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Justice League: Constantine

As Zatanna would say, hem. I liked a couple of bits at the beginning, but (a) it became much more traditional as it progressed, (b) Doylean reasons aside, Batman shouldn't have been there, and (c) I'm a bit done with John Constantine. I like conmen (conpeople? confolk?) as much as anybody else, but once you've got a reputation for it you're just a sort of sad sonofabitch people deal with when there's no other bloody option, and trust at their own idiocy and peril. Which, by the way, is how I feel about the more abrasive and fuckedup versions of Batman. A Bruce Wayne who's a workaholic who tends to mismanage personal relationships — totally in character. A Bruce Wayne with trust issues and close to about half a dozen people at most? Understandable. A Batman who every now and then does a carefully planned offhand piece of badassery to remind superpowered enemies and allies that he's the Bat? Probably part of his job; he wouldn't be quite so effective if people remembered he's just a terrifyingly capable and resourceful human being (although, as plan B, I wonder what'd happen if a Bruce Wayne decided to go the other way? He makes people underestimate Brucie as a way to protect his identity, and fear Batman as part of his strategy, but a Booster Gold strategy where there's no Batman, Bruce Wayne is a bumbling idiot, and yet things go better than people would have expected, had they known how bad it could've gone... It'd be the opposite of "make criminals fear me", but it'd be interesting, a sort of pre-reveal reverse-Moriarty). Anyway, I buy those Batmans and Bruce Waynes, but not one that's positively aggressive with his allies. Scary doesn't need to mean asshole, and in fact the latter reduces the impact of the former.

Oh, and a Batman who's skeptical of magic is just stupid. Wary of magic, sure. Bothered by the fact that there's a whole field of knowledge that comes up in his work now and then he has no handle on? I bet. Personally offended by the very existence of magic, why not. As Homer remarked, Batman's a scientist. But he has fought whole grimoires of supernatural stuff. And if there's one thing Batman isn't, is somebody who refuses to follow where the evidence leads.

Books! (SF, War, and Metaphysics Edition)

Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace (Edward N. Luttwak, 2017/#1): He's not wrong in his description of the "paradoxes" of strategy, but they only seem strange or specific to war if you haven't studied even basic game theory. This makes this a difficult book to read, the intellectual equivalent of the famously unsettling experience of watching somebody use a program you're proficient in without using any of the keyboard shortcuts, but being unable to tell them what to do.

The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction (Ed. Edward L. Ferman, 2017/#2): I read this book when I was very young. Classic SF from, say, the 40's to the 70's was one of the core threads of my childhood and early teens; going back to them is a form of personal archeology, not just of places and moments (like the book club that was, for years, the main source of reading material for me, with its serendipitous shelf of second-hand SF books), but also of much of how I see the world, and even my aesthetic preferences.

Third from the Sun (Richard Matheson, 2017/#3): Mostly enjoyable, although the societal assumptions are very 1950. It's amusing how many of the characters are writers.

Montaigne and Shakespeare: The emergence of modern self-consciousness (Robert Ellrodt, 2017/#4): I'm not averse to, if not always fully swayed by, this kind of thing, but this isn't a very convincing book, I'm afraid.

A Bloody and Barbarous God (Petra Mundik, 2017/#5): A look at the metaphysics of Cormac McCarthy's main novels, from the framework of Gnosticism (mainly, with a side look at Buddhism). I liked it very much, although "enjoy" wouldn't be the right word for something analyzing such a bleak writer from such a bleak point philosophical vantage point.

Untouched by Human Hands (Robert Sheckley, 2017/#6): A collection of SF stories from the late '70s. A bit ham-fisted in their analogies, but not unenjoyable if you go with it.

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Alan Moore's Providence

Probably the best purely Lovecraftian putting-the-pieces-together story I've read (as opposed to Stross' brilliant explanation and putting-the-pieces-together of Lovecraft). And, Elder Gods I'm hope never notice I exist, so very damn(ed, we're all damned) bleak.

But then, how can you set a story in Lovecraft's universe and not have it be devastatingly, ontologically bleak? I've come to think that, for all of the ugly weirdness and people losing their mind every other page, most of Lovecraft's stories have cop-out ends (the only exception that comes to mind is Nyarlathotep, although there might be others).

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Random thought the first: Why does Clark say "Rao!" as an spontaneous expression of surprise? He learned about Kryptonian culture, but as an adult, and even if we grant that Kryptonian teaching techniques might be particularly intensive, all of his habits and beliefs are compatible with his contemporary US upbringing, and don't reflect any Kryptonian influence. His religious leanings seem to be toward a vague ecumenical theism, any specifics rather questionable given his personal experiences with literal angels, gods, devils, and, let's not forget, his personal death and resurrection, which for any strongly normative Christian should've been quite disquieting on theological grounds (now there's an AU for you; a very specifically Christian Clark Kent would have had pretty much the same exact career as Superman, with the same morals and understanding of himself as an ordinary person with extraordinary abilities that give him extraordinary responsibilities, but what would personal resurrection filtered through Christian dogma do to his self-image?) And anyway Kryptonians of the Jor-El era seemed fanatical about cultural (and genetic?) "purity," not religion. So is "Rao!" an affectation? Did late-stage Kryptonians use it as an expletive, and Clark got into the habit of using it because when, say, a huge sentient space crab suddenly appears over Metropolis with the intention of impregnating the city you have to say some variant of "oh shit!" but Superman isn't supposed to?

Random thought the second: Bruce complaining about Clark not training Jon more intensively isn't Bruce being a pragmatic emotionless bastard, it's Bruce being emotional and rather irrational when it comes to kids. Objectively, you have to train the hell out of a Robin if you want them to be relatively safe (you can also not make or let them be Robin, but that sanity ship sailed long ago), but Jon seems to have Superman-level powers. You can always have more and better training, but when it comes to that kind of power, the main strategic concern isn't how technically good they are, but how ethically. Bruce's main concern shouldn't be Clark teaching Jon to better control his powers (which, yes, it's important to avoid accidents of he "oops, sorry about that skyscraper" kind, but it's not as if Clark isn't or won't) but rather Clark raising Jon in that very rare Clark Kentian ethical stance that made it possible for somebody with his level of power to wield it not just selflessly, but also with a politically and culturally light touch. And *that* requires Clark and Jon spending time together bonding, not training.

Perhaps seeing a child that seems unavoidably going to pick up their line of work activates Bruce's panic "must train!" fear reflexes. Or perhaps, and this doesn't exclude the previous option, training is the only way Bruce can truly conceptualize how a father-son relationship can work.

I wouldn't heed his advice, nor give him a pass on his serious and willful errors as a parental figure, but I'm not without empathy for his issues. He probably can't access his own memories of his childhood without triggering his trauma, so, as kind as he is with children (and any well-written Batman is 100% a softy and not at all scary to any kid), being a father is more of a long-term relationship, and he's not particularly knowledgeable at the not-cape bits of it.

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But, from the Wikipedia entry of one highly eminent Dutch-Austrian physician and all-around smartypants Gerard van Swieten:


Especially important is his part in the fight against superstition during the enlightenment, particularly in the case of the vampires, reported from villages in Serbia in the years between 1718 and 1732.

After the last of the wars against the Turks in 1718, some parts of the land, such as Northern Serbia and a part of Bosnia, went to Austria. The parts were settled with refugees with the special status of duty-free farmers. However, they had to take care of the agricultural development and secure the frontiers so reports about vampires reached, for the first time, German-speaking areas.

In 1755 Gerard van Swieten was sent by Empress Maria Theresa to Moravia to investigate the situation relating to vampires. He viewed the vampire myth as a "barbarism of ignorance" and his aim was to eradicate it.

His report, Abhandlung des Daseyns der Gespenster (or Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts), offered an entirely natural explanation for the belief in vampires. He explained the unusual states in the grades, with possible causes such as the processes of fermentation and lack of oxygen being reasons for preventing decomposition. Characteristic for his opinion is this quotation from the preface to his essay of 1768 "that all the fuss doesn't come from anything else than a vain fear, a superstitious credulity, a dark and eventful imagination, simplicity and ignorance among the people." The report made Maria Theresa issue a decree that banned all traditional defenses to vampires being put to the stakes, beheaded and burned.


A cover-up after a vampire eradication campaign, or did the vampires paid/threatened/turned him to write that report and begin their "nah, we're all fictional, what are you, medieval?" campaign? We offer ludicrous and uniformly unrealistic options, you choose between them.

PS: I'm still partial to my idea of Mary Wollstonecraft, Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Shelley, and Polidori being an interpersonal-drama-prone crack team of monster hunters. Frankenstein? Leaked mission report hastily relabeled as an unheard-of kind of fiction. The Vampyre? Polidori's exasperated parody of self-proclaimed team leader, absolute diva queen, and, yes, vampire, Lord Byron (before you ask, the way he slept his way through Europe, his chances of being bitten by a female vampire were higher than pretty much anybody else's in the continent). And after the things he saw and did, I don't think anybody should blame Shelley for drinking more laudanum than tea, or for dropping so many hints in his poetry.

The fact that Claire Clairmont is an obviously assumed name only allows me to wildly and irresponsibly speculate about her actual role in the team. A possibility: succubus who had the bad luck of hitting on a vampire (Byron) hence getting herself unprecedentedly pregnant and more than a bit cross, although her expertise became of course useful to the team. Provided they could keep her from going into Byron's room at night and strangling him with his own bedclothes (documented bit: Byron would claim in his letters that she was always trying to seduce him; his teammates could never tell if this was gallows humor or narcissistic self-delusion). From her Wikipedia page, by the way: Clairmont would later say that her relationship with Byron had given her only a few minutes of pleasure, but a lifetime of trouble. I think kids nowadays describe this as a savage and probably factually accurate burn.

All in all, I won't say everybody was happy when Byron was killed during an attempt to use the war in Greece to mask a commando hit on some very old and very above this post's security rating group, but I don't think anybody in what would later be renamed MI9 was particularly devastated. The man had a nice turn of phrase, was handy with a weapon, provided a very nicely public cover to their very non-public activities, and was probably too conceited to understand the concept of his own mortality, let alone feel fear, but what a pain in the ass.

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Sherlock 4x02

I liked it more than the previous one.

Five minor but spoilery observations.Collapse )

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1) Really?

2) You probably want to ask somebody to tell you what parts of yesterday's episode to avoid.

3) Always remember that Moffat wants you to believe there's a god and it's name is the Doctor, but Gatiss wants to tell you that there is no god, and the world is a dust bowl of ashes haunted by the cold ghosts of our good intentions. The words might or might not have been his, but he was talking not only to his brother, but to and through the fourth wall, when he said and warned and mocked that all hearts break, and caring is not an advantage.

Just saying.

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Yuletide reveal

I quite enjoyed writing this, besides/because of the self-creeping-out aspect of it.

The Long Summoning (2411 words) by marcelo
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Cthulhu Mythos - H. P. Lovecraft
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Additional Tags: Misses Clause Challenge
Summary:

Time isn't real. There is only what you need, and what it costs.

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cass, can you not
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