Sep. 26th, 2011 11:15 pm
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...Started bad, got worse, and that was before I started the experiment that I've done dozens of times before and keeps finding new and improved ways to fall apart on me.

I don't know how much longer I can keep up this nonsense.
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Everything about this song is perfect.

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The sequel to Charon's Train was Terminus, in which I have Sirius and Remus meet up in the afterlife.

It's not my best work (too sentimental, unfortunate present tense use) and Tonks isn't actually in it. But my favorite part is when Sirius and Remus speculate on Tonks' whereabouts after the events of Charon's Train. I've excerpted that bit below. It's short.

Cut for spoilers... )
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As much as I love Tonks, while I was in the Remus/Sirius fandom I struggled with my desire to see Tonks happy AND give Remus and Sirius a Happily Ever After. This was a bit difficult on account of all three characters being dead at the end of Book 7. I was too much of a canon-junkie to resurrect them all and create an AU threesome.

J.K. Rowling did me a favor by temporarily killing Harry Potter in Deathly Hallows and giving him a vision of the afterlife complete with a misty replica of King's Cross Station. With a canon afterlife I could easily give my favorite pairing their cozy domesticity, and compensate Tonks for the rich full life that was taken from her.

Also I like trains.

Title: Charon's Train
Author: Bob the Mole
Words: 2536

This is the first fanfic I ever wrote. I still think it's one of my best.
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After a brief hiatus in which I pulled one all-nighter to make a presentation, and another all-nighter to grade assignments, I hereby present the first of tonight's many celebrations of Tonks.

Since this entire festival is about celebrating women who face the ire of some branch of fandom, I thought I'd explore why Tonks - despite her Awesome - is subjected to the indignities of fandom wank.

Tonks, simply put, is awesome. She is about as hip as wizards get, her hair can turn luscious shades of plum and rose, and she is a certified badass in her position as an Auror. This makes her, in some eyes, too good to be true. The charge of being a "Mary Sue" has been laid against her for this reason.

The concept of the Mary Sue has a long and convoluted history. It started out as a criticism of poorly characterized and unconvincingly perfect self-insertions by naive authors, but became a disparaging label for any female character with an "excessive" number of positive qualities. Paradoxically, most male characters with similar positive traits aren't criticized in the same fashion.

Many people counter-argue that interesting female characters like Tonks are dismissed as Mary Sues because of the lingering sexist belief that women have limited capabilities, and any highly capable woman is automatically incredible.

Another reason for dismissing female characters is if they pose a threat to the critic's preferred OTP. In Tonks' case, she was criticized for marrying Remus Lupin who is popularly shipped with Sirius Black.

As someone who was involved in the Remus/Sirius slash fandom, I encountered a distressing number of fics in which Tonks was characterized as a usurper who came between the two men - despite the fact that Sirius died before Tonks and Remus began their relationship.

I think these are inadequate reasons for hating on Tonks. Sure, she's got physical features and traits found in many self-inserts, but she doesn't take over the narrative. She isn't the most complex character in the series, but as she's a background figure there aren't many opportunities to reveal her inner life. As for her "interference" with the Remus/Sirius pairing, to criticize her for that is to reduce her to her relationships and she deserves better.
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A Vietnamese restaurant opened across the street. They sell shaved ice.

Here with fresh pineapple and green tea ice cream, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.

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I've recently developed a fascination for the new "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" cartoon, and the amazing General Zoi's Pony Creator where you can make your own ponies.

And I got to thinking, if all the characters in Harry Potter were ponies, what would Tonks look like?

J.K. Rowling describes her as having "dark, twinkling eyes", and a "pale, heart-shaped face". She likes to wear her hair spikey, often in purple and bubblegum pink. She's bubbly and friendly, and seems to enjoy a Punk aesthetic.

She's also a metamorphmagus and can change her appearance at will. That's why I made the Cutie-Mark on her side look like a chameleon.

If you'd like to play with Tonks the Pony, just enter the following codes into the Advanced tabs of the Pony Creator and play around with the settings!

2S2S002000FFFEFCFEC6A100001B2A100UN1837001000001I1A600B5F900B70S113F4DCC11FE 00


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Rarity from My Little Pony...

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Tonks is one of the few twenty-something witches we encounter in the Potterverse.

Despite a reputation for "improper behaviour" that kept her from becoming a Hufflepuff prefect at Hogwarts, she aced enough N.E.W.T.s to qualify for Auror training with the Ministry of Magic. She was born with a rather uncommon magical trait - as a metamorphmagus she could vary her appearance at will. Going about with purple hair on a daily basis? Totally doable. Entertaining teenagers at the dinner table with a porcine snout? No problem! Disguising herself to go undercover for Auror duties? Her shape-shifting abilities more than made up for the innate clumsiness that almost led her to fail her Auror exams.

Named Nymphadora at birth, she quickly decided she was only going to answer to her last name. If she were an FBI agent working on The X-Files, she'd say, "I even make my parents call my Tonks," but her father Ted certainly got away with calling her Dora. Her mother Andromeda had been disowned from her family, the Blacks, for deigning to marry a muggle-born but Tonks didn't seem to mind that at all.

Tonks had considerable coolness points in the eyes of Harry and his friends. She had PURPLE HAIR, dude! And she turned it bubble-gum pink when she felt like it. And she goofed around and acted silly, but was ace as an Auror. She was one of a handful of wizards who accepted that Voldemort had returned, and defied the Ministry to provide information to the Order of the Phoenix while Voldemort and his Death Eaters entrenched themselves.

I'll bet Harry wanted to be Nymphadora Tonks. He sure didn't want to be Harry Potter that year.

Tonks also fought in several battles throughout the Second Wizarding War, including those of the Department of Mysteries, the Astronomy Tower, and the Seven Potters.

After her spectacular debut in the 5th Harry Potter book, Tonks was sadly marginalized in the series. She had a mostly-behind-the-scenes romantic relationship and eventual marriage with Remus Lupin. Lupin's lycanthropy was a major point of contention between them. Lupin considered himself dangerous and unworthy of Tonks, while she persisted in convincing him of her loyalty.

In the final book, Tonks handled her pregnancy alone while Lupin fled and joined the war effort against Voldemort. They reunited shortly before the birth of their son Teddy Lupin.

A month later the Battle of Hogwarts took place. Initially in hiding with her mother and newborn son, she joined the battle and fought back to back with Lupin until she was slain by her aunt Bellatrix Lestrange.

Nymphadora Lupin (née Tonks)
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...and out of all the hundreds of unpopular female characters that fandom is willing to redeem, Bella Swan isn't mentioned ONCE.

Are we saying some women can't be redeemed?

*wondering if I can read twilight by tomorrow and adopt the poor lass*

NEVER MIND - she's listed under Isabella Swan Cullen. At least one person is willing to write about her.
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There's a fandom celebration going on. I've signed up to proselytize Nymphadora Tonks because she is all kinds of awesome and her hair is cool.

Go adopt a character!
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I finally watched "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic".

Synopsis: Nerdy friendless pony Twilight Sparkle is tasked by Princess Celestia to learn the True Meaning of Friendship, ends up with 5 bosom buddies and saves the world to boot. Ooh, and Twilight Sparkle's research assistant is a baby dragon named Spike.

Have a pilot episode (22 min):

And part two (22 min):

One one level, MLP offers the anvilicious moralizing of kiddie shows from the 80s, with enough charm and verve that we eat it right up. But I also think the show is offering metatextual commentary on my own life, though I am unsure what the message is...

Is it an allegory for my recent attempts to reform my social life?
Is it an inspirational Aesop meant to remind me of all the Elements of Harmony (TM) I have to gain from Friendship?
Is it a subtle social satire, mocking my failures with the ease by which Twilight Sparkle collects her posse of companions?

Or does the show have nothing to do with me and is a mere vehicle to peddle pastel-hued horse toys to pre-teen girls and males in the 18-35 demographic?

I will lie awake pondering this.


Sep. 3rd, 2011 02:37 am
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Torchwood can really dial up the ick. That bit in episode 6 almost made me cry.
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I checked out two new shows in the past two days, after hearing high amounts of praise.

Skins is a series about British teenagers and their issues, including unsafe sex, drugs, eating disorders, more unsafe sex, class conflicts, and driving on the wrong side of the road into a pond. That was the first episode. The characters are well-drawn - some more likeable than others - and there is a healthy dose of irony in the plot. I can see why it's critically acclaimed.

I don't think I'll be watching it though. The subject matter is a bit stark for my taste. I need a bit of optimism in my narratives, and this series makes it clear right from the start that it's going to show teenagers do a lot of stupid things and then suffer for them.

The other show is Wilfred, a comedy starring Elijah Wood as a beta male who gets bossed around by his hot neighbor's manipulative dog, whom he constantly hallucinates as Jason Gaan in a dog suit. The comedy structure suggests that Wood's character will eventually "man up" and take his proper manly place in society, but apparently not without going through lots of humiliation and emasculation.

Again, it's well-written, well-acted, and critically acclaimed but not my mug of tea.

Still looking for stuff to occupy me until mid-September's network premieres.

Love meme

Aug. 29th, 2011 09:06 pm
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Because it's there. With me in it.
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The American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Denver, CO had a forum with several Hollywood writers and science consultants talking about how they incorporate science into TV shows.

Their main talks are (I think) not available to the public but there was a panel for the press with some awesome discussion.

Click to watch the video.

Panelists are:
Aaron Thomas, Writer, Producer, CSI New York.
Corrine Marrinan, Writer, Producer, CSI.
Jane Espenson, writer, producer for a variety of television shows.
Donna Nelson, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Oklahoma.
Ann Merchant, The Science & Entertainment Exchange.
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Jane Espenson replied to my tweet! GUH!
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We had a great day in the Engineering Communication class that I TA.

Right at the beginning of the semester we have the students write personal essays in the style of NPR's This I Believe series.

This I Believe is a series that started out in the 1950s when NPR began recording short essays by people about their personal beliefs and values. It was a simple idea, but it exploded - essays were recorded by iconic figures like Helen Keller and Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as by taxi drivers and waiters. The program was revived in 2005, and to date there are over 100,000 written and recorded essays in the collection. It's pretty amazing to browse through and hear people's thoughts in their own words.

We picked two essays to listen to in class: Life Is An Act Of Literary Creation by novelist Luis Alberto Urrea and The Power of Mysteries by astrophysicist (and occasional novelist) Alan Lightman.

The difference between the structures of the essays was striking. Urrea wrote in a rich, sensual style that evoked colors and flavors while being very oblique and suggestive about the point he was trying to make. The essay presented a mood rather than a concrete idea, despite his generous use of concrete details. In contrast, Lightman's essay was highly structured: past-to-future, personal-to-general, with a topic sentence jumping out of every paragraph.

We talked about the kinds of writing that scientists and engineers usually have to produce. Our research papers, proposals, technical reports are all genres that have developed a rigid format that every single writer has to follow. Most of the engineers in the room felt more comfortable reading the Lightman essay because it met our expectations and our need for answers. Lightman had a point and by Jove he made it. Urrea's essay left many of us unsettled (though the Prof, who has a humanities background, confessed to preferring it). We had to read it over and over again to understand what the message was, and even then there was room for debate. It forced us to confront the idea of having no set answers, and being okay with it.

That's what I love about this class. We take a bunch of engineers who have been taught to search the world for answers and try to show them other ways of thinking. We have them look inward and determine their own value systems. We ask them to consider ways of thinking that are alien to them. We try to cram an entire liberal arts education into 10 weeks with room to spare for grammar exercises. I don't know how many take away what they learned, but I hope its more than a few.
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One day I'd like to read a pregnancy fic in which the woman keeps throwing up, but it turns out she just has food poisoning and it's the guy who is pregnant.


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