Working Title
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I should have been born a cat
Welcome to Working Title. This is a public journal, but old posts (and the rare new post) are friends-only.

Information about me can be found on my user page. New LiveJournal friends are welcome: feel free to friend me, but please do leave a note (here or otherwise) and introduce yourself if you would like to be friended in return.
As I post more of these boys, it's getting harder for new readers to catch up on what's come before. So for everyone's ease, I finally offer:

Ghost and Aaron: A Sims 3 Story
Introduction and Master List

Aaron (with freckles and dyed black hair) is brash and rude, but behind his bravado is certain vulnerability. Ghost (with white hair and pale eyes) is inward-turned, expressing himself through the arts—but his passivity hides depth. They are cousins who, for most of their lives, were only casual acquaintances. Two years ago, Aaron moved in with Ghost and his mother, and the boys quickly became close friends. But one day, after they had moved into a filthy suburban home in Sunset Valley, Aaron kissed Ghost—changing their relationship forever, and beginning their chronicled story.

From their first spontaneous kiss onward, Ghost and Aaron's story has been almost entirely autonomous. I set up premises, and they provide plot—and the boys have a strange magic that makes it all possible. I post lightly annotated, image-heavy chronicles of their daily lives, supplemented with text-only, non-chronological storybits that fill in gaps in their daily developments and backstory. Storybits in particular may contain explicit sexual content, so consider yourself warned.

The list below contains every post where Aaron and Ghost appear, from cameos to major developments. The numbering system is completely meaningless (but keeps things in order); storybits are often non-chronological and tangentially related, but add significant depth. I have no posting schedule—updates come when they come. Comments and discussion are always welcome. Enjoy!

Master List — The time when...
001 They first appear.
002 Aaron kisses Ghost.
003 Aaron sets fire to the TV.
004 Their romantic relationship gets going.
005 Ghost quits his job.
006 They finally have sex.
          Bonus House tour.
007 They cameo during their honeymoon period.
008 The repoman comes.
          Bonus Family photos and Storybit 01: Aaron on the doorstep.
009 Ghost says "I love you."
           Bonus Storybit 02: Ghost dreams of death.
010 Ghost's dreams get worse.
          Bonus Storybit 03: Aaron says "I love you."
011 Storybit 04: The second round, while Ghost should be sleeping.
012 They have a surprising amount of sex.
          Bonus Storybit 05: Aaron picks Ghost up from work.
013 Ghost started to come to terms with Aaron's thievery.
          Bonus Storybit 06: Aaron questions Ghost's sexual history.
014 They cameo at the Silverman-Moore wedding.
015 Storybit 07: Aaron bottoms for the first time.
016 They visit Mouse.
          Bonus Storybit 08: The night with Nathan.
017 Everything's going well, so Aaron's parents show up.
          Bonus Storybit 09: The rings.
018 Things do not happen in France.
019 Aaron's parents visit.
          Bonus Storybit 10: What does not happen after Aaron's parents leave.
020 Previous update outtakes.
021 They spend a couple irresponsible days.

You can also browse my tags for Sims 3 and Sims 3: Ghost and Aaron for some supplemental discussion and photo logs of my other Sims. All my Sims photos are gathered in galleries on my Flickr.
I should have been born a cat
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Website.

bpal_feedback avaliable here.

BPAL I have up for swap (locked).

My BPAL wishlist

I'm always willing to try new BPAL scents or to stock up on my favorites, but there are some scents that I desire more than others. I generally collect imps/decants because I go through oils slowly. You can fund my BPAL obsession through Paypal (swiftskyes AT hotmail DOT com) or ship them to me directly (can't see my contact info? want to? just ask).

I've included information about my favorite scents and notes (to give you an idea of what I like) and my wishlist for both limited edition and general catalog imps. Asterisks denote my highest priorities.

My favorite scents, notes, and tastesCollapse )

Limited Edition/Retired/Unimpable/etc WishlistCollapse )

General Catalog WishlistCollapse )

Non-BPAL & Miscellaneous WishlistCollapse )
I should have been born a cat
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)

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I should have been born a cat
Title: Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: New York: Random House, 2002 (1995)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 480
Total Page Count: 149,909
Text Number: 439
Read Because: interest in the companion animal trope, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The bastard son of a prince comes to his father's home to discover the unique role he can play in a changing society. Assassin's Apprentice moves leisurely, lingering on the day to day life of its fantasy society, yet it never drags—nor is it overburdened by worldbuilding, nor does it wallow in the protagonist's adolescence. Through most of the book I wanted more of the magical companion animal trope that drew it to my attention, but the final act provides that in plenty; its intrigues aren't excessive, but have satisfying weight. It's not a flawless effort, and the interpersonal aspects and the antagonist characterization are both trite. But I was surprised by how thoroughly I enjoyed Assassin's Apprentice. Its combined effect is absorbing, far more so than I usually find this genre. I plan to continue with the series, but I could be satisfied with just this book (which does stand alone).

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I should have been born a cat
Title: Beauty
Author: Sheri S. Tepper
Published: New York: Bantam, 2009 (1991)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 463
Total Page Count: 149,429
Text Number: 438
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A half-fairy girl goes on a long journey to discover the fate of magic in a changing world. Normally I approach Tepper like Atwood's genre writing: message-driven to the point of transparency, but sympathetic and consistently well-written. But Beauty is a mess of a book. It begins as a Sleeping Beauty retelling but crams in Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and the Frog Prince, growing increasingly predictable; it spans a lifetime and jumps between half a dozen settings, the worst of which is an ill-conceived environmental dystopia--yet the book says so little. It's a ham-fisted morality tale about the sins of environmental destruction and ... horror novels, I guess? because they best represent humanity's desensitization to violence and evil? It's sanctimonious, plodding, and runs a hundred pages too long. This is the first of Tepper's novels to disappoint me and I by no means recommend it.

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8th-Dec-2014 11:21 pm - Book Review: Wool by Hugh Howey
Title: Wool (Omnibus)
Author: Hugh Howey
Published: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 509
Total Page Count: 148,966
Text Number: 437
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: More engaging than skillful. A premise like this is reiterative but successful and Wool does good by it. The writing has the unfortunate marks of self-publishing (the overwriting is particularly unforgivable), but only the tortured romances really harm the book, crumbling under the burden the plot places on them. Wool has every predictable flaw, in pacing, in emotional scope, but the truth is that if post-apocalyptic dystopic generation ships ping your interest, Wool is a satisfying take on those tropes. Its premise is intelligently constructed and the exploration in turns suspenseful and thoughtful, and the story that surrounds it is more than adequate.

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Books Once More
Title: Tooth and Claw
Author: Jo Walton
Published: New York: Tor, 2003
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 544
Total Page Count: 148,457
Text Number: 436
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A Victorian romance, peopled by dragons—which means proactively engaging the genre's presumptions and clichés via worldbuilding, from the role of the genders within courtship to the consequences of socioeconomic status, or: "the result of wondering what a world would be like if [...] the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were the inescapable laws of biology." Tooth and Claw doesn't touch sexuality and its agenda is transparent; the antagonist is simplistic and the ending a predictable bundled of tied threads and easy resolution. But all flaws are forgivable, because the sum of the novel is clever, playful, and thoroughly engaging, the best the premise can offer and precisely what I'd expect from Walton. I enjoyed this far more than I expected on onset (the start is a little slow); a true delight, and highly recommended.

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Rise of the Guardians, film, 2012, dir. Peter Ramsey
Entirely forgettable. Too self-aware to sell to a younger audience; too slight for an older one. The character design is fun, but the worldbuilding is surprisingly shallow and the plot more than predictable. The film's intent is transparent but left no impact on me.

Brave, film, 2012, dir. Mark Andres, Brenda Chapman
As a story of a girl's relationship with her mother, a princess with no prince in the picture, entirely concerned with personal identity and familial relationships, what Brave does right is invaluable. But it's not without flaws: I would have loved to actually see Merida repair the tapestry, so that the film felt less like a condemnation of women's work as well as women's social status. That, and the plot is simplistic, functional but plain. I'm glad Brave exists but except that it does exist it left no lasting impression.

Enchanted, film, 2007, dir. Kevin Lima
Thoroughly predictable but somehow endearing, largely because of the protagonist, whose enthusiasm and optimism isn't played as shallow. The romances are heteronormative, monogamous, competitive—and no one is villainized, and the women aren't pitted against each other. That shouldn't be remarkable, but it is. Enchanted doesn't honestly have much to say about the tropes it purports to invert, but it's just irreverent and authentic enough to be satisfying.

The Maze Runner, film, 2014, dir. Wes Ball
This film fits nice into a niche that I find particularly intriguing: dystopia meets deadly game with a big helping of a trope I can't find a name for, where the setting itself is the mystery and danger. (See also: Hunger Games, Snyder's Insiders series.) A compelling concept, phenomenally executed on film: the maze is massive, terrifying, enigmatic. But the plot is less successful, and the explanation behind the maze is particularly lackluster. I expected as much—it's far easier to create a compelling mystery than provide a satisfying solution—but was still disappointed. To be honest, I adored The Maze Runner, not because it's particularly good but because I find its strengths so appealing.

The Princess and the Frog, film, 2009, dir. Ron Clements, John Musker
Refreshing setting, lovely animation, enjoyable but forgettable music, utterly unremarkable plot. I love the intent here, and it's enough to make for a perfectly watchable film. But it's not profound, not awfully endearing; not in any way memorable, except for finally introducing some diverse representation. But that last, at least, makes it worthwhile.

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I should have been born a cat
Leviathan, film, 1989, dir. George P. Cosmatos
Borrows from The Thing but brings nothing new; another sealed environment claustrophobic monster film with creative but questionable effects, action-driven enough to be watchable but reiterative, predictable, and somewhat cheesy. Not recommended.

Supernatural, season 9, 2013-14
I thought that season 8 was a step forward, particularly on an interpersonal scale—it's surprisingly quiet and intimate. By that measure season 9 is a step sideways, somewhat disappointing because it fails to progress the series. It's a season built on lies and shoddy communication, which quickly grows stagnant; both major villains lack élan, which deadens the overarching plot. But the supporting cast shines: Castiel is routinely fantastic but Crowley steals the show—the queerbaiting grows tiresome but he's well-written, given increasing complexity without losing his defining aspects or his edge. Season 9 also has my favorite stand-alone episode of the series, "Alex Annie Alexis Ann." I love the premise and, in complete departure from series norm, it has strong female characters with a strong dynamic, and they don't get fridged.

The Mentalist, s1-6, 2008-2014
Never great but frequently adequate. Nothing here is ever as effective as it wants to be—the primary partner dynamic lacks heart, the major antagonist relies on manpain/fridging and gets worn paper-thin. But there are sparks of life, particularly in Jane (despite himself, truly endearing) and in Cho. The show would be significantly better if it were less a slave to its format, which relies on stylistic suck to create unwieldy, overlarge, repetitive denouements. But it's a functional procedural and it does just enough right to stay in good graces. (Castle is better, though.)

The Innkeepers, film, 2001, dir. Ti West
The tone is all over the place, and the wealth of humor and cat scares in the first half means no suspension of disbelief for the horror in the second half. There's some great atmosphere and good acting, but it's wasted. Not recommended.

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Once Upon a Time has this fascination with interconnection. That was fine in the first season when it functioned to knit together the parallel storylines; now it makes for a plot which hinges on coincidence. I'm catching up on season 3, and the reveal of Pan's identity is uncalled for.

I finally got around to reading Barrie's Peter Pan this year, and it lines up with Mary Poppins and the Alice books in that the source material can be pretty creepy and that's fantastic. Poppins is a little inhuman, capricious and cold. Wonderland is as much nightmare as dream, denying Alice bodily autonomy and questioning her identity. And Pan is what Valente calls "heartless" in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making:

All children are heartless. They have not grown a heart yet, which is why they can climb tall trees and say shocking things and leap so very high that grown-up hearts flutter in terror. Hearts weigh quite a lot. That is why it takes so long to grow one.

He is incapable of seeing the world outside himself, unaware of consequence; a consummate child and, given the power he has in Neverland, that makes him scary. I love the idea of dark retellings of children's classics like these books, but the truth is the source material often does it better; compare the disconcerting undercurrent of Pan's nature within the wonder of Neverland to the artless, racist, excessive gothic parade of Brom's The Child Thief which, as you may gather, I rather disliked. I love to see subtext turned text, but it's hard to find retellings that are actually loyal to, or even as effective as, what it is that makes the text intriguing or unsettling or dark.

Once Upon a Time's Pan isn't perfect but he's surprisingly good--in part because Robbie Kray can act; in part because his dynamics with other cast members intrigue me; in part, and to the point, because Pan has that same heartlessness and because he treats his machinations as a game--and while that phrasing grows stale, it's effective. The Lost Boys are older in OUaT but it works, it makes them more rebellious and as such more dangerous. But Pan still feels like a child, capable of leadership and responsibility but with not just a refusal but an inability to fathom compassion, relationships, selflessness, sympathy.

Finding out that he hasn't always been a child, and putting him in a parent/child relationship with another character, undermines the shit out of that. It makes him seem pathetic, even a little gross; a desperate play-actor rather than a precocious, heartless child. All because the narrative wants to make one more madcap, half-written, coincidental interconnection, sigh.

Watching OUaT is an exercise is missed opportunity (not even gonna mention Mulan right now), but this one stung.

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I Saw the Devil, film, 2010, dir. Kim Jee-woon
Unrelenting and pointed enough to be compelling with violence that packs a punch, but the gratuity and grittiness feel, for lack of a better word, grimdark; from the fridged girlfriend to the gazing-into-the-abyss theme, it's also overly familiar. There was a lot I liked here as I was watching it, but my sum opinion is lacking. It does what it does well, but to be honest I Saw the Devil just doesn't do much.

Below, film, 2002, dir. David Twohy
A claustrophobic, paranoid mystery without succumbing to predictability or cheap tricks, and while not particularly frightening as a ghost story it has a strong atmosphere and a few hard-hitting moments. In no ways great, but a solid 3/5 and perfectly watchable.

Ginger Snaps, film. 2000, dir. John Fawcett
Rewatch, exactly as I remember it: a messy conflation of women/sexuality/coming of age/monstrosity, but one which is authentic and bloody and bold, lovingly-crafted—from the gallows humor to the surprisingly good effects and indulgent aesthetic to the perfectly rendered loving claustrophobia of the sibling relationship. Still one of my favorite movies.

Dark Shadows, film, 2012, dir. Tim Burton
More silly than effective, far more campy than called for, but the effects are often fantastic and there's some good character moments. I was content to see this once, it's funny and creative and highly indulgent, but it's too slight to hold up to rewatch.

V/H/S, film, 2012, dir. Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Better in concept than execution. The few good touches throughout these shorts—each has one or two, but the monster in "Amateur Night" and the haunted house scenes in "10/31/98" are particularly nice—get worn out by repetition and drowned out by frankly distasteful padding; the parade of sexualized and victimized women is unnecessary. I liked what this tried to do just enough that I'll watch the sequel someday, but I don't recommend it.

The Human Race, film, 2013, dir. Paul Hough
I can't possible give this a fair review, because this is one of my favorite (overly-specific) premises. I like Deadly Games in general, but find a race for survival particularly compelling; see also King writing as Bachman, The Long Walk. The Human Race lives up to the potential of its premise. It has good momentum and a willingness to murder its darlings, but necessary black humor keep it from growing joyless. The acting is solid. The end is a little madcap but not unacceptable. This was like a little gift, flawed and at times problematic but, for me, utterly delightful.

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I should have been born a cat
Just got back from a week in Corvallis, a longer than average trip because I caught a cold on the way down. It was pretty minor, in large part because I had Devon to look after me and didn't try to travel while sick. I was nervous when I developed symptoms because I'm never great at dealing with adversity but I'm particularly shit at it right now, so I'm thankful. Unfortunately, finding ways to sleep with congestion has done a number on my back and I imagine I'll be recovering from that for a while.

My parents were out of town by the time that I was well enough to visit the house, but I did stop by to pick up a bag of Liberty apples (a tradition; these are my favorite apples in the world) and this year's crop is phenomenal, firm and tiny—I find the smaller fruits to stay firmer longer, be more flavorful, and be an ideal serving size.

While I was there I had a nice long talk with my sister; we haven't talked in person since her diagnosis, so the conversation was long and weighty and hugely reassuring. She's halfway through chemo, and has run into most of the predictable issues but none of the big and dangerous ones. I've always had an unshakable faith in her ability to deal with this, and that's not something that I say lightly: it's something that I know I couldn't deal with, not right now and maybe not ever; I believe that praising a sick person for their strength and bravery can easily slide into the realm of the problematic and belittling. I have a lot of predictable, essential anger at the whole Cancer Thing: it isn't fair and she shouldn't have to be strong—but she is: she has an intense capability and self-control and will, she's giving nurses and doctors What For to ensure she gets the treatment she needs and is able to continue to work and live as she wants to, she's dealing with intense emotional burdens with great aplomb. I'm proud of her and it was nice to have the chance to say so.

All that she's been dealing with also makes me confident in my decision not to get tested at this time, because I cannot do what she is doing.

I was also fairly honest with her about how I've been, which was—well, it was weird. Weird and pleasant, I mean; it fit the situation and felt good to share. But I tend not to be forthcoming about my personal life/health issues with my family, and there's something about the sentence "sorry, I've been too busy being sad to be present and supportive while you were diagnosed with cancer" which triggers every anxiety about the veracity/severity of mental illness.

I'm at ~4.5 months with this major depressive episode, which is by far the longest episode I've had since I dropped out of school; I'm sure that what's been going on with my sister has contributed to its longevity. The day-to-day experience is somewhat more tolerable than it was at onset, but I'm so worn down that it barely matters.

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Maleficent, film, 2014, dir. Robert Stromberg
In a word, magnificent. A pointed retelling—limited perhaps for being a Disney retelling, but full of story and brimming with intent, which gives it purpose even when events are predictable. The casting is phenomenal, Jolie especially; the CGI has weak moments but Maleficent's wings are superbly rendered and easily the most important effect. There's something of Robin McKinley in the tone: a surprisingly domestic drama, a story about women, character-motivated, whimsical, heartfelt. Maleficent lacks for some subtlety and has its flaws, but honestly I don't care; this has already become one of my Important Films, which I'll rewatch a hundred times and never take for granted.

Black Swan, film, 2010, dir. Darren Aronofsky
A difficult film to watch, fraught with gendered issues both intentional and accidental, heavy-handed but ultimately effective. The horror is likewise, but I make a biased audience: the film hits on some of my personal phobias. Aesthetically superb, artistic body horror and a brilliant soundtrack verging on the indulgent, which helps to balance how frequently joyless the film is to watch. I'm ambivalent about Black Swan—it's certainly an experience but it's a flawed one; Portman does much to salvage the film, but I wonder what it might have been with women writers/directors.

Thale, film, 2012, dir. Aleksander L. Nordaas
Underwhelming: too small and too simple, tells rather than shows, with a saccharine ending. There's something beneath that which has potential: the conflict between the magic of the thale and her gritty surroundings works, although the gendered issues (a women at the center of male attention/power/violence/caretaking) leaves something to be desired. Give this a miss, there's just not much here.

How to Train Your Dragon 2, film, 2014, dir. Dean DeBlois
Not flawless, but surprisingly close. Both the antagonist and scale overreach the film's needs, leaning away from the personal and into the predictable. But the core cast shines and the film doesn't succumb to sequelitis: it retains what made the first film successful, the humor and dragons in particular, without feeling like a pale imitation. A solid 4 of 5 and simply lovely to watch.

Epic, film, 2013, dir. Chris Wedge
Forgettable, but fine. I enjoyed the casting and some of the effects—the dark fairies's magic, in particular—are nicely realized, but the plot is utterly predictable and the humor is hit and miss. Tolerable, watchable, but little more than that and not recommended.

A Werewolf Boy/Wolf Boy, film, 2012, dir. Jo Sung-hee
Long, slow-paced, overacted and emotionally transparent, creating an absorbing hyper-reality which is lovely and surprisingly effective. The film is almost painfully adorable, more sweet than bitter for all its heart wrenching. I grew fond of this despite its rather obvious flaws—and it helps than in content I'd compare it to Kimi wa Pet; the pet/owner relationship serving as a tool to allow two people to bond is a pretty specific but utterly enjoyable trope.

Session 9, film, 2001, dir. Brad Anderson
A slow, sometimes laborious build-up with an exposition-heavy, redundant, twist-heavy denouement; an uneven effort on the whole, and it falls flat. The setting and initial pacing have promise, however problematic the asylum angle may be, and David Caruso is always lovely to listen to. But skip this one; it lacks both tension and punch.

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I should have been born a cat
They're burying Devon's family's cat Dude today; he died a couple of days ago. This was Dude. I've known him nearly as long as I've known Devon, and to call him a great cat is a vast understatement. Dude was a magnificent mancat, proactively affectionate, solid-hearted, bold as brass, demanding, with a hiccuping purr. A cat like that is a certainty: he knows what he wants, he knows his territory and he protect it, he knows his people and he demands affection from them. He was aging poorly—problems eating, weight loss, arthritis—and we could see his death on the horizon. Devon says he had a slow day and then died that evening, probably of heart failure.

I am incensed.

Dude was outdoors his entire life. He was neutered when he was already a few years old—which is why he looked and acted so masculine, which were endearing traits and I loved them, but. They didn't keep a clean litterbox for him, and kicked him out of the house when he defecated inside. He was on cheap food pretty much his entire life.

Keep your fucking cats indoors, guys. They live longer. They don't make more cats. Feed them good food. Give them a place to shit in peace. This is what we owe them, and we should be glad to pay up, because a cat like Dude is a motherfucking miracle on your armchair. He loves you; don't respond to that in halves. He would have been impossible to make indoors-only, but that's only because he was allowed to be outdoors for so long. There's this view that indoor/outdoor cats is something like veg*nism, a well-intended but personal lifestyle choice, a to-each-his-own, and it is not. It is how you protect the creature you promised to protect, end of story. They killed Madison when they started letting her go outside. Dude was an old man and he had a great life, but I watched Spike in his old years—he was older, he was actually sick, but he had a proactive caretaker and he lived years longer in much better health and oodles of comfort. I've watched Mamakitty, who was outdoors for years, adjust to the safety and comfort of being indoors so completely that we know she misses nothing and is grateful for everything, she is overflowing with love and learned safety: I can be here, I can be touched like this, nothing will hurt me.

I realize that my anger is also an outlet for sadness. I've seen his death coming and had plenty of times to say goodbye, so I'm doing okay—except that this piles on top of all the other shit that's been happening in truly unfortunate ways. But the anger is still justified. Keep your cats indoors. They deserve it.

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I should have been born a cat
Hemlock Grove, season 2, 2014
The first few episodes suffer as the show tries desperately to return to status quo, undoing much of the end of the first season; the plot also has a shaky, piecemeal start. The middle gains momentum, but the end wavers—some plot threads end too predictably, too many dangle, and the effect feels rushed. Season two has a sense of sequelitis—the violence in particular is cranked up to ridiculous levels—but provides welcome more of the same: the show's strengths are its indulgent supernatural elements, which appear in droves, and its characters, who have even more complex interpersonal relationships this time around (hey, a poly relationship!). An uneven effort, but I liked season one and was happy to have season two—Hemlock Grove is about aesthetic and indulgence, and need not be particularly refined to be enjoyable.

Hard Candy, film, 2005, dir. David Slade
A teenage girl preys on an older man and suspected pedophile. Hard Candy is overlong and has far too many denouements, putting a strain on the small cast and wearing its tension thin. But in all other ways, it's strong if imperfect. Its commentary is more than blatant but Page delivers it with aplomb, and the story is just on the right side of a rape revenge plot, aggressively vengeful but refusing to sensationalize the rape itself—in fact there's almost no presence of a male gaze, and so rather than exploitative it feels just—but also aggressive and circumspect. This would be significantly better if it were shorter and/or more diverse, but I still adored it.

Snow White and the Huntsman, film, 2012, dir. Rupert Sanders
A retelling of the fairy tale that sends Snow White to battle. The first third of this film is phenomenal, recasting Snow White's beauty in moral and emotional terms and contrasting it with the Queen's reliance on physical beauty, directly addressing how the fairy tale and the women within it value beauty, and why it creates conflict between them. Later hallmark aspects of the fairy tale—the dwarves, the apple—lack both creativity and commentary; the Huntsman fairs somewhat better. But on the whole, as the plot progresses it grows Hollywood-predictable and the rest of the film is just adequate, although the aesthetic is indulgent and the casting is strong. As a film, somewhat underwhelming; as a retelling, spotty—but what it does well is, however heavy-handed, fantastic to see.

Byzantium, film, 2012, dir. Neil Jordan
For the first time in their long lives, the relationship between a mother/daughter pair of vampires begins to unravel. Despite some questionable aspects—the "sixteen forever" protagonist, a willingness to conflate women/power/vampirism/sensuality/prostitution—and an unevenness of tone, sometimes too quiet but also prone to excessive action scenes, Byzantium is on the whole a compelling and intensely engaged addition to its genre, exploring the isolation and power of a vampire, their search for companionship and desire to be known, their potential for danger, and how that danger intersects gender. These themes can grow heavy-handed but that they are so proactive and robust is honestly amazing. An inconsistent but lovely film.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: Hannibal (Hannibal Lecter Book 3)
Author: Thomas Harris
Published: New York: Dell, 2000 (1999)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 544
Total Page Count: 148,457
Text Number: 436
Read Because: fan of the television adaptation, borrowed from [personal profile] century_eyes
Review: Seven years after The Silence of the Lambs, infamous serial killer Hannibal Lecter is still at large and Clarice Starling is pulled back into pursuit of him by one of his victim's quest for revenge. Despite Harris's practiced pacing and readability, Hannibal is half a dozen concepts unevenly knit together and the conclusion in particular is rushed. Where the novel deviates from its film adaptation is telling—Hannibal here is more sympathetic than antagonistic, but never without danger; his increasingly complex relationship with Clarice lapses into predictability but is greatly intriguing and has the markings both of Harris's dogged psychological focus and his need to entertain an audience. To spend so much time with Hannibal is frankly indulgent; the book is an imperfect effort but a ballsy one, morally circumspect and frequently compelling, with an unrepentantly flamboyant climax; it's not awfully refined but it is utterly enjoyable, and highly reminiscent of NBC Hannibal.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: The Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal Lecter Book 2)
Author: Thomas Harris
Published: New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990 (1988)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 367
Total Page Count: 147,913
Text Number: 435
Read Because: fan of the television adaptation, from my personal library
Review: When FBI trainee is called in to interview famous convicted murder Hannibal Lecter, he gives her information which may help her catch an active serial killer, Buffalo Bill. The Silence of the Lambs has an intense readability, which isn't something I often value in books because it can denote a lack of complexity or substance—but because of its psychological focus, Silence has both. It's a psychological thriller and procedural drama with lots of momentum (and the superb chapter length helps, staccato-short without stooping as low as cliffhangers) but intentional depth; the characters are good—Hannibal of course is compelling, but the core cast and Clarice in particular (once Harris moves beyond a self-congratulatory study on how unpleasant it is for women to experience sexism) are viewed with a gratifying psychological eye which justifies and even excuses the headhopping. That the film adaptation of this book is so faithful does credit to both versions—Silence is a solid piece of work, and unfailingly enjoyable to read. I'd like to pick up the others in this series, but this book stands alone.

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23rd-Jul-2014 01:14 pm - Book Review: Possession by A.S. Byatt
Title: Possession
Author: A.S. Byatt
Published: New York: Vintage International, 1991 (1990)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 555
Total Page Count: 147,546
Text Number: 434
Read Because: personal enjoyment, from my personal library
Review: Two scholars are drawn together when they discover evidence of a secret love-affair between their objects of study, famous Victorian poets. Possession is self-aware and -congratulatory, redundant and transparent; it's also lush, smart, heartfelt, and utterly effective. A book this aware of its own limitations and crutches could do more to correct them, but no matter how many caveats I provide, the truth is that I loved Possession. For all its imperfections, it's utterly successful; for all its contrivances, it has a contagious, unshakable faith in what it does. I wish that some of what remains in the margins (such as Christabel's relationship with Blanche) were more explicit, and that the heavy-handed parallels between the Victorian lovers and their modern-day scholars were less explicit; ironic, given the palimpsest of a narrative, but the book would benefit from more subtlety—the conclusion is particularly heavy-handed. But this is a book of love, self-aware and self-deprecating but fueled by love, love for history and women and writing and academia, love for its post-modernism and its message, and, no matter how tritely, love for love itself. I adored it, and I know I'll reread it some day.

I would not for the whole world diminish you. I know it is usual in these circumstances to protest—"I love you for yourself alone"—"I love you essentially"—and as you imply, my dearest, to mean by "you essentially"—lips hands and eyes. But you must know—we do know—that it is not so—dearest, I love your soul and with that your poetry—the grammar and stopping and hurrying syntax of your quick thought—quite as much essentially you as Cleopatra's hopping was essentially hers to delight Antony—more essentially, in that while all lips hands and eyes resemble each other somewhat (though yours are enchanting and also magnetic)—your thought clothed with your words is uniquely you, came with you, would vanish if you vanished—

Possession, 218-9

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