calendars and Ninefox Gambit

Aug. 22nd, 2017 01:29 pm
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Something you notice very quickly when you start reading Ninefox Gambit is the importance of the calendar. It’s the foundation stone of empire: things that subvert empire cause “calendrical rot,” and, conversely, things that cause calendrical rot are subversion, or, as the story terms it, heresy—like rebellion but even more rebellious.

This focus on calendars is a stroke of genius. Calendars **are** powerful mechanisms of cultural control. Think about how the international standard calendar for business and commerce is the Gregorian calendar, which ties its start date to Christianity. (People do use other calendars in various places and for various purposes, but the Gregorian calendar dominates for international exchange.) Less so now than in the past, but Sunday is designated a no-work day in accordance with that tradition. And think how the rest day figures for other calendars, too—the Jewish calendar or the Islamic calendar. If you don’t know the proper rest day, you can be in trouble—and this is even if you’re an outsider: things stop. And if you don’t stop—depending on the degree of observance—you might be punished. And if the community gradually moves away from this, it can be perceived by the more-faithful as cultural weakening. Calendrical rot is threatening!

The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar that has complicated, intersecting base 10 and base 12 recurring features and indicates certain days as auspicious or inauspicious for various activities. When you combine it with geomantic principles (powers or traits related to compass directions—feng shui), which happens naturally, as feng shui is tied to the solstices and equinoxes, which are calendrical as well as astronomical occurrences, boom, that’s a whole lot of Chinese folk culture you’ve got—and, like the Chinese writing system, it spread to Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

In Japan (and probably in other East Asian countries, but Japan’s the one I know about), magical powers were attributed to people who could advise on and manipulate the calendar—something that required some good math skills, what with those mixed number bases and various repeating units. If you’ve ever seen the film Onmyōji, you’ve seen the story of one famous example of such a person, Abe no Seimei. In Ninefox Gambit, this magic translates to the “exotic effects” that can be generated in war, relying on the calendar. These same effects don’t work if the calendar is subverted—beware calendrical rot!

There’s one notable instance in Ninefox Gambit in which the protagonist manipulates the heretics’ calendar to gain a tactical advantage—Buuuuuut I can’t spoil it.

This isn’t a review of the book—I have one of those at Goodreads, covering some of the same territory, but in less detail—it’s more of an appreciation of this one aspect of the book. It’s me saying “I SEE WHAT YOU DID HERE, YOON HA LEE! VERY CLEVER!”
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I looked at the calendar, Ray.

The HFA's all-night half-marathon this year is vampires. Of that lineup, I have seen only the Hammer Dracula (1958), but some of the rest—Near Dark (1987), The Hunger (1983), Dracula's Daughter (1936)—I've had designs on for years. This should be great. People are going to be so nervous, stepping out into the ash-making sunlight at the end of that long, bloody night.

I see also from the October and November calendars that the archive appears to be embarking on a William Wellman retrospective. The trick here will not be living in the theater for most of the fall. I've seen a number of the titles announced so far, but hardly any of them on a big screen—they're pre-Code, they turn up on TCM. I know I want to see Night Nurse (1931), Heroes for Sale (1933), and Wild Boys of the Road (1933) because they are three of my favorite pre-Code movies, period. Maybe Other Men's Women (1931) just because I like Grant Withers and all five minutes of James Cagney in it so much. Safe in Hell (1931) is one of those titles you can't turn down. I've been seeing stills of cross-dressed Louise Brooks in Beggars of Life (1928) for years. For some reason I always forget he directed Nothing Sacred (1937) and think of it as an unusually cynical Frank Capra.

I'd ask why I have a real job except I worry it would trigger irony, so I'll just wish I had a real job with more time to write about movies.

Budget also couldn't hurt.

dappled half-moon suns

Aug. 21st, 2017 02:18 pm
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
[personal profile] asakiyume
We let the leaves be our pinhole camera and saw these suns at the half-moon stage.

half-moon suns

ETA... there are many, many beautiful photos out there of scything crescent suns dappling the ground--go take a look. Love this eclipse so much. Good job, sun. Good job, moon. Good job, eclipse enthusiasts ♥

Eclipse first, the rest nowhere

Aug. 21st, 2017 02:18 pm
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
[personal profile] sovay
The cloud cover comes and goes and we may not be able to see any of the broken rings of leaf-light that I remember so fondly from the annular eclipse of 1994, but through the (carefully purchased from the NASA-recommended manufacturer) glasses I can see that a shadow has already bitten the sun. I am off to see how much more it devours before we drive it away into the swinging dance of planetary bodies again. I am wearing my Miskatonic University T-shirt. It seems appropriate to this brush with the cosmos.

[edit] No leaf-rings, but I saw the crescent sun: through eclipse glasses it looked like a hunter's moon. I didn't expect much effect on the afternoon so far out of the path of totality, but it was strange light to walk around in, slightly thickened, slightly smoked, the wrong angle and the wrong color for plain overcast or sunset. [personal profile] spatch said it was like someone had dropped a filter over the sun and of course someone had: the moon. We walked to the library and back and intermittently looked up at the sky until the crescent began to widen again and then the real overcast thoughtfully rolled in.

Czech'rd past

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:38 am
asakiyume: (black crow on a red ground)
[personal profile] asakiyume
I want to do a post about the power of calendars, in honor of [personal profile] yhlee's Ninefox Gambit, which I just finished, but first I want to share with you this great beer label from a small New York State brewery:



Red-lipped woman with a smoking gun! And this text:

From behind the iron curtain comes our Czech'rd Past. We're not ashamed, and have nothing to hide. No regrets with this classic Bohemian Pilsner. Served cold, like revenge, it cuts to the chase. It's the choice to make when you can't afford any more mistakes in life.


Here's a can with the label still on:



We have one can left, which we can maybe drink as we take pictures of the crescent shadows during the partial version of the eclipse that we'll get here--or maybe not. It is, after all, still a work day. The CALENDAR tells me that. More on Ninefox Gambit and calendars anon.
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
[personal profile] sovay
On the one hand, I feel that the most appropriate response to David Rudkin's Penda's Fen (1974) would have been a day in the Malverns and some cloud-watching à la Thomas Colpeper, JP. On the other, I was in Providence when I saw it, and I wasn't sure of the ancestral relationship of Edward Elgar to College Hill. I spent a lot of NecronomiCon walking. That will have to suffice.

Penda's Fen is a 90-minute television play originally commissioned and broadcast as part of the BBC's Play for Today (1970–84); it was directed by Alan Clarke and I have wanted to see it ever since I discovered it somehow in the archives of the BFI in grad school. I finally got my chance Thursday afternoon in the auditorium of the Providence Public Library. It was screened on one of those small classroom projectors; there were about a dozen people in the audience besides me and some of them left or arrived partway through. What I could hear of the introduction seemed to be trying to champion it as a Lovecraftian film—I don't want to misrepresent someone who was mostly less audible than the air conditioning, but while I grant that it is a gloriously weird piece of cinema, if anything I think it's anti-Lovecraftian. Lovecraft's universe is fragile and deceptive, contaminable and contagious. The world that can be perceived is a shell over the world that is, one crack away from collapse into barbarism or madness or the abyss of time itself. Knowledge is a virus and you may well die of it. Your bloodline was compromised before you were born. The Other is always looking for a way in, and it finds one, and down into the dark we all go, unless we turn out to be the Other, in which case the dark is where we should have been all along. I don't have to alter the premise of Penda's Fen to make it resemble this template: a sheltered young man discovers that his ideas of both himself and his nation, from race and sexuality to family and religion, are soul-shakingly wrong. He is "mixed, mixed . . . nothing special, nothing pure." But where that revelation might have sent one of Lovecraft's protagonists careening into the void, Rudkin and Clarke offer an alternate path. Openly political, unashamedly Romantic, their vision affirms queerness, hybridity, and ambiguity as the true heart of England, the small, stubborn fire that the clear-cut forces of oppression—patriarchy, white supremacy, Christian supremacy—are always trying to snuff out. Salvation lies in the liminal spaces, the mixed and marginalized. This is a really cheering thesis to see so forcefully and hauntingly stated, especially since the film itself is less a pamphlet than a dark-and-bright dream of nuclear anxiety, sexual confusion, and folk almost-horror. Its language is Christian and pre-Christian, angels and demons and the echo of William Blake, but it is actually a lot like watching a version of the Bacchae where Pentheus, instead of breaking and being torn apart, shifts shape as suddenly as his cousin into the strange thing he was always meant to be. There is also psychogeography. And sympathetic magic. And Elgar. Anglophile Lovecraft may have longingly written "God Save the King!" but I don't know that he would have endorsed or even recognized the Englishness of Penda's Fen.

Stephen be secret, child be strange. )

I did not manage to catch any of the rest of the film programming at NecronomiCon, but Penda's Fen made the entire schedule worth it. I'm not even sorry I saw it in a library rather than a movie theater, since I am fairly confident its influence extends to the archival, hauntological music of Ghost Box. The real trouble with describing a narrative that treats its otherworld so matter-of-factly and this world with such an eye for the surreal is that even the attempt makes both of these modes sound much more normal than the experience: I have to stress that while Penda's Fen is not in any plot sense difficult to follow, its constant shifting and eventual merging of registers is a lot like having someone else's hallucinations for an hour and a half. I suspect this was part of the reason for the walkouts, although I kind of feel that if you show up for a film at a weird fiction convention, you should be prepared for something out of the ordinary to get into your head; I certainly expect what I saw in that noontime auditorium to stay in mine. It was messy, liberating, ambitious, and very beautiful. It left me hungry for sunsets on hills I've never climbed. It made me contemplate the sacred fires of my own country and who guards them now against the dark. Who is secret, strange, holy, and ungovernable. This dream brought to you by my mixed backers at Patreon.
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
I am home from NecronomiCon Providence. I hope to write out a real con report before I forget the details, but not right now.

All panels present and correct, including the one I thought I moderated badly; I was asked after that one if I taught for a living (not for years and not in the sense they were asking) and my impostor syndrome was confused. I probably short-circuited my own reading, but again, I sold a copy of Ghost Signs (2014) afterward, so it cannot have been a disaster. All program items in which I was involved were a lot of fun, including the podcast on which I had not originally been scheduled to appear. The Lovecraftian erotica was amazing.

People kept handing me things. A lime-green rubber tentacle, a bandanna for the Lovecraft Readathon, a CD of Bohren & der Club of Gore's Black Earth (2002), a first edition of C.L. Moore's Doomsday Morning (1957), DVDs of The Bat (1959) with Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead and The Lodger (1944) with Laird Cregar, a fictitious vintage program for the HPLHS' The Call of Cthulhu (2005 1927), Andrew M. Reichert's Weird Luck Tales: Monsters (2017). I got the souvenir book as part of being on programming, ditto the lapel pin with its emblem of the leaf-eyed pyramid like something out of Gravity Falls. I bought the Dwight Frye cards, the Lovecraftian postcards, the Miskatonic University T-shirt with an Art Nouveau design instead of the usual university seal, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles' She Walks in Shadows (2015). I bought a birch-veneer screen print of two witch's cats by Liv Rainey-Smith as a present for my brother and his wife. I think I just picked up the fake vintage newspaper because of its headline "Has Science Gone Mad?!", but its supposed date is my birthday, forty-five years before I was born.

There was not enough seeing of people, but what there was was good. Late last night, I wrote three-quarters of a post on Penda's Fen (1974) that I did not manage to finish before having to check out this morning, so either I will finish it later tonight or I will sleep. Or both.

I am exhausted. Various parts of my body think I was trying to kill them and are now attempting to return the favor. It was worth the early mornings.

Another Weekend, Another Gorgon

Aug. 19th, 2017 10:16 pm
moon_custafer: (Default)
[personal profile] moon_custafer
gorgon painting 
Apotropaic #5, oil on glass.

Went for a somewhat more realistic style this time.

I painted over a framed copy of one of those creepy Ann Geddes babies-in-costume pictures. I think this is an improvement.
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
This is not even an interim con report, because I slept approximately an hour before my panel on lycanthropy at nine this morning and I have spent most of the afternoon either at other people's readings or mooching around the dealer's rooms (I have three beautiful postcards by Darrell Tutchton and a half-pack of Dwight Frye character cards that I bought from the aptly monikered Mike Hunchback) and in slightly less than an hour I have to moderate a panel on the Lovecraftian erotic, but as we were passing through the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel I spied a flatscreen TV with the sound off and the text crawl at the bottom of the screen confirmed that Bannon is out of the White House, so I'm sure all sorts of unpleasantness will spin off that with his Breitbart base—roll on the globalist conspiracies—but at the moment it feels like genuinely good news out of our government and it's been a long time since that happened. Oh, and earlier today I was handed a translucent lime-green plastic tentacle, so I have been carrying it around in my coat like a reasonable person: in other words, there is a tentacle in my pocket, but I'm still happy to see you. So far, NecronomiCon, so good.

Jesus of the ...

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:54 pm
asakiyume: (far horizon)
[personal profile] asakiyume
This font for holy water was in a model seventeenth-century Acadian house on the grounds of a historic gardens in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

If you click through and look at Jesus up close, doesn't he seem strange? Otherworldly in an unexpected way, as if the painter had a vision of Jesus of the fishes, or Jesus as a curl of smoke, or Jesus whose body is a shroud, about to be lifted away.

Holy water
teenybuffalo: (Default)
[personal profile] teenybuffalo
So, uh, I hate that this is my first post on DW since the LJ diaspora, but what can you do.

Is anybody out there going to the counter-demonstration on Boston Common on Saturday? 

I wasn't going to do this. I was going to spend the entire weekend in Providence, RI, taking part in Necronomicon and having a lovely time bathing in a flowing fountain of nerddom. But then, Nazis. Fuck that noise. I don't have any commitments on Saturday. I'm going to go to Boston Common and play obnoxiously loud music, and sing, and see what happens. There are no major plans. I just want to be there myself, and spend some time meeting the people who turn out to drown out fascists.

If anyone is on the fence about going, I have a plan and timing for being there; please talk to me privately.

Inspiration: "All You Fascists Bound To Lose," Woodie Guthrie (1940s radio broadcast).
sovay: (Sydney Carton)
[personal profile] sovay
The news remains unspeakable (except that once people start saying things that should not be said, they have to be faced and spoken against), but it is sunny outside and [personal profile] selkie tagged me a bathtub full of Jeremy Brett and I don't know how I'm going to sleep during NecronomiCon, but I hope I'm going to have fun. Everybody take care of themselves.

eep

Aug. 16th, 2017 09:43 am
moon_custafer: (Default)
[personal profile] moon_custafer

Literally one week left on my probation, and this morning I overhear them talking about a new hire. I really hope this is just me being paranoid.

ETA - OK, it's now Thursday and I'm still employed. Next Monday is the annual staff summer BBQ, and I can't see them being cruel enough to drop me immediately after, so if I get through tomorrow without being told not to bother coming in Monday, I'm probably all right. 

Reiterating that this is probably just needless anxiety on my part.

moon_custafer: (Default)
[personal profile] moon_custafer

From a comment on this thread: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2017/08/14/paula-deen-charlottesville/

 

“The closest fictional counterpart to Donald Trump is the female lead's boyfriend. You know the one. The guy who is such a fucking asshole with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, that you don't feel bad for wanting the movie's protagonist to break them up. But, because the writers assume the audience are idiots, they make him so over-the-top horrible that you can't understand how a nice, sweet girl like the female lead would ever tolerate dating this asshole. And then because you are bored, you start to wonder if maybe she isn't so great, maybe because she is presented as just a cipher with just a few symbols of being someone that the protagonist should be dating... what if she is actually just as much of an asshole as her boyfriend? Yeah, that's Trump and America right now.”




In lighter news
, I wonder whose job it is to tweet on behalf of the sharks.

sovay: (Default)
[personal profile] sovay
I meant to post my schedule for NecronomiCon Providence at the beginning of this month, but then the month got away from me; then I meant to post it before the weekend, but neo-Nazis happened. So! Tomorrow through Sunday, I will be in Providence. My schedule is as follows:

Friday August 18

9–10:15 am
Wereweird: Lycanthropy, Animism, and Animal-Transformation in Weird Fiction
Cody Goodfellow, KH Vaughan (moderator), Stephen Graham Jones, Sonya Taaffe

Throughout the history of Weird Fiction, the idea of transformation has held sway—with roots from the werewolf legends of the French countryside to the Wendigo myths of the Pacific Northwest, the idea of the human becoming something less (or more) than human has held our collective imaginations. Here, we will discuss the idea of transformation in folklore and our continued fascination with it.

6:00–7:15 pm
Erotic Lovecraftiana
Paul LaFarge, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Rawlik, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Joe Zannella

At first, the concept seems to be a contradiction. Lovecraft was robustly asexual with barely any interest in the subject in his writing or real-life. And yet, erotic Lovecraftian stories, films, and anime have been extremely popular. Is it possible to combine the two and create an entirely new offspring? Our panelists think so and will not only defend their conclusions but offer their recommendations.

Saturday August 19

10:30–11:45 am
Dark Crimes: The Weird in Noir Fiction
Paul Di Filippo, Cody Goodfellow, Lois Gresh, Peter Rawlik, Rory Raven (moderator), Sonya Taaffe

Both Weird Fiction and Crime Fiction function around the idea that we cannot trust what we once thought infallible—our very sense of self and place in the world. What philosophies drive these seemingly different strains of literature together and what unites both in their bleak view of the cosmos mankind inhabits? This panel explores the bleak cosmic horror of man as written by Himes, Thompson, and Chandler.

4:30–5:45 pm
Voices in Weird Poetry
Frank Coffman, Darrell Schweitzer, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Starry Wizdom

Weird poetry has been gaining ground over the past few years and continues to gather interest among scholars, writers, and readers. Who are some of these emerging voices? How might the emergence of this new energy in the medium stir interest in past works, and create a platform to expand interest in poetic works in the future?

Sunday August 20

10:30–11:45 am
Author Readings
Ruthanna Emrys, Jon Padgett, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe

I will also be in attendance at the opening reception for the exhibits "Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road" and "Caitlin R. Kiernan Papers" at the John Hay Library tomorrow night and with significant luck will manage to drag myself out of bed on Thursday in time for the noon showing of David Rudkin and Alan Clarke's Penda's Fen (1974) at the Black Box Theater. Then I will spend the following week sleeping. Anybody in this friendlist I'm likely to see at the world's premier festival of weird fiction, academia, and art?

[personal profile] spatch met me after my doctor's appointment this afternoon and we walked over to the Boston Public Market so that I could get my now-traditional bagel with smoked salmon from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. and he could get shakalatkes from Inna's Kitchen. I wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial afterward, because last night—for the second time this summer, after twenty-two years without incident—it was vandalized. We walked out the back of the market and into a press conference. An Auschwitz survivor and co-founder of the memorial was speaking; he was followed by Jewish community leaders, an imam, a cantor who recited the Holocaust-specific version of the El Malei Rachamim. We walked through the memorial afterward, my first time in years. It is six towers of glass, their panels etched with numbers like concentration camp tattoos; steam rises continually through each tower and the words of survivors are written in the glass. It mentions things that other remembrances of the Holocaust often elide: the equally targeted genocide of the Romani, Jewish uprisings and partisan groups, that the U.S. knew about the camps as early as 1942. I had forgotten to bring a stone to leave as at a grave, but the memorial provides its own. There were a lot of people there.

Then we met my mother in Harvard Square (the woman behind the counter at Esmerelda—not Esmerelda herself, older middle-aged and deft with a pair of needle-nose pliers—replaced the broken clasp of my necklace for free) and she told us about 45's neo-Nazi-defending both-sides double-down.

So I will go to Providence this weekend and represent queer Jewish fish people and that's all there is to it.

P.S. Courtesy of Rob, for fans of Gravity Falls (2012–16): with the blessing of series creator and voice actor Alex Hirsch, Grunkle Stan punches Nazis.

(no subject)

Aug. 15th, 2017 06:47 pm
lauradi7dw: (Default)
[personal profile] lauradi7dw
After Trump's astounding (but not surprising) "press availability time," I tweeted: "If 131 year old G Washington had been around when Virginia seceded, which way would he have gone?" Nobody has unfollowed me yet, but I wonder whether it could be seen as endorsing what the president said. I hope not. It's more of an indication of how my mind flits about. I don't know the answer. Arthur said he thought Thomas Jefferson would have kept on sticking by the Union (that's me plagiarizing a phrase from another context). I said he was a big supporter of slavery. Arthur queried it, and I replied that he hadn't even freed the mother of his children. Arthur granted my correctness, but pointed out that GW and TJ had anticipated the trouble slavery would cause in the future. I said "they kicked the can down the road," and then of course I had to check to see whether they could have done so. Not in 1789, but TJ lived long enough to see the commercialization of canned goods.
http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/what-it-says-on-the-tin-a-brief-history-of-canned-food

May I remark how much I dislike the expression "presser?" I understand the desire to cut out keystrokes/characters, but it's really unpleasant.

Anyone have local ghost stories?

Aug. 15th, 2017 04:23 pm
wickamuff: (Default)
[personal profile] wickamuff posting in [community profile] davis_square
Hey neighbors! I'm in an R&D phase of a podcast I'm working on and am currently collecting stories of people's odd experiences with "ghosts". I approach this topic with a healthy amount of skepticism, but find it fascinating that many people have had unexplained encounters!

If you think you may have had a run-in with a ghosts around town, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to PM me.

Example of a local legend : around the Powder House tower there have been reports of mysterious blue lights and what sounds like a man yelling for his daughter to stop necking with a neighboring farmer (but I've never spoken to anyone who has experienced this personally, just rumors I've seen online).

Thank you!

la niña juega con su sombra

Aug. 15th, 2017 07:52 am
asakiyume: (birds to watch over you)
[personal profile] asakiyume
Spanish Duolingo often has intriguing or provocative sentences for you to translate. This post's subject line was one I got last night:



(The girl plays with her shadow)

The child plays with her shadow
Jumping, jumping
To free her playmate
From the tether of her feet



ceelove: (Default)
[personal profile] ceelove posting in [community profile] davis_square
UPDATE: This event is a no-go! Many thousands of people expressed interest in counter-protesting, most of the speakers cancelled, and Mayor Walsh released a statement that the event was not welcome here.

I expect there will still be a rally against Nazis and white supremacist terrorism that day, and also there are related things like a "teach-in" (presumably about direct action and safer protesting) referenced in links in comments.

-------------------

Some of the same groups that fomented white supremacist hatred and terror in Charlottesville today will be in Boston next Saturday.

https://www.reddit.com/r/TheNewRight/comments/6r4e3h/boston_free_speech_rally_august_19th/
mem_winterhill: (Default)
[personal profile] mem_winterhill posting in [community profile] davis_square
From the city: https://twitter.com/SomervilleCity/status/897160515134377984

Join us for the Our Ville Stands with Your Ville: Charlottesville Vigil this Wed., 6pm, in Davis Square. More info: http://ow.ly/a3Y030eoWdK


6pm Wednesday, August 16 2017, Davis Square statue plaza

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