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Posted by Carrie S

A Note from SB Sarah: In 2015, Carrie will be writing a series for the site called Kickass Women in History, where she’ll profile different forgotten badasses from various periods of time, all of whom kicked ass in various ways. This is the unofficial first post in that series. Enjoy!

Gunpowder Alchemy
A | BN | K | ARe | iB
 In Gunpowder Alchemy, our heroine meets a woman who leads a band of rebels. Her name is Lady Su. I assumed that this was a fictional character until I read author Jeannie Lin’s blog. It turns out that not only is the character based on a real woman named Su Sanniang, but the real woman was even more amazing than her fictional counterpart. Lin’s blog and the book itself set off the curiosity bubbles in my brain, so I had to go looking for more information to satisfy them.

According to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History ( A | BN ) (which I covet madly, BTW), Su Sanniang (also known as Xiao Sanniang) was born around 1830 in the Guangdong Province of Southern China. Her husband was killed, and when the authorities did not punish the killer, she became a Robin Hood-style bandit to avenge his death. She is famous in legend as someone who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Eventually, Su Sanniang joined the Taiping Rebellion. The Taiping Rebellion wasn’t a small, local skirmish – it was a full-blown, devastating civil war. It lasted from 1850 – 1864 and at one point involved over one million soldiers, both men and women. The Rebellion was known for advocating equal rights for women, but also for mandating separation between women and men. When the men’s and women’s forces were divided, Su Sanniang became the leader of the female battalions.

Male and female soldiers, artist unknown
Male and female soldiers, artist unknown

According to The Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women ( A | BN ), Su Sanniang learned martial arts and swordplay from her family. She was said to have powerful arms and “the air of a hero.” The last historical record of her was made during the siege of the city of Zhenjiang in 1854.

A scene from the Taiping Rebellion, artist unknown
A scene from the Taiping Rebellion, artist unknown

We don’t know if she survived the siege or how or when she died, but the legend of the wife-turned-bandit-turned-revolutionary endures to this day.


Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

Dec. 22nd, 2014 09:00 am
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Posted by Carrie S


Gunpowder Alchemy

by Jeannie Lin
November 18, 2014 · InterMix

RomanceScience Fiction/FantasySteampunk

Gunpowder Alchemy is the first book in a steampunk series set in China during the Opium Wars. It’s a fun, fresh setting, with interesting, complex characters and a great balance of plot, romance, and steampunk geeky goodness. You should know that it’s an adventure series with a lot of romance, not a romance novel with a lot of adventure. Also, it ends on a cliffhanger (WHY GOD WHY).

The plot involves Jin Soling, the daughter of a scientist who was executed by The Emperor in 1842. She lives with her mother, who is addicted to opium, their maidservant, and her brother, who is eight years old, in exile in a small village. Soling works with the local physician and is particularly adept with acupuncture. She supports the family through this work as well as by slowly selling off the family’s possessions from their richer days.

When Soling tries to sell a puzzle box that her father had invented, she’s arrested and taken to the Prince. The Prince wants Soling to recruit the inventors who once worked alongside her father to return to the Emperor’s service. In particular, he wants her to recruit Yang Hanzhu, who joined the rebels. To help her family, Soling must find and recruit Yang Hanzhu, with the help of Chen Chang-wei. This is awkward, because, long ago, Chang-wei was supposed to marry Soling. The marriage was arranged when she was very young, and was broken off when her family was disgraced.

Soling has adventures on land, air, and sea, both with and without Chang-wei. She and Chang-wei develop a powerful attraction but he is ambitious and loyal to the Empire, and she worries about whether she can trust him and whether she will impede his ambitions. The story is told entirely from her point of view, but Chang-wei comes across as a complex, interesting character, one who feels both protective of Soling and deeply respectful of her abilities. She has an annoying but, let’s face it, very common, tendency to freeze up during combat but there’s a hint that in following books she’ll get better about that. She’s great at medicine and science, and the scenes in which she and Chang-wei team up to invent things are delightful.

Because this is the first book in the series, the romance is not resolved, but it takes shape in this book, so I found myself very invested in it. Chang-wei is such a complicated character in terms of his loyalties and philosophies that I can picture a lot of ways for the author to drive a wedge in between Soling and himself. But I hope she doesn’t. There’s plenty of tension and conflict in this story without having tension and conflict between Soling and Chang-wei and I really love them as a team.

I was not as taken by the scenes involving Yang Hanzhu. He’s a huge character, and then he just disappears (for a sequel, perhaps). There’s supposed to be some romantic tension between him and Soling but even though he’s not much older than her, she grew up calling him “Uncle” which makes the whole romantic tension thing kind of gross. I just couldn’t get past the idea that they once had that kind of familial bond even though they are not actually related and the age difference is small. If this is supposed to be a love triangle in the making, it’s not a convincing one so far.

The book is set in China, during the Opium Wars. You don’t have to know anything about the Opium Wars to follow the book. It’s very accessible and exciting on its own term. But the history is fascinating. You can find more information about it at author Jeannie Lin’s blog.

Although the series is very much fiction, there’s a lot of stuff that I assumed was fantasy that’s actually history. All the major characters are Chinese, and the steampunk elements fit this time period, culture, and setting perfectly. My favorite steampunky bit involves Chang-wei and Soling making prosthetics for a rebel leader (based on a real woman, Su Sanniang!!!!) with bound feet. They use acupuncture points to attach the prosthesis to the foot and lower leg, which means that the prosthesis are controlled by nerve impulses just like a foot.

This is such an exciting time in the steampunk genre. After a period during which it seemed every single steampunk book was set in either England or the USA and featured all white characters, we’re starting to see a more global approach to steampunk. This is exciting for me not just because all kinds of representation are important in literature and media across the board, but also because having diverse approaches to this specific genre makes it so much more interesting.

First Daughter
A | BN | K | iB
I love reading about the niece of Sherlock Holmes running amok in London as much as anybody (I adored The Baskerville Affair Series, which begins with A Study in Silks) ( A | BN | K | ARe | iB | Au ) but I also enjoy reading about a fantasy steampunk version of India (The Dharian Affairs), and about any of the settings and characters in the anthology Steampunk World (ed. Sarah Hans) ( A | BN | K | iB ). Steampunk is inspired by a time of intense globalization and travel and it’s thrilling to see more of that explored, especially when it’s done well.

I had a great time with this book, I loved the setting and the characters, and I can’t wait for the sequel. I do have to confess that I’m nervous about the romance – I’m REALLY invested in Chang-wei and Soling but I can also see how things could go wrong. Fingers crossed. Now I have to go read about that real-life female rebel woman, because she sounds AMAZING.


Fic Rec: Fly Very High

Dec. 22nd, 2014 08:58 am
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Posted by swissmarg

Title: Fly Very High
Author: faviconyalublyutebya
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Length: 46,533 words
Rating: Explicit
Verse: Sherlock BBC
Author's summary: John Watson was born to be a racing driver, and even a crash isn't enough to keep him out of a car for long. But coming back is not that easy, especially when he meets his new teammate, Sherlock Holmes.

Reccer's comments: In the honored tradition of sports AU's, this one shines right up there with the best of them. In this incarnation, John and Sherlock are Formula 1 racers, competing both with and against each other in a high-powered season that takes them around the world.

Part of the fun of this story is the introduction to F1 racing, from the technology to the strategy to exotic venues including Melbourne, Malaysia, Monaco, Bahrain, Shanghai, Barcelona, and Sochi (where Putin is in for quite a shock!). The fic is also peppered with real people from the racing world like Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, and Lewis Hamilton, giving it an extra layer of authenticity.

The author is a self-proclaimed fan of Formula 1, and that enthusiasm comes through in the emotional investment of the characters as well as every exciting race commentary. Don't be put off, though, if you don't particularly like racing or cars; the technical stuff isn't overdone and never detracts from the insanely intense relationship between John and Sherlock as their on-track rivalry spills over into some of the hottest sex this side of Silverstone:

“Oh god,” John breathed, bowing his head.

“Please don’t get all emotional on me.”

John gave a kick of the hips in an attempt to shut him up, returning his hands to Sherlock’s wrists, their faces inches away. “You are such a dick.”

He thrust again and Sherlock’s eyelids fluttered, but he didn’t take his eyes from John.

“Such an arrogant, condescending bastard.”

“Say this to all the girls, do you?” Sherlock asked, his breath hitching as John thrust again.

“Do you ever shut up?”

“Fuck me harder and I might.”

What starts out as just a bit of fun eventually turns into something much more complicated, as these things tend to, and the path to victory is fraught with more than a few pitfalls. Reading this fic is like watching a race, in fact, from the nervous anticipation at the start to the nail-biting moments when things get shaky in the middle to the fist-pumping celebration at the finish line, complete with champagne showers.

What else is there to do?

Dec. 22nd, 2014 03:10 am
quirkytizzy: (Default)
[personal profile] quirkytizzy
Another 3 AM, another migraine. Thanks Latuda. At least I was in bed by 10 last night. That helps, though I'm sure I'll feel by 10 AM. But hey, at this point, any sleep is better than none.

This has been a pattern for most of my life, though. Early mornings started by early headaches. And I've been an early riser even aside from that. It would surprise my first foster mother, who would often find me up at 4 AM, drinking coffee and writing in the dining room. She swore I had eyesight like a hawk, as I did so in near total darkness. The truth is that I just like dim lights.

I didn't smoke then, or else I would have sat on the porch as I do now, endless paragraphs wreathed in smoke.

I've been dreaming about Cassie. Makes sense. It's still annoying. And it hurts. With every round of this, I'm learning how to let go. But she still twists me deeper than any other person ever has.

"'Cause you are the piece of me I wish I didn't need
Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don't know why

If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy?
If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity?

Jesse raised his eyebrows when I told him that she has the largest break-up list of any relationship I've ever had. But it's true. Family cuts the sharpest, even for someone like me.

Such is the nature of heartbreak, though. I soldier through it. What else is there to do?

I'm sure I'll be writing more. It's only 3:30 AM. What else is there to do?
[syndicated profile] openculture_feed

Posted by Colin Marshall


How does a movie become a “classic”? Explanations, never less than utterly subjective, will vary from cinephile to cinephile, but I would submit that classic-film status, as traditionally understood, requires that all elements of the production work in at least near-perfect harmony: the cinematography, the casting, the editing, the design, the setting, the score. Outside first-year film studies seminars and deliberately contrarian culture columns, the label of classic, once attained, goes practically undisputed. Even those who actively dislike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for instance, would surely agree that its every last audiovisual nuance serves its distinctive, bold vision — especially that opening use of “Thus Spake Zarathustra.”

But Kubrick didn’t always intend to use that piece, nor the other orchestral works we’ve come to closely associate with mankind’s ventures into realms beyond Earth and struggles with intelligence of its own invention. According to Kottke, Kubrick had commissioned an original score from A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf composer Alex North. At the top of the post, you can see 2001‘s opening with North’s music, and just above you can hear 38 minutes of his score on Rdio. As to the question of why Kubrick stuck instead with the temporary score of Strauss, Ligeti, and Khatchaturian he’d used in editing, Kottke quotes from Michel Ciment’s interview with the filmmaker:

However good our best film composers may be, they are not a Beethoven, a Mozart or a Brahms. Why use music which is less good when there is such a multitude of great orchestral music available from the past and from our own time? [ … ]  Although [North] and I went over the picture very carefully, and he listened to these temporary tracks and agreed that they worked fine and would serve as a guide to the musical objectives of each sequence he, nevertheless, wrote and recorded a score which could not have been more alien to the music we had listened to, and much more serious than that, a score which, in my opinion, was completely inadequate for the film.

North didn’t find out about Kubrick’s choice until 2001‘s New York City premiere. Not an enviable situation, certainly, but not the worst thing that ever happened to a collaborator who failed to rise to the director’s expectations.
For more Kubrick and classical music, see our recent post: The Classical Music in Stanley Kubrick’s Films: Listen to a Free, 4 Hour Playlist

Related Content:

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Gets a Brand New Trailer to Celebrate Its Digital Re-Release

1966 Film Explores the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and Our High-Tech Future)

James Cameron Revisits the Making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

Rare 1960s Audio: Stanley Kubrick’s Big Interview with The New Yorker

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch the Opening of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the Original, Unused Score is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

The post Watch the Opening of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey with the Original, Unused Score appeared first on Open Culture.

2014: Who is best at us? WE WIN! \o/

Dec. 22nd, 2014 02:40 am
helloladies: group shot of three My Little Pony's (Default)
[personal profile] helloladies posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
2014 has made it all too easy for us to get a little down at Lady Business HQ and forget just how much we've accomplished in our own corner of blog space. Today we're going to shake it off, beat the little hater & celebrate all the special events we've been part of and all the projects we've begun, kept going and completed this year. Read more... )

Vid Rec: Arrival of the Birds

Dec. 22nd, 2014 06:27 am
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Posted by rachelindeed

Title: Arrival of the Birds
Music Title & Artist: "Arrival of the Birds" by The Cinematic Orchestra
Vidder: amyyam on tumblr, aka Amy Kinley
Pairing or Character: Sherlock + John
Verse: Sherlock BBC
Link: Arrival of the Birds on vidder's tumblr page

Reccer's Comments: I am always struck by the sheer visual beauty of this vid. It is delicate and lovely. At times images of John and Sherlock are overlaid on top of each other in interesting configurations; at other times the vid glides between color and black and white, and there is just something about the light in these shots that seems to linger. The vidder juxtaposes material brilliantly (in the first few seconds we hear Mycroft ask "How many friends do you imagine he has?" while we see the wild moors and stormy skies of Baskerville, its rusty, barbed "KEEP OUT" sign juxtaposed with Sherlock's backlit face). The instrumental music and carefully extracted dialogue work with the visuals to build up a portrait of Sherlock's unspoken but overwhelming connection with John, so that when we reach the final question - "What might we deduce about his heart?" - we realize that the images have already silently answered.

This is a really lovely work of art.

Flash ficlet!!

Dec. 22nd, 2014 09:09 pm
china_shop: Neal, Peter and Elizabeth smiling (WC - OT3 smiles)
[personal profile] china_shop
Wheeee, I just wrote a thing for the first time since AUGUST (omg!), for the amnesty on [community profile] fan_flashworks:

When it's hard to say anything (say goodbye)
~1000 words, OT3ish gen, White Collar, SPOILERS FOR 6.06.

An alternate ending. (Did I mention spoilers?)
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"At one stage Elrond was actually gonna visit Lothlórien and talk directly to Galadriel. But once it was decided that Arwen would not go to Lothlórien and Helm’s Deep, that scene had to be reworked." - Jabez Olssen (Additional Editor) (x)

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Reminder that Tony Stark decorated the apartment he gave Peter with a huge picture of Steve Rogers.

…is there any house that Tony bought that isn’t decorated with huge pictures of Steve?

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'girls don't have to clear their internet history'

let me explain you a thing

of course girls don’t have to clear their internet history
girls are smart enough to use an incognito window

I garuntre you 60% of people in general let alone girls don’t know how to use an incognito window

do you. do you garuntre me.

If you use anything other than incognito, you are making things waaaaaaay more difficult than they ought to be. I was going to say harder for yourself, but, well, not being hard is kind of the problem, eh?

December Meme: Favourite time of day

Dec. 22nd, 2014 05:44 pm
transcendancing: Darren Hayes quote "Life is for leading, for not people pleasing" (Default)
[personal profile] transcendancing
This post is for [personal profile] velithya.

My favourite time of day is twilight. Partially it's the way the light changes, but also it's about the change in temperature and how I perceive that. I want there to be a drop, a coolness that sets in with the darkness as it gently takes over. I love evenings where the change in light is so gradual and you end up with these surreal light states that you wonder if some kind of camera filter has been placed over your eyes.

There's a particular colour blue that seems so vivid as almost to be unreal, this is kind of what I mean:

It's just gorgeous!

I love the way the trees and buildings silhouette at this time of day, becoming somewhat mysterious or even coy.

There's just something about twilight, it can be a time for things to happen, but just as easily a winding down, a quieter time - it's a time of potential in either direction.

Hope that answers your question :)

House rules

Dec. 21st, 2014 09:56 pm
sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)
[personal profile] sonia
I'm noticing some of my internal rules lately.

  • When I screw up, I should say so, apologize, and take whatever lumps ensue.
    • Did you know powdered sugar has cornstarch in it? Me neither. I claimed the cookies I made were corn-free to someone who doesn't eat corn products. :-(

  • Whoever wants more distance gets their way, no negotiating.
  • Relationships require radical self-disclosure, equality, and balance.
  • Give people space to be exactly who they are. Don't expect them to change. Don't expect them to stay the same.
  • Don't talk about emotional pain. Painful things are "hard," or "uncomfortable."
    • For the longest time I thought "relationships are hard" meant that terrible pain was expected in relationships.

  • Talk about anger in past tense.

It feels like these rules have pain and fear behind them, attempts to Be Good in response to past disasters. It would be easy to allow them to close around me like a curtain, and erase whatever I might want or ask for. They're not necessarily bad rules, but it's interesting to notice them as imperatives I might have a choice about, rather than The Way Things Are.
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On this day in 1956, a baby gorilla named Colo enters the world at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, becoming the first-ever gorilla born in captivity. Weighing in at approximately 4 pounds, Colo, a western lowland gorilla whose name was a combination of Columbus and Ohio, was the daughter of Millie and Mac, two gorillas captured in French Cameroon, Africa, who were brought to the Columbus Zoo in 1951. Before Colo's birth, gorillas found at zoos were caught in the wild, often by brutal means. In order to capture a gorilla when it was young and therefore still small enough to handle, hunters frequently had to kill the gorilla's parents and other family members.

Gorillas are peaceful, intelligent animals, native to Africa, who live in small groups led by one adult male, known as a silverback. There are three subspecies of gorilla: western lowland, eastern lowland and mountain. The subspecies are similar and the majority of gorillas in captivity are western lowland. Gorillas are vegetarians whose only natural enemy is the humans who hunt them. On average, a gorilla lives to 35 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity.

At the time Colo was born, captive gorillas often never learned parenting skills from their own parents in the wild, so the Columbus Zoo built her a nursery and she was reared by zookeepers. In the years since Colo's arrival, zookeepers have developed habitats that simulate a gorilla's natural environment and many captive-born gorillas are now raised by their mothers. In situations where this doesn't work, zoos have created surrogacy programs, in which the infants are briefly cared for by humans and then handed over to other gorillas to raise.

Colo, who generated enormous public interest and is still alive today, went on to become a mother, grandmother, and in 1996, a great-grandmother to Timu, the first surviving infant gorilla conceived by artificial insemination. Timu gave birth to her first baby in 2003.

Today, there are approximately 750 gorillas in captivity around the world and an estimated 100,000 lowland gorillas (and far fewer mountain gorillas) remaining in the wild. Most zoos are active in captive breeding programs and have agreed not to buy gorillas born in the wild. Since Colo's birth, 30 gorillas have been born at the Columbus Zoo alone.


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