Happy New Year!


Year in Review: 2019

Oh boy. Well. We did think 2016 was a rollercoaster but now that we’re here…I mean, personally, it was fine. Politically, I don’t have time to talk about all of that. So without much ado, let’s go over 2019 in review.

January: Quiet. Mostly spent recovering from IKKiCon in Austin for the early part of the month and spent recovering from a busy 2018 for the remainder of the month. I also moved into a new apartment. It has been a journey. I moved to another side of town, doubled the square footage and now I live in a community with a gate that works.

February:  I visited the local Asian New Year Festival and wore way too much makeup and felt a great deal of ennui with Amber as we mused about the fine line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. We also discovered where the Flemish come from with a thanks to The Institute of Texan Cultures for that.

March: I took a day trip for work to the coast of Texas and was reminded that South Texas had a giant boat in the water for some reason because that’s an American tourist trap like no other. I spent March hoarding fabric and prepping for a one-day convention. 

April: April actual featured a few cool things. Years of Marvel fandom paid off in Avengers: Endgame which you can read me complain ‒ I mean talk about here and I go on a girl’s trip to Dallas with my friend who is also named “Amanda” which is in no way confusing. Seeing my home from someone else’s eyes was amazing. We stayed in a terrifyingly nice hotel, with confusing hallways and numbers that did not make sense. We watched anime that made me sort of remember that I am very old. We ate, she met Carlos again, I showed her all the things I miss most when I’m in San Antonio: we’re going to do this again soon…hopefully this time, I won’t have to drive for 8 hours in two days.

May: May was a haze of prep for A-Kon and emotionally recovering from watching Tony Stark die.

June: A-Kon 29. I complained. A lot. You can read my whinging here. To be honest, it was fun. The small fight I had with my friend was less than ideal. I also got into a small car accident in June and managed to start an anime that I would have more opinions on later on.

July: My birth month!  Also the birth of my son: Toi. I spent the month mostly celebrating my birthday.

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Thank you to @salaamander for my new son. 💖🌵

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I made my yearly trip to the ocean as I am to return to the sea once a year, at least. 

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Continuing in the tradition of obscure beach reads

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I also spent a birthday weekend in Houston with Tori where we visited the National Museum of Funeral History where I taught a group of church ladies about anti-popes and visited The Wilde Collection where we saw several real human skeletons, some beautiful peacocks and met the owner who was a man in a beautiful mustache and wore a leather corset and a damask-patterned undershirt. The Wilde Collection is a glorious place that was recently destroyed by fire and my heart broke a little. 

It was in July that I realized my mental health was not what it used to be. I found myself lashing out at my friends, obsessively complaining over imagined and true slights and mostly just tired and unhappy. I wasn’t ready to do anything about it then but I did notice a change in myself that I was not happy with.

August: I did something shocking. I did something unexpected. I went to a concert by myself. I saw Miyavi when he stopped in San Antonio. You can read about my experience here.

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August was quiet, and really, the entire late summer was quiet. 

September: I felt my mental health continue to deteriorate. I felt myself continue to be short with the people I cared about. I continued to feel like a less than kind version of myself. I didn’t do much in September but I persisted. 

October: October was a huge month of personal change for me. I did something I have been too afraid to do for at least a year now: I changed jobs. I got tired of being a person who was unhappy and I felt like I was watching my mental health and personal relationships all fly away from me. And with October being such an emotional month with all the birthdays and death anniversaries, I mostly just did my best to keep my head above water. 

November: My podcast hit its first year anniversary! To think that our show began as a bit of a joke between friends and turned into a project I love and look forward to. November was quiet and spent mostly trying to find my footing and remind myself of what it meant to be me again. I also picked up Pokemon: Sword and I have been having fun running around as a goth in Galar making curry and taking care of my giant raven and emo lizard. 

December: Is still happening, technically. It’s been a quiet month so far but I look forward to celebrating the holidays with friends and family.

I want to take a moment to be personal and talk about just how far I’ve come since 2009. 

In 2009, I was a college sophomore with no friends and a serious chip on my shoulder after years of dealing with the loss of my father. In 2009, I decided to go to an anime convention which reignited a part of me that had laid dormant in me. In 2009, I was a nearly unrecognizable version of myself. 

In 2019, I am a seasoned cosplayer, panelist and convention veteran. In 2019, I am a digital marketing professional with a degree from a fantastic university. In 2019, I am working on finding all the parts of me that I thought I couldn’t ever reach. In those 10 years I buried a parent, finished collection, fell in love, had my heart broken, made friends, lost friends, left the damn country, saw new things around the country and made memories I’ll keep forever. I moved from my hometown to an apartment on my own and made a life in a city nearly 300 miles away from my family. 

There are plenty of things that have remained the same. There are many things that have changed. But at the end of the day, I’m just looking forward to moving on and seeing what this new decade has to offer. Politically and socially, this has been an exhausting decade and particularly an exhausting year; but I am hopeful, I do think things will improve. 

My tastes my changed, my interests have changed and even how I talk in public has changed but I think all of those changes have indeed been made for the better. What’s even more fascinating is seeing what has stayed the same after all of these years. 

Thank you all for giving me a record breaking year. Thank you all for reading. Thank you all for being here with me on this journey. 

I look forward to seeing you all in the next year. 

Let’s Talk about Live PD

Carlos and I started watching Live PD as a piece of background noise during low moments in our convention weekends. The show is like this generation’s Cops, centering around various county police departments using dash cam, body cam and a very brave film crew to show eager viewers all the realistic, gritty and heart-pounding action that the brave men and women in blue face daily. 

It’s also one of the finest pieces of police propaganda I’ve ever seen.

So let’s talk about it. 

My human shell is that of an African-American and I grew up with a healthy respect for the police but a clear understanding that if I were to be arrested or in trouble, I would likely face much  more hardship than any of my white friends. My grandmother would always say I would be thrown “under the jail” (apparently a euphemism not unique to her) and my aunts encouraged me to stay extra squeaky clean because even if I’m doing everything right, if a friend is not, I’m likely to face scrutiny. I was not ignorant to the history of violence and terror the police have with people of color, queer people, trans people and more but my own experiences were fairly benign. I stayed out of trouble and rarely did anything that brought in police activity. 

That was before the wave of very public instances of police violence. I’m not going to mention all of them because my heart hurts and I’m tired but let’s be real, in a Post-Ferguson world, the reality most people of color have known for decades became very apparent that some bad apples (a lot of bad apples) can in fact spoil a bunch. What was shocking about the instances of police violence that became public within the last few years was that it simply amplified the black voices who have been claiming racism and cruelty for decades. 

To be clear; I am not anti-cop, I am pro-staying alive. I know I am a coward and could not face danger the way first responders do, but I am also aware that this system, like many in this country, have a seriously muddy legacy with people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. 

In the 90s, we had a little show called Cops and in that show, cameras followed cops. Now, the show in the 90s was weird and certainly does not age well. The famous clip of officers harassing and deadnaming a trans woman comes to mind but the purpose of the show was to use the cameras and visibility as an attempt to build positive press for the police after the especially racially tense 1970s and 1980s. How do you do that? Show cops in the best light possible: saving people, risking their lives, going above and beyond and showing the clear and present danger that comes with the badge and gun.

Which brings us to Live PD. In a new era of distrust and fear of the police: how do we change the image of the police in the public view? Give us a show with action, a clear winner and good guy and overall shots of the police doing good in the world.

Where LivePD loses its luster for me is in the less edited show, LivePD: Patrol Cam where sometimes I think the cops forget they’re being recorded and during one very heated altercation in which, to be fair, the cop is being attacked by a person he’s trying to arrest and just over and over again screams “Shoot him!” which: okay, let’s pause to say that yes, I know that when it comes to assault that deadly force is allowed and that yes, this was scary and frightening and could have gone south real quick but after everything that’s happened, that still just seems in such bad form. 

But Live PD’s most genius trick is in how it pretends to simply show the facts as they happen when really because of editing and framing, there is a clear narrative. Anyone who runs from the cops are evil, drugs are evil, bad people are bad. And while yes, bad people are bad and some drugs are bad; but have you ever considered why people run from the cops? Oftentimes it’s to escape warrants or fear of prison time or just fear of being caught but so often it’s genuine fear of the police. I hear time and time again on Live PD men and women say they ran because they didn’t want to get shot or risk being hurt. Now, to be fair, running is the last thing to do in the event of police nonsense but look at Sandra Bland; minus being mouthy, she did everything right and still ended up dead under some very shady circumstances. I understand that fear and for some, that fear means run.

We live in a curious world where a show can help change the perception of the police by making us all the cops in one way. Live PD is a very social show and viewers have seen people run, seen people toss drugs or have been able to “help” the cops in the chase. By giving us all badges, we can’t then question the police too much; we’re on the same team, right? And of course, all the footage of community outreach and generally just great police work: after watching a few hours of this show, it’s easy to think of the world in a binary: bad guys are bad, good guys are good and the guys with badges are good and the guy who got pulled over for speeding and happens to have a few extra pills on him is bad. 

I don’t have time to talk about how the show frames race (of all kinds, really) or how it frames women and men differently or even how it pretends to minimize use of some drugs while truly vilifying the use of other substances. I don’t have time to talk about how the show parades around police dogs like a red herring to show us that maybe, just maybe being hunted by a large dog isn’t so bad if you deserve it. I don’t have time to talk about how scary it is to watch authority figures rationalize and “explain” why deadly force would have been used but how they are truly great for not using it. I don’t have time to explain all of those things. 

I do have time to say that framing police chases and arrests as “thrilling entertainment” or by using the internet to “deputize” the masses to be more “vigilant” is dangerous, reckless and do not make us forget the men, women, children, queer people and far too many more who have been taken from us due to police violence. It does not make us forget the legacy of violence that the police have left as an indelible mark in the black and queer communities. I do have time to say that painting any police interaction as simply good and evil is naive and unrealistic. 

I do have time to say that giving us a “fun” and “exciting” piece of TV reality television is not and will never be a balm to quell decades of distrust and fear. 

Unfortunately, Required Reading: Episode 25- Ambrose Bierce Crosses The Line (or a Bridge)

Join hosts Tori and Amanda as they go through Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge and enjoy a nice brandy cocktail out of spite.

About My Cactus

For my birthday, my friend sent me a cactus. It was a joke between us that I needed an emotional support cactus (yes, I know the irony) and she said “The cactus is in the mail.”

A week or so later, in a box with a pot and soil was a moon cactus. I waited a day or two before I opened the box: mostly from anxiety and just a lack of urgency since my birthdays have gotten quieter and quieter as I get older and I’m still adjusting to that. But one night after deciding that I needed to remove the cactus from the box, I popped out a moon cactus and placed it in a pot with soil and set the pot outside. 

I am a compulsive namer of things and typically the name I give a thing reflects a certain encapsulation of my feelings in the moment. So, when presented with a cactus that poked me as soon as I removed it from the box; I named the cactus (and gendered the cactus male) Toi coming from Kuji Toi, my disaster son from Sarazanmai

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Thank you to @salaamander for my new son. 💖🌵

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Immediately, Toi the cactus became a part of my life that I discussed openly and often. I lovingly refer to him as my son. I obsess over him. I worry about him. I say hello, good night, see you later, and I’m home (all in Japanese) on a daily basis. But because of my closeness to the cactus, I realized something strange about myself: I have a very bad habit of projecting onto things. Now, I knew that; to be fair, I knew that. But to the extent that I do it, that was a new development.

I have tended to plants before; famously tending to roses in high school and to a Jimson Weed that I did not know was poisonous; I merely did not question our garden’s lack of squirrels or birds. I really enjoy tending to plants; I like the watering and pruning and watching things grow. I always have.  I like the routine of going out, watering the plants, pruning in the fall and keeping plants warm in the winter. I like caring for things.

Between anxiety and a not so stellar childhood, I don’t respond well to children. I have a strange mothering instinct but no actual desire to raise children. I’ve always accepted my future being someone’s very eccentric aunt who is always traveling and has a long-term partner but never marries and is only home for one of the holidays but drops like thousands on the children before heading back to Martha’s Vineyard. I did teach Sunday School briefly and I did like teaching. When paneling and doing conventions, I do genuinely like inspiring and helping younger fans, even the children. But the thought of having a child, raising a child, being responsible for a child turns my stomach. I’m afraid of being cold and distant. I’m afraid of being bad at it and those stakes are much higher when it comes to a living human person than a rose bush that was too aggressively trimmed. 

But tending to Toi has been a fascinating look into my psyche when it comes to how I approach rearing and care. 

I have nearly loved Toi to death. 

Toi is a moon cactus and many a site has listed that moon cacti are strange chimeras that shouldn’t exist and thrive mostly on neglect. They need sun and some water but for the most part, you are to treat them like a slow cooker: set it and forget it. 

That is antithetical to how I operate in existence. The first month or so with Toi, I vastly overwatered him. I fretted over him getting enough sun. I cooed at him while watering him, barely noticing the lack of growth or thriving in my boy. 

I was able to pull back on the water; Toi did even flower briefly, the summer and fall were good. 

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Can I interest y'all in some high quality cactus content?

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But as summer changed into fall, I noticed the paleness on Toi’s stem. That paleness is from a lack of sunlight. Where my apartment is, I don’t get a lot of sun. Toi was outside but trees blocked him from getting the sun he needed. My son needed sun. I would move his pot as I left for work or as I left to run errands over the weekend. This was an okay compromise for a while. When it rained, I brought him inside so that we did not repeat the “too much damn water” issue. 

There has also been a consistent talk about getting a table for Toi. Because Toi was outside on a ledge, there was worry that a large gust of wind could knock him over. And what started as light teasing about being a bad mother from coworkers and friends quickly turned into another weapon I could use against myself and my already fragile self-esteem. I felt like a single mom being shamed by mommy bloggers who have time to bento box every damn morning as I send my kid off to school with a lunchable and a can that I’m hoping isn’t a spiked hard seltzer. 

As a “cold front” moved in, I moved Toi inside. Toi did not like being inside. In my bedroom, the poor dear does not get much more light as his mother is a vampire and recently hung several feet of pink silk in an attempt to be an Instagram influencer or just a weeb pastel goth. Within days of being inside, the flower Toi worked so hard on withered and died. I felt crushed. I felt like I was watching my son die. And as parts of my personal life changed, Toi became the personification of every anxiety I had.

Toi continued to not thrive indoors and on a particularly miserable and low night, I sat up on Amazon for hours looking at grow lamps that had reviews from more than just pot growers. I cried. I was sad. I was scared of losing my son. But in the back of my mind, I also resented the cactus. If I can’t make it grow, then I should just throw it away. So what? It’s just a cactus. It doesn’t matter, everything dies. I was in a full nihilistic spiral and it wasn’t Toi’s fault but Toi was the vessel I used to  beat myself up over every failed relationship, every moral weakness, every flaw I’ve ever had.

Toi’s lamp was set to arrive in one day. I have been using an Amazon Prime trial and I was thrilled to have the programmable lamp arrive in just as day as I felt like watching Toi wither was like watching the rose die in Beauty and the Beast. The original delivery window was between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm. Mind you, I am usually in bed by 9:00 pm, so I stayed up patiently waiting for the lamp to arrive. But updates slowed and time moved forward, my anxiety started to ramp up. I wanted the lamp. I wanted it now. I wanted Toi to be okay. When 9:30 passed, I sent a message to Amazon asking about the state of my lamp. I was told it would arrive the next day and was given a small credit but honestly, it wasn’t the lamp I was anxious about: I was worried about so many other things than just the cactus who didn’t like being inside.

Toi’s lamp arrived and it is programmable and it’s wonderful. He seems to be happier with the lamp and I’m working on getting a little stand for the lamp as now I am angering the God of Literature by using a book to keep my cactus and my cactus’ lamp in place.

I love my son. I love Toi. He’s a beautiful cactus and was an amazing gift. But quickly, my relationship with Toi became about control. As a person with anxiety, I long for control and routine. As a person who lost both parents young, I long for stability and for things to be okay. As a person who lives alone, I long for companionship and someone to care for. Toi is truly an emotional support cactus in that I should use him to better tend to myself. I can’t save everything. I can’t save everyone. Nothing is perfect and sometimes even when we do our best, it still isn’t enough.

But for now, Toi is doing okay and I’m doing okay, too.

Thanks for reading.