[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

Oh, I love stories like this: “Citizen scientists” —people who are not necessarily trained scientists but are enthusiastic and eager to take part in scientific research— have discovered a brown dwarf near the Sun. They examined data taken by an orbiting observatory and found the little beastie right at the edge of the telescope’s detection capabilities.

OK, first: Simply put, a brown dwarf is an object that is in between the mass of a planet and a star. That’s really too simply put; we’re talking about a rich and diverse class of objects, every bit as varied and interesting as planets and stars themselves (for that reason, I think it’s unfair to call them “failed stars” as some do; they are their own thing, and fascinating in their own right). You can find out a lot about them by watching my brown dwarf episode of Crash Course Astronomy:

Being warmish, brown dwarfs tend to emit most of their light in the infrared part of the spectrum, outside the color range our eyes can see. But we can build detectors that are sensitive to infrared, attach them to telescopes, launch them into space, and sweep the sky to see what’s out there.

Astronomers have done this, many times, including with the wonderful Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, for several years starting in 2010. It looked in four different wavelengths (colors) of IR light, creating a vast catalog of objects in the sky — over three-quarters of a billion of them.

A lot of those objects were brown dwarfs. There were found in two ways: Either by their colors (they tend to emit light at a specific IR color, making them stand out in WISE images) or by their motion. Brown dwarfs are extremely faint, so we only see ones that are relatively nearby the Sun (like, out to 100 light years away or so). Because they’re close, their motion in space as they orbit the galaxy means we can see them move over time… it’s just like nearby trees seem to whiz past you when you’re in a car, when more distant object appear to move more slowly. Finding moving brown dwarfs is hard; they’re faint and look little more than blips in the images. This makes automating the search difficult (computers are easy to fool). But the human eye is good at seeing such things! And such a task doesn’t need a lot of training either.

star sizes to scale

Size comparison of a normal star like the Sun, a red dwarf, a brown dwarf, and Jupiter. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

That’s why the folks at Zooniverse decided to take this on. This is a group of astronomers and researchers who figured out that non-scientists can not only participate in scientific research but also give a meaningful contribution to it as well. They collect data in the public domain (quite a bit of astronomical data) and present them in such a way that people can analyze them through simple tasks. For example, Galaxy Zoo asks people to identify spiral galaxies, and determine if the arms open clockwise or counterclockwise. Simple, fun, and oddly addictive, in fact. I’ve identified hundreds of galaxies myself there, and they’ve published quite a few papers on the results.

They did a similar project with the WISE images. Called Back Yard Worlds, it blinks four images from WISE observations taken of the same part of the sky at different times. The images have been processed a bit, subtracting one from another, so that fixed objects like stars and galaxies are suppressed, hopefully leaving behind moving targets. Your task: Look for the things that change. It’s not easy; I just tried it and there are lots of things that can fool the eye. But if enough people look at enough images, things turn up.

brown dwarf animation

Animation showing the very subtle motion of WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 in the four WISE images. Credit: NASA / WISE

And something did: On February 1, 2017, less than a week after the launch of Back Yard Worlds, a user spotted what looked like a slowly moving object. It appears as a “dipole”, a shifting spot of black and white due to the way the images were subtracted from one another. Two days later, another user spotted it, then three more not too much after that.

Clearly, the object was real. At this point, professional astronomers used NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, a 3-meter telescope in Hawaii, to observe the object, and they quickly determined it was indeed a brown dwarf.

It has been dubbed WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 (after its coordinates in the sky), and it’s about 110 light years away. Not much is known about it except that it has a spectral type of T5.5, meaning it’s an intermediate mass and cool brown dwarf (with a temperature of very roughly 650 - 1250°C, much cooler than the Sun).

Brown dwarf before and after

Two WISE observations (each composed of several images added together) taken five years apart show the motion of the brown dwarf. Credit: Kuchner et al.

This is exciting for many reasons. For one, finding a single brown dwarf in the data implies that there are more to be discovered; the researchers estimate that more than a hundred previously undiscovered brown dwarfs should be hiding in the WISE data, waiting to be found. A half dozen or so of them may be Y dwarfs, the very coolest kind seen: Some are no warmer than room temperature!

Another reason is that I love that the public gets a chance to get their feet wet with real data. This isn’t some simulation, or some overly simplified homework assignment. This is real science, with real data, that could have a real impact. And in this case, it did, and will continue to do so. It’s wonderful that non-scientists, laypeople, can have the chance to participate in that.

And finally, there’s the potential of this. There is a lot of data out there. Did you know that all Hubble data older than one year is available through an archive? It’s not like you can just grab it and discover strange, new worlds —unlike Zooniverse, CosmoQuest, and other citizen science projects, there’s a huge overhead and learning curve with Hubble data— but there are thousands upon thousands of images and spectra just waiting to be analyzed, far more than the scientists who took them could ever hope to process.

And that’s just Hubble. Cassini, the Mars rovers, Juno… there are dozens of observatories and spacecraft with data just sitting there. What treasures lie within? What discoveries patiently await us? What new kinds of objects, old objects behaving in new ways, new phenomena, have already been captured by these eyes on the sky… biding their time until human eyes gaze upon it?

This idea is thrilling. The whole Universe is out there, and you can be a part of unveiling it.

Tip o’ the dew shield to Astrobites.


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[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Charline Jao

The fact that H. Jon Benjamin voices both Archer in Archer and Bob in Bob’s Burgers is a fact that lends itself well to crossovers, something Archer did in the fourth season with Archer working in the burger shop in the art style of the spy-spoof show. Now we get a chance to see it the other way around, with the Archer team drawn in Bob’s Burgers-style getting serenaded by Linda and other great shenanigans.

When you watch the video above, titled “I Had Something For This Burger,” it’s so immersive and accurate that it’s difficult to believe it was a fan-made passion project from animator Simon Chong who used dialogue from the shows and over seven months created this seamless scene. I never knew I needed a Louise/Cheryl or Tina/Lana interaction so badly until now.

In the video description, he writes:

“Bob’s Burgers is hands down my favourite animated show ever made. I just adore it, it’s my happy place and long may it continue. Archer is another of my favourite shows, and I really enjoyed the crossover between the two in Archer’s 4th season. This piece started out as a doodle back in January 2017, and soon spiraled into something where I challenged to myself to imitate the Bob’s Burgers animation style, and using dialogue from both shows, form some sort of short where the characters meet. This has been an absolute passion project, and it’s made to honor both shows in the only way I know how, through my art.

“Unfortunately, though I love Krieger, Cyril and Ray, I had to drop them from the episode. Bob’s restaurant isn’t a very big space for that many interacting characters, and also adding three more characters to the 10 already featuring added a huge additional level of complexity for having characters interact through dialogue.”

Chong nails everything we love about the two shows, from the opening and ending credits to gently poking fun at how much yelling goes on in Archer. While I recognize some of the dialogue from different episodes of both shows, they’re tied together and edits so well that it’s never distracting or obvious.

What do you think about the crossover?

(via Nerdist, image: screencap)

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[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Dan Van Winkle

Stephen Colbert is wrapping up his “Russia week” as the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government continues, and there’s one allegation in particular that Colbert is interested in: the pee tape. So, he went to the room where it all supposedly went down.

The important parts of the “Steele Dossier” of allegations against Donald Trump—and well beyond, at this point—are in the hands of capable investigators who hopefully won’t get fired anytime soon, but what of the assertion that Trump once hired prostitutes to pee on a bed as a sign of disrespect to Barack and Michelle Obama, who had once occupied it in the Russian hotel?

Trump has denied it, explaining that he’s a “germaphobe” (although no one ever said he’d actively participated in the…festivities directly), and that he’s well aware that he should expect hotel rooms to be bugged—very comforting for Trump hotel guests! In the segment, Colbert made a cursory show of looking for bugs, which are pretty much certainly there despite coming up empty.

He also spoke to Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist who’s been critical of the Russian government’s surveillance policies, who was understandably shy about even admitting that he’d heard the details of what Colbert was there to talk about. Journalists who run afoul of Russian President Vladimir Putin have a history of some extremely bad luck, to say the least.

Regardless, we’re all pretty sure that Donald Trump was under surveillance whenever he was in Russia—the question is whether or not that surveillance turned up anything useful, which is hard to figure out when the whole point of blackmail is to keep it secret and hold it over someone’s head. Luckily, we have only the most qualified TV comedians on the case.

(image: CBS)

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[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Jessica Lachenal

At San Diego Comic-Con, Nickelodeon premiered a pretty sizable sneak peek at the upcoming Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling made-for-TV movie. The movie’s said to pick right back up where the show left off, with Rocko, Heffer, and Filbert coming back from being in space. Catch is, it’s 20 years later for them (like, in real time, too), and this preview shows how each of them deals with living in a very tech-focused world.

Though Rocko seems to be having a hard time dealing with being in the future, Heffer and Filbert are super into it. According to IndieWire’s coverage of the panel, while Heffer might be excited for the future, Filbert falls for it hard. Series creator Joe Murray says Filbert “goes viral,” while Filbert’s voice actor, Mr. Lawrence, describes Filbert as “one of the sheep. He jumps right on and embraces it harder than any others.” What fascinates me about the trailer is that Beverly Bighead (a.k.a. Mrs. Bighead), Rocko’s neighbor, seems genuinely concerned for poor Rocko, who’s having one hell of a breakdown at the end of the trailer. Their relationship as friends was certainly as back-and-forth as they come, but this apparent moment of tenderness has me intrigued as it stands out against the relentlessly fast paced remainder of the preview.

Simply put: I’m so down for a Rocko-style commentary on tech in general. The preview totally doesn’t pull any punches and pokes fun at nearly every aspect of our techy future. Yes, there’s an Apple proxy, there’s a bit on processed and artificial foods, on-demand comics and the downfall of print media, a jab at the food truck and weird food combination craze, and dammit, yes, there is a small indictment of rebooted franchises. In the past, this show was obviously not afraid to poke fun at itself. It knew the importance of not taking its own message too seriously. And more than anything else, it makes me so, so glad to see that it hasn’t lost that sense of humor. I’m just maybe a little bummed that its 44-minute runtime might not be enough for me.

Of course, the panel addressed the possibility of more episodes. Murray stood up and encouraged applause from the audience when the question was posed, and said, “We haven’t talked about it. We’ll see what happens.” Man. Fingers crossed. If there’s any show that can successfully skewer this obsession with reboots, it’s Rocko’s Modern Life.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling comes to Nickelodeon in 2018.

(via The Daily Dot, image: screengrab)

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open thread – July 21-22, 2017

Jul. 21st, 2017 03:00 pm
[syndicated profile] askamanager_feed

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

open thread – July 21-22, 2017 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Charline Jao

Hollywood seems to be paying more attention to anime lately, and they’ve set their sites on the popular ongoing series One Piece.

Weekly Shonen Jump editor-in-chief Hiroyuki Nakano announced that One Piece would be adapted as an “overseas (or foreign) drama” from Hollywood producer Marty Adelstein, the same producer heading the live-action Cowboy Bebop.

While One Piece, like Cowboy Bebop, is a story with such a multitude and diverse array of characters that a Hollywood production isn’t immediately racially questionable, it does seem like a very bizarre choice for a production. Nakano points out that a foreign budget would give the show a higher quality, which makes sense considering how much CGI would probably be necessary to build One Piece‘s fantastical world. However, does One Piece need a live-action film at all?

There are currently no details about how the production would approach the story, but this is franchise with a 20-year-long run. Are they going to have new material or retell these endless amount of stories? How are they going to take a series that’s so, well, animated and expressive and adapt that for live-action? The charm and strength of One Piece relies a lot on the way manga and anime allows for exaggeration and weirdness in it’s action, character design, and more. That translation to live-action could easily end up as underwhelming or weirdly body-horror.

I wish I wasn’t, but I’m immediately skeptical of adaptations like this. Something that snags with these Hollywood productions is what feels like an undercurrent of judgement towards anime, as if a live-action adaptation from a studio somehow validates the worth of these lower-culture stories.

This isn’t a new thing—Oscars largely ignore anime in their animation category, it’s a medium that’s often mocked, and many of these adaptations feel like efforts to capitalize on content that’s already been hugely popular in the U.S. There are plenty of live-action manga/anime adaptations in Japan, but they seem to understand their audience and fans much better than American adaptations that feel a need to appeal to the masses in a different way.

I’m not of the opinion that a bad adaptation will “ruin my childhood” or compromise my appreciation of the original in any way. One Piece has maintained huge popularity in both Asia and across the world, and I only hope that the live-action discovers a way to use a different medium creatively in a way that understand why fans have adored this show for two decades. It’s somewhat comforting then, that creator Eiichiiro Oda told Oricon in a statement that he has a condition for the series, which was that he “absolutely didn’t want to betray” fans of the long-running series.

What do you think about a live-action One Piece?

(via Kotaku, image: )

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[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Dan Van Winkle

Marvel held a dedicated panel for the upcoming Inhumans TV series last night and San Diego Comic-Con, where they debuted a second trailer that had a bit more going for it than the first one did. It showed off a bit more action than the first and gave a better sense of the tension that will drive the story, although it also had a strange fixation on its IMAX gimmick.

Marvel is launching the show’s first two episodes in IMAX theaters this fall, which is why they’re trying to play up that aspect so much, but it still feels like a weirdly technical thing to bother promoting explicitly in a trailer. On the other hand, we at least got a few more interesting character moments than in the first one, and we finally got to see Medusa and her hair in action—at least a glimpse.

We also got to know, from the panel, who Ellen Woglom will play in the series: a human named Louise who has “some special knowledge” and has been exposed to the Terrigen Mist that gives Inhumans their powers, but she apparently doesn’t have powers in the series. Scenes from the first two episodes were also shown to attendees of the panel, including a coup by Inhumans leader Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus, as well as a dinner scene with the Inhumans royal family.

For more, check out footage of the panel below:

(image: Marvel Entertainment)

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[syndicated profile] boingboing_feed

Posted by Cory Doctorow

The Department of Agriculture's chief scientist oversees more than 1,000 scientists in 100 research facilities: Trump's pick to run the agency is Sam Clovis, a climate-denying talk-radio host who not only lacks any kind of scientific degrees -- he didn't take a single science course at university. (more…)

[syndicated profile] dinosaur_comics_feed
archive - contact - sexy exciting merchandise - search - about
July 20th, 2017next

July 20th, 2017: This comic is inspired by... THE PLANET MARS!!

Thanks to everyone who backed my Kickstarter! I'm super stoked about the book and I can't wait to get it out there. Hooray!

– Ryan

[syndicated profile] ikeahacker_feed

Posted by Contributor

Where do you put your games? In a box? Well, why not make that box, also a game.

Here I created a backgammon storage box from this IKEA box, the SMÅRASSEL. Or course, the box has room for all my other board games too.

IKEA Smarassel-box-with-lid
Photo: IKEA.com

I purchased this decal but with some vinyl and straight edges you can make your own game board.

Applying backgammon vinyl decal

Simply follow the directions on your decal. Or find a Youtube video for the game board of your choice and make your own decal. Now you are set for the next family game night. Simple.

A simple box turned backgammon storage box

Backgammon storage box IKEA hack

Keep in mind, IKEA has so many options for storage boxes that you will find the perfect color and size for your games.

Backgammon and board games storage and play box

~ by Wade

Take a look at these other boardgames hacks.

custom dice tray IKEA hack

Play like a pro with a custom dice tray that’s so affordable and so easy to make.

scrabble table DIY

Really love the game? Declare your enthusiasm for your favourite game with a pretty paint job.

board games checkers vinyl decal

If you prefer something less permanent, vinyl stickers are the way to go.

The post A simple box turned backgammon storage box appeared first on IKEA Hackers.

[syndicated profile] boingboing_feed

Posted by Cory Doctorow

Scott Edelman writes, "I interviewed George R. R. Martin at a Thai restaurant on Episode 42 of my Eating the Fantastic podcast (MP3), and after I returned home, remembered I'd also interviewed him back in 1993. After digging out the tape, I couldn't resist incorporating his amusing admission about 'a fantasy novel I've been working on off and on for a while' as part of the episode." (more…)

CAKETASTROPHE!! (By Special Request)

Jul. 21st, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

I was perusing the Cake Wrecks Facebook page the other day (where every follower gets a free invisible puppy!!) when I came across a rather unusual request:

Ahh, so you want to pop open the hood and take a gander inside the wrecks, is that it, Jennifer?

Well, I'm glad you asked.







Hey, Jennifer, you ever wonder how cupcake cakes (ptooie!) keep their icing from falling through all those big gaps?



We just saw last week how a gender reveal cake failed to actually reveal anything - other than plain yellow cake - but here's the opposite problem:

The cake was blue inside with pink icing.



Now I'm going to show you my absolute favorite cake cake wreck of all time, Jennifer, and which I've been hanging onto for just this moment.

First, though, let me explain what (we think) happened:

A bakery was unable to sell a Halloween cake in time, but they didn't want to throw it away or reduce the price. So instead, they simply flipped the entire cake over, icing side down, and re-decorated the other side to make it into a generic birthday design.

CW reader Shannon had no idea of the skullduggery at work until she cut the cake, and found this:

That's a whoooole lotta icing, right there.

(And think how fresh!!)


And finally, I know I posted the video of this over on FB a week or two back, but here's a quick .gif reminder of the importance of proper wedding cake support:


(Watch the original video here to see them both continue to laugh hysterically, which is just adorable. Cutest couple ever!)


Welp, I hope that satisfies some of your blood lust for caketastrophe, Jennifer!

And hey, for the rest of you, the request line... IS OPEN.


Thanks to Cherie O., Leann S., Jaunna, Fribby, Sarah, & Shannon G. for reminding me of those times bakeries accidentally left scissors, a paring knife, and other various cutlery in their cakes - because that was a HOOT. (And also because "TRAUMATIC BIEBER" *still* makes me snort-laugh.)


Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

[syndicated profile] boingboing_feed

Posted by Boing Boing's Store

The current web development landscape is rife with buzzwords and technology that gets abandoned almost as soon as it’s made. If you’ve never written a line of code before, it can be hard to figure out what’s coming, what’s here to stay, or how to get ahead.

This Beginner Web Development Bundle is a great place to start getting your bearings in the web dev world. In this collection of learning materials, you’ll get acquainted with the core technologies of the web: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP. You’ll explore a variety of relevant front-end topics like semantic markup, responsive page layouts, and CSS animations, as well as basic client-server relationships.

Learn to code on the web with the Beginner Web Development Bundle for $29 today.

[syndicated profile] the_mary_sue_feed

Posted by Vivian Kane

The White House press briefings have been happening off-camera for the last few weeks, after audio and video recording was banned. A lot of journalists and outlets, as well as news consumers, were outraged at the rapidly disappearing last shreds of transparency this administration may have still had in place. CNN went so far as to send a court room sketch artist to a briefing, seemingly to illustrate just how ludicrous the relationship between the White House and the press has become. It was funny, sure, but a lot of people wanted to know why these journalists weren’t simply refusing to follow the no-cameras rule. What would happen if they all just said no?

We may soon have an answer, as one outlet, The Pavlovic Today, broadcast audio of a briefing via Periscope.

In the meantime, the question still stands: why were cameras banned? It’s definitely a move to strip away all accountability, but does it also have anything to do with the White House being fed up with the level of mockery they sustain all day, every day? Do they think that if there’s no recording allowed, SNL won’t have any material next season, and Twitter won’t be able to make jokes? Do they think we’ll be forced to stop meme-ing them now?


So long as the White House keeps making up terrible names for things, and refusing to learn their lesson about using visual aids, the memes will never stop. Today’s proof: Trump has introduced the solution to all of our problems (I assume): MAGA-nomics. What is it, other than a silly name for what I’m sure is a terribly destructive economic plan? Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought out some utterly Photoshoppable posters to explain.

Good thing, too. How else would reporters ever understand these complex ideas?

Yeah, it didn’t take long for Twitter to notice.

(via Mashable, image: Wikimedia Commons)

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[syndicated profile] transgriot_feed

Posted by Monica Roberts

It figures that while I'm in San Diego for Comic Con that the Texas GOP Senate transphobes would not only file two anti-trans bills  (SB 3 and SB 91) authored by Lois Kolkhorst, but hold a hearing on them that starts at 9 AM CDT

Texas trans folks will be in the ATX to oppose them when that Senate State Affairs Committee takes place.  .So go get 'em Texas trans folks.  Let our GOP oppressors know that these unjust bills are bad for Texas and bad for us.

Send them the message we are wide awke and cognizant of what they are trying to do.

You can sign up to testify against them starting at the Texas state capitol at 7 AM. We also need people and our allies calling these senators and asking them to oppose SB 3 and SB 91.

Call the members of the Senate State Affairs Committee too while you're at it..
[syndicated profile] transgriot_feed

Posted by Monica Roberts

Image result for trans wonder woman cartoon
There's this interesting creatively altered segment of a Wonder Woman comic book in which the dialogue seems to suggest that Diana and half of the women on Themyscira are trans.

The actual issue of Wonder Woman in which this panel was taken from and the dialogue changed doesn't say this, but it did jump start some hard solid thinking about the 'what if' Wonder Woman was trans feminine?

Image result for hermaphrodite statue
We know from Greek mythology about hermaphrodites, so it is not beyond the realm of possibility that in Wonder Woman's home society that didn't have men as part of it, if you free your minds to ponder that possibility, you would probably have girls like that as part of it.

So what is Wonder Woman was a girl like us?    What would change about her character? What parts wouldn't?

But it's definitely something interesting to ponder.

Movie Review: Their Finest

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:00 am
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Carrie S

Their Finest is a British movie that had limited release in the USA. If, like me, you missed it in theaters, you can see it now on iTunes. This movie is slow and matter-of-fact but it snuck up on me and had me bawling my eyes out by the end. It’s billed as a romantic comedy, but due to a plot development near the end and a significant amount of tragedy it’s better described as a drama. I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but here’s one I know none of you will mind:

There are two dogs in the movie, and they both end up fine. One of them ends up adopted by a strict but fond Helen McCory. We should all be so lucky.

Their Finest is a movie about a woman who makes a movie. Catrin, played by Gemma Arterton, gets a job helping to write a propaganda film (The Nancy Starling) in London during the Blitz. She’s supposed to provide the women’s touch on a film that, by order of the government, is to broadcast a sense of “authenticity and optimism.” Her co-worker, Buckley, is cynical and sexist but also very good at making a coherent story out of almost anything.

Buckley is played by Sam Claflin. Sam is one of the prettiest men ever to live, and as an actor he has perfected the art of wordlessly broadcasting intense and unrequited longing. It’s a relief that he spends the movie under an unfortunate, though period appropriate, mustache, as otherwise I would have spent the entire movie staring at him in a trance. He’s sardonic and bitter and funny and horrible and has fantastic chemistry with Gemma Atherton.

Catrin and Buckley typing side by side
Smart is Sexy!

Gemma plays Catrin, our heroine, and she is simply perfect. Whether she’s standing perfectly still or walking and talking very quickly across a set, she simultaneously broadcasts vulnerability and steeliness. In keeping with all opposites-attract type romances, Catrin and Buckley constantly look like they can’t decide whether to strangle one another or just start ripping off each other’s clothes in the middle of the office.

Back to the plot: Catrin meets middle-aged twin sisters, Rose and Lily, who took part in the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk. They stole their drunken father’s boat, but never made it to Dunkirk because the engine gave out. They got a tow home from a bigger ship and took some of the soldiers from that (overcrowded) ship. One had a dog in his kit bag, and another, who was French, tried to kiss Lily.

Catrin brings this story, minus a few details, to the movie people, who are thrilled. “It has authenticity, optimism, AND A DOG!” one of them crows. Soon she and Buckley are writing non-stop as the Rose and Lily of The Nancy Starling become pretty young women, their abusive drunk father becomes a funny drunk uncle, a fictional love triangle forms around the fictional Rose, and the dog has a stirring action scene.

There’s just so much to unpack in this movie, which is quiet and slow (at about two hours, it felt like more) and restrained in the most British way but which tackles sexism, the war, grief, friendship between women, the creative process, the art and business of making movies, and some very nice hats. Helen McCrory does what she always does, namely takes a small role and simply walks away with the movie entirely. Bill Nighy promises Catrin that “Between you and I, we’ll have them weeping in the aisles” and then delivers on that promise. The whole cast has a chemistry which manages to progress from mass antagonism to a sense of comfortable familiarity. The actors who play actors combine certain narcissism with real warmth. When Bill Nighy sings a song with the line, “Will ye go lassie, go/and we’ll all go together,” to the cast, they feel like a real family, truly at ease with one another, and truly comforted during dangerous times by each other’s company.

Throughout is presence of war. Although this film is very funny in a deadpan way, I was surprised to see how many people have described it as a romantic comedy. It doesn’t have a romantic comedy ending, and anything funny transpires against a terrifying background. At one point Catrin has to literally step over corpses to get to her flat. “I’ll be alright after a cup of tea,” she tells her husband, only to be informed that the water main is out, a development that even the stoic Catrin cannot tolerate with equanimity. The making of The Nancy Starling is serious business that might affect the course of the war, and the war takes such a toll that at one point they fear that they’ve run out of enough people to finish it.

Towards the end of the movie, something happens that could make the viewer feel cheated. I felt shocked and sad, but not cheated, and here’s why:

  • The movie takes the time to follow through the ramifications of the event.
  • An arc has, for all intents and purposes, been resolved.
  • The movie has been hinting all along that all kinds of unforeseen events can and do happen, whether they be the result of bombs, guns, or, in one character’s case, being hit by a tram while on leave. Death is sudden and arbitrary. This is a theme all throughout the movie so when it causes a sudden tonal and plot twist, it feel both shocking and inevitable.

This movie was marketed as a romantic comedy, and up to a point it has the structure of one – very attractive people, the unappreciative husband, the witty banter, the chemistry, opposites attracting, etc. However, one of the running themes of the movie is that the movie within the movie keeps having different agendas and themes tacked on to it. The Nancy Starling is an action movie and a war movie, it’s a love story, it has comedy and tragedy, it’s meant to inspire America to join the war, and it’s meant to motivate the British to keep fighting. That’s not even a complete list of all the jobs that the poor Nancy Starling is expected to do. Through the writing of this film, Catrin is insistent that the film is, at its core, the story of Lily and Rose.

The Rose and Lily of the movie within the movie, piloting the boat
The fictional version of Rose and Lily

Similarly, Their Finest is marketed as a romantic comedy, but at its core it’s not the story of one couple or another. It’s consistently Catrin’s story. This means that while many characters undergo significant arcs, Catrin’s arc is the only one that matters and…

it requires her being alone for a while. Buckley dies so that from a character arc perspective we can see Catrin face being alone and independent instead of bouncing from one relationship to a volatile man to another. Basically he’s fridged for feminism.

The movie is also an ode to the women who kept Britain running during the war. They are paid less than men, they are resented and feared by men, and yet they are expected to manage the impossible. When Catrin finally goes to a screening of The Nancy Starling, she sits by an older woman who weeps copiously through the movie and explains that she’s seen it five times. “It’s our picture isn’t it?” she says, patting Catrin on the hand, “They’re our girls.”

I cried like a baby.

Their Finest is available for streaming/purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google:Play, & iTunes.

[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by SB Sarah

I almost titled this episode, “Same Library, Different Tastes.” While having dinner the other night, I was talking to Adam, my excellent spouse, about a series he was reading, and I realized we hardly ever talk about what he’s reading. I’ll go on for hours about what I’m reading (and I have!) but unless I’m asking him if he’d enjoy a book I just found, he doesn’t talk much about what he reads, and he reads a lot. So he made cocktails and I handed him a microphone, and we talked about it.

We don’t like any of the same things, but we both love reading. So I asked questions about his favorite series, books he’s enjoyed that I’ve successfully recommended (YES!), and what makes a narrative world appealing.  Adam likes to read fantasy, and he loves never-ending world building and deep nerdy dives into back story, so he’s a very avid and engaged reader. But he keeps most of it in his head. So I ask him nosy questions about that. We also discuss series and trilogies he loves, including Game of Thrones, Libriomancer, The Inheritance Trilogy, and a lot more – expect a big list of books.

Listen to the podcast →
Read the transcript →

Here are the books we discuss in this podcast:

We also mentioned Elyse’s Bachelor and Bachelorette recaps.

And if you’d like to try it, here’s a recipe for Bee’s Knees, my new favorite cocktail.

And! The RWA Signing! July 29, 2017, from 3:00 – 5:00pm! 

Hundreds of romance authors in one place, and all proceeds of book sales go to literacy organizations. Some of your favorite authors are likely to be there, like Alyssa Cole, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Julie James, Cecilia Tan, Beverly Jenkins, and Jill Shalvis. And, for the first time, I’ll be signing, too – yay!

The signing is at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Pacific Hall. Saturday, July 29th from 3-5pm. And if you come and find me (I’m in the Ws near the cashiers) and mention the podcast, I have a special sticker for you – if you’d like one.

Get all the details at:  https://www.rwa.org/literacy.


If you like the podcast, you can subscribe to our feed, or find us at iTunes. You can also find us at PodcastPickle and on Stitcher, too. We also have a cool page for the podcast on iTunes.

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What did you think of today's episode? Got ideas? Suggestions? You can talk to us on the blog entries for the podcast or talk to us on Facebook if that's where you hang out online. You can email us at sbjpodcast@gmail.com or you can call and leave us a message at our Google voice number: 201-371-3272. Please don't forget to give us a name and where you're calling from so we can work your message into an upcoming podcast.

Thanks for listening!

This Episode's Music

Our music is provided each week by Sassy Outwater, whom you can find on Twitter @SassyOutwater.

This is from Caravan Palace, and the track is called “La Caravane.”

You can find their two album set with Caravan Palace and Panic on Amazon and iTunes. And you can learn more about Caravan Palace on Facebook, and on their website.

Podcast Sponsor

This episode is brought to you by Too Scot to Handle by Grace Burrowes. This New York Times bestselling series with its “heartfelt emotions, humor and realistic, honest characters [is] a fan favorite,” raves RT Book Reviews.

In this second book of the Windham Brides series, Burrowes delights Regency romance readers once again with an irresistible rough-around-the-edges Scot who takes on saving an orphanage to win over the fiery, intelligent woman who captures his heart.

As a captain in the army, Colin MacHugh led men, fixed what was broken, and fought hard. Now that he’s a titled gentleman, he’s still fighting-this time to keep his bachelorhood safe from all the marriage-minded debutantes. Then he meets the intriguing Miss Anwen Windham, whose demure nature masks a bonfire waiting to roar to life. When she asks for his help to raise money for the local orphanage, he’s happy to oblige.

Anwen is amazed at how quickly Lord Colin takes in hand a pack of rambunctious orphan boys. Amazed at how he actually listens to her ideas. Amazed at the thrill she gets from the rumble of his Scottish burr and the heat of his touch. But not everyone enjoys the success of an upstart. And Colin has enemies who will stop at nothing to ruin him and anybody he holds dear.

As Tessa Dare puts it, “Grace Burrowes is a romance treasure.” Don’t miss Too Scot to Handle, on sale wherever books are sold this Tuesday, July 25th.

Transcript Sponsor

When It’s Real

Our podcast transcript is being brought to you by When It’s Real by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt.

A pop star. A regular girl. The world’s watching…

Wealth, fame and a real-life romance she never expected—seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett lands it all when she agrees to become a pop star’s fake girlfriend in this smart, utterly addictive novel.

School Library Journal calls it “a fast-paced, ‘he said, she said’ page-turner.” Kirkus Reviews writes: When It’s Real is “undeniable fun” and “a quintessential beach read.” You’ll fall head-over-heels in love with this electrifying and addictive new romance.

Under ordinary circumstances, Oakley Ford and Vaughn Bennett would never even cross paths.

There’s nothing ordinary about Oakley. This bad-boy pop star’s got Grammy awards, millions of fangirls and a reputation as a restless, too-charming troublemaker. But with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley needs to show the world he’s settling down—and who better to help him than Vaughn, a part-time waitress trying to help her family get by? The very definition of ordinary.

Posing as his girlfriend, Vaughn will overhaul Oakley’s image from troublemaker to serious artist. In return for enough money to put her brothers through college, she can endure outlandish Hollywood parties and carefully orchestrated Twitter exchanges. She’ll fool the paparazzi and the groupies. She might even start fooling herself a little.

Because when ordinary rules no longer apply, there’s no telling what your heart will do…

You can find When It’s Real wherever books are sold.

Remember to subscribe to our podcast feed, find us on iTunes, via PodcastPickle, or on Stitcher.


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