what the experts say

oh but they were experts on women. if she’s on her headphones just talk to her, she’ll like your confidence. if she’s walking, she likes the compliments you give her. she’s at a bar because she wants to sleep with you, she’s just playing hard to get, keep pushing. women don’t like nice men, women like leaders. women don’t like gentle, they like being beaten. what’s the deal with this women’s march! it’s not like they’ve got anything wrong with them - it’s worse elsewhere, after all, isn’t it, than inside this land of freedom. no women have been president just because they’re not right for the job, obviously. women aren’t good at science, is all, that’s why they won’t make money. it’s just that women are emotional, bad drivers, aren’t really aware of what they want for their bodies. what if they cut those tubes and later realize they want kids! don’t even talk to me about how sad it is when a woman doesn’t have a uterus - or else disgusting, and vile, and she should be ashamed of it - you know, it’s what makes them women. but seriously though why don’t they just hold in their periods. i’m not joking! why should birth control be free? if you don’t want pregnancy, don’t get pregnant! the body has ways of preventing that. women don’t have anything to be upset about, what was even the message of the march?

the voice of a woman: we are upset about a lot. the violence, the discrediting, the constant backlash of society. that a man’s life means so much more than a woman’s life that a legitimately convicted rapist was given a shorter sentence for fear it might ruin his life to have committed the crime, rather than destroy hers. who cares about hers.

the voice of a man, again, louder, and on repeat: but i don’t care! listen to my voice! i’m an expert! i’m on t.v.! who cares what she says! just listen to me!

your parents disapporaval does not erase you or your identity. your parents disbelief does not make the way you identify any less real. your parents lack of understanding doesn’t make your identity any less worthy of respect. your parents don’t define you, only you do. and if you define yourself as asexual, aromantic, or aspec? then that’s who you are, no matter what your parents might think of it

wannabanauthor  asked:

Hi there! I love your blog! I've seen you mention a few TV shows and movies for research, and I was wondering what your opinion is on the show Leverage and it's accuracy for social engineering in potentially violent situations. I remember one character saying that "Thieves look for entrances, but grifters create them." They'll often use approaches like this to avoid violence.

If the question is: can you use social engineering in order to defuse or avoid violent situations? The answer is yes.

Grifters are conmen, and like spies, they don’t want to fight unless it is absolutely necessary. Whether they can fight or know how isn’t really the point: combat makes messes, big messes, and draws the kind of attention they don’t want/can’t afford.

As for the line, “thieves look for entrances, but grifters create them” the point of it is that grifters focus on people as the exploitative aspect to get what they want. After all, it doesn’t matter how good your security system is if your infiltrator is expected to be there. When someone opens the door for them, they didn’t have to break in.

It is worth pointing out though, being able to stop, defuse, avoid, or redirect violence via social engineering (especially when the character is the target) is very difficult and requires someone who excels at rapidly changing their story/manipulating under life or death pressure while also maintaining their consistency/re-establishing their innocence/regaining their target’s trust.

That’s masterclass social engineering. The average person, even the average grifter can’t do it. When we see Nate Ford, Sophie Devereaux, or Michael Westen on Burn Notice socially engineer their way out of potentially explosive and violent scenarios, we’re supposed to understand this level of manipulation is very difficult. You need a solid ability to read people, predict their behavior patterns, understand how to shift your role so you suddenly seem trustworthy, confuse them, and then redirect their anger somewhere away from you.

You can see another variant of this kind of social engineering on display in The Negotiator. Samuel L. Jackson’s character is a hostage negotiator. Deliberately maneuvering a man who’s taken a child captive around his apartment so he can be taken out. You can see him joking with the target, gaining his trust, distracting him, and guiding him off topic until he’s in a position to be neutralized.

The Grifter is not a fighter, they are a talker and their trick is getting people to move however they want. A skilled grifter can slip in, turn the best of friends against each other, and walk away without a care. Grifters don’t punch. They trick other people into doing the punching for them. When sitting down to write a Grifter, remember: their first instinct is getting others to act in their place, to create the openings they need, and be their fall guy.

On the whole, I’ve liked Leverage ever since the episode where Eliot pointed out that guns are ranged weapons, and the most common mistake people make is giving up the distance advantage by getting in too close. However, I’ve only watched the first season. I liked what I saw, it’s an enjoyable caper show in a similar vein to The Equalizer, Person of Interest, or Ocean’s Eleven. Not quite in there with the original Law & Order when it comes to accuracy (in this case for cops) but certainly better than White Collar, which uses similar techniques (though never, ever pay attention to White Collar’s usage of the FBI… ever). The X-Files, meanwhile, fudges a bit but it’s pretty good when you’re wanting to get a grasp of the FBI’s culture and what happens to someone who doesn’t come from a military/law enforcement background.

Of course, the patient zero for these types of shows is the original Mission: Impossible. The television show, not the Tom Cruise movies. Mission: Impossible is all about flipping people and manipulating them into positions to do what you want. The A-Team is its slightly more pulpy counterpart, but its a similar (though far less subtle) deal.

On the whole, Leverage tends to explain itself better, which is helpful when you’re trying to learn or take techniques from a television show rather than just absorb.

The reason why I often suggest Burn Notice and Spy Game is not necessarily just because they’re good, but also because they teach. The narrator on Burn Notice, especially in the first season will offer up a lot of helpful/beginner tradecraft for a variety of situations. This, ultimately, will help you more for taking pieces and creating your own characters than a show that’s trying for smoke and mirrors like White Collar. The same situation is there with Spy Game, where Robert Redford’s character is teaching Brad Pitt’s on how to be a spy. Ultimately, more helpful in the long run than just watching The Recruit. The Michael Mann films like Heat and Collateral are exceptionally good for learning tradecraft, but you have to know that’s what you’re watching/looking for. You’ll learn more by watching them together, rather than separately. The Borne Identity novels are also very good at showing the tradecraft, while the Le Carre ones tend to be a little more hit and miss.

When you’re new, you want sources that are free with their information. Who are good at getting you to think, to take what you’re seeing and apply it to new settings. You may not ever figure out how to build a car bomb, but learning about how the thought process of a spy, criminal, or conman works will serve you better for your writing than a hundred other movies that only show.

After you’ve drawn back the curtain then you can turn to those other shows, novels, and narratives with new eyes. Once you see what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and why when they don’t explain you’ll get more out of those other sources than you did before.

When you’re watching a well put together show like Leverage, start questioning character motivations. Not just whether the social engineering there works, but why the characters are choosing to go that route or which routes they prefer. Leverage gives you five characters with different specialties, four thieves and the guy who made a career catching them. They all think in different ways and have different approaches when it comes to problem solving. Leverage offers up a heist per episode, so you have lots of opportunities to see the characters in action. Evaluate their problem solving methods and you’ll come away with more than just questioning whether or not it works.

How and Why.

Then, go find a good video on YouTube where a professional magician explains pickpocketing. It’s the art of misdirection.

Once you understand basic theoretical underpinnings (whether or not you could ever actually pull the real thing off) then you can apply it to many different situations in a fictional context.

When it comes back to applying this to the combat arts, learning to see the big picture is the first major difference between trained and untrained. The untrained only copy surface level, singular techniques, while trained delves deeper to understand how these techniques work together.

My advice for when you’re wanting to pick and choose television shows for accuracy is to check who their consultants are/were, and what experts in the show’s chosen field say about it. That doesn’t always guarantee accuracy, but it will help you flip through the rave reviews.

If you want to watch more fun shows with Timothy Hutton or just like detective shows, I recommend Nero Wolfe.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

anonymous asked:

Can I have some art style advice? I have been struggling with this for so long, I know "Don't worry about buddy it's going to be ok" but I am driving myself crazy about it! I see so much wonderful art in so many wonderful styles I am just filled with inspiration, then when I draw, I try to mush some of my favorite parts of the styles together the eyes, noses, mouths, everything but it just doesn't go together and look so weird. I just don't know how do deal with it anymore. So any advice?

it’s stressing, it’s ugly, is…

just gonna say that from what you wrote I already see a big problem, you shound’t take parts from other style and mush them together like some kind of Art-Frankestein monster.
reason n1: the appeal of an art style is not the single part of them, is how all of them works together.
reason n1: if you limit yourself at taking an eye or nose you are not learning anything.

that being said, what I believe you should do is study.
Study the base of anatomy, the color theory, study from real life. 
The process of svilupping a personal art style is: study the real(*) >> practice the stilization of the real >> (extra: take inspiration from others works)>> time+more practice and you’ll have an art style.
^^^ that’s a very simplistic summary

gaining a personal style takes years of works, it’ not something you get in a week, not even months.

(*) for studing the real it doesn’t mean you need to be able to draw hyper realistic of literally and anathomyc book BUT you need to be able to understand how real body bends or move, how light effect shadow and colors, the perspective and proportion.

making dirkjake the lovers card in your homestuck tarot is an obvious bias

im no expert on tarot, but heres what my tarot app says about the card:

the obvious choices for the lovers based on that description are vrisrezi and rosemary

both rosemary and vrisrezi have themes of unity between them, a balance between two opposites who are really the same

sun and moon, good and evil, terezi’s scales and the ambiguity of vriska’s death being heroic or justified, rose’s destructive tendencies and kanaya’s themes around birth

they both trust their partners with their whole hearts and feel incomplete without them because of how much better they make each other

dirkjake lacks those themes. they care deeply for each other, but are out of step, they dont balance each other well at all. they break up because they are so discordant with eachother and can only reconcile when its implied they finally talk to eachother

to pick them for the lovers tells me you didnt even consider the women for whom those themes are essential to their stories

Title: Coach Negan

anonymous requested: Can you do a coach negan fan fiction where he looks out for one of his students because they’re getting bullied or somet thanks x

Character(s): Negan and Reader (pre-apocalypse)
Summary: Coach Negan takes a liking to you and after he witnesses the bullying that you endure, he shows you just exactly how special you are.
Word Count: 3,448
Warning: SMUT!!! 
Author’s Note: Thank you to the anon who sent this request in! I was so excited to write this story. I mean, a Coach Negan fic? Yes, please. So, I hope whoever sent this in, enjoys this one-shot! I figured I’d add some smut because I just couldn’t help myself lmao. Enjoy! :-)

Forever Taglist: @disfigured-it-out || @chunex || @jasoncrouse || @oceanicseries || @dixonsbait || @negan–is–god || @see-you-then-winchester || @sable-the-trans-ham || @k4veggies || @labyrinthofheartagrams || @purplemuse89 || @ladyynegan || @scentofpineandhazelnutlattes || @may85 || @a-girl-interupted || @spn-cw123 || @multireality || @ashzombie13 || @constellationsolo || @isayweallgetdrunk

(GIF Source: @mypapawinchester)

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Do you know what Simon hates?

Watching programs in which an “expert” says anything beginning with “Well, this is like medieval times, when supposed … roamed the countryside offering …”

Out! You are not an expert. Silence!

The medieval and the Middle Ages were not the same. And the Middle Ages were not the same as the Renaissance. I know it’s all Old™ to you lot, but they were in fact very different periods of time. People who say things like that probably can’t even quantify what dates were “medieval” versus “Middle Ages”

One day I will kill anyone who says things like that on television!

The most important thing you can do is listen

If you want to help autistic people one of the most important things to keep in mind is to listen to autistic voices. Pay attention to what autistics have to say regarding autism. For instance if an autistic person says how they prefer identity first language (autistic/autistic person) over person first (person with autism), do not insist that you know better than they do on the subject and instead listen to what they have to say on the subject. When autistics tell you that Autism $peaks is a horrible organization that is harmful to autistics do not insist that its actually a helpful organization but instead listen to our reasons regarding all of the horrible stuff Autism $peaks has done. When an autistic person says that ABA is harmful do not insist that you know better than they do and instead listen to what they have to say. The real autism experts will always be autistics.

AU asks

Send an emoji and I’ll answer some AU-themed questions

☕️ Coffee shop AU: What’s your favorite coffee order? Describe your ideal coffee shop? If a complete stranger wanted to ask you out at a coffeeshop, what would work on you? What pick up line would you use to ask a barista out?

📓 High school AU: What clique where you in in high school? What was your favorite subject? Who were you in love with in high school? What’s your most romantic memory from then?

💐 Flower shop AU: What kind of flowers do you like? Would you rather give flowers or have someone buy flowers for you? If you were mad at someone, would flowers make you forgive them? If you could send flowers to someone for free and in secret, who would you send them to?

📚 College AU: What did you (or do you plan to) study in college? What’s your favorite cheap college student meal? If someone asked your friends what you’re an expert at, what would they say? If you could choose one fictional character to be your college roommate, who would you choose?

💞 Soulmates AU: Do you believe in soulmates? What two fictional characters do you believe are soulmates? What’s one quality you absolutely know your soulmate has to have?

🚘 Road trip AU: What are your top road trip destinations? What three tumblr users would you take on a a road trip? What’s the coolest attraction/location you’ve ever seen in your country? What kind of car would you want if money were no object?

☢️ Post-apocalyptic AU: What’s something you absolutely have to do before the world ends? How do you think the world will end? What’s the place you feel safest on earth? What fictional character do you think would be the best apocalypse buddy?

anonymous asked:

Does anybody have any guess on what poison Grandpa Seok gave Dan Se to kill the king?

*cracks knuckles* By the way, I’m not a medicine/biology/venom/snake expert. 

What we do know about the poison is that it causes convulsions, causes possible respiratory problems (since the victim that I shall not say his name for my heart’s sake struggles to breathe as he’s shaking), kills rather quickly, and possibly native to Asia. Although many translations say that it’s generally poison, some also mentioned that it’s snake venom. So, we’re going to figure out what kind of snake was used to make that poison. 

That should probably be enough to figure out what Grandpa Seok used with the help of Google and Wikipedia. Once again, I am not a expert on these kinds of things. 

The first two things we know about the poison is what I’m going to focus on the most; time span and location are not important requirements to find the right venom that created the poison. Although the drama shows a victim of the poison (I SHALL NOT SAY HIS NAME) dying very quickly once the venom sets in, the fastest death caused by the most deadly snake venom goes from less than 15 to 30 minutes, so the quickness seen in the drama is probably for show rather than having us wait for the person to die for exactly 30 minutes at most. I’m also giving the benefit of the doubt for whether the snake must be native to Korea since it may be possible that non-native snakes could be smuggled into Korea, but I’ll have the boundary be as far as Central Asia and Southeast Asia.  

According to an article called Neurotoxicity in Snakebite—The Limits of Our Knowledge by Udaya K. Ranawaka, David G. Lalloo, and H. Janaka de Silva, snakes that can cause convulsion/seizures come from the Elapidae family (cobras, I’ve excluded sea snakes), Viperidae sub family Viperidae family (true vipers), and Viperidae sub family Crotalinae (pit vipers). Native Korean snakes are in bold. 

Here’s a list that I got based on the ones that most fit the requirements.

With Elapidae, a few that could be used as poison are 

  • Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra) 
  • Naja atra (Chinese Cobra) 

For the Viperidae^2, they include

  • Vipera ursinii (Meadow Viper) 
  • Vipera berus (European Adder) 

And as for the Viperidae Crotalinae, we have

  • Gloydius ussuriensis (Ussuri Mamushi) //  (Short-tailed mamushi) 
  • Gloydius blomhoffii (Japanese Pit Viper)
  • Gloydius saxatilis (Amur Viper) 

Another snake I’ll put into the running is the Rhabdophis tigrinus (Floral Snake). 

Out of the other snakes I found that are native to Asia, the list I have is the ones that are based on how close they are to the symptoms of both causing seizures and breathing problems. All of them are potentially lethal if not properly treated, and given that the people of Silla aren’t as healthy and strong enough than the modern healthy human of today, the venom would have a much more deadly effect in the past. Some I eliminated from the list because the venom symptoms only cause swelling and/or blood clotting but no seizures or difficulty breathing. 

Most likely, Grandpa Seok used either five of the snake venom that are in bold. I personally think he would have definitely used a King Cobra because it’s the most deadly out of them all and it’s the snake venom that kills under 30 minutes. They’re not native but he probably got something from rich-ass Youngshil. 

tl;dr: It’s either some kind of native mamushi, a floral snake, some kind of viper, or one of two kinds of sexy cobras- but my money is on the King Cobra. 

Now enjoy these cute little snakes I had to look at to do this research (is this even research when the majority of my sources come from Wikipedia?)

link to article (i only read the intro) 

link to toxicology of snakes 

link to episode referenced (spoilers)

Arryn Zech & Bob Morley: A Timeline Post No One Asked For

right before we begin let me just say that a) I have been on this train the longest and I have bragging rights b) no there has been no confirmation that they’re dating from either of them I just wanted to put together a timeline so people could make their own assumptions.

Let’s begin, shall we?

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anonymous asked:

jimon + jace doting over his bf and panicking when simons sick with the smallest cold ever

asdfghjkl jace is so extra

Jace knows something’s up as soon as he walks into the Institute. Alec is leaning against a table, waiting for him, trying incredibly hard to look casual, which he could probably achieve if he didn’t look like he’d just swallowed a lemon. 

“What’s wrong.” Jace demands as soon as he draws close. 

“Hey, Jace.” Alec responds neutrally. “How was your mission?” 

“Fine.” Jace says shortly. “Now tell me what’s wrong.” 

“Nothing’s wrong, why would anything be wrong, things are going fine?” Alec says rapidly, his tone getting higher towards the end. Jace blinks. 

“It’s like you think if you speak fast enough, I just won’t hear any of it.” 

“That’s not true.” Alec protests. “Look, it’s no big deal, you wanna spar? Go a few rounds with staffs, and then switch to blades?” Jace squints at him; the request seems natural enough, and he’s not averse to hanging out with Alec a little. Maybe Alec was talking to Magnus before Jace walked in; the man usually leaves Alec out of it. It’s adorable.

“Sure.” Jace says, finally relaxing. “Let me go drop my stuff off in my room and change into something more comfortable. Simon’s still asleep in my room, I think; I’ll wake him up and then join you, so - “

“NO.” 

Jace pauses from where he’s halfway turned towards a corridor, pivoting back slowly to stare at Alec, who’s looking panicked now. 

“I mean, come on Jace, I haven’t seen you in so long - “

“You mean in two hours - “

“ - why don’t we hang out right now, in another room - “

“Mm-hm.” Jace says, frowning, turning his back on Alec and making his way to his room. “You’re hiding something from me.” He yells over his shoulder, and he hears Alec’s exasperated sigh fade away. So there’s something in his room they don’t want him to see, and he’s pretty sure the only thing in his room is Simon. Did Simon break something? It wouldn’t be the first time, Jace thinks, amused. Supernatural speed translates into supernatural clumsiness as well, which is cute and all but sort of deadly for all of Jace’s breakable possessions. 

“Jace!” Izzy says, appearing in front of him. Jace startles back, blinking, before he straightens up and looks at her. “Hey, why don’t you come to my room for a bit? I need some advice.” 

“Advice” He repeats flatly. “With what?” 

“…fashion.” Izzy says confidently. “You are the resident expert in leather jackets, aren’t you?”

“Sure.” Jace responds pleasantly. “I’ll just go to my room and change first - “

“No, why don’t we go straight to my room - “

“Yeah, not happening.” Jace shakes his head, smiling despite himself. “Alec already pulled this song and dance. Come on, whatever it is, I’m sure it isn’t that bad. Let me go to my room.” 

Izzy sighs, stepping aside and shaking her head. “Just try not to overreact, okay? It’s really not a big deal. It’s under control.” 

“I don’t overreact that much.” Jace says, indignant, as he reaches his room. “I’m sure you’re all misreading the situation. And me.” 

He pushes the door open and walks through, freezing at the sight that greets him. Simon is curled into a ball in his sheets, his face blotchy and red. His boyfriend looks feverishly sick, sweat mingling with the bloody tears leaking out of his eyes. Clary is sitting in a chair besides him, pressing a damp washcloth to his forehead, and Simon is making these pitiful little groans that stop as soon as he sees Jace. 

“I told you to keep him away!” Simon moans, at the same time that Jace bellows “MY BOYFRIEND IS DYING?”

Oh yeah,” Izzy mutters quietly, “we sure did misread this situation. You’re not overreacting at all.” 

Jace ignores her and stalks over to the bed, falling to his knees and pressing his hands against Simon’s cheeks. Simon sighs. 

“I’ll be fine in like twenty minutes.” He mutters. 

“He really will be.” Clary chimes in. “It was just a batch of tainted blood, his body’s already healing itself.” 

“You look miserable. You can’t keep something like this from me, you - fuck, you’re burning up. What can I get you? Magnus, we should call Magnus. He’ll know what to do. Maybe Catarina? She can help, right? And Raphael and the rest of the clan. They probably have a few ideas too. And - “

“Stop.” Simon wails. “I don’t need a goddamn army for a tiny cold that will be gone in eighteen minutes now.”

“Twenty minutes.” Clary says, exasperated. “That’s all they needed to delay you for.” Jace ignores her, his gaze roaming over the rest of Simon’s body. He’s under a huge pile of blankets, his hair in disarray and the faint imprint of pillow marks across half of his forehead. The feverish sweat is reducing, but Jace thumbs over a bloody tear leaking out of Simon’s eye and bites his lip. What if he doesn’t get better, what if it gets worse, what if something unimaginable and horrifying happens to Simon and he never gets to see that pretty smile again, what if he doesn’t get to grow old with this man - 

“Breathe, Jace.” Simon says calmly, his hand reaching up to cover Jace’s, and Jace startles out of his thought, taking a deep breath. Simon looks carefully at him, and then struggles into an upright position. 

“Can you guys give Jace and me a moment?” Simon asks, and Jace is distantly aware of Clary and Izzy filing out. 

“I’m not good at this.” Jace mutters once the girls have left, finally letting his hands drop to Simon’s waist. Simon laughs. 

“Yeah, no shit.” He grins. “I think you forget that I’m basically immortal.” 

“That doesn’t make you immune to getting hurt.” Jace argues mulishly. Simon shakes his head, another snicker escaping him, and tugs at Jace’s shoulders. 

“C’mere.” He murmurs, something softer in his voice, and Jace goes willingly, rising up and letting Simon rearrange them until Jace is sitting in between Simon’s legs, Simon’s back against the headrest. They’re pressed close together, and it soothes something in Jace to have his knees pressed against either side of Simon and broad hands wrapped around his back, anchoring him. 

“I’m okay. I’m not going anywhere.” Simon says, and Jace closes his eyes and clutches Simon closer, his fingers digging hard into Simon’s hips. 

“You sure?” he asks, his voice low and worried. “I can bring you extra blood, or take you to someone if you don’t heal fast enough - “

Jace.” Simon says firmly. “I’ve stopped sweating and my head is clearing up. I’m a vampire, and you have to let me be one.” 

“Alright.” Jace exhales slowly, nodding, and Simon beams at him. “I might - a little - I mean, I know that maybe I…can come on a little too strongly about this.” His boyfriend snorts at that. 

“A little.” Simon snickers. “The first time I got sick you were about to go out with a hunting party to track down the poor blood bank that I got my blood from. A hunting party. For a blood bank.”

“I stand by it.” Jace says proudly, ignoring Simon’s laughter. 

“Of course you do.” Simon shakes his head, fond. He presses a slow, gentle kiss to Jace’s lips. The soft push-pull of their mouths eases some of the tension in Jace’s shoulders, and he feels it begin to be replaced with the radiating warmth that being around Simon always brings, and with it a slow, lazy tendril of lust. “You’re a little neurotic about my health. It’s cute, in a I can’t believe my boyfriend is weirder than me way.”

“I’m not.” Jace grumbles. “I’m sensible.” 

“Sure babe.” Simon placates. “Sure.”

Prompt: Translator

Percival spends a lot of time with the scamander brothers. So much time that he is able to understand all the British lingo. So when Newt takes the job of being MACUSA’s resident creature expert, Percival has to explain what Newt is saying.

*Newt: hurry up and bitch the pot.
Aurors: ???
Percival: pour the tea.

*Newt: Oh the criminal is locked in the boot.
Aurors: you put him in a boot.
Percival: the trunk.

*Newt: Yes I’ll be there on time, I want to try out the tube here.
Aurors: What?
Percival: Subway.

Best part is when Newt get really frustrated and starts ranting and Percival just talks everyone through what he’s saying like it’s completely normal.

About Last Night

They shouldn’t have slept together. But they did. Now for the aftermath.


Also on AO3/FF.NET 

unbeta’d. All mistakes my own…

1.8k


A prompt from @distant-rose: best friends secretly pining plus locked in a closet by other frustrated, impatient and exasperated friends. A baby ficlet dedicated to @nickillian


Emma Swan: expert at running away from shit. That’s what her obituary would say.

And by shit it would mean anything remotely resembling a situation where her emotions would be exposed and she would get hurt. Which was why she was currently hiding in Mary Margaret Nolan’s den.

“I’m failing to see the problem,” the brunette mused over a steaming cup of tea.

“Ms - I slept with Killian.”

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Three Books About North Korea

I don’t know why, but I’ve recently gone through a phase of fascination with North Korea, possible the world’s most mysterious country. This fascination led me to download and devour, in the space of 5 days, three full books written by North Korean defectors who work to expose, through their stories, the reality of life under the Kim dynasty. 

I thought I’d do a brief write-up/review of these three books here, for anyone who might also be interested in learning more about life in the Hermit Kingdom. 

I began with Escape From Camp 14, a book that my best friend’s husband recommended to me years ago but which I’d never gotten around to reading. Of the three books I read, this was, by far, the most horrifying and the most interesting. I’m going to spend a little more time discussing it than I normally do in these reviews. 

Unlike any other North Korean defector, Shin was born into a political prison as an irredeemable, a person who is guilty from birth for the crimes of his or her blood relatives. He and his peers are the product of engineered, loveless marriages between two prisoners; the sole reason for his existence is to provide backbreaking labor in the gulag for the duration of a short, miserable life. There is no real school. There is no healthcare. There is barely any food. Families do not love each other. Torture and executions feature predominantly in the background of life. It is, in short, so horrendous as to be unbelievable. 

And, as it turns out, there is a reason for that. Shin’s story has been revealed to be, in part, false, created by a mind that was so deranged that it could not separate fact from fiction. In the latest editions, the author recognizes and explains this in as full a manner as he can. There is no doubt that Shin was tortured and lived much of his life in the manner described, but his narrative is unreliable. (I read the introduction before the book, but even if I hadn’t, the circumstances surrounding Shin’s inspiration to escape and the escape itself would have rung somewhat false.) While some parts have been explicitly clarified, chances are, there are other elements of Shin’s story that are untrue. It is wise to read the book with this knowledge in mind. 

It’s because of the element of unreliability that I found this book so fascinating. I cannot even wrap my head around how the brain of someone who was raised in the conditions in which he was raised would operate. No amount of empathy on my part would allow me to truly see the world as he sees it, to process events and relationships in the way he processes them. His is a brain warped by unimaginable isolation and torture. Even if many of the details of his story are technically false, experts have concluded that enough is true that Shin’s story provides a fascinating window into the suffering of North Korea’s lowliest class, a wretched group of human beings subjected to a short and brutish life. 

I highly recommend this book, but it’s not for the faint of heart. I also recommend reading the book as follows: skip the introduction in which the author clarifies the inaccuracies Shin has admitted to him, and read the book with the understanding that some parts are false. Then read the introduction to learn what has been uncovered about his story since the book’s initial publication, and what psychologists and North Korea experts have to say on the topic. Whatever you judge the level of fact or fiction to be in the narrative, Escape From Camp 14 is a sobering read that will stay with you for awhile. 

The Aquariums of Pyongyang is one of the first books based around the true story of a North Korean defector, Kang Chol-Hwan. Hwan lived a relatively easy life (by North Korean standards) in Pyongyang with his parents and grandparents, until he was 9 years old. His family was put into a gulag called Yodok because his grandfather was outspoken about his objections to the government. 

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this story isn’t the description of the gulag, which is, of course, horrifying, but the story of Hwan’s grandmother and her fervent dedication to socialism. Her beliefs led her to bring her whole family from a wealthy and comfortable life in Japan to Pyongyang at the behest of the budding Kim dynasty. For years the cognitive dissonance tore her apart; how could the ideology in which she invested so much of her energy and herself yield such an oppressive state? In the end, she spent ten long years in a gulag, a victim of the very system around which she’d built her identity. I cannot think of anything sadder than this. 

While not as stomach-churning as Shin’s story, this story provides some insight into life in North Korean before the fall of the Soviet Union led to an economic collapse and a terrible famine in the 1990s, and of course, shows yet again the cruelty of the North Korean gulag. 

Yeonmi Park is a well-known activist working to expose the cruelty of the Kim regime to a world that seems to have forgotten the suffering they inflict on their people. She had previously shared her story many times before In Order to Live was released as a final, complete version of her escape from North Korea through China. 

Park’s account differs from the previous two in that the lion’s share of her story centers around her and her mother’s harrowing escape through China where they are trafficked and abused. Her age and childhood as the daughter of a fairly successful North Korean black market businessman provides illustration of another facet of North Korean daily life, one that is profoundly different from Shin’s or Hwan’s, but that centers around the same themes: the misery of surveillance, constant food shortages, and lack of agency. 

I have heard that parts of Park’s story, like Shin’s, are inconsistent and perhaps not wholly factual. Indeed, parts of the book stuck out to me as sanitized, particularly the circumstances that facilitated her escape to South Korea from China. But, you know… I don’t care. Trauma victim’s don’t always have stories that stay consistent or make sense, and Park is still incredibly brave for offering her story to the public to be consumed and criticized. 

More than the two previous reads, Park offers insightful commentary on the struggles that North Koreans face even when the make it to South Korea, the promised land where they gain citizenship and a free life. The scars of life in North Korea will never truly fade for those who escape, and the lack of obvious solutions is saddening, but requires acknowledgement. 

There are many other books about life in North Korea, and I’ve added a few to my TBR list. If you have been thinking about reading any defector’s story or other books about North Korea, I highly recommend it. They aren’t easy reads, but important ones for understanding the horrible situation under the Kims even today. 

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Beto O'Rourke: Ted Cruz's Punk-Rock Problem
How a progressive congressman – and former bassist – from El Paso is threatening to unseat the Senate's most hated Republican.

I’m following this guy, and will probably send his campaign some $$$, even though I don’t live in Texas or have any connections to Texas. Regardless of what the experts say, I think he can win and move from the House to the Senate. Running as a Democrat for Ted Cruz’ Senate seat in Texas. Dems don’t win in Texas. But Beto O’Rourke has never lost a campaign. What do people in Texas think about Cruz? Some info to consider:

By the election – after Cruz grudgingly endorsed the man who threatened his wife and implicated his father in the plot to kill JFK – 49 percent of Texas voters disapproved of the job Cruz was doing. Today, his 37 percent approval rating in the state is about as dismal as Trump’s is nationally.

Some stuff about Beto O’Rourke:

Few people knew of his crusade to combat gang violence by legalizing marijuana, or the years he spent playing bass with Cedric Bixler-Zavala (now a member of the Mars Volta and At the Drive-In) in their old punk band Foss. That started to change last summer, after Speaker Paul Ryan ordered C-Span cameras turned off during Democrats’ 25-hour sit-in to protest inaction on gun control, and O'Rourke launched his own broadcast on Facebook Live (Ryan has since passed a measure that would fine live-streaming from the House floor). O'Rourke’s profile spiked again earlier this year after a blizzard canceled flights into D.C. – he and a Republican colleague, Rep. Will Hurd, live-streamed a 1,600-mile rental-car drive (#CongressionalCannonballRun) from Texas to the nation’s capital. Tens of thousands of people, including dozens of colleagues in the House and Senate, plus Mark Zuckerberg, tuned in for the 36-hour bipartisan “town hall,” during which O'Rourke and Hurd grabbed doughnuts, talked health care and border security, and made a detour to Graceland.

Besides supporting limits on guns, O'Rourke, who is 44, is pro-choice and a vocal advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. If that sounds like a tough way to win a race in Texas – where political moderation is considered symptomatic of a disease known as “Californication” – O'Rourke has vowed to do it without accepting a cent of PAC money. He has reason to be confident: For one thing, he’s never lost a race. He won his first bid for Congress campaigning in a district on the Mexican border, on a platform calling for the legalization of marijuana. His rival in the primary, an eight-term incumbent, had the full support of the Democratic establishment – Barack Obama endorsed him; Bill Clinton came to El Paso to stump – but O'Rourke, whose political career at the time consisted of two terms on the El Paso City Council, stole the seat nonetheless.

To combat a post I saw on my dash because bad writing advice is like my new Thing that makes me Really Annoyed:

1. Show, Don’t Tell is not the golden rule of novel writing. If anything, it’s the golden rule of screen writing, which is a visual medium and uses different rules than novel writing. Not all types of writing are created equal and use the same rules so it’s not a one size fits all industry. Conventions even differ from genre to genre with novels, so this is not the good, all around advice it’s lauded to be.

2. Yes your character IS sad, devastated, furious, and heartbroken. You can and SHOULD use these words to describe how they’re feeling, but you incorporate them with descriptions that emphasize the emotions – the way someone’s hands are shaking, how their fists are balled so tightly their nails are cutting into their palm. These will help the readers get into the head of your character without risking them losing the scene because it’s too vague to emotionally connect to. The words sad and devastated, etc, will then just disappear into the background while still guiding your reader towards the reaction you want them to have.

3. Every character has a different perception of their surroundings. If you treat characters like the have universal emotional reactions to everything – ie, obsessively noticing the details on a small car to show that they’re “in love” with it – all your characters are going to end up super samey. Also, not every single person is going to see the loss of their lover as a “thing they just lost in battle”, instead, they’re going to get angry, they’re going to rain fiery justice down on their foes like a god of death.

Instead of having to write one-size fits all reactions, consider what sort of person your character is. Are they more introspective? Are they a man or woman of action or are they a more reserved person? I know for a fact that the two characters I write the most would react completely differently to losing their lovers in the heat of battle or discovering someone did something super touching for them, and they actually both have quite a few things in common. Instead of using generic writing devices to try to give your story more depth, focus instead of really telling the story of your specific character in that moment by fleshing them out and treating them like a person.

4. Again, on the matter of dialogue, not everyone has a universal human reaction to their own emotions. Some people are more likely to be more honest when they’re sad than they are when they’re happy because they feel like they have nothing left to lose. Or maybe your character is in even MORE control of themselves when they’re angry because their anger isn’t the irrational kind of anger, it’s the slow burning deliberate kind of anger that turns them into a scheming mastermind. If you’re not considering the individual motivations of your characters and the people around them, no matter what you do with your dialogue to “show and not tell”, it’s going to come off as stiff. Your character should be able to start a conversation in the same way with two different people and have the conversation turn out differently just because dialog should incorporate the personalities and individual voices of your cast before it ever incorporates pulp psychology.

5. And I saved this counterpoint for last because this is the point that annoys me the most – The entire post I’m referring to treats everyone like they’re exactly the same and will universally have the same responses to things in the lieu of giving good advice. If you write everyone like they have low inhibitions when they’re highly emotional, you’ll end up writing your cast like they’re all teenagers.

If you have a cast of only teenagers, this might be fine, but as people get older, they generally gain more of an ability to control themselves, and even all teenagers aren’t exactly alike. I was a very reserved teenager who was very in control of myself, because even young, stupid, emotionally charged me was still a very sensible person… Just not quite as sensible and in control of myself as I am now.

It’s okay to write characters doing this if you’re writing people who are just this way or who are exhausted and emotionally vulnerable or who are drunk and no longer have inhibitions, but most people will have things that hold them back from losing control. We need to consider what these things are for each of our characters, how they apply, and what they mean. Only once we have a good grasp of characterization and our cast can we really start to form complex worlds and scenes.

And it doesn’t really matter how you come to those characters, either. You can construct them deliberately like someone building a machine and view yourself as their master and them as tools, or you can lovingly grow your characters and treat them like real people, but if you don’t start with having a strong idea about your cast if you’re writing pop fiction (where that is GENERALLY why most people follow your stuff) you might end up with a weaker story.

Generally, writing advice isn’t once size fits all.

There is any myriad of ways to write well, and the style the person describes does have merit, but not to everyone. It especially might not fill the bill for those of us who ARE novelists and need to be able to really get into the nitty gritty of our settings and characters.

Being so zoomed out for our cast, which is what showing and not telling can sometimes do because it compromises personal narrator voice in a lot of ways, can really compromise the integrity of a strong character driven work.

Even in character driven works, there will be places where you DO want to show instead, of course, but we should never throw out telling as a part of our repertoire. Sometimes it just fits a scene or character better, and sometimes? Sometimes what you really need is to do BOTH and ass what the “experts” say.

Much like art, writing is like finding a style, and you can have a good style even if you don’t follow the template of the classics.

Never be afraid to break or bend the rules. There are ways you can improve, but so much about writing is just as subjective as visual art, so never be afraid to stand by your guns and go out and find your audience.

After all, just because someone doesn’t like a manga style artist’s work doesn’t mean it’s not technically skilled and that NO ONE will like it. It’s the same for different styles of writing, and you don’t have to subscribe to “show, don’t tell” like it is the single most golden rule a writer can have if you don’t want to.

Ultimately, it’s just a tool to tell your story.

Just like anything else.