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 02:52 on 25-06-2014, Ibmiller
@Robinson - Yeah, sorry I was unable to help with that.

I like a good newsie hat. And bowlers. And top hats. I do think fedoras have an air of pretentiousness that bothers me. That being said, they do have a certain stylishness.

The Disposessed is amazing. I do really enjoy parts of the Earthsea series, and haven't gotten to Left Hand yet, but Dispossessed is good enough that it catapults her to top tier for me.
at 00:54 on 25-06-2014, Michal
I wore a fedora for a couple of years whenever I went out in the rain. I had initially bought it for a 1930s adventurer's costume. I lost it a few years ago. Didn't get a new one. I agree that it's a nice hat.

Fedoras never really had negative associations for me until I found out J*hn C. Wr!ght had one. All my resentment was reserved for berets--when I was an undergrad, I never met someone who wore a beret who wasn't completely insufferable. (See also: fixies)
at 22:02 on 24-06-2014, Robinson L
@Ibmiller: Thanks for the recommendation. I'm looking specifically for stuff relating to the Wedding of Sir Gawain story, though, so I'm not sure how helpful that would be.

And yeah, but it's apparently becoming a truism on the internet that the Venn diagram of men who are assholes and men who wear fedoras has a massive overlap. I've only seen this second-hand, so I couldn't tell you how or why this association has come to be.

@Axiomatic: I wasn't massively taken with Mists of Avalon, and while I don't dislike any of Le Guin's books that I've read (except The Left Hand of Darkness), the only one I'd say I really like is The Dispossessed; so I guess I'm not at that far of a remove from you myself.
at 21:47 on 24-06-2014, Tamara
Re Mist of Avalon - I remember thinking it was more or less ok (I was like 13 when I read it,) but I just took an Arthurian class, and there were some really strong (positive, that is) feelings about it. Like, really strong, (and the prof mentioned that every arthurian class he'd ever taught had it's contingent of people with an insane love for the thing.) It seems almost like the dreamy adolescent girl's Ender's Game, something with that kind of deep, formative, (slightly disturbing from the outside) identification. Dunno. Someone needs to a thesis about this stuff.
at 21:43 on 24-06-2014, Tamara
Poor fedora. I think it's a nice hat.

(I also think this kind of self satisfied "bow before the authority of my progressive judgment" thing is pretentious and pointless, but truth be told, I feel more strongly about the hat.)
at 20:33 on 24-06-2014, Melanie
What does a fedora connect to, though?

I feel like this summarizes the attitude they've become associated with remarkably well.
at 19:59 on 24-06-2014, Ibmiller
@Robinson - I've done two Arthurian classes, one in undergrad, and one in grad school, and that doesn't sound familiar to me, sadly. Then again, I think the most recent text we read (aside from the awful, awful Clive Owen film) was from the 80s.

I do strongly recommend Gillian Bradshaw's "Hawk of May" trilogy (Hawk of May, Kingdom of Summer, In Winter's Shadow), which was recently republished in very nice paperback editions and kindle. The first two books focus on Gawain's (here called Gwalchmai, similarly to Rosemary Sutcliff's historicized Sword at Sunset), the last on Guinevere (Gwynhwyfar). In addition to being really beautifully written, they're also the first time I didn't finish an Arthur story and want everyone involved to die. :)

@James D - Idylls of the Queen was really fun! There was a solid mystery, a really fun sense of "this is the world where all that Malory happened, but this is what they're like when the big events aren't happening." A sense of consequence and lived-in-ness that was very appealing. I did come away from it with a strong sympathy for Kay.

@Axiomatic - I didn't like the 100 or so pages of Mists that I tried, but I do think LeGuin is amazing. What does a fedora connect to, though? If I didn't have a hatred of my head being hot, I think a fedora would be nice. :)
at 12:17 on 24-06-2014, Arthur B
Very, very excited about the announced extras on the Twin Peaks blu-ray set: 90 minutes of cut scenes from Fire Walk With Me edited together with an epilogue by Lynch himself, plus Lynch interviews the Palmer family. Yes, the actual characters. Including the ones who are dead.
at 15:11 on 21-06-2014, Arthur B
It is already enkindled.
at 09:20 on 21-06-2014, Adrienne
Arthur B: I believe Idylls of the Queen has been re-released as an ebook recently by Karr. I have no idea if you can get it over there, of course, but it is at least somewhat available.
at 00:30 on 21-06-2014, Robinson L
Getting back to the subject of Arthurian legend for a moment, I know this is a long shot, but I'm wondering if just possibly someone here can help me find a book.

It's a retelling of The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell(e), published I think within the last decade or so, possibly as part of a larger series, and by a female author. I don't remember the book's title or the author's name - I just read a review of it ~5-6 years ago on site which I think was called Fantasy Book Stand.

The closest match for the book a web search turns up is Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, by Selina Hastings, which was published in the 80s, does not seem to be part of a series, and moreover is a children's book, which I don't think is right either. Attempts to find the website where I read the review have been fruitless, and since I don't have the correct url (which is to say, and all other iterations were rejected) so has consultation of the Wayback Machine.

By any chance, does this description strike a chord for anyone?
at 21:43 on 20-06-2014, Tamara
@James D,

Beer Sheva campus has a good trove of Brutalism as well. (I love this one.)

This kind of thing has never seemed oppressive or imposing to me in an educational context, vis a vis the students. More like...un-shy. Like, it's right and proper that libraries and classrooms should be housed in buildings that are bold, startling, uncompromising and unapologetic. No classical fripperies or fussy pastel makeup trying to make their presence sweet and quiet and digestible.

It, uh, might show that i'm from a place with just a bit of a tendency of religion, wrapped in its ancient/traditional architecture, impinging on the landscape. For me, I guess, in that context, there's almost a necessary starkness to the statement being made for secular/scientific learning. This is a break with the past, and it feels no need to make itself pretty.
at 19:56 on 20-06-2014, Alice
I know the name is in reference to the concrete used in construction (béton brut, raw concrete), but in combination with the look of the buildings, why would you then go ahead and name your style something that sounds to close to the English (or French, or German, or -- since the original phrase "nybrutalism" was coined by a Swede -- in Swedish, for that matter) word "brutal"? It just seems like bad PR.

(I cannot stand brutalist architecture: it's probably terribly bourgeois of me, but I find it oppressive and ugly and gloomy and depressing. Then again, I'd probably still hate it if it was called something less negatively suggestive, like Concretism. Or even something like, I don't know, Sculpturism or Integr(al)ism.)
at 18:09 on 20-06-2014, James D
Yeah, Brutalism can be pretty neat. I live in Pittsburgh and the universities here have a lot of Brutalist buildings. You can see a few featured in the Wikipedia gallery.

I've always thought it was kind of a weird message - these imposing, blocky buildings housing libraries and classrooms. "We have ways of making you learn."
at 09:26 on 20-06-2014, Tamara
Brutalism is the best. I was in Beer Sheva the other day and simply had a blast. I'm tempted to play this just for that.
at 06:47 on 20-06-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
If I may interrupt for a minute, I recently completed both timelines of Wolfenstein: The New Order, and...I liked it. I liked it a lot. I was expecting it to be a big terrible thing that made light of historical tragedy, but it didn't, not quite. It walked a tightrope between silliness and grimness, and it managed not to stumble. As RPS said, the game is a "B-movie with a brain" and it knows itself, so it knows when to push and when to hold.

I think I may need to write something substantial about this. For now, a few lighter observations:

- You can tell that the villain is very serious business because his theme is a industrial noise track. "Know what? Forget sounding imperious or powerful, I want something that says 'Hi! I'm a wide-awake nightmare!!!'"

- In the grim future of 1960, English people drive on the right hand side on autobahns where the speed limit is marked in kilometers. Also, London is a gigantic slum, and the metropolitan boroughs have been bulldozed and replaced by a Brutalist spaceport which is guarded by a Metal Gear. I feel these are all positive changes.

- I think I like Brutalism now.

- "Okay, they put a Nazi on the moon. Fuck you, moon."

- Tekla is the best.

- BJ Blazkowicz is the saddest brick of meat I've ever seen. I think he actually beats out Dwayne Johnson's character from Pain & Gain.
at 02:32 on 20-06-2014, Arthur B
On the subject of Arthurian Myth-themed books written by women, I really liked The Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr. It's essentially a murder mystery in which Queen Guenevere is implicated

Aaaaand sold.

@Chris A: I might just have to give Mists another try at some point. If I can set aside the latest Bradley revelations.
at 23:24 on 19-06-2014, Chris A
I realise this is me saying "Hm, I'd have been happier with this fantasy novel if there had been more rape in it", but the thing which often bugs me about rape in fantasy is how often people fail to acknowledge that rape is rape, and by erasing it here Bradley is kind of sidling close to doing that.

While the last thing I want to do is stake out a position in defense of The Mists of Avalon, my best recollection (of a book I read as a teenager) is that this is unfair to Bradley, who is doing something rather more complex with Uther and Ygraine than just "redeeming" a rape story by making the sex consensual.

As Alula points out, magic and prophecy collide with consent, and while I don't recall whether the word "rape" comes into it, Ygraine is troubled by that collision - and a lot of misery comes from it. Think Leda and Zeus. At the very least, this prompts the reader to consider the events of the novel critically, perhaps even to ask whether the vanishing world of the Goddess and her pagan devotees is really any kinder or wiser than the patriarchy of the White Christ.
at 21:55 on 19-06-2014, Axiomatic
I feel vaguely guilty about not liking either the Mists of Avalon or anything Ursula K Leguin has ever written.

I feel like I should probably just start wearing a fedora at this point.
at 21:36 on 19-06-2014, James D
On the subject of Arthurian Myth-themed books written by women, I really liked The Idylls of the Queen by Phyllis Ann Karr. It's essentially a murder mystery in which Queen Guenevere is implicated, with various characters working to clear her name. What the book is really good at is showing another side to all the well-known stories; it's very deeply rooted in the source material, especially Thomas Malory's, but it cleverly twists the perspective without making too much up.

The protagonist is Sir Kay, who usually gets belittled in the classic tales, but is shown in this book to be much more sympathetic and practical. Lancelot comes across as a selfish, bloodthirsty glory hound who is more interested in running around fighting dudes in single combat than actually doing his job. Morgan le Fay on the other hand is made to seem very reasonable; her motivations are basically the same as everyone else's, wanting revenge for various (legitimate) grievances and such, except instead of murdering people in single combat she uses tricky witchy methods that God supposedly doesn't approve of. Unless they're being used by the Lady of the Lake, in which case magic is AOK.

Anyway, it's a really good book.
at 21:36 on 19-06-2014, Arthur B
I find transhumanism tedious at best and Diaz' take on it as expressed through Dresden Codak even worse. In addition, the combination of absolutely glacially paced storytelling and relentless nerdboy gaze on the main protagonist is incredibly off-putting.
at 21:22 on 19-06-2014, Adrienne
Arthur B: Out of sheer curiosity, what's your issue(s) with Aaron Diaz?
at 17:39 on 19-06-2014, Alula
I read The Mists of Avalon when I was. . .eight? in a big King Arthur phase, and I think my mom figured most of it would go over my head and/or bore me. (My mom didn't know in a few short years I would storm my way through an unabridged Les Miserables and then decide perhaps to let musicals have less influence on my reading choices.) I generally recall feeling a little bit icked by various parts, not so much the sex (well, not only the sex) but the sort of tone about them, in a way I obviously could not articulate at age eight. I tried rereading it a few years ago out of curiousity and didn't get past the first few chapters. I did also read her take on the Iliad a few years later, and again was vaguely icked in ways I couldn't pin down. (Having read the summary of Stormqueen, I'm more glad than ever I decided Darkover looked like way too big a commitment.)

So I don't remember it too well, but I seem to vaguely think Ygraine was also enchanted/compelled by Vivianne in her attraction to Uther, which doesn't really undercut the rape element so much, but it's possible I misremembered. But there's so much prophecy/compulsion tied up in it that it's hard for me to see it as Ygraine being truly active and does seem more like being evasive about the rapiness. Whether that's to do with the fact that if Ygraine is given some kind of fake Wicca magical date rape drug, it is by Vivianne and not Uther, is too much for me to tangle with this morning, especially in terms of her daughter's statements. (I was made aware of the Goldin page a few years ago and was horrified and very much unimpressed with MZB's responses, but this is still a new level of awful.)

Somewhat tangentially, and not directed at anyone here but at the world in general, it grates on me when people say we "shouldn't" let things like this affect how we feel about an artist's work. Partly because it never defines "we," except in an intentionally (IMO) ambiguous sense. An academic may well be obligated to read certain texts, but I don't think the private/casual reader is, and "should" has a nasty moral imperative to it. (It also gets elided waaaaay too easily into book banning slippery slope arguments.)
at 16:02 on 19-06-2014, Arthur B
Actually no - the way she confronts it is to turn it completely on its head, to where Ygraine despises her husband and is quite enthusiastic about sleeping with Uther, and his magical disguise is to fool her husband's servants and guards, not Ygraine herself.

Eh, I think that's kind of the same thing I was looking at though. On the one hand, it's nice to give Ygraine an actual motivation and have her do stuff rather than being entirely passive. On the other hand, taking an incident which is generally recognised as being a rape and turning it around and going "Nope, no rape here" seems to erase the difficult and troubling elements of the original myth as opposed to actually engaging with them, which feels like kind of a cheat when you are setting yourself the task of writing an examination of an existing body of myth rather than an entirely original story.

I realise this is me saying "Hm, I'd have been happier with this fantasy novel if there had been more rape in it", but the thing which often bugs me about rape in fantasy is how often people fail to acknowledge that rape is rape, and by erasing it here Bradley is kind of sidling close to doing that.