juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
List of book reviews for 2005 )

Year Long Total: 25 books



List of book reviews for 2006 )

Year Long Total: 64 books



List of book reviews for 2007 )

Year Long Total: 37 books



List of book reviews for 2008 )

Year Long Total: 67 books



List of book reviews for 2009 )

Year Long Total: 50 books



List of book reviews for 2010 )

Year Long Total: 37 books



List of book reviews for 2011 )

Year Long Total: 52 books



List of book reviews for 2012 )

Year Long Total: 32 books



List of book reviews for 2013 )

Year Long Total: 65 books



List of book reviews for 2014 )

Year Long Total: 16 books



List of book reviews for 2015 )

Year Long Total: 61 books



List of book reviews for 2016 )

Year Long Total: 123 books



List of book reviews for 2017 )

Year Long Total: 85 books



Also See:
Tags: book reviews, book reviews: recommended, book reviews: not recommended
Reviews on Amazon.com, Profile on Amazon.com
Profile on GoodReads
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
As I post more of these boys, it's getting harder for new readers to catch up on what's come before. So for everyone's ease, I finally offer:

PREVIEWb
Ghost and Aaron: A Sims 3 Story
Introduction and Master List

Aaron (with freckles and dyed black hair) is brash and rude, but behind his bravado is certain vulnerability. Ghost (with white hair and pale eyes) is inward-turned, expressing himself through the arts—but his passivity hides depth. They are cousins who, for most of their lives, were only casual acquaintances. Two years ago, Aaron moved in with Ghost and his mother, and the boys quickly became close friends. But one day, after they had moved into a filthy suburban home in Sunset Valley, Aaron kissed Ghost—changing their relationship forever, and beginning their chronicled story.

From their first spontaneous kiss onward, Ghost and Aaron's story has been almost entirely autonomous. I set up premises, and they provide plot—and the boys have a strange magic that makes it all possible. I post lightly annotated, image-heavy chronicles of their daily lives, supplemented with text-only, non-chronological storybits that fill in gaps in their daily developments and backstory. Storybits in particular may contain explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.

The list below contains every post where Aaron and Ghost appear, from cameos to major developments. The numbering system is completely meaningless (but keeps things in order); storybits are often non-chronological and tangentially related, but add significant depth. I have no posting schedule—updates come when they come. Comments and discussion are always welcome. Enjoy!

Master List — The time when...
001 They first appear.
002 Aaron kisses Ghost.
003 Aaron sets fire to the TV.
004 Their romantic relationship gets going.
005 Ghost quits his job.
006 They finally have sex.
          Bonus House tour.
007 They cameo during their honeymoon period.
008 The repoman comes.
          Bonus Family photos and Storybit 01: Aaron on the doorstep.
009 Ghost says "I love you."
           Bonus Storybit 02: Ghost dreams of death.
010 Ghost's dreams get worse.
          Bonus Storybit 03: Aaron says "I love you."
011 Storybit 04: The second round, while Ghost should be sleeping.
012 They have a surprising amount of sex.
          Bonus Storybit 05: Aaron picks Ghost up from work.
013 Ghost started to come to terms with Aaron's thievery.
          Bonus Storybit 06: Aaron questions Ghost's sexual history.
014 They cameo at the Silverman-Moore wedding.
015 Storybit 07: Aaron bottoms for the first time.
016 They visit Mouse.
          Bonus Storybit 08: The night with Nathan.
017 Everything's going well, so Aaron's parents show up.
          Bonus Storybit 09: The rings.
018 Things do not happen in France.
019 Aaron's parents visit.
          Bonus Storybit 10: What does not happen after Aaron's parents leave.
020 Previous update outtakes.
021 They spend a couple irresponsible days.


You can also browse my tags for Sims 3 and Sims 3: Ghost and Aaron for some supplemental discussion and photo logs of my other Sims. All my Sims photos are gathered in galleries on my Flickr.
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: In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Author: Cat Winters
Published: New York: Amulet Books, 2013
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 385
Total Page Count: 190,945
Text Number: 565
Read Because: local author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: 16-year-old Mary Shelley Black comes to San Diego in the height of World War I, an influenza outbreak, and the rise of spiritualism, there to find the death of a loved one test her skepticism.

"Oh, you silly, naïve men." I shook my weary head and genuinely pitied their ignorance. "You've clearly never been a sixteen-year-old girl in the fall of 1918."


This is a novel entrenched in its historical setting, in spiritualism and the pervasive death that birthed it. It grows into a ghost story, adopting a suitable gothic/paranormal tone, and the whodunnit, carefully integrated into historical context, is only somewhat undermined by a rushed, neat conclusion. The atmosphere is strong, but the emotional register is always a bit off—characters over-emote, dialog is heavy-handed, and, while Mary Shelley proves to be delightful, the exaggerated tone keeps the story at arm's length, insufficiently convincing or compelling. In both setting and content, this is remarkably similar to Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song—if you like one, try the other. But I found that In the Shadow of Blackbirds failed to coalesce.


While I'm at it, another list no one asked for!

Literature, music, and a few historical figures mentioned in In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winter
in order of appearance, approximately exhaustive

H.G. Wells
The Mysterious Island, Around the World in Eighty Days, and other work, Jules Verne
White Fang, Jack London
"The Passions", William Collins
McGuffey Readers
Fairytales of Ludwig Tieck
Fairytales of the Brother Grimm
Goethe
Eichendorff
Rilke
Herman Hesse
Bach
Strauss
Beethoven
Wager
"Lullaby," Brahms
A Treasury of War Poetry, ed. George Herbert Clarke, specifically: "The Death of Peace," Ronald Ross; "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," Alan Seeger; "The Hell-Gate of Soissons," Herbert Kaufman; "Into Battle," Julian Grenfell; "The Trenches," Frederic Manning
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (as historical figure)
Duncan MacDougall, physician
Cottingley Fairies, photographed by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths
Chaucer
Milton
Tolstoy
Melville
Hawthorne
Bunyan
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
The Pirates of Penzance
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Oz series, L. Frank Baum
"Sing a Song of Sixpence"
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (as allusion)
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: My Real Children
Author: Jo Walton
Published: New York: Tor, 2014
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 320
Total Page Count: 176,605
Text Number: 517
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: In the grips of dementia, Patricia remembers the two parallel paths of her long life. This frame narration is interesting but too concise, particularly in the book's resolution. And there's something disappointing in the final message of spoilers. ). But the embedded narrative is fantastic. Each life is full of minute detail, but the alternating narrative maintains the pacing. Patricia's lifetimes, one in an abusive marriage, the other as a lesbian in a nuclear world, are issue-heavy and occasionally moralizing, but with the best intentions; together, they illustrate the way that sexuality and sexism and circumstance build a life. In no reality is Patricia confined to her social limitations; she remains, and makes herself, a complete and dynamic person. My Real Children is intimate, finely detailed, sympathetic, and personal; beautiful to read, for all its heartbreak. That it sometimes folds under close scrutiny makes the experience it offers no less effective.



This is not quite one of the books-about-books that compel me to write lists–but it’s by Jo Walton; of course it’s also about the narratives we consume to create ourselves. Thus:

Media mentioned in My Real Children
including name-dropped historical figures, not including locations; in approximate order of appearance; probably not exhaustive, but close

Charlotte Sometimes, Penelope Farmer
J.R.R. Tolkien (as a teacher), also: The Lord of the Rings
Beowulf
Margaret Drabble ("at Oxford [....] everyone had the excitement of thinking they might be going to be someone famous." I can't find the source of this reference.)
Elizabeth Gaskell, generally and: Cranford
"Ozymandias," Percy Bysshe Shelley ("The lone and level sands stretch far away")
"Sea Fever," John Masefield ("the lonely sea and the sky")
John Ball ("When Adam delved")
King Canute
A.E. Housman
John Milton
Metaphysical poets
The Bible; The Acts of the Apostles
Virginia Woolf, generally and: A Room of One's Own
Robert Herrick
Andrew Marvell
T.S. Eliot
1984, George Orwell (the two minute's hate)
The letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett
Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barret Browning
Thomas Hardy
William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, also "Shakespeare's bawdy"
Romanticism, specifically: its view of nature
Ludwig Wittgenstein
The Adventures of Roderick Random, Tobias Smollett
D.H. Lawrence
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (Malthusian belts)
Andrew Marvell
"To His Coy Mistress," Andrew Marvell ("A hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast..." "Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball" "And tear our pleasures with rough strife Through the iron gates of life" "Time's wingèd chariot")
Gustave Doré's etchings of Dante's Divine Comedy, specifically of Inferno
Inferno, Dante Alighieri, trans. Dorothy L Sayers
Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers
Renaissance art
Madonna of the Magnificat, Primavera, and The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli
Raphael, specifically: portraits of popes
Ganymede, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, and autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini
Bust of Cellini, Raffaello Romanelli
Christ and St. Thomas, Andrea del Verrocchio
Oscar Wilde (in context of homosexuality)
Alan Turing (cameo)
Niccolò Machiavelli
Middlemarch, George Eliot (Causaubon's sterile Key to All Mythologies)
The frescoes of Pitti Palace: Lorenzo de' Medici welcoming the exiled muses to Florence, Lorenzo de' Medici pointing out the young Michelangelo
Marsilio Ficino's tomb (and as translator of:)
Plato
David, Michelangelo
The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan
The Mikado, Gilbert and Sullivan
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer
Astounding Science-Fiction a.k.a. Analog Science Fiction and Fact
Miscellaneous paintings: of Saint Elizabeth, of anonymous Renaissance Italian women in crowds
John Donne, general and specific: ("Her marriage had never been her whole life. Donne was wrong about that as so much else." I can't find the source of this reference.)
Sappho
"To Lucasta, going to the Wars," Arthur Quiller-Couch ("I could not love thee, Dear, so much, Loved I not Honour more")
Peter Gabriel (musician)
Italian pop and "Volga beat"
Antonio Vivaldi
Igor Stravinsky
Gaudete
Henry Moore
Neo-Impressionism
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. (Default)
Title: Piercing
Author: Ryu Murakami
Translator: Ralph McCarthy
Published: New York: Penguin, 2007 (1994)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 192
Total Page Count: 165,168
Text Number: 483
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Kawashima Masayuki believes he's put his troubled past behind him--until he becomes obsessed with stabbing his infant daughter with an ice pick, an obsession he can only elevate by murdering someone else instead. Piercing combines a dry, dark tone with a lack of restraint, and the combination works. It's short enough to suit the thematic transparency (but, unfortunately, also so short that the redundant aspects of the dual narratives are frustrating), and the wry gallows humor makes for an unromanticized but indulgent study of violence: creative, intentionally shocking, and put to good use in serving the themes. This is meant to be psychological horror rather than an accurate representation of child abuse, and lacks true complexity. But if the intent appeals, Piercing will satisfy. I recommend it, and plan to read more Murakami.


Media mentioned in Piercing by Ryu Murakami
(more or less exhaustive, in approximate order of appearance)

Nicolas de Staël (artist)
Basic Instinct (film)
Peter Pan syndrome
Mozart
Wild at Heart (film)
Corpses (photograph collection)
Music of Afternoon Classics Volume III (specific songs: Chopin's Nocturnes, Schumann's Scenes from Childhood, Schubert's Moments Musicales)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Title: Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate #1)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Published: New York: Open Road Young Readers, 2012 (1988)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 164,976
Text Number: 482
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When a sorcerer tries to poison Kate in London, she writes to her cousin in the country—and together they unravel a magical mystery. Sorcery & Cecelia is more novelty than success. The letter game that spawned it is brilliant, and the authors's engagement and joy in their joint story is infectious. But that extemporaneous style lacks refinement, and makes for a predictable, even repetitive story. I still recommend this—it lacks complexity but has a wealth of charm and good intentions.


The historical name-dropping was heavy-handed but, like most things, still charming:

Allusions in Sorcery & Cecelia by Wrede & Stevermer
(historical figures, objects, authors, books, literary allusions, and otherwise, in approximate order of appearance, probably not exhaustive)

Horace Walpole
Elgin Marbles
Lord Byron
The Monk, Mathew Lewis
Brutus, Sappho, Penthesilea (specifically their hair styles, as per Oliver's obsessions)
I Dilettanti (opera)
"Ill meet by moonlight" quoted by Kate, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare
Hansel and Gretel (as metaphor)
Anne Radcliffe
Caroline Lamb
Atalanta, Handel
Epicyclical Elaborations of Sorcery (a fictional text)
John Dee
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just finished rereading this! I frequently start lists of media-mentioned-in books I love, and now that I'm making those lists on OneNote via my phone, it's remarkably easier to complete, edit, and publish them! Bless. So:


Media and pop culture mentioned in The Cipher by Kathe Koja
(In order of appearance, except where references reoccur; including just about all media, but probably not exhaustive.)

From the epigraph: “Mukade”, Shikatsube no Magao (poem); Rick Lieder (author)
Wise Blood, Flannery O'Conner (novel); later, “The Enduring Chill”, Flannery O'Conner (short story)
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (mentioned multiple times, including: the Rabbit Hole, the White Queen)
Artists: Paul Klee, Francis Bacon, Hieronymus Bosch; The Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymus Bosch (mentioned in specific later)
The Twilight Zone (television)
Weekly World News (tabloid)
Typhoid Mary
Xanadu
Tabu (perfume) (some aspects of this list are weirdly exhaustive)
Films: Streetgirls II, Dead Giveaway, Dogs Gone Wild (cursory searching and common sense indicate these are fictional); later, also fictional: Booby Prizes, Mommy’s Little Massacre
Faces of Death, dir. Conan LeCilaire (film)
Wild Kingdom (television)
Art Now (magazine)
Artists: Caldwell (can’t pin down who this is), Richard deVore (Malcom’s mask is compared to these)
“Borscht Belt (Jewish comedy) parody of Hamlet (Shakespeare) doing humble”
Pied Piper
The New Testament: Peter on the water; the Old Testament: Shadrach
Romper Room (television)
Author: Ben Hecht; in the final epigraph: “Love is a hole in the heart.”
Vulcan (Roman mythology)
Cinderella
(Obliquely) Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Phantom of the Opera(’s face and mask)
“Saints and idiots, angels and children.” (“It’s a quote, you dipshit.” From where? I don’t know! Enlighten me.)


I started recording media mentioned in books because I'm a dork because, as I may have said about 40 times, using narratives to create or explain your narrative is my modus operandi and thus my favorite thing to see in narratives. (Narrative-ception.) There's a danger of creating self-referential and -congratulatory recursive narratives that require googling rather than reading because without immediate knowledge of the referenced material you're in the dark. That's occasionally lampshaded, particularly in books where the references are fictional and their excess is intentional (the navelgazing of House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski; the aesthetic and plotty footnotes of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke).

But, more often, narratives about narratives do one or both of these things:

The references create a palate. I've described The Cipher's atmosphere and aesthetic as "thriftstore decadence" and the characters as "gritty dirty poor horror-kids," but what describes it better is the book's references: Alice's rabbithole as metaphor for the Funhole, the grotesque art prints cut from art magazines, Flannery O'Conner's heartless black humor and the parody-titled sensationalist films; the combination of sleazy and Weird is never meant to be pleasant, but it has as strong an atmosphere as the most stylized, idealized fiction.

and/or

The narrative not only extends itself to contain the referenced material, but builds a whole greater than the sum of the references. Reader, I adore this: texts played against each other, narratives that address the reader/writer/character meta-relationship. This was what made Fire and Hemlock, Dianna Wynne Jones, so exceptional. Polly spends most of the novel internalizing, creating herself around Tom Lynn, but he also challenges her when she merely regurgitates the influences he throws her way—Tom Lynn's creation of Polly extends so far that he demands that she create herself, a contradiction they must both confront in the denouement. Fire and Hemlock borrows structures and dynamics that Polly is unaware of (Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot; Cupid and Psyche); it's about the dozens of books that she reads and internalizes; it's about the story that she turns around and writes herself, and about the necessity and limitation of the inspiration she's taken from what she's read. And it's so good.

Most examples—often the best examples—do all of these things. In Catherynne M. Valente's engaging The Labyrinth, some references are in Latin; the fantastic The Game of Kings, Dorothy Dunnett, made me read it with google in one hand and book in the other. Both are exhausting, both are worthwhile. Caitlín R. Kiernan is (obviously) my favorite, because in this way her brain works like mine: her stories are a web of narrative influence, mentioned by name and date or casually misquoted; the way I process wolves/werewolves/black dogs is how her protagonists process their experiences, from their ancient failed romances to their trespasses into the bizarre: these external narratives have become their internal metaphors, necessary tools for interpreting the world. The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl in particular are stories about telling stories, by necessity, imperfectly.

(And all of that is who I am, and what I do.)
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Since my favorite thing, of all possible things, is when a book turns out to be about books, and this particular book was about the way that we use narratives to understand, interpret, and create ourselves (and, also, was phenomenal), I present:

Book mentioned in Fire and Hemlock
(including plays, but excluding music, sorry; in approximate order of appearance; nearly but probably not exhaustive)

Times Out of Mind, ed. L. Perry (fictional)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (referred to as The Wizard of Oz), L. Frank Baum
The Treasure Seekers, E. Nesbit
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
The Box of Delights, John Masefield
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White
The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Dodie Smith
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Black Beauty, Anne Sewell
Sherlock Holmes (collected stories), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
Popular Beliefs (Nina reads this one--it's a non-fiction book but probably fictional)
Author: Michael Moorcock (Seb reads this)
Author: Isaac Asimov
"East of the Sun and West of the Moon," traditional
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells
The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton
Perelandra, C.S. Lewis
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G.K. Chesterton
The Thirty-nine Steps, John Buchan
Tom's Midnight Garden, Philippa Pearce
The Oxford Book of Ballads, ed. Arthur Quiller-Couch
The Castle of Adventure, Enid Blyton
Pierrot, traditional (Polly performs this)
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (another forum performs this)
The Golden Bough, James George Frazer
Twelfth Night, Shakespeare (Polly performs this)
Shakespeare, in general (who borrows plots from everywhere!)
Tales from Nowhere (fictional)
"Ode To a Nightingale," John Keats
and, of course:
"Tam Lin," traditional
"Thomas the Rhymer," traditional
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Late but existant holiday gift list, for my future reference:

Given
Mother: A red-toned glass snail by Alcyon Lord; my mother has a few of this artist's pieces, some from me, but this is one of my favorites—and she liked it.
Father: Two Hanayama cast metal puzzles, also well received; because these are solid metal, they can't be bent or cheated—they look nice and are impressively difficult.
Sister: Bananagrams—in Italian! which she studied for a number of years and has a job translating from.
Devon: A Cougar 700m gaming mouse to replace his gaming mouse that died earlier this year and the pathetic wimpy one he'd been using in the interim.
Dee: Resident Evil Revoluations (Playstation port), since she's been (re)playing the series after getting RE6, and Dev played/I watched Revelations and rather liked it.

Received
Parents: A pair of socks, a bunch of chocolate*, a selection of hot sauces and olives, a Moleskine, and money for eventual clothes shopping.
Father/Grandfather, paternal: my great grandfather's Siddur (Jewish prayer book)
Grandmother, maternal: Money for the eventual clothing fund.
Sister: Two knit sweaters, one black and one white, and one black waist-length peacoat, all of which fit and look fantastic.
Devon, Hanukkah: a Windows cell phone to use as a PDA/mp3 player; I'm not putting my SIM card in it (phone calls, including spam, trigger panic attacks) but it's been fantastic as a calendar/mobile browser/music device; I'm surprised how much I love it.
Devon, Christmas: We're still figuring this out.
Devon's family: 3 pairs of socks, one of which I'll certainly wear to death; jellybeans again, sigh.
Dee: Chocolate, and a delicate copper necklace with a small heart and a teeny little spoon. This is the second time someone has given me a spoon as a gift (the other one wasn't wearable, though) and it is actually the most perfect thing.

* Chocolate haul: chocolate orange, Trader Joe's single origin palette, Vosages Black Salt Caramel Bar, Pasca 85% Dark Chocolate, the last of which is certainly the best. This list is not redundant nor overkill; right now I'm at a point where the only way I can remember and force myself to eat is because after the meal there will be chocolate—it's one of the only things I can still enjoy, and having a lot of it is lifesaving.
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: 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: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went down to Corvallis over Christmas (Dee decided to go up to see her family immediately after Christmas, so it was lovely no-stress scheduling), and it was okay, I guess. Every few Christmases, the holiday comes during a depressive episode and I just want to wish the whole thing away because I lack the spirit to begin with and all the holiday responsibilities and events serve to exacerbate my mental state; at least once I've effectively defaulted on Christmas, even failing to buy gifts. This would have been one of those years, there but for the grace of Devon—he saw it coming, and so he researched wishlists and gifts and made it stupidly easy for me to pick presents for others. And everyone loved them! and that surprised me. Buying for my family is hard; my parents have a lot of art in the house and I've had good luck getting new pieces for their collection, but that grows predictable year after year; my sister and I have radically different tastes, and I never know what on her wishlist reads as "something you actually really want but may still have sentimental value." Considering where I started, with a deep unwillingness to do anything and an utter dearth of Christmas spirit, coming out the other side having given successful gifts feels awesome.

Christmas gifts given. )

Christmas gifts received. )

As always, I record this stuff because my memory is horrible and they're things I don't want to forget.

My father's birthday was December 21st, so we did a family dinner in and a family dinner out, and I went to the house to decorate the family tree, and then decorated Devon's grandparents's tree; Christmas Eve was blessedly quiet, but I went to both Devon's grandparents's family Christmas (a dozen people were there) and had traditional Christmas homemade pizza dinner with my family; Devon and I drove up to Portland on boxing day so that he could transport and set up the new monitor and Dee could leave to see her family the next day. In other words: exhausted, utterly exhausted, and while there were highlights and the homemade pizza continues to be the best pizza, I am mostly just exhausted. And exhausted.

But the days have been silver gray and heavily fogged; skeleton trees against cashmere skies; cold weather, scarf and overcoat weather, hot coffee weather; distinctly winter.
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: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I don't do this every year, but I should—even if it sounds like an acceptance speech. I don't care about Thanksgiving food other than pumpkin pie, but I hold giving thanks quite dear. The last year in particular has been good to me, and so I have too much gratitude to give and the need to give it all.

To Portland, and for Dee making it possible to live here. This city sets me free.

To friends, in particular to those that I now also know offline—Dee, Lyz, Express, Sarah, even Rachel and Danielle and Tiffany—not because real-world friendships are necessarily more meaningful, but because this has been a year of making them and that's meaningful to me.

To family. My sister is off studying in Italy, and she amazes me. My parents have shown me incredible understanding in the last year, and to be seen, known, and loved by them is something I don't quite have the words to describe.

To Devon, who has made Portland and a semi-mostly-long distance relationship possible again, and is my favorite person in the entire world, and loves me.

To stupid fuzzy animals—but mostly to August. She is my dream come true, and I still haven't gotten past the shock of that. I love her enough to break my heart.

And to books and perfumes that smell like carnation and drinks that taste like pumpkin, and relative health and wellness, and relative financial stability. I am a diehard malcontent and will go back to feeling miserable at the drop of a hat, but the truth is that every one of the last few years has been better than the last, I am healthier and more sane, I am surrounded by love and I usually have a cat on my lap, and I am so, so thankful.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
The good news is that August missed me, and would like to celebrate my return with cuddles. It's not frantic behavior, she's just a little velcro'd and very fuIl of purrs. I was worried that she wouldn't care that I had left or returned, because I'm paranoid like that, and so I'm beyond relieved and it feels even better to come back to this home, to my city, to my babycat. The bad news is that it's about a thousand degrees outside, as summer would like to go out with a bang this year. But touching the black long-haired cat is still worth it.

I was gone because it was my birthday! I'm now 26. I went down to Corvallis last Tuesday evening. My sister is living with my parents for a few weeks before her semester abroad (in Italy) begins, so I was able to go home on my birthday, Thursday the 18th, and see everyone for homemade pizza and flourless chocolate torte. (I also renewed my driver's license on my birthday, the day it expired.) On Friday I went home for a briefer day visit, and picked out a few of my mum's quilts to hang in the Portland house. On Saturday Devon and I ran errands in the blistering heat, but now I have bedding and shoes on their way to me. I'm ridiculously excited for them, because they're a long time coming. The bedding is a birthday gift from my parents (and, depending on how much of it they decide to buy, the rest will be purchased with birthday money from my paternal grandfather and his wife), and it'll be a huge step towards pulling my Portland room together. The shoes are a longtime wish finally fulfilled (and none too soon, as my current shoes are dying)—they're Sketcher's Parties - Mate, and I sure hope I love them. I also came back with some BPAL, Boy's on-the-day birthday gift (as the big gift was August, who came just a bit early), a few books from Border's funeral party, and some chocolate that will probably be used for baking because by my lofty standards it's not fit to eat. On Saturday evening, Devon's family stuffed me full of chocolate cake. On Sunday morning, I took the train back to Portland.

This is my birthday torte. )

Candles on my birthday cake
And this is what happened to the candles in the 90 seconds they were lit.
It was pretty ridiculous, but hilarious. It's a good thing the wax came off easily once it had dried.

Also, Jamie says hi. )

I saw Jamie, and Woof, and Dude and Madison (and so help me if Madison isn't the size of a grapefruit—that cat is so small). I saw everyone, really, and went everywhere, and felt like I was doing nothing but eating celebratory food but I suppose there are worse evils than that. It was an unexpectedly busy trip, and a fantastic one, and I am just as glad to be back.

For my own records, my birthday gifts. )

And now it has grown too warm to be sitting here at the computer. Happy belated birthday to all my fellow Leos! For about as long as I can remember, about half my friends have been born in this fire time of the year, and we all get a bit swamped by the concurrance. But I had a great birthday—and I hope you did too.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
The NPR Top 100 SF/F Books list makes me want to brain myself, but having enjoyed seeing others's point-by-point responses to books on the list I present, in the style of a meme: what I've read, with notes.

Bold if I've read it, italicized if I plan to, underlined if I've read part but not all.

100 books and series. )

This list is in no way the best of anything, but it's representative of what a crowd of casual voters reads and thinks they should read, with uneven editor boundaries drawn between YA/adult, genre/not genre (and this genre/that genre, which is even more detrimental to this list), and book/series. What people read, by the way, are: white men (dead is optional), epic high fantasy, series (either trilogies or why-has-no-one-taken-my-pen-away endless cycles), cult-favorite authors (named Gaiman) and passing trends (called zombies), a few books which are famous just because they try to avoid the genre they write in, and a few challenging or diverse texts/harder bits of sci-fi/genre classics/books they may or may not have encountered in high school and college—or at least they read those once, and know they should again. They also read some truly random stuff because, hello, what is Sunshine doing on there?

It's not necessarily a bad list—but it's not the "best" of anything; it's pretty much just a glimpse of SF/F in popular culture. I've read—what, 52 of them? I even enjoyed quite a few. I get it. But oh god, I don't condone it.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Let's pretend to clean up my notes and sundry document and post:


Things I have learned from my crash-course in black cat photography

Never ever use flash. It makes for an obviously artificial shiny white highlights on black fur, as well as squinty eyes of death.

Everything auto must go. Well, not everything—my camera has miserable manual focus, and yours might too—but throw auto light balance right out. Open up the aperture and aim for somewhere between -1 and -2 exposure to get black on black instead of washed-out grays and blown out backgrounds.

Use a tripod, or lean the camera against something—exposure will probably be 1/20 to 4 seconds. Open up the blinds and invite natural light—you can't fake it with artificial light when your subject is so dark.

Find a sweet spot for auto focus. You want the eyes in focus, but shining the focus light in the eyes causes squinty eyes of death. Ideally, you want something on the same plane as the eyes, with sharp delineation that the autofocus can grab onto with both hands; the thin hair on between brow and ears often works well, because white skin showing through dark fur provides adequate contrast.

Take a billion pictures. This is a good rule with all animal photography, especially indoor animal photography where long exposure times easily lead to blur. Lock in your focus, steady your hands, and take six shots instead of one—and maybe one of the six will be between tremors, blinks, and strong breezes.

Play with angles. This is also a good rule for all animal photography. The cute cuddly angle you see from above may look like squinty eyes of death from below; conversely, an animal-level shot can be surprisingly intimate.

With few exceptions, only post one picture from each pose, even if you do manage to get multiple clear shots. As with all photography: take plenty, find the best, post few. No one likes repetition.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I've been having a rough couple of days. Here are three reasons why:

1. Congrats, everyone that thought it was weird that I'd be willing to spend significant time away from my significant other: yes, that's hard. Of course it's fucking hard. I've done plenty of multiple day trips; that's easy. A few days more, though, and I do find myself—not homesick, really, not lonely either. I just miss him. That's obvious and predictable but for me it is remarkable, because missing people is one of the big things my brain does not do. As a result it's something I don't know how to cope with, either. I miss him.

2. Portland and I have unfinished business. I have deep love for this city, but.... A lot of bad shit went down here, right? Some of it because being apart from Devon is fucking hard. Most of it because I was sick. I was just really fucking sick back then. Some of it is tied up in the exact same things that make me love this city—all the opportunities I didn't, couldn't, take advantage of before, and how much of a failure I felt as a result. But sometimes it's just simple familiarity, it's poking around [livejournal.com profile] damnportlanders and seeing the same icons of the same members who were active those years ago and then remembering what it was like last time, for the better maybe but also for the worse, so much worse. I still won't use, can't use, alarms because they bring me back to when I was in Portland, in school, still trying and failing to get to class; I may be a lot better now but I haven't quite healed from how it was then and the reminders of it fucking terrify me.

3. I have rough days. All of these things are interconnected—Devon would probably be able to talk me through some of these bad memories, and so it stings even more that he's not here; I have those bad memories because at my heart I just am, always have been, the sort to have bad days, whether that means some moodiness or a full-on major depressive cycle. But there's something to be said for the simple fact that that is who I am: I can be in the best place, I can get what I want, and I can still feel like shit on a biscuit. I just hate being reminded of it, you know? I hate the fact that nothing will ever make that go away, all of it go forever away. Being depressed is depressing in its own right.

And all that I am full of these thoughts, I'm really not that bad. I'm just blah and feel ugly and don't want to wash my hair and do want to lie in bed and watch TV all day and probably not say a whole lot. In large part I just need some recharge time and adjustment time, because antisocial Juu does not understand this "spend time in someone's company" thing. Then I may need some distraction, so I should eat goddamn chocolate cake if I want chocolate cake (and there is chocolate cake! I just don't want to be the person who eats ALL THE CAKE om nom) and I should figure out how I'm going to manage Starbucks trips without being chaffered everywhere and I'm absolutely looking forward to Valente's reading on Friday because I imagine that will do wonders for my mood. I also need to accept that there is nothing wrong with just having a few bad days—the people that care for me don't begrudge them half as much as I do; if I didn't try so hard to deny them then maybe they wouldn't last so long. I need to accept that they will happen, and are especially like to happen after a few good and high-energy days, because that's how I work even if I hate that that's how I work. I need to stop feeling so fucking guilty about it—like I'm betraying my promises and everyone's expectations of Portland! city of magic and light! It's a wonderful city but it is no miracle cure. I need to be honest, here: this shit happens; this is who I am.

For now: cake and cooking shows, maybe.

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July 2017

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