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text 2016-11-06 14:49
Chestnut Eyes

I miss the chestnut trees of my youth. I miss collecting freshly fallen chestnuts in the rain, and later rolling them lightly, in their casings, and then without, all over Yasuko's bare back, and her inner thighs, and soles.

 

I have my pines, here in Santa Claus country, it is true, but nostalgia has very specific ingredients that weave magic spells on the mind, no matter what fashionable Buddhist edicts say about living in the present.

 

I remember those naughty games I played on Yasuko, my geisha and classmate, with small chestnuts on a string, and her pleasure.

 

But most of all I remember the cold rainy night I took her to the cinema, and the moment I bought her a bag of baked chestnuts from a stand, and she warmed her fingers by wrapping them around the paper cornet, then warmed my lips and soul by taking a chestnut, kissing it, then putting it in my mouth, her fingertips infused with the chestnut aroma.

 

What I would give for love like that now, among my pine trees.

 

oh my geisha

I lost the chestnut you gave me

with the message inscribed

and ever since then I lost my way

from the sweet touch of your fingertips

 

Source: chevrefeuillescarpediem.blogspot.com
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review 2016-10-11 03:49
Some More Strange Things
Paper Girls Volume 1 - Cliff Chiang,Brian K. Vaughan

If you've been mainlining Stranger Things, do yourself a favor and pick up Paper Girls. It's set in 1988, on Halloween morning, as the titular paper girls bike through their subdivision delivering papers. At which point all manner of wtfery ensues. I liked Stranger Things fine, but it does really speak to a boy's experience. Paper Girls speaks more to a girl's experience, so it's a good companion piece. It's nice when you can balance your nostalgia. 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-15 02:40
Book 60/100: Jem and the Holograms Volume 1 - Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
Jem and the Holograms: Showtime - Kelly Thompson

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Item: A non-superhero comic that debuted in the last 3 years

I am not afraid to admit that nostalgia may have inflated my rating.

However, it's not as if I'd fawn over any Jem-related property. My reaction to the movie reboot was far from positive.

This reimagining of the JEM canon works because it strikes the perfect balance between nostalgia and modern sensibilities. Although the character designs have been updated, their personalities have remained intact while receiving greater depth; story threads that were only subtexts in the original series are brought out into the open here. Also, I have nothing but good to say about the update to the character designs -- whereas all the female characters in the original essentially shared the exact same fashion-plate body, in this incarnation we see body diversity along with the ethnic diversity that the show always managed to pull off. Jerrica and the gang come off as somewhat "younger" than they do in the original, but I think that is partially because the original was aimed at kids, where an adult is just an adult, whereas this is aimed at older readers who know how rare it is for someone to be CEO of their own record label at age 23.

This does make me wonder how new readers would treat the more fantastical elements of this story, couched as they are in a more realistic setting without a lot of explanation about how they work. But perplexing newcomers is a price I am willing to pay to keep some of the iconic story elements -- ahem, SYNERGY -- from the original intact.

Also, there are some things that make MORE sense in this incarnation. We're never really given an upfront reason for the creation of JEM in the original -- why did Jerrica change her identity while everyone else remained themselves? As the original series goes on the viewer starts to perceive that Jerrica needs her alter-ego to "cut loose," but this is handled in a more upfront manner in the comic: Jerrica, while a talented musician and songwriter, has debilitating stage fright and can only perform when hiding behind the persona of JEM.

And yeah, there are definitely some cheesy moments that in most cases would make me roll my eyes -- but when they appear I ask myself, "Would this sort of thing have happened on the cartoon?" When I realize the answer is yes, I just have to sort of shake my head and smile indulgently. And I love all the little details here, especially when it comes to Pizazz. She comes across as a bit more "mean girl" and a bit less "loose cannon" than in the cartoon, but there are these sweet "softening" touches that just make you want to know more about who she REALLY is -- who are the science fiction action figures next to her bed? She's also been given a Siamese cat which seems a perfect fit (Siamese are known for being one of the most "prickly" and temperamental breeds), and in the final frame, just the hint of a tear in her eye as she rants about Jem and the Holograms stealing the spotlight.

The nascent love stories, both between Kimber and Stormer and Jerrica and Rio are sweet, although I'm worried that Rio might discover the dual identity too early on in the series. I will be disappointed if the comic ends up matching the movie in that regard, both because Jerrica's secret identity provided such an ongoing sense of tension in the original (where Rio never DID find out) AND because dudes with secret identities are allowed to hold onto them (and the power it gives them) for decades against all odds. I hope the new writers will give Jem the same courtesy; in so many other ways they've kept this "true" to the things that made the Jem series so beloved.

I've already ordered the next two volumes. I hardly ever purchase books new, but when it comes to series like this that are so close to my heart, I just want to keep throwing money at them.

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review 2016-08-14 21:56
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Set in a near future, this book often looks to the past – the glorious 1980s! Wade Watts lives in a dingy, crowded trailer park and goes to virtual high school. His joy in life is found through the OASIS, an on-line universe created by James Halliday & Ogden Morrow. You can discover space aliens and ride unicorns or play for hours in a 1980s arcade. In fact, after Halliday’s death, his final message was released to the world: He had built a quest into the OASIS, one that required the players to uncover secret, hidden clues (or Easter eggs). The prize is his fortune, and the prize is still unclaimed. Now Wade has discovered one of those clues and the hunt for the ultimate prize has heated up again as more competitors join the game.

Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog told me I would love this book and she was right. This was just all kinds of fun. The future is a kind of stagnant, bleak place. Technology only went so far and then it petered out. With most of the world’s fuel supplies used up, people abandoned the countrysides and gathered in ever-increasingly congested cities. The OASIS allows many people to log in from home and go to virtual schools or virtual offices. Yet folks often stay connected to this virtual reality for their entertainment as well; so society is becoming less and less connected to each other in the real world.

Wade is a high schooler I could relate to – not popular with any clique but decent at his grades. I especially liked that in VR high school you can mute anyone but the teacher – so even if some jerk is calling you names, you don’t have to listen to them. His personality comes alive when he logs on to the OASIS and can zip around with his VR friends saving worlds and doing dungeon crawls. It’s not to say that the VR doesn’t have it’s cliques and bullies. If you have the funds, you can spend them in the OASIS on cool equipment for your avatar. So there’s always some amount of ‘fitting in’ strife for Wade to maneuver through. However, he does have stalwart friends in the OASIS, like Aech. They’ve been on dozens of missions together and spent hours and hours discussing every thing. They’ve been on-line friends for years, and that friendship really means something to Wade who has few people in the real world.

Then we have the whole 1980s nostalgia thing going on. Halliday, who built the ultimate prize game into the OASIS, was a big fan of the 1980s. He loved several things about it and built those things into the OASIS here and there. From the music to the arcade games to the TV series to the SFF books of the time, this story is a smorgasbord of 1980s trivia. I was born in 1978, and then I was raised on country music. MTV was not allowed in my house, but I married a man who loves his 80s music, so I have picked up some of it over time. For me, I loved nearly all the 1980s references. Some of the music references I didn’t recognize and some of the Asian anime I haven’t seen, but for the most part it was all recognizable. Sometimes the references would just be a one-liner from a movie and you’d get it if you’ve seen the movie. It made this book one of those stories you can geek out over.

Of course, the over-arching plot is for Wade to find all of Halliday’s Easter eggs, complete the quest, and win the prize. However, it was far more complicated than that. Halliday’s quest has been around for many years now and thousands have been trying to find the next clue and it hasn’t happened. Even Wade has spent many, many hours searching the OASIS for the next scrap of intel on the Easter eggs. But now Wade has a hunch and he, as his avatar Parzival, acts on it and he’s rewarded with the key to the first gate. Of course, once he accomplishes this, his name appears on the public OASIS scoreboard and now everyone is tracking his avatar’s doings. The race is on to complete Halliday’s quest and win the prize!

Along the way, Parzival makes some new on-line friends such as Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito. Aech is along for the ride, being Parzival’s trusty sidekick. I really loved the interactions among these teens. Well, Wade makes some assumptions about their ages and such – it’s almost impossible not to. Pitted against them are Nolan Sorrento and the Sixers. These players are corporate funded and there are thousands of them. They have been paid to hunt for the Easter eggs. They have more equipment (both real world and in the OASIS) and they have this wealth of experience to draw upon for any situation. They are intimidating competitors. Also, their corporation isn’t above bribing, paying off, threatening, or physical acts of aggression. Sadly, Wade learns this the hard way.

I found myself cheering Parzival/Wade on throughout this book. I also did a few face palms when I thought Wade had lost his way or made a stupid move. The book has so many great scenes! I love how the beauty, wonder, and infinite possibilities of the OASIS are paired with the dingy, crowded, hopeless reality of the real world. Wade just wants an escape. I totally get that. Later in the book, he meets a character who wants to change that and make the real world something to look forward to and use the OASIS as a tool to help mankind get back on it’s feet and perhaps out into the stars. That was a great touch too because it gets Wade to consider the possibilities.

This was a most enjoyable book, perhaps one of my top 5 for the year. The fancy VR world coupled with all the 1980s nostalgia made this story unexpectedly fun. By twists and turns, I would be caught up in a fond Atari game memory one moment and completely entrenched in the next Easter egg challenge the next moment. And I bet this book is just as good on the second read.

The Narration: Ah, Wil Wheaton, you were born to narrate this book! Wheaton was the perfect fit for this novel. He makes a very believable teen Wade. His female voices were good. Each character was distinct. He was especially good at imbuing the characters with emotion and there is quite the range of emotions in this book. Great performance!

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text 2016-07-19 11:47
Reading Progress: Pg 224 of 319

 

And now- the rest of the plot...

 

Pinocchio, Alice, Peter Pan & Wendy Darling manage to steal the magic mirror from the Ivory Queen's castle, nay- her very bedchamber.  But of course they not only wake her from her magic slumber but burn down the whole damn castle in the process.  No biggie; a good villain always has a backup plan... like a hidden chamber down in a mine or something.

 

Violet is happy to see the kids coming home; Gretel was afraid, so she stayed behind with Violet, who cheered up with stories and such.  The kids bring home the prize, Violet grants their wish and sends to the Real World where they'll become adults.  Just don't tell anyone who you really are- because people fear what they don't understand. 

 

Suddenly the Ivory Queen emerges from the mirror.  Violet protects Gretel while they do their dialogue about all the eeeevil things the Queen's done and the stupid things Violet's done- like sending children to steal a magic mirror- and they start magicking each other.  The Queen gets suctioned back into the mirror and starts pleading to Gretel for help, who clearly hadn't been paying attention to a damned thing and due to her innate goodness tries to help the Queen, getting sucked into the mirror right along with her.

 

Violet has no choice but to rally the Order of the Bell- the secret society that protects Fairyland.  Roll call: the Beast, Merlin (yep), Captain Hook, some old woman with a blunderbuss and... Mulan.  Violet already knew what Hansel was up to, so they confront him but the Queen's got her hooks too deep into him and he overwhelms the group save for Mulan, who stole one of his magic darts and zapped herself into the Real World.

 

Hansel's almost finished; just one more victim and the Queen'll be ready.  The mirror shows him who the next target is... really?  No!  Not them!  Anyone but them!  (Here's a hint: one of the dwarves walks in and sees the target so Hansel zaps them to the Real World).  Now even Hansel's not sure he wants to keep doing this anymore.

 

 

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