Most Saturday mornings, if I am not woken up by my cactus’ automatic grow lamp, I wake up and slither over to my couch, open up my laptop and watch the Breecast. The Breecast is an hour long live stream featuring Sophie the Magpie and her male (Andy) and it’s the best balm in these trying times. Just a bird and her human answering questions, talking about biscuits and enjoying nature. It’s the best thing my anxious mind needs. But Sophie and her male are not the only British people with cute animals I follow. There’s also the herd of Masons’ Cavies. Masons’ Cavies is helmed by Sophie and Mark Mason and their herd of guinea pigs. At the start, there was around 50 but now the numbers are closer to 70 (but I have not recounted since a recent string of deaths in the herd). I found their page after a viral video featuring Mr. Mason as a waiter dropping off plates of food for the guinea pigs. I was instantly in love because long-time readers will know that when Carlos owned two guinea pigs I loved them more than he did. The group had a ton of guinea pigs that squeaked and had names and the Facebook page around them mostly featured cute videos of guinea pigs eating veggies and overall things just being okay which was exactly what I needed in the landscape of 2019. It was calm, cool and cute.
Or at least, so I thought.
One would assume that a Facebook page about guinea pigs would not be a complicated issue but oh the dram around Masons’ Cavies. Sophie Mason will tell you over and over again that her and her husband are not a rescue, yet she and her husband rescue a lot of guinea pigs. With their viral videos, her and her husband will claim to not need financial support from followers while also in every post ask for paid supporters on Facebook and dropping her Amazon wishlist and PayPal. Her and her husband insist that they are over the drama while also passive aggressively mentioning all their haters on live streams and posting entire musical montages about how people “need to calm down”. There’s an odd paradox to the Masons but if it’s just about the guinea pigs then I can swallow the drama.
I want to really go into the money part because it brings up an issue I have with a lot of things which is having others pay for a hobby. Now, I have a podcast and that podcast has sponsors and I’m happy to have sponsors but that offsets costs and we have never asked for that money. And if we lose those sponsors, the podcast will continue because I’m okay with budgeting for cheese and wine and image assets. And I understand that taking care of 50 or so guinea pigs must be expensive and I understand that there is no issue with accepting money from those that offer but literally no one held the Masons hostage demanding they take these cavies. And if someone did, I would love to meet this person who is throwing guinea pigs at people and demanding they have a soft pet as penance. I do think its admirable that they do continue to rescue guinea pigs but good lord do they ask for money.
Additionally, the Masons seem to be in the middle of a great deal of drama because of their unwillingness to just say they’re a rescue or to just continue to be some backyard enthusiasts with a great deal of time and energy put into their herd mostly because with their viral status, they do take up a great deal of attention away from actual rescues that aim to give guinea pigs homes or take them from terrible scenarios.
There have also been concerns about the conditions the guinea pigs are held in. Now, I’m not a vet but the guinea pigs live in a shed that is nicer than my first apartment and if we ignore this recent string of deaths…I don’t ever question their care.
The Masons are great people and I have no questions about that. The guinea pigs are well taken care of, that I have no question of. I love each guinea pig more than the last but ones that hold my heart are Squeak, Willow, Luna and Albus. I love watching these adorable creatures squeak and popcorn and eat more kale than I have ever seen in my life. It’s relaxing and innocent and it shows me that in theory, everything is going to be okay. It’s a shame that there’s so much drama behind the scenes of something that should be relatively unproblematic. After all, they’re just guinea pigs living in the English countryside. Why is there so much drama? And realistically, it doesn’t have to be like this. Sophie the Magpie has no such issues with her fan base. Anyone that asks about her enclosure are insured that she is happy and healthy. Anyone that asks about why she’s in an enclosure are told that she is an imprinted bird and is happy and that her male would not do live streams with her if he thought that she was unhappy or stressed in any way. Sophie the Magpie’s male goes out of his way to refuse money and overall, it’s just a chill time.
So where does that leave me? I’m just a lover of cute animals and viral videos. What am I supposed to do with all of this drama? Well, I still watch a lot of the Mason’s Cavies videos even though Sophie Mason cannot pronounce Pecan correctly and I’m sad that they seem to be dealing with an odd series of deaths in the herd. But I can’t help but admit that a lot of the drama makes it very hard to stomach. All of the asking for money and the passive aggressive comments towards haters…it just seems like so much.
When did guinea pigs get so complicated? Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t I just think the best guinea pig is Squeak? And as a marketer and brand personality; I’m very aware of how difficult it can be to be in the public eye and to suddenly feel like everything you do is being viewed and judged. I know how difficult it can be to suddenly be famous (I’m not famous but I manage brands, calm down, I know I’m not famous). I do feel something that I assume resembles bad for the Masons. Sophie Mason recently suffered a horrible injury that she is recovering from and then there’s recent string of guinea pig deaths has been deeply emotional. And to be fair, people have been harsh. Folks, they’re guinea pigs who live in a shed bigger than my first apartment: they’re fine.
The internet is a strange series of tubes and cats that can manage to take something like a herd of guinea pigs in the English countryside and make it an entire Machiavellian drama.
That was a lot but you all come to this blog for all of the hot goss when it comes to cute animals on the Internet. I don’t want this to be a super negative piece and I certainly don’t wish ill to the Masons. I do think they’re doing their best and their guinea pigs are truly a safe place in a hellish world. But I can’t help but continue to think that this all seems to be a bit much for the sake of a few furry creatures running around in a backyard.
I have followed Madeon’s music since I saw him open for Lady Gaga years ago. As soon as I heard his music, I fell in love. His bass drops made my heart race, his transitions were fantastic and each song of his felt like a frantic video game’s mad dash to the end. His early music all felt like beautiful game background music and I rode every single high and low for years. His music powered me through college and through some of the darkest days in my home waiting for my life to start. Madeon is a talented DJ, always has been since he was too young to drink in the clubs he kept playing.
I was thrilled when Madeon decided that he was going to do a full debut album. When Adventure came out, nearly all of the tracks felt like something new from the DJ I came to love. It all felt very pop, which was fine. I loved the featured artists that joined Madeon’s beats during Adventure and found myself nearly in love with every song on the album from the oppressive hype that was Imperiumto the slow ballad that wasLa Lune.
Adventure was exactly the album I needed when it hit me at all of 24 and moody and filled with ennui. I had just ended a long-term relationship, I was on my own and nothing felt like it used to. But Adventure wasn’t popular with everyone as it was probably one of the most pop ventures Madeon had ever done. If you came into Hugo’s work with him sampling Alphabeats or even The Killers then Adventure seems rather on point but if you came into Hugo’s work with Ellie Goulding or deadmau5 then yeah, Adventure is pop trash and you’re a dummy for liking it, I assume is what they think. In hindsight, I’m hot and cold on it. La Lune and Only Way Outstill mean a great deal to me and Okand Beingscan still get me dancing and listening with a few years behind it, Imperium seems like the kind of song that Raihan from Pokemon: Sword/Shield works out to.
But we are spending a lot of time talking about an album that is a few years old and that’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to talk about Good Faith. When Madeon released a single in 2018, I was happy. I had missed Hugo’s music. That single was All My Friendsand in video theme and tone, this didn’t feel like a Madeon song. I was confused and frankly concerned that perhaps Porter Robinson was punking all of us. The video featured a ton of hand geometry and an interesting enough beat to it that I was curious but not sold. It was fine but it wasn’t Hugo.
All I had to do was wait.
Dream Dream Dream was where I was sold before the album was even an album. The mood, the lyrics…all of it just spoke to me. I have also felt the weight of my dreams and indeed it does move me forward. I was still a little weirded out with the hand geometry in the videos but there was something about this song that reminded me of something that I had felt in the back of my mind and had noticed in the two songs that started up this album was suddenly clear.
My thoughts about Good Faith being Madeon’s attempt to take us to church were confirmed when the album got its name and when I heard No Fear No More. It wasn’t just the piano pieces of the literal damn choir or the literal damn children’s choir but it was more the themes. The idea of being fearless, of being joyful, of having that internal strength that tells you everything will be fine (yes, I made a pun about my other favorite song on the album) are all themes in Southern gospel. Black people have been telling themselves to have fear no more since slavery was a thing and encouraging their children and loved ones that through faith and perseverance that everything will be okay.
Miracle more aggressively takes us to church with more pianos, more choirs and even more overt allusions that supernatural things will happen and while it’s a good song, I’ll trade it for Be Fine almost any day; mostly because the front half of Miracle features what I can only describe as Hugo’s pillow talk before it turns into a great song in the second half.
I want to close with the song that shocked me and the one that made me really feel a deep connection with the album: Heavy with Hoping. Without getting too personal, 2018 ended with me cutting several ties with people that meant the world to me but I had to remove from my life for personal reasons. I was going through a breakup so lines like:
If I let you go
We end in tragedy
How would you know
How to get back to me?
I felt it in my bones. And the heavy vocals, minimal beats until the end (which is actually where the song loses me) that fades into heavy distortion as grief and pain often does distort voices and feelings just really spoke to me. But it was bluesy in a way that some gospel songs are as a way to remind Southern black of the pain and hardship we have endured and to show us that indeed, that pain is not invalidated by time.
In Good Faith, Hugo takes us to church. He shows his wide influences and while honestly, I didn’t like all of the songs on the album, the ones I adored are ones that will remain close to my heart for the remainder of my days. A few articles claimed Good Faith was Hugo’s most pop-influenced album but to me that sells the damn thing short and erases that his influences are much wider than just pop or video game loading screen music. I maintain that Madeon is one of the most talented DJs alive and I’m proud to be a devotee of his work and indeed the album had me clapping along and raising my hands to the Lord above chanting “No fear no more.”
Oh boy. Well. We did think 2016 was a rollercoaster but now that we’re here…I mean, personally, it was fine. Politically, I don’t have time to talk about all of that. So without much ado, let’s go over 2019 in review.
January: Quiet. Mostly spent recovering from IKKiCon in Austin for the early part of the month and spent recovering from a busy 2018 for the remainder of the month. I also moved into a new apartment. It has been a journey. I moved to another side of town, doubled the square footage and now I live in a community with a gate that works.
February: I visited the local Asian New Year Festival and wore way too much makeup and felt a great deal of ennui with Amber as we mused about the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. We also discovered where the Flemish come from with a thanks to The Institute of Texan Cultures for that.
March: I took a day trip for work to the coast of Texas and was reminded that South Texas had a giant boat in the water for some reason because that’s an American tourist trap like no other. I spent March hoarding fabric and prepping for a one-day convention.
April: April actual featured a few cool things. Years of Marvel fandom paid off in Avengers: Endgame which you can read me complain ‒ I mean talk about here and I go on a girl’s trip to Dallas with my friend who is also named “Amanda” which is in no way confusing. Seeing my home from someone else’s eyes was amazing. We stayed in a terrifyingly nice hotel, with confusing hallways and numbers that did not make sense. We watched anime that made me sort of remember that I am very old. We ate, she met Carlos again, I showed her all the things I miss most when I’m in San Antonio: we’re going to do this again soon…hopefully this time, I won’t have to drive for 8 hours in two days.
May: May was a haze of prep for A-Kon and emotionally recovering from watching Tony Stark die.
June: A-Kon 29. I complained. A lot. You can read my whinging here. To be honest, it was fun. The small fight I had with my friend was less than ideal. I also got into a small car accident in June and managed to start an anime that I would have more opinions on later on.
July: My birth month! Also the birth of my son: Toi. I spent the month mostly celebrating my birthday.
I made my yearly trip to the ocean as I am to return to the sea once a year, at least.
I also spent a birthday weekend in Houston with Tori where we visited the National Museum of Funeral History where I taught a group of church ladies about anti-popes and visited The Wilde Collection where we saw several real human skeletons, some beautiful peacocks and met the owner who was a man in a beautiful mustache and wore a leather corset and a damask-patterned undershirt. The Wilde Collection is a glorious place that was recently destroyed by fire and my heart broke a little.
It was in July that I realized my mental health was not what it used to be. I found myself lashing out at my friends, obsessively complaining over imagined and true slights and mostly just tired and unhappy. I wasn’t ready to do anything about it then but I did notice a change in myself that I was not happy with.
August: I did something shocking. I did something unexpected. I went to a concert by myself. I saw Miyavi when he stopped in San Antonio. You can read about my experience here.
August was quiet, and really, the entire late summer was quiet.
September: I felt my mental health continue to deteriorate. I felt myself continue to be short with the people I cared about. I continued to feel like a less than kind version of myself. I didn’t do much in September but I persisted.
October: October was a huge month of personal change for me. I did something I have been too afraid to do for at least a year now: I changed jobs. I got tired of being a person who was unhappy and I felt like I was watching my mental health and personal relationships all fly away from me. And with October being such an emotional month with all the birthdays and death anniversaries, I mostly just did my best to keep my head above water.
November: My podcast hit its first year anniversary! To think that our show began as a bit of a joke between friends and turned into a project I love and look forward to. November was quiet and spent mostly trying to find my footing and remind myself of what it meant to be me again. I also picked up Pokemon: Sword and I have been having fun running around as a goth in Galar making curry and taking care of my giant raven and emo lizard.
December: Is still happening, technically. It’s been a quiet month so far but I look forward to celebrating the holidays with friends and family.
I want to take a moment to be personal and talk about just how far I’ve come since 2009.
In 2009, I was a college sophomore with no friends and a serious chip on my shoulder after years of dealing with the loss of my father. In 2009, I decided to go to an anime convention which reignited a part of me that had laid dormant in me. In 2009, I was a nearly unrecognizable version of myself.
In 2019, I am a seasoned cosplayer, panelist and convention veteran. In 2019, I am a digital marketing professional with a degree from a fantastic university. In 2019, I am working on finding all the parts of me that I thought I couldn’t ever reach. In those 10 years I buried a parent, finished collection, fell in love, had my heart broken, made friends, lost friends, left the damn country, saw new things around the country and made memories I’ll keep forever. I moved from my hometown to an apartment on my own and made a life in a city nearly 300 miles away from my family.
There are plenty of things that have remained the same. There are many things that have changed. But at the end of the day, I’m just looking forward to moving on and seeing what this new decade has to offer. Politically and socially, this has been an exhausting decade and particularly an exhausting year; but I am hopeful, I do think things will improve.
My tastes my changed, my interests have changed and even how I talk in public has changed but I think all of those changes have indeed been made for the better. What’s even more fascinating is seeing what has stayed the same after all of these years.
Thank you all for giving me a record breaking year. Thank you all for reading. Thank you all for being here with me on this journey.
I look forward to seeing you all in the next year.