The end of Blaugust, a few lessons, and a look forward

This Blaugust challenge month is finally over. It’s been an interesting time for me — before this month I can’t even remember whether I’d posted two posts on consecutive days since starting the blog nine years ago, and now I have a full 31 days of posts. I’m not writing this particular post to blow my own horn though, but rather to go through a few lessons I’m taking away from this challenge (whether these are reasonable lessons to take away, you can be the judge) and to think aloud about the future. Starting with the lessons:

1) I can’t maintain a daily posting schedule.

This might seem like a strange conclusion to draw from this challenge since I’m on the brink of fulfilling my goal, but now I know just how much it takes to keep up a daily schedule. I actually had some help this month: a few extremely sleepless nights combined with a restlessness that wouldn’t let me even lie down at 1 am. Nothing else to do but come up with post ideas. I should note that these just happened by chance — I’m not loading myself up with caffeine (not too much of it, at least) or other substances to keep me going, I just can’t sleep very much some nights.

Aside from that restlessness and intermittent semi-insomnia, I just dug up a lot of post ideas that I normally wouldn’t run with or that I’d combine into one large post. I know Google doesn’t care much for the 3,000+ word posts I’ve been writing more of lately, and while Google can go fuck itself as far as I’m concerned since I don’t care that much about view count, I can’t exactly write those on a daily basis. If I were trying to monetize I’d probably adjust along those lines, since shorter and more frequent posting seems like the way to go for view count purposes (a nice hint for those who are going for monetization.) But my job is my job, and I don’t plan on getting a cent for my writing, not since I basically quit freelancing. In any case, I’ll be returning to a roughly weekly schedule in September, but it’s nice to know I can pull this daily schedule off on occasion at least, and I have a new respect for those who can hack it every day.

2) I can’t stop writing.

I already knew this, but this month just reinforced it. Writing is really the only thing I do that I both enjoy and am any good at at all. It also has a therapeutic effect on me. It might not be a coincidence that I started thinking about living an actual healthy not-killing-myself-slowly life in 2019, the same year I got serious about writing here and started connecting with other bloggers in the same spheres. I tried to take a break once a while back because of mental health sorts of concerns, but I ended up right back here a couple of weeks later.

That’s not to say a hiatus isn’t necessary for anyone to ever take. I’ve known bloggers who have taken them and returned after a month or two or even longer refreshed. People deal with their issues in various ways, and stepping away for a while might be yours. And stepping away from social media sure as hell can be a good idea too, and I’ll include myself in that. Scrolling on Twitter can exhaust the soul.

3) Online writing is still alive and well.

I also already knew this one, but hell if some people online don’t love to talk about how blogging is dead. Sure, podcasts have risen massively in popularity over the last decade — I’m a regular listener of a few history podcasts myself. The same is true of YouTube and streaming. But people aren’t done with reading, and I don’t believe they ever will be. Especially when Google still rules the Earth and directs users to our posts (assuming we’re lucky enough to have those posts on page 1 for the relevant search terms. I need to brush up on the SEO when I have some time.)

That’s about it. I’m not taking anything profound away from this month; I just had a good time with it and was happy to see other writers taking part. Maybe I’ll even do it again next year if I can scrape up 31 more post ideas like I miraculously did this month.

As for the rest of the year and beyond, I’ll be continuing with the pretty strong focus on anime. I’ve completed a few series that I still have to collect my thoughts about, and I have a few more I’m now watching and still more on that long backlog to get through. I also have plenty of games to dig through in the backlog, mostly on the shorter side. Games I actually have a hope of completing this year in other words.

I’m going to have a massive amount of work over the next four months, but I won’t stop writing here — my pace might slow a bit at times, but that’s all. For now, there’s nothing else to say except compliments to my fellow writers, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll continue to follow me.

Upcoming anime watchlist

I usually don’t write posts like these, but 1) I need one more post to fill up this daily August challenge before the big finale tomorrow and 2) next season has a lot of interesting anime to look forward to, more than usual in my case. The following info is taken from Livechart, which has been produced charts of airing anime for a long time now. Starting with:

Chainsaw Man

At the top of the list because it’s something new to me and looks amazing. I picked up and read the first volume of the manga, the story of Denji, a poor bounty hunter who kills demons to pay off his dead father’s yakuza debts. After being nearly killed himself, Denji makes a contract with his pet, a dog with a chainsaw for a face. After this contract is made, Denji and said dog are able to merge and create Chainsaw Man, basically Denji with a chainsaw for a face, who can regenerate his wounds (lucky thing since it also means he recovered all the bits he cut out and sold of himself to partially pay off that debt, ouch.)

I don’t have much idea what to expect given that I haven’t gotten too far into the series yet, but Denji is an interesting guy so far, and his relationship with the mysterious Makima looks like it’s going to be a central element.

Spy x Family (second cour)

Of course, yeah. If you need an explanation (i.e. you’re one of the few anime watchers who didn’t get roped into the series last season, or you don’t watch much anime and missed out) check out my review of the first cour. The second cour of 12 episodes starts airing this fall, and my expectations are high just like most everyone else’s.

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: 2nd Attack (season 2)

After a year and change, we’re finally getting an anime followup to the first season of Nagatoro. I’ve been reading the manga, one of only a couple I actively follow, so once again the story probably won’t be a surprise at all for me, but I’m still excited to see Nagatoro and her put-upon senpai return to the screen. This one is coming up this winter, starting in January 2023, but since I know I’ll be watching it anyway I figured I’d throw it onto the list too.

Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out! ω (season 2)

I’m not quite as excited about Uzaki-chan coming back, since I wasn’t crazy about the first season back in 2020. Then again, I didn’t exactly dislike it either, and I feel just invested enough in this slow-burn romance (on top of Nagatoro, Takagi-san, and whatever the hell is going on between Loid and Yor in Spy x Family, not to mention between Damian and Anya) that I’ll check out the second season this fall. Clever use of a Greek letter too, though I don’t think the ω here is meant to mean omega but rather one of those anime cat smiles.

Teasing Master Takagi-san: The Movie

Speaking of Takagi-san, the movie I brought up in my review of the show’s third season a few days ago is listed as releasing on November 15. It’s already played in theaters, so this refers to its Blu-ray and DVD debut. Not sure if it’s getting a release on stream as well, but I’ll get my hands on it as soon as possible either way.

Urusei Yatsura (2022)

And finally for something very different: a remake of Urusei Yatsura, from what I understand a series about a hot alien demon girl who comes to Earth with her friends to take it over, only she falls in love with a human guy. I guess Urusei Yatsura is a sci-fi romantic comedy from that description, which sounds like a good enough time to me to check out. The anime first aired in the 80s, based on a manga that started in the 70s — a real classic. Even though I won’t have the perspective of an old fan watching a remake that may or may not screw up the original material, it will be interesting to see how the new series is handled and to hear from people who are familiar with the original.

In addition to my still agonizingly long backlog, that’s what I’ve got to look forward to right now. There are also plenty of other interesting-looking sequels coming out as well for series I just haven’t gotten to on my list (Mob Psycho, Vinland Saga.) Damn, there’s really too much to watch. I hope I can catch up on all this stuff after I’m dead, because it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it before my final day whenever that is.

I’m on a slice-of-life binge right now, but I’m sure I’ll get back to the more intense anime later on. Maybe after I finish K-On!, which really feels like required watching for me at this point.

See you tomorrow for the final post of the month!

Historical drama film review, pt 3 of ?: Der Untergang (Downfall)

Now here’s a heavy subject, just about the heaviest featured on the site in a while. I couldn’t pass by this historical drama review series without bringing up the German film Der Untergang, or Downfall, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. I saw this in the theater when it aired in 2004 and remembered being extremely impressed by the whole film: the acting, atmosphere, everything seemed perfectly done. I rewatched it not long ago, so I can report to you on whether I think it held up.

Downfall is set in Berlin in April and May of 1945. If you know your history, you’ll know this wasn’t a great time for the city. After over five years of constant war throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific, a war that at least in Europe was sparked by the aggression of the Nazi government based in Berlin, the German capital was finally having that war brought home. The film recounts many of the important events of this brief period, mostly surrounding the political situation — while some of the action takes place in the streets in the thick of the Battle of Berlin, more of it occurs in the Führerbunker, Hitler’s underground hideout in the center of the city’s government district.

This focus makes sense, since the story itself is based largely on two primary accounts, the memoirs of Nazi architect and minister of armaments Albert Speer and Hitler’s personal secretary Traudl Junge, both present in the bunker and around Hitler just before and in Junge’s case after his suicide. Both survived long past the war, with Speer living until 1981 after serving twenty years for his crimes at Spandau Prison. Both were also apparently very open about the monstrous nature of the regime, and if Downfall is any indication of the personally monstrous nature of Adolf Hitler as well.*

Not that Hitler needs any introduction. He’s one of the few guys in history whose name is automatically used to mean massive, unimaginable evil. One of the most impressive aspects of Downfall then is how it humanizes the dictator while not pretending he was anything other than horrifically twisted and evil. Famous German actor Bruno Ganz plays Hitler and does an amazing job at transforming into the man, and the version of him by the end of the war suffering from nervous ailments that left him a shaking mess.

This “humanization” again shouldn’t be mistaken for sympathy. I think people do a real disservice to history and to all the people who suffered through the war and its crimes and persecutions by treating Hitler like a sort of storybook monster or demon instead of what he was: a man. Again, a twisted and evil man, but I think people sometimes want to brush over the obvious fact that Hitler was a man out of a belief that no human could really be so evil (and the same goes for his nemesis Stalin, or for any other murderous and oppressive dictator.) Downfall forces us to look at the man as he was, at least according to the accounts of two people very close to him in different ways.

The other aspects of the film are also excellent. Downfall isn’t just a recitation of events but tells several stories revolving around the central character of Hitler and the regime built upon him and that would die with him. Many of the events in the bunker are shocking enough, with Hitler’s lieutenants and functionaries and his long-time girlfriend Eva Braun doing their best to cope with their imminent deaths or arrests. Downfall starts with a brief prologue in 1942 in East Prussia, right around Germany’s period of greatest territorial gain and before it started getting rolled back, but the main part of the story begins around Hitler’s final birthday on April 20, 1945. Despite the Soviet Red Army rolling in and shelling Berlin to hell, Braun and the remaining inner circle still hold a small party in his honor while the man himself is holed up in his office.

Meanwhile on the streets above, Berlin is being treated as a “front city”, and with Hitler’s remaining regular forces tied up fighting off the Soviet wave, the city’s children and old men are pressed into service carrying out street-to-street battles. Much of the early part of Downfall is centered on the impossibility of the Nazi regime’s survival contrasted with Hitler’s delusional hopes that it can stand — that one of his generals will coordinate an attack that somehow throws the Soviets out of the city and back to the east. Even after his hopes are dashed, however, he has no mercy for his own people and refuses to surrender, instead planning out his own suicide and the transfer of his powers to his remaining highest loyal officer, the infamous propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

If you were around on YouTube ten years ago or so, you’ve probably seen one of the hundreds of parodies of the above scene (or of the Fegelein scene) in which Hitler rants about being banned from XBox Live or a furry convention or whatever he happens to be angry about that day. Even though Bruno Ganz wasn’t a big fan of these parodies from what I’ve heard, and I completely understand that, it might be a testament to just how immersive this film is that people loved these scenes enough to use them for purposes totally unrelated to World War II. There’s something fascinating to me about watching a world crumble like the Nazis’ world does in Downfall, even if that downfall was truly deserved and far too long in coming. Even in this world, with some of its well-deserved deaths, there’s some true tragedy — see the fates of the Goebbels’ young children at the hands of their own parents.

Then there are the civilians of Berlin. It’s an interesting point that might not be obvious just from watching this film, but Hitler by all accounts disliked Berlin. He made his real home in Bavaria after leaving his native Austria and even makes a point of hiring Traudl Junge in the film’s first scene because she’s from Munich. Berlin by contrast was long resistant to him, a center of “decadent art” and of democratic and left-wing politics during the Weimar Republic era before the Nazis rubbed out all non-underground opposition in 1933-34. Hitler’s ultimate plan for the capital was its complete rebuilding into a neo-classical monster called Germania, the plans for which we see in an early scene still above ground between Hitler and Speer.

Considering all that, it might make more sense why Hitler was so willing to sacrifice Berlin, even if he did stay in the capital himself to die. Or maybe not — maybe Hitler would have just as readily sacrificed any people around him to hang on for another day before ending his life. I’m not a historian, but it’s an interesting question. All Germans in any case, whether they’d voted for the Nazis when Germany still had free elections or not, and whether they supported Hitler’s violent policies against the Jews and others he considered undesirables or not, fell into the hands of the Allies after the war ended, experiencing various fates depending on whose hands they were in (i.e. hopefully not the Soviets’, though considering how Germany treated the Russians and allied nations on the eastern front, some brutality in return had to be expected.)

To me, that’s just another mark of the evil of Hitler and his top officials, that in the end they didn’t even give a damn for their own people’s lives. One of the mitigating facts that saved the high Nazi official Speer from the death penalty or a life sentence when he went on trial in Nuremberg in 1946 was his sabotage of destructive orders as Germany lost the war that would have caused further suffering. I don’t think you can call any single person in Hitler’s inner circle anything near a “good” person, but there are different degrees of amorality and evil, or at least enough that the court at Nuremberg recognized a difference between them.**

Whether such matters of honor made a difference to the millions of already dead victims is a different question, but that question doesn’t go ignored in Downfall even if it’s not directly addressed by it, with Goebbels declaring to Junge his continued belief that it was all the Jews’ fault, everything. Nothing like blaming your victims for your own destruction.

So it’s a heavy post today, but I do recommend Downfall to anyone interested in the time period. I just wish we had more works set in Weimar-era Germany — now that was an interesting time, and also a tragic one considering how unstable it was and how the fragile interwar German democracy was brought down from the inside. Not a bad lesson for the future, either.

 

* Important to note here that Speer has been accused of fabricating parts of his memoirs to clean up his own reputation and image. As far as I’ve heard, the parts of Downfall based on his memoirs are pretty much accurate, however — there would have been enough people also involved who survived, like Junge, to corroborate those parts of the story.

** From a legal standpoint, the Nuremberg trials are also fascinating. I’ve heard arguments that they were illegitimate because they applied human rights principles retroactively, or ex post facto in legal jargon, to the Nazi defendants. However, there’s plenty of argument to make that the Nazis were well aware of the horrific nature of their crimes to the extent that the “superior orders” defense shouldn’t have been sufficient to save them — see all the way back to the 15th century and the trial of Peter von Hagenbach. Was Nuremberg victors’ justice? There might have been some of that involved, but the extraordinary nature of the crimes committed demanded this response. That’s my argument, anyway, and it’s not an especially brave or out-there stance to take.

Writing in hiding

Okay, “in hiding” is way too dramatic. There have been writers who have actually had to hide out of fear of being harassed or even murdered (as we saw last week.) What I’m talking about here is far more mundane and less of an actual issue, but one that I still think a lot of people who write online have to deal with: the matter of who to let in on your writing in your offline life. For some people, I think this isn’t an issue at all — either you’re writing on subjects that you feel people won’t have any issues with, or your friends, colleagues, and family are cool to the point that nothing you write about will faze them, or alternatively you just don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of you and your interests.

None of the above is true for me, and I’m guessing it’s not for a lot of writers here. Most of us have to be at least a little selective about who we let in on that we write online, since those old questions can follow: what do you write about, do you have a site/blog, where is it so I can follow it. Sometimes all these might just be polite questions that the person asking will never follow up on, but you never know when you’re talking to that rare one who might actually look your work up.

Not quite my work. I wish I had this kind of talent.

This partly links back to a post I wrote a few days ago about getting more personal. One of the reasons I think I get personal about certain issues on this blog is that I can’t do so in real life. We all have matters we can and can’t talk about with certain people — some only with close friends, some only with family (or excluding family, another important point.) And some require a kind of partial anonymity at least to talk about.

I can find at least a few reasons why I can’t share this site with anyone I know in real life. I’ve recently brought up my past issues with drinking, for example. This was a matter I felt I had to get off my chest, especially since I was going through a rough spot a few weeks ago, but most of my “real-life” friends only have a faint idea of the problem, and my family has never had any idea about it since I’ve always hidden it from them — it’s not so easy admitting to issues with alcoholism when drinking alcohol is considered not just a bad idea but a sin, a breaking of God’s direct commands. Following up on that, I’ve questioned some forms of religious belief in a couple of posts where I felt my views on it were relevant, another reason to not let on to any of my family about this blog. And of course, worst of all, I’ve reviewed games like Nekopara. That last one is probably enough to get me raked across the coals on Twitter assuming anyone even knew who I was or gave a shit about me, but far worse for people I actually know to draw some uncharitable conclusions about me (baseless ones, of course, but you know how it is.)

This screenshot has never been so relevant.

All of the above is even more relevant to my fiction. I’m not exactly Mr. Grimdark — I find that kind of excess pretty embarrassing really, unless there’s a good reason for it. But my stories are also fairly weird as you might imagine. I don’t really need to hear people asking if I’m okay assuming, again, any of them were to read what I wrote instead of just feigning polite interest (the answer: no, I’m not really okay, but there’s nothing much either of us can do about that and this is part of how I’m coping with it. Best not even to open that door.)

For these reasons, I don’t tell anyone I know in my day-to-day offline life about this blog — even if I might trust one friend enough to “get it”, you know how this kind of shit can magically spread and suddenly you’re hearing your aunt ask about something you wrote and forgot about five years ago. And just for good measure, I’ve never posted my name or face here or on social media connected with this site either. Again, I don’t think I’m in a special situation here: I think doxxing is a concern partly for these reasons on top of the potential for harassment that comes along with it.

All that said, I’d like to reach a point in my life where I don’t feel the need to conceal my interests. Bisque Doll had the right idea about that, but in some ways it really feels like a fantasy to me. In the end, I don’t have it so bad, really, but I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never be able to live as openly as I like. Now I just wish I could convince my family that I actually have “real” hobbies and don’t simply work and sleep without getting into all of the above. To readers and fellow writers, I hope you’re having an easier time with this than I’ve had, or else that you truly just don’t give a fuck and can live your life the way you like.

A review of Teasing Master Takagi-san (S3)

I had to clean my brain out after watching Pupa, and maybe you have to clean your brain out after reading what I wrote about it yesterday. So what better way to do that than finishing the third season of Teasing Master Takagi-san? The most wholesome romantic comedy anime on Earth continued its run in early 2022. And it’s wholesome and cute and all that, sure, but also so cleverly written to not be overflowing with cheese and sap. None at all, in fact, because the sweet parts are more than earned after the many (still pretty innocent) cat-and-mouse mind games between the two leads.

This post may be on the shorter side since I’ve already covered the essentials of the series and my thoughts on it in my review of the first two seasons (here, back when either a third season wasn’t yet announced or I just didn’t know about it.) The brief rundown if you haven’t watched those seasons or read that post is that Teasing Master Takagi-san / Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san is about the friendship and budding romance between middle school students Nishikata, the boy on the right on the poster, and Takagi, the girl on the left. What makes Takagi-san unique is the dynamic between these two: they’re friends, but Nishikata also has a massive crush on Takagi but doesn’t quite realize it. Takagi seems to feel the same way about him and hints as much, but always in subtle ways. (Also general spoilers ahead for the season’s ending, so if you care about that, I’ll just recommend the series right now.)

“Subtle” is relative in this case, though Nishikata isn’t any denser than your typical male protagonist in these stories and gets a pass for still being a kid anyway.

Takagi also loves teasing Nishikata. Her teasing is usually pretty light and good-natured, but Nishikata is still desperate to get back at Takagi by defeating her in contests of all sorts that they think up for each other. These usually involve some kind of trick or shortcut that Takagi understands before Nishikata picks up on it, or that alternatively Nishikata thinks he understands until he realizes he’s blundered his way into Takagi’s trap. In short, Takagi can usually read Nishikata’s mind and predict his next move.

But on occasion Nishikata surprises her, and that’s when we get the real payoff, especially when it comes to their slowly advancing relationship. Middle school is a chaotic time in most kids’ lives, and part of that has to do with the discovery of romantic love, even if it’s just understood in a basic sort of way. Some of Takagi and Nishikata’s classmates show up and play supporting roles in the show, and while they have their own side stories that we drop in on occasionally (especially the parallel slow-burn romance between the tsundere Hojo and slightly less tsundere Hamaguchi) they also sometimes notice and comment on the relationship between the leads. By this point they pretty much consider the pair a couple, reasonable to assume even if it’s not “official” since they spend so much time together.

Say ahhh: Nishikata receiving a lotus root from Takagi’s lunch. I’ve never had lotus root, and this makes me curious about how it tastes.

This third season of the anime follows a similar pattern to the last two, most of taken up by the contests these two invent to test each other and with a couple of those big payoff moments in the middle and at the very end of the season that I won’t spoil here, except to say they’re done well and again are totally earned. The remainder of the season is filled out by that more typical slice-of-life comedy stuff we also got in the first two seasons, mostly featuring the antics of those three friends Mina, Yukari, and Sanae that I may have been too harsh on in that first review. I still don’t find those sequences all that funny, but it’s not bad to get a few minutes’ break from all the cat-and-mouse mind games, teasing, and intense blushing.

It might seem a bit weird that Takagi-san is set in middle school where most of these sorts of school-based slow-burn romantic comedies are set in high school, but I think this setting works perfectly for what manga author Soichiro Yamamoto is going for. I’ve seen a few complaints about how much of a shit Nishikata can be sometimes, and while I get that annoyance, a lot of that can be attributed to him being a middle school boy who still has some maturing to do in comparison with Takagi. It makes a lot of sense for him to be a little dense and embarrassed about romantic affairs at his age — really Takagi seems like the outlier here, being unusually perceptive and mature and seeming to create a path for Nishikata that she already knows he’ll follow, at the same time being patient about it. And Nishikata is following that path slowly: it’s clear that he really does care for Takagi’s feelings and drops his somewhat childish “I have to defeat her!” attitude when matters get serious.

Takagi’s plan never includes dressing up like a cow, this is just part of a Nishikata dream sequence. I just liked this screenshot and wanted to use it.

The only other aspect of this third season that stands out to me is its serious advancement of this central relationship. Takagi-san isn’t finished, so that big “confession scene” that everyone’s expecting doesn’t occur, but we get something pretty close to it in the final episode, with Nishikata finally realizing that he might have been in love this whole time and that Takagi’s been dropping hints that weren’t just for the purpose of teasing him and watching him turn red (though they were for that reason too, since Takagi clearly enjoys seeing him embarrassed when they’re alone together.) As usual, the show pulls this off in a clever way, connecting back to events earlier in the season and even in past seasons.

No, it looks like that big ending might be coming in the movie, which just opened a couple of months ago in Japan and even got an extremely limited-time release in the US which I naturally missed. Not that I’d really want to see Takagi-san in the theater anyway, since I don’t know anyone in real life who would also want to watch a romantic comedy anime, and this is absolutely not the sort of movie I’d want to see in the theater alone. And I’m the type who usually has no problem seeing movies in the theater alone because really who gives a shit, but you know, Takagi-san is different — it really feels like one for couples to bond over, just like the in-show romantic comedy anime movie Takagi and Nishikata themselves attend while Nishikata pretends they’re still not really a couple. Now I’m wondering whether all this was planned out.

For bonus points, see the movie with your friend while you’re both on the edge of admitting you’re really in love with each other and see what happens afterwards. Just don’t blame me for the consequences if it doesn’t work out.

Of course I still have to see the movie, but it’s not out on any of the streaming services quite yet. Judging by the reviews, fans loved it, so that’s great news, but I wouldn’t expect Mr. Yamamoto or the studio Shin-Ei to screw up at this point anyway. The manga is still releasing, so maybe the movie won’t even be an ending but just a lead-in to a fourth season, but I’m up for that too. Though hell, even the slow burn has to have an ending at some point.

Now for the only real problem with watching Takagi-san in the States (legally): those very same streaming services and whatever assholes are in charge of licensing the anime in North America. Because look: the first season of Takagi-san is hosted on Crunchyroll, the second season on Netflix, and the third season on HI-DIVE. Three services that you’ll have to pay for if you want to watch all of this series so far, and God knows if the movie will even get licensed. At this rate, flying the black flag doesn’t seem like such a bad idea (hypothetically, I’m not advocating for any particular action, etc. etc. Just saying I don’t understand why they’re doing this to fans here. And Takagi-san isn’t the only subject of this sort of chopping up, though it is the worst case I’ve seen so far. Maybe these guys were executioners in medieval Europe in their past lives for all the chopping up they seem to enjoy doing.)

No matter how you decide to watch Takagi-san, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did if you pick it up. Though instead of a fourth season of this series, I think I’d rather see a first season adaptation of Yamamoto’s sequel manga Karakai Jouzu no (Moto) Takagi-san, in which Takagi and Nishikata are married and have a daughter who joins in with her mom on playing light pranks on the poor guy. Because of course they’re going to get married, and of course Takagi won’t stop teasing Nishikata just because they’re married. But that’s probably just the way he’d want it anyway.

Anime short review: Pupa

Today it’s the final anime short review for the month. But I wanted to do something different this time: instead of finding a series I thought I might like, I started from the bottom ratings on fan rating and review anime catalogs Anilist and MAL. I’ve always had a fascination with horrible media (blame MST3K for that, maybe) and I’ve never really looked into the world of truly awful anime before now.

After filtering out the obviously tossed-off garbage and one short made almost entirely of still images, I found Pupa, a 2014 short horror series of 12 three-minute episodes. I’ve enjoyed and praised some anime scored just decently or even near middling on these sites, so I’m not the type to disregard a show because it isn’t a 10/10. Pupa is a far harder sell, however, with a score of 27% on Anilist and 3.30 on MAL — truly abysmal ratings and among the lowest on either site.

Pupa was produced by Studio DEEN, an actually sort of reputable anime studio. At least they’re reputable with someone, not with me, because I’ll never forgive them for what they did to Umineko. And now I have another reason to hate DEEN, because this anime really does live up to its terrible reviews. Pupa is absolute trash, though my reasons for hating it might be a little different from some other viewers’. (Also massive warning here because Pupa really is fucked. If you just ate or have a general aversion to reading about cannibalism and similar horrors, you may want to skip this post. And spoilers, but I doubt anyone cares this time.)

How cute, I’m sure nothing horrible will happen to these people

High school students and siblings Utsutsu and Yume Hasegawa have a hard life together, children of a broken family, but they love and care for each other. One day, Yume wanders alone onto a dark park on the way back from school and encounters a strange woman dressed all in black who tells her to beware of the red butterflies. Red butterflies immediately show up, and Yume is attacked by an exploding dog (I think? Hard to tell.) When Utsutsu shows up shortly after looking for Yume, he meets the same woman in black, Maria, who tells him his sister has changed and that she might not recognize him.

Let’s go home Yume, I’m sure you’ll still fit through the front door like this

Looking into the woods nearby, Utsutsu finds his sister transformed into a giant man-eating monster. He can tell it’s still Yume somehow, and he comforts her, but even though her consciousness is still inside the monster she can’t stop herself from eating her brother.

Fortunately (?) both Utsutsu and Yume have some kind of virus that allows them to endlessly regenerate wounds, so Utsutsu isn’t actually dead. He and Yume are both taken away by the lady in black who works at/for a shady organization that performs horrific genetic experiments. Yume has mysteriously changed back into her human form at this point (no, this is never explained) and while Maria tells Utsutsu she’ll let them go, she warns him that he’ll have to act as “live bait” for his sister since she still craves human flesh even in her normal-looking human form. Utsutsu loves Yume so much that he happily volunteers to be her dinner every day from now on, a lucky thing since he can also regenerate any flesh she eats.

Teddy bears are used in some scenes to simulate these terrible acts, but we’re also subjected to realistic depictions of them so I’m not sure I see the point

The story goes on from there with Utsutsu and Yume being hunted down by a rival shady organization that performs tests on Utsutsu for vague scientific reasons, and then Yume has to rescue him so they can continue living their happy, quiet life of consensual cannibalism. Maria has also harvested his semen and her eggs without their knowledge and has used them to birth a horrific incest monster, but we never learn why she does this, and it doesn’t matter anyway because said monster never even makes an appearance.

That’s Pupa, and I agree with the general consensus: it was shit. Not necessarily because it was about cannibalism, though. Part of why I was willing to give this any kind of chance is that Saya no Uta is one of my favorite visual novels, and that has plenty of instances of murder and human-eating (though not quite cannibalism in that story — it’s complicated) along with other horrific acts. The difference with Saya is that all its horror was included for a purpose and was perpetrated by characters I cared about against characters I mostly also cared about. The story also made sense and had an actual thought-out structure to it.

None of that is true of Pupa. By the end, I didn’t give a damn about any of these characters. Utsutsu and Yume’s backstory is so tragic as to be ridiculous, and every other character save their mother is a massive piece of shit, and even the mother just disappears without much of an explanation so she doesn’t matter either.

Sorry Mom, you deserved better than this

Yume is at the center of Pupa, but her virus and the powers she gains from it aren’t clearly defined either. First she transforms into a giant monster, but then never mind, now she’s a human who has to eat other humans to survive. But now she has to save her brother, so she has the power to grow tentacle-wings out of her back and attack people with them. And she went through these transformations in the first episode after being infected by a virus or looking at red butterflies or something, but no, she was actually born a monster who feeds on flesh, which her mother realized before she even gave birth.

Pupa makes no fucking sense and doesn’t seem to care. This complete mess of a story means that every horrific act in the show (i.e. about 90% of the show’s running time) is completely pointless and gratuitous, the worst offender being episode six, which is simply an extended scene of Yume eating Utsutsu’s flesh. Add on top of that the generally incestuous feel of the story, which is made absolutely clear in the second-to-last episode. And then just as an added fuck you, the show has the nerve to give us this screen:

Translation: “Which is a dream? Which is reality?” Fuck you, Pupa. You don’t get to give me a load of bullshit and then wave it away like this (and yeah I know dream is yume and maybe it’s a reference to her name, but that doesn’t make this any better.) And while I’m at it fuck Studio DEEN again for the Umineko adaptation.

I could mention the low production quality too, but that’s the least of this show’s concerns. It might even be for the best that it looks pretty cheap. Somehow Pupa aired on television, which might explain some of the extremely strange instances of censoring with rays of light and patches of darkness. Not much point covering up Yume’s teeth tearing at her brother when we can hear her chewing and swallowing him. I thought I had a strong stomach, but it was really tested by Pupa, and for absolutely no payoff.

So would I recommend Pupa? Holy God no I wouldn’t. It’s garbage, and I don’t even recommend watching it out of morbid curiosity, because in the end it’s pointless and kind of boring given that the plot goes nowhere. To be totally fair to its original author, Pupa is an adaptation of a manga that I’ve heard might actually have some merit to it — I’m guessing this three-minute episode format mangled what may have originally been a coherent narrative. I can see how the elements of Pupa might make for an interesting story if told properly, and assuming you do have the nerves for it.

I don’t think I have any nerves remaining, so I won’t be reading the manga myself, but if you’re a fan of horrific cannibal stories with creepy sexual/incestuous undertones then you might want to check it out. Might be less stomach-turning than The 120 Days of Sodom at least. And if you’re somehow required by contract or a dare to watch one of these episodes, pick the last one, because it’s actually nice and cute and has nothing to do with the rest of the story. I might have even liked it a bit if not for everything that came before it.

The personal touch

Three years ago, I was agonizing over how much objectivity I should be going for in my reviews. I took the examples of old-school (at least now they would be old-school, I guess) independent internet music critics George Starostin and Mark Prindle, two guys whose work I equally admired but who had very different approaches. Even though I’d had this blog since 2013, I never really thought much about this question or about my own writing here until about 2019, and by that time I’d realized that a lot of what I had written previously wasn’t that great — I felt this kind of self-examination would help improve my work here.

Well now it’s three years later, and I don’t know whether I’ve improved at all. I “solved” the problem of how I should use ratings in my reviews by not using ratings anymore, and as for the Starostin/Prindle spectrum or whatever you’d call it, I think I’ve more or less fallen somewhere in the middle of it. Not exactly by choice — I write most of my posts in a nearly stream-of-consciousness style, usually all at once or maybe in two sittings and with barely any editing, which probably explains a lot of the mistakes and post-posting edits I end up having to make. So I can’t say I’m really thinking very consciously about how objective or subjective I’m being in a review, but I write in what I feel is a natural way.

One question I still wonder about, and that this Blaugust daily posting challenge raised for me, is how personal I should be in these posts. I’ve written about some personal matters this month, but the fact is this has always been partly a personal blog — I complain about my petty problems sometimes, but I also try to connect with readers on some personal level. I think the enjoyment of art, in a very broad sense what my site is all about, can’t be separated from the person talking about it. Our personalities affect how we see art, after all; it’s not just impossible to view art in an objective vacuum but would be useless even if it were possible.

But then I still want to keep readers’ interest, and I can’t pretend I’m someone anyone should give a flying fuck about. One of the things that annoys me about a few prominent anime YouTubers, for instance, is their tendency to let their personalities overshadow whatever anime they’re actually talking about. As much as I liked Mark Prindle’s reviews, he could also fall into this very occasionally, talking about family problems or his feelings about religion for three paragraphs in a totally unrelated album review. That was just his style and something you had to expect from him, and it was rare that he’d go into that kind of personal depth in a way that wasn’t actually connected to the music he was talking about from what I remember, but it was still noticeable.

Then again, I might have done the same on this site. I think it’s best to maintain a balance in these cases, anyway, and I’ll do my best to keep that balance. None of this is to say fully personal blogs are bad — they can be interesting, but that’s also not what I’m going for, and anyway I present this site as a game, anime, and sometimes music review/analysis blog, and presumably that’s what most people come here for. And that’s what I want to give readers: my feelings and opinions about art. But again, I don’t think it’s possible to talk about art without getting a little personal at least, unless you’re going for an extremely dry sort of “here’s what this work is composed of and when it was made” sort of wiki style that I have no interest in doing myself, because it would be personally boring for me to write and wouldn’t provide any value to readers.

As a side question to the writers reading: how personal do you like to get in your posts? We all have different styles, so it might be interesting to gauge that here.

Why live-action adaptations don’t generally work for me (featuring the newly announced Gravity Rush film)

A few days ago, news came out on Twitter about an upcoming Gravity Rush film to be directed by Anna Mastro. I don’t know anything about Mastro’s work, so despite some nerves surrounding the announcement, I don’t want to just write off this new project even considering how poor game-to-film adaptations tend to be. Part of that may just be wishful thinking, though I’ve also heard Mastro is pretty fine at directing (not that I’d know right now since I have no interest in whatever Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is, but people seem to like her anyway.)

My concern right now (aside from the fact that Sony dismantled Japan Studio and effectively killed the game series this film is based on) is that the Gravity Rush film is going to be live-action. According to the articles I’ve read so far, nobody knows yet whether this is an animated or live-action project, but looking through Mastro’s resume on IMDB doesn’t give me much hope that it will be animated. It could be, but would Sony take on a director who works on live-action projects to helm an animated one? Maybe they would, but it seems like a weird choice if so.

Kat exploring her new home city, from the remastered Gravity Rush made for the PS4

For those who haven’t played the games, the Gravity Rush series opens with the protagonist Kat, a girl with amnesia who has the power to bend gravity around her, allowing her to float and fly through the air. Technically she’s falling up/sideways, but she also has plenty of special moves in the games that are useful in combat. Kat is tasked with using these abilities to protect her new home from a mass of alien-looking creatures that show up to attack it, and she soon becomes famous as the “Gravity Queen” despite her wish to remain low-key. She also has a rival, Raven, with similar powers who shows up in the first game and features more prominently in the second.

So then what’s the problem with a live-action take on these games? Aside from the extremely long track record of abysmal game-to-film projects running for decades now, I’m afraid that the style of Gravity Rush just won’t translate into live action. The game’s setting is an interesting mix of halfway realistic-looking sort of steampunk and fantasy — I’m not sure whether you’d call it science fiction, but either way it has a unique look that I’d much prefer to see in animation.

Casting is also a concern. Gravity Rush has a sort of cult popularity: fans love it, but unfortunately the series doesn’t seem to have found broad appeal, maybe in part because it debuted on the Vita (a system I still swear by, but then I’m a JRPG fan.) Partly for that reason, whatever actresses are signed on to play Kat and Raven in particular are going to have to fit the bill perfectly, both to satisfy old rabid fans (and I include myself as rabid, sure) and to attract new ones. I don’t have anyone in mind just because I pretty rarely watch live-action movies and don’t follow the Hollywood scene at all, so maybe there are actresses who would be perfect fits, but they sure as hell would have their work cut out for them. Again, I think going with animation would just be a better idea in general.

Flying through the air. I only had screenshots from the first game around, but the second one looks amazing and is a lot of fun to play as well. And yeah I used Kat’s catsuit costume about 80% of the time I played the first game, what did you expect?

I’m not saying Gravity Rush absolutely can’t work in live action, because I don’t know that for a fact. Despite being Japanese-made, the games take some influence from American comics, even featuring western comic book-styled dialogue and action cutscenes between each chapter. Marvel’s done an excellent job translating their comic characters and stories into live action over the last decade plus from what I hear and from the few of them I’ve seen myself, so maybe a live-action Gravity Rush would also work, though it doesn’t have quite the same style as those western comics have. We’ve also seen a couple of movies out recently that actually pulled off the game-to-film transition decently, shockingly including Sonic the Hedgehog (and I still haven’t seen the sequel yet — it’s on my list to watch.)

Whether the film turns out to be animated or live-action, I’ll watch it if it comes out. I want to be positive about something for once, holy hell. And maybe, just maybe, this new Gravity Rush project is a sign that we might get a Gravity Rush 3, and hopefully from the same people who did such a bang-up job with the first two? Now I’m feeling like replaying the series from the start. See you tomorrow with a new post.

Don’t go to law school*: A lament and a warning

This Blaugust challenge has given me a lot to think about. For example, how should I fill up an entire month with daily posts when I can normally barely manage a weekly schedule? I hope I’ve done well this month with not too much tossed off bullshit.

There is one matter I’ve never really touched on the site, or not in much detail at least. It’s an issue I’ve been thinking about for almost ten years, just about as long as I’ve had the blog up, but since it wasn’t really related to the blog’s subject matter I never wrote about it. Now seems as good a time as any, though, since I’m trying to finish out this month of daily posts, so here it is: don’t go to law school.

This will take some explanation as you can tell from the length of the scroll bar, so prepare

I guess I could have ended this post with its title, but there are a few more important points and clarifications I should make. That’s what the asterisk in the title is for, since there are always some exceptions. First, I’m talking about American law school in this post because that’s the kind I attended and the only one I’m familiar with. I’ve heard that attorneys in Europe and other parts of the world major in law in university and don’t necessarily have to pursue an advanced degree past that stage like we do here (I’d say a law degree in the US, a JD or Juris Doctor, is roughly equivalent to a master’s degree — we’re not doctors despite the degree’s formal name, though we do get the right to that fancy Esquire title upon passing the bar exam that I’ve never used once in my life.) I’ve also heard the Canadian system of law schools is similar to ours, but I don’t know nearly enough about the situation in Canada to address it.

But I can speak to the situation down here, which is utter dogshit. I’ve been reading recently that law school admissions are down in the US. To any younger American lawyer or law grad who’s grown up in this environment, this should be no surprise at all. For those who don’t know the profession, here’s a very rough rundown of the typical path to becoming a licensed attorney (obligatory note: nothing in this post is professional advice and don’t rely on it, do your own research, it’s all based on personal experience.)

1) Get a bachelor’s degree. It doesn’t matter what kind, but given law’s emphasis on reading, writing, and rhetoric, most people go for something in history, political science (this was mine), or English, something in the humanities. Master’s degrees, MBAs and the like are also fine if you happen to have them, but not necessary at all. If you’re STEM, depending on your focus, you might also be able to break into patent law, which most of us are practically barred from.

2) Take the LSAT. As the name suggests, this is sort of a much harder and more frustrating SAT only without the math, designed specifically for law school admissions. It’s administered several times a year and scored on a scale from 120 to 180. Anything above a 160 is generally considered respectable, though if you can break the 170 mark you’ll be in a much more secure position. It is possible to improve your performance somewhat by studying and practicing on old exams and samples, and many candidates sit for the exam up to three times to try for a higher score.

3) Apply. This is a real pain in the ass and requires you to submit a lot of documents and transcripts similar to what you had to do for college admissions, only this time you probably won’t have a school counselor to walk you through the whole process.

This part of the process is filled with traps and pitfalls. Most law schools aren’t worth attending (more on that below) and charge insanely high tuition. Many students aim for the very top elite schools (Yale, Stanford, and Harvard being at the top of that pyramid) but if you can get in-state tuition at a respectable public law school, that may be your best bet. Though note that some states’ “in-state tuition” is still unforgivably high (California being the worst offender. In-state at 50K a year, huh? Why even bother with the distinction at that point?)

4) Get accepted and make it through three years of law school. Easier said than done.

5) Pass the bar exam. Also easier said than done. On top of your almost certainly extortionary tuition, you’ll have to pay out the ass for a bar prep course, money that goes to many of the same companies that run SAT and LSAT prep courses. Kaplan and their competitors are scavengers that feed off of the corpse of the rotting American post-secondary educational system.

If you fail the bar your first time, it’s not the end of the world — unless your new legal job is tied to your passing it, that is. But there’s really no shame in failing once otherwise. The exam tends to be pretty difficult, specific difficulty depending on the state, and pass rates are typically around 60-65% and sometimes even lower.

Failing twice is another matter. You can theoretically take the exam as many times as you need to pass it, but eventually it can become both a running joke and a waste of time. This has unfortunately happened to law school grads before.

That’s, again, a very very rough guide to becoming a licensed attorney. Note that I didn’t say an employed licensed attorney, however. Because even passing the bar absolutely does not guarantee you a job. Maybe it did back in the 80s, but it doesn’t now and hasn’t for a long time.

Here’s one piece of advice you’ll hear over and over if you seek it out (say on one of the subreddits or the forum top-law-schools.com): if you want to attend law school in the US, you have to attend one with a great reputation. There are about 200 accredited law schools throughout the country, and of these maybe a few dozen are worth attending, and even then only under the right circumstances, i.e. a serious reduction in tuition for merit because you got a high LSAT score and have a high or at least a respectable undergrad GPA. Or maybe you got into your local paper because you saved several children from a burning building, but even that might not help you out here.

Make no mistake: numbers matter here. American law schools live and die by their US News & World Report rankings. This list is reissued once a year and is based largely on the average LSAT scores and GPAs of incoming and recent students. Partly for this reason, schools with good reputations are very selective, and schools with stellar reputations won’t even bother considering you unless you have great numbers to show them. And no, they won’t give a shit about your great personality, unfortunately. An utter asshole with a 180 and a 4.0 GPA will excel in place of a decent person with more standard numbers (and note that Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis are Harvard Law grads if that tells you anything.)

Time to recycle this now even more relevant screenshot. The LSAT logic games are a massive pain in the ass, but you can and will learn them if you’re taking the exam.

Yes, there are a ton of American law schools that will accept you without those great numbers, but these schools are almost without exception not worth attending because of their mediocre and in some cases abysmal bar passage rate and job placement numbers post-graduation. If you’re interested in any single law school, be sure to check their stats on Law School Transparency. Don’t believe the lies told by law school admissions officers who are only interested in securing your tuition funds. (Here I should add: I’ve known excellent lawyers who graduated from schools lower down in the rankings, and after a few years in the profession people care far more about your professional ability than the school you attended. The real problem is actually getting that experience to start with. It’s rough, but name and reputation absolutely matter at this point.)

But let’s say you make it through and manage to pass the bar and land a legal job. Great! Now you’re a working attorney. But is that something you really want to be? You’ve surely thought about the reasons you might want to get a law degree. I’ll run through a few of the most common reasons I’ve heard, both from fellow students in the past and from prospective ones. Here’s the template: I want to become a lawyer because…

I like to argue.

I’ve heard this one a lot. Often it seems tongue-in-cheek and there’s really more to it, but taking it at face value, this isn’t a great reason to become a lawyer. Sure, being an attorney can involve making a lot of arguments in briefs and possibly also in court depending on where you work and what you work at, but if this is really your reason for entering the profession, don’t. If you like to argue, then get on Twitter and argue. You don’t have to get an expensive and life-draining degree to do that.

Also, overly argumentative lawyers are pains in the ass. There’s being a zealous representative of your clients’ interests, which you’re duty-bound to be, and then there’s being an asshole, and the attorneys who consistently cross that line are widely hated in the profession. Usually hated by judges, too, and that’s something you want to absolutely avoid if at all possible.

I want money.

This is at least a refreshingly honest reason if you’re willing to openly admit to it. Some students are attracted by the money, after all. But it’s probably the worst reason of all to become a lawyer for the simple reason that this perceived “lawyer money” largely doesn’t exist. Back in the 80s and 90s, the profession may have been more lucrative, but it sure as hell isn’t now, and take that from someone who’s been in the legal job market for years now. The attorneys who make $120K+ salaries almost all work at big law firms, either straight out of school or after clerking for federal judges for a couple of years. Such jobs are difficult to get because of just how competitive the hiring process is, and if you’re not at an elite law school you’ll have a hard time unless you’re at the top of your class. Additionally, these attorneys are worked like dogs and are expected to bill massive hours, and as a result the long path to equity partnership at these firms (where the real money is) is littered with the bodies of burnouts.

No, most available legal jobs in the US are at small firms, government agencies, legal aid, and district attorney/public defenders’ offices and pay normal person salaries. I won’t tell you my own salary except to say that it’s regrettably not over $120K. It’s decent enough, but not more than what a lot of other “middle-class” professionals make, and certainly less than what a lot of my friends in IT make. If you want money, maybe consider IT instead? Because the vast majority of lawyers are not making amazing money and start closer to the 50-60K range. Some of these same jobs, particularly those at high-volume firms, will also work you to the bone and may even make you question the meaning of your own existence, and all without a commensurate salary (and again I speak from experience there.) If that’s shocking to you, then good — maybe you can rethink this reason for attending law school if that’s what you were aiming for.

Also consider that either way you may be saddled with hundreds of thousands in debt that you can’t even discharge with a bankruptcy. You probably won’t end up underground like Kaiji here, but it’s not much better.

You can do anything with a law degree.

Anyone who says the above to you is either misinformed or lying. A JD is a shackle; it chains you to law as a profession, and you can’t very easily break free from it if you decide you’re sick of law five or ten years down the line (a common angle taken by non-legal employers: “Why would you leave the lucrative and wonderful practice of law? You’ll just run back to a legal job at the first opportunity.” Both of which are complete misunderstandings as you can see above, but good luck convincing them otherwise.)

Though if you do manage to get out of the profession for something more lucrative and/or personally fulfilling, then God bless. I hear Hololive is taking audition submissions, and knowing Nijisanji they’ll be putting out about twelve more waves of VTubers in the next year. Your army of simps will pay you more in superchats and donations than your legal employer ever will. Just don’t ever, ever tell them you’re a lawyer. On top of the usual doxxing concerns, they will ask for legal advice in superchats and you absolutely do not want to risk creating an implied attorney-client relationship with GuraFan_420_69.*

I want to be a respected professional.

Nobody respects lawyers, and a lot of people downright hate us. If you care about what society thinks of you, do something else with your life.

Okay, this answer is partly a joke, but not entirely, because this is still a bad reason for studying law. Entering a profession just because of its perceived respectability, often at the insistence of family, is a terrible idea. I say that fully understanding how difficult it can be to withstand that kind of pressure. Just remember that you’ll be the one going through this ordeal, not them.

I want to help people.

Out of all the common reasons for attending law school, I think this one is the best. As an attorney, you can become uniquely positioned to help your fellow human, especially today in the United States where certain rights that many consider fundamental are being dissolved (yeah, I already got political here with the Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis comment so whatever.) Aside from that extra-publicized issue (and rightly so) of reproductive rights, there are all sorts of issues to deal with in the fields of immigration (bonus points here if you speak a second language commonly found in the US like Spanish), labor, and landlord-tenant relations.

However, there’s another warning to heed here: getting into these areas can be difficult depending upon where you’re starting out. For one, they don’t pay that well (as you might imagine, since your clients generally won’t be rich.) Legal aid organizations do exist around the country and keep attorneys on staff, but these also don’t pay much. If you’re thinking that might make it easier to get those jobs, however, think again, because even low-paying legal aid organizations have selective hiring processes. And if you’re in a position where you can barely feed yourself on top of paying your probably large student loan debt, you won’t be in much of a position to help others. Still, if you can make it work, legal aid is an excellent calling, and if you’re instead in a traditional firm, taking pro bono work after you’re established is a great way to give back to the community.

I don’t know what else to do.

The final reason I’ll be considering, and another bad one. This was also my reason. I wasn’t sure what else to do with a fucking political science degree anyway. I certainly didn’t take it into politics, which I am thankful for at least.

All that said, does the title of this post still hold up? I’d say it does as long as you keep the exceptions in mind. I believe that likely most Americans thinking about law school now shouldn’t apply for it. That group might have even included me ten years ago, but I’m stuck in the profession now. I thank God I’ve found a niche that I can tolerate, but that was partly thanks to luck, and a lot of people can’t manage it. It’s not even a niche I would recommend getting into, which is partly why I’m not going into detail about it. It was more of an escape for me, and then not even a complete one.

But in the end, it’s your life, and you have to make your own decisions about how to spend it. If you’re dead set on also working as an attorney, all I can advise is that you do your best, take in and properly filter all the information and advice that you can, and absolutely do not walk in expecting to get the best possible outcome for yourself, because that’s just not how life works. I know I’m a pessimist, but here I think I’m being balanced — realistic expectations are vital to maintain. Law school is viciously competitive, everything is graded on a curve, and if you don’t already have connections in high places or a guaranteed well-paying job waiting for you by the end, you’ll have to rely on a mix of luck and skill to make it through to the other side in good shape. If you’re up for that challenge, then I honestly wish you the best of luck. We need good, decent people in this profession — otherwise society will suffer even more than it is already. The problem is the system doesn’t make always make it easy to do the best thing possible.

If you’re already a law student reading this, I also don’t want to discourage you. Sheer motivation isn’t enough to secure a great future, but it’s a necessary element and it does help a lot. And look, I’m still around and doing relatively okay, so it’s not actually the worst decision in the world to study law in the US if I’m any indication. It’s just a decision I might not make again, knowing what I know now. And again, my experience is just mine — I’m drawing from that and stories I’ve heard from friends and colleagues in the profession, but other attorneys and law grads might have different stories to tell you.

And anyway, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I hadn’t gone through these ordeals. I can’t say whether that would be a good or bad thing, but it’s hard to talk about regret when you factor that element in.

We’re not kids anymore and life isn’t supposed to be easy anyway. I just don’t want to see people making it harder than it needs to be. And Azumanga Daioh is actually relevant here if you can believe that. I’ve been rewatching the whole series lately, so expect something on it soon-ish, it’s worth a serious look — I can appreciate some parts of it a lot more at my current age and point in life.

Now I’m at the point where I’ve really been rambling too long, so I’ll leave it here. Tomorrow I’ll write about something lighter (and it will be a far shorter post, I can promise that. Until then.)

 

* I know there are lawyers who stream on YouTube, yeah, but I’m sure they have ways of dealing with this. I just don’t know what they are. Not sure a plain disclaimer is enough, but I haven’t looked into it anyway since I have no interest in streaming myself.

Variations on a theme

It’s another short post today, but one for both the writers and readers out there, since I’m in both of those groups.

I’ve been trying to write fiction lately, digging back up my old dream of living off my art. I’m taking a different approach with that goal than I did before, however. I understand now that I’ll never be able to actually “live off my art” in the sense I used to think of it. I’m stuck as an attorney forever now. This might be a punishment for a crime I committed in a past life, but whatever it is, I’ve accepted it. Luckily it’s possible to do at least two things at once with your life, so I can still pursue my writing ambitions while being a lawyer.

Partly because of this changed approach, I’ve totally given up on the idea of a novel. It’s not that it’s impossible for someone to be a full-time working professional and write a novel, because people have done it before. It’s just impossible for me, since I seem to lack the energy and focus to do both, and if I lose energy and focus on the job I’ll lose the job, and then I won’t be able to eat or live.

But maybe that’s not so bad, because it’s pushed me towards a format that I’ve found pretty rewarding: the short story. I can actually find the time to dedicate to short story-writing since it’s so much less time-intensive — aside from the issue of length, a novel requires a lot of planning and outlining, editing and drafting, and that’s time I just don’t have. Short stories need some of that as well, but the scale of it all is so much smaller that I find it a lot more manageable. When you start to factor in all the tasks around writing fiction, putting together even a halfway decent novel looks like an exponentially more demanding task.

That’s not to say that writing short stories is easy. Writing of any kind takes real effort and an idea to drive it, and that’s why I’m writing this post today. I’ve “finished” three stories now — the quotes because I’ll never be really satisfied with them at this point, but they’re in their final forms anyway. Out of those three, two of these stories, together with all the rest of my still unwritten but outlined story ideas, deal with more or less the same themes expressed in different ways.

At first, I felt like this was a problem, like I was repeating myself too much, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Plenty of authors write on the same themes constantly. It’s the same with the visual arts: a few of my favorite artists do the same thing, using common elements in their work. Look through a catalog of work by Giorgio de Chirico or René Magritte and you’ll notice all those repeated elements.

Not that I’m comparing myself to these guys, really. Their work was monumentally great and mine is just some scribbling. But I do look up to these and other artists like them. Maybe I should be referring to authors who specialize in short stories instead of surrealist painters, but I’ve been a lot more affected and motivated somehow by that surrealist art than by a lot of modern short stories. I certainly don’t care for a lot of what I’ve read in modern journals — I’ve read through some literary fiction publications online and it seems like they have a strong emphasis on gritty realism. That’s fine, but I have no interest in gritty realism at all. I can get that by going outside.

I do want to take on some serious issues that I care about in my writing, but I’ll leave the realism to people who like it and are skilled in that style. I guess that makes me a genre fiction writer, but that’s fine with me (and more on that literary/genre division later maybe, because I have some god damn opinions about that too. I’m not even sure any of these professionals would be interested in my pet issues or my views on them, but then I’m not writing for them anyway. The traditional path feels like a dead end for someone like me.)

I’ll keep writing fiction off and on as I’m able and when I get the motivation. And tomorrow I’ll be back with a more typical sort of post, so until then!