seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[community profile] equinox_exchange, a new biannual fanvidding exchange, just revealed its vids for its first round. 54 vids, all for space-based fandoms (the exchange picks a new theme each round, is the plan).

All of the vids can be found here

I received an amazing The Martian vid to Me First and the Gimme Gimme's punk cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man", which is an inspired song choice for a wonderful Mark being lonely but badass vid. I commend you to it. I also commend you to the rest of the exchange, which I'm still taking in, but so far it all looks great.

Rocket Man (9 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The Martian (2015)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Mark Watney
Additional Tags: Video, Angst, Happy Ending

Burning out his fuse up here alone.

I made two vids- feel free to guess which ones they are. They're probably screamingly obvious, as usual.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
In a couple months the rotation in my regular D&D group is going to work its way around to me DMing the on-going campaign. I've been a fill-in one shot DM for the group for years and have in various contexts run one shots and two and three shots over the years, but have never run a sustained rpg campaign before. I'm very excited.

My goal is basically to run Capitalism: The RPG. The setting is a homebrew called the Mannheim Vale setting, and it's a setting I've used to run one-shots before. It's a late-medieval setting where three kingdoms hold in dispute the Mannheim Vale, a geographically isolated area, with the result being that it's ended up being fairly ungoverned, home to subsistence farming goblins and a few esoteric hermit cults. But the vale has mineral resources of interest to a rapidly industrializing late-medieval power, so that my one-shot adventures have been tinged with the sense that this geographically isolated area is unlikely to stay untouched by the larger powers for long, and that in fact the triggering events of my one-shots have been the early probings of the major powers. I propose to explore in more detail the conflict as the long-time inhabitants of the vale deal with the influx of newcomers with their own agendas, from the point of view of the colonizers. I plan to exploit the tendency of D&D adventurers to, er, exploit, by directly converting economic externalities into plot hooks. And I plan to encourage the tendency of D&D adventurers to exploit by supplementing and modifying conventional XP systems to particularly reward players for discovering and laying claim to resources that have long-term economic value. I want discovering a vein of ore to be more valuable to a player than discovering a monster's treasure horde. But I want mining that vein of ore to bring with it story consequences that make players learn to ask if the reward is worth the human cost.

Players will be all affiliated with one of the numerous Auction Houses of Holern- powerful vertically integrated medieval guilds headed by a Chief Auctioneer (generally a high level bard). I want them to all be affiliated with different Auction Houses so that they're jockeying against each other, working together for the good of Holern and the joint venture but particularly attuned to how they can benefit their own sponsoring guild.

I haven't quite decided on the mechanics of my XP system modifications yet. I was at first thinking of replacing XP for combat with a mechanic I was thinking of as "XP for Profit", as a play on OD&D's "XP for Treasure". But it got messy, it would pretty much only work if players actually operated a fairly substantial economic ledger, which seems like a big ask. I'm thinking now to simplify- minimize or completely ditch XP for combat, and use a guild-based leveling system where players gain levels when they provide enough benefits to their guild to get a guild promotion. Finding a monster treasure horde might be worth a guild merit or two- they're not going to say no to enriching the guild treasury with the percentage of the haul that their guild member of course remits... but finding an exploitable mine, or uncovering a new kind of medicinal plant, or charting a faster trade route... those things are worth multiple guild merits.

This could all turn out to be a total disaster, in which case I'll tweak it as I go, but I'm really excited about getting the chance to try to tell a story like this over a longer time scale.

The other thing I'm worried about is how to tell stories in Capitalism: The RPG while still have it compellingly be a fantasy world. How do I maintain whimsy and magic and fantasy while exploring the economic questions that are interesting to me? How do I keep it fun for players?

I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how to do it for the setting's primary urban locus, the city of the various Auction Houses. My favorite bit of backstory about the city is this: The Council of Seven that rules the city politically is traditionally headed either by a human or a dwarf, alternating on three year terms. This is a political compromise between the two largest races in the city, but it is not a statutory arrangement and every so often, typically when the dwarves and humans are deadlocked on some issue, an elf has served a term as president of the council. And there was that one time that a minotaur ruled the city for three years... His big public works project as council president was a large public park with a fiendishly difficult unsolved labyrinth as its focal point.

I get how cities work, I have a feel for their nuances and I know how to generate fantasy and whimsy in an urban setting while making all the nuts and bolts of the city feel real. I'm going to have to work harder when characters are out exploring the wilder areas to hit the balance between the pure economics and the fantasy adventure. But I'm excited about the challenge of this, too.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Dear Jukebox Author,

Apparently you've asked the mod for some more prompting! That's fine. I would have been fine seeing whatever you came up with without it, but if you want some ideas, here's some thoughts on the things I like about the songs I requested.

Starman - David Bowie (Song)

I love it so much for its devastating false messianism. Ziggy has so much promise, so much charisma and belief and hope, and then he comes up against the reality that the world isn't ready for him and it destroys him. And the connection between music and faith- his messianic end times message is "Let the children boogie." The world changing power of rock and roll music. :D

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah - Parsonsfield (Song)

One of 30 Rock's better one-off jokes, the idea of Tracy Jordan singing a novelty song about a werewolf bar mitzvah is so surreally inspired. The chorus has a wonderful bit of wordplay that connects the idea of a werewolf to the idea of bar mtizvah as being centered on the locus of the idea of change and transformation, which is a shockingly deep insight for a throwaway joke on a sitcom. Parsonsfield's bluegrass cover adds another confusing layer of cultural-mismatch on top.

Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon (Song)

I pretty much only requested this because I wanted to request two songs about werewolves. The great idea behind this song, though, is that werewolves are so typically elemental to a gothic literature, with a heightened, constricted sense of place. Werewolves of London degothics the werewolf, transplants them to a mundane world and wrestles with their mundane desires.

Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple (Song)

This song is a marvel of wordplay and phrasing, and it's one of the songs that feels like it could use a good classic Jukebox literal interpretation of the lyrical metaphors. Treating it as a song where the narrator actually is a robot seems like a fun idea. A loveable failbot of a robot.

Monster Ballads - Josh Ritter (Song)

Also mostly requested to pair with my two werewolf requests (the actual monster ballads), because I am silly like that, but seriously, this song is great. It handles American history with such a gentle familiarity. It OWNS American history, in all its grim glory, with the kind of confidence that can only come from having dwelt on its darkest recesses and come to terms with them.

Feel free to take anything of this that you wish, and ignore the rest!

seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I finished watching Iron Fist. Well, mostly. I was bored through good stretches of it and I definitely didn't have my whole attention on the last few episodes. Um... it's not very good? At all?

Colleen Wing is the only good part of the show. Why couldn't they give us the Colleen Wing show?

Danny Rand is terrible. And he's terrible in specific ways that I particularly hate. It reminded me of my frustration with Sarah Connor in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where she makes tactical mistakes that a character like Sarah shouldn't make, and you're not clear if it's because of sloppy writing or if it's a deliberate character decision that you don't agree with. But for example:

Having been believed dead for fifteen years along with his billionaire parents, Danny Rand shows up back in New York. He enters the corporate headquarters of the company his father ran, and asks for a meeting with his father's business partner, which is denied. Whereupon any sane adult would, you know, ask to schedule an appointment later, but Danny instead beats up the security guard and sneaks up to the executive suite. He learns that his father's business partner is now dead and that the business partner's children now run the company, but they don't believe that he is really Danny, since Danny is dead, and they have security escort him from the building. Whereupon any sane adult would, you know, get a lawyer and start the process of belatedly probating their parents' estate. Or if they don't know that much about how corporations work, get advice from someone they trust... who would tell them to get a lawyer and start probating their parents' estate. What does Danny do? Danny spends the next several days stalking the company's new executives and harassing them. Yes, that is what Danny Rand does. It takes three episodes for Danny to accidentally get a lawyer- within a day in story time of doing so, he is restored to his shares of the company. Those three episodes without a lawyer are so fucking infuriatingly unnecessary. GET A FUCKING LAWYER, DANNY. IT'S WHAT GROWN-UPS DO.

The story logic behind Danny's stupidity seems to be that he was taken from his New York life at age 10 and raised in a mystical woo-woo orientalist comic book warrior monastery in the Himalayas. He doesn't know how corporations work, he doesn't know how New York society works, and he therefore just runs around and breaks things like a kid in a room full of breakable things. But this is a really dumb and uninteresting characterization- ostensibly he spent fifteen years being trained into a finely honed and disciplined weapon by experienced warriors- none of that discipline, none of the patience or combat intuition you'd expect from such training ever surfaces in his characterization. Why should I root for Danny Rand to triumph? Why should I even root for him to learn when he's apparently squandered fifteen years of teaching?


Mar. 17th, 2017 08:18 am
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
A note: Dropbox has dropped support for its Public dropbox folder, which is a folder where everything you placed in it got an automatically generated http link. I used this for the past several years for image hosting, on Dreamwidth and on AO3, as well as for hosting a few musical playlists I uploaded to this journal. All of these links are now broken.

I intend to fix all of the AO3 ones, and maybe a few of the significant ones on DW, but if you see a broken link somewhere, please let me know so I can fix it.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Relevant to my past post on The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, here's Zach Braff reading part of the poem as if it really were a love song:
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I got two more great Magic Flute fics for [community profile] purimgifts. They were written by [ profile] zdenka. I am surprised. Oh wait, no, that's not the right word. What's the opposite of surprised? Unsurprised? That is what I am. I was pretty certain they were by [ profile] zdenka by the first fic, and I am delighted that I got fantastic Zauberflote fics for Purimgifts. Queen of the Night FTW!

These fics are so great at capturing the essence of who the Queen of the Night is, how she stands up for emotional connection and music and happiness in the war against a cold, unfeeling, punitive rationalism.

The Abduction of Pamina: Part 1 (671 words) by Zdenka
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Die Zauberflöte | The Magic Flute - Mozart/Schikaneder
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night / Pamina's Father
Characters: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night, Pamina's Father (Magic Flute)
Additional Tags: Implied/Referenced Character Death, Kidnapping, Collection: Purimgifts Day 2
Series: Part 1 of Purimgifts 2017

The Queen of the Night has a dispute with her husband.

The Abduction of Pamina: Part 2 (776 words) by Zdenka
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Die Zauberflöte | The Magic Flute - Mozart/Schikaneder
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night, Pamina, Three Ladies (Magic Flute), Sarastro (The Magic Flute)
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 3
Series: Part 2 of Purimgifts 2017

The Queen of the Night takes back her daughter.

As for me, I was delighted to revisit the complex Toby Ziegler/Andie Wyatt relationship once more. It's one of my favorite relationships in the West Wing, and obviously Toby is my favorite West Wing character by far. As I did in a past Purimgifts fic, I wrote my stories from Andie's point of view- constantly frustrated by Toby, but no less in love for it. It was a comfortable voice to slip into, and as a result these stories were really fun to write.

As an Easter Egg of laziness on my part, the graphics I used to illustrate the fic are screenshots from my Toby vid "Circles (Ma'Agalim)".

The Plan Part I (475 words) by seekingferret
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: The West Wing
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Andrea Wyatt/Toby Ziegler
Characters: Andrea Wyatt, Toby Ziegler
Additional Tags: Weddings, Collection: Purimgifts Day 1
Series: Part 1 of The Plan

In which Andie has an evil plan.

seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
[community profile] purimgifts has been revealed!! The fic is here!! At least Day One- two more days of fic and art to go!

I received a lovely Magic Flute fic about the Queen of the Night and her relationship with Pamina. It's really sweet and shows the maternal side of the Queen without hiding her brutality or her pridefulness. I'm looking forward to probably two more Magic Flute fics in the coming days! Freilichin Purim indeed!

Star-Flaming Queen (515 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Die Zauberflöte | The Magic Flute - Mozart/Schikaneder
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Characters: Königin der Nacht | Queen of the Night, Pamina (The Magic Flute)
Additional Tags: Collection: Purimgifts Day 1

The Queen of the Night teaches Pamina how to use her power.

I have read some of the other fic in the collection, and liked some of it quite a lot, but there are several fics that I didn't write but which I conceivably could have, so I think I'll hold back on recs until author reveals to keep it from being obvious what I wrote.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
This is your regular reminder to back shit up. I just reinstalled the OS on my desktop last night because it was kernel panicking and refusing to boot. Wheefun.

Mostly everything of importance had been recently backed up, or was kept in my permanently syncing Dropbox folder, with the exception of a couple of recently edited vid files. And I was able to boot into the machine using a live USB Ubuntu installer stick and copy the remainder of unbacked up stuff onto an external drive. So I didn't lose any data, and everything now seems to be running happily. But it was scary- I'm involved in a couple of really involved vid projects at the moment and losing any of them would have meant losing months of work.

EDIT: And then two days later, the same refusal to boot/ kernel panic again. Which means a)There is some colossal bug with an update to Ubuntu 16.10 that nobody on the internet is complaining about or b)I have a hardware problem. Likely candidates: Hard drive, RAM, thermal issues, CPU. Desktop is a several year old refurb I bought last summer that had the RAM poorly seated when it arrived, but after reseating it seemed to be working fine, and I added some brand new RAM of my own at that time. Hard drive is passing Ubuntu's startup disk check, but could still be the culprit, and so I've seized the opportunity to switch to a new SSD anyway. The room the machine is in is not very dusty and the fan is definitely noisily working, so while thermal issues are still possible they don't fully match the symptoms. If CPU is bad, fuck it, I'm tossing the machine.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I had a really nice weekend.

Thursday night I baked hamentaschen for Shabbos dinner- a friend was coming out from New York to visit her sister who lives two blocks away from me, so I was invited over for dinner. Hamentaschen all came out tasty, and half of them came out looking like hamentaschen, too! Friday night dinner was a lovely time with good friends. Then I slept all of Shabbos day. Saturday night I watched [redacted] for my [redacted] vid. I hadn't watched it in years, but it holds up.

Sunday I met up with a friend in the City and we got knishes at Yonah Schimmel's and then wandered the city for a few hours telling stories about eldritch sacrifices in Times Square. Then I went uptown to another friend's game night.

We played Codewords, which I've played before once or twice and think is okay, but I'm not as fond of it as a lot of other people are. The idea is that there's a grid of words and you need to clue certain of the words words to a teammate with single word clues before the other team can do the same with their words, a la Password, but you're trying to clue as many of the words with one clue as possible without inadvertently cluing other words on the board, by coming up with a word that clues an exclusive connection between multiple of your words. My suspicion is that it's a game that a team could get good at together, and that it'd be a lot of fun playing with two teams who are well practiced as teams, but it's not anywhere near as much fun as a random pick-up party game because clues are just necessarily too vague to be formed by interesting connections.

We then played Anomia, which was a fun and silly shout a word that meets a category game that I liked, but it didn't blow me away.

We then played Dick, which is Apples to Apples using quotations from Moby Dick as the red cards. This was totally amazing and I'm so glad I acquired it. It has all the sublime filthiness of a good Cards Against Humanity set mixed with a surreality that comes of Melville's amazing gift for language. I was the only player who'd read Melville's novel, but that in no way impacted on players' enjoyment of the game- I think if anything, it was more fun to discover the delightful weirdness of random Moby Dick quotes for the first time. I do wish that they hadn't made use of some of Melville's more explicitly racist lines- they have a place in the novel, but they don't really have a place in a game.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I bought it a couple months ago, but I've finally given Norah Jones's latest, Day Breaks, a few listens in the past few days. It's quite an impressive album.

The media around it has talked about it as a return to the sounds of her full length debut "Come Away With Me". Aside from the ubiquitousness of "Don't Know Why", "Come Away With Me" was not my first introduction to Jones and is still not my favorite mode of Norah Jones, though I do think it's also an exceptional piece of work. Each piece of it is a small mastercraft unto itself, a little story that doesn't push very hard but knows exactly what it is and where it lives in the history of jazz and pop. After that and the sudden success it afforded her, Jones created a marvelously odd set of albums bouncing off in all sorts of surprising and exciting musical directions, and I caught on that Jones was something more than just a pop-jazz songstress.

Purely in the sense of genre, Day Breaks is a return home to the language of "Come Away With Me", but Day Breaks is a very different, and in my opinion much better album. The musicianship both of Jones and her accompanists is worlds better, and conscious of this improvement in quality, the mixing brings the instruments more to the fore and blends Jones's stellar, remarkably controlled vocals deeper into the ensemble mix. There is a sharpness and a precision in the sound that isn't there on "Come Away With Me" that comes of bringing musicians of Wayne Shorter's caliber to play with Jones, and more importantly, comes of having producers involved with the musical intelligence to understand how to take advantage of bringing in people of that caliber (Jones co-produced the album herself- clearly she knows a thing or two she didn't know fifteen years ago).

I'm always going to love it more when Norah Jones makes weird shit with her friends like El Madmo, in which a group of brilliant musicians perform the perfect deliberately bad punk album (A song like "Carlo" is such a studied contradiction, with remarkable guitar work playing stupid-obvious chords and controlled vocals shout-singing the absolute dumbest punk lyrics). But if Norah Jones wants to return to her most commercial fare, this is absolutely the way to do it.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Hey everyone, remind me that getting into arguments on Facebook rarely gets anything productive done and is usually going to hurt people I care about.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Samson Raphael Hirsch removed Kol Nidre from the Yom Kippur service one year, in hopes of minimizing anti-semitic rhetoric surrounding the prayer and the belief that it authorized Jews to behave immorally in business. He immediately decided this was a mistake and brought it back the following year, but it's fascinating to me what the boundaries of 'reform' were in the mid 19th century and how they're different from what contemporary Orthodoxy considers legitimate as topic of potential halachic reform. It's unthinkable that an Orthodox figure today would contemplate removing such a central prayer from the Yom Kippur liturgy. On the other hand, there are things we do today in a Modern Orthodox synagogue in terms of approach to texts and scholarship, not to mention womens' involvement, that Rav Hirsch would have found unthinkable.

Even more striking is the story of early 19th century Saxe-Weimar, which sought to encourage Reform Judaism for various political reasons. For a fifteen year period from the late 1830s to about 1850, they forbid prayer in Hebrew- to the delight of the most radical Jewish reformers and the agony of the rest of the Jewish community. Which reads to me as the Chanukah story in miniature. I think I mentioned in my last post on the book that Meyer's position seems to be that the story of the rise of Reform Judaism is inextricable from the story of Jewish emancipation in Western Europe, and large parts of Western European Jewry existed in a sort of suspended half-emancipated state in the early 19th century where religious reforms were newly possible, but they represented an actual zero-sum game because they were dependent on state support. Berlin had a single synagogue for its 3000 Jews, and it was actually illegal to have an alternate house of worship, so when the traditionalists were ascendant the reformers had to have secret illegal prayer services and when the reformers were ascendant the same was true for the traditionalists. And mind you, both were competing against the third option- Jews who didn't care about religion either way and if it got too hard would happily convert to Christianity for the economic benefits, which of course was the state's plan all along. It seems like after the 1848's pan-European upheaval, political conditions improved enough that Orthodoxy and Reform could uneasily coexist, and that's when the denominational split as we know it today more or less began.

I've read before more social-history-oriented accounts of the battles between Orthodox and Reform, but they tended to be at such a localized level that I hadn't understood the consequences of these battles in their greater context. Still, I find myself wishing for more of the social history kind of stuff than Meyer is interested in providing. He discusses polemics back and forth about decorum during prayer services- typically the Reformers favored a more orderly, Christian-style prayer service and the Orthodox a more unruly, chaotic prayer, or so I'm given to understand, but he doesn't supply a lot in the way of details about the actual experiential differences. A contemporary Orthodox shul is more likely to have a lay chazan, and to have different people praying at different volumes and different paces at the same time as the chazan, but it does not strike me as the kind of chaos that would spur the Reformers' outrage- I can't tell if this is because I am used to it, or if it's because contemporary Orthodox prayers have also gotten more orderly as a response to popular preference in the past two centuries.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Posted this on facebook a couple weeks ago; I saw something the other day on Dreamwidth that made me think it probably was worth posting here too:

The secret reason I'm not okay with everyone cheering on the punching of Nazis is because lots of the leftists cheering the punching of Spencer are fond of calling Zionists Nazis. Where by Zionists they mean Jews.

So when I say "I'm worried about who gets to decide who is a Nazi and can be punched," I mean "I'm worried they're going to punch my family." When I say "I'm worried about the unforeseen consequences of mob justice," I mean "I'm worried about anti-semitic pogroms."

I'm testing out this idea of not talking in code. We'll see if it's a mistake.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I Puritani by Bellini, staged by the Met

Look, we already know I don't give a shit about most 19th century opera, this is not news. The first act of I Puritani was a total snoozefest of moderately unlikeable characters, tepid plot twists, and attractive but not particularly character-driven bel canto vocal lines. And so I decided to skip out on the second and third acts, which according to the summary in the playbill were "Act II: Totally misogynistic mad scene" and "Act III: Surprise! Everything works out in the end".

Just to fill out the post, thoughts on the new season at the Met: I was terribly excited to learn that Luis Bunuel's puzzlingly surreal and emotionally complex film El Angel Exterminador had been adapted as an opera and would be staged by the Met... until I learned that Thomas Ades was the composer. [personal profile] freeradical42 and I skipped the second half of his Tempest because we were so annoyed by the way he'd simplified Shakespeare's characterizations, and I did make it through his Powder Her Face, but it was an endurance feat. Maybe the third time's the charm, but I'm not super thrilled about the prospect of seeing him ruin another favorite text.

I'm amused but unsurprised that the Met is already staging a new Tosca, and that their advertising is highlighting its similarities to the Zeffirelli Tosca. Never change, Met. Never change. I am a little... regretful... that I have not seen the current, much-maligned Tosca production and have now missed my shot, but on the other hand, me and Puccini never get along.

And I am very intrigued by the new production of Cosi fan tutte, set at Coney Island? That has the prospect of being a total blast to watch.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
The weather yesterday was amazing. Not amazing for February, amazing stam. Mid '70s, plenty of sun, a little wind. I pulled out my bike for the first time since October and went for a nice ride. Two nice rides, actually- I rode a couple miles toward Target, where I was planning to buy milk and a new pair of earbuds. Then I realized I'd forgotten my wallet, so I turned back home. My second ride I instead went to the Rite Aid that's only about a mile away. All told I think I rode six or seven miles, which is pretty good given how little exercise I've gotten all winter. Target, which is about a ten mile ride roundtrip, remains an elusive milestone (er... target) . This is I think the third time I've attempted to ride there and gotten caught up short for various reasons. Hopefully as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer I'll make bike riding a regular thing again, and get better at it.

When not riding, I was vidding. I have actually finished a reasonably decent Equinox vid first draft, which is shocking to me given how recently I got the assignment. There is a particular combination of song inspiration and fandom familiarity that results in me knowing exactly what goes where- my Noah vids were like that. It also involves not being a perfectionist, which can be hard but is also I think worthwhile. [personal profile] chaila had a great (locked) post on her vid process in which she described "6) Get a full timeline! YAY! It's almost always shitty, but WHO CARES FULL TIMELINE." And it's really true- it's stunning how quickly a shitty full timeline can go to a satisfying full timeline once you get to the full timeline stage- the wrong spots jump out at you once you can see the whole shape of it. Of course sometimes you hit the full timeline and realize your whole arc is wrong and you need to rebuild the whole thing from scratch, but eh, that's vidding. They call it the worst hobby for a reason. I've already started a second vid in the same fandom, but this one is definitely going to be much slower going... I'm much less certain about how it fits together.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Ran a neat D&D one-shot last night. Set-up was that the players were unpaid interns on their first day at a zoo full of D&D monsters. I drew up the zoo map a year or two ago on a previous occasion when I thought I was going to be running a one shot, but never actually ran it. This time when I was asked on short notice to run something I thought it'd be easy to pull it out of my bag, but it turns out I'd lost all prep materials besides the map drawing, so I had to scramble a little to think up some story hooks in the hour before the game. But it worked really well in practice.

In the hour I had, I typed up a schedule and a task list for the interns and embedded all the storyhooks into these materials, which the interns found on a chalkboard in the employee only area of the zoo's welcome center. There were hooks like "Feed the owlbear" and "Sing to the manticore" and "Make sure all the oozes are accounted for" and "Don't feed the trolls" The great thing about this was that it meant that for much of the adventure, I didn't need to advance the plot- the players took over management of the schedule and advanced the plot for me. All I did was serve as timekeeper and occasionally inserted an NPC to stir things up. This suited my natural inclination as DM to not do very much.

There were a lot of hysterical scenes- the drunk satyr in the petting zoo, the lovelorn chimera escaping his cage to seek the lovely hydra, the sphinx needing to be given a new riddle, but my favorite was probably the payoff on a gag from the schedule- an item said "Feed the minotaur", but there was no minotaur cage on the map. The interns ran all over the zoo trying to find a minotaur, but when the zoo's owner showed up at the end of the day to evaluate their performance, he told them "That says manticore"- the unfed manticore who got increasingly grumpy throughout the day in spite of being sung to.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
After the rally, I met [personal profile] ghost_lingering and Jon at MoMa. They had a sort of special installation in recognition of Trump's travel ban on visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries. I say sort of because I'm not sure whether it really comprises an installation, exactly, except that it does.

The installation, such as it is, consists of seven paintings by contemporary artists installed in MoMa's fifth floor galleries, which typically host the museum's permanent collections- that amazing and confusing collection of Picassos, Matisses, Magrittes and Van Goghs that are the museum's most reliable draw for visitors. I've written before about how MoMa constitutes a canonical avant garde, a 'Revolutionary Orthodoxy'. The seven paintings installed in this gallery present a deliberate and sometimes really unsettling disruption of this paradoxical conservatism.

I commented partway through that it sort of felt like a treasure hunt, to wander through these familiar galleries and spot the painting that was out of place. Sometimes it was instantly obvious; other times the work blended until you took a closer look. A Sudanese painting set beside a Picasso guitar sculpture showed similar geometries and a similar color palette- and an utterly different sense of composition.

Each of the paintings had a note beside it noting that the artist was from a country whose travel into the US was being restricted by the executive order, making clear how such an executive order would impact our artistic and cultural exchange with the world. But the positioning of the art within the context of MoMa's permanent collection made a sort of opposite argument, namely that these works of art are not scary, they are not foreign and weird, they're perfectly recognizable as part of the normal discourse of the art world. And that cutting these seven countries out of our American lives isn't cutting out the Other, something separate- it's cutting something out of our very heart.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Hundreds of Jewish umbrellas came out today, braving the hail and the sleet and the cold, to Battery Park, overlooking the Statue of Liberty, to say that Jews understand our moral obligation to help refugees and not deny them safety. To commit to continue fighting against Trump's hatred. To speak about our love and connection with the Muslim community. To remember the past and pray for the future. And to say that we were strangers once, in the land of Egypt, and because of that it is a mitzvah to love the stranger.

(better pictures, not taken by me)
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I made three or four vids for Festivids this year depending on how you count.

My assignment was for [personal profile] skygiants, who requested a Blazing Saddles vid. She requested "a really wacky vid that embraces the genre satire; I also think you could do some really neat stuff going in the exact opposite direction and digging into sharp edges of what the film is actually about. " I didn't do either of those things, exactly. Rather, I think what I did is take the film's narrative beats nearly totally seriously. Blazing Saddles is a scathing satire of the Western genre which rigorously hits every single narrative trope of the genre it can find and rigorously checks off every required plot point of the standard Western plot. And each time it hits a required point, it informs you that it is doing it. The result is that even though it often doesn't feel like it because you're too busy laughing, Blazing Saddles is sketching out the epic saga of Sheriff Bart and his victory over the forces of evil. I tried to bring that into focus without forsaking the important themes that arise from the satire, of the erasure of minorities from the 19th century West, of white supremacy and the importance of alliances and teamwork to defeat it.

Two Against One

The song I chose to vid "Two Against One" by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, is incredibly apt for this balancing act. It's the work of a biracial musician reinterpreting the classic Western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, a complicated marriage of blues and folk and spaghetti Western. I think the lyrics are actually about self-sabotage- read closely enough the 'two' opponents Jack White is faced up against are his own tendency to betray himself- and himself in a mirror! The lyrics, though, are vague enough that you need to listen closely to understand this, so I read nearly all the lyrics against their actual meanings. The 'two' is usually used for the good guys, against the one being the bad guy, as I was emphasizing the teamwork theme. The thrust of the vid is: Bart shows up in town alone, the classic Western loner, hated by everyone both for Western trope reasons of the feared outsider and because of basic racism. He forms an alliance with Jim, becoming for the first time Two against One, then enlists the the poor townfolk, women and children too, in the fight against the evil white males with institutional power.

Then I saw [personal profile] yinetime was out for pinchhit and they requested the Darren Aronofsky Noah movie. Some of you may know I've been working on a vid for this film for the past two years. It's a six minute long vid and I've laid a good timeline for about three and a half minutes of it. So I wasn't about to finish that in two weeks for Festivids, but I knew the source really damned well, so I asked myself "Do you think you can make a vid for this in two weeks?" I decided, before claiming the pinch hit, to spend a few minutes testing out ideas to make sure I could pull it off. I usually do this when claiming pinch hits for fic. In this case, I sat down and an hour later I had a full timeline for a two and a half minute long vid. And I mostly really liked the timeline! So I claimed the pinch hit.

Brings the Flood

"Brings the Flood" is set to Neko Case's ambiguous fairy tale of faith "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood". My vid centers Naamah, Noah's wife, and the ways in which Noah betrays her. He is the 'fox' of Case's song: handsome, spiritual, dangerously cunning, and for all that he loves her, not always acting in her best interests. But Naamah is cunning, too. In the end, Noah stands over Ila, preparing to kill Shem's daughters in order to annihilate the human race, and he looks at Ila and he sees his wife in her, and he overcomes the snake for her sake. And all through it, Naamah endures, endures the pains and betrayals that come of trying to live a moral and fulfilled life in a world that doesn't explain what moral means. And then the rainbow comes and tells both Noah and Naamah that forgiveness has come, even though it cannot quite wipe away the flood of tears.

And then I recalled another song I'd noticed when scanning my music library for songs about floods and oceans and water: "Theme from Flood" by They Might Be Giants, the goofy radio-jingle of a theme song for the TMBG album of the same time. And I said two things. First "Wouldn't a Noah vid to this be hilarious?" and Second: "I told [personal profile] sanguinity that I just made a treat in an hour, to try to throw her off the scent of guessing I made the Noah pinch hit. But she's still going to know that I made the Noah vid, because of course I made the Noah vid. But if I made a TMBG Noah vidlet that will clearly only take a few minutes of work, she might think this is the Noah vid I was talking about, and somebody else made "Brings the Flood". Except she's still going to know I made "Brings the Flood", because of course I made the Noah vid." So I made "They Might Be Nephilim", this overly obvious Ferretvid, because it made me laugh and because it might decoy [personal profile] sanguinity, though probably not. And then [personal profile] thirdblindmouse made "Chess: The Musical", which is basically the exact same joke. I'm awed by how similar they are.

They Might Be Nephilim

That's three vids. What's the fourth? I made a third Noah vid, but I didn't post it because it's a little messy and also because if I'd posted three Noah vids, there wouldn't have been any question in the world that I made all three, especially since I reuse a lot of clips in complementary ways from vid to vid. The third vid is a Tubal-Cain POV vid about his relationship with Noah. It's set to Arcade Fire's "Ocean of Noise", off an album dismissively but for these purposes appropriately titled "Neon Bible". "Noah" is very much a film, I know I've written, about the way that it can feel that if the Creator has a plan, it's never communicated very well to the actors carrying it out. Noah is prophetically warned of the flood, but that doesn't tell him how to respond to it, doesn't give him certainty about what redemption may or may not come. And Tubal-Cain is given even less than Noah. All he can see is that the power to rule has been placed in front of him by the Creator and he sees that as his own sort of prophecy, an obligation to act in the Creator's image by creating a civilization of great strength and achievement.'s annotator sees "Ocean of Noise" as a struggle for primacy between absent father and rebellious son, but I don't find that perfectly obvious. More clearly, it's a song about an opposition that may appear rational, but if examined decays into an ocean of noise. In the end, Noah and Tubal Cain are both just fighting for the survival of themselves and the people that matter to them.

Ocean of Noise


seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)

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