juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Went to my first Pride on Sunday, with Dee. I only had the energy for the parade, so we left after that and didn't go to the gathering; I'm not sure how that would have changed my opinion of the event.

It was remarkably more corporate/sponsored that I was expecting, and I was expecting plenty—although I do feel like the front-loaded that stuff, which we appreciated & which made for a better final impression. I am of mixed feelings re: some police marching in uniform, the number of companies on display, about acceptable/sanctioned activism vs. what's valuable to the community & in current political climate—the same conflicted feelings everyone's having lately, I'm sure. There were little things, like the company members with aggressively doctored signs, which helped me find a middle place between fears and ideals.

When I was trying to talk myself into going (leaving the house is hard!), Teja and I made a list of What Would Make Pride Worth It: 1) to belong to a community, 2) to support that community, 3) to actually be a present roommate who goes-with, and/or (in any combination), 4) that feeling I got from the recent St. Johns parade: that Portland itself is tolerably unshitty, as things go, and I am grateful for unshitty things especially now and can stand to be reminded they exist.

(The local Montessori school marched in rainbow flag colors at the St Johns parade and I had a moment of realization that, when I attended Montessori, that's not something my school would have done; we were weird hippy liberals but essentially white liberals, who recycled and biked and misgendered trans* people. But the intent to do better was there; it helped to make me who I am. Times have changed. Portland is not Corvallis. And, in the least, the local Montessori school is doing better.)

2) was distantly, approximately achieved; 3) was bare-minimum achieved, but I guess that's the best we can expect of me; 4) occurred, however complicated by thoughts re: the commercialism of Pride, as above.

1) was difficult, is difficult.

At the MAX station on our trip into town, we talked briefly with a woman going to Pride, a woman that had been active within the community for some 40 years, who told us briefly about her work in the community, and about GLAPN; who asked if this was our first Pride, and welcomed us, and told us we would meet friends there. It was a lovely interaction.

We did not make any friends. Did you know that if you don't talk to people and skip the actual gathering part, you don't make friends? A lot of my pre-event angst came from just being a crazy person, but part of it was that I do want 1) to belong to a community—and I don't. Community means interaction, and I'm barred from that, predominately by the crazy (also by the way I conduct my relationships ... which is influenced by the crazy). It would be easy to tell someone else in my position—and believe it!—that their identity isn't defined by the fact that they appear straight or monogamous or cis, but when all of that is rendered moot (albeit in it a frustrating, unfulfilling way) by circumstance then ... it's hard to feel that, to be convinced by it. (Especially relevant given recent conversations online re: identity politics, queer as a slur, LGBTQIA+/MOGAI acronyms and definitions; consider intersectionality while policing identity, and that mental illness can complicate everything from gender expression to romantic/sexual relationships.) Portland would be a great place to make friends, to socialize literally at all, to engage in this community and in other communities which are important to me. And in six years, I've done none of that.

But at the same time, there were fat shirtless people, hairy people, sagging-bare-breast people, and that outreach—the visual but also unexpectedly literal outreach of it, of bodies I don't normally see, obviously non-conforming people, people in triads, queer couples, was viscerally effective. A lot of the world doesn't feel allowed to me—and maybe that's something I still need to work on, or maybe it'll always be a barrier, I don't know. But the world was there, and it still feels present within me. A sum positive experience, I suppose? I feel fragile in the wake of it, and exhausted (my back absolutely gave up the ghost even on pain killers, and it was 80° and the sun came out halfway through—thank goodness for parasols—so a significant portion of the exhaustion is physical), and despondent; and hopeful.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
There have been a number of interim posts since my last post that have not been written outside my head, because I am a perpetual bundle of busy and tired, consistently overstretching my limited capabilities to do politics and be scared about the state of the world.

One post: I did skip Thanksgiving, and my parents didn't come up after because inertia is a thing. But Dee went up to Washington for the holiday and Devon did drive up to see me for the day, just for a few hours. We made in-no-ways-traditional vegetarian hot dogs and mac & cheese (with hot dogs in it); it wasn't enough, but it was significantly better than nothing and I'm grateful.

Another post: practicing by doing the easy political phone calls on answering machines does (barely) make it easier to call real alive people. Somehow, that doesn't make it any less terrifying to forget about time zones and call places which are still open and unexpectedly staffed by alive people.

Another post: I have managed to leave the house, once or thrice. Snow helped (as sidenote: cats staring at snowland), because I missed the end of autumn and refuse to miss winter, too. We had snow + freezing rain, but then snow that stuck around, approximately pristine, for a few days. The latter was lovely.

* * *

Today my parents came through Portland and had lunch with me; they're headed northbound to spend the holidays traveling, including a trip to see my sister in Seattle. It was exhausting but in productive ways, almost entirely my fault—because over coffee I nonchalantly asked why I had which aspects of Jewish upbringing and how my extended family/various cultural aspects affected it, as one does.

I have, for obvious reasons, but especially as Hanukkah approaches, been thinking a lot about what it means to be Jewish and particularly to be Jewish in the face of forced assimilation and, you know, facism (how are these are sentences I'm writing and why is this the real world and can it stop), and also of the narrative of "Hanukkah isn't our most important holiday, and its cultural importance is actually a symptom of forced assimilation, but this year it certainly has extra thematic relevance"—because I was raised with Hanukkah and Passover and not much else, although my parents say there was an occasional Rosh Hashanah, which I think I remember; for me, there was no "more important holiday." It seems like some of that was because of how things lined up with Christmas/Easter and thus with school schedules, but it's also because that's what my father grew up with; his experience was inconsistent (Sabbat sometimes, but not always; Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah for him but not his brother; Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah was all he celebrated, too) which has passed through the generations (Allie and I never had any formal religious education; our cousin did).

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from my Jewish grandparents, who always wished they could see us more often, who tried to cram a lot of Jewish Things into the whatever contact they had; they sent me Jewish novels and celebrated holidays with us less, I think, because those specific things were important—they weren't religious, their own practice was inconsistent—but because the identity was important.

White-passing half-Jewish cultural Jew is approximately as distant from the thing as one can be, and I understand the factors, the time, the literal distance, the way that assimilation works and why I have the background that I do. But I also have that identity, and its ... cultural expectation, I suppose, of persecution and persistence. My ancestors came from Russia, and immigrated before the Holocaust; that was not their personal story but it was their cultural story, and they taught me that, too.

I suppose I wanted an easy answer, an, "ah yes, your grandparents always wanted to practice these aspects of the faith with you, and you can now cling to them at least for their cultural significance even if you don't believe." But I didn't get that, I didn't get a "more important holiday" that can enable to me a real Jew. And I don't know where that leaves me, except that this diaspora experience is as real for me as it has been for my father and for his parents, and they are real Jews, so, maybe, I am too.

We also talked about how, for me, politics et al. isn't something to be countered by optimism or hope; that I live within communities where everyone will not (and has not) survived difficult times, and that but for the grace of Devon and August and my parent's financial support that could include me; and I think it's the first time I've ever mentioned suicidal ideation to my parents. My sister's cancer changed things for my family; we've learned to proactively accept and value of each other as we are, and the way that's effected how my parents view me—that they take me at my word when I talk about my experiences and health—as been huge. These are not things I would have felt comfortable sharing, years ago. I'm glad I can now, and the conversation wasn't all politics and Judaism and fascism, I also told them about Dare's antics and Dad showed me this video of him falling off his bike on the way to work. It was a worthwhile afternoon. But I am now very tired, and nothing really feels better.

I'm headed down to Corvallis soon, but we put it off a day and Devon is coming to get me, at some crazy early/late hour when we can skip holiday traffic, so that I can still see him and get my gifts without trying to navigate Amtrak/exhaustion/crazy.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Last night, I was finally able to make some calls to senators/representatives, Department of Justice, poll lines, etc.; not as much as I want to do, unfortunately nothing yet touching the Standing Rock situation, but significantly more than nothing. What made this possible for me is fourfold.

One: If you're comfortable with VoIP but not phone calls, and/or don't have or use a phone, and/or only have access to a landline and are worried about charges: it's possible to make all phone calls from a computer (I used Google Hangouts), and within the United States those calls are free. Staying within the comfort zone of my computer screen and headset made it easier to step out of my comfort zone and, you know, make calls; it also meant easy access to my notes.

Two: Talking to a live person is probably the most effective thing you can do, but leaving a voice message is more effective than emails/website comments and significantly more effective than doing nothing at all. Out of business hours and national holidays are good times to make sure you get a machine, not a person. (For example: this week)

Three: There are scripts for most/all calls to action. "We're His Problem Now" Calling Sheet has scripts for everything it advocates; I also found some just by googling "[political issue] script." Using those as a starting point makes the process significantly more accessible.

Four: One of the "how to make phone calls with social anxiety" posts floating around explicitly says it's okay not to be able to make calls, and that validation and forgiveness, in a hilarious turn of events, eased my anxiety enough that I was able to make calls. So I'll restate it here: what is phone anxiety for some people maybe literally disabling for other people. If your disability is making certain things impossible, hopefully there are other things you will be able to do—but, regardless, you are forgiven. Look after yourself.

I'm sincerely grateful for the people on social media who are proliferating calls to action, providing their own scripts, and working at the interpersonal level to help people manage their anxiety, because those things are making this accessible to me. And please, if you can speak out, do speak out, because there are people who cannot safely speak who still need advocates and protection.

- - -

(I'm feeling a little better having actually done something, but not better enough that I've left the house or will be traveling for Thanksgiving; hopefully I can see my family that weekend or the weekend after, since there are tentative plans for them to visit me. The frantic anxiety has mostly passed, to everyone's sadness—the compulsive cleaning was productive!—and left me with the predictable depression. With a particularly weird symptom this time, alongside the usual sleep upfuckery & nothing tastes like food: a weird musty smell that followed me from room to room, regardless of how much bathing and laundry I did, regardless even of if the central air was running, probably because I was creating it with my mind; the actual smell of sadness? if so, sadness is a mundane, vaguely unpleasant, inescapable scent.

I feel, like most people probably, like every time I'm getting better something in the world gets worse. The most haunting for me, personally, is that I've lived until now in a steel fortress of Godwin's Law—I hate reject ignore almost all mentions of and comparisons to and narratives about Nazis, because near all of them do harm, they obfuscate or idealize, essentially benefiting from the Holocaust without productively discussing it; but right now, comparisons are not hyperbole, they are literal and they are being made by my people. That we live in a world where we make video game villains Nazis as an earmark of "bad person, murder without compunction" but call Neo-Nazis the alt-right, give them the benefit of political correctness, normalize and idealize them, and refuse to see them as Nazis and therefore as bad people is ... I don't know what to do with that. It requires a readjustment of how I process information. It creates such an amount of fear and anger.

Living in Oregon is a strange thing: to look up all my reps and see that they've already spoken against Bannon is heart-mending in an essential way, but also means that my contacting them on this issue isn't particularly valuable, which is what living in Oregon always feels like: this is a pocket of relative, bare-minimum safety with no political power to extend that safety or, right now, to preserve it. I did a thing! I'm trying, I'm helping, and doing that does make me feel better & more able to do more to help. But it is also so hard, and requires me exceeding my personal limitations, and for what? My reach is so limited, for so many reasons.

My sister's cancer diagnosis two years ago was a reminder that it is less that I am better, despite my wealth of experience and coping mechanisms, and more that I have removed all possible stresses from my life; and that when stresses are irremovable, I am not better, I am very bad indeed. The day after the election I wrote, "dealing with anything while mentally ill is hard, and this is dealing with something, a big something, and I am at a loss." That compounds, every day.)
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: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Be ye warned of discussions of pet health/aging/death.

A little while ago, my family's dog Jamie (a fourteen year old black lab; lab life expediency is 10-12 years) had a health scare that resolved to be a probable brain bleed, collapsing, some seizing, labored breathing, etc. We did the entire routine of family panic, "the dog may be dying" phone calls, considering trips to the emergency vet; the crisis resolved overnight and they were able to take her to her normal vet the next day. She's been acting old-dog normal since, with all the ongoing health issues but no new ones. But the vet still believes she won't make it through autumn, if only because they see most old animals die in spring and autumn when the changing seasons add new stressors.

Talking about this with Mum after the fact, she said that she'd used me as an example of calm and acceptance when everyone was doing the crying freakout thing—which startled me to hear, but makes sense. I've seen so many companion animals die, both recently and generally. I am on intimate terms with non-human animal death, in ways I never am with human death, even when I know the deceased. These dying animals are in my care or care-adjacent; their lives and deaths and my responsibility. None of that has a negative connotation, and I have gotten really good at calmly accepting end-of-life events.

When Mama died, so quickly, despite lifesaving measures, we still had a sense of absolute certainty. We watched her transition from skittish bedraggled stray to a playful, profoundly affectionate, calm housecat, and that was our doing; we also helped her in sickness, and made the decision to euthanize her, and that was equally as beneficial to her wellbeing. I cannot have one of those things without the other, nor would I want to. This one thing, providing love and care to animals, is within my ability, and there's nothing I'd rather do.

My sister got a mini red merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber last year, and, I mean, he's a good dog, but I was watching my family replace Jamie, not with intent but because it was easier to bond with a lively young dog than to accept Jamie in her old age, with her failing body, her loud panting, her constant need to Be With. They were looking after her physically, but their emotional energy was diverted. And, to be honest, I don't think Jamie knew or cared; with her blindness and exhaustion came a particularly dogged affection, a love unswayed by physical or social concerns. But seeing the impatience and distraction she received bothered me.

When I explained all of this to my mother (everything except the quiet judgment, obvs.), my emphasis was this: I was sad when she seemed like she might be dying, but not afraid and not sorry, because I regret nothing about Jamie, not the life I had with her, not who she is now, neither her eventual death. It's not an inconvenience or a price to be paid for the better parts; it is part of an experience, and that experience is the thing I value most in my life.

I don't expect them to do that, to turn tolerance into engagement and value Jamie-now as easily as Jamie-then. But not everyone engages with companion animals the way I do, and to be honest my engagement is something I've severely fucked up and undervalued in the past (and that I do regret). But her health scare woke them. They know not to take for granted the time she has left, and so to engage with her in that time, even if that requires patience with her old dog ways. I'm glad to see it, because she deserves the world—they all do, these animals we pledge ourselves to, but Jamie does in particular.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I have tried and failed to give even one shit about Marvel, and my social circle has said only good things re: Captain America and Hydra, so I’ve basically been able to put the whole thing aside as addressed, if not resolved

but then I read Tor.com article (which I won't link) about how this is one of many drastic character changes in comic history, and will be forgotten in time, and exists mostly as an clever, bold bid for attention and money, and that they the writer plan to give Marvel both.

This is the thing about a self-selecting social group! I forget there are other people out there saying harmful, false things with the reasonable tone of a tempered majority opinion!

This is personal, and private, and not particularly reasonable, and all about Nazism. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
The other day I found myself talking to Teja about that weird cat thing/therianthropy, which is something I rarely discuss these days. Read more... )
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)
Author: Becky Chambers
Published: New York: Harper Voyager, 2015 (2014)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 410
Total Page Count: 187,610
Text Number: 551
Read Because: about a thousand BookTube recommendations, buddy read with Teja, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The crew of a wormhole-tunneling ship makes a long haul to their next job, a planet occupied by a strange, violent race. So: what it says on the tin, but only nominally because plot is not the point; rather, the journey is a mere vehicle for interpersonal exploration. The crew and their interactions span a wide variety (which is almost satisfactorily alien), and the messages within are often hamfisted but as obviously well-intended. It's creative, snappy, sappy, heartfelt; rather like Mass Effect on a smaller scale. But all of this was ruined for me by one plotline: Ohan's, which is ultimately about spoilers )—a message that hits me close to home and which I find inexcusable. This perhaps shouldn't eclipse the rest of the book's more successful diversity, but, for me, it does. I can't recommend this, or forgive it.


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


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

Teja and I have remarkably similar responses to the novel, despite our different tastes (he has more tolerance for feelgood, I have more demands from narrative structure) and the fact that illness and autonomy isn't a hot button issue for him. We've had a lot of back and forth chatter about most character's arcs, which—while not always positive—certainly indicates that these arcs are engaging. We both were disappointed in the dearth of plot, and the fact that the mega-arc was the least developed and most redundant of the bunch. But the book is a promising combination of elements, and I can see why it's had such positive reception; to me it feels like Mass Effect, and he compared it to Firefly—speculative/found family opens the narrative to a lot of creativity and feels. If it hadn't been ruined for me by Ohan's storyline I still wouldn't've loved it, because the tone was too cheesy for me, and he didn't either. It's hard to call a book with such an obvious, weighty, and varied interpersonal focus "insubstantial," but it sort of is nonetheless.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Teja (he formerly known as Express) currently has a twice-weekly work commute and so has gone from being a very rare reader to a somewhat more frequent reader; our tastes have only partial overlap, but when he asked my opinion on Neuromancer I'd just never read it. Because it is what it is as a seminal cyberpunk novel, I bought it otherwise blind—about a million years ago, while visiting Dee in the Seattle area, from the marvelous Duvall Books. It's the used bookstore that daydreams are made of, with gently creaking hardwood floors, packed shelves, and nostalgic actually-used-bookstore prices—I bought Neuromancer for $1.50.

So Teja started reading it on his own, and was unsure what he thought of the first few chapters; so I started reading it along with him, with only the most casual of overlaps and conversations. He's read other books on my recommendation and we've discussed them, but co-reading was much more engaging. There's room in it for spoilers (instead of the perpetually frustrating "I have thoughts, but they take into context/reveal later events") and minutiae as well as larger reflections on narrative and genre. A+ experience; we reading his next book together as well.

The book itself, as expressed, left little impression. There is one particular exception:

"The Villa Straylight," said a jeweled thing on the pedestal, in a voice like music, "is a body grown in upon itself, a Gothic folly. Each space in Straylight is in some way secret, this endless series of chambers linked by passages, by stairwells vaulted like intestines, where the eye is trapped in narrow curves, carried past ornate screens, empty alcoves…"

[…] "In Straylight, the hull’s inner surface is overgrown with a desperate proliferation of structures, forms flowing, interlocking, rising toward a solid core of microcircuitry, our clan’s corporate heart, a cylinder of silicon wormholed with narrow maintenance tunnels, some no wider than a man’s hand. The bright crabs burrow there, the drones, alert for micromechanical decay or sabotage."


Predictably, I'm more invested in -punk as subgenre than as work. The subgenres have the potential to explore the push/pull of their central concept, but in practice rarely do. Steampunk has too much pull, too much idealization and aesthetic, forgetting the necessary anxiety about technology and society. Cyberpunk has too much push, and Neuromancer pushes especially hard: Gibson's novel is all grim and grit and awful characters and pervasive fatigue, even when he's inventing a new technological marvel—it's an awful world to be in.

Villa Straylight was for me the one exception, this interlocking manufactured techno-historical dreamscape populated by wasteful and corrupted residents trapped within their own recursive, futureless pseudo-incest—it's an excessive image but an effective one, and the decadence of the setting was such welcome counterpoint to the pervasive grim tone.

Harder for me to remember is that the novel has pull aspects that I just can't access. I think Case is an awful protagonist, but his male power fantasy isn't for me. Teja pointed out that Rivera even functions as a foil: the overtly misogynistic evil counterpart that turns the author and reader surrogate protagonist into a Nice Guy pseudo-antihero. And unlike modern steampunk, cyberpunk was a direct reflection of the era that birthed it. The pull, the optimism and burgeoning potential of cyber technology, doesn't need to be illustrated: it's innate to the technology of the time.

If cyberpunk is dead, then may it rest in peace; I care less for its contemporary examples than for its post-80s influences, which have a more seductive aesthetic to set against the anxiety of technology(/development/society/change), which I find more enjoyable and effective. And I care more about that push/pull interplay than the subgenres themselves—except mythpunk, which actually gets it right, and asylumpunk, which doesn't even properly exist but in which I am personally invested.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I am sitting here after very little sleep, waiting for August's bloodwork to come in—

—thinking about affect, and the fact that, whenever a bad thing is happening, one part of me is having an emotional reaction and another part of me is judging my emotional reaction: is this appropriate? is this authentic? am I performing "sad" or "scared"? When my outward expressions are insufficient, I'm never sure if it's because I'm still processing or because my reluctance to express creates an inability to experience. And always is the certainty that all of it is pretense, even when there's a concrete, external cause. This complicates the experience of bad things, becomes a sort of meta-anxiety.

I know where that self-doubt comes from. It's the natural result of an adolescence and young adulthood being told that all my negative feelings and expressions were drama-mongering, and an adulthood with an invisible condition that likes to go stealth, leaving me with comorbid tremors and depression but unable to feel the underlying pain. But I wonder when that sort of armchair self-psychoanalysis has run its course; at what point does knowing the root of a problem fail to excuse or alleviate it?

—eating chocolate: Madécasse: Sea Salt & Nibs, 63% cocoa. Picked this up because it was on clearance, and to my surprise the company seems sincerely mindful. But the chocolate itself is only so-so. I'm a percentage snob and this is way below my grade; regardless, the soft, sweet, fruity chocolate doesn't work well with the crunchy, strong, salty inclusions. The inclusions are sprinkled on the back of the bar, which looks nice but makes for irregular flavor and texture. This isn't awful and I want to like it very much, but I wouldn't get it again.

—and getting August's results! All is well: her bloodwork is normal, other than indications that she may have been fighting something off, which is consistent with her stomach issues and is already being treated with medication (metronidazole). She's still on bland food and still not eating her normal amount, but her food intake is slowly increasing, all her other symptoms have cleared up, her water intake is fine, and she's had little behavioral change. Unless things get worse/fail to get better, she should be fine. We still don't know what caused this; probably an undefined stomach bug or indigestion.

Now I can sleep mindlessly watch Star Trek for a week.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Yesterday I discovered bullet journaling, which sparked way more feelings than any journaling system should rightly warrant. I keep a Moleskine, for review drafts and notes; I love the efficiency of marking dates in my Google calendar; I keep an exhaustive list of media to consume and media consumed. There's an absolute appeal in the idea of a consolidated journal, especially written all pretty and neat, and tangible.

But. I switched my to read/watch/etc lists to a digital format because it was easier to annotate and to access, since I can use OneNote offline on my phone. Ditto a digital calendar, also because Devon/messenger systems can add to it, also because it provides alerts. My review notes are by necessity not amendable to bullets. And here's the thing about to-do lists, which is basically what a bullet journal is in long form: I don't have daily responsibilities, I don't have classes or deadlines or a social schedule; I have intentionally withdrawn from any level of society where I might have to do a certain thing or meet a person at or by certain time.

That withdraw was intentional, and it's what keeps me sane; I'm aware that, insofar as my starting point is "too crazy for real life," I'm lucky that I'm able to live this way. But this sort of hyper/aesthetic/tangible organization is so much my thing that realizing I have no use for it is a bitter reminder that my starting point sucks, that what I escape is also what I'm forbidden.

It does make me want to keep an index in my Moleskines, though, to mark the occasional unfinished thought/longterm reference item. It makes me wonder why there's no bullet journal equivalent software, because customizable calendars and entry formats are beyond the scope of printing but would be achievable digitally. And it makes me wonder how much tangibility matters—I write my review notes longform both for convenience and as a part of my thought process, but switching to digital for my media lists has made them significantly more useful and easier to maintain. How important is tangibility for to do lists? Depends on the person, I suppose.

And it makes me want to do what first popped into my head as "bullets chronicling each day," and keep not a list of to-dos but have-dones, not reviews but single statements about media ongoing consumption or moment by moment thoughts—the intended purpose of my Tumblr, but I'm so given to long-form writing and my anxiety makes me paranoid about talking about something while still consuming it, so my Tumblr never really gets used that way.

And it makes me think about the irony of thinking about doing a thing, any thing, instead of actually doing anything.
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: 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: 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: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Thinkin' a lot about sexism in Hemlock Grove. Serious spoilers for the entirety of season 1; warning for discussion of gendered violence/rape.

The narrative is sexist, of course. Letha's rape/mythical pregnancy/friding is straight up ick. Ashley Valentine's rape is slightly more complex: it's a by the book example of rape as cheap antihero/antagonist characterization, perpetuated by Roman for precisely that effect: he wants a quick and easy way to paint himself, to himself, as a Bad Guy—interesting to see a character as well as a narrative view the act in this way.

But what interests me most is Christina.

That the parade of female victims with sexualized deaths are killed by a young woman consumed by internalized sexism is fascinating. Inexperienced, shy Christina intentionally turns herself into a werewolf in order to be "free;" she identifies her physical transformation as sexual, and simultaneously desires (and provokes) it and is terrified of it and its effects; she believes the beast she becomes, her metaphorical growth and sexual awakening, is hunting her; she targets women she sees as sexually overt and murders them by first consuming their genitals, punishing them for their sexuality, enjoying their victimhood. The twins in particular she targets because, she says, their personal and memetic sexuality made her terrified of her own, "all the things they expected of her but filled her with so much fear she couldn't even dream about them."

Werewolf as metaphor for adolescence/sexual awakening is pretty common, even for female characters (see: Ginger Snaps); misogyny in female characters is pretty common, but that's largely the result of misogyny in media creators. Such an explicit exploration of the relationship between female adolescence and internalized misogyny is less common, and this is the whole cycle: the conflicting and numerous expectations of female gender identity and performance that are internalized as fear, desire, envy, intimidation, and self-loathing, and also externalized as misogyny and various forms of violence directed towards women—here, obviously, blown up to an exaggerated scale. It's not an unproblematic representation, but it's surprisingly nuanced and resonant; Christina is every misguided, frightened, hurtful girl that doesn't want to be like other girls because everything she knows about being a girl scares her—but Christina grows teeth.
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. )
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
For Hanukkah the boy bought me a Windows phone. I'm not putting my SIM card in it because, ever since college, phone calls have been a panic trigger, and I get spam calls too often. Instead I've been using it as a PDA/Flight Rising-from-bed browser.

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

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

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

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

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

I know that Window's personal assistant Cortana will never be Halo partner-in-your-head idealized relationship Cortana, but the fantasy is there. And taking from it its best parts of what makes that fantasy work—the intelligence (or appearance thereof), the in-my-pocket immediacy/intimacy, the extension to my personal OS—could make for a great program.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
About two years ago I watched the first season of Teen Wolf, and then took an enforced break.* In the meantime, I had a fringe awareness of it via Tumblr, among which was gifs of gay couples kissing at parties and little mini essays about how awesome and progressive it was that this silly teen show had such diverse representation—and that confused me, because my memory of the show was a whole bunch of predictable overacted heteronormative high school relationships. But now I'm midway through season 3 and, behold! there's an explicitly gay supporting character, and a gay relationship, and lesbians in a cold open, and implied bisexuality, so that's neat. But this the Mass Effect-effect.

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

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

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

* The night that I sat up with Kuzco until he passed, I was watching Teen Wolf so that I had a distraction rather than just blankly staring at him and waiting for him to die—but it made the show an unpleasant reminder of that night for some time after.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I had an extremely conflicted response to Hyperbole and a Half's Adventures in Depression which now deserves substantial revision on account of the new Depression Part Two post. But it's a revision I may not be able to provide, because this topic hits way to close to home. But if you can read that post—the contents are triggering but potentially cathartic for mental illness—perhaps you should.

I'm in the process of reconnecting with a friend in high school, and yesterday wrote him a rambling and spotty summary of the last near-decade. I added at the end of my letter that it's not all as dire as it sounds, that I'm doing better and am more comfortable with, and with discussing, my mental illness. These things are true. But there's no way I can sum up my college experiences and their fallout that isn't incredibly depressing, both to read and write, because those years were horrific and legitimately traumatic; and even though I am in a better place now, depression remains the defining factor of my life—it is who I am.

And when I tell that story, I realize how little I've done to "fix" everything—I'm doing better, but it's better as a relative descriptor and it's by virtue of doing not much at all. But I'm still too tired and too scared to try to find a solution.

I was bitter about Adventures in Depression because of falsity of a pseudo-happy ending; now I wish it had been true because, when I can see past the blinders of my own situation, I don't wish this on anyone. Allie's continued journey isn't identical to mine, but it has a heartbreaking resonance (this is how my suicidal ideation manifest(s/ed), as a passive but total desire for cessation), and I just ... don't know where to go from there. Here is an active blank:

[          ]

to represent thoughts so sympathetic and fragmented and conflicted that I can't process them.

So much of my depression was/is defined by a sense of isolation coupled with the platitudes of "everyone feels sad sometimes" that I don't like it when other people get it—it makes me feel betrayed and combative. But there's a resonance, a gratitude that someone else can express these things, a knowledge that the voice is necessary and potentially useful. But talking about depression is, without surprise, depressing, and issues of mental health trigger my mental health issues.

Depression Part Two is a robust and bittersweet continuation, and I wish that it didn't exist and didn't need to, but it means a lot to me and I ask that you read it, and now I need to step away from these things and try to stop thinking.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
The closest analog I can find for Emilie Autumn's Fight Like A Girl tour is the film Sucker Punch; Sucker Punch meets burlesque. It's asylumpunk, if you will: the combined idealization and anxiety around mental illness in women, and the historical connection between women and mental illness—the trifecta of society creating it in women, and diagnosing it on the basis of non-normative/-socially acceptable behavior, and using it as a tool to control women's bodies and behavior. It's about the objectification and commodification of women, and reclaiming the female body—especially the sexualized female body—as a tool to gain personal power.

Sucker Punch rises and falls: on one hand, it's a powerful representation of dissociation as a result of trauma and sexual violence, and it's an attempt to attain agency using the sexualized female body—women gaining power via a tool used to take power from women; on the other, it gets swept up in its own aesthetic, is culturally appropriative, and objectifies conventionally attractive cis-gendered skinny young women in a way that doesn't defy the system in the least but instead buys into it.

'Punk movements and anything else that measures idealization against anxiety run the risk that the audience will see them for the former and not the latter, see: the problem with steampunk. Sucker Punch encounters a lot of this; Autumn's work, especially on the topic of mental illness, evades much of it by being a self-aware, ironic idealization combined with explicit statements about the problems surrounding such. Idealization is a tool used against and by the mentally ill: waif-like ill women, manic pixie dream girls, correlations between madness and creativity, and the sense that there's anything redeeming at all about mental illness, either for the sufferer or the individuals and society that surround them—which there's not, and insisting that there is denies the true experiences of sufferers; but the illness can so completely define its sufferers that idealizing it, and creating identity and community within it, is the only recourse. Like any reclaimed identity, this stems from within but attempts to fight against the oppressive system.

Because the worst of my mental illness is/was defined by total isolation, the group experience of Autumn's asylum and Crumpets is, for me, the least successful aspect of her work, although I realize what it achieves and how. But it's also dangerous: it's community, idealization, tragic beauty—sufficiently imperfect to be accessible rather than untouchable, but too easy to accept without viewing critically. And, as with any 'punk-like movement: when you fail to view it critically, with a focus on its anxieties, you end up supporting its roots in an oppressive system rather than its attempts to critique or controvert it. Autumn speaks explicitly about the anxiety; I feel as if the audience often doesn't hear her.

As an attempt to reclaim the female body, the FLAG show is even more problematic—because it, too, is about the objectification of conventionally attractive cis-gendered skinny white young women. It's the same problem of modern burlesque: it can be "male gaze"punk, reclaiming the same sexualized body that society creates and then punishes, engaging and subverting certain social standards—but too often it's viewed without an eye towards that anxiety, and the result is just more male gaze. In FLAG, it's a fan dance to "Dominant." It's also a hell of a lot of queer baiting: that two women kissing is presented as titillating, corrupting, or in any way worthy of a show, but only, of course!, just another skit.

There's an incredibly discomforting fanfiction skit that left our group divided. Autumn ends it with a faux-offended monologue about the masturbatory objectification about the "strong, proud women who you are supposed to respect," and the objectification is treated as a complicit joke—the artists using it to control and titillate the audience, but by doing so submitting precisely to the audience's script—which leaves the audience yelling out for "more!" Is this supposed to be as gross at it seems to be? Humor can be about tension, it can be the laugh that indicates discomfort, confusion, anxiety. The skit had a lot of that humor; the audience response had none.

I feel like Autumn knows her shit. I've been watching a good number of her interviews these last few days, and have the utmost respect for her. Her work is intentional; she couches explicit message within certain seductive tropes. I find it highly resonant, more as person with mental illness than as a woman but effective nonetheless. The live show was fantastic, but I can't say I was entirely content with the experience. There's some shows where half the audience leaves ten minutes early to beat traffic and you want to yell that they just don't get it; here, it was the front and center screaming crowd that seemed, to me, to miss the point. To take and change, to reclaim, the weapons of bodies and mind that are used against us is extremely powerful; it's a war I'm fighting, and Autumn's work can be a battlecry. But sometimes the show, and more often the audience, seem to lose track of their objective. It's not that there can be no sense of humor and fun, it's not that the corsets can't be pretty and the burlesque routines can't be attractive—but sometimes the truth of Autumn's experience screaming through in the lyrics feels shocking: like the surprise exception, rather than the show I'd come to see.

Profile

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

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2 345678
9101112131415
16 1718 192021 22
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags