On Tuesday we took the subway out to the Parco degli Acquedotti. (Many subway stations seemed to have exteriors that are not very well-maintained, and there was a lot of graffiti on the outside of the subway cars, but the interior of the cars were clean and the system overall seemed to work fine.)
Out at the park, it was pretty impressive how much less elegant the 16th c. aqueduct is than the 1st c. one. There was also a very short portion of one of the famous Roman roads, which was awesome--I'd never had a visual of those before. And generally it was nice to see the park being used in very everyday ways (excited dogs running around--sadly off-leash and often not picked up after; people exercising; people enjoying the weather), right next to the aqueducts. There was something about the light that made the older aqueduct seem like a painting, or looking back in time, even after I'd been there and literally touched it and knew it was really there. I greatly enjoyed it.
The family of one of the couple getting married lives in that neighborhood and arranged for a "light" lunch at one of their favorite local restaurants, Meo Pinelli. I use scare quotes because the servers just kept bringing out stuff, meaning that it was really easy to lose track of how much I'd eaten, especially since I didn't know what else was coming: several different kinds of little sandwiches, fish eggs spread on bread (turns out I don't like that), bite-sized pastry-ish things with tomato or cheese or veggies, and absolutely delicious suppli (balls of deep-fried risotto). I almost fell asleep about four times on the subway back to the hotel.
So we rested and then went to the wedding rehearsal dinner (apparently not a thing that is usually done in Italy) on the roof of the Hotel Forum, which was delicious and fancy and also seven freaking courses long; fortunately it turns out that I don't like beef Wellington because I really had not paced myself properly. (I know, problems, right?)
Here's the photo album; as before, click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
(I was going to do Tuesday and Wednesday together, because they were short days, but Wednesday we visited the Galleria Borghese so I have a million pictures and even after napping for two and a half hours this afternoon I still need more rest.)
These posts were all written and waiting for me to annotate the image galleries that went with them before posting, and that was good sick-day activity, so I can put up a couple posts now, finally.
Monday was a day of heavy tourism: various sights on a walking tour in the morning, then the Vatican museums in the afternoon. One of Chad's pals had previously engaged a tour guide for us, who met us by the Colosseum and gave little potted histories of that and the Forum--not inside, that was for later in the week.
We walked past the first commercial indoor mall (which has a bunch of White Trees of Gondor in front of it, for some reason), and the giant wedding cake monument built to the first king of a unified Italy (our guide said that 19 people ate dinner in the belly of the horse in the center when it was dedicated, to give a sense of the scale), and the Trevi fountain (I liked hearing about how the sculptor left imperfections and rough stone in much of his work to remind the viewer about the superiority of nature--though I guess this may rather be an idea left over from Bernini's sketches, since he didn't actually design the final version the way he did the facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, which has a similar thing), and the being-cleaned Spanish Steps, and a whole bunch of obelisks that were looted from Egypt, and the fountains in the Piazza Navona. It was a lot.
My favorite was the Pantheon, which I keep wanting to call Parthenon which is something different, because it's just beautifully intricate inside; I could've stayed there for hours. (It rained a little later so we missed the chance to see the rain coming through the hole in the dome and how the drains work.)
Then lunch, which took a little longer than optimal so we were late for our reserved tour of the Vatican museums, but it worked out okay. (I had gnocchi with gorgonzola and pear; the night before I had fettuccine with ricotta and bacon, which just leaped out of the menu at me for some reason, and grouper in tomato sauce, at a tiny place called Le Mani in Pasta that was very good but slow by even Italian standards, it developed over the course of the week.)
The Vatican Museums were kind of . . . stressful. It's so amazingly crowded that you can't hang out and look at anything, everyone's just pushing and crowding and hurrying all around you. Impressive, of course, and I'm definitely glad I saw the Sistine Chapel after the restoration (they left a little bit unrestored so you can tell how amazingly dark it had gotten). But I saw a bunch of cool things just in passing and I'm sure if we'd come on the least busy day of the year (if such a thing even exists) I could've found more.
St. Peter's Basilica was very impressive for being decorated solely with mosaic on the inside, Michelangelo's Pieta (now behind bulletproof glass after being attacked by someone with a hammer in 1972), and this beautiful golden sunburst window with a dove in the center. Again, though, almost all of the mosaic was way up high, so lots of neck-cricks and overwhelmedness and not enough detail.
By the way: it was a little before 4:30 p.m. when we came outside and there were these very ominous bells tolling for at least fifteen minutes. Any idea what that was?
Then by accident we got separated from our group, had consolatory gelato in a cafe (mediocre; mine had ice crystals in it), and took a taxi back to the hotel. (Every car ride in Rome had me think, on a running loop, "We are going to die or kill someone." Taxis do things like never use turn signals, treat lane boundaries as mere suggestions, and go the wrong way down one-way traffic lanes just because no-one's in them at the moment.)
We had drinks at a very fancy hotel with a nice garden, Hotel de Russie, and then dinner nearby at Dal Bolognese, which was both delicious and much quicker than the night before, bringing out dishes with a speed I expect at an American restaurant. I had pasta with bolognese sauce, because I figure you can't go wrong having something that's in the name of the restaurant. And I was right.
Before the walking portion of the morning got particularly long, I was really loving Rome visually: the colors of the buildings, and the way that time periods are sliced up next to each other and layered one atop another, I just found it very aesthetically pleasing and charming. So it was a really long day but on the whole good.
Here are the photo albums. There is stuff in the captions, so click on the first photo at the top level, then click the little "i" in a circle at the top right, then hover over the right side of the photo to show the arrow that lets you move through the gallery in order.
Hey FL players: Seeking Mr Eaten's Name is back, it's complete, and it allows you to render your character permanently unplayable. I'm planning to do that, but before I do:
I am going to be playing this month and last month's Exceptional Friendship stories and then going RL-traveling starting July 5, and from what I understand the next steps of Seeking are a good place to be when you're playing in little bits on the road, but also put you out of reach for social actions. Therefore:
I will send you a sip of Hesperidean Cider if you send a social action of your choosing to an_ocelot THROUGH JULY 4, with a note that it's for Cider.
Taking a sip of someone else's Cider will drop your Wounds slightly and give you 1 x A Taste of the Garden. That unlocks opportunity cards that will drop Wounds somewhat more, slightly increase Nightmares, provide an Extraordinary Implication, and consume 1 x A Taste of the Garden.
I will respond to everyone's requests, though if you send me more than one I will send one to start and then leave the rest for later. Make sure you stay in the Fifth City until you get your sip, because once I leave the Fifth City you won't be able to accept my social actions. I'm hoping to leave on July 5, as I said, but I'll keep y'all posted.
(There's a early-stages guide to Seeking here; note that new Seeking has no required social component (you can buy Midnight Matriarchs to betray instead of inviting other players, and you can speed your progress a little by receiving an action from someone else) and can be pursued less expensively but very very slowly through opportunity cards--you'll still need considerable resources, though, as there are mandatory sacrifices. But since the endgame is rendering your character permanently unplayable, well, what difference does it make? For a discursive and far more spoiler-filled history of Seeking itself (though still not completely spoilery, as FBG politely requests not sharing the very end content), see this 14k epic by the same author.)
(Also, I wrote all my Rome trip notes on the plane back and I'm waiting to have time (hah! *cries*) to annotate the pictures I could only upload at home.)
The hotel wifi isn't up to uploading pictures from my phone, and I want to post the albums and the summaries all at once, so I'll upload and annotate the pictures and do the posts when we get home. Don't worry, I'm keeping notes as we go so I'll remember!
Tomorrow: I try to take pictures of our room, and the buildings that have huge imposing doors . . . with everyday-use doors cut out of them that are about five feet tall; and we do museums and stuff. (Someone else arranged the tour, I'm not entirely sure what's on it beside the Vatican in the afternoon.)
End of day update: dinner here was really excellent, but finishing eating at midnight may pose serious problems.
The designer who created the blackwork patterns for, among other things, the bookmark in this icon has all her patterns on sale at Etsy for $2 each (unfortunately this is because she has to shut down her shop because of new regulations in Turkey, where she's from).
I know a few of you stitch and have admired her work before, so there you go.
(I still haven't been reading DW, sorry, and now I have to go prep for oral argument tomorrow)
Doctor Strange: damn it, I had successfully avoided seeing this ball of whitewashing Orientalist crap until tonight.
Rogue One: yay female protagonist, boo leading a team of only other dudes, otherwise can't really tell.
Jason Bourne (the version I saw did not have the first few seconds of this, but started with the overhead shot of Jason on the bed): if this movie fridges Julia Stiles' character I will be REALLY ANGRY. Also I just don't think that there's anything left to say in this franchise?
The Shallows: nice to see a survival action movie about a woman, I guess?
Kubo and the Two Strings: there are a whole lot of white actors' names getting top billing of this fantasy-Japan animated story.
Suicide Squad: awww, lookit the trailer trying so hard, aren't you precious?!
It's now out in at least two non-US countries, so, Internet who knows me and has seen it/reads spoilers, should I see it? I originally thought I wasn't seeing this without thorough spoilers, and I've changed my mind, I just want to know the following:
and I can't tell if it's fatigue or adjusting to being on land. Or both.
Thanks to the extreme generosity of Chad's parents, we went with them on a Disney cruise this last week in the western Caribbean. I have been almost entirely offline as a result, and have opened half-a-dozen posts from the last page of my reading list to read and respond to, but am unlikely to go further back than that, sorry (see above).
Cruise was great; challenging solely because of the children's ridiculously narrow tastes in food, which the staff bent over backwards to accommodate, and a little because SteelyKid has a very low melting point. Also I did get a smidge motion sick but not that often. Rooms very comfortable, lots of stuff to do (even if you're not that into Disney characters), quite good food, generally a well-oiled machine. SteelyKid snorkeled for an hour and a half straight and swam with a dolphin, the Pip touched a sea turtle and went on a waterslide ten times in a row, and I smeared sunscreen on the kids at every opportunity and some that weren't and they didn't burn, go me.
Sadly I was on the same ship as Susan Egan, who voices Rose Quartz in Steven Universe, and did not lay eyes on her or, more to the point, hear her sing. (New episodes next week!)
. . . there was more, but I have no idea what right now. (Oh, wait, it was about the MCU, and therefore needs the next rock.)
I have a paper ARC of the last Temeraire book, League of Dragons, that I don't need (the nice people at Tor.com sent it to me, but then they got me access to an eARC, so I don't need both). This comes out in about six weeks.
Want it? Post a comment WITH YOUR U.S. MAILING ADDRESS and EMAIL ADDRESS (all comments are screened) and I'll mail it out tomorrow to someone selected by random number generator. (U.S. only to be safe, because it says that rights have been sold many places and I don't want to get anyone in trouble.)
Don't resell, don't be a jerk, only comment if you actually want to read. Thanks!
I have a paid job posting up for a small modification to the WordPress plugin Gravity Forms; if you know anyone who might be good at this, please point them there—I'd really like to get some responses that actually show they've read the whole thing, understand what I want, and have a plan.
I have edits on a brief that need to be dealt with, so, Hail, Caesar!, the latest Coen brothers movie, in one paragraph.
It's a movie about a 1950s movie studio executive dude, who runs around putting out fires while contemplating the direction of his life, that fairly regularly stops dead for set-pieces like Channing Tatum singing (I didn't know he could!) and tap-dancing, or Scarlett Johansson in one of those aquatic ballet thingies. I don't have strong feelings about Hollywood movies of this era, I'm aware that the studio system was awful, and I didn't much like the main character or agree with him (the second thing he does is slap a woman twice across the face. The first is go to confession; notably, he goes the next day and confesses only to slapping someone else.). So this was visually attractive and certainly not bland but not something that engaged me.
The trailers were fucking dire and, accordingly, are better left unmentioned. (Now in comments, because skygiants asked.)
The bit in the dream I just woke up from with the giant complex of underground, underexplored, possibly-alien tunnels, that was pretty great; I especially liked the reveal that they were inhabited, after all. The car chase, likewise. But listening to a live-action Steven Universe soundtrack with Lara Flynn Boyle as Pearl? Where the hell did you get that?
This had a super-broad description, but Victor did a stellar moderating job and rescued it.
Description: Race and identity have been issues in science fiction for about as long as SF itself. From the whitewashing of SF settings to “the black guy dies first” phenomenon to the underrepresentation of minority authors in the genre, there’s a long way to go. What can we do as individuals and as a community to encourage progress? Victor Raymond (m), Amber P. Knight, Kate Nepveu, Mark Oshiro, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez
Victor skipped right to the question at the end of the description. We talked about institutional things like Con or Bust; Pablo and Mark's work with Detcon1, which involved reaching out to specific local existing groups and communities; and Arisia's recent creation of a Diversity Committee (and the danger that people decide that oh, well, there's a diversity committee therefore we don't have to think about it). In terms of con program participants: recommend people to cons, ask for recommendations of people to invite to cons, and once they come don't put them only on panels about their particular minority trait.
We talked about SFF fandom's tendency to see other (related!) genres as insufficiently ~~pure~~ and what kinds of support, lessons, and connections are being lost thereby (anime, YA, paranormal, telenovelas (where was Jane the Virgin in programming, an audience member asked? [*]) etc.), and ditto other expressions of fandom, particularly the failure to recognize that people of color have always been fans. For instance, Amber's podcast (and others like it) is super-fannish, including about SFF, but podcasts aren't talked about much in SFF fandom (edited to clarify, maybe). (Podcasting: super-low entry barriers, Amber said she was very happy to help people out!) Or the Blade movies, whose success made the MCU possible but rarely get mentioned in con panels/by white people generally.
[*] I just put a suggestion into WisCon's programming that they do a panel on this.
Individual level things: Google shit you want to learn about. (Racism School on Tumblr was particularly recommended.) But also follow people who have different identities than you on your preferred form of social media, which gives you a passive exposure to stuff you don't know you don't know about. And when you inevitably see/hear something that you instinctively do a full-body recoil at, recognize that as a possible defense mechanism, take the time to process it on your own, and evaluate it over time and without demanding a justification/explanation from whoever posted it.
Woo, hello, energy crash. Uh. Things we didn't talk about but want to next time: codes of conduct. New media. Whether Pablo and I were going to have a fight over who was the smartest person in the room (not really). Okay, seriously, I am about to fall over, but if you were there, feel free to say what I'm forgetting, and if you weren't and have questions or suggestions, please do.
So far all the panels I've been a participant on have been great! I just have even worse notes than usual and I left the con early (by con standards) because I'd suddenly run out of energy. So let me toss out the little I do have for discussion.
I'm putting this outside the cut because it is still the best thing I've heard all weekend:
Ken said that there is a huge genre of serial prose stories in China, and in one very popular one, two armies were literally facing each other across the battlefield when the author announced that he was stopping writing it. The author went off and wrote other things, and then years later, came back and announced he was going to finish the story. Everyone was very excited, downloaded the installment, and said " . . . wait, this is only about a thousand words long, that's nowhere near long enough to finish the story." And in the story, the armies were facing each other, but then there was this light, and they looked up, and it was a meteorite, that was getting closer, and closer, and . . .
I also went to a panel called "Arisia Fixes Hollywood" (not many concrete fixes that I heard, but I was really sleepy and playing a mindless tablet game to stay awake; also the moderator alas thought it was an hour panel instead of the 75 minutes it actually was); and "The Future of Disability in Literature," which was heartfelt and well-prepared and I have zero notes because again tired. (I was going to say that disability panels seem to get fail even more consistently than race panels, but on reflection it's possible that it was the same person saying something upsetting this year and the last time I was at an Arisia disability panel.)
And now it's midnight and I fall at concision. Le sigh.
Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe has been a breakout hit for Cartoon Network. The first series on the network created by a woman, it tells powerful, funny, and moving stories in tiny doses, and has dealt uncompromisingly with issues around gender, childhood, and family in ways both unexpected and delightful. It’s also telling a great long-form adventure story. We’ll talk about all elements of this show in a panel that, like the show itself, will appeal to fans of all ages. Cassandra Lease (m), Gillian Daniels, Max Gladstone, Juliet Kahn, Cody Mattes
I'm going to say upfront that this panel made me unreasonably grumpy because (a) the room it was in had some deep thrum in the HVAC that made me feel like my brain was melting (I left a panel yesterday because of that, also because I needed a nap) and (b) my breakfast consisted of two chocolate cookies, which was nobody's fault but my own. I heard lots of people being happy as we left.
It is reasonable of me to be grumpy that, after announcing that questions were going to be held until the end, the moderator let someone who appeared to be a white dude interject a question. (Many other people had put hands up and been told by the panel to wait.)
I didn't take a lot of notes because I didn't bring a keyboard and because I've still never tidied my exhaustive notes from several Readercon panels. Also, a lot of what was said was good and true but also not new to me. Here are some non-spoiler comments:
Rebecca Sugar did fanart for a show called Ed, Edd n Eddy, plus created a comic called Pug Davis which is a space opera about a guy with the head of a pug and his gay sidekick, and which a fast Google suggests is now comprehensively unavailable.
My question, that I didn't get to ask: does anyone have a theory on why it's the Crystal Gems?
Finally, today I learned that Utena is UTE-ah-na not you-TAY-na. One of these days I'll watch it, I swear.
(After the panel I had mediocre food at Rosa Mexicano—half the tortilla chips were so soggy with grease they were actually difficult to chew—and then wrote this first because I was going to write up Friday's panels to put myself in a better mood, but it's already three and I have a panel at four, so probably that should wait. I have had my SU playlist on repeat, though, which has done wonders for my mood all by itself.)