Look Upon My Works, Ye Bridesmaids, and Despair

Lightithebox.com is *fascinating*, you guys.

Between the LARPing thing, and the writing thing, and all of my friends getting married, I've had a few occasions to check out formal dresses online. And lightinthebox is one of those giant conglomerations of discount dresses which...I don't even know.

Because some of the dresses are normal, the sort of thing I'd happily buy for a formal occasion. Some of the dresses are really gorgeous, if clearly for the sort of person who goes to far more embassy balls than I do; some of the dresses are also really gorgeous, albeit they suggest that there are far more people out these whose Friday night plans include "seduce and kill James Bond" than I was expecting. And I am sex-positive and sex-work-positive and I like space and if you want to be a space hooker, as at least one or two of these numbers suggest, I'm behind that all the way.

And then: http://www.lightinthebox.com/ball-gown-sweetheart-short-mini-chiffon-cocktail-dress_p510067.html

Because if we've learned one thing from Lex Luthor, it's that green and orange look great together. I *hope* we have not learned the whole tiger-leopard-print-beaded-bodice-with-clearly-articulated-nipples from Lex, but my knowledge of DC is not-comprehensive. There may well be an issue where Lex wears exactly that. Or a two-layer tulle skirt with ruffled edges. He probably has not tied his hair into an actual bow, though.

Or: http://www.lightinthebox.com/a-line-sweetheart-asymmetrical-taffeta-and-elastic-silk-like-satin-evening-dress_p351450.html

You've got purple. You've got purple and leopard print. You've got purple and leopard print and strapless and sequined. You've got purple and leopard and strapless and sequined and cutaway and a giant rose on one thigh. In case you were worried about missing anything.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/ball-gown-sweetheart-floor-length-organza-prom-evening-dress-with-beaded-embroidery-and-cascading-ruffles_p450223.html

There are also many, many dresses like the above, in which the model is being digested by a Muppet from the knees down. In this case, there may actually be a Flesh to Cotton Candy spell going on.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/sheath-column-sweetheart-short-mini-taffeta-cocktail-dress_p350860.html

It's like you're a dressed-up French maid! Who enjoys wearing giant roses on her ass!

http://www.lightinthebox.com/a-line-strapless-short-mini-taffeta-cocktail-dress_p246864.html

Or you could have barnacles.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/Sheath--Column-Bateau-Short--Mini-Sequined-And-Elastic-Woven-Satin-Cocktail-Dress_p204270.html

So...how *is* Reaganomics working out for you?

http://www.lightinthebox.com/trumpet-mermaid-v-neck-sweep-brush-train-tulle-luxurious-dresses_p392103.html

You are *molting*, lady. You might want to look into that.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/a-line-sweetheart-mini-short-sequined-cocktail-dress_p514322.html

Oh my God, someone skinned Lisa Frank.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/A-line-Strapless-Short--Mini-Taffeta-Cocktail-Dress_p172188.html

So, nobody's going to mistake me for Tim Gunn, ever. But there's subjective taste in fashion, and then there's wearing a skirt reminiscent of a diaper and obscuring your breasts with giant lumpy flowers, and I do not get it, no sir.

But that's a tangential rant. This dress is...comparatively normal. I mean, it's bad, but it's not surreally bad. I mean, there's that, and then there's...

http://www.lightinthebox.com/Trumpet-Mermaid-Bateau-Court-Train-Sequined-And-Organza-Evening-Dress_p466745.html

or

http://www.lightinthebox.com/ball-gown-sweetheart-asymmetrical-taffeta-elastic-silk-like-satin-evening-dress_p245968.html

or

http://www.lightinthebox.com/Organza-Sheath--Column-V-neck-Floor-length-Evening-Dress-inspired-by-Sex-and-the-City--FSH0186-_p54023.html

http://www.lightinthebox.com/trumpet-mermaid-sweetheart-floor-length-organza-evening-dress-with-beading-and-side-draping_p484267.html

I CAN SEE THROUGH TIME.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/sheath-column-sweetheart-floor-length-sequined-evening-dress_p646915.html

I had this for my Barbie when I was ten, and I still kinda want it on that basis alone.

http://www.lightinthebox.com/sheath-column-one-shoulder-sweetheart-floor-length-chiffon-evening-dress_p474841.html

I do not know what's happening in this picture. Nobody knows what's happening in this picture. There are no answers.

Needlessly Epic Journeys

Hour 1: Dark Omens

Zipcar reservation is from 6-8 PM: in theory, more than enough time to drop off Aralis bins at arianhwyvar's house and get back for dinner. I haul the Temple bin across the street, find the car, and try to unlock it. No dice.

Half an hour later, a nice Zipcar lady on the phone says that there must be "weird electrical signals" in the car, as "happens sometimes", extends my reservation, and unlocks it remotely. I can't lock it again, but eh. On the road!

Hour 2: The Gathering Storm

Ten minutes into the ride, my GPS, which has been charging in my apartment all day and is now plugged into the cigarette lighter thingie, makes obnoxious beeping battery noises and then dies. I say things. I stop at a Milton gas station and buy a new car charger. I plug it in and turn the GPS on.

The GPS lights up, still in the red, works for all of five minutes, and then dies again.

Hour 3: Delivery.

With the help of several kind strangers and a number of calls to arianhwyvar that involve phrases like "...so, what are your feelings on Trapelo Road?", I arrive. I drop things off, I say hi, I charge my GPS up to green again, I get in the car, and get to Cambridge before once more suffering the Heat Death of the TomTom.

Hour Four: False Hope and Dialogue

"Dear Boston: You know, some cities have street signs. Yes, 'on every street'. Some cities also make sure that aforesaid signs are visible from the road rather than hidden in a morass of trees. Just wanted to let you know. No reason."

"...ALLSTON? The HELL?"

"I will buy everything in this Walgreen's if you can tell me how I get to Quincy. No dice, huh? Probably just as well: I do not really need an inflatable beach ball."

"Directions! A map! I love you, walrus-y hotel manager! If I'm ever in Allston and in need of a Day's Inn, I will turn to you."

"...thaaaaat was not my off-ramp. Or my on-ramp. Or any kind of a ramp that goes anywhere."

"TARGET! YES!"

"I will take this shiny new GPS please."

"Yaaaaay! Shiny new GPS is correctly plugged in. Shiny new GPS knows how to get home! After dangers untold and--did you just beep, Shiny New GPS, in that dying-battery way with which I am now INTIMATELY FAMILIAR? And turn red? And..."

The audience is here invited to picture something like the Darth Vader "NOOOOOOO" scene. But with more of an R rating.

Chapter 5: Despair.

When GPS 2 dies, I'm somewhere in Chestnut Hill, in what I would have called a "Residential Zone" back in my SimCity days. I keep driving, in the vain and foolish hope that I'll see a sign for a highway. The time is now 11 PM.

I do not see a highway. I do discover that I've left my cell phone at arianhwyvar's and, as a result, spend some time that is not my finest moment weeping into a borrowed CVS phone and asking my Zipcar agent to send an extraction team. Then I get back on the road with my fifth set of directions tonight.

"Oh, hey, that's the house where daemo and k_beckett used to live.

...fuck."

I spend some time in Dorchester. I don't remember all the time I spent in Dorchester, except at one point I stopped to try and get directions and had an unlicensed cabbie offer to drive in front of me to my apartment. I tried to explain that while I was sure he was personally very nice, that seemed like a bad idea, without offending him; I failed.

At some point, I think I also had some kind of "this...isn't...happening!" Eternal Darkness style breakdown. No zombies followed, though. Only Blue Hill Avenue, and signs for "evacuation route." Shouldn't an evacuation route take you out of the city? And toward a place where a girl might find a highway?

Apparently not.

Hour 6: Homecoming

Is that? It is! It's an Interstate sign! Oh, Highway 93, clasp me to your welcoming and straightforward bosom! Let us never be parted again, or at least not until Exit 12!

After Exit 12, I'm good. This isn't, alarmingly, the first time I've been lost in Precipitating Quincy. I park the Zipcar, grab my things, and go in to have a hero's dinner.

By which I mean rice and an apple.

1890s Cocktails in England?

Hi!

I was wondering if anyone knows approximately when the tradition of having cocktails for an hour or so before dinner started? I'm writing a story set at an English house party, around 1894: the hero needs an opportunity to tell his host about the ZOMG CREEPY THING that happened earlier, and that seemed like a good occasion, but I'm not sure if the custom was actually going on by that point.

Googled "Victorian cocktail hour," "Victorian Dinner party", "Cocktail hour 1890s", "Dinner party 1890s."

Thanks!

ETA: Annnd it seems like this went here instead of the little_details comm, but hey, if anyone knows, it's all good!

Whatnow?

The local used bookstore has a copy of, I swear, Freshman Passion . The novel itself seems to be standard older-YA fare of the mid-nineties Sweet Valley High variety: lots of pairings and fights, not much actual sex, and the occasional vehicular manslaughter or act of arson.

However, the title--apparently it's #19 in the "Freshman Dorm" series--lent itself to subtitling as I walked home.

Freshman Passion: His Roommate Probably Won't Wake Up For Ten Minutes, Right?
Freshman Passion: Beer Goggles and Other Hazards of Modern Life
Freshman Passion: Because You Really Don't Need That 8 AM Stat Lecture
Freshman Passion: "Campus Orientation," One Dorm Room At A Time
Freshman Passion: ...Do You Even Go Here?
Freshman Passion: Meeting Your Friends at 10 AM in Other Dorms' Bathrooms
Freshman Passion: Someday You'll Look Back and Cringe
Freshman Passion: Sunday Mornings In Three Inches of Eyeshadow
Freshman Passion: Poster Che Guevara Is Judging Your Technique
Freshman Passion: So, Um, Now That We've Slept Together, Do You Want to Get Coffee Sometime?

And, in the "I came up with this, and now I hate myself" category:

Freshman Passion: The Difference Between TA and T&A Is...Academic
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Part III: Angst! Nighttime Driving! And the Power of Grayskull!

...yeah, not sure where that last one came from.

A brief note beforehand: oh my God is there nothing to do at work today. I am one of three people in this office, and oh my God there is nothing to do. I'm tempted to throw a keg party, or start running a tabletop game or something. Although we'd have to figure out a Post-It-based system.

So, got to Aralis! Tried to wait out the PC base standing in front of the mod building; realized that this was gonna be one of those times when a substantial part of said PC base stood in front of said mod building for half an hour, proceeded toward town anyhow.

Dionne welcomed me back and told me that they'd probably need lifekeepers.

"...can't leave you people alone for five minutes, huh?"

Cue running up the hill with stuff, depositing stuff, running back down the hill, and collapsing. "Nice to be home."

It was a really good session! I was sorry to have missed wacky mushroom hijinks and so forth on Friday, but I got back into things quickly, and almost never lacked for stuff to do. Could have done more, in fact, but 6 AM wakeup time and New Hampshire caught up with me, and I passed out pretty early in the evening.

Really, there are few situations not improved by creepy calliope music. Oh, the CarnEvil flashbacks.

Lots of angst, as per title. Good Lord. A few situations where Azarin's internal monologue was very much of the "...and I'm making the decisions here? Holy fuck, how'd that happen?" Worse than the why-am-I-on-the-front-line moments of yesteryear, even. ;)

A lot of great conversations, angsty and otherwise. I vote for more "fox tea"; I do not vote for more Tower. Ow. ("Oh, well, there's gonna be a big melee fight, I'll just stay back here and OW OW OW WHEN DID BANE GET BMV DAMAGE FUUUUUUUUUUUU--")

I may have to NPC something this summer. I definitely need new costuming.

Driving at night went much better than I'd thought it would. Coffee helped a lot, too: I was really very out of it by the time everyone we left site.

Part 2: Surprisingly Musical

6 AM: Wake up. Shower and dress in Aralis costume. Outside, it's looking like a nice day. Mom hands me coffee and observes that I look like a Disney heroine. I take a look around at Bethel, which has something like two streets:

"Little town, it's a quiet village..."

6:30: I start off, Mom having backed out of the driveway for me. Driving out of Bethel, "Closing Time" on the radio, I think about the town itself; it's not the place I grew up, really, but I put in some time here, skated and learned to ski, worked a summer at the deli (and have the scar to show it), watched bad movies and got worse perms. I think about cafeteria meals and student babysitters, discovering Angband and Wolfenstein by lurking around the school computer lab, the way summer still feels like freedom and autumn still feels like a new beginnings.

I was worried that I'd be sad now. I'm not. I sing along all "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end," and hey, sometimes you have to live the cliche. Also, I'm sort of liking this driving thing.

8 AM: My Focus, awesome as it is, lacks an iPod slot. Therefore, I am dependent on a string of radio stations, and on my ability to simultaneously steer and hit the "tune" button when I hit static or commercials or one of those odious morning shows.

I spend some time wondering about the actual audience for said morning shows. Seriously, there are people who prefer cheesy sound effects and "how about this airline food"-style humor to actual music? Are these the same people who buy guns at thrift stores?

Currently, I'm listening to some station calling itself "The Voice of the White Mountains," which would also make for a decent prestige class. I may well be singing along, which is why I drive alone.

And I may also be encountering one of the dangers of listening to the radio, to wit: getting enthusiastic about a song you don't know and then being filled with shame when the announcer identifies it. "Kelly Clarkson. KELLY CLARKSON? I'm just gonna hurl myself into traffic now."

9 AM: Somewhere in New Hampshire. There is a lot of New Hampshire. This part of it contains a Rite-Aid, where I've stopped to get Coke but also singles, as I've just remembered that I'll be going through all the toll roads.

I am not Ms. Impulse Control 2012 to begin with, and the lack of sleep doesn't help, which may be why my first reaction to the basket of raspberry whip eggs is "Oooh! Easter candy in May!" and not "Um, Easter candy? In May?" Anyway, I buy five.

10 AM: "Whooooooo-ooooh, LIVIN' ON A PRAAAAAAAYER!"

10:30: I realize I should get gas. I figure meh, I don't want to pull off into a town and go out of my way; I'll just find a service plaza. I mean, it's a highway. There's got to be one somewhere soon.

11 AM: Jesus Christ, New Hampshire.

11:20 AM: Okay, the points-of-interest thing says that the nearest gas station is .1 miles away, but the actual directions say it's...seventeen miles. Ulp.

11:25 AM: "Please exist, Cumberland Farms. Please exist. Please exist."

11:30 AM: Holding my breath and coasting down hills and...oh, Sunoco, how I love you, and your highly-flammable awesomeness.

12 PM: The thing about switching radio stations is that you get a lot of the same songs even more frequently than normally. I think Adele's set fire to the rain at least five times.

Also, I am beginning to get nervous, insofar as I'm about twenty miles away from my destination, according to the GPS, and I'm still in New Hampshire. Do not want to stop and check GPS, so continue onward, hoping that I have neither gotten the address wrong nor incurred some sort of hideous curse wherein I am trapped in New Hampshire for eternity.

12:30 PM: "Welcome to Massachusetts. BOOYAH."

12:45: Arrive at Aralis site, figuring that I'll grab my stuff and then sneak up the hill. Get out of the car, look over...okay, all the PCs are in front of the module building. I have the best timing ever!

Part 3, Aralis, coming soon!

Weekend Odyssey: Part 1

...which I guess would be the bit with Telemachus and the suitors. Only for "suitors" read "many, many nice middle-aged folks in formal dress", which is probably better and involves fewer people getting killed with arrows at the end.

Although the street planners in Charlestown could use some arrowy death. And I was none too pleased with my GPS at the beginning, either.

"Turn left on Washington? You mean drive through the concrete highway barrier and across two lanes of oncoming traffic? No, I don't think I will be doing that, actually."

"'Arrive at destination on the right' my ass. Okay, now I...a roundabout? Fuck. This."

"Okay, it is NOT a street if it's narrower than MY ACTUAL BODY, and furthermore, fuck this."

"Hi, Emi. Hi, Ben. Get in the car before I get arrested."

Ben drove up to Maine. This was in flagrant violation of my rental agreement, but hey, if I'm not flagrantly violating *something*, it's not a weekend. I dozed; we listened to Jack White; we eyed the landscape with forboding.

See, the route between Boston and my parents' place varies a lot depending on weather. When it's sunny or snowing, the landscape is charming. When it's gray or rainy, it's like a goddamn Russian play, and Friday was totally The Collected Works of Anton Chekov, As Performed By Northern New England.

We coped with it as we always do: with excessive snideness.

"That flea market--"
"Okay, first of all, it's a 'Pick 'n' Paw'. Get your terminology straight."
"It had a sign in the window that said 'Guns'."
"Yep."
"Can you buy guns at a flea market?"
"What, you don't want to get slightly used deadly weapons?"
"I can't believe this hasn't featured on Law and Order."

We discussed NPR. Emi's boyfriend likes it. Emi and I contend that the news is good, and This American Life is sometimes cool, but when half your "human interest" bits come right out of the more depressing end of John Updike stories, having them read in a contemplative monotone is going a bit far.

"It's like, if more than half of your test audience has the will to live after your audition, you don't get the job."

"Coming up on NPR: we'll take another look at earnest old people trying to keep up a cherished institution, and we'll dwell extensively on how they have no money and the next generation mocks their hopes and dreams. Next, on 'Jesus Christ, Just Start Drinking Now'."

Up in Bethel, we tumbled out of the car and into my folks' temporary house, hugged Mom, fussed with the coffee maker--sorry, the second coffee maker, since Dad is having philosophical differences with the main model--changed, and headed over to the school dining hall.

Did you know that I'm working in Boston now? Because many, many people know that I'm working in Boston now. Oh, hey, shrimp platter!

Emi said, at some point during the evening, that this was our retirement party as well as our parents': there will probably be other awkward small-talk-with-near-strangers parties, since our cousins keep getting married and all, but this was really the last time we'd have to put on the dresses and the makeup and the manners and be The Kunkle Girls. (Also a really awful thirties band.) True.

And a moment of bonding, walking back to the car:

"You know, kid, you have great legs. I've always hated you for that."
"Well, I've always wanted your abs. You vile bitch."
"Really?"
"Really."
"Awww!"

We may have hugged. Ah, sisterhood.

Back at the house, all five of us discarded formal clothes and shrimp platters in favor of sitting around on sofas in a variety of bathrobes, eating leftover chips and drinking...well, whatever came to hand.

"Hey, Mom? You know what goes great with this herbal tea of yours? Cherry brandy!"
"You're a disturbing child. Always were."

Next time: New Hampshire, man.
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Disbelief: The Suspension Thereof

Disclaimer: This is a rant. Odds are it doesn't apply to you personally. If I hang out with you, it doesn't; if it did apply to you, I would not be hanging out with you. You can be pretty damn sure about that.

Guys: the next time one of you complains that the male characters in a work of fiction--even something I hate for other reasons--are "too pretty" or too well-groomed or whatever and it's not that you mind but it's just not realistic*, I will find you and beat you about the head and shoulders with, I don't know, Boris Vallejo.

Seriously.

At a conservative estimate, I've been into fantasy/sf/comics/blah for eighteen years. That's eighteen years of stiletto-heeled combat footwear, armor that assumes breasts generate invisible force fields, contortionist poses so you can have both T&A on a single page, and...Rob Liefield, which covers a lot.

And you know, whatever. I don't care that much. Fantasy is fantasy; if you're not going for grim-and-gritty, whatever; maybe the thousand-year-old celibate warrior monk is making some kind of "fuck you, I have all the psychic powers so just try it" point by serving up tits on the halfshell; I don't get particularly exercised about the whole thing.

Except when guys--and it is always guys, and it is almost always guys who couldn't pick a gym or a razor out of a lineup, I'm just saying--start going off about "too pretty" this and "waxed chest" that. Because really? *Really*?

So what you're saying here, That Guy, is one of two things:

1) Your imagination just sucks. In which case, watch some episodes of Mr. Rogers until you develop a better one, and get over it.

2) You suck. In which case...get over it.

#arguingontheInternet

*See also: regardless of my problems with Twilight, which are like unto the stars in the sky in number, I am not a fan of dissing the "random average girl inexplicably gets hot guy" plot in and of itself, because the reverse fantasy appears in a little genre I like to call JUST ABOUT EVERY WORK OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA EVER. Including half the stuff supposedly aimed at women.**
**Exhibit A: Sex in the City. Steve/Miranda. The prosecution rests; the prosecution is, in fact, slightly nauseous remembering that plot.
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