Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday morning news

There's not really much news to share with you, other than the fact that yes, I am still alive and I am still reading. Really! Life has just gotten in the way of this poor little blog again, as it seems to do so often. We had our Summer Reading planning sessions last week, and yours truly now needs to get all her "guests" lined up (if they're willing) and her other programs planned, including those for teens....and adults. Yes, my library will be doing the adult component of the Summer Reading 2012 program. Not that my adults need any help, but I'm supposed to plan something anyway.

The kids will "Dream Big, Read!", which I really do like. The teens will "Take Back the Night", which I am not liking; I think it sounds like I'm asking them to go run amok in the streets, become Occupy Your-City-Here types, etc. Plus the teen component starts with sixth graders, and I just don't see how they can "take back the night", not without someone willing to drive them around.

And finally, the adults. "Between the Covers" (or maybe it's "Under the Covers"... I can't remember). Would be totally awesome if everyone's mind didn't immediately dive into the gutter. Sigh.

So that's my life right now. I'll try to post a list of what I've been reading that I have not had a chance to review, just to give you ideas. Maybe one word reviews... "great", "meh", etc? That may be all I can do for the present time. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Asian Horror" by Andy Richards

I've been a fan of horror movies since I was a young kid. Yes, I was one of those weird kids who liked being scared. Except when I say scared, I really mean it. No "Goosebumps" kind of stuff for me - I went straight for the hardcore, pee-your-pants, can't-sleep-without-checking-under-the-bed stuff. I was a very quiet kid, kind of a loner, and horror brought me what I couldn't find in the "real" world - catharsis. If you knew me back then and then met me again today, you'd find yourself wondering what happened in the interim years. I'm a much more friendly, outgoing, happy person than I was decades ago.

But I still love being scared.

I've seen a few of the Asian horror movies discussed in this book. Well, I take that back; I've seen the Americanized versions of those movies. Yes, I'm talking about "The Ring" specifically, and "Dark Water", too. The only film mentioned in this wonderful little reference book that I have seen in its original version is "Audition", and I wouldn't have known about it without the fabulous people that brought us Bravo's Scariest Movie Moments. (Go find a copy of it with the subtitles and everything - it's a very disturbing, very powerful, very creepy film). I've also seen all the commercials for the multitude of American versions of other Asian horror movies, and I had noticed that they sort of all looked alike after a while. So I'm very happy to have picked up this book because it actually explained why they look alike (and no, it's not a copycat kind of thing).

Richards does an excellent job of giving the background and history of Asian ghost stories, ones that have been told for centuries, long before they became cinematic goldmines. For example, have you noticed that there seem to be a lot of creepy-looking girls with long black hair in these movies? Ones that are usually already dead, and thus ghosts, or ones that you're not sure if they're alive or dead? Especially ones that look at you through that long hair with only one eye visible? Welcome to the Asian prototype for the unquiet spirit, also know as yurei. They typically wear a white gown or another white outfit of some sort, and this is because in the original literature, they appeared in their burial kimonos. Their hair is down because that was how they were buried; while alive, women's hair was almost always worn up. And of course they are seeking revenge, having died violently by murder or suicide, and that revenge is not always restricted to the one(s) who wronged them.

In the same tradition, notice the extremely creepy cats in these movies. Those are bakeneko (literally 'cat demon'); these creatures are capable of possessing people and come into being when a cat licks the blood of its murdered owner. Finally, ever feel like you're drowning in a sea of watery images in these films? Yep, another classic trope - the well. Water and wells play a huge role in Asian literature as well as Asian horror movies, with water usually signifying a gateway to the underworld. Thus you get the girl trapped in the well in "The Ring", and pretty much the entire movie "Dark Water".

If you're interested in horror films and especially in tracing influences, cross-overs, and the like, then I would highly recommend this slim reference guide. Richards has a nice, easy style, and the book is arranged in chronological order, with older, classic Japanese movies explained first (such as "Godzilla"). Next up are the modern films, such as "The Ring". Then we move on to other Asian countries and some of the films they've produced, gems from Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Finally, Richards wraps it up with a very aptly named chapter, "East Goes West: Lost in Translation?", an interesting discussion of how we take these Asian classics and alter them to fit our American tastes. No, it's not just dumping the subtitles that matters; you must also find a "name" to star in the American version, plus you have to ramp up the action while toning down the violence. No, you did not read that wrong - Asian horror in its original form is very, very violent, and includes all sorts of imagery that we Americans just don't seem comfortable with (and yes, I'm talking about sex here. We like our sex to be hot, even romantic at times, but we don't want it to be super-kinky, nor do we want it to be blended with torture).

Even better news is that this is an entry in a series of books about cinematic genres/directors/etc released by Kamera Books. The back of this book has a short blurb about the publisher, and their tag line is "Essential reading for anyone interested in film and popular culture." I noticed they have entries on horror films, spaghetti westerns, and even David Lynch! I'm hoping that our library system will have a few of these, as I'm anxious to try another one. I'll let you know if you should look for the whole series, and hopefully soon!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"At Least in the City, Someone Would Hear Me Scream" by Wade Rouse

We all dream it. Wade Rouse actually did it. Finally fed up with the frenzy of city life and a job he hates, Wade Rouse decided to make either the bravest decision of his life or the worst mistake since his botched Ogilvie home perm: to leave culture, cable, and consumerism behind and strike out, a la Thoreau, for rural America - a place with fewer people than in his former spinning class. There, Wade battles blizzards, bloodthirsty critters, and nosy neighbors with night-vision goggles, and discovers some things he always dreamed of but never imagined he'd find - happiness and a home.

If you've ever had dreams of a simpler life, this book is for you. Not so much as a "how-to" guide, but rather as a bit of a cautionary tale: there is a wonderful life out there in the country, but you've got to get thru the culture-shock first. Rouse has given us his version of going "Green Acres", warts and all. And I have never laughed so much in my whole life.

I knew we were off to a fabulous start the first chapter out. Rouse walks out in the night to put some garbage in the trash can, only to be attacked by a raccoon (which he will later name, and even grow fond of, in a weird Stockholm Syndrome kind of way). He's got this thing clawing his head, attached like a live Daniel Boone cap, and he's trying everything he can think of to remove the unwanted critter, including breath spray and lip balm. Eventually he's successful - but not before peeing his "skinny jeans". Love it!

Rouse is no stranger to the country life, having grown up in the Ozarks (a very awkward place for a young gay man). Perhaps some of the most touching scenes are his memories of him and his grandmother sitting on her porch swing, looking out over the countryside, and of course, talking about Thoreau, his grandmother's favorite writer. In fact, the author refers to his new Michigan home as "Wade's Walden", although his journey is quite a bit bumpier than Thoreau's. After all, Thoreau never had to go through latte withdrawal.

This is a wonderfully funny and touching story of a man who has had enough of living the life he thought he should live, and taking the steps to find the life that will truly make him happy. Having done something similar myself (but with much less drama), I completely understood his angst; there were several times when I, too, thought "Oh my god, what am I doing here?" In the end, you just have to trust that things will turn out the way they're meant to, even when things seem to be going wrong all around you.

Definitely recommended, especially if you're in need of a good laugh (or 200 or more).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Wrist improving, now have the crud

Yep, it's February. I have come down with "the crud", that lovely combo of cold/flu/snot-fest that seems to happen around this time every year. I have been washing my hands constantly, using sanitzer when necessary, and generally trying to keep my distance from patrons/co-workers that I suspect are ill. But, yeah. Nothing worked. Came home last night with a sore throat, which rapidly progressed to feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. I'm tired, snotty, achy, and my ears pop every time I swallow.


On the plus side, this means I'm staying home today (one of my incredibly rare sick days taken), and I have plenty of books to read. I have a wonderful hubby who has already promised to make me chicken soup for lunch, and to procure orange juice for me as well. Plus I know I'll get lots of TLC, which is truthfully the best medicine on the planet.

Promise I'll try to get back to the posts soon - with hopefully a healed wrist and healed head!