Round Two

Last year around this time I wrote a little narrative piece on my first day of college. I started writing that piece the evening of that very first day, I was so moved by the swirl of so many different emotions it had brought me.

And now, it is the Saturday after I moved in. I’ve been on campus for nearly four days now, and I’m just now sitting down to type this. I don’t usually like to procrastinate this bad, and I can’t even blame it on the lack of ideas. I knew that I’d be typing out this post this week, and though I had to wait until Wednesday (the day I moved in) to come and go to start it, I should have been able to put down how it all felt before now, right?

But the past few days have been weirdly busy. And it took me a bit to realize why that is – why I haven’t had the time to sit down and really focus on my own writing.

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Saving Captain Leena (Pt 1: Introduction)

A couple of months ago, I talked about how inspiring I found the content of doll customizer Dollightful’s channel, and how despite it focusing on doll customization, something I myself have never done, it made me want to work hard at all of my personal creative pursuits.

Since then… well, I still haven’t customized any dolls, but I have a confession to make to you all.

See, I recently finished my final shift of my summer job as a respite worker for two adults on the Autism spectrum. One of those two adults would volunteer at a local Goodwill every week, purging clothes that had been on the shelves for too long, signified by a certain color of tag, which changed every week. I would accompany him to these shifts, and so I spent a lot of time wandering through the same Goodwill, week after week.

Because I spent so much time wandering through the same store, I came to be pretty familiar with many of the items on its shelves. While yes, Goodwill does get rid of old merchandise that has sat long enough, it was still fun to note the interesting items on the shelves and how fast it would take for them to disappear. An ostentatious sequined miniskirt here, a new, in-the-box Magic the Gathering themed board game there, a clutch purse with a magnetic clasp that had been torn from the fabric and hung loose and mostly unable to keep the purse closed over there.

These items became somewhat like familiar friends to me, and it was fun to check up on them every week. “Yup, the full Twilight series in hardback is still there” or “Hey, somebody finally picked up that teapot with sculptures of dancing old ladies balanced on it!”

And then there was the toy section. Oh, the toy section. I’m not gonna blame the employees of the Goodwill for this because I strongly suspect the chaos of the toy section was probably due in part to the many small children I would see getting a run of the store while their parents shopped. Or it could also be due to the fact that many of the toys that get donated to Goodwill aren’t exactly in pristine condition themselves, often having been played with roughly. There were tons of Barbie dolls with chopped hair, stuffed rabbits with suspicious brown stains on them, and cars with missing wheels.

But I still liked to poke through the toy section in particular. Maybe it was the piled chaos on the shelves that made it seem like if I just dug through the junky stuff on top I might find some real treasures underneath, and sometimes I would find myself organizing the shelves to the best of my ability, trying to bring forward those toys that looked in good condition to me, so that a kid might see them and bring them home without having to dig through the not-so-nice stuff.

During one of these excursions into the toy aisle, I spotted a flash of hot pink amongst the tans and blondes of a pile of naked Barbie dolls, and extracted a Monster High Howleen doll. Howleen is a werewolf girl with bright pink hair, tiny fangs, and puppy-dog ears, and I was delighted to find her. After all, Monster High dolls are a bit rarer to come by at Goodwill, since Barbies are way more common. Plus, being a casual fan of the doll customizing Youtube space, I knew how popular Monster High dolls were as customizing material.

Howleen was in really good condition, save for one thing. She was missing both of her arms.

Now this isn’t really uncommon for Monster High dolls. As far as mass-produced dolls go, Monster High dolls have a lot more articulation in their joints, and have both an elbow and wrist joint in their arms. They also have detailed hands that have different designs based on the doll, but the relative size of their hands to their skinny arms make it impossible for them to wear tight sleeves unless there is some way to remove the hands. And so… Monster High dolls have removable hands and elbow joints to make dressing them easier.

That’s all well and good, except these joints go missing all the time, especially in dolls donated to secondhand places like Goodwill.

And I thought “Oh, that’s a shame. Both arms are missing. Well, maybe someone will pick her up anyway and give her a good home.”

So I left Howleen on the shelf with all of her Barbie doll brethren, and went on my merry way.

The next week I came back and Howleen was still there. The next week, yup, there she is. And then we got to this week, my final shift at Goodwill.

I returned to the toy aisle and found that Howleen had been moved from her spot among the dolls to a separate area of the shelves. Finding her there, I briefly wondered who had moved her. Was it a kid playing with her, or an employee? What happened to Howleen during all those days I was away from the Goodwill? A little saddened at the prospect of never seeing Howleen off to a good home, I sat her up on the shelf and hoped once more someone would come along and take pity on her.

And then I stopped. Wait a minute. Aren’t I an adult with income that I, on occasion, spend on things? Couldn’t I buy this Howleen and ensure she would go to a good home?

But then, that was preposterous. What was I going to do with a naked Monster High doll without any arms? I wasn’t planning on fixing her up or anything. I didn’t have the materials, the artistic talent….

But then, if I didn’t, who would? Would armless Howleen just be thrown in a salvage box? Would she ever find someone who considered her a friend, like I had come to? And am I seriously considering this hunk of plastic a friend? (Yes.)

So yeah, I bought Howleen. She cost $2 and I hid her in my purse for the rest of my time at the Goodwill, slightly embarrassed at what people would think about an adult woman buying a naked, armless Monster High doll.

But as I stood there in the Goodwill, ideas began rushing to me. What if I made Howleen a cool metal-armed pirate, hardened by the battles that took her limbs but not allowing it to break her adventurous spirit? The prospect of fixing the doll up, giving her a new outfit and story, became a really interesting creative challenge for me to consider.

So yeah guys. This is real. This is happening. I, a non-doll customizer, am going to customize this Howleen doll that stole my heart. And I thought… where better to document this challenge than here on this blog?

So here’s to Howleen, the future Captain Leena, scurvy pirate of the high seas. And here’s to forming an empathetic bond with an armless doll sitting on a Goodwill shelf.

More installments to come, as they happen. Stay tuned.



It’s a Good Show, You’re Just Mean – Top 20 Steven Universe Songs

So I feel like I’m the only person in my friend group who is caught up with “Steven Universe” and it’s been… agonizing, to say the least.

And yes, I know the elephant in the room of making a post like this about this cartoon is all the controversy surrounding it, and how there’s a whole dedicated group of people on the internet who really just want everyone to know how this show, personally, killed their whole family, salted their fields, and laid a plague upon their village, but I’ve watched all the way up to the most recent episode and have gotten nothing but enjoyment from it. Honest.

It’s not a perfect show by any means, but I still really love it. I think it’s charming and it makes me happy and I’d really like to see where the story ends up. And I think one of the best parts of this show is its music. So I figured it would be on-brand for me to dodge the controversy┬ácount down my favorite songs from this show.

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A Newcomer’s Guide to Berry Simming (In The Sims 4)

Are you ready for yet another super niche post? I feel like this one requires a bit of preamble for the regular, non-simmer viewer of this blog before I jump into it, though perhaps I’m being a bit optimistic to suspect any non-simmers will be interested in a post like this.

Berry simming is a term used to describe a certain style of playing The Sims. I go into more detail below on what kind of style that is, but it’s basically become its own little subculture on the Tumblr “simblr” community (portmanteau of “Sims” and “Tumblr,” referring the wider community of Tumblr blogs devoted to documenting the lives of their sims mainly through screenshots and written stories.) One type of story, the “legacy,” is generally when a simmer takes one sim and then chronicles their entire lives and the lives of their descendants for ten generations. Often these legacies will add on other rules to the generic 10-generation rule, one specific type I reference in this post is the “rainbowcy,” where each generation is meant to represent a different color.

I think that’s all the background a non-simmer would need to at least begin to piece together what I’m talking about, but seriously, don’t be upset if you don’t understand. This is quite niche, even for me.

Welcome to the world of berry sims!

You’ve seen them on your Tumblr dashboards, colorful, “eye-searing,” sims with candy/fruit/flower/etc names and carefully selected color schemes. To a regular simmer playing non-berry, or vanilla, sims, it may be confusing how to even go about simming in this particular style. How do you find all of the clothing that matches the hair colors and skin colors and eye colors? And probably mostly you’ll be wondering what compels people to sim in this style.

I hope to answer many of these questions and more in the following post. I see a lot of confusion and interest in the regular simming community regarding our sweet little segment, so I thought it might be fun to whip up a little beginner’s guide to berry simming, as well as answer some frequently-asked questions.

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Thoughts Two Hours From Home – Cincinnati Trip Recap

I want to start this post with a personal callout – it was going to be something else entirely for almost the whole week, but I never actually started that “something else” until now, about 11 a.m. on Saturday. I don’t like to cut posts so close to the deadline like that, so many apologies if the quality suffers as a result.

On Wednesday of this week, I drove my friend Marie and myself to Cincinnati to see “The Adventure Zone Live,” the McElroys live show tour promoting their new graphic novel version of the first arc of their incredible Dungeons and Dragons podcast (which I’ve talked about on two occasions before). The graphic novel is really good from the leafing through it I’ve done so far, and I’ll to get to that in a bit, but this trip was notable for more than just its destination.

See, I started driving, actually driving, late in my Junior year of high school. For a lot of reasons, I didn’t hop into a car immediately after turning 16 like many people do. For one, I know lots of kind and lovely people who would drive me where I needed to go most of the time. And for two… driving represented a lot of things I was uncomfortable with, and am uncomfortable with now.

Even now, almost 20, it’s still a little weird to imagine my own independence. But I’m certainly a lot more comfortable with it than I was at 16, or 17 when I actually started driving. I also am a lot more aware of my anxiety for new and unfamiliar situations, which driving was (and still is, a little) even now.

I’m thankful of all the ways I’ve grown since first learning to drive, due in a lot of part to my job requiring me to drive all over the place the summer after my senior year and this summer as well. But until last Wednesday I had never driven more than a half an hour from my house. And I certainly had never driven myself and a friend somewhere, stayed the day there and planned my own trip.

Admittedly, both Marie and I had a lot of help from our parents actually planning the trip, but once we got there we were able to figure out for ourselves what we wanted to do. That was new, and big.

Not to get ahead of myself, though, I first want to focus on the drive itself. I think what surprised me the most about it was how unremarkable it was. I know about my habit of hyping new things way up in my head before doing them, but it was incredibly true of the drive itself. It was really easy, and I never got panicked or overwhelmed. I stopped for lunch midway through and was able to locate the Wendy’s at the exit without the use of Google Maps just like I had seen my parents do so many times before. I didn’t run out of gas, or hit anyone, or even come close to.

And I found our airbnb just fine, and we introduced ourselves to the very kind owner and made friends with him just fine, and we walked into town just fine, found dinner just fine, and hailed a Lyft to the theater just fine. Unremarkable, all of it.

I guess that’s all to say that I’ve come a long way. I think the Gillian from… maybe even a year ago wouldn’t be able to say that any of that was unremarkable. Not to say it would be bad, but I’d be shocked to be taking part in any of that, if that makes sense.

The show was great. I wasn’t expecting to see all four McElroys there, partly based on how they were talking about the show on their podcasts and social media (apparently tickets didn’t sell very quickly in Cincy for some reason, which made me wonder if we would only be getting, like, one brother). But no, there they all were in the flesh on stage, talking in the voices I’ve heard hours and hours of from my podcast app.

The theme of the night was adaptation, which makes sense. The graphic novel is an adaptation of a purely audio story into a purely visual one, and as such they spent a lot of time explaining the particular challenge of making that switch. Personally, I think they did an incredible job capturing the spirit of the podcast without trying to literally adapt it. While many of the jokes made it more or less verbatim into the novel, those that didn’t were at least captured through the pictures, or through tiny background details.

It is a shame that they couldn’t use all of the same names from the original arc of their campaign, since it was at first adapted from a premade Wizards of the Coast campaign. Klarg couldn’t be called Klarg, nor Phandolin Phandolin, plus a few other small yet definitely noticed name changes. It’s a small thing but it is a shame.

But the art by Carey Pietsch (who I always thought was “Carey Peach” from all of the times the brothers talked about her on their podcast until I saw her name on the cover of the book), is lively and colorful and beautiful and fun and so perfect for this story. I cannot wait for the rest of the arcs to be adapted in her artwork and I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on a copy of every single one.

Speaking of a copy though, I got a free copy with my ticket and Griffin signed it! My favorite McElroy! What luck!

After the show, Marie and I Ubered home in the first instance of panic the whole trip for me. See, Marie had hailed us the Lyft getting there, but her phone was on the fritz and died partway through the show, leaving the responsibility of figuring out how to get home to me. She was super apologetic, but in theory it really shouldn’t have been a big deal. I didn’t even have to pay, thanks to my Dad’s family plan he shared with me.

But the app wouldn’t update and my battery power was slowly draining, and during the fifteen-minute intermission, I found myself standing in the lobby quietly considering a future where Marie and I were stranded at the theater, having to beg for a ride from the shady, probably violent strangers around us. That’s not what happened at all, though, because the app finally updated and I was able to get a ride from a man named Frank, who told us we should visit the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo, because his construction crew had just laid the concrete there and it was really beautiful.

We got back to the airbnb and sat on the front porch for probably an hour with the owner, Buddy, talking about all sorts of things. It was mainly Buddy and Marie talking about their endless knowledge of nature and the outdoors, two topics I’m a little lacking in, but it was fun all the same. Then Marie and I went inside and watched Buzzfeed videos until we went to sleep like the garbage millennials we are.

The next morning, Buddy made us cheese omelettes and walked us to the zoo, where he had a membership and was able to get us in for free. It had been probably years since I had visited any zoo, so I was really excited. It was hot, but not unpleasantly so, and though by the end of the day I was thoroughly wrecked, it was still a great experience. I think my favorite part was either the manatee exhibit, where Marie and I sat and watched the big sweet sea-cows sleep on the sides and bottom of the tank while the zookeeper talked about them, or the Galapagos tortoises, who we were allowed to pet and were all named after Harry Potter characters.

After that, Marie and I packed up the car and headed to our final Cincinnati stop – a vintage store. Unfortunately I’m never very successful in these places, but it was still fun to root through mounds of ugly 80s sweaters and oddly-shaped bathing suits from the 40s.

And then, the drive home. Slightly more stressful thanks to one botched turn landing us in standstill traffic behind an accident, and yet, sitting there in that standstill traffic, I was surprisingly calm. Annoyed, of course, but calm.

And I came home, exhausted, but proud of myself. It was a great two days, a nice reward for the four hours driven.

10 YouTubers who Make Me Smile

Like many people my age, I often indulge in the habit of mindlessly surfing YouTube videos whenever I have downtime. YouTube is an endless pit of both incredible talent and also the most horrible, awful stuff you’ve ever seen, though with time I feel like I’ve managed to sort through much of it to find some real gems.

I thought today it might be fun to highlight some of these channels. These are ten channels from all over YouTube – they’re vloggers, gaming channels, media analysts, and even cooking channels. While their content may be wildly different, what connects them is they all inspire me in some way, be it through their humor, their passion for their craft, or their individual lifestyles.

I hope by doing so you all can find some new channels to love!

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Surprise! – “The Now Now” Review

Remember that time, just over a year ago, when I thought that “Humanz” was gonna be the last Gorillaz album? Remember that? When I continuously defended it to the weirdly many detractors I came in contact with because it was one of my favorite bands in the world coming together with lots of other artists to comment on the state of the world in a bunch of beautiful, genre-bending tracks? And I wrote a whole review on it thinking it was gonna be the last one ever?

Oh… well… uh… Gorillaz is back now. I guess “Humanz” wasn’t their last album, huh? Surprise!

I’m joking around a little, but gosh was I not expecting this album as fast as it came. Well actually, I wasn’t expecting this album at all, but here we are! I wanna do “The Now Now” the same justice I gave “Humanz,” but as I sit here writing this intro, I don’t feel like I have the same sort of emotional investment in this album as I did the last one. I’m not at all saying it’s a bad album – it’s great. But the fact it came so quickly and was accepted so easily into the fanbase makes it seem so much less of a big deal than “Humanz” was.

So, anyway, I’m gonna do my best here because I love Gorillaz, and I feel… complicated about this album. I apologize in advance, because while this review starts out pretty run-of-the-mill, it kinda gets weird toward the end. I wanna reiterate that I don’t think this is a bad album, and yet… it really disappointed me in a way I have trouble voicing throughout the post. I hope you enjoy anyway.

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