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Master Post

[livejournal.com profile] dwg's note: I made a series of posters with corresponding wallpaper packs - they range from 1600x1280 to 1024x768, widescreen versions included. There are 6x ~5MB packs

Author's note: When I opened my email and clicked on the links to the art, I literally gasped at how perfect this art is. I love how glossy it is, and how well it matches the look of the video. What they really remind me of are the kind of TV show ads you might find in magazines, and I love that [livejournal.com profile] dwg made that for my story. [livejournal.com profile] dwg, thank you so much for these! Everyone else, be sure to take a look behind the cuts and see how incredible this art is.

Elle )

Leighton )

Vicky-T )

Victoria )

Gabe )

Victoria & Leighton )
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A couple of weeks ago, I read this Alternative Press article about how bands don't make any money. They mention that the best thing you can do to financially support a band is to go to a show and buy a t-shirt while you're there. The article made me feel horribly guilty for not spending money on music. I don't really go to shows and I don't want band t-shirts (so not my style to wear things with designs, plus I only wear v-necks) or other merch (I'm not into buying stuff these days). And yet, I really want to financially support bands I support in other ways. [livejournal.com profile] lakeeffectgirl pointed out that Empires has a donate button on this page of their website (it's hidden waaaaay at the bottom under the Twitter box, and the layout breaks and hides it in Chrome), so I gave them some money. This resulted in not one but two thank-you notes (possibly from a template, but definitely not auto-generated as they came one and two days after I donated), one from management and one from Tom. This is part of why I adore this band; they are truly that sweet and that dedicated to being close to their fans. If you want more than just a thank you for your money, you can buy some of their merch or one of Tom's prints. (If you like Tom's style but not any of the specific prints there, he does rotate them - as soon as one sells out, he puts up something new. You can follow him on Twitter or his blog/[livejournal.com profile] tomconradsyn to see when he puts up something new.) You should also read [livejournal.com profile] lakeeffectgirl's post which says all this more fervently and more eloquently than I just did.

There is also an easy, non-financial way you can support Empires. They are one of sixteen bands in a contest to be the first unsigned band on the cover of Rolling Stone. However you feel about Rolling Stone as a publication, this is awesome exposure for Empires. Go here and give them five stars. If you have access to multiple computers with different IP addresses, vote from all of them!

And if Empires isn't your speed, then take this opportunity to support whatever bands or artists are your speed. As Tom's header says, "Buy art, even if it's not from here." ♥
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This month's book was Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer. I'd read something about the book several months ago (I have a vague recollection that it was a blog post about an interview wherein someone asked Lehrer about Kanye West, possibly either at Marginal Revolution or Mind Hacks), and when I saw it on the new books shelf at the library, I picked it up.

I'm finding it interesting how many nonfiction books are more like a collection of essays than a coherent whole; this book fits into that mold.

The basic idea behind Proust Was a Neuroscientist is that artists have anticipated many things that neuroscience is only just now realizing. It's an interesting premise, and a lot of the things artists have known before neuroscience seem somewhat like common sense.

The book was certainly interesting, although I think it might have been more interesting if I'd read more (or, rather, any) of the works he references. I think my favorite chapter was "Auguste Escoffier: The Essence of Taste," about cooks and chefs discovering that umami is real before neuroscientists found the receptors for it on the tongue. It made me hungry, and revealed why my first attempt at black beans really needed tomatoes or salsa added to it. (Tomato sauce falls in his list of "potent sources of L-glutamate.")

In the chapter "Igor Stravinsky: The Source of Music," he tells us:
Over time, the auditory cortex works the same way; we become better able to hear those sounds we have heard before. This only encourages us to listen to the golden oldies we already know (since they sound better), and to ignore the difficult songs that we don't know (since they sound harsh and noisy, and release unpleasant amounts of dopamine). We are built to abhor the uncertainty of newness.

How do we escape this neurological trap? By paying attention to art. The artist is engaged in a perpetual struggle against the positive-feedback loop of the brain, desperate to create an experience that no one has ever had before.
...
Without artists like Stravinsky who compulsively make everything new, our sense of sound would become increasingly narrow.
This makes me think I need to start listening to new music. I know I've noticed my own tendency to not bother with music I don't already know.

My favorite bits of the book are the entertaining commentaries and summaries of the works he covers. About George Eliot's Middlemarch: "Many depressing pages ensue." About Proust: "A sickly thirty-something, Proust had done nothing with his life so far except accumulate symptoms and send self-pitying letters to his mother." About Gertrude Stein: "If she is remembered today outside college campuses and histories of cubism, it is for a single cliché, one that is almost impossible to forget: 'A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.' Although Stein used this aphorism as a decoration for dinner plates, it now represents everything she wrote. This is the danger of avoiding plots."

Lehrer's concluding "Coda" is a manifesto of sorts in which Lehrer criticizes current popular science books and proposes a new way of marrying art and science: "What the artists in this book reveal is that there are many different ways of describing reality, each of which is capable of generating truth. Physics is useful for describing quarks and galaxies, neuroscience is useful for describing the brain, and art is useful for describing our actual experience." I'm not overly convinced by his argument. I think it's obvious that science and art describe different truths, and I'm not sure Lehrer's book successfully mixes art and science, although it is an interesting exercise in literary criticism by way of neuroscience.
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The September 29 issue of The New Yorker included Service, a portfolio of photos by Platon. The photos are of members of the military and families of military members.

When I read the issue, I couldn't look at any of the photos in any depth, only flip through them steadily - look, flip, look, flip - as I cried. I tried writing an LJ entry about it at the time, and I didn't know what to say.

This week, I cleaned out my stack of New Yorkers that had been piling up, waiting to go to the library book sale. I now have a system where I tear the address label off of anything that's ready to go, but it's a new system, and I had to flip through the ones that still had labels to see if there was anything I still wanted to read. When I got to Platon's portfolio, I couldn't remember if they were the pictures that made me cry or not, so I started flipping through them. When I started crying, I stopped flipping, and I set the issue aside to write this entry. I still don't know what to say.
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The October 8 issue of The New Yorker has a small bit about the Metropolitan Museum arranging their Rembrandt exhibit in order of acquisition. Peter Schjeldahl says, "Sportively arbitrary hanging of great art should happen more often."
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[livejournal.com profile] fuseji gave me Fray because it's the only Joss Whedon thing he still likes, and I finally got around to reading it last month. I didn't like it. My first thought was that what I didn't like was probably exactly what [livejournal.com profile] fuseji did like. But then I thought, what exactly is it that I didn't like? Maybe I just don't like comic books anymore. So I thought about it some more and then pulled out my two boxes of comic books and started flipping through them. I came to two not particularly surprising conclusions:
  1. What I didn't like is probably exactly what [livejournal.com profile] fuseji did like.
  2. I don't like comic books anymore, which is actually part of something bigger: I don't really like art that much.
Let me start with the first thing. What I didn't like about Fray is that there isn't much going on in the way of relationships. In Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, the living, breathing, changing relationships are an integral part of the story. Sure, Fray has relationships, but they're generally broken or with dead-dead (as opposed to undead) people, and that doesn't hold much appeal for me.

Now the second thing, and the real point of this entry: I'm just not into art. (Note: I'm using "art" here to mean the sort of things you see in museums - painting, drawing, sculpture.) I think this is partly because I take in a lot of visual information very quickly. When I go to museums with my parents, they stop and stand in front of things and look at them for a while. I look, take it in, and then I'm ready to move on because now I've seen it. There are exceptions: I really like 16th-century European religious art, especially Mary Magdalenes; and I have fond memories of a painting of tennis shoes going through a ring of Christmas lights in the sky at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (it's likely that I'm completely misremembering the painting). I tend to like photography more, but even then, I don't spend a lot of time looking at it. If you look at the art on my walls, it's almost all photos, and all but one of those are fannish.

Let me be clear here: I'm not saying art is bad. I wholly believe that people should create art as they feel the need/desire to do so, that we should have art and art education in our world, and that people should take in art as they feel the need/desire to do so. What I am saying is that I, personally, don't get much out of art and don't appreciate it much.

There's conflict in my life about art and science. My dad's an engineer; my mom's a poet. My dad builds incredibly beautiful and interesting structures and takes fantastic pictures; my mom gets excited by a well-designed spreadsheet. I've felt for a long time that the art things I've done aren't good enough because there's no science in them and the science-type things I've done aren't good enough because there's no art in them. I think sometimes that I'm paralyzed by not knowing which thing I should be doing; I'm working on figuring out what I authentically want to do and doing that. I also thought for a long time that I had no artistic talents. This was probably less about outside critique and more about internal comparison to my brother, who is incredibly artistically gifted in many ways - and who says that he's just an amateur compared to the people he knows who are really gifted.

The end result of this is that I always think I should appreciate art, and I'm learning to realize that I generally don't and that that's okay. I don't have to force myself into it.

Because I don't appreciate art, I'm not much into comic books. When I pulled out the two boxes I have, I wasn't even interested enough to even read any of the X-Men. Even Strangers in Paradise, which I loved at the time didn't hold much interest for me. The only thing that I was interested in was House of Secrets, and it was too depressing for me to read past the first five-book arc.

I think there are two things that make some comic books/graphic novels work for me. First of all, I like a good story with interesting relationships. The House of Secrets is a gripping story with some very complex relationships. From Eroica With Love always has a good story and a quite contentious relationship. Daisy Kutter: The Last Train is a marvelous story with an interesting relationship. Secondly, I like uncluttered art. House of Secrets is fairly plain. From Eroica With Love and Daisy Kutter are both uncluttered black and white art. X-Men is loud and busy. Strangers in Paradise looks too round and bubbly for me, even though it's mostly in black and white.

I don't really have much of a conclusion here. I will be glad to get rid of all my comics (watch for a stuff that could be yours post coming soon) and make a little more space in the closet, and I'm going to recommit to not attempting to like things just because I think I should.
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Writing
I've written almost nothing in weeks. This week, I sat down and wrote a 2900-word story in three days. "Eleven Days at the Rocking M" was like that too. I wrote it in less than a week, and the bulk of it (as in, nearly 4000 words) in a weekend.

Art
We had a henna party before the party where the belly dance troupe was performing yesterday. I did my own henna tattoo on the back of my left hand. I showed it off at breakfast this morning and told people I'd done it myself. My mother said, "I thought I recognized your drawing style." I had no idea I even had a drawing style. I'm used to thinking of myself as having no talent when it comes to arts other than writing.

Politics
The best politics subject line ever comes from John Scalzi's Whatever: SCOTUS to POTUS: RTFM.

Movies (I)
I did not go see Superman Returns, but I did read Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker. You may remember from previous posts how much I love Anthony Lane. Here's the best bit of what he has to say about it: Possibly Spoiler-like )

Movies (II)
I did see The Devil Wears Prada, and let me tell you that it is awesome. It's fantastically funny, Emily Blunt's every line is delivered perfectly, and it's a wonderful vehicle for Anne Hathaway, who finally gets to be an adult. It also made me put Ready to Wear (fashion movie) and Something New (Simon Baker movie) at the top of my Netflix queue.

Other People's Fandoms
Someone at Escapade went on and on about Nip/Tuck, so I Neflixed it. Let me recommend that you not do any such thing. The characters are despicable and unsympathetic and the surgery footage serves no purpose other than to be bloody and gory.
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I had a great time in Chicago. We got a lot out of the conference professionally, and the time away was good for my writing. I wrote the Mal/Kaylee bit I've been thinking about (which, now that I've reread it, needs a lot of work), and I have several pages of the start of a CK/DB high school football and cowboys AU. (Um. It's supposed to be. I keep forgetting the cowboy part.)

Friday
We arrived on Friday, and the stupid hotel does not guarantee non-smoking rooms. So once I dropped my stuff in my smoking room (let me emphasize the grrr), I went downstairs to sit on the grand ballroom steps with the art teachers. It was fascinating to me that once the National Art Education Association was gone, no one else sat on the steps. After the step sitting, we went out for real Chicago pizza. I'm not sold on the deep dish thing being the best pizza ever, but our end of the table had a fantastic garlic, tomato, and cheese pizza.

After dinner, I spent some more time on the steps, and then went back up to my room in time to watch Conviction. The show is really growing on me. The last two episodes. )

If you're interested in knowing what the hell I'm talking about, iTunes apparently has Conviction episodes for sale.

Saturday
On Saturday morning, I went to The Art Institute of Chicago. I have a minor problem with art museums: I just don't appreciate art that much. This is the problem I have with comic books, too. Without a solid appreciation for the art, a comic just isn't a good entertainment value. (Graphic novels are much better.) So after attempting a systematic wandering of the museum, which did take me through a fantastic photography exhibit (The Concerned Photographer), I decided I was too tired for that and headed off to the European art. For the record, the art I like best is sixteenth century European religious art, and The Art Institute didn't disappoint. In addition to all the sorts of things you might expect, I came across a very interesting Mary Magdalen by Alessandro Boncivino (Moretto da Brescia). I have good luck with Magdalenes. When I visited The National Gallery in London, I saw Giovanni Girolamo Salvando's Mary Magdalene across the room and immediately recognized it from the cover of Graham Joyce's Requiem.

The Art Institute also offered me a chance to use my overeducation as I recognized an El Greco by its style and recognized the style of a Goya without being able to put a name to it.

After lunch and a nap, I headed off to the Shedd Aquarium. I was disappointed. Instead of being an aquarium the way, say, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is, it feels a lot like a museum with small windows of fish instead of paintings. I was also very uncomfortable with their whale tank. It seemed way too small for five whales.

On Saturday night, Molly came down to visit. We ate a ton of food while gossiping and then headed off to see Inside Man. ) The theater itself was entertaining as we stood in a very long line, found the not to exceed 426 persons sign in our theater, and then discovered we were in the 11:00 showing that was not anywhere near sold out.

Sunday
Molly went home on Sunday morning (sad!), and I went off to a really good working session on evaluation.

Sunday evening, I was in my room for Malcolm in the Middle. I find I write more commentary when I'm in hotel rooms because I have my notebook open. This episode had a very slashy plotline about Dewey and Malcolm finding a new mattress. Yeah.

Monday
My presentation was on Monday afternoon, and it went very well. We had a lot of compliments from the participants.

On Monday night, we went to Second City, which was awesome.

Their first skit was all about MySpace. At one point, one character doubtfully approves another one as a friend and then writes back to express his concern that "you didn't even mention Lost."

In the intermission between the second and third acts, there was a crowd around the door to the restrooms at the edge of the stage. One of my coworkers went over there and got Dan Aykroyd's autograph on the back of a business card. When the third act started, we found out that there's a young Belushi working as an understudy in the touring company.

After the show, as we were waiting for cabs back to the hotel, we saw Dan Aykroyd across the street while a group of intoxicated audience members asked me to take a picture of them with the Belushi kid and one of the other actors (Brad Morris, I think). And then we got a cab so I couldn't continue to watch the Belushi kid and the other guy be slashy together. However, our cab driver did then just barely avoid running over Dan Aykroyd

Tuesday
On Tuesday, I went to one of the best sessions I went to all week: The Transition from Adolescence to Adulthood: New Ideas and Brain Research. I was a little concerned that they would focus on teenagers, but they were actually talking about young adults, which, depending on the researcher, means 18-25 or 18-35. One of the things they talked about is that only around this time do we start to be able to engage in relativistic thinking. So, for example, only when we reach that stage are we able to understand that people offering constructive criticism may actually have our best interests in mind. Now, doesn't that just explain a whole lot about fandom?

Wednesday
Wednesday was our last day, and I started out the morning in a session on lgbt families, which was excellent and gave me ideas of some things we need to steal for our trainings.

At the airport on Wednesday evening, I saw a guy in a pink "Virginia is for lovers" shirt with another guy. Hee!

Thursday
I went in to work on Thursday after not much sleep, and I was okay until about 3:00, when I was ready to crash.

On Thursday evening, I was home from belly dance in time to catch Without a Trace. I've been reading my way through The Danny/Martin Slash Archive, and the overabundance of slash is starting to show. Spoilers )

Friday
Because I worked on Thursday, I took yesterday off and spent the time starting to catch up on my taped TV and watching six episodes (for a total of nine hours) of Taken. I have only two episodes to go, and it's killing me to have to wait until the next disc gets here from Netflix. I even went out to Hollywood Video today to see if they had it, but I had no luck.
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One. According to Carson Daly, Christina Aguilera's sister is garnering attention for her artwork, including a portrait of Christina in lingerie. Carson claims that some guy who has something to do with a museum (this is what you get when I don't write it down right away) says that it really expresses the relationship between Christina and her sister. Carson agreed in a tone with the proper amount of nasty insinuation.

Two. Every cop or cop-like fandom needs a good undercover BDSM story. I seem to have decided that Klaus and Dorian can live out theirs in my fantasy world.

"You could have this," Dorian says, leaning across the desk. "You could have me at your side every day and in your bed every night. I'd even let you tie me up sometimes." He looks up through his lashes and plays his last card. "If you let me do the same to you."

Three. Will you think less of me if I admit that I think a That 70's Show Red/Kitty sex scene would be really hot?

Four. Jerry and Kramer need to have sex. With each other.

Five. Yet another idea that will send me straight to hell. The Secret Garden. Mary lies on her back on the grass in the Secret Garden, Dickon over her, kissing her. She opens her eyes and looks up to see Colin looking lost and left out.

Six. Watch Pirates of Silicon Valley. Dara has always been right about Bill and Steve. Although, to be honest, I think jailbait Bill is sexier than either the current real or the PoSV fake version. My mother's comment upon seeing Bill's mugshot: "Oh my gosh. He's even cuter than in the movie."

Seven. Is there anything good in Modesto, California? This is one of the things I shall attempt to discover over the next four days.

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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