Open Thread: Chain Link Leaf


They call it "Fall" because the leaves fall off of the trees and, apparently, don't quite reach the ground.

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Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Light and Shadow


I feel that there should be a distinct word for this phenomenon since "caustic" is way to general.  There's a quality to the shapes created by light through clear waves that ought to have a name.

And sorry for having this a day late this week too.

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Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

I feel like I always open these by explaining why they're late, so for once I'm doing that above all the Narnia matter so you can skip over it! So here goes: This post is late and I'm sorry.

There are reasons for this--I took a much-needed vacation that lasted for two days but mentally occupied me with preparation and packing for two weeks; I worked on Patreon stories (which are my main source of online income right now, and my highest of spoon-priorities); I played Breath of the Wild for many wonderful good hours; I became briefly sick with food poisoning from rancid shortening; I dealt with an unexpected air-conditioning outage that I'm still trying to sort out; and so forth--and I never know how long to spend on those reasons. It's not that I feel I have to justify myself (you're all incredibly understanding about delays!) but I'm always torn between "wanting to let people know what's happening in my life" and "not wanting to constantly complain".

So this post is late and here are the reasons why. I'm alive and I'm as well as someone can be in 2017, which is not very well at all but here we are. I love you all and miss you and I hope you're well.



[Narnia Content Note: Racism, Violence]

Narnia Recap: The fight against Rabadash has been won and we're doing narrative clean-up now. Aslan has briefly visited Aravis, Bree, and Hwin to convert them. Obligatory note about racism, intent, and Lewis is here.

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 14: How Bree Became a Wiser Horse

This is a second-parter to the last post, so if you haven't read that one, I suggest doing so first here. When we last left Chapter 14 it was morning when Aslan showed up and he didn't speak with them for more than maybe a half hour? Tops?

This is in retrospect disappointing. Can you imagine Hwin's point of view? She got a whole sentence from her creator and then was ignored afterwards. Even his terrorizing of her was for someone else's benefit: Aravis and the servant girl. (When does Aslan need to know how Hwin felt being chased by him? An eye for an eye, Lion Jesus!)

   Strange to say, they felt no inclination to talk to one another about him after he had gone. They all moved slowly away to different parts of the quiet grass and there paced to and fro, each alone, thinking.
   About half an hour later the two Horses were summoned to the back of the house to eat something nice that the Hermit had got ready for them and Aravis, still walking and thinking, was startled by the harsh sound of a trumpet outside the gate.
   “Who is there?” said Aravis.
   “His Royal Highness Prince Cor of Archenland,” said a voice from outside.

Writings: Sorted


Growing up, I was one of those "smart" children who mature a little earlier than their peers and subsequently get saddled with unrealistic expectations from adults who expect continuous out-performance (rather than what actually happened: me slowing down a bit while all the other kids caught up). I'm sure the adults meant well, but there was always so much unspoken pressure in their praise. "You could grow up to be president!" can so easily sound like "You should grow up to be president!"

This piece is a love letter to finding myself and coming to accept that I can be good without being The Best. It's a post about depression, anxiety, and anhedonia. It's a post about loving parents who don't quite understand what it feels like to be less than perfect. It's also a post about Harry Potter houses in Hogwarts and how I feel the sorting should be a yearly occurrence, because I'm a massive nerd. Trigger Warning for disordered sleep-patterns and eating-habits.

Open Thread: Lights on the Water


Portland as seen from South Portland.

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Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Review: Animated Discussions

Animated Discussions: Critical Essays on AnimeAnimated Discussions: Critical Essays on Anime
by Jed A. Blue

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Animated Discussions / B072N4C1ZR

I'm a big fan of deconstructions like Fred Clark's series on Left Behind and Mark Oshiro's "Mark Reads" series of books. I followed Jed Blue on Fred Clark's site and was pleased with his thoughtful comments, and a friend recommended that I needed to read his essays on Revolutionary Girl Utena and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I'm so glad I did!

This is a series of incredibly thoughtful essays on the writing, tropes, and narrative arcs within a number of popular anime series. Even if you're not a fan--I haven't watched all of the anime featured herein--there's a lot here to enjoy and learn from; Jed's observations have made me think a lot about the craft of writing and what my own ultimate intentions are when I sit down to create.

For actual fans of the series, though, there's so much more. The Utena essays are very much my favorite, and gave me a much more nuanced view of the series; so much so that I wanted to sit down and re-watch the whole thing after reading. I especially love the discussion around Utena's deconstruction of gender, misogyny, and the difference between "saving" (the job of the Prince) and "helping" (which carries real pain and risks, but is ultimately more respectful and loving).

Regarding the ending of the series, Jed writes: "Utena finally takes the action which proves she has grown beyond the old, Dios-derived ideal of the prince: she holds out a hand and lets Anthy decide whether to take it. She is no longer saving, but helping, letting Anthy make the choice." I love this so much, and it's made me think a lot about my interactions with others and with my own creations.

~ Ana Mardoll

Review: Will Save the Galaxy for Food

Will Save the Galaxy for FoodWill Save the Galaxy for Food
by Yahtzee Croshaw

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Will Save the Galaxy for Food / B01N666JEG

I went into WSTGFF knowing I would like this book because I like all of Yahtzee's books, but came out pleasantly surprised by how *much* I liked this book.

The premise is wonderful, and I commend Yahtzee for his creative range. WSTGFF follows a washed-up star pilot who is struggling to make ends meet now that teleportation technology has made star piloting obsolete. Our protagonist gets by on odd jobs as a tour guide and the occasional ferrying of an outlaw on the run from the government, but he's only barely scraping by and staring down the barrel of destitution and failure. When he's hired for a "private flying gig" and asked to go by another name than his own, he's desperate enough to agree--any monetary port in a poverty storm!--but he's not expecting the difficulties posed by his new employer or the baggage attached to his new name.

Open Thread: Disused Rail


Railroad ties (this picture was taken in America, thus American terminology) are those big honking wood things that make a railroad track a crosshatch or ladder instead of just two parallel lines.

The rails themselves don't actually sit on top of them so much as being on top of metal feet that in turn are on top of the ties, but it's still the case that the rails are touching something every time they cross over a tie, and what that means is variable oxidation patterns.

Thus the alternating rust colors.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Open Thread: Squirrel on Fence


I know we already had a squirrel on fence thing, but this is a different squirrel on a different fence.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a HalfHyperbole and a Half
by Allie Brosh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hyperbole and a Half / B00BSB2AE4

If I could purchase this book for literally every human I know, I would. The book is funny, sure, and it's easy enough to see that from the free material on Allie's website. Her drawing style is awesome, her storytelling is hilarious, and her sense of humanity is funny and poignant all at once. There's funny material and stories in here that you haven't seen before and that alone is worth the cost of admission.

But what is really special about this book is the raw humanity Allie brings to the page. She talks beautifully about depression in a way that resonates deeply with me. The essays about how she beats herself up for not being a truly good, pure, perfectly-motivated altruistic person hit so close to home for me. She talks about feeling like a terrible human being because she's motivated by selfish reasons like "don't do a bad thing because it will make me a bad person" or "be nice because I want people to like me" or "follow this convention to avoid social consequences". I know those feels--the feeling that everyone else is good but you're a dirty faker because you're doing "good" things for the "wrong" reasons. Reading Allie's words made me feel less alone and a little less hard on myself.

This book is good and you will laugh and probably cry.

~ Ana Mardoll

Utena: Nice Guy Miki

[Utena Content Note: Misogyny]

Utena Recap: Anthy's first attempt to make friends ended in humiliation and shaming, but Utena leaped in and saved her like a good Prince should. But the underlying problem of Anthy's isolation remains. 

Links: Froborr's excellent posts and color symbolism guide are here. My live-tweets for each watch are here. I'm watching the subtitled episodes contained in the blu-ray collection here. There is an HD remaster coming out in December that is available for pre-order here. If you wanted to watch before you buy, you could find this episode on YouTube here.

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 4-5: The Sunlit Garden (Prelude & Finale)

Today's post is a two-parter and we'll be talking about misogyny and madonna/slut complexes!

Episode 4 opens in medias res, which always makes me uncomfortable until I find my footing. Utena and Miki--a blue haired boy we've previously seen on the student council--are on the verge of a duel, which is odd because previously Miki seemed like the only nice guy in school! We learn that Miki is seeking a song he's lost and for that he needs Anthy as his muse. All this ties into his blue hair and with mental pursuits. Utena tells him that being seated at the piano suited him than a sword, and Juri (spying from afar) agrees.

Scene Change! Miki is playing at the piano and Nanami thinks his playing is lovely, the pride of the school. Miki feels out of tune, refusing to participate in any competitions. Instead, he just plays the same song over again when alone. Nanami decides she's going to have a crush on this boy, which is sweet but will lead to shenanigans later.

Utena: Naked Ballroom Dancing

[Utena Content Note: Domestic Violence]

Utena Recap: Utena won her second duel against Saionji, choosing not to throw the game and lose Anthy, the Rose Bride. She's still uncomfortable with the situation, but she can't let Anthy go back to an abuser.

Links: Froborr's excellent posts and color symbolism guide are here. My live-tweets for each watch are here. I'm watching the subtitled episodes contained in the blu-ray collection here. There is an HD remaster coming out in December that is available for pre-order here. If you wanted to watch before you buy, you could find this episode on YouTube here.

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 3: On the Night of the Ball

Yesterday I promised you naked ballroom dancing and today I will deliver.

First we reopen with the frame story of the princess. This seems like unnecessary padding (we already know all this!) but it's important to see her yellow dress and associate it with childishness. I cannot recommend gushingly enough Froborr's post on color symbolism in the series, because it's so important for understanding this episode. The princess' yellow dress of childishness will tie into Nanami's yellow hair and dress later when we meet her: she is a princess and an immature child.

Second, Utena awakes from her dream of the Prince with doubts. She barely remembers the incident from her childhood, and the only proof she has that she met the prince is her ring. What does the ring signify? Has it led her to the dueling and the rose gate? And what about the promise she made to herself to become a Prince? After all these years, is she any closer to being the Prince she wants to be... or is she still the Princess she was?

Narnia: Aslan's Moral Event Horizon

[Narnia Content Note: Religion, Conversion, Violence, Self-Harm]

Narnia Recap: The fight against Rabadash has been won and we're doing narrative clean-up now. Obligatory note about racism, intent, and Lewis is here.

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 14: How Bree Became a Wiser Horse

I tend to ramble a lot in my blog posts and then I feel guilty for rambling and then I remember I named this website Ramblings because that's literally what I do and what (I hope) you're here for. So if you like ramblings then today is your lucky day, gentle reader!

I haven't updated in a while (sorry!) because I've been trying to finish a book, or rather the first draft of one. I have now done this! And so of course I have a lot of thoughts on writing and editing and story structure running around in my head, and I'm coming to Chapter 14 with said thoughts freshly thunked, and here is my first thought I want to talk about: Half the job of writing is figuring out which order to put the words in.

This ordering of words isn't easy in a first draft! It's arguably not even conducive to the first drafting process. First drafts are for getting words on the paper, and yes, I like to have the words in the bestest order possible for a first draft, but the final form of the story comes together in the editing stage. So much of editing for me is going "okay, I like THESE words and I like THOSE words and I like THEM words here, BUT what if all the sentences were in slightly different order?"

Utena: Bottom of the Ocean

[Utena Content Note: Domestic Violence]

Utena Recap: Utena won her first duel against Saionji and gained reluctant ownership over Anthy, the Rose Bride.

Links: Froborr's excellent posts and color symbolism guide are here. My live-tweets for each watch are here. I'm watching the subtitled episodes contained in the blu-ray collection here. There is an HD remaster coming out in December that is available for pre-order here. If you wanted to watch before you buy, you could find this episode on YouTube here.

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 2: For Whom The Rose Smiles

Froborr has compiled his color symbolism in a post here and I 100% recommend it because it's like a color key to character motivation in the best possible way. I can't gush enough about how this made the series "click" for me because I'm a very Color-Coded For Your Convenience demigirl.

Episode 2 starts by showing us more about how Utena is the darling of her grade level and all the girls are in love with her. I enjoy this because--at least to American viewers like myself--it's a wonderful normalization of queer attraction. (Note: I'm aware that female desire has different cultural connotations in Japan and that "girl love" is a somewhat socially-accepted "phase" of childhood that women are expected to grow out of, and that this cultural attitude can be problematic for lesbian and bisexual women. I'm also aware that I'm not qualified to comment on any of that, so I'm speaking strictly from my own reactions here. Adjust statements like "normalization of queer attraction" appropriately to that lens.)

I additionally love that all the girls adore Utena because it's a way of avoiding the common "mean girl" trap of femmes supposedly hating girls who do not conform to femininity. This is important to establish, because in a few episodes we will see a feminine girl hating on Utena and Anthy. So I appreciate the clarity upfront that makes certain we understand that the hatred to come isn't because Utena is unfeminine, nor is it something normalized that unfeminine girls should expect to face.

Utena: Revolutionary GenderFeels

[Utena Content Note: Domestic Violence]

Utena Recap: None yet! But here is an index of very good observations by Jed Blue (aka Froborr) and also you should buy his excellent book of essays because it is very smart and fun to read and I screamed in agreement at several points which is how you know it's good. Review to come later after I make my thoughts coherent enough to word.

Deconstruction Details: I'm watching the subtitled episodes contained in the blu-ray collection here. There is an HD remaster coming out in December that is available for pre-order here and which looks awesome. If you wanted to watch an episode before you buy, you could find this episode on YouTube here.

Revolutionary Girl Utena, Episode 1: The Rose Bride

After I finished a first draft for an upcoming book, I announced there would be more Narnia posts. I then sat down and started writing a Narnia post. It is now four days later and I am still writing the Narnia post. Apparently I have a lot to say about Narnia!

To take a break from the massive Narnia post, I spent an evening rewatching the first episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena and live-tweeting my feels at it. The tweet thread is here. But then I realized why I got into the blogging deconstruction business in the first place and it's because I enjoy the comments most of all. So I decided to expand this out into a post a bit.

Utena is one of the best anime series I've ever seen, and it's incredibly dense with symbolism. Like, this series made me feel so very stupid the first time I watched it, even while I loved the heck out of it. I've since spent countless hours talking to Thomas about it (who is infinitely smarter than me) and beefing up my brain by reading Froborr's posts about it (all of which are awesome and you should go read! I'll wait here!) and I feel like I have a better handle on it as a story. And I realized I needed something I enjoy here in the midst of 2017, so let's do this. *rolls up sleeves*

WARNING WARNING WARNING: THIS WILL NOT BE A SPOILER-FREE ZONE.

There's stuff that happens in the third arc of Utena which radically alters everything that has come before in amazing and complex ways. I'm going into this already having seen the series and I want to do a full "ooh, in hindsight this makes more sense" view which means herein there will be spoilers. I honestly think the series is better if you know what's coming; a lot of stuff that seemed boring or confusing or weird in the first two arcs makes all the sense in the world once you have the key to decipher it. So if you're not sure whether you want spoilers, I can say they enhanced my enjoyment of the series by a lot.

So now let's talk about Utena.

Open Thread: Mosaic


Picture taken in Portland Maine, on Congress Street I believe.  Presumably the northern sidewalk if that's correct.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Index: Revolutionary Girl Utena


Revolutionary Girl Utena


Source: Jed Blue
Label: Revolutionary Girl Utena

» Episodes 1-5: Utena Comment Dump 1, and a brief introduction about truth
» Episodes 6-10: Utena Comment Dump 2
» Episodes 11-15: Utena Comment Dump 3
» Episodes 16-20: Utena Comment Dump 4
» Episodes 21-25: Utena Comment Dump 5
» Episodes 26-30: Utena Comment Dump 6
» Episodes 31-35: Utena Comment Dump 7
» Episodes 36-39: Utena Comment Dump 8
» Color Symbolism
» Animated Discussions by Jed Blue

Animated Discussions by Jed Blue
P.S. This book is really good! ~Ana
Note: Last updated 09/08/2017.

Review: The Freddy Files

Five Nights at Freddy's: The Freddy Files: The Official Guidebook to the Bestselling Video Game SeriesFive Nights at Freddy's: The Freddy Files
by Scott Cawthon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Freddy Files (Five Nights at Freddy's) / B06X9C7K2L

I am the biggest FNAF fan. I'm not good enough at the game to play past the first couple of nights, but I've seen a million youtube videos and am a particular fan of Markiplier's vids. I've surfed the FNAF wiki for countless hours of my life and read all the fan theories and lurked on forums while they were argued and hashed out. I own both the novels, and I think they're incredible and recommend them whenever I get the chance. I'm that level of invested, so of course I was going to buy this guidebook.

I'm glad I did! The guidebook is *beautiful* with glossy pictures on my screen (I bought the kindle version) and high quality images. A lot of work went into making this book both accessible for newbies who would have no idea what is going on but still interesting to fans who know all the basics. There's additionally a lot of interesting material regarding the actual gameplay: the sections for each game include maps of the facilities, little dotted-line tracks that show the paths of the animatronics, and player hints and tips. Even for a non-player like me, the tips were interesting to read, which is a hard balance to maintain! That was well done and I'm impressed.

So where's the downside? Well, this book is short. 160 pages and you can tear through it in about an hour. Not all the secret screens are shown, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me because (a) the writers clearly had access to the screens and (b) that's kinda what a lot of us are here for. References are made to "opening up the game files" for ourselves to look, but that's what I bought a book for! Don't get me wrong, there are some secret pictures here--good ones!--but there are quite a few missing. Similarly, if you couldn't get into the novels don't expect a plot summary here; the material covering the novels is more like spoiler-free "teaser" material to pique your interest. On the one hand, I'm okay with this because I *like* the novels, but on the opposing hand I'm not sure why you would include them in a guidebook if there's no actual guiding through the material.

The other thing that I'm not sure how I feel about is the "fan theories" in the guide. The guide has done a great job assembling and summarizing quite a few of the major fan theories and that's awesome! But Scott Cawthon--the game designer and writer!--is listed as an author to this guide as a selling point, i.e., this is the "Official" guide and not yet another fan creation. In which case, I was coming into this hoping for... something more than I could find on the FNAF fan wiki? some official "Word of God" material from the actual creator? I didn't expect Scott to answer all the questions surrounding the series, but a few new tidbits of information would have been nice.

[side note] This book covers material from FNAF 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Sister Location), and the two novels (Silver Eyes and Twisted Ones). There is no mention of the RPG spin-off (FNAF World), which is something of a shame because while I'm dimly aware that it was a disastrous train-wreck of a game, I would have enjoyed seeing its inclusion in this guide, its secrets (if it had any!), and some discussion of what went wrong. I understand not wanting to include one's failures in a guidebook that is trying to be accessible to bring in new fans, but I would have liked to see it here regardless. [end side note]

As it is, I don't think there's anything here in this guidebook that you can't get for free online. And that's okay! I think it's useful to have the "bare essentials" of the story and fan theories all bound up in a single beautiful edition. Collectors should buy the book and fans will love the stroll down memory lane. It's a good book and I have no regrets, and I'll almost certainly refer to it in the future if another game in the series comes out. But I'm a teeny tiny bit disappointed by the absence of any new material--in a perfect world, I would've liked some teasers released in this, or at least an announcement of a new installment in the series!

~ Ana Mardoll

Metapost: A Book, I Wrote One

*stumbles in*

I have a completed first draft of an entire book.

Narnia posts will resume as soon as I shovel my brain back in.

I love you all.

Open Thread: Purple Poof


The alternation between flowers and birds has been broken via a second week of flower.

Also, while how it displays on various screens may vary, I assure you that the actual physical flower was purple.  My camera isn't the best at capturing purple well, and any given screen may push that even further in the direction of pink.

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Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

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