[sticky entry] Sticky: Semi-Friends Only

Apr. 17th, 2020 08:28 pm
queenlua: (Default)
My public stuff is fic updates, meta, and perhaps occasional musings on non-fannish things (writing, birds, etc).

Random life commentary, or general commentary that happens to include potentially personally-identifying information (for some relative value of that term, anyway) is private. I like my secret internet double-life, yo.

If you want to be friends, just leave a comment here (all comments screened). If I've seen you around, or you convince me that we have some stuff in common, I'll probably add you!
queenlua: (pic#7912258)
At the Ginko Petrified Forest in eastern Washington, there's a little spot of lawn at the campgrounds, by the visitor center. As you stand there, on one side the land plunges down into canyon—the Columbia River stretching vast between those ancient rocky walls. On the other side is broads stretch of shrub-steppe, scraggly little desert-grasses and bare desert-bushes, curving slowly a distant ridge.

But at that little spot of lawn, those unkempt beautifully-twisted shrubby bushes turn, all at once, over a stark line, into bright-green short-cut suburban-as-hell grass. There's four enormous revolving sprinklers going off all the time, because when you're in the goddamn desert you have to do that kind of aggressive maintenance to keep anything so mundane as grass alive.

And even though I'd seen sights like this before, even though I'd been to this exact spot before, when I stood there Saturday morning I felt a flash of hot, unbridled anger. Perhaps the shrub-steppe just struck me as particularly beautiful that morning, or I was feeling particularly temperamental, or something else. But I thought, how stupid and wasteful and ugly seems. How stupid and wasteful and ugly lawns everywhere seemed—here we were in the heart of sagebrush country, the last untamed bit of the American West, and instead of respecting that for what it is, even in the grounds of a state park, we've got four damn sprinklers going off all at once just to preserve some perverse purity, some symbol of civility.

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queenlua: (Default)
i found it quite curious to see "My Family's Slave" percolating through the facetwitsocialsphere. it has "slave" in the title. it is about a slaveowner. and yet the comments accompanying the article weren't outraged so much as awed.

i read the piece. and it is written quite tenderly & beautifully. i had two major impressions of it: first, i was quite gripped by the author's pained relationship with his mother, the pain and complexity of it, her legitimate sacrifices just as obvious as her casual cruelty. second, i was bothered that the author never seemed to do much to help Lola. or rather, really, i guess, the author didn't seem troubled enough by his failure to help Lola. it's hard for a twelve-year-old to turn on their mom; i get that. it's easier for a young twentysomething to just avoid contacting a family that's doing a horrible thing than to turn in your own mom for doing a horrible thing; i get that. when mom dies and she's left behind a slave who's ill-equipped to get a proper place of her own, taking her in may seem benevolent; i get that.

but none of those choices should rest easy. none of those were the only choice, much as the author tries to imply that. the relationship with mom is hard, sure, but Lola had it hard too, and the author found it easier to stay distant and yell at mom rather than truly help. and i was especially bothered at the very end—the author didn't try to help Lola get a place of her own, or learn to read, and so on. even if the author was benevolent, it was a relationship based on a hideous imbalance of power; if the author couldn't repair or make moves to amend that then at least they could've tried.

so yeah, i found it quietly troubling.

and yet all the generally urban-lefties i know on the facetwitsocialsphere seemed to love the piece. "wow" and "so powerful" and so on. i couldn't quite grok what exactly they meant by "amazing read!" without further qualifiers.

so when a friend directly linked it to me, i shared my thoughts with him directly: it's a nice piece, but, isn't it kind of fucked up too? don't you find the author's actions, even if understandable, still troubling? isn't it messed up that we're only hearing about this after both the author and his slave is dead?

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queenlua: (Default)
Last summer, my boyfriend and I stopped by Swakane Canyon on the way to a cabin in eastern Washington. Very few eBird checklists had been submitted for the place, but luckily, the dead-tree book Birder's Guide to Washington had a nice writeup, which gave us a better idea of what to expect. We picked up a lovely variety of eastern species—Bullock's oriole, black-headed grosbeak, yellow-breasted chat.

Last weekend I went to Umptanum Road, a very well-known birding spot that I'd never actually been to before. I was surprised to discover that the habitats there are almost exactly the same as Swakane Canyon—dusky canyon entrance, mountain stream, ponderosa pine. Geographically, the two aren't very far from each other—a few hours' drive—and you'd expect the same diversity of birds in both. And yet one is crawling with birders, and in the other, I saw nary another soul. Why?

Some of it's probably reputational—people know Umptanum has good birds, so if they're planning a trip, they'll go for the sure thing rather than the unknown quantity, and then they'll report more birds, so more people know Umptanum has good birds, and etcetera etcetera the cycle continues.

Some of it's access—the roads in Swakane Canyon are not quite as nice, and it's an hour further from Seattle, which is a hugely concentrated birding population.

But it's not lack of good bird habitat. So here's this whole undiscovered, underbirded canyon; if I visited tomorrow, I'd be the first birder in the whole past month, according to eBird. Who knows what might be hiding there?

* * *

When we made that trip out to Swakane, we saw a very strange blackbird. Instead of the red-and-yellow you see on a red-winged blackbird's wing, there was a single stripe of pure white. It was far away, across a marshy field, so we squinted through our binoculars for a long time and crept closer and closer, trying to see if it was a trick of the light. Just the white. It made some weird calls I didn't recognize—not any classic red-winged blackbird calls, but not any classic tricolored calls either. When it finally flew, I saw a tiny flash of red, and alas, I didn't have any equipment to take a picture of the darned thing.

I wrote a long description of the encounter and sent it to my Elite Birding Cabal* mailing list. Several folks said that indeed sounded not-red-winged-blackbird-like, but tricolored blackbirds are quite rare in Washington in general, only flocking around some ponds in Othello, two hours southeast.

* that is not the actual mailing list name :P

I shrugged, and figured it was just a weird red-winged blackbird. I wasn't very good at birding Washington yet, and I didn't want to be overeager to shout "RARITY!" where there was none. Surely, if it were rare, someone else would've noticed it?

Except, this past weekend, I went out to those ponds in Othello, and I saw a whole flock of tricolored blackbirds, and God if they didn't look just like the weird bird we saw in that canyon.

I'm now quite certain what we saw was one very lost, confused tricolored blackbird, and given what I now know about how underbirded the Swakane is, I think maybe we were the only ones who saw it.

Unfortunately I didn't have a decent camera on me, and it was a year ago, so I doubt I'd be able to convince the wider birding community. No way the bird's still there.

But I know what I saw, and that's plenty for me.

And even better: I know there's this little patch of bird-territory that barely anyone goes to, and who knows what I could find there next?

I can't wait to go back.
queenlua: (pic#6817173)
thought-dump from a conversation i had with the boy last night:

The parallels between Firefly and Cowboy Bebop are bleedingly obvious, he said, but he could easily see someone liking one and not the other. The style of humor is different, for one.

I said, well, is the style of humor or just the presence of humor? Bebop isn't a very funny show (one or two gag-ish episodes aside).

He mentioned the whole "data dog" thing with Ein, and I started laughing, because the running quirky stuff with Ein is very funny—the ridiculous circumstances they capture him under, the subtle nods here and there that Ein's smarter than he seems, that final bit in Brain Scratch where he finally does... something... and the fact that we never really learn wtf a data dog is, it's cute, it's funny.

But it's not Firefly humor. The humor in Firefly is much more situational and character-driven, more laugh-out-loud, more sitcom-y in nature. Mal does an embarrassing thing and {Inara wittily derides him, River says weird shit, Jayne exploits to the situation to some amusing petty advantage, etc} and we all laugh.

It gives me the instinct that it'd be much easier to write Firefly fanfic than Cowboy Bebop fanfic—take any 2-3 characters in Firefly and do some fun twist on their standard interactions and, bam, you have a fanfic. Whereas I've never quite known where to start with a Bebop fanfic. You can do some overwrought Spike backstory, and AO3 indeed tells me that's been done, but honestly I think Spike's backstory is better left mostly-unsaid (and given how my entire jam is writing backstory fanfic I feel this is a strong statement). You can do some kinda sweet post-show Jet/Faye, which I think may be the most fruitful avenue, but that still doesn't feel quite right. You could do a monster-of-the-week-style interlude-episode, but I'm not really into fanfic that doesn't do an interesting development/change on the source material, and—well, I think the problem is, as much as people complain about Bebop's main plot dragging, I think it proceeds exactly as fast as it needs to. All those "filler" monster-of-the-week episodes show the crew growing closer, bit by bit. And then, once they've become close enough, once Spike inevitably goes back to face his past, the crew drifts apart—because they don't need each other anymore, and because that's how it had to be. I wouldn't want to fanfic it any other way.

Anyway, back to characters. Here's an interesting thing—Firefly desperately wants us to believe Mal is this stoic, badass, brooding personality, but it's just not true.1 He's far too pleased with himself, his "snapping at his underlings wah i protect my people" thing isn't so much as badass but a little insecure and controlling, his whole "wah I remember the rebellion wah" rings absolutely stupid and hollow given that he's just running a petty smuggling operation, etc.

Spike, on the other hand, is a dude with some damage. He's way closer to the stoic badass that Firefly is looking for. And you can tell it not from some sort of Heroic Old-School Principles he's always rattling on about, or his snapping at the crew, or anything like that. It's the moments when he seems to care just not quite enough about his own self-preservation, the thing where you look at the biographies of extreme sportsmen and notice a lot of them got hella depressed at some point in their life and you think, did they just decide they didn't really care whether they live or die anymore?. And it's in the subtle way he distances himself from people—not deliberately putting a distance there, really, but how in moments his smiles seem to only go skin-deep, how it seems like in his falling-out with Jet in "Jupiter Jazz" that, somehow, after being bounty hunters together for so long, this had never ever come up before.

There's similar things going on with the other folks on the ship. Like, Jet's a grump, I guess he could also be the stoic-badass ideal Firefly's going for, but he comes across as actually grumpy/stodgy rather than snappish, he's got these charming soft edges to him, and yet still there manages to be so much unsaid between him and Spike. In general, rather than an aggro-Mal-type thing, folks on Bebop tend to retreat inward.

So yeah, it's not that Cowboy Bebop doesn't have characters. But they're quieter personalities. And by that I mean: more reserved, more guarded, a little more damaged. Which means that Bebop ends up with wry, dry, understated humor, and if you're never gonna like that as much as sitcom-y big-personalitiy humor then you probably won't like Bebop that much.

Which also got me to wondering if Cowboy Bebop could be successful in another medium. When your characters' personalities aren't big, you need the setting to do a lot of work. I can't tell you the difference between one setting in Firefly and the next. Whereas the setting is all I can remember of some Bebop episodes—and the setting does so much speaking for the characters. The blue shores of Ganymede, the yellow mists & floating isles of Venus—okay, yeah, that would be a whole separate essay, so just consider the thought thrown out there.

in conclusion i still really love cowboy bebop

1 I'm pretty sure, last time I rewatched Firefly, I wrote a Tumblr-rant about how Mal is just kind of a dick and the other characters are way too reverent toward him and why the hell is he calling Inara a whore in every other scene, but I can't find that rant, so, y'know, just know that if you've heard me bitch about this before, you're not just experiencing deja vu :P
queenlua: (pic#9405713)
Trump's most recent ignorant blather is almost too idiotic to be worth discussing. Once again he has managed to outdo even the wildest satirst's dreams. News at eleven.

But I've found the reaction to be quite interesting.

The part of Trump's rambling that irked me the most was the "why couldn't the civil war have been avoided" comment—because it shows an almost mind-boggling ingorance of history. Leading up to the Civil War, there were endless compromises, and attempts at reconcilliation, and proxy conflicts. If the Civil War wasn't averted, it sure wasn't for a lack of trying.

But the knee-jerk reaction here in Coastal Liberal Land has been a bit different than mine. The two major strains:

1) Lots of snarky one-liner takes on Twitter and whatnot, with people angrily pointing out YEAH THERE WAS THAT WHOLE SLAVERY THING TRUMP IT COULDN'T HAVE JUST BEEN WORKED OUT. In a way, they're right. The states' rights interpretation of the Civil War is slowly dying the death it deserves.

At the same time, I think it's important to remember that the Union wasn't these heroic crusaders who'd finally decided the evils of slavery should be expunged once and for all. Lincoln was loath to bring the slavery question into the conflict; he was justly nervous that turning it into a "war against slavery" would alienate working-class whites in urban Union areas; his solution for dealing with the border states was just to militarily occupy them; the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in states he had no control and did nothing for slaves in states he could control; he had that famous bit about "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it". Implying that the reason the Civil War wasn't "worked out" was because the North universally saw a mighty injustice to be slain just isn't accurate.

(Here I once again include my appeal to actually fucking teach reconstruction in schools. That's the "working it out" Trump longed for, really. The south "lost" the war but managed to get a sympathetic president & fought against all the reforms and enfranchisement meant to lift up blacks blacks, leading to another century of Jim Crow de-facto caste system that suited those old rich southern landowners just fine. The problem wasn't that we didn't "work it out"; it was that we "worked it out" at the expense of the most vulnerable among us.)

2) A lot of folks seemed most furious at the mention of Andrew Jackson—which surprised me, probably more than it should have.

Read more... )
queenlua: (Greater Bird of Paradise)
i.

a couple weekends ago i stayed up late and had a couple beers while trying to figure out why The Velvet Underground is a big deal.

uh, let me backtrack a bit.

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ii.

when i first played porpentine's "howling dogs", i rolled my eyes at the opening, which is just a long quote lifted from a kenzaburo oe's teach us to outgrow our madness. i had an unconscious, knee-jerk reaction: oh gee, look at this pretentious person, probably into lousy MFA fiction, majored in lit, putting on airs by name-dropping foreign nobel prize winners. (my unconscious it not very nice.)

i played the game and didn't much like it. it felt pretentious. its language was overwrought. there wasn't really a solid core.

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iii. )

iv. )

v. )

vi.

i've noticed lately that i've used the word "patient" to describe art i really admire.

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vi. )

fin. )
queenlua: (Magpie (Snow))
I spent my weekend in the Okanogon, a vast and rural county in eastern Washington, its largest city: population 4,000. The landscape was mostly variations on themes I'd seen before. Yawning stretches of shrub-steppe, low valleys hemmed in by mountains, and on our last day, to the south, a flat endless plateau.

But the highlands were new to me, and they were harrowing.

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queenlua: A black-and-blue jay perched on a branch. (Yucatan Jay)
and then today i got so excited about it that i blathered about it to a friend, and then on tumblr, and then i, uh, accidentally like 2k words about cool stuff i noticed while rereading the script.

the thing's so damn long i probably should've just posted it here instead of on tumblr but, whatever, just linking to it from here for now.
queenlua: (Birds are Love)
i talked about birding in the skagit on tumblr over the weekend, but it occurs to me it may be of interest to some folks who follow me here and not over there, and also it was a really fucking cool trip i can't stop thinking about it, so, there's a link~

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