[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Swapna Krishna

The Expanse Ceres Station could we colonize the solar system

The hit Syfy Channel show The Expanse, based on the incredible series beginning with Leviathan Wakes by writing team James S. A. Corey, presents a bold and dark future for the human race. Humans have colonized our solar system, though we haven’t ventured beyond it. We have research bases on moons of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus; Mars, the Moon, and dwarf planet Ceres have larger permanent settlements.

The TV series doesn’t focus overwhelmingly on science (though all the technology depicted within it is based on real science), and that’s to its benefit: there’s a lot of story to cover in a limited amount of time. (The authors of the books do focus a bit more on science in the novels.) Let’s look at the overall premise of the show, then. How likely is it that we will colonize our own solar system? Will we establish permanent colonies on the Moon and Mars? What will happen to the humans who do leave the Earth?

Beyond Earth book coverIn Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets by Charles Wohlforth and Amanda Hendrix, the authors (a science writer and a planetary scientist, respectively) examine what will it take for humans to leave our planet and colonize the solar system, and what form that colonization might take.

It’s not a huge leap to assume that humans will look to the stars as the next frontier; we talk constantly of sending astronauts to Mars. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has ambitious plans to settle the first colony on the red planet. A desire to explore, coupled with the damage we are doing to our own planet, almost assures us that eventually, we will begin the process of colonizing other worlds.

But will we establish bases on the Moon and Mars? We might, but it’s a bad idea, according to Wohlforth and Hendrix. The key with any solar system colony is that it would have to be self-sustaining. If a colony we establish can’t support itself, then it will not survive, long-term. A colony must be able to function independent of Earth—this means producing its own food, energy, and resources. Of course Earth will supply any colony we establish for the short and medium term, but having to constantly resupply a colony from Earth just isn’t feasible. It would prove way too expensive to justify the colony’s continued existence.

The Expanse

And that’s the problem with both the Moon and Mars, the sites of the two largest permanent human settlements in The Expanse: There isn’t really a way that we can currently see to make either of those settlements self-sustaining. The Moon has no natural resources or water. We’re less certain about Mars; we know it has polar ice, but no important natural resources as far as we can tell. “Other than its proximity to Earth, there isn’t a compelling reason for human beings to go to Mars,” say Wohlforth and Hendrix (p. 47). We see humans terraforming Mars in the show, but in reality, that would take a hundred thousand years (unless technology leaps ahead). It’s possible that Mars could survive, as it does in the show, using the resources of the Asteroid Belt, but that would require huge advances in science and technology.

So where should we go, then? Wohlforth and Hendrix make a strong case for Titan, a moon of Saturn. It has an atmosphere, liquid on its surface (methane, not water), and a surface pressure that’s tolerable for humans. The problem would be its distance from Earth—hence the need for the colony to be self-sustaining. It’s too far away to be able to rely on Earth for resupply.

The Expanse Ceres Station Miller

The Expanse’s depiction of Ceres, however, is spot-on. Ceres is the largest body in the Asteroid Belt (it’s actually categorized as a dwarf planet) and it’s covered in ice. In the TV show, it’s one of the first sites of human colonization, and it’s actually possible that we might try to settle Ceres in order to mine the resources of the Asteroid Belt. The biggest threat would be radiation, because the dwarf planet doesn’t have an atmosphere.

Wohlforth and Hendrix make the very good point that we don’t currently have a lot of research as to what effects leaving the protection of the Earth will have on the human body; after all, those in low Earth orbit, aboard the space station, are still protected by Earth’s magnetic field. The research we do have isn’t promising: radiation is a serious threat. In the TV series, humans counter this through advanced radiation medication. We’d have to develop a way to deal with strong radiation before we can make space travel outside of Earth’s magnetic sphere (much less space colonization) a recurrent reality.

The Expanse also deals with the other physical effects living in space have on the human body very well. Wohlforth and Hendrix say that it would be difficult to return to Earth after a human body has adapted to living on Titan. Gravity molds and shapes our bodies. Living without it, or on a planet where there’s significantly less gravity than Earth, means that our bodies would grow differently. As those characters in The Expanse who were born on the Moon, Mars, and in the Belt can attest, a body shaped by low gravity is a body unable to withstand the gravity of Earth.

The Expanse gravity torture

All in all, The Expanse is a mostly realistic—if grim—picture of what humanity’s future holds. We will likely visit the Moon and Mars, but only because they’re convenient, rather than because of their potential long-term sustainability. The resources of the Asteroid Belt are what will support our space colonization (and the future of Earth), whether it be Titan or somewhere else entirely.

Swapna Krishna is a freelance writer, editor, and giant space and sci-fi geek. You can find her on Twitter at @skrishna.

[syndicated profile] alpennia_feed

Posted by Heather Rose Jones

Monday, February 27, 2017 - 06:30
LHMP logo

This category of tags covers literary characters who are portrayed as being in intense or romantic friendships with other women where there is no overt erotic component and typically where they are not living as a committed couple. Check out the permanent page if you want to follow up on links to the publications that discuss these works.

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare) - 16th century English play in which one subplot involves a close female friendship disrupted by the shifting desires of the men they love.
  • Antiochus the Great (Jane Wiseman) - 18th century English play that includes a close emotional bond between a maidservant and her mistress.
  • Aurora Leigh (Elizabeth Barrett Browning) - 19th century English verse novel about two women who form a friendship and set up a household together as a result of being involved with the same man.
  • Can You Forgive Her? (Anthony Trollope) - 19th century English novel in which two close female friends share a household via one’s marriage to the other’s brother.
  • Clarissa (Samuel Richardson) - 18th century English novel in which two female friends are separated tragically by a jealous and controlling male suitor.
  • Euphemia (Charlotte Lennox) - 18th century English novel that satirizes passionate friendship using the stock figures of a “mannish” Amazon and a bluestocking.
  • Fettered for Life (Lillie Devereux Blake) - 19th century American feminist novel that includes a cross-dressing woman and committed female friendships, though there is a heteronormative resolution.
  • Frene (Galeran de Bretagne) - The 13th century French romance “Galeran de Bretagne” includes the story of “Frene”, also found in the lais of Marie de France, which features themes of female friendship and alliance.
  • Henrietta (Charlotte Lennox) - An English novel (1758) involving passionate friendship with a significant class difference.
  • Joanna Traill (Annie E. Holdsworth) - Late 19th century novel by an Anglo-Jamaican writer that features a close friendship between a “fallen woman” and her redeemer.
  • Julie ou la Nouvelle Heloise (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) - 18th century French novel revolving around the close bond between two female friends, though that bond is subordinated to their marriages.
  • Kavanagh The Love of Parson Lord (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) - 19th century American novel that includes a close female friendship that is broken off by the transfer of one woman’s affections to a man.
  • L’Escoufle - 13th century French romance whose heroine is supported by several close friendships with other female characters that include erotic components.
  • Lettres de Milady Juliette Catesby a Milady Henriette Campley son amie (Jeanne Riccoboni) - French novel (1759) about a passionate female friendship.
  • Love and Honor (William Davenant) - 17th century English play in which one women sacrifices herself to save a close female friend.
  • Mary Pix - 18th c English playwright who treated the conflict between the heterosexual imperative and passionate female friendship.
  • Millennium Hall (Sarah Scott) - 18th century English utopian novel in which women bound by close friendships create a community with charitable ideals.
  • Monsieur d’Olive (George Chapman) - 17th century English play in which the strength of female friendship is acknowledged in the figure of a woman mourning her lost friend.
  • Much Ado About Nothing (William Shakespeare) - 16th century English play that contrasts supportive female friendship with fickle heterosexual ones.
  • Ormond: or the Secret Witness (Charles Brockden Brown) - 18th century American novel in which the close friendship between two women prevails over husbands and suitors.
  • Pamela (Samuel Richardson) - 18th century English novel that contrast positive depictions of platonic female friendships with condemnation of same-sex desire.
  • Roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole (Jean Renart) - Medieval French romance discussed in the context of themes of female friendship and alliance.
  • Rosalynde (Thomas Lodge) - 16th century English play that features a committed female couple.
  • Roxana (Daniel Defoe) - English novel (1724) involving a passionate friendship between women.
  • Shirley (Charlotte Brontë) - 19th century English novel that deals with themes of close female friendship in conflict with heterosexual relations.
  • The Bostonians (Henry James) - 19th century American novel depicting the conflict between passionate female friendship and heteronormativity.
  • The British Recluse (Eliza Haywood) - English novel (1722) on themes of passionate friendship between women.
  • The City Jilt (Eliza Haywood) - 18th c English novel by an author who often focused on themes of female passionate friendship and erotic attraction.
  • The Cry (Sarah Fielding & Jane Collier) - 18th c English novel with themes of passionate friendship between women.
  • The Fair Moralist (Charlotte MacCarthy) - English novel (1745) involving passionate friendship with marked class difference.
  • The History of Rasselas (Samuel Johnson) - 18th century English play depicting a devoted friendship between a woman and her maidservant.
  • The Memoirs of Sophia Baddeley (Elizabeth Steele) - English novel (1787) involving a passionate friendship between women.
  • The Rash Resolve (Eliza Haywood) - 18th c English novel by an author who often focused on themes of female passionate friendship and erotic attraction.
  • The Rebel of the Family (Eliza Lynn Linton) - 19th century English novel involving conflict between committed female friendship and heteronormativity.
  • The Reputation of Mademoiselle Claude (Dorothy Blomfield) - 19th century English story in which a woman’s devoted friendship is valorized but has tragic consequences.
  • The Tea-Table (Eliza Haywood) - 18th century English novel that portrays devoted female friendships with implications of committed partnership.
  • The Tragedy of Chris (Rosa Mulholland) - 20th century English novel involving the committed friendship between two women with a “fallen woman”-protector theme.
  • The Unaccountable Wife (Jane Barker) - 18th century English novel featuring a devoted, if one-sided, friendship between a woman and her servant.
  • The Winter’s Tale (William Shakespeare) - 17th c English play with minor theme of devoted female friendship.
  • Two Noble Kinsmen (William Shakespeare and John Fletcher) - 17th century English play in which devoted female friendship is positively contrasted with heterosexual marriage.
  • Yvain - 12th century French romance featuring a devoted friendship between a woman and her maidservant.
Major category: 


Feb. 27th, 2017 09:16 am
telophase: (Default)
[personal profile] telophase
Sora haaaates the new LitterRobot we got, to the point of expressing his opinion in several places including, this morning shortly before we got up, the basket full of my clean laundry. So I am telecommuting until the laundry is finished.

While he is prone to crystals in his urine, the pattern of places he has expressed his opinion recently is unlike the places he goes when he's suffering that problem, and more like places carefully chosen for being associated with Toby or I, so we think it's "HEY PUT IT ALL BACK LIKE NORMAL" and not "I HURT FIX IT." (Note: we do have another litterbox set up next to the robot, so he doesn't have to use the robot.) But we do have a vet appointment next week and will be discussing this very problem and potential solutions, and if the vet thinks it's necessary, getting one of those kits to collect his urine and getting it analyzed to rule that out.

Cats. Argh.

Frozen out thar

Feb. 27th, 2017 06:51 am
christina_maria: (Default)
[personal profile] christina_maria
 After waking up to damp rainy weather in the mornings and sunshine in the afternoons while my in-laws were here we are now back to the frosty morning again. I swear they brought in the nice weather when they came over, and then took it all back again when they left *lol*.
Ah well. I am sure it was partially my fault. Mother Nature has a sense of humor I am pretty sure, and I bought (and planted) a few bulb yesterday.

In my defense they forecast said rainy yet warming up. Lies! All lies. XD

I only planted a small handful of what I brought home at least, so if these die then all is not lost.
I hope they don't, but... well, it's out of my hands now. I'm not going to dig the poor things back up, just incase it's fine at the levels they are planted at (planting depth called for was 4-5 inches).

Let's see, what else.
Oh, I caught up on 'the 100', 'Z Nation', and Riverdale last night.  
Holy cliff hangers. I swear I need to go back to getting a few episodes built up first. That way when there's a cliffhanger episode I can find out what the hell fairly soon.

* The 100 is only 4 episodes in right now, and so I'll know WTF is happening on the next episodes. So yay to that.

* I wasn't sure if Z Nation was coming back for a Season 4. It is *phew*, it'll be back 4 Jun. 2017, so I don't have to be pissed that the show left on a cliff hanger. Although I am curious where the hell they are going with that episode ending? What are you up to Z Nation?!

* Riverdale is still doing an excellent job of throwing wrenches in what you Think is happening and flipping things upside down, and I love it. Poor Betty though. 

That's it for show catch up's lately I think.
Well, I am caught up on Big Bang Theory too, but always assume I am caught up on that one, unless I say otherwise.  ;P I have watched it from day one, and will watch it 'til it ends. I love how they have progressed and matured throughout the seasons, even though I know there are people that hate the changes. Life IS change though. If they had stayed exactly how they were at Season 1 the show would not have lasted this long.  Their personal growth and character changes through the seasons of the series is what makes them so relatable and endearing IMO.

Anyhow, my coffee cup is almost empty, and so I had better wrap this up and scout out some more.
Hope everyone has a good Monday *waves*
larryhammer: a whisp of smoke, label: it comes in curlicues, spirals as it twirls (twirls)
[personal profile] larryhammer
For a Poetry Monday:

"I like to see it lap the Miles," Emily Dickinson

I like to see it lap the Miles—
And lick the Valleys up—
And stop to feed itself at Tanks
And then—prodigious step

Around a Pile of Mountains—
And supercilious peer
In Shanties—by the sides of Roads—
And then a Quarry pare

To fit its sides and crawl between
Complaining all the while
In horrid—hooting stanza—
Then chase itself down Hill—

And neigh like Boanerges—
Then—prompter than a Star
Stop—docile and omnipotent
At its own stable door—

A riddle poem, probably intended for children (she liked to write poems for neighbor children) -- the answer being, of course, a train with a steam engine. Dickinson's father was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Amherst, and the station was not far from the family house.


Subject quote from "A Boy's Poem," Alexander Smith.

March sketch calendar template

Feb. 27th, 2017 10:01 am
darthneko: hand with pen ([art] set pen to paper)
[personal profile] darthneko
March Sketch a Day template for anyone who wants to use it. ^_^ One more day left on February and I've failed totally at keeping up, but I'll have it done by tomorrow.

In other news my home computer, the 2011 iMac of Doom (named Teletraan) had some critical fail Friday night. Appears my video card has died. This would, coincidentally, explain why when my dragon and I are playing WoW on the same server, at the same time, on the same internet connection, she would have 50 FPS and I would have 9. =P Apparently my video card has been slowly dying. Repair is going to be a bit costly (it's a 2011 first gen iMac of the current model, it's so far out of warranty or applecare coverage it's not even funny) but still should be vastly cheaper than an actual new Mac. Plus it's still a workhorse machine, just need the screen to be working and display things. =P I'll drag it into the Apple store close to work tomorrow and drop it off for repairs, then cross my fingers and hope.

(My excuse is that part of my February sketch pic involves screen cap reference, which is on Teletraan and which I now don't have access to. =P Ooops. Thank goodness I did sketch rough outlines of things in with blue pencil!

My Festivids this year

Feb. 27th, 2017 09:45 am
anoel: vidding festivids (vidding festivids)
[personal profile] anoel
Just in case anyone missed them, here are the 4 festivids I made this year:

Title: Body High
Music: "Body High" by Mike Taylor
Fandom: Ghostbusters (2016)
Focus: Jillian Holtzmann
Summary: You give me a body high.
Body High DW link

Title: You're So Beautiful
Music: "You're So Beautiful (White Party Version)" by Empire Cast featuring Jussie Smollett
Fandom: The Get Down (2016)
Focus: Dizzee/Thor
Summary: It sure looks good to me.
You're So Beautiful DW link

Title: Dance
Music: "Dance" by POWERS
Fandom: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Focus: Rebecca, Paula, Valencia, Heather
Summary: Prepare to surrender to the power of femslash.
Dance DW link

Title: Crash
Music: "Crash" by Gwen Stefani
Fandom: Bound (1996)
Focus: Corky/Violet
Summary: Do me real hard.
Crash DW link

There's also a new vid exchange called Equinox that will run in both spring and fall with different themes (voted on) which you can find more about here. The current exchange is space themed and you can find a list of letters with fandoms and requests here if you want to make any treats. I didn't sign up but I maaaay make a treat depending on time and motivation. I have a bunch of vids planned for cons so I'm not sure if I will but you never know.

I'm mostly still on Twitter these days but I'm enjoying all the posts on DW and hope to post more here soon!


Feb. 27th, 2017 06:01 am
[personal profile] calimac
A few years ago, the Best Picture Oscar went to a movie called Crash. This year's Best Picture Oscar was a crash.

I was the Hugo Awards administrator the year after the presenter was given a card with the wrong winner on it. I was earnestly instructed by the executive committee not to do that. I said, "Don't worry: we will only make new and original mistakes." (I later learned that the late great George Flynn had said the same thing the first time he ran the Hugos, so it wasn't a new and original joke.)

I have no idea how the wrong name on the card happened, and it would never have happened under my watch. We didn't prepare anything except the templates until we finalized the winners, and then we made the cards, the press release, instructions for the plaque-maker, and everything else.

But that's not what happened at the Oscars. Instead of the card being incorrect, Beatty was given the card for the wrong award. How that happened, I don't know either. And so Dunaway saw the name of the movie the Best Actress winner was in and read that. I'd give them both some slack for screwing up: they weren't expecting this; they're actors, they work from scripts; and also but not only because of their ages, they may have "senior moments" from time to time, something that's fuddled previous venerable presenters worse than this without the wrong card as an excuse.

Contrary to statements that nothing like this has ever happened before at the Oscars, it has. In 1964, Sammy Davis Jr. was given the card for the wrong film score award (in those days there were two awards).
He read the nominees for the first award — scoring of music, adaptation or treatment — opened the envelope and proudly announced that John Addison had won the Oscar for "Tom Jones." The problem was Addison actually had won the Oscar in the music score, substantially original category. "They gave me the wrong envelope?" asked Davis, as a representative of Price Waterhouse quickly came out with the envelope that had the correct winner — Andre Previn for "Irma la Douce." "Wait'll the NAACP hears about this!" he quipped.
I've seen neither Moonlight nor La La Land - they don't sound like my kind of movies. I like musicals, but an attempt to watch Chicago proved that's not enough to save a movie for me if I'm otherwise uninterested in it. The only movies that won Oscars this year that I have seen are:
  • Manchester by the Sea - a very close cousin of Seth Meyers' Oscar Bait parody. Story about really depressed people with a happy ending consisting of their becoming slightly less depressed. Arrival was supposed to be the hard-to-follow movie this year, but this is the one whose plot confused me, because the flashback scenes were not stylized in any way, and I often didn't realize I was in one.
  • Zootopia - I realize this movie wasn't about its plot, but the plot was such a tedious routine crime-detection story it bored me, and the parallels with race relations were painfully self-conscious to the point of agony.
  • Arrival - hey, a movie I actually liked.
Other nominated movies I've seen:
  • Hell or High Water - a caper film, fun to watch, but typically for the genre quite amoral. And if the scene where the brothers are getting into separate cars to drive away didn't telegraph what was going to happen next, Samuel Morse never lived.
  • Hidden Figures - I saw this because I like historical movies about the Moon program, not to feel virtuous. But gosh, does it ever make you feel virtuous.
  • Jackie - far duller than I'd expected, and an uncomfortably eerie movie. Felt as if it had been filmed in that weird apartment at the end of 2001.
  • Florence Foster Jenkins - I saw this out of curiosity as to what would be done with a movie about the worst singer of all time. Turned out that they toned down the badness of her singing (she was actually much worse than Streep portrays her), and made the moral out of turning her into the kind of person who'd have sung "I did it my way!" if that song had been written yet.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings - arresting animation, sprightly dialog, but rambling and wayward story.
  • Sully - a vicious libel on the investigating commission, but other than that, pretty good.
  • Hail, Caesar! - If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like. Turned out I didn't.

Scout It Out

Feb. 27th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

I was an honorary cub scout around age 6, because A) my brother was an actual cub scout, B) our mom was troupe leader, and C) we didn't have a babysitter. My only clear memory of that time was making salt dough pretzels with the boys, though, which tasted terrible. The pretzels, I mean. I didn't taste the WHOA THIS GOT DIRTY FAST.

Er, my point is, I don't remember cake at any of our troupe meetings, but maybe that was for the best:


These are the extra tiny Cub Scouts. From the future.

Dangit, Michael, not again!


This month was the 102nd birthday of the Boy Scouts, so naturally:

The only thing missing is u.

Or a bad Scottish accent. ("Ach! Me wee bairns!"*)

[*Sorry, that's from all the Star Trek books I read as a child. Scotty said it all the time, but I have no idea what it means. If it's something dirty, please accept my apologies/knowing looks & elbow jabs.]


And finally, bakers, why don't you give us the 411?

Or, sure, that works.



Thanks to Colleen R., Miranda E., Robert W., & Amy H. for always being prepared... with their phone cameras.


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

fresne: Circe (Default)
[personal profile] fresne
My preference is to bundle this stuff up into some sort of narrative rather than reposting articles. For that matter this is a repost from Facebook.

Lots of articles. That said, if there's one article from what I've read that you look at, it's this one.

It's an absolutely chilling (and incredibly researched) piece on the way data analytics are currently being used to tailor news to reinforce certain viewpoints (and came into play both in the Brexit vote and during the US election. Basically, the weaponized information propaganda tactics from Russia being run by a US big data firm. Reminds me why the top Sci Fi book on sale right now is 1984.

Read more... )


Feb. 27th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Paul Cornell


Andrew Waggoner has always hung around with his fellow losers at school, desperately hoping each day that the school bullies—led by Drake—will pass him by in search of other prey. But one day they force him into the woods, and the bullying escalates into something more; something unforgivable; something unthinkable.

Broken, both physically and emotionally, something dies in Waggoner, and something else is born in its place.

In the hills of the West Country a chalk horse stands vigil over a site of ancient power, and there Waggoner finds in himself a reflection of rage and vengeance, a power and persona to topple those who would bring him low.

Paul Cornell plumbs the depths of magic and despair in Chalk, a brutal exploration of bullying in Margaret Thatcher’s England—available March 21st from Tor.com Publishing. Read an excerpt below, along with a note from Cornell about the personal and intense nature of the story.


From author Paul Cornell:

Chalk is a dark fantasy, and like my Shadow Police and Witches of Lychford series, it has its feet squarely in the real world. But it’s a one off. It’s a bit more serious. It’s a very personal book, but also, I hope, universal.

Were you bullied in school? How bad did it get? For the lead character in Chalk, Andrew Waggoner, it gets pretty extreme. So extreme that reality gets twisted, and things from outside the world are allowed back in.

Chalk is set in the 1980s, and features a ton of Eighties music. The heroine, Angie Boden, practices a form of magic powered by chart hits. But no matter which decade you grew up in, you’ll be able to fill in your own escape. The 1980s created some terrible things, which have again, in 2016, returned to haunt us.

This is a book about cycles of abuse. It doesn’t let Waggoner off the hook. It’s not a book about a martyr and how he triumphs in the end. It’s about how the bullied often become the bullies, and a desperate attempt to escape that.

For those of you who know me by my Doctor Who work, there’s also a visit to the Longleat Doctor Who Exhibition, at the centre of the world. Don’t say I never give you anything.

I hope you… well, ‘enjoy’ isn’t perhaps the word. I hope Chalk gets inside you. I hope it helps. I hope it makes you cry.

Thanks for listening, and, above all, thanks for reading.


Content Warning for graphic descriptions of violence and sexual assault.



We’re talking about the West Country of Great Britain, the farming country, below Wales and above Cornwall. Find the county of Wiltshire, then the town of Calne. Move your cursor east for about two miles along the A4 road. There’s Cherhill Downs. Find some images. On almost all of them will be the Cherhill White Horse. It’s one of many hill figures cut from the chalk soil on the uplands in this part of Britain. Some of them are relatively modern, some are ancient. The Uffington horse, further north, is the ancient one everyone knows. That one was cut, so the archaeologists tell us, by the nations of Iron Age people that lived in Wiltshire: the Durotriges or the Atrebates, as the Romans referred to them. They were rich. Their currency took the form of polished axe heads, never sharpened. They had vast resources, a large population and the commitment to build and maintain great monuments. The Uffington design is an indication, we’re told, that they caught and tamed wild horses. The archaeologists think it’s a model of what the tribes wanted to happen: this animal looks like it’s running past, but actually we’ve captured it on this hillside.

The Cherhill White Horse, on the other hand, although it’s beside an Iron Age hill fort, was cut in modern times. It looks domesticated. It turns the downs behind it from a forbidding fortress and place of suffering into the background of a painting. If the sunlight catches it at the right time of day, it’s got a twinkle in its eye.

It was cut out of the chalk in 1780 on the instructions of one Dr. Christopher Allsop, who lived in Calne. According to the history books, they called Allsop ‘the Mad Doctor’. They say he bellowed instructions to the men cutting the chalk from where he stood below the downs in the town of Cherhill. That’s why this horse, uniquely, is designed for perspective, for a modern audience who are used to the illusion of that. I think Allsop suspected something about those downs. Perhaps he decided to put something up there to overwrite it.

So the Cherhill White Horse isn’t old. But it’s said locally that if a woman sits on the eye, originally made of lemonade bottles, she’ll get pregnant. Nobody ever said, when I played on those downs as a child, with what, or who’s the father?

It’s like modern people know there’s something there. That whatever it is wants to make new life. That it wants to get out. They put the horse there to be that thing, rather than think about what’s been buried.

The hill fort on Cherhill Downs is now called Oldbury Castle. The archaeological records show that when they heard the Romans were coming, the Iron Age tribes built huge new fortifications. They thought they could resist. There must have come a point when, the alarm raised, the legions approaching, they left their villages and evacuated to their stronghold. They would at least go down fighting.

The Romans didn’t give them the chance. They had their decisive battles elsewhere. Then they built the road that’s now the A4 right past the downs. You can imagine the tribes sitting up there, besieged only by themselves, watching the Romans march past.

Up close, the walls of that old hill fort are like waves rolling through the ground. They’re huge. You’re hidden when you walk those ditches. The wind drops, you’re insulated. If you try to run up the other side, the pebbles of chalk will slide from under your shoes, and you’ll have to use your hands, your fingers jamming into the soil, for a long clamber, and you’ll have to stop when you get to the top, breathing hard, only to see another ditch and another rise in front of you.

When I was a small child, there was a copse up there where the sheep sheltered. I would sit there, on a fallen tree, to catch my breath. I watched the shadows of clouds pass over the big valleys below, that were made by glaciers. Or I would go and sit on the first step of the Lansdowne Monument, built in 1845 by Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, of the family who still own the stately home down the A4 past Calne. The monument is a big spike of white stone. Or I would go and lie in the bowl barrow. It’s a depression in the ground outside the bounds of the hill fort, in the form of a perfect circle. Before the First World War, everyone said it was where a keep had been built. Then it became where a zeppelin had dropped a bomb. Then it became where a German bomber had dropped a bomb.

But archaeologists tell us it’s actually a grave.

At the bottom of the bowl, under the soil, lies a person, curled up like they’re about to be born, on a bed of flint and charcoal, with a knife, a bow, wrist guards and a beaker full of beer. They say it’s a loving burial, proof of belief in an afterlife, but I have my doubts. Perhaps the archaeologists weren’t looking for the Threefold Death: the beating around the head; the wound in the throat; the suffocation. Perhaps they considered the stomach contents only in terms of food.

You’d still be able to see my family home from there. My parents still live in that house, a bungalow built by my dad. They still have my elderly Aunt Dar as their neighbour. Nearby there are a few scattered houses, a couple of villages, Calstone and Blackland, formed out of buildings that happen to lie along the same road. We got a church magazine that covered seven parishes, and they went way out into nowhere. The possibilities of the distant Salisbury Plain were always there when I was a child. I would hear thunder on a sunny day, and Mum would say that was the guns firing at the military bases up there, and I would be frightened at how loud they must be close up. Mum would hurry me inside, frightened too, as if the shells were about to start landing all around us.

How rich Mum and Dad were varied hugely when I was small. I went from private school to village school to private school. First I was the kid with the stupid accent, then I was the kid with the posh accent, then back again. That back-and-forth process, in some ways, explains everything. It’s like the British class system is a magnetic field, and moving a conductor through it produces current.

Every weekday morning, eight of us, kids from Calne and its surrounding villages, would stand on the town hall steps and wait for the minibus that took us to school in the village of Fasley. We’d be in uniform. Dad would drive me in on his way to work in Lyneham. He owned an insurance business that served the RAF base. He once had a laundry in the same building, then a betting shop. The insurance was the only thing that held on. The betting shop seems to have been a failed attempt to turn a passionate hobby into a career, to turn something that lost money into something that might possibly make some. Dad was always saying he’d made some small amount of money on the horses, or on Miss World, but he never mentioned all the times he must have lost.

In my first year at Fasley, when I was eleven, columns of workers would file into the Harris pie factory opposite as we were waiting on those steps. By my second year, the factory had closed down, and that was how it stayed, empty, argued over, six floors of windows.

The kids from John Bentley, the local comprehensive school—the state school, no uniforms—walked past us every morning. We’d get gobbed at, grabbed and slammed against the doors of the town hall, called at, get bits of food thrown at us.

Fasley itself wasn’t much of a village, there was nothing there really except the school. The building was an Edwardian mansion, with large windows at the front and gravel drives and playing fields. Imagine the sound of lots of kids’ feet walking on gravel, and then on polished wooden floors. Chemistry and Physics were in a wooden lab down a smelly corridor that must have once been the stables. Biology was out in what must have once been servants’ quarters, towards the woods. Maths was in what would have once been a guest bedroom. French and History were in the polished depths at the centre of all the stairs, near the staff room, the heart of the building, where the corridor smelt of cigarettes and soup. For PE, we went down the stairs into the cellars, all dust and moss. Bits of the school kept falling off. We were standing outside in lines at the end of break once when a gargoyle cracked from the gutter and fell. It was falling towards Mr. Rove, the headmaster, who was standing in front of us. There was one hopeful breath in from all of us as it dropped.

Mr. Rove was sure of everything. ‘This will be the year in which eighty-five per cent of you get an A grade at “O” Level.’ It didn’t sound like an order or a challenge, but like he already knew. But much of what he said turned out to be wide of the mark. ‘The only way to deal with children,’ he once told my dad at a parents’ evening, ‘is to be certain.’

Dad told me that the same evening. ‘Certain the school fees are going to go up,’ he said.

The gargoyle shattered a few feet away from Mr. Rove. He glanced at it, then turned back to us without mentioning it.

There were the woods out the back.

They were surrounded by a long stone wall, which we ran alongside when we were sent on cross-country runs. The woods were a sprint back to the bell at the end of break. The soil there was what got put into boxes and sifted on biology field trips. It was one of the two places where you smoked. If you did that. I didn’t.

In front of the school buildings there was an old oak, the big tree. It had large, low horizontal branches you could walk along, or sit along like girls did. The bark was polished smooth by bodies. There were initials and patterns carved so deep into the wood they must have been there for years, the tree growing around the gashes, kept there by finger after finger pressing in.

Every now and then, I’ll ask people if they have impossible memories of their childhoods. Sometimes someone will recall seeing fairies, or an imaginary friend they were sure they saw and heard. Nothing I’ve been told matches what I remember.

My name is Andrew Waggoner. At school, like most of us boys, I was known only by my surname.

But there was also someone else. He was called Waggoner too. Waggoner was someone else, but he also had my name and my face and my place in the world. Jeans, smoking, writing stuff on your bag, wearing your shirt out, wearing your collar up, wearing your tie thin—I didn’t do any of those things. Waggoner did. Waggoner also did some terrible things.

It’s going to be difficult, but I’m going to try to tell you something that’s true.



I should give you the full names of the five boys in Drake’s lot, in order:

Vincent Lang. He was the first one. Lang was this thin kid who was right down with kids like me in the pecking order. Lang was always sniggering. He made up mocking songs and sang them under his breath, all the time. He was always laughing, always trying desperately to get higher up.

Second was Stewart Selway. He had a big round cock that he always got out and sat around with in the changing rooms. He’d point at it and talk about it, and about porn films it sounded like he was making up.

Carl Blewly used to hang around with our lot in the first year, but then didn’t. He borrowed things and never returned them. He had glasses and a tight, puckered-up face, like he was always sucking on something sour.

Steven Rove was Mr. Rove the headmaster’s son, fat and with big hands. He shoved faces into the mud, and slapped people, and even scratched. He never used the fact that he was the headmaster’s son. In fact, whenever anyone said, that he got angry.

Then there’s Drake himself. The pivot about which everything turns.

Anthony Drake was his name, but only one person ever called him Anthony. I have met nobody like him since, and everyone I’ve met has been like him.

In our first year, he punched a boy in the windpipe. The boy nearly died, but didn’t tell. Neither did anyone who’d been watching. There was awe and tension around Drake and the boy after that. But Drake just kept going. The boy moved away when his parents did. Drake doing that never caught up with him. He kept on being who he was.

Drake was a football kid, so he hung around with Franklin and Goff and Sadiq, who didn’t have to fight much. But he also hung around with Lang, Selway, Blewly and Rove. Drake had sandy hair that flopped down in a kind of random bowl. He had freckles. He looked like Tom Fucking Sawyer. He carried a knife in the bottom of his satchel. No teacher ever saw it. It was something like a Swiss Army knife, but bigger, with lots of longer and more complicated options, including a serrated blade. It was a farm knife. He used it to chop the tobacco for his roll-ups.

There. I’ve mentioned the knife.

Drake talked about driving tractors and stunt bikes on his dad’s farm. He talked about going into the army. It felt like he was already in the army.

I talk very little about my memories of school, impossible or otherwise. People sometimes say that what they’ve heard about my past doesn’t make sense, because I remember things in strange orders, or that I’ve made up funny or defensive stories that have embedded themselves in my head so deeply that I think maybe they are the memories now.

My life is full of continuity errors. I hear stories about people with ‘reclaimed memories’, usually of child abuse, and I should sympathise with them, should believe them, but I don’t. I remember everything, I just tell lies about it. I feel perhaps they’re doing the same. I am hard on people, though. Sometimes frighteningly hard.

Still, mine is not a story about child abuse.

Calne didn’t have much to it apart from the factory. Dad was chairman of the Conservative Club. Mum and Dad went down there to play snooker and skittles. They won a lot of trophies.

One Christmas when I was little, Dad got me a junior snooker set. It was a small green plastic table with two small wooden cues. I walked around it with my cue held down on top of my foot, so I had to walk stiff legged. I liked twirling the cue from hand to hand. Dad tried to get me to play properly.

One night he took me down to the Club and let me into the big room at the back where there was an enormous snooker table. He told me that he’d hired the room for the whole night, which had cost three pounds—six weeks’ pocket money. So we were going to have as much fun as we could. He went to get me a Britvic and a packet of Salt and Shake. There were a couple of old men there. They offered me a sup of their beer. I smiled at them. I got the chalk and chalked my cue by spinning the cue into the chalk.

I was just tall enough to be able to lean over the table. I was worried about splitting the felt with my first shot. Dad came back in with the drinks, shared a joke with the old men, asking if they’d got me drunk yet. ‘Oh, ah,’ one of them said, ‘he’s drunk like a trooper. Drunk like a trooper!’

I grinned at Dad. He came over and told me, his voice low, that the two old boys were on the Committee. Now I had to play properly. He was going to teach me. How he looked in front of the old boys was up to me. He showed me how to set up the table, the right way to arrange the balls into the triangle. He broke, and sent the white ball straight into one of the pockets. He winked at the two old lads. ‘Two shots to you!’

I took my two shots, trying to remember how I was supposed to rest the cue on the backs of my knuckles. I ended up with a strange grasp, the cue hooked under one of my fingers. I liked the way that looked. Dad took my hand and hooked it out, put my hand on the table and replaced it several times, until he realised that the old lads had started to look at nothing but that. ‘Do he want any help?’ one of them asked. Dad said no, I’d get it. I was doing well at school, Fasley Grange actually, it looked like I was going to win the bursary this year, I was a quick learner.

‘Takes after his dad,’ said the other.

I made my hand into the right shape. I took my two shots. I missed every ball with the first one. Dad insisted I nicked a red. Then I sent the ball off the table. He only took one shot in return.

The old lads never left. It took three hours, all the time we had, but Dad was finally able to let me win. On the way home, I asked him if we had to go back next week. He was silent for a bit. Then he said, ‘I’ll make it up to you lad. I’ll make it up to you.’ The next day he brought home a snooker trivia board game. It looked very expensive. We played it once.

But there was something about the cues, or sticks, as I called them, that I really liked. I took my two junior snooker cues with me when I went up onto the downs. I twirled them, I could spin them around my fingers to get them to go in a circle, for two or three spins at least. Like a drum major. Majorette, Dad said. And so I said that too, until he stopped me and said major. They were my swords. I used them to whack down the nettles. Linus carried a security blanket in the Charlie Brown cartoons, and whenever she saw me reading one of those books, Mum would say that the sticks were my security blanket. She said it like it was a great shame, only half a joke.

The man with two sticks. That was the comic strip I would have created about myself back then. That was how I saw myself. I said it to Mum, sometimes. I never felt able to say ‘boy’.

But then I realised that there was another man with two sticks. I found him in a book.

When I was small, I’d often get a shock when I turned the pages of a book. I read books I shouldn’t have. I scared myself with what I saw. This time I was more shocked than ever. Because the picture was of me. The picture was of a chalk hill figure, the Long Man of Wilmington. He still stands on the side of Windover Hill in Sussex, surrounded by long barrows. He’s a sign, a model of something. But only I know of what. Or I think I do. He’s an outline of a human figure. He has no face or genitals, but the outline looks male. He has his arms outstretched. In both of them he holds a stick as tall as he is.

That’s why I went to the annual Fasley Grange School fancy dress Halloween disco in 1982 in exactly what I normally wore, and I carried my two sticks. I went dressed as myself, but was able to say that it was a costume. I was the Long Man.

You can see why I was such a target. Fucking little shit of a boy, pointing at himself. Didn’t have brains enough to hide. What kind of costume requires an explanation?

The Halloween disco was on a Sunday night that year, with the half-term break having started on the Saturday, so it was one of those awkward going-back-into-school things. It was held, as always, in a room under the school, in what looked like it was originally a wine cellar. It was supposed to be rented out for corporate parties that we never saw, and might have been a pipe dream of Mr. Rove’s. It was accessed by a narrow flight of steps. A disco had been set up with Mr. Rushden as DJ. Mr. Rushden was quite young, and looked and spoke like the pop star B. A. Robertson. He had very hairy legs. We knew this because he was the PE teacher. He was also the Religious Education teacher. His RE lessons were full of stories about sport. ‘Just because I told Goff off in class before the match,’ he would say, on the subject of forgiveness, ‘doesn’t mean I wouldn’t pass the ball to him on the pitch, yeah?’

The sport metaphors meant I never had any idea what he was trying to say.

That night, he had big black and silver decks and two boxes of discs, mostly seven-inch singles. There was a dance floor of polished wood. There was a nonalcoholic bar, with a red cloth hung over the optics of the bottles of spirits and the beer barrel taps covered in little black smocks of felt. They looked ragged, like they’d been cut out at the last moment. A few of the teachers stood awkwardly around the room, dressed as monsters. Mr. Coxwell was there, looking round as if swearing under his breath, not dressed as anything other than himself. Mr. Coxwell was the deputy head. He taught French, and he was always angry. Whenever he entered a room, you felt the tension. He once told a joke in French, and then bellowed when somebody laughed. Because, he said, they couldn’t possibly be laughing at the joke itself. ‘This isn’t a good enough school for that,’ he’d said.

So here’s the big memory I can hang everything else on, the break in the horror that lets me think about what happened that Halloween: Angie Boden in her witch outfit, a green ra-ra dress with black tights and a tiny witch hat, dancing to Culture Club. She had big black eye shadow on.

Back then, Angie Boden and I had never talked. There would have been laughter at me even approaching her.

Angie and her only friends, Netty, Jenn and Louise, wrote lyrics in Biro under their shirt collars. They had a different kind of shoes, they put badges on their lapels, but they were still good girls who did well in class. They were not popular with other girls. Even boys knew that. I once saw a girl slap Angie so hard she drew blood. It had been for saying the music the girl liked was old-fashioned; that’s what the boys said afterwards. The boys had all laughed at that fight, trying to be above what girls did, scared by how big it felt.

Angie had a ferociously deep Wiltshire accent. I can hear it now, saying the lyrics to ‘Cruel Summer’, slowly and carefully. She had a face like she should be posh. Not as much as some of the girls, the ones who had braided hair right down their backs. Just posh enough so the accent was a shock. Angie had a short, flicked-over haircut, very Human League. It suited the frown she usually wore. That night, she was dancing like she always did, her hands balled into fists, leaping inappropriately up and down to ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’, which was Number One at the time, her three friends beside her. The other girls who were dancing did it away from them, and were swaying tastefully. I’d only see makeup on these girls at the Halloween and Christmas discos, and then it’d look like part of their costumes, with big pink blusher and huge darkness around their eyes.

The only one of my lot to come along was Mark Ford, known as Fiesta. He was dressed as some sort of devil. He had his face painted red, but he was wearing a white jacket with the sleeves pushed up and a white vest underneath. Fiesta had that harmless nickname: Ford Fiesta. Teachers started to use it, because it was harmless, and then his parents became Mr. and Mrs. Fiesta, even to their faces. I saw once—at an assembly, from a wince when Mr. Rove made exactly that mistake, and of course didn’t correct himself—that Fiesta hated that nickname. But he never asked us not to use it, because that would mean we’d use it more.

Fiesta asked what I’d come as, and I explained. ‘’Cos you look just like you would at home.’

‘You don’t know what I look like at home.’

‘Yes I do. You look like that.’

Mrs. Parkin came over and said she didn’t think I should keep the sticks, and that I’d look ridiculous dancing with them and might have somebody’s eye out. She put them in the cloakroom. So now I was a man without a costume at a costume party. That’s when dangerous things from two universes took an interest in me.



Mum had said she didn’t think it was much of a costume. ‘They’ll all laugh at you. I don’t know how you’ll ever get any friends. You’ll come home a laughing stock, mark my words.’ But in the end, she went along with it.

When we were in town, and Dad was trying to park somewhere, Mum would cry out, ‘There’s a policeman!’ Once, when some medicine had tasted of aniseed, Mum had put the spoon in my mouth, and I’d thrown up. Mum had grabbed my lips and held them together, desperately trying to get me to keep it down. Then she’d burst into tears and run out of the room. I think that’s my earliest memory.

This time, maybe I should have listened to her.

Drake had come as a werewolf. He had big sideburns glued to his face, in a deliberately half-hearted way, and was wearing a leather jacket and jeans. He hadn’t any fangs. He was hanging around with Lang and Rove and Selway and Blewly at the bar. He’d got pissed before he came here, and they were pretending they were too.

Drake had been looking at me since I’d had my sticks taken away, pointing at me and then laughing to his mates. Angie looked in Drake’s direction and then looked away. I looked at her, and then looked away myself. Drake saw that. He came straight for me. The others followed him. Drake could see teachers, so he stopped just before he got to me. ‘Cunt,’ he said quietly. ‘Little cunt. We’re going to hang around with you. We want to come to your house and fuck your mum. Shouldn’t mind that. You do it all the time. Has she got a big, furry muff, then? Have you seen it? Do you like the taste of it?’ I was saying no, over and over. ‘We’ve got something to show you,’ he said. ‘After. Fucknor Waggoner. Fucknor Waggoner. You’ll be getting home to fuck your mum. That’s what you like. You love her. You are her.’ Then they went back to the bar.

I tried to hang around with Fiesta, but he wasn’t interested. He danced by himself, at the side of where all the girls were dancing with each other, doing his Michael Jackson bit. He didn’t seem to mind the boys laughing at him. I think the Fiesta family were so rich that when Fiesta went home, he got told that in three years he’d be driving a sports car, and he thought, okay, I’ll just try and get through school without getting hit too much.

Laurie Coxwell was there. She was Mr. Coxwell’s daughter. She was short, and had curly hair, like her mum, who taught us Maths. She’d played the flute at an assembly once. I’d clapped without being told to, and everyone had laughed at me. But afterwards, when we were passing in a corridor and there was nobody else in sight, she’d stopped and said thank you. She’d come tonight as a cat girl, with whiskers and a tail. ‘Hi,’ she said. Terrifyingly.


‘Are you going to be dancing later?’

‘I’m waiting for the music to be good.’

‘Don’t you like Culture Club?’

I didn’t know what to say. I knew what the answer would have been for Drake, but for a girl? I spent too long trying to guess the answer. Finally, she took her drink and smiled awkwardly at me and walked off back to her mum.

Angie’s friend Louise Callidge put her arms up over her head to dance to Modern Romance’s ‘Best Years of Our Lives’. Louise, unlike Angie, had the accent to match her looks. She had hair that hung right down her back. It feels strange to be talking about her so offhandedly here. Right now, she’s just a normal kid. Well, as normal as any of Angie’s lot were. She’d brought a tray of cakes she’d made to the disco, like that was a thing you did, but girls were always doing things that boys didn’t think you could do, and Angie’s lot did that even more. The cakes sat there for the whole time I was there with nobody eating them until Angie’s lot ate them all. Louise would look around as she danced, her gaze sweeping over the other girls, then she’d stop, examine something, judge it, away again. She danced to show off, bouncing her hips off Angie and Netty and Jenn. They looked like they should be really enjoying dancing, but did it with a seriousness that suggested this was hard work, that they were trying to achieve something.

I danced, the first time I’d done that with people watching. I leapt in and started jerking around, trying not to dance too much or too little, held within my tiny box of what was allowed. But dancing. Lots of laughter, but I felt like I was sticking it to them. I was a weird and normal kid then. I saw Drake watching. No expression. I think he’d already decided what was going to happen to me.

Around ten o’clock, kids started to leave to get to the driveway and find their parents getting out of their cars. I knew my dad was going to park his rusty white Renault Fourteen right up against the front of the school, and march in early in his cigar-smelling suit with chalk on the cuffs to have a quick word with a teacher.

We only had so much money. Just enough. That’s why, for my parents, my school life was about me winning the bursary for my final year. The bursary was for the cleverest kids, the top boy and girl of each year. I’d been second last year. Mum and Dad kept mentioning the bursary to me, one and then the other, like they’d told each other they weren’t going to say anything, but neither could keep to that agreement. The bursary was based on end-of-year exams. So I heard the words ‘school fees’ all the time at home. Once, on a caravan holiday, Mum and Dad yelled at each other for two days about school fees. The John Bentley comprehensive was a terrible vision for all of us, the pit they were working hard to keep me from falling into, where those kids that spat at us on the town hall steps came from. Sometimes I asked, and Mum and Dad would laugh and say no, no, I shouldn’t worry; they’d do anything to keep me out of John Bentley. If Mr. Rove had had any kind of selection procedure based on class, Mum and Dad wouldn’t have got past the interview. All the really posh kids at Fasley always looked like they’d been tricked. Upper-middle-class kids like Fiesta seemed marooned in the wrong place. Some of the houses these kids came from would have made better private schools than Fasley did.

I went to get my coat and sticks from Mrs. Parkin at the door. I was sweaty and worked up and thinking I’d done something really big, that I’d taken the test, and had sort of half failed and half passed it, but that tonight I was doing stuff for the girls watching, and not the boys, and that was weird, but great. That moment: my hand closing on the hood of my blue coat that could zip up to a tiny hole way in front of my face, and that had an orange lining.

That’s our last sight of the normal and weird kid.

Drake’s hands closed on me as I took the coat. ‘Come on, mate! You’re such an ace dancer!’ Drake put one arm round my shoulder and dug his fingers in. The other four were by his side, around me, cutting me off from Mrs. Parkin, who was looking for the next coat anyway. I didn’t get my sticks. I could see them in the corner of the cloakroom, but I couldn’t ask for them with Drake there. That was the last time I saw them.

So, suddenly we hit the cold night, and I was looking round for my dad, hoping and not hoping he’d be there. There was no sign of him. Parents and kids thronged around us for a moment. That parent smell. Big coats and jewellery. Mothers slipping coats around their daughters’ shoulders on the way to big cars. Where were Lang’s parents? Why didn’t Mr. Rove see his son going out and call him back?

‘I have to wait for my dad!’ I was saying, trying to get out of their grasp.

‘What’s that? You’re waiting to fuck your mum?’ They were guiding me quickly around the back of the building. I could have yelled, but it would have been a scream. That would have made me a victim again, so soon after I’d started to get free. We went straight off the gravel into the bushes and from there into the woods.

They kept me moving with shoves. They couldn’t have long. They’d have to be back there in minutes. That wouldn’t stop Drake, no rules for him. He was walking along quickly, knowing exactly where he was going, knowing his way through the trees. We entered a clearing. They pushed me up against a tree, so hard that the knots of wood punched my back. ‘Right,’ said Drake, and the others began to wrestle with me for the belt to my trousers.



I started to yell. To scream. I was attempting to hold onto my belt as Lang grabbed my hands and Rove tried to undo the buckle, while the other two pulled my feet off the ground, and took off my shoes, throwing them aside. It felt terrible to have them take off my shoes. Rove was fumbling, his fingers slipping. I wrenched myself aside. Selway hit me hard across the jaw. I’d been hit a lot, but never so hard. The back of my skull bounced off the tree. My head rang. The world reeled. Several different pictures of the wood and the trees split off in my vision and collided again. I started to sob. They knew what they were after; they were going beyond anything they’d done to me before. All five cooperated in the task. There were just trees in all directions, darkness with lights beyond, help far off, all of us lit by the moon that was a night off full.

‘I’ll tell!’ I shouted. ‘You can’t stop me telling! You can’t stop me telling!’

‘You tell and we’ll fucking kill you,’ muttered Selway.

Drake took a step back, took his knife out, flicked the switch and pulled out the very long blade with the serrated edge. ‘Get his cock out,’ he said.

‘I don’t want to touch it,’ said Rove. ‘Wait a sec.’ He fumbled in his coat pockets and pulled out big, fur-lined driving gloves, which he struggled to put on.

My jaw had started to ache so hard I was having trouble speaking. ‘Please,’ I said. ‘Please don’t.’

Lang held me hard against the tree, his breath wet in my face. ‘Shut up. This is so you can’t fuck your mum any more. It’s disguuuuuuuusting.’

I thrashed and struggled, but then Selway slammed his body into my lower half, and I was pinned against the tree. Blewly got my belt loose, tried it round his own waist, then threw it away. He pulled the top of my trousers down. He sniggered at my blue Y-Fronts. He looked at the others, not knowing what to do now. He couldn’t see any way he could touch me any further.

‘Give it here.’ Drake stepped forward.

He took the front of my underwear in his hand and pulled it down. He jerked the material about until my tiny dick and balls fell out. I could smell myself. They laughed. There was a fearful smile on Rove’s face, a kind of awe at what Drake was doing.

Drake took me in his fist. ‘Right, let’s get rid of these.’

I screamed at the top of my voice. It carried as far as it could.

He tugged suddenly on my dick, pulling the skin forward.

Selway and Blewly had to hold my arms behind my back. I was thrashing and flailing. Drake raised the knife high over his head.

This is when he lets go, and they all run away laughing, I thought. That in itself was going to be so bad.

He chopped the knife down. There was a moment of intense pain. Like an injection.

I looked down. A tiny cord, a vein you might find in an egg, spitting blood. A flapping of meat that looked like nothing that could ever be part of me. A deep red gouge and strange colours inside it. I had been opened up. Drake held up a thin taper of flesh in his hand. ‘You’re a Jewboy now,’ he said. He flicked it away with his finger. It landed amongst the mulch on the ground. He closed the knife and turned and started to walk away.

Selway and Blewly let go of me. They were looking at me carefully now. I was a thing of wonder. Lang reached down to try and pull up my underpants, but Rove stopped him.

‘You’re going to be all right,’ said Selway. ‘Aren’t you?’

I actually nodded.

They walked off, looking back over their shoulders, following Drake. After a moment, all of them ran. They were running scared, but also they were running like they’d just scored a goal. I was that goal.

For a while, I stood there. I couldn’t touch myself. Blood was running down my legs. Dribbling from the end of my dick. The shape of me was different. They’d made me different. I could feel a bunch of things flapping against my thigh, where there had been one thing.

That’s still what it’s like. It looks painful even now, and sometimes it is, when I piss or when I come. I’m suddenly panting, injured, freezing, and a long way away.

I’ve told everyone with whom I’ve been intimate, had to tell them way before we got to that, that I had an accident involving farm machinery.

I made myself step out from the tree. I nearly fell. I wanted to vomit, but I held it in. I fell to the ground and felt around until I found my belt and used the tree to get to my feet again. Everything felt slow and thumping. Everything was open. I was afraid of the mud getting into the blood, of becoming infected.

Over the years, I’ve found several mentions of infection in my reading on this subject. Thank God I was inoculated against tetanus. My urethra was almost certainly narrowed. Which means I was lucky. If that process had gone slightly further, I would have begun to retain urine, which would have resulted in what is possibly the single most painful form of death. Perhaps I would have been made to see a doctor before it got that far. I doubt it. I think I would have fooled my parents, not told to the point where I fell into a coma. I’ve never shown it to a doctor. I’ve never had to. The average lad’s doses of the clap are far less likely when you’re someone whose cock requires an explanation.

In the days when circumcision was a medical matter, before it was decided that nonretractibility of the prepuce was something that would sort itself out, a Plastibell under the foreskin with a piece of string on the outside, or something called a Gomco clamp, was used to gently separate the skin over a few days. “A neat cosmetic result,” I’ve read. Rabbis skilled in such matters, with sutures at hand, also leave something that looks tidy. My cock, however, does not look like anything cosmetic or traditional has happened to it. Unerect, it looks like a ragged lump, the foreskin parted down one side like a tear, red around the edges like lips, proceeding to the base as a glimpse into layers that were not meant to be glimpsed. Erect, it looks frighteningly exposed, painful, infected. It can’t get to the angle it’s supposed to. It’s awkwardly skewed to one side.

Growing up, I saw penises in porn, clutched admiringly in the gentle hand of Shanine Linton. They looked comfortingly simple. That’s not me.

In my life, whenever I’ve become close to a woman, there he is. There he is at every urinal. There he is. Drake. The closeness of a doctor or a mother. The intimacy. He made me.

I pulled up my Y-Fronts, feeling the material press against the wound. I got into my trousers, and, after fumbling with it for a while, I managed to fasten my belt.

The pain was getting worse. Walking was difficult. I did it slowly, with my legs as open as they could go. I hadn’t pissed myself. It would have splashed over his hands. I was glad I hadn’t done that. He would look at me and laugh next time I saw him, after half-term. All five of them would. They would make Jew jokes. They might tell other kids what they meant.

I moved in a circle. I couldn’t find it. It was lost amongst the humus somewhere. Insects were already crawling in the blood. It was mine. It was mine. A doctor might need it to sew it back on…. Nobody was ever going to sew it back on. I got my hands and knees covered in mud. I couldn’t find it.

Finally, I started heading back to the school. It took me a long time. Dad’s car was the last one waiting in the drive. He was standing beside it, talking to Mr. Rove. I would not let it out. I would not let Dad know how his money was being spent. I would not make his attempt to push me up above him on his shoulders stupid. I had a story. To protect Dad. To protect the five of them. No, to protect Dad. No, to save me from John Bentley.

Between my legs was sticky with blood. So I had carefully smudged it on the pullover and the rest of the trousers, clenching my teeth at every downwards stretch. My muscles felt cold, the clench reaching up to my mouth, making my jaw hurt even more. The white lights along the drive would show it all. No getting straight into the car.

Dad and Mr. Rove turned and stared at me as I came round the corner of the house. I started to tell them how none of this was real.

Excerpted from Chalk copyright © 2017 by Paul Cornell

(no subject)

Feb. 27th, 2017 09:04 am
the_rck: (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
Apart from the appointment and the library trip, I spent most of yesterday in bed. My muscles felt like jell-o, and I was so very, very tired. I read a little, wrote a little, and did a whole lot of nothing.

I can’t get in to see my primary care doctor until mid-April. I’m frustrated about that, but my hands and my Achille’s tendon aren’t going to kill me or get enough worse to be permanently damaging.

Scott bought new handles for our bedroom door and for the bathroom. He took the old knobs off the bedroom door with the idea that if it didn’t work it wouldn’t matter much because we don’t tend to close that door. It’s just as well. He discovered that it’s going to take major work to put the new hardware in. He decided not to try to drill holes in the door while I was in bed, resting, so he’s putting it off until next weekend.

Scott says he bought me a new lamp but that he’s sure I won’t like it because that’s how these things work. I haven’t seen the new lamp yet, so I have no opinion.

Cordelia’s math class is using an online textbook, and she asked me to help her try to find the exercise her teacher had assigned. It turned out not to be there at all, but I got a good look at the site. It’s a Holt, Rinehart textbook. The site says that it should be viewed with either Internet Explorer 5.1+ or Netscape 7.0.2+ which made me boggle. It displayed okay in the most recent version of Firefox, but when was the last time they updated the site?

I’m trying to figure out what I can manage to do today in terms of household chores. The sink is full of dirty dishes. Normally, that wouldn’t take me long to deal with, but I tire out fast, so I’m a bit worried that, if I do that, I won’t be able to do other things that need to be done. Right now, I can manage two or three minutes on my feet at a time. Laundry would be nice, but I can put that off until tomorrow. I’d also like to cook. I think that won’t happen.

Book Talk: HEX, Chapter 24

Feb. 27th, 2017 02:00 pm
lynnoconnacht: A brown-haired girl in a gingham dress looking at the viewer over her shoulder. (!Me blue default)
[personal profile] lynnoconnacht

Bilingual read-through of HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

List of Prominent Characters

So, the NL and EN tags are the ones actually used in the story. If it’s listed for both then it’s a shorthand I’m using to note which of the characters is which. Where no name for ‘both’ is included I haven’t used a name for both. (Expect this list to get updated per chapter!)

  • Beek (NL), Black Spring/Black Rock (EN), Black Beek (both)
  • Stefan (NL), Steve (EN), Ste (both)
  • Katherina (NL), Katherine (EN), Kat (both), aka Wylerheks (NL), Black Rock Witch (EN) Wyler Witch (both)
  • Jolanda (NL), Jocelyn (EN), Jo (both)
  • Timo (NL), Tyler (EN), Tiy (both)
  • Oma (NL), Gramma (EN), Granny (both)
  • Max (NL), Matt (EN), Maxmatt (both)
  • Robert Grim (NL, EN)
  • Claire Hamer (NL), Claire Hammer (EN)
  • Jens van der Heijden (NL), Warren Castillo (EN), Jenren (both)
  • Jasmine Aerendonck (NL), Bammy Delarosa (EN), Jasmy (both)
  • The Aerandoncks/The Delarosas, Aerenrosa (both)
  • Martijn Winkel (NL), Marty Keller (EN),Winler (both)
  • Loes Krijgsman (NL), Lucy Everett (EN), Loucy (both)
  • Pieter van Meerten (NL), Pete VanderMeer (EN), Pete van Meer (both)
  • Marieke (NL), Mary (EN), Marie (both)
  • Laurens (NL), Lawrence (EN), Lau (both)
  • Jelmer Holst (NL), Jaydon Holst (EN), Jaymer (both)
  • Mirna (NL), Sue (EN)
  • Burak Sayers (NL), Burak Şayers (EN)
  • Bert Aerendonck (NL), Burt Delarosa (EN)
  • Gemma Holst (NL), Griselda Holst (EN), Gemelda (both)
  • Kobus Mater (NL), Colton Mathers (EN), Colbus (both)
  • Jules Helsloot (NL), Justin Walker (En), Ju (both)

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

In chapter 23: We finally learn concretely what happened to Tiy and Maxmatt. Also we see how our protagonists react to the tragedy that took both sons. Well, mostly. I mean one is still alive but in a coma, so let’s say that tragedy took both of them for now because Maxmatt might not make it.

Trigger warning for more descriptions of self-harm and graphic description of self-harm to eyes.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Little Lion Lynnet's.

Black Sails 4.05

Feb. 27th, 2017 02:58 pm
selenak: (Black Sails by Violateraindrop)
[personal profile] selenak
Coughing through a cold, I watched the latest episode.

Read more... )

And now off again to drown myself in tea, I'm feeling miserable for entirely physical reasons. Boody cold.
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February 27th, 2017next

February 27th, 2017: EXCITING JURY DUTY UPDATE: the trial was cancelled so even though I put on a cool shirt and cleaned up nice, I didn't get to hold even a single person's fate in my all-too-fallible hands!!

– Ryan

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Posted by Tristan Bridges, PhD

Facts about all manner of things have made headlines recently as the Trump administration continues to make statements, reports, and policies at odds with things we know to be true. Whether it’s about the size of his inauguration crowd, patently false and fear-mongering inaccuracies about transgender persons in bathrooms, rates of violent crime in the U.S., or anything else, lately it feels like the facts don’t seem to matter. The inaccuracies and misinformation continue despite the earnest attempts of so many to correct each falsehood after it is made.  It’s exhausting. But why is it happening?

Many of the inaccuracies seem like they ought to be easy enough to challenge as data simply don’t support the statements made. Consider the following charts documenting the violent crime rate and property crime rate in the U.S. over the last quarter century (measured by the Bureau of Justice Statistics). The overall trends are unmistakable: crime in the U.S. has been declining for a quarter of a century.

Now compare the crime rate with public perceptions of the crime rate collected by Gallup (below). While the crime rate is going down, the majority of the American public seems to think that crime has been getting worse every year. If crime is going down, why do so many people seem to feel that there is more crime today than there was a year ago?  It’s simply not true.

There is more than one reason this is happening. But, one reason I think the alternative facts industry has been so effective has to do with a concept social scientists call the “backfire effect.” As a rule, misinformed people do not change their minds once they have been presented with facts that challenge their beliefs. But, beyond simply not changing their minds when they should, research shows that they are likely to become more attached to their mistaken beliefs. The factual information “backfires.” When people don’t agree with you, research suggests that bringing in facts to support your case might actually make them believe you less. In other words, fighting the ill-informed with facts is like fighting a grease fire with water. It seems like it should work, but it’s actually going to make things worse.

To study this, Brendan Neihan and Jason Reifler (2010) conducted a series of experiments. They had groups of participants read newspaper articles that included statements from politicians that supported some widespread piece of misinformation. Some of the participants read articles that included corrective information that immediately followed the inaccurate statement from the political figure, while others did not read articles containing corrective information at all.

Afterward, they were asked a series of questions about the article and their personal opinions about the issue. Nyhan and Reifler found that how people responded to the factual corrections in the articles they read varied systematically by how ideologically committed they already were to the beliefs that such facts supported. Among those who believed the popular misinformation in the first place, more information and actual facts challenging those beliefs did not cause a change of opinion—in fact, it often had the effect of strengthening those ideologically grounded beliefs.

It’s a sociological issue we ought to care about a great deal right now. How are we to correct misinformation if the very act of informing some people causes them to redouble their dedication to believing things that are not true?

Tristan Bridges, PhD is a professor at The College at Brockport, SUNY. He is the co-editor of Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Inequality, and Change with C.J. Pascoe and studies gender and sexual identity and inequality. You can follow him on Twitter here. Tristan also blogs regularly at Inequality by (Interior) Design.

(View original at https://thesocietypages.org/socimages)

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Posted by Stubby the Rocket

Mad Max: Fury Road silent film poster by Peter Stults

Mash-up wizard Peter Stults has done it again! Bask in the rad-ness of this silent film-era poster for Mad Max: Fury Road. We love Buster Keaton as Max (doing all of his own stunts, obviously), Passion of Joan of Arc‘s Falconetti as Furiosa, and Doctor Mabuse himself, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, as Immortan Joe. Plus we assume that Lon Chaney is using one of his Thousand Faces to become Nux?

The only thing missing will be the Doof Warrior, since, well, silent film. But perhaps movie palaces can host live flame-throwing guitar performances when they screen the film?

levkonoe: (украина)
[personal profile] levkonoe
Прес-центр штабу АТО:  Боевики гибридной армии РФ обстреливают позиции ВСУ в Донбассе из минометов и танков, в результате чего за минувшие сутки, 26 февраля, двое украинских военных погибли, двое - ранены, еще двое - травмированы
26 февраля 2017 года сообщалось, что вблизи Попасной террористы в очередной раз обстреляли представителей Специальной мониторинговой миссии ОБСЕ и украинских офицеров Совместного центра по контролю и координации

Госдеп официально обвинил РФ в оккупации Донбасса

В Николаеве простились с погибшим Героем-десантником

Под Горловкой неизвестные ‘привидения’ тихо вырезали террористических минометчиков: Приехавшие на смену нашли четверых сослуживцев, дежуривших на позиции, зарезанными,  рядовые боевики подозревают местных жителей, которые, как они считают, днем остаются мирными гражданами, а ночью «превращаются в лютых партизан».

 РФ поставила в Алчевск шесть БМП, боевики разворовали. Во время проверки боевые машины оказались в неисправном состоянии из-за отсутствия отдельных узлов и агрегатов, которые были похищены личным составом с целью дальнейшей продажи.

Гундяевцы  требуют через суд запретить украинцам уходить с МП . Речь идет о том, что без согласия архиерея (ставленника Москвы) ни один приход, ни одна община не сможет решить ни одного своего принципиального задания.   Если суд решит дело в пользу Московского патриархата - это будет означать, что община с ее интересами перестает существовать, а все решается где-то в другом месте церковным руководством.  И это фактически лишает людей права решить, какая православная конфессия отвечает их потребностям и ставит крест на переходах из одной церкви в другую.

Наши варiянти . У нас є кілька варіантів.

Знакомая картина - беседа с ватными родственниками. Можно было уже неплохую коллекцию таких постов собрать.   А вот ватный любимец патриотической публики сбежал на ПМЖ в ФРГ . И за страну трижды "Ура!" за Родину-мать". И все это он проделывает из Германии: и стоит, и поет, и гуляет, и "ура" кричит - все оттуда.
[syndicated profile] mcsweeneys_feed


Harrison Ford has been known to drop out of the sky in a variety of different aircraft (single engine plane, helicopter, open-cockpit WWII fighter) in a variety of different locations (wrong runway, dry river bed, golf course). Where were you when he nearly took your head off? (If location matches that of your previous Harrison Ford Aircraft Incident Report, you may leave this section blank.)

Type of Aircraft

List the tail number, make and model of the aircraft Harrison Ford was utterly unsuccessful in keeping airborne. If visibility and proximity allowed, describe the pilot’s demeanor — e.g., did he give off an air of roguish confidence, as when at the controls of the Millennium Falcon, or one of amusing incompetence, as when flying a plane as Indiana Jones.


In chronological order, describe each significant event prior to Harrison Ford nearly decapitating you. If by chance you happened to be traveling to or from a movie theater, or discussing Star Wars, or even just experiencing a fleeting thought about Harrison Ford, please turn this section into a delightfully ironic anecdote.


  • Describe Harrison Ford’s attitude when being extracted from the craft by emergency personnel. Was he grumpy and unresponsive as in his talk show appearances, or grumpy and unresponsive as in his non-talk show appearances?
  • Did the aforementioned grumpiness dissuade you from attempting to personally rescue Harrison Ford from his downed aircraft, or did you have more of a problem with a man his age sporting an earring? Either response is acceptable.
  • In your opinion, were environmental factors such that Harrison Ford was more or less likely to dive-bomb your skull than some other prominent actor/celebrity? Explain.
  • If you were in the company of friends or family when Harrison Ford plummeted from the heavens, please indicate who was the first to utter, “Holy shit, was that Han Solo?!”
  • If you were playing a round of golf, did you remember that the USGA has implemented a rule change allowing any player — amateur or professional — to move his/her ball two club-lengths to either side, but no closer to the hole, when any Harrison Ford-piloted aircraft belly flops onto a fairway or green?
  • Has this latest incident in any way affected the likelihood of you going to see Harrison Ford’s next movie? Explain. Also, explain the type of movies you enjoy. Finally, explain Harrison Ford, because we’d really like to know.

Findings and Recommendations

History suggests that no changes in weather, terrain, obstacles or any other contributing factors would have prevented Harrison Ford from suddenly and inexplicably plunging into your immediate vicinity. Or from it happening again. Psychologically, this can be extremely damaging to one’s innate sense of well-being. It is therefore recommended that you — that each of us — try not to dwell on the fact that Harrison Ford could be somewhere up there this very moment.

[syndicated profile] mcsweeneys_feed

Dear Friends and Family:

I know what you all must be thinking: why, out of all the places to spend the precious, formative year between high school and college, would anyone choose to plunge into the grease canyons of Mitch McConnell’s flaccid mandibles? Why not distribute mosquito nets in the Congo? Or build schoolhouses in Haiti? Why not do literally anything other than venture into America’s most treacherous turkey wattle?

I’ll tell you why: because I’m a goddamn American hero.

Since the mid-1980s, not a single person has volunteered her time to explore the dark recesses of Mitch McConnell’s gelatinous chin skin in the hopes of making it a kinder, more hospitable place for the American people. Who knows how many helpless children are trapped in that nebulous neck-curtain, their cries muffled by the thick folds of McConnell’s stubbly jelly gullet? Can you imagine the stench? The smell of Eucerin mixed with the rotting heart muscle of lady liberty herself? I shudder to think. Shudder. But soon, it will be my reality. Please, do not cry for me. Cry for our country. Cry for freedom.

I once stood behind Senator McConnell at a town hall meeting and do you know what I saw fall from his shirt collar? A baby shoe. A single, bloody baby shoe. Not a minute later a full-sized crow flew into his throat and instantly disappeared before my eyes. Within seconds, the malevolent maw betwixt his chin-flaps burped out a single feather. And do you know what the crowd of people did? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They simply watched on, normalizing.

Now look me in the eye and tell me I should distribute water filters to villages in sub-Saharan Africa. I dare you.

More than ever, the dangerous crevasses of Mitch McConnell’s fetid turkey-gobbler need young people like me to set down roots and start working toward a better future. My first priority is to establish a solid infrastructure complete with roads, solar panels, and perhaps some kind of romantic Venetian canal system. My dream is that, in ten year’s time, Mitch McConnell’s pasty, shit-eating throat-jiggler will have a school on every corner and a Trader Joe’s on every block.

I don’t know about you, but every time I boil up a package of expired chicken gizzards or find myself ankle-deep in a pond full of dead blob fish, I can’t help but think of Mitch McConnell’s underserved chin and the blind eye the American public has turned on it. How many more days do we, as a country, have to watch the molten layers of his reptilian throat flesh quiver on CNN before we stand up and do something? How many more times will America sit back as our Senate’s most vile slab of neck flubber silences yet more patriots like Coretta Scott King and Elizabeth Warren? How many more victims will we offer up to that ravenous, blubbery abyss of corruption? Where is Habitat for Humanity? Where is FEMA? Where is Sarah McLaughlin with her maudlin infomercials? I’ll tell you where they are: nowhere. There is only me, and the awesome volunteer experience I’m going to put down on my college applications when the year is over.

Thanks, in advance, for your support. Please send care packages as well as large quantities of money and baby powder.

— Becky

[syndicated profile] mcsweeneys_feed

BC-6000-DJT-01: $600 to come up with a cool name for asbestos-related cancer that will make people kind of glad they have it.

BC-6000-DJT-02: $25 to pay a county fair artist to airbrush a portrait of Jesus on the side of a homeless person’s cardboard box.

BC-6000-DJT-03: $10,000,000 for a totally terrific 501©(3) called Slick Donny’s Tremendously Real Urban Housing Corp.

BC-6000-DJT-04: All the lead-based paint you can drink!

BC-6000-DJT-06: $100,000 to build a really nice playground really far away from you and $10 for a pair of pretty good binoculars to see it.

BC-6000-DJT-06: Steve Harvey will come to your studio apartment and describe a forest to you.

BC-6000-DJT-07: A double-dog dare to drop $75,000 worth of solar panels off of a roof.

BC-6000-DJT-08: A free motion-activated cardboard cutout of Joel Osteen that says “Repent!” every time a gang sign is detected.

BC-6000-DJT-09: Monsanto will crop-dust your community garden. You still have to pay for it.

BC-6000-DJT-10: Jared Kushner will throw scratch-off lotto tickets from a helicopter onto your “hood.”

BC-6000-DJT-11: $25,000 for a nuclear fallout shelter.

BC-6000-DJT-12: We’ll let you borrow a bunch of shovels to dig a mass grave.

BC-6000-DJT-13: We’ll let you borrow a circular saw to build a wheelchair ramp that leads straight into the mass grave.

BC-6000-DJT-14: Matched funds to dismantle a daycare and reassemble it into a Hardee’s.

BC-6000-DJT-15: Martin Shkreli will leave a sweet biopharm stock tip under the windshield wiper of the car you’re living in.

BC-6000-DJT-16: Ted Nugent will blow on your neck in the summer and microwave one of those rice sock things for you in the winter.

BC-6000-DJT-17: A blind child will sing “The Star Spangled Banner” while a wrecking ball smashes your house.

BC-6000-DJT-18: Kellyanne Conway will explain to your community why shelter is overrated.

BC-6000-DJT-19: Little Caesar’s Hot n’ Ready pizza party for your church group to spray paint "Liberal Tears” on all Flint, Michigan, water towers.

[syndicated profile] mcsweeneys_feed

- - -

During college I often found myself in sorority houses that had an acoustic guitar or two laying around. I’m a good guitarist, so I’d get excited by the opportunity to play a bit and impress the girls, but in many instances there was no guitar pick on hand. So I put a snap-closure pick holder on my key ring. That way I’d never be without a pick.

That first pick holder lasted me from 1999 until about 2007, when it wore out. It was nearly identical to the one I have now. This one has held up better, in part because I now drive a car that that has a keypad entry system, so my keys spend less time in my pockets. Like its predecessor, the holder can comfortably handle about five picks and doesn’t take up much space. (As an aside, the two mini-keys on the ring are for the cases that hold my two most prized guitars: an original ’57 Strat and a ’65 Gibson ES-335.)

I’m 38 now — married with a baby and not trying to pick up girls at sorority houses. But I still keep the pick holder around for those times when my musician friends want to jam. It also keeps me from losing my picks and having them turn up all over the house. And even now, you never know when you’re going to encounter a guitar laying around that could use some playing.

- - -

Key Ring Chronicles is a crowd-sourced project that explores the stories behind objects that people keep on their key rings. It was created and is overseen by Paul Lukas, who has kept a quarter with a hole drilled through it on his own key ring since 1987. Readers are encouraged to participate by sending photos and descriptions here.

A Survey of Propaganda

Feb. 27th, 2017 12:24 pm
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

This is an excellent survey article on modern propaganda techniques, how they work, and how we might defend ourselves against them.

Cory Doctorow summarizes the techniques on BoingBoing:

...in Russia, it's about flooding the channel with a mix of lies and truth, crowding out other stories; in China, it's about suffocating arguments with happy-talk distractions, and for trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, it's weaponizing hate, outraging people so they spread your message to the small, diffused minority of broken people who welcome your message and would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

As to defense: "Debunking doesn't work: provide an alternative narrative."

Alternative Oscars

Feb. 27th, 2017 01:22 pm
rheasilvia: (Default)
[personal profile] rheasilvia
Heard on the radio: the alternative oscars. Aaaand the winners are...

Best president impersonator: Donald Trump!

Best costume: Ivanka Trump!

Best special effects: Vladimir Putin for the results of the US presidential election 2016!

VX in Chinese

Feb. 27th, 2017 11:56 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

By now practically the whole world knows that Kim Jong-nam, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's older half-brother, was killed by the extremely toxic nerve agent called VX.  VX is much more potent than sarin, which was used by the Aum Shinrikyo cult to kill 12 people and injure thousands of others in the Tokyo subway in 1995.  Apparently, it's not clear why this series of nerve agents is called "V" ( "Victory", "Venomous", or "Viscous" are some of the possibilities).  Since research on these agents is restricted primarily to the military, not much is known about them in civilian circles.  Whatever the "V" stands for, and besides VX, other agents in the series include VE, VG, VM, and VR.

Since V and X are unmistakably letters of the Roman alphabet as used in English, and since it would not be convenient to refer to this toxic agent as O-ethyl S-[2-(diisopropylamino)ethyl] methylphosphonothioate in the media, so far as I know it is being referred to as VX in most languages.  Speakers of other languages are invited to inform us of any workarounds that they may be aware of, especially for languages written in non-Roman scripts.

I was curious how VX is being referred to in Chinese.  Here are three different ways, with the number of ghits for them:

VX shénjīng dújì VX神经毒剂 ("VX neurotoxic agent") 290,000

wéiāikèsī shénjīng dújì 维埃克斯神经毒剂 ("wéiāikèsī neurotoxic agent") 193

wéiāikèsī (VX) shénjīng dújì 维埃克斯(VX)神经毒剂 ("wéiāikèsī [VX] neurotoxic agent") 5

One of my Chinese friends who was reading a newspaper account about the Kim Jong-nam assassination  was confused by the wéiāikèsī 维埃克斯 and couldn't understand what it meant until she later read an English article on the assassination.  Wéiāikèsī 维埃克斯 is the Mandarin approximation of the sounds of "VX" as transcribed in Chinese characters.

Incidentally, when run through online translators in various contexts, wéiāikèsī 维埃克斯 can sometimes also yield "Virex", "Vickers", "Vee Akers", etc.

This is one reason for "creeping Romanization" in Chinese.

Here are a few Language Log posts on this topic:

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Posted by Fred Clark

The Pearly Gates of Heaven are a cliché image in popular culture. Every time a famous person dies, newspaper cartoonists churn out variations of the Famous Person at the Pearly Gates cartoon. The same Pearly Gates scene gets recycled endlessly in movies, TV shows, advertising, and more jokes than we could ever get written down. But in all of that pop-culture imagery and in all the religious folklore built around it, we tend to get one detail of John of Patmos' vision completely backwards.


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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