Affective Needs by Rebecca Taylor

Jun. 24th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Posted by Guest Reviewer

B+

Affective Needs

by Rebecca Taylor
July 11, 2016 · Ophelia House
RomanceYoung Adult

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Faellie. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the YA Romance category.

The summary:

Ninety-two days. That’s all that’s left. Just ninety-two days and Ruth Robinson, calculus genius, will stand with her arms raised in a triumphant V as the valedictorian of Roosevelt High. With her early admit to Princeton’s Neuroscience program burning a hole in her pocket, Ruth can hardly wait to show her fellow teenage troglodytes that while she didn’t have followers, friends, or “times” in basements, she was the one ending up on top.

All she needs to do is white knuckle her way through this waiting place last semester and then, finally, she’ll be on her way. Except, the first day back from winter break, Porter Creed shows up. Porter is a special education transfer—Affective Needs. And just like all the other desk flippers and chair throwers in the affective needs classroom, Porter has some major emotional problems. But when Porter strolls onto Ruth’s home turf, Advanced Calculus, and disrupts her axis by being both gorgeous and the only person better at math than her—Ruth begins to realize that maybe life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Here is Faellie's review:

I was late to the RITA reviewing party but there was a gap for a reviewer of either YA or Inspirational: I’m not inspirational but I was young once so YA it is. Checking out the title of Affective Needs was itself an education: apparently it’s a term for having emotional and social difficulties. Which I would have thought summed up pretty much everyone in high school, but there you go.

Right. Here we are in Trenton, New Jersey, with our heroine Ruth in first person narrative counting down the days until she escapes her final year at Roosevelt High. She has a high opinion of her intelligence and over the top snark for everything and everyone else, including her fellow social outcast and best gay black friend, Eli. Our hero is Porter Creed, the aforesaid Affective Needs guy who is newly arrived in school and (of course) turns out to be even better at math than prospective Valedictorian Ruth. Early on Porter calls Ruth out on her attitude:

“You were right; you do have a bad temper.”

“You’re one to talk.”

“Yes, but I’m labeled and filed. You’re allowed to just prowl around in the general population.”

“I’ve never tried to bash someone’s brains inside out.”

He turned his head and his eyes met mine. “Maybe not physically.”

The plotting of the novel worked well and the setting of an American high school seemed authentic. I liked the writing, in particular the dialogue. The character of Ruth took a while to gel for me, perhaps because she embodies a significant number of different ideas and perhaps because she starts out as not particularly likable, but she grows over the course of the book, and my sometimes intense irritation with her resolved into something closer to sympathy and liking.

Porter as hero was seen through Ruth’s narrative which limited his character development somewhat but there was enough there for him to hold up his side of the story. Secondary characters were well developed: I missed seeing more of best friend Eli as the book progressed but this was consistent with the plotting. There is a suitably HFN ending.

I think this would be a good book for its YA audience. I think it has fully earned its RITA nomination, and, acknowledging that an elderly English curmudgeon is probably not its target audience, I’m happy to give it a solid B+ grade.

Rivers from the train

Jun. 24th, 2017 10:32 am
sartorias: (Default)
[personal profile] sartorias
Edited to add, good grief! I don't know how to make them smaller.

This is actually a shot from my trip to Minneapolis. I got up at five for breakfast, and got a view of Mt. Shasta in the golden early morning light. (It was unfortunately so golden it bleached all the green out of the scene.)




Return trip. Sunset at ten p.m. on the solstice as we passed a body of water. The reflections and lovely colors made it magical for me.



The countryside was so very happy from all the rain of winter. All along Glacier Park (which we cut through the southern tip of) beargrass grew, which looked like little white flames. I got no good pictures of it. But I liked this one of full rivers, coming right up over the banks.



The highest bridge west of the Mississippi (possibly in the country, I didn't catch all the docent's talk) is over the Medicine River. You can see it far, FAR below . . .



I realize that most of this is river shots, but we don't have rivers in Southern California. I love rivers, especially when the terrain keeps changing. Like these following two pix, shot about an hour apart:



and



And a final shot of the Columbia, now super wide--seems almost creepy to me, though it doesn't match the breadth of the Mississippi when I cross it going to Chicago. I got this shot partly because of that breadth, but also because of the snowy volcanic peak you can just barely make out there in the distance.

Bruria Kaufman

Jun. 24th, 2017 04:53 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

The Annual Reviews have a tradition of featuring retrospective articles by or about senior figures, and the Annual Review of Linguistics has followed this pattern with pieces featuring Morris Halle in the 2016 volume and Bill Labov in 2017. For 2018, we’ll be featuring Lila Gleitman.

As background, Barbara Partee, Cynthia McLemore and I spent the last couple of days interviewing Lila about her life and work. We’ve got more than 7.5 hours of recordings, which is more like a book than an article — and it may very well turn into a book as well, with edited interview material interspersed with reprints of Lila’s papers. But what I want to post about today is one of the many things that I learned in the course of the discussions. This was just a footnote in Lila’s life story, but it has its own intrinsic interest, and I’m hoping that some readers will be able to provide more information.

I learned that the founder of the Penn Linguistics Department, Zellig Harris, was married to a mathematical physicist named Bruria Kaufman. She worked with John von Neumann, wrote some widely-cited papers on crystal statistics in the late 1940s, published with Albert Einstein (Albert Einstein and Bruria Kaufman. “A new form of the general relativistic field equations“, Annals of Mathematics, 1955), and later wrote papers like “Unitary symmetry of oscillators and the Talmi transformation“, Journal of Mathematical Physics 1965, and “Special functions of mathematical physics from the viewpoint of Lie algebra“, Journal of Mathematical Physics 1966.

The thing that interested me most was that Bruria Kaufman also worked for a while in the 1950s with Harris at Penn, at the same time as others including Lila Gleitman, Aravind Joshi, R.B. Lees, Naomi Sager, Zeno Vendler, and Noam Chomsky. And according to this 1961 NSF report, her contributions included Transformations and Discourse Analysis Papers (TDAP) numbers 19 and 20:

19. Higher-order Substrings and Well-formedness, Bruria Kaufman.
20. Iterative Computation of String Nesting (Fortran Code), Bruria Kaufman.

I’ve found a couple of citations to these works, but so far not the works themselves.

The 1961 NSF report says that

Paper 15 gives an information [sic — should be informal?] presentation of a general theory and method for syntactic recognition. Papers 16-19 give the actual flow charts of each section of the syntactic analysis program.

where 15-19 are

15. Computable Syntactic Analysis, Zellig S. Harris. (Revised version published as PoFL I, above)
16. Word and Word-Complex Dictionaries, Lila Gleitman.
17. Elimination of Alternative Classifications, Naomi Sager.
18. Recognition of Local Substrings, Aravind K. Joshi.
19. Higher-order Substrings and Well-formedness, Bruria Kaufman.

and “PoFL I” is Harris’s String Analysis and Sentence Structure, 1962.

Aravind Joshi and Phil Hopely, “A parser from antiquity“, Natural Language Engineering 1996, explains that

A parsing program was designed and implemented at the University of Pennsylvania during the period from June 1958 to July 1959. This program was part of the Transformations and Discourse Analysis Project (TDAP) directed by Zellig S. Harris. The techniques used in this program, besides being influenced by the particular linguistic theory, arose out of the need to deal with the extremely limited computational resources available at that time. The program was essentially a cascade of finite state transducers (FSTs).

More on the history from that source:

The original program was implemented in the assembly language on Univac 1, a single user machine. The machine had acoustic (mercury) delay line memory of 1000 words. Each word was 12 characters/digits, each character/digit was 6 bits. Lila Gleitman, Aravind Joshi, Bruria Kauffman, and Naomi Sager and a little later, Carol Chomsky were involved in the development and implementation of this program. A brief description of the program appears in Joshi 1961 and a somewhat generalized description of the grammar appears in Harris 1962.  This program is the precursor of the string grammar program of Naomi Sager at NYU, leading up to the current parsers of Ralph Grishman (NYU) and Lynette Hirschman (formerly at UNISYS, now at Mitre Corporation). Carol Chomsky took the program to MIT and it was used in the question-answer program of Green, BASEBALL (1961). At Penn, it led to a program for transformational analysis (kernels and transformations) (1963) and, in many ways, influenced the formal work on string adjunction (1972) and later tree-adjunction (1975).

The paper’s bibliography cites

Transformations and Discourse Analysis Project (TDAP) Reports, University of Pennsylvania, Reports #15 through #19, 1959-60. Available in the Library of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) (formerly known as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS)), Bethesda, MD.

So I’ll ask my friends at NIST if these works are still there.

 

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Posted by Phil Yu

Jeff Yang and Phil Yu present an unfiltered conversation about what's happening in Asian America.



What's up, podcast listeners? We've got another episode of our podcast They Call Us Bruce. Each week, my good friend, writer/columnist Jeff Yang and I host an unfiltered conversation about what's happening in Asian America, with a strong focus on media, entertainment and popular culture.

This week, we welcome Simon Tam, front man for the embattled Asian American rock band The Slants. He talks about the eight-year fight to trademark their band name, the landmark Supreme Court ruling in their favor, and the important right for Asian Americans and other marginalized communities to call ourselves whatever we want.

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musesfool: lester bangs on rock'n'roll (music)
[personal profile] musesfool
So this week's AV Club Q&A is favorite one hit wonders (though certainly the definition of "one hit" is...elastic, and dependent in many cases on where you live), and more than a couple of songs I love got mentioned and then I ended up departing from that original premise and going on a youtube spiral of music from my teenage years, a lot of which I hadn't heard in decades probably (and some of which is still in regular rotation on my iPod, though I left out most of the usual suspects), but here are some gems:

- Let Me Go - Heaven 17
- Hit That Perfect Beat - Bronski Beat
- Don't Go - Yaz
- Love to Hate You - Erasure
- Obsession - Animotion
- West End Girls - Pet Shop Boys
- Tenderness - General Public
- I Melt With You - Modern English
- Whisper to a Scream - Icicle Works
- Cruel Summer - Bananarama
- Voices Carry - 'Til Tuesday
- Forever Young - Alphaville
- What Do All the People Know? - the Monroes
- Heart and Soul - T'Pau
- If You Leave - OMD
- Question of Lust - Depeche Mode
- The Promise - When In Rome
- True - Spandau Ballet
- Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins
- No One Is to Blame - Howard Jones
- Don't Dream It's Over - Crowded House

***

Affective Needs by Rebecca Taylor

Jun. 24th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Guest Reviewer

B

Affective Needs

by Rebecca Taylor
July 11, 2016 · Ophelia House
RomanceYoung Adult

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Coco. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the YA Romance category.

The summary:

Ninety-two days. That’s all that’s left. Just ninety-two days and Ruth Robinson, calculus genius, will stand with her arms raised in a triumphant V as the valedictorian of Roosevelt High. With her early admit to Princeton’s Neuroscience program burning a hole in her pocket, Ruth can hardly wait to show her fellow teenage troglodytes that while she didn’t have followers, friends, or “times” in basements, she was the one ending up on top.

All she needs to do is white knuckle her way through this waiting place last semester and then, finally, she’ll be on her way. Except, the first day back from winter break, Porter Creed shows up. Porter is a special education transfer—Affective Needs. And just like all the other desk flippers and chair throwers in the affective needs classroom, Porter has some major emotional problems. But when Porter strolls onto Ruth’s home turf, Advanced Calculus, and disrupts her axis by being both gorgeous and the only person better at math than her—Ruth begins to realize that maybe life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Here is Coco's review:

Affective Needs is a YA romance with classic teen characters, like an angsty, academically-focused young woman ready to leave the confines of high school and a broody, mysterious bad boy who just started at the school.

Rebecca Taylor’s story trod well-worn paths, but injects some fresh insights with an eye toward the realities behind high school experiences.

On day one hundred and forty-four, Bella Blake emerged from winter break with freshly dyed atomic-pink hair. Everyone in our first period homeroom was stunned, but impressed, and proceeded to make asinine comments like “You’re so brave” and “I wish I had your nerve.” So Bella preened and swelled and basically acted like she was so Rebel Without a Cause. This was exactly why I hated high school.

A gif from the cartoon Daria where two teens stand before lockers. Daria says that she hates this place.

The central premise, and titular inspiration, for this story is the classification of affective needs. Taylor, who is trained and works as a school counselor and psychologist herself, explains that an affective needs classroom is populated by students with emotional, particularly anger, issues—or, in her character’s (Ruth’s) words:

 Affective needs was filled with all the kids who had their anger issues dialed up to volcanic. Every chair thrower and desk kicker spent most of their days in that classroom. One big concentrated box of rage—all of whom were on my mother’s caseload and had probably been on some psych’s caseload since kindergarten.

By having Ruth’s mother working as a counselor at her high school, Taylor accomplishes two tasks: she is able to incorporate more emotional intelligence into her characters in a plausible manner, and she also builds additional tension and conflict by having mom and daughter intertwined at school/work, as well as at home.

Our young male and female protagonists do not have a classic meet-cute; the girl doesn’t trip and fall (“adorably” or otherwise) in front of the guy and they don’t lock eyes outside a concert or begin with an argument. Instead, Ruth and Porter first make eye contact when Ruth witnesses the end of an outburst from Porter that resulted in his being held down and restrained by school personnel. There’s an element of voyeurism, as she knows she shouldn’t be watching, but ultimately she is struck by the emotional pain she sees in this young man’s eyes. Her interest is this unknown new student is amplified when he joins her advanced math class, an act that seems (to her) to be at odds with his near-constant adult supervision while at school, his time in the affective needs classroom, and his overall rebellious demeanor.

Occasionally, a high school character opened his or her mouth, but a mature adult (dare I say it—a school counselor) seemed to speak. For instance, Ruth’s friend, Eli, reflected about the young adult developmental stage:

“I’m serious. Hear me out. In high school, we are not even fully formed people. Including you,” he added. “We are a collection of behaviors and opinions that are not much more than reactions to the labels and circumstances that we’ve been handed throughout our lives.

But other moments and expressions of pent-up emotion felt true to adolescence, like this scene in which Ruth is overwhelmed by her proximity to her new crush:

My mind raced obsessively. Was Porter, right now, sitting behind me and watching my every move? Did he know what was happening? Could he somehow feel this, sense it? Was my body radiating some kind of electric current that shot out in every direction, announcing my seemingly rampant attraction to Porter? Was it obvious, not just to him, but to everyone in the room?

Or this moment when Ruth’s sense of herself and the world start spiraling out of control:

I closed my eyes to that dumb broken star. The whole world was a confused and broken place. A place filled to overflowing with lost and broken people. My body, flat, stuck, still in the middle of my bed, at the edge of my room, in the corner of my house, at the end of my street, on the edge of my town, on the fringe of a landmass, a single point on the Earth— a small blue dot at an unknown location in the never-ending expanse of a universe that didn’t seem to know anything about the dark bottomless hole in the center of my soul.

Thoughts like this felt true to a teen’s turbulent emotions and conflicting feelings of self-importance and insignificance hope and despair. (Naturally, because she’s young, she has yet to learn how to self-soothe after a setback with things like bubble baths, good friends, and Pop Tarts.)

Bette Midler from The First Wives Club where she says, Bye bye love. Hello pop tarts.

Taylor has spoken about her professional and vocational interests in school psychology and writing YA fiction, which I found interesting (because I love learning about authors’ backgrounds and inspirations, etc.) and I think could also help potential readers better understand her type of storytelling and writing style.

In an old post on her own blog, she wrote that, first, she just loves the heady rush of emotions typical to teenagers, but:

Secondarily, that whole phase of human development is just ripe for explosive story telling… The whole push-pull of becoming an adult and leaving childhood. The confusion. The mistakes. The joy of new freedoms. The fear of new freedoms. Really, there are just soooo many emotionally heady avenues to explore… I actually like that the YA character can be pretty centered on their own experiences and that doesn’t make them completely self-centered because it’s still developmentally expected (to a point, of course) for the 13 to 18 year-old.

She followed up on this idea in a later post about unlikable characters:

I feel that part of that passion stems from the fact that I fully acknowledge they are in the middle of a sometimes volcanic developmental period that frequently manifests into some not very ‘likable’ character traits. To deny this and not represent this struggle as reflected in some teen characters in literature is to pretend that they are only physically younger adults (albeit much, much cooler and better dressed adults) but still in possession of all the wisdom gained of a life already lived.

Overall, I found Affective Needs fairly engaging during the first two-thirds of the story, but I felt that parts of the climax and resolution were less satisfactory. I did not completely buy into the relationship, which meant I was never fully submerged in the story, like a favorite romance can do for me. There were also some intense moments dealing with Porter and his home life, and I did not think the characters fully grappled with these issues in a meaningful way (and when they did, it was off the page). YA romance is not always my cup of tea as I prefer more mature characters and situations (and sex, I can’t forget the sex! wink!), but I appreciated what Taylor was trying to do here, even if I found the results a little uneven.

You can find this book at the usual places, but if you want to sample some first, in a truly awesome move, Rebecca Taylor has been posting this story serially on her blog—one chapter a week—since the book was released! While I’m interested in trying another book by her at some point, Affective Needs didn’t automatically move Taylor to the top of my always-buy, one-click, or TBR piles (but, hey, those piles are huuuuuuge and crowded).

That being said, I have no regrets and I’m glad I read another random RITA nominee that I would not normally have chosen. Okay, bye now! See you in the halls of the Bitchery next year 😉

The teens from The Breakfast Club running through the school hallway

 

mad_martha: (A Matter Of Life & Death)
[personal profile] mad_martha
And here are some very random thoughts about each.

Wonder Woman )

The Mummy )


I'll probably think of a million other things I should have said once I've posted this, but I've got out of the habit of posting at all, so ... jazz hands! Here I am. For what it's worth :-)

So. Have I missed anything else that was good? I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2, which I enjoyed enormously, but I don't have much more than that to say about it. I hope you're all okay after the Great Exodus from LJ *offers a random hug to all*

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Posted by Phil Yu

"How a Mother Remembers"



Behold! The debut collaboration between "Beat Box Man and Poem Woman," aka poet Christy NaMee Eriksen and her 8-year-old son Diego. Christy shares a poem entitled "How a Mother Remembers" while Diego backs her up with some sweet, sweet vocal rhythm. It's a little rough around the edges -- Diego introduces the video with the disclaimer that it's "just a test" -- but it's absolutely lovely and charming. Enjoy:

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Angry Reader of the Week: Alfa

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:00 am
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Posted by Phil Yu

"I'm still learning how to stay authentic, and not to veil my true self."



What's up, good people of the internet? It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Alfa.

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Posted by Phil Yu

Vincent Chin died on June 23, 1982.



Thirty-five years ago today in Detroit, four nights after being severely beaten in the head with a baseball bat, Vincent Chin died. The case would become a seminal rallying point for the Asian American community. And tonight, concerned community members plan to gather for a vigil outside the home of Chin's killer.

For those unfamiliar with the case: Chin was out at a strip club celebrating his bachelor party when he got into a fight with a couple of disgruntled auto industry workers, Ronald Evens and his stepson Michael Nitz. Witnesses say they heard Ebens yell "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work!" -- referring to U.S. auto jobs being lost to Japanese manufacturers. Vincent Chin was Chinese American.

The fight was broken up, but Ebens and Nitz weren't finished. They searched for Chin outside the club, tracked him down to a McDonald's and attacked him. Nitz held Chin in a bear hug while Evens repeatedly bludgeoned him with a baseball bat until his head cracked open. Vincent fell into a coma and died on June 23, 1982.

NPR's Morning Edition aired a Story Corps interview Vincent Chin's best friend, Gary Koivu, who talks about his lifelong friendship with Vincent and hauntingly recounts the night he witnessed his murder.

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Chinglish with tones

Jun. 23rd, 2017 07:57 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

4th tone – 3rd tone, it would appear:

Well, maybe not; the diacritics are probably meant to indicate vowel quality, but I don’t know what system (if any) they are using.

Ben Zimmer writes:

The diacritics may be intended to evoke pinyin tone marks, but they’re also reminiscent of dictionary-style phonetic respelling and stress marking. The grave accent on “ì” could be intended as an indicator of primary stress, though that’s more typically marked with an acute accent. And the breve on the “ĭ” is a common enough way to represent /ɪ/ (the macron is used for long vowels and the breve for short vowels — see, e.g., Phonics on the Web). But this use of diacritics as typographical ornamentation is never very consistent — recall the styling of the play Chinglish as “Ch’ing·lish”.

The illustration appears at the top of this article:

It turns out that the image used by the People’s Daily originally appeared as a promotion for the play Chinglish that Ben mentioned, specifically for its performance by the Singaporean theater company Pangdemonium in 2015. See the Pangdemonium website, as well as local coverage by PopSpoken and Today. So the People’s Daily may have searched for a “Chinglish” image online and borrowed this one, without giving proper credit. (Credit should go to Olivier Henry of MILK Photographie.)

The six individuals in the picture seem to be aspiring to some idealized form of Chinglish in the sky above, overlying the cloud shrouded five star design of the Chinese flag, leading them on.  The thrust of the People’s Daily article, however, is anything but adulatory of Chinglish:

Chinese authorities on June 20 issued a national standard for the use of English in the public domain, eradicating poor translations that damage the country’s image.

The standard, jointly issued by China’s Standardization Administration and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, aims to improve the quality of English translations in 13 public arenas, including transportation, entertainment, medicine and financial services. It will take effect on Dec. 1, 2017.

According to the standard, English translations should prioritize correct grammar and a proper register, while rare expressions and vocabulary words should be avoided. The standard requires that English not be overused in public sectors, and that translations not contain content that damages the images of China or other countries. Discriminatory and hurtful words have also been banned. The standard provided sample translations for reference, and warned against direct translation.

There are perpetual plans for eliminating Chinglish in China, but they are unlikely ever to materialize unless professional translators are sought after for their expertise and paid accordingly.

Earlier calls for the elimination of English more generally are no longer heard from responsible persons:

Now the goal is more reasonably just to get rid of Chinglish, but that will not happen on December 1, 2017 when the new standards go into effect.  Although it will take many years for their full implementation and realization, the standards are admirable goals to aim for.

See also:

[h.t. Jim Fanell, Toni Tan]

Home again

Jun. 23rd, 2017 12:29 pm
sartorias: (Default)
[personal profile] sartorias
Home late last night after a lovely, lovely train journey up the coast to Portland, and then east to Minneapolis. Once I got there, I bumbled my way to the delicious breakfast place my daughter and I found last year (The Buttered Tin) and after that, in perfect weather--low seventies, cloudy, tiny drops of rain--made my way to the hotel for Fourth Street Fantasy.

Other than a somewhat jolting experience at the opening ceremonies, which made it clear yet again that many of those who have always assumed their perfect safety in any circumstance (and who thus find argument entertaining) simply do not comprehend the paradigm for those who have always had to be wary, to at least some degree, while maneuvering in public spaces. I trust that learning happened.

After that, things went so very well. So many great conversations, over delicious food. Interesting panels, lovely weather. Another thing occurred to me: I so seldom get that quick-back-and-forth of conversation, as my social life is about 95% online, that I found myself frequently behind a couple steps. At least, I think it's due to that and not (I hope) to me dulling with age.

The con was splendid right to the last moments: my return train was to leave Mpls. at ten-ten that night, and I did not particularly look forward to sitting at the Amtrak station for six hours, but I didn't have the discretionary cash for adventuring about. However after delicious ice cream sundaes (yum, yum, yum!) [personal profile] carbonel generously offered to take me home, then drop me at the station, though it was not even remotely in her way.

My six hours passed so pleasantly it was emblematic of the entire weekend for me: after the fast pace it was so nice to sit quietly, watch some BBC animal planet documentaries . . . and, to my utter delight, the resident kitting--after doing considerable showing off by leaping to wall and ceiling beams and down again--curled up in my lap to purr. When you realize that I rarely get to see cats except in youtube vids when the news is too fraught, you will understand how that was the perfect close to an excellent weekend.

Thence an equally lovely train trip back, much reading and some writing achieved.

And this morning, I hauled my aged bod to yoga, for a much-needed session. This last couple weeks has been all about the head. Exhilarating, but not good for the bod. I used to be so active, until the arthritis turned all my joints into a constant ache; now exercise is something I have to do, so I've some tricks to keep my lazy ass in gear.

Anyway, it occurred to me as I sweated and stretched that the fundamental good of yoga is to strengthen all those muscles we otherwise do not notice that hold the body upright. Especially someone like me with rotten posture (I've had the child-abuse shoulder hunch all my life, and when young fought against it in dance, constantly hearing, "Shoulders down, Smith!" The only time I didn't have it was in fencing, oddly enough) it's easy to turtle. But I feel much better and stronger overall when I keep up with the yoga.

So--that, and to my desk to catch up!

A bit of writerly stuff to pass on: an indie writer I met through a fantasy bundle project last summer, C.J. Brightley, has put out a call for fantasy stories of the uplifting sort, and asked me to pass it on. Submission data here.
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Posted by Guest Reviewer

B-

The Moon in the Palace

by Weina Dai Randel
March 1, 2016 · Sourcebooks Landmark
RomanceYoung Adult

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Turophile. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance category.

The summary:

There is no easy path for a woman aspiring to power

A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

In the breakthrough first volume in the Empress of Bright Moon duology, Weina Dai Randel paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life of death—and the woman who came to rule it all.

Here is Turophile's review:

Our heroine Mei is summoned to the Emperor’s palace after her father’s untimely death. There she quickly discovers the social stratification among the emperor’s many concubines. She also learns the intricate politics among the women, though not as quickly as perhaps she should have to succeed in her overriding goal: attracting the Emperor’s attention quickly so that she could assist her mother.

The most intriguing aspect of this book is the interpersonal dynamics between the women and the elaborate political games in which they engage. In ancient China (and in many other places), external power belongs to the men. At the Emperor’s Court, a woman’s worth and power derives from the interest displayed by the Emperor as well as the success in bearing the Emperor male heirs. Because access to and the favor of the Emperor is a scarce resource, the relationships between the women are fraught with intrigue and power struggles. Mei learns this the hard way when she is betrayed by a woman whom she believed was a friend and almost mentor.

Throughout the book, she faces dilemmas about whom to trust and to align with. Making these choices becomes even more difficult when she develops a friendship with and later an attraction to a young man whom she learns is the Emperor’s son. As this book progresses, she learns from each mistake and further cements her own power base though the book ends before that power is fully realized. Thankfully, there’s another book in the series and I plan to read it. If you enjoy novels about relationships between women and women finding their own inner strength through those relationships, you will enjoy this book.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the book for me was that the language felt too contemporary. It’s a challenge writing of an ancient time in a vernacular that modern readers will enjoy, but in general I found the dialogue too simplistic.

Reviewing this book has been a challenge for me because I wanted to like it more. Historical Chinese novels are a favorite genre for me, but the downside is that I can’t help but compare one book to another. Compared to other novels I’ve read set in similar time periods or of young women who find themselves in an Emperor’s court forced to survive on their wit, I didn’t enjoy this book as much. It doesn’t feel fair to even raise that comparison, however, when I’ve read and continue to read umpteen books set it in the Regency period. Thus, I’d still recommend this book but urge readers to follow-up to it by exploring other Chinese or Chinese American authors who write historical fiction and/or historical romance set in China, including but not limited to Anchee Min, Jung Chang, Jeannie Lin and more.

it's braver sometimes just to run

Jun. 23rd, 2017 10:55 am
musesfool: Kermit the Frog (can't look clowns will eat me)
[personal profile] musesfool
Last night, we had dinner at Joanne's, the Lady Gaga family restaurant. The food was fine, but for the prices they charge, I expected at least two meatballs with my spaghetti and meatball dinner. To be fair, the one meatball was of decent size, but still, it's listed as spaghetti and meatballs on the menu so it's not ridiculous to expect there to be more than one meatball on the plate. I am just saying.

It's warm and clammy today, which is my second least favorite combination (cold and clammy is worse), but I'm looking forward to the weekend, as this week has seemed endless. It was so hard to get out bed. Sigh.

I did just get off the phone with 1. the realtor and then 2. the lawyer, so things are progressing there re: the negotiation of a slightly lower price due to the low appraisal (all thanks, apparently, to the fact that while the seller lists the apartment in Forest Hills, it actually exists in Rego Park which is one - slightly less expensive - neighborhood over. And if you are from Queens, you know what I mean). The question is whether this affects the lender in any way, but since the loan amount is the loan amount regardless, I'm not sure why it would? but what do I know? As per my lawyer's instructions, I am playing dumb (I mean, on this topic, despite all the info from Uncle Google, I actually am kind of dumb? so it's not hard! *hands*) The lawyer and mortgage broker are on top of that.

When I spoke to the realtor this morning, I was like, it's been a week since they received my application but I shouldn't expect to hear from them before the Fourth of July weekend? and he was like, "they don't like to disclose their schedule but I'll ask for an update," and then he just texted me to say that the board has received and is reviewing my application so EEP! That, more than the bank or the seller or the more normal processes of home-buying is what is freaking me out. I have more to say about this but probably not until it's all over, and even then, probably only in a locked post. Mostly what I want to say is EEP! At least I found my black dress (and my mom's pearls *snerk*) so I'm prepared!

I feel like I should have something fannish to say, and I'm sure I did before these phone calls all started happening, but I guess for right now, this househunting business is my main fandom. Sigh.

***
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Hello Captain,

My distant friend Sally and I went out to dinner and she started asking me about my past relationships. I’ve known Sally for over a decade and she’s never pried into my dating life. I told Sally I wasn’t interested in dating anyways as I am looking for a job and like to online date or meet people through work. She tried to reason me out of all of this which seemed troubling.

A couple weeks ago Sally had a birthday party. She had put the event on Facebook. After our dinner, Sally texted me that her friend John saw me on the invite list and became “interested” in me. She said he might hit on me at the party ( he did not show up). This made me uncomfortable as I hate flirting with strangers. It’s odd but I’ve never even flirted with someone who’s become my boyfriend.

I also don’t trust Sally’s judgment at all. To be blunt I’ve met her friends and they aren’t horrible but they’re the “I don’t suffer fools gladly” type.

John has also been asking Sally about me. He wants to know when I’ve found a job and want to meet him. I have never indicated I want to meet John. I’m refusing, there’s something odd about a person in their late twenties being this invested in someone because of their FB profile. I rarely if ever post on FB. He is also asking me out through my friend which seems manipulative.

Do you have script suggestions?

Thanks,

– No thanks stranger ( female pronouns)

Dear No Thanks, Stranger!

I do have script suggestions! And other suggestions!

Step 1: BLOCK that John dude from Facebook and then go ahead and find him on all social media platforms you use and preemptively block him there. Not unfollow, not unfriend, not “hide feed” – BLOCK. Also, consider temporarily changing publicly visible avatars to something other than your face, and locking down security/visibility of any photos of you that are out there. Make sure there is nothing out there to feed his fantasies.

If that seems mean or harsh or unfair, let’s remember: You’re not interested in him at all, you’re already vaguely creeped out by his attention, you are losing nothing from your life by cultivating your internet garden as you see fit. The way he’s monitoring you, asking for updates about your life, and trying to get Sally to set the stage for him but not talking to you directly is odd and he needs to stop it right now, so, help him out with that.

And if this is all projection/matchmaking by Sally, oops, you blocked a total stranger who doesn’t actually know who you are. Not a big deal at the end of the day.

Possible Reaction: John will get the message and leave you and the entire topic of you alone. Good news everyone! This Choose Your Own Adventure Story ends here!

Probable  Reaction: John will notice what you did immediately and he will contact Sally to see what happened. Sally will then ping you to talk about John and his Johnfeels of rejection. (If this happens, please keep reading Step 2)

Step 2: Tell Sally that the whole John thing made you really, really uncomfortable and you don’t want her to set you up for any more “hitting on” scenarios or act as your romantic go-between. Also you’d prefer to keep your information completely private where John is concerned, so, you’d appreciate it if she didn’t update him on your job search or your life or pass on requests from him.

Possible Reaction: Sally will say, “Oh wow, sorry for making you uncomfortable, I get it, don’t worry about a thing.” If this happens, keep enjoying whatever you enjoy about your “distant friendship” with Sally! Here endeth this Choose Your Own Adventure Tale! Yaaay!

Possible Reaction: Sally will be hurt that you didn’t appreciate her matchmaking efforts or feel bad for John and think you’re mean for rejecting him and she’ll double-down on John advocacy. If this happens, please continue reading Steps 3 and 4.

Step 3: Do not give Sally reasons for your rejection of John. “I prefer not to.” “I’m just not interested.” Don’t pick apart his actions or his undesirable qualities or give excuses about being busy – she’ll use whatever you say to convince you to “give him a chaaaaaaaance.”

Step 4: If Sally continues sharing your info with John and trying to play matchmaker in your life after you’ve said “no,” block Sally or, if you’re reluctant to do that after 10 years, put her in that Facebook-Jail thingy where she can’t see any of your posts for a good while.

If you miss Sally you can always dig up her number down the road (and get her a copy of Austen’s Emma for the next gifting holiday). If John wanted to ask you out he could have come to the party, had a normal conversation with you and said “Hey, want to grab a drink with me sometime?” without all the fanfare. He could have also asked Sally straight up for an introduction (and respected your resulting “no thanks” when and if it came). He could have sent you a friend request and a note that says “I’m a friend of Sally’s, I saw you on the invite list, mind if we connect here?” Even if he’d chosen a less creepy and roundabout method of getting in touch, you’re not interested, so, farewell, John, we hardly knew ye.

For those who like to matchmake (I sometimes like to matchmake, especially “you live in the same city and I think you’d make good friends” matchmaking), I recommend asking the people in advance, like, “Hey, I’d love to introduce you to a friend of mine who lives in your city/does what you do for a living/reminds me of you/keeps sending me the exact same Twin Peaks memes that you send, I think you’d really get along, would that be cool?” and then if it is cool with both people I make a quick introduction and then I get out of the middle of things – the people will either find their own conversation or they won’t. If it’s not cool, I drop the subject. The matchmaker’s ego and investment in the outcome < the interest and wishes of the matchmakees.


Ask Language Log: “assuage”

Jun. 23rd, 2017 11:41 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Query from a reader:

Is it correct to use the word assuage to indicate a lessening of something? That is, it is often used in the realm of feelings, i.e. assuage hunger, assuage grief, etc. But would it be acceptable to use to indicate the lessening of something more tangible, such as assuage criminality, assuage the flow of water, assuage drug use.

I probably wouldn’t use assuage to describe the lowering of flood waters or the amelioration of traffic jams. But I don’t have any special standing to rule on such matters, so as usual, let’s look at how others use the word.

The OED’s entry for assuage, which is flagged as “not yet … fully updated (first published 1885)”, has several senses marked as “arch. or Obs.” that don’t involve “angry or excited feelings”, or beings in such a state.

There’s the transitive form glossed “To abate, lessen, diminish (esp. anything swollen)”, with examples like

1774   J. Bryant New Syst. II. 284   The Dove..brought the first tidings that the waters of the deep were asswaged.

There’s the intransitive inchoative version of the same, glossed “To grow less, diminish, decrease, fall off, die away; to abate, subside”, with examples like

1611   Bible (King James) Gen. viii. 1   And the waters asswaged .

COCA has 509 instances of “assuage”, 134 of “assuaged”, 46 of “assuaging”, and 17 of “assuages”. Looking at a random sample of 100, we find that all 100 are transitive, and that in 98 of them, what’s assuaged is an negatively-evaluated emotion or feeling or concern (“the community’s grief”, “his guilt”, “such mortal concerns”, “the twitchy sensation in my cells”, “white opposition to slave conversion”, “my hunger”, “Democratic anxieties”, “India’s complaints”, “feelings of humiliation”, the monarch’s fears”, “his own damaged pride”, “the egos of movie stars”, “my curiosity”, …), or an person or group of people subject to such emotions or feelings or concerns (“his uneasy party”, “the academic intellectual community”, “the larger man”, “international critics of the war”, “his jittery passenger”, “the chiefs”, “the dealers”, …).

The two exceptions in the sample are these:

In The Efficiency Trap, Steve Hallett claims that we will exhaust many of our resources by the 2030s, and violence and chaos will erupt as a result. Hallett proposes recycling and growing food locally as possible means of assuaging the damage.

The measure, which awaits Senate approval of a minor amendment next week, can not assuage the impending disaster that will kill virtually all the fish in the Dolores River this summer.

With respect to the specific examples in the query, Google finds

“assuage criminality”: one example [link] Please reconsider your gig – don’t play for a segregated audience in Israel and make of yourself a balm to assuage criminality.

“assuage the flow of water”: no examples (though see biblical examples cited by the OED)

assuage drug use: one example [link] Becker’s neoliberal drug policy presumes to assuage drug use and addiction by the instantiation of a highly regulated market as a system of control.

So the verdict of norma loquendi seems to be that applying assuage to things other than people and their feelings is out of fashion and currently marginal.

 

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