Tuesday, February 21, 2017

PLEASE CONSIDER WATCHING THE 100


I meant to do this before the 4th season started, but oh well...


Post-apocalyptic media has had a field day lately, which I couldn't be happier about. Where else can you depict issues such as resource allocation, the nature of leadership, environmental devastation, the consequences of war, etc, AND have people in face paint fighting each other with kung fu and bizarre weapons?

When I found out we finally would have a straight, non-zombie post-apoc show (I tried The Tribe, but it was just too low-budget for me), I was was a little excited, but my expectations were low, since it was on the CW, the network to watch white teens get mopey about their crushes on (even their superheroes spend way to much time mooning). 

Parenthetical rant time:

When will TV creators of action/detective/fantasy/science fiction shows realize that less is more with romance? Especially when stakes are high - it just makes the characters seem to have really bad priorities. There's a reason why "Romantic Plot Tumor" is a trope. Just give us a little and we can use our own imaginations - look at the fans of X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tumblr is full of people shipping the hell out of The 100 characters based on a handful of small scenes, which is the way it should be - not the creators boring us with what starts to seem like fanfic of their own characters. 

Yes, there is love and sex on The 100, but these teens are spending too much time making hard decisions with no easy answers and trying to survive to do much mooning. Just give it a few episodes, as some of the younger actors aren't so good in the beginning and it just seems like a Lord of the Flies update. It gets interesting when the teens find out earth isn't as uninhabited as it might seem and what the consequences of that are. 

The 100 is also pretty non-stereotypical as far as depiction of race, gender and GLB characters. No show has more young women in leadership roles. And it's nice for us older people that, although mature characters are ultimately supporting the younger ones, they have their own complexities and are not just there to support or thwart the youth. 

Anyway, you can check out the first 3 seasons on Netflix.




Tuesday, January 31, 2017

JFRO'S 2016





Although a lot of sucky things happened in 2016, I'm going to focus on the good stuff.

Format once again ripped off shamelessly from the Librarian in Black:  

Books -- Swing Time, You, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Women Crime Writers: Four Suspense Novels of the 1940s, Frog Music

Comics -- Patience, The Flowers of Evil, Ooku

Movies -- Arrival, Dr. Strange, Green Room, The Death of "Superman Lives": What Happened, Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia, The Big Short, Crimson Peak, Deadpool, Amy, The Man From Nowhere

TV Shows -- Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Better Call Saul, Bojack Horseman, Mr. Robot, True Detective, Archer, The Americans, The 100, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Brooklyn 9-9, Broad City, The Expanse, RuPaul's Drag Race, Powers, Orange Is the New Black, unREAL, Billions, Penny Dreadful, The Walking Dead, Person of Interest, Orphan Black, The Path, The Knick, Veep, High Maintenance, The Magicians, Portlandia, Divorce, Insecure, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce

Albums --Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends: The Art of Murder, Various: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Flavor Crystals: The Shiver of the Flavor Crystals, Wo Fat: Midnight Cometh, Truckfighters: V, Scorpion Child: Acid Roulette, M83: Junk, Isaak: Sermonize, Droids Attack: Sci-Fi or Die, The Vaccines: English Graffiti, All Them Witches: Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, Beastmaker: Lusus Naturae, Windhand: Grief's Infernal Flower, The Sword: High Country, Ruby the Hatchet: Valley of the Snake, Royal Headache: High, Moonbow: Volto Del Demone, Hills: Frid, Fuzz: II, Baroness: Purple


Songs --Duo RAW: "Beat My Face", White Lies: "Death", RuPaul: "The Realness", Jidenna: "Long Live the Chief", Agnez Mo: "Boy Magnet", Bonnie McKee: "Bombastic", Charles Bradley: "Changes", The Oh Sees: "Poor Queen" 

Apps --Flickr, Artstudio, Tumblr, 8Tracks, Instant Buttons, Instacart, Door Dash, Yahoo! Video Guide, myTuner Pro, Lyrically, Amazon Prime Music, IFTTT

Devices --iMac, Apple TV 4, Freedompop iPhone, Universal Laser Systems laser engraver, Afinia 3-D printer, Cameo Silhouette, Brother Project Runway sewing machine

Events --Convergence, trip to San Francisco/Ukiah, Anime Detour, ToshoCon, Conan Neutron & The Secret Friends/Buildings at the Hexagon, Irvine Park photowalk, Ramsey After Dark: Victorian Secrets, William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time at SFMOMA, Musée Mécanique.

Items of clothing --Flower wrap dress, faux leather bomber jacket, gray hooded shirt, spats

Games --Plants Vs Zombies 2, Candy Crush: Soda, Tetris Blitz, Interface Zero, TimeZero, Sushi Go!, Tsuro, Feng Shui 2, Misspent Youth

Web sites --Great Cosplay, AV Club, TV Tropes, Paging Dr. Nerdlove, The Obelisk, Good Show Sir

Twitter Twerps ---@HeerJeet, @JosephScrimshaw, @SwiftOnSecurity, @loather, @LeVostreGC, @KyloR3n

YouTubers -- Screen Junkies, Afterbuzz TV, Diamanda Hagan, Vaginal Fantasy, Hey Qween, Kevin Smith, Adult Wednesday Addams, Willam Belli, MovieBob

Materials - Adhesive felt, LED strips

Boyfriend --In a surprise upset, JSeux wins!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

THE "AT LEAST HE'S HONEST" FALLACY



Whenever someone says about a person, "at least he's honest", that's very handy, because then you know right away that they're talking about a terrible person. Terrible people love to use "honesty" as an excuse to say horrible, nasty things right to your face. They imply thereby that everyone else would say it, but they're all just pretending not to be terrible (they don't explain why, if everyone is so terrible, why we all pretend not to be). Abusers love to make you feel that everyone is really horrible, when actually it's just them.

This is the mirror of the whole "hypocrisy is worse than anything else, even genocide" thing I discussed in a previous post.  It's all so adolescent. You catch your parents doing something less than great, and all of a sudden they are EVIL INCARNATE. It's time to grow up and differentiate between failing to live up to your ideals and outright evil actions. Let's try to do that in 2017, shall we?






Friday, September 16, 2016

I MADE YOU A POEM



Photograph by Dimitar Denev


I've been trying to write an essay about Generation X and popular culture since I saw School of Rock in 2003, but it always eluded me. Then in a fit of insomnia, it came to me as a poem for some strange reason (I'm an English major, but I'm very picky about poetry and don't like most of it). So here it is, enjoy. 


Song of the Aging Gen X-er


I'm old and I'm tired
Of defending what I like.
Once it was too odd
Now it's too popular,
Yet still weird somehow.
But why wouldn't I like it?
We put weird on the map.
We gave you the "graphic novel",
I'm not gonna see the movie version?
Once it was "Psychotronic" --
King Fu, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic.
Now they get awards.
And why ever not?

Some of us are mad.1
We had to work so hard to find it.
Scour second-hand stores, send away by mail.
Self-addressed envelopes.
Ask for a ride to the city.
"Is the new L & R in yet?"
They say, "Death to the Internet!"
But I don't want it that way.
Let the kid in the boonies
Find what makes her happy.
Let the boy on library Internet
Find his club of weirdos.

Some of us were sad 2
We only got a few years of pandering
Instead of two decades.
Then came the millennium.
Clean-cut teen pop, clean-cut teen soaps,
Clean-cut teen comedies.
We thought that the wholesome
Would last forever.

But guess what?
Twelve turns to thirteen
And cool big sis comes in,
Or that fun young uncle
Sends you a mix.
We fill the credits, live behind the scenes, make the taste.
We have the keys, baby,
To the shadow factory.

Maybe we didn't invent it,
But who does really?
As Mr. Sturgeon says, 3
Most of anything is crap.
It's all about keeping it going
(The good stuff).
We are a small cohort, but
What we lack in size,
We make up for in tenacity.
Just like those in the past who
Bought The Velvet Underground & Nico,
then started a band.
Just like those "90s kids" who
Will build on our bones.

Maybe you don't want anything
After your "golden age".
That's so sad.
Maybe you missed it the first time,
That's too bad.
Maybe you were born too late.
Oh well.
But's it still all there for you.



You're welcome.


Notes:

1. Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die" -Patton Oswalt.

2. "Sturgeon's Law" - TV Tropes.

3. "Generation Ex" - Eric Weisbard.




Friday, July 29, 2016

CONVERGENCE 2016 REPORT & CON TIPS

Convergence 2016

Once again, I had a great Convergence with J, as well as friends T, L, M, & B, even though I had to wear my unfashionable cam boot for tendinitis (J was great about bringing me food, and I commiserated with other Booted-Americans). It actually went pretty well with my Post-Apoc look (I added black mask makeup in tribute to both Furiosa and Lexa from The 100).

This year, J and I swore to avoid eating out too much, especially the overdone, overpriced horror that is TGIFriday's. We ate all our meals in the Con Suite, except for one trip to Burger King. I also avoided all news except for that trip, a lovely break from the agony of 2016 current events (RIP Prince). 

Thursday:

3:30 Crafty Geek Meetup. We hung out a bit and worked on geeky coloring pages. 

7:00 Sci Fi TV Year in Review. I'm always wanting to learn about good shows to watch. This was OK, they mostly talked about shows I already knew about, except one guy was weirdly obsessed with Galavant. I don't know, the idea of a medieval fantasy musical doesn't make my heart beat faster. I was interested in hearing about The Magicians, it sounds like "Harry Potter goes to an open-minded small-liberal-arts college", which is more up my alley. 

8:30 Fancy Bastard Pie Competition. A Guest of Honor demanded home-made pie in exchange for attending, so there was pie, and it was good. The banana pie that actually tasted like banana for once was my favorite. 

10:00 You Will Behave Yourself at My Table. Since we play RPGs, it seemed like a good idea to get tips on dealing with difficult players. It was a little dry, they could have had more juicy stories . J and I have some, oh yes we do...

Friday:

12:30 What's with the Airships? This was a panel on why people are fascinated by airships and why they appear in so much media. The people on the panel were mostly experts on the topic who knew their stuff, which isn't always the case. The conclusion was: people like them because they are cool, but they aren't really practical. However, many people, artists and scientists alike, read about them when young and fall in love with their look and the idea of gracefully floating in the air with windows wide open. This article has profiles of some of these people, including Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who invested half a millions dollars in them and sings about them on their latest album. 

2:00 Historical Fiction in RPGs. A good overview on sources creating an historical world in a role-playing game. As a librarian, I already knew about primary sources and "daily life" books, but there were some things I hadn't thought of, like legal cases, digitized maps, archaeological dig web sites,  war gaming books, and historical-reenactment web sites. Also, creating a mood with facsimile coins or other props, or with audio, can give players the feeling of being in the past.  

3:30 Wonder Woman: The Golden Age. An old-time-radio-show-style staged reading based on the first Wonder Woman comic. They didn't have to change anything to make it funny, because that shit was weird, which won't surprise anyone who read The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Check it out, it's a tale of bondage, female supremacy, polyamorous living arrangements, and lie detectors. 

7:00 Joseph Scrimshaw vs. Reality. Not much to say, the dude's really funny, follow him on Twitter or buy his comedy albums if you are a comedy-album buyer.

8:30 Feng Shui 2. A fun, Hong-Kong-cinema-style roleplaying game. I was a dangerous gambling lady out for revenge. 

Saturday:
1 PM Pillar of Fire. A playtest of a new RPG from local company Atlas Games. I enjoyed the adventure - it was a standard sci fi-horror trope of something going wrong and a party investigating an abandoned base, but it's a trope for a reason - it works. The setting was a bit too complicated, though. Players play characters who are sort-of superheroes/angels that guide humanity. Everyone belongs to a guild based on their job and has one of 3 kinds of "souls" (which have been discovered by science to exist). Also, there are animal-human hybrids. I'd say, trim it down a little, and it could be like when Marvel & DC get spacey (Green Lantern, Guardians of the Galaxy). 

7 PM Misspent Youth. This game was different and fun. It's really good for one-shots or short campaigns. There are some cooperative parts where players create game elements, although not as much as Fiasco. You play one of a bunch of disaffected youth who are rebelling against something. The game ends when one of the party sells out completely to The Man. We played youth who protested when our squat was going to be torn down for a corporate headquarters. I sold out by becoming a YouTube star after making a viral video of the corporation's misdeeds. 

Cosplay trends: Mad Max, Steven Universe, opposite-sex versions of characters. 

Wish I hadn't missed: the Afrofuturism panel, since I love Octavia Butler and want to learn more about it.


Tips for having a good con:


I've been going to Convergence for 3 years and Anime Detour about 10, not the world's record, but I've picked up a few things you might be able to use when you attend the fandom-interest event of your choice. 

1. Eat all the free food you can. Some cons may offer snacks only, but every little bit helps. Convergence has chips, rice, raw veggies with dip, and some nice soups. Some of the party rooms also have food for just $1 and/or tips. I finally visited the famous House of Toast (Nutella, grape jelly, and whipped cream). 

2. Do something that makes you a little uncomfortable. What happens at Con doesn't necessarily stay at Con, but everyone else is geeking out, so why be embarrassed? Wear a costume or ask someone about theirs, make a craft, ask the panel a question, play a game. Just remember - no touchy without permission, 'cause that's creepy. 

3. Stay in a hotel near the con, but not at the main hotel. This way you won't have to deal with as much noise, or wait 20 minutes for the elevator when you need to go to your room.

4. Keep your bodily fluids to yourself. According to the Convergence Facebook page, 2015 had a rash of drive-by vomitings. It's really not nice to make staff clean that up, and it can damage relations with the hosting facility. If your life is not complete without drinking to excess, at least stick to the toilet. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I MADE A LASER ENGRAVING & ALSO A 3-D PRINT

So my place of work has a Makerspace now, which means I get to make stuff at work, which is pretty cool. To get ready for Con, I thought I'd make some stuff to add to my steampunk costume.

The watch is a pattern I downloaded from Thingiverse. The hands didn't come out, but it still looks cool. The hardest part was scraping out the "raft" - the temporary support part - out of everything. I found I'm not good at scraping the inside of a circle with a utility knife without getting my fingers cut, but luckily I didn't lose any.

The cameo was based on a project I saw on Instructables, but unfortunately it wasn't complete, because they were waiting on a Kickstarter or something which never happened. So, I just found a clip art of a Victorian-looking cameo and imported it into CorelDraw, which is what we use with our laser engraver (you can create the designs in other programs and import it as a JPG or PDF into Corel, but I needed the practice).

Corel is not the most intuitive drawing program in the world, so it would've been ideal to take a class first, but I fiddled with it based on my knowledge of other drawing programs, from Illustrator to good old ClarisWorks. The tricky part is making red outlines to indicate everything you want to cut though, but only those parts (black lines mean engraving).

My first attempt was too small, and just left a pile of dust. Finally, though, I got a size and pattern that would work. It's really neat to see the laser cut through the felt super-fast without somehow burning it up.

So, if you like to make stuff and are bad like me at cutting a straight line, give the laser engraver a try. 3-D prints tend to look to unfinished to me, maybe the watch needs a patina or something to make it look old.





Friday, February 26, 2016

TAX REFUND POST & BEST AND WORST TECHNOLOGY PURCHASES




So, I just got my tax refund, which means it's time for a big-ticket-item purchase. Usually, it's either technology or home improvement. Last year was both, as I bought a new bigger TV, wire shelving and CD storage. This year, I'm finally replacing Big Iron, my 2007 MacPro tower, with a new iMac. Big Iron was starting not to play nice with current software, not to mention he blows his fan at me sometimes for no good goddamn reason. 

Of course, one purchase often leads to others, so I might also try to update my "home office" set-up, maybe a new little table for peripherals, since I won't have a hard drive tower to keep them on, possibly the kind that the Google calls "C". I have this fantasy of getting selected for Lifehacker's Workspace Show & Tell even though I don't have 6 monitors and a desk made out of a plank from Blackbeard's pirate ship.

In honor of tax refund time, here are some of my best (beyond the obvious ones) and worst technology purchases.

Best:

Computer desk: Maybe this isn't technically technology, but I just love my desk so much. This baby is all metal and almost impossible to damage, even when they were fixing my HVAC and I had to keep moving it around. It has cool extension shelves for storing peripherals that likewise are nearly impossible to break. Its smooth lines and brushed metal finish fit with my modernist style, and the triangular shape squeezes into a corner just right.  While it was clearly made with CRT monitors in mind, that just means you can't buy your own, so there. You can buy a boring ol' rectangular one if you want, though. 

Toaster oven: Maybe it's weird of me, but I just like baking things in my little toaster oven so much more than my regular oven. I even bake potatoes in there and set the timer twice. Before, I just heated up bread and pizza rolls, but now I make stuff every week (from a mix, but still...).

Universal remote: It's hard for my sweetie to pry my Logitech Harmony out of my hands, I love it so. It just fits right in my hand. And when you have the amount of devices I have, you need a serious remote. I use my iPad to search for things, but when actually watching, I don't want to have to look at my device. The software is slightly crash-y, but it's pretty easy to add a new device, as it walks you through the steps.


Worst:

Antenna: I just can't get a good signal with anything for either radio or TV. I might try one of those flat ones you hang on the wall, but it's hard to face more disappointment. I've gotten used to watching everything on demand anyway - the last time I watched live TV was when I was sick and the Internet went out.

Nook Glowlight Plus: When my old Nook Simple Touch finally died, I thought I'd try the fancy new "deluxe" model, but its new version of Android broke compatibility with Adobe Digital Editions, which is how I get my library books - my main use of it. It's fixed now, but the bitterness lingers. Anyway, I don't like how heavy and hard it is - you could kill somebody with it. So, I went back to the soft light rubberiness of the slightly earlier version. I just hope it lasts until they come out with indestructible color e-ink tablets, or a brain chip or something. 

Roomba: Probably one of my worst ever purchases. Maybe I just have too much stuff in too little space, but it just sat under the couch and cowered in fear. Sorry we don't all live in lofts with tons of empty floor, Roomba.

BONUS TECHNO-BRAG:

I got a Twitter reply from Sun-Times technology columnist Andy Ihnatko. Wee!