Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 21:43 on 15-05-2012, Shimmin
Robinson: does it work by analyzing lyrics or melody?

Well, the source of my frustration was "Children" by Robert Miles, which has a fairly nondescript one-word title, a fairly obscure composer with a nondescript name, and is entirely instrumental. At this point you might see why I was flummoxed. So I can safely say that it handles melody, whether it cares about lyrics I dunno. I'm at least a competent singer so how good it is I can't say.

Going off on a brief tangent: it's entirely possible it analyses the lyrics, since I know spectrographic phonetic analysis can pull apart speech into component sounds, so you could match for phonetic patterns. On the other hand I suspect interpersonal deviation might make this really ineffective, especially as they're going for a global audience. GW Bush vs. QE2 vs. Angela Merkel singing "Penny Lane" will sound pretty different, and none of them will sound like the Beatles. So harmonic patterns are more likely to work, even if people sing at different pitches. But I'm really not an expert.
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at 20:36 on 15-05-2012, Robinson L
Shimmin: Midomi which lets you sing into a mike and compares it to crowdsourced renditions. To my surprise it actually worked

Interesting. I don't really use my mic - probably just as well - but for curiosity's sake, does it work by analyzing lyrics or melody? Because I can remember several occasions where I've been trying to recall a song, and only gotten memorable orchestral flourishes. On the other hand, I couldn't carry a tune in a barrel of wet cement, so trying to recognize a melody from my vocalizations is likely to be a losing prospect.

Michal: A science fiction novel about evil environmentalists who have taken over the world and our oil-guzzling heroes must rise against them.

That sounds hilarious.
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at 18:30 on 15-05-2012, Michal
Oh man, I saw the worst self-published book at the used bookstore yesterday (I have the feeling that the author himself might've dropped it off). A science fiction novel about evil environmentalists who have taken over the world and our oil-guzzling heroes must rise against them. I'm still chuckling at the idea that ENVIRONMENTALISTS HAVE CONQUERED THE WORLD. Somehow.
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at 07:20 on 15-05-2012, Adrienne
Apropos of nothing at all, i hate my industry sometimes: https://adventuresandjapes.wordpress.com/2012/04/17/dell-and-sexism/
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at 02:35 on 15-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Ooookay, new rule for any future playthroughs of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat:

Only venture outside between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM. NO EXCEPTIONS.
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at 01:38 on 15-05-2012, James D
Right now, I'm thinking it's gonna turn out that the monster is a bloodsucker and it tears all their faces off. Either that or a controller.

I'm hoping for a chimera.
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at 01:06 on 15-05-2012, Frank
Maybe the Paranomal Acitivity guy is updating the Baba Yaga tale.
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at 00:55 on 15-05-2012, Frank
I've only read Fun Home. It portrays lesbians decently, obvs; but it seemed that gay men (two maybe?) were less decent. But that read was five years ago so perhaps I'm misremembering or putting my own baggage into it. Anyway, it's a typical grahpic memoir --or is it memoir graphic novel--of the 4 or 5 I've read published in the 2000s. Your mileage may vary.
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at 00:38 on 15-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
The guy who came up with Paranormal Activity has done a little sightseeing in East-Eastern Europe.

Right now, I'm thinking it's gonna turn out that the monster is a bloodsucker and it tears all their faces off. Either that or a controller. (Mind you, given how the movie's is set right in the middle of Pripyat proper, there's also a pretty good chance they're going to get kicked to death by angry snorks while about thirty Monolith snipers point and laugh.)

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you are terrible.
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at 22:08 on 14-05-2012, Ibmiller
Just out of curiosity, has anyone here read Alison Bechdel's Fun Home or Are You My Mother?
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at 17:13 on 14-05-2012, James D
Nah, I'm sure we'll get something else, unless he keels over first. Wasn't there a part about how in order to lift Latro's curse, he'd need to get the original god who cursed him to do it? I'd imagine that would involve some sort of explanation, cryptic though it will undoubtedly be.
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at 14:28 on 14-05-2012, Arthur B
Since it is Gene Wolfe it is very possible "battle on temple stairs" is all the clue we get. :)
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at 13:36 on 14-05-2012, James D
It's been years for me too. I remember it was during a battle on some temple stairs, so that seems reasonable, but it's Gene Wolfe so who knows?
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at 08:27 on 14-05-2012, Arthur B
As to how they're portrayed in modern fiction, Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Sidon series features both pantheons, and while the Egyptian gods are definitely more standoffish, neither really comes off as the bigger assholes. It was the Greek gods that punished Latro with the recurring memory loss, but then we don't really know what he did to deserve it yet (Gene Wolfe better not die before he finishes the series...).

It's been a while since I read the books but isn't it heavily implied it's something to do with him desecrating a temple during a battle?
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at 04:46 on 14-05-2012, James D
I don't know about assholish, but as to the being more standoffish at least, isn't that how the Egyptian gods were portrayed in the myths themselves? The Greek gods were lustful and interacted with people on a personal level all the time in the myths, whereas most of the Egyptian myths I remember were mostly about gods interacting with other gods. I'd say the Greek gods were overall bigger assholes, though, given that they had a tendency to mete out absurd punishments to people for one-upping them (or even trying to one-up them) all the time. The Egyptian gods seemed to operate on a larger scale, with less concern for individuals.

As to how they're portrayed in modern fiction, Gene Wolfe's Soldier of Sidon series features both pantheons, and while the Egyptian gods are definitely more standoffish, neither really comes off as the bigger assholes. It was the Greek gods that punished Latro with the recurring memory loss, but then we don't really know what he did to deserve it yet (Gene Wolfe better not die before he finishes the series...).

So, to answer your question, the modern fiction I've read that deals with Greek and Egyptian gods bears up some of your observations, but not all.
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at 03:55 on 14-05-2012, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Started reading some Roger Zelazny and a question arose: Is it just me, or is the Egyptian pantheon generally portrayed in modern fiction as more standoffish, indifferently cruel, and overall more assholish than the classical Greek pantheon?
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at 18:41 on 13-05-2012, Shimmin
Last night, after a long frustrating attempt to track down an old bit of music, I found Midomi which lets you sing into a mike and compares it to crowdsourced renditions. To my surprise it actually worked - the future is here! Where's my hoverbike?
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at 06:07 on 12-05-2012, Adrienne
Michal -- Huh. I just decided to read it (yesterday) and quite enjoyed it. It does fail to be LeGuin, but then, everyone does. It has some quite interesting stuff going on, i thought.
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at 02:47 on 12-05-2012, Michal
My initial goodwill to Embassytown has cooled considerably. 345 pages or no, I wasn't able to finish it. I'll sum up my reason for quitting thusly: "Mieville tries to be Ursula K. Le Guin and fails."
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at 19:59 on 11-05-2012, James D
Surely you can recognize that it's very problematic that male and female suffering are handled very differently?

Sure, I recognize it, and you're right, of course. I didn't mean what I wrote to come off as apologetics, I was just trying to explore her reasoning. If I had been one of Lee's readers during the writing process I would probably have told her to throw the whole "lesbian warrior queen gets raped" idea out. Besides all of the problematic stuff you mentioned, it doesn't even seem to really resolve into anything; as soon as she ends up in the land of the dead, Narasen more or less fades totally into the background, making her whole character seem to have been invented for the sole purpose of building a supernatural backstory for her daughter. Having her get raped countless times seems like a really heavy thing to just throw around as a minor detail in what essentially amounts to another character's origin story.
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at 19:31 on 11-05-2012, valse de la lune
A theme in the series seems to be that mortals have to suffer to acquire supernatural power, and more suffering = more power and vice versa (like the wizard in the first book who's trapped on that tiny island for decades and ends up going insane and getting so powerful he threatens existence itself), so in order for the queen to become as powerful as one of the lords she'd have to suffer an awful lot...so I guess being coerced into letting men rape her (if that makes sense) is the worst kind of suffering Tanith Lee could think of for this powerful lesbian warrior queen.


Surely you can recognize that it's very problematic that male and female suffering are handled very differently? Compare and contrast being isolated on an island to being a lesbian who gets raped by men repeatedly. This isn't exactly something that requires a PhD in Grand Poobah Feminism Discourse. This is entry-level stuff.

Well, you could look at it that way, but the way I saw it was that Uhlume was basically a big angsty whiny wimp, which made it really easy for her to take his rather undeserved power away from him as he moped around the Earth being emo.


This is also entry-level stuff. Try again.
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at 19:31 on 11-05-2012, Arthur B
Pretty much the only woman in this book who breaks through this soft-sweet-fickle stereotype is... er... the lesbian queen whose attempted rapist curses her into being raped by other men.

Ah, now that part I remember reading and thinking "Wow, that was jarringly and needlessly grim."
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at 19:10 on 11-05-2012, James D
Fair enough, as I said it's been years since I read it and I'd actually forgotten about the whole gender fluidity part. Even aside from the gender stuff, I think the second book is the definite low point of the first three, and it took the most effort for me to get through. Mopey, angsty Uhlume is definitely the least interesting of the first three lords, with Azhrarn and Chuz being much more compelling.

Pretty much the only woman in this book who breaks through this soft-sweet-fickle stereotype is... er... the lesbian queen whose attempted rapist curses her into being raped by other men. Awesome.

Isn't that the whole point of curses, though? This wizard tries to rape her, she handily dispatches him, so as he's dying he thinks of some sort of fucked-up ironic revenge to take on her via a curse. I mean yeah, you could certainly question why that whole bit was necessary in the first place. A theme in the series seems to be that mortals have to suffer to acquire supernatural power, and more suffering = more power and vice versa (like the wizard in the first book who's trapped on that tiny island for decades and ends up going insane and getting so powerful he threatens existence itself), so in order for the queen to become as powerful as one of the lords she'd have to suffer an awful lot...so I guess being coerced into letting men rape her (if that makes sense) is the worst kind of suffering Tanith Lee could think of for this powerful lesbian warrior queen.

I'm not saying it's good or right, mind you, I just think that's what Lee's reasoning was for writing it.

That she takes over Uhlume's place doesn't matter; he doesn't enjoy the office and he essentially allows her to do it, so we have a situation where a woman seizes power but only because a man lets her.

Well, you could look at it that way, but the way I saw it was that Uhlume was basically a big angsty whiny wimp, which made it really easy for her to take his rather undeserved power away from him as he moped around the Earth being emo.
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at 18:50 on 11-05-2012, valse de la lune
here's the main character who can shift from one gender to the other freely. It's telling that when Simmu goes around deflowering virgins and conquering a city zie does it as a man (hard! muscled! decisive!); when Simmu makes love to zir true love Zhirem it is as a woman (meek, sweet, yielding). Kassafeh and Lylas are fickle, treacherous girls; the latter quickly shifts her loyalty to Narasen (despite having helped in poisoning the same). Simmu's gender fluidity isn't so much about being genderqueer or trans as--

Triggered by the stimulus of the eight virgins and their dance, Simmu's masculinity almost instantly attempted to assert itself in vehement spasms.

And then zir body turns male, of course, with a raging hard-on. Pretty much the only woman in this book who breaks through this soft-sweet-fickle stereotype is... er... the lesbian queen whose attempted rapist curses her into being raped by other men. Awesome. That she takes over Uhlume's place doesn't matter; he doesn't enjoy the office and he essentially allows her to do it, so we have a situation where a woman seizes power but only because a man lets her.

It's right out of Jack fucking Vance, inheriting all the shittiness of sword and sorcery and reproducing it verbatim. No thank you. Lee isn't Vance obviously, and she went on to write things that weren't so fucked up, but the Flat Earth and Birthgrave books were a low point as far as gender politics go. And I say this having enjoyed all three Flat Earth books that I read. The female protagonist of Delirium's Mistress ends up reincarnating as the anthromorphic personification of love, by the way, because you know: girly stuff that's for girls.
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