Some Changes to the Station

cropped-toon-andrew.jpgHey folks,

Premature or otherwise, I’ve decided it’s time to start taking my writing a little more seriously. I’ve been calling myself a writer for a long time, but now it’s high time I started putting my money where my mouth is. Or rather, see if other people are ready to put their money down for my writing.

Indeed, as has become common practice for those of us in the free-lance market, I’ve opened myself a Patreon account to start accepting sponsors. Initially, the rewards are pretty simple and light and won’t greatly tax my resources, but this is only initially. As a testing ground, I am going to see if I can start garnering $250 worth of patrons per month before I move on to the next step.

But Kipp, you might be stopping me, don’t there have to be some benefits to sending you my hard earned coinage? Yeah, that makes sense. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, there was a post in the past about how Whyte Gears Articles was a testing ground for an idea I’d been playing with. Time to put that idea into practice.

Whyte Gears Articles, as well as my regular blogging, will remain otherwise available for free users, but sponsors will be entitled to receiving a once-per-week exclusive story, completely new and unrelated to WGA, in their emails for their reading pleasure. These will be going out on Fridays as well, so for people who sign up, they get double the story goodness.

Curious what the story will be? Gotta check out my Patreon page to get some more details (I can’t do all the work for you, now can I?)

As well, to adjust for the slight change in work-load on my part, I’ve also altered the blog post upload schedule for the Station. Instead of Monday and Wednesday mornings, blogs will be posted on Tuesday and Thursday mornings instead. Don’t worry, this post doesn’t count as a blog post for Tuesday, you’ll be getting the regular goodness you come for tomorrow (hint: the topic I have in mind is related to the recent big anime Darling in the FranXX and some social commentaries/inquiries about our own public views withstanding).

Thanks for those of you who still tune in, even after my long hiatus: mental health issues can be a real inconvenience, to say the least.

Let’s see what comes of this new journey, shall we?


Robots, Sex and Adolescence (Darling in the FranXX: Light Thoughts on Sex and Sexual Repression)

20170628_001052-1Mecha anime and I have a tenuous relationship with one another: I love the ideas, concepts and designs behind the mech suits, the technological infusions into more mundane aspects of coming of age stories and sometimes bleak social commentaries about the constraints that the modern world places on the youth to not only magically solve all the problems that they had created in their back-handed, self-serving drive to maintain the status quo, but also to create an ideal future for those self-same power brokers and all at a profitable margin. However, the general tone behind the narrative, the “you possess true, unique power that is a cut above everyone else because = reasons” and general obsession/fetishization of wanton destruction and a death-count for civilians that can rival the first five minutes of most Hollywood natural-disaster/youth-dystopian-sci-fi/Marvel films (not mutually exclusive from one another, but both impart the same sensation of digestive issues but, like, for my brain) is a surprisingly powerful turn-off for me.darling-in-the-franxx-episode-3-image-6

Side note: that whole paragraph is two sentences. Holy hell: actors everywhere should be glad I don’t write scripts for people more often.

Back to the topic at hand, many who follow anime trends fairly closely know about the big advertised anime series for the season: Darling in the FranXX, an oddly named anime with some oddly named everything. Example: Klaxosaurs. It’s just a weird word. I’m still not sure what the writers were thinking with that word. Klax-o-saurs. Just weird.

My interests in pulling apart this anime today stem not from the usual trends: I’m not going to laud the art style, the interesting designs, the flashy fight sequences, et cetera. I’d like to discuss, more so, a common trend I had noticed in some commentaries and criticisms about the show, and what that can potentially mean to our society as a whole.

imagesSurprisingly, the anime almost seems to revel in its own fan-service, but with a certain degree of cynicism added to it that makes the effort more aware than simply trying to pander to the lowest-common denominator. Generally, public commentary about the series I hear is summarized as, “This show is great, but it could do with less sexualisation/fan-service/weird words to describe things” (that last point being broken down further into two schools of thought: weird words like Klaxosaurs, and weird words with perhaps uncomfortable sexual connotations like ‘stamen’).

I find the whole thing curious, to be honest: perhaps one of the biggest criticisms about western culture in general is the abundance of sex and sexualisation in many aspects of our media and consumerism. Yet, when presented with something that is built upon the foundations of trying to understand or express that sexualisation, there is an inherent backlash from the populace at large. In reference to Darling in the FranXX, specifically, we’re being presented with a anime that is not only forcing its characters to come to terms with the literal aspects of sexuality, but the audience to understand all the metaphorical aspects of sex that, maybe three quarters of the time, we blatantly ignore.

I’m sure near anyone can see the face-value sexuality of the show without too much effort: the way the mecha suits are piloted, the tongue-in-cheek rebranding of romantic implications into basic mechanical functions of civilization, the general tone of repressed desire and emotion as expressed by not only the children of the show, but by the very nature of how the adults dress, behave and interact with their world (sterilized white environments, complete enshrouding of personal identity to the point of being entirely indistinguishable from one another, but the general focus on controlling the lives of children by means of forced partnership/mathematical metrics to measure things such as compatibility and mental aptitude), there’s really a lot to pull from what this show is trying to say.

Now, I will say this as a disclaimer: many of the social commentaries the show has better reflect the more hierarchical nature of Japanese society and culture than it does western society, but there are still many lessons to be pulled from it. Most notably, and I feel like I’ve pretty well been harping on this the whole time building up to the primary point: adults controlling the sex and relationship lives of children.

Outside of the realm of arranged marriages, something we don’t hear of too often in Canada (and, presumably, the US, but I don’t live down there and pay only marginal attention these days to the hot mess devolving south of our border), the idea of adults telling kids who they can and can’t date/be with might seem a little unusual. After all, most parents don’t typically set up an exact parameter of traits and conditions for courtship of their offspring. Typically, anyway.

download.jpgCaveat, however: I’m certain you’ve seen various posts online, or hear people parrot, general sentiments of “dating my daughter”. I even, just as typing that last sentence, input “dating my daughter meme” into Google to pull up some specific examples to relate, but the sheer degree of options to choose from kind of reinforces my point. Most of them generally boil down to “I will control what you can and can’t do around her” or “I liek gunz”. In many regards, this reinforces the general sentiment as expressed by DitFXX (double ‘x’ included deliberately to maximize my Scrabble score) of adults controlling the sex lives of children by saying “yeah, there isn’t one”.

Papa-head-of-APENeed some more proof? Take a look at the current and sometimes volatile arguments/debates/witch-hunts involving sex-ed in schools. In many regards, parents are the ones acting in outrage over what lessons children should, or more accurately, should not be being taught. The rationalization for these fears, groundless or otherwise, stem from everything from religion, personal opinion, tv show doctor pseudo-science and online fear-mongering. Regardless of reason, in many cases, parents are generally of the mindset that the best thing we can tell them is very little to nothing.

Of course, even a brief mental exercise to plumb this process to its logical ends has so many dangerous potentials that it makes the whole thing more daunting. Add the wild west of information, the Internet, to that mix, and who knows what, exactly, it is people should believe. Regardless of whatever opinion you possess, you’ll find no shortage of people who think you should be ashamed, in the most mild of cases, of what you think.

If you’ve managed to read between the lines thus far, I’m certain you can deduce where I stand on the issue at hand. In most cases, I’m of firm belief of a more open, thoughtful and acceptable level of sexual discussion. It’s something of an outdated model that we view the whole thing with a level of sanitization that even hypochondriacs would find impressive; more so that we have countless silent methods of reinforcing these beliefs and penalizing people who stray too far down a path that, as a collective, we’ve agreed yet disagreed to adhere to.

Where we go from here is a tremendously complicated question: not in sense of where we should be headed but rather how we should be going about it. Of course, dismantling that topic could take me several hours to research so that I can present it in an at least marginally coherent means, so that won’t be today.

maxresdefaultAt the very least, if you’ve not watched DitFXX, I’d recommend watching it to try to see some of the motifs as mentioned above; and if you have watched it, think on what sort of message the show is trying to convey in its premise. Personally, I’d rather not live in an environment where sex has lost the power to connect peoples in ways that many other forms of communication cannot; nor would I want to live in a world where it is by the decisions of emotionally removed peoples to decide how and where younger generations explore those connections themselves.

30e985543e979ab572aac8912f32686bAs a general aside: Kokoro and Ichigo are best girls in that show; I’ve started wars over less.

Let’s Talk Words, Shall We?

20180227_215541_HDR[1]I’m actually being serious here, or at least, marginally serious: Let’s talk words, shall we? This simple statement is actually a little layered: let’s talk in literal terms, using words instead of metaphors. Or, let’s talk, using our words, instead of in a textual format or replacing thoughts and concepts with entire images or simplified emojis. Or perhaps even let’s talk about the words we use, why we use them, what we hope it is to convey with these words.

But isn’t that kind of the fascinating aspect of language in and of itself? How delightfully varied intonation, intention, and concepts can be even though the words are so similar, if not entirely the same. As a writer, this sort of thing should be the puzzle box I spend hours poking and prodding at, finding new and exciting ways to string these abstract concepts and otherwise meaningless sounds and images together to form bright, new and terrifying ideas that our world has never seen before.

It’s the sort of thing people can spend an entire lifetime studying, thinking about, and playing with, only to end off their time on the mortal coil claiming they are no more an expert on the subject that the day they first started. For language changes, evolves, bends to the wills of the owners of those words. Each mouth is a particularly and peculiarly shaped tool in which to craft these new sensations that others cannot begin to fathom, let alone relay in words of their own. Word smiths, authors, artists, copyrights, patents, images; all these ways to create new thoughts and ideas that not only shape a conversation, but a person as well.

It’s horrifying, frankly; part of the reason why I hate language so much. It’s just a little too abstract; too much room for error. A misplaced inflection on the wrong word can utterly shatter the connected stream of what you intended and what was received. A derailed train, a catastrophic failure. Or some such similar metaphor that might intrigue the senses.

In many senses, it’s that precarious balance of intention that leads to so many break-downs in our own modern dialect. As mentioned, words change with the peoples, perhaps even mid-conversation, and it takes a truly savvy mind to pick up on those minor alterations nearly every occasion. Never mind the changes of intention of word between generations: look back some few decades and read some outdated literature and you can really grasp how things have changed.

I was listening to an unabridged Moby Dick audiobook, and the language seemed so poetic, so enthralling to me. I was enraptured by what I was hearing (also due to, in no small part, the calibre of the performer), but I know full well there are many who would not be able to take interest in such a writing style. This isn’t a shame upon them, rather a difference in dialect. Other people think and speak very differently than I do; where I tend to rely on a more outdated and somewhat “high England” based language structure (not a real thing, but the image is already in your mind), much of the younger generation relies on a more concise, information dense language to convey ideas.

Which is, in and of itself, much more beneficial than the way I convey language. My method is derived, I’m not going to lie, mostly to pad out the length of my thoughts and make my language reflect a persona I wish to portray in my written works. I like people to think I’m more educated or more intelligent than I typically am: the back pocket of the pants I’m presently wearing is literally ripping off and has been for several months now. Not nearly as high-brow, right?

This leads to additional issues. We present fake personalities to people we don’t know. To change who we are, we alter not only our physical characteristics, but our verbal and somatic ones as well. Think on the differences briefly of how you talk when meeting someone you highly respect and want to impress, as opposed to someone you’ve spent years around. The words change, the tone changes. In the few cases where I see someone who genuinely does not act any differently, it’s due to them having mastered the fine art of not caring what other people think of them.

And we all know what people whisper behind their backs: “He’s such a jerk,” or “She’s so conceited,” or “Who do they think they are?”

We speak differently, if only to portray ourselves in a desired light. When we speak differently, agitation can rise. This thought was very recently driven home to me when I read an article about the recent Black Panther movie. The article itself was very well written and, in many aspects, I largely agreed with the underlying message. So why, then, was something irritating me about the way it was written? Something that got my blood pressure to rise ever so little; not enough to induce a rage but just enough to make me realize that I was being bothered.

Toxic Masculinity. This is, literally, the phrase that was bothering me: nothing else. The message behind it was something I agree with, but the specific phrase, “Toxic Masculinity” bothered me to no end. More-over, it was the degree of repetition that agitated me, for reasons I still don’t fully understand myself (and I’m certain any number or reasons will either be provided or thrown at me, reader preference). Those two words are deliberately charged to incite an emotion, a particular idea, a very specific response from different demographics. To some, its two words of validation, to others: vindication. For some, it’s a cry for change, and for others it’s a war call to rally against.

Two words can incite heated and, occasionally, violent discussion or discourse. And I’m only talking about the words themselves: not the ideology behind them or what those words represent. The power of words to instill anger, grief, joy, ecstasy, whatever. Words as magic, words are magic. In a sick sort of way, a wild magic that has been gifted to each and every person in a cornucopia of different languages and incompatibilities; a magic that ebbs and flows with age and understanding, and even lack-thereof.

What, then, do we do to control such magic? Do we control it? Should we control it? I’ve seen arguments on all sides for all different ideologies: some who say conversation and discourse should be held in a mild, composed manner. Others who claim that speaking from pure emotion is the only way to have meaningful conversation. Still others who claim that speaking any words is a sure way to weaken the resolve of one’s position. We go to school to learn how to master language, we hone the craft on the streets, and we evaluate our own dialogue in our own minds.

For myself, my mastery of language (if it can even be called that) did not come from a classroom. It came from hours and hours of putting thoughts onto paper, trying to find better, more interesting ways of saying what I thought. Better: a weak way itself of phrasing that sentiment. In that case there, I chose better, but despite having put it down and continuing to write, I even now itch to go back and change the word. In my mind, the magic that the word “better” instills does not produce the desired result. In some cases, and for many, “better” would have been the perfect word to use. Beyond perfect, even.

With all this variation, with all these disagreements: how are we to have conversation? Can we even have conversation? Is it possible.

Optimists would say yes, cynics would say no, linguists would say verisimile.

At least, I assume that’s Latin; I used Google Translate because I don’t speak in dead languages; I barely speak the present one I frequently bastardize for my own selfish ends.

As you might have guessed, I have no answers on the subject at hand. After all, who am I to claim I know better than anyone else? My command of language is, honestly, no better than that of an English scholar, or that of a Russian store clerk, or that of a Hindi farmer. It’s kind of the terrifying point, really: we speak all these wildly different dialects with a vast array of different ideas behind them, and for wholly different reasons. So what, then, is the point of words?

Why do we even talk words?

To share. Perhaps the only thing all forms of language has in common: to share. Ideas, news, experiences. Language is a tool to unite minds to a cohesive experience; perhaps not a perfect tool, but one none the less. Language has evolved over millennia, centuries and even minutes: look back at this own article for proof. Three times I changed the way I wrote, twice bearing similarities but different inflection even. To share an experience I was having before I sat down to this empty word doc: a random little thought that trundled through my mind as I was pondering what to write and how.

I shared a portion of my own mind to you, reader. And in turn, you’ve now made it a part of your own. These words will now go on to shape who you become, in some small way, perhaps even an insignificant one; but you will be changed by it all the same. It’s not just the power of my words, either: everyone has this innate power and magic at our disposal. This odd little miracle of sharing parts of our minds with other isolated, but intimately connected, organisms.

So, let’s talk words, shall we?

Seven Years of Antics

20180226_120515[1]My mind works in a never-ending parade of fascinations and borderline-obsessions: for several months I’ll be fixated on my miniature painting, then I’ll switch over to being engrossed with fiction writing, after a half year of that I’ll surround myself with gaming as the thing I cannot stop thinking about, et alia. I’ve been like this pretty well my whole life, and I’m not entirely certain if it’s a by-product of my ADD, or just a peculiar quirk I personally possess.

Up until quite recently, anime had been my mind-engrossing obsession, as anyone who’s been reading this blog for the past few months can attest as at least half my material has been anime centric in some way, shape or form. And while anime is still a focused point of my life these days, my mind has been priming itself for my new fixation: the world of Live Action Role-Play. To anyone not familiar: Google it. I’m sure you’ll turn up something that’ll explain it succinctly in some way, shape or form.

For myself, LARP has always been a degree of freedom and/or challenges that has forced my own psyche to change, for better or worse. I’ve been LARPing now some ought seven years this coming summer, and at least six and a half of that has been in the realm of playing my particular character: “the Grinning Fox, Yuurri, the World’s Most Dashing Rogue (in Training, of Course)”.

Yuurri Forest

This picture is really old; from either my second or third event as this character

Normally, I wouldn’t spend much time reminiscing about the ebb and flow of this character’s interactions in game, since he’s been an oddly stabilizing, if erratic, presence within my particular LARP chapter’s world. He’s outlasted wars between infernal and celestial hosts, a conspiracy of lycanthropes and the crown, the rise and fall of entire noble houses, as well as skirted the fringes of not one, but two wars.

For anyone whose LARPed themselves before, it’s actually a pretty standard resume for the average adventurer, (in the classic Fantasy-genre sense, at least). But due to recent events, Yuurri’s ambitions have lead him to stand opposed to those he used to stand shoulder to shoulder with, and it’s been cause for some reflection on my part.

Most predominantly on my mind has become the mortality and life this character I’ve come to be associated with. In its own surreal way, the character has become just as real and alive as I, myself, am. Within particular circles, my character has a lasting impression that I could never hope to possess myself, due entirely to his actions, choices and, most notably, personality. Yuurri would be able to handle himself in situations I could never confidently navigate, whereas the opposite is just as true.

Evil LingersBut, the very real possibility is that this character, this alter-ego of mine, might very well find himself put to the executioner’s axe and his story to come to a close. That looming sense of finality is oddly compelling: what awaits beyond in my own life without that personality I’ve come to be known as, and similarly, what will become of the world he’d be leaving behind in his death?

While there are entire branches of philosophy dedicated to such questions, yet it’s quite difficult to explore in the world surrounding since, pending either very elaborate social experiments or research methods actually involving someone’s death, there are few ways to explore this possibility on a personal level. And despite not being able to call this a perfect analogy, it still bears enough similarities to operate as a jump-off point for further mental musings.

After all, this character, persona even, has been a part of my life for just shy of a quarter of my existence on this mortal coil. Anyone thinking on it might be able to draw parallels to similar occasions where something, or someone, who had been a part of their life for just as long and was removed from contact by one means or another: the missing piece is notable to say the least. I’ve been through a lot of changing experiences with this persona as a fall-back point, almost a grounding point, to keep some form of continuity in my own life.

AN Yuurri 1It’ll be interesting to see what transpires next: whether by choices I make or consequences outside of my control that this character, this part of me, comes to a conclusion. And more importantly, it’ll be interesting to see how it affects not only myself, but those around. How often, after all, does one get to attend their own funeral?

A Curveball, a Rollercoaster, a Paradigm Shift

20170816_150524I think it’s safe to say that, at one point or another, we’ve been there: on a course or path that we’ve chosen and with full confidence in where we’re headed. The mile-markers (or would kilometer markers be more appropriate?) have been tacked and, not to belabor the metaphor, the destination in mind. There’s a particular comfort in a certainty in this idea. A kind of determination that helps keep the darker days more manageable and give credit to the idea that I am moving forward in life as opposed to stagnation.

As a brief aside, a small note about the feeling of stagnation to those not acclimatized to depression or those who suffer it. We live in a world where there are very clearly defined parameters of what we should be doing and by when. If you think on it for a moment or two, I’m sure you can do up your own little list: go to school, go to high school, work a crappy part-time job, go to post-secondary, meet someone there and fall into step with them, work a crappy full time job, start a family, begin career, reproduce, then watch your offspring repeat your steps. This is heavily ingrained into our culture and reflects every aspect of western life.

When you live with depression, everything takes more effort and takes longer, it would seem. I’m a ripping 27 years old, and I’m still far from where I thought I would be ten years ago. Is ripping a good descriptive word to use before age? I dunno, but we’ll stick with it for now. On multiple occasions over my life, especially in these past three or four years, I’ve felt a particular unease about where I am in life. The lack of going somewhere or being something by this age is something I’m acutely aware of, and reminders of how far “behind” I am are everywhere.

In moments, I’ll begin resuming what most would consider “forward momentum” in my life: either attending to some form of education or settling into what I would expect to be a long-term job. Hells, this blog started as an effort to start hammering together something of a long-term career for myself as a self-made author. Before that, I was settling into that aforementioned long-term job in an environment I seemed to do well in. Before that, I was attending courses at the Adult Learning Center nearby (this last point is quite relevant).

Once again, I was at this ALC trying to get my high school mark upgraded. I had survived my first two terms, passing three courses (one of which was the source of a great deal of grief in years past when I was at this center before) and was saddling up for my last three courses. Beyond the half-way point, let’s do this thing.

I was hesitant and apprehensive, as these last three courses I was being faced with were math classes. Math and I have a very specific understanding of one another: mutual distrust and hatred, among other things. Well, if I want to go to university for psychology, I need to do this thing: let’s do the thing!

That was the beginning of January. As of a week and a half ago now, I had dropped out of the program and was, once again, stuck in stagnation. My mental health had collapsed (as it has done many times before and will invariably do many times again in my life), I was thoroughly disheartened with how poorly I was doing in the only course I had this term (university level, grade 11 Functions), and I was struggling with reconciling who I was trying to be and what I was trying to accomplish.

Now, when you’re faced with an impasse, it’s important to carefully plan your next move. I could stay in math and try to bludgeon out something resembling a passing mark: it wouldn’t be a great mark, but it’d earn me the credit. The problem with this was that I barely, if at all, understood the material, and the two courses I had to take next were much more advanced and required a complete understanding of these “basics”. Odds were not in my favour there.

I could drop out of the course. Not a great plan, as I had already dropped a few hundred dollars on university applications and was pulling in very close to deadlines for re-applying to programs; but it would save me a great deal of stress and alleviate a lot of burden from my mind. From there, it would be a matter of deciding where to go from there: pursue different education avenues or re-evaluate life direction.

Sufficed to say, dropping the course was simply the better choice. True, it screwed me out of many opportunities I had struggled to achieve for the four months prior, but I was very likely setting myself up for brutal failure or disappointment with my current trajectory. Don’t misunderstand, though: it was still a hard, and very upsetting decision. I was defeated, once again, by the education system that I needed in order to accomplish my goals in life.

Then, cue the follow-up punch to the jab I had just been served: I was summarily laid off my job. Recent economic changes in our province’s employment policies has created a great deal of uncertainty in business owners about viability, and I’d heard a statistic on the radio that the month of January had seen the largest increase in unemployment in over three decades (I’ll not claim this as fact as I do not recall the source cited by the report, so take this with a grain of salt. Or several). More importantly, I had failed in the courses I was taking, I had lost my job, and was being met with a plethora of mixed emotions with other news.

Many of my closest friends have been in stable relationships for a long time, and of them, perhaps close to half are presently or shortly to be engaged/married. Try to suspend your disbelief, but I am shockingly single, and haven’t been on anything resembling a date in the past two or three years. And as anyone who contends with depression can attest: it’s easy to feel alone when your brain is working against you; doubly so when you see things you wish you could have but, for one reason or another, cannot attain.

In fairly nearly everything I had been pursuing these past several months, everything had failed. I was, once again, locked in a state of stagnation: not moving forward, not moving backward. Simply not moving.

An odd thing has transpired, though. Despite all these set-backs, these severe blows to my confidence and life direction, I’m not broken by it. Not irreparably so, at least. In fact, I still trudge forward. The feeling is queer to me, I promise you that: logically speaking these set-backs should almost cripple my ability to do very nearly anything, but this time has not.

I’d share my secret if I knew it, but there are still too many x-variables I need to mull through. Perhaps it’s a change in medication on my end, perhaps it’s the rolling of the calendar and re-focusing on direction, perhaps something in my brain has finally started to tick properly. I don’t know.

But if anything, I’m still moving. Perhaps not forward, and not in the same direction that our western culture has dictated I should, but its motion. I haven’t the foggiest where my future is going to be, but I plan on getting there one way or another.

Preferably with a slightly more consistent upload schedule. Sorry again about not keeping to that :/

“More Than Just a Pretty Face” – Cosplayer Profile: Anniechie Designs

20170913_110023_HDRMy never ending journey to fully, or even marginally, fathom the exact nature of mental health issues leads me through many retrospectives. There is, after all, no shortage of things to ponder: what specific events lead me to this point? Why does it seem that chronic anxiety tends to affect particular demographics more visibly than others? Of the frequent thoughts I have, are they unique to my own mind or do others experience similar?

Sufficed to say, many of these questions are some that I certainly cannot answer just by puzzling it out on my own. Cue sudden idea: I’ll talk to someone else about it. Truly, I am a genius of untold proportions, eh?

But, more-over, I had this particular thought while breezing through my Facebook feed, as one is prone to doing when they’ve nothing better going on (or whatever social media app it is people use these days; I can’t be bothered to keep up with the changes). This is when I scrolled over another of the plentiful photos of cosplayers I follow online. In particular, an otherwise anonymous figure by name of Annie.

Now, for those who don’t know who Anniechie is (to specify, pronounced Annie-ch-ee; you’d not believe how much time I spent figuring that out before I just came out and asked her), she’s an Ontario-based cosplayer who predominantly focuses on video game characters for her creations, even more specifically from the Legend of Zelda universe. I’ve been following her work for some odd two years now, I think, and only have communication with her because she made the mistake of commenting on one of my sister’s old vlogs she made.


Lissa photo courtesy of Soulfood Photography

For starters, most of us are accustomed to a certain degree of professional distance that online personas don when interacting with their fans. I can’t blame them either: these are people who we don’t know and their motives can be suspect at best of times (for further proof, just search online for stories of web-based harassment for those in the cosplay community from anonymous/near-anonymous fans). But, Annie isn’t quite like that.

No, she possesses a very small-community mindset when talking with her fan base (because I find it impossible to believe that I’m the only one she talks to like this). We’d communicated once or twice, at the very least, to coordinate marking her social media link to the aforementioned vlog to give credit where credit is due. Not only was she very polite, but she seemed uncannily cheerful as well.

Getting back a few paragraphs now, I got wondering about my present conundrum about those who suffer anxiety and what their experiences are like. Sure enough, there’s one of Anniechie’s photos and I thought, “I wonder…”

I reached out and she responded. Indeed, she does suffer from some nasty anxiety issues, and furthermore, was more than happy to share some of her experiences with as many people as possible: “I am really happy it’s a topic that more people are covering since the more it is talked about, the more people will be able to face their anxiety or depression problems since they may not be as scared too.” It also takes a great deal of strength and emotional fortitude to come forward about these issues, especially for those who are in the world of cosplay.

Think on it this way: many people turn to their idols for strength, compassion, or escapism from their issues. It can severely tarnish a fan’s faith in those they look up to if you find out that they, too, suffer from similar issues. However, the converse may be true as well; in an online world where simply smiling and looking perfect is what people flock to the most, opening up yourself to that potential judgement can be daunting.

2016 CoTiCon-4758

Symphony and Silk Cosplay LITERALLY lifting me up” -Anniechie

As you might have guessed with Annie, this isn’t the case. A Master-level cosplayer who not only shares her photos about her various projects, but she’s also earnest and open about her anxiety issues. It’s something that’s been a part of her life for quite a long time now, earliest recollections going back to the “sweet sixteen” part of adolescence. Most curiously, however, Annie (not sure if she’d be okay with my just calling her Ann… or An… or A…), it took her some time to realize what, exactly, it was she was experiencing.

It’s about that time when, for most teenagers in North America, you’re in high school. Certainly, there is a great deal to be anxious about: classes, futures, social life, work life, talking to that cutie you’ve had a crush on since forever, etc. And Annie thought this was very much the case for her: just a normal experience for a high schooler to be going through. And besides, other people have it far worse, so just suck it up, right?

For about a year, this was her mentality: I don’t have it that bad, so I shouldn’t feel this way. In hindsight, she’s thankful that she finally came forward and sought help, where she was diagnosed with chronic anxiety and started to receive proper treatment for it.

Now, every professional who’s worth the degree on their wall will tell you that simply medication alone will not solve the problem. It’s also about lifestyle: finding means to combat those nervous landslides that envelope their unfortunate victim. Surprisingly to me, but perhaps not to others: cosplay itself was a great source of strength for Annie.


“Myself as Esmeralda with Tsuki No Star Dust and Mae-Gwyn at a local cosplay meet up” – Anniechie

I mean, I was (and to a lesser extent, am still) very impressed to hear that not only her personal cosplay page, but the community by large is the source of a great deal of positivity in her life. After all, we’ve all heard the horror stories of cosplayers, especially those of the female variety, who are harassed by people with poor senses of boundaries, or the petty fights over misunderstandings that can result in some very bad publicity for the community on the whole.

Think the Logan/Jack Paul YouTube debacle, but for a community that already gets a bad enough rap as is. Lookin’ at you, Heroes of Cosplay: you were bad and you should feel bad!

“Oh those types of horror stories have occurred to me, just not on the same level as other cosplayers or even some of my friends,” she confessed “I’ve never had a situation where it got dangerous, it’s always just been annoying things online, never a situation in person as far as I can remember. Some online apparently associate female cosplayers with the wrong idea- as you and I both know, cosplayer does not equal “nerdy prostitute” as some may think it does.”

“If anything my cosplaying has a VERY positive impact on my anxiety problems. Sewing, crafting, and usually most things that keep my hands busy help me to calm down, and creating things really helps me keep my mind off of small things that could eventually develop into anxiety. The most positive thing about cosplay though is the confidence it gives me.”

And when you really think about it, it makes a great deal of sense: I’m not a cosplayer myself, but I can certainly imagine how amazing it’d feel to put hours and hours and hours and hours and then a few more hours into a project, assemble it, then just enjoy yourself while in costume. I’ve been to nerd conventions, I know how a well made cosplay can make me excited just as the person looking at it. It shows a sense of community that’s hard to create outside of the cosplay world itself.

Even if the cosplay isn’t Hollywood level, even seeing someone put something together from a game/show/book you love hits a special little place that says “WHAT? YOU LOVE THAT THING?! I ALSO LOVE THAT THING! THAT’S AMAZING!”

Capitals represented appropriately.


Mae-Gwyn Cosplay giving me a surprise hug while I’m dressed as Tetra, photo by Jason Setnyk Photography” -Anniechie

When it comes to the specifics of what Annie chooses to cosplay, I made an observation that turned out to be quite accurate. Amongst her repertoire of various characters (all of which you should go check out and appreciate as soon as you’re done here) are characters like Zelda, Merida, Lissa, and Sakura. Those familiar with those characters and where they’re from: congratulations, you may stay. All these characters are powerfully minded, confident in their goals, and much more than just another pretty face. It’s facts like that that draws Annie to her particular creations, “A character’s personality can make or break my decision to cosplay as them, so I won’t usually just cosplay something solely because it’s pretty. I would consider myself a bit of a feminist so a strong female character can really stand out to me. I really just have a strong admiration for strong female characters as when I was younger and felt quite weak mentally they had something I wished I had- confidence.”

“And you’d be surprised how confident one can feel dressed as these characters, it’s actually pretty awesome.”

And isn’t that the point of our idols? To represent that which we aspire to be and want to see more of in ourselves? Speaking as someone who also lack confidence in himself, Annie’s work and her ability to bring these characters to life is astounding and fills me with a sense of awe that’s hard to express in words properly. What I see standing there is someone who is bursting with a degree of confidence that I wish I possessed.

Perhaps that’s the biggest take-away from all this? Annie’s various works all look like they’re of someone who is un-phased in the face of adversary, of one who knows precisely what they want and how to obtain it, and never second-guesses their ideals. Beneath that, however, is someone very human, very real. Annie, not unlike countless others all around the world, battles her own internal war against anxiety. She was fortunate: family and friends who support her during her bad times, the ability to receive help and treatment to make her mental health livable, and an outlet that gives her the support and positivity to keep doing what she loves most.

Based on what she’s said to me in the past, she’ll be finishing her post-secondary program and venturing into the world of design to bring her unique values and views to a larger audience. To reflect this, her Facebook page was renamed Anniechie Designs, and I for one very much look forward to what sort of world she helps to create.

Before we go, though, I’d like to offer one last story she shared with me. It speaks volumes to those who are debating getting into the world of cosplay and have their own self-doubts. I’ve not yet the pleasure to see Annie performing on the Cosplay Contest stage myself, but based on the video clips I’ve encountered, she seems completely comfortable and at home before an audience.


“Myself as Zelda and several friends of mine all being goofs at a masquerade award ceremony” -Anniechie

Spoiler alert: this was not always the case: “I entered my first masquerade when I was nearly 17 years old, basically at the peak of my anxiety problems. At this time I would cry and become a mental little mess with just the idea of doing skits in front of my small class of 20; yet I decided to enter a masquerade because I wanted to push myself and I had always dreamed of entering one since I was a kid. And, even though I was a shaky nervous mess backstage during the green room and judging periods, I ended up enjoying myself a LOT! Once I got on stage I just felt so wonderful and enjoyed myself so much. Even today it’s the same. Entering masquerades and performing on stage is almost like a confidence boost or a type of “high” for me, I’m rather addicted to it because I enjoy the atmosphere of performing, hanging out backstage and meeting a bunch of new people and the like.”

“So yes, cosplay has helped me tremendously, and a good part of that is because masquerades push me hard to improve myself in more ways than just improving my costumes”


Check out Annie’s Various pages to give her your support:
Website/Weebly Site:
Instagram: @anniechiedesigns

Not His Finest Dish, But a Solid Effort

20180114_171514[1]It can be a remarkable occasion to dine on a classic Italian dish, and such an event can be made all the more important with proper preparations and attention to the smallest of details. I, of course, am no stranger to the Chef’s works; invariably I tend to refer to myself as something of a connoisseur of his various masterpieces. Perhaps before I fully grade his Lasagna dish, I must go about exploring the circumstances leading up to this review, for that will clearly add a flavour all of its own.

The day had been a slow one and, indeed, I sought the particular comforts of a hearty and wholesome meal to recharge my aching body. It had been a long weekend of great physical exertion and work, as well, there is a great deal of work before me in these coming days. As such, on this rare day off (or, at the very least, one of minor tasks) I wanted to feast on something that would fill not only my physical being with comfort, but something that could recharge my very soul and steel myself for the labours ahead.

With such in mind, I turned to an old friend and sought what I knew he could deliver. The Chef had a recipe that I had yet to try, and being something of a person with a refined pallet, I was hesitant to go outside my comfort zone. However, I relented after a time and decided that it was, indeed, as good a time as any to try his particular spin on a classic Lasagna.

Preparations certainly didn’t take long; I had to busy myself with collecting my thoughts on what other tasks I was to complete today all the same, so the wait passed by quite well. Besides, the atmosphere was titillating, what with that small infusion of anticipation for something that was to arrive. The seating, I admit, was uncomfortably familiar; I had sat in that chair on many an occasion while waiting for the meal to be ready. It harkened back to images of a cozy country kitchen, actually, and I could very nearly imagine the sights around of a traditional Italian vista spreading far below and around me as the Chef took to his task.

As said, the preparations did not take long, and the meal was served. The temperature upon arrival was, perhaps, the most perfect I had encountered with this particular cooking method I had encountered in a long time. The heat was neither intense nor lacking; rather it was carefully and craftily set for a warming experience.

Presentation was exactly how I had come to expect it as well: being no stranger to the Chef’s dishes, I immediately recognized the low, square platter he had used. White china, but with a pleasing, if simple, blue floral pattern around two sides of the dish. It complimented the red sauce used quite well, in fact, bringing more attention to the veritable cornucopia of spices used to flavour that tomato and onion-based sauce.

The pasta base, itself, was nothing revolutionary: nor did it need to be. Had the Chef tried to get creative with the wheat-based shell, I fear it would have only harmed the intended end of this meal. Instead, it seemed to soften the savoriness of the sauce, which used a clever balance of familiar spices into a unique experience. For certain I could taste oregano and garlic, but I might have detected a hint of Bay leaf as well, though I could not be certain.

The beef was a bit dry, however; overcooked or just of bad stock I cannot say for certain. The dryness did detract from the experience, but not to an overwhelming degree. The bigger issue lies with the consistency of the whole creation. There seemed to have been almost a dry, granular quality to the consumption of the lasagna, and it actually harmed the overall sensation.

I have had the pleasure of the Chef’s raviolis and beefaroni on many an occasion, and it always brings pleasure to every ounce of my being. This time, however, the Chef had changed his direction with the sauce he used. It has hints of the original flare that he infused into his other works, but there seems to have been a shift in concept behind this particular attempt.

And I can safely reject the idea that it was a fluke of procedure; the Chef is well known for his consistency in dishes and concoctions, so I am very comfortable in my declaration that this was his intended end.

Overall, I can say that Chef Boyardee’s Lasagna was a good, solid attempt, but it was simply not to my liking. I will be certain to call upon his culinary expertise in the future, but this dish will be a one time experience, to be sure.