You’ve been holding out on me, Internets

How in the frakking Nine Circles of D&D Hell can it be that not one of my friends ever told me about Adam WarRock?

I’m DISAPPOINTED! I came across a link to this amazing artist (he does geek-related hiphop, for those who didn’t open the tab or don’t already know), and after downloading half a dozen of his free EPs, spent yesterday listening to them on a loop. He’s got me painting again, and I haven’t picked up a brush in…oh, crap, it must be two or three years? I started sketching up some ideas for a couple of fan-art paintings I’ve been wanting to do, one of Alphonse Elric in his various ages protected by his big armour body, and another of Lan Fan at the end of the episode where she’s just taken down Gluttony in the dark, returning too soon with her brand-new automail. When I’m happy with the sketches, I may even post them, if anyone’s interested.

But, back to Adam Warrock. OMFIPU, dude has brought a happy into my life. I started being interested in hiphop/rap while playing GTA III San Andreas a few years back, but although I can appreciate them musically, the gangsta form doesn’t appeal to me lyrically. And I prefer my music without getting sticky kyriarchal fingers all over it (cf. homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, narrow and toxic definitions of masculinity, et c., et c.).

AND I’ve been thinking about finally writing some of the fan songs in my head and seeing if I can induce a couple of friends to do some recording with me, so this is also timely. Might be a few months, as my favourite fiddler is currently incubating a new fiddler, but it feels really good to be inspired towards artisticness again.

To bring it back around to a focus of this blog, in this case depression, one of the biggest symptoms for me of the disorder is the anhedonia, or “inability to feel pleasure”, particularly in the area of “things I used to always love doing”. Such as painting, poeming, writing, filking, all my creative loves. I’ve done very little of any of them in the last few years, as my depression has grown worse.

I think the recent dosage increase in my current AD meds is helping a lot; I also think that now I have a drug plan which can afford all my meds, I’m going to be asking my doctor for the rest of the meds I should be having which would make my life more livable. The sheer cost of them, and the overwhelmingness when depressed of dealing with the bureaucracy to get on the government health care drug plan for low-income people, has kept me from having about half the meds I should be taking.

So this is beginning to look like it will have been a very good month for me. I started a new blog (so I’m writing, huzzah!), I’m sketching, I’m poeming, and I’ve had three really good game design ideas in the last two weeks. One of them, a way to get more out of the Arkham Horror game, is good enough my game-design-partner and I are going to buff it up and polish it to present to Fantasy Flight and see if they’re interested in publishing it after we playtest it.

And I want to return briefly, before I finish and get on with some creating, to the top of the post, where I said how awesome (素晴らしい!!) Adam WarRock is. Seriously, go. Buy some of his music. Even people who don’t like hiphop, like him. And if you do, then yeah, 素晴らしい. 😀

鋼の女性 – The Women of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

(the title says “hagane no jousei”, pronounced ha-ga-nay no joe-say; means “women of steel/fullmetal”)

One of the things I completely adore about the show – and to be absolutely clear, I’m referring to the second anime series, called in English Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, rather than the first one – is the wide range of women characters playing important parts in the story. The first show was made while the manga* was still coming out, so its plot fairly quickly diverges from that of the second series, which is pretty much completely faithful to the manga.

The other big, big difference is that the second show (and the manga) has a wondrous range of different roles for the many women it depicts, from the emotionally frail but personally devoted wife of Great Leader** King Bradley (whose name is never given except as “Mrs. Bradley”), to the amazing and tough bodyguard Lan Fan, to the kind and thoughtful mechanic Winry. Not every depiction is what I would call perfectly feminist, but the wide range and type of people who happen to be women is definitely feminist-friendly.

I will try to mark anything plot-important before mentioning it, but be aware there are definitely spoilers ahead. Characters in (roughly) order of appearance.

Riza Hawkeye: 1st Lt Riza Hawkeye is the faithful adjutant of the supporting character Col. Roy Mustang; she’s tough, quick-thinking, highly skilled, a lethal shot with any firearm, and unafraid to stand up to Col. Mustang and call him a fool when he’s being one. Having served as a sniper in a major insurrection/civil war some years before, she’s seen hard combat, has killed a significant number of people, and has the mental scars to prove it. Very popular, I understand, with those who “ship” the pairing of her and Mustang, though being a shounen story, there’s no actual sexytimes in the show. Being a pretty good shot myself from my days in the military, I like and identify with her some, but she’s not my favourite woman in the show.

Gracia and Elicia Hughes: The wife and three-year-old daughter of Lt. Col Maes Hughes, a close friend and academy classmate of Col. Mustang. Hughes is comically devoted to his wife and child, hauling out pictures of them at any slight excuse, to brag to everyone about how wonderful they are and how lucky he is to have them. Gracia is as gracious as her name implies, a good mother and generous host to visitors, while Elicia is just TOO. CUTE. FOR. WORDS.

Rose: a minor character in the second show, she was part of what annoyed me about the first, in the way her character was used. In the second, she’s a woman who fell for a priest’s puffery and faking, believing his false promise that he’d bring back her boyfriend who’d died. When the priest is removed from his place as leader of the religion he started, she is initially left bereft of purpose, but finds a role as a community support and organizer when the people of her city decide to rebuild after the damage done to it in the riots after the revelations about the priest.

Trisha Elric: One of the ways in which the story does rely on a standard trope is that of the Woman in the Fridge: the two protagonists are brothers whose mother died in an epidemic, and who encounter disaster when they try to bring her back to life with alchemy. Trisha is never given a whole lot of development in the manga or second anime; her only real function in the story is as mother to the boys, and loyal-past-his-abandoning-her to their father. Like I said, not everything about the show is strictly feminist.

Lust: One of the few failings of the story is that there is only one woman who’s a proper villain; Lust is one of the seven sins, of course, and is also one of the seven homunculi who serve the main antagonist. She’s the only character in the show to ever have the infamous breast-jiggling that anime has in some parts become associated with (and for good reason, for a number of shows), and it only happens once, and is lampshaded when it does: Mustang is facing off with her along with one of his subordinates (2nd Lt. Jean Havoc), and after the jiggle is shown, Mustang comments that he can understand how Havoc was attracted to her, knowing Havoc’s love of large breasts. Lust is a capable villain, easily able to kill as ruthlessly as needed, and enjoys her ability to do so.

Winry Rockbell: Winry is the neighbour and close friend of the Elric brothers, and indeed is Edward’s “automail” (highly functional prostheses) mechanic, along with her grandmother Pinako (see below). Her parents are dead, killed in the same insurrection noted above under Riza Hawkeye, despite being doctors willing to treat people from either side; this provides inspiration for her to use her mechanic talents to help people who’ve lost limbs, as well as other actions that I won’t spoil. Winry is extremely talented as a mechanic (something highlighted better in the first anime, actually), and explicitly considers her position in the boys’ lives as “someone who is always waiting”, and whether that’s a role she wants to accept. When used as a hostage against the boys, she brightly comes up with a way to get her away from the hostage situation that doesn’t implicate them. She’s ingenious, curious, a complete “gearhead”, while still being what I like to call “tomboy femme”. Winry and Edward have a complex relationship, but I don’t want to say much more to not spoil anything major.

Pinako Rockbell: Winry’s grandmother Pinako, a tiny woman with a heavily-lined face and an always-smoking pipe, is also a capable surgeon and automail mechanic. She’s caustic, pragmatic, and funny, quite happy to be the Snarky Crone in the family, and explicit about her distaste for the military after they drafted her daughter and son-in-law to the medical corps (which led to their deaths). Pinako was also a heavy drinker in her youth and a chum of the boys’ father, kind of a party girl, which is fun to juxtapose with her generally granny-like role. I adore Pinako, if you can’t tell.

Sheska: Sheska’s a minor character, but one many women fans identify with, as she is a lifelong reader who is obsessive to the point of being nearly unemployable because of it. She also has an amazing talent, related to her obsession, which makes her quite useful to the boys and to Maes Hughes. Sheska is kind of awesome, as well as devoted and loyal, and shows an ability to work very hard (at a suitable job!) when needed.

Mrs. Bradley: A woman who loves the Great Leader, and who is so overshadowed by his immense presence that she never even gets a first name. She’s an older woman (as indeed her husband is 60), very much the devoted wife character, and honestly a bit of a cipher, outside of one fantastically brave moment mentioned in passing.

Maria Ross: 2nd Lt. Maria Ross is a soldier assigned to the Elrics as a bodyguard (along with the male Sgt Brosh). She’s compassionate and pragmatic, and also willing to fight when needed, and a pretty good shot with her service pistol. She recognizes the difficulties the boys have in trusting adults, since their father abandoned the family when they were very young, and their mother died when they were 11 and 10, and sets out to help them regain that ability to trust. MAJOR SPOILER AFTER THIS BIT: She ends up accused and falsely convicted of a murder, but escapes to another country with the aid of Col. Mustang, who knows she’s not guilty of it, then returns to save the day late in the story. SPOILERS END.

Nina Tucker: Nina is a young girl, about five, the daughter of a not-very-gifted but ethically bereft alchemist the boys encounter. Both boys are charmed by her, and spend time playing with her, before something very spoilery happens which I won’t spoil. Let’s just say it’s the only time the words “Let’s play” (“asobu”, in Japanese) have ever taken on a chilling feel for me.

Paninya: Paninya is an orphaned teenager living in Rush Valley, a town famous for its automail. Her parents were killed in a train accident that cost her both legs when she was an infant, which were replaced by a dour mechanic, including one leg having an extensible blade, and the other a 1.5″ cannon in it. She survives by pickpocketing tourists before Winry is able to talk her into taking a different turn in her life, using her agility and lack of fear in high places to a positive end.

Izumi Curtis: Definitely my favourite female character, Izumi is the boys’ martial arts and alchemy sensei. She describes herself as “just a frail housewife”, but this conceals an incredible level of ability in both fighting and alchemy. She’s married to Sig Curtis, a butcher built like a rhino who is nonetheless fairly gentle and not particularly interested in fighting (well, unless someone manages to harm Izumi – not easy – at which point he will reluctantly but effectively step up to help). Izumi is a fierce teacher, expecting only the very best from her two students, and developing their philosophy of dedication and commitment even as she develops their skills. When they first start with her, she teaches them the principles of alchemy (that all life exists through the destruction and creation of other life) by abandoning the two of them on an island for a month, with a knife and a rule about using no alchemy. The boys are partly terrified and partly just awed by her abilities; a hilarious scene shows them training at 12 and 11 years old, trying to attack her as she reads from a cookbook, offhandedly blocking their attempts without even looking. Izumi is MADE OF AWESOME, and is my very favourite character in the whole manga/anime/franchise. Her catchphrase, “SHUFU DA!” (I’M A HOUSEWIFE!), makes me laugh every time she uses it.

Martel: A former soldier turned into a chimera by blending her with a snake, Martel is one of a cadre of followers of a rogue homunculus (one of the seven antagonists), loyal and strong. She has a much bigger role in the first anime, but in general continues the willingness of the Amestrisian military to employ women who want to in combat alongside the other soldiers. By far the women are outnumbered by men in the military, but they do exist in all the roles people fill in armed service: administration, doctors, bodyguards, officers, NCOs, infantry, communications, whatever.

Lan Fan: A martial arts specialist from the neighbouring (China-analogue) Xing, Lan Fan is the dedicated bodyguard (with her grandfather Fu) of Yao Lin, a prince with ambitions to become Emperor of Xing. Lan Fan is BAD. ASS. When it’s called for (small spoiler), she amputates her own arm to save the life of the prince, then rushes far too quickly through rehab with her new automail arm to get back to her duties (end spoiler). She’s an amazing fighter, teaming with Fu to make an impressive team watching the prince’s back. Another of my favourites, and it’s nice to see that the loyalty she feels to her liege lord Lin is returned; he risks his life to save her at one point.

Mei Chang and Mei Xiao: Another Xingese character, Mei Chang is a thirteen-year-old princess of the Mei clan (as Yao Lin is a prince of the Yao clan), with her dwarf bearcat Xiao, a panda-like companion she travels with. Despite her youth, Mei Chang is a very skilled alkahestrist (a Xingese variant of alchemy used mostly for medical needs) and highly acrobatic martial artist. She’s very much a 13-year-old bundle of emotions and crushes, but is as dedicated to achieving the empire’s rule for her clan as Yao Lin and Lan Fan are for theirs.

Madame Christmas: Madame Christmas is just as advertised, a madam for a – not really a brothel, but a companion-bar, if you know the Japanese concept I mean (whose name I forget), where the (sex?) workers work as “hostesses” entertaining men who visit to drink and talk to/look at pretty women. Since the show is shounen***, it’s hard to say whether they’re meant to be sex workers or not. Madame Christmas turns out to be related to one of the major characters, and part of the reason I like her is that she’s visibly old and fat; her face is square, with a fairly heavy jaw, and she’s notably heavy in build, constantly smoking cigarettes with a holder and speaking in a gravelly rumbly husk of a voice.

Olivier Mila Armstrong: Major-General Armstrong is the sister of a major character, and shows up in the second season of the show. She’s known for being something of a martinet, imposing strict discipline and obedience on the men and women who serve under her, but showing them also an immense loyalty and confidence in their abilities and training. She’s utterly ruthless with her officer’s sword, willing to use violence as necessary to achieve her aims, and eschews anything remotely associated with femininity, throwing flowers onto a fire, for instance. She’s also highly ambitious. Given the snowbound nature of the fort she commands, she’s known as the Ice Queen, and it suits her.

So there you go. The women of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a diverse and interesting collection of characters, who fulfill a wide range of roles in the story. One of the major things I like about the show is the importance given to roles occupied by women characters, as well as the incredible variety of people that they are.

* Manga: Japanese word for “comics”, in the superhero-type sense. Has come to be used specifically to refer to Japanese comics, rather than US comics imported to Japan. Relatedly, the artist responsible for the manga is known as a mangaka.

** Since the show is set in a fictional Industrial Revolution-era Europe, and a not-very-veiled version of Germany between the wars, “Great Leader” is often rendered in English as “Fuehrer”. Despite this, the language of the Amestrisians (the country where the story is set) is English; documents, newspapers, and messages between characters and such are clearly produced in English, like “(this character) is a Homunculus” passed as code within a scene.

*** Shounen means “male youth”, more or less, and is a genre of manga aimed at young teen boys primarily; the genre tends to be pretty much sexless in any explicit sense.


Tsunaide te

So here I am. I’ve got a friend working on a nifty little banner logo for me, because my trusty old laptop is buggered (power pin in the case came unwelded), taking my pro software with it.

The post title is the name of a song I particularly love, used in the anime of Fullmetal Alchemist; as may be apparent from the blog name, I particularly love this show. I’m using it because the main character, Edward, is a person living with a disability (he’s lost an arm and a leg, literally; he uses some advanced prosthetics to get by), with almost no family left alive, and I like the mental image of me as being the Fullmetal Feminist. I did give brief consideration to being the Fullmeta Feminist, but thought that might be a level of meta too far.

If there is such a thing.

So who is the Fullmetal Feminist? Well, I’ve been around the webs for a long time, mostly posting as CaitieCat, a nickname (my first one ever outside my family of origin) given to me by a former paramour, and used both at Shakesville and at FreethoughtBlogs, where I’ve done guest posts.

I’m 47 in a couple of weeks, and a translator of German/French/Russian to English, as well as an academic editor/proofreader, by vocation. I deal with chronic pain from a car accident when I was 21; my particular problem is degenerative disc disease, which has so far cost me two inches in height (with probably another four inches to go before I’m done shrinking), my ability to play my beloved football (soccer), and the daily need for a cane to walk with.

I’m also a serious depressive, and that, along with the chronic pain, is to be my “special focus”, if you will, of this blog. That doesn’t mean it’ll be all doomgloom and painbrain all the time; I enjoy a fair bit of geek culture, and intend to write about that as well, such as Supernatural (call it a guilty pleasure) and a whole bunch of anime that’s a little off the beaten path (Ghost Hound, House of Five Leaves, Mushi-shi), along with geek staples like BSG, Doctor Who, and so on in that manner. Expect things like a Supernatural rewatch from the feminist point-of-view (and with a ’67 Impala, you know it’s gonna be a bumpy ride), or news, or whatever else comes to mind, alongside the primary foci. The comments will likely be strictly moderated, because I’m not the least bit interested in dealing with jerks; they can go freeze their damn peaches wherever they like, just not here. Expect an explicit comment policy before too long. Comments in not-English may happen, if I can arrange that; posts in not-English may also happen. I’m comfortable in French, German, and Russian, and can get by in Spanish and Japanese reasonably well.

Enough, Cait. Let the nice people get on with their AROTE*.

* AROTE: Arbitrary Rotation of the Earth; an acknowledgement that we don’t all live in the same places, so I may well greet you with AROTE, rather than presume you have a day ahead of you when I do.

I’m a trained linguist, and will often talk about things languagey; this is my avocation as well as my profession. I didn’t do my MA or PhD because in 1992, when I graduated from my BA, I enrolled in an MA programme that I soon after dropped out of, so that I could play “Catatonia” in my bedroom, a solitaire game that I do not recommend. I drew the “Go to Hospital, do not pass Go, do not collect any wages at all” card after a few weeks of playing, and when I came out of the hospital, realized that the reason I was so down was that I needed to transition.

So old boy-name me, whom people thought was a man, went away, and new girl-name me showed up. I’ve been around ever since. I left academe because in 1992, I knew I didn’t have the mental strength to deal with transition and the horrific transphobia then extant in most places.

For one tiny example, the last place I’d worked before transition wouldn’t give me any reference, not even admitting that I worked there, because, in their words, “no-one by your name has ever worked here.” This didn’t fill me with hope about how I’d end up doing in academe, with opaque hiring practices and no protection for gender identity (at that time) in the Charter of Rights here in Canada.

In fact, in those days, I couldn’t change the marker on my ID until I’d had certain specific surgery; I lived for 12 years between transition and surgery with the daily fear that any interaction with police could end up with me in the “boy jail”, without any recourse. You want highly-law-abiding women? Make that threat to them, that they’ll be put in jail with the men if they do anything wrong.

I’ve not had so much as a speeding ticket since I transitioned.

The song…the song helps me feel a little less overwhelmed. In brief (it’s Tsunaida Te, by Lil’B, a Japanese rapper), it’s about not letting go of someone’s hand when they really need you.

Why am I overwhelmed? Because despite my chronic pain issues, i’ve been trying for 26 years now to live within the means I can raise. But as they’ve gotten worse, the time I can work each week has shrunk. I’m now down to about 25 hours a week, that being the maximum I can sustain working. I can do short bursts for longer, but I pay for them later.

Which has led me to the now. Today’s the 1st. That’s rent day. Everything I have in the world is $400, and my rent is more than twice that. I’ve applied to the local welfare programme, which could help with some small amount after I get enrolled in two weeks, but that’s not going to keep a roof over my head. I’m not in urgent danger of being thrown out, but I was late paying last month, and I doubt they’re feeling any more charitable this month.

I can’t afford to move. There’s just no way. I have a rent-controlled apartment $100 less than others of the same type in the same building, and it’s perfectly located for someone without a car and with mobility issues: my pharmacy is a mile away, as are three different grocery stores, my bank, and so on. Also, no way on earth could I raise first & last months’ rent, let alone pay for moving, or get Internet service (without which, I can’t work).

Because I’m just setting this up today, I don’t have a PayPal donate button set up, but if you find you’re in a spot where you could help, well, I could sure use it.

Honestly, if I can end up with even $800 in, I can get my laptop fixed and pay off my overdue charges for Internet, as well as make rent; might even have a few shekels left to make some flyers to drum up more business.

So that’s me, for a start. I’m also, as I mentioned when I’ve posted over at Miri’s Brute Reason blog: CaitieCat is a 47-year-old trans bi dyke, outrageously feminist, and is a translator/editor for academics by vocation. She also writes poetry, does standup comedy, acts and directs in community theatre, paints, games, used to play and referee soccer, now uses a cane daily, writes other stuff, was raised proudly atheist, is both English by birth and Canadian by naturalization, a former foxhole atheist, a mother of four, and a grandmother of four more (so far). Sort of a Renaissance woman (and shaped like a Reubens!).

Thanks for reading. And hey, if you’re able to drop a few bob, you’d be helping me keep the door with as low a wolf-content as possible. My e-mail address eharte66 is scattered in this sentence in bold type at-gmail, as I’ve not yet set up the blog dot-com to have profile and stuff.