hymnia: (Sasuke sword)
I've posted my review of the latest chapter of Naruto at [livejournal.com profile] narutoforadults.

(Summary with pictures)

(Thoughts on the chapter)

hymnia: (Shi Aya Yes!)
It's leap day! Happy birthday, Poor Wand'ring Frederic! XD

Dress up!

Feb. 20th, 2012 07:10 pm
hymnia: (beautiful tohru)
My JET interview is Thursday, so my sister-in-law and I spent the day playing dress up to try and find a good outfit for me to wear. Please take a look at what we came up with and vote for your favorite, over on my WordPress blog. Thanks!


hymnia: (Hinata)
I've posted my review of the latest chapter of Naruto at [livejournal.com profile] narutoforadults.

(Summary with pictures)

(Thoughts on the chapter)

hymnia: (beautiful tohru)
My sister-in-law, who is going through chemotherapy right now and is also an accomplished cosplayer, made a really cute post about wearing wigs--complete with pics of her and her two-year-old daughter putting on a wig fashion show. It is so adorable, I just had to share it:


hymnia: (Mai sigh)
I've started a new blog about my attempt to learn the Japanese language. It will also include information about going through the process of applying to the JET Program (to work as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan)--and eventually, I hope, it will be about living in Japan. I applied for the program in December and recently learned that I have made it to the interview round. We'll see what comes of it. Even if I don't make it in this time, I will most likely make other attempts to go to Japan. The purpose of the blog is not only to write about those experiences, but also to hone my writing skills. I'm trying to become more concise and focused in my writing, and I believe starting a blog on a specific topic will help me to develop those skills.

Here it is if you want to follow it: http://hymnia.wordpress.com/

hymnia: (Naruto Yeaaah Boooy)
My review of the latest chapter of Naruto is up at [livejournal.com profile] narutoforadults.

(Summary with pictures)

(Thoughts on the chapter)

hymnia: (Shigure reading)
I am so excited that Mark has cleaned up the suggestions threads on Mark Reads and Mark Watches, because I have been waiting for an opportunity to pitch my favorite manga series Fruits Basket. Unfortunately, I seem to be having technical difficulties with posting it. It looked like my comment posted, but then it disappeared. Is it possibly because the comment is too long? I can't figure the problem out. But in the meantime, I'm posting my pitch here for safe-keeping:

Please consider adding the manga series Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya to your reading list, Mark. (There is also an anime, and it is worth watching, but the manga is much better and tells a more complete story.) It is a 23 volume manga series and it is complete. As you have not reviewed manga before on Mark Reads (and I get the impression you aren't super familiar with the genre), I will say that a single volume of manga usually consists of about 5-8 chapters and takes about 45 min to an hour and a half to read (depending on your reading speed and how much dialogue there is). I would say a single volume of manga is probably comparable in terms of story-movement to a single, longish chapter of a novel, so you could potentially do this series in 23 days, if you chose to do it volume by volume. (And that is what I would suggest.)

Mark, I can't say too much without going into spoilers. I don't even really want to tell you the premise because 1) it sounds cheesy when you try to explain it, and 2) I think the story is better the less you know about it going in. But it's a fantastic story, and I think it delves into a lot of themes that you would appreciate, such as how people cope with isolation and abuse. Yet, despite these often dark themes, it offers a hopeful outlook on life--without being cheap. It does a great job of balancing humor, drama, romance, fantasy, and mystery, and it has a cast of wonderfully complex and fascinating characters.

In addition, if you have any interest in getting a good “representative” of anime/manga into your oeuvre of reviews, “Furuba” (as it is lovingly nicknamed by fans in the Japanese style of abbreviation) is a great candidate, because it is one of the most popular manga series published in North America.

Here's an excerpt from the entry where it was spotlighted for a “manga moveable feast” on The Manga Curmudgeon last year:

“First of all, it’s almost always interesting to dig into a cultural phenomenon. In the period between the initial English-language publication of Sailor Moon by Tokyopop and its upcoming republication by Kodansha, Fruits Basket was the most commercially successful shôjo [girls'] manga and one of the most commercially successful manga, period.

Many people have made the argument that romantic fantasy for a female audience tends to be critically undervalued. Commercially successful romantic fantasy for a female audience adds another potential disclaimer for a book’s artistic value. Fruits Basket wasn’t just primarily for girls, but girls liked it a lot. And they bought as many copies of it as boys did of manga they liked. What’s that about? Or, at least that sometimes seems like the psychological subtext.

And Fruits Basket, which originally ran in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, is difficult to quantify. It shares a number of qualities with more generic manga of its category...But Takaya approaches that material with quite a bit of craft and emotional ruthlessness. She doesn’t brutalize her characters (or her readers), but she doesn’t spare them much. It’s not a creepy, 'suffering and terror are hot' kind of approach; it’s more of a fluid, applied grasp of the nature of tragedy. Fruits Basket has scale. If the aesthetic were less contemporary-casual, the Takarazuka Revue could operetta up this sprawling epic.”

Full entry here, but beware spoilers as to the premise: http://mangacurmudgeon.com/2011/07/24/mmf-why-fruits-basket/

In short, it's a series beloved by many manga fans, especially shojo manga fans (who are, of course, not always female), and it's a great story all around with many of the qualities that you seem to appreciate. I know your list is long, but I hope you'll give this series a place on it. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.

Edit: It's posted now: http://markreads.net/reviews/suggestions-for-mark/#IDComment269281706

hymnia: (Shigure reading)
I've really had the “don'ts” lately. As in, “I don't really want to do that right now.” Keep putting things off...It's annoying. I'm annoyed with myself. So I'm trying to, um, mitigate that feeling by updating LJ. You know. Accomplishing something.

And so I present my totals for media consumption last year. (See what I mean about putting things off...)

Books (including completed multi-chapter fanfic):
28 total
3 re-reads

It was a very good year for book-reading for me, probably due partly to my light work schedule since moving to Seattle. (Some may find my standards low. I admit I am not a fast reader.)

Noteworthy books:
Remembering the Kana by James W. Heisig - This book has been a valuable resource to me for learning the hiragana and katakana syllabaries and really jump-started my Japanese language learning this year.

House of Crows by SilverShine - This is one of four Naruto fanfictions I read by this author this year (two are works in progress and therefore not included on the list). It's one of those addictive kinds of stories that you just cannot stop reading. I really love the way this author fleshes out the world and characters in her stories and builds great plots that seem like a natural extension of the canon—if a bit darker, more mature, sexier, and more friendly to female characters and romantic subplots. Basically, it's what good fanfic should be.

Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig - I've already written about this book in a previous entry, so I won't say much more. It's a very timely and important message, delivered in a way that's cogent and entertaining.

14 total
6 re-listens
5 new as audio but familiar as books

This is a new category I added this year. I have listened to audiobooks in the past (mostly the Harry Potter books over and over again), but this year I listened to a substantial amount. I've found it's a great way to get boring chores like laundry and dishes done—just pop on my headsets and listen while I work!

Noteworthy audiobooks:
I love all the re-listens and familiar books I listened to this year, but I think the most noteworthy books in this category would be those from the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, since this was my first encounter with them. I don't know if it's fair to say I “enjoyed” the books exactly. These stories are dark, violent, and emotionally intense. But I couldn't put them down, and after I was done, I felt compelled to seek out fandom-y stuff for them—so that should tell you quite a bit about how I responded to them. I am certainly looking forward to the next installment.

Manga/graphic novels:
17 titles total – 2 new or stand-alone, 14 continuing, 1 ending
36 volumes total
2 re-reads

This was a low year for manga. Not sure why exactly. There are several series on this year's list that were being published by Tokyopop, so even though those stories are not complete, I don't anticipate being able to continue them anytime soon, unless by some miracle another publisher picks them up. (A possible exception is Gakuen Alice, which I'm pretty sure has scanlations online. I might go digging them up if it remains in limbo much longer.)

Noteworthy manga/graphic novels:
Gakuen Alice vol. 14-15 - This story continues to hold my attention. If only another publisher would pick it up!

Story of Saiunkoku vol. 1-3 - A familiar story to me thanks to the anime, but I think I'm going to like the manga even better. In the three volumes I've read so far, I've been quite impressed.

Rasetsu vol. 5-8 - I've been enjoying this series more and mare as it starts to give more depth to the supporting cast.

Sand Chronicles vol. 8-10 (end) - A satisfying finale to a well-told coming-of-age story. I'm glad it followed the characters a bit into young adulthood.

Movies (including feature-length anime):
18 total
4 re-watches

Movie-watching is way down this year, mainly due to having to cancel Netflix after I quit my job.

Noteworthy movies:
There were several big-name theatrical releases and DVD releases that I watched this year—including the two parts of Deathly Hallows—which I certainly enjoyed, but don't have much to say about at the moment.

The Secret of Kells – This is a beautiful animated film that I watched early in 2011 on [livejournal.com profile] connielane's recommendation. Elegant, moving, and very much worth the brief running time (less than an hour and a half).

They Were Eleven - This is an older (1970s) anime film, a space adventure/thriller with a hint of romance, that I first heard of at a convention panel by Anime World Order (a well-known anime podcast group). It was touted as a story with feminist leanings and a fore-runner of shojo manga, so I was intrigued. I watched about half the film at a convention viewing room (at a different con), but had to leave early due to circumstances beyond my control. Right before I left there was a plot twist that kind of threw me for a loop and made me question whether I wanted to finish watching the film or not. However, I researched a bit online and came across a review of the film that addressed that plot twist and made me decide to give it another chance. I'm glad I did, because in the end I really enjoyed the film as a whole, and I think it will probably remain one of my all-time favorites.

English Language TV:
10 titles total – 4 continuing, 5 new, 1 ending
116 episodes (counting each season of The Guild as one episode)

Noteworthy TV series:
After the end of season 7, I quit watching House, MD. I just wasn't enjoying the show anymore. I tried to pick up some new shows (Revenge and Once Upon a Time) to take its place, but ultimately couldn't get into them. Besides Glee, which I think improved quite a bit last year, the shows I enjoyed the most in 2011 were all outside the realm of US network television.

The Guild, seasons 1-4 - I believe this is my first web-based TV series. It's a bit raunchy for my taste at times, but it's still entertaining, and often painfully true-to-life—at least to a geek like me. (Although I'm not a gamer, many of the, um, issues the characters face are applicable to other kinds of geekery.)

Sherlock season 1, ep. 1-3 - LOVE this show. I think this modern transformation of Sherlock Holmes is just incredibly clever, and I have a huge crush on Martin Freeman. (Looking forward to The Hobbit, obv.)

Game of Thrones, season 1, ep. 1-10 - While there are aspects of the TV adaptation that I am less than thrilled with, overall I thought it was pretty good. The cast is great, and the visual representation of the world is well-designed.

3 titles total – 1 continuing, 2 new
21 episodes

Not much for anime this year. This may be partly due to lack of Netflix, but I think it also has something to do with getting a little tired of some anime tropes. In some ways, I kind of needed a break from the genre.

2 total

Both were Orlando Shakespeare Theater productions: A Midsummer Night's Dream and Pride and Prejudice. Both well-done, though I didn't love them as much as I loved 2010's Merchant of Venice.
hymnia: (Shigure reading)
Last year's list

Cutting Loose by Frances A. Miller
The Truth Trap by Frances A. Miller*
Aren't You the One Who...? by Frances A. Miller*
Lady In Waiting by Debby Jones and Jackie Kendall
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

Manga/Graphic novels:
Code Name: Sailor V vol. 1
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon vol. 1

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

The Help
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
L.A. Confidential*
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
I Am Number Four
Gosford Park*
Good Will Hunting*

English Language TV:
Sherlock, season 2, ep. 1-3
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 1, ep. 1, 7; season 2, ep. 10-22*
Glee, season 3, ep. 10-current
Takin' Over the Asylum, ep. 1-6 (all)

Area 88 ep. 1-6
hymnia: (Naruto Yeaaah Boooy)
I've just posted my latest chapter review at [livejournal.com profile] narutoforadults.

(Summary with pictures)

(Thoughts on the chapter)

hymnia: (Sleeping fairy)
I finished listening to the main part of The Return of the King. I just have a little bit of the appendices left. The last few chapters made me think of some more tribonds. I'm not entirely satisfied with the first one, as I think Rose/Nine is not quite as close a fit as the other two. The first two are so close I almost think this incident in HDM may have been a conscious imitation of the one in ROTK. HDM is full of references to Lewis, after all, so it's not too hard to believe there might be some references to Tolkien thrown in as well. Anyway...bonus points if you can both guess the connection AND come up with a better third example besides Rose/Nine.

1. Eowyn and Faramir...Will and Lyra...Rose and the Ninth Doctor

2. Sam Gamgee...Neville Longbottom...E.T.

After writing all that, it occurs to me that Kyo/Tohru might be a better third example for #1. But I'll leave it as is, and still leave open the invitation to provide other, possibly better, examples. I'm still not fully satisfied with that anyway, as I'd really prefer a third example that is also from a prose novel.

hymnia: (Shigure reading)
Almost any book worth reading is a dangerous book. I once knew a young man who jumped off a roof and broke his leg after reading the Harry Potter books. It seems he wanted to test himself for latent magical abilities, like Neville's relatives did to him when he was a kid, trying to prove that he wasn't a Squib. (This young man had high-functioning Downs Syndrome; he was bright enough to read Harry Potter, but lacked a clear understanding of the line between reality and fantasy.)

Books have the power to shape our ideas, for good or ill. Speculative fiction may have even greater power because it is not bounded by the limits of the real world. Of course, not everyone who reads Harry Potter will respond the way this young man did—the vast majority will not. But the ideas contained in books—whether ideas intentionally worked into the themes of the story by the author or not—will inevitably interact with our own, and shifts in understanding can take place. Stories may challenge our beliefs, or they may confirm and solidify them—or perhaps they will affect them in more oblique ways. Either way, whenever we encounter good story-telling, it is unlikely we will walk away unchanged.

This is not a bad thing, of course. In fact, I think this is how any well-told story should be. I don't reject books because I consider them “dangerous”. In fact, I think the word could be applied to almost any of my favorite books, and certainly to the ones I recommend most. “Read this book. It will change you.” Haven't you ever recommended a book to someone that way? But because I know they can have a powerful influence on our beliefs—and by extension, how we live our lives—I do think carefully about what books I pass on to others, and under what circumstances. Some books I may recommend only to certain people, like the series I will discuss in a moment. Some I may recommend while expressing reservations or adding disclaimers. (The Twilight books come immediately to mind.) With children and teens, there are a lot of books I would prefer to share and discuss with them, rather than just setting them loose unguided. (I feel this way about much of the Bible, as well as a lot of classic works). And, though I can't think of any off the top of my head (at least not any I actually finished reading), there may be some books I wouldn't pass on to anyone under any circumstances.

Some time ago on Mark Reads I caused a bit of a stir by saying that I wouldn't recommend Philip Pullman's YA fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials to young people. Why not? In essence, I feel that the series co-opts the thrill of numinous experience through its fantasy setting and inspiring characters and utilizes this thrill for such a harshly anti-Christian and anti-God message that I cannot support putting the books in the hands of people who I feel are likely to accept that message too easily and uncritically.

I have recommended the books to adult readers, especially fellow Christians, for the purpose of examining challenges to the faith and discussing the implications of them. There's no doubt they are well-written, highly engaging books with many elements and themes that appeal to a broad audience, including young people. And I would even say that I agree with some of the themes—themes like embracing the pursuit of knowledge and sacrificing one's own immediate happiness for long-term goals and greater good. But there are a couple of points that I object to strongly, and the fact that the books are well-written and contain some positive themes make me feel all the more compelled to avoid endorsing them. It's like hiding poison in a delicious chocolate cake.

I don't support censorship. However, I think there will always be some tendency by human institutions run by humans to have a certain bias in what information we select or include in our media and communication materials. People in certain positions in a free society—librarians at public libraries, for example—have a responsibility to repress their inclinations to “select out” that which they disagree with (and maybe also to “select in” that which they wish to promote) to a degree that could reasonably be considered censorship. Were I in such a position, I wouldn't “select out” HDM from the shelves of YA fantasy fiction. There is no doubt that it belongs there.

But does that same idea apply to my position as a classroom teacher? I don't believe it does. The books I place on my classroom bookshelves are: 1) obviously not meant to be a comprehensive collection of YA books, and 2) could be viewed as receiving my personal endorsement. Therefore, I have chosen not to put the HDM books on my classroom bookshelves.

Finally, I wouldn't dream of forbidding or even discouraging a teen who is already inclined to pick up the HDM books from doing so. I'm not as dumb as Professor Umbridge, after all! I might—if in a situation where it is appropriate to offer some guidance—encourage her to search out the underlying themes and ideas Pullman might be trying to promote, and to think carefully about whether or not she agrees with them, and what other viewpoints there might be. I might even articulate some of those other viewpoints.

Censorship is not the right approach to "dangerous books". People have the right to access information and ideas--even if others dislike those ideas or the effects they might produce. However, I believe that in a free society people also have the right to make selections about what information and ideas we personally endorse.

hymnia: (Remus/Tonks)
The Harry Potter shipping war has, I think, forever changed the way I look at romantic subplots in any fiction I consume. Meet cute. UST. Show, don't tell. I learned these things from HP fandom, and primarily from the shipping debate corner of fandom. Now I find myself analyzing the ways in which writers do—or don't—signal romantic vibes between characters in all the fiction I come across with much more attention than I did before.

One common complaint I see across the many fandoms I've come to know since then—whether I dived in completely or just stuck in a toe—is that a canon pairing doesn't have enough “development”. And I want to take a moment to contest that complaint—not for any particular case, but as a general rule. That's not to say that I think such a complaint could never be valid. But I think it is a tired, overused complaint that often doesn't really take into account the full scope of what the author is trying to do.

The first problem with the complaint is that it doesn't take into account the role of romance in the story. If you're reading Twilight or watching Letters to Juliet your complaint about lack of development between a romantic pair would have more validity than if your media of choice is, say, The Lord of the Rings or Naruto. Romance clearly plays a larger role in some stories than in others; you can't expect an author to spend loads of time developing a romance when there's, for example, a war going on. Especially if the characters involved are supporting characters in a large cast. But even if one or both members of the pairing is a protagonist, only so much time can be devoted to the protagonist's romance.

The second problem is that “developing” a romantic subplot in a story where romance has a relatively small role requires tying it to the main plot, or at least to a larger plot line. Hogwarts doesn't have a school dance every year; instead, they have a special Yule Ball that is part of the Triwizard tournament and connects Harry's competitors in the tournament more closely to Harry and his friends. In HBP, the clues that Remus and Tonks like each other are hidden among general news from the war. This limits the amount of information that can be provided about each couple's interactions.

Often those who cry out for “development” will point to examples of stories in which the protagonist and his/her love interest—or else two co-protagonists—share some adventure and through it fall in love. That's all well and good as far as it goes. But it's unfair to expect every adventure story to take that route. This is where I, personally, appreciate a little touch of realism. In some stories, the protagonist pairs off with someone that they meet later in their adventure, or someone they left behind who didn't get to come on the adventure. Or perhaps two supporting characters who only interact a little bit on-screen or on-page while the adventure is going on pair off at some point. The fact is, these examples are much closer to the reality of how people meet and fall in love. The Speed method of romance is by far the exception rather than the rule in real life love stories. Most people meet and fall in love under far more mundane circumstances.

And such mundane circumstances are hard to tie to the main plot. A good example is the story of Arwen and Aragorn, which Tolkien chose to tell in an appendix because it didn't quite fit into the canon proper of LOTR. That's because their relationship was mainly established in quieter times, before the war of the ring began. The cinematic version found a way to work Aragorn and Arwen's relationship back into the main plot, but what worked for the film would not necessarily have worked for the already very dense storyline of the book.

The complaint of lack of “development” seems to set up a false dichotomy. Either the romance is fully integrated into the main plot, or the author is not “allowed” to pair those characters together. IMO, that is much too restrictive. I like romance. I want to see it happen in many different ways, not just the His Dark Materials model of love in the midst of struggle. I even enjoy having a pairing revealed as a “surprise twist” in the plot, as long as it's not involving a POV character, and as long as it doesn't “undo” another pairing that I enjoyed more. (And even then, sometimes I can forgive.) I think authors should be allowed to have a wide variety of options for including romantic subplots in their stories.


And now, some multi-fandom tribonds I came up with in the last day or so:

1. Faramir...Molly Weasley...Ron Weasley

2. Prince Zuko...Eowyn...Luke Skywalker

hymnia: (Flail)
So, I want to keep up with the writing 500+ words per day thing, but today has just defeated me. The Mad Science labs are fun, but they are REALLY exhausting. And then I get home and you know what? My Facebook feed is even more exhausting. I hate, hate, HATE the way it refreshes itself at the drop of a hat, and suddenly the posts are in a completely different order. I just can't keep up. And I have way too many groups and fan pages "Liked" and so my feed is already overwhelming to begin with. But darn it, I enjoy those pages and I don't want to un-like them. :/ I just wish my feed were stable like LiveJournal's, so I could get through it in more than one sitting--and without seeing duplications of the same post. Something has got to give here. I don't know if it's that I just need to give up Facebook cold turkey for a while, or if it's that I have to somehow FORCE myself to quit reading my feed after a reasonable amount of time (an hour, for example), even if I haven't read all the new posts, and just hope I don't miss anything important, or if I need to figure out some things to cut to clean up my feed. One way or another, I can't keep doing these marathon Facebook sessions. It's driving me nuts.

And I'm afraid that's all I have for today. I am just too tired to write more than that. I'll try to write extra tomorrow to make up for it. I have an easier schedule tomorrow--no Mad Science, just a couple of math tutoring clients.

hymnia: (Sleeping fairy)
I have one more post to make on media consumption for the time being. I've been listening to the Middle Earth saga on tape. (And yes, I'm literally listening to cassette tapes. They really are the best way to listen to audio books.) I finished The Hobbit a week or two ago. Serendipitously, Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads and Mark Watches) started reading The Hobbit shortly after I finished, so I'm enjoying reading his posts with the story still very fresh in my mind. It really is a series of little adventures along the way of a long journey, and there were a lot of twists and turns in the plot that I'd forgotten about.

Now I'm on The Fellowship of the Ring, and I swear, I almost forgot how good this story is. I love, love, love the characters so much, especially Frodo, Sam, and Aragorn. I was (and am) a big fan of the films, and so the visual representations from the films—from the set designs to the actors—are firmly fixed in my mind, probably more so than for any other book-film combo I've enjoyed, even Harry Potter. It's too bad that the section with the Old Forest, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, and the Barrow Wights wouldn't fit in the film. I don't blame Peter Jackson in the least for cutting it, but it would really have been nice to have seen those things come to life on film as well, especially Tom and Goldberry.

To fill the gap, I've picked actors to represent the missing roles of Tom and Goldberry.

Cut for pictures )

Who would you cast to play Tom and Goldberry?

In other news, I went to church today at Bethany Community Church for the second time (the first was in October, before I got sick), and I think I'm going to stick with this church. The sermon was on the relationship between science and faith, and the way the pastor approached the topic made me feel I could be comfortable with this church. It was a good sign when he opened with this quote from St. Augustine:

If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? (Follow the link for the full quote.)

BCC has a Thursday night “Early Career” group that I'm going to try to go to this week. Here's hoping I can make some friends there!

hymnia: (Shuurei in wind)
All right, now I'm ready to write about the books I'm currently reading. I have a tendency to jump around between several different books at the same time instead of reading just one, so all of the below are books that I'm still in progress on reading:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I like the narrative voice in this story. I think Chobsky does a good job of capturing the essence of a certain type of introvert—an INFP, if I were to classify him by the Meyers-Briggs standard. (This is also, incidentally, my own personality type. I think it's fair to say I identify with the narrator quite a bit.) I'll be interested to see how the film adaptation, starring Emma Watson as Sam, the narrator's love interest/crush, turns out. My only complaint is that it does tend to fall into the tendency of a lot of slice-of-life stories about adolescence of being hyper-focused on sexuality and drugs. Yes, those things are parts of adolescence, but there is so much more. My favorite moments are when the book focuses on the other things, like the narrator's feelings about his extended family, especially his deceased aunt, or the extra books that his favorite teacher assigns him to read and write essays on. The parts that are about sex and drugs are kinda boring in comparison to the rest. I wish the ratio was a little more balanced. I may be biased because my own adolescent experiences—and even the experiences of many of my close friends, at least as far as I knew—were less characterized by those things than what you usually see portrayed in media.

  • Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig - If you have me freinded on Facebook, you've probably seen me post at least one link on the topic of corruption/corporate money in politics and/or at least one link to a presentation by Larry Lessig, either on this topic or on copyright law. Anyway, this book is Lessig's latest, and it is about how Congress has been corrupted by a dependency on campaign funders, rather than remaining dependent “on the people alone”, as the founders intended. It is an excellent book. I agree whole-heartedly that this problem is the “root” of the majority of bad policy that the US Congress has produced in the last several decades, including the decisions that led to the current financial crisis. I used to think campaign finance reform was just another issue, probably a good idea, but not any more important than any other issue. I now believe it is absolutely essential in order to restore the republic of the USA back to what it was meant to be—a republic dependent on the people, and not the funders. I urge every US voter to learn as much as they can about this issue. This is a good place to start: http://rootstrikers.org/ Also, I've linked several versions of Lessig's presentations on Facebook, but the one below is of his talk at Seattle's Town Hall, which I went to see a couple of weeks ago (and where I also got my book signed). I felt like it was a good remix of his best material. I know it's long, but Lessig is a very entertaining speaker, and this is an EXTERMELY IMPORTANT MESSAGE. So please take the time to watch it:

  • Lady in Waiting by Debby Jones & Jackie Kendall - This is a Christian book that addresses the struggles of single Christian women. It is a bit dated, and some of the advice feels a little stale to a 30-something woman who has read lots of similar books in the past. But overall, I've enjoyed reading it and felt encouraged by its message of living for God and serving him now rather than waiting for some fairy tale happy ending, as if life only starts once you're married.

  • Christian Universalism: God's Good News for All People by Eric Stetson - This is the third book on the topic of Christian universalism that I've read now. The first, The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbot was the most convincing, IMO. This one uses a lot of similar arguments, and seems to be a bit more confrontational against those who hold a more traditional view of God's judgement. I like Talbot's book for being more gentle toward opposing viewpoints. Anyway, I'm not 100% sure what I think about Christian universalism. I lean toward thinking that Biblical teaching on what happens to human beings after death is sufficiently ambiguous that no one ought to be too dogmatic about it; I think the Christian universalist view (which is NOT the same as pluralistic universalism, BTW) is a reasonable one, and I think it does a better job of reconciling seemingly conflicting Bible verses on salvation and the sovereignty of God than traditional views such as Calvinism and Armenianism. I don't think we can deny that people will face God's judgement after death, but what exactly that judgement entails is open to interpretation.

  • A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower by Kenneth G. Henshall – This is a book I picked up at the library recently because I wanted to read a general history of Japan. I haven't read very much of it yet, though, so I don't yet have much to say about it.

*yawn* For some reason I'm really tired tonight, even though I had a pretty easy day and took a nap this afternoon. I'm glad to be going to bed a little bit earlier than usual tonight. (And yes, 11-ish is pretty early for me!)

hymnia: (Veronica - Que?)
Well, technically November 4th is over, since it's after midnight. But I'm still counting this as my 500+ words for 11/4. I needed to spend what would have been my writing time this evening cleaning up my desk a bit. Now I feel much better knowing that, while I still have a lot of little odds and ends to work on, at least it's organized.

I don't feel like writing about real life today (it wasn't that eventful, anyway), so I'm going to instead turn to the various media I've been reading/watching. Late post is late, so bullet points again:

  • Glee – I enjoyed seeing more of Mike Chang on the “Asian F” episode, and I'm also a fan of Tamlyn Tomita, so I was glad to see her as Mike's mom. The new episode this week was kind of “meh”. The new character could be interesting, but I wasn't especially impressed with him so far.

  • Revenge – I mainly just tuned into this because it has Emily VanCamp, whom I liked when she was on Everwood a few years ago. It's not the sort of thing I normally go far, but I admit I'm kind of hooked on it nonetheless. I vacillate between finding it has interesting commentary on human nature and suspecting it's just an overblown soap opera. I may or may not stick with it for the long haul. It bothers me that the brainy Mark Zuckerberg/Bill Gates-type character seems like the most sympathetic and likeable character on the show to me, and yet all the other characters treat him like he's Obnoxiousness Personified—including the beautiful-but-troubled protagonist and the earthy-but-charming guy from the wrong side of the tracks who has a crush on her. It's almost as if the writers assume that everyone in their audience will automatically consider him annoying because he's a geek, regardless of how he actually behaves on the show. They're breaking the rule of “show; don't tell” (even though that's less easy to do in TV/film than in books). Anyway, it's a minor annoyance so far, but it suggests to me that I, a person who tends to find geeks endearing rather than annoying, am probably not the right audience for this show. And if that's true, it's kind of a shame, because the show has a pretty decent hook, and much of the setup is similar to the brilliant and very geek-friendly Veronica Mars. Alas, I fear the show will not manage to reach that level of brilliance.

  • Guilty Crown – This show appears poised to be the next “IT” anime, with its post-apocalyptic action plot, a sexy and ethereal schoolgirl with mysterious powers, and creators who have well-known credits like Death Note (which I loved) and Code Geass (which I just couldn't get into). I like it well enough, but so far it just feels like a re-hash of other anime; I haven't yet found anything to LOVE about it. We'll see.

  • I'm also still watching Doctor Who, although as all you Who fans know, it's on hiatus for the time being. I've decided to go back and watch some Classic Who in the meantime, based on the suggestions in a recent post at [livejournal.com profile] doctorwho. I'm currently halfway through “City of Death”, a tale of the Fourth Doctor and Romana in Paris that was written by a writing team that included Douglas Adams. I will be the first to admit that some of Classic Who is a bit boring, but this one is an absolute GEM—wonderful antics from Tom Baker, great chemistry between him and the actress who plays Romana, and a clever script all around. I highly recommend it to any NuWho fan who wants to check out some of the Classic series.

I'll stop there for now, as I need to get some sleep. I meant to talk about books I'm reading, too, but I will have to save it for another post.

hymnia: (Sleeping Fairy)
Thanks to all who responded to my entry last night, either here or on the Facebook link. Even though LJ has slowed down in recent years, it's nice to know that many of you are still reading. <3

I'm starting this entry rather late at night, and I don't feel I have as much of a theme to expound on as I did yesterday or the day before, so I'm going to indulge in the bullet point mode of updating.

  • My Mad Science class went well. The kids were enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy it. They got a little rowdy at times, but not to the point of being disruptive or anything. I decided on the name “Jingle Joie”, a slight modification of my friend [profile] springdove's suggestion. (Sound waves are science-y, after all.)

  • Mom is fine today. She has an appointment with a cardiologist in a couple of weeks, but right now we're all leaning toward thinking it was just stress (and possibly an oncoming cold).

  • Speaking of which, my poor Dad has definitely caught the cold. :( Poor guy was exhausted and coughing a fair bit tonight. I hope it doesn't last as long for him as it did for me.

  • Kaedmon is staying with us again tonight. I have to say I've really been enjoying spending time with him lately. He can be very strong-willed and difficult at times. We used to butt heads a lot and sometimes still do. But lately there are more moments when he is spontaneously sweet and affectionate. And there are some things that I used to get after him about that he is now being more cooperative on. He's also so creative and loves to talk to people about all the wonderful things in his little head. It's fun just to watch him play sometimes. His style of playing pretend with his toys reminds me a lot of the kid in the Toy Story movies. He really breathes life into those toys, you know? He's going to turn five in less than a month now.

  • I raved on my nephew, so I have to add that my niece Anya is adorable as well. Lately one of her favorite things to do is puzzles. Of course, I love puzzles, too, so we spend a lot of time building puzzles together when she is over here. At two and a half, she is just starting to get to a point where she can build puzzles that are challenging enough that I have to think about them a little bit, too—at least enough to enjoy building them with her. Last Thanksgiving when we were in Albuquerque with Kaedmon, Nana (my grandmother) bought him this book that contains several really gorgeous puzzles of animals from each of the different continents. Anyway, Kaedmon's interest in the book is only mild, but Anya loves the book, and I have to say, I love it, too. I really enjoy building and re-building these puzzles with her.

  • Right now I'm a bit perplexed that my browser has way too many tabs open. I usually keep my browser much “neater” than this, so it's bothering me. I also have a very messy desk. This is all the result, of course, of being too sick to do much of anything for a week and then suddenly having a very busy schedule right as I started to get my energy back. Tomorrow I have a little more free time in my schedule, so hopefully I can put a good dent in cleaning up both my browser and my desk, not to mention a few long-procrastinated chores.

I don't intend for all of my NaNoJouMo writing to be about “real life”, and I have other topics in mind, from fannish to political to religious to philosophical. But who knows which will spill out of my brain first?

hymnia: (Kushina)
I've been sick with a cold the last week or so, and it's turned into a persistent, hacking cough. I started to turn a corner yesterday, but the cough's still pretty bad. It's been keeping both me and my parents awake at night, so they, er, strongly encouraged me to see the doctor and now I'm on special cough syrup and an inhaler. I have to admit, the medicine(s) have helped immensely.

Anyway, because of the illness I've been staying in and resting much more than usual. (Even without a job, I usually find plenty of reasons to go out and about, but not so much this week.) But yesterday I was thinking it's time to get back to life, at least a little bit. Well, today life decided to get back to me.

First, I had the job interview for Mad Science, which is an organization that does science lessons/labs/demos for elementary school kids. They run a number of different programs in this vein, but the job I interviewed for was to go to local elementary schools to run after school programs in six-week courses. Anyway, I went in and talked to them a while and it sounded like a great program, and they seemed eager to hire me. As it turns out, they had more schools than usual sign up for their fall program, and they were understaffed. I had submitted my application a while back and they had kept it on file because they didn't need me at the time, but recognized that I had the right skills and experience for the job.

Then they emailed me last week because now they have an urgent need—so urgent, in fact, that they wanted me to start TOMORROW. 0_o I didn't really feel ready for that, because this cough is still hanging on and my vocal chords are not in the best shape to be orating science concepts to grade schoolers. But it's too good an opportunity to pass up, and they were very persuasive. So I agreed to do it on the spot, and they got me right in on training. I spent the day learning more about the program, and looking at some of the lab kits with one of the other teachers, and then I went with her to observe her doing a lesson—the same one I will teach tomorrow at another school.

All the Mad Scientists have a nickname, and so they told me to think of what I would like to be called. They are usually either rhyming or alliterative. And so, a poll:

[Poll #1792153]

It was a LONG day. The training itself wasn't too bad, but the fact that I locked my keys in my car (I swear I have NEVER done that before) meant I had to go a bit out of my way riding with the other teacher to the school. (In the meantime, my wonderful mother drove to the Mad Science office to rescue my keys from my car and leave them at the office for me to pick up when we got back.) Then I had to go straight to an appointment with one of my private tutoring clients, and she needed more help than usual with an especially difficult assignment, so I spent extra time with her. I got home at close to 7:00.

Then, when I got home, my mom casually mentioned that she was having some sort of chest pain this evening. I was like, “Mom, what are you thinking?!” I made her call the nurse hotline, and of course the nurse told her to call 911. So she and my Dad spent the rest of the evening in the ER. The EKG was normal, but they felt, all things considered, that she needed to see a cardiologist soon and make sure there were no issues. I doubt anything is seriously wrong, but due to family history and a number of other reasons, I think she definitely needs to get checked out.

While my parents were at the ER, I got to spend the evening with Kaedmon, who was over here to have a “pajama party” with us while his sister went on a “date” with her daddy and Vanessa got some quiet time to write and relax. I probably let him watch a little more TV than I really should have, but I needed to go over my lesson plans for tomorrow, so...it is what it is.

Anyway, it was an eventful, somewhat stressful day, but on the whole, I felt good about it. I certainly didn't feel “adrift” today, and I'm glad to have my connections to my family and to my new life in Seattle reinforced in a number of ways. Even the challenging moments had perks to them—like, for example, even though my mom had to get picked up by an ambulance, the ambulance came fully equipped with friendly and handsome firefighter/EMTs. My mom and I both enjoyed the view. XD (As did Kaedmon, who loved the big trucks with flashing lights.)

There were some lovely, peaceful moments, too, like when I was driving on the bridge over Lake Washington and enjoying the view of the bright autumn colors of the treeline against the blue water on one side and white sky on the other.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

~ e.e. cummings

I'm thankful.



hymnia: (Default)

June 2013

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