Things I’ve Been Thankful For During the Pandemic

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching and the pandemic still a thing, it’s easy to take things for granted. It’s easy to long for the life I had and a world we had. It’s easy to experience longing; what’s hard is being grateful for what I have: my health, my friends, my family, my job, my life, my hobbies; that’s been much harder to do. So for a change of pace and post I wanted to share with you a few things that have given me an intense amount of serotonin and comfort during the pandemic. 

  • Fanfiction 
  • My podcasts 
  • My podcasting co-hosts and their near infinite patience and tolerance of my assorted nonsense 
  • Writing Fanfiction 
  • People who read my fanfic 
  • My friends and our dumb calls and conversations
  • Memes
  • Yaoi
  • John Mulaney 
  • Discord
  • Reconnecting with those you never thought you’d speak to again
  • Friends in different time zones 
  • Postcards 
  • Sophie the Magpie and the nation of Breetannia 
  • Online shopping as a crutch to avoid past trauma 
  • Therapy
  • Venlafaxine
  • Crab Rave
  • USB Fans
  • My Ring Light
  • Glitterific Paint
  • EGGO Thick and Fluffy Waffles
  • YuGiOh! Cards 
  • Video calls with my aunts back home
  • 2 A.M. Doomscrolling on TikTok
  • Reading fanfic in bed when I should be sleeping
  • My rose gold humidifier 
  • Chocolate silk pie from Whole Foods Market
  • Trader Joe’s Mac and Cheese
  • Remnant fabric 
  • Yaoi Crate
  • Enamel Pins
  • Freelance Work 
  • My 9-5 Job
  • Anime
  • Manga
  • Twitter Drama
  • Just Dance 2020
  • Disco songs about long dead Russian mystics 
  • Pizza Delivery
  • My Somehow Semi-Full Planner
  • Avicii’s Music
  • New Pins
  • My Stuffed Plague Doctor: Giovanni
  • My Stuffed Plague Nurse on the way: Lucia
  • Being able to sing in multiple languages
  • Lupin III
  • Headcanon debates
  • OT3s
  • Having cacti to take care of
  • Fanzines
  • Finding chocolate past Amanda left behind to be found again
  • My Fangirl Nation column
  • Books
  • Not-so regretful purchases made at Target
  • Hendrick’s Gin
  • Wholesome videos of animals 
  • Existential Dread Content 
  • Podcasts
  • ContraPoints
  • Lindsay Ellis
  • CrashCourse
  • Both John AND Hank Green
  • Olly Thorn’s cheekbones 
  • Antifa Catgirls 
  • Dr. Pepper in Coffee Mugs
  • The Madagascar Tourism Board
  • Planner Stickers that mitigate the existential dread 
  • Rude astrology apps
  • Fictional villains who make excellent points 
  • Fictional characters who seem to be molded of all my old kinks 
  • Friends who will send you money to make bad decisions 
  • Auntie Anne’s Pretzels 
  • Hokkaido Milk Tea with Mango Popping Boba
  • Velvet leggings 
  • Divorced Mom Shoes 
  • Grubhub Perks 
  • Melatonin vape pens 
  • Pokemon: Sword 
  • Songs that fit anime characters perfectly 
  • Metallic straws
  • Wax seals
  • Joe Biden
  • Elaborate plans to liberate Marlon Bundo
  • John Oliver
  • Pedro Pascal
  • Sick burns from Olenna Tyrell
  • Charles Dance punching a fake deer
  • The episode of E.R. directed by Quentin Tarantino 
  • 10 feet long USB charging cords
  • Hair appointments 
  • Canada Dry Ginger Ale
  • Sleeping through Food Poisoning 
  • Videos of Home Improvement Products from Asia that Seem All Too Practical 
  • Asian Markets 
  • A Box of Approx. 300 Biscoff Lotus Cookies 
  • Boundaries 
  • Questionable Reality Television Programs 
  • Eyebrow Waxes
  • The Codex Gigas
  • Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • Goran Višnjić
  • The Vatican Observatory 
  • Buzzfeed Unsolved
  • Puppet History
  • Monstrum
  • Fresh Water to Protect Against the Nuckelavee 
  • Cats with Smooshy Faces
  • Lady Gaga Songs that Sound like they Belong in a 90s Gay Bar
  • The Ravenmaster 
  • Oscar Wilde’s last words 
  • John Keates’ final will and testament 
  • The Albatross by Charles Baudelaire 
  • Disney movies with homoerotic subtext 
  • Good wigs purchase from Amazon
  • Judgmental cats
  • The Church Scene from Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Freddie Mercury 
  • Don Bluth’s Obvious Hatred of Children
  • The subtle eroticism of removing gloves with your teeth
  • King James I’s homosexuality 
  • Fictional characters that reveal your daddy issues 

There are plenty of things I’m grateful for that probably didn’t make it to this list. But most of all I’m thankful for my relative health, those closest to me and for my stability. I’m thankful for you, dear readers, and for my continued mental…fortitude(?). I’m just thankful. For a year that has taken so much from so many, I have to consider myself excessively fortunate and that’s difficult to do for a person with anxiety and depression: it’s hard to focus on the good because the bad seems so obvious and apparent. But making a list like this brings it to the present and makes me confront the cognitive dissonance that comes with mental illness; despite all I’ve been through, I do have a lot to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. Stay safe. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 46- A Wrinkle in Time (With a Special Guest)

This week Tori and Amanda are joined by special guest and benefactor of the pod: Jason as the group talks about A Wrinkle in Time, Amanda goes full Soviet and we muse on the “merits” of having a crappy childhood.

How I’ve Been Staying Busy

There’s been a miserable sort of boredom that is entirely unique to the current situation that we are in. The shops are closed, the theaters are closed, there are no new movies to see and any of the places are open feel ethically irresponsible to visit considering that we are, still in fact, in the middle of a pandemic. This means I’ve had a lot of time on my hands; more free time than I’m used to having, frankly, as an adult who works a full-time job. I’m fortunate enough to have more than a few hobbies but some of them I keep rather close to my chest, so in a shocking display of vulnerability, I want to share with you some of the ways I’ve been keeping busy during the pandemic. 

Blogging

Despite the earlier attempt at canceling me this year, I still find a tremendous amount of pleasure and routine in blogging. I’ve done my best to maintain my routine and continue to post content for you all that both satisfies me and I hope satisfies you, dear reader. I was afraid that I’d run out of things to write about with “nothing going on” but turns out that being a pedant and someone who takes media too seriously; I rarely run out of things to talk about. The current struggle has just been finding energy consistently to write that isn’t just in fervent chunks or painfully drawn out affairs. 

Baking

I’ve made a habit of dropping off baked goods to my friends at the local card shop and also just baking for myself. I’ve always been one to stress bake and I have a nearly endless sweet-tooth so getting out my energy while baking has been quite fun and nice. Baking is a funny thing because while I think it’s stress-relieving, there’s a huge amount of anxiety that goes into baking for other people. I’m always worried that something is too sweet, too much, too much mint, too much chocolate: well, I’ve yet to receive any major complaints and it is nice to do something for others: not like I don’t benefit at all, I do have to check each cake for poison. 

My Podcasts

Yes, I have more than one! I co-host two podcasts with two friends: one on literature (Unfortunately, Required Reading) and one on yaoi and boy’s love (The Yaoi Shelf). Being a podcaster has become an increasingly important part of my life and between outlines, recording, live shows, research, reading and communicating with two hosts; it’s a role that keeps me busy and adds some much needed bulk to my schedule. That even ignores all the social media work and analytics reading that goes into keeping both podcasts afloat. That’s right, I am the ghost in the machine. 

Crafting 

I struggle with calling myself a maker until I start making. One of the things I love the most and have missed the most about cosplay is making things. I love painting and figuring out things and fabricating and I’ve been able to take on a few crafting projects that allow me to continue to get that need to make and create out of my system. In the pandemic’s down time I got to work on two Halloween costumes (one for each podcast), a small table for my cacti, boards for my pins, patches and buttons as well as continue to focus on organizing all of my books and odds and ends. 

Video Games

While I am the dictionary definition of a casual gamer, the games I do play; I play hard. Pokemon Sword/Shield has released two DLCs this year and that alone has kept me busy if we ignore all the Just Dance I’ve been playing. I also picked up the newest Cooking Mama game because of course I did and a Japanese drumming rhythm game because…of course I did. Honestly, running around Galar and by extension the Crown Tundra and Isle of Armor has been a welcomed and beautiful distraction from the current monotony of my day to day life. Just Dance sometimes is the only physical exertion I can muster and while that means I’m a little too good at Hey, Mama Geisha Version; it makes my therapist happy with my attempts at exercising. 

Writing Fanfic

I know, shocking, right? I have returned to the place I was years ago: writing fanfic and actually publishing it again. I even have: gasp, fans and gasp, a schedule. It’s been nice to write fiction and especially fanfiction. Most forms of writing are incredibly fulfilling but there’s something about fanfic that is just particularly satisfying. It scratches an itch that’s so unique to being a fan and having the ability to articulate your fan wants and needs out and then being able to share that with an audience? Ugh, it’s all just so good. 

Therapy

Probably weren’t expecting that, huh? Yeah, I started therapy this year and like the good patient I am desperately trying to be; therapy takes up a huge amount of time. And not just the hour long appointments but the homework assignments and actively trying to be a better person. My therapist regularly gives me things to read and to focus on and he regularly challenges me and my less than kind thought processes. Therapy is exhausting but the amount of insight I’ve gained and how far I can still go is worth the, what is essentially, an hour I pay a man to make me cry and get no sexual gratification from. 

I’ve been doing my best to keep busy with all my time at home but not every second of my day is accounted for. I spent hours on voice chat with friends, still have weekly call with my best friend, and regularly video call back home to check on things. I stress-watch reruns of ER and rant about comic books online. I waste hours on Twitter, read fanfic that isn’t written by me. I gush about fanart and text friends. I do things to stay busy but also do plenty of things that take up very little brain power: anything to stay sane, or as sane as possible, during this damn pandemic. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading- 2nd Anniversary Special: Parable of the Sower

Happy Second Anniversary. This week we’re covering Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and we talk afrofuturism, climate change, why this book feels a little too real and the merits and power of being a black nerd.

On Recent Events- Part 2

Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve done a post like this but there’s been, let’s be charitable and say, a lot that has happened in recent events. And because the recent events have made it difficult to focus on the other blog posts I wanted to work on (I’m sorry, still working on them), let’s go ahead and talk about some recent events. 

The Passing of Alex Trebek and Sean Connery 

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone reading this blog that I am a huge fan of Jeopardy! considering that I have always been one to hold too much trivia in my brain in place of names of real human beings and American history. In the days of my childhood when the television raised me, I spent a lot of time answering along to the television and delighting when I was right and falling into despair when I was wrong. My love of trivia even inspired me to join the Academic Quiz League in high school, the nerdier and less cared about sister of Academic Decathlon. And at the heart of my love of the quiz show and my pride in knowing the answer was Alex Trebek: everyone’s loving, nerdy uncle. He was diagnosed with cancer not long ago and we all sat by and watched and waited while he told us that he was feeling okay and that he was determined to beat the disease. Well, Alex Trebek passed away; and I don’t think the show or even various aspects of pop culture will ever be the same. Rest well, sir. Thank you. 

We also lost Sean Connery, a man who has the immense distinction of being Sean fucking Connery. I’m not the biggest James Bond fan but my former best friend was and by proxy, I got to ingest a ton of material from the storied franchise. Connery, I think, problematic elements aside is about as James Bond as you can get. Not to mention his myriad of other film roles: almost all of them memetic; he was just a fantastic guy. Connery was a legend and got to pass away at 90 in the Bahamas while surrounded by friends and family after 90 years of being Sean Connery: one can only hope to live a fraction as well as he did. Rest well, sir. You’ve more than earned it. 

The Pandemic…Still

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world and particularly in the United States as we have continued to place capital over people and ignore scientists. The pandemic has affected the economy, killed too many Americans and has put life on a continued pause. It’s been frustrating to grapple with a feeling of intense selfishness at the things I want to do and putting that up against the greater good. I’ve made a few small moments of rebellion in which I go to Half Price Books or stay a little longer than I should while dropping off a cake to the card shop but for the most part, there are still plenty of things I don’t feel safe doing and the effects of that on my social life, mental health and more are things I will probably continue to grapple with in therapy for a while. 

The 2020 Election 

Okay, so…that was a lot. I remember voting early and casting my ballot and having faith in the system and hoping that I wouldn’t have to worry about this for another few weeks. Dear reader, I was wrong. The election was full of lies, threats of violence, actual violence and just so much hate on the Trump side. Anyone who reads this blog should not be shocked that I voted for Biden and while, yes, I agree that him and Kamala has some problematic aspects to their past: it was them or a literal fucking fascist. I remember going to bed early on election night, knowing the votes wouldn’t be fully counted. My aunts called me in a panic at the red mirage I had been reading about and I did my best to comfort them as if it would by proxy comfort me as well. The days after were a flood of red and then, come Friday and Saturday: hope. Georgia flipped blue, Nevada did, Pennsylvania; a state I almost never think about, ended up becoming the guardian of our democracy and when the numbers were all counted up and Biden won I just let out a sigh. I take a lot of medication to ensure that I don’t cry spontaneously anymore but just the sigh of relief I let out. After that, when I left my apartment for a non-essential trip to the fabric store; people just seemed kinder. The sun seemed warmer. Water tasted better. I just felt like I could stand a little straighter. Maybe it’s projection, maybe it’s insanity, maybe it’s just a delusion but it felt easier to be a human being for the first time in a long time. 

I don’t know how the rest of this rapidly winding down year will go. I don’t have answers to any of the questions I’ve been asking for years. At the end of the day, despite Biden’s win and my somewhat misplaced optimism; too many people in the country were fine with voting for white supremacy, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, police violence and I can’t believe I have to say this again but fucking fascism. The fact that this election wasn’t a damn landslide makes my stomach sick but I am also horribly not surprised. Trump’s rise to power is endemic of a problem that many people of color and queer people have known for decades: at its core, America is still very racist, sexist and homophobic. But I do believe that we are at the start of returning to something better than we had before. I do have faith. It may be misplaced, it may be the antidepressants talking, but I do have faith. 

This past week or so has been tiring in a way that I didn’t think was possible and this is from a person with a nearly infinite ability to be exhausted. But it’s important to keep taking care of yourself. I know I’ve never been a self-help blog and that won’t change any time soon but I know that I’m trying to take better care of myself with all of this damn time at home that I have; I hope you all have the luxury of being able to do the same. 

Till next time. 

A Soft Defense of Axis Powers: Hetalia from an Old Hetalia Fan

When the news broke that we’d be getting a new Hetalia animated series in 2021, I wanted to be happy. I wanted to celebrate and relive my glory days in a fandom that came to define so much of my life but I didn’t feel like I could. Over the years, the anime and the fandom that surrounds it has been a, to be honest, mostly deserved problematic mess due to the series’ subject matter and what some in the fandom do. But, some bad apples were never meant to spoil the bunch and thus, I write to you all, a small defense of Hetalia from one old fan who wants to taste glory again. 

It was college, my first year and my first time really being away from friends and family for an extended period of time. I was alone, struggling and felt overwhelmed and afraid. My mental health was in the trash bin and I mostly suffered quietly reassuring my aunts and mom that I was fine and making friends when in all honesty I mostly ate lunch alone in my dorm and had to wait for my two roommates to be out of the room to do anything that I actually liked doing. This was before the Glorianna of my junior and senior years running the anime club and was me at my worst: isolated, insecure and overwhelmed. I had given up a lot of my anime and manga in the transition to college, desperately hoping that the intense fandoms I held in my “youth” would be the phase my aunt asserted it would be. I went to college trying to pretend like that part of me didn’t exist and failed in the second part of the semester. I was back into anime due mostly to a slate of series that would end up becoming formative to me thanks to RP and my then best friend, Nicole. It was thanks to her that I was brought into a little series called Axis Powers: Hetalia. Hetalia is a play on words for the Japanese words for useless and Italia for Italy. The series features around personified countries during mostly World War II but also has some other periods of time mentioned throughout history and modernity. The series mostly centers around the Axis Powers: Northern Italy, Germany and Japan and their struggle against the Allied Powers: England, France, America, China, Russia and whoever else decides to join them for the sake of narrative. 

You can see the inherent issue, right? Japan has a long history with not seeing WWII so much as a bad thing but a strangely fun part of history. To this day you can see people in Waffen SS uniforms for the sake of style and clout just walking around. Japan’s problematic love-love relationship with Germany and Nazi paraphernalia is not something I have time to go into in full here, but needless to say; Hetalia suffers majorly from the bias of a Japanese man who wrote a comic as a racist joke while he was living in New York and continued on to impress upon the world his biased history of the world. Taken as writ, Hetalia is kawaii propaganda and I loved every second of it. 

The countries have dynamic character designs and personalities: the history is loose but hey, that’s not why I was there. I was sold from day one. I had characters I fell in love with, ships I wanted to sail and navigate and more importantly, it gave me something to do with my time. See, Hetalia, for having such a weak plot has a ton of trivia attached to it. Each country has a human name, a birthday, things they like and don’t like and complex relationships not just tied to history. There are character songs, drama CDs, each country has their own version of the ending theme song not to mention at least 2 character songs that can tell you so much about them and their history that you’ll never learn in the main series of manga. There were interactive flash games, the original webcomic and oh the fandom flourished.

Hetalia is the best kind of series for fangirls active in the shipping arts; it’s sort of a boy’s love by omission. Most of the female characters are so weakly written that they don’t matter and most of the countries are male and often enter marriages or alliances with each other or have very close bonds with each other due to shared history. You could, in theory, make an argument for any ship and likely there was historical, social or political context for it beyond just the show putting them in a scene together. Immediately, I was enraptured. I spent time learning human names and birthdays (many of which I still know to this day), learning and translating character songs and writing; oh the writing. I carved up the map with my friends, laying claim to countries and taking a masturbatory pride in whose flag we claimed. The flags I flew and still do fly to this day are: France and Austria but I laid claim to many other countries. The series was exactly what I needed to help me connect to others.

But immediately, upon entering the wider fandom outside of my friend group; I was met with a group of mostly young girls that…well, let’s just say weren’t always on their best behavior. Now, I’m not here to shame DFW Hetalia: but their tactics to abuse badges is why so many panelists have to go through hell now to get badges for their volunteers; not to mention their clichy nature and less than high regard for public spaces: they were sharks in bad wigs. The rest of the fandom…well, let’s just say that the stories, no matter how horrible, are often true. Many have kept the Nazi parts of their uniforms on screeching that it’s costume accurate. Some have posed in front of concentration camps…some have done other Nazi stuff. I can’t believe I’m writing this. Honestly, I was never shocked by this behavior mostly because most anime fans are already so culturally abandoned as Americans that we’d willingly side with literally any other country and the narrative as writ in Hetalia that Japan only joined the Axis Powers to make new friends. Hetalia also does a very smart narrative trick where it asserts that the countries as we see them are more representatives and they have “bosses” (the leader du jour) that really control their movements. So Germany didn’t do a Holocaust, Germany’s boss (Hitler) did. It’s a great narrative tool: it keeps the characters sympathetic: like a good German soldier, Germany was just following orders. 

To be clear, the bulk of the fandom isn’t running around as a bunch of cosplay fascists but the stories of bad behavior are hard to wipe away from the collective memory of the fandom and con world. Not to mention the real life consequences behind acting poorly. Think about the current angst that comes with being a fan of Harry Potter right now. It’s hard to distance yourself from the author’s objectively bad words and keep yourself steadily in the lane of fandom that doesn’t deny basic human rights to trans people. But now it feels almost dirty to be a Hetalia fan. The series has its own problematic elements if you ignore the less than perfect fandom and the less than perfect fandom is fed because the series is built on a problematic base. The rest of Hetalia centers around other world events and the movie doesn’t even talk about WWII. There is more to the series than its problematic base, but that will always be its foundation. It will always be a webcomic created by a man who clearly loves WWII and not so subtle casual racism and xenophobia.

But I’m still excited. I have made so many friends and made so many memories and got so much joy from this series. I was, and am, still a very proud Francis Bonnefoy and proud of the ships I sail. I’m proud of the headcanons and spirited conversations I’ve had. I’m proud of the nights I’ve spent up translating drama CDs and the pieces of trivia that are still in my mind a decade later. I’m still proud to be a fan of Hetalia but I am also so very aware of how very damaged this beautiful world I call home is. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 44- Interview With The Vampire (Halloween Episode 2020)

Happy Belated now Halloween! Join hosts Tori and Amanda in a video version of the usual podcast and talk about vampires, death of the author and why Amanda is ready and willing to fight any and all authors.