juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I've been thinking a lot about missing stairs and culpability and productive responses in light of Nick Robinson's suspension from Polygon.

I don't think I have the capacity for surprise anymore when a likable man is accused of sexual harassment/assault; yet this particular one has hit me hard, because Polygon-as-brand works proactively to be a safe space—which doesn't make them free from error, but does lead me to give the benefit of the doubt and expect better than average. Like, what do I do when I'm stressed, I watch Polygon videos, because they're funny and I trust them; and now the thing causing stress is ... Polygon.... It feels more like a betrayal than this sort of thing usually does, even when *cough Johnny Depp* it's someone I like or had emotional investment in.

(Car Boys is deeply, hugely important to me, on an existential/is-this-what-religion-is/emergent narrative scale; as trope, as concept, as art, also as funny.)

It especially does not surprise me in the now to discover a man's problematic behavior, nothing surprises me in the now, in this era of political and cultural crisis. I think it does surprise me to see it reacted to immediately and compassionately; to see a company take action and keep proceedings private, and for that company and independent outsiders to insist, rightly, that "it is not on anyone who has been hurt to provide detailed receipts of their trauma for your entertainment."

Missing stairs operate as a cultural phenomenon—the whole coming to light of this has felt like a thing that "everyone" knew and "no one" talked about, and also something that caught people by complete surprise; it makes me have conflicted feelings about what knowledge is within this phenomenon; about what some people experience and some people know and some people, because of their privilege, never see or never recognize. What culpability is there in that position of not noticing? when clearly it is noticeable, to those that need to or know how; even I feel like some of my "ehhhh" reactions to some things he's said have been given context. But that there are people apologizing if their involvement or position of power compelled others to be silent—and that Polygon/Vox Media is literally doing anything at all, but especially via clear, thoughtful communication....

Cumulatively: a personal betrayal in a way that's not awfully valid, because I wasn't directly effected, but I liked and wanted to like this especial person & didn't want these issues to invade that space—and a knowledge that this issues invade every space, that that's literally what the issue is: pervasive—and gratitude that this is the best possible initial reaction and response. Insofar as any of this is cogent, it's only because I turned it into a rambling narrative for Devon last night; these feelings of mine, while Very Much and A Lot, have effectively been resolved now. (Except that an actual investigation will take time, and while I don't want this to occur in internet time or internet space as a trial-by-popular-vote overnight phenomenon, I do want it to be resolved overnight and forgotten by the next so that it isn't on my mind anymore—not feasible, not desirable, but I still feel cheated for not having it.) But it was Very Much; also: A Lot, in a particular time when I've approximately 2.5 spoons and would in any other circumstances! be watching Polygon videos! for escapism and distraction!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I went down to Corvallis for my mother's 65th birthday almost-surprise party—not a surprise that there would be a party, but a surprise that out-of-towners, including her sisters, would be there; they also gave me my ride down from Portland. I am very bad at social events, even casual ones; I went and I didn't fail miserably (just moderately), so that's something, I suppose.

And I talked with people, uh oh. )

Then I spent ~10 days closed in Devon's bedroom, speaking to no one except a very good dog and occasional cat (and also Devon), lying in bed and reading, and playing the occasional video game; and it was approximately enough recovery.

- - - - -

I came back to PDX because I wanted to see my cat, and we made the mistake of driving up on a weekday afternoon because it fit every schedule except traffic and the first heat wave of the season. The car began to overheat once we hit the Portland traffic, so we ended up pulling off to the dead end of a residential street—a vacant lot and a half, tucked under an overpass and against a power station, nothing there but the shade of trees with their sudden vibrant green and the quiet backs to apartment complexes. We hung out for an hour, to let the car cool and traffic pass; I read 1984 for the millionth time. Then we drove home through back ways we know from when I lived in SE. It was, bizarrely—the unexpected 4-hour car trip, unseasonably hot, broken radio, rush hour traffic, and yet—a lovely, long goodbye, relaxing despite the stressful circumstances.

I hate summer, don't get me wrong. But summer is such an intense experience, so physically present, that the first signs of it conjure something akin to nostalgia: memories of spending all day in bed with all the electronics off, reading, reading, coaxing a crossbreeze out of my opened windows, and the anticipation of sunset and the full-body relief of tired eyes and tired skin. I saw that in the haven we found in that dead end.

- - - - -

These things are over a week old, now, but I've been been so tired lately; I've been having back issues for the last three or four weeks, the "wake up already in pain" variety, which is part of it. All I want to do is lay down and read, but the more time I spend reading, the longer the omnipresent backlog of book reviews becomes, fie. (It is so long.) But there've so many great books lately! Almost everything hovers at that 4-, 4.5-stars level, not quite flawless, but that can't really be a complaint.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Season of Storms (Witcher Book 8)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: fan translation
Published: superNOWA, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 218,085
Text Number: 661
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After the short stories and before the other novels, Geralt goes on a quest to recover his stolen swords. Insofar as the best part of the series is Ciri, and Ciri is not here present, this is something of a letdown. There's plenty of nods to central characters and plot, but this story feels both less urgent and heartfelt. It's almost prosaic: somewhere between comedy of errors/slice of life/travelogue, the daily life of a Witcher down on his luck, resembling the short story collections more than the novels. That setup allows Geralt's personality to shine through and he is, as always, a delight; the Witcher setdressing is present, the subplots are successful, and there's even some profound, if coy, worldbuilding in the frame narrative. But without the interpersonal relationships that made me care about this series, I came away underwhelmed.

I was chatting with Devon about the Witcher series and mentioned offhand that there are eight books, the two short story collections, the five novels, and the... —and then I realized that I had never reviewed this later prequel, never even written notes for it; granted, I read it late last December, when I was reading less and a lot of my reviews got delayed, but the fact that I entirely forgot this book says something about it, I suppose.


Title: Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire Book 1)
Author: Yoon Ha Lee
Published: Solaris, 2016
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 385
Total Page Count: 218,470
Text Number: 662
Read Because: co-read with Teja, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: An infantry solider named Cheris is selected to host Jedao, a long-dead traitor and brilliant general, in order to combat a heretical uprising. This has the inconsistent, piecemeal feel of a first novel: the beginning is almost deliberately obtuse (coming in familiar with the author's short fiction makes the style and worldbuilding more accessible, but patience serves just as well) where later sections are over-explained. But the experience entire is a remarkable journey. Math-as-calendar/-as-technology/-as-society is an engaging high concept, but the system's limitations and complicated cultural effects are what make it convincing. Lee's voice is an intense sensory experience, with evocative and alien synesthetic descriptions. The interpersonal relationships remind me of CJ Cherryh's uniquely implicit/explicit dynamics, where everything is tersely understated but functions on an intense, tropey level. The format, especially as a series opener, reminds me of Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch: it introduces an entire world and has a satisfying arc, but is obviously the first part of a longer battle.

I enjoyed Lee's short fiction, but also found it frustrating because iteration and length limitations turned otherwise fantastic voice and concepts into repetitive worldbuilding. His first novel is everything I hoped for. The same techniques and themes are here, but they're given more space and elaboration. It's distinctive, fulfilling, and fully realized. I recommend it, and look forward to the sequels.

A pair of quotes, for posterity; I adore the language, the weird math-fantasy-science, how unsettling and evocative and strange it all is.

Read more... )


Title: Home (Binti Book 2)
Author: Nnedi Okrafor
Published: Tor, 2017
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 175
Total Page Count: 218,645
Text Number: 663
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: One year after the events of the first book, Binti makes a pilgrimage home. I enjoyed the first novella in this series, but wanted more from it, specifically more complexity. This is more. It's as vivid, with equally satisfying character growth (these books would make fantastic movies, they're subplot-free and just the right length, and the world is so engaging) but Binti is working between points of intense, unpretty emotional conflict, and her cultural background is rendered with increasing complexity—it's a more complicated, difficult story. But unlike the first book, which is complete almost to its detriment, this one ends at the conclusion of Binti's character arc and leaves the plot with a cliffhanger; I'd've preferred a finished, novel-length work. But I still enjoyed and recommend it, and will read the next installment.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
LJ's recent ToS update and the final, for-real-this-time exodus hit me harder than I expected, for one logistic reason (my list of book reviews, which I reference a lot for personal use, links to LJ posts, and I will never be arsed to manually replace >600 links), predictable comment- and community-related nostalgia reasons, and vague "the intrusion of the current world climate into my personal bubble" reasons. The compromise? solution? I've opted for is to turn off crossposts and make all of my LJ entries private; I have indefinite, personal access to the comments, but if my LJ is deleted or it becomes wiser to do so, so be it.

A while ago I made a trip down to see Devon which ended up lasting about a week longer than normal. When I see him, a lot of my crazy comes to a head because my subconscious decides the make-it-better person is present and I should therefore provide all the icky things for making-better purposes; as such, I tend to have ironic mental health crises when visiting; as such, I generally make those visits sort of ... vacations from reality, since they're also vacations from my 1.5 responsibilities. So I just ... switched off the politics part of me when I was there, and I was there for ages. And when I got back, I never switched politics back on.

And you know what, I was pushing myself far beyond my limits. So now I'm one the other side of the same debate: I'm not doing the work I deem important, I'm filtering what I expose myself to which, there's inevitable unfilterable intrusions that really bring it home; I'm less crazy, less anxious but more depressed, cognizant always that avoiding the world is only possible because I'm so crazy as to not have a life; I know it's a long game and I can resume my role in it later.

And LJ manages to be simultaneously a petty nothing and emblematic of all of that.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Person of Interest, entire series, 2011-2016
This reminds me a lot of Fringe: a crime serial with a speculative premise that becomes increasingly predominant; an imperfect found family, confronted with apocalypses of increasing scale. (See also: Buffy, X-Files—the negotiation between episodic and overarching in speculative television has been a long conversation.) I'm a sucker for this setup, and a bigger sucker for the themes at play, for artificial intelligences and human/machine intimacies; and the premise also opens the door to creative tropes and narrative techniques, to flashbacks and alternate realities, to structural inversions (like the functions of the numbers in 2.22 "God Mode"). It's sometimes inconsistent, sometimes too playful, sometimes repetitive in structure (especially the pacing of the action sequences), but I sincerely love it, both for its genre-mashing premise and for the characters (especially Root and Shaw).

For the Love of Spock, film, 2016, dir. Adam Nimoy
This is endearing. It touches on a lot of things, all with approximately equal depth—and while some topics summarize nicely in eight minutes, others feel cursory: giving the gay guy a few sentences to talk about slash fandom is particularly insufficient. But the balance between Leonard Nimoy's private life, his career, and the character of Spock is more successful. There's an earnestness here, a sympathy, an active humor; it hits all the right notes and it's what I wanted it to be: informative in a non-exhaustive but honest and consumable way, and, primarily, cathartic.

After the Dark, film, 2013, dir. John Huddles
A shaggy dog story by way of an iterated thought experiment, which is both its strength and failure. The unexpected narrative style briefly engages some interesting tropes, and the parallels between classroom and experiment, and between iterations, may not live up to all the philosophical name-dropping but are interesting. It helps that, despite the slick, implausible teen styling, the acting is passably strong. But there's no real sum to the various parts, and the tone vacillates and fizzles out at the end. This is engaging but not quite satisfying.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9, s6-7, 1997-1999
I actually picked this rewatch back up midway through s5, which is where I'd left off (a few years ago), but as near as memory serves s6-7 were entirely new to me. (Their airdates overlap my family's residence in the UK, which may explain it.) I decided to continue my DS9 journey now because I wanted something socially-aware but escapist, and this is Devon's favorite show to rewatch and so it seemed like a safe bet. I was wrong. It was exhausting. The Dominion war means that late s5 and s6 alternate between grim war episodes and comedy relief episodes, many of them independently successful, but creating an inconsistent overall experience. (Devon later told me that he skips a lot of s6 episodes when rewatching.) S7 has a new major character and a large multi-part ending which stretches some plotlines too long yet still manages manages to back-weight and rush the finale. But this is still far and above the most ambitious and successful Star Trek. I adore a lot of individual tropes (Trill symbionts and Bajoran religion, primarily) (but also Odo!), but it's the cumulative effect which is most impressive: the uncompromising exploration of the Bajoran Occupation, a Black captain, the stationary setting which demands a larger and more consistent plot, even Armin Shimerman's quest to salvage the Ferengi make for an overarching set of themes which aren't always successful but are frequently, intelligently, pointed in the right direction, more demanding and more thorough than many equivalent themes in other Star Trek series. This wasn't the comfort watch I was expecting, but I think I value it more for that.

Voltron: Legendary Defender, s2, 2017
This has much better pacing than the first season! It's more cohesive, less pointlessly episodic while still maintaining that structure, and has better foreshadowing and ramp up; the cliffhanger is less pasted on. The personal/interpersonal focus is shifted: the strife/teamwork between the paladins is less emphasized, even taken for granted; but the focus on Shiro and Keith is bigger and more integrated into the worldbuilding than anything else so far. I could nitpick—the animation isn't as smooth as s1, and the unlockable power-ups is a predictable trope; but that last is occasionally really effective (as with Shiro) and the overall effort is just such a pleasure. This may be less iconic than s1, but it feels like the show has really settled into itself.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In 2010, September, October, the rise in queer suicides among students and the It Gets Better campaign hit me in a personal and unproductive way—my intersection with those groups and experiences compounded preexisting mental illness and left me ill and non-contributive, in general but specifically in my attempts to aid those groups I was part of and sympathetic to. I wrote about it here.

I feel like my response to this election is a larger version of that, because while I fall into some marginalized groups I am not visibly marginalized except in my assigned gender and I'm living in a relatively safe area of the country (the occasional celebratory firework not withstanding) and (for aforementioned "not a real person" reasons) I won't be directly effected by most changes, and there are marginalized groups in present and future danger, some without a safe place to fall to pieces, who need people to self-educate and provide support and not co-opt their experience. But I am doing my good god damnedest to fall apart, I tell you what; I am high anxiety fending off major depression and my agoraphobia is vast, firm, unrelenting.

I've been keeping myself so desperately busy, exploiting the anxious energy to fend off the point where anxiety tips into panic; I vacuumed everything, I baked more apples, I'm reading a lot & catching up on Critical Role & playing Stardew Valley enough that my wrists are acting up, I'm not sleeping much. I feel like I am courting a major depressive episode, and I don't know—I've never known—when "self-care" is or isn't indulgence, and if I can create my own depression by accident or in search for validation. Experience this trauma and grief now, people write, so that you can limit its extent and enable yourself to move on to activism—but what does that mean when mental illness makes it impossible to process and heal? What is activism when you can't leave the house or interact with people, and have no money?

But Devon wrote to me:

I'm sorry. I don't know.. I think you can contribute by voting and we have lots of opportunity to fight the system with that in the next bit. there will be elections for senators and elections for house of reps people and we need to get Democrats in those positions to balance everything out.
and that's about all anyone can do at this point unless they're in a place where they can contribute.
I'm sorry that things are so rough for you right now.
I really am.
and I know that doesn't really say much, but I know that this whole thing is terrible and you have the right to feel hurt by it all, everyone's interactions are different.
I love you lots.


and I think it's all I have right now. There will be things I can do, even if they are the barest possible minimum for a decent human being, but there is right now nothing I can do except hold on, because I am not doing a great job at even that.

(All of this is compounded by the recent suicide of someone in the LJ community, someone I did not know but only knew of, but whose situations and motivations run parallel to my own; it's a discomforting mirror and a reminder of the validity of this experience, while somehow managing to feel like yet another pain I am co-opting. I'm not sure what to do with these thoughts, all of these thoughts.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Missy and Devon and I have spent the last few days reading ballots to one another and being stressed by politics, because alongside the terror that is the presidential race it feels like both Oregon and California are a mess—Oregon in particular is saturated with measures with good intentions and poor execution and candidates that have good credentials but circumspect conservative leanings. But we are all three of us now done voting, after much angst and exhaustion; today Dee and I took Odi walking in the rain, and I dropped my ballot at the library and then had celebratory coffee, and all was good.

There were two candidate votes I ultimately skipped and should't've, but only two; I figure that makes me about 80% Contributing Citizen, which is approximately 79.5% higher than my usual; and voting with a panic disorder is hard, and I am grateful that Oregon's voting process is so accessible, and that I don't live in a state with polling stations; and I am so glad to be done.

I love the height of autumn, as a riot of color and crisp new-season apples and the onset of sweater weather, but this may actually be my favorite time of year, sodden leaf-litter and nearly-bare trees, the rain constant but not yet punishing, Odi's fur clumping into wet feathers along the top of his head.

(And the only talk of Christmas that I've heard on social media so far has actually been reminders that the expectation that everyone celebrates Christmas/that Christmas is a universal two-month event is a form of prejudice—and I am grateful for that, and surprised.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)


I just got back from a week visiting Devon in Corvallis, and the return journey was lovely. Mist over the fields and river out the train window; dense fog as we reached Portland, with the city and its bridges shadows in the gray. The 6am train trips in autumn are consistently my favorite of all things: the clear dark cold at the train station, the slow sunrises, the mist and the changing leaves.

August was ridiculously clingy when I was preparing to leave (she even followed me and my luggage downstairs to hang out by the door and look concerned) and she's been inseparable since I got back, because she loves me and also because it's autumn and she wants to sit on me and be warm. I held her on my tummy and sang Can't Take My Eyes Off You to her, my wonder keeping the stars apart.

It was a fantastic trip, and I appreciate the reminder that I have those—and that last month's misery visit was a birthday-related anomaly rather than a trend. I timed my visit for the Fall Festival; I accidentally slept through most of Saturday, but we stopped by on Sunday. It was too sunny and I am pale and pathetic, so we made but a brief circuit. My favorite of what I saw was Fantasy Figurative Art dolls by MARCA—I like my art dolls creepy/cute rather than Froud-esque, but there were blue goblin children and humaniod bird monsters and of that I approve. We also went to the library's book sale, and by the time we got there they had entered the $5/bag "please, take them away" final phase; slim pickings but a joy to comb through, in no small part because it was indoors this time. I picked up paperback copies of books I own in hardback (hardback is a pain to read, and I'm a big rereader), some new-to-me books by authors I'm familiar with, and a few random picks—because at a flat rate, mistakes are free.



The Cherryh I picked up on another night out. After dinner and dark, we got Starbucks and walked across to the Book Bin—bless their late hours. The checkers were looking at pictures of baby goats, there were no other customers, and because I'd already made a book run I wasn't working off my to-buy list: the laid-back book browsing I've always wanted. Having credit there allows me to make impulse purchases without stress.

One final highlight: a moment when Devon and I both walked down the hallway and Gigi the puppy, the best baby dog with the most love, came in from the kitchen, saw us both, and barreled past Devon to get to me because Dev is everyday and known and boring where I am Important Dog Auntie, and also the only one that will hold her paws.

I didn't see my family and other than the Fall Festival had no to-do list, which I think contributed to the successful visit; it was the private, quiet time that we needed.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
In bulk again, to prevent spamming again. And I'm still not caught up! I've been reading a lot, but more than that I've had a lot to say—about The Witcher, because I'm so invested in Ciri and her family and because I've watched Devon play the games and so we've had a lot to discuss about adaptation; about The Cursed Child, not because it's remotely good but because there's some great character dynamics and Snape's cameo engages all my feelings about his character; about every other thing [profile] lassmichrein has been consuming because she's been working through some of my absolute favorite narratives and authors. I've been excited about the media input and media-related output, and "excited about" is not something I often feel—a welcome remedy to the birthday-related angst.


Title: The Purple Cloud
Author: M.P. Shiel
Published: Project Gutenberg, 2004 (1901)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: ~250 of 450
Total Page Count: 202,135
Text Number: 596
Read Because: interest in Weird fiction, ebook obtained though Project Gutenberg
Review: A vast purple cloud sweeps the globe, leaving only one survivor. An early example of a "last man" novel and apocalyptic genre, this is at best a desolate, sweeping landscape, haunted—even by its sole survivor and his struggle to find purpose—and surreal. But the book is dated, with many slow sections (some of which are literal itemized lists) and repetitive pacing. I DNF'd this somewhere past the 50% mark, which I regret because when I was immersed I loved this for its bleak, profound beauty and for place in genre history. But I couldn't push past the weaknesses, and I wouldn't recommend it.


Title: Blood of Elves (The Witcher Book 3)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Translator: Danusia Stok
Published: London: Orbit, 2009 (1994)
Rating: 5 of 5
Page Count: 400
Total Page Count: 202,535
Text Number: 597
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review:
The story of Ciri's childhood, raised by witchers at Kaer Morhen and then taught magic by Yennefer, and of the prophecies and politics that surround this remarkable girl. The folklore-as-worldbuilding of the short stories is largely absent, and I hope it returns in the sequels; the sexism-as-worldbuilding is also absent and good riddance, but the cast of fantastic female characters persists. Politics and the larger plot occur piecemeal, which keeps them from flooding the book but also makes this a prelude rather than a narrative entire. Instead, Blood of Elves is an extended training montage, focusing on Ciri's interactions with taciturn and devoted Geralt and Yennefer who begins as an unforgiving tutor and becomes a mother, and on the imperfect ties that bind this strange family—and it's phenomenal, full of flawed characters and small moments of rewarding emotional transparency.

I have a love/hate relationship with the game series and short stories, and so I'm blown away by my unreserved love of this book, which is everything perfect about Ciri's presence in The Witcher 3, but more indulgent and more cogent. I look forward to continuing the series, but treasure this book in particular and highly recommend it.

Some feels and rants about the process of reading Blood of Elves on my Tumblr: 1, 2, 3.


Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—Parts One and Two (Harry Potter Book 8)
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Published: New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 330
Total Page Count: 202,865
Text Number: 598
Read Because: Harry Potter fan, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Nineteen years after the end of the book series, Harry and Draco's sons set off to Hogwarts, to become best friends and get in all sorts of trouble. The Cursed Child suffers a bad case of sequelitis, borrowing fanfiction tropes and characterization, and relying on the emotional appeal of numerous cameo appearances. The plot's a mess of predictable tropes, and the emotional messages—especially revolving around cameo characters—grow trite. But seeing familiar characters and Slytherin house in a new light provides interesting insight, and Scorpius and Albus are the play's saving grace: they're well-characterized and engaging, and their relationship is fantastic—despite the compulsory heterosexuality that looms over what's obviously a romance. Come to this for the characters, not the plot, and lower your expectations to allow for reiteration and artless indulgence, and it's not awful. But—like the questionable content of the Pottermore extended universe—it's not a must-read, even for fans.

Liveblogging notes and immediate reactions, including an essay about Snape's scene, on my Tumblr: part one and part two.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Last month was my birthday. Dee's family came down just before it (her brother and I share a birthday); her brother stayed a few days and her mother stayed some time longer. I went down to Corvallis in the middle of her mother's visit, to see Devon and go to dinner with my family. When I came back up I housesat for a weekend while Dee drove her mother back up north.

The company was lovely and only a little introvert-taxing. Dee, her mother, and I went down to Powell's for an afternoon and Dee bought me my birthday gift of books: three CJ Cherryh novels (one a reread) and the Steerswoman series that I just finished and loved. I went in with my alphabetized, color-coded* to-buy list and still barely managed to hunt everything down and make purchasing decisions in a reasonable amount of time. I'm used to feeling harried when I go book shopping, but I dream of one day having time to browse.

* colors since updated to reflect Powell's room colors, because it's a useful mnemonic and also pretty

The trip to Corvallis was mostly miserable, and I blame that on myself. Birthdays have become harder and harder, this one especially so, and when I see Devon I always dredge out my worst in some subconscious expectation that he will fix it. I've never matured, never become self-reliant; most of the frustrations in my life exist because I am a dependent, not a contributor—thus the long-distance relationship, living circumstances, material goods both frivolous and essential that I don't have, untreated health issues, &c. It's easier to get away with those things in your twenties, when people assume you just haven't grown up yet. But with each birthday, it's more obvious that I will never grow up; my maturation was halted by mental illness and now all my energy is forever diverted into dealing with the crazy. I'm aware that birthdays are universally fraught, but this one was especially dour.

Devon gave me Nagisa Momoe Nendoroid I've wanted for a while, though. That was good.



Nagisa/Charlotte/Bebe is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love her creepy/cute imagery and the way she changes the tone of PMMM; and while I had arguments with PMMM: Rebellion—and normally dislike mascot-/moe-bait characters—I loved her in the film. It's powerful and narratively-appropriate to turn a witch into a person, and, cutesy and mascoty as it is, I resonate with the cheese thing. I've called her Our Patron Saint of Cheese, and it's not quite in jest: she's an icon for the frustrating longing of what we want and can't have, which is indulgent and foolish but remains legitimate, none the least because it indicates why we can't have it (see: fan theories re: her character). There are a lot of things which would make my life better: if I were self-reliant, if being a dependent were financially viable, if there were societal accommodations for my dependency—all valid wants, so the smaller wants are valid too, even when petty or obsessive or in the form of a cute figure. And I have so many wants, small and large. To have her seems to prove the rule; still, I love her, my idol of wanting, so well-timed to my birthday-related frustrations.

When I saw my parents, they didn't have a gift, they just asked me to provide a wishlist of things I needed or wanted, with a subtext of "we can tell you don't really have the means to look after your basic needs; can we help via a birthday gift?" which is true, thoughtful, and hit too close to home: another reminder of the tie between my longings, my disability, and my age. I still need to write that list.

Anyway. I came back into town, had a quiet weekend housesitting the cats which I absolutely consider an auxiliary birthday gift. And then I was hit by a week of debilitating back pain, which (knock on wood) has since passed and which had no trigger, cause, aid, anything really; it was out of the blue and unrelenting. And as soon as that began to clear, my keyboard blew up. It did a low-key, static "acts like you spilled water on it" crosswiring, but no water had been in its vicinity for a year so fuck if I know; I unplugged it, made do to a shitty wifi keyboard; got fed up with shitty wifi keyboard, plugged my old one back in, and it worked perfectly again in a sort of universe-provided bit of gaslighting, "none of your frustrations or problems are real, ahahahahaha"—and then 24 hours after that it broke again in precisely the way it had before. I don't know. A new keyboard is here now, because unexpected necessary purchases don't trigger aforementioned anxieties at all, my old keyboard is probably possessed by capricious minor demons, and the answer of "how do I keep breaking keyboards when I've become so careful with them?" is probably: cats, who are less careful, and covered in fur and litterbox dust.

I've been reading a lot, gaming a lot, caught up with Critical Role which is, in itself, vaguely terrifying because it was such a long, immersive journey to get here; I am fervently not in my own head, because the only way to cope with the anxiety "I am not a real adult who can engage with life" is to refuse to engage with anything. I have my Bebe figure and I adore her. Everything else has been sort of shit, for reasons which stem from me, my vulnerability and inability and this persistent longing for a life different from my own, but, again: these reasons are real.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I made an unusually long visit to Corvallis, because I hadn't seen Devon for a while and because I was making a trip with my parents to go to Ashland and see some Shakespeare (!! !). I usually travel by train, but Devon and I drove back up today because he had to pick up a friend from the local airport.

This is the sort of thing that only I could do:

As we approached the airport, Devon called his friend to let him know we were running 20mins late on account of traffic. I was unsure if this was traffic-traffic or "traffic"-traffic, as we had stopped for dinner along the way and I legitimately did not remember any traffic congestion. It occurred to me that if it were white lie-traffic, I was complicit in a white lie! so I queried Devon. Devon recounted for me the three (3) episodes of stop and go traffic that resulted from some broken-down cars, which occurred approximately when I was talking in depth about 1) the abuse of Malvolio and its end-game resolution as appeared in this production of Twelfth Night,* 2) the way the B-plot was weighted against the A-plot in Twelfth Night, the ways they were knit together, the depth given to the B-plot, 3) the overlap of an actor in Twelfth Night and Hamlet, and as natural segue, 4) which was the more successful production of the two (spoiler: Twelfth Night), especially in conceit, but 5) that this was one of my very favorite Hamlets.**

Which makes these things the take-away:

My memory is so spotty that I can entirely forget not one, not two, but three separate repetitions of the same event.

I am so engrossed in media criticism that I can carry on a one-sided outpouring of Shakespeare Thoughts that lasts through at least 20-mins-late worth of traffic.

My compulsive honesty is so intense and deeply ingrained that even being adjacent to the possibility of a small lie will cause me anxiety and require immediate clarification/resolution.


* As a type-A fellow antisocial uptight often-socially-corrected personality, Malvolio is one of my favorite Shakespeare characters and I am incredibly sensitive to how productions depict his abuse and its aftermath—whether it's played for fun, whether the audience is complicit, whether his "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" does or doesn't diffuse the anxiety of the realization that things have, indeed, gone too far. This one was handled so well! so explicit, so cruel, so unforgiven; he internalizes his enforced socialization, his "smile," but reclaims it, develops it into a tool to use against those that hurt him. It threatens to diffuse and then refuses to, so pointedly. It was all I ever wanted.

** I feel that too much Hamlet discussion and production is given to issues of is he mad or faking (& is he flippant or bereaved); in this production he was all, he was driven to an extremity of emotion and he was numb, impassioned but indecisive, feigning and sincere, sarcastic and authentic. He was complete. That is the Hamlet which makes the play endure, who engages our ambivalence and writes it vast yet sympathetic, and we see ourselves in him, and we fear him, and fear ourselves
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
When I was last down visiting Devon, we made two trips to the local used bookstore because I have a ridiculous amount of credit there that I never manage to spend. On the first trip, I picked up two books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Sardonyx Net, because I love everything Lynn and won't turn down a random mass market copy of her books especially since most or all of them are out of print, and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle which I read last year and fell in love with and thus needed to own. The second trip was made on a whim two days later, when I wouldn't have expected stock to change dramatically, and yet! four books: Elizabeth A. Lynn's The Dancers of Arun; two by CJ Cherryh, including telepathic bond horses Rider at the Gate, which the library doesn't have even in physical form; a new-to-me novel by Elizabeth Bear. The Dancers of Arun was a small miracle to find, because, as mentioned, it's out of print—and it's one of those quintessentially-me novels, far and above my favorite of her work, and I've wanted to own it since before I finished reading it the first time.

Meanwhile, I've been having an ongoing issues with Overdrive and Adobe Digital Editions which means that approximately 1 in 5 licenses doesn't fulfill. I've found reports of this issues online, with no Adobe-side resolution; users recommend either reverting to an older version of ADE (which for me also leads to failed fulfillment, although without the program crash that makes this troubleshooting process so time-consuming) or unverifying and then reverifying the user license (or verifying a new license) for ADE—the later of which doesn't work because 1) it requires a password, and my Adobe account is so old that, whatever password I used 15 years ago, I can't remember it now; 2) I can't do a password recovery process because the account is tied to a 15 year old, defunct email; 3) adding a secondary account to just try from scratch first requires unverifying the current account/license. This problem reoccurs frequently and there is no resolution except to get a different book, even after much troubleshooting; in the Adobe forum threads I saw another user write something along the lines of "I've spent four hours troubleshooting this, and it's so frustrating. I'm computer literate. How do casual users manage at all?" which expresses approximately my level of really, DRM, really?

The golden rule of DRM should be—but isn't—that it must be easier for the average user to legally obtain a product than to pirate it. The library's Overdrive service is in general phenomenal, especially in my area, where there are plenty of licenses and it's easy to request new titles. I read almost everything as ebooks now, because I can obtain digital copies from the comfort of my agoraphobia home, and because the backlight on my ereader allows me to read without the eyestrain caused by even the dimmest of lamps. But this a golden rule violation if I have ever seen one, and seeing the two set against each other recently, these magical perfect purchases against the frustration of yet another DRM snafu, has made me sad.

(The almost-worst of it is that it's not Overdrive's fault, and their tech support is also superb and timely and considerate; and the comments which I've seen by Adobe tech support, while in now ways productive, are also kind and patient. The problems is almost surely ADE side, but the real culprit the truly awful state of electronic publishing. There's no one to blame but that, and they don't have a tech support whom I can send a message that reads "really??????". Nor is there any true recourse.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
When I woke up today (Saturday), as the weekend had rolled around and Devon had a break from homework and we could finally do anniversary-celebratory-things, I checked my email to find a message from Dee that began, "So I don't want to alarm you, and so far she seems to be okay, but I had to take August in to the vet this morning." Cut for some discussion of pet health and digestive issues: Read more... ) The vet thinks this is probably something that resolve itself, although the battery of tests can only help.

Obviously, Devon drove me back up this afternoon. My being here isn't essential but it is productive, if only because August is a one-person cat; having me back and restoring her status quo may help normalize her diet, and it will be less stressful if I'm the one pilling her. When I got back I lay down and pulled her to my chest and she pressed me back into the world and purred with me until we were both calm.

It's all terrifying, especially after losing Mamakitty last year (her decline began with eating issues, and we've been hypersensitive to our cat's food intake since then) and with the recent unexpected death of Casey, which is in all ways entirely unrelated but still has me paranoid. (Further bad timing: I was going to stop by and see my family and our old dog Jamie this weekend, and tell her I loved her and not to die; I should email them and ask them to pass on my message in my stead.)

But terrifying mostly because August is my heart and life and soul, and her wellbeing is the only thing in this universe in which I am truly invested and for which I feel responsible. I'm thankful beyond words that Dee was there, to deal with the pet-sitter's nightmare and make all the right decisions, and know me and my daughtersistercat so intimately that she could do exactly what I would have done.

I am okay because I have to be, because my anxiety can only disrupt August and contribute to her health issues; and because I have her with me. This is the only realm of my life in which I can do this: experience stress without falling to pieces, because someone else depends on my being whole. My heart my life my soul; the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
A week ago: While sitting up in bed, I threw out my upper back. How? with magic? a perverse force of will?? My trapezius on both sides were just gone, goodbye; everything hurt, but the worst offenders were sleep and the computer. I have a huge pain tolerance and endless experience with back pain, but it resisted every one of my treatments. (In retrospect, I should have iced it—the one thing I never do for my lower back, because it causes cramping.) What is it about a different pain that's somehow worse than chronic pain, not so much because it is worse or even more debilitating, but because these carefully honed coping mechanisms are now inapplicable. I've been dealing with my lower back for 15 years; I should either be exempt from other pain, or equipped to deal with anything. I was not. It went about 4 days without improvement, but is now back to normal anxious-person's-muscles level of ow.

A few days ago: Dee's mother's dog, Casey, died suddenly. Cut for brief discussion of pet death: Read more... ) This is not my immediate pain, but I still care immensely. All dogs are good dogs, but he was such a good dog, surfeit with love, content if he could just lean on you or lay against you and be touched. And so obedient, especially when I knew him and his puppyhood awful (of which I've heard horror stories!) was gone. And so engaged with his people. The loss hasn't quite registered for me, yet; but I've never been so glad that I had Thanksgiving with him and Odi. This was Casey: one, two, three, four.

Last night: Dreamed the mother of all anxiety dreams: I was back in school, living simultaneously-via-dream-logic at Devon's parents's house and in a boarding environment, and became convinced that the environment was so unhealthy and I was so stressed that I shouldn't have pets anymore, so I drowned August by luring her into a swiftly-flowing river with treats. Cut for suicidal ideation: Read more... ) I know what factors underlay all aspects of this dream; it was still singularly awful.

Tomorrow: Taking the train down to see Devon, to celebrate our 13th anniversary. (See: dreaming about his parents's house.) This is absolutely a good thing! It also bring with it "I have to leave the house" anxiety and "why do I have to travel to see him after thirteen years?" anxiety. It has been a long and strange week, an unearthly haze of blurred vision and intense pain and abstracted loss and anxiety. It will be good to make a clean break with it by traveling.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
After my melancholy Hanukkah, I wasn't looking forward to Christmas and really didn't want to make the exhausting journey home for it. So instead, while Dee was way seeing her family in Seattle, Devon came up, Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. He brought me socks and a Moleskine from his parents, stable but beloved gifts, and a Shield Tablet from him, which means that I can play Android games now, which is effectively a whole new platform and super exciting. We made ever so traditional Christmas hot dogs and nachos, watched Red vs. Blue, and he played a lot of Fallout 4 streamed onto the big TV downstairs so we could sit stretched out on the couch-turned-bed.

In other words: the inverse of traveling and family, local and cuddly and content. He's not able to come up much, and it's easy to forget how stressful trips down can be—I love to see him, but his living situation is less than ideal and causes a lot of background anxiety. But this was perfect, just us, in a safe clean quiet home. It put to rest much of my seasonal angst (although I do eventually need to make a journey home sometime to deliver gifts that I haven't yet even picked.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In Sense8, a trans woman undergoes forced hospitalization and is threatened with a lobotomy (for reasons unrelated to but not independent of her gender identity); in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith, one Victorian woman is committed to an asylum under false pretenses while the other is held captive. If you asked, I'd probably say that my biggest fears, other than the crippling agoraphobia which is at this point more a personality trait than a fear, are spiders, automatonophobia/life where life shouldn't be, and existential horror. It's surprising how often those things come up, in daily life and in video games and in the night sky. But let me tell you, I am fucking terrified of the idea of forced hospitalization, medical procedures, and institutionalization.

Terrified, almost, on the level of agoraphobia. My other fears have that push/pull of horror, and revulsion that can be manipulated into intrigue. But, while I think there's room to creatively explore and even idealize mental illness/institutionalization, specifically in/of women (see: my thoughts on Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl), there's no potential in me for a pleasant thrill. I suppose it's too real. I've never been hospitalized, but it's always been at the fringe of my experience—offhand comments by authority figures, horror stories from peers; half the reason I'm afraid to seek any help is the fear of the form that help may take. On some level, I've always believed I deserved it—that I am sufficiently incapacitated that I should not be able to self-govern. What makes it worse is that these narratives are often about women who are not mentally ill: it's terrifying that the social standing innate to gender and perceived neurotypicality are used to control and punish women, but, even worse, these women don't even deserve it—and part of their punishment is being alongside actual crazies, who do. These women at least have the narrative to advocate for them; whether or not it ends well, we as consumers know that their situation is unfair. What advocate would I have?

(I think this is why Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl doesn't bother me as much—nor, to some extent, American Horror Story: Asylum: the PoV is not solely "sane person punished by being viewed as crazy"; both have mentally ill characters that the narrative still acknowledges are undeserving victims of the system.)

It's not something that will happen, and on society's scale of crazies mine are pretty acceptable—it's probably not something that could happen. And even if it did, there's every possibility that I have a skewed perspective built on historical evidence and horror stories, and that some forms of forced/in-patient medial aid would help me. And it doesn't matter. The idea makes me so anxious and miserable that a bit of logical counterpoint means nothing.

As fate would have it, Sense8 and Fingersmith are the primary show I'm watching/book I'm reading right now. They're both quite good! But consuming them at the same time meant that last night when trying to wind down to sleep I couldn't even give up one piece of media for another that would be less anxiety-provoking. "I know!" I thought. "I'll grab the next Circle of Magic book, because middle-grade wish fulfillment about found families and personal ability will certainly sooth my anxiety." But my elibrary hold still hasn't come in, and I couldn't *cough* "find" an epub on the entire damn internet. But by some minor miracle, even though it was 3a, Devon was awake and he read to me the two last chapters of a Wizard of Oz book, and then I read two chapters of a Narnia book, and then I slept.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
It were my birfday, or, as per tradition:



I'm 30, and 30 feels weird; it's a nice round number upon which to rest all my recent anxiety about health issues, everyone in Devon's immediately circle marrying their girlfriends (of 18 months) and/or having kids, and that general sense of existential despair that comes often when you have no goals/occupation/future. My preoccupation with aging is strange. Because of what my life is like, I live outside of the passage of time as it effects most people, and I don't desire most of those landmarks, but I'm still cognizant of the fact that I'm no longer a child; self-aware neoteny comes with a certain amount of cognitive dissonance.

That said! It was a lovely birthday. Devon came up for the day—we didn't do much special, just went out to eat and watched a show together, but actually marking the event was enough. (I'm bad at both social instigation and the passage of time, so most events pass me unmarked, which I always regret.) And he gave me a 3DS XL! I saw my father for a quick dinner the next day, as he was in town for a flight; I also have a gift in the mail, Dee and I have an outting to make when it's not a) 100° b) smoky due to nearby wildfires c) both, and received birthday wishes from a number of people I care about, including some that I hadn't heard from in some time. Perfectly satisfying, and quite enjoyable.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
(Previously discussed here.)

Went to Devon's for a week, spent four days on Tramadol (three doses in three days, two days off, one day on; timing was largely happenstance, but it worked out well). It was a lovely trip for obvious reasons—Tramadol is by far my favorite drug—but also did what it needed to do and essentially hit a reset button on my pain cycle. My back is still bad, and I'm unsure what degree of bad or what this sort of bad indicates in the long-term, but it's a sort of bad I can treat, now; before, nothing was touching it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
It's fairly common to see Flight Rising users put name/timezone/preferred pronouns on their profiles, which I adore. But it meant I had the opportunity to just state my preferences, and thus I discovered that wiggly hand gestures and "it's complex" are not a statement.

The reason I prefer FR's habits—compared to LJ/Tumblr/journal spaces, where it's more common to use labels like cis/trans in combination with preferred pronouns—is because I'm adverse to discussing my gender identity; I don't know how to do it without co-opting those labels. I don't talk about therianthopy much these days because my intense period of self-discovery has passed. I don't have much more exploring to do or a lot to express; it's simply an aspect of my identity, definitive but known and, frankly, no big deal.* But I really do identify as cat, and for me that also defines my gender—and cat gender is complex. Domestic cats have some gender dimorphism, but it's effected by their neuter status and life history (namely, when they were neutered)—and none of it has corollaries to human concepts of gender. To me, the defining aspect of a neutered domestic cat's sex and gender is their neutering—they have a third non-sex identity and social role.

Yet I call Gillian my little man, and I call August my pretty princess, and that's simultaneously accurate and irrelevant. Gillian has a developed face structure, and so looks like a male cat; he also has a bossiness and noisiness that we associate with masculinity. August is a very pretty cat with silky fur, and is spoiled and demanding, which fits a feminine princess archetype.

I identify with both halves of that. My gender identity is "domestic neutered cat," which means a near absence of any aspect of sex or gender, physiological or social, human or feline. But I appear as feminine, and so I'm assigned feminine pronouns. Those pronouns aren't accurate, but they're functional. To call a pet "it" is (for lack of a better word) dehumanizing; gendering pets is a way of fitting them into our worldview, of interpreting/projecting/interacting with them as individuals. I'm especially aware of this with Devon—the parallels between Devon's relationship with me and my relationship with August are startling; he's my person, and I'm his girl in the way that August is my girl: the gendered identity is a useful tool, a way of interpreting and defining my identity and our relationship.

In some ways, the gender projected and assigned to me is important because it puts me under the "female" umbrella and that's not unburdened; it effects how I interact, as a human, with humans. But it does not make me a woman, any more than what I call Gillian turns him into a man.

The hand-waving complexity nudges up on the territory of agender and genderqueer, but I'm not comfortable with those labels because they indicate an experience that I respect and don't share. There's a massive cultural difference between the experience of gender identity and species identity—in short, my circumstances are meaningful to me but make nary a blip on anyone's social radar; agender and genderqueer identities do, in loaded and painful ways, it would be disrespectful as fuck to co-opt that experience.

Given the freedom to identify myself as I see fit, without needing to justify it, I freeze up. I presume that everyone intuits the unstated complexity and silently demands that I explain myself, which is classic social anxiety: the belief that everyone cares a lot about everything I do, and they're all judging me for it. I want to footnote in some handwaving and, I don't know, an apology. But when I'm able to step away from the paranoia, it's liberating. All those wiggly hand gestures are important to me, occasionally important to those close to me, and in adjunct ways important to society at large. But they're not always relevant, they don't always need to be expressed and defended.

My FR profile says "she/her or they/them." What that means is "female pronouns are convenient and acceptable; widely-recognized non-gendered pronouns are equally accurate" with subtitle "because I'm a cat and cats don't have genders, and using these words isn't the same as embracing their connotations." I care a lot about that!

The people glancing at my FR profile don't, and that's lovely.

* The primary exception: I feel like domestic therian species are underexplored, and yet domestication is the defining aspect of my therianthropy. As example: the effect of neutering, discussed here; also neoteny and its effect on my relative immaturity/continued dependence on caretakers. Gimme discussions about domestic therians pls.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Deciding where to post what is difficult; here's some media musings that originally went up on my tumblr, chronicled for tags/posterity.


Criminal Minds and police procedurals

I watch a lot of crime dramas/crime fiction/mystery fiction/police procedurals, and with the genre comes mixed expectation/fear of predictability and a skewed sense of scale, two things that often have a single cause: episodic formatting. It's the glorious hallmark of the genre, making it accessible and (as the genre has matured and grown increasingly dark) palatable. But, oh, is it broken.

Read more. )


Twilight: the film

Netflix got Twilight. I am, thus, finally watching Twilight.

And I finally get it.

Read more. )


Reading children's literature aloud

Devon and I sometimes read books together, by which I mean: sometimes he reads books aloud to me. After much experimentation, I can report that the very best books for this are children's books. I suppose that's logical! They halfways written to be read aloud, with conveniently sized chapters, active pacing, and maybe most of all they're just—fun. All of those classic children's stories you're familiar with, culturally, but perhaps have never read?

Spoiler: they're fantastic.

Read more. )

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