sour-grapes

We talk a lot about Yuuri having to reconcile his idea of Viktor with the real Viktor–that is, Yuuri has this flawless, wonderful ideal of Viktor in his head which has to sort of be cut down to fit the person that Viktor really is. Which is a healthy part of their relationship, and which I completely agree is something Yuuri has to face at some point during that first summer.

But I think there’s also something to be said about Yuuri realizing that some of the horrible things he’s heard about Viktor through the skating community grapevine are not so true.

Yuuri, despite what he says, is much closer to is idol than most people ever get. If Viktor is a movie star, Yuuri is the secondary character–he’s there, and a lot of people definitely know he’s there, and he knows enough people who also know Viktor for the gossip mill to really get churnin sometimes.

I also think that at the back of every person who has ever had a celebrity crush’s mind is a little voice saying, “Never meet your heroes,” and Yuuri Katsuki is terrified of that little voice, and it contributes to the distance he keeps from Viktor–because at some point, that much distance from someone you’re facing off against in international competitions has got to be just a little bit purposeful.

So cue Viktor coming into his life all of a sudden one day, and all Yuuri can think about are the terrible awful no good very bad things people have told him about Viktor and the kind of person Viktor is.

“Fuck Viktor Nikiforov,” an older skater had told him after Skate America, six glasses into a box of wine and bitter as hell about missing the podium. “No, really, fuck him. The Russians are paying off the ISU to keep him at the top. He isn’t even that talented. I hear–I hear he doesn’t even train. I hear he just shows up and fucking does whatever and they give him gold because he’s Viktor Nikiforov.”

“I…don’t think…” Yuuri frowned at his own glass of wine. “I mean…that couldn’t be true.” He glances at Phichit next to him. “Could it?”

“Sour grapes,” Phichit advises, and Yuuri isn’t as familiar with English idioms at that point, so he thinks Phichit is talking about the wine.

Yuuri mostly forgets about it, but somewhere in the back of his mind–he can’t stop thinking about it. He watches and rewatches Viktor’s old programs and wonders to himself if the reason he thinks they’re so good is because he’s watching them through rose-tinted glasses.

Yuuri and Phichit are suffering through finals and trying to survive through twenty-hour days of nothing but studying and skating. They lay themselves on the bleachers one afternoon while they’re supposed to be doing warm ups.

“What if I just quit school and became and underwater basket weaver,” Yuuri mumbles directly into the metal seat of the bleacher. “That would be fine, right?”

“WWVND,” Phichit replies. “What Would Viktor Nikiforov Do.”

“You’re right,” Yuuri sighs.

“Viktor Nikiforov is dumber than a box of rocks,” says of the other members of the club as she skates by. “You know he never even finished high school? I mean, what counts as high school in a country like Russia. The guy probably thinks two plus two equals borscht.”

“That’s not…” Yuuri smushes his nose against the bleacher. “Hey, that’s not…”

“FUCK OFF OLIVIA,” Phichit shrieks across the rink, and Celestino definitely hears. They have to do twenty minutes of line drills. 

“What Would Viktor Nikiforov Do, right boys?” asks Olivia as she watches Yuuri try not to heave after Celestino finally releases them from their Sisyphean torture.

“I’m gonna fucking kill her,” Phichit says, and he sounds so deeply serious that Yuuri is sincerely worried.

Several weeks later, someone mentions Viktor within earshot of Phichit and he jokingly says, “Watch what you say, that’s Yuuri’s future husband you’re talking about,” and it sort of makes Yuuri want to hit him but mostly makes Yuuri blush.

“Really?” replies that someone. “I don’t know about that, Yuuri. I wouldn’t touch that guy with a thirty foot pole. He sleeps around. Probably has all kinds of nasty stuff going on down there.”

“Oh, whatever,” Phichit says, rolling his eyes. “Like you would know.”

Yuuri ducks his head back into his book and tries not to think about it.

These are the things that Yuuri holds in the back of his mind about Viktor, the worries that travel with him anywhere he has even the chance of encountering Viktor Nikiforov. 

‘Never meet your heroes’ becomes something of the unspoken mantra of Yuuri’s life. 

Then Viktor Nikiforov catapults himself straight into Yuuri’s lap, and Yuuri learns a few things.

Viktor trains. Viktor trains hard. Viktor has neglected everything but training and skating and satisfying his own frantic need to be the best for twenty years. Viktor Nikiforov is a lonely, sad bookworm with one friend and a gaping, yearning need to be touched–and he did not get to be where he is without making sacrifices. 

Yuuri has never met anyone who made more sacrifices for this sport and this art than Viktor Nikiforov. It opens something up inside of him, throbbing and raw. It makes Yuuri want to take Viktor’s heart and shove it inside his own chest so that it never feels cold or lonely again. It makes him want to stand on the top of a tall building somewhere and scream fuck you to every person he’s encountered whose jealousy tried to convince him that this man was less than what he is.

And yes, Yuuri knows now that Viktor is forgetful and brutally honest and often doesn’t say the right thing at the right time.

He knows that Viktor is only ambidextrous in that he can use a fork with both hands and that it takes him twenty minutes in the morning to decide on a shirt to wear. He knows that Viktor Nikiforov is a blanket hog and that if Yuuri wants to wake up still covered in the morning, they have to have no less than three blankets on the bed at all times.

He knows that Viktor sometimes descends into these loops of manic energy where he wants to do everything and can’t sit still and in those moments, Yuuri wants to lock him in a room and leave him there until he starts making sense again.

He also knows that Viktor Nikiforov has the most genuinely beautiful soul that Yuuri has ever had the opportunity to touch. He knows that very few people in his life will ever love him like Viktor, and that he himself has never felt for anyone quite what he feels for this man. His man. 

He knows these things and he thinks that maybe Viktor is perfect after all, perfect in his imperfection. Every jagged edge of his fits into one of Yuuri’s, and every curve of Yuuri’s lovingly presses flush with Viktor’s until they fit together seamlessly, like a pair of puzzle pieces.

Yuuri is also still a very petty person on the inside, though–which is why he makes posts on Instagram that read things like Viktor received his sixth well-deserved Russian National gold today! Congratulations to my amazing fiance.

And also:

So proud of my husband for all of his hard work commentating at the #Olympics. Some people go to school for half their lives and aren’t half as articulate as my Vitya. #Proudhubby

After that last one, Phichit leaves a voicemail on Yuuri’s phone that is literally just two whole minutes of him laughing hysterically and then wheezing, “THE SALT!” before hanging up.

“Yuuri, why did Phichit just sent me…sixteen crying laughing emojis and a text that says ‘your husband I can’t,’ in all caps?”

“Because a lot of people tried telling me you weren’t perfect and I’m proving them wrong,” Yuuri replies, not even looking up from his phone.

“Oh,” Viktor says, and literally crawls on top of him.

Yuuri supposes that the moral of the story is that the heart wants what the heart wants, and you have to find perfection in the imperfections–Viktor is loud and ditzy and forgets the English word for tomato on an almost daily basis, but he’s Yuuri’s husband. And because he’s Yuuri’s husband, he’s perfect.

Long Live Octopus Pie

Three cheers!

I check the webpage out of habit, but Meredith Gran’s comic work Octopus Pie is over.  I feel like this is how sports fans feel when a jersey is retired and lifted to the rafters, forever in its untouchable place, time divided between when it was active and whatever comes after.  

That might sound grandiose, but in my mind, nothing tops the ten year run of Octopus Pie.  And in the lifespan of what we call Webcomics, 2007-2017 is a granddaddy of a run, worthy of names like “pioneering,” “influential” and “groundbreaking” because in the space of those years, in this new medium, there was room to be those things without any hyperbole.  The comics landscape of the past decade needed filling out and Meredith carved her space out with precision, showing a polish and drive and a talent from the beginning that set a high standard.  

I’m guessing that I started Hark a Vagrant about six months after Octopus Pie began, but Meredith’s was already a name to be reckoned with, due to the solid reputation of her previous comic Skirting Danger and because she was an honest to god trained animator in a sea of stickmen comics or two-dudes-on-a-couch comics (RIP forever *kisses fingers, holds them to the sky*). I was intimidated by her sheer capability.  But inspired too.  I did not need to be intimidated, she was one of the first people I met in comics, and easily one of the best.

Meredith and I briefly shared an apartment and a studio, and I can tell you, she can draw circles around everyone you know.  I later shared a studio with Mike Holmes, who could also draw circles around everyone, and now the two of them are married in some sort of talent supernova.  I am happy for them, even though I feel like I make grade three crayon pictures next to them.  But the other thing that being friends with Meredith for a long time has shown is the cutting wit, the care for stories done right, the love for a medium that will take you through highs and lows that come with comics, and lately through her job as a comics professor, the nurturing of upcoming talent.  I see all of this in Octopus Pie, a comic where character was paramount, where plots were expertly moved, a fine balance was found between the messiness of people and the fun you can have with stories, where subtle emotional movements where rendered with room to breathe, where I felt like I could reach deep into the hearts and minds of the characters on the page because they had been fleshed out so well over the years that they seemed as real people, people that I loved.

I don’t really like that phrase “comics will break your heart,” commonly attributed to Schultz, or Kirby, it doesn’t really matter.  You see it all the time, mostly when people are reckoning with the fact that they work in an unforgiving medium.  I don’t even know what it is about the saying that I don’t like.  Maybe it’s because we all know that comics are hard work, we all know that you might put your life and blood and heart into something and you might get nothing back.  There are no surprises to be found there - it’s not a bad day you had, it’s a life you’re well aware of living, if you do.  But we love the perserverers in comics.  The people who live the phrase are the ones who inspire us the most.

I’m saying all this, and pardon the segue, because I have seen Octopus Pie, some of the finest story work of my generation, passed for recognition time and again and it confuses the hell out of me, truly.  I don’t want to turn a tribute to a work I hold dear into sour grapes, that’s not the intention here, but lord above, if I can’t point this out now, then when can I?  We all know that there are no guarantees in this life (comics will break your heart) but I’ll say this once and then leave it: this is a comic of quality that was miles ahead of so many of its peers, and it deserved better, industry wise.  To wrap up the earlier point, maybe I don’t like CWBYH because it implies that you should shrug your shoulders and not ask for better every time, that a short end of some kind of stick is expected even.  That’s easy when it’s yourself, but speaking as a fan now, I say to heck with shrugging, I want to put Meredith on my shoulders and parade her around and dump her into a Scrooge McDuck thing full of awards.  

Actually that sounds pointy and bad and the Ignatz awards are bricks to begin with so maybe forget that analogy but you get the idea.

I hope you read Octopus Pie, I hope you buy the books.  I hope the legacy of it is long and full, because it always will be for me.  And I think readers will agree, because I know this devoted fan base pretty well.  I read the comments, I’ve sat next to Mer at comic shows, I’ve listened to some of the emails that touched her.  I know this is a comic that meant a lot, to a lot of us.  In this world of work we put our hearts and souls into to begin with, that is a wonderfully worthy thing.

I do not know what Meredith will do next, but whatever it is, I am here for it, seat pulled close to the stage.  The retired jersey is in the rafters, the game is still being played by the people who dreamed better because it was there.  Aw what can I say, I’m sentimental!

 Thanks, Meredith. <3

8

Secondary Edibles: Making Verjus from Grape Vine Thinnings

My MiL’s grape vines are coming in beautifully, but she doesn’t have time to get into the finer details of pruning for production. The Hubs and I decided to help out by removing some of the weaker vines and leaves to promote circulation and general plant health. Not wanting to waste these baby grapes, I discovered you can upcycle these into something called verjus (or verjuice.)

Verjuice is made from pressed unripened grapes  and has been used by various cultures (i.e. Europe, Middle East) throughout history as a souring agent - an alternative to vinegars or citrus fruits. For experimentation, I threw my grapes into the juicer which produced a lovely matcha green elixir, which quickly faded into a swampy yellow due to oxidation. 

Believe it or not, the juice, while tart, was also fruity, floral, delicate and pleasant. (Note that different grapes will yield different flavor profiles.) I made a shirazi salad with the verjuice and it was legit! I would have never thought of the culinary potential of sour grapes, but apparently, you can buy a high-end filtered and bottled verjus.

So, you should ever find yourself in possession of a bunch of grape thinnings, consider upcycling them into a useful ingredient in the kitchen~

MBTI as Shakespeare Insults

(The ones they would use, anyway.)

ENTJ - “Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows” Troilus and Cressida (Act 2, Scene I)

INTJ - “If thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.”  Hamlet (Act 3, Scene I)

ESFP - “Thine face is not worth sunburning.” Henry V (Act 5, Scene II)

ISFP - “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes.”  The Comedy of Errors (Act 5, Scene IV)

ESTJ - “A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality.”  All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 3, Scene VI)

ISTJ - “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon” Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene III)

ENTP - “If you spend word for word with me, I shall make your wit bankrupt.” The Two Gentlemen of Verona - (Act 2, Scene IV)

INTP - “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage.” As You Like It (Act 2, Scene VII)

ESFJ - “I’ll beat thee, but I would infect my hands” Timon of Athens (Act 4, Scene III)

ISFJ - “I scorn you, scurvy companion.” Henry IV Part II (Act 2, Scene IV)

ENFJ - “I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can, you are not for all markets.” As You Like It (Act 3, Scene V)

INFJ - “Thou art unfit for any place but hell.” Richard III (Act 1, Scene II)

ESTP - “Villain, I have done thy mother” Titus Andronicus (Act 4,  Scene II)

ISTP - “More of your conversation would infect my brain.”  The Comedy of Errors (Act 2, Scene I)

ENFP - “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” Henry IV Part 2 (Act 2, Scene I)

INFP - “Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit, for I am sick when I do look on thee”  A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 2, Scene I)

Absolutely could not get the idea of Gladstone being “Durkburg’s answer to Dorian Gray” out of my head it was too perfect an image to pass up on

Mildly melancholy fop? Original sour-grapes flavour? I don’t even know which adaptation I prefer but I sure as heck am excited to see how he fares in the new Ducktales reboot!