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mi_wa

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And above us in the beautiful summer sky Was a cloud which I watched for a long time. It was very white and tremendously high And as I looked upwards, it was there no more.

Reviews written

since 27/01/2013

79

Red Colored Elegy - Seiichi Hayashi 23/11/2015

Illustrated love song

Red Colored Elegy - Seiichi Hayashi Japan, 1960s It's only fifteen years since the end of a brutal war, cut short with Japan facing near annihilation. The ANPO treaty with the US reduces Japan to a pacifist state within the very first line. A decade and a half after the treaty is signed, its repercussions are still felt, shaking the country to its core. Social revolution is in full swing: political activists clash with military police in riotous waves against American occupation, corruption, perceived degradation of morals and racial discrimination. To make matters worse, in 1970 Japan suffers its first post-war economic decline due to the world oil crisis. The same year, celebrated novelist, playwright, poet and gay icon Yukio Mishima disembowels himself after a failed coup d'état. It is this politically-charged landscape of shifting paradigms that is the backdrop to Seiichi Hayashi's "Red Colored Elegy". Red Colored Elegy Red Colored Elegy tells the story of Ichiro and Sachiko. Ichiro is a university graduate. He alternates between doubts he will never become an artist and the highs of creating his own work. A prominent theme is how becoming an adult can tarnish a person, and this is none so evident in Ichiro's struggle to make ends meet by working in the lower echelons of a foreign animation company, drawing in-between animation cells, a low-paying and increasingly scarce job. Sachiko appears to work in the same industry, as a tracer. She too is feeling the constraints of responsibility, though less so ...

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead - Jeffrey Eugenides 24/09/2015

Dead birds, dead beds and dead romance.

My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead - Jeffrey Eugenides From voyeuristic longing to disenchanted entanglement. The editor My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead is a book of short stories on the theme of love, collected and edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. The anthology starts with an unsurprisingly long introduction by Eugenides himself. Authors love talking about themselves, male authors especially, but I'd advise skipping the introduction if you can bear to for several reasons. Firstly, because Eugenides discusses many of the stories listed and gives their endings or plot twists away. (Fair enough, his analysis is valid if overly personal, but read it after you've read the book.) Secondly, because he calls Dave Eggers the Bono of Lit. Collection Everyone will have their own opinion of what should have been included or omitted in an anthology. Eugenides tries to explain that he didn't want happy-ever-afters more than he does the complexities and overlooked nuances of romance put to paper. It's difficult to talk about a collection like this. I don't wish to bore anyone's socks off (so please, if you're bored, keep them on) by going through every single story. But I do want to give a fair representation of what this book offers. I hope I've managed to walk that fine line. What we want when we read about love is emotion. Easily the hardest hitting tale here is Alice Munro's The Bear That Came Over the Mountain. This might be to do with it being the final entry in the collection, but its placement belies its emotional weight more than ...

Light And Magic - Ladytron 19/08/2015

They only want you when you're seventeen.

Light And Magic - Ladytron The band Ladytron is an electronic pop music group who formed in Liverpool in 1999. The band consists of members Helen Marnie (vocals), Mira Aroyo (vocals and synths), Reuben Wu (synths), and Daniel Hunt (synthesizers, guitar and vocals). This is probably my favourite album from what was my favourite band as a teenager. Forgive the overlong review. Genre Electroclash is a style of music characterised by 80s pop meeting 90s dance influences. Around the early 2000s it was assimilated into a subgenre of house music, with producers like David Guetta at the forefront of the new wave. (Remember 'Love Don't Let Me Go'?) Within this context, it is no surprise that Ladytron's second album, Light & Magic, is so drastically different to their experimental electroclash debut 604 that it is difficult to believe they were released only a year apart. Not only that, but after the mostly favourable reception towards their debut album, to follow up with a second album only a year later was a risky move for Ladytron. Not to mention the new sound that could potentially alienate critics and fans alike. Songs True Mathematics So perhaps it is a transitional move that Light & Magic starts with a suitable homage to its predecessor. With buzzy synths and Mira Aroyo's singing in Bulgarian, True Mathematics could easily fit in the track list of 604, alongside similar songs Kletva and Commodore Rock. Saying that, it's far from boring, with a decent beat and one of the better instrumentals ...

The Walking Man - Jiro Taniguchi 13/08/2015

Take a walk on the mild side...

The Walking Man - Jiro Taniguchi Introduction The Walking Man (Aruku Hito) is a 1998 manga by Jiro Taniguchi. Reading this wasn't my first experience of Taniguchi's style and storytelling prowess. Though I would suggest this little story is a great place to start within Taniguchi's body of work, not only for veteran manga or comic fans, but also to a non-traditional audience of graphic novels. The comic The Walking Man starts with a middle-aged salaryman's walk after missing the train one day. In a moment of serendipity, he goes for a walk around the neighbourhood. Later, he takes long walks alone or with his dog. That's the story. Is that it? Often wordless, the manga is carried by Taniguchi's masterful sense of paneling that supports his meticulous reproduction of the everyday. The pages flow like a meandering river as our salaryman's curiosity is piqued. Through Taniguchi's linework his admiration of the world, both natural and urban, is tangible. Great pleasure is taken in every drawing, as Taniguchi's sense of beauty is without prejudice. The same amount of attention is given to the ink reproduction of a budding leaf as to the steel bamboo shoots of telephone poles, from the breeze rippling on a pond to the texture of a jumper. Art With a comic so light on story, Taniguchi's art style is the first aspect of The Walking Man to be immediately apparent. Taniguchi is of the more realistic school than many of his manga contemporaries: his people look like people. The scenes rendered are unfantastic ...

The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson 06/08/2015

The Finkler Question

The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson The Finkler Question Author: Howard Jacobson Year: 2010 ISBN: 9781407468105 Goodreads rating - 2.8/5 I was given this book, so not knowing anything about it, I first researched it online before deciding whether or not to invest my time in actually reading it. Though The Finkler Question is advertised as winning some literary prize or other, the novel has an extremely low consumer rating on Amazon, both in comparison to other Man Booker Prize winners and other books in general. The disparity between critical and commercial appeal actually piqued my interest enough that I read it. Plot The Finkler Question introduces Julian Treslove as our protagonist. To put it bluntly, yet another a middle-aged failure of a man. Treslove's life has been professionally unspectacular. His career with the BBC ended unhappily when he was fired for being essentially useless. Treslove's personal life has hardly been smooth sailing either. Just as some people chain-smoke, Julian Treslove is a serial adulterer. Ultimately, this behaviour has left him a bachelor with two adult sons by two different mothers. Sons that he has no interest in at all. Perhaps his life would be totally hollow and unfulfilled if it weren't for his lifelong friendship with two other men. One of them, Sam Finkler, had been Treslove's childhood friend and classmate. The other man, known only as Libor, had been their teacher at some point. A teacher no more, he has now retired to be alone with his memories. Despite their ...

The Diving Pool - Yoko Ogawa 22/07/2015

Black flowers blossom

The Diving Pool - Yoko Ogawa The Diving Pool Author: Yoko Ogawa Translator: Stephen Snyder Year: 2008 (first published 1990) Winner of the Shirley Jackson Prize 3.7/5 - Goodreads 4/5 - Amazon.com ISBN: 0312426836 The Diving Pool is a collection of three novellas by Yoko Ogawa. Each novella is stand-alone, but the protagonists have connecting features: they are all women, all lonely, and all observers. Ogawa's novellas explore the uncharted realms of the feminine psyche. In particular, Ogawa often weaves psychological tales of women who do the unthinkable. The Diving Pool In the eponymous first novella, The Diving Pool, teenage Aya is our insight into the world Ogawa has created. The only biological child to parents who run an orphanage, Aya develops a sexually-charged obsession with one of the orphans. This is Jun, who is around her age. The two have grown up together under the "green darkness" of The Light House, their family home, among hoards of other children, the gingko trees and the grasses. As Jun is essentially her foster-brother, there is an undercurrent of dread within the prose: a dread of facing up to the fact that Aya's desires are taboo and will never be fulfilled. Unprepared to deal with her overwhelming emotions, Aya falls willingly into the thrall of Jun's sensuality. Every day she follows him to the school swimming pool and watches him practice his diving forms. Ogawa's descriptions are luscious, yet understated. It is as if Aya is breaking Jun down into shapes by describing each ...

Speaking Of Sex (DVD) 18/07/2015

Finally, a rom-com for perverts.

Speaking Of Sex (DVD) Speaking of Sex Year: 2003 Director: John McNaughton Stars: James Spader, Lara Flynn-Boyle Genre: Comedy imdb: 5.8/10 rottentomatoes: 2.9/5 Plot Speaking of Sex is a 2003 sex-comedy movie, focusing on sexual health problems from the point of view of the doctors and patients. James Spader takes the lead role of Dr. Klink. He's known as a depression expert, both for his clinical psychology practice and his string of crushing divorces. Alongside him is marriage counsellor Dr. Paige, played by Lara Flynn-Boyle. In Speaking of Sex, the two mental health professionals advise a troubled couple teetering on the edge of divorce. The root of the problem for Melinda (Melora Walters) and Dan (Jay Mohr) is their long stretch of sexlessness, instigated after Dan had an affair. Unfortunately, Melinda may have chosen the wrong therapists, as she comes to realise that Dr. Paige and Dr. Klink are as dysfunctional as their patients. Performances For me, the most striking aspect of this movie is how familiar all the cast members were. It was slightly surreal. Though I initially watched the movie for James Spader's performance, Speaking of Sex also stars Megan Mullally, Catherine O'Hara, Nick Offerman, Kathyrn Erbe and Bill Murray as some of the other familiar faces in this movie. (Not to mention Lara Flynn Boyle in one of her rare roles after Twin Peaks.) Even if you don't recognise those names, there's a high chance you'll recognise the faces in this film, as they have all been ...

Bully (2011) (DVD) 03/07/2015

Sticks and Stones...

Bully (2011) (DVD) Bully Year: 2012 Genre: Documentary Director: Lee Hirsch imdb: 7.4/10 rotten tomatoes: 7.1/10 Bully is a 2011 documentary directed by Lee Hirsch that premièred at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary follows 5 students in schools across the U.S. and their lives in relation to bullying. Cast Alex Alex is in middle school (ages 11-14), one of those awkward-looking kids who manage to inherit the most dominant facial features of both his parents. He's a generally happy kid. This all changes when he starts taking the bus to school. Now, the awkwardness of public transport may be repressed by most adults as soon as they get their own set of keys, but for a young teenager the social hierarchies inherent in 'taking the bus' are something of a cause for anxiety. Alex tries his best to off-set this by trying to befriend someone at the bus stop on his very first day - a boy who then threatens to stab him if he ever speaks to him again. Sadly, this is only the beginning of Alex's troubles. It isn't merely words that other children throw at him, but physical objects and blows. Alex's mother is run ragged with concern, but it's obvious she doesn't know how to show it or act upon it. It's Alex's father, though, who most surprised me. He just didn't seem to care at all that his son was coming up to him and saying that bullies were making his life a living hell, in fact, all he was concerned about was that, "If you keep getting picked on, they'll pick on your sister when ...

Desperately Seeking Susan (DVD) 22/06/2015

A life so outrageous it takes two women to live it.

Desperately Seeking Susan (DVD) Desperately Seeking Susan Year: 1985 Genre: Comedy, romance Director: Susan Seidelman Stars: Madonna, Rosanna Arquette Rating: PG-13 imdb: 5.8/10 rottentomatoes: 87% positive / 6.7/10 Plot Roberta Glass is bored. She's bored with sitting at home all day, bored of cooking and cleaning, bored with her haircut, and most of all, Roberta's bored with her husband. She lives vicariously through the newspaper's Personals section, where every so often a couple of young lovers seek each other out to meet up, with ads entitled Desperately Seeking... This time, the two are meeting in NYC, Roberta's home-town. Unsurprisingly, Roberta is enchanted by the promise of such romance, and decides, against her better judgement, to go along and see for herself what real passion looks like. The world of Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) - safe, bored and pastel - is about as far away as one can get from the life and times of free-spirited drifter Susan (Madonna). Susan is sassy, flaky and not afraid to pull a small-time grift or take advantage of friends' generosity to fund her lifestyle of boys, booze and playing around. Susan's NYC is a city of gritty shimmers: selling the jacket off your back to buy glitzy boots, grotty nightclub magic shows, bathing in public restrooms and relentless gossip. The rumour on everybody's lips lately is the murder of a thief - the same man Susan woke up with that morning. Style When following Susan, all the coincidences in the world transpire against Roberta. ...

The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe - Sarah Churchwell 11/06/2015

Best finest surgeon, come cut me open.

The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe - Sarah Churchwell Some time during the night of 4 August 1962, Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose of barbiturates. It seems strange that the very first sentence of "The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe" should be the precise details of her death. After finishing this book, I find myself going back to that first sentence, thinking about it. Before reading Before picking this book up in the library, I had only second-hand knowledge of Marilyn Monroe. I knew she was born Norma Jean Baker; I had seen a few movies of hers when they were on TV; I had studied her Warhol pop art portrait in art history lessons; I had seen footage of her cunningly (distastefully) incorporated in an advertisement for a perfume. I had also heard of her life and her suspicious death, but I had not read any biographies or read extensively of her life in any form before. With this in mind, I would hesitate recommending this biography of Monroe to someone as passive and ignorant as I was. The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe is a dry, extensive book - a book with an index and a 6-page long bibliography - that presents itself as more of a critique of Monroe biographies than dealing with the substance of the woman, the legend, herself. The Author Sarah Churchwell is a ruthless writer, one unafraid to point out the contradictory stances of those in her profession and indeed her particular niche - which can be confusing or seem pedantic to those who haven't read the books in question (myself included). Aside from critiquing ...

Malastrana (The Short Night of the Glass Dolls) (DVD) 02/06/2015

Paralyzed Butterflies

Malastrana (The Short Night of the Glass Dolls) (DVD) This is the 1971 Italian film directed by Aldo Lado. As usual for the giallo genre, this film is known by ridiculous number of titles. The Italian title, la corta notte delle bambole di vetro, translates to Short Night of the Glass Dolls. It's also known as Short Night of the Butterflies and also Malastrana (after the Czech city it was filmed in). Apparently the US title is "Paralyzed". How fun. Plot American reporter Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel) wakes up to discover all his vital processes seem to have stopped. He can neither move or speak. Though he is aware of the people who discover his body and the doctors at the hospital, he's dead. As he lies on a metal slab in a morgue refrigerator, he tries to work out how he has ended up in this situation. It all begins in Cold War -era Prague. At a party, Gregory's girlfriend Mira goes missing. Not willing to let the matter of her vanishing drop, as suggested by the Prague police, Gregory is determined to find Mira and discover the secret behind her disappearance. However, it is not at all straight-forward. Mira is not the only woman to have disappeared in Prague recently. (When Gregory realises his girlfriend is missing, he demands the police catch the person who murdered her. Naturally, the police officer asks him why he presumed it was a murder as nothing in the crime scene implies it. Gregory replies, in a bizarrely delivered line, "Sorry, as a reporter, I'm used to saying it." Hmm. Alright... ) The cinematography of Short ...

Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-1EQ 21/05/2015

The Rise and Fall of the Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-1EQ

Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-1EQ The Toshiba Satellite Pro is one of two laptops I currently use, and the third one I've ever owned. I was given it as a Christmas present in December 2012 by my parents. As I write this review it is now May 2015, and it's still (mostly) great to use. The Company Toshiba Corporation is a Japanese information-technology company specialising in computing, medical equipment and office equipment. They are a big player in all ranges of laptops, from budget to premium models. First Impressions The first thing I noticed about the Toshiba Satellite Pro C850-1EQ is its catchy name. Aside from that, as well as the colour and relative slimness of the body and screen, the most obvious aspect is the matte black textured finish. This leaks onto the touchpad and is really unusual to touch at first. However, I did get used to it, and now my old laptop's touchpad feels like a skating rink in comparison. Those of you who detest touchpads will also be happy to know it is compatible with mice as well, but more on that later. Unfortunately this touchpad texture is really difficult to clean. I was initially reluctant to use the Satellite Pro as it was so much smaller, lighter and ... different than my previous laptop, which was older by it by about 5 years. Unsurprising, as the size specs are: 380.0 x 242.0 x 33.52 mm. Portability If you're buying a laptop, you're probably buying it for its versalitity and therefore its portability. The weight of the laptop starts at 4.3 kilograms (not ...

Underworld (DVD) 15/05/2015

Undercooked

Underworld (DVD) As Underworld 5 was announced recently, I thought I would give the first movie in the pentalogy a try. I am in the habit of compartmentalizing interests and friendships both; with one particular friend we only seem to watch vampire-themed movies. Now, not to say I am particularly enamoured with that style, but it does give me an insight into what makes a fine example of that particular genre. Underworld fits comfortably into the vampire revival genre. Anti-traditionalist would seemingly be a fitting name to call director Len Wiseman 's methodology. There are no castles, no evaporating flesh at the first touch of sunlight, no forks of lightning illuminating pale faces with fangs extended. The long opening monologue is the first hint that Wiseman may not be completely renovating the genre. This is confirmed with an extended action sequence straight out of The Matrix - that is to say, we don't know who anyone is, what side they are on, and does anyone really care? Well... I didn't. It soon emerges that there are two distinct factions within fair, erm, Neo-America-Britain, where our story is set: the ancient pre-natural clans of Vampire and Lycan. These two sides are caught in relentless battle for power that has been going off for centuries, right under humanity's collective noses. To what end? I don't know. I guess there is more to immortality than playing chess against your computer... So far, so Twilight. Kate Beckinsale plays the part of our lead character, vampire ...

ELC My First Lift Out Puzzle 27/04/2015

Can simplicity be ingenious?

ELC My First Lift Out Puzzle My mother always goes overboard. Not literally - you would never catch her on a boat - but when it comes to Christmas the phrase certainly applies. Last last Christmas, as well as giving her her heart, my mother also gave her granddaughter a variety of different toys. This shape puzzle was bought in the 3 for 2 Boots promotion on selected children's toys. This toy, for whatever reason, often shows up in special offers. What is it? The toy is a wooden board that has removable shapes, and the puzzle aspect is putting them back in the right slot. You would think this would be easy, right? Well... It sounds simple, but for infants with limited fine motor skills, it can actually be quite challenging. When my niece first received this, she was just over the age of one. Though she was attracted to the bright colours of the puzzle pieces, she couldn't get her little fingers around the little stud in order to take the shapes out. This frustrated her, so she'd just tip the board over and crawl off in baby disgust. Age range Since the age of 20 months, however, she can grasp the studs more easily and play with the shapes on her own. As she takes them out, she says the name of the shape ("tree", "house", et cetera) and sets them down, then tries to put them back in. It is still a bit awkward for her to maneuver them to the right indentation, as they need to be exactly right in order to slot in. Sometimes she gets frustrated or something else grabs her attention before she can ...

Hear The Wind Sing - Haruki Murakami 20/04/2015

A poem of the wind and the trees.

Hear The Wind Sing - Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami is one of the most famous Japanese authors ever, having achieved fame both in his home country and across the world. The Guardian described him on the cover of Norwegian Wood as "one of the world's most important living novelists". As captivating as that title is, everyone's gotta start somewhere, and for Murakami, his writing career started here, with his début novel Hear The Wind Sing. Prize-winning Allegedly produced over the course of four months, Hear The Wind Sing was written after Murakami came home from work running a bar every night. After its completion, the novel was submitted to the only writing competition suitable for its length. That writing competition was the Gunzo magazine literary prize. It won. Trilogy Let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Before the prize comes the hard work. Hear The Wind Sing is the first in Murakami's "Trilogy of The Rat", including novels Pinball, 1973 and A Wild Sheep Chase. (Subsequent novel Dance, Dance, Dance is not considered part of the trilogy, but has a few of the same characters, so it's down to your own discretion if you treat it as a spin-off or an extension of the original trilogy.) These books constitute a trilogy in the same way Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Shot Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence do. That is, assigned that label only afterwards, because of the similar themes explored, though the storyline is not continued per se. Plot Told in the first person, our protagonist is a ...
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