Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Unfortunately, I just don't like Ender's Game very much.

I mean, when I read it in my early 20's, I was impressed by what I thought was an unsolvable moral quandary.  I felt compelled to both condemn and absolve Ender, but couldn't do either, and it blew my mind.  I'd never seen anything like it before.  But in the years since, I've learned to discern a great many more shades or right and wrong.  I have learned to reconcile opposing truths, to see that good people can do terrible things, and this makes them neither wholly good nor wholly terrible, but both at once.  I have learned that one can take responsibility for the things they did unintentionally, even if the amount of responsibility deserved is mitigated by the lack of intention.  Intention matters, but isn't the only thing that does.  And so that shocking, mind-blowing, crux of the book is just kind of meh now. 

What this means is, as much as I'd like to, I can't boycott Ender's Game any more than I can boycott Grownups 2.  (I have no idea what that movie is, but apparently it's playing in theaters now.)  It's not a boycott if I wasn't going to see it anyway.

I wouldn't boycott Card because it would have a personal impact on him, either financially or philosophically.  I'm pretty sure his career is safe, and I'm pretty sure that he's heard and not listened to any arguments that might be made against his terrible social ideas.  I also wouldn't boycott Card because I believe that his bigotry shows in the work he's produced.  I think that Ender's Game is flawed, but not in an anti-gay-marriage kind of way.  Or even a Mormon kind of way.  (Maybe.  I don't actually know where Mormons stand on the good-works vs. pure faith debate.)

I would boycott Card, if I could, because he has a microphone.  He is successful and popular and famous, and when he writes articles about how the people should overthrow the government in order to stop gay marriage, he gets published in newspapers, and because he's famous and "controversial," those articles get quoted in other articles and everyone knows what Orson Scott Card thinks.  He's not the only one with a microphone; many of the people writing those articles quoting him also have microphones.  But there are lots of us, who disagree with him, who don't have the social capital to be heard at the same kind of volume.  What a boycott does is give the rest of us a microphone.  A boycott is a union, except instead of providing bargaining power, it provides publicity.  The Ender's Game boycott allows the rest of us to say, "hey, we don't agree" and be heard.  Or it would, if only it weren't Ender's Game.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I feel that I should follow that up with,

OK, back together.  Sorry.

Although it didn't do much for my feeling tired. 

Things I Thought I Could Handle

I almost did it.  I almost got out of this soul-sucking, spoon-taking, slump.  I went to the gym three days last week, and did housework, and consumed non-DA entertainment.  But now there is a wedding to go to in a few days, which means dressing my body, which means making clothes for my body, because nothing works for more than one event in a row, obvs, and I am realizing that I can handle moving my body in very specific ways, but I can't handle looking at it.

I found (borrowed) a top that was loose enough to feel reasonably comfortable in, but then it wanted a fitted slightly-A-linish skirt, and I started making that, but couldn't handle the whole "fitted" part of that, and it was going to be shiny which would make it that much worse if it went wrong, so I found some other fabric and made a nice skirt I could handle wearing except now it doesn't match the top, and the top it does match is skin-tight.  And it's not like I can hide being fat or anything.  I will be a fat person in a skirt and top, no matter what skirt and top I pick. And I'm having a fucking meltdown.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Quiet night

Listening to the soundtrack to Nashville on repeat, washing dishes and putting away laundry and making a skirt pattern.  Keeping occupied, keeping distracted.  I'm starting to feel restless and unsatisfied again.  Time to remember what I was doing before I cut everything but video games from my life.

Friday, July 26, 2013

(slightly) Better Photos

At least, with better color correction.

Really, this is me showing off 1) my awesome paint and decorating choices, and 2) it's CLEAN.  Everything has a place, even if that place for bras-I've-worn-and-will-wear-again-before-washing is hanging off the bookshelf.  This is not my room's "showing off for company" face.  This is its normal hanging out face.

I made my bed every day this week.  (My definition of "bed making" isn't traditional, but it's neat and I like it.)  I have spent a few days in between doing laundry and putting clothes away, so there are a few days when dirty clothes are piled in the corner instead of in the hamper, but never long enough that the corner spills out into the rest of the room. 

I am ridiculously proud, but I'm also having trouble being proud, because I've invested so much of my self-definition on being someone who doesn't care.  Lots of people are unsettled in messy environments.  I get that.  But I'm not that person.  Mess doesn't bother me.  It doesn't interfere with my feeling comfortable or productive or relaxed or happy.

I got so used to not needing a pretty environment that I decided that it was a worthless goal for me.  I worked on not screwing up public spaces, but my room, my office, have always been a wreck.  Seriously, I am 33 years old and I have never had a room that wasn't a mess 99% of the time.  And I didn't care.  When people said "you'll feel better once everything is neat," it sounded like when they said, "you'll change you mind about kids."  It sounded like "I know you better than you know yourself," bullshit.

I like good food.  But, most of the time, I eat frozen meals that taste like frozen meals, because I like them, too.  Not as much, but I'm not bothered by the lack of food goodness.  I don't pine for better.  Neatness is like that.  So, most of the time, the benefit I get from enjoying a neat environment isn't worth the effort in creating one.

But "not worth the effort" isn't the same as "not enjoyable."  This feels like such an obvious thing to say, but it's actually difficult for me to admit to.  I do, actually, enjoy a neat environment.  And maybe in the past the effort wasn't worth the benefit, because I had less resources to allocate.  But, right now, I have the resources. 

And I'm so proud, but part of me feels like I'm giving up.  Like I'm giving in.  Like I'm waiting for the I told you so's to start.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Available now if you happen to be a graduate student in photography at my university

This is a myspace selfie I made by picking up a scanner and holding it next to my head.

It will be available for checkout if you happen to be enrolled in photography classes at my university in the fall.  For all your holding-scanners-against-things needs.

This is another one.

BREAKING NEWS: The Shopping Edition

Gentlepersons of the internet, I have finally retired my sad, sad, "wallet."  If ever there was a need for scare quotes, this is it.  For those who have not had the unenviable experience of seeing said "wallet," it looked like this right before I threw it out:


Now my wallet looks like this:

It came in the mail today.  Handmade by Quiet Doings on etsy. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is Like

Having a crush is like having a plant growing around my internal organs, its roots digging into my guts, its leaves peeking out from my ribcage.  Having a crush is like giving this plant the light it needs; it responds hungrily, turning itself towards the object of my affections. Except it moves much faster than plants actually move, more like a time-lapse video of a plant moving, full of starts and stops, graceless and rushed. Having a crush means always feeling graceless and rushed.


I hated Anders when I first met him in Awakenings.   I wasn't sure I believed him when he said that he hadn't, actually, killed the templars I found him with.  And then he fucking joked about how funny it was when they died. It was gross. At best, I thought he had deliberately let them die. I didn't trust him, and I didn't like him, and I was playing Mage Jenny and was still a little raw over the way the game glossed over Alistair's death. And here was some other guy who was supposed to be good looking, with blondish hair and a smart mouth and he seemed like he was supposed to replace Alistair, as if anyone could. Also, he had a ponytail. I am so not into ponytails on guys. (Honestly, I never thought that Alistair was that good looking, even for CGI. A younger Duncan would have been much sexier. Duncan had a ponytail, too, but he also had a beard, which compensates. But I digress.)

By the end of Awakenings, Anders mattered to me.  When I saw the mistaken codex entry saying that Anders was dead, it made Thedas that much less of the world I wanted it to be.

It's funny, because now that Anders has become Anders-and-the-twisted-spirit-of-Justice, he and Alistair are sort of opposites of each other.  Not only is Alistair a templar and Anders a mage,  Alistair is a boy scout that Jenny can seduce, and Anders is an ex-libertine who mended his ways.  Alistair starts out believing the best of people, and Jenny can help him become more cynical.  Anders starts out cynical, but I think that romance with Jenny will soften him.  Figuratively, of course.  Physically...

But as much as I want to like this Anders, with his greater capacity for empathy, and his longer-term goals, and his complicated half-terrible-spirit-ness, I'm finding him rather flat as a character.  Apostate Jenny is navigating all these ethical quandaries in front of him, but the only ones he ever cares about are the ones involving templars.  Here's a list of things she's done that Anders doesn't care about:

Jenny killed a rebel mage in cold blood.  Anders didn't care.  If Jenny had sent her to the templars, then Anders would have cared.

The son of the magistrate was discovered to be a serial killer who had been kidnapping and killing elf children from the slums, because the voices in his head told him that elf children were too beautiful and needed to be punished.  He escaped his home-imprisonment, and Jenny was tasked to bring him back.  If she turned him in, nothing would change.  His father would try, and fail, to restrain him, and more elf children would die, and it would all be covered up because no one cares about elf children.  So Jenny decided to play vigilante and kill him rather than bring him in.  Isabela approved.  Even Aveline-the-lawful approved.  Anders, however, didn't care.

Jenny stood up to the viscount on behalf of the Qunari, a foreign people the viscount believes to be terrible and savage.  One might think that someone who is on a quest to allow the Other to be treated as people might appreciate that sentiment when applied to a different Other.  But, no.  Anders didn't care.  Only mages count.

I really like Anders on paper.  I like the idea of him.  But I'm disappointed in how he's turning out.  Even his banter is a little less funny than it was in Awakenings and a little more preachy and single-minded.  I want to like Anders, because Mage Jenny cared about him.  And I want the character Apostate Jenny romances to actually like her, and she's too lawful for Isabela and too much the mage for Fenris.  And Merrill—I adore her, but I'm not sold on a romance with her.  Plus, she's going to want me to be all pro-blood-mage-and-demon-and-stuff, and, while I think she's got it handled, I don't want to support blood mage as a general life choice for everyone else.  I can't be with Aveline, as much as I'd like to.  So that leaves Anders, dammit.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One or the Other Side of a Line

In my senior year of college, I wrote an essay deconstructing the Raymond Carver short story, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.  It was the most ambitious (read: long) essay I'd written, topped only barely by an essay I wrote in grad school about the Roman emperor Hadrian.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is one of those modern literary short stories where a group of middle-class white people sit around a table and talk while the reader criticizes them for their shallowness and lack of understanding.  My essay analyzed the way the story both enforces and undermines binary oppositions such as permanence/transience and natural/artificial.  I was very proud of it.  I suppose that, since I'm talking about it, I'm still proud.  So, even though I haven't read WWTAWWTAL since college, and can't remember anything else that Carver has written, I feel a sense of ownership towards that story.

This was going to be a short post.  I just wanted to say that I'd seen a few blog posts lately that are titled What We Talk About When We Talk About __________, and that the name strikes a little happy note in me.  I think, hey I know that story!

But I started thinking about the way it makes me happy, and why.  WWTAWWTAL is the kind of story that English majors read.  So when someone references it, I feel like we're in a club together, the club of people who majored in English (or took lit classes on the side), despite people chiding us for not being more practical, despite the assumption that there was nothing for an English major to do besides teach Huck Finn to teenagers.  I feel like we have a shared experience.  And I love that feeling.

I remember having lunch with a friend of mine in Chicago while I was in town at a conference.  I was excitedly telling him about the Queering the Classroom panel I had attended, which I had found inspiring and thought-provoking.  I told him that they used words like intersectionality, and I immediately felt like I belonged.  My friend said, "what's intersectionality?"

Here's the thing: lingo is only inclusive to the people who know it.  References to story titles are only inclusive to the people who get them. 

It hadn't occurred to me that my friend wouldn't know the word.  He is not ignorant of social justice concerns.  As soon as I gave him a definition, he immediately came up with an example.  He knows the concept.  He just hadn't heard the word before.  If he had been at the panel, I'm sure that he would have figured out, from the context, what it meant.

—But do you see what I'm doing here?  I'm trying to prove that he is, actually, in the club with me.  That the term excluded him by mistake.  And trying to prove that he deserves to be included is the same as saying that some people don't.  That feeling I love so much, of feeling like I'm part of something, it only has meaning if there is an alternative.  If someone else is being excluded.

I am very, very, sensitive to the divide between insider/outsider.  It is, perhaps, the dominant structure with which I have organized my experiences. There are few things that I love more, or hate more, than the feeling of being on one or the other side of a line. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fruitvale Station opens in select cities today.

I don't think that I have ever been through the Fruitvale BART station.  I was usually going North or West. 

But I remember that it was a Wednesday night, that I was two hours ahead in Central Time, that I stayed up all night hitting refresh on my browser, looking for new coverage, a new photo, anything.  I remember that I'd never felt so far away. 

And now, I'm feeling very far away again.  Even the movie, which is playing across the country, is only in select cities.  The closet one is Chicago.

I don't know why I want so badly to go, why it means something to me that I see a movie, as if seeing the movie would make a difference in the world.  If I cared, aren't there better things to do about it?  


When I think about Oakland, I think about 14th Street between Broadway and the lake.  (Incidentally, when I put "Oakland, CA" into Google Maps, it puts the little location arrow at the corner of 14th and Broadway.)  I walked up and down 14th every day, from my apartment on Jackson (across from the big, old, sign proclaiming HILL CASTLE APARTMENT HOTEL) to the 40L on Broadway that would take me up Telegraph into Berkeley where I worked.

I think about the kids I saw walking up 14th, high-school age, looking like every inner city cliche you can think of.  They were angry, but it took a moment before I could make out words.  Then one of them said, "Next time I'm not going to put up with any more bullshit.  I'm gonna do all the choreography myself."

I think about the Korean BBQ that was my weakness, but cost up to $15 a plate.  Or the smoothie place, run by a woman I assumed was also Korean, where I bought my Product of Oakland t-shirts.

I think about the little mini-health-food-mart right across the street from my apartment, and the nice Yemeni guy who laughed at me because I always came in barefoot, for Ben and Jerry's pints and Amy's pizza.  He said I reminded him of home.

I think about how if I would only walk a few more blocks south I'd be in Chinatown, but I almost never did.  Mike couldn't eat dim sum anyway.

But most of my memories are black-and-white.  Because I remember the photographs I took better than I remember living through them.  I remember a burst of light running down the street at sunset, every shadow stretching as far as it could towards me.  I remember deep black shadows.

Walking down Google Street View, I'm not sure which stores I'd forgotten, and which ones weren't there six years ago.  The buildings are a lot lower than I remember them being.  I'd forgotten about the flat swaths of parking lots, the single-story buildings.  Now that I'm not photographing the way I used to, I wonder: will I remember anything?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two things about dancing ETA: Top 17 dancers!

This guy is on So You Think You Can Dance

And my first thought was hey I know that guy!  Which isn't true, because we've never actually met.  But I saw him dance at Star of the North, not just with his professional partner, but with his students.  And I can't remember the last time I've seen someone with so much charisma.  Of the projecting kind, an active rather than passive ability.  And what I liked about him, was that I could see him project it at his partner, like for a minute she was his entire focus, like he was saying you good?  We've got this!  And I know that his stage presence is a performance, and maybe he's actually a grumpy, miserable person who knows how to put on a show.  But I want to believe the face he projected.  So I'm rooting for him.

He's survived a few weeks of the show (I just started watching last week's episode) but out of maybe more than 100 he's still in the top 33 dancers.  They producers don't treat him like they care, but we'll see. 

The other thing is less good.  I finally had the right collection of spoons to attempt to dance today.  I lasted 30 minutes.  I had sort of hoped that if I closed my eyes it would just go away, but it's looking like it's going to take work.  I need to take my exercises seriously, and make sure to dance regularly but only a little each time...

Same Thing, Always

You know, the sad thing is, this blog is a pretty accurate depiction of my life for the last few weeks.  Not that it's usually untrue, but I often fill this space up with things that I'd like to separate from my real life conversations, things that I don't want to spend all my real time talking about, or things that don't really fit.  So sometimes while I'm spending my time doing other things, and working on projects and hanging out with people, all I'm writing about is a detailed breakdown of my iPhone camera apps.  But right now, when all I talk about here is home decor and video games?  Yeah, that's it.  That's my life.

I have—cautiously—read some mentions of DA2.  I've kept myself pretty free from spoilers.  Mostly what I know is what I might have learned from a game trailer or the back cover of a novel.  I haven't read any more of this article, because I'm sure it will tell me things I'd like to learn for myself, but it does a great job of making me curious:
So it was with both trepidation and excitement that I finally approached Dragon Age 2, as I missed it on initial release and then was warned off of it afterward. Having finally played it, I can see what the fuss was about, both good and bad. Dragon Age 2 almost demanded to be controversial thanks to its structure. In a genre filled with narratively complete, balanced games, DA2 ambitions push it in less balanced and incomplete directions. That's risky.
I'm still worried that the character interaction won't live up to DA:O, but this is intriguing.

On another note, just to prove that I can think of SOMETHING else to say:

I picked up The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as my one non-comfort book in the (previously illustrated) pile.  I'd heard it was good, N.K. Jemisin won stuff and was guest speaking at important things, and had recently gotten shit for being black and saying that maybe SF/F should be a little less monochromatic.  And even though my used-book purchase isn't actually getting her any of the money, it seemed like I should see what she actually did.  I'm not done with it, but so far I'm pretty damn impressed.  It's really good.  Also the shelf brackets I ordered came in today so I can put my new books on a shelf.

And then, you know what?  It circles right back.  Because I started to read back down her blog and found this post about orcs which totally explains everything I hate about darkspawn, and some more reasons I hadn't even thought of.  And she talks about the differences between darkspawn in Origins versus Awakenings, and how much better it is in the latter, and how DA2 is even better because darkspawn aren't the enemy which is TOTALLY WHAT I WAS SAYING.  So there.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dragon Age ONE AND TWO

I have Things to Say about the real world.  But right now I just want to absorb as much Dragon Age as I possibly can.  I've been looking at all the different epilogue variations for the main game and Awakenings.  Apparently the codex that listed Anders and Nathaniel as dead was a bug, and the epilogue was the intended outcome.  I did, actually, do everything right and it did keep my people alive.  Sadly, I also missed a companion quest for Sigrun which would have kept her alive and happy longer.  And if Teryna Jenny and Alistair rule together then she still disappears later, and "no one knows where she's gone."  But she's referenced in DA2, and I choose to believe that either she comes back before that game starts, or that Alistair knows where she is but won't tell.  They are not Reven and Carth, dammit.  I will make a happily ever after for them.

I watched the trailers for DA2 and 3, and my thoughts, in order of appearance, are:

1.  Damn, canon Hawke is hot.  I mean, seriously.

2.  Same as above.  I don't know if it's just the better rendering for trailers/cutscenes.  I might actually play male so I can keep looking at him.  I hear this is common for male players who enjoy watching pixel-lady-butts, but it's a first for me.

3.  Luckily for me, DA trailers give away almost nothing at all.  No spoilers.  Just some pretty renderings.

4.  I looked stuff up and discovered that there are a few web miniseries.  They could, actually, be really good.  I might look them up.

5.  The worst thing about the world-building and plot of DA:O was the Big Bad.  The rest of the world, the tensions between and within countries and factions, was all pretty well put together.  (For example, elves that aren't Better Than You At Everything with Perfect Beautiful Forest Lives.  Oppressed, second-class-citizen elves!)  And it seems like, maybe, the next games have plots related to those tensions within the world, rather than a mindless horde of Evil Evilness.  So I am optimistic.

6.  I tracked my copy of DA2.  The internet says I can pick it up NOW.  Do I want to start playing before I have the right world to start with?  I mean, I'm assuming that the differences are mostly background.  Minor character appearances and the like.  But still.  I care.  Do I care enough to finish the game again first?  Can I wait that long?  Teryna Jenny still has a LOT of game to go.  And it's a little different playing a melee character, but I don't love it.

What if I reload Mage Jenny right before the assault on Denerim, take Morrigan up on Dark Ritual, and then use that save game?  That leaves Annora as queen, and Mage Jenny and Alistair get to ride off into the sunset as Gray Wardens.  I don't even have to play the end battles, as long as I make a save game with those decisions made. After that, there is no other ending possible.  THIS IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA.  The world isn't perfect, because Harrowmont is actually a really crappy king, and not killing the optional extra dragon means the sacred ashes will disappear.  But, overall, I like it.


Saturday, July 13, 2013


Ok, seriously, now I'm really confused.  My codex showed Anders and Nathaniel dead, and Velanna presumed dead.  But the end slideshow had them all alive.  And I'd take that as the real ending, but then the slideshow said that Jenny ran off into the sunset with ALISTAIR.  Who is distinctly DEAD.  So I don't know what the fuck.

On the other hand, the main plot was way better.  Big Bads who have hopes and plans and pain that you understand, who might have done great harm in the pursuit of good.  Hooray!

Oh, stuff. Y'know. And stuff.

So everyone I've shown my room to has said it looks like a museum or gallery.  "That's your bedroom?" they ask.  And now I feel a little silly and self conscious about it, because I feel like it looks like it's trying too hard, when all I wanted was to not have posters taped up like a dorm.  And it shouldn't matter to me, but it does.  

I had an interview today with a Communications Studies PhD candidate who is doing research for her dissertation on people who intentionally distance themselves from one or both of their parents.  We talked for an hour and a half.  And then I went and bought a bunch of comfort books.  Well, three comfort books and one book I've never read but heard was good.

Also shown, the Good Cat. 

You know when the interviewer put up the call for participants in this study, she had a hundred people respond within the first few hours.  In Iowa City, which isn't a big town.  I know I'm not alone, I know that variants of my story are more common than is portrayed in our culture, but it was still surprising to realize just how common it is. 

Dragon Age: the long game

So when I started planning Dragon Age endings, I was trying to fit the largest number of permutations in the smallest number of playthroughs, and trying to still keep the choices in keeping with the characters.  It makes sense for Dwarf Jenny to preserve the anvil, because destroying it would almost be sacrilege.  It is a relic from the greatest days of dwarven innovations, and would mean the possibility of saving and reuniting lost cities.  Similarly, it makes sense for Dwarf Jenny to fail to save the mages.  Teryna Jenny mostly exists because she's the only one who can make Alistair king without losing him, and since she's wooing him she'll make most of the same choices that Mage Jenny did.

But I'm realizing: I'm going to play Dragon Age 2.  And, barring more betrayal from Bioware (Mass Effect 2, I'm looking at you), I'll be playing Dragon Age 3 as well.  And I'm, like, 99% certain that I can import games so that there's a consistent storyline, and my choices and their consequences continue on from game to game.  And it's bad enough playing Awakenings in a world where Alistair is dead, but now Anders is dead, too?

So I'm thinking about a playthrough designed specifically to create the world I want, and part of me wants Alistair and Jenny riding off into the sunset together because I like that story.  But the bastard son turned reluctant but good king is a good story, too.  And Teryna Jenny was raised in court politics, and would be a good queen for him.  She would keep him from being an Arl Eamon puppet.  Would they be happy?  Would it be good for Ferelden?  Is that the world I want to continue for three more games?  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Awakenings spoilers now

Anders is dead.  Nathaniel is dead.  Velanna is probably dead.  The only members of my party still standing are Ogrun, Sigrun, and Justice.  And only one of those three is alive.

I only found out because I noticed that their bios had changed.  I knew they'd be fighting at the keep while Jenny was on a quest, but I assumed I'd play that battle, too.  But it happened without me, and the game didn't tell me.  I never got a chance to help them.  It was Alistair dying all over again, except this time I didn't even know until it was too late.  

I completed all the upgrades to the keep.  I left four people in my party behind.  I did what I was supposed to do but it wasn't enough.

I wonder if the Architect played me.  I still don't know why any of this has happened.  And Anders is dead.


When this is done I'll get a real camera in here for better shots.  Still to go: desk, which will probably include more shelves, and headboard/footboard.  There's one more space on the wall that I'd like to fill, but it doesn't look bad as is.  That's pretty much it.  A less beat-up light blanket might be nice, too, but that's not immediately important.  Oh, and there's a corner of the pink wall that I've been waiting to touch up.  The paint took so long to cure that I'm just going to give it a ridiculous amount of time.

To be a woman in this world

My online feelers have been pulling in a lot of talk about sexual harassment, assault, rape culture, sexism, etc.  This is in addition to events that have happened both in the news and around me.  This is not a new development, but a particular aspect of these discussions has reached a critical mass for me and it's affecting me in disturbing ways.  Namely, the sheer number of posts where women account their personal histories of harassment: drunken cat-calling on the street, strangers groping under skirts in elevators, men who erupt with rage when a pass is rejected, or follow her for days after.

Let me be clear: these stories need to be told.  A lot of people, mostly men, have no idea that this happens.  That it has always happened, that it continues to happen, that women develop strategies and collaborations to minimize the harm they suffer from it, and they do it mainly alone, because attempts to bring this to the attention of men results in censor and ridicule.  And maybe if enough people come forward, then we can all stop pretending that this isn't a thing and actually take steps towards change.

Here's the thing that I'm having trouble with.  Because so much of this behavior is gendered, because it is usually men harassing women, and because of a larger cultural system that minimizes women's experiences and devalues women's bodily autonomy, because it is women who are used to being dismissed as overreacting (as women are wont to do), the voices speaking up are saying

This is what it means to be a woman in this world.

Or, at least, that's what it sounds like, to me.  And once I start to hear these individual voices speaking, not as individuals with personal experiences, but as women speaking about what it means to be a woman, then I feel—perversely enough—left out.

Because this is not my experience.  Because I don't think that anyone has ever cat-called at me.  I suppose that, maybe in my twenty-one years of having boobs, someone has said something to me on the street about my body parts or what he would do to them, but I really can't remember anything.  Hell, I'm not sure if I've ever been hit on.  Strangers don't try to start conversations with me on the subway, so none of them have ever been mad at me for not responding positively to the intrusion. 

It is ridiculous to be upset because men don't harass me.  And yet, my jerkbrain says, why don't they?  Do I just not count as a woman?  Am I not pretty enough?  Even though none of this behavior is a complement.  Even though it devalues rather than flatters the subject.  Even though it has nothing to do with what a woman wears or what she looks like, I feel like there must be something wrong with me, because it doesn't happen to me.

I want to be attractive.  I want to be desired.  And even though I don't want the men who would harass me because of it, part of me thinks that they don't want me because no one wants me.  Because I am unworthy of desire. 

Dear Reader, I know.  I know.  I know so many things that prove wrong all the things I just said.  And then I feel bad for feeling bad, because it reinforces the myth that harassment is just a compliment, that he was just trying to be nice, or just wanted to flirt.  And that's bullshit.  I know.  I'm sorry.  I wish that knowing made me feel better.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Storytelling, Continued: Blogroll

Two blog posts about emotional engagement with Alistair:

Dragon Age: Origins Is The First Game About Gay Marriage & The Power of Mods

A video game designer experienced romance with Alistair as a gay man, with unexpected, thought-provoking consequences. 

Dragon Age Postmortem: Oh, Alistair

She has some good things to say about the implications of the plot in general, and her play-by-play description of her last conversation with Alistair is a mirror of mine.  She interpreted Morrigan very differently than I did, but I really enjoyed reading her reactions.

Both pieces also reference the writer's connection with Alistair as a virtual boyfriend, something that their real-life partners misunderstood.  (And both writers had real-life partners, as do most of the writers I've seen talk about their Alistair crushes.  So maybe I'm not giving the game enough credit when I say that if I had a real boyfriend I might not be so into my fake one.)

I've also been thinking about that middle area of the game, where the main plot sits around, doing nothing while I flirt with Alistair.  In KOTOR, you are given three worlds to visit, but after two there's a surprise kidnapping that you need to escape from, and a big reveal about your secret identity, and that makes going through the last world a little different, because you're looking at the main quest with different eyes.  Even though the actual world plays out exactly the same, it means something different after the big reveal.  There isn't anything like that in Mass Effect, and I don't remember if there was in Jade Empire.  It's an effective design that I'd like to see re-imagined in the future.

What if you learned that the bad guys are actually brainwashed good guys, and can be saved?  Like, the fewer of them you kill, the more allies you'll have for the end.  So you're going through the quest, and they're still trying to kill you, but now you're trying to avoid as many as you can. 

p.s.  Totally unrelated to story:  I just realized that the Dragon Age stats are missing something really important: damage taken.  I'm not sure how to measure it, because what I'm looking for isn't really "how many hit points lost," but "how much damage directed at the tank instead of the mage."  Alistair has more hit points than Morrigan, but what makes him really useful is that the same attacks actually do less damage to him, and he draws away those attacks.  I wish there were a way to track that.

1,500 Words About Sorytelling: Dragon Age and Skyrim

I keep saying, "I'm so engaged with Dragon Age!  Writing!  Plot!  Dialog!  Story!"  And the thing is, when I try to examine the story itself, saving the world from a mindless hoard in Dragon Age, versus saving the world from a smart, evil, dragon in Skyrim, I prefer the latter. Even better than the main plot, Skyrim's civil war is interesting, with characters that you don't like but make good arguments.  So why haven't I done any cheering for the storytelling in Skryim?

Some of the differences, I think, are due to what I've brought to the games, and some of them are things I think the games cultivate:

Differences that I bring:
1.  I moved the XBox up to the living room while I was playing, so instead of being by myself in the basement, I've been playing with someone.  When I was playing Skyrim, a plot point had to be 1) understandable with a minimal explanation, and 2) really squee-worthy.  Enough to run upstairs and tell someone.  With Dragon Age, I might just look over and say, "hey that was kinda neat," without it being UTTERLY AMAZING.  A lot of what has been good with Dragon Age has been that kind of small moment, and when I can have a conversation about those moments then I engage with them more.

2.  I spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about and analyzing romantic (and proto-romantic) relationships.  It's kind of what I do.  At the moment, I don't have relationships of my own to spend brain power on, and I've been feeling, more than usual, that I wish I had one.  I would probably still have nursed a crush on Alistair, even if there were real crushes in my life, but it would have been diluted, I think, by the presence of squee-moments IRL.  The only squeeing I've been doing lately has been at my TV screen.  I'm putting this under "my stuff" because, while I'm sure that Bioware intentionally wrote Alistair to be appealing, my level of squee is very much affected by my current situation.
What Dragon Age (and most other Bioware games) brings is plot structure and party dynamics.

If I were to write a story that I knew might be read in any order, not just chapters out of order, but pages or paragraphs, it would severely limit my storytelling ability.  I can write something that captures a feeling, that has reoccurring themes and characters, but narrative arc is completely out of my control.  I can't craft the pace or timing, I can't determine whether the saddest moments happen at the beginning or end.  In order to control those things, I need to control the order in which things happen.  In a sandbox style game, like Skyrim, there is enormous freedom for the player to decide what to do and when, and this means that there is little that the game designer can do to direct the narrative.

Skyrim is made up of a main quest line (defeat the Evil Dragon), and many, many, side quests of varying importance.  There is a civil war between Skyrim and the Empire.  There are several organizations, which have extensive quest lines to rise to the top of the organization.  Each province has a series of quests to become a Thane of the province.  And then, everywhere Jenny goes, there are dozens of people with things they'd like her to do for them.  It might be delivering a letter, or killing a giant, or rescuing a brother.  It might have several parts, with dungeons and dialog to navigate, or just be a matter of walking across town.  These quests are never-ending.  (I'm pretty sure that's literal.  I think the game is designed to always have a giant or a bandit somewhere that needs killing.)

In Skyrim, Jenny can skip around back and forth between quest lines, or just spend hours grinding up levels or gold.  She can rise half-way through the Thieve's Guild, then advance the main quest a little bit, then spend a day or two running errands, then go back to the Thieve's Guild.  Etc.  Each quest line has a dictated order, but the sheer number of them, and the ease that Jenny can skip between them, make it much easier to lose the narrative, or just not care at all.  The main quest is almost optional.  (The last time I played the previous Elder Scrolls game, I decided to actually ignore the main quest entirely, and just play the guild plot lines as if they were main story.)

This is not a criticism of Skyrim.  I like the freedom.  I like the playability.  I like that I can beat the game and keep playing and getting better and finding new goals to set for myself.  There is always something new to accomplish.  But it comes at the expense of narrative.  Sometimes I stop a quest half-way because the next dungeon is hard, and I'll grind for a day or two, and then pick up a few easier quests, and then get distracted by something else, and by the time I get back to what I was doing, I've pretty much forgotten what it was.

In contrast, Dragon Age, like all Bioware games, is structured as a kind of linear/sandbox hybrid.  The game begins with one or two quests that must be done in a linear fashion, then opens up with three or four quests that can be done in any order.  When all of those are complete, then the endgame is linear again.  When the endgame is finished, the game is done.  Time for DLC or the next installment.  And while there are side quests to complete, most of them are the "pick up something while you're over there anyway," or the "find the hidden chest in the dungeon you're already exploring" variety, and there just aren't that many of them.  There aren't any sub-main, but important, quests.  Enemies and resources don't respawn, so there is almost no grinding to be done.  There are no guilds to advance in, and the civil war is actually part of the main plot.

What this does is take away a lot of elements that might distract from a linear narrative.  And so, even though there are giant flaws in that narrative (why do we have time to traipse all over Ferelden several times over to gather allies but we don't have time to wait a few weeks for reinforcements that are already on their way?), I stayed a lot more focused on that story.

And when the story stops progressing in a linear fashion, because the quests in the body of the game can be done in any order, then there are the romantic relationships to work on.  Especially if the romantic relationship is with Morrigan or Alistair, because those romantic relationships are actually relevant to the main plot.  So there is still something that might change with each completed quest, even if the main story doesn't progress, because more experience might mean new dialog options.

And that's the other big thing.  Jenny has people.  People she gets to know and care about, who she depends on to get through the game.  In Skyrim, Jenny can get married, or travel with a friend or hired mercenary.  But companions in Skyrim are not usually very helpful.  They don't have stories or dialog or personalities, and Jenny can ditch them at any time.  They're not her people.  They don't matter.

In Dragon Age, companions matter.  Mage Jenny depends on having Alistair to draw opponents away from her, and Teryna Jenny depends on Morrigan freezing enemies so she can backstab them.  And companions have differences besides abilities in battle.  They have stories to discover, and likes and dislikes.  There are game advantages to having party members like Jenny- they gain perks due to her "leadership."  And they talk!  To Jenny, to each other, they're constantly demonstrating that they have thoughts and feelings.  The random backchatter that happens while exploring is one of the best parts of the game.  You learn party member's personal histories when we have conversations in camp, but you learn their personality just by walking around with them and listening to them interact with each other.

Morrigan has almost nothing to say about Alistair in camp.  But she spends the first half of the game taunting him whenever she can.  And her dialog with Sten!  They are my OTP.  I'm sure there's some kind of spell she can cast to survive the experience.  I am fond of them, as characters, in a way that I have never been fond of anyone in Skyrim.  Even without the fake-boyfriend element, I enjoy hearing what they have to say, and much like a long-running TV show, I start to feel as if I am sharing their lives.

And that's the thing that makes stories work for me.  I never really care as much about the battles as I do the dialog, in books or TV or anything else.  I care about relationships.  World events matter to me in that they affect people's lives on an individual level.  And so, despite a seriously un-thought-out bad guy (darkspawn use tools that require training and study, armor that needs to be crafted and repaired, and spells that require a connection to the world of dreams, and yet I'm supposed to believe that they are mindless and incapable of language, organization, or complex thought), I have a game I connect with.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


I was thinking about how very excited I am about each new development in my room, and I realized that I've never done this before.  I've put up posters, and picked out pillowcase fabric, but I've never designed a room this completely, and with so much choice in the matter.  And it's designed to be ME. Today I made a 36x42" poster with a excerpt from a Lorrie Moore book and mounted it to foam core.  Tomorrow, hopefully I will arrange to trade for a print from one of the outgoing grads.  

I was also complemented three times today on my calf tattoo today.  One person asked if it was really a tattoo, because the colors were so vivid.

I'm not exhausted all the time, and I dance in the car when the music is good.  There's still a lot to do, and I'm not ready to take anything else on, but this feels good.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Things that weren't there this morning.

Nope. Not that easy. (ETA)

I gave Bacon Sushi Guy one more shot, and there's still no spark.  I could dissect my lack of interest, but there isn't much point.  I don't really want to spend a blog post detailing minor flaws of a perfectly nice person who I just don't have FEELINGS for.  If I had the feelings, I wouldn't be bothered by anything, but since I don't have them, I just feel sort of annoyed.

This realization happened just before I started packing and moving, and so my plan was to do a fade for a few days, taking time between responses and not volunteering much, and then let him know that I wasn't interested in pursuing a physical relationship.  Which I can honestly frame in the context of my not wanting a FWB situation.  But once I started packing I didn't have the energy to deal with anything, and I had absolutely no desire to talk to him for the sake of making him feel better.  I packed and cleaned and moved and played Dragon Age and that was it.

I was kind of hoping that maybe the waning interest was mutual.  After all, he might have asked to see me after Knitter's Breakfast, but he just left.  And it would be so much easier if he just wasn't that into me, either.  And after a few weeks of silence, he might get into the habit of not talking to me, and he might have found something else new and shiny and not really notice me anymore.  Maybe if I just ignore it, the problem will go away on its own.

Except he still texts me every once and a while, to see how things are going.  He knows that I've been super busy.  And there's an email in my inbox from OK Cupid that tells me I have a message from him, and it starts out  Howdy, stranger!  I hope your move went well.  I find myself missing our little chats here and... So I can't just close my eyes and hope he goes away.  I have to actually, y'know, deal with this.  Which is right and fair since I started it in the first place.  I messaged him.  I said that I was intrigued.  So now I need to tell him that I'm not.

ETA: Realized that, aside from my disinterest in Bacon Sushi Guy, I'm feeling disinterested in dating, in general, right now.  I'm managing my spoons a lot better than I was a few weeks ago, but I still don't want to spend them on dating.  So I said something like that to him, that I was hermiting and closing my account and don't want to date, but he should bring his hat by Home Ec some time. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

My gamer cred, and lack thereof

Now that I'm done with the game, I'm a lot freer to read articles, reviews, etc.  And I'd like to respond to some of them, and talk about game play and game design in general, but I think it's worth mentioning the context I'm coming from.  I've mentioned how my experience of Dragon Age is influenced by Mass Effect, and the differences between those games and Skyrim.  So I think it's worth noting my RPG gaming history, because it's what everything is getting compared to.  I have played:
Various early (pre Nintendo 64) Zelda games
Ultima Underworld 1 and 2 
Diablo 2
The old Fallout games (1 and 2)
Knights of the Old Republic (1 and 2)
Fable 1 (and a little of 2)
Jade Empire
Lost Odyssey
Mass Effect 1
The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim
Dragon Age 1
Of those games, only the earliest games I played as a teenager, and the three I played most recently (Skyrim, Dragon Age, some of Fable 2) were games I chose to buy.  The majority of my gaming experience was curated by my boyfriend.  He brought games into the house, and some of them I played.  Even two of the three post-breakup games were sequels in franchises that I'd already played.  Dragon Age is the first game franchise I started on my own.  So my experience is limited.

And I haven't played a bunch of games that are probably totally relevant to the conversation:
Neverwinter Nights
other Diablo games
Grand Theft Auto
Final Fantasy Anything
Dark Souls
Fallout 3
Some of those might not be RPGs, depending on your definition, but they seem to have enough elements that they come up in discussion.  I dunno.  I've never played them.

I mention this list, because when Why I'm Bored with Bioware says
There also is a lack of the impact seen in other titles - Fallout 3 let us destroy a town, and then deal with the ramifications afterwards. The best we can hope for [in a Bioware game] is that a companion may leave us because they disagree.
I think, hey, there's totally an impact!  The world may not care if Alistair loves me or not, but I sure as hell do.  And that difference of opinion is partly because I think that the companion stories are important to my experience of the game, and partly because I haven't played Fallout 3 and experienced those greater consequences.

I've finished the game, so we can assume that all Dragon Age posts from this point onward have ALL THE SPOILERS

You wouldn't know it from my blog, but there are, actually, other characters besides Alistair in the game.

This is about Morrigan.

I had heard something, prior to getting to the end of Dragon Age, about Morrigan wanting a demon baby and having sex with Alistair, and I immediately closed my eyes and thought LALALALALA.  So I was still moderately surprised when I got to that part of the plot.  And here's the thing: it makes so much sense.  It's the missing piece that explains her character throughout the entire game.

Morrigan has always known this was her part to play.  And she has conflicting feelings about it.  On one hand, she sees the old god as a powerful, wild, thing, that has been trapped and misunderstood.  She wants to give it a chance.  She wants to save it.  Of course she does.  She is wild and powerful and feared and misunderstood.  They are of a kind, the god and her.  And yet, she's got complicated issues regarding other people, since she's been raised as a hermit in the woods with her mother, and she's never had a friend or a lover (it's not explicitly said, but one can infer from her story), and the idea that she will need to in order to save a god has got to be intimidating for her.  So she's trapped in this plan, and she meets the guy she's going to have to boink, and he's a templar.  His job is to hunt down and kill people like her.  He doesn't like her.  He doesn't want her.  He wants someone else, and if there's anything worse than having to have sex with someone for the greater good, it's being rejected by that person.  Just because she doesn't want him doesn't mean that he shouldn't want her, right?  I totally get that.  So she resents him.  She pokes at him, and teases him, determined to prove that she doesn't care at all what he thinks of her.  And she resents Jenny, a little, because she's the one he wants. 

But then she starts to care about Jenny, and she knows what this is going to mean for their friendship.  When Jenny says hey I'm your friend, Morrigan looks stricken.  I may not always deserve your friendship, she says, but I will always value it.  Because she knows what she's going to have to do, and she knows that Jenny might hate her for it.  And she knows that when this is all over, she's going to leave and never see her friend again. 

And then, Jenny refuses to accept Morrigan's solution.  It leaves her with no purpose.  All she can do is watch her friend die, needlessly, out of ignorance or prejudice.  It means that the old god will die, because her friend would rather kill something wild than let it free.  Her friend would rather die than let something wild have a chance.  And, sure, Jenny doesn't see it like that.  But Morrigan does.  It is a condemnation of what matters most to Morrigan, a betrayal of their friendship, and she leaves that night for good.

So yeah.  This is the stuff Bioware gets right.


I actually finished Dragon Age right before the move.  And it pissed me off.  SO much.  Which, I guess, is further evidence (as if I needed more) of my total emotional investment, that it had the power to make me upset.

Remember when I talked about how I'd "achieved" sex with Alistair, but there was still relationship progression to happen?  I was wrong.  Once the sex starts, there is nothing left to say.  Or rather, there is ONE more "where is this going" conversation that ends with "we'll have to find out."  And then, nothing.  All sorts of shit goes down, plot-wise, and none of it is conversation fodder.  Alistair is going to be made king!  Alistair doesn't get made king!  Logain dies for his sins!  One of the Gray Wardens has to die to save the world!  It might be Alistair!  It might be the love of his life!  All sorts of things that he might have something to say about, but there is NO dialog. 

The night before the big battle, Alistair either spends it boinking Morrigan, or he kicks you out so he can sleep.  There is no resolution, there is no HEY THIS MEANS SOMETHING, there is no acknowledgment of the relationship.  There's ALWAYS a "last night before final level" scene!  Mass Effect had it, KOTOR sort of had it, Jade Empire had it.  But not Dragon Age.  Because we'd already had sex, so there was no "first time," and apparently that's the only thing that matters.  I mean, once there's sex, it's done.  There's nothing left to happen.

Dear Bioware: THAT IS NOT HOW SEX WORKS.  If you think it is, YR DOIN IT RONG.  (With a a side note of one of Cassie's annoyances, that games and books tend to treat sex as an all-or-nothing kind of thing.  There's no "spending the night together making sexytimes with some of our clothes still on."  It's step 1: sex.  Done.  Seriously, has no one in fantasyland discovered oral sex?  Also dry-humping.  I highly recommend it.)

And then I was going to sacrifice Jenny to save the world (and, obviously, to save Alistair) and he DIDN'T LET ME.  (Let me clarify, this part is me being pissed at him, but not the game.  This was a shocking but not badly written element.)  I was having my last conversation, which I expected to be the fucking resolution part, and instead of that, he just ends the conversation, runs past me, and becomes the sacrifice.  And I was just sitting, jaw open, unbelieving.  I didn't get a choice.  He didn't give me a choice.

If I hadn't fought so hard to sacrifice Jenny, there would have been a last kiss, at least, but I didn't even get that.

And then there's the "everyone in the throne room feeling self-satisfied" bit and I'm still reeling with DEAD ALISTAIR, you know, my fake boyfriend, and the love of my character's life and all, and it just gets brushed over.  When Wynn says "Hey everything's great!  What more could we ask for?"  I respond with "Alistair.  Alive."  And she says, "Oh yeah, that.  Sorry."  Like, NO ONE CARES.

Even the ultimate sacrifice scene was given so much less screen time than the first battle scene at Ostagar.  When Duncan and Cailan die, we see the desperation and rage and despair.  We see Duncan running over to the body of his dead king and holding it in his arms.  When the army goes off to war, we get a long scene.  Parents saying good bye to their children, a speech in front of the city gates, the darkspawn looking up to the impending assault.  We even got a scene after Cailan died, when we find his body, and there's a montage of all our memories of Cailan, even though we only knew him for, like, a few days, and he was kind of an idiot, so there isn't much.  When Alistair dies, we see people happy at the turning tide of battle, and then we see explosion, and then Jenny wakes up with a bunch of happy people.  If the player character dies, there's a funeral, but Alistair doesn't get one.  His death is given no weight.  No one mourns. No montage of Alistair moments, no bitter victory.

I yelled a lot at Cassie.  Then we wrote a bunch of better endings.  Endings that still allow for the shock of having Alistair take the choice away from you, but give the moment weight, and a cut scene that shows what it means, as opposed to a throwaway line of dialog in the aftermath.  Cassie has good ideas:

1. If the game is set for Alistair to take away Jenny's choice, then there is a dialog between the characters, where Jenny thinks she's going to do it, and he lets her think that, and everything he says has a double meaning, because he knows he's about to die, but we don't.  Something like saying that he'll die with her name on her lips, and then when he's getting all explody, he turns to her and we see his mouth moving, and we know he's saying her name. 

2.  After explosion, Jenny wakes up in bed, and someone is there, maybe the whole party.  Someone says that they searched the rubble, and they found something of Alistair's.  Maybe it's his sword, that Sten will carry back to the Quinari in some sort of Quinairi honor thing.  Or his warden amulet, so Jenny can wear it next to hers, like soldier dog tags. But the party is there, saying "I know what you lost."  I also really like Cassie's idea of someone saying, "they want to give you a speech, they're all outside waiting for you, but I've got a plan to sneak you out the window if you want to just leave."  And then Sad Jenny can disappear and be broody and sad because she saved the world but doesn't want to talk about it because she's SAD DAMMIT. 

None of this would have bothered me so much if the romance hadn't been so good before.  It was so much better than any of the others, it swept me away.  I usually go for the same-sex romances when there's an option, but Alistair won me over.  I wasn't expecting to care.  And then the game went and made me care and then said HA HA NEVERMIND.


I was going to put in another image of Alistair (so I could google more images, obv) and I found a fuckyeahalistair tumbler, and do you know what it has?  More Alistair dialog that happens when you travel with Wynne or Zevran in your party!  Here you go!


Aaaaand, of course, this: