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 21:41 on 24-11-2013, Arthur B
You mean the worst of new Who?

New Who already feels old to me. ;)

Also, what the fuck happened to the cliffhanger at the end of last season?
at 20:44 on 24-11-2013, Andy G
You mean the worst of new Who? To be fair, it had a lot of the best of new Who (and Moffat) as well: strong performances, some good dialogue, some imaginative and deftly executed sequences. And I think actually, in this case (as an anniversary episode) a little *more* continuity and nostalgia might have been appropriate: the central scenario was sketched in a very abstract way and arguably didn't engage more than superficially with old Who or even with the RTD era of New Who.
at 15:04 on 24-11-2013, Arthur B
I expected it to be more of the worst of old Who - shoddily paced, very shouty, trying its best to show off how clever it is whilst not actually being as clever as it thinks, and overladen with continuity. So I avoided it. Based on your response and the plot synopses I've seen, I made the right call.

It occurs to me that John Hurt's dilemma in this one and
Tennant's dilemma in End of Time are both - almost certainly consciously - highly reminiscent of Tom Baker agonising over whether he really has the right to genocide the Daleks before they're even created in Genesis of the Daleks. I mean, don't get me wrong, that's a powerful moment and one of the best stories of the original series, it just saddens me that both RTD and Moffat seem to be going out of their way to recall and riff on such moments rather than creating great moments of their very own. It sort of reduces the series to a museum piece - complete with Curator, in this case - dedicated to recalling its glorious past, which is exactly the sort of self-obsessed nostalgia the original series was a nice antidote to.
at 14:29 on 24-11-2013, Andy G
So did anyone watch the Doctor Who 50th special last night (or whatever time of day it was in your timezone)?

I thought it worked very well indeed at the level of individual scenes, with some great performances and interactions between characters, several wonderful cameos and lots of entertaining/funny/emotional moments, and so I certainly didn't feel let down. But the plot as a whole was 100% Moffat: narrative coherence sacrificed to a tricksy, convoluted set-up that didn't really make sense.
At the centre of the story is John Hurt's dilemma of whether or not to use a super-WMD to wipe out the Daleks and Timelords at once, but it's never made clear *why* this is a dilemma: what will the terrible consequences be if he *doesn't* push the button? This lack of rationale really undercuts the dramatic scenes where the Doctors struggle with the decision to push the button. This dilemma is resolved, meanwhile, by a mechanism that makes no sense: some sort of second-order form of time travel initiated somehow by Billy Piper in order to bring about a conclusion that is admittedly spectacular and stirring, but brushes over the very seriousness of the initial dilemma ("Oh well, I guess if we stick the planet in a painting, the Daleks will just destroy themselves or something" is an overly convenient way of writing away the threat posed by the Daleks).

By contrast, in RTD's take on the Doctor's dilemma in The End of Time (which this episode basically ignores), the Doctor pushes the button to prevent the Timelords using the "Ultimate Sanction" to destroy the universe. The Doctor's dilemma and guilt is intelligible. It seems a bit cheap for Moffat to re-write that and retrospectively undercut much of RTD's series, especially when the Time War backstory belonged far more to RTD's era than Moffat's.

Overall, I can forgive the episode a lot for all the genuinely great bits it did contain (and it's good that the Timelords, like the Daleks, have been written back into the continuity). But as good as it was, it's actually made me more convinced than ever that Moffat really needs to step down asap.
at 01:20 on 23-11-2013, Sunnyskywalker
I am darkly entertained that the Last Deadloss Visions includes a letter from George R.R. Martin which includes the sympathetic statement, "I know all too vividly how easily and how badly these things can get out of hand." And noting that something of his came out in 1985 rather than the scheduled 1978. The funny thing was, I was just thinking that now GRRM's publishing schedule looked pretty good by comparison when I reached this point.

Also, on clothes: a few weeks ago, I ended up running my car keys through the clothes dryer for reasons ultimately coming down to having been wearing pants which were for some bizarre reason designed without pockets at the time. Because what on earth would women use pockets for, or...? Cannot fathom what goes on in those clothing designers' heads. (Maybe the answer is "nothing.")
at 00:58 on 23-11-2013, Melanie
Thanks for the tip, but that's well outside my price range

Ah, that sucks then. :(

Just sayin', even real, made-for-men denim is a poor insulator and not good winter clothing.

Yeah, but there are degrees, right? Not to mention that temperature range where really thin clothing is unacceptably cold, but heavyish denim is basically fine (I have a denim jacket that's pretty comfortable for when it's cold but still above freezing or thereabouts).
at 19:33 on 22-11-2013, James D
Just sayin', even real, made-for-men denim is a poor insulator and not good winter clothing. Also, if it gets wet, say in snow or rain, it takes forever to dry.
at 18:56 on 22-11-2013, Cheriola
Thanks for the tip, but that's well outside my price range, even without transatlantic shipping. I can't really afford to buy new things right now either, I just desperately needed to - hence the gift certificate. But it seems I'm going to have to wait until fashion changes again. Last time I bought jeans, bell-bottoms were in. But unfortunately even real denim doesn't last very long if you have to wear the same three pairs almost every day. Especially since trousers don't get designed for women whose thighs meet.

at 18:16 on 22-11-2013, Melanie
And who the fuck decided to cut all the trousers so tight this year that even those that fit comfortably around my ass and hips ride up in ugly folds around the knees? [...] And why don’t women get jeans made from actual, warm and sturdy denim anymore instead of all those stretchy fabrics that are way too thin for winter? Men do and also get more reasonable leg cuts, but I couldn’t find a men’s size that wasn’t either way too small or way too big for me around the waist.

Excuse me for butting in, but some of your complaints are... familiar to me, and I'd like to rec this site that does bespoke jeans. I got a pair from them a while ago and it fit well, had decent pockets(!), and was made of decently thick denim (the site had me choose a denim weight). It was a little annoying to have to do all the measurements and not be sure if I was doing it right, but I guess it beats having to try on a bunch of things that don't fit (or that sort of fit, and you have to figure out whether it's worth it). And it says they ship worldwide.
at 16:00 on 22-11-2013, Cheriola

Well, I don’t know how it measures up against your usual Warhammer fare (never having read one of those), but as somebody who mostly reads cloak-and-dagger type fantasy, I did blink a little when the good guys started chopping up enemies without any qualms, like in a D&D game.


“Darni snarled as he stepped out to meet the first attackers. Their air of confidence was terrifying and the first swept up his hand to bring his sword down into Darni’s head. I watched the attacker’s hand rise, and then carry on rising as Darni took it off at the wrist with an explosive strike. His mate was momentarily distracted by a faceful of blood and his troubles were ended with Darni’s short sword in his guts. [….] Darni’s sword flashed in the light of the flames until he managed to reach over a guard and rip into his opponent’s throat. Blood sprayed across him, but he simply blinked it clear and kicked the bubbling corpse aside. […] Confused, the man let down his guard and Geris split his skull; I saw his grimace as he turned his head to avoid the shower of brain and blood. […] A big bastard with a yellow beard came around to me, looking to take the weaker option. He was strong and quick and it was all I could do to match him until he slipped in the slime of his friend’s entrails and I was able to smash my blade through his ugly face. Teeth and bone gleamed for an instant in the firelight as he fell headlong into the fire. His hair blazed with a revolting smell as his arms flailed wildly. I stamped frantically on the back of his head until he stilled. […] The man I fought sneered at me with savage glee. I honestly thought I was lost. Sapphire light ripped past and the triumphant face exploded into a blackened ruin as it shot backward. […] A flash like forked lightning knocked two more backward into scorched hulks of flesh and brilliance shot from Shiv’s hands to the embers of the fire. Red light, bright as a new day, flashed across the ground to finish off the wounded and then shot through the air to crown the crest of the ring with flames where reinforcements died in screaming agony. […] Down in the blood and death of the ring, another fell as his sword exploded into red-hot razors which tore his face apart. […] Darni yelled something I missed but Shiv dropped his handfuls of blue fire and began to weave a multihued web of power. In an instant, black shadows began to ripple down the length of our swords, vanishing like smoke in the air. I landed a blow on the man in front of me: the mail on his shoulder parted, the flesh beneath melting like tallow and smoking with a revolting stench. Geris moved to follow up when his opponent shrank away from the deadly darkness and nearly took a thrust in the ribs from the side. Shiv saw the danger and the man screamed like a girl as his arm fell apart under a blast of green light, the small bones of his hand and wrist scattering like runes. He sank to his knees and I finished him through the neck.“

(PS: I hope your town/your home is OK.)

Oh, no worries. It was just because of the disarmament and removal of one of those old delay-action bombs from WWII. We’re used to it – this was the 175th bomb disarmament in my town since the Reunification, they said. These things only very rarely go wrong. I wasn’t nervous about that, I just have a really fucked up sleeping rhythm right now due to my insomnia. Well, I live in the residential outskirts of town, over a mile away from the original industrial centre, so I don’t have to leave my home very often when they find another one and it’s still kind of a bother and a novelty for me, but nothing to be scared about. (Though one bomb suddenly destabilized and exploded on its own underneath my street when I was 8. Your pilots weren’t all that great at aiming, it seems.) I did have about half a dozen extra days off per year in high school due to the school being right in the middle of the most frequently evacuated area. Obviously, we kids didn’t mind. And oddly enough, the school building is actually nearly over a century old and somehow survived the war without a scratch, despite standing just 100 meters from one of the prime targets at the time.
I found a fist-sized piece of masonry in the garden that may have come from the bombsite, as it turns out they had to detonate this time. And someone used the absence of people and pets to gorge themselves on the walnuts that I had been drying on the porch. (Apparently the raccoons are getting used to the evacuations, too.) But otherwise nothing happened to our house.

I spent the day shopping for clothes in Berlin, which is a frustrating, exhausting and hateful activity for me even under the best of circumstances and I’m only doing it because my old things are falling apart or falling off me. (TW: body size complaining -------- I’m on the low end of the plus-sizes, and I lost 15 kg to severe illness since I last could afford to buy clothes a few years ago. But even the big generic department stores that don’t exclusively cater to slim people seem to have changed their size measurements so that the largest top size they carry, which should be 2 sizes too big for me, just barely fits now. And who the fuck decided to cut all the trousers so tight this year that even those that fit comfortably around my ass and hips ride up in ugly folds around the knees? That shape can’t possibly look good or even just intended-that-way on anyone. And why don’t women get jeans made from actual, warm and sturdy denim anymore instead of all those stretchy fabrics that are way too thin for winter? Men do and also get more reasonable leg cuts, but I couldn’t find a men’s size that wasn’t either way too small or way too big for me around the waist. (One wonders what non-cis people are supposed to do...) I think I spent 3 hours just trying to find a couple of bras that actually do their job and still came away with my only choice being between 5 pieces in the whole store that were semi-fitting and of such low quality fabric that they’ll lose their fit after a few washes, because apparently no-one other than me wants something made from simple soft cotton and metal wire instead of scratchy and easily damaged lace and stretchy synthetics that don’t really support anything and can’t take hygienically hot washing. I got a 50 Euro gift certificate for H&M from a well-meaning but clueless relative who took pity after seeing the patches covering the worn-through holes in all of my jeans. But nothing in their women’s section goes over size 12, and while I’ve needed gloves, hats and shoes from the men’s section since I was 14 years old anyway, that section has next to no variety and everything looks drab and unsophisticated, even the leather gloves. It’s just not fair.)

Like I said, I hate clothes shopping. Never mind doing it on next to no sleep in the last 30 hours and with first day cramps. It didn’t quite end in tears because I still have some thin-privilege compared to the higher female plus-sizes and growing up fat and with bigger-than-usual extremities has long since pushed me to stop caring much about looking pretty or fashionable. Accepting my asexuality has actually helped a lot with that – it’s so liberating when you realise there’s no point in dressing to express your gender or to attract sexual partners, and you can just dress for comfort and functionality, at least in some professions. (I was so glad when at my last sales job the HR woman was like “What we mean by professional dress? Well, no miniskirts and no sandals. T-shirts and jeans are fine, as long as they’re not threadbare. And, dear god, wear athletic shoes if you want to survive this.” And at Uni even my professors dressed that way, and the only things outlawed in the lab are health hazards like flip-flops or sleeve fabrics that would melt instead of singe near an open flame.) I’m usually happy if I can achieve the 4 C’s (clean, comfortable, and preferably not colour-clashing) with jeans and plain t-shirts and hoodies. And I did find some of those in the end. But the day certainly hasn’t helped my general depression. At least it wasn’t raining as well. Though with my immune response lowered and in and out between overheated shops and the cold winter air all day, I think I’m coming down with a cold now and basically everything hurts.

What I’m trying to say is: I’m feeling a little grouchy and whiny right now, so apologies in advance if I say something I better hadn’t. And I probably should refrain from getting into emotional discussions for the next few days, so I won't be reading any reactions to yesterday's rant for a while. Sorry.
at 10:41 on 22-11-2013, Arthur B
Seconding the recommendation of Last Deadloss Visions, it's kind of a hatchet job on Ellison but it's richly deserved.
at 09:11 on 22-11-2013, Adrienne
The Last Deadloss Visions is a chunk of fandom and history that I was just reminded of, and which I thought might be of interest to other Ferretbrainers. It's an essay by Christopher Priest, originally published in 1987 and revised a few times -- the linked version is from 1994 -- about the whole The Last Dangerous Visions fiasco.
at 10:05 on 21-11-2013, Arthur B
the most graphically violent fight scenes


(PS: I hope your town/your home is OK.)
at 03:49 on 21-11-2013, Cheriola
[I won't be able to read your answer until tomorrow evening, so take your time. My town is being evacuated in 3 hours, and since I couldn't get any sleep this night, I'm probably going to sleep like the dead for at least 15-20 hours when I'm allowed to return home in the evening.]
at 03:17 on 21-11-2013, Cheriola
I was wondering if anyone here has read more than the first two books of the fantasy series by Juliet E. McKenna that starts with "The Thief's Gamble"? I've had the first 5 on my shelf for years, but only ever got to the second one and I can't remember why I stopped. Been re-reading the first book for the last week, and while there are some problems (it needs some more female interaction and the fantasy rape watch - it's not exploitative, but feels kind of unnecessary), there are positive aspects, too. Cynical, no-nonsense female protagonist who is dressed sensibly on the cover; not much of a romance plot so far though the apparent love interest can be spotted by consistently avoiding to behave like a douche; non-camp gay wizard as party leader / appropriately powerful person of mass destruction; the damsel in distress is a guy; and it has probably the most graphically violent fight scenes I've ever read in a book written by a woman.

So now I'm wondering why I stopped during or after the second book, and if the series is truly worth my time. I think the second one has a male party member as the main focus and takes place in a fantastical counterpart culture of vaguely-Arabia, so that has the potential for a lot of fail. I mean, the main villains are basically Icelanders, so the author is at least trying to avoid the evil race of colour thing, but still.

So, can anyone play Reading Canary for me?
at 00:30 on 21-11-2013, Robinson L
@Adrienne: Sounds lovely. I'll be in Ohio starting ~mid-January; you can reach me at to make plans.
at 23:05 on 20-11-2013, Arthur B
Wait hold the phone I just saw something which makes me furious.

So, some redditor donated a heap of Doritos and Mountain Dew at a homeless shelter, bragged about how astonished the homeless people were to get this precious snack food on Reddit, and idly mentions that they opened all the bottles and packets to get codes to win an XBox One before they made the donation.

If this is trolling then it's beautifully well-observed satire. I fear that it is not.
at 04:52 on 20-11-2013, Adrienne
Robinson L: Well, perhaps if you're interested in having a micro-Ferretbrain-meetup we can catch up for coffee or something. :)
at 15:30 on 19-11-2013, Robinson L
I seem to have a bit of a knack for giving people incorrect impressions about myself on this site without actually trying.

It's a tiny little spit of a village in Ohio called Yellow Springs, about midway between Dayton and Columbus. I'll be going back there in January to stay for a while, though I'm not sure exactly where in that area I'll end up (depends where I can find paid work).
at 23:02 on 18-11-2013, Adrienne
Robinson L: Aha! That would be why I was confused about you being a UK person! :) I have enough awareness to retain short-term "I am in London" statements but not longer term stuff, apparently...

Whereabouts in Ohio? I get to OH occasionally because I also have friends (& family) there.
at 18:00 on 18-11-2013, Robinson L
Good luck Alasdair and Michal with the articles; and good luck Kyra and Dan with moving house.

@Adrienne: It's now my favorite of hers, too - which is to say it's probably the first book of Le Guin's I've really been able to get into. For whatever reason, she's just not an author who's strongly captured my interest before, which is one of the reasons I only go for one of her books if it's in audio format.

Also, I finally gathered that you're apparently a USian, where I'd previously been confused and thought you were one of the British contingent. Where, if it can be told, are you located in the US?

Well, I was in London for 51 weeks beginning last September, studying for my MA (which was how I was able to attend one day of Nine Worlds). But yes, I'm from the States.

Currently set up in Very Slightly Upstate New York, where my parents and sisters live, though I also spend a lot of time in Ohio, where my friends live.
at 07:38 on 18-11-2013, Adrienne
Also, are any of you UK lot in Bristol? Because I am suddenly seriously contemplating a trip to see my two favorite plays -- which are apparently playing back to back in March, such that a one-week trip would let me see both of them. The venue is called the Tobacco Factory, which sort of confuses me because tobacco is a New World plant? I'd've thought it was a hell of a lot easier to process it over here than to have random factories in the UK. But anyway! Plays!
at 06:41 on 18-11-2013, Adrienne
Robinson L - you're explicitly an anarchist but you only recently read The Dispossessed? What's wrong with you? :)

(Teasing! It's one of my favorites of hers.)

Also, I finally gathered that you're apparently a USian, where I'd previously been confused and thought you were one of the British contingent. Where, if it can be told, are you located in the US?