irreverent_intellectual: (Default)
On October 31st, 2018, announced it would no longer be publishing new articles, and the site itself is scheduled to shut down permanently at the end of April, 2019.

My history with Ferretbrain goes back over a decade. It all started with my sister, a one-time hardcore Harry Potter fan* who grew disillusioned with the series around the time of the 5th and 6th books. In the fall of 2007, in the middle of my first semester of studies at college, she sent me an article critiquing the moral framework of the series, particularly the seventh and final book. I was blown away by the sophistication of ethical and literary analysis in the article, and also by the humor, which nearly had me falling out of my chair.

*I was only ever a casual fan at most.

I eagerly worked my way through more articles on the site, and kept reading as more entries were posted in the following months. Over a year later, I took the major step of signing onto the site through OpenId and posting comments to some of the articles. In June, 2009, I took another big step and submitted my own article “Race in Popular Culture,” which was accepted and published shortly afterward.

In the nine years that followed, I submitted articles sporadically—and not all of my submissions were accepted. There are a number of reasons for my low submission rate, but it was always a pleasure to see one of my articles published, especially when it sparked conversation. Other community members have republished their articles on other sites, and I intend to do the same with several highlights from my own publication history there, and probably also post some articles which were in the works but sadly unfinished at the time of the announcement. (There are some articles which, on reflection from a few years down the line, I don’t feel have anything important to say, and have no plans to republish. I will retain, however, text copies of those articles in my files in case I ever change my mind, or receive a request.)

While I only published a little over a dozen articles as a member of the site, I continued to read the articles regularly, and remained active in the comments sections and the Playpen. I picked up a lot about books, movies, tv, computer games, and more from the site. In some cases, I enjoyed vicariously very good—or very bad—stories with the other contributors. Ferretbrain also gave me a chance to learn more about numerous cultural artifacts where I had some curiosity, but not enough to go out and read or watch the thing itself.

Other times, something on the site convinced me to try out something I wouldn’t necessarily have gotten into otherwise. First and foremost, it introduced me to On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta, whose praises I have sung vociferously in the past. It’s still one of my favorite books of all time. Last spring, much to my delight, I found audio recordings of the second and third books in Marchetta’s fantasy trilogy, the “Lumatere Chronicles”; I was recently listening through the second book, Froi of the Exiles, and getting blown away all over again over how fecking good the writing is in these books. Seriously, if you haven’t checked out Marchetta’s fiction yet, go do so no. Go on, you can finish this later. Get.

In 2017, I started watching Sense8, partly inspired by a conversation with a commenter on Ferretbrain, and I fell in love with that show, as well.

The tone of conversation on the site was intellectual and sophisticated, but also conversational and far from uptight—while I rarely partook in more serious profanities like the f word, some of the more regular contributors had honed its use to an art form.

While the most active members didn’t share my own political leanings, they shared a sensibility about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism, various forms of privilege, and social justice matters which I had either recently discovered or was still coming to grips with when I joined the site. They set a conversational baseline for discourse on the site which normalized a feminist, anti-racist, queer positive framework—these topics often weren’t the main point of discussion, but they provided the scaffolding in which conversations occurred. It was incredibly freeing to be able to nerd out on so many fun topics, while at the same time have sophisticated conversations about their relationship to various social justice issues. I admit I haven’t explored other parts of the internet in great detail, but I suspect the specific conversational style you used to find on Ferretbrain was something of a rarity.

Since it was kind of a niche website—fewer than 150 user accounts over the entire ~12 years of its existence—it had a very convivial feel to it. It really was like a community where, if you hung around long enough, you could recognize every person who took part in Playpen and comments section conversations.

Speaking of which, I loved the free-flowing conversations there used to be in the Playpen, which felt a lot more natural and easy going than other message boards and fora on other websites. Hell, I loved the whole website layout and format: I found it super user friendly and easy to navigate and search through, which is more than I can say for a lot of websites I’ve spent time on, maybe a majority. I also liked the aesthetic style of the various webpages—they had character to them, and to my way of thinking did a good job of setting the mood for the website’s content. I find the article layout of many other websites, including this one, quite bland in comparison. (I understand praise for the website’s format and visual look go to their resident tech and occasional contributor during the early days, Rami.)

Now it’s true that in terms of participation, Ferretbrain peaked probably four or five years ago, and ever since then was carried mostly on the shoulders of its second and last editor-in-chief, Arthur B. Arthur produced probably upwards of 90% of the site’s articles in that period, and conversation in the Comments and Playpen sections dropped off considerably. Good, extended discussions grew scarce, but didn’t disappear entirely—I enjoyed the Playpen dialogues we had for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, and I’m sad not to get something comparable for Episode IX when it comes out.

It’s also true that Arthur B is continuing to post articles on his personal Wordpress blog: “The Thoughts and Fancies of a Fake Geek Boy,” where he’s also backed up most of his old Ferretbrain articles. (He’s also provided handy links to the personal webpages of the half dozen former community members who provided that information—including yours truly—in the sidebar to his Wordpress page.) So in terms of article content, if you follow the Fake Geek Boy page, you’ll be getting most of what you likely would have gotten had Ferretbrain continued operations.

Still, I’m going to miss the Ferretbrain layout, the aggregation of different peoples’ articles, the Playpen, and the community of contributors and commenters (affectionately dubbed “Ferretneurons” by Arthur B). Even if the participatory element was severely curtailed in the site’s final years, I enjoyed the occasions when it made itself known again, and I’m sorry there won’t be any more such occasions going forward.

I’m sure closing down the site was the right decision, but I regret the necessity of doing so.

In short, Ferretbrain was a great site, even past it’s peak, and I’m gonna miss it a lot, and remember it with great fondness.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Hello everyone,

Well, here we are, ten years since I began this account, and what a journey it's been since then.

Obviously, it's been a while since I last updated this journal. There are numerous reasons for this, major and minor, and I'm only going to focus on 3 of the former for now. One reason is that I was working fro December through August, including my first real 40-hour per week job (a seasonal gig), and work time eats into writing time something fierce. Second, for the last ~18 months, I've been trying to buckle down on my fiction writing, with the goal of producing publishable material in the not-too-distant future. So what writing time I've scraped together lately has been mostly devoted to fiction, with the remainder going to miscellaneous other projects. And third, I haven't felt the same drive to produce which fueled me for so long. I thought I might write an article about Jessica Jones, and the awesomeness of Trish Walker. I still kind of want to write an analysis of Everybody Loves Charles, a sci-fi story by Bao Shu I listened to on the Clarke's World podcast several months back. And there have been other things to catch my interest that I'd like to put my thoughts into pixelated type about, but I haven't been able to muster the enthusiasm to write them down. Hell, I'm already two full series behind on Doctor Who, and it's not because I've stopped watching the show, or run out of thoughts about it—certainly not. And the first of those two series wrapped up almost a year before I started the new job, so it isn't that, either. I've never had enough time to work on every project I'd like, but I used to be able to carve out time to work on Doctor Who reviews because I was so strongly motivated to get them out. But lately, reviews in general have plummeted on my priority list and I don't really know why.

So the upshot is, this journal has seen a decrease in activity in the past year and a half, and that quiet is going to continue for the foreseeable future. I'm not going to close the account, because it's not costing me anything, and because there's still a few people on this site I like being able to keep in touch with. Also, even though I've moved away from journal-related content indefinitely, I still like to have this record of that part of my life around. And I should say that I have not entirely moved away from journal-related content. I have one or two projects in the works which are suitable for livejournal, and which I'm pretty sure I'll be able to complete to my satisfaction and post here. Some will take me longer than others, but since nobody's clamoring for them to begin with, I figure I can afford to take my time with this.

Anyway, that's the state of the journal. There will be at least a little more activity coming up in the future, but expect that when you see it and not before. Till then, bye.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
For various reasons, I only ended up seeing the third installment in Peter Jackson and company's Hobbit film duology with my sister Noria and our mom, rather than the full sibling complement. Once again, we watched it in 2d, which was just fine with me.

As usual, expect massive spoilers.

I will not say, do not weep, for not all tears are an evil )with this enjoyable yet disappointing note, the “Lord of the Rings”/“Hobbit” film series comes to a close. Prospects for a Silmarillion film are very low—and to be honest, I'm cool with that. I love The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but the most I can say about the Silmarillion is that I like parts of it. Maybe there'll be a cinematic or TV reboot in another decade or two, and I'll be interested to see them when and if they come. But for the foreseeable future, this really is farewell to Middle-Earth on the big screen.

Peace out.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
The Last Jedi, by Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, published in February 2013, is a sequel to Reaves' 2008-2009 “Coruscant Nights” trilogy. Set a year or two after Revenge of the Sith and Order 66, it follows Jedi Knight Jax Pavan and his companions as they face their greatest test yet.

An attempt to relocate resistance leader Thi Xon Yimmon goes horribly awry, resulting in the death of one of Jax's friends, and Yimmon's capture by Darth Vader. Grief-stricken, Jax must go deeper into himself than ever before to regain his clarity of purpose, and find the power he'll need to rescue Yimmon from Vader's clutches while there's still hope for the fledgling resistance.

Major spoilers for The Last Jedi follow.

Coruscant Nights - the tepid conclusion )

Peace out, y'all.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
According to Entertainment Weekly, the Lucasfilm story group plans to release a slew of books, comic books, and other publications, chronicling the major events of the new continuity between Episode VI, Return of of the Jedi and Episode VII, The Force Awakens. This Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens will begin publishing in the fall.

Details in the EW article are sketchy, listing only a couple of titles and a handful of authors—it looks like the named ones will be writing YA. The only name I recognize from the list is Greg Rucka, whom I haven't read, but I understand his run on Wonder Woman was highly regarded*. The only other thing I noticed about the concrete announcements is that it looks like we so far have three male writers and just one female writer confirmed. Hardly surprising, but discouraging nonetheless. Anyway, here's what I think, given the preliminary nature of the information we have at present.

*Though as John Jackson Miller's output attests, good comic book writing doesn't necessarily equate to good novel writing. Not that his novels are terrible, they just can't compete with his comics. (And yes, I know not everyone thinks Jackson Miller is that great a comic book writer, either, but I still do.)

In short: I'm conflicted )
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
(Content warning for discussions of racism and victim-blaming)

So, a little while ago, author Janet Morris and her husband Chris did an interview on the “Roundtable Podcast.” Cut for massive quantities of nonsense and commentary )
Bottom line: This interview is a trainwreck of patronizing, neocolonial apologia. Blegh.

Peace out, y'all.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)

“Hmm, yes? Oh, my goodness, it's you.”


“And that must mean that I'm …”


“Well, well. I must say, I never expected to actually meet you. Never believed in this sort of thing, you know.”


“Yes, I suppose we do. So what now, then?”


“Of course. And what, er, what is the next part, exactly?”


“I guess we might as well go, then.”


“Yes? Go on.”


“Goodness, really? Well, after all, why not?”

I wrote those words in a flash of inspiration back in the fall of 2012, hoping it would be a very long time before I had to break them out. Well, that time has sadly come, and I suppose it's only fitting that the master preempted me. I hope he won't begrudge me the indulgence.

Recent weeks have not been good for speculative fiction fans. First Leonard Nimoy in the the last days of February, now Pratchett.

I've mentioned Sir Terry a few times on this journal before, including one memorable meeting at the first North American Discworld Convention (the first fan convention I ever attended, out of a grand total of two so far). But I don't think I've ever really laid out what he, as an author, meant to me. I won't try to give a comprehensive picture here, as I don't intend to write an entire thesis, but I do want to hit some of the main points.

I first got into reading Terry Pratchett over a decade ago, and I proceeded to drag the rest of my family into his orbit. I cannot tell you how many hours we spent reading the Discworld books and Good Omens, or listening to them on audiobook on long car trips. We got Hogfather on DVD when it came out (I found it not some much good or bad as kind of wonky—I still enjoyed it, the rest of my family less so), and I even watched The Colour of Magic and Going Postal even though they were kind of bad (though I'll argue the latter had its good points). A couple of us even watched the animated Wyrd Sisters at one point (which also had its moments).

Terry Pratchett is, hands down, one of my favorite authors of all time. I can name only a handful of authors who could delight me and touch me as profoundly and consistently as Pratchett writing at his best. Heck, even most of his inferior works were well above standard reading fare. While I have hopes and many good wishes for his daughter Rhianna, the the Discworld heir, my literary world is greatly impoverished by his absence.

More over, Sir Terry was one of my guiding stars as a beginning writer. I doubt I will ever write a story which feels similar to his—I don't have his gift for humor; he was funny off the cuff, and where he averaged five great jokes per page, it usually takes me about ten pages to get even one—but his style has profoundly shaped my storytelling sensibilities. There's so much of what I think about how to write good fiction that I learned from reading Pratchett, and doubtless a great deal more I'll glean in the years to come.

Heck, I've immersed myself in his works to such an extent over the years that it's even influenced my speech patterns, (especially noticeable when it comes to my use of expletives).

And on top of all that, the sense I get from both from reading his stories and from what information I've picked up about him as a person is that he was, by and large, a very decent bloke. I believe he had some stances which I strongly disagree with, but I think he was at heart a good person, and to my knowledge he didn't promote any outlooks which are actively horrible—not something I can say about all my favorite authors, sadly. Such a loss.

Many people are using the master's own words to eulogize him, and why shouldn't they, when he leaves such a wealth of good ones behind? I'd like to see somebody compile a list of the best ones, but for now, I'll leave you with my own selection from Hogfather: (perhaps later I'll dig up something good from Night Watch, there must be something really fitting there, too):

Susan: All right, I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need … fantasies to make life bearable.


Thank you, Terry, for making me and so many others that little bit more human.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
I watched the sequel to 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man on an overnight flight and suffering from mild sleep-deprivation, which I always find lends an intense and slightly surreal tinge to the experience. Anyway, the second film reunites director Marc Webb with stars Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, and Sally Field as Aunt May, and adds Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro, Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborne/Green Goblin, with Felicity Jones in a role just one notch above cameo as Felicia Hardy (though not yet the Black Cat). In short, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a highly enjoyable film for its first 125 minutes; unfortunately, there are fifteen more minutes before we hit the credits, and those last fifteen minutes, hoo-boy. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Everything's always complicated with Peter ... )

Peace out.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
While my mother, sister, and I were in the theater to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (review upcoming – it'll be a few months, but it won't take as long as my piece on The Desolation of Smaug) we saw a trailer for the upcoming sci-fi action movie Jupiter Ascending. And, well …


- Female person of color protagonist.

- Female person of color protagonist played by Mila Kunis. With Sean Bean as a major supporting character. (Of course, he’s probably going to die at some point …)

- A Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster based on an original script, rather than a remake, reboot, book/comic book adaptation, or new installment in an existing franchise.

- The premise, from what I got of it, seemed pretty cool and mind-twisty in a good way.

- Oh my god, those visuals are in-credible. Especially the awesome sci-fi tech. I’ve never said this before in my life, but I might have to see this movie just for the visuals.


- Mila Kunis is the most important person of all because she’s secret royalty, basically the chosen one; not because of the choices she makes or merits which she earns herself.

- The main villain’s acting is atrocious. He goes for low voiced and menacing and winds up delivering cardboard.

Wild card:

The plot. It looked like it might come off, but I could easily see it falling flat in practice.

Final verdict: Could go either way, to be honest. See particularly the note on the film's plot. On the other hand, even if it does turn out to be crap, the movie might be worth seeing on the big screen on the strength of the visuals alone.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
The story so far ) First, I should mention that this review contains a mild trigger warning for discussions of sexual assault and forced sterilization, and major spoiler warnings for the ending.

That said, let's dig into 'Inferno' and see just what I thought )

Seattle +15

Dec. 1st, 2014 12:00 pm
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Just wanted to write a quick note to commemorate the fact that yesterday, November 30th, 2014, was the fifteenth anniversary of the protests which shut down the 1999 big meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, Washington.

Since I last posted on this topic, five years ago, the world has witnessed the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, both multinational movements which could to some extent be said to be legacies (or continuations) of the global justice movement, for which the Seattle protest was a major turning point, and both of which have spawned legacies themselves whose long-term impact is not yet clear. We have also seen increased scrutiny - if only in the semi-alternative and radical news outlets - of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), another set of accords geared towards stripping away what little democratic power the citizens of various nation-states have to curb corporate excesses and put those decisions in the decidedly corporate-friendly hands. I have not personally been involved in any anti-TPP activism, or even heard that much about other people's activism, but it's been on my radar for the past two or three years, and it hasn't gone through yet - so big props to everybody who's played a part in stonewalling the TPP so far.

As we march forward into an era of increased austerity rhetoric and warmongering, coupled with increasingly alarming climate activity, let us keep Seattle and other such partial democratic victories close to our hearts. Solidarity in struggle.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
NaNoWriMo Winner 2014 Web Banner
Yes, as of 10:30 last night, with 50,186 words, I am an official NaNoWriMo winner for 2014. (This my fourth NaNoWriMo, and it's the first one where I've finished more than 16 hours before the deadline.)
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Preamble )I am very pleased to present the long delayed review of Doctor Who series one. Worry not, the series two review is in the works, though it will take some time to release, so don't hold your breath. Because my recall is so much fainter than usual, they're going to be less comprehensive than previous reviews, and I'm more likely to make a mistake with some detail or other (for which I apologize in advance).

Review )join me next time for Cybermen, werewolves, clockwork robots, the devil, Giles from Buffy, and a repulsively gratuitous cat fight. All this and more in Doctor Who, the complete series two.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
So here we are yet again. Another year rolls around and—oh wait a minute, the entire Expanded Universe has been explicitly rendered non-canon. Well, that changes things, doesn't it?

My thoughts on the continuity reboot )

See you in ~14 months when Episode VII comes out. For now, peace out, and remember: The Force will be with you, always.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Jedi Master Mander Zuma goes into Hutt Space to investigate the death of his apprentice, Toro Irana, which soon puts him on the trail of a dangerous new spice called Tempest.

Scourge is almost the platonic form of blandness. Bland plot, bland characters, bland narration, bland set pieces, bland jokes, bland conclusion – the brief and infrequent dips into something halfway interesting or insightful only serve to throw the overall blandness of the rest of the book into sharper relief.

The identity of the Spice Lord is glaringly obvious several chapters before the climax, but Grubb keeps treating it like a big mystery, apparently without realizing that he's fresh out of red herrings.

Mander also leaves the Spice Lord to die in the end, pointedly refusing to save the villain's life (he only even considers doing so under the influence of Force suggestion). Needless to say, this decidedly unheroic move on Mander's part is not treated as an act whose morality is open to question, let alone an indicator of him becoming an anti-hero or falling to the Dark Side.

In fact, one puzzling aspect of the novel – in a bland sort of way – are the protagonists' highly cavalier attitude towards killing other creatures (especially canon fodder). Even for the highly generous parameters of “justifiable homicide” you get in these sorts of stories, their behavior comes off as a little extreme.

About the only other thing worth mentioning about the book is that the Dramatis Personae section is once again shite – with one of the named characters notably failing to survive one whole chapter.

In summation: Star Wars: Scourge is dull as dishwater. Peace out.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
White privilege will not prevent you from being accused of stealing at Rural King (because you took a library book out of your backpack), nor from getting escorted to the front of the store with the security person gripping your arm and threatening to search your backpack when you get there. It may, however, contribute to the store officials deciding to let you leave after all without searching your backpack because, well, only police officers and similarly empowered state employees are allowed to do that here in the US, and I'm pretty sure even they are required to have a warrant, prisms notwithstanding – white privilege means low-level authority figures will have a higher threshold for violating your constitutional rights. It also means that when the security person is escorting you to the front and threatening to search your stuff, bringing the police into the picture – at their suggestion – is not only a reasonable option, but might actually have worked in your favor.

Also, tip for those entering new stores: read the signs on or near the doors; they sometimes come with important information such as “all book bags must be left at the front counter.” White privilege means you can screw up something like that and get off being only lightly harassed and improperly treated by the store authorities, as opposed to getting the brass knuckle treatment.
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Quintana of Charyn is the third and final volume in Marchetta's “Chronicles of Lumatere” series, which began with Finnikin of the Rock and continued in Froi of the Exiles and gives us the exciting conclusion to the story which was pretty arbitrarily cut off at the end of the latter book.

In the final volume, Froi struggles desperately to protect Quintana and their unborn child—the boy who will break Charyn's curse of sterility—from the machinations of the late king's villainous adviser, Bestiano. Meanwhile, in a cave near the valley on the Lumatere/Charyn border, Phaedra of Alonso wages her own struggle to keep Quintana hidden from men loyal to Bestiano. But it is not only corrupt Charynites whom Froi and Quintana must fear: Finnikin of Lumatere believes that Froi's father Gargarin was behind the Charynite invasion of his country thirteen years earlier, and must be assassinated before he engineers another one. And when Queen Isaboe discovers Quintana—the daughter of the Charynite king responsible for her family's slaughter—is hiding on the borders of her realm, the wrath of the Lumateran queen may prove murderous.

(Warning: this post contains major ending spoilers for Froi of the Exiles and near-ending spoilers for Quintana of Charyn.)

On to the review )
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
Back in 2012, ptolemaeus and I were studying in Europe over the winter holidays, and were therefore unable to participate in our family tradition of recent years of the four of us and our mother going to the movies on Christmas day. This year, however, we were all back, and there was only ever one possible choice for what movie we would go to: The Desolation of Smaug was in theaters and we were right there.

For this reflection piece, I'm going to follow the format I established with the previous Hobbit film, and the same warnings and disclaimers apply, including that I will thoroughly spoil both the movie and the book (the latter material containing inevitable spoilers for the final film).

Right, that out of the way, let's see what we thought of the movie.

Thorin, at the foot of the mountain: 'Well, I'm back' )

To be concluded …
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
I didn't see Star Trek: Into Darkness, sequel to 2009's Star Trek|| in the theater. I probably wouldn't have seen the original in the theater, either, only ptolemaeus wanted to go, and while it wasn't a must-see for me, I was happy to tag along.

For this one, circumstances were different, and I didn't go to see it. However, I was still sufficiently curious to watch the movie on DVD from the library. In the meantime, I began getting a feel for fan reaction by osmosis (doing my best to avoid spoilers, a project which was partially successful), and the sense I got was that Into Darkness was overall, a disappointment.

Going into the movie with fairly low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Enter the darkness, if you dare )
irreverent_intellectual: (Discworld)
So for some inexplicable reason, of all the Star Wars novels which have been published in the past year-and-a-half (including the latest Zahn story), one of the two which are available anywhere in my local library system is kriffing Crucible by kriffing, karking, milking Dark Lord Troy Denning. Maybe if they'd had a bigger selection I could've convinced myself to put this one off for another few years, but as it is, here I am.

And it could be worse, but then again … )


irreverent_intellectual: (Default)

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