Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Hold On

Emergencies have a way of bringing out the best and the worst in people and I've had a taste of both experiences, from myself and from others. I tend to shut down if something bothers me. I reach the point of just not wanting to deal with an issue, so I just shut it away and pretend it doesn't exist. That's the wrong choice because it means things hit me right between the eyes if I've been deliberately ignoring them.

I feel like I'm drowning. And I hate it. Drowning in the boredom of working from home, of the reality that our world has changed, of the reality that I'm changing in a combination of good and bad ways. I'm becoming cynical regarding people but effervescent and bubbly in other areas, which doesn't make sense. I'm closing myself off, but also opening myself up. I'm disengaging and reengaging.

I have one word of encouragement to say to my readers. Don't make hasty decisions during the pandemic. Not about jobs, moving, relationships, etc. Just don't do it. This is a state of emergency no matter who might say something to the contrary, and this is not the time to be making long-term decisions. This is the time to give ourselves and others grace. For our flaws and our failings. For our fears and uncertainties. For our weaknesses. 

Sometimes you may be on the receiving end of something. If that happens, like it did with me, well, I don't know what to tell you other than it's probably not all you. Just, please try and take care of yourself. And don't judge yourself or others too harshly right now.

This is my new favorite music video in all the world, done by my two favorite JPop stars, Kamenashi Kazuya and Yamashita Tomohisa. They made it for their 2017 live-action drama series Boku, Unmei no Hito desu. Kame and Yamapi have been sort of paired together for 15 years, ever since they did a live-action series in 2005 that resulted in the hit song Seishun Amigo that took Japan by storm. They're both popular Japanese idols in the boy-band space, and once they performed together, the fans loved it. Reuniting them in 2017 for a new series was brilliant, and they're hilarious.

The MV is of the main song from their newer series, and it's just a lot of fun. Kame is the one with the longer hair and Yamapi the longer legs. When they're in school uniforms near the end, that's a nostalgic throw-back to their series in 2005 where they played high school students. I found this MV yesterday and it gave me such pure, unadulterated JOY. It was a relief to know I can still feel that much happiness. I hope it makes you smile and laugh, even if you have no context for who they are. This is a good way to introduce you.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Banana Fish (Anime, 2018)

Banana Fish is apparently based on a J.D. Salinger short story that I've never read, and is an intense ride not for the faint-hearted. It's an adrenaline rush, which I discovered one night when my heart rate wouldn't slow down enough to let me get a decent night's sleep. Oh well, my own fault.

Banana Fish anime poster

If you're super sensitive to the idea of male/male child rape and prostitution, then you may want to skip reading this post. Banana Fish always portrays these topics in a severe, negative light, never a positive one, but it is a prevalent theme throughout the series. For me, this is what sets this series apart from claims that it's a precursor to the Boy's Love Japanese genre. In that genre, rape is an acceptable means to an end, as if you can force your victim to fall in love by showing him how pleasurable male/male sex is by doing it against his will. Here, rape is rape, always negative, and it destroys the dignity and self-worth of the victim.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Northanger Abbey (1986, Jane Austen Film Adaptation)

Northanger Abbey1986

I'm going to do something dangerous. I'm going to assume that anyone reading this post already knows Jane Austen's plot and may have even read Northanger Abbey. If you have no knowledge of the plot, this Jane Austen website has a tolerable summary although even they assume Catherine was already reading gothic novels before traveling to Bath and that is not mentioned anywhere in Jane Austen's book.

Now, on to the 1986 film adaptation of Northanger Abbey. What happened? I'm just pretty much agog with confusion and disappointment and a smallish modicum of malicious delight. Not that I had high hopes to start with, but I at least had some hope that it wouldn't be so HORRIFIC.

Peter Firth as Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey 1986)
Peter Firth as Henry Tilney

My first issue is Henry Tilney. I've never liked Peter Firth, will never like Peter Firth, and every time I see him I see Pilate from the biblical movie Risen. He's a rather gross-looking man and his youth did not improve him. He plays Henry Tilney with arrogance, a twisted lip, and when he shows up at the end of the film to reunite with Catherine, I rolled my eyes and fought a gag reflex. Poor man. He didn't deliberately make me hate Henry Tilney, but his performance managed it. Henry Tilney doesn't take much seriously, certainly not himself, but I suspect that when he speaks, all of his witticisms are supposed to be just that, spoken in a light, teasing tone that Peter Firth simply could not manage.

Also, Henry Tilney is a minister, as in a pastor, as in a vicar. He is nothing of the kind here but keeps his own estate separate from his family. Why make this change? Part of Catherine's original reason for liking him is because her father is also a minister and she admits she is partial to the profession.

Northanger Abbey 1986
Crazy French Court Lady and General Tilney

Next. What is with the crazy lady in the French court makeup that makes her look like a gaunt corpse fresh from the grave? And what is she doing as a friend of General Tilney and staying at Northanger Abbey? Super, super creepy, and not at ALL in the book.

Northanger Abbey 1986
A boating scene with saxophone music in the background

Then we have the music. Oh dear, no. I love jazz. I do. But it has absolutely no place in random scenes in a Jane Austen movie. There should be violins or piano or cello or flute or something else, ANYTHING else, other than a SAXOPHONE! This isn't Ladyhawke, a movie I love and actually have come to love the odd 1980s music permeating that film. So the music was a big thumbs' down.

Northanger Abbey 1986
A mixed bathing scene in Bath

Since when did "taking the waters" in Bath include putting on little brown outfits and hopping in a swimming pool with other people in a MIXED BATHING situation? Not sure about the floating plates. People have been musing over those for years, but I suspect they're either herbs for the waters or they're lovely little snacks in case the bathers get hungry. It doesn't make sense either way.

Northanger Abbey 1986
Catherine Morland sleeping at Northanger Abbey

I get it. Northanger Abbey was filmed in 1986. But their Catherine Morland looks more like Christine Daae than Sarah Brightman in the musical The Phantom of the Opera. A favorite of mine, true, but that look does not translate well to a Catherine Morland, at least, not for me.

Unfortunately, actress Katharine Schlesinger, who plays Catherine portrays her almost as a flirtatious and seductive heroine. There are suggestive glances that I suspect are supposed to be naivete, but it doesn't translate well. This makes sense because there are some insane imaginary scenes she indulges in. Running in a bedsheet and being kidnapped by two men. Say WHAT?

Northanger Abbey 1986
Catherine's vivid kidnapping imaginings

See, the thing with Catherine Morland is that she never really started reading novels until she met Isabella Thorpe in Bath. Isabella was the instigator. But in this version, Catherine was already deeply steeped in novels and unhealthy romantic imaginings before she ever traveled to Bath, which is not how her character is designed in the book. Catherine does have an active imagination. But she never has visions and suggestive dreams that are something out of a vampire gothic horror story.

Northanger Abbey 1986
Catherine and Miss Tilney

To sum up, the 1986 Northanger Abbey is dreadful. If it had a different musical score and a totally different actor as Henry Tilney, it might have been palatable. I could have forgiven the rest of the weirdness if they had simply gone a different route with those two items. The costuming is very Georgian so it's passable. This was Jane's third novel, written in the late 1790s, and I liked seeing more of a Georgian aesthetic in the film since it made for a change from the usual straight-on Regency period.

I will say that if you want a really good laugh, watch it. My sister and I laughed through much of it and then laughed so hard we cried when we read through reviews on IMDB. There are some AWESOME and clever reviews for this adaptation that are totally worth reading. Laughter is good for the soul and those reviews will make you LAUGH. ❤

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Do Your Best! (Ganbatte)

I worked at my local public library for 8 years, and during the last two years of my time there, I lead a teen anime club. It was an experience, let me just say. There were parts of it that I LOVED and parts of it that just made me supremely sad. Because it's hard to be in a leadership position of teenagers, or anyone really, as a Christian, and find that part of your group has a tendency towards the more deadly sub-culture of a fandom. Especially when it was in a secular working environment where I couldn't really nay-say too much, but at the same time, needed to keep as firm a hand as possible so things didn't get out of control.

Fast-forward to now. It's been a little over 6 years since I changed jobs and companies. I gave up my love of Japan when I moved to my new role. Partially because of that sub-culture thing that I mentioned, and partially because I didn't really think that my new job would be as accepting of my interest in Japanese culture and entertainment. Which is sad, because it means that I lost more than 6 years of my life to not loving something anymore that I actually still do love. 

Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (The Wallflower) Japanese drama cast
A favorite JDrama Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge (2010) starring Kamenashi Kazuya (far left)

For a lot of people, Japanese entertainment probably seems foreign (well, duh), but there are elements to it that have always really spoken to me and inspired me as an individual and it comes down to one specific phrase or word Ganbatte. Literally translated, this means "Do your best." That's the heart of Japanese culture as I see it, to do your best, to try your hardest, no matter what situation you might find yourself in, to not give up, because it's selfish and foolish to give up instead of pushing through. 

When I worked at the public library I weighed about 30 pounds less than I do currently. My weight has always fluctuated depending on my mental headspace and how courageous I feel about being able to tackle it and bring it into submission. It's a challenging and terrifying concept. But I did the best with my weight when I was watching Japanese live-action dramas. You see, I stopped my love of Japanese entertainment when I left the library because of my experience with the Anime Club and its exhausting effect on my spiritual and mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, this also included giving up my Japanese live-action dramas and their music which were never a part of the Anime Club. I viewed it as an all or nothing scenario when that's just not so. I find it funny now to look back and realize that my weight loss, because I was losing weight at that time, was a result of my love for these live-action dramas. They inspired me to do my best, to fight for my health, to not give up even when the road got hard. My diet was healthier, I took up running and strengthening exercises, and was overall a stronger person.

By walking away from the Jdramas, I lost something very inspirational in my life and my motivation to better myself, both physically and mentally.

This week I've reconnected. I've re-watched two of my favorite Jdrama series and I feel like a different person than I was at the start of the week. If some of my favorite characters can push themselves through inner doubts and fears and trials to become the best version of themselves they can be, if they can do their absolute best and emerge triumphantly, then so can I. 

The One Pound Gospel (2008) Japanese drama cast photo
Another favorite JDrama One Pound Gospel (2008) also starring Kamenashi Kazuya

During the first 3 weeks of the stay at home/safer at home part of the COVID-19 pandemic, I managed to gain 7 pounds. Then in the last 3 weeks, I managed to lose them again. My sister and I are eating almost no sugar, no snacks during the day, and starting this last week, I've added a daily strengthening (EXHAUSTING!) exercise routine into every day because I started up my Jdramas again and the inspiration is still there, to be the best me that I can be, for my sake and for the sake of my family. After 3 weeks of a much healthier eating lifestyle, I can tell that it's made a huge impact on my life. I feel better emotionally and physically, and now throwing the exercise in, I'm starting to see positive results. And I can trace the inspiration to my favorite Jdramas and their message of Do your best!

I'm not saying that everyone should start watching Jdramas in the hope of losing weight and developing discipline. That's my thing and it would be ridiculous to imagine it's a one-size-fits-all solution.

But there is likely something in your life that encourages you and inspires you to become better than what you are currently. It may be something you've lost or merely misplaced for a season. It may be something you've forgotten about completely. Or it may be you've never even thought about it and really need to start evaluating your interests on a more serious, intentional level! But if there is something that inspires you to grow in strength and discipline, then pursue it. Chase it. Stop listening to the inner voice of doubt that likes to nitpick and criticize. You can do it. Ganbatte! ❤

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865, Classics Club Read)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustration

The wonky side of my brain loves Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. Life needs to have a little bit of craziness, a little bit of magic, a little bit of believing that the impossible can be made possible.

“Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”

The story itself shows Lewis Carroll's love of words. He was an absolute MASTER of play on words. You don't really see a lot of clever wordplay in most books today, so it's refreshing to read Lewis Carroll and find yourself snorting in laughter at similar-sounding words being misunderstood for each other, causing intense confusion for the character and amusement for the reader.

Clever Wordplay Examples in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice: You see the earth takes twenty-four hours to turn around on its axis.
Duchess: Talking of axes . . . chop off her head!"

Dormouse: And so these three little sisters (at the bottom of the treacle well) - they were learning to draw, you know.
Alice: What did they draw? But I don't understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?
Hatter: You can draw water out of a water-well so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well - eh, stupid?
Alice: But they were in the well.

Mock Turtle: When we were little we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle - we used to call him Tortoise.
Alice: Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn't one?
Mock Turtle: We called him Tortoise because he taught us.

Alice: And how many hours a day did you do lessons?
Mock Turtle: Ten hours the first day, nine the next, and so on.
Alice: What a curious plan?
Gryphon: That's the reason they're called lessons because they lessen from day to day.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland illustration

I confess that as a child I thought Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was crazy. It didn't make sense, wasn't wholly linear, and I didn't understand or grasp much of the above wordplay. It was only when I became an adult and tried reading Lewis Carroll again did I fully understand and appreciate his talent and storytelling skill.

On that note, I probably wouldn't recommend this for child fiction. It's much too high-end and complex of a story for kids, at least kids whose brains functioned like mine when I was young. It's much more of a story to be appreciated by adults who will understand the complex cleverness that Lewis Carroll incorporated into his book.

Read the book, absolutely. It's a very fun read now that I'm an adult, and I actually had the blessed opportunity to read it out loud to my sister during our stay at home order for the COVID-19 pandemic. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience of me reading aloud so that's always a possibility for families, with or without kids.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I did just review a BRILLIANT YA prequel called Heartless about the Queen of Hearts' origin story by Marissa Meyer. Please do take time to read that review and please READ THAT BOOK. I can't recommend Heartless enough. When going back through my copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for quotes for this post, I had tons of jaw-dropping experiences by how much Marissa Meyer truly incorporated into her story, even down to the three sisters in the treacle well who are learning to draw things originating from the letter M.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Soulmates and Timeless Love in "Chances Are" (1989) and "Only You" (1994)

This post is written for The Love Goes On Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog II.

There's a certain yearning in all of us, that hope that there is a soulmate out there somewhere, that special person meant just for us. As a single woman who's never been married or even in a relationship, I dream sometimes about the right guy coming along, my soulmate. I don't know the history of soulmates, but I do know that our entertainment and literature perpetuate the belief, true or not, and my heart always responds to it, to that belief that someday I'll look at someone and he'll look at me, and we'll just Zing, in the words of Drac from Hotel Transylvania.

Several years ago, probably 4 or 5 years now, I was on a serious Robert Downey, Jr. bender. It lasted a couple of months, and I watched oh, so many of his movies. During that time I discovered that he performed in two separate films having to do with soulmates and predestined encounters. The discovery floored me, first because I didn't realize how intensely interested people were in souls and soulmates in the late 80s and mid-90s, and second, that one actor could star in so many films all dealing with fate, souls, and predestination.

Chances Are (1989)

Chances Are (1989)


Cybill Shepherd    Robert Downey, Jr.    Ryan O'Neal    Mary Stuart Masterson

Chances Are from 1989 is the heartwrenching story of a young couple celebrating their first anniversary and the husband dies in a hit-and-run. He's reincarnated into RDJ and fate plays a hand in bringing the couple back together again, at least for a time. It's a beautiful sentiment. When RDJ's character remembers his soul's previous life, I'm rooting so hard for him and his "wife." I don't care that he's twenty-four years younger than her. It doesn't matter one whit in the long run because they are destined to be together, and RDJ and actress Cybill Shepherd play the story so convincingly. The chemistry between them is dynamic, which should come as no surprise since it's RDJ and he's loaded with charisma.

Robert Downey Jr and Cybill Shepherd in Chances Are (1989)

The ending is hard and I feel like the writers dropped the ball a little bit. I don't want to give too much away, but the concept behind the film is that souls circle through lives together, in the same group, which means you're predestined to be with one of the numerous souls in your inner circle. RDJ's character should have never remembered his past life, but thanks to one of the "angels" in heaven during his reincarnation process, he wasn't given an inoculation to wipe his memory. Instead, the audience gets to cheer for the reuniting of these two souls and their love story, only to have it ripped away from us at the end. 

It's tragic, which is why I usually only watch the film up to the last twenty minutes. BUT, I do rewatch it on a semi-regular basis because my heart rewrites the ending to what it should be, with the souls of this couple whose marriage was cut so tragically short, being joined together again. A miracle and a blessing, as it were. For me, that is the proper ending because, in my heart of hearts, I want to believe in two souls that are meant to be together.

Only You (1994)

Only You (1994)


Marisa Tomei    Robert Downey, Jr.    Bonnie Hunt    Billy Zane    Joaquim De Almeida

Now, on to why I love, and I truly mean LOVE, the film Only You from 1994. It doesn't make the same mistake as Chances Are, and doesn't go into the concept of reincarnation, just the concept of predestined soulmates.

The adorable, pixie-like performance by Marisa Tomei is heart-stoppingly memorable. When she is in her tweens, Marisa's character, Faith, and her closest friends visit a carnival where Faith has her palm read. The gypsy woman is impossibly precise about Faith's soulmate being predestined and that his name is Damon Bradley. Gullible munchkin that she is, Faith believes the gypsy woman, not realizing that her older brother bribed the gypsy woman to tell that particular fortune. Ruined for any other man, Faith has traveled through life as a hopeless romantic, even down to her career teaching classic romantic literature, all while aching and hoping that Damon Bradley would eventually show up on her doorstep.

After urging from her family and friends, Faith half-heartedly agrees to marry the podiatrist she has been dating for years, and while trying on his mother's wedding dress which truly does make her look like a cupcake, the phone rings. She answers and who should be on the other end of the line, but, bingo, Damon Bradley, a former friend of her fiance. Before he hangs up she manages to sneak out of him that he's in Italy, so Faith boards a plane for Italy with her sister-in-law Kate (Bonnie Hunt). Enter RDJ as the infamous Damon Bradley. The sparks fly immediately (again, no surprise there, especially since Marisa and RDJ were an item for a while). I could go farther into the story, but won't because if I do I'll let important, nay crucial, plot points slip and that would ruin the film for new viewers.

Only You (1994)

Faith learns on her journey that destiny is not about the name, but the person. And when she zings with RDJ it shouldn't matter what his character's name is. Now, this is a love story I can fully get behind because it ends so very happy and is ADORABLE from start to finish. There's an intensity to Faith that's so appealing. Her desire to find the one, her disappointment in thinking he doesn't exist, and her willingness to settle for second-best are all a charming combination of enchanting and tragic. In the end, she chooses RDJ because she loves HIM, not some random name that a gypsy lady foretold when she was a kid.

Does it make their connection as soulmates any less authentic? Absolutely not! In fact, whenever I'm feeling in a particularly romantic frame of mind, I'll pull Only You off my shelf. It reminds me that people click, that chemistry happens, and that true love can exist, whether it happens in that first glance or takes years to develop.

I've been watching a lot of films and television lately that have to do with finding that one person that is ideal for us, who fits us and who we fit. When I found the above quotation, I knew it was the perfect ending to this blog post. I hope you'll take the time to watch both Chances Are and Only You. I recommend them both, but especially Only You. I come away from that movie a little starry-eyed and it's nice to feel that way sometimes. It's nice to believe in soulmates and that true love that never dies. 

Please take the time to visit The Love Goes On Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog II.

Friday, May 1, 2020

(SPOILERS) - Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

fanart for Marissa Meyer's Heartless by lunarrapunzel on tumblr
FanArt by LunarRapunzel on Tumblr

Heartless is a prequel to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the origin story for the Queen of Hearts.

In the land of Hearts, there lives a compassionate, meek daughter to the Marchioness and Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove. Her name is Catherine and her fondest desire is to open a bakery with her best friend and faithful maid, Mary Ann. Unfortunately for her, Catherine's parents have other plans. Their intention is to marry her off to the King of Hearts, an absurd, but kind little man who adores Catherine's delectable baked goods and wishes for nothing more than making her his bride. But the Queen of Hearts cannot be a bakery owner, and so Cath is stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place. She doesn't wish to displease her parents, but neither can she stomach the idea of marrying the king who she barely respects and cannot fathom loving romantically.

One night, during a masquerade ball hosted by the king, Catherine is clothed all in red, quite conspicuously considering the rest of the company is in black and white, a clever ploy by her scheming mother. The king delights in her outfit, imagining that already she is open to the notion of marrying him. He is the King of Hearts after all and quite fond of red. But that fateful night, the new court joker is introduced to the court in a flurry of acrobatics and magic the likes of which the kingdom has never seen before. Cath's eyes can look nowhere else and neither can the joker's since she is clad all in red in a sea of black and white. So begins the romantic yearning from both Cath and Jest, the court joker, the dream that both of them could have a different fate than the one served up for them both. For you see, Jest is no mere court joker. His purpose in the land of Hearts is much, much bigger than making the king and his court laugh. But neither Jest nor Cath could have predicted their instant connection and the beginning of a love affair as tragic as that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

If you're good with some spoilers, do keep reading. If not, then I recommend stopping now, reading the book for yourself, and then returning to read my post and share your thoughts on the book.