Thursday, August 29, 2013

(early) media update: August

This is early because the next couple of days are going to be insanely busy, so I doubt I'll be online much or, for that matter, watch anything else before the month is through.

August has been a pretty uneventful month overall, with a couple of exceptions. The first item of interest is that we went to Little Tokyo, and in addition to the usual spending spree (magazines, Persona 4 figurines, junk food, macarons), I bought a painting. Several months ago, during our last visit to Little Tokyo, we went into the QPop gallery and there was a piece that I really fell in love with and regretted not buying. So when we were there on this most recent visit, G asked them about it, and they found it in the back room! I took it as a sign that I should buy it this time.

It's by Lissa Treiman, who works for Disney and even got nominated for an Annie (the animation industry's Oscars) for her work on Wreck-It Ralph. It's much cooler than it looks here, because you can't really see the detail in this photo, and I'm so in love with it. The perfect blend of macabre and me! (hurr hurr hurr)

And last but not even in the same galaxy as least, G and I celebrated our 9 year anniversary yesterday. Every year, we recreate our first date by having dinner at Cheesecake Factory and then seeing a movie. (The first one we ever saw together was Hero, starring Jet Li, because I told G how much I love Jet Li.) I'll spare you the mushy stuff because you've heard it all before, but wow do I love that man. He's better than kittens 'n' caramel.

Anyway, on to the media update! Not too many movies this month, mainly because G and I spent the majority of our free time playing video games (see reviews below). Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary.


1. The Never List by Koethi Zan: Best friends Sarah and Jennifer are kidnapped and, along with two other women, are held captive in a cellar by a sadistic professor. Several years after being rescued, Sarah lives alone in New York City, working from home and having food delivered so she never has to leave the safety of her apartment. But she starts getting creepy letters from her abductor, who's up for parole, and she's determined to get to the bottom of things once and for all. An intriguing premise that goes bad halfway through, when Sarah and Tracy (another survivor) turn into the Scooby Gang and things get so ludicrous that my eyes rolled up in my head and haven't been the same since.

Side note: If you decide to read this despite my less than rave review, I would avoid the book jacket, which is pretty damn spoilery. And if you decide to skip it, some of the negative (and also spoilery) reviews on Amazon are really funny. My favorite begins "This book is to Gone Girl [which it keeps getting compared to] as Saw III is to Taxi Driver."

2. Fiend by Peter Stenson: When longtime meth addict Chase Daniels sees a little girl ripping open a rottweiler with her teeth, he assumes he's hallucinating. But it turns out that the zombie apocalypse has hit, and the only survivors are meth addicts. An interesting premise, but it never explains why the zombie apocalypse hit in the first place, it tries too hard to be edgy/gross (the zombies "smell like period sex"; Chase says his breath "smells like an abortion") and there's not a single sympathetic character in it.

3. Let Me Go by Chelsea Cain: Detective Archie Sheridan is invited to an exclusive masked ball by a local drug kingpin. By the time the party is over, a guest is dead and Archie suspects that escaped serial killer Gretchen Lowell, the woman with whom he has a particularly complicated relationship, is in town again. I love Chelsea Cain and look forward to her books like they're Christmas, but I have to be honest and say this one fell flat for me, and I can't really pinpoint why.

4. Save Yourself* by Kelly Braffet: Patrick Cusimano lives with his brother Mike and Mike's girlfriend Caro. Mike has never really forgiven Patrick for calling the police on their father, who killed a little boy while driving drunk. A goth girl named Layla takes a shine to Patrick, and all of their lives (plus that of Layla's bullied sister Verna) intersect in ways they couldn't have imagined. A beautifully written book that I absolutely loved.

Side note: Kelly Braffet is married to author Owen King, which makes Stephen King her father-in-law and Joe Hill her brother-in-law. Man, there is some serious talent in that family!

5. Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach: Leila is a shy young woman who frequents a philosophical website called Red Pill. The site's founder recruits her for an unusual project: a woman named Tess plans to commit suicide, but she doesn't want to hurt her family and friends, so she wants Leila to pretend to be her online after Tess supposedly moves overseas. Leila agrees, but the project begins to take over her own life, and soon she finds herself wanting to be Tess for real. A very clever premise, but I wasn't thrilled with the ending, so no star.

Side note: the title and the book jacket, which depicts a pair of lush red lips with a bee crawling on them, don't do this novel any favors. Like last month's Sisterland, it makes the book look like something it isn't (in this case, a romance novel), and it deserved better.


1. On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu: The author noticed some similarities between Chinese and Italian food while spending her honeymoon in the latter country, so she decided to take a trip along the Silk Road to explore the cuisine in more detail. Enjoyable, but read it on a full stomach, because it will probably make you hungry!

2. Night Terrors: Sex, Dating, Puberty, and Other Alarming Things* by Ashley Cardiff: The author ruminates on her life in hilarious, often exceptionally gross detail.


1. Locke & Key* vols. 1-3 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

2. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search Pt. 2* by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

3. Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown

4. Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom by Bill Willingham, Lauren Beukes, Inaki Miranda, and Barry Kitson

5. Library Wars vol. 9 by Kiiro Yumi

6. Otomen vol. 16 by Aya Kanno


1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Yes, yes, I know. But the first one was actually decent in a "wow this is loud and stupid but I'm enjoying it just fine", and this one was much better. The plot? Who cares when you have ninjas fighting on a mountainside and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Bruce Willis shooting shit up and Ray Stevenson who, despite being scarred and playing a bad guy and affecting a truly horrendous southern accent, is a welcome sight.

2. Evil Dead: In this reboot of the 80's splatter classic, a young woman named Mia is taken by her friends and brother to a cabin in the woods, where they plan to help her detox. But one of the friends finds a weird book in the basement, and he unwittingly releases a demon. Very tense and almost unbearably gory; I had to cover my eyes during a couple of scenes.

3. Oz the Great and Powerful: A carnival magician (James Franco) is swept away to the land of Oz, where he's mistaken for a great wizard of prophecy and gets caught in a power struggle between three witches. Meh.

4. Olympus Has Fallen: After tragedy strikes, Presidential guard Mike Banning quits and takes a job at the treasury instead. But when North Korean terrorists take over the White House, he races over there to rescue the President and take the terrorists down. Goofy but I enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to seeing how White House Down compares.

5. Admission: While scouting potential Princeton applicants, Portia (Tina Fey) runs into a former classmate (Paul Rudd) who now works at an experimental high school. He's eager for her to accept a particular student, and she's shocked when she finds out why. For a comedy, it's not particularly funny, but I did like it.

6. Kick-Ass 2*: Dave Lizewski, the teenager who dresses up and fights crime under the name of Kick-Ass, is shocked when Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl, hangs up her cape and starts living life as a normal high school girl. Dave finds a new group of heroes to hang out with, but when a supervillain called The Motherfucker starts wreaking havoc, it might be too much for them to handle.

The first Kick-Ass movie is in my top ten of all time, but I tried to keep my expectations low because I knew there was no way this would be as good. And I was right, but it's still funny and action-packed, and Hit Girl is still freakin' awesome.

Side note: they played the trailer for the Carrie remake, which was appropriate not just because it also stars Chloe Grace Moretz, but because it has some strange parallels to Kick-Ass 2 in that her character in both movies is a bullied teenage girl whose tormenters have no idea just how dangerous their victim really is. (Yes, that's a serious run on sentence. Sorry.)


As you can see, I went on a bit of a J-pop kick this month, with some random Boz Scaggs thrown in.

1. "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs

2. "Nakanaide" by Mayu Kitaki

3. "Iceblink" by Ken Ishii

4. "Yume No Nakae (Malted Milk Mix)" by Dt.

5. "Candle Chant" by DJ Krush featuring Boss the MC

6. "Balance" by Yoshinori Sunahara

7. "Soliloquy" by Boom Boom Satellites

8. "Spirit Dreams Inside" by L'Arc-en-Ciel

9. "Skirt" by Chara

10. "Yumegiwa Last Boy" by Supercar

11. "Stereo Nights" by Takkyu Ishino

12. "Atarashii Hibi" by Puffy AmiYumi

13. "New Wave Jacket" by Polysics

14. "Shinsei Romantacist" by Aco


This game was originally released for the Nintendo 3DS, and it got such good reviews that I almost bought a 3DS just to play it. I'm glad I waited, though, because it got ported to the PS3 (as well as the XBOX360 and Wii U), and it's gotta be easier to play on a big screen.

Set between RE4 and RE5, Resident Evil: Revelations takes place on a deserted cruise ship called the Queen Zenobia. Jill Valentine and fellow BSAA agent Parker Luciani are sent to the ship to look for Chris Redfield and his new partner Megan Fox Jessica Sherawat. What they find instead is a SHIPload of monsters. (Hurr hurrr see what I did there)


  • RE:R is a welcome return to the series' emphasis on survival horror. Although I have no beef with Resident Evil 4-6, and RE4 is one of only three games I'd give a perfect ten, I did think they strayed a little too far from the series' original formula.
  • It's always nice to see my old friends Jill and Chris again!
  • The cruise ship is a really cool setting, and there's creepy atmosphere to spare.
  • You get a device called the Genesis, which you use to scan for hidden items. You can also scan enemies, which gets you bonus points, and when you reach 100%, you get a free herb. You'll need it.
  • There's a moment in the story where G and I actually applauded.
  • Although the graphics generally look pretty good, there are a few areas that aren't up to snuff, which I assume is due to the porting process. There's one shot of the ocean that's downright awful, and some of the facial animations are a bit off.
  • At one point, Chris' partner Jessica wears a bizarre outfit that must be seen to be believed. I don't object to it so much from a feminist standpoint as I do from a "this outfit is not useful in a combat situation" standpoint.
  • The boss fights are fucking BRUTAL.
  • Jessica is annoying, especially because she keeps hitting on Chris who is destined to be with Piers Nivans 4ever even though he doesn't know it yet, but there are two characters named Quint and Keith whose deaths I actually prayed for. They are the Jar-Jar Binkses of the Resident Evil universe.
  • The voice acting is pretty meh overall.
  • The dodge mechanic is completely broken, which is unfortunate because there are a couple of fights, including the final boss, where dodging would be REALLY helpful. I checked some reviews after finishing the game, and they all mentioned the shitty dodge mechanic, so it wasn't just me being stoopid.
  • Notice I said monsters and not zombies up there? That wasn't an oversight on my part; there is not a single zombie in this entire game. Which I found kind of refreshing, personally.
  • There were a few sections underwater where you have to swim through tight corridors, looking for an exit. Because I get simulator sickness, I had to pass off to G during these sections. If you are similarly afflicted, you might want to ask a stronger-stomached friend to get you through these areas.
  • This is an extremely short game; it took us a red pubic hair under 11 hours to complete. So unless you can get a really good deal on it or plan on doing multiplayer missions, you might want to rent it.
Resident Evil: Revelations doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but it's an enjoyable return to form for one of my favorite video game series. Kudos to Capcom for going back to basics.


When it comes to video games, survival horror is my genre of choice, but I'll try just about anything once...well, with the exception of anything that must be played in first person view, because those make me barf.  And although I'm not generally huge on RPGs, I wanted to play Dragon's Crown because it was developed by Vanillaware, the creators of Odin Sphere, one of my favorite video games of all time. 

The story takes place in a fantasy world where everybody is searching for the legendary Dragon's Crown.  Of course, assorted creatures and evil beings aren't going to make the quest an easy one.

First and foremost, as you'd expect from Vanillaware, this game is absolutely gorgeous.  It's seriously like playing a beautifully illustrated storybook.  I could upload a thousand examples, but here's just one.  Keep in mind that this is actual gameplay, not a cutscene.

  • You can choose to play as one of 6 character types:  sorceress, wizard, dwarf, elf, fighter, or amazon.  I appreciated the fact that three of the main characters are female, but there's a big caveat in the YMMV section.
  • There are numerous quests you can undergo, and in addition to the gold and skill points you receive for completing them, you get a piece of beautiful art and an interesting backstory on it.
  • It's just plain fun kicking the crap out of monsters ranging from undead skeletons to gigantic chimera.
  • Along the way, you find piles of bones that can be resurrected in the temple.  Some of them make funny comments, including (much to my surprise and delight) a They Might Be Giants quote!
  • As much as I loved Odin Sphere, it suffered from MASSIVE slowdown.  Thankfully, DC does not.

    • The story isn't really anything all that fresh or exciting.
    • Some of the boss fights are nasty.
    • You can choose to play by yourself, with other players online or off, or with AI partners.  G and I played together with two AI partners, and needless to say, they don't always do what you want.
    • You can't pause the game during missions, which really sucks when you have to take a whiz.
    • Sometimes the screen gets so cluttered with monsters and assorted allies that you can't tell what the hell is going on.


    Even before it was released, DC was controversial because of its female character designs.  As an example, here's the sorceress:
    This is the character I played, and obviously I wasn't too bothered by her design because I named her Oppai-ko, which basically translates to Tits McGee.  (Yes, I am a 12-year-old boy.)  But I could definitely see someone being irritated by this, or by the shopkeeper whose breasts threaten to pop out at any second, or by the seriously underdressed amazon.  (The elf, though female, is modestly clad.)  In addition, you can click around during certain scenes to elicit responses from NPCs, and some of their reactions are...interesting.  For example, at one point you find a chained up woman wearing a very sheer dress, and if you click on her, she squirms and makes little noises that wouldn't be out of place in a hentai video.  So if oversexualized character designs and/or groping (which is optional) bother you, you might want to stay far away.

    In conclusion, Dragon's Crown is not a game for the easily offended or RPG n00bs; if G hadn't been there, I doubt I would have gotten too far, because half the time I had no idea how to deal with the classic RPG elements.  (G:  "Okay, for this dungeon, you need to change to the purifying garnet studs so you get the +12 fire protection!"  Me:  "Uhhh...what?")  But if you want to see a gorgeous game and beat the crap out of some monsters along the way, DC is a fine choice indeed.

    Thursday, August 08, 2013

    nothing but the tooth

    I've been going to the same dentist for the last 12 years, even though I moved 15 miles away in 2005, because I tend to stick with what I know, even when it doesn't make sense anymore. (See also: relationships, jobs) Plus he offered evening hours, which was good because I didn't have to take time off work to see him. But he changed his hours, so I decided to go ahead and book an appointment with Dr. Hirakawa, who is conveniently located halfway between home and work. That's not his real last name, but I chose it to put across the point that he's Japanese-American. This will be relevant shortly.

    Fast forward to yesterday, when I showed up to Dr. Hirakawa's. I checked in, and my ass had barely hit the waiting room couch when the dentist came out and led me to a chair. We made small talk as he put on his gloves and mask, and then he began working.

    Now, I usually put my cell phone on silent when I'm in a doctor's office, but I forgot because they ushered me back to the chair so quickly.

    And it went off.

    And my fucking ringtone is that glorious 80's ode to masturbation*: "Turning Japanese" by the Vapors.

    Dr. Hirawaka paused briefly in his ministrations, and then continued without comment. My face burned and I said, "Sorry about that, I meant to turn it off." (Actually, with my mouth full of gauze and assorted dental tools, it sounded more like "sawwy bow dat, ah men to turn ih off". But I think he understood.)

    "No problem," he said calmly.

    The rest of my appointment went smoothly, aside from when they started playing "If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago on the Muzak and I wanted to jump through the window. That is by FAR my least favorite song in the world, and it's not just that I hate it, I have an actual visceral reaction to it. It actually makes me nauseated. I have been known to leave restaurants where it was playing and wait five minutes in the parking lot until I was sure it was over. Hearing it when I cannot easily escape, like in a dentist/doctor's office or when I'm getting my hair cut, is literally torture for me. (Oddly enough, my brother has a similar, though not nearly as strong, reaction to it.)

    Eventually, Dr. Hirakawa passed off the rest of the work to his hygienist, a very cheerful Japanese-American woman he introduced as his wife. Afterwards, she asked me, "Do you floss?"

    "Uh, nowhere near as often as I should," I admitted, and she actually looked heartbroken.

    "Oh, no!" she cried, clasping her hands in front of her chest. "Please, you MUST floss!"

    So these are the things I must remember before my next visit in February:

    • Floss
    • Wear earplugs to brace against potential Chicago assault

    * An explanatory note for those of you too young to remember the days before political correctness: "turning Japanese" was slang for masturbating because of the face a man would allegedly make at the time of climax. Another, more frequently used expression (and I am in NO WAY condoning the use of either of these terms, only explaining) was "bucktoothed Chinaman". Man, kids in the 80's were racist. I blame Blanche Knott.