Monday, February 29, 2016

Bloomin' Blue Men

I don't really have anything to rant or talk about today and then someone on Tumblr asked me this:

Sorry for the random question but my memory is bad and the not knowing is bugging me. Was it you that hid little blue and orange people around your college campus or am I mixing you up with another youtuber? I don't even remember where I saw this; all I remember is that the story really tickled me. 

This person was remembering correctly. That was me. So I decided to share the story here in case it will amuse someone.

When I was a music major at the University of Florida, I (obviously) spent a lot of time in the music building.  As any student who has been in the building knows, the staircases are equipped with these rather odd round holes that don’t appear to have a purpose.  I was often bored in the music building waiting for something to happen, and my friend Jessica and I decided that those holes looked lonely and empty.  They needed company.  Companionship.  Men made out of Play-Doh.

Having spent many hours on the music building roof, I’d noticed that there were tons of little pebbles up there.  I stole some of them for the men’s heads.  We took my can of purple Play-Doh and made men similar to the one above and distributed them everywhere; mostly just in the aforementioned holes, but we got pretty creative once we ran out of holes.

We went into “the cage”--the place where the instruments were stored--and hid some of our men there.  Turned out that Chris, the guy who was in charge of the cage, was rather confused and amused by them.   Some were stolen. Others mysteriously disappeared.  

Our friend Ed helped us “populate” during the next semester.  We decided to use orange men this time.  We terrorized Chris even more this time, leaving him a note that read something like “Beware, Chris, we are watching you. —The men of the orange population.”  

Jessica defected to the College of Education, so the next semester it was up to me and Ed to populate the music building.  We chose the holy Blue Men.  They invaded the elevator, the walls, the lockers, and, of course, the cage.  This time a blue man was impaled with a thumbtack on Chris’s board, with a note that said “We’re new, we’re blue, and we’re AFTER YOU.”  Another blue man was posed holding the pen.  Another was posed threateningly on the lockers facing the cage.  Chris commented to me:  “I keep seeing these bloomin’ blue men everywhere.”   Chris was very corny.  

Spring Break 2000, my friend Fred and I revisited the music building and populated with white Play-Doh men.  They really got around!  They were in the elevator, in the cage, in the bathrooms, guarding water fountains . . . it seems they are unstoppable.

It would have been funny if I could close this with an anecdote about the Play-Doh men tradition being handed down to the next generation of music students, but unfortunately it died when I left the city. Too bad.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Personal Digest Saturday: February 20 – February 26

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday was Drink and Draw! It was a smallish crew because of a glitch associated with the invite, but I made it. I got to draw my writing comic and some frames of my story comic. Eric slept over because he was tired.
  • Sunday I did lots of laundry and watched YouTube because I'm a boss.
  • Monday I did grocery shopping and work, and talked to Meggie on the phone. Her husband was in the hospital again. Errgh.
  • Tuesday my mom slept over and I doodled some comics while we had some chats. Also, it was kinda surprising but the author of one of the Steven Universe books I reviewed last week wrote to me to thank me for the in-depth Amazon review. Hee!
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We went to IHOP for our food (it's been a while!). We were planning to check out Hamilton because everyone says it's good but it's kind of long so we're waiting. We watched more Over the Garden Wall instead.
  • Thursday I kind wasted the evening watching YouTube again. And I reread old blog posts that made me want to write stuff again.
  • Friday was weird. I had to work early and everyone had comments about a sweater I've worn before. And Steven Universe's UK site dropped clips from episodes that HAVEN'T AIRED YET and the Internet exploded. I went home amidst the wreckage and drew my comic, then made a video.
    New Reviews of My Book:

    Interviews, Features, Mentions:
      • A Goodreads Giveaway for two copies of my book is being held through March 9. It is available only to US residents.

          Reading progress:

          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing "What I Am" by Edie Brickell and New Bohemians.


          New drawings:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0563: "This Easy."

          New videos:

          Here's "Publishing Surprises," which is basically about what surprised me about getting published.


          And Keith posted the third part of our video where he and I discuss Steven Universe and science fiction on his show.

          New photos: 

          Me with the Drink and Draw poster
          featuring Undertale-inspired art.
          Social Media counts: 

          YouTube subscribers: 5,271 for swankivy (4 new), 561 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 752 for swankivy (2 new), 1,210 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 194 followers (no change) for swankivy, 630 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 118 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,320 (lost 2). Instagram followers: 61 (2 new).

          Wednesday, February 24, 2016

          Wednesday Factoid: Where would you be?

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Would you rather be in Middle-Earth, Narnia, Hogwarts, or somewhere else?

          Uh? Actually I have no desire to go to any of those places. To be honest most of the fictional fantasy lands I've read about have been war-torn or super dangerous, and I'm not one of those people who thinks the alternate-world newness of it and the fact that these worlds contain magic would counteract the fact that daily life there would actually be pretty awful.

          But even if I were to be able to go to Middle-Earth or Narnia or Hogwarts during a time where there are no wars and no angry kings/false gods/dark overlords attacking, I don't actually find any of them compelling at all. Middle-Earth looks pretty, but there's nothing going on there that I would want to personally participate in. Narnia always felt kind of fake to me--maybe because so much of it was constructed to lead readers toward a specific conclusion. And the curriculum at Hogwarts doesn't seem interesting to me--I don't like the way magic works in the Harry Potter universe.

          So, to answer the question, obviously my answer would be "somewhere else." And since the question seems to imply that it wants me to pick a fantasy world, I guess I'd go for Shannon Hale's fantasy world in her Books of Bayern series or the world presented in the Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra series. I like that more elemental sort of magic (assuming that transporting myself to a fictional universe would also allow me to participate in the fantastical disciplines there), though both of these series had wars too. All things considered I just like the presentation better and find the arts more compelling.


          Monday, February 22, 2016


          I know this has been said before and it's probably been said better. But I'm going to say it too.

          If you, as an ally to someone's cause, have ever threatened to withdraw your support because someone was mean to you, I can assure you that we don't want you.

          • "But if you're so hostile to people who just want information, that's no way to get them in your corner!"
          • "But you need us! Your movement is too small to succeed without allies like us!"
          • "Have you ever thought about how your outreach makes us feel? You need to be careful or we might feel like you're shaming us."
          • "If you can't be nice about educating people, maybe you just shouldn't be an activist."
          And these comments aren't even sarcastic paraphrases. I've heard all of these in the comments of my YouTube, in the reblogs on my Tumblr, in the @replies to my tweets, in the responses to my articles: People, far and wide, who step into a subject largely ignorant expect to be coddled, and if you ever ask them to take your personal comfort into account or take responsibility for their own education, you will often immediately be chastised. Usually to the tune of if you're going to be like THAT, I don't have to listen to you.

          What's also notable is how often people will interpret straightforward comments as "anger" or "hostility" when they are already feeling uncomfortable asking the questions. And I mean they're asking the questions that center themselves in the conversation. To use asexuality as an example since that's what I'm most experienced in advocating for, I will sometimes receive queries such as "Does that mean you think sex is disgusting?" or "So, is this a purity thing?" I immediately interpret these as the querier believing my orientation is primarily about judging them, and though I answer their questions, they are already defensive when they ask the question. They already believe that my orientation is a quest of some kind, and that it exists to claim a moral high ground, and that my activist message is largely focused on denying something to them or expecting something unreasonable from them. It's incredible how often responding to someone without being particularly warm OR cold will result in "WHOA, you've lost your temper--I'm just asking questions, calm down!" It's also amazing how often they interpret educational efforts as evidence that you are angry, and use it to start a fight with you--which they will then use to pigeonhole everyone like you as so unreasonable that your cause is poisoned to them.

          And here's the thing. We, the people carrying the banner and spreading the message, aren't poisoning anything. There are certainly individuals who attack other individuals, and sometimes people whose concepts I agree with behave in a way I don't like. (Most notably, it drives me up the wall when other asexual people are homophobic or transphobic or sex-shaming or elitist while advocating for asexuality.) But when someone's first contact is to mock or laugh at me--as in the above screencap--it's obvious they came into the scene with a negative opinion of the subject matter and they're now standing there with their arms crossed saying "Oh yeah? Then educate me. Right now. While not addressing my entitled attitude or the bias I entered this conversation with. While quietly ignoring MY hostility as I accuse you of harboring too much of the same. While dealing with me as the latest in a long string of people who don't want their minds changed even though they're holding a sign that says 'but I'm open-minded!'"

          And the smugness with which they announce that they will now refuse to accept any education on your subject because people like you are too angwy is especially telling. They went into the conversation aggressively because they wanted to provoke you, and they came away from it with their preconceived notions "confirmed": People like you do not deserve their attention or respect (JUST LIKE THEY HOPED), and it has nothing to do with their approach and everything to do with an inherent flaw in you, people like you, and/or your opinion. Being angry or speaking out about your mistreatment renders you unworthy of their time, because your priority should always be their perception of the interaction.

          This is not what an ally does.

          Not that I have any illusions about whether snotty people who are "just asking questions" are trying to be allies, but some of them actually seem to think they are being fair. They're convinced that they're objective and that their refusal to educate themselves is "skepticism," and they believe it's our job if we want support to answer questions without reacting also to the bias surrounding them and to patiently, individually hold their hands as we connect them with the answers they claim to want. I've had people insist that I should be cheery about being doubted "since there's no evidence or studies about this," and when I both point out that a subjective experience with a label does not need "evidence" to be respected AND that there HAVE been studies about asexual-identifying people (with, you know, links and names), the person will almost invariably refuse to look at the links and engage instead with my supposed irrationality and hostility.

          Answering your questions is not hostility, even if I don't type a smiley face after it, and even if I imply or outright state that you should have looked this up yourself. Am I mistaken for believing an honest seeker of information would look for studies about a topic before blurting "you can't say that, because there aren't any studies"? Even when I point-blank ask them why they're ignoring the dozens of studies I'm pointing them to, they lecture me about how they were trying to be an ally but my refusal to be kind ruined it forever, and they have now expertly concluded that the movement as a whole is not worth respect because of how we react to being sneeringly interrogated.

          If you would like to be an ally and you've ever described the marginalized group's treatment of you as the key piece of why you support them, you need to zoom out a bit and remember the central reason for that group's activism. If a feminist must mention the issue of toxic masculinity's effect on men, point out how patriarchy hurts men too, and take care to #notallmen every conversation before a man will feel comfortable supporting feminist causes, they're not actually a feminist ally. If an anti-racism advocate needs to remind a white person that they do not hold them personally responsible since they didn't own slaves, acknowledge that sometimes black people harbor prejudice against white people, and point out that #alllivesmatter every time we discuss police brutality against black people, that person is not actually advocating against racism. And if an asexuality ally needs to be explicitly told that we aren't grossed out by them having sex, that we don't believe we're better and purer than them because of supposed lack of animal urges, and that it's completely natural and permissible for them to ask us endless questions about our genitals and sexual habits and experiences and intentions to reproduce, that person is not actually on our side.

          Your job, as an ally, is to sit in the back seat and let the activist from the marginalized group drive the car. Stand in solidarity with them, argue with and advocate against those you may be able to educate, and do your best to avoid spreading harmful stereotypes. But don't ever engage with activists with expectations that they must carefully woo you personally before you'll support them, and don't ever pretend you're a supporter if you threaten to withdraw your allegiance anytime an individual member of that group isn't nice to you. If you believe any individual from that group represents all of them and that every member of their group is constantly under evaluation as to whether they deserve your allyship, you were thinking of them in a prejudicial, dehumanized way anyway. 

          If someone from one of your own groups could disagree with you aggressively and still come away from the conversation without you blaming your own group for the hostility, you should be able to see this--just like you shouldn't have an argument with me and forever after distrust asexual people but not white people or women. (And I realize that's not the best analogy because if we're arguing about asexuality then you're going to see me as representative of asexuality, not women or white people, but this does happen to people sometimes, especially when the detractor is looking for excuses to stereotype.)

          I do represent asexual people with my platform, and I understand that. That's part of why I'm as "well-behaved" as I am (and I wince while typing that). It's also part of how I got my platform in the first place; people are less threatened by those with more tolerance and longer fuses, and I've always been more patient and less prone to anger than most people. And I don't think it was necessarily the best way to approach activism, even though it worked. As you can see from some of the above comments, some people think I'm aggressive and hostile and bitter just because I'm addressing the issue at all, while others think I'm too tolerant of the bozos. 

          There isn't really a perfect balance as far as I can tell, because I could bend over backwards to be nice and there would still be people who felt like my message was judging them and immediately feel attacked (and behave as if I attacked them). Therefore, I just choose what feels like the right balance every time I have a conversation about this, and part of it is always based on what words the other person chooses to engage with me. It is incredibly easy to see, with all my experience, when someone is coming into the conversation with a prejudice, and sometimes that person has no idea they have a prejudice, while other times they know it very well and are looking to confirm it. I handle those situations very differently from each other, because I can also tell if someone is there to learn or if someone is there to invalidate. 

          When in doubt--and even sometimes when I can tell they're there to harass me--I treat them like they're genuinely looking to be educated. If they are there to snot at me and confirm their own biases, they will always escalate to stronger, more dismissive language when I behave like their queries were authentic. And this is not on the same level as me rejecting that I should "behave" while engaged in activism. Yes, they should be polite, but if they're not, I can still address the core of their question if it isn't rooted in suppositions about us that they won't let go.

          The bottom line here: Allies will agree with the message even if they don't agree with individuals in the movement, and they will never announce their intention to "punish" a philosophy by leaving the movement or acting against it because someone was either mean to them or refused to coddle them comfortably enough. And one more thing: You don't get to "identify as" an ally as a way of protecting yourself from criticism. If you do believe you are an ally of a movement and someone who's part of that movement tells you something you're doing is hurting it, your first inclination should be to examine what you've said/done, not shout back that you are an ally and have a right to your belief. Of course, that person can be wrong, even if you're the ally and they're the marginalized person; for instance, I once disagreed with a lesbian about whether someone else was allowed to call themselves a lesbian even though by that person's definition she wasn't a lesbian. I find that sometimes lesbians "deny membership" to people because of biphobia (e.g., they say a bi woman who married a man can't be queer because marrying the man made her straight), or because of transmisogyny (e.g., saying lesbian trans women can't be acknowledged as lesbians because they supposedly grew up as straight men and have the privileges a straight man has). I disagree with lesbians who say these things in favor of other lesbians who identify as lesbian, even though I am not a lesbian myself. And I have been told by the occasional activist that I don't really support lesbians if I disagree with their interpretation of lesbian identity.

          I think the point there is that it doesn't actually matter what I think. As an ally, I support whatever interpretation makes the most sense to me, as I don't believe I'm lesbophobic or something because I support trans lesbians and don't refer to them as men. Someone who requires me to be transphobic before I'm lesbian-friendly isn't someone I want to ally with; I believe I'm still an ally for lesbian people even if I disagree with someone's exclusionary version of definition politics. But I don't get to decide those things within their community, and I don't have any intention of withdrawing my support for them because some lesbians disagree over who is really in the club. Expecting them to behave and believe as a monolith is part of what makes someone very much not an ally. Goodness knows the asexual community disagrees on things all the time, and as an activist I frequently find myself saying "I believe this, others in my community believe this" so I can acknowledge that I am both an individual and a spokesperson without hurting my community.

          Center others in your allyship and support them how they ask you to, not according to your own standards. If you are really an ally, you're already doing this because you believe it's right, not because someone is constantly making sure you're kept in cookies.

          Saturday, February 20, 2016

          Personal Digest Saturday: February 13 – February 19

          Life news this week: 
          • I had a three-day weekend, so I was super productive, right? NOPE. I really kinda wasted it and I'm kind of irritated about it. My productive stuff on Saturday included blogging and buying a sympathy gift for a friend. My productive stuff on Sunday included karaoke, laundry, a couple book reviews, and a new video. And my productive stuff for Monday was doing my drawing plans for Drink and Draw next week. I spent most of the rest of the weekend in bed eating junk food and watching cartoons.
          • Tuesday it was back to work and I had a real hard time getting out of that bed. Oh well. I worked, shopped, and napped. And I watched an early version of a documentary about someone who is, among other things, probably asexual, because I was asked for my thoughts on it. It was good!
          • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We went comic shopping, tried to eat at the new Cheddars in our area but it was really crowded so we did WTF Burger instead. Then we watched the Gravity Falls finale and listened to Night Vale. Also I showed him my new Steven Universe songbook tie-in that I received this weekend, and we kinda ended up sitting there singing all the songs. Hahah.
          • Thursday I went to Mom's and we watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which she wanted to borrow and watch again. She also fed me and we had a bunch of chats, and I helped her with her phone some more.
          • Friday we had a party at work to celebrate a co-worker's 20 years of working for the company. Pizza! At home I finished my comic and watched a bunch of crap on the Internet.
            Interviews, Features, Mentions:

              Reading progress:

              • Completed reading: I still didn't finish the novel I was reading, but I reviewed the cute cartoon tie-ins I read this week:

              New singing performances:

              Here I'm singing "Glitter in the Air" by Pink.


              New drawings:

              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0562: "A Sponge."

              New videos:

              My video Letters to an Asexual #34 is out. It's about "Why don't you just TRY it? What if you regret it??"

              And Keith posted the second part of our video where he and I discuss Steven Universe and science fiction on his show.

              New photos: 

              Square pizza!

              Social Media counts: 

              YouTube subscribers: 5,267 for swankivy (lost 14--wow, wonder what that means?), 560 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 750 for swankivy (3 new), 1,209 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 194 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 630 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 117 likes for So You Write (lost one). Tumblr followers: 2,322 (8 new). Instagram followers: 59 (2 new).

              Thursday, February 18, 2016


              Here's a recycled ramble from my Tumblr for you because I have no news about writing progress today.

              A while back a man came onto one of my YouTube videos to tell me how selfish I am.
              “I’ve liked you, romantically,” he said, “against your SELFISH will.”

              And he called me a narcissist for the same. Typed a mean frowny face and didn’t comment again.

              Let’s talk about this:
              • I am considered selfish because I don’t reciprocate this man’s interest.
              • I am considered selfish because I expect to be regarded with respect when I am propositioned.
              • I am considered selfish because there isn’t a way for this man to have me against what he knows is my will.
              • I am considered selfish because I consider my desires equally important compared to the desires of people I interact with.
              • I am considered selfish because mutual attraction would be a prerequisite for any relationships in my life.
              • I am considered selfish because I am not patiently dating, tolerating, and humoring people to whom I am not attracted just on the off chance that after thirty-seven years of life without ever being attracted to a man, I might inexplicably be attracted to this particular entitled lout.
              And let’s talk about this:
              • He does not believe he is selfish for expecting a woman to respond to his declared desire with automatic reciprocation.
              • He does not believe he is selfish for responding to a woman’s declaration of asexuality and aromanticism with requests that I change for him.
              • He does not believe he is selfish for opining that my job is to respond positively and eagerly to a man I’ve had nothing but combative, aggressive conversation with.
              • He does not believe he is selfish for claiming to be entitled to my time and attention just for saying he wants it.
              • He does not believe he is selfish for desiring me bodily and as a partner while claiming my own thoughts and feelings are repugnant and irrelevant to him.
              • He does not believe he is selfish for unapologetically expecting a woman to ignore her own desires and go against her own inclinations simply to satisfy him.
              Everything in this situation is about him–what he deserves, what he wants, what he wants others to do for him, what he’s angry about not currently possessing. And yet it is I—the person whose actual “self” does not seem to be a factor in his considerationwho is deemed the selfish one.

              I suppose he believes I’m selfish and narcissistic because he only cares about himself, and yet I’m behaving like my self matters.

              Wednesday, February 17, 2016

              Wednesday Factoid: Hogwarts House

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Which Hogwarts House would you be in?

              So for anybody who lives under a rock and either has not read Harry Potter or doesn't know what a "Hogwarts House" is, Hogwarts is the school Harry Potter goes to to learn wizard stuff, and one of the big moments for a Hogwarts student is getting assigned to one of its four houses. They put on a magic hat; the magic hat reads the student's personality; and the magic hat assigns the student to either Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin.

              So of course given that the student's House identity becomes its own little microculture inside the school and each is defined by certain traits the kids take pride in, readers often develop affinity for a favorite house too. Pretty much any Harry Potter fan can tell you what House they think they'd be sorted into.

              I picked Ravenclaw.

              You can take online quizzes to "sort" you (here's a brief one), but many people just pick one based on the descriptions of the house types:

              Gryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. Its emblematic animal is the lion and its colors are scarlet and gold.
              Ravenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit. Its emblematic animal is the eagle and its colors are blue and bronze.

              values hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members. Its emblematic animal is the badger and its colors are yellow and black.

              Slytherin values ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness. Its emblematic animal is the serpent and its colors are emerald green and silver.

              In short, when faced with a locked door, a Ravenclaw would track down the key; a Gryffindor would kick the door down; a Slytherin would pick the lock; and a Hufflepuff would knock. Hee!

              I think I related to Ravenclaw most because I applied a process of elimination idea. Gryffindor is the house of the main characters, and they are frequently extremely brave in the face of physical danger (something I probably wouldn't really be), and have this sort of "glory and heroics" ideal that's a little too impractical for me; they seem like they'd be really traditional and use a lot of black-and-white reasoning in their everyday lives. Hufflepuff sounds like a really nice house, but they're kind of the relationships house and focus very much on loyalty and togetherness, which I think is great but not my strongest driving force. And Slytherin is kind of the opposite of Hufflepuff--every person for themself, ambition is key, power is important and backstabbing is likely. Ravenclaw is kind of the nerd house, where they're focused on finding the answer if they don't have it and they value clear-headed exploration of options, with a respect for both the theoretical and the practical. I don't know that I'd entirely fit there either, but by process of elimination I think it's the best choice. (Which is a pretty Ravenclaw-ish thing to say.) 

              Monday, February 15, 2016

              I Can't Help You

              A short one that hopefully won't sound whiny.

              Being that I create a lot of content and have a decent (though not viral-level) following online, I sometimes receive requests for help or advice from strangers.

              I don't mind that.

              Sometimes those requests are from people I can help easily, or who I relate to, or who asked their questions in such a way that I know why it's me they asked. They may have read something I wrote and found it inspiring, or followed me for a long time and made supportive comments even though we're not really friends, or just asked at a time or in a situation where I felt like responding. 

              So I don't mind.


              What I do mind is that I also get a fair number of requests I don't want to respond to, and sometimes those people get upset with me for not helping them.

              Here's a list of what makes me not want to help someone.

              1. I don't know why they're asking me. I have some specialty areas and all, but sometimes someone will ask me a question about something I've demonstrated or claimed NO knowledge of. So rather than explain to them ever so patiently that they've asked someone who can't be expected to know, I often don't respond. (This is after years of realizing that such people who don't research often throw fits if I won't research FOR them.)

              2. They ask in a rude or entitled way. This goes without saying, but if someone's request for help or advice is brusque or snotty or acts like I owe them commentary I didn't sign up for, I'll be way less likely to engage.

              3. They badger me if I don't reply immediately. I get this kind of frequently--a comment, followed by a follow-up comment asking why I'm not answering or repeating themselves, or even sometimes a follow-up on a different platform. It feels like pestering. I don't like helping people who are impatient and have no respect for my time, especially when it's clearly not a time-sensitive request.

              4. They ask me something they could just research themselves. I don't mind if friends and family ask me, say grammar questions or asexuality questions, but I just get irritated when someone comes to one of my educational videos on asexuality to type "what is asexuality anyway?" or messages me on Facebook to ask how commas should be used. You do not need my attention for that.

              5. They contact me in a bizarre way. I'm still confused as to why someone tried to get me on their radio show by leaving a public comment on my website asking ME to contact THEM, and I don't like when people want to have in-depth conversations but try to use Twitter to have them. (I once had someone tell me to follow him on Twitter so he could private message me. That, my friend, is what e-mail is for if I don't know you.) 

              6. Helping will require a large amount of time and effort. I'm sometimes asked to comment at length on someone else's work for free, by strangers, who think that because I've made query letter help videos I'll be willing to review theirs even though I don't know them and am not participating in a contest or anything, or they want really in-depth personal counseling about something I'm not necessarily qualified to handle. If I know the person and/or am close with them and/or have expressed that I would be willing to help, it's different, and I'll probably be more willing to dedicate a lot of time or effort to it, but otherwise, I usually find it to be an imposition. 

              I also sometimes get people requesting that I make a public statement about something that offends them, like if they saw an upsetting YouTube video and they want me to rebut it with a video of my own, or if someone takes a quote of mine out of context to prove someone wrong as if anything I say represents the opinion of my community. I kinda don't like being set up as somebody's attack dog or untouchable authority, but that doesn't happen very often, so it just gets an honorable mention here. Well, dishonorable really.

              Asking isn't really a bad thing, but I think mostly what I'm reacting to here is the entitlement that sometimes comes out of these interactions. I've been out-and-out scolded and shamed by people I didn't help, didn't help fast enough, or didn't help thoroughly enough, either through passive-aggressive "GUESS NOT THEN" comments or long lectures through e-mail about my supposed obligations to my adoring public (who will now unsubscribe from my channel and unfollow my Tumblr or something because I wasn't helpful enough). So if anyone who reads this wonders if I get annoyed that someone asks, usually not really (unless it's worded rudely). But behaving as if you deserve it and you're disappointed in me when I don't deliver, even when I haven't agreed to?


              Saturday, February 13, 2016

              Personal Digest Saturday: February 6 – February 12

              Life news this week: 
              • The weekend wasn't remarkable really; I did a lot of relaxing. I did answer some of my social media messages and get some writing done, and I went briefly into short story submission mode, but that was really all I got accomplished. Mostly I was just watching cartoon stuff and reading.
              • Monday was a usual work day, and I played DDR after work and didn't get anything done.
              • Tuesday Mom took me grocery shopping and we hung out at her house. I got to meet her new roommate, Michael, and that was nice, and we also did Skype with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. So nice to see them all doing well.
              • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We had Moe's burritos and did our usual impassioned chat about cartoons and feminism. We watched the season finale of Galavant and watched three episodes of Over the Garden Wall. I gave him an early Valentine card with cartoons on it and a mini Krackel bar taped to the envelope.
              • Thursday was weird all day for no good reason. I got a notification about a package in the apartment office, so I went to get it, but in the process I found a package that was sent to me in early January that had been sitting in the office all that time. I'd assumed it was stolen since a) I got no door notification about it (and only knew because my friend asked if I'd received it since he had FedEx confirmation of delivery); b) my welcome mat was moved way off to the side that day as if something had been under it but wasn't anymore; and c) when I reported the incident to the apartment manager she just told me a bunch of stuff about what I should have done differently to prevent the package getting stolen, but didn't offer that it might be in the cabinet where they keep delivered packages. So yeah I got a birthday present from five weeks ago. Jerks. Anyway, I worked that day and talked to my friend Victor on the phone that night. Ta-dah.
              • Friday was nothing special either. I drew my comic and that's about it. I don't have anything that exciting to tell anyone this week I guess.

                New reviews of my book:
                  Interviews, Features, Mentions:

                  Reading progress:

                  • Completed reading: Nothing, I'm afraid.
                  • Currently reading: The Wall Around Eden by Joan Slonczewski.

                  New singing performances:

                  Here I'm singing "Darkness" by Darren Hayes


                  New drawings:

                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0561: "Colors Underneath."

                  Webcomic So You Write Issue 57: "The Truth Hurts."

                  New videos:

                  None, but Keith posted the first part of our video where he and I discuss Steven Universe and science fiction on his show. It can actually be interesting even if you do not watch the show or want to watch the show, because we discuss media and its history and whatnot in a way that doesn't require interest in or familiarity with the show.

                  New photos: 

                  My new Amethyst shirt, which allows me to look like I'm about to
                  cut a Dumpster in half even if I'm just standing there.

                  Social Media counts: 

                  YouTube subscribers: 5,281 for swankivy (10 new), 559 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 747 for swankivy (6 new), 1,207 for JulieSondra (lost 2). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 193 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 630 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 118 likes for So You Write (lost one). Tumblr followers: 2,314 (lost 1). Instagram followers: 57 (2 new).

                  Thursday, February 11, 2016

                  Update on Ace of Arts: Chapter 7

                  I got my characters talking.

                  I wrote Chapter 7 earlier this week, sometime over the weekend, and I planned to write more but as usual laziness elbowed me and said "Hey, you wanna have some fun lying in this bed watching cartoons?" and I said "Hell yes" so I did that a lot.

                  Chapter 7 came to 2,380 words (bringing the book's total to 16,548 words), and most of what happened in it is dialogue.

                  I'm not sure how happy I am with it. I wasn't feeling very good about it when I wrote it, and then when I read it back I was a lot happier with it. (Maybe I was feeling awkward during the drafting because it was a pretty awkward conversation.) I'm trying to build a rapport here but my character is resisting it, and I kinda need her to stop doing that if I am going to get anywhere, but that's what she wants to do so I can't really write her out of character.

                  She kinda makes a good point during this whole thing, too: she's actually not a very nice person, but she's not actively mean either. It's just that when you don't really want to engage, speak bluntly and sparingly, and aren't empathetic--and (this is key) you're female--this behavior is interpreted as rude. Women and girls not going out of their way to coddle and comfort others--especially if they're boys or men who want their attention--are perceived as bitchy. I'm kind of fighting that feeling with Megan, because she's honestly not "a bitch." She just lives in a world that expects things of ladies that she is not interested in providing, and she refuses to apologize for it, but she's not making a big platform out of how proud she is to not apologize for it either.

                  But anyway, I got my characters talking, I got Brady and Megan to reach an understanding (even if she was kind of sour about it), and I got him to buy her a cookie, so there's that.

                  Let's see where they take it from here.

                  Wednesday, February 10, 2016

                  Wednesday Factoid: Environment

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: If you'd grown up in a different environment, do you think you'd have turned out the same?

                  Wow, no, absolutely not.

                  There are some aspects of our personalities and nature that we are probably born with or predisposed toward. But our specific interests depend on what we're exposed to and what we're encouraged or discouraged to like; our preferences depend on what options we encounter and what attitudes are modeled or whether we're adventurous about them; our attitudes depend heavily on those of people we have around us; and our opportunities are enhanced by or limited by the circumstances we're raised in.

                  If you're raised in a certain religion, you're certainly going to be more knowledgeable about that religion and likely to be surrounded by people who have an investment in your acceptance of that religion. It doesn't guarantee that you'll embrace that religion as an adult, but it's far more likely that you will do so than the possibility of your embracing a religion that isn't popular in your country. And yet, many people seem to think they were just lucky enough to get born into a family that practices the right religion, and don't give a thought to how the culture they're surrounded by pressures you to accept and builds your mind around its tenets with strong ties to wrong and right. Similarly, though few other belief systems are quite as contentious as religion, you will be influenced to think certain things are good or bad or desirable or undesirable based on your upbringing and your culture, and what you're exposed to beyond that is extremely variable. Some people credit being raised with a strong value or belief with becoming the foundation of their happiness, and others credit that same environment with showing them how wrong it is, instilling them with a desire to seek out something else.

                  And privilege is a huge deal. It's amazing how many people who live(d) in swimming pool–sized dollops of privilege believe their advantages had nothing to do with their success. Instead of acknowledging, say, that they had a) a wealthy enough household to make ends meet, ensuring comfort and safety; b) educational materials readily available; c) parents or guardians who encouraged them, helped them, and valued their academic success; and d) a culture full of people like themselves whose success is normalized . . . they still seem to think their ability to excel in education and their career is primarily a function of their inherent drive, intelligence, and proper temperament. They really believe that people who lacked some or all of what they had were given equal access to opportunities, and they really believe they earned what they have without help.

                  If I tried to count up all the ways I was advantaged since before I was born I think I would be writing this blog entry all day long.

                  And to be a bit more specific, let's look at this: I've always thought of myself as a writer and had dreams of doing it professionally, and there's no specific model of "writer" in my family that I was trying to emulate, but I was taught from an early age to love books and stories.

                  The fact that I ran with this and became a storyteller as an adult while my sisters didn't (despite sharing most of the same upbringing) does speak to some individual variation, of course, but I'm certainly not arguing against inborn inclinations or suggesting we're all complete blank slates. I'm saying if I had been exposed to something else throughout my early childhood and helped to enjoy it, I might have had different aspirations or seen stories differently--and it's certain that children who don't have as much access to books have less likelihood of loving stories when they're older. This applies to everything we embrace in our adulthood, from the food we eat to the values we teach to the next generation.

                  It's just baffling to me sometimes that people do sometimes believe they'd essentially be the same person if they'd had wildly different circumstances. We are always at least partially a product of our environment, and it helps to remember that when we're trying to relate to people who are very different from us.

                  Tuesday, February 9, 2016

                  Books I Love: Douglas Adams

                  I'm a pretty silly person, but I used to be sillier.

                  When I was in high school I pursued more novelty, performed goofiness more extensively, and actively looked for humor more aggressively in my life. I wrote a very silly story called Bruce the Duck and prided myself on making people laugh with it. I listened to "Weird Al" Yankovic and sang the songs with my friends on the bus. I watched Red Dwarf and made jokes about smeg. And I was obsessed with the cartoon Animaniacs, which led me to do silly things like keep an actual mallet in my purse so I could chase people with it unexpectedly like one of the characters.

                  The mallet even had a name: Squishy.

                  One of the major works I enjoyed as a teen that fed into this silliness was definitely The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

                  This book was mind-blowing for me, because it had the silliness of my childhood favorites with some surprising adult sophistication. This book joked about things that were actually sad, layered complex issues on top of each other and acknowledged their intersections, and provided some of the best non-cheap jokes I'd ever read. This series--often called a trilogy on purpose even though it has more than three books--features such highlights as a man who doesn't know he's a rain god who has trouble convincing people it has literally rained where he is every day of his life, and an alien who named himself Ford Prefect because he misunderstood cars as being Earth's dominant life form, and a man who learns how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing.

                  This series is one of the few I love that isn't incredibly character-oriented. It's sort of more . . . meta-character oriented. It focuses on the experience of being human (or alien, or a rapidly falling whale who's unexpectedly come into existence in an alien sky), but it doesn't focus particularly closely on the thoughts and feelings of any one character. Occasionally a character's observations will jump out at you and bite you with a recognizable, relatable experience, but mostly it's the wordplay, the zaniness, the odd interconnections and interactions, and the absurdity that attracted me. It's awfully stupid for being so smart, and I love that.

                  On top of that, Adams wrote some other silly things, such as The Meaning of Liff. (I read The Deeper Meaning of Liff, which as I understand it is an updated and expanded version of the former.) Its premise was to create a "dictionary" of words to describe experiences, objects, and people that exist but don't have words, appropriating the names of cities, towns, and other places and putting them to good use since supposedly nobody goes to these places anyway. I was so amused by The Deeper Meaning of Liff that I typed my favorite entries out on our family's electric typewriter (in the days before we had computers) so I could share them with my friends easily. Did you know a grimsby is a lump of gristle that is either in your food through careless cooking or sometimes placed there deliberately by Freemasons? Or that a sidcup is one of those hats you make out of a handkerchief with the corners tied in knots?

                  I like science fiction, but I don't read a ton of silly SF/F. I usually find it kind of annoying, and it's usually full of bad puns and sexist humor. (I excuse Spider Robinson for his puns, because they're also terrible in-universe. I do not excuse Piers Anthony.) There are a select few I've enjoyed, and Adams's work is among them. I don't write this sort of thing at all, and don't find it particularly influential, but sometimes it is so good to be able to sit back and be entertained by something so funny and well-written. I recommend these books wholeheartedly to people who like funny, absurd, and occasionally surprisingly deep books that don't trip over themselves trying too hard for you.

                  Saturday, February 6, 2016

                  Personal Digest Saturday: January 30 – February 5

                  Life news this week: 
                  • Saturday was a low-key day. I was supposed to go phone shopping with my mom but she didn't feel like it so I stayed home, watched cartoons, and made a new video.
                  • Sunday I did do the phone shopping with Mom and went out to eat at Burger 21. We got her a new smartphone but it didn't work right and when I called the place to find out why she couldn't make or receive phone calls properly, he said it can take 24 hours for the details to transfer. Eh. After she left I did laundry and wrote a book chapter.
                  • Monday I went to work, grocery shopped, and read. Mom's phone still wasn't working and nobody wanted to do anything about it. Also some of the cool stuff I ordered started coming in and getting new cartoon stuff makes me happy.
                  • Tuesday Mom finally went to the phone place and they figured out the employee had entered the wrong phone number and we would now have to wait for another 24 hours for it to activate. She came over and made me sandwiches and soup, and I helped with some tech support things on it. Oh, and I played Dance Dance Revolution for the first time in a while.
                  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We ate at PDQ, watched Galavant, listened to Night Vale, and talked about cartoon stuff a bunch because we are supernerds.
                  • Thursday it rained again and my new coworker took me and my bike home in her SUV, haha. I didn't do much at home besides talk to Victor on the phone and draw comics.
                  • Friday was kinda exciting because Meggie got a new job and she was in town dropping off her daughter so I got to treat her to pizza as a celebration, and got to hang out with her friend Guchie too (which hadn't really happened before). We had a good time!
                    New reviews of my book:
                      Reading progress:

                      New singing performances:

                      Here I'm singing "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables. My upper range needs some practice.


                      New drawings:

                      Space rock cuteness on my work calendar
                      for Valentine's Day, courtesy of Ruby & Sapphire.

                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0560: "The Right Thing to Say."

                      New videos:

                      Ramble on my writing channel about Why Editing Is Important.

                      New photos: 

                      Me in my new "Internet Famous!" hoodie,
                      featuring Grizz from We Bare Bears.

                      Social Media counts: 

                      YouTube subscribers: 5,271 for swankivy (8 new), 556 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 741 for swankivy (7 new), 1,209 for JulieSondra (9 new). Facebook: 287 friends (2 new--friended Keith and James) and 192 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 630 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 119 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2,315 (no change). Instagram followers: 55 (3 new).