What I’ve been doing …

What I’ve been reading …

  • Real World by Natuso Kirino

This was the last one of the physical library books I had checked out (since before the pandemic). Real World is an interesting novel about four teenage girls who get, by choice or by accident, involved with a teenage boy who killed his mother. It is a pretty deep look into what it’s like to be a teenager and trying to figure out your identity and a huge reminder that actions have consequences.

  • Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang

I absolutely loved this book! While on the surface, this novel is about living on Mars – it is so much more. It’s a book about humanity, about how ignoring the past does no one any favors and nor does avoiding the future. It’s about changing, it’s about finding your place in the world, and it’s about the importance of communication. I highly recommend this novel.

What I’ve been watching …

Movies:

  • Birds of Prey (HBO Max)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (TNT/Hulu)
  • Casino Royale (Netflix)

Did some movie rewatches with my sister.

Birds of Prey was the second to last movie I saw before the pandemic (the last movie was Jojo Rabbit on my birthday) and it is even better the second time around. I have to admit that DC does female superheros so much better than Marvel. I hold out hope after Captain Marvel, but still – give Birds of Prey a watch, even if you’ve seen no other DC movies.

I still absolutely love The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I know a lot of people did like it, but it is perfectly cast and beautifully filmed and executed. As for the James Bond film – it’s … dark James Bond. I remember enjoying it a lot more when I saw it the first time. As I said to my sister, Daniel Craig’s James Bond reminds me a lot of Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor.

TV

  • Devs (Hulu) – This is by Alex Garland (of Ex Machina and Annihilation fame) and it is fantastic. Well – I thought it was fantastic. The reviewers are sort of in the middle about it, but I disagree. It’s eight episodes long and extremely gripping. It’s the story of Lily, who, along with her boyfriend, works at a tech company (think Facebook/Google/etc). One day, her boyfriend starts working for the Devs division of the company and ends up dead. The show is mostly about her tried to figure out what happened, but it’s also science fiction-y (more fantasy, but I’m giving it a pass). It has the surreal feel that Garland is so good at. Please, give it a watch.

I’m still watching Memorist and I’ve started Untamed. As for what English language TV shows I’m watching? I’m struggling to find something that clicks with me as much as Devs did and not finding anything. For now, tennis and cycling are filling the gap that an English language TV show would normally fill.

YouTube

Yes, I’m going to do it even though no one asked. Occasionally (or whenever I feel like it) I’m going to recommend a YouTube channel, video series, or whatever I feel falls under this category. So, let’s start it off in style!

Jill writes about fights in media (movies, TV shows, etc) using her experiences stage combat/fake fighting to discuss what works and what doesn’t work in many a fight. All of her videos are fantastic, but the one I would like to highlight today is about The Princess Bride. I hope you enjoy the video (and why not rewatch the movie while you’re at it (it is currently on Amazon Prime after all).

What I’ve been listening to ….

Not a lot recently, mostly because this past week I’ve been watching/listening to more sports than music. Once the Tour and the US Open are over, I’ll go back to listening to lots more music.

  • OnlyOneOf – KPOP band who just released two EPs
  • Davii – Korean rapper/singer/soloist
  • DAMYE – Korean singer
  • Maddox – Korean singer

Here’s your moment of calm:

Morning on the Dune (c) Tom Gill

What I’ve been doing …

In the past I used to post about stuff I’ve been reading or listening to or watching and I thought I’d start that up again. Since I’ve been working from home, I’m listening to a lot of music. Since I don’t go out much because of the pandemic, I’ve also been watching a lot of TV. And, of course, I’m still reading. It’s about time I shared a few of the things I’ve been doing and enjoying from the past week. Enjoy!

What I’ve been reading …

I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese mysteries recently and this is another enjoyable one. I had read Murder in the Crooked House earlier, which was funny because it’s the second book in the series. This has a Sherlock Holmes feel because the detective (if you can call him that) isn’t telling the story, his friend is. It’s an enjoyable mystery and no, I did not solve it before the book gave me the answer.

A couple of my coworkers had recommended this book to me, either last year earlier this year. I’d tried it and then decided it just wasn’t working for me. I’d put it on hold (using Overdrive through my library) and forgotten about it. But I got a notification last week that it was available and I figured I’d give it another try. I’m glad I did!

It’s a murder mystery (sort of) set on Yale’s campus in an alternate world where all of the secret societies have access to magic. Something about the tone reminded me a bit of Sarah Gailey’s Magic For Liars book, though the only thing they have in common is magic and schools (a private high school in Gailey’s case). That being said, although it’s a long book, it is very enjoyable. Just be aware that it is the first book in the series and it ends on a semi-cliffhanger.

This book was (and probably still is) an extremely popular book in South Korea. It’s the story of a 30something woman who is suffering from mental health problems. They stem, essentially from the way society in South Korea thinks of and treats women. The book is not hopeful, but it is a brutal wake-up call. It is not just a South Korean tale – it is the story of women all over the world.

It’s written in a very detached way that many people didn’t like, but I enjoyed it. It’s also quite short, it took me about a just about a day to read it. There are also footnotes scattered throughout the novella that back up all of Cho’s stats about the treatment of women in South Korea. It’s also been made into a movie, though I haven’t seen it yet.

For more about the book, check out these reviews:

What I’ve been watching …

Movies:

  • Old Guard [Netflix] – this movie is quite enjoyable and also quite stressful for a movie about immortals! I have not watched as many movies during this pandemic as I’d hoped and most of what I’ve been watching have been movies I’ve already seen. My sister convinced me we should watch it, and we did. Definitely worth it. I am a fan of movies where women kick ass and boy do they. The cast is also fantastic.

TV:

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark [HBO Max] – Last year I listened to the audio book of the same name. It’s the story of how Michelle McNamara was working on figuring out who the Golden State Killer was. She did, essentially, solve it, though she died before he was caught. The book is excellent – I highly recommend it. The documentary is basically the same story, but with a lot of interviews with people close to Michelle, as well as her husband Patton Oswald, and victims and survivors.
  • Midsomer Murders [Acorn] – I have watched watched almost all of these before, but my sister and I decided to take advantage of Acorn’s extended pandemic trial earlier this spring and because we both enjoy this show so much, I’m still paying for it so we can continue watch. Most of the episodes are cozy mysteries, but some really bring an emotional punch.
  • Parts Unknown [HBO Max] – Again, another show I am rewatching. I will forever be grateful to have watched these shows when Tony was still alive. It makes me appreciate both what he did and the kind of person he was so much. It’s also really interesting (and depressing) to watch these hour long trips to other places – to countries we can’t go to now because there’s a pandemic. If you miss traveling, why not give a Parts Unknown a try.

Other things I’m watching:

Perry Mason (HBO Max), which is about young Perry Mason. The Untamed (Netflix/Viki) which is a Chinese drama that has taken the fandom world by charge. Memorist (n/a), a Korean TV show about a detective who can read people’s memories and the bad guy he’s trying to catch (who can erase people’s memories). I’ll write about all of these shows when I finish them.

Also, my sister and I watch a lot of YouTube videos (if anyone wants recommendations, let me know). The way we watch TV is that we call each other and match up our videos so we can watch “together” and talk about it. I highly recommend this method of watching TV with people you’re not near (or not comfortable seeing in person, because pandemic).

What I’ve been listening to …

  • NIve – Korean singer. You’ll learn more about him on Sunday.
  • UNVS – KPOP band who debuted earlier this year
  • Kang Daniel – KPOP singer (formerly of the group Wanna One) who just came back with a new album.
  • ONF – KPOP boy group I’ve been a fan of for a few years.
  • ATEEZ – KPOP boy group I was supposed to see with a friend of mine in April. The concert was postponed (to when, I don’t know) because of the pandemic.

Here’s your moment of calm:

Lake Michigan Twilight (c) Zach Korb

Series Review: Tokyo Tarareba Musume (NTV)

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(L-R) Tetsuro Hayasaka, Kaori Yamakawa, Rinko Kamata, Koyuki Torii, and Key

I don’t know that I’ve ever reviewed a Japanese drama on here (I just checked, I haven’t), that’s not to say that I don’t watch them, because I occasionally do. I used to watch them a lot more, but haven’t recently. This is for a number of reasons, the primary few being jdramas have a lot of overacting and I usually only want to watch a certain few actors (Hiroshi Tamaki, Kazuki Kitamura, and Takeru Satoh) but I have a friend who loves jdramas and I’ve started watching stuff that she recommends to me. Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Tokyo ‘What If’ Girls) was one of those and man, I’m so glad I watched it!

 Tokyo Tarareba Musume (henceforth known as TTM) is based on a manga of the same name and is the story of three women (Rinko, Kaori, and Koyuki) in their early 30s. Here’s a brief summary:

30-year-old Rinko Kamata works as an unpopular screenwriter. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, but she has two female friends Kaori and Koyuki. They meet regularly at a bar. There, they complain about their situations and go through what if scenarios. One day, Rinko Kamata decides to go for happiness at love and work.

That is sort of right, but the show is actually more about growing up than anything else. The “What If” girls of the English title basically mean girls (women) who daydream “what if such and such happened” which, to be honest, is something we’ve all done (myself included). It’s one of the things that makes this drama so good and relatable.

When I started watching TTM, though, I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it. I tend to like more serious dramas, ones without a lot of romance and TTM seemed like it was going to be lighthearted and have a ton of romance. In spite of myself, though, I found myself looking forward to each new episode and enjoying it quite a bit.

Rinko, as we know, is a screenwriter. Her best friends Kaori owns her own nail salon and Koyuki works in her dad’s bar/restaurant. Rinko, Kaori and Koyuki hang out at Koyuki’s restaurant and much of the show takes place there. In many ways, these three women reminded me of my friends. We don’t necessarily drink a lot, but we always have these conversations about love and life and work.

At the heart of the drama, though, are the three friends and their quest for husbands. It sounds silly, but it’s not. Rinko falls for a cute model/actor (Key) but also dates a movie-obsessed man as well as Hayasaka (one of her editors, though not when they’re dating) who she has a history with. Kaori tries to do match making/online dating, but keeps coming back to her ex-boyfriend, Ryo, who is now a famous rock star with a model girlfriend. And Koyuki ends up having an affair with a married man. These are all real stories — dating people you don’t fit with, being the other woman, dating your exes. They all felt far more real than expected.

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Rinko, Kaori, Koyuki, and, of course, Key

There are two things, though, that tie this drama together. The first are the three woman. Their friendship is the heart and soul of the drama and there are so many moments when you feel that and when I see, as I said above, myself and my friends in them. The second thing is Key. He has his own tragic backstory (which I won’t spoil in case any of you want to watch it) which explains his rather rude behavior to the women. He shows up in the restaurant during one of their girl’s nights out and proclaims that Rinko is a “What If” woman and sort of goes off on her.

While his delivery is bad and I don’t necessarily forgive him for the way he says it, he always has good points. But what makes it okay in the end is how Rinko, who does fall very much in love with him, stands up to him. Key tells her to grow up, to stop hanging out with her friends and she confronts him. In what is probably my favorite scene, Rinko tells Key that he’s wrong. That she’s been friends with Kaori and Koyuki through so much — that even when things are terrible, they’ve been there for her and if they weren’t around, things would be that much worse for her.

This was probably the moment when I most saw myself in the drama. My friend H and I have hung out on Wednesdays since 2011 and hung out even before that semi-regularly. There were days, back before we both had full times jobs and were working two jobs (sometimes in one day), when the only thing getting us through the week was the fact that we were hanging out. I know what it’s like to have friends that make your otherwise shitty life that much better and brighter. I looked at Rinko and I understood her.

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Koyuki, Kaori, and Rinko

Of course, things sort of work out in the end, but TTM isn’t a true romance. There’s no weddings at the end, no one is completely happy and that’s the message of the drama. Rinko comes to realize, and us with her, that what makes her happy isn’t having a boyfriend, a relationship, getting married. It’s not one thing that makes her happy. Instead, the fact that she’s happy — that’s happiness. It doesn’t matter if it’s because she’s dating someone or eating great food or just hanging out with her friends. Being happy is happiness and it was nice to see that in a TV show.

It takes 10 episodes to get to that point and the journey is completely worth it. I loved TTM and I cannot recommend it enough. If you’re interested in watching it, let me know and I can point you to the videos.

Self-Care Friday (Week 8)

You’ll notice that I haven’t listened to a lot of music this week. That isn’t strictly true, most of my music has been from my YouTube Watch Later playlist. If you’re not a regular YT user (I am and ever since I subscribed to Google Music, I use it even more — it comes with YT Red, which means no commercials) you may not know what it is. When you’re logged into your Google account and go to YT, as you browse videos you’ll see something in the upper right corner of the thumbnail that looks like a clock. That’s the add to watch later button. You click that and then you can save it for later. I have been doing that a lot and I had a ton of videos in there. But in preparation for hanging out with N this weekend, I wanted to clear them out so it’s just filled of English subbed videos. That meant most of the stuff I listened to (still kpop, of course) was on YT and not Spotify or Google Music.

Anyway, onto the fun stuff.

What I’ve Been Reading:

No new read harder books this week, maybe something next week, we’ll see. I’ll hopefully be reviewing the Jack Cheng book at some point.

Completed:

  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
  • Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels, book 8)
  • Black Panther: a Nation Under Our Feet. Book Two by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 10 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Currently reading:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book – on hold)
  • Chapelwood: the Borden dispatches by Cherie Priest
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino
  • Chimes At Midnight by Seanan McGuire (audio book: October Daye, Book 7)
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday vol 11 by Fumi Yoshinaga

What I’m Watching:

Completed:

I’m hoping to write up a review of TTM sometime soon, too.

  • Tokyo Tarareba Musume (Japanese drama)
  • Flash Point (HK film)
  • Brigadoon (1954)
  • The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (documentary)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973)
  • Logan’s Run (1976)

Currently:

  • Totsuzen Desu ga, Ashita Kekkon Shimasu (Japanese drama)
  • Oh My Ghost (kdrama)

What I’m listening to:

Mostly a bunch of new groups. I can’t help it. It’s one of the best things about kpop, they’re the gift that keeps on giving. On Spotify, though, just two different kpop groups (one new, one not) and a great jazz musician.

Joey Alexander – Countdown

Seven O’Clock – Butterfly Effect

Monsta X – The Clan pt. 2.5 [Beautiful]

And a picture. Monsta X (above) is going to make their Japanese debut soon and their Japanese company has been releasing photos. Have one of my favorite member of Monsta X, Kihyun. I’ve shared him a lot, but he is my favorite, after all!

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Yoo Kihyun of Monsta X

Self-Care Friday (Week 1)

Since the election, and then especially since the inauguration, I’ve read a bunch of articles, tweets, and tumblr posts about the importance of self-care. As someone who tends to get obsessed with things (think: kpop, sports), the constant news cycle has really taken it’s toll. It turns out that I’m not the only person who is suffering from this — especially since every day it seems like some new horror has been thrown upon the United States.

If you google “self-care election” you find a slew of articles, including this Wired article, published 2 days after the election. They all discuss how important it is to take time to make sure we’re okay even as we worry about the US and all it’s (my/our) people. This is something that I’ve tried to do myself and it’s hard. So hard, in fact, that I’ve made use of one of my daily tasks on Habitica as a way to reminding myself to stop and take care of me.

I’m going to try to spend a few minutes, each Friday, talking about some of the stuff I’ve done, even if it’s just what I’m reading and what music I’ve been listening to. I hope this helps people remember that you can fight for what’s right but also try to enjoy life a little, too. You’re (I’m) no good to anyone if you’re (I’m) stuck in that low point. Don’t give up the panic and the fear and the protesting and donation of time and money. But take a moment or two to breathe.

Here’s what I’ve been doing this week.

I finished my first book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

Read a travel memoir: The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

I finished a book outside of the challenge:

  • Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels series)

I’m reading these books:

  • The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu (audio book)
  • A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino (Detective Galileo)

What I’m watching:

  • Exiled (movie)
  • Voice (Korean drama)
  • Squad 38 (Korean drama)
  • Kaitou Tantei Yamaneko (Japanese drama)
  • I Am Not Your Negro (documentary)
  • John Wick Ch. 2 (film)

Music I’ve been listening to:

  • BTOB – New Men
  • Seventeen – Going Seventeen
  • CLC – Crystyle
  • Fiestar
  • Block B
  • Taemin