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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
So, drama-canon gives us one tiny snipped of Jingyan’s wife that is frankly fascinating: when she confronts her nurse about the woman’s double-agenting for Xia Jiang. And it’s only a tiny clip, but think about what it means–the conspiracy on Jingyan’s side (most likely his mother) judged that this girl, who was only just betrothed to Jingyan, was a) loyal enough to him and b) smart and steel-spined enough to confront a spy in her own household and ensure the woman’s capture.

Which led me to playing with her POV, naming her An, and deciding she must be, essentially, Lady Jing’s understudy. Which leads to today’s writing snippet:

She had not expected to be particularly noticed, that day at the monastery; he’d been seeing to his men, speaking to the priests, had spared no more than a glance to be sure she was not injured. Everyone knew Prince Jing was a man of action, so she hadn’t been surprised. But even here, in the outer rooms of the Eastern Palace, somewhere that should be a place of repose and even triumph for him… he was so stern. His eyes saw her when he looked at her, yes, but he only looked for a moment before turning distant again–courteous, but so distant. Intimidated, she spoke only formal words of pleasure, and he spoke brief, formal words of welcome, and then he was gone, striding out the doors like someone shrugging off a cloak, and An bit her lip.

Lady Jing’s arm settled warm around her shoulders, and when An looked up, the Lady wore a small, rueful smile, so she dared to ask, “Mother-in-law, is my husband-to-be displeased?”

“Not displeased, child. Simply… distracted.”

Men of the military families were taught to track the movements of armies, but women who were meant for the court were taught to track other things: the flicker of an eye, the passing word, the shift of weight that could say where thoughts marched. Liu An had learned her lessons well; she heard the delicate emphasis Lady Jing placed on her words, and her heart sank. She looked down at her clasped hands and murmured, “Is there another?”

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Aha!

May. 10th, 2017 10:48 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
*snatches at plot threads* Okay, so this story will need to really start with Nihuang and Gong Yu. Good to know. 

(This is going to be so many layered perspectives, oi.)

Today’s (second) snippet:

It wasn’t until the girl whispered, “I should go,” that she managed to regain a small grip on her composure, swallowing hard and wiping half-angry palms across her wet cheeks.

“Rest the night here, at least,” she offered, husky. “You’ve come a long way.” And then she looked down, really looked, and saw the wet tracks on the girl’s own cheeks, the trembling of her mouth, even when the girl’s teeth closed on her lower lip, obviously trying to conceal it. Softer, Nihuang asked, “Are you Gong Yu?”

The hint of trepidation in her eyes, when the girl glanced up answered the question, even before she nodded slowly. Nihuang took a deep breath and smiled down at her. “Stay a while, Younger Sister,” she said gently, laying a hand on Yu’s shoulder. “We can talk.”

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
*finishes getting dragged head-first down 1.5K of words, while at work, for god’s sake, and lands in a disheveled heap*

Note to self: Lin Shu is fucking /relentless/ once he actually hopes for something. This should have been obvious, and yet.

Today’s teaser snippet:

Slowly, as days passed into weeks, he re-learned how to stand, how to hobble, at least, and sent Fei Liu out onto the mountain’s darkening green slopes to cut staffs for him to support himself on. Slowly, as the pines put out soft, new needles and the air warmed, things other than rice started to appear in his rice porridge. Slowly, as the white and pink lotuses bloomed in Langya’s wide, stone pools, his hands stopped shaking when he tried to hold up even the lightest book.

So very slowly. And for what, now?

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Okay, I actually called in sick today to finish NiF, and it was totally worth it. Hai Yan, you are an evil fucker; my hat is off to you, ma’am. 

And now, let us all recite together the Great Law of Fandom: IF WE DON’T SEE A BODY, THEY AREN’T DEAD.

And, really, Lin Chen went along, so we totally have a plausible out, here, as other writers have noticed already, I see. So I’ll just be over here, with my pile of sodden kleenex, making notes on traditional medicine sketching out a timeline.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Okay, it took until Nie Feng’s reunion to do it, but that? That was my heart, you bastards. *grabs another handful of kleenex to sob into*

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
I would like to take a moment, here, to appreciate all the ways in which Mei Changsu is set up as a parallel to/echo of Jingyan’s mother. I mean, besides the really obvious markers like both preferring shades of white, and jade for their hair, there is the beautiful fact that, when Mei Changsu seriously loses his temper and yells at Jingyan, he does it by using Jingyan’s full name. So, while I would never /actually/ wish Inner Palace politics on the poor man, I do have to admit there’s definitely a voice in the back of my head giggling over consort-verse and Jingyan marrying a man just like his mother.

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Oh /yeah/.

May. 6th, 2017 05:50 pm
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Just finished the prison-visit episode, and wow did that hit my Magnificent Bastard kink with a /hammer/.  Goodness. *fans self briskly*

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branchandroot: a lotus (lotus)
So, I've fallen into Nirvana in Fire, and my goodness but this is a fun one.

Of course, I know, like, five words of the language by ear, as yet, so I'm having to rely on fanposts to pick out the /really/ juicy stuff. This intro, despite being brief, gave me two nice points to dig into.

For one, I do believe that what they're all calling Mei Changsu, translated here as the "Qilin Genius", is, indeed, a reference to the qilin, better known to anime fandom as the kirin, herald or portent of a ruler or great sage. Which is delightful purely on the symbolic level, in that Mei Changsu is exactly that, narratively, and also that the ruler he choses is neither of the ones who are so hot to secure him. But I am also giggling helplessly, because, if I'm not mistaken, Mei Changsu himself is the one who composes the message in which both the crown prince and Yu are told to seek him. And can't you just picture his glinty little smirk over that? On the one hand: arrogant creature. On the other... well, talk about calling your fate to you.

The even juicier concept that post gave me, though, was jianghu. Because my goodness but this makes so much sense (in narrative and genre terms) of Mei Changsu's choice in the end.

Suppose I should spoiler-cut this )

Okay, that got rather lyrical, but it's wuxia after all, what do you expect?
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Now that the Winter anime season is completed, it's time to recommend things! My biggest winner from the past season is ACCA.

ACCA is, first of all, a single-season show, so the plotting is very tight and moves along briskly, and, most importantly, does not leave you hanging with ep 12 howling "what do you /mean/ I have to wait a year for the resolve?!".

It's also gratifyingly subtle. It starts out looking a little like a police procedural, but takes an immediate turn into complex mystery and politics. The setting is a country (or, more accurately, a federation) divided into twelve districts with country-type autonomy. The regulatory body that keeps an eye on government and trade in this situation, is ACCA, of which our protagonist is a member.

There's plenty of lovely world-building, and there are times you might wonder if the story is getting lost in an exploration of the twelve (very distinct) districts, but all of that exploration turns out to tie smoothly right back into the plot. Which is that there is a plot afoot! There is, we hear, a coup detat in the offing. Who is behind it, who is participating, and exactly what our protagonist's part in all this is, is revealed only slowly.

The reveals are actually my favorite part of this show. Every time, there are red herrings that lead you to the wrong conclusion, but there are also clues provided just enough in advance for you to figure it out and have the pleasure of having guessed right when the truth comes out. In addition, each truth, while feeling solid and satisfying, only reveals another layer of the plotting.

My next favorite part is probably the romance. Because, while there's quite a bit of romance floating around, every single romantic relationship is either torpedoed by revealed genetic relationships or else explicitly identified as one-sided. You know the thing a lot of manga and anime do, where the epilogue is years later and shows you the romantic relationships neatly tied up in marriages? ACCA flips that. The last episode features several romantic pairs saying in so many words to one another "I know it's one sided, don't worry" or words to that effect. I grinned for a /week/ on the power of that alone.

By contrast, the most obvious slash pairing ends with significant hand contact, which did make my heart go pitter pat a bit, because really, you barely need your slash colored goggles with these two. My word, romantic pairings should /hope/ to see that kind of devotion.

And, of course, my thoroughgoing favorite thing is our protagonist, who is mild and unassuming and who you really, really do not want to make angry because he will, calmly and quietly and without collateral damage, raze your entire life's work, social standing, and political capital down to the ground. Such a delightful boy. One of the best twists of the whole story revolves around his nature, and it's his nature that makes the red herring so convincing. Wonderful writing.

This is definitely one I recommend watching, ideally on a weekend when you can marathon the whole series and delight in the unfolding of it all.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Okay, so I’ve been wandering around recent anime, looking for decent things to watch, and have fallen into Madan no Ou to Vanadis. On the face of it, it’s not my thing. There’s way the fuck too many barely clad boobs everywhere and Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™.  And yet…

And yet.

I mean, for one thing, the Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ do, in fact, kick all kinds of ass, despite the bouncing boobage. This is, in fact, a story of military strategy, with far too many bouncing boobs pasted on. It’s actually really interesting, if you can just squint past the fleshtones! Which should not be necessary, and is /truly/ annoying, but…

Well, but.

Because, see, this one also hits one of my bulletproof kinks, dead center. Our Hero, the unassuming minor noble who just happens to be collecting a harem of Ridiculously Underclad Warrior Maidens ™ with the prowess of his archery, is, in the very first scene, taken prisoner of war by Our Heroine (warrior maiden the first) and he insists on abiding by the terms and remaining her prisoner. Ally. But still her prisoner, even when they’ve taken the field together to defend his homeland! And she proceeds to call him her possession, throughout. And I really just cannot watch ep 5 without squeaking gleefully when, in the middle of a strategy meeting, Our Heroine’s second-in-command warrior maiden having appealed to Our Hero to please, for pity’s sake, talk her out of a single-handed charge on the enemy, Our Heroine demands of Our Hero who he belongs to (”Omae wa dare no mono da?”) and he replies, dead level and without hesitation, that he belongs to her (”Omae no mono da.”). 

Yes, that’s right, her prisoner of war uses plain forms to agree that he belongs to her. They talk to each other like this /all the time/. What am I supposed do with this, I ask you?

So I can’t exactly call this a rec, because it really depends on your tolerance for gratuitous boobage this week, but… well it’s definitely bookmarked.

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branchandroot: wings of fire (fire wings)
So, this morning, as is becoming increasingly common, I woke up, and spent five/ten minutes telling the immediate sense of existential dread to fuck off. I got up, showered, kicked clinging existential dread in the kneecaps a few times (which didn't make it go away but did mean I could get out of the shower) and hummed protest songs while doing my eye makeup.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Ohio", in this case. I'm not a cheerful person in the morning.

The morning commute provided a small break from existential dread, its place being temporarily taken by only mildly homicidal exasperation at all the people who can't fucking drive. It snuck in again to cling to my coat collar while I was walking down the cold, dank stairwell.

And then I had a sudden thought.

You know that anime haircut that shows up a lot, usually on girls, that's kind of a bob, usually chin-length or so in front but really short in the back, more like a pixie cut? Like Sakura's hair when she cut it in the chuunin-exam arc? I suddenly have a name for that. It's a pixie-bob..

And that made me giggle all the way up the stairs to the door, and now I feel like I can breathe all the way down.

So, you know, yes put away money to run if necessary, yes clean out the spare room, yes rally and march and write and call if you can. But remember to laugh, too, because we have to be alive at the end of this to dance on those motherfuckers' goddamn graves.

*whispers* Pixie-bob.
branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
Would anyone like a serger? It's a Singer Perfect Finish, model 14ET754, about five years old but never used (kept in plastic, though, so dust in the innards should be minimal). Free to a good home, though I'd need the taker to pay shipment.

TAKEN!
branchandroot: stack of books by arm chair (book love)
So, I'm really not at home to most challenges, but some of the Snowflake prompts do catch my attention.

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul.

And I recall Sailor Moon. But more than the anime itself (or the manga, or the other anime...) I recall how one of my literature students lassoed me into Fandom by using Sailor Moon. She spotted my weaknesses right off and suggested that I'd be interested by a narrative comparison of the sub versus dub endings to Season One, especially the way that excising all the violence for dub-land also managed to snip out all of Sailor Moon's agency in the scene. And, well, that was me done and dusted.

So here's to you, Kay. Well done.
branchandroot: wings of fire (fire wings)
My family doesn't have a tradition for this day (all the traditions are saved for New Year's Day, including huge pots of five-alarm chili and champagne cork shooting contests outside), so I've improvised. Today has consisted of nibbling on cubed Colby and summer sausage, onion crackers, and extremely expensive cherry tomatoes (worth it) while wandering the house finding places to put the cats' new toys and desultorily checking that I did, indeed, import all my LJ material five years ago before purging the personal journal.

The copious amounts of gay porn in my fic and RP journals shall remain in situ, as my personal gift to any agency, Russian or otherwise, who may now be peeking under journal locks on LJ. *raises her cranberry Mimosa* Cheers.

Looking back, this has been an extremely busy year for me, getting a foothold in a new life, new job, new home. I now feel like I have my feet well-set, which is a damn sight better than I felt a year ago, and 2016's efforts to burn down the world while I did it can blow me.

So, on this New Year's Eve Day, what I have to say for 2017 is this: BRING IT, MOTHERFUCKER.
branchandroot: Tsuzuki squeeing (Tsuzuki squee)
Okay, so I waited until this season was complete to watch it, because I knew that otherwise I’d be a total wreck. (Good call, me.) And now I just have to squee over the first handful of episodes, because Tsukishima! Eeeeeee!

I’ve kind of figured, in the back of my mind, that Kageyama would be the captain for his year, once he finally got his head together and learned to draw his team together. Treading in his senpai’s footsteps as it were, though I’m sure death-glares of epic proportions would meet anyone who actually /said/ so. But now… now I think it might just be Tsukishima. Because this season shows that he’s the one who analyzes and thinks ahead, and, most importantly, that he’s finally been fully engaged in the game.

Also, he’ll be a deadly psychological player and get the other side riled up /so bad/. And, well, his own team too, but you figure they’ll be (kind of) used to it by then, and all the kouhai will just exchange “they’re at it again” looks when he winds up Kageyama and Hinata.

It will undoubtedly take all of another year to get him there, to the place where he has the confidence in himself to actually plan for the whole team, but I think this is the start of it. Also, I have a soft spot for evil bastards, and Tsukishima is so very good at being evil.

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branchandroot: Tsuzuki squeeing (Tsuzuki squee)
Re Yuri on Ice: I do not often actually say this, but LEAVE ME HERE TO DIE WITH MY FEELS. I was wary, right up to the end, because fuck knows we’ve all been burned before, but omg that was /perfect/.

Re Sound Euphonium: SO MANY FEELS. *sobs into a handkerchief* Family Feels and Girlfriend Feels and Senpai Feels, oh my. Also, wow, Taki-sensei that was some exceptional emotional tai chi right there. Well done, that man.

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branchandroot: oak against sky (Default)
It’s been a while since Natsume Yuujinchou made me seriously break down in tears, but this week…

*takes a moment to sob into a wad of kleenex some more*

*sniffs*

Just the /idea/ that Touko might know good and well that Natsume sees spirits… Oh wow. That’s such a central tension of the show that letting it ease, even just a little bit, feels like coming into the warm after a winter hike.

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Okay, now we see why this season of Bungo Stray Dogs spent the first handful of episodes with a flashback to Dazai’s past with the Port Mafia. Because, with this episode, that history comes to the fore and settles into its prepared context: Dazai is not a good guy, which, honestly, was already relatively evident but is now absolutely inescapable. Dazai is an epic adrenaline addict who loves fighting in deadly danger and has deep, deep ties to the people who could keep up and fight alongside him.

For serious, I thought he was going to stop Nakahara’s rampage by kissing him. That’s how Old Married Couple they were acting.

Though, given his gift, I’m fascinated by how clearly Dazai is not the voice of restraint in any way, shape, or form. He clearly /is/ the control or safety (indeed, the “sheath”) for the whole Port Mafia, as far as gifts go, and now the way he was training Akutagawa also makes more sense. Dazai was fulfilling his function, training Akutagawa to have control, possibly while doing his best not to get attached in case Akutagawa couldn’t do it. In which case, given what else we’ve seen, I suspect it would have fallen to Dazai to kill him. But that function is not in line with Dazai’s basic nature, which is to be a smartmouth asshole who lives to tempt deadly fate and ride the combat high.

So now the ground is prepared for us to appreciate the conflict Dazai is about to find himself in, between the life and fellows (student, partner) he spent so long in and clearly enjoyed so much, and the new, less to his taste, life he’s created in the name of his lost friend (and possibly the new example of how to live it he may have found in Atsushi).

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branchandroot: Havoc totally blitzed (Havoc apathy)
So, yesterday I went and submitted my paperwork for passport renewal, which I had to do from scratch because I changed my name since the last one. As a public service, here are tips for others who may be doing the same.

1) you will need your parents' birthdays and places of birth (state is okay if you don't know the city), and also for your spouse or ex, if you have one. Do not believe the online application if/when it says it's okay to leave those blank. You also need to fill in prospective travel destination, even if you fill it in with "none".

2) don't try to take/print your own passport photo, seriously, just go to Walgreens or similar, it will save you hours of frustration.

3) you will want to look up whether acceptance facilities take walk-ins or require an appointment. Most drop-off points will require an appointment. My county clerk's office did not, and thankfully had extended hours on Tuesdays, which made it worth taking the bus down, but all the post offices needed appointments.

4) almost everywhere will require you to pay the passport fee and execution fee separately. Because reasons. Take you checkbook, your credit card, and cash just in case. You don't want to go through this twice. You cannot use cash for the actual passport fee, so make sure you have a check or money order for that part.

5) if you have an old passport that is even slightly damaged, write up a brief statement that it was damaged in a flood/plumbing accident/the dog ate it/whatever, to sign and include if called for.

6) take every piece of identification you own, birth certificate, old passport, marriage license, court order of name change, social security card, DEFINITELY the driver's license. Just take everything, just in case, because once again, you don't want to haul through this twice.

7) if you are doing this for a child, either both parents must be present or else you need a signed release form from the parent who couldn't come. Consider bringing along custody paperwork if you were awarded sole custody.

8) they will take away the originals of your ID, except the driver's license. Don't panic, you will get them back, but they will come in separate mailings from your passport.

9) I would not consider it amiss to take along at least a good photo of the kitchen sink. If nothing else, you may make the acceptance staff laugh, which they are surely in need of.

10) on which note: bring along your patience. There are sure to be people ahead of you in line, quite possibly people who are upset and nervous. Soothing music, phone games, a hip flask, whatever gets you through.

Personally, I'd schedule a stop by the pub in the way home, to celebrate wending your way through all that bureaucracy. *lifts her glass* Good luck!
branchandroot: one tree in an open field (calm solitary tree)
isolohr:

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© Jürgen Heckel

This pine forest picture reminded me.

Back when I was in 7th grade, I went to a week-long camp, having spent a month or two stumping around the neighborhood with my grade-mates selling overpriced cheese and meat products to raise the money. It was a standard summer type camp, for the most part, but with odd “educational” things pasted on here and there.

One of those things was an extremely peculiar exercise that involved having the whole camp draw cards to see what “animal” we were, and then being turned loose in the patch of forest behind the camp to run around (without maps) variously “mating with” or “preying on/being preyed on” by each other. At the end of the game, we would be scored based on how often we’d “mated,” “fed,” or “died.”

Yeah, looking back I kind of wonder what the organizers were smoking, too.

But that wasn’t the most peculiar part. No, the strangest part was that, after clattering around the deciduous area, rubbing our animal-name cards against each other (our rather embarrassed consensus gesture for mating) or else gingerly negotiating to reveal what animal we were preparatory to either running like fuck or chasing like mad, a lot of us came out into a small pine forest. Like the one pictured above, it was old and established, with straight trunks going up quite a ways before branches reached for the sun, and several inches of old needles turning the ground soft and silent underfoot.

And in that area, we all just… stopped. Stopped “mating” and “preying” and just wandered around in the quiet green and gold light, nodding silently at each other now and then, “rabbits” leaning against old trunks next to “wolves” just… being.

It was a suspended moment, in that bizarre “naturalistic” scenario, when we all just dropped aside our assigned hierarchy, ignored the prompts of the teachers, and sat together.

And today, today when I’ve been crying at my desk on and off all day, when I’ve seen, not the normal one or two, but six emergency vehicles run past the window with sirens on, all of them ambulances, when views of my stories have skyrocketed and all I can do is be glad I can, in some small way, be there for someone… Today, I’m glad I remember this.

A bunch of kids, given permission, even directions, to be their rawest selves to each other, shrugging it all off, sitting together under the shelter of old evergreens, just being.

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