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.
Aside from the ape-man super soldiers that sounds exactly like every other Matt Reilly book.
Well, 'slim volume' threw me off a bit. Usually his books have to be massive in order to fit in all the exclamation marks. Google suggests it was his novella Hell Island.
Which I now want to read.
"If the FDP fares badly" - Heh, that's not really an "if" anymore. They had 14,6% in the last federal election which is why they are part of the government coalition. In the polls right now, they're at barely 5%. It was the banking crisis that broke them. Well, that and their inherent incompetence and penchance to put their foot in their mouth as publically as possible. (They're not evil/racist/science-denying the way the US Republicans present themselves. They used to be the party of small business owners and the middle class. Their long-time leader until recently even was the highest-profile outed gay politician we have, and their current leader is a Vietnamese-born guy who was adopted as a baby (which makes him by far the most high level POC in the very white German politics). But they've turned into complete corporate shills over the last decade or two, and the younger generation of politicians - who are in positions of power now - mostly studied 'prestige' stuff like business law or management, so they don't really have a clue about economics or social issues or international politics or modern technology. And the last few years have seen these people in high-profile positions where they could make their incompetence abundantly clear - like our current foreign minister, who didn't get the job for his skills or personality (he famously refused to answer press questions posed in English) but because the position always goes to the leader of the junior partner in the government coalition.) I don't think they'll really drop out of parliament entirely. The CDU will send their own party members to vote for the FDP to keep them around, if push comes to shove. Because even if they collectively don't get enough votes to make a majority and keep the current government coalition going, the FDP will vote with the CDU on most issues, so if they get only 4% and don't get any seats at all as a result, that's 4% wasted for the CDU's side.
At the moment, the polls look really close. SPD (labour - at least in theory...) and the Greens together will get about the same amount of seats as the CDU, maybe slightly less (depending on which polling institute you ask). If the FDP makes the cut, the centre-right parties will have about 44-45% total (they have 48,4% now). The centre-left parties (SPD and Greens) will get about 35%, so no chance of an actual switch in who's chancellor. (Well, if the FDP doesn't make it, and the polls didn't catch a lot of the young Green voters, it might happen, but it's unlikely.) BUT there's also the extreme left-wing "The Left" to recon with - they've lost a bit from last time, but they'll still get about 9-10%. Last time, this didn't matter, because the whole left block had only 45,6% taken together. They'll probably get that result again (it's just some vote-reshuffling from the Left to the SPD), but since the right block doesn't get much more than that either, a right-block government might actually not have a majority in parliament. But even if the whole left block gets a slight majority, they won't form a government coalition, because the SPD refuses to form a coalition with the Left, due to old grievances. (The older,most powerful generation of the Left are still partly made up of people who were with the GDR monopoly party. They were the only party who refused to endorse our current non-party-member president, who was a member of the resistance in the GDR and, after the Reunification, head of the agency prosecuting Stasi members for crimes against humanity... And also, a few years back, a whole contingent of leftist hardliners split off from the SPD in disgust at their anti-labour actions while in government, and merged with the East German PDS to form the Left.)
What I want to see is a coalition made up of CDU and the Greens (the former because they are the only ones with a clue about the economy, the latter to keep the former in check about ecological and social issues). But it's probably not going to happen. The Greens may have 'sold out' quite a lot, but their base still sees the CDU as the traditional "big business" enemy. Still, Merkel personally seems to sympathise with some Green issues. (It's really weird. Nobody really knows why she did such a sudden 180° on the issue of nuclear energy in 2011, switching off half the plants in a matter of weeks after wanting to lengthen their allowed running time before the Fukishima disaster. She has a PhD in quantum physics, but that could really go both ways. And even if it was a cynical decisions to follow the public mood, she just had to go back and reestablish the original running times, not switch the plants off completely. So the only explanation I can come up with is that she personally doesn't want nuclear energy, and used the crisis to push her personal opinion through in a hurry against the general opinion of her party.) And the Greens have gone against their base before. (Agreeing to send troops to Afghanistan (or Kosovo - I don't remember right now) the last time they were in the government, which led to a mass exodus of party members, because they were originally founded on a anti-Nazi/anti-nuclear/pacifist hippie-like movement in the late 1960s. Sending troops into battle is connected to anti-Nazi movements in Germany, because using our army to engage in a war in other countries is technically unconstitutional unless it's in self-defense - I always laugh when US politicians complain about the fact that the German government refuses to take part in their wars, because it was US politicians who gave us that constitution in the first place.) So they might swallow their pride and sleep with the enemy, if it means they'll get out of the opposition and into power. I don't see what you mean about the Greens having problems, by the way. Granted, I don't watch the news (to avoid propaganda), so might have missed some personal scandal or smear campaign, but their poll numbers these last few days have been basically the same as during the last federal election. Maybe they'll even get 1% more. But even just keeping their 10-11% would be a success, because last election was the first time ever they made it into the double digits. They used to have a few points more in the polls when the FDP crashed, but that was mainly just people making their displeasure clear in the polls to give a warning to the CDU, same as with the Pirates. (Basically, the poll votes and some local state election seats back in 2011/2012 got redistributed from the FDP to the Greens and the Pirates, but now the actual federal election votes will be distributed more between the CDU and the SPD.) Also, the Greens had a big temporary boost because of Fukushima, but Merkel took the wind from their sails by throwing her own weight behind the anti-nuclear agenda.
But other than black-green, a grand coalition (CDU and SPD) is really the only viable option. Sadly that would mean my percentage-vote will be completely inconsequential. Giving it to the Pirates wouldn't do anything at the moment (they have enough votes to get tax-payed campaign funding for next time, but not nearly enough to make the 5% cut), so I want to give it to the Greens, because the energy transition is one topic I actually understand and can make an informed decision about (as opposed to labour issues, for example). And while no serious party is suicidal enough to actually say out loud that they want to go back on that renewable energy transition (No matter what the international press and the big industry propaganda on the English website of "Der Spiegel" might tell you, the transition is working and the population by and large stands behind it.), the CDU and FDP have been whittling at the edges. (Their decision to exempt 250% more of the industry from the renewables surcharge than was originally planned is what really drove up the electricity prices for private consumers, not the surcharge in itself. (Well, that and rapidly rising fossil fuel prices, so the renewables have actually prevented worse.) Despite that, the CDU minister of environment wanted to lower the surcharge this year and therefore the payments to people who put solar on their roofs. He didn't get that through parliament / past the chancellor - but that he had the nerve to float that idea at all, that the government would be willing to just break those 20-year-contracts, probably discouraged some people.) So, a strong Green party would be good, even in the opposition. If the CDU needs them to vote on their side on other issues in order to get a secure majority, they could bargain for concessions in the environmental area. However, if a grand coalition is formed, they would have an absolute majority (over 60%) and wouldn't need to listen to the Greens or Left at all for the next 4 years. The SPD was the senior partner in the government that introduced the laws the whole renewable transition is based on, but they're not what you'd call hardliners on any ecological issue. And if the SPD decides to shill for big business again like the last time they were in power (they're the ones who cut welfare and unemployment insurance) or send troops to Syria the way they did to Afghanistan, there would be no-one to stop them.
As for the Hartz reforms (which were the idea of an SPD government, not by the CDU), I really can't talk about that in any detail, because I was too young to really pay attention at the time. My mother says they were a bad idea. And yes, we only have such low unemployment numbers right now because a lot of people were forced into undignified part-time jobs (the pay is undignified - as low as 1 Euro per hour - not necessarily the work, though that is often depressingly pointless) and have to be supported by the state anyway, and because companies were allowed to shift more to hiring temp workers and part time workers, thereby lowering the overall money available for social security payments. (And those part time jobs often don't pay a living wage - which is why the more extreme left-wing parties like the Pirates are calling for a guaranteed basic income for everybody, or at least a minimum wage.) Also, the wages here haven't risen in over a decade, so most people have got effectively poorer (because of price inflation) and the wealth-gap is widening. But on the other hand, I've read articles by analysts stating that this painful cut was necessary, and that we're only weathering the current economic crisis comperatively well because we had our crisis back when those changes were made. So I really don't know. I just know that there's no chance of getting a government who would do a major change in direction in this regard anytime soon, because both the big centre parties stand behind these social security cuts.
The Pirates in Germany are chaotic, too. They're majorly young, idealistic people with a lot of big ideas and no real clue how politics work. And group consensus and contributions from the base are what their whole world view is based around, so no decision is ever made quickly. But, you know, the Greens started that way, too, and eventually they got a lot of what they wanted. Every generation needs its party and you've got to start somewhere. The Greens may still be not the party you'd want to make decisions about the economy or pensions or whatever, but they're great to have as a force to recon with in the opposition with just enough seats to tip the scales, so they can force the ruling party to make a deal with them. Similar with the Left - I agree with a lot of their grass-roots base, but I wouldn't vote for the people at the top. The Pirates seem to pool the technocrats, the people who got frustrated with the Greens becoming more conservative as their major players age, the people who want to vote more left than the SPD but refuse to vote for the Left on historic grounds, and the young formerly unpolitical people who now see a chance of getting actual representation. (Some of the Pirates candidates are still in their mid-20s, and as a party, they want things like a mechanism to make it easier for ordinary people to introduce law proposals into parliament.) They started their campaigning on internet issues and copyright law some years ago, and that's still their most public issue because they don't have the funding to do big campaigns and don't get invited to important interviews, but by now they seem to have agreed on an opinion on most basic issues. (I just looked up with which block they would vote on energy issues - with the Greens - and their social issues platform basically looks like "if Tumblr activists were a political party". It's completely idealist and unfeasible, of course, but they clearly mean well and I admire the guts to publically take such an extremely progressive position.) A year or two ago, when they surprisingly went from no seats to 12 seats in the Berlin city state election (even the Pirates themselves hadn't expected that - they didn't actually have more than 12 people to fill those seats), they were criticised on the basis that almost all those representatives were male. Right now, most of their federal MP candidates in Berlin are female, and about 70% of their campaign posters have female faces, too. So they are trying to get their shit together. (Though they're still seriously lacking in racial diversity, so their pro-immigration attitude is just that of well-meaning allies.) They certainly seem to have struck a chord with the youngest generation. In under-18 polls, they get over 10%. So if they can keep that base until the next election, when those teenagers will be allowed to vote, they might really have a chance. Until then, I hope they can keep the internal squabbling down enough to get into a few more local governments, so that they can get some experience under their belt and gain more publicity and funding.
As for the NPD - they are more an embarrassment than anything else on the federal level. But they do occasionally get a seat in local municipal elections, especially in my Eastern state of Brandenburg. I hope that most of that is just a combination of frustration (we still have much higher unemployment levels than the West) and general ignorance. (For example the Euro issue - people see that tax money goes to Greece and get angry, but they don't understand that our whole economy is based on export so we need to prop up our potential markets. Also, if we still had the 'harder' Deutsche Mark, the currency conversion would be way to expensive for most of the world to afford our goods. So, against intuitive reasoning, our economy depends on keeping the comparatively weak Euro.)
But still, even if open racism would scare off those voters, I don't think these kinds of slogans should be displayed in the streets where impressionable kids can read and internalise them. That's the point of propaganda, after all: These things sink in if repeated often enough, even if they are blatant lies. Because a lot of people are too young or ignorant or lazy to check their veracity. (I'm sure many teenagers here don't even know what "Sinti and Roma" means, never mind knowing anyone from those groups personally. And it's been nearly 20 years since the last big wave of hate crimes - burning down asylum's seeker hostels - so young voters wouldn't remember why that sort of thing has to be nipped in the bud.) They just think that "they've got a point" on some issues that piss them off with the major parties, and ignore the more disturbing parts of the party platform. I think that's why the constitutional court still tries to outlaw the Party every other year, even though they never managed to do it. It's probably mostly just to keep them in the newspapers and remind everyone "these guys are basically Nazis, not a respectable option to make your grievances known". I mean, that's how the NSDAP started, too - with undereducated workers frustrated and scared because of the Depression and hyperinflation. (The name means "National-Socialist German Party of Workers", and remember that these guys turned out to be extremely anti-communist, too. So it was about co-opting the anger of the working class.)
@Robinson: I'll answer you later. Gotta make a grocery run before the shops close or it starts raining again.
Also, I saw a raccoon this evening. I now have proof that there is such a thing as a living raccoon.
Arthur: The Escapist appears in my dictionary to illustrate "hit and miss", but ahahahaha, they're going to get so much complaining and crying about this.
Well, that was ... something. I was laughing (and wincing) along with it until they got to "Zimmerman Mode" and then ... hmm; it's certainly dark, but I can't tell if it's in a mostly good or a kind of not-okay way.
@Cheriola: I think one advantage I have over Clare is never having been all that much of a Potter fan to begin with, let alone now. But I do find the framework helps me think out some of this stuff, even if I'd have to ditch it when writing the actual story.
On which note, at this point I have probably about half of what I would need to go from the scenario you've put forward to an actual story I can write. I don't know what the other half is, but it could take me years to find (and at current rate, more years to write and re-write once I've got it); just so you know.
Consequently, it's hard to know what genre the story would go in. Perhaps secondary world fantasy, perhaps contemporary fantasy, perhaps sci-fi. With sci-fi, I could have the twins implanted by IVF, which would smooth out one issue - and if I push the timeline forward just enough, I could have them grown in an artificial womb, which would allow me to dial down the Luna character's enthusiasm for the project without getting into any messy issues of "why is she going through with it then?" (which I don't want to get into unless I have something specific I want to say on the topic); and that way I wouldn't have to dream up a whole different societal framework to explain people's attitudes towards, say, homosexuality, asexuality, poly romance, and all the rest.
Failing the artificial womb, I'm imagining the conversation going something like this:
Salamander character: Hey, you know, I was thinking. Y'see, I'd kinda like to have kids ...
Luna character: Oh, yeah, sure, I'd be up for that. Kids are okay, so long as you don't feed them carrots before the age of three - if you do, they'll turn into greflings. Say, now that I think about it *goes off into extended daydream about growing the perfect lab assistant*
And since I've been listening to the TeXt Factor Season 2 recently, I'm growing increasingly enamored of the idea that she wouldn't be that good of a mother, on account of viewing them more as future assistants than as autonomous human beings in general and children specifically, and also on account of being generally a bit balmy.
As for the other stuff, I'm sure I can work something out (I do want to work with genderqueer characters at some point, though the issues surrounding trans people in the comic you linked are also firmly in my area of interest). Mostly, I think it'll be an issue of finding a good selection of variously queer, ace, aro, whatever other marginalized subjecthoods I'm dealing with, people to give the story a look over once written and make sure I didn't inadvertently fill it with fail.
But as I said, that's probably still a couple of years down the line. Should make for a good story at some point, though.
Fascinating political discussion as well. I admit I'm horribly ignorant of the political situation in most countries apart from the US (where I'm from) and the UK (where I lived for most of the past year) - in both of which places the electoral politics are so bad that I haven't got the heart to check out what's going on anywhere else.
That said, I have voted even in federal and national elections back home, for whatever measly
(And for the record, I do find the inter- and intra-party wrangling a fun spectator sport, even if I generally deplore the results.)
I feel that the problem here (in Finland, that is) with the Pirate party and in part with the Greens is that they have been unable to broaden their politics out of the few issues they are associated with and that quite often they might gather people of quite differing political beliefs in for example the economy under the same umbrella, which down the road leads to issues of vagueness and contradictions in party policy.
Like here the Greens are formed of anti-authority activists(the young ones that are not entirely apathetic or not with the pirates) a portion of the old communists(those that aren't in the Left Alliance) some old school hard line ecological activists(Pentti Linkola is not a member, but his influence is clear) and then technocrats, who tend to be more of a moderate middle in the political spectrum. Obviously this has been a problem at times, with the right claiming they are red-green and the left claiming that they are a support party for the right. I don't really know what I'm trying to argue here, but I thought I'd share...
It's just that the election is next weekend, and I'm planning to participate for the first time, so I'm a little excited and up to my neck in long-overdue self-education.
No, I'm not so young that I wasn't allowed to vote before. But as there's really not that much difference between the two big centre parties anymore, and all the established parties tend to break their election promises with impunity, I just didn't see the point. But this time, there's a real chance to kick the neo-liberals (ultra capitalist libertarians) out of the government coalition and maybe even out of parliament entirely, so I want to do my thing to increase the overall vote count, so their percentage will be lowered. Also, the Pirate party (young socialists concerned with government transparency, internet laws and information privacy of citizens) really made a splash in 2011 because people protest-voted them into several local state governments after the threat of ACTA (which is why our conservative/capitalist government didn't sign - they didn't want people to protest-vote for them again now). And while their numbers in the polls have sadly dwindled again to a point where they most likely won't make the 5% cut-off for the federal election, I do want to show some moral support. The MP candidate they put forth in my area is a very enthusiastic professional feminist (she has a company that gives advice to women in management trying to break the glass ceiling) who originally was with the Greens and who is married to one of the more prominent guys involved in WikiLeaks. She has no chance in hell of ever becoming direct-voted MP while being with the Pirates, but I'm thinking that if she gets more support from her area than other people in her unfortunately still rather male-dominated party, she might have a better chance to get bumped up to the first spot on the list of people to fill percentage seats if they make it into parliament the next time. (She tried to get that spot this time, too, but is only listed as number 2.)
So, sorry if I'm a bit touchy about the way the anglophone world treats the world wars, particularly in FPS games. (TV shows about the French Resistance or something like that at least mostly have the decency to make the villains the more volunteering and ideologically war-supporting SS troops.)
Here's the E3 trailer, and we've got Hitler mysteriously regaining is youthful good looks after nuking Manhattan, mechs, Abteistrasse, and what appears to be Nazi Margaret Thatcher. Looks like fun!
What's this, a bit of gameplay? Well, looks like we'll get...bloody mutilation...execution of the mentally handicapped...graphic allusions to the extermination camps and to experimentation on prisoners.
Well, looks my my decision to stop caring about gaming as a medium has proven to be the correct one yet again.
And then I thought: Who's available who'd be about the right age? And Teddy Lupin's metamorphmagus talent makes him ideal for a genderqueer interpretation.
Bryn might help you with a genderqueer-maab character. Or alternatively, it could be a trans guy, which probably would make the research a bit easier (there are plenty of people like that on tumblr). And you could adress this kind of issue.
Of course you'd have to change quite a lot to avoid having the same transparent expy character roster as Cassandra Clare... I was just spinning my interpretation out for Fin's benefit.
Hm... The ages of the characters aren't really important. I guess "aspy research student meets other, ace research student during an expedition, and then the gay son/grandson of their very traditionally-minded professor" is vague enough to work in various settings and genres. Though some of the heir/inheritance issues and upper class values (nannies, boarding school) kind of require at least a remnant of aristocracy. And the need for a justifying reason why the woman thinks she should reproduce even if she's not really interested in a traditional relationship does call for a rare supernatural talent or something like that. (Please don't make the woman the only one in this arrangement who really wants the kids, or make her 'give' the kids to one of the men just because he wants/needs them. Agreeing to give birth solely in return for financial support is kind of problematic, too.) Then again, alternative family structures and queer issues are always easier in scifi, where you can pretend that social backlash isn't so much of an issue anymore and that people will be left to live their lives as they see fit. Though I've seen high fantasy settings with a very LGB-accepting society, too. ("Sing the Four Quarters", the Nightrunner series)
What genre were you thinking of?
Cheriola: I've got one more
I can try to work in most of that stuff too, though if trying to write an aro-ace character doesn't tax my abilities enough, I'm going to have to work really hard to depict a genderless character in a way that doesn't stray into serious fail territory. Then again, I take all that as part of my responsibility as a writer anyway, so there you are.
Of course, it'll also lose something by stripping off all the Potter-related backstory, but even then I think the scenario has a lot of promise to it.
I've got one more: When the twins were old enough to enter Hogwarts, Salamander (while still married to Luna) actually had a serious romantic relationship going with Quicksilver (born Edward / "Teddy") Lupin, who would be about 30 at that time, if Luna gave birth at about 38. Quicksilver identifies as genderless and thanks to zir maternally inherited Metamorphmagus talent, ze actually manages to present as such most of the time. Nonetheless, ze and Salamander fit together romantically - and, well, ze can still manifest any necessary 'equipment' that Salamander might need to respond to zir sexually.
According to the Potter Wiki I just looked at, Teddy Lupin is supposed to have a budding relationship with Victoire Weasley. But that happens when he's 19 and she's about 16 and for people outside of kid's books, lifetime relationships normally aren't based on high school crushes. Plus, she's part Vela, so any sexual attraction to her doesn't really mean anything. If you want, she could be a lesbian, and just tragically think that, as the daughter of Fleur Delacour, she can't possibly 'deprive' the male population of herself. And in any case, who is totally sure of their sexual identity at 16? Most of the genderqueer people I know have arrived at that realisation only in college, as well. So Quicksilver not yet being 'out' while barely out of high school and still living with zir grandmother (an apparently very square woman whom zir mother already rebelled against) doesn't mean ze can't be genderqueer. Or pansexual.
I particularly like aro-ace Charlie. <3
I thought it was canon that Charlie doesn't have a girlfriend because he finds dragons far more interesting?
Come to think of it, an aro-ace Luna would work pretty well, too. But due to her weirdness and unfortunate stereotypes about asexual people, I'd rather see her as hetero and just trying to ignore any crushes she might have, because her research is so much more important and she doesn't have time for dating. (Luna's a Ravenclaw, right?)
(*Not that there's anything inherently wrong with which are considered "normal" - it's the normativity I object to.)
(Or were you being serious?)
Cherioloa: Someone help me.
... Oh god, I think I may now have to write that story (though as an original, not Potter fanfic). If I do, I will of course contact you to sort out idea credit before seeking publication.
I'd watch that. At least until the scene with the cockatrice. Then I'd just turn to stone.
Sad nerd fact. My immediate response to this was: "Wouldn't you go down to the death-gaze of the Catoblepas first."
Seven sadder nerd fact. I then went to "and actually the Banshee has a pretty nasty death wail too" and then to "thinking about it, I wonder what the alphabetically first instadeath in the Monstrous Manual is".
As long as you count mental domination as instadeath, then the answer is "the Aboleth, which is the second entry in the book."
[Edited to add] A Monstrous Manual movie that stuck to strict book order would be *fantastic*. You'd have the story of a young Aaracockra whose village was wiped out by an evil Aboleth, but who escapes into wilds where they are rescued from, an Ankheg by a kindly Arcane, who then falls protecting them from an Argos. Then they can flee from an Aurumvorax and be forced to strike a terrible bargain with the Baatezu in order to protect themselves from a Banshee, then hide from a Basilisk in a cave full of Bats, Bears and Beetles where they follow a Behir down a tunnel to the land of the Beholders...
Also, the titles would be excellent. The Monstrous Manual, Part One, A-G