Heartsick

I am so upset about what happened in Ferguson–what happened every 28 hours in this country in 2012. And I am so upset about police response to the community when all the people want is accountability. It makes me sick that local police think it’s okay to shoot tear gas and “non-lethal” rounds at nonviolent protesters to make them disperse. There is so much going on here, I don’t even know where we should begin to try to fix it. Ferguson needs elected officials and police officers who represent the community. Ferguson residents need to be treated like people, not inmates. “Law enforcement” needs to stop setting and backing up with force arbitrary rules that only incite anger. All the cops need to spend time doing community service and undergoing training on how to treat people. And I just don’t see how the proper response to this is to send in troops, unless those troops are going to arrest all the police.

I’m not surprised that horrible prejudice exists. You’d have to be blind not to know that. But it makes me heartsick nonetheless.

All I want

Please teach me about feminism,
White man.
Please tell me what, as a woman, I should care about,
White man.
Please talk over me,
White man.
Please show me how my concerns are actually about you,
White man.
Please belittle my experience,
My education,
My life,
White man.
Please laugh at me,
White man.
Please tell me I have no right to feel the way I feel,
White man.
Please treat me as inferior, then say I am imagining things,
That I am “crazy,”
That I am “too emotional,”
White man.
Please do these things,
White man.
Please let them define you,
Rather than things like empathy
Or perspective
Or open-mindedness
Or faith in other people,
White man.
Nothing makes me happier
Than to be considered lesser,
Than to know you don’t respect me,
Than to live beneath your boot.
It is all I want from life,
White man.

House-hunting infertility dream

Sean and I have lived in apartments the entirety of our marriage. We’ve thought about buying a home before, but the time has never been right. It’s starting to look like a good idea these days, though.

Last night I dreamed that we went to look at a house together. It was waterfront property on marshy land, such that there were boardwalks to get from the street and driveway to the door. The house was huge, and there were at least half a dozen real estate workers there to show it to people. I was wondering the whole time why we were there, because there was no way I wanted a house that size.

The house was three stories tall. I really only remember the top floor, which had the bedrooms, a kitchen, and a courtyard-like area, but we toured all the floors and they were all gigantic. Around the time we finished looking at the third floor, the head real estate agent cornered us.

“I hear you’re pregnant!” he accused me. “Are you just having fun, touring houses for for exercise?”

“Um,” I said, and suddenly Cheryl and Reid were there, overhearing.

“I hear you felt it kick!” Reid said to Sean, who nodded awkwardly.

“Yes, no, that’s our child there,” I said, pointing to a brown-haired two-year-old someone was carrying.

“I know that can’t be true; you can’t have had the child that fast!” the real estate agent said.

“Okay, fine,” I sighed. “The truth is, we just started trying.” I glanced over at Cheryl and Reid, knowing that this was news to them and that now they’d get their hopes up. “And we’re seriously looking for a house to buy.”

“Oh. All right then,” the real estate agent said, and backed off.

Sean pulled Reid aside then. “Actually,” he said in a low, unhappy voice, “Luigi told me that it could never, ever happen for me.” (Apparently in dream-canon he had a fertility doctor named Luigi.)

I started crying in the dream, and woke up snuffling a little, although not actually crying in real life.

Weird that in the dream, Sean was the one with infertility.

My offline life

One benefit to streamlining the time I spend online, and specifically cutting back on social media, would be enriching the time I spend on other things. Lately I’ve been feeling that my life is somewhat empty. Work is great; it’s challenging and fun, and my coworkers are awesome. But what do I do other than work? Go home and either get online or watch TV (or, typically, get online while watching TV). My main activity beyond this is photography, which I love, and of course I want to keep doing that. But maybe I want to do¬†more of it. And there are other things I want to do that I haven’t worked on in forever: writing, reading more long form pieces and books, studying Japanese.

I also want to feel more connected to Atlanta. We’ve lived here for three years, but after a burst of exploratory activities right after the move, we haven’t really done much to integrate ourselves into the community. We’ve settled into a routine of restaurants, and we have few to no other activities outside the home. (This is probably more important to me than it is to homebody Sean.)

There are two groups I have frequently thought about being active in: the Atlanta Web Design Group and the Japanese Language Meetup. Right now I am supposedly a member of these groups, but I never go to activities. I’m always “too tired” or “not in the mood”. I think this general lack of motivation is fed by the easy distraction of social media and TV. Sure, I could go to that event, but it’s so much more comfortable to just sit at home and scroll through feeds or marathon a show.

As an introvert, it is important for me to have down time away from others, and recharging after a workday is crucial. I’m not saying I think I should be cramming social activities into every day. But surely I could do something weekly or every couple of weeks…especially if that something will help me learn and grow in areas that are important to me.

In general, I feel that I should be contributing more and consuming less. These days I rarely cook. I do the bare minimum to keep the apartment clean. I have a box full of ticket stubs and brochures and memories that I keep telling myself I’m going to turn into scrapbooks. All I have to do to talk myself out of doing any of these things, when I even think of doing them in the first place, is simply distract myself with input: social media, TV, “news” articles that don’t really enrich me.

I have also always felt that I should be serving my community in some way. I donate to various causes, but it doesn’t feel like I’m really doing much. I want to be on the ground somewhere doing something that has a direct impact. Whenever I think about what that would be and how I would incorporate it into my life, I always convince myself that I don’t have the time. And indeed, if you look at my day, you will see that it is full. It’s just full of the wrong things, I think.

If I can figure out a way to stay connected online without devoting my entire day to it, and if I can stop automatically turning on the TV whenever free time opens up, I can start working on improving myself. Hopefully, that will lead to better friendships and more opportunities, and I’ll stop feeling unfulfilled in the non-work sphere.

My online life

For some time I’ve been pondering the changes that have crept into the time I spend online. Once, my blog was my home page. Whatever I was doing, whether I had an RSS reader open in another tab or I was watching an anime episode or I was chatting with someone, I’d go straight to my blog to put down my reactions.

These days I rarely post to my blog. Most of my reactions to what I read or watch or talk about go to the social media dumping ground, where they disappear forever.

My process of content discovery has changed, too. Where once I had many news and politics websites, blogs, and other interesting feeds ready and waiting for me in Bloglines, now I rarely read anything that isn’t linked on social media.

I’m starting to feel like I’m part of a neverending content churn…that I skim, retweet or share with a blurb, and then move on without truly connecting to issues or to the people I am supposedly sharing with. There are exceptions; if I write a longer post about a link I’m sharing on Facebook, I will often receive replies, and sometimes even get into a good discussion. But this is not the norm. I spend so much time just keeping up with social media that I don’t typically write detailed blurbs these days.

I feel like something in me is atrophying.

A good friend of mine deactivated his Facebook account quite some time ago, telling me it was too much of a distraction. This is a person I’ve long admired for his self-motivation and achievements. On Facebook he would often post thought-provoking articles and discussions. When he first left, I wondered, “What will he do to fill all that time?” And then I realized how silly of a question that was. Of course, he would read and do real writing, not to mention be fully present in the moments of his life.

I would like to get back to a point where I read more thoughtfully and write more frequently. I’d like to feel more well-informed on news and political issues. I’d like to have my thoughts archived here, in my space, rather than on a third-party service that cares more about quantity than quality.

"I WANT TO BELIEVE" RSS shirt from Diesel Sweeties (not currently available)

“I WANT TO BELIEVE” RSS shirt from Diesel Sweeties (not currently available)

I’m not sure how to go about effecting the change, though. Despite my “I WANT TO BELIEVE” RSS t-shirt, it seems like the format is dying, at least in terms of reading web content. I’ve looked for a good Bloglines replacement a few times and never quite found what I wanted. It’s important to me that I be able to get to my feeds from multiple devices, since these days I do a lot of reading on my phone. I would want a reader that doesn’t show me content I’ve already read on another device. The last time I looked for a good iPhone app for RSS feeds, I was disappointed at the interface. My Windows 8 tablet/laptop hybrid, a Lenovo Yoga I call Tampopo, doesn’t have much in the way of reading and saving options. Its native news reader doesn’t export to Instapaper, which is what I’ve been using on my computer and phone to save articles to read later, and of course that news reader doesn’t let me choose RSS feeds. For that matter, I don’t know if the websites I want to read are even still publishing RSS feeds.

I’m also not sure about how to stop spending so much time on social media. I’ve taken social media hiatuses before. While the time away is refreshing, I always seem to get sucked back in. In the case of Facebook, it’s because that’s where the people I’ve been close to in my life are, and it’s a convenient way of keeping up with them and letting them know how I’m doing. I worry about losing touch with those people, and with people who don’t use Facebook. I rarely talk with the aforementioned friend who left. Were I to stop using Facebook, I would need to come up with some sort of system of staying in touch. Those of you who are naturally social probably find this amusing, but I am extraordinarily bad at maintaining relationships. I want to be a good friend, but it takes actively thinking about. Facebook has made it much easier. (Though perhaps that in and of itself is a problem: relationships by nature aren’t “easy”, so maybe there should be more of an effort on my part.)

With Twitter, it’s a little weirder. Despite having minimal followers, I feel like one of the cool kids there, and I am somehow afraid that if I stop using Twitter, I won’t be a real geek anymore. And to be fair, I have met several great people through Twitter, and I get a lot of interesting content about social issues, politics, and the web there. Even if I manage to find a good RSS reader and plenty of feeds, the people I follow on Twitter could still surprise me with content I wouldn’t normally see. It’s important to me not to live in a cultural bubble; I want to be challenged. Twitter and Facebook both expose me to ideas and opinions that don’t just go merrily along with my current world paradigm.

One time, I tried going through every single person in my Facebook friends list and hiding them all from my news feed. That way, when I logged in, there was nothing to read; I had to go to individual profile pages to see updates. After awhile I started adding a few people back, and then that felt unfair, so I re-added everyone.

I sort of wish that instead of a news feed, I had a dashboard of friends, and I could see previews of their last few posts beneath their profile pictures. I’d get more of a general overview of how a person is doing, and I could easily drill down from there. With a news feed, I really only see stuff from people who post a lot.

On Twitter, I’ve gone through mass unfollowings and followings to try and maximize my time there. I haven’t used any of the various follower tools and apps, though; I just use the web interface at my computer, Tweetbot on my phone, and the Twitter app on Tampopo. Due to app limitations, I do the bulk of my account maintenance–followings, unfollowings, etc.–at my computer. Maybe if I used a tool, I could make my Twitter usage more efficient; I don’t know.

Here are some thoughts, ideas, and goals based on what I’ve discussed above.

  1. I want to spend less time content-churning and more time learning.
  2. I want to stay in touch with friends and family, but maybe not bombard them with random links all the time. To that end, I need a place for link sharing and discussion.
  3. Perhaps I could use blog posts to share and discuss links. I could do roundups for short blurbs and long posts for detailed analysis, just like I used to.
  4. To maximize my input, I need to rework my current system of reading. I need to find a solution that lets me pull in content from provider feeds as well as content I save to read later. An export to Evernote function would be ideal for pieces I have read and want to keep for reference.
  5. I need to evaluate ways of spending less time on Facebook. Maybe cold turkey is the way to go. Maybe there’s a way I can just cut down on it, like limiting it to a certain time of day. Maybe I can filter my friends’ posts so that only certain types show (although I’m not sure this would be best).
  6. I also need to come up with a way of keeping in touch with people who are important to me, so that I’m not favoring people who post on Facebook.
  7. I need to figure out why I’m using Twitter, and whether those reasons are good enough to keep using it.

Looks like I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.

The new Sailor Moon premieres in July!

Sailor Moon CrystalMy friend Charles linked me to this post with news about the Sailor Moon reboot, about which I have been anxiously awaiting information. The show was originally supposed to premiere last summer; it was pushed to December, and now the final date for the first episode is July 5, 2014. In that time there have been very few details about the show beyond the fact that it will be more faithful to the manga. Now we know what the character designs look like and who the voice actresses are for the inner senshi.

Fear not; that hypersexualized fanart at the top of the article is not how the characters are going to look. Scroll down for the real designs. The images come from the Sailor Moon Crystal official website.

The designs feel familiar; I don’t think they are radically different from those of the original anime. They do look to me more like the Sailor Stars designs than the original series designs; all the characters seem far older than they’re supposed to as middle school students. Their legs and faces are slimmer and their cheeks no longer have “cute” marks on them. The characters’ eyes look more like the manga eyes, with the thicker upper lid. All the senshi now wear heels, and Venus has her chain belt from the manga.

The most interesting thing to me about the voice actress list is Usagi: she will be voiced by her original actress, Mitsuishi Kotono, while the rest of the senshi have new actresses. I imagine it would be pretty hard to recast such an iconic character, but they did it for the live action, so it’s interesting that they chose not to here. Maybe they looked and just couldn’t find anyone who captured the character better!

Ami will be voiced by Kanemoto Hisako. The only thing I know her from is Squid Girl, a show that I just couldn’t get into. Rei’s voice actress is Satou Rina; the article mentions she is Mikoto in something called Railgun, but I know her from my beloved Natsume Yuujinchou, in which she played Taki.

Makoto will be voiced by Koshimizu Ami, who I know as police detective Uehara Yui from Detective Conan. This is amusing to me due to the fact that Uehara has a thing for her superior officer. Meanwhile, Minako’s voice actress, Itou Shizuka, was Alice in Pumpkin Scissors, a ridiculous and lovely show I quite enjoyed.

Those are all the cast members announced so far. I wonder who will play Tuxedo Kamen, Luna, and Artemis?

Sailor Moon Crystal will stream on niconico (basically Japan’s YouTube) every other Saturday at 7pm Japan time (6am Eastern Daylight Time), starting July 5. There will be English subtitles.

How I Met Your Mother, Redux

HIMYM is over now. Last time I wrote about it, I was upset that Marshall’s career was steamrolling Lily’s yet again; since that time, of course, Marshall has been somewhat redeemed. He didn’t come to the conclusion that he should give Lily her turn logically; he just emotionally decided that he wanted to pay her back somehow for bearing his children. Not the greatest resolution (why does she have to be pregnant to deserve a full life?) but I guess I’ll take it.

The thing everyone’s talking about now, though, is the ending–and for the most part, what people have to say is how much they hated it. I have a slightly different perspective.

Spoilers follow.

About halfway through the final episode, I said, “I get the feeling they’re going to kill off the Mother and have Ted get with Robin. If that happens, I’m going to be pissed.” Oddly, though, as it actually unfolded, I did not find myself angry at all.

I never thought Barney and Robin were a good match. I have always believed they enabled each other’s immaturity, and to me it was perfectly natural that they would divorce after three years. If you think about it, the entire final season being about their wedding sort of underscores the characters’ own attempts to justify the relationship, to make it seem somehow meant to be. Cleverly, the writers slipped in just enough Robin and Ted stuff to cast doubt.

I’ve watched HIMYM all the way through at least three times, and each time I thought to myself, “They are going to have to find someone outstanding to play the Mother, because Ted and Robin’s chemistry is amazing.” They had something that I didn’t see with Ted’s other girlfriends, except on occasion Victoria and Stella. (If he’d married Zoey, it would have been another “divorced after three years” situation.) I never actually expected Ted to end up with Robin, but I wondered how on earth the show could top their relationship.

And I kept wondering about that when the Mother, Tracy, was finally introduced. In the beginning, her brief scenes with Ted did not have what I wanted to see. I felt like she had better chemistry with the other characters than she did with Ted. I think this may have been done on purpose, not to make us dislike her as his love interest but to start subtly chipping away at the notion of “the One” (that there is only one person for everyone). Toward the end, of course, that chemistry was there, and I loved Tracy and was glad to think that she and Ted would live happily ever after. But we got a little foreshadowing in the episode with Robin’s mom, just enough to prepare us for the possibility that things might not go perfectly after all.

When we finally got to the part where the kids reveal that their mother has been dead for years, I was surprised to find that not only was I prepared, but it made perfect sense. Of course Ted loved Robin–as his kids point out, the whole story has basically been about her. Unlike his stories of the Mother, in which Ted omits or glosses over any conflicts, Ted’s been completely honest about Robin, leaving out no detail that might make her look bad. Subconsciously, he’s trying to talk himself out of loving her. His kids see right through that and call him on it.

(I do wish that scene had been done a bit differently. The cuts were pretty awkward. I wouldn’t have shown Josh Radnor; I would have used Bob Saget’s voice.)

We know from the story that relationships aren’t easy, that there’s no perfect person. We don’t know that Ted and Robin will live happily ever after. But we do know they have a fighting chance, and plenty of history to build on.

Life is messy, and things don’t always go as we plan. I appreciate that HIMYM was willing to show the best and worst sides of its characters. Honestly, the reason I could get so passionate about the story was because on some level I felt like the characters were my friends, and it’s always painful to see friends hurting or making bad decisions.

I’ve seen Tracy described as a convenient, disposable wife, there just to make Robin finally realize she loves Ted and then getting out of the way so they could be together, but I don’t see it that way. Bad things happen. I think Ted and Tracy had a good relationship, but the story of HIMYM wasn’t actually about that relationship. I think ultimately that’s why I’m not mad. If Ted had talked about the Mother in each and every episode, if she’d featured prominently as a character throughout the series, it would have been much harder to swallow the kids’ argument that their dad was actually telling the story of his relationship with Robin.

I’m not even really bothered about the fact that Robin remained single (and she may have dated here and there; we don’t know). I can easily see her going back to her career-first mentality after Barney–she was already practically there anyway. With her job taking her around the world, she wouldn’t have much time for a serious relationship.

And so I may be in the minority, but I’m satisfied with how HIMYM ended. The pieces were all there, and they fit together. The resulting picture may not be perfect, but it is representative of life–something that we can’t control, something that’s not always fair. All we can do is our best, and that’s what these characters did.

How I Met Your Mother

It took me awhile to get into How I Met Your Mother–the first episode is so dumb that for a long time I resisted watching the show–but eventually it became my new Friends. I love all the in-jokes and watching the characters grow and change. I’m enjoying the final season; I feel like things are getting wrapped up well.

There are a few things that bother me, though. For one, I’m not a huge Robin and Barney fan. I liked Robin and Don. I liked how much they had in common (even to the point that when faced with huge life-changing career decisions, neither of them thought of the obvious: talk to the other!) and I liked how they made each other better people (when they weren’t avoiding actually talking to each other). I really feel like if they had just communicated a little more, they would have been fine. Robin and Barney, on the other hand, just seem to enable each other’s immaturity.

I also liked Barney and Nora. Nora inspired Barney to grow. The episode in which Barney decided to run away instead of rising to the challenge devastated me. He was so close!

I’ve noticed that in season nine the writers have been retconning in a bunch of backstory to make Robin and Barney work better, and I definitely think that helps…but I still don’t feel like their relationship has much substance. It seems to be based more on grand gestures and “how I feel right now” than actual commitment and mutual respect.

My biggest problem with season nine, though, is the apparent resolution of Marshall and Lily’s Italy issue. Based on the episode in which Marshall has a discussion with versions of Lily in his head, it looks like they will be staying in New York City so that Marshall can be a judge. Imaginary Lily even says “Of course we’re not going to Italy. We have a baby.”

This is total BS, and it quite frankly pisses me off. Having a baby does not make you incapable of living in another country; just ask all the military families and military contractor families living abroad right now. That’s a cop-out reason to stay in the States. What’s really happening here is this: Lily, once again, is being asked to sacrifice her career for Marshall’s.

Lily became a kindergarten teacher after graduating so she could put Marshall through law school. That was time she could have been using building up experience in her own field, but she put her career on hold. This is what you sometimes have to do in a relationship, and it’s a decision she made, and that’s fine.

When Marshall finally became a lawyer and they started making money, it might have been a good time for Lily to focus on a career in art. Unfortunately, she had racked up a ton of credit card debt. This irresponsibility shouldn’t be ignored; that’s clearly her own fault. I do wonder if that behavior wasn’t her way of subconsciously rebelling against not working in her chosen field.

By the time Lily got around to trying to change her career, she had no direction, no idea where to go. She tried a bunch of ridiculous jobs before ultimately going back to the safe choice of teaching kindergarten. At the time it felt like she had developed a passion for it, and maybe she had. But notice that she didn’t try to do anything fine art-related during that time.

She does start a side project selling her artwork online, and this seems to make her happy, although it’s disappointing that her work appeals to animals rather than people. It makes her degree sort of seem like a joke.

But then she is discovered as an excellent appraiser of art. Suddenly her expertise is valued and she has a real opportunity to do fulfilling, meaningful work in her chosen field. Where Marshall always had the luxury of an obvious path in front of him, Lily had to stumble through the dark to find her way to something that spoke to her and could also support her family. She finally found it at the end of season eight.

And then what happens? Marshall gets offered a judgeship, and so once again Lily’s needs must go right out the window.

There’s a reason Lily fled to San Francisco years and years ago. She’s grown responsible in the interim, and I can’t imagine she’ll run away to Italy without Marshall. But he needs to start reading the signs. One person can’t always be the one making the sacrifices in a relationship. In the conversation with Lily in his head, he learned that he needs to stop thinking of relationship discussions as something to either win or lose. While that realization has merit, he also needs to think about what it means that he has been able to pursue his dreams for the entire length of their relationship, while Lily hasn’t had much of an opportunity to do anything about hers. No, you can’t make a relationship totally fair, but this situation is egregiously unfair. There’s got to be a better balance.

Ultimately, I would like to see Marshall get his head out of his ass and realize that Lily’s dreams are just as important as his. And I’d like to see them move to Italy.