Welcome to the end of my birth month! This week, we cover A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen and talk about some not so great marriages, an irrational hatred of coconut macaroons and drink while discussing a very decent play.
So I have a birthday coming up and with that, my over two decade career in anime continues on. With that being said, I found anime and manga during a very formative part of my life and thus so many of the series I hold near and dear to me helped form my personality, my ethics, my values and forever shaped how I judge series to this very day. With nostalgia in mind, let’s go over a few of the series that made me, well, me.
Yes, I have found a way to talk about this anime in nearly every post I have written about the subject but I think that should tell you all just how near and dear to my heart this series is. The long and short of it is that Edward and Alphonse Elric have done a bad thing and the rest of the series is a redemption tour to fix the bad thing. Along the way there’s military intrigue, cool automail stuff and really really fantastic philosophical and ethical questions. I cannot stress to you enough how strongly I bonded with Edward as a teen. I was 15 when I started FMA, I was the same age as Edward when he began the series. I had also similarly lost a parent that meant the world to me and I also was trying to find a way to empirically rationalize my grief, guilt and loss. The soundtrack is fantastic, the dub (aside from one horrible human being that I want to ignore) is fantastic, the ending is great (because let’s not talk about Brotherhood or the movie) and no character is wasted. I went on a journey of maturity with Ed and Alphonse. I recited the mini skirt speech to my friends in high school, the names we gave each other were all from the series. Hell, in my former best friend’s phone I was Izumi for years in homage to Ed and Al’s teacher. To many I was Roy Mustang and I still am so proud of my pocket watch. Fullmetal Alchemist gave me something that I was missing in the shojo series I was meant to relate to and that was a protagonist with a struggle similar to mine. I didn’t have a traditional loving family and no problems at a teen so I couldn’t relate to the average shoujo protagonist: Edward gave me someone who in so many ways was actually like me and watching him struggle, fumble, grow, change and be better gave me the strength I needed to grow and change myself. We all carry the scars of our past, some are literal and others are more metaphorical but we all have two strong legs so we just need to get up and keep going forward.
You know, you’d think my family would have noticed that all of my tastes in anime were really dark and heavy. Cowboy Bebop is as close to perfect as I think an anime can get. But immediately there was something about this jazzy, usually mellow serious with bursts of bright action and violence that had me hooked from a very early age. I could go on about Bebop but that seems a little unfair to the other series on this list: I mean it’s about as close to perfect as I think anime can get from the soundtrack to the animation
There is no single anime that has shaped the fan I am to this day like InuYasha. My love of villains, my tastes in anime music, my admiration of side characters that push through pain and still smile. InuYasha set the bar for me, got me to write fanfic, got me to think about anime critically, got me to start studying the language and learn about the culture and about suffixes and and the history of the land. The image of Japan that is still set in my mind was framed and began with InuYasha.
You know, I may not talk about it a lot considering how badly the series wrapped up but good heavens this series meant so much to me while in high school. I was at a formative age and the large cast and ability to slot yourself into different affiliations and villages always as something special to me. To this day, I am proud of my village designation and whether or not I am Akatsuki. The answer to which is I usually claim Hidden Mist Village, Hidden Waterfall Village, Hidden Rain Village or Sand Village because why the hell not or Akatsuki Leaf or Sand.
Ouran High School Host Club
Okay, I don’t like shojo. I still don’t like shojo but wow, if you have noticed a type of character I like to cosplay, it was cemented that I liked being the charming host type. Now, in hindsight, this series is hella problematic and I really wish they had kept Haruhi as a boy but being able to have my friends and I slot into our respective roles gave us a language all of our. In my high school anime club, rank mattered and me being a Tamaki and my VP being Kyoya told new members and current members a lot about our personalities, roles, duties and dynamic: without even speaking to us the moment you heard us refer to each other as Mommy and Daddy you knew exactly what kind of club we ran.
Yes, yes, I’m talking about gay stuff again. But as I’ve said before, I helped figure out so much about myself and my identity by finding the language and world of Gravitation. To this day, Yuki Eiri informs so much of how I live my life and choose to interact with others (for better or worse). I was able to craft an entire other being within myself based on one character and find a truer version of me than I had previously known: if that isn’t influential, I’m not sure what else is.
I could easily go on (maybe a Part 2?) about more series that formed me. The more I looked at this list, the more series came to mind but for the sake of brevity and sanity, I wanted to get this out the door and to you, my readers.
Thanks for going down this nostalgic jaunt with me.
Welcome to My Birth Month! Let’s cover Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles mystery that the very famous Sherlock Holmes must solve. Enjoy as we drink more port, complain about Steven Moffat and talk about Black Shuck and Wishbone.
I haven’t been shy about talking about my diet (or lack thereof) and my struggles with cooking as a single Southerner. But there has been something particular about this moment in history, you know, with the pandemic and all; that has made me very aware of food as comfort, routine and escape. So let’s talk about some of the ways I’ve used food to cope: for better or worse.
Domino’s Pan Pizza with Pepperoni and Ham
I moved last year and this complex has a gate that works and is entirely too big. I was fine with ordering carry out and picking food up (obviously, based on my weight) but I hadn’t had something delivered in a while. I don’t know what turned me back onto Domino’s but something did and I discovered that their pan pizza is perfect. Fatty, rich, greasy, cheesy and exactly what I needed on days where I was either too busy or too apathetic to do anything but have food delivered to my home. Go figure, luckily, my complex is a pretty regular stop so no driver has gotten lost yet. They leave my pizza on my doorstep, wait patiently for me to pick up my food and sign my receipt and the whole thing is over: sorta like paid sex in an alley. But the weekly routine of ordering pizza, watching it go through the Pizza Tracker until it arrives at my door; hot, inviting, comforting and ready to distract me from the pains of the day.
Breakfast is possibly one of my favorite meals of the day. Working an office job and having a mental illness means I don’t get to eat breakfast very often or eat one that’s of any nutritional value (I do love breakfast tacos even though I know they’ll be the death of me) but now with a medication that I have to take in the morning that absolutely wrecks my stomach if I don’t eat; breakfast have become a beautiful ritual in the morning. I’ve reminded myself that I love cereal and love waffles and pancakes and lots of maple syrup and bacon and toast with butter and jam. Coffee is a stunning alchemical reaction made possible by my Keurig and the smell of maple syrup warmed by pancakes. Also, an aside to cereal, I love cereal. I rarely keep it in the house but good lord I can go through a box of Honeycomb or Captain Crunch. Breakfast has become a sacred kind of prayer and a vital part of the routine that helps me settle into working from home.
Chocolate Silk Pie from Whole Foods Market
I have a huge sweet tooth. This is not new information. What may be a shock is that I can be very picky about my sweets. Chocolate silk pie is something that is rarely done well but when done can be as close to God’s light as possible. Chocolate cookie crust, chocolate custard filling, sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls; just sublime. But if you cut corners during any part of these ingredients you get what is essentially a dirt cup in a cheap pie shell. Luckily, my podcast means I am often at Whole Foods Market hunting for fine cheeses and that means I get access to slices of their very delicious and very sweet and very well made chocolate silk pie. Each piece is a little taste of decadence that reminds me of a time far more simple and far more kind than the current pandemic world we live in.
What I’ve Been Cooking
Long time readers of the blog will know that I have struggled to cook for one person since my girlfriend left me and now that I am in a new apartment with a nicer and larger kitchen, that struggle has continued. Thanks to the clarity of antidepressants and the need to cook due to restaurants being open and cravings not understanding how pandemics work: I have been cooking more than ever. So here are a few of the things I’ve made that I am particularly proud of.
I love chicken katsu. Absolutely love it. It may be one of my favorite Japanese dishes. It may be a simple chicken cutlet with sauce that is too sweet but dammit it’s the exact kind of comfort food that speaks to my soul as a dual-culturalist. There’s something wonderfully satisfying about frying food at home, even though it is a little messy and I did question many times if it was worth the effort until I took that first crunchy bite and was told that yes, it was indeed worth it.
Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrot
Like most millennials, I have started pickling as a means to run away from the existential pain of realizing that we are helpless in the face of a capricious world in the midst of a pandemic. Pickled carrot and daikon is a staple of Korean BBQ and something I will easily get from my friends or fight for: the tang of vinegar and sweetness of fruit always makes me happy and I’m more than fine with stealing my friends’ portions if they don’t go for it quickly enough much like I am with gari (pickled ginger) while at sushi restaurants. It wasn’t a difficult recipe to make: just mirin and sugar and time. I did have a small struggle finding a daikon radish during a pandemic until I remembered I have a ton of Asian grocery stores around me and of course, Tim’s Oriental Market had the radish I needed. The crunch and tang of vinegar was fantastic and eating what counts as a veggie made my friends quite happy as well.
Cakes. Too Many Cakes
So. I stress bake. What is a pandemic but stress? I’ve been baking for myself, for friends, to keep busy, to try new things, to find meaning since the pandemic began. It mostly started as a kind gesture for some friends who had their store opened back up way too soon despite being far from essential as a little token of goodwill and support. From there, I just kept going. I’ve made cinnamon maple apple muffins, gooey butter cake, caramel apple monkey bread, strawberry cake with vanilla frosting: anything to keep my hands busy and more importantly; anything I can do to help ease some of the stress my friends are going through.
These are a few of the things I’ve been eating during the pandemic. It hasn’t been healthy, I’m not ashamed of that; but in places it certainly has been comforting. The return to the routine of making food sacred is nice and comforting especially during these uneasy times and anything I can do to help make those I care about smile is something I’m more than happy to do.
Stay safe, stay well, stay kind.
Happy It’s Still Pride! Join your hosts as we drink Stoli, mostly complain about RENT and talk about what it really mans to be an ally and the merits of getting a real job.
Happy Pride, everyone. Let’s talk Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, drink a cocktail consisting of ginger ale and bourbon and Amanda tries to run from the pain by talking about Kingsman: The Secret Service.
I have had a morbid curiosity about disease, death and medicine since I was a child. My parents left me with a physicians desk reference as company oftentimes and I continued to be enamored with medicine and all the ways the body could possibly go wrong. It was a strange way of coping with having chronically ill parents. And even then as a young child: I was fascinated with mummies and skeletons and bones. I loved dinosaurs and archaeology and the pharaohs of old.
However, as I grew older, I grew very aware of a simple fact: the bodies I looked at with such wonder and awe were once people like me. And with that empathy and understanding, I came to realize that maybe, just maybe; this is not how the people I saw with reverence and curiosity through thick glass wanted to spend their eternity.
With that in mind, I’d like to talk about death studies, mummies and how to let our ancestors rest.
It started with Body Worlds- an exhibit I saw when I was too young but really stirred me to curiosity about what could be done with a human body upon their death. When I saw the posed bodies on horses, flayed, open, displayed: I began to wonder if this is what they wanted. Did the pregnant woman and her lost child want this? Did the man want to be on a mounted horse? I had assumed the answer was yes because I understood bodies donated to science but even as a young one I had curiosity about the ethics of displaying bodies in such a fascinating way, especially considering that (and I know this will likely sound classist) that not everyone can appreciate them in the same way. While I was there, a child nearly knocked over a plastinated heart and to this day I think about that and how horrible that could have gone.
I do know that some people are fine with being displayed, like Jeremy Bentham. Some signed over their bodies willingly to be displayed. Some want to be studied. Others had their bodies taken and disrespected. Others have been displayed like props and some are very far from their homes.
Which brings me to a contentious point: mummies. Now, I have loved Egypt and its pharaohs since I was a little one and I love seeing the old bodies of those most famous. I got to see King Tut when he visited Dallas. I saw Hapshephut and was reminded of the power of a woman. I have long respected the kings and queens of old. But what are they doing in Texas? Why are there so many so far away from their homes? Would Tut want to be away from his mother? Did he want to be examined? Is this what he hoped the afterlife would be; being in the back of a truck on his way to Dallas?
Well, many of these mummies likely didn’t want this. As a culture, the West has taken many mummies for many centuries. Some were eaten as powder. Some unwrapped at parties. Others placed in museums as they were stolen from their eternal resting places.
Egypt has asked for its mummies back. To be fair, many places have asked for their artifacts back. And not judge Egypt. Families, cultures, people have asked for their ancestors back; to let them have peace, to let them rest. And for the most part, in modern history, museums have capitulated. But that has been a long-fought battle and there are still people on display that likely wouldn’t want to be displayed.
It leaves people like me in a curious place; burdened with the knowledge that the mummies I love to study are hostages and foreigners in eternal suspended animation to be gawked at by the masses. What am I to do?
A word echoed in my mind as I continued to weigh my options and that word is intentionality. I strive to respect any body I see. I strive to understand that every mummy, every plastinated corpse, every organ in a jar was once someone. But there is such a fine line between awe and lack of seriousness. I’m not here to gatekeep the world of academia and thanatology but I do think there is something to be sad about who is viewing some of these materials. I think some young children may be best kept at home: unless you have a little deathling but then it is your job as guardian to provide the much needed context around what they are viewing.
I also think reverence also matters a great deal when it comes to the display of bodies. Glass I think does a great deal to put distance and importance on what was once a living person. I also think that whatever signage and notes around the body or artifact are very important: sensationalism starts with sensational copy and that is a choice made by museums and their marketing teams.
There is also something to be said about technology. We have more access than ever to be able to view these bodies from miles away using 3D models and CT scans and high-res photography. Seeing inside of King Tut does not have to mean seeing King Tut. Otzi is a great example of this, I have seen his body plenty of times in documentaries and the samples and photos taken of him help give us a very detailed picture of his last moments and his icy death but we can’t remove him from his ice coffin: so we study him in photos.
It’s been difficult recently to reconcile my love of mummies and of the bodies of old with the ethics behind displaying bodies. There are just so many cases of people being disrespected that it almost sours the whole thing: but what saves it are enthusiastic and empathetic museum curators and archaeologists who are doing their best to ensure that things are done right. There’s also been public outcry and legislation that has helped and indigenous people have been increasingly vocal about wanting their dead back.
We all die and we all deserve a dignified burial. For some, that does mean going on display; for others that means being laid to rest quietly in the ground. But it’s important to let our ancestors rest: it’s the least we can do.
In which hosts Amanda and Tori talk about Harriet the Spy written by badass Louise Fitzhugh, Amanda complains about tomatoes, both hosts try desperately (and fail) to not be political and talk about the ethics of spying on the ethnic families in your neighborhood as a small child.