Self-Care Friday (Week 3)

This past week was the one after my birthday and it was all right. I finished a kdrama and a couple of books. Go me! I also ended up listening to some non-kpop music, which was a change. Some of it was Korean, but I did listen to a Mandopop singer from Taiwan. This weekend should be fun, too.

What I’ve been reading:

  • Read Harder:
    • Read a fantasy novel: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Completed
    • Volumes 6, 7, and 8 of What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga
    • Blood Strikes (Kate Daniels series) by Ilona Andrews
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)
    • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest

What I’m watching:

I finished Squad 38, which I should write a review for. It was really good, much better than I expected it to be, actually.

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • South Pacific (musical)
  • Get Out (movie)

What I’m listening to:

  • DEAN

A very good friend of mine, N, finally got me to listen to him, because he’s one of her favorite artists. I resisted, as I am wont to do, but eventually gave in and man, I’m glad I did. His music is really good. You can find it basically everywhere. Please give it a listen.

  • Jinsil (진길)
  • 孫盛希
  • K.A.R.D
  • B.I.G

Music Sundays: MAP6 – Storm (스톰)

I used to really like this adorable kpop group called A-Prince. Sadly, they vanished from the kpop sphere and I was sad, but kpop groups come and go, unless they’re very popular. A-Prince, alas, was not. But then, toward the end of 2015, a new group debuted, which turned out to be four of the five guys from A-Prince, plus a new one. Their group is called M.A.P6 (henceforth known as map6 or MAP6) and I really adore them. Here’s the music video from their debut single:

And the dance practice video for the same song.

Music Sundays: 방탄소년단 ‘RUN’ MV

Recently I have found my way back to a group that I had previously loved, then discarded — only to finally return again (and oh, how happy I am to be back). The group, known as BTS or Bangtan Boys (or just Bangtan), is a South Korean kpop/khiphop group. I quite adore them. Here’s the music video to their newest single, Run.

Music Sundays: TAEMIN 태민_괴도 (Danger) -Music Video

I’ve talked before about my love for the group SHINee. Well, my favorite person in the group is Taemin, the youngest of the five. He also has a solo debut in 2015 (and will hopefully have one in 2016). Here’s the music video for one of the songs off his debut album, Ace.

And, because I love him you guys so much, here’s the concept video they made for his album.

The Wednesday Four (09/09/15)

I hope everyone had a nice, long Labor Day weekend, if you celebrate it, that is (or, you know, live in the US). We have new New York Times links today. And yes, before you ask, I am a Serena Williams fan.

  • Like It’s 1999: On Serena Williams’s Dominance and the Passage of Time (Grantland)
  • The Agency: From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities. (NYTimes)

Serena Williams

Serena Williams  Day 9 action at the 2015 BNP Paribas Open. (photo (c) mirsasha)

The Wednesday Four (06/24/15)

A couple of these stories are from NPR and I would recommend listening to them (I tried to embed, but it didn’t work). If you can’t reading should be okay, but the actual audio versions of the stories are pretty good.

The first article, about anxiety, is especially good (in spite of being on Vice). As someone who suffers from anxiety (not as severe as the author of that column), I always find these articles equally useful and interesting — and I share them, both with my friends who have anxiety (aka most of them) and especially with people who don’t. Anxiety, if you don’t have, is very hard to understand. There are plenty of articles, cartoons/comics, and books that help. The author of that article actually mentions my favorite book about anxiety: My Age of Anxiety by Scott Stossel. I highly recommend it — I listened to the audio book version, but I’m pretty sure the print version would be good, too. You can get it wherever books are sold, but I’m pretty certain your local library has it.

Bonus link: Fear Of Fainting, Flight And Cheese: One Man’s ‘Age Of Anxiety’ (NPR) An interview with Scott Stossel.

Book Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

9780385680141_0This book caused me quite a bit of trouble, ironically (I discovered upon reading it) because I kept misremembering and misreading the title as world exchange instead of word. I finally figured it out (actually, I went through the process of trying to remember the title a couple of times, two of them involving other librarians) and set about reading it.

The Word Exchange is a novel about the future, it’s a dystopia set in a world not far off from our own. In that world, devices reminiscent of today’s smartphones basically run people’s lives (predominately Americans, but other countries as well). These devices, called Memes, do everything smartphones do for us today — and then some. They can basically figure out what it is we need at any given moment, from directions to music to clothing. But, at the same time, they’re slowly replacing that which makes us who we are — our brains.

Of course, the majority of the characters in Graedon’s novel don’t realize this. How can they? They’re so attached (addicted) to their Memes that they don’t realize something’s gone wrong until it’s too late. The Word Exchange takes place right before the word flu strikes and society (at least temporarily) collapses.

The novel is told in the format of a transcript, complete with letters. Anana is writing her recollections of the events surrounding the word flu pandemic. Her chapters are separated by journal entries from a friend of her and her father, Bart. There’s some romance, Anana’s ex-boyfriend Max is partially responsible for the word flu’s spread, if not it’s creation. Bart himself is tangled up in the mess of the word flu and Max (they were friends, of a sort).

the_word_exchange_1024x1024Each chapter is a letter and below the letter is a word beginning with that’s letter, followed by a definition. Anana, her father Doug, and Bart all work for something called The Dictionary. This is something similar to the OED, but in North America. Anana’s father is in charge of the rewrites for the 3rd edition. One day, not long after Max leaves Anana, she and her father are set to have dinner when he fails to show up. This sets in motion events that will change Anana’s life, at that of her family, friends and the whole of the globe.

Of course, Anana, like the readers, is unaware of what’s happening. But, of course, because the story we’re reading is Anana’s recollections, we also get the benefit of her hindsight. She  intersperses her story with insight (explaining things that she won’t know until later, among other things) that moves the story along in a very interesting way.

Both Bart and Anana catch the word flu, though the severity of their diseases vary. It’s through the disease, the word flu, that Graedon’s story is most effective. Anana recalls a moment on the train with her father when he uses what she calls an ‘obscure’ word and she pulls out her Meme (discretely, as her father doesn’t like them) which supplies her with the definition. And thus begins what I find to be quite terrifying.

You see, one of the ways the Memes worm their ways into the lives of the characters is by remembering things, remembering words, for us. You’ve been there. You’re staring at something (in the novel, it’s a fork, in real life it’s an armchair, a pen, a notebook, a lamp, anything ordinary) and suddenly you can’t remember the word for it. You know what it is, but you can’t come up with it. It’s happened to all of us. I blame our reliance on technology, the same way that Doug (Anana’s father) does with the Meme.

resizeIt’s through these devices, the Memes and others, that the virus spreads. The details of the virus, the impact it has on people and the delivery mechanisms, those are all  for you to discover when you read the book. There are, of course, bigger things at plan that just addiction to Memes and the fears of Doug and eventually Anana, too. But, really, at the heart of the novel is the importance of communication — what happens when we’re cut off? — and the written word — how do we communicate when you cannot speak?

Books, magazines, reading and writing, conversation and debate, all of these are important to the characters in the novel. But, really, I think that Graedon is trying to get across the idea that these are also important to us, today. Others may disagree, but I never really felt like she was trying to hit us over the head with the idea that these “ancient” technologies are any less important today than they were when, say, printing was invented. Perhaps some thing she’s being heavy handed, but I felt that wasn’t the case. If anything, it made me want to put down my phone and read more books.

So, if you’re looking for something that’s not quite science fiction, but not quite fiction, either. This straddles that boundary in an excellent fashion. It might slow to start, but it’s well worth the effort. And while the conclusion is rather open ended (I could see a sequel), I rather liked it’s conclusions (or lackthereof).