Tuesday, January 31, 2017

media update: January

This is a scrawny media update because I didn't get much reading done when I was in Hawaii; I was much more interested in exploring and soaking up the gorgeous scenery than burying my face in a book!

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the absolute creme de la creme.  As always, your mileage may vary.


1. Pull Me Under* by Kelly Luce:  When she was 12 years old, Chizuru Akitani snapped and killed a classmate who had been bullying her for a long time.  After her release from a juvenile detention facility, she moved to the United States, renamed herself Rio, and created a new life for herself.  But when her estranged father dies, Rio has to return to Japan, where she can no longer escape her past.  Poignant and beautifully written.

2. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen:  This is the final book in the Tearling trilogy, so I can't review it properly lest I spoil its predecessors.

3. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund:  Linda is a teenage girl living in the Minnesota woods with her parents when a family moves in across the lake.  Linda winds up befriending the mother, Patra, who hires her as a babysitter for her little boy Paul, but something's not quite right.  This synopsis kind of makes it sound like a horror story, and it is, but not in the way you might be thinking.

4. Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia:  Here's another book about a teenage girl from Minnesota!  This time, it's about Hattie, who longs to leave her small town and become an actress, but when she's stabbed to death, the investigation shows that she was an even better actress than everyone thought.  I was pretty sure I knew "whodunnit" about halfway through, but I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

5. Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst:  A princess hiding magical powers is betrothed to the prince of a neighboring kingdom, but things get complicated when she falls in love with his sister.  For the most part, it's standard YA fantasy fare, but I did appreciate the fact that it had lesbian/bisexual protagonists.


1. Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis:  On her second night of college, the author was raped and the school did nothing about it.  She dropped out and decided to hike the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail in order to find herself.  Comparisons to Cheryl Strayed's similarly themed Wild were inevitable, and Wild is the superior memoir by far, but this was still very good.

Side note:  there were a lot of weird phrases and repetitive scenes in this book, but I had an advance reader's copy (which I found at the library's used book sale), so they might not show up in "official" copies.


Nothing this month, surprisingly.


1. Independence Day: Resurgence:  This movie sucked baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalls.

2. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates:  The titular brothers (Adam Devine and Zac Efron) have a reputation for wrecking family events, so their parents insist they find "nice girls" to bring to their little sister's wedding in Hawaii.  Unfortunately, the women (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza) who answer their online ad are wolves in sheep's clothing.  Occasionally quite funny, although one particular scene goes on WAY too long (for those of you who have seen it, it's the one with the massage therapist) and Anna Kendrick's dreadful wig is distracting as hell.

3. Morgan:  The titular character is a human created in a lab who's, shall we say, a bit unstable.  It was okay; the best thing about it was that it helped us kill 2 hours on a plane.

4. Jason Bourne:  More like Jason BORED, because my god this movie sucked.  An action movie should not be dull! 

5. Rogue One*:  In this very dark Star Wars prequel, the Rebel Alliance learns of a flaw in the Death Star and sets out to steal the plans.  Great casting and exciting action sequences made this a very fun afternoon at the movies.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

what I did on my winter vacation

Several months ago, my dad told me that he was planning a vacation to Hawaii for the family, both as a celebration of his lymphoma being in remission and as a mini-reunion of sorts, since it's extremely rare for all of us to be in the same place at one time, scattered across the country as we are.  Not only that, but he said G was welcome too!  Were we interested?  Uh, duh.

Fast forward to January 13th, when we took off on our big Hawaiian adventure.  We spent 4 days in Kona on the big island, and then 5 days in Maui, though most of that final day was spent in the airport.  It would be a bit cumbersome, and probably quite frankly very boring for most of you, if I went over every single thing we did, so instead I'll list the highlights and lowlights of the trip.


  • Our hotels were fuckin' DOPE.  In Kona, we stayed at the Mauna Lani Bay, which had a beautiful (if somewhat rocky) beach, big rooms, and a terrific breakfast buffet.  In Maui, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which also had a gorgeous beach, huge rooms, delightfully fast wi-fi, easy walking access to lots of stores and restaurants, and---check this---penguins in the lobby!  There were two big downsides to the Hyatt, though, which I'll cover later. 
  • Speaking of the birds at the Hyatt, they also had flamingos, cranes, swans both white and black, and parrots and cockatoos.  One of the cockatoos was named Samson, and I got the bright idea of playing assorted iPhone ringtones to see if he'd imitate any of them.  He listened to most of them with either a cocked head or disinterest, but two of them made him fluff up his head feathers, spread out his wings, and bob his head back and forth.  (I checked online to see what this behavior connotes; if it had been fear or aggression, I would have stopped immediately, of course.  Fortunately, it means he was excited and/or happy.)  So if you ever have the chance to play an iPhone ringtone for a cockatoo, try "Choo-Choo" and "Sherwood".
  • We got to see cool animals out in the wild, too, including sea turtles, eels fighting in a tidepool, and---from the safety of a submarine---stingrays, white tip sharks, and assorted fish.  We also saw several feral cats but they wouldn't let me love them.  :(
  • Took a really good bus tour, which stopped at a coffee plantation with a gorgeous view, a caldera which glowed bright orange in the dark, and a lava tube, and it also included a brief night hike through the rainforest.  At one point, the guide asked us to turn our flashlights off, and it was completely black except for the incredible night sky.
  • Took a bus tour on the famous road to Hana, which was very zigzaggy but included stops at beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and lookout points.
  • Took ANOTHER bus tour, this one to Haleakala State Park to see the sunset.  The sunset wasn't as spectacular as I would've hoped, but being high above the clouds and seeing them spread out before us like a massive white carpet was pretty damn cool.
  • Some great food:  prime rib, iberico pork belly with blueberry pancakes (an odd but delicious combo), macadamia crusted chicken, ube ice cream, a piece of hula pie that was the size of my head (and I have a huge fuckin' head).
  • Getting to spend quality time with my family and G.
  • Everybody knows Hawaii is gorgeous, but my god is it STUNNING.  We even saw double rainbows on the way back to the Maui airport, like one last parting gift.


  • Everybody ALSO knows Hawaii is expensive, but I wasn't really prepared for just how spendy it really is.  ($42 for half a rotisserie chicken with no sides?!?  $3 for a Coke Zero?!?  Almost ten bucks for a GALLON of MILK?!?!?!?!?) On our way to the submarine excursion, G was chatting with our shuttle driver, who told us that he and his wife work 5 jobs between them, their property taxes are $14,000 a year, their electric bill was $400 last month, and he was happy about driving the shuttle that day because it meant he only had to work a 10 hour day instead of his usual 12- to 16-hour shift.  He said, "I can't wait to retire and move to Massachusetts!"  (Sounds random, but his daughters are there, and he likes snow.)  Personally, I'd rather live large in a boring state and not have to work 60+ hour weeks, because what good is living in paradise if you're always too busy to enjoy it?
  • Remember when I said the Hyatt had two big downsides?  The first was the unbelievably cramped bathroom, and the second was the massive influx of people who were there as a reward for exceeding their sales goals last year.  (Nice perk!)  They were EVERYWHERE, clogging the restaurants and pools and beaches, and we always knew exactly who they were because, to a person, they carried tote bags emblazoned with their company's name.  Now, obviously they had a right to be there too, but they had lots of pool parties with a loud and annoying DJ who could be heard pretty much anywhere in the hotel, often quite late at night, and it was irritating.
  • This isn't Hawaii's fault, but a water pipe broke at LAX when we were flying out and made the bathrooms in our terminal unusable.  If you wanted to use a bathroom, you had to go to another terminal and then go back through security!  No thanks.  So we sat there for 3 hours, parched as hell but afraid to drink anything lest we have to pee.
  • This also isn't Hawaii's fault, but on the redeye back to Los Angeles, we had a screaming toddler (after landing, I heard his mother say "And now we're part of someone's nightmare travel story!") and the guy sitting next to me (the travel agent couldn't get seats together for G and me, although we were across the aisle from each other) was a shameless manspreader.  We also hit the kind of turbulence that makes you start praying.  On the plus side, at least once we got to LAX, G and I were home within a couple of hours!  My brother had a 3 hour layover, and my dad and stepmother had a SIX hour layover, then a delay, and then they landed in Tampa to discover there was a tornado warning.  The bridges were out, so they had to take a detour while driving home.  They got home about 30 hours after leaving Maui, but at least they got there safely!
Overall, it was an excellent trip, full of quality time with my loved ones, fun excursions, and beautiful scenery.  I'd love to go back some day, but I'll need to take out a loan first!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2016: the year in review

JANUARY:  Finished leveling up all Vocaloids to max affection in Project Mirai.  (That may be the geekiest sentence I've ever typed.)  Had to slam on my brakes in heavy traffic, which caused minor whiplash that plagued me for a few days.  Alan Rickman and David Bowie died.  Finished season 1 of D4.  Read 8 novels, 1 nonfiction book, and 3 volumes of manga; watched 13 movies.

FEBRUARY:  Southern California was hit by an unseasonal heat wave.  Went to Little Tokyo with G, C, and J.  My Aunt Sue (technically my great-aunt, but she and my mom were only 12 years apart so they were more like sisters) died, which really broke my heart because she was a wonderful woman.  Finished Game of Thrones (the Telltale video game, not the series).  Took a long Valentine's Day weekend.  Finished Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask story mode.  G's parents were in town for a few days, and we watched the Oscars together.  Read 13 novels, 1 nonfiction book, and 2 volumes of manga; watched 11 movies.

MARCH:  My work bestie transferred to Arizona, which really fucking sucked because she was the one person at work that I considered a friend.  Took a desperately needed mental health day, and I ordered Red Robin delivery from Door Dash, mainlined the Captive Prince trilogy, and read a fat stack of magazines.  Read 14 novels, 2 graphic novels, and 11 volumes of manga; watched 8 movies.

APRIL:  Went to Santa Monica with our friend M for her belated birthday celebration.  Got my hair cut. Prince died.  Met up with my brother in Las Vegas, and we spent 5 days eating delicious foods, walking about eight thousand miles, and seeing shows (Cirque du Soleil's Ka and a comedian/hypnotist named Anthony Cools).  I also got together with my good friend J, and we had dinner, went to the Erotic Heritage Museum, and hung out talking about everything and nothing.  At one point I was laughing so hard I was literally sobbing!  Read 12 novels, 3 nonfiction books, 4 volumes of manga, and one graphic novel; watched 7 movies.

MAY:  Came back from my Vegas trip to a massive shitstorm thanks to new draconian policies and bitchy emails from my [c-word] boss N.   Spent a weekend by myself because G was out of town for his nephew's graduation and I couldn't get the time off work.  Although I missed G, I kept myself busy with a trip to the mall, naps, Netflix, and reading.  I was jealous as hell when G came back and told me that he got to stay at the super swank penthouse of a cult director.  Finished Life Is Strange.  Read 8 novels, 2 nonfiction books, 5 volumes of manga, and 1 graphic novel; watched 8 movies.

JUNE:  My boss N got promoted and decided to throw a few more shit nuggets at me before leaving by changing my coveted shift and assigning afternoon lobby duty (an incredibly cushy job) to someone else.  The new boss, K, turned out to be a bit goofy and annoying, but at least she's stationed in an office 2 hours away and only came to our office once or twice a month.  G's sister, brother-in-law, and nephew came for a short visit.  Finished Uncharted.  Read 8 novels, 3 nonfiction books, 8 volumes of manga, and 5 graphic novels; watched 8 movies.

JULY:  Spent the 4th of July weekend in Portland with G and his family; we stayed in a rental house that was nice except for a bad ant problem, and we visited Voodoo Doughnuts, Powell's Books, museums, botanical gardens, and Multnomah Falls.  G and I also had the best macaroni and cheese of our life at a restaurant called Branch; we were literally moaning, and G doesn't get excited about food, so you KNOW it was good!  Took an extra long weekend to celebrate G's and my birthdays, which are two days apart.  Hung out with our friend M.  The wildfires set off my allergies something fierce, not that that's the big tragedy.  Finished Tales from the Borderlands.  Read 10 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 9 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels; watched 10 movies.

AUGUST:  Had to go to the eye doctor because I had what looked for all the world like a zit on my eyeball, which freaked my shit out.  Fortunately it was just something called a retention cyst (probably from rubbing my eyes too hard, so don't do that) and went away on its own.  An El Pollo Loco employee was so rude to G (without provocation, mind you) that I had to restrain myself from flinging a cup of mashed potatoes at her.  Finished Uncharted 3.  G and I celebrated our 12th (!!!) anniversary together with dinner at Cheesecake Factory (the site of our first date) and a showing of Kubo and the Two Strings.  My absolute least favorite coworker retired, which made me do the happiest of dances!  Read 11 novels, 5 nonfiction books, 8 volumes of manga, and 2 graphic novels; watched 8 movies.

SEPTEMBER:  Got a nail in my tire.  Finished Stranger Things.  Glenn's sister A, brother-in-law J, and nephew D came out for a visit, and we went to LACMA to see the Guillermo del Toro exhibit.  My work bestie J came to California for a visit, and it was so awesome to see her!   Work continued to suck my ass out when the powers that be decided to put us on phones 100% of the time.  Not only that, but they closed our lobby, which robbed me of 2 gloriously slacky hours in the late afternoon.  Finished Gal*Gun Double Peace, a pervy but not particularly good PS4 game.  Went out to dinner with our friend M.  Had a massive allergy attack.  Read 14 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 2 volumes of manga, and 3 graphic novels; watched 9 movies.

OCTOBER:  Finished Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X.  Got a glorious reprieve from phone duty when my boss asked me to work on a project.  Because nothing can ever be easy, the project had a pretty steep learning curve and the software I needed was plagued with problems, but I eventually got everything smoothed out and rejoiced in my phone-free life.  Became addicted to Hidden City, a mobile game that is about as addictive as black tar heroin.  Took 4 days off as staycation.  Spent Halloween with G eating candy and watching The Purge: Election Year.  Read 8 novels, 1 nonfiction book, 6 volumes of manga, and 3 graphic novels; watched 8 movies.

NOVEMBER:  Published two articles.  G-Vo came down with either a very bad cold or a relatively minor case of the flu, and I followed suit the next week.  Donald Trump won the election.  Went clothes shopping with G-Vo.  Played the "Lost in Nightmares" DLC for Resident Evil 5.  G-Vo's parents, sister, brother-in-law, nephew D, and D's girlfriend T came out for Thanksgiving weekend.  We had dinner at a local restaurant, went to several museums, and visited Little Tokyo, where I scored 12 bags of my favorite (and extremely rare) potato chips.  Read 9 novels, 3 nonfiction books, and 2 volumes of manga; watched 5 movies.

DECEMBER:  Saw Doctor Strange in the theater.  Was EXCEPTIONALLY unhappy at the news that I'd have to be on phones for the last two hours of my shift, but at least it wasn't all day like it used to be!  A bird crapped on me.  Our friend R came to California to visit her family, and we got to spend an evening together laughing ourselves sick.  Finished Sherlock Holmes and the Devil's Daughter.  Got yet ANOTHER new boss, this one located in Virginia, because sure why not.  Spent a lovely long Christmas weekend with G-Vo playing video games, watching movies, and eating...in short, perfection.  George Michael, Carrie Fisher, AND Debbie Reynolds died.  Rang in the New Year with a bottle of prosecco and my favorite person in the world.  Read 4 novels, 3 nonfiction books, and 7 volumes of manga; watched 8 movies.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

media update: December

Happy 2017, and good fuckin' riddance to 2016!  I want to believe that 2017 will be much better, but...uh...considering what's going to happen near the end of January, probably not.  (And a friendly aside to the Grim Reaper:  if you're still hungry after gorging yourself so often last year, feel free to take out Bill Cosby, Brock Turner, OJ Simpson, Jared Fogle, or any of their ilk as opposed to, you know, MY CHILDHOOD ICONS.)

You may notice this media update is pretty sparse by my usual standards, as I didn't get much reading done this month.  Southern California finally got the memo that it's winter, so I was able to walk on my breaks at work instead of staying inside to avoid heatstroke, and Hidden fucking City continued to eat away at my free time, so I wasn't getting much reading done at home either!

The movie list is also smaller than usual because G-Vo and I spent most of our time gaming: Sugar Smash, Hidden goddamn City, Sherlock Holmes and the Devil's Daughter (not as good as the previous games, and the ending was weird, but it was still enjoyable), and Dead Rising 4.  Ohhhhhh yeah.

Asterisks denote something I particularly enjoyed or found especially worthy of my time; double asterisks are reserved for the creme de la creme.  As ever, your mileage may vary.


1. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen:  After the death of her mother Queen Elyssa, Kelsea was raised in hiding to protect her from those who would kill her.  When she comes of age, she returns to the kingdom to claim her throne and finds herself squarely in the crosshairs of those who aren't happy to see her again. 

Side note: Emma Watson bought the movie rights to this series, and from what I understand, she's going to play Kelsea.  This amuses me because Kelsea is repeatedly described as plain, and I doubt there's much you could do to ugg out Emma Watson!  They'll need Charlize Theron's Monster makeup artist to even have a chance.

2. Scythe by Neal Shusterman:  In the future, humanity has managed to conquer aging and death, but of course this means there are way too many people on Earth, so an elite group of people known as scythes randomly pick people to kill.  Two teenagers named Citra (this is YA, so of course most of the names are goofy; there are also characters named Tyger, Jacory, and Kohl) and Rowan are chosen to apprentice under a scythe, but neither one of them wants the job.  A very interesting premise, but it could have used some tighter editing and a good proofreader.  My personal favorite oopsie was when Citra is described as being incapable of doing things "half-fast".  I had no idea what he meant, but then I said it out loud and realized he meant "half-assed".  HALF-FAST.

3. The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen:  Sequel etc.

4. The Mothers* by Brit Bennett:  Unmoored by the suicide of her mother, 17-year-old Nadia Turner begins having sex with her pastor's son.  When she gets pregnant, she has an abortion, the effects of which will resonate through the rest of their lives.  Beautifully written and heartbreaking.

Side note: although the synopsis makes this sound anti-choice, I didn't take it that way, although other people may think otherwise.

2016 TOTAL:  119


1. Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran:  A collection of columns covering everything from the silly (the addictive qualities of the Daft Punk song "Get Lucky", her crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) to the deadly serious (female genital mutilation, sexism).

2. Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins by Kathy Griffin:  The comedian spills the super salty tea on the many celebrities she's met.

3. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton:  After several years of bulimia and alcoholism, the author found love, got married, had children, and published an instant bestseller.  As you might imagine, things were looking pretty good, but then she found out that her husband was cheating on her.  I'd give the first half of this book a star, but the second half gets awfully New Age woo-woo mushy.

2016 TOTAL:  24


1. What Did You Eat Yesterday? vol. 11 by Fumi Yoshinaga

2. Rin-Ne vol. 22 by Rumiko Takahashi

3. Sweetness and Lightning vols. 1-3 by Gido Amagakure

4. Food Wars! vol. 15 by Yuto Tsukuda and Shun Saeki

6. So Cute It Hurts!! vol. 10 by Go Ikeyamada

2016 TOTAL:  67 volumes of manga and 18 graphic novels


1. Doctor Strange**:  After a car accident robs him of the use of his hands, arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, terrific as always) goes to Nepal in search of healing, and a whole new world of superpowers opens up to him.  Just a really fun movie, with some surprisingly good dialogue and trippy visuals that more than justified the extra cost for the 3D experience.  If you want to see it and haven't yet, I'd definitely recommend seeing it in the theater, assuming it's even still playing by the time I post this.

Side note: why do people like messing with Mads Mikkelsen's eyes so much?  In this movie, his eyes are charred around the edges; in Casino Royale, his eyes leak blood; in the trailer for the upcoming video game Death Stranding, his eyes leak black goo.  Considering how nasty Hannibal got, I'm amazed he made it to the end of the series with his eyes intact!

2. Don't Breathe:  A trio of teenage burglars hears about a rich blind man living in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood, and they think he'll be an easy score.  Big mistake.  A painfully tense thriller that gets almost grindhouse by the end.

3. Mechanic: Resurrection:  Retired hitman Arthur Bishop is forced out of hiding when an old enemy kidnaps his girlfriend and refuses to release her unless Arthur completes three more jobs.  The absolute best scene was spoiled in the trailer, but it still has a lot of fun action and Jason Statham in a wetsuit, which:  HNNNNNFFFFFFF.

4. The Darkness:  A family unwittingly brings a really crappy souvenir back from vacation in the form of a malevolent spirit.  This movie was HYPNOTICALLY bad, to the point that I didn't even want to stop watching because I was kind of impressed by just how terrible it was.  The best part was the 5 second clip of ParaNorman they showed near the beginning.  (ParaNorman is a wonderful movie.  Watch that instead of this.)

5. Suicide Squad:  A group of supervillains is recruited to fight a supernatural being.  It's just as incoherent and messy as you've heard, and the soundtrack is unbelievably distracting (the cost for music rights must have been stratospheric), but Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot are terrific.

6. Krampus:  A family comes under attack by Krampus, a creature from folklore who's basically the evil twin of Santa Claus.  WAY better than expected, and really fun.

7. Goat:  After suffering a horrifying attack, Brad decides to pledge the same fraternity as his brother in hopes of finding friendship and healing, but instead he finds the exact opposite.  This raw and disturbing flick is based on the memoir by Brad Land, which I read many years ago, but I'd forgotten most of the details.

8. Nerve*:  Desperate for money, Vee (Emma Roberts) becomes entangled in an online game with ever-increasing stakes.  We weren't expecting much from it, but it was actually quite entertaining!

2016 TOTAL:  103