Books, Myself

The Marie Kondo post

Live Talks Los Angeles is one of the few organizations whose mails I am subscribed to, and with good reason. They conduct talks and interviews with interesting people — their site has a huge archive of older events that are well-worth checking out. While I have not attended too many of their events, the one with Neil Gaiman being the only one from recent times, I love watching their videos — Moby interviewing Shepard Fairey was a recent highlight. Their emails tell me about new books that I should be looking out for, like Terry Gilliam’s autobiography from last year, and both Nigella and Madhur Jaffrey’s recent cook-books (yes, I keep track of cookbooks, sue me). Padma Lakshmi is in town on Tuesday talking about her memoir, and I am very tempted to go.

In one of these emails, I found mention of Marie Kondo, a lady who has made a career of the art of tidying. Her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has literally changed lives, and she is promoting her new book Spark Joy. She was one of Time Magazine’s 100 Influential People from 2015, her surname has nearly become a verb (to do a ‘Kondo’), and the strength of her clean-up strategy apparently led to record number of donations and consignments in the US last year, with people giving away piles and piles of belongings that do not meet the KonMari cleaning criteria. In a consumerist culture, she says, we should only own things that ‘spark joy’.

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The eyebrow-raised, skeptical version of myself backed away slowly from what walked, talked and sounded like another brainless minimalism fad that sweeps through the country — actually, the world, considering that Ms. Kondo has been translated into 13 languages. But I flipped through her first book at a Barnes and Noble. Surprisingly, what I read made a lot of sense. I ended up finishing all of it the next day, and my skepticism, I will admit, has been replaced by respect. While there are moments when the book’s instructions border on the ridiculous (“thank your dress and bag at the end of the day” or “hug your clothes to show your appreciation”), the majority of what she says is sane, practical and helpful. Her tone is gentle, and her approach to cleaning an iterative process that she has honed over the years; she takes readers through what did not work, arriving at her conclusions with clear-headed logic and a self-deprecating demeanor that is endearing.

The reason the KonMari method makes sense to me is a function of my personality. You, familiar reader, should be aware of my propensity to indulge in ridiculous consumerism in the name of bibliophilia — in plain words, I buy too many books. Over the years, that has led to a proliferation of bookshelves and a read-queue that is pure Sparta. In the Frank Miller sense of the term, not the ancient Greek sense, thanks.

This is not to say that I am unaware of my failings: my book-buying is no longer as undisciplined as it once was, and I am not shy when it comes to getting rid of books that do not fit my tastes anymore. But there is something deeper at play — this excuse that I, and others, give ourselves; that buying and hoarding books is somewhat nobler than buying clothes, or shoes, or any other form of consumerist activity that results in clogged closets and empty wallets. Really, bibliomania — which makes more sense than the gentler ‘philia’ — is an equally irksome addiction that is somehow bolstered by the reactions of well-meaning people around me. My favorite part of Kondo’s book was her mince-no-words approach to talking about books in one’s possession.

The most common reason for not discarding a book is “I might read it again.” Take a moment to count the number of favorite books that you have actually read more than once. How many are there? For some it may be as few as five while for some exceptional readers it may be as many as one hundred. People who reread that many, however, are usually people in specific professions, such as scholars and authors. Very rarely will you find ordinary people like me who read so many books. Let’s face it. In the end, you are going to read very few of your books again. As with clothing, we need to stop and think about what purpose these books serve. Books are essentially paper—sheets of paper printed with letters and bound together. Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It’s the information they contain that has meaning. There is no meaning in their just being on your shelves. You read books for the experience of reading. Books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside you, even if you don’t remember. So when deciding which books to keep, forget about whether you think you’ll read it again or whether you’ve mastered what’s inside. Instead, take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not. Keep only those books that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love. That includes this book, too. If you don’t feel any joy when you hold it in your hand, I would rather you discard it. What about books that you have started but not yet finished reading? Or books you bought but have not yet started? What should be done with books like these that you intend to read sometime? The Internet has made it easy to purchase books, but as a consequence, it seems to me that people have far more unread books than they once did, ranging from three to more than forty. It is not uncommon for people to purchase a book and then buy another one not long after, before they have read the first one. Unread books accumulate. The problem with books that we intend to read sometime is that they are far harder to part with than ones we have already read.

If you missed your chance to read a particular book, even if it was recommended to you or is one you have been intending to read for ages, this is your chance to let it go. You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it. There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. So get rid of all those unread books. It will be far better for you to read the book that really grabs you right now than one that you left to gather dust for years.

I am not saying that Marie Kondo changed something fundamental in me. Hey, I finished reading Life Changing last week, and have since bought 3 books — to clarify, lest you think I am a complete idiot, they were used and 50% off, they were parts of series that I am in the middle of, and over the weekend, to make up for it, I donated a crate of books and few bags of non-book stuff. The point though is that the KonMari method looks to me a viable way of approaching my priorities when it comes to buying and owning things – not just books. There are small tactics to tidying up that I began using almost immediately, and I will talk about them in a separate post. Ultimately, what Kondo recommends is no half measures, and for that I need time – maybe a full weekend, maybe more. The struggle is real, people! Watch this space.

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Art, Books

One Thing Leads to Another

StuartNg books in Torrance. One of my favorite bookstores in LA. #books #stuartngbooks

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While The Last Bookstore is my favorite Los Angeles bookstore, Stuart Ng Books has the better signal-to-noise ratio when it comes to shelf-space. This small bookshop in Torrance specializes in subjects of particular import to me, namely illustration, comics, and animation, and particularly known for having the biggest collection of European graphic novels and sketchbooks in the US.

I spent a glorious few hours there last Saturday, poking through well-arranged shelves of bandes dessinées, pinup art collections, artist’s monographs, and various out-of-print paraphernalia that had me hyperventilating. One corner had a section of signed Hellboy graphic novels from Mike Mignola‘s personal collection – Mignola lives a few miles from the store, after all. It is not everyday that one sees a book signed by Jackie Chan a few paces away from a signed and numbered collection of Moebius graphic novels. Above the shelf are two framed illustrations by Fortunino Matania, and a giant pen-and-ink work by James Montgomery Flagg, and other illustrations that my brain refuses to process because sensory overload. Out in front you see multiple editions of posters from this year’s Angouleme, drawn by Katsuhiro Otomo; previous years’ posters are around too, what catches my eye is Bill Watterson’s version from last year. Stuart Ng is also known for having a great relationship with animation studios, so you have books like The Art of Inside Out, signed by part of the creative team on the movie, and also Sanjay Patel‘s beautiful books on the Ramayana and his very own animated short Sanjay’s Super Team. Signed, of course.

What I ended up buying that day was an art book by Dean Cornwell, an illustrator from the time when photography had not taken over the fields of advertising and magazine and book illustration yet. Cornwell’s art makes me gasp every single time I see them online, and when I heard of this new edition that collects the best of his work, I had to pick it up. It also helped that I saw a preview of the complete book online, made available by the publisher Illustrated Press, though in low resolution. Their books have extremely limited runs, and I have had my eyes on the volumes of Golden Age Illustration that they keep bringing out. Unfortunately volume 1 has gone out of print, but hey, you never know.

What you hear is the sound of neurons sizzling.

But it was while wading through the print bins at Stuart Ng that Baader-Meinhof played its role again in my life. There it was, a beautiful limited-edition poster from Under The Skin, drawn by (as I found out later) Yorkshire-based artist Tula Lotay, known to me for her work on comics like Supreme: Blue Rose and Swords of Sorrow. I picked it up, marveled at it and put it back, because I am completely out of wall space.

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Tula Lotay – Under the Skin, signed and numbered edition

Another connection that amuses me: William got me the DVD of Under The Skin from the Los Angeles Public Library, and I have not been a library person in quite some time now. I keep intending to go visit the Central Branch downtown, and now I have an added impetus to do so. You see, I found out that Dean Cornwell painted a mural in one of the rooms there, and it’s considered one of the finest works of his career.

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Books, Movies

Beasts of No Nation – the book and the film

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I read Beasts of No Nation after watching the movie. Written by a Nigerian author named Uzodinma Iweala in 2005, it came about as a continuation of Iweala’s award-winning thesis in a creative writing course in Harvard, way back in 2004. It is a work of fiction based on true stories, and was an attempt to capture the life of a child soldier in an unnamed West African country. But really, Agu, the protagonist could have been any orphan in any war-zone in the world, brainwashed, abused and thrown into circumstances that are too horrible to comprehend for someone like me.

An excerpt from the book, the description of a child slaughtering a grown human being as a rite of passage. Enough to turn your stomach and make you want to curl up in a corner and cry. The narration and dialogue in the film follows the tone of this passage very closely, but is more linear than the book.

He is squeezing my hand around the handle of the machete and I am feeling the wood in my finger and in my palm. It is just like killing goat. Just bring this hand up and knock him well well. He is taking my hand and bringing it down so hard on top of the enemy’s head and I am feeling like electricity is running through my whole body. The man is screaming, AYEEEIII, louder than the sound of bullet whistling and then he is bringing his hand to his head, but it is not helping because his head is cracking and the blood is spilling out like milk from coconut. I am hearing laughing all around me even as I am watching him trying to hold his head together. He is annoying me and I am bringing the machete up and down and up and down hearing KPWUDA KPWUDA every time and seeing just pink while I am hearing the laughing KEHI, KEHI, KEHI all around me. Then I am hitting his shoulder and then his chest and looking at how Commandant is smiling each time my knife is hitting the man. Strika is joining me and we are just beating him and cutting him while everybody is laughing. It is like the world is moving so slowly and I am seeing each drop of blood and each drop of sweat flying here and there. I am hearing the bird flapping their wing as they are leaving all the tree. It is sounding like thunder. I am hearing the mosquito buzzing in my ear so loud and I am feeling how the blood is just wetting on my leg and my face.

I thought the movie version was much more well-rounded. The cinematic experience is something you need a strong stomach to sit through, and not only because of graphic content. It is hard to not take it in as a guerilla documentary, shot among real people with a hidden camera, except that it is singularly gorgeous through and through. Some of my favorite scenes in the film involve Idris Elba and the photography. The kids, especially Strika and Agu are incredibly good, of course. Surprised to learn that the actors in the movie were former child soldiers and mercenaries who participated in actual warfare, and had problems shooting in Ghana because they were on a watch-list.

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Books, Movies

Talking about books I read: ‘How Star Wars Conquered The Universe’

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Pal Seamus was reading this book when I went to meet him one evening in Larchmont Village. Even though there were other books in my queue, hard to resist a book about Star Wars. Not that I have much love for the franchise – people’s reactions to it make me shake my head in bemusement and back away slowly.  1I suspect the most invested I was in the series was while reading a bunch of Star Wars novels about 10 years ago, specifically The New Jedi Order series, which begins with the death of Chewbacca in the first book. Don’t worry, this is not really a spoiler, none of the books are canon anymore, especially with The Force Awakens and the planned one-Star-Wars-movie-a-year releases. Just so you know, this book talks about that happening too, with the kind of cold-blooded objectivity that sends shivers down your spine.

When fan grief over the death of Chewbacca surpassed anything Shapiro or Stackpole expected, a rumor surfaced that Randy Stradley of Dark Horse Comics had told the meeting to “kill the family dog,” and compared Chewie to Old Yeller. But Stackpole denies that, insisting they all stuck the knives in at the same time, like Roman conspirators. Shapiro, who would edit the book, was happy to wield a blade. “You’ve got to get people’s attention. Otherwise it’s just ‘Oh, another adventure, another super weapon,’” Shapiro explains.

Why the interest in this book then, you ask? Because the behind-the-scenes affairs with the series has always fascinated me. Stars Wars’ tendrils encompass a lot of sci-fantasy pulp fiction, old-school Hollywood space operas, and world cinema. Alex Raymond and Akira Kurosawa, EE Doc Smith and Edgar Rice Burroughs coming together in a cultural bouillabaisse that is timeless and appealing to multiple generations, clunky dialogue be damned. Lucas, an avowed non-writer, worked his way through anxiety and budgetary nightmares to try and bring back to life his childhood fascination with film serials; to deconstruct what made his heart soar in a darkened movie theater. And – pardon my mixed pop-cultural metaphors – he even went boldly where few screenwriters had gone before, tapping into primal myths and stories, specifically the themes and archetypes that writer Joseph Campbell identified in his seminal works. For me, knowing about Star Wars was much more enlightening than watching the movies. 2 That’s why I jumped on this book immediately.

Also, turns out Campbell had nothing but good things to say about Lucas, who met him later in life and befriended the academic:

“I was really thrilled,” Campbell said of the Star Wars series in a later interview. “The man understands the metaphor. I saw things that had been in my books but rendered in terms of the modern problem, which is man and machine. Is the machine going to be the servant of human life? Or is it going to be master and dictate? That’s what I think George Lucas brought forward. I admire what he’s done immensely. That young man opened a vista and knew how to follow it and it was totally fresh.”

The book opens in a wonderful manner, a screening of Star Wars dubbed into Navajo, where the writer tries to find Star Virgins, people who hadn’t seen any of the movies before. He spirals out into how pervasive the movie’s references have become, and how it is very hard for anyone at all to come into Star Wars with a blank slate. (If I remember right, someone did a Star Wars virgin watch on Twitter recently.) Alternate chapters of the book talk about fandom and the weird ways in which everyday lives of people have been affected by the movie. I had no idea, for example, that light-saber classes existed:

The easiest way to describe light-saber class is that it’s one part fencing, one part yoga. The goal is to learn a numbered system of fight choreography worked out by Bloch and his co-founder Matthew Carauddo, who runs the same class in a studio in Silicon Valley. You and I could meet for the first time with our light-sabers at a Comic-Con, say, and I could utter a string of numbers and you would know that I was going to slice around your body in a star formation and parry appropriately. We could even throw in flourishes such as the figure eight, or something more elaborate Bloch calls the “Obi-Annie” (but which is actually a move called “plum blossom” from the martial art Wushu). We would for one moment shed our nerd shells; we would look cool.

Or that the imperial storm-troopers you see at conventions are part of an officially-endorsed Stormtrooper legion created and managed by loyal fans, called the Fightin’ 501st. They later went on to be name-checked and referenced both in novels (Timothy Zahn’s Survivor’s Quest) and in the prequels, though in an ill-fated turn of events, they will forever be known as the baby-jedi killing storm-troopers.

It was, friends agreed, a pretty neat idea. They helped him hand out leaf-lets at conventions: “Are you loyal? Hardworking? Fully expendable? Join the Imperial 501st!” In 2002, Johnson mustered roughly 150 Stormtrooper costumers in Indianapolis at Celebration II, the second official Star Wars convention, and offered their services to a skeptical Lucasfilm to let the 501st help out as crowd-control when the event’s security proved woefully inadequate for the thirty thousand attendees. Lucasfilm was won over by the tireless, hyper-organized troopers, and started to use the 501st as volunteers for all its events. Lucasfilm licensees followed suit. If you’ve ever been to one of the Star Wars Days held at dozens of baseball stadiums across the United States, if you’ve seen multiple Stormtroopers, or Darth Vader or Boba Fett at a store, a movie theater, or a mall, you’ve almost certainly been staring at the forces of the 501st.

The 501st Legion is now recognized as one of the largest costuming organizations in the world. It has active members in forty-seven countries on five continents, divided into sixty-seven local garrisons and twenty-nine outposts (those units that comprise fewer than twenty-five members). More than 20 percent of the troops are female. The 501st absorbed a once-independent UK garrison and established a garrison near Paris, though some French Stormtroopers have gone their own way with the 59eme legion. The Germans, meanwhile, have a garrison consisting of five squads that are all large enough to be garrisons on their own—but are loath to undergo any kind of de-unification.

Swooping into a quick history of Lucas’s childhood and influences, the book talks about his early avant-garde career – one of his acclaimed student films, for example, was comprised entirely of panning shots of photographic images with music playing in the background. The takeaway is that Lucas always had ideas, but they were unconstrained by any Hollywood pretensions – the three-act screenplay was not for him, until American Graffiti came about. The nugget there is that the name did not quite appeal to the studio bosses, because the word “graffiti” was not in popular usage then.

It sounded odd to contemporary ears. The Italian word had not yet gained common currency. New York subway trains were about a year away from being covered in spray-painted signatures. Lucas hadn’t intended that debased usage of the word in any case; he meant the word invented at Pompeii in 1851 that means nostalgic etchings. He wanted to record the legacy of a lost decade: an American Pompeii, frozen in time forever.

Lucas tried to follow up this success with options of Dune and Flash Gordon. Producer Dino DeLaurentiis happened to get Flash, and Alejandro Jodorowsky got hold of Dune. Flash Gordon ultimately got made as a campy pastiche in the early 80s, while a different version of Dune made it to the screen. The book talks about trippy possibilities that the latter presented, and this reminds me that I need to check out the documentary soon:

Jodo, appropriately enough for Dune, was something of a cult leader himself. He persuaded the great Orson Welles to act as the villain of the piece in exchange for hiring his favorite Parisian chef, and even managed to hector Salvador Dali into agreeing to a cameo as the Emperor of the Universe (for $100,000 a minute, Dali insisted). He got the Swiss artist H. R. Giger, possibly the only person in Europe weirder than Jodo and Dali, to do a bunch of nightmarish concept paintings, and recruited French comic book artist Moebius to storyboard the entire film at lightning speed.

Most of the making of the actual Wars movies was not new to me. Too much have already been written about the process, and the different iterations of the first movie’s screenplay that Lucas banged out. One thing however stood out, the short-lived gender reversal of the lead character, a telling choice for a series that has been plagued with gender/race allegations until the recent sequel. Think of what might have been.

In March 1975, Lucas decided to fix that at a stroke: Luke Starkiller became an eighteen-year-old woman. After all, he’d been reading an awful lot of fairy tales as research into the mechanics of storytelling, and it’s rather hard to ignore the convention that the protagonist of fairy tales is almost always female. (Think Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and Goldilocks—as much as they have to be saved by princes or woodcutters, we at least see the story through their eyes.) This gender reversal lasted for a couple of months, long enough for the female Luke to show up in a McQuarrie painting of the main characters.

The discussion becomes much more entertaining with the movie’s release. Taylor goes into an inspired examination of the first few words on the screen – words that apparently were rewritten at the last minute by Brian Coppola to lessen the original verbosity.

Consider instead that this is exactly what every fantasy epic needs to give you right off the bat: a setting in space and time that says, relax. Don’t bother trying to figure out the relationship between what you’re about to see and your own Earthbound reality, because there isn’t one. This isn’t Planet of the Apes; the Statue of Liberty isn’t going to turn up in a last-reel twist. No other movie had ever announced its divorce from our world so explicitly before; with the exception of Star Wars sequels, none would ever be able to do so again without seeming derivative. The perfect simplicity of those ten words appears to have been hard for a lot of people to understand in the run-up to the movie’s release. The words that open Alan Dean Foster’s novelization (“another galaxy, another time”) aren’t quite the same—that might place us in the future, rather than in a story that is safely in some history book. Fox didn’t get it at all: its trailer for Star Wars opened with the words “somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now.” The ten words remain on the screen for exactly five seconds, long enough for the casual viewer to think, Isn’t this supposed to be a science fiction movie? Aren’t they all set in the future?

It is this modern myth, that of how the Star Wars machine became what it was, in the first weeks and months after the release of the first movie, that the book really captures so very well.

In May 1977, repeat viewers didn’t necessarily add to the ticket gross: they could simply stay in the theater, wait an hour or so, and watch the movie again. This was not something viewers had tended to want to do before. Indeed, it was because of Star Wars that most cinemas instituted a policy of clearing the audience out of the theater between shows. But as soon as they left the theater and came back, the repeat viewers were responsible for an incalculable amount of box office takings. For many—and this is something you see time and again in television and newspaper reports from 1977—the number of times they’d seen Star Wars took on the tone of a competitive sport: “I’ve seen Star Wars twenty times!” But for many more who weren’t quoted by the news media, it was simply a thrill to invest themselves in a story with such eminent repeatability. You could see it twenty, thirty, forty times and not get bored.

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The manager of the Coronet, a cranky old soul named Al Levine, had never seen anything like it. He offered a now-famous description of the crowds: “Old people, young people, children, Hare Krishna groups. They bring cards to play in line. We have checker players, we have chess players; people with paint and sequins on their faces. Fruit eaters like I’ve never seen before, people loaded on grass and LSD.”

***

In June 1977, the monster crowds at the four theaters in New York showing the film each required police on horseback for crowd control. All walks of life rubbed shoulders in those lines. Johnny Cash, Muhammad Ali, and Senator Ted Kennedy waited at their theaters like everyone else. Elvis Presley tried a different tack; the King was in the process of securing a Star Wars print to screen for himself and Lisa Marie at Graceland the day before he died.

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In May 1977, the most popular poster in America was an image of Farrah Fawcett, chief Charlie’s Angel, in a bathing suit, with a noticeably aroused nipple. By July, Star Wars posters were outselling Fawcett five to one.

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Toy sales came to the rescue. Despite the movie no longer being in theaters, despite the disastrous Holiday Special, and against all expectations, Kenner announced that it had its strongest holiday season yet. Sales of Star Wars action figures, spaceships, and play sets had crossed the $200 million mark, funneling more than $20 million into Lucasfilm subsidiary Black Falcon. Without that cash injection, there’s little question Empire would have been sunk. There’s something poetic about it: millions of children joyfully acting out the further adventures of Luke Skywalker literally funded the further adventures of Luke Skywalker. Call it a karmic Kickstarter.

It’s funny how Taylor blazes through the three prequels all in one chapter. Star Wars fans from the New Hope generation are so predictable.

All in all, the book was an excellent read; it did make me want to re-watch (or watch, in case of Jedi) the original movies, and put in pieces of the Star Wars history that were missing from my understanding of the history of the seminal series, especially the debt Lucas and Co owe to concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, whose designs really helped sell the movie to both Lucas’s friends, his team and studio heads. My dismissive tone about the series is at odds with my fascination for its metadata, as you can clearly see. I know the technical details of where the sound of Wookie comes from (‘a bear starved in a zoo and then shown a bowl of milk outside the cage’, for your information) or how Lucas made a note when someone asked for Reel 2, Dialog 2 in the editing room of THX 1138, or the story behind how Han Solo’s sprezzatura in saying “I know” came about. I can also appreciate how it probably is the only bit of mythology that America can truly call its own. The person sitting next to me at the morning screening of the Force Awakens cried a few times as the movie played. My local comic-book shop (and others) had large “Star Wars Spoiler Free Zone” signs up the first two weeks of release. All I wonder is how long this reverence will continue to play out. A major part of Star Wars is to do with how little we know about the Star Wars universe and its details – and it only takes a few years of misbegotten scripts to run a special thing into the ground, to turn a mythic tale into something mundane.

Notes:

  1. while growing up, some people distinguished between Star Wars and Star Trek as the series with the tube-light lights and the series with Mr Spock. Star Trek played on Doordarshan in 1985, a year before we bought our first TV, so I bypassed that too. But there were kids in school who would pinch you really hard on the back of your neck, because Mr Spock.
  2. Here’s a confession: I saw the first 20 minutes of Empire Strikes Back when I was 11 or 12, and did not make sense of it, obviously. I have vague memories of watching one of the Ewok movies a year later, and that was a cutesy experience where storytelling did not matter. I saw New Hope in my second year of college, shaking my head over the outdated effects at the end but letting myself be sucked into the world. Then came the prequels, and much as I enjoyed them in the theater, the relentless barrage of wtf-ery in both plot and dialog overpowered the love of the world Lucas created. Yes, I have never seen Return of the Jedi.
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Books, Life

Things I learnt on the first day of 2016

  • A cap of whiskey dunked into a smoothie adds a subtle flavor to it that is hard to pinpoint and makes it super interesting. For reference, the other ingredients in the smoothie were 3 kiwi fruits, 1 banana, a slice of peeled ginger, coconut water as the base, chia seeds and a smidgen of honey.
  • Waking up to a long, heart-warming email on January 1 could be the best thing to wake up to on the first day of the year.
  •  If you are in a shopping mall and see a massage chair, go sit on it for 5 minutes. Er, don’t just sit on it, I mean, insert that money to switch it on. Totes worth it.
  • In a choice between udon and ramen lunch, the place with the lowest waiting line wins. Also, you win, regardless of the line.
  • This is important: there are three books on Shunga, or Japanese erotic art, that I have been aware of. I had always set my eyes on Ofer Shagan’s Japanese Erotic Art as the definitive one, thanks to reviews and also because of the price/value ratio. Rosina Buckland’s book is a hardcover and comes in a lower price point, but 176 pages seems far less definitive. Timothy Clark’s Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art does seem more well-rounded in terms of content, but the 99$ price point is excessive. Today, however, I found out about a fourth book that does not turn up in any of the lists. Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories by Utamaro, Hokusai, Kuniyoshi and Other Artists of the Floating World is a mouthful of a title, and it’s out-of-print, but used copies are available for 20$ or thereabouts. Gian Carlo Calza, the writer knows exactly when to let the pictures do the talking and when to interject with commentary. This one’s probably coming into the bookshelf pretty soon.
  • Little Tokyo in Downtown LA has a gallery called Q2, which features indie artists’ work on the walls for sale and display. I nearly pooped my pants at an original Kagan McLeod watercolor of Gordon Liu, and some wonderful work by Alina Chau and a bunch of other names I don’t remember. Definitely worth going back.
  • People in the UK have already watched Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, which makes me grit my teeth. In my defense, I am holding off to watch it on Tuesday, where it plays in the theater opposite my workplace, single-screening only.

Ah, fuck it, I will just go watch it tonight first.

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