know about the book:

The train had stopped in a cutting, so steep that Lucy, staring through the window, could see the grassy slopes beyond captured in intense detail only a yard or two away: flowers, insects, patches of vivid red earth. She became intimate with this miniature landscape, alone with it in a sudden silence, and then the train jolted, oozed steam from somewhere beneath, and moved on between shoulders of Somerset hillside.

This is one of my favorite genres which sadly does not seem to exist any more, the subset of British children’s fantasy, usually set in small towns or villages, which focuses on atmosphere, beautiful prose, and capturing delicate moments in time. Character is secondary, plot is tertiary, and there may be very little action (though some have a lot); the magical aspects are often connected to folklore or ancient traditions, and may be subtle or questionable until the end.

You can see all those elements in those two sentences I quoted; the entire subgenre consists of inviting the reader to become intimate with minature landscapes.

This is obviously subjective and debatable, but I think of Alan Garner, Susan Cooper (especially Greenwitch), and Robert Westall as writers with books in this subgenre, but not Diana Wynne Jones. The settings are the sort parodied in Cold Comfort Farm. Hagworthy is full of darkly muttering villagers who kept making me think, “Beware, Robert Poste’s child!”

In The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, Lucy’s parents are divorced, and her mother is now living in another country with a baby brother Lucy has never met. This is mentioned maybe two or three times, very briefly, which is interesting because so many books would make a much bigger deal of it. Lucy returns to Hagworthy for a vacation with her aunt, a botanist.

Of her childhood friends, the two girls have become horse-mad and have nothing in common with Lucy. The boy, Kester, is now a moody misfit teenager, and Lucy, who is also a bit of a moody misfit, becomes friends with him all over again. They wander around the countryside, fossil-hunting and stag-watching, periodically getting in fights over Kester’s refusal to discuss the thing hanging over the story, which is the new vicar’s revival of the Horn Dance to fundraise at a fete. This is very obviously going to awaken the Wild Hunt, and Kester has clearly been mystically targeted as its victim. Though there is a ton of dark muttering about what a bad idea this is, no one does anything about this until nearly the end, when Lucy finally makes first a misfired attempt to stop the Horn Dance, then a successful one to save Kester.

The atmosphere and prose is lovely, and if you like that sort of thing, you will like this book. Even for a book that isn’t really about the plot, the plot had problems. One was the total failure of any adult to even try to do anything sensible ever, for absolutely no reason, until Lucy finally manages to ask the right person the right question. This could have been explained as some magical thing preventing them from acting, but it wasn’t.

The other problem I had was that nothing unpredictable ever happens. Everyone is exactly what they seem: the blacksmith has mystical knowledge, the vicar is an innocent in over his head, the horse-mad girls have nothing in their heads but horses, and so forth. I kept expecting something to be slightly less obvious—for the vicar to know exactly what he’s doing and have a nefarious purpose, for the horse-mad girls to not be as dumb as they seem or to have their horsey skills play a role in saving Kester, for Lucy’s aunt to know more about magic than the blacksmith, etc—but no.

I looked up Penelope Lively. It looks like her famous book is Ghost of Thomas Kempe, which I think I also own.

There’s an album of music based on the book which you can listen to online. It’s by the Heartwood Institute, and is instrumental and atmospheric.

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-05-26 01:08 pm

Welcome to Books: FMK

[personal profile] melannen has been culling her bookshelves by playing "Fuck Marry Kill" via poll. In the interests of doing the same, and also getting back to posting more book reviews, I have decided to join her. (I am doing "fling" rather than "fuck" just because my posts get transferred to Goodreads and I don't want EVERY post of mine on there littered with fucks.)

How to play: Fling means I spend a single night of passion (or possibly passionate hatred) with the book, and write a review of it, or however much of it I managed to read. Marry means the book goes back on my shelves, to wait for me to get around to it. (That could be a very long time.) Kill means I should donate it without attempting to read it. You don't have to have read or previously heard of the books to vote on them.

Please feel free to explain your reasoning for your votes in comments. For this particular poll, I have never read anything by any of the authors (or if I did, I don't remember it) and except for Hoover and Lively, have never even heard of the authors other than that at some point I apparently thought their book sounded interesting enough to acquire.

Poll #18415 FMK: Vintage YA/children's SFF
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 50

The Spring on the Mountain, by Judy Allen. Three kids have magical, possibly Arthurian adventures on a week in the country.

View Answers

19 (48.7%)

10 (25.6%)

10 (25.6%)

The Lost Star, by H. M. Hoover. A girl who lives on another planet hears an underground cry for help (and finds chubby gray cat centaurs if the cover is accurate)

View Answers

22 (53.7%)

13 (31.7%)

6 (14.6%)

The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy, by Penelope Lively. Lucy visits her aunt in Hagworthy and is embroiled in the ancient Horn Dance and Wild Hunt.

View Answers

27 (61.4%)

6 (13.6%)

11 (25.0%)

Carabas, by Sophie Masson. Looks like a medieval setting. A shapeshifting girl gets accused of being a witch and runs off with the miller's son.

View Answers

19 (46.3%)

12 (29.3%)

10 (24.4%)

Of Two Minds, by Carol Mates and Perry Nodelman. Princess Lenora can makes what she imagines real; Prince Coren can read minds, but everyone can read his mind. (Ouch!)

View Answers

22 (52.4%)

11 (26.2%)

9 (21.4%)

rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2017-05-16 09:48 am

Rebel is out!

Rebel, book three of the Change series, is out now. It's a hopeful post-apocalyptic YA series co-written with Sherwood Smith.

If you haven't read any of the series, book three is not the place to start; book one, Stranger, is. If you have read the first two, I hope you enjoy this one.

Amazon ebook: Rebel (The Change Book 3)

Trade paperback: Rebel

Ebook at Book View Cafe, in all formats: Rebel

Questions or comments welcome, but please use rot13.com for any Rebel spoilers.
rachelmanija: (Default)
2017-05-12 01:20 pm
Entry tags:

Vegas, baby!

Photos from Vegas. Enjoy (or be appalled) vicariously!
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-05-08 11:49 am

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me, by Bill Hayes

An absolutely lovely memoir by Oliver Sacks' boyfriend, a love story about Sacks and New York City: each equal objects of Hayes' affections.

Hayes, a writer and photographer, moves to New York City after the unexpected death of his partner. A lifelong insomniac, he wanders the city by day and night, sometimes striking up conversations with New Yorkers and asking if he can take their picture, sometimes simply observing. As a lover of cities and being a stranger in a new city, I found this to be one of the very best books I've read for capturing this state of mind. It also made me really miss New York, which I have not visited in many years.

The other part of the book is Hayes' account of how he met Oliver Sacks (when Sacks wrote him a fan letter), how they fell in love, how they stayed in love, and how Sacks died. It's heartbreaking but a lot more about life and love than it is about death. Love stories, even true ones, often feel generic: the emotions are real but not individual. This one makes both Sacks and Hayes and the particulars of their relationship come to life. Oliver Sacks is exactly as charmingly odd in love as one might expect from reading his books; Bill Hayes is a very different type of person (and an extremely different type of writer) but they share a wholehearted delight in observation, in other people's perceptions and experiences, and in the small details of life that make it an endless source of fascination and joy.

I recommend getting this book in hardcover. It's a very beautiful physical object, with the dustcover cut away to show snippets of the image below, as if peering through apartment windows. It also contains photographs which may not show up well in e-book.

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

Thanks to Rydra Wong for the rec!
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
2017-05-06 02:12 pm

Guess Who's Back?

Spoiler: For the first time in two years, I have good news!

I hesitated over how to write this, partly out of superstition (if I say I’m better, I will immediately relapse) and partly because I wasn’t sure how many details to give (no matter how much I say I don’t want advice, if I give any details whatsoever, I get advice).

So please: NO ADVICE. If you find yourself writing, “I know you said you don’t want advice, but I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t advise you to…” delete the goddamn message. I have gotten hundreds of them, and 100% are 100% useless. Unless I’ve asked you for your advice, I DON’T WANT ADVICE.

As some of you know, since July 2015 I’ve had a horrific mystery illness that made it extremely difficult and often impossible to work, have fun, socialize, enjoy life, or do any normal life activities. I lost more than a quarter of my bodyweight, could barely leave my apartment, and looked like I’d just gotten out of a POW camp. I started out thinking it would be cured at any moment, then thinking that it was permanent but treatable. By the end of the year I thought I was probably going to die. Then I hoped I was going to die.

I am not giving details to avoid advice, but I will say that while the illness was legitimately mysterious, it was not bizarre in any way. There was nothing about it that should have provoked the reaction it did from doctors, which was to call me a liar, say it was all in my head, and accuse me of being a drug addict. I don’t mean that they implied those things. They outright stated them. Here are some verbatim things doctors told me:

“You’re a liar and I want nothing to do with you.”

“You’re just looking for drugs.”

“There’s nothing I can do for you. See a psychiatrist.” [I got this and the variations below at least 30 times.]

“This is caused by anxiety.”

“This is caused by stress.”

“See a therapist.” [I was already seeing a therapist.]

“Your story doesn’t add up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You’re not underweight. Your BMI is normal.” [I got this multiple times when I said that I’d lost over a quarter of my body weight. This shows the problem with using the BMI as if it's some kind of Word of God, with zero reference to the individual patient. In my case, I am on the muscular side and so I could lose that much and still squeak into a "normal" range if you don't consider any fucking context whatsoever.]

“My diagnosis is based on the fact that you’re female and in your forties, and this illness is common in people in that demographic.” [I got this at least three times, from doctors who presented a diagnosis after I’d said about two sentences about my symptoms, in response to me asking what the diagnosis was based on. You cannot, in fact, diagnose based solely on demographics.]

“No, I’m not going to treat you. No one can treat you without a diagnosis. There’s an 80% chance you’ll never be diagnosed in your lifetime.”

“Maybe you thought you were happy, but you were in denial of some deep emotional issues.” [This was a surgeon who had met me for the first time five minutes ago. Five minutes later, he told me that he was involved in a love triangle and advised me to study the Kabbalah with Madonna’s rabbi. He was one of the more amusing of the terrible doctors I encountered, but was otherwise typical in his unprofessionalism and total lack of helpfulness.]

“There’s nothing wrong with you other than that you’re worrying about being sick. See a psychiatrist.”

I did see a psychiatrist. He said that anyone in my situation would be anxious and depressed, and that it would be abnormal if I wasn’t, and advised me to see a good diagnostician. (They do not appear to exist in the US.)

In short, hysteria is alive and well as a diagnosis in modern America. I had both good insurance and plenty of savings to spend on medical expenses, and my medical “care” was still absolutely abysmal. I am not at all surprised by America’s wretched statistics on health. My only surprise is that I thought that was due to poverty, lack of good medical care for poor and uninsured or underinsured people, and racism. It turns out that it is additionally caused by sexism and the prevalence of absolutely terrible doctors.

I spent 50% of my total income – out of pocket – on medical expenses last year. Nearly all of it was completely useless, and two-thirds was literally me paying to be verbally and emotionally abused.

In the meantime, I was deluged with useless, obnoxious advice from people who did want to help me, but were unwilling to do what I told them would be helpful (that would be anything but giving me medical advice.) I got advised to jump on a trampoline, pray to gods I don’t believe in, take about a billion different supplements, eat nothing but bone broth, not eat anything heated in a microwave, go on every bizarre diet in existence, (all of this when they knew I was drastically underweight), and see a quack doctor in Mexico who treats AIDS by shoving magnets up your ass. (Fucking magnets, how do they work? Cancer in its malignant form is caused by the infection with the leprosy bacteria. By placing magnets that eliminate the pathogens, Dr. Goiz claims that cancers should resolve by themselves.) I am not making any of this up.

However, I also had people who were actually helpful. This is a long story which I may tell at some point, but with a little help from my friends—okay, a lot of help—I travelled to Bulgaria where I stayed with Egelantier and had tests and surgery performed, gave the results to several other friends who did research for me, obtained medication in shall we say various ways, and had another friend impersonate my fiancee. (Yes. There was fake dating.)

As a result, I am now feeling much better, am working and eating and exercising again, and most importantly, am actually enjoying life again. Photo proof!

The price of this is a medication which costs $100/week and is not covered by insurance. However, since I can now write again and so make money again, I should be able to keep taking it indefinitely. Mildred of Midgard found it by researching medical journals—only part of literally hundreds of hours of research she did on my behalf—and probably deserves another doctorate for it. I don't want to give the actual probable diagnosis because of the advice issue, so I'll just say that it's a physical, non-psychological, non-psychosomatic illness which was not caused or affected by any psychological issue whatsoever.

To everyone who helped me, whether in those concrete ways or just by respecting what I said about what would and would not be helpful, I am forever grateful.

Meanwhile, since I had no fun for the last two years and feel like I need a year-long vacation, I am going to Las Vegas this weekend! I haven’t gone in over ten years, but am certain that I will have much-needed fun and relaxation.

Once again: NO ADVICE. Unless it’s advice on what I should do in Las Vegas or do for fun in general. I don’t have any restrictions on diet or activities. Any unasked-for diet advice will be killed with fire. That’s “diet” as in “restrictive and/or supposedly healthy diet.” Advice on delicious things I ought to eat for enjoyment would be welcome.

Maybe later I will come up with something deep to say about the whole experience. Mostly I’m extremely angry at the medical system, individual doctors, and the toxic social beliefs which made an incredibly awful experience even worse by blaming me.

But for now, all I really have to say is that I didn’t think I’d live another year (and definitely hoped I wouldn’t), and now I’m hiking and seeing plays and going to Vegas.

So have a poem instead. It’s “The Moment,” by Patricia Hampl.

Standing by the parking-ramp elevator
a week ago, sunk, stupid with sadness.
Black slush puddled on the cement floor,
the place painted a killer-pastel
as in an asylum.
A numeral 1, big as a person,
was stenciled on the cinderblock:
Remember your level.
The toneless bell sounded:
Doors opened, nobody inside.
Then, who knows why, a rod of light
at the base of my skull flashed
to every outpost of my far-flung body—
I’ve got my life back.
It was nothing, just the present moment
occurring for the first time in months.
My head translated light,
my eyes spiked with tears.
The awful green walls, I could have stroked them.
The dirt, the moving cube I stepped into—
it was all beautiful,
everything that took me up
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
2017-05-01 11:19 am

Not throwing away my shot

I waited in line for nine hours yesterday, starting at 6:00 AM, and emerged triumphantly with Hamilton tickets... for my birthday, no less. (October 29.) I hadn't intended that, but couldn't resist when I finally got to the end of the line and saw that it was one of the available dates.

It was a surprisingly non-annoying experience. I was luckily standing with a very cool person, with whom I ended up exchanging phone numbers, a former aerialist who shared my taste for youtube videos of cute animals. We spent some time screening videos of sugar gliders, bats, hedgehogs, etc, until we realized that we were going to be in line for longer than we had thought and had to save our batteries, as we were also trying to get tickets online in case they ran out by the time we got to the head of the line.

While in line, I read Red Havoc Rebel (Red Havoc Panthers Book 2), a paranormal romance by T. S. Joyce (enjoyable but would recommend her hilariously titled and covered but actually quite good Lumberjack Werebear (Saw Bears Series Book 1) over it) and Gail Calwell's New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir (well-written and interesting memoir about having a hip replacement after having polio as a child, but I'd recommend her outstanding first memoir, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, about her friendship with another writer, Caroline Knapp, over it). And then my Kindle ran out of battery and that was it for reading. (I did have a backup paper book, The Other Ones by Jean Thesman, about psychic kids, but went back to chatting in line after a chapter or so.)

It soon got very hot (90 degrees) and they moved the line inside the theatre, where they had air conditioning and were playing the soundtrack. When we got inside it was at "The Election of 1800," and by the time we left the audible area it had played all the way through, stopped for a while, then begun again by popular request and was on "Guns and Ships."

I also chatted for a while with a guy who was in line for his eleven-year-old daughter. Who knows, but that might be an experience she remembers fondly for the rest of her life. I told him how I'd somewhat randomly decided to go on a school field trip to see Shakespeare at Ashland, Oregon, and it changed my life. I went in intending to be a biology major and become a veterinarian, and I left intending to be a theatre major. I've never regretted it.

I then went to Thai Town and grabbed take-out Thai food for me and Sherwood (pad se-ew (stir-fried rice noodles with dark soy, egg, and greens), rice with ground pork and dried olives, and greens with crispy pork), and for just me, sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mango and Corvette-flavored cupcakes (rice flour cupcakes in three somewhat mysterious floral flavors, the color of a pink Corvette (probably rose), a green leaf (probably pandan) and yellow (God knows.) Then Sherwood and I saw Baahubali 2, which was amazing and epic and amazingly epic. I highly recommend it. Here's her review and here's the trailer.

Me in line, 6:00 AM.
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
2017-04-20 12:17 pm

Department of No Shit Department

The opening paragraphs of the introduction by a psychologist with an alphabet soup of credentials, for Survivors.

This is a book about survivors, that is to say, those who continue to live when others have died. Looked at from one point of view this is very positive, in the sense that anyone who has a brush with death is lucky to survive. However, looked at from another point of view it is profoundly negative, in that one need not have had a brush with tragedy anyway.

It reminds me of the immortal Suicide by Cop: Committing Suicide by Provoking Police to Shoot You.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-04-17 11:47 am

The Disaster Artist, by Greg Sestero

An account of the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic terrible movie, The Room, by the leading actor, who was also Tommy’s roommate, Tommy’s friend, and one of Tommy’s five credited assistants on The Room, two of whom never appeared on the set and one of whom was dead.

You can get a sense of The Room by watching this thirteen second clip: the unfathomable choice to shoot on unconvincing green screen in a parking lot rather than use the actual roof or studio they had available, Wiseau’s peculiar costume (chosen by himself) and even more peculiar line delivery (“I did not hit her, I did nawwwt! Oh hai Mark”), and most peculiar of all, Wiseau’s acting, which goes beyond mere woodenness to give the impression of an alien or robot attempting to imitate one of those strange “human” creatures.

Those thirteen seconds, Sestero tells us, took three hours to shoot due to Wiseau’s inability to walk, talk, hit his mark, or emerge from the Port-A-Potty-like outhouse without whacking his head.

The Disaster Artist is both an account of the making of a world-class bad movie and a character study of the world-class oddball who created it:

Even today, a decade later, I still can’t unsee Tommy’s outfit: nighttime sunglasses, a dark blazer as loose and baggy as rain gear, sand-colored cargo pants with pockets filled to capacity (was he smuggling potatoes?), a white tank top, clunky Frankenstein combat boots, and two belts. Yes, two belts. The first belt was at home in its loops; the second draped down in back to cup Tommy’s backside, which was, he always claimed, the point: “It keeps my ass up. Plus it feels good.”

Sestero may be a decent actor when not directed by Tommy Wiseau, but based on his lack of other credits, I suspect he’s a much better writer. His prose is a pleasure to read, and his depiction of the doom-laden hilarity of the making of a truly terrible movie is dead-on.

Tommy Wiseau is a strange, mysterious, lonely person who won’t say where he came from or how old he is, and has apparently unlimited funds. He connects with Sestero in a relationship that starts off casual and ends up taking over his life.

Sestero is a struggling actor who is inspired by Wiseau’s ability to be totally himself (he has pens printed with “Wiseau’s Planet,” which he may have beamed down from; that would explain a lot); Wiseau seems to be attempting to figure out human interactions by studying the one person willing to be his friend, with a side of spooky fixation a la The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s all fun and games until Sestero is lying awake and seething at 4:00 AM while Wiseau is hanging upside down like a bat from the pull-up bar he installed on the door to Sestero’s room.

I tried to imagine Tommy's mind from the inside out. I saw burning forests, blind alleys, volcanoes in the desert, city streets that plunged into the ocean, barricades everywhere, and all of it lit in the deep-cherry light of emergency.

The book is dead-on about the way you can slip into a friendship with someone you like at first, who then reveals more and more clingy weirdness until you suddenly wake up wondering how the hell you put up with it for so long and run for the hills. Once Sestero is no longer rooming with Wiseau, he’s more able to appreciate Wiseau’s peculiar brand of charm. Which does exist, but is best enjoyed from a distance.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made (currently $1.99 at Amazon).
rachelmanija: (Default)
2017-04-13 04:12 pm

The Good Place

The Good Place is a half-hour sitcom/serial; it doesn’t have standalone episodes but tells a single continuous story in thirteen episodes. I have no idea if this is now a common format for sitcoms, because I almost always dislike the genre and so don’t usually watch it. It’s not because of humiliation humor, it’s because I almost never find them funny. I also dislike the weird stagy way they deliver dialogue. Also, I generally dislike stories set in the afterlife.

The Good Place is a sitcom with that annoying stagy way of speaking, set in the afterlife. And yet I liked it a lot.

I found it very funny, with likable characters that I got invested in and a compelling storyline. It also did some things with the writing that I have never seen done before in exactly that way. Unfortunately, it’s hugely spoilery what they are, and the show is definitely best enjoyed unspoiled. Every single episode concludes with some kind of twist or revelation or cliffhanger, so even discussing what happens after episode one will spoil some of the enjoyment of episode two. So I will just explain the premise and a little bit of what I enjoyed about it, and put the rest of the entry behind a cut.

Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and wakes up in the Good Place, a candy-colored Heaven bearing a suspicious resemblance to American suburbia. She’s immediately greeted by Michael (Ted Danson), the angel who designed the Good Place. She has a perfect house made specially for her, and her very own soul mate with whom she can be together forever.

There’s just one problem: she’s the wrong Eleanor Shellstrop. Due to some mix-up, Michael thinks she was a do-gooder who saved starving children in refugee camps. In fact, she’s a selfish, shallow person whose life of misdeeds is shown in hilarious flashbacks. But she’s not stupid, and she definitely doesn’t want to be sent to the Bad Place. So after she’s shown to the house designed for the right Eleanor Shellstrop (decorated with giant paintings of terrifying clowns, because that Eleanor Shellstrop loved clowns), she confides in her assigned soul mate, Chidi, a sweet ethics professor. Can he teach her to be good before she gets found out, so she’ll actually deserve to stay in the Good Place?

The acting is across-the-board stellar, but I especially enjoyed Ted Danson doing a world-class job of a role that’s always fun, the inhuman being who likes but doesn’t really get humans, and Kristen Bell walking the tightrope of making Eleanor likable but not nice.

You can watch the entire thing on the NBC website.

Don’t read past the cut unless you want to be spoiled for literally everything. Read more... )
rachelmanija: (Default)
2017-04-02 10:44 am

TV watching poll

After not watching much TV for two years, I actually caught up on a couple shows. However, all are best left unspoiled, in some cases for everything but the premise.

Which shows would you like me to make spoilery discussion posts on? Feel free to talk about or rec/anti-rec them in comments to this post, but only in a non-spoilery manner.

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 76

Which TV show would you like me to post on?

View Answers

18 (23.7%)

The Good Place
34 (44.7%)

Better Call Saul (Season one)
7 (9.2%)

14 (18.4%)

3 (3.9%)

rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
2017-03-30 11:48 am

The Room Where It Happened

A couple nights ago I attended a meeting of the city council on whether to declare my city, Culver City, a sanctuary city. It was already acting as one, but the measure made it actual law.

Culver City is its own city within LA county, with its own police force; I live on the dividing line, which means that if I observe a crime being committed on my side of the street I call Culver City police, but if it's across the street it's a matter for LAPD. Culver City police is the police force I volunteer with. It practices neighborhood policing, in which police are assigned to a specific neighborhood for years and sometimes permanently, so they can get to know who lives there and what's normal and what isn't. They also believe in de-escalating situations rather than charging in with guns blazing, and I have seen this in action. No organization is perfect... but they're really good.

One of my neighbors emailed me to inform me of the sanctuary city vote, and so I showed up. I live in a fourplex, and found at the meeting that all four apartments in my building had at least one representative at the meeting: a 100% building turn-out! I'm in the first row in the black jacket. The guy on my right is my downstairs neighbor.

It was my first city council meeting. There was a huge turn-out consisting of hundreds of Culver City residents and eight or ten non-resident paid Trump agitators. The Trump agitators were next to me, against the wall.

Because of the huge turn-out, the council had other matters go first. I was charmed by the multiple Farmer's Market vendors who spoke to urge the council to re-hire a guy named Emanuel who had been running the market for nine years, all eloquently praising him, often mentioning "despite his youth." When they were done, Emanuel himself spoke. He mentioned being 29, so he started when he was 20! Impressive. He was voted in. I was also intrigued by the several vendors who made references to the previous manager leaving under what were apparently mysterious circumstances ("Emanuel took over after [I forget his name] left... for whatever reason," and "Since [Whover] went... wherever he went," etc).

Then we moved on to the main matter. 79 people spoke, at two minutes each. All but one of the actual Culver City residents were in favor of the sanctuary city resolution, which is pretty amazingly unified. It was cool to hear everyone's stories - immigrants, descendants of Holocaust survivors, lawyers making lawyerly suggestions, teenagers, pastors, veterans, and a hilarious number of parents of exactly two children, many of them attending the same high school. (Culver City has the fourth most diverse school population in America - 25% African-American, Asian American, Latino/a, and White.)

The Trump agitators loudly booed and cat-called Every. Single. Speaker. This despite the council members repeatedly telling them not to. A high school student from an immigrant family made a very moving speech, and started crying when he spoke about his family's struggles; the Trump agitators loudly mocked him. At that, the entire audience got up and gave the student a standing ovation.

The agitators' speeches were clearly meant for some audience other than their actual one; Trumpers on youtube, I think. They threatened and insulted the council members and audience, yelled, "Sessions is coming for you!" invoked strange Biblical conspiracy theories, and said, "They're gonna rape your women!" and "They're gonna kill you all!" Culver City is extremely liberal and this did not go over well.

The meeting started at 7:00 PM, and ended at a quarter to 1:00 AM. By around 11:00, the heckling and booing was getting pretty old. A Muslim speaker who was calling for peace and brotherhood got called a murderer and terrorist. At that point, I snapped, "SHUT UP!" and a council member had the loudest yeller evicted. When he was allowed back in about half an hour later, he brandished and set off a taser. He was then escorted out by the cops and not allowed back in.

The remaining agitators got bored and left before the actual vote. The council members spent about an hour debating the actual provisions of the measure, with input from the chief of police and the city attorney. In the end, the measure passed 3-1 (the dissenter also voted for sanctuary, but as a symbolic measure only without specific provisions), with one provision stricken (providing funds for immigrants' legal defense) and a few others reworded. Victory!

The whole thing got me interested in city politics, which I haven't been involved in previously in that sense. It was also nice to do something as a part of my community, after mostly living under a rock for the last two years.
rachelmanija: (Default)
2017-03-14 10:54 am

AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the Change series! (Spoilery post)

In honor of the upcoming release of Rebel (Book 3).

Ask me anything about the series, the characters, the world, etc. Sherwood will be popping in too!

This post allows spoilers for both Stranger and Hostage.

Ask questions here in this post!
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
2017-03-14 10:49 am

AMA (Ask Me Anything) about the Change series! (Non-spoilery post)

In honor of the upcoming release of Rebel (Book 3).

Ask me anything about the series, the characters, the world, etc. Sherwood will be popping in too!

This post allows spoilers for Stranger but not Hostage. There is a spoilery post which allows spoilers for both books that are out now.

Ask questions here in this post!
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2017-03-13 02:03 pm

Rebel (Book 3 of the Change series) comes out May 16!

Welcome back to Las Anclas, a frontier town in the post-apocalyptic Wild West. In this perilous landscape, a schoolboy can create earthquakes, poisonous cloud vipers flock in the desert skies, and the beaches are stalked by giant mind-controlling lobsters.

The tyrant king Voske has been defeated, but all is not peaceful in Las Anclas. Ross's past comes back to haunt him, Jennie struggles with her new career, Mia faces her fears, Felicite resorts to desperate measures to keep her secrets, Kerry wonders if Las Anclas has really seen the last of her father, and shy Becky Callahan may hold the key to a dangerous mystery.

In Rebel, long-held secrets of past and present are revealed, family ties can strangle as well as sustain, and the greatest peril threatening Las Anclas comes from inside its walls.

Rebel (The Change # 3)

If you would like to review it, let me know and I'll send you an advance review copy (ebook only).

The LJ version has the cover image.
rachelmanija: (Default)
2017-02-22 12:26 pm

Narnia fanfic

For the Chocolate Box exchange, which focuses on romantic or friendship pairings, I wrote The Gift for [personal profile] aurilly's request for Emeth/Tirian from The Last Battle. If you don't remember him, Emeth was the honorable young Calormene officer, who made a disproportionate impression in a very brief appearance, at least on those of us who like noble warriors.