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
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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Antiviral, film, 2012, dir. Brandon Cronenberg
In a celebrity-obsessed near future, one company will sell you unique diseases harvested straight from a celebrity source. Heavy-handed in commentary, stark to the point of coldness in tone, but abundantly compelling—a different style of the grotesque, one medical but not fetishistic, futuristic but bodily and bloodily human, a fantastic aesthetic and, under that blunt commentary, in moments surprisingly profound. In my notes I wrote, "never will rewatch but did enjoy," but upon reflection I think that's a lie—Antiviral lingers and its aesthetic is remarkable; no matter its flaws, this one of my favorites of my most recent viewings.

Teen Wolf, season 2-3, 2012-2014
Season 2 is unremarkable except in how indicative it is of the show: silly, embarrassing pulp with an indulgent atmosphere and a few hidden gems, largely created by the cast. I watch Teen Wolf for its consumability but enjoy it for the smaller and more effective touches that defy the overstretched werewolf mythos and blandly-written teen drama: Lydia's character, multiple strong women, the witticism that come out of the usually corny script. Season 3 is more memorable: The first arc, which introduces an all-alpha pack, stretches the show's werewolf mythos to is breaking point and things grow downright silly; Lydia steals the show here, not because she's particularly well written but because Holland Roden portrays her so well. The second arc reiterates season 2's focus on a non-werewolf antagonist and has the same sense of grasping at narrative straws—but it's a more refined and darker take on the series, violent and psychological and threatening; Dylan O'Brien's increasingly complex portrayal of Stiles is phenomenal. Teen Wolf will never be a great show, but it improves itself in season 3 and I much enjoyed it.

Sleepy Hollow, season 1, 2013-2014
Tim Burton meets National Treasure. There's some fantastic horror elements, but they clash with all the silly faux-history. The plot has admirable urgency and scale, but never convinced me; the characters are delightful, diverse and intimate—the bond between Crane and Mills in particular is forged without any restraint or subtlety but is nonetheless utterly engaging. But it's a strange combination, the horror and witty quips and hysterical revised history and transparent heartstring-tugging and clumsy overlarge apocalypse plot; I wanted it to work, but found it too silly to be successful and I probably won't watch the next season.

The Day After Tomorrow, film, 2004, dir. Roland Emmerich
Global warming precipitates the next ice age. I watch disaster films for a number of reasons, and this film engaged about half of them. It's a lush, extensive spectacle of tsunamis and flash freezes and national monuments drowned in snow, and the CG has held up. The ensemble cast is functional but unremarkable—there are no poignant studies of humanity's responses to disaster here, but there's enough varieties in cast and in the script's tone to keep things interesting. The moralizing is short, sweet, and unobtrusive. This film entire is overlong and too desperate for action sequences, but to be honest I enjoyed it—it's not profound, but it's a watchable example of its genre.

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I should have been born a cat
What are you currently reading?
Possession, A. S. Byatt. Because I'm in a depressive episode, I've been frantic for distractions—in my reading that usually means fantasy, because there's more escapism and potential for distraction; it can also mean lighter, faster books which I can lose myself in despite the brainfog, which has reached Silent Hill-intensity. So I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying Possession—I love in this sort of post-modern literature how lush and aesthetic the heavy-handed parallel narratives/messages can be; there's a self-awareness, something even deprecatory, but also something enthusiastic; it knows the potential faults of the attempt it makes, but loves regardless, loves its characters and concept and indulgent format. It's a broad and contrived and richly intended book, and I adore it; I even adore a heterosexual romance! and how novel that is.

What did you recently finish reading?
The Giver, Lois Lowry, review here. There's a film adaptation coming out soon, with a 25-year-old playing Jonas who's 12 in the book, which—so the society of The Giver doesn't make entire sense and isn't untouchable gospel word, it's largely concept instead of execution, but Jonas beginning his coming of age with the discovery of the truth of his society is sort of the point; see also the correlation between Stirrings and sexuality and emotion: his society represses human biological and social nature, so that he's at the age to develop alternate/"natural" desires and relationships matters. In short, no, I have no interest in the film. But the book was an interesting reread; I found I remembered basically every page of it, which, no matter its flaws, indicates that the book does something effectively.

What do you think you'll read next?
I broke my ereader because of course I did—depressive episode, desperate for distraction, and so now my ereader is unusable (and my game controller is failing, too, of course it is). So I'm stuck with physical books already in my possession—getting to the library isn't feasible, again because of the depression—and that's limiting; I was already grasping at straws, and now there's significantly fewer straws to grasp. In short: fuck if I know what I'll read next.

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16th-Jul-2014 10:59 am - Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Books Once More
Title: The Giver (The Giver Quartet Book 1)
Author: Lois Lowry
Published: Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 192
Total Page Count: 146,991
Text Number: 433
Read Because: prompted by Mari Ness's reread on, from my personal collection
Review: In a rigidly-ordered, peaceful society, one boy is selected for a career that defies social rules. A brief, sparse, info-dumping, concept-laden, memorable book—I was surprised by how well I remembered The Giver, having read it last as a teenager. The world is memorable, but the way the text reveals it is moreso: even in reread, the truth behind the apple and the released twin have tension and impact. But the book is more interesting than it is good; it's short and leaves threads dangling (there are sequels, but I haven't read them), and the entire book—cast and worldbuilding included—is simplistic and heavy-handed, however good the intentions. I'm not surprised to want more from The Giver—refinement, development, the knowledge of how Jonas changes his community and how this effects the wider world—but I am surprised by The Giver's level of artistry: what is done well leaves a lasting mark.

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Books Once More
Title: Ariel (Change Book 1)
Author: Steven R. Boyett
Published: New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2014 (1983)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 435
Total Page Count: 146,799
Text Number: 432
Read Because: interest in the companion animal trope, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A young man and his Familiar, a unicorn, are interrupted in their journeys across post-apocalyptic America by a necromancer who has his sights set on Ariel's horn. With a unicorn and magical apocalypse, Ariel is an interesting book in part and in theory; the world has potential, and the companion animal trope is particularly id-driven and surprisingly explicit as an examination purity and intimacy. But Boyett caves to the perceived need for an antagonist/conflict/climax, and while the grittiness that adds to the world is useful context for the boy/unicorn bond, it also comes to overshadow it. I wish Ariel were a different book, one with a less ambitious plot and more willingness to linger on the bittersweet ending. The book it is instead is readable but loses its way, but I don't particularly recommend it.

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I should have been born a cat
What are you currently reading?
Ariel, Steven R. Boyett. I've been reading the companion animal trope with intent for about two years ago, largely prompted by [personal profile] rachelmanija's rundown of a Siren's panel on the subject. I never read (or consume) anything in excess because I burn out fast; I'm particularly susceptible to that here because the genre is riddled with questionable quality. I'm mostly referring to Pern, Valdemar, and other endless series, but the trope as a whole is id-driven and frequently adjunct to the plot, and so sometimes shows up to serve unique functions in books I'd otherwise avoid. Ariel isn't necessarily one of those—I'm fond the post-apocalyptic—but its unicorn-in-a-dystopia is a decent example of what it means to read a trope, rather than a genre: I'm here for one feature, and when that feature isn't the core of its fictional world (Pern &c), it may instead show up in the weirdest places.

What Ariel does with the trope: There's a number of types of human/animal bonds in the book, including pets and thralls. Meanwhile, the protagonist's companion animal, a unicorn, has a human or super-human intelligence, their communication is verbal and their bond has psychic/magical elements; functionally, Ariel is the better-than-real partner Pete can't have—more than once he wishes she were human. There's a sensual/physical but non-sexual element to their relationship, and what prevents it from being sexual is primarily Ariel's body and secondarily the fact that Pete has to remain a virgin (because: unicorn). It's not unusual for sex to be part of this trope, but it usually appears in the form of humans experiencing their companion's sexuality or, occasionally, vice versa; to see it addressed as a possible component of the human/companion bond is frankly gratifying—if the bonds are that intimate, you'd think it'd come up more often.

What did you recently finish reading?
The Beast Master, Andre Norton, obviously in the same pursuit. What The Beast Master does with the trope, which I didn't mention in my review: The early passage I quoted in my review says more about what the trope could become than what it is; it goes underexplored, and didn't just seem that way because I was only there to explore it. Much of the book's emotional journey is about the protagonist surviving despite his bond animals, functionally as an aspect of the travelogue/survival plot but thematically as the protagonist's journey towards independent action and thought. He has multiple bond animals (which is deeply unusual in most examples of this trope), most are realistically animal, and each functionally serves as a trained tool—but the human/animal bond has a psychic element, and the bond big cat feels slightly more than animal and significantly more complex in her relationship with the protagonist.

What do you think you'll read next?
Not a companion animal book! I'll probably go back to Zelazny's Amber series; I'm currently between pentalogies. But five books is a lot (see: burning out on series)—I may need another unrelated book to cleanse my palate first.

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I should have been born a cat
Title: The Beast Master (The Beast Master Book 1)
Author: Andre Norton
Published: New York: Tor, 2010 (1959)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 192
Total Page Count: 146,364
Text Number: 431
Read Because: interest in the companion animal trope
Review: After war destroys Earth, a survivor and ex-combatant with the unique ability to lead a team of animals travels to the settler planet of Arzor to exact personal revenge. I read The Beast Master as a precursor to the companion animal trope; Norton's concept of select men with intimate, near-psychic bonds with animals would later inspire authors like Lackey and McCaffrey towards Valdemar and Pern, and as a forerunner The Beast Master is existent, intriguing, and unsatisfying. The human/animal bond is compelling and certainly unique, but receives only fringe examination; I can see what inspired later authors to latch on to the idea, and am glad they did.

As a novel, the book is quick and engaging but not particularly memorable. The plot is deceptive, more of a travelogue and cultural drama than personal vendetta; the plot comes to somewhat too neat of a conclusion but the well-realized world leaves plenty of room for sequels. The Beast Master also functions as my introduction to Norton, and I'll return to her—she has an effortless accessibly without skimping on character or content; I can't speak for the representation of the Native (Navajo) protagonist, but it was remarkably less racist than I anticipated, even handled with respect. In short, this book is precisely what I hoped for, as early evidence of the companion animal trope and as a readable novel, but offered little more; I don't particularly recommend it but I'm glad to have read it.

To the spectator the ex-Commando might be standing impassively, the meerkats clinging to him, his hand resting lightly on Surra’s round skull, the eagle quiet on his shoulder. But an awareness, which was unuttered, unheard speech, linked him with animals and bird. The breadth of that communication could not be assessed outside a "team," but it forged them into a harmonious whole, which was a weapon if need be, a companionship always.
—The Beast Master, 7

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About two years ago I watched the first season of Teen Wolf, and then took an enforced break.* In the meantime, I had a fringe awareness of it via Tumblr, among which was gifs of gay couples kissing at parties and little mini essays about how awesome and progressive it was that this silly teen show had such diverse representation—and that confused me, because my memory of the show was a whole bunch of predictable overacted heteronormative high school relationships. But now I'm midway through season 3 and, behold! there's an explicitly gay supporting character, and a gay relationship, and lesbians in a cold open, and implied bisexuality, so that's neat. But this the Mass Effect-effect.

This is (Teen Wolf) gay characters as a fairly distant supporting role—treated with respect, but most definitely not part of the core cast because gay people aren't protagonists. This is queer-baiting (hey Stiles, do you like boys? confused pregnant pause resolved by a male/female kiss, yes, very funny). This is the expectation of heteronormative monogamy—when the core couple has a mutual but reluctant breakup, their attraction to other people is played against their lingering feelings for one another in exactly the way you'd expect: a tension to keep the show interesting, a problem to be solved.

This is (Mass Effect) taking one or two hesitant steps forward and being so self-satisfied that we're immediately content to slide backwards, like: you can have a homosexual relationship! if you play a woman, and if you romance this hyper-sexed and -idealized all-female alien race. No consideration of how problematic it is to let sexy alien ladies stand in for diverse representation, no male/male relationships until a token one in the third game in the series, no women on the box art golly gee, and yet the gaming community was prepared to give Mass Effect a hearty pat on the back for meeting a bare minimum standard of decency, and the franchise was willing to be content with that, making little effort to continue towards decency and constantly sliding backwards into the same problematic expectations it purported to fight against.

And look, making progress is hard. Any gay relationships are progress, and yes it is cool to see that in a silly teen show. But the open-mindedness is so much windowdressing when the core is a presumption of heteronormative monogamy. The solution to most romantic subplots in all media is "can't we all just get along": it's Scott and Allison going in to see Isaac in the hospital and discovering that the feelings messy romantic feelings between Scott/Allison and Allison/Issac (and whatever you want to label the feelings between Scott/Issac) can overlap in a constructive way—it was a lovely and surprisingly gentle moment, and it's gonna receive no resolution because there's no room for something like that, here. There's room for straight white main characters to have exclusive heterosexual relationships, and the fact that there's something more diverse at the fringes of their experience is progress but it shouldn't be, and it shouldn't be a green light to keep-on keeping-on with all the rest that is problematic. The bare minimums that this media meets is so painfully low, so low it shouldn't warrant celebration; if in our desperate we do celebrate it, that shouldn't mean that either consumers or creators are content.

* The night that I sat up with Kuzco until he passed, I was watching Teen Wolf so that I had a distraction rather than just blankly staring at him and waiting for him to die—but it made the show an unpleasant reminder of that night for some time after.

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The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, film, 2012, dir. Rodrigo Gudiño
After her death, a man inherits his estranged mother's estate. This film has a phenomenal haunted-house atmosphere, aided—with little restraint or dignity—by a cornucopia of creepy statues and religious iconography. The former is easily the film's selling point and is beautifully shot, the latter I found effectively frightening, but the skeletal plot leaves an underwhelming final impression. Not recommended.

Silent Hill, film, 2006, Christophe Gans
A mother is drawn to the ghost town of Silent Hill in order to discover the truth of her adopted daughter's past. Too faithful a reproduction—it harvests such a number of images and figures from the games, and while they're given some in-story justification their main purpose is fanservice. That said, there are some fantastic images and effects on display; they're rarely frightening but frequently have a grotesque beauty which does more credit to the franchise than the lackluster plot or the multiple appearances of Pyramid Head.

Europa Report, film, 2013, dir. Sebastián Cordero
A crewed mission embarks on a distant space journey to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, in hope that water beneath the ice crust may contain alien life. I discovered this film through Caitlín R. Kiernan/greygirlbeast (post here), and it reminds me of her work; as such, the premise was more familiar than profound, and it's only the non-linear narrative that gives it complexity. But the film does two things I love: it's willing to tell a fairly delicate story about the risk, allure, and danger of the unknown (I find the premise familiar because it's a type of story I enjoy), and it does so with an unexpected beauty, even bittersweet optimism. Of what I've wanted recently, this was easily my favorite.

Event Horizon, film, 1997, Paul W. S. Anderson
A rescue ship follows the distress signal of the Event Horizon, mankind's first interstellar spacecraft which has been lost for seven years. Hellraiser: In Space, and of about equal quality. Both set and makeup design are creative and delightfully indulgent, but the plot and script grow increasingly lackluster as the film progresses. It's an appropriate cult film, but the overall quality left me wanting.

Dredd, film, 2012, Pete Travis
In a crime-ridden megacity where Judges are the soul law enforcement, the head of a crime family pits herself against one experienced Judge and one rookie in training. This is pretty much exactly what I expected based on what I'd read about it: a remarkably less campy imagining of the source material, grotesquely violent and decently written, with strong and respectfully portrayed female characters. It's gratifying to see a film do what this one does without misstepping; the comic book origins are preserved, but it doesn't feel gratuitous—it feels effective, and surprisingly watchable. Not to my personal taste, but I was impressed.

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Books Once More
What are you currently reading?
I'm about to go back to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky. I took a break about 40 chapters in because HPMOR is long and it can grow, if not tiresome, then at least repetitive, less in what is says and more in the tricks of how it says it. I didn't want the book to begin to weary me because flaws aside, what it says is phenomenal—not flawless or inarguable, and not even always particularly well rendered, but the modes of thinking resonate with me even when I wildly disagree. These are conversations that I want to and do have, edited until everyone has a stronger message and sounds about twice as succinct and witty as they otherwise would; it's a near caricature of discourse and hugely engaging.

What did you recently finish reading?
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, for intentional but hilarious contrast. I've read Wicked Lovely before (review here), and my reactions now are almost a complete inverse but focus on the same subjects: Glaring to me this time was Marr's roughness; her fairies are creative but they come in a rough littering of descriptions instead of a unified aesthetic, and the voice is amateur, full of head-hopping and utterly without artistry. The plot, meanwhile, drags and suffers contrivances, but while it may have only one feasible ending that end has nice complexity—there's a real sense that Aislinn's choice matters, despite the restrictions placed on it. It's by no means good, it even feels teenage, awkward and idealized all the way down to the word choice, and I'd recommend against it. But it has potential; I wish I could read the book it might have been, probably if another author had written it.

What do you think you'll read next?
More HPMOR; when I need to break up HPMOR, probably another reread. I've been unwilling to write reviews lately, so have almost exclusively been rereading to take some of the pressure to review new books off of my shoulders.

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Title: The Princess and the Goblin
Author: George MacDonald
Illustrator: F.D. Bedford
Published: New York: The Macmillan Company, 1926 (1872)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 267
Total Page Count: 146,172
Text Number: 430
Read Because: rereading a childhood favorite, from my personal library
Review: Young Princess Irene lives in a distant castle, protected from the goblins which haunt the area at night—until a fateful encounter that begins her journey deep into their mountain stronghold. The Princess and the Goblin has MacDonald's trademark luminous imagination atop a solid and directed plot—it fails to be as profound as some of his more metaphorical work, but it also more consistently engaging and, arguably, successful. Its twee Victorian style takes some adjustment, but is balanced by the darkness of the content; the ending flags, but the book's climax—where willful, unrepentantly feminine Princess Irene, aided by creative magics of graceful simplicity, carries the day—is an image that has held with me since I read the book as a child. The Day Boy and The Night Girl is the best MacDonald that I've read, but The Princess and the Goblin is easily my favorite—it doesn't stretch itself as far, but it's more concrete and as such able to leave a stronger impression while still resonating, as MacDonald's writing does, like a plucked string.

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Title: Haru wo Daiteita (Embracing Love)
Mangaka: Nitta Youka
Length: 5 volumes read, 15 volumes total
Rating: 2 of 5
Review: When two adult video actors compete for a gay role, they spark something between them; years later, after both have become mainstream actors, they begin a public and taboo romance. Haru wo Daitetia, refreshingly, doesn't engage too many problematic BL tropes (if it's you it's okay is the primary exception), yet manages to hit every other possible BL or romance trope; the pacing becomes tiresome and the emotional register ridiculous as each chapter is another teary crisis and confrontation between the characters—all of which would be averted if they had a single straightforward conversation. The manga has potential: its setting and social ramifications are carefully chosen and at times compelling, and there is an authenticity to the relationship despite the unconvincing drama which surrounds it. I had hope that it might improve with time, once it had exhausted all possible cliché conflicts; it still may. But my patience has worn thin, and I'm not interested in continuing the story. The art begins subpar and improves to a level which is acceptable if unremarkable after a few volumes; fan translations are legitimately horrible; it's unflaggingly pornographic, but the sex feels equally natural as gratuitous. Of what I read, I'd in no way recommend.

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Books Once More
What are you currently reading?
I'm at the tail end of the Fate/Zero light novels. The fan translations are exceedingly unpolished; elsewise this has been a phenomenal read. I loved the anime when I watched it, but revisiting it in a media I find easier to retain while in constant contact with a friend who's also a big fan has been intensely rewarding, because this story deserves minute observation and rumination. Fate/Zero's hallmark is a complex web of characterization, motivation, and interaction, and each of these is more explicit in the light novels (there isn't time or potential for similar exposition in the anime). As a result, every scene is fascinating and can stand up to the scrutiny it invites. This is what I talk about when I talk about id-level media: I eat this stuff up, even though I've been taking the novels at the same slow pace I approach any series. The anime may still be the place to start with Fate/Zero, because it's great and a little more accessible, but the light novels are perfect.

What did you recently finish reading?
The Secret Country, Pamela Dean (review here). I'm deeply unsure if I plan to continue the series. I want to read The Hidden land to complete this story, and The Dubious Hills interests me for its premise, but I only ever found a stray used copy of The Secret Country to begin with; both of my libraries have little Dean, and even if I didn't prefer to borrow first, I certainly didn't love The Secret Country so much that I feel compelled to search for the sequels. We're probably headed to Powell's next week, so I may find them then; we'll see.

What do you think you'll read next?
No idea! I try to keep a couple of books at hand without making specific plans, because when I read at whim with no sense of obligation I tend to enjoy it more. Right now some classic horror, a reread, and some Mary Renault are all in my maybe-someday-soon pile, but I may chose none of them.

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