Sunday, August 31, 2014

It isn't nothing, it's everything! (Rarity Takes Manehattan)

I am about 80% sure this bit was added in just to explain
Pinkie Pie talking about hot dogs back in Season 1.
If the qlippoth are the anti-sephiroth, then the absence of sephiroth, the "hole" which can be filled with any fruit of the Tree, is Da'at, Knowledge. In Jewish tradition it is identified with the awakening of self-awareness and with adolescence, and divided into the "upper gate" that mediates between wisdom and understanding, and the "lower gate" that mediates between pure intellect and emotion. It is thus the heart of the creative process and the path to Enlightenment--and yet it itself is empty, just a container into which any of the ten true Vessels may be place.

In some variants of the European occult tradition, most notably Aleister Crowley's, it is a gateway to the Abyss, beyond which lies the inverted tree of the qlippoth, and which must be crossed to attain true Enlightenment. There is battled the formless demon Choronzon, the shifting one who becomes your own shadow; there one is forced to either abandon the quest or abandon the Self.

Back in the Jewish tradition, the Zohar calls it "the key that opens six." Just so we're clear on what we're talking about.

It's January 4, 2014. The top song is still Eminem and Rihanna with "Monster." The top movie is once again and quite deservedly Frozen. In the news, a pair of terrorist bombings in Volgograd, Russia; ISIS takes control of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi; and attempted arson at a gay nightclub in Seattle results in only a small fire and no injuries.

In ponies we have Dave Polsky penning "Rarity Takes Manehattan," and something more or less new for the series: a season-long, preplanned arc.

That this arc is season-long and preplanned is not controversial; that this is something new for the series and in this episode might be, so let us consider. First, there are some intimations of arcs in the first and third seasons. However, the creators of the show have made clear that the Grand Galloping Gala was not a preplanned arc in the first season, but a throwaway reference that they decided to run with; meanwhile, the Princesses' testing of Twilight ended up, thanks to the reduced length of Season 3, compressed into the premiere and the finale, so not so much an arc as a single story and its sequel.

The second objection is that the arc was introduced with the appearance of the crystal box at the end of the season premiere, so how can it said to be introduced in this episode? And the answer is that no event can be the "First Annual..." anything; it's not annual until the second year. Likewise, an arc can be intended, but it doesn't become an arc at the beginning; only when a second episode continues it can it be clearly seen as an arc. Of course, in hindsight "Castle Mane-ia" and arguably even "It's About Time" are part of the arc as well, but watching the series in order, that is not yet apparent as of "Rarity Takes Manehattan," while it is fairly straightforward to recognize that the ending implies that the rainbow thread will return--and since we know the ponies are keeping their eyes open for six unknown keys, parsimony suggests the rainbow thread as a candidate for one, making this episode a sequel to the premiere and implying five more like it, presumably one for each of the Mane Six. (Which is, of course, what occurs.)

So what, actually, is happening in this episode? There are three layers at work here, all important.

The first is the running theme we've been seeing all season of exterior intrusion. In this case, it's again an ideological alien, namely our villain of the week, Suri Polomare, notably voiced by Tabitha St. Germaine, the same actress as Rarity. We have, in other words, a pony with the same voice and profession as Rarity, but devoid of her essence. Chokhmah is literally Wisdom, but in the process of creation it represents the underlying creativity, and is also known as the power or palate of selflessness, a fitting choice for the pony of Generosity. Its qlippothic counterpart in Crowley's system is Ghagiel, the force that hinders the creative process, surrounds itself with pride and ego, and dwells in a world of illusion and lies.

Thus we find Suri Polomare, the embodiment of the capitalist ideal of the economically rational actor. She is motivated purely by her own self-interest and pursues only her own advancement, exploiting those too weak to stand against her, such as Coco, sucking up to those with the power to give her what she wants or stand in her way, such as when she tricks Rarity into giving her the fabric, and then betraying her benefactors when they are no longer useful or powerful enough to endanger her, as when she tricks Rarity into staying away from the judge. She is without scruple, perfectly willing to be dishonest, violate the trust of others, or steal, as long as she profits from it--even in the face of defeat, she will use trickery and underhanded tactics to get the victory, as long as it's in a way that she thinks she won't get caught.

By contrast, Rarity's song "Generosity" presents the more typical pony way of life, which is basically a socialist utopia. She describes Manehattan as a gift economy in which ponies, motivated purely by the desire to help others and confident that it will eventually come back around, do favors for other ponies. She demonstrates by giving a hotel bellhop an enormous tip and, along with the others, helping a taxi driver fix his wheel. After the song, the episode demonstrates the power of this concept by having the taxi driver, out of gratitude at the Mane Six's earlier help, volunteering to take Rarity to the fashion competition when she needs to get there in a hurry, and then the bellhop helps the rest of the Mane Six get Rarity's dresses there in time. But note that Rarity helped several other ponies during the song, none of whom do anything to help her in the rest of the episode. Such is the nature of generosity; while the rational actor is entirely about personal profit and thus works to guarantee it, the generous actor doesn't care about their own personal gain, and accepts that it might work out in the end or it might not. The point of generosity is not to accumulate gratitude as a sort of currency, but to be generous; personal gain is irrelevant.

This means that it is quite possible for a rational actor to exploit a generous one, as Suri does to Rarity. In the short term, Suri comes very close to destroying Rarity, making her act extremely ungenerously as she pushes her friends hard to make a second round of clothes for the contest (the image of young women in a small room, working themselves to exhaustion on sewing machines, is almost certainly a reference to sweatshops). But here we get the second layer of what's going on in this episode: Rarity is being tested. She is pushed to the limits of her generosity by Suri's greed and manipulation, and very nearly falls into the trap letting herself be guided by personal gain, denying the ideals she expressed at the beginning of the episode. This is the illusion Suri/Ghagiel weaves, because the rational actor wins in the short term, making it often look as if economic rationality--or, to call it what it is, callous, manipulative selfishness-- is the winning approach, that the bastards will always win in the end.

But Rarity passes. She abandons the contest to find her friends. Winning, acquiring, gaining, is less important than making and maintaining social bonds--and it's true. An excessively rational person cannot be trusted, because they will eventually betray you once that is in their best interest; loyalty is irrational, and therefore only a somewhat irrational person can be trusted. The illusion in which Suri traps Coco is, as Coco notes, in getting her to believe that everyone is as cruelly rational as Suri, and that Coco must therefore go along with Suri's desires in the hopes of one day being able to advance her own goals. But this is false; people are far more generous than is logical, as Coco realizes from observing the generosity of Rarity and the Mane Six.

This is the third layer: by passing her test, abandoning gain in order to reconnect with and do something nice for her friends, Rarity teaches Coco about generosity. Rarity is evolving beyond being merely an icon of generosity; she is a source of it, spreading it to others. And because Coco learns generosity, she gives Rarity a gift as well, allowing Rarity to win out over Suri in the fashion contest and netting Coco a new job as a costume designer with the theater company. As the simulations in the article I linked demonstrate, the selfish bastard wins in almost any isolated contest, but over time and a sequence of contests, the altruistic and generous--the followers of strategies the researchers dubbed "nice"--triumph because they are able to trust one another and cooperate, while the rational actor becomes isolated.

The illusions and selfishness of Gaghiel are defeated. The first key is found, and moreso we have found the formula for acquiring the rest: each pony shall be tested, and in passing their test, shall teach another--fitting for the fruit of Knowledge.

For now we are done, but we shall be returning to the Abyss soon enough.

Next week: But there are more shadows here than just the qlippoth. This episode had perhaps the highest density yet of references for the older viewers, from the Fifth Doctor to the cast of Mad Men to Grumpy Cat. The bronies are invading the show more and more--what darkness follows them? The dread specter of adulthood is here...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy Returns!

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We'll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST today.

Chatlog below the cut!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fiction Friday: Continuing the XS fanfic where we left off...

Seth lay on his bed, watching computer code scroll through the air. "Well, looks like it's not hiding in your personality routines, whatever it is."

"You're sure it's there?" asked Izzy. "I can't find it."

"I'm sure," said Seth. "Your unused cycles aren't. Something's running in them, and I want to know what it is and how it got in you."

"It's creepy, not being able to detect it."

"Yeah, well, that's what has me worried. A virus that can infect you has to be more than some kid playing around. It's somebody who knows what he's doing. But the virus doesn't seem to do anything! It's processing something in spare cycles, but it has no inputs or outputs I can find, and it always gets out of the way whenever you need the cycles. It's like it's waiting for something -- but if that's the case, why run at all? Why not just sit there quietly until it's time to do whatever it's programmed to do?" Seth threw a grease pencil through the display. "Turn it off. I'll work on it later."

"Hey, boss, you made me, remember? You'll figure it out."

Seth rolled back off his bed and grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair he'd slung it over. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he walked out into the hall. His footsteps echoed on the shiny metallic deck, kept meticulously clean by a small army of cat-sized maintenance robots, one of which whirred past his door as he left the room. The walls were a warm, friendly shade of tan above and silver-gray below, marked here and there by the golden splash of a lamp. A multicolored stripe ran between them. Potted plants, marked as "oxygen reclamation units" on the ship's blueprints, lined the corridor, and a holodisplay in the corner was busy cycling through Izzy's latest attempts at drawing. Privately, Seth thought she should stick to interior design; her drawing of him looked like he'd lost a fight with several very large, very angry bouncers and one extremely irate barber.

He walked the other way down the hall, toward the elevator that led to the cargo deck and the AMWS bay.

"You all right, boss?" asked Izzy.


"You're worried," she said. "Is it money?"

"Nah. We'll make do. We might have to make ourselves scarce in Federation space for a while until we can make some of those back payments, but we'll figure something out."

"Vix isn't going to stay much longer if you don't find a way to pay her soon."

"I know," said Seth. "But we need a crew. If people figured out you can run the ship alone --"

"You're worried about the virus, aren't you?"

"It shouldn't be possible to hack you, Izzy! You're way too complex and self-referential for an intruder to hide."

"And a computer that can be hacked can't be trusted to control the ship unsupervised. You'd need at least one more crewmember, and you can't afford the ones you've got."

"That's not what I'm worried about!" The elevator reached bottom, and Seth stepped out into the AMWS bay.

"Aw," said Izzy. "That's sweet of you, boss."

"Yeah, yeah. I'm going to see if I can tweak any more maneuverability out of AMWS Two. Watch the drive output while I do, huh?"

"Captain!" shouted Wehj's voice over the intercom. "We've picked up what looks like a space battle near the fifth planet!"

"Izzy, feed it to the AMWS' screen." Seth watched as lines of light and blossoms of fire erupted around a large cargo ship, boxier and more heavily defended than the sleek Isolde. It was no match, however, for the dagger-like warship bearing down on it or the AMWS units picking off its defenses.

"All right!" said Vix. "A chance at some decent salvage. I'm staying somewhere with a tub tonight!

"Pirates," Seth hissed between clenched teeth. "Both of you, get down to the AMWS bay, now. We launch in five minutes."

"Captain, you can't mean we're going to help them! That's a real warship out there, with real military AMWS! We can't take on something like that," Wehj whimpered.

"That's an order!"

Seth hopped down from AMWS Two. "Prep the launchers and load AMWS One's missile batteries. Arm all weapons, and set us on an intercept course with that warship, best speed," he ordered Izzy.

He had his flight suit on and was just sealing his helmet when the others arrived. "Suit up!" he ordered. "We're launching in two."

"This is crazy," said Vix. "There's a pocket cruiser and a dozen military-grade AMWS out there! We've got one bow cannon, one out-of-date military AMWS, and a pair of heavy lifters you slapped partacs on! Besides, what does fighting them accomplish? We drive off the pirates, we get to keep whatever debris they leave behind. Maybe a few damaged AMWS at best, and we have to split it with the ship they're attacking. Just wait a little while, and we'll have an entire ship's worth of scrap metal, any munitions or cargo the pirates don't carry -- way more stuff."

"I gave an order!" snapped Seth.

Vix stepped forward, topping him by a full head. In her black flight suit, the helmet still deflated and dangling from her collar, she looked sleek and deadly. "I refuse to risk my skin with nothing to be gained from it."

"I am the captain of this ship!" Seth shouted, beginning to purple.

"Not for long, unless you figure out how to pay off some of those loans."

"Bounty," said Wehj.

The other two turned to look at him.

Wehj cringed but kept talking. "Federation has bounties out on hundreds of pirates, and we're not far from their space. There's a good chance we can sell these scraps to the Feddies for a lot more than market value?"

Vix rubbed her jaw. "Yeah, okay, could be worth it," she admitted.

"We launch in 70 seconds," Seth said, ignoring her. "Finish getting on your suits and power up your AMWS." He climbed the concealed handholds on AMWS One's leg and swung into the upper of its two cockpits.

"You all right?" asked Wehj, eyeing Vix warily.

Vix growled. "If this doesn't pay off, that's it. I'm bailing, and forget the back pay. There's gotta be some other ship in this shitpile system that needs crew." She glanced at Wehj. "You with me?"

He considered a moment. "...Yeah, I guess I am."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm feeling silly

In the season premier of Doctor Who: The Legend of Korra, "Deep Breath of Fresh Air," the Doctor tries to deal with the spirit vines choking Victorian London, but her loss of connection to her previous lives makes this difficult.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Utena Dump, Episodes 26-30

I have a guest post on Doctor Whooves up at Phil Sandifer's TARDIS Eruditorum. Give it a read; then, on the off-chance you haven't already, read everything else he has ever written. He does to Doctor Who and British comics what I do to ponies and Madoka, only better.

If you're coming over here from there, welcome! A brief explanation: what you're looking at currently is a biweekly dump I've been doing of my comments on Mark Watches, another site at which I am a semi-regular commenter. As the title implies, this particular dump is my comments on Revolutionary Girl Utena, episodes 26-30.

If you're looking for something more in-depth and Eruditorum-y, I recommend clicking on either of the two Readers' Guides links in the sidebar. My Little Po-Mo is my ongoing project studying My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, while The Very Soil is my now-complete project on Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Ep 26-7

[Due to illness, I never commented on Mark Watches Utena 26. My irate paragraph of comments on MWU 27 was an apology for this. We pick up with the second paragraph:] Fortunately, if I HAD to miss an episode, at least it was Miki's Nest Box, which I find the least interesting episode of the series. I am pretty sure it is only there because the formula demands that a duel with Saionji be followed by one with Miki.

This episode is, fortunately, a lot more interesting. More than any prior episode, it really makes clear that for all her cruelty and posturing, Nanami is incredibly, toxically innocent. It is an important contrast to the Akio car and its offer of the adult experiences unavailable in Ohtori. As horrifying as that is, this episode is a reminder that being stuck in childlike innocence is no less horrifying. Whatever the path away from horror is, it lies through experience and out the other side, not cowering and clinging to a safe, comfortable past.

Poor Nanami. Her Tragedy is that her sense of worth is entirely wrapped up in the approval of others, and as the rich little princess that approval comes not from anything positive she does, but from remaining in her define place and following all the (impossible, contradictory) rules laid down for her. Of all the characters, she is perhaps the one who needs to break the shell most--and, interestingly, in this episode she metaphorically does so by exploring her maternal side in defiance of social rules that say when and how she is permitted to do so.

And Chu-Chu hatches, leading me to my latest theory: Chu-Chu IS the World Revolution. He is what breaking the world's shell creates.

Ep 28

One thing that really stands out to me in this episode is the scene of Shiori and Ruka first meeting. First, it definitely foreshadows the end of the episode, but I've never seen anyone (myself included) actually catch it on first viewing: Shiori HAS to be lying about polishing his sword every day since he's been gone, since Juri's been captain of the fencing team since the first episode and Shiori only transferred in partway through the Black Rose Saga.

Shiori's hair looks brown in the orange light bathing the lockers. Given that orange is Juri's color, it may be a reference to how Juri makes her feel so ordinary and unspecial.

Anyway, I utterly despise Ruka, and this episode contains one example why: He lied about someone polishing his sword, and Shiori lied about being the one who did it, so apparently in Ruka's eyes that makes Shiori a liar and himself cunning. Yay double standards!

It's appropriate his hair is a darker version of Miki... he's basically what Miki could become if he let his entitlement overwhelm his empathy and crossed over into full-on manipulative bastard--he's basically the PUA to Miki's Nice Guy Syndrome.

(Of course, "Miki lets his entitlement overwhelm his empathy" works as a capsule description for basically every Miki episode. When he's not the focus, he's a pretty cool kid who needs to mature up a little. Moment he gets to be the focus character, he starts getting all "Mine!")

And then there's Shiori, who... yeah, okay, she lied to get the boy she liked and was a willing participant in his schemes against Juri. But I don't think she's acting out of entitlement, but rather the same horrifyingly low self-esteem we saw in the Black Rose Saga. Shiori has always struggled with feelings of inferiority, and always believed Juri looked down on her. Compounding that now, Shiori also hates Juri because she believes Juri pretended to be her friend just to get into her pants. This doesn't justify Shiori's actions, of course, but it does help make clear how Ruka is able to manipulate her in this episode. (Surprise surprise, the proto-PUA predator went after the girl with low self-esteem that he could easily control. What an upstanding guy.)

Have I mentioned that I utterly, ferociously despise Ruka?

As for Juri... Eh. We don't really learn anything about her we didn't already know. After Miki and Saionji, that's kind of becoming a pattern in he Car Saga.

Ep 29

Trigger warning: rape, homophobia, sexual violence against lesbians

Shiori is a WRECK when Juri talks to her. She really did develop feelings for that asswipe Ruka.
Ruka physically pins Juri and forces a kiss onto her. So we can add straight-up sexual assault to his list of sins. Then he threatens to destroy Juri's most precious possession, all to make her hate him enough to duel him, even after she's agreed to do what he wants, all so he can set her up as "to blame" or a "willing participant."

And now that he has Juri doing "whatever he wants," Mr. Sexual Assault takes her on a ride in the sexmobile so that they can take the role of bride and groom in the duel.

And then at the end of the episode we learn that this was all a scheme by Ruka, who's got a crush on Juri, to "free her" from her destructive crush on Shiori.

So, yeah. He sexually assaulted the woman he's interested in to end her same-sex attraction. That's called "corrective rape," and it's a real thing that happens to lesbian women.

Ruka is a complete, utter monster who never shows a trace of doubt or remorse. He cares only about HIS wants and HIS perceptions, and uses his strength and fencing skill to violently force them onto Juri. He is the worst person in this entire show, and the fact that he's deathly ill excuses NOTHING.
At least we get a fucking amazing dueling song?

And Juri is still, 29 episodes in, the only member of the student council Utena has never actually beaten.

But whatever, Ruka's a homophobic, misogynistic, rapist asshole and we're well rid of him.


Ep 30

What's most interesting to me about this episode (besides it being just generally relentlessly uncomfortable) is how much like typical, non-fantastic, generic shoujo soap opera it is. I mean, Utena looks older than she is thanks to being a billion feet tall, so it would be easy for a viewer who's never seen Utena before to think this is about a high school girl with a crush on her best friend's kinda skeevy older brother, as opposed to RELENTLESS NAIL-BITING HORROR.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The One Actually Funny #AskIslamicState Tweet

Most of the #AskIslamicState hashtag is a predictable melange of testosterone-poisoned, armchair-general posturing, racism, and religious bigotry, but one tweet I saw in my brief sojourn into the hashtag's depths stood out as being actually pretty funny:

...And yeah, I'm aware that this is probably not going to be remotely relevant by the time it actually goes up, thanks to me actually having a buffer for once. *shrug*

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm on a podcast: Lucifer vol. 1 with Uncle Yo

I'm a guest this week, and for the next several weeks, on geek comedian Uncle Yo's podcast, We Are the Geek. We'll be discussing Mike Carey's comic Lucifer one volume at a time--he's read them all before, I've only read as far as the volume we discuss. Our conversation about volume 1 is here!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Round up our critters (Bats!)

What is it with cartoons, songs about bats, and earworms?
It's December 28, 2013. The top song is still--quite appropriately, as we shall see--"Monster," and the top movie is still the second Hobbit. In the news, members of the Russian band Pussy Riot are granted amnesty and released from jail three months before their sentence would have ended; British WWII hero and computer pioneer receives a posthumous pardon more than 50 years after he was chemically castrated for the crime of homosexuality; and the sign-up deadline for Obamacare arrives.

Meanwhile, Merriwether Williams' delightful "Bats!" airs. In addition to being a strong episode in its own right, this episode also harkens back to the themes of the season premiere more than any prior episode, albeit in three relatively subtle ways.

The more straightforward of these thematic echoes is in the use of concepts of corruption and dark mirrors. Corruption in the premiere was fairly obvious, from the decay of day and night to the transformation of Ponyville into an outpost of the Everfree Forest by the Plunder Vines to the transformation of Luna into Nightmare Moon. Here in "Bats!" we are treated to even more examples of corruptive influences at work from the very beginning of the episode, starting with the transformation of Applejack's apples into globs of gray goop by the vampire bats. This, in turn, leads to a corruption of Applejack and the rest of the Mane Six (except Fluttershy) over the course of the deliciously creepy song "Stop the Bats," from Applejack's initial, understandable position of wanting to protect her crop to a five-pony mob chanting their hatred of bats.

The centerpiece of the story is the corruption and physical transformation of Fluttershy, as feedback from Twilight's magic causes Fluttershy to become gradually hybridized with the bats into a fructivorous "vampire pony."

The figure of a vampire is a classic figure of corruption. The infectious nature of its bite, traditionally, leads to physical and spiritual decay, from the bat- and rat-like features of the titular character of Noaferatu to the conversion into a soulless, super powered predator as in Fright Night or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here, Fluttershy's physical transformation involves acquiring bat-like features, while her mental transformation begins as a craving for fruit and ends with her becoming aggressive and territorial, along with apparently losing her capacity for speech.

This corruption is accompanied by a frequent presentation of dark mirrors of characters. In the premier, there were several such pairings: Discord as the trickster mentor, who uses aggravation and teasing to teach Twilight not to accept special treatment that separates her from her friends, is a distorted reflection of Zecora as the sagely mentor, who teaches Twilight about history by providing a helpful elixir. Nightmare Moon, the darkness of a solar eclipse, is a reflection of Celestia, the light of the sun. And of course the Plunder Vines themselves, plants with the power which consume the landscape and distort magic, are reflections of the Tree of Harmony, which eats the magical Elements and restores order to the landscape.

Likewise "Bats!" contains numerous dark mirrors. The clearest such pairing are Fluttershy, or more accurately Flutterbat, and Applejack themselves: both, after all, are motivated by a desire to take the apples for themselves and prevent others from having them. To a lesser extent, Flutterbat's craving to suck the juice from the apples reflects the running gag of Rainbow Dash's obsession with cider. Even her vampirization itself, as an unexpected transformation into a demonic creature resulting from a seemingly unrelated spell cast by Twilight, is a dark mirror Twilight's transformation and apotheosis at the end of Season 3.

The most subtle thematic echo is also the most important: we once again have a crisis caused by parasitic creatures attacking trees, which means that all of the apple trees are substitutions for the Tree of Harmony, which we have already identified as the Tree of Life, the Sephiroth. In the article on "Princess Twilight Sparkle," I noted that the identification of the tree's symbols with the 10 Sephiroth is in places tenuous, most notably for Applejack and Fluttershy. Since they are the focus characters of this episode, that is now worth re-examing.

The two Sephiroth in question are chesed, the Sephirah of Loving-Kindness, and gevurah, the Sephirah of Strength. Chesed refers to the capacity to care for others, protect and nurture them, and provide for their needs; gevurah refers to the capacity to reject what is dangerous, wicked, or false. A common description of the is as the right arm that embraces and the left arm that pushes away. Fluttershy's gentle, nurturing, self-effacing nature makes her a natural fit for chesed, while Applejack's sometimes-blunt honesty, drive, and strict adherence to a particular notion of How Things Should Be make her a good fit for gevurah.

However, in the Tree of Harmony, Applejack's apple symbol was in the position where we would expect chesed, while Fluttershy's butterfly is in the position of gevurah. This episode helps make sense of that apparent contradiction. At first, Applejack is clearly the one rejecting that which is destructive, namely the bats, while Fluttershy is defined by her kindness toward them. However, the descriptions of the Sephiroth I gave above are not complete, because they reflect only one perspective on the Tree of Life, that of the path to enlightenment, from mundanity at the bottom to enlightenment at the top. The Sephiroth, however, are also the process of creation, from inspiration (or, if you prefer to capitalize "Creation," the Divine) at the top to material product (or the World) at the bottom. In that respect, chesed is the boundless love of the creator for the created, the enthusiastic and potentially infinite expansion of the project; gevurah is the capacity to set limits and boundaries (which is why it is sometimes also called by the Hebrew word din, "judgment").

It is thus significant that this episode is set on Applebucking Day; the last episode set on that day, Season 1's "Applebucking Season," was about Applejack's inability to set limits on her kindess to others or her creative labors (and farmwork does follow the creative process--it begins with an idea, continues as a series of conscious decisions, and ends with a material product, shaped by those decisions, which would not otherwise exist). Here in "Bats!" Applejack admits that she is more concerned with saving Fluttershy than stopping Flutterbat from devouring her crops. Applejack has more than a little affiliation with chesed, in other words; her association with it in the Tree of Harmony, at least where this episode is concerned, is not entirely wrong, even though normally we would place her with gevurah.

Likewise, Fluttershy is very much defined by her boundaries and limits, particularly her social anxieties--and perhaps more importantly, when others cross those boundaries, she is quite capable of forcefully rejecting that which is dangerous or wrong. Indeed, at the end of the episode she states that she she shouldn't have gone along with a plan that made her uncomfortable--that, in other words, she needs to work on boundary-setting where her friends are concerned. Fluttershy has some gevurah to her, and she belongs there in this episode.

The combination of the Qabbalistic theme with corruption and dark mirrors suggests something else may be present in this episode: we should be seeking the qlippothic here as well. In Jewish Qabbalah, the qlippoth (actually kelipoth, Hebrew for "husks") are the obstacles which must be overcome on the path to enlightenment, which get in the way of fully realizing each Sephirah; they are the peels or husks which must be penetrated to get at the "fruit" of the Tree. Certainly there is plenty of that here. Applejack's attempts to drive off the bats are constantly thwarted, because she is using the wrong aspect of gevurah; she should be trying to set limits on them instead, by providing a sanctuary. Fluttershy, meanwhile, finds that her attempts to be kind to the bats are undermined by her excessive meekness and willingness to go along with her friends.

The notions of corruption and dark mirrors, however, become more interesting when we consider the Hermetic interpretation of Qabbalah, in which the qlippoth are corrupted reflections of the Sephiroth. Here we find the associations between Applejack and gevurah on the one hand, and Fluttershy and chesed on the other, are strengthened. The qlippothic reflection of gevurah's strength is the destructive and self-destructive impulse, which we see in this episode in Applejack's determination to stop the bats at any cost, which keeps making things worse for her. The episode avoids mentioning it, but the spell Applejack has Twilight cast is a cruel death sentence--it makes the bats uninterested in eating fruit, their only source of food. And, of course, it is that spell which creates and unleashes the Flutterbat.

Flutterbat is of course the qlippothic reflection of Fluttershy herself, and unsurprisingly it epitomizes the qlippothic reflection of chesed's loving-kindness, the impulse to devour and consume. Flutterbat appears to have no desires except the mindless consumption of all the fruit she can find, until none is left. As is often the case with the vampire, she is reduced to nothing but a hungry predator, (albeit a strictly fructivorous one), leaving drained husks--qlippoth!--in her wake.

And yet Fluttershy insists twice, once during her debate with Applejack at the beginning of the episode, and again after the ponies finish setting up the bat sanctuary at the end of the episode, that the bats' destruction of the apples is, in the long term, good for the trees and the farm, spreading seeds and helping the trees grow stronger. What she is asserting is an alchemical idea we briefly touched on back in Season 1: putrefaction. Literally a form of fermentation, in traditional European alchemy putrefaction is the creative power of decay, the emergence of life from death and value from rot. A rotting peace of fruit looks and spells repulsive to us, but it is also an explosion of life, molds and bacteria and flies. These form the basis upon which the survival of creatures we find more attractive, and ultimately ourselves, depends; the husks make the tree stronger.

In Jewish thought, the qlippoth are not evil or even entirely corrupt; they serve a positive and useful function in that they prevent the energies of the Sephiroth from escaping. The husks make the Tree stronger. This episode thus ties the Hermetic notion of the qlippoth as distortions of the Sephiroth to the Jewish conception of them as having a useful function by way of putrefaction: the corruption and decay of something pure is not inherently evil, and may make it purer and better.

It's a point worth remembering in a season that opened with two fundamental changes to the show's premise, namely Princess Twilight and the introduction of a true seasonal arc--and more changes are coming.

Next week: Speaking of the arc...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

No Kill la Kill Liveblog Today...

Sorry, but I'm at Intervention, enjoying a con where for once I have no responsibilities and, if past years are anything to go by, regenerating my creative energies for the remainder of the year.

In the meantime, have some videos! Today's theme: videos that celebrate the oft-forgotten minor enemies in video games.

First off, this great song parody by the inimitable Smooth McGroove and Dookieshed, "Pokemon: Try to Catch a Few!"

Second, this brilliant original song by Matthew Taranto of Brawl in the Family, "Ode to Minions."

Speaking of Matthew Taranto, he has an *incredible* ability to make songs/videos that give me actual feelings about personality-less classic video game pixel-collections. For example, "If It Takes a Lifetime," which examines what the video game concept of "extra lives" would really mean, passing through horror to something actually kind of sweet:

But the one that makes me actually, I kid you not, cry for a sprite with virtually no characterization is "Prodigal Robot." I tear up at 2:11, and just lose it at 2:29 every goddamn time, because I am apparently a sentimental loser:

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fiction Friday: Some Old Stuff

Well, I don't really have time to write anything new, but since apparently some of you actually do like this feature after all, and one person expressed liking for that "Choosing Ones" bit... have some very old writing of mine, the beginning of the story that that scene would eventually be part of. I'm going to be posting what there is of that story for the next few weeks, while I work on M.L.Po-Mo vol. 2 and the Madoka book, since I have it and it's not completely terrible.

Seth crouched in the corner as the soldiers' weapons pounded at the door. It exploded inward, into the kitchen, chunks of roof falling all around him as the cold night air rushed in, black-clad, masked and goggled soldiers just behind it.

Alarms blared; the Isolde was under attack. The ship was damaged, couldn't move, and the captain lay spread-eagled on the floor, under a broken strut.

His mother lay under the smashed remnants of the kitchen island.

Any moment now they would fire again. The Isolde would be destroyed. The soldiers would kill him.

He screamed, and there was a terrible explosion of red light, and a terrible, all-engulfing silence.

Seth's eyes flicked open and he gasped once, quietly but sharply.

"Morning, boss!" said Izzy merrily.

Seth cursed, not for the first time wondering why he'd designed the Isolde's computer with such a bright, perky voice. "Blarg." He rolled over.

"You had the nightmare again."

"You know," Seth said, voice slightly muffled by the covers, "they have this thing called 'privacy' now. It means computers not watching their crews in their sleep just because they can."

"Aw, you're not really mad. Those centers of your brain aren't getting hardly any blood."

"Don't watch me in the shower!" Seth warned, rolling out of bed and stomping to the stall--one of the perks of being captain was getting his own. Not that it mattered, since currently he only had two crewmembers to use the two crew showers. On the way to the bathroom, he stubbed his toe on one of the many piles of mechanical junk, broken electronics, and tools covering most of the floor, and swore again, vividly and at length.

"Gasp, my virgin microphones!" He never could tell when Izzy was being sarcastic. "It's not like I can't see through your clothes if I want to, anyway. Not that I do--guys made of meat aren't my thing."

"You've been talking to Vix again," Seth muttered, turning on the shower. "Now leave me alone for a bit."

A few minutes later, he stomped out of the bathroom in his boxers, a toothbrush dangling from his mouth. "Hey! Since when do you have an MRI?"

"I don't," Izzy giggled. "Just messing with you."


Vix sat back in her chair, feet up on the navigator's console, watching Imaginary Space drift past.

"Ten minutes to the Bethel Gate," Wehj reported from behind her. "Everything's running smooth, for once."

Vix waved acknowledgment. "Great."

Wehj looked forward. "It's beautiful, isn't it? Creepy, but beautiful. Red and orange ribbons of light, slowly drifting and curling, all around us, going on and on forever. A whole universe of them, hiding behind our own."

"Eh," said Vix. "I always thought it looked like somebody threw up a bunch of blood right after eating cotton candy."


"Hate to interrupt your poetry jam, but the captain's on his way up," said Izzy. "And would you quit putting your feet on me?"

"Yeah, yeah," said Vix, sitting up.

"Hey, Izzy, don't we put our feet on you every time we stand up?" asked Wehj.

"Don't remind me."

The doors at the back of the bridge hissed open and Seth walked in, a short, wiry young man in a black bomber jacket, with close-cropped red hair and messy bangs. He flopped into the captain's chair behind Wehj and raised it to nearly ceiling height. "What's our status?" he asked.

"Six minutes to Bethel Gate," Wehj answered. "Toll signal just coming in."

Seth punched it up on the armrest and authorized payment. He frowned as the money disappeared from his dangerously small account balance.

"So," Vix drawled, "we gonna get paid on this stop, cap'n?"

"Well, maybe. If I don't buy any food or fuel."

"Shit," said Vix, "we barely have enough fuel to make it to Ur-Chaldis after we're done here! How're we supposed to salvage anything if we can't fly? And I am not eating another one of Wehj's bean and yeast-culture surprises."

"Hey!" said Wehj. "It's not my fault we're out of everything else!"

"So, we're agreed," Seth said. "I'll give you an IOU."

"You know what I think?"

"Yes, Vix, we know what you think," said Seth.

"They'll pay a lot of good money for medical supplies on Artaxerxes. A lot more than the Federation's paying us to deliver them."

"I told you before, Vix," said Seth. "We're not pirates. We're not going to steal."

"And cheating's so different? Not two months ago you sold an antique dealer a random piece of scrap metal claiming it was a chunk of the Woglinde! Hell, for that matter, how different's being a scavenger? Isn't that stealing from the dead?"

"We collect debris from battlefields and sell it. That's a lot different from taking medicine from refugees!"

"You're right. This is safer and more lucrative!" countered Vix.

"Forget it," said Seth. "We're delivering these supplies and fulfilling our contract. That's final!"

"Approaching Gate," said Wehj quietly.

A point of darkness directly ahead of them suddenly expanded into a spherical window, through which they could see stars and the occasional chunk of rock. Then they were through, and the Gate collapsed, the only sign of it a tiny red point at the center of the slowly rotating Generator station.

"Ah, man!" Wehj groaned. "Bethel's all the way on the other side of the sun. Just our luck, we hit the system this time of year."

"Can it!" snapped Seth, kicking Wehj's headrest from his position above and behind the mechanic--as near as he could tell, the only reason the ship's designers had put the captain's chair on a movable arm. "It is lucky. We can do a big curve in, do a sensor sweep of most of the system before we get there. Maybe we'll find something left over from the war!"

"Yeah, right," said Vix. "This system's been picked clean a thousand times. Setting course for Bethel, ETA four hours."

"Hey, my grandma always told me, where there's life, there's hope." Wehj rubbed the back of his head, though his headrest had absorbed almost all of the captain's blow.

"My grandma always said, where there's life, there's shit," Vix countered. She added thoughtfully, "Then she'd get drunk and start screaming about Realians."

"All right, that's enough sharing time for me, kids." Seth returned his chair to ground level and hopped off. "I'm headed below. Let me know if you find anything interesting."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sailor Moon Crystal: Episode 4 Chatlog

As I said yesterday, sorry this is a day late. I'll endeavor to do better in the future.

So I've decided, mostly because it's faster, to stick with the chatlogs for Sailor Moon Crystal. Sorry if you liked the other way better, but no one expressed an opinion so I went with what worked for me.

Reminder: There is NO Kill la Kill (or anything else) chat this weekend. We will resume with the next episode of both Kill la Kill and SMC the following weekend.

[15:00] <@Sylocat> Why is their logo Speedy Gonzales?
[15:00] <@Sylocat> Ooh, high-tech display
[15:01] <Arrlaari> "Suspicious Character"
01[15:01] <Froborr> Wait, so Luna knows Mamoru is Sailor Fedora?
01[15:01] <Froborr> Has she bothered to, I dunno, TELL ANYONE ELSE?
[15:01] <@Sylocat> Seriously, Luna gives them less mission briefing than Kyubey
01[15:02] <Froborr> People keep complaining about the animation quality in this show.
[15:02] <FoME> In the original series, she was essentially an amnesiac.
01[15:02] <Froborr> Maybe it's because I grew up watching cartoons in the 1980s, but I really don't think it's that bad.
[15:02] <Arrlaari> ad
01[15:02] <Froborr> Same here.
[15:02] <Arrlaari> Also, I might have to reload, I'm getting terrible framerate
[15:02] <FoME> And here.
01[15:03] <Froborr> I mean, at least the show looks like it was made by actual artists, unlike something like RWBY.
[15:03] <Arrlaari> The sound is playin okay but I don't actually see the ad
[15:03] <Arrlaari> Yeah, I gotta reload this
[15:03] <@Sylocat> Should we wait?
01[15:03] <Froborr> Ad over, but we'll wait for you Arrlaari.
[15:03] <FoME> Say when.
[15:04] <Arrlaari> Reloaded, ads rewatched, go
[15:05] <@Sylocat> Re-click
[15:05] <@Sylocat> Usagi sleeps with a manga on her pillow
01[15:05] <Froborr> lol, she is a shoujo manga nerd.
[15:05] <@Sylocat> Ouch
01[15:05] <Froborr> Wow, her mom is horrifying.
01[15:06] <Froborr> So far, Madoka gets a more informative mascot and a vastly better mom. Are we *sure* which show is the dark deconstruction?
[15:06] <@Sylocat> Exposition dump? It's only the fourth episode
[15:06] <@Sylocat> "Princess D from the Kingdom of D?" Is that a translation glitch?
[15:06] <Arrlaari> No, that's what they said
[15:07] <@Sylocat> I thought they were talking about some fantasy novel thing
01[15:07] <Froborr> I think it's like in old novels, when they would give the year as 17-- or whatever.
[15:07] <@Sylocat> Ah, they're all bisexual
01[15:08] <Froborr> They're all bisexual and they all want Ami, because they have taste.
[15:08] <@Sylocat> Indeed
01[15:08] <Froborr> Actually, the only one we know is bisexual is Usagi.
01[15:08] <Froborr> The other two could be lesbians.
[15:09] <@Sylocat> Are they talking about Usagi or Princess D?
[15:09] <@Sylocat> My cat does that sometime
[15:10] <FoME> Exposit?
[15:10] <@Sylocat> He's weirder than I remember
01[15:10] <Froborr> Wut
[15:10] <@Sylocat> And why does she have his glasses?
01[15:10] <Froborr> Is he secretly a princess? Because that would be the best.
[15:10] <@Sylocat> That would indeed be awesome
01[15:11] <Froborr> More likely though there's going to be silly lookalike villains kidnap the wrong person shenanigans.
[15:11] <@Sylocat> Remind me to tell you my webcomic idea
[15:11] <@Sylocat> Ah, of course, that's why she has his glasses
[15:11] <@Sylocat> That's her dad?
01[15:11] <Froborr> Who the hell is that?
[15:11] <Arrlaari> Yes
[15:11] <@Sylocat> He looks far too much like Fedora Mask
[15:11] <Arrlaari> ad
01[15:11] <Froborr> SHE HAS A DAD!?
[15:12] <Arrlaari> Madoka had a dad
[15:12] <Arrlaari> Or: Will have a dad, since that came much later than this
01[15:12] <Froborr> I have an ad too.
[15:12] <Arrlaari> Longer than mine, I guess
[15:12] <Arrlaari> I'm paused
01[15:12] <Froborr> Well, yes, but I assume she just emerged parthenogenically from awful-lady.
01[15:13] <Froborr> As most anime characters do.
01[15:13] <Froborr> Back.
[15:13] <@Sylocat> I almost feel sorry for Luna
[15:14] <Arrlaari> Security theater is so oppressive
01[15:14] <Froborr> Why is he not wearing a mask?
01[15:14] <Froborr> Why is SHE not wearing a mask?
01[15:14] <Froborr> I DEMAND MASKS
[15:14] <@Sylocat> Are we SUPPOSED to note the decidedly-creepy resemblance between Mamoru and Usagi's dad?
01[15:15] <Froborr> Given he just thought his daughter in disguise was hot, I don't see any other way to read this.
[15:15] <@Sylocat> Suddenly my framerate got shot to hell
[15:15] <FoME> I'd never considered that angle until now. Thanks for that...
[15:15] <Arrlaari> Should we pause, Sylo?
[15:15] <@Sylocat> Nah... it's back now
[15:16] <@Sylocat> You're welcome, FoME
[15:16] <@Sylocat> Oh great... here he comes
01[15:16] <Froborr> He should have worn a mask over his mask.
[15:16] <FoME> Then he could have lent her one.
[15:17] <@Sylocat> Not that the masks seem to disguise anything
01[15:17] <Froborr> I see he dances like an aggressive, controlling jerk too.
[15:17] <Arrlaari> "Oh shit a cat!"
[15:17] <@Sylocat> Oh jeez, he is horrible
[15:18] <@Sylocat> Remind me to posit my theory on this
[15:18] <@Sylocat> Wait, she's a guy in disguise?
01[15:18] <Froborr> Why did you not do that BEFORE you went into the room?
[15:18] <@Sylocat> Ah, it's Nephlite
[15:18] <@Sylocat> Ew
[15:19] <@Sylocat> I do love the CGI transformation sequences
[15:19] <FoME> Agreed.
01[15:19] <Froborr> Yeah, particularly Mars'.
01[15:19] <Froborr> Can you say "major international diplomatic incident"?
[15:19] <Arrlaari> They play rock guitars & drums for her
[15:20] <@Sylocat> This'll have repercussions
[15:20] <@Sylocat> Or is it like Sunnydale where everyone will forget it?
[15:20] <@Sylocat> Oh no...
[15:20] <FoME> Well, they do seem to have a Hellgate nearby...
[15:21] <@Sylocat> 'Douse yourselves in water?"
[15:21] <@Sylocat> What does that even...
01[15:21] <Froborr> BtVS is basically just an American live-action Sailor Moon remake when you think about it.
[15:21] <Arrlaari> Sitting under a waterfall is an atonement ritual
[15:21] <FoME> With less stock footage.
[15:21] <@Sylocat> Ah, so SHE saves HIM... will that make him less of a jackass?
01[15:21] <Froborr> Wait, really?
[15:22] <@Sylocat> Sitting under a waterfall? I'd heard it was a meditation technique, but an atonement ritual?
01[15:22] <Froborr> Um, okay, the tiara thing was a bit odd.
[15:22] <FoME> Maybe it's supposed to be a reference to baptism?
[15:22] <@Sylocat> Just conjur a new tiara
01[15:22] <Froborr> And yeah, I think the water thing is a reference to purification rituals in general.
[15:22] <@Sylocat> Oh jeez... that was the most pathetic way of...
01[15:23] <Froborr> Shinto has those too, y'know.
[15:23] <@Sylocat> Why does it paint her nails if she's going to be wearing gloves?
01[15:23] <Froborr> Oh, tiara upgrade.
[15:23] <FoME> Usagi got the Power of Love.
[15:23] <FoME> (Not as good as the Power of Self-Respect.)
[15:23] <@Sylocat> Sheesh. I liked last episode where Tuxedo Jerk missed the battle entirely
01[15:24] <Froborr> (Don't get me started on how badly that movie flubbed its ending.)
01[15:24] <Froborr> Did they just abandon a blind princess?
01[15:24] <Froborr> Guess not.
[15:25] <@Sylocat> Well, she made it back on her own
01[15:25] <Froborr> EWWWW
[15:25] <@Sylocat> Oh of course it looks like her.
01[15:25] <Froborr> THANK YOU Luna
[15:25] <@Sylocat> Oh jeez
[15:25] <FoME> Wait, she never changed back?
[15:26] <@Sylocat> Luna finally helps out
01[15:26] <Froborr> Luna, he was just kissing your unconscious, underage charge, I AM PRETTY CERTAIN HE'S AN ENEMY
01[15:26] <Froborr> Ad
[15:26] <Arrlaari> Ad
[15:27] <Arrlaari> My ad is ended.
01[15:27] <Froborr> Back.
01[15:27] <Froborr> Ending credits, meh.
01[15:28] <Froborr> So yeah, I am seriously disgusted by Tuxedo Pedonecrophiliac.
[15:28] <Arrlaari> So, that kiss was in the manga and older anime. The fan circle I move in object to it for the obvious and correct reasons.
[15:28] <@Sylocat> How old is he, BTW? Please tell me he's not an adult
[15:28] <Arrlaari> He is a high school student
01[15:28] <Froborr> He's definitely quite a bit older than her.
01[15:30] <Froborr> I kinda want to look it up, but spoilers.
01[15:31] <Froborr> Okay, I looked it up, he's 17.
01[15:31] <Froborr> A 17-year-old and a 14-year-old... I dunno, pretty borderline.
[15:32] <@Sylocat> Of course, characters like him are an inevitable side effect of the obsession with innocence and chastity that we drill into girls from an early age...
01[15:32] <Froborr> But kind of irrelevant, since she was ASLEEP.
[15:32] <@Sylocat> Girls fantasize about creepy pseudorapists because fantasizing about sexual decisions being taken out of their hands is the only way they can reconcile their natural urges with their socialized desires to be "good girls" and never engage in sexual contact
[15:32] <FoME> And so it becomes an entrenched element of the fairy tale romance.
[15:32] <@Sylocat> So of course the romantic lead has to be an aggressive douchebag
01[15:33] <Froborr> Yep. It's the same place Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray and so forth come from.
01[15:33] <Froborr> This is why everyone should watch Utena in high school.
01[15:33] <Froborr> Nip that shit right in the bud, for guys and girls.
[15:35] <Arrlaari> Look what up? His age?
01[15:35] <Froborr> LYeah.
[15:36] <@Sylocat> Okay... I have to go and get some shopping done for the upcoming con
[15:36] <@Sylocat> (which, incidentally, is next weekend, so I won't be able to make it... sorry)
[15:36] <@Sylocat> (make it to here, I mean)
[15:36] <Arrlaari> Last week we established that Froborr also can't make it next week, didn't we?
[15:36] <@Sylocat> Ah... well, I guess we're postponing then
[15:36] <@Sylocat> All right, see y'all around... we can work out further logistics in the comments
[15:36] <@Sylocat> bye
[15:36] <FoME> I'm sure we'll figure this out.
01[15:37] <Froborr> Yeah, we're skipping next week.
01[15:37] <Froborr> Come back for Kill la Kill and Sailor Moon the week after.
01[15:38] <Froborr> Anyway, tons of work to do, so later all!

Sylocat, this is your reminder to tell us about your webcomic idea!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A stray thought regarding Terry Pratchett and Ferguson, MO

I forgot to queue up Wednesday's regular Sailor Moon post, and unfortunately the chatlog is on a computer I won't have access to until tonight. So have Thursday's post today, and Wednesday's post will go up tomorrow.

The other night, I was rereading Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, and I wondered: would Ferguson be as bad as it is if all cops were required to read the Watch books?

And the answer is, of course, yes, because the human ability to compartmentalize and justify via special pleading is infinite, but still, I can't help but think that things might be slightly better if the prevailing cultural image of cop-as-hero was more Vimes and less Dirty Harry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Aperiodic State of the Blog

So, the general consensus I seem to be getting regarding doing solo Let's Plays is "don't." So scrap that idea.

I'm in a bit of a writing slump lately, and being ill hasn't helped. (I am basically mildly ill about 90% of my waking hours this past month, occasionally flaring into something more debilitating. I know what it is and what caused it, it's a chronic thing I've had for years. There's basically nothing I can do about it in the short term, and I'm already working on the medium term. Long term... well, in the long term everyone's got the same prognosis eventually, right?) My own stuff has been kind of lagging, particularly the Madoka book, but I've got some guest posts and collaborations coming up that I'm pushing my way through. As those go up I'll link them here, of course.

Anyway, I'm going to try to keep churning through the last couple dozen pony posts each weekend, and I'll try to keep up with quasi-interesting daily thoughts as well--and as I mentioned elsewhere, I have already written a six-part series to go up on alternate Wednesdays after I run out of Utena--but I make no promises regarding Fiction Friday ("oh no!" cried all zero fans of Fiction Friday) or anything else really.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Holy guacamole! (Power Ponies)

Sorry this is so late. I was ill again this weekend, and spent much of it asleep as a consequence.

Twilight is all wrong here. Everyone knows, primary
colors are for heroes, secondaries are for villains!
It's December 21, 2013. The top song is Eminem feat. Rihanna with the interestingly layered "Monster." The top movie is still The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In the news, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, while Ukrainians protest the ties between the two, a conflict which will only grow in the coming months. Same-sex marriage becomes legal in New Mexico and Utah. And Uganda passes its controversial and brutal anti-homosexuality law with heavy backing from U.S. right-wing Christian leaders; the law will be struck down by the courts on a technicality in the summer of 2014.

In ponies we have yet another case of interpenetration with an outside context with "Power Ponies," written by Meghan McCarthy, Charlotte Fullerton, and Camp Lakebottom co-creator Betsy McGowen in her first and only Friendship Is Magic writing credit to date. The episode is largely an entertaining bit of froth, in which Spike (yes, the same Spike who defeated Sombra) is feeling useless and gets an opportunity to prove otherwise to himself, while maintaining a rather higher standard of good behavior than is the norm for Spike-focused episodes.

Despite said frothiness, however, the episode does continue the season's exploration of its recurring theme of encountering the alien. In this case, rather like "Daring Don't," it's an interaction with an alien setting and genre; however, where "Daring Don't" tries to bring a tonally incompatible story-space into Equestria, "Power Ponies" sends the cast out into a new, ideologically incompatible story-space. In this respect it is rather more like "Read It and Weep," down to using a book as the device which transports the readers into a new world; in this case, however, the book's magic and resulting transportation is literal, rather than metaphorical.

Unlike the Indiana Jones-esque adventures of Daring Do, the Mane Six and Spike slot quite neatly into the superhero/comic-book world into which they are transported. First, their role within Equestria is arguably that of superheroes, protectors with access to a unique power that allows them to confront threats to the realm. Second, though both adventure serials and comic books arise from the pulp tradition, comics, particularly the Silver Age style which the titular Power Ponies seem to be evoking, are more brightly colorful, more prone to silliness, and more likely to leave their villains alive at the end of the story. In this respect, Batman has more in common with Friendship Is Magic than he does with Indiana Jones; both Batman and the ponies are largely unable to kill off their villains, Batman because of the general unwillingness of comics to let go of a potentially compelling character, and the ponies because murder is generally not something parents want their small children to see. The outcome is that both the ponies and Batman become defined, where their villains are concerned, by hope; just as the ponies keep stubbornly trying to show Discord what real friendship is, Batman keeps stubbornly returning the Joker to Arkham Asylum in the hope that this time he'll reform.

But as I said above, there is still an underlying incompatibility between Friendship Is Magic's storytelling and a superhero comic, one ideological in nature. This is perhaps most clear with the figure of the Mane-iac, the Power Ponies' nemesis. She is treated as a fairly standard Silver Age comic-book supervillain, which is to say that the explanation of both her motivation for destroying Maretropolis, and her convoluted scheme for doing so, is a vague "insanity." Played simultaneously as comedic and destructive, this "insanity" consists of her concocting elaborate schemes around the theme of hair, stealing and destroying property, threatening the lives of the Power Ponies and citizens of Maretropolis, and laughing constantly. Contrast to the depictions of psychological distress elsewhere in the series; while at times generically "crazy" ponies have appeared as part of a brief gag, such as the "barking mad" pony in "Read It and Weep," most of the depictions of psychological disorder have been much more sympathetic, usually involving the Mane Six themselves. These include Pinkie Pie's pathological need for constant peer approval ("Party of One"), Twilight Sparkle's destructive perfectionism ("Lesson Zero"), and Rainbow Dash's learning disability ("Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3"). By contrast, the villains of the show have been largely free of obvious psychological disorder; they're just selfish, self-centered, or mean.

This differing treatment of mental illness and villainy is an artifact of, as I have said, ideological differences between Friendship Is Magic and the genre of the superhero. To finally address those differences, the core conceit of the superhero is that the powers that be are lacking in strength, will, or ability, and thus cannot fully contain threats to the well-being of the people. Fortunately, a singular, heroic individual appears, superior not only in ability but also in will and morality, to the common folk and their leaders. This unelected hero is able to rise against the corruption within society, and enact justice and the will of the people outside any structures (or strictures) of law and the courts.

The superhero, in other words, is fundamentally a romantic conception. It is rooted in the notion that human society is corrupt, "the masses," are base, but that there is nonetheless a pure will or spirit of the people--Hegel's zeitgeist--which can be expressed through an individual ubermensch. It is inherently anti-democratic and anti-rule of law. Indeed, this particular expression of romantic ideology--the superior human who cuts through the necessary compromises of liberal society in order to enact a nebulous "will of the people," not might makes right or right makes might, but might is right--is a passible capsule summation of the essentials of fascism.

Which is not to say that any superhero, or any of their creators, are themselves fascists! (Well, maybe Mr. A.) Rather, it is simply that by drawing on a similar philosophical tradition--the Continental romanticism of Hegel and Nietzsche--the superhero genre ends up necessarily sharing some concepts in common with fascism. Included within these romantic notions is an equation of beauty, health, and goodness. Evil is seen as a sickness, and by extension, sickness is evil. Superheroes and villains very often share similar types of origins--exposure to a vat of strange chemicals, for example. But because Barry Allen is a superior man, his strange chemicals make him the heroic, classically handsome, empowered Flash; the Joker is an inferior man, so his chemicals make him psychologically broken, ugly, and evil. Up until the 1960s and the beginning of a conscious effort to create flawed and vulnerable heroes, there were few exceptions to a general rule of superhero comics: heroes are noble, healthy, attractive, and strong, villains are bestial, broken, ugly, and flawed.

By contrast, Friendship Is Magic is set in a world where everyone has both something to contribute and something to learn. The very concept of the cutie mark and "super special talent" implies that every pony is heroically capable in some narrow field. As many or more episodes are spent dealing with the Mane Six's neuroses and struggles with everyday life as are spent battling evil threats to Equestria. Ultimately this is rooted in a humanistic, Enlightenment worldview in which all people have value and can better themselves, in which the world is not divisible into "good" and "bad" so much as "enlightened" and "ignorant," with the latter needing only to learn a few lessons in order to change. Goodness is not inherently connected to attractiveness or health, which are not inherently connected to each other; rather, all people have flaws and issues with which they struggle, but said flaws can be overcome by working together. The Mane Six are not superior because they can battle powerful evil; indeed, this is not even the source of their worth. Rather, they have worth because they are people, and they improve themselves and their world by exploring their own potential, which may or may not involve confronting villains (primarily depending on whether this is a season premier/finale or mid-season episode).

Ultimately, Friendship Is Magic is as far from fascism as one can get while still remaining within more-or-less modern ideologies. Namely, in its emphasis on self-discovery within a cooperative community, it takes a fundamentally socialist worldview. Each pony contributes what they can contribute, and explores ways to better themselves and thus contribute more. Because each pony is equally valuable, these contributions are thus also of equal value; Spike's efforts, his desire to help, and most of all Spike himself are not worth less (let alone worthless) just because the rest of the Mane Six are able to take care of the task of cleaning the castle without him. Spike lives in a story where people have value regardless of the size of their contribution, and so he has value; Hum Drum, by contrast, lives in a story where one's contribution to society is the source of one's value, and so he is the smallest, least powerful, and least able to do good of the Power Ponies.

In the end, this incompatibility between the liberal values of Friendship Is Magic and the romantic values of a superhero comic reiterate the tensions often present in modern comics. Explorations of the fascistic roots of the superhero have become increasingly common in the last few decades, starting with the work of Frank Miller (who wallows in them) and Alan Moore (who exposes and uproot them) in the 1980s, and continuing as a thread down to the present day--the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for example, unites the heroic SHIELD and villainous HYDRA into a single organization dedicated to totalitarian control, making the titular hero complicit in the very fascist ideology he was created to fight.

Ultimately, Friendship Is Magic has no answer to this tension except to retreat from it, back into the safe and familiar space of its more humanistic worldview. But this notion of the Mane Six as heroes, a superior breed with the power and responsibility to protect others, will return. They undeniably do have power, in their own world just as much as in the comic. If not fighting villains, or not just fighting villains, what are they to use it for?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kill la Kill Liveblog Chat Thingy

Sorry to get this up so late, as I mentioned I've been ill the last few days.

How to participate in the liveblog chat:

Option 1: Whenever you watch the episode, comment on this post as you watch with whatever responses you feel like posting!

Option 2: Go to Enter a nickname, then for the Channels field enter ##rabbitcube, and finally fill in the Captcha and hit Connect! We'll be watching the episode and commenting there starting at 2:00 p.m. EST today.

Following the Kill la Kill liveblog we will take a short break, and then watch Sailor Moon at 3:00 p.m. EST.

Kill la Kill chatlog below the cut!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fiction Fridays: Fragmentary Fanfiction

Here's a fragment from a fanfiction that's been kicking around in my head since, I dunno, seven or eight years ago? I won't tell you the context or what it's a fanfiction of, because whatever.

“So you’re saying this is destiny? That we’re, what, the Chosen Ones or something?”

The pretty young man laughed. Behind him, the vines covering the wall wilted, turned brown, and began to rot away. “Don’t be ridiculous. None of you are special. There are trillions of people in this universe–there is absolutely nothing any of you could do that someone, somewhere, can’t do better.”

“Then why–”

“Because you're here. They're not. Each and every one of you made decisions that led to more decisions, little ripples in the fabric of time, spreading out, intersecting, interfering with and influencing one another, coming together until you form the bubbling front of a colossal wave, a wave which is coming ashore here.”

The stones beneath his feet cracked with age, splintering into dust as he spread shining wings. “Chosen Ones were how he operated. Me, I decided to wait for the Choosing Ones.” His wings continued to unfold, bigger than eagles’, than swans’, than airliners’. Where they brushed against the steel catwalk above, rust spread across it, red-brown on beams suddenly sagging with metal fatigue. “Now choose!”

The protons in the air around him decayed, blue sparks of Cerenkov radiation lashing out from where he stood. Space shredded with the shriek of tearing silk, if silk could bleed. Wind, hot and stinking, blew past them as he glowed brighter and brighter. “Show me the light of your wills!” he cried. “Show me the power to make the universe other than what it is!”

Then he attacked.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Seeing as my office has decided this is a games site...

No, seriously, for the past two weeks the automatic content filter at my work has started blocking all of MLPomo, and informs me it's classified as "Games" when I try to visit. No idea why it's blocked while, for instance, Nintendo Project Reloaded is just fine.

Anyway, if this is a games site, let's talk games. The window to record anything with Viga is now basically over until the end of the year, and uncertain then. So if I do Let's Plays, it'll be just me for the time being.

I ran some experiments and it looks like I can more-or-less successfully record off my PC. I'm thinking of doing an FFV Let's Play--I haven't played it in a long time, I like it, and it's not something you see covered a lot.

My main question is: should I try to be funny? Or intelligent/analytical? Or both?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Utena Dump, Episodes 21-25

Continuing the fortnightly series of posts collecting my comments on the Mark Watches reviews of Revolutionary Girl Utena:

Ep 21:

The only real support for fans who regard the Black Rose Saga as a filler arc, so I'm going to limit myself to noting [in response to Mark commenting that, had he watched this series in high school, he might have avoided some toxic relationships] that alas, Mark, I'm not sure watching this would have helped. I DID watch this show in high school, when it was new, and I was still all Nice Guy Syndrome until my mid-twenties.

Ep 22:

Mikage's chalkboard when Akio visits him in the flashback is interesting. For a big scientific research project, it contains very little math. It does have what look like I Ching hexagrams and an inverted symbol of Venus/feminine/copper. Something to do with the Eternal Feminine, maybe?

As several people have noted, time is SERIOUSLY broken at Ohtori, possibly as a result of the project Nemuro was working on. Clothing styles have gone from 70s to 90s, and Tokiko has aged from maybe early 20s to maybe 40, but Mikage and Akio haven't aged a day. Neither has Mamiya, but either his death was faked or he's undead. Meanwhile, there's hints of time going faster than it should (the tea, the cats reproducing in the course of a conversation), slower (the stopped hourglass, the teacup still being there), and even backwards (the butterfly becoming an egg on a leaf).

Meanwhile, we see the duelists planting trees, and their sacrifice is so that one day the path to eternity can be opened from the school. Saionji stated that the upside-down castle is the place where eternity can be found; the implication would seem to be that the goal of the project was to create the dueling forest and arena.

The Shadow Girl play seems to be about Mikage, an apparently unfeeling robot. But note, it says it never gets lonely because it has the monkeys for company--that lack of feeling is just Mikage denying his emotions and therefore being controlled by them. (Hi there, Spock!) The monkeys he catches are, of course, the Black Rose duelists. The implication, then, is that his nefarious scheming is a doomed attempt to cope with his loneliness.

Of course, there's another way to read the play: Who else do we know that hides (from) their true feelings, pretends to have no will of their own, and has a monkey for a friend?

Oh, and I forgot: on the time is broken thing? That's the common fan theory on why Miki is always fiddling with the watch. He's noticed, and is trying to catch time in the act, so to speak. Note also that he's the first character to know anything about Nemuro Hall--I suspect he's figured out its somehow connected to the time distortions.
Ep 23:

Best duel song of the arc, IMO. Weirdly straightforward Shadow Girl play, too: it's pretty clearly about how pathetic it is to cling to past accomplishments instead of moving forward into the future and forging new ones.

Mikage/Nemuro's goal, we learn, was to make his memories eternal. I'm guessing what happened was, roughly, that they opened the path to eternity just too late to save Mamiya, and Nemuro burned the place down in rage and grief, or possibly as part of a bargain with Akio to make his memories of Mamiya last forever. (It's not Nemuro Memorial Hall because Nemuro died there; it's called that because his memories are stored there.)

Either way, the result was a haunting. Anthy in the form of Mamiya stuck by Mikage (which is why she's been so tired--being two people at once must be exhausting), and the two preserved memories--ghosts, in other words--lingered on the campus, stuck in their pasts.

(I mistyped the preceding line as "stuck in their pasta." VERY different show, that would be.)

The question then becomes, what was the point of all this? What did Akio gain by manipulating Mikage into manipulating the students?

Well, it's hard to say what he gained, but something did change: time is now even more broken. Mikage never existed to begin with, and the memories of the Black Rose Saga are, for Utena, seemingly erased? Did the Duels happen without them ever figuring out who was behind them? Or did they all just get a couple months' break from dueling?

More importantly, Miki remembers that the building is called something Memorial Hall... But if it wasn't rebuilt after the fire, that means it was named that BEFORE the event that caused it to be renamed!

So now the question shifts: Who and what ARE Akio and Anthy? It's now clear that Anthy's insight and the strange events that happen around her aren't coincidental... She has power of some kind, and she's actively working with Akio. But to what end? How much is her involvement willing and how much is it coerced, given the abusive sexual relationship between them? (Her smile at the end of this episode suggests that she did derive some pleasure from manipulating Mikage.)

And what on Earth could their goal be, that breaking time is part of it? Are they after eternity, or something else?

Ep 24:

I kind of perversely love this episode? I mean, objectively it's not very good, but the sheer audacity of doing a clip show made of clips from filler episodes fills me with glee. The only clip show I like better than this is the Greatest Clip Show of All Time, from Clerks the Animated Series. (It was the SECOND EPISODE. They only had one clip. They showed it about 20 times over the course of the standard-issue clip-show frame story.)

Anyway, this makes perfect sense. It's the end of the arc, so we need a clip show. But the conclusion of the Black Rose Saga retroactively deleted the entire plot, so what can we show clips of? Why, the not-plot, obviously!

There's also something a bit subtler going on, too--the last episode showed that Anthy has (currently vaguely defined and of unknown origin) Powers, that her manipulations and insights are NOT an accident but tied in directly to the weirdness of Ohtori Academy. This episode thus does to the Nanami Has Wacky Animal Adventures episodes what the previous clip show did to the Student Council arc, namely recontextualize it to show how it all tied together into an ongoing plot orchestrated by a hitherto unsuspected shadowy figure.

EVERYTHING bad that has happened to Nanami thus far is Anthy's doing. Remember the elephant she drew in the margins of her textbook during the study session with Nanami and Miki? And now we see that she fed her curry to the Barbershop Trio and elephants, creating elephants that wanted to pursue Nanami.

This is a silly, pointless filler episode--TVTropes calls it the only entirely dispensable episode of the series. Yet it's also the episode that demonstrates PRECISELY how powerful, dangerous, and frankly sadistic Anthy can be when provoked. She is not the innocent princess--but that does not necessarily mean that she is pure evil either, of course. Thus far there have not been any purely good or purely evil characters in this show--even Mikage was more misguided than malicious in the end, and Akio, for all that he is a sexual abuser and Mikage's puppet-master, has also been giving Utena actually pretty good advice all arc.

(Also, surprise return of the monkey-catching robot, who carts C-ko off into space in a ship that looks suspiciously similar to the one A-ko and B-ko left in at the end of the last arc. Does that mean we're going to get a D-ko taking over Shadow Play duties? Or Shadow Play Girls In Space? Only time will tell...)

 Ep 25:

Oh man. So much momentous stuff happens in this episode. The new arc really kicks off with a bang. Too bad it then immediately loses all momentum while it spends the next six or seven episodes cycling through the contractually obligatory duels with all the student council members. Have I mentioned that I really dislike the Car Saga enough times yet?

So, big revelation number one: Akio is named after the Japanese name for the Morning Star, and I'm just going to quote (warning: the text I quote in the next few paragraphs is safe, but the rest of the article contains extensive spoilers for the Madoka Magica movie, Rebellion) myself on this:
There is a recurring myth in the ancient Mediterranean. In it, the Shining One (Hebrew: Helel, Greek: Phaethon) tries to usurp the Sun or the supreme deity, and is cast down or punished for his presumption. This is a familiar myth in our culture, due mostly to the Greek version. The Semitic version is less well known, in large part because one of the few written references we have to it has been lost in translation, Isaiah 14:12-15 (NIV version):
"How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit."
The English term "morning star" is being used to translate the Hebrew Helel. We can imagine the mythology here fairly easily--the brightest star in the sky, refusing to share its place with the other stars, and instead jumping up into the sky at dawn, ahead of the sun. Then at sunrise it is wiped away, only for the story to repeat the next day, an endless cycle of celestial hubris.
Of course, most of us are more familiar with another translation, the King James, and another variant of the myth, which uses the Latin name for the morning star: Lucifer.
So that's the first big revelation: Akio's relationship to Dios, whose name comes from the Latin for God. Akio is casting himself here as the noble Satan from the common misinterpretation of Paradise Lost, who deems it better to "rule in hell than serve in heaven." Of course, in the actual epic it's blatantly obvious that Satan is expressing sour grapes and trying to look good in front of his followers when he says that--it's still open whether Akio is the same.

His role as a Satan-analogue is even clearer in the car scene, where he tempts Saionji by showing him the world. It's a pretty blatant reference to the story of Satan doing the same to Jesus, only with Saionji it, y'know, works.

Of course, he and Dios are also the same. The last two lines of the egg speech from Demian, which the student council always leaves out, are "The bird flies to God. That God is Abraxas." Abraxas is the two-faced god who created both good and evil.

Second big revelation is that apparently the Black Rose Saga DID happen in some sense, even if no one except Anthy and Akio remembers it: First and most obviously, the gondola appears. It appears that, just as Mikage was used to create the path to the dueling arena in the first place, he was used again to create this new path, which apparently leads to a higher order of duels.

More subtly, Anthy and Utena are now close enough for Anthy to draw Utena's soul sword the way the Black Rose duelists drew the student council's. Notably, however, it is Utena who wields the sword; Mikage mentioned that most people aren't strong enough to wield their own swords, but Utena apparently is.

Trigger warning: discussion of rape in the next two paragraphs
Third revelation is that Anthy definitely does have a will of her own, confirmed by the fact that Saionji says she doesn't. Er, I mean, confirmed by the fact that she initially resists Akio at the end of the episode. So he rapes her. (There are fan theories that Akio is LITERALLY the Devil, but I think that cheapens his horrifying actions. He is a man, who chooses to do incredibly evil things to children. Pretending he's some kind of supernatural, cosmic force is too easy, it lets us pretend that evil is somewhere Out There instead of right in here.)

(I am honestly not sure whether to call their previous sex scenes rape. The relationship is clearly abusive as fuck, but that doesn't necessarily make the sex nonconsensual, and I'm not sure how age of consent applies to someone who may or may not have been 14 for the past several centuries or longer.)

Trigger warning over

Going back to the car, it's common in the fandom to view it as a metaphor for sex. I think that's true but incomplete. No one in Ohtori is allowed to grow up (which is one of the most horrifying things I can imagine). Akio is showing people trapped in a perpetual adolescence a glimpse of the adult world. Sex is definitely a part of that, but so are power, freedom, and sophistication. Notably, Nanami emphatically rejects the sex but accepts the temptation, so it must be more than just sex.

So, my interpretation is that Akio expected the Sword of Dios to vanish, but that Anthy helped Utena more than she was supposed to. I think this was a test of whether Utena has become strong enough to wield her own soul sword; the goal of the next series of duels is to refine that sword to the point that Akio can use it to open the Rose Gate after all. But then why is he upset by the end of this duel?

The only explanation I can see is that Utena was supposed to use her soul sword, but Anthy wasn't supposed to help. The fact that she does so not only means she choosing to help Utena of her own accord, beyond her role as the Rose Bride; it also means that she feels a bond to Utena as close as the Black Rose duelists to the people they pulled swords from--siblings, close friends, years-long crushes. Abusers depend on isolating and controlling their victims, so Anthy developing that kind of bond is incredibly frightening to Akio.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Thoughts on the Death of Robin Williams

Trigger Warning: Suicide, End-of-Life Decisions

By now you have probably heard that actor and comedian Robin Williams committed suicide yesterday. I have a few thoughts related to this.

Depression is not the only mental illness that can cause suicide. Williams suffered from bipolar disorder, not depressive disorder. Please, if you are going to use his death as an opportunity to spread awareness regarding mental illness, do so accurately. (I am aware of reports that he was depressed, but that is referring to depression as a symptom. It is a symptom of numerous disorders, including major depressive disorder (which is what is meant when you say someone "has depression") and bipolar disorder.)

As an atheist, I believe that each human life is unique, infinitely valuable, brief, and irreplaceable; that once gone, a person is lost forever and utterly irretrievable. As a survivor of a suicide attempt, I am very grateful that when I reached out in fear afterwards, people were there to help me and get me into treatment. As someone who has intervened in the suicide attempt of a loved one, I am very glad I was there to do so.

That said, there is a very fine line to walk between recognizing that suicidal ideation and impulses can be a symptom of some psychological disorders, and respecting the unlimited right of individuals to make their own end-of-life decisions. If a person judges that they are in unbearable pain, it is not relevant whether that pain is psychological or physiological; they have every right to decide to end it.

That said, suicidal impulses are a symptom of multiple psychological disorders, and a treatable symptom. Consent issues become very complex where life-threatening illness is concerned; and even moreso where those diseases distort the sufferer's thoughts and feelings. if a person's suicidal impulse comes not from their "natural" selves but from their disease, is intervening any different than intervening to help a person having a heart attack? As always, the right thing to do depends heavily on one's relationship with the person. A doctor or a loved one has very different rights and responsibilities than a stranger. In this case, I must assume everyone reading this was a stranger to Mr. Williams; as such, we have no right to intervene in his desire to die or to judge it after the fact.

This was not a "waste," or any sort of violation; Mr. Williams clearly felt his pain was unbearable and chose to end it. None of us are close enough to him to be able to see whether this was an impulse sparked by his disease or a final, free choice in the face of pain no longer bearable (and indeed, this is a false dichotomy; it was almost certainly some blend of both). However, given that we cannot see from here which it was, out of respect for him, the basic respect due any person, we must assume that his choice was the best choice available from his perspective.

This is not to say that mourning is wrong. Every death is a tragedy. Even where the death itself is blessed release, the circumstances that made it such are inevitably horrific. Nor is there anything wrong with using this as an opportunity to spread awareness about and acceptance of mental illness, as that could help people seek treatment or reduce the unnecessary suffering they experience as a consequence of the stigma against mental illness. All I am saying is that I believe we should do this respectfully.

Suicide and depression support hotlines for multiple countries.