Scrap Writing (9.30.2015)

More writing scraps to discard!

I may re-purpose this piece into a fully fledged short story, but for now I’ll leave this.

 


Scrap Writing

                Lady fingers and a hasty blonde ego pushed milk, cheese, and eggs across Vanessa’s belt line.  Vanessa smiled with her courtesy, scanned with her habit, but her eyes followed a snowflake down hairs as nightly and drawn as her own.

                A young raven woman swayed between handmade, wood-made homes; wandering through a world that longed for the electricity in its past. She held her hands up to the clouds as they fell down around her.  And then Little Sister looked over her shoulder: through the iris emeralds that had watched Vanessa grow tall and cynical; and she smiled to Vanessa from the grave.

                The sky wisps had heralded snow and a shivering shellacking; as did her phone’s meteorological report.  The posthumous would forever tease her with bygone happiness, but she could, at the least, capture fragments of her favorite memories falling past the window panes.

                Anticipation for the night nearly ruined it though as she picked up the carton of eggs to bag it, but pink hairs barged into her vision as Lylette entered her space to intercept the damaged goods.

                “This one has a broken egg.  Can you get another?”

                Vanessa scurried off to the refrigerator and flipped through the last six cartons, but at the end of the day the lot had been picked through and the imperfect batches remained.  She shuffled eggs around to make a good eighteen and hurried back with apologies and bows.

                The lady looked ready to vent over minutia, but she left without spoiling Vanessa’s evening.

                “Thank you”, Vanessa said, “I have bad eyes.”

                “I think they’d work better if you used them.”

                Vanessa would more easily manage this grocery store than execute its functions, but she lacked ambition for the real world.  She lived in her mind, and she’d likely land the homeless shelter if not for Lylette’s hand tugging on her leash once in a while.

                “What were you thinking about anyway?” and Vanessa talked of snow, but not sister, and Lylette looked out the window and wondered.  “It’s cold, but I don’t see anything.”

                Vanessa sifted through applications on her phone and showed Lylette her Weather App.  A physicist by name of “Lazy Hazy” pointed to west-moving cold fronts and said, “Like, a nine-five chance of snow, dudes”, before kicking back airs that were bad for his brain; and left Lylette wondering how someone so high could engineer radar and computer programs to extrapolate the weather.

                “How does he predict the weather anyhow?”

                “Calculus”, Vanessa said, and just like that Lylette lost all interest.

                Lylette knew math and snow from her window sill: always threatening to pile over her; but Vanessa had to chase down her numbers.  Other kids played; she went the library with her pencils and scribbled all over their excess text books.  “Math is fun”, she had said, and thus her days of sociopathy began.

                Vanessa and Lylette chatted idly about non-math things till they were told to close the store.  “I’ll leave the eggs to you, calc girl”, and Vanessa moved all the good eggs into fresh plastic cartons that she labeled as mixed batches.  The six cracked shells she put into a cardboard container and took with her as she and Lylette checked out.

                “Are those the cracked eggs?”

                “Yeah.”

                Childhood treasures grew into her vices and values, and any meat had been a treasure.

                When they got back to their apartment, Lylette dibbed the hot water, while Vanessa took over the kitchen.

                Two sloppy yolks she threw away.  The intact four she scrambled and cooked extra brown -just in case-, and chopped them up on her spatula.

                Sesame oil in a wok; brown and red rice from the day past; Vanessa waited till heat left a mark on her rice before tossing it around.  She opened two cans of sliced pineapple and poured the juice into the fry.

                Chop, sort, slice; she pushed her pineapples off her cutting board.

                Too much liquid; she cranked up her heat.  Crack, crack, sizzle bop: better than brass to her midnight ear, but she turned on some ZUNpets anyway.

                The best food was timed with a work-weary appetite, and she had her fillings ready in the cold.

                Onion, pepper, mushrooms and squash -yellow stuff and zucchini green too- diced and sautéed early in the day.  She tossed them in… tossed the egg in… tossed in peas, corn, and a whole bag of kale ‘n greens from her frozen stores.  She laid her pepper blanket red, black, and thick; pinched her salt; and stirred the spicy season in with tamari, tamari, tamari.

                She never got enough tamari in.  She threw half a cup in -maybe two-thirds-, too much for sure as she tossed and turned till dryness and fluid mediated an accord.  Vanessa served up two bowls in time for Lyllette, and one bite later Lylette said, “Needs more tamari”, but that didn’t stop her feasting.

                Fried rice spun nicely in a microwave, but fresh off the burner they shoveled it in.  The mushrooms and eggs bounced around so spongy and soft and carried the sweetness of the pineapple.  The rice didn’t muddle or mush and it fluffed up in her mouth.  The chaotic dispersal of carrots and onions and pepper gave each bite a different chew; and the greens and squash extended the soft texture of the dish without dumping in more rice, more carbs.

                A peppery heat soothed her icy breaths, and she settled into winter and whiskey under a blanket as she closed her eyes and whispered, “PSHUU!”

End


So there’s this little anime called Wakakozake.  The episodes are two minutes long, and they follow an Office Lady after work as she eats out by herself.  She talks about the food, makes you hungry, and goes, “PSHUU!” when she feels happy.

It’s silly, it’s cute, it’s kind of pointless; I like it.

I wanted to cap this piece off already, and Wakakozake came to mind so I just gave Vanessa her “PSHUU!” moment.

On that note, I don’t think I’ve written a cooking sequence before!  I deviate from my usually slow prose style, but hey, cooking is fun and energetic!

Let me know how I did!  Like something?  Hate something?  Say so!

Also… I used “ZUNpets” in a writing piece…

ZUNpets…

Have some ZUNpets.


Speaking of Touhou, I listened to some Touhou arrangements while writing, because I always listen to Touhou music while writing, and this particular arrangement stood out to me:

Alice Magica Spei by circle: Secret Messenger

If Yuki Kajiura ever arranged Touhou, I wager it would sound a lot like this.

I adore this music.

I also listened to KOKIA, who I learned about over at OtakuLounge.

Tatta Hitotsu No Omoi by KOKIA

I normally don’t listen to Japanese music because I don’t understand the words, but this song relaxes my usual tension; and Japanese phonetics have a way of melting into the sounds.

I let the auto-play on Youtube take me to some other KOKIA songs.   Vocalized music in general has a very low success rate with me, but I found myself liking about 3 out of 5 KOKIA songs, with the rest fairing no less than a neutral response.


I’m going to start my re-watch of School-Live!  I prefer to watch something twice over before critiquing it, as the first viewing will carry too much emotional reaction.

I liken it to studying an NFL game.

  • Enjoy the first time around for “what” it is and what happens.
  • Go in deeper the second time around, study the film, and seek out “why”.

I’m still debating whether to write a review separately, or combine a review and critique together and format my discussions into increasingly deeper layers of analysis and spoilers.  That way, if someone not familiar with School-Live! reads it, he/she can stop at a given point and say, “alright, I’m interested, I’ll stop here, watch it, and come back”, while maintaining interest to those who have seen School-Live!

Then again I feel like there are reviews everywhere for every show ever, so I may stick to a pure critique.

Impulsive Empathy; School Live! Reflection

Spoiler Warning: this post contains major spoilers for the Anime Series “School-Live!” up through and including Episode 10: Rainy Day

My empathy does not confer with my logical half.  It jumps from reality to imagination and abolishes the barrier in between.

When I read Chris Cleave’s Little Bee, I struggled to realize that Sarah’O’Rourke cut off her finger on that Nigerian beach; not me.  I started Borderlands 2 with casual interest, and my hatred toward Handsome Jack drove me to finish the game without rest or reprieve; not until I shot him in the head.  I feel the pain of nameless, random background characters that get slaughtered by trite Hollywood directors; and it doesn’t matter if I knew them not; I give them identity, story, sadness, and terror.

Habitual transplantation of character and feelings isn’t particularly new or odd -I think-, but I continually find myself struggling against empathetic recoil.  It’s a defining trait to me, but it’s also core to Kurumi Ebisuzawa’s character from School-Live!, and I quickly identified with her and became attached to her.

And oh, the feels…

Yuri Crying

More or less how I feel after watching School-Live! episode 10.


Cover of Gakkou Gurashi Volume 2, featuring Kurumi Ebisuzawa

Cover of Gakkou Gurashi Volume 2, featuring Kurumi Ebisuzawa

I identify with Kurumi.  I admire Kurumi.

Like me, Kurumi reads the memories dressed onto individual zombies; she imagines the terrors written into fallen furniture, broken barricades, and pools of blood huddled into the corner; and then her empathy pulls lost love and terror out of the grave.

Unlike me, she persevered the zombie apocalypse.  My default response to zombies is to end it all.  It’s hard for me to even watch zombie media, but Kurumi’s courage became my courage, and she became my emotional anchor in School-Live! when I would otherwise flip out because of… well, zombies…

I loathe zombies.  I hate the mouths, I hate death by gnawing, and I hate the one-bite-kill concept.  I’m fascinated though by far more dangerous and visceral fictional enemies such as the Tyranids.

So why Zombies?

Because zombies weaponize the most vibrant of our emotions: Love.

A child gets bitten… her mother grabs her and retreats to those who care about the daughter; and those the daughter cares about.  Love leaves her friends and family vulnerable.  She bites them, and then they retreat to their loved ones… and the cycle repeats again.

Of all the characters in School-Live, Kurumi is the one most identified by Love, and the most affected.  Her symbol in the opener is a heart.  She was madly in love prior to the outbreak, and she’s haunted by the memory of killing her crush/boyfriend.  When Kurumi, Yuri, and Miki discover the document that disavows individual love in favor of humanity’s survival, Kurumi reacts with rage.  Love has driven her throughout the series, and in the presence of her friends, she takes on the front and charges into danger with her shovel.

Alone, she becomes vulnerable to the tragedy in her environs.

In episode 2, Kurumi shovels a zombie in the head and it drops a cellphone.  On the phone is a photo of the-girl-that-was and her boyfriend.  Kurumi becomes overwhelmed by the emotional rush and nearly gets bitten before double-tapping the zombie.  This event revealed the impulsive nature of her empathy, and how empathy might serve as Kurumi’s fatal flaw.

School-Live! wrote Kurumi’s piece of the story with perfection.  Episode 2 showed you her weakness… conversations foreshadowed that Kurumi would get bitten… the temperature of the series grew colder… and then you watch her stand there: shovel ready as her beloved teacher’s zombie approached from around the corner… and you knew she was going to hesitate to kill Megumi’s zombie: Megumi’s memory.  And yet the traits that ultimately undid her… kindness, love, empathy… gave you hope, because she repeatedly displayed the strength it gave her.

But there’s a clear dichotomy:

When her friends are around, love becomes power.  Her empathy draws on the fear and hope of her friends and she quickly reacts to protect those feelings.

Alone, her empathy draws on lost love, and it’s not a choice.

All the counsel, the comfort, and support Megumi-sensei had given to Kurumi became Kurumi’s opponent… and Kurumi faltered.

And just like it always does, School-Live! keeps hope alive with the pause of an episode, the promise of “medicine” and a cliffhanger.


Despite how much it hurt to watch episode 10, I’m thankful for School-Live!, regardless of how it chooses to end.

School-Live! flipped Moe on its head and gave it something substantial to stand on.

School-Live! told its story well.  Bad story-telling is the failed crutch that repeatedly assassinates the anime and manga mediums; and so School-Live! has been a treat in that regard.

School-Live! also did something for me.

I’ve wondered for years why I have Neophobia, and School-Live! illuminated the reason.  I’ve been stuck in that room for days as Kurumi screams, her blood boils, and the infection spreads from her arm.  I drop myself far too deep into fiction and into my imagination.   I bring back all the feelings -all the despair and suicidal thoughts I would be having in Yuri’s position as she contemplates killing Kurumi- and then my common sense has to fight to try and remind me that fiction is fiction.

I’ve been shielding myself from potentially dangerous empathetic recoils, but fictional trauma led me to write my first short story Stitched Angel, and once again it’s got me writing.  Comfort is the last thing I need; perhaps it’s the last thing any writer needs.

So, thank you, School-Live!

Even if this breaks my heart.