Links, April 30

FOOD

mini cheese fondu

Jade: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eN8yPRW3U24 still need to buy this for you so you can make a fondu at 3 am and stare at the bear shaped bread melting in the little pot begging for your help
Me: shit this is gonna be like puddi puddi
Jade: ahahaha
puddi puddi is gigantic tho no one can actually eat an entire puddy
Me: TERRIFYING DUCK
NOT KAWAII NOT KAWAII
TRAGIC DINNER ALONE
DON’T DIE HERE FONDUE-MAKER
NOT TONIGHT
hideous plate
oh god that is not nice fondue
there is no wine OH FUCK A HOT DOG TWO TWO
SHRIMP EUGH EUGH EUGH EUGH
CHICKEN NUGGET?!
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!

CARNITAS: BRAISED AND FRIED PORK
The Food Lab: The Best Way to Make Carnitas (Without a Bucket of Lard!)
The Definitive Ranking Of Ben & Jerry’s Flavors
Speculoos Hamantaschen
11 Delicious Biscuit Recipes That Will Change Your Life

THANKSGIVING FOOD
The Thanksgiving Recipes Googled in Every State
The United States of Thanksgiving: “We’ve scoured the nation for recipes that evoke each of the 50 states (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). These are our picks for the feast. Dig in, then tell us yours.”

FASHION
H&M’s Coachella Line is Everything Wrong with ‘Coachella Style’
Mall Makeovers: From Sea to Shining Sea
No One Is Learning Shit From Watching You Put on Lipgloss
Guess How Much it Costs Kim Kardashian to Wear Kim Kardashian’s Face
Every Single Fur Coat Cookie Has Worn on Empire So Far

FLUFF
The Ideal Woman
Home  »  Artwork   »   Women Resisting Heterosexuality In Western Art History
Women Resisting Heterosexuality In Western Art History

First Year Students Infected After Blood Oath Ceremony Around Mary Lyon’s Grave
How To Talk To Babies About Post-Structuralism
30 Reasons Why Northern Ireland is Weird But Wonderful
Highlighting an invisible conversation between hip hop and art before the 16th century.
Never Ending Dishes
Oh Don’t Do It
Whimsical Pair of Assholes Demand Money for 38 Perfect Weddings
Guy Accidentally Gets Invite to Bachelor Party, Raises $8K to Crash It
TSA Agent Finds Naughty Little Doggie in Checked Bag
44 Pics of Kids & Parents Looking Exactly Alike

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Links, April 29

NATURE
L’ili pika, adorable animal menacé d’extinction
One Person, Two Sets of DNA: The Strange Case of the Human Chimera
A little girl has been feeding some crows, so they started bringing her gifts
Woodpecker shown flying with weasel on its back in amateur photographer’s amazing image
31 Epically Adorable Pictures From The Norwegian Forest Cat Show
A Visit to Aoshima, a Japanese ‘Cat Island’

HISTORY
Stunning photos show London’s police at work from the 19th century to present day
No one could see the color blue until modern times
Singing the blues
Archaeologists find two lost cities deep in Honduras jungle
Uncommon Ground: a word-lover’s guide to the British landscape
Burma’s bizarre capital: a super-sized slice of post-apocalypse suburbia
No One Lived In This House Since 1956. When He Moved Inside? UNBELIEVABLE

SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS
Mom, I Have Two Boyfriends: How I Discovered I Was Polyamorous at 27
It was, at the Very Posh Sex Party, as it ever was.
Hey, Big Spenders: How Much Did Your Wedding Cost?
When Brides Get the Post Wedding Blues
Woman’s Hero Neighbors Laugh Her Stupid Boyfriend Out of Her Building
Mom’s Important Message to Boy Who Likes Her Daughter: Stop Trying
Second thoughts and confusing feelings after a breakup
The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.
How to Throw a Bachelorette Party That’s Actually Fun
Craigslist Dude Wants Hot Roommate/GF Who Will Follow Insane Demands
The Eternal Debate: Can You Ever Really Be Friends with Your Ex?
The Knot’s Street Campaign Is a Cute Celebration of Terrible Marriages
He Proposed. You Said … No? Tell Us Everything.
My Favorite Lines from the Premiere of Sex Box, With Zero Context 
Woman Divorces New Husband Because She Can’t Take His Ginormous Dick

Not stuff I endorse, just stuff I’ve been reading, organized thematically.

“Blown Away”, independent comic, Alyssa Jo Varner

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Blown Away is an independent science-fiction comic book, written and drawn by Alyssa Jo Varner (alyssajovarner.com, @alyssajovarner). “In a small town that lives at the mercy of the weather, a 13 year old girl is lost to a tornado. Years later, her best friend stumbles upon evidence suggesting that storm was no act of god.”

I love the title lettering, and the bold, graphic cover design–the way the outlines of the main character’s body merge into the background. It’s an unusual portrait of a woman, even for indie comics. She’s clearly in distress (I’m not sure I like her undefinable expression, though), dripping with unsexualized sweat, and her hair snakes out in tendrils, clumps.

The issue title (“Fair-Weather Friends”) works well for me–it’s considered, the perfect title for the matter of the issue. Varner, who writes and illustrates Blown Away, is clearly in control of her project, and making thoughtful decisions about all aspects of the manuscript.

The story’s set in the Autumn of 1980, and Varner’s office interiors have a pleasing retro clunk to them. The boxy tech and rigid backgrounds remind me of playing Glider Pro as a child. Varner conveys rather subtle emotions with expressive eyeliner cuts–that too is a bit retro, like old-fashioned television eye-lighting. You can see a modern example of eye-lighting in JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek film, which (cracks about lens flare aside–and they’re true, we’ve just made them all) attempts to evoke the aesthetics of the classic series through, among other things, resurrecting this out-of-fashion camera technique (observation ℅ Red Letter Media, who care way more about technical film-making than I do–it’s a good spot).

Varner’s either gone with hand-lettering or something that looks sufficiently like it, to my untrained eye. The occasions on which she uses precise fonts that don’t look hand-lettered are thus somewhat jarring. She’s gone a bit heavier on the bold (and simultaneously italic) text than I like–but then, I have a weird hate of bold. It’s a normal thing in comics, I knoooow, but different titles vary in how they use it, and I prefer a strict, plain, Calvanist comic grammar. Double-outline balloons are Satan’s word-bubbles.

The story of the mysterious disappearance of the main character’s childhood best friend–an unexplained event that still haunts the main character–gets told more because the narrative needs us to know about these events than because the moment warrants its telling. We learn main character Hallie’s full name in a similarly unwarranted way. I’m not sure why the main character wants to rehash these painful events (which she says she’s gone over many times before, only to be disbelieved and misinterpreted) with this person, who she’s just met today, and who hasn’t particularly endeared himself to her. Is it her commitment, as a budding journalist, to making the true facts known? Does she often offer this story to new audiences, hoping to be taken at her word for once? I’m not sure, and I feel like I should have an idea about her motivations here. This section is also too lyrical for normal dialogic speech–and as a result, it yields good lines like “I still wake up inside those screams.”

Varner hasn’t yet managed to consistently translate her strong writerly voice into this new medium. In contrast to this lyrical section, her dialogue is often a bit too–consciously-comicy? I feel like that’s teething troubles, though? First issues by established comic writers are often wonky, as well–remember how much *better* V for Vendetta gets over the course of the story?

Varner’s body-posing is still a little awkward, most notably around characters’ lower bodies. (There’s also a sequence in which a male character’s open mouth makes it look like he’s wearing black lipstick.) I like the wood-cut look of the illustrations, and Blown Away demonstrates some innovative play with the visual approach–Varner’s efforts to play with comic formats and expectations are a bit tentative as yet, but her visual storytelling isn’t as straightforward or apprentice-like as you might expect from a first project. The color-inverted flashback sequence is good, as is the literal rear-view mirror transition into it. I like the smallness of two girls against the expansive cornfield, standing in for the larger world they’re trying to run away to.

We’re told tornadoes don’t form in autumn. Our protagonist’s best friend was, people suppose, nevertheless lost to one on Halloween. There HAVE been autumn tornadoes, though? They’re not *as common*, but “autumn is considered the “second” tornado season. According to Tornado Expert Dr. Greg Forbes, the second half of October and November can be ripe for severe storms and tornadoes.” Then again, this is a pre-internet age, and little oddities like ‘sometimes they do!!’ aren’t readily wiki-able. The main character is also generally suspected of having lied to cover up a kidnapping–why does the media think that, rather than that she’s been traumatized? The friend, Emma, disappeared in the 70s, which falls within the sweet-spot for media interest in brainwashing and pop-psych repression.

I appreciate the metaphors (“deafening, like a ghost train”) because the grammar of them is so Mid-Western, so agrarian/rural, and it makes me realize how little more East-Coast and urban publishing cultures account for and speak to the experiences of what they’d vomit-inducingly call the Fly-Over States. Jesus Christ America needs to import/recover a conversation about regionalism like they’ve only-just-managed to import/recover a conversation about class. Chet is A+ Iowan, more Chet plz.

The story casually, easily passes the Bechdel test, and obliquely captures the nasty policing small towns can engage in. As a child, Hallie isn’t allowed to forget that she lives in a trailer park. As an adult, she’s never allowed to forget her own past–the townspeople’s constant, unfunny ‘jokes’ function as a momento-mori litany, for someone who’s never stopped remembering the traumatic events in the first place. There are also oblique references to racism–some townspeople stopped subscribing to the local daily when the new editor–black and female–took over, despite her being over-qualified for the role.

The conclusion strikes the right note of wistfulness and mystery, and I look forward to seeing more of this story–and certainly more from this writer/artist, as her comfort with the form grows.

DISCLAIMER: I know Varner from university, and so my perspective on her work is inflected by that. I nonetheless consider this review relatively honest, on par with my reviews of the work of people I ain’t never met.

Greencrook’s Photography

Hey you like beautiful things, right? Was impressed today by my immensely talented friend Greencrook‘s  photography.

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It’s elegant and well-composed, and the colors and shapes are very pleasing.

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I particularly like the quail eggs in rows and this egg/toast/blue-white background. Her work could be commercial-looking or twee, but instead it’s frank and somehow touching–the vulnerable, muted little eggs.

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This one with the roof and the bare tree and pink blossoms is good too! A lot of her photography enchants the ordinary. The tower block, an old-plate, the detritus around the house, frying eggs. The groupings are often poignant. I think her background comes through in the Franco-Asian aesthetics that seem to govern her visual grammar. The quiet spaces of the photographer’s personality start to murmur audibly in these–she photographs  objects, buildings, only ever parts of people, but it’s really personal work.

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Fall/Winter diptych

Check out her photography tag for more. Relatedly, check out her art tag.

“Charisma” (#1), a 1987 K/S Fanzine, edited by Natasha Solten

TW: some discussion of dubious consent below.

So “Charisma” is a 1987 K/S zine Katy bought thinking I could get into (transformative fandom) zines. Nah.

I can’t countenance spending the money (even if she does largely sell hers on and thus recoup her outlay). If I want K/S, there’s like MORE THAN I COULD EVER READ online, from uploaded zine fic in archives to 2009 Reboot fic on lj and Ao3. Sadly, I’m more a K/S opportunist than a fandom participant. I’ll read it if I see anything good (or anything mediocre, if I’m in the mood). I check back occasionally to see if anything interesting/new is being written. I’ve loved the canon since early childhood, and I’ve read the fic on and off for well over a decade. I’m a Pairing True Believer, and I’ve considered writing fic. But I’m not IN THE FANDOM, as I have been for some other canons/pairings. I don’t have that level of knowledge and involvement. I won’t read EVERYTHING, even the *very* bad fic, for the pairing in sheer desperation (people who’ve never been in small-to-medium fandoms might never know quite this pain).

And while I appreciate that the aesthetic modes of fanfiction change with the times and that fanfiction is differently good in different eras, I don’t always get on well with zine fic. My tastes there are really idiosyncratic, and I can under-rate pieces that someone whose tastes are more in-line with zine slash’s aesthetics might appreciate more.

Zine-reviewing has a history of negative criticism that digital fandom largely lacks, perhaps because zines could be a substantial financial investment for buyers (not to mention zine producers!). When my girlfriend Katy reviews zines as part of her big Fanlore cataloging project, she keeps to this tradition and, while not Cult of Mean, her tone is also not–gift economy!Cult of Nice. It’s been decades, after all, and you’re not using comments to say the thing directly TO the person, who may no longer be in fandom/isn’t THAT likely to google themselves. I have some qualms/there’s not CLEAR fannish etiquette on this. I’m going to be critical herein, but not–*to be bitchy*, just to try and use this somewhat rare opportunity to talk publicly and honestly about what’s *not* working for me in fanwork in the same space where I talk about what is working for me. To review fanwork like I’d review a book.

***

COUNT:

  • front cover illustration
  • 8 pages of interior artwork, all untitled (why?)
  • 7 fics
  • 11 poems
  • 5 boarders, all by Caro Hedge

We start with a really awful cover (Marilyn Cole). One of the ‘logic never happened!!’ Vulcans of Gor AU things, with a bare-chest nipple-pastie armor deal. If I were an archeologist, I’d conclude that in the past, people never experienced embarrassment. Spock’s expression indicates he’s been smacked in the face with something heavy moments before. The art is not great, but in and of itself not *terrible*–I’m more annoyed by the immense popularity of Vulcans of Gor. Also–this so isn’t that type of K/S zine? Nothing in this zine really harmonizes with this art choice.

Idk, I like good cheesecake art, but this really hits my embarrassment squick–and I’ve noticed, when interacting with fans significantly older than me online, that we have (not always, but often–and in certain fandoms, not others) different norms about how raunchy fannish conversation should be. I wonder if there are generational/platform cultural-norms differences in terms of embarrassment squick, and in terms of the degree to which we code fandom as a sort of kink scene.

Interior cover page features a Rumi quote: “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere./They’re in each other all along.” Which is sweet, but also suggests, given the content of the zine, having bummed since birth/predickstination.

 

To Protect and Serve

Alexis Fegan Black

20 pages

This story and this author are well-regarded, but tbh TP&S really annoys me for several reasons. How this plot works is crystal-clear from the beginning–though maybe it was surprising in its time, and what I find predictable is actually the result of my having been exposed to those ideas, adapted from this and other contemporary stuff. I like Black’s interest in cataloging emotional states. This aspect of the story is often unusual and insightful. Though for all the build-up, the actual SEX in this one isn’t very physically rendered? That’s sort of–delicately handled. This doesn’t feel much like erotica when it comes to the sex. And of course prep and lube are absent. Of course they are.

As a side-note, slash, written by and for a female (and often queer) demographic, often elevates anal penetration to the status of a PIV-substitute/’real’ sex act, affording lesser romantic importance to other forms of gratification. Here there’s no question that anal intercourse is the Real Business.

We’re not told this is an AU (though Spock is Captain, no sign of Kirk as yet). Spock is wandering around what is apparently a Federation planet. It’s four days’ flight from the Neutral Zone, and a place where a crew transfer can be effected. It’s seemingly populated by humans. The population is substantial, with a few major cities at least. It has slavery. Spock is not hugely wtf about this, and (admittedly in a somewhat-crazed Pon Farr state) is willing/able to believe some of his crew went and bought/rented him a human slave to fuck it out of his system with. This is NOT a mirror-universe AU? Nothing else leads me to believe it might be? Yet slavery. And Spock slave-shopping. …?

There’s also a poison that can make you need the D or die in this fic–and given that that exists, not sure why Spock didn’t roll up to the slave dealers he’s apparently down with and be like, MEDICAL EMERGENCY, we need a suitable slave or competent sex worker for someone on my ship who’s been poisoned thus and might be aggressive, call all your contacts and make it happen. There’s some random–this slave must be trussed up for some businessman escaping his fat ugly wife for the weekend. …what, Spock’s monolog? What a random, OOC and sexist assumption to make about this hypothetical person’s hypothetical relationship.

So pre Slave Search, Chapel hits on Spock a la “Amok Time” and he’s all IT’S SO HARD NOT TO STRANGLE HER!! Er. I sort of assume it’s hard–not to brutally have sex with her. But. Then, with *just a look*, Uhura manages to convey that she totally gets his needs and is dtf out of compassion. Now, Uhura’s eye-game is strong, but that is an INVOLVED convo to have via eye-game. I think I could eye-game tell someone I wanted to get busy, but not that I was willing to do so out of disinterested friendship and respect and that I understood the cultural/biological issue affecting them. This is that bs thing about Perfect Romantic Communication being wordless, which we alllllllll need to gtf over. Communication is emotional labor. Learn it.

But anyway, apparently EVERYONE knows about Pon Farr (somehow), and if Uhura’s eye game is strong, then the whole ship’s is, bc Spock knows the whole crew is dtf for duty. Really, no one would find that an issue? McCoy and Scotty are both there having that hall conversation from the final episode like ‘Aye, if the Capp’n needs me arse, doctor, I’ll nae deny the poor lad when the time comes’ and McCoy is just drinking and drinking.

But yeah, for inadequately explored reasons, none of this dtf crew are fit for the purpose, and neither are any of these slaves (for slightly better-explained but still kind of difficult to believe reasons), and so Spock decides to kill himself with “special tea”. Idk, earlier he said he just came down here with no prep, but later he has a toiletries kit and special tea, so. Oh and the hotel has blue satin sheets, and if he didn’t bring those then what sounds like a Holiday Inn just… has those? Normally?

Some teen girls (presumably think Spock is hot and) wonder about Spock’s marital status in the Holiday Inn lobby. I know I wonder about a fittie’s marital status all the time, and the future is also like that, probs.

I expect a certain shade of purple from sex descriptions in zine fic, and this story’s dancing nipples are, alas, no great surprise (though the gems encrusting them and the base of Kirk’s cock sure were–though what REALLY surprised me there was that those didn’t fall off and get lodged in Spock’s butt and cause McCoy’s Worst Day or something–who EVER thought vajazzling/a man-equivalent sounded like a *good* idea?). Even so, the sword of his existence and the flaming blade of his passion and genitals as the only reason for living (?!) do make me wince. “He allowed himself to believe that he was some holy trinity itself — his mind, his god; his desire, his son’ his throbbing maleness, his savior.” What do we say to cod-Freud? NOT TODAY. (Id-fic is my fucking–I can’t talk about how much I hate the phrase, I need a drink first).

Also there’s discussion of lightspeed travel and uneven aging, which is interesting hardcore SFF stuff (transformative zine fandom may have been close enough to SFF zine fandom to be a bit more SFFnal in their general reading and interests?), but not how it seems to work in re McCoy’s old girlfriend in the salt-monster ep, Star Fleet orders, etc.

Thus I wonder if, like many early B7 zine fic writers, Black is working without reliable access to good copies of the episodes? Though also, if we’re talking about lightspeed and aging, then aren’t we relying on the same physics that say warp is impossible? If you CAN warp, then whatever warp travel does might not affect aging in that way, because you wouldn’t be doing ftl travel per se, but something else with warp conduits? Idk, maybe this is something they dealt with more in TNG, and I’m unfairly back-porting it into TOS, and applying to work by a writer who couldn’t have known how TNG was going to expand the ST canon’s discussion of what warp was.

What this fic DOES deal a lot with is consent–admittedly in ways I don’t always love.

Below, in the brackets (because I have apparently failed to make the fake lj cut work), I’m going to have a long, confused conversation about the role dubcon plays in fic. Feel free to skip that. It is also RAW AS A JUST-LAID EGG.I am very hesitant to think about it in a public space, because I *know* this isn’t–finished thought, not at all. And I’m probably wrong about gender and sexuality stuff in major ways. Yet the discussion below circles aspects of fic I’ve not seen us talk about much, and I’d like to push that conversation along? Because messy as this is, I think we NEED to talk about it, and that *not* talking about room-elephants or just waving the issue away with YKINMK (like sexuality has no moral valence in the world, and thus *doesn’t come from things that matter, and itself matter*), would be shirking.

Continue reading ““Charisma” (#1), a 1987 K/S Fanzine, edited by Natasha Solten”