Friday, October 31, 2014

media update: October

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; your mileage may vary. 


1. The Infinite Sea* by Rick Yancey:  This is the second book in a series, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessor.  It's really good, though.  

2. How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran:  After embarrassing herself on local TV with a terrible Scooby Doo impression, British teenager Johanna Morrigan reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde and manages to score a job as a music reviewer.  She presents herself as a brash, cynical "swashfuckler", but she's still a virgin who has no idea how to navigate her new world.  It's often very funny, and there's the occasional line that really hit home.  This was one of my favorite passages:  "This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books---sometimes you don't know how to say the words.  You know the ideas, but you cannot discuss them with people with any confidence.  And so you stay silent."

Side note:  I went on a MASSIVE downloading spree while reading this, because it's set in the early 1990s and she talks about so many fantastic British bands that I kept going "Ooh, I could use some Ride/Pulp/Suede in my music library!"

3. The Walking Dead: Descent by Jay Bonansinga:  This is the latest installment in a series so I can't properly review it etc.  It was meh.


1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory* by Caitlin Doughty:  The author (best known for her "Ask a Mortician" webseries) discusses her work as a mortician and how we view death in our culture.  Morbidly fascinating, but if you're squeamish, stay away.

2. Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham:  A collection of essays by the extremely polarizing creator and star of Girls.  If you're not already a fan, this won't win you over, but if you like her work (or, like me, you have a like/loathe relationship with it), it's a good read.

3. The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber:  A fascinating look at amateur sleuths who devote their spare time to solving cold cases by scouring the internet.

4. I Work at a Public Library* by Gina Sheridan:  A collection of weird stories from the author's job as a librarian, many of which are laugh out loud funny.  I was surprised by one anecdote about a kid trying to check out an M-rated video game, though; where are these magical libraries that rent video games?  Because the ones in Los Angeles county sure don't!  Not that I'm complaining all that much; as long as they keep me in books, I'm happy.  (Seriously, every single book/graphic novel/volume of manga and two of the DVDs listed here came from the library.  If I didn't have access to a decent library system, I would either go broke buying books or read probably 1/10 as much.)

Side note:  I've never worked in a library (and have no desire to, both because I wouldn't want to keep getting recertified and because I fucking hate people), but these are my two favorite personal library anecdotes.

#1:  I went to the library immediately after work, so I still had my work clothes (back when we still had to dress up) and work badge on.  An elderly woman came up to me and asked me where a particular book would be located.  If I'd known, I would have told her, but I didn't, so I pointed at my work badge and said, "I'm sorry, I don't actually work here."  She glared at me and barked, "Well, why the hell not?"

#2:  I was looking at the new book section when a young man with Downs came up to me and said hi.  I said hi back, and then he moved a little closer to me, took a deep breath, and said with a huge smile, "You smell like happy feels!"  Still one of the best compliments I've ever gotten in my life.  I just wish I could remember what perfume I was wearing at the time!


1. Tomboy by Liz Prince

2. Say I Love You* vols. 1-4 by Kanae Hazuki

3. Food Wars!* vol. 2 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

4. My Love Story!!* vol. 2 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

5. Kamisama Kiss vol. 16 by Julietta Suzuki

6. The Walking Dead* vol. 21 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

7. What Did You Eat Yesterday?* by Fumi Yoshinaga

8. Fables vol. 20 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

9. Shoplifter by Michael Cho

10. Sugar Skull by Charles Burns

11. No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!* vol. 5 by Nico Tanigawa

12. Spell of Desire by Tomu Ohmi


1. Hellion*:  Jacob is an angry 13-year-old who constantly gets into trouble.  But when his antics force CPS to remove his little brother Wes from the home, Jacob and his father try to get Wes back.  The kid who played Jacob reminded me of a young River Phoenix in both looks and talent.  And you know how sometimes a person inhabits an iconic role so completely that you can't see them in anything else without thinking of that role?  Aaron Paul's so good as the father that I forgot he played Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad.  Although the story wasn't anything groundbreaking, the performances are so good that I'm giving this a star.

2. They Came Together:  In this semi-spoof of romantic comedies, Molly (Amy Poehler) owns a small candy store that's about to be gobbled up by a huge company.  It's hate at first sight when she meets Joel (Paul Rudd), who works for the competition, but can they overcome their differences and fall in love?  The laughs are pretty scattershot, but there are a few that hit hard, and it's worth seeing if you like Poehler or Rudd.  (And if you don't, I'm sorry your taste is so floptacular.)

3. The Signal:  Nic and Jonah are buddies who are helping Nic's girlfriend move across the country to a new school.  When they finally pinpoint the location of a hacker that's been trolling them and discover that he's on their route, they decide to pay him a visit, and things don't go as planned.  I'm not giving it a star because I thought it started much stronger than it finished, but it's unique enough that it's worth a look.  A piece of advice, though: if you want to see this, go into it knowing as little as possible.

4. The Normal Heart*:  Based on the Larry Kramer play, this movie follows an activist (Mark Ruffalo) and his friends as they fight to raise awareness at the beginning of the AIDS crisis.  At times it's a bit too obvious that it started out as a play, leading to some stilted pacing, but the incredible performances and some truly heartrending moments made up for it.

5. A Million Ways to Die in the West*:  Albert (Seth MacFarlane) lives in a small western town, tending his sheep and hoping for a more exciting life.  He gets his wish when gorgeous Anna (Charlize Theron) moves to town, but then her gunslinger husband (Liam Neeson) shows up.  This was actually really funny, although if you're not already a fan of MacFarlane's brand of humor, I doubt this will change your mind.

Side note:  If you want to watch the unrated version instead of the theatrical version, you can choose it in the extras section, which unfortunately we didn't discover until after we'd already watched the movie.  Most DVDs let you pick a version BEFORE you watch the damn movie, so that was annoying.  Speaking of the extras, there's some great stuff in there, so if you like the movie, check those out too!

6. Edge of Tomorrow*:  Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a bit of a coward who's never actually engaged in combat.  But when an alien race attacks Earth, he's dropped into battle and caught in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again.  By learning from his mistakes, he gets closer to ending the fight once and for all. Very clever and surprisingly funny, and Emily Blunt is terrific as the badass who helps Cage out. This movie tanked hard, but it really didn't deserve to.

7. Brick Mansions:  In the near future, a crime-ridden area of Detroit is walled off from the rest of the city.  Cop Damien Collier (Paul Walker in his last completed role) goes undercover to infiltrate the area and track down the drug lord who killed his father.  This is a remake of the French flick District B13, so if you've seen that you probably don't need to see this one too, but it was fun.

8. The Fault in Our Stars*:  Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a teenage girl in remission from cancer.  She meets Gus (Ansel Elgort) at a support group, and they fall in love.  Even if you're not familiar with the book this is based on, you can probably guess what happens.  A surprisingly funny and very sweet movie, and oh god will you need tissues.

9. Cold in July:  After killing an intruder in his home, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is visited by the intruder's father, and what initally seemed like a standard revenge thriller turns into something more complicated.  Tense and grim.

10. Neighbors:  A married couple (Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne) are unhappy when a fraternity moves in next door, but they try to be welcoming.  Then the frat's loud parties keep them and their baby up at night, and they begin plotting ways to drive the frat out of their neighborhood for good.  It's pretty goddamn funny, and a welcome palate cleanser after the unrelenting darkness of the previous movie on this list.


1. "Manmadeiya!" by Chubbiness:  This is the debut single of a Japanese idol group that's been getting some buzz, even here in the US, because their gimmick is that all of the members are "chubby".  Here's the video so you can see just how chubby they really are.

Yeah, that's chubby in Japan.  Jesus Christ, in the US they'd be used as thinspo!  Only one of them could be considered remotely overweight, and certainly not by much.

Anyway, there's a lot about idol culture that I find problematic, but this song is catchier than the flu and they're freakin' adorable.  I'd like them to branch out and do songs that deal with things other than their weight, but I love them and hope they do well.  Plus Kawai Akina (the one in purple) tweeted me, so I kind of feel like we're BFFs now.

2. "Candy Pop in Love" by Tommy February6

3. "Q-TEE" by Ai Ichikawa

4. "Frustration Music" by Hysteric Blue

5. "Blue Knife" (Japanese version):  This is Kitty-N's theme from the classic PS1 rhythm game Bust a Groove.  One New Year's Eve my friend Tara and I rented a hotel room and got drunk and played this game for probably six hours straight.  I kicked her ass (except when she was playing Gas-O and I couldn't get the timing right) and it was awesome.

6. "Mei Q" (ending song from Tantei Gakuen Q)

7. "Searching for New World" by Strawberry Jam

8. "Mouse" by Under 17

9. "Spicy Marmalade" (from the Gravitation OST)

10. "Blind Game Again" (from the Gravitation OST)

11. "Where Are You Baby" by Betty Boo

12. "Vapour Trail" by Ride

13. "Common People" by Pulp

14. "Something Sweet" by The Allies

15. "Canta Per Me" (from the Noir soundtrack)

16. "My Insatiable One" by Suede

17. "Bruise Violet" by Babes in Toyland

18. "Sweet '69" by Babes in Toyland

19. "Lollirot" by Jack Off Jill

20. "Water Boy" by Imperial Teen

21. "Pepper" by Butthole Surfers

22. "You're the Best" (South Park version) by Joe Esposito

23. "Lipstick" by Orange Caramel

24. "Credens Justitiam (Mami's Theme)" from Puella Magi Madoka Magica

25. "Tell Me" by Wonder Girls

26. "Goodbye" by Wonder Girls

27. "Milkshake" by Orange Caramel

28. "Aing" by Orange Caramel

29. "Bubble Bath" by Orange Caramel

21. "Temporary Ground" by Jack White



In the busy shopping district of Akihabara (often shortened as "Akiba"), vampire-like creatures called synthisters are draining people of their energy.  The only way to stop the synthisters is by methodically stripping them of their clothes, thus exposing them to the sun.  The protagonist (whose name the player picks; I chose Yosuke in honor of my favorite Persona 4 character), who was turned into a synthister, bands together with his friends to defend the neighborhood they love.


  • It's a delightfully bizarre ode to otaku culture.
  • Although the game is obviously chock full of fanservice (no nudity, though), at least it's pretty evenly divided between gender lines.
  • It's often very funny.  For example, in the English dialogue/subtitles, Yosuke's younger sister Nana calls him names like "Brotagonist" or "Brototype".  In the Japanese dialogue, she only calls him "nii-nii" (a very cutesy and childish nickname for an older brother), so the localization team did a great job with their creative license.  I also particularly enjoyed this dialogue tree choice:  "Kickass!  You'll be a hit, girl!"  If you don't get why that's awesome, then I'm sorry but we can no longer be friends.
  • I liked the smartphone interface for checking side missions, email, maps, and stats.
  • You can read "Pitter" feeds, which are a spot-on parody of Twitter and YouTube comments.
  • The game covers a wide area, so the fast travel option was very welcome!


  • The English voice acting was pretty dismal, so we switched to the Japanese option after about 10 minutes of playing.
  • The music and gameplay get rather repetitive.
  • There are lots of side missions you can do, but with rare exceptions, they're not really worth the trouble, especially since half the time we couldn't even find the person we were supposed to be helping.
  • Oddly enough, considering this is a Japanese game, for the most part the characters didn't look "authentic" to me.  They looked more like Deviant Art sketches of anime characters than the real deal.
  • I never really felt connected to any of the characters.  The layout of the screen when talking to someone was very reminiscent of Persona 4, but unlike P4, when I was done with the game, I didn't immediately miss the characters.  
Overall, this is a fun little fighting game that's worth a rental just for the sheer WTFery of it.  I give it 6 ripped maid uniforms out of 10.


I've said this many times for books, but I don't think I've ever said it before for a video game, so here goes:  This is a direct sequel to the first game, so I can't properly review it lest I spoil its predecessor.  I'll just say that it's terrific, and Clementine is one of my favorite video game characters, so it was wonderful spending time with her again.  If you have any love in your heart for the Walking Dead universe and/or zombies in general, do yourself a favor and check this series out.  It's tense, the story is great, and it's almost as much fun to watch as it is to play.  I give it 8 shuffling zombies out of 10.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the Proust questionnaire

(Taken from the back page of Vanity Fair)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?  Being with G-Vo, just snuggled up on the couch watching a movie or playing video games, with pizza or popcorn and an ice cold Coke Zero.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?  The tendency to assume the worst about everyone.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?  Rudeness.

What is your greatest extravagance?  Magazines.

What is your favorite journey?  Any road that leads me to G-Vo.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?  Patience.

On what occasion do you lie?  To spare someone else's feelings. 

What do you dislike most about your appearance?  I can't decide between my eyes, my hair, or my belly.

Which living person do you most despise?  I don't know for sure if he IS still alive, but if he is, the doctor on call who was so horribly callous when my mom fell down and couldn't get up again.  Sorry we woke you up for what turned out to be a fucking SPINAL TUMOR, you disgusting piece of maggot-ridden pig shit.  I hope he dies/died in great agony.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?  "Fuck" and its many permutations.

What is your greatest regret?  That I wasted so many years giving a shit what others think about me.  I still want people to like me, of course, but if they don't, as long as they're not rude or mean to me, so fucking what?  There's a handful of people whose opinions of me I care about; there are billions whose opinions I don't.  It's very freeing.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?  G-Vo, of course. 

When and where were you happiest?  Whenever and wherever I'm with G-Vo.  If you want a non-boyfriend related answer, then I'd say sitting on a bench in Kyoto, watching geisha stroll by as cherry petals fluttered through the sky like fragrant snow.  I was actually in tears because I was so happy to be witnessing such beauty for myself.

Which talent would you most like to have?  I really wish I could draw.

What is your current state of mind?  Lazy.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?  Becoming completely independent.  I knew I was an actual grownup on the day I started paying all of my own bills and killing my own damn spiders.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?  A cat.

Where would you like to live?  I'm pretty happy here in Southern California, though that opinion is subject to change the second the Big One hits.

What is your favorite occupation?  I don't know whether they mean job or pastime here, so I'll go with the latter and say reading. 

What is your most marked characteristic?  I like to flatter myself by thinking I'm pretty funny.

What is the quality you most like in a man?  A sense of humor and intelligence.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?  A sense of humor and intelligence.

What do you most value in your friends?  Love, trust, humor, intelligence, loyalty. 

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?  Batman.

Who are your heroes in real life?  My brother, because even though he's been dealt a shitty hand in life, he never, EVER gives up striving for better.

What are your favorite names?  Obviously I will never have children, but if I had a daughter, I would name her Claire or Ellie in honor of my two favorite video game characters (from assorted Resident Evil games and The Last of Us respectively) in hopes that she would inherit some of their best qualities:  smart, tough, funny, and always protective of those who need it.  (Plus I like those names anyway.)

What is it that you most dislike?  Rudeness, disloyalty, intolerance, onions, people with no sense of humor, spiders.

How would you like to die?  In my sleep, just after midnight on July 18th, 2071.