Eauch!

January 25, 2021 at 3:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Content warning: discussion of rape and rapey behaviour

SPOILERS FOR SEVERAL SEASONS/BOOKS OF BRIDGERTON!!!!

I’m up at 3am because I simply must finish the book I’m reading—not because I love it, but because I loathe it.

One of the biggest TV shows so far this year is “Bridgerton”, a regency romance which is absolutely hilarious and also definitely NOT something one should watch with one’s parents (it’s MA+ for all the sex scenes). I watched it; I loved it. I hated the patronising, controlling, hypocritical, and emotional older brother (although he had a few nice moments and improved SLIGHTLY throughout the season).

I wanted more.

It’s already been renewed for a second season, and possibly eight seasons altogether since it’s based on a series of eight books. I figured I might as well try one of them, and I was surprised and delighted by it. The wittiness was all there, and beautiful. It was FUN. I was only a teensy bit disappointed that the books are all about white people, while the TV is delightfully inclusive of people of colour (or at least, inclusive of the British equivalent of African Americans—I don’t recall seeing any Asians, which is jarring to an Australian).

It turns out that each book focuses on a different sibling from the Bridgerton family. Given that it’s a romance series and the second-oldest sister was vocal in her desire to do something with her life other than marry and have children, I was a little saddened at her likely fate (married and popping out babies) but I was cautiously optimistic that she’d marry someone who encouraged and enabled her. Perhaps he’d be studying, and teaching her everything he learned? Perhaps they’d travel the world together? I dunno. It seemed that a lesbian romance was unlikely, which is a real shame but a familiar one.

And I discovered that Book 2 (The Vicount Who Loved Me) focused on that awful older brother, Archibald (or Anthony? Whatever, I don’t care). In the TV show’s first season, he basically ruins all his sister Daphne’s marriage prospects by refusing to let anyone near her except an ancient, ugly man who attempts to kiss/rape her, and then force her to marry him (which would mean lots and lots of rape, obviously). When Aaron’s mother gives him a stern talking-to about his hypocrisy (because he’s sleeping with a mere opera singer) he goes and dumps the opera singer—which includes financially ruining her, because he has been ‘keeping’ her (apartment and all) and in fact had repeatedly promised her that he would always protect and look after her. (Later on he has a change of heart, but by then she’s attached herself to another man in order to survive, because being a woman sucks.) He also gets talked out of duelling (and probably killing) Simon not once but twice—and the second time only relents because Daphne announces that she and Simon are engaged (sacrificing her dream of having children in the process). All the many MANY times Daphne begs him not to kill Simon are ignored; she’s only able to save Simon’s life by marrying him. (Great job being a caring older brother, Adam.)

Abraham’s not quite as awful in Book 1 (The Duke and I), but he’s still arrogant, annoying, and determined to kill anyone who makes his sister cry (including her husband, after they’re married), while not realising that the principle cause of her misery is himself and everything he does to “defend” her makes her life worse. Which she tells him. In words. Repeatedly.

So I hesitated before reading Book 2, but I was kind of dreading the TV equivalent so it seemed like I should read the book and let it win me over.

Reader, it did not win me over.

Augustus’s beloved dad died when Armando was eighteen, and his father was thirty-eight. It was brought on my a bee sting, so Archer is now deathly afraid of bees. He’s also so obsessed with his hero worship of his dad that he’s secretly convinced that he’ll die by thirty-eight.

That’s super dumb, but okay. Romances thrive on dumb obstacles that can be overcome by a simple conversation or a bit of therapy. So his silly superstition combines with his active sex life to make him decide that okay, sure, he’ll get married—but he will make sure it’s NOT a love match. Because reasons (one of them being that he definitely plans to keep sleeping around—which the main girl, Kate, hears him say aloud to a mistress).

So then there’s the problematic trope of ‘enemies to lovers’ in which he and Kate bicker constantly. Except it’s more than bickering, because he decides to marry Kate’s younger, prettier sister based on her reputation as being nice enough, pretty, and moderately intelligent. And Kate hates him, first for his reputation as a rake and then for the rude stuff he says about her, women in general, and her sister. He enjoys making her furious. But he also believes all the sexist, heartless stuff he says.

Uhhh… I don’t mind bickering, but sexist is sexist. Kate is right to hate him. And he hates her, but who cares what he thinks?

But then he has a sexy dream about her, and can’t stop thinking about her sexually. He does a coupla nice things (such as comforting her during a panic attack), and a coupla awful things. He grows to heartily enjoy making her angry, and then find he also likes scaring her. Looming over her, locking her alone in a room with him, and kissing her. (She’s into it a LITTLE BIT which he crows over—and then continues courting her sister.)

No.

Forcing yourself on a woman (to any degree) and deliberately scaring her is not sexy. Never has been, never will be.

Anakin is so, so rapey. Both generally and literally. He doesn’t technically rape her (yet… I’m not finished the book) but he physically abuses her a bunch. Invading her space, not letting her leave, kissing her, etc. When they’re married and she asks to put off having sex for a few days, he repeatedly tells her how she’s his wife and his possession and he can lock her in their room and rape her as much as he likes (not that he describes it as rape).

Pretty soon, it wasn’t just Alfredo I hated. It was the author. I’m confident she won’t ever read this, so I can speak freely: the odd little (and not so little) problematic moments in the first book are clearly just the beginning of a world of problematic, harmful, and abusive tropes that this writer is clearly very very fond of.

Plus she’s just dumb, sometimes. I’m only in Book 2 and there are hugely repetitive aspects. I have a feeling they’ll be in every book, too.

  1. An extremely innocent heroine, who has never been kissed and never felt sexual attraction in her life, and who is considered terribly plain. (In the TV show, Daphne is widely proclaimed to be super hot—somewhat more believable.)
  2. A much richer, higher-ranking man who is very sexually experienced. It is abundantly clear that the advice that “reformed rakes make the best husbands” is something the author actually believes.
  3. Through some stupid circumstance, the main couple must marry. Each of them wants to, but believes the other doesn’t.
  4. During the wedding night, the woman describes the sensation as “odd” in between raptures. (I found it all very sweet and actually realistic the first time. The second felt like sex by numbers.) At least once per book, preferably more, thrusting is described as an “ancient rhythm”.
  5. Every single character, male or female, is constantly threatening (and often actually doing) violence on the others. It was cool when Daphne punched our her attacker in series 1 of the TV show. It was dumb when the men started beating each other up. It was super, super dumb when all the Book 2 characters did the same thing.

I haven’t finished Book 2 yet but I’m assuming the following:

5. The married couple has lots of great sex, then a huge fight due to the man’s daddy issues. The woman assumes the marriage was always doomed due to her low self esteem.

6. Fight is resolved, probably by 1-2 conversations, and they live happily ever after.

Edit: Yeah, I finished the book. There was an author note about how a lot of men with dads who die young become convinced that they’ll die young too. I don’t have a huge problem with that. I do have a problem with Anton being a horrible person though.

Also? Massive spoilers in the books’ bonus epilogues.

Ugh.

Gonna go read a nice cleansing speculative fiction story now.

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Today’s Adventure

January 10, 2021 at 3:17 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been a while since I made a post here, but this is a good one…. here’s how my day has been, as reported on facebook.

9:00am Sunday 10 January, 2021

3:00pm, Sunday 10 January, 2021

NB: International readers please note that “thongs” in Australia refers to flip-flops aka a type of plastic shoe often worn at the beach since they’re so easy to slip on and off.

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Fundraising Gift Shop

October 30, 2020 at 11:47 am (Uncategorized)

2020 is OVER and so is the 2020 Gift Shop and the ‘Tinsel Island’ Christmas display.

But the GoFundMe is still active!

Our Christmas fundraisers gained us a little over $500.

I am the coordinator of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. We are currently participating in the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative‘s Mentor Program in preparation for sponsoring a refugee family in 2021-2022. Sponsoring a family means taking care of them in a myriad of ways: we’d pay their airfares, meet them at the airport, take them to a house we’d set up for them, and stay in close contact for a full year. We’d help them with English, with paperwork, with the school system, with weird Australian customs, and with meeting more local people (and organisations) so they can grow their own lives here in Canberra. We’d also back them financially for their first year—that is, if they were unable to work for whatever reason, we would pay for all of their living expenses until they could go onto Centrelink/Disability Payments.

If you’d like to donate directly, you can email me at fellissimo@hotmail.com with ‘Castle of Kindness’ in the subject line, or simply donate to the GoFundMe.

This is our beautiful sponsorship group. Please don’t comment on the fact that four of us are floating heads; they’re very self-conscious about it.

From November 1-December 31 this year, we are running a Fundraising Gift Shop. Authors, artists, and others have donated a huge collection of wonderful items and services. Every dollar you spend here (with the exception of postage fees) will go directly into our refugee fund.

HOW TO BUY STUFF: Comment here with your email, and pay by PayPal using fellissimo@hotmail.com OR mention your preferred payment method in your comment and I’ll email you details. Most of the books here are donated by the author, so please tell us who you would like them signed to! Some of us will even gift-wrap and label them for you so they can be sent directly to your loved ones! Please allow lots of time for postage this year.

BOOOOOOKKKSSSSS!!!!!

For younger kids:

Octopus and Family: Kid-Friendly Edition by Annabelle Lee

A picture book of terrible octopus puns that kids (and weird adults) love.

Remaining Copies: 3

Cost: $20

Welcome to Australia by Felicity Banks

This is a bilingual picture book designed for migrant kids. There are three versions: English-Indonesian, English-Mandarin, and English-Spanish.

Please note: Although this book has been accepted by a publisher, it is not yet finished, let alone printed. It is unlikely to be ready in time for Christmas.

Remaining copies: 10

Cost: $25

For kids 8+ but each one of these is truly for all ages (arranged roughly in order of youngest recommended reader age)

The Adventurous Princess and other Feminist Fairy Tales by Erin-Clare Barrow

This is a beautifully illustrated book of short stories that are both familiar and new.

Remaining Copies: SOLD OUT

Cost: $25

Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae by Felicity Banks and many more

This is a story told through three parcels that are posted to you once a week for three weeks. Each parcel contains several pieces of art, at least one physical object, and a question for you to answer (but getting it wrong doesn’t hurt the story at all).

A phoenix child is missing. Have the dragons taken her?

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $70

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Anne of Green Gables graphic novel (not by one of my author friends)

Remaining Copies: SOLD OUT SORRY

Cost: $20

Books (an illustrated book about books, with great retro illustrations)

Not by one of my author friends, so can’t be signed for you.

Remaining Copies: 1

Cost: $20

The Monster Apprentice and/or The Princess and the Pirate by Felicity Banks

Rahana is a world like Narnia, but with pirates.

Book 1: When Dance’s island is threatened, she knows their only hope of survival lies with the monsters that killed her sister.

Book 2: Princess Ana is sent to find her long-lost grandmother and bring her home. But Captain Sol is a vicious pirate, and she has her own plans.

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost $18 per book

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This series is a beautiful, funny, bittersweet treat. I don’t want to say any more in case I ruin it.

Copies Remaining: It’s a secret

Cost: $18

Be Warned! These will be posted from outside Australia, so if you want them to arrive by Christmas (despite COVID-19), you need to buy them NOW.

For young adults and adults:

The Antipodean Queen Trilogy: Heart of Brass, Silver and Stone, and Iron Lights by Felicity Banks

High adventure in a magical steampunk Australia. Each book has a bonus interactive short story at the back.

Copies Remaining: 20ish

Cost: $24 each or $60 for all three.

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire by Felicity Banks and others

This story is a steampunk romance told through letters, objects and art (similar to Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae except it is sent as a single parcel). It is set in the same universe as The Antipodean Queen Trilogy (and a stripped-down version of the story is included with Iron Lights but doesn’t include any of the objects or most of the art).

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $60

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage. Or want to buy it in a pack with the three novels.)

Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday by Felicity Banks and others

This is a cozy murder mystery told through letters, objects, and art (and set in Canberra). It is similar to the Magic in the Mail stories except. . . well, there’s a murder. There are clues throughout (including in the pictures) but, again, if you don’t catch the clues it won’t ruin the story for you. It was originally sent in 8 parcels but now it’s packaged into one. You can ration them out over 8 weeks if you have VERY good self-control.

Remaining Copies: 20ish

Cost: $70

(You can buy them here if you want more payment options and/or want to pay postage.)

Ashes of Olympus Series: The Way Home and The Ivory Gate by Julian Barr

These books are retellings of the ancient myths—full of battles, betrayal, and honour.

Remaining Copies: 2 of each book

Cost: $25

Cassandra by Kathryn Gossow

When the author told me she lives in a small town but hopes her kids get OUT I understood this book.

Remaining Copies: 3

Cost: $24

Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys by BG Hilton

A rollicking steampunk adventure with a murder mystery (or two) at its heart.

Remaining Copies: 10

Cost: $25

The Chronicles of the Pale Trilogy: The Pale, Broad Plain Darkening, and The Ruined Land by Clare Rhoden

Dystopian fiction with flawed characters and a compelling story.

Remaining Copies: 3 of Book 1, 1 each of the others

Cost: $24

Please note: These will not be signed as they’re already in Canberra, and Rhoden is not.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Y’all. This is Eurovision in space. It was also a Hugo finalist or whatever.

Eurovision. In Space.

Copies Remaining: It’s a secret.

Cost: $25

Be Warned! These will be posted from outside Australia, so if you want them to arrive by Christmas (despite COVID-19), you need to buy them NOW.

The Dark Poet interlinked short story collection by Kathryn Gossow

I haven’t read this book, since I know it’s too dark for me.

Copies Remaining: 3

Cost: $19

Grasping at Water by Carmel Bendon

A young woman is pulled, alive, from Sydney Harbour but the mysteries about her only deepen from there. This is a tale of motherhood, loss, and belief.

Remaining Copies: 4

Cost: $24

SERVICES

Babysitting (Canberra only)

Availability: 5 sessions

Cost: $20/hour for 1 kid; additional $5 per additional kid

Cleaning (North side only)

This is a bit different to everything else on this list, because the money would NOT go into the refugee fund—the cleaner is a new migrant, and she is looking for cleaning work. So the money goes directly to her.

Availability: Unlimited, including regular cleaning

Cost: $60/hour

Dinner (served at West Belconnen)

Menu and details are here.

Availability: 5 sessions

Cost: $100 per person

Editing (via email only) by Felicity Banks

Do you have a manuscript* that needs to be looked over by eyes other than yours? Do you need proofreading, a structural edit, or both?

Availability: 2 full-length manuscripts

Cost: $100 per thousand words; $150 for both a structural and a line edit.

*I will not edit books with certain types of violence

A Song Written and Sung For You (virtual only) by Robbie Matthews

You can check out his music and creativity here.

Availability: 1

Cost: $50

Tutoring: Maths (to Year 10) English (from Kindy to university level including English as a Second language), Indonesian (to Year 10), Adult Literacy.

Availability: 10 sessions

Cost: $50/hour

ART AND MUSIC

Diamond Pictures (some framed) by Erika Sargeant

This one is framed, and the frame has a stand so you can put it on a tale or shelf. It is 20 x 30cm.

This one is 20 x 25cm.

This one is 25 x 30cm. There is a frame available, but it would require a mat as the frame is larger.

This one is 20 x 30cm, framed (but there is no hook so you’d need to add string or something like that).

This is 20 x 15cm.

Availability: 1 of each (with a leopard on the way)

Cost: $15 unframed, $20 framed

A4 professionally framed Art Prints by Graham Gercken and Emma Losin (frames are A3 size)

These are really hard to photograph through the glass. . .

(scroll up to the Magic in the Mail: Emmeline’s Empire book to see what she actually looks like)

Availability: 1 of each

Cost: $50 each

Custom Framed Original Painting “Full Moon Beaming” by Michelle “Seashell” Bedford (approximately A2 size)

Availability: 1

Cost: $300

3D Magnets and Shadow Boxes by Wendy Bloomfield (including custom creations)

The mini boxes above can be magnets but I think they’re better hung on a wall. Only the one on the left is still available, but they can be made to order (and can even include small items that you’d like included such as single earrings). This one is still available, but has no magnets:

“Steampunk Laboratory” custom shadow box (not available but you can order another laboratory to be made for you).

“Beach House” custom shadow box. This one is not available, but you can order an original beach house shadow box.

Availability: Every item is unique, and can be made to order

Cost: $5 small; $10 mini shadow boxes; $25 larger shadow boxes.

3D Labyrinth Paintings by Wendy Bloomfield

Availability: Every labyrinth is unique

Cost: $10-$30 depending on size

Music by the Littmus Steampunk Band

This brilliant Australian steampunk band is well worth a listen. They specialise in story songs (not to mention albums). Check out their music here (and then email me to say which album you’d like to buy, and to arrange payment).

Availability: 10 albums

Cost: $12 for digital album

MISCELLANEOUS

Mechanics Laboratory Car with Electric Motor (new in shrink wrap)

  • An extremely well-equipped laboratory where the principles of mechanics and engineering can be learned in an entertaining way.
  • The game contains more than 250 components with which 50 constructions of increasing complexity can be created.
  • It is even possible to build a helicopter, a motorised crane and a car with an electric engine in which a child can move the gear stick and steering wheel!
  • The large illustrated scientific manual will guide the child through the various stages of assembly, which can done in complete safety.
  • The concept, design, development and manufacture are entirely Made In Italy!
  • Recommended age: + 8 years old.

Availability: 1

Cost: $200

Toaster Oven (Canberra/Queanbeyan only but we’ll deliver it to you)

Yes it works.

Availability: 1

Cost: $20 including delivery to any location in Canberra or Queanbeyan.

Backyard BBQ (secondhand) Canberra only

Availability: 1

This is a great BBQ that has been well loved and cared for until it was put into a shed when people moved house.

Cost: Choose your donation amount. Anything from $50 and you’ll need to pick it up from Page (Canberra).

Literally gold and diamond jewellery

9ct gold and diamonds. Matching ring and earrings.

Availability: 1

Cost: $250 including postage (in the original box) within Australia

Hey look! You made it to the end. If you didn’t see anything you like but still want to contribute, here’s our GoFundMe.

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Fundraiser: Dinner For Two (or One, or up to Six)

October 29, 2020 at 9:35 pm (Uncategorized)

The Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group is running a Fundraising Gift Shop until the end of 2020. We have loads of wonderful goodies ready to be bought.

I love cooking, and I know a lot of people miss eating out. So why not make a mini restaurant at my house in West Belconnen?

This would cost $100 per person for up to six people.

Babysitting and/or designated driving would be negotiated as part of that.

Menu

Amuse-Bouche

Steamed Pork and Ginger Dumplings (with Soy Sauce, Sweet Soy Sauce, or Sweet & Sour Sauce)

Entrée

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

A mellow blend of orange vegetables with a subtle ginger kick (with optional Sour Cream and Chives). Served with Buttermilk Bread and Freshly-Churned Butter

Mains

Maple Marinated Salmon on a Bed of Coconut Sesame Rice.

Summer Salad with Baby Spinach, Danish Fetta, Tomato Medley and Lemon-Mint Dressing (with Chicken and/or Peanuts)

Desserts

Sorbet: Choice of Summer Berries, Mango, and Lemon Sorbet (or combination)

Fudge & Friends (After-Dinner Mints, Home-Made Caramel Fudge, and Byron Bay Macadamia Shortbread Bites)

Restaurant Opens 12:00pm-4:00pm and 5:30pm-9:00pm. Early dining recommended.

Friday Dinner, Saturday Lunch, or Saturday Dinner Only.

Please Note: We are not professional chefs but we’ll do our best.

Outside Dining Recommended (depending on the weather).

BYO

All dates and locations subject to change if required by COVID-19 issues.

Curious cats may or may not appear.

Questions:

  1. Do you require a designated driver (North side only)?
  2. What non-alcoholic drinks would you like (we will buy and chill them for you)?
  3. Would you like tea and coffee (before and/or after dinner)?
  4. Would you like a take-home pack of Fudge & Friends?
  5. Are there any menu selections you do NOT want?
  6. Would you prefer chicken, peanuts, both or neither in your salad?
  7. Which sorbets would you like?
  8. Do you have any food allergies, intolerances, or preferences?

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The thin line between anticipation and panic

October 28, 2020 at 9:28 am (Uncategorized)

In four hours, I meet our first refugee family. I’m so excited I can’t concentrate on anything and I’m a teensy bit concerned I’ll crash the car on the way over.

Three of the seven core sponsor group members will be there, which is plenty, because I’m sure the family we’re meeting is more scared of us than we are of them. By a long way.

The more I think about all the complexities of the sponsor-sponsee relationship the more overwhelmed I become. A lot of the training was about trying to dismantle our expectations and open our minds to all the infinite differences there are between cultures. All the most offensive stuff feels self-evident. So we tend not to know what our unconscious biases are, since they’re—well, unconscious. “Normal” to us. Obvious.

Is it rude not to shake hands, or is it rude to shake hands? How long should a visitor stay at a host’s house? What gestures are casual in one culture and highly offensive in another?

All you can really do is your best, and to forgive and apologise and learn.

All I can really do is take things one step at a time.

Today is a big step. I have two pages of questions written down because we’ll have a translator (and Red Cross person) present, and we know very little. Names, ages, and little more.

So excitement and terror are intermingled today. I hope the family has at least a little bit of excitement in their own emotional cocktail.

Edited to add: Through no fault of anyone at all, the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. The Red Cross will reschedule to next week.

This is so immensely frustrating, but I know in a month or two it won’t matter. And that it’s even more stressful for the family.

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2020 IF Comp: Electric word, “life”

October 26, 2020 at 10:41 am (Uncategorized)

I found the title really weird and off-putting, but maybe it’ll make sense later.

My selection process is specific to me. It feels unfair, but logically I figure that if everyone chooses games they think they’ll like then it works out? Personally I choose choice-based games that are under the 2 hour limit (theoretically I can judge it based on the first two hours of play, but that would feel too weird for me), that have not the slightest whiff of puzzles or problem solving, because I am spectacularly bad at that stuff. So not only do I hate it, but I’m well below the average person skill-wise and that feels unfair to the game.

I also choose games that aren’t too dark or scary, and I try to avoid humour too (I admire humour, but tend not to like too much of it).

The title of this one is so weird it made me think the writer doesn’t speak English well. Either that or there’s something else going on. Since the blurb etc seemed fine I’m hoping there’s a reason the title is so bizarre (or, failing that, that it’s the only bizarre part of this tale).

Onwards…

The very first segment shows considerable mastery over language, and I’m already interested (plus, Sanjay isn’t yet another oh-so-white name, which suggests the writer isn’t completely boring).

This is good. Really good. I don’t think there’s any branching at all, but it drew me in with a surprisingly light touch.

I think this will be my favourite game this year (knowing that I’ll only barely get around to my usual 5 games).

For now I’ll say 4.5 stars. I may change it to 5 later.

I still hate the title 🙂

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2020 IF Comp: High Jinnks

October 24, 2020 at 6:26 pm (Uncategorized)

This is a fun, flowing tale full of bickering and humour. The characters are particularly good, revealing their true selves piece by piece throughout the tale. Many choices are meaningless, but often fun all the same. It felt largely like a non-interactive story as it was fairly linear overall, hitting all the same story beats regardless of the player’s choices—but there are plenty of flavoursome bits and pieces to discover.

It is weird and sweet, and I like it.

4 Stars

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2020 IF Comp: Chorus

October 12, 2020 at 10:02 pm (Uncategorized)

The writing throughout is elegant; it runs along well and I didn’t spot a single spelling or grammar issue.

I’d like more choices but the ones I made are major; clearly it is a direct-branching rather than a delayed-branching story, although there are elements along the way that alter the outcome too.

It was a shame the characters didn’t really interact (although I imagine that would have doubled or even quadrupled the amount of work—true branching stories like this are HARD).

I probably did quite badly as my short-term memory is very poor and I couldn’t remember names, let alone species or talents.

Some of it was a little disjointed.

I liked the way it indicated there are three possible endings, and gave a hint for getting a better ending.

This is a well-written game with a well-developed world, but it didn’t draw me in emotionally.

Three stars.

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Expectations, Power, and Gratitude

October 11, 2020 at 3:27 pm (Uncategorized)

We were matched with a family the day after my last blog entry. I am deliriously excited, but haven’t written again since then because… there’s very little I can say.

I haven’t actually met any members of the family yet, and I don’t even know their names. I know their first language, their ages, their approximate location, and a few things about what our group will probably spend our time working on with them. But I can’t share any of that publicly yet.

Last Thursday four members of our core group, including me, joined about a hundred others around Australia to meet some more experienced people who could give us some advice (all via Zoom). One of the most challenging things for me was talking about the power dynamic between a sponsor group and a refugee family. How do we make decisions about what to spend money on? What do we do when a refugee disagrees with our advice (eg. Don’t look for work yet; you need to work on English acquisition first)? How do we say no if a refugee asks for something we think is unreasonable (say, a computer game)? And how do we actually develop a real friendship when all the power is on our side?

Of course the crucial thing is to help the refugees become independent of us as soon as possible, both financially and emotionally. Then they can choose whether to continue spending time with us or not.

And what do we call them? Well, at the moment almost all we know (certainly all we can say public) is that they’re a refugee family. But the sooner we STOP calling them refugees the better. (At the same time, acknowledging their refugee status is important for fundraising, and if there is a smiling, successful family to point to as proof that we’re doing a good thing, then that is extremely helpful for fundraising. But we can’t assume that the family is willing to be our poster child, and in fact that role could be actively harmful to them.)

And—this is the bit that hits home for me the most—when are they allowed to stop being grateful?

During the Zoom meeting, a highly-educated dark-skinned man talked about how he came to New Zealand as a very young child, but every time someone discovers this (and people of course ask, “Where are you from?” which is a question that anyone with non-Caucasian skin learns to dread), they say, “Oh, you must be so grateful!”

Why should he be grateful, when those born in New Zealand are not generally consciously grateful to be living in one of the safest, richest places on Earth? Being born in a great country doesn’t make a person morally superior. (Quite the opposite.)

I am what I call “Omo-white” (that is, very very white for several generations… it is not a coincidence that I am descended from a South African man on one side and Brits and Germans on the other). But I have been heavily involved in a bunch of fundraisers ever since I was nine years old, when my family was raising financial support to go to Papua New Guinea as STAs (Short-Term Assistants) for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Leaving aside the various colonialism-tinged implications of missionary work for some other blog entry, I learned young about gratitude as salesmanship.

When people gave us money, we had to be pleased and happy. We also owed them success stories further down the track. My mother wrote regular newsletters that were fun and cheerful, and that told people their money was well spent. We would focus on the stories that people wanted to hear (“This is a photo of a young woman reading the Bible in her own language for the first time”—and of course she’d be attractive, but also just a little bit exotic—perhaps she’s be in traditional clothes for a dance instead of her usual faded T-shirt) rather than the mundane or tragic (“A bunch of your money was spent getting dental work this month”, “We were robbed the other day and had to buy new clothes as a result”).

Missionary fundraising set me up well for when I had to raise $10,000 for stomach surgery. I knew immediately that I should emphasize my umbilical hernia, and call the procedure an abdominoplasty, rather than talking about my sagging belly skin and calling the procedure a tummy tuck. I also knew I needed to be careful not to complain about my health publicly for at least six months afterwards, regardless of my other disabling chronic pain conditions. No one wants to hear that their hard-earned money didn’t give me a shiny happy ever after, but only helped me a little bit.

I’m a chronic over-sharer (and an advocate for others who are disabled or mentally ill or overweight like me) so I often talk openly about my poor mental and physical health. But I’m careful to balance updates like that with humour, cat pictures, and so on. If I have a good day, I’m careful to be public about it, so people don’t get overwhelmed by all my bad days.

But even I am careful not to be ungrateful in front of someone who may…ugh… prove USEFUL in future. (And I hate that sometimes my life is bad enough that people become resources in my mind. I have gone hungry more times than I can count, and if I wasn’t married to someone with a steady income I’d probably still be going hungry regularly. As it is, I often put off necessary medical stuff for months or years because… well, that’s life with chronic illness. It shouldn’t be, but it is. And I’m wealthier than millions of people.)

That veneer of happiness and gratitude must not be something I expect from others. People needing help from others is not a moral failing, and it is not fair to expect those who have suffered more to have to put on a show for those who are more privileged.

May I remember that lesson when I am the one in the position of power.

[sorry about the lack of pics; I’m having technical issues.]

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The Reveal

September 18, 2020 at 10:19 am (Uncategorized)

Things are progressing with the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group. We have a date for our training, and will meet ‘our’ refugee family soon after that—late October or sometime in November.

There’s a teensy chance that I will receive a phone call today telling me about ‘our’ family. How many kids they have, what language/s they speak, where they live/want to live, etc.

I am dying to find out something—anything—everything!—about them.

It’s a lot like being pregnant. I have this big bundle of love stored up, waiting for a target. I’ve already worked so hard, and spent so much time dreaming about how this relationship might go… and I badly, so badly want any little scrap of solid information to make those dreams less hazy.

It’s very much like the excitement of finding out the gender of a baby. The gender doesn’t matter, but I just want to KNOW.

[The obsession with a baby’s gender is extremely harmful to trans people and even more harmful to people born intersex. But I understand that desperation and excitement all too well.]

So. I’m waiting by the phone, practically panting with excitement.

And here is a completely unrelated picture.

Poor post-operative Zoom.

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