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Posted by boyhowdy


jbowl


The kids are away at summer camp. It’s Friday, which matters, now that school is starting up again.

And it’s the 18th of August, which matters most. Because today is our anniversary, and as much as we are going grey, ours is a love that is worth the work.

My wife has named this anniversary as the one where “our marriage is finally old enough to drink”. She also claims we met the first day of college, though I remember another night, when we played that game of Pictionary, and stayed up until the sun rose again for the very first time.

Either way: it’s been a long time. And I would do it again, in a heartbeat.

It’s good to have something to share, and someone to share it with. It’s good to have a partner in crime, happy to be a Mary Magdalene to your Jesus even when she’s a stranger at your party, willing to sit in a hayfield sewing and then resewing a hat for your crazy garden gnome costume.

It’s good to have this, and a thousand moments, really: harmonizing in empty churches; the duck in the bathtub; Disney World in a drizzle; the Christmas Eve where we drove out into the cold and ended up across state lines, eating gingerbread and drinking wine in the last open bar for a hundred miles, just to put a ring on your finger, even though we had picked it out together.

And I am grateful for all of it, and the chance to be grateful every morning when I wake, and find her by my side once again.

For this, and the longing to be together and stay together through these last few years of sickness and health, and the early years of motion and uncertainty. This, and the hard work of marriage-as-verb, the constant reflection and sharing and listening that we have learned to do better, at least, as time goes on, and life lays opportunity at our feet. This, and the polished gold seams, the thousand places where we have been tested and tried together, and healed more beautiful than before, like one of those Japanese bowls.

This, and the home we hold, committed to light, laughter, and the spirit of adventure, or so it says on the ketubah, and oh, on most days, it’s still the perfect trifecta, the top of the roller coaster, the cornerstone of a love deeper than the dark.

Because this I remember: 21 years ago today we made ham sandwiches with the rabbi. Your sister fainted holding the chupah. Your grandmother set fire to the reception table. My friends got high in the parking lot.

And then, when the last guest had wandered into the sunset, we went home together, you and I, to the house we had lived in before, above the swan pond. And the next morning, we drove off into the bright new dawning day, comfortable and joyful in silence and in conversation, ready for every next adventure.

May there be a thousand more.



[Ω] Juxtaposition

Aug. 18th, 2017 11:44 pm
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
(h/t [personal profile] fiddlingfrog)

UrsulaV bats it out of the park:

https://twitter.com/UrsulaV/status/898201836800364547/photo/1

(Note, this requires clicking through to see two images.)

[me, pshrinkery] Home Again

Aug. 18th, 2017 10:45 pm
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[personal profile] siderea
The conference is over, and I am super tired and omg why do my feet hurt? I didn't do that much walking, and indeed spent most of the last three days sitting. The physical spaces the conference was held in were agreeably compactly laid out, so I didn't have do a lot of hiking down halls to go from one session to the next. But I feel like I've walked for miles.

I'm being cagey about the identity of the conference because of reasons. Suffice it to say I spent three days getting my radical on with people who, hmm, could be said to identify as "psychiatric survivors" – people whom the mental health system has done profound harm and violated their human rights – from around the world, many (most?) of whom might be described as activists and there in that capacity, some of whom are also clinicians or ex-clinicians or psychology researchers. Lots of very explicit intersectionalism and inclusivism. Very emotionally intense, super intellectually stimulating, enormously morally compelling.

Since the default assumption at the conference was that attendees were psychiatric survivors, I was "out" about not being a psychiatric survivor myself but a mental health professional and there as an ally. That was... a very hard experience to describe. To do such a thing, and do it ethically, is extremely demanding of energy, because it entails such a high level of self-monitoring and attention to others, at literally every second. Yet at the same time, it was so wildly validating of my ethical values as a person and a clinician, in ways I hadn't even realized I was hungry for, it felt very spiritually nourishing and emotionally supportive. I realized after the second day that just in the program book and in the presentations I'd attended, that I'd heard the word "humanistic" more times in those two days than I'd heard it used by anybody not me in the previous five years. Or maybe more. I'm a humanistic therapist, and I'm literally welling up again just reflecting on that, and how clinically-philosophically isolated this reveals me to have been. And, my god, the first, like, three times the term went zipping by I thought, Hey, do they know what that means, technically, to a therapist? Ah, they're probably just using it as a synonym for "humanely", as lay people usually do. And it became clear that, no, at least some of the people using the term really did mean it clinically. And I was like Oh. They don't need me to explain it to them. They already know. Which, is, like, the fundamental unit of being understood. Talk about your being called in from the cold.

I went to this conference thinking of myself as an ally, someone there to support another people as they do their thing – an in a really important sense, that is exactly right – but to my surprise, I discovered that these people, despite not being clinicians, were clinically my people. I wound up doing a hell of a lot more personal sharing than I would ever have expected – certainly vastly, vastly more than I have ever done in a mental health professionals context. It was like, I suddenly realized I was in an environment in which I could talk about how furious I am that I am forced to use diagnoses on patients without their consent, how frustrated I am by how the bureacratic systems in which I must work compromise the integrity of the treatment I try to provide, how disgusted I often am by the conduct of colleagues and mental health institutions (I discovered the wonderful expression, "psychiatric hate-speech"), how indignant I am at all sorts of idiocy and injustice and unfairness in the system – all the things I am so careful never to say because of how poorly my colleagues may take it. (Not my imagination: The last session I attended drew quite a number of clinicians, who were all "AND FOR ANOTHER THING!"; the presenter afterwards told me she had presented the same talk at a conference on the philosophy of psychiatry for an audience that was half psychiatrists, and, in contrast, they were furious with her for her temerity.)

I got to have conversations about capitalism and disability, culture and identity, the history of psychiatry, the history of nationalism, what you can and can't do inside the health care system, other countries' nationalized (or not, where mental health is concerned) health care, and how money affects mental health care; I heard a slew of what I would call "mental health radical coming out stories". I met someone who is as into the history of the DSM as I am, and someone who has written an academic article about the ethical and clinical problems of diagnosis. I got politely chewed out once, early on, for using oppressive language, and then immediately apologized to for it, them saying ruefully that they have "a chip on [their] shoulder" about mental health care professionals and shouldn't have talked to me like that, and I assured them I was there to be chewed out and have my vocabulary corrected and was fine with it; I'm pretty sure they were way more upset about what they said to me than I was, and I feel bad about putting them in that position by my ignorance – but we've exchanged phone numbers and I'm hoping I might yet make it up to them.

There was a point where somebody asked me something like whether I had been learning a lot at the conference so far, and I thought a moment and replied that I had, but, "I am at this conference not just to learn things. I am here because, as a person and a clinician, these are my values."

So it was an experience that was weirdly simultaneously hard and easy. If you had asked me four days ago I would have said that it's probably impossible for an experience to require a very high level of scrupulous self-monitoring and yet feel welcoming of and safe for emotional vulnerability and risktaking. Yet that was precisely my experience.

It was demanding and beautiful and powerful and huggy and astonishing and uplifting and I'm exhausted and weepy and have like twenty new best friends.
conuly: (Default)
[personal profile] conuly posting in [community profile] metaquotes
It should be pretentious and snobbish to say: “Sure I eat hot dogs, I have homemade mustard and homemade lingonberry ketchup on it”. Then to take the DIY philosophy serious you have to make the hot dog yourself.

Context sounds delicious!

Hymns by Sherman Alexie

Aug. 18th, 2017 07:24 pm
taiga13: Raylan Givens from Justified (Justified)
[personal profile] taiga13 posting in [community profile] poetry
Published August 16, 2017 in response to recent events in the United States

Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?

That kind of love is easy. Encoded.
Any lion can be devoted

To its cubs. Any insect, be it prey
Or predator, worships its own DNA.

Like the wolf, elephant, bear, and bees,
We humans are programmed to love what we conceive... )

assorted stuff from a hell of a week

Aug. 18th, 2017 08:19 pm
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
"Things won't change if the Grand Wizard remains in office." And he's running out of Republicans to alienate. Mitt Romney called on him to back away from his response to Charlottesville.

Since the police refused to protect the Charlottesville synagogue, the synagogue has hired armed security guards.

You'll never be as radical as this 18th Century Quaker dwarf. So you know: Quakers did not wear military uniforms or take up arms. This is relevant.

White pride is not a culture. And Southern pride in a time of terror, which talks about real Southern culture.

A social justice syllabus.

The entire US military has broken away from Trump and openly denounced racism.

The ACLU will no longer defend hate groups protesting while carrying firearms. This is a first.

A 21-year-old Nazi sympathizer who marched in Charlottesville is now whining that his life is over because he was identified as marching with Nazis and KKK. I don't have a violin small enough.

The real horror of Trump's response to Charlottesville.

A Charlottesville ER nurse talks, after a day of decompression.

Retracing Willa Cather's steps in the south of France.

Are we different writers when we move from longhand to a screen? I can say that I write poetry differently with a pen in hand, and essays differently, and I don't write nonfiction there at all.

The landscape of Civil War commemoration. 13,000 monuments, and descriptions.

Churches Uniting in Christ statement on white nationalism and white supremacism. The member churches of CUIC include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church, the International Council of Community Churches, the Moravian Church (Northern Province), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.

The president's Arts and Humanities Council, founded by Obama, has resigned over Trump's Charlottesville response.

Bannon's out of the White House; Trumpists are more afraid of him now.

3 major charities canceled Mar-a-Lago galas.

Charlottesville forces media and tech companies to draw a line on what they will allow.

In Oregon, rural Muslims fight for safety and inclusion.

In Iran, cracking down on journalists.

Ranking countries by their blasphemy laws.

New Dallas police officers face questions on how an ethical officer would act.

It's hard to find an impartial jury for pharmaceuticals scammer Martin Shkreli's
trial.

Books I’ve Read

Aug. 18th, 2017 08:04 pm
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[personal profile] ann_leckie

Some books I’ve recently read and enjoyed! As always, none of this comes close to anything like a review, because reviewing isn’t a thing I’m good at.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Dr. Greta Helsing (yes, she’s related) specializes in treating London’s supernatural denizens–people whose safety might be at risk if most Londoners knew they existed, and who might not get any sort of healthcare otherwise. It’s not going to make her rich, and it’s difficult enough with her small practice to care for vampires, mummies, ghouls, and…other sorts of creatures, without someone going around trying to kill her patients.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and am looking forward to the next installment. You can read the first chapter here.

Ack Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell

It took me way too long to read this, but that gives you some idea of how out of control my TBR stack is. Back in 2014 I was absolutely tickled when Ack Ack Macaque tied with Ancillary Justice for the Best Novel BSFA, and I was really glad to be able to meet Gareth in person at Worldcon later that year. Now I’ve finally read this! It was a lot of fun. In the wake of WW2, France and Britain have unified–look, just go with it, ok?–and a hundred years later there are nuclear powered airships, and actual monkey Ack Ack Macaque is the central character of an amazingly popular online multiplayer game. In the non-game real world, murders and skulduggery are happening and the very survival of everyone on Earth is at stake. This book is great fun, a quick, compelling read. I’m putting the sequels on my ever-growing TBR pile.

The Course of Honour by Avoliot

Okay, this one is kind of a bonus. As in, it’s free! You can click that link and find the Download button (up there in the righthand corner) and nab a copy in your favorite ebook format. Or, you know, you can read a chapter right here on your screen, and then click on to the next at whatever pace.

I want to thank Liz Bourke for tweeting about this, because I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I’ve said before that I’m not much for category romance (though I do enjoy them now and again), but the fact is I’m a sucker for a good Arranged Marriage/Fake Marriage plot. And this was a good one! Jainan was married to Prince Taam of Iskat–a marriage arranged for political reasons, and when Taam suddenly dies [ahem] accidentally, the Emperor of Iskat declares that party-loving Prince Kiem will step up. And…look, I’ll just paste in the “additional tags” here, so you’ll see what you’re getting into:

Romance, Slow Burn, Arranged Marriage, Pining, past abusive relationship, space princes, Court Politics, Emotional Hurt/Comfort

Space princes. I mean. Seriously. Give it a look, and maybe leave some kudos if you like it.

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

[ SECRET POST #3880 ]

Aug. 18th, 2017 06:44 pm
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[personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets

⌈ Secret Post #3880 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.

01.


More! )


Notes:

Secrets Left to Post: 00 pages, 00 secrets from Secret Submission Post #555.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.

Poem: "The Whole of Civilization"

Aug. 18th, 2017 05:05 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony Barrette.

Read more... )

Bust of Lincoln Destroyed

Aug. 18th, 2017 04:27 pm
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[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
So this happened

The same principle behind this leads to this and this.

I told you so.  I have been saying and saying that when a society starts pulling down statues, it tends to mushroom, because people get it in their heads they can destroy all the art they dislike.  Sure it's tempting.  Everybody loves to pull down something they hate and stomp on it.  That's very gratifying.  But it's a bad idea because it destroys the past and then nobody has nice things for a long time.  It also sucks when other people pull down stuff that YOU like just because THEY don't, and there is probably not one piece of art on the planet which is liked by everyone.  

Seriously, people, stop doing this shit.  Unpopular art can be moved to a place where it won't annoy folks, but destroying it is counter-civilization.
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[personal profile] sovay
This is not even an interim con report, because I slept approximately an hour before my panel on lycanthropy at nine this morning and I have spent most of the afternoon either at other people's readings or mooching around the dealer's rooms (I have three beautiful postcards by Darrell Tutchton and a half-pack of Dwight Frye character cards that I bought from the aptly monikered Mike Hunchback) and in slightly less than an hour I have to moderate a panel on the Lovecraftian erotic, but as we were passing through the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel I spied a flatscreen TV with the sound off and the text crawl at the bottom of the screen confirmed that Bannon is out of the White House, so I'm sure all sorts of unpleasantness will spin off that with his Breitbart base—roll on the globalist conspiracies—but at the moment it feels like genuinely good news out of our government and it's been a long time since that happened. Oh, and earlier today I was handed a translucent lime-green plastic tentacle, so I have been carrying it around in my coat like a reasonable person: in other words, there is a tentacle in my pocket, but I'm still happy to see you. So far, NecronomiCon, so good.

Poem: "Lycoris"

Aug. 18th, 2017 03:31 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Shirley Barrette.


"Lycoris"


In spring, the strappy green leaves
emerge from the fertile earth
but bring no blossoms.

The leaves turn yellow,
then brown, and fade away.

In summer, surprise!

A sudden resurrection
out of the dry bare ground
raises flower stalks like magic,
pink lilies spreading themselves
in the sun like naked ladies.

* * *

Notes:

Lycoris is a type of lily with many different names including resurrection lily, surprise lily, and naked ladies.  Both my parents and I have these, and they're beautiful flowers.

LBCF, No. 147: ‘The Holy Hand’

Aug. 18th, 2017 05:26 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

“If any of it was true, all of it was true” seems to be simply another version of the fundamentalist insistence that if any of it is not true, then none of it is true. This is the house-of-cards implication fundies draw from their notion of biblical “inerrancy” which, again, has very little to do with the supposed inerrancy of what the Bible actually says and everything to do with their own alleged inerrancy as its interpreters.
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Posted by Erin Bow

The last book that got its hooks into me struck at Chinggis Khan airport in Ulaanbaatar. A friend and I were returning from a long stay off the grid with Kazakh nomads in Mongolia’s far west. We were saddle sore from a trip across the Altai mountains in a Russian jeep, suffering from intestinal parasites, and reeking of yak dung. But we had Kindles, and something passing (in Mongolia) for Wi-Fi. “Read this,” my friend said, and stuck this opening under my nose:

“If I could tell you one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head. As formative events go, nothing else comes close.”

Thank God for books. They can take you from anywhere, to anywhere. Not all of them do it as precipitously as Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint—there are ways to be transported that don’t involve such a dozy of a first step—but as an author myself I swoon over such writing.

I swoon mostly with envy. Beginnings are hard. Or, at least, beginnings are hard for me. For instance: the first scene in my new book, The Scorpion Rules, depicts a small classroom full of hostages pretending to discuss history, while actually watching the slow approach of a horsemen who’s coming to kill one of them. I must have redrafted that scene a dozen times, and I’m still not sure of all of it. But I like the moment where the narrator turns her head and sees, out the window and across the sweep of post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan, a faint plume of dust.

It’s not easy to hang a world off a smudge on the horizon—but it’s much, much harder to hang a world off a single sentence. Here are five YA science fiction and fantasy books that succeeded.

 

Feed by M.T. Anderson

feedWe went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Sometimes—often—it’s all about voice. Of course there’s world building happening here too. This single sentence suggests a society advanced enough to make travel to the moon on par with a drive to Vegas. It shows the extremes of jaded you can get when you combine teen and tech. In fact, it encapsulates the novel in perfect miniature, which is (to use a technical author term) a hell of a thang.

But really, what I fell for in this single sentence is the voice of the narrator, Titus. By the end of the first page, his fumbling reaches beyond the shallow, beyond the world of himself and his brain-implant-facebook, the titular Feed, already had me. I was ready for him to break my heart.

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

knife-of-never-letting-goThe first thing you find you when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say.

Another world contained in a single sentence. Another voice to love. Oh, Todd. It’s been years since I first read this book, but I have not yet recovered enough to be coherent about it. With a backstory involving a plague of involuntary telepathy, Knife is about voices, essentially. About who gets to speak and who doesn’t; about what’s understood and what’s misunderstood; about the difference between what one thinks and what one does; about connections; about power. About speech itself.

Or to put it another way: There’s a sweet kid. He has a talking dog. Obviously things go well for them.

 

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

mortal-enginesIt was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried out bed of the old North Sea.

My husband read this one out loud to me. He read the first sentence and I said: “excuse me?” and he said: “you heard me.” Mortal Engines is not the Reeve book I’m over the moon for—that would be Larklight—but I cannot think of a better exemplar for the kind of science fiction opening that says: “buckle up, kids.”

I mostly come to science fiction and fantasy looking for character-driven stuff with the occasional dragon attack, but there is no denying the pleasure of the occasional whirlwind tour of a genuinely new world. Mortal Engines promises such a ride, and delivers.

 

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

thousand-daysDay One: My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years.

I once heard Joseph Boyden say one key to keeping readers is making them a promise on the first page. He spoke of his own book, in which one character has an addiction to morphine, a two-day supply, and a three-day journey home. Three-Day Road, it’s called. I dare you not to read it.

I also dare you not to read Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days, which is a Mongolian-flavored retelling of the fairy tale Maid Maleen: a princess defies her father, who seals into a tower for seven years. One faithful servant refuses to leave her lady’s side. But seven years is a long time, and the food is running low…

Call a book a Book of A Thousand Days, and open day one with the only window being bricked up slowly? Do you promise? Because I’m yours.

 

Chime by Franny Billingsley

chimeI’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.

Talk about swooning. Here is a first line that has it all. A voice—I have an unfortunate thing for well-spoken murderers—a promise, a slow-building world. If you like the first page, you’ll like the book. If you don’t, well… we probably can’t be friends.

 

 

Top image: Fanart of Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines by Julia Zhuravieva.
This article was originally published in September 2015.

Erin Bow is the author of three novels: Plain Kate, Sorrow’s Knot, and the science fiction thriller The Scorpion Rules, which opens: We were studying the assassination of the archduke Franz Ferdinand when we saw the plume of dust.

twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
[personal profile] twistedchick
1. Look out the window and see how many demonstrators there are and how well armed they are. If you can't see them from there, go where you can. Take a picture with your phone - if you don't have a cell phone, get your aide to do it. Estimate the number of people in the group, their general ages and level of organization, and the visible armaments present. Is it signs on wood, not cardboard, posts? Is it flags on wooden flagpoles? Clubs? Swords? Is it pistols? Shotguns? Semi-automatic weapons? You should be able to tell from the photo. Are there insignia or symbols present? What groups do they represent? What is the goal of those groups?

1a. If there are fewer demonstrators than your available police and with less-able weapons, send the police to keep order. Or even if there are a few more but they are not heavily armed.

2. If there are more demonstrators than you have police, or they are better armed (though with all the gifts of military weaponry to local police groups this seems unlikely), get on the phone to call your State Police, local station or substation, and inform them of the situation and ask them for help. State police are well armed, generally extremely well trained, and just the people who should be there making sure things stay calm and the different groups of demonstrators stay clear of one another.

3. If for some reason (I cannot think of one but perhaps one exists in some alternate universe) you cannot call the State Police for help (or, in Virginia, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth Police), get on the phone to the governor and ask for the local branch of the National Guard to be mobilized to protect the people of your constituency.

Dear mayor/supervisor/top elected official, it is your job to make sure that peaceful protesters are not beaten down either by police or by armed insurgents who consider themselves protesters although by being armed and hostile they do not come under the coverage of the First Amendment. It is your job to keep people safe. If you don't call out adequate police/state cops/Guardsmen, you are failing your job and your people, and you do not deserve to be in office.

Is that clear???
[syndicated profile] tordotcom_feed

Posted by Keith DeCandido

The Defenders Marvel

From 2008-2011, Marvel Studios provided an excellent blueprint for setting up what we now refer to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe: two Iron Man films, a Hulk film, a Thor film, and Captain America: The First Avenger. All standalone movies, but with various common elements and through-lines (the Stark family tree, S.H.I.E.L.D., the Infinity Stones) to come together in Avengers, which remains the gold standard. It works as the first Avengers movie as well as the next movie for each of the above characters.

In 2015, Marvel went back to that blueprint for their more ground-level Netflix television series based in New York. Two seasons of Daredevil, and one each of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, culminating in The Defenders, now live on Netflix.

Here’s a quick look at the first three episodes and whether or not they bode well for history repeating itself. (There will be a full review on Monday.)

SPOILERS for The Defenders, as well as Daredevil seasons 1-2, and the first seasons of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.

The four characters don’t actually come together until the climax of the third episode. In fact, no two of the quartet actually meet until the very end of the second episode, when Matt Murdock shows up as Jessica Jones’s lawyer while she’s being interrogated by Detective Misty Knight.

Prior to that, the show does an excellent job of picking up where each of the four series left off. Jones is at loose ends, not actually moving forward with her life in the months since she killed Kilgrave, despite the best efforts of Trish Walker and Malcolm. She hasn’t even fixed the broken glass on her door or the big hole in her wall. What gets her back into the swing of things, unsurprisingly, is someone coming to her with a case and someone else warning her off it. She wasn’t actually going to take the case until she got that warning. Best way to get Jones to do something is to tell her not to do it…

After ending Iron Fist with the disappearance of K’un-Lun, Danny Rand and Colleen Wing have been traveling all over the world trying to track down the Hand. Their first lead after months of searching leads to a person who is killed by someone everyone in the audience recognizes as Elektra (well, okay, I recognized Elodie Yung, she was cloaked and shrouded), but his dying words send them back to New York City.

Luke Cage is out of prison and back in Harlem, reunited with Claire Temple and wanting to help people. Mariah and Shades appear to be laying low, but Knight puts him on the scent of someone who is hiring kids in the neighborhood for hush-hush work that is getting some of them killed. Knight just wants Cage to reach out to the kids and help them, like Pop did, but Cage, naturally, goes further and tries to investigate.

Murdock is done with being Daredevil, though temptations keep rearing their ugly head. He’s doing lawyer work, mostly pro bono (which makes you wonder how he pays his rent and feeds himself), and Foggy Nelson throws some side work from his new employer, Jeri Hogarth, at him. (This includes representing Jones, which Hogarth instructs Nelson to do off the grid.)

Cage and Rand come together when the Harlem kids turn out to be working as cleaners for the Hand. We also learn that the head of the Hand—the person from whom Madame Gao herself takes orders—is a seemingly immortal woman named Alexandra (she keeps referring to historical events as if she was there, and she mentions dying and coming back to life).

What’s most impressive about the first two episodes in particular is how director S.J. Clarkson (who directed both) uses colors to differentiate each of the threads. Murdock’s scenes are all tinged with red, Cage’s with yellow and gold, Rand’s with green, and Jones’s with blue. All dark and muted, too, in stark contrast to Alexandra’s scenes, which are all incredibly brightly lit.

That mostly gets dropped in episode 3, directed by Peter Hoar. Alexandra’s scenes are darker, as we open with a flashback to her resurrection of Elektra, dead after Daredevil season 2, and with Jones and Murdock thrown together and Cage and Rand thrown together, there’s less distinctiveness among the parts. But it’s okay, because by this point, we’re reintroduced to everyone. If you haven’t seen one or more of the individual series, or you don’t remember details, enough has been done to fill in and bring you up to speed.

The first episode is called “The H Word,” that word being “hero,” and it’s fascinating to look at how each of the foursome approaches heroism. For Jones, it’s something she hates (“the H word” is her phrase, cutting Trish off when she tries to get Jones to embrace her fame for taking down Kilgrave to become a superhero), but her instinct to help people does kick in eventually whether she wants it to or not. Cage wants to help people, though he refuses to take any credit for what he does. He uses his rep up to a point, but refuses to cash in on it. Rand is mostly focused on atoning for his abandoning his post as K’un-Lun’s protector, so he’s more in this out of revenge and guilt than heroism.

And then we have Murdock, who is addicted to the violence. We saw this in two seasons of Daredevil, but we also saw the cost, as his friendship with Nelson and his relationship with Karen Page were both badly damaged, though he is now working to repair both. He’s tempted by the red suit more than once, but he doesn’t put it on. When an earthquake hits Manhattan—the first stage in Alexandra’s plan that will apparently spell doom for New York—Murdock is unable to resist the temptation to help people, and he breaks up a robbery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go quite as he expected, and he regrets it later. He’s acting exactly like an addict, in fact, down to Nelson giving him work to distract him.

Of course, that leads to him encountering Jones, and the two of them wind up in the same place as Rand and Cage, who separately all arrive at the headquarters of Midland Circle, the bank through which the Hand does business.

Just as with the four individual series, the weak link in these first four episodes is Finn Jones as Rand. Iron Fist is still a whiny twerp, and it’s hard to be invested in his rather self-centered quest to stop the Hand, as he’s more interested in assuaging his guilt than in actually helping people. Jessica Henwick does the best she can as Wing, but she’s reduced to being Rand’s sidekick, which just isn’t that interesting. (It’s telling that Henwick’s two best scenes in the first three episodes are when she’s paired up with Temple in another room while Cage and Rand get to know each other and when Stick shows up at her dojo, her only two scenes so far without Jones.)

Luckily, the others make up for it. Mike Colter’s earnestness and casual heroism is perfectly played. Murdock’s internal struggle is magnificently etched on Charlie Cox’s face and in his body language. Krysten Ritter’s superlative smartassery lights up every scene she’s in. And while Henwick is stuck trying and failing to prop Jones up, Simone Missick as Knight, Eka Darville as Malcolm, Carrie-Anne Moss as Hogarth, Elden Henson as Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll as Page, and especially Scott Glenn as Stick are all spectacular in supporting roles.

Sigourney Weaver is quietly menacing as Alexandra, and it makes her scarier than the other effective villains of the Netflix corner of the MCU. Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk, Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth, and Alfre Woodard’s Mariah all had the calmness but it was leavened with their tendency to fly off the handle at any second. Alexandra, at least in the first three episodes, only has the calm, and it’s frightening as hell. Probably the best compliment one can give her performance is that you actually believe that Madame Gao—who has quietly been the nastiest and scariest presence in the Netflix MCU so far, thanks to Wai Ching Ho’s understated brilliance—takes orders from her. Gao has never been subservient to anyone prior to this, but you buy it with Alexandra.

Of course, the big star of The Defenders remains Rosario Dawson’s Temple, the Phil Coulson of the Netflix series, as she’s the glue linking everyone. She’s the one who brings Cage and Rand together, and tries to get them to talk. It fails, mostly because Cage is disgusted with Rand’s oblivious privilege (a nice commentary on one of the many flaws in Iron Fist‘s first season), but Dawson remains a delight. It’s also fun to watch her nudzh Cage about the fact that he has to actually make a living somehow (possibly eventually becoming a hero for hire?).

Thus far, The Defenders has done an excellent job of bringing these four characters—and these four series, particularly Daredevil and Iron Fist—together. Monday, I’ll have a more in-depth review of the entire eight-episode season.

SPOILER ALERT! Please try to keep the comments as spoiler-free of episodes 4-8 as possible.

Keith R.A. DeCandido writes “4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch” for this site every Tuesday. He has also written about Star Trek, Stargate, Batman, Wonder Woman, Doctor Who, and other Marvel Netflix series. In addition, he’s the author of a metric buttload of fiction, most recently the Marvel “Tales of Asgard” trilogy featuring Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three, three Super City Cops eBook novellas about cops in a city filled with superheroes, and short stories in Baker Street Irregulars, Aliens: Bug Hunt, Nights of the Living Dead, TV Gods: Summer Programming, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, and Stargate SG-1/Atlantis: Homeworlds.

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