Caldecott Monday: Smoky Night

Sep. 18th, 2017 08:51 pm
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[personal profile] osprey_archer
The Caldecott award winners - indeed, picture books in general - often seem to float in a gentle timeless world untouched by history, or at least only brushed by the brighter and more beautiful parts of it. It's a peaceful place, picture book land, a pleasant respite.

This is not true of the 1995 Caldecott winner, Smoky Night, which was inspired by the Los Angeles riots in 1992 (although the riot within the book has no specific location). The two year turnaround time (Caldecott winners are selected from the books published the year before the award is given) makes the riots a red hot topical reference in picture book terms.

It's, well, it's a very 90s take on race relations. If only we all get to know each other, maybe we can all get along! Well, maybe. This seems a little too pat to me - it all ties up too neatly with a bow at the end.

On the other hand, it may be asking too much to expect a picture book to explain systemic racism to five-year-olds.

The illustrations are acrylic, thick black outlines filled in with heavy dark colors, and mixed media collages for the backgrounds. It isn't a style I particularly like: there's something upsetting about the teal & purple palette David Diaz used for the faces, although I understand that he probably didn't want to commit to races for all the characters. But the collages are definitely striking (there's one with broken glass; another with crumbled dry cleaner clothes, still in the bags), and quite unlike anything I've seen in other picture books.

Fic: A Rose By Any Other Name

Sep. 18th, 2017 10:23 pm
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[personal profile] majestic_duxk

Title: A Rose By Any Other Name

Story by: majesticduxk

Art by: angerprobfemme

Pairings: pre wincestiel (pre Castiel/Dean Winchester/Sam Winchester)

Rating: M

Word Count: 16881

Warnings: d/s verse, misunderstandings, lawyer!Sam, lawyer!Cas, sub!Dean, swearing, fantasies, daydreaming, explicit sexual fantasies, multiple POV, pre slash, humour

Summary: Sam dreams of having a sub to hold in his arms while watches TV, to snuggle up to at night, and to pull down over his knee for no reason at all, expect to turn their bottom a beautiful shade of red. Of course it’s hard to meet anyone except work colleagues, and his law office is particularly conservative. But then one day, somehow, a wonderful bright eyed and messy haired sub walks through the door, and he’s smitten. But maybe he fell too soon.

Link to Fic

Link to Art

Mary Poppins

Sep. 17th, 2017 05:23 pm
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[personal profile] osprey_archer
A busy weekend! I've had work & work & more work, but on Friday evening I went to the Artcraft to see Mary Poppins on the big screen - arriving just in the nick of time, still dressed in my Starbucks clothes (all in black), only for Julie to drag me backstage and pop a newsboy cap on my head and propel me on stage with a group of her cosplaying friends to play chimney sweeps.

So that was fun. I looked quite fetching in the newsboy cap if I do say so myself; I may need to buy one.

And Mary Poppins was delightful, of course! Naturally I've seen it before - my favorite bit as a child was the part where they jump into the chalk paintings - but it's been quite a long time so it was great to see it again. And on the big screen! Jumping into a chalk painting is even more delightful on the big screen!

I also enjoyed how willing the movie is to meander off on digressions: it stops dead for the penguin dance, or Mary Poppins riding her carousel horse in the ascot, or the laughing disease that makes people float. Well, I suppose that is plot relevant, but the length of the sequence is not strictly necessary - but it is fun, and the fact that the movie includes things just because they're fun gives the movie room to breathe. I feel that movies rarely allow themselves to digress the same way anymore - although Moana did have that coconut pirate sequence, which strictly speaking was totally superfluous except for being super nifty.


In preparation for Mary Poppins, we watched Saving Mr. Banks, which is about the making of Mary Poppins. It stars Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, who through financial necessity has at last been forced to accept Walt Disney's entreaties to make a movie based on her books. She insists on supervising the script writing and is breath-takingly, fascinatingly cranky.

(One of the songwriters limps, and eventually Travers demands, "What is wrong with his leg?"

"He got shot," says his fellow songwriter.

Travers, without missing a beat: "Hardly surprising.")

I enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks, but it made me really, really want to read a good nonfiction book about the making of Mary Poppins. I suspect that Saving Mr. Banks had to tone it down to make it believable, and I want all the bizarre and ridiculous deets.
kat_lair: (COMMUNITY - Abed)
[personal profile] kat_lair

Title: Magical Healing Dangly Bits
Author: MistressKat / [personal profile] kat_lair 
Fandom: Marvel (Deadpool/X-Men)
Characters: Deadpool/Wade Wilson, Logan
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 431
Disclaimer: Not mine, only playing

Summary: Because really, who else is Wade going to ask?

Author notes: Written for randomly selected fandom and prompt (magical healing cock)

Magical Healing Dangly Bits )

kat_lair: (GEN: castle with ghosts)
[personal profile] kat_lair

Title: Shelter from the Storm
Author: MistressKat / [personal profile] kat_lair 
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Pairing: Kirk/McCoy implied
Rating: PG
Word count: 315
Disclaimer: Not mine, only playing

Summary: The storm’s just an excuse.

Author notes: Written for randomly selected fandom and prompt (snowed/stormed in)

Shelter from the Storm )

Inktober 2017

Sep. 16th, 2017 11:37 am
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[personal profile] amberdreams
Inktober is nearly upon us - I hope to do more than half a dozen of the days this time!

Read more... )

Book Review: White Gold

Sep. 15th, 2017 08:09 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I requested Susan Falls’ White Gold: Stories of Breast Milk Sharing from Netgalley because the topic fascinated me: informal breast milk sharing networks in the United States. That part of the book is interesting, and there’s also some information about breast milk traditions in other parts of the world that I found interesting too (did you know that in some Arab countries, unrelated children who are breastfed by the same woman become milk siblings?), but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the book as a whole.

There are two reasons for this. The first is simply that the book is not written in a style that appeals to me. I have a low tolerance for jargon and for intensive theorizing, and this book is all about jargon, and often uses the topic of breast milk sharing networks as a springboard to theorize about, say, the nature of agency. There is a place where Falls stops dead to consider whether she ought to consider whether breast milk itself has agency, before mercifully concluding that this question is beyond remit of her book.

I’m sure there are people who find this sort of thing fascinating, although personally I always feel that this sort of thing shows either a dangerously loose grasp of the theory of agency, or possibly that agency itself has become so loosely defined that it’s no longer a useful concept.

The other problem - which I think is an actual problem with the book, rather than a problem with me as a reader for this book - is that Falls is so deeply embedded in a particular perspective on social justice that she never notices her actual prejudices. She is stunned to discover that many breast milk donors in the American South are conservative white Christians - she mentions multiple times how much this surprised her - but it never seems to occur to her that she ought to interrogate her own surprise, or for that matter to investigate why breast milk donation would be an appealing prospect for many conservative white Christian women.

Surely these questions are at least as important and interesting as the possible agency of breast milk.

Book Review: Bayou Magic

Sep. 14th, 2017 09:12 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
”I’ve got another one. Another saying. ‘Planting seeds grows happiness.’”

C’est vrai.” Grandmere starts rocking again, her lips upturned.

I think but don’t say:
Sometimes bad happens.

Sayings come from observing the world. As true as the sun rises and sets, bad
is. That’s what I’ve learned.

Oil and salt destroy land. A bird’s wing gets broken. A turtle gets eaten by a gator.

Mami Wata couldn’t stop Membe being captured as a slave.

This quote does not entirely capture Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic - the book is more hopeful than this excerpt really expresses - but it does capture the rhythm and the cadence of the book, the darkness that hangs just beyond the light of the fireflies Maddy’s grandmother teaches her to summon. There is light and beauty and magic in this book, but these things can only hope to hold back the badness, to make it bearable, not to defeat it.

I was curious how Rhodes would combine a “girl meets magic” storyline with African-American history without either getting losing the wish-fulfillment aspects that make this sort of story fun, or else getting too wish-fulfillment-y which would require straight-up ignoring the ugly parts of history. In fact, she finds an excellent balance between the two - with room to spare for beautiful passages about the bayou and the mermaids, which both seem to get more magical through their association with each other.

This is the third book in a series (I’m not sure how tightly connected the series is; they might just be connected by the premise, “African-American heroines in Louisiana + magic”), and now I want to go back and read the first two.

Summergen 2017 fic: As Other Birds

Sep. 14th, 2017 12:50 am
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[personal profile] crowroad
Title: As Other Birds
Rating : PG-13
Word Count : 2700
Warnings : children in danger
Spoilers: S12
Author’s Notes: For Summergen, withthedemonblood wanted Winchesters and Baneses, post 12 x20. Thanks to  [personal profile] laughablelament , as always, and to the mods!

Summary : Two sets of brothers, a pair of witch twins, and the Pennsylvania woods. Or: what to make of a diminished thing.

On AO3

Wednesday Reading Meme

Sep. 13th, 2017 09:06 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
What I’ve Just Finished Reading

I finished Edna Ferber’s Great Son, which remained disappointing right up until the end. The misogyny remains strong to the last page, and she doesn’t even do anything interesting with her Japanese characters. There are some vague feints in an anti-racist direction: the one openly racist character is Vaughn’s prudish wife, who we are supposed to despise, and in response to one of her complaints about “Those Japs are all alike,” Vaughn mutters, “Nobody’s all alike.”

But the son of the Japanese family attempts to steal Vaughn’s grandson’s plane on the morning of Pearl Harbor, presumably with the intent of… flying to Hawaii to join in? Suicide bombing Boeing? WHO KNOWS. In any case he fails, and soon after the family is “whisked away to a secret place,” at which point Vaughn’s wife trumpets “didn’t I always say I always felt there was something I never did trust?” - and that’s the end of it.

I also finished Nancy Bond’s A String in the Harp, which I enjoyed in a mild way, although I was disappointed that neither of Peter’s sisters ever get to see any visions from Peter’s magical harp key. Well, I guess they sort of do, because the visions start spilling over into the real world - most notably in the form of a wolf who slides out of time into modern-day Wales and has to be hunted down - and I did really like that aspect of the key’s magic, actually, that blurring of times. But still. The girls’ role is to believe or disbelieve and neither of them gets to see.

What I’m Reading Now

Julia L. Sauer’s Fog Magic, which I might have read before. I remember reading - something - about a girl who found magical adventure by walking into a fog bank - and this might be that story; and yet it doesn’t seem quite the same, the details don’t really match what I remember, and it doesn’t feel familiar to me as I read.

Does anyone else know of another book about a girl walking into the fog and finding something magical? Or is my memory just playing tricks on me?

What I Plan to Read Next

I’ve almost finished the Unread Book Club! There are only three left: Duncan Wall’s The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present, Elyne Mitchell’s The Silver Brumby, and Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon. Victory is within my grasp!

Although it has occurred to me that I have a whole nother box of hundred-year-old books that I inherited from my grandmother that I still haven’t touched. Maybe those will be my project for next year.

Book Review: The Long Hangover

Sep. 12th, 2017 08:54 am
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I liked Shaun Walker’s The Long Hangover: Putin’s New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past, but in a mild sort of way: I finished it over a week ago and it’s already fading out of my mind.

Two things that stuck with me. First, there’s a part where Walker is talking about Chechnya, and comments in amazement on the number of Chechens who serve in the Russian armed forced - even though Stalin deported the entire Chechen nation during World War II, even though Russia has leveled Grozny twice since the end of the Soviet Union.

When you put it that way it does sound surprising. But then, Native Americans serve in the US military in high numbers (I just learned this in Onigamiising), despite having a similarly harrowing history with that institution - and it struck me that perhaps these things seems baffling only if you look at them from a certain angle, if you assume that joining the military is a reflection of burning patriotism or at least some enthusiasm for a country, when really sometimes it’s just a job, an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity for someone living in a marginalized community.

No one thinks you have to have a burning love of McDonalds to start flipping burgers, after all.

The other thing that struck me is the total failure of empathy in the West vis-a-vis the collapse of the Soviet Union. My impression is that the American assumption was that everyone in the USSR would react about the same way as, say, Poland, where the Soviets were viewed as an invading power and their withdrawal caused celebration.

But outside of eastern Europe (which only came into the Soviet sphere post-World War II in any case), most people didn’t see it that way: they saw their own government and way of life collapsing, national purpose and identity crushed, with nothing to replace it but a kleptocratic oligarchy, and meanwhile the West looked on in bafflement and said “You’ve got democracy now! Why aren’t you rejoicing?”
osprey_archer: (books)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
Allen Say's Grandfather's Journey, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1994, was probably not written expressively for the purpose of repudiating the 1941 winner, Robert Lawson's They Were Strong and Good - but as they are both Caldecott medalists, it does sort of work that way.

They are the same kind of book, both windows onto American history through the medium of the author's own family history - but these windows offer very different views. In They Were Strong and Good diversity needs to be quelled, tamed, by white supremacy, whereas in Grandfather's Journey it's something to be greeted, even welcomed. In his journey, Say's grandfather "shook hands with black men and white men, with yellow men and red men."

And of course Say's grandfather was himself a Japanese man who immigrated to America, which is in itself a celebration of diversity - to present this is a quintessentially American story, the immigrant who comes to this nation and goes on a cross-country trip and marvels at the marvelous weathered rock formations, the amber waves of grain, the towering mountains and mighty factories and gorgeous trains.

Edna Ferber actually has a similar passage in Great Son, where a German Jewish refugee marvels at the natural beauty and industrial strength of America. Say is drawing on a tradition: the immigrant who becomes an American by falling in love with the country.

(And, because Say's family returned to Japan before World War II, the Japanese internment camps never come up. Say grows up hearing stories about beautiful California, and the family is about to visit, but then "a war began. Bombs fell from the sky and scattered our lives like leaves in a storm." So it is not until the postwar years that he goes to California, and "came to love the land my grandfather had loved.")

The text is poetic, as I think the above excerpts illustrate - gentle, thoughtful - and the illustrations share in that gentleness and tranquility. Many of them are composed like studio portraits, the subject looking straight at the camera/viewer, which sounds like it ought to be boring or static but instead is just - peaceful.

Hawaii Five-0 Ficlet: Gift of the Gab

Sep. 10th, 2017 12:50 pm
kat_lair: (GEN: castle with ghosts)
[personal profile] kat_lair

Title: Gift of the Gab
Author: MistressKat / [personal profile] kat_lair 
Fandom: Hawaii Five-0
Pairing: Danny/Steve pre-slash if you’re so inclined, can totally be gen
Rating: PG
Word count: 337
Disclaimer: Not mine, only playing

Summary: God, how Danny wishes Steve would just talk to him, tell him what was wrong so they could get on with fixing it.

Author notes: Written for randomly selected fandom and prompt (superpowers)

Gift of the Gab )


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