kaigou: so when do we destroy the world already? (3 destroy the world)
Two stories now that I really would've liked to like, but the more I read of each, the harder a time I had with them. Here's the relevant parts from each teaser. From The Lascar's Dagger:
Saker appears to be a simple priest, but in truth he's a spy for the head of his faith. Wounded in the line of duty by a Lascar sailor's blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility it brings, Saker can only follow its lead.

And from The Alchemist of Souls:
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods--and a skrayling ambassador--to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?

The problem is that in both cases, these seemingly magical beings are real people.

I've run across lascars a few times in my own research, but they're not a well-known culture in the west. Wikipedia has a halfway decent entry on them, which summarizes things well enough:
A lascar (Lashkar, Laskar) ... was a sailor or militiaman from the Indian Subcontinent or other countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, employed on European ships from the 16th century until the beginning of the 20th century. The word comes from the Persian Lashkar, meaning military camp or army, and al-askar, the Arabic word for a guard or soldier. The Portuguese adapted this term to lascarim, meaning an Asian militiaman or seaman, especially those from the Indian Subcontinent. Lascars served on British ships under 'lascar' agreements. ... The name lascar was also used to refer to Indian servants, typically engaged by British military officers.

Despite much digging on my part, there isn't a lot of Western/English study on the lascars. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (2 candy mountain)
Sidenote: I think I got a stress fracture in my foot last monday. Foot's definitely reacting like it. I've been getting these off/on (in either foot) since 4th grade, so I'm pretty blase about it. It was a little more complicated by the fact that on Tues/Wed, my team at work had a major offsite team-building/innovation thing that I absolutely could not miss -- followed by four days in Philly for the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) conference that I absolutely refused to miss. I tried to minimize the walking on Tues/Wed, with minimal success, but there was no minimizing any walking between airports, hotel, going from panel to panel, and then going out to find things to eat. Only got to go to Chinatown once. If I hadn't been limping so much by that point, probably would've spent a lot more time in Philly's more-than-a-block Chinatown.

On the plus side, coming back, I somehow lucked out and got on TSA's pre-boarding. No more shoe removal! Which was both good and bad. Bad, because I really really wanted to take the boots off (I wore hiking boots in the possibly-false hope that some compression would help) and good -- because if I had taken the boots off, there was a good chance I'd simply not put them back on. My hiking boots have the least flex in the sole, which in this case is a good thing.

But enough about me. Some random observations about AAS. )
kaigou: Happy typing on mac. (1 Hyperbole and a half)
Times like this, I'm reminded of one of the earliest non-fiction books my parents gave me. The Weaker Vessel was authored by Antonia Fraser, better known (at the time, at least, from what I gathered) as a romance writer. One with intense research skills, though, who in the course of doing some historical digging on a new novel, ended up with enough data to write a serious doorstop tome about women's roles before, during, and after the English Civil War.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a similar track, myself. Except my instinct is: I should take all this info and put it into a searchable database.

Saving notes here, collected from various academic articles/essays. This will probably interest exactly zero people, other than me. )
kaigou: this is the captain. we may experience turbulence and then explode. (3 experience turbulence)
In the past year, I've watched a lot less anime and a lot more live action. Except not English-speaking: Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, India, Mongolia, and a few shows from the Middle East, where there's subtitles. Not saying I watched the movies/tv all the way through, just that I've at least done my best to give everything a half-hour before moving on.

Then I got netflix. After I'd watched the few big-name movies I'd been curious about, I went through a slew of documentaries and was mostly unimpressed at the level of non-information. I mean, when National Geographic is giving Wikipedia a run for the money on lack o' detail and glossing, that's pretty sad. I was even less impressed with netflix's inability to warn me when a movie was dubbed or subtitled; there are only three or four Asian movies on netflix that I don't have or haven't already seen. But a few I hadn't saved, wouldn't mind rewatching, but the unhappy discovery that netflix has the dubbed version, oh, that's like nails on a blackboard. At least warn me, people.

Finally a few weekends ago, out of sheer boredom and having exhausted most everything else of any interest at the site, I dug into television shows. Some of my dwircle has talked about Once Upon a Time, and barring re-watching Xena, I figured, what the hell.

My god, that show is so white.

Myth vs fairy tale, or, someone else's myth is NOT your fairy tale. See also, Mulan. )

Related: I stumbled over a post about how Why Sleepy Hollow is both the Silliest and Most Important Show on TV Right Now. Maybe it's time to see if that's on netflix, instead, because I sure as hell can't stomach any more of OUaT, as much as I like the original premise.

That said, I definitely recommend the linked article, especially when it gets into the moralistic representations of PoC onscreen. (I think there could be an argument for the same in fiction.) But worth additional contemplation, now that I have more time on my hands, having tossed to the side yet another promising but ultimately one-note, one-color story.
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
Last week Aliette de Bodard posted A Few Thoughts on Other Cultures and Diversity in SFF over at tor.com. It's been open on my rss reader since, as I've re-read and contemplated. Among her many good pieces of advice, she had this bit to say:

I have lost count of how many narratives on China featured ... over-formality between members of the same family (because everyone knows that Chinese is a formal language! Guess what. Most communications within the family are brutally simple, because the respect is already implicit in the relationship itself); use of broken English (because all immigrants/foreigners speak bad English!)...

Between trying to learn new work-stuff as fast as I can (with go-live date looming large and only just now behind me, yay), and doing lots more research on economics, monetary systems, the beginnings of international trade, the transition from debt-bondage to outright slavery, and so on... I've been letting the next book(s) simmer. The story's taking mental shape, but I keep coming back to this point from de Bodard.

I've posted before about how English-language authors will represent the speakers of another language. Unlike Ludlum (see link), I have read authors who use broken-English to indicate when a character is speaking an unfamiliar/unlearned language. That doesn't bother me, so long as the character speaks fluently in their own language (albeit translated into English as well, for the sake of the book). The tl;dr of Ludlum is that he didn't do this; his non-white characters speak in broken English even when they're supposedly speaking their native tongue.

Thus, my preliminary hypothesis: do not have 'broken speaking' for any characters speaking their native tongue. Broken speaking should only indicate when someone is speaking an unfamiliar or new language (and, as the character learns, the broken-ness should slowly fade). Okay. Onward with more thinky thoughts about language and othering. )
kaigou: this is what I do, darling (3 love the stars)
Currently writing a scene in which the pivotal/cultural religion of the story's world takes center stage. This is rather odd for me, and I'm wondering if it is for anyone else.

For the most part, I'm an apatheist. For me, I don't disbelieve a god, nor believe; I just don't care. I live my life according to ethics and principles (not morals), and try to do good in this lifetime with no hope nor care for any after-life rewards. If there are, fine; if not, fine. Which really amounts to: I don't like ritual, I don't like organized religion, I don't care much for massive displays of faith/belief, or the trappings of either. I kind of look at all of it... not with a jaundiced eye so much as a disinterested one. Some people require ritual, especially of a social nature. I'm not one of them.

No surprise then that the religion I've devised for my central culture is a relatively ritual-free religion. It has a lot in common with Shinto, in that very few elements are public (no weekly sunday get-together), most of it's not just personal but also private/solitary. But for the story, it's also crucial that this religion have an obligatory aspect, as well. Certain people are considered automatically priests, and it's not always within the person's say. It's somewhat like the old European tradition that the youngest son always entered religious orders -- there wasn't much choice to the role. It was pretty much set from birth, fated.

Which, seeing how I'm rather lukewarm about ritual, it wouldn't be a surprise that obligatory ritual gets my goat even faster. Yet here I am, doing a scene in which a culture explains and justifies its obligatory ritual. And for the story's purposes, it's not right for me to subtly imply via the narrative that this is a wrong thing; to be true to the story, this must be seen as a right [for that religion and its adherents] thing.

It'd be very easy to write a story in which religion (any religion) gets its comeuppance, or gets dissed or shown to be wrong in some way. I've seen that, too, when some religions -- usually ones written as seriously-close analogues to existing/real religions -- are portrayed by authors who don't believe in that religion. It feels like a failure of empathy on the author's part, because they'd rather demonize the non-Christian (or non-Pagan, or non-Western, or non-Eastern) religion than see it from the other side. (For the record, I hate those stories even more, oddly. I don't like any religion demonized, even if that sounds strange given my intro.)

It actually feels harder to write -- believably -- characters who really do cherish, and respect, and feel obligated to fulfill, a set of religious precepts. It's like I can't quite see ever being so deep-down in it that I couldn't understand how one could not be, or believe, such-and-such. Like people I knew in college who tried desperately to convert me (since apparently Episcopalian doesn't really 'count' as A True Believer) -- they were absolutely flabbergasted, even genuinely hurt -- that I couldn't seem to see how So Very Important the issue of "what you believe" really was. To them, yes, but to them, their belief was an all-encompassing thing and thus I, as someone whom they otherwise felt something in common with or whatever, must therefore also have the same something inside me that would call me to belief just as strongly as it called them. If that makes sense. (It did in my head.)

That's really hard for me to write. I can't write strong-faith characters believably. (I could say fanatic, but with the caveat that my personal attitude kind of skews the grading curve; I'm so far below "casual religion" that someone who does church once a week and sometimes on Wednesday night get-togethers is practically a fanatic in comparison.) I have an even harder time writing someone trying to justify their fanaticism, which on a good day might just be Very Strong Belief.

Anyone else deal with this in stories, or read a work where you get the idea the author's dealing with it? Or the opposite -- an author with Strong Beliefs struggling to write non-believer characters? Any tips, ideas, something to help me make sure I'm not dissing characters who in all other ways deserve to be non-demonized and treated respectfully?
kaigou: Roy Mustang, pondering mid-read. (1 pondering)
This evening I ended up reading a long essay (originally a speech) which is currently the center of a shitstorm in Britain, wherein a renowned female author appears to criticize the Duchess of... whatever Kate Middleton's the duchess of. Read the whole thing here: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n04/hilary-mantel/royal-bodies

It's really a well-written and thought-provoking speech. A few parts jumped out at me:

ruminations on writing/understanding royalty when I haven't the faintest RL experience or much more than a vague clue. )
kaigou: Internet! says the excited scribble (2 Internet!)
A year (or two?) ago, there was a conversation online about the experience of growing up as an immigrant, with Mom's homefood for lunch and the reactions of (native-born, white) Americans to seeing the unfamiliar food. I cannot recall where that conversation occurred (community? someone's journal?) but if you do, pass along this link.

Is it Fair for Chefs to Cook Other Cultures’ Foods?, Francis Lam and Eddie Huang. Two immigrant sons hash out what it’s like to have your food shunned and celebrated in America

Some interesting, err, food for thought, in terms of how that childhood experience bears on the adult experience of two non-white American chefs/foodies and the question of -- when a non-American cuisine becomes 'popular' -- who has the right to cook it.
kaigou: this is the captain. we may experience turbulence and then explode. (3 experience turbulence)
These thoughts have resurfaced after the most recent atrocity, but I'm mostly thinking out loud about something tangential. If you've got a bone to pick about gun control or gun rights, I'll be blunt: not interested. Leave the bone-picking for your own journal. Second to that, if you're not American and want to tell me all about how other countries (including your own) do it, then maybe you should leave that to your own journal, too. America has its own culture and that culture, it seems to me, is a big part of the complexity of the issue.


A month or so ago at an acquaintance's house, on the wall was a large shadow box that held what looked like two matchlock short rifles. They looked a bit early for Rev War, since I'm pretty sure the serpentine had been surpassed by the flintlock by then, but whatever. I didn't see any other hunting or historical memorabilia, so I figured it was handed down through the family. It's the usual reason for the occasional "gun over the fireplace" I sometimes see -- it was someone's grandfather-so-many-times and used during whatever war. (Ignoring the fact that the absolute worst, worst place to store a gun, or anything of wood/metal combination that you want kept in good shape, is over a freaking fireplace but whatev.)

But that reminded me of a Persian rifle, I think it was, that CP got a number of years ago. It's a piece of art. Really. It has intricate chased silver up and down the barrel and all over the place, every little detail is beautifully done, and the wood is a gorgeous gleaming deep red. It's absolutely a testament to craftsmanship, just on looks alone, and it deserves to be seen and enjoyed. Not as a "this could kill someone" but simply as a thing of beauty, the same way that if someone did that to, say, a circular saw (now there's a scary thought), I'd be wondering why it should stay in the garage. I'd want to find a way to display it in the house, too. Some craftsman put a lot of effort into beautifying what was really just an everyday tool at the time, and I respect that.

Guns, history, Americana, anti-gun and pro-gun perspectives, guilt, the Veteran's Administration, and various other contemplations. In short, the usual. )

At some point I'll come up with a witty tag to note when something is book-length. Wait, do I have one of those already? I can't recall.
kaigou: please hold. all muses are busy, but your inspiration is important to us. (3 all muses are busy)
Sometimes it's a little odd to analyze other people's stories, and also get feedback from the author at the same time. Evidence A and B being some point I made for Diana Francis once and her response was basically, "hunh." Even over the phone it was kind of clear she was trying to figure out how I'd come up with that one, whatever it was. Which is to say, I think sometimes it's what a reader sees (whether reading into, or just picking up on little details that tip the nuance one way or another), and sometimes it's just the writer being focused on this plot-point and that character arc. Or: in the process of writing, the author sees the trees and doesn't realize until the end -- or until a beta points it out -- that the forest is not high altitude evergreen after all but somehow ended up being a semi-tropical rainforest.

It occurred to me today, out of nowhere, that while my current wip has an additional (if somewhat casual) theme of a matriarchal-blend in a patriarchal world, there's another genderflip going on that I'd completely missed. Main character has two potential spouses (polygamous society). In the MC's marriage to one of them, the one who proposes is the woman (editor: more like demands, really). For the MC's second marriage, the male potential consort arranges himself as part of a political transaction, which takes all of it out of his control, and in the end is effectively given as a male-consort to the MC. (I should note that since the second is a political transaction, it's not within the MC's control, either, but that's just a side-point.)

I had been thinking along class-lines, not gender lines. The female consort is from the farming class, and historically it seems that since the lower classes didn't have a lot of money or land, there was little basis for making marriage into a business transaction. When your dowry is going to be new shoes and maybe a picture for the family altar, or the bride price consists of a half a leg of cow (if even that much for either), then there's just not reason for anyone to get all worked up about arranging the marriage as an alliance between two dynasties. Over and over I've read historical commentary about otherwise widely-disparate cultures where the lower classes did do the whole love-match thing, because love (or at least a general like) was the only currency the participants really had. For that matter, lower classes tended to marry later, and without a lot of hoopla, and even in societies with emphasis on arranging (for middle class and above), the lower classes didn't have, or need, or could afford, such busy-ness.

So it made sense to me that if the female-consort is from a lower class background, she'd have grown up expecting marriage to be basically a, "hey, let's me and you live together." As long as the families don't hate each other, and the two parties agree, then that's about the extent of it.

Meanwhile, women in upper-class have less freedom -- being valuable assets used in transactional politics, like marriage alliances -- so the upper-class consort had to be male if he were to participate in the story at all. (Along these lines, I also realized belatedly that there's only one woman of rank from the patriarchal society who even gets named, let alone has any role to speak of; all the rest of the female characters are lower-class, thus not shut up in the house to sit around looking pretty all day.) And that means marriage becomes transactional, so it's not a huge stretch, culturally, for him to assume that marriage between his own elite family and someone else's family will be based on business/political alliance.

Anyway, that just struck me, that I'd unexpectedly reversed the usual gender-based order of things. It's the woman who takes the traditionally-(western)masculine approach of being active and doing the proposing; it's the man who sets himself up as a commodity to be bartered for and purchased, unseen by the groom.

kaigou: And now I, chaos butterfly, shall flap my wings and destroy the world! (2 chaos butterfly)
I'm going to keep writing, but before I dig back into the current wip, I've been contemplating the treatment of intersexed characters in fantasy/alt-history (setting aside strict SF where we get into advanced tech that allows for gender-switching, surgical changes, and various other jazz not applicable to my wip and thus kind of outside my focus right now). First of all, there do seem to be a growing number (if still very, very tiny overall, but more than twenty years ago) of transgender and crossdressing characters, though it's much harder to find self-identified intersexed characters.

By "crossdressing" I mean the plot device whererin our hero/ine must dress/hide via clothes (or, in at least one case, via magic) as the opposite sex, in order to achieve some goal or escape some evil. (Incidentally, all the crossdressing I can think of are female-to-male, not the other way around, but it's not like I've read everything.) However, in 99% of that kind, so far, that I've read (excepting one lesbian historical fantasy work wherein the lead simply preferred to dress/act along masculine gender lines, but made no attempt to hide or lie about being a woman), the cross-dressing character is quick to return to original gender roles as soon as the evil is passed. Or alternately, as soon as the character's decloaked and forced to find a way forward despite the handicap of appearing-as-original-gender.

And in most cases, 'transgender' doesn't get used as a phrase in fantasy, probably because it's a very modern, relatively recent, notion, so its use does feel somewhat anachronistic. But authors with some sensitivity do seem to be somewhat good at signaling in many other ways that a character -- if moved to our day and age -- would effectively consider hieself 'transgender'.

So far I've only been able to find two alt-history/fantasy works with intersexed main characters, and... I'm a little bothered by something. )
kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
From an interview with the author:
Q: I’ve studied Japanese for six years and been to Japan yet still may not have been able to execute a Japanese-inspired world as real and sensational as yours. What was the research involved in bringing the world of Stormdancer to life? Or did you drink some magical sake and try your luck?

A: I’ve had a few people say that, and it’s really flattering, but honestly I think most of my research was done via osmosis. I’ve always had an interest in Japanese cinema and manga, so I absorbed a lot of knowledge through that over the years. Wikipedia was really my go-to source for information, plus a few specialized sites dealing with the Tokugawa age.

The cool thing about writing a setting that’s inspired by Japan, but not actually Japan, is that you can take what you want from history and mythology and leave the rest. Take thunder tigers, for example – there’s nothing close to griffins in Japanese folklore. But without thunder tigers, there would be no Stormdancer.

My theory has been that if you want a place inspired by Japan (or anywhere) that's not actually Japan (or wherever), then you must avoid all non-English words that are not long-standing loan-words, for starters. At the simplest level. Otherwise, you're obviously writing about a certain place because the non-Englishness is going to act as a red flag, and pull people back into the concrete this-place that's the analogue to your wherever. This is why authors make up their own words & phrases in fantasy and science fiction, except in those cases where they specifically want you to be thinking France, Japan, Mozambique, or wherever.

But I'll let other folks do the talking, since that's hardly the only thing wrong with this story. Oh, Goodreads, why do you recommend stuff that just makes my blood boil?

Discounting manga/anime, I can count on two fingers how many Asian-inspired fantasies I know of. Stormdancer gets the middle one.

Have a small link roundup. )

And some useful posts, for you guys and also for me:
kaigou: this is the captain. we may experience turbulence and then explode. (3 experience turbulence)
Spent the last three weeks either frozen in overwhelmed stress, or churning mentally through everything on the to-do list (and only managing to get motivated to tackle in the last-minute panic of being down to the wire), thanks to various relatives visiting for graduation week. Somehow I managed to make it through almost five days of parent & step-parent visiting without throttling anyone, or regressing into a petulant sixteen-year-old arguing with my father. Except for the last little bit of Saturday evening, when I was already exhausted from the morning at graduation followed by an afternoon and evening of a stream of guests for an open house, and I'm still rather pissed at my dad, but haven't decided what to do about it. Eh, well. Now I sit here, feeling like I should be going go-go-go in frantic mode, yet... there's no longer any reason to be frantic.

Meanwhile, got a copy of Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia Since Early Modern Times. (Also got The Signore: Shogun of the Warring States which is a really misleading sub-title, since Nobunaga was never shogun, but otherwise it's a great book, except it caught the MiL's eye and she asked to borrow it to have something to read on the plane. Figures.) Anyway, Gender Pluralism is a fascinating text. Well-written, nicely foot-noted but not overwhelmingly so, balanced between interpreting folklore/legend (ie Siva and other archetypal role-model gods) and contemporary eye-witness reports of the various cultures. Especially, doesn't conflate "this is acceptable, even expected, for gods" (ie intersexuality or bisexuality) with "this is therefore just fine for humans" since the opposite is too often true. All in all, fascinating text on systems of gender understandings that aren't dominated by the West's man vs woman premise.

Also, between following only three series this season (Mouretsu Pirates, Sakamitchi no Appollon, and Eureka Seven Ao), also been mainlining... wuxia. That's right, wuxia. I've come to the conclusion that wuxia is China's analogue to epic fantasy in the Western world, but with more fart jokes. Analogue as in: highly romanticized and somewhat sanitized take on ancient times, with magic and the usual extra heapings of chivalry and 'odd band of merry fellows'. Except that wuxia's band of merry fellows seems to be more likely to include fellow-ettes, who do their own fighting, thank you.

Various reviews: Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei, Chinese Paladin 3, and The Young Warriors. )

Currently downloading Dan Ren Wu (Big Shot), because I haven't seen anything with Nicolas Tse, and I figure the romantic storyline should be a nice change after Young Warriors (hedging my bets that the series will have some rocks fall, since it is the Yang Clan and they're kind of known for the rocks falling part). Also sitting around waiting for someone to show up and seed The Holy Pearl... which apparently is a Chinese live-action retelling/adaptation of -- I am so not making this up -- Inuyasha. Noticeably, Kagome (now Ding Yao) is not a school girl, but an archaeologist's daughter in her mid-twenties; if nothing else, wuxia doesn't seem to fetishize the prepubescent/adolescent female half so much as K-dramas and J-dramas. The whole bit about the sacred jewel has been Chinese-ified into a pearl leftover from when Nuwa created the world, and Wen Tian (the Inuyasha role) is now a human-dragon hybrid.

Me: I'd never heard anything about a live-action television adaptation of Inuyasha, but then, as soon as you have a jewel in pieces and a half-demon male protagonist, people always start crying that it's Inuyasha.

CP: It's not like Takahashi invented the idea of a sacred broken jewel.

Me: Or the idea of half-demons. But we'll see... if I can just get a seed. I'm just not convinced it's really based on Inuyasha. I mean, it's only thirty-two episodes! You can't possibly adapt Inuyasha in only thirty-two episodes.

CP: Unless each episode is ten hours long.

Also, my copy of The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China just arrived. Yay!

ETA2: I could've just cut to the chase and linked to [personal profile] dangermousie's list of things learned from wuxia. I'd add more, but then I realized some things are universal -- from wuxia to romcoms -- like when one character starts the story insisting on undying hatred. If the object of hatred is same-sex, then the story ends with forgiveness (even if mid-rock-falling). If the object of hatred is opposite sex, Houston, we have OTP.
kaigou: first I'm going to have a little drinkie, then I'm going to execute the whole bally lot of you. (2 execute all of you)
Honestly, when it gets to the point that I'm watching the newest Legend of Korra episodes because they're better than my other anime-options (and it's still 24 hours before the next Moretsu, anyway, so I'm dyin' heah), that's just... so many kinds of wrong. But still, voice-acting aside, it's a far more dynamic (camera-action-wise) cartoon than just about anything else I can ever name that came from a Western production company. And the background shots of the AU-Shanghai are just incredible. Sure, it's not Last Exile (but really, there is only ONE Gonzo), but it's head-and-shoulders with some anime I've seen, and several body-lengths above any cartoon I've ever seen, including the first Avatar series. (Then again, Nick isn't doing the awful compression-crap they did on the first Avatar, gawd, my eyes.)

I wanted to like Kuroko's Basketball, but by the third episode, it was showing its shonen roots, and not showing anything to break from that mold. Having a female coach doesn't save the day if you never actually see her, y'know, coach. Or produce a strategy, or tell the players what to do. Nice idea, but she's certainly no coach like Oofuri's Momo-kan. See, now that's a coach.

Sakamichi no Apollon, why oh why must you be only eight episodes? Talking about animation, I honestly do not think I have ever seen anyone animate music-playing to this degree. It's delightful. Even if the strong Kyushuu accent seems to be tripping CP up constantly.

And for those of you who'd wanted to know about potential yuri in Moretsu Pirates, well, my yuri goggles are a little cracked, so I'm not seeing it. But I can tell you that I was pleased and impressed with ep17 (the most recent). Here's the deal: it's an adaptation of a series of light novels, and somewhere in the pre-production, the director said in an interview that in order to adapt the story faithfully, something had to be cut... and the decision was made to cut the romantic storylines. Pretty gutsy, given that this might alienate some part of the shojo-tuned audience for whom romance is a make-or-break.

But! But! In the wiki, it mentions that Lynn, the now-president of the school's 'yacht' club (where 'yacht' = 'spaceship'), is a lesbian, and in love with Jenny, the previous president of the same club. I had expected that if all romance was being dropped, that this, too, would be set aside. I was okay with that, since it's not like the usual, where the non-traditional romances get set aside and only the heteronormative ones make it through adaptation decay. Except this time? The only romance that's so far made it into the adaptation is the lesbian relationship.

Let me clarify: it's not yuri. It's not primed for the male gaze. It's actually given the same respect and affection (and other characters' reactions) that I'd expect if one of the two were a guy. It's simply a relationship, and now it's canon for this adaptation, too. My love for Moretsu, it just grows exponentially with each episode.

Aaaaand then we have this season's Guilty Crown -- well, one of many, but the only one I took even a few minutes to bother watching, Hiiro no Kakera. Don't ask me why; I was bored. Reeeeeeally bored. (Then again, I marathoned the first 18 episodes of Guilty Crown in a fit of absolute crazy-contract-recovery madness. And then I sobered up and said NO MORE.) CP mentioned he was thinking of downloading it, since it ostensibly revolves around a priestess (a particular area of study of his, pop-culture-wise), and I had to break it to him. This show makes Guilty Crown look good. That takes quite a bit.

That's my new benchmark, incidentally. Is it as bad as Guilty Crown? If yes, it means that budget, voice-acting, backgrounds, and in-betweening is all decent to fairly high-quality... but that someone forgot to, y'know, actually hire someone to write a damn story.

Oh my gawd, the pain. I lost nine hours of my life watching that debacle AND I WILL NEVER GET THOSE HOURS BACK.
kaigou: you live and learn. at any rate, you live. - doug adams (2 live and learn)
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Over dinner tonight (and this is a normal dinner conversation in this house), we got to talking about gender-flipping in stories. CP noted that the trope is, of course, if a guy suddenly wakes up as a girl, his first expected reaction is to stay home and play with his new breasts. But seems to me, based on stories about women facing breast cancer, that this isn't just flippant, it's the complete opposite of what's likely. I mean, I've read plenty about, and by, women who've had to have radical mastectomies. Even knowing that removing one's breasts might be the chance for survival, women still grieve. And even those that don't emphasize loss of the organs per se, still speak of having somehow radically changed, of going through a time of questioning whether they're still women without breasts, and coming to grips with a changed sense of 'what it means to be a woman' and just how breasts do (or don't) figure into this.

I'm not saying that full mastectomies automatically equate to losing one's sex/gender/identity, but that those secondary sex attributes (breasts, genitals) get tied up in so many things of self-identity. That on top of the sense of loss that comes with amputation/body-part loss, there's also the shift in recognizing how much we emphasize, as a culture, something formerly taken-for-granted. That we don't realize -- until it's made obtrusive, impossible to ignore -- how much we make synonymous 'having breasts' with 'being female'.

Short preliminary discussion of reactions to magical genderflipping, and a SFF work with transgender protagonist. )

I've been spending the afternoon alternating on trying to motivate myself to translate, trying to motivate myself to move the fridge and re-install the fridge cabinet, trying to motivate myself to dig open a mysql database and tweak, and mostly... ending up wasting time fixing to get ready with no real getting ready. But that's meant plenty of time to think! Which is where all ya'll come in, since even if it's not something you've thought about before, I'm sure plenty of you might have thoughts about it, now. I hope.

So. We're speaking in the context of fiction -- in case it's not obvious, since I'm pretty sure there aren't any medical, real-world cases of spontaneous secondary sexual attribute changes -- but trying to keep it still somewhat grounded, as in: if whatever fictional case were to happen in real life, what seems like how a reasonable person would react? And so on.

To some degree, then, it seems relatively clear (if maybe kinda obvious) that each of us learns, pretty early on, to identify our body's shape with our gender. And if our body's shape doesn't fit our gender, then we're going to spend our lives at odds with that shape. Either you connect, or you disconnect. Like I said, obvious, but I might be totally wrong on that assumption, so speak up if that should be extended or clarified or could be put some other way.

And here is where I'm starting to think out loud (in pixels?) about: tertiary sex characteristics like clothing/dress/speech as clues to secondary and/or primary sex characteristics, two spirits and hetero-gender relationships, required body parts, and biological intersexuality. And some other stuff. )

Dunno. I'm sure some of you must have some thoughts, though.

So, uhm. Thoughts?
kaigou: Jung-In (Kim Jae-Wook) looking very please-no (1 oh dear heavens no)
I've been on a recent tear through a slew of non-European-inflected high/epic fantasy, and I'm starting to wonder if it's just me. Am I finding the cultural mixes in some stories to be awkward or badly-done because I know too much (or even only a little more than nothing!), or is it because I'm not fluent enough in the cultures to be comfortable with mixing them up?

In a three-way tie for most egregious, there's Shea Godfrey's Nightshade, which has this visual within the first few paragraphs. The numbers are me, counting the ways.
Jessa walked straight among them, a dark green sari[1] wrapped about her lower body in turns of silk and draped forward over her left shoulder with a long-sleeved golden choli[2] blouse beneath it. She wore a burka[3] that covered her head and face, though it was not quite long enough to hide the ends of her hair[4].

The men lounged upon the dais. The raised platform curved about the head of the vast oval room like a horseshoe and closed in on the wide aisle that led to the throne at its deepest point, the Jade Throne[5], which was the seat of all power within the land of Lyoness[6]. ... Jade was the province of the throne and these were the chairs for the sons of King Abdul-Majid[7] de Bharjah of Lyoness.

This was my brain's reaction as I read:
1, 2. Ah, okay, an Indian-inflected setting.
3. Why a burka? Wouldn't you just pull the end of the sari to drape over your head? Or maybe this is Pakistani-inflected, with a Muslim touch?
4. There is something really wrong with this burka. It's missing like, the rest of it. Or her hair is past her ankles. Wait, does the author actually mean she's wearing a chadri? That would make more sense.
5. Uhm, like the Jade Emperor? China's in here, now? Or Guatemala. (Mayans being the other major culture that had jade mining and prized the rocks highly.) Unless the author's thinking serpentine, which isn't jade, but gets mistaken for it often -- and serpentine was prized in the middle east.
6. ...Except for the French-styled name, whut.
7. Looking pretty middle-eastern, there.

I'm not saying I have an issue with middle-eastern-inflected stories, even if it sounds like name-dropping on Indian and Chinese. (I'll let it go with only a mention of the author portraying a quasi-middle-eastern family -- with their chained dogs two inches away from outright dog-fighting -- as barbaric and cruel. I think the only adjective missing here was 'swarthy'. Hello, typecasting 101.) Regardless, maybe if I didn't know there's a difference between a burka and a chadri, or didn't realize that not everyone east of the Tiber dresses like Gandhi extras, maybe I wouldn't be bothered. Or maybe if I knew costume and dress far better than the smatterings I do know, I wouldn't be under the impression that these things don't mix.

But then there's a different type of egregious; four of those, and two less so, behind the cut. )

But still, I could forgive a lot more, I think, if the names weren't so atrocious.
kaigou: (1 olivia is not impressed)
My current fascination is the Japanese Sengoku/Warring States period, more specifically, Oda Nobunaga (for reasons I won't go into here). Suffice it to say that he's partly a fascinating character just for doing what he did, but also for the reactions I see in his characterizations in modern/post-modern Japanese media. Remarkable that someone who pretty much set the stage for Tokugawa/Edo peace would also be excoriated to such a massive extent. Given what he achieved, I would've expected him to be among the greatest of Japanese heroes, not the embodiment of All Things Evil. Not to mention my curiosity in the unique circumstances that made him such a meritocratic personality. Quite unusual, culturally (and still that way, impression I get).

Anyway, there's an abridged English translation of a massive work on Nobunaga. It's clearly also only for academics, being priced at $95. Holy hell, I mean, seriously. That's only about $25 less than the 23" monitor I bought yesterday. What gives, pricing scheme? Or there's a biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Taiko, which sounds cool but is naturally only available in hardback. Time to find out if we can still check out books from the local university, courtesy CP.

In absence of any substantial texts in our house that go into the Sengoku (all of CP's texts either skip the Sengoku, or just skip Nobunaga), I figured I'd try the next best thing -- a taiga. I mean, the annual "here, let us essentialize our history into a nice sixty-episode package" should have some historical basis, right?

Uhm. Does it? Because something feels not-quite-right to me.

Are taigas basically soap-operatic, fictionalized, adapted-for-storytelling with highlights only? Do they assume you've studied Japanese history extensively so you don't need the extra explanations, or do they assume you know little pieces here and there and aren't concerned with something like, say, historical accuracy?

Okay, so I'm watching Toshiie to Matsu, since I could find it with subs and the impression I've gotten from random history-professor essays on academic webs is that Toshiie was almost as unconventional as Nobunaga. Plus, he was best friends with Hideyoshi, too. But the actual show has me kind of taking a big step back from taigas. Because, hunh. Let me count the ways (which you were probably expecting, anyway).

The women, the ages, the women, and who let Disney in here? )

I guess maybe I should look into saving up the pennies for that $95 book on Nobunaga, because clearly pop culture is falling way down on the job.
kaigou: the kraken stirs, and ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. (3 the kraken stirs)
Alright, so there was this guy called Oda Nobunaga, but he also had the title of Kazusanosuke (as in Kazusa-no-suke, I think it was, which apparently means "vice-governor of Kazusa province"). In the manga I've been reading, some characters call him Nobunaga, and some call him Kazusanosuke. The same happens for other characters, like Oda Nobuyuki, who also gets called Kanjuurou, or Maeda Toshiie, who sometimes get called Matazaemon.

There seems to be a general pattern, in that Nobuyuki and Nobunaga's advisors both refer to him as Nobunaga, but his own wife calls him Kazusanosuke. And the opponent's advisors refer to Nobuyuki as Kanjuurou.

What was the deal with names? Did the position-title (which I presume names like "Kanjuurou" are) stand in for surnames, or something? What's the logic of when one is used, versus another?
kaigou: (1 Izumi)
I've finally put a finger on what has me so entranced when watching media (shows, animation, etc) that's in a different language. At first, I thought: this is a kind of astonishment. Then I censored myself immediately, because wow, that sounds offensive -- if you twist it to the side, it could be saying: "wow, people have entirely different languages and they still communicate such complex ideas" which is not at all what I mean.

I've probably told some of you this story before, but when I lived in France, I recall spending the afternoon with a teacher's two children. Aged, hm, three and five, maybe? They had a globe, and one of them asked where I lived, so I put a finger on their hometown, and another on mine. There was a lot of blue-colored map between the two places, and the kids were suitably impressed.

However, somehow this raised the question of why (in their opinion) I couldn't speak French as well as the other adults they knew. Maybe, they appeared to be reasoning, it was because Americans were bad at talking. I said no, in America, we speak English.

Long pause. Skeptical looks.

"No, you speak French," they said. "Everyone speaks French."

"Not in the United States," I replied. "There, we don't speak French. We speak English."

Skeptical looks turned to absolute disdain, because now they were quite certain I was putting them on. There went all my credibility.

Later I asked their mom, who said that it's a developmental stage, related to the size of the kid's world, and the fact that they assume what they see around them is an example of everything, everywhere. It takes time and experience before we start to realize the world is a much bigger place than our little corner of it.

Watching foreign shows, or trying to read a manga in Taiwanese (or, ugh, Cantonese), makes me feel like my world has gotten even bigger. Or maybe it's that it makes me feel just that many times smaller. Like: these people are talking, and there's a whole way of writing, of conjugating verbs, of expressing the self, and I understand none of it. Chances are, I will never understand more than maybe "please" and "thank you" and "yes" and "no" and how to say "hello" on the phone. If that much. But people express ideas and emotions and my corner -- the English corner -- has no impact, no value, in this conversation.

It's a kind of reminder of humility. )
kaigou: the kraken stirs, and ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. (3 the kraken stirs)
In this post: GetBackers, Vampire Knight, D.Gray-man, Amatsuki, Di(e)ce.

I gave up on GetBackers, despite [personal profile] branchandroot's rec. Mostly, though, because of its discordance. Background, if you're not aware: it's the usual shonen bromance kind of story, with a fair bit of quasi-science-fiction/supernatural mixings, and plenty of the usual cliches. Two things about its development stuck in my head while reading. Hmm, make that three. I made it about halfway through the anime, then tried the manga, and quit about halfway through. While watching the anime, I also checked into the anime's development, and noted an unusual bit of info about the series' wrap-up (which happened prior to the story wrap-up, so there was the usual question of whether to do an anime-original ending).

Note: the story is actually a three-way invention, from what I gather. I think, not sure, but I seem to recall the author is actually a brother-sister penname, who work jointly with an artist. That is, the penname gives credit to brother and sister, but apparently (why am I surprised) the only mention of author quotations act like it's just one guy. So, dunno what the sister does. Anyway.

I can't find where I came across this bit -- I think in one of the articles cited in the wiki entry. Apparently, the anime director suggested making Kazuki's relationship canonical (anime canon, that is) with his second, Juubei. (Their respective weaponry, threads and needles, even suggest the pairing... among the many, many other things that do, including their own dialogue.) The mangaka-author refused, saying that Kazuki already had a destined pairing, Ren Radou.

Then I got to that character's introduction in the anime, and discovered the character isn't even real. She's part of the 3D/holographic construct. Alright, it's one thing if there's a flesh-and-blood half to match with the flesh-and-blood (err, in context, that is) character, but I have major issues with a story-author who'd insist there's a pairing, and choose a pairing in which one character is a computer program. It'd be one thing if the author insisted it be left undefined, but it says a lot to me about the author's agenda if he'd choose this real/nonreal pairing over the damn-near-text of a real/real pairing. There's erasure, and then there's replacement that reaches the level of ridiculous.

The second bit was the mangaka-artist, who -- based on the copious amounts of ho-yay artwork -- has some serious yaoi fanboi leanings. Like, not even leanings. I'd say that tree fell over in the forest awhile back... and other commentary, and then onto the rest of the list. )

...and that should be enough for now. Back to catching up on Amatsuki, and at some point, I really will finally finish Kekkaishi, and catch up on Nurarihyon no Mago. Well, once I finish two other major projects on my plate, and there's always the kitchen...


kaigou: this is what I do, darling (Default)
锴 angry fishtrap 狗

to remember

"When you make the finding yourself— even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light— you'll never forget it." —Carl Sagan

October 2016

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