• Sigrid Ellis

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    Sigrid Ellis is co-editor of the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords and Chicks Dig Comics anthologies. She edits the best-selling Pretty Deadly from Image Comics. She is the flash-fiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction, from Lightspeed Press. She edited the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine for 2014. She lives with her partner, their two homeschooled children, her partner’s boyfriend, and a host of vertebrate and invertebrate pets in Saint Paul, MN.
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Work and music and movies

Today’s QA briefing was mixed. My center, ZMP, is doing the best in the nation at avoiding class A/B errors. However, in the past nine months we doubled the previous year’s amount of class c and proximity errors. So, if you fly through ZMP airspace you’ll be perfectly safe, though one of us may be getting into trouble behind the scenes.

I watched two music-and-dance movies over the weekend, Step Up 2 The Streets and the documentary Planet B-Boy. Both were great. I mean, listen — Step Up 2 has a simplistic plot and vague hand-waving in lieu of characterization. Also the dialog is laughable. But if you are watching this movie for those reasons, you as a viewer have erred. One watches this movie for the dancing, and that’s it. And the dancing is great. As actors the dancers cast in the film are decent. The story is set in an arts school, and I can only imagine that a number of the actors attended schools very similar, learning to act and sing and dance in the hopes of getting themselves into the Disney Talent Mill. I, personally, was watching the movie and noticing that the kids at Circus Juventas do a number of the tumbling-style moves in the film’s dancing.

Then, still in a mood for dance movies, I watched the documentary Planet B-Boy. Which was a great look at the Dance of the Year international dance competition held in Europe. Break-dancing, which most of us recall like a dim dream of the 80s, is still a live art form, still practiced, and oh my goodness, is it a joy to watch. Again I was put in mind of the performers at Circus Juventas as I watched the crews engage in acts of incredible athleticism. Awesome.

And now, a music meme:

Hit shuffle on your ipod or mp3 player and write down the first 25 songs. No cheating or skipping songs that are shameful. That is the fun! I added notes, remarks, sources, and associations.

1. “Hey Mama” by Black Eyed Peas Driving home from work late at night in the summer, banging the beat out on the steering wheel, trying to stay awake.
2. “Salio el Sol” by Don Omar Sexy songs in languages I don’t know.
3. “The Birth and Death of the Day” by Explosions in the Sky I loved the theme to Friday Night Lights, what can I say?
4. “Stronger” by Kanye West Catchy to me only because I own the Daft Punk album sampled in this.
5. “Like It or Leave It” by Aly & A.J. Aly and A.J. never fails to make me grin. I simply find them to be fun, solid musicians, and I ignore the fact that they are Christian Creationists.
6. “Figured You Out” by Nickleback The best song, ever, to describe the loathing one feels when someone is exactly as weak as you hoped they would be.
7. “Spiderwebs” by No Doubt College and summer and sitting in a friend’s car outside Little T’s restaurant smoking and singing along.
8. “Psychobabble” by Frou Frou Theatrical Muse and Rachel Grey and Mr. Sinister, and, again, people being exactly as weak as you knew they would be and oh, how we hate them for that.
9. “Tear You Apart” by She Wants Revenge Theatrical Muse and Rachel Grey and Mr. Sinister, and, again, people being exactly as weak as you knew they would be and oh, how we hate them for that, take 2.
10. “The Moneymaker” by Rilo Kiley Is this song actually about stripping? Prostitution? I have no idea.
11. “Good Behavior” by Plumb Theatrical Muse again, Rachel Grey and Lorna Dane and Laura Kinney and the lot of them.
12. “Damaged Goods” by Gang of Four Old skool punk, mixing the break-up song with rage against the capitalist pig overlords, I love it.
13. “Television The Drug of a Nation” by Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy College and the student union and chain smoking endlessly over coffee and Cokes and cards.
14. “TTHHEE PPAARRTTYY” by Justice Found out about this band due to a BBC article about the club scene in London, believe it or not.
15. “It’s So Easy” by Guns N’ Roses I have a helpless affection for Appetite for Destruction.
16. “Wreck of the Day” by Anna Nalick Not my favorite Nalick song (that would be “Breathe (2 A.M.”) but who wouldn’t prefer, sometimes, to leave the day behind in the tail-light glow?
17. “Cut” by Plumb Theatrical Muse and Rachel Grey and Lorna Dane.
18. “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie College sophomore year in the over-crowded dorm room mainlining all of Bowie’s albums, alternating with Big Black.
19. “Shoulda Known” by Atmosphere Yes, yes indeed, don’t date people who have your problems, hmm?
20. “Are You Ten Years Ago” by Tegan and Sara I still, STILL, have no idea what this song is about, but it is hypnotic.
21. “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes Every time I start humming the Battlestar Galactica version of “All Along the Watchtower,” I earworm myself with this.
22. “Hallelujah” by Paramore That’s right, Hayley, life will never get you down.
23. “Trouble” by Bitter:Sweet Aww, who wouldn’t like a little trouble, especially when it purrs like this?
24. “Tijuana Sound Machine” by Nortec Collective Presents Sent to me by Cavorter, more syncopated dance-mix beats
25. “I Live for the Day” by Lindsey Lohan Theatrical Muse, Lorna Dane and Magneto.

Conclusion? I got a lot of my favorite music from the Theatrical Muse online RPG. Also, from college.

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And so they return!

My family got back from Florida yesterday, yay. They saw shuttle mission #128 successfully take off. And I now have a t-shirt saying as much, YAY. They came home with swag and sunburns and dirty laundry, and I am very pleased to have them back.

Cavorter took a video:

We found Shelob! She was hiding in a clothes drawer – that I had CHECKED on the first day, but not again. So our tarantula was restored to her lair, her waiting roach-meal, and her waterbowl. Yay.

The super-big news, though, is that Cavorter sold his house! Thank goodness.

Inglourious Basterds [SPOILERS]

I saw the new Tarantino flick, Inglourious Basterds this afternoon. I have to say I didn’t like it.

Here’s the thing — I thought there was a lot to like about the film. I liked, for instance, that the Nazi villain — the Jew Hunter — was portrayed as intelligent. A worthy bad guy, not a buffoon. I liked the fact the this entire movie is essentially a massive revenge fantasy on the part of those groups the Nazis persecuted. I liked the anachronistic soundtrack choices, I liked the long, long, LONG talky set-pieces that are so very Tarantino. But I couldn’t get past the fact that the good guys were vile.

Now, let me explain — I like many movies in which there is no good guy. I like movies featuring two sets of criminals, both doing criminal acts. I like anti-heroes, I like selfish bastard protagonists. I also like heroes — people who do good no matter what, people who don’t kill, or who grieve over the awful acts they are forced to do.

For instance, I’m currently finishing up Battlestar Galactica. I’m on episode 5 of season 4.5. And while I really don’t ever want to meet any of these characters I love them as characters. One of the things I love is that they are all struggling with being ordinary people shoved into extraordinary acts. They act smartly or stupidly, they act from noble or selfish reasons, they are self-absorbed or generous, and the consequences always come back to them. But whatever they do, they are trying to be the best person they can conceive of themselves as. Sabotaged by insecurity or fear, raised up by hope and honor, they struggle to be strong and do the best they can in the moment. And they all mourn their mistakes. These are characters, are people, who judge themselves and others — and when they don’t like what they see, they try to do better.

In a more realistic work of fiction, this is also what I like about the HBO minseries Band of Brothers. Again, these are ordinary people forced to extraordinary acts. And, like the characters in BSG, these men struggle with their actions. They do terrible things to survive, they fight the enemy as soldiers. But they try to retain their humanity.

I don’t think I would have minded Inglourious Basterds if all the characters had been pitched to me as equally evil. If this was a contest between sets of criminals and torturers. But in any U.S.-made movie that pitches the Allies against the Nazis, that pits Jews against the S.S., there is a Good Side and a Bad Side. The Nazis and their collaborators are the bad guys. The Allies are the good guys. There’s no real way around that. And I, personally . . . I want my good guys to be better than my bad guys. They don’t have to be a lot better, but a little.

I want my good guys to not torture, to not disfigure the dead. I want my good guys to not kill innocent bystanders, or at least care if it happens. The closest thing this movie has to a hero is Shosanna, and Marcel. And even they are content to kill the innocent people in the theater, along with the evil.

There’s the famous question — if you could go back in time and stop the Holocaust by killing Hitler as an infant, would you? Would you kill his parents before his birth? His grandparents? I honestly don’t have a strong answer to that question, for myself. But I personally doubt my ability and will to kill anyone, under any circumstances, so I might not be a good person to ask. But I do think that the way to win a fight with evil is not to be as vile as that which you are fighting. I don’t think the ends always justify the means. I think the manner of accomplishing a goal affects and modifies the goal as it is achieved.

I don’t believe that evil acts can have entirely good consequences.

As I watched Inglourious Basterds, I couldn’t help thinking — what about the branded men left alive? What sort of resistance or insurgency will they form? What about the children of the soldiers killed by the Apache squad? What sort of hatred will they harbor? As the movie played out, the finale doesn’t occur until 1944 — the Holocaust was well underway. Depending on when in 1944 it takes place, exactly, the end of the war might not have saved that many people. What about all the people who still believed in the Nazi message, what sort of insurgency are they going to form after the terrorist murder of their leaders? I find it deeply ironic — and I suspect Tarantino of doing this deliberately — that throughout the film we are supposed to be cheering on terrorists and suicide bombers who target the occupying government.

At the end of the film, I was wondering — how does this make us better? How does cheering on torture, laughing at scalping (as the audience in the theater was doing,) and clapping at the deaths of women and children in a fire make us better people? This movie leaves us two choices of identification, of empathy-entry to the film. We can side, emotionally, with the Nazis, or we can side with the Basterds and Shosanna. At the end of the film I found myself wishing, hoping with all my might, that this movie is a lie. That when placed in extraordinary circumstances some people will struggle to find their better nature. That when given a chance to be better than evil, some people, however ordinary, will take that chance.

Shelob

Well, today is the first full day of me sans family. I got home at midnight last night and promptly had to feed the caterpillars more leaves. Which involved going out into the dark yard with a pair of scissors, cutting twigs off the apple tree, and transferring the caterpillars to the new shrubbery in the tank.

This morning, I got up, let the dogs out, and promptly had to go get more leaves for the caterpillars. Those critters better cocoon fast, is all I’m sayin’.

So I checked the weather and go upstairs to check the millipede tank. Millipedes are fine. I walk into the kids’ bedroom and glance at the tarantula tank.

It’s open.

I stand still, looking at it.

Yep, still open.

I approach the tank and lift it. Inside, there is one still-living roach — food for Shelob. No Shelob. I move the waterbowl and bark-tunnel. No Shelob, no tarantula nearly as large as my hand. I promptly call my family.

J returns my call after a few minutes, with deep apologies. She thinks she must have left the lid off when she fed Shelob the extra roach on Thursday night. So, okay, the tarantula has a 36-hour lead, more or less. I spend about a half-hour looking in the kids’ room, but then I have to get ready for work. I expect I will be looking a little bit each day until I find her.

Tarantulas can go for days without food. But falls are very damaging to them — if she falls off the dresser, or the bunkbed, she could be killed. I’m hoping to find her alive, curled up in some dark corner of the room, waiting for a passing roach to wander by. That would be ideal.

Cecropia moths and other household matters

My family leaves for Florida tomorrow — an eight-day venture that will involve seeing the space shuttle launch, the ocean, and very likely some Disney-related activity. I’m staying home due to work and vacation. This means I am in charge of the household menagerie.

Let me explain.

Here are the rules of pet acquisition in our house.

1. The animal must be acquired legally.
2. We must have a suitable habitat for it.
3. It must not be able to eat or be eaten by any existing inhabitant, unless we feed it another inhabitant on purpose.
4. Its needs must not seep out to infest the house — no rubbing feces on the walls, no foul odors, no infestations in the couch.
5. I do not take care of it.

Under these guidelines we have acquired, since living together, two gerbils, a hamster, four mice, a tank of millipedes, a tarantula, two bins of worms, two bins of roaches, and a tank of cecropia and promethea moths caterpillars. I do not care for any of these. I don’t feed them, I don’t clean the cages, I don’t water them. J does all of that.

Caterpillar closeup 09

J will be gone for nine days.

I have a list of instructions. DETAILED instructions, this time, since the last time I cared for the pets I killed half our millipedes. The instructions include feeding the caterpillars fresh leaves every twelve hours until they cocoon. They include feeding the tanks of roaches (not limes, I did that last time, and apparently NOTHING will eat citrus.) I have to make sure the millipede tank is neither too hot nor too cold, using heat lamps and windows and fans, if necessary. If it ever stops raining, I have to water the nasturtiums and tomatoes on the back steps.

Caterpillar tank 09

I don’t mind, actually. This is part of what family means, what being partners means — this is part of a life together. If there’s a bad storm while they are gone, I will be running outside at 3 am to check the downspouts. (Which J usually does.) I don’t mind, but it is daunting to look at the instructions and measure up the time it takes to maintain the household wildlife.

I bet most of you don’t rinse caterpillar poop out of the bathtub before you shower in the morning, either. Such is life.

G.I. Joe

I went and saw G.I. Joe this evening. I carefully set my disbelief suspenders to maximum, and I switched my brain to “off.” With that in mind, I only balked and rolled my eyes at two points:

1. Ice floats in seawater, it does not sink.
2. In order to “weaponize” the nanostuff, they ought to have waved a magic wand over it. That would have made more sense than what happened.

In other news, Cavorter and I determined that when we are Evil Overlords, we will put our Secret Evil Base in Rio. That’s right, Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil. Here are the advantages of Rio as a location:

1. No one will notice your heat signature.
2. No one will notice your pollutants.
3. Rio is always under demolition/construction; your building and renovations will go unnoticed.
4. Favelas provide unlimited supply of expendable and disposable grunts, experimental subjects, canon fodder, and help.
5. Moderate corruption in local politics makes for ease in bribing.
6. Ready access to international shipping.
7. Located near the equator, for ease in space elevators, rocket launches, etc.
8. Brazil is not an area of interest for the international community; there will be no wars, police actions, or military incursions.
9. Ready access to hither-to unsuspected natural wonders, drugs, and exotics from the Amazon.

And:

10. Labeling everything in Portuguese means no-one from the U.S intelligence community will be able to read it.

Obligatory adorable kid post

M went to get a haircut yesterday. I discovered, on arrival home from work, that the kids’ haircut place had been doing gel-dye jobs for free. So K has a red streak in her hair, and M . . . M has blue gelled spikes a la Astro Boy.

Well, not quite. But that was the intention.

M has blue hair

And here he is, posing like Astro Boy.

M poses like Astro Boy

At the moment, K is practicing her piano lesson for the day. M is striding through the living room with a LEGO creation he assures me is a chainsaw sword. He is fighting bad guys with mighty, mighty sound effects. I am ded of cute.

Yesterday afternoon, to much grousing on my part, we cleaned the kids’ basement play room. Photo evidence.

Speaking of the basement? Here’s the final state of the basement cleaning project. Tool shelves. Toys, games, and a furnace. Damnable craft supplies. Rugs, dog beds, worms, and cockroaches. Holiday supplies and a telescope.

My mother is in town today. She’s a Lutheran minister, and is in town for the National ELCA convention. The big thing this year is whether the ELCA will ordain gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships. As babysteps go, it’s a pretty small one — apparently dating is not alllowed. But there’s a decent chance even this babystep won’t pass. At any rate, we’re meeting my mom for lunch today, which should be good.

I’ve read a ton of stuff recently, and watched a lot of media. Watched Harper’s Island and a certain amount of 21 Jump Street, plus I’m rewatching Leverage season 1 and I’m current on Warehouse 13. I’ve read, um, a lot of Greg Rucka’s novels, and have a stack of three more in front of me. But more on that later, I suppose, if I get to it.

I’m seeing G.I. Joe this afternoon, with Cavorter. Wish us luck!