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There's still a bit of stigma attached to admitting that one likes Titanic. Leonardo DiCaprio entire career has been built on establishing himself as a Serious Thespian instead of the Justin Beiber of the mid-90s. No one sings "My Heart Will Go On" except under the most ironic of circumstances.

But for one moment in timeTitanic was the biggest thing on the planet. No English movie has ever been as big in Pakistan (My 80 yr old grandfather heard the hype and wanted to see it), and I don't think the phenomenon was any smaller elsewhere. Little wonder - the movie was about the biggest man-made vessel of its time, the grandeur and hubris of the late colonial period brought low by implacable Nature. Throw in a pair of star-crossed lovers, craft every scene to wrench at the heart-strings, then dial everything up to eleven. There is no room for smallness.

Titanic is back on the big screen today, in full 3D glory. I am fifteen years older than I was when I last watched it. The wild impetuous love between Jack and Rose no longer makes sense to me (though I give the actors credit, Winslet and DiCaprio worked miracles to make them credible). The class dynamics appear simplistic. The idiot villain makes me face-palm. But the movie still cast a deeper spell on me today than anything I've watched in recent memory. Even as the ship barreled to its doom, even with every kind of foreknowledge, I was on the edge of my seat hoping Please, God, let them miss the iceberg this time and the collision shook me along with everyone else.

Titanic is overblown and sentimental and as much as mark of its maker's hubris as the original ship, but boy is it good at what it sets out to do. It doesn't even try for subtle. It just clubs you over the head until the catharsis spills out like cerebral fluid. It appeals to your inner 15-year-old. And that's how it can draw you back into the theater a decade and a half later when you have disposable income and an overpowering nostalgia for a simpler pre-9-11 world. There's a reason why no one in the theater was younger than 23, and why people came out singing "My Heart Will Go On", softly but unapologetically.

No one would have remembered the movie if it were a quiet intimate period piece like, say, The English Patient.

No one would remember a ship that didn't sink.

I already wear purple everyday...

"I am Looking Forward to Lent" by By Kinsolving, Hancock and Franzen

Feb. 24th, 2012

Gave up fanfic for Lent. Lasted two days.

Watch "Touch". Now.

I rarely see a TV show that I feel I have to run out and tell people about immediately, but Touch is one. Just saw the pilot - it's awesome as a stand-alone and it lays an intriguing foundation for the rest of the series.

If you don't have time for a new TV series on your plate, just watch the pilot for the story of an unremarkable cell phone that travels around the world and changes peoples' lives.
The Groundhoggus officialis has seen its shadow. Since winter hasn't actually arrived in Texas yet, does this mean 6 more weeks of autumn?

Recs post!

Yuletide came and went. I finished the last corrections to my story about 5 hours before the deadline and then gasped for breath. It is unquestionably the longest fic I have ever written even if it's still well under 10,000 words, but I'm happy with it. And very relieved that the recipient seems to like it too. Special thanks to quinara and snickfic for their beta services.

The Heirs of English Magic is my sequel to Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, in which I tie up various loose ends from the novel and give the female characters a well-deserved chance to kick ass. For all my complaints during the writing process, this has been one of my most enjoyable writing experiences. It took me a few days to get comfortable with the 19th century-ish prose style but once it clicked, I had a ball! Research was a ton of fun - canon-compliance takes on a whole new level when "canon" is actual history, and some of my favorite bits were the result of trying to force the story to fit real events and places.

I've already posted about the gifts I received, but I'll mention them again. Both were based on the character Quorra from Tron:Legacy. #include "light.h" by cmshaw and Sunrise by that_runneth.

In the Supernatural fandom, The Chuck Writes Story is a fanfic about Fanfic, and hilarious and familiar and ambitious and utterly poignant. It's a satire of fandom wank and a philosophical meditation on the intersection of Fiction and Reality. And it seems to suggest that, by writing about questionably-fictional and unquestionably attractive men having hot sex, perhaps we are doing God's Work. Read this if you read nothing else.

Deep Breaths by trollprincess. What Supernatural canon would have been if the women lived and the men died. Mary Campbell/Ellen Harvelle.

I seem to like stories about Chuck Shurley. Here's another: The Winchester Revision is a University AU framed within the greater SPN verse. Just because Dean and Sam weren't the victims of an apocalyptic conspiracy doesn't mean their lives were perfect. And Castiel, in all his forms, will ask questions.

That's it for now. I haven't been keeping track of my Yuletide reads but I'll collect and post them at some point.

Happy reading!


Look what I got for Yuletide!

It will come as a surprise to no one that I can be somewhat weird. I watch Summer Blockbusters like the rest of society but when while everyone else is ooh-ing and gasping at the crisply rendered explosion that smothers the screen after a T-rex chomps on a Transformer, I'm distracted by the fate of the minor female character who is neglected by the script after she does her duty lending Emotional Depth to the male protagonist. It's become a trend.

Tron: Legacy would have been another forgettable explode-a-thon if not for the last few minutes of the movie. Quorra, a piece of self-aware software who had lived her entire life in a virtual reality world, was incarnated into the "Real World" by a piece of technology that broke my brain*.

I immediately had two questions: (1) Does her body work normally? and (2) Did Sam have to explain menstruation to her?

My prompt for Yuletide was: Quorra spent her entire existence as an "isomorphic algorithm", mentored by, well, a guy. When she finally transfers into the real world, the computer fabricates for her what appears to be a fully-functioning human body. A female body. In a film world that magnificently fails the Bechdel test, how does she come to terms with the messy practicalities of being a newly-made human? Do the richness of colors and scents make up for the drawbacks of being stuck in this strange new world? How does she construct a background for herself, and who are her allies?

Maybe I'm not the only person who was captivated by Quorra's story, because I received not one but TWO Yuletide stories about her.What I find amazing is how the same prompt inspired two brilliant but very different stories**.

One, Sunrise, is a long, deliciously plotty account of how Quorra adapted to the "User World". The rich, sensual details contrast the beauty and ugliness that the world offers to someone unprepared for it. Quorra survives a crippling isolation and then returns to the Grid with a new appreciation for it.

The other, #include "light.h", is more brief but no less intense. It's a missing scene from the movie - the minutes between Quorra's and Sam's emergence from the virtual world and their ride on Sam's motorbike. The witty banter between the two characters had me grinning like a maniac. There's also a lovely bit of world-building as Quorra tells Sam about religious belief in her world.

Thank you, wonderful writers, for making my Yuletide gay. Everyone else, please read their excellent stories!

* I'm a biomedical engineer. I design microscopic structures on a computer and use lasers to fabricate them out of goop. In 4 years, I've barely made more than little rectangles a thousandth of the size of a grain of rice. Seeing fully-functioning people pop out of thin air...hurt in ways that I can't express.

**To the credit of both authors, they kept FAR away from my wacky preoccupation with guys-dealing-with-periods.


Things are looking good.

I finished my Yuletide fic with a couple of hours to spare yesterday. It is by far the longest story I have written and I am quite pleased with it. Now I can calmly look forward to the story that Yule Goat will deliver unto me on the 25th. Writer, I love you already. Incidentally, I will be in the thick of a family gathering on the 25th and may not get internet access immediately so if I am slow to respond after the reveal, please pardon me. I'll certainly get a chance to read it by the evening of the 26th.

My mommy is visiting for winter break. Yesterday, while I was at work, she went out adventuring and toured the entire city by bus - something I have never gotten around to doing. Then we walked around to see the neighborhood light with mugs of hot tea. Our neighborhood goes all out in its Christmas decor and adds a peculiarly Austin touch. This year we were graced by the presence of animatronic alligators and flamingos in addition to the usual standbys: Disco Baby Jesus and the Sock Monkey Nativity.

Have I mentioned I finished my Yuletide fic? I can't believe it's over. It was also the most fun writing experience I've had in years. I want to hug the person who prompted me.

The Markhov Generator

Available here. I ran it on my fic journal.

crisp for reasons based entirely on hearsay. The worst of the burrito? Would I still be me if I should sign in pig’s blood. “ Buffy dissolved into peals of giggles. Spike decided to not call attention to the flames and continued. "Lanai was enraged and sent him out anyway. “All those months I lived by your word and knew I was convinced that I had the answers for him, right here.

Would I still be me if I should sign in pig’s blood?


Dear Yule Goat

Firstly, thank you so much for signing up for Yuletide this year and for being my writer.

I apologize that my letter is yet unfinished. I will be traveling all day Tuesday and may not have the letter completed until Wednesday. I'll try to add bits to this letter whenever I get the chance over the next two days. Thanks for your patience!

Secondly, thank you for being patient as I completed this letter. The Yule-Letter writing process makes me fret a bit because I get enthused about sharing ideas with someone else who cares about my tiny neglected fandoms, but I don't want you to feel hedged in by my suggestions. What I truly want to read is a story that you enjoyed writing and felt fulfilled by. If that means going in a direction completely different from the ideas below, wonderful! I enjoy being surprised.

I guess it's traditional to mention loves and squicks. I have a fondness of gen-fic, but I don't mind a good romance. I am equally happy with plot-driven or character-driven stories. I like unexpected alliances. I usually dislike revenge. I avoid scenarios with dubious or no consent given to sex. I like bitter and cynical, or happy and hopeful, or anything in between. I even like gratuitously Christmassy.

Above all, I will like what you write. Thank you.


Five Find-Outers
    Bets Hilton
    Frederick Trotteville

I grew up on a near exclusive diet of Enid Blyton books, and the Five Find-Outers series was by far my favorite. I loved the humor, the disguises, the CLUES, the chemistry between Bets and Fatty (fully acknowledging that both of them had barely hit puberty), the clotted cream and warm scones and lemonade bottles and hard-boiled eggs and tongue sandwiches and picnics by the river that would make any post-War child's mouth water.

Even now, when I see all the problematic class-ism and racism in the series, I'm nostalgic for the good bits: lazy summer warmth, Fatty's bottomless pockets, and the thrill of a mystery that needs to be solved.

I'm so excited about seeing the Five Find-Outers on Yuletide this year that I'd be thrilled to read practically anything. A whodunit in the style of the books? A slice of life piece when everyone reunites for the holidays? A bitter-sweet story of their last case together? Fatty and Bets grow up to become MI-5 agents? Why not!

(My one big request is to avoid underaged sex between any of the characters. Thanks!)

Mary Poppins

I'm open to ANY exploration of the world of Mary Poppins. Feel free to write about established characters or create your own. I'll talk a bit about the aspects of the film that get me excited, but please don't feel restricted by them.

Every time I watch Mary Poppins, I get hints of a deeper world, hinted in song, just off-screen...

Winds in the east, mist coming in,
Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what's to happen all happened before.

And later...

Up where the smoke is all billowed and curled
'Tween pavement and stars
Is the chimney sweep world
When there's hardly no day
Nor hardly no night
There's things half in shadow
And halfway in light
On the rooftops of London
Coo, what a sight.

There's a whole world out there that Mundane London doesn't see. A world where chimney-sweeps are the kings of liminal spaces, where powerful witches choose to work as nannies; a world whose denizens live beside ordinary people and spread a subtle kind of magic where ever they go. I wonder: What else is going on in this world? What is the source of their magic? Why are so many of them in service positions? Where does Mary Poppins live between jobs?

I am open to any kind of story in this world, character-driven or world-driven.


Grimm is just yummy. I like the characters, especially the ideosyncratic supporting roles: There's Eddie Monroe who is torn between his stay-out-of-trouble pilates-and-zen lifestyle, and the excitement of solving cases with his (technically) greatest foe. There's also Aunt Marie, who was a BAMF on her deathbed and somehow managed to hide her evil-slaying side career from the nephew she raised.

Quirky characters aside, I'm fascinated by the world that's been constructed around the kernel of germanic folk-tales. What other species are out there that we haven't seen? How would another fairy-tale be incorporated into the mythos? Is the Grimm authorized to hunt non-Germanic beasts?

Feel free to go wild - I'll happily read a story about any of the established characters or something original.

Tron: Legacy

I feel a bit nervous about making this request because my interest mainly lies in one supporting character. If my prompt isn't of interest to you, please feel free to toss it and write something that YOU enjoy, because your passion for your favorite characters and preferred scenarios will make the story come alive and I WILL love what you write.

But if you are interested, my question is this: Quorra spent her entire existence as an "isomorphic algorithm", mentored by, well, a guy. When she finally transfers into the real world, the computer fabricates for her what appears to be a fully-functioning human body. A female body. In a film world that magnificently fails the Bechdel test, how does she come to terms with the messy practicalities of being a newly-made human? Do the richness of colors and scents make up for the drawbacks of being stuck in this strange new world? How does she construct a background for herself, and who are her allies?


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Bob the Mole

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April 2012


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