The Gospel of Lizzo

My taste in music has changed a lot recently as I moved away from the heavier, moodier music of my teens years and move onto music that a younger me would scoff at. I like a lot more pop than I ever have but since I don’t listen to the radio, the ways I find new music is limited. I mostly pick up songs from pop culture like commercials or movies and as recommendations from artists I already like. 

But I titled this post with the artist already in question, so let’s skip the foreplay: let’s talk about Lizzo. 

Lizzo is not an artist that I think I would normally like. She’s in a weird mix of pop and hip-hop that normally wouldn’t appeal to me but fortunately, Lizzo is an incredibly talented musician and she doesn’t care about my feelings towards genre. Lizzo is an immortal goddess and I just want to gush about her for a little while; so sit down, get some juice and let’s talk. 

I don’t really remember how I started to like Lizzo’s music. I think I heard one of her songs on a commercial and just sort of accepted her into my life. I mostly fell in love with her Twitter first. As a personality, Lizzo seems to be everything I’m not in real life: proud, confident and beautiful. She famously stated that big girls are not brave for just existing and her humor feels like it was a mood board created just for me. Her whole compilation of just her saying “Bye, bitch” and leaving various scenarios reminds me of Carlos and I hiring a bike rickshaw to take us back to the car during A-Kon. 

Lizzo being a giant mood board may sound a little cliche but as a fuller figure black woman who has fat in most of the wrong places, zero thigh gap and a body I’ve been ashamed at since I was probably about 14; seeing a woman who really does look like me live radically free and happy is frankly inspiring. She doesn’t claim that she’s big and beautiful, she doesn’t quantify it; she’s just beautiful.

There’s also something wonderful about being unapologetically herself because especially as a black woman, there is a lot of policing from the community and others about one’s “blackness” and yet there’s Lizzo, letting Meg Thee Stallion twerk to flute music. That’s just who she is. She’s proudly nerdy, quirky and fantastic and as a very chocolate sister in the woodwinds section: she has my adoration and respect. 

Lizzo’s music is also just fun. I mentioned earlier that pop wasn’t my thing but Lizzo is just a good musician. Truth Hurts  is so much more than just a bop, it’s a breakup anthem that actually has some soul to it. Most post-relationship songs are pretty hard to listen to unless you are recently at the end of a relationship but Truth Hurts is just good even outside of being memetic. Good as Hell is a beautiful ballad to self-love and self-care done by a woman who seems to actually practice what she preaches. Again, from any other artist most of those “take care of yourself, you got it” songs seem very hollow. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, I think from literally anyone else telling me that I should be feeling good as hell; I’d probably complain. 

Juice did get a little overplayed for me but it’s good music and its popularity makes sense to me. Besides, if you’ve seen me shopping for the pod over at Total Wine right at opening, I’m probably singing this as I’m looking for wine or whatever materials needs for the weekend’s drink. 

Lizzo’s message is just so authentic and that’s the word I keep coming back to. When she brings out a truly diverse group of backup dancers showing off that talent and beauty are not a market corned by thin white women or thin black women with relaxed hair. When Lizzo is on stage she just looks like she wants to be there and that’s amazing. She’s been working towards this for years and it’s fantastic seeing her get everything she deserves and more.

Now with her being human, I do have to admit some of the places where she’s made mistakes. The fussing over food delivery app orders was a thing but she quickly apologized and was better. She even gave credit to the Twitter user who created the now famous line from Truth Hurts. Most artists wouldn’t have done that organically; hell, it took Pharrell and Robin Thicke a goddamn lawsuit to make them realize they stole music.

Overall, I don’t think there are many artists today who are such genuinely kind and are themselves without being monstrous or hurting others is exactly what we need in these trying times. Lizzo isn’t asking anything of anyone by twerking and playing the flute. She is educated, eloquent even though neither of those things should be judges of character. She likes what she likes, does what she does, speaks when she wants to and empowers others around her. She is a 100% the icon we need now in these trying times. So before we go, I want to talk about what I think goes into The Gospel of Lizzo and why it’s worth following. 

Lizzo’s chief commandments are easy to follow. Lizzo wants us to love ourselves. Now, that’s hard to do but it does help seeing women who look like you actually living free and beautifully helps a lot. Next is to handle business. Lizzo is not coy about making money moves but rather than those being mostly just vague bragging from rappers it’s rooted in a real desire to ensure that we all get what we deserve in this life. Next commandment is to take care of each other. Sisterhood has always been important to the black community but we have lost our way in more ways than one: Lizzo wants each of us to see each other as sisters and to support each other. So if your girl is going through it, it may mean taking off your satin cap but you should be there for her. Last but not least is being joyful and having fun. Life is short, we all die, enjoy what you enjoy. If you’re a fan of musicals, be a fan. If you like twerking to your favorite song, do it. If you wanna play hip-hop classics on the flue, just go for it.

That’s it, that’s the Gospel of Lizzo, as written by one of her loyal disciples. 

Make Voice Actors Sing Again

There was one point in my extended complaining about the sub vs. dub debate that didn’t fit neatly into any one category but there’s one place where the sub has always meant a great deal to me and that’s when voice actors really get to have fun either by singing insert, opening or closing themes or the more rare and beautiful art of the drama CD. 

Now, where do I get off “demanding” voice actors become singers? Well, I don’t. I do absolutely think that they’re two different skill sets. I can’t expect a voice actor to sing and I can’t expect a singer to voice act: look at American movies hiring singers and comedians as VO artists assuming that they can do it with oftentimes mixed results. Sometimes we get a Seki Tomokazu who can do both or a Masaya Onasaka who likes taking any chance he can to sing but you can’t always expect for a trained voice over artist to want to be a singer as well. But there is a beautiful power in the moments when that expectation is met. I want to talk about the moments when voice actors using their talents can only add to a piece because I am old and back in my day, such things weren’t as rare. 

If you look at the Bleach drama CDs and character CDs, it was all the voice actors singing their character’s songs (at least, that can be said for the Japanese voice cast) and doing the little skits that made the CDs such a worthwhile buy! Did I need Szayel and Captain Kurotsuchi doing The Science Show? No, but my life is richer for it. Did I need Hanataro Desu? Nope, but I’m so glad to know about my least favorite favorite soul reaper. 

I also really love when voice actors sing opening/closing themes. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE features a closing theme sung by the Conquest Club and it adds so much more to the narrative when it’s the main villain singing about a long lost relationship because that long lost relationship is (spoiler alert) the crux of the entire plot of the damn show. The same goes for the little insert song in Sarazanmai for getting rid of desire through weird butt stuff: it makes so much more sense that the voice actors sing that song because when the perspective changes (like when it’s Reo trying to save Mabu) it’s so much more valid; it’s his song, his moment. Last example I’ll use is one that’s very fluffy which is Free! because yes, I can tell the difference between all the voice actors and I love the outfits in Splash Free!. It’s just fun. 

Insert and character songs can provide a lot of important information, though, as well as some of the sketches in drama CDs. Its in the drama CDs for Axis Powers: Hetalia that we learn all the countries’ human names and that Prussia lives in Poland’s basement, that England has a tattoo, that Austria is afraid of sea life and so many other facts because I have given up too much of my life to Hetalia knowledge and if I must suffer, you all must suffer, too. Also, stop ignoring France’s birthday, he’s still really sad about it. 

Those CDs are so fun because all the voice actors came back for it and get to tell us this information and seeing it as a DVD extra where it’s just voice actors having fun is inspiring. Hetalia also features something that a lot of newer series have lacked in places where if the country does not match the actor’s country of origin (I’m trying to be polite) that the actor knows enough of that language to make words make sense be it Chinese, French, English or German. Funimation tried their best when they dubbed the series and it was bad. 

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think American voice actors have fun. Here’s where we’re gonna pause because we have to talk about some news.

Initially, when I was writing this post an entire kerfuffle happened over at Funimation where it was found out that some voice actors dubbed over some questionable stuff in character and…well, I’m going to be honest: I’m of two minds about this. The whole reason I wanted to write this post was actually because of a panel I went to with Spike Spencer years ago where he showed a clip of an outtake video he did for Neon Genesis Evangelion where he riffs for a while as Shinji and it’s one of the funniest things to me on the internet. I’ve always admired voice actors having fun. 

So when I first started listening to the Funimation VA nonsense, it didn’t read as that bad. Voice actors do weird stuff like that all the time whether it’s read fanfic or just riff and oftentimes, those clips go into outtakes and are celebrated and praised. 

Here’s where I can agree with the people who were angry post the Funimation VA brouhaha: the content of much of what was dubbed was explicit, crass, politically incorrect and allowed voice actors to use language that is just not acceptable and to discuss themes that are, to be polite, not for everyone. If the content of what was acted offends, I can’t help but understand. Personally, I’ve been on the internet so long that very little shocks me anymore and I mostly just thought it was voice actors having fun: rude and crass fun, but fun. The way it was handled left a lot to be desired and I won’t shame anyone who had a problem with this whole darn affair. Hell, the entire affair put this post on hold.

But I don’t think having fun means being offensive. We could have a whole other post on the fact that people think comedy is dead because of PC culture and this Funimation VA scandal did make me wonder if it was generational. Most of the older fans I knew didn’t have an issue with it; many of us found it funny. It did seem to be younger fans who had a problem with it and maybe its because the newer fans just don’t understood VAs spend too much time in the booth and sometimes that means weird stuff is going to happen. Again, I’m not here to say you aren’t entitled to being offended, but out of all the scandals going on at Funimation, this seemed like one that we didn’t need to focus on.

Some of my favorite convention memories are of me being in costume and reading fanfic in character. Some of my favorite panel moments are watching those outtakes. Some of the information I’ve retained for years has been because voice actors (both Japanese and American) got to have fun for a little while.

I don’t know why American voice actors never really picked up singing. I don’t know why it never really took off: to be honest, I don’t think many of the American voice actors are on the level to handle some of the song chops that the Japanese voice actors do…but there is one example that pains me to discuss because it means talking about Dirty Uncle Vic.

I don’t want to talk about Vic. I really don’t want to talk about him. I don’t want to keep giving him attention and we’ll leave it at I believe all the women who have claimed he’s a monster because it’s what my brothers and sisters in craft have been saying for years. But goddammit, we have to talk about Brothers. Brothers is an insert song in the original Fullmetal Alchemist and when its first sung, it’s in some weird fairy language and you know it’s haunting but unless you find a translation, you don’t know why. So when Vic as Ed translates and sings the song and gives you the powerful lyrics as if they were a ballad or lullaby Ed sings to his brother just…it’s almost too damn good. And you get this song as their childhood home burns and I can absolutely feel all of Ed’s pain. I hate praising Vic but this is good and I have to remove him as a garbage person from the fact that he was pretty much made for this role and literally has done nothing good since then as a voice actor or human person. 

When voice actors sing, it can take a mediocre scene and increase the impact nearly to the max and even if its a little clumsy; it just adds so much more bang for the buck. It’s a worthwhile effort, and one I would love to see return. 

My First 12 Hours in Galar

I was so on the fence about the game. From the start, the marketing for Pokemon Sword/Shield did so much for me but also, there was this tinge of anxiety. I remembered all the feelings I had towards Pokemon Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Moon and I felt a knot in my stomach. I was afraid to love again.

That changed of course when we saw more of Galar (a UK inspired region) and the fashion that would come with it.

Those that know me, know that Pokemon X/Y is one of my favorite games because of how unique Kalos looked and felt. They wanted France and we got France. I also loved being able to have a character that looked, and ergo, dressed like me.

The information we got about Sword/Shield felt so sparse; we’d get a new release or a new form (which greatly preyed on nostalgia mostly or just the shock factor of how this Pokemon looks) and when the starters were really shown off: I felt mostly nothing. It wasn’t like Sun/Moon when I looked at Rowlet and immediately bonded with what is my best Poke-Son. I looked at the starters and felt something but not a special something. I wanted this game to make me feel like a child again. To make me feel like I was going on a grand journey with my friends even though we’re all adults with full-time jobs and we’re all pushing 30.

Then the backlash started. I won’t go into all of it but people got angry with this game. Some of it, I do feel, is deserved (but need I remind you all again that being angry with a thing is never an excuse to be utter rubbish). A lot of it, though, did feel like this game was going to be a nightmare. From the level caps to the making sure that you had a type advantage Pokemon before entering a gym: it all felt like this was going to be a disaster.

I didn’t even pre-order this game. I just walked in and purchased on day one. I waited until nearly the end to pick a starter (I chose Sobble because Carlos pointed out that its middle evo looked a lot like my son: Kuji Toi) and I came home and booted up the game hoping and praying I would like this game.

That was 12 hours ago.

Two fateful things happened that have dramatically changed how I view and see this game. First one may be obvious but changed a lot for me which is I’m playing this game on my television. I usually use my Switch as a handheld but I had let my system lose charge as I waited for this game to come out. My joycons had died, too, so I simply had to dock my Switch and let the poor thing charge. Playing this game on the big screen was absolutely how this game is meant to be played. Not that it can’t be enjoyed at all in handheld, but it shines on a bigger screen. Second is that I had zero expectations. I let Carlos spoil some things and in the places where this game feels dumb to others: it reminds me of another beloved franchise favorite Black/White. Many claim Unova was a terrible region for its dumb Pokemon like a literal pile of trash but I quite love my Trubbish. I went in with an expectation that this may be a trash fire but it was going to be a trash fire I liked.

Galar has changed a few things in the lore and canon. Firstly is that the gym challenge feels more like a soccer challenge. There are jerseys and teams and crowds: really how you’d image a Pokemon Gym Battle is. And there’s also Dynamax, a dumber version of Mega Evolution. I was initially resistant to Dynamax but I calmed down when I realized it was just my lizard brain hating change.

I started the game when I got home from work and immediately from the musical design to the story, I was hooked. Galar is calming, beautiful and wondrous. I think playing it on the big screen really gives you a chance to take it all in. I’m not very far into the story, but this is already a more compelling and curious tale and Alola ever had to offer. The character design is just amazing and having a mom that finally matches my skin tone is brilliant. Representation does matter and to see a world full of characters with skin tones like mine and even darker does really make this feel like the most fleshed out of all the main franchise games.

Some of the new game features are really something. The ability to camp in various areas and cook a delicious meal of curry for your team is something that reminds me of Poffin making in earlier games (something I excelled in). The ability to visit other people’s camps is also fun and play games with your Pokemon (the next step up from playing with your Pokemon in Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu). The wild areas are like a safari zone with more danger. Large Pokemon do chase you (a fear I didn’t know I had) and you can find all kinds of Pokemon in the wild areas including the Dynamax raids that encourage you to work together with others (much like the raids in Pokemon Go). The Pokedex was a point of contention for many as the Dex was not released much before game and many of the now over 1,000 Pokemon we know and love were excluded from Galar. I’ll say this, sure it sucks that some of my favorites are missing but I am not feeling too much loss here. I’m having fun with the team I’m building and enjoying catching new Pokemon.

I did learn something about myself playing this game. I have been accused (rightfully) blitzing these games. I get so goal oriented and as these games increasingly hold your hand, I lose a lot of curiosity. I don’t explore houses or caves like I used to. I am focused on the goal and the linear story. The wild area seems to be made for me because I absolutely could just pitch my tent, make curry and vanish into the woods. I had to force myself to get back into the main game.

I got back on my journey and the badges began to become easier and easier to get. I started to ignore some of the wild areas only because as mentioned, I would stay there forever. Each new town I visit, new city I see, new gym leader I meet: it all just makes me feel, more so than most, that I am truly in this marvelous world.

Galar is a stunning region, the story is one of the strongest since Black and White and each Pokemon I find is a charming mix of fun with lots of thought put into each name and ability. Sure, there are some stupid ones, but they’re my kind of stupid: I find them quite charming.

This game is not perfect. Nothing is. But for what I wanted, to feel like a kid again, this game wins. It helps that I have my squad playing with me, and we’re all enjoying this game rather than us complaining as we did with Sun/Moon.

We’re working on getting our League Cards just right. We talk about what we’re wearing, what gyms we’re in, what Pokemon we need or are missing. It honestly makes it feel like we’re all on this journey together, just visiting each other’s camps and talking. Galar became another sandbox for us all to play in despite us being separated by hundreds of miles.

And that’s where I believe Pokemon has always been as its best. As one of the most popular game franchises of all time, its ability to connect people regardless of age and race and nationality.

I’m still getting some light ribbing from the lads over my ability to blitz a game. I am working on slowing down and taking in the scenery. But Pokemon Sword/Shield has been a charming, stunning jaunt into a mythological and fictional not-England-England that makes me feel more connected to Pokemon than I’ve felt in nearly a decade.

I’m going to take more time to play this game. I want to stay lost in this world a little longer. I want to keep playing this game. I’ll let you all know what the next 12 hours looks like and what the rest of my gameplay looks like, if you want.

Thanks for reading.

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 24- Only Women Are Punished For Sex (The Scarlet Letter)

Join hosts Tori and Amanda in a very sweary and very avoidant talk about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.

Saying Nice Things About the Star Wars Prequels

In the summer of 2005, I threw my then best friend into a movie theater and made him see a film with me. This slight would later be repaid when he forced me to go to a local Twilight-themed prom event despite us both being in college and me hating Twilight. The movie I made him see was Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I had fallen in love with Star Wars earlier in my high school career, mostly nostalgic takes on the original trilogy which came out before I was born. The 2000s were part of a 30-year nostalgia cycle that meant the 1970s were back, baby and in my Dukes of Hazzard shirt (yes, I did own one) and with all of my bootcut jeans, I embarked on a journey that would take me far across the galaxy. I decided that I liked Star Wars

Now, Star Wars as a franchise has an interesting history. The original trilogy was, when I came into it, decades old. The fanbase from the start was energized and enthusiastic but since the movies were coming out and thus, information was only coming out as the movies did. We learned about Darth Vader being Luke’s father at the same moment Luke did. We learned about the destruction of Alderaan as Leia does. We learn about how scary Ewoks are as we meet them. 

By the time I came into Star Wars, we had expanded lore and canon. And we had time to speculate about how things would play out. We didn’t know who Anakin was as a kid or who Obi-Wan was as a youth. We didn’t see many more planets and we didn’t get to explore some of the bigger concepts that the original trilogy started but just couldn’t answer. 

I was a youngling when Phantom Menace came out and thus I have no memory of it as a small one, the same goes for Attack of the Clones. But Revenge of the Sith I remember and I remember loving it. I remember loving the lore, the myths, the characters; all of it. But for me, Star Wars has quickly fallen into the same group as many fan properties I love: I love the lore and the universe but not how that lore is always explained by the creator and/or directors. I’m not here to bash the most recent Star Wars movies because, well, I like having an audience but just know I like porgs; I can mostly respect that The Last Jedi is not great and really for probably none of the reasons anyone would assume. I have no issue with the mean women yelling at men, mostly just that the movie does seem a bit flippant with characters: that isn’t a major deal breaker for me but I’m not crazy about it.

But we’re not here to talk about the new trilogy or the original trilogy: we’re here to talk prequels. 

It isn’t original to say the prequels are bad. The dialogue is a mess, the graphics are shotty and it just can’t be satisfying to know that Anakin was a snotty, annoying, creepy dude-bro before turning into Darth Vader. 

However, I have a very weird nostalgia for the prequels, so, let’s talk about it. 

I remember seeing A New Hope as a teenager and mostly thinking “Wow, these effects are awful.” keep in mind, I was in my teens in the 2000s: so yes, the effects from the original trilogy had in places aged like milk. I thought they were boring, honestly. Which leads me to the number thing nice thing I have to say about the prequels. If you’re going to sell me on a franchise about space samurai having laser sword fights, then the fights have to be epic. By 2005, I had sold my soul to anime and thus I had a big expectation of what fights could be. I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Phantom Menace but that fight between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is exactly how I imagine a space samurai fight would go. I know some have issues with the flips and spins from especially older characters/actors like Christopher Lee of course can’t do a spiral spin like that but you know what? It was epic to see. Each fight in the prequel trilogy felt epic and dangerous and skillful and was so much better than two men lightly tapping light bulbs at each other. 

While many had issues with how artificial the backgrounds looked in the prequel trilogy, I will say this: all the worlds did feel alien. While the original trilogy did their best with what they had as far as sets and effects, the prequels did manage to make each world look like “wow, we really have traveled to some far away galaxy and this is a weird underwater Atlantis planet”. 

Back story is something I’ve come to appreciate. And I’m also the first to say that sometimes knowing more about a character isn’t helpful. Looking at you, Auntie Jo. And while I will not fight some people who didn’t need to know Anakin was an annoying kid…at the time, I did. I had tons of questions about who Vader was before he became Vader and while the writing was…trash…it was nice to see us go from sweet little Anakin to oh crap, yep, he’s evil. Even seeing Obi-Wan as a teen rather than as just some old wizard…it was awesome. Seeing how we got to the characters we know and love in the original trilogy helped contextualize so much about how we see them even moving forward into the new trilogy. Seeing Luke struggle with anger and violence reminds us that he is, in fact, Anakin’s son. Seeing Obi-Wan be too cautious reminds us that the one time he was impetuous, it was disastrous for him. 

I think it’s easier to see the bad when it comes to the prequels and while I’ve mentioned some good, yes, they’re a mess. Jar Jar is an abomination of all things good, the acting is bad, the writing is bad, it’s all bad. But seeing the bit of good I think helps understand fans and fan passions about Star Wars. The most recent movies have been…divisive. And that’s rooted in the fact that we now have so much information now about these characters. We went from just accepting that sure, the Force can do that to “wait, we know what the Force can do and it’s never done that”; and that starts with the prequels and all the media that came after it. Now, that’s never an excuse to be garbage to actors and actresses and really The Last Jedi is not that bad and if you’re angry about women yelling at men, then you’re just wrong.  

I love Star Wars and I’m proud to say that I’m Sith and proud to be part of this fandom when its great. When we respect each other, when we make lightsabers and when we talk about being a youngling and having to talk about Jedi texts. We are at our best when we support each other and have loving and respectful talks about who is the best Grey Jedi. That is when we are the best. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 23- Claret Out of Spite (Ethan Frome)

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to us! Help us celebrate by enjoying claret a little too much out of spite and managing to get through Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.