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I didn't write much this year - or not much fiction anyway. I wrote my masters thesis, and though it could have been much better I am content with the way it came out.  

In nonfiction land, I signed on as a contributor to The Hooded Utilitarian. Though I don't have access to the site stats, it's pretty clear my Homestuck article was the biggest hit - linked on reddit and tweeted by Bryan Lee O'Malley, who later interviewed Andrew Hussie! - followed by my Jojo overview, which was linked on 4chan. I think my Gangnam Style article makes a couple good points, too, although they are hard to pick out from the mess. Hatsephut, meanwhile, is the kind of bonkers manga that reviews itself.

Fiction-wise, my only work this year was first-flush-of-fandom stuff about Big Bang that I now kind of regret writing (or at least posting publically), although it helped me work out my thoughts at the time. I also got some pretty good responses/discussions/mileage out of Big Bang meta on tumblr and metafilter. Roz and I are currently keeping up an email exchange as well as camping out in this ILX thread.

Imaginary Beasts had a not-stellar year for which I take full responsibility as the zine's laziest editor. Some very solid issues and individual stories though - the music issue, spring issue and historical asia issue are my favorites, though I can't really take credit for them.

The main thing I did this year was make playlists. Since I *do* have access to number of plays on youtube, I can tell you which ones were the most popular: Summer Pop 2, a Kpop & dancehall mix, was the clear winner, followed by Desatured Kpop, an experimental-RnB with high-concept music videos mix, and then Kpop hearts the 80s, made up of equal parts disco and insanity. My other three summer playlists were played a decent number of times, but not a spectacular number considering the massive popularity of the individual songs they contain. I'm holding out hope for my Mainly-Jpop Indie 80s mix to eventually catch up, but can admit the "Christmas" playlist is not very good.  

I'm feeling a bit justified, actually, because the order of popularity for these Youtube playlists pretty much exactly mirrors the amount of work I put into them.  Although what this could mean is that the majority of plays are my own, haha. 

Happy 2013, everyone!

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As promised on tumblr. This is very long, so I apologize in advance. ^^ BTW, I'm sitting in a cafe in New Brunswick next to someone using "Fantastic Baby" as a ringtone, and it turns out she was also at the show on Friday. Small world! The New York Times also reviewed the concert, and they were pretty complimentary.

Anyway, like I said on tumblr, we really did luck out with our seats: one section over, and we'd have stayed up on the mezzanine. Instead we were moved to new seats really close to the stage - and more than that, really close to the *side* of the stage, where the stage lights spilled over onto the audience, so the performers could see us almost as well as we could see them. Maybe that's why the guys in Big Bang seemed to spend so much time directly in front of us?? Or did I imagine that??? Considering Prudential Center holds 14,000 people, I really wasn't expecting to feel like I was seen by Big Bang, but it really did feel that way. Crazy!

Read more... )

In other news, I'm now an official columnist at The Hooded Utilitarian - you can find my stuff under "Subdee" in the Contributors->Columnists pull down menu. It's making me a little bit nervous since the level of the writing on that site is really high. So far I don't have a theme for my column - anyone want to suggest things to write about? I thought about continuing to write about "zeitgeist" things but I'd run out of topics I actually know something about pretty quickly, lolz. Speaking of the zeitgeist, though, I have an article up on Gangnam Style, also two on Jojo's Bizarre Adventure and one on Homestuck - and now I am working on one about Saiunkoku Monotagari. It's like a disease, this urge to write about alternative-mainstream things with huge cult followings. >_> I might do Five Star Stories next, not sure - I'd, um, have to read it first...


Sep. 13th, 2012 02:40 am
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I turned in my master's thesis. It's kinda weak - I wrote the conclusion in 24 hours including searching for supporting references - but it's a personal milestone for me since it's the longest thing I have ever finished, more-or-less on time. It's 50 pages without references or appendixes (but including graphs). Before this year, I don't think I ever finished anything I couldn't write in a single sitting! So I am happy about that at least.

 If I could do it over again, I'd try setting more deadlines in the middle. Because no matter what, I'm always going to be rushing at the last minute, right. ^^ I'd also go somewhere with more sun in the summertime.

And I'd put in more crazy stuff!  Pierre Bourdieu's The Field of Cultural Production and Barabara Ehrenreich's Bright-Sided are in there, but I also wanted to include Reality is Broken and this Berardi book Sabina linked me to about blue-collar-style quotas creeping into white-collar work.  Well, I might still include those things, because the plan right now is to revise so I have something decent to show employers. I'm setting a personal goal to have all the extra references in by the first of November.

My dad read it, and his major complaints were that I didn't spend enough time on the analysis, and that I used "FYROM" and not "Macedonia" when referring to the country of our people.  Which, you know, is fair.  ^^ Won't know my grade for a while, am just chilling at the moment, watching Youtube videos and making travel plans.

Apart from that, I'm reading The Game of Kings, watching Dance Academy, and writing an article for thehoodedutilitarian about a comic I hate. Which means I had to go back, like, five years because I don't really read comics I "hate" anymore.  I decided to write about Bakuman, the manga by the Death Note artist-writer team about being a Shonen Jump artist-writer team / how pretty girls are stuck up but ugly girls aren't worth your time. It's a sort of "I would love this if it weren't for this one thing I hate" article.

I am also (casually) seeing someone. She's awesome. Thumbs up!
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I am so totally out of the Olympic loop - though I heard there's a top-secret (not really: it's just not listed on their website) plan by the Museum Gardens in York to do public screenings of Olympic events, so I might go to one of those. If it's not raining, which it is EVERY SINGLE DAY OH MY GOD okay I am done now. I missed the torch when it passed through a few weeks ago. So far the biggest impact the Olympics has had on my life is to make train travel between here and the south much, much more expensive. Also the mishandling of this event gives British people something to whinge about, which of course they love to do.

(In fairness to them, the way the Olympic committee has been handling security and public transport reroutes in London is fairly horrific. Some overground stops are closed and entire lanes are being reserved for "athletes and VIPs only", making it actually impossible for some people to commute to work. Also, the committee is going nuts with copyright enforcement, leading Waterstones in London to refer to "the big sporting event" as "Voldesport. That which cannot be named!" What is this, 2007? Furthermore, how can the Olympic committee claim that this is a public celebration of amateurism when there are 300 people whose sole job is to look for unauthorized use of the Olympic brand by non-sponsors? etc etc etc. (I'm getting all this info from metafilter, by the way. The same way I get all my news!))

Since I'm into Kpop now, I'll mention that Korea loves this event more than England. Here's some arena-ready pop songs that came out recently:

In other news, Blur is performing at the Olympics, and also have a new single out. <3!
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Saw this with M. It's really not too bad... if you ignore the ending, aha. Especially the casting for John Tucker is good: at first you are like, what do any of these girls see in this guy? But by the end you are like, hmm, well he is a pretty smooth operator, and he actually likes it when (pretty) girls use him to enhance their own status, for instance by shooting him down. As M said, he is "good in situations." (I like that they cast a biracial-looking guy in this role.)

The casting for Kate, on the other hand, while not terrible, is also not great. A real-life Kate would have much more avoidant and non-confident body language, I think, even if she was pretty (like her mom). Screenwriters decided to show her "superficial/popular" side versus her "natural" side by showing her with straight or curly hair, which is fair enough, but also a lazy substitute for better writing/acting...right?

The ending to this movie is flubbed, though. Here's how it should have ended (behind a cut in case anyone cares about spoilers for a six-year-old teen comedy):

Read more... )

Sorry for that bit of armchair-writing, I just had to get it off my chest XD.
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Convinced by this GIF set to watch Teen Wolf. The first eight episodes are really, really good and make you feel good about the state of cable television. The second season drops most of what was good about the first season in favor of being more generic. ;_; Still, at least I have the memories.

Let's start with the positives. Here’s what’s great about the first season:

1. When he doesn’t have that overly-intense, borderline-psycho look in his eyes, Scott (the Teen Wolf) is one of those dreamy and unfocused guys whose main charm is that he actually listens to women (sometimes even including his great single mom). Apart from actively pursuing the girl, he is a passive character who can generally be counted on to prioritize his love life over whatever very sensible and intelligent (or alternately crazy and dangerous) thing his best friend is currently pushing him to do. The gif maker didn’t like this version of Scott, but I loved it because it left more space for the girlfriend and best friend characters to really shine (and they are great). Also the fact that Scott's regular and full-moon selves are distinctly different allows the writers to explore "becoming a werewolf" as a metaphor for mania (e.g. starting about 25 minutes into this episode).

2. Stiles!!! Stiles is the best character. He’s like this hyperactive nerd, but with a huge attraction to danger and dangerous situations, and an ability to fill in Scott’s awkward silences with constant (entertaining) chatter. Although he's passionately nerdy about helping Scott figure out the werewolf thing and is generally a supportive friend, he also pursues his own goals, or in other words isn't just a sidekick. Actually I am kind of disappointed that "he and Derrick are boyfriends" from the GIF set didn’t turn out to be really true, since that would have given the character more screentime.**

3. Not as impressed by the way the show handles Alison - it almost feels like they make her physically strong (e.g. good with a bow, good at gymnastics) because it’s an easier way to signal "strength" than mental toughness - but she is a very sympathetic character, not just because of her bad family situation, but also because she is nice on top of being pretty and smart. Also, the chemistry between her and Scott is real, yo.

4. OTOH, the other main female character in Teen Wolf, Lydia, is mentally tough and a good contrast to Alison. The show was doing something really interesting with her and Jackson, the seemingly dominant guy (captain of the lacrosse team etc) who is actually deeply insecure. Actually they are sort of an insecure-narcissistic pair, pretty well suited to each other, until Jackson decides he'd rather use Alison to figure out Scott's secrets and Lydia never recovers from the breakup. Too bad they had to make her CRAZY in season 2 >_>.

5. The way the show is shot, the writing. Teen Wolf really does have the feel of an 80s teen movie, kind of de-saturated and slow(er)-paced. There are more shots of people staring intensely at each other and fewer abrupt scene changes. People talk less, but their individual lines are better and the show will often refer back to things that happened earlier in the episode in a wordless shot, trusting the audience to get it. It's not the same post-Buffy pacing we are used to, but it's very good.

6. The soundtrack, 'cause it's this funny combination of 80s music and 00s music that sounds like 80s music, as if we are in an alternate reality where the 90s never happened.

7. But the characters all have cell phones, use computers, use services like Find My Phone and Skype, etc etc. This show handles technology really well.

8. Horror-movie shots!. Actually this is still true in season 2 and might even be a bit better this season - not everything is downhill. The best shots are the ones where the characters are having vivid horrible nightmares that turn out to have actually happened. Approve.

Things I don’t like about season 2, compared to season 1 (SPOILERS):

cut for spoilers )
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Suspect Joss Whedon & cowriter made the first half hour of this movie clunky ON PURPOSE so they could create the effect of all hell breaking loose/the pace getting faster and faster in the second half.

This movie is totally about conceptual team-ups and rivalries - Tony Stark’s out of control ego vs. Bruce Banner’s out of control anger! Thor’s unbeatable sword vs. Capt America’s unbreakable shield! Spy (Black Widow) vs. Spy (Hawkeye)! Etc. etc. Even apart from how much I love conceptual team-ups and rivalries, this is a really efficient way to quickly characterize a large cast. I APPROVE.

Under the cut, some (conceptual) spoilers and criticisms: Read more... )

General comments:

Many other things could be said about the politics of this movie, but sticking to just interpersonal politics for now. Anyway, great handling of large cast, great pacing, fun movie. Much smarter than it needed to be! One of those things that is better if you know the actors outside their roles in the film. But it also stands on its own pretty well, I think.

Fight scenes were handled really well as long as you pretend that everyone has rubber skin. There was a lot of collateral damage but I think the movie avoided giving the impression that it’s okay for people to die on screen when they don’t have speaking lines - f’r instance the bus evacuation scene, the guy who was ejected from his plane but (of course) had a parachute, Black Widow’s gravity when she says “he killed 80 people in two days.” Of course, this being a superhero movie, you are still left with the impression that it’s good/right for some people to be more powerful than others and for normal rules to not apply to them; within those bounds, though, this movie is not too bad. (Oops I ended up discussing politics anyway.)

Please, please, though: no more 3D.
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Getting back to 2NE1: someone must have realized, while putting together the album To Anyone, that they were making the ULTIMATE EXERCISE CD, right? Surely? I mean, it even sounds like a compilation of hit high-energy songs from 1998. ^^ After a brief-but-intense end-of-semester fling I burnt out on 2NE1, and rarely listen to their music anymore outside of the gym - and definitely never after 8pm - but for this specific purpose it is second to none. Can't Nobody at Seoul Music Festival Tokyo.

After falling for 2NE1 I fell for some other Korean pop acts, joining in on the third year of "girl group mania". That's a really serious description, by the way! Quick run down (these songs can be conveniently spotted at 900 yards by the double word titles): Girls' Generation, Girls'Day, Blady, Sistar, T-ara. You'll notice the underlying theme that they are crazy for you, lol, sometimes in a submissive way, but just as often in a really-not-fucking-around kind of way. Or, as queen-of-Kpop BoA, says, I'll Eat You Up. Making all of these songs actually metaphors for the rise-to-dominance of Kpop in Asia???

(Though speaking of the cute/sexy fantasy: no one exploits this better than e.via aka Happy Evil aka Korea's Best Troll, and no one panders to it more than UI... who I would like to like, because she is talented, but AUGH WHY NO IT'S WRONG.)

Anyhow given how much "crazy" is a part of the fantasy here, and how overused that trope really kind of is (in Kpop), after a while you just kind of roll your eyes. But I sort of like like T-ara and Super Junior - Happy Happy Hurry Hurry Sorry Sorry Cry Cry - because they go just that bit further XD, until it's not so much of a fantasy anymore.

And in that vein, I like Fever's End by Tablo, which is an actual album and not just a singles collection... Well, this is basically American-style conscientious hip hop, right? ^^ Written by the artist singing the lines about his own life, no less! No Tomorrow / Bad / Thank You For Breathing.

Then there's the Big Bang spinoff stuff... I already talked about in the last entry but I'm going to talk about it some more, so please, bear with me!

Here's a cut though, just in case! )


BTW, here are some older kpop acts I found trawling Ytube:
OneTwo: Shake Your Booty / Starry Night / Very Good
Ibadi: Chococat / Never Ending Story / Yearning

Ahhhh, that's relaxing. I'll stop there. :D


Jan. 19th, 2012 02:10 am
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Back from vacation! I have Things to say, about Amsterdam, about Seville. Now that I have promised this, though, I will probably never get around to saying them. :p Maybe I'll put the pictures up as an album on G+ at some point.

Short version: Amsterdam was cold and wet and expensive, but the museums were excellent and I got pretty alarmingly high on whatever it was Mike was sharing, lol, at which point I 1) became really fascinated by lights that were International Klein Blue, 2) realized that everything in Amsterdam that was not-fun and shitty, like the chain fast food restaurants and gaudy Christmas lights, specifically appeals to people who are high, 3) wondered if this was why we have so many chain restaurants in the USA, 4) wondered why pot is not legal in the USA, because it allows you to be okay with terrible shitty boring things, since even getting to the end of a thought brings that "I did a something awesome!" feeling of accomplishment, 5) became convinced that whenever I'd seen Mike around the campus in a strange mood, he'd been high ("No, but I was probably drunk"), 6) became convinced that many famous US celebrities are often high in their TV appearances, 7) felt good about everything, despite also feeling like I was being ignored like in middle school.

That was the first time (psychedelic/paranoid). The second time, I thought I could read everyone's minds, that I had a glow around my head making me especially charismatic and attractive, and (after I realized I'd been so busy thinking about how awesome I was that the conversation had moved on without me) thought I had a special insight into how various historical figures and members of bands must feel. Or in other words: shifted from an extrovert's to an introvert's version of feeling really insightful. :p

What I take away from this is that my worst fear is apparently to be socially snubbed, and my greatest desire is apparently to know what other people are thinking. >_> Oh, and I also felt a bit guilty - even at the time! - because Mike and his friend were at peace with universe, and meanwhile I was thinking about how much better I was than them. Ahaha...

I will say, before this starts to look like a reefer madness advert: none of the regular stuff in the cafes, or the brownies, or anything I might or might not have smoked before, made me feel this way. Just the colors thing, that was all. You hear that in Amsterdam it is stronger, and I guess that is right!


The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam was very moving, by the way: you know, you think that compared to others they didn't have it so bad, because they had an entire two floors to themselves and Anne even (almost) had her own bedroom, but then you go up there and you see the windows boarded up, and you realize that this sixteen year old girl lived without seeing the sunlight for two years. Not to mention the stuff that happened afterward. It was really, very sad, and I left feeling a bit calmer

...because I'd left my bag with a my passport in it in a shop, and had been walking around for hours trying to find the shop again, only to eventually end up right back where I started at the museum, at which point I said fuck it, paid my fee and went in. Afterwards I felt like my petty problems weren't so bad. ^^ And after that I was able to find the shop where they still had my bag, so all's well that ends well. (It wouldn't be a Sonya-vacation story if there wasn't a narrowly-averted disaster, naturally!)

Here's a video from Seville, Spain: this really was, honestly, the best Christmas of my life.

In Seville there is also a big Cathedral that looks, no joke, exactly like the Castle in Ico. That picture isn't retouched! Same light and everything. I am convinced there is a direct link. :p I took a lot of pictures of this place to prove that it is a direct inspiration, so look for those later.

Next up: Kpop!
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Or, books I have been reading for class, Part 2. Skipping The Century and Postmodernism and Discipline and Punish to post this, since I have it typed up already:

Bauman is awesome because he speaks directly to young people – he talks about "searching out ways of being" and "looking for job skills to be employable" – and because he gets all his metaphors from physics (time/space, heavy/light, solid/liquid), so that I can understand them. I found his books the easiest to read of all of the books we've been assigned so far, with Foucault a close second (because his references are historical and he includes novelistic descriptions of them within the text, so you don't need to read anything else to understand him).

To bring in contemporary events: Bauman is a true 99%er, because his enemies are those in the ruling class who are absolutely free to flit from place to place, and who never have to worry about the consequences of their choices. These are the people who can afford unlimited instantaneous travel (being able to afford an internet connection counts for Bauman – it was 1999). Moreover, they can "afford" travel because their assets are liquid, in the form of stocks and property investments, so that they don't have to live where they work, or can change where they work to match where they live. Or maybe they just don't have to work at all, XD.

The 1% (my phrase not Bauman's) are, additionally, the people best served by our modern consumer society. This is because being a good consumer means being able to make good choices, and these people have so many resources that they can't make a truly bad choice - if they buy something they don't like, they can discard it and buy something else. They therefore don't suffer the choice paralysis suffered by the people who have to worry about choosing wrongly.

Bauman's really popular, and I think this focus on the very wealthiest is part of the reason for his popularity (although he includes academics in the ranks of the elite). Apart from all the other reasons (brilliant writer, sympathetic to those on the very bottom, good at naming things, etc), I mean.

Specific books under the cut: mostly just a summary without a critique. The blanket critique would be that these books are full of broad, sweeping statements not backed up by empirical evidence, I guess.

Globalization: The Human Consequences )

Liquid Modernity )

Liquid is the more popular book, maybe because of the points it makes about the erosion of public discourse (OK no it's probably because people love a novel metaphor), but I liked Globalization better, partly for its focus on the very poorest and very richest (kind of rare in sociology?), and partly for the way it directly links the fortunes of the two groups. I just worry that I can't really evaluate the stuff he says about the experiences of the poorest and most marginalized, since they are outside of my direct experience (except through daytime chat shows etc).

January 2013



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