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The longer I'm away from being a regular tumblr user, the more I understand how it lapsed into silence and being quite difficult to maintain friendships on. I want to use my newer one a bit more than I do - to post thoughts as pretty gifsets mainly - but at the same time I think that now that I don't feel compelled to keep up with a never-ending dash anymore that I could probably just find a way to actually vid again. Twitter is much the same as tumblr in that your timeline is, effectively, endless, but its algorithms being so wonky about what they actually show you actually make it easier to keep up with a bunch of twitter accounts at once.

Japan a week from today. Well, assuming that my visa situation works out. I sent it out on Thursday, and it got returned to sender on Saturday because the girl at Office Depot gave me the wrong kind of envelope and apparently the postal service simply cannot deliver priority mail in an express envelope. I really don't know what that's about. I guess they can't be bothered to read? I don't know how this policy benefits anyone at all. It's not as if they're actively making money that way. I don't get it.

I ended up having to go to UPS and finagle a way to get it there by tomorrow, so now I've gotta call the Japanese Consulate and plead for them to attend to it very quickly once it gets there. If it doesn't happen on time, I could be like at least $500 and MUCH more stress deeper in this thing.

On another note, I wish I could interact with fandom more easily lately. I really want to do things like talk meta, write fic, be creative, but I feel like everything is running through a filter that I just cannot seem to engage with. It makes me sad. Turns out I posted about this last time, too?
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Cross-posted from my newer tumblr: [tumblr.com profile] shirouemiyas

So I’m terrified and don’t really have time to finish processing before I go, but I’m headed to Japan at the end of the month to teach English in a university setting. I’ll be gone for three months until the end of July. I started this process when I was working very unpredictable, irregular hours as a substitute teacher with a real bottom-out of my income working for the school system where I currently work. After I finally got up the nerve to begin the application process after going to Katsucon and talking to Rin at the end of February, I got a job offer from the county where I work now for a full-time position starting March 18 through the end of the school year. I accepted it tentatively, but I was up front with them about having the pending application to go to Japan. They were accepting, especially because they knew I had started this application before they offered me anything. It’s just a matter of the right day now to tell them when I am going to leave my current job. I would like to give myself a day or two before leaving to just not do anything but make sure I am prepared and have what I need and to spend time with my family, so I’ll probably do that.

I think I’ll be leaving on April 29th here and arriving there on the 30th though it’s kind of wild given the date change. I think it’s going to be about 14 hours in the air with a brief stop in Atlanta both ways. I am getting to fly Delta despite the company’s demand that I go through a particular travel agency which is nice because I really wanted to go through Delta before I knew that. I’ve heard good things and the last time I flew to Canada the Delta connection was the nicest for sure.

I keep trying to get a good relationship with tumblr and/or dreamwidth again, but I have been just utterly frazzled for the past month or two.

Tentatively hoping I’m making good strides for the future, but I’m really afraid.

Also I’m so creatively frustrated I might cry.
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friendingmeme
The picture is a link however you can click HERE as well
prixmium: (akikai - stars kiss)
Edit: Twitter embeds are apparently useless so I'm leaving them but also embedding direct links to the pics???

Last weekend, I went to Katsucon, an anime convention in the DC metro area (southern Maryland technically) that is the only anime con I've ever been to. I went in 2009 when I was a senior in high school with the anime club. I went again in 2010 with a couple of people from said anime club, even though I wasn't particularly into many anime at all just to be going on a trip. At the time, I was into Hetalia (regrettably, though I don't fault it for helping me a tiny bit with remembering history and world geography in a way I hadn't before) and nostalgia childhood anime in a way that wasn't particularly deep. It made it hard to really key in with anything that was going on, but I wanted to be a part of something. Then, I lost touch with the people I went with and the next couple of times I even considered going, even after being more into at least one or two anime, I never really felt like I was welcome to include myself in their con plans anymore.

Going this year was something that crossed my mind only because I figured I'd be able to go given my inconsistent working days. However, given that, it also meant that I was gonna be spending about $400 for the weekend (I'm guessing that was about my total including room, food, and spending) while underemployed. However, I have like $200 cash back on my credit card that I was originally thinking would be a plane ticket subsidy come summer, but this year I doubted I was going to have enough money to do a thousand+ dollar trip anyway sooo I waffled. Then I almost talked myself out of it. Then, a friend from twitter whom I knew was going while she was stateside was suddenly in a bit of a pickle where a friend she'd reserved a room for had to cancel on the trip, so she was left with an extra hotel reservation that she either had to cancel or transfer. Given that I'd been publicly and in private conversation waffling about the matter (not fishing for help or anything), she offered to see if she could switch the reservation to my name. I figured that was something of a nudge that it might be good for me to go, so I decided to do it as the motel she'd found was like at least $50 cheaper for the weekend than anything I'd been looking at and I wouldn't be alone and terrified at least.

I drove up on Valentine's Day. I've really got to get better at preparing the night before for long drives. I finally arrived and decided to just go to bed without getting food. I was tired. However, by the time I got up, got dressed, and got to the convention center to even pick up my badge - a process which itself took about an hour - it was almost 24 hours since I'd eaten last. That was pretty miserable. Besides being weak and hungry, it also did a number on my gut feeling right until like laaaate Saturday. I'm getting old and my body actually punishes me for stupid shit.

The Friday of the con was pretty weird and lonely. I met a guy that I knew from twitter but mostly through someone else and we watched Steins;Gate 0 screening together for a while and occasionally spoke. I'm still strange AF around strange men, though, even though he was completely and totally nonthreatening. He was cool, though. I hope he didn't get a negative impression of me because I give off vibes of "omg you're a dude what if you try to harass me or worse" at every man regardless of how innocent and kind he is until I've been around them for a while. The last friend I developed a crush actually became a crush mostly because I got over that feeling in about an hour and my heart and hormones decided that this must be what attraction was. Sigh.

I wore a sort of closet cosplay of Shirou from Fate. However, I used my own natural hair, and it was "crossplay" of the laziest kind in the world. I sprayed reddish root cover-up in my hair. No one really recognized it unless I pointed it out. If I go next year, which I hope to given later developments, I either won't bother or will do something more elaborate. The thing is, most of the characters I'm very fond of AND relate to are either a) cis-male and b) wear really normal clothing, so it's hard to cosplay in any meaningful way.

Friday was surreal, weird, and lonely as I was saying. I wandered around, and every time I almost decided to go to a panel, I would end up with sort of conflicting ideas about it. I finally communicate well enough with Friend Rin (not the Fate character Rin but she was cosplaying her that day) to find out when the informal Fate photoshoot was happening. I sure as hell didn't wanna be in it given how silly and underdeveloped my closet cosplay was even for closet cosplay, but I wanted to see other people in costume, and I wanted a medium of experience to meet Rin through. She already knew the other two people in our motel whom she had coordinated reservations with, so I was in this single room, alone, and felt like I was intruding in a way. I did meet them, and I had a great time once my initial "oh no I'm interrupting your lives" panic was over.

I didn't take many pictures, though I hope to access the albums they made. I did take one, though, which Rin posted rather than me, and given that she is more twitter-popular than I am it got some traffic! It was the funniest picture I've ever taken tbh. I'm pretty proud of it.

This took like a year to scroll down to on twitter:






Anyway, if anyone wants to see me more frequently, I'm on twitter like every day these days. I'm [twitter.com profile] prixofheroes.

I was considering going to a Fate meet-up at the con at like 1am, but I decided to head back to the motel with Rin and her friends (the one stomping Shirou, the Saber standing regally with her sword beside her who isn't directly attacking him, and the Dark Sakura kneeling by him) to eat Chinese takeout. I had the BEST crab rangoon I've ever tasted.

It was really nice, just hanging out in a hotel room and getting to know people. I despise that it is impossible to just have social situations where you have dinner with similarly aged and interested people. Rin and I are much closer in age than Saber and Lolly were, but it was okay. I enjoyed that part a lot.

The following morning, I decided to go with Rin and Lolly to DC in an Uber while Saber decided they needed to sleep more than they needed to go on a bus tour. I'd never actually been to DC.







We didn't get back to the con until pretty late, and I saw the HUGE Fate photoshoot. Unfortunately, my dreams of meeting a lot more people to actually talk to didn't really come true, but all in all I was proud that I was even able to get to know the people I was directly around. I suck at people.

Rin said she was really glad I came, given that she got a clearer read on me and that I definitely liked her than her older friends. I think her other friends like her and that she and I are just closer in age and the other two had had a chance to close ranks on their ride down, but that should be fine. I'm just so happy that someone actually likes me as a person who isn't someone I've inflicted myself upon for years.

While the other three cleared out to start travel on Sunday, I checked out of the motel but went back to the con for a couple hours. I ate at Nando's twice while I was in the area. The only other not-fast-food I was interested in was perhaps some seafood since it isn't so landlocked, but I couldn't find a well-rated one in the area that didn't seem like a gamble. I'd eat Nando's every day if it were feasible. Give me one locally pleeease.

I bought items to fill out an itabag I purchased (probably for too much money) form a booth. I finally put together the Rough Draft Fate Itabag 1.0 last night. I had about half of the materials, and the other half I bought. I needed a Shirou and I got two.










My Fate fanning was a success, and I bought One (1) Steins;Gate keychain which was the only SciAdv merch I saw all weekend. My heart cries that I couldn't even find Robotics;Notes art to buy given that DaSH just came out. Alas my poor obscure second anime(/etc) love. The one lady selling the Fate keychains I bought at the con must've thought I was insane but happily so as I spent like $120 at her one booth and it was pretty much the only merch I bought besides the itabag itself.

You can see my twitter for a lot of my stream of consciousness thoughts along and after the trip, but my more articulated thought round-up is something like this. I'm very glad I went. I'm thrilled that Rin and I bonded, and especially if she gets to go through with making plans to return, I want to go back. I hope that if I do my time management and participation skills and confidence are a little higher so as not to make it feel quite so overpriced as an experience, even though I tried to be sane GIVEN what I was doing. I hope that over the course of the next year, I have more and better opportunities to meet people outside of insane weirdo congregation trips.

The drive home was an emotional rollercoaster, and it makes me really wish we had reliable railways... I'm lonely, still, but I'm glad I made the decision to go through with this experience.
prixmium: (akikai - stars kiss)
I think I did this early in its existence like three years ago, around the time I was first getting heavily into Fate / Type Moon. It's very weird and eerie to revisit it, though I'm not sure if it is the exact same one. It is strange how much involvement with that one fandom changed my life and person in both good and regrettable ways... Anyway, I did this thing: http://ellimists.tumblr.com/

And I had... 10 of them tie for #1 rank??? So I'll list the ones that tied in the order listed and then do the ones that also tied for #11 rank, I guess.

1's

  • Enemies to Friends to Lovers
  • Hurt/Comfort
  • 'Groundhog Day'/Karmic Time Loop
  • Reincarnation/'25 Lives' AU
  • Snowed-In Cabin/Isolated Together For Extended Period of Time
  • Found Families
  • Friends to Lovers
  • Loyalty Kink
  • Selfcest (possibly due to time travel)
  • Magical Connection (Telepathy, etc)


I should note that the Selfcest one is for one extremely specific thing in Fate... not usually my thing. Also, if this is the same sorter that I remember, I think it might've replaced an "Age Gap (possibly due to time travel)" entry that I also highly prioritized because of Fate and little else. Though I suppose shipping a Time Lord with anyone also counts for that... kinda. That's more a fantasy creature thing, though, where age is... different. Okay I'll stop.

11's
  • Royals/Political Marriage Turns Into Feelings
  • Adopting/Raising a Baby
  • 'Everyone is Evil'/Mirrorverse AU
  • Accidentally Fell In Love With The Mission Target
  • Polyamory


All in all, this is very, very me... gives me food for thought. This tool might be useful for fic challenges, hm.
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Send me a Trope and I’ll rate it!

No | rather not | I dunno | I guess | Sure | Yes | FUCK yes | Oh god you don’t even know

Meme provided by [community profile] journalmemes. Also [personal profile] isabellerecs.

Sick Days

Jan. 24th, 2019 12:15 am
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Hi all. I'm trying to remember where my last update had me in this ages-long month. I think the last time I remember being on was on like the 4th except for trying in vain to keep up with snowflake days. Anyway, I'll go over recent events. Forgive me if it is a rehash.

So back in December, I was finishing up an interim position for a lady who'd had a baby. I knew that it would be ending when winter break came around as the teacher planned to return to school when it resumed in January. I talked to the central office people to ask if they had anything else for me to do, full-time or interim. They informed me that they had a special ed position starting in January if I would be willing to do it; they couldn't find a full-time special ed teacher for it. I agreed and, on the last day of school in December, went to meet with the teacher I was slotted to take over for temporarily. She was having a surgery on a ligament or tendon or something in her leg, and they expected her to need to stay off of it for six to eight weeks.

When school started back on January 3rd, I was there. I did the work through the rest of that week, and as soon as I took a breath and thought that it would actually be kind of cool, I got a call from the office. They explained to me that because to teacher I was doing the interim term for had a surgery during which they were not able to do the full extent of repairs they had hoped to, even though they apparently were able to do some of it, that the healing process wasn't going to be as long either. Therefore, the doctor had given her permission to return to work that Monday. I worked for two days instead of six weeks.

The school system I have been working for is so much better than the one I worked for the previous year. However, they simply haven't had a full-time position for me. They said they would put me on the substitute lists for all of their schools, but this is a county system, and they haven't switched over to the phone and internet-based system for substitute teachers. This means that it is all manual, and it has a lot to do with teachers or school representatives setting up substitutes. In a way, it's mildly reassuring on a conceptual level, but it also means that I am having to slowly get my feet wet with people being willing to call me. It also means that I am very poor again, making about $35 a day when I get to work at all when I thought making $1k a month was pretty meager.

I think I've worked five or six days this month???

I spent a week barely leaving the parsonage. I finally started getting called late last week, at least. I worked Wednesday-Friday. Then, Sunday morning, I awakened with a telltale burn in the back of my throat. Subbing for elementary for the first time in a while will get your adult immune system EVERY time. I was also aware that due to some weather, they probably would be closed on Monday despite their efforts to take MLK Day back as a day off because of time missed last semester. One great (if frustrating) thing about this system - lots of winter weather delays and cancellations. They just don't have the infrastructure to deal with it up in the mountains. It's sometimes hilarious. "Snow Day - but where???"


I came home Sunday afternoon after church. Have been at my parents' house since. I'm getting well enough to feel mopey. I think I'm going to be able to work again on Friday, which is my birthday. No one has mentioned it at all except for me. I don't know if my parents plan to acknowledge it or just can't afford to or what. I know it probably shouldn't matter, and I don't have any local friends. I'll be 28.

Anyway, between literally being sick and the random time not working, I feel really upside down and confused in my perception of time. I also find myself being pointlessly envious of anything and everything. I feel like a potato-like blob, but I feel envious of people who... have their lives together, have predictable incomes, have significant others, have kids, get to go to anime cons, get to go to the movies, get to go anywhere at all with a peer... and the list I'm sure could go on. And yet, I don't really know where to start with any of it, and money may not buy happiness, but it sure does stave off a lot of things that cause paralysis and misery.
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Day 4 - Comment to someone you haven't ever interacted with before or introduce yourself to someone you've interacted with and friend/follow them.

Did this.

Promote three communities, challenges, blogs, pages, Twitters, Tumblrs or platforms and explain why you love them.

My friend [tumblr.com profile] morethanprinceofcats is honestly the thing I miss most about being on tumblr regularly. She seems to have had neither cause nor motivation to move anywhere else, but her blog is honestly just so good. It is a combination of a peaceful flow of her beautiful aesthetic and a lot of really hard-hitting, good media criticism that she isn't trying to impress the Fandom Powers That Be with and I just love her a lot even if we don't talk much.

Reconnected with an internet person I really like overall through her running [twitter.com profile] incorrectfateqs instead of just on tumblr. I love these things, so much. Fate is such a heavy, dense mythology and story that the silliness for it, canon or fanon, is needed and great.

Can I cheat and just go with dreamwidth for my last recommendation? It's circular and not going to lead anywhere new, but I just really enjoy having this type of outlet again. It's so much less pressure than other blogging or microblogging platforms, and it is so "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" in terms of its functionality. If you're willing to read the documentation you can do almost anything with it, and there isn't the pressure to have this pristine white page where you only ever talk in pt. 5 typeface.

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Day 3

In your own space, share a favorite piece of original canon (a TV episode, a song, a favorite interview, a book, a scene from a movie, etc) and explain why you love it so much.


"You Are My King" - Scene from Fate/Zero



Hmmm... there are a lot of things I could go with, and if I tried to be equitable and to share a bit of everything I loved, then I would never finish this post. However, since I have been trying to stop feeling like I have such a strangely traumatic relationship with Fate/Type Moon, and I've been reading a bit of the VN and watching Zero when I can lately, the first thing that came to mind was a scene from Fate/Zero. I can't actually find it on YouTube or anything in full, but I can share the legit CrunchyRoll link and give a timestamp:

About 14:50-through the end of the scene: (Sub) https://www.crunchyroll.com/fatezero/episode-23-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-world-596235 (Dub) https://www.crunchyroll.com/fatezero/episode-23-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-world-681051

Iskandar: I just remembered. There was something I meant to ask you.

Waver: Huh?

Iskandar: Waver Velvet, would you serve as my retainer?

Waver: You... You are my king. I will serve you, swearing fealty to you. I want to follow where you go! I want to share your dream!

Iskandar: Very well. As king, it is my duty to inspire others to dream. And as a retainer, it is your duty to see my dream through, and to pass tales down to future generations. Live on, Waver. Watch to the end, and then tell the story. Tell them of your king, of Iskandar's charge!


Throughout the last several scenes Waver and Rider | Iskandar, share, it is so clear that Waver has reached a point of attachment to and admiration of Iskandar that he does not want to let him go. He has become swept up in the majesty and terror of what they have been going through together, and he has learned to see the world through Iskandar's eyes with something he had never known or allowed himself to see before. Then, just knowing that Waver is willing to do that, Iskandar finds a means and an end to save Waver's life and does not shame him for his tears, as he would have before, and my heart is so full and so broken.

This whole episode is just gut-wrench after gut-wrench, but it never ceases to amaze me how much more attached I get to Waver as time goes on. I'm super excited to watch Episode 0 of the Case Files anime that I can't believe is happening - and I've even heard it's good! Waver starts out as a character who is both sympathetic and cocky, and he is the character whom you just know will die. Every moment, every time he does something stupid or impulsive or proud, you're waiting for it. But he doesn't. He survives. And this touching moment with Iskandar and him realizing a higher ideal, just simply not being practical and also finding some kind of passion in this sympathetic exercise makes me tear up every time. I would have to write a full essay on why "You Are My King," makes me DIE INSIDE but also SOAR WITH JOY, but I just... am so proud of Waver for standing there and staying on his feet, watching and knowing that Iskandar's time has come. He doesn't want it, but he accepts it, and I think maybe that is the biggest part of his character development, and there is something just almost ineffable about their relationship. I don't ship it. Some people do, but I don't. It's one of those things that, personally, I think has more meaning if one doesn't see it that way. But either way, it's just beautiful.

And if you don't feel like looking up the video, you can just listen to the score and hear how beautifully evocative it is. It is some of my favorite music ever. I almost tear up right on cue with the scene with the music, not because I've got it fully memorized or anything, but because it is so perfect at conveying this sublime, terrible emotion that is woven throughout the scene itself. Maybe it is because the Ionian Hetairoi has vanished BEFORE that big soaring choir, but I just need to lie down afterward.



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Day 2

Rec at least three fanworks that you didn’t create.


Being totally honest, I have been guilty of not reading as much as I should in fandom circles for a long time. I have been a very vocal proponent for giving feedback to the fanfic one does read, but I haven't been as good to seek out fic as I used to be. I read "real books" even less. Some English teacher I am, though I have always admitted that maybe I was more of a grammar and linguistics fan when it came to academics than a literature buff like most English teachers seem to be. I'm really hopeful and encouraged that I've been reading more fic and even more canon material more often since I've started focusing on spaces like DreamWidth rather than the endless, fruitless, silent scrolling on tumblr.

I do have a few things I can rec, though! Without question. I just hope that I can consume more at a steady and reasonable rate so that this won't be so lopsided in the future.




There is one, singular, amazing fanfic that I revisit over an over even when it isn't my main fandom wheelhouse and that I look at again and again to the point that it distracts me from even seeking out new fanworks...

Blue Sky by waffles

Portal, Chell/Wheatley

Meteors, signals, apologies, and that tricky little thing called humanity- four years after the events of Portal II, Wheatley's been handed a second chance, but it's not going to be plain sailing…


Portal, as a fandom, was a strange experience for me. I played it during a summer when I was having a lot of emotional growing pains and was petty isolated no matter what I seemed to do, even moreso than usual. I was trying to be healthy and also really itching to get out of the house, so between playing Portal and moping around, I took music with me to a state park a lot and did a bunch of walking. While walking, I daydreamed about Portal and the negative space in the subtly told story, even before I got to Portal 2 which has a much more developed, centralized narrative. I posted about it on tumblr one day, and from the tag I met someone who did a very excellent roleplaying rendition of GLaDOS. From there, I became a pretty well-known (for a moment) Chell RPer on tumblr, and while that didn't last long, I still RP Chell on a website called Pandora. She always come back to me.

Early on in my experience with the fandom, I got asked a lot if this fic had inspired the way I wrote Chell. It hadn't. I had never heard of it, and I have never considered shipping Chell and Wheatley at all. I mean, he's a robot ball? And not even that kind of robot. But this fic had a reputation. Lots of people loved it, and a few people hated it. The main reason for that response, I think, on both sides was how much it humanized Wheatley, quite literally. I just love the way this story is written. It is way up there with the novels I have managed to read as an adult. I am consumed with love for it every time I think about it.

It is not even that I "agree" or espouse every headcanon-y thing in it. If I have one major issue to take with it, it is the way in which this narrative and the fandom that likes Wheatley at large conflates the character of Wheatley and the person of Stephen Merchant together a bit too closely. I appreciate that way in which the office (as in, the UK The Office, I think a lot of the time) dynamics are translated into the Aperture environment - I think it's done brilliantly and in a way that is in line with the background canon we are given. However, I do think that there is some internal contradiction with the background given to Chell with regard to how she got involved in the story, given the canon, to make that part of the story more tropey meet ugly/cute. But it's so well done that I can overlook my few hang-ups with it. It is one of the most tightly and beautifully written stories I've ever read in terms of the fact that no detail is wasted, but it doesn't feel rush. It is rich, alive, and lovely, and one of the best plot or ship fics I've ever read.




A lot of people seem to think of fanvidding as a dated art, from what I can tell, but I absolutely love it. I had just gotten a little bit of prowess during the era of .avis and some kind of weird extension thing on Windows Movie Maker when the technology marched on forever. It is one of my dearest wishes to make fanvids again someday. I recently got a new external harddrive, and it is one of the things I hope to do as a result. I love fanvid as this very stand-alone and yet very communicative, transformative commentary on a canon. Some people manage to use fanvids to create convincing AUs, but it is often more of a comment or perspective on what is already there, and I see it almost as a flipside of the coin to what I love most about fanfic. There is one pair of videos by [youtube.com profile] KatrinDepp that are my favorite that I can ever think of.

I don't really ship Clara and Twelve per se, but I adore their relationship for the complicated mess it is. One of my biggest cool down and walk way moments with a Doctor Who conversation I ever had was someone who hated S8 and considered it out of character, because S8 and S9 of Doctor Who are two of my favorite narrative arcs ever.

These videos go together, one after the other, and contain spoilers for S8/S9 of Doctor Who. The second one is the BEST, but it means so much more with the first.









It's hard to come up with a third specific instance, if only because of the abundant number of fics I have received through fic exchanges. I don't want to be nepotistic by choosing one by a close personal friend, though I could recommend anything by my best friend [archiveofourown.org profile] sheeana. However, one fic and other creator whom I'd consider a friendly face in fandom but more distant is a user named [personal profile] megkips / [archiveofourown.org profile] megkips that I met through Fate fandom very early on in being invested enough to write fic.

One fic of theirs that comes to mind is one that they wrote for me for GenEx one year in our same-fandom acquaintance ship:

Diaulodromia by megkips

Sakura and Shirou test the bounds of their friendship as Shirou slowly but surely becomes the Heroic Spirit he was always meant to be. Archer has a different perspective.


It comes to mind among all of them and even in this fandom (of which I've probably read the most, if only in betaing, over the past few years) because it doesn't deal with a ship. I've always been uncomfortable shipping Sakura with anyone on the terms that the canon seems to give us, and I am pretty firmly in the camp of shipping Shirou with Rin and/or Saber. However, I really hate the notion that just because a person isn't romantically involved with someone that they fade in all importance, which tends to take over in "romantic" fiction. This fic is so softly written and handles a sustaining friendship between Shirou and Sakura and looks at Arhcer's retrospective on it - the fact that he can still care all that time later, even if she isn't and never was his lover. I love it so much.
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I haven't seen any of the YuGiOh spin-offs but this is the sole thing I have ever seen that kind of makes me want to invest the time into it someday.

Other YuGiOh thoughts before I pass out:

It used to bother me so much that everyone in the YuGiOh universe takes this card game so seriously that they build technology and have law concerning it and all kinds of just bizarre stuff that doesn't happen about card games in our universe. I could live with it - suspension of disbelief - but it would always come back to haunt me. Then someone on the YuGiOh discord server I'm in helped me so much when they suggested that it was basically like Duel Monsters was the equivalent of American football in this universe but more internationally prevalent. It was like a great fog cleared, and it all made sense! How many tv shows and movies and political things do you know that have come about as a result of American football? The answer is a lot.

Still, though, I do find it weird how it seems like absolutely everything in YuGiOh seems to come back to this singular game and mythology. It makes me feel better, therefore, if I imagine that YuGiOh takes place in even a passive crossover with some of my other fandoms. I am working on this thing that I will make a post explaining before sharing, but it has to do with my talking about my daydreaming universes and how a huge part of one of those inner worlds was damaged by real life issues with a friend I shared it with. The long story short, however, is that I imagine that YuGiOh takes place in the same universe as several other (mostly anime) fandoms including, among others, Steins;Gate, which is what this video reminds me of and makes me really want to play with such themes in YuGiOh fic and stuff someday...
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Related to previous post about my ChocolateBox letter.

So, usually I go in looking for particular tags, but fic exchanges are sometimes an opportunity to request something weird that one had never considered as a real possibility before. One of the things I picked of this nature was Thief King Bakura/Atem.

I would never, ever have considered this in a million years as a thing I would organically Start Shipping and yet I'm interested. You can see my prompt on my letter for why, but the thing I wanted to just put SOMEWHERE for posterity is how it occurred to me that Atem and Thief King Bakura, shippy or not, could be a bit like a motive/moral-weight-reversed Rameses and Moses from The Prince of Egypt. Like, IMAGINE:




And now suddenly I'm way more invested in their pre-canon/Millennium Item entrapment potential interactions than I ever was before which is fun.

Also that's one of the best cartoon film songs ever. As a Christian, I absolutely adore The Prince of Egypt as a sort of... non-proselytizing adaptation? I feel like adaptations of Bible stories that are intended to have a particularly Religious intent are often... sanitized which makes no sense at all, but is extremely reflective of the weird relationship between American Civil Christianity and Conservatism and censorship and a bunch of other stuff that one could write a dissertation on. The Prince of Egypt takes faith and religion as series and very real within the narrative, but it isn't trying to pitch the religion to someone from a weird, meddling-PR standpoint which I would tend to think makes it more effective as a story and as an introduction-point to a faith with which one was previously not familiar or emotionally connected to incidentally. It has an organic relationship with its source material that is strangely absent from a lot of "Religious Film."

"Through Heaven's Eyes" is also a really great song that is genuinely devotional and inspirational, on that note, even though it isn't written with that explicit intent. I also like that this movie didn't shy away from the fact that Zipporah and the Midianites were black and that there were, in fact, monotheists and people who influenced and partook in the spiritual heritage of the Abrahamic faiths from within Africa itself, contrary to the colonizing narrative that later European cultural Christians would use to justify their invasions of African cultures. There's a bunch more I have to say about that, both informed and curious, but for now here's a song:




Now, back to YuGiOh (sublime to ridiculous).

On Bakura (both of them) and Mixed Identity

For ease, when I say "Bakura" I mean Yami or Thief King Bakura, as appropriate, and when I say Ryou I mean modern day teenager child host / "landlord". When I use the full name, Bakura Ryou, I mean both of them as appropriate.

I have known for years that Bakura was a name of Hebrew origin. I don't remember where I learned it. GeoCities? An issue of American Shounen Jump? Something. But it's a real thing and you can look it up. I never really considered it having a deeper meaning until this recent foray into being into YuGiOh.

Also, we know how Ryou really likes the Change of Heart card art and is trying to communicate meaningfully through telling his friends this.



Now I would like to talk about a couple of headcanons about both of them that I think play nicely back into this theme, even if I know for a fact I'm just wholesale making shit up that Takahashi likely never gave a second thought. I also want to disclaim that while there is certainly a light/dark, good/evil symbology behind the divided heart or theme of being part-one-thing-part-something-else that I am in absolutely no way giving that kind of value quality to being mixed-race, though I'm going to talk about that as part of this, too. There are some serious issues with how we equate "dark" with "bad" and how that relates to the perception of skin color and beauty standards and such and it isn't exclusive to western culture, and I feel like I shouldn't HAVE to disclaim that, but I'm gonna just in case. I know the can of worms exists, but we're not opening it here.

So, the American dub gave Ryou a British accent so as to impart the vibe of his very polite way of speaking in Japanese since we don't have honorifics and have different cultural baggage. Then, for consistency, they gave Bakura a British accent but instead gave it the character of a sort of dark, British mastermind with a much deeper tone. This was my first exposure to the character, so it certainly threw me for a loop when I started watching the sub and heard Ryou|Bakura's original voice and how little distinction there was between the two. However, as I have watched, it has grown on me and begun to make more sense. Now, I can understand how the original polite versus impolite thing is imparted in a different way though the language itself and the character of the voice and its tone has more of a creepy horror movie child vibe. But I can see the sense in both these characterizations. Localization of concept is not always a bad thing! Occasionally, 4Kids did... something... right!

(If anything, kid-friendly dubs of anime back then often had this quality of tried-too-hard to polish for perceived demographic. Sometimes it was terrible, but other times it was adorable.)

So even though I now know what Bakura Ryou "sounds like" in the original transmission, the whole Britishness thing is sort of indelibly tied to my perception of the character. However, I don't think that this is necessarily a problem. Rather, I think that it creates a pretty interesting pathway to fill in some of the gaps in Ryou's background. We don't know a whole lot about Ryou, but we do know some things.

1. He moved to Domino City's high school, and he had moved around a lot previously.

2. His father traveled to Egypt at some point where he obtained the Millennium Ring and gave it to Ryou as a gift.

3. His mother and younger sister died at the same time at some point prior to his receiving the Ring.

4. After receiving the Ring, he was not fully aware of Bakura's nature. He only ever refers to Bakura as a "Voice," if he refers to him at all, though there have been a few instances of Bakura manipulating Ryou into believing that he has the ability and intent to help him or his friends in a situation.

5. Ryou had trouble making friends after receiving the Ring, both due to moving around and the fact that when he invited friends over to play D&D-esque games they would end up passed out or in the hospital or something because Bakura doesn't play well with others.

So this leads me to this weird headcanon that I have had for some time that maybe Bakura is mixed race (Japanese and English / British of some extraction, specifically or primarily). I presume that his father may or may not be Japanese at all, given that his surname is "Bakura," which is - as I said - of Hebrew origin. Also the one time we see him he has this sort of white dude looking ponytail to me? However, Ryou has a Japanese given name which would indicate at least one Japanese parent, which make sense since he speaks Japanese and goes to school in Japan. However, we know that his dad has traveled a lot. Then you look at the interesting and very fetishy history of British archeology and Egyptomania and all of that jazz. The how's and why's could go all sorts of directions, but I imagine that given this headcanon Ryou's parents met through their professions which somehow involved the study of Ancient Egypt and that one of them was native to the UK. I suppose that Ryou grew up primarily in Japan, leading to his father remaining there with him or at least ensuring that he would be raise there, but it would seem that his father still travels for work even after his death. Not that it matters, but I also assume that his mother and sister died in a car accident, though I don't recall if it's ever stated, given that they died BEFORE the involvement of Ancient Egyptian Dark Magic (as far as we know).

Now, if we go so far as to suggest the Ryou is, at the very least, part-Japanese and part-British and that both his parents had some kind of connection to Ancient Egypt professionally, it might not be that far a leap to suggest that one of them had some kind of heritage-related interest in Ancient Egypt. This leads me to believe that whichever one of them was fully or partly European might have also been part of the Jewish diaspora.

Another disclaimer: Secular Biblical scholars will argue back and forth about the historicity of Egyptian enslavement of the Hebrew people because something or other about lack of sufficient records to indicate it on the Egyptian side of things and archeological things making them think the timeline is off. However, there are also a lot of pro arguments that one can watch documentaries about that don't seem too crackpot-y if you're interested. As someone who has studied the text both religiously and in a secular university setting, the most critical read I can give you is that I think that it smacks of something kind of weird and anti-Semitic to suggest that they made up an entire part of their cultural heritage for no reason whatsoever when we know that, like, the Babylonian captivity has some historicity. Whew. So my take is that something of this nature happened, even if the when / why / extent is not known or corroborated. But I shouldn't even have to say this, again, because from a fictional headcanon point of view I'm mostly looking at it from a broad-strokes, mythological point of view anyway.

So why does it matter if Ryou might have some aspect of Jewish cultural heritage? Well, it goes back to that surname and the fact that it is, apparently and improbably, an overlap with the only known name of the Thief King Bakura. Let's have some fun with weird and possibly-lazy writing!

A really early and uninformed read on YuGiOh canon suggested to younger-me that both Yugi and Ryou were, like, Japanese-reincarnations of... Ancient Egyptian people... never mind the kind of bizarre and problematic view of what the concept of reincarnation would even mean then. They are not and cannot be reincarnations by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, and resemblance can only go so far when these people are separated by thousands of years of genetics and race-typical features. I'm not denying that they resemble reach other in... some... vague... way, but it has to be read with a grain of salt to be taken seriously whatsoever.

Why are you taking YuGiOh seriously? You might ask. Because shut up.

Literally the only people it makes sense to read as actual reincarnations are people like Seto and Isis who had identities in the ancient past who died and lived again to end up in some rehash or continuation of events of their past lives. Yugi and Ryou aren't like that expressly because while Atem and Bakura died physical deaths, their souls have been trapped in the Ring and Puzzle for three thousand years. Yugi and Ryou were born before they were out of their Millennium Item prisons. They aren't reincarnations.

What they could be, though, is some kind of fate-driven, meant-to-be vessel for this unfinished destiny business. Then, Seto and Isis end up where they're supposed to be in relation to it because of some kind of metaphysical gravitational pull/orbit dynamic that is completely undiscussed but that we can accept because shut up.

So, like, Yugi and Atem are... soul...mates, I guess, whether you read it in a shippy way or not. They're similar, but they aren't really connected in any meaningful, corporeal way. In fact, the most satisfying answer that I have ever heard for why they (Atem | Yugi or Bakura | Ryou) look so much the same in the ancient past and in their Japanese teenager forms came from [personal profile] toxictsukino telling me about an explanation for it she read in a tendershipping fic. I have no idea what the fic was as that isn't a thing I really ship, but basically: Bakura explained to Ryou that the reason he perceived of himself, in flashbacks and such, as basically a brown version of Ryou is because Ryou's face was the only face he had ever seen as his own in a mirror or anything. That is somehow tantalizing as an explanation, even though I refuse to believe neither of them ever caught their reflection in the Nile or a blade or something even before the invention of true-clarity mirrors. It's at least a concept I can kind of get behind! So there.

Back on track, I think that the above why-the-hell-do-you-resemble-each-other-at-all-then applies more to Yugi and Atem than to Ryou and Bakura for the simple reason that I can maybe buy some narrative where Bakura is a thousands-of-years-back ancestor to Ryou if we go with him having a European Jewish Diaspora parent. Because...

Where did that name "Bakura" come from at all? Well, maybe it was because Thief King Bakura was Hebrew.

Based on the Biblical account/mythology: The Hebrew people came to live in the Land of Goshen in the Nile Delta as a result of the life and exploits of Joseph (of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame). Joseph had some dreams that foretold him coming to power greater than that of all of his older by-another-mother half-siblings and his parents. He was also favored by their father as the son of the one of two sisters he actually wanted to marry in the first place. This made his older brothers not like him very much, so they conspired to kill him. One day, he went to them out in the field wearing his multicolored coat that was expensive and proof that he was the favorite kid, and they tossed him down into this pit thing from which he could not get out. He begged for them to help him and stop this nonsense while they conspired how to kill him, but then one of the brothers saw some traders coming by and decided that they didn't actually have to kill him, the could just sell him into slavery instead! So they pull him out of the pit only to sell him as a slave to these passing traders. They take his coat and drench it in animal blood to convince their father that Joseph was gored by some animal, and Joseph is exiled into Egypt.

Joseph has some pretty wild ups and downs until eventually he rises to power second only to Pharaoh because of some dream prophecies. Joseph is given the wisdom of how to prepare for a seven year famine, and Pharaoh gives him all the control he needs in order to make it happen. Then comes the famine, and Joseph's brothers come looking for food because they have exhausted their options where they were, but they have no idea that it is Joseph who is in charge as it has been at least fourteen years. Then some other things happen, and Joseph reconciles with his family, and they and their tribe come to settle in the land given to them by Pharaoh. (They didn't just assimilate mainly because, on the Egyptian side of things, the Hebrews were shepherds and the Egyptians didn't really do that so much, so they thought the sheep herds were stinky.)

So then comes a Pharaoh who has forgotten the relationship of friendship between the Egyptians and the Hebrews, he sees the Hebrews as Others and freeloaders, pulls some typical racist bullshit, and enslaves the Hebrews. So that's how you ended up with Hebrew slaves in Egypt, according to the Bible.


So I really don't know when one can best-date the fictional reign of Atem and his dad, but assuming the possibility that either Hebrew friendship or slavery might have existed during that time assuming that it was a thing that happened in some kind of reasonably mythologically parallel way, it is an interesting idea to me.

It became an interesting idea to me because of something a Troper on TVTropes pointed out:

Whole Costume Reference: Appropriately enough, given the setting and his backstory, the red robe kinda makes him look like a topless version of the classic depiction of Moses, as in The Ten Commandments.


So then we get back to both my laughing-but-not-really about the juxtaposition between Atem and Bakura in the ancient past and the possibility of them as a sort of played with and inverted narrative of Rameses and Moses per The Prince of Egypt. [To note: Rameses II being the Pharaoh in The Prince of Egypt and Moses having a fraternal relationship with him is pure artistic license on the film's part and not something that is textually given in the Bible.]

This would kind of work for a YuGiOh-verse interpretation of why the people of Kul Elna were so randomly expendable and how much Bakura perceived himself as an equal-opposite to Atem in his efforts to avenge his own loss. It wasn't just Atem's Evil Uncle Aknadin who did this; he had help, so why was he able to rally support to go murder 99 people in cold blood who didn't see it coming? Why did Bakura as an unknown survivor go on to be a sort of self-raised feral child for the rest of his growing up? Why did he become aligned with criminality and theft rather than finding someplace to find sympathy and be absorbed into someone's family life?

It is almost an inversion of the Moses myth itself. Moses was saved from the massacre of all of the Hebrew male children under the age of two because the Pharaoh at the time felt that the Hebrew people were becoming too numerous and may one day get free of their bondage. Moses's mother kept him hidden for as long as possible while crafting a waterproofed basket which she placed him in and let it free to allow it to float it up the Nile, giving him at least a chance of survival. Then he was found by the daughter of the Pharaoh, taken in as her child, and arose to the position from which he was eventually exiled. Later, he returned from exile with a mission to free his birth people from slavery on the part of his adopted people.

Bakura, on the other hand, is a survivor of a massacre but he is not a purposeful survivor. He was overlooked as a child. He grew up embittered, and he has no adoptive family, no salvific mission, and when he does come up with a plan for vengeance he is manipulated by the very architect of his people's massacre.

This all interests me because it gives yet another layer to the theme of Part against Part, Person against Person, and so on that runs so deep with the whole symbology surrounding Ryou as a character and how that connects him or makes him at all fit or destined to be involved with Bakura at all. While Yugi is destined through spirit, maybe Ryou is destined by blood.


Wow, this post went all kinds of places.
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So I haven't participated in a fic exchange since last year's ChocolateBox, but on a whim I looked at the open challenges on the Yuletide discord server and decided to do it. True to my word, I'm gonna keep using my original DW account as a home for the letters because it feels right, but here's a link to it in case any of you are interested.
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I go back to work on the 3rd and there isn't a day off scheduled for the school kids except, I think, April 22nd. This interim position sounded like it might only be six weeks. And honestly, I don't know why I'm nervous about it. I tend to do much better with structure, and it sounds like this won't have a ton of grading after hours even with what I'm doing. Change is just scary. I don't even emotionally handle being off that well because I've got no one but my parents in my life. Today I've been alone back over at the parsonage and veering back and forth between content and feeling introvert-refreshed to fighting tears for no reason. I blame Hormones, in part, but I just keep running around in circles about how I feel like I never accomplish real goals, creative, personal, professional, or any other kind I can imagine. I am just not a self-starting person

I think I've figured out that one thing is that maybe I need more stimulants in my life. I have cut back on soda and even tea a lot and perhaps to a point that my prescription medication is having so much of a relaxant/sedative effect that I am sleeping way more than a normal person should. I guess if I'm sad about anything over the break it's that I slept most of it away, but at this point I'm not even sure what difference break versus work makes. Even though I look forward to, if I ever have professional success at all, being able to travel a bit during some of my breaks, when it's just time off for time off's sake, after the first three days or so I get sad.
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I did a thread on twitter. Cross-posting them here. Just the images.















Back to You - Selena Gomez (Forgot/aesthetics?)





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I'm really glad it's over. I'm looking forward to seeing if anything improves with a Democratic majority House of Representatives, though I'm not holding my breath. I know that some people were much more directly impacted by how shitty this year was in terms of the real world and politics, but even from my position firmly hanging out on the periphery except for exercising my right and duty to vote, it has been exhausting.

I'm in the camp of feeling like this year was several epochs long. Black Panther came out this year? Dirty by Justin Timberlake? TSwift's obsession with her reputation??? No, that was the last century, surely.

For me some of that probably has to do with the fact that my "years" tend to be defined by school years due to working for schools. Still, though, I don't think I'm alone in it.

Certain things have improved for me a lot. My living situation has gone from soul-sucking to just kind of quiet and confusing. Since my last semester of undergrad, I've been one of the moved-back-home millennials. I really had nowhere to go, and the few times it looked like I might have income enough to move out, I didn't trust it nor see any reason to strike out on my own five miles away when it really didn't help me socially or financially. I honestly appreciate having my parents around and available... to a point.

I was probably wise in not trying to move out on my own, given how things have turned out. Anyway, even though I'm only making about $1,000 a month right now, if that, I am in a much better place than I was last school-year where I worked in one of the most inept administrations I've ever seen or heard of. I thought I just wasn't cut out for actually teaching, but nah. I think some of it was my inexperience, but a lot of it was that the school I worked for wanted all their teachers to be three people who practically lived at the school to have any support or respect whatsoever. The corruption and apathy and buck-passing went all the way down.

Working as an interim, I have slightly fewer responsibilities, full-time hours, but less... pay. It sucks in a way, but the county I'm working for is so, so much more responsible and caring and supportive and just nice. Add to that the fact that I'm getting to live in the church's parsonage rent-free because my dad finally has a pastorate and they're willing to support me trying to get a job over here without hemorrhaging money, and I really can't say how much worse things could be and better things have gotten.

I'm still... lonely, though. And I feel like that part is getting worse and doesn't have a lot of hope of getting better. I feel like certain things are shriveling away, and I worry about them. I worry about my future, or rather, the lack of ever having a "life of my own." I am living on a lot of people's good graces, and I hope that someday I actually have something to show for it and to give back. I don't want to be alone and lonely and isolated, in terms of peers or kids or any of that, forever.
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I opened a Dreamwidth tab a while ago with something in mind to write/vent/lament about, but then I went through my Reading Page for a while as a means of finding calm and not being super self-centered. In the time since I did so, I think my perspective on what I was going to talk about has shifted a bit, and I'm glad for it.

At first, I was going to try to explain one of my friendships and the way in which it has thinned over the past couple of years, quite painfully. However, in talking to [personal profile] toxictsukino about it and just thinking and then watching some [youtube.com profile] ContraPoints, I think I have settled on a different part of the problem that requires less deep context and less possible oversharing of someone else's business even where it relates to me.

The thing is, I feel like even if my friend that I miss and ache for in a lot of ways has dealt badly with certain relationship adjustments in the past, I don't think it is my friend's present or intent. If anything, I feel guilty because I feel like this friend has developed a higher standard of respecting other people's lives as their own business than I have. For me, everything must take place within a context, and in general (while secrets and certain personal disclosures and stuff are extremely important and notable exceptions), I tend to subscribe to an axiom of what happened to me belongs to me. If it involved another person, my perception and developed understanding of them and what they were doing at the time is a part of that narrative.

And that's the thing, if anything, I feel sort of bleedy about when it comes to this friend of mine. I feel like she has reached such a point of the sanctity of other people's business and lives that she cannot discuss the context of anything that is happening, anything that bothers her, or any of the reasons why she cannot really communicate with me in any deeper way. I understand that she is telling the truth. I understand that she is trying to do the right thing. But it is frightening. It feels like having the line to the buoy that holds up interpersonal communication cut.

I think about the terrible attitudes that seem so pervasive and even alluring to people: right-wing, entitled, callous fanaticism. And I don't think any of them have a leg to stand on as far as philosophy or morality or anything else, to be clear. However, one of the things that is often pointed out in think-pieces that try to help us understand people with violent or cruel ideologies that are developing contemporaneously to those people who are, like, not having those kinds of thoughts is that these people (usually boys) grew up with a narrative.

That narrative promised them a lot of things they haven't gotten and may not ever get.

The narrative promised them a loving female sexual partner for being a generally okay guy and doing the right thing, particularly when it felt difficult.

The narrative promised them a secure job if they went to college.

It promised them home ownership. It promised them community. It promised them financial success and neat consumer goods. It promised them a lot things...

And we can pick apart the specific promises and specific expectations all day long and how they're shitty things to believe. But not ALL of them are unreasonable desires mixed into the wicked brew that intoxicates these people. Some of them are very basic human needs that our society has made it harder and harder to meet. The Alt-Right Meme Boys have assigned the locus of their problems incorrectly and then developed perfect irony-armor in order to deflect any suggestion, critique, or analysis of the fact that some of what likely drew them into that place were very normal, human longings that a lot of us aren't getting. They want it to be too late to reach them, in a way. I like Kylo Ren | Ben Solo and tend to think the 1-to-1 comparison between him and these types of people is a lazy analysis of the story, but if there is anything that stands out like a sore thumb as a parallel, it might be that. They are ANGRY and HURT and do not WANT there to be a way back most of the time.

And all of that is just an analysis of our present sorry state of affairs. However, I bring it up with relation to how I feel sad about certain things in my own life: the loss or lessening or changing of certain relationships, the feeling that certain things that seemed very possible two or three years ago now seem like I am eternally too old or too late to reach them, and so on. That series of promises alluded to is comforting not only because the end prizes of those promises are nice things to have but because they provide a narrative or a context through which to live one's life.

We are the protagonist of our own story, and for a lot of us it feels like there was a plot but that someone or something took that plot away from us. And you know, I feel that, too. And in a way, I know that the whole hope or concept of a narrative guiding my life isn't coherent even in terms of any metaphysical or cosmological meaning one can give life. It doesn't work like that, even if there is such a thing as fate or destiny, on the ground level. You don't get to play a role where you already know the script. It just does not happen. And yet, looking at other people's lives, sometimes it seems like it does. We tell ourselves stories about other people's lives while we live our own. And it hurts and stings right now because I feel a lot like I have forever missed the next prompt where I get a new plot point, a new branch on the timeline or whatever. I feel stuck and like the context that I used to relate to the world for years has been destroyed, wasted on a foolish, empty series of small daydreams.
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This isn't a full review of the episode, mostly some thoughts about Grant Ward that are not entirely unfavorable, so if you don't like Ward or sympathy for him, this'll be a post you want to move past probably.

I have been watching Agents of SHIELD with a couple of different people at different points in the progression of it. One of my friends has been busy the past couple of months with her job, so while we blew through the first part of S1, it's been hard to get into the best part of it: the Captain America TWS tie-in arc that finished the season. I really can't imagine anyone thinking it wasn't well-done, regardless of whether or not they liked it.

I'm still at a point where I've only see most of S2 of AOS. The thing for me was that I binge-watched S1 of AOS and waited to watch S2 as it aired. However, the show took a much different turn than I had expected it to. I was in deep enough that I had certain very specific hopes and expectations (and no, not all of them were SkyeWard related, though some of them were) that were just repeatedly not met and stamped all over. I became frustrated with the show and the characters and with the fandom itself. It got to a point where it was an unpleasant experience to try to watch the episode each week (which I find to be a weirder demand on time than occasional binges) and then to get online on the tumblblur and see a bunch of really Know It All, dogmatic fans say this definitely was going to happen, wasn't going to happen, shouldn't happen, was a disservice if... No one liked anything that was going on, no matter where they stood on which character or which plot point, and at the winter break of the airing shows I was following at the time, I threw up my hands and quit and pretty much never followed a show week to week ever again.

I was tempted to watch S4 of AOS alone when I started seeing gifs on tumblr because I am weak to SkyeWard content, and I was surprised given how far they had gone with Ward character assassination and literal murder (which I had picked up through fandom osmosis after no longer following the series) that they had even bothered to include it. I was intrigued and curious but didn't act on it.

Then my best friend came along and, for some reason, wanted to watch it together. I don't even remember why at this point. I think maybe she was sick and decided to watch some she hadn't seen. Anyway, my best friend had a really interesting perspective on things about the Ward issue in particular. See, for me, it wasn't that deep, and for a time I went hard into the "Ward is a N/azi, Ward is an abuser," and yet there was a certain deep discomfort I had both with full Ward-absolution and with full Ward-condemnation. Neither felt right or as if they were looking at all we were given, even up to the point that I had seen. I felt like I was in denial just to avoid the judgmental gazes of people who were sick of the Hydra-is-so-sexy crowd refusing to acknowledge that anyone who had a critique of Hydra characters might have a point besides ~kink-shaming~.

I plan to write (someday) a complete meta post about Grant Ward, my feelings on the ins, outs, good, bad, and so on of his character itself, his character arc, and what the show chose to do with him narratively. Most of what I hear within the fandom seems pretty binary. There are those who believe that Ward is just bad and should be seen only as bad and that it is as simple as that. Then, there are those who believe that somehow the show completely assassinated his character to a point that it is somehow the show/writers' fault that he went from being a good thing to a bad thing that they no longer recognized as the character they liked.

I would tend to think that I fall somewhere in the middle. Also, I've got a long way to go before I have a completely full, directly-experienced perspective on it. But I know the basics even of what I haven't seen, so, I just want to say that I think my best friend may be right in an assessment she made of the Ward situation which, when I have mentioned in the past on tumblr, gets me accused of giving the writers too much credit. Regardless of whether or not that is true, I don't really care. I wobble on how much Death of the Author stuff I want to lean into, but I do tend to view things based on what I can reasonable infer and read into the material as it is passed to us, and then I sometimes even ignore certain parts of a canon that I feel are really bad and not coherent to whatever the overall thing seems to have been best going for. I'm here to have a good time with a narrative, even if it is making me feel sad tings, so that's where I am.

My best friend's commentary on the Ward situation which I think I've mostly adopted to is, succinctly, that Ward's narrative best makes sense if you give the story a little credit for knowing what it was doing with all the foreshadowing that led a bunch of us, back in the day, to believe that they were, inevitably, through however many twists and turns, going to redeem him. I know that I was in that camp for a very long time, and a part of me is still disappointed that it didn't happen. S1 is full of themes about forgiveness and about how you can save a person from themselves if you get to them in time. Then, you have an episode all about how Ward was abused, incarcerated, and then given very little information and choice when he was offered an out by a man who subsequently radicalized and abused him. It seems very much like all of that build up was, subtextually, about Ward. And yet, no matter how long Ward remained on the show (until S4 which isn't REAL Ward), and no matter how close it would seem he was getting, the Good Guys (TM) would turn on him and insistently prevent him from doing the right thing for them and to have that mean a damn thing.

And sure, they were angry. They had every right to be angry. And there's an argument to be made about forgiveness not being owed, especially when someone has done or been accessory to such terrible things as Ward had. However, it seems like it is an extremely specific blindspot in this universe. Case and point: Loki in Thor Ragnarok. And of course, I can't say this with certainty, but a part of me feels like if Loki had made it to Earth and met up with Phil in Infinity War continuity, he would've been willing to take him acting in good faith based on Thor's word. But Ward? Nah. None of the other original members of SHIELD Team Six ever really did that. Ever. No matter how cogent it would've been to give him a redemption arc.

And it is so... insistent and stuck in the mud and, at times, unflattering to the Good Guys (TM) that it feels like either the show is written by people who have no idea what a theme is OR that it is a very, very tough but very deliberate theme. Most days, I feel like it is... probably the latter given how good and long-game other elements of the show have been. Again, I'll try to write more about this again in the future, but I feel like it is ultimately a story about someone who could have been saved but... wasn't... because of the emotional ramifications and prejudices the people who could have "saved" him developed.

Whew.

Anyway, back to the title of this post for a very short pay-off after all of that:

I have seen the last few episodes of AOS S1 over and over, but I actually had a new thought or few tonight about it.

The first one is about Garrett, who is relevant to Ward in that he is a huge part of what made him who we know as a character, and how he reacted to the SHIELD drones attacking him. For a long time, I believed that all of that was an act, and it always struck me as a tad strange that Garrett was... acting... even when there was NO ONE directly monitoring him about being attacked. It seemed like a repeat of his initial ploy to get on the Bus. However, in watching it tonight, I finally realized that this probably isn't the case.

I realized that, at that particular point, it seems as if Garrett was sort of off the beaten path, doing something or other, and had not yet received or seen the encoded transmission that told the Hydra operatives within SHIELD to come out of the darkness and into the light. He seems a bit surprised when Skye decodes the message, and while that surprise is a show for them, it occurred to me that it does make sense that this was probably his first time actually seeing the roll call to wake up the sleeper Hydra operatives.

The reason this is important is because it kind of informs how the Hydra operatives within SHIELD got their orders and activation notices. The events of Captain America TWS take place over the span of a few days, and there is some delay of communication before all the SHIELD agents who aren't Hydra even pick up on the fact that things have changed so drastically. It is a very from-the-top-down collapse. this means that ward only knew about the activation thing when Skye decoded the message for sure.

It means that when he killed Nash, he was a part of a manipulative bullshit plot, but that it wasn't really about Hydra; it was about Garrett. He knew that they were getting too close to Garrett, and yet he didn't have any idea that Hydra was going to to come "out of the shadows, into the light." Instead, he just knew about Garrett's aims with the Deathlok program and Centipede. Both of those operations were covers and fronts in order to help Garrett get the resources to prolong his own life. That was the whole reason Garrett was aligned with Hydra in the first place rather than any deeply-held beliefs. He tells Coulson that he wouldn't call himself a "true believer" when Coulson figures him out int his episode, and we later learn that this is why. SHIELD was willing to sacrifice him, to not send med-evac, to maintain the rest of an operation. They expected him to accept the possibility of being sacrificed for the greater good, and he was not okay with this, and someone from within Hydra came to him and fed him align about vicious survival and self-preservation within this apparatus. And he bought that, not the underlying fascist-y and doomsday-culty stuff, though the two go hand-in-hand no matter what Ward wants to tell himself.

Ward and Garrett have very similar interpersonal endgames in terms of what they are doing with Team Bus, though Ward's is very directed toward his feelings for Skye. They consider some members of Team Bus friends, people they care about. They have learned a kind of criminal compartmentalization that allows them to believe that it is even possible for them to care about people they are working against and hurting in such terrible ways. This is a thing real life serial killers and abusers do! So Garrett considers Coulson a friend, he likes Trip, he supports that Trip likes Jemma, he supports that Ward likes Skye. He doesn't see these this as mutually exclusive to their goals.

Ward is a little bit more deeply programmed. He resists caring about them, even though he does, but he has sort of, I think, made Skye the "key" to it. He can be their friend, play along, protect them, but the depth of it is linked to how Skye just absolutely refuses to have that kind of callous shield put up for herself.

When Coulson figures out that Garrett is the Clairvoyant and Garret gets the upper hand, he tells Coulson and May that he hadn't planned to kill them because he considers Coulson a friend but that he has no choice since Coulson has made his allegiances clear and that May would follow him to the ends of the Earth. He tells Fitz, however, that if he chooses to join up that he will have a very high-ranking position but that if he doesn't, he's still going to be kept alive, crippled, and in pain and work for them under the pain of torture as necessary. He sees Fitz as a unique asset that he isn't going to give up, regardless of how he has to go about it. Once it becomes clear that Ward has feelings for Skye, she kind of becomes this on two different levels.

Ward is very much Garrett's guard dog. While he does believe and acknowledge that he owes protection, loyalty, care, and friendship toward Coulson and his team to varying degrees, he believes that he owes Garrett everything and so must put that above any of that up to and including killing them. He tells Raina this a little later. However, I think that this episode - Turn, Turn, Turn - shows a little bit more ambivalence than I had ever really seen as existing before.

So, from the time Garrett showed up on the scene and realized how much Ward liked Skye, he sees how this is useful to him and important to Ward. He comments to Skye about how she taught him fighting for something, though he couches it in a thin veil of a discussion about the team overall. He tries to ingratiate himself with her like the worst future father-in-law in the world under a guise of some kind of eerie dad or uncle charm that just gets worse every time I watch it. (Worse as it creepier - it's very nuanced, creepy when you know what's going on and just cringy if you imagine not knowing.)

Skye is a very talented CS person. She is an asset. Garrett was willing to kill her because of how good she was as an unknown variable on the wrong side, asking the wrong questions. Ward, liking her, didn't like that. Garrett needs Ward until he reaches his endgame. However, he needs to maintain control of Ward. He has done this for years by both abusing and breaking Ward down and building him back up and providing for him. The way Ward acts toward Skye when Garrett is around or involved is creepier and more insistent because, I would argue, he kind of picks up on how the game is played with Garrett. He acts like a different person around Garrett, but it is not a fully free or comfortable person all the time.

He knows that Garrett is giving Skye to him even before this is explicitly conversed after the Hydra-reveal, and he has been in a position where he believes that Garrett giveth and Garrett taketh away. He really doesn't have a way to avoid cooperation if he doesn't want Skye to end up back in a situation where Garrett wants her dead, and he also has every reason and every conditioning factor to take Garrett up on being, essentially, provided for. It's gross, yeah, but I think it's a very obvious narrative.

When Ward kills Nash, he knows that he is doing it for the purposes of making the trail to Garrett run cold. However, it is funneled through an opportunity to protect who? Skye. And we know that somehow Garrett orchestrated the words on the screen that were supposedly the words of Nash. He knew he was killing a scapegoat, even if not a fully innocent one. However, he was doing it through this filter of irrationally intense protection of Skye, the object of his affection, and feeding those lines to her in an attempt to show her how devoted he is to her. He is trying to, under Garrett's even unspoken guidance, soften Skye for the inevitable time when Ward will go back under Garrett's wing. He wants Skye to go with him, and Garrett gets on-board with this idea because Skye does have her own talents and because killing her while Ward is infatuated with her would loosen his grip on Ward, at least for a time, while keeping her around and enthralling her too gives him a weak point to exploit Ward through. Recruiting Skye into Hydra explicitly may or may not have been the endgame at first, but by the time of this episode, they had already been working on trying to sort of theatrically embrace her for these reasons.

I don't think Ward ever fully anticipated being in a position where Hydra would come into the light. Even Garrett expresses his disappointment that it happened, even though he isn't about it back down, because to him the sole purpose of being part of it was self-promotion and preservation. It had nothing to do with any hope of what happened happening during his lifetime. Ward is a lower link down the chain, and so I am sure that it was even further from his mind, which is why he is genuinely confused that Skye directly associates him with being a Nazi, because to him it is indirect - whether that matters or not.

Finally, the main reason I thought of making this post in the first place has to do with Ward's decision to go with Victoria Hand to deliver Garrett to the Fridge. I'm not sure if this makes sense at all, however... just bare with me a little bit. When Ward reacted to the ~Reveal~ of Garrett being the Clairvoyant, he plays it as almost numb disbelief. However, we know that this is an act, while Trip's reaction is 100% real. He was following a cue, doing what he had to do to seem like the role he had been playing.

However, when he shows up to as Hand if he can accompany them to the Fridge, tonight was the first time I ever though I read ambivalence into the portrayal. Now, I don't want to get into arguments about authorial intent - again, I care about about what I see in-universe and, if anything on a meta level, what Dalton brought to his performance. However, I guess in the past I always saw this as an extremely hard and abrupt turn. However, Ward does not act like a person whose entire act and facade were easily thrown away or repugnant to him. He dislikes the Patriots and the baggage that goes with that, but apart from that, I would tend to think that there's less of a line between real Ward and fake Ward than Ward lets on around Garrett because Garrett is this exalted father figure of extremely demanding masculinity that really... doesn't matter that much to Ward later on or when he is acting on what he thinks he should do under Garrett's control but not physically present with Garrett at the time or pretending to be someone he isn't.

This time, when I watched him as for permission to go make sure he got to lock Garrett up himself, I felt like there was definitely some level on which he was going with them to make sure he protected Garrett and even got him out. However, it does not seem as if he was intent on blowing his cover or upon killing Hand and her men. He only makes a move to do that when Hand herself makes the proposition that perhaps Ward should kill Garrett instead that she has sealed her fate on that plane. I don't know what the real alternatives were, but the way the sound editing is done and the way Ward behaves during and after that moment really stood out to me in a new way this time around.

First of all, he looks at both of them and it becomes apparent that he is making a decision. Even when he gets up to stand before Garrett as if he is going to comply with Hand's suggestion, the look on Garrett's face is a knowing one. He has no doubt of Ward's loyalty and of what he is about to do. However, Ward looks very dead-eyed, and it is nothing like the quick, almost jovial compliance he manages once he has gotten into that zone when they arrive at the Fridge. He had a choice during that moment, and knowing that his back-story in S4 is that Hand recruited him to Hydra, this seems like it makes more sense in terms of a moment of juxtaposition and choice. While he may have been under Garrett's control, it was not until that moment that he had to do something to take away his own options about what that meant and how it played out. He had done nothing inexplicable, in spite of the cover story with regard to Nash having been found out. Therefore, for some reason, it kind of read to me that perhaps that scene and the little after-credits episode stinger are best-read as him having believe that up until that moment, he might have made a different choice.

I just feel like it's obvious, natural that people who believed in and felt betrayed by Ward would remember this face:



He is looking into the camera, cruel and cold and determined.

However, I had never really considered, in spite of my sympathies for the character, the look on his face that came before it. He was sitting there, staring into nothing, barely hearing the muffled sounds of Garrett telling one of his old war stories and laughing. He looks broken, afraid, and as if he has some regrets. Of course, the above picture shows his determination to get over them, to push through them, to "survive" them, but I guess it just really hit me that this even happened for the first time:

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