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Today in “but, what, why” news October 25, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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When The Onion produced an article headlined “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” I thought “wow, that’s so true”…in the sense of “wow, that is a piece of grim satire, but it sure does highlight essential truths about global racial dynamics.”

Turns out it’s “so true” in the sense that we’ve had an Ebola vaccine that tested as 100% effective in nonhuman primates since 2005.

And if they had promptly moved on to human trials, “researchers said…a product could potentially be ready for licensing by 2010 or 2011.”

Multifandom Recommendations, 10/19 October 19, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Uncategorized.
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Sailor Moon, Madoka Magica | Happily Ever After

It’s a nice life, Madoka decides. Being reincarnated, that is. She has a calm, normal life, no aliens coming down and offering her a wish for her soul.
Madoka Magica | Kyuubei, Tatsuya | G | Nighttime wonders

Tatsuya makes an unexpected friend one dark night.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos/Kevin | R | Rewards

Kevin has two wonderful pets. Sadly only one knows how to behave himself.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos | T | Soon, and Soon Enough

Cecil is not an especially patient person.

Carlos is aware of this.

Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos | T | Scientists Do Not Communicate Directly

or, Five Times Carlos Tried to Communicate “I Love You” Without Using Those Words. And One Time He Used Them. Sort Of.
Doctor Who | Martha, Ten, Iris, Rassilon, Susan, the Master | G | Five Time Lords Martha Jones Didn’t Turn Out To Be

“I don’t know what I was thinking, pining over you like that. Bloody hell, don’t know how I’ll face meself in the mirror after that silliness.”
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil, Khoshekh | G | Birb Cecil riding around on daemon!Khoshekh

Khoshekh always thought it was ironic when he would have to carry Cecil around like a kitten so he wouldn’t get himself hit by a car or eaten by a pterodactyl.
Welcome to Night Vale | Winchell/Trish | G | Pamela Winchell’s List of Fun things to do when you’re…retired.

Oh god, what if no one stopped Pamela’s retirement rampage?
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos | T | Constellations (The Thirteenth Take Remix)

“Are stars supposed to dance?” asks Carlos. “I thought that was a, uh, metaphor.” [The one where Carlos tries to do a guest segment on Cecil's show explaining the moon.]
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos, scientists | T | Aftermath

Time doesn’t work in Night Vale, but you can still run out of it. [Parade Day]
Sparks Nevada | Sparks, Croach | G | Two Against Goo

“Upon waking, you notice that you are soaked. How did this happen? What are the ramifications?”
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil, Tamika, Pamela | T | Underdog

Someone has been taking each of the posters and carefully re-labeling them to read: TAMIKA FLYNN FOR MAYOR.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil, Tamika, Steve, Janice | G | One Quarter Complete

Strex went too far simply by buying the station, but they just kept taking. Now there’s nothing left for the friendly desert community to lose…[Undercover!Janice.]
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos | G | it’s void in the afternoon

It’s void o’clock on Wednesday (or possibly Saturday, or perhaps no discernible point in time at all for time exists only as a human construct and is highly susceptible to influence) when Carlos realises that he can’t remember where he was born.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos, others | T | Carlos is a Nice Boy

“I just got chased home by an angry mob,” Carlos pointed out faintly, “because I accidentally insulted a radio show host I’ve never met who claims to love me.”

“But the mob didn’t actually catch you,” Andre said. “I’d consider that a win.” [Deaf!Carlos.]

#StudentLoan scam heads-up October 18, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Personal.
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Got a too-good-to-be-true letter in the mail the other day. Figured I would put the details online, so you’ll know it’s not just you if something similar shows up in your mailbox.

It’s a folded sheet of paper with those sealed and perforated edges, so it looks official. And it starts off innocently enough:

Dear Erin,
Due to your student loan balances totaling over [price], you are now eligible to receive benefits from a new law that has passed regarding federal student loans including TOTAL FORGIVENESS in some circumstances.

Two problems with this:
1) If a new law like this had really passed in the US, it would be ALL OVER the news, the blogs, my Facebook feed, and my Tumblr dash.
2) My loans are currently several thousand dollars under [price].

Googling some of the language in the letter turned up this Metafilter post about similar “refinance your loan!” tricks. Including this comment:

This is a (phish-y) refinancing offer. I get teh same thing all the time regaring my mortgage. Ususally the loan balance will be slightly higher than your real loan balance because their info is a few months out of date.

Ah, that explains it.

And this:

Presort Standard (marked by the postage) is for bulk, unpersonalized mail only. What this means is that they can’t include any specific details that pertain to you, and it’s almost always junk or spam. Presort First Class mail, while still for bulk mailings, allows personalized information. This type is more likely to be authentic and applicable specifically to you.

And what do you know, this letter is marked Presort Standard. (Even though it has my full name, and some information, however out-of-date, about my specific loans.)

Would be nice if the senders put their name on this thing — but here’s the other big red flag: they don’t. No name, no company logo, no return address, no identification whatsoever. The closest they come is this:

We are a consumer advocacy group. We are not debt collectors. We work on your behalf with the U.S. Department of Education to find applicable flexible financial relief programs to make your Federally Insured Student Loans flexible and easy to manage.

(There’s some fine print with a more honest disclaimer, but the letter is folded in such a way that I literally only just found it: “This is a private fee-based application assistance service, not endorsed or associated with any government agency….”)

The only contact info is the toll-free phone number — 888-852-2076. Which turns up the website of something called “Diabetic Savings Club”. I can’t figure out what they do, or how they would be connected to loan refinancing, much less refinancing of my loans (ftr, I’m not diabetic, nor is anyone in my immediate family). And I’m not invested enough to go calling them to find out (although if anyone reading wants to ring them up and tell me how it goes, feel free).

There’s also a bit of identifying info in the postage — it’s presorted by “Permit no. 1297″ — which turns up lots of sites and discussions about financial predation and dodgy scams.

Long story short: my fellow Americans, if you get a letter like this, don’t let it give you false hope. Shred it, with no regrets.

Probably The Last #ColbertReport Taping You’ll Ever Go To Report (October 14, 2014) October 15, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fake News, Personal.
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As planned, I was at the October 14 (Neil Young) TCR taping! Took a bus roundtrip from Boston to NYC, so I got out of bed at 8am on Tuesday and wasn’t back in until 6am on Wednesday, with nine of those hours spent on the road.

Worth it.

The crew are, as always, very good at getting you energized. They make you cheer so much between the waiting room and the warmup that I was starting to feel hoarse before Stephen himself actually appeared. The fact that the show is coming to an end is part of the atmosphere, and it’s really been embraced — from the audience wrangler jazzing everyone up about how lucky we are to see one of the last tapings, to the warmup comic mocking a guy who had been to five already: “There’s like twenty shows left [note: actually 30], and you’re taking another seat from someone else?” On the list of suggested “things Stephen loves talking about” for the pre-show Q&A, his move to CBS is right there with things like the show’s trip to Iraq. You feel good about it.

When I went to a taping in 2007, I didn’t ask any questions, and came away kind of regretting it. This time, I didn’t bother…because the question I had back then was “if the show was coming to an end, have you thought about what kind of big finale it would have, and are there character-development-type things you would do, given the opportunity?” And, well. In a couple months I’ll find out.

With all that said, let’s get to the good stuff: the quotes and exclusives! (As best I can remember, with the help of a bunch of notes made directly after leaving.)

The Pre-Show (and Post-Show) Q&A

Stephen says “doyouhaveanyquestionstohumanizemebeforeIsayalltheseterriblethings” like it’s all one word these days. And we get right to it….

Q (in very British accent): Have you ever been to [place]?
A (in matching accent): I’m sorry, where?
Q: [Place]. It’s where J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.
A: No, I haven’t. I’ve only been to England a couple of times.
Q: It’s where I live.
A: !!
A (playing it cool): …What’s it smell like?

Q: How do you decompress?
A: I get to tell jokes every night. No, seriously.

Q: Have you ever officiated a gay wedding?
A: No.
A (roguish): …That I know of.

Q: What brand are those big glasses you wear off-camera?
A: I don’t know. I lost them again. I’m going to have to wear these [the normal ones for the show] all the time.
A: I like these anyway. The other ones are kind of standoffish. These are more inviting. They invite people in. It’s like I’m not even wearing glasses at all.

Q: How do you get the part in your hair so straight?
A: I come in at five, and I have a team. They have lasers. They use a surveying level.

Q: Can you drive me home to Montclair after the show?
A: Uh, I live in The New York Area.
[dude, you have serious publicity-related involvement in the Montclair Film Festival, are people not supposed to have noticed?]

Q: I just turned 40, so I was wondering…what do you hope to have accomplished by the time you turn 40?
A (chuffed): Well, I hope to be established at CBS by then…
A (seriously): I got this show when I was 40, I was 41 when it started, I’m 50 now…the 40s are a good decade.
A: Get yourself a TV show. I really recommend it.

After the interview, they had to retape a couple of lines, so Stephen took a few more questions to keep us engaged while the crew was getting that set up. [He also pulled a lot of faces. That man's face is cartoonishly malleable. He did this curly Grinch-with-a-plan smile, and a square, wide-mouthed frogface. I lost it on that one when he started doing lizard-flicks with his tongue.]

Q: What’s the story behind the Hugh Laurie photo on your shelf?
A: [gentle explanation for this poor soul who hasn't watched House, M.D. closely enough, and/or just isn't enough of a TCR fan]

Q: Is that [on the mantel by the interview table] your real Emmy?
A: One of them.
A: …That was a really dickish way to answer that question, wasn’t it? Like, the most dickish way possible.
A: That’s the one we took to Iraq. You can see she’s in digital camo.

Q: What’s your favorite barbecue?
A: Where are you from?
Q: South Carolina.
Q: Charleston.
Q: James Island.
Q: My family’s in the business, that’s why I asked.
A: [starts talking about places, eventually giving the names Michael and Maurice]
Q: Those are my uncles.
[Turned out she was a Bessinger. Turns out Maurice was famously racist, but Stephen praises the barbecue itself: "You can really *kisses fingers* taste the heritage."]

The Second Act That Got Cut

There was an entire Sport Report between the first act and the interview. At the end, Stephen mentioned that it was probably getting cut so we could have “as much Neil as possible.” (It sounded like they wrote a table of contents for the top of the show, but they didn’t even film that. Explained up-front that tonight, “we have too many jokes.”)

I remember being a little let down that the middle segment I was getting to see in-person wasn’t, say, political…but hey, studio-audience-exclusive gags! Can’t complain about that. And “Stephen” even opened with “Nation, I love sports. I also love pretending to love things I don’t actually care about.”

Topic was the Fall Experimental Football League, which he described as “Have you ever watched college football, and thought, ‘man, I wish these players were better’, and then watched the NFL and thought ‘wait, not that good’?” One of the FXFL’s selling points is that they expect to have at least 25% their players picked up by the NFL mid-season: “Because what you really want is to follow a team where all the good players keep leaving.” He listed a bunch of previous failed non-NFL football leagues, included the XFL, but added, “You know this one will succeed because they’ve added an F, the letter synonymous with success.”

Miscellanea (with Bonus Neil Young)

The set is so classy these days. When they were getting us settled, the video columns behind the desk and around the front of the platform were playing this fishbowl scene, and it all went together: you could see the same fish swim out-of-frame on one column and into the next.

Between the interview and the musical bit, the crew folded up either end of the platform that table sits on (with the table and chairs still sitting in the middle), used a bungee cord to hook the ends together, and wheeled the whole thing away. There were audible “oooh”s from the audience. So that’s how they do it!

Stephen did surprisingly little guitar playing. From what I could tell looking between the screens and the people, they filmed it well. Basically, any time the camera was just on Neil, Stephen’s hands weren’t moving.

They also filmed another song — a straightforward duet of “You Are My Sunshine” — that didn’t end up on-air. (I don’t see it as a web exclusive, either. Bonus feature for an upcoming best-of DVD? IDK.) They had the same trouble at the beginning that they did with the first song, where Stephen would try to start the bit and Neil launched straight into playing the song, without waiting for the lead-in they’d rehearsed. Eventually, Stephen went “Is this why Crosby, Stills, and Nash left you?!”

(It was fun. They had a great time with it.)

The Report is soaring out on a high note! And I feel good about that. Even though I’m going to miss it so much when it’s gone.

Monday Works Roundup, 10/13 October 13, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Art, But I'm A Cat Person, Fic, Hellsing, Miscellaneous, Night Vale.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Miranda in Leather (art | Miranda, Poe | worksafe)

Pixel Dolls – Integra Hellsing (dolls | Integra | worksafe)

Welcome to Night Vale(/His Dark Materials)
A Blinking Light Up On The Clouded Mountain, chapter 21 (fic | Cecil/Carlos, HDM crossover characters, WtNV ensemble | T)
Cecil, Carver (sketch | Cecil | worksafe)
Cecil Meets the Family 1 (art | Cecil, Khoshekh, Carlos’s family | worksafe)
…and you like me better as a sister than a spiderwolf, right? (sketch | Cecil, sister | worksafe)
The Carlsberg Sisters (art | Janice, Renée | worksafe)
Armed and Literate (art | Tamika | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Bianca stuns in a tux, while Kara Lynn enters the battlefield.

Multifandom Recommendations, 10/12 October 12, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Recommendations.
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Madoka Magika | Homura/Madoka | G | Invariable

Madoka loves everyone. Homura loves Madoka.
Emperor’s New Groove | Kuzco/OC, ensemble | T | Till the Day We Die

Kuzco and Pacha’s friendship [and life in general] over the years.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil, others | G | Theater

For the first time in many years, a new movie theater — The Xerophile– is opening in Night Vale! Cecil gives us the updates on this exciting event, along with the news, the Community Calendar, and the weather.
Welcome to Night Vale | bird!Kevin, db!Carlos | G | balloon

Kevin was finally able to schedule a day off where he could visit Ciro. He hadn’t been able to make it to the hospital in a little over a month.
Welcome to Night Vale | Carlos/Earl(/Cecil) | M | Research in Controlled Media Response

Earl’s a pretty helpful guy. So when his scientist boyfriend asks for some help in conducting an experiment, he’s happy to lend a hand.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos, Smiling God | T | bury me in galaxies (i’ll call it home)

The smiling god’s eyes do not materialize here, but Carlos somehow senses its presence every time he turns his head. He falls and falls and wonders why he ever stayed so long in Night Vale in the first place.
3 Bedroom Apartment/House Plans

3D layouts for dozens of different apartment floor plans and design schemes. Follow the links for more with different numbers of bedrooms.
Sailor Moon | Chibiusa, ensemble | G | The Ripples In The Water

You can’t drop a pebble in a pond without changing the water. The same holds true for a destiny. (Chibiusa has a brother, and it changes the rest of the future from what the main characters remember.)
donjon; Fractal World Generator

Generates random maps for your fantasy or AU world.
Welcome to Night Vale, Homestuck | Cecil/Carlos, John/Dave, ensemble | T | The Longest Surviving Intern at Night Vale Community Radio

A boy with red eyes and white hair walked into town today. He was carrying a long, sharp sword, which, according to some reports, was dripping with fresh blood. He wore a pair of dark glasses over his eyes.
Welcome to Night Vale | Daniel/Lauren, Cecil | G | Malfunction

Sometimes Daniel malfunctions.
The X-Files | Mulder/Scully, ensemble | T | Gonna Be Different this Time

It’s the end of the mytharc. Mulder and Scully, Skinner and Frohike, at the end of it all. Final installment of the Life During Wartime series.
Hunger Games | Brutus, Lyme, Enobaria, ensemble | T | The End is the Beginning is the End: The Quarter Quell

When the Victor Games are announced, District 2 must send its heroes along with the rest of them. Brutus hopes doing his duty will silence the voices telling him this is wrong; Enobaria wants to burn the traitor Mockingjay for bringing this on people who only ever followed orders. Lyme needs to make it through without stabbing President Snow in the eye.
Discworld, Doctor Who| Death, Jack | T | Death and the Definitely-Not-A-Maiden

When Jack dies, Death is there to meet him. Every time.
Welcome to Night Vale | Cecil/Carlos, Janice | G | Look At Our Gay Dragons

Old Woman Josie helps Cecil cope with Carlos’ absence. Janice and Cecil bond on the way home from Girl Scout Camp, and discover a winged friend.

I have a ticket to Colbert this Tuesday! October 10, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fake News.
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So the Report will not end without me getting to see one more taping.

October is an auspicious month for this. Went to my first (and, so far, only) taping on Halloween 2007, and of course the Rally to Restore Sanity on October 30, 2010. I even got in early enough that the Megabus round trip was $10 — not that it wouldn’t have been worth a splurge — I mean, fake news has been a fandom of my heart since 2005. And while I got into it a few months before TCR launched as a thing, it’s “Stephen”-the-character (and the whole quasi-fictional universe he inhabits, and his delightful interactions with Jon) that cemented the whole fandom-of-my-heart status.

If by some chance any of you are planning to be at the taping on the 14th, let me know! We can say hi in line, maybe grab bagels together or something.

And if not, look forward to the taping report and some celebretory artwork in the days that follow.

Monday Roundup, 10/6 October 6, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Art, But I'm A Cat Person, Fake News, Fic, Hellsing, Miscellaneous, Night Vale.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Bubbly Cybele (art | Cybele, dolphin | worksafe)

Fake News
Vampire in the Window (art | Jon/”Stephen” | worksafe)

Dolls – The Letze Battallion (pixel dolls | Luke, Jan, Major, Doc, Captain, Zorin, Rip, Schrödinger | worksafe)

Thrilling Adventure Hour
Ducky Pajamas (art | Michelle Henderson | worksafe and adorable)
I’m…from the Moon. (art | Pemily Stallwark | worksafe)
On With The Show (art | ensemble | worksafe)

Welcome to Night Vale(/His Dark Materials)
Night Vale: The Musical, tracks 47-52 (fic, song parodies | Cecil/Carlos, ensemble | T)
A Blinking Light Up On The Clouded Mountain, chapters 18-20 (fic | Cecil/Carlos, HDM crossover characters, WtNV ensemble | T)
Palmer-Carlsberg Family Portrait (art | Cecil, Khoshekh, Cecil’s sister, Janice, Steve | worksafe)
Punk Dana (art | Dana | worksafe)
Blood and stars (art | Cecil, Kevin | worksafe, blood)
Better With Two (art | Cecil/Carlos/Kevin | worksafe)
UWII Cold Weather Gear (art | Cecil/Carlos | worksafe)
Carlsberg Family Daemons (art | Steve, Delphine, Janice | worksafe)

Adventurekateer Ptah (art | the artist | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Bianca and Camellia talk secrets, while their Beings knock each other around a little.

The woman who saved the space program, the woman who was the Nazis’ most wanted person, the woman who chartered a bank in 1903, and more September 27, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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“Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds.” Instead of…coming up with the technology that Bluetooth and wi-fi are based on.

“The three women pictured in this incredible photograph from 1885 — Anandibai Joshi of India, Keiko Okami of Japan, and Sabat Islambouli of Syria — each became the first licensed female doctors in their respective countries.”

“Much of her work was top secret and she was a very private person – she actively avoided the press. Barely anyone knew about what she did for the space programme. It was only at her funeral did her colleagues begin to share her story. ‘Mary [Sherman Morgan] single-handedly saved America’s space programme,’ he said, ‘and nobody knows but a handful of old men.’

Maggie Walker: first woman of any race to charter a bank in the US. As the daughter of a former slave. In 1903.

Antoinette Perry: the actress and director after whom the Tony Awards are named. Started acting in 1905; got into directing in 1928.

Martha Gellhorn: “Women weren’t allowed to serve in combat in those days – that restriction wouldn’t be lifted until 50 years later, in 1994. So how did a female slip through the cracks and land on the beaches with the boys in uniform? Two reasons — she was a journalist, and she was a stowaway.”

Nancy Wake: the Gestapo’s most-wanted person, parachuting, recruiting, taking command of battles, killing an SS sentry with her bare hands, and generally earning that 5-million-franc price on her head.

“Preparing the animators’ vision for camera required the inking and painting of thousands of fragile, combustible cels with perfect refinement. During Snow White, it was not at all unusual to see the ‘girls’—as Walt paternalistically referred to them—thin and exhausted, collapsed on the lawn, in the ladies’ lounge, or even under their desks. ‘I’ll be so thankful when Snow White is finished and I can live like a human once again,’ Rae wrote after she recorded 85 hours in a week.

Monday Roundup, 9/22 September 22, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in Art, But I'm A Cat Person, Fic, Hellsing, Miscellaneous, Night Vale.
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But I’m A Cat Person
Starry Scarf Bianca (art | Bianca | worksafe)

Alucard (and Integra) (pixel dolls | Alucard/Integra, Bondagecard, Riocard, Puppycard | worksafe)
Seras and Pip (and the Cannon) (pixel dolls | Seras/Pip | worksafe)

Thrilling Adventure Hour
The Algonquin Four (art | Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Woodrow Wilson, Harry Houdini | worksafe)
Bon Viv-Haunt (art | Frank/Sadie | worksafe)

Thrilling Adventure Hour/Welcome to Night Vale
Investigateen Alert (comic | Steve, Phillip Fathom | G)

Welcome to Night Vale(/His Dark Materials)
Night Vale: The Musical, tracks 44-46 (fic, song parodies | Cecil/Carlos, ensemble | T)
A Blinking Light Up On The Clouded Mountain, chapter 17 (fic | Cecil/Carlos, HDM crossover characters, WtNV ensemble | T)
GO TO YOUR SNAKE PIT (comic | Cecil, Cecil’s sister | G)
Your Boss Is On My Side (sketch | Carlos, scientist family | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
A challenge is issued! Aren’t cliffhangers great?


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