That Time I Played Dungeons & Dragons (And Had a Lot of Fun)

So a week ago I visited my brother and sister-in-law, who live about an hour from me. I was bringing them their anniversary gift, and just hanging out, because my parents were out of town and I highly dislike spending vast quantities of time alone. So I went for a visit.

My brother and SIL have both recently gotten into Dungeons and Dragons; they play a game with friends of theirs, and my brother recently began DM’ing for some of his work friends. I’ve been kind of interested in it, but I don’t have any local friends to play with, so… yeah. Then my brother asked me, when I arrived last Saturday, if I wanted to play a game while I was here. Just a one-shot, he said, no pressure. I agreed.

I had, by unlucky chance, been awake since 4am that day, which meant when it was time to start our post-dinner game, I was very tired. I kind of half-understood all the mechanics of character creation, and as it complicated, I was wondering if I’d even be good at playing. I’m not a great improviser, to be honest, so I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. Nevertheless, I created a wood elf sorcerer named Thia Galanodel, and that was that. My SIL created a half-orc rogue named Lucius, and my brother had a brief adventure written up already (I believe he used it for the first session of his work friends’ game).

What followed was, in short, a great deal of fun. There was much joking around, and I had a very good time. The game started, as such adventures do, in a tavern. Thia and Lucius were grudgingly sharing a table in a dark corner of the barroom (one of many such tables; we decided the tavern had at least a dozen dark corners with occupied tables). And then a human farmer burst in, exclaiming that his son had been kidnapped by goblins. Thia and Lucius tried to make an exit, but the farmer lit upon us before we could. (Good old railroading.) The farmer promised us a considerable sum (60,000 GPs, because we cannot resist an Adventure Zone reference, it seems) to bring back his son, and we agreed.

Soon we found ourselves tracking the goblins through a forest. We settled down for the night, only to be attacked by a pair of wolves. It was a short-ish battle, not without its casualties. Mostly here I mean the wolves, but we lost some HP ourselves. After the wolves were dispatched, we continued our rest, recovered, and followed the track to a mausoleum in the heart of the forest. A single goblin guarded it. Lucius hit upon the idea of talking to the guard rather than fighting straight out, which I thought was dumb, so Thia left him to it while she faded into the trees.

While Lucius’ idea did not end in disaster, it did end in the goblin going into the mausoleum for reinforcements. Lucius returned to me, and when the goblin reemerged with two fellows, we decided to give this talking thing another go. The goblins were nervous, but Thia, with her high Charisma and +5 to Persuasion, managed to convince them to take us to their leader. (The goblins’ names were, hilariously, Dishrag, Soaprag, and, uh, Ragrag.)

We were taken into the mausoleum and into the crypt, where we saw that the goblins had, in addition to the farmer’s son, kidnapped quite a few halflings and gnomes as well. Their leader, Grishnak, who was trying way too hard to be a badass. He had a ruby-encrusted eyepatch that he didn’t even need, and he apparently had “bad motherf*****” tattooed on his arm in Goblin (not that our characters knew this, since neither of us spoke the language). He demanded from Ragrag to know what was going on, and what we were going to do about his bounty.

Thia and Lucius exchanged a look. “Just give us the boy and we’ll get out of your way.”

Grishnak was stunned. He didn’t want a couple of pragmatists only in it for the money, he wanted heroes! He wanted a nemesis, dammit! It had taken him forever to gather up all these folk and cage them! He was going to sell them for a lot of money, too!

We politely inquired how much Grishnak expected to get for his haul.

“Three silver pieces,” he replied.

Thia and Lucius exchanged another look. “We have ten gold pieces between the two of us,” Thia said. “How about we give you that gold in exchange for the boy? Would that be amenable to you?”

I rolled a heck-a high persuasion check, and Grishnak agreed. Our adventure seemed to be done, and we headed out of the mausoleum with the boy, heading back through the forest to return him to his father.

Until.

As we made camp that night, we were set upon by none other than Grishnak, who cried out, “I CHANGED MY MIND!!” as he attacked. Thia fired Magic Missile at him, with the three bolts going right through his ridiculous eyepatch. He was dead in an instant. Being the pragmatists we were, Thia and Lucius searched his body. We got our money back, and Lucius gained a better weapon while Thia took the goblin’s Bag of Holding. We also took the eyepatch so we could pawn the jewels on it.

And that was basically that. We returned the boy, got our considerable reward, and a good time was had by all, both in-game and out.

***

Obviously this was just a for-fun game with no real consequences or anything like that, but hot damn was it fun. I definitely want to play DnD again sometime, but it’s hard to tell when I’ll be able to. In the meantime, I’m going to at least work on my character when I’ve got some spare time, and get her figured out so maybe I can do something with her in the future. I’m not ruling anything out.

Advertisements

An untitled post about losing a pet.

We had to euthanize my cat, Lily, yesterday. It was the right thing to do. We’d found out a couple months back that she had cancer, and unfortunately we couldn’t afford surgery to remove the tumor. So the tumor grew, and Lily shrank, until her belly was gone and you could feel her vertebrae when you pet her. She walked unsteadily, climbed carefully, and lost a lot of the fire she’d had when she was healthy. No more picking fights with the other cats, just… sleeping and cuddling.

This might have all been okay, if not for the fact that she was only seven years old.

We have two senior cats: Norman is 15 or 16, and Smokey (who due to her anxiety lives in my room with me) is about 14. It’s funny, because I would have been almost okay with this happening to either of them. It would have been understandable if one of the older cats had gotten sick and enfeebled. But no. It was the middle-aged cat, and it was just so goddamn unfair.

We knew pretty much from the diagnosis that euthanasia was going to be the end for Lily. As she got sicker, the death date drew ever closer. Last week we were saying it would probably be this week. And even just a couple days ago, we were saying it would be this week. And then yesterday it was sort of decided: it was going to be yesterday. And I was… okay with it, almost. I tend to be unfeeling and strange when it comes to death. The last two pets we had to say goodbye to were elderly and sick, and I didn’t cry when they went to the vet for the last time.

But Lily was different. We got her as a kitten on May 19th, 2010, I think? I would have to check my journals for the exact date, but that seems right. I was still in university, having just finished my first year away. The daughter of one of Mom’s coworkers had a cat who had just had kittens, and we had put one of our much older cats to sleep several months before. Mom wanted another cat, because we only had two at the time. So the daughter brought the kittens to the office after work one day (I worked in the same office, scanning papers), and we picked out Lily.

She was sweet and playful. She hit it off with Norman right away, but unfortunately did not get along with Smokey, who wanted to be left alone when Lily wanted to play. But she was a nice cat. She grew into a large, beautiful kitty. She didn’t really like being picked up or handled very much, and hardly ever purred for us humans, but she did sometimes purr for me. Her fur was soft as anything, and on her belly was a gorgeous patch of fluffy orange fur.

She was a good cat, for all that she was something of a bully (she was much larger than Smokey, and when we took in a litter of feral kittens, she turned up bigger than them as well). I loved her. I thought she was sweet, when she wanted to be, and isn’t that always the way with cats?

So finding out she had cancer was a blow. And realizing, yesterday, that I would never see her again, never coax her into purring, never give her the chin scritches she loved so well… hurt. I cried a lot. Sending her with my dad to the vet hurt, and I went from having an okay day to being miserable because I had lost a friend.

I’m doing better today. I’m probably going to talk about this in therapy next week. I have to remember not to let this ruin my week. But it hurts. It hurts in an awful way, and I just wish I knew what to do with all this pain.

I know we did the right thing, but it still hurts, and it’s still unfair and awful.

I’ll get through it. Maybe in a few years, after our seniors have passed on, we’ll get another cat (we have five–Norman and Smokey, and three of the kittens we rescued). But for now, it hurts, and I just wish I knew what to do.

Lily
2010-2017
May you rest in peace

Doctor Who S5E03: Victory of the Daleks

Like the episode before it, Victory of the Daleks largely exists to fulfill a certain purpose, and that purpose is evident in the title: the Daleks are back (again) and this time, they’re going to win.

This episode is something of a necessary evil, since Russell T. Davies killed them off once and for all again at the end of Series 4. There’s a perpetual rumor that a Dalek has to appear in every series of Doctor Who because of a contract with their creator, Terry Nation, but that is apparently untrue. Nevertheless, the Daleks are Doctor Who’s most iconic monster, and it makes sense (a little) to bring them back so they can potter around in the background of things again, rather than being totally annihilated time and again. (I have a few tiffs with how Davies handled them during his run, but this is neither the time nor the place for them.)

So! What we’ve got is Daleks in World War II Britain, posing as secret weapons “invented” by a Scottish scientist. Their secret plot is to get the Doctor to confirm their identity so they can make newer, better Daleks, thus metafictionally allowing the Daleks to be around for future stories. It’s not the best plot in the world, but writer Mark Gatiss gives us a serviceable story nonetheless.

However, we do get a couple extraordinary things out of this episode. One is Matt Smith’s downright terrifying performance in the face of the Doctor’s sworn enemy. He captures the Doctor’s fear and fury almost effortlessly, and while he maybe goes a bit over the top in his confrontation with the Dalek at the episode’s midpoint, he still sells it quite well.

The other thing we get from this episode is yet more insight into Amy. While her lack of knowledge of the Daleks is interesting from an arc perspective, what I find most fascinating is her conversation with Bracewell as he attempts to commit suicide. Her gentle, “I know. Really, I do,” tells us so much about her in so few words. It tells us that she has been in these dire straits before, that those psychiatrists mentioned in The Eleventh Hour were no joke, that growing up in a world where everyone always leaves you really leaves a mark. It’s just a thread of character, but it holds so much together. All that conveyed in a gentle word!

All in all, however, Victory of the Daleks is largely a functional but sometimes forgettable episode. It does what it needs to do and (perhaps unfortunately) doesn’t strive for much more than that. That said, there are little things I like, so it is at least occasionally rewarding in rewatches.

General Life Update: A Treatise on Goals and Accoutability

I’m doing okay. It could be better, but it could always be better. I’m paying as best attention as I can to my moods and my productivity. I had therapy yesterday, and we went over some stuff I’m going to work on over the next few months. I got my meds adjusted a little so I can hopefully sleep through the night. (Though I will say the first night on the adjustment did not go very well. Having anxiety dreams did not help.) Just little things happening so I can hopefully make big things happen.

I don’t really know what else to update you on. I’ve just about gotten through Series 5 of Doctor Who, so that’s good news on the reviewing front, though I’m going to have to rewatch some episodes so I can write about them properly. I am trying to write, but it’s not going that great. It’s the worst when the words don’t want to come, because you know you are capable of this thing, you ARE, but the words are like “lol nope” and hide from you. I’m reading a lot more than I was, but it’s still not enough, because I keep checking out books from the library’s digital collection, and it’s doing me no good at all. My knitting is actually going the way I want it to right now; I’m about on track to finish the first three rows of this afghan I’m making by the end of the month.

But there’s just so little to write about and report. Life goes on. It isn’t terribly interesting, but it’s going. Always going. I saw a nurse practitioner the other day who gave me some advice on losing weight, which is something that’s been bothering me for last few months. Or years, really. So I’m going to try to start exercising and eating better and smaller portions. That’s for next week, though. This week still has some days left in it, so I’m going to do what I can to enjoy it.

I suppose it’s mostly a matter of making space in my schedule. We have a recumbent bike at home, so I think I’d be perfectly capable of reading while I work on that. I also have WiiFit, but you can’t really multitask doing that. Still, any movement is good movement, especially compared to where I am right now (which is no movement at all). I know if I actually put in the work–like with everything else–good things will happen and I’ll start to accomplish things.

It’s just hard to work. Maybe it’s a mental problem, but I’m not so sure. It’s probably just a result of being a semi-prodigy in my formative years, where I didn’t have to work very hard to accomplish a great deal. Unfortunately, you can’t lose a lot of weight by doing it all three days before your weigh-in. It has to happen over time. Ditto writing, ditto knitting, ditto everything. You have to do the work. And rushing it will result in sloppy finished products, and this is why you don’t procrastinate, kids.

What I really need is someone to hold me accountable. I have all these goals, but it’s easy to just set them aside, because no one is standing over me yelling at me to get it done. I’m hoping my mom and I can hold each other accountable regarding exercise, and maybe my online writing group can hold me accountable with writing (I want to have a finished short story by the end of October). It’s just a matter of willpower, but sometimes having other people in on it helps, too.

I actually managed to go on about this a lot longer than I thought I could. Well, that’s rambling for you. You start out not knowing where you’ll end up and in the end you find you’ve gone quite a ways further than you thought you could.

What about you guys? What do you do to hold yourself accountable to your goals? Do you get friends and family involved? Or do you have another system in place? Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about it.

Doctor Who S5E02: The Beast Below

This is a strange episode to write about, mostly because it falls squarely in the middle of the quality spectrum, at least for me. This episode, like the one that follows it, serves a function–it lets us get to know the new Doctor and new companion in different ways. However, it’s pretty clearly the least among Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who stories. It doesn’t have the same glitter and glint to it. While the dialogue’s sharp as always, the story kind of meanders and makes only a little sense.

That doesn’t make me hate it, though, but neither does it make me absolutely love it. Nevertheless, this is not an episode I’ll always skip. There’s some good stuff here, mostly in the climax, but little things like the Star Wars references make it fun in rewatches. The cinematography is also top-notch, carrying over from The Eleventh Hour with long takes and beautiful compositions. Matt Smith continues to dazzle as the Eleventh Doctor, and Karen Gillan begins to show a bit more range outside of the feistiness we got in the premiere.

I really wish I had more to say about this episode, but I honestly can’t think of anything? It’s wholly unremarkable. It gets in, gets the job done, and quietly exits stage right. The comparisons between the Doctor and the star whale are a little on the nose, but it’s not like the show hasn’t done on the nose before.

Actually, I do have a little tiff with the fandom on this episode, in particular a scene near the beginning where Amy says, “One little girl crying. So?” It seems that a lot of people have interpreted this to mean that Amy doesn’t care about the girl crying and therefore doesn’t have a lot of empathy. Which is frankly incorrect. We see her getting a bit dewy-eyed at the very start, when she’s watching Mandy through the scanner. She even remarks that it’s kind of cold to just watch and not do anything. The line above is in reaction to the Doctor’s previous line that there is a police state on Starship UK. Amy doesn’t see how one little girl crying is evidence of a police state, and the Doctor goes on to explain it to her. Is this nitpicking a bit? Yes, frankly. Also frankly? I don’t care.

If anything, this episode is meant as a reassurance to the viewer. Everything about Doctor Who was new with Series 5–new showrunner, new Doctor, new companion, new look, new TARDIS, new EVERYTHING. The Beast Below reminds us that for all his wailing in The End of Time, the Doctor is still the Doctor. He eschews the “observe only, do not interfere” mandate of the Time Lords, he helps when he sees children crying, he tries above all to be kind. He’s the same man, through and through.

The episode also shines more of a light on Amy, who at the end of The Eleventh Hour was running away from her own wedding. We find out that she’s a little afraid of her impending marriage and what it might mean for her, as evidenced by her talk with Mandy and her interest in her marital status in the voting booth. She comes close to confessing what she’s done to the Doctor at the end, but gets distracted–whether inadvertently or on purpose, we might never know. But we are starting to see that under the layer of toughness and feistiness, Amy is scared of a lot of things. She said in The Eleventh Hour that she’d grown up, but it seems here that that’s actually what she’s afraid of.

As I said before, The Beast Below is an episode that gets the job done. It takes us by the hand and leads us slowly on, reassuring us that nothing has changed in the core of the show, it’s just the outside bits that are a little different. We begin to see into the heart of the companion, and find out the Doctor is nearly the same as always. It’s a gentle pat on the shoulder and a quiet voice in our ear: this is still Doctor Who.

What’s Coming, What’s Going, and What I’m Doing About It

(By the way, let me know if these overlong post titles are getting a little too twee for you.)

Since my last post:

I have been doing fairly well overall with the schedule. It’s helped me get a lot of things done–I’ve finished a few books, and written at least 750 words every day (even if it’s more journal style writing than fiction writing). I’ve made progress on the afghan for my brother and SIL. Everything has been going well, and I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t say that I’ve managed to totally get my crap together, but I’m making a decent stab at it.

What’s Coming:

Remember that lonesome review of the Doctor Who episode “The Eleventh Hour” that I posted back in January December?  Well, it’s hopefully very soon going to have some company. I haven’t yet written anything on further episodes, mostly because I need to rewatch them. But I am hoping to get that out of the way by the end of the weekend, and then I’ll settle down to review everything and carry on with what is probably my signature project at the moment. With Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who coming to an end in December, I might as well get this overview of his time on the show completed, right? It’s just a matter of sticking to it. My schedule may need an edit to fit episode watching time in there.

I am also, bit by bit, getting ready to write more seriously. I do still have fanfic on the table, because I am not cruel enough to leave people hanging, but! I have been doing some research and reading on writing short stories, a format I have struggled mightily with in the past. I am hoping to have a short story of some kind or another completed by the end of October, whereupon… something. Will happen.

But for the time being, I am trying to set up a professional profile online. To that end: a Twitter! It’s set up under my real name (which is also on the About page of this blog if anyone’s ever cared to look there), and will hopefully be a landing spot for… things. I don’t know yet. Probably a lot of self-promotion is in my future.

Anyway.

What’s Going:

Well, depression, hopefully. I am doing much, much better in the mental health arena this week. I am hoping things will continue to improve, though my quality of sleep lately has kind of fallen. Luckily I’ve got an appointment with my meds manager in about a week and a half, so hopefully we’ll be able to sort something out.

Nothing much else other than that, though.

What I’m Doing About It:

I’m making schedules. I spend about every day ranting in 750 Words about what I’m going to do. I need to start putting my money where my mouth is and commit to getting things done other than reading and knitting and basically journaling. I am hoping to have a decent output of words in September. I will try to keep you all abreast of what’s happening in that arena, if nothing else.

I’m going to sit down and watch Series 5 of Doctor Who this weekend. I’m going to take notes and write reviews and get things ready for a flurry of posting in September.

I’m going to, in short, get my shit together. Won’t you join me on this magical journey?

How to Get Your Sh*t Together in 10 Days or Less

Technically that’s “10 Days or Fewer.” I’m an English major, what can I say? By the time you graduate, the pedantry is well and truly ingrained.

Also I will own up right now that that title is misleading. It has not been ten days since I decided to get my shit together, so I can’t actually tell you if my method (such as it is) works or not. But it has been a while since I last posted–most of a month, in fact–and a lot has happened. Or more accurately, very little.

At the end of July, I finished tapering off Abilify, on my meds manager’s advice and with my consent. I wasn’t sure how much the drug was helping me, and she felt like I needed to get off at least one of my meds, since I was taking five different ones to treat my anxiety and depression. I’d also gained quite a bit of weight in the months since starting Abilify, so there was the possibility that it was contributing to that as well and that if I went off it, I might start to shed those pounds. So we agreed to try tapering me off it.

The initial taper, from 15mg down to 5mg, went pretty well. I had some withdrawal symptoms, like increased depression, but those went away eventually. After a couple months, I started tapering off the 5mg as well, and as I said, I took the last one at the end of July.

And everything was fine for a while. I wrote 6k of silly fanfic and was feeling pretty productive and generally quite good about my life. I mean, there was the part where I still didn’t have a job, but that wasn’t weighing on me very heavily, and anyway, I’d just put in three applications. It was bound to turn up something, wasn’t it?

Unfortunately, depression decided to turn up first.

Depression is kind of insidious. At first, it just seemed like I was having a few bad days, but as those days lengthened into a week, I started kind of hating myself again. I wasn’t getting anything done. My burst of productivity at the beginning of the month–reading books, writing fanfic, watching movies–evaporated. I spent my days trawling the internet, and many nights staying up until 3 and 4am, just because I wasn’t tired.

I realized I was probably having a Major Depression episode. That didn’t help. My next meds appointment, with a new meds manager, was two weeks away, and my next therapy session even longer away than that. I just kept stewing, and knowing that my brain chemicals were acting up did not help me feel better. If anything, it made me feel worse, since if I was just a Better Person, I would realize I was being irrational and stop being depressed.

If only it were so easy.

It only got worse when I found out that I did not get any of the positions I’d applied for. At two of them, I didn’t even get a call for an interview. I got pretty low, and a week before my meds appointment I ended up calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Talking to someone without a dog in the race helped a bit. I managed to claw myself onto a ledge just above the bottom of the Pit of Despair, and held myself there until my appointment.

My new meds manager agreed that stopping the Abilify is probably what brought about the episode of depression. As of a week ago, I am back on it, and to be honest I’m feeling a lot better for it. I can’t tell if it’s actually helping at this point, or if I’m just experiencing a placebo effect, but I’m definitely closer to the top of the Pit of Despair than the bottom. I can see the sun shining, and it’s just a matter of getting high enough to let it shine on my face.

Which brings me back to where we started: getting my shit together.

I decided yesterday that I am done with sitting around and doing nothing. I have a ton of books to return to the library. I have a less-silly fanfic that needs updating and more importantly, finishing. I have an afghan for my brother and SIL to knit. Among many, many other things. So I sat down with a notebook and wrote up a plan.

Well, 12% of a plan.

Most of it comes down to a schedule. Having a set time every day to do certain things, so I can start reaching my goals and making progress. It’s only day 1 of the schedule, but I think it’s going pretty well. I think I will probably report back at the end of the week to tell you all how it’s gone. As important as the schedule is, however, I also know it’s important not to treat the schedule as the be-all, end-all of my day-to-day. Flexibility is important, so if things don’t fit the schedule, it’s all right. Just go with the flow. Get done what you can. That kind of thing.

I think, so far, it’s working. I didn’t do as much writing as I needed to do today, for example, but there’s always tomorrow. There is always and forever tomorrow.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: No One Actually Cares If You Don’t Shave Your Legs

I am a woman living in Western society, which means said society dictates that in order to be socially acceptable and more attractive, I must be as hairless as possible. Some people couch it in terms of hygiene–having all that hair in all those places gives bacteria places to grow! Isn’t that disgusting? Don’t you want to be the opposite of disgusting?

When I was younger, I let this dictate how I dressed, especially in the summer. I hated shaving my legs (still do), so I’d spend the hot Kentucky summers wearing jeans most of the time. Society had made me self-conscious of how I looked, and it wasn’t until some time later that I learned to stop giving a damn.

For one, the hygiene argument is patently ridiculous. I can’t believe I let my middle school health teacher con me into thinking that was true. As long as you bathe regularly, having hair in, say, your underarms is not going to make you more gross or smelly or whatever. And anyway, if it is such bad hygiene, why exactly are men allowed to have as much hair as they like in their armpits? Shouldn’t they shave as well, to be less gross and smelly and disgusting?

(Double standards: the bricks on which the patriarchy is built.)

The same double standards applies to the hair on our legs: men should have hairy legs because virility and etc., but on women??? GROSS. There is literally no difference between men and women’s hair. It’s just keratin. We’re supposed to be hairy; we’re mammals for crying out loud! From what I’ve read, women only started shaving their legs when skirts got shorter in the early to mid twentieth century, and that was mostly because advertising companies convinced them that such hair (on the legs and the armpits) was “objectionable.” To who, exactly?

And really, in this day and age, who cares? It’s just hair. It’s keratin. It’s exactly like what’s on our heads.

I could certainly expound on how it’s rather creepy that society (i.e., mostly heterosexual white men) wants women to look as prepubescent as possible, but instead I’m going to talk about my personal experience this summer.

As I said above, I hate shaving my legs. It takes forever, it’s a pain in the ass, and I always, always miss a spot or three, which nags on my perfectionist tendencies. For a long time I just haven’t seen the point. As I said before, my laziness and distaste for the whole process had led me to mostly wear jeans in the summer, or wear shorts for a week at a time until the hair was “visible” enough that I felt uncomfortable wearing shorts.

This year, I finally decided to stop giving a fuck. I have worn shorts almost all the time since late May, I would say? And I’ve only shaved my legs maybe three times. I shaved them today, for example, and they were quite hairy. I wore shorts yesterday, out in public, and no one cared.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I shaved my legs was at least two months ago, and I’ve worn shorts nearly every day. No one has walked up to me to say that I’m disgusting, or that I’ll never get a man, or anything like that. No one cares.

I know I’m making it sound kind of revolutionary, but to me, it kind of is. In high school I was asked by a bunch of… well, preppy girls how often I shaved my legs. I admitted that it wasn’t all the time, and they laughed. I tried to shrug it off, because I wore jeans all the time even then and no one ever saw my legs, but it still hurt.

So it IS a revelation: NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIRY LEGS. If you think it’s going to repel future partners, worry not! Remember that phrase, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best”? EXACTLY THAT. As far as I’m concerned, people who put so much stock into the stupid subtleties of physical appearance are not worth my time.

So yeah. I’ve stopped caring about my body hair, because it turns out no one else cares, either! Most decent people in the world have bigger things going on in their lives than some random lady’s hairy legs. And that’s just the way I like it.

Let the Sweet Nice Things Be

I watch cartoons. I know that’s a bit of a weird thing for a twentysomething to admit, but I’m not ashamed of it. “Grown-up” television just doesn’t appeal to me as much, if I’m honest, and the “grown-up” shows I do watch tend to have elements of the fantastic that are present in the animated shows I love as well.

One of my favorite cartoons at the moment is Steven Universe. It’s a sweet science-fantasy show with a diverse cast, incredible worldbuilding, and excellent character development. It’s maybe only one of the mainstream cartoons on today where there are more female characters than male characters, and even though the main character is a boy, he eschews many of the traditional tropes of boyhood seen in such cartoons.

The thing that most sticks out to me about SU, though, is its fundamental kindness. Scary, sometimes dark, things happen. One of the current overarching plots involves the murder of a powerful Gem by Steven’s mother long, long before he was born. But always, every time, the show resorts to kindness and compassion first and foremost. Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, is often talked about in tandem with love—love for the planet Earth, love for her friends, love for all living things. That love is evident in Steven’s character as well, and it colors almost all his actions. Love is a powerful force in all the characters’ lives, and its importance is one of the bedrocks of the show’s themes.

Steven Universe is, in short, a sweet, nice thing. It never gives in to despair. Even the antagonists have more to them than meets the eye.

So what I don’t understand is people who insist that all that is just a facade for a darker, nastier story.

I saw a post on tumblr today with a theory to this end: it held that Rose Quartz was abusive and manipulative towards Pearl (one of the show’s main characters, who is in love with Rose as well). It said that Rose manipulated Pearl into committing the aforementioned murder, and that Rose had Steven to escape the mess she made. (I should note here that Rose is an alien who could only give birth to Steven by giving up her physical form.) And while the show is dealing with the consequences of Rose’s past actions in many ways, it has never posited something like this.

What I’m driving towards is a larger point: why do some fans insist that sweet, nice shows (many of them made for children) are actually dark and unpleasant and mean? What drives that cynicism, that something kind is actually a lie?

Cynicism is not a foreign concept to me. I live with dysthymia and I’ve had major depression in the past. I understand thinking nice things are lies to cover up nastier things. But when I find something good, and sweet, and kind, I have never immediately jumped to the conclusion that it’s all a lie, and the REAL story is much darker. When I find nice things, I want to keep them, because sometimes my life lacks those kinds of things.

I suppose some of it comes from young people who want to seem mature. The person who wrote that theory I mentioned above wasn’t very far out of their teens. I had a lot of story ideas about people dying or being traumatized and such like when I was a teenager. I thought the edginess made me seem older, I’m sure. Darkness and edginess and cynicism are seen as “cool” in some ways: you’re grown up because you can see the world as it really is, you think.

But the world isn’t just dark and cruel, though in times like these it certainly seems so. Good things happen just as often as the bad ones, and there are more kind people in the world than nasty ones. That’s what I believe, anyway. We need more things that see through to that kindness and bring it into the light. Making them dark because it’s “cooler” invalidates everything they stand for, in my opinion.

Kindness and compassion are brave, not childish and pointless. Steven Universe underlines this again and again, and I hope as the show goes on that more and more people will realize this.

On the Virtue of Letting Things Be Things

So a trailer came out for Guillermo del Toro’s new movie:

Needless to say, I am pretty excited. Del Toro always has such great monsters, and already this has the feel of a non-traditional fairy tale. December is a long time to wait, but I’ll make it.

But then I perused the comments of the video.

About every other one was seizing on two things:

  1. The fishman in the trailer is played by del Toro vet Doug Jones.
  2. Del Toro previously directed the two Hellboy films, which feature as part of the cast the character Abe Sapien, a fishman played by Doug Jones.

This, to many of them, clearly meant that the fishman is somehow connected to Abe Sapien, and that therefore The Shape of Water is a prequel or otherwise connected to del Toro’s Hellboy films.

You hear that sound? That was my eyes rolling out of my head and across the abyssal plain of the oceans.

I sort of understand this compulsion to connect things up. Humans are good at seeing patterns, and many times we will see patterns where there actually aren’t any. The past decade’s spate of cinematic universes and extended universes and so on hasn’t helped things. People can and do and are encouraged to pick up on the slightest detail and demonstrate how it connects to something that may in some ways be unrelated.

But I think we’re losing something when we do that. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think it’s fine and dandy for what it is. But not everything has to be connected.

It is okay to just let things be things.

Let things exist on their own. They don’t have to be connected to an overarching universe to be good or interesting or worthy of our time and attention. Original stories are not bad. They’re actually very good, and del Toro is one of the few directors today who’s interested in providing those kinds of stories.

Another example of this ridiculous “everything is connected” nonsense is the people who insist, loudly and at length, that all the Pixar movies take place in the same universe. This because, for example, Pixar has snuck the Pizza Planet truck into all their films in some form or fashion. A signature reference is somehow proof that there is an overarching universe.

If I’m being honest, I’m not totally up on the Pixar Universe theory (I’d love to see how they justify The Good Dinosaur’s existence in this universe, since that film is pretty clearly an alternate history of Earth). But I despise it to the core of my being. Pixar makes amazing films (more of them could stand to be about girls and women, but). Why can’t those films exist on their own and stand on their own merits? Why do they have to be connected? What’s the point, other than the fact that it allows people to feel smug about “putting it all together”?

I don’t think I fully understand the mentality that leads people to do things like that. I believe there are similar theories about the Disney princesses’ films and it’s just… it boggles my mind. If anything, the show Once Upon a Time is proof of how ridiculous and messy things can get when a million stories all exist in the same universe.

There’s nothing wrong with letting original stories stand on their own. Absolutely nothing. I just wish I could get other people to understand it, because it feels like people are missing the trees for the sake of insisting there’s a forest.