[story] The Statue Beneath the Sea

Aug. 22nd, 2017 02:23 pm
yhlee: Flight Rising Spiral dragon, black-red-gold (Flight Rising Jedao baby Spiral)
[personal profile] yhlee
For [personal profile] storme.
Prompt: d├ępaysement.

The Statue Beneath the Sea

Once upon an ocean, a statue dwelled beneath the waves. In days past the statue had been brightly painted and crowned with gilt, with jewels for eyes and jewels set in its magnificent wings. It remembered dancers crowding its plaza and lovers exchanging promise-poems beneath its benevolent gaze, parades of helmeted youths and prophetesses giving speeches in the sinuous language of time unwound.

It had never met the general whose victories it was meant to commemorate, although it knew that some statues had that privilege. But it had their smooth face and their smile, and even though the jewels of its eyes had long ago been stolen by treasure-scavengers, it had something of the general's vision. It knew the stories of the general and their honored lover the lady scholar, and how they had built the old city to a precipice of grandeur.

Those days had passed long ago, however, and the wars of weather-mages had sunk the city below the sea. No one now living remembered the city's name the way it had been spoken by its inhabitants, although it lingered in distorted whispers and siren-songs that wound through the tides. The statue remembered its people and yearned for whatever scraps of myth it could gather from the gossip of gulls and sailors.

The fish and the anemones, mindful of the statue's melancholy, spoke with it little. In truth it would have welcomed their chatter. But when it asked them for stories of war (in honor of its general), they could only share tales of cannonades and blood staining the foam, so different from the swift chariots and dust-clouds it knew of, and its melancholy only deepened.

At last an entourage of dragons, distant cousins of the Dragon King Under the Sea, visited the sunken city. One of the dragons, hardly more than an eggling as dragons reckon time, especially liked to explore vanished civilizations. She was particularly taken by the statue's eroded marble surfaces, seeing in them the litany of years gone and years to come.

The statue told the dragon of its vanished city, and its general's victories--more fable than truth by this point, not that there was anyone to correct it--and the dragon listened eagerly. She began telling the statue's stories to the sharks and the seahorses, the terns and the turtles. Soon the creatures of the sea came to listen to the statue as well, and to honor it with their tribute.

It wasn't long before the statue's old plaza was surrounded by nets woven of pirates' beards, and strands of coins marked around the rim with praises to octopus gods, and bits and pieces of filigree armor snatched from soldiers fallen overboard. The creatures of the sea, not to mention the dragons, began frequenting the statue's plaza, and carrying out their own ceremonies there.

While the statue knew that the people it had once known would never return, and that the old city was dead in truth, it found some comfort in seeing a new one arise where the old had been.

Fig and Ibid

Aug. 22nd, 2017 02:40 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Are surrounded by cats used to other cats and thus not necessarily alarmed to see new ones. Ibid is content to sniff noses with the bolder of his new housemates, whereas I think Fig is affronted by their lack of timidity.

I still have not seen the orange kitten I was warned could be an issue. It's afraid of people but likes to tussle with older cats. I expect Ibid will like this and Fig will not.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Aug. 22nd, 2017 06:02 am
yhlee: icosahedron (d20) (d20 (credit: bag_fu on LJ))
[personal profile] yhlee
Raph Koster's A Theory of Fun for Game Design (2nd ed.) has been on my wishlist for something like the past five years. I picked it up recently by ordering it through my local game store (which is technically also a bookstore and is in the process of signing on with distributors or however that goes). It is an absolute delight.

I'm glad I sprung for the hardcopy of this for two reasons: one, I like to mark up my nonfiction, and two, its formatting! The left-hand page in every two-page spread is text; the right-hand page has an illustration related to the material on the left-hand page. While the illustrations are not technically the most accomplished, they are generally extremely effective communicative cartoons or diagrams.

This book comes with a ton of blurbs, and Cory Doctorow's--"Does for games what Understanding Comics [by Scott McCloud] did for sequential art"--pretty much sums up how I feel. I've read other game design books that were insightful, or thorough, but the Koster is accessible and very interesting in its approach to what makes games games, and how to make them fun (in the instances where that's a thing--cf. Brenda Romero's Train).

One of Koster's arguments is that "with games, learning is the drug" (40)--a game that interests us is one that strikes the necessary balance of not too easy (Tic-Tac-Toe, for most adults) and not too hard (multiple failure modes possible, depending on the individual--witness me and chess or go [1]). He suggests that games (and play, which is common in a lot of young animals!) are an artifact of how we try to learn survival skills, and moves forward into making suggestions as to how to move the form forward into values/skills more suitable for the modern era than "kill things" or "jump over things" or "search for all the things."

[1] Joe gave up on teaching me go when I told him I have severe difficulty with visual patterns. In fact, I am starting to wonder if aphantasia just screws me over for this kind of game in general. :p

There's also a particularly interesting chapter on ethics and entertainment where he discusses the difference between the game system and the flavor/dressing:

The bare mechanics of a game may indeed carry semantic freighting, but odds are that it will be fairly abstract. A game about aiming is a game about aiming, and there's no getting around that. It's hard to conceive of a game about aiming that isn't about shooting, but it has been done--there are several gmaes where instead of shooting bullets with a gun, you are instead shooting pictures with a camera. (170)

The bare mechanics of the game do not determine its meaning. Let's try a thought experiment. Let's picture a mass murder game wherein there is a gas chamber shaped like a well. You the player are dropping innocent victims down into the gas chamber, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There are old ones and young ones, fat ones and tall ones. As they fall to the bottom, they grab onto each other and try to form human pyramids to get to the top of the well. Should they manage to get out, the game is over and you die. But if you pack them in tightly enough, the ones on the bottom succumb to the gas and die.

I do not want to play this game. Do you? Yet it is Tetris. (172)


In general, Koster has a background in game design AND writing AND music, and he draws on all three in his analysis of games, as well as other disciplines (e.g. psychology). It makes the book a scintillating read. I can't believe I waited so long to read this--but it was exactly what I wanted to read last week, so hey. Highly recommended.

Face Off through 3.1

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:21 pm
yhlee: rose in a hexagon (hxx emblem Andan)
[personal profile] yhlee
Read more... )

Also, now I have an incredible desire to watch the Clone Wars cartoon so I will have to save up for the DVDs. Maybe Christmas? XD

[hxx] [story] Sword-Shopping

Aug. 21st, 2017 09:13 pm
yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))
[personal profile] yhlee
For S.B.
Prompt: hexarchate, "calendrical sword."

Ajewen Cheris and her girlfriend Linnis Orua paused outside the shop. A banner of ink painted onto silk fluttered in the flirtatious artificial breeze. Orua had grown up on a station with less naturalistic ideas of aesthetics, and found this dome-city with its aleatory weather nerve-wracking. She still spooked whenever there was a wind, which entertained Cheris because Orua also had long, luxurious waves of hair that rippled beautifully. "We were always told to be aware of strange air currents as a possible sign of carapace breach!" Orua had protested when Cheris teased her about it.

"Blades for All Occasions," Cheris read. She had been saving for this moment throughout the first two years of academy, and practicing for it besides. Orua didn't understand her fondness for the sport of dueling, but she had agreed to come along for moral support.

"Well, no sense in lingering outside," Orua said. She grinned at Cheris and walked forward. The door swooshed open for her.

Cheris followed her in. A tame (?) falcon on a perch twisted its head sideways to peer at her as she entered. The falcon was either genetically engineered or dyed or even painted, although she wasn't sure how she felt about any of those alternatives: its primary feathers shaded from black to blood red, with striking metallic gold bands toward the tips. It looked gaudy as hell and quintessentially Kel.

Orua was busy suppressing a giggle at the falcon's aesthetics. Cheris poked her in the side to get her to stop and looked around the displays, wide-eyed. Her eyes stung suspiciously at the sight of all those weapons, everything from tactical knives to ornamented daggers with rough-hewn gems in their pommels and pragmatic machetes.

But best of all were the calendrical swords. Deactivated, they looked deceptively harmless, bladeless hilts of metal in varying colors and finishes. Cheris's gaze was drawn inexorably to one made of voidmetal chased in gold, with an unusual basket hilt. It was showy, extremely Kel, and an invitation to trouble. Only a cadet who had an exemplary record and was an excellent duelist would dare carry such a calendrical sword. And besides, the lack of a price tag told her there was no way she could afford it even if she could, in honor, lay claim to such a thing.

Cheris sighed, then looked up into her girlfriend's eyes. "I wish," she said, her voice soft.

"Let me help you pick," Orua said, ignoring the sales assistant who was watching them imperturbably with his arms folded behind his back.

Cheris blinked. "I thought you didn't know anything about dueling?" she teased. Orua paid more attention to the special effects and makeup on dueling shows than the actual dueling.

"I don't know anything about dueling," Orua said, as the sales assistant radiated disapproval. "But I know a lot about you." Her eyes turned sly, and Cheris hoped that Orua wouldn't get too specific here of all places. She grabbed Cheris's hand and tugged her along to a completely different display. "Look!"

At first Cheris wasn't impressed by the calligraphy-stroke plainness of the calendrical swords on display. Then she saw that that the metal evinced a faint iridescence, like that of a raven's feather. She particularly liked the one whose textured design incorporated the first digits of the base of the natural logarithm.

Orua stooped to whisper right in Cheris's ear, "Tonight I'm going to see how many digits of that number you can recite before I get you to--"

"I'll buy this one," Cheris interrupted, very loudly, and pointed.

Unseen, the sales assistant and Orua exchanged winks.

I am fail

Aug. 21st, 2017 06:01 pm
yhlee: Drop Ships from Race for the Galaxy (RTFG)
[personal profile] yhlee
I'm not going to do it but I crave to someday write a training cruise/school/dance academy/conservatory/??? mashup disaster story.

Alas, I have this novel to work on. :p 2,000 words on Dragon Pearl today! (I'm doing revisions, but I had to rip out a few chapters that weren't working and replace them with all-new ones, always thrilling.)
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I am a dancer in the New York City Ballet. I wrote the pages that follow during one ballet season. I began on November 21, 1980, and finished on February 15, 1981. I was lonely; I was sad. I had decided to be alone, but I had never decided to be lonely. I started writing on a yellow pad. I wrote, and I smoked. Every page was covered with a film of smoke.

If you like that, you will like this book. It's one of those slim but pithy volumes that precisely captures a time, a place, and a state of mind.

I've always had a fascination with ballet, ever since my second-grade teacher offered a trip to see the Nutcracker Suite (it was at least ten years before I realized that the second word was not "sweet") to her top three students. I had no idea what that was, other than that it was clearly desirable, so I went all-out to make sure that I'd get the prize. I was sufficiently enchanted with The Nutcracker and the general air of specialness surrounding the entire experience that I begged my parents for ballet lessons, at which I lasted something like three sessions. I don't recall the exact problem, but based on my age I'm guessing that there was too much standing around.

After that I confined myself to reading ballet books, which was more fun that actually doing it. Had I tried when I was older, I might have stuck with it for longer. Based on Bentley book and everything else I've read about ballet dancing, it has an austere, stoic, boot camp, push your limits atmosphere that would have really appealed to me if I'd been three to five years older. And then I would have gotten my heart broken, because I am not built to be a ballerina.

Winter Season beautifully depicts the illusion shown to the audience and the reality experienced by the dancers, and how the dancers live the illusion as well. It's got all the fascinating details of any good backstage memoir, without bitterness or cynicism. Even as it ground down her body, Bentley never stopped loving ballet; she seems to feel that she was lucky to have the chance to live the dream, just for the opportunity to spend a few minutes every day being the perfect expression of her body and the choreographer's art.

Winter Season: A Dancer's Journal, with a new preface

And I will place the next bit under a cut in case you just want to read about Winter Season. As opposed to ass. Read more... )

Prompt for 2017-08-21

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:53 pm
brewsternorth: Electric-blue stylized teapot, captioned "Brewster North". (Default)
[personal profile] brewsternorth posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "looking up".

(Shout out to everyone watching today's total solar eclipse!)

40 Years Ago Today

Aug. 20th, 2017 04:56 pm
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The United States of America, then an independent nation, launched Voyager 2

I wonder if any of the people involved realized it would still be going two generations later?

Read more... )

It was a camel!

Aug. 20th, 2017 01:14 pm
rachelmanija: (It was a monkey!)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
This clip from CNN is well worth listening to.

It encapsulates both the jaw-dropping awfulness and bizarreness of the Orange Supremacist era, and the extent to which the mainstream media has gotten so appalled that they're dropping their usual false equivalency. I mean the old "both sides have a point," which works when both sides DO have a point, but does not when you're talking about Nazis vs. anti-Nazis or Cheetolini vs. human beings with empathy. Also, it made me laugh.

Yesterday post-rally [personal profile] hederahelix and I were discussing this.

"It's just so surreal," she said. "Hey... Is that a camel?"

I looked over. The U-haul next to us had a giant camel painted on the side.

Below the camel, as if in explanation of why a U-haul would be decorated with a giant camel, were a few lines of Wikipedia-esque notes on camels, something like "A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back."

Prompt for 2017-08-20

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:15 am
brewsternorth: Electric-blue stylized teapot, captioned "Brewster North". (Default)
[personal profile] brewsternorth posting in [community profile] dailyprompt
Today's prompt is "a day of roses".
yhlee: Alto clef and whole note (middle C). (alto clef)
[personal profile] yhlee
A couple friends let me know that talking about composing for orchestra is, in fact, something that might be of some minor interest and also I am taking a break from working on Dragon Pearl while the Dragon borrows my laptop (which is my writing machine), so.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional composer! I did not go to conservatory. I am an interested amateur. My background is seven years of more or less classical piano, including a few years at the Houston Music Institute (relevant because they taught some theory and basic composition), a few years of viola, and years of screwing around on basically every instrument I could get my hands on, including three summers of classical guitar, mandolin, soprano recorder, pennywhistle, ocarina, and diatonic and chromatic harmonica. (Harmonicas actually get pretty complicated, more complicated than I personally can deal with--different tunings, cross-harp, slant-harp, etc. I only know the basics. [1]) This kind of jack-of-all-trades-ism is not great if you want to be a performer, where you really ought to become expert in your chosen instrument(s), but it's not awful if you want to compose.

[1] To anyone who doubts that the harmonica is a "real" classical instrument, I present to you Villa-Lobos' Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra with soloist Robert Bonfiglio [Youtube], which is the recording I used to have before the stupid fucking flood. That's a chromatic harmonica, BTW; you can tell because of the use of the chromatic slide in some of the ornaments. More information. I will FIGHT anyone who tells me the harmonica is not a REAL INSTRUMENT.

Further caveat, I am only discussing Western music. I don't know enough about non-Western traditions to tell you anything useful about them. I compose more or less neoclassically because that's what pleases my ear and I feel no need to be innovative in a technical/theoretical sense. (Schoenberg's twelve-tone system is brilliant from a technical/theoretical sense but I cannot usually stand listening to it except in the limited context of certain kinds of film/TV scoring. I wouldn't listen to it for fun.)

And for yucks, I have perfect pitch, which in almost all contexts is either useless or an active hindrance (I am a suck liar and let's just say that I avoid a cappella performances and first-year string players like the plague--there's such a thing as good a cappella, but unless you are Carnegie Hall good I don't want to risk it), but has limited applications in the realm of music, ahahaha. For most applications relative pitch is hell and away more useful. (I actually get interference between relative and perfect pitch, which sucks.)

Anyway, let's talk a little about the fundamentals of music from the standpoint of composing.

I keep telling people that composing for orchestra is not hard. Composing for orchestra well is hard. Because it's true! It's a lot of things, true, but you can break it down into components. I'll talk a little more about this below.

Music is about patterns--creating tension with different dimensions of pattern, then resolving it. In terms of pitch, you only have twelve of them repeating across various octaves to work with! But because you can combine the pitches in different ways, you can come up with different melodies. Speaking in terms of standard music notation, that's the "horizontal" dimension. And pitch is combined with patterns of rhythm--units of time. cut for length and tl;dr )

Okay, I am out of brain and I'm not sure any of this even makes sense to anyone who is not me. :] I am happy to answer questions (or, if you compose music yourself, talk shop!).

bookspoils!

Aug. 19th, 2017 06:04 pm
yhlee: Drop Ships from Race for the Galaxy (RTFG)
[personal profile] yhlee
Returned books to library. Got these from the booksale shelves for 5 cents apiece (they were 1 cent apiece but I told the librarian to keep the 8 cents of change):

- Star Trek tie-in novel Ishmael by Barbara Hambly--I read this a long time ago and like Hambly :)
- Star Trek tie-in novel Uhura's Song by Janet Kagan \o/ I read this a few years back and also thought it was lovely! I'm really thrilled to own my own copy, in decent shape for a library discard even, although it means the library didn't want it anymore. -_-

What are some of your favorite recent libraryspoils/loanspoils/bookspoils?

ETA: Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm sad I woke up from a dream involving an animated TV series of P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath. I'm several books behind in that series (at this point I might as well wait until it's all out before rereading the whole thing from the start) but would that not be awesomesauce?!

Cats Against Nazis

Aug. 19th, 2017 01:58 pm
rachelmanija: (Heroes: support WGA)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
The rally was fine, though quite small. I imagine there would have been a much bigger turnout if the Nazis hadn't cancelled. One of my neighbors was there!

I went with [personal profile] hederahelix. We are now heading for Clementine.

Here I am with my sign and feline fellows in resistance.



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