Monday, March 18, 2019

flu means anime

Last month I came down with a terrible flu. I wondered where I could've picked up such a punishing version of the virus. Wherever it came from, it hit me hard, forcing me to spend several days in bed, weak and feverish. With my appetite so affected my usual meal regime was thrown out the window, and my trips to the bathroom were more uncomfortable than usual. I had such a bad cough that I ended up going to a walk-in clinic, getting some heavy duty cough medicine and an inhaler to stave off pneumonia.

In those moments of wakefulness, between sips of tea and soup, I found myself turning to old anime. Namely, I watched Hikaru No Go and Great Teacher Onizuka again. Oh, how it does bring me back. The voice acting in both of these series is really quite excellent. And the music! Haha oh man it brought a smile to this old brain.

Out of curiosity, I started reading the Hikaru No Go manga, and so far it's been a real treat, seeing the source for the anime. I think I can recommend both to pretty much anyone dipping their toes into the mediums. It's also gotten me thinking about playing go again, though I remain terrible at it, despite my various attempts at learning over the years.

In preparation for the movie, I also started reading Battle Angel Alita and I gotta say, it's really not aged well. At least, not aged well for me -- young me loved seeing Alita fight her way up the Spire (and beyond) but adult me wants to throw the whole thing into the sun. It's just so stupid, so clearly written by someone obsessed with guns and martial arts and disembowelments and constructing thought experiments. I don't think I have anything in particular against thinking about artificial situations but there needs to be some plausibility to it, to the environments that brought it about -- what Battle Angel Alita asks you to swallow is far too much. For example, there's a character that can experience the history of anything he touches, and in one scene he gains the skills of a sword’s original wielder by holding it -- this is homeopathy for touch, and it's truly one of the dumbest things to pivot a plot around.

The movie was also shit, and not because of those big dopey eyeballs.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

reading here and there

It occurred to me, some time last October, that I used to really enjoy reading. That is, I hadn't read a book in a long time, and I did not really have an excuse. So I looked up how to read library books on my iPhone, installed Libby, got my library account re-activated (I had applied for one many years ago but it had expired from inactivity), and have been burning my way through books, my appetite much returned.
  • The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O'Brian. Still a classic to my heart, an excellent appetizer easing me back on the reading track. I don't think I could ever tire of this series. 5/5
  • Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. Superbly written, I so enjoyed the film that I was pleased to find that the novel gave so much more. Sublime, thoughtful narrative. 5/5
  • Master of the Senate by Robert A. Caro. I only made it through a 1/4 of the 1200+ pages before I had to return it but that was enough to convince me that this was a historical work worthy of its many accolades. An efficient, dense tome.
  • The Senate, William S. White, the body's most prominent chronicler, wrote in 1956, is "the South's unending revenge upon the North for Gettysburg." Not just revenge, unending revenge.
  • A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. A great disappointment, how such dreck makes it to the best-seller's list is beyond me. While individually the characters are not so terrible, having them all together was simply too much to take. An unsatisfying mystery of shallow, absurd characters. 1/5
  • Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick. I'd read this many years ago and remembered liking it. Certainly the world-building is a delight -- typical Dick stuff. What I didn't recall was the heavy sexism, and the main character being such an arse to everyone around him. 3/5
Becoming so enamored with reading on a device but tired of straining on a small screen, I asked my family to get me a Kobo Clara HD e-reader for Christmas*, which is now a constant companion.
  • The Outsider by Stephen King. Was King always this bad or did my tastes change so? While the build up to the mystery was intriguing, the beginning interviews were rather tedious and the ending anticlimactic. Also, he falls in love? Really? 2/5
  • Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle. Biting political commentary and eye-opening history lessons, relevant to a pre- and post-Trump world. 5/5
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Riveting, plausible post-apocalyptic story set in Ontario. 4/5
  • The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso. I can't remember who suggested this one but I found it a bit too much of a child's story for my liking -- overly tidy, the love story uninspired. 3/5
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. This did not age well. I couldn't finish it, saw no reason to do so.
  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. About half-way through and loving it. Every word finely crafted, every sentence manicured for maximum impact. Unforgettable.
I also, as many of you do I'm sure, have a stack of books that I am very slowly making my way through. Currently I'm on The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary by Andrew Westoll, a gift from my father-in-law. It's really quite decent, slowed only by the details of the atrocities those poor animals have suffered through at people's hands.

* Kindle doesn't directly support library loans.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Andrew

Andrew passed away on January 4th after a battle with nasopharyngeal cancer. It was a surprise to us, his university friends, a passing shot fired over e-mail, apparently nearly a year since his diagnosis. Those that could visited him at his house, his frame weak and thin, weighed down by the cancer, drugs, and radiation therapy. He kept a brave face, a rather deceptive face in hindsight.

I last saw him on December 12th, about a week before heading to Saskatoon for Christmas. At the time a small thought entered my head, that this could be the last time I'd see Andrew but I quickly dismissed it as we talked of foods he could try and measures he could take to make living at home safer. I was back in Toronto on the 31st when we got word that he had been moved to palliative care and would no longer be taking visitors, a concerning sign but even then we thought he still had a few weeks left, maybe even months.

His memorial was on January 12th, in Scarborough near his father's home, and I was heartened to see that it was well attended by family, friends, and coworkers, both current and old. I finally got to meet Andrew's sister, a figure whom he'd never given much detail about -- she seemed nice and appreciated everyone's sentiments. Andrew's father looked much the same though I felt like he did not recognize me. I was happy to see some of the old gang back together for the memorial. I gave a short speech which probably covered about 1% of all the things I could say about him, though of course I left out the stuff I nagged him about like climate change and Jordan Peterson.

Honestly I feel like I'm still processing Andrew's death, as if he's too fresh in my mind's eye. Not that I talked to him much in the past year, a fact that I lament somewhat now, though I suppose I was busy with my own medical and life goings-on. And certainly our personalities had diverged, something I credit to the different circles we frequented and relationships (or lack thereof) we were involved in.

But that he's no longer around is unreal to me. I can still hear his voice, hear his stifled laughter, see his grimacing smile. I will miss him, certainly, but he continues to be very much alive in my mind.