Thursday, June 23, 2022

Retro Family Lesson Time

It's so sad to me when "modern" women decide they're going to make judgement calls on women from the 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. 

Like, on a picture where the husband is sitting in an armchair reading and she's vacuuming. I heard today a comment that he's sexist. WELL, looking at the illustration (which I don't have a copy of unfortunately), it's clearly from the 1940s. Which means he's worked all day and she's a stay-at-home wife and mother. So he's tired and he's resting after being the breadwinner all day and she probably even brought him his newspaper.

The person in the conversation I was privy to paid absolutely no attention to historic context.

Historic context DOES MATTER.

And I seriously disagree with folks thinking that we have the right to judge our ancestors based on our own modern ideals. If I were a stay-at-home wife and my husband had been working hard all day, yeah, I'd want to sit him down in the chair to rest for a bit after his workday. But normal families today usually have to have two incomes unlike the time of our grandparents where his salary was more than enough to provide for the family unit.

Lessons learned here would be to take the era into consideration and not immediately jump to the "oh, he must be sexist" mantra because you do not know the whole story just by looking at a vintage picture of a man reading while his wife vacuums.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

My Japanese Drama Reviews are moving!

Hi, friends! 

It was waaaaaaaaay past time for me to create a new blog for my Japanese obsession. You've all been so patient with me and I love you for it, but I know most of my readers are not interested in dramas from Japan. And that is TOTALLY fine. But I still want to write Japanese entertainment reviews, so making a new blog is the best option. 

You can find my new blog at the following link: Sakura Princess Drama Reviews

My gorgeous Yamapi from Buzzer Beat!

I do plan to leave the drama reviews that I've already written and published on here for a while until I get some traffic over at Sakura Princess and then I might move them. We'll see, but they do tend to get quite a bit of traffic on here so I might just leave them. I haven't decided yet.

But going forward, all of my Asian entertainment reviews will be over on Sakura Princess Drama Reviews.

SO, if you're interested, I hope you'll join me and follow my new blog. Share it with your friends if you know Japanese dramas are their thing. I just love Japan so very, very much, and I'm very excited about creating a new blog just for that platform.

I'm also picking up my F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers episode reviews over on my new blog as well. I do plan to talk Thai Lakorns over there too, at least a little bit. So I'll be moving the episode 1 and 2 reviews at some point and for those interested, when I get around to reviewing episode 3, that will be over on Sakura Princess Drama Reviews.

Wish me success in my new venture. I'm sticking with blogger since I know it well and didn't want to mess with Wordpress. We'll see how that goes!

Monday, June 13, 2022

Book Review: Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews (2020)


Fair as a Star

Victorian Romantics: Book One

by Mimi Matthews

2020

✯✯✯✯✯ 


I've put off reading any of Mimi Matthews' books. It sometimes happens for me that when an author is surrounded by so much hype and enthusiasm, that I end up crushingly disappointed in their work. Thankfully, that is not the case with Fair as a Star.

She handles the topic of melancholy/clinical depression with a delicate and understanding hand. There is no cure for Beryl. There are ways to help treat the symptoms of her melancholy, but there will never be a cure, and it is not her fault that she suffers from melancholy nor is it a cry for attention. It simply is what it is and what she needs most is for someone to be understanding and compassionate during her low periods because they will happen her entire life.

That compassionate approach to clinical depression is what makes Mimi Matthews an absolute winner in my book. As someone who suffers from situational depression and has a family member who has suffered from clinical depression my entire life, I strongly relate to Beryl's story. It's hard to describe what depression feels like but emptiness is a good starting point like there is a vacuum or black hole into which all of the good things have fallen. Ms. Matthews captured that reality very well.

Why I'm rating only 4 stars instead of 5 is because I do feel that a few things were wrapped up too quickly. Like the ease of Beryl and Mark ending up together. Henry doesn't seem a very forgiving sort of person, so I was surprised at how forgiving he was in the end. BUT, I probably do him a discourtesy. He's not a truly unpleasant man but has had to be pragmatic and ruthless in order to save the family farm, as it were. And while I like Mark immensely (he's a curate so of course, I like him), I do wish we'd had a chance to know him in a deeper way.

Beryl is wonderful and I love her hobby of whitework embroidery. I didn't even know that was a thing until this book and now I'm curious. My sister embroiders but I don't think she's ever done whitework.

Overall, an excellent novel with a little bit of a Sense and Sensibility vibe. I've read novels this short before, but unfortunately, the authors tend to chop their story so ruthlessly that there is no heart left. Thankfully, that's not the case here. I've already placed more of Ms. Matthews' books on hold at my library and can hardly wait to give them a try. What I'm truly eager for, though, is the second book in this series.

Monday, June 6, 2022

When an "ISFJ" realizes they're truly an ISFP

Yamapi dancing at a party, which, yeah, of course I had to.

I retook the MBTI test associated with the 16 Personalities website, and here are the incredibly accurate and helpful results.

Okay, so there is nothing weirder than an ISFP spending more than a decade being mistyped as an ISFJ. These two personality types are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I actually thought I was just a crap ISFJ and spent so much time and effort for years trying to get better at being one. Turns out, I'M NOT ONE! I'm an ISFP, better known as the Adventurer, and oh my gosh, friends, it makes so much bloody sense!



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Watching F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers: Episode 2 (spoilers)

 


F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers

Episode 2

Country: Thailand

Year: 2021 

Read my post about episode 1.


Thyme starts to realize that not everyone can be bought or placated with money in the place of an apology. It might just be one of his first encounters with real people in real life. Boy, does he live in a silver palace.

The kidnapping scene bothers me because everyone seems to think it's fine and dandy and Thyme looks so sexy when the car door opens (a lot of people's words, not mine). But from Gorya's perspective, and viewers not familiar with the story, it's terrifying. Because we don't know his intent. It could just as easily have been rape and murder. So yes, it's funny that he gives her a car, a makeover, a fancy dress, and enough diamonds to sink the Titanic as a means of NOT saying he's sorry. It's even funnier when she refuses him and kicks him where it hurts. Because he deserved that 100%. But Thyme's behavior is not okay and it bugs me that fans of this franchise just think it's adorbs.

However, Gorya getting lost in that huge house WAS funny. Tu is an amusing sort of actress, so she makes me like the character.

Are teachers this wimpy in real life? I'm guessing yes since this drama was made in 2021 so it's at least somewhat relevant to today's youth. But it's depressing watching a teacher do nothing when her students have written nasty slurs against Gorya on the chalkboard. I can't even . . . Bullying only happens when people do nothing, and that's exactly what is continuing to happen in episode 2.

A Jdrama that I LOVE that deals with a similar cyberbullying chatroom scenario that we encounter in episode 2 is Koko wa Ima kara Rinri desu (or From Now on We Begin Ethics). I've reviewed it HERE and it is a drama well worth your time in watching. Yamada Yuki is phenomenal as the ethics teacher. The drama does something useful and tries to give explanations and advice on how to handle these types of situations instead of just, well, using them for plain old entertainment purposes. Herd mentality is a terrifying thing.

The pressure to like Ren is increasing. The problem being, of course, that in his indifference and his attempts to maintain his own serenity, he does come across as "nice." I don't know if he really is, but the actor, Dew, has excellent chemistry with Tu who plays Gorya. So yes, I see where folks are claiming second lead syndrome. I'm feeling it a bit myself, hence the gif set below. Yes, I made them, enjoy. But I still don't think he's genuinely nice. I think he's apathetic 90% of the time and the 10% that he's not, he's only helping because Gorya is interesting, not because he's emotionally invested. Maybe I'll be proven wrong later on. But he is cute and he's not beating people up with his fists which is why I'm battling liking him.


 


One positive change from the Japanese series is that we FINALLY have members of the F4 wanting to cancel the red card bullying trend. I have to give MJ props for speaking up. I didn't actually think that would happen where one of them might almost admit that maybe giving red cards and letting kids get pulverized was a bad idea. But he doesn't like it and he's outspoken about it which means he is now the member of F4 with the most common sense. Not common sense with girls, but that's a whole other thing. Viewers can tell that MJ and Kavin are not into the red card thing anymore (if they ever were), and at the bullying scene near the end (it's not pretty since I hate seeing girls bullied by boys), even Thyme seems to realize he's making judgement errors that are really hurting people. Not just people, but girls, and he's beginning to understand that it's not an okay thing to do.

Ironically, Ren doesn't seem like he's actually against it. Like, it doesn't seem to turn his stomach the way it does with MJ and Kavin. So that's a little funky. If I were to sort him into a Harry Potter house, I think it might just be Slytherin. Just the vibes I'm getting right now, with his apathy, his obsession with one particular girl (meaning Mira not Gorya), and his roundabout approach to the bullying issue. Don't assume that if Ren is a Slytherin that it makes him bad. I'm a Slytherin myself, and there's just a way that Slytherins view the world that makes me feel like it might fit him. We'll see. He could also be a Ravenclaw or he might have one or the other as a secondary house.

Ironically, there's a good chance that Thyme is a Gryffindor. Probably burned or stripped. All the things. If you're curious where I'm getting these words, it's the Sorting Hat Chats personality typing.

I'm really loving Gorya's courage. She doesn't just give Thyme what he wants, meaning, she doesn't cave in and apologize to him so he can save face. The girl is willing to shave her head to save her friend rather than be pressured into an apology she doesn't feel and knows would be wrong to give. But she's not foolish either, the way the heroine was in Hana Yori Dango, rushing in where fools dare to tread. Gorya knows it's dangerous, but she can't do nothing, even if it means getting hurt.

Mira is also pretty awesome. She's promising and I can see why Ren thinks she's amazing, and clearly Gorya has every reason to admire her as well. She's a tough cookie and she won't just let bullies get away with their behavior. I think she and Thyme should have some words at some point.

Speaking of Thyme, his obsession with Gorya is getting scary. Because it's beginning to affect his friendship with Ren. I mean, have these two ever fought before? EVER?

I like episode 2 better than episode 1, or rather, I may be understanding the flow better. Thailand tends to take stories that other countries have made and give them a more serious bent. They did it with one of my favorites, Let's Fight, Ghost, and they're doing it here. There's a bit more realism of emotion than what I was expecting. The red card scene in this episode really hits home because the viewers can see (like actually tell) that 2 of the F4 guys know what's happening is wrong. BUT, the only one who puts a stop to it is Ren, and only by talking about something completely unrelated to what's happening. So they're not to the point of addressing what's going on and acknowledging it as "wrong" to the entire school, but maybe they're heading in that direction. I don't know, but I'm hopeful.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Watching F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers: Episode 1 (spoilers)


F4 Thailand: Boys Over Flowers

Episode 1 

Country: Thailand

Year: 2021 

Read my post about episode 2.

The Boys Over Flowers franchise (or Hana Yori Dango) is my most hated franchise in Asian entertainment.

But I wanted to give F4 Thailand a chance since I've heard that it takes the story in a less toxic direction (although I didn't really see that in episode 1). From what I recall, the basics of the story remain the same, with a bit of modern updating since it's been a long time since the original manga. Like, cell phones exist now, as does social media and all that that insanity entails.

Anyway, let's get started.




Gorya is way out of her depth. Attending a prestigious high school on a scholarship, she's just trying to survive and not make any critical mistakes. Which is hard because the school is run by a group of oligarch elitist boys that everyone lovingly calls F4, because each of them reminds you of a different flower. When Gorya stands up for a friend, she suddenly finds herself on the wrong side of F4, especially the leader, Thyme, a boy with some serious anger management issues. He issues a free-for-all permission to the entire school to put Gorya in their crosshairs if they want (a red letter kind of thing), and she has to decide if fighting to stay at the school is worth the abuse she's receiving.




Bullying and cyberbullying are a main theme here. The bullying isn't sugar-coated or laughed off, so that's a plus. But it is still nasty to watch, especially since the "hero" of the story is the primary bully. There's an eat or be eaten mentality that I don't like, but is also very much a part of the reality we live in. So I'm fighting against a never ending tide.

Gorya's family is a vibrant presence in her life, and she does have a couple of important conversations with them during episode 1, including the gifting of a pair of shoes since her school shoes are so old. Her mother does need to realize that people are allowed to have crappy days and feel weak. It never helps to tell someone "you can't be like this because you've never been like this."

Attempted rape, it's a thing. If that's a trigger for you, be warned. And the F4 group don't treat it nearly seriously enough. But that's probably part of the point. They're elevated to a level where they can't always feel what other people feel anymore.

Speaking of, that's a pretty true statement, and is used as a means of urging empathy towards Thyme and his hot temper. Don't excuse Thyme's behavior, but maybe try to explain it. I'm not sure if I agree with the approach since I know it urges me to empathize with him, when I really don't want to.

Ren, the "nice" member of F4. I'm supposed to like him. Because he saves Gorya a couple of times and he has a cute smile. But I view Ren the same way that I view Lupin in Harry Potter. He's weak and a pushover and even when he does something nice, it's not going to be at the jeopardy of his status. So while I know I'm supposed to like Ren, I just don't want to. Because he's a part of the problem too.




I hate being manipulated. And that's what the creator of Boys Over Flowers wanted to do, manipulate her audience to empathize with the male lead and all of his emotional hang-ups and sorrows. But I'm not somebody to excuse bullying, especially if that bullying puts a girl in so much danger that she could be raped. I'm not cool with that.

Acquaintances have said that there some real heart changes happen to Thyme in F4 Thailand so I'm holding out hope that it's true. I'm supposed to forgive those who trespass against me because I was first forgiven. But I still can't wrap my head around ending up in a relationship with an abusive bully.

So yes, the production quality of F4 Thailand is very high. This surprises some people, but not me since I'm really getting into Thai Lakorns and so far they're brilliant. So I have no complaints about the production quality at all. I just want to see some genuine change and self-reflection happen in Thyme's life. But I suspect it gets worse before it gets better, like so many things.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Japanese Fansubber Highlights! - Irozuku Fansubs


The world of Japanese entertainment would be so much smaller without the incredible work of fansubbers!

In this post, I'm highlighting Irozuku Subs

🌸 Website: Irozuku Subs

🌸 Twitter: @irozukusubs

Their work is timely despite a super busy work/life schedule, but they also respect when VIKI takes on a drama. They've actually stopped subbing dramas once VIKI has approved it (like Black Cinderella and Peanut Butter Sandwich), and I respect them for that choice since it shows a deeper appreciation of copyright laws and not wanting to overstep boundaries and also saving their energy for other projects. They even take on smaller, lesser-known, or publicized work which is AWESOME because these are usually the dramas that wouldn't get subbed otherwise.

They offer hardsub downloads for anyone visiting their site, and softsubs to be joined with raw video files to anyone monetarily supporting them on Patreon. Fans can also buy them individual "coffee" which is a really great way to support your favorite fansubbers even if you don't have the funds to support them every month with a Patreon commitment.

Their subbed list of Japanese dramas and movies is extensive and there will be something for everyone, but here are my personal favorites that they've subtitled and for which I am extremely grateful.

Hiru (2022) ONGOING

Hiru is one of the reasons that Irozuku Subs is my literal hero, this PAGE has the complete Season One and this PAGE will have Season Two once the subs are finished (as of this post, episodes 1 and 2 have been subbed).

This drama is about people who leech (the literal translation of hiru) off others by sneaking into their houses and using their belongings while the owners are at work/school/vacation, etc. is pure genius!

The first season follows a young man named Yuki (played by Eiji Akaso) comes home to find someone stabbed in his apartment only to have that person turn on him to the police and literally steal his identity with an official-looking ID and everything. On the run, swept into the world of leeches against his will, Yuki's journey was an interesting and deadly one.

Hiru has death, revenge, and secrets of scary people. It was dark and intriguing, but the first season is not as brilliant as it could have been. They give us a taste of a leech killer named Kara (played by Kentaro Sakaguchi), but the series focuses on Yuki and his problems instead of Kara. The second season stars Kara in the main role, which is already a step up. Not that I have anything against Eiji Akaso, but he doesn't have quite the right amount of mojo to be the lead in a drama like this. Plus, the second season also has Mizuki Itagaki in a secondary role and he's a bit of a newer favorite with me, so I'm excited even though I suspect he's going to be scary and a bit of an antagonist.

Consider yourself warned that we have death, rape, stabbings, hangings, and all sorts of violence in this first season, so definitely in R-rated territory. It's not obscenely graphic (so no nudity), but still, rather disturbing.

Each season has 6 short 25-minute episodes, but they each pack a punch. 


He Won't Kill, She Won't Die (2019)

Irozuku Subs PAGE with download links for He Won't Kill, She Won't Die.

You've essentially got two teenagers who are both disengaged from life. Nana is so miserable that she's always this close to ending her own life, except that she can't. And then you have Rei, a bitter and resentful young man who's always telling other people to "just go and die already." He imagines murder and she imagines wanting to die, so when he tells her that he'll kill her if she wants, it seems perfect and psychotic. 

Except that neither Rei nor Nana actually wants to kill or die. It's just something to say and to imagine to avoid the hurt and loneliness they both feel.

This movie is literally my heart and soul, and it does rip my heart out and crush it. If you never watch movies with sad endings then this one is not for you, but when you grew up with Shakespeare like I did you're used to tragic endings, and this one is tragic. But it is also an AMAZING story. Shotaro Mamiya is such an outstanding actor and so underappreciated. And Hinako Sakurai, I mean, wow, she's phenomenal! 

I will say that there are 2 other sets of characters in this film, and while they are somewhat valuable, they're not even remotely as engaging as Rei and Nana. It's just that they have to be in the story because of how everything intersects. BUT, He Won't Kill, She Won't Die is outstanding and should be watched by anyone who values stories about mental health, psychology, and melancholy. There will be triggers, so go in expecting them.

Dried Flower: Our Room in July (2021)

Irozuku Subs PAGE with download links for Dried Flower: Our Room in July.

I'm surprised that I loved this one so much because it really is watching a vibrant and growing relationship slowly wither and decay. That's it in a nutshell. It's a story of two people who can't communicate and so he never really learns what she's really like because she doesn't feel free to tell him. He treats her as a cherished princess, but that behavior actually ends up limiting her goals and dreams as an English to Japanese translator. It's one big misunderstanding after another, and both are completely at fault. It's a cautionary tale, beautifully filmed and performed, and it moved me deeply.

The actors feel fresh and original, which is a nice change of pace. Both were unknown to me, and both gave outstanding performances, making the audience feel every little nuance of the experience. 

It's only 3 episodes long, so watching the entire series is like watching a rather short movie and it's completely worth it. Be prepared for melancholy and hopefully for some lessons learned.

I Will Not Work Overtime, Period! (2019)

also known as Watashi Teiji de Kaerimasu

Irozuku Subs PAGE with download links for Watashi Teiji de Kaerimasu.

This 10 full-length episode drama series' entire premise is about the toxic guilt-tripping that goes on in Japan (and other Asian countries) if someone does not want to work overtime. Asia is renowned for its inability to step back from work, let's just call a spade a spade. BUT, clearly, some folks in the entertainment industry recognize the trend as a toxic one, and actually made a drama series where the heroine refuses to work overtime. She gets her work done during her regular working hours and leaves on time, before anyone else in her department. She's a hero in my book, and she happens to be played by my favorite Japanese actress, Yuriko Yoshitaka (see my review for Your Eyes Tell where she acted with Ryusei Yokohama), so that's a bonus. We've also got Yuichi Nakamura of KAT-TUN fame playing a secondary character, my first time seeing him act, so that was neat.

Her work ethic AND her self-care end up making her both a target and an inspiration to the people in her department.

The only downside to the drama is the ridiculous love triangle that cropped up. I'm not a fan of that trope in general and it made no sense here. The drama would have been so much stronger without it.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Rewatching Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs in 2022


I rewatch Mel Brooks' The Twelve Chairs (1970) every year. I suspect it's one of Brooks' lesser known comedies, but it's the only one of his films that I religiously watch because it has the least amount of crude content. Go figure!

The setting is 1927 Russia, a decade after the revolution. It's a satirical look at Russia, featuring three lead male characters whose ultimate goal is tied to greed.

Brooks, Moody, and Langella in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Ippolit Vorobyaninov (Ron Moody) is the main "protagonist." He is a member of the deposed Russian aristocracy, a man born into great wealth, a man awash with pride and arrogance in his youth now brought low after his family's wealth was taken from them. His greed is found in the little things. When his mother-in-law is on her deathbed, his first thought is, "that poor woman, that poor woman," followed by "who is going to take care of me?" Empathy coupled with selfishness.

Langella in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Ostep Bender (Frank Langella) is the second "protagonist." He is a communist, but first and foremost, he is about himself. His own security, his own safety, his own wellbeing, is his first and only priority. He has been taking care of himself all his life, and so there is nothing he will not stoop to so that he can continue to live. When his and Vorobyaninov's roads cross on a hunt for a dining room suite that inside one chair hides a fortune in jewels, it is the joining together of two equally selfish men.

Deluise and Langella in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Father Fyodor (Dom Deluise) is the "antagonist" if you could call Ostep and Vorobyaninov protagonists. He takes Vorobyaninov's mother-in-law's final confession, learns about the jewels hidden in that dining room suite, and starts out on his own journey to find those chairs. His hunger for wealth is greater than his holy calling and he casts aside his faith.

Enjoy this fun scene from the film, one of my favorites because it showcases Dom Deluise's brilliant comedic talent!

I make them sound nasty because they really are. These are not likable men. They're laugh-so-hard-until-you-cry hilarious, but they're not nice. And you don't want to be them! These 3 lead characters will do ANYTHING to get this wealth. For Vorobyaninov, it's because he wants to be rich AGAIN. For Ostep, it's because he's never been wealthy, and the temptation of possibly having ENOUGH is overwhelming. And for Fyodor, he's done playing the holy game, and wants an OUT. Selfish motives, one and all, and it can be funny to watch selfish people chase a pipe dream.

Langella and Moody in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

It can also be scary.

Because we're seeing this happen right now, with Russia shamelessly chasing something they used to own, but is no longer theirs. They're doing the same old thing. Does it mean I think all Russians are like the men in The Twelve Chairs? No, of course not, but it is ironic that a Russian satirical story published in 1928 that features greedy men chasing vain ambition should still be so relevant in 2022, almost 100 years later. Maybe some things don't change.

The Twelve Chairs is hilarious. It's got so many belly-laughs in it. Even my sister loves it now, which she didn't when I wrote my Frank Langella and Mel Brooks Unite in The Twelve Chairs (1970) post back in 2016. But it was hard to rewatch it this year, in this moment, at this time. Because the concept is funny when it's a satirical comedy of selfish men, but it's not so funny when the man is someone with what feels like infinite power and what he's chasing isn't jewels hidden in an old chair, but an entire sovereign nation.

Brooks and Langella in The Twelve Chairs (1970)

Kudos to Mel Brooks, that marvelous man of Jewish Polish and Ukrainian heritage who created this movie. He also has a bit part to play as Vorobyaninov's old servant, Tikon, a hilarious role for a hilarious man.

Watch The Twelve Chairs. It's pretty clean with just a smidgeon of vulgarity. Now is the time. 

Note: I didn't make the GIFS, some kind person on Tumblr did.

Slava Ukraini

Monday, March 21, 2022

Homemade Coconut Pecan Cupcakes

My sister had 2 baking tries tonight, one a super weird fail and then this one, a rousing success. She went with her old standby 1950s Betty Crocker cookbook, changed up the flavorings,  and yum, delicious cupcakes with homemade vanilla frosting. My favorite thing about historic cupcake recipes is that the crumb has an amazing spring to it, which you can kind of see in the second photo. 

I wish I could invite you in for a cupcake. Blessings!


Woodworms, barking dogs, The Lord of the Rings, and more

Garfield and I have so much in common. 

It's a blustery day in Colorado so I'm praying that we don't have any trees blow over. That happened right before Christmas with a terrible windstorm. A neighbor of ours lost 3 of their gorgeous trees, part of their fence, and a bit off their roof, so it was some intense wind.

Just a couple more brief life updates.

1) Dad's surgery is going ahead as planned, so that's happening next Tuesday. I know it'll be a long road to recovery but he's pretty tough so I'm not too concerned. And he knows the Lord so whatever will be, will be. He has to have surgery. There is no chance of this healing on its own and he would just continue to decline without it.

2) I had woodworms in a ledge in my bedroom. The gentleman who flipped our house took out the wood paneling along that wall so he must have replaced the ledge as well, but I'm guessing he got a piece that somehow had woodworms. Anyway, that's finally been taken care of. I had to order woodworm killer all the way from England since the US doesn't carry it (at least not that I found). And then I spent about a month feeling guilty at the idea of killing them so my sister finally had to do it for me. Bless her.

3) We had this one set of neighbors who were nice enough but did next to nothing to rein in their bored, barking dog. And they were right along our long fence so being outside was never a fun prospect because he would just bark at whoever was out there. Anyway, they moved! This last week. We weren't close to them so we didn't even know until one day they were there and the next they were gone. It's been blissfully quiet. Lots of houses on our street have dogs, but none of them are as ill-behaved as that one was. So I'm happy they're gone, but also hoping that their move was for positive reasons instead of negative ones. And now we're praying for our new neighbors, whoever they will be, that they're quiet, unassuming sort of people who own either strictly indoor cats or fish.

4) I purchased a new phone. My iPhone has been on its last legs for at least 7 months now, and I've just been forcing it along. I did switch to a Samsung though, and I'm a lot happier with it. The battery lasts so much longer, and I really like the design and format, although it did take some getting used to. One thing I'm not thrilled with is that the 30 or so Itunes that I purchased can't be played on my new phone. I knew Apple was proprietary but this is ridiculous. I won't make the mistake of purchasing anything from Apple again.

5) And finally, I've begun re-reading The Lord of the Rings. With everything happening in Europe, it seems the thing to do. You can read my post that compares Ukraine with the people of Rohan at Helm's Deep if you're interested. But the invasion of Ukraine aside, re-reading The Lord of the Rings is very like coming home. I love the movies and I always will, but the books are superior and The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite because we spend so much time with the hobbits in The Shire and I love that. There is something spectacular about Tolkien's work that can never be accurately translated to the silver screen. It's timeless in a way that only the best classics are, and with every director wanting to put their own spin on every classic story out there, I'm finding that it's just better to read the books if you want the true story.

And there you have it. Yes, I've been watching Asian dramas (including some Thai dramas so that's been fun), but I don't have the energy to review them right now. I even have some reviews written but haven't snagged screenshots for the reviews and that just seems like too much work. *sighs* I should at least post my review for Buzzer Beat. I need to have one Yamapi drama review on my blog or how can I call myself a fan? I've been watching his drama from 2006 called Kurosagi, which literally translated means The Black Swindler. He's a swindler who eats (or takes down) other swindlers, kind of like a Robin Hood character. And apart from the absurd love triangle thing that cropped up halfway through the series, it's really very, very good. And I can now say that I've seen Yamapi with facial hair (albeit fake) and I hope to never see that again. *internal shudder*

I hope all is well with all of you. May you be blessed this week. ♥


Thursday, March 10, 2022

Work Changes, family update, and overall restlessness

 


I don't know about all of you, but exhaustion seems to be the order of the day for me. Part of it is the continued reality of Covid and how it is has changed the emotional landscape of all our lives. Now, a large portion of it is the invasion of Ukraine. As you already know, yes, I am in support of Ukraine in this conflict. I can't be anything else. I have an issue with unprovoked invasion. In the words of Captain America, "I don't like bullies." So you'll find sunflowers in a lot of pictures in my new blog posts, just because we can't be allowed to forget what is going on. I also just made a post on Ukraine using Rohan from The Lord of the Rings as an example of what's going on, so you can read that if you want.

But, both the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic aside, a lot has happened in my personal life recently.

FIRST, my new supervisor of less than a year got a new job. I'm happy for her, but her new role came at a highly inconvenient time because of a software rollout we're undergoing. It just happened today, actually, the rollout, and so far, so good. But the last 10 days have been my team trying to ensure that all of the procedures, templates, knowledgebase articles, are all updated with this software change so the departments we serve are equipped. It's been one of the most tiring and stressful experiences I've had since I started this job.

Do I resent her job change? No, but I do resent the timing. 

Thankfully, we pulled through as a team and got everything done. I did work 10 hours yesterday, though, so that has compounded the exhaustion.

SECOND, my dad's having spine surgery at the end of March. It's actually a great thing because he's been having increasing weakness in his legs that are a result of pinched nerves and things in his lower spine. So they're going to go in and unpinch them. He's only 70 so he should have a good many years left in him, but he should have a good quality of life and he can't have that if he can barely walk due to this nerve issue.

So yeah, that's going to happen. I think it'll probably hit me that he's going in for major surgery as the date gets closer. I've been praying for him for weeks, now, as the symptoms worsened, and now it helps to have a solution to what's happening. His surgeon has a stellar reputation, so that's a bonus. But it's definitely been added anxiety.

THIRD, I'm kinda falling out of love with Colorado. That might seem like a minor thing, but it's really not. I'll have been here for 24 years this upcoming October. So it's pretty huge to not love the state where I live. I still love the location because it's beautiful. But, my biggest issue seems to be the people. Now, I don't know if that's more of a "me" issue, but I do know there's been a demographic shift in the last several years, an increase in crime to the point where my sister and I hate going out at night, and there's also street-racing. We had one come down our residential street several months ago, and we live 5 streets away from a main thoroughfare so that should not have happened.

We have to stay at least 5 years so my sister gets fully vested in her pension at her current workplace. But neither she nor I really want to stay here long-term anymore. What does that look like? No clue, but we'll see what happens. Fortunately, our new house is already accruing in value since it is Colorado so I suspect that when we go to sell, unless there's a huge downturn, we'll make a nice amount off it, enough to let us begin again in a less expensive place.

My job can go with me since I can work remotely. Or, maybe I'll find something new to do. Something with books again. Because I miss that.

Who knows, maybe this is just me hitting midlife crisis early. Do women even experience a midlife crisis? It's always seemed like more of a thing that men go through vs. women. All I know is that this restlessness I'm feeling doesn't seem to be going away. I look out the window at my job, right at the Rocky Mountains, and I wish I was on the other side of it. A different view, if that makes sense. The only problem with that mindset is that I'll always be taking "me" with me, so if the issue really is that I just need to deal with restlessness then moving somewhere else won't fix that. The restlessness will just follow me until I figure out why I've got it and deal with it.

So, yeah, there are just a few things going on and a lot in my head and in the world right now.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Ukraine: How did it come to this?




Does this sound familiar to anyone? Never before has Theoden been more relevant than he is today. 

This is where Ukraine stands right now. A tiny kingdom in Europe with its people fighting back invaders.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Theoden King in our modern age. 


Some things never change. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as a reflection of the wars in Europe that he miraculously lived through. His experiences, his fears, his anger, everything is reflected in this story. It is not an allegory, but a brutal truth.  

I never thought I would live to see this day come, that another war would threaten Europe. Freedom is at risk. The safety of all free countries is it risk. Sanctions. What good will sanctions do against a nation-eating monster? Do we, at the end of the day, let Ukraine stand alone (I'm talking about sending aid in the form of military might) even though they continue to call for aid and their people continue to die?


If it seems that I'm sensitive to this, I am. 

My ancestors fled from Russia, or rather, the Russian-held duchy that finally won its liberty and became the modern nation of Finland. I visited Finland with my family in 2017 on the 100 year anniversary of their becoming a sovereign nation on December 6th, 1917. I love my native homeland and I know they are next.

What is happening today is a real threat. There is reason to be afraid. And I am afraid. I have family in Finland. I know people with family in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland. I don't want Ukraine to fall. I want it to remain the beautiful, sovereign nation that it has been for decades. I want President Zelenskyy and his family to live. 



The people of Ukraine are brave, have been brave, and will continue to be brave. But it took physical aid in the shape of warriors to beat back the forces of Isengard in The Two Towers, and today is no different.

I get my invasion/war-related news from the UK news outlet Sky News. Which shows how little faith I have in my own media to present the news in a nonpartisan fashion. At the end of the day, the only people that the Russian government is fooling are its own.

Here are some ways to fund aid to Ukraine during this time: 

Project C.U.R.E. (much needed medical supplies and equipment)

Samaritan's Purse (to fund their disaster response team that is already on the ground in Lviv, Ukraine)

And, of course, pray. That's all I've been doing since February 24th. May God have mercy on Ukraine.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine's Day!


 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Yokohama Ryusei and Yoshitaka Yuriko star in the charming age-gap Jdrama Your Eyes Tell (2020)



Your Eyes Tell

Country: Japan

Year: 2020

Length: 120 minutes

Genre: Romance, Melodrama, Life, Sports, Age Gap

Starring: Ryusei Yokohama, Yuriko Yoshitaka

My Rating

Click to read more of my reviews for Japanese entertainment. 

Many thanks to RJGMan56 Subs for the fansubs! It's because of folks like this person that we're able to watch quality Japanese content with subtitles! You can either stream or download with English subs from their website, go to THIS PAGE!

Former kick-boxer Rui Shinozaki (Ryusei Yokohama) just wants to live his life peacefully, working a job as a night guard for a parking lot complex. He has no real ambition other than to take each day as it comes. Orphaned from a young age, raised by nuns, a kick-boxer as a profession, and then ultimately an enforcer for a local gang, Rui is tired, run-down, hopeless, and guilt-ridden all at the age of 24.

Akari Kashiwagi (Yuriko Yoshitaka), a blind women in her early thirties, always enjoyed "watching" dramas with the previous night guard and she didn't realize that the position had changed hands to Rui so is nervous and embarrassed when she comes to the guard house one night for her regular drama watching schedule. Rui doesn't quite know what to make of her, but his protective instincts kick in and before either of them fully realize what's happening, they are in a friendship that then blossoms into something more. Akari believes Rui to be older than herself based on his Chinese birth year, little imagining that he's actually about 10 years younger. Rui convinces her that their age gap doesn't matter at all since they have each given the other something to not only live for, but passionately pursue. Rui steps up his game, returns to kick-boxing to earn an income for them, moves in with her, helps Akari start a pottery business, and everything seems to be going so smoothly until his past as an enforcer catches up with him, threatening their happy future.

Your Eyes Tell have a lot of great things going for it.

First, there's the Dickensian storytelling style. You know what I mean, the method of bringing seemingly unconnected people together in surprising family or historical ties. That method is used here, and very successfully. Rui and Akari shouldn't be connected, but they are because the world is a lot smaller than we think it is and because fate or destiny, or whatever you wish to call providence, has a way of reuniting people when they didn't even know they'd ever had a connection in the first place.

Second, Ryusei Yokohama. I've been on the fence about this young actor since I first saw him last year. I wasn't sure if he was a good actor or not, since sometimes his roles work and sometimes they just don't, at least for me. But he is undeniably golden as Antonio Shinozaki Rui. This is the first time that I can say without a doubt that he is clearly talented. This is the first role where I felt his soul in the performance, and I hope he continues to do higher-caliber stories. He's only twenty-five years old, so he still has time to find his way, but he is a very promising young actor, and he clearly invested in this role, both physically for the kickboxing element and emotionally.

Third, the delightful Yuriko Yoshitaka as Akari. This woman is a gem. She has this vibrant liveliness about her performance that just caught me so unaware. So many facial expressions, so much passion, and such authenticity to her performance as this beautiful blind heroine. I suspect she is a big part of the reason why Ryusei's performance was also so outstanding; they just meshed so well. This is only the second drama I've seen with Yuriko, but it will not be my last. And because she's the right age, I am holding out intense hope that someday she and Kazuya Kamenashi (and maybe even Tomohisa Yamashita) might just perform together in a drama. I want to see her perform with both of them because she's an actress who can absolutely hold her own and give Kamenashi especially a run for his money.

Finally, the age-gap aspect. I love age-gap stories so long as both individuals are adults. And, I'm usually entertained by the younger man/older woman trope. I've seen it done poorly and I've seen it done well, and in Your Eyes Tell, it is done very, very well. There's a chemistry between them that is the best I've seen Ryusei have, actually, with a female costar. Sometimes he comes off a bit stiff, probably because the character is written that way, but not so here. Considering they're not really even supposed to lock eyes since Akari is supposed to be blind, so much is still said in how they look at one another or towards one another. The name of the movie Your Eyes Tell is very apt for how crucial the eyes are to making this relationship work. So my little age-gap-loving heart was very happy with this one.

Content-wise, there are some intense scenes, probably a PG13 or TV14 rating. Someone drenches himself in gasoline, lights himself on fire, and throws himself out a window. That's pretty scary stuff. A car crash happens. There's a scene of attempted sexual assault that will be very triggering. Akari is almost hit by a reckless driver. There are many kickboxing scenes with quite a bit of blood. A person is hit by a car and then stabbed twice. Sensual content is limited. Rui and Akari share a few kisses and they are clearly intimate, but it is in such a peaceful, gentle sort of way as if they are each one side of the same coin. It's that red string of fate thing, tying them together. No nudity or sex scenes.

Rui spends a great deal of the movie trying to atone for his past. He was in a Catholic orphanage as a child growing up and still has a strong affinity for the faith, and deep respect for one particular nun who helped raise him. His other name, Antonio, is his baptismal name. I appreciated the religious aspects of Your Eyes Tell. There's such a powerful message of despair, hope, and forgiveness sprinkled throughout the story, it's deeply moving.

It's impossible to capture in this review just how completely I love Your Eyes Tell. While I know it does have a few small plot holes in it, that's nothing compared with the profound beauty of the story. I have several favorite Japanese movies now, and Your Eyes Tell is definitely high up on the list, especially when I need something that will move me to tears at the end. It is just that good.

And yes, Your Eyes Tell is an adaptation of the Korean movie Always and BTS did the theme song, so there is that as well. I don't watch Korean entertainment so far, but I have heard Always is very good.

Enjoy this charming music video by Justinn on YouTube! Stop watching 3 minutes into the music video or you'll get some serious spoilers for the twists in the movie! Up until then, though, you're good to go because everything you'll see is what I put in the movie synopsis.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Takahashi Issei excels as the quirky male lead in the Jdrama We Are Made of Miracles (2018)


Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru

Country: Japan

Year: 2018

Episodes: 10 episodes, 46 minutes each

Genre: Animals, Life, School, Eccentric Male Lead

Starring: Issei Takahashi, Nana Eikura, Jun Kaname, Honoka Yahagi

My Rating

Click to read more of my reviews for Japanese entertainment.  

Subtitles download is available through the fansubber SuG on the D-Addicts forum and you can find the raw video files on JRaws. I'm not giving links, but you can find them if you just do a search by the site names online. 😘 

Kazuki Aikawa's (Issei Takahashi) path chases after the beauty and the mystery of the world around him. As an animal behavior professor who also specializes in fieldwork and is likely on the autism spectrum, Aikawa is almost always late to his class, constantly forgets to take attendance, and takes his students on unauthorized fieldwork excursions. But his love and knowledge of his chosen field spread to his students like a sweet perfume. One particular group of four students, Aoyama (Honoka Yahagi of Itazura no Kiss fame), Shinjo (Daigo Nishihata), Ozaki (Kana Kita), and Suda (Ryohei Hirota), find their lives forever changed for having met Aikawa. To say nothing of Koichi-kun (Waku Kawaguchi) a little boy who happens to meet Aikawa at the dentist and finds a kindred spirit in a man 4 times his age, but who still has the heart of a child.

Dentist Ikumi Mizumoto Sensei (Nana Eikura) has no idea what to make of Aikawa, her latest dental patient. Especially when he compares her to the rabbit in the old Tortoise and the Hare story, but his interpretation of the story has the rabbit running only to look down on the tortoise. So she begins a journey of self-discovery and re-evaluation of her dreams and goals. Before her steps fiercely pointed only one way but now, by degrees, she's turning to follow Aikawa along his path. As Aikawa continues learning to be himself more and more, walking to the beat of his own drum, his light shines brightly, radiating new energy into the lives of all those that his own life touches.

Issei Takahashi is my new hero in  Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru.

While I don't always walk to my own beat, I do it enough to know that it can be scary to be different. I mean, even my interest in Japan comes across as strange to some folk, but that doesn't keep me from having pictures of my favorite J-pop bands in my work cubicle or bobbing along to their music while I'm working. People are unique. We are not fashioned from the same mold. And we should not be forced to conform to a societal standard that tries to determine what is and is not acceptable in personalities. And as much as I love Japan, it is a nation of conformity. Aikawa shares his society's values to an extent, but that's where I believe conformity should end. Personalities and interests and hobbies should never be looked down on or demeaned or condemned because they're different from the norm. So long as nobody is being harmed and no laws are being broken, people should be able to be who they are freely, but that is just not the case, and that's why Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru is SUCH an important drama, praising the individual who dares to be different rather than someone obsessed with doing what society expects.

The performances, oh my goodness, the performances!

Issei Takahashi has never really been on my radar. I remember that he amused me in One Pound Gospel with Kazuya Kamenashi, but when I tried watching Kishibe Rohan wa Ugokanai yikes, man, that is a really weird drama. I just could not even get past that first episode, it was so bizarre. But some friends on My Drama List recommended a couple of his other dramas to try since I was sincere in asking, and, here we are, with me being 100% in love with Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru. Takahashi-san has proven one thing to me. He is a deeply gifted actor with a talent for nuanced expressions. And while I don't believe I will love another of his dramas like I do this one, that's enough for me. He blew me out of the water with his performance and I am eternally grateful. And yes, I do believe I also fell for the smile. Tsundere characters are always so popular in Japanese dramas, that I love it when I find a warmer male lead who smiles ALL THE TIME.

The rest of the cast, while not as marvelous, do mesh perfectly with Takahashi-san, and that's really what counts in the end. Take Nana Eukura-san. I don't always like the character of Ikumi, but I love and respect Eukura-san's performance. She and Takahashi-san have the right type of chemistry for the relationship of their characters. My favorite of the other actors is actually Keiko Toda-san, the wonderful actress who plays Aikawa's housekeeper. I adore her. She's delightful and fun and she and Takahashi-san just went at it with the quips and comebacks. Gotta love it when chemistry just works. I have to mention Honoko Yahagi since she's here and I know her presence might bring in some viewers. She's cute, she's chasing after Aikawa which annoys the heck out of me because it's the student/teacher trope, and, well, that's about all I can say. I don't seek out any of her work since Itazura no Kiss annoys me so much, so I'm not that fond of her character here. Still, if you like her, she does have quite a few scenes and does well in them.

The program itself has excellent, snappy dialogue. Aikawa is a clever man and his mind works in different and amazing ways so he's always thinking and his conversational responses are always so unique and unpredictable. It's just got some supremely brilliant writing, both serious and comedic, so I tip my hat to Atsuko Hashibe-san, an amazing screenplay writer who deserves all of the credit.

Unfortunately, there are ZERO music videos for Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru. If I made music videos then I would absolutely make one, but I don't, so I can't. It just breaks my heart because this drama so seriously deserves to be immortalized in a music video. Sometimes, the world is just cruel.

But here's the ending theme song by Super Beaver. It's an awesome song for an awesome drama and really captures the overall vibe of the series. And you can go to this My Drama List page to watch the trailer, unfortunately without subtitles, which sucks. ARGH!