In the meantime, an interesting discussion, which I hope to wring another BVC blog post out of. (It's getting hard to figure out something to write, but I committed to it, so . . . besides, it's good for me to test my ideas against others. Too easy to get locked inside my head.)
Anyway, the discussion subject was words you don't use. I don't necessarily mean cuss words you avoid, but words that have too much freight for whatever reason. Like, the discussion got started when someone mentioned that when we were growing up, nobody ever said the word 'cancer' or wrote it. Sick, ill, other euphemisms, but she felt that there was this tremendous fear around the word because it was always a death sentence, especially as the constant cigarette atmosphere around us started catching up with people at not very old ages. Saying it was impolite, like saying pregnant (expecting was the word back then), but also there was a kind of superstition like mentioning it would invite it.
Another person said she refuses to use the word 'literally' because she hears it so much, usually used wrong, that is, as an emphasizer, which she sees as sloppy language.
A third person at that discussion said that that was weird, and why avoid any word?
So I was sitting on a muddy path in a wooded area because of reasons (ok, exhausted after climbing) when I saw movement and a tiny thing scurrying past me. I figured that glimpse was all I'd see, but I turned round to see where it'd gone and it was on the path on the other side of me, and with great caution so as not to startle it I managed to dig my phone out of my coat pocket:
( Cut for blurry close-ups and blurry worm death )
I have gotten out of the habit of chasing down fan vids and would like to download some to my laptop for enjoyment purposes. I find them to be a lovely pick-me-up--they don't necessarily have to be cheerful vids. But I probably can't deal with extreme gore or realistic violence (I've seen half an extremely well done Hannibal vid that I had to nope out of because I am chicken).
Some vids already in my collection that I really like, to give you an idea (in no particular order):
- bironic's "Starships"
- bopradar's "I Kissed a Girl"
- Lithium Doll's "All These Things"
- laurashapiro's "Ing"
- giandujakiss's "A Charming Man"
- obsessive24's "Cuckoo" and "Remember the Name"
- shati's "Hope on Fire"
- sisabet's "Cowboy" and "Two Words"
Fandoms I especially like watching/or have some clue about:
- I like the visuals of Game of Thrones although I've only watched one episode (have read most of the extant books, though)
- The Good Place
- recent Star Wars
- The Great Queen Seondeok
- The Good Wife
That being said, if the vid can be understood without having seen the show, I'm happy to watch it. :)
The food was great, and the talk was fun. You can check it out at:
Scott and I both emerged from comics fandom of the 60s, so be forewarned, there's a lot of talk about the Good Old Days.
DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Today’s severe weather took down a tree and some overhead lines at the home of an 83-year-old Dayton woman, prompting a local tree cutting company to spring into action and help the elderly lady, free of charge.
Elbert Pennington of Elbert Pennington Lawn & Tree Service said the it was his third job of the day.
“That’s just me. I try to help people when I can,” Pennington said.
“I think if I help people and then sooner or later they’ll end up helping someone, themselves.”
The homeowner’s daughter Sherrie York said her 83-year-old mother is in the intensive care unit at a local hospital.
“I really appreciate this man coming by and cutting up this tree for us,” York said.
“It was pretty bad when I pulled up. I was like, oh my God.”
She said the massive tree is just another added stress on the family – both emotionally and financially.
“It’s been very overwhelming… Trying to deal with the hospital, trying to deal with where she was in the New Lebanon nursing home – and now I got to deal with this,” York said.
“Anybody watching this, I need your prayers”
Friday morning’s heavy winds sent the tree sprawling across the yard – blocking the driveway.
It also took down overhead lines.
“I live up the road from here,” Pennington said.
“When I came by she was telling the fire department she didn’t have no way to get it cleaned up. I told her I would come by and clean it up for free.”
His son Ronnie Pennington was assisting him.
“Not many people would help older people when they need help,” Ronnie Pennington said.
“And they can’t do it themselves so there’s nothing wrong with helping them. It ain’t always about collecting money.”
In response to three recent pieces—one discussing the public and private parts of the U.S. system of self-governance that are still working, another arguing that Donald Trump’s monologue to the New York Times represented a new frontier in self-revelation, a third saying that a handful of Republican Senators have the nation’s fate at their disposal—several reactions from readers.
What about the Democrats? A reader with long professional experience in government writes:
I just read your post calling for three Republicans to demonstrate civic courage. As you put it, “A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people.”
But it doesn’t—it relies on those three plus 48 Democrats. It is striking how often it’s just assumed that Democrats in this kind of situation will do the right thing.
But why should they? If the 10 Democratic senators up for reelection next year in states that Trump carried were consulting their political self-interest in the way that seemingly all Republicans are doing, some at least might not be resisting Donald Trump as they are. Yet they remain steadfast—just as Democratic members remained steadfast in 2009-2010 in voting for the ACA and cap-and-trade, even when their political futures were in jeopardy.
Perhaps it would be worthwhile sometime to do a post about how Democrats seem so much more able these days to maintain our standards of governance and to display civic virtue under pressure. That might be an edifying meditation.
What about the Attorney(s) General? In response to my noting that the Mueller investigation was (at the time) had not been derailed, a reader notes:
It is extraordinary that an article on this subject did not even mention the extremely important role played by the attorneys general of the several states in restraining Captain Combover. The role of the states in our political system has never been as significant as it is now.
Fair point. Last month at the Aspen Ideas Festival I did a very interesting (to me) Q-and-A with Xavier Becerra, long-time U.S. Representative from Los Angeles who has recently become California’s attorney general, on exactly this point. When a transcript or recording is available, I’ll post a link.
Have you ever been duped by a burglary myth? There are plenty out there, and it could happen to anyone. But to truly outsmart burglars, you have to arm yourself with the facts. Read on to find out the truth behind 4 of the most common burglary myths.
MYTH: Most burglaries occur at night
The majority of burglaries take place between 10AM and 3PM, while you’re at work
MYTH: Most burglars pick locks or use high-tech equipment to get in
According to the DOJ, burglars most frequently enter through an open or unlocked door or window
MYTH: Most burglars have little to no experience breaking into homes
According to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 82% of burglars are repeat offenders
MYTH: Burglars don’t target gated or restricted-access communities
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, homes in gated and restricted communities have nearly the same burglary rates as homes with direct outside access
SimpliSafe Home Security
Warnings for major complications of the 'bureaucracy is literally trying to kill you' sort, systemic transmisia & ableism & classism, capitalism devouring its young.
( Read more... )
FUCK FUCK FUCK. *sound effects of smashing things, ripping with vicious claws*
I'm going out. *doorslam*
ETA: I did indeed go out and that was good. I went swimming in a river! And other things have come along that need dealt with, sigh. Thank you for all the support, both those of you who have commented and anyone reading and well-wishing later. I may close comments here shortly because I need to move on mentally; we'll see. <3
Turkey holds six rights activists on charges of aiding terror group
Amnesty International urged the British government to end its silence over Turkey’s slide into authoritarian rule on Tuesday after its local director and five other activists were remanded in custody on accusations of belonging to a terrorist organisation. It is possible the six will now be held in jail for as long as two years before their full trial comes to court.
Idil Eser, local director of the London-based organisation, was one of a group of activists including a German and a Swedish national detained on 5 July while attending a routine workshop on digital security and information management near Istanbul.
Turkey’s state prosecutor had asked the court on Monday to remand all 10 in custody pending trial on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation. Six were retained in jail to give the prosecution time to assemble full charges. Four others were released.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International director of Europe and central Asia, said: “Too many western governments have been locked in a fatal embrace with the Turkish government at the moment it slides into an authoritarian direction. Everyone knows this is happening in Turkey, and it needs to be said. These arrests represent a red line, and must be the moment when the terms of engagement with Turkey are reset.”
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty UK, said: “We are grateful for the work the British government have done behind the scenes. But a moment of truth has arrived. It should stand up in public to say this is an abuse that will not be tolerated.”
Dalhuisen said the charges, including membership of a terrorist organisation, were absurd since the director was being accused of being a member of three diametrically opposed terrorist organisations. He said the meeting at which the group had been initially arrested concerned the most mundane issues of digital security training and working in an hostile environment. The first day’s course included a yoga session, he said.
Dalhuisen said: “This case is taking place in front of a hounding by the media and an entirely compliant prosecutor and judicial system. These arrests are an attack on Turkish civil society and this is now obvious to all of Turkey’s international partners.”
Privately, Theresa May, leading a country that has strived to remain close to the Turkish regime after the failed coup last year, raised the arrests at a recent meeting with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the G20 meeting in Hamburg a fortnight ago.
The British Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said he was very concerned by the arrests. “We continue to urge the Turkish authorities to uphold international standards with regard to the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence, and to protect fundamental rights including freedom of expression and assembly,” he said.
But many western countries are heavily dependent on Turkish security cooperation over the return of jihadist foreign fighters from Syria, and do not want to risk jeopardising this priority. The west also recognises the slowdown in mainly Syrian refugees into Europe is dependent on a deal struck with Erdoğan two years ago.
Amnesty indicated that it may now take four to six months for the next phase of the judicial hearing to occur, with a further six to 12 months for the trial itself to be brought to court. The remand can also be challenged once a month, but the charges are so vague, and wide-ranging that it is more likely international political pressure will lead to their release, as opposed to evidence in a court of law.
The detention of 10 activists is part of a wider crackdown following last July’s failed coup attempt. As many as 200,000 public servants have lost their jobs, creating a climate of fear. Erdoğan also retains strong popular support bolstered by an enthusiastic media.
The six human rights defenders remanded in custody detained are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (a Swedish IT strategy consultant) and Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer). Steudtner is a German citizen, and his partner Magdalena Freudenschuss said on Monday: “These charges are totally absurd. They are almost the opposite of what Peter and Ali and the other human rights defenders stand for with their work: for non-violence, for human rights.”
Martin Schulz, the SDP candidate for the chancellorship, said: “The limit of what one could tolerate has been exceeded. You cannot be silent. Even the government of our country is not. What is going on in Turkey is unbearable and crosses all borders. Mr Erdoğan is about to dismantle the rule of law.”
The leader of the German Greens, Cem Özdemir, said Turkey’s arrests were likely to damage its economy. “You have to make it clear to Ankara that they endanger the branch they are sitting on,” he said, pointing out Turkey is dependent on good economic relations with the EU. “I do not see how you can invest safely in this country. There is no legal certainty in Turkey for anyone.”
A total of 22 Germans, including prominent journalists, have been arrested since the coup, possibly reflecting regime anger at the way in which Turkish ministers were not allowed to speak in Germany during the referendum campaign to give Erdoğan new powers.
Deniz Yücel, a dual German-Turkish citizen and journalist for Die Welt, was arrested on 27 February on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting public violence, after first being detained on 14 February. He faces up to 10.5 years in jail if convicted.
Berlin to change policy towards Turkey as German citizen is held
Germany’s foreign minister has announced a significant “reorientation” of its policy towards Turkey after a human rights activist became the latest German citizen to be detained for alleged terrorist activity.
“We need our policies towards Turkey to go in a new direction ... we can’t continue as we have done until now,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. “We need to be clearer than we have been until now so those responsible in Ankara understand that such policies are not without consequences.”
Berlin has issued new travel warnings of risks in Turkey for German tourists, and Gabriel said his government could no longer guarantee German corporate investment in Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government accused several companies including Daimler and BASF of ties to the movement of his political enemy Fethullah Gülen.
Gabriel also said he could not envisage talks on expanding the customs union to Turkey and would talk to other EU leaders about reviewing pre-accession funds being offered to Turkey.
The announcement marks a further deterioration of increasingly strained relations between the two countries.
German human rights consultant Peter Steudtner was detained at a human rights workshop on Monday with five others including Amnesty International’s country director, Idil Eser, for allegedly aiding a terror group.
The Turkey correspondent of the German broadsheet Die Welt, Deniz Yücel, has been detained on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation since February. Pre-trial detention in Turkey can last for up to five years.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, views the series of measures announced by Gabriel as “necessary and unavoidable”, her spokesman said in a tweet.
Reacting to the measures, Erdoğan’s spokesman said the two countries had “good relations”.
“It is not possible for us to accept statements aiming to blur the economic environment based on political motivation, we hope they turn back from this,” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference in Ankara.
Some leading political figures in Germany accuse Erdoğan of gathering “political hostages” in an attempt to force Germany to hand over two high-ranking Turkish generals involved in last year’s failed coup who have applied for asylum in Frankfurt.
“Deniz Yücel and Peter Steudtner are being traded as political hostages,” said German Green party co-chair Cem Özdemir. “The government must no longer be ordered around.” A spokesperson at the German foreign office on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of a swap deal.
The foreign office’s travel warning states that Turkey had breached its international commitments by denying consular access to German citizens on pre-trial arrest. Even people travelling to Turkey for short trips are therefore advised to register themselves with the consulate or embassy ahead of their trip.
Turkey has described Germany’s demand for the release of human rights activist Steudtner as unacceptable and an attempt to interfere with the Turkish judiciary.
In a statement published on Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said it has kept Germany’s chargé d’affaires in Ankara informed of Steudtner’s case, adding, “the independent Turkish judiciary must be trusted”.
The ministry said statements by the spokesmen for the German chancellor and foreign ministry constituted “diplomatic rudeness” and said the judiciary cannot be instructed or counselled by anyone.
The foreign ministry accused Germany of a “double standard”, saying it harbours members of terror groups and prevents their trial.
Also this opinion piece: Turkey’s democracy is dying – but this brutal crackdown can’t last
This time our blogger is David Anthony Durham, and his subjects are Spartacus... and werewolves.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by NoeRD. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.
A SHOCKING DECEPTION . . .
Josephine Carlisle, adopted daughter of a baron, is officially on the shelf. But the silly, marriage-minded misses in the ton can have their frilly dresses and their seasons in London, for all she cares. Josie has her freedom and her family . . . until an encounter with a dark, devilishly handsome stranger leaves her utterly breathless at a house party. His wicked charm intrigues her, but that’s where it ends. For Josie has a little secret . . .
. . . LEADS TO AN EXQUISITE SEDUCTION
Espionage was Thomas Matteson, Marquess of Chesney’s game-until a tragic accident cost him his career. Now to salvage his reputation and return to the life he loves, the marquess must find the criminal who’s been robbing London’s rich and powerful. He’s no fool-he knows Josie, with her wild chestnut hair and rapier-sharp wit, is hiding something and he won’t rest until he unravels her mysteries, one by one. But he never expected to be the one under arrest-body and soul . . .
Here is NoeRD's review:
If I had to sum up in a few words what I thought of this book, I would say: It’s the first too stupid to live heroine I like. No, no, cross that. Both main characters where pretty stupid or reckless in the course of the book.
The thing is I found them endearing most of the time and the banter between them was very entertaining too. So, let me begin again with this review.
The hero, Thomas Matteson, son of a duke and Marquess of Chesney, by himself is an ex-spy that wants to become a spy again. We are told that he was shot a year ago and this had something to do with him not being a spy now. He has something that I assume is post traumatic stress disorder and some anxiety issues because of this and he is desperate to go back to his old ways and not let this event define the rest of his life. So, because the War Office is not minding his requests, he feels he has to get a recommendation from a very powerful lord who has asked him to catch a highwayman who is robbing his guests in some country state.
Enter Josie Carlisle. She is the adopted daughter of a baron and because a lot of pompous asses won’t marry her for this reason, she is pretty much on the shelf. She is, most of the time, very smart and ballsy. She still takes care of the orphanage where she lived prior being adopted and is very independent by that time standard. She meets Thomas in the very powerful shady Lord’s house and the chemistry between them is off the charts. They can see right through each other and is a lot of fun to see how they try to outsmart the other.
Although I found the book very fun to read, the pace just perfect and the characters endearing (I like that word!), there were some flaws that could kill the book for you if you don’t get in its hype.
Firstly, I mentioned Thomas anxiety issues. As a partner of someone with anxiety issues I understand Thomas’s problems and motivations, but the book falls in the misdirection of pretending love cures them all. Thomas is first attracted to Josie because she “calms” something in him in their first meeting, and he decides to pursue her because he wants to know why. Then, his sleep anxiety disappears the first night they spent together. That’s not how anxiety works for most people and it could be harmful for your relationship to pretend that love is a magic cure. The only part when it’s done right is in a scene when Thomas and Josie are alone and a shot is heard in the distance and Thomas gets in full panic attack mode. Josie intuitively tries to appease him and does it by the way she speaks to him not through her mere presence.
Another thing that bothered me was that for all the admiration that Josie’s badassness causes in Thomas, he doesn’t trust her 100%. Sure, when he asked her not to do something she went and did it, almost getting herself killed. But near the end of the book, he locks her in a cell to stop her from meddling in his plans instead of telling her those plans and asking for her cooperation.
Then there is the issue of Thomas’s spy skills. He is like the worst spy ever. Thank God he chooses love above his country, because there would be no Queen alive otherwise.
Which brings us to the matter of “The secrets.” Josie has a secret that is very obvious from the start and is revealed around the 30% mark of the book. I had no problem with that. There also is a veil of secrecy around the details of Thomas’ shooting and it makes you wait for it and then is… meh. So I didn’t get why the secrecy in the first place.
All in all, beside its flaws I really enjoyed this and will look forward to reading more books from Anna Harrington.
How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrignton received a B+ in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.
I saw a thing yesterday that said “Buying fabric and sewing fabric are TWO SEPARATE HOBBIES.”
I actually feel that I understand so much more about the world now.
I’m now up to 6 artist’s figurines (I need to write more reviews) and I was unable (or unwilling) to resist a set of 14 archival color pens, plus all the stuff I already own, but do I actually draw? No, hardly ever. (That said, I’ve done more this year than in many years.)
Anyway, point is I’m back to that “I want to draw some silly little story like Questionable Content only about, IDK, fat 40somethings instead of hipster robots” thing. Except I really don’t want to draw a story about fat 40somethings because ugh life. I want to do something cute and funny that I don’t have the skill set for but who cares I’ll do it anyway because it doesn’t matter. Or something. And I want just enough pressure to help me do maybe half an hour of art a day without having any real expectations.
Which of course is not much like my personality at all, because yes, I have met me. :p
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
I learned this from Robin Hobb, though I'm pretty sure she didn't realize that she was teaching it to me at the time: there is no extra credit in science fiction.
By which I mean, one of the things that I do, that other writers do, that people in various other fields probably do too (though I don't have direct experience of that) is that we make extra work for ourselves because of... I don't know, acculturation probably that if we JUST WORK HARDER and are teacher's pets and volunteer for extra labor that somehow we'll get better outcomes. This is superstition, really--because publishing is an enormously unpredictable and random business where quality is not always rewarded, and a lot of things can go wrong. And like anybody who makes their living off a capricious and dangerous environment (actors, fishermen) writers are prone to superstitions as a means of expressing agency in situations where we're honestly pretty helpless. (Nobody controls the hive-mind of the readership. Oh, if only we did.)
Now, by extra credit, please note that I don't mean the things that I consider part of baseline professionalism in a writer: turning in a manuscript that is as clean and artistically accomplished as possible, as expediently as possible, and working with your editor to polish and promote the resulting book. What I mean is raising those bars to unsupportable levels, such as: "I will turn in a completely clean manuscript so that the copyeditor has nothing to do!" and "I have a series of simple edits here, which I will resolve be rewriting the entire book, because then my editor will be more impressed with me."
Spoiler: The copyeditor will have stuff to do, because part of her job is making sure that if you break house style you're doing it on purpose. Also, your editor will probably be a little nonplussed, and possibly sneak a pull out of the bottle of Scotch in her bottom drawer, because you've just made a lot more work for her.
Other manifestations include: "I must write forty guest blog posts today!" and "I must write at least twenty pages every single day to validate my carbon footprint!"
(That latter one is the one I tend to fall prey to, for the record.)
I see it a lot among women writers especially, probably because we feel like we constantly have to validate our right to be in a space that is only intermittently welcoming, but it's certainly not a gender-specific problem.
And the thing is... it just isn't so. You don't have to do a pile of extra credit work. It doesn't help, and might in fact be detrimental--to your health, your sanity, and eventually your career. It's possible to out-produce your readership's appetite; it's possible to out-produce the publishing slots available to you; it's possible to fuss yourself so much over tiny details that don't actually matter that you add years to your production schedule and die broke in a gutter, or talk yourself out of finishing the book entirely.
They're never perfect. They're just as good as you can get them, in the limited time available, and then they're done and you learned something and the next one can be better, you hope.
And nobody's going to bump your 4.0 up to a 4.2 because you did a bunch of homework you didn't actually need to do to get the finished product as good as possible, and also out the door.
The transcript for Podcast 256. Pop Culture Between Couples: I Interview My Husband has been posted!
This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
In the Bitchery HQ Slack this week, Amanda shared this link to the ever-outstanding Kelly Faircloth on Jezebel:
From Kelly’s write-up:
“…there is a huge market demand for psychological “Girl Who” thrillers, often featuring dead or missing women, written largely by women for female audiences. And the guys—and their publishers—want in.
Her source, a Wall Street Journal article with a truly cringetastic headline:
Well, thank heavens, because you know I was worried about it.
The WSJ article is behind a paywall, but the salient details are also on The Guardian:
Riley Sager is a debut author whose book, Final Girls, has received the ultimate endorsement. “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this,” Stephen King has said. But unlike Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girls, Luckiest Girl Alive and others, Final Girls is written by a man – Todd Ritter. This detail is missing from Riley Sager’s website which, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, refers to the author only by name and without any gender-disclosing pronouns or photographs. (His Twitter avatar is Jamie Lee Curtis.)
Ritter is not the first man to deploy a gender-neutral pen name. JP Delaney (real name Tony Strong) is author of The Girl Before, SK Tremayne (Sean Thomas) wrote The Ice Twins and next year, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (AKA Daniel Mallory) is published. Before all of these was SJ (AKA Steve) Watson, the author of 2011’s Before I Go to Sleep.
“Literally, every time I appear in print or public,” Watson says, someone asks about why he uses initials. It was his publisher’s decision to avoid an author photo and to render his biography non-gendered. He has never hidden, but when Before I Go to Sleep went on submission, editors emailed his agent and asked, “What is she like?” Watson found the mistake flattering.
Right, because with profit, they’re “okay” with you mistaking them for women.
I’m so relieved.
Wow, did that entire reading experience leave me with side eye and a frown. There’s already plenty of barriers to entry within publishing if you’re not a white dude, so this was the news equivalent of rubbing a cat backwards from the tail to the shoulders.
This part of the WSJ article particularly rubbed Amanda the wrong way, as it did Kelly Faircloth. She wrote at Jezebel:
One of the authors featured has gone so far as to try on a bra so he didn’t make any obvious mistakes that might throw female readers out of the story. Wonder if he also gets the infuriating emails or the creepy DMs or the generally patronizing bullshit?
…Nevertheless, if only being a woman in, say, serious nonfiction or literary fiction were as straightforward as publishing under the name Steve.
Well, thank God the bra question was addressed.
Given that Elyse and Amanda both love thrillers, especially those that focus on women, they had a few things to say about this discovery.
Amanda: Since I just got Final Girls, I’m kind of bummed about this, Elyse.
Elyse: Dudes ruin everything.
Amanda: It’s weird how my excitement for the book just got sapped out of my body.
RedHeadedGirl: It’s one thing when women are exploring the things that make the world unsafe for us.
It a whole other thing when it’s men and since they are, you know, one of those things, it feels exploitative.
WHY ARE DUDES.
Sarah: Because Money.
Elyse: I guess I have two books to donate.
I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers written by men, and I have no issue with that. I think the reason this is squicky for me is that so many of the “Girl” mysteries deal with deep female POV, and that POV is often dealing with themes like toxic masculinity and gaslighting by men.
Sarah: The whole picking another name thing seems a lot like gaslighting.
Elyse: Yes. I have written about why I really love this new trend of female driven psychological thrillers. It’s reclaiming a genre that commodifies violence (often sexual) against women. It’s about female rage and about reclaiming our bodies. For me the genre works because it subverts the traditional narrative in a genre dominated by men.
Sarah: It’s a familiar feeling. An unpleasant one.
Amanda: Going back to RHG’s comment about women exploring things that make them feel unsafe, I’m skeptical of a man being able to accurately write a woman’s experience.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but (as an example from the WSJ article) how is trying on a bra really going to get to the heart of the experience of living as a woman and having to factor in your own safety to your daily routine?
It all just feels like a gimmick to me and leaves a bad taste in my mouth, given the amount of violence that often occurs against women at the hands of men.
Sarah: And…cue the sound of us all nodding and grimacing as one.
I’ve been pondering this for the better part of a day, wondering if my reaction is outsized or uneven. For example, JK Rowling adopted the Galbraith pseudonym to write without the expectation and pressure that came with the Rowling surname on the cover. I get it.
These individuals masking their gender to sell thrillers, as RHG pointed out, feels exploitative, not because of the pseudonym, but because of the pseudonym and the subject matter of the genre – not to mention the politics of gender identity – in the exploitation and insecurity inherent in identifying as female.
That said, it is entirely possible that I’m cranky and there are much better uses for my ire and snarly energy.
What about you? Are you a thriller fan? What do you think? What’s your reaction?
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If you need to know anything else then I recommend asking as a more productive strategy than speculating. ;-P
I don't mind arguments as long as they don't descend into name calling. I do ask that if you make a comment you stick around to defend your point of view, and don't drop a lighted match into the petrol of life, and then slope off.
NEW YORK, NY, July 20, 2017 — The Authors Guild and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced today that they collaboratively reached an agreement with a Hungarian science fiction magazine, Galaktika, which for years had been reprinting stories of American and British science fiction writers without their permission. Under the terms of the agreement, Metropolis Media, Galaktika’s publisher, promised to seek permission for any works they use in the future and to compensate the authors whose works were published without permission. Galaktika has agreed to pay each author whose work it infringed fair compensation, with the fee to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. (Please refer to the end of this post for more information about how to contact Galaktika.)
The agreement comes as a result of efforts by the Guild, SFWA, literary agents, and authors to hold Galaktika’s publisher accountable for reproducing copyrighted works in print and online issues of the magazine in violation of the authors’ rights. The organizations became involved last fall after literary agent/lawyer Jonathan Lyons (a member of the Authors Guild) brought it to the Guild’s attention. “After we realized the extent of the problem,” said Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger, “it quickly became clear that a collective response from the author community was needed to fully address the problem. The Authors Guild exists to take action in situations like this.” SFWA had already been working to resolve members’ claims through its Grievance Committee, but realized that a joint effort by both organizations was more likely to yield results for all affected authors.
Pursuant to the agreement, Metropolis provided the Guild and SFWA with a list of all unauthorized stories that appeared in Galaktika’s past issues. It also confirmed its commitment to seek permission before publishing copyrighted works in the future and to remove all infringing works from their online media. Most importantly, the agreement legally obligates Metropolis to offer a reasonable fee for each infringed work, to be agreed in good faith individually with those authors whose works were infringed in Galaktika. The agreement does not settle any author’s particular claims, but sets a benchmark for transparency and gives individual authors leverage in pursuing their claims. Moreover, Metropolis Media will not be released from the claims of infringement that the Authors Guild and SFWA might bring until all of the authors’ individual claims have been settled to the Guild’s and SFWA’s reasonable satisfaction. To that end, SFWA will be publicizing the list of authors and estates that are owed money and contacting them individually when possible.
“Metropolis Media was an open and attentive negotiating partner,” said Rasenberger. “We’re confident that it will address individual claims honestly and in good faith. While ignorance of the law is not an excuse, Metropolis’s willingness to compensate the authors whose rights were violated and to respect authors’ rights going forward is a step in the right direction. The Authors Guild will keep an eye on Metropolis Media to ensure that it abides by the terms of the agreement and fairly treats authors whose works they have used and will use in the future.” SFWA, whose connections in the science fiction and fantasy community run very deep, will also be monitoring Metropolis’s commitment to negotiate in good faith.
Cat Rambo, President of SFWA, added, “In today’s complex publishing world, the writers often get overlooked. SFWA is pleased to be working with the Authors Guild in order to represent the interests of writers and defending their rights.”
Authors (or agents representing authors) whose works have been infringed in Galaktika may contact Dr. Katalin Mund with their claims. She can be reached at email@example.com. Authors Guild members can also contact the Authors Guild at firstname.lastname@example.org for help negotiating their settlements. SFWA members who believe that Galaktika is not living up to this agreement should contact John E. Johnston III at email@example.com.
# # #
ABOUT THE AUTHORS GUILD
The Authors Guild has served as the collective voice of American authors since its beginnings in 1912. Its over 9,000 members include novelists, historians, journalists, and poets—traditionally and independently published—as well as literary agents and representatives of writers’ estates. The Guild is dedicated to creating a community for authors while advocating for them on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech, and tax fairness. Please visit www.authorsguild.org.
Chief Operating Officer
The Authors Guild
Phone: (212) 563-5904
ABOUT SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY WRITERS OF AMERICA
Founded in 1965, SFWA Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization for published authors and industry professionals in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres. SFWA informs, supports, promotes, defends, and advocates for all writers of the SFF community. Visit www.sfwa.org for more information.
We hope to see you at the Comicon or Ripped Bodice in LA.
5:00 PM – Harper Collins Booth #1029.
11:00 AM Penguin Booth #1515-G
2:00 PM Panel: World Mythology in Contemporary Fantasy, San Diego Convention Center, 111 Harbor Dr, San Diego, CA 92101 (Room 9)
3:15 PM-4:15PM – After-panel signing.
4:00 PM – Ripped Bodice Signing.
3806 MAIN ST CULVER CITY CA 90232
By midnight on July 20, 2017, it seemed increasingly likely that Donald Trump will fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
Mueller embodies what is admirable in U.S. public service: a wounded and decorated Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, longtime prosecutor and U.S. Attorney under both Republican and Democratic presidents, 12-year director of the FBI under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, unconnected to scandal or partisan suspicions at any point.
Donald Trump embodies the reverse.
Yet for now Trump has the legal power, directly or indirectly, to dismiss Mueller, if the investigation gets too close to Trump’s obviously sensitive financial concerns. And Trump himself, unaware of history and oblivious to rules, norms, and constraints, has given every indication that this will be his next step.
What happens then? Brian Beutler, of the New Republic, has just put up a bleak scenario, arguing that there really are no guardrails—or, as we observed in Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented stonewalling of a Supreme Court nomination, that the constitutional system’s real protections have been norms rather than formal rules. Someone unconcerned by those norms—McConnell last year, Trump now—can in fact blast right through them. “At the moment there are no reliable sources of accountability,” Beutler writes. “None.”
* * *
There are 52 Americans who have it within their power to prove that dark assessment wrong. Really, it would take a subset of just three of those 52. With the 52-48 current party lineup in the U.S. Senate, a switch of three votes of conscience is all it would take to have this branch of government fulfill its checks-and-balances function.
With three votes, a Senate majority could issue subpoenas and compel sworn testimony from Administration officials. It could empower its own thorough investigation, even re-hiring Robert Mueller to lead it. It could compel Donald Trump to release the tax returns about which he is so evidently nervous. It could act as if America in fact possessed a system of rule-of-law, rather than whim-of-one-man.
Ben Sasse could be one of those three, if he were willing to back up his lectures and essays about ethical public life. Lindsey Graham could, since he and John McCain have kept making the case about Trump’s recklessness. Chuck Grassley, who would be 89 years old the next time he’d have to face the voters. Dean Heller, who is in trouble anyway in a state Hillary Clinton carried, and whom Trump demeans and insults. Rob Portman, who has served in “normal” Republican administrations and could ally himself with his state’s governor, John Kasich, as forces for a principled future GOP. Jeff Flake, who in speeches has positioned himself with appeals to a more moderate politics, and who could take up the Maverick mantle of his colleague John McCain. Of course, McCain himself. Lisa Murkowski, who originally won without Republican Party support. Susan Collins, who drew a line at the rushed health-care bill. Richard Burr, who has made more-or-less common cause with his Democratic colleague Mark Warner on the Senate intelligence committee. Ron Johnson, who has just won re-election and appears to be mad at Trump. Rand Paul, also just elected, if he believed his radical limited-government pitch. Ted Cruz, if he had the courage of his anti-Trump stand at last year’s GOP convention. Even—let’s imagine here—the likes of Tom Cotton, if he were willing to roll the dice and elevate himself as a national figure, for the post-Trump leadership contest against the likes of Sasse, Cruz, and the rest. There are half a dozen other conceivable candidates. I’d like even to imagine John Barrasso, a broadly educated and broad-minded man who has for now thrown his lot in with Mitch McConnell.
It would take only three. Some—Grassley? Heller? McCain if he is able to vote?—might think: What do they have to lose? They might as well wind up with dignity. Others—Paul, Burr, Johnson, Murkowski—are so far away from re-election that a lot will happen in the meantime. And all of them are senators, part of a body self-consciously proud of its independence, its individual judgment, its role in defending the long-term principles of governance.
A country of 300-plus million people, with the world’s largest economy and most powerful military, should not rely for its orderly stability on the decisions-of-conscience of just three people. But the United States may soon be in that situation. These names will go down in history, depending on the choices they make.
by Gaby Chiappe (screenplay) and Lissa Evans (based on the novel "Their Finest Hour and a Half" by)
Their Finest is a British movie that had limited release in the USA. If, like me, you missed it in theaters, you can see it now on iTunes. This movie is slow and matter-of-fact but it snuck up on me and had me bawling my eyes out by the end. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but due to a plot development near the end and a significant amount of tragedy it’s better described as a drama. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but here’s one I know none of you will mind:
There are two dogs in the movie, and they both end up fine. One of them ends up adopted by a strict but fond Helen McCory. We should all be so lucky.
Their Finest is a movie about a woman who makes a movie. Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, gets a job helping to write a propaganda film (The Nancy Starling) in London during the Blitz. She’s supposed to provide the women’s touch on a film that, by order of the government, is to broadcast a sense of “authenticity and optimism.” Her co-worker, Buckley, is cynical and sexist but also very good at making a coherent story out of almost anything.
Buckley is played by Sam Claflin. Sam is one of the prettiest men ever to live, and as an actor he has perfected the art of wordlessly broadcasting intense and unrequited longing. It’s a relief that he spends the movie under an unfortunate, though period appropriate, mustache, as otherwise I would have spent the entire movie staring at him in a trance. He’s sardonic and bitter and funny and horrible and has fantastic chemistry with Gemma Atherton.
Gemma plays Catrin, our heroine, and she is simply perfect. Whether she’s standing perfectly still or walking and talking very quickly across a set, she simultaneously broadcasts vulnerability and steeliness. In keeping with all opposites-attract type romances, Catrin and Buckley constantly look like they can’t decide whether to strangle one another or just start ripping off each other’s clothes in the middle of the office.
Back to the plot: Catrin meets middle-aged twin sisters, Rose and Lily, who took part in the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk. They stole their drunken father’s boat, but never made it to Dunkirk because the engine gave out. They got a tow home from a bigger ship and took some of the soldiers from that (overcrowded) ship. One had a dog in his kit bag, and another, who was French, tried to kiss Lily.
Catrin brings this story, minus a few details, to the movie people, who are thrilled. “It has authenticity, optimism, AND A DOG!” one of them crows. Soon she and Buckley are writing non-stop as the Rose and Lily of The Nancy Starling become pretty young women, their abusive drunk father becomes a funny drunk uncle, a fictional love triangle forms around the fictional Rose, and the dog has a stirring action scene.
There’s just so much to unpack in this movie, which is quiet and slow (at about two hours, it felt like more) and restrained in the most British way but which tackles sexism, the war, grief, friendship between women, the creative process, the art and business of making movies, and some very nice hats. Helen McCrory does what she always does, namely takes a small role and simply walks away with the movie entirely. Bill Nighy promises Catrin that “Between you and I, we’ll have them weeping in the aisles” and then delivers on that promise. The whole cast has a chemistry which manages to progress from mass antagonism to a sense of comfortable familiarity. The actors who play actors combine certain narcissism with real warmth. When Bill Nighy sings a song with the line, “Will ye go lassie, go/and we’ll all go together,” to the cast, they feel like a real family, truly at ease with one another, and truly comforted during dangerous times by each other’s company.
Throughout is presence of war. Although this film is very funny in a deadpan way, I was surprised to see how many people have described it as a romantic comedy. It doesn’t have a romantic comedy ending, and anything funny transpires against a terrifying background. At one point Catrin has to literally step over corpses to get to her flat. “I’ll be alright after a cup of tea,” she tells her husband, only to be informed that the water main is out, a development that even the stoic Catrin cannot tolerate with equanimity. The making of The Nancy Starling is serious business that might affect the course of the war, and the war takes such a toll that at one point they fear that they’ve run out of enough people to finish it.
Towards the end of the movie, something happens that could make the viewer feel cheated. I felt shocked and sad, but not cheated, and here’s why:
- The movie takes the time to follow through the ramifications of the event.
- An arc has, for all intents and purposes, been resolved.
- The movie has been hinting all along that all kinds of unforeseen events can and do happen, whether they be the result of bombs, guns, or, in one character’s case, being hit by a tram while on leave. Death is sudden and arbitrary. This is a theme all throughout the movie so when it causes a sudden tonal and plot twist, it feel both shocking and inevitable.
This movie was marketed as a romantic comedy, and up to a point it has the structure of one – very attractive people, the unappreciative husband, the witty banter, the chemistry, opposites attracting, etc. However, one of the running themes of the movie is that the movie within the movie keeps having different agendas and themes tacked on to it. The Nancy Starling is an action movie and a war movie, it’s a love story, it has comedy and tragedy, it’s meant to inspire America to join the war, and it’s meant to motivate the British to keep fighting. That’s not even a complete list of all the jobs that the poor Nancy Starling is expected to do. Through the writing of this film, Catrin is insistent that the film is, at its core, the story of Lily and Rose.
Similarly, Their Finest is marketed as a romantic comedy, but at its core it’s not the story of one couple or another. It’s consistently Catrin’s story. This means that while many characters undergo significant arcs, Catrin’s arc is the only one that matters and…
The movie is also an ode to the women who kept Britain running during the war. They are paid less than men, they are resented and feared by men, and yet they are expected to manage the impossible. When Catrin finally goes to a screening of The Nancy Starling, she sits by an older woman who weeps copiously through the movie and explains that she’s seen it five times. “It’s our picture isn’t it?” she says, patting Catrin on the hand, “They’re our girls.”
I cried like a baby.
I almost titled this episode, “Same Library, Different Tastes.” While having dinner the other night, I was talking to Adam, my excellent spouse, about a series he was reading, and I realized we hardly ever talk about what he’s reading. I’ll go on for hours about what I’m reading (and I have!) but unless I’m asking him if he’d enjoy a book I just found, he doesn’t talk much about what he reads, and he reads a lot. So he made cocktails and I handed him a microphone, and we talked about it.
We don’t like any of the same things, but we both love reading. So I asked questions about his favorite series, books he’s enjoyed that I’ve successfully recommended (YES!), and what makes a narrative world appealing. Adam likes to read fantasy, and he loves never-ending world building and deep nerdy dives into back story, so he’s a very avid and engaged reader. But he keeps most of it in his head. So I ask him nosy questions about that. We also discuss series and trilogies he loves, including Game of Thrones, Libriomancer, The Inheritance Trilogy, and a lot more – expect a big list of books.Listen to the podcast →
Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:
And if you’d like to try it, here’s a recipe for Bee’s Knees, my new favorite cocktail.
And! The RWA Signing! July 29, 2017, from 3:00 – 5:00pm!
Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all proceeds of book sales go to literacy organizations. Some of your favorite authors are likely to be there, like Alyssa Cole, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Cecilia Tan, Beverly Jenkins, and Jill Shalvis. And, for the first time, I’ll be signing, too – yay!
The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall. Saturday, July 29th from 3-5pm. And if you come and find me (I’m in the Ws near the cashiers) and mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you – if you’d like one.
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What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.
Thanks for listening!
This Episode's Music
Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.
This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “La Caravane.”
This episode is brought to you by Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes. This New York Times bestselling series with its “heartfelt emotions, humor and realistic, honest characters [is] a fan favorite,” raves RT Book Reviews.
In this second book of the Windham Brides series, Burrowes delights Regency romance readers once again with an irresistible rough-around-the-edges Scot who takes on saving an orphanage to win over the fiery, intelligent woman who captures his heart.
As a captain in the army, Colin MacHugh led men, fixed what was broken, and fought hard. Now that he’s a titled gentleman, he’s still fighting-this time to keep his bachelorhood safe from all the marriage-minded debutantes. Then he meets the intriguing Miss Anwen Windham, whose demure nature masks a bonfire waiting to roar to life. When she asks for his help to raise money for the local orphanage, he’s happy to oblige.
Anwen is amazed at how quickly Lord Colin takes in hand a pack of rambunctious orphan boys. Amazed at how he actually listens to her ideas. Amazed at the thrill she gets from the rumble of his Scottish burr and the heat of his touch. But not everyone enjoys the success of an upstart. And Colin has enemies who will stop at nothing to ruin him and anybody he holds dear.
As Tessa Dare puts it, “Grace Burrowes is a romance treasure.” Don’t miss Too Scot to Handle, on sale wherever books are sold this Tuesday, July 25th.
Our podcast transcript is being brought to you by When It’s Real by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt.
A pop star. A regular girl. The world’s watching…
Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel.
School Library Journal calls it “a fast-paced, ‘he said, she said’ page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews writes: When It’s Real is “undeniable fun” and “a quintessential beach read.” You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with this electrifying and addictive new romance.
Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.
There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.
Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.
Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…
You can find When It’s Real wherever books are sold.
Remember to subscribe to our podcast feed, find us on iTunes, via PodcastPickle, or on Stitcher.
WARSAW — Step by step, the Polish government has moved against democratic norms: It increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.
Now the party in power is moving aggressively to take control of the last major independent government institution, the courts, drawing crowds into the streets and possible condemnation by the European Union.
The party is pushing to jam several bills into law; one would force all the nation’s top judges to resign, except those it appointed. Another bill, already approved by Parliament, would ultimately give the government control over who can even be considered for a judgeship.
In Brussels on Wednesday, a top European Union official said that if the changes were made, Poland might slip outside the bloc’s definition of a democracy.
“Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary,” said Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission. “Collectively, they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.”
The drive to control the courts comes barely two weeks after President Trump paid a triumphant visit to Warsaw and praised the populist and nationalist Law and Justice Party, which controls the government. Now, if the party prevails, its success could be the final chapter in Poland’s long progression from a model Eastern European nation — and one of the first former Communist nations to join the union — to what its opponents are calling an illiberal democracy.
Three former Polish presidents, including Lech Walesa, have released a manifesto against the proposed changes, saying “we do not consent to taking away our basic civic freedoms.” And a coalition of more than 175 artists and scientists signed an open letter on Wednesday calling the government’s move a “coup d’état.”
With the legacy of the Solidarity movement, Poland entered the post-Soviet era with a head start on other post-Soviet nations politically, and its strong agricultural sector allowed it to quickly emerge as an economic success.
But its status as a regional star has been endangered by the rise of the Law and Justice Party. Since assuming power in late 2015, the party has moved to co-opt or weaken potential rivals, beginning with the Constitutional Tribunal, which could have declared its moves unconstitutional. Now dominated by government supporters, the tribunal provides a reliable rubber stamp for government initiatives.
Law and Justice supporters have been put in charge of public television and radio, which now adhere to a firmly pro-government line. Independent oversight was removed from the secret services. The justice minister was named chief prosecutor, formerly a separate and more independent post. New regulations were imposed on public assemblies.
Still, at least one previous step to pull Poland to the right, a nearly total ban on abortions proposed last fall, was defeated after mass protests.
“This is a call for a right-wing revolution,” said Jerzy Stepien, the director of the Institute of Civic Space and Public Policy at Lazarski University, and a former president of the Constitutional Tribunal. “If we have people in power who feel themselves above the law, we are in a revolutionary situation.”
In the lower house of Parliament this week, as opposition leaders struggled to beat back the governing party’s push to pass its legislation, people on both sides delivered emotional speeches frequently interrupted by chants.
“You could have been reformers of the Polish judiciary,” an enraged Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, from the opposition Peasants Party, said to stone-faced lawmakers from the Law and Justice Party. “But you have become its executioners wearing a mask of justice.”
Things turned especially ugly during a debate at midnight on Tuesday in Parliament when an opposition politician, Borys Budka, presumed to speak for the former Polish president from Law and Justice, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash. “If Lech Kaczynski were alive, he wouldn’t allow this,” Mr. Budka declared.
An enraged Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the former president’s twin brother and, as leader of Law and Justice, the most powerful political figure in Poland — seized the lectern and fired back: “Do not wipe your traitorous mugs with the name of my late brother. You are scoundrels.”
Law and Justice has long maintained that the 2010 crash was an assassination, perhaps involving Russia and members of the political opposition.
“You murdered him,” Mr. Kaczynski shouted.
Ewa Kopacz, the prime minister under the previous center-right government, declared herself flabbergasted. “This man is crazy with hate,” she said of Mr. Kaczynski. “He cannot control his emotions.”
The conflict over the judiciary has been simmering for some time. One proposed law, already approved by Parliament and awaiting President Andrzej Duda’s signature, would reconfigure the National Council of the Judiciary, which chooses those eligible to become judges, so that government-appointed members would essentially have veto power.
A second bill, introduced late last week, would force all current members of the Supreme Court to resign, including several who have been feuding with the government, and replace them with judges selected by the governing party’s minister of justice.
“Their goal is to create political control over the judiciary,” said Adam Bodnar, Poland’s official ombudsman, who has come out against the bills. “I don’t have doubts about it.”
Mr. Kaczynski and other Law and Justice officials contend that opponents are overreacting to an honest attempt by the government to reform a dysfunctional and highly unpopular court system and to root out corrupt judges and liberal ideologues who want to thwart the will of the people.
Law and Justice, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said, has “stood on the side of the people, and nobody will make us turn back from this way — not even by shouting here and stamping your feet!”
To become law, a bill must have three readings in the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, then be passed by the Senate and signed by the president. The government’s decision to use procedural maneuvers to fast-track the Supreme Court bill appears to have caught opponents off guard.
“There were no public consultations, no public hearings,” said Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz of the opposition party Modern. “There should have been experts’ opinions, but there’s no time for that.”
President Duda tried to suggest a compromise in a nationwide address. He said he would sign the bill on his desk involving the appointment of judges only if an amendment were added so that new judges must get 60 percent of the vote in Parliament rather than a simple majority. Since Law and Justice has only a slim majority in the Sejm, this would force the governing party to find at least one other party to vote with it. If that amendment is not added, Mr. Duda said, he will refuse to sign the Supreme Court law.
It was a rare disagreement between Mr. Duda, a former Law and Justice member who became independent when he was elected president, and Mr. Kaczynski. Opponents were not sure whether this signaled a true split between the two leaders or was some sort of a trick.
“We don’t know if the president is acting really with some sort of noble intentions or whether he’s just playing a game,” said Mr. Stepien, the former president of the Constitutional Tribunal.
As opponents sought to slow the bill’s passage, opposition leaders asked Poles to continue to take to the streets. Some protesters have set up a tent camp outside Parliament, vowing to keep a round-the-clock vigil. “I had to be here,” said Lidia Leipert, a lawyer who joined the throng after work.
Agnieszka Wierzbicka, a nutritionist, said she was already resigned to losing this round.
“I think our protest is nothing but symbolic now,” she said. “Will it change anything? I highly doubt it. But that doesn’t make it invalid. It is important for history.”
Poland may be stripped of EU voting rights over judicial independence
The EU is on the brink of taking the nuclear option of stripping Poland of its voting rights in Brussels in response to plans by its rightwing government to “abolish” the independence of the country’s judiciary.
Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission, accused Warsaw of seeking to put judges under full political control as he warned that the EU was “very close” to triggering article 7, a never-before-used sanction in the treaties that allows a member state’s voting rights in the council of ministers to be suspended.
Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) has been in almost constant conflict with the European commission since it was elected. In recent weeks the Polish government has proposed a series of reforms that would give ministers power over the appointment of judges and members of the country’s supreme court.
The first step in the EU triggering article 7 is an assessment of whether there has been a breach of fundamental rights, which could be launched as early as next week on the recommendation of the commission. “What we decide next week depends on developments also this week,” Timmermans said, as he called for fresh dialogue with Warsaw.
Should a breach of fundamental rights be found, a motion to suspend Poland’s voting rights would then need to win the support of member states under the EU’s system of qualified majority voting. Two-thirds of the European parliament would also need to give its consent.
Timmermans told reporters in Brussels that the recent proposal from the Polish government to increase political control of the judiciary was a grave threat to the fundamental values of the EU.
“These laws considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary. Collectively they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.
“Under these reforms judges will serve at the pleasure of political leaders, and be dependent upon them, from their appointment to their pension.”
The commissioner added: “I think every citizen wants to have, if they need to, a day in court without having to say, ‘Hmm, is this judge going to get a call from a minister telling him what to do?’.”
Timmermans said he was confident he would have the support of member states should he recommend the triggering of article 7.
In Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, an MP with the opposition Civic Platform party and a former Europe minister, said Poland was being pushed to the margins of the EU by its authoritarian government.
He said: “It’s absolutely clear that patience is running out, not only in the European commission, but also in many European capitals.
“The initiation of article 7 would be unprecedented, and it would show quite clearly how marginalised the current government is in the European Union.”
Timmermans, a former Dutch minister who has been the subject of personal attacks by Polish ministers over his tough stance with Poland in recent months, said he had written earlier this month to Warsaw about his concerns, but appeals for the proposed laws not to be pursued had been ignored. Two of the four pieces of legislation in question have since been adopted by parliament.
Timmermans said any concerns that triggering article 7 would push Poland to follow the UK out of the union would not be an obstacle to the EU taking action. He insisted there was “no way” the Polish people would ever choose to leave the union.
The commissioner also called on the Polish government to respect the right of journalists to do their job, after a Brussels-based TV journalist was accused by state-controlled Polish TV of asking politically motivated questions with intent “to harm Poland” after she sought information from the European commission about its intentions with regard to protecting the rule of law.
“There are lot of emotions around this,” he said. “A lot of personal attacks, people’s personal credibility or integrity has been put to discussion, mine, other people’s. I can take it. They should take their best shot. But what should not be happening is that journalists should be intimidated.”
Andrzej Duda, Poland’s PiS-aligned president, had sought to calm the situation on Tuesday evening, as crowds gathered outside the presidential palace for a candlelit vigil to demand he veto the supreme court legislation.
In a televised address, he said he would only sign the supreme court bill if legislation passed last week giving parliament control of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a hitherto independent body responsible for appointing Polish judges, were amended.
Under Duda’s proposal, appointments to the KRS would require a three-fifths majority in parliament, rather than a simple majority as contained in the present legislation, meaning that as parliament is presently constituted, Law and Justice would not be able to appoint judges by itself.
“The judiciary is a very serious issue. It needs to be reformed – but wisely,” he said, arguing that his aim was “to avoid accusations that the KRS … is working under a political dictate.”
However, Timmermans suggested that the president had not gone far enough. Under Duda’s proposal a coalition of Law and Justice and affiliated rightwing parties would still be able to push through appointments to the body. The supreme court legislation before parliament envisages “silent consent” for judicial appointments should the KRS not express a view within 14 days, meaning that a paralysed council would still give the justice minister the power of appointment over the supreme court.
“Duda’s proposal does not change the essential mechanisms of the three combined legal acts, which grant the government political control over the judiciary,” said Mikołaj Pietrzak, chair of the Warsaw Bar Association. “It’s not constitutional, and it’s not satisfactory. It’s just smoke and mirrors.”
The European commission is also preparing infringement proceedings against Poland for breaches in EU law. Asked whether Hungary – whose rightwing prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has also repeatedly clashed with the commission – could also be in line for the ultimate sanction, Timmermans said the nature of Poland’s breaches was of a far more serious nature.
Also: The Guardian view on Poland and Hungary: heading the wrong way - Editorial
Ah, my dear friends, I have a terrible dilemma before me. Both Olga and Natalia wish to be my wife; each has written several times to me of their passion. They are equally attractive; both are looking for love, but neither appears to be able to do laundry.
Well. That's really not a dilemma at all, is it?
So, today was an odd day. One of those days where Things Got Done, but they were Entirely the Wrong Things. On the other hand, a day that includes a milkshake and an unexpected ride in the country can't be too far awry.
At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
I did make it to gym and waked for miles. My "gym book" this go is a Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal, and a buncha other awards, soon, I'm told to be Major Motion Picture. Again.
AWIT was published when I was 10 years old. Despite this, I didn't read it (the first time) until I was an adult. It was sitting on a table in EJ Korvette's in...damned if I remember -- Towson, probably. Anyhow, remainder table, one among many of its own kind, and many others, not necessary of its kind. I was waiting for my then-boyfriend to finish up doing something or another, and started to read AWIT, as the most interesting looking book on the table, and by the time he re-appeared, I'd tessered once already and wasn't about to miss the rest of the story. It was a buck I never regretted spending.
I read AWIT a couple times since then, but not for 20 years or so -- found the sequels, but none of them held my interest beyond the first two pages. . . So, yanno, life goes on; so many books, so little time; and all like that.
But AWIT is going to be coming out as a movie next year; this time, so the hype goes, done right, which means that lots of people who read it as kids, and who imprinted on it, are re-reading. And some are being disappointed, and blogging about their disappointment (one more time from the choir: What an age we live in). Now, by the time I'd read AWIT, I'd read. . .a buncha books, many of them science fiction/fantasy (Back when I started reading sf/f, you could easily read the monthly titles, and still have room left over for others kinds of books. It just wasn't possible, if you were any shakes of a reader at all, to read only science fiction.). I thought AWIT was a good enough book. Certainly, the Mrs. Whatsit, Who, and Which have pleasantly improved my inner life. Meg irritated me -- but Meg was supposed to irritate me. Partly, after all, this was a story about Meg coming to terms with Meg, and if she could stand it, so could I.
I did have some reservations about the sudden appearance and utter acceptance of Calvin, especially the part where he liked Meg straight off. Otherwise, he seemed like good enough kid.
Charles Wallace was being set up either as John the Baptist, or the new Christ figure, but I'd already read Perelandra, and Out of the Silent Planet and whassis -- That Hideous Strength. Plus, I'd been raised Roman Catholic. All of which meant I was pretty good at ignoring the God-stuff and following the story along.
So, anyhow. I read it back then; liked it well enough. Read it a couple times more and liked it on rereads.
This time, I'm still liking it. Meg perhaps annoys me less, but, then I know how the story goes, more or less. I find that I misplaced a couple things on the timeline, but no big surprises so far. . .The Happy Medium, surprisingly or not, irritates me more than Meg does this time. Hmm.
One of the reviewers I read was saddened by the fact that AWIT didn't sing for them anymore, and blamed -- the 60s (given a 1962 pub date, and its long history of rejection, AWIT was probably written in the late 50s). The 60s, said the reviewer are just too unbelievable to a person of modern sensibility, and the story therefore suffers from its setting.
I will go on record here as saying that the 60s setting doesn't detract from the story at all, for this reviewer. OTOH, I lived through the 60s.
After gym, I ran the rest of the errands on my list -- sadly, neither CVS nor Agway had any of the bug repellents I had pinned my hopes upon, so I wound up ordering from the internet, rather than shopping locally.
Agway did provide me with a ginormous lacy yellow day lily, a hug pot of bee balm and a
Jimmy hosta with white bells (the hosta on the other end of the property have blue/purple bells). I have probably under-bought, but the wallet gets a vote, and this will at least start a Cat Garden Renaissance.
For those keeping score at home, I remain Utterly Delighted with my new fountain pen, which has scarcely been out of my hand since I bought it. So delighted am I, that I have purchased another Pilot Metropolitan, this is the formal White Tiger color scheme, and blue ink, so I will have a fine signing pen at Confluence.
And that? Really is all the news that's fit to print.
Everybody stay cool, or warm, as appropriate.
"Why'd you do it, Gabe?"
"Send those killers to her house."
"Lena, I don't know what you're talking about. Fill me in."
"Why'd you send those idiots after Gérard Lacroix?"
"I didn't! Hell, they weren't even field agents. It never should have happened. Not the way it did, anyway."
"Amélie doesn't know that."
"Amélie should know that, she has the logs. She just doesn't want to."
"Wot? Why not?"
"As long she doesn't know that, there's someone else alive to blame."
"That's shite, Gabriel."
"It is, and you know it. She blames herself. Always has."
"'Course she does, girl. But she also blames me. I was head of Blackwatch, so she's kinda got a point."
The younger assassin just grunted, a "huh" sort of sound.
"Trust me here, having someone else to blame? It helps."
Venom thought about that, for a moment, sizing up Gabriel Reyes through anger-narrowed eyes.
"I'm not so sure it does."
I learned piano very much in the traditional you-learn-pieces-and-perform-them-at-
Dude rocks my fucking world, I tell you what.
Partly, this is because I'm an adult and I've been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of teaching (I always know when a teacher is using a particular pedagogical technique on me--which interestingly doesn't always make it less effective). I learn differently now and with a different understanding of what "learning" is. This is the place where Csikszentmihalyi has been extremely helpful to me, because I can recognize how a successful learning engagement works. ("Learning experience" would be a better phrase, but it already has connotations that are really kind of the opposite of what I mean.) And the pressure to learn pieces for recitals is mercifully off, which helps, too. But partly it's because this guy approaches music completely differently, bottom up instead of top down.
But the thing that has changed my relationship with my piano is something my teacher said (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was) that made me understand--quite literally for the first time in my life--that fingerings aren't arbitrary and they aren't just put in music so that teachers can judge whether students are obeying them or not. Here's where playing the piano is exactly like rock climbing:
The notes in the score are like the hand, finger, foot, and toe holds used to set a route in a climbing gym. You work the fingerings out yourself, the same way that a climber works out her own solution to how to get to the top of the wall using the holds available. And he said, "This music is for playing." A weirdass chord progression or run is like a difficult sequence in a route; it's a game, a puzzle that a musician who's been dead for 100 years set for all the pianists who came after him to solve. You work out the fingerings (4-5-3-5 WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK) so that you don't hang yourself out to dry, the same way that a climber works out her holds so that when she has only her right hand free, the next hold isn't three feet to her left. When you make a mistake, you laugh and pick yourself back up and go up the wall again, because it isn't a pass/fail test. It's a game. You have a sense of glee that you share with the route setter about solving this incredibly intricate puzzle almost--in a weird way--together.
What that means is, (1) playing piano, which I have always loved, is now infused with a sense of fun that it truly has never had; (2) I know what I'm learning--not just "music" but the route up the wall, the game that underlies the performance; (3) when I'm fumbling through a new chunk of music, I know why I'm fumbling. It's not because I'm stupid or the music is stupid; it's because my brain is trying to process so much new information that it gets overwhelmed. That's why I miss easy chords and consistently play that damn C-sharp when the piece is written in G. Because THAT'S WHAT THE LEARNING PROCESS LOOKS LIKE.
But honest to god the idea of music as a game being played between composer and performer, and not a game like tennis, but a game like riddling--riddle set and riddle answered--is a seismic paradigm shift for me. Everything looks different now.
“Now Donald Trump has finally done it” is a sentence many people have said or written, but which has never yet proven true. As Trump gained momentum during the campaign season, errors that on their own would have stopped or badly damaged previous candidates bounced right off.
These ranged from mocking John McCain as a loser (because “I like people who weren’t captured”), to being stumped by the term “nuclear triad” (the weapons of mass destruction that he as U.S. president now controls), to “when you’re a star ... you can grab ‘em by the pussy” (my onetime employer Jimmy Carter had to spend days in the 1976 campaign explaining away his admission to Playboy that he had sometimes felt “lust in the heart”), to being labelled by an in-party opponent a “pathological liar,” “utterly amoral,” and “a narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen” (the words of his now-supporter Ted Cruz). I kept my list of 152 such moments in the Time Capsule series as the campaign went on.
In office, Trump has of course continued his pattern of blasting through past norms, and his electoral and congressional supporters have continued their pattern of ignoring, misinterpreting, condoning, or outright embracing whatever he says or does. According to a poll this week, fewer than half of Trump supporters believe that Donald Trump Jr. even met with Russian representatives during the campaign, although Trump Jr. himself released the emails confirming that he did.
Thus we’ll probably know only in retrospect when Donald Trump has finally gone too far. But we can note in real time when he goes further than he has before—and he did that again yesterday.
* * *
The vehicle was Trump’s astonishing on-the-record interview with Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. The 7,500-word transcript is here. The Times says these passages are mere “excerpts,” but they are plenty, and are completely worth reading end-to-end.
First, an obvious point that is newly relevant after this interview: For all of Trump’s denunciation of the “failing” and “fake news” mainstream press, he clearly craves attention and approval from the most mainstream-y of the established media. Barack Obama seemed to do interviews with major newspapers and networks because he had to—and then sessions on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars and Zack Galifinakis’s Between Two Ferns and Marc Maron’s WTF because he liked to.
By contrast Trump, for all his anti-press tweeting and rally-ranting, seems to lap up attention from what he thinks of as the big media powers of his rising years in New York, starting with Time magazine and the Times. Think of how he displayed a fake Time cover in his golf-course club houses and has inflated the total of his actual cover appearances, a Time cover being the mark of having made it for someone who grew up when he did. Two months ago, Trump called Time’s editor, Nancy Gibbs, and two colleagues in for a rambling tour of the private quarters of the White House—and you get the feeling from their account that Trump would have been happy to sit and talk all night. (“Mr. President, we don’t want to hold you,” you can almost hear them saying.)
In the case of the new NYT interview, Trump comes across as enjoying the chatting and camaraderie of the reporters. For instance, on the difficulty of rolling back health benefits once they’ve been extended:
Trump: Nothing changes. Nothing changes. Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.
Haberman: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.
Trump: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher.
Through the course of the transcript, you can sense Trump shifting from an opening tone that is not very wary at all—“Hi fellas, how you doing!” are his first words—to a comfortable intimate-schmoozing performance before what he assumes will be a sympathetic audience. All credit to the Times reporters for drawing him out this way. It’s the journalistic counterpart of the strategy leaders from Xi Jinping to Emmanuel Macron have figured out: You get more from Trump with honey than with vinegar.
And what makes this exposure to Trump’s mind and mood different from what we’ve seen over his past two years in political life and his previous decades in the public eye? For me it’s the accumulation of these elements:
A rare degree of deluded self-regard
Consider what Trump says about his speech in Poland two weeks ago:
I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.
Now, there are people who liked that speech better than I did. (I didn’t like it, for reasons I explained at the time.) But even those who would most heartily endorse the speech’s content, from Steve Bannon on down, could not with a straight face pretend that it was other than mediocre-workmanlike in its rhetoric and euphony. For instance:
A strong Poland is a blessing to the nations of Europe, and they know that. A strong Europe is a blessing to the West and to the world. (Applause.) One hundred years after the entry of American forces into World War I, the transatlantic bond between the United States and Europe is as strong as ever and maybe, in many ways, even stronger.
This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today we're in the West, and we have to say there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. You see what's happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats.
Mystic chords of memory. Better angels of our nature. Cross of gold. Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. Ask not what your country can do for you. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. To the ranks of American presidential phrase-making we now add You see what’s happening out there.
Moreover, it’s preposterous for Trump to claim that even critics are calling this “the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president,” because everyone except him knows that such a claim is absurd. John Kennedy’s “Ich Bin ein Berliner” was a justly renowned short, sparely elegant speech. Ronald Reagan’s “tear down this” wall in Berlin and “boys of Pointe du Hoc” in Normandy were among his strongest rhetorical performances. Barack Obama’s speeches in Berlin in 2008, when running for president, and in 2016, at the end of his term, were eloquent statements of his world view; and his address in Norway accepting the (improbably and weirdly given) Nobel Peace Prize was a logically tight exploration of the paradox of his receiving the Peace Prize while commanding troops at war, and of what the concepts of “just war” and “rules of war” meant in this age. Whether you agree or not with Obama’s approach to Islamic nations, his speech on the future of the Islamic world in Cairo in 2009 was historic. And these are only speeches that Trump should remember himself, from his own conscious lifetime.
It is alarming that Trump thinks people said this about his own so-so speech. It is more alarming that he thinks it could be true.
The unselfconscious display of gaping, consequential holes in his general knowledge
The transcripts is full of illustrations, but here are three I would note:
- The “Cornhusker Kickback.” Right at the start of the interview, Trump explains why it’s so hard to get health-care bills passed, using an example from the original passage of Obamacare:
Trump: It was good. We are very close. It’s a tough—you know, health care. Look, Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done. Smart people, tough people—couldn’t get it done. Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?
What Trump appears to be talking about is something known by its critics as the Cornhusker Kickback. In order to get the vote of the very conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, the Obamacare architects agreed on a special favor that spared the state of Nebraska, uniquely, some of the costs of expanding Medicaid. This was legislative deal-making in its classic form, and the conservative press roundly criticized it (and it became so controversial that it was ultimately bounced from the final deal).
But does it sound as if Trump has any idea what the deal actually involved? “They owned the state of Nebraska.” What? “Gave it away.” Huh? “Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics”—well, that is sort of right, as concerns Ben Nelson getting favors for his state (until the kickback was revoked), but it seems to reflect Trump’s habit of classifying everything as a good or bad deal with no regard for its substance.
- What insurance is. This is Trump’s description of the challenge of figuring out coverage for pre-existing medical conditions:
Trump: So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
The most charitable explanation for what he is trying to say is that Trump has confused the way medical insurance works, including the preexisting conditions question, with the way life insurance works, especially when people buy so-called “whole life” policies. His description—low initial payments, “you’ve got a nice plan” by retirement age—would make sense if talking about whole-life plans, which indeed were more popular when he was a young man. It has no apparent relationship to the subject on which he’s trying to oversee a congressional deal. No other president of my lifetime could have made a comparable error, on a comparably important topic, while in office. Gerald Ford, for all his stumblebum image, was a Yale Law School graduate and veteran of legislative details. George W. Bush, often so ineloquent in public, worked hard as governor of Texas and afterward to master legislative arguments and complications.
- Oh, that Napoleon. This error doesn’t matter. But it probably did to the man Trump thought he was doing so much to impress, President Macron of France:
Trump: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president [Macron], so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]
Trump: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.
Forget the wartime talk and “finished a little bit bad” and the rest of this shorthand version of history. What Trump obviously didn’t know (even now), as Macron probably realized as he was talking to him in Paris, is that there were two different Napoleons—the one who conquered Europe and “finished a little bit bad,” and the other one, his nephew Louis-Napoleon, who as president and then emperor of France in the mid-1800s commissioned the redesign by Haussmann that gave Paris its grand current look.
You could say this is niche knowledge, and there’s no reason Trump should be expected to be aware of it. (Except, well, that he’s just been to Paris and now has met a few times with the president of France—who would have certainly pointed out the difference when he was describing the Napoleons’ roles in Paris. And if you know anything about European history, you might guess that the original Napoleon was off the stage long before the mid-century reconstruction of Paris. But still...)
The significance is his blithe disregard for the terrains of his personal unknowns. It would be as if Macron himself came back from a visit to the United States and said, in an interview with Le Monde, “That George Bush, what he did is incredible. Served as a young fighter pilot in World War II, and was ambassador to the United Nations and vice president under Reagan—and then he led the country after the 9/11 attacks! He did so many things even beyond.” And his aides would look nervously around and wonder who would be the first to say, “Actually, sir, there were two of them...”
The meaning of the Constitution
This has been the most remarked-upon part of Trump’s interview, so I will merely refer you to David Graham’s analysis just now. “President Trump’s comments Wednesday about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, delivered in an interview with The New York Times, still take one’s breath away,” David begins. Other presidents, even Richard Nixon in extremis, were careful to give lip service to at least the ideas of accountability, checks and balances, and boundaries on a president’s personal power. The more Donald Trump says about his view of loyalty and limits, the more he sounds not like a character from John Adams or Lincoln but instead from The Sopranos.
Trump’s description of his dealings with James Comey could also come from Sopranos dialogue. I’ll let you read them for yourself, but here is the way he talks about “the dossier”—the much-controverted report that Putin’s agents had compromising film of him in sexual situations in Russia:
Trump: Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff.
Haberman: Which, which one?
Schmidt: The dossier.
Trump: The dossier.
Haberman: The dossier. Oh, yes.
Trump: Now, that was totally made-up stuff, and in fact, that guy’s being sued by somebody … And he’s dying with the lawsuit. I know a lot about those guys, they’re phony guys. They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing—plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people …
Keith [Schiller, his security chief] was there. He said, “What kind of crap is this?” I went there for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.
Through the election year, Trump and his associates (notably Mike Pence) said repeatedly that they had absolutely no contact with Russians or Russian interests during the campaign. (The New York Times has created an impressive video compilation of Trump-team claims to that effect, here.) Given the recent news of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner with a handful of Russian representatives, those denials look increasingly bad.
During this interview, Trump made a set of similarly absolute claims about his freedom from Russian financial entanglements. For instance:
Trump: I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make—from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk] …
But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia.
Absolute claims invite specific refutation. In Trump’s previous life, he was free from systematic checks-and-balances accountability—no shareholders or independent corporate board, no one except family members or loyalists around him—and through the campaign he has been able to get away with one provable falsehood after another. We’ll see whether his experience with the congressional committees, and Robert Mueller, justifies his apparent faith that if a claim sounds true to him at the time, he should go with it.
* * *
Last week I argued that nothing about Donald Trump’s own performance in office should be considered surprising, since he’s behaving now just the way he did during the campaign. But this interview is at least an increase in degree in the self-delusion, the consequential ignorance, the expressed disregard for constitutional functioning, and the absolute nature of his claims of innocence.
Will this difference in degree amount to a shift in the nature of his dealings with the main body capable of holding him to account: the Republican-controlled Congress? I’m not holding my breath. As McKay Coppins reported yesterday, most GOP senators and representatives claim they are “doing their best” and “doing everything they can” to apply normal constitutional standards to this president. Ever since contending two years ago that Donald Trump couldn’t win, I’ve avoided making any prediction involving him. But I think history will take a very dim view of the elected Republicans now letting down their party and their country.
This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Middleclassmanhattan. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Historical category.
Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child is in trouble, she turns to tall, dark, and annoying barrister Oliver Radford.
Though he’s unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford’s never been part of fashionable society, and the blonde beauty, though not entirely bereft of brains, isn’t part of his plans. But Clara overwhelms even his infallible logic, and when wedlock looms, all he can do is try not to lose his head over her . . .
It’s an inconvenient marriage by ordinary standards, but these two are far from ordinary. Can the ton’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?
Here is Middleclassmanhattan's review:
The hardest part of writing this review was trying to remember the actual name of the book. Dukes Prefer Blondes hints at nothing in this story, save for the fact our heroine is blonde. The title itself is unremarkable.
However, Ms. Chase delivers a book that is anything but! Filled with vibrant characters, witty dialogue, Dukes Prefer Blondes was a delight to read and a truly memorable love story. This was my first Loretta Chase book, and I understand why she has a great fan base, and why beloved author Julia Quinn is quoted on the cover.
To start with, the hero and heroine are equal parts intriguing, sexy, and quirky. You have your rich heroine, Lady Clara Fairfax, who wants to make a difference in society, and if she marries at all, Clara wants to marry someone who appreciates her intellect. And you have your genius Sherlock Holmes-like hero, Oliver Radford (known as Raven), who doesn’t have outrageous wealth (yet) but is building a standout career, and he doesn’t want anything to get in his way, most especially an illogical, emotional relationship. Our hero and heroine end up, after several adventures, with a heart-warming HEA. Perhaps that sounds as memorable as the title? Oh, but you would be wrong! Ms. Chase knows the magic formula for creating a HEA unique and memorable.
This review could be ten pages long explaining everything that appealed to me about Ms. Chase’s writing style and this particular book, but I’ve decided to limit my gushing and highlight three elements in particular, which for me, make it stand apart from other historical romances.
The first and most gratifying is the chemistry between the hero and heroine, which comes across through their amusing dialogue. Each Lady Clara and Raven scene is filled with quick-paced, charming banter. It reminds me of my favorite couple from the old TV detective series Remington Steele. The dialogue says that they find each other aggravating, but the subtext is altogether different. Here’s a typical example of the couple’s back-and-forth:
After a moment’s hesitation, he took the maid’s chair. “You must try to take nourishment,” he told his patient. “You must do exactly as I say, and get well, because I’ve promised you would and if you don’t, I shall be disgraced, and then—”
“I know. Your career will be ruined. You’re so charming.”
“Everybody says that,” he said.
“No, they don’t. Never. No one has ever said that about you in all your life, I’ll wager anything.”
“Perhaps they did not exactly say charming,” he said. “Perhaps… Yes, now I recollect, the phrase was ‘tolerable in very small doses’.”
“And yet I missed you,” she said. “Fancy that.”
She made it so difficult to stay detached. At this moment, it was impossible. He couldn’t stop his other self from getting a word in. “I missed you, too,” he said gruffly.
“Of course you did,” she said. “Because I’m so lovable.”
“You’re not lovable,” he said. “You are excessively annoying. And managing. But I’m accustomed to hardened criminals and half-witted judges, and being with you reminds me of home at the Old Bailey.”
Such a smile, then, more like her usual one.
How can you not look forward to reading more about this couple? Especially since Raven’s dialogue often had me thinking of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes.
In addition to the couple’s chemistry, I thoroughly enjoyed the well-thought-out subplots, which contribute to the rich character development. Ms. Chase certainly uses the subplots to push her characters together, but she also takes it a step further. She uses them to flesh out each main character so completely that you cheer for Clara as an individual, and you cheer for Raven as an individual, and then you cheer even more for them to become a couple.
For example, the subplot involving the bad guy and his attempts to kill Raven could be a stand-alone book as they add so much suspense, but while you’re wondering what’s going to happen next, you are also learning all about Raven’s law career. And like the master magician she clearly is, each of Ms. Chase’s subplots give the reader insight into Lady Clara and Raven’s characters while keeping the reader highly entertained (the mock courtroom scene involving Radford and Lady Clara’s parents is certainly a delightful highlight). There is no chapter, no moment in the story that isn’t making the reader fall in love with the main characters. Ms. Chase even makes the secondary characters and the scenes without Raven and Clara intriguing and fast-paced enough that I didn’t skip ahead to when the two main characters were back in the same scene. (And, yes, my iPhone-addled, lack-of-focus brain lacks patience for parts of a story that bore me after a page.)
The subplots are filled with period detail, which is the third standout element in this story that I wanted to mention. Ms. Chase injects the story with enough factual history to leave you with more than just a taste of the time period without pulling you out of your happy escapist-romance-novel-reading time. In addition to the imagery and attention to period detail evident throughout the book, each chapter begins with a quote or a short excerpt of a piece published from the period.
DUKE, in Latin Dux, à ducendo, signifying the leader of an army, noblemen being anciently either generals and commanders of armies in time of war, or wardens of marches, and governors of provinces in peace. This is now the first rank of the nobility. —Debrett’s Peerage, 1831
Ms. Chase draws you into the time period a little deeper with these excerpts, as if she were saying to you directly, “You know this is the type of thing Raven and Lady Clara would be familiar with, dealing with, etc.” I appreciated the added whisper of historical flavor. I even found myself Googling some of the books quoted.
The dialogue, the subplots, and the attention to period detail combined to make this a memorable story for me. But of course, no romance novel review would be complete without a comment on the sex scenes. I was half-way through the book before I realized there had been no sex yet, and even then it barely registered as the story is so engaging. Ms. Chase spends time creating sexual tension, so when you get to the sex scenes you won’t be disappointed.
I would give Dukes Prefer Blondes a solid A, and I look forward to reading the other books in the Dressmaker series.
And finally, my dear romancelandia readers, forgive me if this review reads like a fourth grader’s book report. After finishing such a rewarding, heart-warming, thoughtful, well-crafted story, all I really wanted to do was jump up and down, wave my arms, and shout, “Read it!” With that said, I’ll end with the most important part of the review: “Read it! Read it! Just read it!”
Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase received a B in a previous review by Carrie.
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
READER RECOMMENDED: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata is a 99c Kindle Daily Deal at Amazon! At a previous RT, SnarkyWench and I gushed about sports contemporaries over some wine for a good twenty minutes, and she highly recommended this book. I immediately added it to my TBR pile because it features a football player and a marriage of convenience plot. The hero (who is Canadian) wants to marry to keep his US residency. Readers loved the slow burn between the hero and heroine, but found it a little too slow. Any Zapata fans in the Bitchery?
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.
But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.
For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.
What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?
This book is on sale at:
Wait for It
Wait for It by Molly O’Keefe is $1.99! This is the fourth book in the Everything I Left Unsaid series, though it can be read as a standalone. Also, trigger warning as the heroine has an abusive ex. I also believe the hero is the ex’s brother. I’ve read previous books in the series and if you love angst, whooo boy, you’ll love the entire series. I can’t recommend O’Keefe’s books enough.
In a blistering novel of raw emotion and desire, a tormented woman teaches an alpha male that money can’t fix everything . . . but love can.
Tiffany : After fighting for a new life, I don’t want to play the victim anymore. However, with three kids to raise, I’m getting desperate enough to make a deal with the devil. My estranged brother-in-law, Blake, says he just wants to help, but he’s been trouble since I met him. I don’t know if I can believe this kinder, gentler Blake, and there’s a friction between us that has turned into the sweetest chemistry. He could be my salvation . . . or my downfall.
Blake : I haven’t always had Tiffany’s best interests at heart but I’m ready to make up for my sins. Besides, I can’t help admiring her: The girl’s a genuine survivor, tough and lean, with eyes of steel. But the more I get to know Tiffany, the more I want her. Every inch of her. Which means I’m about to make a bad situation a hell of a lot worse.
This book is on sale at:
Catching Captain Nash
Catching Captain Nash by Anna Campbell is 99c at Amazon and $1.99 elsewhere! This is the sixth and most recent book in the Dashing Widows series and I love the dress on the cover. You can grab all six books in the series for less than $5 and the first book is free! And if it’s your catnip, this romance has a married couple reconnecting after the captain hero husband was presumed dead.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea…
Five years after he’s lost off the coast of South America, presumed dead, Captain Robert Nash escapes cruel captivity, and returns to London and the bride he loves, but barely knows. When he stumbles back into the family home, he’s appalled to find himself gate-crashing the party celebrating his wife’s engagement to another man.
No red-blooded naval officer takes a challenge like this lying down; but five years is a long time, and beautiful, passionate Morwenna has clearly found a life without him. Can he win back the wife who gave him a reason to survive his ordeal? Or will the woman who haunts his every thought remain eternally out of reach?
Love lost and found? Or love lost forever?
Since hearing of her beloved husband’s death, Morwenna Nash has been mired in grief. After five grim years without him, she must summon every ounce of courage and determination to become a Dashing Widow and rejoin the social whirl. But she owes it to her young daughter to break free of old sorrow and find a new purpose in life, even if that means accepting a loveless marriage.
It’s like a miracle when Robert returns from the grave, and despite the awkward circumstances of his arrival, she’s overjoyed that her husband has come back to her at last. But after years of suffering, he’s not the handsome, laughing charmer she remembers. Instead he’s a grim shadow of his former dashing self. He can’t hide how much he still wants her—but does passion equal love?
Can Morwenna and Robert bridge the chasm of absence, suffering and mistrust, and find the way back to each other?
This book is on sale at:
A Dangerous Deception
A Dangerous Deception by Maggi Andersen is 99c! This romance has a fake relationship, forced proximity, and a heroine dressed as a man. Hello! Readers loved the heroine and the blend of action in the romance. However, some felt the plot a bit messy at times. It has a 3.9-star rating on Goodreads.
London, 1816. A handsome baron. A faux betrothal. And Horatia’s plan to join the London literary set takes a dangerous turn.
Baron Guy Fortescue arrives in England to claim his inheritance, abandoned over thirty years ago when his father fled to France after killing a man in a duel. He is set upon by footpads in London, and on his way to his country estate, robbers attack him again. Guy escapes only to knock himself out on a tree branch.
Aspiring poet, Horatia Cavendish has taken to riding her father’s stallion, “The General,” around the countryside of Digswell dressed as a groom. When she discovers Guy lying unconscious on the road, the two are forced to take shelter for the night in a hunting lodge.
Someone wants Guy dead. Is it his relative, Eustace Fennimore? He has been ensconced in Rosecroft Hall during the family’s exile and will become the heir should Guy die. Guy proposes a faux betrothal to give him more time to discover the truth.
Horatia is determined to keep alive her handsome fiance, who has proven more than willing to play the part of her lover even as he resists her attempts to save him.
This book is on sale at:
I've been maintaining an offline official timeline of canon for On Overcoming the Fear of Spiders and all the in-universe stories written seperately and collected in intersections in the web of time, and now that I'm making some headway on Old Soldiers, I thought I'd format and post the thing.
It's pretty big. It includes a fair number of things that happened in Fear of Spiders that did not make it into the manuscript or any following story, and also contains a couple of first-chapter background-info spoilers for the new story. So if you're allergic to that sort of thing, don't read it. If you're not, you might find some new background you might enjoy.
The Red by Tiffany Reisz is an erotic journey though art history. It’s a book that pushes the envelope, and one that won’t be for all readers, but one that I found immensely enjoyable. In many ways it reads like an erotic fairytale, complete with an ending that felt a little too convenient.
Mona Lisa St. James promised her mother that she would do anything in her power to save the family art gallery, The Red. Unfortunately, the gallery is half a million dollars in debt.
In true fairytale fashion, a mysterious man named Malcolm appears and offers Mona a million dollars for twelve days of sex. They will have an assignation one day a month over the period of one year. In return he will pay her in art worth a million dollars. Malcolm is handsome, dominant, and almost supernaturally appealing. Mona agrees to his terms.
The rest of the book is set up almost in vignettes, scenes in which Mona and Malcolm play out one of his fantasies, one month at a time.
All of Malcolm’s desires are inspired by famous paintings, and the first one he and Mona reenact is Olympia by Manet.
Mona waits for Malcolm, nude and reclining in bed. The subject of the painting, Olympia, is a sex worker, defiantly staring at the viewer, unabashed by her profession. The Black woman holding the flowers does not feature into their fantasy.
Mona is clearly having sex with Malcolm for financial reasons, but she finds the idea of being his whore intriguing and titillating.
“You do like your whores, don’t you?” she asked.
“I have trouble respecting a woman who gives away what she could sell for good money. Whores are the only women who know their own worth. I mean that.”
“What about male prostitutes?”
“Their clients are generally men as well. I don’t fault anyone who takes a man to the bank before going to bed with him. I wouldn’t let a strange man put his finger in my mouth and whores take far more into their bodies every single night. It’s skilled, brave work. Bless those lasses, they’ve saved my life and damned my soul. What more could I ask for?”
Just like in her Original Sinners series, Reisz subverts the idea of sex work as degrading; instead she empowers the sex worker and applies a logic to it.
As the novel progresses Mona gets drawn deeper and deeper into Malcolm’s fantasies and develops feelings for him, and he for her.
Because this is erotica, much of the book is about Mona’s sexual journey. However, she is never a blushing innocent. She is occasionally shocked by what she enjoys, but she’s no Anastasia Steele tormented and conflicted about the kind of sex she craves. At no point do Mona or Malcolm attribute a desire for kinky sex to a moral failing or any kind of emotional damage.
After a particularly intense BDSM session, Malcolm articulates what Mona is feeling:
“You only love me tonight because of the beating. You understand that, don’t you?”
Before tonight, she would have said “no,” that made no sense, there was no logic to it. He’d done something to her mind as well as her body. By the end of her beating, she couldn’t tell the crop apart from kindness. They were one and the same to her so that every strike of the crop was tender as a kiss and every word of tenderness made her crave the crop.
“Now I understand,” she said, because now she did.
There’s a lot of kink in this book. There’s bondage, sadomasochism, penetration by objections, flogging, group sex, anal sex, and at one point Mona has sex with a minotaur (for realsies). As their scenes together become more vivid, Mona questions whether or not Malcolm is giving her hallucinogens to make these fantasies feel real.
As the book progresses, the mystery and supernatural elements associated with Malcolm become more clear. Weirdly, this was the part I didn’t like. When we finally got the explanation for who Malcolm was and why he sought out Mona, I was disappointed. The fantasy and intrigue surrounding him was so well constructed than any explanation felt disappointing. I just wanted him to be a mysterious, other-worldly fucking machine. I wanted him to stay an enigma who entered Mona’s life every month, even while I acknowledge that’s not great storytelling.
Fans of Reisz’s Original Sinners series will gobble this book up. For those looking for erotica without a ton of emotional angst, The Red is right up your alley. It’s a delightful, wicked fairytale and it’s a ton of fun.
I’ve been using a new social media campaign tool called MissingLettr, and currently they are running a deal where new subscribers get six months for the price of one. There are three price tiers, and I’ll get to the particulars in a moment.
NB: the links in this post are affiliate coded, which means if you choose to subscribe, I will receive a percentage at no extra cost to you. That said, I’d recommend MissingLettr even without an affiliate account.
MissingLettr is great for bloggers, reviewers, and pretty much anyone who posts frequent content on their blogs. It works by scanning your site for new content, then automatically creates a year-long drip campaign for Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+ using images and quotes from your content. The feed is spread out, as I said, over a year, and each item is posted automatically to your choice of social media.
They have an intro video that explains it better than I could:
For me, Missinglettr is terrific because it resurfaces and promotes content throughout the coming year, allowing me to highlight reviews and cover snark long after they’ve been posted. While blogs do come with an expectation of timeliness and newest items are always first, well, some things don’t really get old – cover snark and book recommendations especially!
If you’re a reviewer or book blogger, this would resurface content from your archive for a year. If you’re an author, you could schedule posts about your books automatically for a year as well. There are a lot of possibilities!
You might have seen some of the MissingLettr posts on our Twitter or Facebook feeds (they also link to LinkedIn and Google+, and I hear rumors that Pinterest is next). Here’s an example:
— Smart Bitches (@SmartBitches) July 11, 2017
MissingLettr auto-magically created the quote box image in blue, using quotes from inside the review. I can also upload alternate images and select from a bunch of different quotes from the content. I can also edit the text that’s part of the Tweet or FB post, too. The ability to customize is pretty substantial.
I’ve really enjoyed using MissingLettr and have had a great experience with their customer service after I accidentally changed my subscription and couldn’t switch back. I recommend them most enthusiastically. And this deal is pretty sweet, hence my posting about it!
There are three plans, and with this offer, which expires July 25th, you can get six months for the price of one. Then, if you decide to continue after six months, you’ll receive 20% off the subscription cost going forward.
The Personal plan is $15 per month, and you can link two sites with four campaigns a week. The automatically scheduled content from one post is a campaign. So if I had cover snark and two reviews, and had campaigns scheduled for all of them, that would be three total. You can link four social profiles and upload custom images.
The Business plan is $40 per month. It comes with unlimited sites, 10 campaigns per week, 10 profiles, plus advanced analytics (which are coming soon).
The Small Team plan is $65 per month, includes unlimited sites, 10 campaigns per week, 25 social profiles, and additional team members who can approve content.
Plus, if you sign up for the six months free deal, if you decide to continue (and you can cancel after six months) you’ll receive a lifetime discount of 20% off the cost of your plan.
This is a pretty spiffy offer, and since it’s saved me a bunch of time and boosted inbound traffic by resurfacing content, I didn’t want you to miss it. Again, this offer expires July 25th, so if you’re thinking about it, think quickly! Again again, the links in this post are affiliate coded, but this post is not being sponsored. This is my own overly-verbose opinion, as usual.
Any questions, please ask in the comments, or email me!
[Grainy photo of a
I know this isn't the greatest photo of all time. In my defense, I did take it from behind a dusty windowpane in an upstairs bedroom where I was crouched breathlessly lest I frighten it off.
There've long been barn owls living at my partner's parents' home in rural Norfolk, but I'd never seen any other type of owl there. I was surprised, therefore, to see this tawny owl (h/t to shapinglight for corrected identification) sitting on their lawn at dusk a couple of weeks ago. I worked out that it was watching a group of four partridges who were pecking through the pebbles in the drive, closer to the house. They seemed a rather optimistic target, given that the owl wasn't much bigger than they were.
The owl flew off and returned to the lawn several times whilst I watched, but never made a move on the partridges, who eventually moved onto the roof of the house and over to the other side.