Best of the Web – February 2017 Roundup

train to busan

Train to Busan is almost everything you could want a zombie movie to be

Perfect storm: The agency for disabled talent

Brave – My daughter’s coming of age with Down syndrome.

How Being Bored Out of Your Mind Makes You More Creative

Cake or biscuit? Why Jaffa Cakes excite philosophers

Getting Cleverer with Helen Nianias

Unlocking the mystery behind how often you should wash your hair

Explainer: why do we get butterflies in our stomachs?

New support for British spaceports

How the Internet Works – learn the behind-the-scenes magic

Waitress wins discrimination case after being fired for not wearing a skirt

‘Nevertheless, she persisted’ becomes new battle cry after McConnell silences Elizabeth Warren

Nerd Alert: The Rise Of The Female Nerd 

UK second only to Japan for young people’s poor mental wellbeing

The lock of love: how leaving padlocks became a modern-day romantic ritual

India Launches 104 Satellites From a Single Rocket, Ramping Up a Space Race

A 27-Year-Old Just Became The First Woman To Visit Every Country On Earth

Gender Fluidity on the Runways

Perfect Storm - disabled model agency

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Romance Films without the Sentiment

My favourite romance films for Valentine’s Day 🙂

I’ve tried to pick films that aren’t soppy or sickly, so there are a couple of more unusual films on the list, and some where the romance isn’t the main focus of the film.

Enjoy!

Wall-E

wall e and eva
Wall-E is one of my favourite films, I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched it. It has robots, spaceships, adventure and a romance running through it. It’s a lot of fun and the romance is sweet and charming.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

inigo montaya

Slightly cheesy, a bit daft, this is an 80’s fairytale parody that has become a cult classic.

Endlessly quotable, romantic and funny, and also makes a great drinking game. What more could you want?

princess bride that word

Moonrise Kingdom

moonrise kingdom
A Wes Anderson film set in the 1960’s about two twelve-year-old children that fall in love and run away together, camping and exploring the wilderness in New England.

Charming and funny, it’s similar in style to Wes Anderson’s other films The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Romancing the Stone

romancing the stone

“How will you die, Joan Wilder? Slow, like… a snail? Or fast, like a shooting star?”

Shy and quiet romance writer finds adventure, love, and confidence in the Colombian jungle. One of the best films of the 1980’s.

“You’re gonna be all right, Joan Wilder. You always were.”

Amélie

amelie

The word quirky could have been invented for Amélie. A true feel good film that deserves its cult status.

Ever After

Ever After

A Cinderella retelling with Drew Barrymore in the lead role.

It’s set in Renaissance-era France and manages to sidestep the normal soppiness by making Cinderella an intelligent woman that enjoys reading and has strong opinions on how the ruling class should treat their people.

Worth watching for the role of Leonardo da Vinci as the Fairy Godmother alone.

“Why, that was pure genius!”

“Yes, I shall go down in history as the man who opened a door!”.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind

Ever had a break up so painful that you wish the relationship had just never happened? The couple in this film use a new technology to start erasing their memories of each other.

It sounds bitter and maybe some of it is, but it also has moments of sweetness. It’s definitely not sentimental anyway!

Howl’s Moving Castle

howls moving castle

One of my favourite Studio Ghibli films this anime is about a young woman transformed into an old woman by a witch’s curse. She runs away from home and on her journey to break the curse she encounters the great and scary wizard Howl.

In Your Eyes

In Your Eyes
A man and a woman living at opposite ends of the country start to telepathically connect with each other.  Slowly they start to realise that they have been in each other’s minds their whole lives.

In Your Eyes is a slow burner romance and I’m glad I gave it a chance on Netflix.

Up

Up Ellie and Carl

I nearly cry at the start of this film every time I watch it. If you can make it through the first 10 or so minutes the rest of the film is sharp, clever, and very very funny.

It’s maybe not an obvious one for a list of romance films, but really it’s about an old man that is looking for a reason to keep living after his wife dies.

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Valentine’s Day Playlist

A playlist I made for Valentine’s Day! My boyfriend and I always stay in and have a cosy evening together ever since the year we tried to go out for a meal and had an awful experience. It’s just far too busy for us in restaurants on Valentine’s day, and they always seem to bump the price up or try to rush us through. Instead we make food, watch films and eat chocolate together at home.

So this is a playlist for if you’re staying in with your partner, or if you’re taking the day to show yourself some love.

Any suggestions to go on it, please do comment and let me know 🙂

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Valentine’s Day Gifts for Geeks

Valentines Day should be about celebrating love, not how much money you spend, for me the best gifts are always those that we put a bit of thought and effort in to. I love the idea of making your own valentines day gifts, but if your life is too busy for that I’ve put a few quicker but still thoughtful ideas in here.

My favourite Valentine’s Day Gifts for Geeks

Music fans

Go old school and make a mixtape 🙂 Burn it to a CD and design your own case, or create them a Spotify playlist.

Sweet tooth?

Bake some cupcakes or brownies. I think the best brownie recipes are ones that are gluten free, flour dries them out too much for me they need to be fudgey! Try these Ooey Gooey Gluten Free Brownies from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

brownies

Hand Made Paper Flowers

Hand made Valentine’s day flowers are a lovely alternative to roses. The Craft Fantastic will make them from paper tailored to your favourite geeks interests. How about flowers made from comic books, sheet music or maps?

paper flowers

Knit a Gift

A knitted or crochet scarf will almost literally wrap them in your love! Use chunky yarn with big needles for a quick gift, like this Tasseled Garter Stitch Color Block Scarf from Love Knitting.

Chunky scarf pattern

Bookworms

Well buy them a book (or a book token), what would make them happier!? If you need help choosing a book, comment and tell me what genre they like and I’ll think up some suggestions for you!

And if all else fails

Candles are always a nice little gift, or plan an evening with some nice food you both like, and a good film 🙂

If you have suggestions please comment and share your ideas!

 

 

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Best of the Web – January 2017 Roundup

Moana

37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed-Race Son

Why Vera Rubin Deserved a Nobel

FREQ #11: Teal Sherer Talks

Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?

My nightmare on the pill

How Pacific Islanders Helped Disney’s Moana Find Its Way

Could a Vacuum Device Save Astronauts’ Eyesight in Space?

Falklands ‘wolf’ that baffled Darwin was actually more like a jackal

Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond

Recruiting prawns to fight river parasite

A selection of the 30 most disappointing under 30

Racist in the Machine – The Disturbing Implications of Algorithmic Bias

15 of the World’s Most Beautiful Passports

When China’s Feminists Came to Washington

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Where to Find Good and Free Stock Photos

Unsplash

unsplash
Unsplash is full of free high-resolution images that you can do what you want with. It’s always my first stop when I’m looking for stock photography and their already large collection is growing constantly. They are very easy to download too, just one click and they’re yours! You will need to edit them before using on your website though as the files are massive – around 2mb normally.

Unsplash.it

unsplash it

They also offer unsplash.it a service for generating placeholder images. Put your image size (width & height) after the URL and you’ll get a placeholder. If you just want a header for a website and you’re not too bothered what it looks like this is a great tool. For example https://unsplash.it/2000/300 would look good at the top of a website. Change the numbers slightly for a different image – https://unsplash.it/2000/301.

Gratisography

Gratisography
Gratisography offers free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects, with new photographs added weekly. If you’re after something a bit different, something a bit modern and definitely something that stands out then try this one. Another easy one-click download, but again you’ll have to resize and compress a bit to use on websites.

Pixabay

pixabay stock photos

Pixabay is free, and also includes videos. Easy to search and you can download at different sizes, which can save time  on editing them yourself.

Morguefile

Morguefile

Free images for creatives, by creatives, Mourguefile is a community-based free photo site with professionals and amateur photo hobbyists submitting photos. All photos are free for you to download and re-use in your work, be it commercial or not. Quality can vary here so you might have to search, but it’s a good site for if you want something that looks more realistic than professional but posed. One click to download, but these will need editing before use.

Stockvault

stockvault

Stockvalut has free photos and artwork created by photographers & artists all over the world. They also have free textures and illustrations. Free to download, or you can buy them a coffee!

IM Free

IM Free

Copyright Joi, used under creative commons licence with no changes

IM Free is “a curated collection of free web design resources, all for commercial use.” You might have to give attribution to the creator with these so check the licence text next to the photo before using them.

Coverr

Coverr is a free video site, but very specific in that it has videos for website homepages, with 7 new videos added every Monday. It’s a modern trend where short videos that loop, and usually blurred out, sit behind your homepage text. You will need to know a bit of code, or a web developer, to get these up and running on your website.

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The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

stars are legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars Are Legion
by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zan wakes up injured and with amnesia. She does not know who or where she is. The world to her, and to us, seems to be half mad. We are swept along with Zan and told as little as she is as she tries to piece together who she is.

Zan is on one of many worlds / spaceships that are actually living creatures. The walls and the floors are spongy, and they move between levels by using the umbilical cord. They have to cut open the skin to get outside! The further into the middle you go the more visceral and sticky the world gets.

These worlds, collectively known as the Legion, are stuck in their orbit around the false sun. They are slowly dying. Cancer eats away at them, and with each new generation the inhabitants are losing their knowledge on what they are and where they came from. They can barely control them and don’t know what half the equipment on them does.

The different worlds are in conflict with each other, fighting for resources, each of them salvaging what they can to heal their own worlds at the expense of the others.

One world, the Mokshi, has managed to leave it’s orbit and now everyone wants to board it and control it, to find out how it does it and hopefully create a new future for themselves.

The world building here is impressive and original. It reminds me of Iain M Banks space opera stories in its scope. Hurley creates the same sort of atmosphere and strangeness in her unique universe.

The characters are interesting if not always likeable, with realistic emotions and believable actions. Zan travels to the centre of the world and the people she picks up along the way are from different cultures with different life experiences, and each has their own distinct personality.

In the middle of the book, when Zan reaches the centre of the world it suddenly becomes a blend of sci-fi / horror, before bringing in elements of fantasy. I thought this was very well done, it didn’t feel out of place to me. I loved the sci-fi side, and the space battles, but this journey through the centre of the world was my favourite part of the book. Hurley’s imagination ran wild here, and there are some very inventive ideas as we learn more about what the world is and the different social and cultural groups in it.

As Zan struggles through the world trying to make sense of it and piece herself back together Hurley doesn’t shy away from showing us the darker side of humanity. There is love in this world, but also betrayal, fear, cowardice and prejudice as we see the things people are capable of doing to others and to themselves to get what they want.

There is a hopeless feel at times, the world is dying, the leaders rule by fear, and even if Zan gets back her memory where can she go from there? But just as it starts getting overwhelming for me Hurley shakes it all up again and reminds us there are good things in people too, when they are given the chance to show them.

There are answers given eventually, but not all of them are concrete ones. Some things are hinted at but left for you to fill in the gaps yourself. It might be very confusing at first but stick with it because Hurley’s world is worth the effort of getting to know!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Slipping – Book Review

slipping by Lauren Beukes review

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this collection of short stories Lauren Beukes is now firmly on my favourite authors list. Clever and very relevant, the stories are a mix of sci-fi, weirdness, and commentary on modern life.

None of the stories here are very long so it’s easy to dip in and out of. Though saying that, normally I find myself having to stop between stories in short story collections but with this book I couldn’t do that, I had to start the next straight away. I think that was partly because they are short and I knew I wouldn’t have to stop reading half way through one (I hate having to do that), and partly because these stories are just that good I didn’t want to stop reading.

There weren’t any stories that I disliked, but my favourites were:

Slipping – about a contestant in a futuristic Paralympics event where the athletes can have exosuits, implants controlling their hormones, remote controlled bodies, or they can even remove their organs to make them run better.

Confirm/Ignore – a look into the mind of someone that creates fake online personas by copying other people’s photos and quotes.

The Green – pure sci/fi! Workers on a remote planet searching for plants or chemicals the company they work for can make money with.

Unathi Battles the Black Hairballs – a lolita punk pilots a Japanese fighter robot and battles monsters to save Tokyo.

Dial Tone – a story that’s about loneliness really.

Ghost Girl – a teenage girl haunting a university student.

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

hunger makes the wolf

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hunger Makes the Wolf surprised me with how good it was. I think I was expecting a fun, quick space adventure read, but this story is so much more than that. There is magic (space witches!), rebellion of mistreated workers against the company that controls the planet, a woman learning to be a leader, and I think there are hints of a possible romance?

The main character, Hob Ravani, is a member of a gang of mercenaries who roam around their desert planet on motorcycles. They do odd jobs for money while trying to stay clear of TransRift, the company that controls the planet and the lives of the miners and the farmers. Hob has magic, a “witchyness” that means she can create fire, but she hasn’t learnt much about it beyond basic tricks like lighting cigarettes. Witchyness is feared on Tanegawa’s World so she has to keep it hidden.

There’s a lot going on, but it’s managed well. It starts out fast paced, we’re dropped into the middle of the action at the start and things are slowly revealed as the story progresses. Around the middle the pacing slows down where the rebellion is growing and Hob is learning how to be a leader, but it picks up again as it moves towards the action packed ending.

There’s plenty of character development, especially for Hob and her foster sister Mags. Hob isn’t perfect, she makes mistakes and gets things wrong but still keeps trying to do the right thing and protect her family at the same time.

I loved the witchy elements, the Bone Collector, a sort of wise and mysterious mage, was one of my favourite characters in it.

The main story thread does have a conclusion, but there are things left open and it reads like there’s going to be a sequel. I’m certainly hoping there will be, there’s a lot more to learn about this world!

I received a free copy from the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Best of the Web – December 2016 Roundup

paris bookshop

How social media sounded the death knell for super-skinny models

Europe has never liked borders – and it won’t be confined by them now

Women who Draw

Fake Or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts

Colorfully Decorative Storefronts Reveal the Story of Paris

50 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Leeds

For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High

How to check if you’re in a news echo chamber – and what to do about it

Faux fur or real – do you know what you’re wearing?

Tokyo’s Vibrant, Adorable Taxi Signs Are Disappearing

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally

The Progress and Pitfalls of Television’s Treatment of Rape

Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’

50 Free Things to Do in Yorkshire

Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry

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