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the lockdown time vortex

kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti
welcome back to honest to blog (working title), a hopefully-weekly newsletter with thoughts about writing, movies, music, science fiction and fantasy stories, and general creative process blah.

is it really the 24th of april? how, and also why, did this happen?
i found this on twitter and i feel personally attacked.
i found this on twitter and i feel personally attacked.
heyyyy. it’s been a minute.
i will admit i’ve struggled to think creatively this last couple of weeks. some days, i found it hard to think at all. one of my housemates came down with The Thing (in all likelihood, and according to several doctors), as did my partner. i injured my shoulder from carrying too many groceries (!), fell into a bit of a slump that involved mostly sleeping and intermittently socialising online, and then suddenly i blinked and here we are, almost three weeks later.
it’s been, as we say on the internet, A Time.
what has fascinated me is scrolling through twitter and seeing that this experience is by no means mine alone:
March lasted 3 years while April going by in 4 minutes
(good god, look at all those likes. that’s crazy.)
there’s a few reasons why this might be happening for so many people. the chief one circulating online is that now that we’re all settled into this new normal of just being at home, not able to divide up the week by going out and doing our usual activities, it’s so much easier for the days to blend together. march was still peak uncertainty, and we were all checking the news and waiting on updates from work and from the government. not that we’re any more certain about anything now, mind, but now the major updates are slower and we’ve gotten used to that, so april just whooshed by.
i never developed covid-19 symptoms. i was either asymptomatic or immune by the look of things, since we’re pretty sure what my housemate had was the real deal. my partner’s getting better too, so all’s well that ends well, i suppose…? it should feel like a victory but i really just feel kind of empty about the whole thing.
one thing of note: watching my best friend and my partner separately fight this thing, it cannot be understated that it is a bad bitch, and you do not want to catch it or spread it. please, please stay safe and careful. i know that maybe the temperatures outside—in the UK, at least—will tempt you to throw a tiny bit of that caution to the wind, but you can’t afford to do that. even a mild case can feel like the worst thing you’ve ever had, and for the immuno-compromised people in your life and the lives of those around you, it could spell a horrible, horrible time. it should go without saying, but based on some social media updates i’ve seen the last couple of days… maybe saying it more might help.
as i get back on track with ~activities~ and creative projects from the comfort of my little workstation in my smol bedroom, i wanted to impart some thoughts i’ve had over this nebulous period:
  • i rather enjoy going through the day not really caring what time it actually is, but looking at the sun’s position in the sky instead. it makes sense in a way i’d never experienced before. my favourite time of day—a concept i wasn’t even familiar with tbh—is the late afternoon, when the sun hits my bedroom window just right and i get to read a book while listening to soft music and the chirping of birds outside. part of me is going to mourn going back to the hustle rhythms i was used to before, whenever that ends up happening.
  • i miss hugs. a lot.
  • the last week or so has seen all my different friend-groups amass together for (mostly) film-related quizzes. shoutout to my pals at filmageddon, who put on a spectacular show last week via twitch, and continue to jazz things up every wednesday with remixed rounds from their illustrious history. my team, #teampenis (don’t ask), placed joint 7th out of 400 teams last week—let’s see how we do in may!
  • some days i’ve had multiple zoom calls and catch-ups back to back, and it took me a while to realise that this much social interacton can even leave me, a self-proclaimed social butterfly, emotionally drained in ways that normal one-to-one coffee dates or friends’ parties in the Before Times did not. while yes, all we have now is time, and we don’t need to factor in transport time and having spending money when arranging online hangouts, it’s important to factor in your energy levels, and all the other things going on in your life—and it’s crucial to pace yourself however you see fit. if that weekly zoom call with pals is proving to be a lot for you right now, here’s an article on how to politely say no to virtual plans.
  • remember my little list of live and filmed theatre offered for free online? well, andrew lloyd webber is showing his musicals one by one every weekend on youtube, and i got to revisit phantom of the opera last week and mannn, i forgot how much i love that show, warts and all. this weekend they’re showing the sequel, love never dies, which i’ve heard surprisingly good things about.
  • my favourite quarantine food discovery: a turkish chocolate pudding called supangle, or just sup. though i’ve generally been eating ridiculously healthy while in lockdown, this is something i absolutely could not resist. big thanks to my local turkish food shop for carrying the instant mix and introducing me to this delight.
how have you been these last few weeks? is the cabin fever real for you yet? what’s been keeping you going? let me know pls <3
in #ConTamination news, we now have a website and socials. we’ve formed a small, transatlantic organising committee, and are working on various big-picture bits and bobs.
it’s ticking along, perhaps a little slower than i’d like, but then again, so is everything else in my life right now, and i’m starting to learn how to deal with that. i’m definitely pumped about it, and i think it’s going to be quite a fun event.
if you’re interested in positive outlook thinking about the current situation, viewed through a science and science-fiction lens, go give us a follow and stay tuned for registration news soon!
(and if you’re interested in volunteering, drop us a line!!)
the review that was promised: fullmetal alchemist: brotherhood.
when lockdown first began, athena sat me down to watch fma:b, one of her favourite anime of all time. originally aired in 2009, it’s widely hailed as one of the best anime series ever produced. and yet, i refused to watch it for years.
see, in 2003, there was another fullmetal alchemist series, which purposefully diverged quite severely from the manga it was based on, under request from the author, or manga-ka, hiromu arakawa, who wanted time to work on her manga without feeling pressured to wrap up the storyline before that series finished airing. the animation studio heeded her request, and came up with their own storyline for the main conspiracy/mystery of the show, and tbqh, it worked. that was one of the first anime i loved, one of my entry points into the genre as a whole, and i didn’t feel the need to revisit a story that would be similar but simultaneously different to the one i’d enjoyed. i’m a continuity purist like that—it’s why me and the x-men movies don’t get along so well anymore.
but best friends are an exception, and after years of her hounding me to sit down and watch this, well, lockdown happened, and what better time to binge a new thing than when you’re stuck at home 24/7?
meet alphonse (left, 14) and edward (right, 15) elric, two brothers and alchemists working for the state military government of their country. a few years prior to the beginning of the main story, ed and al attempted to bring their mother back from the dead using alchemy, with devastating results: the attempt did not work, because you can’t bring people back from the dead, and the brothers lost parts of their bodies as punishment for committing the ultimate taboo. al lost his entire body, ed lost his left leg, and in an effort to keep alphonse alive he also gave his right arm to keep al’s soul attached to that there armour. the series follows them as they join the military in an effort to research how to get their bodies back, but they get entangled in a dark political game where the lives of millions of people are used as pawns in the quest for the biggest philosopher’s stone ever made… and their dad may or may not be directly involved.
very obviously, my fave anime sub-genre could be classified as ‘super happy fun times’.
naturally, i spent a lot of time comparing this to the 2003 anime, but the similarities end relatively early, and the rest of this show is honestly so different that it felt like reading alternative universe fanfiction. (i suppose, one could argue, that’s what the 2003 series was in the first place.) it didn’t take long to pull me into its gripping narrative, which is a lot more sprawling than what i expected, and features a huge cast of well-rounded, flawed characters i genuinely came to love by the end. brotherhood does a much better job of exploring subplots and character storylines that don’t have a direct connection to the elric brothers; the focus of the 2003 series was on the brothers and their quest almost exclusively, with a much more personal, much less political conspiracy at the heart of the plot.
i will admit i enjoyed the intricate ways in which these multiple subplots come together eventually in brotherhood. the elric brothers are still very much in the centre of everything, but their involvement sometimes feels accidental. they aren’t ‘the chosen ones’ as much as the heroes who just happen to be there at the right place, at the right time (or the wrong place and time, depending on your outlook), and that can be refreshing. the animation was upgraded too, as can be expected from a six year gap, although the designs and aesthetic was pretty much the same. there were also some strong neon genesis evangelion vibes about the last boss fight, which i found really amusing given that it’s athena’s favourite anime of all time. some tropes and aesthetics never leave us, it would seem…
speaking of tropes, remember the comedic-purpose screaming that was absolutely fine (nay, commonplace) in the aughts? it is so out of vogue in 2020 that it felt jarring to watch an anime with this much screaming in it at times. not that there isn’t screaming in current anime; it’s just not the main comedy relief trope anymore, even in the most popular action-heavy shonen titles, like my hero academia. i, for one, am very grateful for that.
(in an effort to find you guys a compilation of examples, i stumbled across an explanation video as to why anime characters scream so much, which was surprisingly interesting and educational. i still don’t like the screaming, but i understand a little better now.)
lastly, like i mentioned in a previous edition of this newsletter, i loved the soundtrack of the 2003 series way better than brotherhood. nb: i don’t mean the opening and ending themes, but the score of the anime proper. there were several moments in brotherhood where themes would play on the wrong emotional cues, to the point of ruining a scene for no good reason. in contrast, the 2003 series had golden themes like this:
Fullmetal Alchemist Ost  - Bratja
Fullmetal Alchemist Ost - Bratja
i rest my case.
overall, fullmetal alchemist: brotherhood absolutely deserves a watch, and i would even posit that it’s a great introduction to anime for the un-initiated. it’s got everything: interesting worldbuilding (though not without its holes; looking at you, mixed fashions and technologies), deeply human characters you’ll come to care about, a plot that neatly ties all loose ends together, and also this badass army general:
i mean, damn, girl.
i mean, damn, girl.
that’s it from me this week. as always, feel free to share your responses to anything above by twitteremail, or alchemical diagram.
and if you feel like tossing a coin my way to help support my work, be it this newsletter, ConTamination, Spectrum, or any of my other unpaid creative projects, you can do so by buying me a coffee.
ps: happy birthday for tomorrow, dad! 🎁
stay safe and speak soon,
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kat kourbeti
kat kourbeti @darthjuno

writing, media and arts commentary from a queer g(r)eek writer of science fiction and fantasy works.

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