"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth."

--Ursula K. Leguin

November 2009

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This journal is partially locked. Most fandom entries are public. Most daily-life entries and a certain amount of squee is locked. To read those entries, comment and ask to be added.

Subscribe to posting filter groups here.

Please note, all my fic posts here are summaries with links to my archive site. To search for fic most easily, you will want to visit my fic archive itself which has all the series/arc/pairing/character indexes and tags. *tips hat*

Posts Tagged: 'reviews'

Mar. 29th, 2009

The Stepsister Scheme

One of the benefits of being a friend of the author is: sometimes you get free books.

And this was quite a good free book, so I’m reviewing it. Not in hopes of getting a copy of the next one at all, of course. I’m much too high-minded for that kind of thing. *looks suitably virtuous*

So let us consider The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim Hines. )

Jan. 29th, 2009

Dreamwidth: the search for a webhome

For those who may have noticed my new icons, or seen mention of this in passing, Dreamwidth is a fork of the LiveJournal code. That is, it takes the current open source code and, instead of making future updates from the LJ version, starts writing it in a different direction. (Kind of like fanfic, really, only different.)

Two months or so from now, when Dreamwidth.org goes live for open beta, I will move there.

The reasons are many and varied, and I have to go back a little ways to explain them all. )

I hope that all this will draw enough people over to a) make a thriving community and b) get enough people to transfer/back up their content that we don't lose too much when LJ finally reaches the end it's heading towards.

So! To that end, let me mention some of DW's advantages. At launch, DW will import entire journals, and multiple journals if you want, (including entries, comments, tags, userpics and flists) from other danga-code sites. It will recreate your flist(s) with RSS feeds (the problem of offering you locked posts from other sites is one of the high priority projects and may be available soonish, let us hope and cheer on the programmers). It will split the flist into a 'watch' list and a 'trust' list, just like we've been asking for for ages. It will even let us have longer usernames and comments and entries.

On the to-do list, DW aims to overhaul the horrible Memories function to act more like a sensible bookmarking tool, and to introduce a parent/child account structure so that we can finally link all our journals (from our point of view only, of course) and switch from one to another without all that tedious logging in and out. Even if you don't use Firefox.

There are a lot of other ideas being bandied back and forth about subscription to specific tags, entry and comment management, making OpenID sign-ins both non-anonymous and a way for people to control imported comments and even cooler stuff. There are people combing back entries in lj_suggestions to see what it is users (as opposed to prospective buyers) actually want.

Go see! Mouse around the Wiki. Page through some of the mailing list archives. Maybe chip in your two cents, because this? This is for us.

We're home.

Aug. 18th, 2008

Shounen Onmyouji

I just recently watched this, having heard of it here and there for a while, and it’s delightful. I heartily recommend it. It has good ink and good music and a charming story which sometimes rips out your heart and stomps on it.

SO is the tale of a boy and his demon shikigami. Masahiro, the boy in question, is the grandson of Abe no Seimei, the greatest onmyouji of all time, so a major theme is, of course, his attempt to make his way out of his grandfather’s shadow and stand on his own merits. It helps that he’s a gutsy kid who has what it takes. Once he steps up to his destiny, though, he immediately has to deal with all sorts of Things That Go Bump In The Night, and the (very Heian) history and politics surrounding that make up the major plot. In doing so he has the occasional help of his grandfather’s twelve shikigami, and the constant help of one, in particular.

This one is a total angst-bunny with a Dark Past, and he’s a grumpy woobie to boot. Also darn hot and very devoted to Masahiro. Slashers rejoice, because this almost doesn’t qualify as sub-text. I mean, seriously, during the intro they reach out to each other and lace fingers. (For those who do not follow these things, laced fingers = sex. It’s one of the most unmistakable visual metaphors there is, right up there, for recognizability, with pinky fingers connected by a red thread.) His interactions with Masahiro are the cutest thing in the history of cute.

Het shippers should also rejoice, however, because Masahiro has a het love interest, who is also young and gutsy, if not always sensible. She is, in her person, a locus of politics, which adds interest, because normally Masahiro would be too low in rank to ever marry her. This does not stop them from being amazingly cute, too. She has her own independent interactions with family and shikigami and is actually her own character, which is refreshing.

Seiyuu spotters will also enjoy an all-star cast. Masahiro is voiced by Kaida Yuki, and his pet demon shiki by Konishi Katsuyuki. The young Seimei is done by Ishida Akira. The shikigami seiyuu include Minagawa Junko and Morikawa Toshiyuki. Suwabe Junichi voices one of the villains, and Seki Toshihiko one of the frequent side characters.

The original story is told in a series of light novels, eighteen to date. The anime covers the first two major arcs, which is the first handful of novels. Radio dramas have carried on to cover later arcs, and we can, perhaps, hope for those to be animated eventually.

There were licensing issues with this show, early on, since Genon took it and then tanked, and the conscientious subbers and fans who stopped for the license were left dangling for months and months. In the end, the subbers chose to finish the series, and all twenty-six episodes are available now. I suggest going to isohunt.com and getting the Yoroshiku torrent while we wait to find out whether Funimation will really take over the license and release it officially as has been rumored.

Aug. 5th, 2008

How to get a categories widget with include and exclude

So, as things stand, the WordPress Categories widget supports altering sort order, post count and dropdown vs. hierarchical display. But it does not support including or excluding categories.

There is a way around this, though, while we wait for it to show up in the core code! (Everyone thank Bricksmith for suggesting this work-around.)

First, you need to download, upload and activate the php-exec plugin. This plugin allows admins to put php code in an entry or widget and have WordPress recognize it as php and execute it instead of just treating it as plain text.

Next, you go to Design > Widgets and put the Text widget where you want the Categories to appear.

Into the Text widget you paste some variation on the following code:

<li id=”categories-1″ class=”widget-categories”>
<h2 class=”widgettitle”>Categories</h2>
<ul>
<?php wp_list_categories(’orderby=name&hierarchical=true&title_li=&exclude=76,77,78,79′); ?>
</ul>
</li>

Save that and voila, you have a pseudo Categories widget!

In my own case, I wanted to have two Categories widgets, the second one including all the categories that the first one excluded, so I pasted another copy into Text right under the first, with the ID “categories-2″ and the ‘exclude’ changed to ‘include’, and edited my CSS to add #categories-2 everywhere there was a #categories-1.

Caveats: 1) I do not know if it is possible to use this for a dropdown Categories, because that requires some Javascript and I have no idea whether that can be parsed inside a Text widget. 2) What you have is actually a widget inside a widget, codewise. The Categories widget is enclosed inside the li and div of the Text widget. This may cause problems with your CSS styling, depending on how it’s written. If your nested lists look like li li { rules }, this will probably cause problems. On the bright side, if you change it to ul ul { rules } that should fix the problem.

For a full list of the variables you can adjust in wp_list_categories, see the WP documentation.

May. 3rd, 2008

Fullmetal Panic? Fumoffu

This series is a sort of continuation from of a fairly standard and not terribly engaging mecha anime, Fullmetal Panic!. I highly recommend it. With this second season/series, it turns from action into romantic comedy and the characters, who were somewhat flat in the first series, fall into place and click with each other delightfully.

Imagine fanon!Heero Yui, an orphan picked up by a military concern who is utterly, direly unsocialized and communicates only in a) grunts or b) over-precise mission reports.

Now imagine that he’s dropped into a Japanese high school, told off to bodyguard a very short-tempered and active young woman who’s busy being class representative. You could call her spirited, but she’d whap you over the head with her harisen for it.

Now imagine they’re falling for each other, each in his or her own rather tongue-tied way, impeded by the usual alternative suitors, her temper, and his lack of socialization, to say nothing of their classmates, teachers and fellow soldiers.

And then there’s the mouse suit.

The production values of this series are better than they were for the first series, possibly because Fumoffu is much shorter. The humor is far more engaging than I usually find romantic comedy humor to be, and I definitely recommend it if you are in the mood for something sweet and funny and still fast-paced.

Apr. 6th, 2008

Very good manga

I have lately been in search of some more manga to read; this can be a bit difficult, since I have a low tolerance for a number of things that show up a lot in manga, for example the notion that it is virtuous to be a doormat. One recent success, however, is 666 Satan, by Kishimoto Seishi (predictably re-titled O-parts Hunter in the US release).

Trivia: Kishimoto Seishi is the twin of Kishimoto Masashi, the author of Naruto. Apparently, when 666 Satan came out Seishi was accused by some of plagiarism, which only goes to show that most people don’t really know what the word means. There are, to be sure, some structural similarities, but fewer than I would actually have expected from siblings who read all the same stuff growing up. The worlds are different, the premise is different, the characters are different, the plot is different, even the drawing style is rather different, though the landscapes have a certain feeling in common. There is a timeskip, but I quite approve of this, because the post-skip characters are hot like fire, and it’s always nice to have some of that.

But back to the review. The story is tight and briskly paced, clocking in at seventy-six issues from intro to Armageddon. The romantic threads are tied up in a satisfying but not artificial manner. The characters are engaging, the action is fast, the fights all have a point, the demons are disgusting, and, if the powerful, adult women tend to be scantily clad and have flotation devices on their chests, the fanservice is sufficiently low-key that it doesn’t make me froth at the mouth.

The story uses the mythos of the Kabbala with a dash of Greek thrown in. While the usual sorts of liberties are taken (think Angel Sanctuary) there is actually a good deal of attention paid to the details, and, unlike, say, RahXephon, it makes a decent amount of sense in the end.

There is also plenty of material for ficcers, as the character relationships are varied and powerful, and there’s plenty of tension splashed around for both slash and het writers to play with. The conclusion is somewhat open-ended, as well, which may frustrate readers who want to know exactly what happens to everyone but should appeal to those who like to imagine how the characters’ lives might have gone on.

In short, it’s a quick and engaging read and, provided the editors haven’t butchered anything too badly, I will probably pick up the English release.

Dec. 11th, 2007

Diane Duane’s Wizards

I first encountered Duane’s wizards more or less by accident. I like cats, I like some fantasy, and when I was recommended Book of Night with Moon, it seemed like a good bet. It was. I enjoyed the cats, and the magic was pretty interesting, not falling into the “this is really a role playing system” trap at all. So I picked up the other Feline Wizards book and took home a bunch of the Young Wizards books, too. I’m also generally fond of young adult books, and had hopes that those would be equally interesting.

The Young Wizards books had interesting characters; I liked following Kit and Nita’s adventures, which are engaging and rather amusing as they deal with being teenagers and saving the world with a curfew. But, while the Feline Wizards books had a reasonably original take on the Enemy character, I found the portrayal of “the Lone Power” in the Young Wizards, a not-at-all-disguised Devil, to be disappointingly trite. The minions were often more interesting than their boss. The feline version of this recurring character was, at least, ambiguous, and was clearly a character that the felines interacted with in a varied manner, depending on the circumstances. The human version, by comparison, is rather flat and uninteresting, less a real character than a talking abstract idea. In general, I find that abstract evil only works as an Enemy if it is not personified in a single character.

I also thought, as I read further, that Duane should have stopped at four Young Wizards books, as it looked like she originally intended to. Dealing with the Ultimate Enemy in a conclusive fashion and then attempting to keep the story going with the same enemy is a recipe for eye-rolling, non-linear timestream or no. Another point in the Feline favor is that she does not seem to be making that mistake with them. The third book of that series appears to have a fresh, new Enemy.

That, however, brings us to my greatest problem with Duane, which is not an artistic criticism but rather a professional one.

Duane started writing her third Feline Wizards book, The Big Meow, as a subscriber-supported book. Her fans would donate to the project, and she would write it; she would post the chapters online as she went, and, at the end, everyone who donated a certain amount or above would receive a paper copy via a print-on-demand service.

Normally I would applaud this approach, and Duane’s readers certainly came through to support it, sometimes with pledges far in excess of the ‘base’ donation.

Duane, however, has not come through with the book.

This project has been plagued from the start with repeated, major delays. To be sure, Duane was dealing with some very bad Real Life problems during this time period, but the book is currently stalled at Chapter Seven, and has been for around nine months. Twice, Duane has promised that the next chapter will be forthcoming by a set date, and both times has failed to deliver, or explain her failure, or communicate in any way about the project for months on end. This while still blithely posting in her blog on other topics entirely and, therefore, clearly capable of communication.

Personally I find this an inexcusable breach of faith, and contract, with the readers who have already paid for a finished product. Let me repeat that: Duane has already taken their money. This is not an advance, backed by the working capital of a publishing company; this is money paid out directly by readers for a product which has not been delivered.

My recommendation, therefore, is to read Feline Wizards, but do not hold out any especial hope that a third book will ever appear. Most definitely, do not put any money into the third book until and unless it is actually finished.

Nov. 28th, 2007

Manga viewer for Macs

I have recently been test-driving a lot of different image viewers, specifically viewers for Mac. My criteria were not the usual ones; normally, when I want to take a quick peek, Preview does fine and if I want more than that, well that’s what Photoshop is for. In this case, I was looking specifically for something to use as a manga viewer.

My priorities, thus, were something that has a large viewing area, something that can easily resize and be set to show images at actual size, and something that can easily navigate among nested folders.

CocoViewX is the winner.

I highly recommend this bit of software to any Mac user who has a lot of folders of manga that she would like to view easily. For one thing, it’s freeware, though I encourage anyone who likes it to toss a buck or two in the author’s donation bin. For another, there are a bunch of settings you can manipulate, to change how you view the pages, and the program will remember all of them–including whether you want to view actual size or fit the window.

Most importantly, from the perspective of a manga-viewer, there is a navigation window down the left side that shows all subfolders and files in any folder you open, and you can navigate among your folders and image files simply by clicking. You can even set it to single or double click, as you prefer.

Altogether, CocoViewX is just about ideal for the purpose. The only way I think it could get much better is to include an option to scale the images by percentage of actual size. However, since I know of no image viewer anywhere that does that, the lack does not detract from CocoViewX’s win.

General Note: One thing I have realized, in the course of testing different viewers on my files, is that any viewer you use should be set to not respect the dpi (dots per inch) of the image file. Apparently, in the course of translating and/or cleaning image files, it is not infrequent for a mis-setting of the dpi to occur that will force your viewer to display the image at a wee, tiny size if you have it set to believe the dpi given by the file meta-information.