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I wish we could stop calling it a “government shutdown.” December 31, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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It makes people think every government program is coming to a screeching halt — and if there are no visible effects on their lives, their next thought will be “wow, what do we need government for anyway??”

Even though, if the operation of the federal government did really shut down, they would Notice.

Imagine if all flights were grounded because the TSA wasn’t in service. Imagine if Social Security checks went on hold, and Medicare service stopped being covered. Imagine no mail being delivered. Imagine how everyone with an international business would feel if the borders were actually closed, even for a very short time. Imagine not a single member of the Secret Service being on-duty.

And, on a slight time-delay, imagine the outbreaks of e.coli that could happen while the FDA isn’t checking your food, or the terrorist attacks that could be planned while the FBI isn’t listening.

What’s really happening is “lots of government employees are continuing to come to work without getting paid.”

…which is kind of amazing, if you think about it. Anyone who doesn’t work in public service: imagine if your boss said “hey, listen, you’re not getting your next paycheck, but keep coming to work anyway, we’ll have you covered eventually.” You wouldn’t believe it for a second. You’d assume there was bankruptcy on the horizon. Maybe you’d stay long enough to raid the supply closet, but the next day would be spent sleeping in, watching Netflix, and updating your resume.

(Congress, btw, is not included in this deferment. Because of course they’re not.)

(December talking meme.)

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Disgruntled gay opinions December 29, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Uncategorized.
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What it says on the tin.

A response to various facets of Discourse…and if you cringed just reading that phrase, feel free to skip the whole thing. I’ll completely understand.

In no particular order… (more…)

#WebcomicWednesday roundup: All the webcomic fics in #Yuletide 2018 December 26, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Recommendations.
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The gifts in Yuletide 2018, the annual small-fandoms fic exchange, have been unveiled. Check out the full set — or scroll down to browse just the webcomic fandoms!


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Holiday gift reel December 26, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Personal.
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Shard prompted “List off any gifts you received over the holidays, and if you’d like and/or want to fill space, tell us which one(s) you like most and why.”

Okay, first one is this lovely Yuletide fic, which I’m pretty sure is the longest I’ve ever gotten, phwoah:

Holiday Hours (find us where we want to be) (11338 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 2/2
Fandom: Pet Shop of Horrors
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Count D/Leon Orcot, Chris Orcot & Leon Orcot, Chris Orcot & Pon-chan & T-chan | Tetsu, Count D & Chris Orcot & Leon Orcot
Characters: Chris Orcot, Leon Orcot, Count D (Pet Shop of Horrors), T-chan | Tetsu (Pet Shop of Horrors), Pon-chan (Pet Shop of Horrors), Honlon (briefly)
Additional Tags: Found Family, Christmas Fluff, Unresolved Emotional Tension, Surprise Party, POV Alternating, Yuletide 2018
Summary:

Where a pet shop in Chinatown explores the true meaning of Christmas, and what was obvious all along is finally realized. At least, in part.

Featuring, the cast of:

A Very Oblivious Detective (Leon Orcot)
A Very Put Upon Shop Owner (Count D)
All I Want For Christmas Is to Make People Happy (Chris Orcot)
A Merry Band of Misfits (T-chan and Pon-chan)
And Background Gossips (who ship it)

I haven’t even gotten a chance to comment yet, it’s so long — but if you’re in the fandom, go give it some kudos.

There are some family visits coming up in January, and more things designated Christmas Presents will be handed around then. Like I said in an earlier post, we’re not real sentiment about specific dates.

So far: all the RL gifts are practical and useful, but not much to blog about. Literally towels, hangers, a chest of drawers, an afghan, a vacuum cleaner. A couple of large checks, some of which is getting invested in fandom merch (there are a few webcomic collections I’ve had my eye on), most of which will go toward rent, groceries, and my IRA.

Adulthood, everyone!

Burns & Allen Transcript: Matrimonial Bureau (George Sells Chicken Farm), 1946-03-14 December 24, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom.
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The year is 1946. Tommy Manville is on his eighth marriage (out of an eventual thirteen); a bunch of modern car brands have been coined, but I don’t recognize any of the cleaning products; and Gracie just had a bad time trying to run a chicken ranch.

Seems like only a partial copy of the chicken-ranch episode survived. This is the still-extant sequel, in which Grassie takes up her next business. (With accidental help from Meredith Wilson and Bill Goodwin.)

burnsallen

Download the episode here, or listen on YouTube, and read the transcript below. (Previous transcripts.)

There’s a couple question marks left where I couldn’t quite catch a reference. If you can tell what they’re saying, please comment and let me know!

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Just good things. (Nonbinary solidarity, great inventions, cool shadows, and more.) December 23, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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“A 61-year-old person in my sample told me that they lived the vast majority of their life as though they were a gay man and was mistaken often as a drag queen after coming out. They didn’t discover nonbinary until they were in their 50s, and it was a freeing moment of understanding that nothing is wrong. They didn’t have to force themselves into the gay-man or trans-woman box — they could just be them. They described it as transcendent.

Evelyn Berezin, a computer pioneer who emancipated many a frazzled secretary from the shackles of the typewriter nearly a half-century ago by building and marketing the first computerized word processor, died on Saturday in Manhattan. […] Ms. Berezin held nine computer-related patents.”

Motto and his team had enough data to determine that their work was unprecedented in the history of suicide research. In the first two years following hospitalization, the suicide rate of the control group was nearly twice as high as that of the contact group.”

Parallax in action. (Someone put a light on a model train, then drove it around a dark room and filmed the beautiful shadows.)

“The people making these memes obviously have never seen some of the weird ass shit in old-timey photos.” (Contains B&W vintage photography of what is definitely an old-timey fursuit.)

CollegeHumor sketch: the CEO of Tumblr makes the slow-building discovery of what all the content on his site is.

By the way, if you’re on Discord, come take a look at the Comic Tea Party webcomic discussion group! They host regular chats on a variety of comics – and Leif & Thorn is scheduled for January 17.

A few more webcomic discord servers I’m on: SpiderForest Collective, Comicadia, and StArt Faire. (I sure hope all those links are current. Discord is…weird about that.)

Persephone’s Waltz – Commentary & Deleted Scenes December 23, 2018

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By request in the December talking meme: director’s commentary on Persephone’s Waltz!

AKA my 70K-word Madoka Magica longfic, in which Homura is…much closer to the edge than in canon. Close enough that “kidnap Madoka and lock her in a basement for the next month” starts to sound like a good idea.

Spoilers through the end of the fic (and through the PMMM series) follow!

Origin story

There’s a whole subgenre of “one character keeps another locked in a room indefinitely” psychological horror stories. Emma Donoghue’s Room is a recent-ish standout. We read John Fowles’ The Collector in one of my high school English classes.

So for a long time I had the vague desire to write some darkfic in that vein. Even came up with about a thousand words of it for Jon/”Stephen” — but the full-length fic never clicked. (Pretty sure I never decided what kind of end it would be moving toward.)

Then I fell hard for Madoka Magica, and eventually figured out that the premise would work perfectly for a MadoHomu story.

Because of the way canon works, there’s even a built-in endgame. Homura doesn’t want to keep Madoka captive forever, just long enough to make it past Walpurgisnacht without contracting.

(All this was waaaay before the release of Rebellion Story. Nobody had any idea that canon was going to pull a magically-fueled, open-ended, still-a-cliffhanger-five-years-later version of the premise.)


Research & resources

The girl who disappears from the pool
will never return. A woman will return,
looking for the girl she was.

She stands by the pool saying, from time to time,
I was abducted, but it sounds
wrong to her, nothing like what she felt.

—Louise Glück, “The Myth of Innocence

If you’re writing a non-silly fic, and you want a cool evocative title, the thing to do is go read a bunch of poetry. Search for relevant keywords and themes, see what turns up.

(That’s how I got “You Cannot Shut The Windows Of The Sky” [His Dark Materials], “Night Kept Chain’d Below” [Colbert Report], “Into The Empty Sky” [also Colbert], and “All Her Original Brightness” [Colbert, daemon AU].)

For this one I got on a real Louise Glück kick. Go read “October” for the perfect evocation of how haunted and disoriented Homura must’ve felt after one too many rewinds.

Didn’t use a direct quote for the title, but between “Persephone the Wanderer” (source of the fic’s opening quote) and “The Myth of Innocence” (above), I figured I wanted something Persephone-related.

It was just plain “Persephone” for a while, which wouldn’t be very memorable or searchable, but I didn’t have any better ideas…until “various disconnected references to dancing” started turning into a recurring motif. Added it to the title, then played it up a little more in the narrative from then on, culminating in the big reconciliatory waltz scene at the end.

On a more down-to-earth level, the Puella Magi Wiki was a godsend. A few links I kept on hand the whole time:

100 Questions for Madoka, providing lots of useful mundane everyday-life trivia (e.g. she’s not picky about food, but she likes hot chocolate, sakura-mochi, shaved ice, sweet potatoes, and apple pie). Also, her thoughts about getting married one day: “Would be nice if I can find a cool husband that resembles my Mama.” Hmmmm.

Which characters call each other by what name/suffix, more useful details.

The sequence of events in one month’s timeline. Supplemented by this handy lil’ text-only chart in my notes file:

Deleted scenes

If I’m writing a chapter and end up with a chunk of text that doesn’t really fit, but that I do like in general, it gets relocated to the notes file. Maybe it’s a whole scene, maybe it’s just a good line or two that could turn out to be useful later.

(On shows directed by Mike Schur, it turns out the writers’ room has the same file, and they call it “the candy bag.”)

Some things never get worked back in, but I don’t actually delete the file after the fic is posted…which is why I’ve kept all this around, without ever touching it, since February 2013.

Tipping over the whole candy bag, here and now!

Stray bit of musing from a Sayaka-POV section:

She could outdo Madoka for conversation speed or energy any day, but she was so much less competent at putting her beliefs into the right words.

On the run with Mami’s notebooks, Madoka shares some exposition with Sayaka. Probably cut because there’s nothing here that the readers wouldn’t already know.

For one, Mami almost never worked with other puella magi. There would be brief mentions, references to the effectiveness of unfamiliar weapons or powers, but except for Sakura Kyoko, none of the names appeared more than once or twice.

For another, she couldn’t find any information attributed to “Kyuubei” that was (technically, as far as she understood it) untrue. Just incomplete.

“If there are only a few magical girls in any area, how can there be so many witches?” she asked, snuggled up next to Sayaka in bed with both of them sitting against the headboard. “There would have to be a lot of puella magi making contracts and then running out of magic fast. But if that was happening all over the place, some of the veterans would have noticed, right? Wouldn’t more people know what was going on?”

“They probably aren’t all the original witches,” said Sayaka, without looking up from her reading detailing Mami’s muskets’ capacity and versatility (and the fancy attack names she’d come up with for all the different variations). “I bet that’s why.”

“Not all the original…? What does that mean?”

Sayaka blinked at her. “Akemi never mentioned that one? Witches keep familiars around in their barriers. But the familiars can sneak away, and if they run around on their own long enough and feed on people’s despair for a while, they can grow up to be a copy of the original witch.”

“Oh,” said Madoka sheepishly. “She didn’t…or rather…there was nothing like that in Kaguya Super Contract Z.”

When they get back in contact with their parents, here’s a whole tangent I didn’t go down.

“Hey, what day is it?”

“Tuesday,” replied Madoka, without even having to think about it. Weeks of meticulous calendar-tracking without being able to use any natural rhythms for guidance had apparently left their mark on her too.

“Hitomi goes straight from school to piano lessons to tea ceremony on Tuesdays,” said Sayaka. “But after school on Wednesday she doesn’t have to do anything…except catch up on her Tuesday studying, of course. And, um, Kyousuke has physical therapy Wednesday early afternoons. On a good day he’s back in his room by four.”

“Do you think we should try to call them too?”

Sayaka jostled her with a quiet shrug. “Dunno. Not if it’s risky for them. But if anyone besides our parents deserves to hear from us, it’s those two.”

“I don’t know Hitomi’s number,” admitted Madoka. It was in her phone’s contacts, for all the good that did. She didn’t need to point out that she didn’t know Kyousuke’s; she had known him as a friend of Sayaka’s but never been personally close.

“She emailed it to me when I got my new phone last summer,” said Sayaka. “I could look it up.”

***

She produced Mami’s phone, in its normal form, and unlocked the screen. Up popped the contacts list, with a dozen impersonal entries (doctor, dentist, bakery, landlord…), and Hitomi’s name now sitting neatly in the middle.

Little tangent from when they’re on the run and hiding under storefronts. It wasn’t going anywhere, but it sure is very Madoka.

“This is the store where Mama got my colored pencils,” remarked Madoka. “Not this exact one, but this chain.”

“Mmm,” said Sayaka.

“They’re amazing quality. The kind that should be used in a real sketchbook…by a real artist.” Madoka sighed. “Even if all I have is a school notebook, and I’m not very good yet, they make me want to try my hardest, you know?”

Snipped from a Homura-POV section:

just let me protect you this time please let it work


Post-series alternate ending

Und kann ich dir was zu Gefallen thun;
So darfst du mir’s nur auf Walpurgis sagen.

Thy wish be on Walpurgis Night expressed;
What boon I have, shall then be given unto thee.

—Goethe’s Faust (tr. Bayard Taylor)

Some readers asked how the story would’ve gone if Homura’s plan had actually worked…and I put down enough notes to write a little AU-spinoff bonus fic, but then never got around to writing it.

So here’s that!

I don’t believe Sayaka would have given up, or been deterred from wishing to find Madoka…unless she died before she was able to. Alternately, Homura could’ve killed her right afterward.

In that case, I think Madoka would have started clinging to Homura, but more out of desperation than healthy trust (even if she came to believe Homura’s explanation of magic 100%). In her time alone she would get increasingly frayed around the edges — more incidents like the one where she snapped and started throwing things — so she’d grow even more dependent on her “social time” with Homura.

Eventually there would be cuddling, with Madoka curled up in Homura’s lap and quietly freaking out while Homura hugs her and feels distant and guilty. (“But it’s for your own good.”)

Assuming she survived past Walpurgisnacht, Madoka would come out severely agoraphobic, unable to deal with large groups of people, and with bonus trauma from learning about Sayaka’s death. Homura meanwhile would be bluescreening on the whole “and now it’s over, how do I cope with dates after May 1, fatal error, cannot cope” dilemma.

They would pass themselves off as both victims of the same kidnapper, get treatment together, but be severely co-dependent and unable to adjust for a long time. Maybe never, in Homura’s case, since she can’t lean on Madoka for support, and in fact has to handle the knowledge that she broke Madoka pretty severely in order to save her. I think she would fall to despair before recovering, which would hold back Madoka’s progress even more.

In the case where everything happens like it does in the fic up until the very end, and then the glass doesn’t fall…

They’d pull the same deception. Madoka would be reacclimated to normal life more easily, slow but steady. Homura in this scenario has even less mental togetherness, but her mood would be a lot easier to keep stable, since she would have the influence of a safe, alive, mostly-unbroken Madoka to remind her that it wasn’t all for nothing.

Madoka would eventually go back to school, while Homura would live with her family: not coherent or present enough to return to normal life, but not violent or dangerous, and mostly able to care for herself, so they wouldn’t have to commit her. I don’t know if anything sexual would develop between them — their therapists definitely wouldn’t like it — but I bet when Madoka grew up and moved into her own place, Homura would go with her.

And one last thing: a note for a bonus comic I somehow never drew.

Post-end omake: the version where Homura keeps dumping new people in the basement, and finally defeats Walpurgis by stuffing her in there as well XD

“Scott Warren has a far stronger claim as to the sincerity of his religious beliefs than Hobby Lobby did.” December 21, 2018

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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“Democrats in North Carolina earned 48.3 percent of the total vote cast in House races but appeared to win only three seats; Republicans had 50.4 percent of the vote and won at least nine seats.” The poisonous effects of gerrymandering. With maps!

If they’re good people looking for refuge, we’re Americans and we should have a heart and we should try to help them. […] How much suffering and effort are they putting forth to get to our border? They are after some freedom and liberty and a better life.” When literally Cliven Bundy thinks your immigration policy is racist and terrible, whoo boy.

Toronto police are investigating a fire they believe was deliberately set at a Toronto hotel housing refugees [in October], stoking fears in some that it was motivated by anti-migrant sentiment.”

Ivanka, a White House senior adviser, used a personal account to send hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, cabinet officials and her assistants – many in violation of federal records rules.” Because of course she did.

“As a 17-year-old girl scout, Cassandra Levesque led a campaign to end child marriage in New Hampshire, and was brushed aside by a state legislator. […] Rather than being deterred, Ms. Levesque decided to take her crusade a step further: She ran for the State Legislature herself, and won.” Such a power move. (I remember the original news story, and I am loving the sequel.)

We were all really supportive at the beginning […] We figured we didn’t know all the facts and something would happen and this won’t be a long-term thing.” So…next time Trump says something that doesn’t make sense, will you keep assuming that he’s actually right because of secret facts that only he knows, or will you catch on?

By the administration’s own estimate, on its current course (if nations around the world do nothing more to respond to the climate change threat) the planet will warm by 7 degrees by the end of the century. It means, as one Twitter commentator pointed out, that climate change is not only real, but catastrophic… and the response is to burn more carbon because we’re all dead anyway.” As always, the people running the con job know exactly how disastrous their ideas are. They just don’t care.

“Six degrees of separation? That sick bastard was in my passenger seat. And I didn’t know because I was too busy loudly proclaiming that I was just exactly the sort of man who couldn’t be trusted with knowing.” (At least for some people, the delayed self-awareness eventually kicks in.)

“Scott Warren has a far stronger claim as to the sincerity of his religious beliefs than Hobby Lobby did. He has a far stronger claim to such devout sincerity than any of the no-cakes-for-gays bakers or florists, too. […] Warren’s actions on behalf of immigrants are in accord with the most-repeated commandment of the Hebrew scriptures and with the very founding of Christianity at Pentecost in the New Testament.” I’m guessing it won’t, but, listen, good for this guy.

“But [research on actually-proven-false rape accusations] suggests that every part of this narrative is wrong. What’s more, it’s wrong in ways that help real rapists escape justice, while perversely making it more likely that we will miss the signs of false reports.” Important!

(Putting this on the December talking meme.)

Pretty sure my oldest fandom is The Hobbit. December 20, 2018

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Going back as far as possible for jesse_the_k’s prompt, “Something you read|watched|listened to before high school that you still think of fondly today.”

(And actually keeping it short this time, for once.)

When I was in kindergarten, my parents told me “hey, you’re going to sit down with the principal and vice principal and read them a chapter of The Hobbit.”

Many, many years later, it clicked that, hey, that was probably a test. Parents were trying to get school to recognize that kid was reading waaaay above grade level, school officials figured parents were being starry-eyed and unrealistic about their kid’s abilities, a proof-of-concept demonstration was arranged.

But they wisely didn’t tell me that, and I just figured, hey, this is a great book and anyone would enjoy having it read to them, so why not?

Bag End

I read chapter 2 — past all the character introduction, but not so far into the adventure that you can’t pick up the continuity. It’s the one where they nearly get eaten by trolls, and are saved by some last-minute Gandalf counter-trolling.

Also, probably the funniest chapter. Not sure whether that was chosen deliberately, but it worked out well — the officials could tell I understood what I was reading, because I laughed at all the right parts.

There are “series I discovered young and still appreciate” that are more kid-accessible — the Oz books, Calvin and Hobbes, the Bailey School Kids, Madeline, Narnia, Aliens Ate My Homework, and half a dozen classic Cartoon Network shows all come to mind. But I didn’t actually discover those first. Whereas Dad was an old-school D&D nerd, so a copy of The Hobbit was right within reach.

(December talking meme.)

Magical Girls Top 5: Madoka, Sailor Moon, Kaitou Jeanne, Saint Tail, Tokyo Mew Mew December 20, 2018

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For the December talking meme, lielac prompted: “Talk about your top 3-5 magical girl shows/anime/manga/things!”

(not that I’m going to be terribly precise about the rankings, here.)

Puella magi

Top Two: Sailor Moon and Madoka Magica

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