Swan Tower

Oct. 31st, 2014

06:00 am - A Year in Pictures – Bones in the Parisian Catacombs

Bones in the Parisian Catacombs
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In the late eighteenth century, health concerns led the city of Paris to empty all the cemeteries within city bounds and move the remains to a series of catacombs outside the walls. There are an estimated six million people down there — you see only a fraction of the remains on your tour — and most of it is very difficult to photograph, as they don’t allow tripods or flash (so as to protect the bones). This picture, however, came out splendidly.

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Oct. 30th, 2014

10:30 am - why I hate the dress shoe industry

A while ago I posted about needing new dress shoes. A lot of you gave helpful feedback, whether on LJ, on DW, or by email, and I was optimistic for the future.

Then I actually tried to get some shoes.

Really, I should have started this hunt way sooner — and with that in mind, I’m going to continue the hunt, because the shoes I bought for my immediate purpose meet basically none of my initial criteria. The heels are too high, they have no padding, they have no arch support. They’re just the best I was able to obtain on short notice. The shoes I found that might have worked weren’t available in my size, or couldn’t be obtained in time (one site has no shipping option faster than 10 business days — wtf). But this rant is about something bigger.

This rant is about the dress shoe industry basically telling me to go to hell.

ME: I would like a pair of heels that are not an ergonomic disaster.
INDUSTRY: I suppose I can help you. Here, have a small selection of shoes with padding and arch support and heels of less than two inches. They are very suitable to wear to work.
ME: No, I need something dressy. Evening wear shoes, not business shoes.
INDUSTRY: Oooh! We have those! You can enjoy a wide selection of beautifully designed platforms and wedges and stilettos, with heels ranging from three inches up.
ME: Did you forget my first criteria? I want dressy shoes without insanely high heels.
INDUSTRY: Three inches isn’t insane.
ME: Yes, it is. Look, I don’t want to argue; just give me the kind of shoe I’m looking for.
INDUSTRY: They don’t exist.
ME: What? Why not?
INDUSTRY: Because fuck you, that’s why. If you want to look fancy, then you have to pay the price. You have to be unstable, incapable of walking quickly, and in pain by the end of the evening. Those are the rules.

There are exceptions — a very, very, very small number of them, in the grand scheme of things. But on the whole, the dress shoe industry is flat-out uninterested in letting women look nice and take care of their feet. The shoes that are comfortable are also sensible, in the aesthetic meaning of that word. Even though there’s no reason you can’t design an attractively strappy shoe with a heel of, say, an inch and a half. Even though there’s no reason you can’t build a small amount of padding into the sole of something other than a sedate pump. We live in a world where anything less than two and a half inches is a “low heel,” and the three-inch mark is treated as the median. Never mind the detrimental health effects of wearing shoes like that on a regular basis: as a woman, you can wear good shoes, or you can look nice, but you can’t do both at once. (And god help you if you decide to flip the bird to the notion of “looking nice.”)

Ten minutes at DSW and I wanted to light the entire dress shoe section on fire. I ended up walking out with a pair of not-too-expensive heels that have no padding or arch support, but do unexpectedly offer ankle support — not by intent, I imagine, but simply because they have a decorative bit that laces up. These are not the shoes I want; they are not the dressy black heels I can wear with many outfits for the next ten years. I’m going to have to keep searching for those. But I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about the hunt, because the industry has zero interest in providing me with what I want.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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08:00 am - A Year in Pictures – A Mausoleum in Brompton

A Mausoleum in Brompton
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Closing out our tour of the three great cemeteries I’ve visited, we have this mausoleum in Brompton, which makes me think inescapably of New Orleans — probably because that’s one of the few places in the U.S. where you’re liable to find this kind of mausoleum, weathered and stained and picturesque.

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Oct. 29th, 2014

10:00 am - links for the fighty types

These have been piling up for a while, so I might as well put them all in one post:

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08:00 am - A Year in Pictures – Highgate Urn

Highgate Urn
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One final shot from Highgate: another funerary urn, this one beneath a tree whose clusters of berries were catching the sunlight beautifully.

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Oct. 28th, 2014

11:30 am - In the line of fire

On Friday I hit a tipping point and posted about #GamerGate.

I spent a while thinking about it before I wrote that post: not so much what I was going to say (I’d had that taking shape in my head for a while), but whether I should say it. The internal conversation went something like this:

OUTRAGED BRAIN: Aaaaaaaugh must rant.
NERVOUS BRAIN: . . . do we really want to jump into that pit?
OUTRAGED BRAIN: But if we don’t, we’re part of the problem!
NERVOUS BRAIN: Yeah, but we might get trolls coming after us.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: Honey, our microphone ain’t that big. Nobody will notice.
NERVOUS BRAIN: They will if we use the hashtag.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: So? We’re still nobodies in the grand scheme of things. How bad could it get?
NERVOUS BRAIN: The answer to that question is exactly what I’m afraid of.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: What, you think somebody’s going to bother doxxing us?
NERVOUS BRAIN: No. But what if they do.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: You realize this is exactly what they want — to frighten us into silence.
NERVOUS BRAIN: . . . .

And lo, I posed, and lo, I attracted some Twitter trolls. I responded to a few of them, not because I thought it would do any good with that specific person — at least a couple were almost certainly sockpuppets — but because it might do some good with people reading the conversation. Even then, though, I set some ground rules for myself: I’d give people maybe three or five chances to say anything of use, and if they didn’t (or if they set me off faster than that), I’d mute them.

Some of them didn’t even really merit that much consideration. But like I said, having the conversation in public might do some good, and since I haven’t been involved in this (or any major internet altercation) very much, I have the emotional resources to engage, at least for now. I can see, though, how that would change very fast: even dealing with the limited response I got ate most of my morning, and had things gotten scarier than they did, it would have drained me in no time flat.

Which is to say: the tactics work. Unfortunately. Even while I’m laughing at their transparency, they’re still eating away at me. And this is when I’m wandering around in the shallow end. I don’t know how people do it, the Anita Sarkeesians of the world, the ones who are on the front lines of this crap for an extended period of time. I hope I never find out firsthand — and yet, it’s possible that someday I will, because see the conversation above. I do not want to let fear for what might happen stop me from saying what I need to.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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08:00 am - A Year in Pictures – Berries on a Brompton Grave

Berries on a Brompton Grave
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I am not enough of a botanist to know what these berries are, but I liked the bright scatter they made across a grave slab in Brompton.

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01:00 am - in honor of the season, I give you: Monstrous Beauty

Some years ago, my brain got stuck in a certain gear and cranked out seven rather dark fairy-tale retellings. In this brave new world of ebooks, it is quite easy for me to put them together for your Halloween delectation:

Brennan-MonstrousBeauty200x300

It may be purchased from one (or more!) of the following fine retailers:

(I do hope to get it up in iTunes before long, but the roadblocks they put in the way make that difficult.)

Edited to add: Sorry, this was meant to go up at 1 p.m. rather than 1 a.m., which would have given Barnes and Noble time to fix whatever is currently borked about their system — they’re not listing Monstrous Beauty for sale yet, and their back end is down so I can’t attempt to figure out why (which possibly is why). The Amazon links were broken just because of a c&p error; sorry about that. They should be okay now.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Oct. 27th, 2014

11:00 am - a quaint twentieth-century concept

My husband and I reached a point a while ago where we ought to start thinking about doing something more useful with our savings than letting them sit in a savings account. After much procrastination, we finally went to see an investment advisor to talk about our options.

During that meeting, one of the things he asked us was when we expected to retire. I forget what my husband said; my reply was basically that so long as I am healthy enough to write, and continuing to earn money by doing so, I see no reason to stop.

What I did not say to him: I don’t think I believe in retirement anymore.

I have a dreadful suspicion that fifty years from now, “retirement” is going to be seen as a quaint twentieth-century concept, an unusual social construct that existed for a little while and then went away again. There will be no retirement; there will only be dying or reaching a point where you are no longer able to work. If you’re lucky, you’ll have enough money to more or less support yourself when that latter point comes. If you aren’t . . . and a lot of people won’t be. I have far too many friends with no savings and too much debt — college- and even grad-school-educated friends who can’t find jobs worthy of their qualifications, who work at what they can get to make ends meet but god help them if one thing goes wrong. There’s no “retirement” when you can barely afford a nest, let alone put together a nest egg.

I’d like to be wrong. I’d like to see this country, and a lot of others around the world, reverse the current trend toward wealth stratification that leaves 1% with obscene amounts of money and 99% with a life plan straight out of the nineteenth century. I don’t really plan to retire, but I’d like it to be a thing people can still do when I get to that age.

In the meanwhile, I will save money, invest it wisely, and count my lucky stars that I’m in a position to try.

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08:00 am - A Year in Pictures – Mossy Lintel

Mossy Lintel
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Lintels: not that interesting. Lintels with a slight gilding of moss and some lens flare to liven up the scene: much more interesting. (This is one last detail from the Circle of Lebanon in Highgate.)

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