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Posted by Vrai Kaiser

The Recap: Rick takes Jerry out on a fake adventure (at Morty’s request) that ends up turning into a real one as Jerry becomes party to an assassination attempt; after getting dumped, Summer attempts a boob job with equipment from Rick’s lab and winds up growing larger than the house.

One of this season’s running themes has been the process of dealing with fallout, a focus that involves holding to a sense of continuity far more than previous seasons and keeping a bead on the cast’s emotional arcs rather than leaving a character buried under any given trauma while they were offscreen. It’s been refreshing: while the show’s one-off episodes can be some of its best, the high-concept grotesquerie and bleak edges would eventually lose their sharpness without a strong backbone of character if not for the overarching narrative.

This season has done wonders to shore that up so far, and continues by having an episode that’s all about shirking responsibilities and roles: Rick doesn’t want to actually have the adventure he promised to take Jerry on but does (presumably) want the brownie points, Jerry wants to make a statement about being mad at Rick but doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of any firm decision he might make, Beth doesn’t want to take any actions that might upset the fragile boat of her current self-interest regarding Rick, and so on. It’s about the necessity of familial bonds framed through pure self-interest. And because this is R&M, the lesson isn’t a need for selflessness but an acknowledgement that you have to balance what you want with putting yourself out there for other people.

Prior episodes have spent a lot of time on peeling back the layers of Rick’s awfulness, but since that, too, could get monotonous if overdone, “Conspiracy” takes time to make everyone kind of terrible, while still giving us a little bit of a reason to cheer for them. It feels like a test run for future dynamics, powered by the realization that you can only tell the audience your characters are terrible for so long without actually doing anything about it. Rick’s still doing his chaotic neutral thing, but Beth remembers for at least a minute that she still has kids who need her, and Jerry at least ostensibly realizes what he needs to change about himself. There’s a sense that there could be change, however incremental.

Actually, speaking of Jerry, it’s nice to see the script put a critical eye on him in a cutting but also constructive way. Jerry has often been the butt of slapstick and various episode premises, because he’s kind of an asshole and most of us aren’t too sorry to see him take the beating. But “Conspiracy” looks past his general passiveness and cowardice to the actual functional effect he has on others, and how the pathetic effect that makes him pitiable also pulls those in his life into fixing his problems for him, saving him from having to do anything about them himself.

Jerry doesn’t quite measure up to the “Nice Guy” archetype, but he’s not a great person either, and it’s great to see this episode capitalize on his hints toward being a better person in a way that might actually stick, at least a little. Like everything else, Jerry is most interesting when he’s changing, which doesn’t necessarily preclude wanting to see some non-fatally bad things happen to him along with the occasional win.

This is an episode that mostly features men talking about women and their effect on them (Summer’s whole problem starting with being dumped, Rick and Jerry arguing over who “stole” Beth), and while Beth does have an arc involving opening up to Morty and being there for Summer, it’s Morty who probably has the episode’s best moment. While everyone else is looking for some kind of audience or validation, he quietly uses the growth ray on Summer’s now ex. No fanfare, no declaration to anybody else. Just kinda … does it. On the one hand, it’s sweet, given that Summer is a vengeful person who would certainly approve; and on the other kind of unnerving, as Morty continues along his arc to being a well of apparently unassuming but deadly anger issues. Can’t wait to see how that one explodes.

Vrai is a queer author and pop culture blogger; they’re tired of packing boxes, and also of nazis. You can read more essays and find out about their fiction at Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, listen to them podcasting on Soundcloud, support their work via Patreon or PayPal, or remind them of the existence of Tweets.

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Posted by Kaila Hale-Stern

Flame Con turned a Brooklyn hotel rainbow bright this weekend, and the cosplayers really kicked it up a notch.

I’m a big fan of Flame Con, which is in my experience a happy and inclusive event where everyone feels like a friend and every panel features a topic I’m anxious to hear discussed. After more than a decade of covering New York Comic Con, which gets more crowded and chaotic each year, Flame Con is a breath of fresh air.

Provided with such a safe and welcoming space—it’s the sort of Con where free stickers featuring your preferred pronouns are offered at the entrance—the cosplayers let their creativity run wild. Here are some of my faves.

I saw two absolutely fabulous Ursulas. This one had tentacles attached to strings so that they could move around, puppet-like. And the Power Rangers don’t stand a chance against this Rita Repulsa.

The other exquisite Ursula.

My camera can’t do justice to the full effect of this fierce cosplayer, who towered over six feet on dangerously high heels.

This excellent punk Bucky Barnes had the coolest and most creative Winter Soldier arm I’ve seen yet.

Much magic abounds amongst The Adventure Zone crowd.

This lovely person wasn’t cosplaying, but I adored the “Mama Bear pride” shirt a lot. I keep tearing up about it.

True Blood‘s best character, Lafayette, and the much-revered Diva Plavalaguna from The Fifth Element.


Merciful Minerva! This funky retro Diana would definitely save the day.

Cosplay has grown increasingly mainstream, so that most of the guests at the hotel bar didn’t even blink to find themselves sitting next to wizards, aliens, and superheroes. My favorite cosplay moment came as I watched a lady help her friend, who was dressed as Diana in the blue gown from the Wonder Woman ball scene, adjust the sword concealed down her back so that she could hop onto a bar stool and grab a drink. That’s what true friends are for.

(via Flame Con, images: Kaila Hale-Stern)

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News Post: The Ring Within

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:41 pm
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Tycho: Sonic fandom a robust and layered thing. You need a source of energy, of psychic calories, to endure what they have endured.  The good memories generated by a Puyo Puyo reskin or the explosive Sonic Adventure are as subject to entropy as anything else.  There are some for whom it is a matter of identity, an anthro trojan horse driven deep into the consciousness of a nation.  Some are simply very, very fond of the color blue. For Galabriel, it’s bound up in his pledge to an ancient order - he was a Servant of the Master System, and the Genesis inherited his fealty. …
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Posted by James Whitbrook

It’s a good time to be Jefferson Pierce. Not only is the character about to enter the live action realm thanks to the CW’s Black Lightning TV show, one of the character’s original creators is bringing him back in comic form too, giving us another new take on one of DC’s first major African American superheroes.


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Posted by Germain Lussier

We may be beating a dead horse by this point, but Obi-Wan Kenobi fighting Darth Maul in this year’s Star Wars Rebels was absolutely perfect. It’s so perfect, in fact, it makes me question the entire idea of a solo Obi-Wan movie which, of course, is now in development.


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Posted by Beth Elderkin

io9's Winter Forecast livestream returns with “Beyond the Wall,” the penultimate episode of season 7 of Game of Thrones, and there’s a lot to digest. Hosts Beth Elderkin and Katharine Trendacosta dive into the giant lake battle, Arya’s creepy Halloween masks, and whether that twist blows a huge hole in a popular fan…


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Posted by Brian Ashcraft on Kotaku, shared by Cheryl Eddy to io9

In the trailer for the upcoming Godzilla anime, we don’t get a good look at the titular monster’s mug. An official statue to promote the movie has gone on display in Japan, finally providing a real-life look at the anime version. Damn, does this Godzilla look old and melty.


We Resist: Day 214

Aug. 21st, 2017 12:15 pm
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Posted by Melissa McEwan

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Trump's Lifestyle Bleeding Secret Service Budget Dry and Sailors Missing After Collision Near Strait of Malacca.

Last Friday, I noted that Steve Bannon's departure was not indicative of a fundamental break between Trump and Bannon, but was in fact a decision made so to untie Bannon's hands and allow him to launch a serious propaganda campaign outside the White House with the illusion of independence.

I made this assertion even as the cable news "experts" and other pundits were busily buying into the bullshit narrative that Trump had "fired" Bannon and a "pivot" was imminent.

And yet again, they were wrong and I was right.

The Mercers are not going to dilute their investments by funding both Trump and Bannon if the two of them are at odds.

If you aren't already familiar with Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, now would be a good time to start. Rebekah was the one who convinced Bannon to stay on at the White House after H.R. McMaster had him pushed off the National Security Council: "Bekah tried to convince him that this is a long-term play." Which continues.

As my friend Sarah Kendzior noted in her latest piece for the Globe and Mail:
Mr. Bannon's departure is not a condemnation of Trump — it is a strategic move that allows Mr. Bannon to foment his ideologies from a more unencumbered perch at Breitbart, to which he has returned. Mr. Bannon was not fired by Trump, but freed, and has vowed to go to war with the more moderate — and this is a very relative term — members of the Trump administration as well as with any opponent of the President's agenda.

In other words, the pieces may have moved, but the game has not changed: Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump will continue their shared agenda of promoting their racist agenda and what Mr. Bannon has euphemistically called "the deconstruction of the administrative state." (Mr. Trump more bluntly recommended in 2014 that the United States "go to total hell" in order to become great.) The turmoil would be a disaster for a president whose goal was ensuring a free and stable country, but that has never appeared to be Mr. Trump's prerogative. Instead, much as he did throughout his business career, he concentrates on maximizing his own financial gain while revelling in chaos and carnage.
The long-term play.

* * *

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] CBS News: Trump's Afghanistan Strategy to Put New Pressure on Pakistan. "In a nationally televised primetime address Monday, [Donald] Trump will unveil a 'path forward' for the U.S. in Afghanistan. ...The president is expected to green light the deployment of around 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan and put new pressure on nearby Pakistan to stop giving safe haven to terrorists. ...The president is considering several possibilities to pressure Pakistan into stepping up the fight against terrorism, including reducing aid, taking away its status as a non-NATO ally, and threatening to name Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism."

I'm no foreign policy expert, but I'm not sure that putting additional pressure on the region right now is the wisest course of action.

In addition to the various regional tensions that are getting some news coverage in the U.S., there are also increasing tensions along the India-China border, which has gotten precious little attention in the U.S. media.

A lot of states with nuclear weaponry involved in escalating tensions. Suffice to say it would be safer for everyone if the United States prioritized deescalation and diplomatic resolutions in Afghanistan, but that is never going to happen while Trump is president.

Or any Republican.

* * *

[CN: Disablist language] Mike Allen at Axios: Why Top White House Officials Won't Quit Trump. "We talked to a half dozen senior administration officials, who range from dismayed but certain to stay, to disgusted and likely soon to leave. They all work closely with Trump and his senior team so, of course, wouldn't talk on the record. Instead, they agreed to let us distill their thinking/rationale. 'You have no idea how much crazy stuff we kill': The most common response centers on the urgent importance of having smart, sane people around Trump to fight his worst impulses. If they weren't there, they say, we would have a trade war with China, massive deportations, and a government shutdown to force construction of a Southern wall." Yeah, somehow I don't think that these jackasses have as much influence over Trump as they'd have us believe. But it's easier to position themselves as martyrs and patriots than the soulless, power-hungry climbers that they really are.

Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy at the Washington Post: Republican Committees Have Paid Nearly $1.3 Million to Trump-Owned Entities This Year.
The Republican National Committee paid the Trump International Hotel in Washington $122,000 last month after the party held a lavish fundraiser at the venue in June, the latest example of how GOP political committees are generating a steady income stream for [Donald] Trump's private business, new Federal Election Commission records show.

At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance filings. Trump's companies collected an additional $793,000 from the RNC and the president's campaign committee, some of which included payments for rent and legal consulting.

The nearly $1.3 million spent by Republican political committees at Trump entities in 2017 has helped boost his company at a time when business is falling off at some core properties.
As I have been noting for at least a year or so, In 2000, Trump told Fortune magazine: "It's very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it." He always tells us who he is. Trump was always going to exploit the presidency to grift as much money as possible for himself and his family.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Lydia O'Connor at the Huffington Post: Trump Administration Dissolves Federal Climate Advisory Committee. "Trump's administration has dissolved a federal panel of scientists and other experts tasked with helping create and implement new policy based on the latest climate change research findings. That decision, members of the 15-person committee told HuffPost on Sunday, does not bode well for the future of climate change preparation and prevention during Trump's time in office. A spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which established the panel in 2015, confirmed Sunday that the Department of Commerce would not renew the charter for the Sustained National Climate Assessment's Federal Advisory Committee." Jesus fucking Jones.

[CN: White supremacist violence; death] Addy Baird at ThinkProgress: Paul Ryan Statement on Charlottesville Completely Misrepresents Grieving Mom.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said in a statement Monday that he was "struck by the tone Heather Heyer's parents took at her memorial service," saying their call for "healing and forgiveness" was a powerful example.

"Here they are suddenly grieving and saying goodbye to their daughter, taken by an act of domestic terrorism," Ryan said in a statement posted on Facebook Monday, more than a week after Heyer's death and five days after her memorial service. "And instead of turning to anger, they call for healing and forgiveness. They set a powerful example."

...[Ryan's] statement completely misrepresents what Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, said last week at Heyer's memorial service.

In her eulogy for her daughter, Bro said explicitly that it was "not all about forgiveness."

"We're not going to sit around and shake hands and go 'Kumbaya,' and I'm sorry, it's not all about forgiveness," Bro said. "I know that's not a popular trend. But the truth is, we are going to have our differences. We are going to be angry with each other. But let's channel that anger not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let's channel that difference, that anger into righteous action."
Fuck Paul Ryan and his entire disgusting white supremacist death cult masquerading as a political party.

[CN: White supremacy; anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism; eliminationist violence; threats] Samantha Schmidt at the Washington Post: KKK Leader Threatens to 'Burn' Latina Journalist, the First Black Person on His Property. "As [Ilia Calderón, a Colombian news anchor for Univision] pressed [Christopher Barker, a leader of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in North Carolina] on his views, he called her the n-word and told her to go back to her country. ...'Are you going to chase me out of here?' Calderón responded. 'No, we're going to burn you out,' he said. 'How are you gonna do it?' she retorted. At one point, she asked him how he would burn out the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. 'Don't matter,' Barker said. 'We killed six million Jews the last time. Eleven million is nothing.'"

But in good resistance news...

Amy Littlefield at Rewire: 40,000 People in Boston Reject Racism, Shut Down 'Free Speech' Rally. "In a resounding rebuke of white supremacy and the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, 40,000 people converged on the Boston Common Saturday, shutting down a so-called free speech rally that drew figures from the far right. 'That's the saddest demonstration I think I've ever witnessed,' one counter-protester remarked as they looked at the Parkman Bandstand, where a few dozen people stood surrounded by about 50 police officers and an expanse of empty grass. ...'Where's your rally?' the counter-demonstrators chanted from across a line of police barricades."

[The video embedded in the tweet shows the sparsely populated Nazi rally surrounded by throngs of anti-racist counter-demonstrators.]

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?
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Posted by Vivian Kane

According to an interview with Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles in USA Today, the Secret Service is out of cash. Apparently, Trump’s large family and unwillingness to give up his pre-presidential lifestyle means that “more than 1,000 agents have already hit the federally mandated caps for salary and overtime allowances that were meant to last the entire year.”

The Secret Service is required by law to protect Trump’s entire family, which has resulted in an “unprecedented” number of protectees, according to Alles. 42 people in total have protection (18 of which are family members), up from 31 under Obama. And those 31 people weren’t taking “VIP” business trips that cost the Secret Service $100,000 for hotel rooms alone like Eric Trump has famously done. $100,000 that went, by the way, to a hotel bearing the family name. Both Eric and Donny Jr. have traveled abroad to open new Trump hotels and golf clubs. Meaning taxpayers are essentially funding the expansion of the Trump brand.

The same goes for those regular trips to Mar-a-Lago and Trump’s Bedminster golf club. Each one of those costs about $3 million at properties owned by Trump. The Secret Service has had to pay Trump $60,000 to rent golf carts to protect him at his own properties. Earlier this month, the Secret Service had to leave their post in Trump Tower, where the First Lady was still living, after a dispute over their lease. It certainly feels like Trump doesn’t do anything without making sure the Trump Organization will make money off of it. To everyone who thought it would be a neat idea to let a businessman run the country, congratulations. This is what that looks like.

People are not happy.

Although the GOP and media conservatives are oddly silent.

According to the USA Today interview, about a third of Secret Service agents have already reached their limit for compensation & overtime. Congress is discussing increasing the overtime cap for the agency, but even if that happens, about 130 agents still won’t be compensated for the overtime they’ve already worked. Alles pointed out the obvious by saying “We cannot expect the Secret Service to be able to recruit and keep the best of the best if they are not being paid for these increases (in overtime hours).”

No, I don’t think we can expect the best of the best to want to do this particular job.

(via USA Today, image: )

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Really lucky

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:35 pm
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Posted by Krissy Gibbs

Holy smokes. This pregnancy has been… so incredibly supported. My friends are stepping up in ways that shock me. One gal in particular, Rose, has delivered: a bassinet, changing table, a swing, most of the clothes we will need for the first year, bedding, a baby carrier, toweling, and maternity clothes.

I wasn’t looking for this support. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t beg. It just arrived as this beautiful gift from the universe. I have a wonderful friend who saved everything from her last kid and she wants to share.

I first met Rose in I think 2001ish. She doesn’t remember me from that period. We started talking a lot more last year. She has spare maternal energy lying around. I appreciate such folks.

Other fabulous friends have passed on more maternity clothes and supplies I’ll need before/after the birth.

It’s starting to look like the only thing I’m really going to have to buy are diapers. That’s ok. I love buying Rumparooz because they are the cutest darn thing ever. The prints! Oh they are so cute. There’s not much in this world I think is more precious than an enormous cloth diaper butt on a baby. It’s weird… but man that sight makes me choke up with joy.

WHEN DID I BECOME THIS PERSON. Err, over a decade ago.

And my Jenny is even going to be sending me super tiny diapers so I don’t need to get any for the first few weeks.

I have arrived. I am there in life. I have friends and family and support and love.

I feel so incredibly lucky. I didn’t think this would happen to me. But here I am.

Do you know what is incredible to me? When I started on the parenting journey some of the folks I loved the most told me they didn’t approve. They thought I was going to do a horrible job. In the past nine years of parenting what has happened is I started off doing ok and I’ve improved. I am way more calm. I am way more able to communicate in useful, effective ways that are appropriate for children (or for anyone, really).

I got my first real shot at learning and growing and developing in a stable environment. And I have blossomed. And my friends tell me so and can point out specific ways I’ve changed and grown and they can tell me why they are impressed with my progress.

I’m not sure I’ve changed my spots. But I have developed some interesting stripes to go along with the spots.

Eclipse is underwhelming

Aug. 21st, 2017 10:07 am
elf: Smiling South Park-style witch with big blue floppy hat and inverted pentacle (Witchy)
[personal profile] elf
I'm in a partial eclipse zone; wouldn't see the full one anyway. But still...

It's overcast. Solid pale grey sky. Which means any eclipsing is probably resulting in a slight dimming of the already dim day.

This is exactly the same weather as 38 years ago, when I got to "see" the full eclipse. I had a small sheet of treated glass to look through to see it. So I technically got to see the eclipse, because the glass let me see it without the clouds, but... no darkening in the sky (dim solid grey overcast), no watching any changes, just "here, look through this; look around until you see the sun!"

So I looked through this dark hand-sized sheet of glass, and sure enough, there's a darker glowing spot in one place in the sky. And today, I don't even have special polarized glass; I was planning on doing one of the pinhole projector things, but there doesn't seem to be much point.

I don't get to watch the Moon Lord cover the glowing body of the Sun Lady. I haz a sad.

Don't let the clouds fool you, though; it's still the best time to take down Fire Nation.

2017 WSFA Small Press Award Finalists

Aug. 21st, 2017 04:29 pm
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Posted by Mike Glyer

The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) has announced the finalists for the 2017 WSFA Small Press Award: “Foxfire, Foxfire,” by Yoon Ha Lee, published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, ed. by Scott H. Andrews, (March 2016); “Jupiter or Bust,” by Brad … Continue reading


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