Thursday, July 20th, 2017 04:28 pm
Previous models set first occupation significantly later. Much earlier and the first humans in Australia would have left footprints in the still-cooling ashes of the Toba eruption.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 07:51 pm

Posted by Emily Asher-Perrin

John Boyega, Pacific Rim: Uprising

At San Diego Comic Con, Pacific Rim‘s sequel has released its very first teaser trailer along with a call for everyone to “Join the Jaeger Uprising.” Get a sneak peek at the new set of Jaegers below!

The teaser itself reads more like an advertisement to stoke public opinion on the Jaegers in a world that has already seen them defeat a multitude of monsters. We also get a glimpse of John Boyega as Jake Pentecost, son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost:

This gives fans a hint about what the world has become following the events of Pacific Rim, and how the population views the instruments of their survival. Presumably this is supposed to be an ad to recruit new pilots? And we get to see the new jaeger team that we will likely see in the film.

Pacific Rim: Uprising has also created a website to get acquainted with this beauties: You can text to a number provided for more information, but the site has more info and downloadable specs on the jaegers themselves. Here are a few of them….

Pacific Rim: Uprising, jaegers

Pacific Rim: Uprising, jaegers

Pacific Rim: Uprising, jaegers

Safe to assume that Gypsy Avenger is the little sibling of Gypsy Danger from the first film, of course. And there are two more on the site! Head over to to see the rest.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 01:30 pm
I was looking at Instant Attitudes because I wanted to point it out to a few people. And I came across this shirt...

I don't want to adult today

I don't want to Adult today.
I don't even want to Human.
Today I want to Cat.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 11:42 am
 Jordin Kare.  [personal profile] calimac  posted a wonderful remembrance.  I only met him a few times.  My heart goes out to Mary Kay.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 03:34 pm
Can somebody update me on the present legal status in the US of graphical user interfaces as intellectual property? Am I correct in believing they can't be patented (though the code can be copyrighted)?

What I really want to know: Can I rip off GVoice's old/retired web interface legally? Or more accurately, can I pay somebody else to do it for me with reasonable ability to assure them they won't go to jail or get sued into oblivion for doing it?

To be clear, there are some nifty functional subtleties I'd want to make off with, which I wouldn't even want to bother pretending I came up with on my own. For instance, there's some interesting algorithm for how texts are batched into threads which I haven't entirely reversed engineered, but make a huge difference in readability.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 07:03 pm

Posted by JenniferP

Hello Captain Awkward,

I have an ongoing issue that I hope you can help me with, perhaps in the form of a script. I have been married for 24 years. Our marriage is far from perfect but we have worked out some of the major kinks. So here is the issue.

My husband is an introvert, I am an extreme extrovert. We are both ok with that. He doesn’t mind if I socialize and I do not care if he takes a pass on 99% of the invitations sent our way. He is fine with family events and hanging with a few close friends. All good. The problem is the rest of the world. We get invited to a lot of events that the majority of the guests are couples. Neighborhood parties, extended family stuff, work events etc. Again, my husband hates, I really enjoy. People are ok if I attend one or two events solo, but begin to get awkward and insulted beyond that. There are just so many “Husband is sick” “Husband is working on a project” excuses I can make before it becomes obvious that he is just not going to be showing up.

I have no idea what the right approach is to this is. Do I just say to everyone ” Hey husband hates parties and hanging out and makes it a misery for me til we finally just leave early”. I have started to just not attend things myself which makes me sad and resentful.

Any thoughts on how to make this less awkward?


Somebody at the party will probably always ask you that question because curiosity is human and they think enquiring after a person’s spouse is a routine & polite thing to do. You can’t change their behavior, but you can try to approach your replies with more “IDGAF” and see if they get better at taking cues from you.

The biggest recommendation I have is: DON’T LIE ANYMORE. You may think you need to tell white lies to spare the host’s feelings, but that’s part of why you feel resentful about the whole thing. You don’t actually owe the hosts any explanations, and being forced to lie is uncomfortable, so, let it go and tell the truth. He’s not sick, he’s not at work, he’s just not here.

Scripts, which nearly all come with “+ [a subject change]!” after them:

  • Oh, he’s at home.”
  • “He’s doing something else today.” 
  • “He’s not a party person, but I am!” 
  • “Oh, I like to come by myself, and he likes the quiet time at home. Everyone wins this way!” 
  • “We have a mixed Introvert-Extrovert marriage, so, you’re stuck with me for the rest of time.” 
  • “Oh, I can almost never never drag him out of the house for parties! He really loves his solo time, and I love being here with all of you.”

You say people are getting insulted, like, they might feel like your husband doesn’t really like them. That’s awkward, but at the end of the day, so what? It’s not your job to be his neighborhood friendliness ambassador. He’s not hurting anybody.

Your marriage is just fine, and their opinion of it doesn’t matter, so the worst thing I can come up with is that if they are obsessed with even numbers and couples, some people might stop inviting you to things. That would sting, but it’s not something you can actually control. Or, they might awkwardly ask, wait, doesn’t he like us? And you can say “I don’t know, he’s certainly never mentioned anything about that to me. After 24 years I do know that even when it’s his very best friends or family, big gatherings aren’t his cup of tea. It’s not personal, and it’s never gonna change! Good news, though, you’re never getting rid of me, ’cause I love it here.”

I’m gonna end with a compromise suggestion specifically for neighborhood gatherings, specifically for things that are walking distance and don’t require dressing up. Once a month or so, could your husband wander over and say a 10-minute hello to the hosts as a favor to you? Would it, like, crush his fragile spirit to drop in and say “Hey, bud, looks like a great gathering! My wife’s been looking forward to it all week! You know I’m not a party person but I wanted to stop by and say hello for a minute.” Then, he can leave whenever he wants to and you can stay all you want.

He certainly doesn’t have to do this (invitations are not commands, the neighbors are not owed 2 guests just because they invited 2 guests), but one thing I see is you doing a bunch of emotional labor around this and him doing zero. I used to think I hated “small talk” and only wanted to connect over deep truths but it turns out SMALL TALK IS AWESOME IT GREASES THE WHEELS OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT AND ANYONE CAN DO IT FOR A FEW MINUTES, YOU WON’T DIE OF A BRIEF EXCHANGE ABOUT LAWN CARE OR THE WEATHER INSTEAD OF YOUR INNERMOST THOUGHTS.(See also: IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT BORED/BORING AS LONG AS YOU ARE KIND).

Your social life and relationships with the neighbors are important to you, so if him going for a few minutes would make you feel less awkward and smooth your way, I think that’s an okay thing to ask him to try out this summer.


Thursday, July 20th, 2017 01:30 pm

Posted by Melissa McEwan

image of Olivia the White Farm Cat curled up asleep on a white chair

At first glance, you may think this is another rare image of Olivia not being naughty — but that's only because you didn't know that she's curled up asleep in my desk chair, from which I walked away for maybe two whole minutes to use the bathroom, lol. IRREPRESSIBLE SCAMP!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 07:00 pm

Posted by Michael F. Haspil

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

When I’m not trying to put good words to the page, I channel my creativity into a peculiar hobby.

Most people will take in repeated viewings of their favorite movie to recapture specific emotions from a favored scene. For some of us, the screen experience isn’t enough. We seek a more tactile connection to the stories that have touched us in some way. From our ranks come the memorabilia aficionados, the figure collectors, and the cosplayers. Tangentially connected to these fan bases are movie prop collectors.

While I dabble in some of the other hobbies I’ve mentioned, I count myself among the latter. Owning an actual artifact from a favored film is ridiculously expensive, especially if the object is central to the story. Luckily, replicas present a cheaper and more accessible answer.

What is a movie prop? It’s any object used by actors or in a scene during a film production, but importantly, not a costume or part of the set. The best ones, the ones that are the most fun to collect, are often critical to an iconic character or tied to a beloved story. Where would Indiana Jones be without his whip? Ripley without her motion tracker? Or Doctor Who without his sonic screwdriver?

For me, my obsession began in the mid-1980s. That’s when I attended my first science fiction conventions. At a Star Trek convention, I picked up a Marco Enterprises catalogue. Inside, were all manner of screen treasures; blasters and lightsabers; phasers, tricorders, and communicators; president trackers and agonizers. Quite literally the stuff dreams are made of. Keep in mind, this was still in the days of dial-up modems and bulletin board systems, long before the internet. I had no idea such things were possible, let alone available for purchase. Alas, I was still a youngster in high school and as much as I wanted everything in the catalogue, there was no way I could afford any of it. But it ignited the spark and I decided to make my own.

The first prop I made was from an old piece of pine with the help of a shop teacher. It is a replica of a Type I Phaser from Star Trek. It is a bit worse for wear now. I need to repair the dial, but I still have it.

My construction and collecting took a hiatus while I was in college, but afterward came back more powerful than I could possibly imagine. By then the internet was coming into its own and we replica prop creators and collectors were no longer in a vacuum. One great thing about those days was that collectors were often working with the same materials the original movie prop masters had used to create these icons. So, if I wanted the most accurate replica of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from Star Wars: A New Hope, all I had to do was track down an old Graflex 3-cell flashgun, the bubble lenses from the right model of Texas Instruments calculator, some hard plastic T-tracks for the grips, and I’d be off to a pretty good start.

Some builds are easier than others. When I wanted a replica of Jeannie’s bottle from I Dream of Jeannie, I needed the right whiskey decanter and paint. For other props knowing which parts I needed was the critical limiting factor and required a significant amount of detective work, since most movie production houses don’t exactly put out a parts list with the film.

Several internet forums dedicated themselves as clearing houses for such information as fans and collectors pored over volumes of screenshots trying to identify the minutest detail or crowdsource the parts needed for a replica. In many ways, the sleuthing took on a life of its own and the lion’s share of the time spent in the hobby. When I created my replica of The Nine Gates to the Kingdom of Shadows from the film The Ninth Gate (I have a thing for spooky tomes), it took me over three years hunting down all the information I could get. I sought out the type of paper used, how the originals were bound, meticulously recreated the definitive woodcuts, and even identified the correct stamp when a postcard was used as a bookmark in the film. In the end, I probably put more work into the replica than the filmmakers put into the original prop, but when I finished, it was an achievement I could be proud of and a valuable addition to my collection.

When I set out to build my Ghostbusters proton pack, I decided to scratch-build the entire thing. Getting my hands on original parts wasn’t in the cards. This led me to another great part of the hobby. I wandered around craft and hardware stores and looked for parts that might fit the right shape of the original part. I dared never ask for help because I could never say what I’m was going to use the part for. With a little imagination and a lot of Dremel tool work, I turned a cake pan, popsicle sticks, PVC piping, duct tape, a Pringles can, and trailer and car stereo accent lights into a ninety percent solution to a decent proton pack. It isn’t perfect, but that’s why I’m building another one.

That’s another aspect of the hobby I didn’t expect. Nothing is ever 100 percent right. So as new information came to light, I took my creations back to the drawing board and the workbench. But sometimes I should just walk away to work on something new. A replica prop, much like a novel, is never truly finished, it is abandoned at the point when it becomes good enough.

As I read and write my love of this hobby makes me take note of props and how they show up on the page. They can allow emotional expression by observing character interaction with a specific prop. They can become symbols of the entire story by themselves like The One Ring or the Elder Wand. At the least, they can make a sweet McGuffin.

Recent developments have affected the hobby in different ways. As movie productions incorporate more CGI and prop masters turn to 3D-printing, they create fewer iconic props from found parts. The sleuthing has become less important. To make accurate replicas now requires an additional skillset, often in sculpting and casting. However, some great companies now offer high end licensed replicas at affordable prices. This is great for the collector side of things, but hurts the creator side. Why scratch-build something when I can get a much more accurate version for a significantly smaller time investment? So as free time has become much more of a valuable commodity, I find myself spending less time on the workbench and just buying the things I like. In a sense, it’s almost like I’ve come full circle, only now I can afford the replicas in the catalogues.

But jammed in between writing sessions, I still have a few props that haunt me and I figure I will try to tackle them in the upcoming years. These are fringe props, stuff the big collectible companies won’t make (probably). I need to tackle that glaive from Krull and Al’s “gummy-bear” handlink from Quantum Leap. Neither of these is a small project. Maybe I’ll tackle The Book of Cagliostro from Doctor Strange, that seems easier…

Michael F. Haspil is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. An avid gamer, he serves as a panelist on the popular “The Long War” webcasts and podcasts. Graveyard Shift is his first novel. Find him online at his website or @michaelhaspil.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 06:01 pm

Posted by JenniferP



I am howling at this story of Jenny Slate’s terrible blind date.


Like, lmk when you get to the phrase “[metal clanking noises]” if you’re not ded of laughing by then.

It’s very funny and well told, because she is funny and a good storyteller (and because it doesn’t end with her being called ‘Milady’ in a murder basement for the rest of her short life), but it’s also a deeply cautionary tale about how women are socialized to be nice at all costs and how some dudes have not heard “LOL, Nope!!!!” coming from the woman-shaped hole in the nearest wall as their date flees the scene nearly enough in this life.



Thursday, July 20th, 2017 11:27 am
 Jolene Nicole Jones.  WARNING:  DO NOT CLICK FOR THE "INCREDIBLE BODY TRANSFORMATIONS" which are weight-loss pictures, and HALT THE VIDEO halfway down the page.  (Or visit her Facebook site.  I don't do Facebook.)
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 02:33 pm
J. Beauregard Sessions sez, “Don’t let them immanentize the eschaton.”

ETA: And Clarence Thomas understands civil forfeiture better than he does.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 06:22 pm

Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Fahrenheit 451 HBO movie adaptation first look Ray Bradbury Michael B. Jordan Guy Montag

HBO Films has shared the first official photo from Fahrenheit 451, its forthcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel set in a future where reading is outlawed and books are burned. It’s, appropriately, an action shot of firefighter Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) letting the flames fly on some contraband reading, while his superior Beatty (Michael Shannon) looks on approvingly.

More info from the press release:

Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel which depicts a future where media is an opiate, history is outlawed and “firemen” burn books, Fahrenheit 451 follows Montag, a young fireman who forsakes his world, battles his mentor Beatty and struggles to regain his humanity. Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, Laura Harrier, Sophia Boutella and Lilly Singh star. The film is directed by Ramin Bahrani, who also serves as executive producer with Sarah Green, Michael B. Jordan, Alan Gasmer and Peter Jaysen; David Coatsworth produces. Ramin Bahrani and Amir Naderi are co-writers.

Interesting detail/nitpick: Montag’s uniform has 451 on it, presumably the number of his company, though the title comes from the autoignition temperature of paper.

Seeing as the photo comes from HBO Films, it’s safe to assume that this adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, as with the others, will be a movie instead of a television series. It makes sense, as the original book makes for a pretty slim volume, but in an era of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale expanding its source material, you never know.

The film is currently in production; no word yet on release date.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 06:00 pm

Posted by Mari Ness

For the most part, the French salon fairy tale writers all knew each other, at least casually, and all worked from more or less the same sources: oral tales heard in childhood, classical mythology, and collections of Italian fairy tales, in particular Giambattista Basile’s Il Pentameron and Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron. So it is not surprising that many of their tales end up sharing some, shall we say, strong similarities, and in some cases nearly identical plots—or even, as with Beauty and the Beast, abridgements of another author’s original tale. What can be surprising is how and why these tales differ—as a look at two French versions of “Riquet with the Tuft” show.

Catherine Bernard (1662?-1712) worked primarily as a playwright, eventually becoming the most successful woman playwright of her era. She also wrote three novels and multiple poems. None of this earned her all that much money, however, and she was primarily supported through winning literary prizes and by the patronage of nobles at Louis XIV’s court. Although at least one of these patrons seems to have urged her to focus on poetry, her otherwise precarious position presumably encouraged her to express herself through fiction, rather than the non-fictional essays, satires and poems that got many of her fellow writers exiled. The subversive fairy tales written by the scandalous and occasionally exiled Madame d’Aulnoy provided a perfect model. Her “Riquet with the Tuft” appears in her third novel, Ines de Corduve, published in 1696.

Possibly inspired by short story collections set within a framing story, such as Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Giambattista Basile’s Il Pentameron, Ines de Corduve features a fairy tale between the eponymous character and a rival. Bernard may also have been inspired by listening to the fairy tales told in many of the salons, and, like her fellow authors, may even have recited “Riquet with the Tuft” at a salon prior to including it in her novel — thus creating it for oral presentation. Though it’s also entirely possible, given her tale’s ending, that she never recited it at all prior to including it in her novel. I can’t help but think that someone might have suggested one or two changes if she had.

Bernard opens her tale in Grenada—a very real place, if one safely outside of France—where a nobleman finds himself with a major problem: his beautiful daughter is also extremely stupid, enough, Bernard adds, “to make her appearance distasteful.” Uh, ouch. This is probably one of the cruelest statements about the mentally disabled to appear in French salon fairy tales, though that’s partly because, apart from occasional descriptions of characters falling into deep despair, in general, French salon fairy tales tended to avoid the subjects of mental disability and mental health entirely. It’s made worse a few sentences later, when it becomes clear that Mama, the beautiful daughter in question, knows that people don’t like her very much—but can’t figure out why.

By this time it should be fairly clear that this is not necessarily going to be a comforting thing for people with disabilities, mental or physical, to read. You’ve been warned.

A few sentences later, and Mama runs into a man with a hideous appearance—in Bernard’s terms, virtually a monster. Mama wants to flee, but doesn’t. The man—Riquet—informs her that they have something in common: he’s hideous, which repels people, and she’s stupid, which also repels people, but if she wants, he can make her intelligent—if she agrees to marry him within a year. She agrees. Riquet gives her a little rhyme to chant. It works. Very soon she is intelligent, surrounded by lovers—and in love.

Only not with Riquet, and not with someone her parents approve of, either. Arada is good looking, but not wealthy—and, of course, Mama’s promised to someone else. Not that her parents know that, but in an aside, they do find themselves rather wishing that Mama had never gained a mind at all—and try to warn her about the dangers of love.

At the end of the year, Riquet returns, offering Mama a choice: she can either marry him and become the queen of the gnomes, or she can return to her parents, without her intelligence. She has two days to decide. Two days later, Mama, intelligent enough to know that she will lose Arada if she loses her intelligence, reluctantly agrees to marry him.

This is not Beauty and the Beast. The marriage goes badly. Mama despises her husband, and soon enough, contacts Arada, letting him know that she is in the gnome kingdom. Arada comes to her, cheering her up—which immediately rouses the suspicion of Riquet, who changes the conditions: Mama will be intelligent at night—when she is with Riquet—and stupid during the day—when she is with Arada. Mama responds by drugging Riquet. Riquet in turn transforms Arada into a visual double of himself, leaving Mama unable to tell which one is Riquet, and which Arada. Which in turn rather makes me doubt this supposed intelligence Riquet gave her—surely, she could figure out which one was which after a few questions? But apparently not: Mama ends up with two husbands, not knowing which one she can speak to openly. Bernard is not sympathetic:

But perhaps she hardly lost anything there. In the long run, lovers become husbands anyway.

It’s an abrupt, brutal, and rather unsatisfactory ending for all three characters—perhaps especially Arada, the complete innocent here, who did nothing more than fall in love with a woman who kinda failed to tell him that she was already engaged to a gnome—a gnome who, moreover, was the only reason she was capable of speaking intelligently. But also for Riquet, who meant well, and ended up trapped in a miserable marriage, judged mostly by his looks, and yes, even for Mama, not always the most sympathetic character here, but who, it seems wanted to be normal and to fit in—and found herself miserable after choosing to try to be more like other people.

It is perhaps more than pertinent to note here that Bernard herself was born into a Huguenot family, and did not convert to Catholicism until 1685, just months before Louis XIV reversed the Edict of Nantes, making the Protestant faith illegal again. (We know the specific date since even at the age of 22 or 23, Bernard had made enough of a literary name for herself that her conversion was noted in a French paper.) I’m not saying that Bernard converted only to ensure that she could remain at court and write, just that the timing is slightly suspicious. Nor I am suggesting that Bernard wrote highly flattering poems about Louis XIV solely in hopes of getting a pension, just noting that she did write highly flattering poems about Louis XIV and did receive a small pension from him. Her defenders, after all, noted that prior to the pension, she had won multiple poetry prizes and was thus a worthy literary recipient of this pension. So let us not judge. On the other hand, Bernard’s tale suggests that she knew all too well the dangers and stresses of attempting to fit in where you do not fully belong.

Charles Perrault’s version, also called “Riquet with the Tuft,” was published a year later—along with Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and other tales—in his Histories ou contes du temps passe (1697). It’s not entirely clear if Perrault and Bernard were working from the same oral source, or if Perrault simply chose to rewrite Bernard’s story, with or without her permission. What is clear is that he had a very different approach to the tale.

Perrault begins by transforming Riquet from the ugly gnome with powerful magic of Bernard’s tale to a very human prince, if one born so ugly that a few people doubt he’s human. Luckily, a fairy explains that the little Riquet is so intelligent that he’ll be able to charm everyone anyway, despite his looks. It’s a bit difficult to figure out how, exactly, she can be so sure about this, given that he’s just a squalling newborn when she makes this pronouncement, but, fairies. In any case, her prediction turns out to be completely true. And possibly an echo of Perrault’s own experiences at Versailles, where, based on various portraits, a number of downright hideous people managed to overcome that particular issue and become powerful, influential and even popular.

It would perhaps miss the point entirely if I noted that many of those people had money or powerful relatives.


Riquet also receives a powerful gift: whoever he chooses to love will seem equally intelligent, just because he’s in love.

Meanwhile, over in the next kingdom, the royal family is dealing with one beautiful but stupid daughter, and one ugly but intelligent daughter. The dismayed family turns to a fairy for help, who notes that she can’t do much about the looks, but will give the beautiful daughter one gift: whoever she chooses to love will seem beautiful just because she’s in love.

You can probably guess, at this point, where this story is going—indeed, the main advantage Bernard’s tale has over Perrault’s is that her story is considerably less predictable, even if Perrault’s story is more charming, comforting, and, well, a lot more fun — partly thanks to its much happier ending. The beautiful princess finds herself incredibly jealous of her ugly but more popular sister, to the point of feeling that she would willingly give up all of her beauty for half of her sister’s intelligence. Fortunately enough, for all of Riquet’s supposed intelligence, he turns out to be remarkably fixated on looks, falling in love the beautiful princess based on her portraits alone. When, after arriving at her kingdom, he finds her melancholy, he is surprised. When she explains that her unhappiness stems from her lack of intelligence, he notes:

There’s no greater proof of intelligence, madam, than the belief that we do not have any. It is the nature of the gift that the more we have, the more we believe we are deficient in it.

I sense a slight—a very slight—slam at some of his fellow courtiers here, though neither Riquet nor Perrault are rude enough to name names. In any case, the princess is not intelligent enough to be convinced by this, so, as in Bernard’s tale, Riquet offers to make her intelligent—if she’ll agree to marry him within a year. The princess agrees. She returns to her court, dazzling everyone with her new wit—including a rather handsome prince that she can’t help being more than a bit into. Her parents approve, assuring her—in direct contradiction to the more usual situation with nobility and royalty—that she can choose a husband for herself.

One year later, a far more thoughtful princess meets Riquet out in the gardens. She notes that she was uncertain about marrying him back when she lacked intelligence; does he really want to marry her now that she’s more intelligent—and thus, harder to please? He asks if she has any other issues with him beyond his appearance. She assures him that she doesn’t. He points out that she has the power to make anyone she falls in love with handsome with a single wish, which she makes. And with that, they live happily ever after, intelligently and beautifully, although Perrault points out that some people—not naming names, you understand—claim that this was less magic, and more love, which transformed all of Riquet’s flaws to heroic, handsome points in his favor.

I concede the possibility, but I also have to note the difference between the two tales: Bernard, who never married, and remained on the outside of the French court, and who converted from the religion of her home to the established religion of her court, not only presents a woman who, for all her intelligence, is unable to see beyond appearances, but also leaves us with a deeply unhappy marriage. Perrault, who enjoyed an extremely successful, social climbing career at court, assures us that true love can allow us—or, at least princesses—to see beyond initial appearances, and fall in love with people who may appall us on a purely superficial level. One of them, I think, would have believed the story of Beauty and the Beast. The other would not.

Charlotte Bernard stopped publishing in 1698, reportedly turning to prayer and the study of religion instead, with the royal pension providing just enough to live on, to save her the necessity of publishing. She died fourteen years later, in 1712. Twenty years after her death, her work became the subject of a major and nasty literary fight, where some critics, mostly friends of Voltaire, claimed that Bernard’s two plays, Laodamie, reine d’Epire (1689) and Brutus (1690), had actually been written by her (probable) cousin Fontenelle, as other critics, mostly enemies of Voltaire, claimed that Voltaire had copied various passages of Bernard’s Brutus – and that Bernard’s play was better. An infuriated Voltaire announced that most of Bernard’s Brutus had absolutely, positively been written by her cousin, and was not very good anyway, stirring up the fight all over again. For a time at least, Bernard was better known as a subject of this controversy rather than for her own work or for her fairy tales, until the 1980s when she once again became a subject of academic research.

It might have comforted her to find out that Charles Perrault’s version of her tale followed her into obscurity. Even in its initial publication, the tale never achieved the same popularity as Cinderella or Puss-in-Boots, or even his disturbing Donkey-Skin. It was translated with his other tales into English, but for whatever reason, English readers also failed to warm to the tale. Andrew Lang, who happily included Perrault’s other tales in his collections, including Donkey-Skin, left this one out.

It’s rather a pity: ugliness is so often associated with wickedness in fairy tales that it’s refreshing to see it depicted here as something that can be associated with good, in tales where beauty, for once, is not regarded either as a hallmark of goodness or even as something particularly desirable, and where intelligence is worth sacrificing almost everything for—even the chance of future happiness.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 06:06 pm
Chapter 32: Cynara
by Lyn Thorne-Alder

Sunday, December 10, 2000

“I need to go to the library for a couple hours.  I’ll be home by bedtime.”  Cynara held up her bookbag by way of illustration.  “Homework.”

“All right.”  Dysmas had the lazy, sated look he had after he’d fed.  “Be careful.”

“I always am.”  

She slipped out the door before he could give her any more orders that pulled and tugged at her mind like imperfect stitches, leaving little rows of discomfort she’d re-position herself to avoid.  She left before she had to look at Leo, or at Eriko, and remember to hide everything she was feeling.  

read on...
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 06:00 pm

Giant Acorn Barnacle

In case you ever wondered what was inside a barnacle.

Originally posted at
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 05:00 pm

Posted by Cassandra Khaw

Deacon James is a rambling bluesman straight from Georgia, a black man with troubles that he can’t escape, and music that won’t let him go. On a train to Arkham, he meets trouble—visions of nightmares, gaping mouths and grasping tendrils, and a madman who calls himself John Persons. According to the stranger, Deacon is carrying a seed in his head, a thing that will destroy the world if he lets it hatch.

The mad ravings chase Deacon to his next gig. His saxophone doesn’t call up his audience from their seats, it calls up monstrosities from across dimensions. As Deacon flees, chased by horrors and cultists, he stumbles upon a runaway girl, who is trying to escape the destiny awaiting her. Like Deacon, she carries something deep inside her, something twisted and dangerous. Together, they seek to leave Arkham, only to find the Thousand Young lurking in the woods.

The song in Deacon’s head is growing stronger, and soon he won’t be able to ignore it any more.

Cassandra Khaw returns with A Song for Quiet, a new standalone Persons Non Grata novella from the world of Hammers on Bone—available August 29th from Publishing.



Chapter 1

The train rattles like teeth in a dead man’s skull as Deacon James sags against the window, hat pulled low over his eyes. Only a few share the wide, orange-lit carriage with him. A young Chinese family, the children knotted like kittens over the laps of the adults. An undertaker in his Sunday grim, starched collar and golden cufflinks on each sleeve. Two young black women trading gossip in rich contraltos.

Stutter. Jangle. Shove. Shriek. The train shudders on, singing a hymn of disrepair. Deacon looks up as civilization robs the night of its endlessness, finger painting globs of light and farmhouses across the countryside. In the distance, Arkham sits waiting near the dark mouth of the river, a rivulet of silver crawling to the sea. Deacon sighs and closes long fingers around the handle of his instrument case. The journey had been long, lonely, marked by grief for the dead and grief for himself. Every child knows they’re going to outlive their parents, but understanding is no opiate, can only mitigate. Knowledge can only propagate a trust that someday this will be okay.

But not yet, not yet.

What Deacon wishes for, more than anything else, is someone to tell him what to do in this period between hurting and healing, neither here nor there, the ache growing septic. What do you do when the funeral is over but your heart is still broken. When all the condolences have been spoken and the mourners have gone shuffling home, and you’re left to stare at the wall, so raw and empty that you don’t know if you’ll ever be whole again.

He breathes in, breathes out. Drags the musty heat of the carriage, too warm by half, into his bones before relaxing. One second, Deacon reminds himself. One minute. One hour. One day. One week at a time. You had to take each moment as it came, or you’d go mad from the yearning. He strokes his fingers across polished wood. In the back of his head, he feels the thump of music again: hot and wet and salty as a lover’s skin, begging for release.

But it’d be rude, wouldn’t it? Deacon traces the iron latches on his case and the places where the paint has faded and flaked, rubbed out by sweat and fingertips. A carriage of late-evening travelers, all hungry for home. Is he cold enough to interrupt their vigil?

The music twitches, eager and invasive. It wouldn’t be an imposition. It hardly could be. After all, Deacon can sing a bird from a tree, or that’s what they’ve told him, at least. It’d be good, whispers the melody, all sibilant. It’d be good for you and them.

“Why not?” Deacon says to no one in particular, scanning the quiet. His voice is steady, powerful, the bass of a Sunday pastor, booming from the deep well of his chest. A few slide lidded gazes at him, but no one speaks, too worn down by the road. Why not, croons the music in simpatico, a miasmic echo pressing down behind his right eye. Deacon knows, although he couldn’t begin to tell anyone how, that the pressure will alleviate if he plays, if he puts sentiment to sound. That he’d stop hurting—just for a little while.

And wouldn’t that be worth it?

Why not, Deacon thinks again, a little guilty, flipping open the case, the brass of his saxophone gleaming gold in the dim light of the train. The music in his skull grows louder, more insistent.

Dock Boggs’s “Oh, Death.” How about that? Something easy and sad, none too obtrusive. His father would have appreciated the irony. Deacon sets his lips to the mouthpiece and his fingers to the keys. Exhales.

But the sound that comes out is nothing so sweet, full of teeth instead. Like the song’s a dog that needs to eat, and he’s a bone in its grip. Like it’s hungry. The description jumps at Deacon, a crazed whine of a thought, before the song grabs him and devours him whole.

Raw, unevenly syncopated, the music’s a clatter of droning notes, looping into themselves, like a man mumbling a prayer. Briefly, Deacon wonders where he heard it, where he picked it up, because there is nothing in the music that tastes familiar. No trace of the blues, no ghost of folk music, not even the wine-drunk laughter of big-city jazz or the thunder of the gospel. Only a hard lump of yearning that snags like fishbones in his throat as he plays, plays, plays, improvisation after improvisation, frantically straining to wrench the bassline into familiar waters.

But it won’t relent. Instead, it drags him along, down, down, down, and under, deep into arpeggios for chords yet invented. And Deacon keeps playing to its tune, a man possessed, lungs jolting with every new refrain, even as the music mutates from a hypnotic adagio to a crashing, senseless avalanche of notes. Just sound and a fire that eats through him and yet, somehow, Deacon can



The lights shudder and swing, chains rattling.

And suddenly, there is nothing to stop, and it is over, and he is free, and Deacon is slumping into his seat, throat still foaming with the memory of the noise. His fingers burn. The skin is blistered and red. He knows in the morning they’ll swell with pus, become puffy and useless until he pricks the epidermis and bleeds the fluids away. Yet still, the song is there, throbbing like a hangover; softer now, sure, and quiet enough to ignore for a few hours, but still there, still waiting.

He wets his lips. Growing up, Deacon never had an interest in any drug except the kind you could write into an eighth-note shuffle rhythm, but he had friends who’d succumbed to the seduction of narcotics. They’d always tell him the same thing: that when they weren’t high, the longing would suck at them like a missing tooth. This new music felt like that.



Deacon shivers. All at once, he finds himself unable to shake the idea that there might be something burrowing through his skull, something unholy, voracious, a gleaming black-beetle appetite that’ll gobble him up and leave him none the wiser. So vivid is the image that it sends Deacon to his feet and away from his seat, breath shallowed into slivers, all sticking in the membrane of his mouth.

Air, he thinks. He needs air. Water. To be somewhere other than where he already is, to be on his feet moving, away from the horror that clings to the hem of his mind like the fingers of a childhood nightmare. And as Deacon stumbles through the carriage, drunk on terror, he thinks he can almost hear the music laugh.

 * * *

This is what Deacon sees in the windows as he weaves between carriages.

One: The landscape, blurred into protean shapes. Jagged peaks thickening to walls, valleys fracturing into ravines, black pines melting into blasted plains. In the sky, the stars swarm, an infection of white, a thousand cataracted eyes. There is nothing human here, no vestige of man’s influence. Only night, only blackness.

Two: His face, reflected in the cold glass. Deacon looks thinner than he remembers, grief-gnawed, cheekbones picked clean of softness. His eyes are old from putting his pa into the soil and holding on to his mother as she cried bargains into his shoulder, anything to pluck the man she loves from the grave and put him back where he belongs, safe in her arms.

Three: Mouths, toothless, tongueless, opening in the windows, lesions on a leper’s back. Crowding the translucent panes until there is nothing but smacking lips, wet throats.

 * * *

“What in Jesus—”

Deacon recoils from the window, nearly tripping into the half-opened door of a private cabin, an audacity that buys him a round of profanities from its occupants. He stammers an apology, but never finishes. A rangy cowboy stands, shoves him back into the corridor, a gesture that is wholly simian, swaggering arms and puffed-up xylophone chest under the drooping rim of his hat. Deacon stares at him, fingers tight around the handle of his case, body tense.

He was careless. He shouldn’t have been careless. He knows better than to be careless, but the carriages aren’t nearly as well demarcated as they could be, the paneling too unobtrusive, too coy about its purpose. Or maybe, maybe, Deacon thinks with a backward glance, he’d fucked up somehow, too caught up in a conversation with grief. He breathes in, sharp, air slithering between his teeth.

The man swills a word in his mouth, the syllables convulsing his face into a snarl, and Deacon can already hear it loud. After all, he’s heard it ten thousand times before, can read its coming in the upbeat alone. Sang, spat, or smoothed through the smile of an angel. Every variation of delivery, every style of excuse, every explanation for why it ain’t nothing but a word for people like him, innocent as you please. Yes, Deacon’s heard it all.

Thirty-five years on God’s green earth is more than enough time to write someone else’s hate into the roots of your pulse. So it isn’t until the man smiles, a dog’s long-toothed grin, that dread frissons down the long curve of the bluesman’s spine.

“You broke our whiskey bottle.”

“Didn’t mean to, sir.” Polite, poured smooth as caramel, like everything innocuous and sweet. It’s his best I don’t mean trouble, sir voice, whetted on too many late nights spent talking drunks out of bad decisions. The bottle in question rolls between them, unstoppered and undamaged. But Deacon says anyway: “Be happy to pay for the damages.”

A lie that will starve him, but hunger’s nothing that the bluesman isn’t acquainted with. And besides, there is a gig coming up. Small-time, sure, and half-driven by sentimentality—Deacon and his father had meant to play there before it’d all gone wrong.

Either way, money is money is money, and a cramped diner haunted by insomniacs is as good as any joint. If he’s lucky, they might even feed him too, stacks of buttermilk pancakes and too-crisp bacon, whatever detritus they have left over, all the meals sent back because they’re missing an ingredient, or have too much of another.

“I didn’t say I want payment.” His voice slaps Deacon from his reverie. The cowboy, reeking of red Arizona dust, lets his grin grow mean. “Did I say I want payment—” That word again, groaned like a sweetheart’s name. He slides his tongue over the vowels, slow, savoring its killing floor history, an entire opus of wrongs performed in the name of Jim Crow. “What did I say—” And the word is a rattlesnake-hiss this time, sliding between uneven teeth.

“You said I broke your whiskey bottle.”

The cowboy advances, a chink of spurs keeping rhythm. In the gloom behind him, Deacon sees silhouettes rise up: three leathery men, ropey as coyotes but nonetheless still broader than Deacon at the shoulder, their smiles like dirty little switchblades. And behind them—

A forest of mouths and lolling tongues, grinning like the Devil called home to supper; horns, teethed; tendrils dewed with eyes. The smell of sex-sweat, meltwater, black earth sweet with decay and mulch. Something takes a trembling fawn-legged step forward. A cut of light bands itself across a sunken chest crisscrossed with too many ribs.

The music rouses, a damp ache in his lungs.

This isn’t the time, he thinks, as the beat clanks out a hollow straight-four, like the shuffle of the train as it is swallowed by the mountain pass. The windows go black. Somewhere, a door opens and there’s a roar of noise: the chug-chug-clack of the train’s wheels and a cold, howling wind. Deacon glides backward, one long step; blinks again, eyes rheumy. Arpeggios twitch at his fingertips and though he tells himself no, his mind is already fingerpicking an elegy in distorted D minor.

The cowboy and his pack close in, hounds with a scent.

A door bangs shut.

“Please,” Deacon whispers, unsure who he is addressing or even what for, the syllable clutched like some wise woman’s favor, worthless in the blaze of day. Back pressed flat to the glass, he knows what’s next. Fists and boots and spurs, initialing themselves over his back; it’s easy to be vicious when you can call the law to heel. Deacon’s arms wrap tight about his instrument case as he shuts his eyes.

But the blows don’t come.

“Excuse me.”

Deacon opens his gaze to a stranger in the corridor, a silhouette sliced thin by the swinging lights. It moves jerkily, a marionette learning to walk without its strings, head tick-tocking through the approach. But when it shucks its fedora, the man—well dressed as any entrepreneur in a gray tweed coat and whiskey-sheen tie, shoes polished to an indulgent shine—does so with grace, one sleek motion to move hat over heart.

“Gents.” Light smears over gaunt cheekbones and a feral grin like something that had been left to starve. His voice is midwestern mild, neither deep nor shrill, a vehicle for thought and no more; his skin, bronze. The eyes are almost gold. “Hope I’m not intruding.”

The music skitters back, recedes into a throbbing behind Deacon’s eyeballs.

“Fuck. Off.” The cowboy spits, running blue eyes over the interloper, upper lip curled. “This ain’t your business.”

The newcomer sighs, just so, the smallest of noises, as he sloughs oiled black gloves. His hands belong to a boxer: thick, callused, knuckles bridged with scars. Crack. He pops the joints. “Real hard number, aren’t you? Sorry, chump. It’s definitely my business. See, Deacon James—”

Terror scalpels through the bluesman’s guts. He hadn’t said his name once since coming onboard. Not even to the conductor, who’d only smiled and nodded as he punched Deacon’s ticket, humming “Hard Luck Child” like a prayer for the working man.

“—he’s in possession of something I need. And consequently—” The man straightens, tucking his gloves into a breast pocket, taller than any of them by a head and a little more. His eyes are burnt honey and in the dim, they almost glow. “I need you palookas to step off before someone gets pinked.”

“Make us.”

The stranger grins.

Deacon’s eyes water as his universe rends in two. In one, he sees this: the cowboy lunging like an adder, a knife manifested in his gloved hand; the stranger twisting, still grinning, the other man’s forearm caught and bent with a snap, bone spalling through fabric; a scream unwinding from the cowboy’s throat, his nose crushed flat.

In another: a wound irising in the stranger’s palm, disgorging spined filaments of nerve and sinew; the cowboy’s arm consumed; a crack and crunch of bones breaking when the joint is twisted in half; a scream when a twist of meat carves the nose from the cowboy’s face.

In both worlds, both hemispheres of perhaps and might-be, the cowboy howls a second time, high and afraid, a babe in the black woods.

Deacon blinks and reality unifies into a place where one man moved faster than another; understood the anatomy of hurt better; knew where to apply pressure, where to push and dig and wrench. A mundane place, a simple place. Not a voracious cosmos where even flesh hungers, serrated and legion.

Moonlight slopes through the window, limning the corridor in cold. Daintily, the man in the tweed coat steps over the cowboy, the latter now heaped on the floor, groaning, long frame shriveled like a dead roach. Blood seeps in patterns from under his shuddering mass. “So. Any of you pikers want to join your pal here?”

Divested of their leader, the remaining men flee, leaving Deacon with that softly smiling stranger.

“Whatever you’re here for, I swear you’ve got the wrong cat. I’m neither a thief nor anybody’s outside man, sir. My records are clean. I’m paid up for this trip. Got my ticket right here.” Deacon inches back, instrument case pressed to his breast, the pounding behind his eyes excited to percussions, deep rolling thumps like the coming of war. He wets his mouth and tastes rust where the lip has somehow split. “Look, I’m just trying to get by, sir. Please. I don’t—”

The stranger cocks his head. A bird-like motion that he takes too far that sets his skull at a perfect ninety degrees. He’s listening to something. Listening and tapping out the meter with a gleaming shoe. Finally, he nods once, a line forming between his brow. “You haven’t done anything, pal. But you do have something—”

“The saxophone’s mine, fair and square. Said as much in my pa’s will.” His only relic of the man, outside of his crooked smile and strident voice, reflected in every mirrorward glance.

“—not the instrument. You can keep that.” There’s something about the man’s expression, the muscles palsied in places, the eyes lamplit. Something that comes together in a word like “inhuman.” “I need what’s in your head.”

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.” The music crests, louder, louder; a layer of clicks running counterpoint to a hissing refrain, a television dialed to static. No melody as Deacon understands it, and somehow more potent for that reason. He almost doesn’t notice when the stranger leans in, no longer smiling, his skin drawn tight over his bones.

“Drop the act. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re listening to the bird right now.” He taps his temple with a finger. The train lurches, slows. Somewhere, the conductor’s hollering last stop, everyone get off. “Scratching at the inside of your skull, chirping away, remaking the world every time you sing for the primordial lady.”

“You’re crazy—” Yes. Yes. Yes. A single word like a record skipping, an oozing female voice stitched into the backbeat of a three-chord psalm to damnation.

“There’s something growing inside your head, champ. When she hatches, we’re all gonna dance on air.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yessss.

And just for a minute, reality unlatches, long enough and far enough that Deacon can look through it and bear witness to the stranger’s lurking truth: a teeming life curled inside the arteries of the man, wearing his skin like a suit. Not as much a thing as it is the glimmering idea of a thing, worming hooks through the supine brain.

It takes a fistful of heartbeats before Deacon realizes he’s screaming, screaming as though stopping has long since ceased to be an option. The music in his skull wails, furious, and all the while Deacon’s backing away, stumbling over his own feet. A door behind the stranger bangs open, admitting a conductor, scraggly and sunken-eyed from being dug from his sleep.

“Hey, what’s goin’ on here? You know you colored people ain’t allow in this carriage!”

The stranger turns and Deacon runs.

Excerpted from A Song For Quiet, copyright © 2017 by Cassandra Khaw.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 12:15 pm

Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Trump Hands Putin Another Gift and On Trump's Latest Interview with the NYT.


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis, and Shannon Pettypiece at Bloomberg: Trump Urges Senate GOP to Delay Recess as Health Talks Revived. "Donald Trump told Senate Republicans Wednesday they should stay in Washington until they repeal Obamacare, sparking renewed negotiations just two days after GOP efforts to enact a new health-care law collapsed. A group of about 20 Republican senators met at the Capitol Wednesday night with White House officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, to hash out possible paths forward, including reviving a measure proposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell."

I'm going to say this one more time: DO NOT BELIEVE REPORTS THAT THE REPEAL IS DEAD. How many times now have we heard that Republican healthcare reform is "dead"? We heard it when the House bill failed the first time — only for them to rally and pass a bill. We heard it when the Senate bill failed the first time — only for them to rally and try a second time. We heard it after the Senate bill failed the second time — and now here they are rallying again. If they can't replace it, they'll just repeal it. THIS IS NOT OVER. Not even close.

Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade at Politico: Freedom Caucus to Try to Force Vote on Obamacare Repeal. "House conservatives are launching a late effort to force their colleagues to vote on an outright repeal of Obamacare. Leaders of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening will jump-start a process intended to force the measure — a mirror of the 2015 repeal proposal that President Barack Obama vetoed — to the floor as early as September."

See? And trust that they will stoop to levels we haven't even begun to contemplate in order to take away people's healthcare.

To wit: Sam Stein at the Daily Beast: Team Trump Used Obamacare Money to Run PR Effort Against It. "The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it. ...'I'm on a daily basis horrified by leaders at the Department of Health and Human Services who seem intent on taking healthcare away from the constituents they are supposed to serve,' former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with The Daily Beast." Disgusting behavior.

In service of a disgusting objective:

* * *

Welp! This is about to get very interesting, for a whole lot of reasons, not least of which is that Trump might now try to fire Mueller. Fucking hell.

* * *

CBS/AP: Russia Says Talks Underway on Joint U.S. Cybersecurity Unit. "A Russian official was quoted by the country's government-run media on Thursday as saying Moscow and the U.S. government were in talks about establishing a joint cybersecurity unit — a prospect first raised, and then seemingly dismissed by [Donald] Trump after he met with Vladimir Putin. The RIA news agency said Russia's special envoy on cybersecurity Andrey Krutskikh confirmed that talks were underway to create a bilateral working group, and acknowledging that it could create a 'problem' for [Donald] Trump. Krutskikh was quoted as saying, 'there is no need to dramatize the working process, it is undoubtedly difficult, taking into account the current American realities, but this is a problem rather of the U.S. administration, not ours.'" WOW.

Margaret Hartmann at NY Mag: Paul Manafort Owed Millions to Pro-Russia Interests. "Before becoming Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort owed as much as $17 million to pro-Russia interests, according to financial records from Cyprus. ...One of the more interesting debts is $7.8 million owed to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Deripaska has previously claimed that Manafort and his associates owed him $19 million for a failed investment in a Ukrainian TV company." The question is: Did Manafort repay those debts by selling the White House? (Spoiler alert: Probably!)

Allegra Kirkland at TPM: Not Deep Throat: The Trump Scandal Figure Who's Too Open for His Own Good. "[Carter Page] is one of a handful of former Trump campaign hands reported to be under federal scrutiny for his ties to Russia... Page is not concerned about the prospect of legal consequences for his foreign contacts. 'There's nothing to hide,' Page said, reiterating that he sat for over 10 hours of interviews with FBI agents without a lawyer present and is relying on unnamed 'volunteers' for legal advice." This fucking guy.

* * *

Trump is slowly starting to fill a few of the multitudinous vacancies in his administration, and the choices are exactly what you'd expect.

Rebecca Kheel at the Hill: Trump to Nominate Raytheon Lobbyist for Army Secretary.

Juliet Eilperin and Chris Mooney at the Washington Post: Trump Just Nominated a Climate Change Skeptic to USDA's Top Science Post.

Maureen Groppe at the Indianapolis Star: [CN: video may autoplay] Trump Picks Indiana Agriculture Director Ted McKinney for USDA Post.

Everything is fine.

* * *

Oh, hey, here's a pretty good reason why everything is not fucking fine: The Republican-controlled legislative branch refuses to provide checks and balances on the president, and Trump is busily reshaping the judiciary so that they won't, while also waging war on the press so that they can't, either.

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH — Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade at Politico: Republicans Lament an Agenda in 'Quicksand'. "'I don't even pay any attention to what is going on with the administration because I don't care. They're a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction,' complained Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). 'At first, it was 'Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He'll learn, he'll learn.' And you just don't see that happening.'" So ignore him, rather than hold him accountable? Cool.

JUDICIAL BRANCH — Ronald A. Klain at the Washington Post: The One Area Where Trump Has Been Wildly Successful. "[While Donald] Trump is incompetent at countless aspects of his job, he is proving wildly successful in one respect: naming youthful conservative nominees to the federal bench in record-setting numbers. ...He not only put Neil M. Gorsuch in the Supreme Court vacancy created by Merrick Garland's blocked confirmation, but he also selected 27 lower-court judges as of mid-July. Twenty-seven! That's three times Obama's total and more than double the totals of Reagan, Bush 41 and Clinton — combined. For the Courts of Appeals — the final authority for 95 percent of federal cases — no president before Trump named more than three judges whose nominations were processed in his first six months; Trump has named nine. Trump is on pace to more than double the number of federal judges nominated by any president in his first year."

(As you may recall, I've been frantically and repeatedly raising the alarm about Trump's 100 federal court vacancies for quite some time. Also: I would stake a fuckload of pennies on Pence running the court appointments, which means that this problem isn't even solved if Trump is removed from office.)

PRESS — [CN: Video may autoplay at link] Jacqueline Alemany at CBS News: For Details of Trump's Meetings, Foreign Governments Fill in the Blanks. "When news broke that [Donald] Trump had chatted with Russia President Vladimir Putin in a previously undisclosed meeting for an hour at the G-20 summit in Germany, it was another reminder that much of the information about the president's whereabouts and policymaking comes from sources outside the White House. ...Since Mr. Trump took office in January, White House reporters — and by extension the American public — have on more than this occasion received more detailed information about the president's conversations and whereabouts from foreign governments rather than from official channels in Washington."

* * *

There is literally so much awful news today, I feel like I've barely begun to scratch the service, but I've got to draw a line under it somewhere, so I can get it posted. As always, please crowdsource the resistance and share what you've been reading that I missed!

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 11:00 am

I had no idea who Ed Sheeran was or why there was this giant kerfluffle over him being in Game of Thrones. Now I know who he is and what he looks like and y'know? Those are some adorably round cheeks and cute red hair. He can be eye-candy in Game of Thrones all season long. (No spoilers please, I actually haven't seen season seven yet, I'm just catching up on season six.)

Wow it's been since 29 May when I saw the nutria crossing the road that I last posted. I guess I did dream about posting about KWHSS! I SAW [personal profile] tatterpixie there!!!!! IT WAS AWESOME AND SHE HAD THE BESTEST SCRIBAL SET UP AND NOW I NEED ONE for heraldry, not scribery, because yeah, my art's pretty rough, but I can do straight lines for heraldry. HOWEVER I did get not too bad at painting pre-prints. And I can probably work on making a scroll out of the Mamman embroidery. I'm not a scribe. I'm a herald (even with a H!) but I can learn some stuff! (It will probably take a light board. My drawing skills are not really all that great, mostly because my brain-hand coordination isn't wonderful. Thanks, brain damage!)

KWHSS was SUPER. I got to see a lot of people that I'd wanted to see (and some that I'd only been able to talk to online). I CREATED A SERVICE AMOEBA. IT OOZES AGAIN IN THE DEBATABLE LANDS. AMUCK!
I also went up to Sneferu and told him that he was right and Bruce was wrong. Which yes, it's a big thing. But we do need a ruling on something from Cormac Wreath. Can pantheons be tertiary charges?

I have become the Heraldic Webminister for Gleann Abhann's CoH. I am looking forward to teaching my Ruby deputy all about transferring letters in OSCAR because that means she'll be super ready! We even have figured out a screen-sharing software for that.
Bloodstone Herald has been suggested for Webminister job. Probably because it's like trying to get blood out of a stone to get stuff turned in for that sort of thing. I think I'm going to make a pendant or something with glitter. Glitter vinyl, not actual pouring glitter.

I am considering making myself bookplates for my gaming hardbacks. Brent bought me a new one - 'Horror Adventures'. He also picked up the last part of 'Strange Aeons'. I have all six of them! YAY! But I need to stick nameplates in mine. I have a sticker maker and a lot of time. :D

MASTER CONALL MADE ME A BEAUTIFUL RENDITION OF MY NAME IN CYRILLIC. I can't wait to turn it into an SCA business card. I told a friend that I was looking forward to being one of those 'one name people', like Cher, Bono, those sort of people. I will be Skaia, Herald.