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I wrote this back in June of 2011, when I had a Livejournal account. I was asked about it recently, so I decided to repost it in a place that I put my rants on such topics.

Why the hell am I writing this? Of all the self-centered, self-righteous, pig-headed crap I've done, why am I adding this to the pile? Why am I writing this shit when I know no one will listen, and no one wants to listen?

I think that I need to sort these things out in my head, and being a slightly visual person, putting the thoughts onto the screen will make it easier to organize them in some fashion. Or maybe, I just want to read my own words again.

Good God )

My father told me that linguists should never stick their noses into philosophy. Sorry Dad. This is for you.
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There's a lot of critiques of the genre that focus on the creepy stuff that the harem genre in Manga and Anime (one man, a lotta women) as it relates to what's happening to the girls and/or women in such series, but there's something else about it that bothers me, that I don't think gets enough attention. Oddly enough, it's a flaw that the reverse harem genre (one woman, a lotta men) lacks.

One of the sexist stereotypes of men is that they want sex all the time. Therefore, they can't be raped by women. Only women can be the victim of sexual violence. If a woman rapes a man, then he should go along with it because he secretly wants it.

In harem stories, there always is a bunch of pretty girls who force themselves on an unwilling male protagonist. The idea is that if he isn't pursuing them, then he isn't victimizing them. But, it's actually just been reversed. The protagonist is the one being assaulted - often graphically, with a ton of violence. And we're supposed to find it funny, because a man couldn't possibly be sexually assaulted, and he secretly wants this, right?

A prime example in the plight of the protagonist of The World Only a God Knows, Keima Katsuragi. He's pretty high up in the Asexuality/Aromantic scale. He also is intensely uncomfortable with physical contact. Even in the dating sims he plays, he doesn't really think of them as romances, and he isn't getting sexual gratification out of them, he sees them more like strategy games. In the series, a demon crashes to earth and tricks him into making a contract to help her catch runaway evil spirits. The catch is that they're in young women, and to get the evil spirit out, he has to seduce them. If he breaks the contract, he will die horribly. Let's think about what this actually means: He's a sex slave, forced to prostitute himself under pain of death. As creepy and gross as what he's doing to all of these women is, it's no where near as horrifying as what's being done to him. We, the readers, are expected to think: He's being sexually assaulted, LOL. Now he's being beaten up for being sexually assaulted, LOL. It also was this series that triggered this rant.

There a lot of other creepy things about this genre, but I just wanted to point out this particular one, because people seem to forget that sexual violence isn't restricted by gender.
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This essay/rant is mostly based off of an essay by a friend of mine whose website vanished from the internet because she's moved on. Or died. I have no idea, she's just gone. Farewell Nurvingiel, you were a great writer and your essay on using foreign languages in story-telling was one of my favorites.

Whether you're writing about Middle-earth or the Beika district of Tokyo, you'll be dealing with foreign languages that you may or may not know. You may be tempted to work in some of the native languages to give your readers a greater feeling of immersion in the world. There are several things I'd like you to keep in mind though.

  1. Don't assume that your readers will know as much about the language as you do. Therefore, use the same language you use for the narration for all of the dialogue. Any term not in this language should be clearly defined for the reader. This also applies to honorifics, titles, and terms of address, like Mr./Mrs./Mz./Miss/Lord/Lady. Translate them or leave them out entirely.

Say someone is jumping into a fandom for the first time, and doesn't speak any Elvish or Japanese or Na'vi. They click on a fanfic that looks interesting, but they can't read the dialogue because it's a word-salad of languages they don't know. They give up and go away.

  1. Write the dialogue from the point of view of the characters whose point of view you're using. You can use a different language to reflect the characters' inability to understand what is being said to them, immersing the reader more into the characters' perspective.

So, you've got a Japanese character in a Japanese setting, and you're writing in English. They'll be able to understand everything said to them in Japanese, so write all of the Japanese dialogue in plain English. But, if the character doesn't speak English well, or at all, you could phonetically transcribe the English into the Japanese phonology, so it seems just as foreign and bizarre to your English speaking readers. Here's an example:
“Ah, I didn't see you there; forgive me,” Kogorou said, stepping aside.

The woman with a long nose and carefully fluffed brown hair looked confused a moment, then said, “Aimu sari, ai dina kachi za. Kudju ripii za?”

Kogorou blinked, uncomprehending. What was this strange amalgamation of sounds this woman was spewing?

Conan sighed loudly behind him and answered the woman. Ran tugged him aside and whispered, “It's English; Dad, they're speaking in English.”
As you can see, it is as confusing and incoherent as Kogorou would find it.

For another example, say you're writing in English; your POV character only speaks of Westron in Middle-earth, and they meet an Elf, who only speaks Sindarin.
I stood back, surprised. To me, it'd looked like the tree and sprung to life, but now, I realized I was looking at an Elf. A real, live elf. The elf backed up a step, hands up to show she wasn't holding any weapons. “Goheno nin. Ú-ethilen dhe thostad.”

I blinked. What was this “thostad,” and did it hurt?
Another situation that you may come across is a bilingual character. You need some way to distinguish the fact that they're speaking another language, but it needs to be in plain English. I suggest putting the dialogue in the other language in italics (no more than that though, too many layers of italics, bolding, and underlining can be distracting) or simply mention in the narration that they're speaking this other language now.
Ah, I didn't see you there; forgive me,” Kogorou said, stepping aside.

The woman with a long nose and carefully fluffed brown hair looked confused a moment, then said in English, “I'm sorry; I didn't catch that. Could you repeat that?

Kogorou blinked, uncomprehending. Conan sighed loudly behind him and answered the woman, “He just apologized for bumping into you. He's very sorry.
In scenes such as this, using the foreign language in the dialogue makes sense. Most of the time, just don't.

  1. Make sure that the translations you use are accurate. Bad translations could end up annoying or insulting everyone who does speak the languages in question. Or rather, it's a pet peeve of mine and it drives me up the wall.

This is so bad in Anime fandoms. The Fan-Japanese is so... so... *tears hair out, flails uselessly at the screen for a few minutes, mouth starts frothing* MAKE IT STOP.

  1. Using foreign terms in the narration is the most effective, and could lead to using them in the dialogue.

This is pretty simple to do, actually. You have a character think about or discuss the term. Here are a few examples:
Ran scowled down at Shinichi, hands on her hips. “Stop using my name without honorifics. Little boys should call older girls 'Neesan.' I'm older than you.”

Shinichi looked down, inspecting the floor. He hated being reminded of his condition. “Yes Ran-neesan,” he mumbled to his toes.

“I don't think I heard you. Say it again.”

He glared back up at her. “I wanna go home, Ran-neesan!”
Now the reader will know the significance of Shinichi addressing Ran as Ran-neesan when in his child-form, and they get some insight into Shinichi's situation and personality.

My fingers brushed across the net the Elfwoman had tucked my hair into. I'd never seen such a device before, but it was holding in all of the stray hairs with ease.

The Elf tugged gently on the net. “Cathrae,” she said, clearly pleased with my reaction.

“It's a cathrae.” I said, tasting the word.

“Ma!” she said grinning. “Cathrae.”
In the scene, we get a taste of Elven hair-styles by having the elf character teach our human about Elven hairnets.

Once home, she absentmindedly stuffed her shoes into the kutsubako, a small shelf by the door that they put their shoes away in.
Or, it can be as simple as this.

In conclusion:
Write in whatever language you're writing in.
Don't expect everyone to know as much or as many foreign languages as you do.
Use foreign languages from the perspective of the characters that you're telling the story through.
When introducing foreign terms, define them carefully and creatively in the story.
Make sure the translations are correct, because this little linguist and translator is driven insane by bad translations.

Thank you.

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Dear Person with the Fire of Religious Fervor Burning in Your Gut,

Being an out Atheist comes with the perk of having a target painted on your back when it comes to anyone and everyone wanting to shove their religion down your throat. In the US, where I live, the religion of choice for gullet-stuffing is Evangelical Christianity, so many of my experiences are with that religion, though hopefully what I have to say will be applicable on a broader scale.

Proselytizing is rude. Please stop. I don't mean that you shouldn't have the right to express your beliefs or practice your religion. There are plenty of things that you are free to do that are obnoxious, and for the sake of living in harmony with your fellow humans, you shouldn't do. Especially when the person you're directing it towards isn't interested. There are times, specific times usually with associated places, that I open myself up for religious debates. Just not being in your religion doesn't mean that I'm up for a theological discussion at all times. Also, I'm introverted, so that kind of hostility I especially don't like.

When you proselytize, you tell people: “You're wrong. I'm right.” No matter how you try to dress it up, it has an undercurrent of disrespect. You also are setting up the person you're talking to, because no matter how they refuse you, it'll have the undercurrent of disrespect. You'll be forcing them to say, “No, I'm right, and you're wrong.” So many times have I been confronted by this rude tactic, and the person on the other end of it will start playing the victim card, when it was they who was being rude in the first place.

I get it. You think I'm in danger or need saving from some horrible fate. My life is my own, not yours. Let me do with it what I will. Will you grant me at least that bit of agency? At the core of respecting others is releasing your control over them. By trying to keep that control, you are inherently disrespecting them.

Some of my experiences with proselytizers include:

Being cornered in the library by the “Youth Group” in the highschool. They were meeting there, and I happened to also be in the library, because I wanted to read books. Tip to the wise: if you have to corner the person you're proselytizing at, they probably aren't interested.

I posted a video to fellow Atheists on You Tube, and for some strange reason, a bunch of Christians have posted on it trying to convert me. That video wasn't an invitation to convert me, that was a message to fellow Atheists that it's okay to be an Atheist. It didn't have anything to do with them. I don't go on Christian postings directed at other Christians and tell them what I think of their beliefs, so they should grant me the same courtesy.

Being on my way to class, and having to walk through a volley of people wailing and flailing their bigoted signs. One charmer, because I was walking with a female friend, got in our way and yelled something crude about lesbians.

One time, my spouse and I were trying to leave our apartment to go shopping or to the bank or something, I forget what, and a stranger barred us from leaving our home for an hour or so to yell at us about Obama being a Muslim because all black people are genetically Muslims. As you can tell, we did not feel safe going outside with such an aggressive delusional person outside our door. He did flee when I told him by his logic, he was genetically a pagan and he was talking to someone who was genetically Catholic and Jewish. Kinda a funny story to look back on, but not funny when you're facing a 6 foot, 200 lb raving nutcase that's preventing you from leaving your apartment.

There is a common thread in these experiences. In the in person ones, the proselytizers were trapping me physically. They stick out in my mind so much more, because of the fear of physical violence. Why, when faced with a devout Christian trying to spread their good news, would I feel like I'm possibly facing physical violence?

Because it's happened before.

I was in the playground. They cornered me. Once I was trapped they threw everything they could get their hands on at me, screaming, “Burn the witch!” Same group of people tried to strangle my little brother on the school-bus a few years later, but I was physically strong enough to rip them off of him and give them some scars to remember me by.

So, you want to proselytize.

Remember, traumatizing experiences at the hands of people sharing your religion, no matter how nice you are, will color the other person's perspective of the encounter. Never, ever get in someone's way or make them feel trapped; and if someone shows any sign of disinterest, back off.

Remember that it's essentially disrespectful.

Remember that there are times that it's welcome, and there will be no ambiguity about when it's welcome, because people will ask you to pitch your religion to them, usually starting with the phrase, “I'm looking for a church to go to.”

So, go out there and exist in your religion. Just don't be an asshole. Please?
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Christianity is a weird, exotic religion in Japan, one which has a pretty marriage ceremony and has something to do with a slow torturous murder of someone on a cross… and that’s about all most Japanese people know about Christianity. So, it sticks out like a sore thumb when the Japanese characters use references to Christianity, even in passing. And, it pisses me off when people just replace “god” with “kami” as though they mean the same thing… but that’s a rant for another day.

I think it is worth it though, to look at the religious themes that are in the Detective Conan universe. I think that a lot of Westerners, not having in Japanese cultural heritage, may not pick up on these subtleties. The reason that I know a bit about this is that I took a class on Japanese religion and philosophy (mostly a literature class, goodness, the Buddhist monks were prolific!) and a class on ancient Japanese literature, which included the Nihonshoki and Kojiki, so I’m not working off of pop-culture notions of what Shintouism and Buddhism are.

It’s been noticed before by many that the Magic Kaitou series is in a world with magic, and Detective Conan is in a world of science-fiction. But, the supernatural does exist in the Detective Conan universe, and it is powerful, and it is very, very Shintou.

Both Ran and Kazuha are shamanesses of sorts… or witches? Psychics? There isn’t really a direct translation into English, and the term “miko” conjures up completely different images, thanks to pop-culture. Either way, they both have supernatural powers. Kazuha made an omamori (a protective talisman) so powerful it stopped a murder attempt on Conan. She has a reputation for making powerful omamori, and she makes them for other people. Ran is psychic intuitive, meaning that when she guesses, she guesses correctly. She also has supernatural luck, winning at lotteries easily. Both Ran and Kazuha are extremely superstitious.

Conan/Shinichi is a Skeptic and an Atheist. Being an Atheist is likely tied into him not believing in the supernatural, which is a result of him being a Skeptic. Shinichi is an extremely outspoken Skeptic as well, living his life by it. He’s not very tactful about it either, often mocking Ran for believing in Youkai or ghosts. The Skeptism movement is based on using evidenced based reasoning to figure out what to believe. No evidence for something, no belief in it. Shinichi has had very little experience with genuine supernatural things, so he doesn’t believe in them. His ability to sense when someone is looking at him with malicious intent he likely explains to himself as his subconscious noticing something and warning him about it.

Heiji is also a Skeptic, but he does have some supernatural beliefs. It relates to his prophetic dreams. He has direct experience with it, and seeing Kazuha’s power, he’s proved to himself that his dreams are real, and that Kazuha’s omamori have some sort of effect on the world. He hasn’t however, started believing anything and everything supernatural, and joins in with Shinichi in mocking the girls when they freak out over a possible ghost or vampire. He’s debunked many faked supernatural events as well.

Interestingly, anyone who tries to profit off of something supernatural, either blaming a murder on it or making money off of it, in the Detective Conan universe, is a fraud who is exposed in the episode. The supernatural here doesn’t come to those who want it, it does whatever the hell it pleases, neither being good or evil, like nature itself.

I keep saying “supernatural”, but in Shintouism, there is no such thing. Kami are part of nature, not outside, or above it. Shintouism also doesn’t have very much to say about any afterlife, other than death being ritualistically impure and something that invites bad luck, which is why Buddhism and Shintouism can coexist so easily. Buddhism is concerned with the afterlife, and it supposedly grants ordinary people purification superpowers – as though living your life in a particular way and holding a specific set of philosophies can make you able to purify away the bad luck gathered by impure things like blood and death. It’s very common in Japan for people to live according to Shintouism – gathering blessings they’ve bribed from various kami at shrines and using the divining services of a psychics to help make big decisions, but to use Buddhist death ceremonies and mantras for funerals or other unlucky events. In fact, it’s hard to see anymore where Shintouism ends and Buddhism begins in Japan. Yin-yang philosophy (called “Onmyou” in Japanese) also has blended itself comfortably into Japan’s unique religious blend, making Duality a common theme in Japanese literature.

Then, we look at Shinichi. He’s soaked in blood and death, as part of his daily life. Shinichi is ritualistically impure, so he’s plagued with bad luck. Even with Ran besides him, horrible things happen around him, sometimes to him, constantly. He even brings his impurity into places that should be able to purify it; people die in shines and temples when he’s there. In that universe, it’s no wonder that the evil organization was drawn to him and ended up trying to kill him. Heiji is similarly plagued with bad fortune, but he has Kazuha’s omamori to offset it, so he hasn’t ended up hounded for years by an international crime syndicate. When Heiji and Shinichi are together though – there will be more than one murder. Though, that might just be the fact that Heiji is a popular side character they like to milk the appearances of…

One idea that’s been borrowed from Buddhism and is omnipresent in the Detective Conan universe is Karma. Bad things happen to people who deserve them. It has a story-telling convenience too – you don’t feel so bad about the horrible deaths of characters that you don’t like. It can be a fun little game – spot the asshole, and bet that character will be dead by the end of the episode. But - the moral themes of the show often directly contradict the Buddhist focus on the afterlife. Many times, either Conan or whatever detective solves the case lamented that people weren't focusing on loving and living their brief time in this life, which is a very important value in Shintou.

There is one other very strong influence on this series, something that was a lot stronger in the 90's, when it first started being published. The evil organization that Shinichi is fighting is likely some kind of Transhumanist cult. The search for immortality, the interest in digital security, hacking, and computer simulations add up to Transhumanism. Then, their members are members for life, secrecy is more important than money making, and the raising of children to be useful for them sounds very cult-like. It also puts Gin's obsession with betrayal into context, doesn't it?

There you have it: a very basic look into the religious/ideological themes of the Detective Conan universe.

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There are several types of gender-bending characters, but only 2 are common in the Detective Conan universe. I'm going to talk about some ground rules for proceeding for both of them, and cover them both individually.

The Detective Conan story has plenty of female characters, but they are mostly side characters. Th main actors are almost all male, so genderbending them female is a very understandable urge. In fact, I think it's pretty cool. The two main types of genderbending that I see in the Detective Conan fanfiction zeitgeist are:

1. Genderbent from birth.
2. APTX4869 (or similar evil organization drug) switches one's gender, instead of turning one into a little kid.

But, there are several important things to keep in mind:

Gender Identity has very little to do with one's personality. Women aren't more emotional; men aren't all perverted creepers. Don't change the character's personality. What does change is the way society acts on the character. If a woman is emotional, it's expected, but if a guy is emotional, he's ridiculed. If a guy is a perverted creep, it's usually brushed off as "boys will be boys", but if a woman is a perverted creep, she must be a whore - or the victim, because women don't actually have sexualities, right? You get the picture: toss the sexist stereotypes.

Some examples:

Heiji is hot-headed, brave, and self-sacrificing at the drop of a hat. He values saving lives over punishing people. He's incredibly intelligent and has very good intuition, and capable of laying complex traps for criminals. If you write Heiji as female (and labeled such from birth), she'd still have all of those qualities. Looking at her mother, she'd probably have been trained in polite, traditional Japanese lady-like behavior, but if someone might be in danger, she'd charge in to save them no matter what. She also might not be given quite the access to crime scenes, even with her father being Oni-Heizo.

Ran is caring, competitive (she's some kind of karate champion, after all), extremely brave, and slightly introverted. If someone is in trouble, she'll charge in to save them, no matter who they are. If you write Ran as male from birth, he'd keep all those qualities. He'd still end up taking care of his useless father, but he'd probably speak a lot less politely, picking up his father's rough speech, and probably be a little faster to react physically, as it's more socially acceptable for him to as a guy. As a female, Ran's violent outbursts are contained for a few seconds more, before concrete starts crumbling. He'd still be terrified of the supernatural; and he still would beat the crap out of a random pervert on the subway who groped Sonoko.

The main point out of all of this is that when you genderbend these characters, they need to still be recognizable as those characters.

Which leads into what is probably my most important point:

Gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation are not the same thing.

None of them are binaries either; they're sliding scales.

Gender identity can be girly girl, uman-uman (giving Vermouth a section of the scale all to herself), Tom-boy, female, male, genderfluid, genderqueer, fem, butch, manny-man-Mc-manface, and on and on and everything in-between. One's gender identity is in one's brain. Since it develops at a different time from the genitalia, it's possible that what the brain thinks ought to be down there and what is down there could end up different things.

Sex is the what the doctors assign at birth. It has to do with what genitalia are present. But, this is a sliding scale, and it is possible to have genitalia so ambiguous that the doctors can't decide, which makes the label Intersex put on one at birth. So, sliding scale, yet again.

Sexual orientation is what parts of the gender identity sliding scale one is attracted to. You could be attracted to the most feminine far end of the scale, or the entire scale, or a large chunk towards the end of the masculine end of the scale. I'm pansexual, and am pretty comfortable with the entire scale, as long as they're a gentle, talented, intelligent, and a nerd, like my spouse is. See this essay on being Bisexual/Pansexual for more details. My spouse, however, is only attracted to the more female end of the spectrum. Even people who are "straight" are attracted to different sections of the gender identity scale.

Now you've got Shinichi force-fed a poison that transforms his physical sex, while leaving his brain untouched. His gender-identity and sexual orientation are left unchanged, because they are in the brain, not in the genitalia.

There are so many things that could be explored here, that I haven't seen even touched upon, other than what society defines gender roles as being. Shinichi is still in love with Ran, but now pursuing her looks like lesbianism, and that could lead to some pretty fierce discrimination and bullying at Teitan High. Does Shinichi suffer from Gender Dysphoria, or discover that his gender identity wasn't as masculine as he thought it was? Does he conceal his poison-induced sex, or does he use it to hide?

Whatever roads you take - do a ton of research. There are a lot of people from all over the gender identity, sex, and sexual orientation spectrums, and many of them have blogs. They are only a google search away. Go find out what they have to say about themselves, and don't make assumptions based on popular media stereotypes. You could end up sounding incredibly ignorant and bigotted if you don't, and the research you do may change your own perspective on yourself or on someone you know. Have fun researching!

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So, over the past few months I've been wallowing in the Detective Conan fandom. It's kinda nice. It's not very active, but it's cozy. The fan theories are a ton of fun to read and come up with. The source material is excellent. It's a very long running fandom (since 1994!) so there is 20 years' worth of fanfiction, fanart, and AMVs.

So, I just spent the past few months reading hundreds of DC fanfics. I've gotten a pretty good sense of the trends and tropes, as well as some of the more annoying habits that sometimes border on bigotry and/or pedophilia... holy shit does this fandom have a darkside. It doesn't have the vast numbers that the Harry Potter fandom did to explain it; it comes from the canon itself, which lends itself to a particular type of darkside that.... that will have to be one of my rants.

This will be an index of sorts for my rants. Hopefully this will result in something useful for my new fandom. We'll see.

Eat

Nov. 14th, 2013 07:51 pm
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I'm sitting across the table with my darling spouse. There's a plate of good-smelling food in front of me. I'm in agony.

I have no appetite. No idea why (doctors said, "Let's see how the tests come out!" after doing the vampire routine on my arm) and it scares the hell out of me.

When I say, 'no appetite', I mean absolutely none. I've lost the ability to feel hungry. Getting myself to eat involves setting a series of alarms on my phone, and forcing down whatever I can.

Forcing yourself to continue eating when you feel full after a single bite... it is exhausting and painful. Try it sometime. Sit down with a mountain of food before you, and try to make yourself finish it all. I feel nauseous after the third bite. My body says, "What are you doing? We're done here!" and rebels against my consciousness. My consciousness tells me I've only had a bowl of ramen today, and two bowls of soup the previous day, one corn dog (took me three hours to finish) the two days before that, nothing but water. I need to eat more than this, or I'll starve to death.

It hurts.

I finish another bite, and let my spouse have a shot at my plate (they've already finished theirs) then take the leftovers home. Then I sit down to write out my feelings, try to make sense of it.

A few days ago, I put on a pair of jeans that should fit snugly. They were baggy. "What the hell?" I thought. "I've been doing nothing but sit on my ass doing homework." Then it dawned on me. I hadn't eaten anything that day. I thought back. The day before either. Not much the day before that... when did this start happening? I analyzed my eating behavior over the past few months.

Late September... that's when I think it began. It was slow at first. Difficulty finishing meals. Then after a while, just skipping them. After a few weeks, down to one small meal a day. After that, I just stopped. And I didn't notice. I didn't feel it. I went for days without eating and didn't notice.

I'm terrified.

It feels like a betrayal of myself. I always took pride in my ability to know my body and emotions. How could I miss this? I should have noticed this sooner! Then again, I wasn't in pain, so there weren't redflags until I put on my jeans. I see how it happened, but feel ashamed that it got so bad. It's a betrayal of my personality in another way - I love food. I love making it; I love eating it; I love trying out new foods. Not wanting to eat is a foreign concept to me. I still think, "Me? Unable to finish a meal? Ridiculous." Then I see the low-blood sugar shaking my hands, and feel the looseness of my jeans. This really is happening.

I loathe having to obsess over meals. One day and I'm already hating it. I've never obsessed over how much of what goes into my body before. I've always gone by trusting my body to tell me when it needs refueling. And up until a few months ago, I could go mad with hunger if I skipped a meal. I couldn't think or function hungry. And that's a good thing. It made me stop and refuel, and enjoy doing it. Probably the worst of this is that I can't enjoy eating anymore.

My body isn't doing what it's supposed to do.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'm longing for the ache of hunger right now.

At least that ache would keep me alive and functioning.

Eat. Eat another bite. You'll get sick and die if you don't. You feel like you're going to puke? Quit whining, Fiona. Eat.

Update:
Doctor says it's a combination depression-depression medication that wiped out my appetite. My meds are used to help smokers suppress cravings, so any craving for food I had left vanished. A medication's been added that will knock me out and make me hungrier. So, no *fun* things like organs dying. We don't have to worry so much, oh blog that no one reads.

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I always could see gods. They are shadows, vague shapes, but sometimes they’ll take the form of something from my memory. If they are dangerous, they’ll take the shape of something that frightens me. If they benevolent, they’ll take the shape of something that comforts me. They each have their own personalities too… some are mischievous, some are shy, some love attention and being doted on. They like to live in statues and shrines. Other’s care little about humans. They have important jobs to do, like moving clouds and making goats mate. 

I was eight years old when I realized I was seeing gods. I was traveling with my family, taking fresh wool from the herders on the mountain, to the River City. We stopped to pay homage to the local gods, as one must do when traveling through their territory. (if you don’t, they might become vengeful) and I saw a man who looked like a king that I’d seen a glimpse of being carried by a dozen slaves. He wore bangles and fine skins, and jewels were everywhere on him – even strung on wires that ran through his skin. When he saw us coming to pay homage to the great statue, he became very excited, and started kissing the dying flowers in the offering bowl. To our amazement, the flowers came back to life and blossomed anew. My grandmother, who also is our shaman, told my father that this was a good omen. This god would protect us through its land. We gave it offerings of dyed wool. 

I thought differently.  Hadn’t they seen the king-magician kissing the flowers? While they told me there was no such man, and that the king I spoke of was far, far away from us, he stepped between us to stare at me. Instead of hunching over to get a better look, he simply shrunk to my height. 

“I look like a king to you?” he asked. 

I nodded. My grandmother took it as a sign that I’d been corrected, and they went about getting the great ox to move again. 

He puffed out his chest and grinned wide. “Most people see only my house,” he said, pointing at the statue.

I looked at my parents, who were busy snapping at slaves. They still didn’t notice him. 

“It’s solid wood,” I whispered, turning away so they couldn’t see me talking. “There’s no space for someone to live.” 

“I don’t need space,” he said. Then he slipped into the statue, and out of sight. I could still feel his presence though. “I am Nagoy, the Road Guardian!” he shouted in his most mighty voice. “I give flowers their perfume!” 

“How does that help guard the road?” 

“It doesn’t,” he popped his head out of the statue, “but it’s fun.” 

“Does this mean that you are the god of the road then?” I asked. 

“Of course I am! I live in the statue, don’t I?” 

“My family is traveling through your land, will you take care of us?” 

He paused a moment, and chewed on his lips. “I might miss more offerings. And my home is here, not the entire road.” 

“What if I gave you a new home?” I scurried over to the cart with the bag full of woolen dolls from the mountains, and pulled out a doll with wool jewelry stitched into it. “It looks like you.” 

His eyes widened with glee. “You’ll carry me with you? Will you show me lots of flowers?” 

“We travel everywhere. My mom says that we have traveled to every place with a name in the world!” 

With that, he left his wooden statue and jumped into my doll. “I am Nagoy the Caravan Guardian!” he shouted in his mighty voice. “I give the flowers of all of the named places their perfume!” 

Never had we had a sweeter smelling journey.



Index | Next Chapter

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See that mountain there?

A powerful witch lives there.

She stops death there.

Her valley is fruitful there.

Her people never die there.

All you need is to get there,

With a token of your God there,

Learn handspeech and live there.

Forever.


Part 1 - The Witch
Chapter 1 - The King
Chapter 2 - The Merchant

 
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I composed this poem in IPA. English Orthography version below. I think it looses something that way though... oh well. Enjoy!

C
o:
ˈʤrægnˌflaj
wɛr ˈʤu go:
wɛn ˈju daj

A
aj
ˈgo tu ˌɚθ
ðə ˈsem ples
əv ˈmaj bɚθ

C
waj
ˈkæn ʧuˌsi:
maj ˈgadz ðæt
kn ˈnat bi:

A
aj
ˈno: mor ˌbaut
ðoz ˈdæm gadz
ðæ ˈʧu taut
o:
ˈju por ˌfuɫ
ˈhu gev ˌju
ˈrajt tu ˌruɫ

C
maj
ˈon gad ˌgev
mi ˈpawɚ
for tu ˈsev
ju:
ˈpɪtɪˌfɫ
ˈsɪnɚz ˌaɫ
jɚ ˌʤʌst ˈfjuɫ
for
ˈgadz straŋˌræθ
ju ˈʃʊd rʌn
frəm ˈgadz pæθ
ðɛn
ˈkloz jɚ ˌa:z
ˈfalo ˌgadz
ˈju diˌspajz

A
don
ˈθrɛʔn ˌmi
ˈfir kn ˌnat
mek ˈmi si
fʌ:
kɪŋ dɪsˌgres
ju ˈkænt pruv
jɚ ˈdʌm kes
so:
ˈʌntɪɫ ˌðɛn
liv ˈmi bi
fɚˈgatɛn
aj
ˈwont hɚt ˌju
tu ˈmi ðiz
ˈrajts ɪmˌbju
rajt
tu ɛgzɪst
tu
nat falo

riliʤn
ai
grænt ju ðiz
rajts aɫ ðə
tajm, so pliz.
aj
dont biliv
dont hoɫd ɪt
əgɛnst mi


C:
Oh
Dragonfly,
where d’you go
when you die?

A:
I
go to earth,
the same place
of my birth.

C:
Why
can’t you see
my gods that
cannot be?

A:
I
know more ‘bout
those damn gods
that you tout.
Oh,
you poor fool.
Who gave you
right to rule?

C:
My
own god gave
me power
for to save
you
pitiful
sinners all,
you’re just fuel
for
God’s strong wrath.
You should run
from God’s path.
Then
close your eyes;
follow gods
you despise.

A:
Don’t
threaten me.
Fear cannot
make me see.
Fu
-cking disgrace!
You can’t prove
your damn case.
So,
until then,
leave me be,
forgotten.
I
won’t hurt you.
To me these
rights imbue:
Right
to exist
To
not follow
your
religion.
I
grant you these
rights all the
time, so please.
I
don’t believe.
Don’t hold it
against me.
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Oh what the hell, no one reads my blog anyways. I wrote a highly technical paper for my Historical Linguistics class that uses my own theories, instead of just regurgitating other people's theories. I'm really proud of it. But, I don't think many people will be able to understand much of it, or care.

Chain Shifts and Two Opposing Forces Theory of Phonetic Change

Understanding Chain Shifts is the key to understanding why language is constantly, never ceasingly changing. What makes them so fascinating is the symmetry the sounds move in and preserve. A Chain Shift is like a toy train set sitting atop a tray. Just tipping it slightly to one side, and the whole thing rolls off the tray together. To better understand Chain Shifts, we’ll look at Grimm’s Law and the Great English Vowel Shift in detail. Then we’ll organize the characteristics that are universal to all Chain Shifts, and finally, we will figure out why and how this dramatic set of changes is even possible.

Grimm’s Law

Arguably one of the most famous Chain Shifts, and a good starting point. In this Chain Shift entire natural classes of sounds changed all at once, which as it turns out, is a pretty common occurrence in Chain Shifts (and phonetic changes in general). Here is a table copied out of Lyle Campbell’s Historical Linguistics: An Introduction, page 49-50, illustrating Grimm’s Law.

-voice, stop>fricative +voice, stop>-voice +voice, +aspiration, stop>-aspiration
*p > f *b > p *bh > b
*t > θ *d > t *dh > d
*k and *k̂ > x/h *g and ĝ > k *gh and ĝh > g
*kw > hw *gw > kw *gwh > gw

The carets indicate palatal consonants that appear in Proto-Indo-European, but that merged before or during the Chain Shift. There are a few modifications I’d like to make though. First, the /*p/>/f/ change is missing a step. I think it should be /*p/>/ɸ/>/f/. Going from a bilabial stop to a bilabial fricative involves less changes than going to a labial-dental fricative. The change from bilabial to labial-dental easily could have taken place after the initial change. Second, I think that the /*t/ was a dental stop, not an alveolar stop. If it had been an alveolar stop, I think that /*t/ would have merged with /s/ instead of making a brand new fricative. Actually, this makes a lot of sense, considering that there were four places of articulation for stops in Proto-Indo-European. To make these four places spread out as far as possible, bilabial-dental-palatal-velar makes a lot of sense. After the palatals merged with the velars, the dental sounds easily could have moved back to the alveolar ridge.

The Great English Vowel Shift

Vowel Chain Shifts are common. Vowels themselves are quite mushy. Any one vowel phoneme is actually a range of sounds that we think is the same sound. For example, compare Northwestern US vowels with Japanese vowels: (data from me, for I speak these languages)
Japanese Vowels North Western US English Vowels
As you can see, the organizing and sorting of these sounds is quite different, but both languages identify more than one place of articulation as the same sound- as well as everything between the two sounds. So, the lines of the categories can easily shift. The Great English Vowel Shift itself: (illustrated by Robert Stockwell in Studies in the History of the English Language – A Millennial Perspective, page 17)

The Great English Vowel Shift

fig. 4

This Chain Shift, the bane of many children learning how to spell, only deals with the natural class of long vowels. Except for the high vowels, the change that happens is vowel raising. After the vowel raising, some more diphthongization happened to the mid vowels. One thing that this chart doesn’t cover is that vowel length as a phoneme in English disappeared, so /a/ didn’t vanish from the language.

Characteristics of Chain Shifts

Chain shifts follow a specific pattern and have some very specific characteristics. At one end of the chain, there will be a change that doesn’t fit the pattern of the others. At the other end, a sound will be lost. The changes happen in two phases.

Phase one is where the change that doesn’t fit the pattern happens. Examples of this are the voiceless stops becoming voiceless fricatives in Grimm’s Law; and the high long vowels becoming diphthongs in the Great English Vowel Shift.

Phase two is where the rest of the changes in the chain happen. These changes won’t be very drastic, often staying in a category of some sort and only tweaking one feature (as far as I can tell, I’ll need to examine more Chain Shifts to see if this holds true). The rest of the changes in Grimm’s Law are from one type of stop to another, and they all kept their places of articulation. In the Great English Vowel Shift, the vowels stayed in their category – front or back – and simply moved up. Finally, something will be lost from the phonetic invatory. In the Great English Vowel Shift, vowel length was lost, and in Grimm’s Law, aspiration was lost.

But why? Why do Chain Shifts follow this pattern? Both Trask and Campbell write of it in terms of “drag/pull chains” and “push chains”.

The Problem with Push Chains

Trask defines a “push chain” as “a chain that starts with a movement of one segment dangerously close to a second one, causing the second one to move out of the way and do the same thing to a third segment (108).” This, doesn’t make much sense to me. When segments get dangerously close, they merge. Certainly, there is a universal pattern of human languages’ phonetic structure wherein the sounds are as far apart and different as they can possibly get – but that appears to be a function of keeping the sounds as spread apart in the mouth as possible. And what would constitute being too close? Looking back at the NW US English vowel chart versus the Japanese vowel chart, the English vowels are much, much closer together than the Japanese vowels, but they aren’t pushing each other out of the way, and have been relatively stable for the 500 years since the Great English Vowel Shift. There seems to be little resistance against mergers. For example, look at the changes to ancient Greek vowels: (Trask 110)

Greek Vowels

This chart shows a small chain shift, actually. Look at /o:/>/u/>/i:/.

Pull/Drag Chains

Trask defines a “drag/pull chain” as “a chain that starts with the introduction of some holes [in the phonetic structure] which ‘drag’ other segments into them, thereby creating more holes which in turn drag other segments into them, and so on (108).” This makes a lot of sense to me, and sounds quite natural. It likely describes very accurately what happened to the Greek vowels above. But, I’m not sure it can be so easily applied to entire classes of sounds so easily. It’s certainly possible, but I think there’s probably another force at work.

Two Opposing Forces

We may have a glimpse of this force in Campbell’s definition of push chains.
“Sometimes the notion of ‘maximum differentiation’ is called upon in the instances. The idea behind maximum differentiation is that the sounds in a sound system tend to be distributed so as to allow as much perception difference between them as possible(48).”
This is a great theory, but I don’t think that it could explain the sounds pushing each other out of the way. All this means that before we can figure out how Chain Shifts work, we’ll need to figure this out why phonetic change happens. This leads us to many more questions about the nature and structure of phonologies and phonetic change in general. From here on in is my own musings, though I’m certain I’m not the only one too look at Chain shifts and think this up.

The first step into figuring this out is to ask some questions:
  1. Why are places and manners of articulation often reused with the phonology of a language? One reason that the IPA chart works so nicely when organizing the sounds in a language is because all languages will already have the sounds within them grouped and organized.
  2. Why are the sounds spread so far apart from each other in the mouth? This has the odd byproduct of making the phonetic charts look symmetrical, because they are based on where the sounds are made in the mouth. This is the most noticeable in vowel charts.
  3. Why aren’t words getting endlessly long? It’d mean they could be made up of very easy to say sounds.
  4. Why Fortition? Lenition is easy to figure out – making words easier to say is a very easy trend to spot. But more difficult? Why bother?
My “maximum differentiation” theory is a bit different from what Campbell writes about. I think that there is another piece to the puzzle, one that has completely incompatible goals. I think that these two forces of language change are in a ceaseless battle against each other: Ease of articulation, and Ease of differentiation.

Ease of articulation’s goal is to have the fewest number of different places and manners of articulation to learn for speech, and for those sounds to flow easily from one to another. It also doesn’t let words become too long.

Ease of differentiation’s goal is to have lots of different sounds far apart from each other in the mouth and made in many different ways that are easy to tell the difference between when listening to the speech. Speakers will say words in more difficult ways if it means they will be understood more easily.

With such different goals, it’s no wonder that language is constantly changing. Neither side can ever be happy.

Applying Two Opposing Forces to Chain Shifts

And we’re back to the problem of Chain Shifts. What gives them their peculiar shape? I think that the reason that change can be sped up is that a language’s phonology can be destabilized. If a change happens that upsets the delicate balance between the two forces, change will happen very quickly to correct the balance. Ease of differentiation will spread the sounds out, and ease of articulation will be look to use efficiently the places and manners of articulation.

In phase one, a change happens that upsets the balance. Ease of Differentiation will cause instability because the sounds are no longer spread out as far as possible. Ease of Articulation will cause instability because the manners and places of articulation are no longer being used efficiently.

In phase two, the sounds spread out as Ease of Differentiation wants, but staying in the categories that Ease of Articulation holds them to. One segment moves at a time, never overlapping, else there’d be mergers. Possibly, a segment could gain and lose ground at the same time, making the changes happen all together, like a slack chain laid out on a desk, being pulled taunt from one end.

Works Cited

Campbell, Lyle. Historical Linguistics: An Introduction - 2nd ed. Edinburgh University Press, 2004
Stockwell, Robert. Studies in the History of the English Language : A Millennial Perspective. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2002
Trask, Arnold. Trask’s Historical Linguistics - 2nd ed. 1996. Ed. Robert M. Miller. London: Hodder Education, 2007

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I really haven’t been keeping up with my weekly writing regimen, but oh well. I’ve been swamped with homework and barely been able to breathe at all this semester. As I write now, we are in Seattle for SakuraCon - our yearly Spring Break adventure. Trevor (my husband) and I watched the premier of the Dragon Age animated movie. The creators of Dragon Age worked with Funimation to put it together, so we were pretty stoked. Right after that we went to a panel about sexism in the geeky-nerdy community and how we can fight it – so that definitely has colored our review of it. After the feminism panel, we went to a fantastic Indian restaurant called A Taste of India. As we waited in the incredibly long line to get in, we discussed the movie at length and jotted down notes for this article. Therefore, it really is from both of us. This will be heavy in spoilers.

 

Spoilers! )

 

Voice Acting

It was kinda obvious that there hadn’t been much in the way of directing of the voice actors. They were supposed to be so-totally-not-French accents, but the voice actors’ accents were all over the place. Many of the actors ended up blending accents or going back and forth between three or four different accents. Some actors gave up and just went British or their American accent. Other than that it was pretty good.

Animation

Definitely a low-budget production. The motioncapture looked great, but there were a few times that they didn’t use it which ended up looking really bad – especially with the horses. They cut a lot of corners, including almost never animating facial expressions. In fact, Cassandra’s face was left in a blank, emotionless state for most of the movie, which jarred with the voice acting often. The design of the scenes went for wow-they-were-in-a-hurry to Oh COOL!!!!, and there’s a lot more cheap shots than nice looking ones.

The animation of the magic was sometimes awesome, and sometimes lazy. The fire spell was really, really cool. The fight scenes – not so much. It basically consisted of throwing balls of light around like water balloons. We’d thought that the magic they’d use for fighting would involve making the environment fight for you, since the Templar can shrug off magical attacks with ease. Things like making the ground turn into quicksand to impede their movement or making lightening strike them or pieces of buildings fall on them. That would have been so cool! But, we get magic glowing water balloons instead.

In Conclusion

The cheapness doesn’t bother us near so much. Cheap movies can be awesome if the rest of the movie is well done, and this wasn’t. It really feels like a lazy, last-minute slapped together project built to cash in on Dragon Age – but it could have been a lot cheaper and a lot more offensive as an addition to the canon. This was mediocre, but at least it had a great main character and an a few admittedly awesome fight scenes.

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So, I have a You Tube account now. I was bumbling about, and found some "Sindarin". I shall translate it back into English, to illustrate how bad these translations are.

The original video

Translation:

I name you in my feä of some races of a heart
I desire ever festive it dreams
Naear of numerous uncountable biting
Across Nienor at ending we will meet.

In uncountable wrong doings with all hateful shadows
We will know blue heaven to us it shines
I will stray distant under the shadow of death
I will garia light now in my wides chair

To a silent heart I will die at last
With a lion the two of you will listen to a singing world
It lives and it gwennas, like its own all lives
Little flower, air, a tower of nóner and they will be

Original Lyrics:

yondeiru muneno dokoka okude
itsumo kokoro odoru yume wo mitai
kanashimi wa kazoe kirenai keredo
sono mukoude kitto anataniaeru

it's calling out from deep within the heart
I always want to dream cheerful dreams
sadness can never be counted but
I will be able to see you on the other side

kurikaesu ayamachi no sonotabi hito wa
tada aoi sora no aosawo shiru
hateshinaku michiwatsuzuite mieru keredo
kono ryoute wa hikariwo idakeru

every time people repeat mistakes,
they know the blue of the simply blue sky
it seems as if the road continues endlessly but
these hands can find light

sayonara no tokino shizukanamune
zeroni narukaradaga mimiwo sumaseru
ikiteiru fushigi shindeiku fushigi
hana mo kaze mo machi mo minna onaji

the quiet heart when parting
the ear listens as the body changes to zero
living, mysterious, dying, mysterious
the flower, the wind, the city; they're the same
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I can't really add much to what so many before me have said about these bills, so I'm going to write about what could happen to my little website.

My website stands at the border between copyright infringement and scholarly inquiry. If someone decided that the content on my website infringed on their copyrights, they wouldn't be required to prove it before I got sued into oblivion and my website got blocked. Worse yet, they could target the company that owns the servers my website is on.

We cannot trust that the government, lawyers, and corporations won't abuse the power granted them in this bill.
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The past few years I've been getting into the cosplay world. It was kinda inevitable - seeing as I've been sewing since I was 5. I've always loved figuring out how the various shapes in fiction would be achieved. But often, I see stuff that is just impossible to pull off - not without some serious deviations from the intended design. There is only one way that I can think of to make people start designing clothing for their comics/anime that would be logical. Teach them how to sew. Show them why this stuff is impossible.

This is actually three rants put together. Why artists should at least be familiar with clothing design, designing functional clothing and designing clothing for a new culture. It is an expansion on my short rant in my review of Tokyo Majin.

First off - sewing is really easy. No really - it is. Your ancestors have been making their own clothing by hand for millions of years. Once you get used to putting together 3D shapes from 2D material, wear the clothing that you made. If it isn't working right - you did something wrong. Try again, and adjust the design. It's actually really really easy. If you're an artist, you'll already be able to visualize and foresee how to the shapes would change. You'll notice that a lot of things don't work the way you thought it would. Like gravity. Gravity works on clothing. Those gigantic boobs will need a support system built into that strapless dress, or some way to cover up the support underneath.  There's a trend in anime designs lately which has these detached sleeves that are tied around the upper arm. You'll discover why this is stupid. You'll discover that a design that requires double-sided tape isn't a good idea when designing something that needs to be worn every day.

Designing Functional Clothing

This is probably the biggest problem in fiction. First thing to think of is "How does the clothing interact with the plot?" Often times, I see writers describing and artists drawing clothing styles that are impractical or down right dangerous for the characters to be wearing. Everyone remembers the "running in heals" cliche, and plenty of people have ranted about the uses of armor in fantasy fiction. This is kinda like that - just with regular clothing.

Take the rather innocent lovely blue-green dress that Sophie wears in Howl's Moving Castle.

It's a late 1800's style dress - built to go over the top of a corset and several layers of peticoats and bloomers.

Somehow, that dress becomes this:


And then back again!

Firstly, if you've ever stretched a T-shirt collar out, you'll notice that it it doesn't ever regain it's shape. This stretching out is an extreme of that. Why hasn't her dress, which just previously was a petite little thing, which was obviously designed to be worn over a corset - suddenly a large, baggy dress? There are several dangerous problems in this transformation not covered. The collar in the young version is very tight. She'd be strangled by the dress as she transformed! And what happened to the corset? She'd be like someone stomping on a tube of toothpaste - except with internal organs and ribs spewing out. Why is she wearing the corset again later on in the story?

A better way to handle the transformation would have been to have her go to bed in her nightgown, which is much more roomy and lacking in constricting undergarments, and when she wakes up she finds herself old and fat.

Transformations aren't the only times that the restrictions of clothing needs to be taken into account. The ambient temperature is also important. People wear heavy clothes during winter. They wear lightweight clothes in the summer. On a windy day, a wind breaker. On a rainy day, a raincoat. Think of all the different ways that you adjust what you wear in accordance to the air around you. If you're cold - you throw on a sweater. If you're hot, you take a layer of clothing off, or change into something more lightweight.

So, your ultra-cool protagonist is hitting the streets in its continuing mission to slay demons for the protection of mankind, in the middle of winter. You started the series when it was summer, and you have a really cool costume for your masked fighter. Great. Now, there need to be some adjustments made to make it feasible during the middle of winter. And no, I don't mean "add a scarf." Scarfs on their own don't do much.

I hate this one so much. Yeah, she's hot. Why does she have protection for her knuckles but none for her internal organs?

I mean, you're going to have to change your masked fighter's costume to match the weather. If the only way your character can be recognized is because of its one costume, perhaps you should work on the design more, or work in ways to identify the character when not drawn in its main costume. The best I've seen this handled was in Fullmetal Alchemist. The problem of the way metal reacts to cold temperatures and Edward's automail was actually dealt with and not ignored. A nice touch.

By the way, short skirts aren't very warm. Hot chicks are still hot when they're wearing pants.

Now, lots of artists and writers love to describe/draw long flowing clothing. There is a very good reason not to give long flowing to your characters.



Long flowy clothing gets caught on stuff. Or stuff gets caught on it. The reason that the long flowy designs get popular for the upperclassmen in many cultures is that it is very constricting. If you can wear long, flowy clothing, you don't have to do much manual labor or anything that requires you to be able to move around with ease. The same idea applies to hair. Long hair is like a handle waiting to be grabbed and yanked. Factory workers at the turn of the 20th century had to chop their hair off or wear it in tight buns to keep it from getting caught in the machines. So, artists and writers should not only have to make the clothing but have to wear it. Try running through an obstacle course in that gown. It's really hard, isn't it?

When you're designing your characters' "look" - make it fit what the character does. Don't put it in things "because I think they're cool!" but because "this is what this character would wear". If the character prefers to wear something impracticle - then it'd have to suffer the consequences.

Designing a New Culture's Clothing

Oh, the weird ass shit I've seen in fantasy series...

First thing to do when coming up with a clothing style  for a new culture is to forget your own, and look at it like an anthropologist. Actually, you should have been doing this all along. I've already mentioned the Prestigious Clothing concept - a mark of prestige is wearing impracticable, constricting, difficult to wear clothing. Keep that in mind.

Start simple. VERY simple. Most clothing styles of cultures has developed in two ways:

Wrapping the material around oneself:


This sort of clothing resulted in kilts, togas, and saris.

Poking a hole in the fabric for your head

The poncho start results in clothing like the Japanese kimono, Roman tunics, and modern-day T-shirts. It's likely that pants also developed from this starting point.

It's perfectly fine to mix the two, or have one for men and the other for women. The idea is to not just recycle our own history's styles or throw them into random cultures of our world's clothing.

If you look into how clothing and clothing styles develop, you'll notice that there's very little original thinking going into their development. They just revise or add to what they already have. Japanese kimonos are identical for men and women. The difference is the sashes. Women wear incredibly restricting sashes that are wide and made of stiff fabric - often with lots of padding to give them a cylindrical shape and gigantic knots to tie them off. Men wear a narrow sash with a small knot.They obviously come from the same idea.

Think of how the different styles would develop for the different classes. The lower classes are going to have clothing that is easier to make, easier to wear, easier to move about in, and that require less material. They'll also have ways to easily mend the clothing.

In cultures with a very large difference between the upper and lower classes, the lengths that the rich will go to to prove that they don't need to do any manual labor will be to the extremes. In China, wealthy men would grow out their fingernails to insane lengths to prove they never had to use their hands. In Rome it went the other way - men who could spend their time body-building and tanning their skin weren't having to work a trade. If the culture also puts men or women above each other - it will be reflected in the clothing. Keeping women as incapable of movement as possible is a trait of patriarchal cultures. You'll see it in Chinese foot-binding and in the ridiculous corsets in Europe. If it takes a lifetime of mutilating your body to achieve, you must have had a life of leisure. You can actually see this happening in our culture today - with cosmetic surgery.

Another important point is that different styles will often develop to be used as markers of different sub-cultures. Think of the goth sub-culture. The clothing and adornment isn't actually all that different from the main stream, it's just been altered a little bit.  Think also of the hippy movement in the 60's. Then, a lot of foreign clothing styles were adopted to mark that subculture.

Often, the clothing changes to meet the needs of the profession - Cowboy clothing styles - and later gets expanded on to other layers of a society when the society revolves around that profession.

So, you can use clothing/costume design to tell your readers a lot about the cultures you're designing. You don't have to be restricted to a bunch of modern cliches and archetypes of other cultures.
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I hear that this isn't common knowledge, as I once had assumed. So, hello world. I'm bisexual. "Bisexual" is an adjective to describe someone who can be sexually attracted to men or women. I've been attracted to men and women, therefore I'm bisexual.

How do I know?

I was a late bloomer. For a while, as my friends were going through radical hormone changes and discovering their sexualities, I was left behind, very confused by what all the fuss was about. For a while, I figured that I was asexual. It was actually kinda a joke amongst my friends. They passed around pictures various scantily clad men, and I was bored. They started talking about whomever they thought was hot, and I was bored. They started flirting with guys, and I was bored. I didn't start to feel sexually attracted to anyone until highschool. At first, I was attracted to another talented flutist, who was male, and we kinda dated, but it never got serious in any capacity, and looking back, I wasn't really ready to date yet. I kept him at arms' length, and we ended up breaking up.

Then something unexpected happened. I developed a huge crush on one of my best friends. She was nerdy and weird like me. She was kind and gentle. She was playful and fun. She was booksmart and intelligent. I spent as much time with her as I could, and even braved my telephonophobia to give her a call over the summer break. I wasn't entirely certain what it meant, but I knew that I wanted to be near her.

It was around the same time that I became a mod on a Harry Potter forum. It was a pretty big forum, so there was an entire section devoted to matters of sexuality. There was a thread about coming out of the closet, and people helping each other out and giving encouragement. It was then that I had an epiphany. I really liked this girl. I really really like-liked this girl. I wanted to be her girlfriend.

Then the fear set in. I was friends with a transgender boy and his girlfriend, and I had seen how much pain and grief they went through at school. I was already a nerdy outcast who was constantly picked on by my peers. Coming out and dating her - if she said yes - meant the torment that we faced would increase ten-fold, and worst of all, that she could face rejection from her religious parents. On the other hand, if she said no, would she be uncomfortable being around me? Would she tell other people? Would I lose the precious few friends that I had? It seemed like there was no upside to this situation.

So, I never let it develop into anything. I stayed by her side as her friend, choking back my desires. After two years of letting my crush fade, I discovered Trevor. We were good friends for 6 months, and eventually we started dating. He is nerdy and weird like I am. He's kind and gentle. He's a talented artist and writer. He's book-smart and intelligent. For a while there, I thought that I might be a lesbian, but it turns out that I'm bisexual! Is there a word for someone who's only attracted to nerdy, intelligent, kind people? If so: that's my sexuality.

That's how I came to realize that I am bisexual. It's such a simple thing really. Men or women - it doesn't matter. Their personalities, however, do matter.

I've heard a lot of really weird assumptions about being bisexual. For all of those times that I wish I had piped up and said, "No, you've got it all wrong...

  1. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I'm into threesomes. No really, it doesn't. There are people who are into threesomes. I'm not one of them. Orgies aren't my thing either.
  2. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I would cheat on my husband with a woman. Yes, it would be cheating. Yes, it still counts as cheating.
  3. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I'm not satisfied with my husband. I really really like-like him. I'm not even sure what this talk about "satisfaction" is. Could someone give me a clear meaning please? (ETA: Apparently this is a euphonism for "do you crave vaginas and penises and desperately need both to be sexually satisfied?". For me, sex isn't about the genitalia or the position or the tools, it's an expression of intimacy. So, I don't crave vaginas or penises; I crave intimacy. My husband satisfies my needs for intimacy. Maybe it's different for others, but that's how it is for me.)
  4. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I'm promiscuous. There's nothing wrong with promiscuity, but I'm not.
  5. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I have any weird fetishes either. My fetishes are totally normal. I'm sure that your fetishes are totally normal too. By the way, weird fetishes aren't restricted to any sexuality.
  6. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I've become heterosexual because I married a man. I'm still bisexual. I'm just in a relationship with a man.
  7. Being bisexual doesn't mean that I'm confused about whom I'm attracted too. I know exactly whom I'm attracted to. That's how I arrived at this conclusion in the first place.

So, there it is. If you were confused over the meaning, that should clear it up. If you are still confused, feel free to comment, and I can answer your question. If you think you are bisexual and are worried and afraid - I've been there. Let's talk about it.

March 2014

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