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So my highschool reunion is happening this summer. I quietly declined the invitation, but inside, I'm still seething.  Here's what I politely didn't post:

"Sorry - 10 years isn't enough time. Maybe in 50 years I'll have forgotten enough of my highschool experience to look back at it with nostalgia."

Now I can feel proud of how tactful I am. Good job Fiona.
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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.

Back to the Rant Index
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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.

Back to the Rant Index
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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 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.
dreamingfifi: (Default)
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.
dreamingfifi: (Default)
Internet was down, so I missed a week. I'll try to be better about this though. I want to keep writing through the semester, no matter how busy it gets.

This article should be read along with The Healing Arts of Middle-earth by Tinw.

In this essay, we shall explore the Elven views on healing versus killing, and learn about Aragorn’s magical wedding gift and namesake.

In fanfiction and Role Play alike, I see many Elven healer-warriors adventuring. They’re all fashioned after Aragorn, Faramir, and Éowyn, who are human, not Eldarin. (Aragorn also had the Elessar, a magic green stone given to him by Galadriel as a wedding present.) This analogy seems to be built on an apparent lack of information. But, since Morgoth’s Ring was published, we have known what the Eldarin views about making and ending life. It was described for us quite clearly in the Laws and Customs of the Eldar.

“For instance, the arts of healing, and all that touches on care of the body, are among all the Eldar most practiced by the nissi; whereas it was the elven-men who bore arms at need. And the Eldar deemed that the dealing of death even when lawful or under necessity, diminished the power of healing, and that the virtue of the nissi in this matter was due rather to their abstaining from hunting or war than to any special power that went with their womanhood. Indeed in dire straits or desperate defense, the nissi fought valiantly, and there was less difference in strength and speed between elven-men and elven-women that had not borne child than is seen among mortals. On the other hand many elven-men were great healers and skilled in the lore of living bodies, though such men abstained from hunting, and went not to war until the last need.” (MR 213-4)

Let’s examine the relevant points of this section.

  1. Healers are most often female, but men can be healers too.
  2. Dealing in death weakens the ability to be a healer. (or that is the superstition of the Eldar)
  3. Healers are the very last to go to war. 

So, what does Elven healing entail? It’s spoken of as a “power” as though there is some sort of magic behind it. There likely is, but not the “magical glow for a few seconds and you’re good as new!” sort of magic as seen in Avatar: The Last Airbender or in Charmed or any number of fantasy series. It likely works through singing, and can only help the healing process, not magically reattach limbs or heal wounds with no scarring. An Elven healer at work is most likely singing while they stitch you up, and you’ll be able to remove the stitches a few days earlier. 

Elven healing also likely differs from our healing in that they don’t have treatments for things caused by viruses or bacteria. If you don’t get sick from them, then there’s no need to treat them. So, Elven healers are more like surgeons: trained to set bones, remove slivers/arrows/pieces of daggers from the body, and stitch up wounds. 

By the way, even warriors know at least a little first aid. Glorfindel and Aragorn (pre-Elessar) were able to help keep Frodo alive during the dangerous trek to Imladris. When throwing yourself in dangerous situations – it’s best to know how to get yourself home alive. 

The Elessar

Yes, Aragorn’s Kingly name. Aragorn was named after the Elessar, which is a magic gem. It has an interesting history though. It is detailed in the Unfinished Tales, The History of Galadriel and Celeborn – The Elessar. I will give a basic overview for you here. 

The Elessar was made by a jewel-smith named Enerdhil. He loved green, growing things, especially when looking through leaves at the sun. So, he made the Elessar, (called Edhelharn in Sindarin) which was the captured green light that he loved. This gem had incredible power. 

The jewel was given to Idril, who kept it safe from the destruction of Gondolin. She gave it to Eärendil, who used it to help people in Sirion’s Haven. The Elessar vanished from Middle-earth along with Eärendil. 

Where then, does Aragorn’s Elessar come from? No one knows. Some people in Middle-earth believe that Aragorn’s wedding gift is actually the one that Enerdhil made, returned to Middle-earth by Gandalf. Others think that it is a new gem, made to mimic the original one by Celebrimbor for Galadriel. Either way, Galadriel had an Elessar and she gave it to Aragorn as a wedding present. Thus, the prophecy that Ioreth speaks of in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith came true: the hands of the King are the hands of a Healer. 

Here’s the section describing what the jewel is capable of: 

“For it is said that those who looked through this stone saw things that were withered or burned healed again or as they were in the grace of their youth, and that the hands of one who held it brought to all that they touched healing from hurt.” (UF 249) 

From this description, it’s hard to tell if it works like rose-tinted (leaf-tinted?) glasses, and makes you view the world around you as more healthy than it is, or if it actually heals what you look upon. Again, it doesn’t seem to be a magical complete healing tool. Look on the way it works when Aragorn uses it. He still has to do actual medical work. The Elessar just seems to make sure that the methods that he uses are effective, not make injuries magically disappear in a moment.

To conclude:

If you write about Tolkien-Elves who are warriors and have magick glowing hands that magickly heal all they touch, I will track you down and beat you with my copy of Morgoth's Ring until you gain a magick revelation of your own.

Once I get this edited up, it'll go on my website!

Bullying

Aug. 17th, 2011 09:07 am
dreamingfifi: (Default)
No matter how I try, it seems to have scarred my mind in ways I can't escape.

I was always a weird kid. I over analyzed everything, and through my analysis I found may things superfluous that others clung to as social norms, and ended up denied access to society for that reason.

When I was little, I wore dresses even though everyone knew it was fashionable to wear pants. I was constantly teased for it. But I liked long flowy skirts, and pants had a way of pinching the backs of my knees in most uncomfortable ways. So, I wore dresses all the time.

When I got older and my aptitude for languages and linguistics started showing itself, I had no languages to learn around me, so I started talking to my chickens and turkeys. One day in 4th grade, around Thanksgiving, the teacher did the normal schpiel about "gobble gobble goes the turkey", and I raised my hand and corrected her, presenting my findings and research. This forever marked me as the girl who talks to chickens and turkeys; and sealed my fate as an outsider.

The teasing got far worse. I got into fights on the bus and the playground. The physical stuff wasn't too bad though. I was tall and strong, so anything they could dish out I could counter. It was the girls and their practices of ostracizing and ridicule that hurt.

I didn't see the world like they did. I didn't organize my views of the people around me by their places in society, but by the ways they treated me. To them, I didn't fit into society, so I was a blemish on their surroundings. They were also starting to reach puberty, and the hormones running through them confused and frightened them. To comfort themselves in the face of their insecurities, they lashed out at the blemish in society.

Oh did I hate being their scapegoat.

It didn't help that I mentioned on the bus that I wasn't Christian and neither was my family (except for my Nonna). Now, not only was a weird, but I was a heretic as well. The brat on the bus cornered me on the playground and threw rocks, shoes, and woodchips at me while screaming "burn the witch".

I spent most of those years, 9-12 years old, angrily grinding pebbles into dust on the playground all by myself.

My little brother Jethro entered Intermediate school too, and the bullying he faced from fellow boys was pretty terrible, and I often ended up stationing myself by him whenever I could to protect him. At one point, I ended up ripping bullies on the bus off of him who had his neck pinned to the window, strangling him. It got so bad that he spent more time protecting himself than learning, so my parents pulled him out of public school to homeschool him.

Junior high was surprisingly peaceful for me. I found a few other outcasts, and we banded together. I finally had friends that I could sit with at lunch. I wasn't spending every moment of recess and every bus ride protecting my little brother. Classes finally got interesting as well. They picked up the pace, and I found myself, for the first time, facing challenging and interesting classes. I headed toward highschool with a positive outlook, because my teachers said that classes would be far more challenging.

Highschool was challenging for other reasons.

All of a sudden, they were fighting tooth and nail to find a place in society for themselves that they were certain would be their place for the rest of their lives. I just didn't get it. I entered puberty very late, so I didn't feel the same rushes of emotion that they did. Anyways, I wanted no part of their struggle, but they were adamant to make me part of it. Since I wasn't on the attack, they figured they could make certain that I inhabited the lowest rung of society, and made me and my little group of friends their punching bag. Metaphorically of course. I didn't suffer any physical attacks in highschool, just psychological ones.

And oh, were those brutal.

During gym, they'd make endless jokes about the weight of one of my friends. One nasty little wanker made it his business to call me "chicken-fucker" every day on the bus. At one point, we were surrounded in the hallways by those little brats chanting "Freak! Freak! Freak!" Seeing if they could bring us to tears seemed to be their sport.

It didn't help that I discovered that I was bisexual and lived in constant fear of being found out.

All this left me really, really messed up. I wish I could say that it made me stronger. It didn't. It left me angry, cynical, and fearful of my fellow man. I keep finding the scars on my consciousness.

When I was struggling with depression a few years back, part of it was unearthing old fears that their is something wrong with me... that my strange outlook on the world meant there was some sort of mental disability that made it difficult for me to connect with my fellow man, but no. I'm just, as the psychologist put it, scientifically-minded, and that's a good thing.

I often wonder if the abuse I suffered at their hands made my imagination so much darker than normal. I look at my book collection, and I see a lot of horror and tragedy. My manga collection exhibits this particularly well. When I was fresh out of highschool, and just discovering manga, one of the first series I picked up and loved was Angel Sanctuary. The plot is apocalyptic and displays angels that are twisted and screwed up as humans - the main characters being a fallen pair of lesbian angels that were trapped in the mortal coil - endlessly reborn in human bodies, then hunted down and murdered by angels over and over and over... I connected with it so strongly because I recognized the shame towards my own sexuality, and the pain of persecution from my peers that I grew up with. In manga, the themes of simmering social injustice and fear/stifling of one's own sexuality are common, so I felt quite at home in Japanese literature.

In my own stories, it's been noted that I enjoy torturing my characters. It's rare to see them not being trapped and ostracized. In one of my first attempts at novel writing, I wrote about a girl whose skin sucked the life out whatever had the poor chance of touching her.

The anger is the most destructive of the scars. I found myself lashing out on the internet in the form of parody and ridicule. Starting at 15, I drifted through the Pit of Voles, finding bad stories and ripping them apart in every detail. I joined a group of similarly angry people, Godawful Fanfiction (GAFF) and we licked each others' wounds while clawing and kicking at our imaginary foes. It took a long time to realize that I was trying to lash out at the kids who hurt me, but only striking little girls posting their sexual fantasies online for everyone to read.

What is the point of this long ramble?
Bullying changed me. It left me in a lot of pain. Healing myself is taking a long time, and I still suffer flashbacks of it from time to time. If you see someone being bullied, step in. If you're an adult, goddammit you dolt, it's your responsibility to step in. These kids are riding a wave of irrational fear fueled by hormones and weird changes to their bodies - they don't have complete control over their actions. You have to shut down their attacks and remind them of human decency. Tell them that they are doing something wrong. If only the teacher "in control" of that hallway where me and my friends were cornered had stepped in - it could have stopped. Their argument, that we were freaks, could have been disqualified by the authority. But no, nothing was done to help us, and it appeared that their argument was given validity by the lack of action.

Now I'm in college. I isolate myself from the aggression-fueled social structures (sports), and I am happier. Bullying is a thing of the past. My friends all have suffered the same wounds, but we heal together. There is nothing wrong with us. We're just different. It's a state of being, not an affliction.

A few weeks ago, I finally came out to my family and friends as being bisexual. It unearthed a lot of the old fears of ostracization, and I found myself suffering many flashbacks and painful memories. But, I also found that those fears no longer apply to me. I'm not trapped 7 hours a day with a bunch of hormone-addled children. I choose my friends, and the friends I chose accept who I am. My family might not all understand, but I know that they love me enough to let me explain.

It got better.

/ranting

July 2015

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