Story Pile: Ultra
Content Warning: Rachel Maddow.
Oh and all the Nazis.Continue Reading →
Defending The Defended
Okay, cool, now you’ve got that out of your system, we can move on.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: Arrival
Arrival is a 2016 movie about the individual experience of a very thoughtful linguist lady as humanity contends with the first engagement with an alien first contact, not in the vein of guns and bombs and tanks and planes, the way Will Smith taught us, but instead, the high stakes, deeply intense world of complex linguistic deconstruction without an existing linguistic frame of reference. And it whips, but it’s also like being bathed in wax.
It’s a language nerd movie, but I’d leave the detailed considerations of that to other people, you know, people who are experts in language. I’d recommend checking out Lingthusiasm, which goes in on the movie in depth. I’m going to try and avoid replicating anything they cover here. The only thing I’d point to that stands apart is the way that this movie demonstrates how weak our language is to discuss language we don’t have.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk spoilers after the fold. There’s probably some generalities that can give away things ‘about’ the movie, but instead I want to talk about what this movie thinks is reasonable and normal.Continue Reading →
Towards a Cozier Internet
The number one priority of Google is keeping your attention on Google. This is not a controversial position, it’s not a conspiracy theory. The priority of the systems that relate to that create an intention towards things like a search engine, or gmail or whatever, are all just functions in the name of keeping your attention on Google. They want you looking at them so they can make sure your attention is where they can monetise it, through advertisers.
This command of attention is prime: even just being a trustworthy source of search information is secondary to the command of attention in the name of making money. I’ve talked about the form advertising takes, in that its job is not to sell you products, but to sell advertising to the people who buy advertising, and anything you do is incidental to that goal. This drive towards the retention of attention and serving the needs of advertisers is so all-consuming that Google literally does not care if people paying for their services use them for exploitative harm, like how in 2022, an advertiser made a malware fake version of widespread software package OBS. Google would happily put this above searches for OBS proper, because they paid for it.
Simply put: Google’s not great.
Neither is Twitter, a service I’ve been using pretty much constantly for nine years. In June, I’ll get a notification about my ten years on the site, even though based on the way the API is behaving, the last post I made to it was February 22, and that was something a blog software was handling. It was, for the latter part of its presence in my life, doing a very bad job of what I wanted it to do. What I wanted Twitter to do was give me an audience who I could direct to things I thought were cool; instead, it mostly became about screaming, and demanding why you weren’t also screaming.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 2
You can tell the quality of a shounen series by how quickly it turns to a tournament arc in order to fill out its episodes. Tournament arcs are a break-in-case-of-emergency story beat for any game in the fighting shonen battle franchise, because while on the one hand, they give you structure, motivation, and a clearly defined sense of progression, they are also, ultimately, just a series of disconnected fights where you have to show characters being cool and explaining what they’re doing for mulitple episodes. I understand entirely why an anime might need to do a tournament arc; the manga industry is a machine that eats artists and shits manga, and when you’re doing a shounen battle series, having this kind of chained sequence of fights gives you an opportunity to fill out the audiences’ perspective and demonstrate a bunch of things like you’re filling out a guidebook. They are practical arcs, they are serviceable arcs.
You can also elevate a tournament arc! There are stories that weave (say) intrigue around a tournament arc, or where the rules of the tournament create a different demand on the characters, or if you follow only one character learning about the world through the arc — there’s a lot you can do with them… but they are also predictable and require you to set them up well with an interesting source of tension.
The first half of My Hero Academia season 2 is a single big tournament arc, and it’s shockingly mediocre.Continue Reading →
The Fastest Woman In History
Who is it?
I thought this was a pretty simple question. It feels like the kind of thing that if you punch it into a google search, you’d get a card which mentions this person moved at this speed at this time and they had these genders and you’d have to dig to page 2 to get a good result that wasn’t just mimicking that.
Man, search engines have gotten bad.
Anyway, no, I didn’t get a good answer punching it in, but I did wind up finding a bunch of interesting questions, thinking about it!Continue Reading →
Story Pile: Eat, Play, Love
Alright, we’ve talked about some anime and some interesting indie media, why not talk about the most tedious, boring, mainstream thing in the world? I recruited Fox to talk to me about the movie Eat, Play, Love, produced by the Hallmark channel.
Just so you know: It’s not a good movie.
Shirt 23.02 – Steddie Things Shirt
First up, the design! On a shirt!
Second, the design on its own so you can look at it!
This design is something of a proof of concept. At first, the idea was that this was an idea I could port to a lot of different sets, where an identifying Ship Term (in this case ‘Steddie’, but I also considered Soriku) is surrounded by a love heart of phrases that are meant to relate to experiencing these characters in their lore space. And this is a design type I want to make more of (now I have this first one done), but at the moment, this design took a long enough time to make that my ambition to make a bunch of these ran into a wall.
The thing that may surprise you is how hard this list of text to add to this turned out to make. To make this kind of word clouding work well, I need a big variety of textwith different weights, and I had to construct this cloud myself. That meant that I also had to make the title in the middle the way I chose to. If I needed 300+ words with different appearances and weight, I was able to get to a whopping fifty.
I like this design! I like how much better I can make the next one, too.
If you want this design, it comes in three flavours, the mixed colour version, the pure red version, and a pure white version.
Story Pile: My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom!
This year has reminded me of something I truly, truly love about anime as a genre: You get a self-contained story idea, usually something with a bunch of familiar anchors, and then says ‘okay, now here’s the idea we’re working with in this space.’ You get useful, familiar tools for telling a story (so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to communicate ideas), and then that lets the story highlight what parts of it stand apart from the standard patterns.
Here’s your standard template: an anime that tells the story that plays out in your typical otome game dating sim, where the characters are divided easily into ‘the ones you want to have sexy stories with’ and ‘the ones who are rivals or hindrances to your sexy stories,’ set in a magical mid-fantasy kingdom where you get fancy outfits, princesses and magical colleges, but also there’s no conspicuous mention of plague or weird pooping habits. Then, there’s the also-standard form of it being a story focusing on a single individual who is from our world, an isekai story, or if you’re familiar with the Christian media space, Narnia-likes.
Here’s your twist: The world she’s in now is the world of a videogame she played when she was in our world, she knows how this type of game works, like the things that signal you’re on the wrong track, but she’s not in the role of the hero of the story like when she played it.
She’s the villainess.
And the villainess, in all the routes of the games, is screwed.Continue Reading →
Ukyou And Tarou
Ranma 1/2, as may be expected of a gag sex comedy manga that ran for a decade, has a huge cast of characters. There are a host of characters who show up for exactly one story, such as some of my favourites, Herb, Shinnosuke and Ryuu Kumon, even if their appearance stretches across multiple issues. I guess I should mention Rakkyosai at this point because hey, remember Rakkyosai? No? Just me? Anyway. Technically, the near-final arc of the story, the Phoenix Mountain Arc, features a bunch of one-hit-wonder characters too like Kiima and Saffron, and oh, hey Pink and Link are in that basket too. If you haven’t read the manga, you must trust me this is a kind of impressive, like I’m doing some strange kind of wheelie on a type of vehicle you don’t understand.Continue Reading →
Chemistry and Catalysts
Chances are, if you know me, you know that I’m a person who isn’t particularly fond of the idea of reading characters as queer as if that makes a text queer. This comes out of a stubbornness, perhaps misplaced, that I grew up in a period where a lot of the ‘queer’ media I was seeing being touted was often just extremely standard heterosexual media where two characters of the same gender were friends. This kinda rubbed me the wrong way, at first because I wasn’t comfortable with queerness in media, and then later on because I and people I knew were making queer media with queer characters in them and they weren’t getting attention that I felt was being unduly given to, y’know, something like How I Met Your Mother for some goddamn reason.
I’ve been watching a lot of anime lately and part of that has been learning more about how anime gets made, the material conditions of it, and how the image I had of Japan in my mind growing up was always just that, an image. It means that I’ve come to terms with how and why these really queer-seeming series that aren’t queer keep getting made, often where in the middle of a series about boys’ friendships, the story jerks to a halt, looks out of the screen and says ‘this is where a romantic couple would kiss, and we are obviously not kissing, because that is what we are not.’ It’s stuff I’ve mentioned in the context of the idea of the unbeard, too.
And that brings with it a feeling of caution, and a little sting of hypocrisy, too. I mean, I’m shipping characters, and I used to talk about shipping as if people doing that were being an exploitable resource for the people who wouldn’t put actual queerness in their media. Look at me, the terrible fan, the terrible queer. Part of how I got over this was by being a bit less of a stick in the mud in general, but another part, and the more important part, was considering that I was looking at texts expecting declarations when what was interesting to me was the chemistry.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: Shikimori’s not Just A Cutie
2022 was a year for extensive arguing about different varieties of Best Girl, what with Yor Forger, Marin Kitagawa, Bridget and probably some more I’m not remembering right now. One of the dark horse entries, based almost entirely in my friendscape’s reaction to the thirteen seconds in a trailer where she pulls a mean face, is Shikimori-san from Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie.
People make fun of light novel anime titles having huge explanations for the entirety of the story you’re buying into but you know, I think that Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie is basically the same thing. It’s a romance anime from mostly the perspective of a tragically failure-prone boy dojikko (dojibro) who at the start of the series is dating Shikimori. She is a cutie, and also there’s a bit more to her.
Just a bit.Continue Reading →
Troll Romance (Oo ra oo ah ah)
In the webcomic Homestuck, there is a group of characters belonging to what we might call species known as Trolls. The Trolls are described repeatedly as experiencing romance and reproducing through a system that involves up to four different relationships of different types, known generally as ‘quadrants.’ These four types of relationship have their own specific titles and in so doing, help the audience consider ‘romantic’ relationships in a way that moves beyond the conventional way that characters may want to do a kiss on one another, involving a bucket.
In the context of Homestuck, every single thing I said in that sentence is attached to a web of lore and concepts that mean for any given idea, I am leaving out a lot of things that, if explained, would take multiple hours and add literally nothing to the conversation.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: There She Is!!
In internet culture times, there’s a timelessness and an immateriality that comes from being classic.
If you were on the internet in your teenage years in around 2004, you probably know something about a particular genre of animation that tends to get called ‘Flash’ animation. And there’s a lot to be said about how Flash animation worked, and the gates it left wildly open. Sometimes people get caught up on the techniques and what they permitted, and lose track of the compression, and how turning a long animation into vectors and math meant it could be more easily translated into an internet transmissable format. That format led to hosting sites, and those hosting sites led to communities and those communities led to trends and distribution, and that is how you get things that people knew, that seemingly everyone had seen, but couldn’t attribute to any kind of source.
Even if the thing everyone’s seen has source inside it, ‘cos it’s written in a different language.
Content Warning: Racism and a pet deathContinue Reading →
The conversation around representation is often a thing that involves talking about the very real ways in which the people who see themselves unrepresented in media, or only ever represented in a negative way, can have negative consequences, even to the extent of them inducing PTSD experiences in particularly long-exposure. The way that trans people, people of colour (and we’re going to go in on that when it comes to anime some day), ace people, and – you know, everyone outside of the rudimentary accepted dominant hierarchy get to be represented. But there’s another element of representation where the stories you absorb can often give you a symbiotic relationship to an image of who you are and who you can be, and this can show up in the way that a lot of guys, particularly guys in my general category of unremarkable basic dudes who like anime and felt lonely in their teenage years, thought that being a creepy drip was, y’know, understandable.
And there’s no patient zero here, this is all fluid exchanges of the gas that is culture, I’m not trying to pretend that this is one person’s fault, but there was definitely a person who I think I can point to as a very reasonable exemplar of a trend that kicked off and is still showing up in anime culture to this very day.
I refer to the crappy mediocre dude that is Keitaro Urashima.Continue Reading →
Smooch Month 2023 — Blending The Blandness
Here we are, in 2023 and our first! theme month! It’s February, the month of Valentines Day and my dead grandmother’s birthday, and since people are going to be selling chocolates at a discount at some point and TV will be screening romantic media, it’s of course, the best of times to focus on that, in our theme of Smooch Month!
And of course, when it’s Smooch Month, we get to see two particular types of article, which I’m going to try to get out of the way ahead of time: One, ‘here’s what I mean by Smooch Media,’ and two, ‘wow, it’s super hard to write Pile articles this month.’Continue Reading →
Story Pile: My Hero Academia, Season 1
Nothing quite like striking after the iron’s gone.
This is the last year in which My Hero Academia will not be an anime that ‘has run for ten years.’ Seems a fine time to get into this superhero comic book anime for tweens. Behold, beyond the fold, I will be talking about the first season of the anime and that means some spoilering.Continue Reading →
Josh Lyman Sucks, Again
In award-winning prestige-drama television series The West Wing, season 4, Episode 10, Arctic Radar, there’s a story about the challenges of writing a 500 word speech for the President of the United States as two speechwriters clash in their own ways, old guard and new guard; Sam Seaborn’s Senatorial campaign picks up and CJ clashes with a reporter who dislikes their seating assignment, which you know, feels kind of like the jousting with Danny from earlier seasons but whatever, am I right.
In all of this political maneuvering, there’s a minor plot dotted throughout the episode where Josh Lyman, hero of the people and voice of a political generation of frustrated fighters who just wants to get into a brawl with the other guys, soul and heart of the series and lovable everyman, takes time out of his day to stop a government worker of some level of forgettableness from wearing a Star Trek pin.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: Children of Time
I understand that when I talk about movies I’m asking you to engage with me on my thoughts about a thing that’s ninety minutes long; a TV series is often something you can whittle away at over time and isn’t necessarily designed for a scope of attention that covers a lot of time in its narrative or a long time in its experience. I’m kinda a pop culture boy, I do the wham-bam-thank-you style of things for having fun and maybe I’ll try and recommend series of books to you like the Tiffany Aching series, I’m going to do so mostly because every part of that series is a book that’s pretty great and can be finished reasonably quickly.
Not so for Adrian Tchaikovsky (it’s a pen name) and his epic science fiction story Children of Time. This book is a juggernaut – the audiobook is something like six hours, and those are not a breezy set of page turners. If I talk about a piece of media it’s often with the tone of someone who’s very confident that you can go get that media and check it out and then use that media to contextualise what I think and feel about it. In this case, I think that’s a pretty big lift, since we’re talking about a doorstopper of a book and I have an audience who exist on the spectrum between ‘oo shiny’ and ‘books bore me because I can’t use them to open thirty-five tabs on which digimon have been shown wearing shoes.’ Knowing that I’m going to start off by giving you a broad overview of what happens in the story, without giving away specifics.
If you know this book already, if you want to approach things without any awareness of the plot, or if you want a push to check out some big-S big-F Science Fiction and all you need is someone recommending it, I do recommend Children of Time! I liked how it handled the scope of its stories, I liked the kinds of things it saw as solutions to problems, and it did some things that appealed to me in very specific, niche ways. Particularly, it appealed to me with its culture of sentient, cooperative cat-sized spiders, and the war they wage on the last vestiges of humanity and how that gets solved.
That got your attention? The book’s full of spiders.
Spoilers ahead, but most importantly, content warning: Spiders.
Oh my word, so much, with the spiders.Continue Reading →
Shirt 23.01 – I’m Fine, And You?
First up, the design on a shirt.
Second, the design in a png so you can read it.
And third, the raw text of the shirt so you can read it even more clearly:
The text ‘I’m fine, and you’ interrupting a litany of text in the background struck through that reads:
In late November 2022, a misprinted label on a pair of bootlegged boots introduced the world to the name and credits for GONCHAROV, a ‘greatest Mafia movie ever made’ which then caught on for what was roughly one long weekend of Tumblr engaging in an extensive game of ‘yes and’ that involved improvising screencaps, scene summaries, movie posters, and a truly impressive amount of sapphic fanfiction that was derided then by non-tumblr users as ‘just tumblr’ even as the joke spread all the way to Martin Scorsese, its supposed director himself.
If you’d like this design you can check it out in black or white text!
Story Pile: Megatokyo
Throughout 2022 I made a bit of fun on social media by reminding people that Megatokyo, the webcomic, was still updating, and had through all 22 years of its existence, produced a plot that at this point spanned roughly a week. It’s one of those things that when you present it to people who remember reading it as literal children creates an interesting reaction that shows you what they remember.
But what of me? What did I remember? I thought that maybe I should go check it out, and see what I thought of Megatokyo, since after all, I’d stepped out well before the talking robot girl had made a schoolfriend who was also the avatar of female tragedy. What is Megatokyo now? And how has it changed? Is it what you remember? is it better? is it worse?
What would I answer to the question, What is Megatokyo?
Content Warning: Y’know, there’s a lot of pretty nasty misogyny in Megatokyo, though not anything I’d step up to the level of a content warning. What I would content warn, though, is the commonality with which they suggest an adult Piro date a fifteen year old.Continue Reading →
Speed and Haste and Waste
No transcript here, I’m afraid, this entirely came off the top of my head and had only one retake when the dog barked. Oh and right at the end when I stumbled on ‘idyll.’
Some Sick Speedruns To Check Out
As this article goes up, it’s Awesome Games Done Quick 2023. It’s going to go down in history as Another GDQ, but notable because this one pivoted from a physical event to an online event in response to a Floriday business deciding to Florida very hard and lean heavily into COVID denialism with the wishy-washy ‘well we can’t act like masks are a good idea’ bullshit that really is just a soft landing for ‘people who deny germ theory have enough money that we don’t care about public health and safety.’ Point is, that it’s GDQ, right now, as you’re reading this.
You might not care that much about speedrunning, despite everything I’ve said about how interesting and engaging it is (in general), but are curious about now, how the experience of the event might feel, and what you might want to watch. I’d like to recommend then, a list of five things that haven’t aired yet (as of publication date) that you can look out for, and which I think serve as solid, single experiences (based on, admittedly, only partial knowledge).
These should all be screening, at some point after this articles goes up, on the Games Done Quick channel.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: The Rendezvous
In 1976, Claude Lelouch, a french filmmaker, released a short video, about eight minutes long, which showed a single take of an anonymous driver driving ten kilometers through the center of Paris, at an average speed of 80 kilometers/50 miles per hour. You don’t see the car. You don’t hear talking. You don’t get any framing at all for the experience; you start in the car, as it leaves a tunnel, and then you have nothing to do but sit, like a passenger, as the car’s tires squeal, the engine revs, and the driver proceeds to break quite a few laws.
It is a real recording of a real excursion that really broke real laws: speed limits were ignored, eighteen red lights were violated and one-way streets were driven up the wrong way. While there’s no obvious danger to the public on the path, the fact that this was a real thing that was really done, there’s some inherent unpredictability about the things that could have happened, even at 5:30 in the morning in summer, where there’s not a lot of people going through the streets of Paris.
Now obviously, me being me, you might assume I’m pretty okay on some laws being ignored, and there’s definitely a case, though also, rich french dude who could afford a sports car getting away with violating a bunch of car laws isn’t exactly anarchist praxis as much as it is just what we expect. There’s not a lot of Being Gay in this Doing Crimes video. There’s also a potential angle you can take on this video about the way it’s a bit of a magic trick; we only see this version because this is the version where nothing went wrong, and we don’t know how many other versions of it happened, how many other versions of it could have happened, where things were a little different. We know there was a walkie-talkie and a spotter involved, even if it didn’t wind up being a factor, and regardless of the realities of how this video got made, as a text, you don’t get to know anything about that. With such a small, generic diegesis, you could dig into what it means, what the miniscule scrap of text really does explain.
I’m not going to do that, though.
I think this is a speedrun.Continue Reading →
Some of you out there are currently feeling bad about Bridget Guiltygear, about how a character you really liked the way it was now feels unavailable to you, and it’s in the very fraught, very distressing conversational space of Transgender Issues. You’re probably feeling in a way about it and you want someone to talk about it… and there’s nobody to talk to about it, because the conversational space is, as said, distressing.
Basically, if you’re someone who’s feeling a way about Bridget being a trans girl now, but you can recognise you’re feeling sad about you and not mad about the way other people are feeling, I’d like to talk to you. And I’d like to talk to you and offer you advice and guidance from a cohort that you might imagine is kind of your opposite: the trans Harry Potter fan.
Content Warning: I’m going to talk about Bridget a lot, and I’m going to talk about Harry Potter, and I’m going to do so with what I hope will be seen as compassion for people engaging with media. I’m obviously not endorsing or encouraging transphobia. I’m doing this as a good faith engagement with something complicated to talk about, and none of what I should say should be treated as any reason to get mad at people who are expressing their feelings.Continue Reading →
Story Pile: Goncharov
Don’t worry, I’m not about to do an explainer on this movie, which does not exist. I cannot stress that enough: It does not exist. I don’t think I need to belabour that point, because it seems almost nobody’s trying to sustain kayfabe on this one. You’re not going to see a big, elaborate description of the critical analysis of a four hour long 1973 Mafia film starring Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd and Lynda Carter (in a minor role), with a great big twist at the end like hahah, surprise, got you, this movie doesn’t exist!
I know, that is the kind of joke I like to tell! I like walking you down a garden path, introduce a ridiculous idea, and then surprise you by revealing that it’s true (or not, I mix it up). But no, in this case, I’m not here to do that. I’m going to do something so much worse, I’m going to talk to you about my feelings, and they’re not going to be happy or feel-good!
Content Warning: I’m going to talk about Goncharov, which I hope is obvious, and I’m going to talk about being angry at people and the way I felt treated without any intention to change their behaviour or ask apology.Continue Reading →
Decemberween 2022: Nice Boys On The Internet
I don’t watch a lot of streams. I have a very hard time engaging with a space like that, where there’s a lot of tangible avenues for human interaction that are all explicitly one way. It’s a byproduct of mostly only seeing and engaging with stream chat when it’s something that’s a big deal, like Desert Bus or Games Done Quick (oh yeah one of those is coming up and one of those just ended). It means that for all that the actual video content is pretty entertaining, when the volume of human engagement is high enough, I just feel like I’m being invited to engage with thousands of people all of whom will ignore me, so I’d much rather watch the whole thing on vod later, possibly at double speed to make up for the lack of crisp editing.Continue Reading →
Decemberween 2022: Homestuck Made This World
I did a Decemberween post a few years back on a podcast called Game Studies Study Buddies which is a great podcast about reading academic texts from the field of Games Studies, a field distinct from Game Theory, which is math, and Gameology, which doesn’t exist. It’s a good podcast, it features two twitter personalities and general gaming space wordboys, Cameron Kunzelman and Michael Lutz, one of whom is a country boy who loves dubstep.
If the point of Decemberween is to point you to free media that you can enjoy during a time where you may be seeing other media going into big long slow downtimes, then it seems to me that this is a great time to point you at a podcast that’s something like eighty hours of long-form reading of a webcomic that is also thousands and thousands of panels long. It helps that it’s honestly a really good podcast on that topic.
I don’t want to talk too much about my opinions of Homestuck here because they’re largely negative and every time I approach something I think I’ll hate because I’ve been asked to give it a second chance it tends to go bad (not always). But what I want to talk about is the way this podcast serves to onramp the experience of Homestuck in two major ways.
First and foremost, it’s actually disciplined enough to release on a meaningful schedule while covering a meaningful quantity of the comic. It isn’t hitting dreadful schedule slippage or existence failure, goodness willing. It’s just that this is going to get through the comic in a meaningful pace and is going to include the things that are in the comic without needing to spend two hours dwelling on one small set of panels. There’s a focus to it.
Secondly, there’s no need to mystify or exalt the text while they’re reading it so you don’t get a introduction that starts with something like Homestuck is an Experience but instead a much more robust, much more clear examination of what the text is, the form it takes, the source from which it comes, and that author’s other, related works. It’s a sort of autoethnography where these two people are sharing an experience and engaging with their reactions to that experience academically.
Homestuck is a thing that happened, and we can look at that thing, and it is through these two gents talking about it in a way that was willing to go ‘oh hey, this bit is boring’ and ‘this bit is bad’ while still bringing to bear tools of textual analysis (ie, looking at what’s in the text rather than necessarily the sort of paidic experience most people seem to get about Homestuck) it makes the whole task seem a lot less arduous. I know every time I’ve considered digging through Homestuck I’ve looked at the screen of a dork in his room and gone: There are ten years of this and most of it is bad, why bother?
But Homestuck Made This World looks at it in a historical context, and don’t just tell me what they think or feel about it, they show a meaningful sourced representation of what the culture at large thought of it. It’s really inspiring as a way to handle a big, challenging text.
Who knows, maybe I’ll give an examination of Homestuck a shot.
Story Pile: The 2022 Summary
And here we are, on the last Story Pile day of the year. I would say ‘the last monday’ but honestly, I don’t know if it’s monday to you. It’s not monday to me. I don’t think I’ve ever written a Story Pile article on the monday it goes up. The joy of scheduling. Anyway, it’s the end of the year, it’s an arbitary cutoff point before I reorganise some stuff, what was this year like and also can I have a freebie sir thank you.
I watched a lot of stuff this year! I watched some stuff that kicked ass, some stuff that bored me, and some stuff I struggled to finish. This year featured a lot less hate-watching, and a lot more consideration of disappointments, with only a few Hallmark pieces to drag around because it’s fun to make fun of really bad media sometimes, and it’s easy, and it’s something to share with Fox.
One thing I watched a lot more of this year is anime. I feel like the past five years or so I’ve really fallen out of watching anime, something I used to love doing, and only this year did I really get back into the habit of trying to watch an anime on the regular — a single series a month, maybe, and binge on a few when I was of a mood. I joined a discord with an anime club channel. And the result is I watched a bunch of kick-ass anime! Not all of it got Story Piles this year. Maybe next year. I wound up weaving this into my organisation — every month, I would do one Story Pile on an anime.
But this isn’t about what I watched this year.
This is about what I wrote.
What articles did I write, in the Story Pile category, that I want you to look at? What are my top ten most proud of it articles I wrote? Let’s count ’em down!Continue Reading →
Decemberween 2022: Music!
As you get older you stop paying attention to ‘music’ in a general way. I don’t drive a car, I don’t go to parties, I tend to listen to music that’s functionally entirely under my control, and this year I have been trying to avoid streaming services for music.
This has also meant more stealing stuff, which I feel completely fine about, but it has meant stealing stuff in low quality mp3s, which of course, the person in my life who might hear them and can appreciate bad music quality doesn’t like.
Still, here’s some stuff I found this year and I like:
It’s weird how this song, which I first found on Spotify (you know, before the stealing stuff) didn’t have an album cover to me. Now it has an album cover and I can’t imagine wanting anything else. Sick, huh?
Oh man, remember when Bridget GuiltyGear dropped and we got treated to a new wave of incredibly stupid discourse? A detail easily missed in all this was that there was a new theme song with it, and most of the Guilty Gear Strive music whips (I particularly like Disaster of Passion, the theme for May), but The Town Inside Me got to stand apart of it and included an enduringly weird line that keeps popping into my head, ‘I hate the alarm clock I chose.’
Also it’s got a horns bit! I like horns bits!
This one might be blocked in your region, don’t know, can’t help ya. It’s called Orgasm Anthem by Wanuka, and it’s a really fun, poppy Japanese song you can hum along with.
We also got the OP to Chainsaw Man Kick Back, which is… a cover? Of a Morning Musume song?
And while I’m loading up on Anime themes, I also really liked Venus Line, the opening to Birdie Wing. Oh no, wait I just noticed this one does a horns bit too. I might just be really into horns in my music?
There’s still always room in my heart for ironically pop-culture engaged pop punk though, and even if I feel like Sunrise Skater Kids is the kind of band I expect to make ‘pronouns’ jokes at some point if you give them enough rope, I still like this song just because if you’re going to make fun of a character, it helps to present them the way you perceive them.
Oh, you know what else was super popular this year? 1997 Australian pop music! For reasons undisclosed at this point I’ve been doing a lot of retro listens to 90s pop music and trying to determine if there’s some inherent quality to them I don’t appreciate enough, or if maybe it’s just making my brain think I’m a teenager again.
I like this song a lot because it feels like it’s expressing a very 2020 kind of vibe about loving music but not loving music culture, and how people and anxiety are at odds with one another for how you can appreciate it.
I don’t know anything about this one but the name makes me assume it’s part of a greater operatic structure and I absolutely do not care to hear more. But I am a sucker for the jabby violins at the start.
Finally, the thing that made me decide I needed to do a post like this.
Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is a science-fiction zine album of filks made by a variety of folk and headlined by an anarchist songmaker way back in 1989. The story of how it got made is a bit interesting and cool, and maybe the vibe of it is just something that resonates with me a lot. It’s sea shanties, but it’s also science fiction, so there’s an unreality to it and there’s worldbuilding and that’s dope as hell.
And this morning as I write this, I got confirmation of something.
There are a lot of fun names on the credit list for this album of nonprofessional music. Particularly, one of the songs is written by Mercedes Lackey, which is pretty neat (as much tolerance as you have for her). But the other thing is, on a couple of these songs, there’s a chorus voice, doing bass backup for a higher front voice.
That voice is Mike Pondsmith, the creator of Cyberpunk.
I checked with Talsorian Games, and asked if they could confirm it was the same Mike Pondsmith. They told me yes – and they called the album a rare gem.
Decemberween 2022: Life SMP
Do you like reality TV? No? Oh okay that makes sense. Not saying that none of you do, but on average, I can reasonably assume
What about wrestling? Yeah! Yeah okay, probably, statistically, you do.
What about Minecraft? Yeah, okay, statistically, you also probably do!
The Life SMP is a Minecraft SMP (“Survival Multiplayer”) set up as in Hardcore mode, where you have a limited number of lives. You can die a total of 3 times and then that’s it, you’re out of the game. A bunch of professional Minecrafters get thrown into this space, with rules for each iteration and what you get is kind of a really good single season narrative you can see from multiple perspectives.
The storytelling this presents is really interesting to me — you’re basically getting a mix of reality TV, where players need resources to actually do things to affect the world and make things happen (including violence), but there’s also an element of shared fiction where people are creating things that one another needs to react to. There are grudges (real and exaggerated), there’s kayfabe (real and exaggerated), and unlike other long-form Minecraft content where there’s a sort of timeless vision, the Life setup is very clearly here for a good time, not for a long time.
There are three seasons of Life and it works well that each season gets better than the next. It’s some really good bingeable content for the holiday period – just put the playlist on the TV and let it run because it’ll have that effect where plot points may zip past, but the next video will show you that plot point in a different angle.Continue Reading →