Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ode to My First Apartment

Last Halloween was pretty terrible, and this one has been appallingly shitty, too, honestly. I couldn't go out last night or tonight because yesterday was a 12-hour work day after which I had to finish packing in order to come straight home tonight and meet the guy who took most of my stuff to a storage unit in what will be my new city an hour away. And I'm sick. And I've been dressed like a pirate through all of it. And there's a whole lot of drama again. At least I didn't start making a costume I ended up tearing in half this time, I guess, though there are a great number of things I'm on the verge of ripping to shreds as it is.

Your captain is severely displeased with your shenanigans.

You know who you are.



The apartment I was given when I took my first hagwon job in Korea was actually my first apartment ever. I had wanted to do a video tour of it in the style of Christopher Walken's The Continental from SNL but I was never motivated enough, and it wouldn't have really been worth it anyway, though that was the joke.

This is the stupid poem I wrote to bid a fond farewell to my crummy little rabbit hutch:

Goodbye Manager Kim,
you've been really nice.
You gave me cookies on New Years',
a subtle threat to my life.
Once you thought you saw me half-naked;
I was in fact wearing shorts.
Complained about my air con use in August,
and a measly $35 chose to extort.

Goodbye black mould infestation,
for some time I slept with you next to my head.
After an ongoing upper respiratory infection,
I turned around the bed.
Good old Mr. Kim came in and re-papered the wall.
Don't be silly, Korea, that doesn't kill it at all.
A squirt bottle full of bleach, I thought, will have to do.
The spots still touching my sheets are of a blueish hue.

Goodbye house centipedes,
you almost made me cry.
I'd never seen one of you before
and the number of legs is too damn high.
Goodbye ants, gnats and mosquitoes,
can't say I enjoyed the battle.
Staining the cheap crappy wallpaper,
a significant number of blood splatters.

Goodbye ancient cooling unit,
you don't work particularly well.
It was never really cool enough during the summer,
but in winter the floor was hotter than Hell.
Goodbye one-burner range,
it's really hard to cook with just you.
Same with the 12x18" counter space.
I dare you to try and make food.

Goodbye ridiculously unreliable Internet,
I had nothing but trouble with you.
The broadband here is the fastest in the world,
so naturally, I got screwed.
For a while there I spent more time jiggling the cable than 
being connected, and couldn't figure out where the signal had gone.
When the repair guy came and said nothing was wrong
I honestly had to wonder what kind of pills he was on.

Goodbye mysterious 2nd floor woman
who cooks exceedingly well.
I don't think it was always Korean food,
and I really enjoyed the smells.
Goodbye people in the next building, 
I have a lovely view of your brick wall.
Though after seeing your lights on at literally all hours
I have to wonder, do you ever turn them off at all?

Goodbye people who came by
to look at my place.
Your presence made me feel weird
and I hate that you saw my un-made-up face.
This system of showing an apartment that's still occupied
doesn't really sit well with me
But if I'm naked when you come by, I'm naked.
That's how it's gonna be.

Goodbye violent sneeze man, who I would hear at night.
Goodbye random couples who would occasionally fight.
Goodbye annoying kids walking by on the street.
Goodbye loud patter of annoying grandchild feet.

It's been fun, it's been nice, but I guess I've gotta go.
Because companies here don't care about the fact that you'll be moving 20 days before the end of your contract, and that really blows.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fantasy Book Review: The Earthsea Cycle

Earlier this summer I was on library duty at the academy where I work, didn't have anything to do, and was bored enough to grab a novel off the high shelf that none of our kids (except the one to whom I affectionately refer as "the Lord of the Rings kid") are advanced enough to use.
None of them looked too exciting, and the majority I'd never heard of. The one I picked was called The Tombs of Atuan. It was moderately intriguing, though there's not much action, it sort of drags, and it definitely felt like it was only a small piece of a bigger story, which it is indeed. It's the second of a 5-book series plus a book of short stories called The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin. 


The cover art for this series is delightfully cliche and kitsch and the fanart that exists is mostly terrible, but this site is full of some great concept drawings and paintings.
I knew it'd bother me to only read a small part of the middle of a series, so I went ahead and read the whole thing, watched the Sci-Fi miniseries and the Ghibli movie. There's also an Earthsea encyclopedia-type e-book you can download, but it's easier to just use the Interwebs if you really want to look something up that badly.

Maybe it's kind of weird that I didn't really start reading fantasy until my mid-20's. Maybe it's a desperate subconscious attempt at escapism, since I'm at that point where I'm trying to figure out the entire rest of my life and how to make money and have some semblance of a career I don't completely hate. You know, that awesome point everyone loves so much. Either way, the fact that this series began in the 60's and has inspired much more famous ones makes it a classic of sorts, and that merits a read, I think. You can do like I did and drunkenly lament your choice of Liberal Arts B.A. later. It's wizards and dragons time now.


Alright, so the lore of Earthsea says that Segoy - a creation diety - raised the islands out of the great sea. As the title of the series suggests, Earthsea is an alternate Earth with additional sea. There are a whole lot of islands, the main ones being part of a large archipelago also aptly named the Archipelago. The central island is Havnor, traditionally home to the king of all the realm. There are also "reaches", or various other small, less civilised and less important islands, named for each of the four cardinal directions in which they are scattered.

The lore also says that people and dragons used to be the same creatures. Bare with me here; believe it or not, this whole aspect doesn't actually get that ridiculous. It's just a laboured metaphor. People valued land and material possessions above all else while the dragons valued freedom, and as their differences became more pronounced, some drifted off to the West and some to the East. Those in the East changed or devolved somehow into humans. Although dragons do enjoy arson and shiny things, so it's not like they're completely pure creatures or anything.

Segoy also spoke the Language of Making to create the world, the old or ancient language that existed before anything else. Dragons still use it; it is part of their being. Very few people are born with a sort of sixth sense of inherently being able to understand it, and those who study to become wizards must learn as much of it as possible. 

People (except Kargish barbarians, who don't speak Hardic or have wizardry of the same type) have "use-names" their whole lives, but upon reaching adolescence or somewhere thereabouts, there's a naming ceremony where everybody gets their "true name" while standing with a man of magic in a river, stream, etc. It's just like a baptism. A wizard can look at a person and see the essence of their being, and with their knowledge of the ancient language, bestow a name. Because a thing is its true name, though, people can be controlled completely by those who know theirs, so it's kept secret. Telling someone your true name is, like, super cereal.

As far as technology is concerned, eh, Earthsea is basically medieval. Most people are farmers, merchants, soldiers, pirates, village witches, and so on. 


I've never really enjoyed fantasy, so I was surprised that these dragons and the use of magic and everything didn't come off as juvenile and trite. People in this universe use magics of finding, weatherworking, illusion, naming, changing and summoning, along with a few others. The masters - or mages - of these arts teach them to pupils somehow deemed gifted or worthy at a school of wizardry on Roke Island. Oh hey Harry Potter, how's it going? Le Guin did it first.

Now, the series actually spans over a thousand years. It's not like Dune or anything, though, don't worry; it's light fanciful reading. It's just that, after the first four novels were written over a span of over 20 years, Le Guin decided to explore her own creation more deeply by writing additional backstory in Tales From Earthsea, and some of that stretches pretty far back and explains some neat stuff. 


Actually, the book of short stories was my favourite, hands-down. The elements of plot and character development are not only more concise but a lot keener and better planned in short form, plus the author was much more mature and very familiar with it all by the time she got to that point. She also thought that Tehanu would be the last book but ended up writing a fifth after the Tales, The Other Wind. Even though that book is the best-written of the novels, it didn't hold my interest well for some reason and took me a while to finish.


If I try to write more about the plot itself it'll be riddled with spoilers, so basically, if you're not the kind of person to casually read 5 novels just for the fuck of it (who am I kidding, anyone reading this is a total nerd), read the short stories. You'll get the most out of them if you read them all and in the order intended, but maybe you ain't got time fo dat. The novels get progressively better as they go along, but they would definitely be best for readers aged maybe 10 - 16. 

Interestingly, completely unsubtle feminist themes, sexual language and rape appear in Tehanu, making it clear that the author went from being young, naive and dreamy in her writing to actually having something to say about the goings-on of the world. Yay, it's the 90's!


In the ongoing saga, the balance of the world has shifted, and the Dry Land (or land of the dead, Otherworld) starts to mingle in unsettling ways with the world of the living, dragons lose their ability to speak and become mindless half-rabid killing machines, and magic just kind of goes wrong and stops working. This all happens after the Archmage disappears (as far as most people are concerned) after restoring the rightful king to his throne in Havnor, which had been vacant for hundreds of years. People start freaking out because of how weird everything's getting, and the Dark Ages sort of set in again, even though they seemed to have been coming to an end. There are more criminals and marauders about as the economy crashes and people start losing their grip. 

Anyway, the girl who comes to be known as Tehanu/Therru was originally with a band of travelers. There's something very strange but not evil about her, though it scares people either way. You find out what about her is so unnerving later. Her mother was basically a badly abused slave of the men of the group, and one night, they rape the little girl, beat her unconscious and throw her into the campfire. As a result, half of her face is burned away, Harvey Dent style, and her right arm is also scarred so badly that her hand heals into a sort of claw. Her throat and voice were damaged by the embers as well - not to mention that she doesn't have much reason to trust people or enjoy their company - so she rarely speaks. When she does it's in a whisper that sounds like "metal scraping against metal".


Compared to what was going on before, that kind of violence is pretty shocking. Even though the time gap is apparent in the writing, it serves as an effective device for emphasising the chaos and danger of the changing world. If nothing else, it's cool how much the author and her writing grow.


Now, as far as the film adaptations go, well.. They're not very good. 



I recently went to the first Studio Ghibli exhibit held outside of Japan and even after listening to the audio about and seeing original sketches and layout designs for Ged's War Chronicles I was like, no. First of all, Ged is barely in it. Second of all, there is neither a war nor are there chronicles. It mostly takes place during what would be the fourth novel, Tehanu, though they have to switch a lot of stuff around to cram it into two hours. For example, Lebannen, heir to the throne, kills his father for absolutely no reason. Lol wut. He's supposed to be more or less a shining example of a white knight character. The malicious wizard Cob who, in the series, uses his mastery of ancient and dangerous Pelnish lore to temporarily conquer and mess up death is the main villain, but he looks like a weird gothic middle-aged Japanese woman, or maybe like Him from The Powerpuff Girls. Also, everyone is Caucasian and brunette and looks identical. I almost turned it off halfway through, and would have still felt this way if I had never read the books.

The Sci-Fi Channel miniseries was worse. You're probably like, "Orly? Thanks Captain Obvious", but it's not intentionally worse like all of the increasingly outrageous B-movies they've been making the last several years. This was made back in '04 and, for them, is actually a really decent effort. Danny Glover is Ogion and Isabella Rossellini is Thar. Don't ask me how that happened, but it was kind of interesting. Watching it also gave me a really pleasant feeling of nostalgia, like I was a high school freshman again, because it was ripped from TV and the dated ads and commercials made me feel like I was at home. Warm and fuzzy~ But, all is not well in this adaptation.


Ged is the main problem. Ged is white. Again. Honestly I was even a little disappointed that Ghibli did it, but not at all surprised. Shawn Ashmore though? Who the hell cast him? He's in his late teens/early 20's when you meet him, which is too old, and he's a total douche. His character is arrogant, pompous, whiny, annoying, and generally without any redeemable qualities. The whole situation of Atuan, the priestesses and the tombs is all different and stupid, too. Like with the Ghibli, they tried to cram so much crap in that it ends up not really making any sense. Actually, I found a couple of good articles about the whitewashing specifically, this one having been written by Le Guin herself:


A Whitewashed Earthsea: How the Sci Fi Channel Wrecked My Books


If I could cast an Earthsea movie adaptation, this is who would be in it. It's just a start, but think about how well this would work if Disney had never done John Carter and chose this series to drop a record amount of money on instead:

Karan Brar - Ged as a boy

Cute kid, appropriate precursor to this stroke of brilliance:
Naveen Andrews - Ged

Look at this shit, he's practically on the Lookfar right there!
That could very well be an otak on his shoulder.
Also, gratuitous semi-nudity isn't nearly as tasteless as racism.
 You know you dig it. Count those feathers, movie studio.
Michelle Trachtenberg - Tenar
Not only do we know and love her from Buffy and other stuff from the 90's, but she's
not a random airhead who's there just to stand around and look hot.
Plus her eyes and the right colour.
Mackenzie Foy - Tehanu
There's something about this girl's face that kind of creeps me out. She looks like she's aged
beyond her years somehow. When I looked for more pics I found out she's in Twilight. Bam.
Shit just got real. My series crossover character brings all the fans to the yard.
Rooney Mara - Priestess Thar
Yeah, I'm gonna throw her in here. Fuck it. It's supposed to be awesome, that's why.

Anyway, if you're bored or wondering which parts and adaptations of this saga are worth your time, hopefully this helps. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go write a fanfic on a GeoCities site in rainbow font about Naveen Andrews as Sparrowhawk..

Friday, October 18, 2013

Simple, Doable Halloween Makeup Ideas For Grown-Ups

There are countless unique makeup ideas and tutorials out there, but let's face it: you're not an amazing liquid eyeliner artist, you don't even own eye shadow primer, and you definitely don't have 4 spare hours to concoct a professional, blog-worthy look. Don't despair! I think it's better to pull off something realistic than to attempt something outlandish and have it look like poo. Here are some simple, realistic things you can actually do to be the sultry siren you've always wanted to be at your friend's Halloween party. I've put the costume ideas mentioned in red to make them easier to find or skim through.
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The most basic of basics is black. Cat eyes of all kinds have been back in vogue for a few years now, and if you've never really tried winging your eyeliner out to a fierce point, now's the time to start. You can build on it. 
Maybe the most important part of dramatic eyeliner is choosing a shape that actually suits your face. Mess around with a few different ones so you don't end up looking gaudy. Go upward from your bottom lash line to create a point. A long, thin point or a shorter, thicker one might be better for you. I almost never do my lower lash line, but maybe you should. Just remember to take your time, start from the center and use short, controlled stokes.

10 Shortcuts to Get That Perfect Flick of a Cat's Eye

If you don't think pointy cat eyes suit you, try experimenting with different shapes. Don't be afraid to get a little funky; it's Halloween after all, try something new! For example, you could create a very thick line that ends in a block shape instead of a point. Anything with a squarish shape ends up looking futuristic, a la Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner


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You could also try drawing lines that don't necessarily follow your natural ones to create the illusion of bigger eyes. Examples of this would be Twiggy and cute or creepy doll looks.

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Try a pin-up look in the form of a simple but dramatic point that also stems from your lower lid. Pair it with an intense, high-quality red lipstick for that classic look. Tie a black, white or red bandanna around your head to become a rockabilly or biker chick (Sons of Anarchy costume, anyone?), Rosie the Riveter, Bettie Page, a sexy horror punk zombie, Elvira, et cetera. 

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Don't be afraid to wear falsies! There's a really awesome Japanese specialty brand started by a Harajuku girl that sells amazing original ones. Brands like Mac and Paperself are also expensive but excellent. You can find all sorts on eBay and at Halloween stores. If they're too long or the wrong shape, trim them. 



Use the adhesive that comes with them to attach tiny manicure rhinestones to your face! You could be an elf, fairy, mermaid or nymph if you use some ethereal silvery makeup accents and stick enough of those on.

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Expand on this by creating skin texture coming from your hairline, on your cheekbones, or around the eye area by powdering pigment over lace or fishnet:


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If you really want to go to town and want your makeup to be your entire costume, you could try transforming your eyes themselves into things. Like cats. Or a galaxy to match your leggings.
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Hilariously Dated J-Rock Source
Ok, we've talked about eyes. What about lips? Try lining your lips with black pencil and blending it outward. To the right is what it looks like blended inward. You'll look like an intense scary zombie, demon or angry dead girl who likes to crawl out of TV's. 

If you're brave enough to go for full black lipstick, invest in a nice one. Another idea is to try a very dark colour like navy, plum or a rich green.

Black works best on people with pale skin and dark hair because of the dramatic contrast. Navy looks good on blondes, and of course, emerald is best on redheads. These combinations aren't set in stone, though. Test out some colours at the MAC counter of your local department store and see what best brings out your eyes. 

Try navy lipstick for a futuristic/android look, or for a dark, unusual twist on a sexy sailor girl. Plum works great for witches, and of course, fairies and Poison Ivy look spectacular when their lips seem to be dripping with absinthian venom.

Lime Crime's Serpentina, Poisonberry and Styletto opaque lipsticks are one option, though there is an awful lot of drama surrounding that brand and its owner. At any rate, their lipsticks smell and taste of cocoa butter, and the glosses are thick and sticky. I've seen some bloggers complain about the fact that these dark colours don't wear well, but, I mean, you're going to need to reapply at some point. Using primer will also help but I don't find it necessary. What I do instead is apply a small amount of either liquid foundation or BB cream to my lips, and find that it works well to make colours pop and help them stay on.


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Maybe you don't own a crazy lipstick like this and don't have the time or money to invest in something you might only wear once or twice, but you really want to try the look. Well, do you have eye shadow pigment you could use instead? Mix some with clear gloss or use a lip brush to apply it over pre-glossed lips. This works with any colour of the rainbow. 

Silver lips for a sexy space lady/FemBot? Yes please. The gold on the left is Lime Crime's Carousel Gloss, without primer.


Dark lips become the focal point of your ensemble and work well with a black outfit that has an equally edgy detail or two, like epaulettes, feathers, spiked shoulders or hardware.


Another tip for these or any other looks is to add a light, shimmery eye shadow pigment to the inner parts of your lips, either with a brush or finger. Pair white with a gold luster with warm colours, or silver with blue or black for a futuristic finish. This trick makes gives your look more depth and dimension and is especially good for enhancing small/thin lips.

Another fun one to try is a sort of "lip ombre" where you subtly blend colours into each other horizontally across your lips. Even if you're not wearing any costume in particular, you can still create a fun, sexy focal point for your look with an idea like this, which also uses Lime Crime colours, btw, so sorry if you hate them:


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If you decide to go all-out on your lips, you might be left wondering what to do with your eyes. Light, smokey eyes will keep all the focus on your mouth and might work best for those with lighter skin and hair. If you're not afraid to be bold, try varying intensities of the cat eye. 

Finally, if you have dark hair, turn up the volume on your entire face by doing dark lips, cat eyes and power brows all together!


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And, if you screw up completely and decide you want to wear a paper bag over your head, why not make one of the insanely creepy DIY geometric paper masks by Steve Wintercroft?





Whatever you end up deciding on, just remember that it's Halloween, or All Hallow's, or Samhain, or the deh-vile's birthday or whatever you want to call it, and that you're never too old to get whimsical or crazy.

(Originally Published 10.24.12)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Obscure Early 2000's Antiheroine and Crush

I always start a fun new category of posts meant to bolster this blog only to realise that it's not as easy as I thought to keep them going. In this case, I overestimated my knowledge of and exposure to tacky, ridiculous, under-appreciated, low-budget and otherwise random movies and TV shows of the 80's and 90's. 

You can see the first two here and here. At the present rate, I'm only posting one of these per year. Damn.

Welp, time to pick another decade!

Antiheroine: 
Tilda Swinton as Rosetta Stone and her clones in Teknolust

Warholian Minnelli, definitely not accidental.
This bizarre little number grossed a grand total of $28K at the box office, which is probably about what I'm making right now. Pretty pathetic. 

It came out in 2002 and I first saw it on the Sundance Channel or something when I was about 14, so it struck me as really cool and became a quick favourite. I don't know what you'd call it; I guess it's basically cyberpunk even though it's really silly. Feelings of pseudo-futuristic nostalgia ooze from the set design, clothes, technology and random objects.

I took a shitload of screenshots while I was watching it because there isn't much online. The last time I searched a few years ago only a few images came up. So, you know, if you were looking for them or something.

Here's what I mean about the set design:


Look, it's DNA-themed! :B
Basically, Tilda-in-a-bad-wig creates three "self-replicating automatons" with her own DNA that are half human and half software: Ruby, Olive and Marinne. They live in secret rooms in (under?) her house that are heavily colour-coordinated, as are all of their clothes and accessories. They're critically deficient in X-chromosome, though, so they need to either ingest or inject spermatozoa regularly. 










Danger Will Robinson, danger! Sperometer is low!
Olive and Marinne have each other for company, though they never do anything or act explicitly sexual (which sucks for anyone hoping Tilda did steamy lesbian scenes with herself, I'm sure your numbers are many). Ruby, on the other hand, goes out and hooks up with random guys to keep them supplied. She also runs a popular "portal" on the "Net" where she gives talks about love and relationships as a supposedly fictional robotic entity.  


"Emote from your remote. E-Dream with me before you crash." -facepalm-
Ruby watches classic Hollywood romance flicks for inspiration, and they plug in to download updates and recharge at night. They don't need to eat or anything, just ingest.. sperm.




Oh, and Ruby also drives a Corbin Sparrow, though you hardly see it. I've wanted once since I saw this and was like, what is that adorable little mini-car, ermahgerd. The company that makes it used to make motorcycles and they actually seem really decent. 




She works hard for the... money. The "money".

"Succulent protein" that Ruby tries to use as a substitute at one point.
I don't know why, but they always make me hungry. Clearly just a generic
buttercream-iced cake doughnut.
Interestingly, Jeremy Davies plays a love interest, the same year he
was in 
Secretary as the annoying high school boyfriend.
... and boy is he awkward and strange.

Karen Black even has a small, amusing role as "Dirty Dick", a
flamboyant former agent who's called in to help figure out what's
going on with the dudes pictured below.

Because a "self-replicating automaton" apparently behaves like a virus, Ruby inadvertently infects the guys she hooks up with, even though she insisted on safe, colour-coordinated sex every time. Their harddrives crash and they get a weird rash with a barcode in the center between their eyebrows. The weird doctors they all go to for help only whisper, and tell them to stop eating wheat and dairy.


The symbolism is pretty heavy-handed, as you might be able to guess.

It's one of those things that you watch for the visual stimulation, so I haven't really spoiled anything. Give it a try, it's fun. And sexy!
If you were a real hipster your MacBook would look like this. Just saying. (It's got a handle!)

Crush:
Eric Etebari as Ian Nottingham in Witchblade


This show ran on TNT from 2000 - 2003. It falls into the same genre as things like Buffy and Angel. I saw a few episodes when I was in middle school and thought it was pretty alright. The fact that Yancy Butler's brooding super soldier half-brother clone stalker and her sometimes-dead Korean-American partner were both handsome helped, obviously. Long hair on guys, man. Long hair and beards. 

I did the same thing as I did with the screen shots from Teknolust. I'll add more as I finish the second season. I will dominate these obscure Google Image searches. Then, the world.

Witchblade is also a long-running comic book that looks just as cheesy, but I kind of want to read it. Michael Rymer (director of the Battlestar Galactica reboot and Queen of the Damned, both of which were fittingly terrible) has been said to be at the helm of another remake since 2008.

Anyway, Eric Etebari used to be a model and worked with Karl Lagerfeld, Versace and Davidoff. I haven't seen anything else he's been in, but his cheesy acting fits right in with this show. Honestly, he channels Derek Zoolander. 

-pauses-

-wheels around dramatically-

MAGNUM.



-wind blows, tosses hair-

I call this one, "Can't Do 'Tortured Soul' So I Settled For Blank Stare".



-camera stays on blank stare ever-so-slightly too long-

I almost wish that the director of a series that literally can't go for more than 4 minutes without doing an unnecessarily dramatic, shaky, amateurish closeup could have given this guy what he wanted out of his screen time. That's really harsh; it's mostly just the first season that he's annoying. The second is better.


"Hey, don't talk shit. You'd have to be at least.. at least.."
".. THREE times better looking to judge me."
"Sigh. No one understands.."
"They can't even feel my feels because they're not convincing enough."
"Wait, I know."
"I could just kill everyone."
"Right, a really big rifle."
"Excellent. Like fish in a barrel. And this suit is so fucking well-tailored."