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Topics - House of Usher

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Off Topic / Better or worse off than parents?
« on: 17 April, 2012, 10:26:59 PM »
All the recent navel gazing about embarrassing parents and unique things you've done set me wondering.

One hears a lot these days about how previous generations of parents expected that their children would have more and achieve more than they did, yet the current generation of young adults is the first 'evah' to do less well than their parents did.

So, how well did you do? Are you better off or worse off than your parents, and when were you born?

Off Topic / Steampunk, 2012
« on: 02 April, 2012, 10:27:27 PM »
Arghhhhhhh. I've just done my nut in arguing with stupid steampunk enthusiasts on the internet.

It was over this article here, by some chap called Austin Sirkin:


A lot of it is reasonable and well argued, but it makes a few claims I didn't recognize, including several aesthetic considerations which seem to me to be overstated in their conservatism. To wit:

People dislike the trend of casualness in all aspects of modern culture, and want more formal and rigid rules that dictate social interaction.

This worries me, and I don't know where it comes from. Certainly, late modernity has, according to postmodernists and many other observers, been characterized by de-diferrentiation of categories and a loss of social hierarchical deference. But why should anyone want to see that reversed? Are steampunkers feeling status frustration because they feel they are owed more respect for their station in life, or is it the reverse, and they long to be put in their place by figures of authority? Is it true what they say, that in times of economic uncertainty people long for the hand of firm leadership and maybe even the stamp of the jackbooted heel?

It’s sad to see people walking around at the mall wearing practically their pajamas and looking like they just rolled out of bed, and people want other people to at least try to look nice.

Do people really dress up in imaginary Victorian costume because they feel superior to people who go shopping in their pyjamas or turn up as guests on the Jeremy Kyle Show? I really thought it had more to do with a collective feeling of disenchantment with how the future looks from the perspective of the times we live in, from which a fantasy version of the past looks much more appealing than either Mad Max II or Logan's Run.

Some people think it’s inappropriate to wear so few clothes out in public, and think that people should wear more modest styles.

This explanation of steampunk seems to stand in isolation from any evidence whastsoever. The author appears not to have considered that the same woman who goes out to a club wearing a corset and a crinoline dress one weekend might go out in a bikini or hotpants at the same club the next weekend. I have never heard prudery offered as an explanation for period costume before. So, apparently, steampunk women cover up for the same reasons Saudi women don't go shopping in mini-skirts or hotpants. Who'd have thought it?

These three (out of eight) explanations for the popularity of steampunk seem to me inherently conservative: social deference, class-based social superiority, and obligatory modesty (note the moral imperative, 'should'). I wouldn't have paid any of this much mind if it was just the writing of one commentator, which could easily be dismissed; however, it was endorsed by numerous followers of the discussion and I got the distinct impression that discussion wasn't welcomed. Steampunk is just a bit of fun and thinking about it to any great extent is antisocial.

What this suggests to me is that if you find elements within steampunk to be conservative, socially divisive and not conducive to the common good then you should keep quiet about it. Enthusiasts seem to want to be told by knowledgeable insiders; they don't seem to want to acknowledge that two knowledgeable points of view can exist or that claims are contestable.

On the one hand there is a lot of talk about a steampunk 'community.' On the other hand there is a reluctance to talk about or examine that community's values.

Am I right? Do Mr Sirkin's explanations for the popularity of steampunk stand up to scrutiny? Do they seem conservative to anyone else but me? Does it and should it matter?

Books & Comics / LOEG Century: 1969 (SPOILERS!)
« on: 31 July, 2011, 12:55:55 PM »
Really, this thread will give the whole thing away if you haven't read it yet.

Mine arrived in yesterday's post. I read all of it, with the exception of the text pages, either side of a late shift at work. I enjoyed it significantly more than 1910, but it wasn't perfect (I disliked the epilogue, but nothing else). I must re-read Mike Molcher's preview Megazine article this afternoon in light of having read the book.

Nevins-style annotations to follow. Anyone else want to share their reaction to it yet?

Help! / Need recommendation of teenage reading
« on: 13 July, 2011, 05:24:51 PM »
I have just acquired a new tutoring client who is starting his GCSEs in September, which must make him about 14 I suppose. His father wants him to do well in English and is concerned his son doesn't read enough.

Does anyone have any recommendations for intelligent but not too taxing fiction suitable for a secondary school pupil? Specific titles would be as helpful as general recommendations of authors.

I have already made a list of titles and authors that spring to mind and visited the local library to look at the teenage section (they had one of Michael Carroll's, of course!); next I'm going to browse the shelves of Cardiff's biggest secondhand book shop for inspiration.

So far I've got a fantasy-heavy list of authors that includes Roald Dahl, Eoin Colfer, Darren Shand, Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, Philip Reeve, J.K. Rowling, Michael Carroll, Terry Pratchett (The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic and Pyramids), Rick Riordan and Justin Richards.

I am conscious that the teenage market is dominated by fantasy, so I'd especially welcome any suggestions of books that don't have magic, vampires or werewolves in, although I'm not excluding fantasy genres. No recommendations of comic books, please, because I'm going to be recommending an 'any and all' approach to graphic novels.

Off Topic / MOVED: HIVEMIND: Finally having a Wii
« on: 24 May, 2011, 04:12:21 PM »

General / Strontium Dog costume
« on: 02 March, 2011, 08:31:50 PM »
After trailing this for a few days I've finally got some photographic evidence beyond what Matt Timson took at the Cardiff International Comics Expo.

These aren't necessary the best pictures I've got, but they are the best composed. All of the others need cropping to put the subject in the centre and cut out extraneous shadow, etc. I need to make a few alterations, like attaching the gun holster some inches higher up and sewing on some yellow detailing, and I'll probably want some gloves eventually.


Events / Cardiff mini-Shed-Con
« on: 28 February, 2011, 10:59:04 AM »
Provisionally: upstairs in the Great Eastern Great Western, 1.00pm on Saturday 2nd April

Prog / Prog 1722 - Beware of the Dog! (duplicate thread)
« on: 19 February, 2011, 12:20:14 PM »
It arrived.

Help! / Recommend PC security and anti-virus software
« on: 05 November, 2010, 12:20:32 PM »
My security software expires in 8 days and I was wondering which program to instal next.

I'm currently using McAfee, but I'm thinking of changing it. Does anyone have any recommendations? Should I stick with McAfee or change to AVG or Bit Defender, or something else?

Prog / Prog 1709 - Angel of Death
« on: 30 October, 2010, 10:11:51 AM »
Wow! What a fantastic Prog!!!

This week:

In Judge Dredd, The Beast in the Bay, An inventive 'mystery narrator' yarn from Si Spurrier, admirably illustrated as ever by Patrick Goddard.

A little action goes a long way in Defoe this Prog, with zombie-educating silliness and flourishes of cool: "supernaculum!" I'm going to start using that as my own catchphrase. Or not.

It was refreshing to see the comedy playing a greater role in Sinister/Dexter again at last. I'm much happier reading this not caring about the politics or the characters, just enjoying the wordplay. Nice and crisp Anthony Williams art gets room to breathe, as the script doesn't try to fit too much on one page.

I'm only slightly surprised at how much I enjoyed Slaine. It's not my favourite series by a long chalk, but I think if it was ever due for a reappearance it's now. I found the past couple of months of Progs a bit dry and unappetising, and the reappearance of Slaine is moist and tangy in comparison. There is all kinds of fun going on here, including something for fans of chopping up monsters, and who's not a fan of chopping up monsters, am I right? The latest story premise serves the purpose. Slaine's recent adventures have been mostly mercantile in flavour, and this one's no different - Ukko takes on yet another business the previous proprietor wants rid of, and, as always, there is a catch. Clint Langley's colours are scintillating. For Mills-verse continuity fans, links between Defoe and Finn spotted last week are echoed here in cosmological parallels between Defoe and Slaine.

The big finale in Low Life made reading it a real pleasure this Prog. I'm quite relieved to see the end of it but also that I enjoyed the ending so much, because it did lose me along the way. Dirty Frank back in uniform was not a development I had seen coming. Brilliant! I am very interested to see where this goes. I suppose he must have had a recent psychiatric evaluation, and passed, which is a real eyebrow raiser.


Off Topic / I am 40 today
« on: 24 September, 2010, 03:54:54 PM »
Like it says in the title of the thread.

I have been generally made a fuss of so far today, and went and had a haircut. In a couple of hours I'm off for a hotel stay with a bottle of champagne, and dinner either in the hotel or out somewhere.

It's very nice and the weather has stayed fine too.

Off Topic / Flying ants
« on: 19 July, 2010, 05:36:38 PM »
Spotted today in Cardiff. The air's quite thick with them out there.

I checked to see when we talked about this before, and it seems it was 6 years ago:

Books & Comics / Resurrected comics characters
« on: 15 July, 2010, 08:14:16 PM »
I started writing this on the Prog 1693 thread following the discussion about the fate of Johnny Alpha and the brushes with death other 2000ad characters have survived. I was thinking about the cynical way comics characters are killed off and brought back to life again and whether or not it bothered me in the slightest.

I quite enjoyed the death of Superman. I thought it made some entertaining comics, even though there was a lot more pathos in Ted Cord's coma. I wasn't around to see Superman's resurrection, so I'm not bothered if it was done shabbily or not. I'm glad they killed him and I'm glad they brought him back for more entertaining stories and I could forget his death ever happened - that was one story arc, which finished, and there were others that came after.

I can't really remember the death and resurrection of other American superhero characters annoying me much. I know Elektra is supposed to have come back from the dead twice, which is apparently only one time too many. I never liked her anyway.

Jean Grey came back from the dead, but they had the decency to call her Phoenix. I heard that Colossus got killed, but it didn't take. Neither killing Colossus nor bringing him back seems like a good idea to me. Actually, the killing him bit sort of appeals.

Any other especially crass Marvel or DC resurrections?

Off Topic / The new 'what do you look like?' thread
« on: 04 April, 2010, 11:11:56 PM »
For Roberta.

General / When is Slaine set?
« on: 28 February, 2010, 06:31:00 PM »
Probably pointless even pondering this, if Slaine lives in a parallel world to our own where time is meaningless and all sort of coalesces into one ancient past full of ahistorical Celts, Norsemen, Egyptians and Atlantians, but Ukko said something in The Smuggler that rather gave the game away.

I dimly remember that when Slaine began it was set c.5000 BC - isn't that when the Land of the Young was cut off from the rest of Europe by the Deluge?

In The Smuggler, Ukko says something about the 'Trojan Donkey.' I don't know exactly when Troy was supposed to have been founded, but the Trojan War is supposed to have happened between 1100 and 1500 BC, which I'm supposing dates The Smuggler storyline to within 1000 years of the birth of Christ.

Of course, this speculation is fruitless because Slaine and Ukko are time travellers, as has been depicted in previous adventures, and might well have heard stories of ancient Troy during their sojourns in Roman, Arthurian or Norman Britain. In any case, the cast of Slaine are acquainted with such anachronistic knowledge as bra cup sizes, anger management and the plot of Fatal Attraction, so why shouldn't they also know about the legends of ancient Troy, whether those stories took place before or after Slaine's own lifetime?

Time is a funny thing in Slaine's world. It is susceptible to the influence of gravity after all, don'tcha know.

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