Post-Yule retrospective on the past few months

First, a PSA:

8tracks is shutting down. In 3 days. They did install an automatic “save playlist to Spotify” button to back up everything before they go…so I guess I’m finally getting a Spotify account, huh.

* * *

I got a delightful Yuletide fic!

It looks like this:

curiosity and candy (makes the world go round) (3481 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Pet Shop of Horrors
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Count D/Leon Orcot
Characters: Count D (Pet Shop of Horrors), Leon Orcot
Additional Tags: Swearing, Canon Era, Canon-Typical Behavior, Canon-Typical Levels Of BDSM References, yes this is a tag now, Yuletide, Supernatural Elements
Summary:

Word has gotten out that Leon is D’s new chosen mate, and the supernatural is pretty eager to test out his worthiness for the role.

Shame that Leon hasn’t been informed of any of this.

I also gave one, in a niche-enough fandom that it’s barely gotten any attention — but, listen, the recipient liked it, so it’s a win.

Slowly working my way through the rest of the archive, but I have a bunch of pre-Yuletide fic recs that I haven’t even queued yet…so the rec posts of not-for-me Yulefics may take a while in coming.

* * *

I subscribed to Hulu With Live TV for the month, purely so I can watch the new Steven Universe episodes before the internet has a chance to spoil them.

Seriously, the speed at which people can draw fanart of totally-new character designs is unreal.

And during the rest of the eek, I’m trying to make the most of the subscription by bingeing as much other Hulu-exclusive content as possible. Caught up on Archer and a smorgasbord of superhero movies, still working through Family Guy and The Resident, got an apprehensive eye on Stargate Universe.

Surprisingly entertained by Gary And His Demons. (Satirical commentary on Chosen One narratives, Rick-and-Morty-type dysfunction-based humor, our hero has a magical-girl-style transformation sequence for which he sings his own theme song…it’s a lot.)

…they have over 300 episodes of ER. And it’s excellent background-watching-while-making-comics TV. I may or may not end up going another month with this.

* * *

Speaking of avoiding spoilers: I saw Frozen 2!

It was enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but also awfully weird. Go watch Jenny Nicholson’s review for a good, thoughtful, funny breakdown of a lot of the reasons why.

Haven’t been any other movies since Endgame that I was really determined to see in theaters. Considered it for Star Wars: The Final Movie For Real This Time Really, but at this point I’ve been spoiled for enough of the reveals that, eh. Might as well wait until it’s out on streaming, and pick that time to do a free Disney+ trial period.

* * *

Decided to bake cookies for Christmas at the last minute, which had me trawling the internet for “recipes that can be made using the ingredients currently in my cupboards” on Christmas Eve.

Sidenote: I have seen so many retail outlets this year advertising “our stores are open on Christmas Eve! and will even have limited hours on Christmas Day!”, and, guys, that is not something to brag about. Go watch one of the thousands of adaptations of A Christmas Carol, then swallow your profit motive for a couple days and give your people the time off, already.

So I wasn’t going to go buy late-night groceries, because I am not a monster, and here’s the recipe I was able to make. It’s just flour, butter/margarine, brown sugar, and vanilla. Plus a bag of butterscotch chips, because I do what I want.

They were a hit at the family dinner! Then a hit again when I brought the leftovers to work. Go make ’em some time. Mix up the base with your own (premeditated or improvised) favorite add-ins.

* * *

WordPress was offering a deal on paid blogging plans, and it was cheap enough that I sprung for it.

…only to find out it doesn’t include any customization that wasn’t already in the free version. You have to pay twice as much to control your own CSS.

Oh well. I’ve gotten enough value out of WP over the years that they’ve probably earned the donation.

Prompted me to finally look for a new theme, too. Took way too long to find something that was (a) 2 columns, (b) didn’t collapse to 1 column when you weren’t practically fullscreen on desktop, (c) had spaces to keep all my widgets and menus, and (d) didn’t have clashing colors in places that non-paying users weren’t allowed to customize.

Came out pretty nice, I think.

The theme is Bouquet. The header image and the purple background are customizable. All the pink is one of two pre-set options (the others are blue and orange), which thankfully coordinates with the header pretty well.

Apparently it’s also infinite-scroll and I don’t know how to turn that off, but oh well, you can’t have everything.

* * *

Bumped up to the next-higher dose of Wellbutrin a couple months ago, and it’s been a smashing success.

Before the switch, it had gotten to the point where I was sleeping 10+ hours a day, and could feel the not-getting-anything-done. (Doesn’t help that I have a longer Day Job workweek these days — it’s great in most ways, but having it eat up all my awake time was a bit of a drawback.)

First week on the new dose, I felt refreshed, could focus way better, and was able to draw more than I got to do in probably the whole month before.

Turns out taking the higher dose too many days in a row leaves me not sleeping enough…but by now I’ve got the hang of swapping in the lower dose before I start to feel too wired, and it’s balancing out really well.

* * *

The last Leif & Thorn Kickstarter alternately feels like it happened forever ago, and like it just ended last week.

The first unbound proof arrived a whole month ago, in November:

I ended up tweaking both files, and asking for a new proof of just-the-cover. (There was some tricky color correction involved — you don’t know exactly how it’ll come out in CMYK until you see it in person.)

So the new one arrived…and somewhere between the file I sent and the paper coming out of the printer, the colors got changed in ways I didn’t do. Not in a way they would notice when quality-checking, either — it looked perfectly-balanced, which is the problem, it’s supposed to have a purple tint.

(Volume 1 was pink-tinted. Volume 3 — the one with the magic vine attack — will be green. Volume 4 is shaping up to be red.)

The company blamed an equipment failure, apologized, and sent a free replacement. I now have 3 separate copies of this cover, and the books themselves are gonna be in production…any day now. Depends on when people come back from vacation.

* * *

I drew 2 full pages ahead in BICP!

Then decided the events of those pages should be bumped back to happen after other events. Which leaves me in the fascinating position of “two pages of scanned and fully-polished lineart, still hasn’t gotten me ahead re: the page I’m supposed to post on Monday.”

…One of my New Year’s resolutions is to actually finish the series in 2020. Fingers crossed.

* * *

Marshmallow Fluff continues fluffin’ along.

I did a family visit that left him alone for the weekend, and he seems to have coped just fine:

No special Christmas dinner for Fluff, because he started turning up his nose at canned food a while back. I figure it’s a good thing — he’s no longer afraid of imminent starvation, so he feels secure enough to be picky — but it really cuts down on my “treats to provide for special occasions” options.

He also sometimes sits on one end of the couch while I’m sitting on the other! And almost relaxes. I get the joy of having a judgmental mop staring at me.

Weekly roundup, 12/10 (Marvel, Kill 6 Billion Demons, Steven Universe, Super Drags, and more)

But I’m A Cat Person
Visions of Sugarplums (art | Sparrow | worksafe)
Christmas continuity (sketch | Sparrow, artist | worksafe)
Snow Angel Showoff (wallpaper | Patrick, Poe, Reseda | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Priceless (art | Hedge/Grassie | worksafe)
Leif and Thorn Banner (art | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Larch and Family (art | Larch, parents, siblings | worksafe)
Friends don’t let friends watch bad TV alone (sketch | Rowan, Violet | worksafe)
Design by Committee (art | Kiki, Sandy, Atarangi, Kallie | worksafe)

Marvel
Winter Falcon (sketch | Sam/Bucky | worksafe)
Captain Valkyrie (sketch | Carol/Valkyrie | worksafe)

Kill 6 Billion Demons/Steven Universe
A Giant Demon (art | Allicio, Steven | worksafe)

Super Drags
Saving The World Is Such A… (art | Scarlet, Lemon, Safira | worksafe)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
Our heroes try to convince Walker to let them modify her Being, and maybe reveal a little too much along the way.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
A seasonal flashback storyline! It’s the middle of winter, and young Leif just got his first placement as an indentured servant….

Bad things I’ve had bookmarked since summer

In July my family tried its best to go plastic free, as part of Plastic Free July. The rules were simple: don’t buy anything plastic. If we already had things in plastic we could use them. We began with enthusiasm – a challenge to change our ways, to go from reduced plastic to zero. By the end, as supplies dwindled, the task felt tedious, expensive and difficult.”

“In a mission to clean up trash floating in the ocean, environmentalists pulled 40 tons (36 metric tons) of abandoned fishing nets this month from an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“Can we all agree that it is inhumane and cruel and a waste of resources to crush the wheelchairs of people who are living on the street after a car accident in a full body cast?

“Throughout the 191 day ordeal, one thought was more pervasive than the rest: What about those among the disabled community who can’t be their own advocate? What about those who don’t have family members who can help them? I had the privileges of energy, an Internet connection, and no language barrier. If I wouldn’t have had these privileges of self-advocacy, I may have never gotten my chair at all.

All of the children who’ve died since December [2018] were initially taken into custody by agents from the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors of the Border Patrol. Before December, no child had died in Border Patrol custody in a decade.”

U.S. citizens are often mistakenly detained and targeted for deportation. As a 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times revealed, there have been hundreds of instances in immigration courts where U.S. citizens had to prove they were Americans, sometimes after being detained for months or even years.”

“On Monday, an appeals court ruled that Watson, now 32, is not eligible for any of that money — because while his case is “disturbing,” the statute of limitations actually expired while he was still in ICE custody without a lawyer.

The Secret Commonwealth review: It was…pretty underwhelming, mostly

Finally got the audiobook of The Secret Commonwealth checked out from my local library!

(Here’s my review of its predecessor, La Belle Sauvage, if you want to start there.)

It’s 20 hours long. Whoof.

As for the contents…look, it was well-written prose. I didn’t get bored while listening. (Rereading that last review, I realized I’d written the same thing about the previous book, too.) But in retrospect, there sure was not a lot that happened in those 20 hours. Some notable action bits, in between a lot of padding.

And my reactions mostly consist of…complaints. Not “this is hideous, time to ragequit the series, this is an unqualified anti-rec” complaints, more a low-level churn of frustration.

(There’s one scene I know has made someone else outright refuse to read it, though, and I think it’s totally reasonable. More on that later.)

So I’m gonna try to unpack a bunch of it here. Hopefully in enough detail that, if you haven’t read it yet (and don’t mind spoilers), it can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s worth spending 20 hours of your life on.

Spoilers start here!

Continue reading

Monday works roundup, 11/25 (Sailor Moon, Steven Universe, DCU, SheRa, and more)

But I’m A Cat Person
BICP Banner (art | Patrick | worksafe)

Leif & Thorn
Scarf Play (wallpaper | Leif/Thorn | worksafe)
Catch me when I fall (sketch | Hazel/Hyacinth | worksafe)
Happy 4th Anniversary (art | ensemble | worksafe)
Smug spouse (art | D10, Del | worksafe)

DC Universe
Selfie with Puddin’ (art | Harley/Joker | worksafe)

Sailor Moon(/Steven Universe)
Hashtag Magical Space Princess Problems (comic | Steven, Usagi | G)
Crystal Tokyo Wedding (art | Helios/Chibiusa/Hotaru, Usagi, Mamoru, Haruka | worksafe)

Steven Universe/Super Drags/She-Ra/Young Justice/bro’Town/Home/Danger & Eggs
Animated Enbies (animated art | Stevonnie, Nicolas, Brother Ken, Halo, Milo, Sharzod, Krunkle, Double Trouble | worksafe)

Warhammer
Repanse de Lyonesse (chibi | Repanse | worksafe)

General/Miscellaneous
Figure drawings, 11-18 (sketches, NSFW)

This Week in But I’m A Cat Person:
US Thanksgiving break! Enjoy your turkey and pie, come back next week.

This Week in Leif & Thorn:
Can we convince Agent D10 to finally spill some backstory?

Super Drags review: It’s the most pure distilled fabulous queerness I’ve ever seen in a cartoon (and I say this as a Steven Universe fan)

The post where I do my best to spread the Good News, that there exists a saucy gay drag-queen magical-girl animated comedy and everyone should watch it.

Okay, not everyone — I’ll give some caveats at the end — but definitely a heck of a lot more people than Netflix has bothered to advertise it to.

Look at this! Why did nobody tell me about this??

Super Drags posing

'Was anybody going to tell me' meme

What is Super Drags?

Fast facts:

  • It’s a 1-season, 5-episode adult animated comedy series, released in November 2018
  • Here’s the official page, with a free-to-view trailer
  • It packs more explicit, unashamed queerness into those 5 episodes than any other cartoon I can think of
  • The only possible competitor would be if you took the whole 5000-episode run of Steven Universe and pared it down to a supercut of Just The Gay Parts
  • This in spite of being produced in Brazil, which (in my broad understanding, as a total non-authority on the subject) is more oppressively, dangerously homophobic than the US
  • The original is in Portuguese
  • There is an English dub, fabulously voiced by contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race
  • It’s wrapped in “for adults only!” warnings, not because the content is any less child-friendly than (say) your Bojacks Horsemen or your Ricks and Mortys, but because Brazilian authorities tried to get it shut down on the grounds of this much gay being Harmful For Children
  • It was (heartbreakingly) not renewed for a second season

Here’s a promo video, in which the main characters (Portuguese, with subtitles) play Drag Race judges for Shangela, who ends up voicing Scarlet in English:

And here’s a beautiful flashy music video of the big musical number! (Also Portuguese, no subtitles, but the melody and the visuals stand on their own.)

Plot and worldbuilding stuff!

The elevator pitch is “What if Charlie’s Angels, but also drag queens, with superpowers, because magical-girl transformations?”

In this universe, all LGBTQ people have magical energy. The Big Bad is an evil magical-drag-queen nemesis who tries to drain our energy for her own purposes. It’s like if Ursula from The Little Mermaid was a first-season Sailor Moon villain.

…sidenote, in case you were worried, the representation isn’t “cis gay men and nobody else.” There’s a butch lesbian in the recurring cast, a genderfluid person (ETA: that word is exclusive to the English dub; a Brazilian viewer tipped me off that the original Portuguese dialogue includes “bissexual”, which means exactly what it looks like) as a one-off love interest, and all the ensemble scenes are wonderful collages of different races, body types, and gender presentations.

Group shot of queer characters

Group shot 2 of queer characters

Our heroes also fight non-magical everyday homophobes, who get written with scathing realism.

The moment I knew the show wasn’t pulling any punches was in the first episode, where a newscaster complains about being Silenced by the Law of Political Correctness, then chirps “however, we have a special guest who is thankfully above the law!”

According to the reviews I’ve found from Brazilian viewers, it’s also pitch-perfect when it comes to local queer culture, community dynamics, slang and speech patterns, even memes. All of which flies right over my head, so here’s a post (with no-context spoilers) about one viewer’s favorite details.

The handful of reaction posts on Tumblr have a dramatic split between “Brazilian viewers fiercely defending the show as culturally-accurate, uplifting, and brave in a terrifying political moment” and “American viewers complaining that the show is problematic because it’s a comedy about drag queens with no perfect role models and lots of sex jokes.”

As the Super Drags tell their nemesis (and this is also in the first episode): “How dare you try to turn the LGBTQXYZ community against each other? We do enough of that on our own!”

Super Drags team-up attack

In between missions, our girls work sitcom retail jobs and deal with other everyday problems. All of which are written in amazingly nuanced and thoughtful ways for a show that also features “defeating an orgy monster with a lip-sync battle.”

Detailed character stuff!

Our heroes are Color Coded For Your Convenience!

The Super Drags themselves go by “she” in-uniform, and a lot of the time when out of it. Like the Sailor Starlights, only more so. I’ll roll with that.

Super Drags out of costume

In blue: Safira Cyan, or Ralph by day, an excitable college-age kid who’s built like a football player and squees like a fangirl. (She’s an anime fan in the original, and for some reason all the otaku references were replaced in the dub, but you can see them in the subtitles.)

Safira anime pose

Ralph lives with her younger sister (they play video games together!) and their dad, comes out to them mid-series, and is very shippable with another young guy who starts out reciting the homophobic beliefs he was raised with but whose heart clearly isn’t in it.

Safira’s weapon is a classic magical-girl wand that casts protective force-fields. Which are shaped like condoms. Because of course.

In yellow: Lemon Chiffon, aka Patrick, the oldest of the group and generally the smartest/most strategic. In most cases, the other two treat her as the de facto team leader — unless she pushes it too far.

Lemon and strategy

By day she’s a single guy with thick thighs and thinning hair, who has some body-image insecurities on the dating scene. And this show has Things To Say about unrealistic beauty standards within the community…not to mention, about masc guys who look down on anyone too flaming or femme because straight people disapprove.

Lemon’s weapon is a fluffy boa that can be used as a whip or a lasso, especially when there’s a bondage joke to be made.

In red: Scarlet Carmesim, also Donizete, the loudest and most aggressive teammate with the most cutting insults, who refuses to suppress that attitude in an attempt to appease racists. (But will give it a shot when trying not to get fired.)

Donny with insults

Donny still lives in her religious/homophobic mom’s apartment, and I’m pretty sure it’s because neither of them can afford to move out. Her rock-solid sense of fierce self-confidence is the reason it doesn’t bring her down.

Scarlet’s weapon is a fan that she uses to throw shade. Yeah, you knew that was coming.

The Charlie to these angels is Champagne, who runs operations from a cool magitech compound and breaks the fourth wall at the end to petition for viewers’ support in getting a second season.

Champagne with a contract…we let her down, folks :(

So here’s a thing. The show never draws a sharp line between “people who become drag queens because it’s a way they’re driven to express themselves as gay men” and “people who become drag queens because they were trans women all along.” That’s consistent with how South American LGBT+ culture works. (Again: best of my knowledge, not personally an authority on this, etc etc.)

Many of the characters, including Champagne, never describe themselves in ways that translate to one of our sharply-defined Anglo-USian identity categories. And I’m not going to try to impose any English labels on them here.

But I can say (in contrast to Safira, Lemon, and Scarlet), Champagne never switches out of her “drag” name/voice/presentation, not even in the most candid off-duty scenes, and still has the same bustline when naked in the tub. Make of that what you will.

Super Drags fans

You Should Watch This Show

If you have a Netflix subscription, watch Super Drags!

If you ever do a Netflix free trial month in the future, make a note to yourself to watch Super Drags!

It’s one of their original productions, so there’s no risk of missing your chance because the license expired. But it’s absolutely not getting the promotion it deserves. Which means potentially interested viewers won’t find it, which means Netflix will think there’s no interest, which means they’ll keep not promoting it…etc etc etc.

No idea if there’s any chance of getting it un-canceled, but maybe we can at least convince them to release it on DVD.

Super Drags hero walk

And the sheer gutsiness it took for a group of Brazilian creators to produce this show in the first place — that deserves to be rewarded with your attention.

In spite of various anti-discrimination laws that sound good on paper, the country has serious problems with homophobia, transphobia, and anti-LGBT violence (warning, article has a violent image which is only partly blurred).

Maybe the creators could’ve gotten a second season if they made this one softer, less sexually-explicit, more restrained…but honestly? I bet that wouldn’t have helped.

Consider Danger & Eggs, an Amazon original cartoon. It was made in the US, thoroughly child-friendly, and restricts its LGBT+ representation to things like “characters go to a Pride celebration…where nobody ever names or describes the quality they’re proud of.”

And it didn’t get renewed past the first season either.

(Note: it had a trans woman showrunner and a queer-heavy creative staff, so I blame all that restraint on executive meddling, not the creators themselves. The showrunner even liked the tweet of my review that complains about it.)

So there’s something very satisfying about how Super Drags went all-out, balls-to-the-wall (sometimes literally), all the rep explicit and unapologetic, packing every 25-minute episode with all kinds of queer content that would be censored or muted elsewhere — but here it’s exaggerated and celebrated and just keeps coming.

(…as do jokes like that, and I’m not sorry.)

Super Drags rainbow powers

Okay, there are a few legitimate reasons to not watch this show

Some caveats.

None of these things are Objectively Bad Problems that the show itself should be shamed for…but maybe they’re genuinely not your cup of tea.

It does have actual Adult Content beyond “the existence of gay people.” This show loves to swing barely-clothed cartoon genitalia in your face. There is, as mentioned, an orgy monster. If that kind of humor is going to bother you too much to appreciate the rest of the show, give it a pass.

I wasn’t kidding about how realistic the homophobes are. Opening of the first episode has a guy trying to murder a busload of people while shouting slurs at them. If that level of hatred on-screen is gonna crush your soul, even in a show about sparkly queens flying to the rescue with dick-shaped magical weapons, don’t push yourself.

Any fiction with this much crossdressing and gender-transgressing is going to hit some trans viewers in a bad way. Because trans people are such a broad group, with so many different experiences, that Every Possible Trope Involved pushes somebody’s buttons. (See also: “some trans readers complain about a storyline that turns out to be drawn from a trans writer’s actual life experience“.) If this show goes does gender things that turn out to be personally distressing for you…or even just distressing for this specific time in your life…don’t feel obligated to keep watching.

It has aggressively-sassy queer characters making jokes and calling each other things that are affectionate in-context, but would not be okay coming from straight/cis people. If you can’t wrap your head around that, go watch something else.

Other Than That, Go Watch This Show

For all its big heart, big ambitions, and big gay energy, Super Drags is tiny enough that I’ve binged the whole show 2 times in the past 2 weeks. Thankfully, it’s highly re-watchable — lots of fun background gags and subtle foreshadowing that you don’t catch on the first round.

(Pausing one last time to appreciate that a show with elements like “the high-tech robot assistant is called D.I.L.D.O.” can be subtle at all, let alone be this good at it.)

I’ve also paged through all the fanart on Tumblr and Deviantart, looked up the single fanfic on the AO3, and started brainstorming plans to request it in Yuletide next year. Someone, please, come join me in (the English-language side of) the itty-bitty fandom for this ridiculous, glittery, over-the-top, fabulous series.

Super Drags hero splitscreen

 

Pouring out my whole backlist of Depressing Political Links in one go

“Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

U.S. officials turned away a 17-year-old Palestinian incoming Harvard freshman last week after he was questioned about his friends’ social media posts, according to the Harvard Crimson.” (It was never about whether other countries are “sending their best people”! It’s racism! It was always racism!)

Connors said the family was asked about family members in the United States they could be released to, but instead of being freed they were transferred to the Berks Family Residential Center, outside Reading, on Oct. 5. […] the Berks County-run facility was not equipped to care for [their 3-month-old] child and that normal caretaking items — such as a container of formula and teething powder — have been confiscated. At one point, her baby had no clothes while staff washed the clothes he arrived with.” (This family is white, British, and crossed over the Canada border by accident. Abolish ICE.)

“The judge agreed that they probably would kill him, just before he denied his asylum claim. He was deported. They did.

2600 Magazine has compiled a full listing of Customs and Border Patrol stations, a number of which are being used to imprison migrants, immigrants, and/or refugees, many of whom are children. In the interests of openness, we are sharing that info here.”

“OCI has produced about the most conservative possible estimate of the subsidies received by fossil fuels in the US. These are solely production subsidies — taxpayer money that goes directly to producing more fossil fuels. […] $14.7 billion in federal subsidies and $5.8 billion in state-level incentives, for a total of $20.5 billion annually in corporate welfare.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report Tuesday calling for Congress to consider new laws designed to prevent foreign interference on social media — the culmination of a two-year investigation into how Russian intelligence agencies sought to manipulate American public opinion in the 2016 election.”

“…the Pew Research Center’s latest rolling poll of U.S. veterans, published Thursday, in which solid majorities of former troops said the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were not worth fighting. The gaps between approval and disapproval were not even close to the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error; barely a third of veterans considered any of those conflicts worthwhile.