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Heroine Linky

Maire shares her top ten heroines from YA fantasy, her top seven feminist villains, and her top seven feminist supporting characters.

Via Ben S, the history of the original run of Star Wars comics from Marvel. They have a goofy rep because of the green talking bunny rabbit alien, but they did some interesting stuff as they went along.

That Spinoff list of NZ non-fiction had very little Māori content in it. The site follows up with a Team Brown remix.

Smiling slaves and the real censorship in childrens’ books.

A search engine that digs up the appropriate screen captures to go with any Simpsons quote.

via Hannah Shaffer, Worst Draft: “”Worst Draft is a minimalist word processor that removes the two biggest roadblocks for writers: editing & distractions. Users will be unable to delete anything more than a few most recently typed words, and they will also be unable to access any other applications without first closing Worst Draft.”

via Jenni, Anil Dash writes against the internet wisdom that is “don’t read the comments”

via Debbie, the Melbourne Museum has a great computer animated video of the destruction of Pompeii.

via Fraser, the secret of the writing on Poe Dameron’s jacket in the new Star Wars film.

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Just hanging

“Going viral” is such a weirdly unpleasant phrase for content spread on the internet. Like, the metaphor works of course – except for the bit of the metaphor that equates a funny youtube video with getting really sick. Ah well, I guess it won’t be too long before the association between “viral” and “sickness” becomes so obscure it becomes a pub quiz question.

(Of course there will be pub quiz nights in the future. They existed in the past as well. What do you think all those mysterious hooded strangers did to pass the time between handing out quests to brave adventurers?)

I had a wee taste of virality last week when my 200-word roleplaying game “Holding On” suddenly started getting shared around Facebook and Twitter by people in the roleplaying hobby community. And I’m being a bit silly by even using the v-word, because the community is small and the section of it that shared my game was a tiny subset of that – this Facebook post had eighty-plus shares, this tweet had around a hundred. I have no idea how many people actually saw it, but I scanned through many many comments, and I was contacted by a few people saying “hey, is this yours?” Very gratifying.

The game is a funny little thing. Two people play, and one of them is hanging over an abyss. The other is holding on to them so they don’t fall. It was intended to work as a metaphor for any situation where someone is slipping away forever, but primarily as a very literal representation of the subject matter: someone is hanging on with nothing below them but a very, very long fall.

This isn’t the first time I’ve played with this imagery. Many years ago I wrote a very short story called “Hanging Tough” in which some teenage guys are trying (and failing) to impress some teenage girls by, you guessed it, dangling themselves over an abyss. I intended this as a shorthand caricature of the kind of dumb risktaking engaged in by Those Foolish Youths – again, a metaphor, not something real. Somewhere in the back of my head was that scene in The Lost Boys where they hang on to the underside of a rail bridge and one by one lose their grip, dropping into the mist below. Of course, Kiefer and his gang could fly. Real people wouldn’t so easily take that sort of risk – even for Those Foolish Youths, this is surely a step too far.

And then those photos started coming out of Russia.

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Oh heck. I can hardly even look at them.

Anyway. I’m not really going anywhere with this. I guess the takeaway is, hanging over an abyss is some potent stuff, and I’m pleased I made a game about it. That’s right, I have the lucrative “perilous dangling” subgenre all sewn up! Yay for me.

Those climber pics are from here. Rolling Stone talked to these climbers in 2014.

You can find the game Holding On, and some designer’s notes, at my Taleturn site. (Taleturn is where I put all my game/story/interactivity stuff. Check it out, and follow me on Twitter…)

And you can find the story “Hanging Tough” in the anthology Urban Driftwood, which is now available free in PDF from Dan Rabarts’s site.

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CIA Linky

Via alastair g: a 1980 CIA research paper, by their Deception Research Program, on facts and folklore about deception [PDF link]

Here’s a reading list for me: the 100 best works of New Zealand non-fiction. Many of these I’d never even heard about!

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a new shortread following up his hugely impactful Case for Reparations. The immediate context is Bernie Sanders making statements ruling out consideration of reparations; the body of the piece is showing how reparations might actually be undertaken in a meaningful way. The true message, to my mind, is how already the entire content of Coates’s reparations article has been forgotten – that piece forcefully said that reparations is not just about long-dead slaves, but also about structural injustices inflicted on millions of living people. The cultural narrative about reparations is very locked up and it will take effort to shift it! Anyway, read Coates kicking tail: The Case for Considering Reparations.

At the bottom of Dangerous Minds’ piece on the dumped original soundtrack for The Exorcist is a great little video compiling interviews with people coming out of screenings. A marvellous few minutes!

An advice columnist is sent a scenario from a Seinfeld episode, and takes it seriously. Everyone seems to be taking this as a huge faux pas by the columnist, but that is silly. There is nothing wrong with this. Seinfeld was famously about the minutiae of modern manners; advice columnists are principally there as an entertaining diversion. It’s all good.

And finally, The Chickening:

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Some Linky

It’s a new year, 2016, and it looks like the world could need some linky. So here are some.

Matthew Dentith, a theorist about conspiracy theorists, gives a fascinating analysis of how the Serial podcast deals with evidence in the Adnan Syed case, and how the Undisclosed podcast that looks at the same case approaches things in a very different way.

I missed this until after my final linky of last year year, but it’s Nate’s really good piece on what the 1977 Star Wars movie was actually about.

A system to give every room-sized space on earth its own address made up of three simple words. Interesting, although I’m not entirely convinced it’s exactly useful. (via Allen Varney)

What happened to the mince pie in America? (via d3vo, who understands the special place of the mince pie in NZ)

The Atlantic’s 50 best podcast episodes of 2015.

An alternate cut of Inside Out that just has the normal-life stuff. This could be kinda harrowing. Haven’t watched.

Texts from Superheroes (via Ben S)

Regular readers will know that I usually finish the linky with one “and finally” link that is… a little bit weird. Well… this week I have more weirdness to go around. So:

And finally, The Wizard of Oz, in alphabetical order

And finally, via my darling Cal who told me I had to put this in the linky: What did we get stuck in our rectums last year

And finally, via Angus, seadope.com

And finally, via Angus, a dating website for people who are secretly lizards.

And finally, via Pearce, what you get when Tim Allen’s Home Improvement character is the voice of Chewbacca.

And finally, via d3vo, Bushes of Love: extended

And finally, via Steve H, just trust me and read this one: whatever happened to television’s most famous couples?

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Wee Beastie 2015 Omnibus

On Facebook I share random snippets from life with our Wee Long-leggedy Beastie. Here’s the 2015 collection.

(Old omnibus editions: 2013 part 1; 2013 part 2; 2014)

Jan 13:

Wee Beastie has been in bed for over 90 minutes. And her voice comes ringing out from her bedroom: “Let it go, let it go, let it go, let it gooooo…”

Jan 14:

WB: I’m trying to decide whether I’ll be a paleontologist when I grow up or whether I’ll be like you.
Me: Well, you could be me, but also a paleontologist!
WB: Nope. I’d be like you. Boring daddy.
Me: Boring daddy!!
WB: Yes, I’ll be boring daddy. Just doing what you do.

Jan 16:

Wee Beastie is setting up a house for her toys.
WB: Keep passing me things dad!
Me: I’ve already given you all the furniture.
WB: But I still need all the cars.
Me: Cars?
WB: You know, those mechanical driving things? Let’s go!

Jan 16:

The Wee Beastie continues to be uninterested in actually going to sleep:
WB: DAD!
Cal: My darling, you should be asleep!
*pause*
WB: I AM ASLEEP!

Jan 17:
Via Cal:

waiting for the paddington movie to start.

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Jan 19:

Playing Snakes & Ladders with the Wee Beastie. She calls rolling the dice “wiggling”. And she keeps predicting the number she’s about to roll! It’s uncanny. “I hope I get a four! Yay now I’m wiggling! It’s a four!”

Jan 19:
Via Cal:

My Wee Beastie writes me beautiful cards, with a nod to the existential. As dictated to Morgan Davie

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Jan 20:

Summertime! Wee Beastie and Mae the dog.

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Jan 27:

Wee Beastie and I have invented a new dessert. WB calls it “Chocolate Mixup”. Take some banana and mash it up, then mix in some crumbled weetbix. Melt some chocolate and mix that in too. And then add a few tiny marshmallows. Spoon into greased tiny muffin tray and chuck into the freezer until they hold together!
They are pretty nom. Well done Wee Beastie.

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Jan 30:

Wee Beastie: There’s only one way to hide bread from a dog.
*dramatic pause*
Wee Beastie: Eat it up!
*devours the bread*

Feb 2:

Wee Beastie just asked why we don’t fall off the Earth, because it’s a ball and we’re on the bottom of the ball. She listened carefully as I explained gravity as clearly as I could. Then I told her she asks great questions. Her reply:
“It’s because I have three brains. They are called Charley, Sue and Amelia. Now what if a kid flies out into space and eats the moon?”

Feb 13:

Wee Beastie has been figuring out death for the last month or two. It pops up at random times, like today, without warning:
WB: Dad, make Mikey say “I love you too much for you to die out”
(Mikey is one of her cuddly friends)
Me: What was that Wee Beastie?
WB: Make Mikey say “I love you too much for you to die out “. You know how you die and get put in the ground? Like Poppa? He died. Like that.
Me: “I love you very much and I don’t want you to die.”
WB: “Oh, it’s okay. It’s a long time.”
Me: “It won’t happen for a long time?”
WB: “No it will be a hundred years.”
Me: “Oh. Now I feel a bit better.”
WB: Okay. Dad can I watch a DVD?
This is how it goes. Kids are always thinking.

Feb 14:
Via Cal:

wee beastie and her best friend

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Feb 20:

So yesterday just before dinnertime the Wee Beastie fell at a playground. It was a pretty big one, well over my head, two metres plus.
I have two thoughts:
(1) Man, that sure is a special kind of stomach lurch when you watch your child fall. Not keen to feel that again any time soon.
(2) Kids are obviously made of rubber or something. Only injury is a few face scratches.

Feb 20:

Wee Beastie pulls a blanket over her curled-up body.
WB (muffled): I’m a blanket!
Me: Oh, look at that blanket on the couch. That looks comfy. Maybe I’ll lie down on it.
WB (muffled): No, no, pick up the blanket and put it somewhere soft!
Me: Hmm, maybe I’ll put this blanket on the big bed.
I scoop up the blanket complete with lump of child, and put it on the big bed. I smooth it out.
WB (muffled): Now lie down on it!
Me: Ahh, now I’ll have a rest.
I lie on the bed next to the blanket and carefully drop my arm over it.
Me: What a comfy blanket.
WB (muffled, quiet): And the blanket was very happy.
Being a dad is pretty choice some days.

Mar 10:

Wee Beastie: Do you know why they are called Girl Guide biscuits?
Me: No, why?
WB: Because there are girls who sell them, and they are for guides, which means when you are guarding something. You have them when you are a guard.
Me: What kinds of things do they guard?
WB: Oh you know. When there are dragons that want to take the jewels on a necklace. And so you have a Girl Guide biscuit so you don’t get hungry while you do the guarding.

April 2:

My birthday card: “Dear Dad, You’ve been the best Dad in the whole world. Love from Wee Beastie and mummy and Mae. And have a nice time however old you are.”

April 8:

Wee Beastie currently taking surveillance-type photos of toys she intends to kidnap. This game is weird.

April 15:

Wee Beastie dancing around the back garden singing about how much she loves playing “cheerio fetch” with Mae the dog, and playing cheerio fetch at the same time. (Cheerio fetch is a game she made up where you throw pieces of cocktail sausage, and the dog runs to eat them, that’s the whole game.)

April 18:

Wee Beastie was looking up at the hills that frame the Hutt Valley.
WB: I want to go right up a mountain.
Me: And what would you do when you got to the top?
WB: I would grab hold of a cloud and hold it tightly against my tummy.
Me: And what would you do with it?
WB: I would run back down to the bottom and carry it home and put it in a birdcage and then I’d hang the birdcage from a tree in the garden and then whenever we wanted things to be wet we could go and stand under it.

April 25::

Portrait of Cal Greaney by the Wee Beastie.

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May 7:

At a beachside park after rain, Wee Beastie sees a rainbow. It comes down just over the trees, on the beach!
WB: You know that there is always a treasure at the ends of a rainbow.
Me: Is there?
WB: Yes! The rainbow always puts a treasure at the end. We’ll go and find it! Come on!
The rainbow disappears as we walk towards the trees.
WB: Quickly dad! We need to find the treasure first! Can I run ahead to the beach and search for it?
Me: Sure.
She runs down to the beach. I wonder how long it will take before she gives up the search, but about thirty seconds later she skips back.
WB: Found the treasure!
She has a small bouncy ball with stripes. The stripes are in all the colours of the rainbow.
WB: The rainbow found a ball and put rainbow colours on it!
She is delighted. And so am I.

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May 13:

Wee Beastie busily turning her dolls into elephants.

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May 15:

Wee Beastie decided to start a mammoth tidy-up/cleaning/vaccuuming session and has just spent last ninety minutes encouraging me to keep up with her. It’s upside-down day everybody!

May 28:

Wee Beastie: I drew a picture of you when you were a baby and only had seven teeth, four on top and three on the bottom.

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June 9:

Wee Beastie has made a picture of how we should spend the afternoon. It includes:
Gardening
Going to Percy’s Reserve
Writing words on the whiteboard
Blowing bubbles
Drawing pictures
Buying mummy a new dress
Doing her hair
Make Randall a birthday present
Take pictures with a camera
Draw some faces
Pick up Mae the dog
Bake Randall a tiny birthday cake

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June 12:

Wee beastie sickness hits day eight. (Best day so far.)

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June 17:

Wee Beastie excited by postcard from Paris from Alasdair Sinclair

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June 20:

For reasons I still don’t understand, Wee Beastie took home a Power Rangers DVD from the library this week. She’s really into it. She calls them the “Nature Rangers”, also for reasons I don’t understand. She also enjoys spotting the Sky Tower when it pops up in the background. And I find it quite entertaining too! As WB DVD choices go, this one is a solid success.

June 20:

Ella Munro is wanting more warm fuzzies and kids and pets in her FB stream. So here’s the Wee Beastie and Mae the Dog.

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July 3:

Grinning Wee Beastie cavorts around the room to Lorde. Abruptly stops, turns off music mid-track and comes over to me with serious face.
WB: Daddy. I’m so happy because one of my dreams came true.
Me: One of your dreams came true?
WB: One of my wishes. I danced just how I wanted. Every time I looked down at my feet they were going to just the right places!
Me: That’s fantastic.
WB: I’m so happy right now.
She runs back to turn the music on again and resumes.

July 3:

Walking dog with Wee Beastie a couple days ago, suddenly realise she has stopped skipping about and is hovering extremely close to me.
Me: What’s up?
WB: There’s a man behind me dressed as a killer.
I turn. There’s a slender, unassuming young man wearing a camo-pattern jacket. He overtakes us.
Me: I don’t think you need to worry.
WB: You’re right, you’re right. Because he’s only half dressed as a killer, right, okay.
She starts skipping again.

July 10:

“Nurse, would you please blow my nose for me?”
Playing doctors with a sick Wee Beastie. Stupid cold has taken up all her first week of holidays. Bother.

July 21:

Thanks to some DVDs inherited from James H. Liu, the Wee Beastie has discovered Pokemon and has immediately become a Team Rocket apologist. It’s Randall Boggs all over again. (Which was Scarface Claw all over again.)

August 3:

Wee Beastie has scraped her knee.
WB: There’s blood! I need a bandage, so no-one will know.
Me: What do you mean?
WB: If you have blood then you need to cover it up so no-one knows there is blood.
Me: Why do you need to do that? Why don’t you want people to know?
WB: Because if people see you have blood they’ll be sad. And you don’t want to make people sad.

August 6:

WB just told me we’re playing “Doctor Roctor, Rock Doctor”. I’m Doctor Roctor.

August 6:

Wee Beastie getting changed:
“Aren’t these undies beautiful? These undies are as beautiful as a slug!”

August 14:

Wee Beastie at play:
“Down that way is the Wheelwoods. It is a very scary no-good forest. There are pumpkins that drive, and bash you in the face.”

August 19:

“Why did the pink paper cross the green road? To meet the purple dog! Good one right dad?” – Wee Beastie joke time

Sept 28:

Two Wee Beastie-isms:
(1) This weekend, Grandma asks WB to greet her aunt & uncle as they come to the door. WB replies: “Sorry Grandma, I’m not really into that.”
(2) Today, WB goes past a display of gift balloons, and says: “Look, that balloon has Spider-Man’s face on it! I used to like Spider-Man, but that’s not my style any more.”
Is my child a four-year-old hipster?

Oct 11:

Colouring in together with a Youtube Taylor Swift playlist on the TV. Leave room for 90 seconds to take a call from Cal. By the time I return Wee Beastie has taken off all her clothes and is dancing like a naked happy lunatic to Nicki Minaj.

Oct 14:

Wee Beastie has taken two of her Pony toys on a car journey.
WB: Dad can you talk for this pony?
Me: Okay, sure.
We both assume pony voices
WB: “We are going to have a great birthday party today!”
Me: “Yes we are!”
WB: “And then we’ll find the surprise!”
Me: “Ooh, what’s the surprise?”
WB: “You don’t know what it is.”
Me: “Can you tell me?”
WB: “Okay, do you think you are real?”
Me: “Of course I’m real, I’m a real pony.”
WB: “No you’re not.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
WB: “You’re not real. You can’t talk.”
Me: “Then what am I doing now?”
WB: “That’s Giant Daddy talking, not you. You’re just a toy.”
Me: “What?”
WB: “You’re a toy, you’re not real.”
Me: “But we’re talking!”
WB: “No, I’m a toy too. We’re both toys, we’re not real at all.”
Me: “But… but…”
WB: “Are you scared?”
Me: “Yes!”
WB: “You’re really really a toy. You’re not real.”
Me: “But that’s impossible! The implications are too horrible to contemplate!”
WB: “I know.”
Wee Beastie drops out of pony voice and says softly, to herself:
WB: But the pony didn’t know it was just a trick.
(This was a few days ago, so this won’t be as word-for-word accurate as these usually are. But it won’t be too far off. There was also a whole song she made up that I wish I could share because it was amazing.)

Oct 30:

Wee Beastie has found my copy of Heroquest. Let the monstrous tea parties commence!

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Oct 31:

Halloween open for business! At Wee Beastie’s grandparents’ house.

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Nov 7:

Wee Beastie, contemplating death & dying:
“I think when people die, they come out of their bodies and they jump into the wind. And then they become part of the wind.”
(This was a few months ago; a visit to the cemetery yesterday reminded me.)

Nov 11:

Just overheard Wee Beastie in the next room: “Fear is the enemy! If we just believe in ourselves, we might just beat them, those lousy power rangers!” Apparently she’s giving inspirational speeches to the bad guys. Again.

Nov 13:

Wee Beastie’s epic My Little Pony game now has pony figures spread all over living room and kitchen. There’s a zombie pony causing mass panic, and it turns out some ponies are secretly Power Rangers. So we’re shaping up for a major Power Ponies vs Zombie Pony showdown. Better get back to it.
[in comments an hour later] Well, if you’re wondering how the showdown went, you’ll be pleased to hear the Sylvanian Families had a lovely picnic. 4yo children don’t hold with any of that modern plot continuity nonsense.

Nov 16:

Continuing her habit of renaming things*, Wee Beastie has today told me about “Monster Hide” (Monster High), a story about monsters who are really good at hiding. Works for me.
* She calls Power Rangers “Nature Rangers” and, inexplicably, is insistent that Lego Friends is called “Eema Girls”

Nov 29:

Proper summer vibe at our place, and it feels like Pearl Jam weather. I throw on Ten. Wee Beastie dances about. “This is pretty good music, dad. It’s really monstery.”

Dec 3:

Me: okay Wee Beastie, by the time I am out of the shower you’ll be dressed for kindy, right?
WB: Yes dad!
Instead, this.

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Dec 11:

[via Cal] About to start decorating the tree. This could take some time…..

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Dec 11:

[Via Cal] Done! Very happy!

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Dec 20:

[via Cal] She’s five!

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Dec 23:

Last day of kindy was Monday. The Wee Beastie was excited, of course. It was a special day. Moera Kindergarten is a treasure and we’ve been privileged to be part of the community there.

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Dec 24:

[via Cal] sprinkling reindeer food

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Jan 1, 2016:

Serious discussion

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Happy New Year from us all!

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Butts Linky

An extensive, illustrated guide to the butts of Middle-earth (via Theron, who was just trying to share the pain.)

Via Lew:

The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker: A Jedi’s Path To Jihad – via Ivan

Scarfolk makes a leap at viral fame with these Star Wars Medical Instruments. (Update a day later: seems to be working out for them so far, this is everywhere.)

d3vo found this interesting Cosmo article on a 20-something woman who invited all the people she had crushes on into a Facebook group called “my crushes”. (If I was still tutoring social psychology I’d definitely build a lesson around this.)

An excellent mashup of Britney Spears & the Twin Peaks theme

Via Siobhann and Morag near-simultaneously, What if Disney Princesses were Tardigrades?

Via Pearce: a linguist discusses the distinctive and bodacious way Bill & Ted use language.

And finally, via theremina, whatever this is

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Watching Buffy: s03e22 “Graduation Day, part two”

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Angel drinks from Buffy.

The decision is hers. She offers herself to him, and when he protests, she forces herself inside his defences to where he can no longer resist. She surrenders to him, and trusts that he will be able to stop before he kills her. She makes the choice, she spills the blood, she carries it. It’s her name in the title. Her show.

The bite is sex. Graphic. Intense. We see him penetrate her. She gasps. It’s been inevitable that this moment would come, since Angel came into frame in the very first episode. Her show opposite the vampire. The only question is how they managed to put it off so long. The blood sacrifice mirrors the end of season two, but the surrender mirrors the mid-point, when Buffy and Angel had sex. A direct line from there, the show’s definitive moment, to here. The culmination of their relationship. Buffy has given Angel everything, and trusted him with everything. There is nowhere else they can go. At the end of it all they will stand in the rain, and we will see on Buffy’s face every moment of her internal journey as she comes to understand that they are done. This is the end of Buffy and Angel, which is to say, the end of the show as it was.

It’s also the end of high school, of course. At the end of The Prom essay I suggested the show had been deceiving us. High school wasn’t hell, it had been heaven all along. I wasn’t just trolling there (though, yes, I was definitely trolling). I was also hinting at how, for most of us, high school gets reconfigured in our memories into a lovely glowing place of nostalgia, with all the crappy bits ironed out. And I was genuinely saying that “high school is hell” doesn’t really describe what happened in the show we’ve been watching for three seasons, where yes bad things happened, and the scale of that badness was enhanced with fangs and mantis women and evil zookeepers, but ultimately everything at the school seemed pretty… normal. In fact, most of the weirdness and badness happened outside of school. School was almost like a refuge from the badness. In this episode, it goes further – the Mayor transforms into a demon, and the young men and women of Sunnydale High transform into warriors. Their parents flee, leaving them to stand on their own two feet against the horrific face of the adult world. They go into battle – into war – and they go united. Some of them don’t make it through, some faces we have known fall to darkness, but they do not hesitate and together they are victorious. The class of ’99, triumphant.

The show was never about high school being hell because it was never about high school at all. It happened in hallways and lunchrooms and, very occasionally, in classrooms, but the show wasn’t interested in what being in high school meant. It only ever cared about how it felt to be young, staring out at the world and discovering it was unkind, and then having to figure out how to survive. High school was just another challenge, a set of indignities to be confronted, a structure that colluded against you. High school was a monster. And in this show, monsters are metaphors. High school wasn’t hell, life was hell, and the show was about how to survive: with love for our friends, and with an understanding that we will suffer.

Across these first three seasons I remember saying to people, “the world would be a better place if everyone watched Buffy.” I remember they would raise an eyebrow at me, or both eyebrows sometimes. It was just a provocative way of saying what I really meant: this weird little show seems to be about vampires, but really it’s about how you get hurt, but love gets you through. That seemed a good thing for people to hear.

There were some rough years in the 90s for my friends. Not so much for me, I made most every dodge roll along the way, but close friends were having horrible times, life-changing times, dealing with trauma and abuse and loss or forced into no-win choices or dead end paths and having to live with it, live through it. No mystery to this pattern, we were in our late teens, then our early twenties, when stuff gets real no matter who you are, same as it ever was. But I remember those times, picking our way through the cultural forest, and while there was plenty of music that seemed to get it, there was precious little else that seemed to know what it was like.

And then along came this show that made a promise and kept it: real threats; real emotions; real laughter. Buffy and Willow and Xander finding their own path through life, bonding over deeply nerdy jokes, and facing the hardest of hard times. Getting deeply hurt, over and over again. Each time, getting better. Reaching out to each other and getting better. None of our troubles could be stopped by putting on a cute outfit and shoving a stake through its heart, but the rest? Nerdy jokes, and love – those we could do. That was us at our best.

This show understood. It was listening too, and there we were, on the screen. At our best. Getting through.

Other notes:
* Oddly, right at the start Buffy leaves Faith’s knife on the rooftop, but later on she has it back and it becomes crucial in the endgame. It isn’t exactly a continuity error, but it’s a clumsy and unnecessary storytelling gap.
* Seth Green’s deadpan delivery almost swallows this gag completely: Willow: “He’s delirious. He thought I was Buffy.” Oz: “You too, huh?” I also liked his whip-quick timing when he suggested attacking the mayor with hummus.
* The Faith we have seen so far has been, by any reasonable standard, unforgiveable. The first thing Buffy does is forgive her.
* The Mayor continues to be much more an abstract representation of the adult world than any realistic part of it – hospital staff don’t recognize him and let him walk away after he attempts to kill Buffy, and his motivations seem to end at “turn into a big snake”. It doesn’t matter. His plan to do his whole speech before turning into a snake is another stupendously good joke in a series that has been full of them.
* Buffy calls the Mayor “Dick”. They worked very hard to get that word in there.
* Cordy is back in her strongest role, truthtelling, and it’s like she was never treated crappily by Xander. Also the resolution of the simmering tension between her and Wesley is hilarious and, to my knowledge, unique.
* Xander is also used effectively here as a strong supporter with some special military knowhow. He also recapitulates his strongest material from the last three seasons, being sceptical of Angel, and is given a moment at the end where he tells Buffy that Angel’s okay, and it feels like resolution there as well.
* Respect to Larry, from dumb jock bully to gay jock hero, who dies in action here – though we don’t see it, it was in the shooting script and is (eventually) confirmed onscreen. Harmony does get a moment where she is shown falling victim to a vampire; the show made sure not to miss that one out.
* That long hold where we see Buffy and Angel lock eyes for the last time… Sarah Michelle Gellar uses her uncanny ability to show us every note of Buffy’s thought process, telling us a whole story in her expression, while David Boreanaz… doesn’t do this. How is this guy going to carry a show by himself?

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That’s it, for now. After three seasons of Watching Buffy, I’m tapped out. Will there be more? Maybe, one day, if I feel like I have more to say. For now, though – thanks to all my readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

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Creepy Linky

Archive.org has a whole mess of Warren Publishing mags up for download, including loads of issues of Creepy! (Also, it would be timely to note, the Famous Monsters of Filmland Star Wars special from 1977.

Speaking of, the best thing about new Star Wars is probably Carrie Fisher doing media. This breakfast TV interview is hilarious.

Via Andrew S: MTV’s Liquid Television stuff is being put up online

Dante’s Hell, depicted in Lego

A Lego colour chart

Harmontown, a webcomic about loving a podcast too hard.

Rebel Without A Pause: Killer Mike and the return of the politically engaged rapper

Why do we fall for con games? Because stories.

Via Pearce: check out the amazing “heist” clause that is alleged to be in the contract for that hateful rich guy’s $8 million purchase of that Wu-Tang album.

Judy Garland doing blackface two years before Wizard of Oz.

The linguistic secrets of youtube videos.

Via d3vo: this article claims that in the 60s a Scotsman didn’t eat for a year

Via Svend, wiki’s article on habitual be: “In one experiment, children were shown drawings of Elmo eating cookies while Cookie Monster looked on. Both black and white subjects agreed that Elmo is eating cookies, but the black children said that Cookie Monster be eating cookies.”

And finally, wrestling is serious business.

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Watching Buffy: s02e21 “Graduation Day, part one”

Graduation_Part_1_Main

Berkeley Professor George Lakoff gained international attention early in the 2000s for his work on political framing, specifically his analysis of what was happening in the United States of America. He analysed the logic of conservative/republican and liberal/democratic politics, and argued that they built their appeal around two very different fundamental metaphors for the role of government. Liberal politics is structured around the idea of a nurturant parent as the ultimate moral authority – someone who listens to other’s troubles, and tries to protect the weak and help those who are in need. Conservative politics is built on the metaphor of a strict father – one who is the ultimate decision-maker for his family, who establishes a behavioural code and punishes transgressions, and who interprets the moral world for his family members, thus training them to be wise enough to stand on their own two feet. Lakoff has his detractors of course, everyone does, but nearly two decades on from the publication of Lakoff’s Moral Politics his ideas continue to resonate.

Buffy is no stranger to the importance of metaphor. The show was born soaking in the cultural conflict Lakoff described, broadcasting into a world where the news media were fracturing and these competing frames were being expressed ever more vividly. Buffy was however never a particularly political show, except in the way any show with a female perspective has to be political, and for that matter how every narrative expresses a particular construction of the world. Which is to say, everything is political. So.

In the pre-credits we see Faith go to work. She smiles her way into the office of an unsuspecting academic, and then she murders him, making jokes as she does so. This continues Faith’s progression into ever-more extreme violence. She started out enjoying killing dangerous demons and vampires a little too much, then she shrugged off the accidental murder of a human, then she murdered a demon who was not trying to harm her, then she was excited about torturing her nemesis Buffy, then she coldly assassinated a human involved in criminal activity, and now she happily engages in the pre-meditated murder of a total innocent.

Then, right after the credits, the episode takes us into Faith’s home, where she tries on the dress the Mayor has given her. She is insecure about her appearance in the dress, but the Mayor reassures her, giving us the clearest picture yet of the nature of their relationship: “Let me tell you something. Nobody knows what you are. Not even you, little Miss Seen-it-all. The Ascension isn’t just my day. It’s yours too. Your day to blossom, to show the world what a powerful girl you are. I think of what you’ve done, what I know you will do… No father could be prouder.”

Faith visibly brightens. We next glimpse her on a rooftop, having shot Angel with a poisoned arrow, an affliction that can only be lifted by letting him drink he blood of a slayer. Then we see her reporting back to the Mayor. She calls him “boss” and begs for another job killing or maiming someone. The Mayor cheerfully calls her a “firecracker”, and we get something unprecedented from Faith – personal disclosure. “My mom used to call me that when I was little. I was always running around.” After another exchange where the Mayor confirms he will need Faith’s help “always”, she offers more: “When I was a kid, a couple of miles outside of Boston there was this quarry. And all the kids used to swim there and jump off the rocks. And there was this one rock like forty feet up. I was the only one that would jump off it. All the older kids were too scared.”

In terms of revealing backstory, these lines don’t give us much: Faith was active and fearless as a child? Hold the front page! What is revealing here is how these moments feel in the context of this conversation and of their relationship. There’s nothing in the interaction that pushes Faith to talk about herself, and the Mayor isn’t trying to find out more or even saying his own personal things to encourage her to match him. She just offers it up. This seems to represent the entire tone of their relationship – the Mayor doesn’t want anything from her in an emotional sense. He makes no demands that she share, or feel, a certain way. He does put a lot of pressure on her, but it is entirely behavioural – she should dress nicely, use polite language, and be mindful always of his status. He polices her behaviour down to the detail, and lets the emotions take care of themselves. And it works – she comes to him wanting to share herself with him, to position him as someone who understands her as a parent understands a child.

Compare this to Faith’s experiences with Buffy and the others. They always wanted her to feel things – friendship, remorse, responsibility. The Mayor starts with behaviour, and expects feelings to settle in place when she does the things he asks of her. The Scoobies start with feelings, and expect behaviour to resolve itself when those problems are fixed. Over and over again, the Scoobies acted as if Faith’s behavioural problems would fall away if she could just get her emotions lined up right. This never worked for Faith. She pushed Buffy and the others away, and when they persisted, she began to resent them.

For me, this is the episode when Faith finally snaps into focus as a character. It reveals the fundamental concern at the core of Faith, the one that has driven her every action from her first appearance, and which has seen her turn her back on the people who tried to look out for her and throw in with a monster who seeks to wreck the world. That core concern is fear. Faith is afraid. We saw her experiencing fear vividly once, when the vampire who killed her watcher came after her as well, but she seemed to overcome that fear. This one is deeper still, and it is the fear that she is an awful and hateful person that deserves no love. Every interaction with the Scoobies was a threat: if she let them in, if she played their games, then she would risk revealing – discovering, even – her own awfulness. She went to the Mayor in search of someone who would not judge her for her troubled inner life, who would see it not as a failure but who would welcome her worst impulses. She expected she would feel safe with him, and she did – but she received so much more than that. She probably anticipated the kind of business relationship the Mayor had with Mr Trick, someone who said “it doesn’t matter if you are awful, because I can make use of that.” Instead she found someone who accepted her, celebrated her, and even offered her love. A man who wiped away any uncertainty by giving her a clear structure in which to thrive. There is a sharp contrast to the similar interactions she had with Wesley the watcher – there, she never felt safe. Here, because she felt safe first of all, she was free to appreciate the parental form of his relationship to her, the security that comes with an abdication of responsibility.

Meanwhile, Buffy was acting the general. Giles was a calm emotional centre, providing wisdom and counsel, but trusting completely to Buffy’s emotional and strategic leadership. Buffy calmly instructed her mother to leave town, and her mother did as she was told. Buffy’s friends gathered around her and pledged to follow her into battle. And when the Watcher’s Council attempted to assume control of her, she simply refused. This confidence is expressive of someone completely at home with her identity, aware of her weaknesses but also of her greater strength, able above all to trust herself. Buffy’s self-fulfillment, her graduation, is set against Faith’s failure to achieve the same. Faith’s self-loathing means she could never do what Buffy did here.

That means Buffy’s continued existence is a reminder for Faith that she might be awful after all, and it’s why Buffy and Faith’s battle at the end of the episode is so charged. The two characters talk, but there’s nothing meaty or thematic in what they say to each other – Faith challenging Buffy to cut loose is as dramatic as it gets. The fight is nonetheless hugely powerful. It shows two worldviews pitted against each other – one, where power arises from empathy and trust in others, and the other, where power arises from the avoidance of self-knowledge and the rituals of approval and reward.

It is no surprise, given the overwhelmingly liberal politics of those who make Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that the metaphorical ethos of the nurturant parent defeats the metaphorical ethos of the strict father. It is no surprise as well that this emerges as the fundamental thematic conflict at work in this storyline. This isn’t really about politics, but about something deeper than that, the underlying structures from which Lakoff’s frames draw their strength. This story is about the right way to exist as a moral being. More than that, it’s about the fundamental nature of being human – what really makes us happy, and gives us dignity, and furthers the well-being of all. Isn’t every story, in the end?

The answer is love, of course, just like every other time on this show. The story of Buffy has been about turning to your friends when you are hurt and vulnerable, and accepting their love for you as a healing force; and it’s about giving that love to your friends just the same. It’s a lesson Buffy has struggled with for three seasons, and will continue to struggle with for four more, but it’s the truest heart of the show. It’s why Buffy defeats Faith, but it’s also exactly why she loses so thoroughly in doing so – Buffy’s fundamental sense of love gives her pause, and in that moment Faith takes away her chance to use her to save Angel.

But it isn’t just Faith that takes this option away. It’s the show itself, intervening again, contriving the circumstances for Buffy to be tested once again. The question posed by the cliffhanger is not, how great s Buffy’s love great enough to sacrifice herself to save Angel? Every moment we’ve seen in this show has answered that question, a thousand times over.

The question is, what will be the cost?

Other notes:
* A great hidden joke as the Mayor talks to Snyder: “Anybody who doesn’t feel like coming to graduation, well, they’ll just have to live without a diploma.”
* The Mayor sauntering into the library is a beautiful moment. Here, at last, we have a villain worth reckoning with, and stakes that feel intense and personal.
* Angel gets full-on damselled. Last chance before he gets his own show and becomes a protagonist!
* Xander & Cordy are hanging out happily, no snark between them. It’s a genuine relief. Cordelia doesn’t even eyeroll at Xander’s unfathomably awful pullover.
* Xander starts the episode with half-serious joking about how he’s going to die so close to the end – when Whedon’s reputation as a character-killer solidifies in a few years, this kind of talk will make the audience very, very antsy.
* Xander also gets a nice low-key heroic moment, a sign they’re finally working out what to do with him – he’s obviously tempted by Anya’s offer of getting out of town, but instead he stays to help his friends. (Again, after Whedon’s rep solidifies, this kind of moment will make the audience prepare for disaster.)
* As with the last episode, Anya is fully herself and she continues to be fascinating. Her bluntness with Xander form a curious contrast with Cordelia – she makes the same kind of moves as Cordy, voicing thoughts that others would be too sensitive to say, but they play out completely differently. I think it’s because Cordelia was always concerned with status, whereas that couldn’t be furthest from Anya’s mind. The lack of status-threat also means Xander isn’t put on the defensive (helped, of course, by the character growth we have witnessed). It seems like a dynamic that has potential to be sparky and interesting, and also not be completely toxic.
* Oz & Willow do the sex.

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Judd Aye Linky

Ken Loach does Star Wars

(via Andrew Layden)

The heartwarming story of the pink R2 robot that will appear in the new Star Wars film.

And this was a very important mission for the stormtroopers (via Sam W)

Great video summary of the case for JarJar Binks as a hardcore evil Jedi (via the Alligator)

’tis the season for bemused articles about the Star Wars Holiday Special! Here’s the Guardian’s take (via Alastair G) and the AV Club’s. (It was actually a Thanksgiving special, but everyone associates it with Christmas these days, because that makes it funnier.)

Enough Star Wars. Here’s an exceptional piece by David Roberts explaining Trump and his crazy lies. Money quote:
“Republican billionaires and political operators have spent decades building a self-contained epistemic bubble in which they could pump up the right-wing base with fear and paranoia. Now the Frankenstein’s monster has lumbered off the table and crashed into the cocktail party.”

East/West cross-cultural differences depicted as pictograms. Lovely & insightful, simple images that communicate so much. The networking one!

Via Scott A: reflections by the woman who accidentally sent NZ into a Taytay frenzy.

Lovely New Yorker cover by Chris Ware that unfolds into a sumptuous story in the This American Life mold.

Everyone loves the rapping Pope.

The writer of Withnail & I has a new book giving his theory of Jack the Ripper’s identity. There’s no reason here to give his effort any more credence than the billion other theories, but the way he talks about it is just wonderful. I hope the book is in the same voice!

Dangerous Minds has a revelation – there was a Fast Times at Ridgemont High spinoff TV show! With both Cameron Crowe and Amy Heckerling involved! DM reckons it was pretty good – I wonder how it possibly could be, given the nature of 80s TV and type of movie they’re trying to adapt. All seven episodes are at the link, for now at least.

And finally, also via DM – it turns out “And so you do what they told ya” sounds, in Japanese, something like “Break the chicken nuggets, daddy”. And so:

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