Me, Myself, and I
Photos of me... no there's no naughty pics, you pervert
Kitty... I feel odd calling her "my cat"... nobody "owns" cats
Being Vegan



"This isn't my world...
I can't find a reason to live in this city...
If I ever become a magic user,
I'll be a completely different person from who I am now,
And the current 'me' will be completely gone."

~Ai, Dorohedoro volumes 10-15~

Ai is endlessly fascinating to me. He's a genius, but couldn't seem to make anything of his life. He had a big dream, but that dream wasn't born out of hope. It was driven by hatred for the world, for himself, and even for what he would become.

Though he admired the magic users' powers, his feelings towards them as a species were highly ambivalent and expressly resentful. Both in and out of amnesia, his greatest talent was slaughtering them; treating them as test subjects not unlike how they used the people of Hole. And, as a kind of poetic justice, his greatest weapon was the essence of Hole: rain.

Yet, despite his body's progress and his colossal success in the Magic User World, he knowingly walked a path towards self-annihilation. The ultimate fulfillment of his wish would simultaneously shatter what was left of his original identity. I'd love to have hugged him and tell him he didn't need to do any of this, but was already so dead inside I doubt it would've made a difference.

It really makes me sad because, looking at Caiman or Aikawa, you can tell what a wonderful person Ai would be if he wasn't weighed down by his childhood.

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The Japanese Dorohedoro volumes are some of the most beautiful books I've seen! I don't think I've ever been so in love with a publication before. *_* The printing quality so much better than the Viz release! You see detail more clearly and the lines are more crisp, but the real difference is in the color pages. Things don't look dirty and smudged, colors and details are very clean. The Japanese volumes are printed on a smoother and brighter type of paper. The first page with a picture and table of contents is slick and glossy.

Like most Japanese manga, there is an outer cover with flaps that sits over the inner cover that has extra pictures on it. Though Viz keeps the whole outer cover, including the cover flaps (which is more than I've seen other publishers do), it doesn't reproduce the inner cover. Also, the outer cover in the Japanese volumes is textured with raised raised patterns (lizard scales, mushrooms, crosses, etc.), which are really awesome to see and touch. Viz release cover is flat and lifeless.

For an English release, Viz actually did a great job with the first 3 Dorohedoro volumes. They kept the original (bigger than average) size of the Japanese release, kept the cover flap graphics, printed the color pages in color, and paid attention to the translation, even including cultural notes and translation details. I was happy, and figured I wouldn't need to resort to getting the Japanese volumes. Ebisu's comical speech impediment was gone, and even though I think it's important to her character, I could deal with that.

Then, starting with volume 4, Viz started printing the color pages in black and white, and since Doro color pages have heavy shading (which looks beautiful in color), it became very hard to see detail and appreciate what's going on. English readers who didn't know these were supposed to be in color started complaining that the pages were too dark, and were blaming the author. (Ugh.) Cultural and translation notes were gone, too.

But my biggest gripe with volume 4+ of the Viz release is that the translation quality dropped off dramatically. They were translating what was said, but not what was meant. I can only assume that new teams of people were getting different volumes or different chapters, since at times it became very obvious that they had no clue what was going on in the context of the plot - even one chapter or one volume ago.

For example, there is a character named Kikurage. She's named after a kind of mushroom (Viz translation took the literal route and translated the mushroom name into English - Judas's Ear - which is accurate, but I think flows a lot worse than if they just left it as Kikurage), and she has the power to resurrect the dead. Yet, in the translation Viz put up online, a character says "the mushrooms can resurrect him!" instead of Judas's Ear. Thankfully this was fixed before it hit print, but the fact that it occurred at all is most unsettling.

Then there is an important line that Risu says to Ebisu which is inherently vague in Japanese. In volume 4 Viz translated this as "You are the one who stopped me." In volume 5, in a scene where characters were still trying to figure out what the line meant, it is translated as "interrupting me." The line can mean various levels of inconvenience, anywhere from bothering to interrupting to stopping, so the translation wasn't inaccurate. But, by not keeping the translation consistent (or at least making a note of the vagueness, since "stopped" in English isn't very vague), English readers have no idea that they're still talking about that line, and the point of the scene is lost.

Viz also mistakes the sex of various characters. This is a very easy mistake to make since the Japanese often doesn't specify sex right away. However, this guy (Fukuyama) wears a suit and probably doesn't talk like a girl (females have different speech patterns in Japanese). Furthermore, he explicitly uses the English word "Waiter," not "Waitress," in the Japanese. Had they read a bit ahead, this would've been made clear. I think it would be professional for official translators to read what's out in Japanese in order to not make stupid contextual mistakes, and for the same team to work on the same series.


So SOO glad I ordered the Japanese volumes. They're pretty expensive but worth every penny. Plus they'll encourage me to learn more kanji! Will still be collecting the Viz release too, for mutual cross-reference.

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Observations About "AI"    01/22/12     


Many of the names in Dorohedoro mean something (ex: "Dokuga"="Poisonous Moth"), but I think "Ai"s names are the most fascinating since they play on each other.

Some of his names are written in kanji, some in katakana, but they all have the sound "AI" in common: AI, kAI, AIkawa, cAIman, pAIman (the English "PieMan" written in Japanese phonetic script). Ai, the original self, is present as the root of all his incarnations. In fact, "AI" is a homonym of "I," or essential identity.

This connection is also carried over to puns, such as the chapter title "Eye Contact," in which Haze sees Kai for the first time in years. The katakana script for "eye" phonetically spells out "AI" - doubling as both "Eye Contact" and "Ai Contact."

The name Caiman, aside from being a species of reptile, can also be thought of as Kai-Man. It was the Kai personality that originally became Caiman (he has crosses on his eyes until he remembered his other identity of Aikawa by visiting the Zagan school and switched heads).

Kai's name is written with the kanji for the verb "to break; to destroy; to demolish," which is... appropriate. XD

But the Aikawa name is probably the most interesting. It is written in kanji, with the "ai" part as the symbol for the verb "to meet; to encounter," and the "kawa" part as the symbol for "river." As such, it can mean "to meet at the river," specifically the drainage of toxic sludge that Ai dove into in order to become what he is now.

But Ai-Kawa can also be interpreted phonetically. "Ai" would represent the original Ai self, and "kawa" is the root of the verb "kawaru," which means "to take the place of; to substitute for; to take over for; to represent; to change places with; to switch," which is of course what "Ai"s aspects do with each other, and the Aikawa aspect in particular is the more PR representation that he uses to infiltrate the common world.

Another meaning of "kawa(ru)" is "to change; to be transformed; to be altered; to be different; to be uncommon; to be unusual." This interpretation of the name tells of how Ai transformed himself into a magic user (and then some), and also what a unique kind of creature he became.

/why Nikaido also has "AI" in her name is yet to be determined...

I also love how Ai wears a magic 8 ball hat. He has 9 heads total, after all (2 of them ripped off), corresponding to the 9 bodies in the sludge-filled crates. But Ai himself (the melted face) is the core head, so he wears a hat symbolic of the other 8 - which surface when you shake him, like answers in a magic 8 ball. :P

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Dorohedoro World   01/06/12     

I really love the Dorohedoro world! It feels so natural to me from the religious aspect.

I mean, look at religious like Christianity, where everything is so starkly divided between good and evil, and you're NEVER supposed to do anything with the "evil" half... Devils, demons, etc are utterly dangerous and unreasonable. Whereas, in Doro, it's all pretty chill.

You got devils, you got sorcerers, you got magic, and there's lots of danger involved in all that, but it's approached the same way as any other danger - like disease, crime, or accidents. Not strictly black/white, not dangerous/safe... just a matter of what you're doing, how good you are at it, etc. Nothing is taboo and off limits - it's only limited by ability and experience. That's how the universe works the way I understand it.

This also means that you don't HAVE to side with "God" and avoid the "Devil" at all costs (or gods, devils, buddhas, whatever). You just go with whoever you have a better, more profitable, or more comfortable relationship with... whoever gets you what you want, and whoever wants something from you.

The "devils" in Doro aren't really "evil." They just have a different perspective on the world since they're much less mortal and much more powerful than the sorcerers and humans are. And there's no unfathomable line between humans, sorcerers, and devils, either. A sorcerer can become a devil through appropriate training, and a human can become a sorcerer through scientific knowledge.

I'd live in this world. Shithole though it is, it's the only series that really got me thinking how having true friends can make any place bearable... even enjoyable.

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To Touch a God   08/06/07     

This should come as a surprise to no one, but I've always been fascinated by celestial bodies. Although the moon holds a special place of reverence for me, the sun I have put more thought into from a purely physical, spatial perspective. It has been worshipped by countless cultures as the source of life, and indeed powers the entire solar system. But what is the sun?

The sun is a star. I often chastise others for quoting the mystical saying "sun, moon, and stars" as redundant, yet I still stupidly answer the question "what is the closest star to Earth?" with "Alpha Centauri." So let me reiterate... the sun IS a STAR... the local star, closest to Earth... an average of 92.9 million miles away. It's surface temperature is 9,932F... the core? 27,000,000F. Its mass is that of 333,000 Earths, 750 times the mass of all the solar system's planets combined, and its gravity strong enough to keep objects 3.7 billion miles away (Pluto) in its orbit. Massive as it is, it regularly shoots gigantic pillars of flame from its surface, and is known for ejecting billions of tons of plasma into space. But what do all these fancy numbers mean??

As we all know, light is really @$%#ing fast. It can travel around the Earth 7 times in a single second, but it takes 8 minutes (and ~20 seconds) for light from the sun to reach Earth. Translation: the sun is really @$%#ing far away!! And yet we still see it, an object 92.9 million miles away, in the sky, clear as day (pun intended). Even with the layers of clouds and thick atmosphere blocking off most of its rays, we can't bear to look at it directly without suffering eye damage. And what if you go higher? I've watched the sun set from the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea, measured from the base) at well over 13,000 feet. It was above cloud level and the air was very thin. And let me tell you... you think the sun is bright normally??... you know NOTHING!! The sunlight up there is surreal. Accidentally glancing the sun for a fraction of a second will make you recoil as if lasers have seared into your retinas and shot out the back of your head. >.< Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. If you somehow managed to land on it, your entire sky would be ON FIRE!! XD And nevermind that we can see the sun, we can also FEEL its HEAT... from 92.9 million miles away.

How mighty are stars! Go outside at night and you will see hundreds of stars trillions of times farther still visible to the naked eye. They are living gods, sustainers of life, and yet they too are born... and will one day die. Some go out in a spectacular supernova, the force of which not only obliterates the immediate planetary system, but strips the atmosphere off planets in surrounding neighborhoods. Some implode into black holes, a distortion in spacetime so absolute not even light can escape. Still others gradually fade away... This is the setting for the movie Sunshine, and unless you want to read complete SPOILERS I would suggest stopping now. In the movie, the sun is dying and Earth is frozen in a solar winter!

OK, that's not entirely true. "The plot does not revolve around the sun dying in the normal sense: this is not due for around five billion years based on our understanding of nuclear fusion. It has instead been 'infected' with a 'Q-ball' - a supersymmetric nucleus, left over from the big bang - that is disrupting the normal matter. This is a theoretical particle that scientists at CERN are currently trying to confirm, and was one of the many contributions of the science advisor. The film's bomb is meant to blast the Q-ball to its constituent parts which will then naturally decay, allowing the sun to return to normal."[1] Except none of that was ever explained in the movie. ^.^;;

Anyway, a few years ago, a ship called Icarus I was dispatched to detonate the bomb inside the sun and trigger the re/birth of a new star, but the ship was mysteriously lost. Now a second ship, the Icarus II, is sent with a bomb consisting of Earth's last viable resources to complete that same mission. The funny thing is, they actually expect to make it back home alive. Needless to say, that doesn't happen.

They start out with 8 crew members, a thriving oxygen garden, and a functioning computer. Along the way their oxygen garden burns up. They know they're going to suffocate, but at least they want to live long enough to complete the mission. Problem: There is only enough oxygen to potentially keep 4 (out of 8) crew members alive long enough to complete the mission. No Problem: They soon lose 3, a 4th kills himself, and there is now a crazed sunburned psychopath killing the ones that are left (2 more down!). So far so good, except that the psychopath also crashed the computers and now the only way to complete the mission is to manually pilot the bomb into the sun. Problem: The only guy that knows how to operate the bomb is currently trapped in the airlock.

Solution: He puts on a spacesuit, ties himself to the ship, drills a hole into the cabin, and opens the airlock into space so the vacuum can suck out the last remaining air from the ship - thereby blasting off the door that was trapping him. Now, in the giant clumsy spacesuit, he carefully makes it over to the ship's computer and manually detaches the bomb. He has a limited amount of time to actually get inside the bomb before it jets into the sun, as he's hurrying to the bomb... he trips and falls down. (Tripping in giant clumsy spacesuit = not fun) Nevermind lack of oxygen, nevermind solar flames, dysfunctional computer, entrapment, and crazed homicidal maniacs - he made it through all that!! It is something as simple and silly as tripping that can foil an epic mission and doom an entire solar system. AARRGHH!! >.<

But no, he fights the hopelessness and eventually gets back up. Except now time is running out and there is no way to get to the bomb besides a risky free-float across open space hoping he can grab onto something if he manages to impact with the runaway bomb. He does. Now he braves the spacetime distortion of the sun's gravity and must manually activate the bomb as they are falling into the sun. THE SUN. A @#%$ STAR!! An impossible, impassable, most awe-inspiring frontier! "Landing" on (/getting annihilated by) even the local sun blows visiting a distant planet utterly out of the water! There are few cooler ways to die than getting fried by a star. (Note to self: die in star in future lifetime.)

More awesome still, is dying by manually piloting a bomb into the heart of a star in order to save an entire solar system!! Even if everyone was alive, the oxygen reserves were fine, and it was pretty certain we'd make it back to our home planet intact... but someone still had to stay behind and manually pilot the bomb, I would volunteer in a heartbeat!! Hell, even if it didn't need to be manually piloted, I'd insist!! To land on the surface of a god! That is what he did. And he touched it... the new sun. *_* The most beautiful death to ever grace the screen! The first/last man on the old sun, the first man on the new sun. Saving a solar system. What an incredible honor. I could probably retire from reincarnation right there and then because it just doesn't get any better than that! (Unless you're trying to reverse a supermassive black hole from devouring your galaxy or something) And if someone I knew got to do that, I'd be like "Dude, you're awesome, I am so marrying you in our next lifetime."

The mindset of self-sacrifice and complete surrender to a higher purpose is an impressive force in its own right. Even if I knew I was going to die, willingly determined to die to carry out a mission, I would still probably be stuck in that airlock thinking "I need to get to the computer! But I also need the ship's air to stay alive and operate the computer! Then once I get inside the bomb... THEN I am ready to die!! W00T!!" But no, not him. He blew all the stops. Breathing, the air, it didn't matter anymore. All semblance of caution and reason was discarded. He simply acted without hesitation and by any means necessary. And it worked!

Funny how life works out. Researching his role for Sunshine turned Cillian Murphy atheist from agnostic, yet it proved an intense source of spiritual inspiration for me. The movie itself is meant to be a conflict between science and religion. If it were to happen to us, would we use our knowledge to try to save ourselves? The sun has given humanity life, would they return the favor? Or would we see it as the will of God and wait quietly to die?

I do not see spirituality and science as in conflict at all, or indeed separate. Atheism's primary conflict is not with spirit but with monotheistic dogma. They believe humans created the gods, and for all intents and purposes are gods. Humans should not undermine their achievements, and have faith in themselves to direct their own destinies. They should not rely on a "higher power" to dictate ethics and accountability, nor blame that "higher power" for their actions. On all these points, I essentially agree... but that's another topic altogether.

The character Cillian plays, the physicist Capa whose research created the bomb, is supposed to be an atheist. All the nightmares he's had of plummeting headlong into the sun are coming true. When he surrenders himself to death he does not do so with my dreams of glory, bragging rights for all eternity, and a treasured memory across infinite lifetimes. As far as he's concerned, this is the end and he will face it alone. It makes his self-sacrifice that much more meaningful, more beautiful, and more spiritual to me.

In many ways, this is how some gods were born in the olden days. In many ways, Capa gave birth to the sun. It would be named after him and his memory worshipped through it. An atheist giving birth to a god, touching it, and becoming it. The world comes full circle. We are all stardust. Just as the ship's psychologist spent his days alone in the observation room staring at the sun, so to me watching this movie alone in an empty theater is a religious experience (I almost feel just as sunburned, too). It will probably revolutionize how I view stars which, in my cosmology, are one of three basic building blocks of the universe.

Mighty are the stars!

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"So Long and Thanks for all the Fish"   03/01/07     

"Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger; but most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means shortly before the Vogons arrived."
~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, chapter 23~

Come to think of it, "Vogon" sounds a lot like "Vegan"... except that Vogons came to demolish the Earth to make way for an interstellar bypass... >_>;

I sometimes wonder what my totem animal is for my Vegan journey. Is it the chicken, the first animal to get me to go vegetarian all those years ago? Once upon a time during a meditation, my mind wandered to eating a full breast of chicken. But as I was devouring the meat, the vision shifted and I realized that I am digging into my stomach and eating my own intestines. Been off KFC ever since. Is it the cow, whose prime rib and stringy cheeses were the hardest for me to give up? A gentle animal sacred to the Goddess whose reward for nourishing all our needs is to be shipped off and slaughtered. Is it the the salmon, whose caviar I have lived on for so long? Once a symbol of the indomitable wilderness, now confined to overcrowded fish farms. If chickens made me vegetarian, it is the destruction of the ocean that turned me vegan. "So long (to a non-vegan lifestyle) and thanks for all the fish" indeed.

This was a very scary proposition. My favorite foods are caviar, pizza (cheese), and steak. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to eat anything tasty and fun again. But I had to face the fact that any pleasure I derived from them was not worth the suffering they caused - if not out of compassion, then for my own health. Suffering is an emotion, and emotions are chemical reactions in the body. When I eat somebody that has suffered, I am ingesting their pain. It was in a meditation that I was suggested to become vegan, and when I asked what I can do next, it told me to go and eat a salad - right now. I have long avoided eating green leafy plants because I love plants and have had some plants die on me. I have become very sensitive to the smell of their "blood" and could sense death in a room. The liquid in leafy plants reminded me of that too much. But eat a salad I did, and it was... bearable, after I added tomatoes and vegan mayonnaise. I would soon learn, however, that vegan food is much more than salads.

Like many people in the Western world, I lived on a very routine diet of grains, potatoes, eggs, fish, and lots and lots of cheese. I never strayed far from these mundane foods, so when I became vegan, it was like a whole vast world of flavors opened up to me! I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything at all, I felt like I gained so, so much! I couldn't believe I ever thought it would be hard to go "all the way." Between kiwis, quinoa, seitan, and sweet potatoes, I couldn't get enough! And if ever I had a craving for meaty or cheesy foods, there were always the veggie burgers, soy cheeses, chickenless nuggets, and vegan margarine. I never liked cow's milk and only used it for rituals, buy Silk soy milk I looove and drink quite avidly. I had forgotten how good cereal with (soy) milk and banana is! My taste buds were changing and flowering. I did not crave meat or dairy anymore, and somebody dangling a slice of pizza in my face would get no response.

One of the biggest benefits in my own life was that I learned how to cook. Even though 95% of a grocery store was useless to me now, I wasn't about to give up on good food! I would own this lifestyle and have fun with it! After all, witches cook all the time in fairytales too - mostly children, but that's besides the point. I was scared to try by myself, however, so I got together with Ashvolt and we made pizza crust, pizza sauce, fake cheese, cinnamon corn muffins, and seitan without any eggs or dairy - all perfectly, and all from scratch! And then we burned the rice. It was quite funny, really, I got to run around with a fan blowing the smoke away from the fire detectors.

Well, aside from the rice fiasco, turns out cooking was a lot more fun than I thought! I liked making my own dough, especially because unlike standard dough that would have a raw egg mixed in, vegan dough is completely safe, fool-proof and eatable! I love eating dough. If making fake cheese is like alchemy, carefully stirring in various doses of ingredients, making seitan is like a chemical explosion, where a perfectly harmless powdered wheat gluten comes to life, clumps together, and comes to resemble an elastic rubber! Fascinating, fascinating stuff. The best part is that you have full control and can make your food taste like anything you want! I've since made French onion soup, pancakes, crepes, fake bacon, fake cheese, many mish-mashes of soups and salads, and am still experimenting. One thing I learned is that combining a whole bunch of stuff you like on their own does not necessarily mean they will taste good together! O.o;;

I'm also looking a lot more at nutrition now, something I've always avoided like the plague. It's really not that bad. I like to think of it in Role Playing Game terms. The vitamins and minerals our body needs can be thought of as statistics analogous to constitution, dexterity, etc that you have to constantly replenish. Foods can be thought of as items - like armor and weapons and jewelry - that you wear to enhance your stats. Every fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, legume, etc has a different base stat, like 5D4, and you can pick and choose to min/max your optimal performance. For example, 1 cup of cooked quinoa has as much calcium as 1 quart of cow's milk. Foods that are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, like soy milk or nutritional yeast, can be considered "enchanted." That is, they have their base stat and then some: 5D4 +3!

As for the social aspects of being Vegan, it is a great conversation starter! I see it as an opportunity to educate others, and a way to weed out those I'm not compatible with. I see everyone around me paying more attention to and exploring new plant foods because of my influence. It really feels like I'm making a difference in my own life and it is spilling over into the lives of others. I used to think that you need perfect tasting fake cheese or fake meat to really swing people over (myself included), but after tasting vegan food I know that's just not true. I might've come for the ideology, but I stayed for the food! It's not cheese and it's not meat, but it's wonderful in itself and oftentimes better. Most importantly, I finally feel like I've found a way to express my true self to the world and I can't imagine living any other way.

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Return to Eden   02/25/07     

"I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."
~Genesis 1:29~

These are the Christian God's instructions to humankind in the garden of Eden. It was a time of innocence... before the knowledge of good and evil, or the encroachment of death. Indeed, when we think of a picnic in paradise, do we imagine freshly cut steak slathered in blood or a cornucopia of luscious fruit?

But I am not Christian, and do not see death as a punishment. It is a natural consequence of life, and a release into new ways of being. The thought of being stuck in one physical form for all eternity terrifies me like few other things can. The food chain is sacred. It has no top or bottom, and is instead a web that connects us to all things. Life feeds on life, for in the end, we are all one. We are all endowed with souls that shift and take on different bodies - from grass, to cows, to stars - and death facilitates this reincarnation. When I ate meat, I never saw it as separate from the animal it came from. Always I would picture them clearly in my mind and say, "I honor the animal that died so that I may live."

In my perfect world, we would respect each other's freedom to live autonomous lives. At times our paths would cross, whether for food or friendship, but always with the knowledge that these other entities are individuals with their own thoughts, their own feelings, and their own interests. If we want to eat meat, we would go into the wilderness and work for it just as a wolf does. Ideally this would be a risky venture that promotes reverence for our prey, not the sadistic "sports hunting" or, better yet, "population control" because for some odd reason all the natural predators are missing from the ecosystem.

If we do keep tame animals close by, it would be for milk or eggs, not meat. At first glance I would think it would be fine to have a small farm, where the farm animals are treated as members of the family like dogs and cats are. But is that still enslavement and exploitation of other autonomous beings? Can we keep anyone who does not come and does not stay with us of their own free will? The keeping of livestock often results with contempt for and hunting of wild predators. I would not stand for that.

For such a world to be possible, there would need to be A LOT less humans on this planet than there are now. 1/4th or even 1/8th of the current population would have to remain. There would be enough room for everyone and enough resources to go around comfortably. When asked to rethink factory farming, people exclaim "we can't do free range! how else are we expected to feed all these people??" Few consider lessening the number of people.

Perhaps this is because many humans believe themselves to be special. They consider the ability to reason and make moral choices as uniquely human qualities, and other species' lack of these qualities to make those beings morally irrelevant. I do not agree with this assessment of human superiority. Other species solve problems, develop relationships, help each other, and make decisions just fine in accordance with their concerns. But even if somebody does believe humans to be unique in the animal kingdom, then that uniqueness does not exempt them from responsibility, it obligates them to make compassionate choices. "Look at a lion," they say, "he will brutally kill a gazelle for food!" OK, 1) just because a lion does something, doesn't mean you should and 2) a lion does not keep the gazelle in a cage for five years and pump it full of drugs before he ties it to a mechanized assembly line that slices its throat. A lion is a perfect carnivore designed to kill quickly and efficiently.

Death is different from suffering. When told about the harrowing conditions on factory farms, some people rationalize it as "those animals were raised for food" and honestly believe this is adequate justification. By that logic, "those people were raised to be slaves" would make slavery ok too. I disagree. Nobody is born to suffer, they are chosen by popular demand. Those staggering numbers of chickens would not be confined to tiny cages and scalded alive if people didn't buy KFC any more than poor kids in Asia wouldn't be spending their childhood in sweatshops if people didn't buy Nike.

Truly it is the catastrophic overpopulation of humans that is creating the twisted conditions of human and non-human suffering alike. But... seeing as how population decrease is unlikely to happen anytime soon, we have to confront the fact that today's means of food production are unsustainable for both humans and the planet as a whole. The fields of grain and tons of water going to feed the millions of cows stuck on a factory farm that might eventually feed some humans is highly inefficient. By phasing out the farming of animals, that land and water could be put to better use for growing food directly - and eliminate much soil and air pollution that intensive farming creates.

For the Earth's swelling population, a plant-based diet is the only answer for humans, other animals, and the environment (until it swells past plant-bearing capacity too). That is why even though I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with eating meat, dairy, or eggs, I choose not to due to the current state of the world. And yet people just don't care, and keep wasting themselves into oblivion. When asked why, they say it's because "meat tastes good." Does that mean that if human babies tasted good, we'd raise and eat them too? Might as well... pigs have the mental capacity of a 3-year old human, and it might take care of the overpopulation problem.

When you suggest alternatives for medical animal testing, they reply "you wouldn't say that if your mother had cancer." Hmm. Maybe they're right. Maybe at that point my judgment would be so clouded with selfishness that I'd start pulling people off the street and doing experiments on them, too. That wouldn't make it okay, and wouldn't change the fact that not a single one of the rats and dogs and chimps rotting away in science labs gave a human cancer. How anybody with good intentions could bring themselves to willingly infect another living creature with a terminal disease is beyond me. They have done nothing to deserve this and should not be dragged into human problems without their consent. In case you can't ascertain positive consent, rest assured that screaming and trying to get away is universal for "NO!"

I sometimes wonder if I think this way because I do not identify myself as a human. Humans are just another species to me. I see that they can think and feel like others can, and understand that their experiences are no more valuable than anybody else's. If you would not do it to a human, don't do it to a non-human. That is all.

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Food of the Underworld   02/04/07     

"The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them."
~Isaiah 11:6~

The pain of this planet hurts me deeply on all levels. I feel it weigh down on me every day. Sometimes I don't understand how the world can even contain so much pain, how we can go about our daily lives oblivious and numb to the suffering all around us... how does reality not simply implode under the sheer mass of despair?

While I sit typing this, there is a pig out there who will never know the light of day, who will never run in a field, who will never see her children grow up, and who will spend most of her days crammed in a cage with other pigs where there is barely room to turn around. Any contact she has with the outside world would be with humans who treat her as a piece of economic property, with no regard for her feelings or individuality. Pigs, arguably the most intelligent animals outside of primates and dolphins if measured by human standards. They have highly complex mental, emotional, and social lives that instinctively yearn to play and explore. Imagine yourself thrown into solitary confinement in a dark dungeon and forgotten. No amount of intelligence, creativity, or charisma would be able to save you from your fate. No one would be there to appreciate your draining sanity. Yet this is happening on a mass scale every day to billions of pigs, cows, chickens, fish, the list goes on... and their roar of collective suffering is deafening for me.

Where is there justice in a world where humans have the nerve to complain about encroaching wildlife after moving into their habitat, where they blame deer for hitting their cars, where they worry about hunger before overpopulation, where they ridicule human sacrifice and then send soldiers to die for their gods? Humans have convinced themselves that they are special, separate from nature, not even animals themselves! They find value only in their own species, which is scary enough considering what they do to each other. Yes, there are consequences for these actions as reality comes crashing down through famine, disease, dwindling resources, climate change, and natural "disasters," but "only when the last tree is cut, only when the last river is polluted, only when the last fish is caught, will they realize that you can't eat money."

I have asked the universe how I am expected to live in a world overrun with self-deluded apes where the only reason I haven't been eaten, dissected, experimented upon, or turned into a coat is because my physical body can pass for one of them. This is the reply I received: "They are using their free will to shape their world. Even though it seems terrible, without their right to make that choice, the choice for harmony and compassion can not exist. Do not worry about what others do with their free will. Instead, use your own to become what you want to be. Take yourself out of the system and it will lessen the pain. Change yourself and you change the world. Live as an example and you will become a flame that lights many others."

What did this mean? I could not be part of the institution of suffering anymore. But what did this mean? Only one thing popped inside my head: "VEGAN." I have contemplated that dreaded word for a long time, but never could I imagine truly attempting it. I consider myself a struggling vegetarian. I don't allow myself to eat meat besides fish except under these conditions: (1) it's a "special occasion" - holidays, birthdays, rare meetings, first times, Wii parties; (2) I'm on vacation, meaning no access to normal food; (3) if meat is going to waste, I'm morally obligated to eat it out of respect for the animal; (4) it's 100% free range and organic, not from an intensive factory farm where animals are confined and abused; and lately (5) I really, really, really want to.

I am not against eating meat in principle. I love meat! Humans have evolved to be omnivores and I lean heavily to the carnivorous side of the spectrum. For years I could not eat anything green - I don't eat grass! I am also not against killing for survival, for there is no difference between myself or a lion killing a gazelle. I believe in a sacred balance between life and death, creation and destruction, hunter and hunted. I believe these bonds of blood teach us about our own mortality, make us appreciate the interdependence of all life and instill respect for all living beings. In this way we better understand our place in the universe's cycles. I believe in the ancient ways of using every part of all things - be they animal, plant, or mineral - and honoring their spirit. For me to give up meat is like asking a lion to deny its nature.

It feels ridiculous, but give it up I must, because what humans are doing to their cousins now is not natural or sacred anymore. It is not the killing that's the problem, it is quality of life. I know life in the wild isn't always happy, but just as happiness in a free society isn't guaranteed (indeed, by virtue of its freedom), you still have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. This is something an animal confined to a factory farm sorely lacks. I would rather everyone go out and hunt/fish their own wild food. There is much lost when a person does not see the mortal sacrifice somebody else has to make for them to survive. I like to think that this is the reason behind the twisted conditions on factory farms today. Just apathy, just ignorance... surely if reasonable people knew, felt, or understood, they would rise up against it as much as they stood against human sweatshops and slavery? 

I sometimes ask people what their favorite food is. Much of the responses I get are very ordinary, most memorable of which have been "mashed potatoes" and "rice." This makes me want to strangle them. You see, my favorite food is caviar. And not just any caviar - Caspian black caviar. This isn't because I have expensive tastes, but because I grew up on the shores of the Caspian sea in Azerbaijan where black caviar practically grew on seaweed. That's about all the resources we have in Azerbaijan: caviar, oil, and sand. Fast forward a few years and I'm now living in the USA, where black caviar is suddenly an exotic import and I can't afford it anymore. So I learned to settle for the much cheaper red salmon caviar instead.

In my naiveté, I had assumed that fish eggs are much like bird eggs: the fish lays the eggs, and humans collect them. Not so. "Commercial caviar production normally requires stunning the fish (usually by clubbing at the head) and extracting the ovaries." *cue Psycho music* Fish have always been something I considered safe to eat. So long as I avoided fish from overcrowded, polluting fish farms, it fit into my ideal of a fish living a natural life in the oceans before playing its part in the food chain. But much like everything else in the modern world, commercial fishing has refined environmental devastation to an art form. Nets are dragged across the ocean floor, sweeping up all in their path, and once the edible fish species have been plucked from the draw, the rest are killed and discarded. According to one statistic, if these fishing trends continue, there will be no life left in the ocean by 2050.

THE OCEAN! The frikkin OCEAN!! The source of all life! The source of all water upon which life depends! Billions of years of evolution down the drain! ...Plankton!... Does this bother anybody else?? Do humans really think that extinguishing 71% of the planet's surface won't affect them??

Nothing is safe anymore... not fish, not chickens, not cows, not humans. We're all in this together. The one thing I, somebody who does not think it is wrong to eat meat, had to come to terms with if my goal is to end animal suffering and environmental exploitation... is that simply boycotting meat doesn't do shit. Not even a little. By continuing to eat eggs, cheese, milk, mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, and all their derivatives (especially in the massive quantities that I do), I am wholeheartedly supporting institutionalized torture. It is a sad fact of life that one person's joy often comes at the price of another's pain, and one person's pain often allows for another's joy. The pleasure I get from consuming meat and cheese is not worth somebody's lifetime of suffering, and if the pain I feel from denying myself these things can help even one other creature, it will be worthwhile.

This is where a vegan diet comes in. Plants are the rawest form of energy available past water and sunlight. They are the primary source from which all other nutrients are later derived. Herbivores process the plants, and carnivores get those same nutrients indirectly through the herbivores. By then, however, the pure energy contained in plants is watered down. I'm talking out of my ass here, but the point is plants are good for you, damnit! Although I feel more kinship with carnivores, eating plants will help me feel my link to deer, and bison, and rabbits.

Here's where you ask "plants are alive too, don't you care about their pain?" Yes, I do. I have profound respect for plants and their capacity for emotion. But what kind of pain do they feel? They do not have a central nervous system like animals which translates sensations of physical pain. They have evolutionary adaptations to avoid death and find sunlight, to search for water and express hunger, but they have not developed a way to avoid physical pain like the mobile animals have. Plants do not die if you pick their fruit or eat their leaves. It is advantageous for them to spread their seeds through ingestion by animals. Furthermore, when talking about quality of life, it is a lot easier to keep a plant happy than an animal. That is why I think it is safer to eat organic plants.

It is hard to live in a world where the spawn of factory farming is ingrained in the vast majority of food, and tempting aromas taunt you from every corner. Yet when I smell a rose, I can enjoy it without becoming hungry. Perhaps it is a case of Pavlovian conditioning, where I have simply associated the smell of steak with food. Maybe next time I smell steak I should eat chocolate (I hate chocolate) until hopefully I stop associating beef with tasty things (or I start liking chocolate *shudder*). I can't think of beef, chicken, or fish as food anymore. They are poison for this planet... poison of the land, poison of the sky, poison of the sea.

There are legends in many cultures of heroes journeying to Underworlds and Otherworlds. Be it the Celtic Faeryland or the Greek Hades, those heroes are warned never to partake of the food or drink they find there. They will be tempted with succulent feasts, they will grow hungry, they might think it's not that big a deal, but if they cave in and eat that world's food, they will forget who they are and become trapped there. If I indiscriminately eat the food of the Earth, I would be ingesting the suffering of this world. I can't have that kind of poison inside me. Would it change who I am? What kind of karma does it create? Would it bind me to this planet for future lifetimes? No thanks.

I became vegan because I am opposed to intensive factory farming, not because I am against eating animal products. Where does that leave so-called "free range" meat, eggs, and milk? Free range is a term for farms that ideally allow the animals to roam freely and partake in natural activities before being butchered. Instead of withdrawing my consumer power from the system altogether, would it not be wiser to financially support methods that I agree with? But in practice the "free range" definition is vague at best, and many times simply means that the animals have a few extra inches of space or a window by their cage. I guess the answer is that unless I can verify whether conditions are acceptable, I can't eat it.

What of meat leftovers that are being discarded, am I still morally obligated to eat them out of respect for the animal? That's a tough one. I'm going to go with "yes," but only for meat, not milk or cheese. Eggs and caviar are a gray area since they potentially could be actual animals. O.o What of products somebody else already bought, so eating them will not be lending financial support to factory farming? I'm going to go with "no," because it would still result in me internalizing suffering.

I have vowed to "never knowingly contributing to the suffering of animals again" this past Imbolc (February 2nd). Ironic, as Imbolc in part celebrates milk, but fitting, since Imbolc also serves as a time of dedication and initiation. I have also eaten the first overtly green things (lettuce, broccoli) in over 15 years, so I think I'm on the right track. There is a parable presented in the movie "Little Buddha" about a priest who sacrificed goats. One time a goat started laughing, so the priest asked, "why are you laughing?" and the goat replied, "I am laughing because in my next life I will be a human." Then the goat started crying, so the priest asked, "why are you crying?" and the goat replied, "I am crying for you, because in your next life you will be a goat." Perhaps there is justice in the world after all.

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Vergil Does Yaoi Con   10/25/06     

October 20-22, 2006,

Ahh..... Yaoi Con! A celebration of male/male relationships - real and imagined - in anime, manga, and games. The vast majority of straight men avoid it like the plague, which is a pity, because it is overrun almost entirely by horny 18+ women. Some men have learned better, and still others volunteer themselves for a wide variety of gratuitous exploitation as they make out with each other onstage to attract (mostly) female attention.

Yes, Yaoi Con... a convention like no other. I had always been curious about it, but never actually made the decision to get off my ass and fly all the way to San Francisco... until now. Because now I had a mission! I would be Vergil, and I would find a Dante, and I would kiss him! Whether I could actually find a male Dante cosplayer in a sea of girls was another matter, but it really didn't make much of a difference to me. Dante is Dante is Dante.

First thing's first... the wig from March had to go. I bought another one that was actually spiky and slicked back-ish. Definitely a lot more Vergil-like, but alas it was also more blond than white. GRR! Also, it stuck up about an inch higher than I needed it to... so... Vergil got another haircut! >^.^< Afterwards, I packed my things and - Dante action figure in hand - flew to San Francisco for the convention.

...Day 1.5 (Friday)
I stayed in a hotel room with my friend Ashvolt, her mom, and their three ball-jointed dolls. The next day we all went to the Opening Ceremony of the convention. It seemed standard enough. That is, until they brought out a near life-size Devil May Cry 3 standup of Dante - signed by Reuben Langdon (Dante's voice actor) and Dan Southworth (Vergil's voice actor)... I would've taken a picture of it, but I had a hard enough time remembering to breathe. It took me quite a while to recover and stop blushing. O.o;; It was then announced that if you pre-register for Tales of Anime convention, your name will be put into a raffle to win the signed stand-up. Now, I've been tossing around the idea of going to Tales of Anime convention anyway because Reuben and Dan were going to be there, and this raffle pretty much sealed the deal for me.  

...Day 2.0 (Saturday)
Most of the key events (Anime Music Video Contest, Cosplay Show, Bishounen Auction) were taking place on Saturday, and it attracted the most people, so I decided to wear my Vergil costume that day. This made quite a number of girls very happy and I got some great hugs. Apparently, Itachis really like Vergil. Make of that what you will. It's always encouraging to hear that people like my costume considering how much work I put into it. I even got spirited away by a few photographers so I could pose and stuff. I was shocked that I was the only Vergil at Yaoi con.

When I finally made it to the Dealers Room, I was immediately assaulted by people peddling Devil May Cry merchandise - not that I'm complaining! *___* But, dressed as Vergil that I was, everyone was throwing Vergil stuff in my face, and I was like, "No, no, no! I like Dante more!! That's why I'm dressed as Vergil! To look for a Dante. ^_^;;" Makes perfect sense to me... >_> One girl told me she actually saw a guy dressed as Dante, but he was the only Dante here. So I grinned and told her, "well then, it must be fate."

I spent an ungodly amount of money on many gorgeous, overpriced things. I never buy art prints, but Angel's art was so breathtaking it melted any vestiges of common sense I had left and I blew over $100 on it. At one point, as I was digging through some artwork, Ashvolt told me that she saw Dante. He was passing behind me. I froze and refused to turn around, even told her that I am consciously refusing to turn around. My reactions to seeing Dantes have amplified since Anime Detour and I just was not ready for him right then. I wanted to escape into a word of pretty pictures and not think about my mission to kiss a real life stranger. After the threat was gone, I asked her if he had the white hair. She said he didn't. Hmm. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't even consider kissing a Dante who didn't have the white hair. But... since he was the only Dante here... I guess I had no choice.

I pre-registered for Tales of Anime, and posed by the lovely, sizzling, drool-worthy Devil May Cry 3 stand-up.

My next stop was the What A Gamer Girl Wants panel, where we got to discuss what yaoi fangirls want out of a video game. Lets see... hot guys, sexy clothing, good voice actors, multi-purpose weapons, suggestive dialogue, tragic pasts, lots of action, male characters obsessed with each other, female characters that don't end up with the hero. Gee, I think I already have this game, and it's called Devil May Cry. NEXT!

On to the AMV Contest. Or, rather, the line for the AMV Contest. As we stood waiting to get into the auditorium, that same Dante (now dressed as another character) came over to me and said, "That's a great Vergil costume! You'll see me as Dante later," to which I smiled and replied, "I look forward to that!"

We were all given a ballot with a list of videos from four categories. Then the lights went dark and the show began, and there I was, trying to remember what the four categories were. You got Drama, Action, Comedy, and... uhh... what else is there? Horror?? Lights back on. Oh, Romance! Duh, this is Yaoi con. Shows you how my mind works. Anyway, there was one video that stood out from the rest. A music video with footage from the movie Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and the game Dirge of Cerberus blended together, called Nine Spiral. Truly the best action video I have ever seen and perhaps the only sense of orgasmic bliss I could have outside of Dante, my own world, and maybe Wolverine's claws.

After that was the Cosplay show. It was a lot of fun. There was even a guy dressed as Kratos from God of War calling his act "Ghost of Sparda" for some reason. Maybe because "sparda" means sword? But that's in Spanish and Kratos is Greek... and doesn't use swords. *scratches head* Well, whatever.

...Day 2.5: The Bishounen Auction
At most conventions, the Cosplay show is the highlight of the weekend, but at Yaoi con, this honor goes to the Bishounen Auction. The Bishounen Auction is where the afore-mentioned male volunteers strut their stuff onstage for people to bid on. To entice higher bids, they will strip - often down to their underwear - and/or engage in racy antics with other guys. The highest bidder gets the guy for the duration of the Dance that follows the auction, and the proceeds go to charity.

Now, I have heard stories of a particular Dante skit a few years back. There are three Devil May Cry games to date, and with each game, Dante's outfits get skimpier. So this guy dressed in Dante's costumes from Devil May Cry 1, 2, and 3, all on top of each other. When he was performing on stage, he would dance around as DMC1 Dante, strip that layer off and dance around as DMC2 Dante, strip that layer off and dance around as DMC3 Dante. Wow! I am not ashamed to admit that the thought of such a DMC striptease has dominated my Dante fantasies ever since.

So there we were, in line for the Bishounen Auction. The line was three floors long and we were waaay in the back. Indeed, there were considerable doubts of us even getting in. Ashvolt and her mother were already talking about how fun the Cosplay show was, how the Cosplay show was their favorite part of the convention anyway, that at least we got to see the Cosplay show, etc, etc. I stared at them on the verge of panic. I have a pretty one track mind and I came here for one thing: to see Dante strip. And one way or another, I WOULD SEE DANTE STRIP!!

It was about this time that guy (now dressed as DMC3 Dante, still no white wig) passed by our line along with the other guys up for auction. He waved at me. I waved back. I turned to Ashvolt giddily and squealed, "Dante waved at me!!" She then took it upon herself to inform me that he was pretty much Yaoi con's official Dante, that he was Dante every year, and that he was the one who did that famous striptease a few years back. Holee Shiiiat!! White wig or not, this man now had my wholehearted respect. Hell, kissing him would be an honor!

The line started to move. They had to bring in some extra chairs, and some people had to stand along the walls, but miraculously everybody got into the auditorium. The guys took turns getting up on stage, stripping, dancing, and doing whatever they had to do to get bids. Those in the audience who didn't bid could still come up on stage and show their appreciation by tipping the guys with money. Some even got kissed for their efforts.

As I watched the guys come and go, and waves of dollar wielding fangirls cram more money down their pants, my predicament slowly dawned upon me. This was Yaoi con. Dante and Vergil are a very popular yaoi pairing. I was the only Vergil at Yaoi con, and the only Dante at Yaoi con was coming onstage very soon. If I did not make some kind of move on him, it would be downright embarrassing. For the sake of fan service, I had to go up there. I reached for a loose dollar in my pocket and crumpled it inside my fist. My other hand shakily went for my bottle of water, which I would be gulping down compulsively for the next few minutes. Yes, had to go up there! Nay, morally obligated to go up there!

Soon it was Dante's turn. I could barely concentrate on his little show and tell skit (sadly, not a striptease), and trying to take a picture of him from that far away in terribly dim lighting was like trying to catch Sasquatch.

My teeth were chattering and I was crushing the money in hand into an even tighter fist. I was at the very back of the room and it felt like a long way to the stage. If you don't have the guts to go up there and give Dante a dollar, you do not deserve to be Vergil, I kept telling myself. I waited and waited for the tipping to begin. I did not want to be the first one up there. It felt like forever and I was afraid that the auction might be over before I had a chance to do anything. Maybe I should just go up there on my own... No, no... Yes!! Finally somebody up there! I can make my move!

I handed my camera to Ashvolt's mom and asked that she try to take a picture of me onstage, then I stood up.

Ok! You're up!

I started walking towards the stage.

Keep walking... keep walking... keep walking... just KEEP WALKING... you'll look ridiculous if you back down now! Don't think, just get up there!!

I was onstage now, but I was behind them, and they were facing the audience.

Ok, now what?!

The hand with the money sprung up of its own accord and brought the dollar to Dante's eye level. He turned to me.

I smiled and said, "Here."

He took one look at the dollar, then spread his arms and presented his pants.

Now, I had never put money down a strange guy's pants before, and frankly never imagined myself in a situation where I would have to do that. But this was Dante, and I was Vergil, and that dollar had to go somewhere! Well, if you insist... I thought to myself, and stuffed it into his belt.

Ashvolt's mom got the money shot (pun intended) on camera. Dante looks rather pleased with the whole situation.

Alright, that was out of the way! But giving him a dollar was only my excuse to come onstage. My real motivation was to actually kiss him. I was pretty blunt about it. Just straight up asked him, "can I kiss you?" It was a rather clumsy kiss, and kind of slid into more of a hug (and I'm kind of still beating myself up over that) BUT DAMNIT I DID KISS HIM, ONSTAGE, WITH ALL OF YAOI CON WATCHING and it felt GREAT!! BWAHAHAHAHAA!!!

I skipped off stage and gulped down some more water, grinning inanely. The euphoria of the adrenaline rush from the whole episode stuck around for several minutes. *_* I got what I came here for and more! Kissed the amazing stripping Dante, onstage, in front of Yaoi con!! XD My only regret was that we couldn't get a shot of the actual kiss. Then again, I already had a picture of me kissing Dante, but I didn't have a picture of me stuffing money down Dante's pants... and now I do!!

But wow... My first convention I got to kiss Dante in a secluded hallway, my second convention I got to kiss Dante onstage... in order to outdo that at my third convention, I'd have to kiss none other than Reuben Langdon himself... O.o;; Now there's a thought.

...Day 3.0 (Sunday)
Did some more shopping. Ok, a lot more shopping. I wore my Devil May Cry 3 T-shirt and took along my Dante action figure. I was pleasantly surprised by how much attention the action figure alone attracted. I think my Dante figure got more hugs than I did as Vergil. o.o Saw two people dressed up as Dante and Vergil... Aligheri. Yes, the medieval Italian Dante of Dante's Inferno upon which the names and some of the mythology of Devil May Cry were based. Very clever idea, but also very frustrating. People would be like "hey look! it's Dante and Vergil!" and others would be like "WHERE?!?.... oh."

I went to the Closing Ceremonies to see if I won the raffle for the Devil May Cry 3 stand-up. I prayed and begged the powers that be for that stand-up. I had a very good chance of winning it, too, because very few people pre-registered. But still, I didn't. In fact, it was unclear who actually did win. This pissed me off and traumatized me more than I had anticipated. I stayed in my seat for 5 minutes, dazed. I stood up, went to the back of the room, and stood there staring at the stand-up for another 5 minutes. Then I left. And, y'know, I cried a little inside, but I told myself that when I go to Tales of Anime, I'll just have Reuben sign things in person - with my name on it. ^_^

In the evening, Ashvolt and I decided to lay out all the things we bought on the trip so we could better assess the monetary damages. It was quite a sight. My half of the bed is everything I got, and the black blob's half of the bed is everything Ashvolt got.

I got paid on Friday, and by Monday it was all gone. ^_^;; BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!! So, so worth it.


DISCLAIMER: if anybody involved doesn't want the pics or the entry up here, please contact me and I will take it down!!

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Obsession Is A Beautiful Thing   06/13/06       

I love going all out over the things I enjoy. I love to immerse myself completely in a subject, let it consume me, and honor it for its ability to give me such an intense natural high. I do this through art, writing, music videos, games, conventions, buying memorabilia, and torturing my friends with one-track conversations. It takes a lot of energy but gives back in kind, making life more interesting, more colorful, and creating subconscious energy reserves I could later tap when I need them.

This brings us to Wolverine. I grew up watching the X-men cartoons (where I focused on Gambit). I have known about him for years and years! I have watched the first two X-men movies many times over, reluctantly enjoying Wolverine's berserker rage. Sure, in the movies, Wolverine was pretty cool - and not bad looking, either. But always I reminded myself that in the comics he is still an ugly, hairy, muscular, stocky little man in yellow spandex. The very antithesis of everything I go for in a focus.

STAGE 1: "I like Wolverine's Claws!"

Yet somehow, for reasons even I can't pinpoint, this all changed after I saw X-men 3 (7 times and counting). Perhaps it was his breathtaking showdown with the Phoenix, perhaps he got beat up a little more than usual... all I know is that after X3, something inside of me snapped and I couldn't get enough of him! This got amplified ten times over once it hit me exactly how his claws worked.

STAGE 2: "I love Wolverine's Claws!!"

I knew it hurt when the claws come out, but I figured they retracted right into his hand and only broke the skin when unsheathed - so what? But then I got to thinking... the claws are longer than his hand, so if they retract only into his knuckles, they would extend into his arm and make him unable to bend his wrist. At first I wrote it off as a comic book oversight, but when I went to research it further, I realized this was not the case! The claws are actually stored in his forearm, which means that every time they come out, they have to rend through the entire length of his hand before breaking the skin. OWCH!


Suddenly, Wolverine's claws were the sexiest thing in the world (besides Dante)! I would get orgasmic butterflies in my stomach every time the movies zeroed in on a close-up of the blades passing under his skin. The discipline, the pain tolerance, it was beautiful! I relished explaining to my friends every agonizing detail of the claws' anatomy with sadistic glee. I couldn't even tell if I liked Wolverine or his claws more, but I knew one thing for certain - I wanted them! I wanted them so badly it hurt. I could sometimes feel phantom blades in my arms yearning to be set free! I constructed makeshift claws from shiny, pointy, metallic letter-openers, put them between my fingers and slashed around with them. Though I can't stand surgery, and probably wouldn't have it to save my life, I would have surgery to implant Wolverine's claws!! It would be worth it... so, so worth it... ;_;

But I wanted to know more about Wolverine as a person to make sure my passions were not misplaced. In a drastic move that probably ranks as the most impressive entrance for a focus ever, I bought the old cartoon series, Best of Wolverine: Volume 1, Wolverine: Origins & Endings, Wolverine: Enemy of the State volumes 1 and 2, House of M #8, X2: Wolverine's Revenge video game, a Wolverine T-shirt, and all 6 years of the Ultimate X-men comics within the first two weeks of X3 being out. That's over $350 retail (thankfully I never buy retail) and well past my spending limit on ugly hairy men. Needless to say, this is what my doorstep looked like two days later.

I've always liked X-men, but never got around to the comics, so I'm happy to say that I am currently reading all that and enjoying every second of it! The movies and cartoons barely scratched the surface of the hell Wolverine went through in his life. I greatly admire the fact that even though he has been memory wiped, brainwashed, experimented upon, abused, horrifically tortured, and then some, he always finds a way to come back to himself. More remarkably still, he appears to have transcended the need to define himself based on his memories and remains a fundamentally decent, honorable person (with understandable anger management issues) who seeks to protect the few he cares about. I also greatly enjoy his numerous links to Japan.

I have said that I have the amazing ability to like a character not for who they are, but for who I want them to be. The way I see it, Wolverine isn't about the yellow tights, the hairy muscles, smoking cigars, or saying "bub." His essence is his claws, his powers, his attitude, his angst... and so long as I hone in on that, I can superimpose THIS onto him and be happy. I still stand by that statement, and you will always see him looking close to that in my fan art, but I am also starting to appreciate his various comic book incarnations and I have to say I'm very proud of that. Proves to me once again that when all is said and done, I go for personality (though the gallons of blood help immensely). I'm very curious to see how far this obsession will take me.

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Mission Accomplished!   04/18/06       

(this is from March 25th 2006 but oh well...)

OK, so I'm (still) obsessed with Dante, if that's news to anyone...

I've been playing video games and watching anime for most of my life, but somehow I never quite made it to an anime convention. Finally I decided to go to Anime Detour 2006. At first I figured I'd go in my Devil May Cry 3 T-shirt, but two weeks before the convention I had this radical idea to make a Vergil costume. Now, the obvious question here is... if I love Dante, why would I dress up as Vergil? Two reasons: 1) I truly do love his coat, it's probably my favorite outfit in all of anime/games, and 2) I wanted to find a Dante, and kiss him... as his twin brother Vergil.

So I went to a store and bought 6 feet of blue, orange, and yellow material. Then I realized it wouldn't be enough and the orange was the wrong color so I went back the next day and got 9 more feet of blue, orange, and yellow material plus foam, buttons, and white fabric paint. Anyway, $200 later I had (much more than) enough materials to do my Vergil coat!! It took some pretty complicated mental acrobatics to design because Vergil's coat HAS NO SEAMS besides the yellow stripes and at his shoulders. I worked on it 6-14 hours a day on top of a full time job, getting 2-4 hours of sleep most of the nights and stabbing my sore fingers to blood with needles while hand-sewing the entire thing through material that bent a sewing machine needle. After much frustration and trial and error I got it done the night before the convention!

Me as Vergil 1 ~ Me as Vergil 2 ~ Me as Vergil 3 ~ Me as Vergil 4

Sure the wig was a disaster, but you should've seen it before I gave it a haircut and glued it down with gel! Lets just say I was Vergil in the rain after a bad perm, shall we? Good...

Off to the convention!! I drove around the parking lot for at least 15 minutes trying to find a spot. Saw another Vergil walking around, screamed "DAMN YOU, VERGIL!!" in my car just because he was another Vergil and he looked decent. He later stuck his tongue out at me. (Vergil and I had a nice in-depth discussion about making our coats later on... we cool) Went inside, got my little blue nametag that I wrote "Vergil" on. Now to find some Dantes!

Ahh... the hazards of being Vergil. Girls jumping me from behind, people taking pictures. Fun fun. And then I saw him. Hands down The best Dante at the convention. Nay, the best Dante I had ever seen... period! DMC3 Dante! Nipplewarmer trenchcoat Dante! And all I could say to him was "...c-can I take your picture?" And I did. Luckily, my friend Ashvolt had a merchant booth set up a few feet away and offered to take pictures of us together. And Dante was like "lets have a back to back shot!" And we did. And here's me looking confused and terrified because I had no idea how in the world I would go about asking him to do a... errm... frontal shot.

So I chickened out and Dante went on his merry way followed by throngs of fangirls, and Ashvolt and I went on our own way with my head in utter chaos. There were too many pretty people around me, too much anime merchandice wherever I turned, too much nifty Japanese food, and all I could think about was how that was definitely the best Dante at the convention, how a chance this perfect would never come again, and how my elaborate plan, my sleepless nights, and my bloody fingers have all been in vain because I didn't have the guts to approach him. The room was spinning around me and I couldn't take it anymore!

"Okay," I said to Ashvolt, "Here's the plan... Next time we see Dante, you come up to him and say you like yaoi (if you don't know what that is, I dare you to image google it), and since he's Dante and I'm conveniently Vergil, you want a picture of us kissing!"

She was more than happy to agree.

"A-and I'm not saying this is going to happen... just if we happen to see him, y'know? We won't go looking for him or anything..."

She raised an eyebrow.

So we keep wandering around and lo and behold there he was again. It was a secluded corridor, the lighting was just right, there were very few people around, it couldn't be more perfect! I sighed, did a 180 degree turn and started walking the other way. Ashvolt grabbed me by my arm and literally dragged me back. Before I knew it we were face to face with Dante and she started her speech.

"Hi... we have sort of a weird request for you..."

Dante listened.

"See, I'm a yaoi fan and... seeing as how you're Dante... and my friend here is Vergil... I was wondering if..."

Dante didn't get it.

"I mean... you're Dante... and she's Vergil... so..... *suggestive hand motions*"

I don't think Dante wanted to get it.

"Sooo... ummm......" she stammered because half-naked DMC3 Dante in the nipplewarmer outfit was PRETTY DAMN INTIMIDATING.

By now Dante was staring at us like we're crazy - which we were, but that's besides the point.

I couldn't handle the awkward tension and blurted out: "I think she wants me to kiss you."

Dante paused, then pointed to the side and said, "You gotta ask her."

HER?? $%#&!! Well, I guess that's one way to find out someone's taken... In all our excitement we failed to notice his girlfriend standing nearby. Nevertheless, hoping against hope, we turned pleadingly to ask her permission.

She seemed rightly flabbergasted at first, but finally said, "Ugh, I can't believe how I put up with crazy fangirls at conventions... fine... fine you can kiss him."

I couldn't believe it but there it was: the perfect shot of the perfect Dante in perfect lighting at the perfect time all perfectly legitimized by the girlfriend. May the powers that be eternally bless her for it!

One of the proudest moments of my life, I kid you not. I framed it. ^_^

And here's Ashvolt's version of the story!


DISCLAIMER: if either of you don't want the pics or the ramblings entry up here, please contact me and I will take it down!!

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You Are The Weakest Link, Goodbye!   09/06/05     

Well, if anybody has been keeping track of my Top 10 Anime/Manga Guys List, Hiei and Kurama have been tied at #3 for a very long time. They used to have their own spots on the list, back in the glorious days of the neatly designated "Top 5" Immortals, but I loved them both so much for such complementary reasons that I could never really decide what order to put them in. So I tied them, because they truly are by far my favorite couple in all of anime and it's sometimes hard for me to see them as different characters.

However, with Ichigo joining the ranks at #0, it was becoming evident that trying to fit 12 characters on a Top 10 List was cheap and wrong! Now that I had a Favorite Pairings List up with Kurama x Hiei at #1, them being tied in the Top 10 List as well was redundant. Besides, I love Hiei and he deserves his own rank on the list and not to merely cling to Kurama's coattails. Now the question was: who could I possibly drop to make room for Hiei?

Griffith and Lucifer were certainly not going anywhere anytime soon and Urahara was a solid favorite. This left me with: (1) Taikoubou, whose role of benevolent-trickster-who-reminds-me-of-myself Urahara had pretty much taken over and was far better at, (2) Sasuke, whose only flaw was his indefinite absence from his show, and (3) Manji, who was safely stuck at #10 and had slept through all the recent upheavals in the list until now.

I loved all of them and it was tearing me up trying to decide between them, but then I had a brilliant idea. This whole mess was Hiei's fault, so why not have him pick who to drop and absolve myself of all responsibility?

Me: Hiei, it's your present, so cut down the one that annoys you the most.
Hiei: *smug grin*

Long story short, he picked Taikoubou. Poor Taikoubou... got dropped for no apparent reason. I'm sorry, Taikoubou. You know I love you. ~_~;;

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Dante's Awakening   08/27/05     

My first and only attempt at fanfiction, it is a combination of Missions 7 and 13 from the game Devil May Cry 3. Although my reasons for writing this are of a personal nature, suffice to say it was meant to vividly explore feelings of vulnerability, loss of control, powerlessness, pain, transience, death, and subsequent rebirth.

Dante awoke on the cold, etched floor of a castle chamber dimly lit by stained glass mosaics. He groggily raised himself on his arms and grasped the sword that lay by his side. He stood up, flipped back his trenchcoat to check for his guns, and carefully surveyed his surroundings. The room was a closed circle – no windows saw outside of it, no doors led out of it, and its borders were obscured in darkness.

Vergil melted out of the shadows like an icy reflection of Dante himself. No words needed uttering. His stance was resolute, his gaze merciless, his lunge towards his brother a blur of blue, white, and shimmering steel that collided with Dante’s blade in a flurry of sparks. The devil hunter slid back from the impact, but held fast, not giving Vergil any inkling of weakness. Yet he knew the strength and skill of his twin, and knew better the ruthless ambition of his character. Vergil broke off and unleashed a blitzkrieg of katana slashes which Dante deftly avoided through a martial ballet of dodges, parries, leaps, and rolls of superhuman agility across their compact arena.

Quick as he was, Vergil’s attacks were relentless and seemed to come faster and bolder still. Dante could not tell if he was growing weaker or Vergil growing stronger, but his breath came harder and his heart was drumming in his ears. It was only a matter of time before a misstep allowed Vergil’s katana to slice across his abdomen. Dante reflexively turned around to cradle his wound, giving his brother an easy opportunity to land a second blow to his back, as well. Dante stumbled forward and stopped his fall by leaning on his sword. He glanced around, panting heavily as he felt hot blood from stinging wounds trickle down his back and stomach. Vergil was moving much too fast, dashing and teleporting from all sides. In the blink of an eye the blue phantom disappeared, coming in directly behind Dante with nothing but a slight breeze to signify his presence.

A million thoughts flooded Dante’s mind in the smallest fraction of a second it took him to realize his predicament, yet he knew there was nothing he could do. He sensed the air rush out of his lungs as Vergil’s cold blade stabbed between his shoulders and burst out from his chest. Dante gaped down blankly at the bloodstained edge protruding from his torso. The momentary shock was still too great for his brain to register.

“So lithe, so dexterous, so clinging to life,” Vergil spoke, “Yet even you are bound to this mortal slab of flesh.” He twisted his blade deeper into his victim’s chest to drive the point home. Dante’s vision blurred as the searing pain finally exploded all through his body. He remembered to breathe, though it came in shallow, aching gasps garbled with blood. He could hear his heart ringing in his ears, although its beats were now sporadic and getting alarmingly weaker… weaker….. weaker…..... weaker………… until his knees gave way and buckled under the increasing heaviness of his own weight, his fist unclenched, and his sword clanged to the floor. The splatters of blood gushing from his wound were already forming a reflective pool at his feet.

Vergil drew his brother’s limp body closer along his katana and pulled his head back by the pristine strands of silver hair. “You are not worthy to be my opponent,” he whispered in Dante’s ear as he slipped their mother’s amulet off his twin’s neck, “There can only be one heir to Sparda’s power.” He let Dante slide off his blade and crumple onto the ground, sheathing his katana in one quick, measured gesture.

Vergil’s voice was little more than a distant echo to him now. He did not know if his brother had gone or not. He no longer had control over his limbs or his senses. Life was leaking out of his body, leaving behind a shell that refused to function. The only concern left in his fading consciousness was the thought of dying, drowning in his own blood as darkness enveloped him……. For an indeterminable amount of time in the dark he waited unawares, until the faint flame of his soul rekindled itself of its own accord. Still it was dark, yet somewhere in the deepest recesses of his being he knew he existed… somewhere, somehow.

Who am I?

The question which always precedes all others. *drip*

I don’t know...

The only path to the truth. Everything he thought he was, everything he wanted to be – it was all meaningless here. Here, alone with himself, with nothing else to compare against or relate to. *drip*

Who am I? I am.

The only true answer to that question. *drip*

I am...

Like drops of blood falling onto the ground... Like drops of water falling into a still pond, his thoughts rippled through his being.

I am......

The primal mantra drifting through the void, riding on the crests of the undulating waves.

I am.........

Growing louder and louder, the dripping like a pulsing heartbeat… Growing higher and higher, until the waters were churning with power.

I AM............

Power buried deep within the soul stirring to the surface, spanning ever outwards and spilling over to the shores of waking consciousness. Power as ancient as the world itself was flowing through his veins, closing his wounds, reanimating every part of his body, bringing color to his skin and revitalizing his senses. His mind slipped back in synch with his brain. His eyes flew open and he sprung to his feet with a sonic boom, sending shockwaves which shattered the mosaics. The demon inside him had awakened, and he never felt so alive.

“Thank you, Vergil,” Dante smiled and clenched his fist.

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Kurosaki Ichigo vs the Top 10 List    05/05/05    

The Top 10 list looked on curiously as a lone figure approached through the blanket of fog which isolated them from all others. They have all passed through the mists to get to where they were now, but a newcomer was a rare occurrence indeed. He was obscured by shadow, but it was possible to tell that he wore a kimono and carried an enormous blade across his shoulders. Manji (#10) perked up and gave him a long, hard stare, fully expecting to be cut down, yet the newcomer passed him without a second glance.

He faced Kenshin (#9) and plunged his massive sword into the earth. In the blink of an eye the ground under Kenshin opened up and he fell screaming into endless nothingness below, swallowed by the blinding haze. The others gaped as the man did not stop there either, but kept going still. He sidestepped around Sasuke (#8) who was caught completely off guard as he was bumped down to (#9) with a single swipe of the giant sword.

Once Sasuke settled into his new rank, he crawled into a corner and sat sulking with his head in his hands. The five Immortals – Zelgadis (#1), Xelloss (#2), Kurama & Hiei (tied #3), and Soujirou (#4) – laughed mercilessly at Sasuke. A depressive dark raincloud formed over him and he began to sniffle, then broke out in tears. Griffith (#6) and Lucifer (#7) smiled smugly at Sasuke. Manji let out a sigh of relief, satisfied to have kept his place on the list.

As the initial shock wore off and Kenshin’s demotion sank in, the others finally got a good look at the newcomer. “Ugh, it’s blond!” they gasped. Griffith glared. “But white hair is completely different, of course!” Taikoubou (#5) quickly added. The rest agreed. “I hate you all…” hissed Griffith, clenching his fist around his behelit. “So what is your name stranger?” inquired Taikoubou. No sooner had he asked this that the mysterious swordsman disappeared.

“Ichigo,” a voice behind him replied, “Kurosaki Ichigo.” Griffith and Lucifer grimaced as they were moved down on the list. Poor bewildered Taikoubou found himself at #6 instead of #5. “Bwahahaha!!” Soujirou pointed at him mockingly, “Serves you right for not earning the rank of Immortal, ’Bou!” Just then a heavy hand hit him over the head from above. He looked up to see he had been knocked down as Ichigo moved up to his spot at #4.

Soujirou was speechless. The other Immortals looked on in shock at the newcomer squeezed in between them, already uprooting one of them from ranks that were meant to be set in stone, neigh unshakable. Xelloss’ enduring smile faded and he opened his eyes, “Most interesting.” Zelgadis frowned. “NO!! How could this be?!” Soujirou shrieked, “He’s not even a demon!!” “Neither are you,” snapped Hiei.

The Immortals looked to Kurama and Hiei, who were poised on guard, watching Ichigo advance. “Hiei, Kurama… It is up to you now," Zelgadis, the reigning king, spoke up, “Perhaps your combined force could keep the intruder at bay.” “We will try,” said Kurama. “But I am not sure we could succeed,” said Hiei, a rare trace of fear creeping across his face as he sized up his opponent. The two of them flinched and were pushed back on their feet from the initial slash of Ichigo’s soulcutter. He could outbleed Kurama, he could overpower Hiei; this they knew, but would fight it to the end to protect their honor. Soujirou fell to his knees in shame. Sasuke stopped crying to stare at the spectacle unfold.

Zelgadis and Xelloss looked on with trepidation, fearing that if Kurama and Hiei failed they may need to join forces to defeat this threat. Zelgadis eyed Xelloss suspiciously… perhaps he should ally with Ichigo instead. It was then that Ichigo did the unthinkable – he brought in Urahara. “Yo,” he said, in all his blondness. As a last resort, Kurama erupted in a spontaneous geyser of blood. “It will not work, my love,” Hiei said softly, “They are too strong.” The demonic duo had no choice but to let Ichigo pass. The last line of defense had been shaken and the remaining Immortals, the most elite of The List’s guardians, readied for battle. Their ranks have not been scathed for a decade, they would not be now!

Yet Ichigo left Xelloss behind before his mazoku eyes could even perceive the intruder, and the only hint Zelgadis got was feeling something brush past his purple hair. Both stood wide-eyed, preparing for the inevitable, expecting their ranks to be usurped by this newcomer… yet this did not happen. Kurosaki Ichigo dashed past them and expanded into the atmosphere, becoming the sky in their world, his presence traceable by the stars. He had no wish to usurp the thrones Xelloss and Zelgadis clung to, and instead transcended The List altogether, claiming the rank of zero… an endless circle, infinity itself.

Urahara Kisuke took a step away and turned around. He grinned and stretched a hand out to Soujirou. “What?” Soujirou gaped, “No, I can’t accept this. ‘The strong survive, the weak die.’ That is the way of things.” He though on this for a moment. “Oh screw it!” and took Urahara’s hand, who pulled him back up to #4 as he himself retreated and sat down leisurely at #5. “YESS!!” Soujirou cackled, “I got my rank back, everyone!! Did you see that!?... ahahah!!….. eheh!... heh…….. guys?”

Sasuke began to sob again. The others sneered. Xelloss closed his eyes and smiled. Zelgadis looked up into the heavens. They have kept their rank… for now… but what did it all mean?

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Christians Blaming Jews    02/25/04    

There's been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the movie called The Passion Of The Christ. Some believe the movie has anti-Semitic themes that will promote violence against Jews. Already some Jews are claiming they have received hatemail telling them they should be crucified or scourged. I, for one, find this phenomenon utterly baffling.

Christianity, in theory, is supposed to be a religion of tolerance, love, and forgiveness. It's rarely that in practice, but that doesn't surprise me. After all, the followers of every other religion often do the exact opposite of their teachings, too. But, for the love of all things good and holy, why are some Christians angry at the Jews for crucifying Jesus? You can't blame an entire people for what a few individuals did +/-2004 years ago.

But nevermind that. Nevermind that Jesus was Jewish, nevermind that it wasn't the Jews' fault, nevermind that it wasn't even the Romans' fault... Why are some Christians acting like Jesus being crucified is a BAD thing?!? It's only the foundation of the entire religion!! According to Christianity, Jesus dying on the cross (and resurrecting 3 days later) absolved the sins of mankind. Through his sacrifice, it was now possible for people to enter heaven if they embraced his teachings.

Even if a Christian truly believes that contemporary Jews (or Italians) are somehow responsible for the actions of a few historic individuals, they should be THANKING the Jews (or Italians). And if they need someone to blame, they should blame themselves. After all, Jesus died for THEIR sins! Of course, you can always blame women, but that is so 14th century.

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