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 20:27 on 30-05-2013, Dan H
Kit, I'm guessing some of Dan's excitement comes from the term's use in Call of Cthulhu to mean "book of ancient unspeakable knowledge and enormous magical power". But it's just a guess.


Cthulhu and just kind of cheap fantasy in general - the word "Tome" generally, as I understand it, gets used to mean "large, old book, often full of magic spells." I think I also like it because if we used the word for all serial fiction, then long, brick-thick fantasy series would be called things like: A Song of Ice and Fire - Tome One: A Game of Thrones which strikes me as rather fitting given how big, heavy and dense a lot of those books are.

As a librarian, I'm sort of blase about it.


You're just jaded because you're a professional Tome-keeper.
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at 20:22 on 30-05-2013, Kit
Oh, okay. Thanks for clarifying that! So I apparently fail at being a geek, not at understanding English (I can't decide which is or would be worse, actually).

@Andy: Yes, that was my first thought. On the other hand, stuff like "The Tudors" has been pretty popular in France lately, so I wonder if they are just trying to jump on the bandwagon or something. A quick Google search showed me that the book and the series were often cited together in articles - so it does seems like knowledge about that particular period is still mostly connected to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Henry Cavill in leather pants, or something. Kind of makes me want to apologize to you all on behalf of the French nation in general...
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at 19:49 on 30-05-2013, Shimmin
Kit, I'm guessing some of Dan's excitement comes from the term's use in Call of Cthulhu to mean "book of ancient unspeakable knowledge and enormous magical power". But it's just a guess.

As a librarian, I'm sort of blase about it.
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at 19:41 on 30-05-2013, Andy G
Maybe foreign historical fiction is a harder than usual sell? I'm guessing most people outside Britain wouldn't instantly know what to expect from buzzwords like "Tudors", "Henry VIII", "Booker Prize" and corresponding motifs so perhaps it needs to be laid on really really thick?
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at 18:18 on 30-05-2013, Kit
Agreed, it does looks good, but it just doesn't fit the book *at all* and I suspect that's due to some marketing decision about trying to make it more palatable to some imaginary target audience. Which makes me kind of sad. What actually bothers me most is the title and the faux drama it tries to create; I loved the original title because it was sparse, effective, interesting and had a kind of double meaning, but they tried to make it all mysterious and dramatic and apparently felt they had to shove the word "Tudor" in there to make really, really sure that the readers would know what it was about.

Now I wonder if I should check it out and see how they translated the actual book...but the prospect is a bit daunting.

Oh, really? Please do tell a non-native speaker why it is so exciting :)
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at 16:07 on 30-05-2013, Dan H
Okay, I clearly have terrible taste, because I've got to admit that I thought that looked *pretty awesome*.

Not, I confess, a good fit for Wolf Hall.

Also, I'm super excited to discover that the French word for books or volumes in a multi-volume series is apparently "Tome".
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at 14:52 on 30-05-2013, Kit
Oh, dear. I know that the ferretcast was kind of ambivalent about Wolf Hall through most of the first Text Factor, but I really loved it; I found the prose wonderful, the style intricate but still subtle, the characterisations incredibly affecting, and it just hit all the right spots for me and was a deeply and completely satisfying read.
That is probably why I am so pissed off by something really minor: I just walked past an advert for the french translation of Wolf Hall, and it looks horrible. They retitled it The Counsellor - Part 1: In the Shadow of the Tudors, and the cover depicts a hand ominously holding an ominous dagger, presumably behind the back of the body attached to said hand, surrounded by ominous shadows, and it's just...made of fail. I mean, I'm happy that it got translated at all (translations of good or important stuff, both fiction and nonfiction, is something which happens remarkably little in this country, and when it does, it is often late and/or bad - the french translations of Murakami are godawful, for example), but did they really need to make it sound and look like another historical novel about murder! intrigue! treason! people standing in shadows behind the king and manipulating everybody! instead of the subtle and interesting and wonderfully written character study this book actually is? It's not trashy or anything, but the dissonance is really jarring.
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at 10:37 on 28-05-2013, Shimmin
Thanks Cressida, those were pretty interesting.

I think it's hard to say with the superhero films I've seen recently, because most have at least some origin story in them (film-makers love origin stories) and those are typically dramatic. Even the Avengers, which features established heroes, is an origin story for the whole group.
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at 21:33 on 27-05-2013, Drew C
Highlights from the Crusader Kings 2 1.10 patch notes (according to PC Gamer anyway).

Dead sons should no longer participate in Family Feuds
Character 455520 is no longer female
Fixes to the marriages of Frederick Barbarossa
Added the bastards of Henry Beauclerc
Added King John’s missing children
Burgonde de Bachaumont is now properly female
Increased the chance of getting the inbred traits

Did make me chuckle but it's properly more funny out of context.
Full (and extensive) notes here
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at 22:55 on 26-05-2013, Cressida
Shimmin, don't worry, it didn't sound smug! But if you're interested in the subject, Laws has written several LJ posts expanding on the idea: http://robin-d-laws.livejournal.com/tag/iconic%20heroes As for where else I've been seeing the substitution, I think I first became aware of it when trying to express my frustration with some of the character rewriting in the movie versions of Lord of the Rings. Multiple iconic heroic characters in the book were dismissed as boring specifically because they weren't dramatic heroes; then they were promptly refashioned into dramatic heroes with IMVHO mixed success. For another example, I haven't been keeping up with most of the recent wave of Sherlock Holmes stuff, but from what I've seen and heard it seems like a similar transformation is at work there. And I wouldn't be surprised if the current crop of superhero movies is doing some of that as well, though someone who knows more about superheroes than I do can doubtless comment more on that speculation.
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at 22:32 on 26-05-2013, Shimmin
I don't read any LJs

That sounded less smug in my head. It's not like a policy or anything, I just don't.
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at 22:22 on 26-05-2013, Shimmin
(BTW, can I assume you've been reading Robin Laws' LJ if you're pondering these ideas?)

Close, but no cigar. I don't read any LJs, but I heard an interview with him on Jennisodes a few days back (it's from last year, I'm just slow).

I agree, it's a shame to exclude possibilities. Where else have you picked up that kind of pattern?
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at 22:10 on 26-05-2013, Cressida
Guy: I think that comment on complicity was in the review of "The Path." Also, to respond to Shimmin's original point, I think you're onto something. A lot of my recent annoyances with entertainment have been the insistence on eliminating iconic heroes and turning everybody into a dramatic hero. There should be room for both kinds. (BTW, can I assume you've been reading Robin Laws' LJ if you're pondering these ideas?)
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at 18:31 on 26-05-2013, Guy
I can't find it right now, but there's a comment somewhere on this website by, I believe, Dan, about games that "comment on the nature of complicity" in a certain rather overdone way... anyway, play this game. It is like that comment, but in game form.
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at 09:28 on 23-05-2013, Dan H
I've not really followed either old or new Who but from what I've seen I'd say there's a definite change from "the Doctor is a plot device, allowing us to explore different scenarios" to "the scenarios are plot devices allowing us to explore the Doctor."
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at 22:00 on 22-05-2013, Robinson L
I get the feeling I'm somewhat more positively inclined toward current Moffat than you are, Arthur (though I haven't viewed "The Name of the Doctor" yet, and I could easily see my goodwill towards him take a dive once again). However, I basically agree with everything you just said.
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at 19:48 on 22-05-2013, Arthur B
Oh, I'm definitely much more lukewarm on Moffat these days than I was at the start of his run, and I agree that Davies' series arcs were a bit more varied.

Moffat is at his least variable where he seems to be carrying forward and amplifying patterns which Davies set that aren't intrinsic to Who, but are becoming more and more intrinsic to New Who. There is a non-zero chance that Moffat has "I <3 Bad Wolf" tattooed on his bum.
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at 18:30 on 22-05-2013, Robinson L
Arthur: this is usually despite New Who's bad habits rather than because of them.

I'll mostly go along with that. I'd have to do a lot of thinking as to whether that argument holds across the board.

And I can't think of a single season-long plot arc which doesn't boil down to "it's all because of this season's main companion's intertwined destiny with the Doctor".

I think some of the Davies arcs may be debatable, but I agree that there's no clear-cut examples where that's not the case, and since Moffat took over, there isn't even room to question. In a way, I kind of admire the way he's able to churn out so many different variations on the same theme - on the other hand, I think it's long past time he discovered some new themes.
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at 15:44 on 22-05-2013, Arthur B
Oh, there's been good episodes of the New Who, but this is usually despite New Who's bad habits rather than because of them. And I can't think of a single season-long plot arc which doesn't boil down to "it's all because of this season's main companion's intertwined destiny with the Doctor".
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at 12:30 on 22-05-2013, Robinson L
@Arthur: I mostly concur, although it was only with this latest season that I began to suspect the writing team was trying to cram 3-4 episodes' worth of material into a single 45-minute episode. It was also with this season I realized just how many of the one-off monsters on the show are used as mirrors for the Doctor (which is not to say that it doesn't work ... some of the time).

Even so, I think the new series is capable of some quite brilliant storytelling, despite the self-referential/reverential quagmire. I don't blame anyone for finding the quagmire too thick to wade, but I don't think it makes the new show incapable of producing good storytelling, if that makes any sense.
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at 10:54 on 22-05-2013, Arthur B
The difference between Old Who and New Who, in iconic dialogue:

OLD WHO
DOCTOR: (Steps out of TARDIS.) Hi, I'm the Doctor and I'm here to help.
LOCAL: Who are you? Why should I trust you? And furthermore, wh-HUGHAHGHALGUGUGHG oh god i'm melting
(CLIFFHANGER HAPPENS, story spends 3-4 episodes on a slow boil before things get climactic)

NEW WHO
DOCTOR: (Steps out of TARDIS.) Hi, I'm the Doctor and I'm here to help.
LOCAL: Oh wow, the DOCTOR! I'm actually meeting the DOCTOR! This is the most amazing thing which could possibly ever happen to me.
(Story wraps up within 45 minutes, with the plot just rushed and incoherent enough to make the viewer suspect that the production team write three-hour Old Who-style stories and then shrink them down by utterly butchering the pacing.)

I mean, there's exceptions in both shows. Old Who would occasionally have the local be all like IT IS OUR AN-CI-ENT E-NE-MY THE DOC-TOOOOOR! EX-TER-MIN-ATE! New Who will occasionally have people be baffled about who the Doctor is, but will usually skip the step where he actually convinces them to trust him and just have them spontaneously start trusting him for no obvious reason because he's just that awesome.

But the fact is that in Old Who the major defining event of most bit-part characters lives is that their planet got invaded by the Daleks and the Doctor happened to save them, whereas in New Who the defining moment is THEY GOT TO MEET THE DOCTOR!!! oh and there might have been Daleks somewhere in the vicinity too. My instinct is to blame this on New Who being run by fanboys who are so absolutely giddy about being allowed to write Doctor Who they end up writing stories about how awesome Doctor Who (the show and the character) is. It's all become rather self-referential and self-reverential and drunk on its own past glories.
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at 08:29 on 22-05-2013, Shimmin
Passing thought: I was idly wondering whether some of the differences of opinion about Doctor Who, and especially Old/New Who, come down to dramatic vs. iconic heroes? So I think you could argue that Old Who is basically an iconic hero, and the series is about When Happens When The Doctor Encounters X, whereas New Who is much more of a dramatic hero with stories that tend to be more about The Doctor Experiences X. Except that I don't know the theory well enough to be sure.

I mean, personally speaking I stopped watching it because it started to feel like Eastenders in Space when I felt it should be like Sherlock Holmes.
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at 21:58 on 21-05-2013, Melanie
I just found this blog that writes delightfully sarcastic responses to bizarre questions written in to (unrelated) advice columns.

What kind of ignorant shitbag eats 'dinner' at night, indeed.
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at 21:49 on 21-05-2013, Arthur B
"Members of subculture based around literally looking like a clown on meth behave in a manner which lacks dignity" is not in any sense news.

That doesn't stop Juggalos of OKCupid from being hilarious.
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