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 10:28 on 13-11-2014, Cheriola
1. Belated congratulations, Andy!

2. I don't want to kick off a big discussion, I'm just curious because I only just caught up on the latest writer/reviewer internet blowup. Was the person who used to post here under the name Valse the same person who ran the "Requires Only That You Hate" blog?

3. Axiomatic: Yes, in most German dialects (and apparently Austrian, too), "Stalin" is pronounced with a "Sht" sound. So? Do you see me going around mocking the way anglophone people are almost always mangling my language beyond recognition on American/Canadian/UK television, or insisting on calling historical people like Friedrich II of Prussia "Frederick"? I'd like to see you pronounce "Chancellor Schröder" correctly - you're simply just lucky "Merkel" provides no difficulties to anglophone ears and tongues right now.

Sorry, pet-peeve, but I really hate how English native speakers frequently act like their language is the only Right One and how any foreign accent is seen as sufficient reason to make fun of people bothering / being forced to learn their language, which they only have to because UK colonial history and American cultural/economic hegemony makes English the lingua franca of most of the world. You can't change your position of power in this context, but you can refrain from sneering.

4. Re: Downfall parodies. Personally, I think that meme is just as insensitive and offensive as any invocation of Godwin's Law online, like terms like "feminazi". Implying that whatever or whoever you want to mock (whether the issue deserves to be mocked is irrelevant) with the comparison to Hitler is even in the same general ballpark as the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi party is inexcusably belittling those real world attrocities. And jumping that video on people in a harmless, supposedly entertaining context is also potentially triggering. Not just to Holocaust or WWII survivors and the generations who have loved ones who are/were Holocaust or WWII survivors (I know young Native Americans who get triggered by western genre movies, or the annual reminder of Thanksgiving, so I don't think there's ever a acceptable time frame for using genocide as a source of comedy.)
But also to me personally - in fact, I haven't watched the link Arthur gave because I know the clip usually used and just reading the reference used this frivolously is upsetting me more than enough right now. (Or rather, it was several days ago when the topic came up - I had to calm down a few days to be fit to post politely.) I don't even have any family directly affected by the Nazis except for one grandfather getting drafted against his will but managing to act too near-sighted to shoot straight and getting sent back to a civil post within a year, and one stupid then-teenage great-uncle-once-removed, whom I've never met, who let the school propaganda talk him into signing up voluntarily. (He thankfully ended up safely in a Scottish POW camp long before the war was over.) But still, when I see Hitler ranting about loosing the war down in a Berlin bunker, my mind jumps to my Silesian-immigrant grandmother being gang-raped by Red Army soldiers as one of an estimated 2 million women when they finally took the city, or Berlin being 'defended' in the end by brainwashed teenage boys because the high command was too proud / too insane to give up (thankfully I know that none of my uncles would have been above 10 years of age in 1945), or the small town I live in now being carpet-bombed by the Allies with thousands of delay-action bombs not because it was necessary to win the war at that point, but to keep industrial infrastructure, a few scientists and some enriched plutonium they wrongly thought was stockpiled here out of the hands of the Sovjets. Nevermind the civilians, or the people born long after the war who still occasionally have their houses destroyed these days because of this "scorched earth" policy - that small advantage in the oncoming Cold War was apparently even worth bombing the nearby concentration camp along with the town.

So, sorry but no, I can't find that meme funny no matter how deserving of scorn the issue that is being parodied. And I'm frankly weirded out by any European person older than me who can.

...And you probably all think I'm being oversensitive now, or that I don't have any right to complain because my nationality will always be an acceptable target to mock and offend without worry. I suppose that is true. I have certainly needed to work up the courage to post this over the last few days, and I've been wasting several hours this morning adjusting and re-adjusting my phrasing and wavering over the post-button indicisively.
Still, I think some people need reminding occasionally of what effect certain topics can have. If not for me, at least think about any Jewish / LGTB / Slavic / Romani / etc. people reading in whatever forum you post that crap, for whom the mental association isn't "LOL, he sounds ridiculous - like a toddler throwing a tantrum" but rather Hitler -> Holocaust -> "If I had been born then and there, I'd have been enslaved and murdered. And there are still some people who think like that and glorify the Nazis today."

at 10:12 on 13-11-2014, Andy G
Anyone else seen Interstellar and mystified by the overwhelmingly ecstatic response? I thought it was dull, long, emotionally hollow and intellectually vapid. I generally like Nolan's films but I thought this one simply didn't hang together at all.
at 01:01 on 13-11-2014, Michal
RE: Imaro - Saunders wrote about his decision to swap out the story in his introduction to the Night Shade edition, and I think he's also written about it on his blog. The ebook doesn't have the intro or the other essays for copyright reasons.
at 00:37 on 13-11-2014, Arthur B
Kickended, an archive of Kickstarter projects with the dubious distinction of having 0 backers.
at 22:27 on 12-11-2014, Arthur B
Interested to note that for the new release he scrapped one of his old stories and wrote a brand new one to replace it, because he thought that the story in question veered too close to endorsing the genocide in Rwanda.
at 15:00 on 12-11-2014, Robinson L
Huh, talk about funny coincidence. I just started reading Imaro - in paperback - the other day.
at 05:35 on 12-11-2014, Michal
Ha! I actually recorded that podcast on A Canticle for Leibowitz a few weeks ago & only got 'round to posting it today. I had no idea there was a radio play.

And since we're talking about ebook releases, I just learned that Charles Saunders' Imaro is now available as an ebook. Here's hoping the rest of the series follows soon.
at 03:49 on 12-11-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Well, Remembrance Day is almost over here, so I thought I'd share something appropriate to thoughts of man and war: a recording of NPR's 1981 radioplay adaptation of A Canticle For Leibowitz.

(Also: damn, Michal, how's this for serendipity?)
at 15:30 on 11-11-2014, Robinson L
That's great; congratulations, Andy!
at 22:53 on 10-11-2014, Andy G
A book that I translated earlier this year has just been released in English as an e-book. I thought the subject matter might be of interest to some Ferretbrainers: it's the true story of a refugee who flees to Europe, and his experiences along the way (especially in "Fortress Europe"). Especially topical at the moment after the UK Conservatives sank to a new low recently and cut funding for migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean. I can definitely recommend it (and I'm not getting royalties, so my motives are pure!).
at 15:16 on 05-11-2014, Arthur B
I dunno, I think it can work if you slip in the name of someone diametrically opposed to the position Hitler is advocating in the meme in question too, so the Gamergate one worked nicely by working in Chris Kluwe there and my Conan-themed one slipped in Joss Whedon.
at 15:04 on 05-11-2014, Axiomatic
On the subject of Downfall parodies, I'm always vaguely disappointed when the parody doesn't somehow manage to work in Stalin into the subtitles when Hitler says "Shtalin".
at 10:28 on 05-11-2014, Arthur B
In the meantime...I believe there's something of mine that's been waiting patiently since late October?

Will check in with editor; didn't push it earlier because I didn't want your article to be shoved off the front page by my horror posts too quickly.
at 05:53 on 05-11-2014, Michal
PSA: Downfall is an excellent film and y'all should watch it you haven't already.
at 05:47 on 05-11-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Funny you guys should mention Downfall, considering I just finished writing something about video game Nazis.

I just spent two days and about 4,800 words writing about video game Nazis. What is wrong with me.

I'll get it uploaded in a few days; need to let it sit before revision. In the meantime...I believe there's something of mine that's been waiting patiently since late October?
at 00:36 on 04-11-2014, Robinson L
Masterful indeed; I know the whole point of the exercise is to make the subtitles appear to fit with the action of the scene, but I think the re-mixer here did a particularly good job of it.

I've seen comments singling out the "Just use a male avatar; he'll leave you alone," line; and I agree that was particularly on point.

The final line, though you can see it coming a mile away, is also so perfect that the video literally could not have ended with anything else.

I think my favorite part, though, is more style than substance: the line "Fucking Feminazis" is particularly hilarious considering the source material for the video, and it comes at a time when the camera is on a young officer next to him nervously adjusting his uniform.
at 23:45 on 02-11-2014, Arthur B permalink
at 09:35 on 30-10-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I didn't mean to say that anyhting should be PR for health facilities, since definitely there is still much to criticize in it. But the thing is, like Cheriola put it, that the story is usually told from the point of view of the neurotypical person and the whole thing treated as a horrible ordeal amongst the raving lunatics. There is a certain stigma in mental illness, although there are positive examples as well. And quite often the real patients are treated as freaks, rather than as afflicted people. It's those kinds of things as well as giving the idea that psychiatry today is just the same as it was fifty years ago.

A healthy person in a psychiatric hospital is a classic trope though, but more interesting is the play on power the mental patient-psychiatrist relation entails. The psychiatrist, as well as other psychiatrist personnel, wield a considerable amount of power over the patient, and after a psychiatrist diagnosis is done, it isn't usually reversed, so that remains as a part of one's life even if the person gets better. So if a person is diagnosed as mentally ill, without being so, how exactly is that proved to be otherwise? In a genre work it is usually enough to just show that what was considered to be delusions, but that is a more complex issue in a more conventional setting. And of course the power relationship always contains the suspicion, that a diagnosis can be just wrong, as the knowledge of the patients condition is defined by the psychiatrist. All the diagnostic methods today, at least in countries where there is proper care, define psychiatric conditions needing treatment and confinement by whether there is danger to the patient or those around them. But this of course is not necessarily and completely so in every conceivable combination or in situations, where the assumptions of both the science and its practitioners are faulty in general, or in that particular case. I don't know what larger point to make, but that is just more interesting to me, than portraying a stint in the psych ward as just a very horrible plot point. In the 1680s the playwright Nathaniel Lee was committed to Bedlam, by his landlord if I'm not mistaken, and he commented the situation later like so: "They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me", which in someways could describe the situation in any forced containment, whether justified or not.

Anyways, Cheriola, thanks for the Murdoch Mysteries recommendation, Ill try to check that out. The Dracula thing is interesting as well. I guess the problem with Victorian and earlier institutions was not the malevolence of the institutions as such, but rather the definition of a mentally ill person as someone who is without mind or sense and thus not really human(the origins of which can be tracked to early modern times at least, although many point to Locke) and to be treated as someone not really capable of any rational thought or even feeling. I wonder if anyone has ever depicted the York Retreat in fiction, that would perhaps be a real life exception to the rule, as well as many institutions designed for the wealthier people.
at 22:53 on 29-10-2014, Arthur B
On the other hand, I think the problem is that if going to mental hospital or otherwise seeking treatment always ends up at best opening a horrible can of worms and at worst ends up with horrible, brutal abuse as the result, that just contributes to people's overall reluctance to seek help, and even considering what systemic abuse and neglect does exist I don't think people need further discouragement on that score.
at 22:47 on 29-10-2014, Andy G
I don't think films have a duty to do PR for modern mental health or care institutions, where there's a lot of systematic abuse/neglect. However, there is something in the idea that it's artistically redundant to endlessly criticise historically-dated manifestations of social problems (which just leads to self-congratulation) rather than facing up to the forms these problems take now.
at 19:07 on 29-10-2014, Sonia Mitchell
I can't think of a single instance where a Victorian era (or style, in the case of some fantasy) mental institution wasn't filled with staff that's wilfully malvolent and abusive. Such is the nature of genre tropes, I suppose.

I know you're talking about modern work, but for Victorian-era texts an interesting case is Dracula. The asylum there was really rather progressive - not least because the idea of releasing a patient who appeared to be better was not out of the question. As a contemporaneous depiction of an institution for the well-heeled, it's pretty interesting.

(One could argue that Renfield's vampirism demonises the mentally ill, but actually I think the portrayal is more subtle than that).
at 03:48 on 29-10-2014, James D
Well, I guess that's a little better. (I just said "nope" and switched off at that point. I may come back if I hear good things about the show - so far I've only read that it's distinctly lacking in interesting female characters and that the only PoC character is both othered and comes across like the Wise/Magical Black Friend Adviser trope. For now, I have better things to watch.) Still, what kind of medical hospital would let a patient choose to forego anaesthesia? I don't think that would be legal. If not for ethical patient treatment reasons (especially if they think the patient is mentally ill), then for reasons of not traumatising your nursing staff by making them do this.

I don't know, he was out of the mental hospital within about 5 minutes anyway. Honestly after only one episode, I think it's much too early to fairly judge the characters. The black angel character is kind of othered, but I mean, he's an angel, which are typically portrayed as white, so they get points for non-traditional casting, at least. He certainly could become a Magical Negro trope character, but at least in the few brief times we got to see him in the first ep, while he did help Constantine, he definitely seemed to have his own agenda and was antagonistic as much as he was friendly. Re: female characters, there was one but I think she got written out already? I guess we'll have to wait for that too. If you're iffy on the whole thing it makes sense to wait and see how the season pans out.
at 23:46 on 28-10-2014, Cheriola
Actually, I was wrong. Murdoch Mysteries, set in late Victorian / early Edwardian era Toronto, has one of the characters (the show's original coroner, who upgraded to psychiatrist over the course of the series) work in a sanatorium for middle-/upper-class patients that looks pleasant. The only episode that deals directly with the patients, as far as I can remember, is about various phobias, and the patients act more or less well-adjusted aside from their particular problem.
But this is the kind of show that has entire episodes about women's liberation and has said psychiatrist explain the concept of "born this way" to her former boss when he asks her to have a talk with his teenage son whom he suspects of being gay. It is amazingly left-wing for the setting.

(Actually, Murdoch Mysteries is another rarely watched show that I can heartily recommend, if you like police proceduals / murder mysteries with earnest, polite, goody-two-shoe main characters. I find it delightfully refreshing among all those jerk-with-a-supposed-heart-of-gold anti-heroes these days. The show also doesn't take itself too seriously, with quite a number of historical or genre in-jokes, and one episode per season jumping headlong into horror/scifi tropes by having cases look like committed by vampires, aliens, or the like. Though you need some tolerance for drawn-out will-they-won't-they and Americans being routinely presented in a rather unflattering light.)
at 22:21 on 28-10-2014, Cheriola
What pisses me off is not just the way the staff of modern psychiatric hospitals are maligned by making the place a house of horrors (I have relatives who are working in the field). There would be a place for that, at least in the context of shining a light on still occuring abuse, even if it has become more rare and mostly isn't actually institutionally sanctioned anymore. (I.e. you could still show individual staff members being abusive or neglectful, but not things like standardised procedures that are needlessly painful.) However, I don't think that place is fantasy/supernatural genre fiction where the whole terror of being made vulnerable like a institutionalised person is exploited for shock value.

What gets me more is that the abuse almost never is told from the point of view of characters who aren't neurotypical. In fact, the other patients, who really are in need of help, are usually presented as part of the horror of the place, with over-the-top abberant behaviour or they are even presented as dangerous. That kind of writing implies that the abuse is only bad because it happens to people who don't 'deserve' it for being mentally ill or non-neurotypical. (This article on Fangs for the Fantasy puts this argument in much more detail than I have the eloquence for.)

In the recent last few episodes of Boardwalk Empire (set in the late 1920s), for example, the audience is led to sympathise with a character who got herself a sentence in a psychiatric hospital instead of getting a prison sentence for the carefully planned murder of a random stranger that we did see her commit. The hospital is closed but quite pleasantly appointed (no cells or anything like that), but it also features a strict and domineering nursing staff and a head doctor who seems to operate (possibly hysterectomy, though the incision we saw was more in the area of the stomach) on patients just because he can, without their consent. The viewpoint character isn't quite what you'd call well-adjusted, but she was functional in the outside world, and the other patients in the hospital are shown as having loud angry outbursts or they are delusionally mumbling or having fits - the whole gamut of Hollywood 'crazy'. Nevertheless, it's the murderer we're supposed to sympathise with and feel bad for because she "doesn't belong" in that place, and because the other patients around her are a potentially dangerous Other barely capable of acting human.

I'm trying to come up with examples where mental institutions are genuinely treated as places of healing in historical or fantasy fiction... Well, there was one episode of Supernatural that had a harmless mental hospital with kind and helpful staff (aside from one doctor who abused one of his patient's superpower to commit larceny, but he wasn't actually abusive, IIRC). Doctor Who's Shakespeare episode was critical of a Bedlam house for the sake of the genuinely ill patients. (Though, on the other hand, that was also a case of serious modern self-righteousness. How were these places supposed to feed and house their inmates without having a revenue stream like charging fees to let people watch the inmates for fun? It's not like the NHS was possible before the British Empire and cheap fossil fuels created wastly more public funds.) Sleepy Hollow started out well in it's first season - another case of neurotypical viewpoint character unjustly incarcerated, but at least in this case she wasn't treated badly, her room looked comfortable, there were no creepy other patients, and she really had committed a crime. (And as it turns out, she committed the crime specifically to get herself locked up.) But then in the second season the same institution is apparently willing to apply un-sedated electroshocks to a different neurotypical character (who had confessed to a few murders to cover for his daugther who killed people while possessed by a demon), explicitly for the purpose of torture, on the say-so of the local police chief, who knew very well that the character was only pretending to be psychotic to get out of a prison sentence. They don't actually do it, because the character's lawyer steps in, but still: What the hell?!

Hm... I think the only time I've seen a non-modern mental institution portrayed as a place where well-intentioned people genuinely want to help their patients as far as possible with the medical knowledge of the time, was the movie "Restoration" (set in the 17th century), which is told from the viewpoint of a doctor.
I can't think of a single instance where a Victorian era (or style, in the case of some fantasy) mental institution wasn't filled with staff that's wilfully malvolent and abusive. Such is the nature of genre tropes, I suppose. I wonder where that specific one is coming from, though... Some work by Dickens, perhaps? Or another period author who was exposing real world abuse in hopes of better governmental oversight?