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setsuled July 11 2014, 21:26

Nesuko Trusts Noodles

Happy Birthday, Peter Murphy, another free chapter of my comic, The Casebook of Boschen and Nesuko, is online, Chapter Five. Look for Six next week on Hunter S. Thompson's birthday.

I had a dream last night about a triceratops and an ankylosaur which is a good enough reason to talk about the Sirenia Digest, a monthly publication of vignettes by my palaeontologist friend Caitlin R. Kiernan, though the new story in the Digest, "Far From Any Shore", is about archaeologists. It's a nice Lovecraftian tale, not just because it contains Lovecraft's soapstone artefacts which Caitlin has written about in other work--it effectively captures the Lovecraftian impression of minds damaged through contact with the strange, the jumbling of perceptions of past and present, real and unreal. Also included are references to The King In Yellow and anyone who liked True Detective might find reading Caitlin's work a rewarding experience.

There's also a reference in the new story to a Castle Rock which I thought for a moment might be a Stephen King reference despite knowing Caitlin isn't especially fond of King. But it may also be a reference to Lord of the Flies, as it was for King originally, and of course there are plenty of real life Castle Rocks, including right in my home town--this being a Castle Rock that's a Castlerock, apparently the name being so familiar now they've decided it's one word. It looks awkward. I want to read it as "Castler Ock", as though Doctor Octopus has a reputation in chess circles for castling. But it's pretty rare for anyone not to castle in chess. No, no, it won't do.
setsuled July 10 2014, 23:10

The Reliable Devil

Morality is a dream and a nightmare, a promise of justice and a cunning trap. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1934 film Crime Without Passion is an anomaly in a lot of ways. It has the suffocating snare of guilt inspired by popular morality characteristic of film noir years before the first films noir are generally considered to have emerged; it combines fantasy, surrealism, mystery, and courtroom drama. It's fascinating, audacious, and brilliant.

Despite a title card at the beginning informing us the film passed the motion picture code, and it was released just two months after the code essentially became law in July, 1934, the film features several things that would be absent from Production Code era Hollywood. The nightmarish opening sequence, which Leonard Maltin in his brief review of the film at TCM.com says was directed by Slavko Vorkapich, features footage of three essentially naked women portraying the mythological Furies, in process shots sprouting from the blood of victims of violent crimes.

Brief shots of crimes being carried out are interspersed with rapid cuts to the Furies and human skulls laughing or perhaps snarling, the whole sequence something that would have seemed at home in a Carl Dreyer or Luis Brunuel film.

From this sequence, we go to the offices of criminal defence lawyer Lee Gentry, high above the city where he looks down at the people in the street and wonders how all those people can bear to continue living in this horrible world. It's a strange scene of introspection for a character mostly portrayed as a ruthless, diabolical advocate for villains. In the same scene, his secretary actually tells him he's "too nice" as he describes the difficulty he has breaking up with his girlfriend. He thanks his secretary but says, "Fortunately for yourself, I've never been in love with you. In love, I am a monster."

He says the normal acts of affection like hand-holding and kissing aren't enough--he wants to become intimate with the personalities of the women he loves so, he says, when he loses interest the women seem to feel like wives whose husbands are leaving them. Claude Rains plays Gentry and he does a brilliant job in many scenes, like this one, where his character would seem to be presented as a kind of two dimensional villain that would satisfy the Hays office and yet, to anyone with a slightly more complex view of human nature, Gentry is a man who punishes himself with an unfair self-image and it's this unfair self-image that leads him to make mistakes later on.

The press and law enforcement blame him for getting criminals off the hook in the courtroom and yet the film crucially never explicitly says any of Gentry's clients are actually guilty. Meanwhile, later in the film a man is clearly condemned by false notions on the part of law enforcement, but because the film on its most superficial layer had set up that character as a villain, his punishment by law enforcement is portrayed as right, the vengeance of the Furies in a very subtle mockery of code morality.

In a really amazing tangle of moral layers, Gentry is made afraid of capture himself for the murder of a woman he had in fact been trying to save from suicide. When he finds himself alone with her on the floor, a gunshot wound in her head and he holding the gun, he actually splits into two characters, a panicking corporeal Gentry and a smiling and cool translucent Gentry who, like a devil on his shoulder, walks him through the careful steps of removing pieces of evidence from the crime scene.

The ghostly Gentry is his courtroom persona, the devil created as much by the press and the cops who hate him as he is by Gentry himself. Or rather, and this is really great, its Gentry's perception of their perception. This very nice man is on some level ashamed of this image and yet he also tries to own it, to take pride in it. Rains shows this by giving the persona an even more broadly villainous air than Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

As fate creates a path for Gentry that brings his psyche to a breaking point he actually even mentions the Furies in dialogue. This broad, unforgiving morality of America, this frantic and relentless drive to figure out a Right that no-one knows while being afraid that other people know. The twisted nature of morality that films noir would brilliantly undermine for decades to come.
beckygrrl July 10 2014, 05:44

Not Really A Pink Fire Post, But Who Gives A Shit Anyway?

I am just in a particularly good mood right now. In the mail today I got copies of the new issue of The Advocate magazine with my first-ever national magazine article. I just can’t stop smiling. I mean, I love working for the Advocate.com website and I love all the other online work I’m doing, but there’s just something special about being published in a hard copy magazine, and particularly in a magazine as significant as The Advocate. It feels like I’ve arrived as a writer and a journalist and that feels really good. As a friend pointed out on Facebook earlier, I’m now a nationally-published journalist. Fucking a-right.

I worked so hard and so long to get to this point. Maybe this is who I am, who I’m meant to be, a writer and a journalist. As much as I love being a radio host, and as much as I may be loathe to admit it, in my heart of hearts I know I’m a better writer than I am a radio host…or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m more marketable as a writer than as a radio host. Truth is, I love both and if a paid radio gig presented itself I’d almost certainly take it in a heartbeat. Even if that were to happen, though, I wouldn’t want to give up what I’m already doing. I love what I’m doing now, and I want to do more.

Now, here’s the funny part: This is all still so new I haven’t even been paid yet. If my guesses about the timing are right, I suspect that by the time I get home from Detroit I’ll have more money in the bank than when I left.

I don’t want to seem like a self-centered egotistical jerk, but it just feels like a real milestone, it all does. It’s hard to believe that less than two months ago I had none of this.

I suspect it’ll be an interesting show tomorrow night.

setsuled July 9 2014, 22:44

Mind the Gap

It's easier for people living in comfort and luxury to say it's because of a fundamental order to the universe that other people don't. But those who live in misery and poverty might also subscribe to such an idea in the vain hope of making sanity from the insanity of life. This is one phenomenon presented in microcosm in Bong Joon-ho's brilliant 2013 film Snowpiercer.

The film depicts a future where a global climate calamity has reduced the human race to less than twenty thousand, all inhabiting an enormous train called the Snowpiercer. Designed originally for a luxury vacations, the train traverses the globe, its enormous cars and almost entirely self-sustaining energy and ecosystem make it a serviceable refuge. Provided, Tilda Swinton's Magaret Thatcher-ish leader Mason informs us, balance is maintained. And, like Thatcher, Mason isn't averse to strongman tactics.

In the rear of the train dwell the bulk of the population living in horrific conditions. Curtis (Chris Evans), the unofficial leader the group, works with his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) in planning and organising a revolution that means storming the front of the train, the engine, where the train's inventor, Wilford (Ed Harris), lives.

The movie's based on a French comic though one can't help thinking there's some resemblance to Korean politics, at least North Korea, where the difference between those at the front of the train and the majority at the back is stark indeed. But this is a South Korean movie, despite the dialogue being 80% English. One of the stand-outs of the impressive cast is Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsu, the engineer who designed the train's security systems and is enlisted to aid the rebels in exchange for a drug called Kronol for himself and his daughter, Yona (Go Ah-sung). I'd seen Kang-ho in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first in Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy, but he doesn't make quite the impression he does in Snowpiercer as the world weary and sometimes strangely reckless Namgoong. He feels no compunction in supporting his daughter's drug addiction along with his own and, considering the state of things, it's hard to blame him.

Speaking of Park Chan-wook, who was a producer on Snowpiercer, and his vengeance trilogy, a scene in Snowpiercer recalls perhaps the most famous scene of that trilogy's most well regarded film, Oldboy--it's exciting seeing American and English stars taking part in the kind of action sequence that has become largely extinct in American action films in favour of lazier motion blurred close-ups to fake a fight. Like the long, messy corridor brawl in Oldboy, Snowpiercer features a sequence in a train car of people fighting with hatchets. It doesn't really attempt to match the brilliance of the Oldboy sequence but it thankfully does come from the same ethic where vigorous and apparently close choreography is shown in lengthy takes of the actors in full frame.

Tilda Swinton's performance is the other stand out--nearly every review compares her to Margaret Thatcher and it's clear Swinton had the infamous Prime Minister in mind, adopting a Lincolnshire accent and heavily patronising tone around obtrusive dentures.

She has unshakeable faith in order, possibly not even aware of how her personal philosophy is founded on selfishness. The small world of the train is, like many great works of science fiction, like a hypothetical exercise distilling large scale social issues to a smaller context. The ugliness of the aristocracy living comfortably at the expense of the poor is thrown into much sharper relief. But here's Margaret Thatcher herself explaining "the gap", as usual apparently not conscious of the horror implicit in her worldview:

Twitter Sonnet #644

Unshaken cocoanut caught the dry heart.
Unattained ice waylays to wet tofu.
Stone dictionary pockets fall apart.
Fire descends at the dizzy curfew.
Older colours spiral across the clams.
Hairless faces watch from the yoghurt shop.
Grasses in the kangaroos shake like hands.
Score is you're not little people you're cop.
Delayed apple heights redden the gully.
Wild turpentine glimmers like a wish.
Metal men's books need water to sully.
Emperors are the penguins on the dish.
Lighter snowflakes'll break the barricade.
Tea and fingers drain from the cold arcade.
setsuled July 8 2014, 23:54

Graduation that Never Occurs/Occurred

The past forty eight hours have been the best for unreliable memory that I can remember. I watched Blade Runner on Blu-Ray last night--which is as unbelievably gorgeous as you might expect--and this morning I watched the twenty third episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena, the final episode of the "Black Rose" arc. I'd forgotten how good those last two episodes were.

It's a story arc involving a young man named Souji Mikage who lures students to his "seminar" where he listens through an intercom as the students tell him about their problems from the inside of an elevator descending. They descend to the depths of the Nemuro building, located on the campus of Ohtori Academy, the school where the whole series takes place.

The arc takes up ten episodes of the thirty nine episode series, episodes fourteen to twenty three. Throughout the series, the protagonist, Utena Tenjou, has sword duels with opponents in a duelling arena located in a forbidden forest on the school grounds. The object of each duel is to knock a rose off an opponent's lapel and the winner of the duel becomes fiancé or fiancée to Anthy Himemiya, the "Rose Bride".

Utena, we learn early on, carries a memory of a prince who comforted her when she was a child and gave her the rose seal ring that would mark her as duellist later in life. Utena had been charmed by the prince but, we're told, instead of the experience making her want to marry a prince, it makes her want to become a prince, something which the ongoing duels for the Rose Bride essentially allow her to do.

In the "Black Rose" arc, Mikage gives the troubled students a black rose to wear in their lapels when they challenge Utena. The idea is that the one who finally wins the Bride for Mikage will kill her--it's not quite clear in the beginning why Mikage wants her dead.

The black roses are somehow harvested, it's implied, from the bodies of one hundred students who committed suicide in the building years ago. They're plucked from what looks like an aquarium by a boy named Mamiya, possibly Mikage's boyfriend in what seems to be a reflection of Utena and Anthy's relationship.

The final episodes of the arc make the parallels even more apparent as we watch Mikage's memories of the child Mamiya he tried to save from a terminal illness by compelling the sacrifice of the one hundred students--he tells Utena they are alike in wanting to assert the reality of their memories on the present, and it's at this point the viewer realises that this is the motive that united all of Mikage's previous victims.

And then it gets really great as the memories of Mikage's not only don't seem to be accurate but his realisation of their inaccuracy seems to threaten his existence and everyone's memory of his existence. Like a man composed entirely of false memories. At the same time, the incident offers Utena the opportunity to prove her identity is more than memory filtered through desire.

This is my third time watching through the series, I doubt it'll be my last.
setsuled July 7 2014, 21:18

Reverence for Poison

Escaping the phoniness of big city society, one might find only more deception in small town America. That's what happens to bigshot reporter Wally Cook (Fredric March) in 1937's Nothing Sacred, a Technicolor screwball comedy remarkable for a few reasons, chief among them Carole Lombard.

She plays the aptly named Hazel Flagg, a small town girl who lies to Cook about her radiation poisoning so she can get a trip to New York. He makes her the toast of the town, even though he bitterly observes to her more than once that all the praise she gets from politicians, entertainers, and publications--including his own--are all entirely self-serving, to elevate the image of those praising Flagg.

There's a lot of amazing, full colour footage of New York City in the mid 1930s. Though cinematography and makeup were clearly designed for a black and white film so I almost thought the movie might be colourised until I saw Technicolor indeed in the opening credits.

So unlike most colour Hollywood films of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, Nothing Sacred has a lot of rough, dark shadows and white powder is somewhat caked on the actors' faces.

Despite being only just slightly over an hour long, Wikipedia has this to say about the screenplay credited to Ben Hecht: "Budd Schulberg and Dorothy Parker were called in to write the final scenes and several others also made contributions to the screenplay, including: David O. Selznick, William Wellman, Sidney Howard, Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman and Robert Carson." I have no particular complaints about the screenplay but it's mainly Lombard's comedic timing that carries the picture. Whether it's her perfectly timed accidental grimace for a newspaper photographer or a weird bedroom punching match with March so that she can fake an illness. I think it was a little dig at the censors that punches were the solution after March tells her, standing over her lying in bed, "We gotta raise your pulse to a hundred and sixty, quick. We gotta have you gasping, panting, and covered in a cold sweat inside of five minutes." I want to believe Dorothy Parker wrote those lines.

setsuled July 6 2014, 23:50

When You're Down and Out and You Eat People

When is cannibalism just cannibalism? Almost never in movies and television it seems. To-day I watched the first episode of Tokyo Ghoul (東京喰種), a new anime series that premièred three days ago in Japan. I thought it was good, not spectacular, but maybe good enough to watch the next episode.

In this case, the cannibalism seems to be a metaphor for otaku culture. Police going over the crime scene of a "binge eater" ghoul remark on how useless ghouls are, how they only take and never give anything back. The central character, Kaneki, a shy young man who finds he's become a ghoul after receiving organ donations from a ghoul who tried to eat him, walks through a crowd and is alarmed by how sensitive he is to the presence of other people's flesh--particularly of women and children.

He's horrified by his own compulsion and I think the terror the show is tapping into is a vast since of guilt conferred on otaku by a society that kind of assumes all otaku are paedophiles and rapists. Now he's got the organs of a woman he was attracted to inside him--she was killed in the middle of trying to eat him apparently by a complete accident and surgeons used her organs to save the critically injured Kaneki. So tied in with the horror of what society says about his compulsions is the shy bookworm boy's fear of women's bodies, something the show comes back to when the character introduced as his mentor in ghoulhood is a young woman he'd had a crush on--she offers him the flesh he dearly desires to eat but can't bring himself to out of moral restraint.

It reminded me a little of David Cronenberg's Rabid--as in Rabid, the central character finds himself unable to digest regular food after he's changed into a supernatural being, though that movie was more about objectification of women in popular culture.

Visually, the show isn't particularly interesting, its design downright academic and the action consisting of what must at this point be outlined step by step in a manual somewhere of tentacles grabbing people and throwing them into walls. But it's nice to see a horror anime with these kinds of thematic layers, which of course it probably gets from the manga series its based on. The anime adaptation hasn't done anything to prevent me from wanting to see the next one, though.

Twitter Sonnet #643

Reasonless calcium builds no real bone.
Almond planets stick their innocent rings.
Uranium Smurfs will never atone.
A ten point belly flop dream still now stings.
Walking wig stores curl forward by strand legs.
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Empty aisles bespeak the sale priced eggs.
Dr. Crusher, first heal thy hypospray.
Repealed dog-sled waxes clog the cloudburst.
Godlike rakes force clutter to reconvene.
Smiling yellow sprites trick their liverwurst.
One huntress remains of the Sevateem.
Dehydrated puzzles expand in space.
Liquorice soup boils stars in God's face.
setsuled July 5 2014, 23:08

A Place of Muddy, Villainous, Treacherous, Slightly Bad Goings On

How did a lavish historical fiction film made by some of the most talented people ever to work in Hollywood turn into a two bit melodrama? The answer is censorship, the Hays Code, the sudden legality of which forced drastic changes during production of Howard Hawks' 1935 film Barbary Coast. What promised to be a fascinatingly unusual film about hard living in mid-19th century San Francisco is rendered run of the mill by a variety of changes to the script even the great screenwriter Ben Hecht couldn't make work. But there're still some good reasons to watch the movie, from the amazing production design to good performances by the lead actors.

The opening of the film, featuring Miriam Hopkins as Mary Rutledge, arriving by ship to meet her fiancé, creates an extraordinary sense of a distinct environment--San Francisco's docks, a place of fog and treacherous mud.

A later scene in a marketplace shows even more impressive design, with detailed stalls and booths rich in character, crowding into the screen.

A story that was originally to be about prostitution becomes a thin melodrama about how Hopkins becomes the kept woman of the town's crime boss, Luis Chamalis, played by Edward G. Robinson. A woman kept by a man who doesn't expect sex from her for giving her money, fine clothes, and jewellery. Robinson plays Chamalis like one of his gangsters transplanted to the wild west--in a fascinating scene, the sheriff comes to arrest one of Chamalis' men only for Chamalis to turn around, bring the town judge into the conversation, open court right in the middle of the saloon, and find Chamalis' henchman innocent. Here Robinson really gets to be a Caesar.

His insistence that Mary love him back before they sleep together would be intriguing, almost like Conrad Veidt's character in The Thief of Bagdad, if one didn't sense how it was borne of censorship constraints. As a counterpoint, Joel McCrea turns up as the naive Jim Carmichael, a gold prospector and a poet, so pure of heart he's almost annoying, saved only by McCrea's realistic performance.

The climax of the film runs through a list of standard melodramatic points. One can only speculate how great this movie might have been.
setsuled July 4 2014, 21:01

Nesuko is Tested

I drove all the way to Tim's last night to upload to-day's chapter of Boschen and Nesuko. So happy birthday Nathaniel Hawthorne--and lest you think I'm ignoring Independence Day, I'll refer to the Wikipedia entry for "Young Goodman Brown" which quotes Stephen King as saying it's "one of the ten best stories written by an American." An excerpt from the story:

And, maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate that he seemed to fly along the forest path rather than to walk or run. The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him.

"Let us hear which will laugh loudest. Think not to frighten me with your deviltry. Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come devil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you."

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused, in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of the village meeting-house. The verse died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried out, and his cry was lost to his own ear by its unison with the cry of the desert.

You can find the full text of the story here.

So my Internet's back to-day. I assumed it wouldn't be, which is why I drove into deepest Santee to upload it from Tim's. I even asked his advice on buying laptops--he recommended research and carefully weighing options and ordering from New Egg. "But I want one to-morrow!" I said. So we looked through Best Buy's web site and I planned on going in first thing this morning.

Then last night, I decided to try restarting my computer and when it came back on, Internet worked fine. This was at 1:30am. I did feel silly. Why didn't I try this before? Well, I'd unhooked modem and router several times and I thought this was the same thing that restarting the computer accomplished. Guess not . . .
brace_coral July 4 2014, 17:55

The Skinny: New Users and the New Mesh Avatars

We've had some time now to experience the new mesh avatars in conjunction with the new user experience. Those of us with boots on the ground - those who Help Newbies - have had to make a lot of adjustments to what has become a pretty smooth running process over the years.

The number one request we get aside from New Folks asking how they can get or make more money, is help with their appearance. As illustrated in the many posts (including my own) about the new mesh avatars, Carl Metropolitan lists the pros and the cons in his post on the subject quite nicely, if you need to get up to speed right quick.

One of the first things we ran across was the difficulty of keeping in alignment with the guidelines Linden Lab has for many of us Help and Education campuses that operate in "G Rated" mode. Due to the merger of the Teen Grid, things had to be tightened up a bit. However, there comes a problem when the new mesh avatars that feature a dress or a skirt as clothing, do not additionally come with underwear.

That clashes with the basic "Your Private Bits Must Be Covered" ground rule and led to us having to give a pass or exemption to any new user who showed up wearing a new mesh avatar that did not technically have their nether region bits covered. It got sorted, but one day I'd like to know how that lack of underwear happened, so that new users on the grid would by default be breaking an area of TOS simply by logging in and their choice of avatar.

If I had to guess, I'd say it was the choice Linden Lab made to outsource for the creation of those avatars compounded with an oopsie from the spot checking crew or whoever looked them over before green-lighting them for the Grid. And they could have used the Ole Brace Coral Panny Check ;)~~

Then the next hurdle. As indicated by Carl's post, the mesh avatars are pretty much stuck with whatever outfits they come with. There is no ability to switch outfits or mix and match.between them. This may not seem a huge big deal on the surface to some, but it is HUGE when it comes to the new user experience and those who work to help them get a good start in Second Life.

There are many kinds of Newbies. They can be broken down roughly into three categories with of course, some overlap between them. The first is the person who is pretty enterprising, and isn't afraid to click on things, explore the UI, find out how and then go on ahead to tinker with their avatar.

They might do the obvious thing and try on a different outfit, or wish to change into a different shirt, or pair of trousers or what have you. Of course when they do these things, the changes don't show up, or are unable to be made due to each mesh avatar being one solid block so to speak.

So then by the time they luckily end up at a place like the NCI (New Citizens Inc), they are hopelessly frustrated, and the Helpers have to not only educate on the basics of avatar appearance, but must explain why their efforts to self-explore did not give the expected results.

The second kind of new user is the one that is pretty much either flummoxed by the UI, Second Life, does not have the enterprising personality of the first type of Newbie, and when they arrive at the NCI ask right away for help in changing their appearance as the first thing they want to tackle.

Many new users overall are well aware that the avatar choices given them at sign in, will be one of the main ways they can be singled out as being "a noob", and are anxious to make their look become as individual and unique as soon as they possibly can.

I would say about 1 out of 20 people I help and interact with is happy with having the new mesh avatar they chose being the one they want to stick with for the time being while they learn about Second Life.

The third kind of Newbie is one who had for whatever reasons *cough* ditched out of Second Life well before they were able to learn much of anything, but have returned after varying lengths of time to give it a go again. They invariably know what they want to do, and are happy to be at last in a place that will help and support them with their goals. They may or may not have picked up a few tips and tricks, but for the most part are eager to avail themselves of any help they can get - help that was not made available to them the first time around.

But what most of new users have in common is having to "deal with" in various ways the new mesh avatars. So most of us have added a crash course in Options For Newbies And Their New Mesh Avatars to our Help and Education repertoire. I've been extremely proud of how many of the NCI Helpers have stepped up and contributed to the cause. From notecards, to graphics placed on the walls of our changing rooms and input on how to streamline the process and so on.

This is one of the things that I hope in the future we in the in-World Help and Education Community will be a part of during the decision making process. It's one thing to get a heads up along with everyone else that new users are going to be defaulted with a new set of avatars; but it would have been much more useful for us to have had a voice in letting Linden Lab know exactly what Newbies want and need in the area of avatars to help make their new user experience as good a one as possible.

Aside from not utilizing the extremely talented content creator pool in the creation of the avatars - that discussion is for another day, but has been brought up several times in the coverage of these new avatars - We already know what types of things to include that would make both changing appearance and learning about the depth of options available to Newbies a much easier thing for them - and a more pleasant experience overall.

The faux pas of having the avatars unable to do even the basics that avatars that came before them have accomplished, would not have happened. It is vital for the new user to be able to alter their appearance, either on their own by way of self-exploration, or with help from others.

What happens in this case, is that we help the new user to change out of the new mesh avatar and switch into any of the older "classic" avatars and go from there. We do educate them when we can, on the differences between mesh body shapes/avatars and the classic ones. We also educate them on the different kinds of clothing available to them from system, to prims/flexi and mesh.

But the honest truth is that these new avatars, and how they were executed, have added a layer of confusion to the new user experience that was unnecessary, and I hope can be avoided in the future.

It has also added a burden of additional work to those who Help New Folks - we are happy enough to do it, and have risen to the occasion admirably - but we are and have been under a lot of stress having to operate for years without the much needed help and support from Linden Lab with our efforts.

And in addition It is a little galling to have LL be the one to heap on additional layers work that is needed to offset, countermand and work around decisions made that affect Newbies so acutely. However, I'm with Carl when on his post about the Help Education Quorum and our meeting with Ebbe he says "...the HEQ meeting was probably the most positive interaction I've ever had with the senior representative of Linden Lab." So there is hope for things to be better.

I end this post with a picture of me interacting with a wonderful SL11B build from one of our NCI Members/Support Helpers. Note that I look every inch the Caliente Chica without a stitch of mesh on me. And I'm wearing pannys too lol sorry couldn't help it ;) This is a shout-out to those Divas of Design who continue to make that awesome flexi and those of us who support their efforts.

Not a bash on mesh, but I've been hearing flexi getting bandied about as something passe. Why can't both exist equally on the Grid at the same time? The savvy consumer buys mesh designs for certain occasions and flexi for certain others, namely dancing - there's nothing like a twirly-swirly-floaty-flexi skirt for dancing!

setsuled July 4 2014, 00:16

The Power of the Ice

At the ice rink to-day because after a few spurts of life this morning the cable's been dead at my apartment all day. I'd intended to stay in all day working on my comic but I guess that isn't in the cards. Hopefully I'll be able to upload the next Boschen and Nesuko chapter on schedule though if my internet's not back by to-morrow I may have to wait until Saturday. Though if it's like last time, my cable'll be back and I'll have spent all this time labouriously copying and pasting lines of my Twitter sonnet on a touch screen for nothing. Maybe I ought to get a proper laptop. There's a big bearded guy sitting on the floor in here giggling at the Apple laptop on his actual lap top. He looks normal enough. Maybe I can be normal too.

Twitter Sonnet #642

The pointless pizza paved the food detour.
Time buried even Neanderthal peas.
The never ending vacuum cleans Falkor.
The squeaky bagel gets the creamless cheese.
Staccato cups rejected at no price.
Otto, make that goblet more expensive.
We're all in the stars but some of it's rice.
Noodle Brow has grown ever more pensive.
Projects not countenanced regress the tree.
Real dead skulls tell Ardipithecus tales.
Flavourless freezers keep a plastic sea.
Cold wooden cubes flip for alien whales.
Ether ice rinks cool for broken cable.
Paper straws are all over the table.
beckygrrl July 3 2014, 08:30

Pink Fire (Part 21)

Gave myself another shot yesterday. This time, almost zero problem. I’m starting to get good at this.

Tonight I did something that I’d been thinking about for a few days, but wasn’t sure if enough time had passed to make it a viable option. About a month or so ago, I made a stupid mistake and as a result came into conflict with someone who I’d become friendly with and we haven’t spoken since. I was as angry at the time as she was because hurtful things were said and done by both of us. I was embarrassed and hurt. I lashed out in response and I had no right to. I caused this and I should have taken my lumps because I deserved them and just moved on. Because I handled this so badly I don’t know if that relationship can be fixed but I feel that it’s both my desire and my responsibility to try.

So, I wrote to her, apologized again, and asked if we could work it out. She hasn’t responded, but I sent the email just a few hours ago and right now it’s 3:45am. I’m hoping she’ll respond tomorrow.

Truth is, I feel like shit about this. As tempting as it might be to blame estrogen for a mood swing causing this, true or not it doesn’t absolve me of responsibility. I was wrong when I made the mistake, and I was wrong in the way I responded. I let my anger and hurt make a bad situation even worse and damaged, maybe destroyed that friendship. Maybe what really hurts the most is that I know it’s my fault but I can’t fix it. I can’t undo my mistake or how I responded. I can only ask forgiveness and hope she can see her way clear to offering it.

Now, weeks have passed and I’ve had time to think about this in a calmer and more rational frame of mind. I had to try. I had to reach out and see if maybe things could go back to the way they were before I fucked it all up. And so, I have. I don’t know her well enough to know if this is fixable, but I do hope so.

Fingers crossed.

setsuled July 2 2014, 23:13

Incubation in Cruelty

There are a lot of reasons a human being might turn into a beast. "Even a man who's heart is pure and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the moon is bright." That's the line from 1941's The Wolf Man, not the first Hollywood film about werewolves--1935's Werewolf of London preceded it, superior to the later film for tying the main character's lycanthropy to his personality traits. In 1961, Hammer released The Curse of the Werewolf which, one might say, externalised the cause of the werewolf's condition even further. It has some fantastic makeup effects and some of the best of Hammer's trademark atmosphere. And is far more effective than The Wolf Man, being what you might call a horror of anti-Existentialism. The fear evoked by The Curse of the Werewolf is the fear of being unable to escape inherited behaviour, the fear that no matter what kind of person you would like to be, your destiny has been determined by your family history.

Not genetic history--this is a fantasy film, not science fiction. The movie stars Oliver Reed in one of his first major roles but he doesn't show up until two thirds of the way through the film, the story beginning years before his birth in Spain in which we see a sadistic Marques (Anthony Dawson) torture and imprison a beggar (Richard Wordsworth) and we meet a young woman (Yvonne Romain) who is raped by a prisoner for whom she had been the only caretaker.

Afterwards, she becomes pregnant with Leon (Reed) and his lycanthropy is created entirely by the otherwise non-supernatural acts of brutal cruelty that took place in the lives of his parents. He's raised by a kind, wealthy man named Corledo (Clifford Evans) who doesn't know anything about his son being a shapeshifter until, when Leon's a little boy, sheep in the countryside start turning up with their throats ripped out. The local priest (John Gabriel) explains the problem to Corledo, telling him that so long as Leon is surrounded by affectionate and supportive influences, and the young man doesn't give in to sin, the wolf part of him will remain suppressed.

For some reason, Corledo decides not to tell his son about this before sending him out into the world. Leon finds a job working at vineyard and apparently the sin doesn't need to be terribly extravagant because all it takes for Leon to grow fur and set off on an uncontrollable murder spree is to go out with his friend to a party one night and follow a girl upstairs. Which I actually rather like--grotesquely rigid morality belongs in a horror film.

The priest had also explained that Leon could be saved by the true love of a woman and he does develop that kind of relationship with the daughter of the vineyard's owner, Cristina (Catherine Feller). I love that the movie doesn't implicate her in Leon's transformations--other forces simply prevent her from being with him when he needs her. Though, like the moral powers working about Leon's curse, his dependence on the love of another to keep himself human is another thing that takes any kind of choice out of Leon's hands. This is the story of a man truly at the mercy of outside forces.

Reed's desperate, whispering intensity really help sell this, as do his heavy, dark brows. I very much like that the movie mostly refrains from showing him in full makeup, instead often using shadows high up on buildings. And I like that Leon doesn't look quite the same each time he changes--the second transformation is really great, he has patchy white fur and there's bright red blood all over his mouth.

setsuled July 1 2014, 21:58

Diagrams of Napoleon in Shorts

What's sex between friends? It's sex between three friends in 1933's Design for Living, a pre-code Ernst Lubitsch movie with a screenplay by Ben Hecht based on a play by Noel Coward--and all those things add up just as nicely as one might reasonably expect. Even better, the movie stars Miriam Hopkins, Gary Cooper, and Fredric March.

Actually, when it becomes clear that two room-mates, aspiring playwright Tom (March) and aspiring painter George (Cooper), are both in love with advertising illustrator Gilda (Hopkins), and she's slept with both men before either of them found out about her relationship with the other, she says from then on they'll leave sex out of the equation. She'll be a "mother to the arts" and act as muse for both men.

Things go as planned for a while until Tom actually hits it big and one of his plays debuts in London. This means he'll have to go to London with it and, in one of the movie's most delightful scenes, George and Gilda give into temptation, beginning with her lying on the bed and saying, "It's true we had a gentleman's agreement but unfortunately I am no gentleman."

But while they may sleep together plenty of times, fate has not ordained a monogamous relationship for George and Gilda. The movie is a comedy of manners and awkwardness as the gravitational pull of a ménage à trois seems to inexorably pull Tom, George, and Gilda together.

It's almost a ménage à quatre as Edward Everett Horton's in the movie as Max Plunkett, Gilda's boss and, as he tells Tom, "her protector", which means, Tom observes to him, "You didn't get to first base." Horton replies with his usual perfectly delivered double-take, "That's right!" before realising what he's said.

Yes, he's a little too stuffy to join the fun. He's adorable but not in the cunning way Cooper, Hopkins, and March are together. They struggle with the modes of tradition that require Tom or George to be angry when one discovers Gilda's been sleeping with the other. But the chemistry between the three is too lovely to be fought forever.

beckygrrl June 30 2014, 21:19

Pink Fire (Part 20)

I’m not handling stress as well as I should be right now, and I’ve got a lot to stress out about this week. Maybe it’s the estro. I’m due for another shot tomorrow. I don’t really know. Usually when I’m having a moment it’s accompanied by a mood swing, but this is more like just a constant undercurrent of stress, no matter what my emotional state.

I didn’t go to Pride this year. I just wasn’t up for it. When I get stressed out, I tend to hide out here in my little computer room/studio/cave where I’m writing this from and avoid people altogether. It actually gives me more time to catch up on work in theory, but in practice, because work is writing, stressing out makes it harder, not easier to write. I think a lot of it is a general sense of insecurity.

Maybe it’s because it’s still so new, but I feel like it could all disappear just as quickly as it happened. Maybe because that’s exactly what my working life has been for the last 17 years: Struggling for years to find a new job, finally getting hired, and then ending up getting let go and back at square one again soon afterward. It’s probably totally irrational, but I feel like any minute I could hear those dreaded words again:

“We’re going to have to let you go…” “We’re going in a different direction…” “We’re really sorry about this. You’re a good employee Becky, but well, you know how it is…” “We’re not going to be needing you anymore…” “We just think it’s best for everyone if we go our separate ways…”

I’ve heard them all at one time or another over the last 17 years. As an unpaid blogger I was fearless, but as a paid freelancer I feel like my professional goals are on the line every minute of every day now. And I am scared, sometimes so much that it feels like I can’t breathe, like there’s a knot in the pit of my stomach that just never goes away.

I never felt this way when I had a retail job. This is different. This job I fought for, even campaigned for. This is the job I didn’t just need, I wanted it badly, more than any job I’ve ever tried for that wasn’t in radio. This job isn’t about showing up, shutting up, and doing as I’m told. This job is about where my heart is, about who I am and what I want to do with the rest of my life. Now that I have it, I constantly worry that one day it’ll disappear, just like all the others.

Fuck. Now I’ve made myself cry again. I wish I knew how to make this stop.

setsuled June 30 2014, 21:12

The Real Danger

To say it wouldn't surprise me if Paramount turned out to be lying about the box office take for Transformers: Age of Extinction, as rival studios are alleging, would be an understatement. I bet the movie made even less money than the rival studios are claiming, especially when you take out money from product placement and tie-ins. Do you know anyone who wanted to see this movie? Have you seen anyone, anywhere online say something along the lines of, "I'd sure like to see that new Transformers movie," or even, "I'd kind of like to see that new Transformers movie." The movie industry right now is a five trillion dollar lotus petal floating gently on an ocean of obfuscation, mark my words.

I'd like to see Snowpiercer--a Bong Joon-Ho movie starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt that it seems like the studio fought tooth and nail to keep from being released in the U.S. Which is why I'd have to drive to L.A. to see it and I probably would if I didn't have so much work to do on my comic. Last Tuesday I pencilled, inked, and coloured one page completely. It took me from the time I woke up to just an hour before I went to bed. I'd probably have kept up the pace except every day since has had one thing or another eating up a big chunk out of my day, but at least I've kept up with pencil and ink. I foresee one or two big crunch colouring days. To-day I need to go out and buy some more paper as well as some groceries. Supposedly Snowpiercer is opening wider on Wednesday so maybe I'll see it then.

The past few days I've also been dealing with a recall notice regarding my car, a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze. The notice reads, in part:

The inflator in the driver's front airbag may rupture and/or the airbag may not inflate during airbag deployment. If this occurs, the rupture could propel metal pieces of the inflator in the vehicle cabin possibly striking and seriously injuring the driver or other vehicle occupants. Additionally, if the inflator does not inflate, there is an increased risk of injury to the driver.

The trouble is the dealership has told me in multiple phone conversations since last week that this recall does not exist. To-day at least I was called by a worried sounding employee informing me several other people have been calling in about this same recall that they have no record of. I guess until this thing's sorted I just need to avoid head on collisions.

Twitter Sonnet #641

A cigar's selfie proves itself at last.
Helium politicians rise smiling.
The bribed cherubim let go of the past.
Contented contractors accept Riesling.
Concrete reforms embrace the blessed scaffold.
Godly clouds squeeze cocoanut tear raindrops.
Dizzy heart canaries kiss the kobold.
Edible diamonds ravish tooth crown tops.
Triumphant car horns remove the draw bridge.
Flying Jesus statues laugh like soda.
Giggling bellies cause tremors on the ridge.
Concession stands burst in popcorn coda.
The cat's cradle ping pong charts celebrate.
Hollow white balls know how to enervate.
brace_coral June 30 2014, 13:47

It's A Wonderful SLife

Very rarely do we get to stand at history's threshold.

Experience the crux of events to come; To have Been There When.

Those of us working, living and experiencing in virtual worlds and cyber spaces at this moment in time will get to look back three years from now and five years from now and say:
Yep that is when it happened.

This is where we fasten our seat belts and hang on for the ride to the future, or hop off and watch everything go whizzing past us. This is a time to shake out the cobwebs, fix the flat tires, tune up those engines, gather your core team and make sure you have plans in place for moving forward, if you haven't already.

This is when we do our utmost to not repeat mistakes of the past, to see the value of people and organizations and opportunities when presented to us, to build lines of communication, bridges of support, teams of people that have the knowledge, skills and talents that you need for not only your projects, but to insure that you will be a part of those who will be making it to the future.

So many have already fallen along the wayside, so many are in danger of doing so now. Why not take advantage of the depths of talent being offered when all is needed is the simple extension of the hand to meet the one already outstretched to you?

The allocation of resources is minimal, yet the gain is potentially limitless.

The beauty of Second Life is that I get to log in every day and meet people who are experiencing it for the first time. I get to see that light bulb go on over their heads when they learn something or begin to understand how everything functions. I get to see my core group of Helpers and Educators Rock Mighty as they do what they do best and the cycle of SLife spins ever onwards.

I'm glad I was able to come back at this point in time. I'm glad that I have people ready to roll up their sleeves and make sure the New Citizens Inc is in tip top shape and Bristol Fashion and be ready to not only keep Rocking and Rolling but be able to be of service for What The Future May Bring.

Second Life is wonderful. The concept of virtual worlds, cyberspace, digital communities and the like is a wonderful one. I've always been attracted to these kinds of spaces since as far back as I can remember. What bothers is me is when I see the potential of these worlds, communities and spaces squandered or mishandled.

I've always tried to fight the good fight, to be a voice advocating for Clarity of Vision, for the dreams to become a virtual reality. While Brace 2.0 might be a bit different from the OG model, there are still sparks of the original fire and the flame that burns in my heart holds the same intensity of purpose.

Maaaan listen, this is the first prose post I've done since I've been back - I used to do a lot of these, some quite unintelligible - but I hope that despite the poetic turns of phrase, the meaning of all of this can be discovered.

It is a privilege to be able to access these digital spaces. Many take it for granted that people have desktops, laptops, phones that access the internet, internet service to begin with, access to tech and the knowledge to use that tech. I try not to forget where I am, how far I've come and what I want to see happen today and what I'd like to see happen in all the tomorrows I have left for me.

I hang on tightly to what I've created and to what I've built and to My Legacy. I will not let it be squandered or risk it sliding into irrelevancy or discord. It is my SLife and the focus of my energies, skills and talents.

Woo and the skill set is amazing and I have no qualms about wielding them in service of my Goals, Dreams and towards being around to be a part of the future of Virtual Worlds.

Big Ups and Props to Carl and his SL11B talk, Phelan Corrimal's recent personal words of encouragement and advice to me, and My Core NCI Team and their support as the inspiration behind this post.
Oh and Mozart, always Mozart.

Happy Helping!
See you at the NCI
setsuled June 29 2014, 22:02

The Life in the Doll

Institutions of liberation and oppression are sometimes influenced by race, sex, or arson. Elia Kazan's 1956 film Baby Doll links all three in a story about instinct in conflict with injustice. Based on Tennessee Williams' one act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, with a screenplay by Williams, it's not the best work of either the screenwriter or the director but has a fascinating sensuality and strange, cold chemistry between its three leads.

Karl Malden plays Archie Lee, owner of a cotton gin in rural Mississippi. His young wife, known in the film only as "Baby Doll" (Carroll Baker), is just about to turn twenty, at which point she and Archie will finally have sex. Archie acquired Baby Doll rather like property as part of a deal with her father. Because she wasn't ready for certain aspects of marriage, the parties agreed things wouldn't get physical until Baby Doll's twentieth birthday. Baby Doll's immaturity is broadly and repeatedly established--the first shot of her is in a crib sucking her thumb, being spied on by Archie, and she's wearing the babydoll nightgown the movie made famous.

She's prone to teasing her frustrated husband, giggling and scampering about like a child and then suddenly exhibiting anger. And yet, the young woman is clearly not content with the situation, threatening that she'll go to town and get her own job. An impromptu interview with a dentist for a receptionist job, though, reminds Baby Doll she's completely lacking in employable skills, her upbringing not exactly having prepared her for independence.

It's not just independence she wants--Archie's business is failing and almost all their furniture has been repossessed. Archie blames his woes on competition from a newcomer, a Sicilian immigrant named Silva Vacarro played by the great Eli Wallach who passed away just last week.

When Silva's massively successful cotton gin burns down, he learns quickly he can expect no justice from the local white law enforcement. Figuring it was Archie who burned his gin, Silva plays nice, offering a partnership with Archie and arranging to be alone with Baby Doll in her and Archie's crumbling antebellum house.

Most of the movie is these two in the house, his attempts to get a signed affidavit as a witness to her husband's crime manifest as attempts to physically seduce her while Baby Doll finds herself fighting sexual urges for perhaps the first time in her life.

I've heard it said the Eli Wallach was not appropriate casting. The role might have been more successfully played by Marlon Brando--I'd almost bet that's who Kazan originally had in mind for the role. Wallach was also a method actor so perhaps the filmmakers thought he would be an appropriate substitute. But Wallach didn't have Brando's vulnerability, he's almost all output in this film, all calculation though one senses some mixed emotions in how to deal with Baby Doll.

He's actually not that different from Malden--they even have kind of the same big, cleft nose. The impression is that Baby Doll might be trading one materialistic patriarch for another yet at least she's clearly attracted to Silva.

The scene that got the movie banned in so many places and drew such backlash from the Catholic church is one in which she and Wallach sit close together on a swing. The camera is so close and Baker's performance is so effective one does have the impression that Baby Doll is becoming sexually excited in spite of herself though her lines are only about how she's feeling ticklish and weak.

Those who criticised the film on a moral level claimed that Wallach's hand was up Baker's dress off-screen. I think this is a good example of the subjectivity of censorship and the sexual clumsiness of the censors--I'm reminded of the student in the sexual education class in Monty Python's Meaning of Life who suggested foreplay involved going straight for the clitoris. The scene is much sexier for how little is happening, just Silva's face close to hers. When she says she wants to stand up, he lets her, at which point she clearly does so with reluctance.

setsuled June 28 2014, 21:25

Death Process

Why do the poor continually vote for the party that exploits and lowers their quality of life even further? Councilman De Vita puts this question to a group of angry, poor city dwellers in 1963's Hands over the City (Le mani sulla città). They're all being evicted from their old neighbourhood so the city council can demolish it and build a new one, the profits going to a contractor whose company happens to have several councilmen among its shareholders. This is a film of brilliant, unvarnished Neorealist style footage that serves a slightly varnished left-wing perspective. But the film is certainly not lacking in insight for that--the realism of the footage and focus of its political message puts this Francesco Rosi film in the tradition of Eisenstein.

"So who do we vote for?" says one of the protesters, "The Communists?" De Vita (Carlo Fermariello) responds, "Vote for those who don't profit at your expense!"

De Vita is presented throughout the film as a pure hearted champion of the people confronting on the city council a thoroughly corrupt opposition party currently in power. The movie crucially never allows the citizens to answer the question--why did you vote for these crooks in the first place? The lack of perspective weakens the film.

Rod Steiger, an American actor here playing an Italian man in an Italian film, plays Nottola, the man in charge of the construction company. The film begins with him explaining to some councilmen on his board how if they build on the dirt field they're standing in they can make a 5,000 percent profit.

Steiger gives this utterly corrupt man some solemn pathos in a general weariness as backroom deals threaten to turn against him or reports in the press cast him and his allies in a bad light. At one point he and De Vita are alone in one of Nottola's new buildings and Nottola shows him how the water is running, the lights work, the building has all the modern conveniences, why does De Vita stand in the way of progress? To which De Vita replies the poor he's evicting will never be able to afford to live in the places Nottola is building.

De Vita is an engineer and he leads an investigation into a disaster depicted in the movie's most impressive scene.

A cobblestone alley with hanging laundry and people going about their business in a way probably not unlike people a hundred years ago. Then, the side of a building falls on them.

It's clearly not a model, the chain reaction that leads to an entire half of a building collapsing is clearly exactly what it appears to be in the footage.

The whole rest of the film has an impressive realism, too, in showing the city council to be made up of fat, middle aged men. Everyone in this movie is a fat, middle aged man except for a call girl who falls asleep in the next room in one scene, complaining about how everyone's talking about business and politics.

Nottola feels he deserves respect, everyone in his party wearily pushes ahead with their conquest, not understanding De Vita's vitriol, perhaps really believing it when they accuse him of merely trying to win re-election with his investigation and denouncements. It becomes clear that the philosophy that Nottola espouses but can never directly articulate is one where some people simply must die off so that people in power can live well. Steiger helps the film a lot by not playing this like a cheap villain but like someone who's long ago resigned himself to this being the way of things.

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