gingicat: the hands of Doctor Who #10, Martha Jones, and Jack Harkness clasped together with the caption "All for One" (all for one)
([personal profile] gingicat posting in [community profile] metaquotes Jul. 27th, 2017 08:57 pm)
The characters I liked best? The bad guys. They were hard-working citizens who got screwed out of jobs that were legally contracted as theirs. So they decided to do something else, by selling alien equipment.

Context contains spoilers for a movie currently in theatres.
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([personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets Jul. 27th, 2017 07:01 pm)

⌈ Secret Post #3858 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.

01.


More! )


Notes:

Secrets Left to Post: 01 pages, 07 secrets from Secret Submission Post #551.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the fifth episode of the second season of Enterprise, a Porthos-centric episode ends up being not nearly as good as I would have expected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of death of a pet.

I really did want to like this, but it’s such an odd story, mostly due to the tone. I can’t imagine something more serious than the possible death of a beloved pet. And while “A Night in Sickbay” addresses this, there’s a starkly comic vibe to the story that never quite feels like it belongs. On top of that, the Kreetassan plot feels like it exists for the circumstance only, so that makes… well, there are three stories here that are all tangentially related to one another and vary wildly in tone.

It’s a lot to take in. As someone who grew up with plenty of dogs and cats, I felt distracted by Porthos’s condition. It’s hard to focus on anything when a pet is ill, and I will say that this episode does do a fine job portraying that. This is the most irritable and irascible that Archer has ever been, so he always seems frayed at the edges. That’s a good thing! It’s a believable portrayal of something that’s horrific to go through. And I also understand how humor can be a beautifully distracting thing to have when you’re dealing with something this stressful.

Yet the idea of sticking Archer and Dr. Phlox together in sick bay for the night only works some of the time. It’s not these actors’ fault, mind you, and there’s a wonderful wackiness to watching them clash. But the humor intended in the many scenes Archer and Phlox have with one another feels crass at times. If someone had been confined to sick bay for a reason that was sillier, I doubt I would have had as much of a problem dealing with the tonal dissonance. However, was this the best episode for gross-out humor regarding Phlox’s body? Or the time to be jokey about Phlox’s many animals that he keeps for medical reasons? Or for this exploration of the way that Archer and Phlox are so totally unlike one another?

See, when “A Night in Sickbay” abandons the pretense of making us laugh amidst worrying if Porthos will die, it actually becomes a much stronger episode. My favorite part of the whole thing is when Archer asks Phlox if he misses his family. It’s here that we learn that Denobulans are poly, y’all. THEY ALL MARRY MULTIPLE PARTNERS AND CONSIDER THEM ALL PART OF THE FAMILY. Obviously, I was excited to get confirmation that at least one major character in the Trek universe didn’t fall into familiar patterns, but even if that reveal hadn’t happened, I appreciated that this script found ways to get Phlox and Archer to open up about themselves. Watching them bond and learn more about one another was a fantastic thing!

Maybe not in every case, though. I can’t say I find myself too thrilled about the development of Archer’s attraction to T’Pol. If she didn’t remind me too much of Seven of Nine – the undeniably pretty outsider who causes people to struggle with their attraction to her – then I wouldn’t call foul here. But the dynamic is so similar! It just doesn’t hold any interest for me, especially not this early into the show. I AM NOT OPPOSED TO ROMANCE, but I just want T’Pol developed further before we possibly head down this path.

Other than that… I don’t know, this just didn’t click with me. It needed more focus at times, and perhaps it’s all just a matter of taste rather than anything worthy of a deep critical analysis. At least Porthos is alive by the end. THAT IS ULTIMATELY ALL THAT MATTERS.

The video for “A Night in Sickbay” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
([personal profile] stardreamer Jul. 27th, 2017 02:45 pm)
The following was originally posted by Daniel on Slacktivist, and is being reproduced here by permission.

* * *


North America

The North American country of the United States of America (USA) was shocked yesterday by the announcement by the President, Donald Trump, a colorful and outspoken reality television star and business-tycoon manqué, that he would strip the right to serve in the nation's armed services from its transgender citizens.

The country, sandwiched between Canada and Mexico and famous as the birthplace of KerPlunk, has for many years been under the influence of a religious sect opposed to modern science, preferring its own superstitious interpretations of gender and sexuality and the military to facts. Among their beliefs is the conviction that electricity, a gift from their God, can be used to permanently alter the sexuality of individuals subject to ritual shocks. While Trump is not himself a member of this sect, many of his supporters and cabinet are - the Vice President, Mike Pence, believes that electrocution and denial of civil rights can "cure" people of their sexual and/or gender identity, for instance, and has been known to conduct rituals seeking to influence the behaviors of his people and indeed entire nations through supernatural means. He is also reported to believe his own "sexual magic" is so strong that to be left alone with a woman he is not married to would lead to inevitable intercourse. Experts speculate this is because in the culture of the sect his silver hair is seen as a sign of divine favor. It is hard to think that in the twenty-first century such beliefs could exist, but this country - still dealing with the consequences of a bitter and bloody civil war and struggling to shed the influence of more than a century of colonialism - is steeped in such superstition.

The President, who has a history of vocal support for wars and the people that fight them - amongst whose numbers he has never been included due to a debilitating recurrent foot complaint - is thought to have made this decision to pander to this sect to receive funding for his own passion project, a great wall separating his increasingly isolated country from Mexico. Though he promised to make the Mexican government pay for it, this was seen in Mexico City as merely bombastic boasting and was met with diplomatic derision. It has now become clear that this was an accurate assessment, and Trump has gone cap in hand to sectarian members of the governing Republican Party to beg for funds for his grandiose white elephant.

While it is characteristic of the regime, which rose to power on a wave of populist resentment and tribal grievance, to not know how policies announced by their President will be effected, it appears not to be troubling his inner circle; in the so-called "White House", or presidential residence, where Trump himself is seen as something like a demi-god, his name cast in enormous gold letters on various sacred sites across the country is deemed to be a powerful influencer of the spirits of wealth and "class" - a peculiar concept something akin to the more familiar machismo though coupled with a deep seated anti-intellectualism and contempt for internal monologue. Indeed, it is thought that simply by saying things Trump is able to make them physically real, and the less proof his followers demand the greater they consider themselves blessed by him.

What is also not clear at this moment is how it will effect the members of the armed services who are currently serving and who are transgender. As there appears to be a reliance on the metaphysical abilities of Trump to alter reality with 140 characters at a time - an extension of the sect's peculiar faith in the power of electricity - and nothing more, it is not certain if the people targeted by his declaration will be fired, or forced back into the closet, or subject to other and worse discrimination. What is certain though is that through his influence and the influence of his cult, the President will have sent a message that the god a significant proportion of the people believe in wants them to discriminate against their fellow citizens.

In a statement today the organization Democracy Within Borders responded:

"It is tempting to look on this benighted and atavistic society governed by an exotic death cult, determined to harm its own people in celebration of their idol, a man cast in gold whom they revere as both its product and its source, with the prurient interest we use for other ex-colonial nations, as a setting for our horror films and travel writing. We should not. The majority of the citizens do not belong to the tribe of their leaders, a fact reflected in the election, in which his opponent received a higher number of votes than he did, that secured the Presidency for Trump."


The peculiar formulation of democracy in the country - a reaction to the government of its former colonizers - means that now in power Trump has called for the arrest and imprisonment of his opponent, for crimes he cannot name nor explain. It is not clear if this is the result of a taboo or géis, or of his paranoia that the legal system of the country might do its job correctly. It appears he believes millions of phantoms cast votes for his opponent, though without being able to ensure her victory. The statement continued:

"It is hoped that the two advanced nations bordering the USA will intervene to try and help those harmed by this decision. In this day and age a nation proclaiming itself great cannot treat its citizens in this way based on crude self-interest and superstition."


* * *

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the first episode of the fifth season of Steven Universe, Steven confronts Lars. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe

In more ways than one, Steven Universe does a wonderful deconstructing what it means to be a hero. Sometimes, it’s through the complicated stories about people doing terrible things in the name of what’s right. Yet in “Stuck Together,” the writers take to task the idea that being heroic has no real emotional affect on a person. Now, that’s an absurd thing to say about Steven, of course, because I can’t imagine a character more emotional than him. HE IS MY BEAUTIFUL CRYING BOY.

Within the context of recent events, though, I found this episode a revelation. We’ve all seen the heroic sacrifice; we’ve all seen a protagonist offer themselves up to save a friend. What’s rarer, though, is the aftermath, and that’s why “Stuck Together” felt so huge to me. The entirety of this episode takes place within the spaceship that’s heading back to the Homeworld, and it’s an examination of the compartmentalizing that Steven must do to present himself as a fearless hero. His foil, then, is Lars, the character who saw danger and ran away from it to hide.

Yet this story doesn’t paint Lars as a villain. If anything, he’s tragically relatable. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t apologize to anyone or hold himself accountable. Rather, while literally stuck in this predicament, Lars and Steven fight over whether or not being heroic is worth it. Oh, Lars certainly doesn’t think that’s what they’re talking about, BUT IT IS. He devalues himself; he devalues his contributions; he devalues his worth. Above all, though, he is afraid. That’s not a surprising revelation to any of us who have been watching this show; his fear has manifested as anxiety for a long time. But he admits it so starkly while stuck within Topaz, and it was HEARTBREAKING.

So of course the show makes it worse by having Steven admit that he is probably just as scared as Lars. Gods, that monologue is so amazing, y’all. Again, it’s not like it’s surprising that Steven is frightened even when he’s making these heroic choices. But in that moment, these two characters open up to one another, and they are blissfully vulnerable. Lars actually says something optimistic, which is so unlike him that Steven practically asks him to go back to being a pessimist. It’s honestly one of my favorite scenes in the show…

…AND WAS INCREDIBLE ENOUGH THAT TOPAZ SPOKE. Oh my god, WHAT A SHOCKER. First of all, I’m glad that by having Topaz speak and revealing more about themselves and their fusion partner, the show doesn’t allow her to follow into that continued trope of having their large and butch characters to be antagonists. Instead, Topaz bursts into tears over Lars’s and Steven’s conversation, and she admits that she wishes she could be honest about the other Topaz. UGH, THIS SHOW IS SO CANONICALLY QUEER IT HURTS ME. Because here’s another non-straight relationship presented to us unapologetically, and it feels different. It’s not like Garnet and her fusions, either! Plus, you could easily read a whole host of themes surrounding repression into this character, so EXCUSE ME IF I GO AHEAD AND PROJECT ALL OVER TOPAZ. Like, #me? There’s probably a whole lot of you out there who see a character who has a near-breakdown over just wanting to be honest with someone they care about, but social norms prevent you from doing so.

H E L P.

Which is why I was so upset by Aquamarine’s treatment of Topaz. There’s an interesting moment towards the end of this that I don’t want to ignore, but it was clear that she view Topaz as lesser than her, and thus, she could treat her terribly. So… why didn’t she shatter Topaz? Why did she agree to let Topaz stay together event hough she obviously looks down on fusions? IS THERE SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON HERE?

Whew, what a premiere. I’m so glad I don’t have to wait for the next episode.

The video for “Stuck Together” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the forty-fourth episode of the second season of Gargoyles, the gargoyles must defend their nemesis from an all-powerful being. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Gargoyles

Sometimes, the most obvious answers are right there in front of me. I was so convinced of how obvious it was that Titania was Puck that I ignored the more obvious clue: Titania and Anastasia Renard were both voiced by Kate Mulgrew. I EVEN POINTED THIS OUT AND JUST ASSUMED THAT THE SHOWRUNNERS HAD CAST HER BECAUSE WHY NOT.

OH MY GOD. I’d say I’m embarrassed but this is just par for the course with this show, y’all. “The Gathering, Part One,” presents the newly-reunited clan with one hell of a dilemma: what do you do when your number one enemy needs your help? What do you do when the victim of a terrible injustice is someone you hate? Do your ethics still apply, or is the situation too personal?

There’s a bit of set-up here before we get to that critical point, and I’m impressed that there’s still room for mysteries and revelations for these characters after so many episodes. Yet this also comes off of “Future Tense,” so the fact that Alexander Fox Xanatos has now been born feels like the start of something terrible. It’s just that, for the time being, that terrible thing was not what I or anyone else expected. (EXCEPT FOR OWEN. HOW THE FUCK DID HE KNOW ANASTASIA WAS TITANIA??!?!?!? WHY ISN’T HE STICKING AROUND? I NEED ANSWERS.) Oberon’s Gathering – which is shown to us briefly in an early part of this episode – has an unintended consequence for Fox and Xanatos. Initially, I couldn’t see how this story would evolve from the Gathering into something that warranted more than one part. So, Oberon’s children returned, all except for Titania and Puck. (And I still believed at that point that they were the same person.) I side-eyed the fact that a lot of characters we’d met were Oberon’s Children because it’s still invoking that trope of taking cultural beliefs and stripping them of their meaning. (Which I talked about in “Heritage.” This also retroactively makes the events of “Cloud Fathers” susceptible to the same criticism.) Otherwise… they were back home! There was fighting! The Banshee was forbidden from using her voice as punishment! So… what else was left? Getting Puck, who had told Goliath in “Future Tense” that he didn’t want to return.

Given that we had watched the Children return home to Avalon, I was bothered that we didn’t get the same sequence for Elisa, Bronx, and Goliath. I really wanted a moment where the Brooklyn Bridge or Manhattan Bridge came into view, especially since Gargoyles had been building towards that for some time. Granted, I was satisfied with the reunion in the clocktower, and LORD DID IT MAKE ME TEAR UP. I’m so glad that they got home safely and that the magic of Avalon let them go! But – again – I couldn’t see how any of this was connected.

The key, however, was Alexander. Alexander, who was born of Fox, who was TITANIA’S DAUGHTER, and who wasn’t trained in magic and THUS IT NEVER DEVELOPED IN HER, but Alexander… oh, he’s magical. So how do you stop someone like Oberon from getting what he wants? Iron, sure, but even that weakness isn’t absolute. Owen seems to have done his homework, employing a number of devices and science shit I don’t understand to counteract Oberon’s power. That doesn’t help the MILLIONS OF NEW YORKERS WHO ARE PUT TO SLEEP BY OBERON. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW.

What I’m most interested in going forward is how the gargoyles and Elisa are going to deal with this hellish reality. They refuse to help Titania, and she warns them not to interfere. We all know they aren’t going to do that, but what are the consequences of this? Is Xanatos going to actually appreciate them for this, or is he just going to continue being the worst? I have some faith in Owen’s defensive measures; he clearly knows what he’s doing. Goliath and Elisa know about the iron weakness, but… what can they possibly do when he’s grown to the size of a giant??? Will Oberon’s children be okay with this? Will Titania retaliate?

THIS IS SO GREAT AND SO DISTURBING.

The video for “The Gathering, Part One” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

Posted by Phil Plait

I recently wrote about citizen scientists (people who are enthusiastic about science but who may not have professional scientific training) combing through NASA data and hitting pay dirt: They found a brown dwarf just a little over a hundred light-years away, one that had been missed by previous data searches.

It turns out there may be a lot more to find. And by a lot more, I mean A LOT MORE. Scientists have recently found that there could be as many as one hundred billion brown dwarfs in our galaxy, half as many as there are stars!

Brown dwarfs are funny objects. They’re more massive than planets, but lack the mass needed to squeeze hydrogen in their cores hard enough to get it to fuse into helium. That’s what makes a star a star: the ability to stably fuse one element into another. The definitions get complicated, because nature isn’t as fussy about having clear boundaries between one type of object from another as humans are, but in the end brown dwarfs occupy that space between planets and stars, similar to but distinct from both.

They’re their own thing. And we didn’t even know they existed until 1995, when the first, Teide 1, was discovered. They’re incredibly faint in visible light (the kind of light we see), and even in infrared, where they give off most of their energy, they’re not exactly beacons. But they started turning up in observations made by telescopes equipped to look in the infrared, and now we know of a few thousand.

The thing is, the ones we see are perforce nearby. More than a thousand light-years away or so, they fade to invisibility. That may seem like a lot, but the Milky Way galaxy is one hundred thousand light-years across! We’re only seeing brown dwarfs locally, so it’s hard to get good statistics on them galactically.

But there’s a way around that. The thing to do is look where you know there should be some ... like, say, a star cluster. These are groups of hundreds or thousands of stars, all bound together by their own gravity. Typically, the stars were all born around the same time from a cloud of gas, and that’s a huge advantage: As stars age they change color, and so by measuring their colors you can get the age of the cluster.

That’s important, because the same thing happens with young brown dwarfs, too. Their color depends on their mass — a more massive object is hotter, which makes it bluer— so if you know the color and age of a brown dwarf, you can determine its mass*. That helps you distinguish it from a planet or a star.

And a team of astronomers did just that. They looked at several star clusters that were close enough to Earth that brown dwarfs are visible. Then they basically counted up what they saw, measured the colors, and figured out how many of the objects were stars and how many were brown dwarfs.

What they found was that about half the objects in the clusters were brown dwarfs. Extrapolating that to the galaxy at large, there could be 25 – 100 billion such objects in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

cluster with brown dwarfs

Observations using the Very Large Telescope in Chile of the stellar cluster RCW 38 reveal the presence of brown dwarfs (insets). The big image shows a region just 1.5 light years wide, and the insets are each about 0.07 light years across. Credit: Koraljka Muzic, University of Lisbon, Portugal / Aleks Scholz, University of St Andrews, UK / Rainer Schoedel, University of Granada, Spain / Vincent Geers, UKATC / Ray Jayawardhana, York University, Canada / Joana Ascenso, University...

 

This conclusion was already hinted at by previous stellar cluster surveys, but this one found that the result stayed the same across a variety of different cluster types. Some had more stars packed more tightly in them (which can affect how stars are born), and some had a lot of very massive stars, which can also affect the environment around them.

None of this appears to matter. Clusters make about two stars for every brown dwarf. And that means that our galaxy is littered with them.

This makes me very happy. I really like brown dwarfs; they’re fascinating objects and, once upon a time, I worked on Hubble observations of one of the two first brown dwarfs ever discovered, Gliese 229B. It was fascinating to see the spectra, revealing the presence of things like cesium and water vapor in its atmosphere. Water vapor: steam! I was used to observing stars and other very hot objects, so to find something as mundane as good old water in Gliese 229B was truly weird to me at the time.

Also, much like planets orbiting other stars, we had suspected the existence of brown dwarfs for decades, but they were maddeningly elusive. Then, once one was found, more started showing up. Once we knew they were out there, and the best way to look for them, we started finding hundreds of them. Thousands.

This is such a wonderful allegory. We look up at the night sky and try to imagine what’s out there, and what we find out is that there are wonders beyond what we would have thought even a few years ago! And not just a few, but billions, hundreds of billions of new things to discover.

The more we look, the more we let our curiosity drive us, the more there is to find. That’s one of my favorite things about our Universe.

*As with everything in science, it’s actually more complicated than this. You actually have to measure the brown dwarf’s spectrum, basically dividing its light into hundreds or thousands of very narrow color ranges. Even then it’s a bit tricky. But that’s the idea.

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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the second half of the sixth chapter of A Wizard of Mars, Nita visits a friend, then travels to Mars where EVERYTHING IS NOT OKAY. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.

NOPE.

S’reee

I was so thrilled to get a chance to catch up with S’reee, and of course I am pleased that Duane took this a step further by having S’reee accompany Nita to Mars. MORE ON THAT LATER, THOUGH. S’reee has been quite busy since we last saw her in the previous book, and even that was much briefer than this. We get an update on the project that’s been bothering her for quite some time, which made me wonder: did we really dump depth charges into the Great South Bay? That sounds exactly like something that humans would do, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they littered the ocean floor.

Anyway, Nita’s suggestion for a solution is pretty clever, but I’m not expecting we’ll ever see this again in the book, given that the end of this chapter veers off into NOPEVILLE. But I’m glad that Duane devoted space within the text to show us that S’reee has a life outside of the main characters. From experience, I know how difficult it is to get that sort of balance. We manage to learn about wizardries S’reee is working, get to hear the story of Pellegrino, AND this happens:

“Well, there are other reasons to go out singing than just errantry,” S’reee said.

That was when Nita remembered that “out singing” had more than one meaning for a whale. “Whoa, wait a minute. ‘Ree, are you seeing somebody? You are! You’re finning around with someone!”

LIKE, THIS IS SO ADORABLE ALL BY ITSELF THAT I COULDN’T HELP FEELING HAPPY READING IT. S’reee is “dating” another whale who – BY THE WAY – is the whale version of a food critic. Were you ready for that? I CERTAINLY WAS NOT. But I also wasn’t prepared for this moment:

“Hey, great! Another wizard?”

“Oh, no, not at all. We can’t all date wizards, hNii’t!”

IT’S SO SUBTLE, I LITERALLY MISSED IT UNTIL DUANE POINTED IT OUT THROUGH THE TEXT. So… is this the book where Nita and Kit will actually address their attraction to one another??? This isn’t the sole reference thus far, so I think it’s fair to expect more. Maybe???

Carmela

I do adore this character, and I’m certain I always will. I am also glad that Duane is exploring the ways in which Carmela grates on Nita’s and Kit’s senses. Some of that is pretty normal sibling stuff between Kit and Carmela, but Nita has a different reason to be frustrated with her. She is so much more casual about wizardry than she should be, and I’d chalk that up to Carmela not being a wizard more than anything else. She’s already used to her transit gate and her weapon and the ease with which she can straddle the worlds of wizards and non-wizards. I wouldn’t call her complacent, necessarily; she learned during the events of the last book just how dangerous all of this is.

But Carmela does feel some entitlement to wizardry. She doesn’t care that Kit won’t want her around, nor does she care if she’s about to interfere in some important wizardry. She just… does what she wants, consequences be damned. So it made sense with me that Nita felt some aggravation towards her, you know? Wizardry has a cost, and Carmela has found a way to use it without ever having to pay that cost.

Arsia Mons

So, a great deal of the information here is actually true in regards to Arsia Mons, but most especially the seven cave entrances named after women. ALL OF THEM LOOK IN ON PITCH BLACK DARKNESS. Thus, there was no way that this wasn’t going to make me super nervous. The fifth site had wizardry running and wasn’t blocked and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WOULDN’T END WELL. As the trio descended into the volcano, I figured the worst that would happen is that they’d find another superegg. That was my working theory, and then it was proven wrong and I can’t.

The wand’s silver fire gleamed and slid down skin like green metal as the creature moved forward. It looked very like a scorpion: but it was almost the size of a Shetland pony. It had entirely too many legs and claws, and blank, cold polished-jade eyes.

I would like you to know that my soul has left my body.

Pouring along behind it out of the shadows came about fifty more like it, all their front claws scissoring together softly, making a grating, echoing whisper in the room of stone.

And that my body was just ground to dust by this cliffhanger. WHAT THE FUCK. Is this the creature that the superegg tried to mimic? WHAT ARE THESE?

HELP ME.

I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

conuly: (Default)
»

Wow

([personal profile] conuly Jul. 27th, 2017 08:08 am)
In the grand tradition of fucked up "polls" on the internet, I present: The GOP. This is some biased garbage right here. I was positively giddy when I took it, btw - they're gonna define their narrative, but I can put my own little monkeywrench in the works. Bet those doofuses didn't even bother to set cookies so I couldn't take it twice.

Posted by Ben Goldacre

Here’s a paper, and associated website, that we launch today: we have assessed, and then ranked, all the biggest drug companies in the world, to compare their public commitments on trials transparency. Regular readers will be familiar with this ongoing battle. In medicine we use the results of clinical trials to make informed treatments about […]
case: (Default)
([personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets Jul. 26th, 2017 06:20 pm)

⌈ Secret Post #3857 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.

01.


More! )


Notes:

Secrets Left to Post: 01 pages, 14 secrets from Secret Submission Post #551.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the fourth episode of the second season of Enterprise, THIS IS SO MESSED UP. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek

Trigger Warning: For consent and body horror.

HELP. I WAS NOT READY FOR THIS TO BE A SEQUEL TO “MINEFIELD.” AND IT’S A LARGE REASON WHY IT’S SO GOOD. AND I’M SO DISTURBED. AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.

Just… holy shit. I love a mystery that is this compelling and unnerving and then COMPLETELY STICKS THE LANDING. That is so hard to do, especially when it felt like all the disparate pieces of this story did not seem to fit at all. For the life of me, I could not figure out what the catch was. Why was this Tellarite repair station so relatively cheap? Why the hell did this computer appear to have killed Travis? WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE ARCHER SO CREEPED OUT BY THIS PROCESS?

Until we reach that answer, this is a cleverly executed science fiction story, something that honestly felt like a novel more than a television show. That’s a common way of praising the writing for this medium, I know, but it’s a great method of conveying the depth that’s given to us in a relatively short time. The script for “Dead Stop” does not rush through the motions; instead, it moves at a slow pace, revealing each new facet of this repair station meticulously. Right from the start, instinct and savviness tells us something is wrong with this place, and thus, Archer becomes the avatar for the audience. Look, all of us know that this station felt too good to be true. A repair station in the middle of nowhere that perfectly adapted its docking bay to the shape and size of Enterprise? Surely, that’s not just a neat bit of technology, right?

Then, it’s revealed that there aren’t any people onboard the station, and I WAS READY TO NOPE OUT OF THERE RIGHT THEN. An abandoned station is the most stress-inducing trope for me because I always want to know why it’s so empty!!! The writers know this, and they knew that once we found out how much the repairs would cost, we would all be suspicious. That’s the brilliance of “Dead Stop,” though. This script isn’t condescending to the dedicated Trek viewer. Instead, it exploits our familiarity with many of the tropes deployed throughout, and it leaves us bewildered and uncertain. Is this all a trap so that the Tellarites can gain information about other ships and species? Is there a hidden cost to the repairs? See, I spent this whole episode waiting for the other shoe to drop, and THIS SHOW KNEW I WOULD DO THIS. I felt personally attacked by everything here!

I’m also glad I don’t have to write an essay about how fucked it up it was to kill off Travis. WE ARE ALL RELIEVED, HONESTLY. Yet even in that, you’ve got the same dynamic: the show wouldn’t really kill a main character in such a ridiculous and meaningless way, right? (It’s at this point that a certain character from The Next Generation and another one from Deep Space Nine screech at me from beyond the grave.) So why the hell had the computer on the station done that? If it hadn’t killed him, then WHAT THE FUCK ACTUALLY HAPPENED? None of this made sense to me!

Now, I could see someone feeling like the resolution of this episode was a bit rushed. It’s certainly a story with little closure, since Dr. Phlox is only able to make an educated guess as to why this computer kidnapped Travis and then duplicated his body and left it behind on Enterprise. Given what T’Pol and Archer found in the central core, I’d say that Dr. Phlox’s theory is correct. But the why is left out of all of this. Did the Tellarites deliberately construct a station to steal living beings to use their brain’s computing power? I’m more inclined to believe that the AI or computer system adapted in the absence of any living programmers. In order to survive, it “stole” the means to improve its abilities.

It’s a meaningless act, sure. The computer can’t really be evil in a way we could categorize it, and that makes this that much more disturbing. No one will probably ever get the closure they need, and certainly not Travis. That final image is so creepy, too, since it’s entirely possible that the station will continue repairing itself, and then the cycle will commence again. Y’all, this was like a Twilight Zone crossover, I swear. IT WAS SO GOOD.

The video for “Dead Stop” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

Posted by Mark Oshiro

I can’t believe it’s been FIVE MONTHS since I last did one of these, BUT HERE I AM. Time for me to make a fool of myself on the Internet!!!

All right, let’s go over predictions from last time:

  1. We will see Jasper again. OH MY GOD.
  2. There will be one episode at the barn with Lapis and Peridot. There were more than one!
  3. We’ll see the Rubies again, but not Eyeball/Doc. I believe I got this wrong, but blame it on it being FIVE MONTHS since I saw these episodes.
  4. We’ll get an episode about the Diamonds. OH, DID WE EVER.
  5. We’ll see some of the corrupt creatures that Jasper captured. H E L P.
  6. Another kindergarten will be revealed. Okay, now I just flat out have a bad memory. I don’t think we saw another one? 
  7. Steven will fuse with Pearl at one point! I tried. 
  8. Connie will get another training episode. Oooooh… I don’t think my prediction counts.
  9. We’ll meet another gem we haven’t seen before. so many
  10. We’ll meet another type of gem we haven’t seen before. SO MANY.
  11. MORE BISMUTH. UNBUBBLE BISMUTH. TRAGEDY.
  12. Steven will learn how to un-corrupt gems!!! I would still love to see this. 
  13. We’ll see Sapphire and Ruby in one episode. YES. AND IT WAS GREAT.
  14. This season’s big arc: the Diamonds trying to retake Earth. Oh god, I wasn’t even CLOSE. I wasn’t ready!!!
  15. The other arc: Steven learning the truth about who Rose Quartz really was. I still think this is an appropriate guess, and it’s gets to the core of the show, so now I’m realizing it can’t REALLY be answered before the show ends?
  16. There’ll be another musical episode. I’M COUNTING A FEW.
  17. STEVEN GOES ON THE INTERNET. THE BEST. He made references to it, but I won’t count this because it has to be a full episode about it.
  18. I’m scared. As you should be.

So, not the worst? But oh, the possibilities going into season 5. I’m so thrilled!

Mark’s Predictions for Season 5

  1. We will get a scene (or, ideally, an episode) devoted to Steven confronting Lars about what he did when Sadie needed help.
  2. Steven won’t even find Lars until halfway through the first episode.
  3. The ship WILL make it to the homeworld.
  4. There will be some sort of public spectacle involving Steven being asked to answer for the crimes of his mother.
  5. Steven will be pardoned in some way rather than be convicted.
  6. Steven and Lars will get sent home.
  7. But not before Lars tries to make some sort of heroic sacrifice to make up for his fright from earlier.
  8. There will be an episode devoted to Lars and Sadie reuniting and dealing with COMPLICATED FEELINGS.
  9. There will be another Lapris/Peridot episode.
  10. We’ll see another Aquamarine and another Topaz.
  11. I will at some point be unable to tell what color a new gem is because I’m a mess.
  12. We’ll find out how Pink Diamond died.
  13. We’ll see the Rubies again.
  14. I legitimately have no idea what the season-long arc will be, though. Not one clue.
  15. So… uh… messed up?
  16. I’m afraid again.

Onwards, friends!

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 


The Disabled People Destroy SF Kickstarter*, to produce a disability themed special issue of Uncanny magazine, is up and running here and well on its way to meeting the initial funding goal (about 80% funded with 29 days to go).

And the first of their personal essays on disability and SF is up here, a good piece on Mental Health/neurodiversity** getting in the way of growing up to be the SF protagonist you dreamed of, that the genre allows you to be, so sitting down and setting to work to change the genre to allow for protagonists with MH/neurodiversity. I'm so glad the first piece talks about MH/neurodiversity and invisible disability, as they're the most invisible/most often cured of SFnal disabilities.
 

* If you aren't familiar with the 'x' People Destroy series, it has already done POC Destroy SF and Queers Destroy SF to significant success. I was initially a little disconcerted it's swapped magazines for the disability issue, from Lightspeed to Uncanny, but the editors of Uncanny have a disabled child and they've assembled a solid team of disabled editors for the special issue, so my worries seem unfounded.

** The author talks about a bipolar diagnosis, but then settles on neurodiversity as their preferred community label. It's a view I have some sympathy with, though it can confuse people about non-MH related neurodiversity.

Posted by Ben Goldacre

By now I hope you all know about the ongoing global scandal of clinical trial results being left unpublished, and of course our AllTrials campaign. Doctors, researchers, and patients cannot make truly informed choices about which treatments work best if they don’t have access to all the trial results. Earlier this year, I helped out […]

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the forty-third episode of the second season of Gargoyles, I cannot deal with this episode, and it’s all your fault. Yes. You. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Gargoyles

Trigger Warning: For death, poverty, and ableism.

YOU ALL DID THIS TO ME, WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED.

  • I can’t.
  • This is perhaps the most fucked up time travel story I’ve seen in a long time
  • Children watched this.
  • Adults watched this.
  • EVERYONE WHO WATCHED THIS WITNESSED NEARLY EVERY CHARACTER DYING TRAGICALLY ON SCREEN.
  • And then the climax of this nightmare is not, “Oh, it was all a dream, don’t worry!”
  • NO, IT’S THE MASSIVE SUGGESTION THAT THIS FUTURE WAS A GLIMPSE OF THE REAL THING.
  • WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME
  • Can we talk about how brutal this episode is and why it is designed that way?
  • Until the reveal of Puck, I had no theory as to why the Avalon magic had sent Goliath and the team forty years into the future. If Goliath wasn’t going to use the Phoenix Gate, then what was so important about events that happened in a time period so far away? I could understand Avalon sending them to the past, but the future?
  • I have to give this show credit: this is one of the most bewildering Mark Watches experiences yet. I almost can’t believe how quickly the plot twists and shocks rolled out in “Future Tense.” This episode drops us into a nightmare and never once gives a chance to breath or process anything that happens. We go from the reveal of a dystopic Manhattan to Xanatos’s guard robots to Matt Bluestone rescuing Goliath FORTY YEARS IN THE FUTURE. The worldbuilding done here might be sparse, but it’s incredibly effective. We learn how Manhattan’s residents are subject to daily patrols by a vicious security force, all while they wait for this inevitable “utopia” that Xanatos continually promises. Everyone lives in abject poverty. Manhattan is literally cut off from the rest of the world, surrounded by pollution, and a place of endless terror. And for what? An ego play. A chance for Xanatos to achieve the combination of supremacy and power he always wanted.
  • And then we meet the people of the future. Brooklyn is still the leader, but he’s far more cynical. For what it’s worth, he’s also clearly in charge, a massive change from the reluctance we saw from him earlier this season.
  • Broadway was seriously injured during one of many wars over the years, though I must provide some criticism of this. The writers invoke a trope (probably unknowingly) that’s common with blindness: the “alternate” version of a character in a dark world being disabled. Like that’s the worst thing a person can be is blind, you know?
  • Lexington was made or willingly chose to become cybernetic, and my guess is the latter, given that he was the behind this entire Xanatos utopia. And really, that should have been my clue that this was all a trick: why would Lexington willingly do something so horrific? Why would he betray everyone he had ever known? And for what?
  • But at the time, I bought this. It felt horrifying, but well-constructed. And that’s what worries me: a character like Puck probably could see possible timelines in the future. How much of this was a construction or a fabrication? How much of this was borrowed from things that very well could happen?
  • I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW MANY CHARACTERS DIED ONSCREEN AND HOW CASUAL IT WAS. Claw, Brooklyn, and Bluestone are murdered in a matter of seconds and then THE SHOW MOVES ON. Broadway’s death is just COMPLETELY UNFAIR.
  • And yes, there’s technically the chance that none of this was real, but does it also mean that it doesn’t matter? In this context, I’m actually not sure, and it’s why “Future Tense” unnerved me as much as it did.
  • I wasn’t ready for one goddamn second of this. LEXINGTON AND DEMONA WERE TOGETHER. CHAVEZ’S DAUGHTER WAS THERE. DEREK AND THE REST OF HIS CLAN WERE DEAD. EVERYTHING WAS THE WORST.
  • I still can’t.

The video for “Future Tense” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

Posted by Phil Plait

After those two huge solar eclipse posts this week (glad you asked: they are here and here), how about a bit of planetary eye candy for you?

If you go outside tonight after sunset and look to the sky, you might notice a bright "star" high to the southwest (for Northern Hemisphere observers). That's the planet Jupiter. If you turn and look southeast you can also see Saturn, another bright star-like shining object.

To the eye, they are unresolved, just dots. But to a powerful telescope in the right location, they are glorious. Behold!

 

Holy wow! That, me droogs, is Jupiter and its moon Ganymede. And that image was taken not by a space probe orbiting the giant planet, but by a telescope right here on Earth!

It was taken on June 10, 2017, using a 1-meter telescope at the Pic du Midi observatory, one of the best (if not the best) spots on Earth to observe the planets. The observatory is in the French Pyrenees, and has very stable air around it. Unsteady atmospheric conditions blur out small details (astronomers confusingly call this “seeing”), but the smooth flow around Pic du Midi means really high-res images can be taken.

That image, and all the others in this article, were taken as part of a professional-amateur collaboration, in which truly advanced and expert amateur astronomers get access to the ‘scopes and then process the images. The scientific purpose is to keep track of the outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) and Venus, monitoring their atmospheric patterns and wind speeds to aid spacecraft sent to investigate them up close.

But more than that, this sort of collaboration is a meeting of brains, a sharing of experience, that allows everyone to learn from each other’s efforts. The image above was processed by master planetary astrophotographer Damian Peach. The details are astonishing; you can see whorls of turbulence between the dark belts and light zones, individual storms thousands of kilometers across in the southern belt, and of course the Great Red Spot about to rotate out of view on the right.

Note Ganymede in the upper left: That’s Jupiter’s biggest moon and, indeed, the biggest moon in the solar system. It’s comfortably bigger than Mercury, and if Jupiter weren’t there we might consider it a planet in its own right! You can see detail on the surface of this rocky, icy world; note how dark it is, punctuated with spots of brighter ice. Compare it to a map made from Galileo and Voyager images — the bright spot to the lower right is the impact crater Osiris.

In this image, Damian processed Ganymede differently and then created a final composite moving Ganymede in closer to the planet so it’s easier to see. Another of the astronomers on the team, Emil Kraaikamp, processed one of the images taken a bit later, keeping Ganymede in its correct spot relative to its home planet:

 

Note how far it is! And also note that the Red Spot has rotated a bit to the east, and is closer to the planet’s limb.

They also created a gorgeous animation of the planet rotating using infrared light:

 

Wow. You can see Jupiter’s cloud patterns change subtly, and Ganymede move in its week-long orbit around the massive planet.

I already wrote about the image they took of Saturn a few hours later that same night, and it’s just as stunning. I haven’t seen the images of Neptune or Uranus yet, though. However, later that night, before sunrise, they caught Venus rising in the east:

 

The animation was made from two images taken about 25 minutes apart, and you can see some movement in that time. The images were in the ultraviolet; using visible light (the kind we see) Venus is almost featureless, but the clouds reflect ultraviolet sunlight differently, and more interesting things can be seen. Venus rotates slowly, taking 243 Earth days to spin once, but the atmosphere rotates faster than that. This is called superrotation, and is what causes that huge chevron-shaped feature in the clouds.

What wonderful images! Such a delight for the eyes and brain, but also for the science itself. To think that we can achieve such results from Earth, tens if not hundreds of millions of kilometers from the target planets. And in three cases (Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn), it’s done to support probes we have physically orbiting those bodies! And who knows? Maybe, in the next few years, we’ll send more spacecraft to Uranus and Neptune.

I’m very glad to see this teamwork out of Pic du Midi. It’s a lovely example of collaboration, which is in many ways what science is all about.

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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the sixth part of Thief of Time, I am a bit lost. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

I can’t quite see the point of this. Yet.

That’s often the case with the way I read things for Mark Reads, and I had to accept a long time ago that the nature of this project meant I was reading books in a rather strange way. That’s especially the case for books without chapters. It’s easier to stop at the end of a chapter to go do something else than in the middle of a scene, and we’ve all artificially broken up the Discworld books to accommodate me, so… it’s going to be weird sometimes. Pratchett doesn’t write things randomly, so I imagine that Lobsang’s training is important to something, but I admit to feeling aimless while reading this.

Am I supposed to? Is Lobsang the stand-in for the reader? Because I also can’t ignore the parallel there. I honestly expected Lu-Tze to skip any sort of introductory lessons and instead focus on teaching Lobsang something more advanced, given that Lobsang already has sensitivities and abilities that most monks don’t. Yet Pratchett toys with us and with Lobsang by having Lu-Tze do exactly the same thing you see in martial arts films where a student is trained in mundane things in order to learn some greater lesson.

Does Lobsang need those lessons? Kind of, I’d say. He’s wildly impatient, and he also has a misguided and misinformed view of Lu-Tze. Lobsang went into this expecting he’d learn some sweet martial arts moves, when that’s not really what Lu-Tze does. But how much of what Lu-Tze says is a joke? His notebook is largely filled with aphorisms that he borrowed or took from Mrs. Cosmopolite, believing that she somehow “knew” what the Book of the Way said. He also traveled to Ankh-Morpork because of the language in an ad. And there’s a part of me that can’t believe that someone as clever and smart as Lu-Tze can be so openly foolish, so is he just toying with Lobsang? For what purpose? Is he teaching some important lesson? If so, he never stops to actually say what it is; instead, the text just moves on to the next thing, like when Lu-Tze takes Lobsang to the dojo to stage a fight.

And how bewildering is that? It’s all meant to be a test to see whether or not Lobsang needs to be taught anymore, but the entire sequence is so confusing. Lu-Tze insists on Lobsang using a sharp sword at first, but then he switches to a dakka stick, and there are Rules, and even though it was made super clear to remember those Rules, I COULDN’T REMEMBER RULE ONE. And then the fight is interrupted and they don’t even take a single swing at each other??? WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK. Something in the Mandala Hall is worth interrupting the test, and perhaps that’s why this felt so jarring. There were so many interruptions that none of the scenarios got any closure, you know? I felt like I was wandering through Lu-Tze’s mind.

Anyway, Jeremy’s construction of the Glass Clock is now starting to affect Lobsang. Unfortunately, the vision he gets passes seconds after it’s over, so Lobsang can’t even remember it to tell Lu-Tze about what happened! NO, THIS IS NOT GOOD. What if he’s hit with another glimpse like this during something important?

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

We go inside Yangon's booming counter-cultural art scene to reveal the city as seen through the eyes of the young artists on the front line of change. Until censorship was lifted in 2012, dissident artists, musicians and poets lived with the threat of jail for speaking out against the military regime that had gripped Myanmar, or Burma, since 1962 and turned it into a police state. Now, from modern art to punk rock to poetry, a new vibrant youth culture is flourishing - inconceivable only five years ago, when there was no internet, no mobile phones, no freedom of expression. We meet the emerging artists and performers breaking through and forging a new Myanmar.
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