Archive for the ‘Monday Meme’ Category

Snapshot_048(The following is an excerpt from “Maybe Almost Successful: An Interview with Emily Marik” by Roderick Van Kirkenov.  Some of the questions were first posed in Strawberry Singh’s blog challenge, “The Book Meme.” )

RvK: (whimpering) Please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me…

EM: I feel like this interview may need some stronger ground rules, Rod.  We’re doing each other some mutual favors; we need to respect each other. That would be easier if you were actually a respectable journalist rather than a sleazy opportunist, but fortunately I have a really weak grasp of reality so I can make this work if you can.  Can you make this work, Rod?

RvK: Is sex still on the table?

EM: I can absolutely guarantee that sex is not on the table.  It’s going to be on a beautiful plush rug from X-Clusives Animations, but only if we make it through this interview without me killing you.  You claimed you wanted to talk to me as a writer, albeit one who has made very limited in roads into the world of publishing, and as a reader, since the books I read are my examples, mentors, and inspirations for my own writing.  I understand your purpose is to compare and contrast me with established and published authors, particularly since those restraining orders make it difficult for you to interview an established author directly. Ground rule one, however, is that you will not refer to me as a failed or unsuccessful writer.  I will accept novice, neophyte, or even wannabe- those are accurate since I’m inexperienced and still creating my opportunity.  I don’t like wannabe, since it implies I’m only a dreamer who may never take the next step, but until I have a few more steps taken I can’t actually dispute it.  Failed and unsuccessful, however, make it sound like I’ve been taking those steps but I just haven’t been good enough to cut it.  In a semantic sense, being a failed writer would actually be a step forward from where I am now, indicating that I’ve gotten a handle on how to proceed and only need to determine how to improve and whether I should persevere.  However, my ego is tender, and I’m at a point where self-belief is crucial because the circumstances of my lives, both real life and First Life, are against creating the right mix of fluidity and structure to turn my ADD into an asset rather then obstacle to writing.  Anything that gives me the message, “you’re not going to succeed so why even bother?” is an emotional poison that I need to avoid.  If you tell me I’m a failure, I will get angry and I will respond accordingly.Snapshot_046

RvK: Message understood.  Just for the sake of clarity, however, can we go ahead and add ground rule two: don’t threaten Roderick with pieces of furniture?  

EM: Sure.  Any actual violence, as opposed to threatened violence, will be with my bare hands.  It will be more emotionally satisfying that way.  And ground rule three is that you will stay on topic with your questions.  That is to say, stay on the topics of writing and reading.  I’m way too busy lately to go on tangents about the upcoming past memes that are going to require a sexual partner, about my adoration-bordering-on-creepy-stalkerish-obsession with Strawberry Singh, about what’s going on in my chaotic schedule, or even about how excited I am that my local almost-alum is advancing to the sweet sixteen as an 11-seed.

RvK:  So you give me an order against straying off topic and than dump several tempting forbidden off-topic topics right in my lap.  You, miss Emily, are both a tease and a bitch.  So does the rule against off topic questions extend to asking your favorite off topic question of all time, “What are you wearing?”

EM: Um, I hate to say it, but yes, it does.  So I’ll just go ahead and answer the question before you ask it, and that way we stay within the ground rules.  One plus-side of my aforementioned weak grasp of reality is that I’m really, really good at rationalization.  To talk about books, I wanted a more ‘studious’ appearance.  I’m back in my ‘default’ GiGi Teen shape from Kids5B.  The skin is a new purchase from Angel Rock, ‘India High Caramel M9’.  On one hand, I paid too much, but on the other hand, I’ve wanted to get my hands on some quality ‘asian’ skins for a while.  I’m not sure what it says when I’ve had an easier time finding quality inhuman skins than quality ethnic skins.  I’m also wearing the Emeli heavy mascara soft blended kohl makeup tattoo that came with the skin.  Not only does it help me look Indian, but I, of course, love the name Emeli.  I should have gone with some jet black hair for the look, but I always love to punk it up so I’m wearing a cutely colored Laia hairdo in platinum and coral from Muchly & Muchness.  My dress is Cubist Pencil Dress from Miss Canning.  I’m also wearing some source unknown fishnet hose and I realized as I was dressing I have sneakers and boots out the wazoo (which is a painful place to keep one’s shoes) but desperately need to find myself one or two pairs of sensible ‘business women’ shoes.  I went rummaging through my collection of complete costumes and found these workable black heels as part of a source unknown RLV transformation set.  The only other accessories I grabbed were these cute glasses I’ve worn before out of a ‘sexy teacher’ costume from Lusty, my razor wire bangle from Grumble (one of my favorite bracelets ever), and I kept the source unknown black choker and nose piercing I was wearing when I went to the gacha fair last post.

RvK: I would tell you that you look lovely, but I don’t want to be accused of being off topic.  So I’ll just ask you instead, are you a book worm?

EM: Less so than I used to be, but yes.  Not only do I read a lot, but as part and parcel of my particular flavor of ADD I have superficial interests in many different subjects, so I will read up on wildly divergent topics.  I’m also blessed with a fast reading speed.  I’m not one of the so called “speed readers” who can skim a book as fast as they can turn the pages, but I can generally knock out a novel in two to four hours of straight-through reading.  As a result, even while I’m cursing the fact I don’t have nearly the time to read that I used to, I’m still reading two or three books a week.  I’m complaining because that is half or less of the reading I used to do, but it is comparable to what most of my contemporaries read in a month, so it is all perspective.Snapshot_047

RvK: So which is better: hardback, paperback, or e-book?

EM: Oh, I like it hard, baby.

RvK:  I repeat, both a bitch and a tease.  If I have to stay on topic, so do you, Emily, so just answer the question.

EM: Depends on the circumstance, really.  I really do like the look and feel and even smell of a nicely bound hardback.  If I’m curling up by the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate, for example, I want a hardbound book.  My favorite authors I would buy in hardback, partly because I was too impulsive to wait until the paperback came out and partly because of that durable comfort.  If I’m going on vacation, I love the way an e-reader uses less of my luggage.  On my last vacation, I read a dozen books in a six day trip.  I brought along another eight or so titles because I have trouble making up my mind which book I’m going to read until I start into it.  Twenty books take up a lot less space on an e-reader.  But I do feel like e-readers are harsher on the eyes and less restful than the same book as a real book.  And I still love that paperbacks, particularly used ones, are generally both cheaper than the other forms and more discrete.  I generally have a slim paperback tucked into a pocket or in my purse where ever I go, so that if I get unexpected down time, I can pull it out and read.  This is true in both lives- my Firsty even uses ‘naked’ as a codeword for “I don’t have a book with me” because we feel naked if we don’t have a book to read.  And if the paperback is a little less compact or flexible than the e-reader, it’s also less t0 risk.  If a paperback gets a little wet at the pool or is left behind at a restaurant, it’s a lot cheaper to replace than an e-reader…

RvK: Which book is your favorite?

EM:  Meaningless question.  I’ve read thousands of books in my life, many of them multiple times.  I actually don’t have enough memory to recall them all and rate them against each other and figure out a winner.  And my moods are really subjective and fickle, so my favorite book, like my favorite song or my favorite movie or my favorite food, varies with time.  What I’ve read recently will score better than what’s fainter in my memory.  My mood will effect whether I’m into dark, brooding works or light, fluffy, humorous works.  Certain authors have more diminishing returns than others.  Many police procedural series feature a weary detective who battles with cynicism, alcoholism, and inner demons because he or she has an idealistic need for truth in a dark, ugly world.  They are generally great stories, filled with power and tight plot and interesting characters.  But after reading a few of those, your own soul feels weary and cynical and you have to change up to something lighter, but probably also with less power and impact.  Where I am in that cycle will affect my favorite.  And because of the superficial interest in a many subjects, I also go occasional bouts of non-fiction reading.

RvK:  Fine, fine.  We’ll accept that your answer comes with a disclaimer that this answer may change frequently and without notice.  Name and justify three ‘favorite books’ right now.

EM: Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett.  The disc world series is a perennial favorite of mine, and Lords and Ladies is solidly in the middle of the series… the first few books in the series were before he hit his stride and the last few have felt a little weaker, even as Pratchett is continuing to write such a layered and nuanced series while struggling with early onset Alzheimer’s… I feel a little guilty and judgmental just noticing that Alzheimer’s has affected his writing.  Morningstar by David Gemmell.  I’ve been rereading his Drenai series lately.  Powerful fantasy, great adventure, and his works contain an implied standard of machismo and manly honor that is inspirational rather than sexist or dysfunctional like so many exercises in manly chest beating.  An Ancient Evil by P.C. Doherty.  Paul Doherty is another author I deeply admire.  His historical mysteries are well crafted, and show a great realism.  His style is unique enough that I’ve actually discovered several of his pen names by reading a book that looked interesting, recognizing his writing and then doing a little research to confirm my hypothesis.  An Ancient Evil is one of my favorites because he strays from his usual historical mystery niche into what I can only describe as historical horror, a tale of vampires and hunters that doesn’t just take place in the middle ages but reflects middle ages beliefs (as opposed to modern ones) about what vampires were, and also has ties to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Hmm. Looking at this list, I’m really in a fantasy mood right now, fair enough since low fantasy and urban fantasy are the genres I generally want to write within.

RvK: Again with the same ‘this may change’ disclaimer, what is your favorite children’s book right now?

EM: So many choices.  I’ve been reading a lot of teen fiction lately.  The level of writing generally is no different from that of adult books, rather the change is generally in terms of theme and flavor.  Any violence that occurs is usually less graphic.  Love subplots are generally about the emotion and kisses are still magical and powerful and sex doesn’t usually play a factor in the plot.  Teen books, maybe because teens are more concerned with what ‘should be’ than how the world actually is, are more likely to be upbeat and positive and end with a happy ending where everything works out.  I also feel that the world should be the sort of place where endings are happy, where good triumphs over evil, where the girl gets the guy, where love finds a way, etc.  I love that aspect of teen fiction. If teen fiction counts as children’s book, I will go with The Lightning Thief, book one of the first Percy Jackson series.  (I have House of Hades, book four of the second Percy Jackson series, out from the Library and on my current to-read stack.)Snapshot_049

If I have to go for a younger target audience I’ll pick The Adventures of Peter Cottontail by Thornton W. Burgess.  Thornton Burgess was a naturalist who wrote stories about animals for children from 1910 until his death in 1965.  His books are old enough that no one has ever heard of them, but my father learned to read on Thornton Burgess, collected the books as collectibles, and used them to teach me to read when I was four.  I have so many fond memories connected to Thorton Burgess that I feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about him.

RvK: So what is the last book you read?

EM: I generally have multiple books in progress at any one moment.  (Maybe it’s an ADD thing.  I got into the habit as a young girl when it was easier to start another book while I was waiting for the book I had misplaced to turn up.)  I’ve recently finished The Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell, book one of his Rigante series, and The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver, a non-fiction work about statistics and predicting.  (Remember what I said about broad and superficial interests… One of those interests is math nerd-dom.)  In progress right now I’m reading Lucky Stiff by Deborah Cootz, Winter Warriors by David Gemmell, and The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey.

RvK: That’s twice you’ve mentioned David Gemmell.  If I ask you to list your five favorite authors, should I assume he would currently make the list?

EM:  At the moment, yes.  I actually had forgotten about him for a while, but his widow, Stella Gemell, who finished his last book for him when he died, has just published her debut novel and so I’m on a Gemell kick again for a while.  Terry Pratchett and Louis L’amour should both be in the top five as their books are ‘comfort food’ books that I return to again and again.  William Shakespeare.  Techinically he’s a playwright, not an author, but I love his work and it lets me feel all high-brow and elite to share my love of Shakespeare.  I’ll probably round the list out with P.C. Doherty because he is another author I read and reread frequently.

RvK: What are some books that have had a strong impact on your life?  Oh, and before you answer, I’m adding a ground rule four: don’t be a tease and a bitch, and if you answer the Joy of Sex or Masters and Johnson I will find you in violation.

EM: Nah, if I was going to go for titillation value, I would point out how ‘educational’ I found the Kama Sutra or the advice columns in Cosmo.  A couple of months ago there was a suggestion for this one trick you can do with your tongue and … well, if I told you, I’d be violating ground rule four.  I wouldn’t want to be a rule breaker.

RvK: Of course not.  So stay on topic, Emily, don’t follow the metaphorical shiny object… which books had an impact?

EM: It’s a little cliche, but the Bible.  I know I’m probably not a good example of my faith, and that my religious fervor tends to run fairly lukewarm when the lord calls for us be intrepid, not tepid, in our faith.  Nevertheless, faith played a key role in forming the standards and values I live by, so the Bible is important to me.  The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov.  It looks a little funny sitting in the same list as the Bible, but the Caves of Steel was the first science fiction book I ever read, my gateway drug into the science fiction genre, which was my gateway drug to the fantasy genres…  Similarly, The Walking Drum by Louis L’amour.  I don’t think it was the first historical fiction I read, but it is the earliest historical fiction I remember reading.  (For that statement to be true, I’m arbitrarily declaring ‘westerns’ to be a genre of their own rather than the largest sub genre within historical fiction.  I’ve seen it argued both ways, so I’m in my rights to do so.)  My love of historical fiction has bled into a general love of history… History is my main non-fiction reading.  In addition, my favorite science fiction and fantasy readings are generally those that have a strong base in non fictional history.  E.g. David Drake’s R.C.N. series has a setting based on the 19th century British navy or Harry Turtledove’s Ruled Britannia is an alternate history about William Shakespeare in a world where the Spanish Armada conquered England.  I’m not an expert by any means, but I know enough historical overview that I can enjoy such works not only for themselves but for the knowledge that went into them.

RvK: You are already leading into my next question… so tell me about your favorite and least favorite book genres.

EM: The standard “I am fickle, and thus my answers are subject to change without warning or notice” disclaimer still applies… As a reader, I’ll try just about anything.  The ‘Alternate History’ sub-genre of Sci-Fi and the ‘Historical Mystery’ sub-genre of Mystery are probably my favorite genres, genres where I’m most likely to impulsively try a new author.  I’m less impressed by the Romance genre.  Books generally score points with me when they have a strong romance subplot; in the dictionary definition ‘a person with an idealized view of reality’, I am a romantic.  If the protagonist ends up together with the person he/she loves at the end of the book, as well as saving the world, finding him/herself, solving the crime, being a real bad ass, or whatever the main plot involved, that is great, that is terrific, that makes me happy.  If the romance IS the main plot, and there isn’t anything else going on, just a bunch of emoting and posturing and over-dramatizing… that’s too much like the endless high-school drama-fest that I work in.  I read to get away from the banal triviality in life that wears me down, not to experience the same thing, only less real.  As I mentioned earlier, as a writer I’m most interested in urban fantasy and low fantasy.  My definition of ‘low fantasy’, by the way, is a story dealing with ordinary people and day-to-day problems in a fantasy world with all the traps and tropes of standard fantasy. The low refers to scope and range.  The Thieve’s World series is probably the best known example of low fantasy.

RvK: Slightly changing topics, I know you love movies but don’t get out to see them very often.  How do you feel about book-to-movie adaptations in general, and do any stand out as particularly good or bad examples?

EM: In general, the book has the edge on the movie made from it.  A good book has more layers and depth, more ability to run with minor characters.  A movie has a tighter time constraint and less freedom in story-telling techniques, so it almost always has to omit stuff from the book.  It’s even tougher when making a movie from a series book… there are events and details in a series book that are there to build arcs from book to book, and the screenwriter has to focus on making the best stand-alone movie because the sequel won’t be made unless the first movie meets a certain threshold of profit.  Of course, movie-to-book adaptations, where a novelist is hired to write a book from a movie, rarely impress me, because the author has to be willing and able to add to the movie.  Books and movies are both artistic ways to tell a story, with different strengths and styles and rules.  Adapting one to the other is almost always a weakening of the story unless the adapter, director or novelist, understands the different techniques enough to change the story to suit the techniques.

My favorite book to movie adaptation of all time is one that most people don’t know is a book adaptation.  In 1979, Roderick Thorp published the thriller, “Nothing Lasts Forever.”   It’s about a retired NYPD detective trying to visit his estranged daughter at a corporate office party on Christmas Eve, and getting caught up in the events as a brutal gang of criminals seals up the skyscraper as part of a huge heist.  Through a set of coincidences I read Nothing Lasts Forever, loaned to me by my older brother, about a week and half before the first time I saw the movie.  Going from book to movie, there were a lot of minor changes… the detective becomes younger and is renamed in the movie.  The novel has a ham radio operator and a local beat cop as the detective’s links to the outside world, the movie keeps the beat cop but makes him older, and replaces the ham radio operator with a slightly comical limo driver.  In the movie, the detective is trying to patch things up with an estranged wife instead of an estranged daughter.  The company changes from an American Oil company to a Japanese company.  So I was probably thirty to forty percent of the way into the movie before the sense of Deja Vu made me realize that when they made Nothing Lasts Forever into a movie, they also renamed it Diehard…

Least favorite book to movie adaptation… I’ll have to say the Hobbit, even though it is very unfair.  The Hobbit is one of my favorite books, one that possibly should have been in my top five list earlier and maybe I should invoke the ‘can be revised at anytime’ clause from the disclaimer…

RvK: Stay on topic, Emily.  You can do it.

EM:  Right.  So Hobbit.  One of my favorite books of all time.  I like Lord of the Rings, even like it a lot, but I love the Hobbit, in part because it has a lighter, more cheery, dare I say ‘fluffier’ tone to the story.  It just fits my idealized, ‘romantic’ view of what makes a good story better then the LotR trilogy does, links closer to my inner child, which my dad grumbles is never very far beneath the surface.  Because I liked LotR so much, I was moderately excited when the Fellowship of the Ring movie was announced, but I ‘knew’ I would see it, and then spend years in agonized impatience waiting for the other two movies to come out.  So I resolved I would wait until the third movie was released, watch the other two in marathon, and then go see the last one in theatre.  Instead, by the time Return of the King was released, I was over it.  I’ve stumbled across the movies on TV and been unable to summon the interest to watch them.  I should be interested, I don’t understand why I’m not, but I’m not.  If they had done the Hobbit as a single movie, I probably would have gone to see it.  As a two parter, (excuse me, I just looked online and learned that part II didn’t even end it, there is a part three still forth-coming), with commercials playing up the epic nature of the battle with the dragon and not the child-like innocence of the core story, I’m incredibly not interested.  My dislike is unfair, I’ve not seen the movies to make it fair and official, but I cannot stand how a light, enjoyable read of a two or three hours is being turned into over six hours of epic slog marathon.  Curse you, Peter Jackson!

RvK: Wow.  It’s kind of exciting to see you angry at someone else.  You get really passionate about books, don’t you?

EM: I’m passionate about stories.  Books are my preferred medium for stories, because my thought process is very verbal and therefore books slot more directly into my brain than something I watch.Snapshot_050

RvK: So how do you pick which books to read?  Strawberry’s question was if you ever pick a book just based on the cover?

EM: I have picked up books based on their cover, but more likely because the title caught my eye (‘words’) than the artwork (‘image’).  For example, when I was at the library last, they had a shelf of basketball books as their ‘current events’ display.  Basketball is my least favorite sport, even if I’ve been excited by how the Flyers, a barely in bubble team, made it to the Elite Eight before losing to Florida, the team picked by many as the overall top seed of tournament.  I glanced and glanced past with hardly a look, but one title caught my eye.  Don’t Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench, by Mark Titus.  The cover picture, the author wearing his OSU jersey on a black lazy boy in a red locker room, isn’t what caught my eye- I didn’t even remember what the cover art was and had to go look.  The title however… Don’t Put Me In, Coach is an unusual request; it also reminds me of the great song Centerfield by John Fogarty; the irony of a ‘journey’ that starts and ends at the same place being described as ‘incredible’… I was intrigued.  I looked closer at the blurbs, and saw that the book was ‘irreverent’ and about being a non-star sharing the locker room with several players who have gone on to be NBA successes.  I haven’t read the book, yet, so I don’t know if I’ll like it or not, but it was the cover and title that are making me give it a chance. More generally, I pick new books generally because I’ve read other books by the same author, or someone has recommended them, or my intuition just tingled and said ‘try this one’.  Over the past two years, as my time has become tighter, I’ve become more willing to give up on a book and say, this just isn’t working, when it isn’t quick enough to catch my interest, and I’ve become harder to convince when a book catches my eye, looking over the blurbs and summary and dipping into the book quickly looking for an excuse not to be interested.  Which in turn, means I tend to stay in genre fiction more since that is what has the greatest probability of being a book I judge as worth the time to read.

RvK:  I’ll combine two Strawberry Questions here.  Where do you get your books, from a shop or from the library?

EM: Anymore, mostly the library.  I have too many books… not only is every fillable shelf filled, but there is no room for a car in my garage because of the boxes of books that I don’t have shelf room for.  And the same ADD poor impulse control that helped me buy books I shouldn’t have gives me hoarder tendencies because I second guess and doubt any attempt to dispose of excess books since I may want those books again at sometime in the future.  When I do purchase books, they are generally from used bookstores, but wherever possible, I make the library do the spending of money and storing of books anymore.

RvK:  How many is too many books?

EM: Definitely hundreds of books.  I don’t think I have enough books to claim I have thousands of books, but I’m sure I have enough hundreds that I have over a thousand.  And like I said, I’ve got hoarder tendencies, particularly where books are concerned, and I’ve been acquiring for years.

RvK:  Well, Strawberry’s last question is a nice segue way to start talking to you about what sort of writing you like and would like to do.  If you were to write a book about Second Life, what topic would you focus on?

EM: I probably wouldn’t write a book on Second Life… My book obsession and my writing obsession are facets of my love for and obsession with a good story, and off the top of my head, I don’t see a full story out of Second Life.  Collecting together a series of interviews or Monday Meme responses in one place might make interesting and read-worthy fodder, but wouldn’t be the sort of story I want to write.  I want to write a adventure story, one where….

(The rest of this interview was submitted by Roderick van Kirkenov to Writer’s Digest Magazine, and can probably be located at the bottom of their slush pile….)

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Dear Strawberry,

I am so sorry to hear about your loss.  A sentiment which makes me sound like I’m at a funeral, but then I believe that the death of a relationship is an awful lot like the death of a person.  It is normal and natural and almost mandatory to need to take some time to grieve about it.  And of course, everybody has to find their own grieving techniques.  Alcohol is a popular choice.  Chocolate and ice cream are both popular as well.  Some people find it cathartic to wail and moan and gnash their teeth.  Some prefer to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ and ignore their grief until it goes away.  I personally like revenge.  I find that the act of identifying someone as the person responsible for my grief and helping the universe dump a warm, stinking pile of karma upon them both keeps me occupied so I don’t dwell on my own pain and gives me a warm sense of satisfaction and inner glow.  I’ll also be one of the first to admit that this is probably not the approach most people should take.

Angel of mercy or angel of wrath?

Angel of mercy or angel of wrath?

Oh, yes, hope is also an approach one can try to grieving.  I’ll be honest.  I’m a little too bitchy for hope to be the first tool in my personal toolbox of coping techniques.  When I have been wallowing deep in despair, when I’ve been convinced that my life is broken, that I’m a failure, that there is no way I can ever find happiness again, people talking about hope were spouting worthless cliches that I wasn’t ready to hear.  Confronted face-to-face (or blog-to-blog, as the case may be) with a person in pain, I want to say something that gives them hope, that helps them step away from the pain, but I’m so aware that words are just words and that therefore I’ve got nothing.  I’ve learned that hope and happiness are volitional emotions.  You choose to be happy; you choose to believe that somehow things will work out, and therefore keep putting one foot in front of the other while you see how things will unfold.  Happiness is a muscle, just like your deltoids and pecs, and if you choose to exercise it, it will get stronger.  The upside of this fact: I know things will get better, Strawberry, once you are ready.  The downside of this fact: You have to find the readiness within your self; absolutely nothing I say can plant it there.  The danger of this fact: we all want the benefits of physical exercise, we all know it is good for us and worth the effort, but we still have trouble making it happen.  Likewise, Strawberry, obviously you want to have a fit, strong, “happy muscle” (gosh, that sounds dirty.  I like it!) but it is still difficult to make that choice.  You are very lucky to have a friend as wise as Jefferson (And Jefferson, treasure that statement because I am sure the phrase ‘as wise as Jefferson’ isn’t in common usage…) for calling on all your friends to remind you why hope and happiness are a choice worth making, to encourage you to choose happy.

How about angel of sassiness?

How about angel of sassiness?

And as I’ve confessed, in my despairing moments, I just have a lazy happy muscle, and cannot get off my emotional/spiritual ass to choose happiness.  I generally find I have to work in stages: I have trouble believing I can choose happy while I’m in despair, but (thanks to my inner bitch) I can usually summon up a well of righteous anger and wounded pride, emotions that keep me moving.  “How dare my employer treat me like that, when I’m one of the best waitresses here!”  “I’ll show him!”  “No, Goddammit!  I’m too good to let something like this slow me down.”  Now seething anger is great because it keeps me going and because it is an outward directed venom not an inward directed venom.  But once I’m settled into anger and indignation, I’m a little unhappy with the sort of person that makes me.  It’s still a poison of the soul, and it still leaks some toxin inward.  But my forgiveness muscles are stronger than my happy muscles, so my second stage is to release my anger and return to being my usual happy-go-lucky self.

Another grieving technique that works for me is music.  When I’m playing games on my own head, trying to manipulate my own emotions, music works.  Create the right environment for a given emotion, create that hopeful-shaped hole in your surroundings, and there is a very good chance your emotional state will mold itself to fit that hole.  There’s a very good reason our moms all told us to act happy even when we weren’t and we would eventually fool ourselves.  Music is an external stimulus I can control to affect the internal emotions that are harder to train.  Now for years I’ve been bemused but regretful that my musical tastes tend to run to songs that are bitter, angst-filled, and sardonic.  I’ve tried to make romantic mix tapes in the past, and I’ve ended up scraping the bottom of my music collection and still having issues with both duration and quality.  A break-up mix tape, on the other hand… I’ve got this one.  So without further ado, I’m presenting you with your very own “Breakup Mix Tape” to help you through this difficult time Strawberry.  Loss and heartache suck, and I wish you weren’t going through them.  But I hope it will help a little bit to to hear some songs that express some of the same anger and pain you must feel, to be reminded both that you are not alone in your pain and that you have friends who feel for you and with you.

Hark, who is calling for an angel?

Hark, who is calling for an angel?

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER by the Beatles.  Included both because it has a mellow, “hey, everything will be all right” vibe and because the song’s name reminds me of you.

ABANDONMENT by Bif Naked.  Not only does Bif Naked have a beautiful voice, but this song perfectly captures the pain of being left by the wayside.

MY GIRLFRIEND’S DEAD by the Vandals.  A darkly humorous song about one approach to avoiding painful discussions of a break-up.  Plus the whistling means this song still sounds cheerful even while it deals with pain and heartbreak.

WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER by Taylor Swift.  A guilty pleasure.  I kind of hate to admit how much I like this song…

AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN by Katie Armiger.  Both of these songs are promises to avoid a messy, painful on-again off-again stage to a relationship… I compared the death of a relationship to the death of a person, and this is another way both deaths are similar: you want a quick, clean death-with-dignity, not a long drawn-out painful demise.

Looking for some inner peace...

Looking for some inner peace…

LET’S TALK ABOUT ME by the Alan Parsons Project.  Sort of a dysfunctional relationship song.  Also a chance to briefly segue to talking about ME, because since this is a fashion blog I do have to comment briefly on what I’m wearing.  As I started drawing the outfit together I was thinking I wanted to do elegant.  So I grabbed the AladyMonroeShape, and the Calla ImSoElegant hair in Champaign Blond, and kept the *JStyle Bella Pale I was wearing in my last post.  Looking through my inventory, my eye was caught by the Sweet Princesss Dress from 1 Hundred, which got me thinking princess.  I looked for a princess crown in my inventory and found a crown out of the Dirty Princess “Cinderfuckinella” costume.  Despite that name, I still thought I looked rather angelic, a thought that prompted me to grab source unknown angel wings.  And apparently my idea of an angel is somewhat “I’m gonna kick your ass” because once I was thinking angel it just seemed right to accessorize with a barbed wire collar (source unknown), Grumble razor bangles, Ellabella’s “whispers of love” piercing, and the Psychedelic tattoo from InfecteD.  I don’t remember where in the evolving process I added the love make up from UtopiaH to my face.  You can’t see it in any of the pictures so far, but I also have a source unknown shotgun waiting for me to call “draw” and become visible should I find a good picture to take with a shotgun.  (That is to say the shotgun will become visible.  I already am visible…)

SHATTERED DREAMS by Johnny Hates Jazz.  One of the truly great eighties songs, and I too wish I  could run away from an empty heart…

BETTER SORRY THAN SAFE by Halestorm.  First of all, Halestorm is a great band with a great sound.  I love them.  Second, it’s a nice twist on the breakup song.  The relationship in question is a decent relationship: it’s lasted a few years, he knows her well, (her “ins and outs”), he’s faithful.  But a decent relationship, even a good relationship, isn’t necessarily the relationship, the storybook one-true-love relationship and she thinks she should end it because she doesn’t want to settle for comfortable- she’d rather be sorry than safe.  So the song is hopeful but it’s a bittersweet sort of hope.

I bring tidings of great joy, muthaf###er! (Hey, I had to do at least one pic with the shotgun…)

I bring tidings of great hope, muthaf###er!
(Hey, I had to do at least one pic with the shotgun…)

THE RAINBOW CONNECTION by Kermit the Frog.  Speaking of hope, this is the most hope-filled, “our happy ending is out there somewhere” song I know.  I’ve always liked the Muppets, but I became obsessed after the summer of ’95.  I was going through some rough personal and family drama which there isn’t time or space to detail here, and most days my only happy time was my ritualized hour of escapism in the morning when I slowly ate some over-sugared cereal while one of the basic cable channels showed old Muppet Show reruns followed by Fraggle Rock reruns.  Ever since, I’ve associated the Muppets with my personal happy space, so they are a security blanket when I’m trying to recover emotional equilibrium.

MOVIN’ RIGHT ALONG by Alkaline Trio.  I did mention that I’m Muppet-obsessed, yes?  So you can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Green Album, a release of classic muppet songs from the first movie and from the TV show covered by modern bands.  This song was the obvious choice to include in your mix, Strawberry, because of its sprightly, upbeat sound, because of its hopeful message (“We can head out and pursue a dream even if we don’t really know how to get there!”), and because Alkaline Trio is one of my all-time favorite music groups.

MARILYN, MY BITTERNESS by the Cruxshadows.  I have to admit, I was torn because there were several Cruxshadows songs I wanted to include in your mix tape, Strawberry.  I find the song “Birthday” inspiring- I’ve always liked songs with the message “make your moments matter because you don’t know how many moments you may have.”  “Winterborn” is a great song, very martial.  I like the message of persevering in the face of pain and fear, and the references to angles even fit my costume for this post.  Ultimately however, Marilyn, My Bitterness is not only spot on for describing the pain of a broken relationship, but the creation of a Lego video for it just adds a cute factor that has to bring a smile to your face.  Let’s face it, Legos are cute.  (Which is why the Lego movie is grossing so much money right now…)

Taking flight...

Taking flight…

SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW by Me First & The Gimme Gimmes.  “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is another great song about hope and finding the place where you can be happy.  The ‘real’ version from the Wizard of Oz is the best, but you have to love the edge the song receives when Me First and the Gimme Gimmes cover it…

A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (NEED A LITTLE HELP) by Motion City Soundtrack.  Motion City Soundtrack is another band where I knew I had to include a song, but struggled to decide the best song.  I’m not sure which member of the band writes the songs, or if they are a collaborative thing, but their lyrics always seem to perfectly capture the somewhat fractured way my mind feels.  (Before, I just thought that was cool.  As I’ve learned more about ADD and the fact that I am one of the estimated 4% of people with ADD, I now believe the songwriter is also a member of the 4%.  If you don’t have ADD and want a better glimpse into what it feels like, go listen to Motion City Soundtrack’s “Everything is All Right.”)  I almost went with “Broken Heart” but I felt that “A Life Less Ordinary”, was a more hopeful song, because it underscored that you do have a gazillion and three friends, Strawberry, all of whom are eager to give you that little help to get you through it.

I could throw a few more songs in the mix, perhaps, but this is a good length.  (Besides, maybe we can all make mix tapes to share some time, so I should leave a few songs yet un-shuffled.)  Remember Strawberry- you have friends and are deeply loved because you have brought little touches of happiness to all our lives.  Please allow us to humbly return the favor during this time of grieving and healing.

Sincerely,

Emily Marik

When I asked my First Life avatar, whom I like to affectionately call ‘Firsty’, to interview me for Strawberry Singh’s Interview Meme Challenge, I had no idea the interview would become this lengthy or this contentious.  In fact, when we closed Part II, my First Life alter ego was blaming me for headaches he had developed while interviewing me and threatening that he would find conversation threads that would return the favor and make my head hurt.  (Yay, that‘s a special treat to anticipate.  *Sigh*)  Meanwhile, time has continued its inexorable advance and Strawberry has issued another week’s Meme-challenge, one calling for black and white photography.  Since I am a consummate professional, devoted to carrying on through adversity, and Firsty has to, at a minimum, pay lip service to the ideals of professionalism, I figured we would continue our interview, behave like we are mature adults, and simultaneously do some black and white photos so that this interview segment is actually two.. two.. TWO memes in one.  It’s like a buy-one-get-one-free sale!

Q-: I see what you are doing here, Emily.  You’re trying to get the readers on your side, make me feel guilty about plotting revenge so I don’t follow through.  You redid your style to be closer to how I defined beautiful, so that I’ll be more likely to show mercy.  You’re also hoping I get distracted by the second meme and that maybe our short attention span will kick in and save you.

Kiss me, you fool!

Kiss me, you fool!


ME: Is any of it working?

Q12: Probably not, but it’s so cute watching you squirm.  Since you trying to butter me up with your look, why don’t you tell me the details?

ME: My shape for this one is Divya, a full-figured, 5’11” from Big Momma’s Shop.  For skin, I chose Gaia, a milky complexion from WoW Skins to which I added some light freckling and some blush makeup.  My hairdo, the Dany, included the elegant jeweled hairpins and came from My Pretty Pixel.  The purple jeans and the purple and black top were a group gift from Ellette.  I kept the accessories simple and minimal for you: some ‘Bollywood’ style earrings, a crystal dragon necklace from Crickets, my lip-ring, and my Prozak heavy red boots.

Q13: When Strawberry proposed the black-and-white photo challenge, she left it fairly open… Dress in black and white, use editing software like Photoshop, use an editing site like PicMonkey or PixLR, … so how did you take your black and white photos?

ME: Windlights/Environment Editing… I use Singularity for my interface between First Life and reality.  In the menu hierarchy, one can choose World > Environment Settings > Post Processing Effects.  Think of it as a hallucinogenic filter on reality, applying special effects not to the pictures you take but directly to your own perceptions, so that they also effect the pictures you take.  By enabling and adjusting a color filter setting, I was wandering in a mono-chrome world, able to take black and white snapshots to my heart’s content.  Even cooler, I was able to create a very artsy effect by setting to a low saturation and increasing the contrast.  See?

Gamma .39; Brightness 1.32; Saturation .15; Contrast 1.0;  Together the numbers add up to artsiness...

Gamma .39; Brightness 1.32; Saturation .15; Contrast 1.0;
Together the numbers add up to artsiness…

Q14: OK, Emily, I have to admit I’m impressed.  I didn’t know you could do that, and I really like the stark nature of the pictures.  What software did you use to touch up the pictures?

ME: I used to use FX Photo Editor, an inexpensive app.  Although perfectly capable of cropping and framing pictures, FX was still fairly limited, and I got bored with it.  Some other bloggers cued me to free photo-editing cloud ware, and I’ve been using Pic Monkey and Pix LR lately.  Since Strawberry also mentioned Pic Monkey, that’s the site I used to finalize these photos, mostly just cropping and framing, although I did also slightly tweak the exposure and contrast on some of the photos.  Still, if no longer raw photos, I promise the pictures I’ve posted today are medium rare at most.  And I have to admit, I’m a little impressed with me too.  Whenever I figure out a new gadget, it makes me very happy.

Another post-processing effect is to add vignette style blurring and shadows...

Another post-processing effect is to add vignette style blurring and shadows…

Q15: Speaking of Strawberry, I’m sure you heard that her whirlwind fake marriage to Ewan Mureaux has already culminated in a whirlwind fake divorce.  They seem to have parted semi-amicably, and Ewan is apparently going to be on auction at the mingle Event.  Any thoughts on Strawberry’s partnership?

ME: Mostly jealousy.  I’ll admit I’m not 100% sure who I’m more jealous of, Strawberry for getting a fun, casual, flirty fake-relationship with a good looking guy like Ewan, or Ewan, who got to have the same relationship with STRAWBERRY SINGH.  Probably Ewan… I’ve admitted before to having an adoration of Strawberry that strays dangerously close to obsessive stalker territory.  I don’t have a psycho-wall, where I’ve tacked up photos and copies of her blog articles and random city maps, with odd bits of red string connecting photos to each other- but as you can tell, I’ve thought about how I would make one…

Q16:  So are you saying Strawberry is your ideal partner?

ME: Actually not, although I definitely drool a little over the idea of taking Manberry for a test drive, so to speak.  Strawberry says that she is a brat, and maybe she is a brat in her private life.  The public persona of Strawberry, the one I’ve gleaned from following her blog since before I even had a blog of my own, is warm and friendly and affectionate.  I don’t want to say that Strawberry has a sense of decorum or of propriety, since those make her sound more stuffy and matronly than is the case.  I’m not really sure how to word it… which is a little alarming since I pride myself on always having words… but ultimately I want Strawberry to be the older sister I never had, not a date or a partnership, even a fake one.

Q17: Trouble with words?  Feeling a little uncomfortable with this subject?  In that case, Emily, imagine me rubbing my hands together and cackling about revenge, then tell me who your ideal boyfriend- or girlfriend, I suppose- would be.  Who knows? They might even be reading this…

Compare and Contrast: (From left to right) With post-processing effects, w/o effects, desaturated with PicMonkey

Compare and Contrast: (From left to right)
With post-processing effects, w/o effects, desaturated with PicMonkey

ME: Are you sure you don’t want to take another break now, while we still have enough questions left to make a part IV worthwhile?

Q17: Absolutely not.  Spill it, Emily.

ME: This is going to make me sound simultaneously shallow and desperate, and I don’t like to think of myself in either term.  Ultimately, I’m really just looking for the so-called “friend with benefits.”  Someone who shares the same interests I do- the fashion world, writing, exploration and variety, so that we can go shopping together, check out fashion events together, bounce ideas off each other, go on hunts together, just goof off and bullshit each other sometimes.  I want a fairly casual relationship, someone who likes to spend time together but also understands when I say “I need some me-time to finish writing this.”  Someone connected with another portion of the fashion world- a designer or store owner- would be cool as we would both see different sides of things, and both have a job to attend to also.  They need to be laid back, have a sense of humor, and be into variety.  (After all, I’m going to look different almost every time we get together…)  And besides hanging out when life permits, I also want to occasionally jump their bones and have red hot wild nookie.

Q18: I can see how someone might say that answer is shallow, Emily.  You’re looking for someone who enjoys tagging along on the things you like to do, leaves when they become inconvenient for our mutual schedule, and still lets you get your ashes hauled from time to time.  It’s not necessarily an uncommon desire in modern culture, however, so I don’t think you need to feel judged for it.  I might have said something similar when I was your age and unattached.  But what is desperate in that answer?

ME: I guess the desperate part is what I didn’t say.  You tossed a mild feeler in your question as to whether I was possibly looking for a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend, and I pretended not to notice.  The simple truth is that I’m not sure and probably don’t care.  I stop by my apartment for a few minutes, and I can change whether I’m fat or skinny, young or old, caucasian or oriental or african or even alien, blond or brunette.  My body is a matter of my choices and my mood.  My hypothetical date has the same options, so I’m definitely interested in the inner person, the soul, rather than the externals.  Phrased that way, it sounds noble, even romantic.  But it’s hard to sound noble or romantic or like I’m talking about the soul when I’ve also professed an interest in having ‘red hot wild nookie.’  Then it just means my itch has really been building up and I’m willing to take the first offer to scratch that itch that comes alongs, whether it’s a man, woman, alien, robot, she male or shape changer…  That’s a bit desperate.

Q19: I wasn’t going to judge you, Emily, but I’ve changed my mind.  You are desperate, but also brave to open up like that.  Since it appears to be a big part of what you’re putting on the table, why don’t you describe what you think ‘red hot wild nookie’ looks like?

ME: Well, I’m a self professed variety-junkie and my partner will have to be at least somewhat into variety to keep up.  Obviously I’m super into cosplay and role-play.  Student and teacher… Nun and demon… High power corporate exec and secretary … Super heroine captured by a villain … Gor slaver and slave… playing out scenarios of that nature would be a blast.  (Mind you, I’ve watched too much porn so I still expect nuns and CEO’s to have elaborate tattoos and improbably huge implants, heh, heh.)  I would love to play with RLV games, and I would prefer to be the submissive one, but I still want to be able to disengage when I say so.  My partner has to have a slightly exhibitionist streak- we aren’t necessarily going to be putting on a public show, but I’m going to want to try different locations so there is always the chance of other people coming by and watching.  (Possibly even kibitzing and critiquing like an x-rated Statler and Waldorf…)  Even in a safely ‘private’ location like my apartment, there is always the risk of neighbors cam-perving and the knowledge that we each have our First Life avatars watching us just as we are always watching them…

Q-: Speaking of you always watching me, Emily… I realize we are stuck with each other, since we are apparently joined at the brain.  However, the other night, the one that involved my wife and I, a bottle of Moscato D’Asti, and plush rug in front of a roaring fireplace…

ME: I remember.  Yeah, that would be a really great example of what ‘red hot–

Q-: AHEM!

ME: Oh, sorry.  If it makes you uncomfortable, just pretend I’m not really there.  After all, no one else can see me, just like no one else can see you here in reality, even though I know you’re out there some where…

Q20: How am I supposed to pretend you aren’t there when I hear your voice announce “And the judges score that an 8.5 out of ten!” as I am shifting my position?

ME: Oh, that.  Gotcha!

Well, that was twenty questions, and my firsty appears to be twitching a bit at the moment, so I’m going to announce that this is a good place to end the interview, and that I’ll see y’all again soon.  Hope you all get to waste your time wisely until then!

 

…Continuing our interview for Strawberry Singh’s interview meme challenge

Q7: So we’re back after a brief break, so that Emily could change outfits and I could take some aspirin and a nap because Emily makes my head hurt sometimes.

ME: Thanks, Firsty!  I love you too!

Grr!  I'm a fierce cheerleader!

Grr! I’m a fierce cheerleader!

Q7: You mentioned in the first part of our interview that you wanted to do a football or cheerleader themed outfit for the Super Bowl, and I see you found something you liked.  Why don’t you go ahead and give credit where credit is due?

ME: Well, a search of my inventory yielded a few promising prospects.  Method of Destruction has a cute “I love football” outfit- skimpy jersey, cut off jeans shorts, athletic socks, and face paint tattoo layers- one of eye black, one a “#1” on the right cheek.  (Which my hair do covers up…).  The one I own is a generic blue and gold jersey, but when I checked Marketplace I saw MoD has released two new versions, one Seahawks, one Broncos, in honor of the big game on Sunday.  I went ahead and donned the face paint and tube socks, but wore the PPD cheerleader outfit: skirt, top, sneakers, and pom-poms.  I’m using the unscripted pom-pons, but there is a scripted one that holds a cheer routine animation as well.  There are also some nice dangly gold earrings with the outfit, but I chose to do my jewelry slightly differently.

For a shape, I’m wearing ‘ChildGirlAge16’ from Alady Island.  Thank god I’m not actually a teen ager again, but teen shapes remain the best way to get a gorgeous shorter, waif-like figure.  The hair is Whisky in Chocolate Copper from LoQ hairs.  (I think Tameless Hairs is my favorite hair vender, but LoQ is an extremely close number two, and the Whisky is definitely my favorite do.)  I had trouble picking a skin for this outfit, but finally went with the Bella Pale from *JStyle.

As far as accessories, my dangly silver earrings, red bangles, and red collar all came from *JStyle, as well.  I’m also showing so much skin with this outfit that I just had to add a tattoo, so I’m wearing the ‘Bad Girl’ tattoo from -UtopiaH-.

So I dressed up as a cheerleader, than came to an art gallery to take my selfies… Does anyone else think that's messed up?

So I dressed up as a cheerleader, than came to an art gallery to take my selfies… Does anyone else think that’s messed up?

Q8: So, since we’ve mentioned the Super Bowl, Emily, I’m kind of curious.  Living in Southwest Ohio, I’m a rather lukewarm Bengals fan.  Once they were one-and-done in the play offs, I haven’t really cared.  I suppose I’m going to root for the Seahawks, because I like the Seattle fans I know and would like to see them happy and I’m a little tired of hearing people say Peyton Manning deserves it this year.  The statement wouldn’t be so annoying if they were saying it in the sense that they thought Peyton was a great quarterback and think he is worthy, that he will perform and is going to earn it.  But people are making it sound like his past performance, his coming back to health after his surgery, his stats this year, have already ‘earned’ him the ring, and that now he is entitled to win the Super Bowl, that the sports universe somehow owes it to him.  It’s petty on my part, but hearing people make it sound like Peyton is entitled to win makes me want to see him lose.  Who do you want to see win the Super Bowl, Emily?

ME: Tough question.  I’m not even a lukewarm Bengals fan, and I think I’m more interested in the halftime show than the game.  I suppose I am rooting for the Broncos, and I’m even doing it because of Peyton Manning.  Quit grimacing, and hear me out!  Part of how the NFL sells football is finding ways to make people care.  Firsty, you love to talk about how brilliantly the NFL’s has promoted fantasy football, because fantasy football makes people care about and watch games that otherwise wouldn’t matter to them, because now they have to care about individual player performances.  Likewise, the current marketing campaign “Together we make football” is about the idea that football isn’t a spectator sport, something we just sit on a couch and watch (although obviously it is!), but that we who watch football are actually part of an invested community that interacts with football through our fandom.  To make people care more (so that football gets higher viewership and more money as a business) the NFL and the sports broadcasting industry sell stories and plot lines about individual players.  We make Peyton Manning and Marshon Lynch heroes of some stories, Richard Sherman or Heinz Ward the villain of other stories.  When people say Peyton “deserves” to win, I don’t see it as saying Peyton is entitled to win.  Rather we’re saying that we’ve bought into and emotionally invested into that story line about Peyton and that the story is a much better story if Peyton goes ahead and wins the Super Bowl.  I don’t really care about football at all, but as a writer, I care strongly about story.  I want Peyton to win so that I witnessed the better story.  It’s just like I want a close football game, preferably one that comes down to the success or failure of the final drive, because that is a better story than a one-sided blow out.  Oh, and one other factor: Peyton Manning is cute, really cute, much cuter than Russell Wilson.  All other things being equal, I’m going to root for the eye-candy.

Remember: There is no I in team, but there also is no F in weigh...

Remember: There is no I in team, but there also is no F in weigh…

Q9: Speaking of eye-candy, Emily, what is your idea of eye-candy?  What (and whom) do you like to look at?

ME: Unfortunately, like my sense of fashion, my sense of esthetics is one I don’t have words for, I just know it when I see it.  David James Elliot (most famous for his lead role in Jag) is definitely eye-candy.  Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  Tom Mison, from the new Sleepy Hollow series, is gorgeous.  Googling some images of them, it occurred to me that they all seem to have really high foreheads… looking a little deeper into high foreheads, I found several web articles stating high foreheads are generally one of the physical traits that women find attractive in men, along with a more angular physique, a strong jaw, height, and broad shoulders.  As far as women go, I really think Chloe Bennet from Agents of Shield is pretty.  I think both Deshanel sisters are cute, Emily (Bones) and Zoe (New Girl).  Angelina Jolie is O.K., but I think her looks are some of the most overrated on the planet.  It goes without saying that Strawberry is pretty freaking amazing.  It’s tough for me, however, to just stare off into space and pick a few examples of ‘attractive women’ out of the air- show me some and I will say aye or nay, but I just blank when asked what women I find attractive.  I do think it’s interesting that even though you and I are alter egos, we have fairly different ideas of feminine beauty.

Q10: What do you mean?

ME: I’ll explain, but go ahead and describe your feminine ideal so that I can contrast.  Use descriptions, examples, pictures, whatever, just make your point.

Q10: I’m not sure where you’re going, but I would probably describe the feminine ideal as soft and tender and curvy.  The word ‘rubenesque’ is not necessarily out of place.  There are few hard and fast rules for what is pretty, but all other things being equal, tall is better than short.  Brunette is better than not.  When I talk about curves, I’m generally focused on a pronouncedly feminine torso rather then hips and backside.  (I’m a ‘boob-man’ not an ‘ass-man’.)  I don’t generally care for tattoos and piercings.  I do like MILF’s and cougars.  Style-wise, the prettiest girls have a middle-class, suburbanite, girl-next-door vibe: cute rather than gorgeous, elegant, or over-styled.  Back when I stayed current with skin mags, I would have listed Kerry Marie or Chloe Vevrier as the feminine ideal.  I always had a soft spot for pin-up style, semi-burlesque shoots.  When I pick up on beauty around me, see a woman that makes me go ‘wow’ while I’m at work or running errands, it is a mixture of actual physical appearance and also style and attitude.  I will also admit it is rare for me to find a woman UN-attractive; obviously some women look much better than others, many women I don’t really think about whether they are attractive or not, but it’s very unusual for me to look at woman and think, “Gosh, she’s ugly.”

ME: And about the only statements in that list that I can agree with are 1: that there are few hard and fast rules of beauty, because women who fit few of my preferences can still be beautiful and 2: when I do find someone beautiful, I am picking up on both their physical attributes and also on some intangibles of life and energy that are harder to pinpoint.  I would describe the feminine ideal as lean and taut and fit.  I like multi-hued hair- pronounced high lights, obviously colored tips or a streak, those are all cool things.  Neon and unnatural colors are especially cool.  I love tattoos, although since I love variety, henna and other temporary inks trump the permanent.  Piercings and jewelry are very, very cool.  I’m not into ‘rubenesque’ which is just a nicer way of saying ‘overweight’.  In style, I look for urban and chic and cool before I look for cute and pretty.  (Although, in part because of our mutual influence upon each other, firsty, what I really love is the overlap area where urban chic is still cute and girly-girl.)  I think the cougar craze is an artificial byproduct of Hollywood, the fact that by the time an actress/starlet has made it big enough in the industry to be known as a sex symbol, she is old enough that her looks are beginning to slide.  I obviously admire women who preserve their looks well.  Courtney Cox, Jennifer Anniston, Lisa Kudrow all look great for women approaching (and in one case reaching) fifty, but they don’t look as good as younger actresses like Valory Curry or Kiera Knightly.  This, by the way, is another argument that I am the dominant (and thus realer) partner in our relationship, Firsty.  Go back over my months of posts and pictures.  Obviously my style has ranged and varied a lot; that’s part of the point of this blog.  But who’s definition of beauty is guiding my pictures?  Mine.  Ergo, who is ultimately calling the shots?  Me.  I’m real, you’re just an unusually strong-willed voice in my head.  Mystery solved.

Q11: Wow.  Emily, you are making my head hurt again.  Plus I’m keeping an eye on word count because we are both pretty wordy.  Can we take another break?  Please?

ME: Well, OK, but only because I want a chance to watch the commercials and the half-time show while you have to go work.  (Nyah-nyah-na-na-nyah!)  Just remember this, Firsty: I really do think Peyton deserves to win the Super Bowl this year.

Q11.5: Whatever, Emily.  I promise you, I’m going to find a way to make your head be the one hurting before we finish this.  And then we’ll see who has the better “Nyah-nyah-nyah!”…

Strawberry Singh, exemplar extraordinaire of blogging, photography, and wedded bliss, posted a recent meme challenge with these instructions: Get someone else to interview you and then post the question and answers on your own blog. You can ask a friend, lover, another blogger (you can interview each other) or a fake husband like I did. Don’t forget to leave a link to your interview in the comments so we can all come and read it.

Go ahead, Firsty, ask me anything!

Go ahead, Firsty, ask me anything!

Q1: Emily, I’m pretty sure asking me to interview you is violating some kind of rule for the challenge.

ME: That’s not a question, Matt.  This is supposed to be an interview.  Questions and answers.  You have to actually ask me questions, so that I can give you answers.

Q1: The question was implied by the statement.  Strawberry’s instructions explicitly stated to get ‘someone else’ to interview you and I’m fairly certain one of us is just a voice in the other’s head.  So why did you ask me to interview you?

ME: If we’re being totally transparent, you weren’t my first choice.  However Barbara Walters doesn’t return my calls, I’m pretty sure Larry King is some kind of walking dead, and your crazy schedule makes it impossible for me to set up an interview time with another SL blogger.  Plus I’m kind of nervous.  There are a fair number of people I’m willing to just hang out with and chill with, but calling it an interview, particularly if they are supposed to be the interviewer, feels like an imposition.  The number of people to whom I feel like I’m close enough that it’s no imposition to impose upon them is a very small list.  So I was kind of stuck with you.

Q2:  Fair enough.  But given the nature of our relationship as virtual alter egos, isn’t this interview kind of a farce?  What can I ask you that I don’t already know the answer to?

ME: No, it’s not a farce.  Firstly, Firsty, we’ve both written on occasion about the divergence of our personalities.  Since we occasionally surprise each other, there obviously are questions where we don’t know the answer.  Secondly, the audience for this interview isn’t you and I; it’s that small circle of glamorous, fabulous, wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, glorious people we call ‘readers.’  You may know the answers but they don’t, and they are who this interview is for.  Ask me any question you feel covers important and/or interesting territory.

Q3: ‘Important and/or interesting.’  So questions like, ‘Emily, what are you wearing today and where ever did you find it?’

Ready to take flight!

Ready to take flight!

ME: I have trained you well, Grasshopper.  Today’s outfit was built around an outfit I picked up in my recent exploration of the Free Dove, a fantasy dress from Rebel Hope Designs.  The dress consists of a purple bodice/dress that can be paired with either a clothing layer skirt, leggings, or one of three prim skirts.  (You can see I picked the long sheer prim skirt.)  The dress also came with purple fairy wings, a purple mask, and two versions of a fairy godmother wand, one that emits purple heart-shaped particles and one that doesn’t.  To go with the purpleness of the outfit, I’m wearing a source unknown platinum/purple hair I got in a recently opened box of purple freebies.  I’m wearing another Alady Island shape, ‘petitenormalgirl’ (as opposed to petite abnormal girl?).  The skin is Nahla, which was the June Group Gift for WoW Skins, modified by a the Love make-up (tattoo layer) in magenta from -UtopiaH-, the In My Dreams tattoo from Orsini, and the Salvation Cross tattoo from Prozak.  The final accessories to finish the outfit off were some stockings from Sugar Emporium, the oh-so-cute ‘Oriental Fantasy Heels’ I got with an LC’s World of Fashion dollarbie, and my (source unknown) nose ring.

Q4: Emily, you have a wide enough range of outfits that somehow it seems like you could be wearing anything on any given day and yet you also manage, to my mind at least, to have a fairly distinctive look.  How do you decide what to wear for any particular post?

ME: I’m not surprised that you think I have a distinctive look, Firsty, since that’s what I think also and you’ve already admitted that you’re just a voice in my head.

Q5: I’m a voice in your

ME: Hush!  Question and answer, remember?  You have to give me a chance to finish answering the current question before you move on to the next question.

Windlights are a great way to enhance the view from my apartment!

Windlights are a great way to enhance the view from my apartment!

I decide what I’m going to wear by semi-random whim and triangulation.  My whims aren’t truly random because they do get influenced by other factors.  The calendar is one such factor.  Leading up to Halloween, I went on a rampage of costumes, and with the Super Bowl coming up I will probably try to do something football or cheerleader related.  Post topics are another factor.  For example, I primarily wear accessories from Grumble, Grumble- they make some great ones!- but whenever I do a sponsor post about an event Grumble, Grumble is taking part in, I build my outfit around Grumble garb.  Variety is another factor.  I love variety and change and I feel obligated to move away from anything I’ve worn too often in a row.  I chose today’s hair to go with the purple of my dress, but also because it was not from Tameless Hair, which made the hairs I’ve worn in my last four posts.  Variety is also part of what I mean by triangulation.  In the past, I’ve variously described my style as beautiful, cute, sexy, slutty, and punk.  In truth, none of those words completely define my fashion sense, but all of them are nearby.  If I stray too close to any of the borders of my fashion range, I attempt to center myself.  This occurs from post to post, but also occurs within posts.  Today, for example, the dress, the hair, the mask, etc., … they are elegantly beautiful; they make me think of elegant costume formals and harlequin romances, a vibe that is slightly off-kilter for me.  By tatting up and wearing my nose piercing, I back away a little bit from that too-elegant vibe and get a little more centered in my me-ness.  Similarly, I’ve often commented on how much I love my Prozak red leather kicks, and I often wear them with dresses or skirts they don’t quite match as a way to put more of my personality into the outfit.

Q5: I interrupted you earlier because I was taken aback by your claim that I am only a voice in your head.  You do realize that you are the voice in my head, right?

ME:  I can understand why you would think so.  As a writer’s conceit and an interesting philosophical thought, we decided that one of us is real and the other is fictional, the avatar within a complicated social-networking game.  Within the context of your game, you are real, and so of course you would imagine that your reality is the ‘realer’ reality and that I’m the fictional one.  I know better, of course, but I imagine I would feel the same way even if you were right and I was wrong.  It’s very similar to the question of whether Alice is dreaming of the queen or whether the queen is dreaming of Alice.  One of us must be wrong, but how would we ever know it?  Consider this, Firsty.  You claim that I’m fictional, that all my thoughts and actions are actually the result of your decisions within First Life.  I say that I’m real, and I make the choices that control your thoughts and actions.  I’m an imperfect role-player, so occasionally I forget to pretend I’m you.  So have you ever had an out-of-character thought or behaved in an out-of-character manner that reflected my personality?

Q-: No comment.  But now my head hurts.

ME: I should make you tell the story, because I know it’s a good one, but I’ll let it slide since this my interview not yours.

Q6: Thank you.  Well, our interview is obviously running long.  Would it be permissible to take a break?  You would get a chance to change and I would get a chance for my head to quit hurting…

ME: Fair enough.  We’ll be back, everybody!

Strawberry Singh is a tool.  Wait, can I word that a little differently…

Which is lovelier: the sunset or me?

Which is lovelier: the sunset or me?

Hear me out.  The definition of a tool is a device or implement that is used to carry out a specific function.  In fact, the insulting slang definition of ‘tool’, a moron or cretin, evolved from the concept of a person who was just being used by others and didn’t even have the self-awareness to know that.  Now because I am a smart-ass (still better than a dumb-ass!) I couldn’t resist the gratuitous insult, trusting that Strawberry will know I’m just being a brat.  After all, we all learned recently that Strawberry actually finds brattiness to be a turn-on….  Although the instructions for the Helpful Tools meme, “Meme Instruction: Share a screenshot of your viewer setup and/or a list of tools/HUDS you guys use to make your Second Life experiences better. Don’t forget to leave a comment in this post with a link so we can all come and stalk you. If you share a screenshot, feel free to share them in the Blog Memes flickr group.” clearly implied tools that exist within Second Life, the two items I find most helpful in my Second Life experiences are a pair of fellow blogs.

So although Strawberry isn’t actually a tool, her blog-site StrawberrySingh.com is a tool by definition.  The specific function I use it for is to help inspire me and find topics.  The Monday Meme is the strongest, easiest to find example of that, but StrawberrySingh.com has also given me places to go (her Friday Find posts and the Monday Meme last year where we were all asked for five links to cool places with in SL.), advice and examples on improving my meager photographic skills, and suggestions on devices and fashions I should acquire in my shopping exploits.

Is there anything better than sitting on the porch with a mug of Irish coffee?

Is there anything better than sitting on the porch with a mug of Irish coffee?

Similarly, I’m also inspired by the WordPress Daily Post.  Primarily again as a trigger to start my stream of consciousness flowing, although I also feed the single keyword into SL’s search engine because you can find some interesting places to visit that way.

As far as HUDs and other SL devices, I don’t necessarily have any must-have, brilliant, super devices to share.  (A thought that makes me sad.)    Most of the HUD’s I use I consider adequate to good, but I don’t have the courage/motivation/know-how to pop them open and see if I can tweak them to greatness.  For example I have multiple HUDS loaded with dance-animations so that I’m prepared to dance at a moment’s notice.  But I don’t consider any of them great for two reasons.  Firstly, I don’t think I can (maybe I can, remember I haven’t taken them apart to find out) load them with additional dances to make a dance list I love.  Secondly, most dance venues have freely available dance animations, and the dance board at my favorite club, Carnal Oasis, is better than most.  Until/unless I find a dance-HUD that I prefer to use over the dancing I can do without said HUD, I can’t really bring myself to call it great or tout it to friends and followers.

I can dance if I want to, I can leave your friends behind...

I can dance if I want to, I can leave your friends behind…

Likewise, I generally wear the “Boobies Pose Hud” which I found as a freebie or cheapie at one of the various fashion boutiques catering to the Lolas and Phat Azz crowd.  It has its plusses: 111 poses, all of which keep the hands away from the chest so that if you are wearing a mesh chest, you aren’t posing for photos with your hands or arms sticking into/through your cleavage.  But it also has some annoying minuses.  The names of the poses are non-helpful names like ‘b#63’, so the only way to find a pose is to cycle through until you find one you like.  Also the poses don’t seem to be calibrated to the ground.  About two-thirds of the poses are standing poses, which generally work out all right.  But most of the poses that would involve sitting or lying seem to either leave you floating in mid-air or buried under the floor.  And I don’t know how to either delete them for being silly useless poses or to edit them, either by adjusting the actual pose or temporarily adjusting my relationship with the floor.  So it is an OK tool, better I guess than not having it, but hardly anything I feel excited about or want to recommend to friends and followers.

Case in point: Pose b#22, creepily floating in midair...

Case in point: Pose b#22, creepily floating in midair…

I can tout and recommend my AO.  I’d tried several AO’s in my time, most basic, minimal AO’s.  Since I found TuTy’s, I have stayed cheerfully locked into this one.  My AO is a 3-in-1 model.  The default is “Brooklyn Girl”, a brash and confident set of animations, but I can also switch off to “Shy Girl” when I want to be a little more demure and quiet or “Sexy Drunk” when I want to move like I’ve been clubbing all night.  The marketplace description also implied I can load dances into the AO and notecards with some of the other TuTy’s animation sets, but again, I haven’t screwed up my courage to try, particularly since I worry my courage may not be all that gets screwed up.  (That said, I already have some other TuTy’s AO’s I’m eying… Barbarella, which is a set of animations for a robot or doll-girl; Girl Child, because I do often let my inner child out;  of course as I look them over, I can’t see any sets that I don’t want.)  Although the Tuty’s AO’s make it harder to take pictures for my blog- they make me move more unless I’m sitting on a pose ball or piece of animated furniture, and even then they keep me a little twitchy and restless- the smoothness and personality within the animations helps keep me properly in my mindset and out of my firsty’s mindset, which is kind of a big deal since although my personality overlaps his in many ways, the differences are kind of crucial.

Otherwise, I have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude with my HUDs.  Even the ones I take, I’m not sure how much is I choose to take them and how much is I’m too lazy/disorganized to throw them in the trash.  Which does a lot to explain why the first things to come to mind when I think of tools I use in my second life are the other blogs that help me feel inspired and motivated rather than the various strays that clutter up my HUD…  I’ll admit I’m actually looking forward to scouting the tools other bloggers use to see if I can get some good ideas/fun toys out of this week’s meme.

Galadhon Park is GORGEOUS!

Galadhon Park is GORGEOUS!

Closing Thoughts: My outfit this post was built around the ‘Thousand Voices’ dress from La Petit Chat, Trinity Yazimoto’s wonderful little boutique.  The pink mini-dress, pink arm band, and the pink ivy tattoo on my leg are all part of the outfit.  The dress actually comes with multiple tattoos, so that you can tattoo your arm, your chest, your leg, or just some of the above.  I didn’t use the chest and arm tattoos because they would have clashed with my SucideGirl.Kisses skin, a pale skin with built in tattoos.  (I believe URCo is the abbreviation for a now-defunct business where I found this skin in a hunt, but I don’t know and my attempts to research in marketplace turned up empty so this skin is officially ‘source unknown’.)  My shape is AladyJessicaAlba, an attempt by Alady Island to match the shape and figure of Jessica Alba.  (I dunno.  I’m not reminded of Jessica Alba when I look at myself, but I wouldn’t be.)  My hair is another Tameless Hair, the Despina, which I picked partly because of the color change headband, which I set to pink to match my dress.  I bought the Despina in the blues and greens fantasy color set, but the bright green nicely fits the whole brightly-colored-punk motif I feel I have going on with this outfit.  Keeping up the bright colors, I accessorized with Vaded, a set of earrings, necklace, and lip piercings from Ellabella, and Blue Ice Creme Lipstick from [DUMB BLOND].  I’m also wearing a razor wire bangle from Grumble, Grumble and black stiletto boots from JStyle.

Also, I used Strawberry as a tool in one more way for this post.  I learned about Calas Galadhon Park from her recent posts, so I came to their sims to take my pictures for this post.  I played with my pose hud and with wind lights, I wandered around like the tourist I am and took selfies.  I’m REALLY pleased with how they came out…

Well, Matt the firsty here.  I once saw a quote somewhere that said one problem is a problem but two problems is an opportunity.  Although this doesn’t always work out, often the second problem provides an opportunity or benefit for dealing with the original problem.  Case in point:

I'll just go shopping while my firsty does the heavy lifting today...

I’ll just go shopping while my firsty does the heavy lifting today…

First problem: Emily wanted to tackle Strawberry’s Practical Joke Meme, but quickly stalled out with a bad case of writer’s block.  Pranks aren’t really her thing, and she had nothing to say.  And while Monday Memes are neither mandatory nor graded, they are nevertheless one of the high points of Em’s week and she didn’t want to miss one, particularly this early in the year.  Second problem: It’s been over a month since I had a chance to do a guest post (back on November 20th, “Smoking Hot”) and I’ve started to nag Emily.  Opportunity: Emily dumped the troublesome writing assignment on me, washing her hands of the entire problem.

I actually have an advantage over Emily in writing about pranks.  Although we are alter egos in the strictest definition of the term, differences between Emily and I continue to accumulate as she explores SL and blogs about it.  Some differences are large: Emily doesn’t like kids and has the maternal instincts of a badger with a toothache, I’m looking forward to the challenge of being a father.  Some differences are minor: I thought “Just One of the Guys” was a just-OK movie, and learned last post that it made a bigger impression on Emily than I knew.  For the obvious reasons, our senses of humor are mostly similar.  They are very dry, especially amused by wordplay, innuendo, and dark comedy.  We also love “hidden camera” style humor (with or without camera) where you get to watch some one react to a situation that just isn’t right.  To me, pranking is an obvious extension of that, engineering the situation to get maximum “that’s not right” effect and a more enjoyable reaction to watch.  Emily doesn’t feel that way.  She may smile at someone else’s prank, but she won’t pull a prank herself.  Mind you, you probably shouldn’t consider yourself 100% safe around her, because Emily and I do occasionally effect each other’s actions…

Maybe the difference is because my father was a prankster.  I grew up with a prankster as a role model, soaking up stories of pranks and practical jokes right along side mother’s milk.  Pranking is in my DNA.  Emily may be my alter ego, my second self, but she didn’t have my dad, and maybe that’s why she’s missing out on the prankster impulse.  Either way, since Emily doesn’t have any good pranking stories, I figured I would turn to the original prankster who gave me my love of the prank, and tell one of his stories.

Never mind the teddy bears, I know what I want for Valentine's...

Never mind the teddy bears, I know what I want for Valentine’s…

My dad was a teacher at a local high school for thirty plus years.  To set the scene, I’ll tell you it was a blue-collar suburban school, mostly factory worker’s kids, most of whom planned on being factory workers themselves, and that this was long enough ago that American factories were still growing rather than outsourcing.  Dad taught there long enough to watch principals come and go, to recognize that education administrations brought lots of ideas, many of which were faddish and foolish, and to pay the appropriate amount of lip service while focusing on preparing his students to seek their futures.  One of the new principals and foolish ideas involved tests.  As we all know from our own school days, teachers like to give tests on Friday.  Not only is the test a logical ending point to the week, but the teacher gets the weekend to grade them.  However one young principal felt that it would be better to give tests on Thursdays.  He reasoned that students get more from tests if they go over the test while it is still fresh, and therefore it made more sense to give tests on Thursday and go over them on Friday rather than letting students have the weekend to distract them from school before they saw their test results.  Rather then try to persuade teachers to see it his way, the principal put a few new rules into place to help enforce his vision.  One of the new rules was that field trips would be forbidden on Thursdays, because Thursday would now be testing day.

My dad thought the principal was off-base.  (Off-base being spelled F-U-L-L-O-F-S-H-I-T.)  So he decided to make a small protest.  He wrote up the paper work for a field trip.  He scheduled his field trip on a Thursday, and not just any Thursday but the Thursday of the home economics class’s big quarter project, the Mock Wedding.  To make it apparent that his field trip was bogus, his field trip was to the Nauga Ranch.  (Like the concept of thriving American factories, this detail helps date this story as being before my time.  To help younger readers, I will explain Naugahyde is an artificial leather, used heavily in the sixties, less common today.  Since it is an artificial leather, there are no actual animals involved in its creation.)  Although my dad was a history teacher, he nevertheless claimed the purpose for his field trip was more suitable for a biology class: for students to witness the process by which the fictional Naugas were slaughtered, skinned, and processed into Naugahyde, and also for students to witness Naugas in the act of fornication.  The field trip proposal included a list of a hundred or so students that my father was taking on the field trip.  Since the field trip was fake, dad went ahead and submitted a list of fake students, with names like Marshall Artz and Jim Shoos.  Since there were a hundred or so students, three buses would be required to transport them.  However, my father was going to be the only adult going on the field trip.  There were probably other flaws and bad ideas hidden within the proposal, but this was enough to make the point.  Arriving at the high school at seven in the morning, my dad dropped his proposal into the principal’s in-box and then went to his class room, waiting to see how long it would take for the principal to call him to his office.

All dressed up, still no place to go...

All dressed up, still no place to go…

Instead he got the proposal back by nine that same morning, signed off and approved not only by the principal but also by the superintendent and the superintendent of bussing.  Who has time to read papers before they sign?

To the man who passed me my prankster gene, this was too much fun to pass up.  Since the fake field trip had been approved, my dad ran with it, letting students know the field trip to the Nauga Ranch was upcoming.  Soon he was being approached by students and parents with myriad concerns.  Several parents wanted him to reschedule the field trip so it would no longer conflict with the Mock Wedding.  Several students wanted to know how they could get added to the list of students going.  A few over-eager nerds even brought dictionaries or encyclopedias to my dad to prove there was no such thing as naugas.  Fortunately, they were easy to deal with.  After all, my dad explained, if he had made up the Nauga Ranch, he never would have gotten the field trip approved, would he?  (I have to smile.  My dad passed away several years ago, and I miss him greatly.  Typing that last line, I can hear his voice, dripping with faux innocence.)

There are other pranks and other stories.  My dad once convinced a class full of students that another teacher, actually younger than he, was the long lost father who had put my dad up for adoption.  With a dishwasher who insisted on wearing his bluetooth at work, I organized the cooks into giving him random calls all day, asking to talk to Satan, and then I called him at the end of the day, putting as much fake growl in my voice as possible, and said, “This is Satan.  Do you have any messages for me?”  While my mom and dad were out of town, my brother and I cleaned their garage (a niceness, not a prank) but used the unusually clean garage as a place to hide their car so that as I picked them up from the airport I could nervously ‘admit’ that I had driven their car, that I had gotten into an accident, and that the car was currently at the shop.  Dad had his doubts- (It’s hard to prank a prankster!)- but I definitely had Mom, and Dad momentarily believed when we rounded the corner and the car wasn’t in the driveway where he left it…  Still, the saga of the nauga has always had a special spot in my memories, and sets the bar high for other pranks to reach.

No one to the left of me, no one to right, here I am stuck in the middle alone...

No one to the left of me, no one to right, here I am stuck in the middle alone…

(OK, Emily here.  Thanks for the assist, Firsty, I’ll post this once I add a few pictures and notes about what I’m wearing.  This super-cute red dress is from Jelly.  It’s called the ‘High Class Hooker’ and I certainly feel classy in this dress.  I don’t feel so much like a hooker, but make me an offer; I’ve always said I’ll try anything once… For my shape I’m wearing the Sara from Blink.  For my skin, I wanted something pale and sexy, so I’m wearing Meya Vampira from Button’s.  My hair is Harmony from Tameless Hair, because I wanted something elegant and classy to match the dress.  For footwear, I grabbed some stockings from Alloro and some stiletto boots from *JStyle.  I also accessorized with some simple hoop earrings, and a small black clutch and my Razor bangles picked up from Grumble, Grumble.  I really like this look: simple, classy, a big change from my usual punk-playful-slutty, and yet still beautiful and sexy.  Remind me to figure out where I found Jelly and to go back and look some more…)