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I generally follow AO3 policy on warnings; namely, I warn for rape and/or noncon, major character death, and graphic violence. I also will warn for topics that may be triggering on an as-needed basis. If you have a question about the content of any of my stories, or a concern about the warnings or lack thereof on same, please email or pm me and I will do my best to address your concerns respectfully.
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The first question is easy, and for a while I enjoyed telling this story to people, especially Japanese people, because it was so clearly, from their reactions, entirely not what they were expecting.
This story begins in 1999, my freshman year of high school and the golden age of Toonami. My sister and I started watching Outlaw Star on Toonami the same semester that I started watching Revolutionary Girl Utena in my high school's anime club. I talked up Utena to my sister enough that our aunt sent my sister the first two DVDs, which had the first arc of the anime between the two of them, and they arrived on a day when we were making Christmas cookies. That was a good day. From those anime, and then from others that were broadcast relatively quickly after that, I decided that I wanted to study Japanese, a modern language, in college, since up to that point I'd only seriously studied Latin (aside from brief episodes of French and Spanish) in college, and I was soon to add ancient Greek. I did just that in undergrad, which was also when I started to get into manga, after we were required to read a volume of Doraemon in second year because "Nobuta-kun is the walking personification of the adversitive passive." I wound up double majoring in classics and Asian studies, and I made the decision to concentrate on Asian studies for my graduate career because I figured I'd have a better chance of making an impact there than in a field with a millennia-long history. I've done comparative empires (Rome and China) as my second field in history here in grad school, though, so I'm definitely still not completely out of the classics game.
Five things I'm looking forward to about living in Japan again! Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly relishing spending a year very much on my own, and I actually had a stress dream about it last month (which was probably connected to other things going on at the time, in fairness). My social circle in Kansai has eroded by about 95% compared to the first year I lived in Japan, and doing archival research can get pretty lonely. One thing I like about Japan which is also a problem with me living in Japan is that it's very easy to indulge my introvert tendencies; the first time I lived in Japan was also the time I joined online fandom, not coincidentally. I'm stockpiling media and making plans to visit friends and to have friends come visit me, and I know I'll meet new people in Japan, and I'm looking forward to seeing old friends again, and I know once I get there I'll be largely happy, but I of course anticipate being homesick for my friends in the Bay Area, too.
1. Food! I love Japanese food, and there are just so many kinds of it that are difficult to find even in the Bay Area. (I almost just said parfait, but I do miss more Japanese food than just parfait, as awesome as parfait are.)
2. Manga! Imported books are so expensive here that I've been forced to cut back drastically on my buying them (though in fairness I also lack a lot of time to read them). Being actually in Japan tends to fix both problems.
3. Onsen! It's been cold enough here lately--the coldest the Bay Area has ever been in my experience, actually--that I've been missing both Japanese bathtubs, which are generally deep enough for you to soak up to your shoulders, and Japanese onsen. Luckily rachelmanija and I are talking about taking an onsen trip to Kyushu next fall…
4. Sake! I really like sake, but thanks to a convergence of factors I have weird tastes in it, and the sake I like best is either impossible to get here or prohibitively expensive. But neither of these things are true in Japan, luckily.
5. Being back in Kyoto. I know the city pretty well, there's always something interesting happening at temples, and it's close to the rest of Kansai and not prohibitively far from Tokyo, either. It's the best city in Japan, to my mind, and I love it to bits.
Why is the sea boiling hot? Because, dear reader, it is three billion years in the future and the sun is slowly expanding into its red giant phase. Mercury has already been consumed, Venus is even more hellish than it was before and is not long for this world, and it's our turn now. Soon our solar system will look like an exoplanetary formation, and everything in the inner solar system will be that much closer to rejoining the cosmological circle of life. We are all made of starstuff, in the end.
Alternatively, the sea is boiling hot because of climate change, which in about 100-200 years at current rates will have destabilized thermohaline circulation and fundamentally broken one of the planet's primary climate stabilizing mechanisms. So the top layers of the ocean are boiling, the bottom layers are freezing, and all of us on Earth are screwed.
Yesterday, rachelmanija asked me about five books I didn't enjoy, or enjoyed for the wrong reasons. This is actually a hard question! One of my achievements of the last few years has been ruthlessly cutting out books that I don't enjoy from my reading habits, mostly through pre-screening my choices. I didn't enjoy Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Summer of the Mariposas for the reasons enumerated at the post. I also didn't enjoy Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch (Viking, 2011) anywhere near as much as I wanted to, for many of the same reasons that Rachel noted in her review. The pacing was wonky and, as much as I liked Sunny, the stakes of the backdrop and the dimensions of her actual experience of being a Leopard Person were very mismatched. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the sequel, which I understand is coming out next year. Okorafor is still one of the most interesting writers I know, but I think The Shadow Speaker is still my favorite of her books (and at this point I've read almost all of them). And while reading volume 8 of Ôoku I inadvertently realized that the manga has straightwashed multiple notable historical figures, including Tsunayoshi, which has definitely colored my opinions about the manga henceforth.
ETA: I also didn't particularly enjoy Georgette Heyer's Sylvester, which I read earlier this year. I'm not well-versed in romance novels in general, and I know enough about the Regency period that the Regency slang felt layered on with a trowel. I also prefer Jane Austen's approach to the Regency period, which (being contemporary) was eminently sensible: most aristocrats are fools. I have False Colours on my shelf and I will probably read Cotillion at some point because it's the one everyone loves, but there it is. That said, I'd welcome recs for people's favorite Heyers that I should read instead.
Most favorite spots in the Bay Area for:
4. Fancy Night Out
5. Mexican Food
Hmm, this is tough! Or maybe not so tough.
For coffee, I like Ritual Coffee in the Mission best, with Blue Bottle a very close second. Philz Coffee also does really good brewed coffee (get the Turkish, Philz way, with mint), but a beautifully pulled espresso will always win over brewed coffee in my book. (I know, I sound like a hipster.) I'm still shocked there isn't more and better coffee in Berkeley; the best espresso in town is probably Babette, in the Berkeley Art Museum.
Brunch is easy - in the East Bay, I love La Note on Shattuck in Berkeley, and in the West Bay, I'm partial to Boogaloos in the Mission. La Note does Provençal food and it is so tasty. Boogaloos is just good veggie-ish breakfast food, darn tasty.
Drinks - hmm. I think Revival actually has some of the best drinks in the Bay Area, and I also really like the cocktails at Comal. Gather does good drinks too (I actually really enjoy the PB&J, among others). I'm not as up on places for drinks in San Francisco, though I was at a good place in the Mission, on Mission Street, a few times last summer that…seems to have disappeared, or at least, I can't find it now with Google-fu. ETA: It's Southpaw.
Fancy Night Out - Revival in Berkeley, hands down. (Gather is also very good.) I also like the Mission Beach Cafe and Luna Park in the Mission. I also really like Dosa, in the Mission and in Pac Heights.
Mexican Food - Yummmmm. Um. I really like Picante in Berkeley, and also Cancun, and Gordo's for a cheap delicious burrito. In the Mission, I like El Techo de Lolinda, which has good drinks and food and a rooftop patio, and also Tacolicious, because I like tacos. Speaking of tacos, Mijita in the Ferry Building has some great fish tacos, and so does the Salsalito Taco Shop in Sausalito. Mmm. Now I want tacos. Oh, and of course, Comal in Berkeley! Some day I will get to the tacos at Fruitvale Station…anyone want to take a BART ride?
I'm going to talk about five books I read and enjoyed since my last book post, which was…August 20 of this year. Welp. Thanks, grad school.
# Kristin Cashore, Graceling (Houghton Mifflin, 2008) - I'm very much late to the Kristin Cashore party, but I devoured this book in about one sitting and I thought it was fantastic. As most people by now probably know, the book follows Katsa, whose Grace in a land where people with particular gifts are known as Gracelings is very specific: killing people. Katsa's perceptions about herself are upended when she takes steps beyond the reach of her uncle, a rather morally ambiguous monarch of the seven kingdoms comprising the known world. I'm not describing it well, but Katsa's emotions and her story are ridiculously intense, and I could barely put the book down. I loved the portrayal of Katsa as someone who is comfortable with violence but who nonetheless hates what violence does to her, as well as to those around her, and the denouement of the plot. (There is a bit of magical disability at the end, which Cashore has pledged to avoid in future.) It was so good. Seriously, so good.
# Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, and The Bitter Kingdom (Greenwillow, 2011, 2012, 2013) - This was another excellent book with an excellent female protagonist, Elisa, a younger princess who is married off to a neighboring kingdom quite suddenly as the book opens and who must find the strength within herself to protect her adopted realm and herself when she is kidnapped across a vast desert. I really loved this book because of Elisa, who is smart and stronger than she knows, and because it is unabashedly pro-princess in a way that I like. I think Carson found a way to make a princess's role not only interesting but vital, and the book is really great and very hard to put down. I also liked that Elisa is portrayed positively despite the fact that she is overweight, which makes for a nice change. One of the things I liked about Elisa's story was that each book encapsulated a different set of challenges and that she does grow into herself and her role over the course of the narrative; I also liked that the eventual love story was somewhat unconventional, though to say more would be to give away too many spoilers for the first book. Suffice it to say that Elisa is awesome, her world is very real, and I appreciated the great number and diversity of female characters who play important roles in her story. These books are great and you should read them. Along with Kristin Cashore, these books made me glad and certain that there are worthy heirs to Tamora Pierce beginning their careers now.
# Franny Bllingsley, Chime (Penguin, 2011) - This is another excellent book with a wonderful, knotty female protagonist. Briony lives in a village at the edge of a swamp in an alternate Victorian England. She knows she's a witch and a murderer, and she hates herself accordingly (she's more than a bit like Katsa in that regard, actually), and it's only when a clever outsider comes to town that she begins to question whether the story she knows about herself is actually true. This is another intense book, very atmospheric and very hard to put down, and I loved the portrayal of Briony and the damage she's inflicted on herself, and the beginning of her journey out of it. I've not read any other of Billingsley's books, but now I very much want to.
# Frances Hardinge, Gullstruck Island | The Lost Conspiracy (various, 2009) - Hardinge is one of my favorite writers alive and this book is really amazingly good. I said on Twitter that Hardinge's books prove that middle grade books can be literature, and I would put her in the same class as Megan Whalen Turner in that respect. Gullstruck Island is the story of Hathin, a worrywart girl from a tribe that still clings to the old ways on an island that was colonized by the mainland centuries ago, and how she finds herself holding the entire island's future in her hands, beginning with her older sister. There is a ton of stuff going on in the book--and it's not precisely light; there are massacres and concentration camps, among other things--but compared to the sheer abandon of Hardinge's first book, Fly By Night, it felt a little more controlled, and somewhat more serious. I can't recommend her books highly enough, though I have to say that in my opinion the U.S. covers and titles are mostly terrible.
# Hiromi Goto, Darkest Light (Razorbill, 2012) - I bought this book especially in Canada, because it's not available in the States, which is a shame because it's really good. It's the half-sequel to Half World, which I also read and loved, and is just as grotesque (in the aesthetic, not the moral sense) as the first one, but longer and more involved and also…more intense. It's also the rare YA book I've read with a male protagonist, namely Gee, whose identity will be clear to those who've read the first book but who is a mystery to himself and whose depression and anger and vividly and claustrophobically portrayed. To be clear, the book needs a trigger warning for the depiction of a successful suicide, but at the end, I definitely felt, if not entirely optimistic, at peace with the narrative and with Gee's journey. I said at one point earlier that it reminded me somewhat of A Christmas Carol, which is actually one of my favorite books in some senses, in that Gee learns, late but in time like Scrooge, that it's never to late to change your life. Again, highly recommended.
On the one hand, this is easy, and on the other, it's very hard.
My single favoritest beverage in the world is still probably hiyashiame, cold sweet ginger juice that I've only found in the Kansai region of Japan in the summer months. There's a picture of it in this post from two years ago. After I wrote that post I found it at one other place, a festival in Osaka, but even many Kansai people I've met have never heard of it; I suspect it's somewhat old-fashioned. But oh, is it good.
Other beverages I like include coffee, tea, beer, and wine. Really I just like beverages! Some of the best tea I've ever had has been a houjicha latte, which previously I could only find in Japan but just found at a little tea shop here in Berkeley last week; hot Chinese tea poured over fresh lychees (yum), and green tea coffee, which I've only had a a Taiwanese chain in Beijing but was made with powdered green tea and was delicious. The best chai I've ever had is still probably the stuff from the Tea Source in the Twin Cities. As for coffee, despite my devotion to caffeine, I like dark roasts and cannot actually drink anything that is as light or lighter than French roast; I'm very glad that the coming Fourth Wave of coffee looks to be dark roast all the way. The best coffee I've ever had is actually Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, New York. I was at a house party in the same and I literally drank about a dozen (coffee cup size) cups of it, it was so good.
As for beer, if you ever find yourself at a place in Portland or Seattle with Mac & Jack's African Amber on tap, you should drink it, because it is one of the best beers I've ever had and it is only available draught because it's too good to bottle. I know more about wine than I did when I moved here to California three years ago, but still am very much an amateur; suffice it to say that if you get the chance, going wine-tasting in Napa or Sonoma is a lovely experience.
I'm doing the meme that everyone is because I do better with deadlines than not these days. Tell me to talk about books, internets! I have read so many books that I haven't written up, I am a failure. Or, you know, tell me to talk about whatever you want me to talk about. I've watched some movies recently too. Also stuff. There's always stuff.
Rules of the meme:
Pick a date below and give me a topic — it can be anything, from fandom related to life related to art related to whatever you want.
They will probably be brief, or not, depending on the subject.
Also, I reserve the right to decline prompts that I don’t feel equipped to meet.
Topics: you can get an idea from my tags/from the stuff I usually ramble about/from things you maybe wish I talked about more but don’t.
You can request multiple topics (as long as they’re on different days — one topic per day!).
December 01 -
December 02 -
December 03 -
December 04 -
December 05 -
December 06 -
December 07 -
December 08 -
December 09 -
December 10 -
December 11 -
December 12 -
December 13 -
December 14 -
December 15 -
December 16 -
December 17 -
December 18 -
December 19 -
December 20 -
December 21 -
December 22 -
December 23 -
December 24 -
December 25 - Yuletide!
December 26 -
December 27 -
December 28 -
December 29 -
December 30 -
December 31 - The year in books
In the meantime, I just read the New York Times article "The Changing American Family" and really liked it. It explores a lot of demographic trends, including those towards "voluntary kinship" (aka families of choice) and the heinous fact that so many American families are dealing with the incarceration of a parent. I hope all of you can be where you want to be on Thanksgiving, and if you can't, that you can escape back to better people and places as soon as possible.
So I have a Blu-Ray MKV file of a movie with an English subtitles track, and mpeg streamclip being the wonderful application that it is, there's no way to disable the subtitles prior to clipping that I'm aware of--please correct me if I'm wrong. (I'm running Mac OS 10.8 with the new beta version of mpeg streamclip that can handle mkvs, although not well.) I downloaded mkvtools and tried to extract the video track only, which seemed like it would work…except that mkvtools only extracts/converts to h264 streams, which are completely useless for any human purpose as far as I can tell.
Is there a way to make mkvtools actually convert to a different file format? Is there something I can download to convert the h264 file to something (anything) that mpeg streamclip can handle? Is there a way to disable the subtitles on mpeg streamclip? (Note: they're not hard-coded in, as I can disable them when I play the file in VLC.) Is there a Santa Claus?
Gullstruck Island | The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge. It's magnificent--like Megan Whalen Turner and some of Elizabeth Wein's books, Hardinge proves that middle grade is just as much literature as any "adult" novel. If you haven't read her books, GO NOW.
What I'm reading
I don't even know. Actually, yes I do, I still need to finish Ôoku volume 9.
What I'll read next
I have a bunch of comics lying around, partly because I found a $30 B&N gift card in my wallet the other week, so now I own volume 1 of Saga, which everyone tells me is amazing. I also have Captain Marvel vol. 2 but not vol. 1 because I wanted to use up the Amazon gift card I was given in one go because I hate Amazon. I need to get Captain Marvel vol. 1 and also the third of this year's Avatar comics. Maybe tomorrow, if I can finish my paper assignment in time.
I really enjoyed the movie, particularly the way the writers seem to have trawled tumblr to figure out character notes, and parts of it are laugh-out-loud hilarious. It is also, as was Thor, very pretty. That said, I pretty much agree with coffeeandink's points in general.
( If PJ had never made the LotR movies, this movie would look very different. )
I went to see this documentary, about the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, because I'm from the Philadelphia area (I went to high school in the city, in point of fact) and because the MOVE bombing is undeservedly forgotten--so much so, in fact, that when I was explaining the incident to someone while explaining the documentary ("the city police bombed a house where a radical group was holed up"), they said, "What do you mean, 'bombed'?" There's only one definition of that word that applies here. As someone from the area, it was somewhat interesting to see figures I can remember from childhood, such as the Channel 6 newsheads and Ed Rendell, who became mayor in 1992, in their younger days. From the documentary you can see why Rendell in particular had such a successful political career (in 2003 he became governor of Pennsylvania)--even as you know his hands aren't clean, you watch him say the right things in a charming and mollifying way, and you don't think as badly of him as you do of other players in the tragedy.
I knew about the MOVE bombing because the only novel I know of about it, John Edgar Wideman's Philadelphia Fire, was the summer reading book my freshman year of high school. (If you've read that book, its assignment will tell you a lot about my high school.) The book focuses on the child survivor, Michael Moses Ward alias Birdie Africa, but it also focuses on the person who allegedly, rather than try to escape the house to safety, turned and went back into the fire.
The documentary mostly takes a cinema verite approach, meaning that it's largely constructed out of archival footage, principally news video, photographs, the deposition of Michael Moses Ward, one of the only two survivors of the bombing, and the public commission hearings held in October 1985, five months after the bombing, that attempted to investigate what happened.
( What happened is largely predictable, until it wasn't )
*weeps with joy*
What I'm reading
Still reading Ôoku volume 9. My defense is that I haven't actually finished a book since the last day of September and "reading" this has been mostly not reading it. My previous comments still hold, but I am actually going to try to finish it soon, as I want to go to Japantown to get volume 10 in the near future. I also started reading Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge. I am only on page 44 but I love it already. No one is surprised. I'm also interested to note that it is very, very loosely based on Taiwan, in that it's about an island that had some tribal peoples on it that was then colonized by people from a more developed society on the mainland. The main character, Hathin, is from the last tribe that's mostly unassimilated.
I don't know. I've been reading a lot of random bits of things for my research papers. On that note, I want to give a shout-out to Karen Hellekson, whose book on alternate histories is way better than the articles about the same written by dudes. Quelle surprise.
What I'll read next
I have no idea. I really, really need to get in gear on the "sell books I'm not willing to pay $$ to store for a year and a half" plan, which is going to mess with the system I have going, such as it is, but good. But lately I've been really wanting to read The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, which I have on my shelf, and I'm also going to go out and buy all of Captain Marvel that I can get my hands on fairly soon, so we'll see.
# Days of Future Past teaser trailer teaser! This movie looks so good. I am still bitter that they gave Wolverine Kitty's role in the storyline, but OMFG I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS MOVIE.
The essay is a wonderful read, and they wrote it as part of a kickstarter campaign for the anthology Kaleidoscope, "an anthology of diverse contemporary YA fantasy stories, which will be edited by Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, and published by Twelfth Planet Press." You can support the campaign for a variety of wonderful rewards. Having just come from Sirens, what caught my eye was the $250 AUS reward, which includes an editorial critique by World Fantasy Award-winning editor Alisa Krasnostein, up to 10,000 words. But you can chip in and support the campaign for as little as $5 AUS. If you can, this is an excellent opportunity to support the cause of diverse YA fantasy!
First, thank you so much for participating in Yuletide this year! Second, thank you for agreeing to write a story in a fandom we both love, or at least remember fondly. I'm genuinely interested to see what caught other fans' interests about all of these sources, so please don't feel that my prompts are too binding. I'd rather have an inspired story than slavish devotion to my requests. If you're looking for more of a sense of me and my tastes, skimming through the last twenty entries on my DW will probably give you a good idea; most of the entries in general are unlocked.
I hesitate to say what I do or don't like in fic--I don't have any major squicks, and no firm principles as to what I will or won't read. That said, it's my general sentiment that Yuletide is not the place to go looking for PWP, at least for me; which isn't to say that I wouldn't want sexytimes, as it were, in any story you write, but which is to say that I generally like my sexytimes to go along with plot and characterization. And as you may have guessed from these requests, I do really like women being awesome. In some ways, really, my own fics demonstrate both these preferences very well.
( Europa Report, Gate 7, Ooku: The Inner Chambers, Space Vehicles )
I hope you can find enough information in here or in the fandoms to inspire you, Yuletide writer. Thank you so much!
However, you should always tell Skamania Lodge that you are making a reservation for four adults. Apparently they believe that reserving a room for three adults means you want a room with just one king size bed. They claim that the resort is booked up this weekend and that all they could do is give us cots. Given that they didn't even offer us a discount for booking us into a hotel room that could not accommodate our party, I am highly unimpressed.