I’ve got other things to say about why The Adventure Zone is pretty cool some other time, but I just want to talk about one element: The relationship between Lup and Barry in The Stolen Century, and more importantly what it stands for. Please keep in mind this is a narrow presentation of transness and queerness and it’s not representative of what it means to be trans for everybody at all. I’m speaking on the gut feelings I experience rather than rational understandings I hold.
From the Postmodern Postgraduate Postulate…
When I watched Steins;Gate, there was an acute feeling that brought me to tears in the trans character presented. I recognized how deeply it touches me to see a trans person in love, particularly extended to a trans woman in love with a straight cis man. There’s a subtextual “Are you good enough” aspect to it. Do you pass well enough for him to love you? Are you feminine enough for him to love you? It’s because the everyman (ie straight cis man) is expected to have an ordinary view of women and what is attractive in a woman, and a trans woman inherently defies that by default simply because men are meant to be observers and women are meant to be observed. To a straight cis man, a trans woman is a cis man calling for attention, a cis man looking to be observed. The features that may be present in a trans woman embody this— the thick chin, wide shoulders, narrow hips, large hands, bony knees, the penis. None of it by biology is likely to be synonymous with the thin, curved, sleek beauty women are perceived to have. It’s because of this that it’s truly special for a straight cis man to love a trans woman, because it means he has overcome this default societal notion and truly accepted the trans woman as a woman. It’s saying, “Yes, you are good enough. You pass well enough for me. You’re feminine enough for me.” It’s an acceptance that is empowering for all trans women, straight or otherwise, because it means that the demographic who has imposed this gender binary upon the world accepts your identity as synonymous with your expression. This is important to note— expression is like a mathematical function. The expresser inputs the expression and society perceives to the output. Expression is defined by the expresser insofar as the expresser can input new values to the expression, but if society has bounded the expresser to certain limits, no matter what the expresser does they may never be fully accepted. In a society dominated by straight cis men, there are bounds placed by society on what an individual assigned male at birth can be. That individual may express themselves as femininely as possible, but unless straight cis men choose this expression to be female, a trans woman, as perceived by the world, is no different from a man in a dress. To see a straight cis man love a trans woman is to see that man accept a trans woman as being a woman, and by inference every trans woman as a woman. For all the self-empowerment we may do to overcome the patriarchy and ignore how society perceives us, it’s only something we can do logically and never emotionally. Even if I understand how foolish it is to put my self-confidence in the hands of society, primarily straight cis men, I can never truly avoid doing so. So to see straight cis men accept a trans woman as a woman by loving her, I see reassurance that I am truly a woman. It is because of this that something as inconsequential and sappy as Barry and Lup falling in love can bring me to joyful tears because of that little detail that Lup was assigned male at birth. It means that I really am a woman and that trans women can experience love as everybody else does and not dragged down by their assigned sex at birth.
I guess this is an indication that at the end of the day, even a strange one like me’s just looking for a place I can feel normal in.
Dungeons and Dragons does this thing that is simultaneously incredible and a curse. The incredible part is that you get to write a story on the spot with friends. How often does that happen? How often does that happen outside of those dumb writing activities you do at the $5 workshops where you write a sentence, pass it to the person on the right, fold the paper over the last sentence, write another one…? It’s pretty goddamn cool, this idea of writing on-the-spot fiction.
The curse is that you’re so, so incredibly limited in the kind of story you can tell. Dungeons and Dragons is generic high fantasy. End of story. Boom. Stuck in that one setting. Also you gotta deal with being stuck to an ensemble cast. Specifically, an ensemble cast of players, most of which have no sense of good characterization or storytelling, at least one of which who doesn’t like at least one of the other players, and at least one of which who wants to power game rather than telling a story (for very understandable reason; it’s difficult for me to resist the urge myself). The result: Every story you tell is complete dogshit.
Perhaps I should watch the Adventure Zone because I am told they bypass some of this.
So, let’s make a hypothetical D&D campaign that avoids all these issues. What are the prerequisites?
• Players should have some sense of storytelling and a strong sense of characterization
• Players should have some experience acting so they can act out their characters in the manner they wish to characterize their characters in
• The Dungeon Master should have all these qualities except accompanied by a much, much, much stronger sense of storytelling and a general idea of an overarching narrative with where to go
• Everybody should agree that if they’re gonna do fantasy, it’s gonna be something different that hasn’t been done before. Oh wait… guess that means no fantasy.
^ This basically means throwing out the entire book mind you, which does raise from the grave the great debate of Are the parts of D&D that make D&D good actually D&D?
• Everybody needs to be pretty familiar with one another, ie no rando games
• Everybody needs to get along for the sake of cooperative storytelling. No, not necessarily beyond that, but to that extent they should get along
Basically then what we’re looking at is fuck-all nobody but the nightly crew of 27 rue de Fleurus, hopefully before Gertrude’s given them her pot brownies.
Oh yes, believe me, I am severely bothered by shows like Critical Role for this very reason. Besides how hw-hw-hwite they are, their strict adherence to the Tolkien-style of setting and clear lack of experience acting well-written characters (Guys, they all do anime voice acting. Anime. Who the fuck watches anime?) and further lack of experience being able to write good characters themselves, it certainly doesn’t help that dear ole Matt keeps things so goddamn streamlined that the only story you can really tell is “A ragtag bunch of folks fight some monsters and save some people.” Puts on my creative writing professor’s glasses and slams papers onto the table. “It is not literary fiction! Disqualified.”
Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m too absorbed in the realm of academic creative writing that I’ve lost my sight of what a nice and normal story looks like. But… they break the fourth wall for no reason… Bu-bu-but… the denouement of the arc was totally weak because of their obsessive over-reliance on Freytag’s Pyramid AKA Blackmon’s Rhombus….
What even does a good story look like? Genshiken exists, but I think Genshiken is more likely to be about people playing D&D than the story created by the D&D players. Perhaps it is folly to attempt to make good stories in D&D after all. I should go full-form OSR and focus on PLAYER SKILL OVER CHARACTER SKILL. I will not be satisfied by these mediocre MacGuffins and shallow Mary Sues! The purpose is SKILL. TALENT. EVERYTHING ELSE IS SECONDARY. D&D IS A GAME FOR RRRRRRRREEEEEEAL BRAINS.
Oh dear. What have I done.
Let’s move on to the real questions then, like How many white people does it take to make the D&D books not racially insensitive?
Answer: More than they have!
Haha! Get it? Humor!
(It’s funny because they designed the entire Monk class as just a catch-all for Asian people, and also had a subclass of the fighter class being the Samurai because oooh boy being a knight from Japan sure is so cool and different to afford its own subclass! I’m sure the shogunate were the ones to grant them the undying strength and whatnot. And also there’s an interesting trend of the good albeit snooty high elves being white and the evil drow elves being dark-skinned. And also there’s an overrepresentation of white people in the images drawn (“Bu-bu-but there’s blue-skinned people too!” Yes, blue-skinned people whose faces are clearly modeled off of white people. “Bu-bu-but there’s a black person here!” Yes there is. One black person followed by twenty-five white people. Sooo proportional). And also the holy cleric and paladin classes are clearly heavily based off of a certain Abrahamic religion. And also… and also… and also…)
Yeesh. What has become of this blog? I’ve barely got the Asian blood in me to make this not pure white knighting. Cut me some slack though, I’m from the midwest.
God dammit, now I’m all riled up. Better go listen to Critical Role to cool off.
WAIT A SECOND!
Alas, maybe the real issue is that I simply don’t have any friends whose company I enjoy enough to afford playing D&D with them, who also want to play D&D with me.
Edit: I did listen to The Adventure Zone, and they do resolve these problems, most importantly by breaking the fuck out of the D&D rules and then transitioning into a different ttrpg more fitting for storytelling.
Emotion in Alternative Tango and Abstraction of Art:
(I’m in general less a fan of alternative tango now versus when I wrote this article)
“I have to disagree though that the lack of humans in performance or direct emotion from the music robs dancers of their ability to express the music. Instead, the way I see it, it lets the listener form a personal connection to the song more easily and permanently imprint their own emotion subjectively onto the song for every time they listen to it.”
My basic argument here is “I know everybody else thinks about it this way, but I don’t.” I think I had a valid-ish point with this though. The other side of this argument is that Alternative tango tends to be very precise with when which parts correspond to certain movements, so from that perspective, it is difficult to really have much free reign over how you’re dancing to the music. My counter to that is even permitting that is true, there are certain movements that would be kind of improper for most traditional tango music which alternative tango allows people to explore. So even if in some regards, alternative tango is restricting, there are benefits to playing at least a limited selection in a milonga. Regarding this whole idea of having inherent emotion versus people bringing their own emotions to the music, it’s good from a mathematical perspective, but from my very very limited and circumstantial understanding of psychology, people tend to be more willing to express their own emotions in situations where other strong emotions are already present.
“I wrote all of that in a huge rush, so why don’t I try to reiterate this differently. “
Uhg… I know I’m still guilty of clunky transitions nowadays (ha! Geddit? Because I’m trans… Wait, what?) but this is really brutal reading back.
“I believe that a work of art’s impression on a viewer / reader / listener / consumer is far more significant that the original intent of the piece. In essence, what a person takes out of art — their subjective experience with it — is more important than the piece of art itself.”
This is a totally different argument from the past part. I’m basically just reiterating the thesis for death of the author here and it’s only tangentially related to my original point.
“Alternative tango can enable the listener, by being more abstracted in emotion, to form an easier sentimental value with the song.”
This is just blatantly untrue and would give people out of the loop a misconception about alternative versus traditional tango… If I were to make the fallacy of categorizing an entire genre of music at all, I’d categorize alternative tango as too blunt with its emotions. Listen to “Otra Luna” by Narcotango or “Cinqo Minutos de Soledad” by Tangolectra. Mind you I’m generally a fan of both of these artists, it’s just this particular songs that, gosh, they sure are abstract with their emotions. I have no idea what they’re going for at all. I think a lot of traditional tango music can be emotional, for sure, but it doesn’t beat you over the head the way these songs do. The former, at least in my local tango group, is highly regarded as one of the great gems of contemporary tango music. *shudders*
Madarame’s Big Resolution:
“I’ll be honest, I thought there was a chance for MadaHato to be a reality. A slim one at that. But now Genshiken is telling us how silly it is to think anything other than this would happen….Well, I’m sure that MadaHato did have a real — but slim — possibility….I’d say more disappointing than MadaHato being a reality is that Hato isn’t interested in men….”
I did a nice job editing out all the sniffles there. Aha! Be proud, past me! You have been avenged.
On Content Creation:
“I feel like society has started putting a stronger focus on the creators of works and their personality and personal lives….”
Hang on, repeat that.
“I feel like society…”
Okay, right here, starting anything with this phrase is just a bad idea. If you write a blog article and this is how you start it, you’re doing something wrong. Now, beyond that, I do think I have a valid point here within the world of YouTube, but it’s a pretty damn big generalization to say all of society is this way,
This Kind of Writing:
“Often I have ideas for why I like some aspect of some anime or manga, and the idea is complex enough to take up 500 words, but I’d love to be able to go full-out Hearts of Furious Fantasies style with the 10,000 word posts.”
Aw, that’s cute, even if I do mess up his blog name.
Genshiken Has Made Me Depressed:
See, I even knew it at the time. Can you all understand why I’ve written like, 5 blog articles about how great Spotted Flower is in the past month?
Revolutionary Girl Utena’s TRUE REVOLUTION:
I definitely have this habit of conflating my emotional attachment to things with analytical points. I’d have to do my research here, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that 革命, the word for “revolution” in Japanese, probably only means revolution in the sense of The French Revolution and not so much in the sense of revolving around an object. It’s possible that the creators were aware of the dualistic meaning in English and chose the word 革命 based off of that, but I highly doubt it.
Is Copyright a Cultural Bias?:
I think this is a really great idea and pretty forward-thinking for a point in my life where I was having my red-pill phase, but when I said,
“This could just be sanctioned because most of the musicians and orchestras were friends with one another and had their own cool kids club, but I feel like most of them genuinely didn’t care if another orchestra played their song.”
I did like, no research at all to confirm whether or not this was true. My source for this was basically some (non-Argentinian) DJ giving me this whole narrative about this thing rather than actually looking for whether or not it’s true for myself.
How to ‘Get’ Action!
Oh god. I just realized the song is called “Get Action” in an album titled “Bedroom Bedrock.” Maybe that was the point, but if so I didn’t get that until now. I hate this article so much though. Heh. Wait, what’s this article? I don’t see it…
Video Games are the Apex of Art
This title is so misleading. My point here was that games are one of the only forms of art that incorporate several different sensory experiences and that’s cool. I think I was trying to go the clickbait title route but I ended up just looking dumb.
Thievery Corporation’s “The Temple of I & I”: What to Expect:
Cultural appropriation Shit, can’t use the C-A phrase.
“Now in The Temple of I & I I think we’re going to hear more of those parts that make Saudade great: noticeable evolution from past albums, more emphasis on the culture of their album, prominent vocal tracks. However, it brings it back closer to the instrumentation of Thievery Corporation we were accustomed to.”
Bringing it closer to the instrumentation we’re used to is me trying to soften how this album already sounded like it was cherry-picking the parts of Jamaican music and culture that it liked and ignoring the rest of it. Not really something I should be trying to soften.
The Temple of I & I:
“Now, I’m aware The Temple of I & I has received some critical reviews for misappropriating the sound of Jamaica. I’m not Jamaican, nor have I ever been strongly invested in Jamaican music, so my opinion my fall secondary to someone more familiar with the culture Thievery Corporation is incorporating this album. Just a heads up.”
Well, at least I was blue-pilled enough to be aware that the points I’m making are kinda dumb. The gist behind saying this is basically, “Hi I know that this album is problematic, but I’m a dumb white girl so I’m going to give you my dumb white girl opinion anyway!”
Reading through the article, I don’t have as much a problem with it as I expected to though. My impetus for making this post was because I remembered making an article about Temple of I & I largely praising it even though it’s a very good example of the C-A phrase, but seeing as I at least gave a warning that this was a dumb white girl opinion I guess I can’t fault myself too too much.
Chroniko’s Boots — How Kaiba Portrays a Corrupt Society
“The society in Kaiba here is portrayed as the corruption of capitalism with all of the wealth and power belonging to a tiny number of rich people and none of the wealth or power belonging to anybody else.”
Isn’t that just normal capitalism?
Upon taking a detour to review my past writings, it’s astonishing how bad I was just a couple of years ago, or hell, even six months ago. Yea sure, maybe that’s because I’m still a smol bab but yeesh, I didn’t think of myself as being that incompetent or poorly spoken! What happened to all those teachers from high school who told me I was such a talented writer? What happened to generic compliments from my parents about how well I write? I tremble to think of how this must reflect past me as a person. Woe is I, filled to the gills with cringe! And moreso in the future— just think of how I will view this in a couple years. The naive ramblings of a small child!
But, you know what? That’s a good thing. If I’m looking back on myself six months ago and thinking, “Damn, she’s a shitty writer,” then it means I’ve gotten that much better in six months. On that side, I’m doing pretty well eh? Sure to all you mature adults of this world I must seem like every other annoying teen who because they are / were / will soon be a senior in high school, a senior in high school! So old! So prepared for the outside world! or even worse, a freshman in college you’re still so, so mature though, right? Legally an adult*! You make your own decisions now!
(*Or perhaps you graduated early and therefore are annoying all your peers with your added year of inexperience (or subtracted year of experience?))
So you know what? I’m gonna treat it as a good thing that I was a brony in middle school, that I read manga now, and everything else that’s cringey in my world. That way, when I grow out of it (fuck man! I don’t wanna grow out of liking anime! My mom’s boyfriend’s like 50 and he still likes anime! He’s fucking awesome! Y’all need to drag me back into this shit if I ever try to run away from the world of contemporary Japanese visual culture.) I’ll be able to look back and be like, “Yea, look how much I’ve evolved as a person now!” That’s pretty cool, huh? Sure I started way back at -1000 goodness points, but now I’m all the way up at -100! It’s not long before I become a good person now, right?
So you know what, future me? Please, find me now as cringe as you can. That’ll mean I’ve come a long way.
I just saw the comments section on Bato.to for ch 22 and 23. I truly can rest in peace now. NOW THEY ALL FEEL THE PAIN I ONCE DID, THEY UNDERSTAND. Some have turned to reject the canon of Spotted Flower, just as I once did. Many are despairing, just as I once did. I must now wonder, will they create their fanfics where this never happened? Please do, pitiful ones. Please do so, it will only strengthen the reality that HATOMADA IS. I HAVE WON! I HAVE WON! I HAVE WON!
(Spoilers for Spotted Flower and Genshiken and stuff)
Hey. Remember how I legitimately went through a month-long phase of depression after Madarame didn’t pick Hato?
Well, Kio Shimoku, ever-pandering in his spinoff series, Spotted Flower, has brought peace to my soul. It’s not out in English yet, but I know what I’ve seen. I know what has happened. Sure, they aren’t officially the same characters, but… it’s happened. It’s real now.
I’m the happiest person in the world right now. I am sobbing tears of joy. I am rethinking my entire life. All my life has been for a good reason up until now— to grant me this amazing gift.
There’s no analysis to be made. There’s no deep thought to be said. It’s just… what it is. I’ve been sated. I love everything.