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Apr. 27th, 2016 11:34 pm
jhameia: ME! (Default)
[personal profile] jhameia
Also I'm reading Bryan Thao Worra's DEMONSTRA poetry collection, selecting at random things to read tonight. Two of the three I've read so far have made me cry.

NiF + the female gaze

Apr. 20th, 2016 10:00 pm
colorblue: (Default)
[personal profile] colorblue
This post is going to be more on Nirvana in Fire, what else! (For those of you who haven't watched, i.e. the majority of my flist, you'll either have to get into this series with me, or learn to ignore my posts, because I do not see myself getting over this anytime soon.)

(1) This series contains a lot of tropes I love, and that I rarely see outside of fanfiction.

Most times, even when I connect with fictional characters, it is because of things the writer(s) did incidentally, and I have to overlook the writer's intention, selectively filter/ignore major plot points, and the character's intended use, in order to keep on being a fan. And it is so refreshing to not have to twist myself into pretzels in that fashion! To have a competently plotted and cohesively themed and show-stoppingly gorgeous series, where the author deliberately caters to what I find appealing. (Which isn't to say it doesn't have faults! And there are episodes that I will forever keep skipping because they are that deathly dull. But still, that the majority doesn't, is fun and gripping and amazing, is so rare for me.)

NiF wasn't published in the traditional way. It began as a serial fic on Chinese bulletin boards, and the author, Hai Yan, is also the one who penned the screenplay. And I think this plays into why the story just seems to breathe more. It wasn't written for/by the privileged, predominantly male, gatekeepers who usually, in a very heavy-handed fashion, dictate what should be seen and popularized and what shouldn't. The audience that Hai Yan was writing for was other Chinese BB fans like her.

(2) I previously compared this to The Lymond Chronicles because (a) both contain brilliantly clever main characters that actually are brilliantly clever; (b) there is more left unsaid than said -- some of the most important undercurrents remain just that, undercurrents, and there are often hidden layers of meaning under even the simplest scenes and conversations. But most of all, (c) it's one of the rare times, outside of fanfic, that I've come across a popular "serious" story that's had such a marked, unapologetic female gaze (and here I'm including stories written by both men and women).

For example, the main character, the brilliant, elusive Mei Chang Su, is largely coded as female. The series opens with two princes essentially trying to woo him to their side, showering him with attention and gifts, because they are interested in owning his ~~beautiful mind~~. It is understood by everyone that he is not allowed to say no, to not belong to one of them. He is by far the weakest physical character in the series, and constantly has to be protected and looked after by those around him. And of course, when he was younger, he was the exact opposite, and now he has to come to terms with what fate/society/life has consigned him to -- a weak body, limited options that force him into a role that most people (including himself!) disdain/distrust/look down upon.

That's part of what makes it so viscerally satisfying when his plans come to fruition, when he manages to turn yet another situation to his advantage, while those who overlooked him or sought to control his actions are left bewildered and wondering just what is happening.

(3) Onto what sharply differentiates it from The Lymond Chronicles: it is very much an ensemble cast. Like I was telling [personal profile] troisroyaumes, I bounced really hard off the Lymond books because it was lymond lymond LYMOND all the time, and the characterization of others, especially female others, I felt really suffered for that. I really dislike stories where the characterization of supporting characters are gutted in order to prop up the main, or where they serve as little more than stepping stones or accessories.

NiF is centered on Mei Chang Su/Lin Shu/Su Zhe, and he is the catalyst. But the main character doesn't diminish those around him, but the opposite -- part of what makes him so brilliant is their competency and brilliance. The way they are slowly revealed, how they gain enough depth that they could've carried the series on their own. And what amazes me the most is that even characters that never appear in the series, but only in people's memories, the author somehow manages to give so much depth and importance to, that it feels like they are the ones relentlessly driving the story forward.

(4) Another major difference, and something I take for granted in a lot of Asian stories/dramas. The sense of place and belonging, of people not being self-contained individuals, but a sum of those that came before them, and of existing in a web of relations and obligations with those around them now. And I mean, I have this in my life too? The solid certainty that this is where I came from, these are my parents and elders and teachers who molded and shaped me, whose legacy I carry, who I have a duty towards and at times need to represent. That it is not just me my actions reflect on.

Even if you question or rebel against parts or all of your legacy, even when you sharply break from tradition and the expectations placed on you -- one of the most compelling conflicts in this drama is Prince Jingyan vs his dad the Emperor, and that's just one of several examples I can cite -- that in no way diminishes its importance, but rather serves to highlight it.

And I think, I will always have a soft spot for stories that place importance on this, that have its characters navigating and grappling with it in all its complexity, rather than Ayn Rand brand of Galtian hero or the simplistic ~~I am a brainless drone that will follow every stupid restriction society places on me/ stupid instruction my elders give me~~.

(5) And of course, there isn't the blatant and rather despicable Orientalism that all of Dunnett's books had!

(6) I really want to watch another series like NiF! Why hasn't Hai Yan written anything else? She needs to give me something else to watch/read for the good of all mankind.

(no subject)

Apr. 20th, 2016 04:08 pm
marina: (Default)
[personal profile] marina
I am so ready for this week to be over. SO READY.

Except not because with every passing day the date when I will be homeless with a bad back and no thesis grows closer and um, that is not Fun Times.

Anyway, I have so much actual shit to do and so little time and energy it's not even funny but here are two cool things that happened:

1. My thesis adviser told me to apply for a national grad student conference my uni is hosting this year, and I did - half-assed proposal written and sent literally 20 minutes before the deadline - and today a friend ~in the know~ told me I'd been accepted. Apparently 16 people will be presenting overall, only 6 from my department. Of course because of my terrible proposal they found my subject confusing but they were intrigued by my methods so they're putting me in the "innovative methodology" section. Which... I have no idea how that'll go since I just did interviews over the internet and everyone else in that section actually sounds... REALLY INNOVATIVE.

Anyway, this is an utterly useless honor since I'm not really planning a career in academia at this point. I tell myself that maybe it'll let me send out the bat signal, and if any other grad students attend (which, idk how many actually will) maybe fan people will find me afterwards and we'll be friends? IDK.

2. Many years ago I wrote a short story. Last year I sent it to a publication, and it was accepted into an anthology, and now apparently you can pre-order that anthology which comes out in June.

I cannot actually tell you how amazing that post is to me. First of all the idea that you can PRE-ORDER something I wrote. LIKE. That has never happened and is EXTREMELY EXCITING.

But also: the advanced praise for that anthology? It's Martha Wells, one of whose books I JUST BOUGHT THE OTHER DAY no joke, and the guy who wrote the iZombie books which are, you know, A POPULAR TV SERIES now. Like... OH MY GOD.

Also the names on the cover? The first person on top has like 7 books out. When I got accepted to this anthology I was first-time-author as you can get. LIKE.

Anyway, look at my spiffy updated bibliography. EEEE.
taiga13: Raylan Givens from Justified (Justified)
[personal profile] taiga13 posting in [community profile] poetry
Dearest Father, forgive me for I have seen.
Behind the wooden fence, a field lit
with summer, a man pressing a shank
to another man’s throat. Steel turning to light
on sweat-slick neck. Forgive me
for not calling Your name. For thinking:
this must be how every prayer
begins—the word Please cleaving
the wind into fragments, into what
a boy hears in his need to know
how pain blesses the body back
to its sinner. The hour suddenly
stilled. The man genuflected, his lips
pressed to black boot as the words spilled
from his mouth like rosaries
shattering from too much
Father. Am I wrong to love
those eyes, to see something so clear
and blue—beg to remain
clear and blue? Did my cheek twitch
when that darkness bloomed from his crotch
and trickled into ochre dirt? Father,
how quickly the blade becomes
You. But let me begin again: There’s a boy
kneeling in a house with every door kicked open
to summer. There’s a question corroding
his tongue. There’s a knife touching
Your name lodged inside the throat.
Dearest Father, what becomes of the boy
no longer a boy? Please
what becomes of the shepherd
when the sheep are cannibals? 

Versailles S1

Apr. 17th, 2016 09:33 am
marina: (Default)
[personal profile] marina
So the Canadian/French show Versailles is currently available on Netflix, so guess what garbage I gobbled up this weekend.

To be clear: this show is many shades of terrible. This is due to two things:

1. Everyone on this show was fantastic - set designer, costume designer, actors, directors, editor, director of photography - except for the writers. The writers they hired, by every metric, were below average. So this show is ASTOUNDINGLY gorgeous and well made, and also terribly, terribly written.

2. This show graduated from the Game of Thrones school of period drama (see also #1), with alllll the issues that implies. Almost their entire attitude to portraying nudity and sex on screen can be summed up as: Game of Thrones. Now with bonus racism!

Anyway, my shoulder is fucked up so typing is not the easiest thing right now, so this will be a much shorter review than it could have been. To sum up the bad parts, I will tell you that this show is racist and sexist and not particularly well written (if you want details about any of that do let me know) in a way that would have made me stop watching after a few minutes if it didn't appeal so strongly to several of my kinks. Kinks that are so rarely depicted, I was willing to breeze through a lot of grossness to enjoy them.

spoilers are Athelstan as the king of France )

proper pimp post: Nirvana In Fire

Apr. 16th, 2016 12:05 am
colorblue: (Default)
[personal profile] colorblue
A proper pimp post for Nirvana in Fire, because it's been over a week and I'm still not over it. The only other cdrama that I've managed to watch the whole way through is The Legend of Zhen Huan, which while interesting I rather quickly forgot about. But THIS. My heart wasn't prepared for this!

Continuing from here: Nirvana in Fire is a 54-episode CDrama. I've seen people compare it to The Conte of Monte Cristo, but I don't think that's accurate at all. If I had to compare it to anything, it would be Dorothy Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles. But while I never really liked Lymond all that much and bounced very hard off the latter books, this drama just kept getting better and impossibly better as time went on, and I adore Lin Shu.

A few reasons you should watch it:

(1) It is utterly gorgeous. The cinematography, the way some of the shots are framed, the sequence of actions. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into every part of this. It was the weakest imo at the battle scenes, but thankfully there were only a handful of those. Everything else was great, and some of the court scenes were just so utterly perfect, it felt like watching poetry in motion. It's a visual marvel.

Here is a gifset of some critical scenes. Below's a youtube vid of the same (and if you're worried about spoilers, don't be -- you won't be able to figure out what's happening without having watched the show. just enjoy the beautiful cinematography!):



(2) The above vid captures one of the most fascinating aspects of the show for me, as well Lin Shu's character. One of the main themes reflected throughout the series is fire/ice. The poison in Lin Shu's body burns it from the inside while chilling him from the outside. He always appears collected and cold on the surface, with the fire/rage/desire/emotions inside ruthlessly controlled. Around him, empires rise and crumble, people gain riches and power while others are viciously brought down, and then the next moment the tables are completely turned, hopes and dreams destroyed. And all the while Lin Shu stands still and watching. The eye of the storm; the witness and the cause.

It is mesmerizing.

(3) The story is very clever! I can't count the number of times I have bounced hard off a book because someone that the author insists is a genius just, keeps doing and saying the stupidest things, and really, how dumb do the authors think their readers are?

But here there are layers and layers of meaning, so much left unsaid, so many subtle clues that come together at the end, or that I didn't even realize until my second watch. The world feels real, and the intrigues actually are intriguing, clever, capable characters satisfyingly clever and capable. [Though, okay, I will admit that there were some scenes after the reveal where I think people should have put on more of a resistance than they did. But that is a v minor quibble!]

(4) LIN SHU IS THE BEST WOOBIE-CHARACTER EVAH. And for all his meticulously cultivated elegance and aloofness and seeming uncaring, there are also lots of flashes of the headstrong, arrogant little shit that he never really grew out of being.

I mean, from the very first moment we are introduced to him, the first episode. There are intruders in his territory that are breaking his rules. When one persists in questioning him, he flicks his eyes up briefly, expression as calm and collected and expressionless as ever. His bodyguard/ward Fei Liu flies to their boat, lifts the dude that's questioning Lin Shu, and throws him into the sea to drown.

Lin Shu: "Leader Ji needs to be more careful in making friends. It's been a while since I've heard words as stupid as those."

And then, in one of the later episodes. He goes to visit one of his enemies in the prison. Says, not bothering to look up from peeling open an orange: "You must want to know where you went wrong, where the oversight was? How the world has come to this, forcing you into an abyss. From a prestigious minister to a criminal on death row. You needn't think too much of it. I am here today to explain to you exactly how you lost to me. [offers an orange slice, gets refused.] The reason you lost to me is because you are stupid. And because I’m smarter than you."

YES LIN SHU YOU ARE. And whenever you have some free time, how about you put those genius brain cells to use by mastering the very intricate, difficult, and layered task of learning how to properly wrap furs around your neck so you don't die of a cold before the next episode, y/y? [SPOILER ALERT: He never does.]

(5) As brilliant and as subtle as Lin Shu is, there is someone even more brilliant and subtle, that embodies silk hiding steel, and without her help all his plans would've collapsed. She doesn't really gain prominence until the second half of the series, and I don't want to spoil you, because discovering her was one of the highlights of the series for me. But yes, watch this for one of the most amazing female sneak-protags evah.

(6) The early episodes are a lot of fun, because you're constantly wondering what Lin Shu will do next, even if you don't yet know why he's doing what he does. Just watching him and others navigate the politics of the court and outsmart others is entertaining.

But then you learn more about the characters. And then you realize that each moment in this series was pregnant with meaning, that the actors had conveyed a whole other world by the way they shifted their eyes there; the director and cinematographer with the close-ups they chose, and things take on so much more resonance.

I have also never watched a drama in which so much was left unsaid. And in the last third, all the threads finally start coming together, and it builds and builds and builds until you're sitting on the very edge of your seats. And it absolutely delivers, the last few episodes some of the most amazing and crushing and elevating hours of television I have ever seen. I could watch them again and again and still be mesmerized.

(7) I was going to put paragraphs and paragraphs about Jingyan here, but again, seeing his character evolve was one of the main highlights of this series for me, and I firmly believe that he, too, should be discovered naturally! So will just say this: under that stern, brusque exterior beats the heart of a teenage shoujo manga heroine, and I mean this in the best way possible.

His characterization, like so many others in this series, astounds me.


A great pimp/review post.

Again, the entire series is subbed here on Viki, as well as some other places on the net. Go, watch, and come back and talk to me about it!

(no subject)

Apr. 15th, 2016 07:11 pm
denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
[staff profile] denise posting in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
People getting mail at Gmail are reporting email delays of about an hour. As far as I can figure out, it's because some of our recent changes to our network have wiped out our existing sending reputation with them and made us start building reputation again, and they're refusing all mail on first delivery and making us re-send it. (It's a common spam reduction technique, because spammers don't bother retrying if the first attempt fails.)

There isn't much we can do about it but wait it out until Gmail decides that we're legit senders again, but we'll poke at it and see if there's anything we can do to make the process go faster. (I doubt there will be, though; Gmail is persnickety.) In the meantime, to get comment notification email faster, you can switch your confirmed email to a different provider, or just refresh your on-DW inbox.

EDIT: And people are now letting me know that mail's delayed to other providers, too, which is probably follow-on effects from having to send everything to Gmail at least twice. There isn't a lot we can do about it; I'm sorry about the hassle, folks.

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