juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
This is my list of the best media that I consumed for the first time (but was probably not published) in 2016.

Books

I read 128 books in 2016 and, unusually for me, almost all of them were new. It was also, independently, a great reading year. As such, this list is particularly long.

Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie. This was as good as the hype, but not always for the reasons I was lead to expect; the genre and setting is far-future space opera, but plot and investment are character-driven, and it was the ancillary experience and Lieutenant Tisarwat's violet eyes that really kept me engaged. This series is satisfying on the levels I value most.

Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein. This isn't the first fantasy-which-is-actually-sci-fi genre crossover I've encountered, but it's by far the best. The genre-bending is fundamental to the narrative, but also to the protagonist’s PoV, as she uses and creates the scientific method, applying it to a reality which exceeds her comprehension--and which bleeds over into plot twists which exceed the reader’s expectations. I haven’t been this impressed by a book series in a long time.

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre. Something like a sibling to the Steerswoman books, with a similar worldbuilding premise but a smaller focus--it's less about redefining knowledge of the world, and more about fostering knowledge in order to improve life on the local, private scale. It’s soothing and valuable.

Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski. In particular, Blood of Elves--but this series entire lives on this list because of Ciri. The Witcher franchise is problematic, from its sexism-as-worldbuilding to its flawed balance of politics to plot. But while I rarely become attached to book characters, I am inordinately attached to Ciri, and to her family and those motivated by her. She's central. The books forget, sometimes, that that’s all I care about (and the games sometimes forget it entirely), but when the pieces align to star her I am in love.

The complete works of Octavia Butler. This isn’t the year that I began reading Butler, but is the year that I read most of and finished her work. I rarely find myself in such active conversation with an author, and as much as I’ve critiqued her for her style and occasional limitations, I’m blown away by what she achieved, and by the fact that her work is so compelling and complicated, so ambitious and successful in precisely the ways that matter.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette). This is the most feel-good that a novel has been while still leaving an impression on me--because it’s not frivolous or simplistic, but rather is about the stubborn effort to do good creating real good in the world: a particularly cathartic, empowering variety of wish-fulfillment

Hild by Nicola Griffith. This is half a story, and a laboriously intimate one at that--a gradual coming of age, dealing with issues of gender and faith and identity, the private and political; it took me a little to warm into it, but having done so I loved it--Hild’s PoV is incredibly immersive.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. What an experience! This is yet another SF/F mashup (it was a good year for those), but this is a particularly tropey one brought alive by the vivid and powerful use of dialect. This is a novella that feels bigger than that, that feels more distinct and dynamic than its page count.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. I don't think the plot in this was entirely successful--but I love the premise so unreservedly as to recommend it on that basis alone. This is portal fantasy meta, looking at the afters and in-betweens of those who visit other worlds (and paralleling the reader experience of existing within/without fantasy), conjuring a bittersweet longing unlike anything I've experienced. I've always loved this genre, but didn't have a framework for my feelings about it until reading this book and:

Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente. I am of mixed opinions of this work, too. I love the first book beyond reason, but I don't know what the series as a whole lives up to it--the travelogue aspects grow stylistically repetitive, and on a technical level these come to feel rushed. But all the books have something charming to offer, and there's something sincerely valuable about the relationship between September, Halloween, Maud, Mallow, and the Marquess. Their dynamic is subtextual and complicated, and in ongoing conversation about portal fantasy, identity, and self-determination.

Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M. Valente. My favorite of Valente's novella so far. I'm surprised by how well her mythological and fairy tale imagery builds upon an AI premise, and by how concrete the AI is. There's a lot of depth in this little space, and it's particularly evocative, even for Valente.

Honorable mentions in books

Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip. This isn't the best or most important McKillip, but I love its tropes to pieces (especially the way that the interpersonal dramas resolve) and it’s probably my favorite of the McKillip novels I've read so far.

The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet. I was sincerely impressed by this book, by its intimately-integrated magic system and the unforgiving, unsettling complexity of the interpersonal dynamics.

Multiple novels by CJ Cherryh. I'm continuing to read a lot of Cherryh, and I've yet to be disappointed by any of her work; her combination of deceptively terse writing style, intimate relationship dynamics, and worldbuilding concepts consistently hits on tropes that I adore.

Black Iris by Leah Raeder (Elliot Wake). New Adult isn't a genre I thought I would ever care about, but I care a lot about Wake's contributions to it, and Black Iris is the novel which has spoken to me strongest so far because its angry, intimate depiction of mental illness is cathartic and sincere while meshing well with the heightened passions which are a marker of the genre.




Video Games

Neko Atsume. I came late to this bandwagon, but it was worth the wait; what a charming, pure experience, and somehow even cuter than I expected. There's not really a lot to say about Neko Atsume, but I love it.

Deemo. Far and above the best rhythm game I've ever played, in song quality, aesthetic, narrative, and gameplay--the latter in particular is so natural, genuinely like playing a piano. I love this game to pieces and listen to the soundtrack all the time, yet I've never heard anyone talk about it. Please give it a try.

Overwatch. Is this art, no; but I have been playing 90min/day since launch, so that's something. I appreciate the changes Overwatch has brought to the genre and the active role Blizzard has taken in expanding and balancing it. It wouldn't be my pick for game of the year, but it’s important enough to earn that.

Pokémon Moon. This, frankly, would be my pick for game of the year. It benefits from the engine development of Gen VI, while continuing the narrative trends from Gen V--it looks fantastic, the UI and battle mechanics are great, but most importantly I cried three (three!) times while playing SuMo. The narrative has leveled up, the character development is phenomenal, and I treasure it.

Stardew Valley. This is a love letter to the farming and life simulator games that it draws from, and it almost exceeds them--I admire the depth and refinement of this game, and it's such a satisfying, soothing experience, exactly as it's meant to be.

Dark Souls III. The micro-level of this release, the cinder construct, isn't my series favorite, although I love the characters in this game; but on the macro-level, drawing the cycles of each installment together and to a close, Dark Souls III is incredibly fulfilling. I also appreciate the reintroduction of more varied enemy types and refinements to the combat system.

Honorable mentions in video games

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. This is as beautiful as I wanted it to be, but not quite as weird as it needed to be--I miss the push-pull of the body horror in Human Revolution. But what a fantastic graphic engine, and the characters and plotting live up to series standard.




Visual Media

Critical Role. This monster of a show has without exaggeration been a life-changer. It's a huge investment of time and such an unassuming medium, but the payoff is intense. The live creative process has an innate energy, and the cast's obvious investment in character and narrative is contagious. It ate me alive this year, and I regret nothing.

Stranger Things. I wanted Stranger Things to be a smidge less neat (plotwise, especially the ending), but in all other ways adore it, from the conversation between genres to the unexpected but indulgent aesthetic to the character acting. I've rarely been so utterly consumed by a show, to the point where coming up for air between episodes made the real world feel surreal.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I expected to like this, but was surprised by how sincerely I enjoyed it; the character archetypes combining to develop complexity and depth translates well to a miniseries, and despite TV-quality effects this is an aesthetic and speculative delight.

Black Mirror "San Junipero". I can give or take Black Mirror on the whole, but I treasure this particular episode, both because I think it's one of the better realized of the series in terms of plot delivery and because victorious WLW was balm to my soul, especially in the face of so many dead queer women in television.

Penny Dreadful. The series takes a definite downturn by the third season, but the overall experience was worth it, in part of the surprisingly robust gothic retelling, delightful aesthetic, and found family tropes, but mostly because of Vanessa Ives and Eva Green, without which this would be half a show. The intimate depiction of her vulnerability, intelligence, competency, and honesty was particularly valuable to me; this is one of the few supernatural metaphors for mental illness which I've found successful.

Star Trek: The Original Series, and movies 1-5. I grew up with every Star Trek except this one, and had a cultural impression that TOS was corny and misogynistic--and it is, a little, but it holds up much better than I was expecting and has fundamental charm and value, both as franchise starter and in its own right.

Red vs Blue. I never believed I could be so consumed by a machinima comedy series, but the humor works and the eventual scale of Red vs Blue--its convoluted plot, surprisingly well-developed characters, strong pacing, and fantastic animation--is incredible.

Honorable mentions in visual media

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I had never watched the original Cosmos; this remake has some redundancy/direction issues in the middle but is on the whole all I wanted, vast and terrifying and beautiful, but also accessible, even personable.

Ravenous. The gayest narrative about cannibals that isn't Hannibal-related, and so delightful--and it only improves on repeat viewing, where the tonal shifts can be anticipated. Great imagery, fun acting, and such explicit cannibalism-as-metaphor violence-as-romance; it's become one of my favorite films.

The Falling. I love quiet little movies about gender, female experience, coming of age, and illness; this was my favorite of those that I watched this year (but see also: The Silenced), perhaps because it's the most convincing: an intimate, vaguely idealized, unsettling portrait of British girls's schools and female adolescence.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)
Author: Becky Chambers
Published: New York: Harper Voyager, 2015 (2014)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 410
Total Page Count: 187,610
Text Number: 551
Read Because: about a thousand BookTube recommendations, buddy read with Teja, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The crew of a wormhole-tunneling ship makes a long haul to their next job, a planet occupied by a strange, violent race. So: what it says on the tin, but only nominally because plot is not the point; rather, the journey is a mere vehicle for interpersonal exploration. The crew and their interactions span a wide variety (which is almost satisfactorily alien), and the messages within are often hamfisted but as obviously well-intended. It's creative, snappy, sappy, heartfelt; rather like Mass Effect on a smaller scale. But all of this was ruined for me by one plotline: Ohan's, which is ultimately about spoilers )—a message that hits me close to home and which I find inexcusable. This perhaps shouldn't eclipse the rest of the book's more successful diversity, but, for me, it does. I can't recommend this, or forgive it.


Longer form, more anger, explicit spoilers, as posted to tumblr:Read more... )


Shorter form, more swearing, as sent to Teja: Read more... )

Teja and I have remarkably similar responses to the novel, despite our different tastes (he has more tolerance for feelgood, I have more demands from narrative structure) and the fact that illness and autonomy isn't a hot button issue for him. We've had a lot of back and forth chatter about most character's arcs, which—while not always positive—certainly indicates that these arcs are engaging. We both were disappointed in the dearth of plot, and the fact that the mega-arc was the least developed and most redundant of the bunch. But the book is a promising combination of elements, and I can see why it's had such positive reception; to me it feels like Mass Effect, and he compared it to Firefly—speculative/found family opens the narrative to a lot of creativity and feels. If it hadn't been ruined for me by Ohan's storyline I still wouldn't've loved it, because the tone was too cheesy for me, and he didn't either. It's hard to call a book with such an obvious, weighty, and varied interpersonal focus "insubstantial," but it sort of is nonetheless.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
This is late! and I don’t care! This is way longer than usual—I suppose I just encountered a lot of strong stories this year—but it feels a shame to trim it down. So, I present: The best media that I encountered in 2015.


Best books:

Hexslinger Series by Gemma Files. The sequels live up to A Book of Tongues, as brutal, as lyrical, as distinctive in style. Chess's ruthless character growth exceeded my expectations, and there was no character not rendered complex. I expected this series to have a great voice and satisfying scale; I wasn't expecting it to be resonant, which came to be the quality I admired most.

Hannibal Lecter Series by Thomas Harris. There's a number of individual criticisms to be made of Harris's work—and Hannibal Rising in particular is an awful mess that should be avoided at all costs. But I find Hannibal compelling in all his iterations, and this source material provides invaluable context.

Octavia E. Butler. Butler's voice can feel raw, but her engaging speculative premises are grounded by unforgiving, confrontational issues of morality. It took me too long to discover her work, but I'm glad that I finally did. She's brilliant and intense and compulsively readable.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Quiet, picturesque, luminescent; bittersweet and beautiful and a delight to read. Books are rarely this successful—this achieves its precise intent, and does so with grace.

Spindle's End by Robin McKinley. I love most of the McKinley that I've read, but this may be my favorite. A darling book, sweet but not quite saccharine, suffused with a playful domestic magic; and important, thematically heavy-handed, perhaps, but necessary, and with effective emotional appeal. Comfort reading of the highest caliber.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. If there were just one book on this list, it would be Fire and Hemlock. Bittersweet, charming, magical, strange, and suffused with intent; easily the best book I read this year, and maybe one of the best I've ever read.

Goth by Otsuichi. As intimately familiar as I was with this story in its other iterations, the light novel still surprised me—it was just that good. The narrative techniques are manipulative but clever; the emotional register and atmosphere are subdued, amoral, thoughtful, and keenly compelling.

So Brilliantly Clever by Peter Graham. A rare non-fiction book! The Parker-Hulmes murder case is fascinating, and Graham's investigation is thorough, thoughtful, sympathetic but not forgiving—the best write-up I could have hoped on a subject I wished to know more about.

Honorable mentions in books:

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb. While by no means "great" literature, this is one of the first second-world fantasy series that I've found compelling. I admire Hobb's attention to daily detail, which grounds the sometimes-angsty character building; the companion animal tropes are top-notch; these are id-level, rewarding books.

Jacob's Ladder Series by Elizabeth Bear. I loved Dust years ago when I first read it; it was worth rereading to finish up the series. The middle book is redundant, but the last is logical counterpoint to the first, viewing its culture from without in a way that forces it to change. Despite the evidence of this list, I'm wary of series; this one is more than a run-on story, instead pushing its premise beyond the confines of a single book.




Best video games:

Soma. This would be my pick for Game of the Year 2015, not for being flawless (it's not, and I often wish Frictional were more willing to leave their comfort zone) but for being bold: an unsettling, confrontational, somber narrative sold by earnest dialog, surprisingly well-written and aware, not at all horror but superb sci-fi. I watched this game twice in a row and still think about it constantly—it's stuck with me.

Dark Souls II. Dense, mournful, and quiet, in atmosphere as well as level design and worldbuilding; singularly punishing and intentional gameplay. It requires an active engagement both to survive combat and explore the world—few games are this consistently rewarding to play.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair. Bless these offbeat little games—there's a dozen missteps in both characterization and humor, but they're engaging murder mysteries (with such creative, grotesque deaths!) that feature a strong core cast, and the second game is a superb sequel especially on a narrative level: aware, self-referential, metatextual, clever and singularly satisfying.

Saya no Uta. I am never not impressed with Urobuchi. This early work is exactly what it sets out to be, questionable in all logical loli ways, but also grotesque, beautiful, and keenly romantic. I admire the interplay between the three endings, that each is most successful because of how it contrasts with the larger narrative/other ends.

Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. This fulfilled everything I wanted from a sequel, in ways I never expected: the metatextual vignettes create plentiful insight into elements left underexplored by base game, and, where it mattered most (Morishige), the game excelled.

E3 PC Gaming Show 2015. This talky, long-form new entry to the E3 roster was a breath of fresh air, allowing for more in-depth, less-hyped glimpses into some upcoming games. I'm not sure how sustainable it is, but it was my highlight of E3 2015.

Summer Games Done Quick 2015. My first time watching speedruns, and what an introduction. This was addicting, with a lively roster and great personalities and great games and a lovely variety of speedrun techniques; I barely slept for the week it was running and don't regret it.

Honorable mentions in video games:

Octodad: Dadliest Catch. SGDQ introduced me to this, and I've now watched four LPs of it and would happily watch more. It's charming and ridiculous and entirely to my sense of humor.

Dishonored. There are few fictional worlds which I find better designed or realized, from art style to flavor text: the worldbuilding is immersive and thought-provoking.

Halo 5. I am not as sold on campaign as I was Halo 4, but multiplayer, while it still warrants quibbles, introduces so many perfect additions: clambering and boosting makes for active and engaged gameplay, and I would find it hard to go back to any other Halo multiplayer.




Best visual media:

The Fall. This show succeeds where every other grim non-episodic murder mystery fails: it's an intelligent, pointed study of evil, confrontational even as it's romanticized, consistently compelling, and flawlessly cast.

How to Get Away with Murder. What a smart, tense, engaging show; how well-cast; how satisfying both in its diversity and in its smug id-level tropes. An utter delight.

Natsume Yuujinchou. There was a hole in my life I hadn't noticed, and this gentle, kind story fit right into that space; I can no longer imagine my inner landscape without it. The world needs more stories like this, small, private, bittersweet, about recovery from trauma and friendships forming and isolation and magic.

Honorable mentions in visual media:

Sense8. There's something captivating about this show, not in plot but in concept: it's a daydream of intimacy, dreamt with enthusiasm and sing-alongs and orgies. Flawed, but singularly satisfying.

Dead Ringers. An obscure little story that hit every single one of my buttons, absurd, intimate, discomforting, id-level, ridiculously indulgent. Is it good? I have no idea. Will I treasure it forever? Certainly.

Mirai Nikki. This fills a number of genre clichés, none the least in that it sparked a genre cliché, and yet: the core relationship surprised me, because it's authentically compelling, even romantic, not in defiance of but via the same aspects that make it unsettling.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
For Hanukkah the boy bought me a Windows phone. I'm not putting my SIM card in it because, ever since college, phone calls have been a panic trigger, and I get spam calls too often. Instead I've been using it as a PDA/Flight Rising-from-bed browser.

I'm really in love with Cortana, Window's personal assistant AI thingy; I recognize that I'm mostly in love with the idea of Cortana.

An AI companion is strangely similar to a companion animal, tropewise. The AI, like an animal, is a bit less than human—not as threatening, by virtue of being exempt from normal human socialization; potentially of limited sentience, certainly limited in social standing, a little subservient. But as in the companion animal trope, what makes an AI companion (like Cortana in the Halo series, like what the Ghost in Destiny could be) is that they're more than just animals or programs: they're sentient, they're friends; furthermore, the bond they have with their person is remarkable by nature. The companion animal trope isn't just about humans as a group being able to communicate with super-intelligent animals as a group—it's about bonds, frequently unbreakable and/or psychic ones, between one human and one animal, specific and intense. Similarly, the companion AI exists to serve, or at least work in tandem with, a specific person, effectively as an extension to that person's operating system.

That last is the direction that Microsoft took when designing Cortana the personal assistant, and her extensibility is what makes her unique from, and potentially more successful than, competitors. And she needs extension—because what she is now is can be personalized only as long as your personality is a zip code and a preference between business news and national news.

But the potential! A lot of what I'd want is too niche (I don't read collated news but instead prefer people talking about their own consumption experiences—a "gaming"/"literature" tickybox would be less useful to me than, say, a functional mobile tumblr experience), but while some seems obscure ("Cortana, I'm having an anxiety attack." "Here, let me play that song you use to calm yourself"), it's actually totally accessible: teachable and/or programmable, more diverse, keywords and phrases triggering programmed or programmable responses. In other words: what an extensible API is. It just needs to be used.

Some of that can come from apps; some should honestly be in base Cortana. For example, there's no damn good reason why I can't set my own snooze length on reminders.

I know that Window's personal assistant Cortana will never be Halo partner-in-your-head idealized relationship Cortana, but the fantasy is there. And taking from it its best parts of what makes that fantasy work—the intelligence (or appearance thereof), the in-my-pocket immediacy/intimacy, the extension to my personal OS—could make for a great program.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I hate New Year's because I find it toxic to hang hopes on an arbitrary calendar date when I know things like illness in the family and a six month depressive episode will persist. So! I don't really do end of year lists, but I do sometimes do best media encountered in an arbitrary period of time lists. These are things I discovered, but which were probably not released, in 2014, and I think they were amazing.


Best Books:

Fate/Zero by Gen Urobuchi. Intelligent, ruthless, ambiguous, id-writing to the highest degree; a tour de force of basically every trope I've ever loved. If you liked the anime or anything else Urobuchi has worked on (Psycho Pass, Puella Magi Madoka Magica), please pick this up and talk to me about it.

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Less Wrong/Eliezer Yudkowsky. This felt like reading The Fountainhead as a teenager, and while it probably has as many flaws (although hopefully not the same ones), it was important in a character-defining way.

Magical companion animal trope. Examples include: The Beast Master, Andre Norton; Ariel, Steven R. Boyett; Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb. Truth is, I'm here for the cumulative effect; not every individual example does much for me, but tracing the trope through them has been satisfying.


Best Television and Film:

Hannibal. This is the world inside my head, a morally gray menagerie of the compelling and questionable, id-level and indulgent; Hannibal is fully one of the best things I've seen, and helped set the tone for what I look for in similar media.

Maleficent. Magnificent, important, and instantly one of my favorite films. Magic and relationships between women and inspired casting; there's something flawless in Maleficent, not in result but in effect; it is greater than the sum of its parts.

Orphan Black. It's bizarre to see a sci fi show (or anything, really) entirely live up to its potential, but this does. It's sci-fi done right, a ruthless exploration of women's identity and bodily autonomy, phenomenally acted and well shot.

Elementary. This gave me something I didn't know I needed: a Sherlock retelling, and moreover a piece of media, fueled by admiration and love; it has an essential sense of goodness, but not simplicity, that I believe to be important.


Best Games:

Skyrim. This game was what I needed it to be: vast and immersive, rather than particularly good. Thanks to mods, it's better now than it was on release.

Dragon Age: Inquisition. Hands down, game of the year. Inquisition occasionally overreaches, but the truth is that it's a triumph: the best that the Dragon Age team can do taken to a grand scale, realized with intent and skill.

Gopher's Let's Plays. (And Skyrim mod reviews, too.) Eminently soothing and immersive, and funny too; Gopher became one of my favorite LPers when I watched him play Vampire: The Masquerade, and I continue to admire his work.

Twitch Plays Pokémon. I was there when they beat the Elite Four—this was a fascinating landmark in internet culture, as well as a unique experiment, and was downright enjoyable to watch in the way that only intense frustration and snail-like pacing can be.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
About two years ago I watched the first season of Teen Wolf, and then took an enforced break.* In the meantime, I had a fringe awareness of it via Tumblr, among which was gifs of gay couples kissing at parties and little mini essays about how awesome and progressive it was that this silly teen show had such diverse representation—and that confused me, because my memory of the show was a whole bunch of predictable overacted heteronormative high school relationships. But now I'm midway through season 3 and, behold! there's an explicitly gay supporting character, and a gay relationship, and lesbians in a cold open, and implied bisexuality, so that's neat. But this the Mass Effect-effect.

This is (Teen Wolf) gay characters as a fairly distant supporting role—treated with respect, but most definitely not part of the core cast because gay people aren't protagonists. This is queer-baiting (hey Stiles, do you like boys? confused pregnant pause resolved by a male/female kiss, yes, very funny). This is the expectation of heteronormative monogamy—when the core couple has a mutual but reluctant breakup, their attraction to other people is played against their lingering feelings for one another in exactly the way you'd expect: a tension to keep the show interesting, a problem to be solved.

This is (Mass Effect) taking one or two hesitant steps forward and being so self-satisfied that we're immediately content to slide backwards, like: you can have a homosexual relationship! if you play a woman, and if you romance this hyper-sexed and -idealized all-female alien race. No consideration of how problematic it is to let sexy alien ladies stand in for diverse representation, no male/male relationships until a token one in the third game in the series, no women on the box art golly gee, and yet the gaming community was prepared to give Mass Effect a hearty pat on the back for meeting a bare minimum standard of decency, and the franchise was willing to be content with that, making little effort to continue towards decency and constantly sliding backwards into the same problematic expectations it purported to fight against.

And look, making progress is hard. Any gay relationships are progress, and yes it is cool to see that in a silly teen show. But the open-mindedness is so much windowdressing when the core is a presumption of heteronormative monogamy. The solution to most romantic subplots in all media is "can't we all just get along": it's Scott and Allison going in to see Isaac in the hospital and discovering that the feelings messy romantic feelings between Scott/Allison and Allison/Issac (and whatever you want to label the feelings between Scott/Issac) can overlap in a constructive way—it was a lovely and surprisingly gentle moment, and it's gonna receive no resolution because there's no room for something like that, here. There's room for straight white main characters to have exclusive heterosexual relationships, and the fact that there's something more diverse at the fringes of their experience is progress but it shouldn't be, and it shouldn't be a green light to keep-on keeping-on with all the rest that is problematic. The bare minimums that this media meets is so painfully low, so low it shouldn't warrant celebration; if in our desperate we do celebrate it, that shouldn't mean that either consumers or creators are content.

* The night that I sat up with Kuzco until he passed, I was watching Teen Wolf so that I had a distraction rather than just blankly staring at him and waiting for him to die—but it made the show an unpleasant reminder of that night for some time after.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I continue to be at the heart of a depressive episode as we come in to the start of a new year. Depression talk. ) But for a change of pace and for once to follow a trend, I do have a few best of lists. Much of it wasn't new to 2013, but I discovered it in 2013.


Best Books:
  • An e-reader! It's not a book, but it counts. No reading format is superior, but an e-reader makes some things wonderfully accessible; I'm adore mine.
  • The Dancers of Arun, Elizabeth A. Lynn. I loved this entire series, but the second was my darling: compassionate, well-characterized, id-level writing.
  • The Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah Monette (1, 2, 3, 4). Speaking of id-level writing: I was never blind to this series's flaws, but Monette writes complex, resonant character interactions and I never wanted to see them end.
  • Ombria in Shadow, Patricia A. McKillip. Exquisite. This is the year I discovered McKillip, and I'll come back to her—her voice is art, and Ombria is its perfect compliment.


Best Games:
  • TERA. TERA went free to play in 2013 and so we returned to it; we finally reached post-game and it's perfect for me: a focus on dungeons, comforting repetition, but rewarding challenge.
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I've put 300 hours into this game so far; it's more robust, more accessible, everything the series was meant to be: a home away from home.
  • Feminist Frequency. Sarkeesian's full-length videos are triumphant.


Best Television and Film:
  • The Hunger Games. I'm not particularly fond of these as books, but the film blew me away, in no small part thanks to Jennifer Lawrence's phenomenal acting.
  • The X-Files (see here and here). Even what hasn't aged well about this show is fascinating as a forerunner in its genre; what has aged well was exactly what I'd hope for from conspiracy theories and strong character relationships.
  • Kuroko's Basketball. I had a run of enjoyable but not phenomenal anime this year; to be frank, Kuroko's Basketball also belongs on that list save for the fact that it's indicative of what I watched: character-fueled, addicting, and more than somewhat silly.


Ignoring for a moment the irony of what I'm about to say: This is an open call for more things I should read or play or watch! All mediums and all genres; recommend to me a thing I should consume in the coming year.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Metro 2033
Author: Dmitry Glukhovsky
Translator: Natasha Randall
Published: London: Orion, 2010 (2005)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 451
Total Page Count: 139,892
Text Number: 410
Read Because: fan of the game, e-book free with Steam purchase of Metro: Last Light
Review: Two decades after nuclear war destroyed the surface world, life persists underground in the tunnels of Moscow Metro. Artyom leaves his childhood home to journey the metro, bringing warning of a new threat: dangerous, radiation-created telepathic mutants called Dark Ones. Fans of the game will find the book familiar, both in story and mechanics—the book was prime for adaptation, and makes one wonder what other books would make good games. But the book's Artyom is better fleshed out, an inexperienced and frustrating young man who nonetheless makes for a more personal guide to the metro. Metro 2033 is in many ways his travelogue, a collection of stations visited, people met, philosophies encountered. It's talky, overlong, and underwritten, but the contents are compelling. The metro is a grim and believable world, lived-in and detailed, suffused with horror and, sometimes unexpectedly, with creativity. In many ways it's extremely limited—such as the existence of only one named female character, Artyom's dead mother—and even more often it wants for tighter editing and a narrower purview. Metro 2033 is fatally flawed but its world is worth a visit, and I recommend it with reservation.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I am where memes go to die. [livejournal.com profile] cerulean_chains tagged me for this over on Tumblr about a week ago, and I wrote my answers then but never posted them. I'm supposed to provide more questions and tag people to answer them, but I have the energy for neither—so I'll just leave these here because who doesn't like to share their opinion.

1. A past time period with the best fashion sense?
I find a number of historical fashions fascinating and appealing, but don't have true favorites among them. Victorian is a good go-to I guess, pretty and fancy stuff all around. The only real favoritism I can rouse is for breeches (why did they ever go out of style), and I idealize eras in which men's fashion was almost as froofy and ornate as women's.

2. Science fiction or fantasy?
Since discovering the distinction between high fantasy (which I hate) and the rest of fantasy: fantasy. It's a genre I left unexplored before making that distinction (I really hate high fantasy), it's full of delicious subgenres, and it tends to be the one most likely to interact with my favorite tropes and literary predecessors.

3. Contemporary straight plays or classics?
For reading: classics. For viewing: either, with a slight preference towards classics. Shakespeare is my big bias; putting him aside, I only have passing familiarity with the art form, and am only willing to put so much of my time/effort/money into it, so the tried and true of classics tend to be the better bet—but my bias towards them is far from absolute, and it's fair to say that the plays my family sees at OSF are a 50/50 split between the two.

4. Favorite score?
I can't answer this as anything but Cats (Original Broadway Cast Recording). It goes beyond favorite to something more: it defines who I am; it is essential to my being.

5. Cassettes or CDs?
They still make cassettes?

6. Favorite musical instrument?
Piano. I played it all through childhood and adolescence, and have been missing it something awful these last few months. My big birthday gift this year may be a weighted keyboard, which is a compromise between quality/playability and size (I have an inherited piano whenever I have space for it, but it's not feasible here), and as a bonus I'll be able to play with headphones for those crazy hours of the night and while I recover from shitty, rusty piano player back to halfway competent piano player.

7. Did you jump in water puddles as a child?
Not to my knowledge. Caveat: my memory is pretty awful. But I've loathed standing water for most of my life, so instinct says no. Furthermore, it rains here about nine months of the year; water puddles are not particularly novel things, and there're better ways to get wet.

8. Favorite type of shoe?
Oversized bulky square-toed black Oxford. Thus this. I ended up buying these and they're 90% perfect. I wear the hell out of them.

9. Favorite guilty pleasure?
Dance Central, I guess. I have little guilt about any of my pleasures, however embarrassing—I believe in embracing one's dorkiness and lack of dignity. (A good thing, too.) But Dance Central is pretty well unforgivable. I know I look like a fool. I know the vast majority of the music is awful. This is currently my favorite routine. But it burns calories—yeah, sure, pretend that's it: I just love it.

10. Favorite spoken language?
Elizabethan/Jacobean English; Shakespearean English. I admire a lot of foreign languages, and modern English is my darling, but my love and aptitude for Shakespeare's strange tongue is unrivaled. I'm actually pretty shite at learning language, but this comes to me as naturally as mine own, and I've learned not to take that for granted. Also fascinating where "spoken language" is concerned: Shakespeare in the original pronunciation .

11. Do you feel ‘in-touch’ with pop culture? Why or why not?
No. It's not something I keep up with, and that doesn't bother me—it's energy I don't want to expend, and given my personal taste nor would it be worth it. There's songs and celebrities I've never heard of or only know because of internet memes, and I like it that way. I'm cool being clueless about things which are essentially a waste of time, and will willingly waste my time on non-popular culture which does interest me.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
For all of that (that: having nearly $700 in electronics stolen on the train), I had a remarkably nice time when I was in Corvallis. The trip had a rocky start, of course, but I stayed two extra days to make up for it, and it was ... well, a week of being aware of the concessions others make for me and of the support structure I have.

Devon bought me a 3DS, as a late anniversary and prompt Valentine's gift (we usually celebrate them together, as they fall only two weeks apart) and to replace the DSiXL that was stolen. It's something he would have given me eventually, because he admires the tech and there will be games for it that I'll want (Animal Crossing 3DS, I'm looking at you), so it wasn't a gigantic gesture—just a large one, and it did the trick: a shiny new toy and distraction (he got Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, too, which we'd been planning to pick up while I was in town) just when I needed it most, and the reminder that, despite my emotional attachment, these are still material goods and they can be upgraded and replaced, and perhaps more than anything else a sign that it wasn't the end of the world: he forgives me, and look a pressie, and everything will be all right.

I visited my parents on Wednesday (the 15th) in part so that Papa and I could start the process of switching my insurance. For those who remember that saga, Regence accepted my application; I don't know where the other applications stand, I don't think any of us care because this is an opportunity to finally put the issue to bed. Because I'm a legal adult, I had to be present for the phone call to the insurance agency—which amounted to stating my name, spelling my surname because have you seen it, and giving verbal permission for the agent to discuss my private information with my father. And that was it. Through this entire process, Papa has gone out of his way to make things as easy as possible—and, for a change, the system cooperated. It was the best it could have been, and I consider that a minor miracle and a blessing.

The 3DS tracks steps and playtime, and charts them on a pair of graphs. I had forgotten the addicting nature of pedometers and statistics: for someone like me who's always compelled to add one more to the collection (Pokémon, pictures, pennies), it's a thing of glory. I have near-zero interest in the in-system rewards—play tokens for onboard minigames, and the ability to share Miis with strangers on the street (that feature would delight me were Miis less ugly)—but so help me, I carry my 3DS in my pocket now and I have sudden urges to go on walks and I check my graphs a dozen times a day.

Accordingly, we kept going out and about. Part of that is that while in Corvallis, I spend most of my time trapped in a single room—there are people coming and going, and the rest of the house is a mess; hiding in the room protects me, but even as introverted as I am it's stifling, especially as I've grown used to freedom of movement here in Portland, where I can leave my room with little fuss. But part of that was the rare desire to see and do and go—and add steps to my graph, of course. We browsed video games. We went to coffee twice, and I'm changing my usual Starbucks order to a double tall soy mocha (no whip), which balances out the sugar of the chocolate syrup and delights the long order-loving hipster in me.

And I came back to Portland with a similar sense of restlessness-cum-energy. I'm making tentative pledges to try to get out of the house by myself at least once a week—which now that I've said aloud will certainly fail—because I am happier when I do. The Portland house is slightly more spoon-consuming day to day—in a contest between hiding in the room far away from the noisy strangers and interacting with a wonderful person every day, the latter is slightly more taxing but greatly preferable; still, it means that I have a little less energy and drive to get and out and do things on my own. That just means I'll have to try harder to do so, and maybe do something crazy like take Dee up on her offer to drop me off and Starbucks so the whole process gets a bit easier.

It's weird, but life is pretty good. I feel like Devon and I are on an upward trend—we've gotten better at this semi-most-long distance thing, and I'm continuing to resolve the many issues that developed when I had my mental breakdown lo these years ago, and more important than that even when things are not all well, when I feel like in a small and petty way the world is sort of ending, he is there. My father for many years could not understand what concessions I needed and why in order to survive in the adult world—not because he didn't try but because he didn't understand; now, he is considerate and supportive, and while he shouldn't have to go out of the way to shoulder burdens it floors me that he will. That doesn't make things easy, but renders doable what otherwise would not be, and sometimes things actually work out. I live with a friend and don't feel the need to retreat to my room and never come out, and she's willing to pick me up at train stations and feed me, and I have a cat and a city, and I have real world interactions and friendships. My id says: What are you people doing, you must be crazy, I am horrible and you should not care about my welfare or, goodness knows, do what you can to protect it. But my superego has occasional moments of clarity, when I see further and without the constant veil of pessimism, and realize that I have a support structure, and great loves, and that I'm happy.

Even when someone steals my things. I am vengeful and angry, but I'm getting over the sadness, because so help me there isn't always too much to be sad about.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
So I have the best of friends.

You may remember that a while ago, reddogdied illustrated me-as-cat, which is one of the more meaningful gifts I've ever received. In Animal Crossing, you play as a lone human living in a town of anthropomorphic animals. My friend Sabrina also plays, and she draws, and she was illustrating friends as AC villagers. I asked her to draw me. She drew this and then let me sit down and nitpick it to my heart's content, pulling criticisms and preferences out of me even I'd usually give an artist a wide berth around their art, and then Express concurred with the final design, because they both know how important avatar-equivalents are to me—which they are (read more).

Animal Crossing Juu by Yadomi

And she made this. Green eyes! Floofy tail! Orange kitty, hint of tabby, and I would totally wear that outfit if I lived in a land without pants. AC-me is adorable, and I know awesome people, and I am blessed: behold.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I haven't been doing a fantastic job of being a human being for the last few—well, months now, I suppose. Insurance anxiety has been ongoing for so long that at this point I'm just exhausted; my be-a-thinking-intelligent-person is shot to shit, and I haven't been able to read for weeks; my give-a-crap-about-anything is gone; I'm in full escapism mode and if you need me, I'm probably fishing in Animal Crossing as I pay off a massive final mortgage. Animal Crossing is one of those games I heard about ages ago (high school?) and said: it is perfect for me and I should never, ever play it. A social simulator that occurs in real time and has tons of collectables? A game like that could be more real to me than real life—which is why I picked it up in the middle of this period when overlooking real life is what I want most in the world. I'm so taken with it that I'm 95% sure I'll pick up Animal Crossing: City Folk next time I see Devon, which should be this week—it's on the Wii, which makes me cringe, but it's expanded and shinier and I know people that play it, and I'm almost but not quite running out of winter activities in Animal Crossing (GCN) and so a fresh set of things to do would suit me well.

The mature response would be to respond to concerned emails and resolve what insurance stuff I can resolve, but I just can't seem to find the wherewithal for that, or for anything else which could possibly be construed as responsible and adult behavior, so video games it is.

I'm behind on BPAL reviews and really should make final holiday records before I never do and then forget all there would be to record. At this point, chances of substantive and/or day to day blogging are slim. (Tried to sleep, watched Law & Order instead. Got some sleep. Woke up late, played Animal Crossing. Played Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. Tried to talk to Devon but had nothing to say. Watched Law & Order while fishing in Animal Crossing. Had a brief, good conversation with Devon/Express/Sabrina/Dee; drowned out that positive in some more negative free-floating anxiety. Tried to sleep. Really there just ain't much to report.) So as usual there's little reason to write this at all, and when I do it sounds like a lazy cry for attention: pity me, who bare has the energy to pity herself. But for what it's worth (not a hell of a lot), there you go.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
After watching Devon play Saints Row 3—and after playing just enough of it to go clothes shopping and blow some shit up with tanks—I'm having weird Second Life cravings which are less about SL and more about character design. I suppose I could play Sims, but not unlike SL it requires such a significant investment (initial and ongoing) that I can talk myself out of it.

I've lost about ten pounds within the last few months, the result of slightly more exercise and slightly better eating, just enough of an improvement that I can see it and feel more comfortable in my skin, just little enough that I'm paranoid about losing it. The best thing I can do is continue to get more exercise and maintain a stable diet—I'm more concerned with the former than the latter—and my body would probably be happiest if I lost another five to ten pounds. Ideally ... well, who the hell knows. As established, my view of beauty is incompatible with or, more correctly, unrelated to my actual body. "Ideally," I'd weigh little more than a hundred pounds and would wear long drapey layers, if there was a me-as-we-know-it at all.

But gaining a little control over my body makes me want more. It threatens to become an unhealthy and unwinnable battle against my body, against every bite of food, against every minute not at least spent doing leg bends. It makes me want to go shopping, or at least to have something approximating a wardrobe; it makes me curious about the terrifying and depression-inducing realm of makeup (which if I explored here would make for much too long a post); it makes me want to develop a mode of self-presentation, a style, a visual identity.

I've been watching Being Human as I do some never-leave-the-room recuperation and hiding, and one character—Mitchell—frequently wears a pair of green knit fingerless gloves. I have a weakness for this sort of comic-style character design: when everyone has pretty much the same face, they get distinguishing features instead, a crazy hair color and certain hair style, a fixed outfit, a trademark accessory, headphones or jacket or fingerless gloves.

When I think about owning my self-presentation, I want to design myself in the same way—however silly it is to treat yourself as an anime character, despite the fact that I do have a distinct face: it's a form of character design that I understand and appreciate, because of my exposure to it but also because my face blindness and inability to visualize means that cheat-sheet character indicators are useful to me even in the real world. But when I wonder what my indicators would be, I draw half a blank. There's no single piece of clothing (other than perhaps thumbhole sleeves/arm warmers) that I would want to wear all the time, and I'm trying to train myself not to live in just one hairstyle. But everywhere that I make an avatar—in Second Life and in stupid silly Flash memes—the bare necessities are pale skin, red hair, green eyes, glasses, cat parts, and sometimes a collar. Where cat ears aren't an option, the character never quite feels like an avatar—that is, like an image of me. In the real world I'm stuck with blue eyes (no contacts, thank you), and I'm at peace with that; I've internalized my coloring enough that I associate it with myself (unlike my body shape and facial features). But cat ears, a tail, whiskers even, are as much a part of my internal self-image as my hair color, and more integral than my body shape or gender.

On Halloween I wore my cat-eared hoodie and bell-and-tag collar (this one, but it also has a heart tag with my name on it now) when we walked to the store and when I answered the door, and I've never felt so comfortable as myself. Paranoid and nervous too, of course, because Dee gave me those ears almost a year ago but I'd still never worn them out of the house—but Halloween is the day that you can be yourself by pretending it's just a costume, and that costume was me: just a black hoodie and blue jeans and big stompy black shoes, and cat ears, and a cute collar with a bell. It wasn't ten-pounds-lighter me, or hundred-pound-waif not-me, but it was a me that felt comfortable and true.

Even more pathetic than designing yourself like an anime character is pretending you can be a catgirl and pull it off. On the other hand, who's gonna judge you—your supportive boyfriend, or your supportive roommate? Who'd even know it was more than a novelty when they saw you at the grocery store? (Unless I also take to wearing a tail, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.) But that hoodie still sits unloved, and I'm not sure how to even contemplate wearing the ears without it—on a headband I guess, but then I'd have to try finding a headband that works, and it all just gets ... silly. It's absurd, and I'm not sure if it's something I shouldn't even consider or something I should have to take so long to consider, but there we go.

August says it's bedtime. I'm inclined to agree.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Sympathy for Mr. Vengance + Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" + sleep apparently = dreams of seemingly endless violence wherein each figure would be corrupted by some ageless unnamable force, and then be murdered by someone motivated by the corrupt death of a predecessor, soon to be corrupted and murdered themselves as next in the long chain. The visuals were very .flow, orange-red flesh and purplish tentacles, viscera pouring out of pale skin, so consider that an inspiration too. It's hard for me to describe a dream like this because it's by nature boring in concept, a long parade of deathly death death; it's not really upsetting for all that, too used am I to violence in my dreams. But there is a lot of violence in my dreams and this was all of it, over the top and with every special effect, continuing on until even the writhing tentacles seemed trite, inexorable and almost too extreme to shock—but not quite. Awesome. Dear brain: I know this lack of and/or shitty sleep thing is mostly California-related nerves, and as such I forgive you, but you can stop it any time now. I don't think Express will turn out to be a tentacle monster. Thanks.

(It's sort of hilarious how many of my dream posts contain Dear Brain letters. Dear Brain: A bit slow on the uptake, aren't we?)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Last weekend I had a long weekend with Devon: [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes went up home to visit her family over the weekend, so I house-sat; I went home with Devon late Sunday evening and was in Corvallis until early Wednesday morning (I took the train up, which is a totally affordable and viable transportation option and we will probably use it again in the future). I played The Endless Forest, saw my family for dinner, and brought back ALL THE BOOKS, and it was good to have longer, more natural, more relaxed time with the boy. He won't be coming up this weekend (and after two weeks of hellish amounts of travel, I don't blame him). Biology has left me a bit beat up these last few days, but I imagine Dee and I will find some worthwhile way to spend the weekend. I did learn, on that quick trip south, that I miss very little about my current living situation in Corvallis. It was fantastic to see my parents and four very loving animals, but I don't miss that house and I don't miss living there. This doesn't make any of my future decisions about living arrangements any easier, but it at least makes the situation a bit more clear-cut.

Anyway, things are better. They're not 100% good, but that's to be expected. But having Kuzco here has undone most of the mental damage of Alfie's death. It's much easier to love and be close to him without a crowd in the way, and he has health and companionship and good foods, here, and that's what I so desperately need to give to him right now. It's fantastic to see him warming up and adjusting to this house: he's becoming more vocal and hanging out outside his wooden house, and I cleaned his cage and bathed him yesterday, and he's beautiful. These things help so much.

I say all this because I've been a bit off the radar lately—which, again, is no surprise, but I don't want to leave things at that. I have folk to get back in touch with, soon—and if you're one of them, know I'm around again for poking and conversation. Man have I had one hell of a crazy month, but things are gonna be okay.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)

don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story
Christine Love, 2011

At a prestigious high school in the year 2027, all students have computers at their desks and all teachers are given full access to their online communication, public and private. While peeking in, new teacher John finds himself swept up in the lives, romances, and dramas that play out among seven students in his English class. don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is a free visual novel by Christine Love, written for NaNoRenO (the visual novel equivalent of NaNoWriMo). As such, it has many of the flaws and limitations that you'd expect: gameplay consists almost entirely of dialog choices, user input has only a moderate effect on the story, and there are sprinklings of typos, clichés, and heavy-handed plot elements. But despite its simplicity and lack of finesse, there's something unexpectedly wonderful about don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story. Additively fun yet surprisingly thoughtful, it reads not unlike a high-quality fanfic or BL manga and it's often the best that it can be given its limitations, and neither one of those is a backhanded compliment. With shipping and slashing, outlandish humor, and wish-fulfillment galore, the game has enormous appeal if it—and gay teens and romantic escapades and high school drama (and internet culture, too)—are in any way your thing. But Christine Love has an good eye for character design and dialog, and behind the fun and games there's always depth: on issues of sexuality, identity, communication, and love, don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is surprisingly perceptive. There's plenty of little things here to stick with you—insightful bits of dialog, meaningful interactions, and truly enduring characters. If wish-fulfillment is the cake, then this complexity is eating it too, and it makes for a satisfying dish.

Not everything comes up roses, however. Players already familiar with gay slice of life dramas may find don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story enjoyable but not revelatory. As a game, it has the potential to use interactivity to set it apart from those similar stories, but (in large part because it's a visual novel) it doesn't capitalize on this opportunity. The game's lighter aspects occasionally run away with themselves, which is harmless until things grow too ridiculous to allow for suspension of disbelief. In particular, John is never convincing as a teacher; as a result there are no natural boundaries in his student/teacher relationships, and it means nothing when those would-be boundaries are broken, and the story suffers for it. The limitations of the game's format and production value do leave a mark: while its subtleties excel, its explicit themes and subjects are handled poorly. This is somewhat redeemed by how relevant and thoughtful those issues are, but that doesn't really matter—the bad (and sudden) twist ending is a disappointment in itself, and it also makes sure that what the game tries hardest to do, it does worst. And so don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story has issues—sometimes plenty of them, sometimes in direct contradiction to its strengths—but they're never enough to ruin the game, and they certainly shouldn't deter interested players from checking it out. For a few hours of free entertainment, don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story is fantastic—and even without those caveats, it's a little treasure of a game. I enjoyed and recommend it.

I liveblogged don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story here on my Tumblr, but take warning: it'll do just about everything to spoil the game for you.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
So it seems that the teenagers were recently hanging out here has they recovered from some sort of shared illness. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I'm sure as fuck aware of it now because I've been sick again for the third time since the year started—stuffy ears and to a lesser extent sinuses, dense brainfog, and a wracking cough that will not quit. It feels like someone poured cement in my ears and let it set up in my skull. So that's fun, as they say in sarcasm land. It came at a bad time, piling up on some other physical woes (back problems in particular, wherein my back made it as hard to sit or stand as my cough made it to lie down) and sending me into something of a funk. It and I are both somewhat better now, but if I've seemed quiet, now you know why.

One day, maybe some day soon, I will make an LJ post that is not primarily concerned with my health.

I've been going through a bit of a dry reading spell lately, but made a library run (and finished a particularly meh book), so that should help. I've been watching Durarara!! with Express (or at least I was until I fell behind—I should catch up soon) which has been singularly entertaining—both to go back and have a thousand "ah hah!" moments as I learn that everything that seemed confusing the first time, damn near everything at all, has meaning; and to watch someone else form theories and break out the capslock for that crazy awesome show. I'm nearing the end of Pokémon Black, and procrastinating said end as always. So: same old, same old, thereabouts or so.

Some day soon I should think about a major clean, sorting, and semi-packing as I start to look towards spending significant time in Portland. Some day soon I should ... go spend significant time in Portland. I am many book reviews behind (three, now? more?). I've been pretty damn unproductive. Today though I think I might watch some TV.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Today I watched Room in Rome while EV training a Pokémon (don't judge me), and it was a surreal experience—not just the combination of an erotic lovestory and Pokémon battles, but the fact that Room in Rome is the sort of story that I would write. Not its specifics, but its generalities are elements I often revisit:

A love story that, rather than being a romantic comedy, has an unsettling or pensive vibe; containing explicit sex, queer sexuality, and probably at least a glimpse at issues of sexual orientation; containing also character development that is revealed by but partially independent of the romance and probably has a dark bent; in a limited narrative POV, maybe something of a lush style, with a possible side helping of esoterica; ending negatively or ambiguously, especially if it's a passionate love affair. If it were my story there would probably be a more explicit power dynamic (Room in Rome offers some—Alba's fears of Natasha, the power of truths and lies—but its not quite up to my preferred levels) and something a little more strange or socially unacceptable than Natasha's heterosexuality in the context of a homosexual relationship (see: my fetish for unusually intimate relationships), but for the most part the movie was my id, fragments of my stories, on screen.

For all that I'm not sure if it was good. Or rather, yes, it's quite good, it's intriguing and beautiful and at the very least it's competently told and therefore surprisingly watchable, given its somewhat unusual aspects (constant nudity, explicit sex, artistic cinematography, bold music). But was it great? I don't think quite so (the way that truth, lies, and character development pans out is a bit overdrawn, and the film occasionally gets lost in its own style, especially near the end); I also don't know if I fell in love with it. Sometimes I think that I create the stories that I want to encounter, that I wish I could encounter, but encountering one of the stories I might create it felt almost ... passé. I may not have put out much in the way of a finished product, but I've told that story, I've seen those characters, give or take the specifics; there was little new for me there, and I guess I do want someone new to me in other people's stories. But then again, the fact that it hit my id buttons but didn't quite hit my gut may mean that it wasn't better than good, wasn't great.

(I think my other holdout is that in plot structure, themes, and the fact of its unique presentation, it reminded me a bit of the fantastic Conversations with Other Women. They're hardly so similar as to be redundant, but I loved Conversations unequivocally and so it can't help but overshadow Room in Rome.)

I'd recommend it, though. Films like it I think are rare, and while it sometimes treads towards pandering (sometimes in the visual style, more often in the sex scenes) that rareness makes it valuable. Room in Rome, as well as Conversations with Other Women, are currently on Netflix Instant, so if you use the service and are looking for a film, you may want to consider checking them out.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
So we're one week into this thing as of today, and I am congested and I lost my voice yesterday. The congestion ain't fun, but: icky cold TMI. ) I've had an almost entirely unproductive, actually fairly minor cough over the last few days, but it aggravated my already sore-throat. If I talk I sound awful and it hurts; if I don't talk, there's no pain. So I'm not talking as of midafternoon yesterday, and I'll keep it up until I can talk without sounding ... well, like this.

There really is no better time to have a DS at my bedside (Pokémon Black, hello! I caved and bought it, and I'm enjoying myself muchly. Is anyone else playing BW?), because the screen is a perfect scribble pad; I've also developed a complex, off-the-cuff form of sign language that's one part logic, one part charades, and one part head shaking. Being verbally silent is actually quite strange, because it also makes me textually silent, and vice-versa: if I'm trying to remember not to talk, I start making my IMs as short as possible or type entirely in emotes (/me does something or another—a leftover habit from my years playing Second Life); if I remind myself that that's stupid and typing is safe, then I'm like to start talking aloud when Devon's in the room without even realizing it. Written language is just as important to me as verbal language. I would say also that it's inextricably linked, but of course it is, it is for almost everyone—but for me it's more than just a link: it's more or less the same thing.

Anywho. Remember when I said that this was a wonderfully light sickness thing, almost magical in its way? The fever was still a damn cool experience, and I much prefer this to what I had in January (this is tolerable, even functional; January's turned me into a pile of mush for a few days), but this illness and I are officially no longer friends and it is welcome to bugger off whenever it so pleases. Just so as that it knows.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I have lately been a little bit social. This is in part because my wrists are getting incrementally better (although most socializing in my geek life does something or another to set that back a pace—go figure), but this is more than a weekend trend. I have been growing, in my way, bit by bit, more social.

Over the weekend, I played video games with Express (a longtime friend of mine from Second Life). We wanted to play ilomilo but for whatever good goddamned reason (read: there is none) it doesn't have online co-op; we ended up playing Halo together, even though we are both wonderfully awful at that shooting thing. We talked on voice and sprayed bullets in general directions and it was awesome. I've known Express for years and years, and this was the first time that we've ever properly talked, voice to voice. When I met him, back in college and on my way towards dropping out, living in a basement apartment and playing Second Life all day, I never would have considered talking to him on voice. At that time, I was so goddamned scared of people that anything more than online avatars terrified me.

Over the weekend I also went to visit my parents and eat French toast. Papa and I took Jamie for a walk and to visit the pet store, and we talked about hacking the Nook Color and his upcoming surgery, and he bought me a mocha for the walk back. Mum and I talked about the creative process and I wish that I could show you the step-by-step of the piece that she's working on because not only is it fascinating, the approach she's taking is making for the best possible, always improving, finished product.

In the last week or so, I've made another friend on Tumblr—another someone-I-want-to-get-to-know friend, the second such relationship that Tumblr has turned up for me, which ain't bad considering I only went there to natter on to myself about video games. I still don't know any better way to say "hello, let us have a strange and unprecedented personal conversation! oh and also I admire you" than to say just that, but these days I will—and it is still awkward and nerve-wracking but what the hell, it's just the internet: where else can you better take that sort of stupid risk than here?

So it is a weekend trend.

But I also went up to visit Dee. I met Lyz. Express and I have been throwing around tentative, premature plans for a possible vacation for him and a chance to meet for us. And the more of this there is, the more of this I want there to be. Don't get me wrong: I got off of voice with Express and crashed like a crashy thing, because talking is talking is talking and it wears me the fuck out, even if it's just voice, even if it's not in person. But even when I was curling up exhausted in bed I was wondering what other games we could play together, and thinking about how I want to do this more: with him, with others; to play games, and simply to interact with and ... know, not Biblically but as intimately. It is more than a weekend trend.

It leaves me in the place I've been in for a while now, that combination of quixotic and desirous and frustrated and scared—about friends, about Portland, about self-presentation, about creativity, about becoming who I want to be. I want, and I think the wanting is wonderful, but it terrifies me; I have some, but I want so much more, and that not-having is heartbreaking.

I mention some of this to Bart and he tells me, certain as can be, not to worry: I will meet him. And the thing, you know, the thing these days is that I believe him.

There are things I hold in my heart. Dee and Lyz and Amy and Express and Bart and Kiir. Meetings and bookstores and Seattle rain. Ghost and Aaron, Florence + The Machine. Cats and cat-eared hoodies, skirts and boots, afternoons at Starbucks. Unexpected conversations, silly fandoms, falling in love in a different way. A lot of this seems like it should be silly. A lot of it began online, and so it's all too easy to dismiss. But it doesn't matter. I love them, I love you, I carry you in my heart. It turns out that I can pack an awful lot in there, if I try. It hurts a little, to feel it stretch to hold so much. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all—because this is part of what it means to me.

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juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
juushika

September 2017

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