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: (Default)
Two more blabberings about martial arts flicks.

Robin B Hood: Jackie Chan, Louis Koo, Yuen Biao. Chan and Koo play two successful cat burglars, Thongs and Octopus (...don't ask), who eventually get roped into kidnapping a baby by their boss, Landlord (...again, don't ask), who's looking to pick up the hefty reward money for doing so from a wealthy Triad mobster. But while on the run, the Landlord gets caught by the police, and asks Thongs and Octopus to look after the baby until he can get out of jail. Thongs and Octopus are initially reluctant, but eventually develop a strong relationship with the kid and thus refuse to hand him over when the time comes. Kung-fu hijinks ensue - as well as a couple of instances of surprising tugs at the heartstrings. Favorite fight scene is Chan vs. Biao inside Thongs'(?) apartment.

Battle Warrior: Tony Jaa and...other people who don't matter. Well, okay, maybe I'll mention the random G.I. Joe character, just for the sheer randomness of it. Oh, yeah, Panna Rittikrai plays a zombie. But other than that, hoo boy, this film was a waste of an hour and a half and I wished I'd spent it watching Police Story 4 instead. Horrid acting, boring main characters, and wyrd-ass lighting on some of the shots that made it hard to see anything. (I double-checked; it was definitely the movie and not my monitor.) The way the DVD was packaged and the way the movie was described made it seem like Jaa had a bigger part in the movie than he actually did - which was likely intentional 'cause otherwise I can't imagine that this would be a good-selling film. I only watched the entire thing so that I wouldn't miss any potential scenes with him, 'cause fast-forwarding and rewinding on DVDs would almost be as annoying as just letting the movie run its course. However, the lone redeeming point of the movie (which I shall now poetically liken to the faint remnants of an ancient start in the murky night sky of downtown Chicago) is that Jaa actually plays a villainous character instead of a rampaging Muay Thai Hero of Great Justice. (Jaa is the right-hand bodyguard/fighter/whatever for the over-the-top military general dictator person thingy deep in the middle of bumfuck Thailand. Er...yeah.) I demand to see Jaa in more villainous roles! That would be hot. (Even though Jaa can't, uh, really act. Then again, he hasn't been given a lot of roles that require him to act aside from emoting ">:|!!!!!!", so maybe he just hasn't been given a chance to shine.)

***

I am re-thinking my plans to apply for JET this coming academic year. The issue isn't that I'm chickening out on it - yeah, I am scared to hell about it, but the more scared I get, the more determined I am to actually do the program - but that I simply won't have the start-up funds needed to get to and live in Japan before I receive my first paycheck. Not counting anything that I might need to buy prior to going to Japan (extras of stuff that I can only get easily in the US), I'm gonna need at least $3000 to pay for the first month of rent + amenities, as well as to live off of. I refuse to make my parents pay for that, and there's little to no chance I'll be able to get and/or hold a job during this last year of my schooling.

Even if I do miraculously get a job during the school year, however, I wouldn't be able - well, willing - to put in the hours needed to scrape up that much money. Because I just really, really need to get the fuck out of school. I need to focus on my schoolwork so that I can do well enough to graduate by next spring. That's really top priority in terms of real life issues. Once I get my degree, I'll start worrying about really investing the time/energy/sanity into looking for a job.

For now, I'll continue to cruise craigslist for mini-gigs.

...although I really should get cracking on customizing YouTube and MySpace for my music. And attempting to bid for graphic design projects on Etsy. aldkadjglkjakgjlakjglkja. At least I've got a $70+ CG commission from a friend coming up soon. Which is barely going to start paying off the Vegas tickets that my parents bought for me, but at least it's something. I'm also looking at eLance for writing gigs but am realizing how very little legit credentials I have to list for my editing skills, besides "Ask my friends how much I like to shred apart their writing."

-Reileen
oh, virginia, we didn't know you had it in ya
reileen: (TONIGHT WE BLOG IN HELL)
Because it's not like I already have a messed-up sleeping schedule, last night I ended up staying up into the wee mornings hours watching some of the martial arts flicks that I borrowed from my brother's rather substantive collection while sketching. The problem with having a brother who shares similar tastes in movies and games is that I can easily borrow that stuff while I'm still at home, but once I'm out of the house I'll have to get my own copies... Let me tell you, it was a pretty bloody night.

Ong Bak was first into the ring. Prior to this, I'd seen Tony Jaa in Tom Yum Goong (known as The Protector in the US, which I really liked) and Spirited Killer (which I, uh, didn't), so I had some idea of what to expect in terms of fighting style. Ong Bak is a good introduction to Jaa, but it may not be for those who get squicked by film violence real easily, because Ong Bak is far bloodier than either Spirited Killer or Tom Yum Goong. I'm mostly inured to that stuff by now, and even I cringed at some of the scenes. The film's been described as an unabashed "look what I can do!" demonstration, but seriously, when you can pull off all the crazy shit that Jaa can, why wouldn't you want to show that off?

In the movie, Jaa's character, Ting, is a devout young man from a tiny village in Thailand whose most precious possession is a statue of the Buddha called "Ong Bak". One day, the head gets stolen by a low-level mafia thug, and Ting vows to get the head back even if it costs him his life. With only the donations from the villagers and his own determination to live on, Ting travels to urban Bangkok to hunt down the perpetrator, eventually getting entangled with an elderly mob kingpin who speaks through an electrolarynx but otherwise is a pretty boring character. This is a remarkably similar plot to the later film Tom Yum Goong, so it's no wonder that TYG was sometimes mistakenly referred to as Ong Bak 2. It's a pretty straightforward plot, so all you have to do is just sit back and watch Jaa kick ass and take names. Interestingly, though, my favorite action sequence from the film isn't any of the actual combat scenes against the big baddies like the obnoxious Australian(?) guy and the Japanese guy in a schoolboy uniform with the quasi-Spike Spiegal hair, but instead a chase scene through the alley markets (is that what they are?) of Bangkok, when he and another character Humlae (played by Thai comedian Mum Jokmok, who also appears in a comedic sidekick role in The Protector) are being pursued by a gang of thugs that they pissed off. I guess it's because it injected some humor into a deathly serious movie with a ridiculous plotline? That's fairly early on in the movie, though, and it only gets darker from there, although the ending is relatively "happy."

Kill Zone (originally titled SPL) is even worse in terms of the graphic nature of the violence. In particular, the various death scenes involving the character played by Wu Jing (who is kind of a little bit awesome in his white-clad knife-wielding crazy assassin role) were pretty much the most expensive meal you could get on the Menu of Death: a Whopper-sized Knuckle Sandwich with a side of Supersized Pain and a Big Gulp of Agony. I'm hungry, I haven't eaten breakfast or lunch. I think it all served the plot well, though. I'm not sure what I would peg as my favorite action sequence - maybe the fight between Donnie Yen and Wu Jing? And certainly the smackdown between Yen and Sammo Hung is a thing of Much Awesome.

The movie is, at first glance, a standard cops versus the mafia kind of story, but there's a lot of nuances involved in the portraiture of the characters and the climax and resolution of the storyline that make it stand out to me. (Not that I've necessarily viewed a lot of cops vs. mafia movies, never mind movies in general...) I found myself developing empathy with both sides of the law here (barring Wu Jing's assassin - he had no development at all, but I liked him anyway 'cause he was crazy style like damn), and I think that Kill Zone, outside of being a really badass-looking flick starring a showdown between two of the world's greatest martial arts legends, is also a good study in how to potentially handle nuanced characters. Which is a pretty mean feat, considering that a lot of martial arts flicks, even some of my favorites, aren't exactly huge on either coherent, deep stories or 3-dimensional characters. So Kill Zone is definitely up there with one of my favorite martial arts flicks of all time, with a pretty damn good drama to boot. (Spoiler: Too bad nearly everyone dies in the end. The last scene is pretty depressing, although because I'd read some spoilers a while back, I knew that it was intended to symbolize Simon Yam's character finally dying from the brain tumor he was diagnosed with three years ago. But the movie doesn't really remind you of that fact throughout, so by the time you get to this scene you may have forgotten about it.)

At some point last week, I also watched Invisible Target, which is yet another "cops versus the bad guys!" flick, although this time the cops - played by Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, and Jaycee Chan - are chasing after a mercenary group that's wreaking havoc in Hong Kong. Crazy-ass Wu Jing returns as the leader of the mercenaries. Jaycee Chan's father Jackie Chan makes a small cameo near the beginning of the film, as a guard for an armored truck that's being looted by the mercenaries. (He gets shot ded, lulz. It's one of those "blink and you'll miss it moments".)

Invisible Target, similar to Kill Zone, also makes attempts at drawing out nuanced characters and a deeper storyline, but for some reason it didn't resonate with me as strongly as Kill Zone's did. The heroes are all pretty distinct in terms of their backstory and personality: Tse's a rather impulsive officer who lost his fiancee to the mercs (she was collateral damage in their rampage), Yue's an effective but arrogant detective who seriously got served by the mercs' leader early on in the film, and Chan's an earnest and idealistic beat cop whose older brother (an undercover cop) may have gotten inextricably entangled with the mercs. All of them are generally likeable.

On the other hand, the mercs' portrait is a bit more...muddled. They were apparently all orphans raised together in a...military...training...camp...thing? And they hate all cops because of...something-or-other that I'm not even sure the movie knows what it is. THEY JUST HATE ALL COPS, OKAY. AND THEY BE TIGHT WITH EACH OTHER, YO, THEY BE TIGHT. LIKE LEATHER PANTS ON A WELL-CHISELED ASS. Probably the only interesting thing about the mercs (besides the intimidating presence of Wu Jing, who once again doesn't get much development - although it's certainly more than what he got in Kill Zone) is that we actually get a female merc (no development, but she can kick some ass well enough) and we get a merc who seems to have some sort of conscience and is probably the most well-characterized of the mercenaries...for a certain value of the term "well-characterized". (Spoiler: When Chan and this guy finally get to talk, Chan makes the comment to him that "you act like my brother, but you don't look like him". It turns out this guy was responsible for killing Chan's older brother. Echoes of BMJ, anyone?)

All in all, despite the narrative deficiencies, Invisible Target is still well worth a watch for martial arts or action junkies, especially for the bar brawl scene where we get to see Jaycee Chan kick some ass with Tse and Yue (although this only happens after a series of events with Chan that pegged my embarrassment squick liekwhoah). Actually, though, my favorite scene in the movie isn't an action sequence at all: it's a conversation early on between Chan's character and his grandmother, where Chan is describing what his day was like.

Wai King Ho: So, I kissed someone today.
Grandmother: (serenely filling out a sudoku sheet) That's nice. Bring her over for dinner.
Wai King Ho: It was a guy.
Grandmother: Guys have to eat too.


Chan was referring to the fact that he had to give a homeless guy CPR.

Invisible Target also taught me that you can throw a bottle of booze at a lightbulb and break it, and the resulting sparks mixed with the alcohol will cause a nice kaboom! Awesome. [/tongue-in-cheek]

Meanwhile, I found out a while back that Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate) is set to star in another movie, currently called Raging Phoenix (original Thai title Du Suay Doo, meaning "stubborn, beautiful, and fierce"). It's apparently going to revolve around a romantic storyline, and hip-hop elements and moves will be incorporated into the movie somehow. Me, I'm just glad that Jeeja no longer has that fugly haircut from Chocolate. She's a cute girl, but her costumes from that movie were just so damn ugly. Look, she might've been playing an autistic girl, but autistic girls deserve to dress cute too! *eyes her younger sister's closet full of bright cheery outfits* I know some people weren't impressed with Chocolate and they're not overly impressed with what they're hearing about Raging Phoenix, but any movie that stars a gal who can pull off this pose in those shoes has to be worth watching.

***

I changed the color scheme of my LJ layout to something green, in honor of what's going on with Iran right now. I'm not informed enough or smart enough to write anything particularly insightful about this, but I can link y'all to some pages that I personally found well worth reading, for various reasons.

[livejournal.com profile] one_hoopy_frood talks about ways to help out and provides other helpful links. ciderpress on Dreamwidth has a pretty short entry on the entire thing, but I'm gonna quote these two lines from it here for Big Fucking Truth:

There are mass protests, students, adults, young and old, and the heavy cost of a revolution, one that has never been required of me to live this good life I have, is being paid. I'm not sure were I asked whether I would be able to pay it.

[livejournal.com profile] yasaman briefly argues why the absolute worst thing for the US to do right now is to get involved.

Here's a post on a forum compiling several confirmed happenings in Iran, based on tweets.

And someone - I can't remember who it was, but I saw the entry on my flist somewhere - was talking about the implications of Iranians using Twitter and other social networking services to fight this out and to get the news out about what was happening in their country. As if we didn't already know that we had entered a new information age, this just clinches it, and it's amazing that something so seemingly innocuous and insipid like Twitter could be used in such a world-changing way. It's really mind-boggling.

Also, appropriate icon is actually kind of appropriate. I originally made it from a joke or something during LJ Strikethrough, I think, but honestly, it's better fitting for the people over in Iran right now.

-Reileen
regardless of warnings the future doesn't scare me at all
reileen: (glee - Bomberman)
HOLY CRAP I GOT STRAIGHT A'S FOR WINTER QUARTER!

Borders last night was probably my best night so far. I scored about $30 or so in tips, although a bunch of that came from my friends, my brother, and my dad. Still, even subtracting the money they put in, I earned $14 playing two short sets, which I think is my best haul so far. I even had some guy come up to me who said he would've put in more than $2 if he had more to give and when would I be performing again? My friends joked that I got more cash because I was showing more skin - I was wearing a boatneck-style top where one side routinely kept sliding down my shoulder, which subsequently amused me and then creeped me out. (It's not like my shoulders are particularly sexy...)

Also, I am never playing covers again. Well, okay, that's an exaggeration, I'm sure I'll play covers again once I get more talent, but seriously, why is it that I can never manage playing VT's "Gravity" in public? I totally forgot the song halfway through when I played it back in December, and I botched the final iteration of the chorus extremely badly. I managed to get through to the end because I remembered, vaguely, the base chords of the section, but it's really galling because I know this song I've played it a million times from memory during practice and nailed it most of the time. Le sigh. Just another reminder that I need to get more original pieces done.

Speaking of original pieces, against my better judgment, I also debuted "Wasted" during my second set, which is still only maybe 70% finished but technically performable. I got through it well enough, but it's not one of my more interesting songs. It is one of my more personal songs, and I am proud of the lyrics, but musically, especially for the vocal lines, I feel like something is lacking. Is it intrinsic in the composition, or do I - once again - simply lack the vocal ability to pull it off? I don't know. I have to work on this song more and see what I can do. I also played "This Song Sucks", which I've been trying to avoid for a while because that song seriously sucks, but I was getting lethargic audience reaction during my second set, so pulling the comedy card out was partly to (attempt to) amuse them and partly to amuse myself.

But enough of my music for now - I must work on my art. Somehow. Somewhere.

***

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is one of the best high fantasy trilogies I've read. Admittedly, that's not saying much since I don't think I've read that many fantasy trilogies. I think the last one I read was Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy trilogy a couple of years ago, which I liked. Both The First Law and Kushiel's Legacy are set in something like an alternate Earth world, with extra magick and supernatural shenanigans, but that's where the similarities end. The First Law, really, is more akin to George R.R. Martin's massively epic A Song of Ice and Fire series, in its dark, gritty tone; in its narrative structure of multiple interlocking viewpoints; and in its world-scale story. I've only read the first two books of ASoIaF (and I'm not entirely sure if I want to read the rest), but if I had to compare that series with Abercrombie's series, I think Abercrombie's series is, in some ways, easier to get through. There's still a massive cast of viewpoint characters, but it's limited and none of them die while the shit is still hitting the fan. (After it is a different story, but alas.) Also, this series is actually finished within three books, so at least you're not left hanging like you are with ASoIaF at the moment. If you enjoy GRRM's work for ASoIaF, you'll want to take a look at The First Law trilogy (the first book is The Blade Itself, followed by Before They are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings). And if you're just looking for something different in fantasy and you're willing to wade through some pessimistic, gloomy material, then this might be for you as well.

One of the things I admire about this trilogy is how tightly plotted it is. Not so much in terms of the individual books - I frequently felt as though this story was broken up into books only because to put them together into one huge honkin' volume would just not be practical. It would make an awesome weapon though. But in terms of how plot points were laid out and then woven into the tapestry of the plot and tied up, The First Law feels very compact (...maybe that's not the word I'm looking for, since there is a lot of stuff going on in these books). The ending is open...and yet it also feels claustrophobically closed, as a result of the development of the characters in the book (another thing I admired about this series) and how Abercrombie has turned common fantasy tropes on their head and then drowned them in a barrel of sewer water.

I should warn that, although The First Law technically ends with the "good guys" winning, it's not a happy ending. I know that seems like a huge spoiler, but trust me: what will interest you the most is the journey, not the destination. If you trace the character development and story trajectories throughout the series independent of broader context and details, it would seem like a happy ending: one characters accomplishes zir overall goal, another one gets to return home, another one gets a promotion, and so forth. And yet, within the story, all of it only seems sad, futile, and meaningless. One of the themes repeated throughout The First Law (mostly, I think, from Bayaz, a wizard known in the world as The First of the Magi, who's a helluva piece of work in this series) is that history invariably repeats itself as a result of the folly and short-sightedness of mortals. The overall story arc of The First Law is cyclical: although many of the viewpoint characters have changed considerably through the series, they nevertheless end up returning, physically or otherwise, to where they came from. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

The other theme that runs naked and screaming throughout The First Law trilogy is that life ain't fair, and boy howdy, is that ever bludgeoned home in the story. Although every viewpoint character has their moments of Fuck My Life, it's probably most prominent in the character stories of Superior Sand dan Glokta (a former distinguished upper-class gentleman and military man, now turned crippled torturer in the employ of a monarchy) and Ferro Maljinn (a woman who was sold into slavery as a young child, then later escaped). Both of them eventually get vindicated, but the schadenfreude is tempered with the knowledge of the events that brought about those chances for vindication. The victory is a hollow victory, like a large loaf of bread you buy at the marketplace that's actually mostly filled with cobwebs. This further contributes to the "claustrophobic" feeling with regards to the ending that I mentioned earlier, and the reader ends up pitying the characters. You know that they "won", and yet you can't really feel "happy" for them, knowing what you know. In fact, I don't think even the characters feel "happy" about their victory, just relieved that they're still alive. As Logen Ninefingers (the most feared man of the North) would say, you have to be realistic about these things.

I have some minor quibbles with this series, mainly concerning Abercrombie's writing style, which is noticeably clunky in parts of The Blade Itself but gets better in the next two books (but which I still found, oddly enough, kind of hard to get through - it's not even flowery or anything like that). The characters are also immensely flawed in many ways, which is certainly a refreshing change from bland stereotypes or blatant Mary Sues/Gary Stus, but the degree to the flaws manifest in the narratives may be off-putting to some people. Certainly there have been many times where I wanted to strangle Glokta and Maljinn, who are intensely single-minded in many ways, defined almost solely by their past tragedies. It's understandable but irritating at times. Logen Ninefingers and his friend the Dogman are probably the most likable characters in the book, in terms of being a comforting personality lens to read through. There's also some spoilery plot threads that I wish were tied up. )

But The First Law is, overall, well executed. I'm interested in picking up his next book, Best Served Cold, which is set in the same universe as The First Law but with a different kind of story, a different cast of characters (though I've heard that many of the other characters from the previous books will return in some measure), and a different setting (another country in the TFL universe).

Randomly - I'm also fond of the name "Tolomei" from the book. Wish I could use that as an alias for something.

***

Lauren brought over her DVD for Pan's Labyrinth, which I'd been meaning to watch for some time but never could park my ass down to watch it. I don't watch movies very often, and I rarely watch them when they first come out in theatres. What usually happens is that I'll see an interesting trailer or hear about something, make a mental Post-It of it, and then promptly forget about it. I seriously can't sit down and watch things for some reason - it makes me feel like I'm being idle. Because there's clearly nothing idle about obsessively refreshing my usual pages on the interwebs. /goes off on tangent

Anyway, Pan's Labyrinth is a dark fantasy story set against the background of rural Spain in 1944, under the dictator Francisco Franco. (Who has a real name that you could run a marathon across. This factoid has no relevance at all to the story, but I thought it was amusing.) Young Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen are heading to the countryside to move in with the heartless Captain Vidal, the father of Carmen's unborn child. Vidal is, at best, apathetic to Ofelia and Carmen, and at worst he's actively violent (physically and verbally) towards them. As Carmen's health unravels, relegating her to bed rest, and as Vidal continues his campaign to flush out guerilla fighters in the forest, Ofelia is left to her own devices to do what she wants, including investigating the mysterious labyrinth nearby.

I really wish I could write a longer review for this movie, but there's so many layers to peel through and I lost half my life getting distracted by the Fuck My Life website that I linked earlier and I have classes again tomorrow that I'll just say that it's an excellent movie, but heartbreaking. It starts out slightly whimsical but quickly descends into darker depths. Like Abercrombie's series, this is another narrative that takes common fantasy elements (in this case, the young protagonist with a less-than-desirable real life, the non-human mentor, the quest for mystical objects for the realization of some lofty goal) and then takes a potato knife and completely mutilates them. I'm seeing two different readings of the movie's overall message - it's either that great things come at great sacrifice, or that living in a fantasy world for too long will destroy your real world. I'm not entirely sure which message we're supposed to take away. I've heard it argued that the fantasy element of Pan's Labyrinth is superficial and trivial to what is a perfectly good story examining the casualties of the Franco regime, and while I'm not sure I entirely agree with this argument, I don't think it should be completely dismissed, either. The entire premise revolves around the existence of that fantasy world, and it's Ofelia's hope - and the audience's - for something happier. But things occur that call into question whether that fantasy world truly exists. There's some parallels between what happens in the real world and the fantasy world, but instead of cementing a solid connection between the two worlds, it suggests the possibility that Ofelia - who is an active bookworm - simply has an overactive imagination that she's using to escape from her disastrous home situation.

Randomly - we watched this movie in the original Spanish with English subtitles, but as I was reading the English subtitles I was hearing the Japanese equivalent in my head. It manifested as a string of Japanese syllables for some of the longer sentences, and for the basic stuff ("thank you", "welcome", "yes, sir", "where are you?") I "heard" the actual Japanese translation. I'm told this is a phenomenon called retroactive interference. My friends wonder how I didn't go insane. I wonder too.

***

Holy crap, I just found out that DePaul's CDM school is holding auditions for animation and game design majors with senior standing to audition 100 professional voice actors who've agreed to work for free for their capstone animation and game projects. That's amazing. It kind of makes me wish I'd stayed with animation. But then again, I have no talent with animation, so I'd just be intimidated and then depressed at the idea.

Hopefully in the next few entries I can talk about the ending of Michiko to Hatchin.

-Reileen
you might say that I'm the last man standing now

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Reileen van Kaile

April 2010

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