rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
The most recent Nintendo Direct was like a sign from the gods that I should stop faffing about and draw the Link's Awakening comic I keep saying I'm going to do. The script is written, and I have the thumbnails laid out, but...

...but honestly, my art isn't very good. Or at least not good enough to convey what I'm trying to express in an interesting and visually appealing way.

I've found that, if I commission a real artist to draw one of my comic scripts, the work can get thousands (and even tens of thousands!) of notes, which I obviously appreciate. I can't commission someone to draw this particular comic, however, because it's autobiographical and a bit embarrassing in its sincerity. I'm really going to have to do it myself, even if my garbage art makes me cringe.

On the other hand, I had a zine of my old Zelda comics printed, and it's actually kind of cool. Outside of the context of Tumblr, where professionals and hardcore hobbyists are overrepresented, my amateur art doesn't look half bad. Like, it's not awful, and maybe it's even a bit charming.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the most important thing is to be excited about what I do and get my work out there. Not everything has to be perfect!
rynling: (Needs More Zelda)
This is a good photoset:

Ashe reacts to Al-Cid, Balthier reacts to Ashe reacting to Al-Cid, and Fran reacts to Balthier reacting to Ashe reacting to Al-Cid.

I like the Zelda series a whole lot, but it has never even remotely approached this level of storytelling.

I just finished up the Pharos events at the end of FFXII. My party is massively over-leveled, and there's nothing preventing me going ahead and finishing the game. Once I beat a game, I generally don't pick it back up again for a significant period of time; so, before I board the Bahamut, I want to:

- Complete the Phon Coast Hunt Club rare game sidequest
- Hunt all of the "regular" marks
- Get the Ultima esper
- Get the Zodiark esper

I don't think I've done this on any of my previous playthroughs. If I get stuck, I think I'm just going to beat the game and maybe try again on the Switch version when it comes out over the summer. 

rynling: (Ganondorf)
In my post about Balthier's Hot Dad, I referred to Vayne as "the game's primary (kind of?) antagonist." This is because I think FFXII's real antagonist is Ashe.

Livvyplaysfinalfantasy makes a very good point in her post about Ashe's theme music, which is that it "sounds more like a villain’s theme than a leading lady's." Ashe wants freedom and agency, and she wants the power to protect herself and her people, and for most of the game she is willing to do whatever it takes to assert her independence and achieve independence for Dalmasca. She is willing to destroy Archadia, and she is willing to destroy Rozzaria, and she has seen what nethicite can do with her own eyes, and she says (to Reddas, of all people) that she's not afraid to use it.

What I appreciate about Ashe is that it takes five sympathetic party members, two sympathetic party guests (we don't talk about the third one), and an entire cast of sympathetic NPCs to prevent Ashe from essentially becoming Ganondorf. She almost - almost! - becomes a villain anyway, though, and not a single person would have respected her less if she did.

Every morning I drink a tall glass of Respect Ashe juice, and it helps me get through the day.

However - and I apologize - I know this is very shallow, but who in their right mind let Ashe leave the house looking like that? Of all of Vossler's many sins, Ashe's outfit is the most reprehensible. Penelo can dress like that because she's sixteen and can do whatever the hell she wants, and Fran can dress like that because she's (at least) sixty and can do whatever the hell she wants, but I don't think it's sexist or misogynistic to say that "surfside lingerie casual" is a strange look to wear when you're on a tour to meet with all of the political leaders in your region in order to negotiate the independence of your kingdom. In Ivalice, the political power of humes seems to be marked by how much clothing they're wearing, and Ashe is wearing a gauzy negligee and a red handkerchief. It's like, Come on girl, dress for the job you want, not the job you have!

Anyway, what's really interesting about Ashe is that, in not only refusing to take the power offered to her by the Occuria but also eliminating its only accessible source, she is responsible for rise of religious zealotry and the resulting Cataclysm that destroys Ivalice and permanently limits the level of its civilization, all of which probably occurs within Fran's lifetime. It turns out that Ashe made the absolute worst decision she could have possibly made; but, in her defense, she made it for all the right reasons.
rynling: (Terra Branford)
According to the official chonk chart, I believe Balthier's Hot Dad falls somewhere between "he chonk" and "a heckin' chonker." As I was studying the character design for this very serious scientific purpose, I also noticed that the bright white thigh-high boots he wears over his skintight black leather pants go all the way up to his crotch.

Final Fantasy XII is a treasure on this earth, and it is largely unappreciated by fandom because we all secretly feel guilty that we do not deserve it.

What I really appreciate about Cid, however, is that his entry in the Clan Primer reads as follows: "Friend to Vayne. Though their ages are different, they share many of the same ideals and beliefs." Like, there's a lot going on with Cid, but apparently one of the most important things about him is that he and the game's primary (kind of?) antagonist are good buddies. Almost every time we see Vayne in the second half of the game, Cid is either in the room with him or just entering the room, and he seems to be there for no purpose other than to hang out.* After the party fights Cid in the Draklor Laboratory, he flies away on some sort of vertically aligned magic motorcycle, and it's my personal headcanon that he built a small fleet of these things so that he could go visit Vayne whenever he wanted.

* I think the purpose of associating Vayne with Cid is to demonstrate that Vayne can see Venat, thus providing the only real foreshadowing for the final boss fight, in which Venat's evil influence causes Vayne to take off his shirt (and his pants!!) and float around a little for the player's enjoyment. But really, Cid isn't involved in any of the political plots or character development arcs; he's just there because he and Vayne genuinely enjoy each other's company.

By the way, one of the things I've always appreciated about Transistor is the strong implication that the Camerata are a group of friends who are working together not because they have something to gain from their partnership but because they just really like each other. As the player, your job is to fight them, so you don't really see the inner workings of this friendship, but the game doesn't exactly try to hide the warmth and closeness of the relationships between the bad guys.

To me, that's the best possible Team Villain justification for trying to take over the world: We were all out drinking the other night and it seemed like a good idea, so we made it happen and here we are.
rynling: (Gator Strut)
Gaslighting is the process of attempting to convince someone that their accurate perception of a situation is incorrect; and, moreover, that there is something wrong with them personally for having perceived the situation in this way.

Based on what I’ve seen, a lot of the disagreement over this definition has to do with how many people need to be involved in order to a situation to be “gaslighting” and not “abusive behavior” or simply “being an asshole.” For example, if Person A says “There’s a strange smell coming from the kitchen” and Person B says “No there’s not, you’re just crazy,” then that’s probably not gaslighting. I would contend, however, that there is so much atmospheric discrimination against certain groups of people that even an isolated “you’re just overreacting” contributes to a broader system of systematic gaslighting. As a result of this atmospheric gaslighting, some people from marginalized positions can feel that there’s something inherently wrong with their point of view, especially during times of stress and vulnerability.

So there’s this thing that many American therapists do, which is to try to gently lead a patient to arriving at a revelation on their own, generally over the course of several sessions. I understand the theory behind this, but I still hate it.

I’m going to give a personal example. I was in a toxic relationship for more than a year when I was in college. I feel as though I’ve been conditioned to claim partial responsibility and say something like “the abuse went both ways,” but that wasn’t really what was going on. Essentially, the boy I was dating would be a disgusting assclown until I snapped and reacted, at which everything that was wrong with the relationship would be my fault because I got upset. I had never been in that sort of unhealthy relationship with anyone before, and I otherwise got along with most people really well, so I had no idea what was going on. I therefore went to a therapist and told her, in so many words, that I was “forcing” my boyfriend to abuse me verbally and physically, and that I needed her to help me figure out what it was about me that compelled him to hurt me.

If a scared teenager came to me and said this, my first response would be, in no uncertain terms, “Honey, you need to get out of there, because no one should be assaulting you for any reason. We can talk about this for as long as you want later, but you are in real danger and right now you need to get out.” What my therapist – and then another therapist – and then another therapist – said to me, however, was “Well, what do you think is wrong with you? Why do you think he hits you and calls you a dumb cunt?”

Even if this sort of thing isn’t technically gaslighting, it still feeds into the pervasive social narrative that teenage girls are crazy and irrational and deserve whatever happens to them if they don’t follow all of the contradictory “rules” about dating and relationships. Between one thing and another, I had never found a safe space where I could talk to other people my age about real relationships without being judged or losing face, which is why I didn’t immediately jump to the obvious conclusion that the reason why a boy would want to physically strike anyone is a conversation that needs to happen between him and his therapist.

Around this time I got on LiveJournal and discovered fic. What this meant is that suddenly I was exposed to all sorts of models of romantic and sexual relationships, and this was when I started to understand what was going on in my life. It’s not so much that the fic I was reading was explicitly like “this is what a healthy relationship looks like” or “this is what abuse looks like,” because Lord knows the BDSM Sailor Moon and Trigun femslash I was reading did not get even remotely close to that sort of thing. Rather, what I got from reading and discussing and eventually writing fic was that women’s stories are valid, and young women’s stories are valid, and queer women’s stories are valid, and nonbinary female-presenting people’s stories are valid. No matter how transgressive the fic or meta you wrote may have been, it was no less worthy of being taken seriously because you specifically wrote it.

That sense of “being valid” and “being taken seriously” is, in my opinion, an effective antidote to gaslighting. I don’t think fandom is or ever was inherently an activist space or even a safe space, but I do think it’s a place where a lot of female and transgender and nonbinary people first get the sense that it’s okay for them to exist in the world as themselves, no matter how weird or strange or non-normative or queer they might be.

I think this is one of the main reasons why the purity culture of anti-fandom bothers me so much. If people are only supposed to write “pure” relationships – or even, to take this a step farther, if they’re supposed to be so pre-enlightened about social justice that they need to tag everything they write with all applicable content warnings – then that’s tantamount to being told that they need to police themselves at all times in fandom, just as in real life. In addition, because the rules about “safe shipping” are so arbitrary and contradictory, this feels very much like the same sort of “Well, what do you think is wrong with you?” nonsense I got in therapy as a teenager (and then later, when I tried therapy again at several points as an adult).

If we can call fandom a safe space, and if we can think of fandom as an activist space, I think that’s because it’s a space where the voices of people who are so often silenced, marginalized, and discounted in the real world are allowed free expression. In this sense, a sentiment such as “don’t like, don’t read” can be a powerful and almost politically transformative expression of tolerance and empathy.

By the way, I get that not all therapists are incompetent jerks. Many of them are, though, and finding one of the good ones (who also happens to be a good fit for any given client) is not just a difficult and time-consuming process but also a community effort in many cases. I don’t want to suggest that fanfic is an alternative to therapy... but it sure is a hell of a lot cheaper.
rynling: (Default)
A saw a rather popular YouTuber say “Not every game is meant to be completed by every player” in respects to game accessibility, and I wanted to know your thoughts on that sentiment.

There’s no such thing as being accessible in the abstract. What’s accessible to you may not be accessible to me, or vice versa; everybody’s accessibility needs are unique, and while certainly some features will be helpful to broader or narrower subsets of your target audience, there’s always going to be more that could be done. Unless you have literally unlimited resources to throw at the problem, at some point you’re going to have to confront the question: how accessible is accessible enough?

Some folks will try to twist this around into an argument that since you can’t get it perfect, you shouldn’t even bother to try, and clearly that’s nonsense, but ultimately you will be forced decide where to give up, and there are no easy answers there.

I think about accessibility a lot, and this is a good post on the topic. I'm currently reading Jasper Juul's short book The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games, and I'm annoyed by his assumption that all (or even the majority) of players enjoy games solely because they like being challenged. Juul's book was published in 2013, and I appreciate that there's now a more widespread acknowledgement that different people play different games for different reasons. Along those lines, I have to agree with Prokopetz's point that there are different types of accessibility, and not every type is going to be applicable to every audience.
rynling: (Mog Toast)
Writing Workshops Suck, and Other Tales of Woe

The aspiring author took this to a writing workshop, where -- inevitably -- the other participants tore it to shreds, and did so in such a way that by the time she got back from the writing workshop, she'd lost all confidence in the project and has never been able to finish it.

This isn't the first time I've heard this kind of story. It's not even the hundred and first. I know, and know of, way too many people who could have become successful writers, but fell victim to one or another of the bloodstained traps that lie in wait for aspiring authors these days, and will probably never manage to haul themselves out again, bind their wounds, and find their way into print. Some of those traps are internal, personal issues -- but some of them are not.

I suppose in theory that it's possible to benefit from the kind of writing workshops where a circle of aspiring writers sit around and critique each other's work. I've never met anyone who did.

I randomly found this Dreamwidth post on Google while searching for something else, but the title caught my attention and it ended up resonating with me on a deep level. I think about universal basic income a lot, and I like to daydream about what I would do if I lived in a society that had such a system. Sometimes I take these fantasies too far and consider applying for an MFA program in Creative Writing, but then I'm like... nah.
rynling: (Mog Toast)
My priority as an instructor is that my courses are accessible to the broadest possible range of students. It's very important for me to be able to accommodate different types of diversity in my teaching style, course materials, and assignments. My goal is for every student to receive a grade in the A range for the class at the end of the semester.

Some students make achieving this goal really fucking difficult, however.
rynling: (Celes Chere)
After submitting my book manuscript, I spent a week frantically writing and sending off overdue jobs that I put off while getting the manuscript ready for submission. I then devoted this past week to putting the finishing touches on the Zelda comics zine, which I sent off to the printer this morning. I also decided to create a separate zine for my autobio comics, which I hope will be ready to send this evening. The bookmarks and sticker I made for the Zelda zine are lovely, so I also made a bookmark and two stickers to go with the autobio comics zine. In addition, I made a double-sided promotional postcard for the "Video Games and Japan" course I'm teaching this semester. The class is full, but I want something nice to hand out at events and so on.

This was a lot of work, and it wasn't cheap. I had to put everything on a credit card, but I'm sure I'll pay it off... eventually.

I learned two things from this process. First, design work takes time, and it's okay that it takes time. I'm going to make mistakes, and that's okay too.

Second, I really love Sticker Mule. They're relatively expensive if you're ordering small quantities, but the quality is high and the website is super easy to use. Some of the sticker printing services I checked demanded that I go through a twelve-step processes to submit a file, but Sticker Mule just asks you to upload a file and then does the work for you. I suppose I'm very privileged to be able to say this, but I am absolutely willing to pay a bit more money for quality and convenience. I guess the downside to Sticker Mule is that their stickers feel somewhat corporate and maybe too glossy, and there aren't many customization options.

I'm rushing to get everything printed as quickly as possible because I want to apply to table at the DC Zine Fest. I'm not sure when their application opens, and I want to be ready when it does. No matter how proficient I become at art or writing, I could never table at a weekend convention simply because my anxiety would destroy me. The DC Zine Fest is only about four hours on one afternoon, though, so it's much closer to my comfort level.

The next task is putting together the Horror Haiku zine, but I think I'm going to take a week or two to work on other projects before I so much as look at InDesign again.


Feb. 2nd, 2019 11:17 am
rynling: (Default)
Anime Series on Karl Marx Debuts to Mixed Reviews

The seven-episode series was a collaboration between the central government’s Office for the Research and Construction of Marxist Theory, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region’s publicity department, and a film production company based in the region to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, which was observed on May 5, 2018.

Have you ever secretly shipped bishie uke Karl Marx with handsome seme Friedrich Engels? Well friends, have I got the anime for you!

Sixth Tone is a great website, by the way. I am equally distrustful of Chinese propaganda, American propaganda about China, and Japanese cultural chauvinism, and Sixth Tone is not culturally neutral, exactly, but it's as good of a dedicated news source on China as any I've found.
rynling: (Mog Toast)
How I turned an idea into an outline

Then I calculated how many scenes I need in which part of the story. My wip is a YA or 12+ book, so I want it to contain about 75,000 words in total. I want my scenes to be around 1,000 words long to keep it snappy, so I need 75 scenes.

This is an interesting and useful post about how to plot a novel, and I appreciate that it succinctly cuts through the bullshit of so many mainstream (male-authored) writing guides that are so often treated as one-size-fits-all "industry" standards. I personally structure plots a bit differently, because that's how writing and art work, but it's helpful to think of a huge project like writing a novel as "75 chunks of 1,000 words, give or take." What this set of numbers means is that, if I can write a thousand words in a week, which is absolutely doable for me, then I can have the first draft of a novel finished in about a year and a half. Nice!

I'm going to have to admit that I find the constant obsession with wordcounts a bit ridiculous. I understand that wordcounts help writers keep track of the progress they're making, but it bothers me how many people take it for granted that wordcount defines genre. What I love about literary fiction, as well as fiction published outside the United States, is that there's no expectation that something needs to be a certain number of words or pages in order to have market value. I actually really enjoy novellas and longer stories and essays that don't fit into neat American categories, as do people in most other countries; and, given how frequently I work with editors in the UK, there's no need for me to go into a project assuming that it will be bought in America and thus needs to weigh in at 130,000 words in order to be taken seriously. Before anything, though, I need to have a complete first draft. I can start evaluating the market once I have something to sell; but, until then, I might as well enjoy myself without worrying too much.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
One month after controversial adult-content purge, far-right pages are thriving on Tumblr

This subtle far-right creep echoes a 2017 study by the Institute of Strategic Dialogue which warned that the far-right had become extremely adapt at using internet platforms to normalize their ideas. “The weaponisation of internet culture is deliberately used by extreme-right influencers to bring about attitude and behavioural change, in particular among the younger generations,” the report warned.

This sort of normalization of white nationalist talking points was what tech companies were supposedly shocked by - and promised to stop - in the wake of Charlottesville, as they provided an easy way of “red-pilling,” or radicalizing and recruiting, new members, most of whom are young, white, disaffected men.

White Supremacist Propaganda

The intent is to convince racist white people (who don’t think of themselves as racist, but who clearly are, and clearly feel angry when their entitlement isn’t immediately gratified) that the hate group in question is just ‘misunderstood’ and is really about pride and celebrating your own culture, etc.

The intent is that once someone falls for that bait and hook, they can play up on their underlying resentment and entitlement. If you already believe that you should be able to celebrate being white, and they can bring you from that belief to the belief that people of color are preventing you from your right to have pride in that, then they can foster anger against people of color. From there, any time there is a collective societal reaction of disgust towards the hate group or towards the notion of white pride, the recruited whites can be relied upon to feel victimized by society collectively.
Both of these essays accurately reflect my social media experience with mainstream white supremacy and white supremacist messaging, which is worded and coded in such a way that it seems plausible that a decent, reasonable person would agree with it if they didn't know where it was coming from. "Loving your heritage doesn't mean being a racist" is representative of this type of entry-level messaging, which is intended to target people who feel socially alienated and are searching for positivity and affirmation.

The reason that cult-like belief systems are so fringe is because most people find them uncomfortable and strange and don't want anything to do with them, but that doesn't mean there isn't real danger in spreading this messaging.

I wish I could express myself better, but this whole thing makes me very tired and upset.
rynling: (Cecil Harvey)
When I express concern about people on Twitter getting upset about chunky otters or Marie Kondo, I always feel the need to attempt to explain that I'm not trying to tone police anyone or say something like "You need to be [x] level of oppressed before you're allowed to get upset." Rather, there really does need to be a serious and public conversation about who is secretly racist, and I'm not sure that constant casual accusations of racism are helping us have it.

To give an example of what I mean by "secret racism," back in 2016 or so I followed a few people who occasionally reblogged lovely nature photography. When I started "liking" it, Tumblr's algorithm began recommending all sort of weird gender essentialist and white supremacist posts. What I was eventually able to figure out is that the nature photography was of scenery in Germany specifically, and that the blogs posting it had tagged these posts as "featherwood," a term that may have once been associated with female prison gangs but has since spread to people who have embraced a Quiverfull-style ideology concerning race and gender. As soon as I blocked the keyword "featherwood," the problem was mostly fixed (and biting the bullet and unfollowing the three or four people who had reblogged these posts - often alongside Steven Universe photosets and "are the cishets okay lol" posts - took care of the rest).

What I'm trying to demonstrate with this example is that there are in fact codewords and ideological patterns that are strong indicators of veiled white supremacist leanings, and I wish the huge public conversations about race and representation happening on social media would touch on this sort of thing.

Another example is the expression "the coastal elites," which has been a white supremacist codeword for "the Jewish global conspiracy" at least since I was in college. When people on the American left wing started talking about "coastal elites" during the lead-up and aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, that was a huge red flag for me. Like, there were people on Tumblr reblogging all sorts of authoritarian craziness in the name of social justice, and I had no idea how to tell them that the ideological purity they were advocating was using the language of hardcore white supremacy while wearing a Black Lives Matter hat (which was, admittedly, crazymaking). When I tried to explain my understanding of what was going on (mostly notably with sarasa-cat/vieralynn, if anyone remembers those exchanges), the response was inevitably something along the lines of "well you're racist for not understanding that Hillary is just as bad as Trump." Or like, when I tentatively tried to suggest to a few people that a popular Zelgan webcomic was using coded language and imagery to propagate White Supremacy 101, the response was basically, "They're just fictional characters dumbass, GO OUTSIDE." 

It's 2019, and you'd think we'd have figured this mess out by now, but that's not the case. Recently on Twitter I've seen my friends and contacts - like, university professors and professional journalists and editors and translators of literary fiction - retweet things coming from people who advocate #humanscience and #humanbiodiversity. What these people are specifically referring to is "race science" (here's an archived webcapture of a widely circulated "human biodiversity reading list" for reference), whose main guiding principle seems to be the "scientifically proven" assertion that melanin is a chemical that causes violent and antisocial behavior. The message these people (many of whom are writers whose work has been published in respected tech journals) are advocating is that, if we accept that science tells us that climate change is real and that we need to vaccinate our children, then we must also accept it when science tells us [some racist bullshit].

When I've messaged a few people whom I know personally and have been friends with for years with a gentle note of caution, the response has been, predictably, "so you're an antivaxxer then" or "I wouldn't have pegged you for a climate change denier." It's like, Hang on there friend, I was just trying to give you a heads-up that the person you've been constantly retweeting for the past week is a secret white supremacist! Except it's not even a secret, because all the codewords are right there in their profiles.

So yes, some people are indeed "secret racists," and the reason that most decent people don't see them for what they are is because most of us don't have any exposure to white supremacist vocabulary or discussions. Really, the only reason I know a tiny fraction of what's going on is because I grew up in the rural Deep South (where people tend to be more openly racist) and then started spending time on gaming forums where MRA-style misogyny was often a gateway to more radical belief systems. My first instinct is to block and avoid this sort of thing when I encounter it, so I'm not an expert, and I still experience the occasional unpleasant surprise when I realize that something I thought was silly and harmless is, in fact, deeply disturbing. This is why I wish the conversations people had on Twitter about "secret racism" would focus more on identifying and explaining codewords and exposing and calling out creepy individuals.
rynling: (Default)
What Is Glitter? A strange journey to the glitter factory.

This was all very forthright, but it did not explain the air of oppressive secrecy that seems to permeate the glitter industry. Did Glitterex worry I would describe its equipment so accurately that readers might construct their own machines to manufacture their own glitter in bulk quantities? Mr. Shetty said that, trade secrets aside, confidentiality is a top-down requirement from clients. Companies do not want others in their industry to know what glitters are in their products, to prevent competitors from making identical formulations.

When I asked Ms. Dyer if she could tell me which industry served as Glitterex’s biggest market, her answer was instant: “No, I absolutely know that I can’t.”

I was taken aback. “But you know what it is?”

“Oh, God, yes,” she said, and laughed. “And you would never guess it. Let’s just leave it at that.”
This article has no right to be as good as it is, and the passage I cut and pasted above isn't even the best part. Really, every sentence shines; for example: "Most of the glitter that adorns America’s name brand products is made in one of two places: The first is in New Jersey, but the second, however, is also in New Jersey."
rynling: (Default)
“The Linux of social media” — How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging

But perhaps there’s no better microcosm for LiveJournal’s epic journey than the blog that belonged to the man behind Game of Thrones. Even though George R.R. Martin managed to hang out for a decade after the site’s initial downfall, nothing in particular seemed to trigger his 2018 move to a personal site. No fanfare accompanied it, just a brief message from one of the fantasist’s “minions.” Such is the nature of the erosion of our once-beloved digital spaces: there’s none of the collapsed majesty of a physical space like an abandoned castle, ivy threading its way through the crumbling latticework. Instead, LiveJournal moves forward as an aging pile of code, one day potentially rendered obsolete by something newer and better and remembered by those who lost countless hours to rigging it up in the first place.

The passage I quoted above is the conclusion to a wonderful essay about the rise and fall of LiveJournal (and the creation of Dreamwidth). This is a bit narcissistic, but it always makes me happy to see people writing substantial articles about things that actually mean something to me personally. LiveJournal used to be a big deal to a lot of people, but not even professional Media Studies scholars know what it was and how it worked and how it nourished and enabled online cultures that have since become mainstream. Idk, maybe there are always going to cultural black holes like LiveJournal that exert a huge gravitational influence but that most people can't see or measure.
rynling: (Default)
I follow a lot of visual artists on Tumblr and Twitter, so I see a fair number of posts about how the best way to get better at drawing is to practice. I know that these artists are coming from a good place, and I get that this is sound advice, but also, like…

This is a post about art, but it’s also a story about how someone on the internet annoys me. It doesn’t paint me in the most favorable light, so feel free to judge me for being an asshole.

Read more... )

The story is that, during the past ten years, this artist’s style has not changed in the slightest. Every once in a while I’ll see her work in a zine or comic anthology, and every so often I’ll see someone reblog her fan art for the fandom I used to follow, and I always get this visceral feeling of anti-nostalgia, like, that time has passed but nothing has changed.

If I can be shallow and superficial for a moment, I think it’s fair to say that her style is distinctive only in the sense that it’s perfectly generic. It’s like she draws the people who appear in diagrams in the sort of textbooks and emergency prevention posters that the “try not to cry” meme was parodying, and her range of faces and bodies and poses doesn’t seem to have expanded. She drew entirely in cel-shaded grayscale then, and she still draws entirely in cel-shaded grayscale now. As far as I can tell, she still uses the same two Photoshop brushes. This artist is fairly prolific and seems to be serious about her creative career, but she’s still drawing in the exact same way she was when we were both babies on the internet in 2008. Basically, she draws a lot, but she hasn’t improved at all.

If you know me, and if you know my fandom history, then you can probably guess the fandom, which means it’s probably easy to guess the identity of the artist as well. If you’re wondering if it’s the person you’re thinking of, the answer is YES. Even if it’s not, and even if you’re thinking of an entirely different fandom, the answer is still YES. I get the feeling that every big fandom has at least one of these artists, someone who draws and posts a ton of content but never gets any better.

Granted, I haven’t really improved either. I didn’t start drawing seriously until September 2017, but daily practice and experimentation haven’t done much for me during that time. Here I am, judging this artist who was mean to me this one time ten years ago, but can I really say that I’m any better than her? I’m afraid that maybe some people only have a limited amount of talent, and it does not matter in the slightest how hard they work or how much they draw. I understand that a lot of “talent” and “getting better” is subjective, and I’m happy for people who are happy creating for the sake of creation, but I’m specifically talking about myself here. It’s like, I practice drawing hands hands hands hands hands hands HANDS HANDS HANDS all the time, and guess what I still can’t draw to save my life? (Answer: Literally *gross sobbing* everything.)

This is why it bothers me when artists say “the best way to get better is to practice.” It’s like, yes, of course it’s important to practice, but people who make good art are clearly doing something more than making a commitment to “just draw every day,” and I wish I could figure out what this is.

I’m going to follow this up with a post about writing and my own experience of what that “something more” was and continues to be for me. I’m not sure if putting this in words will help me create connections to visual art, but it would be nice if it could.

In the meantime, I also want to say that it is nothing short of pure joy watching my artist friends try new things and grow and change across their posts on social media, and I’m always so grateful that they’re comfortable sharing their work with the world like that. I’m not even remotely at their level, but I’m still inspired by them!
rynling: (Gator Strut)
The worst campus interview I ever had was at Michigan State University, which is located in the sad city of East Lansing, Michigan. I was living in Indiana at the time, and I made an executive decision to drive through a snowstorm (instead of flying through a snowstorm) to get there. Despite leaving as early as I possibly could, I still arrived at the scheduled welcome dinner 45 minutes late, and the search committee was not happy with me. Things went downhill from there.

I made it through the three-day dog and pony show of the campus interview by telling myself that there was a comic book store in East Lansing that I would visit once everything was over. MSU has a strong Visual Arts program, and the university library also has the largest collection of zines in the United States. Many comic book stores sell zines created by the local community, and I was excited to see what sort of cool things the store right next to MSU would have.

So after a great deal of misery this awful, harrowing process is finished, and the last lunch has filled me with so much anxiety that I spend a good fifteen minutes crying in the restaurant bathroom after everyone else has left, but finally I can go to the comic book store. I get there, and it turns out to be a small box of a room with stained carpet and fluorescent lighting and a few cheap particleboard bookshelves from Target displaying a depressing collection of the most mass-market graphic novels you can think of, like, The Complete Far Side and the first five volumes of Naruto.

Thinking that it's rude to walk in only to then immediately walk out again, I go to one of the shelves and pretend to look at the titles. I start counting in my head, like, "One Mississippi, two Mississippi," reasoning that maybe it will be okay to leave after three minutes. I pick up Watchmen or something, and I begin to zone out, replaying some particularly mean thing someone said to me during the interview or some idiotic and cringeworthy thing I said in response, and then the store clerk comes up to me.

"Do you need any help?" she asks.

"No," I reply, panicking. "I already have everything in the store."

She looks at me, and I look at her, and then I suddenly become aware that I smell like I just spent fifteen minutes crying in a restaurant bathroom, and I put down the book I'm holding and walk right out the door. I already have everything in the store. I wonder if she still tells people that story sometimes, you know?

Anyway, sometimes I get nervous about the first day of class, but it's comforting to know that at least it won't be as awkward as this one exchange I had with a clerk in the comic book store of East Lansing, Michigan.
rynling: (Mog Toast)
I submitted my book manuscript this morning. It's a week after I told myself I would do this (not to mention three weeks after the actual deadline), but better late than never.

What I ended up doing two weekends ago was sitting down with the manuscript and making a list of about a hundred small things that needed to be done. My reasoning was that, if I did a dozen of these things every day, I could be done in a week. It took about an hour to do a dozen things; so, by spending an hour a day on the manuscript for eight days, I was able to get the work done. For the record, I hated every single second of this process.

The manuscript is 52,000 words long. This breaks down to five chapters of about 9,000 words each, a 6,000 word introduction, and about 1,000 words of front and back matter (meaning the table of contents, the list of works referenced, and so on).

This is on the short side for an academic manuscript. For comparison, my dissertation was 83,000 words long. Many people turn their dissertation into their first book, but I wasn't able to do this. To make a long story short, the academic job market is shit; and, to be granted a campus interview for a full-time entry-level job, you essentially have to present a search committee with the CV and portfolio of someone who has already been working in that job for at least five years. What this means is that I had to turn my dissertation into a series of articles and book chapters while I was on the job market, which in turn meant that I had to write my actual first book from scratch. To make matters even more dire, I had to write this book while still publishing a sufficient amount of additional material to pass my yearly state-mandated performance evaluation.

So the manuscript isn't good. But that's okay, I think? If it's rejected, I already have inquires from four other academic publishers, one of which (Bloomsbury) had already drawn up an advance contract for this project before I decided on my current publisher (Palgrave). In a worst-case scenario, I may have to delay my tenure case.

In a best-case scenario, I leave academia entirely. I think about this every day, not gonna lie.
rynling: (Default)
Reddas has a fantastic redemption arc, and if you disagree you are wrong.

Reddas is also Peak Fashion, and if you disagree we can't be friends.

I just really love him a whole lot okay.
rynling: (Default)
Every now and then, someone asks me what I think of XII’s portrayal of the viera.

We also see that while XII’s viera NPCs all look pretty much the same, they are all very much unique in their thoughts and behaviors. Some are contemplative, some are brash. Some are hunters, some forsake battle completely. No two viera NPCs are the same, something that cannot be said of XII’s bangaa, seeq, or nu mou. In terms of personality, the viera receive better representation than most of Ivalice’s other races.

I personally take issue with the notion that Fran, Jote, and Mjrn can’t be “strong female characters” because their designs contain fanservice. Their plot arc is one of the greatest stories of love and sacrifice in the game, and they make up one of the best portrayals of a sisterly relationship in the Final Fantasy series.

I understand the need to acknowledge problematic elements in fictional media, but there’s a huge difference between acknowledging problematic elements in female characters and telling other people what they are and are not allowed to like.
These are good points all around, but as an ardent bangaa appreciator *sweats nervously* I'd like to argue that there's actually a lot of diversity in the bangaa characters as well. Although I assume most people don't think they're hot don't notice, there's a wide range of visual designs used for bangaa NPCs; although, unlike humes, we never see any bangaa children or older bangaa (except Migelo, of course). Like the humes, the bangaa NPC have a range of personalities and occupations. Ba'Gamnan and his crew are mercenaries, and the Hunt Club on the Phon Coast is run by four bangaa, but otherwise the bangaa are merchants and traders and architects and day laborers and clerks, just as humes are. A bangaa in Nalbina tells Vaan that the Archadian army only accepts hume recruits, and there are no bangaa on the streets or in the shops of Archades, but there's a one-to-one ratio of bangaa to hume NPCs in Rabanastre, Bhujerba, and various other areas, and nothing except their appearance indicates that they're bangaa. Bangaa work together with and hang out with humes and seeq and moogles in groups and in pairs, and this is a part of the visual and social landscape of the game that is never addressed or commented on by anyone.

One of my favorite bangaa characters (besides Migelo) is Barrong, who posts the bill for "The Creature Collector" hunt. He's hanging in an alley next to the entrance to Aerodrome in Nalbina and muttering to himself, and the player is meant to think that he's a creeper until he explains himself. He's working on an illustrated bestiary, he says, but he wants the book he's creating to be different and special, so he's hiring hunters to track down creatures he's heard rumors about. He's afraid that people will make fun of him, though, so he wants to keep his pet project a secret. When Vaan returns to report that the hunt was successful, Barrong gets really excited and asks all sorts of questions - which none of the other bill petitioners ever do, oddly. At the end of the conversation, Jovy (a seeq who was friends with Vaan's older brother Reks) comes by and wishes Barrong luck, telling him that his bestiary will be wonderful when it's done. Since completing the bestiary in the Clan Primer is always my main goal in FFXII, and since I love bestiaries in general, I am right there with Barrong, and I appreciate that he's willing to be proactive and collaborate with people to achieve his artistic dreams even despite being really shy.

I also appreciate Rimzat, the Arcadian grad student who was sent to Rabanastre to to study the sandstorms of the Dalmascan Westersands. Apparently he can't get anyone to help him not because he's a bangaa, but rather because he has an Arcadian accent. Ultimately he has to go back home when his funding runs out, and I'm like, I know that feel friend.

I also appreciate how there is a convention among Japanese artists to draw bangaa with two dicks. FFXII dōjinshi were the first place I encountered that trope, and I have been a fan ever since.


rynling: (Default)
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