reileen: (art - paint jars)
I find myself utterly baffled that nearly all of the American-based "how-to" anime style artbooks feature some of the most generic, boring, or just plain bad anime-styled art out there. Manga Madness by David Okum is the most recent one I saw, on the shelves at Michaels while I was looking for other stuff for my ART113 project. Christopher Hart's stuff is slightly better, and this chick's work is generally competent, but this is just horrendous, totally amateur. I just...what? What?

I have a couple different reactions to being confronted with this sort of mediocrity:

1) Shame. I feel ashamed that my primary drawing talent lies in the animanga style. What makes this even worse is that sometimes I don't even think I have any ground to stand on when I talk about how crappy some of this art is. After all, what's special about my art? Not much, really, at the moment. It's generic animanga, albeit depicting characters from small-ish fandoms and occasionally a couple of OCs. I'm not such a hot-shot. [/ blatant breakage of Ebert's Law; I plead guilty by way of low self-esteem and a generally pessimistic nature]

On a bad day, Shame eventually gives way to...

2. Despair. Again, I have no reason to think that I'm any better than this mediocrity that gets published. I should just stop drawing right now, because I have no hope whatsoever of getting better because I can never focus on a single pursuit more than a few months at a time, and therefore I'll never improve. Real True Artists draw from life, or are super-realistic, or have an uber-distinctive trademark style that absolutely makes them stand out from the crowd and you absolutely cannot mistake their art for anyone else's, or they're heavily conceptual and convey lofty Universal Messages and are Slick and Edgy. Et cetera, ad nauseam, rinse, lather, and repeat.

On a good day, Shame eventually gives way to...

2) Defiance. Fuck that shit; I can draw so much better than that! I'm gonna be one of the best damn American-based animanga artists out there, yessiree, no doubts about that, fo shizzle mah nizzle. I'll practice my anatomy and learn how to draw normal people (instead of just good-looking ones) and awesomely detailed backgrounds (instead of abstract, potentially impressionist swathes of color) and figure out how to color oh-so-prettily and the whole fuckin' nine yards! AND EVERYONE WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME AND RECOGNIZE THEIR QUEEN

Right now, I'm currently having a Pretty Bad Day, possibly because I haven't extensively drawn in a while and so my skills are seriously out of whack. Lately I've been heavily focused on writing and music, and I've been struggling - as I have been for the past few years and as I probably will be for the rest of my life - with how to balance out a journey of improvement in three different artistic skillsets, none of which I'm willing to give up. Is there a way I can satisfactorily balance this? Or do I just have to put up and shut up and learn to prioritize one over the other? No real answers, yet.
reileen: (reading - books)
I have no idea what to make of this book.

How are you supposed to connect with a story when you are told, by the storyteller herself, that she is a pathological liar?

Well, there's the mystery of it. "My father is a liar and so am I," says the teenage protagonist Micah Wilkins on the very first page. "But I'm going to stop. I have to stop.

"I will tell you my story and I will tell it straight. No lies, no omissions.

"That's my promise.

"This time I truly mean it."

So we read on, compelled to figure out what's true and what's not, and sympathetic to the cause of a person trying to go clean on a bad habit. Larbalestier jumps back and forth in time, from the present day (in the time following the death of Micah's love interest, Zach) to various times in the past, detailing Micah's family history, causing a disjointed, partially-fragmented narrative that can make it even harder to sort the truth from the lies. And there are many lies, not just to other characters in the story but to us, the readers. This makes it incredibly frustrating to get through the book, because sometimes it feels as though the author is constantly resetting the game for us, just when we think we've gotten the hang of things, and we're constantly called to question the veracity of the events Micah tells us about.

Somehow, despite this constant resetting, we do actually get somewhere in the story. The big reveal happens in the second part, where we find out a certain secret about Micah's "family illness" that, in retrospect, was hinted at right on the very first page and in the subsequent pages...and yet it made absolutely no sense to me. It felt as though Larbalestier was trying to merge two different genres, but messed up the balance somehow. She resolves it a little in the third part of the book, but despite how various story events are explained in light of the Big Reveal, I still found myself wondering why the hell I should believe this. Especially since, at a couple of points in the book, Micah actually insults the readers for believing what she says. This Amazon review nails it down best:

How hard is it to fool someone who doesn't know you? Not very. They don't know your nuances, they don't have any basis for comparison, and they are polite enough to give you the benefit of the doubt. So, lying to someone who doesn't know you, and then laughing at them for believing you, isn't a test of cleverness. It's not even a solid test of one's ability to lie - a real test would be to lie to someone who knows you well, and still get away with it.

It feels like an abuse of the goodwill of an audience to be entertained by the tales of a storyteller. We will suspend our disbelief if you give us something solid to suspend it on. Having that foundation continually break under the weight of a completely unreliable narrator is tiring and disheartening.

Conceptually, however, I'm still fascinated by this book, and I suspect it'll be a pretty important book in YA literature for a while. Larbalestier has apparently said (I can't remember where) that the basis of this story was finding out that so many of her fellow novelists were apparently liars as children, and she began to wonder about the connection between lying and between telling a story. Where is the line drawn, and why? To me, the distinction lies in the audience's preconceptions about what we are about to hear or read. In fiction, we know that what we are about to experience is not real, but we expect it to be as believable as possible. In real life, we expect the truth, as a matter of common courtesy and of being able to function in society, and to not get the truth is a betrayal.

But there's a different dynamic happening in Liar, something that treads this foggy line between the stories of fiction and the stories of real-life lies. Truth and meta-truth; lies and meta-lies. We know that this is a work of fiction, so we have no expectations about its veracity, and instead only ask for it to be believable. And yet, by virtue of the unreliable narrator, who is a pathological liar, these fictional events are made even more unreal, unbelievable.

There's something interesting here. Tough to get through, tough to swallow (I seriously can't stand that Big Reveal in the second part; it feels so out of place), and I feel that there is something lacking in the execution. But maybe that "something lacking" is part and parcel of the intended effect of the story? I can't say that I enjoyed Liar in the same way I enjoy many of my other books. I don't find it satisfying, but I do find it incredibly thought-provoking. And in the end, it's up to readers to figure out what they prioritize in reading - either on a more general level or more specifically - and why.
reileen: (reading - books)
RE: NaNoWriMo 2009

Hear that in the distance? That looming, rumbling noise? That's not a thunderstorm* - that's the sound of countless writers pounding away at their keyboards, trying to vomit out as many words as possible in week one of NaNoWriMo before they black out temporarily in week two.

For once, I'm not going to have this problem - I'm revisiting my script from last year. Which I probably blabbed about at some point earlier in this LJ. Instead of doing 50,000 words in a month, I'm shooting for 50 hours of revision in a month. So far I've logged 3.5 hours, and I'm a little bit dlkjlakfjlakjdfa about having to deal with tangled plot threads and flat characters and paper-thin worldbuilding that makes no sense. But I console myself that at least Daemonsong is in hellah bettah shape than Glass Houses, hoo boy. I'm still excited, though - I think I have something potentially readable here. I don't think it'll become a bestseller, assuming that I manage to snag an agent and get this professionally published, but I think I can be proud of it.

It feels weird not to have a wordcount goal, not to be exulting in cracky-ass plot breakthroughs and bitching about how everything I'm writing is crap ('cause it is, particularly at that point). But I suppose I make up for my deviations by roping a meatspace friend of mine into his very first NaNo novel. I get to be his unofficial NaNo mentor - or NaNo nagger, probably. I also have a final project for my ART260 class in which I may take on the NaNoWriMo experience as my subject matter.

***

RE: Bibliophilia

Since logging Trick of the Light into my reading journal and writing up a review here, I've blown past a couple of other books. I wish I could do a more in-depth review of them, but since I'm running into my last few weeks of fall quarter, the projects and work are starting to pile on a bit and I can't concentrate as well as I'd like, and I don't want to put this off any longer. So, here's thoughts on some of the stuff I've read lately.

The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
Highly recommended. I picked this up because someone on fandom_lounge described it as a "more mature version of the Dresden Files". It lives up quite well to that particular description, although obviously it's a lot more complex than just SRS BSNS DRESDEN FILES. It's set in London, and centers around Felix Castor, an exorcist who returns to the trade after he quit because he majorly fucked up an exorcism for a friend. The wit and humor that one could expect to find in one of the Dresden Files books is a lot more toned down in The Devil You Know, but both take an irreverent, blackly humorous approach to the dark things in life and I enjoyed it greatly. In contrast to the Dresden Files, we see character change in Felix almost immediately, but I think that's a function of the fact that part of the emotional plotline is why he decides to ultimately return to the trade of exorcism. There's also a slightly out-of-left-field yet completely charming and loltastic twist right at the end, after the main plotline is tied up and done, which makes me want to pick up the rest of the series even more.


The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines ([livejournal.com profile] jimhines)
Highly recommended, though you should read the first book first. Takes place about a year after The Stepsister Scheme. In an annual diplomatic ceremony gone wrong, Queen Beatrice's soul is stolen from her when she's stabbed with a magical knife wielded by Lirea, a rather off-kilter mermaid princess who has killed her father, taken the throne, and is now looking for her sister Lannadae, intending on her killing her as well in order to cement her authority as queen of the merfolk (who prefer to be called undine). Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty), and Snow (White) race against time to find the mermaid who created Lirea's knife, in the hopes that they can save Bea's soul before Bea's body dies. Of course, nothing is that simple, and they quickly find that things are a lot more complicated than they thought.

I'd been looking forward to this next installment of the Princess novels for months already, and I wasn't disappointed. As good as The Stepsister Scheme was, the plotting of The Mermaid's Madness is better focused, and it also has the added benefit of expanding POV characters to Talia, Snow, and even poor, battered Lirea. It makes me wonder, however, what The Stepsister Scheme would have been like if we'd seen Talia and Snow as POV characters there. I'm not sure it would have worked that well for me - I can lose patience with multiple viewpoints pretty fast (which is why I stopped reading GRRM's novels after the second one). But since I already knew and loved the characters from the previous novel, it was a lot easier for me to get inside their heads in the second novel. I think the effect of having Danielle as the POV character is similar to the "stranger in a strange land" trope, which in this case is Danielle the peasant girl suddenly having to navigate the world of royalty after marrying Prince Charming (who really is a genuinely nice guy, heroic without having to save Danielle or any of the other princesses). This carries over to the readers, and we're taken along, wide-eyed, with Danielle to explore this fantastical world, which is simultaneously familiar and foreign. It's not until we get acquainted and acclimated to the world and characters of The Stepsister Scheme that we can better appreciate the viewpoint shifts in The Mermaid's Madness.

Though The Mermaid's Madness is better than The Stepsister Scheme in some ways, I do think that much of its charm comes from already knowing the characters from the previous book. In particular, there's a particular subplot involving Talia's romantic aspirations that gets explored a bit further, and which ends sort of in a cliffhanger that leads readers to expect some sort of resolution in the next two books (Red Hood's Revenge and a yet untitled fourth novel). I also enjoyed the hints at the darker side of Snow's normally bubbly, flirty character, a dark side potentially inherited from her mother. And though Danielle can neither fight like Talia can, or do magic like Snow, she's strong in her own right, with an empathic, idealist streak that is prevented from becoming too sweet with moments of sarcasm (probably learned from hanging around Snow and Talia).

(Yeah, I know I said these reviews would be short, but this was taken from a Notepad document I'd had written up for a while.)


Boneshaker by Cherie Priest ([livejournal.com profile] cmpriest)
Recommended. Set in an alternate-history America where the gold rush was moved up by a couple of decades, resulting in a larger population up in Seattle and the continuation of the Civil War far past where it ended in the real world. Dr. Leviticus Blue built The Incredible Boneshaking Drill as a response to Russia trying to dig up oil in Alaska, but a test run gone awry devastated most of downtown Seattle and released a noxious gas that turns its victims into the living dead. Fifteen years later, most of the survivors now live on the outskirts of a walled-off Seattle, and Blue's widow Briar Wilkes just wants to forget the past and raise her son, Zeke, to be a respectable and outstanding citizen. But Zeke is convinced that his father i innocent, and sets out to prove it by sneaking out of his house and into the city, forcing Briar to chase after him.

If you're into the steampunk genre, you'll want to give this book a try. If you're not much of a steampunk fan, you may still want to give this book a try. Cherie's writing is sharp and clean, and she seamlessly weaves real and imagined history into the fabric of the story, which both is and is not what you think it is. Although I tend towards epic plots of good vs. evil, with lots of explosions and fights and action, I greatly enjoyed this microcosmic story of a mother trying reconnect, both literally and figuratively, with her son. True, there are explosions (and ZOMBIES!) and fights, but what really carries it along is the climax of Briar and Zeke's emotional story thread. The plot of Boneshaker is very family-centric, I think, and there's a nice parallel between Briar and Wilkes and two other characters who I'll refrain from mentioning here for spoiler reasons. Probably her best book yet, although I haven't read Fathom.


Dark Delicacies II ed. by Del Howison and Jeff Gelb
Generally apathetic. Assorted short stories in the horror genre. I picked this up from my library in preparation for revising The Struggle Within, and was surprised to find that the variety of stories contained within this anthology were mostly as unconventional as my own story. Unfortunately, I've already returned the book to the library, so I can't quite make as specific of references as I'd like, but let's see what I can do here.

So, you may ask, was I pleasantly surprised or unpleasantly surprised? I have to admit that I wasn't really impressed with the first crop of stories, though I'm still unsure whether it's just that I don't have a good eye, ear, or heart or any other part body for the genre, or that I don't possess the right disposition to truly enjoy short stories, or if it was something inherent in the particular stories themselves. Well, okay, I am quite sure all three play a part in how much I enjoyed or didn't enjoy this anthology; what I'm less certain on is the proportion of these sentiments to each other. I definitely got a morbid kick out of the last short story, called "The Ammonite Violin" by an author whose name I can't remember, which beautifully unreal and dreamy. There was also an entry from the author of World War Z that was rather interesting (and I want to check out World War Z eventually). Another one, called "Where There's a Will..." or something along those lines, had me doubling back and reading the story again to understand what the hell was going on in the ending. I like the idea of the ending, but am not convinced of its fictional veracity (if you catch what I mean).

There were at least three stories that bored me or didn't interest me at all, and a fourth one which confused the everloving hell out of me. One of them was the first one in the anthology, involving a vampire trapped on the Titanic trying to hide his true nature from the rising sun. I know, I know, what a potentially interesting premise, right? But the author didn't pull it off well at all. Another involved a man in a troubled marriage being inexplicably chased by a literal hellhound - not convincing either. Then there was a story involving the torture of what seems to be a political prisoner or a prisoner of war, a Mobius strip-type story where you seem to be getting somewhere but then you end up right back where you started (and thus I have now somewhat spoiled that short story for you). Using that sort of structure is a pretty gimmicky gamble. I wasn't impressed because I'd seen it before in the fantasy anthology Flights (ed. by Al Sarratonio), and I believe Neil Gaiman also wrote one such short story. Of the three, I'm not sure which one I'd rate as the best. The story that confused me was called "I Live Inside Your Mouth" or something like that, and it felt like this weird mishmash of Japanese horror and American horror. I had high hopes for it, because the author was great at establishing atmosphere, but ultimately I felt the plot wasn't clear enough.

If you're a horror genre fan, you might want to give this a look for at least the last short story.


Books on my current reading list include:

Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Skinwalker by Faith Hunter
Gothic Charm School by Jillian Venters ([livejournal.com profile] cupcake_goth)
The Art of Piano Playing by Heinrich Neuhaus

So that's contemporary YA, steampunk YA, urban fantasy, self-help pop culture non-fiction(???), and an academic primer/treatise. Yes, this is quite the bibliophilic salad at the moment.




*Well, maybe in Chicago it is, since it feels like it's been raining for the entire damn fall season.
reileen: (reading - books)
Sexy, smart Trixa Iktomi runs a profitable a bar in Las Vegas, dealing in more than just booze. For the past couple of years, she's been specializing in the information trade on both the mortal and immortal ends of the spectrum, hoping to find some clue as to the identity of the demon who murdered her younger brother, Kimano. When she hears of a powerful artifact known as the Light of Life, she knows she's got the ultimate bargaining tool for use in getting the details that she wants. First, though, she has to actually find the thing. And then she has figure out what side - angelic or infernal - she's on in the end, because neither of them are gonna let her walk away with the Light of Life.

I'm a big fan of Thurman's Cal Leandros series, so when I spotted this on the shelves of the DePaul B&N a while back, I was expecting good things from it. Trick of the Light features a witty, sharp, sarcastic narrative voice (told in 1st-person from Trixa's POV) that's characteristic of the Cal Leandros books. Unfortunately, it feels as though Thurman fell a little too much in love with Trixa's voice, because gurl howdy the narrative infodumping was over nine thousand. It starts right in the first chapter, as Trixa and her two demon-hunting wards, Zeke and Griffin, burn down a nightclub owned by a demon that pissed off Trixa recently. I really wanted to like Trixa as a strong and unapologetically self-assured female protagonist; I can sort of forgive Trixa's excessive smugness and vanity as a result of a certain spoiler (which shouldn't really a be too much of a spoiler if you just stop and think about things for three seconds), but I think part of what breaks the character for me is that she doesn't have the same sense of vulnerability that, say, Cal Leandros has. Snarking as a defense mechanism is easier to grasp; snarking because you're Just That Damn Good is a lot less charming. I mean, yes, I know she's devastated over losing her younger brother, but it simply didn't resonate with me. Part of the problem is, as I already hinted at earlier, Thurman's tendency in this book to tell more than she shows. As a result, the effects of Kimano's death on Trixa come off as distant and stilted - as though Trixa wanted revenge because that's what she should want, rather than what she actually wanted.

Zeke and Griffin are definitely my favorite characters. Both of them are orphans who were discovered by Trixa some years ago rummaging around in the garbage near her bar. She gave them jobs, food, and a place to stay, and now the three of them are as close as family (...although Zeke likes to casually flirt with Trixa, lol). Zeke's a trigger-happy sociopath who's trying (...sort of) to feel what "normal" people feel, while Griffin acts as Zeke's conscience. The interaction between the two is a joy to watch unfold, and there's a really satisfying payoff in the end, involving both a sort of predictable progression of their relationship but also a really interesting twist on their origins. They kind of remind me of Nick and Alan from Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon, although I think Zeke and Griffin are on more equal terms than Nick and Alan are.

Overall, though, I was pretty disappointed with this book. I kept getting annoyed with Trixa as narrator, and I was bored silly by the whole Light of Life plot - which is sad considering that it's pretty much the main plot of the novel. (And really, could you come up with a more generic name for an artifact? Yeesh!) I have to admit that I didn't see the twist with Zeke and Griffin coming, and I enjoyed that greatly, but like I said those two are my favorite characters in the book. There's a hint of some overlap with the Cal Leandros storyverse, though (Trixa mentions a certain Robin Goodfellow that she knows back in New York), so I may continue picking up subsequent books to see what Thurman does with that. And of course I'd love to see what happens to Zeke and Griffin.

If you're new to Thurman's work, stay away from Trick of the Light and stick with the Cal Leandros novels.
reileen: (music - piano & smoke)
Setlist:

1. Bacchanalia
2. Triskaidekaphobia
3. Wasted
4. Cold
5. Almost
6. Sphinx
7. Cynthia's Lullaby No Longer Yours Truly
8. Eidolon
9. Gospel of the Shadow of Nobody

No, you're not imagining that strikethrough - I'd intended to play "Cynthia's Lullaby" but messed it up beyond compare within the first few measures because I'd suddenly forgotten how to play it, so I took a chance with "No Longer Yours Truly" (which I think I might just change to "Written Letter #2"...) and I think I did pretty well. I fudged the opening of "Almost" and some of the transitions of "Wasted" that I hadn't yet fully figured out, but all in all I think I did pretty well in performing, both vocally and instrumentally.

The thing that failed, though, was that I got barely any audience feedback at all. If it weren't for the fact that I invited some of my friends along (thank you, [livejournal.com profile] bluemaiden88, Melissa, and Pierre) I wouldn't have gotten any applause or acknowledgment that I was performing. This isn't the first time I've experienced audience apathy, but usually that's towards the end of the night, not the beginning. True, I did get two guys telling me afterwards that they thought I was good, and I had a high school girl with her friends take a picture of me as I was performing (?!), but...no applause. I used to think that I'd feel more comfortable if people weren't paying too much attention to me, but mostly I just feel invisible and like I'm not supposed to be performing.

Which, well, I wasn't supposed to be performing today, actually, according to the people at Borders - someone probably forgot to enter me into the records or something, because my name wasn't on the performance list despite me emailing back and forth with the performance manager at Borders and him saying he'd write me up for 10/16. But they let me stay anyway. Because of that and the other thing I just mentioned about about no audience feedback, though, I didn't feel bad for leaving after just that one set, even though that set was probably only half an hour long.

I've probably outgrown Borders, I think. Time to move on to greener pastures and start getting into venues where people actually go to listen to music. (That way, if there's no applause, I'll know for damn certain my music is crap.) The next destination on my list is Ashbary's Coffeehouse, which...is going to be a pain to be going to for a number of reasons, but I guess I just have to put up with it if I want to get anywhere decent with performing my music.

On the bright side, I did get enough tip money tonight to pay for a movie ticket - I might go see Zombieland tomorrow with two friends of mine from college.
reileen: (reading - books)
Sirantha Jax possesses a gene that allows her to jump through a dimension known as "grimspace". This abiliy allows her to transport ships through space at FTL speeds. She was the Corp's most successful jumper until a failed jump killed her pilot/lover, as well as everyone else on board except herself. Quarantined in a de facto jail afterwards, Jax manages to break out with the help of a man named March, who brings her into a larger conspiracy involving a renegade group with designs on engineering a new kind of jumper...and the real reason why Jax's disastrous jump happened in the first place.

I was really impressed with this book. The present tense 1st-person POV took some getting used to, but Jax is a strong character, both kickass and vulnerable. The two main plot threads - the renegade group's plans for creating more jumpers and the reasons behind Jax's failed jump - are deftly intertwined. The worldbuilding of Grimspace is evocative, from the marshy world of Marakeq to the domed city of Gehenna, set on a planet where, thanks to atmospheric conditions, things always seem to be shrouded in a red sunset glow.

Then there's the romance between Jax and March, which I thought was pretty well-handled, considering that it's only two weeks after the crash that killed Jax's first lover Kai that Jax does another jump with the telepathic March as her new pilot. This sounds innocuous at first, but because of the nature of navigating grimspace, the shared connection between a pilot and a jumper is so intense that it frequently paves the way for a romantic or sexual relationship between the two, as an outlet for those intense sensations. I'm left wondering whether jumpers and pilots are always opposite sex, but maybe I'll find that out in the next two books. At any rate, neither Jax nor March are ready for a romantic relationship. Jax is, as I said, still in the thick of getting over the loss of Kai, while March is rusty on his skills as a pilot and hiding a dark secret in his past (as many romantic heroes do). Jax's struggles with her feelings for March and Kai are sympathetic and believable.

The other characters that populate the novel have their own charm as well. My favorites seem to be Jax's handheld information device (I can't remember the name of it right now) and a mantis-like alien mercenary named Velith, who doesn't appear until near the end of Grimspace but whom I'm given to understand plays a more prominent role in the third novel. Dina the butch lesbian is fun, too, especially in conjunction with the snarky natures of both March and Jax. I hope we get to see more of her background in the next two novels.

Overally, highly recommended. I'd love to pick up my own copy of this book and the next two books. Love the cover art, too.
reileen: (reading - books)
Kate Connor used to be a Level Four Demon Hunter for the Vatican. Now she's a Level Four Model Housewife, juggling the demands of her teenage daughter, her toddler son, and her ambitious politician husband. She thought she long left the world of demon hunting, but the demons have other ideas, turning up in the pet food aisle of the local San Diablo Wal-Mart and crashing through Kate's kitchen window one hour before a major cocktail party. Apprehensive about her rusty skills but determined to protect her friends and family, Kate races against a high demon from hell to find a famed artifact that could potentially raise the dead - a lot of dead.

The writing style is clear and smartly written, although I thought there were times where the author spent a little too much time on minutiae. I really liked how she handled the various twists and turns of the plot, though perhaps I'm only more aware of them because I've been reading up lately on how to analyze the parts of a story's plot.

The worldbuilding is (perhaps appropriately) a little bland and generic. I tend to have little patience for parenthood-centric stories, so that aspect of this book simultaneously bored me but also fascinated me with its depiction of a "mythical norm" sort of family. There's not much to write home about the demon-hunting Forza of the Vatican or the demons themselves, either. But it's the combination of these two aspects that provides a somewhat different reading experience from the typical urban fantasy stories. Carpe Demon, I suppose, would be an example of "suburban fantasy", hah.

Carpe Demon is a solid effort, and recommended for those who want something slightly out of the ordinary from straight contemporary fiction, but not as otherworldly as some urban fantasy stories can get. Myself, though, I'm not sure whether I'll pick up the next couple of books.
reileen: (glee - Bomberman)
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Established in 1977 or so, Branko's is a family-owned sandwich stop just off of Fullerton, near DePaul University. It's run by a Macedonian couple who are super-nice and super-courteous. The food is standard American sandwich shop fare, affordably priced, but they make it nice and hot and serve it to you with a smile. It's excellent comfort food, and in fact I'm sitting here typing this entry while eating some fried cheese sticks that I got from there.

I started going there in my sophomore year because I kept on passing by it on my way to the art building. Its proximity made it ideal for me to pop in during a studio class break, get some minor eats, and pop back out to get back to class. Recently, I've begun stopping by the place after classes to get food to-go that I then eat at the school cafeteria while sitting with friends. Mr. and Mrs. Branko both know me by face now and have learned what my usual orders are (either cheese sticks or a regular hot dog with ketchup only and a side of fries, plus Mountain Dew), and so I sometimes get minor discounts for being a regular customer.

All in all, the food is good, but it's the service and comfortable intimacy of the small sandwich shop that makes Branko's a regular stop for me.

***

I'd wanted to finish up an ART224 project that's due tomorrow before going to ART113 later tonight, but the lab times are from 6-10pm. Which kind of fails considering that I have ART113 from 6-8:40pm. But since ART113 is a studio day today, I may possibly get away with leaving early to do stuff for ART224, since I don't foresee that the main part of my ART113 project is going to take too long. On the other hand, I could just do it during ART260 tomorrow (since I think that's another studio day). Decisions, decisions.

Two book reviews to go up soon. There are also some thinky thoughts that have been swimming around in my head about the consumption of music/film/books vs. the consumption of visual art and what that means for an artist trying to expand her horizons, and about my place as a second-generation Filipino-American and exploring the boundaries of where I'm Filipino and where I'm American, but I need to (attempt to) study for my ART237 midterm on Thursday as well as pull together something more coherent, so those will have to wait until I find more brain cells.

Also, Borders performance on Friday! Old friends may possibly accompany me again so I'm not so alone, though I do have a friend from college who wants a looksee. I think I had a working setlist floating around somewhere but hell if I can find it in my room (which, not surprisingly, is kind of a mess again!).
reileen: (writing - pen and notebook)
I both know and don't know what I'm going to do for NaNoWriMo this year.

I know I'm not going to do the usual 50k novel draft like I've doing the past few years. Instead, I'm thinking of revisiting my old drafts, poring through them and seeing what I can revise or rewrite or expand on. This includes Glass Houses, Daemonsong, and Natural Fury and its AU short story The Struggle Within. Although the last two are technically fanfic, all I'd have to do is file off the serial numbers and do some other revising and I'd be good to go. Looking back on 'em, though, I find it interesting that the current plot of Natural Fury, divorced from its fandom origins, isn't normally the kind of story I'd want to pick up and read (that is, a coming-of-age story). I'm really thinking about abandoning Natural Fury and letting The Struggle Within (which needs a re-titling) be my chronicle of that particular 'verse. The Struggle Within, unfortunately, has a rather depressing ending for the main character, whereas in Natural Fury it was more of a bittersweet ending, but at this point I'm not confident enough about the idea or story of Natural Fury to give it the necessary attention. Maybe in a couple of years, but not now. I actually want to work with Kira and Luke - I keep thinking it might be nice to do a short story with those two, or a vignette, or something to explore their characters and world some more.

I don't know, however, how I'm going to quantify my progress for this sort of thing. Do I say, okay, every week I have to have spent at least such-and-such hours on original work (and original work only)? Can I pin down a wordcount? I'm leaning heavily towards a time-based goal, since I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to quantify something that may not be actual prose but, instead, notes or somesuch. But without a wordcount goal of some sort, I may end up just waffling around and spending all of my time on worldbuilding research.

***

Came up with a potential riff in G-minor. Very simple, no lyrics yet. I really enjoy the flatted minor keys, and G-minor is a particular favorite. I've already got two songs in G-minor, technically, but "Queen of Denial" is less of a performance piece and more of a milestone piece, and I haven't figured out a good enough arrangement for "Mirror" yet. Maybe I'll revisit them years in the future, when I'll (ostensibly) have made improvements in my composition skills, but for now I'll let them lie.
reileen: (anime - Neuro)
Nightmare Inspector must be one of very few stories out there that has a rather literal "it was all a dream!" ending that makes total, logical sense.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. The story does revolve around the existence of a Japanese mythological creature known as a baku, who eats nightmares. Baku are typically depicted as looking like tapirs (and in fact modern Japanese uses the same word to refer to both things), but in Nightmare Inspector the main baku is a pretty shota named Hiruko, whose sad, violent past prior to becoming a baku is integral to the climax of the entire 9-volume series.

The pacing and story of Nightmare Inspector follows a similar pattern to Hell Girl: episodic mini-plots of Hiruko helping customers with their nightmares interspersed with plot-related happenings and disturbing revelations about the mysterious, supernatural characters that populate the world, most notably the titular character. Despite his cold, apathetic demeanor, Hiruko actually does care enough about his customers to help them deal with their nightmares, walking them through their life and fears that manifest themselves in their nightmares before actually eating the nightmare itself. (Which would make him, like, the best therapist ever. Seriously, helping patients understand their traumas before nomming down on the traumas and thus relieving them of it? If it weren't for Hiruko's wyrd personality - or, hell, the fact that [SPOILER REDACTED] - he could make a killing in the profession.) Not all baku are as benevolent as Hiruko, however, as readers come to see. Corrupted by the single, driving desire to eat nothing but nightmares, some baku are obsessed with creating the Worst Nightmares Ever, for the worse the nightmare, the tastier it is to the baku. This aspect, too, is essential to understanding the weaving of plot threads that lead up to the climax.

So what is the climax? Well, I sort of spoiled it for y'all at the beginning of this entry, but it's another thing entirely (of course) to read the conclusion for yourself. If you can borrow this series from somewhere or someone (Melissa dumped it on me, haha), then by all means check it out. It's got beautiful art; a somewhat repetitive storyline that gets substantially more interesting and melancholy at some point after volume 6; amusing characters that, unfortunately, also sometimes feel a bit shallow and hard to "get"; and an interesting take on the baku mythos that explains enough for readers to understand the story but still leaves room for questions and other possibilities.
reileen: (reading - books)
I touched briefly upon my love for the first book in a previous LJ post, but I've since plowed through the second and third books, and have been very, very impressed with it. I love the conflictedness of Weeks' characters (well, most of them - I had no love or interest for any of the irredeemably "bad" characters), and the pacing is intensely fast, with more twists than a Twizzler. The "hoshit!" moments are genuinely surprising (to me, at least), and yet they fit with the story overall and heighten the stakes and tension.

Unfortunately, the fast pacing necessarily means that there are trade-offs, most notably the worldbuilding but also including the many storylines of the various groups of characters. The effect was akin to taking a high-resolution .RAW photo from a digital camera and converting it into a .JPEG: both are still generally very high-quality files, but in the compression of .RAW format to .JPEG, there's still some information that's lost which lowers the quality of the photo, ever so slightly. However, if you're not actively looking for it, you're not really going to notice the loss of information. Assuming that the original file is skillfully taken, it can be appreciated whether it's a .RAW or .JPEG. In this case, there were many points in the second and third books of the Night Angel trilogy that I felt deserved to be fleshed out more, though if that had happened the books would have been substantially longer. I kept on imagining how this trilogy would've looked as a more drawn-out series; I kept on seeing mini-plots that could've filled an entire book by themselves. Nevertheless, Weeks provides enough to satisfy the reader and to convince the reader to care about the characters and their story.

Interviews I've read say that Weeks has a non-Midcyru standalone novel slated for publication in 2010, and that he does plan to return to Midcyru for another trilogy at some point in the future. I look forward to both, and in the meantime, I need to snatch up copies of the Night Angel trilogy for my own personal collection...
Also, have I mentioned that I love the covers? :D Seriously, those covers were part of why I was intrigued by the series in the first place. Book covers: DOIN' 'EM RIGHT. I hope I get to learn more about designing book covers in one of my design classes.
reileen: (Default)
I've had this link-o-llection lying around for almost a month now. orz

Best. Soda. Display. Ever.

Steampunk duel on YouTube. It's like Victorian-era Gundams duking it out!

[livejournal.com profile] yhlee talks about merely convincing your reader that a complex, multi-layered world exists, as opposed to SHOWING everything to the reader:

If you are trying for a certain kind of mimesis, the trick is in hinting: instead of playing the fool's game of trying to generate everything pixel by pixel, provide instead the key stuff and then a bunch of--best analogy I have here is fractal generators. Something small that generates something complex; and you are offloading a lot of world-generating functions to the reader (or gameplayer, etc.), who will take that fractal generator and produce the pixels for you.

[livejournal.com profile] jimhines offers up a list of Neil Gaiman "facts".

[livejournal.com profile] cleolinda explains that the problem with working for yourself or working freelance is that it's task-based as opposed to time-based, which changes how you perceive yourself to be "done" with work.

Should there be a manga canon?

***

Been getting used to a school schedule again. Finding myself dealing with less and more problems than I thought.

I recently finished a project for my 3-D Foundations class in which we had to create a "chair" using only two pieces of cardboard and hot glue. I put "chair" in quotes because, as the professor put it, it didn't have to look like a conventional chair, but it did need to function like one, supporting one person's weight. My initial idea was something involving a weird 3-D star-like form, but after hearing the professor discuss the architectural concept of a "decorated shed", I decided to be lazy and apply that concept to my project.



In this case, the place where you sit - the top of the main gear - is merely a 6"x6" square column that's 18" high and reinforced by an X-shaped structure on the inside. Everything else is just chewy, papery icing.







I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, actually. The problem is trying to figure out what to do with this thing once it's graded and I have to bring it home. I don't want to just chop it up and throw it away, but it's not like I have any room anywhere for that thing.
reileen: (general - strawberry)
On Reading
There are many books I've enjoyed, and others that I've admired for various reasons. These days, I've mostly been reading half as a reader and half as a writer, and the writer half of me...well, let's put it this way. My comedy screenwriting professor liked to tell my class that, with all the work he's done in comedy, he never actually laughs at anything anymore. Instead, if there was something he found funny, he'd just go: "That's funny. That's really funny. That's sort of how I am with my reading-as-a-writer right now. I'll read something and go, "Hey, wow, that was really cool. I'mma try to keep that in mind for later.

Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows was one of the rare books that made my eyes go "O_O!" and my mouth go "NO FSCKIN WAI!". I can't remember the last time I was this impressed by anything I've read. In fact, I think the last thing I read that elicited that sort of HOLY FUCKING SHIT ON A SANDWICH reaction was an epic Teen Titans fanfic of 2.5 million words and 270 chapters written by an old online friend of mine. That was about three years ago or thereabouts.

And the thing is, The Way of Shadows isn't necessarily "original" in many areas. Young street rat is frustrated with his weak status and trains to become an assassin, and becomes one of the bestest best best assassins evar; the world is standard-ish medieval fantasy fare with cobbled inspiration from various Earth cultures (I actually found the cultural worldbuilding kind of meh and a bit inconsistent); the writing isn't necessarily poetic or striking, though it's clear and clean, which is fine by me (and anyway pretty prose wouldn't work with most of the character POVs anyway). But just...the way the author handles his characters and the plot points and the progression of revealing those plot points makes me want to nail this book to the wall next to my desk with a large neon sign pointing to it that says "THIS IS HOW YOU PLOT A BOOK".

I want to buy my own copy of this book, sit down with it, and start analyzing its struture. I've got a library copy of the third book on hand and I'm waiting patiently (sort of) for the second book to arrive at my library. I am prayingprayingpraying that this trilogy doesn't pull a Matrix on me, where the first installment is practically godly while the second and third seem like the were defecated from hell.

-

On Politicians
From [livejournal.com profile] yeloson: Dear Mr. President - Your daughter is a ninja.

-

On School
Good news! I just saved money on car insurance textbooks by switching to Geico Chegg.com! According to the site, not only did I save $180 by renting my textbooks this quarter, but I also got to plant four trees in Cameroon!

-

On Pretty Pictures
I have Las Vegas pictures uploaded onto Photobucket, and am working (...sort of) on the write-up.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] pinkpolarity, I have discovered the wonder that is [livejournal.com profile] eyeshadowsluts! Hee. I've spent some time there going through the backposts and looking at all the pictures and advice. They have some interesting looks on there. Like this one, which is freaky as fuck but also fucking awesome.

I also poked through YouTube for makeup how-to videos, and found this one, which I promptly proceeded to emulate using the tools available. I obviously didn't do a perfect job, but I think that with some practice I could get used to doing it, since this is going closer to the kind of look I've been coveting for like ages. XD I'm not sure how well you can see it in these pictures, though.

In which Reileen also plays around with Post-It flash filters, what )

-Reileen
slippery with forgetting
reileen: (music - piano & smoke)
Haha, I just realized that I signed my fandom name on that last entry. It's fixed already, but, uh, whoops.

***

Sink
by Reileen van Kaile

push off to an uncertain journey
to a distant, misty land
I stand on the edge of something greater
far more massive than I am

nothing much but everything
sees me through the days
with gentle lullabies of apathy
closing my empty gaze

no heed of the warning from above
no need of even my own pitiful love

too late to escape this grave that I ride
too soon to realize the white star of hope has died
I am lost to this life
I am grieving for the dying lights
of this broken, sinking ship
fading from this fight
and drowning in the shadows of my fears

cradled in the arms
of chilling, boundless depths
floating in the tear
that I wish I could've wept

for who knew such a tiny scratch
would rip the armor from my bones
I know, oh, now, I know
I am never coming home

too late to escape this grave that I ride
too soon to realize the white star of hope has died
I am lost to this life
I am grieving for the dying lights
of this broken, sinking ship
fading from this fight
and drowning in the shadows of my fears

too late to escape this gave that I ride
too soon to realize the white star of hope has died

too late to reverse the sands of time
too soon to believe in the hope of salvation mine
I will never know the pain
of life's brilliant holy flame
in this broken, sunken ship
frozen in the depths
ever drowning in the shadows of my fears

I'd been toying with the idea of writing a song about this strange fog of fear-born apathy enveloping me, but it wasn't until I visited the Titanic Museum during my trip to Branson that I got the idea to use the Titanic sinking as a vague metaphor for that feeling. I'm...not entirely sure I succeeded in merging the personal with the historical and getting something that was close to the intention I wanted. And I'm not especially happy with or proud of the construction of these lyrics (which, as always, are subject to change as I plot out melodies and think of marginally better replacements). But I managed to get a good chorus melody (...I think), so as long as I can turn this into an enjoyable song to perform, I think I'm good to go. I'm reminded of something I read about Sylvia Plath in the introduction to a compilation of her poetry that I have - that "her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn't get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy." Personally, I think this little wannabe song-table is more like a dollhouse chair at this point, but hey, it's better than nothing.

-Reileen
boys, play well into the night
reileen: (general - strawberry)
The Gods damn my Asian eyes and brown skin! It makes it more difficult to pull off the typical goth/punk makeup look that I really like. I seem to have succeeded in developing a generic smoky eyes look that works for me, but while I think it looks decent it's not as dramatic as I'd like it to be. (Not that I'd ever need it to be really dramatic except on-stage, but I'd like to start dressing up a little more for gigs and stuff.) I think I need a really thick, deep, black eye makeup or something. Or maybe I just need moar skillz, whatever works.

Also, found that mascara doesn't seem to do much for me. My lashes are already long and black, so I'm not sure why Mommykins told me a while back that I should have some of the stuff on hand. It'd be different if I had, like, metallic sparkly obnoxious colors of mascara.

Also also, I seriously need to find either more dramatic color or more opaque eyeshadow or something, because nearly all of the eyeshadows I have really don't show up that well on my skin. Or they look horrible with my skin tone. I really want to experiment with stuff from Urban Decay, but their shit is so expensive. ;_; Although I remember finding some cheap stuff from them on eBay. Still, no job = no money = no needless spending! I must make do with what I have. And, you know, learn how to apply makeup properly, with that foundation shit and stuff. Waaaah, that's worrrk.

***

Sorry for the silence. I got distracted with many things, including two vacations to Las Vegas, NV and Branson, MO. I'd like to get the pictures and some semblance of a coherent write-up done soon, but I'm going to wait until the memory upgrades arrive for my laptop - increasing the RAM from 1GB to 2GB and praying that it'll be enough to prevent my laptop from spontaneously combusting on me all the time if I don't have two fans trained on it.

I start classes on September 9. It'll be nice to see my friends again, but I won't have any classes with them and I'm not really looking forward to the senior-level work for A&D. (My feelings of inadequacy in both this area and other areas of my life could warrant a novel of an LJ entry, and while I probably should attempt to sort through that at some point...i dun feel liek it rite nao so dere.) Also not looking forward to what could potentially be a fight with the art department faculty to graduate on time.

-Reileen
wise men say, only fools rush in
reileen: (music - piano & smoke)
Summer never lasts long enough for me. Summer never lasts short enough either.

I've been in a very...limbo-y place in my mind lately. (And there aren't even any fucking tiki torches!) I like being alone with my thoughts, but the problem is that my heavy thinking eventually ends up paralyzing me. I need to find more balance in my life, as I learned from Dionysos a while back. I thought I could do it this summer, juggling art stuff (both leisurely and career-related) with some music and writing in-between, and maybe some gaming, reading, or language self-study, and even maintaining (le gasp) a normal-ish sleeping schedule instead of the schedule of a vamp. But all of a sudden it's August and I've been lazing about in my room, despite things that I've gotten done, I feel - as I always seem to do on vacations - like I wasted my break.

I haven't been able to motivate myself that well lately. I think to myself: "what's the point, I'm not good for anything useful anyway". I think to myself: "what the hell is wrong with me, that I can be so fearful when I have a support system to die for". I think to myself: "my dreams are too big for a meek little girl like me". All these questions and thoughts, just little pinpricks...but before I know it, they've pinpricked their way into heavy shackles tattooed on my heart, my mind, my soul.

Balance. I need to find balance. Maybe it rolled under my bed and started a family with the dust bunnies there.

***

Eidolon [.wav, on Sendspace]

Eidolon
by Reileen van Kaile

these are my puppet strings that bind you here
what is it in my eyes you fear?
I'm the faded photo you burned long ago
reborn from the ashes a million scissor lashes
resurrected by the heat of my hate

here we stand at the threshold to black
take my hand, go now to these lands
savor the salvation that came much too late

how far will my chains let me run?
how long can I believe in your grief?
how could you be so naive?
well, try to save this, just try to hide
from these feelings that you thought long died
you'll never escape these tangled threads that Fate has spun

these are the ghosts that have stayed the course
what need have they of remorse?
I see that still I clasp your tongue
mine to twist, so cease to resist
you'll never find your lady in the sky

I'm your demon angel, your seraphic plague
no disguise, you're wise to finally realize
I'll never return the self that you gave

how far will my chains let me run?
how long can I believe in your grief?
how could you be so naive?
well, try to save this, just try to hide
from these feelings that you thought long died
you'll never escape these tangled threads that Fate has spun

(can you hear me out there
the voice of your little toy?
can you feel my memory
bleeding you into the void?)

well, I've torn away your hellish night
ripped through all your silly lies
yet you deny what any fool can see
you no longer have any power over me

how far will your chains let you run?
how long will you wander your grief
searching for what's left of me?
well, I burned it all, but trust that I cried
for these feelings that have long since died
and now I stand, alone and proud...the battle won

The first draft of these lyrics were written about two years ago(?) after a surprise run-in with an unsavory someone from my past that I thought I'd left behind. I had to put this song through the wringer to get reasonably singable lines that still made some sort of weird sense. I especially had real trouble with the bridge, and I'm still not wholly satisfied with it, but it works. I also had the key in mind and the melody for the first three lines in my head for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I pulled together an arrangement that sounded...somewhat close to what I was imagining. As always, the vocals need work, especially for the chorus, but the piano arrangement is probably my best so far. I'm slowly getting closer to making the music I want to make.

However, since these are the kinds of songs I seem to enjoy writing, I have got to start finding more appropriate venues than the cafe at Borders, because these aren't..."safe" songs, in some ways. I'm definitely not claiming that my songs are edgy or offensive or anything like that, but they're darker than mainstream. At the same time, I don't feel that they're dark enough to be called "gothic" or what-have-you, so if I had to find, like, a gothic club to play these at, I fear I would be laughed out of the place. So I feel kind of...stuck. I have "safe" songs that I can play, but it's things like "Eidolon" and "Gospel of the Shadow of Nobody" that I want to perform. But I'm not sure, exactly, where they fit in terms of genre, in terms of a potential audience. I have no idea who the hell would want to listen to the crap I make besides my close friends that I inflict this stuff upon.

Tangentially related: I finally managed to get a reasonably decent recording of myself performing Tatakau Monotachi. I wouldn't ever feel confident enough about my ability to perform this at a (theoretical) concert, but it's good for catharsis. That's part of why I love playing music: it's intimately physical in a way that my art and writing aren't. Since I sit around on my ass most of the time with art and writing, at least with music I can exercise my arms and vocal cords for a while.

-Reileen
you've got my heart beating like an 808
reileen: (music - piano & smoke)
I was psyched when I found out via Twitter and LJ that Emilie Autumn was going to be holding an impromptu, informal meet-up/book-reading somewhere near the Lincoln Park Conservatory & Zoo on July 25. She's been mostly performing in Europe for the past couple of years, and any US shows she might've had were either out of my way or I just couldn't go. So something like this was a real treat. Plus, it was free, so like hell I was going to miss out on this! There were some issues and annoyances, but otherwise I'm glad I made it out there.

I dragged Liz ([livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill), Lauren ([livejournal.com profile] bluemaiden88), and Melissa along with me. We met up at the Fullerton station and then made Liz lead us to the conservatory/zoo (she'd been to the zoo a million and one times for bio classes, so I figured that her knowledge of where to go was better than mine, which was only informed by two solo jaunts in the years I've been at DePaul). Along the way, we got stopped by two people who asked us if we were going to the EA meet-up, which I guess meant that we were clearly dressed for the part. (Me, my plans for finding the meet-up location once we arrived at the general area was to follow all the gothic people, so there you go.)

Once we got settled at the final location, we had to wait a bit for EA to show up. I think her friend fLee explained what the issue was, but from where we got stuck sitting we couldn't hear much (though once EA arrived she bade us to scoot closer so that we could hear better). Anyway, EA showed up fashionably late, in her steampunk-ish floofy dress and corset and wild pink hair, toting what looked like a nicely handmade big-ass storybook. She spent the next two hours and a half (or somewhere around there) dramatically reading excerpts from her upcoming book The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls, which seems to be half-autobiography, half-fiction. EA's a joy to watch; she's very theatrical, with enough stage presence and charisma to fill the Sears Tower. It made me miss my theatre days, even though in those days I mostly did crew work, not actual acting. (Kinda wish I'd done more acting, though.) The only bad thing about this was sitting on the bumpy ground with barely nothing but my black knit sweater between my ass and the grass.

After reading, EA performed "Fairweather Friend" and "The Art of Suicide", with her producer(?) accompanying her on guitar. And then after that came the Meet N' Greet, at which point me and my friends proceeded to be stuck in a near-dead line for nearly a half hour or more. The problem was that, once EA announced that she'd be doing autographs on your tits - no, for serious, she announced this, "LET ME SIGN YOUR BREASTS BECAUSE YOU ARE AWESOME", there was this blob of fans surrounding her that she had to attend to first, and then from that blob was this line (where we were at) that spun out from the blob like the tail of a sperm cell. But we got there eventually, so all was well. I had her sign a print of the picture used on her Opheliac cover (which I'd printed out on photo paper earlier in the day). I saw two people who'd brought their violins to be signed by EA, and wished that an 88-key weighted keyboard could be so portable as to easily tote to a VT show to be signed by Miss Teng herself. Oh, well, signed sheet music and a CD aren't bad, but I digress.

and here there be pictures! )

In conclusion, Emilie Autumn is made of frilly, insane, plague-ridden* win! She said that she was planning to do an official show in Chicago in November, so I hope to the Gods I can go see it. She is truly amazing.

-Reileen
pull me up, 'cause I am waiting



*I mean this in a very complimentary way. Anyone who's been following Emilie's recent posts on either LJ orthe main site will know why.
reileen: (reading - books)
So. Yeah. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The title is pretty self-explanatory; the book is a decent, enjoyable read (speaking as someone who liked the original), and I suspect this is going to spark a craze in the publishing world where authors take works of fiction in the public domain and fuse it with something that is completely, anachronistically dissonant with the tone and setting of said work. Grahame-Smith is apparently already working on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I soon expect The Sound and the Fury and the Androids, or The Odyssey: Gotta Catch 'Em All!, or Treasure Island: With Extra Pirate Action!. (...wait.)

For the most part, Grahame-Smith does a commendable job of integrating such a ridiculous element with the refined atmosphere of late 18th-century England. The zombies are referred to as either "the unmentionables" or "the sorry stricken" or, well, "the zombies." Not much explanation is given as to the origin of the zombies; they've just been an ongoing plague to the Empire for a while already (dating back to at least the youth of Lady Catherine). Zombie attacks are more frequent in the spring and summer, when the earth is soft. Zombie attacks are also apparently the reason that there is a militia camped out nearby the Bennets. (I could be misremembering this.) Okay, that's fine. I can dig that.

Another thing I can dig: the Bennet sisters being trained in kung-fu. Yes, apparently the Bennets spent time in China, training in Shaolin for a couple of years under some martial arts master, with the result that they can now kick ass while being modest about it. While that would obviously preclude some interesting encounters with the zombies (the first appearance of which occurs at the ball where the Bennets first meet Mr. Darcy), I was a lot more excited about the showdown between Elizabeth and Darcy when Darcy shows up to first propose to her. That was classic, and I suspect many fans of the book (and perhaps some non-fans) have been waiting a while for something like that. (Spoiler: Also thematically satisfying in terms of the whole martial arts thing was Elizabeth's final fight against Lady Catherine de Bourgh.) A subtle but interesting touch that Grahame-Smith added was the clash, for lack of a better term at the moment, between Chinese-style and Japanese-style martial arts. In particular, Lady Catherine de Bourgh looks down on Elizabeth not just because Elizabeth is from a lower social class, but also because Elizabeth is trained in the "barbarian" arts of China, and not the "superior" style of Japan. There are other such instances of this in the book, but that was the one that stood out to me.

Still, even while hastily invoking the Rule of Cool every other paragraph, there were some things that I just couldn't get over. For example, if Lizzy was trained in Chinese martial arts, what the hell was she doing with a Katana (yes, capitalized like it was in the book), which is a Japanese sword? Shouldn't she have been wielding, like, a jian or a dao or something? I know, I know, such a nitpick, but that was seriously bugging the hell out of me.

Then there were some characterization problems I was trying to wrestle with. And here is where I get a bit spoilery, though I must admit that defining 'spoiler' for a novel like this is kind of...wyrd. )

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is worth taking a look at, at the very least. Just be aware of your own personal "Rule of Cool" tolerance, and you'll be well-equipped to deal with the zombies and their hunters.

-Reileen
men are mere mortals who are not worth going to your grave for
reileen: (Default)
Y'know, it can be really hard to tag things appropriately. I'm finding this problem with both LJ and with trying to bookmark stuff on my Delicious account again. How specific should I get? Should I be general, or should I name as many specific details as possible? Do I tag by subject matter? Sub-subject matter? Source website? Do I tag with some witty phrase of my thoughts on the matter (i.e., "stupid things")? Should I do all of 'em? Would that be overkill? Am I overthinking this? (Probably.)

I think there's two generally different approaches to tagging that aren't necessarily exclusive to each other. One is to help yourself find things; one is to help other people find things. The difference is that with the former, you can tag things in a slightly obscurish manner, or in a haphazard manner, and most of the time (when you remember) you know why you tagged it the way you tagged it. When trying to tag things to help other people find those things, though, you have to be a little more objective/factual/whatever about it, and probably stick to the basics. Here on LJ, I waver between the first approach to tagging and the second approach. My Delicious account is private, though, so there's not too much of an issue there.

Still, one area where I'm personally running into tagging issues is when I'm trying to tag things about various kinds of Serious Business, i.e. politics, economics, racism, anti-oppression/anti-prejudice in general. I'll probably be able to work out some sort of personal system as I continue wading through these things and making sense of them, but at the moment it's pretty overwhelming. (I am also going cross-eyed at the thought of trying to tag all of my imported Firefox bookmarks, some of which were left untagged from the last time I substantially used Delicious about a year or so ago. Eep.)

***

"Moe: The Cult of the Child" is an evenhanded analysis of the moe phenomenon in otaku culture, where there is a lot of focus on the cutesy antics of young, adolescent girls who sometimes look like they've got girls' heads pasted onto women's bodies. The author discusses the appeal of the genre and what that appeal means for society as a whole.

This is an informative but depressing interview about the crap-covered state of the U.S. insurance industry by Bill Moyers with Wendell Potter, the former Head of Public Relations of Cigna, one of America's largest health insurers.

An A-to-Z Smorgasbord of Overused Graphic Concepts and Resources.

[livejournal.com profile] cupcake_goth, a.k.a. Jillian Venters, a.k.a. the Lady of the Manners, recently posted about plans for a book-promoting picnic at a large graveyard. She was apparently berated by a fan who thought she was disrespecting the dead in doing so. However, in the comments to the entry, one learns that the big public/non-churchyard cemeteries and graveyards were, to some extent, intended as large public parks, to be freely enjoyed by anyone who wanted to hang out there for whatever reason (whether it was just to sit down and read or to take a walk or even to have weddings). There's an interesting discussion about the intersection of life and death with regards to that particular context. Myself, I remember visiting this one pretty large cemetery up on the North Side (I think it was off the Addison Red Line stop?) back in my freshman year of college, and being both haunted and fascinated by the history in it. I've always wanted to go back and wander around some more, especially in nicer weather (since when I went it was cold and rainy; wouldn't mind the rain so much if it hadn't also been chilly).

Two instances of HELL FUCKING YES for the Reileen! First off, Dead Fantasy III has gone live, focusing on a one-on-one fight between Tifa from FF7 and Hitomi from DoA. I cannot tell you how much I love the Dead Fantasy series for its absolutely ri-cock-ulous Physics Does Not Work That Way fight scenes. It's absurdly beautiful and beautifully absurd. And as impossibly beautiful as all the women are, I'm glad that the creator seems to be focusing more on the amount of ass they can kick instead of the amount of ass they've got exposed. I can't wait for the next few installments, particularly in light of the ending scene for DF3.

Secondly, remember or not how I was blabbering about Jeeja Yanin starring in a new film? Raging Phoenix's trailer has also hopped onto the webz. It's short and with no indication of the plot, but the bits we see of the action scenes seem promising.

AvatarFail continues with four headshots of the four main characters. Leaving aside the obvious racial problems, what the fuck is up with Zuko's "scar"? It looks like the makeup artist smeared clay on the side of his face and then called it a day. And I know that this is only one headshot, but Aang just looks so RAWR and sulky and I'm like WHERE DID MY SEAL-SLEDDING AVATAR GO NOOOOO. As a bit of an antidote to this clusterfuck, here's a survey in three parts about the many ways that A:TLA subverts the status quo (and some of the ways that it doesn't!).

Cool nature thing of the day: watermelon snow, which is snow that is not only pink but also, indeed, smells faintly of watermelons! Look but don't taste.

While soldiering through the archives of The Straight Dope (I actually got through all 57 pages! Though I didn't read all the columns, obviously), I found that they had addressed how the word "gay" came to mean "homosexual". I'm particularly fascinated by the fact that "to gay it" once meant "to copulate", and am now imagining the word "gay" in place of another certain word that also means "to copulate." For example: "Well, gay you to hell and back!", or "GAY THIS GAYING SHIT!" or "That's gaying awesome." Certainly "mothergayer" would have interesting implications. In a situation where things have just gone to shit, I think the mood would be lightened considerably if someone uttered "We're totally gayed." (This totally puts Jade Curtiss' "A Definition of the Word 'Fuck'" in an entirely new light. WHY DON'T YOU PLAY HIDE AND GO GAY YOURSELF???)

Nine reasons the economy is not getting better.

From Lifehacker (that name is epic), how to bake cookies on your dashboard harnessing the heat accumulated inside your car on a steamy summer day. WIN.

Finally, this entry is one that I swear everyone needs to be smacked with at least once in their life: [livejournal.com profile] jimhines discusses why it's even more important to dissect pop culture for problematic themes and attitudes than it is to do the same for more "literary" works. The very accessibility of pop culture is exactly why problems with the culture need to be examined and brought out into the open. It sends a message to people, hey, look, these problems haven't gone away. They're not hiding under the dustbunnies of history and obfuscated academia; they're in the center of the room, flailing their hands and dancing. (IN UR ROOM, FLAILING THEIR HANDZ)

***

Also watched Police Story 4: First Strike recently. This is one of Jackie Chan's American/English films. Long story short, Chan plays an HK police officer who gets whored out by his superior to the CIA in order to track down a suitcase nuke. His job takes him first to Ukraine, then all the way down under to Australia. The version of the movie I was watching was all English-dubbed, but apparently in the original cut, there were instances where some of the characters were speaking either Cantonese, Ukrainian, Russian, etc. Anyway, plot is kind of silly, the fight scenes were slightly disappointing until the end, where not only did you have Jackie fighting for a couple of minutes while on stilts, but then you also had underwater kung-fu in a tank with a man-eating shark. I shit you not. I also liked this scene, set inside what looks like a large warehouse - among other things, Jackie performs some seriously amazing stunts with what looks like a 12-foot-tall ladder or thereabouts.

*looks back over this entry* ...RAWR, how am I going to tag this thing?

-Reileen
or am I just wasting time?
reileen: (art - paint jars)
I orginally started this piece intending for it to be a quick speedpaint of Luke and Kira, but as soon as I got to Kira's fur I was like, pffffffftno I definitely was not going to get this done in any manner considered "speedy" without fucking things up. So I took my time on it.

Here are two in-progress screenshots of this thing )

Aaaaand here's the final! (with closeups) )

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I actually envisioned Kira as large enough in her sphinx form for Luke to ride comfortably on her back. But I was having problems with getting the proportions right, so I decided to stick close to the proportions of a real lion(ness) for the moment.

-Reileen
we are wolves of the sea

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Reileen van Kaile

April 2010

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