Friday, May 31, 2013

Dragon Age

(This is going to be long and rambly.  I started playing Dragon Age: Origins, because Fable 2 was boring the hell out of me.  I'm still at the way beginning, and I have thoughts.  There may be spoilers, but not many, since I haven't gotten very far.)

According to the manual, Dragon Age: Origins is set in an "egalitarian" society, where men and women are equal and take equal part in all occupations.

Yeah, that's fail.

The game is not ALL fail.  I mean, for starters, it's really well written and lots of fun to play.  And even my social-justice-brain is happy with a lot of the things Bioware is doing with it.  I appreciate that there are non-heterosexual romance options, especially that there are gay male romance options, since so many games only have options taken out of straight male porn.

Bioware has done this before, as well.  I was recently reminded that they made Jade Empire, which also had gay male romance options.  Granted, as if to smooth any ruffled feathers that might cause, not only are there two female romance options for the male character, he also has the option of sexing both of them at once.  (I find this both eyeroll-inducing, and totally hot, btw.)  I actually played the game at least twice as a male character, so I could access the different options.  I almost never play male characters if I have a choice.  I don't think I ever played Mass Effect as a male Shepard, even though I have a big crush on Ashley.

There's a really great post about romance and gaming that you should read.  Here's an excerpt:
But because Bioware's romances are just the B-plot, the emotional dynamic winds up feeling deeper and truer than any shallow dating sim can. You're not just hanging out with the object of your affection on dates or at parties. You're risking your lives together in fighting for a common purpose. You're sharing horrors and triumphs. You're bonding through shared experience, the way human beings are wont to do.

Thus the quality of romantic drama on offer by Bioware winds up feeling richer, more complex, and truer than games that are supposed to be about love through and through. The relationships have more complexity and texture to them because the characters are all bigger than the love story. They have a place in the world that doesn't revolve around how much you want to date them.
The first time we made camp, in Dragon Age, I awoke from a vivid and frightening dream and saw Alistair sitting awake, nearby.  He had seen me thrashing and wanted to be there when I woke up.  The dreams are part of being a gray warden, he told me, and they scared him, too.  It was a kind and thoughtful gesture, and it meant something to me.  I've only been playing for a week or so, and I'm already half in love with a character in the game. 

I feel admired and respected by Alistair.  The admiration and respect come first.  And I think that there's something very feminist about modeling relationships like that.  About feeling respected as a person, for the actions I take.  Relationships in these games exist because I make it so.  The romances are optional B-plots, after all, and if I don't pursue them, they don't happen.  I like that.

There was also a great moment when I asked another character to tell me about his people.  He said, "no."  When I asked him why, he said that cultures were too large, diverse, and complex to summarize with a few words like "elves are agile, pointy-eared, and oppressed."  BOOM.  I sqeeeed. 

And now, on to the fail:

Dragon Age is not set in an egalitarian society.  It's just NOT.  I've just barely hit the sandbox and the only evidence I've seen so far is the manual.  I can't count how many characters have reacted to my gender.  People say, "Oh, I wasn't expecting a woman."  Or "as a woman, what are your thoughts on this totally non-gender-related topic?"  And I'm a mage, which isn't even a male-coded class. If women were actually taking equal part of all occupations, then there would be no surprise.  I mean, if I walk into a kindergarten class and say, "oh, some of you are girls!" I'd look like an idiot. 

That was annoying, but I wasn't pissed off until I asked for a story from my bard, here's what she told me:

Once upon a time a couple abandoned their daughter to the woods because they had wanted a boy instead.  The daughter was raised by people in the woods.  She was beautiful, graceful, really good at fighting, etc.  Her adopted family sent her out of the woods to compete, disguised as a man, in a tourney against the people who had scorned her.  When she beats everyone, she is discovered and summarily killed.  Her death showed the king just how bad it was for women, so he went out and fixed sexism and now women can be knights, all thanks to the dead girl.

There are so many things wrong with this I don't even know where to start.  How about that the main character of the story has absolutely no agency whatsoever, and then she's killed so that her death can enlighten some dude?  And then the dude fixes sexism.  Because what women really need is a hero.  [cue Tina Turner]

And the fact that all the sexism in the story's background, the strict gender roles, don't need to be explained, says a lot about the people telling and listening to the story.  It's not weird to anyone that parents would prefer to have a son, or that (as in another story), brides are chosen by their husbands. 

There are issues with creating overtly sexist fantasy worlds, but I find this even more upsetting.  Because it's just as fucking sexist as all those other worlds, except it's holding itself up as some kind of cultural achievement.

Dear Bioware: you can do better.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


I don't miss dancing.  I used to, but I can't feel it right now, I haven't for a while now, and I feel terrible about it.  I don't just mean that I miss the feeling of wanting to dance.  I actually feel like a bad person.

I liked that I liked dancing.  I liked what it said about me.  I liked being a person who liked dancing.  I especially liked that it contradicted the usual "fat and lazy" archetype, but I also liked all the other character traits that are associated with dance. 

I was okay with being unable to dance.  I mean, it was frustrating as hell and kind of frightening, but at least I was prevented by something out of my control, something I could blame.  I was still, at heart, a dancer, and could claim all the same character traits as someone who was actually dancing.

This is different.  I see photos on Facebook of activities I'm missing, and I'm not jealous.  I'm sitting at my desk, and I'm not anxiously waiting for when I can go and pedal a stationary bike to nowhere.  I used to have something inside that needed letting out, but it ran away and never came back. 

I know that I'm tired.  Really, seriously, emotionally, tired.  I had a long two weeks with stressful events, and my comfort zone : non comfort zone ratio has been really damn low.  I know.  But it feels like I'm forgetting anything else.  It feels as if I might wait too long and get too comfortable and just keep sitting forever.

I saw a wellness coach yesterday.  She confirmed my belief that I need to go talk to sports medicine.  I have an evaluation appointment next Thursday.  I am doing the right things but I feel like I'm running out of time.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Looking back at my last paragraph I mostly feel kind of dumb.  I already know that, while I can go to parties by myself, and I can handle myself socially when I don't know anyone around me, and I can perform some sort of gregarious version of myself and project charm and interest and enjoy myself, there are limits to both my enjoyment and my capacity to maintain that state.  Even if I had all the spoons, this is not what makes me happy.  So why go to a con?  I mean, if all I want is to listen to interesting ideas, I can read this stuff.  The point of having a con is spending a weekend with like-minded people who also care about these things. 

At the time, I was so careful managing my mental reserves, thinking that if I could just try harder, I would enjoy myself.  I never really examined the basic assumptions behind that.  But now, when I am processing and reflecting, it seems so obviously wrong.  I feel so stupid.  If I know that the point is spending time with the people there, and I know that the people will be strangers, and I know that I have a very limited capacity for spending time with strangers, then why did I expect any other result? 

The weekend was not terrible, nor was it fruitless.  I heard some interesting ideas, and have a long list of reading suggestions.  I have had some important revelations about myself and the identities I am afraid to claim.  I do want to talk about those.  It's just that I hadn't realized that I'd wanted more than that this weekend, and I wasn't prepared for the way it felt to not have it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

WisCon (edited a few hours later)

Did I mention, I went to WisCon this year?  We left Friday morning, and got back a couple hours ago.  It's my first time, so I was asked often about my experience.  Was I having fun?  I still don't know how to answer that.  The question doesn't really make sense to me.  I succeeded.  I had appropriate social interactions with strangers.  I attended things.  I asked questions that were mostly not stupid.  I took notes.  I made it through and then got us home again.  I successfully evaluated my abilities, removed myself from situations I couldn't handle, and took appropriate measures to take care of myself.  But conversations with strangers, no matter how well handled, are a kind of performance.  I had a task to do, and I could be pleased at doing it well, but without context, without any familiarity, without the expectation that we would ever have a conversation again, there was no connection.  People rotated in and then out again.  Any ground I might have gained at dinner, in advancing a friendly relationship, was lost when dinner was over and everyone regrouped.  It was a profoundly lonely experience.

And the conversations were few.  There was one dinner organized for newcomers to meet and socialize, but other than that, the opportunities were up to me to create.  There were parties every night, all of them with a theme.  Here is a party for queer people who like Dr. Who.  Here is a party for people who want to meet representatives of a magazine.  And, of course, no one would kick me out if I attended a party about an upcoming issue release, even though I haven't heard of it, nor am I interested, but there's a big difference between "not kicked out," and "invited."  And if I found a party I had some connection to, I would still be spending the evening approaching strangers, attempting conversation, and then regrouping and doing it again.  I had enough energy to try the first night.  After that, I mostly stayed in my room after programming was over.

When people asked me if I was having fun, it meant that I should be having fun.  It meant that there was fun to be had, fun I was missing.  I didn't understand.  What was I supposed to be doing that I wasn't?  What was I missing?  

I'm being a little glib.  I do understand that many people come to WisCon and find themselves surrounded, not by strangers, but dear and familiar faces.  That they have a place to meet up in person with people who are otherwise only around virtually.  I also know that some people can forge meaningful connections while waiting for a slow elevator.  Some people find meeting new people, even if only for a night, maybe especially only for a night, freeing and thrilling and lots of fun.  Some people don't need or want those connections.  I also know that the con is designed for a fandom that I do not entirely inhabit.  And so even a newcomer, alone, might find themselves at home in the Queer People Love Time Lords parties and viewing parties and panels.  It's not that there wasn't any fun to be had.  I just didn't have the tools to have it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I wasn't going to message him because, open marriage.  I'm not really sure I'm a good fit for polyamory.  But he said that he was disappointed that no one had attempted bacon sushi yet, and I HAD to tell him about the BLT roll.

And then I just started talking... and so.

144, 145, ETA: 146

On second thought, I probably should have shortened the dead-people-bit.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Miss Manners has observed at the opera

Sherlock Holmes

Audrey Hepburn

I Made More Things That are Far Less Depressing

I am really pleased with how they turned out.  Also, if you happen to be going to WisCon this year, you should appreciate these lovely posters and also attend the reading.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Also I Spent Some Time Googling "1890s Advertisements"

Here is a handy chart to explain how I'm feeling right now:

Friday, May 17, 2013

A1R: WiP2

I like this one.

Another Serious Post About Sex

1.  "Uncomfortable"

When I was looking at OK Cupid again yesterday I noticed this question:
You're in a new relationship and your partner admits that they have had 14 sexual partners. Does that sound like a lot to you?

         a. Yes, and it makes me uncomfortable
        b. I guess, but it doesn't change how I feel
        c. That seems like an average number
        d. No, that's nothing
It's not a new question; I've seen it before.  But it felt new when I read it again because I have now had fourteen sexual partners.  And even though anyone who might be made uncomfortable by a woman with fourteen prior sexual partners would also be bothered by someone with thirteen, or probably twelve, it still feels different to read people's answers when they not just talking about someone like me, but they are specifically talking about me.

Lots of people answer 'a.'

And that means that lots of people are made uncomfortable by my sexual history.  Even accounting for the fact that the question specifies that the person being judged is in a romantic relationship with the person answering the question, that still says a lot about their opinions about sex.  Even the way the question is worded, implying that one's sexual past is something to "admit," as if it were something to confess.

2. Facebook

Last night, a friend posted a link to an article about some new celebrity, and he called her a whore.  I responded with this:

I was shocked enough that he'd written the comment in the first place.  I wrote this because I genuinely expected him to change it.  And yet, even though I expected a positive response, I wasn't prepared for how moved I would be to read it:

(The sentence should read, "I don't agree with the way that 'making a sex tape' has become a springboard to celebrity and success.")

Seriously, it makes me tear up a little.  Because, even though I had no idea who Farrah Abraham was, and once I learned, I had no affection for her, it really did matter to me that my friends not call her a whore.  The word hurts.  And hearing he word taken away, deliberately, hearing it invalidated, was more meaningful than I would have predicted.

3.  Playboy Mommy

There is a Tori Amos song from her third album, Boys for Pele.  I listened to that album a lot in college. 

I never was the fantasy
Of what you want
Wanted me to be
Don't judge me so harsh little girl
So you got a playboy mommy


You seemed ashamed
Ashamed that I was
A good friend of American soldiers

On bad days, that song could put me on the floor.

I had no daughter to be ashamed of my choices, but I knew what that shame felt like.  Even if I couldn't put a name or a face to the source, I knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to have a body, and I knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to display it, to use it, and that transgression of those rules was shameful.

I have felt like a slut for wanting sex when I shouldn't.  For wanting the wrong kind of sex.  I have felt dirty.  I have felt like a frigid bitch for not wanting sex when I should.  And the definitions of "should" and "shouldn't" have always been "what someone else wants."

There were times that I really could point out a specific source for these feelings.  There were words and incidents.  But most of the time, those feelings didn't emanate from a point source, they were part of the miasma of shame around me.  I breathed it in; I became my own source of shame.  I didn't need anyone to tell me that there was something wrong with me, because I was perfectly capable of telling myself.

4.  Untitled extra words.  I guess that's a "conclusion?"

Someone said, in response to my criticism, that changing the language used won't stop people from being mean to each other.  I agree.  But it narrows the scope.  Calling someone "obnoxious," or even "worthless," both can be hurtful for the person in question.  No one likes to hear those things said about themselves.  But the damage is limited because everyone agrees that "obnoxious" is a trait to avoid.  When someone is criticized by being called a whore, it tells everyone listening that "whore" is also a trait to avoid.  And since the definition of "whore" seems to be "a woman who is more sexual than the speaker deems appropriate," that means that pretty much every woman has been considered a whore at some point in her life.  And so it criticizes, not only that one woman, but every woman.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Assignment 1 Redux: WiP

Work versions, but so far I am feeling much better about this.  I think the concept is a little contrived, but the images themselves are actually working well enough to redeem it.  I like the way they do and don't match. 

I find myself embarrassed by this project.  Not because I'm making things that aren't "good enough," but because I need the assignment to make them.  It feels like an admission of guilt, or failure, that I need help doing what should be natural.  I am an artist.  I have a degree!  I am surrounded by both creators and the evidence of creation, by people who are here because they cannot help themselves, because they have thumbed their noses at the odds and the naysayers to make art.   And here I am, going back to the beginning, trying to give myself reasons and excuses, trying to do something, anything, and it's embarrassing.

When I tell people about the excavation project, the going back and printing old work and looking for new connections, the trying to escape my inner critique, they understand that.  But this treating of myself like one of their students, this is different.  We are better than our students, right?  That's why we get to teach.

Logically, I know better.  I know that there is no shame in needing help.  I know that there is no perk I can buy with enough XP that will make me immune from creator's block.  But.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The 'Baby it's Cold Outside' Game

These are comments from Ozy's post about Pick Up Artists (tm).  I post these particular ones because it was the most recent time I've this sentiment, but, really, it's all over the discourse about sexual assault.  The argument goes something like this: 

Some women say "no" when they mean "yes."  Because of this, it is confusing for men to know when "no" means "no" and when it means "yes."  Therefore, it is reasonable for men to treat "no" as a "yes," because it does, sometimes, mean that.  And if someone treats "no" as a "yes" when it wasn't, and commits assault, it's a reasonable misunderstanding.

The first comment just lays this out as a "problem," that the commenter cannot see a solution to.  The second comment describes the problem as either statistically common, or perceived as statistically common.  There are a great many good responses to this argument (for example on the Yes Means Yes blog here, or here).  Women who say "no" when they mean "yes," are actually not the problem, because most people have a very sophisticated ability to communicate and understand refusal, and most rapists are aware that their victim did not consent.  It's not about confusion, but apologists like to pretend that it is because it gives rapists plausible deniability.

What I am interested in, that I have not yet seen addressed, is the statistics behind that hypothetical "no means yes" woman.  Is she like the straw feminists in the closet?  (I just wanted an excuse to link that.)  Is she like the woman who makes a false rape claim to punish someone and Men's Rights Activists are so afraid of?  These people, I suppose, must exist, but in such fantastically small numbers that to make any kind of decision or policy based on them or even any consideration at all is a gross mistake.

I know that the "no means yes" woman exists.  I know that our culture encourages this behavior.  Women are taught to deny ourselves what we desire as standard practice, and we are especially taught to deny our sexual desires.  And then, women who have acknowledged our sexual desires are taught to play "hard to get" as a way to achieve them.  I know all of this.  But then, I think, have I ever done this?  Has anyone I know?  I'm sure I've read a Cosmo article telling me that I should say no even when I didn't mean it, but I don't think I've ever had enough game to actually try it.

On the other hand, I know I've played the Baby, it's Cold Outside game.  I've hemmed and hawed about staying when I really wanted to stay.  I've said "I should go," when I meant "I want you to ask me to stay."  I've felt like I should do something, but what I wanted was the opposite, and so I would try to get someone to "convince" me to do what I wanted to do.  This is in regards to lots of things, really, not just sex.  But also in regards to sex.

I would like to see a survey of women, asking if they had ever physically or verbally communicated an insincere no in a sexual situation.  How often?  If their refusal were taken at face value, what did (or what would) they do next?

The next obvious study would be asking men whether (and how often) they had ever received an insincere no, and to correlate the data to see how well (or, more likely, poorly) they matched.  That would be the thing to do in order to make change.  But I find myself just fascinated by the first hypothetical study.  I want numbers.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

8:05 am and I was already struggling to not rain on everyone's parade on Facebook.  I managed to just close the app without announcing my departure.  But I have half a dozen flounces written out in my head.

I don't think it's ever bothered me so much before.  Most of the time I'm oblivious. I mean, I manage to not be aware of Easter, which is arguably a much bigger holiday.  (On one hand, mostly just celebrated by Christians, on the other hand, they care a lot more about it.) But this time, something about the explosion of Mother's Day on Facebook has pushed my buttons and I'm just really grumpy about it.

Maybe some of it is that I might have called my grandmother today.  Or, at least I could have, or known that I should. And even if I usually forgot to do anything, I knew there were things to do.  This is the first year that there really isn't a call I should be making.

I am glad that your mother is awesome.  I just don't want to hear it right now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

An Anecdote That Is Likely Also a Metaphor for Something Else.

I might have told this story already.  A month after I quit smoking and also quit the patch, I bummed a cigarette at a party.  (It was a party at the warehouse Lindy and Tina were living in and converting into a feminist collaborative live/work space.  I mention this because I've recently been listening to Lindy's demo CD and feeling the echoes of awe and yearning I always felt around her.  The CD is rough and bare and poorly mixed but her music is still lovely even twelve years later.)

It was not the last cigarette I ever smoked.  But it was the last time that I thought a cigarette would make me feel better.  I smoked to relieve the craving, but it only made me sick.  I was craving something that was no longer available to me.

There's a blog that I used to read regularly, at first because I enjoyed it, but even when the blogger and I started to disagree I kept reading, and eventually it became spite-reading.  I was just reading so I could be glad that I wasn't like that.  And I said as much to a friend who advised me to stop, no really, just stop.  And I did.  Today, I went back.  And it made me mad, as it is wont to do.  And I have a whole list of reasons why it's wrong.  And they are reasons why it is always wrong, and I am done.

(Mostly) Not About Camera Apps

My body is a thing right now.  It continues to be a thing.  I feel lost and confused, and I don't even know how to say what I don't know.  But my shin, my feet, they seem connected but might not be, and there are conflicting suggestions about what I should do about them, and I don't even know how to tell the difference between "healing" and "hurting."  And there are so many variables I don't know how to isolate what changes are causing what effects.  I have feelings in my body, but I don't know how to interpret them.  Most of them I've never felt before.

And some of those feelings are bad, shin-splint-y feelings, and some of them are strange and good, like this new craving I've been having to exercise.  Not in a "this will be good for me and I'll be glad when I'm done," kind of way, but a WANT kind of way.  I don't even know what to say about that.  Is this from my enforced absence from dance?  Is it just a strange new reaction to spring?  I hate being hot, but somehow the hot air makes me feel like exercising.  Sort of like, "I'm going to be miserably hot anyway, might as well go for it now?"  Is this the CPAP giving me the energy I never knew I had? 

Yesterday I had that need to exercise, and it took me a while to decide if I was going to Nia and/or Zumba or to the gym for the cardio machines.  Nia and Zumba are riskier for my leg, because the last time I tried them I could feel something happening in my shin or my arches that might be bad but I don't know.  I might injure myself if I do them.  I might help.  Going to the gym is safer on my body because I'm much more confident that walking and biking are low-stress and more likely to be beneficial to my leg.  It's just that going to the gym is riskier emotionally because it's new and strange and out of my comfort zone.

I decided on gym.  And as I was walking from the parking lot, someone passed me and called out "I love your tats."  Then he turned, looked me in the eye and said, "they're badass," and walked away. 

This guy was 6'3", muscled, and dressed for gym.  Guys who look like this are part of the reason I'm intimidated by gyms.  And this guy, who is confident where I am timid, he says I'm badass.  And you know what?  He's right.  If I can sit under a needle for 1 1/2 hours, I can sit on a bike for 30 minutes.  I can do things that are hard because I want to. 

And I did.  I worked out, and it felt good, and I didn't work very hard, but it felt like a good start.  Except that now I am contemplating what I will do today, and going through the same decision making processes: country dancing, hippy exercise dancing, or gym?  And I am sure that the right answer is the same as yesterday, that I should be minimizing the risk to my shin, at least until I have my scheduled meeting with the wellness coach at the end of the month, but every time I decide that I shouldn't dance, I am terrified and frustrated because I keep making that decision, long after it first happened, and it should be better now but I don't think it is, and I'm afraid that I'm never going to dance again.

Also, I realized that after that entire camera app search, I never once actually compared the photos from each app.  I looked at features and menus and file types, but have not yet done any image comparisons.  I kind of thought that image quality was a function of the camera, and not the software, but with a digital camera the two are completely intertwined.  Data needs to be interpreted, and different apps interpret differently.  So that's coming up, too.  It's going to be novel-length when I'm done which is funny considering that nothing I'm reviewing cost more than $3.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I've been thinking about why it's so hard for me to just take a photo of something I like.  Why I can't shoot a single photo without knowing what it will be part of, what higher function it serves.  I've been blaming the imaginary critiques in my head, but I think it's more than that.

I'm realizing that I've become very jaded about images in general, and photography in particular.  Taking an aesthetically-pleasing photograph seems so easy, and so pointless.  I can make something pretty.  I think I can make anything pretty.  I've had a lot of practice, and I'm good at it.  But there are pretty photos everywhere.  Book covers, fashion ads, newspapers, Instagram.  Everyone's Flickr feed is gorgeous. And I just don't care.

What makes me care is all the rest, the connections and greater implications.  I care about story, either narrated through images, or the story behind the images.  I care about all the stuff that ends up in artist statements.  Those are the things that move images beyond beautiful, and it's the beyond that I care about.

And so I keep trying to make ideas instead of images, to start with a plan and then execute it.  The problem is that I don't work that way.  I don't come up with an Idea and then hunt down the pieces I need to make it.  I never really have.  I start with the pieces and discover what ideas they lead to.  But in order to get those pieces, I need to make a leap of faith.  I need to trust that ideas will come, that the images I shoot can be more than they are at the moment when I shoot them.  And that's hard and scary.

End-of-Semester sadface.

Tired, sad, worried.

Have some new photos for Assignment 1.  Not sure if the second one fits the assignment, really.  And I feel like all of them (including the previous post) are just copying the slide show.  House in the suburbs at night, check.  Light on a white wall, check. 

If I were my student, I would tell myself to not worry about it, because 1) copying is a good way to learn, and 2) since I am myself, and not Barth or Hido, I bring myself to my images even when I'm not trying to.

But right now, it just feels like everything is wrong.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A tag for not dating

This is, like, the third time I've started to write a post that says, essentially:

Cassidy!  Is awesome!

ME: I think maybe you do a thing, and I'm sure I'm imagining it, but *whine*

HIM: I think you're partly right, I sort of do that, and here's why it made sense to me.

ME: Ok. It makes me feel crappy.

HIM: [changes his behavior]

I feel like another person would have reassured me that my worries weren't true.  Instead he confirms my fear, and then changes his behavior so it won't bother me anymore.

I still tag this under "dating."  At some point I will need a new tag.  I have no idea what that tag would be.  They are dating-feelings that I'm having, sort of.

I keep pushing at the reasons we broke up, but no matter how hard I push, I can't make a dent.  They are as true and important as they were a month ago.  I keep pushing anyway, because even though I know it, I refuse to believe it.