Thursday, July 20th, 2017 10:28 am
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The Mysteries of SPACE" - originally published 7/19/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 11:24 am
 ...seems to be an attempt to weaken most of Britain's human rights protection. There's a petition against it here:

https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/save-our-rights

spread the word.

gacked from [personal profile] history_monk 


Thursday, July 20th, 2017 11:00 am
Spiderman: Homecoming continues to build on, and expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While, and oh, thank heavens, it’s not another Spiderman origin story retread, it does an excellent job of refocusing the character on its original appeal at the same time as updating and integrating the High School Hero into the modern day. As a decades-long fan of the comic, I’m thrilled to see a young, nerdy Peter Parker, while also very much appreciating a younger, more modern, far more relatable Aunt May rather than a grey-haired granny stereotype.

With its smaller scale and 80s-teen-movie vibe, the film is in many ways lighter in tone than other recent and forthcoming MCU movies. A story feels much less oppressive when the oncoming disaster is humiliation at a teenage party rather than global annihilation by aliens or android armies. On the other hand, that tighter focus and scenario simultaneously makes this story far more personal. We can empathise far more readily with the reality of that situation whereas we could only ever be onlookers in need of rescue from Ultron or the Chitauri. When a shop which Peter regularly visits, where we know he chats with the owner, becomes collateral damage - that has an emotional impact which can sometimes be lacking in the CGI-spectacular destruction of faceless hordes.

I also like the way that Peter’s school and classmates are portrayed. He’s attending a specialist science and technology school, where being intelligent is the norm, not a reason for ridicule. Yes, he has a bullying nemesis, in keeping with the High School vibe, but that lad doesn’t mock Peter’s brains, rather he’s jealous of his place on the Academic Decathlon team. Yes, there’s a roly-poly, nerdy sidekick, but he’s extremely bright and capable when it comes to playing his own vital role in the plot. Success in the Academic Decathlon is presented as a worthwhile victory to strive for. All of which might be merely worthy if it wasn’t for the presence of Tony Stark. We all know Tony’s off-the-scale-brilliant but one thing his involvement in these events highlights is the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Tony doesn’t listen, he’s arrogant, and he shrugs off what doesn’t interest him. That sets the tone that his employees adopt. It’s Peter who learns the lessons that result from the consequences of Tony’s mistakes – as well as his own teenage missteps, of course.

Michael Keaton is a stellar villain whose coherent motivation is so much more convincing and complex than mere motiveless malignity. Beneath the patent injustice and/or callousness that sparks his initial grievance, there are also a good few questions posed about the roles of big business and government and what happens to ordinary people when politicians and billionaires organise the world to suit themselves. With great power, comes great responsibility. Someone should remind them of that. Which is not to say Adrian Toombs is some misunderstood and wronged individual who warrants our sympathy. He has made his own choices, consciously and deliberately for years now, and as we see, is utterly ruthless in pursuit of his goals. We can believe that Peter is in very real danger, thanks to Michael Keaton’s performance and the personal nature of their conflict.

So far, so good, however ... there’s still no getting away from the most abiding and persistent problem of superhero movies based on characters with a decades-long back story. Yes, I mean the roles for women, drawn from source material written when very different cultural archetypes went unquestioned. Once again, the girls are peripheral to the male-focused action, only present in the stereotypical roles of objects of desire, domestic helpmeets and damsels in distress. The writers and actors make heroic efforts to lift the female characters above such clichés but even with the appearance of Mary Beth Lacey, apparent now working for Homeland Security or some such, there’s only so much they can do here. I can only hope that the hints of more and better to come in the next movie are fulfilled, from Michelle in particular – as long as they can do that without mangling the essence of the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman whom we know and love. I’ve had quite enough of that sort of thing with DC turning Superman supposedly dark and edgy and in the process erasing so much of his core character.

Oh hey, how about some more female-led superhero movies? That would work to elevate women and to offer girls their own role models, without eradicating the men. How about we stop looking at this as a zero sum game?
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 09:28 am
It’s been an interesting last little while in the SFF genre, notably for those of us keeping a watching brief on gender issues alongside our uncomplicated enjoyment of superheroes and the fantastic. But rather than demand your time and attention for an extended read on them all at once, here’s the first in a series of related (and hopefully not too spoilery) posts.

Wonder Woman was good fun. I most definitely appreciated seeing strong, athletic women taking charge of their own destiny on Themiscyra, and wearing costumes that drew far more on classical Mediterranean leather armour than on lingerie. Putting Diana into Great War London and seeing the clash of cultures that followed worked well, both in terms of the film, and incidentally to highlight today’s obdurate misogyny. Lucy Davis as Etta Candy gives a performance that’s central to exploring those particular themes all the more effectively through humour. I thought Chris Pine gives a good account of himself, and personally I didn’t feel his presence turned the film into All About Steve. Mind you, there really should be a law against anyone called Steve flying off alone a plane in a superhero movie now. There’s no telling what will follow...

Is this an particularly feminist movie? Not to my mind. Let’s not forget, Diana’s plot ultimately revolves around a response to male aggression. So far, so predictably defining a woman’s role as reactive to a man’s. On the other hand, there are some thoughtful asides on the causes of war and no over-soft-pedalling the dire practical and psychological consequences for men and women alike. Having a female villain in Doctor Poison was a good choice, though let’s not forget she is subservient to a man. But then again, this is set in 1918 ... so ... would a female villain with more overt agency have been anachronistic? There are arguments on both sides. Not least because a more overtly feminist movie would have offered endless ammunition to those primed to attack it as ‘message fiction’ long before they’d seen the opening credits.

All told, I felt Sameer and Napi were badly underused which meant their contribution ended up as primarily ‘see how prejudice extends to race as well as gender?’ rather than having that assuredly valid point made incidentally to more rounded roles for those particular characters. That said, making such roles meatier would mean extending a film with a run time that’s already well over two hours. Oh, here’s a thought? Maybe dial back the extended CGI-spectacular scenes just a bit here and there? Use those saved minutes for more interesting character exploration?

The film did drive a galloping coach and horses through established Greek myth, as I observed as we left the cinema. ‘I thought Greek myths had all sorts of variations?’ remarked one son. ‘That’s your biggest problem with a story set in a universe where a man dresses up as a giant bat to fight crime?’ queried the other. Well, yes, fair comment, both. The unexpected appearance of Spud from Trainspotting did also distract me. Just like my flashback to Renton’s toilet-dive when I watched Obi Wan Kenobi et al visit the underwater city in The Phantom Menace. But that’s probably just me...

So overall I thought it was a good, fun film rather than a great, deeply-meaningful one. I mean, compared to ... oh, wait, there are no other female-led superhero movies to compare it to, are there? So let’s not get hypercritical here. As a foundation to build on, and as a film that proves that a female superhero can light up the box office with a good, fun, adventure story that everyone can enjoy, it’s exactly what we need at the moment.
Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 12:23 am
Picked up one of these lenses for my Canon a few days ago, took it out to the park and took some test photos on Tuesday. I think it's actually pretty good, and considering I got it for £30 I'm very pleased. One picture of berries is a bit out of focus, I think I simply got closer than the minimum for the lens without noticing, the rest are OK. Gallery here:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskZyx37y

I'm beginning to think more seriously about switching to Canon as my main system, but I'd want a better camera body, say 12 megapixels or better. The other thing I'd want to add is a longer zoom with some macro capability, the only other lens I've currently got is an 18-55. Whereas my most used Nikon lens is a 28-300 Tamron with macro capability. Any recommendations?
Tuesday, July 18th, 2017 06:34 pm
This is one I'm fairly sure I'm not interested in, but it's supporting Doctors Without Borders and tastes do differ:

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/Rifts

Kevin Siembieda's Rifts® is set on a future Earth shattered by countless otherworldly invasions. This all-new collection, the debut of Palladium Books in the Bundle of Holding, is a well-rounded set of complete .PDF ebooks that give players and Game Masters everything they need for a campaign of mind-blowing, dimension-spanning adventure across a transformed North America.

Ten percent of each purchase (after gateway fees) goes to this offer's designated charity, Doctors Without Borders.

The total retail value of the titles in this offer at launch is US$82.50. Customers who pay just US$17.95 get all four titles in our Starter Collection (retail value $38.50) as DRM-free .PDF ebooks, including the complete 384-page Rifts® Ultimate Edition™ (retail price $20), plus the Rifts® Primer (retail $3), Rifts® Sourcebook One™ Revised Edition (retail $10.50), and the Game Master Kit with useful play aids and pregenerated characters (retail $5).

Those who pay more than the threshold (average) price, which is set at $24.95 to start, also get our entire Bonus Collection with four more supplements worth an additional $44, including three World Books -- Juicer Uprising™ (retail $10.50), Psyscape™ (retail $10.50), and New West™ (retail $12.50) -- and the location supplement MercTown™ (retail $10.50).

At least one more title will be added after launch. When a title is added after launch, ALL customers who previously purchased the bundle automatically receive the newly added title, REGARDLESS of whether or not they paid more than average. This is their reward for buying early.


I'll be honest - I own some of this system in dead tree format but I was never really that interested in the setting, and found it a bit rules-heavy. Having said that, it's one of the first true multi-genre RPG systems, and its take on putting the genres together is unusual, although not one I'd really want to run. As usual your mileage may vary.
 


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Monday, July 17th, 2017 09:56 am

I am taking an (unasked-for) vacation from blogging to attend the bed of a close, elderly, family member who is dying. This is not unexpected, but death doesn't generally happen on a schedule and I've no way of knowing whether it is hours or days away at this point: so life for the rest of us is, perforce, on hold—and so are my blog updates.

(There may be some appearances, probably unheralded, by guest bloggers over the weeks ahead. Watch this space.)

Monday, July 17th, 2017 01:12 am
Dialogue for the old and new fans...

From Planet of the Spiders part one, as it might be re-edited:

LUPTON: Not only a Doctor, but a woman Doctor. We do not want her here.
CHO-JE: We cannot shut out the world entirely, my brother.
LUPTON: Why not? You used to, in Tibet.
CHO-JE: All things pass away, as you will learn in your meditation. This world of samsara, the world of appearance, is the world of change.
LUPTON: Yes, but I came here to get away from the world. So did the others. We came here to find solitude.
CHO-JE: One day you will learn to walk in solitude amidst the traffic of the world.
LUPTON: It's still not too late to stop her coming.
CHO-JE: But it is. Mister Chibnall has already gone to the station to fetch her.

**

CHO-JE: We can but point a finger along the way. A man must go inside and face his fears and hopes, his hates and his loves, and watch them wither away. Then he will find his true self, which is no self. He will see his true mind, which is no mind.
SARAH: And that's what meditation's all about?
CHO-JE: Yes! The old man must die and the new woman will discover to her inexpressible joy that he has never existed.
SARAH: Well, good luck, mate.

From Chrissie's Transcripts Site, with alterations.
Sunday, July 16th, 2017 10:11 pm
Well, count nobody entirely surprised by this, after the Master = Missy thing of the last couple of series - The next Doctor will be Jodie Whittaker, an actress I know little about:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40624288

Let's hope the plots improve a little.
Sunday, July 16th, 2017 02:51 am
Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "The Path to Enlightenment" - originally published 7/14/2017

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

Friday, July 14th, 2017 09:28 pm
Suddenly thought of rebooting my iPhone, and immediately the phone network is working again, not a problem with Freedompop at all. I'm obviously an idiot - all I can say is that my previous mobile phones (nice dumb ones) never had this problem....
Friday, July 14th, 2017 04:38 am

This well-planned telephoto timelapse captures July's Full Moon rise This well-planned telephoto timelapse captures July's Full Moon rise