larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
Characters frequently appearing in this drama:

  • I - your humble narrator, sometime writer and poet (preferred pronoun: he/him/his)

  • Janni - spouse and writer (preferred pronoun: she/her/her)

  • TBD - nom de internet of our child, not yet a writer (preferred pronoun: they/them/their)
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
A history here, a history there -- pretty soon it adds up to real people:

Thanks to a dialogue for training cuneiform scribes c.1600 BCE, we know how to get your laundry done in ancient Mesopotamia. Also, pain-in-the-ass customers have been a Thing for a v-e-r-y long time. (via)

Wall chart of the evolution of the latin aphabet from Proto-sinaitic roots. (via)

Map of medieval afro-eurasian trade routes c. 11-12 centuries version 4. Zoomable version. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from Tony, Patty Griffin.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Over the past year, I've seen or listened to episodes from 13* different Power Rangers series, in some cases most of the series. Some are better than others:
  1. Mighty Morphin (starting 1995) -- Did enough right to become popular; wears its cheese on its sleeve.

  2. Power Rangers in Space (1998) -- Weak shadow of the original … in SPACE!

  3. Lightspeed Rescue (2000) -- Just plain bad.

  4. Wild Force (2002) -- Puts several of the original's cheesier elements on crack. Flying island lol whut?

  5. Ninja Storm (2003) -- Does have ninjas, but also a lot of badly applied camp. +1 for the beetle-themed costumes.

  6. Dino Thunder (2004) -- I have no idea what the heck I was watching, the one episode TBD accidentally chose while looking for Dino Charge.

  7. Mystic Force (2006) -- Interesting concept (Rangers x Harry Potter) marred by a low budget.

  8. Jungle Fury (2008) -- Interesting concept (Rangers x Kung Fu) marred by inexpert camp.

  9. RPM (2009) -- Takes its low-budget 80s-era-post-apocalyptic vibe and runs with it. Have to admire that.

  10. Samurai (2010) -- Surprisingly good, with a surprisingly good production budget. Plays the premise straight, using as much heart as the actors can emote.

  11. Megaforce (2013) -- Almost as good, with almost as much heart. The buccaneer-themed costumes are a hoot.

  12. Dino Charge (2015) -- Throwback to the original's dinosaur themes, only with actual dinosaurs. Better than average.

  13. Ninja Steel (2017) -- Despite the name, no ninjas, and therefore not quite as good. The villainous game-show of the first season works surprisingly well, though.

Octonauts is much better.

Any recs for shows available on Netflix/Prime/PBS Kids to steer a going-on-6-year-old towards?


*Depending on how you count -- I consider Power Rangers Super Samurai a second season of, rather than separate series from, Power Rangers Samurai. If you don't, my last four series are really eight.


---L.

Subject quote from Garden Song, Dave Mallett.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
For Poetry Monday, another modern sonnet:


“Sleeping sister of a farther sky,” Karen Volkman

Sleeping sister of a farther sky,
dropped from zenith like a tender tone,
the lucid apex of a scale unknown
whose whitest whisper is an opaque cry

of measureless frequency, the spectral sigh
you breath, bright hydrogen and brighter zone
of fissured carbon, consummated moan
and ceaseless rapture of a brilliant why.

Will nothing wake you from your livid rest?
Essence of ether and astral stone
the stunned polarities your substance weaves

in one bright making, like a dream of leaves
in the tree’s mind, summered. Or as a brooding bone
roots constellations in the body’s nest.


---L.

Subject quote from Ode to Psyche, John Keats.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
We're solidly into early spring flowers, with cassia and African daisies blooming all over, so here's three grim links:

An interactive map of the climates of US/Canada cities 60 years from now, by showing what current location has that climate now. (via)

How sex censorship has killed the internet. (via?)

How the discourse of “Baby It's Cold Outside” parallels that of Macbeth act I scene 7, with bonus pastiche. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from Job 37:16, JPS (1917) translation.
larryhammer: a wisp of smoke, label: "it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls" (what tangled tales we weave)
Four podcasts I listen to:

1. YourClassical Daily Download -- My default music of choice is classical, but I haven't done much in the way of expanding my library for, um, several years. To avoid only listening to the same stuff all the time, there's the radio (my local station is pretty darn good, actually) and when reception or wifi is not an option, this: a random track a day, saving up ones I like.

2. Music for Programming -- While baroque works well for focus music, this is even better. (I can write casually to vocals, but not when I need deep focus.) Every few months, a new hour-plus of downtempo electronica ranging from space to ambient, constantly mixed up just enough to avoid boredom but not so much to jolt you out of your zone.

3. low light mixes -- When I want a little more variety. It's mostly thematic mixes of ambient, but it ranges about, with mostly weekly releases. I only occasionally save episodes, I find, but I generally listen to every episode.

4. Saga Thing -- Not for working to. Two professors of medieval literature are on a mission to discuss every Icelandic family saga, summarizing each one then bringing it to trial by rating its moment of best bloodshed, best stoic one-liner, who should be outlawed from the saga, and so on. (Thus calling it a "thing" in the sense of an Icelandic court.) Fair warning: They are scholars who love and teach this stuff and have been friends since grad school, so if you don't like their banter and byways you'll find it very long-winded -- it took them 12 going-on-two-hour episodes to get through Njal's Saga. (Content warning for those segments: hating on Hallgerd.) They're almost ¾ of the way through the project and just started Egil's Saga.

What podcasts can you rec?

---L.

Subject quote from On Seeing the Elgin Marbles, John Keats.
larryhammer: canyon landscape with saguaro and mesquite trees (desert)
For Poetry Monday, another modern sonnet:


A Prayer for Rain, Leisl Mueller

Let it come down: these thicknesses of air
have long enough walled love away from love;
stillness has hardened until words despair
of their high leaps and kisses shut themselves
back into wishing. Crippled lovers lie
against a weather which holds out on them,
waiting, awaiting some shrill sign, some cry,
some screaming cat that smells a sacrifice
and spells them thunder. Start the mumbling lips,
syllable by monotonous syllable,
that wash away the sullen griefs of love
and drown out knowledge of an ancient war—
o, ill-willed dark, give with the sound of rain,
let love be brought to ignorance again.


I should run more Mueller here. She was born in 1924 in Hamburg, and her family fled Nazi Germany for the States 15 years later, where she remains today. Her poetry in English has won several awards including the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. This one's from 1964, FWIW.

---L.

Subject quote from The Earthly Paradise, "The Hill of Venus," William Morris.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
Reading Wednesday after a week+ of being sick:

Finished:

Marvel Rising, story by Ryan North & G. Willow Wilson, art by Helen Chen & Marco Failla -- Tie-in for the animated franchise, but telling an original story of how Doreen Green meets Kamala Khan (in a programming class the former is volunteer teaching) and Squirrel Girl meets Ms Marvel (fighting the video-game themed powers of another student in the class), and eventually working out their secret identities. America Chavez and Inferno join in. Cute, slightly off-character in the way of crossovers, and not essential for fans of either main franchises.

In progress:

Joy of Life (庆余年) (mirror), Mao Ni (猫腻) -- Excellent stuff. I had not realized till I poked at it that Mao Ni had written a reincarnation-from-our-world story, and while this is technically xuanhuan, the feel is very close to a historical romance (complete with court intrigues) and there's even a skiffy vibe at times (the protagonist spends a lot of time examining how his new world is different from ours, including the whole cultivation thing). I see a lot of complaints in comments about the slow early development, but I doubt anyone familiar with bildungsromans would be put off. I love the level of literary and cinematic references, including taking poetry as seriously as it historically was, and the ways Dream of the Red Chamber gets used are a hoot. I'm up to chapter 120 (of 570-odd translated, 825 total) but already I recommend this nearly as strongly as Way of Choices.

The King's Avatar, Butterfly Blue -- While fighting off (or rather, failing to) the Martian Death Cold that's going around, I needed something a) vastly amusing and b) requiring little brain. Returning to Yu Xiu's adventures as a pro video gamer with a profound control of aggro of both NPCs and other players fit the bill perfectly. Am up to chapter 1237, the translation having built up a nice backlog for me, and am still engaged despite shifting attention exclusively to his professional comeback, which to me is the less interesting thread.

Meanwhile, have also taken Miracle Doctor, Abandoned Daughter to chapter 331.

DNF:

Genius Doctor, North Night -- Between dislike of the growing grimdarkness and the story going premium, dropping this one -- there's enough other Good Stuff to read instead.

---L.

Subject quote from Homecoming (Walter's Song), Vienna Teng.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
For Poetry Monday, another modern sonnet, this from 1928:


I Am In Need of Music, Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.


As you might expect given the subject, multiple composers have set this to music.

---L.

Subject quote from Lycidas, John Milton.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
For Reading Wednesday, because it's been only a week (I know, right?), only two new things to report, both Chinese fantasies in progress:

The Empress's Livestream (女帝直播攻略), Quick-Fried Mushroom* (油爆香菇) -- This is a hoot. Reincarnation xuanhaun with video-gaming elements: a female general from a futuristic era is reincarnated into a historical fantasy setting run by a multiverse-spanning livestream system, which gives rewards based on how popular her story line is with the viewing audience. She's given the goal "rule the palace by coming out on top of the harem intrigues" -- to which she says, fuck that shit, I'm gonna rule the palace by conquering the empire. Genre-busting set-scenes galore, with streaming commentary by her audience. Oh, and in her new life, she's been raised disguised as a boy because Reasons. Possibly the most fun part is that in her former life, she was a middle-aged woman who loved collecting the admiration of pretty girls, and she's not about to give up that hobby now that she's young again. It's not full-on LGBTQ acceptance, but it's by FAR the best** I've seen in Chinese webnovels (which are default heteronormative-with-erasure and all too often outright homophobic). Translation has only just started, but I'm keeping current at chapter 50 (out of 1840 total).

Miracle Doctor, Abandoned Daughter: Ghost Emperor's Wild Beast-Tamer Empress (神医弃女:鬼帝的驭兽狂妃), Ms. Lotus Bud*** (MS芙子) -- Female protagonist xuanhuan that starts, yet again, with MC having an abrupt change in personality and abilities, but for once this not the result of reincarnation but an indigenous lucky-stroke encounter. Also refreshing: a sweet, first-crush romance between teens (at least so far, though this looks to be changing soon). The adventure has been pretty standard and there are occasional narrative lapses, but I appreciate the attempts at mixing in family-and-court intrigue a la historical romances (even if they are simplistic for that genre). Can't say I actively recommend this -- for one thing, it's monster long, on-going with over 5000 chapters in Chinese -- but so far I don't regret my time spent. Am up to chapter 253 out of 494 translated.


* I love it when Chinese authors go all-in with their clearly pseudonymous handles.

** Same-sex marriage was legal in the protagonist's past life, and the narrator seems to not only approve of this but is tolerant of historical practices of gay male sex. The attitudes of other characters and livestream commenters are all over the place.

*** I'm guessing at how to read this: 芙 normally appears only in compounds that are alternate names for lotus flowers, while 子 is, among other things, a diminutive suffix -- and no, Latin letters in a name is NOT common.


---L.

Subject quote from Well—didn't you like the taste?, Sonya Taafe.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
For Poetry Monday, another modern sonnet:


Partridges, John Masefield

Here they lie mottled to the ground unseen,
This covey linked together from the nest.
The nosing pointers put them from their rest,
The wings whirr, the guns flash and all has been.

The lucky crumple to the clod, shot clean,
The wounded drop and hurry and lie close;
The sportsmen praise the pointer and his nose,
Until he scents the hiders and is keen.

Tumbled in bag with rabbits, pigeons, hares,
The crumpled corpses have forgotten all
The covey’s joys of strong or gliding flight.

But when the planet lamps the coming night,
The few survivors seek those friends of theirs;
The twilight hears and darkness hears them call.


Masefield wrote this in 1936, when he was already Poet Laureate.

---L.

Subject quote from Laura, an Imitation of Petrarch, William Jones.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
Okay, so it's been a while again since my last Reading Wednesday accounting ...

Finished:

Mighty Jack and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, story and art Ben Hatke, being both books of a duology in the same universe as Zita the Space Girl -- Read aloud to TBD, who snorked them down even more enthusiastically than Zita and demanded immediate rereads. Learning that Hatke's next book, Mighty Jack and Zita the Space Girl, will be published shortly before their birthday prompted squeals of delight. (NB: It has since been pushed out to next September, the same day as the next Hilda book.) Like Zita, there's a good blend of thematic meat with the adventure, here refracted through a folkloric lens instead of space opera. Note that Jack is in his early teens, instead of Zita's unspecified pre-teens -- though the age difference does not seem to have been a barrier.

The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, story and art Dav Pilkey -- Another read-aloud, snorked-and-reread graphic novel, this one a spinoff from Captain Underpants. Amusing potty humor abounds. Reread a few times.

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder, story and art Nie Jun, tr. Edward Gauvin -- Another read-aloud and reread graphic novel (and TBD immediately started demanding bedtime stories about the characters). Four magic-realist stories about a young girl with mobility issues being raised by her grandfather in a Beijing hutong (traditional neighborhood). Lovely, lovely stuff, and the atmosphere reminds me of a certain manga (such as Aria). FWIW Yu'er's disability does cause issues but is not linked to any magic.

Monkey King volume 8, adaptation Wei Dongchen, art Chao Peng -- Another manhua read-aloud. This installment covers the adventure of the Gold- and Silver-Horn Kings (chapters 33-35 of Journey to the West), and treats Pigsy with all the dignity he deserves. (Yes, that's a joke.) Looking for more, yah.

The Magic Tree House volumes 1-2, Mary Pope Osborne -- Also, yes, read aloud to TBD. If these stick -- not a given, as there's some ambivalence -- this series should last us a while. Of course, it didn't hurt that they're already interested in the subjects of these two volumes, namely dinosaurs and medieval European knights. (I've not been noting down all the books about castles, knights, arms, and armor we've gotten through.)

Plus as part of Yuletide research, a few translations of Gilgamesh materials -- the ones of note being the two from Penguin Classics, the recent Andrew George version with All The Fragments and the older N. K. Sandars version synthesizing the fragments to date into a unified prose narrative. In fact, I didn't actually finish any other translations, as these two were clearly better for both reading and fic'ing purposes.

And bunches of Yuletide 2018 fics, to be partially noted in a recs post when I've digested more.

In progress:

My Disciple Died Yet Again (我家徒弟又挂了), You Qian (尤前) -- Comedy xianxia, in which a contemporary woman is reincarnated into a fantasy world ... several times over, each time as the disciple of the same cultivation master, one so old and detached from the world as to be an active danger to her. Genre-savvy gamer protagonist for the win, which means lots of skewering genre conventions. Entertaining popcorn. Up to chapter 36 (of 393).

On hold:

Genius Doctor: Black Belly Miss (絕世神醫:腹黑大小姐), North Night (夜北) -- LCD reincarnation xuanhuan with an amusing if overpowered female protagonist and an irritating if even more overpowered love interest. Very short chapters made for quick munching in times of little brain. Unfortunately, most characters are not very realized except as props for increasingly elaborate and unrealistic revenge fantasies, and the growing grimdark details have been leaving enough bad taste in my mental mouth that I switched at chapter 1225 (out of over 2000 translated, 3123 total) to ...

... Insanely Pampered Wife: Divine Doctor Fifth Young Miss (爆宠狂妻:神医五小姐), Shan Gumu (扇骨木), a reincarnation xianxia with an amazing number of identical story elements with Genius Doctor, remixed into more of a pure-fun adventure yarn. Would still be reading it (despite the sloppy translation) if I hadn't run out of chapters at 353. (ETA: At which point, the Fifth Young Miss is not only nowhere near close to being a wife, pampered or otherwise, but has been living the entire book disguised as a young man for Reasons, and even sometimes acting the beard for her best female friend to keep her from unwanted attentions.)

Which means Phoenix Destiny remains the only xianxia I've been keeping up with chapters as they release, currently chapter 193. Best female protagonist Chinese fantasy I've found yet. ETA Annnnd a couple more chapters just dropped --- with a freaking Monkey King joke YESSSS FTW.

---L.

Subject quote from anyone lived in a pretty how town, e.e. cummings.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
For Poetry Monday, a sonnet on the same subject, in its way, as Farjeon's Peace:


Epic, Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided; who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul!’
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel—
‘Here is the march along these iron stones’
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.


Kavanagh (1904–1967) was an Irish poet and novelist. A rood is about a quarter acre. I cannot decide whether the last sentence is the ghost or the poet speaking. (Admittedly, this matters less for interpretation than Keats versus the Grecian urn.)

---L.

Subject quote from Safe in Your Arms, Beth Orton.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
For Poetry Monday, more modern sonnets:


Peace, Eleanor Farjeon

I.

I am as awful as my brother War,
I am the sudden silence after clamour.
I am the face that shows the seamy scar
When blood and frenzy has lost its glamour.
Men in my pause shall know the cost at last
That is not to be paid in triumphs or tears,
Men will begin to judge the thing that’s past
As men will judge it in a hundred years.

Nations! whose ravenous engines must be fed
Endlessly with the father and the son,
My naked light upon your darkness, dread!—
By which ye shall behold what ye have done:
Whereon, more like a vulture than a dove,
Ye set my seal in hatred, not in love.

II.

Let no man call me good. I am not blest.
My single virtue is the end of crimes,
I only am the period of unrest,
The ceasing of horrors of the times;
My good is but the negative of ill,
Such ill as bends the spirit with despair,
Such ill as makes the nations’ soul stand still
And freeze to stone beneath a Gorgon glare.

Be blunt, and say that peace is but a state
Wherein the active soul is free to move,
And nations only show as mean or great
According to the spirit then they prove.—
O which of ye whose battle-cry is Hate
Will first in peace dare shout the name of Love?


Farjeon (1881-1965) was a writer and poet known especially for her children's stories (she won both the Carnegie and Hans Christian Andersen medals). Her best-known lyric is the hymn "Morning Has Broken," largely because of the Cat Stevens recording. This appeared in a 1918 collection.

---L.

Subject quote from 32 Flavors, Ani DiFranco.
larryhammer: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
What Is Glitter? subtitled "a strange journey to the glitter factory."

Life-sized cut-out paper octopus. (via)

How to measure the size of the earth from your backyard using a stopwatch, a tape measure, and a wall with a view of the horizon: part 1, part 2, part 3. (via)

---L.

Subject quote from After dark vapours have oppressed our plains, John Keats.

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