Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coming Home

Between this post and the previous, this blog hit 3,500 views.

This is my 150th post.

Starting points: Joseph Campbell and xkcd. Specifically, Joseph Campbell's discussion of going off to/coming back from war and this xkcd.

The xkcd immediately makes me think of Narnia, though I only know Narnia in basic terms, so that may show more of my ignorance surrounding the books than anything else.

I remember the opening scene of the first Narnia movie, where all the kids are sent off in a train, which leads to the wardrobe, which leads to the lion and the witch et al. The kids are leaving because there's a war going on, and there's a war brewing in Narnia. Fairly clear parallelism there, unless one misses the time period.

When we send soldiers out to fight, we recognize that we are sending them into this new world. We have things one has to go through an accomplish before going into that world, because people who grew up over on this side aren't properly prepared. Part of this is simple skills--for example, this is how you hold this weapon--but part of it is also mental training. These people are entering a world where it is expected that you will kill fellow human beings who are attempting to kill you and those around you. Even if one comes from a place where that happens, the structure of teamwork in the military is almost certainly different.

The children's literature that the xkcd is talking about also tends to go through this sort of preparation. "What? You must have the wrong guy, I'm not the hero!" Then whoever gradually warms up to the idea, or learns humility, or makes whatever sacrifice and shift needed to settle into the role. Part of the story may even be devoted to the horror that shocks a prepared into the right place and others out of it. An entire village destroyed, a comrade in danger of death, something like that.

And then the soldier comes home. This is, by definition, an equal shift to what going away was, as |A-B|=|B-A|. So we've got a cultural understanding that the soldiers are going to have an adjustment period after coming back, in which many of them will be traumatized, given that they just went off to war. We've got another ceremony to bring them back, just as we had one to send them out. Right?

...Kind of?

What xkcd highlights is the major issue, one that I would guess the Narnia books can get around: our hero is alone. No war buddies who get it, no one realizing what the hero has just been through, simply home->adjustment->war->home. This would be ever-so-slightly traumatic.

Luckily, it's not always this bad in real life. We do not go to war alone. There are things we do to help our veterans adjust back. But, through it all, there's this assumption snaking through that any difficulty switching back is only adjusting to physical or mental health issues gained in the other country. It's a culture shock. They have been at war in a country not their own.* The healthiest veteran still has to come home to a home isn't the same home, because the veteran is not the soldier is not the person who signed up. This is not to say there aren't issues with mental and physical health, given that the person just went off to war, just that they aren't the whole story.

As a professor of my mother's would say, I've now told you a little more than I know. I've never been, so I only know secondhand. Still...each ceremony has its complement, else it isn't complete.

* Civil wars excluded, but being at war with one's own country brings in another thorny set of issues.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

College Audition

The part in the beginning is because some schools require extra comments in order to be considered.

Stream of Consciousness

"Who are you to tell me that I'm less than what I should be?"

There is a difference between logically realizing that one has intrinsic worth, and feeling that it is so. This is a matter of life and death.

There is a difference between guilt-tripping someone into staying with one because one needs them, and one saying one needs them. This is the difference between smiles and exhaustion.

There is a difference between losing someone from death and losing someone from disloyalty.

There is a difference between saying it doesn't matter, and meaning it.

Inadequate communication is not lying. Well crafted lies are fine instances of communication.

Beauty used to be separated from the sublime.

Beauty is an empty place at the table: This world is ordered, and wants to accept you.

Sublime means destruction you are sheltered from. The burning ship half a mile from shore, the thunderstorm rattling on your roof while you watch the windows.

Hope is realizing it gets better.

Fear is doubting that it will.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow...this is where a lot of emotions come in. Fear, anger, and joy can be present tense, but so many emotions are based on anticipation. Hope, fear, worry, confusion (anticipated understanding)...

Running for the fun of it. Before the load breaks one's back, turns flat one's feet, simply...running. Wind rushing, feet slap-slapping, free. There's something clean in a chase, in a run.

If the chased is worth catching, the run is a reward in itself.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Linda and Raoul

Linda had bound her hair back neatly, so she could focus on the bread. This much dough always took a certain amount of focus, even when she'd been at her first home and kneading regularly. Now, it was a strain, but a good one.

"Why are you baking bread, Mom?" Ruth asked.

"Because it's good to like your own cooking, and I won't if I'm out of practice."

Whether Linda needed the focus or not, Ruth needed entertainment or she'd leave her chair to find mischief outside. Linda set into the story she could recite--had recited, for some years--in her sleep.

"Once upon a time, there lived three daughters. When their father went on a trip, each asked for a gift: the eldest, for a fine dress; the middle for a set of pearls. The youngest asked only for a red rose."

Ruth kicked the ground, scowling. "I hate that story."

Linda started, looking up. "It used to be your favorite. I told it every night." The redundant You always begged me to hung in the air.

"Yeah, but--it's stupid!" Ruth cried when she got angry, which tended to make her angrier. Linda pretended not to see her daughter swiping a sleeve across reddening eyes. "Beauty gets together with a guy who was literally a beast to her. She could've gotten really hurt!"

"She didn't," Linda said, as if speaking to some ghost at the level of her arm.

"So what!" Ruth shook her head. "The Beast could have killed her! What sort of story is that to be telling? If I just go out and try to change someone, they'll just become perfect no matter how bad they are?" Ruth shook her head furiously. Linda waited. "If Beauty were real, she'd probably be dead." Ruth huffed into the silence, staring at her mother. If it had been anyone else, they'd assume Ruth was an angry person and move appropriately. But her mother saw tears of anger shift to simple tears. This ruined her favorite bedtime story. She hurt.

Linda sighed. "Yes." She leaned into the bread, fingers and arms working the familiar patterns even if her muscles protested a bit more. "She should. And Beauty knew as much."

"Then why did she go?"

Linda shook her head, looking far away as her arms rolled beneath her. "Beauty...she was responsible. Or selfless, if you like. She was the youngest daughter, but she was precocious. The smart one, the one that grew up fastest after Mother died. And she knew it. It wasn't hubris; her family simply told her, looked to her. So when her sisters asked for gaudy gifts, she asked for something simple, something she knew her father could have gotten at the last farm before he came home." Linda's eyes closed. "If it had been a normal trip. It was supposed to be easy..."

Linda returned to the present and worked the bread again. "But the storm came. Father's predicament was twice her fault--first, she had asked for the rose, second, he had seen her first.

"She could help, as no one else could, as it was no one else's duty to. And she was the easiest to lose. She was comforting, but comfort was luxury. They needed a man, if they wanted to do business with anyone. And"--Linda shook her head--"marriage was business. Her sisters could catch good husbands, for though they had less money than they'd like, they had enough to survive, enough to pay dowry, and they had beauty and titles to give. The youngest was not their match in charms, she would fetch a lesser price. She knew it. And was this really so much worse than whatever husband she might find anyway? The girl's fate was never her own.

"So...yes. Beauty could have died. She gave her life. Not as people mean it when they say a soldier dies, but as they should when a soldier goes to war. She went off somewhere unknown, to work under the orders of a person she did not know, beside people she did not know, to keep what she considered her home safe. Beauty might have died; she knew it well. Beauty might have lived in misery; she knew it well. But..." Linda shrugged. "It is hard enough, to know one might be called upon to make that choice, without the story reminding you of those 'what if's. Anyone in Beauty's place would know them well." Linda looked her daughter in the eye. "You find the beast as you grow, Ruth. In any form. It is easy for a nagging fear to work its way in. That's why we teach you happy endings, so early. We say children need them, but we all do. Don't throw hope away so easily."

Linda folded the bread. Ruth swung her feet.

"You..." Linda nodded. "And Dad..."

"Is a wonderful man, who made a mistake."

Ruth nodded.

"Did...Beauty...really scold him when he was all scary?"

Linda shrugged. "He needed it."

Ruth stared at her shoes. "I think...maybe it's not such a bad story."

A smile tucked itself into one corner of Linda's mouth. "Oh?"

"No. Beauty was--is really strong, and smart. And the Beast...he was mostly rude, I think. Not bad." Ruth paused in thought, then grinned at her mother. "I bet their daughter would be a handful."

A grin broke through Linda's mouth. "Oh, doubtless. As fierce as her father."

"And clever as her mother," Raoul called from the next room over, shutting the door after himself.


Linda sighed happily and tore the dough into loaf-sized pieces for the oven. It was good to like one's own story.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Opening the Closet

[A person walks on the stage, wearing clothing that accentuates curves well, and has notably feminine curves to accentuate. Jeans and a T-shirt--nothing fancy; nothing that says definitively "these are clothes a female wears" or "these are clothes a male wears". A smattering of polite applause sounds.]

Voiceover [nervously]: I'm not sure I can do this.

Person [confidently, in the same voice]: You don't know I'm a woman. [offscreen confused murmurs] I mean it. You don't. There are a hundred ways to define "male" or "female". If you say my curves make me a woman, what does that mean for flat-chested women? For that matter, does that definition mean that prepubescent girls aren't female?

Voiceover: They don't like it; you should just shut up; they don't like it; [hysterically] they don't like me!

Person [still calm]: You could define it as the presence or absence of a vagina or penis. People usually ignore what that means for same-sex marriage--do we need to drop our pants or raise our skirts at the altar? Even ignoring that, you haven't seen me with my pants off. I could have both, or neither, or the one you aren't expecting.

Other Voiceover [old enough to be Person's parent, sharply]: You obscene little girl.

Person: You could make a case that it's a case for hormones. That's still complicated, more so, in some ways. It's a spectrum, first of all, and people's hormones vary. In fact, the platonic ideal of "woman" would have eternally shifting hormones--that's what a healthy, wild-type, physically female's body does. Even taking that into account, people can take hormones. If one defines it as the body's "natural" state--well, first of all, that's an insult to trans people, but that's the point of this speech, isn't it? And besides that, what is its natural state? If I'm on the birth control pill, is that unnatural enough to call my womanhood into question?

Other Voiceover: Yes.

Person: So both physical definitions--one's holistic impression and the presence or absence of a vagina or penis--are out. Hormones are, as well. You could use them, I suppose, but you'd have to figure out some way to figure out the ones who fall on the line--and really, anything except the holistic approach is an invasion of privacy. That leaves chromosomes. XX is female and XY male, right?

Both Voiceovers [first hysterically, second still sharply]: Of course. Get down, you're making a fool of yourself.

Person: But there are more viable combinations than that. Nearly anything with at least one X is viable--XXY and XYY, to name the most common. One could say that we could define those by how many of them "seem" male or female, but at that point we come back to the same issue--holistic, primary sexual characteristic, hormonal?

[Person pauses to breathe, drops head. The room is silent.]

Person: I don't know how many of you will listen. But...maybe...I'll be that last nudge, for some of you. Or I'll be a nudge along the way. Gender isn't simple; sex isn't simple. [Person looks up.] I am what I choose to be. So are you. So is everyone. So...please.

Voiceover [quietly]: Please.

Person: [shakes head, swallows] Try to understand.

[Person walks off stage. Quiet applause starts, fade to silence and black before we see whether it polite or genuine.]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oberlin Conservatory Essay the Second

(Or rather, the first, but I posted the second first.)

(Scroll down when you finish; I posted three posts today, and two at roughly the same time.)

Write an essay in which you describe your hopes and plans for your educational and professional development during the next ten years. Include such aspects as diverse interests, career goals, and options you wish to explore.

When I am 27, I hope to be as open to new experiences as I am now, and more empathetic. Empathy means I understand where another person is—essentially, empathy is Applied Expanded Horizons. In ten years, I look forward to being somewhere I cannot seriously fathom being at the moment. Criss-crossing the country with a musical theater troupe by night and working mathematic proofs by day, or collaborating with someone who inspires me to write poetry, which inspires him or her to write music for it. Throughout the decade, I know I will be performing, and writing, and reading, and doing math, and finding new music, because I become snappish and withdrawn whenever I give up one of those things for any appreciable amount of time.

I plan to be performing in an environment large enough for me to have options as to what I might perform in, while not being so large that I feel overwhelmed. There is no difference between taking a role because it is the only one available and because it is the only one I have a chance of getting. At the moment, San Francisco seems a sufficiently friendly and properly sized environment, though that idea may change as I see more of the world. I also hope to be tutoring children, in music, mathematics, English, or some combination. I need to perform, and I genuinely enjoy teaching.

All my plans revolve around the hope that I will be happy. Wherever I go, I will be happy if I bring joy and knowledge to people around me. Whether that is primarily through performing art, writing, or sitting down to teach people, I would be happy in what I was doing.

If I were not able to play music anymore …

…my first reaction would be disbelief. Since third grade, I have been certain that performing music will be a part of my life, if only singing in the shower. Losing that would be terrifying, and require an overhaul of my life: every school I chose to apply to this year needed a music program. If a school lacked some way for me to pursue singing, I did not even consider applying to it. I imagine that listening to and critiquing music would become a much larger part of my life, as I would still want to interact with it in some form.

I would also look for schools with writing and mathematics, rather than music and mathematics. One of the reasons I love music so much is the fact that it is communication, and my main method of non-musical communication is writing. I would either settle into poetry or creative writing, or write in both, as I have been. The main difference would be that writing would be the core part of my life, rather than music.

After some time, I expect that I would write poetry to perform, and maybe even write songs for other people to perform. Writing without performing is particularly good for me when I am healing, because I feel relatively safe, but performing is something I love to do. Music or no, I would perform.


She washed her hair, carefully, running soap through it with her fingers, then combing her hair with it. Rinsing the comb, then brushing through again. Rinse, brush. All of the soap came out eventually. Then she started all over, soaping roots to tips, combing roots to tips, rinsing roots to tips with her comb.

"The first virtue is resilience," passed through her lips. Voiced or not, it hardly mattered. She was alone; she thought them. They were solid with or without her; that was the point. "Life will pick at you, slam into you. You cannot simply be hard enough; you will shatter. You cannot simply move with it; you will never make anything new. The first virtue is being."

Roots to tips. Rinse. It had been too long since she'd washed her hair, really washed it, and much had happened. Diet, stress. Hormones. Hair came out, enough to catch in the drain, enough for the soles of her feet to be warm in half an inch of water.

Her breath broke.

Soap. Roots to tips. "The second virtue is critique. It is easy to believe. You must pick at ideas. If you pick at all equally, the good ones will stand where the false ones fall. The second virtue is thought."

Rinse. Roots to tips. Rinse. No more hair was coming out by now. Her hair was still reasonably thick. Good.

She leaned her head under the current of water, hair falling in front of closed eyes, water touching her lips, her nose. "The last virtue is curiosity. We are born with this. We want to know." That was aloud, loud enough to bounce back to her above the sound of rushing water. "Resilience gives you the ability to ask; critique gives you enough knowledge to know what to ask. Curiosity is your drive.

"The last virtue is life. Remember it."

In her room lay sketches of patterns: squares within squares, fractal leaf veins. In her office lay papers she would come back to, soon, tomorrow. Because people needed her, because she could bounce back, because she wanted to understand.

For the moment, she allowed herself the luxury. One day. Showering with too much water, too much soap, and giving her life to the conversation. It had started with a mantra, too, a script that let you start somewhere when saying something no one ever wanted to say.

"Ms. Anderson, we regret to inform you that on the morning of the nineteenth..."

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The thing about writing on a schedule is that one has to write. And this has good and bad to it. Because you end up writing when you thought one had nothing to say, but, ah, you also end up writing when you have nothing to say.

I call to my heart; I call to my head
Three more steps and then I'm dead.

This could be an interesting one to analyze, once I'm sufficiently removed from this moment in time--I wrote the couplet on 11/19/11--because it was in my head sort of like a song that gets stuck there. There wasn't a feeling of working on it, really, my mind just happened to go there. I did consider changing the number of steps to be a Ragnarok reference (after Thor's bitten by a serpent), but three's plenty important.

The lack of punctuation at the end of the first line is thoughtful, by the way.
My child,
My daughter,
My son--
There's much in you that yet is blood-wild
And so much in you that's yet to come

"Blood-wild" linked to several things essentially simultaneously. One is childbirth: though not all of us come out screaming or crying, we do all come out bloody and wild--"wild" in this case as the opposite of "civilized" or "domesticated". Another is battle, which, often, means returning to one's body, one's senses, anoesis. This is why people have to train so hard: you either keep your forebrain working well--an astounding feat--or you don't, but you can do your job anyway, because your body knows what to do.

The lack of lack punctuation is actually my favorite part of this one. When I read a sentence that ends a paragraph and has no ending punctuation, it feels like a little bit of a jerk. The simple fact that's it's poetry removes the complete, "You didn't resolve that sentence!" feeling, to my mind, but it's still important. What's yet to come never ends, after all
Soon you will not wander in my wake;
In truth, you were never mine to take.

This would be connected to the above poem if I could figure out what comes between that stanza and this couplet. What it's talking about is the fact that, despite how much energy a parent pours into a child, the child is a person in eir own right. A youngling may follow for almost two decades, but it's not like sculpting, where one has a statue one owns at the end. The final creation can survive on its own--that's the point.

...Speaking of interesting to analyze once I've got some perspective, this'll be interesting to look at if/when I become a parent.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Heroine's Journey

Suggested reading: Love and Love, Power

The Hero's Journey is monomythic, but I think this post is mainly about how it is in my culture. Strictly speaking, the Heroine's Journey is one expression of the Hero's Journey, because a Hero is just a strong/courageous/etc. Good Person.

I realized while writing that I was using male/female as a shorthand. A Hero is standard: he represents the positive qualities of the majority population. A Heroine represents the positive qualities of a minority population. A Heroine could just as easily be black, or aboriginal, or poor as she is female, though I will use the shorthand in this essay.

My views are developing--hence this monster of a note--but if I wait for them to not be, then I'll never post anything on this subject. Feel free to aid in their development: i.e., comment.

A group of friends and I recently-ish read Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.* In one story, a woman complains that all the stories that were told within that story had been boy's stories. The obvious question was, "What makes a man's story?" followed quickly by, "What makes a woman's story?"

The first thought that came to mind was that, since we are dealing with archetypes, Hero=masculine and Heroine=feminine. The capitals are important here--one can have a feminine or androgynous hero, and one can have a male Heroine. This didn't quite satisfy us, but if this is the definition one wishes to use, then Cluracan's story is a woman's story: Cluracan is a clever elf, and his power comes from his words.
* If you haven't, you should. Go on. I bet it's at the library.
One archetypal story is the Hero's Journey, and many interpretations include an interesting moment: Encounter with the Feminine. That event assumes that the Hero is male, and requires that he be masculine--if you are feminine or androgynous, then what, precisely, are you encountering? Your Shadow? But that's another place on the Journey.

We discussed this, and decided the Encounter boiled down to, "You can't fight your way out of this one." The Hero cannot simply punch out the diplomat--or rather, he can, but it will solve no issues and cause additional ones. The feminine, as used, is subtlety, trickery, diplomacy, tact, etc.*

Encounter with the Masculine--that is, trying to gender-flip the Hero's Journey--leaves you with a different instruction: "Stop being pretty." This isn't to say that attractive Heroines would fail this test, but that one needs to stop worrying about appearance. While Encounter with the Feminine would require a culture, Encounter with the Masculine would not. Its purpose is perhaps best served by an inhuman force--a thunderstorm, a fire. If it is a culture, it is one that only cares for survival, not form. Either Encounter, then, requires assimilation--the Hero will remain strong but gain diplomacy; the Heroine will remain clever but gain a direct way of acting.

The reversal does not quite create a woman's story. A man's story turned inside-out is not a woman's story; a man's story turned inside-out is a man's story turned inside-out. What they are, then, to me:
The Hero's Journey: A tale of societal rejection.

The Heroine's Journey: A tale of self-rejection.
Or, for those of you who like complete sentences: In a Hero's story, either the Hero decides that he needs to leave his society-by-birth, or the society decides the same thing. Either way, the Hero sets out due to unsatisfying surroundings.

The Heroine's Journey is similar, but has an important mental aspect: The Heroine does not (merely) reject the society, she rejects a part of herself. This happens to be due to the fact that the society is rejecting her at a very basic level--"No, you don't exist, so go home you silly girl"--but that is not the conflict of the story. The Heroine has internalized the belief that she cannot be both. She sets out due to an unsatisfying being.

At the heart of her conflict, the Heroine has decided she cannot be herself.

The Heroine as she is has found within herself both woman and warrior, but she sees only simpering women, so assumes her "woman" side is her weakness. Or sees only uneducated women, so assumed "woman" is her stupid side, what must be shucked off to become a scholar. She lacks a role model, so, of course, stumbles through as best she can and makes several errors.

A Journey can be tragic in two ways: It never starts or it never ends.

There's an episode of Star Trek with time-travel where Picard is saved from a nonlethal accident, but the accident was what inspired him to go out and be who he was. The episode has several painful moments that boil down to, "Well, you're...mediocre." He is not a Hero, because he never started his journey.

A Hero's Journey that never ends means never coming home. Home isn't there, or it's just out of reach. There are ways to extend this, make it no longer tragic, but just the idea of, "Sorry, you learned your lesson too late and anything you could have come home to is out of reach," is awful.

In a Heroine's Journey that never starts, the Heroine decides to be what she thinks she was born to be. The woman grows up passive and uneducated, hiding behind false smiles because a proper woman does not burden others with her pain.

A Heroine's Journey that never ends also means never coming home, but this time it's a self-imposed exile. She believes she could not come home and remain a warrior or a scholar, that she would have to be just a woman. And when she thinks of "just a woman" she thinks of others' lives, but projects her desires onto them. She sees only the choice between never going home or becoming the Heroine who never started her Journey.

The completed Journey means assimilation.

The Hero comes home--though home is not Home, any more than this Hero is the man he was--and brings back his wisdom. The society accepts him enough for his purposes. And, in my favorites, he becomes a wise old man quite similar to the one who helped him in the first few pages...

The Heroine also comes home, but in a different way. She is odd in the society, unless the story is incredibly idealistic, but that wasn't the issue. Had she needed society to accept all of her, she would never have started her journey.

She assimilates her self. They are no longer her selves, the woman or the warrior/the scholar/the whatever else; she is her self. The Heroine becomes a role model, a mentor, a guide. She broke a path.

At the end of the story, the Heroine is the role model she lacked.
* Since that conversation, I've read more books on the subject and now believe that the Feminine is part of what the Hero is not because it doesn't fit with the Hero's self-image. The feminine is, in Jungian terms, his Anima.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thought to Page

Between the previous post and this one, this blog hit 3,000 hits.
There once was a wolf.

(There once were many wolves, mother-storyteller. What kind of start is that?

Hush, apprentice-child.)

The wolf was packless.

(Because he had nothing to carry?


Yes, mother.)

In the tradition of his people, he had been sloughed from the pack when he reached maturity. Some wolves found packs soon after, temporary or permanent. This wolf had not.

Winter was coming.


The wolf was no great hunter among wolves, but had enough skill to hunt the plentiful rabbit, and humble enough to take advantage of what luck came his way. But as the seasons changed, the rabbits were growing rarer and quicker. He stopped hunting as much for meat and hunted instead for a pack, but found no wolves--not even the ones who had thrown him out. But, the wolf's luck helped him once more: he found a pack.

(Did the wolves--

What wolves?)

The pack was an odd one. They walked awkwardly, on two legs, and changed their fur much more often than the wolflet had ever seen. But still, he saw them play, and saw them hunt, and knew they were pack.

A little child, too young even to apprentice, saw the wolflet. He waved and laughed, then ran over to a mother for attention. She gave him meat--the wolf sniffed the air. Burned meat was different from blood-hot meat, but he knew it. Rabbit. The little one enjoyed it; it seemed a treat.

The wolflet was very hungry. But, though his mind was poor for hunting, he knew well enough how to work within a pack. He killed a rabbit, carefully--he had seen this pack use the fur, and the only marks the kill left were a ruined throat.

He took the snow-white rabbit in his jaws, lightly, so lightly he did not pierce the skin, and trotted back to the house of skins where he had seen the child.

(What kind of house is made of skin?

And what is your house made of?


The wolf-child sat again in the bushes where the child had last seen him. The child scurries off, towards him, though the wolf knows he crouches too low to be seen. He knows it better when he stands and the child starts.

"Pup!" the child says, for the wolf is a runt. The wolf does not understand, but takes it for a greeting, and drops the rabbit. He nudges it toward the tribe's youngling with his wet wolf nose, then waits. The mother would fear wolves too much, but perhaps, if the little one trusts him...

The child moved forward, innocent of any danger, and then the mother rounds the side of the tent, calling the youngling's name.

Pup does not know what the tribe would think of offering one's belly, does not yet trust them not to hurt him. He crouches in on himself, as when his mama-wolf would catch him somewhere he shouldn't be.

"Mama! The pup brought rabbit!" The young one held up the meat for inspection. The mother sees the teeth's mark, sees the thin, careful wolf, and sees tribe.

(What then?

You have a wolf-pet. What do you think?)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MIT Essays

We know you lead a busy life, full of activities, many of which are required of you. Tell us about something you do for the pleasure of it. (100 words or fewer)

I write stories. Creating new worlds and new beings, then watching them play or putting them in odd situations is fascinating and good mental exercise. Doing so also lets me get an outside perspective on my own life—I accidentally or purposefully put my characters in the same trouble(s) I have, and the answer becomes clear because I have a new angle on it. Writing is communicating and thinking, which are core to being. To myself, I am what I understand of myself, and to others, I am what I can communicate. Writing aids both sides.

Although you may not yet know what you want to major in, which department or program at MIT appeals to you and why? (100 words or fewer)

What fascinates me most about MIT is how well the departments mingle. Though several of the schools I have researched have diverse majors, many of them have two wholly separate colleges, and never the twain shall meet. Every MIT alumnae I have spoken to has some friends in entirely random majors. Since I am interested in primarily mathematics and music, and secondarily writing and theater, integration of various majors matters to me. I would be bored if I were limited to only one major, or to interacting only with students of one realm.

What attribute of your personality are you most proud of, and how has it impacted your life so far? This could be your creativity, effective leadership, sense of humor, integrity, or anything else you'd like to tell us about. (200-250 words)

I struggled with this question because I think of myself as a whole, so I researched ‘personality’.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that a personality is “that quality…which makes a person what he is, as distinct from other persons.” I can think of nothing more distinctly personal to my self than my singing.

In third grade, I opened my mouth to sing while walking across the blacktop, then came to a complete stop. I knew it was my voice, but it was so much richer, easier, better than I had ever heard it. As I stood stunned, a person turned to me.

“Was that you?”

I nodded.

“You have a lovely voice.”

I had a talent.

As I grew, I found other things I areas where I excelled, but few gave me the same feeling. I learn things and reflect them, like sunlight hitting the moon. Singing makes me a sun.

My obsessions revolve around that idea: I can create something, then radiate it. I can communicate. Writing, explaining, teaching, music, storytelling, mathematics—everything I do for fun came from the idea that started with singing.

I say singing, and not communication, because singing is my first love, and because singing is mine. I recognized singing as a talent long before I wrote for fun, and I remember being baffled at all these students who did not enjoy the school choir.

Even without any friend, singing would give me a home. If nothing else, I sing.

Describe the world you come from; for example, your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations? (200-250 words)

My homes encourage sideways thinking. My parents and brother and I all pun and use sarcasm regularly, as well as having in-depth conversations about important issues. The same dinner might include a shoe/issue/eschew pun, a discussion on bisexual rights as they relate to queer rights as they relate to human rights, and an oddly worded sign my mother noticed at her work.

Other than my family, my homes are the gifted community and the arts community. The gifted community means oddly intelligent people, which leads to odd social conventions and conversations that fluctuate and finish randomly. Having fun means looking at how things work and communicating well.

Art is expression through odd media, as all communication is. Spoken language makes no sense to those who do not speak it; written word is a visual expression of that auditory medium. Even in the case of realistic painting or sculpture, one needs to break the subject into simpler shapes to learn to recreate it. And great art means making something new. Looking through standard angles makes that nearly impossible—looking at old paths in the old ways does not create new ideas.

These homes mean I love other perspectives. Each different way of seeing I find is another way to talk to one more person, which allows me to exist outside myself. This is why I want to be both a teacher and an artist—both, if successful, touch many lives, and both communicate.

Tell us about the most significant challenge you've faced or something important that didn't go according to plan. How did you manage the situation? (200-250 words)

The first time I came out as bisexual was in the middle of my seventh-grade homeroom. All classmates within hearing chorused, “Ew!” Having never created a plan that allowed for that outcome, I turned around in my seat and put my head into my book. I took nothing from the event at the time, and had that been my only chance to come out, I would have learned nothing I did not know before.

Luckily, coming out is not something one does once. I came out in seventh grade to near-strangers; I came out to most of my family a few years ago; I am coming out by writing this. I had more chances to find accepting groups—including my mother, who is bisexual herself. Though I found others who were in outright denial about the fact that a person could be attracted to masculine and feminine traits, I am confident enough in myself that I can accept these as marks of ignorance and lack of tact.

I continue to be open, even when I am scared, because I see that fear for what it is: ignorance. Every time I make a mark on others’ preconceptions, I make the journey that much easier for the next bisexual. I make communication that much easier. I do not pretend I change the whole world every time I say that I am what I am, but I leave my ripples, and they add up.


It was a bar, and anyone who bothered to walk over could see, but it was as private as we got. Any random person could walk in off the street and overhear us, but most of them didn't understand what we were saying, anyway. Relied too much on visuals you needed to know by heart, and if you didn't then the dark interspersed with sickly yellow lighting wouldn't help. Anyway, the people we really didn't want knowing wouldn't be caught dead here.

The plans were short, this time. It took me all of two seconds to realize why, but I wasn't about to say it aloud. "There's no exit strategy." That honor went to dear Jacobi.

Arlene nodded calmly. "Not enough information. We would need to improvise."

I nodded. "So it’s a suicide mission.”

Arlene shrugged. “I’m either dying or sitting here useless for the rest of my life.”

“So it’s a fun suicide mission.”

She shrugged, and gestured with her glass. “If I go down, I’d rather go down spectacularly.”

I clinked my glass with hers. “Cheers to that.”

"How are you two so calm about this?" Jacobi asked, in apparently honest bafflement.

Arlene and I exchanged a glance. "Well." I shrugged and tipped my drink down my throat. ”Tomorrow is going to suck. I'm gonna go find something fun for tonight.”


Jacobi's eyes swung to the sky, then closed. "All right. See you there."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Love and Love

"Priorities and Sanity" 'verse.

Her first love is the obvious one, the one Emilia had since childhood. Love of helping, love of being helpful. This one could be two, if Emilia separated them, and she had. "But it's not terribly sensible," she mutters to herself as she scratches down the vague sentiments in her journal, as much to make sense of everything as to document. Helping people means another is in less pain, and being helpful means that she is a person--she writes, People are helpful, objects are useful., a phrase thought so often that she's unsure if she'd ever written it--but they both give her the same glowy feeling. Emilia knows herself well enough to separate the sources, but it's like separating love for two distant relatives. The love is because they are family. The love is because she helps.

The second is one she had certainly not had at the beginning of her apprenticeship, though she was aware of it and vaguely wanted after it. Some might call it "true love", though Emilia always felt that true love was agape, not eros.

She felt stirrings, of course, even before apprenticing. He's cute, or I really want to kiss her. But those were brief urges, and easily enough ignored, forgotten, or pushed aside until she could deal with them on her own terms. Though the mageling can do that with her feelings about Dale, they keep coming back. And after the first few times, she doesn't want to push the feelings away. It's like denying help to a person in need--she can do it, especially when the need is slight, but it hurts her just the same.

Emilia hates lying. It twists her gut and lungs in unpleasant ways, and sticks them that way for hours or days, depending on how big the lie. So when Dale asks, "Do you want to go to the dance with me?" she says, "Yes," because she does. It is irresponsible to go, but she does want to.

And now she shuts her journal and walks to Dr. Johnson's office, because that is the responsible thing to do. Or because she reached the point where she needs a person to focus her thoughts, and not just paper. Her teacher is good for that; he asks the right things.

"Professor?" He's working at the blackboard. "I told Dale I'd go with him to the dance."

"You are aware Dale lost his magic around your age." Professor doesn't look up. That's relaxing; she's never known him to offer any punishment without looking the person in the eye.

Her honesty nudges her. "I forgot, in the moment. But yes."

"You have more than enough hours this week," Dr. Johnson adds as he goes back to correct an equation, "even if it were standard practice for students to work in the libraries on their Friday evenings. I assume you are not here to apologize over that, though you may be trying to believe it so." He turns to her, eyes still a startling blue from some experiment-gone-odd. Or maybe right. She wasn't there. "Have you admitted the reason to yourself yet?" A little tic from his original language; the literal way to say figured out was admitted to yourself.

"Not until the present moment, no." She shakes her head: to emphasize the negative, to clear it. "I don't think I can be both."

Gently, "Finish the thought."

"I am not sure I can be a sexual being and a healer, concurrently, without sacrificing an important part of at least one."

"Tell the story."

Emilia's eyes focus on something not in his immaculate, airless office. "The young woman thinks she can't be both what she wants to be and what she thinks a woman is. She goes half-mad trying to choose one, but ultimately does. If she chooses to be a woman, she falls into a depression that someone close to the woman side of her--a lover, a family member, or a friend--pulls her partially out of, then she pulls herself all the way out. If she chooses what she wants to be, she discovers she wants to be a woman, too, while off on some adventure, and figures out on her own that she can be both. If the story needs added page-count, she overcompensates before settling down, and if it is a tragedy, she will never quite realize she can be both."

Her professor smiles. "Finish the thought."

Now that Emilia thinks of it, the story is a classical heroine's journey. The answer is obvious enough. "I don't want my life to be a tragedy," Emilia says dryly. "I'm going to the dance with Dale. Thanks, Professor."

"My pleasure." He turns back to the board. "Oh, and the protagonist in the tale need not be a woman." Which means, I empathize, and, Remember Dale may feel the same way, or both. Dr. Johnson is a male healing mage, and Dale had the crisis of confidence that losing something as important as one's magic brought.

She nods. "Thank you, Professor."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Intermediate, Or: Translation

Pt II of "Priorities and Sanity", by a popular request of one.

The first weeks fall into no particular chronological order in Emilia's memories. The book is basic healing magic, sacrificing one's own energy to put into another. She takes to it well. She heals a dove, stitches up a dog's paw, and learns how to use the fire magic she has to cauterize wounds and sterilize surgical instruments--she's not performing major surgery yet, but she's well on her way to helping. It's the first few weeks; she hardly expected even that.

Somewhere in the middle of that, Dr. Johnson tells her to call him "Professor". She asks why, mostly out of surprise, which is how she learns he isn't a native speaker of her language.

"The vocabulary translates imperfectly, but it's the closest way to phrase it I've found."

Emilia's confused a moment before the obvious clicks into place. She assumed the oddly precise diction to be part of his persona in general, but it made just as much sense as a side-effect of a learned language. He had grown up with different vowels, probably; his diphthongs were always strangely pure. She almost asked him what he spoke first, but he was handing her another book, and this one taught healing humans.

And some point that must have been after that, Professor would tell her about that particular book, about the effect it had on nearly every student who would not be a healer. "Humans have a resonance to them," a similarity in wavelength that threw many mages-in-training. Even if you knew a spell quite well, even if you had used it before, even if you were only thinking of using it on a human, could be jarring. The book was the first test, because the feeling would distress, but not harm. "Usually, the sensation is akin to a papercut."

Professor eyes her closely and watches her cast the spells, asking a great many questions. So many distractions that they annoy her, but when her focus finally breaks, she just winces at the sting and says, "Sorry."

He nods. "Good. No resonance issues." And that must have been before she knew about the human-human resonance, because Emilia remembers not knowing. It strikes her as an odd thing to be such rare knowledge, but supposes that only healers have to worry about it.

She remembers asking, though she's not sure if it was immediate. "Healing something more like yourself has a greater chance of shifting injuries, rather than simply healing them. Casting such a spell on one's identical twin, for instance, is the most dangerous, as it has the issues of casting on someone your phenotype, genotype, age and gender. Healing a sibling or non-identical twin is roughly as dangerous in practice."

And then Emilia's first resonance. Not her first human--that was an octogenarian, of significantly different racial background. Not even, oddly enough, her fellow student, who could almost be her sister. Privately, Emilia believes she was more careful because of that, though admitting so means stating that she was not careful with the burned eight-year-old, which isn't quite right.
Suzy is bawling. Not the poorly suppressed sobs that Emilia had seen in her patients, nor the dead-eye look a few of them had, nor choosing to allow oneself to weep because of a lack of pride, just...bawling. No choice one way or the other. Pain meets lacking inhibitions; tears fall.

"H-Help me. Mama said you could help me!"

Emilia flinches. Professor's eyes are on her back, but he's done too much that day, or something, there's some reason that means she has to help this girl who's in pain and it doesn't matter that she's exhausted too, she just has to fix the burn that's running up the poor thing's arm all the way to her shoulder and so she just

Emilia forgets absolutely everything she's been taught, grabs the girl's arm, and jerks the pain straight back, snapping Suzy's skin to perfection.

Emilia jerks back and hisses a syllable she heard Professor say exactly once, when a mother mid-messed up labor came in. Suzy's burn had been on her left, and this burn is on Emilia's right arm--the one she'd grabbed at Suzy's hurt with--but beyond that, it's identical.

"Resonance," Professor said, softly.

Emilia nodded. She had enough control not to be outwardly distressed over the pain, but it took the whole of her focus. "Would you take Suzy to her father? I need to treat this."

Professor nodded and took Suzy's hand.

Resonance is difficult-nearing-impossible with a sibling. A twin is more difficult, but at that point the bell curve is already so low that people hardly notice. Which means...

Emilia ran the burn under cool water, then set something warm on it to keep the blood flowing.

It was as if whoever created the universe decided that healer's couldn't be selfish. No matter the training, a healer would always auto-resonate. No healing mage could self-heal.
In a little cooldown room, now, where doctors can go and not have to worry about patients or next of kin who insist they could have done more. Emilia sits at a table with apple juice in a sippy cup, because it's definitely one of those days.

"What happened today?" Professor says it in a gentle tone, which meant she screwed up badly enough to warrant eggshell treatment.

"I obsessed over the wrong detail and got resonance."

Professor nods and hands Emilia a jar of something. "For the burn. Finish the thought."

The last three words fall into a rhythm, and Emilia guesses this was another thing from his original language. "I...I think I don't fully understand what you mean by that."

"Answer what you think I asked, then."

Emilia adjusts the coat she'd hung over the back of her chair, pretending it bothered her. She unscrews the lid of the ointment jar and notices that it actually smells nice--vanilla? Her eyes dart to his with surprise, and then she has to answer. "I focused on an end result rather than what I should have done to achieve it. In doing so, I endangered both the child and myself more than I needed to."

"Finish the story." That same rhythm. Whatever it was, it turned the order polite, curious and gentle rather than demanding.

Emilia sips at her apple juice. "It is good to remember such things." She stares at the ointment a moment. "This is non-magical?"

"Correct." Brief, even for him, as if it were not his place to interrupt the story she was telling.

"I think..." Emilia looks at her arm. What she saw as a mirror of the scars is much milder. The resonance injured her, but not severely. She would scar, just a bit, but had she gotten this from pouring hot water on herself, she would treat it mundanely and carry on. "The main character keeps what scars she gained. For remembrance's sake. Not out of guilt, that would be childish. Just is good to remember such things."

Professor nods and the spell breaks. "As you wish."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs

February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011

He died. He was a visionary; he changed the world. The iPod and iTunes did not exist, now my computer's dictionary recognizes the words. He did not invent the computer, but he did help it become common. He did not invent the mouse, but he did popularize it.

He had 56 full years. I say this not because 56 years was enough, but to drive home how much he did in his time.

You know all this, if only vaguely. I cannot imagine someone who would find this blog and not know it, by now, and I can hardly imagine this blog, this post, outlasting the memory of the man. I do not need to tell you all this, but I say it anyway, in introduction and in memory.

What I do not say is that technology has been dealt a blow by his death.

I see this statement, in too many of his obituaries. As if Steve Jobs did not push technology forward, did not act as an accelerating force, but simply kept the system of enhancement from falling apart. It horrifies me. Steve Jobs was amazing, he was exceptional, and he sped the world with his ideas, his angle of attack, and his actions. This is fantastic. This is the mark of something lasting.

I believe he wanted it to continue without him. Did he not, he would have stayed head of the company to the last day, or given up on it when he saw death so near. He did not. He named a successor. The company will continue, if changed; technology will advance; the Earth will spin on its axis.

We have lost an orator. We have lost a visionary. We have lost someone who could see something, understand it, sell it. We lost a storyteller. We lost a man.

We did not lose our ability to adapt. Leonardo da Vinci died; Shakespeare died; Steve Jobs died. These are tragedies. These are beautiful things that passed. Yet we lived without them, we grew enough to have a society where they could have the effects they did--writing, printing press, microchips. We shall continue, and all the better for the fact that they were.

In honor of him...well, as I said, we lost a storyteller. He said it better than I would.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."

Languid Grace

Post written before this week's main news-consuming event.

How you would describe the walk depended on where you grew up. Those from places without highly visible nobles would never call it the walk of a noble--he was too confident. Nobles are, literally, self-conscious. Ever step could falter; any falter could bring disaster. Even the nobles who do not fear this are aware of it. Those who are not aware are too unaware of their surroundings to be this confident. One can be cocky or naive in one's ignorance, but confidence of this sort requires experience. This is one who has passed through I have seen the world and I am not impressed, and found in its place, I have seen the world. I can thrive anywhere.

One might compare it to a noble if one had seen the right nobles. Some have that, though it is rare for hereditary titles. One needs to pass through many walks of life to find this look, and those with hereditary titles are often locked into their path too soon. But the knight who started a blacksmith's child and grew to marry the king's daughter through skill of cunning...he might have it.

Those who knew tigers might compare the walk to a tiger's. Those who knew of, as well. That same grace and quiet, and the same feeling that wasn't in your head anymore, was just a thump in your chest that froze you or said run.

And, of course, that little tinge at the back of your head, the knowledge that you are still better for having this one in front of you than behind. A tiger snaps at your neck, after all, and one who walks with this languid grace could bring your world tumbling.

You can train yourself around either fear, to face the tiger and the languid grace. And as you walk those steps, as you sharpen spear, mind, tongue, your strides lengthen, your feet quiet, your eyes watch. It's a graceful turn to your body, and one you hardly think of anymore. Each movement planned, but merely from a set you planned years ago. So efficient as to look lazy, unless you've walked paths enough to see the mirror...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Second Anniversary

Indeed, it has occurred. I know because I set this to post on the second anniversary.

Yeah, it's kinda cheating.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Abby, Maggie and Sylan

Abby had mostly shed the feminine form, and Sylan had yet to truly adopt a human one. For the sake of brevity, Sylan shall be 'it', though it is more animate than that implies, and Abby shall be 'she'.

Sylan was smiling, or doing something we would best understand as a smile. "Ah, the lovely lady Abigail. Delighted." Sylan bowed over Abby's hand.

Abby sighed and muttered, "Again?"

Sylan straightened and tipped his head to the side. " 'Again'?"

"At the very least I can imagine an excuse for Margaret."

Sylan grinned at the confirmation of his guess. "You can't destroy something that encompasses you, darling."

Abby let out a huff, then realized she suddenly looked like someone's (overdone) idea of an adolescent daughter, make-up and all.

Mostly due to Maggie's influence, she deadpanned, "You're not even my real Dad."

Sylan laughed. "Oh, I can see why Maggie liked you. Where did she get off to, anyway?"

"Here," Maggie said, fading in draped over Abby's shoulders. "I die sometimes, though. It's vaguely unpleasant."

Abby gave the long-suffering sigh of old souls and the pretentious. "If you did not insist on touching me..."

"Aw, now what fun is that?" Maggie kissed Abby's cheek. "Wouldn't ever get to do anything, if I went around doing things like that." She glanced at Sylan. "You alright with this? It looks like she's thinking of herself as your child."

Sylan shrugged. "She isn't." It suddenly looked curious, itching to figure something out. "Any pattern to when you die?"

Maggie's eyes danced. "Midnight."

"And does it happen if you're not touching her at midnight?"

"No." But there was laughter in her eyes, and Abby had the barest hint of a smile on her lips. The not-quite-smiling woman breathed, "Three, two..."

"Then why not just refrain for a few moments?"

Maggie laughed outright. "My midnight, dear. Don't you know the stories? Midnight can last hours."

"Days," Abby added, eyes crinkling.

Sylan blinked. "That makes no sense."

"Magic," the girls said together. Maggie continued, "I'm not of your realm, Sy. Good on you for trying though; it'll work anywhere but here." Magic lifted one hand to gesture to the not-space that they had quasi-manifested in. "Wouldn't've, but then Abby convinced me to stick with her." Mag's nose buried itself in the hair behind Abby's neck.

"Some would believe it good for them," Abby said, dancing around a direct statement. " 'They can figure it out now.'"

"I could've given them the exact measurements on the first try, if I wanted to," Maggie sighed in the tone of an old argument.

Sylan shook his head. "Do you follow any rules?"

"I can't create," Abby said, at the same time Maggie said, "I can't destroy."

Sylan blinked. "You two together..."

"Would be a force to be reckoned with," Maggie said cheerfully. "Good thing I've decided not to do anything to the world anymore, or we'd probably be running the joint as non-benevolent dictators. It's just so hard to keep track of who's a person, you know?"

Sylan half-smiled. "I just try to be fair to everything."

Maggie shrugged, then began fading. "Oh. Midnight. Going to take a few minutes this time, I think."

"I'll leave you two your minutes, then. See you later."

"Eventually," Abby noted.

"Probably not me," Maggie said in a chipper tone. "I only come out when it's dramatically appropriate, and you've already met me once."

"What about Abby?"

The Cheshire Cat would envy Maggie's grin. "Well, I hardly need to follow all the rules."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gender and Sexuality

I will not cover everything in this post.

Quotation marks indicate a reference to the term rather than the group defined by the term.

Includes terms I found interesting, and a few I made up out of roots that I think should make them fairly clear, occasionally with added syllables for rolling-off-the-tongue value.

EDIT: anthro- terms were previously gynandro-/androgy- terms (see comments).

Sexual identity is complex.

First of all, the standard-use terms currently don't define sexual orientation by what one is attracted to. The axes are what one likes and what one is--and the name is taken from the interaction between the two.

The assumptions are: you are male or female; you like males, females, both, or neither, and romantic attraction and sexual attraction are intrinsically linked. From these priors, we commonly call people homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual.*

These assumptions fail upon contact with the world. Not everyone is male or female. There are people who self-identify as both, neither, inconsistent/uncaring, or somewhere along a spectrum; there are hormone differences that set people along many parts of the spectrum; and even if we limit it to viable combinations of the X and Y chromosomes that science has formally observed, there are more than two options. Any way you care to slice it, a male/female dichotomy doesn't work.

So we've already found that 'hetero-/homosexual' don't work, because they rely on defined genders/sexes to work--you are attracted to something like you, or something distinct from you. 'Bisexual' does not work because 'bi' means 'two', so if we have more than two genders/sexes--never mind a spectrum--the term starts being rather absurd. Even if there were only two, I would prefer 'ambisexual' rather than 'bisexual', that is 'both' rather than 'two', but that's neither here nor there.

Given only the breakdown of strictly defined self-identity, asexual still works. 'A' simply means 'none', and the fact that it may originally have been meant as 'neither' does no harm to the term.

I will now use 'gynosexual', 'androsexual', and 'anthrosexual' for--respectively--attraction to feminine traits, masculine traits, and humans, and keep 'asexual'.

The added complexity doubles in attraction. I have already made the point that being attracted to a female or a male is not quite the same as being attracted to feminine or masculine traits. It is also possible to be attracted to the idea of a person being male/female, much as one can be attracted to the idea of someone being intersex.

Then there's the point that romantic attraction and physical attraction are not so perfectly snapped together. One can be, for example, asexual but andromantic--that is, lacking in a sexual drive, but still having a desire to be romantically involved with males/people with masculine traits.
* Other terms exist, but are much less common.
To see how complicated this gets in practice, I will refer to a previous post. The focus question: "Is Abby/Maggie a lesbian relationship?"

Strictly speaking, neither Maggie nor Abby have set genders/sexes--that is to say, they lack chromosomes altogether, and appear as whatever they want to look like during that slice of time.

Maggie has chosen a female form because that is what she feels she is. She is also attracted to feminine traits--she is gynosexual--is romantically attracted to people who are female/feminine--gynoromantic--and is attracted to the idea of someone being female. In other words, Maggie is a pretty classic lesbian. One could quibble that Maggie could choose to be male or sexless, but that's splitting some pretty fine hairs.

Abby, on the other hand... Abby likes Maggie. This does not spread to sexual love, but that's not because Abby doesn't find Maggie attractive; it's because Abby hasn't bothered to manufacture a sex drive for herself. Maggie was a creative force, so had a bit of one, and honed it because she wanted to, but entropy would have needed to create one from the ground up, and didn't care enough to manipulate one into being. This makes Abby asexual: it's not that she finds sex repulsive, she just doesn't particularly care about it. Romantically, Abby is attracted to traits, independent of the gender/sex of the being. This makes her anthromantic. Abby chose a vaguely female form and influenced Maggie with some positive bias because she recognized that Maggie would find a female/feminine form more attractive, and because Abby cares about as much about her form as about her partner's.

From Maggie's perspective, it's obviously a lesbian relationship. From Abby's perspective, it's a romantic relationship, and she'd probably look at you oddly if you tried to push gender/sex into it. If given the choice between a lesbian relationship, a heterosexual relationship, a male-homosexual relationship, and a polyamorous relationship, Abby would call it lesbian. But that's not a good description; it is merely better than the other three options.

All in all, I just try to stick with 'romantic,' 'sexual,' and 'relationship.'

Sunday, September 18, 2011


"Name me, then, if I am so simple as that."

A pause. Sorting thoughts, though to find titles or merely sort through ones known, I did not know. "Keeper of the hearth. Peacemaker. Beauty."

Steph turned to Kent, eyes suddenly blazing hot enough to shut even him up. "You are infuriating." Then, as if that statement had broken a dam: "You regularly play tricks when I wish you were serious; you pretend to misunderstand the simplest of concepts simply to annoy me, and yet you pretend to understand things you do not to save face. You are the worst traveling companion I can imagine."

She grabbed his collar and yanked him against the wall. "Why on Earth would I be here if I weren't in love with you?"

It would be difficult to say whom the kiss surprised more.

They didn't have a spiritual guide, or a ship's captain, or a broom, so they did one of the old things. A length of string around both wrists, holding them tight', though not so tight' as they chose to hold each other.

" 'I love you' are not the three most important words in the English language, but 'I love you, too,' are the four."

"Who am I to question it?"

She looked up. "A person. Question all authority. Act if you believe it wrong. The number of people willing to act against something bad increases dramatically if they see someone else fighting it."

The firefly flits through the forest; the firefly flies though the fortress.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


The general prompt:
Power you get is your super power. Hit random page. Next power that shows up is the power of your arch nemesis.

My Power: Magic (bit of a Superpower Lottery win, there)
My Nemesis's Power: Self-Spawn

Added for fun (I chose which was which before I clicked random, though):
My Sidekick: Stinger Protrusion
Nemesis's Sidekick: Destruction

"I think you should be running the show here."

There wasn't a head, exactly, but the hole in the universe was person-shaped. The head-analogue tipped to one side. "Oh?"

"Yeah." There was a stalemate, between the--um.

"What should I call you?"


I shrugged. "I don't have a good short description of you. If you don't give one, I'm going to end up with something like 'Black Hole', and that seems rather melodramatic for your personality."

The being stared and blinked--I think. Vaguely shaded: eyes are tiny. "Absence is a common choice. Those who prefer to humanize generally call me Abby."

"Right. Thank you." There was a stalemate going on, between Abby and me. Technically speaking, she--alright, yes, gender-neutrality, but I was calling her Abby--is the most powerful force in the universe. She is entropy. The slow decay of weathering wood, rusting iron, fire snatching up square meters of forest every second. She's not rot, precisely; rot is life's domain, but she is that moment of conversion inside every organism, taking organized energy and disorganizing it.

I was magic. Not a mage, not a magician, not a witch or a wizard. Simply magic. Components of spells, whether they call by word or symbol or thought, called on me. I was the miracles of the land. Like organization increasing in a closed system.

But, by definition, I was inconsistent. If I happened repeatably, I'd be science, and you'd know me in your world.

And, by definition, entropy is quite consistent.

"You were saying?" Abby inquired coolly.

"Ah, yes. Why do you follow him?"

She shrugged--well, actually, she did an eternally graceful movement best described as a shrug. But I really needed to stop or kiss her, and I was not entirely sure if one survived kissing entropy. "I am destruction. If I am to create something, I require a base."

"So you could make lovely driftwood sculptures."

Absence smiled.

The world outside would go chilly from that. So direct an expression on Absence herself meant no thing would smile for that moment. Here, in front of her, it warmed my soul. "Something like that."

"And that's what my Nina is for: someone to affect the fully material plane. But she doesn't run the show." I spread my hands and joked, "What, does your entropy spread to plans?"


"Ow..." I muttered under my breath, rubbing my ears. Smiles warm the soul; direct statements turn you near-deaf. "Unnecessary roughness."

"Nina is losing."

"What--" I started up. "She's fighting?"

"Injury is also my realm, if by a stretch."

One does not say, 'It can't be so,' to that tone. "...I can't feel her."

Abby nodded calmly. "It appears she does not call upon you, Mistress Margaret."

"Maggie," I said automatically. "It's Maggie. Do you know why not?"

"Divination is your realm, I believe." On anyone else that tone would have been infuriatingly calm, but on Abby is simply was. It would be no more reasonable to be angry at that tone than to be angry at a picture of a black hole.

I cast not-water upon the naught-floor and pulled the truth from it.

"As if she ever thought you near her," the man--Sam?--sneered. He actually sneered, my goodness.

"I am her helper. Of course she did not." A blow, then, to the solar plexus, driving the air hard out of him. The words were confident, but the tone was desperate, and only became moreso. "But I can fight without her. Can you say the same?"

He laughed. "Childish. Your mistress aids me in this fight." Another of him came from behind and landed a blow somewhere low along Nina's back. She went down.

They said, together, "And you can do nothing without her."

I realized I had clenched my jaw when the muscles hurt. "Bastard." He only called upon me in truth to make himself anew, none for sustaining, but this was me; this was my domain, and I could right it.

I touched the surface of the water Abby pressed at me, but that wasn't important and pulled.

Both Sams fell. One was female now, the other still male but the wrong height and build. All of his would soon fall such. He ran the bodies hard, sapping what energy the magic infused in them would throw them into comas. And that was wrong, because some of them would doubtless be in some danger Abby pressed tight on all sides, but I only needed one more minute.

Not even a pull, just a shift. From him to them. He had not spread himself so thin, only to one other who was neither present nor the man himself. "One moment Abby," I breathed, "please."

Sam died, and I sliced off a piece of myself to give to little Nina. She'd keep her spikes, when she wanted them, and heal completely from any injuries she'd gotten under my care.

I shut my eyes. I was done.


"Hush, bright one."

Then the back of my mind went click.

"Dark," I mumbled back, already lost in her. Not evil, not wrong, but dark to my light; perfect, only missing me as I missed her.

Abby smiled against my ear. "Yes." And it was perfect, and it was beautiful, and it was worth it because she made it so.

One does not survive kissing entropy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

To Personhood

Things happen.

Sometimes wonderful things happen, and people grab every bit they can, in a manner vaguely reminiscent of a particularly unruly group of guests just after the piñata split open: all jabbing elbows and minor prizes.

Sometimes terrible things happen, but they do not happen to us, and so we hide. "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist..." We may blame the victims, because the alternative--that it truly wasn't their fault, that it could happen to us--is too awful to contemplate. It may even be happening to us, and we do not speak for we fear it will be worse if we do, or we simply believe is will be no better.

But we are social animals, are we not?

Sometimes horrible/glorious things happen, and they write a line of fire across your self. Sometimes it blazes so white-hot that you cannot imagine doing aught but following this, doing this, because you are saving something important. A soul, a species, a nation, a family, an individual. It hits, and there is a person who is you, who was not there twelve seconds ago.

Sometimes wonderful things happen, and people glory in them and share them, because that is what they choose to do. Good feels good. Some people need help, some search for those in need. There is not yet perfect symmetry, but what exists is beautiful.

Sometimes something truly awful, terrible, horrible occurs and all you can do for a moment is shatter inside, because everything you hinged on, every bit of your world, everything just did shatter.

And we turn, and we reach--

We come together. Forget religious barriers; even those who do not pray can appreciate coming together to share grief and hope. Forget race; we are all people and the lines blur more every generation. Forget these barriers you have built up; the world just shattered so the walls must have done. We hope together, wish together, despair together, stand with friends, lovers, strangers. We help those who are hurting, in all the myriad ways people can hurt.

Sometimes, the world shatters.

Every time, however gradually, we rebuild.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Between this post and the previous, this blog hit 2,500 views.
Assignment: 1) Find a mnemonic for power--either an acronym or around four words that start with the same letter. 2) Connect power to media and/or life.

During the power acronym exercise, I divided power into five sections: love, loathing, loyalty, liberty and lies. Upon reflection, I have decided that ‘love’ is a subset of loyalty, and therefore I will only define the four remaining.

"[W]hat does it mean to have the power to vanquish someone?"

... "Well..." Rianne said. She was having trouble putting her thoughts into words. "It means you've got the power, but you don't have to do it. It means you could do it if you tried -"

"Choice," the Potions Master said in the same faraway voice, as though he wasn't really talking to her at all. "There will be a choice. That is what the riddle seems to imply. And that choice is not a foregone conclusion to the chooser, for the riddle does not say, will vanquish, but rather the power to vanquish."
--Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Chapter 76
Liberty: Power is not simply having an effect, but making a choice. Affecting a circumstance through conscious will and effort. The ability to choose one’s own actions, which includes the ability to do nothing at all. This power is the opposite of Lies, and is generally considered heroic. Also known by/subsets: will, determination, spirit, ability, responsibility, Heroic Spirit.

Do you happen to know what the penalty is for shooting a fricaseeing rabbit without a fricaseeing rabbit license?
--Bugs Bunny
Lies: Manipulating, power at one remove. The domain of any trickster archetype. This works counter to another’s liberty, as it tricks another into thinking one is acting in accordance with one’s own will, when one is acting in accordance with the liar’s will—or, at the very least, not as one would if one knew the true situation. This power is the opposite of Liberty, and is generally considered dark. Also known by/subsets: manipulation, seduction, deceit, trickery, chicanery, misleading, white lies. See Tricksters.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
--Mohandas Gandhi

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
--Niccolo Machiavelli
Loyalty: Machiavelli noted the power of this, as did Gandhi, though they had strikingly different opinions. Though both accepted that it was strong, Machiavelli did not believe it enough on its own, perhaps because he required the leader to remain alive and in power. Martyrs can be lovely for one’s cause, but the martyr remains dead. Usually expected to go both ways—that is, troops are only as loyal to their commander as the commander is loyal to the troops. This power is the opposite of Loathing, and is generally considered unifying. Also known by/subsets: love, duty, fidelity, The Power Of Love, The Power of Frienship.

If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.
—-Winston Churchill, following Hitler's invasion of Russia
Loathing: Moving people against a common foe. This is power held in the hands of someone one is Loyal to, or someone one Loathes—-the former can inspire loathing by empathy, and the latter can divide the loathing-united group. Even if something is effective, people are reluctant to do it if they associate it with something they loathe. The latter is spectacularly difficult to pull off. This power is the opposite of Loyalty, and is generally considered unifying. Also known as/subsets: hate, enmity, Hitler Ate Sugar, The Power Of Hate.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Before we start, I want to make something perfectly clear. It was dark. It wasn't cold, and sometimes it was warm, and it was always dark. We had hidden underground for months, but we had the right supplements, and we had each other.

And it was always dark.

I was, in theory, just in line. Back-ish of the pack, just making sure everyone got out fine, no one had their foot caught in something, and that no one panicked.

Ralph--he person at the real back--was technically the one who was making sure we had no stragglers. But really, that was more a case of looking imposing. Put the big guy with good ears at the very back. Dark as this place is, there's always something likely to eat you. Or at least spook someone.

I wasn't a great pick for back-back. I was short, first off. And my default strategy relied upon not looking imposing. I was barely five feet if I measured myself right after I woke up, and thin enough that the breezes running through these tunnels should blow me away. I hadn't eaten a lot, and it runs in my family to look like we weigh less than we do. Everything just sort of distributes.

So I had the hard job. Because, again technically speaking, I didn't have a job. And, as I said, my default strategy relied on people assuming I wasn't anything much. So I couldn't even spread any rumors to make it easier. I just had to be on alert all the freakin' time because no one else but the second-in-command appeared to be able to think both I am the most important person in certain circumstances, and I can take orders. I didn't understand that, really; the most important person, second-to-second, was (comparably) low on the chain of command. A person who's looking at the board as a whole needs to be able to rely on that.

So when the first screams came, it was a relief. I got to use some emergency adrenaline. Your body doesn't give it to you after too long of anticipation, but screams always set it off for me.

The world went from a bundle held together by force of will to liquid serenity.

I spun and pushed Ralph up. I jerked an idiot's foot out of a crack--it was barely even wedged, she was just shoving it further in going from that angle. I got to the back, where rocks were falling, and made sure I was the furthest back. I was. Spun again.


The word cracked through the air like a starting shot. My world was still slowed from information overdrive, and everyone else seemed to be going even slower. I had to stay at the back, which meant I just picked the slowest two up. The next didn't want to be at the back, nor the next, and so we dominoed straight through to the opening, where this breeze was coming from, where he led us. Everyone seemed to stop on just the other side of the entrance, but the others still dominoing kept up enough of a push to get everyone out. By the time I got there I was snarling; it wasn't bad enough everyone was trying to kill us, it had to be ourselves killing us just because we were so dang stupid--

The sunlight touched my face.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Literature's Connotations

if (life is insane) {blog post is school assignment}
Prompt: What is Literature?

At the most basic, literature is the written word, whether in prose or verse. Though this definition provides a rough outline of the denotation, the connotations of the term are more complex—hence debates about whether a book qualifies as literature, mirroring arguments about whether a particular work qualifies as (true) art. One can find nebulous explanations of the content—e.g. Merriam Webster states that literature “express[es] ideas of permanent or universal interest,” hardly an objective metric. Literature is literature because of how the author chooses to communicate: Literature shows, rather than tells.

Impressionism acts as a natural extreme of showing rather than telling. Though ‘impressionism’ brings to mind painters such as Monet or Van Gogh, the heart of the movement—communicating feeling before fact—can extend to any medium of art. An author of an impressionistic work focuses on the feel of a character’s experience and the character’s thoughts, even to the extent of making the narrator so emotional or prejudiced as to be unreliable. And though often a careful reader can find what is genuinely happening, the author also pulls the reader into the work’s emotional environment. Whatever happens, the reader cannot merely watch as everything goes by. Literature in general, and especially impressionistic literature, requires thought and allowance for how characters’ emotions and biases affect their reactions—including how the narrator tells the tale.

Though impressionism is the natural extreme of showing rather than telling, that neither makes the genre the only literature nor necessarily the best. Parables, such as Aesop’s Fables, are created specifically to clearly demonstrate virtues, and so often show black-and-white views on a subject. In “The Tortoise and the Hare”, one is not meant to wonder whether perhaps the hare actually won, and the tortoise’s cousin is telling the story to make the tortoise look good; we assume that what we are told is true. Yet the stories still exemplify literature. The parables demonstrate a subject, rather than only stating that a fact is so. Aesop reiterates the lesson the tale is meant to teach at the end, but still uses the story as a medium to show why having the virtue improves one’s self and/or lot in life.

Literature shows; however, demonstrative details exist in books that do not fit as literature. Literature primarily shows. A sixth-grade chemistry textbook may use a story to explain a concept, but because the story aspect is secondary, the book is not literature. Similarly, literature can state things outright. An honest, omniscient narrator does not disqualify a book from being literature, as long as the story primarily shows. Additionally, demonstrating need not leave facts vague—showing emotional content works as well. ‘The clear sunlight turned Alice’s smile luminous,’ shows exactly what, ‘It was a sunny day. Alice smiled,’ tells, but evokes a character’s emotions—either Alice’s or some character who is enamored with Alice.

Literature demands interpretation. Literature speaks subtly. Literature is not restricted to making every bit of information clear, meaning that a good mystery novel can give the reader the same ‘Eureka!’ moment figuring out a mystery in real life can. This subtlety does not prevent literature from explaining a concept: literature may communicate subtly, but literature still communicates. The medium is designed to convey concepts, thoughts, and emotions that the author wishes to share or the reader wishes to experience. Literature is in how the author conveys those ideas.

Works Cited
Merriam-Webster. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2004. 25/8/2011. Web.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"Wanderer above a Sea of Fog" is something of a mascot in my current English class. We were asked to think on it, and make some questions, and I did. Have been.

This post will As self-indulgent as a musing, at any rate. My thoughts around the painting. I will be referring to the man as Herr Wanderer, to differentiate.

The first thing that came to my mind in English class was, "That looks familiar." After thinking a moment, I remembered that I my brother had seen this when he was in this English class--in fact, he wrote a blog post on it.* I haven't reread that post, though I plan to after I post this one.

And I thought: We're plunging into the unknown.

This is the last year where teachers will say, "Oh, you're Chris's sister?" This is the last year I will see many of my acquaintances, and the last year I will ever see some of my friends. Neither of those will be intentional, but...friendship is proximity. That can manifest as proximate--or complementary--interests as easily as physical proximity, but physical proximity plays a part. Sometimes drifting apart just means moving houses.

To a greater extent, I am moving. I am taking the first steps outside my ivory tower. I am school smart; I play the harp; I have good music theory. Those are all skills that can be fun at parties--though the first is usually only fun if brought up sideways--but I have yet to test them in a practical arena. I have been called on to help--with a safety net of (an) adult(s) and my peers at my back. I have tutored--for pocket money. I have never needed something to work out for me. I'm on the ground for the moment, and I can climb back in if I need to, but if I fall, I hit the ground.

I wrote this down as one of my questions, though before thinking of the stuff in either of those latter paragraphs: "What comes next?"
Next, I wrote, "Was the clothing normal for the age it was painted?" Once I was thinking on clothing, I linked to Loki, because I saw The Ring Cycle semi-recently--within the last year--and their Loki, in addition to wearing something superficially similar, also had the same sort of air I felt from the piece. The man clearly stands apart, but looks confident in rough terrain. Once I got a close-up--in the middle of writing this paragraph--I re-thought that interpretation, because of the hair. The tilt of the head and the hair being mussed as it is makes him seem a bit less comfortable, a bit more tired/resigned, but every other angle in his body speaks of firmness to me. And, though this didn't occur to me until I looked at the close-up again, the tilt of the head could also be a reaction to some form of trick gone wrong. Once I've made the link with Loki, I almost have to bring up his house with four doors (so he can see enemies approaching from any side): the painting has the same sort of feel to it, with one man who can see all around. Yet it's worth remembering that sight didn't help Loki, he was still caught. This man's high vantage point helps him as much; for all the possible planning, he's caught in the fog. The wanderer also doesn't look like the type to have a Sigyn, but then, Loki generally doesn't either.

Once I've hit on Norse mythology and have a character called "The Wanderer", I almost must think of Odin. (One of Odin's epithets/forms is the Wanderer.) Given that I've already associated Herr Wanderer with Loki, what associating him with Odin brings to mind is the idea I've read that Odin and Loki were, originally, the same being. This idea makes some sense, given that Loki is the clever one and Odin is the ruler. The idea also occurred to me in the Ring, when Odin is stalling for time while Loki revels in keeping everyone else in the dark while flat-out telling them exactly what they need to know. It didn't work to take them as separate personalities or anything like that; it just seemed like their actions fit together--Odin's "Hold on, I'm sure Loki will come up with a grand plan in a moment," with Loki's delight in pretending to be flippantly speaking of nothing of importance, while he--still flippantly--speaks of a plan. I can just imagine Odin's lines being delivered with suppressed laughter, and Loki's are stalling in their own way, if for another purpose.
The next main question I thought up was, "Is the similarity to The Fool intentional?" There are differences from what I have usually seen--the colors are duller; we cannot see the man's face; he doesn't appear to be about to step off the cliff (unintentionally); the Herr Wanderer has no animal companion--but the basic idea is similar. A man, who appears to (have) be(en) wandering stands on a cliff edge. The painting could be The Fool with a touch of ennui, or a few more bad experiences.
The class came together to discuss at this point. Our teacher brought up how he used "question", and that contained the word, "quest", where we were going. The next few ideas that came up revolved around that basic idea, though given the painting, it's hard to do otherwise: "Why is he wandering?" "Does he have a destination?" "What is he seeking?" which naturally brought, "if anything." "Is he starting or finishing his journey?"--the teacher brought up that one hopes he's finishing, since he's on the cliff edge, to which I thought, Well then, he's probably about to finish one way or another. He could turn around; if he got up he can probably get down, but... Anyway. "What's his purpose for climbing?" "Is he running from something?" "What is he looking at?"

Now that those are out there: The first three are nearly the same, though with different opinions and degrees of certainty about whether he is traveling point A to B, or wandering. "Does he have a point in mind to reach, and if so, what marks it?" There's something about living an unexamined life in there, and also about how you don't need to know where you're going to be doing what you want to do.

Starting or finishing the journey is something of a more complex question than the teacher's words or my knee-jerk thought implied. As I already hinted at, this may be the point where the man turns around. That could signify the end, doubling back as in the classical Hero's Journey, but there are other reason to do it. I can imagine going to my bridge and watching the fog roll one last time before leaving home. I would watch, leaning on a rail, or weight on one hip, breathing and existing in that last moment of home...and then I turn and I start off. On the subject of the implied possibility of suicide, I don't think that makes sense outside a joke. He looks remarkably accepting of life as it is, if not happy about it. My teacher described the German art period this was a part of as being about the dark things, and...yes. This is a man who sees dark. He may be scared--he may not be--but he is at peace with its existence. I cannot imagine him being careless enough to step off accidentally, nor do I see him deciding to jump. Mulling it over as an option, yes, perhaps even as we look at him. But not jumping. Not at this point in the journey.

"What's his purpose for climbing?" feels like the right question to ask to me. It neatly summarizes what is there. Is he, as another suggested, running from something? Is he running to something? Is he seeking something, looking for it? Is he observing, looking at it? Was the purpose observation or discovery? Has the purpose remained static, or did it shift? That is true wandering, to me: one's purpose shifts from moment to moment. A traveler hopes the wind will be at his back and plans that it won't be; a wanderer merely turns so it is.
My teacher was on talking, and I don't know if he would even remember this, but it was a question he spoke that hit me: "How high do you want to go?"

How big a star do you want to be? How quiet a life do you want to lead? How much do you want to help? Forget what you can do for a moment; nearly everything is something you can learn or work around, if you're willing to make the right sacrifice. How high do you want to go?

And, tightly related: How badly do you want it?
I thought of a song to go with the line, as I am wont to do. There's a song in The Protomen called "The Fall". The true lyrics and a scene description are here. What I wrote in my notebook was, "Climb, climb to the top of the world, and know that when you fall, you fall from a height most men never reach." I've never seen The Protomen, and really wasn't even thinking about the scene described when I thought of the song. It was the moment, it was the fear. But even in the middle of the fear, I thought of the triumphant music to the inspiring, cynical lyrics. I will fall. I will get up every time but the last.

These are not reasons to stop climbing. These are reasons to make the fall breathtaking.

* He calls it "Wanderer before a Sea of Mists". To be fair, my teacher called it "Wanderer over a Sea of Fog" and "Wanderer in the Sea of Fog" during the course of the class period. I'm just going off what gets the most hits on Google.
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