Category: Media

I’m a media studies graduate and with that comes a raftload of tools that I’m repeatedly told aren’t actually useful for anything, to which I counter that I like using them and enjoy the experience of applying those tools to all the media around me I partake in and therefore my life is enriched and overflowing with wonderful experiences of interconnectivity. By this point the other person has usually wandered off. Anyway, this is the category for anything that I think of as being connected to ‘media’, whether it’s a type (like TV, music, movies or so on), a brand (like Disney! Hi Disney!). This category also covers my weekly critical engagement column-type-thing currently called Story Pile.

Story Pile: Fullmetal Alchemist – The Anime

In 2003, the then-ongoing Fullmetal Alchemist manga launched a new anime, which took the series’ adventure story and complicated scientific-based material magical power system reinforced through firm, rigidly defined character interaction, and made it into an affair of visual spectacle. This was a good decision because all the pieces were in place to make a great action adventure anime, with a dash of horror, with the promise of riding the popularity of the manga readers that were following eagerly along with the manga.

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The Cultural Cringe and Brolonialism

There is a term used in Australia, which is known enough to have a wikipedia page but not known quite so much that I can assert it in a classroom and have people react with ‘ah, yes, that,’ which describes our relationship to the art, media, and creations of our own culture. The term is cultural cringe. Coined in the 1950s by A A Phillips, Cultural Cringe was seen as an Australian problem based on our relationship to ‘real’ culture in England and now, more recently, America.

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Giant Green Angry Baby

In The Transformers, the very serious advertising campaign about alien robots that transform into cars, planes, dinosaurs, two boomboxes (ask your parents), a vending machine and an enormous twelve-meter tall microscope, there are collections of toy robots that can be stuck together into single bigger toy robots. We’ve talked about them in the past, when I talked about the Protectobots and the Stunticons, where you could collect a set that was a squad which had its own internal dynamic, leaders and friends and followers. It was a really neat marketing gimmick, where you could Consume Products in a way with both a targeted list, and a reward for achieving all parts of that list.

These squads also tended to be written to have a bit of personality, based on the cards that they had on the back of the boxes, or the guidebooks you could buy and the maybe-sometimes-eventually-expressed-in-a-comic way that the show did to express character. The fact is in the TV Show, most Transformers were as much an accent and a hand to hold one of a number of blue-or-red lasers, with very few of them having a chance to really put forwards their characterisation compared to just filling space in battle scenes. Oh, there were single episodes that focused on single transformers from time to time, but they rarely got to build a large amount of context. I don’t remember any episode where Trailbreaker’s fear of being overconsumptive of Energon paralysed him, nor any instance of Windcharger magnetically tearing things apart.

But that doesn’t matter because Transformers is a canon made up of a shotgun blast of ideas, and what sticks tends to be what any given writer could put together. When dealing with our girls the Stunticons, it was picking any given list of personal neuroses and jamming them onto the toys they had to work with.

And that same policy got to be used on the beta model gestalt, the first step mistake that was Devastator.

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Story Pile: Fullmetal Alchemist – The Manga

There are a certain number of pieces of media that I don’t tend to want to talk about.

Sometimes, I don’t want to talk about a piece of media because I’ve never seen it, and in order to comment on it, I’d have to seek it out, and I don’t imagine I’ll be bringing anything new or interesting to the table. I’m a white cis guy, and lots of white cis guys who are straighter than me have worked very, very hard to make sure that if you get a ‘standard take’ on anything, you’re getting it from some variety of white cis guy. Watching The Room so I can say ‘yes, this sure is just as bad as I expected’ is not, to me, a valuable use of your time or mine. If I’m going to hatewatch something it’s because I know there’s something in there, some perspective I can bring to bear that’s interesting.

There’s also stuff I don’t talk about because I’ve been specifically asked not to talk about it. That is, stuff that I am known as being negative or critical about, and where sensitive people have asked, fairly nicely, for me to leave them alone as topics.

There are still works I don’t talk about, though, because they’re so good and them being good is so well known, I’m not going to tell you anything new by doing it. I don’t think, really, there’s a single thing I can tell you about Avatar: The Last Airbender that isn’t already done better by someone else, I don’t think that I’m going to provide a single extra angle on Inception, and even if I did have something to say (‘it’s fine,’ at best), I don’t find my opinion interesting.

The idea that my opinions are inherently interesting is the plague of privilege that I absolutely do not want to be comfortable.

Why then, would I talk about Fullmetal Alchemist?

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Hey, Kid, Wanna Do A Podcast?

Do you wanna make a pod-caaaast?
Do you wanna notice ums

The ways you hold your breath
And silence like death

And making reference to bums?

We’ve had a lot of time on mics lately, haven’t we? Maybe you’ve learned a little bit about crosstalk, maybe you’ve even lashed out and got yourself a nice new mic, for work purposes? And you might have been binging content because everyone is doing that right now?

Well, you should try and make a podcast!

About what? Well, that’s going to be up to you. What this post is about is giving you tools and techniques and resources.

First up, tools!

Zencastr is a recording program that runs in your browser window and runs a call that it then records. This is really useful if you’re doing a podcast with your girlfriend who lives a thousand miles away in Canada (and that’s not a joke), because you can just hand her the URL to the page, press the record button and Zencaster will record all the audio for both of you. It’ll be synced up, you can bring in up to three people on one call in the free version. It’s a solid resource! What’s more, it can put all those files automatically into your…

Dropbox! This is a good way to keep large, shared audio in a controlled space when you’re collaborating over distance. You may not need this if you’re just recording yourself (though we’ll talk to this). OneDrive can do something similar, but I don’t have direct experience with that, so I wouldn’t say.

Audacity! This is the bread and butter of audio recording. This is a very rudimentary audio editing program, and if what you want to do is cut audio up, delete some passages, clean up background noise and maybe filter out mouse clicking, this is going to do the task just fine. You will need an encoder to record mp3s, which you can learn about here, on this Lifewire page.

If you want to distribute your podcast, I’d recommend you set up a WordPress blog and use the Podlove add-on. These will step-by-step you through the process that lets you make an RSS feed that people can search up using their existing podcast recording software.

That’s it! That’s all you need, really!

I recommend for your first podcast, you either talk to a friend for about half an hour, or you recite or explain something you care about for about five minutes. The former you have room to react to one another and come to understand how hard it can be to use the time you have, and the latter shows you how much effort goes in to making those five minutes meaningful and clear. If you have plans for fiction and storytelling, try reading someone else’s story for a little bit – not releasing the episodes, just reading them – to get an idea for how quickly you can go through a story.

Finally, Freesound and Kevin Macleod’s Incomptech are excellent resources for sound effects and music.

Hope this is helpful!

Story Pile: Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas

I really liked Nanette. I thought it was really good and I wanted to share it around with my friends, because at its best, the Story Pile is an opportunity to just grab all my friends and talk excitedly about something you haven’t seen, or, if you have seen it, to jump up and down with you and show you how clever we both are for liking this thing. I liked Nanette so much I did a very rare video examining it where I trotted out Steve Geyer of all people.

Not to go over my love of Nanette, though, because it was a prickly recommendation at the best of times. Basically a ninety minute long Content Warning with its own absolutely brutal conclusion that nonetheless brought with it some truly body-blowing comedy that oh no here I’m going and praising Nanette again, but the point is, fuck that, Nanette is great, and Douglas is great too, phew, got the subject back into the cradle oh wait now we’re talking about A Knight’s Tale oh well that was great.

Now, Douglas is a show that helpfully starts out with a table of contents. Seriously, Gadsby goes over the themes and subject matter in the show and just tells you what’s going to be going into it, which means my normal concern about spoiling in a show that’s so built on timing and surprise is a little diminished. Particularly, then if I tell you this show is about autism, well, that’s something that she mentions in the opening, and she does so without making the phrase itself shocking or startling.

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The Mysterious Fogs Of Amerimanga

There’s this term that you see sometimes used by digital archivists, called bit rot. It’s this phenomenon where electromagnetically stored media, despite being ostensibly ‘permanent’slowly accumulates non-critical errors in the storage media, meaning that you get these special kinds of errors, which can often result in this eerie kind of work where the structure of what how computers save and store information is different enough to ours that we see things that look really wrong but in a really interestingly recognisable way. Bit rot doesn’t tend to show you media that’s completely alien, just that what it prioritises looks really weird. Sometimes it’s a simple as half a picture being A Bit Green. Sometimes it’s all the colours becoming neon and bright while still keeping as much of the shadows that preserve the image.

Bit rot is not just limited to the data stored on electronic media, though. The internet has its own form of bit rot. Any given site you visit on the internet isn’t necessarily talking to one computer hosting one website. It’s going through a vast network of interconnected components. Websites reference one another, in some cases hosting images on one another, and when you start digging into the old web, you start getting weird errors that, again, are about the way computers preserve things in a way that you wouldn’t expect, because computers aren’t people. The internet, originally conceived as, in part, an indestructible archive of the sum of human knowledge, therefore, has the eerie phenomenon of human archivists who do their best to try and manually ensure the internet is preserved in ways that won’t break over time.

Thus it is for someone who grew up knowing about Crosswinds and AngelFire and Geocities and the like, and came of age during that period where the webcomic boom coupled with the first arrival of the manga market in the west resulted in lots of stuff getting platforms with a lot of things that were normally gatekept away. There was a demand for people to make webcomics and manga and well, that meant lots of stuff got put out there, got a viewing and then… at some point, stopped. And then, with the internet moving on and various platforms taking over, that means those old sources have bit-rotted away.

I bring this up to explain how it is possible that I have this strangely resonant familiarity with the category of media I jokingly call ‘Amerimanga’ without being able to name a single real actual example. I went looking, I really did. I tried to find it – remembering character names like Colvin and Kyle, and transition that was enabled by such wild things as haunted videogame cartridges and the fact someone started reading fanfic about themselves or in one cases, a duck.

The genre is pretty simple: I describe it with an image, usually of some unrelated, or generic non-anime anime source, and then use the title of the thing to describe a very specific plot that has in some way gone off the rails from an existing, ‘legitimate’ framing to instead be about the main character being a girl, and being very in to that.

What happened then was that in this weird little space of webcomics-and-non-manga manga, where often comics weren’t really being overseen and all that could get you driving on to keep going was an audience response, was a lot of people were making the stories they could best throw out, week to week or issue to issue, in some sort of vague, semi-professional, almost-a-failure but-probably-not way. This isn’t to talk ill of this space: Odds are good, it’s just like any other existing community of creatives, where some fail and some succeed and that’s it.

But the most amazing thing about it, to me, is that going back to find this stuff, this little weird bubble of what amounts to ‘fanfiction through to published works that are all tapping the same basic vein of queer feelings, as a weird genre joke, ha ha’ is pretty much… nothing. I can’t find it again.

It’s gone.

It’s old shames or it’s lost histories or it’s pseudonyms that disappear or it’s fragmented onto livejournals. And all that remains is the stuff I can dredge from my memory and pin in place in my silly joking images.

Pride Shirt 4: Gay Wrath Month 2020

As with previous shirts in this, the month of Jesus Christ What Next 2020, these are decorative, fun items that are ways for you to spend your disposable income in ways that amuse you and I do not think that you should view them as making moral statements or supporting me for its own sake.

That said, I’ve been having some pretty complicated feelings about Pride Month of ltae, because Pride isn’t an emotion I ever really feel at the best of times. There are other feelings I’m a little more tuned to.

Here’s this week’s design:

You can get this design on Redbubble or on Teepublic.

The Complicated Explication of Danielle Bunton Berry

Hey, CW here, folks. This is about a trans woman, who did some cool things, and died, but it’s also about how bad and limited my means are to communicate about her. You won’t miss much if you skip it, and if you want to know a more traditional approach to Berry’s legacy, you can check it out here on this eight year old GamaSutra link that I am not going to vouch for, but which presents a number of the quotes I sourced before realising I was in trouble.

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Being The Thing On The Doorstep

Lovecraft is a super useful thing to use in classes about games and media. First, it’s a deeply thematic part of a lot of games culture. It’s also a way to introduce ideas of copyright and media ownership, there’s that. Then there’s conversations about accessibility and who the work excludes, because of how ornate and wrought the type of text is, and how you can overcome that with signalling and clear communication.

There is a way that he slows things down, though, because no matter how we cut it, bringing up Lovecraft means we tend to open with the dude was a massive racist, but, and then there’s a conversation about what we do with the work of bad people, and it just slows the conversation down. It’s understandable, mind you. Particularly, he was definitely racist as hell and racist themes are throughout his work; he was misogynist as expressed by the absence of women with agency in almost all his stories, and then you start to look for other axes he bothered to mention.

What’s particularly wild is the dude actually did manage to veer into transphobia, and not just in shaded tropes; given the way stories are normally structured in our science fiction and fantasy space, trans and cis status are normally subjects that require invoking information that we don’t get. It’s possible every Lovecraft protagonist is a trans man and we’d never have a reason to know, for example. That means bringing in transphobia involves going to something that you normally don’t have to bring up in order to kick it around.

In the story The Thing on the Doorstep, spoilers for a century old short story that’s not that good, but whatever, in The Thing on the Doorstep our narrator and kinda protagonist observes his best friend decaying in real time from a marriage to a woman that ruins him. Eventually he discovers that his friend has been married not to a woman, but rather, a man in a woman’s body, and that man then takes his friend’s body, leaving him in an older body it had, and that is the titular thing on the doorstep that the protagonist encounters. The horror of ‘what if the woman you got in a relationship with was actually a man’ is a very, very old, very well-worn trope, and it’s transphobic at root.

Lovecraft wrote about encountering alien minds and the strain it put on the human who was reading it to comprehend it. That there were certain mindsets – just ways of thinking – that were so fundamentally aberrant to humans that contemplating them could force the mind to adhere to alien programming and fall apart. There’s a twofold fascination that follows for me.

First, Lovecraft’s aliens and the horrors they represent are all things that a scientific mind can grapple with: There’s a thing I didn’t understand, and we can prove its effect, and so in cataloguing it, we can handle and understand that information. That means that the vision of rationality that Lovecraft had for his period of time was completely at odds with actual rationality – that information people couldn’t handle was in fact literally incompatible with their brains. For all the racism in his work, he paints there as being a whole category of people who can handle dealing with this information, and that’s the other. If you’re trans or queer or a person of colour, in Lovecraft’s world, you can actually handle that nonsense that wrecks white people from the mind out.

If you’re basically anything but a Prince of Privilege, in Lovecraft’s vision of the world, you are the monster. You are the beast from outside. You can move between mirrors, you can see the undersea places, you have the ancient knowledge and you can move amongst the most dreadful forces, and you’re fine. That’s wild. He’s so intent on dehumanising the nonwhite that it involves turning the white into the weakest, most pathetic type of person there is; completely unprepared and incapable of being alive in this dreadful world. It’s racist, sure, but it’s racist in a really pathetic way.

Here’s the other thing, though.

It is fundamentally hard, if not impossible, really, to get a grip on how Lovecraft thought this stuff. It really is. This dude was so racist he was able to get himself divorced for being racist in 1933. When we talk about the dude there’s this framing and apologetics about just bringing him up, as if we can’t let his racism pass without also making it an excuse to drop the topic.

Lovecraft’s racism is so utter and confusingly fearful that it’s kind of hard to really get. It’s hard to explain or explore it without a lot of deep reading of his work, and that’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Lovecraft was so racist that trying to think like him now doesn’t make sense, because with the benefit of a century of hindsight, everything the dude thought is aberrant to natural, civilised, adult thought.

Lovecraft wrote about a world of alien, parisitic monsters that consumed humanity and destroyed you by following its thought patterns and did not care about what affect it had because it would outlast any one person it ended.

Lovecraft never realised he was the monster.

Story Pile: Smokin’ Aces

When I resolved to not spend this month complaining about queer media I didn’t like, nor to subject myself to queer media in a form I knew I wouldn’t like, I didn’t realise how challenging that was going to make things since I didn’t have another Wynona Earp land in my lap. That meant going back through either movies I meant to comment on or movies I had commented on but never on the blog, and to my amazement, I found this.

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Pride Shirt 3: Pronoun Stamps

As with previous shirts in this, the month of Jesus Christ What Next 2020, these are decorative, fun items that are ways for you to spend your disposable income in ways that amuse you and I do not think that you should view them as making moral statements or supporting me for its own sake.

Still! This here’s a set of shirt designs for showing off pronouns of choice and making a bit of funny text along with them.

Here’s an example.

 

You can get this design on Redbubble or on Teepublic.

Holding On To Pride

Hey

Things are pretty rough right now.

I get that there’s a certain degree of hopelessness that comes with just being? Because everything that is is just kind of busy with reasons to focus on pumping pain into your ear, because the alternative feels like complicity with things you can’t help or focus on?

I get it.

There’s this thing I’ve taken to saying to queer folks on their birthdays. It’s been more and more important as time has gone on since I started. The average age for queer folk is typically much lower than nonmarginalised groups – same for people of colour, and even moreso for queer folk of colour. It’s all kinds of bad out there when you look at the statistics. And we know for a fact that these are imposed, societal burdens. Queer folk aren’t living in worse areas because they like smog more – they’re being pushed to those spaces by diminished earning potential and exclusionary housing policies, for example.

The idea is this: Every day you live while the world is telling you to stop is a day you have stolen.

Every birthday, you are fighting to push back a number that is used to diminish the hope of others. Every expression of pride, every step forward, every refusal to hide and be polite about it, is pushing the average that people just like you, five, ten years ago, are going to be living into. Make your life better, make it happier, be proud of yourself, and be proud of refusing to die in a life that seeks to be cruel to you.

Right now there’s a lot saying no, stop. Be queer but you know, keep a lid on it. Be tidy about it. Don’t put your pronouns in your bio because that makes us uncomfortable. Why you gotta make a fuss about it? Why is Pride so flamboyant, why are people so out there about it, why do you have to post ‘girls’ twenty times in a day?

And whatever it is you love, I encourage you to embrace the lesson of the mermaid:

The Dipper Pines Trans Headcanon

Hey, didja ever think about how Dipper Pines might be trans?

That’s not the fun way to start this, I know. That’s a reasonable sounding position that forwards its idea as a thing to think about and a characterisation point as a sort of fanfictiony, culturally exchanging storytelling kind of way, but the fun way to start this is

DIPPER PINES IS TRANS AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

which is provocative and it’s confrontational and it sets a tone for a sort of performative destructiveness of a hypothetical other because you’re not going to read any further if you don’t agree so instead we get to smugly sit here, under that line and go hey, hey, how about that asshole who wandered off, anyway, here’s my conspiracy board of interconnected nonsense to explain the cartoon character thing I said.

But hey, this is something that’s been kind of just lurking in my mind for a few years now. See, one of those ‘hey, every character could be trans and you’d never know it,’ and like, yeah, that’s true. Then the question becomes ‘what stories look interesting or meaningfully different when there’s a trans character?’

The original analysis I read suggested that Asami Saito reads as a trans woman, and then suggested, hey, what does this internal knowledge do to change the character?

That’s when I got thinking about Dipper.

I don’t dislike Dipper. He’s a really good little Adventure Boy character, with all the struggles that come from that. Smart, but not super smart, tenacious in the way that kids tend to be, and that tenacity becomes a genuine virtue that also ties into a very preadolescent feeling that you’re on the precipice of some great discovery and some great change. That’s fine.

Dipper is also probably pre-pubescent, and very focused on growing up. This isn’t very uncommon, and it does make him keenly aware of traits of his that we associate with weakness (and commonly, therefore, femininity). He wants his voice to be deeper, he wants to be bigger and stronger, he’s heavily invested in the idea of measuring up to bigger boys, even through violence. Throughout the whole series, Dipper is constantly trying to reject comparisons to his sister, constantly trying to assert his masculinity, and constantly trying to prove himself to a masculine standard, even as everyone around him is incredibly kind and permissive about his behaviour and encourages him to be who he is.

We do get some hints about what we’ll call off the rack biology when his voice breaks and his eager interest in his chest hair – which doesn’t prove anything, either way, but it’s still common to signify that with those traits. C’est la vie.

The thing that I find interesting is that if Dipper is an AFAB trans boy, that precipice he’s standing in front of is puberty, and the potential unwanted changes that brings to his body, and the ways he keeps trying to assert control over himself are things that are very much big and scary and can feel beyond his control. All that masculine behaviour isn’t a cis boy deconstructing his own relationship to toxic masculinity but is instead a trans boy trying very hard to construct masculinity that he’s going to hope can keep his identity together.

Is this a better story? I dunno, I’m not a trans boy, I don’t know if I’m being insulting or what. I like Dipper. I like both these possible interpretations of the character. If you give me a choice, though, between whether I’m more interested in a boy learning to be less of an asshole and a boy trying to learn how to be a person and avoiding ever becoming an asshole, the latter is more interesting to me.

I’ve talked in the past about how gender and sexuality are pretty different in stories, because they don’t necessarily get expressed in the same meaningful way. To reveal a character’s sexuality to an audience, you just can demonstrate it by showing who that character expresses interest in. That’s easy, and we even have a whole set of storytelling signifiers for when characters feel that kind of thing. But when you want to talk about a character’s gender, there’s really no good way to express that because even if a character talks about it, it’s possible they’re lying because the pressures to do so are so phenomenally strong.

It’s wild and pretty unfair, and there just aren’t that many trans dudes in media period. I can’t think of a single Adventure Hero Boy who’s AFAB, which is a real shame, because I think it gives us cis boys a chance to look at how our masculinity is constructed, in real time, in a way we often won’t trust other cis boys to show us.

Story Pile: Madoka

Man how much does it suck that this blog that is ostensibly about the critical engagement with pop culture media and niche genre spaces with an eye towards queer and marginalised people has to open conversations about extremely popular media with a disclaimer about how, hey, woah now, hold up, just so you know, I’m going to fail to fawn over this work for its excellence. Like, how poisoned is the entire idea of discourse that media must be treated with kid gloves, because the people to whom it matters are so starved of the kind of media they love that they fancy the idea of ‘their’ media being criticised as being an act of violence.

Point is, I’m not really interested in talking about Madoka itself.

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Story Pile: John Wick 3: Para Bellum

You know what, I’m not going to unpack for you the incredibly obvious idea that I, me, the person I am that writes this blog, loves the hell out of John Wick. Right? And okay, the series of movies are moody and atmospheric and they’re excellently made and full of deeply thoughtful imagery and they’re created primarily by the people who normally don’t get power to make movies like this, so you’re seeing the expertise of a niche group expressed in the medium they’re best at and so you get this fricking amazing movie of practical stunts put together by stunt crew who know their discipline down to the the bottom of the floor. Excellently made, brilliantly compelling, fantastically fun, and full of all these actors who are great doing a great job, nobody needs to hear this because as a mediocre millenial white guy of course I love John Wick movies you can just kind of assume and even if you were wrong it wouldn’t be offensive or anything.

There’s your basics.

No real spoiler warning, I’m going to talk about one character and they show up early.

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Pride Shirt 1: Diceheart!

Okay, look, this isn’t going to follow the normal template. Part of why is because there are too many options.

Check this out.

Presented here is the first Pride design, called Diceheart. This presents you with seven different queer banners, including rainbow, bi, lesbian, pan, trans, genderqueer and ace, and five different dice colours.

They’re both set up as collections available on Redbubble and TeePublic. And

Christ

It’s so much work to upload and manage allllll these files.

Pride Flags In Pride Month

Hey, you know how I talk about flags?

You don’t?

God, it’s hard to have a coherent, clear brand. Anyway, yeah, I talk about flags? Sometimes? But when I do talk about them I tend to talk about them a lot because people are really bad at making good flags, even though ‘good flags’ is a category that’s super easy to work on. Anyway, there are a bunch of pride flags, and I’ve worked with them – you may remember my Captain America Pride Shields, for example.

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Story Pile: Mahou Tsukai Tai

“Hey, Talen,” I tell myself.

“Yeah?”

“We’re going to do Pride month, right?”

“Yep!”

“And that means you’re going to prioritise the queer articles you mean to write, but they’re kinda hard or need research, or you feel that the nature of the work means it’s best to put them all together, so while you’re doing a lot of related research, it can all kinda reference together, and you don’t wind up switching gears from a mindset of, say, magic tricks and knife crime to trying to talk thoughtfully about gender and our relationship to our bodies, resulting in some horrifying wording problem?”

“Yeah, that, that, and-”

Story Pile then, what are we going to do? Watch some Netflix queer movies that show up when you mash the LGBTQ button? Bust out some old classic texts? Revisit Dragon Prince and go in on the Claudia issue?”

“Well um, I figured I’d,”

“Yeees?”

“Why are you trying to spin the anticipation here, you are me,”

“Rhetorically, I’m not.”

“You know what, forget it. Point is, I’m going to start by talking about the first anime I remembered watching because there was a hot boy in it.”

“Whut.”

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May Shirt: Splat the Rich!

A thing I should know better than to do is make something because someone on Twitter says ‘oh, I need this on a shirt.’ I did it this time and did they buy a shirt? Did they flipptertegibbets. But that’s life.

This was an exercise in playing with masks and layers with a nice set of new paintbrushes that look like spatters, rotation and randomisation, as well as lookaliking fonts and styles! Aslo there’s nothing wrong with using childish axes of engagement to solidify meaningful ideas like ‘gender is chosen’ and ‘the uber-wealthy will kill the planet if they are not removed from their unearned position of privilege.’

Here’s the design:


And here the design is on our friendly gormless supposedly unisex Redbubble model:

And here’s the design being modelled by the Teepublic ghost:

This design is available on a host of shirts and styles. Particularly, strangely right now, Redbubble are offering it on two-inch badges and on masks.

You can get this design on Redbubble or on Teepublic.

Deep Space 9, In Images

If you were paying attention to me on twitter, you’ll know I was making memes of Deep Space 9 as I watched it. Well, with those ten thousand words vomited out of my soul and put on the page, I want those pictures where you can search and put them in some context. They also serve as a first draft of my thoughts and feelings as I watched the show – which is helpful for reconstructing my thoughts later for some project so big.

Season 1

This one was short, I hadn’t gotten in the groove of it yet. Also, three of these are just dril tweets overlaid on the image.

Season 2

I thought this season was largely pretty good, thought the Maquis and Bajoran storylines were handled pretty well, Jake and Nog weren’t inexcrable, I even tolerated some Ferengi shit.

Season 3

The series had found its voice, characters were pretty set, O’Brien kept getting stomped on. No special notes here.

Season 4

This season introduced Worf and I’m afraid it’s where I started running out of second chances.

Season 5

Oh yeah, this season had Eddington eps, it had the Garak Gets High And Kills People ep (which I like, even though the actor didn’t), a bunch of good Odo stuff, Julian’s… revelation and the amazing Troubles and Tribble-lations. Good stuff, really.

Season 6

I think this is the point where I got really fed up with the weakest parts of this series. There’s a lot of episodes that are just there, or built around something I hate, like Vic or Quark or Worf. The Pah’wraiths are really explored here but knowing there’s no payoff for all the buildup makes all of their scenes feel like a drudge.

When I watched it, I said the shrinking episode was probably going to be one of the best of the season. In the Pale Moonlight lives here, and turns out that, if that wasn’t here, the shrinking episode might be the best episode of this season.

Season 7

And that’s that, the last of our Deep Space 9 Jokey Notesies. Hope it’s convenient having them all in one place!

Story Pile: Deep Space Nine, Part III

Content warning! I dig into the Cardassians a little bit later on in this, and that means there’s going to be a mention of Nazis and stuff Nazis like in media. Tap out at the end of Take Me Out To The Holosuite if you wanna skip it!

Like I said last time, I actually like Deep Space 9. It may be a bit of a surprise that someone can have four thousand words (good god) of non-stop complaining about a show they liked, but I was trying to avoid being toxic about it. It’s one thing to criticise a show’s direction and story structure and its narrative priorities, and another thing to talk about how people are idiots for liking something. And hell, since I like it, I get to be one of those idiots.

We’ve talked about the death of the author in the past, and we’ve talked about wrestling as live theatre, and I’ve talked about the idea of the Ghost of the Author, an occluded identity of someone who ‘made’ the story and ‘made’ the choices that went into it. In the case of Deep Space 9, though, there’s a clear, fracticious and well-documented explanation for why things were weird.

Rick Berman sucks.

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Liking Things

Well, this is an interesting one.

I was asked to blog about this, and that means that this is going to be approached as a blog post and not as specific advice to the person who asked.

Hey, I like a bunch of stuff other people don’t like. But sometimes they don’t like those things, out loud, and it can make me feel bad about liking it! What do?

This can be one of two problems: One, people do not like the thing I like, and I want them to enjoy the thing I like. The solution to this is to share with your friends, talk about what you’re engaging with, and see if that interests them, and if it doesn’t, you can either discard them as friends because of their opinion of a piece of media (which is a weirdo thing to do) or accept that your friends and you don’t have to all like the same thing.

Or two, people actively dislike the thing I like, and talk about disliking it, and I do not feel okay about liking the thing. This is a little trickier because the solution to this is to respect people. Specifically, respect that they have tastes and wants and opinions and you can recognise those tastes and wants and opinions without them having to align with or change yours.

That is, however, hard.

Instead, let’s look at some strategies for this.

Establish Boundaries

Other people don’t like the thing you like! That’s a real bummer. Of course, there are spaces where you can like your thing and and they can dislike their thing, provided neither you nor they are forcing one another to engage with one another’s opinions, you should be absolutely fine.

But that’s not what’s happening, is it.

What’s happening is that you’re probably in some general space, like facebook or twitter, and there, you find that the people who are important to your life, shit on something you like, and maybe do it in a way that’s hard for you to avoid. The most important skill here is to take control over your space: You get to choose what you see in your social media space. If people are being rude, refusing your requests, avoiding your mutes or blocks, to talk to you about the thing, then that’s not an opinions-on-media thing, that’s people-being-an-asshole thing.

Reject False Dichotomies

Odds are really good this is about something that has ‘problematic elements’ in it, where you’re upset by people pointing out problems the thing has. The notion is that if this media is ‘bad’ and I like it, am I ‘bad?’

This is an incorrect way to view it, and most people, even media critics, aren’t framing it this way. This is you making analysis of a media object – criticism of a thing – into criticism of you. If they’re framing it as criticism of you because you like the thing, then again: that’s people being assholes. That has nothing to do with criticism.

Still, the other thing here is that your opinions on media aren’t you, they’re things you relate to. I don’t know how many ways to restate the idea that other people not liking things doesn’t affect you liking things. The idea that these things are both that simple and binary – liking ‘bad things’ makes you ‘bad’ – is a simplified view of reality that turns everyone who ever ate bread into Hitler.

Accepting The Infinite

Nothing is perfect. For anything you like, there’s a better version of it that doesn’t exist yet. You can point to almost every piece of media and talk about ways in which it, as a product of a flawed, corrupt, capitalist society, fails to completely decouple itself from it. This isn’t even an attempt at a joke, this isn’t hyperbole: There is always going to be a potentially better version of the best thing.

What this means is that even for criticisms of work that are completely valid, are much more about how to remake the thing if it were to be made again. They’re not useful arguments about the thing that exists before you. It’s okay to know that a thing could be better while still respecting what it is. There’s almost no alternative.

Tracer’s Bum

There’s this story about Tracer, from Overwatch.

The story runs that once upon atime, Tracer had a butt pose, and there was a huge outcry, and then Blizzard, the SJW cucktopians that they are, bowed to massive public pressure, and got rid of the Butt Pose, because people were offended. If you go looking for Tracer pictures for research purposes, literally this time, you’ll find people drawing her, showing off her butt, with a catch cry ‘sorry luv, you offended?’ like the problem was Tracer having a butt.

This dialogue about what happened is one of those stories I see being vaguely mentioned as if it was true and it’s interesting to me because it’s not only not true, but the story as framed puts the oppressed people in the wrong box and gives Blizzard a kind of credit it doesn’t deserve while focusing on something else, entirely, which is almost weirder.

No pictures for butt poses here, c’mon, what do you think this blog is.

Anyway, the butt pose was criticised not for being offensive at first; a small number of players noticed the butt pose victory pose, and focused on how out of character it seemed to be for Tracer. Not that Tracer doesn’t have a butt, or indeed, like having a butt. I don’t imagine she’d wear leggings like that if she wasn’t at least okay with having a butt. The issue was that the pose wasn’t really ‘her,’ and this was during the beta development phase of the game where players’ input on expressions of the characters was being taken on board pretty well.

The butt pose was pretty simple; she turned around, then turned to look over her shoulder. With the way she stood and her default outfit structure, it did pretty much centre her butt in the middle of the pose. It wasn’t as dynamic or movement-driven as Tracer’s other poses. It felt, the audience said, out of character, which checks out, because character in these spaces is being defined as much by the limited way people feel out these characters as they learn about them. Overwatch doesn’t have much character, it’s just got a lot of character in potentia, characterisation that’s kind of hovering in an indefinite space, waiting for people to collapse it, but trying very hard to not say no to anyone.

The pose that replaced it was a nosecone pinup; for anyone not familiar, these are the poses you’d see of girly posters on the nosecones of planes during World War 2, and now sometimes done as a reference to World War 2. Mostly, people don’t get to paint big paintings on their planes any more, for some reason. This tracked, of course – Tracer’s a pilot, she likes planes, those poses are pretty common association between that kind of femme and planes, it tracks easily.

The thing about this narrative, and the reason I’m putting this down here is to underscore that Blizzard weren’t responding to a moral outrage, but to one of those things they actually care about: They were trying to express the character design better. If it was a moral outrage issue, we wouldn’t have been teased for a year to learn that Tracer was gay like ‘surprise, we included a lesbian’ was some kind of gacha prize event, or we wouldn’t be… what, how many years before a playable black woman?

The events happen, but how we remember the events really matters.

And hey, I got to title a post ‘Tracer’s bum.’

Story Pile: Deep Space Nine, Part II

I think if you ask me about my general impression of Deep Space 9, it’s going to come across as extremely negative. That’s pretty reasonable, I think because if you bring something up to me about the series, on pure statistics, it’s probably going to be one of the long, large threads that runs throughout the story that really fucking irritates me.

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Didja know I have a Youtube channel?

Yeah, apparently this was something of a mystery! A point that was made by Ettin when this came up is that to get to my Youtube channel is like, five not intuitive steps.

Based on this, I’m doing some minor updates to places around the site. My About page now mentions my Youtube channel, there’s a button on the sidebar – this button! – that takes you to my Youtube channel, and… and…

I’m kinda not sure what else to do?

See, one of the worst things to have in your brain is a negative feedback loop that interprets silence as disinterest from people who are too polite to say anything. I know for a fact a lot of my friends don’t read my blog, and that’s something I’ve kind of had to become okay with. That becoming okayness however has not actually fixed the brain problem, because it means that I kind of intuitively see everyone I know who doesn’t read the blog or listen to the podcast or follow the twitter as disinterested and actively not interested in stuff. The idea they might not have noticed or not checked it out right now or the presence of being advertised on a miserable hellsite full of sadness might be diverting their interest in me talking about videogames doesn’t seem to latch into my head.

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