kaigou: Kido being goofy. (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: fangirling so hard right now (3 fangirling so hard)
Went to see Pacific Rim (ohmygodholyfuckthatwasawesome). Had been letting lots of it stew and leaving the intelligent conversation to so many better commentaries across the web. Then [personal profile] margrave had some stuff to say about it. What tweaked me into posting was specifically this part:

It was why I loved Transformers; it was part of my childhood, and seeing Optimus Prime in an live action film was amazing. But it still didn't hit the spot because there was NO human pilot. It also lacked the parent-and-child theme that almost every giant robot series had. The need to do better, to be different or the same as their parent, to live up to, or to surpass their legacy, and just, it was such a Western film.

My take:

Bay's Transformers was a love letter... if the person writing had only ever read Letters to Hustler. That kind of lust love letter, complete with "it was SO BIG" and random exclamations of ridiculously physically-impossible feats concerning ridiculously numbers of orgasms. And big boobs.

Del Toro's Pacific Rim is a true love letter, paying homage to what's good and casting a forgiving eye on what's bad, and taking all the everyday things (like cliches) and seeing them as something to celebrate.

For me, though, being in tech and having to deal with the constant sense that if I want half the chance of the guys around me that I have to work twice as hard and prove myself three times more often, I think the point where I felt most despondent (in a "yeah, so not surprised") sense was when Raleigh asked Mako about the simulations and she admitted she'd gotten 51... out of 51. And yet not a pilot! Up to that point there had been only hints about the father/daughter relationship (and throwaway lines about how she'd re-engineered the Gipsy Danger and we'll ignore the quiet racism in that name), and I was all, well of course she's proven herself three times over and still gets no credit or chances. Then things move to the sparring scene and she proceeds to kick Raleigh's ass (without stripping down or getting her clothes ripped, no less) -- and I was totally expecting a sudden jump to the left, where she's the cocky rookie and Raleigh would be all like, no way are you sticking me with a rookie and somehow the story is about him learning to give her a chance and how he grows by leading blah blah blah.

But when they finish and she's won, there's not even a single instant of him being upset at being beaten. Instead he looks thrilled, so when he said (really loudly, too), this is my co-pilot. I was all like FUCK YEAH RECOGNIZE. There was no conflict apparent on his part, no worries about being shown up, but there also wasn't any machismo (the flip side of 'no worries' when Average White Guy Hero isn't intimidated because hey, he's the guy, he's naturally the best and doesn't have to prove himself the way everyone else does). It came across as pure and simple respect for Mako, and nothing to do with being a girl (or not being a girl) or being sexualized or not. She's his match and then some, and he doesn't require any intense soul-searching to want to be partnered with her, nor any agony on his part about not being the best himself. She is, and after that he doesn't waver from wanting to partner with her. Which makes sense -- if you know you're outgunned, why waste time with egos, you want the best chances to survive -- but that kind of common sense rarely enters the Hollywood equation. This time it did.

It was just icing on the cake to see that reaction to someone who is NOT the usual Average White Guy counterpart, the pinup big-boobed blonde leggy supermodel -- but a WoC who's petite, intelligent, a little introverted, self-aware, and ambitious. Let's be honest, the few women who ever get recognition (outside of the extreme outliers like Ripley) are inevitably ones who fit into the slender-and-leggy-and-white mold. Usually with long hair, at that.

Paragraph o' mild euphemistic spoilers behind the cut. )

Now if only Del Toro had made the two scientists women, the movie would pass the Bechdel and be truly flawless. I'd be sending the man a love letter myself if he'd made one of them of color while he was at it. In my head, the german scientist is actually an Indian woman educated in Berlin and the american scientist is a short round black woman from Chicago. But if we get a sequel, maybe then he'd get to push things a bit farther, because from what I've seen of him in the past, he's not ignorant of women on-screen (as if Mako doesn't prove that ten times over). He just needs to add more women, and if there's any director who might (and do it well), it might be Del Toro.

ETA more thoughts. )

Also, in the Japanese theatrical dub, the woman voicing Mako Mori is not the actress, Rinko Kikuchi, although she is native Japanese and an experienced seiyuu -- idk, maybe work schedules played a role in her availability? Anyway, the seiyuu selected is, drumroll, Megumi Hayashibara -- who also voiced Rei, from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

It's like the recipient of the love letter just wrote back and said, the feeling is mutual.
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (Default)
I'm almost certain I've seen this somewhere, but now I can't recall and I can't seem to google it without getting a bazillion hits on stuff I don't want. I thought there was a study or white paper on women, tech, and performance bonuses -- something about how when companies set up a bonus system based on "value" (not just flat-breaks into percentages) it's minorities and women who always end penalized in some way. This makes sense; what isn't valued doesn't get marked as valuable enough to warrant an equal share of the bonus pie. But I can't find the study or white paper, or even a reference to it.

Does this ring a bell for anyone?
kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
Recently I read a post about writing a relationship between an ace (asexual) and a heterosexual. One of the points made was that asexuality wasn't really defined/specified as a way of being until relatively recently in history; previously an asexual woman would've been raised to a) not even think of sex because Good Girls Don't and b) to expect that at some point, she'd find The One and then it would all just happen like everyone says. So asexuality could easily have been buried under the social assumptions, especially for women.

I mention that because the topic has been bubbling in my head since the early plotting stage of my current story, and now I'm at the point where the character (to whom this all applies) is on the page. She's not POV for other reasons (and not because I don't want to get into her head, just to make that clear), but I've slowly solidified my certainty that she's definitely asexual. I'm less sure that she's aromantic, but that's mostly because my impression is that "aromantic" means "neutral/lukewarm about falling in love" though I'm not sure I have that right. She does have immense capability to love, and would very much like a loving relationship (what others might call an abiding, deep, platonic friendship), and is probably quite affectionate with close friends. She's not standoffish in that sense, and she's about as far from "socially inept" as you can get. She also very, very much wants to be a mother, and would probably be an amazing, nurturing, instructive mother for whom her children are the central point of her life.

A few more notes about the character, general outline. Am I on the right track, or am I unwittingly writing a stereotype? )

(also, screening comments since this is a public post. if you're okay with your reply being public, just let me know.)
kaigou: (2 play naked)
There's a joke in this house about Scorpios (of which I am not one), but it'd take like a paragraph and a half to give backstory. Instead I'll just say that walking into a women-developer's meetup was one of the most awesome experiences I've had in months. Granted, as mostly a front-end person, I was sitting in the category of lightweight compared to the Java and Python women I met, but still. No one dissed me for being web-focused. The one time someone made (very slight) fun of me and one other person using PHP, all I had to do was point out that we could be using dot-net instead, and suddenly PHP wasn't the worst choice.

Still, I know there are plenty of issues with PHP, but it's not something I'd say I program in, per se. I use it per its original intention (pre-processing) and rarely do any kind of major work with it. I think the only time I've even bothered with instantiating classes was in writing WP plugins, and let's not even get into how kludgey WP really is. Which means most of the issues with PHP just aren't a concern to me. I use it functionally (as opposed to OOP) to do what I want, to talk to the sql db, and I haven't had need or interest in doing more.

Jquery, on the other hand... hunh, once you start writing functions, it's like the damn rabbithole. It's worse than the shortcut-functions I write for PHP, which I do solely so I can save time on the front end. (Easier by far to write get_story_name($id) or even multi_select_box($table, $group) than writing it out over and over.) Now that I've finally figured out (this) and how to make a var of (this) name (not just value), I have turned into a function-writing fool. I feel like I need to practice my maniacal laugh.
kaigou: under this playful boyish exterior beats the heart of a ruthless sadistic maniac (2 charming maniac)
We've been having dinnertime discussions over the past few nights about whether certain advancements in society could only happen because of previous advancements -- specifically, a shift in perception or understanding of one's role in the world. Like, for instance, the development of unions. There were guilds in the western medieval world, but those were owned/operated by the master craftsman. The workers themselves -- apprentices, journeymen, not-quite-masters -- weren't the ones who had say-so. Seems like the guilds acted more like chambers of commerce, in some degree; they allowed the businesses to band together to set prices, to protect a monopoly, to lobby the local government for lower taxes or better treatment, and they might extend loans to their own. Still, not quite the same as a union -- and I would say one of the biggest things unions did was present the notion of a place where workers could air grievances, be heard, and get bad situations changed. Like, allowing for lunch breaks or not making children work (let alone for twelve-hour shifts) and so on.

CP's comment was that the union movement seems to have its sociological nucleus in the socialist/communal movements of the early 19th century. In other words, that you couldn't think of "the worker's rights" until you had some kind of framework for understanding what a "worker" was. As in, not an individual but as one of many other "workers" who formed a collective, and could/should claim rights as a collective.

This isn't actually a post about unions, or even about the development of universal sufferage; it's actually a post about a SF story's premise and the thinkyness the story's reviews gave me about economic power. )
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (3 something incredible)
An intriguing, somewhat ambivalent, essay by a [male] Harvard professor: "My Life as a Girl".

Worth reading: Advertising: the Real Reason Women Wear Provocative Clothes.

A short essay from Guy Gavriel Kay, "Home and Away", about why he writes historical fantasy and not historical fiction.

Last, an excerpt from Mike's Review of Amanda Downum's The Bone Palace, about fantasy versus science fiction.
I was struck [by] how much nostalgia is coin of the realm [in fantasy]. Not just in the return to tropes of feudal society, a fetishized love of the baroque hierarchies of bloodline and class systems, or the reliance on tropes of wizardry, swordplay, medieval ordnance, etc.... ...Fantasy novels romanticize the past. But note the definite article there--"the" Past, as a concept, an Idea/l--which is separated from, even utterly disavowing, history. Sure, characters go on and on about who did what in which battle, or how so and so came from so and so's bloodline, but such historicizing is not about causes, or the way different factors alter historical outcomes. Instead, it's all destiny, Quest, fate, blood. There is a fixity to what happened, and thus--I'd argue--to what will happen. I'm being vague, so let me trace a counterpoint.

Science fiction, on the other hand... romanticizes the future, sure, but it does so to reveal and engage an historical consciousness. (H/t to Frederic Jameson...) Whatever future is outlined, the genre conventions are to untangle and examine the conditions which led to this new future--changes in tech, or species interactions, or.... you name it--the future is extrapolated extravagantly to reveal how such conditions (environment, biology, commerce, technology) alter culture and society.

In fantasy, the tropes of Identity, Family, Character are echoed in what happens. But in science fiction, History has the upperhand, and changes/alters identities, families, character.

The comments are worth reading. I may be giving the wrong impression with the quote, but Mike doesn't seem to be positing a theory or an explanation so much as thinking out loud. Not really something to argue with, that is, so much as to use as a jumping-off point for own thoughts.

I've been pondering the tropes he outlined, and thinking of how they (most often) show up. One would be the use of prophecy in a story, especially when the prophecy is tied to a bloodline. (A child of this family or that heritage, with such-and-such a destiny identified often early in life, if not at birth.) I seem to recall debates somewhere over whether Dune is science fiction or fantasy, and that like Star Wars it's really a fantasy masquerading as a space opera. Given that Dune does pivot on the notion of whats-his-face fulfilling a longstanding prophecy, I guess that would be a fantasy trope. I can't think of any full-on SF stories with heritage-based prophecies being a pivotal point, but it's not like I've read all the SF out there.

Thoughts?
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: you live and learn. at any rate, you live. - doug adams (2 live and learn)
[*] indicates a topic is discussed further in comments.

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: (1 Izumi)
I remember awhile back, someone on a blog indicating the preference for "ou" as pronoun (rather than zie, s/he, etc). That one was completely new to me, and there was no indication of how you'd possess-ify it ("our" seemed like recipe for trouble, so "ous" maybe?). Then I came across this, the other day:
In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular "ou": "'Ou will' expresses either he will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces "ou" to Middle English epicene "a", used by the 14th century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of "a" for he, she, it, they, and even I. This "a" is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = "he" and heo = "she"
—Dennis Baron, Grammar and Gender

That's pretty cool. Obsolete now to all but linguists, but pretty cool. Still not sure how you'd possess-ify it.

The same wiki entry found me this, which is also very cool, and makes more sense in terms of how you'd possess-ify it (probably similar to the possessive form of "it", I'm thinking). It's also a form that came closest to some kind of broad usage/acceptance, seeing how it made it into the dictionary:
According to Dennis Baron, the neologism that received the greatest partial mainstream acceptance was Charles Crozat Converse's 1884 proposal of thon, a contraction of "that one" (other sources date its coinage to 1858 or 1859): "Thon was picked up by Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary in 1898, and was listed there as recently as 1964. It was also included in Webster's Second New International Dictionary, though it is absent from the first and third, and it still has its supporters today."

Though of the ones mentioned (in English or elsewhere), I think I rather like the method of just dropping the "sh" or "h" and making it 'e. (I guess possessive would be 'ir.) But maybe that's because I'm used to certain accents in which the "h" of "he" is dropped to the point that 'e is pretty much what's already said, in everyday speech.

But that leads me back to my previous thoughts, and the fact that although I'm sure it wasn't intentional, the reply that it's okay to use "they" as gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun felt slightly like derailing. Because the point wasn't really what we can use in speech, or in colloquial, but in fiction. And in the narrative of fiction, unless it's first-person or the narrative is strongly colloquial, I'd be hard-pressed to think of any published fiction where the copyeditor would let you get away with what is really mangled grammar in terms of pronoun+verb construction. In dialogue? Certainly. In narrative, I doubt it, which is why the very few works I've read that attempt gender-neutral pronouns felt a) really awkward, because it drew a lot of attention to the narrative voice itself and made it obtrusive, and b) weren't published by major houses, who give me the impression of being much more conservative on these things.

[There's also a bit in the wiki entry for generic antecedents, which lists various constructions and a critique of each. I guess it's no surprise to anyone that I personally would rather take the time to rephrase a given sentence to use "they" without it reading awkwardly, if at all possible. Then again, I know so many crossplayers (cosplaying the gender you're not) that I've learned the knack of how to speak about a third person without ever using a pronoun -- because some people have preferences about whether they get male pronouns when cosplaying a male character, or prefer female pronouns regardless, or whatever. And since I can never remember who wants which, I've gotten fairly decent at avoiding pronouns altogether. Which is one way to avoid this whole discussion, I suppose!]

All that said, the notion of using "that one" as a pronoun-substitute might work, in the narrative. Although I'm guessing the rest of the narrative voice might have to flex, a little, towards a greater formality, to make the inserted formality of "one" less obtrusive. Hmmm.
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (Default)
Continuation of yesterday's ruminations, because you had to know they wouldn't end there.

For starters, I'm well-aware that the previous post may have sounded like I was arguing for a gender binary (masculine/feminine), but I ended up going with that for the first go-round of thoughts, with intentions to address the underlying parts (the binary) in a second post. Go easier on you folks who aren't up to dissertation-length in one go, y'know.

Thing is, gender isn't always the means by which we 'position' a person, upon first meeting. I get the impression that in our Western/anglo so-called egalitarian society (where according to some people, we're post-class and post-race) it's just one of the easier ways to pigeonhole other people into expected behaviors, dress, manners, reactions, what-have-you. But there are instances where we use other means -- like whether someone is an officer or enlisted, an academic doctor or a medical doctor, or blue-collar versus white-collar. Or, it could be a caste-system, such as picking up the clues on whether someone is Brahman, Kshatria, Vaisia, Sudra, or untouchable. When you get into fiction, there's no reason you have to remain within a gender binary. You could sort people based on profession (academic, military, medical, craftswork, service, etc), whereby a military man and a military woman are more likely to have similar behaviors and dress (genders, if you will) than between a military man and a medical man. Or by religion, or musical style, or whatever else. Gender doesn't have to be the baseline.

For that matter, gender itself could be (and if you ask me, should be, at least minimum) tripartite -- male, female, third. Me, I prefer 'third' rather than 'other', because 'other' acts /reads as though it encapsulates 'all that is not male or female'. Third leaves the door open to a fourth, fifth, or sixth, whatever form those may take. There are indigenous societies which include a third sex (I'm thinking specifically of the Navajo, but there are many others), except that it seems to me that even these conflate the sex/physiology with the gender/construct. In other words, a woman who's just fine being sexed-female but prefers a masculine-coded dress or behavior is third sex, same as a man who feels distinctly at-odds with a male body and adopts a feminine gender-construct as a way to re-balance herself. In fiction, the author can have the freedom to make one third-sex and the other fourth-sex. Or give them, idk, directions (north, south, east, west, up, down) instead of implied hierarchy via cardinal order. But anyway.

More thoughts on binary language, political identity, and the big divide in romance. )
kaigou: (1 olivia is not impressed)
I've touched on this before but this weekend I read several novels that brought it back into focus for me. Then I came across a short blogpost about when a character defines herself as butch, and decided it was time to post. If you haven't read any of these titles, I recommend each (not unreservedly, but still more than mostly).

Sword of the Guardian -- Shannon, Merry )
Branded Ann -- Shannon, Merry )
Lady Knight -- Baker, LJ )
Backwards to Oregon -- Jae )

Click the cuts to see the summaries. Mostly I'd been trying to track down stories, any stories, which dealt with crossgender or crossdressing, stumbled on the first one, liked the author's voice enough to read the second, got the third recommended by virtue of the first two, and had to seriously google-fu to find the fourth, and read a little of a few others while looking.

(Warning: I DNF'd on the third due to warnings from reader reviews that the story not only doesn't HEA, it barely HFAs, and I'd pretty much hit my limit anyway from reading a warmed-over retelling of the Crusades, complete with Saladin's Arab world being cast as this side of barbaric, unintelligible devil-worshippers. Thanks, but I've done my time studying Crusades history, and if there were barbarians at the gates, it was the Christians. If you're equally skeptical about seeing the Christian Crusades as anything other than ambitious land-grabs by hordes of unwashed, uneducated masses, then expect this book to hit that annoyance button, hard.)

Along the way, I DNF'd on Shea Godfrey's Nightshade (the first three pages manages to fantasy-world-mashup India, the Middle East, and a bit of East Asia, and I like mashups but not quite to the degree of having to disconnect multiple culture clashes in my head while reading). I also DNF'd within a chapter on D.Jordan Redhawk's On Azrael's Wings because "worshipful slave falls in love with owner" is not, and hopefully never will be, a kink of mine. ("Recalcitrant and fiesty lower-level character fights back and gains equal standing in relationship with, and respect from, higher-level character," though, yes, but that didn't seem to be Redhawk's story.) Oh, and I started and stopped on Malinda Lo's Ash, too, mostly because I wasn't in the mood for YA; I wanted to read about adults in adult relationships with adult baggage. (Huntress remains on my TBR list, though, even if it is YA.)

Anyway, outside of the obvious that all these works focus on lesbian relationships, the other major factor is that at least one-half of every relationship is a woman claiming, or who has claimed, significant earthly power and respect. In all but Nightshade and Ash, I'd say, this respect is also military or naval, with rank. In other words, women in positions of power, either able to kill or trained to kill. Those two exceptions I didn't read far enough to meet the 'other half' of the intended relationship pairing, but of those I did read, in all but one, this powerful/respected female character is, at first, mistaken for a man.

And a bit more about each, along with how each character defines herself, versus what the text gives me. )
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: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (Default)
For some inexplicable reason (as in, no idea how I followed whatever links to end up there), this evening I ended up on a wiki page about the film, Mary Poppins. I have never liked this film, although as a kid I liked Julie Andrews well enough that she often saved films for me that I'd otherwise detest. But Mary Poppins, hm. And although CP calls this an example of a severe reinterpretation of the text (and one mostly unsupported by the text), it's still there, in my head, all these years later.

First, let's get this out of the way: Dick Van Dyke does the worst Cockney accent. Despite being born-and-raised American, when I finally saw Mary Poppins, I assumed he was from somewhere else in America, and not British (or Cockney, allegedly). This is because I'd already been to England and met several lovely elderly Cockneys while we were in London, and Dyke didn't talk anything like them. Plus, he was completely comprehensible, and right there, I knew he couldn't be really British, because you had to listen hard when someone from London spoke or else you couldn't figure out a word of it. Even the people in Aberdeen were easier to understand, with a little work, than the taxi drivers and bed/breakfast keepers we met in London.

So there's that level of a wrong note (so to speak), but there are deeper levels. One is that before I ever saw the film Mary Poppins, I'd read Kingsley's Water-Babies. (Later I saw some of the so-called filmic/animated adaptation of the book, and was disgusted with the fact that it was nothing like the book.) Water-Babies made a huge impact on me; while I was used to Dickens and his thorough applications of bathos for the sake of making his young protagonists (ie Oliver) sympathetic, Dickens also had later movies to deal with where Fagin and his crew were iffy and dirty but hardly, y'know, freaking terrifying like Oliver Reed. But Water-Babies pulls no punches about the life and tasks of its chimney sweep protagonist, and at the young age of maybe six or seven, trying to imagine a life of a chimney sweep came very close to giving me nightmares. If there is anything on this planet that I would never, ever, ever wish upon any child, it would be cleaning chimneys.

And then there's the song by Mrs Banks, about being a suffragette. I guess I was maybe nine or ten? when I finally saw Mary Poppins, and I already knew what suffragettes were. (Thank you, Mom, the feminist.) Except that in the movie -- relatively straightforward and crowd-rousing lyrics aside -- the movie-Mom wasn't treated like a hero. She was treated like a ditz who, I don't know, did suffragette-ing on the side, on Sunday afternoons, like a weekly hobby to keep herself busy between doing wash on Tuesdays and having other ladies over for high tea on Thursdays. And maybe some silver-polishing on Saturday morning. Or whatever upper-class British ladies did, which (in my admittedly young and inexperienced opinion) seemed to amount to a lot of dabbling. And looking ornamental.

But the film's pivotal role -- and the real bearer of any moral message -- is Mary Poppins herself, and she seems to treat (or so I recall) Mrs. Banks as though Mrs Banks is little more than a twittering ditz, and mostly useless. I knew my American history and that women fought for a long, long time before they got the vote, so I figured in Britain it was probably similar, and that (at the time) a lot of men saw women wanting the vote as something that should never happen, and would never amount to any good. So I completely expected Mr Banks' dismissive reaction to his wife's activism; it was Mary Poppins' dismissiveness that really baffled me, and then annoyed me. I mean, if Mary Poppins is supposed to be so smart, why would she a) treat another woman like she's stupid, and b) not respect and support a woman trying to make life better for all women?

Thus I was already a bit iffy on the film, first time I watched it, but the clincher was the song, Chim Chim Cher-ee. )
kaigou: (1 Izumi)
Recently I saw a news bit about an upcoming convention for, I think it was, women game-writers. There was, of course, the inevitable bit about how women don't need their own gaming convention, and leaving out the menz, and the usual. (Uh, maybe it was comics? Great, my mind's going and it's barely only 1pm.) I'm all for safe space, but now I want one in my industry. Someplace where I could post this, and know I'm talking to people who won't act like I'm seeing things, or practically pat me on the head with the patronizing, or tell me it's not a big deal (or that it doesn't bother them so naturally it shouldn't bother me) and I should get over it, or whatever. But since I can't find that locally, it's all y'all instead who get to share my pain. I mean, this shit really is insidious.



Note the icon titles. GEE, THANKS FOR CLEARING THAT UP FOR ME.
kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (2 the part that's less fun)
Now that I understand written Cantonese (in comics) uses the grammatical forms of Cantonese, not Mandarin, I finally know why a Chinese (from Shanghai) friend took one look at a manga I'd purchased and said, "no one talks like this!" She didn't know, anymore than I did, that it made a difference that it was an HK publisher. Now I know. And now I need to figure out how to get Taiwanese translations, although I guess this means paying more, seeing how all the import-to-US companies carry HK translations.

I've been helping with translations for a shoujo work that has its fair share of bishonen. I've become accustomed, over the past [censored] years with shonen work, of seeing self-identifying young women declare they hate the girl leads, or the female side-characters, or want some (or all) of the girl characters to die. I am slightly surprised that I'm not seeing that, with this manga, and it finally dawned on me that perhaps we've been blaming female readers for being indoctrinated with misogynist feelings (in re female characters).

Maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe it's that, honestly, the majority of female characters in shonen stories really are that useless, compared to their male counterparts. Because in reading commentaries by young (some as young as 12) female readers, for the rare stories (shoujo and shonen) where the female characters are not stupid, are not helpless, and are not whiny self-entitled children expecting to be saved... the responses are quite different. There's a whole lot of love for the character(s), and a certain sense of satisfied expectation when it comes to the pretty men being interested in her. Few have said it so blunt, but at least one female reader did: "of course they'd all be interested in her, because she's interesting!"

Speaking of which, if you like your science quite hard, and you like your cast strongly female, try Moretsu Pirates. It's translated (for no reason that I can tell) as "Bodacious Space Pirates", and the OP seems fluffy enough... but it's suddenly taken a strong left into hard sci-fi. It's like a stealth anime. The premise isn't that unusual: an unknown parent dies, and leaves some kind of inheritance (in this case, the letter of marque for a sanctioned space-pirate ship), and the child (usually a boy, but in this case a girl) must decide whether to accept the deceased parent's mantle. We're on episode four, and the heroine still hasn't actively made that choice, but damn. The first episode was fluffy shoujo, with a few hints. The second episode started to show a bit more of a feminist flair. The third episode, Mom's teaching our heroine how to shoot a gun (and not one that's small and pink, either) and the fourth episode, we're dealing with science the level of your average Star Trek episode. And not a twit-brained, big-chested, useless waste-of-space* in sight. The female characters are capable, realistic for their age (able to joke around), but also pretty savvy. I am torn between love for the yacht club president and vice president.

Here's hoping this series stays strong, because it's been a long time coming, not to mention to have two such strongly female-centric anime in one season (the other one being Rinne no Lagrange).

* there is a doctor-character who gets the fanservice, with boobs and garters and heels, but so far if she's in any stereotype, it's as the intelligent but somewhat sly femme fatale. Not perfect, but still not a twit. I'm not sure what it says about the expected audience, if the majority of the fanservice is an adult character.
kaigou: fangirling so hard right now (3 fangirling so hard)
I just need a moment to stop hyperventilating.


and then maybe a few more minutes to stop running around in crazy circles.

kaigou: image of Miho from kdrama (1 dimples that kill)
The past few months have been... well, there they've been. So instead, I'll list what's fit for quasi-public consumption. Reading list!

First, the manga.

Kamisama Hajimemashita: read it for the female protagonist. It's shoujo done right.

The summary sounds like yet another stock premise from the land of girl's (and boy's) manga: our hero has a single parent, who up and abandons the kid, for reasons of debt, in this case gambling-related. Thus, by the end of the first chapter, Nanami has gone from being the poorest girl in school with a gambling father to still the poorest, but now abandoned by her father, and homeless thanks to the loan sharks confiscating everything. Stuck in a park with her one duffel bag and nowhere to go, she rescues a man from a barking dog, and in appreciation he... gives her his house. Which turns out to be a shrine. A rather forgotten and run-down shrine, at that. Which comes with its own shrine guardians, one of whom is a former wild fox and is mightily displeased that the shrine's god not only has not returned (after an absence of twenty years) but sent this girl in his place, as the new land-god.

Kamisama comparisons, and Dengeki Daisy, Sengoku Strays, and a hope there'll be more coming from Rinne no Lagrange. )

I realized the other day that the first anime I saw was ten years ago, with Spirited Away. Outside of Miyazaki, it's taken ten years to be able to list this many good heroines in one post. Here's hoping in another ten years, such heroines will be so common that I can't fit them all in twenty posts this long.
kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
For reasons I won't go into here, decided I wanted to lie on the sofa and be lazy and watch something. Preferably something where at most I could hit the remote, instead of getting up and changing disks or whatever. (I'm talking about the computer-as-tv, since I don't have tv.)

Three episodes into Valkyria Chronicles (which I hadn't seen before) and all I can think is: I had no idea Arakawa was even more unconventional than I'd already thought her: all the FMA military women are in, well, military uniform. This show puts the women in miniskirts, and with over-the-knee stockings. (Do the male animators not realize how often you have to pull up your socks, when they're over the knee? And that there's a reason garters were invented?)

Screw this. I'm gonna (re)watch me some Kuroshitsuji, which may not be quite as awesome as the manga (yes, I am CAUGHT UP NOW and YES that was a MOMENT OF CROWNING AWESOME the likes of which is rivaled by only a few other instances ever, like one-hand-counting amount, so I just reread several times to make it feel like it happened more) -- but still, there are no military women in miniskirts.

Granted, the female characters in Valkyria are shooting and driving tanks and throwing grenades, but still. It's hard to take that seriously when they're also wearing miniskirts while the men get, y'know, real uniforms.

Le sigh.

whois

kaigou: Sorry to barge in, but we have a slight apocalypse. (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

August 2014

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