Book Report: Roxane Gay

Published March 20, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, this one is for Challenge 22 “An essay anthology.”  And I put the author’s name in the title of the post rather than the title of the book, because I don’t want anyone misinterpreting based on the title of the book…

Honestly, I first picked it up off the shelf because I wanted to know what the title meant:  was it equating being a feminist with being bad, or was it the author saying she was bad at being a feminist?  Thankfully, it’s (basically) the latter.   (Well, duh; I wouldn’t have bought it if it had been the former!)  She explains in the Introduction:

I openly embrace the label of bad feminist.  I do so because I am flawed and human.  I am not terribly well versed in feminist history.  I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be.  I have certain…interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist.  I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.

The essays in this book cover a range of subjects — literally spanning from the lightest of topics, like Sweet Valley High books, Twilight/Fifty Shades of Gray and competitive Scrabble to the very weighty topics of oppression and social injustice of several sorts — but there’s a very good flow between them, and she starts you out with the light stuff, getting you used to her style before launching into the more serious subject matter.  Many of the essays are on a subject that was mentioned briefly in the essay before it (or possibly the one before that).  There’s a humor that runs constantly through the book, but it’s a very mournful humor in some cases,  combating the worst that society has to offer.  Ironically(?), right after an essay in which she was talking about how she wasn’t sure that trigger warnings actually did any good, she stumbled onto one of my triggers:  the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.  Like most people in my generation, I remember exactly where I was when that happened (watching it in school, like most others my age), and like many other grade school students, at the time I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut.  (It wasn’t actually that disaster that changed my mind on that.  It was more not actually liking math and science much.)  I think it must have affected me more deeply than most, though, because I can’t see a recording of a space shuttle launch without my mind’s eye replaying the Challenger for me instead of letting me see what’s actually in front of me.  Though I like the ill-timed movie Space Camp that came out so soon after the disaster, I can’t watch the part where their space shuttle takes off.

*clears throat*

Sorry, wandered off topic.

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MLM No K; April A-to-Z 2018 Theme Reveal!

Published March 19, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

(Can I do this without one of the letters of the alphabet?  Well, I’m gonna try!)

So, after not participating last year due to having chosen a theme that required waaaaaay too much research, I’ve decided “to hell with it” and am doing April A-to-Z this year.  With (basically) the same topic I started researching for last year.  (Well, not exactly “researching,” really.  More just trying to decide what to use each letter for.)

In 2016, my theme was world mythology, with a preference for less commonly told myths, specifically those which hadn’t been used in video games, using the mythology-rich Shin Megami Tensei series as my guide to what had been used in a game, on the (probably erroneous) assumption that anything that had never been in a MegaTen game hadn’t made it into a game at all.

Obviously, that made things pretty complicated, especially since I had to use as many sources as possible (minimum two) to be sure my information was accurate.

So, long story short, I decided to do the reverse of that:  I’m going to feature a mythical figure who is in at least one MegaTen game, give the game’s text describing the figure (most games in the series, at least since the original PlayStation, have had a compendium that contains descriptions of the origin of each being in the compendium), and then what the actual mythic tradition has to say on the subject.

That was going to be my theme last year, only I had spent so long trying to put together a list of candidates for each letter that I ended up burning out before I even got started.  (Plus I had a lot of class reading, which wasn’t conducive to the prospect, either.)  This time, I’m not going to be as concerned as I originally planned regarding covering the whole world.  While MegaTen does include mythology from cultures all over the world, it does have a tendency to gravitate towards Asia and Europe.  Last year, I planned to focus on countering that gravitation, trying to spread the focus more evenly worldwide.  This year, I’m being more lazy, and just focusing on whatever happens to grab my fancy.  Though I’ll probably avoid most of the Hellenic stuff, since I’ve already got so much of it on my site.  And I can’t consider the whole MegaTen series, because I haven’t had access to a television for some time (for reasons) so I can only use the 3DS games (the two Devil Survivor remastered games, Shin Megami Tensei IV, and Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse, and possibly Persona Q) that I have easy access to.  (Yeah, yeah, I’m pathetic….)

Oh, and (despite this post) Missing Letter Monday will be going on hiatus until April A-to-Z is over, as trying to combine the two either requires two posts every Monday or ends up with really lousy posts.  Not going there this time.


MLM No “J” – Spam

Published March 12, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Yay, I can finally post this!

Crazy spam message I found in my spam filter (yes, I actually read them before I delete them) at one point:

A lot of people ought to function and stand for extended hours at one time. If you should do this, then be sure you make an attempt to stand up tall and direct. Attempt to enable your thighs and legs to relax too every now and then if at all possible, probably on a feces or table if you are allowed to do that.

This one really made me laugh.

Having gone through a lot of these, I can explain what happened that made the spambot suggest people should lean/sit on excrement:

In what I have to assume was intended to make them seem more like people (even though they’re posting random snippets of “advice” on topics unrelated to the blog post accompanied by links to knock-off shoes or discount pharmaceuticals), some spambots are programmed to introduce “typos” or to vary the wording.  The typos are frequently ludicrous, as they generally are adding extras of the same letter (particularly vowels) or replacing a letter with one that looks a bit like it.  (These replacement letters are mathematical characters or something, things WordPress doesn’t even provide on its “insert character” interface.)  The variant wording is when it gets hilarious, though.

If you can’t already guess what the method is from the quote above, let me give you a hint:  another spam message I got (which it sadly didn’t occur to me to copy-paste and save) talked about doing something “if it should swimsuit you to do so.”

Yeah, they simply plug in a thesaurus. 😛  Only they apparently didn’t realize there were such things as words with multiple, very different meanings.

As is often the case, I find myself wondering who in the world programs these spambots, and exactly who they expect to fall for them.


Book Report: Destiny, NY

Published March 9, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Though I now wish I hadn’t (for reasons I’ll get to at the end of the post), I decided to make Challenge #18, “A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image,” into the next challenge I tackled.  And as I have, for some reason that is inexplicable to me (as a self-described non-comic-book-person), backed a surprising number of graphic novels on Kickstarter, I had several to choose from already lying about my hard drive, waiting to be read.  (Yeah, I tend to go for the non-physical tier on them.  Because I lose things.  And my house is too cluttered already.)

I went with this one:

I chose this one in large part because the Kickstarter I backed was actually for Volume Two, and I figured I probably ought to read Volume One before Volume Two comes out.  Here’s the description off the back of the book (er, final page of the .pdf?):

Adulting is hard.  Adulting when you used to be a magical girl is way, way harder.

Set in a version of New York City where magic is a real and accepted part of life, Logan McBride struggles to find purpose.  She was the subject of an incredible prophecy when she was a child, but fulfilled her foretold destiny when she was just thirteen.  Now in her twenties, Logan navigates through graduate school for Prophecy Kids while searching for her place in a world that tells her sheʼs already finished.

Mostly, I’d say this is a very apt description of the book, with one significant discrepancy:  Logan was not a magical girl by the definition I am accustomed to.  Maybe to non-anime folks, the definition of “magical girl” is a bit more loose, but to the anime/manga crowd, a magical girl typically has a transformation of some sort whenever she’s going to use magic (not necessarily a magical transformation), often (if not always) has a talking animal companion, usually has several very identifiable (and marketable) accessories that feature prominently in her story, generally is having to lead a double life as she hides her magical life from her family and friends, and typically takes a long time fighting monsters of the week before facing off against the big bad.  There are exceptions (Cardcaptor Sakura has neither monsters nor a villain), but for the most part, the formula is as I just described.  Whatever Logan would properly be described as, “magical girl” is not what I would pick, though it is technically accurate, as she was a thirteen year old girl when she completed her prophecy, and she did so magically.  (Sparkler has a property that’s actually a former magical girl trying to get on with her life that I’m very much looking forward to reading…if I ever get the back issues I pledged for.  *grumble*grumble*)

Anyway, that aside, here’s what I feel I can tell you about Volume One of Destiny, NY, without spoiling too much.  Logan (the blonde) is going through a period of personal turmoil (in large part caused by her ex-fiancee not unfriending her before posting engagement photos on Facebook) when she meets Lilith (the redhead), and, as you’d expect, sparks rather fly.  Only Lilith has some very vicious enemies who aren’t afraid of playing very dirty…

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Book Report: Origins

Published March 8, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Whew, finally finished reading this one!  Took me almost two weeks, and just in the nick of the time, as it’s due back at the library today!  (Important note, of course, is that I’m actually writing this last night.)  Anyway, I started reading this in February, wanting to pick something that seemed appropriate for Black History Month but not really coming up with anything that really grabbed me.

Then I had a brilliant idea.  (As Mr. Smee would say, lightning struck my brain.)  Challenge #6 is “A book about nature.”  Something is “nature” if it is natural, that is, not made by humanity.  Space is natural, therefore it is nature.  And Neil DeGrasse Tyson is African-American as well as one of the most awesome people currently living, so one of his books on space would both answer the challenge and be appropriate February reading.  Therefore…

Of the ones available at the county library system, this seemed like the one that was the best combination of being “about nature” and being interesting without being too difficult for someone like myself without any particular scientific background knowledge.  (Introductory biology and chemistry were a looooooong time ago…)  The one that actually sounded like the read I’d most enjoy, unfortunately, was ruled out right off the bat, because it was about the history of man’s fascination with/attempts to pursue spaceflight.  (Or something like that.)

Anyway, in one respect, my casual use of Goodreads to select a book steered me wrong on this one.  Specifically, I didn’t look too closely where it talked about the publication date.  I saw the date 2014 and thought “oh, nice, it’s pretty recent,” without noticing that right below that it said “originally published in 2004”.  And, of course, the library’s copy was a first edition.  So it was a bit out of date, which was particularly noticeable when it was talking about a space probe that had just reached Saturn’s moon Titan, but its pictures hadn’t arrived back yet.  (Thankfully, I was able to look up the results on Wikipedia.)

All that aside, let me get back to the subject of the book itself, setting aside the datedness of some of the material (which would be much less dated in the second edition from ten years later).  The purpose of this book is to outline everything currently known and theorized about the entire history of the universe, from its beginnings to the present day, and to do so in a way that laymen can read and understand it.  The authors aren’t coy about admitting that there are things science still hasn’t figured out yet, most of those things centering around, well, origins:  the origin of the universe (yes, the Big Bang was a thing, but why and what came before it?) and the origin of life being the two biggest question marks.

So, do they achieve what they set out to do?  The answer is both a big “yes” and also a moderately loud “no.”

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IWSG – It’s almost April…

Published March 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

…and that means Camp.

Not camp like “cheesy, over-the-top” but camp like CampNaNo.  (But you knew that.)

Actually, I’ve never done the April session of CampNaNo before, just the July session.  But I’m not taking a class this semester, not doing April A-to-Z (or maybe I should, just to try and jumpstart my pathetic blog), so there’s no reason not to.  Plus I haven’t been very motivated lately (getting addicted to a couple of video games in a row has definitely not helped, of course), so I’m hoping this will get me back into a good writing habit again.

I’ll be re-working my NaNo novel from this November, which is a first:  I’ve never done a rewrite as a NaNo project.  I’m also doing a first for me and have set my goal as 30 hours instead of a number of words.  I generally get about half an hour’s writing time before I leave for work in the morning…though I don’t always use it to write.  In fact, lately I’ve loaded up my current project (essentially an RPG in fiction form), written about two sentences (if even that much), and then opened a file of one of my past projects that needs editing.  Not that I actually edited the past projects when I opened them; I just read over bits I liked and made mental notes about the parts that needed fixing.  (Yeah, not the least bit productive, I know.  That’s part of my worry.)

Of course, I have new worries about doing this revision for camp.  Like, for starters, I haven’t even opened the file since early December.

I should probably read it over before April gets here.  Especially since the idea is to start out by writing the long dead guy’s journal in order to use it as chapter-openers throughout the book.  I need to remember what he was writing about before I can actually write it.  And refreshing my memory about the world I created would probably be a good idea, too.  (I mean, I could look at my notes file, but it’s a freakin’ mess, so I’m not sure that would actually be helpful.)

Part of me thinks I should see if anyone in my Cabin (once I’m in a Cabin, anyhow) wants to look over my first draft and see if they have any suggestions, and the rest of me thinks that wouldn’t be at all fair to them (I know it’s a convoluted mess with ghastly pacing and a tendency to take back doors to avoid anything actually, you know, happening) and might serve no function but to make them hate me.

….so, I just re-read my IWSG post from December, where I was talking about NaNo, and there was a lot there I’d already forgotten.  Am I getting senile in my early 40s?  That’s a terrifying thought…but either way, at least I have that post to help me remember what I wanted to do in the re-write.

But I think I definitely need to re-read the original draft before April 1st.  I guess, since my current project isn’t grabbing me, I’ll set it aside for now and use my mornings before work to re-read my NaNo novel and get some planning done about how I want to proceed through April…

…and maybe make some plans to do April A-to-Z after all…

MLM No “H” – Random Nonsense

Published February 26, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Yea, a difficult one today.  Not gonna try to make sense.

O, but on an unrelated(?) note, I broke down and ordered a new cell.  Didn’t want to, but sort of did?  I’ve been using a flip for ten years (actually, a couple years more’n ten) and I can’t even dial a so-called smart one.  I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.  Or I’ll send it back; I’ve got seven days.  (We’ll just wait and see.)

I’ve got a really funny piece of spam I want to post, but Mondays aren’t working for it so far.  Too many words in it, too many letters I can’t use.  (Maybe once “z” rolls around…)

Not really a post of any note…

…but I want to get back to a video game I just got addicted to, so…

Bye for now!

Book Report: Goldie Vance, Volume 1

Published February 25, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

To call this review overdue is a bit…I’m not sure if it’s an understatement or an overstatement.  I actually read this on Friday, but it was too late when I finished to write a review then, and yesterday I was in the most foul mood and didn’t want to in any way deal with other human beings, not even in the absurdly remote format of writing a blog post.   Aaaaaanyway, that aside, I actually interrupted another book to read this.  Because since I finished the last book, after a day of “what am I gonna read next?”, I’ve been working on Challenge #6 (possibly too loosely interpreted), only then I went to Book Riot’s site and saw that they’d posted a list of suggestions for Challege #21 “A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author.”  When I read the description of this one, I knew it was the one to use for that one.  And it seemed appropriate to read and review it really quickly, so it’d still get posted in February.

This is a graphic novel (well, trade paperback of comic books, actually) about a teenage girl, the titular Goldie Vance, in what I can only call an idyllic alternate early 1960s.  It has to be after 1961, because her friend Cheryl has a crush on Alan Shepard because of his trip to space (I can think of worse reasons to have a crush on someone), but it can’t be much later than that, based on the visual style.  But it’s utterly unlike the real 1961, because no one in this entire volume has any problem with (or even mentions) Goldie’s, her father’s or Cheryl’s skin color.  Not to mention that Goldie’s mother is white — with Goldie being about sixteen or seventeen (it’s unclear what her age actually is) in the very early 1960s, she was probably born around 1945, possibly a year or two after.  There were states where a mixed race marriage was still illegal in the 1940s, particularly in the south.  (I think the south didn’t purge those laws until the 1960s, in fact.)  So, like I said, this is an idyllic alternate 1960s where racism doesn’t exist and apparently never did.  (Perhaps this is what America would have looked like if the northern colonies had stuck to their principles during the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and had left in the clause about the abduction of innocents from Africa was one of King George’s crimes against which the colonists were rebelling.)

Uh, anyway, all that aside, let’s get to the book itself, rather than talking about its world.  Goldie’s father is manager at a Florida resort inn, and Goldie has a (summer?) job as a valet, parking cars.  Her best friend is Cheryl, who works at the desk and is studying to be an astronaut.  (Cheryl is the pink-jacketed girl on the cover.)  Goldie also spends a lot of time hanging around with Walter, the house detective, because she really likes trying to do his job for him.  The last person we need to mention is Diane, who works at a local record store, and is the object of Goldie’s affections.  (Yep, she’s not only a woman of color, she’s also a lesbian.  This, of course, is why I had to read this!  That and because it’s aimed at younger readers, so the mystery isn’t a murder.)  I have trouble getting a good read on Diane — though she’s undoubtedly cool — because I keep getting distracted by her design, which for some reason reminds me of the unaired-pilot-episode version of Susan from Doctor Who.  I’m not even sure why she reminds me of Susan, she just does.

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Book Report: The Heart of a Woman

Published February 20, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

As I said before, this next book is really appropriate for Black History Month.  In looking at the (uniquely finite) list of choices for Challenge #13 “An Oprah Book Club selection,” I was admittedly a bit torn, as Middlesex sounded like something I’d like to read.  (How many books have intersex leads?)  But in the end I decided to go with this one.

Rather than make any futile attempt on my own to describe the contents of the book in summary, let me quote the summary from the book’s Goodreads page instead:

Maya Angelou has fascinated, moved, and inspired countless readers with the first three volumes of her autobiography, one of the most remarkable personal narratives of our age. Now, in her fourth volume, The Heart of a Woman, her turbulent life breaks wide open with joy as the singer-dancer enters the razzle-dazzle of fabulous New York City. There, at the Harlem Writers Guild, her love for writing blazes anew.

Her compassion and commitment lead her to respond to the fiery times by becoming the northern coordinator of Martin Luther King’s history-making quest. A tempestuous, earthy woman, she promises her heart to one man only to have it stolen, virtually on her wedding day, by a passionate African freedom fighter.

Filled with unforgettable vignettes of famous characters, from Billie Holiday to Malcolm X, The Heart of a Woman sings with Maya Angelou’s eloquent prose her fondest dreams, deepest disappointments, and her dramatically tender relationship with her rebellious teenage son. Vulnerable, humorous, tough, Maya speaks with an intimate awareness of the heart within all of us.

While that does sum up most of the content matter, it doesn’t really do justice to the book.  There’s so much more involved, and the summary doesn’t put nearly enough emphasis on her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement.  Also, it doesn’t mention that there are places where the narrative grips you so much that you have to keep reading, desperate to know what will happen next, even though the events all took place fifty+ years ago.

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