Small Update 002

So it’s been six weeks since my last confession. Post. Same thing.

I was in a downward spiral for part of it.

Then the last couple of weeks have been utter lunacy. My son had sudden seizures, which revealed themselves to be febrile, i.e. from a fever, though the seizures happened first. Upon returning from a day in and out of the emergency room, our whole family came down with fevers and horrible viral-type symptoms that are only now letting up.

I can almost see the light again. Almost. The way I see it, it’s not good to miss six weeks, but six weeks of absence is far far better than sixty, or six years of the same.

So let’s talk.

I’ve had difficulty with the Live Your Legend prompts all along. It’s difficult to talk about things I’m proud of when pride is something I have difficulty finding. My difficulties with pride are indicative of my general difficulties.

The post after pride was supposed to be my “elevator pitch.” I may get to it eventually, but every time I’ve tried, I’ve found myself desperately frustrated.

So what do you do?

Nothing.

Most sincerely.

I sleep during the day. I watch television and the baby monitor at night. Especially in post-hospitalization weeks. It’s too terrifying to have no eyes on him at all, and it only makes sense for me to sacrifice my daylight to be the one making sure my child is always watched, no matter what.

But the problem is less that I don’t do anything and more that I don’t know what I want to do.

What do you do?

What should I do?

What can I do?

What would I like to do?

I’ve reviewed lots of television here, and I’ve watched a lot more that I have thoughts on that I could share, but I’m not sure I want to invest a lot of energy in this. For me, the television reviews are just prompts. I want to talk, but I don’t know what to talk about, but I know I’ll be able to say something more than nothing if I use television. I don’t love television. I love story, and television has lots of story, but to try and stake my claim as a reviewer? I don’t think that’s something I want. It’s something I could do. It’s something I’m capable of, but I’m capable of a lot of things.

That’s not something everyone can say. That’s not something everyone in my position can recognize. I am capable of a great deal of things. My problem is I have no idea what I really want to do. I like to draw. When I put my energy into artwork, and I find flow, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. Should I try to find that place regularly? I don’t know. Something about it just doesn’t seem me. I like cross-stitch. I could put energy there. I could find a niche and make a tiny sort of business out of it. I like reading. I could review more seriously. I like video games. I could review those, too. I like a lot of things, but there’s nothing I love with the sort of passion that makes it obvious that I should send my energy in that direction to the exclusion of other things.

I also don’t really have much energy. At all. This comes up frequently in therapy. Making it from one day to the next is usually the best that I can do. I regularly sleep more than ten hours out of every twenty-four.

Lately, I’ve been considering streaming the games I play. I fear I don’t have the personality to make such a thing successful. However, the concept has distinct possibilities, while my current state of inaction has absolutely none.

So what if someone asked me what I do right now?

I would probably answer “stay-at-home mom,” because unlike some moms, I would find that a point of pride. Unfortunately, I really don’t mom. I sleep. His father and grandparents do the mom stuff.

I could mom. I could possibly even get excited about it. Maybe I should do that? Maybe that would be best? Maybe I should write multiple elevator pitches envisioning several possible futures in which I have the energy to do any one given thing.

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Netflix Series Review: Making a Murderer

So this series has been extremely popular, and I’d wager everyone and their dog that has an opinion has expressed it.

Here’s mine:

Don’t watch it.

It will just make you angry. If you like being angry, then sure, but if you like being angry, I have other concerns about you. And if it doesn’t make you angry, I have a lot of other concerns about you.

Making a Murderer is a documentary about the state of the justice system in Wisconsin. The creators managed to cut down 700 hours of footage into a ten-hour mini-series.

I can’t remember where I read (if required, I’ll track it down later), but someone said if you manage to distill 700 hours into 10, you’ve got to end up with a good story. That’s the power of editing. I believed that statement before I actually watched the story.

I think those ten hours could have been two, honestly. I think my soul would hurt less if it had only been two. Then again, I think the people who made this wanted my soul to hurt. They couldn’t have had the same impact with only two hours.

I was also viewing this story from a background of series like The First 48 and Forensic Files. This felt like stretching and extending one of those episodes over ten hours, which made it feel long, grindy, and soul-hurting.

In the end, I’m not sure if protagonist Steve Avery is guilty. The series is heavily weighted to the side of his innocence, which the cynic in me cringes from. I did do a little bit of digging into the things that didn’t make it into the show, and what got left out definitely throws more questions into the ludicrously massive question pile.

What I do know is based on what was presented in the series, there is absolutely no way in hell he should be in jail. Whether he committed the crime or not, reasonable doubt was all over the place. It was everywhere. If you can put people in jail when reasonable doubt is all over the place, the system has collapsed.

I hope he does find his evidence and exhonerate himself again (yes, again), because there is no way he should be in prison. The county this all started in made such a bloody mess (I’m so witty) of the whole thing. If Avery had committed this horrible crime, and they had done the logical thing (i.e. stay the hell out of anything having anything to do with him) he could have been caught on real evidence, instead of bullpoopy.

He’s not some sort of hyper-intelligent serial killer. He would have left evidence behind, real evidence, thoroughly untainted real evidence. But nope. People who should have been nowhere near anything to do with this were all over it all the time, and being shady about it constantly.

What a mess. The show isn’t a mess. It’s a very effective show. But what this show is showing is such a huge mess that it makes my heart hurt. Maybe it was needed, especially in the county in question, so that maybe the people with good hearts out there (there must be some) would stand up and realize that the system in place is rotten garbage.

But even if this show is needed, because corruption like this needs as many flashlights as possible all honed in on it, I wish I hadn’t watched it. I watched it like that cliché trainwreck, night after night. I’d finish an episode, say I wasn’t going to watch anymore, then twenty-four hours later, I’d find myself watching the next episode.

Do yourself a favor. Unless you want this to be your fight, and maybe you do, but I’m betting you don’t, unless you want to be waist deep in the crap pile that is justice for poor people in America, you should instead turn up the music that makes you happy, rather than turning to see where the crashing sounds are coming from.

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Netflix Series Review: Death in Paradise

I really enjoyed this little series. Death in Paradise is not made by Netflix, but is instead by BBC One. It is upbeat and quirky for stories that revolve around death, not unlike Father Brown.

However, unlike Father Brown, something about Death in Paradise’s heavy colonial overtones gave me the heebiejeebies, tainting an otherwise delightful experience.

Yes, I understand that the whole point of the show, other than the crime stories, is to contrast an inept, very British detective with a beautiful, chaotic, and warm Caribbean surrounding. That’s done quite well to wonderfully humorous effect.

But something about the reason why said British detective is there just rubs me the wrong way.

It’s not that the native people are made to look stupid or inept. Quite the contrary, they often come across quite adept at their jobs. And the junior officers are shown learning and growing in their careers, making the particular strengths they bring to their positions evident. The senior officer, who is also the female lead, is often put forward as intelligent and well-trained. But that very competence of the people who actually live on the island makes me as a viewer wonder why said British detective is even there.

He’s there to help them solve crimes, yes, but do they really need his help? He is really good at it, yes, but is he so good at it that they couldn’t do it without him? I’m not sure he is. I get the feeling they could do it without him. It just wouldn’t be as entertaining a story. And that’s what bothers me.

It’s the conundrum of stories with colonial backgrounds. If the people natively from the colony are too stupid to do the job on their own and need colonists to help, that’s a problem. But if the people natively from the colony are perfectly competent, they they don’t need any colonists to help.

I just don’t think there’s any way a colonial story can sit well with the modern concept that all races and cultures being perfectly competent and rational human beings.

In Death in Paradise, these bad colonial vibes are particularly clear where the female lead is concerned. She’s highly intelligent, trained well overseas, socially aware, works well with others, understands the community where they all live and work. And yet, she always plays second fiddle and assumed love interest to the stodgy British man who has taken over her office, and that just rings false to me.

I could see why an outsider would take a shine to her. I probably would in their shoes. But to me, that interest of the male other diminishes her character, weakens her. Where it seems like she would be able to solve all these cases if there weren’t an outsider always stepping in, given all the qualities that have been ascribed to her, she never has the opportunity within the context of the show.

Even with the cast change of said stodgy British male lead for the third season, even with the new British detective’s different way of being the oddball (clumsy and disorganized, rather than nitpicky and homesick) and his greater acceptance of the local culture, all those niggling colonial and gender problems continued, and if anything were amplified by the end of the most recent season.

All that being said, and all the things that made me uneasy about the show, I still enjoyed it and will watch more if more becomes available. I like the fact that it makes me feel uneasy. It helps me define the way I think and feel about the world, and gives me something to stand in opposition to. I wouldn’t advocate it as representative of, well, anything, but I definitely uphold it as something to enjoy both for pure entertainment’s sake and as an exercise in analytical criticism.

As for recommending, I’d say only if the genre piques your interest. It’s pretty formulaic if charming. If you’re already interested in the concept, you’ll enjoy it. Overall, it’s fare too standard and old-fashioned for most.

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Another Review: Neverwhere (BBC Radio 4)

Not a TV series, not a book, not a video game, not even a movie — where to put this?

I’ll start out by saying I am not the biggest Neil Gaiman fan in the world. I love him and respect him very highly as an artist and an author. I am a fan of Sandman, which to me is the apex of what comic books are capable of. Sandman is what happens when a true master of story is given full control of Oneiros and uses the God of Dreams to create timeless magic. And I think Gaiman and Pratchett complement each other to perfection in Good Omens.

However, of Gaiman’s other endeavors that I’ve experienced — the movie adaptations of Stardust and Coraline, and the novels Neverwhere and American Gods — while they were compelling and beautiful stories in their own rights, they just weren’t mine, you know? They didn’t speak to me on a personal level. The narrative voices just didn’t resonate with me as audience, just didn’t match up with things I sincerely enjoy. And that’s fine. I’m perfectly happy to live in a world where some stories are meant for me and some stories are meant for others.

With that caveat out of the way, the voice cast in BBC Radio 4’s recent audio adaptation is pure delight. James McAvoy does something playful with the lead role that made me actually understand and relate to the curious blank slate reactive protagonist of Gaiman’s that I’ve never really liked. Benedict Cumberbatch brings his Midas touch to the story, making it glitter in ways that just reading it never did. The Marquis de Carabas, Hunter, the Black Friars, they all popped to life as they never had before.

I’m not sure how much credit for the magic of this version goes to Dirk Maggs’ script adaptation rather than the voice cast. Some, definitely. Serious editing skill was deftly applied here to lift a picture from page to sound, a picture that I enjoyed more in audio than in text, which is a rare thing indeed.

Natalie Dormer as Door is probably the least magical part of this audio story for me, but I’d say that’s a quality of the character, rather than the acting. She’s too much of a plot device and not enough of a person for my tastes. That being said, this version of Door actually piqued my interest in Portico’s family for the first time. The idea of a family of openers slipped beneath my notice when I read Neverwhere years ago. Suddenly, now it’s something I muse on with no small amount of glee. Thank you, BBC.

If you’ve got a patch of time coming up where listening to an audio play will brighten the hours (e.g. a long drive or walk, some mindless yet necessary physical chores, a lot of boring dailies to do in an MMO), Radio 4’s Neverwhere is a serious hard recommend from me. The story is very much Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, still not my perfect story cup of tea, but the concoction that is this cast and this version is just too good to ever willfully miss.

((It came to my attention after writing this that Neverwhere was actually originally a TV series, and that the novel I read was the novelization of said series. That explains part of why it transferred so well to audio, but I still think the cast made it amazing.))

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Small update

Since that last post, my judgmental attitudes and self-hatred (i.e. my angry dogs) went into overdrive. I haven’t been able to write a single word, not even about the Netflix series I have, yes, continued to watch. I’ve spent the last two weeks in distraction and shut down mode.

I’m not sure why this happened. I’m not sure there even is a why. I think I was afraid. I got too close to something that scares me, and walking further into it was just not plausible. I had to run.

Even that result explains something about why and how the last ten years have gone the way they have.

But after today’s round of therapy, I do feel better. Nothing was really resolved, per se, but continuing the metaphor, the dog cage is at a more comfortable distance, and maybe I can find a keyboard voice again. I do have a lot of thoughts in my head that could use a little exercise.

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Avoidance and Angry Dogs

I have angry dogs in my head.

That’s how my internal voice manifested in therapy. (This recent post details where these angry dogs came from and what they sound like, without using the dog imagery.)

It’s interesting, because the angry dogs in my head have little to nothing to do with how I react to real dogs in real life, but I’ll get to that later.

All day, every day

Having angry dogs in my head means my goal in life on a day-to-day basis is to escape or avoid those headdogs.

The easiest way to avoid the headdogs is to hyperfocus on something else. Anyone who knows me well (not many people) knows I’ve always been good at obsession. If I can find something external to obsess about, or just get into in a really intense way, I’m capable of wholly ignoring the headdogs’ rage. It’s not that I don’t hear them, or that they’re not there anymore; it’s just that I can face away and pretend they don’t exist for a while.

The easiest ways to avoid the headdogs are activites that lend themselves to the exclusion of any minor thoughts, e.g. video games, books, television and movies, even writing sometimes. When you’re into a really good story, the kind that suspends disbelief, your real world fades into the background. I seek that fading action constantly.

Continue reading Avoidance and Angry Dogs

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Pride?

What’s one thing you’re proud of?

(LYL again.)

I’m proud of my son, but he doesn’t really count. All of his accomplishments (at a whopping one year of age) are his own, not mine.

I’m proud that I’m still alive, but that’s fraught with so much negativity beneath the positive, that it seems unhelpful to dwell on it.

I’ve finished three post-secondary schooling programs and I should be proud of those, but I’m not really. It’s not that they weren’t challenging, but it’s more like if I start something, of course I’m going to finish it. The reason I’m not proud of them is because I feel as though I’ve done nothing with them, because I went into them in order to move past them, but in the end, I never did move past them.

This is going to sound ridiculous to the vast majority of people, but I think as far as accomplishments go, I’m proudest of my time leading a raid group in World of Warcraft. I had to be organized. I had to follow a schedule. I had to do research. I had to communicate with people. I had to resolve conflicts. I had to make hard decisions and stick by them. I believed in what I was doing and, while both enthusiastic and apprehensive at the time, I enjoyed it every week. I also actually believed I did a really good job both while it was happening and after it was over. The group accomplished a lot with me at their head, and came out victorious over some really tough struggles.

It helps that it all came to an end under circumstances that were out of my control. I didn’t regret it coming to an end because of that, as opposed to most things I start out being proud of that I then regret choosing to put a stop to. I would have liked it to continue, sure, but it was just one of those things.

I felt most in control of my self when living a vicarious life. Go figure.

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Danger to Myself

The title to this is probably more concerning than it needs to be. I’m not writing about a concern here. I’m being analytical about how I’ve ended up in the place I’m in mentally. It’s going to be far from pleasant, but any concern is also far from immediate. If you want to read that analysis, please continue.

Continue reading Danger to Myself

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Netflix Series Review: Atelier

I’m not a huge anime fan. (This review is not about anime, but this explains why I ever watched this show in the first place.) I’ll watch what floats to the top of the best of the best lists, and occasionally take a dip into the weirdness that lurks below the surface. Usually those dips make me recoil and avoid returning for a long time. Recently, however, I got tugged in by a couple of new slice-of-life genre anime series. I loved the echoes of a place I’d seen as though in a dream years ago. I loved the way the characters seemed like believable real people. I loved noticing the ways cultures differ and separate that are completely invisible in the fantastic and giant robot genres.

So when Atelier drifted by my Netflix recommendations, I thought I would give it a try. In addition to the slice-of-life Japan trend I was following, I enjoy giving Netflix brand Netflix series a try. There are hits and misses, but the very quality of that variety feels worth the effort. I didn’t even know there was a Netflix Japan.

Atelier is very slice of life, wonderfully so. While on its surface, Atelier is about a young woman’s first job being at a custom-made lingerie boutique, at its core, Atelier is about creativity, art, beauty, and the trials and tribulations of discovering and chasing one’s passion. And those are all things I really needed to hear about, so I’m ever so glad I discovered this show.

Despite having a tried and true coming-of-age theme, the secondary characters are what make the tale being told truly compelling, especially the enigmatic and intense boss, Mayumi Nanjo. The more we learn about her, the better the show gets.

Again, this isn’t going to be a broad recommend, because I can’t picture most people enjoying this kind of story. But I adored it. And if you’re looking for something with a softer pace and a heartfully beautiful story, this is it.

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Ungrateful?

Another question from LYL:

What do people thank you for?

Well, that’s easy.

Nothing.

Don’t mistake this statement for a lack of gratitude on my part. It’s based on the simple fact that in order to be thanked for something, you need to do something. And I do so little that even if someone wanted to thank me for something, they’d be hard pressed to find anything.

The only thing I’ve been thanked for in recent memory is my presence. Given that that’s about all I can offer in my usual state of mind, that’s not a surprise.

But something about being thanked for my presence causes a sting of pain rather than the warmth of appreciation. Like I’m capable of more, so being thanked for doing nothing feels like a frequently repeated reminder of my lack of value, my failure to use my own abilities.

In truth, I’m thanked almost daily. In my video games. Yes, by other real people. For my presence, as usual. But also for skill. For effort. For contribution.

My skill, effort, and contribution just don’t leave my keyboard, which makes it difficult for people outside of it to thank me even if they wanted to.

Trying to be more positive and get to the point of the question, I think the idea here is to discover what you’re good at through external expressions of gratitude. I have been told what I’m good at.

I have amazing copyediting skills. Truly. As others put it for me, editing is my “superpower.” I know what the English rules and intricacies are. I know how to use and abuse them for both function and style. I have edited professional writers’ works and when there were no true errors to be found, I offered endless marginal notes about why they might consider different phrasings for possible emphases. I could be tested, licensed, maybe study further, see where it leads, but I’m not sure I want to. While I enjoy such work, the expectations that go along with it tend to be more than I can handle, sending me fleeing as soon as things begin to go well.

I can draw. With a pencil and paper. I’m not that good at it, but I know exactly why: a lack of practice. I’ve done well enough that I’ve amazed myself in the few attempts I’ve made. I know that if I were to put in nothing more than time, I could find great joy and nurture a very real talent. I was once told by an instructor I respected that I should make sure that whatever I do, I don’t stop drawing. I did, though. I stopped. I don’t put in the time. My lack of practice comes from a lack of passion, but the lack of passion comes from a disorder of the mind.

I don’t do any of the things that make me feel better. Drawing is simply one of many.

Those are things I’ve been thanked for in years long past, things that echo through to the present and ripple off the shield of my absent enthusiasm. The repercussions of this are decades of lost time, and a dark fear of a colourless future for myself and those chained to me.

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