On the bright side, none of the ceramics we bought as gifts seem to have broken in transit!
Signal-boosting much appreciated!
Do jellyfish dream of gelatinous sheep?
Ephrat Livni @ Quartz: Octlantis is a just-discovered underwater city engineered by octopuses
Gloomy octopus males seem to spend a great deal of time chasing each other out of dens.
Ed Yong @ the Atlantic: Octopuses Do Something Really Strange to Their Genes
It’s impossible to say if their prolific use of RNA editing is responsible for their alien intellect, but “that would definitely be my guess”
Greta Keenan @ New Scientist: Fish recorded singing dawn chorus on reefs just like birds
Nocturnal predatory fish use calls to stay together to hunt, while fish that are active during the day use sound to defend their territory.
And on that note I report that we are now sitting in the Toronto airport, waiting for our last flight home! I still have a couple of days in Tokyo to discuss, but right now all I want to do is fall into my own shower and my own bed forever...
The world is on fire; Endellion was good-but-not-great; autumn in New York is almost as good as spring in New York; Chuck Schumer and his staff ignore their phones 100% of the time (Kirsten Gillibrand's staff is at least available sometimes, and my representative's staff ALWAYS talks to me); I made apple hand pies this weekend; the seminar I am taking is not as interesting as I was hoping but I will soldier on; the fact that no one has cut together the Elizabeth-Swann-relevant scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 5 is an abomination; my office moved across campus and while there are some serious downsides, the fact that I no longer work in a dungeon is a net positive.
I cannot believe it is already almost Yom Kippur.
In case anyone around me was considering buying a house sometime soon and was also flailing over numbers.
Though thinking of my house we've got a new house being built across the street and another house was recently refurbed and sold some doors down, so I ended up looking up what our house is going for on places like Zillow, and even accounting for Zilloflation holy fucking shit.
The housing market, man. I don't even know what the hell people are thinking.
I did not get nearly enough sleep for the work day I'm having. We had three freight shipments this morning, usually we get that many in a week, some of which we needed for orders, we had backorders coming in that had to be logisticked out into shipped orders, and by now my head is spinning with guilt at not being able to write the things that people want me to work on or the things that I feel I should work on and at best I can do flash card like things with my brain. At worst I'm good for direct responses to questiosn and that's about it.
I need naps. Multiple. All of them. I just tried to drink from my water bottle before I opened it. I keep staring at work-related word things and it takes me a second to make them make sense. I mean on the plus side this is one hectic day at work plus some crappy sleeping? On the other hand dear god I hate not being functional and this is pissing me off and feels never-ending. Not to mention I just remembered how chaotic last week was and argh.
*sighs* Flash cards it is. I have the rest of a day at work, some grocery shopping, and then maybe I can either nap or read and fake napping enough to get my daily quota of words written so I can go to bed without THAT guilt too. On the plus side yesterday's sneezing fit seems to have been allergies because I'm not feeling it today at work in my nice concrete office/store building at all. So if it comes back next week, just start off with the anti-allergies and it should be fine. I hope. Did I mention I'm tired of being tired.
Mild Spoiler Alert for Season 3 of House of Cards
Where is Rachel Posner?
Representations of sex workers on popular shows such as Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, and, of course, any version of CSI, are often stereotypical, completely incorrect, and infuriatingly dehumanizing. Like so many of these shows, House of Cards offers more of the same, but it uses a somewhat different narrative for a former sex worker and central character, Rachel Posner. Rachel experiences many moments of sudden empowerment that are just as quickly taken away. She is not entirely disempowered, often physically and emotionally resisting other characters and situations, but her humanization only lasts so long.
The show follows Rachel for three full seasons, offering some hope to the viewer that her story would not end in her death, dehumanization, or any other number of sensational and tumultuous storylines. So, when she is murdered in the final episode of Season 3, viewers sensitive to her character’s role as a sex worker and invested in a new narrative for current and former sex worker characters on popular TV shows probably felt deeply let down. Her death inspired us to go back and analyze how her role in the series was both intensely invisible and visible.
Early in the show, we learn that Rachel has information that could reveal murder and corrupt political strategizing orchestrated by the protagonist Frank Underwood. She is the thread that weaves the entire series together. Despite this, most characters on the show do not value Rachel beyond worrying about how she could harm them. Other characters talk about her when she’s not present at all, often referring to her as “the prostitute” or “some hooker,” rather than by her name or anything else that describes who she is.
The show, too, devalues her. At the beginning of an episode, we watch Rachel making coffee one morning in her small apartment. Yet, instead of watching her, we watch her body parts; the camera pans over her torso, her breasts in a lace bra, and then her legs before we finally see her entire body and face. There is not one single scene even remotely like this for any other character on the show. Even the promotional material for Season 1 (pictured above) fails to include a photo of Rachel while including images of a number of other characters who were less central to the storyline and appeared in fewer episodes. Yet, whoever arranged the photoshoot didn’t think she was important enough to include.
Another major way that Rachel is marginalized in the context of the show is that she is not given many scenes or storylines that are about her—her private life, time spent with friends, or what’s important to her. This is in contrast to other characters with a similar status. For instance, the audience is made to feel sympathy for Gavin, a hacker, when an FBI agent threatens the life of his beloved guinea pig. In contrast, it is Rachel’s ninth episode before the audience sees her interact with a friend, and we never really learn what motivates her beyond fear and survival. In this sense, Rachel is almost entirely invisible in her own storyline. She only exists when people want something from her.
Rachel is also made invisible by the way she is represented or discussed in many scenes. For instance, although she’s present, she has zero lines in her first couple scenes. After appearing (without lines) in Episodes 1 and 2, Rachel reappears in Episode 7, although she’s not really present; she re-emerges in the form of a handwritten note to Doug Stamper (Underwood’s indispensable assistant). She writes: “I need more money. And not in my mouth.” These are Rachel’s first two lines in the entire series; however, she’s not actually saying them, she’s asking for something and one of the lines draws attention to a sexualized body part and sexual act that she engaged in with Doug. Without judging the fact that she engaged in a sexual act with a client, what’s notable here is the fact that she isn’t given a voice or her own resources. She is constantly positioned in relation to other characters and often without the resources and ability to survive on her own.
This can clearly be seen in the way Rachel is easily pushed around by other characters in the show, who are able to force their will upon her. When viewers do finally see her in a friendship, one that blossoms into a romance, the meaning that Rachel gives the relationship is overshadowed by the reaction Doug Stamper has to it. Doug has more contact with Rachel than any other character on the show; in the beginning of the series, he acts as a sort of “protector” to Rachel, by finding her a safe place to stay, ensuring that she can work free from sexual harassment in her new job, and getting her an apartment of her own. However, all these actions highlight the fact that she does not have her own resources or connections to be able to function on her own, and they are used to manipulate her. Over Rachel’s growing objections, Doug is able to impose his wishes upon her fairly easily. The moment she is able to overpower him and escape, she disappears from the show for almost a whole season, only to reappear in the episode where she dies. In this episode, we finally see Rachel standing on her own two feet. It seems like a hard life, working lots of double shifts and living in a rundown boardinghouse, but we also see her enjoying herself with friends and building something new for herself. And yet, it is also in this episode where she has leveraged her competence into a new life that she also meets her demise. Unfortunately, after seeing this vision of Rachel on the road to empowerment, more than half of her scenes relate to her death, and in most of them she is begging Doug for her life, once again reduced to powerlessness.
Every time we begin to see a new narrative for Rachel, one that allows her to begin a life that isn’t entirely tethered to Doug Stamper and her past, she is almost immediately drawn back into his web. Ultimately, in this final episode, she can no longer grasp her new narrative and immediately loses hold of it. In her final scenes, after kidnapping her, Doug temporarily lets her go. She begins to walk in the opposite direction of his van before, only moments later, he flips the van around and heads back in her direction. The next scene cuts suddenly to her lifeless body in a shallow grave. The sudden shock of this scene is jarring, yet oddly expected, given how the show has treated Rachel’s character throughout the series. It’s almost as if the show does not have any use for a sex worker character who can competently manage their own affairs. Perhaps that idea didn’t even occur to the writers because of the place in our society in which sex workers are currently situated, perhaps it disrupts the fallen woman narrative, or perhaps for some reason, a death seems more “interesting” than a storyline where a sex worker has agency and takes an active role in shaping her own life and affecting those around her. Whatever the reason, House of Cards ultimately fails Rachel and sex workers, in general.
Paige Connell is an undergraduate sociology student at Chico State University. Her areas of interest include intimate relationships, gender, and pop culture.
Dr. Danielle Antoinette Hidalgo is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at California State University, Chico, specializing in theory, gender and sexuality, and embodiment studies.
Just a reminder, signups open tomorrow! We'll adjust the settings to start allowing postings here sometime about 24 hours from now. Sign-ups will be like they have been in previous rounds-individual posts by participants here at the community.
Here's the schedule, again, just so you don't have to scroll as far.
Sign-ups OPEN - September 26th
Sign-ups CLOSE - October 10th
Assignments GO OUT - October 17th
Assignments DUE - November 21st
Posting BEGINS - Dec 1st
Posting ENDS - Dec 14th
REVEALS - Dec 21st
"Elizabeth Cree" was a world premiere, based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd which I have not read (and do not plan to read). The small cast wore Victorian costuming to match the setting and moved amidst a mixture of physical furniture, a movable open metal staircase, and projected silhouettes and text.
I enjoyed this quite a lot, more than I'd expected; I did not quite figure out the mystery until it was about to be revealed, and all of the singers were incredible, particularly Daniela Mack as Elizabeth Cree and Joseph Gaines as Dan Leno. Before I went to see it, I called it a "murder opera," and I stand by that - several brutal murders are discoursed upon and shown in filmed silhouette, and the policeman is more concerned about his own future should he fail to solve the murders than he is about the victims.
Thematically, Murder as Spectacle was reiterated in several different ways, and critiqued by Karl Marx and George Gissing. Women's constrained roles, and the results of those constraints, also popped up, both through what the characters did and through what we the audience thought of what they did. In short, I thought this was great, and I would see it again. I'd put it my second favorite of the festival premieres, after "We Shall Not Be Moved."
Opera News review. Schompera review.
I saw "The Wake World" last night; notably, it was staged at the Barnes Foundation, one of Philadelphia's major museums. Most of the action took place on a long catwalk, with the audience seated or standing around it. The audience was free to move around, and sometimes the singers (mostly chorus, sometimes soloists) moved amid the audience as well.
I liked the idea of that, but in practice I found the constant audience movement distracting from the music, and sometimes I had difficulty seeing over people because I am not tall. The music itself was dreamlike and stuffed with overblown purple prose, most of which I quickly began to ignore in favor of just enjoying the splendid singing. The protagonists, Lola (soprano Maeve Höglund) and The Fairy Prince (cross-dressing mezzo Rihab Chaieb), were excellent in singing, acting, and embodying sex appeal, which was a good thing, since the plot (?) was just a weird, color-based advancement through a dream palace to achieve the ideal lover. Or something like that. The Fairy Prince managed to be really sexy in his three-piece suit and pipe while also mansplaining the palace and its rooms to Lola, which made me kind of hate him. I know characterization and plot was not the point, though, and the whole thing was successful as a spectacle that pushed against boundaries of opera staging, plus the chorus had a lot to do, yay - I used to sit next to the chorus' conductor, Liz Braden, back when my choir was conducted by Donald Nally.
The Broad Street Review's critique.
Dates are already set for next year's O18, so I am going to assume this year's festival was a success for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. Go them!
As a teenager in the mid-80s, I'd grown up watching the original Star Trek on television, but what made me really fall in love with the characters were the series of original novels published just at the point when I had money from my paper round to buy them. :-) Authors such as Diane Duane created new adventures and new characters to help fill in the universe.
sheliak has made a lovely set of icons based on the covers of these books- if you have fond memories of them too, check them out.
And if you'd rather have attractive pictures then it's definitely looking at pretty_pixels - the latest set is a lovely selection of autumn icons.
Read JY Yang's ~5K word story Auspicium Melioris Aevi, which they wrote about in this blog post. It's about clones and history repeating/not-repeating and the goals of a university education under capitalism and, most of all, about Singapore. Judging from the author's post about their story, clearly it was received best by people who knew Singapore well, which I don't, but I liked it a lot anyway and I think if you liked Cyteen you might well like this too. PS: I do NOT ship Clone Lee Kuan Yew and Clone Vladimir Putin, I DON'T, I REFUSE, you CAN'T MAKE ME. /o\
Read Heather Rose Jones' The Mystic Marriage, the sequel to Daughter of Mysteries. It's even less of a conventional romance genre novel than its predecessor. Where Daughter of Mysteries was in alternating third person between Margerit and Barbara, The Mystic Marriage shuttles between Antuniet and Jeanne's points of view and also Barbara's and Margerit's. Which is awesome if you prefer your romance couples to keep developing after the end of 'their' novel and not just show up briefly for a statically happy cameo in the next book to help the new couple, but a little confusing if you were expecting more of the couple you thought would be the main characters in the new novel. Not that Margerit and Barbara aren't there to help the new couple, but their stories continue too. I like this.
I also like how difficult and prickly Antuniet is, and Barbara's own flaws emerging a bit stronger than they did in the previous book (n.b. she's still awesome.) And I liked the competence porn -- Margerit's academic skills (including collegiality), Barbara's combination of court intrigue, law, and security, Antuniet's alchemy and research, and Jeanne's social engineering. That last in particular -- I don't think it's that common for books to show (rather than tell) that particular skill, not in detail. The actual work part of it, maintaining connections and introducing people and keeping track of who needs what and how that fits in with who else. Showing the role it has in Jeanne's life and how good she is at it gave a lot more force to Jeanne and Antuniet's extrovert/introvert issues, which also unusually, involved the introvert inadvertently not meeting the extrovert's needs. (The other way around gets a lot more attention in articles and books, to the point where it's become kind of a cliche.)
Read Rebecca Fraimow's fantasy novella Suradanna and the Sea, which is... bittersweet doesn't seem like the right word. Poignant, maybe. A very nice combination of sweet, charming, and ouch. With the emphasis on the sweet. Mostly. If you like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra you might like this. I kind of wish I'd read it earlier (my own damn fault -- it came out in December last year) so I could have requested it for Yuletide or Trick or Treat.
Read sadlikeknives's Stones Could Fly, which was a Yuletide fic three years ago, for 'Dixon's Girl' from Dessa's A Badly Broken Code, and is the spy/secret agent AU for that song I had no idea I needed, and the codenames are all references to the other songs by Dessa.
Rereading bessemerprocess's The 28th Amendment, a pundit and journalist RPF AU set after the 2008 US federal election which reads very, very differently in 2017. :(
TV and Movies
In honour of the Ghibli festival, went to see Kiki's Delivery Service in the cinema (in Japanese with English subtitles), which was a good way to see it for the first time (yeah, I know, absolute latest as usual.) I loved the art and story, but could have done with a lot fewer panty shots -- zero sounds about right. Also I'd have liked to hear Jiji talk one more time at the end, just to be certain Kiki could hear him again, as that was worrying me. I didn't know the story, so the bit about magic and artist's block was unexpected and hit me really hard.
Played some Pokemon Go early on in the fortnight. Beat a gym through judicious use of revives. So many revives.
Was sufficiently stressed that I reinstalled Stardew Valley on my computer. It's just turned winter in year 1, and my character is incredibly sick of cranberries.
Tried a bunch of fiction podcasts: Juno Steel, Death at a Low Price, Whatever Happened to Jonathan Green. I liked Juno Steel okay, but made the mistake of listening to one of the non-Juno standalone Penumbra Podcast episodes, and it fucked me up pretty badly. This is why I don't listen to a lot of horror. I found Death at a Low Price a bit rambling for my taste and also didn't like the sound effects. I liked Whatever Happened to Jonathan Green quite a lot (but there are only two episodes out and it's on hiatus)
Testing more of the BPAL imps from Kab. ( cut )
Got a couple of small, unexpected capiscums from the plant that's still trucking on. I haven't really been doing anything with the garden, but there it is anyway.
Painted my fingernails in Pride stripes, so anyone who couldn't already tell just by looking at me what my position on Australian marriage equality is CAN NOW.
Voted in the Non-Binding Plebiscite On Whether People Like Me Should Have Civil Rights. I voted yes, which only shows that my queerness and transness mean I'm unable to be properly objective on these issues. (That's sarcasm.) Did other activist-ish stuff on this issue (a lot, actually -- it kind of ate all the time I'd been planning to spend going to Fringe) and also went to my local branch meeting of my political party of choice.
Which just goes to show what a deleterious effect 2017 is having on my behaviour, common sense, and happiness. I dont want to go to branch meetings. I want to make vegetable/pasta stews, and eat them while reading lesbian Ruritanian romance and/or playing farming sims with retro graphics. I want to mess about rearranging deck chairs on my computer's window manager settings and not even think of politics or natural disasters or misery. But 2017 does not care what I or anyone else wants.
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