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a My Neighbor Totoro appreciation post (day 2 of 100)

Today I watched Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro for the first time with my partner and a couple of friends. It really was as enchanting as everyone seems to say it is. Every single frame was composed beautifully—flawlessly, I'd say—all while making it look effortless. I love that the camera would linger in certain moments, too, like when main characters Mei and Satsuki were taking in their new home for the first time. I really appreciated the slowness of it.

And of course it was incredibly moving. I will probably never forget the moment I realized four-year-old Mei was going to set off on her own to deliver the ear of corn to her mom in the hospital because Mei knew it would help her heal faster. I love the careful attention given to the perspectives of the children and the lovingly accurate portrayal of their quirks (Like in the scene where Mei meets Granny for the first time, gets frightened, and takes the long way around into the same room she had been going into anyway. It cracked me up.)

Also, the relationship between Satsuki and Mei reminded me so much of my sister and me. We have about the same age gap, which makes Satsuki's enduring patience with Mei all the more impressive to me. That's the root of the one qualm I had with the film: Satsuki's harsh words to Mei at the crux of the film seem out of line with Satsuki's character throughout the movie. But one friend I was watching the movie with pointed out that Satsuki had just received dire news about her mom, and that might cause her to speak more harshly to Mei than she otherwise would. Then my other friend, in a bit of psychoanalysis, said that Satsuki was probably lashing out at Mei for getting upset because Satsuki had been holding herself together (and in fact had been taking care of the family in material and emotional ways throughout the film, in ways that a 10-ish-year-old shouldn't have to do)* and resented the fact that Mei could let her emotions out. I think I buy that.

*I think I might write another post sometime about the portrayal of Satsuki as a child taking on parental roles. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the nuance of it. It was refreshing to see a child taking on some responsibilities without becoming completely parentified. It's clear that Tatsuo was still a dad (and an excellent one at that).

Another thing I appreciated was the way that all the adults seemed to take the children seriously—both their needs and their flights of fancy (and now that I think about it, we all need someone to appreciate our flights of fancy because they're important to us, so I suppose the two categories aren't all that separate). I hope that if/when I'm a parent someday I can embody the kind of patience and whimsy that Satsuki and Mei's dad has. He believed in Totoro with them, and encouraged them to treat the neighborhood spirits with respect and care. Thinking metaphorically, I see that as an encouragement to be open to the world around us, and to treat our environment and communities with respect and care too. Which is, as far as kids' movie messages go, pretty much the best you can get.

what I listen to when I write (day 1 of 100)

It varies from day to day, but the sounds I consistently return to while writing are usually ambient(ish) in nature.

For the past few months, I've been coming back to the album wander into by ann annie (you can find it on bandcamp). It's got enough motion to keep me interested and engaged, and enough space to get lost with. ann annie is one of my favorite artists working with modular synthesizers. To my ears, modular synthesis often tends toward the loud and grating. While that's compelling and beautiful in many contexts, it's not what I gravitate towards for pleasure listening or especially for background music as I write. ann annie's music, on the other hand, has a textural subtlety that I really appreciate.

I'm also a huge fan of the website (and mobile app) myNoise. There are dozens of sonic environments to choose from and they're all customizable - you can layer as many sounds as you want, and even change the shape of each environment with EQ-like sliders. Mr. Rhodes and Autumn Walk have been my favorites lately.

Finally, if I want something a little more high-energy, I write to music that's on the mellower end of math rock - more complex and not overly obtrusive. I highly recommend the band Covet. Their music brings out distinct harmonic and emotional colors that help me "go deep" as I write, if that makes any sense.

P.S. In case anyone was wondering, I didn't remember the details of my dream enough to write about it at length. All I know is that it involved Kate McKinnon checking me out, which felt both odd and gratifying. :-P

hello, world!

Man, I'm jazzed about this. Listed feels so old-school, in a really good way. I love the anonymity of it, the seemingly hodgepodge community of writers (I've already learned things from you!), the utter lack of metrics, the feeling of being off in a safe little corner where few are paying attention.

It's been an insomnia kind of night, so I'm going to try to sleep now and begin the 100 day writing challenge when I wake up. Maybe I'll have a dream to regale you with.

If you're reading this, thank you! And if you're a writer too, please leave a link in the guestbook -- I'd love to read your work.