Self-Care Friday (Week 5)

Sorry, this one is late due to many things.

Last week I talked about watching some musicals and one of those was Annie Get Your Gun. I knew, going in, that this musical was not a great one. I also expected it to be racist and sexist, but I honestly didn’t really know what I was in for. You can read my full review over on Letterboxd, but suffice to say that I pretty much only gave it one star because I like some of the songs.

Anyway, onto the actual, fun things.

What I’ve Been Reading:

  • Reader Harder:
    • Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel: The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles
  • Completed:
    • Reykjavik Nights by Arnaldur Indriðason (audio book on CD)
  • Reading:
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
    • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
    • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
    • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
    • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
    • One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (audio book)

What I’m watching:

The most recent two episodes of Voice have gotten really intense. There are only two more left. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Cabaret
  • Camelot

What I’m listening to:

  • Women of Fresh Finds (Spotify Playlist)
  • Blade Runner OST
  • Arrival OST
  • Perfume – Tokyo Girl (theme to Tokyo Tarareba Musume)

  • Subin

And her new song:

 

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This is Kihyun, of the boy group Monsta X. They are one of my favorite groups and coming back soon. I’m going to try to include pictures of some kind, from now on, that make me happy. This teaser photo of Kihyun is one of those images! Look forward (maybe … you may not be doing that, actually, but shhh) to more (probably kpop related) photos. 

The Wednesday Four

Two things about this week’s links. The first is that I will forever have a huge soft spot for the movie Hackers. I know that it’s not really a great movie, but I adore it and I cannot imagine growing up without having watched it. My sister and I still quote it to each other (along with another cult classic from our youth, Empire Records). There is something endearing and enduring about Hackers, it was in many ways such an innocent time, too. The second thing is that I adore the late Oliver Sacks and his writing. If you’ve never read any of his books, do yourself a favor and read one. It could be one of his science books, or something else of his entirely. Please, go read his writing. It’s great way to remember him.

Week 15 is all about Russia and intolerance.

The links:

  • ‘Hackers’ at 20: How a 20-year-old, mostly inaccurate flop predicted the future, reshaped sci-fi, and won over the real hacker community. (Passcode/Christian Science Monitor)
  • Hoax hunter: I bust people who fake illnesses online (Fusion)
  • The Website MLB Couldn’t Buy Meet Durland and Darvin, the Hummer-driving, rock-and-roll-playing, real-life twins keeping Twins.com in the family and out of Minnesota’s baseball mitt (Grantland)
  • How Oliver Sacks Helped Introduce The World To Autism Autism and its many forms may be widely discussed today, but it wasn’t until the famed neurologist and writer told the story of identical twins George and Charles Fin in his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. (Buzzfeed)
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B1A4 on 02/17/2017 at The Copernicus Center outside of Chicago, IL (taken by me)

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).

Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Spoilers for all of Jurassic World. But it doesn’t matter, because you shouldn’t see it (at least in the theater — seriously, don’t pay for this movie) and also, you already know what happens (and you haven’t even seen the movie yet).

Chris Pratt, Raptor Wrangler (Whisperer)

Chris Pratt: Raptor Wrangler/Whisperer

There were many, many reasons I wanted to see this movie. The biggest of them being the fact that I love the original movie, Jurassic Park, endlessly. Not just because of my huge crush on Sam Neill, but also because it’s a surprisingly feminist movie. Laura Dern’s character, Dr. Ellie Sattler is pretty awesome in every way (what a great person to look up to!). She doesn’t need Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) or Alan Grant (the aforementioned Sam Neill) to save or rescue her. She’s smart and also quite a badass. And then you have Ariana Richards’ Lex Murphy. She’s afraid of the dinosaurs (but, be honest, who can blame her? They’re SCARY, they’re dinosaurs, they’re supposed to be dead and many of them want to eat you!), but when it comes right down to it, everyone left on the island would be dead if it wasn’t for Lex. She’s the computer nerd, the hacker, the brains and she saves her brother from those raptors, too. There are a hundred more reasons why Jurassic Park is a fantastic movie, like the dinosaurs, the music, all the characters, Jeff Goldblum … I could go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you why Jurassic World failed me in basically every way.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and, failing that, I wanted to enjoy it and perhaps even like it. And, of course, that was my mistake. You see, I thought I had low expectations for the movie, but they weren’t low enough. I should’ve had no expectations and then, maybe, when it broke my heart from the very start, I wouldn’t have been quite so upset. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

I originally wanted to see it because of the picture at the top of this post, Chris Pratt and the raptors. We’ve all seen the trailer, where he’s riding his motorcycle with those raptors, it’s pretty great. That and the fact that there were dinosaurs and it was a Jurassic Park movie that was going to follow in the footsteps of the first, meant that I was stoked, though apprehensive. I should’ve known better, of course I should’ve. But when you have movies like Jupiter Ascending, Mad Max Fury Road and a few others where the female characters are strong, well rounded individuals who are actually people, I was, you know, expecting something more. Those movies ruined me because for a moment I forgot we were in 2015, you know, the present day where ladies aren’t people and was expecting and hoping for something different, something better, something as good as the original.

Oh, Jurassic Park, you spoiled me. Why couldn’t Jurassic World have been a bit more like this? (source)

But me and Jurassic World, we started off on the very wrong foot. The movie begins with a family (why? I don’t know, it just does, we’re supposed to care about them, but instead they are awkward, at least the family stuff in the new Godzilla made us want to know more about those character instead of less, even if the result was less than interesting) and we find out later (I guess? they were so boring I didn’t pay attention) that the parents are getting divorced and the easiest way to do that is to send their kids to visit their aunt who runs this dinosaur theme park. The first thing I thought, though, was where is the girl? Why is it two boys? Why are they two white boys? And then I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into and how can I get out of it?

There was a moment, standing in line waiting to go into the theater, when I noticed that the theater we were across from was playing Mad Max Fury Road, I turned to my friend and said we should just skip out on JW and go see MMFR again. She said she’d already watched it and plus, it was half over. I said, I didn’t care. Man, I wish I’d gone. Then I wouldn’t have had to watch this movie. Ugh, regrets.

Ugh

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) — seriously, she wears that outfit throughout the whole movie. And look at how sensibly dressed Owen is. He’s a man, a real man, and he’s going to save her. Are we in really 2015?

So, the movie is already rubbing me the wrong way and we’re only ten minutes in (give or take). I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s failing me. The kids get to the island where we meet their aunt, who should’ve been an awesome character because it turns out she’s the main character. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, who basically runs the park. There are actually a lot of issues with her character and Chris Pratt’s, many of which didn’t occur to me while I was watching and I’ve provided a bunch of links at the bottom of this post if you want more information. What I did think was that I wasn’t going to like her character because she was the biggest stereotype I’ve seen in a long time (but not the biggest one in this movie! #gross).

You see, the writers of JW proved that everything I said about what would happen if Speed was made now true. Seriously. Claire was dressed in business attire, high heels, and she was shrill. She was every stereotypical frigid female character and she spent the whole movie being rescued by men (specifically one man, who I will talk about shortly) and running around in high heels. She has no agency, her only purpose is to supplement her nephews and Chris Pratt’s character. I really, really wanted to like her. I mean, the movie is basically about her. But it was really hard because the stuff Howard was given to work with was crap. I will say, though, that toward the end of the movie we see who Claire could’ve been — a no-nonsense badass lady who is smart, sexy, AND awesome. We could’ve had it all, Jurassic World.

But now we have two boys I don’t care about, plus their aunt, who I don’t care about … which leaves me waiting for Chris Pratt.

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This is what you should — run away from Jurassic World. Run far, far away. Listen to Alan Grant, he knows what’s what.

First, a couple of things. Chris Pratt is really hot in this movie, but basically that’s his job. At this point, I was like, just put Chris Pratt and those raptors on the screen because I want to at least enjoy something. And so, that happened. And when it was Chris Pratt, the raptors, Vincent D’Onofrio, and the super great (and hot) Omar Sy, I was happy. And then, um. Claire goes to visit Chris Pratt’s character, Owen, at his weird house (does he live on the island, does everyone live on the island? I want to know more about this, why couldn’t we have a movie about the building of the park and … sorry, I’m distracted by what this movie could’ve been), I suddenly realize what this movie is about.

You see, Owen is also a stereotype. You don’t really notice it at first, it sneaks up on you and then he meets Claire and we realize he’s a macho man, he’s the hero (even if he’s not really the main character). You feel safe now that Owen’s around. And that’s because, Jurassic World, I’m sorry to say, is basically a movie about Owen and Claire developing a relationship. He’s going to save her, from the dinosaurs and from herself. The movie isn’t about dinosaurs, it’s not about the park, it’s not even about Vincent D’Onofrio’s crazy ideas about using the raptors as weapons (wtf, but maybe that movie would be interesting, too? We didn’t get that, though — I mean, they try it but the outcome is obvious.) — instead it’s a stupid story about Owen and Claire and honestly, we all know how this movie was going to end. Which brings up another point — this movie is predictable.

Of course, most movies are predictable, it’s partly because we’re always remaking things, partly because most stories have already been told in one way or another, and partly because very few big budget films take risks. JW is predictable in the worst possible way — everything I expect to happen, happens and it happens in basically the exact way I expected it to happen. There are things that startle me, but there’s no tension, no shockers. My only gleeful moments involved the raptors and the appearance (and the very end) of our favorite Lady T-Rex.

Which brings me to another thing about JW that completely disappointed me, the dinosaurs. I didn’t really like the hybrid dinosaur idea, but that’s what they were going with, so they did. Unfortunately, it seems they forgot that the point of dinosaur movies is, you know, the dinosaurs. JW is a dinosaur movie about people no one cares about and money. But it’s not even about corporate greed or the problems of meddling with animals that should have long stayed dead. JW doesn’t have a moral compass of any kind, which you know because there are hundreds of character who die terrible, un-Jurassic Park like deaths.

Alan Grant

Alan Grant see the dinosaurs for the first time. They’re amazing. They’re dinosaurs! Sadly, Jurassic World doesn’t know it’s a dinosaur movie.

This is because Jurassic World wants to be a monster movie. It wants to be a monster movie like Godzilla (the originals and the new one) and Pacific Rim. Like Godzilla, it gave us characters we didn’t care about and like Pacific Rim, it gave us the cheesy humor, but it failed at those, too. The humor was dumb, not clever (like the original movie and Pacific Rim) and we all cared even less about the characters than we did in the new Godzilla movie. The monsters weren’t scary, not even the realization of what the dumb hybrid dinosaur-monster-thing was spliced with (spoiler: raptors), and I certainly didn’t care if any of the characters were going to die (spoiler: only one of the “main” characters dies she and she’s a woman (Claire’s assistant, who was treated unfairly the whole movie (and is also a stereotype) and I still haven’t forgiven the movie for this). In trying so hard to be a monster movie Jurassic World forgot what it was — a dinosaur movie. We had no wonder, no awe, nothing that made us realize that we were in a theme park full of dinosaurs. There were a couple of moments, but they were few and far between, when the move briefly attempted to awe us. But unlike Jurassic Park, no one was impressed — not even the kids (who should’ve been) and not even Owen — and he even tries to get us to believe that he thinks that dinosaurs on their own should be impressive enough. No one’s buying it, dude, because you haven’t shown us anything, it’s all tell tell tell.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and that’s what doomed me. I set myself up for failure. After watching the movie, I was trying to explain why I didn’t like it but didn’t hate it to my sister. I wanted her to go see it so we could talk about it. But now … the more I think about it, the more I hate the movie. It wasn’t a waste of time (but man, I would’ve rather seen MMFR again), not really, but it wasn’t good. I probably enjoyed some of it (like the raptors, to be honest), but everything else was so bad that I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

So, should you see this movie? No. Not at all. Maybe in DVD, if you’re desperate to know what people are talking about.

Instead, go see Mad Max Fury Road if you haven’t (or again if you have), that’s money well spent. If you have to see a dinosaur movie, dust off your copy of Jurassic Park. But if you simply must go see Jurassic World (please don’t give this sexist movie a cent), please find the cheapest ticket you can possibly buy.

But I cannot, in good conscious, recommend this movie because it’s awful.

REMEMBER HOW AWESOME THIS WAS? Dr. Sattler is headdesking somewhere. She cannot believe this movie. And, you know what, neither can I? Go watch Jurassic Park again. You won’t regret it. (source)

Further reading on sexism in Jurassic World: